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Gilets Jaunes, Avaaz, Macron & Facebook (or when grassroots ‘populism’ meets controlled opposition)

Gilet Jaunes

In late November last year a new grassroots movement took to the streets of Paris. Taking its name from the adopted emblematic apparel of hi-vis yellow vests which every French motorist is obliged to carry in their vehicles, early reports repeated the claim that the thousands of demonstrators had gathered for the rather limited mission of stopping the implementation a new fuel tax. As the weeks passed, however, and as the protests continued even after President Macron’s concessionary intervention to freeze the tax hike 1, it became evident that although elected to office just eighteen months previously, Macron was suddenly facing a very serious political crisis. One of the few political commentators to recognise the nature and the importance of the Gilets Jaunes was American author Diana Johnstone, who is based in Paris and wrote in early December:

Initial government responses showed that they weren’t listening. They dipped into their pool of clichés to denigrate something they didn’t want to bother to understand.

President Macron’s first reaction was to guilt-trip the protesters by invoking the globalists’ most powerful argument for imposing unpopular measures: global warming. Whatever small complaints people may have, he indicated, that is nothing compared to the future of the planet.

This did not impress people who, yes, have heard all about climate change and care as much as anyone for the environment, but who are obliged to retort: “I’m more worried about the end of the month than about the end of the world.”

After the second Yellow Vest Saturday, November 25, which saw more demonstrators and more tear gas, the Minister in charge of the budget, Gérard Darmanin, declared that what had demonstrated on the Champs-Elysée was “la peste brune”, the brown plague, meaning fascists. (For those who enjoy excoriating the French as racist, it should be noted that Darmanin is of Algerian working class origins). This remark caused an uproar of indignation that revealed just how great is public sympathy for the movement – over 70% approval by latest polls, even after uncontrolled vandalism. Macron’s Minister of the Interior, Christophe Castaner, was obliged to declare that government communication had been badly managed. Of course, that is the familiar technocratic excuse: we are always right, but it is all a matter of our “communication”, not of the facts on the ground.

Maybe I have missed something, but of the many interviews I have listened to, I have not heard one word that would fall into the categories of “far right”, much less “fascism” – or even that indicated any particular preference in regard to political parties. These people are wholly concerned with concrete practical issues. Not a whiff of ideology – remarkable in Paris! 2

Click here to read Johnstone’s full article entitled “Yellow Vests Rise Against Neo-Liberal ‘King’ Macron”.

Although there is a great deal of misrepresentation of the Gilets Jaunes, it isn’t very hard to trace their origins. We could go back fifty years to the same Paris streets and the anti-establishment uprising instigated by student protests that signalled the beginning of the end for Charles de Gaulle. However, there was a stronger ideological current in ’68 than now; the movement then stirred into being and driven by the purposefully obscure quasi-Marxist slogans of the Situationists, most famous for enigmatically declaring “Sous les pavés, la plage!” (“Under the pavement, the beach”).

Within a few decades following the dissolution of the Situationists, a more distinctly anti-capitalist movement began to emerge. Widely referred to at the time as anti-globalisation, for many years it was belittled and trivialised, characterised as directionless and quixotic. In fact it was simply ahead of its time, and with the millennium rapidly approaching, the mobilisation of many tens of thousands who steadily gathered outside the WTO convention in Seattle was about to seriously unsettle the western establishment.

On November 30th 1999, with the conference underway, the authorities reacted. Their response has since become a familiar one: blockades, pepper spray, tear gas and stun grenades rained down on what had been more or less peaceful demonstrations. Having provoked a response, the Mayor of Seattle, Paul Schell, subsequently declared a state of emergency, and then, the following day, State Governor, Gary Locke called in National Guardsmen to enforce a no-protest zone. At the height of what would later be known as the “Battle in Seattle” the streets were strewn with shattered glass just as the air was thick with teargas. The estimated costs to the city exceeded $20 million.

As it transpired, the protests Seattle represented the apogee of this first anti-globalisation movement, its growing strength abruptly snuffed out by the attacks on the World Trade Center. No movement so openly hostile to global trade could sustain itself in the immediate post-9/11 environment, and so it withered away as the peace movement would too; all anti-establishment causes becoming collateral damage. In fact it took nearly a decade for any comparable movement to re-emerge, and this time it was born in the shadow of the banking crisis and on the back of the “Arab Spring”.

It was not until 2011 before thousands in Spain and Greece finally took to the streets protesting against neo-liberalism and the “austerity measures” that were starting to cripple their economies and to undermine welfare and other state provision. This happened during the earliest days of this blog, and so I cut my teeth writing a sequence of articles which began with the first of the ‘los indignados’ protests on May 15th (also known as 15M). Shortly afterwards on July 25th, a small contingent of the burgeoning movement had embarked on a thousand mile march from Madrid to the European Parliament in Brussels in forlorn hopes of petitioning “the Troika” to end their measures.

Across the Atlantic, and inspired by popular uprisings now taking place around the Mediterranean (including the so-called Arab Spring revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt), Occupy Wall Street then commenced with its call for people to gather on September 17th. Just a month later, on Saturday October 15th (15-O), there was a coordinated day of international dissent called for by los indignados with rallies taking place not only in Spain (half a million in both Barcelona and Madrid), but also in Greece and the other “PIGS” (to use the vile and frankly racist acronym quite freely attached by the press), as well as in other major European cities and across the United States. The 15-O event actually sparked protests as far afield as Hong Kong, Tokyo, Mumbai, Canada, South America and Africa.

Click here to read a list of the 15-O Occupy protests around the world and here to read my own post about this first day of global outrage.

By the symbolic (if coincidental) date of November 5th, Occupy Sheffield sprang up too, when a small band of disillusioned strangers put together a makeshift protest camp outside the cathedral. Thus the Occupy movement that had been inspired by los indignados in Spring, and spread to Wall Street by mid-September, was within months recruiting fellow travellers in my home city as in other towns and cities of the UK including the capital.

For a brief moment, the Occupy movement became a global protest movement, and one that in superficial respects, resembles today’s Yellow Vest movement. It was horizontally structured, eschewed leadership and listed no formal demands. Finally, and in spite of its foundational and unswerving commitment to non-violence action, when the time came – in America especially – the police response was unrestrained and brutal. The largest encampment in Zuccotti Park would be swept aside within just a few hours on November 15th, scarcely two months after the protests had commenced.

It is true to say that los indignados slowly transformed into the new political party Podemos, and that the parallel protests in Greece likewise helped to trigger the rise of Syriza, however, once the last pockets of resistance were vanquished in other parts of the world, little more remained than a lasting slogan: “we are the 99%”. And so in spite of the tremendous enthusiasm and initial optimism, the revolution was cancelled. Doubtless in part it was doomed to fail if only because camping in the park – especially at the onset of Winter – was a desperately poor strategy to begin with, but more importantly, the movement had never managed to reach out to the wider populous, whether through trades unions, civil rights groups or by tuning in to the real concerns of disaffected groups beyond the large metropolitan centres.

I visited the camp at the Cathedral on a few occasions and at first was eagerly welcomed in, but as the weeks passed, the mood changed. The mix included students, the homeless, drop-outs and well-intentioned others, but rather than actively protesting, this in-crowd mostly spent their days cooking food, constructing shelters and sitting in meetings with comrades where decisions were made on a strict consensus basis, and nights hunkered down in tents or under tarpaulin. They had built makeshift libraries and hung up posters – I recall that one was for Avaaz – and they did workshops for anyone interested. In short, Occupy was always directed towards building a ‘community’ and as such was inward-looking. Outside the tents, the passersby passed by, and most were unimpressed by the genuine commitment shown by those who nightly sacrificed the warmth and comfort of a bed to sleep out on the streets.

Although the Gilets Jaunes are successors to the fin de siècle anti-globalisation movement that culminated in Seattle, and to the Occupy camps which disbanded a decade after, their anger is more palpable and their strength has been greatly reinforced due to support throughout the rural provinces. Unlike the earlier movements, the Gilets Jaunes are in fact marginalised in a different way: largely abandoned by the left-leaning intelligentsia, for better or worse, neither do they enjoy celebrity endorsements. Finally, at the extremes of the criticism they endure, they are disparaged as ‘populist’. This is actually their greatest strength, of course, and the biggest reason they are met with such hardline suppression by the authorities. It is also why both their political cause and the gatherings of thousands each weekend (especially when peace is maintained) have been dutifully downplayed by the corporate media.

In truth, this spontaneous and mostly leaderless movement is more straightforwardly working class, and it is this factor above others that singles it out and makes it significantly different from the earlier movements. Such an awakening of class consciousness also potentially makes it a genuine existential threat to the establishment.

Activist, writer and theoretical physicist, Jean Bricmont, a Belgian perhaps best known for his role in the ‘Sokal Affair’, is a leftist commentator who has actually participated in the Yellow Vest protests. In a recent interview with independent Algerian journalist, Mohsen Abdelmoumen, he outlined other ways in which the Gilets Jaunes radically differs from previous social uprisings:

[T]he movement is intensely patriotic – they sing the “Marseillaise”, wave the French flag, etc. It is an attitude that deeply disturbs the left.  The people show that they are attached to their country – as the Algerians are attached to Algeria, the French are attached to France –, which does not imply any hostility towards foreigners, but it implies a certain idea of national community and this is something that the left has hated for decades. It is the great problem of the left that it is cut off from the majority of people because it rejects this idea of a national community and puts forward its membership in Europe, globalization, etc. From this point of view, the left is completely cut off from the people.

According to Bricmont, the Gilets Jaunes confront the powers-that-be with what is for them an irresolvable crisis:

Yellow Vests ask such fundamental questions that no European government could answer them. Moreover, Macron is a prisoner of the European Union logic. He throws oil on the fire with his provocations, but the crisis is the result of decades of neoliberal politics, deindustrialization, destruction of public services, and so on.

Asked whether the emergence of the GJ movement is historical, Bricmont replies:

Yes, I think so, but it is very complicated to imagine the form by which the people would take power. They talk about the RIC (Citizens’ Initiative Referendum) and the European Union, but they are not at all clear on the latter issue. The problem is that it is a spontaneous and unorganized movement, so there are no leaders, no method for collective thought. There is collective thought developed by people discussing in the traffic circles and who think of alternatives, but the movement is not yet structured enough so that we could know where it will lead. I tend to think that we have to wait to know what will come of all this. For now, they are resisting, which is already remarkable, but where it will go, I do not know. 3

Click here to read the full interview in the American Herald Tribune.

Interestingly, although leaderless, as far back as December 5th a set of demands purporting to be an ‘official’ Yellow Vest manifesto appeared:

Soon after a translated version appeared too:

For alternative leftist analysis of the movement we may also turn to Serge Halimi, editorial director of Le Monde diplomatique, whose thoughts were published by Counterpunch on January 8th. Halimi writes:

The sudden emergence of the yellow vests, just as miraculous and much more powerful, demonstrates the gradual impoverishment of an ever-larger section of society. It also demonstrates the feeling of absolute defiance towards — almost disgust at — the usual channels of representation: the movement has no leaders or spokespeople, rejects political parties, keeps its distance from unions, ignores intellectuals and hates the media. This probably explains its popularity, which it managed to retain even after violence any other government would have capitalised on. 4

Click here to read the full article entitled “Forgotten France Rises Up”.

Another article that shines some clearer light on the rise of the Gilets Jaunes was written by Max Parry and published in Counterpunch on January 4th. He writes:

In less than two months, the yellow vests (“gilets jaunes”) movement in France has reshaped the political landscape in Europe. For a seventh straight week, demonstrations continued across the country even after concessions from a cowing President Emmanuel Macron while inspiring a wave of similar gatherings in neighboring states like Belgium and the Netherlands. Just as el-Sisi’s dictatorship banned the sale of high-visibility vests to prevent copycat rallies in Egypt, corporate media has predictably worked overtime trying to demonize the spontaneous and mostly leaderless working class movement in the hopes it will not spread elsewhere.

The media oligopoly initially attempted to ignore the insurrection altogether, but when forced to reckon with the yellow vests they maligned the incendiary marchers using horseshoe theory to suggest a confluence between far left and far right supporters of Jean-Luc Mélenchon and Marine Le Pen. To the surprise of no one, mainstream pundits have also stoked fears of ‘Russian interference’ behind the unrest. We can assume that if the safety vests were ready-made off the assembly line of NGOs like the raised fist flags of Serbia’s OTPOR! movement, the presstitutes would be telling a different story.

And he addresses the reason behind the mostly silent response coming from progressives within America:

While the media’s conspicuous blackout of coverage is partly to blame, the deafening silence from across the Atlantic in the United States is really because of the lack of class consciousness on its political left. With the exception of Occupy Wall Street, the American left has been so preoccupied with an endless race to the bottom in the two party ‘culture wars’ it is unable to comprehend an upheaval undivided by the contaminants of identity politics. A political opposition that isn’t fractured on social issues is simply unimaginable. Not to say the masses in France are exempt from the internal contradictions of the working class, but the fetishization of lifestyle politics in the U.S. has truly become its weakness. […]

In today’s political climate, it is easy to forget that there have been periods where the American left was actually engaged with the crisis of global capitalism. In what seems like aeons ago, the anti-globalization movement in the wake of NAFTA culminated in huge protests in Seattle in 1999 which saw nearly 50,000 march against the World Trade Organization. Following the 2008 financial collapse, it briefly reemerged in the Occupy movement which was also swiftly put down by corporate-state repression. Currently, the political space once inhabited by the anti-globalization left has been supplanted by the ‘anti-globalist’ rhetoric mostly associated with right-wing populism.

Globalism and globalization may have qualitatively different meanings, but they nevertheless are interrelated. Although it is shortsighted, there are core accuracies in the former’s narrative that should be acknowledged. The idea of a shadowy world government isn’t exclusively adhered to by anti-establishment conservatives and it is right to suspect there is a worldwide cabal of secretive billionaire power brokers controlling events behind the scenes. There is indeed a ‘new world order’ with zero regard for the sovereignty of nation states, just as there is a ‘deep state.’ However, it is a ruling class not of paranoiac imagination but real life, and a right-wing billionaire like Robert Mercer is as much a globalist as George Soros.

Ever since capitalism emerged it has always been global. The current economic crisis is its latest cyclical downturn, impoverishing and alienating working people whose increasing hardship is what has led to the trending rejection of the EU. Imperialism has exported capital leading to the destruction of jobs in the home sectors of Western nations while outsourcing them to the third world. Over time, deep disgruntlement among the working class has grown toward an economic system that is clearly rigged against them, where the skewed distribution of capital gains and widespread tax evasion on the part of big business is camouflaged as buoyant economic growth. When it came crashing down in the last recession, the financial institutions responsible were bailed out using tax payer money instead of facing any consequences. Such grotesque unfairness has only been amplified by the austerity further transferring the burden from the 1% to the poor. 5

Click here to read the full article entitled “Why France’s Yellow Vest Protests Are Ignored by ‘The Resistance’ in the U.S.”

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“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win” said Gandhi (or possibly somebody else 6), but that was old school in any case. In today’s ‘post-truth’ era, ‘they’ have been enabled both to ignore and to fight you simultaneously. And just as the Occupy movement was forcibly dismantled with the cameras turned away, so on the streets of France another unreported crackdown is being carried out right now.

On January 28th, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatović, who has “been keeping close track of the events linked to the ‘yellow vest’ movement in France since mid-November 2018” made an official visit to Paris, prompted by what she describes as an “increasing number of violent incidents, reported by a very large number of media outlets, confirmed by information passed on to her by national human rights bodies and borne out by evidence received directly by her Office”. A month later on February 26th, she released her damning report on “the circumstances of the use of force by law enforcement officers and some demonstrators, and assess[ing] the human rights situation in the context of the various forms of action linked to the yellow vest movement.” The following summary is directly quoted from that report (further extracts are reprinted in the footnote):

[A]ccording to figures from the Ministry of the Interior 12 122 LBD rounds [i.e., rubber bullets], 1428 instant tear gas grenades and 4942 hand-held sting grenades were fired or thrown between the beginning of the yellow vest movement and 4 February 2019. She is concerned at the high level of use of these so-called intermediate weapons despite the fact that their deployment is restricted and they can cause serious injury. The Commissioner notes that according to a count carried out by an independent journalist, at the time of writing, the three types of intermediate weapon referred to above had been involved in 253 of 428 reports made to him by persons claiming to be victims of police violence, which he himself had documented and cross-checked, confirming a high prevalence of LBDs, accounting for 193 of these cases. The count highlighted 38 wounds to upper limbs including 5 lost hands, 52 wounds to lower limbs, 3 wounds to the genitals and 189 head wounds including 20 people who have lost an eye.

In conclusion she says:

The Commissioner is extremely concerned about the number of serious, concurring and credible allegations of police violence causing mutilation and serious injury, particularly to the head. She considers that head wounds caused by LBD [rubber bullets] fire show a disproportionate use of force and the unsuitability of this type of weapon in the context of operations aimed at maintaining public order. 7

Investigative journalist Vanessa Beeley has witnessed the police violence first-hand and has been running regular columns throughout the already five months since the GJ first took to the streets. Back on January 31st, she reported:

Since the 24th November 2018 the violence witnessed on the streets of cities across France has escalated dramatically. One French independent journalist, David Dufresnes, has been recording all infractions committed by police and security forces and tweeting them to the Interior Ministry while giving interviews to a huge number of French media channels to raise awareness of the police brutality during peaceful protests. In the tweet below, infraction number 362 dated 26/1/2019, an off duty soldier is reported to be hit in the head by a police LBD40 rubber bullet as he is leaving a restaurant in Montpelier on his way to the nightclub with two of his colleagues:

Link to Tweet and video here.

