Doubt whether our esteemed and celubrious PM Toe Knee Ah…Butt will be joining any dots in Turkey…..see ‘The Conversation’ article here
Photo: Armenians on a french ship.
The Benefit of the Doubt and the neoliberal concept of ‘exceptionalism’ and ‘the reasonable man’.
I had started a post on the above topic, found a suitable Leunig cartoon and was ensconsed when I was rudely interrupted by Toe Knee Ahh Butt’s speech today. But first a word from Michael Leunig to get you in the mood.
I was thinking about concepts like;
Neo-liberal lipservice to assumed values and unexplained values of ‘civilisation’.
“There must be something beyond slaughter and barbarism to support the existence of mankind and we must all help search for it.”(Carlos Fuentes’ last tweet)
I was reading a fabulous paper “Neoliberalising violence: of the exceptional andthe exemplary in coalescing moments” by Simon Springer 2012, and found this brilliant quote;
“I argue that the hegemony of neoliberalism positions it as an abuser, which actively facilitates the abandonment of ‘Others’ who fall outside of ‘neoliberal normativity’, a conceptual category that cuts across multiple categories of discrimination including class, race, ethnicity, gender, sex, sexuality, age and ability. I argue that the widespread banishment of ‘Others’ under neoliberalism produces a ‘state of exception’, wherein because of its inherently dialectic nature, exceptional violence is transformed into exemplary violence. This metamorphosis occurs as aversion for alterity intensiﬁes under neoliberalism and its associated violence against ‘Others’ comes to form the rule. The purpose is to recognise that neoliberalisation – in as much as it claims a global domain– implicates all of humanity in a particular ‘moment’, a moment of abandonment wherein the social relations that afford privilege to the few and privation to the many are the very same social relations that occasion violence.” (My emphasis.)
Simon Springer 2012 Department of Geography, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand
See his article in full here
Then I was interrupted…… by Toe Knee (SMH article with video and transcript here)
AHH BUTT’S FULL NATIONAL SECURITY STATEMENT. (My sarcastic, and sometimes disbelieving comments are in italics)
I want to speak to you about the threat that we face; the work done already to keep you as safe as we humanly can; and the things still needed to prevent further terrorist attacks.
Today, my colleagues and I are joined by representatives of the Australian Federal Police, the Australian Defence Force, ASIO and agencies like Crimtrac – which helps police and other law enforcement bodies share information.
The men and women in this room are on the frontline of Australia’s fight against terror.
There is no greater responsibility – on me – on the government – than keeping you safe. (How about improving income and social protections for the poor and vulnerable?)
This is the responsibility that’s discharged by the men and women in this room.
We know that these are testing times for everyone here – and for everyone sworn to protect democratic freedoms. Conflates his government with the protection of ‘democratic freedoms’
The terrorist threat is rising at home and abroad – (On what basis is this claim made? Mad Man Monis?) and it’s becoming harder to combat. (The word ‘combat’ is in itself inflamatory and totally consistant with the Bush meme “A war on terror” that justified his [and our] illegal invasion of Iraq)
We have seen on our TV screens and in our newspapers (MSM filtered) the evidence (loose use of the term) of the new dark age (at whose direction and with what support from where?) that has settled over much of Syria and Iraq. (But berated Assad as an evil dictator when he advised back in 2012 that his country was being invaded by Foreign fundamentalist terror cells preferring to call them Freedom fighters and totally ignored the years of CIA funding and training to many of those (many who were in Camp Bucca like Bagdadi) who currently fight with IS )
We have seen the beheadings, the mass executions, the crucifixions and the sexual slavery in the name of religion. (and the ones undertaken by ‘our good friends the Saudi’s under state sanctioned terrorism).
There is no grievance here that can be addressed; there is no cause here that can be satisfied; it is the demand to submit – or die.
We have seen our fellow Australians – people born and bred to live and let live – succumb to the lure of this death cult. (and knowing the root causes of this in our own country, dissaffection, racism, ignorance, youth unemployment, and mental illth, ignore these factors and continue to cut funds to programs that address these issues.)
We have heard the exhortations of their so-called caliphate to kill all or any of the unbelievers. (A man who spent four years [or 10 months depending on which reports you read] in US sponsored incarceration in Iraq’s notorious Bucca Gitmo)
And we know that this message of the most primitive savagery is being spread through the most sophisticated technology.
