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EU Sanctions Target Humanitarian Aid and Hinder Restoration of Global Heritage in Syria

By Franklin Lamb | Al-Manar | July 4, 2014

Damascus – Today, a civilization that used to lead the world and for centuries was the beacon of learning, tolerance and trade, and that still protects our global cultural heritage is damaged—and only the Syrian people can rebuild it for all of us. We need to help them.

Last month, halfheartedly and without unanimity among its 28 member states, the European Union levied yet more sanctions on Syrian officials. Passed under pressure from the usual suspects (the US, France, Britain, and the international Zionist lobby), the EU measure targets 12 government ministers, none of whom wields or holds police authority of any type. Not a single one of these individuals has any capacity or wherewithal—or even any interest—in committing “serious human rights violations,” as the measure accuses them of having carried out.

It is a charge that amounts to defamation of character and which the EU made without offering a scintilla of evidence. Widely seen as EU frustration over failed western policy in Syria, the action is also thought to have been motivated by a sense that the EU ought to keep itself relevant by… well… doing something, given that there is a deep split within its ranks over military aid to Syrian rebels. Coming three weeks after the Syrian presidential election (generally viewed as a significant victory for the Assad government), the measure puts the officials under an EU travel ban and asset freeze, and it also raises to 191 the number of Syrian government employees, along with 53 companies, now being targeted by EU sanctions.

The impact of EU and western sanctions on the Syrian economy has been severe—this is well known. Heavy fighting has damaged or destroyed economic infrastructure, significantly impeding normal access to sources of income for average Syrians. In addition, internal distribution and supply networks have been disrupted if not destroyed; currency depreciation has devastated purchasing power; and the heavy US, EU and Arab League sanctions have hampered imports and exports. Even the import of items not subject to the sanctions has been restricted by the sanctions on financial transactions, while tourism revenue, for example, has all but disappeared.

KInda_Shammat_HRactivistThe EU’s ill-considered action simply adds to the multitude of woes faced by Syrian citizens, woes which have forced many of them to leave their country and become refugees. The ministers targeted tend to be technocrats, specialists in their field of work; they are not major government policy makers. Some are involved in humanitarian work, and some of them are ministers whose efforts in this regard have made them quite popular with Syrian people, both at home and abroad. One of these is Kinda al-Shammat, who heads Syria’s Ministry of Social Affairs.

Ms. Shammat works closely with the U.N. and other aid agencies operating on the ground in Syria, her efforts facilitating the delivery of assistance to millions of internally displaced Syrians. The UN has hundreds of aid workers working with the Syrian government through her. She has never been involved in “serious human rights violations,” but she is a well-known human rights advocate. Ms. Shammat holds a PhD in Private Law from the University of Damascus, where she teaches, and she has also worked with the Syrian Commission for Family Affairs, the General Union of Syrian Women, and the UN Development Fund. In the latter capacity she served as a legal expert in family affairs and violence against women, and in 2012 she was also a member of the committee that amended the Syrian constitution.

Ms. Shammat first came to this observer’s attention for her continued dedication to getting aid to Palestinian refugees trapped inside Yarmouk camp during the current crisis. She survived an assassination attempt by rebels opposed to her views on women rights, and some suggest that she became a target for al-Qaeda types last year when Damascus University banned the wearing of total full face veils. It was a decision she openly welcomed at the time, saying that it was in line with the Syrian belief in moderation.

“We in Syria have never gone to the extreme left or the extreme right,” she told Al-Arabiya TV.

Kinda al-Shammat is surely one of the last officials, in Syria or anywhere else, who would warrant EU sanctions against her, and it is deeply egregious that she should be targeted, along with her colleagues, without any proof of wrongdoing. Most of the other ministers added to the sanctions list also have stellar records of public service; they would doubtless be applauded by the people, and probably, under different circumstances, would even be esteemed and well received in all 28 EU member states as well. These include Finance Minister Ismael Ismael, Economy and Foreign Trade Minister Khodr Orfali, Oil Minister Suleiman Al Abbas, Industry Minister Kamal Eddin Tu’ma, Labor Minister Hassan Hijazi, and Minister of Tourism, Bishr Riad Yaziji. None of these individuals has ever been accused of any conduct that could be construed as anything other than humanitarian. Of these it is perhaps Yaziji who most embodies the “new breed” of Syrian officials.