Dufresnes has recorded 157 injuries to the head including 18 who have lost an eye, fractures of the jaw and comas in the most severe cases. 11 hand injuries, in 4 cases resulting in the loss of a hand. 8 back injuries, 28 injuries to the upper body, 40 lower limb injuries, 3 injuries to the genital area, 48 unspecified injuries and 55 cases of intimidation, insults, repression of press freedom infractions. One eighty-year-old was murdered on the 1st December 2018 in Marseilles – Zineb Redouane was killed when a tear gas grenade was thrown in her face by the security forces. According to Dufresnes this is the list of the more serious injuries, an estimated 2000 – 3000 more GJs have been “lightly” injured during the protests since November 2018.

Record of some of the appalling injuries inflicted upon unarmed civilians by police forces across France. (Photo: Desarmons.net)

Dufresnes argues that the police have already lost control of the situation and can no longer be legitimately claiming to “maintain law and order”. In one interview Dufresnes points out that the use of 10,000 tear gas grenades on one day of protests points to a “panic” situation among the security forces. During “Acte XI” of the protests on the 26th January the elderly man, Eric, in the photo below was hit on the head by a police truncheon in Marseilles. He has three fractures and is forced to eat only liquid food from the left side of his mouth for three weeks, according to his brother.

On February 11th, Venessa Beeley delivered a presentation at the Mot Dag Conference in Oslo and provided a powerful testimony of the state sanctioned violence against unarmed civilians in French cities:

Having cited other instances of entirely innocent protesters who have been maimed or otherwise seriously injured, Beeley writes:

Effectively the Gilets Jaunes have exposed Macron and his government for what it is. Macron is the President who was elected by the globalists, the capitalists and the ruling elite to protect their interests. A book recently published, authored by Francois-Xavier Bourmand, entitled “Emmanuel Macron the Banker who would be King” has investigated the corporatocracy who ensured Macron’s election win in order to expand their interests globally and to convert France from Republic into Plutocracy at the expense of the “dispensables”, the “little people”.

During one confrontation with a citizen at one of the Grand Debates, Macron is asked why he has failed to fulfill his pre-election promise of “no more SDF (homeless) on the streets of France – 580 SDF died on the streets of France in 2018. Rather than show compassion for the poverty-stricken and homeless, Macron defends his policies with accountant-speak, informing the audience that the elite must be protected in order to provide jobs for the “poor”.

If indeed Macron’s coterie in government are pushing for confrontation between the people and the security forces and introducing increasingly repressive measures to up the pressure on the protestors rather than trying to defuse matters, it is really ten minutes before midnight in France. The insanity of Macron supporting the “uprising” in Venezuela while sanctioning vicious reprisals against his own people at home is glaringly obvious to all but Macron and his backers. That is because Macron is doing his job and his job is to manufacture the conditions in which the privileged, wealthy ruling elite can thrive and further their globalist ambitions which includes military adventurism and resource theft from target nations that include Venezuela and Syria.

Violence will escalate in France because it is state-sanctioned. Unless the police wake up to their manipulation by the state and join forces with the GJs there is a risk of a serious confrontation in the very near future.

Click here to read Vanessa Beeley’s full article published on Patreon.

On January 28th, Vanessa Beeley, was interviewed on The Last American Vagabond about the “Yellow Vests” movement. She discussed the media suppression, police brutality and its subsequent cover up, and also spoke about the orchestration of an alternative so-called ‘Red Scarf’ resistance movement:

Then on March 10th, Vanessa Beeley appeared as a guest on George Galloway’s RT show ‘Sputnik’, were she again talked about the ‘Yellow Vest’ protests and the media silence:

Protests on consecutive weekends have now passed more than a hundred days, and with no sign at all that the movement is ready to fade away, the Macron government has been stepping up its strong-arm measures, including the deployment of the army on the streets of Paris. This latest move is justified on the basis of an abrupt escalation in violence and vandalism during the 18th act of the protests. However, as wsws.org reported on Thursday 21st, the crackdown comes in spite of widescale evidence of police collusion with black bloc and other agitators:

The escalation of repression by the Macron government after Saturday’s clashes with protesters on the Champs-Élysées in Paris, during the 18th weekly “yellow vest” protests, raises the most serious questions as to the government’s role. No evidence has been provided that the violence was caused by “yellow Vest” protesters. But the Élysée is seeking to tear up the right to protest on the basis of these murky events, which sections of the state apparatus itself have attributed to far-right forces.

On Monday, the government announced that protests could be banned in areas where violence had previously occurred, if police declare that “extreme elements” could be present among the protesters. But it is precisely the question of the police’s own role that is raised by Saturday’s events, which saw numerous buildings set on fire, notably Fouquet’s restaurant.

The police, which were filmed ransacking the merchandise store of the Paris Saint-Germain football club, are now threatening the “yellow vests” with a major escalation of violence. Frédéric Lagache, the general secretary of the Alliance police union which is tied to neo-fascists, called for the injuring of demonstrators: “We should be willing to clash with them and maybe cause some injuries. We’re not going up against choir-boys.”

The incriminating footage of alleged police looting can be found here:

[A] segment of a video originally live-streamed by Rémy Buisine, a journalist for the French news site Brut, has gone viral, garnering more than three million views. The footage shows an officer a few metres from the PSG shop entrance carefully folding what looks like club jerseys or white sweatshirts and putting them into a black bag.

Buisine is heard commenting that “some items were…” before being brusquely interrupted. As the camera shakes, Buisine says that he was clubbed by a police officer with a baton, although that isn’t clearly shown in the video. 8

The same wsws.org article continues:

On Saturday, the Socialist Party mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, reacted to the violence by declaring: “What I saw tonight were extreme right groups who want to destabilize democracy, and groups of looters.”

She also pointed to the responsibility of police for the violence that erupted on the Champs-Élysées: “It ought to be possible to take control of a situation like the one we just passed through.”

Naturally, Hidalgo chose her words and took care not to express herself in a way that would raise questions as to the role of the state machine, of which she is herself an important cog. But it is necessary to ask the questions which are directly posed by such statements.

If far-right groups are indeed responsible, then which far-right groups are they? Who are their leaders, and who gave orders to set different shops and buildings on fire? Are there ties between the far-right groups that ransacked the Champs-Élysées, according to Hidalgo, and those, for example, who are now appealing the conviction of their ex-members for the fascist murder of Clement Méric?

Given the vast powers that the state has to monitor electronic communications and mobile phones, how is it possible that they do not know the identities of those responsible?

And if, as Hidalgo claims, the responsibility for the violence lies with far-right forces that threaten democracy, what conclusions should one draw about the role of the government? Why are Macron and his ministers silent about the role of the far right, besides the fact that this discredits their claim that the “yellow vests” and those who support them—some 70 percent of the French population—are responsible for the violence? 9

Click here to read the full report entitled “Unanswered questions on French police role in Saturday ‘yellow vest’ clashes”.

On Saturday 23rd, ‘We Are Change’ released an extended interview with an anonymous Gilets Jaunes spokesman “Bob” who spoke to Luke Rudkowski about the violence of the previous weekend’s “18th Act”; the psychological problems suffered by police officers; the use of a new type of unknown ‘teargas’ agent; the deployment of troops; and the callous manipulation of the narrative by Macron. Both parts of the interview are embedded below [warning: the introductory music is unnecessarily loud]:

In short, fighting against what have been, for the most part, peaceful protests is in the long run a losing strategy, so it has been essential to denigrate the entire ‘Yellow Vest’ movement by tarnishing its reputation, whether by means agents provocateurs (Vanessa Beeley reported on this in early February) or else by branding its supporters as racists, or more specifically, accusing them of antisemitism – an increasingly prevalent trend which usefully serves also to reverse an otherwise defensive posture needed to protect Israel. As independent journalist Jonathan Cook wrote in an excellent piece entitled “France’s Macron leads the way as western leaders malevolently confuse anti-Zionism with antisemitism”:

Macron’s sleight of hand [“his repeated conflation of anti-Zionism and antisemitism”] has a related and more specifically self-serving agenda, however, as has become clear in the wider misuse – or weaponisation – of antisemitism slurs in Europe and the US.

Macron is faced with a popular revolt known as the Yellow Vests, or Gilets Jaunes, that has taken over high streets for many months. The protests are rocking his government.

Like other recent grassroots insurrections, such as the Occupy movement, the Yellow Vests is leaderless and its demands difficult to decipher. It represents more a mood, a spreading dissatisfaction with an out-of-touch political system that, since the financial meltdown a decade ago, has looked chronically broken and unreformable.

The Yellow Vests embody a grievance desperately searching to hitch its wagon to a new political star, a different and fairer vision of how our societies could be organised.

The movement’s very inarticulateness has been its power and its threat. Those frustrated with austerity policies, those angry at an arrogant, unresponsive political and financial elite, those craving a return to a clearer sense of Frenchness can all seek shelter under its banner.

But equally it has also allowed Macron and the French elite to project on to the Yellow Vests any kind of malevolent motive that best serves their efforts to demonize the movement. A charge spokespeople for the movement deny.

And given the rising tide of nativist, far-right movements across Europe, casting the Yellow Vests as antisemitic has proved difficult to resist for the embattled French president.

Just as Macron has presented leftwing and anti-racism activists supporting BDS as in cahoots with neo-Nazis, he has lumped together the Yellow Vests with far-right white nationalists. Much of the French media have happily recycled this mischief. 10

Click here to read Jonathan Cook’s full article.

There are few satirists who puncture the convoluted pomposity of today’s febrile political climate quite so astutely as playwright and novelist CJ Hopkins. Lately he has gone to town on the virulence of what he calls the “Anti-Semitic Pandemic” and in his most recent piece, wryly retraces its spread from latent seeds within British Labour Party out to the streets of Paris:

Emergency measures are now in effect. A full-scale Labour Party lockdown is imminent. Anyone not already infected is being advised to flee the party, denounce anyone who hasn’t done so as “a Hitler-loving Corbyn-sympathizer,” and prophylactically apologize for any critical statements they might have made about Israel, or “elites,” or “global capitalism,” or “bankers,” or anything else that anyone can construe as anti-Semitism (preferably in the pages of The Guardian).

Nor has the Continent been spared! What at first appeared to be a series of spontaneous protests against Emmanuel Macron, economic austerity, and global capitalism by the so-called “Yellow Vests” in France has now been officially diagnosed as a nationwide anti-Semitism outbreak. In a heroic attempt to contain the outbreak, Macron has dispatched his security forces to shoot the eyes out of unarmed women, pepper spray paraplegics in wheelchairs, and just generally beat bloody hell out of everyone.

Strangely, none of these tactics have worked, so France has decided to join the USA, the UK, Germany, and the rest of the empire in defining anti-Zionism as form of anti-Semitism, such that anyone implying that Israel is in any way inherently racist, or a quasi-fascist Apartheid state, or making jokes about “elites” or “bankers,” can be detained and prosecuted for committing a “hate-crime.” 11

Click here to read CJ Hopkin’s complete essay.

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Avaaz

On March 12th, Avaaz released a lengthy report entitled “Yellow Vests Flooded By Fake News: Over 100M Views of Disinformation on Facebook”. The cover page features the image below:

What this image is depicting is not entirely clear, however I suggest that we try to dissect it to see if we can uncover an underlying message. To begin then, who are the two screaming victims meant to represent and why are they in the throes of such extreme agony? Moreover, what is the unseen agency pulling at their strings? To my eyes the torment and the envisaged tormenter are conflated, deliberately so given how there is no other visible cause for their trauma. Presumably then the subliminal message is that the pain that is felt and expressed by the Yellows Vests is both the outcome and an expression of one source: ‘fake news’. Of course the main purveyor of this dread ‘fake news’ is then made clear in the accompanying caption:

“Avaaz calls on Facebook to Correct the Record ahead of EU Elections – with an in-depth study showing how fake news surrounding the Yellow Vests reached over 100 million views, and how Russia fueled the divide.”

[bold highlight added]

In short, Russia is to blame, and not just for somehow orchestrating mass demonstrations across France that have been ongoing since November, but for bringing such grief to the French people by generating and stoking their rage. You see the people who go out on the streets in their tens of thousands are actually dupes of the Kremlin – empty-headed pawns in a game that goes on entirely above their heads:

Yes, the image above is another one lifted from the pages of Avaaz’s report, and as if their message isn’t plain enough, there is a further accompanying statement that clarifies:

This new in-depth study by the global citizens’ movement Avaaz shows for the first time the unprecedented scale at which the Yellow Vest movement has been impacted by disinformation. According to its findings, fake news surrounding the French Yellow Vest movement has reached an estimated 105 million views on Facebook alone, in a country with just over 35 million Facebook monthly active users. 12

The report then highlights three prime examples of the kinds of disinformation inflaming the French protests:

• a post with images including bleeding ‘Yellow Vest protesters,’ which media and government allegedly hid from the public – when some of the photos were actually taken at different protests near Madrid or in Catalonia (136,818 shares, 3,511,456 est. views)

• a video of French President Macron dancing in the Middle East “while France suffers,” when the video was actually taken over a month before, during the Summit for the Francophonie in Armenia (183,390 shares, 5,700,000 views)

• an image of a Yellow Vest protest in Paris, with a caption alleging that the image had been censored on Facebook or elsewhere; Le Monde fact-checkers debunked the claim that the photo or the caption were deleted (349,403 shares, 8,967,432 est. Views 13

I wish to consider each of these items in turn, starting with the photo of an injured protester who is mistakenly identified as a victim of the recent violence in France when in fact she was a previous victim of police brutality in Madrid. It was late February when Avaaz launched their initial campaign on the back of this deception. The email they sent reads (and bold highlights are preserved from the original):

“This shocking photo of a young woman, left beaten and bleeding by police at a protest, went viral on social media in France.

It’s the sort of thing Avaaz might launch an urgent campaign on.

So let’s pause there, if only to bookmark this first claim before continuing…

“But there’s just one problem – the image has nothing to do with France. It was taken in Madrid, years ago. It’s fake. Untrue. A lie.

And it’s dangerous.

Where to begin? Well surely the first point is that the image is not in any literal sense fake at all. Indeed, no-one is actually claiming that the image has been photoshopped. All that is ‘fake’ is that it happened in a different place and another time when evidently – and in spite of all their frantic virtue signalling – Avaaz did not bother to launch a campaign in response to it. No, they waited. And it was not until they could reuse the image to push a new agenda when they finally decided to direct the world’s attention to it.

Now it might be the case that they simply hadn’t seen this image before, although if so, then one wonders how they so promptly identified it as “fake” upon its re-emergence. Although none of this really matters. The fact is, as Avaaz know full well, the Gilet’s Jaunes protesters have also been repeatedly “beaten, bloody and terrified” in staggering numbers by French police; many left permanently blinded or as amputees. I have covered this above, however, the following extract is taken from a mainstream article that published by the New Statesman as early as January 30th, and thus a whole month prior to the Avaaz email:

In the video that has stunned France, Paris’s Place de la Bastille is relatively calm, with gilets jaunes (yellow vests) protesters scattered around the square. Jérôme Rodrigues, a pacifist yellow vest figure, is filming 26 January’s “Act XI” on Facebook Live, greeting fellow yellow vests as his “family”, reminding them that they are “authorised” to be there (unlike previous ones, this march had been declared to the authorities) and regretting reports of violence elsewhere. At the nine-minute mark, police start closing in. An explosion goes off. Seconds later, Rodrigues falls to the ground, badly hurt in the eye as his friends call for help. The video has been watched more than 2.2 million times in less than a week.

Rodrigues, who may remain blind in one eye, is among dozens of protesters who have been severely injured by the French police since the start of the yellow vests movement last autumn. Unlike violence against the police, which has been sharply condemned by the government in several speeches — including president Emmanuel Macron’s new year’s address, in which he described protesters as a “hateful crowd” — police brutality against protesters went largely ignored by the authorities for months. Rodrigues’s footage, and his prominent standing within the movement, has shone a light on police violence and the horrific injuries their weapons have caused since the first protests in November. 14

Click here to read the full article entitled “The French police’s brutality against the gilets jaunes can no longer be denied”.

A similar report entitled “Police violence against gilets jaunes sparks broad backlash” was published by the New Internationalist literally one day before the Avaaz email arrived. It begins:

Since that now infamous Act 2 protest in Paris on the 24th of November in which the first riots erupted on the Champs Elysee, the gilets jaunes, or ‘yellow vests’, have been met by an increasingly heavy handed police response. The 15th of December in Paris saw this reach an absurd peak when there were 2,200 protestors on the streets and over 8,000 police. They were ubiquitous. On the 15th they were so numerous that they could consistently split groups of gilets jaunes from merging to form a bigger mass. Ironically, this was one of the calmer weekends in terms of crowd numbers, police violence and casseur presence. Other times though the police response was devastating.

Jacques Pezet, fact-checking Journalist for the CheckNews division of Liberation had, as of the 30th of January counted 144 verifiable cases of gilets jaunes and journalists severely injured by the riot police. At least 14 victims have lost an eye and 92 of the 144 have been shot by flashballs. Flashballs are rubber bullets fired from a tube like weapon with the stopping power of a .38 calibre handgun. At close range, as the French CRS (riot police) have used them, they can be particularly damaging. This violent misconduct by the CRS has sparked a wave of activism and created a new movement against police brutality within the gilets jaunes. 15

Click here to read the full New Internationalist article.

