It goes without saying that Syria is eager to draw attention away from its own brutal crackdown. However, the Israeli and U.S. government line, dutifully repeated by the media, that Syria organized and promoted the protests which saw hundreds of Palestinian refugees cross the cease-fire line in the Golan on Nakba Day, is turning into a convenient propaganda talking point. Whether or not it’s true is a matter of some debate here in the U.S., Syria and in Israel.
Unfortunately, in the aftermath of Nakba Day, the State Department was quick to draw attention to Syria and away from Israel in the wake of the killing of unarmed Palestinians. The administration wouldn’t even entertain the notion that perhaps shooting unarmed protesters was a tad excessive on Israel’s part, irrespective of Syria’s purported role.
The righty blogosphere has been abuzz with a claim by a right-wing British
hackblogger/reporter Michael Weiss, that he has an official Syrian document purporting to prove Israel’s claim that Syria orchestrated the protests.Boy is that convenient! He’s pretty lucky that classified documents from one of the most closed societies in the region, fell right into his eager little hands!
Here’s the breathless “reporting” from Weiss:
The document (below) which bears the Syrian Republic emblem, is dated May 14, 2011 and describes an “urgent meeting” of Major General Asef Shawkat, the Deputy Chief of Staff for the Armed Forces, and the chiefs of security and military intelligence branches in the province in Al-Qunaitera, which is located at the Syrian-Israeli border. The memorandum outlines how the regime ordered the dispatching of 20 buses, each one with a passenger capacity of 47, to cross the border into Majdal-Shamms in the Golan Heights in order to precipitate a confrontation between Palestinian refugees and Israeli soldiers and UN peacekeeping forces, thereby distracting international attention from the Syrian revolution.
I quote the entire document, attributed to the “Office of the Mayor” in Al-Qunaitera province…
Perhaps now would be a good time to mention that Michael Weiss moonlights as the spokesperson for the media watch group ‘Just Journalism’ which monitors media coverage of Israel and finds anti-Israel bias everywhere. The group is also obsessed with creeping Sharia law and the influence of Islam in the “liberal media.” Yeah, whatever Michael.
Richard Silverstein of Tikun Olam (a great blog btw) did some digging and found that Weiss’ claims about the origins of the Syrian document are, well, untrue:
A former high ranking Israeli government source revealed to me that Israeli intelligence leaked to a pro-Israel British tabloid blogger an alleged Syrian government document claiming that the Syrian government organized the bus convoys which brought demonstrators to the Syria-Israel armistice line on Nakba Day. Demonstrations on that day were met with murderous IDF fire killing 14 individuals.
Michael Weiss, the Telegraph’s pro-Israel blogger known for his neocon views, apparently lied when he claimed the government document was “leaked by the governor of al-Quneitra.” Any government official who leaked such a document would be jobless in a heartbeat, if not dead. In truth, my source says Weiss received the document from Israeli intelligence, which has been spreading rumors through the online hasbara community that the government organized the protests in order to distract from the severe instability it faced from democracy protests. Why did Weiss engage in such a prevarication? Clearly to conceal his true source. Though it’s conceivable that Israeli intelligence stole or otherwise secured the alleged memo from the governor of the province.
The Israeli media is dutifully reporting the story as if it was halacha l’Moshe mi’Sinai (‘God’s law from Sinai’). But no one appears to asking themselves how Weiss got this scoop and whose interest it would be to pass it to him? This way Israel distracts from its own murder of unarmed Syrian-Palestinians and leaves no fingerprints on the evidence.
But here’s the thing- while Weiss may have lied about the source of the document, the authenticity of the document is still a matter of some debate although there definitely is the possibility that it is legitimate. However Silverstein raises some good questions about the wording of the document:
First, why would a Syrian intelligence officer say protesters must not carry weapons, and then say that a few shots may even be fired? Unless, possibly he was saying that Syrian security forces could fire shots pretending to try to stop the protests from proceeding–though in the videos I have seen I saw no such security personnel in evidence.
Second, why would the official say that protesters should “infiltrate deep into the Syrian-occupied Golan Heights.” If you were Syrian and you viewed Israel’s Golan territory as sovereign Syrian land, you simply wouldn’t call a protest crossing the armistice line an “infiltration.”
The Mossad has, in the past, been known to leak falsified documents from Middle Eastern nations. In fact, it leaked fabricated Iranian government memos alleging work on nuclear triggering devices to another British paper, the Times, several years ago. It also leaked this story of alleged Syrian-Hezbollah war perparations to a Kuwaiti paper.
Max Blumenthal isn’t buying it either:
After an international outcry, Israel blamed the Syrian regime and Iran for the demonstrations at the frontiers (it had little to say about the killings it committed in Maroun al Ras, Lebanon, however). I asked Zurayk about the Israeli claim. He remarked, “No amount of Syrian money can make people run to a border knowing they will be shot at. If the Syrians are being clever, that is their consideration. But do you really think Palestinians need Syrians to make them want to return to Palestine? They are living in camps with sewage running openly, with no jobs and no opportunities.”
While evidence that the Syrian regime directly organized the demonstrations is scant to non-existent, the regime clearly enabled the demonstrators to reach the fence by neglecting to repel them with its own troops. Not only does this fact fail to excuse Israel’s wanton killing, it highlights the irony of Israel and its allies condemning the Syrian regime for its brutal repression of Syrian citizens rising up against it (of course, the whole world should deplore Assad’s draconian rule), while at the same time demanding that the regime repress the Palestinian refugees who are protesting for their own internationally recognized rights.
Does any of this matter? Well, yes. The Israeli military using a right wing blogger/media watcher to push the Israeli narrative that Syria was to blame for both the protests and the resulting deaths, is important and raises questions. It’s difficult for me to wrap my mind around the idea that as Assad is brutally murdering, torturing and imprisoning his own people, he was able to recruit busloads of people who were more than willing to help him stir up trouble on the Israeli border. It’s not outside the realm of possibility, but I’ve noticed whenever Israelis and Palestinians clash and the death toll is very one-sided (ie. it’s the Palestinians who are killed), Israel and the U.S. rush to find someone else to blame- Iran, Turkey, Syria etc.