Yaziji was appointed as Minister of Tourism on 8/22/13, and he appears beholden to no person or thing other than his own vision of restoring Syria’s vital tourist industry. Born in Aleppo in 1972, Yaziji is a businessman, and he is currently the youngest member of the Assad Cabinet. With a Bachelor’s degree in Informatics Engineering from Aleppo University (1995), he is possessed with distinctively Kennedyesque good looks, voices progressive ideas, and exerts a charm and charisma that instantly connects with ordinary citizens and foreigners alike. Not affiliated with the Baath Party, Yaziji is an independent and was elected as such to the People’s Assembly, or the Syrian parliament. This observer has closely followed his work, both in the media and from direct personal experience.

Prior to the conflict, tourism brought in more than $8 billion annually, and as one admirer of Yaziji, who also works in government, put it, “The Tourism Ministry is working to reconnect to the world the way we Syrians used to reach out.” The official added:

“Syria’s treasures, from the cradle of civilization that we are, fundamentally belong to all of humanity, and please accept our promise—that we will do our best to repair all damage to the antiquities and will welcome assistance, as we shall welcome every visitor again, before long, enshallah (God willing).”

Tourism_MinisterMinister Yaziji appears to thrive on the broad scope and depth of his work, which in fact includes visiting Syrian archaeological sites and drawing international focus on the need to protect and restore humanity’s collective cultural heritage, of which the people of Syria are the custodians. He also spends his time participating in youth festivals, visiting wounded citizens in hospitals, and recently attended a “Loyalty to Syria” gathering, where he stressed the importance of NGOs in conveying the reality of events in Syria to the global public. At that gathering he also discussed the unparalleled richness of the country’s historical and religious monuments, and spoke of “boosting the social values and developing national capacity to serve the best interest of Syria.”

This new generation of Syrian officials is dedicated to ameliorating the country’s humanitarian crisis as well as preserving our global heritage. They have been indefatigable in their around-the- clock projects, and they need to be encouraged, not hindered. In an interview with Reuters on 6/28/14, Yaziji said the sanctions will not interfere with his work—and he also said he has never been involved with any “human rights violations” of any sort. Some have pointed to the curious timing of this latest round of sanctions, so soon after the presidential election, and have suggested that in reality it is a form of collective punishment of the Syrian people—for daring to vote the wrong way, or in a way disapproved of by the EU and the rest of the West.

The EU has spoken piously of  “Cultural Heritage—our debt to the past, our promise to the future,” and claims that it seeks to “promote culture as a catalyst for creativity,” but its actions last month belie this. If it truly seeks to implement its claimed humanitarian values, the EU should work to open the paths of these Syrian officials, not close them. At the very least it should desist from layering more “show sanctions” upon those in Syria who are striving to salvage their country. Yaziji and Shammat are Syrian patriots whose invaluable work the EU should be encouraging rather than hindering with politically motivated sanctions and silly, gratuitous defamations of character.

Few in the Syrian Arab Republic these days question the urgency and enormity of the task of reconstructing their ancient country from war-caused destruction, the fall-out from a conflict already more than half as long as World War I and approaching two-thirds as long as World War II. For this ten-millennium civilization, emergency measures are needed to protect its thousands of priceless archaeological treasures, both from the ravages of war as well as plunder and illegal excavation wrought by thieves. The Syrian government has given high priority to the preservation of cultural heritage, a policy that presumably not many in the EU would openly disagree with. Yet the EU’s ill-considered sanctions are harming multi-faceted restoration efforts—by intimidating members of the international public who want to help and by attempting to isolate Syrian officials whose full schedules these days are consumed by humanitarian undertakings as well as projects aimed at restoring cultural heritage sites and preserving our link to the past. And by the way, some of these sites they are working to protect are included on UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites. These include the Ancient City of Aleppo , the Ancient City of Bosra Ancient City of Damascus Ancient Villages of Northern Syria , Crac des Chevaliers and Qal’at Salah El-Din and the Site of Palmyra .

Syria and her hardworking public servants will survive these gratuitous political sanctions, but the sanctions likely will remain an indelible stain on the EU and its claimed humanitarian principles for a long time to come.

July 4, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | 1 Comment

Understanding Israel’s Actions

By MAHMOUD ABU RAHMA | CounterPunch | July 4, 2014

It is essential that US citizens understand that this conflict should not continue to be viewed as a symmetrical one anymore. When they do not hear about it, there are vicious violations of international law against Palestinians every day; including closures/blockades, settlement activities (population transfer on account of our land and natural resources), displacement, killings, detention and torture.

We were all occupied by the developments in the past few days, and shocked to find out about killings. The Israeli government kept from us all that the three settler teenagers were killed from the first day because they wanted to carry out a large military operation in the occupied Palestinian territory. This operation saw hundreds of Palestinians arrested, tortured, killed and injured. Dozens of attacks were also directed at the besieged Gaza Strip. Incitement to violence and hatred went very high.