So when Christoph Schott at Avaaz warns us that “Disinformation like this has the power to turn protest violent…” I know that he is being duplicitous. That what he is saying is fake, untrue, a lie… and that it’s dangerous. Because that genuinely “shocking photo of a young woman” in Madrid was really nothing more than a decoy to draw attention from the horrific violence of the French police and the hundreds of victims like these:

Record of injuries from police use of disproportionate force against unarmed civilians during GJ protests. (Photo: Desarmons.net)

Now let us turn to Avaaz’s second example of “dangerous” disinformation: a video which purportedly shows Macron dancing “while France suffers”, but as Avaaz rightly contends, was in fact filmed during an event which took place on October 11th, and so roughly one month prior to the GJ protests. Here’s an upload for anyone who’s remotely interested in watching Macron strut his stuff:

The implication Avaaz makes here is that news of Macron’s detachment from the plight of the ordinary French citizen has been at best exaggerated and at worst fabricated. Yet once again this seriously and knowingly misses the essential point. So try this instead. Type into Google the words, “Macron let them eat cake” and then count the hits yourself. I will merely present a sample of the various tweets and articles you will instantly be linked to:

Instead of the confident leader, lecturing and preening on the global stage, he is barricaded in his palace, a sort of latter-day Marie Antoinette. French people can’t afford diesel? Let them buy Teslas. Others might compare him to Nero, fiddling with emission targets while Paris burns. 16

From an article published by The Spectator in December appropriately entitled “Let them buy Teslas! How Macron provoked an uprising”.

Also back in December, The Economist weighed in with this tweet:

And meanwhile the Guardian published:

It is feasible – indeed, desirable – to use the tax system to tackle climate change, but only if the hit to living standards is fully offset by cuts in other taxes. Otherwise it is simply more of the austerity that voters everywhere are rejecting. And it is politically suicidal to be known as the president of the wealthy and then tell voters angry about rising fuel prices to car share or take public transport. That’s not De Gaulle, that’s Marie Antoinette and “let them eat cake”.17

Click here to read the full Guardian article entitled “Macron’s politics look to Blair and Clinton. The backlash was inevitable.”

The backlash was indeed inevitable, and is nothing to do with the sorts of shadowy puppetry that are alluded to by Avaaz. Furthermore, Macron may or may not have been dancing during the protest, however, as Paris burned last weekend, he was most definitely in the Alps skiing:

Mr Macron was forced to cut short a skiing holiday and return to the capital as an 18th consecutive Saturday of demonstrations by the gilets jaunes or yellow vests turned into a riot on the Champs-Elysées. 18

Let them eat, drink and après-ski!

*

Macron

Nominally anti-fascist, in reality, Avaaz is more straightforwardly pro-establishment globalist. While on the one hand it actively manufactures consent for pro-western regime change operations, on the other, it quietly supports neoliberal “centrism”. As its co-founding President and Executive Director, Ricken Patel, told the euobserver in an interview given last July:

“I think the people of Europe stand with Merkel. That doesn’t mean that every right-wing voter in Bavaria stands with Merkel’s positions, but the majority of people in Germany, and the majority people in Europe, stand behind her and she needs to lead with confidence, and with boldness, and with creativity to execute the solutions she is offering, because the other side is not offering any solutions.”

“They are offering fantasies and unworkable solutions and things that would destroy the laws and the values of the European project and liberal democracy. And I think she should continue to lead boldly.” 19

As with Merkel, so with Emmanuel Macron. Indeed, here is a campaign Avaaz ran in the lead up to the French presidential elections in 2017:

In less than 4 weeks, France will have a new President, and he or she will have an immense impact on how we work together to build the world most of us want to see.

We’re figuring out our next steps for engaging the 4 million-strong Avaaz community across France, and we need your help. If the election was held tomorrow, would you vote for Emmanuel Macron? If yes, sign the form!

Avaaz then released this video on its facebook page:

But the meddling in foreign elections doesn’t end here, because there is also Avaaz’s army of ‘elves’, who, as I discussed in a previous post, are in reality simply Cass Sunstein’s unwitting little helpers:

*

Facebook

This brings me to Avaaz’s third and final highlighted instance of “disinformation” that is purportedly fuelling the current outrage in France. It takes the form of “an image of a Yellow Vest protest in Paris, with a caption alleging that the image had been censored on Facebook or elsewhere”. According to Avaaz, “Le Monde fact-checkers debunked the claim that the photo or the caption were deleted”. Now, rather than delving into this specific allegation which I see little reason to doubt, it is more worthwhile to consider this allegation in fuller context.

Firstly it is vital to understand how this entire Avaaz campaign is absolutely intent on lessening the impact of political content distributed on Facebook, and thus rather blatantly guilty of the kind of censorship it here alleges didn’t happen. It is important to stress therefore that Facebook is already charged with helping to silence political dissent, and that there is an abundance of available evidence to find the company fully guilty on that count.

In fact, it is nearly a year since Facebook first revealed its previously secret rules for censoring posts. As Forbes reported:

The company has come in for a fair amount of criticism over the years for taking down perfectly innocuous content – everything from photos of classical statues to the famous picture of a napalmed child in Vietnam.

Now, users whose content has been taken down will be notified and given the chance to ask for a review; reviews will normally be carried out within 24 hours.

The policy will initially apply only to nudity or sexual activity, hate speech and graphic violence, says [VP of global product management Monika] Bickert.

But, she adds, “We are working to extend this process further, by supporting more violation types, giving people the opportunity to provide more context that could help us make the right decision, and making appeals available not just for content that was taken down, but also for content that was reported and left up.” 20

In response to Facebook’s announcement of its censorship policy, the ACLU cautioned against what it saw as a clampdown on free speech:

If Facebook gives itself broader censorship powers, it will inevitably take down important speech and silence already marginalized voices. We’ve seen this before. Last year, when activists of color and white people posted the exact same content, Facebook moderators censored only the activists of color. When Black women posted screenshots and descriptions of racist abuse, Facebook moderators suspended their accounts or deleted their posts. And when people used Facebook as a tool to document their experiences of police violence, Facebook chose to shut down their livestreams. The ACLU’s own Facebook post about censorship of a public statue was also inappropriately censored by Facebook.

Facebook has shown us that it does a bad job of moderating “hateful” or “offensive” posts, even when its intentions are good. Facebook will do no better at serving as the arbiter of truth versus misinformation, and we should remain wary of its power to deprioritize certain posts or to moderate content in other ways that fall short of censorship. 21

Click here to read the ACLU statement in full.

More recently, and as it transpires immediately prior to the Gilets Jaunes protests, Facebook then announced a fresh censorship drive:

People need to be able to trust the connections they make on Facebook. It’s why we have a policy banning coordinated inauthentic behavior — networks of accounts or Pages working to mislead others about who they are, and what they are doing. This year, we’ve enforced this policy against many Pages, Groups and accounts created to stir up political debate, including in the US, the Middle East, Russia and the UK. But the bulk of the inauthentic activity we see on Facebook is spam that’s typically motivated by money, not politics. And the people behind it are adapting their behavior as our enforcement improves.

The statement was made last October and continues:

Topics like natural disasters or celebrity gossip have been popular ways to generate clickbait. But today, these networks increasingly use sensational political content – regardless of its political slant – to build an audience and drive traffic to their websites, earning money for every visitor to the site. And like the politically motivated activity we’ve seen, the “news” stories or opinions these accounts and Pages share are often indistinguishable from legitimate political debate. This is why it’s so important we look at these actors’ behavior – such as whether they’re using fake accounts or repeatedly posting spam – rather than their content when deciding which of these accounts, Pages or Groups to remove.

Today, we’re removing 559 Pages and 251 accounts that have consistently broken our rules against spam and coordinated inauthentic behavior. Given the activity we’ve seen — and its timing ahead of the US midterm elections — we wanted to give some details about the types of behavior that led to this action. 22

Click here to read the Facebook statement in full.

As the Guardian reported at the time:

As a private entity, Facebook can enforce its terms however it sees fit, says the ACLU attorney Vera Eidelman. But this can have serious free speech consequences, especially if the social network is selectively enforcing its terms based on the content of the pages.

“Drawing the line between ‘real’ and ‘inauthentic’ views is a difficult enterprise that could put everything from important political parody to genuine but outlandish views on the chopping block,” says Eidelman. “It could also chill individuals who only feel safe speaking out anonymously or pseudonymously.” 23

The same article, which entitled “Facebook accused of censorship after hundreds of US political pages purged” , interviewed Matt Mountain, the pseudonym of a disabled veteran who operated six leftwing pages subsequently purged, and Brian Kolfage, another disabled veteran who administered the Right Wing News page as well as three other conservative pages that were also removed. Kolfage said:

“I’ve talked with Facebook maybe 50 times in the last few months… Not once did they ever say we broke any rules or did something wrong. If they had an issue, they could have brought it up. We had a really close working relationship. That’s why this whole thing is a complete shock.”

‘Mountain’ told the Guardian:

“I don’t think Facebook wants to fix this… I think they just want politics out, unless it’s coming from the mainstream media.”

Predictably, the piece ends:

Facebook did not respond to requests for comment.

Click here to read the full Guardian article

*

Real ‘fake news’

Every major U.S. war of the last several decades has begun the same way: the U.S. government fabricates an inflammatory, emotionally provocative lie which large U.S. media outlets uncritically treat as truth while refusing at air questioning or dissent, thus inflaming primal anger against the country the U.S. wants to attack. That’s how we got the Vietnam War (North Vietnam attacks U.S. ships in the Gulf of Tonkin); the Gulf War (Saddam ripped babies from incubators); and, of course, the war in Iraq (Saddam had WMDs and formed an alliance with Al Qaeda).

This was exactly the tactic used on February 23, when the narrative shifted radically in favor of those U.S. officials who want regime change operations in Venezuela. That’s because images were broadcast all over the world of trucks carrying humanitarian aid burning in Colombia on the Venezuela border. U.S. officials who have been agitating for a regime change war in Venezuela – Marco Rubio, John Bolton, Mike Pompeo, the head of USAid Mark Green – used Twitter to spread classic Fake News: they vehemently stated that the trucks were set on fire, on purpose, by President Nicolas Maduro’s forces.

Writes Glenn Greenwald at the top of a very detailed exposé of the latest US government lies to bring about a regime change. The truth was finally admitted by The New York Times a fortnight later – by which time the official story was deeply lodged in people’s minds – and you will find a video and accompanying article about it behind their paywall. Here is their belated headline:

The NYT piece gives proof that the convoys were in fact torched by anti-Maduro protesters, exactly as many independent reporters including Max Blumenthal were reporting on the day, however, as with the disclosure of other fake news stories perpetuated in the mainstream media, and unlike the original lies, the NYT retraction did not grab the wider headlines.  Although CNN, The Telegraph and the BBC all ran the original fake news story, they left NYT alone to publicly retract it.

As Greenwald points out in reference to the evidence for what really happened:

Those last two tweets [embedded below] – using video footage to debunk the lies spread by Marco Rubio, CNN and the U.S. Government – happen to be from a correspondent with RT America. Please tell me: who was acting here as lying propagandists and agents of State TV, and who was acting like a journalist trying to understand and report the truth?

So everything the New York Times so proudly reported last night has been known for weeks, and was already reported in great detail, using extensive evidence, by a large number of people. But because those people are generally skeptical of the U.S. Government’s claims and critical of its foreign policy, they were ignored and mocked and are generally barred from appearing on television, while the liars from the U.S. Government and their allies in the corporate media were, as usual, given a platform to spread their lies without any challenge or dissent, just like the manual for how to maintain State TV instructs. 24

Click here to read Glenn Greenwald’s excellent article entitled “NYT’s Exposé on the Lies About Burning Aid Trucks in Venezuela Shows How U.S. Government and Media Spread Pro-War Propaganda”.

*

Final thoughts

Barring the singular exception of the West’s most unconscionable war, the Saudi-led genocide of Yemen, Avaaz has never seen an imperialist intervention, ‘colour revolution’, or other regime change operation it didn’t approve of. It campaigned vigorously for the ‘no-fly zone’ in Libya – this, the weasel word euphemism for airstrikes – and soon after Libya was bombed backed into the dark ages, demanded a ‘no-fly zone’ over Syria (read more here and here).

Less well-advertised, Avaaz was also deeply involved in Iran’s failed ‘Green Revolution’:

During the 2009 Green Movement uprising in Iran, for example, Avaaz set up a network of proxy servers to allow protesters to post videos from the streets. 25

Then in 2017, Avaaz went a step further when it financially backed its own candidate in the race for Democratic nomination for governor of Virginia. The candidate in question happened to be none other than former congressman Tom Perriello, one of Avaaz’s original founders, who, it was divulged, received a donation from Avaaz of $230,000. As the Washington Post reported:

As a 501(c)(4) charity, Avaaz is not required to disclose its individual donors, which it says come from among nearly 45 million members in 194 countries. The organization says it accepts no money from governments or corporations and itemizes any donations greater than $5,000 on its tax filing; in 2016, 26 such donations were reported, representing 0.7 percent of Avaaz’s total revenue.

Perriello co-founded Avaaz with two colleagues who had helped him start an earlier nonprofit called Res Publica, which was aimed at promoting international justice on behalf of the religious left, as Perriello told the National Catholic Reporter in 2004. One of those colleagues, Ricken Patel, a Canadian, is now Avaaz’s executive director. The organization was formed in collaboration with MoveOn.org, the Democratic online activist group that has received funding from billionaire George Soros — who also is a major Perriello campaign contributor. 26

Click here to read the full article published by the Washington Post.

Today Avaaz is fully in league with Bush-era hawk John Bolton, the unapologetic cheerleader for the Iraq War, and Elliot Abrahams, who aided death squads throughout Latin America and was afterwards convicted following his involvement in the Iran-Contra Scandal. In unison with “like-minded leaders” (in the words of John Bolton 27), President Ivan Duque of Colombia, and Jair Bolsonaro, President of Brazil, Avaaz is assisting in the attempted overthrow of the elected government of Venezuela. The empire has seldom been more brazen when it comes to singling out its latest “axis of evil” (i.e., Bolton’s “troika of tyranny”: Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua), yet this self-proclaimed non-partisan people’s movement is eager to lend support in the guise of faux-humanitarianism that distracts from US imperialism and bolsters the neo-con cause:

The image is captured from a translation of its Spanish campaign but you can also find the same campaign in English here:

It is also backing baseless claims that last year’s presidential elections were invalid.

Meanwhile, Avaaz is once again meddling closer to home. In the name of stemming the tide of ‘fake news’ it is preparing the way for greater internet censorship. As they concede in the report:

RT France has massively invested in coverage of the Yellow Vest protests, including hour-long live coverage videos, and as a result, dominated the debate about Yellow Vests on YouTube in France more than any other YouTube channel, let alone mainstream media.

If you imagined that “a global citizens movement” (as Avaaz markets itself) would be in favour of more rather than less coverage of the mass demonstrations across France and so would applaud RT or any other media outlet for providing it, you would be wrong. The fact is that they wish to bury any news of a popular uprising, smothering the truth with overblown allegations of ‘fake news’. So if you still haven’t figured it out, then allow me to spell it out instead: in contrast to the Gilets Jaunes themselves, Avaaz is not and never has been a grassroots movement. It was astroturfed from the get-go to provide controlled opposition, whilst its newest departure into ‘fake news’ surveillance represents a more sinister turn. Once again, I encourage every person of goodwill to unsubscribe from the Avaaz mailing list. I shall remain nominally affiliated just to keep an eye on future machinations – just so that you won’t have to.

*

1

France’s gilets jaunes (yellow vests) have vowed to continue their high-profile protest campaign after forcing the French government into a U-turn on a controversial rise in fuel tax.

The movement behind three weeks of increasingly violent protests across the country declared it wanted more concessions from France’s leaders and would not accept “crumbs”.

From an article entitled “Gilets Jaunes protests in France to continue despite fuel tax U-turn” written by Kim Willsher, published in the Guardian on December 4, 2018. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/dec/04/french-government-to-suspend-fuel-tax-increase-say-reports 

2 From an article entitled “Yellow Vests Rise Against Neo-Liberal ‘King’ Macron” written by Diana Johnstone, published in Consortium News on December 5, 2018. https://consortiumnews.com/2018/12/05/yellow-vests-rise-against-neo-liberal-king-macron/ 

3 From an article entitled “Dr. Jean Bricmont: ‘Yellow Vests Ask Such Fundamental Questions that No European Government Could Answer Them” written by Mohsen Abdelmoumen, published in American Herald Tribune on February 22, 2019. https://ahtribune.com/interview/2903-jean-bricmont.html

4 From an article entitled “Forgotten France Rises Up” written by Serge Halimi, translated by George Miller, published in Counterpunch on January 8, 2019.. https://www.counterpunch.org/2019/01/08/forgotten-france-rises-up/  

5 From an article entitled “Why France’s Yellow Vest Protests Are Ignored by ‘The Resistance’ in the U.S.” written by Max Parry, published in Counterpunch on January 4, 2019.  https://www.counterpunch.org/2019/01/04/why-frances-yellow-vest-protests-are-ignored-by-the-resistance-in-the-u-s/

6 Although in fact like so many of the best known quotes it is probably misattributed.

7

During her visit the Commissioner noted in particular that the validity of the use of rubber bullet launchers (LBDs) during demonstrations was contested by most of the people she met, who highlighted their unsuitability for the purposes of maintaining public order and the danger they posed in such contexts. In his report of December 2017 on maintaining public order with due regard for professional rules of conduct, the Defender of Rights recommended that a multidisciplinary study be carried out on the use of intermediate weapons and that LBDs should be removed from the range of equipment available to law enforcement agencies. The Commissioner notes that the Defender of Rights reiterated his recommendation for LBDs to be withdrawn in January 2019 and that many health professionals support him because of the sometimes irreversible injuries that can be caused by these weapons. Laurent Thines, Head of Neurosurgery at the University Hospital of Besançon, has even talked of the “extreme danger” of these launchers which he considers to have “all the features of weapons of war”. […]

The Commissioner notes that according to figures from the Ministry of the Interior 12 122 LBD rounds, 1428 instant tear gas grenades and 4942 hand-held sting grenades were fired or thrown between the beginning of the yellow vest movement and 4 February 2019. She is concerned at the high level of use of these so-called intermediate weapons despite the fact that their deployment is restricted and they can cause serious injury. The Commissioner notes that according to a count carried out by an independent journalist, at the time of writing, the three types of intermediate weapon referred to above had been involved in 253 of 428 reports made to him by persons claiming to be victims of police violence, which he himself had documented and cross-checked, confirming a high prevalence of LBDs, accounting for 193 of these cases. The count highlighted 38 wounds to upper limbs including 5 lost hands, 52 wounds to lower limbs, 3 wounds to the genitals and 189 head wounds including 20 people who have lost an eye. The Commissioner notes that many head wound victims attribute their injuries to intermediate weapons, particularly LBDs, whereas according to instructions reiterated by the Director General of the national police force on 16 January 2019, the use of LBDs must be “targeted”, with users aiming “only at the torso or the lower or upper limbs”. […]

[T]he Commissioner is concerned about the allegations of police violence targeting journalists which have been brought to her attention by professional journalists’ organisations and human rights groups and which are echoed by those of three photographers who claim that they were “deliberately” targeted by the police in Toulouse at a demonstration on 9 February 2019.