By any measure, the threat to Australia is worsening. (Fueled by what and whom Toe Knee?)
The number of foreign fighters is up. (evidence?)
The number of known sympathisers and supporters of extremism is up. (evidence?)
The number of potential home grown terrorists is rising. (evidence?)
The number of serious investigations continues to increase. (figures and analysis?)
During 2014, the government consulted with our experts – many of whom are in this room today; we talked with our allies; and we worked with the opposition, to improve Australia’s preparedness for any eventuality.
Last September, the National Terrorist Threat level was lifted to high, which means a terrorist attack is likely. (on what basis?)
Critics said we were exaggerating.
But since then, we have witnessed the frenzied attack on two police officers in Melbourne and the horror of the Martin Place siege. (singular events, analysis of which does not reveal anything to support or justify the whipping up by your government of the legislative changes you have proposed and initiated)
Twenty people have been arrested and charged as a result of six counter terrorism operations conducted around Australia. (would this not have occurred without access to the new anti-terror legislation?)
That’s one third of all the terrorism-related arrests since 2001 – within the space of just six months.
The judgment to lift the Threat Level was correct. (Not a logical conclusion)
In proclaiming a caliphate, the Islam-ist death-cult has declared war on the world.
Not only has Australia suffered at the hands of terrorists – but so have Canada, France, Denmark, Iraq, Egypt, Libya, Nigeria, Japan, Jordan, the United Kingdom and the United States.
We have seen the tactics of terrorists evolve. (On MSM and not heard any contradictory or less shock and awe media tactics)
In the decade after 9/11, our agencies disrupted elaborate conspiracies to attack our electricity supplies, the Grand Final at the MCG and the Holsworthy Army Barracks in Sydney.
Now, in addition to the larger scale, more complex plots that typified the post 9/11 world, such as the atrocities in Bali and London, sick individuals are acting on the caliphate’s instruction to seize people at random and kill them. (Not to mention the 9/11 deep state conspiracies, Bush Cheyney, Halliburten, Rumsfeld, G4S, drones, psy-ops and False Flags)
Today’s terrorism requires little more than a camera-phone, a knife and a victim. (One Bourbon, one scotch and one beer)
These lone actor attacks are not new, but they pose a unique set of problems.
All too often, alienated and unhappy people brood quietly. (How true)
Feeling persecuted and looking for meaning, they self-radicalise online. (let’s ban self radicalisation and forget dealing with the root causes of alienation)
Then they plan attacks which require little preparation, training or capability.
The short lead time from the moment they decide they are going to strike, and then actually undertake the attack, makes it hard to disrupt their activities.
Police do not have the luxury to wait and watch.
They apply their best judgement – and they do so, fully aware that armchair critics, will find fault.
Still, police act because they have enough facts to make an informed judgement.
Some of these raids may not result in prosecution. (let’s see how many)
But frankly, I’d rather lose a case, than lose a life. (Lawyer speak for better to be safe than sorry)
The protection of life must always rank ahead of the prospects of a successful prosecution.
The arrest of two men in Sydney earlier this month, who’d already recorded a pre-attack message, is just one example of how quickly a threat can develop.
I should add that without our Foreign Fighters legislation, it is highly unlikely that these arrests could have been made.
This new terrorist environment is uniquely shaped by the way that extremist ideologies can now spread online.
Every single day, the Islam-ist death cult and its supporters churn out up to 100,000 social media messages in a variety of languages.
Often, they are slick and well produced. (Perhaps even as ‘False Flags’ and Psy-ops by so-called people who hold similar values to us)
That’s the contagion that’s infecting people, grooming them for terrorism.
Already at least 110 Australians have travelled overseas to join the death cult in Iraq and Syria.
At least 20 of them, so far, are dead.
Even if the flow of foreign fighters to Syria and Iraq stopped today, there’s an Australian cohort of hardened jihadists who are intent on radicalising and influencing others.
The number of Australians with hands-on terrorist experience is now several times larger than those who trained earlier in Afghanistan and Pakistan. (110-20 = 90 times David Hicks?)