Since 12 June 2014, the day the teenage settlers went missing, Israel declared that its operation had two aims: find them and put pressure on Hamas and the Palestinian Authority to abandon a recent unity agreement and return to full separation between Gaza and the West Bank. Now we know that the Israeli government knew they were killed from the first day; however, the operation to destroy Palestinian unity and reinstate separation is ongoing. Separation and isolation, if successful, will allow Israel to annex large areas in the West Bank and divide Palestinians to keep them under control by military force; as opposed to a peace agreement that would end the occupation of the territory captured by Israel in 1967. This is a typical case of using violence to achieve political; not security, gains. In doing so, Israel has violated the human rights of Palestinian civilians in many ways, and has created an environment that allowed for kidnapping, murdering, and running over of Palestinian children by Jewish settlers in the West Bank.

Americans need to understand this situation. This conflict has not started on 12 June this year, but decades ago. The occupation of oPt [occupied Palestinian territories] in the manner Israel is doing it has been, and will continue to be, the reason behind such tragedies. They should expect to hear about more serious violations of human rights and international law, and they will hear all the security justifications for them. I hope they understand that buying such justifications will only help such violations to continue as Israel pursues fragmenting and destroying the Palestinian people for political reasons.

Mahmoud AbuRahma is communications and international relations director for the Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights in Gaza.

July 4, 2014 Posted by | Deception, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, False Flag Terrorism, Subjugation - Torture | , , | Leave a comment

The Price Tag Of Renewables, Part 2

By Willis Eschenbach | Watts Up With That? | July 3, 2014

Anthony Watts has posted a story about a laughable analysis of the cost of propping up renewables through subsidies. And long-time WUWT contributor KD helpfully pointed me to the document itself. Now that I have the actual document, here’s what they say about subsidies (all emphasis mine).

First, they point out that the cost of shifting to renewables will be on the order of $800 billion dollars per year. Overall, they say the cost will be $45,000,000,000,000 ($45 trillion dollars) by 2050, and could be as high as $70 trillion.

In other words, a substantial “clean-energy investment gap” of some $800 billion/yr exists – notably on the same order of magnitude as present-day subsidies for fossil energy and electricity worldwide ($523 billion). Unless the gap is filled rather quickly, the 2°C target could potentially become out of reach.

Now, a trillion is an unimaginable amount of money. Here’s a way to grasp it. If I started a business in the year zero AD, and my business was so bad that I lost a million dollars a day, not a million a year but a million dollars a day, how many trillion dollars would I have lost by now?

Well, I wouldn’t have lost even one trillion by now, only about $735 billion dollars … in other words, less than the estimated PER-YEAR cost of switching to renewables.

Then they go on to claim that hey, $800 billion per year is no big deal, because fossil fuel subsidies are nearly that large.

While the clean-energy investment gaps (globally and by region) may indeed appear quite sizeable at first glance, a comparison to present-day energy subsidy levels helps to put them into context. According to estimates by the International Monetary Fund and International Energy Agency, global “pre-tax” (or direct) subsidies for fossil energy and fossil electricity totaled $480–523 billion/yr in 2011 (IEA 2012b; IMF 2013). This corresponds to an increase of almost 30% from 2010 and was six times more than the total amount of subsidies for renewables at that time. Oil-exporting countries were responsible for approximately two-thirds of total fossil subsidies, while greater than 95% of all direct subsidies occurred in developing countries.

Now, this is a most interesting and revealing paragraph.

First, despite what people have said on the previous thread, they have NOT included taxes in their calculation of subsidies.

Next, to my great surprise an amazing 95% of all subsidies are being paid by developing nations. This underscores the crucial importance of energy for the poor.

In addition, they say that most of the money used to pay the fossil fuel subsidies comes from … wait for it … the sale of fossil fuels.

Next, it means that nothing that the developed world does will free up much money. Only 5% of the subsidies are in developed nations, they could go to zero and it wouldn’t change the big picture.

It also means that since these subsidies are not going to drivers in Iowa and Oslo, but are propping up the poorest of the global poor, we cannot stop paying them without a huge cost in the form of impoverishment, hardship, and deaths.

Finally, unless we shift the fuel subsidy from fossil fuels to renewables, which obviously we cannot do, the comparison is meaningless—we will still need nearly a trillion dollars per year in additional subsidies to get renewables off of the ground, over and above the assistance currently given to the poor … where do the authors think that money would come from?