From a report by the Commissioner for Human Rights at the Council of Europe published on February 26, 2019. https://rm.coe.int/commdh-2019-8-memorandum-france-en/1680932f57

8 From an article entitled “French police accused of stealing PSG jerseys during Yellow Vest lootings”, written by Pierre Hamdi, published in France 24: The Observers on March 19. 2019. https://observers.france24.com/en/20190319-france-social-media-accuse-police-stealing-psg-jerseys-yellow-vests

9 From an article entitled “Unanswered questions on French police role in Saturday’s ‘yellow vest’ clashes” written by Anthony Torres and Alex Lantier, published in wsws.org on March 21, 2019. https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2019/03/21/fran-m21.html

10 From an article entitled “France’s Macron leads the way as western leaders malevolently confuse anti-Zionism with antisemitism” written by Jonathan Cook, published in Mondoweiss on February 27, 2019. https://www.jonathan-cook.net/2019-02-27/france-macron-zionism-antisemitism/

11 From an article entitled “Anti-Semitism Pandemic!” written by CJ Hopkins, reprinted in OffGuardian on March 12, 2019. https://off-guardian.org/2019/03/12/anti-semitism-pandemic/

12 From an Avaaz report entitled “Yellow Vest Flooded By Fake News” published on March 12, 2019. https://g8fip1kplyr33r3krz5b97d1-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/AVAAZ_YellowVests_100miofake.pdf.pdf.pdf

13 Ibid.

14 From an article entitled “The French police’s brutality against the gilets jaunes can no longer be denied” written by Pauline Bock, published in the New Statesman on January 30, 2019. https://www.newstatesman.com/world/europe/2019/01/french-police-s-brutality-against-gilets-jaunes-can-no-longer-be-denied

15 From an article entitled “Police violence against gilets jaunes sparks broad backlash” written by Oliver Haynes, published in the New Internationalist on February 27, 2019. https://newint.org/features/2019/02/27/police-violence-against-gilets-jaunes-sparks-broad-backlash

16 From an article published entitled “Let them buy Teslas! How Macron provoked an uprising” written by Jonathan Miller, published in The Spectator on December 8, 2018. https://www.spectator.co.uk/2018/12/let-them-buy-teslas-how-macron-became-the-enemy-of-the-french/ 

17 From an article entitled “Macron’s politics look to Blair and Clinton. The backlash was inevitable” written by Larry Elliott, published in the Guardian on Decmeber 6, 2018. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/dec/06/macron-clinton-blair-backlash

18 From an article entitled “Macron under renewed pressure after another weekend of violence” written by Harriet Agnew, published in the Financial Times on March 17, 2019. https://www.ft.com/content/b774a756-48a7-11e9-8b7f-d49067e0f50d

19 From an article entitled “EU populists not actually that ‘popular’, says global activist” written by Lisbeth Kirk, published in the euobserver on July 3, 2018. https://euobserver.com/political/142242

20 From an article entitled “Facebook Reveals Its Secret Rules For Censoring Posts” written by Emma Woollacott, published in Forbes magazine on April 24, 2018. https://www.forbes.com/sites/emmawoollacott/2018/04/24/facebook-reveals-its-secret-rules-for-censoring-posts/#40a453b56da4

21 From an article entitled “Facebook Shouldn’t Censor Offensive Speech” written by Vera Eidelman, Staff Attorney, ACLU Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project, published by ACLU on July 20, 2018. https://www.aclu.org/blog/free-speech/internet-speech/facebook-shouldnt-censor-offensive-speech

22 From a Facebook announcement entitled “Removing Additional Inauthentic Activity from Facebook” written by Nathaniel Gleicher, Head of Cybersecurity Policy and Oscar Rodriguez, Product Manager, posted by Facebook on October 11, 2018. https://newsroom.fb.com/news/2018/10/removing-inauthentic-activity/

23 From an article entitled “Facebook accused of censorship after hundreds of US political pages purged” written by Dan Tynan, published in the Guardian on October 17, 2018. https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2018/oct/16/facebook-political-activism-pages-inauthentic-behavior-censorship

24 From an article entitled “NYT’s Exposé on the Lies About Burning Aid Trucks in Venezuela Shows How U.S. Government and Media Spread Pro-War Propaganda” written by Glenn Greenwald, published in The Intercept on March 10, 2019. https://theintercept.com/2019/03/10/nyts-expose-on-the-lies-about-burning-humanitarian-trucks-in-venezuela-shows-how-us-govt-and-media-spread-fake-news/

25 From an article entitled “How a New York City-Based Activist Group Became a Player in Syria”, written by Vivienne Walt, published in Time magazine on March 15, 2012. http://content.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,2109212,00.html

26 From an article entitled “‘Dark money’ vs. Corporate cash: Virginia Democratic rivals clash over funding” written by Gregory S. Schneider, published in the Washington Post on April 22, 2017. https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/virginia-politics/dark-money-vs-corporate-cash-democratic-rivals-clash-over-funding/2017/04/21/cc91253c-25d7-11e7-a1b3-faff0034e2de_story.html?utm_term=.6d47c0cae4ab

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“The recent elections of like-minded leaders in key countries, including Ivan Duque in Colombia, and last weekend Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, are positive signs for the future of the region, and demonstrate a growing regional commitment to free-market principles, and open, transparent, and accountable governance,” Bolton said in his speech at Miami-Dade College.

From an article entitled “Bolton praises Bolsonaro while declaring ‘troika of tyranny’ in Latin America” written by Julian Borger, published in the Guardian on November 1, 2018. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/nov/01/trump-admin-bolsonaro-praise-john-bolton-troika-tyranny-latin-america

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Filed under analysis & opinion, campaigns & events, France, internet freedom, police state, Venezuela

five independent journalists reporting on-the-ground from Venezuela

Aaron Maté

In mid-February, ‘The Grayzone’s Aaron Maté (former host and producer for ‘The Real News’ and  ‘Democracy Now!’) went to Bolivar Square in Caracas and spoke with people who were queuing up to sign a petition opposing US meddling in Venezuela:

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Max Blumenthal

Shortly afterwards, founder of ‘The Grayzone’, Max Blumenthal, visited to Caracas to investigate Venezuela’s widely-reported ‘humanitarian crisis’ and took a tour of a local supermarket:

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Update:

On March 19th, Max Blumenthal spoke at a UN Human Rights Council session in Geneva on a panel titled “Humanitarian crisis in Venezuela: Propaganda vs. Reality”:

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Eva Bartlett

Eva Bartlett is a Canadian journalist better known for her on-the-ground reports from Gaza and Syria. She arrived in Caracas on Sunday 10th and has since been issuing reports on a regular basis at her ‘Patreon’ site. Her latest report is reprinted below along with her most recent video:

I filmed these scenes on March 15, but until now have been too busy and also lacking good enough internet to upload.

My objective in filming is not to say there is no poverty in Venezuela, nor to imply there is no hunger or shortages anywhere. However, when corporate media is flat out saying shelves are empty all over Caracas and the city is in crisis, well this is false. The scenes I’m seeing are much like I saw in 2010. I know there are differences since then and now, of course, but there isn’t the pandemonium MSM is attempting to claim is happening here.

Also, this is not a wealthy area of Caracas, its perhaps lower middle class. I’ll film the wealthy areas where typically opposition live in coming days.

Further, in the days since filming this, power has fully returned to Caracas and most of Venezuela, metro is running, things are as they were before the power cuts.

I have had the opportunity to visit organized communities growing massive amounts of produce, also breeding rabbits (apparently a high source of protein)…and also one of the cities urban garden initiatives. I’ll upload more on that when time allows, but for now, day 1, no “crisis”, but people were dealing with the effects of the nation wide power outage, one believed most likely due to US acts of sabotage on the electricity grid.

Click here to read more reports from Venezuela by Eva Bartlett on Patreon

On March 17th Eva Bartlett was interviewed on ‘The Jimmy Dore Show’:

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Updates:

On March 31st, Eva Bartlett published an extended post from Caracas entitled “US is manufacturing a crisis in Venezuela so that there is chaos and ‘needed’ intervention”. Regarding the cancellation of flights, she writes:

On  March 9, American cancelled my Miami-Caracas flight on the basis that there wasn’t enough electricity to land at Caracas airport. Strangely enough, the Copa flight I took the following day after an overnight in Panama had no problem landing, nor did Copa flights on the day of my own cancelled flight, according to Copa staff.

The cancellation of flights to Venezuela then lends legitimacy to the shrill tweets of Marco Rubio, Mike Pence, John Bolton, and the previously unknown non-president, Juan Guaido.

I’ve been in various areas of Caracas since March 10, and I’ve seen none of this “civil unrest” that corporate media are talking about. I’ve walked around Caracas, usually on my own, and haven’t experienced the worry for my safety corporate media is telling Westerners they should suddenly feel more than normal in Venezuela.

In fact, I see little difference from the Venezuela I knew in 2010  when I spent half a year here, except the hyperinflation is absurdly  worse and in my absence I missed the years of extreme right-wing  opposition supporters street violence – a benign term for the guarimbas which saw opposition supporters burning people alive, among other violence against people and security.

So it strikes me that the decision of American Airlines to stop flying to Venezuela is not about safety and security issues, but is political, in line with increasingly hollow rhetoric about a humanitarian crisis that does not exist, even according to former UN Special Rapporteur, Alfred de Zayas.

I asked Paul Dobson, a journalist who has lived in Venezuela the last 14 years, if anything like this had happened before. Turns out it has, also at a very timely moment.

“At the time of the National Constituent Assembly elections, July 30, 2017, the major airlines –  including Air France, United, American, pretty much all of the European airlines – suspended their flights one day before the elections, citing  “security reasons.” Most of the services were reopened about four days after the elections, some of them two weeks after the elections.”

So were there ‘security concerns? I asked Paul.

“This was towards the end of street violence (guarimbas) that had been going on for six months in the country. Why didn’t they suspend their activity six months before, two months before? They did it the day before the elections, clearly trying to influence votes and the  way that people see their country internationally. There were no extra security concerns that day than any day over the last 6 months. So, there was really no justification for it. And it caused massive problems on the ground, around elections.”

Click here to read the full article at Patreon.

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On March 17th, President Nicolás Maduro met with the US Peace Council delegation for over an hour, speaking on issues related to the recent power outage, how the Venezuelan people responded, and the US draconian policies against Venezuela. Eva Bartlett filmed and uploaded around 10 minutes of their meeting:

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Alan Gignoux and Carolina Graterol

British photojournalist Alan Gignoux whose work has been published in The New York Times, CNN Traveller, The Independent, Reuters and World Photography News, among others (www.gignouxphotos.com); and Venezuelan journalist-filmmaker Carolina Graterol, who has worked for the BBC World Service (Spanish) and Telesur; both based in London, went to Venezuela for a month to shoot a documentary for a major global TV channel. They talked with journalist Paul Cochrane about the mainstream media’s portrayal of Venezuela compared to their experiences on the ground. The full transcript is reprinted below:

Paul Cochrane (PC): What were you doing in Venezuela, how long were you there and where did you go?

Alan Gignoux (AG): We went in June 2018 for a month to shoot a documentary; I can’t disclose what channels it will be on right now, but it should be on air soon. We visited the capital Caracas, Mérida (in the Andes), Cumaná (on the coast), and Ciudad Guayana (near the mouth of the Orinoco river).

PC: How did being in Venezuela compare to what you were seeing in Western media?

Carolina Graterol (CG): I am a journalist, I have family in Venezuela, and I knew the reality was very different from what the media is portraying, but still I was surprised. The first thing we noticed was the lack of poverty. Alan wanted to film homeless and poor people on the streets. I saw three people sleeping rough just this morning in London, but in Venezuela, we couldn’t find any, in big cities or towns. We wanted to interview them, but we couldn’t find them. It is because of multi disciplinary programmes run by the government, with social services working to get children off the streets, or returned to their families. The programme has been going on for a long time but I hadn’t realized how effective it was.

PC: Alan, what surprised you?

AG: We have to be realistic. Things look worn down and tired. There is food, there are private restaurants and cafes open, and you could feel the economic crisis kicking in but poverty is not as bad as what I’ve seen in Brazil or Colombia, where there are lots of street children. Venezuela doesn’t seem to have a homeless problem, and the favelas have running water and electricity. The extreme poverty didn’t seem as bad as in other South American countries. People told me before going I should be worried about crime, but we worked with a lady from El Salvador, and she said Venezuela was easy compared to her country, where there are security guards with machine guns outside coffee shops. They also say a lot of Venezuelan criminals left as there’s not that much to rob, with better pickings in Argentina, Chile or wherever.

PC: How have the US sanctions impacted Venezuelans?

CG: Food is expensive, but people are buying things, even at ten times their salary. Due to inflation, you have to make multiple card payments as the machine wouldn’t take such a high transaction all at once. The government has created a system, Local Committees for Production and Supply (known by its Spanish acronym CLAP) that feeds people, 6 million families, every month via a box of food. The idea of the government was to bypass private distribution networks, hoarding and scarcity. Our assistant was from a middle class area in Caracas, and she was the only Chavista there, but people got together and created a CLAP system, with the box containing 19 products. Unless you have a huge salary, or money from outside, you have to use other ways to feed yourself. People’s larders were full, as they started building up supplies for emergencies. People have lost weight, I reckon many adults 10 to 15 kilos. Last time I was in Venezuela three years ago, I found a lot of obese people, like in the US, due to excessive eating, but this time people were a good size, and nobody is dying from hunger or malnutrition.

PC: So what are Venezuelans eating?

CG: A vegetarian diet. People apologized as they couldn’t offer us meat, instead vegetables, lentils, and black beans. So everyone has been forced to have a vegetarian diet, and maybe the main complaint was that people couldn’t eat meat like they used to do. The situation is not that serious. Before Hugo Chavez came to power, Venezuela had 40% critical poverty out of 80% poverty, but that rate went down to 27%, and before the crisis was just 6 or 7% critical poverty. Everyone is receiving help from the government.

PC: So food is the main concern?

CG: The real attack on the economy is on food. When you have hyperinflation everything goes up in price, but food has become the main source of spending because this is the variable going up in price at exorbitant levels. Bills like water, electricity, public transport haven’t gone up that much and represent a small percentage of any family spending. This is why the distortions in the economy are not intrinsic, but caused by external factors, otherwise everything should have gone up, no matter what it is.

PC: Alan, did you lose weight in Venezuela?

AG: No! What surprised me was how many people are growing their own vegetables. It is a bit like in Russia, where everyone has a dacha. Venezuela is tropical, so it is easy to grow produce. Mango trees are everywhere, so you can pick a mango whenever you want.

PC: So the crisis we read about everyday is primarily due to the US sanctions?

CG: The sanctions have affected the country. I want to be fair. I think the government was slow to act on the direction the country was being pushed. It was probably not a good idea to pay off $70 billion in external debt over the past five years. In my opinion, (President Nicolas) Maduro decided to honor the external debt, thinking this was the right way to pay our commitments, but at the same time, this economic war started waging internally, and also externally, blocking international loans.

The government should also have taken action against Colombia for allowing over one hundred exchange houses to be set up on the border with Venezuela. These exchange houses eroded the currency as they were using different exchange rates, and that contributed to the Bolivar’s devaluation. I think they should have denounced the (Juan Manuel) Santos government. If Colombia says that Venezuelan oil that crosses its border is contraband, why not currency? Remember, the biggest industry in Colombia is cocaine – narcotics trafficking – and it has grown exponentially, so they’ve an excessive amount of US dollars and need to launder them, which drained the Venezuelan currency. It is induced hyperinflation. Also, in Miami, the Venezuelan oligarchy created a website called DolarToday about 12 years ago to destroy the Venezuelan economy.

PC: What else struck you?

CG: People are still smiling and making jokes about the situation, which I find incredible. People are willing to share, and we were in some tricky situations, like when our car broke down at night.

AG: Everyone says don’t drive at night in Venezuela. We were on the road, and figured we’d only half hour to go, what could go wrong? Then a transformer burned out. I thought I was about to have my Venezuelan nightmare, stuck in the middle of nowhere on a dark road at night. Who would ever find you?

CG: As there were no lights we had to use our phones to let big trucks know we were on the road.

AG: We pretended I was deaf as I couldn’t pass for Venezuelan with my Spanish accent. So, a really old old pick-up truck pulls up, and the occupants looked rather salty, but they were very nice and took us to a petrol station.

CG: I told you Alan, you are not in the US, you are not going to be shot!

AG: I was with three women with money, I thought OK I will be shot, but it all turned out fine, and they thought I was deaf.

CG: We were told we could sleep in a shop but we slept in the car instead, and it was fine.

PC: What about the power cuts that have plagued the country?

CG: During blackouts, people told stories, played music, or went out and talked on the streets. It was a paradise, no TVs, smartphones, but real human contact. People cook together. During the day they’re playing board games, dominoes, and kids are having fun. People with kids are possibly more stressed, especially if you live in a tower block, as if you’ve no electricity, you’ve no water. That is why the US hit the electricity grid as it means no water in Caracas – a city of 10 million people. Luckily there are wells with clean water around the city, so people queue up to get it.