Of that group, two-thirds became involved in terrorist activity back here in Australia. (Where does he get those figures?)
The signs are ominous.
ASIO currently has over 400 high-priority counter-terrorism investigations. (Are you on their list? Am I?)
That’s more than double the number a year ago.
We are not alone in facing such challenges.
The same phenomenon is evident across Europe, in the United States and in South East Asia.
Many of those involved in anti-Western attacks in Indonesia over the last decade are now being released from prison—some neither reformed nor rehabilitated.
Australian and Indonesian agencies will continue to work closely together to tackle extremists – because it is in both our interests to do so.
In Australia and elsewhere, the threat of terrorism has become a terrible fact of life that government must do all in its power to counter.
So far, this is what we have done. (Here we go..)
Within weeks of taking office, I asked the Attorney-General to develop a government response to foreign fighters. (Excluding all those dual citizens who join the Israeli Occupation Forces to fight to protect ‘freedom’ in Israel because they’re our friends and are ‘legitimate combatants’ in the illegal war on Gaza and the Occupied Territories…Oh sorry Mr Brandis, their not occupied)
Last August, the government invested $630 million in a range of new counter-terrorism measures. (Just enough to
This funding gives our security agencies the resources they asked for to combat home-grown terrorism and to help prevent Australians participating in terrorism overseas.
The effect of these new measures has already been felt:
* Counter-Terrorism Teams now operate at all eight major international airports; (I’ll tell you later about Darwin Customs, Immigration and Border Protection)
* Sixty-two additional biometric screening gates are being fast tracked for passengers at airports to detect and deal with people leaving on false passports;
* Forty-nine extra AFP members are working in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra on the Foreign Fighter threat;
* Seven new financial analysts have been engaged to help crack down on terrorist financing; (And this later)
* A new “violent jihadist network mapping unit” in ASIO has been created to improve intelligence agencies’ understanding of the threat facing Australia;
* A Foreign Fighters Task Force has been established in the Australian Crime Commission with access to the commission’s coercive powers; and
* Last Thursday, the Attorney-General announced a series of measures designed to combat terrorist propaganda online. (Interesting must have missed that)
* We have legislated to cancel the welfare payments of individuals assessed to be a threat to security.
This is not window dressing – as of last September, 55 of the 57 Australian extremists then fighting with terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq had been on welfare. (I wonder why?)
We have made it easier to ban terrorist organisations which promote and encourage terrorist acts. (Who are the terrorists? And who will be next? Will those who questions the nature of world events and the increasing government agenda to moniter its citizens in a ‘lowest common denominator’ inspired universally applied internet spyforce, alternative appraisals and possible government conspiracies, poorly masked neo-con capitalist agendas and acts of state terrorism be next or are they already there?)
We have strengthened the offences of training with, recruiting for and funding terrorist organisations.
We have made it easier to prosecute foreign fighters by making it illegal to travel to a declared area overseas. (And the IDF in Gaza?)
Last December, we proscribed travel to Syria’s Al Raqqa province – where the death cult is based – without a legitimate purpose. (But if someone goes to Turkey and gets in that way will you even know?)
We are now looking at listing Mosul district in Ninawa Province, in Iraq, which the death cult also controls.
And we have given ASIO the further power to request an Australian passport be suspended, pending further security assessment – that’s happened eight times so far.
This year, we will consider what further legislation is needed to combat terrorism and keep Australians safe. (That should keep you busy and the populace engrosed, forget all your failed policies and Hockey’s pitiful budget razorcuts)
But we cannot do it alone. (?)
The government is working with local communities to counter violent extremism.
I acknowledge the readiness of parents, siblings and community leaders to let the police know about people they think are falling under the death cult’s spell. (As opposed to believing your neo-con spin….can we please stop this witchworld language …..please)
Our law enforcement agencies could not operate without their help.(That’s a bit sad after all we the tax payer are funding this to the tune of an additional $630 million!)
I acknowledge the cooperation the Commonwealth enjoys with all States and Territories on counter-terrorism issues.
That cooperation was highlighted by the Martin Place siege.
Yesterday, Premier Mike Baird and I released the Martin Place Siege Joint Commonwealth – New South Wales Review.
