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Syria: We Stand Against Occupation

Categories: Middle East & North Africa, Israel, Palestine, Syria, Media & Journalism, Protest, War & Conflict

I am excited to join Global Voices Online Middle East and North Africa team and will be happy to cover the Syrian blogsphere alongside Yazan Badran [1]. GVO is one of my favorite websites and I am happy to be part of its Global Voices Advocacy [2] and Lingua Arabic [3] projects as well. I hope my posts would be fairly representative to both of the Syrian bloggers and to their readers.

Yaman Salahi [4], an undergrad student of UC Berkeley and an active member of Students for Justice in Palestine [5] club there, has posted a series of reactions to the club's die-in protest that took place on campus few days ago in solidarity with the 116 Palestinians killed by the Israeli army. You can view pictures of the die-in protest on Isabel's [6] Flickr account [7].

The Daily Californian's [8] covered the die-in protest publishing this photo and these words [9]:


Yaman criticized the newspaper's tagging of the protest as “stand[ing] against conflict” and addressed the newspaper as follows [10]:

Actually, Daily Cal, yesterday [3rd of March] students participated in a die-in in solidarity with the 116 Palestinians that the Israeli army killed over the weekend in Gaza. We did not stand against “conflict,” but the Israeli occupation. Can you say those words, or is that a little too informative?

One of the commentators disapproved of Yaman's use of the word ‘occupation’ and thus accused him of being “anti-semetic.”

Allison, another commentator, responded to this accusation as follows:

Calling Yaman an anti-Semite and assuming he finds Haifa and Tel Aviv to be occupied is really low. There is nothing in what he has written that would suggest those were the things he was thinking or intending. If so he would have been involved in a great big “free occupied haifa and tel aviv” demonstration where he would announce himself as a Jew-hater. The reality is that the demonstration was to recognize the loss of life that has occurred due to the excessive, unequal use of force by Israel, on Palestinians. You only jump to those conclusions as an attempt to discredit him and show him to have violent intentions. Those are your words, not his, he is talking about a government sanctioned military occupation over a civilian population, not irrationally hating or wishing harm to Jews.

116 people died in the past few days and that pains us; we lay on the ground to grieve, we lay on the ground out of compassion for human life. None of which is anti-semetic.

In another post [11], Yaman writes about a counter-protest to the die-in protest held by HaTikva: Students for Israel [12]. He notes:

Their counter-protest consisted of a sign displayed ahead of our protest that read, “Victims of Palestinian Terror,” meant to confuse passers-by as to the purpose of our action.

Yaman expresses his worries of the students group's rhetoric when they ignore the civilian deaths of the Palestinian side, categorizing all of the dead under “terrorists”:

According to B’tselem [13] on March 3 (before the death toll rose by another dozen), over half of those killed by the Israeli military in Gaza were civilians. According to Maan News [14], at least 1/3rd were children. On the other hand, according to Tikvah …Israel “eliminated about 110 terrorists.”

Tikvah’s message is clear: all the Palestinians killed by the Israeli military, be they children, be they unarmed civilians, are terrorists. Further, Tikvah has dehumanized Palestinians to the extent that they do not even die. They are not killed or murdered; they are not even casualties. Like pests, they are “eliminated.”

Finally, Yaman concluded his post by asserting that the real issue is not whose lives are more valuable in both sides’ deaths, but stopping the violence is. He explains:

To stop the violence, step back from it [15]. Recognize the legitimate grievances of all people in Israel and Palestine. The United States will not solve this issue; there will be no impartial or neutral arbitrator or judge who will issue a verdict that all people will follow. Cheer-leading squads for Israel like Tikvah will do nothing that can even change the status quo, let alone construct a path towards resolution and reconciliation. It is up to us to escape the suffocating influence of state narratives and to create opportunities and possibilities for the future with our own hands.