PC: So there was a real discrepancy between the image you were given of Venezuela and the reality?

AG: Sure, there are queues for oil, but people are not dying of starvation and, as I said, poverty is no where near what it is like in Brazil. I wouldn’t say a harsh dictatorship, people were open, and criticized the government, and the US, but also Chavez and Maduro. The Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela (PSUV) have admitted they had made bad economic decisions. I thought it would be more repressive, and it wasn’t. People were not fearful about speaking out. I think Venezuelans blame the Americans for the situation more than Maduro.

PC: What do you make of the hullabaloo in February about US and Canadian aid being blocked by Venezuela?

AG: It is a Trojan horse, a good way to get the US in, and why international agencies were not willing take part in the plan. Instead there has been Chinese and Russian aid.

CG: There’s not the chaos US and Trump were expecting. (Opposition leader and self-proclaimed president Juan) Guaidó is the most hated guy in Venezuela. He has to stay in luxury hotel in La Mercedes, an expensive neighbourhood of Caracas. They have electricity there, as they were prepared, so bought generators. That is why Guaidó went there, and has a whole floor of a luxury hotel for him and his family. While people are suffering Guaidó is trying on suits for his upcoming trip to Europe. It is a parallel world.

AG: You think Guaidó will fail?

CG: Venezuelans are making so many jokes with his name, as there’s a word similar to stupid in Spanish – guevon. And look at the demonstration in La Mercedes the other day (12 March), the crowds didn’t manifest. It is becoming a joke in the country. The more the Europeans and the US make him a president, the more bizarre the situation becomes, as Guaidó is not president of Venezuela! Interestingly, Chavez predicted what is happening today, he wrote about it, so people are going back to his works and reading him again.

PC: There’s plenty of material on the history of American imperialism in South America to make such predictions, also, more recently, the Canadians and their mining companies, in Paraguay, Honduras, and now backing Guaidó.

CG: Exactly. Look at Chile in 1973, what happened to the Sandinistas in El Salvador, in Guatemala.

It is a well rehearsed strategy to destroy an economy using external forces to drive up prices of supplies and products. When you have such a cycle, it explodes.

Click here to read the same transcript as published today by Counterpunch.

Please note that I will try to update this post as soon as the documentary shot by Gignoux and Graterol is released.

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the Miami Showband massacre was planned by British intelligence says survivor Stephen Travers, who hopes a Netflix documentary will help bring justice nearly 50 years later

“The relief of surviving my attempted murder by British security forces is exceeded only by their failure to frame me as a terrorist” — Stephen Travers, Miami Showband Massacre survivor.

On January 4th 2018, Stephen Travers was interviewed on The Pat Kenny Show | NewsTalk. The interview is embedded below along with extracts from a report by The Irish Times published on December 31st, 2017:

Miami Showband massacre survivor Stephen Travers says the Irish Government should be ‘getting answers’ from the British government about allegations emerging from State Papers.

Declassified documents from 1987, published earlier this week under the 30 year rule, revealed a letter stating British intelligence agency MI5 had supplied the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) with detonators “which they had set to explode prematurely”, as happened during the attack on the Miami Showband.

On July 31st, 1975, a minibus carrying five members of the Miami Showband, one of Ireland’s most popular touring cabaret bands, was flagged down at what appeared to be a British military checkpoint as they were travelling south to Dublin after a gig at the Castle Ballroom in Banbridge, Co Down.

The UVF had planned to load a bomb on to the musicians’ bus and have it explode as they drove home. Two UVF men were killed by their own bomb as it detonated before they could plant it in the back of the band’s vehicle. Singer Fran O’Toole, guitarist Tony Geraghty and trumpeter Brian McCoy were then shot dead on a Buskhill country road by other UVF men.

Singer and saxophone player Des Lee and guitarist Stephen Travers were also wounded but survived. Three men, one former and two serving Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR) soldiers, were convicted for the murders. They were released under the terms of the 1998 Belfast Agreement.

Click here to read the full article entitled “Miami Showband massacre survivor demands ‘answers’ from Britain: Declassified documents from 1987 revealed a letter stating MI5 supplied UVF with detonators” written by Amanda Ferguson, published by The Irish Times.

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Musician Stephen Travers hopes a new documentary on a notorious massacre in the north of Ireland during the Troubles will lead to justice almost 50 years later.

In a new Netflix documentary released later this month he says that the 1975 Miami Showband Massacre was not a random sectarian attack but was masterminded by British intelligence services.

Three members of the band, one of Ireland’s most popular, were killed in the attack by the loyalist paramilitary Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF).

They were heading to Dublin in their van when they were stopped by uniformed men at what looked like a random army checkpoint near Newry in Co Down and shot.

Bass player Mr Travers had only joined the band six weeks earlier. He tells how the “soldiers” fitted a bomb underneath the van which detonated early.

writes Steve Sweeney in an article first published by the Morning Star. The same piece continues:

Mr Travers believes the band was deliberately targeted due to its popularity among Irish nationalists.

He claimed the killings were masterminded by the loyalist paramilitary Ulster Volunteer Force’s brigadier Robin “the Jackal” Jackson, working closely with British intelligence services. At least four of the gunmen were soldiers from the British Army’s Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR).

The shady Glennane Gang, a secret informal alliance of loyalists who carried out killings of Catholics and nationalists, have been implicated in the killings. Members are thought to have acted as double agents for British military intelligence.

“We were targeted because the British wanted our government to seal the border so that the IRA wouldn’t be able to cross easily into the relative safety of the south after committing some sort of atrocity,” Mr Travers told the Belfast Telegraph.

He said the band would have been branded terrorists, with guns planted in the van, had the bomb not exploded early.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland’s historical inquiries team, which was disbanded in 2014, confirmed Mr Jackson’s involvement in the killings.

His fingerprints were found on a pistol used in the attack. But British army officer Robert Nairac was cleared of involvement.

Mr Travers, however, remains sceptical of the team’s findings, “because they were answerable to the British government.”

Nearly 50 years after the slaughter he hopes the new film will open the door to investigations into the killings.

“I’m not going to go away. I’m looking for the truth,” he said.

Watch the trailer for the new documentary below:

Click here to read the full article entitled “British intelligence masterminded the Miami Showband massacre, survivor claims in new documentary” written by Steve Sweeney, published by the Morning Star on March 13th.

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solidarity with Chris Williamson MP

Chris Williamson is not an anti-Semite or a racist, but simply the latest victim of an ongoing witch hunt. I encourage fellow Labour Party members, Corbyn supporters in particular, along with others of good will, to speak out against his suspension, and to pursue justice for him.

Click here to sign a petition on change.org calling for his suspension to be lifted (you can read the full statement appended below).

The suspension of Chris Williamson MP is an absolute disgrace. We stand in full solidarity with Chris, who must be cleared as soon as possible by Labour’s “investigation” – though judging by how Jackie Walker, Marc Wadsworth, Tony Greenstein, Ken Livingstone and many, many more Corbyn supporters have been thrown under the bus, we have very little confidence that he will receive a fair one.

He is the latest victim of the witch-hunt by the right in the party whose main target is, of course, Jeremy Corbyn himself.

Jeremy Corbyn recently said: “Chris Williamson is a very good, very effective Labour MP. He’s a very strong anti-racist campaigner. He is not anti-Semitic.” Corbyn was right. He should finally stand up and tell people like Jon Lansman and John McDonnell to stop joining in the witch-hunt – but support the thousands of left-wingers who have been investigated, suspended and expelled, many of them on false accusations of anti-Semitism.

This campaign to equate anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism will only get worse, the closer we get to a general election. Trying to appease the right clearly does not work. If you fight, you might lose – but if you don’t fight, you have already lost.

Click here to find the same statement posted on the Labour Against the Witch Hunt website.

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Updates:

Having asked friends and fellow Labour Party branch members for advice on ways we might respond, the first two replies both offered the same recommendation: direct people to watch the Al Jazeera investigative series “The Lobby”, which uncovered subterfuge within the Labour Party by a spy working for the Israeli embassy.

In the clip below we see Israeli agent Shai Masot telling Chair of Labour Friends of Israel, Joan Ryan MP, at the LFI conference stall about a gift of over £1 million. Although Ryan has since quit Labour and joined “The Independent Group”, she still remains Chair of LFI:

One minute into the same clip (above) we also hear Masot casually discussing how he might help “take down” MPs opposed to Israeli policy. This shocking revelation did make news around the time of Al Jazeera‘s broadcast and eventually led to the quiet expulsion of Masot, though no further investigation was launched either by the media or through a public inquiry.

I have covered the contents of these four remarkable documentaries in earlier posts including this extended article, but following my friends’ suggestion have now decided to embed them again. I encourage readers to watch the series in its entirety (although parts 3 and 4 are perhaps the most pertinent episodes), and to direct others to watch them too:

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A short message from Chris Williamson to his supporters

On March 13th, Chris Williamson’s spoke briefly with @LeeFromSwindon. He began by thanking everyone who has “helped him through a very dark and difficult time”. His bigger message is that, as he put it, “we are on the cusp of literally changing the balance of power in this country in the favour of ordinary working people forever” and he asks members to stick together in solidarity and not abandon the party. Quoting a famous song from the 50s and 60s American civil rights movement, he also encouraged us to “keep your eyes on the prize and hold on”:

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Further update: Israel’s trolls meddling in British politics (Act.IL)

Sarah Leah Whitson, the head of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East division, was fiercely attacked by anti-Palestinian groups and pundits this weekend.

She had shared a posting of mine on the manufactured “Labour anti-Semitism crisis” story.

My tweet included an article from last year in which I reported a clear example of Israeli interference in British politics.

The “Act.IL” organization, which is coordinated, backed and has been funded by Israel’s so-called Ministry of Strategic Affairs, had used a troll army to spread false information about Jeremy Corbyn – the leader of the UK’s official opposition party.

writes Asa Winstanley in an article published on February 11th entitled “Yes of course Israel is interfering in British politics”. He continues:

Whitson commented, “Why is this #Israel interference in domestic UK politics acceptable? Is it only a problem when Russia does this?”

Both are pertinent questions.

But predictably, Israel’s propagandists attacked the article as “anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.”

What Whitson’s attackers refused to address was the substance of the report. Instead, they falsely accused her of spreading “anti-Semitism.”

This is a deliberate tactic to distract from how Israel interferes in domestic UK politics – and indeed around the world.

What I reported – and has still not been contested, let alone refuted – is the fact that in August last year, a well-funded group called Act.IL had used a troll army to spread anti-Corbyn and anti-Labour propaganda in the UK.

A “mission” on the app directed users to comment on Facebook in response to a Huffington Post UK story about Corbyn’s alleged “anti-Israel remarks,” which the Israel-backed app claimed are “often a way to hide anti-Semitism.”

Since that report, The Electronic Intifada has obtained further evidence that Act.IL’s budget is more than $1 million.

An internal report states that, based out of “media rooms” in Israel, the US and the UK, Act.IL can direct an army of more than than 15,000 propagandists via its app.

Click here to read the full article at the Electronic Intifada website.

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Petition statement: Lift the suspension of Chris Williamson

Anti-Semitism is now being used as a weapon to silence those who would speak out against injustice. It is being used in such a way as to silence freedom of speech. The cries of Anti-Semitism are now being used in an inappropriate way. I abhor racism in all its forms but it has now gone far too far and merely the cry of AS has itself has become a weapon of abuse, where is the justice? Why are the NEC and Labour Party now becoming part of the problem? When they continually target people with a good record against racism in all its forms, it actually achieves the opposite to the desired goal. This is not justice, this is a tribute to McCarthyism where an accusation is enough. It has become a kangaroo court with the accusers given anonymity while decent people are tarnished and decried – This is not socialism, and some of these accusations wouldn’t even stand up in a Civil Court let alone a Criminal One even in our broken justice system – Please re-think and look at who the accusers are and where their affiliations lie, as they do not seem to lie with a socialist Labour Party.

Click here to add your name to the petition.

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Israelgate disclosure: Al Jazeera’s censored “The Lobby – USA” now released in full

Introduction

“You would think that since the United States has this special relationship with Israel and gives it so much largesse and protects it diplomatically at every turn and gives this assistance unconditionally, that the Israelis would do less spying here than other countries do, but on the contrary what we see is that Israelis are probably at the top of the list when it comes to foreign countries spying inside the United States.” — John Mearsheimer, Distinguished Service Professor at the University of Chicago 1

“If China was doing this, if Iran was doing it, if Russia was doing it, there would be uproar. You would have Congress going after them. You would have hearings. You would have prosecutions. The question is how does Israel get away with this?” — Ali Abunimah, author of The Battle for Justice In Palestine. 2

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This extended post has been constructed as an augmented synopsis for Al Jazeera’s “The Lobby – USA”. It is also a companion piece to my overview published two years ago of Al Jazeera’s original investigative series about the Israel lobby and its machinations inside the UK.

As I wrote in March 2017:

The investigation came to wider public attention following the release of shocking footage of “Israeli diplomat” Shai Masot speculating about how to “take down” Deputy Foreign Minister, Sir Alan Duncan, and other senior politicians less than “solid on Israel”. After the story broke, the press were of course compelled to report on it: it was impossible to ignore such serious allegations that a foreign power was trying to subvert Britain’s democracy. Yet reaction both from the media and the government has been remarkably tepid since. There have been no sustained investigations and we see no push for an official inquiry – this in defiance of Labour demands that the government launch an immediate inquiry into what it rightly calls “a national security issue”. […]

The altogether miserly extent and scope of British media coverage of a plot to subvert our democracy can be usefully measured against the unlimited column inches and headline space given over to unfounded allegations of Russian hacking of the DNC in America. But no less importantly, the plot against Tory ministers occupies a mere ten minutes of one episode of what in full amounts to two hours over four parts of broadcast material. The revelation is damning in the extreme but it should not have been allowed to totally overshadow the real focus of the documentary: a dirty tricks campaign against pro-Palestinian Labour party members and other efforts to subvert the party’s elected leader, Jeremy Corbyn. This chicanery against Corbyn in the interests of a foreign power is something the media has helped to bury.

Click here to read my full post entitled “Shai Masot, the Israel lobby, and its part in the ongoing coup against Jeremy Corbyn.”

I urge all readers, but most especially the supporters of the British Labour Party and Jeremy Corbyn, to watch both series of these powerful documentaries in their entirety.

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Israel first

“The settler agenda is defining the future of Israel, and their stated purpose is clear: they believe in one state: Greater Israel. In fact, one prominent minister declared just after the US election, and I quote, ‘the era of the two-state solution is over’. If the choice is one state, Israel can either be Jewish or democratic, it cannot be both.” — John Kerry. 3

“The activism has to be very provocative and attention-getting and total no f—ks given. We’re going to be more pro-Israel than you can even imagine. Just to provoke everyone… The majority of Americans are pro-Israel. Whereas you take a poll of Israel in the UK, it’s just pure hatred of Israel. Your country basically let half of f—king Pakistan move in. So you have a different problem than we do here— Noah Pollak, the Executive Director of the Emergency Committee for Israel. 4

One month ago, on Friday January 11th, Amal al-Taramsi, a 43-year-old Palestinian woman, was shot in the head by an IDF sniper. She is just the latest victim of more than 240 Palestinians who have been killed close to the Gaza fence since the Great March of Return protests that began in March last year:

At least 25 other Palestinians were wounded by Israeli gunfire on Friday, including two members of the media and one paramedic, according to al-Qedra.5

Click here to read a full report by Al Jazeera.

Amal Mustafa at-Taramisi, 43, from Sheikh Radwan, north of Gaza city.

On the same day, Israeli missiles and artillery shells were fired into three sites in proximity to Gaza city and Khan Younis inside the Gaza strip. 6

And on the very same day, Israel also illegally launched unprovoked airstrikes on Damascus international airport as Prime Minister Netanyahu afterwards confirmed, citing warehouses containing Iranian arms as the pretext. 7

None of this is abnormal for Israel, of course. The IDF murders unarmed civilians as a matter of routine, maiming for life thousands of others who have committed no greater crime than hurling stones. They demolish houses even with the residents trapped inside in order to collectively punish the Palestinians and annex their land and water. Periodically Israel also “mows the grass” in the open air prison of Gaza; a policy of ethnic cleansing that is as brazen as it is ruthless. Back in 2012, the UN issued its “most comprehensive report on the Palestinian enclave” warning that, as Reuters reported:

Gaza will no longer be “liveable” by 2020 unless urgent action is taken to improve water supply, power, health, and schooling…

“Action needs to be taken now if Gaza is to be a liveable place in 2020 and it is already difficult now,” U.N. humanitarian coordinator Maxwell Gaylard told journalists when the report was released on Monday. 8

The action called for was never taken and 2020 is now less than twelve months away.

Meanwhile in America, on the same day Amal al-Taramsi was murdered, and as 25 other Palestinians were seriously wounded (among the casualties two members of the press and one paramedic), and as it rained down missiles over Gaza and Damascus, the US Congress was busy passing H.R.221 – Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism Act: “to monitor and combat anti-Semitism globally, and for other purposes.” The US House of Representatives in fact voted 411 to 1 in favour of the bill; Republican Justin Amash of Michigan, the single dissenting congressman.

Under this new legislation, a special envoy who is tasked to monitor criticism of Israel will be appointed to the rank of ambassador:

The Special Envoy shall serve as the primary advisor to, and coordinate efforts across, the United States Government relating to monitoring and combating anti-Semitism and anti-Semitic incitement that occur in foreign countries. 9

The appointee will be able to pursue offenders in accordance with the full IHRA definition (as codified under The Anti-Semitism Awareness Act) and under the guise of defeating the “new antisemitism” – the falsehood that equates any criticism of Israel to racism against Jews – to curtail open debate about Israel’s constant violations of international law and crimes against humanity.