What we learnt from that Review was that there were no major failings of intelligence or process in the lead up to Martin Place. (Except agreeing that the man was in the first instance to answer charges in Iran of embezelling money from his customers and extradition was requested….How many times has Iran requested this of its nationals and was it ever investigated here, considering extensive police checks are sought from anyone seeking asylum in Australia, oh but of course that was Iran…..and then we were paying Iranian refugee detainees $3000 to go back from Baxter IDF to Iran, but that’s another story.)
Everyone did their job as required by law. (Nuff said)
But now, there’s more to do.
It’s clear that in too many instances the threshold for action was set too high – and the only beneficiary of that was the Martin Place murderer himself.
For too long, we have given those who might be a threat to our country the benefit of the doubt. (I’m not sure what you mean Toe Knee?
The perpetrator was given the benefit of the doubt when he applied for a visa. (Not exactly)
He was given the benefit of the doubt for residency and citizenship.(Not exactly)
He was given the benefit of the doubt at Centrelink.(Who knows what doubt they had)
He was given the benefit of the doubt when he applied for legal aid. (What doubt was he not elligible?)
And in the courts, there has been bail, when there should have been jail. (Toe Knee of the bar)
This report marks a line in the sand.
There is always a trade-off between the rights of an individual and the safety of the community. (But is this the way to ‘make us safe’?)
We will never sacrifice our freedoms in order to defend them – but we will not let our enemies exploit our decency either. (More slogans)
If Immigration and Border Protection faces a choice to let-in or keep out people with security questions over them – we should choose to keep them out. (A dangerous move, what security questions are we talking about)
If there is a choice between latitude for suspects or more powers to police and security agencies – more often, we should choose to support our agencies.
And if we can stop hate-preachers from grooming gullible young people for terrorism, we should.
We have already made a start on removing the benefit of the doubt for people who are taking advantage of us.
We’ve introduced legislation to refuse a protection visa to people who destroy evidence of their identity. (Not a bad idea when people smugglers and pimps remove documents from those seeking asylum and women interned in prostitution rackets)
And the same applies if you present a bogus document.
This Bill is currently stalled in the Senate. (Thank goodness someone’s having a closer look)
It’s reasonable. (What is? that someone’s having a closer look or the Bill? Sorry if I forgot how reasonable you are.)
It’s in our country’s interest.
And I call on all senators to support it.
The government’s Data Retention Bill – currently being reviewed by the Parliament – is the vital next step in giving our agencies the tools they need to keep Australia safe. (Rubbish, vital next step indeed)
Access to metadata is the common element to most successful counter-terrorism investigations.
It’s essential in fighting most major crimes, including the most abhorrent of all – crimes against children. (What about the children?….took you long enough to get the Royal Commission underway and we still lock them up in Madatory detention, ofshore so we can wash our hands of the range human rights abuses being perpetrated.)
Again, I call on Parliament to support this important legislation.
We need to give our agencies these powers to protect our community.
Today, I am releasing the Counter Terrorism review that the government commissioned last August.
The review finds that we face a new, long-term era of heightened terrorism threat, with a much more significant ‘home grown’ element.
“Second, there’s the push for stronger prohibitions on “vilifying, intimidating or inciting hatred”. For most of recent memory, the Coalition wanted to loosen such limits on free speech by watering down Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act.
The new move would use the criminal code instead and any new laws would obviously apply to everyone, not just Muslim preachers. Nevertheless, Mr Abbott is sending a signal to the Muslim community that six months ago the government wanted to increase free speech for the general community and now it wants to curb free speech for Muslims.
This will only increase the sense among Muslims that they are being singled out.”
Carry on Toe Knee……
While the review did not recommend major structural changes, it did recommend strengthening our counter-terrorism strategy and improving our cooperation with at-risk communities.
The government will carefully consider the findings and act as quickly as possible.
In fact, some recommendations have already been acted upon:
We will ensure returning foreign fighters are prosecuted or closely monitored using strengthened control orders.
We will appoint a National Counter Terrorism Coordinator.
We want to bring the same drive, focus and results to our counter terrorism efforts that worked so well in Operation Sovereign Borders and Operation Bring Them Home.
Over recent months, I spent many hours listening to Australians from all walks of life. (We were told by your own party you did not confer on much at all)
Clearly, people are anxious about the national security threats we face.