I fear that like the pathetically bad Stern Report, this analysis is just another batch of bogus claims trying to prop up the war on carbon, which is and always has been a war on development and human progress, and whose “collateral damages” fall almost entirely on the poor.

And at the end of the day, despite their vain efforts to minimize the cost, even these proponents of renewables say it will cost up to $70 trillion dollars to make the switch, with no guarantee that it will work.

Sigh …


I see that in the study they make much of the disparity between fossil fuel subsidies ($523 billion annually) and renewables subsidies, which they proudly state are only about a sixth of that ($88 billion annually).

However, things look very different when we compare the subsidies on the basis of the energy consumed from those sources. To do that, I use the data in the BP 2014 Statistical Review of World Energy spreadsheet in the common unit, which is “TOE”, or “Tonnes of Oil Equivalent”. This expresses everything as the tonnes of oil that are equivalent to that energy. I’ve then converted the results to “Gallons of Oil Equivalent” and “Litres of Oil Equivalent” to put them in prices we can understand. That breakdown looks like this:

Fuel, Subsidy/Gallon, Subsidy/Litre

Fossil fuels – $0.17 per gallon, $0.04 per litre

Renewables – $1.19 per gallon, $0.31 per litre.

So despite the fact that renewable subsidies are only a sixth of the fossil subsidies, per unit of energy they are seven times as large as the fossil subsidies.

This, of course, is extremely bad news for the promoters of the subsidies. It means that to get the amount of energy we currently use, without using fossil fuels and solely from renewables, it would require seven times the current fossil fuel subsidy, or $3.5 TRILLION DOLLARS PER YEAR.

And of course, since there’d be no fossil fuel sales at that point, there’d be little money to pay for the subsidy.

Sometimes, the idiocy of the savants is almost beyond belief.

July 4, 2014 Posted by | Deception, Economics, Science and Pseudo-Science, Timeless or most popular | 3 Comments

Israeli Police Beat 15-year-old Palestinian-American Cousin of Teen Murdered on Wednesday

IMEMC | July 4, 2014

460_0___10000000_0_0_0_0_0_15yrold_tariqA Palestinian teenager identified by local sources as the cousin of the 16-year-old who was murdered on Wednesday was beaten and abducted by Israeli police on Thursday, and was refused medical treatment for his broken nose and other injuries while in custody.

The Palestinian Red Crescent Society has reported that over 170 Palestinians have been injured since Monday, when the bodies of three Israeli teenagers who had gone missing two weeks earlier were found.

15-year old Tariq was allegedly participating in one of several protests that took place in Shu’fat and nearby areas after Muhammad Abu Khdeir, 16, was abducted by Israelis, according to eyewitnesses, and later found burned to death on Wednesday.

Hundreds of Palestinians took part in the protests, which were met with tear gas, rubber-coated steel bullets and concussion grenades. At least three incidents have been reported of Israeli police and military using live ammunition against the demonstrators. Of the 170 injured since Monday, at least six are journalists.

Since his death Wednesday, the family of Muhammed Abu Khdeir has faced interrogations, DNA tests and a misinformation campaign started by the Israeli police to claim, based on no evidence, that the boy was killed in a family dispute — in addition to the Israeli police refusing to look at surveillance video showing the assailants, which would normally be a major part of an investigation.

The attack on the 15-year-old appears to be the latest affront to a family that is mourning the brutal death of a child. Tariq is a Palestinian-American who was staying with family in Jerusalem when he was beaten and abducted by Israeli police. The full extent of his injuries are still unknown.

July 4, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture | , , , | 2 Comments

Palestinian boy goes missing in Jerusalem

Al-Akhbar | July 4, 2014

A Palestinian child went missing in East Jerusalem early Friday, a local news site reported, two days after a teenager was kidnapped and killed by suspected settlers in the Israeli-occupied city.

Wafa News Agency said a 13-year-old boy was last spotted walking near a mosque in the neighborhood of Wadi al-Joz around dawn.

Witnesses told the agency that they saw a settler car driving in the area around the same time the boy went missing.

Israeli police were reviewing CCTV footage from cameras set up in the area to determine if the boy was kidnapped, the report added.

In a separate incident, a group of settlers Thursday night was reported to have tried to kidnap a seven-year-old Palestinian boy from his Jerusalem neighborhood of Beit Hanina.

Ma’an News Agency reported that family members of Mohammed al-Kiswani chased off four settlers who attempted to snatch the boy as he played outside after breaking Ramadan fast.

The incidents come as the family of 16-year-old Mohammed Abu Khudeir prepare to lay him to rest Friday, two days after he was kidnapped and killed in Jerusalem.

The charred remains of Abu Khudeir were discovered in a forest hours after his family reported him missing.

