We criticized the media for taking Syrian propaganda at face value in the wake of incidents on the Israeli-Syrian border. Unverified casualty figures were broadcast despite their being based solely on Syrian claims.
Despite the media’s romanticism for a story of Palestinian “refugees” attempting to return to their “former homes”, a Syrian opposition group published details of Syrian government payments to those involved in the border riots and infiltrations.
Now, Daily Telegraph blogger and spokesman for Just Journalism Michael Weiss has published what appears to be a leaked document detailing how the Syrian authorities actively helped to create the border confrontations as a way to distract attention from the brutal campaign that the Assad regime is currently conducting against its own civilian population.
Here is the entire document, attributed to the “Office of the Mayor” in Al-Qunaitera province:
After an urgent meeting convened by the security committee on Saturday in the presence of the Mayor of al-Qunaitera, Major General Asef Shawkat -Deputy Chief of Staff for the Armed Forces-, and chiefs of security and military (intelligence) branches in the province, the following was decided:
All security, military, and contingent units in the province, Ain-el-Tina and the old al-Qunaitera are hereby ordered to grant permission of passage to all twenty vehicles (47 passenger capacity) with the attached plate numbers that are scheduled to arrive at ten in the morning on Sunday May 15, 2011 without being questioned or stopped until it reaches or frontier defense locations.
Permission is hereby granted allowing approaching crowds to cross the cease fire line (with Israel) towards the occupied Majdal-Shamms, and to further allow them to engage physically with each other in front of United Nations agents and offices. Furthermore, there is no objection if a few shots are fired in the air.
Captain Samer Shahin from the military intelligence division is hereby appointed to the leadership of the group assigned to break-in and infiltrate deep into the occupied Syrian Golan Heights with a specified pathway to avoid land mines.
It is essential to ensure that no one carries military identification or a weapon as they enter with a strict emphasis on the peaceful and spontaneous nature of the protest.
The provincial security committee meeting is considered in constant deliberation in coordination with the Center.
May you be the source of prosperity for the nation and the party
Dr. Khalil Mash-hadiya
Mayor of Al-Qunaitera
As Weiss concludes:
This document – which I have good reason to believe is absolutely genuine – appears to represent the first piece of regime-created evidence that Assad has cynically tried to manipulate Western and Arabic media during three-month Syrian uprising.
We think this document speaks for itself. But will the rest of the media even report this? Or will those who attributed the border riots to the power of Facebook or the so-called Arab Spring start to rethink these assumptions?
The document also appears to be backed up by a UN report that says that Syrian military forces stood by as the Palestinians crossed the Golan Heights ceasefire line. According to AFP:
The report on the UN Disengagement Force (UNDOF) monitoring the ceasefire between Syria and Israel did not accuse Syrians of organising the protests staged by Palestinians on symbolic days in the Arab-Israeli conflict.
But each time Syrian forces were nearby, it stressed. …
On May 15, about 4,000 mainly Palestinian demonstrators gathered on the Golan Heights on the anniversary of Israel’s 1948 creation.
The UN report said about 300 moved toward the Israeli side ‘and despite the presence of the Syrian police, crossed the ceasefire line, through an unmarked minefield’ and broke through an Israeli security fence. …
On June 5, mainly unarmed young Palestinians again gathered at two places on the Golan Heights ceasefire line. ‘Despite the presence of Syrian security forces, protesters attempted to breach the ceasefire line in both locations,’ the UN said.
Perhaps it is being cynical to suggest such a thing but would the UN be issuing such reports that could be interpreted as backing up the Israeli version of events if it wasn’t for the fact that Syria is currently the subject of intense international pressure over its recent behavior?