Moreover, on both Tuesday 8th and Thursday 10th, the US Senate voted to further protect Israeli interests in the Strengthening America’s Security in the Middle East Act of 2019, S. 1. In violation of First Amendment rights to boycott, it provides federal support and protection for state anti-BDS laws, and was only very narrowly defeated:

[But] In the 2019 GOP-controlled Senate, the first bill to be considered — S.1 — is not designed to protect American workers, bolster U.S. companies, or address the various debates over border security and immigration. It’s not a bill to open the government. Instead, according to multiple sources involved in the legislative process, S.1 will be a compendium containing a handful of foreign policy-related measures, the main one of which is a provision — with Florida’s GOP Sen. Marco Rubio as a lead sponsor — to defend the Israeli government. The bill is a top legislative priority for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

From an article entitled “U.S. Senate’s First Bill, in the Midst of the Shutdown, is a Bipartisan Defense of the Israeli Government from Boycotts” written by Ryan Grim and Glenn Greenwald, Published by The Intercept. The same piece continues:

These are the Israel-defending, free speech-punishing laws that Rubio’s bill is designed to strengthen. Although Rubio is the chief sponsor, his bill attracted broad bipartisan support, as is true of most bills designed to protect Israel and supported by AIPAC. 10

Click here to read the full article.

On January 28th, Senator Mitch McConnell brought the bill back to be voted on for a THIRD time and it was passed: 11

The bill was adopted by the Senate in a vote of 74 in favor to 19 against, with seven abstentions. The bill had previously been blocked by Senate Democrats by a 56-44 vote as part of their objection to acting on legislation during the government shutdown. However, many of those Democratic senators who had previously blocked the bill ultimately voted in support of the measure. In order to become law, the measure would still need to pass the Democrat-run House of Representatives. However, given the amount of support for the measure among Democrats and the power of the Israel lobby, the bill stands a considerable chance of passing the House.

writes Whitney Webb in an article entitled “The US Senate Just Quietly Advanced A Free Speech Busting Anti-BDS Bill”. The article continues:

The bill includes several measures that were promoted by the Israel lobby last year but did not make it through the previous Congress. These include the “Ileana Ros-Lehtinen United States-Israel Security Assistance Authorization Act of 2019” which would give a record-breaking $38 billion to Israel over the next 10 years, and which ultimately failed to pass after Sen. Paul threatened a filibuster against it. That bill also requires Congress to give at least $3.8 billion to Israel every subsequent year after the initial 10 years.

Other measures in the bill include the “Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act of 2019”  — which imposes more sanctions on Syria and has been described as a “rebuttal” to President Trump’s proposed Syria troop withdrawal, which Israel also opposes – and the “The United States-Jordan Defense Cooperation Extension Act,” which would also give money to Israel. Some analysts have long asserted that U.S. security assistance to Jordan and other regional countries such as Egypt is aimed at securing regional support for Israeli and American geopolitical objectives in the Middle East.

Yet, the most controversial part of the bill by far is the “Combating BDS Act of 2019,” which would authorize state and local governments to retaliate commercially against entities that support BDS, such as by halting business with or refusing to contract or hire companies or individual citizens who either actively participate in or support the movement. A previous version of the bill included possible jail time as punishment for supporting a boycott of Israel or Israeli settlements, their violation of international law notwithstanding. 12

Click here to read the full article published by Mint Press News on Jan 29th.

So why does the US Congress expend such Herculean efforts to bend over backwards for the benefit of Israel? The short answer is the lobby…

*

The Lobby – USA

“The big media companies will tell you – well, maybe they won’t tell you this – but they have been harassed. If they had Palestinian journalists who knew the ins and outs of the Palestinian authority, for example, they were blatantly told to get rid of them. That they weren’t trustworthy journalists.” — Jim Clancy, former correspondent and presenter with CNN (1982–2015) 13

“AIPAC has moved so far to the right that it’s losing the young people. By the time of the next presidential election, Democrats will not glibly in a debate, say, ‘I’m running for President and I love Israel…’ The terrain has changed dramatically.” — MJ Rosenberg, former editor of AIPAC’s policy journal, Near East Report. 14

“The foundation that AIPAC is sat on is rotting. There used to be actually widespread public support for Israel in the United States. So I don’t think that AIPAC is going to remain as influential as it is. I don’t think AIPAC is the tip of the spear anymore, which is worrisome because who is?” — Eric Gallagher, former Director (2010–2015) at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). 15

As a sequel to its damning investigation into the Israel lobby’s activities inside Britain (released two years ago), Al Jazeera’s Director of Investigative Journalism, Clayton Swisher, announced in October 2017 that a different undercover journalist James Kleinfeld (under the pseudonym ‘Tony’) was likewise embedded within the US Israel lobby:

Swisher made the announcement soon after the UK’s broadcast regulator dismissed all complaints against Al Jazeera’s film The Lobby.

That documentary, broadcast in January 2017, exposed Israel’s covert influence campaign in the UK’s ruling Conservative and opposition Labour parties. The film revealed an Israeli embassy agent plotting with a British civil servant to “take down” a government minister seen as too critical of Israel.

Although Swisher promised the US film would come out “very soon,” nearly five months later it has yet to be broadcast.

In fact it was not until November 2018 before a complete copy of the 4-part documentary series was finally released, and then not officially by Al Jazeera, whose director-general claimed there were outstanding legal issues with the film – assertions flatly contradicted by his own journalists – but leaked instead by the Electronic Intifada and simultaneously by France’s Orient XXI and Lebanon’s Al-Akhbar, (versions subtitled respectively in French and Arabic).

On November 13, 2018, ‘The Real News’ discussed with Ali Abunimah, editor and co-founder of ‘The Electronic Intifada’, the documentary’s explosive revelations:

What is revealed is a highly sophisticated psychological operation with close ties to Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs, directed at spying on, smearing and sabotaging the Palestine solidarity movement. However, in spite of tremendous resources and assiduously cultivated networks of Zionist sympathisers, we learn that support for Israel is haemorrhaging.

Even in America, where the Israel lobby is at its most influential, it has been losing the battle for hearts and minds, as remaining pockets of support are reduced to the ever more extreme right wing margins. For this reason, the attack on outspoken opponents of Israel, and most especially the leading advocates for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS), is being intensified.

Read more about Al Jazeera’s investigation into Israel’s meddling in British politics as well as Qatar’s subsequent censorship of its twin investigation in the US in a post published September 21st entitled forget ‘Russiagate’, why is no-one talking about ‘Israelgate’…?

Each of the four parts is embedded below in sequence. Here is the first, which is subtitled “The Covert War”:

*

Israel’s secret war: the smoking gun

“We are a different government working on foreign soil and we have to be very, very cautious. We have three different sub-campaigns, which are very, very sensitive. Regarding data gathering, information analysis, working on activist organisations, money trail. This is something that only a country with its resources can do the best.” — Sima Vaknin-Gil, Director General of Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs. 16

“Think tanks are the folks that used to work in government, have PhDs, and decided not to become professors… In the Middle Eastern studies field academics have failed. That’s why people like me are considered useful at least to some.” — Jonathan Schanzer, Senior Vice President at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. 17

Speaking at the Israeli American Council (IAC) conference, Sima Vaknin-Gil tells delegates:

“Ambiguity is part of our guidelines, that’s why I’m not going to say too much about each one of the legs. The first one is intel, intelligence, or data, or information. What we’ve done is mapped and analysed the whole phenomena globally. Not just the United States, not just campuses, but campuses and intersectionality and labour unions and churches. We started to establish a project called ‘Israel Cyber Shield’. This project is actually a civil intelligence unit that collects, analyses and acts upon the activists in the BDS movement. If it’s people, organisations or events… we are using the most sophisticated data system, intelligence system in the Israeli market. Let’s take the defence activity that we’re doing, and make it into proactivity and offence activity.” 18

In response, Omar Barghouti, a co-founder of the BDS movement told Al Jazeera: “Israel has used cyber sabotage. We suffered from intense denial of service attacks, hacking attacks, on our website. Israel decided to go on cyberwar against BDS publicly – they said we shall spy on BDS individuals and networks, especially in the West. We have not heard a peep from any western government complaining that Israel is admitting that it will spy on your citizens. Imagine Iran saying it will spy on British or American citizens. Just imagine what could happen.” 19

Sima Vaknin-Gil also told delegates at the conference:

“Everybody out there who has to do anything with BDS should ask themselves twice, do I want to be on this side, or do I want to be on the other side? If I’m submitting to BDS what would be the effect? We’ve got the budget. We can bring things to the table that are quite different. We have three different sub-campaigns. Data gathering, working on activist organisation, money trail. We have FDD. We have others working on this.” 20

The Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD) is officially “a nonpartisan policy institute” and yet by the admission of the Director General of Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs, Sima Vaknin-Gil, it is also a foreign agency working on behalf of a foreign power, running covert operations to spy on American citizens.

As Asa Winstanley points out, the FDD operates in complete violation of US law:

Under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, commonly known as FARA, US organizations and individuals who work on behalf of foreign governments are required to register with the counterintelligence section of the Department of Justice.

A search on the FARA website shows that the Foundation for Defense of Democracies is not registered.

The same piece continues:

Soon after she was appointed to lead the ministry at the start of 2016, Vaknin-Gil promised to “create a community of fighters” who would “flood the internet” with Israeli propaganda that would be publicly distanced from the government.

Adding:

As well as getting funding from Sheldon Adelson, the anti-Palestinian billionaire and number one donor to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, the Foundation for Defense of Democracies has close ties to the United Arab Emirates.

In hacked emails last year the Emirati ambassador in Washington encouraged the foundation to push for moving a US military base from Qatar to his own country. 21

Click here to read the full article entitled “What’s in Al Jazeera’s undercover film on the US Israel Lobby?” published in March 2018 by the Electronic Intifada.

As John Mearsheimer, Distinguished Service Professor at the University of Chicago and author of The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy (2007), tells Al Jazeera: “They try to ‘educate’ people to understand that Israel is effectively a western, liberal democracy in the sea of terrorist states, which is the Arab world. The other goal is to intimidate and to smear people.” 22

Here is the second episode of “The Lobby – USA”, which is subtitled “Managing Elites”:

*

‘Information superiority’

“In the air force when you want to win, you have to have aerial superiority. If you want to win a campaign, you must have information superiority. And this is exactly the added value of Israel’s capabilities, technological and otherwise, we can bring to the game and we are working on that very hard.” — Sima Vaknin-Gil, Director General of Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs. 23

“For years we are trying to defeat the BDS and the delegitimisation movement. We are all on the defensive. I think we should move to the offensive. Using especially cyber and internet tools to try and defeat this ugly movement.Sagi Balasha, former CEO of the Israeli-American Council (2011–2015) who works with cyber-intelligence organisations. 24

“An American should not be spied on by a foreign government that is able to access all this information and possibly undermine their ability to exercise their democratic rights in this country. So we’re not dealing with amateurs, this is not an amateur work, we’re dealing with a government that has a ministry… engaged in the systematic targeting of activists outside of its sovereign borders.” — Hatem Bazian, founder of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP). 25

Jacob Baime is the Executive Director of the Israel on Campus Coalition (ICC). He tells ‘Tony’: “The research operation is very hi-tech. When I got here a few years ago the budget was $3,000. Today it’s like a million and a half or more. Probably it’s two million at this point. I don’t even know it’s huge. It’s a massive budget.” 26

Baime continues: “We’ve got major political consulting firms on retainer that are here all the time. We have our own opposition researchers. We have a lot of communications capabilities and what’s most interesting about it, I think, is that 90% of the people who pay attention to this space very closely have no idea what we’re actually doing, which I like.” 27

Adding: “There’s a company called Sensus. It’s very pricey though you know. We had to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars just for it. It’s going to increase our discovery rate. We’re discovering just about everything we need. It’s also going to bring new sources online that we weren’t able to access in an automated fashion. Like message boards and… we have ways to crawl message boards right now and to monitor them but it’s disconnected from the event and activity discovery mechanism, so we want that system to be all integrated. We just signed a contract yesterday for them to start that work. They’ve actually already started it. Good friends in Israel that are helping us with that.” 28

‘Tony’ also learns from Baime that, “It’s modelled on General Stanley McChrystal’s counter-insurgency strategy in Iraq. We’ve copied a lot from that strategy that has been working really well for us actually. And one of the pieces is this Operations and Intelligence Brief. We’re using social media intelligence. A tool called Radian 6. We’re phasing that out over the next year and we’re bringing on more sophisticated technology that is developed in Israel.” 29

I shall return to Jacob Baime and the Israel on Campus Coalition (ICC) in later sections.

In episode 3, ‘Tony’ also speaks to Eric Gallagher, a former Director (2010–2015) at AIPAC, who confirms to him that: “there’s a group of anonymous people who have a very sophisticated digital strategy for exposing these people [anti-Israel campaigners] and making sure the stuff stays with them.”

Gallagher adds reassuringly: “There’s no one on their side doing it so you don’t have to worry about your reputation.” 30

*

Influencing Washington

“I know that getting $38 billion in security aid to Israel matters, which is what AIPAC just did. That’s what I’m proud to have been a part of for so long… Everything AIPAC does is focused on influencing Congress. Congress is where you have leverage. So you can’t influence the President of the United States directly but the Congress can.” — Eric Gallagher, former Director (2010–2015) at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). 31

“The Ministry of Strategic Affairs brings together this group called the Global Coalition for Israel, and it’s leading pro-Israel advocacy groups around the world. My view and the view of Israel’s Minister of Strategic Affairs, which we co-ordinate with sometimes, we communicate with sometimes, is Europe is lost and it’s basically over and they’re turning a lot of attention now to the US because they feel we’re on your path.” — Jacob Baime, Executive Director of the Israel on Campus Coalition (ICC).  32

“[W]e don’t ask a goddamn thing about the f—king Palestinians. You know why? Because it’s a tiny issue, that’s why. It’s a small insignificant issue. The big issue is Iran. We want everything focused on Iran.” — David Ochs, the founder of Ha Lev 33

In part 2, David Ochs, the founder of Ha Lev, an organisation that pays for young people to attend the AIPAC conference, invites reporter ‘Tony’ to attend a fundraiser held in a wealthy suburb of Washington. He emails ‘Tony’ with a list of the people the group supports. Those named on the list which Ochs describes as “the biggest ad hoc political group and definitely the wealthiest in DC” include:

Senators: Mark Kirk, Democrat from Illinois; Richard Burr, Republican from North Carolina; Kelly Ayotte (“she’s fantastic!”), Republican from New Hampshire on the Arms Committee; Robert Menendez, Democrat from New Jersey; Rob Portman, Republican from Ohio; Jamie Raskin, Democrat from Maryland.

And Congressmen: Ted Deutch, Democrat for Florida; Barbara Comstock, Republican for Virginia; David Scott, Democrat for Georgia; Joe Heck, Republican for Nevada [now retired after he stood and was defeated in 2016 race for the Senate]; Chris van Hollen, Democrat for Maryland; Steny Hoyer, Democrat for Maryland too. 34

Och then fills in the picture and tells ‘Tony’: “They’ll walk into the room and say, ‘Everything here is off the record.’ Then they’ll say, ‘Here’s a little bit about me’ and people will ask very specific questions.” 35

Continuing: “It’s the AIPAC group. It makes a difference, it really, really does. It’s the best bang for your buck and the networking is phenomenal… Congressmen and Senators don’t do anything unless you pressure them. They kick the can down the road, unless you pressure them. The only way to do that is with money.” 36

The fundraiser event was for Anthony Brown, the former Lieutenant Governor of the state of Maryland, who in 2016 was running for Congress. “Brown is going to use that £30,000 to do ad campaigns”, Ochs tells ‘Tony’ adding:

“[W]e want the Jewish community to go face to face in this small environment: 50, 30, 40 people, and say ‘This is what’s important to us.’ We want to make sure, if we give you money that you’re going to enforce the Iran deal. That way, when they need something from him or her, like the Iran deal, they can quickly mobilise and say ‘look, we’ll give you $30,000.’”  37

Ochs also talks about a more impressive fundraising event held in New York which included donors from Wall Street, one of whom was hedge fund manager, Jeff Talpins:

“What happens is Jeff meets with the congressmen in the backroom, tells them exactly what his goals are – and by the way, Jeff Talpins is worth $250 million. Basically they hand him an envelope with 20 credit cards and say, ‘You can swipe each of these credit cards for $1,000 each.’” 38

Asked by ‘Tony’ the name of the group behind the event, Ochs says:

“It doesn’t have a name. There’s no name. It’s an ad hoc political group. For all the legal reasons, people pool their money.” 39

Al Jazeera showed their evidence to Craig Holman from the campaign group Public Citizen who explained that although individual campaign contributions are limited by law to no more than $2,700, this can be circumvented (legally or illegally) when a group of fifty or so bundle these already considerable donations together. It becomes illegal once any of the donors begin pooling resources in such a way that one who can afford more than the maximum $2700 passes on extra money to someone who is unable to. Holman told Al Jazeera:

“He’s actually saying we’re buying these office holders and that’s the point. We’re chipping in all this money so we can hand over $100,000 or £200,000 to the office holder so we can buy him.” 40

Adding:

“There is a disclosure law that is designed to highlight whether there may be potential money-laundering going on in events like this. And that is if the funds are earmarked and that means the organisation has to disclose who showed up at their events and how much each individual will chip in and what they handed over to the lawmaker… What this specific group is doing to try to avoid that disclosure requirement: it isn’t taking money and then putting it in its own account and then handing it over to the office holder, [instead] it’s just collecting credit card information and then turning that over directly to the candidate. Therefore it’s not violating the earmarking law and they’re not reporting this. All we would see on the campaign finance reports are the individuals who contributed. But there will be no record on those campaign finance reports [showing] that they worked together as a bundling group.” 41

*

“They have questionnaires. Anyone running for Congress is expected to fill out a questionnaire. And they evaluate the depth of your commitment to Israel on the basis of that questionnaire. And then you have an interview… If you get AIPAC support then more often or not you’re going to win. You realise it’s not just the money, it’s the number of concerned activists: they’ll send out postcards; they’ll make phone calls; they’ll organise. That’s the democratic process – they understand the democratic process.” — Jim Moran, member of Congress from 1991–2015 42

“We made sure there were people in every single congressional district and then you’d call them up and say I’m calling from AIPAC in Washington. I did these calls: ‘We hear you’re good friends with congressman so-and-so.’ ‘Oh, my God yes! We’ve been friends since elementary school.’ ‘Well what does he think about Israel?’ ‘I never talked to him about Israel.’ ‘Well, can I come down and talk to you and help you figure out a way to talk to him about Israel?’ ‘No, just tell me. What should I say? I’ll just tell him.’ MJ Rosenberg, former editor of AIPAC’s policy journal, Near East Report. 43

AIPAC is by far the most prominent and important of all the hundreds of pro-Israel lobby groups in America and every year it hosts a stadium-sized gathering of delegates. The power of the Israel lobby, and of AIPAC in particular, can perhaps best be judged during election years.