Many are angry because all too often the threat comes from someone who has enjoyed the hospitality and generosity of the Australian people.
When it comes to someone like the Martin Place murderer, people feel like we have been taken for mugs. (So that’s why you sacked Ruddoch?…..He was the responsible Minister at the time….doubtful)
Australian citizenship is an extraordinary privilege that should involve a solemn and lifelong commitment to Australia.
People who come to this country are free to live as they choose – provided they don’t steal that same freedom from others. (debatable)
We are one of the most diverse nations on earth – and celebrating that is at the heart of what it means to be Australian. (Blah, blah)
We are a country built on immigration and are much the richer for it. (Not after we incarcerated ‘indefinitely’, ‘boat people’) and called legitimate refugees queue jumpers)
Always, Australia will continue to welcome people who want to make this country their home. (?)
We will help them and support them to settle in.
But this is not a one-way street. (Slogan)
Those who come here must be as open and accepting of their adopted country, as we are of them.
Those who live here must be as tolerant of others as we are of them.
No one should live in our country while denying our values and rejecting the very idea of a free and open society. (Your neo-con view of ‘free and open’ society that is. “Respect my authoritie.” …Cartman, South Park…yes I’m loosing interest)
It’s worth recalling the citizenship pledge that all of us have been encouraged to recite:
I pledge my commitment to Australia and its people; whose democratic beliefs I share; whose rights and liberties I respect; and whose laws I will uphold and obey.
This has to mean something.
Especially now that we face a home-grown threat from people who do reject our values. (perhaps you should examine the ‘home grown’ reponsibility aspect more)
Today, I am announcing that the government will look at new measures to strengthen immigration laws, as well as new options for dealing with Australian citizens who are involved in terrorism.
We cannot allow bad people to use our good nature against us. (Your either with us or with the terrorists…Bush OR “Four legs goooood, two legs baaaad” Sheep in Animal Farm)
The government will develop amendments to the Australian Citizenship Act so that we can revoke or suspend Australian citizenship in the case of dual nationals. (Makes you wonder where Palestinians or other previously stateless peoples will sit with only one ‘nationality?)
It has long been the case that people who fight against Australia forfeit their citizenship. (Funny, I thought they were fighting Assad in Syria)
Australians who take up arms with terrorist groups, especially while Australian military personnel are engaged in Afghanistan and Iraq, have sided against their country and should be treated accordingly. (We are not there under any UN sanctioned intervention even if we call it ‘humanitarian’.)
For Australian nationals, we are examining suspending some of the privileges of citizenship for individuals involved in terrorism.
Those could include restricting the ability to leave or return to Australia, and access to consular services overseas, as well as access to welfare payments. (Hmmmnnn)
We will also clamp down on those organisations that incite religious or racial hatred.(Including Zionists?)
No-one should make excuses for Islam-ist fanatics in the Middle East or their imitators here in Australia. (Make excuses, or do you really mean ‘actively support violent jihad’… this is sounding like the BBC panel attack on George Galloway)
For a long time, successive governments have been concerned about organisations that breed hatred, and sometimes incite violence. (I’m tired of this, role of government rant)
Organisations and individuals blatantly spreading discord and division – such as Hizb ut-Tahrir – should not do so with impunity.
Today, I can confirm that the government will be taking action against hate preachers.
This includes enforcing our strengthened terrorism advocacy laws.
It includes new programmes to challenge terrorist propaganda and to provide alternative online material based on Australian values.
And it will include stronger prohibitions on vilifying, intimidating or inciting hatred.
These changes should empower community members to directly challenge terrorist propaganda.
I’ve often heard Western leaders describe Islam as a ‘religion of peace’.
I wish more Muslim leaders would say that more often, and mean it.
I have often cited Prime Minister Najib of Malaysia, who has described the Islamist death cult as ‘against God, against Islam and against our common humanity’.
In January, President al Sisi told the imams at Egypt’s al Azhar university that Islam needed a ‘religious revolution’ to sweep away centuries of false thinking. (Let’s not tbring Al Sisi into this, Pleeeese)
Everybody, including Muslim community leaders, needs to speak up clearly because, no matter what the grievance, violence against innocents must surely be a blasphemy against all religion.