CCTV footage from Wednesday’s abduction shows suspected settlers forcing the teen into a car around dawn before speeding away.

Hundreds of Israelis had taken to the streets Tuesday chanting “death to Arabs” after the bodies of three Israeli settlers were discovered in the West Bank.

July 4, 2014 Posted by | Aletho News | , , | Leave a comment

Israeli forces attack mosque in village near Salfit, detaining and beating a child

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Photo by a villager from Qarawat Bani Hassan
International Solidarity Movement | July 3, 2014

Qarawat Bani Hassan, Occupied Palestine – At 9 o’clock in the evening of July 2nd, Israeli forces invaded the small Palestinian village of Qarawat Bani Hassan, approximately 10 km northwest of Salfit in the northern half of the West Bank.

They approached the mosque in the center of town and fired tear gas and stun grenades inside. One witness described the scene as follows:

“There were maybe 500 people inside the mosque – many old men, women and children. The tear gas was horrible. It was difficult to breathe. The sound bombs were terrifying, and the children were so afraid.”

The motives of the soldiers remain mystifying, since the streets surrounding the mosque had been empty before the attack. “They just come here to make problems,” suggested one witness.

The occupants of the mosque escaped the tear gas, and clashes ensued on the nearby streets. Qasaam Mareh, a fourteen year old boy, was detained by the soldiers. According to witnesses, they interrogated and beat him, before they took him away in a jeep. Qasaam was held for approximately eighteen hours before finally being released the next day.

July 4, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , | 1 Comment

Former Israeli Defence Minister calls on government to assassinate Hamas leaders

MEMO | July 3, 2014

Binyamin-Ben-EliezerIsrael’s former Defence Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer called for the Israeli government to immediately assassinate Hamas leaders, an Israeli news site has reported.

Ben-Eliezer is reported to have said: “The government must immediately return to the assassination policy, and let Hamas leaders understand that there is no security for them day and night and that there is no difference between political and army wing leaders.”

He said: “Hamas political leadership incites and inflames the atmosphere [against Israel] and encourages terrorism.”

Ben-Eliezer called on the Israeli government to strengthen Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and to pressure him to remove Hamas from government and then work on the resumption of the peace process.

July 4, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, War Crimes | , , , | 2 Comments

NATO arming Ukraine with Soviet weapons

RT | July 4, 2014

NATO’s newest Eastern European members are handing over their Soviet arms stockpiles to the Ukrainian army, Russia’s Deputy PM Dmitry Rogozin says, adding that the alliance is in danger of pouring gasoline on the flames of that country’s civil war.

Rogozin, who supervises the Russian military industry, has tweeted that NATO is asking its newest members to get rid of operable Soviet military equipment and send it to Ukraine, to aid the miserable state of the country’s military hardware.

“In turn, the US is ready to compensate for the “losses” of the newly co-opted NATO member states. The American military-industrial complex must be happy,” Rogozin wrote in his Twitter account.

“By the way, this is NATO’s commonplace to put out civil wars’ fire with aviation kerosene,” Rogozin added.

Over the months of Ukraine’s hot political crisis, NATO member states, primarily the US, announced they are planning non-lethal aid to Ukrainian troops, supplying uniforms and tents, and even promising to deploy a number of military instructors to train the Ukrainian army to fight the adherents of federalization of the country in Eastern Ukraine.

Political commentator Mikhail Rostovsky told RIA Novosti news agency that the “US and EU are thinking not about Ukraine but about the neutralization of Russia.”

Rostovsky compared the current policies of the European and American leaders with that of British PM Margaret Thatcher and French President François Mitterrand towards the reunification of East and West Germany in 1990.

Speaking loudly about “the European choice for Ukraine,” the EU and US politicians are essentially seeking ways to drive a wedge between Moscow and Kiev to neutralize what they regard as Russia’s possible “imperial ambitions,” Rostovsky said. “We’re dealing with politics dictated by fear: God forbid the Kremlin’s imperial instincts got awakened! This is a matter of principle to deny the Kremlin such an opportunity and break Ukraine away from Russia.”

Rostovsky said he fully agreed with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who told Der Spiegel in late April that Europe has slid “into the worst crisis since the end of the Cold War.”

“Those who can remember the fall of the Berlin Wall know what we’ve accomplished over the past 25 years. The gains we’ve made almost everywhere in Europe in terms of peace, freedom and prosperity are now at risk,” Steinmeier said, adding that that it was important to take “every measure to prevent things [in Ukraine] from getting worse.”

July 4, 2014 Posted by | Militarism | , , , , , | Leave a comment