In 2016, nearly 20,000 delegates attended the annual AIPAC conference and of this number some 4,000 were students. Also in attendance were many high ranking Republicans and Democrats, including Vice President Joe Biden, and Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan; also shoulder-to-shoulder with presidential nominees Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, and all equally eager to the please the crowds with rousing speeches about America’s enduring and unbreakable friendship with Israel and its Lukidnik leadership. They come because the lobby is powerful and in search of backers:

Money is an important part of the equation. AIPAC is not a political action committee, and the organization itself doesn’t give a dime in campaign contributions. But its Web site, which details how members of Congress voted on AIPAC’s key issues, and the AIPAC Insider, a glossy periodical that handicaps close political races, are scrutinized by thousands of potential donors. Pro-Israel interests have contributed $56.8 million in individual, group and soft money donations to federal candidates and party committees since 1990, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.

AIPAC helps to steer American foreign policy in other ways too:

For overstretched members of Congress and their staffs, who don’t have the time or resources to master every subject in their domain, AIPAC makes itself an essential tool. It briefs. It lobbies. It organizes frequent seminars on subjects such as terrorism, Islamic militarism and nuclear proliferation. It brings experts to the Hill from think tanks in Washington and Tel Aviv. It provides research papers and offers advice on drafting legislation on foreign affairs, including the annual foreign aid bill. And behind it is a vast network of grass-roots activists in each House district who make a point of visiting individual members of Congress, inviting them to social events and contributing to their reelection campaigns. 44

Click here to read the full Washington Post article entitled “A Beautiful Friendship?”

Here is the third episode of “The Lobby – USA”, which is subtitled “The Witch Hunt”:

*

In principle, the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007 45 prohibits lobbyists from providing gifts or travel to Members of Congress, limiting reimbursement for trips to one-day maximum. But that was before a loophole was inserted, widely known as “the AIPAC loophole”, a clause excluding ‘educational trips’ arranged by a charity that doesn’t itself hire lobbyists. AIPAC happens to be affiliated to the American Israel Education Foundation (AIEF), which is just such a charity. Created in 1990 the AIEF “funds educational seminars to Israel for members of Congress and other political influentials”. Its own mission statement continues:

These AIEF-sponsored trips help educate political leaders and influentials about the importance of the U.S. – Israel relationship through firsthand experiences in Israel, briefings by experts on Middle East affairs, and meetings with Israeli political elite. 46

Every year they fly hundreds of members of Congress to Israel. Jim Moran, who as a member of Congress from 1991–2015 actually visited Israel on one of these lavish all-expenses paid trips, told Al Jazeera: “You are told that Israel continues to be under siege from hundreds of millions of its neighbours who are Muslim and who hate Israel. Who hate Jewish people. You are told that Israel survives because of the United States and because of American politicians like you, who support us” 47

*

“They threaten. They immediately threaten. Even if they know that AIPAC can’t defeat them, AIPAC can make their lives more difficult. They can make sure that at their next town meeting or something, some members of the Jewish congregation jump up and say ‘But you’re anti-Israel!’” — MJ Rosenberg, former editor of AIPAC’s policy journal, Near East Report. 48

“The executive director of AIPAC said that his most important accomplishment was his securing the authorisation of the use of US military forces in Iraq. AIPAC was pushing very hard… the United States getting involved in wars in the Middle East is ultimately in Israel’s interest. They have a stake in the region.” — Jim Moran. 49

Along with inducements, AIPAC also has the power to strike out against candidates who wander off the reservation as Jim Moran was to discover later. In 2002, AIPAC was lobbying him to vote in favour of the invasion of Iraq. When Moran refused, a sequence of events took place beginning with a single question asked at a public meeting:

“A Jewish woman actually stood up in the town hall and she said ‘Why aren’t more Jews involved in the marches against the war?’ I said ‘If leaders in the Jewish community were opposed to the war that would make a difference.’” 50

The lobby reacted saying that Moran was perpetuating an antisemitic conspiracy theory that Israel was leading America to war:

“There was a conservative rabbi in my district who was assigned to me, I assume, by AIPAC. And he had warned me that if I voice my views about the Israeli lobby that my career would be over and implied that it would be done through The Post – and sure enough The Washington Post editorialised brutally; everybody ganged up.” 51

The initial hit piece was written by Marc Fisher and bluntly titled “Sorry, Mr Moran, You’re Not Fit For Public Office”. It begins:

Jim Moran is very sorry. The congressman from Northern Virginia is often sorry. He is sorry about the things he says, the money he takes, the people he insults.

And continues:

It doesn’t matter whether you think this war would be right or wrong: What we have here is a United States congressman endorsing and spreading one of the oldest and most pernicious myths in the annals of ethnic hatred: It’s those all-powerful Jews. 52

*

Fighting the infowar

“We are in charge of fighting this phenomenon and to this end we have four legs. Warning, deterrence, attack and public relations. If you want to win a campaign your actions must be as vague as possible. Just as I worked… as an intelligence officer, we didn’t go to the other side and tell him what we intend to do. We left him in the dark.” — Sima Vaknin-Gil, Director General of Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs. 53

“We are giving them data, for example, one day Sima’s deputy is sending me a photo. Just a photo on Whatsapp. It’s written ‘Boycott Israel’ on a billboard. In a few hours our systems and analysts could find the exact organisation, people and even their names, where they live. We gave it back to the ministry [of Strategic Affairs] and I have no idea what they did with this. But the fact is, three days later there were no billboards.” — Sagi Balasha, former CEO of the Israeli-American Council (2011–2015) 54

Having passed through a training course in pro-Israel advocacy, undercover reporter ‘Tony’ got a placement as a volunteer working inside what they call the ‘war room’ at The Israel Project (TIP) where media and communications are monitored. Staff said they forged friendships with reporters who worked at numerous media outlets. One claimed that during talks on the Iran nuclear deal, TIP had applied pressure to the Associated Press news agency to alter a headline. TIP’s admitted aim according to its annual report is to build an echo chamber for pro-Israel information as well as “neutralizing undesired narratives”. 55

This approach was afterwards confirmed by David Hazony, Managing Director at TIP, who explained how: “They’re not things we do loudly. A lot of them are things we do behind the scenes… You can get a lot more done by making questions get asked by journalists. And if you create it from multiple directions at the same time through multiple journalists, then you create a kind of sense of crisis… We develop relationships. A lot of alcohol to get them to trust us.” 56

Such chaos is purposefully exacerbated by ostensibly non-partisan ‘think tanks’ such as the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD) which spuriously links pro-Palestinian groups to Hamas. Such unsubstantiated and false allegations then permit prominent voices within the Israel lobby to smear opponents and to coerce the US government. On the back of such claims, Morton Klein, President of the Zionist Organisation of America (ZOA) told delegates attending the Israeli-American Council IAC:

“We should promote the fact that according to Jonathan Schanzer [Senior Vice President at the FDD], who knows terrorism… He said a group of people who were actively funding Hamas, have now formed a group, American Muslims for Palestine. Schanzer testified and said they were leading driver of the BDS campaign, they were the most important sponsor and organisers of SJP [Students for Justice in Palestine]. We have to make it clear in every way possible, that they’re being funded and trained by vicious lovers of Hamas.” 57

A research associate working at TIP, Amanda Botfeld, confided to ‘Tony’: “The stuff we produced, I felt was like bigoted. It would be like pictures of Palestinian kids with a knife. Those videos of kids going to stab people. You would need to put this on Facebook and then have me make memes, so there could be graphics about that… I was embarrassed to be associated with it.” 58 She later alleged that her boss at another pro-Israel group, StandWithUs, had instructed her to label BDS a “‘racist hate group’ as often as possible because it polls well”. 59 Botfeld also claims StandWithUs included a “covert group” who would slander others as antisemites.

Asked by ‘Tony’ whether she believed there had been “well-intentioned activists on American campuses who have found themselves in very difficult situations because of these pro-Israel groups have tarnished them as antisemites?” she replied “Oh, absolutely.” 60

Here is the final episode of “The Lobby – USA”, which is subtitled “Marketing Occupation”:

*

Killing the messenger

“If we want to win, we have to change our ways. We have to think differently. And this is waging a holistic campaign against the other side. Take him out of his comfort zone. Make him be on the defensive.” — Sima Vaknin-Gil, Director General of Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs. 61

“Antisemitism has come to mean anti-Israel. The AIPAC crowd doesn’t really care very much about whether or not a person likes Jews or wants one to move in next door. All they care about is what their position is on Israel.” — MJ Rosenberg, former editor of AIPAC’s policy journal, Near East Report. 62

“I think we need to worry. The polling isn’t good and all you probably know that if you look at the polls, the younger you get on the demographic scales, the lower support for Israel is.” — David Brog, Executive Director of the Maccabee Task Force, which combats BDS on American Campuses, speaking at the annual conference of the IAC. 63

Although the Israel lobby has the US Congress mostly in its pocket, it is at the same moment losing the battle for hearts and minds at a grassroots level in America as elsewhere. As awareness of the cruel illegality of Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land and the daily atrocities carried out under its apartheid system grows, so support for Israel amongst progressives and liberals has waned. As mainstream America slowly turned their backs on Israel, the residue of support is today strongest amongst Christian Zionists who believe in the end time prophecy that for Christ to return it is necessary for Israel to control all of historical Palestine. Meanwhile, as the Palestinian solidarity movement steadily rises, Israel and its dwindling base of supporters is making ever more concerted efforts to put a stop to the threat posed by BDS.

As Jonathan Schanzer, Senior Vice President of FDD, confides to ‘Tony’: “BDS has taken everybody by surprise. It’s come up behind everyone’s back and bit them on the ass. Yeah, that’s a complete mess. I can tell you that I don’t think anybody’s doing a good job. We’re not even doing a good job. We did some good research but we haven’t figured out how to do anything with it… Personally I think antisemitism as a smear is not what it used to be.” 64

Likewise, David Brog, Executive Director of the Maccabee Task Force, which combats BDS on American Campuses, tells delegates at the annual conference of the IAC: “When you get to the millennials and the students, it’s a bad situation. And it’s getting to the point now where the majority is more favourable towards the Palestinians than the Israelis.” 65

The younger generation of Jews in America are also drifting away from Israel and have increasingly joined the ranks of BDS supporters. As Sima Vaknin-Gil explains: “Today we haven’t only lost the millennial generation of Jews. I hear this from their parents who come and explain to me what a hard time they’re having with their kids at Friday dinners. They don’t recognise the State of  Israel and don’t see us as an entity to be admired.” 66

The response from some in the Israel lobby is summed up neatly in the words of David Hazony, the editor of The Tower magazine and also a Managing Director at TIP:

“They’re all crazy liberals. As far as I’m concerned American Jews had one job, which was to preserve Jewish identity from one generation to the next. They failed. So I don’t think they have any place to be telling Israel what’s what. If they choose to stop giving money to Israel, Israel will find money elsewhere.” 67

*

The Algemeiner, which claims to be the fastest growing Jewish newspaper in America, pays special attention to events on college campuses. In Part 2 of Al Jazeera’s investigation, undercover reporter ‘Tony’ is unwittingly recruited by the Algemeiner to help carry out a covert investigation inside the Palestinian Solidarity movement. Rachel Frommer, Algemeiner’s Senior Campus Correspondent tells him:

“We’re working on a project now about ranking US universities and colleges in terms of their antisemitic and anti-Israel [attitudes]. We have a campus bureau that monitors this sort of behaviour and these incidents and these campaigns all day long, all week long.” 68

She continues: “The language that comes from those arenas move into that sphere of the new antisemitism, which is anti-Israelism. That’s a big focus at the campus bureau, looking at the blurring of those lines and where those boundaries have eroded.” 69

Then, in Part 3, ‘Tony’ is informed by Editor in Chief of the Algemeiner, Dovid Efune, “There’s a long history of crime affiliated with the BDS movement that have been judged as such by US courts. For example, the Holy Land Foundation… Are these people still active and present within the movement? Who seem to be the people running the show here? Is there any acknowledgement of any sponsors?” 70

Likewise, Rachel Frommer tells him: “This is an incestual business. You know, they’re all interconnected. This is not just me spouting off because I’m paranoid. There have been actual cases like the Holy Land case that happened a few years ago… A lot of these guys had worked with those people, and they themselves have not yet been indicted but they’re all interconnected. Part of the reason why that is so crucial is because when you’re making lines from one organisation to the other, eventually you make a line to Hamas. To Hezbollah. To Iran.” 71

The trope of pro-Palestinian activist ties to terrorist groups is a narrative that serves interests of the Israel lobby and one that is repeated by Executive Director of the Emergency Committee for Israel, Noah Pollak, who states during a panel discussion at George Mason University:

“There is an actual direct between the people who were raising money for Hamas and people who are involved in BDS activism on American campuses today… You’ll notice their name is Students for Justice in Palestine. You don’t hear the word ‘Islamic’, don’t hear the word ‘Muslim’ in that name. You hear the word ‘justice’ which is kind of a buzzword on campuses today. Everyone’s for justice, right? You’re not for injustice.” 72

The irony of sharing the same platform with Jonathan Schanzer of the so-called Foundation for Defense of Democracy is somehow lost on everyone. But Pollak then goes on to let the cat out of the bag altogether:

“If you actually get into the weeds on SJP they’ve aligned with groups that are for the… not just the destruction of Israel, the destruction of America… [advising the audience] When you talk about SJP and when you talk about BDS, you talk about them as a hate group, as a movement that absolutely endorses violence against civilians – not military conflict – but violence against civilians, aka terrorism. You discredit the messenger as a way of discrediting the message.” 73

*

For the record the Holy Land Foundation (HLF) was run by Palestinian-Americans and had been the largest Islamic charity working inside the United States. However, in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, the HLF was accused by John Ashcroft, then-Attorney General better remembered for his advocacy of the USA Patriot Act, of sponsoring terrorism.

By December 2001, the Bush administration had designated HLF a terrorist organisation, frozen its assets, and closed it down. Then in 2004, a federal grand jury in Dallas charged HLF and five former employees with providing material support to Hamas and related offenses. An Al Jazeera article entitled “The Holy Land Five” picks up the story:

The claims made were that the charity was a front for an illegal money-laundering operation, diverting funds to Hamas via zakat committees in the Occupied West Bank. Hamas, in turn, had been designated “a terrorist organisation” by the US government.

“It was a huge record that the government created, an administrative record – and it was basically garbage. It was newspaper articles, interviews that were translated from Arabic to Hebrew to English,” says Nancy Hollander, one of the lawyers defending Shukri Abu Baker, a founder of the foundation.

“And we discovered when we did our own translations that their translations were completely wrong, that the government was relying on information that was completely false. But it didn’t matter.”

The five foundation founders were charged with providing “material support” to Hamas. During the first trial in 2007, their defence team struggled to deal effectively with two secret expert witnesses called by the prosecution whose “evidence” was not shared in advance. Nonetheless, the jury failed to agree on the charges brought against them and the judge declared a mistrial.

“More than 8,000 documents and the United States government didn’t have a single American document that condemns the Holy Land Foundation. They might have had circumstantial evidence or doubts, but the only evidence was Israeli. And these documents were forged,” says journalist Osama Abu Irshaid.

“More than 8,000 documents and the United States government didn’t have a single American document that condemns the Holy Land Foundation. They might have had circumstantial evidence or doubts, but the only evidence was Israeli. And these documents were forged,” says journalist Osama Abu Irshaid. […]

Just as the Five were celebrating their apparent acquittal, the judge asked the prosecution if they would be prepared to bring a second case against the men. They were re-charged and faced a year-long battle against evidence which has since been criticised for being ‘untested, untestable, hearsay and prejudicial’. In the second trial a year later, the men were convicted of providing ‘material support’ to Hamas and in 2009, were sentenced to between 15 and 65 years in prison. 74

Click here to read the full report on the Al Jazeera website.

In October 2016, Al Jazeera also released two documentaries entitled “The Holy Land Five” about the case:

*

Israel’s covert campus army

“[BDS] seems to be achieving its goals and I think it threatens future American support for Israel. Younger people are leaving college less sympathetic to Israel than when they entered.” — David Brog, Executive Director of the Maccabee Task Force, which combats BDS on American Campuses, speaking at the annual conference of the IAC. 75

“If one of these terrorists on campus wants to disrupt a pro-Israel lecture or something and unfurl a banner or whatever else, we’re going to investigate them and look into the bad stuff they’ve done. That stuff becomes very useful in the moment and there are any number of ways to push it out. The only thing is that we do it securely and anonymously and that’s the key.” — Jacob Baime, Executive Director of the Israel on Campus Coalition (ICC). 76

“So nobody really knows what we’re doing. But mainly it’s been a lot of research, monitoring BDS things and reporting back to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs… When they talk about it in the Knesset, we’ve usually contributed to what the background information is. I’m not going to campuses. It’s more about connecting organisations and I guess campuses, providing resources and strategies if students need it.” — Julia Reifkind, Director of Community Affairs at the Israeli Embassy in Washington. 77

AIPAC has an established network across American high schools and universities and closely allied to the umbrella organisation Israel on Campus Coalition (ICC) against BDS.