I can’t promise that terrorist atrocities won’t ever again take place on Australian soil.
But let me give you this assurance:
My government will never underestimate the threat.
We will make the difficult decisions that must be taken to keep you and your family safe.
We have the best national security agencies and the best police forces in the world.
Our agencies are working together. (No they’re not, I have that on good advice and personal knowledge, integrated activities and communcations between agencies is not part of the policy implementation of the ATLaw and the Departments involved are not actively sharing intel, this means risk problems and problems for innocents caught in the crosshairs)
All levels of government are working together.
We are doing our duty.
That is what you have a right to expect – and to demand of me and of us.
Well thankfully that’s finished. I’ll let Simon Springer have the final word. His paper (link above) is really worth a read.
‘Neoliberalising violence’ signiﬁes the increasingly fantastic character of violence as our political imaginaries knowingly and unknowingly come to embrace the anomie and social disarticulation of neoliberalism’s dystopia of individualism. Within neoliberalism’s imaginative geographies of a global village, what is not spoken is the desire for a particular homogeneity, an impulse to remake the ‘Other’ in ‘our’ image, whereby the space of ‘the peculiar’, ‘the exotic’, ‘the bizarre’ is continually (re)pro-duced through the relation of the ban. As an ascendantform of sovereignty that attempts to (re)constitute classpower (Harvey 2005) and maintain hegemony through the production of a series of ongoing crises or ‘shocks’ used to pry national economies open to global markets (Klein 2007), neoliberalism exaggerates the abandonment that calls the state of exception into being. To Agamben (2005), the state of exception relies on conditions of crises, wherein individual rights may be diminished,superseded and rejected in the process of extending existing governmental power structures. Insofar as neo-liberalism isapraxis of socio-spatial transformation that proceeds as both a quantitative destruction and discreditation entailing the ‘roll-back’ of certain state functions,and a qualitative construction and consolidation, which sees the ‘roll-out’ of reconﬁgured economic management systems and an invasive social agenda centred on urban order, surveillance and policing, the very logic behind neoliberalism’s exigent modalities melds with the state of exception. Indeed, the state of exception ‘marks a thresh-old at which logic and praxis blur with each other and a pure violence’ is realised (Agamben 2005, 40).
My emphasis, couldn’t have said it better thanks Simon!
I just watched SBS ‘The FEED’ brief report on the outrage of Amman based Palestinian Hip Hop band, TORBYEH at the unauthorised theft of their music in a vile Likud advert for the upcoming elections in Israel.
Likud has hijacked on of the band’s tracks for a deplorable ad that relates voting ‘left’ in the upcoming Israeli election with a vote for terrorism and connects the band’s song ‘Ghorbah’ (meaning ‘exile’ in Arabic) with IS.
Torabyeh’s track, ‘Ghorbah’ from 3 years ago, for your edification below
Yahoo News who I never like to quote, (but was lost for other reports) states; (full report here)
Torabyeh denounced the unauthorised artistic collaboration with the Israeli party’s “electoral propaganda attacking the so-called Zionist ‘left-wing’.”
“We strongly condemn and reject this ruthless infringement of intellectual property rights and the distortion of the reputation of Torabyeh,” the group said on their Facebook page.
They said use of their song in this context “implicates the Torabyeh group by containing serious accusations of terrorism and association with IS which is consequently putting the group’s members lives at risk”.
Torabyeh stressed it rejected “all forms of cooperation with the Zionist enemy”, and pledged to “take all necessary legal action against those responsible”.
The Likud advert shows the fear mongering behaviour of Netanyahu and his Likud goons. Sorry I can’t translate Hebrew (but not sorry really). But here’s the drum from liveleak…..
The video shows actors playing Islamic State terrorists driving in a white pickup truck with Islamic State flags waving from its windows on a desert road, as Arabic rap music plays in the background.They pull up next to another car and ask the (Israeli) driver how to get to Jerusalem and get the response, “turn left.”As the terrorists drive away, the “Anyone but Bibi” slogan can be seen on the truck’s bumper with the words, “the Left will surrender to terrorism,” and bullet holes appear on the screen. In the end of the clip the title shows “It is us or them. Only The Likud. Only Netanyau” The video is called: It’s us or them – Daesh version.
