The United States, France, and Britain have agreed to respond to an alleged Syrian gas attack that took place in Douma, reportedly killing dozens of people. This is despite the fact that Reuters already reported that U.S. government sources told the news outlet that the U.S. government had “not yet conclusively determined whether the attack was carried out by President Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian government forces.”
The media has already jumped at this opportunity to plunge western powers into yet another conflict in the Middle East, one that has no legal basis (especially if there is no evidence of Assad’s culpability). The Guardian is asking for Trump to destroy Syria’s air force. This is the same U.K.-based newspaper that deemed Trump’s election in 2016 to be a “dark day for the world.” His desire to strike Syrian territory would actually be a dark day for the Syrian people, but let’s not allow the facts get in the way of a great narrative.
Whether or not we should brace ourselves for an extensive response from these three major world powers, there is at least one thing recent reports on Syria have successfully done to the current geopolitical narrative.
Prior to the media hype over Syria the past few days, Israel was beginning to make headlines across the world for its criminal activities in Gaza. The U.N. even called for an inquiry into the violence in Gaza that saw IDF snipers kill at least 17 unarmed protesters and injure over 1,400 more. Even prominent pro-establishment outlets such as the Washington Post and Haaretz featured articles critical of what Israel was doing. The International Criminal Court (ICC) has said Israel’s actions may amount to war crimes.
While this was going on, IDF snipers and their fellow troops were caught cheering – an allegation they publicly admitted was true. Soviet-born Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman told reporters he also celebrated the shootings, stating that “[t]he Gaza sniper deserves a decoration, and the photographer a demerit.”
The IDF also shot down a journalist in cold blood, even as he donned a big vest marked “PRESS.”
The thing is, however, that Israel doesn’t just simply need a distraction to stop people from talking about what it has already done the past few weeks (a complete deal-breaker for Israel) — it wants to keep on doing it.
“What’s all the fuss about?” asked Oren Hazan, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party. “Anyone who approaches the fence, armed or not, is gonna get it. As it should be!”
It is no surprise, therefore, that immediately in response to this alleged chemical weapons attack in Syria, it wasn’t the U.S. that struck Syrian government forces straight away – it was Israel.
Israel doesn’t want the media to talk negatively or critically about what it is doing to the Palestinian people. It should be noted that this current conflict has been going on for quite some time. Israel has deprived two million residents in the Gaza Strip of access to basic clean water (97 percent is contaminated by sewage and salt). Israel reduced Gaza’s electricity intake to that of roughly 2-4 hours per day over the course of the past year. Since then, it has openly stepped up lethal air strikes on Palestinian territory, including multiple strikes over the course of this year, and the mainstream media has asked close to zero basic questions about these practices.
Gaza has no air force and no air defenses. The people are protesting for the right to return to their land, and they are being shot down even on their side of the boundary. It is important to remember this because the U.S. and Israel want us to believe they are concerned about the human rights situation in Syria. What better place to start than Gaza if the goal is actually to promote human rights and democratic institutions?
Further, U.S. ally Saudi Arabia has been quietly raiding a Shiite area known as al-Awamiyah, which they all but turned into war zone like Aleppo or Mosul last year. A Saudi soldier was even killed in its latest raid, though this has not been deemed newsworthy.
As long as Syria dominates headlines, expect these issues to remain on the sidelines of acceptable discussion and for life for Palestinians and political dissidents in Saudi Arabia to continue as hellishly unabated as before. Perhaps this is why the U.S. is taking its time to respond — to maximize the potential of this distraction.
Of course, knowing our luck, the current trajectory we are on may be used to kill two birds with one stone by not only putting the media focus back on Syria but also lethally ramping up the pressure on Syria, Russia, and Iran to disallow them from claiming what was quickly becoming a widespread victory for the Syrian government.