(The) Left part(y) (sic) Meretz already demanded to probe the Likud for incitment in this political campaign ad”. See article here
The Likud Advert…..
Excellent Post- Civilians are just pawns, countries just strategic stepping stones and peoples wishes simply ignored. The Photo’s are precious inroads to what the people are feeling. Again excellent post
The Militia opened a humanitarian corridor for the residents and organised the evacuation. The Ukrainian side did not want to let the civilians cross their front line.
People started leaving the town early in the morning. We ran into the first group of refugees already on Gorlovka’s outskirts. Packed cars with windows steamed on the inside and white sheets, scarves on aerials and mirrors. People had hardly any belongings with them—they escaped with only the clothes they were wearing and had filled the vehicles to the brim. Then we saw a few Urals with children in the cabs. The first transfer point is at the administrative building of one of the mines. Here, the Militia is checking ID papers—a lot of Ukrainian soldiers are left in the city, hiding…
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Ramzy Baroud often touches a nerve for me, his writing is thoughtful and always shows connectedness to his subject.
I have wanted to post on recent issues relating to the Australian Counter Terrorism Legislation Amendment (Foreign Fighters) Bill 2014 and its capacity for thoughtless personal impact through poor policy interpretation of an overly zealous law initiated under the cloud of ‘Terror Threats’ to Australia trumpeted by our government. The implementation of Policy in Australia means the fact that you are Palestinian, will never be forgotten (even if you become a citizen of this country and carry her passport) by security forces of Customs and Border etc and the various Police entities involved in working under this Act.
Double whammy if you are a Palestinian from Syria.
Triple whammy if your birthplace as a part of the diaspora post 1948 was Libya.
Quadruple whammy if you were once an asylum seeker to these shores.
Quintuple if you had to return to Syria for any valid reason over the past few years.
I am still debating whether it is timely to post my piece or if I should do further research and wait for the right moment to be more in tune with the universe and less fucking angry. (Takfiri outsiders in Al Yarmouk killed by multiple poorly aimed gunshots at least 3 men in recent street ‘court assassinations’ for swearing as I just did- Fuck them and their proxy war trainers, suppliers, financiers and supporters)
I want to THANK you Ramzy for this piece, for the 7 reminders and warnings and particularly for the reminder that some people really do understand why you think of your mother when you hear the word ‘refugee’ and why you say, “Dear Syria”……………….
Dear Syria: From One Refugee to Another
Whenever the word ‘refugee’ is uttered, I think of my mother. When Zionist militias began their systematic onslaught and ‘cleansing’ of the Palestinian Arab population of historic Palestine in 1948, she, along with her family, ran away from the once peaceful village of Beit Daras.
Back then, Zarefah was six. Her father died in a refugee camp in a tent provided by the Quakers soon after he had been separated from his land. She collected scrap metal to survive.
My grandmother Mariam, would venture out to the ‘death zone’ that bordered the separated and newly established state of Israel from Gaza’s refugee camps to collect figs and oranges. She faced death every day. Her children were all refugees, living in shatat – the Diaspora.
My mother lived to be 42. Her life was tremendously difficult. She married a refugee, my dad, and together they brought seven refugees into this world – my brothers, my sister and myself. One died as a toddler, for there was no medicine in the refugee camp’s clinic.
No matter where we are, in time and place, we carry our refugee ID cards, our undefinable nationalities, our precious status, our parents’ burden, our ancestors’ pain.
In fact, we have a name for it. It is called waja’ – ‘aching’ – a character that unifies millions of Palestinian refugees all across the globe. With our refugee population now dominated by second, third or even fourth generation refugees, it seems that our waja’ is what we hold in common most. Our geographies may differ, our languages, our political allegiances, our cultures, but ultimately, we meet around the painful experiences that we have internalized throughout generations.
My mother used to say – ihna yalfalastinieen damitna qaribeh – tears for us Palestinians are always close by. But our readiness to shed tears is not a sign of weakness, far from it. It is because throughout the years we managed to internalize our own exile, and its many ramifications, along with the exiles of everyone else’s. The emotional burden is just too great.
We mask the unbearable aching somehow, but it is always close to the surface. If we hear a single melody by Marcel Khalifeh or Sheikh Imam, or a few verses by Mahmoud Darwish, the wound is as fresh as ever.
Most of us no longer live in tents, but we are reminded of our refugee status every single day, by the Israeli occupation, by the Gaza siege and the internally-displaced Palestinians in Israel, by the Iraq war and the displacement of the already displaced Palestinians there, by the despicable living conditions of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, and throughout the Middle East.
But for us, Syria has been our greatest waja’ in years. Aside from the fact that most of Syria’s half a million Palestinian refugees are on the run again, living the pain of displacement and loss for the second, third, or even fourth time. Nine million Syrian refugees are now duplicating the Palestinian tragedy, charting the early course of the Palestinian Nakba, the catastrophe of 1948.
Watching the destitution of the Syrian refugees is like rewinding the past, in all of its awful details. And watching Arab states clamor to aid the refugees with ample words and little action feels as if we are living Arab betrayal all over again.
I watched my grandparents die, followed by my parents and many of my peers. All of them died refugees, carrying the same status and the same lost hope of return. The most they ever received from the ‘international community’ was a few sacks of rice and cheap cooking oil. And, of course, numerous tents.
With time our refugee status morphed from being a ‘problem’ to an integral part of our identities. Being a ‘refugee’ at this stage means insisting on the Right of Return for Palestinian refugees as enshrined in international law. That status is no longer just a mere reference to physical displacement but also to a political, even a national identity.
Political division may, at times, dominate Palestinian society, but we will always be united by the fact that we are refugees with a common cause: going home. While for the Palestinians of Yarmouk near Damascus, being a refugee is a matter of life and death – often by starvation – for the larger Palestinian collective, the meaning of the word has become more involved: it has been etched onto our skin forever.
But what can one say by way of advice to the relatively new refugees of Syria, considering that we are yet to liberate ourselves from a status that we never sought?
There can be only reminders and a few warnings:
First, may your displacement end soon. May you never live the waja’ of displacement to the extent that you embrace it as a part of your identity, and pass it on from one generation to another. May it be a kind of fleeting pain or passing nightmare, but never a pervasive every day reality.
Second, you must be prepared for the worst. My grandparents left their new blankets in their village before they fled to the refugee camps because they feared they would have been ruined by the dust of the journey. Alas, the camps became home, and the blankets were confiscated as the rest of Palestine was. Please remain hopeful, but realistic.
Third, don’t believe the ‘international community’ when they make promises. They never deliver, and when they do, it is always for ulterior motives that might bring you more harm than good. In fact, the term itself is illusory, mostly used in reference to western countries which have wronged you as they have us.
Fourth, don’t trust Arab regimes. They lie. They feel not your pain. They hear not your pleas, nor do they care. They have invested so much in destroying your countries, and so little in redeeming their sins. They speak of aid that rarely arrives and political initiatives that constitute mostly press releases. But they will take every opportunity to remind you of their virtues. In fact, your victimhood becomes a platform for their greatness. They thrive at your expense, thus will invest to further your misery.
Fifth, preserve your dignity. I know, it is never easy to maintain your pride when you sleep in a barren street covered in cardboard boxes. A mother would do whatever she can to help her children pass into safety. No matter, you must never allow the wolves awaiting you at every border to exploit your desperation. You must never allow the Emir, or his children or some rich businessman or sympathetic celebrity to use you as a photo-op. Do not ever kneel. Don’t ever kiss a hand. Don’t give anyone the satisfaction to exploit your pain.
Sixth, remain united. There is strength in unity when one is a refugee. Don’t allow political squabbles to distract you from the greater battle at hand: surviving until the day you return home, and you will.
Seventh, love Syria. Yours is an unparalleled civilization. Your history is rife with triumphs that were ultimately of your own making. Even if you must leave to distant lands, keep Syria in your hearts. This too shall pass, and Syria shall redeem its glory, once the brutes vanquish. Only the spirit of the people shall survive. It is not wishful thinking. It is history.
Dear Syrian refugee, it has been 66 years and counting since my people’s dispossession began. We are yet to return, but that is a battle for my children, and their children to fight. I hope yours ends soon. Until then, please remember the tent is just a tent, and the gusts of cold wind are but of a passing storm.
And until you return home to Syria, don’t let the refugee become who you are, as you are so much more.