In Episode 3, Lila Greenberg, who is Senior National Field Organiser for AIPAC, tells ‘Tony’: “So in AIPAC we focus on the political. We have one very specific, very effective angle for combating BDS. But the ICC pools resources from all the campus organisations, so that they’re tapped in on all angles.” 78

He also interviews Executive Director of the Israel on Campus Coalition (ICC), Jacob Baime, who says: “There are about 100, maybe 120 professionals working for a dozen national ICC partner organisations like AIPAC, Hasbara Fellowships [HF], StandWithUs, Hillel, Chabad [on Campus] and AEPi [the fraternity Alpha Epsilon Pi (ΑΕΠ)]” 79

Baime tells ‘Tony’: “We’re working so closely with StandWithUs and we have such a tight partnership with them today, that it’s totally seamless.” 80

And he adds: “We should stand behind our work, not in front of it. It’s not helpful for StandWithUs to say to a pro-Israel student or The Israel Project to say to a pro-Israel student, “Oh sure we’ll help you, but you have to put our logo on it.” 81

According to Ben Brownstein who is employed by StandWithUs and works in the ICC’s office “The Israel on Campus Coalition… oversee the whole movement.” 82 Brownstein illustrates their overarching relationship with an example: “Let’s say next week a BDS resolution comes to campus. So the ICC will be the ones, they’ll organise a conference call with all the partners. So they might say, ‘Okay StandWithUs, we need a little more of your help because we need something regarding a BDS resolution. The campus newspaper wants us to write an op-ed, can you guys help us write the op-ed?” 83

Sumayyah Din is a student at University of California Berkeley who stood for the university senate as an independent candidate. She had decided to pun on her surname which means ‘faith’ or ‘governance’ and inspired by the Palestinian cause, launched her campaign with catchword #Dintifada. The word ‘intifada’ is Arabic for ‘uprising’. When this upset StandWithUs, they retaliated with a social media assault both on her campaign and her character.

At their annual conference in Los Angeles, one of the delegates is Joshua Cahn who tells ‘Tony’: “We had StandWithUs attack this girl in an article released on their Facebook. They shared the screenshots and stuff and talk about how ‘This isn’t okay’.” 84

In pursuing their offensive, StandWithUs had effectively redefined ‘intifada’ to mean, as Din puts it, “the killing of all Jews”, and in consequence she received a barrage of abuse calling her “sexually repressed” and “scum” as well as inevitably “a terrorist”. There were even demands for Din to be expelled from the country. Din says: “I would go out and I would be walking on campus, everyone would be looking at me. I felt like I needed to hide. 85

As Joshua Cahn tells ‘Tony’: “They [StandWithUs] have all sorts of followers and some of those people are a little crazy. We have people that are saying, ‘That person should die.’ This girl was getting death threats.” 86

*

The new antisemitism

“Right now the challenge is that there are people who say, ‘You know what, anti-Israel politics have nothing to do with antisemitism.’ What you’ve got to show is that they’re not the same, but they’re not entirely different either.”  — Kenneth Marcus, Founding President of the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights under Law. 87

“We’re basically messaging on the following. BDS is essentially a kind of hate-group targeting Israel. They’re anti-peace. We try not to even use the terms, because it builds their brand. We just reference to ‘boycotters’… The goal is to actually make things happen. And to figure out what are the means of communication to do that.” — David Hazony, Managing Director at TIP. 88

Despite its name, the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights under Law is primarily a pro-Israel lobby group. Founding President Kenneth Marcus tells ‘Tony’: “The goal is to have the federal government to establish a definition of antisemitism that is parallel to the State Department definition.” 89

The US State Department adopted the so-called “three Ds” test or 3D test in 2010. The three Ds stand for Delegitimization of Israel; Demonization of Israel; and subjecting Israel to Double standards, each of which, according to the test, indicates antisemitism.

Joseph Berman, a rabbi and campaigner to Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) told Al Jazeera: “There have been attempts by some to try to define antisemitism in such a way that conflates actual antisemitism with completely legitimate criticism of Israel or Israeli government policies. They are overly broad and vague to the point where any kind of criticism of Israel or of Israeli government policy can be labelled as antisemitic.” 90

John Mearsheimer, Professor of Political Science at University of Chicago and an outspoken critic of Israel adds, “One of the major tactics that the lobby uses to defend Israel – and it’s done this for a long period of time, but it’s using it more and more these days – is to identify people who criticise Israel as an antisemite.” 91

Al Jazeera also spoke to The Electronic Intifada’s Ali Abunimah who pointed to the inherent inconsistencies in these definitions of the new antisemitism: “According to their definition, if I say to you that I believe that instead of separate Israeli and Palestinian states there should be a single state, where Jews, Muslims, Christians, Atheists, everyone has full equal rights they way they do under the constitution of the United States, that would make me an antisemite because I’m denying Israel’s right to be a Jewish state… They have created this perverse version where calling for everyone in Palestine-Israel to have equal rights is somehow an attack on Jews. And they’re trying to get this pushed into official definitions and this has been a key goal of people like Kenneth Marcus and the Brandeis Center. So that they can then go after people who are advocating for equality and bring them up on charges that they are actually antisemitic bigots.” 92

*

Fake news and ‘troll farms’: The Israel Project

“TIP changes the way thousands of media reports appear every year and then we add platforms of our own, getting people talking, taking command of the situation…” — from a promotional video for The Israel Project. 93

“We exist to articulate the reasons that the notion of a Jewish state is a good thing for us as Americans, and it’s a good thing for Jews, and a good thing for Israel, and a good thing for the West, and a good thing for everybody.” — Josh Block, CEO and President of The Israel Project (TIP). 94

“You’ve got the lobbying and the politics, and you’ve got the ideas and the think tanks. But you can’t define the meaning of those ideas, other people are doing it for you. Then the third leg of the stool isn’t there and it falls over.” — Josh Block. 95

Speaking about Josh Block, ‘Tony’s boss, Eric Gallagher, tells him, “He’s brilliant in a mad scientist sort of way. He was AIPACs spokesman. He was the troublemaker, always breaking the rules and always getting s—t done. He’s very effective at strategic communications and dealing with journalists.” 96

Gallagher continues: “At AIPAC he was the man. I mean he could get anything onto the front page of the Washington Post.” 97

Block, who is in the habit of brainstorming every conversation, tells ‘Tony’ “The most effective thing you can do in Washington is both explain your point of view and explain why other people disagree with it. Everyone knows that people come with perspectives. You know reporters are people… We live in a sophisticated world, but the question is: ‘are you credible?’” 98

He continues: “People aren’t reading as much, they’re not interested in fact, history is a little bit bunk, you know. A lot of people come up now, and there’s this notion of postmodernism and nothing is true anymore. We are at this interesting moment in time where we need to understand what it is that affects people’s understanding and perceptions about what’s right and what’s wrong… All these visual stimulus and stuff, how are people learning things?” 99

David Hazony is the editor of The Tower magazine and also a Managing Director at The Israel Project. He explains to ‘Tony’ that, “Every month we do a national poll exactly looking for the kinds of messages that work. We know that people get their news mostly through scanning headlines. So the headlines are very carefully messaged.” 100

Hazony says, “We don’t have any reporters, we just have three people who churn out carefully crafted headlines, with article texts that convince you that the headline is true.” 101

Understanding how the headline alone carries the story enables The Israel Project to maximise the propagandistic impact of this kind of pseudo-journalism. The point is never to get to the real debate.

“You can send me the greatest article on you want about the Iran deal,” Hazony tells ‘Tony’, “but I promise you that a ten second video will get a thousand times as many views.” 102

*

“The visual media is trumping words. More imagine, more visual, more accessible, non heavy thinking stuff.” — Josh Block.  103

“Kittens are easy to sell; apartheid is a much harder product to get people to buy.” — Ali Abunimah, co-founder of The Electronic Intifada. 104

Jordon Schachtel, another employee at TIP, tells ‘Tony’: “We’re putting together a lot of pro-Israel media through various social media channels that aren’t The Israel Project’s channels.” 105

He adds: “So we have a lot of side projects that we are trying to influence the public debate with. That’s why it’s a secretive thing. Because we don’t want people to know that these side projects are associated with The Israel Project.” 106

An article published by The Electronic Intifada based on leaked footage from the documentary was first to disclose the operation of (what should properly be called) ‘troll farms’ operating under the cover of The Israel Project (TIP), with sockpuppet accounts to sway public opinion and disseminate propaganda on the social media platform Facebook:

 The Israel Project, a major advocacy group based in Washington, is running a secret influence campaign on Facebook.

The video above, exclusive to The Electronic Intifada, shows the latest excerpts to leak from the documentary.

Earlier leaked footage published by The Electronic Intifada and the Grayzone Project has already revealed underhanded tactics by anti-Palestinian groups planned and executed in collusion with the Israeli government.

In the newest clips, David Hazony, the managing director of The Israel Project, is heard telling Al Jazeera’s undercover reporter: “There are also things that we do that are completely off the radar. We work together with a lot of other organizations.”

“We produce content that they then publish with their own name on it,” Hazony adds. 107

A major part of the operation is the creation of a network of Facebook “communities” focused on history, the environment, world affairs and feminism that appear to have no connection to pro-Israel advocacy, but are used by The Israel Project to spread pro-Israel messaging.

The same piece continues:

One of these Facebook pages, Cup of Jane, has almost half a million followers.

Cup of Jane’s “About” page describes it as being about “Sugar, spice and everything nice.”

But there is no disclosure that this is a page run for the purpose of promoting Israel.

The “About” page does identify Cup of Jane as being “a community launched by TIP’s Future Media Project in DC.”

There is however no direct and explicit mention of Israel or indication that “TIP” stands for The Israel Project.

The Electronic Intifada understands that even this vague acknowledgment of who is behind the page was only added after The Israel Project learned about the existence of the Al Jazeera undercover documentary and presumably anticipated being exposed.

The Israel Project also added an acknowledgment on its own website that it runs the Facebook pages. However its website is not linked from the Facebook pages themselves.

There is no evidence in the Internet Archive of the page existing before May 2017 – months after “Tony’s” cover was blown.

According to [former employee Jordan] Schachtel, The Israel Project is putting considerable resources into producing Cup of Jane and a network of similar pages.

“We have a team of like 13 people. We are working on a lot of videos, explainers,” he tells Tony in Al Jazeera’s documentary. “A lot of it is just random topics and then maybe like 25 percent of it would be like Israel or Jewish-based.”

“Cup of Jane” is just one of many such fake websites:

Other pages identified by the censored Al Jazeera documentary as run by The Israel Project include Soul Mama, History Bites, We Have Only One Earth and This Explains That.

Some have hundreds of thousands of followers.

History Bites does not reveal its affiliation with The Israel Project, not even with the vague formula used by Cup of Jane and the other pages.

History Bites simply describes itself as conveying “The awesome of History in bite-sized chewable pieces!”

That page re-posted Cup of Jane posts presenting Golda Meir, the Israeli prime minister who implemented racist and violent policies against indigenous Palestinians, and viewed Palestinian women giving birth as an existential threat, as a feminist hero.

A 2016 This Explains That video spreads false Israeli claims that the UN cultural agency UNESCO “erased” Jewish and Christian reverence for holy sites in Jerusalem.

History Bites reposted the video last December stating that it “seems to support President Trump’s declaration today that Jerusalem is the capital of the Jewish state of Israel.”

The video has received almost five million views.

Another video posted by History Bites attempts to justify Israel’s June 1967 surprise attack on Egypt, launching the war in which Israel occupied the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula and Syria’s Golan Heights.

The video describes Israel’s military occupation of East Jerusalem as the city being “reunified” and “liberated.”108

Click here to read the full article at The Electronic Intifada.

*

Dirty tricks on the campus – Part I

“We use all sorts of technology. We use corporate-level, enterprise-grade social media intelligence software. Almost all of this happens on social media so, we have custom algorithms and formulae that acquire this stuff immediately… Generally within about 30 seconds or less of one of these things popping up on campus, whether it’s a Facebook event, whether it’s the right kind of mention on Twitter, the system picks it up, it goes into a queue, alerts our researchers and they evaluate it. They tag it, and if it rises to a certain level, we issue early-warning alerts to our partners.” — Jacob Baime, Executive Director of the Israel on Campus Coalition (ICC). 109

“In terms of information sharing, we did add the Ministry of Strategic Affairs to our operations and  intelligence brief. Which kind of goes back to how we get information about what’s going on on America college campuses” — Ian Hersh, Director of Operations for the Israel on Campus Coalition (ICC). 110

In August 2016, the Algemeiner reported that:

“A ring of anti-Israel students at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UTK) has created a “cesspool” of antisemitism and racist behaviour…” 111

The allegations were based on monitoring carried out by a secretive organisation called ‘Canary Mission’ and they quickly caused a stir not just within Washington’s pro-Israel circles but also further afield. In Britain, the Daily Mail reported the same story under the title “University of Tennessee is a ‘cesspool’ of anti-Semitic and racist behaviour, anonymous watchdog group claims”. Interestingly the Daily Mail’s own version is likewise anonymous, the byline merely crediting ‘Dailymail.com reporter’. 112

Undercover reporter ‘Tony’ met up with Aviva Vogelstein, the Director of Legal Initiatives at the pro-Israel group Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights under Law. She told him:

“The thing that I’m working on you might have seen in the news recently about a cesspool of antisemitism at the University of Tennessee. So the exposé was on these antisemitic tweets. They uncovered 14 current students, five recent graduates at the University of Tennessee that had tweeted all these horribly anti-Semitic things.” 113

Continuing: “They’re called Canary Mission. Nobody really knows who they are. They expose antisemitism, anti-Israelism and anti-Americanism in the US on college campuses. They study it and then release these exposé reports, but they’re secret, they don’t reveal who they are.” 114

Later Vogelstein drafts a letter on behalf of the Louis D. Brandeis Center calling for the University of Tennessee to take a stand. It says antisemitism is “a long-standing problem on the UTK campus” and asks the university to adopt a definition such as the 3D test used by the State Department. 115

Vogelstein tells ‘Tony’:

“We’re telling them that basically they need to issue a stronger statement. They need to investigate the students that were involved. They need to offer education and training… The problem right now I think, on universities is that administrations don’t realise that anti-Israel statements or anti-Zionist statements often are also antisemitic.” 116

Adding:

“We’re trying to get universities to adopt a uniform definition, whether it’s the State Department’s definition or a similar version of it. Because then we think that the administrators would be able to understand antisemitism better and discipline students for hateful and discriminatory actions.” 117

The Brandeis Center also called for the university to screen what it described as a “path-breaking film” entitled Unmasked Judeophobia: The Threat to Civilisation. Made by Gloria Z. Greenfield, the Honorary Artist in Residence at the University of Tennessee/Knoxville, the film includes interviews with Alan Dershowitz, John Bolton, Jonathan Sacks, Melanie Phillips, and Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Ya’alonalso amongst others. It also prominently features President of the Brandeis Center, Kenneth Marcus. The central claim made by the film is the ‘clash of civilisations’ notion that Muslims have adopted Nazi-like antisemitism and are going to lead the next holocaust. It was duly screened at UTK on Holocaust Remembrance Day.

In formal testimony given before the Tennessee State Assembly, former Jewish Society President, Jordan Shipowitz, later states on record: “When people say things like we are facing antisemitism, it hits us pretty hard. When we were told that this was being said about our university… we were really confused because we had never heard about any form of antisemitism happening on our campus… so if we’re the students who are supposed to have been affected by this climate you would think we would know about it…” 118

*

Psychological warfare

“With the anti-Israel people, what’s most effective, what we found at least in the last year is you do the opposition research, put up some anonymous website, and then put up targeted Facebook ads… Every few hours you drip out a new piece of the opposition research. It’s psychological warfare. It drives them crazy… They either shut down or they spend time responding to it and investigating it, which is time they can’t spend attacking Israel. So that’s incredibly effective.” — Jacob Baime, Executive Director of the Israel on Campus Coalition (ICC). 119

“Canary Mission is highly, highly effective to the extent that we monitor the Students for Justice in Palestine and their allies.” — Jacob Baime. 120

Professor of American Studies at Purdue University, Bill Mullen had been an active campaigner in the BDS movement for many years. He was targeted by a more elaborate smear campaign that started when his wife was sent a link to a website. On the website was a letter purportedly written by a former student that accused her husband of sexual harassment. Soon he found other accounts making similar allegations. Mullen says: “Within about 48 hours we were able to establish that these multiple sites that we had found attacking me had been taken out almost at the same time, and that they were clearly the work of the same people… one of the accounts said that in the process of putting my hand on her [Mullen’s accuser], I had invited her to a Palestine organisational meeting. I thought well you’re sort of putting your cards on the table there, whoever you are…” 121

A student at Purdue who Mullen worked with and a former activist with Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) had also been targeted by one of the sites. Speaking anonymously to Al Jazeera, she said: “It said that I would get drunk and go and have sex with multiple guys and that was just a huge attack on my character and a massive lie… My parents were very upset, they immediately told me to quit my involvement with SJP… The main focus was to attack my reputation and my character. Pretty much to mess with me so that I don’t want to continue my involvement with SJP.” 122

Bull Mullen says: “It was really an attempt by people who didn’t know us to think well maybe I can destroy this marriage at the very least. Maybe I can cause them tremendous personal suffering. The same letter… used the name of our daughter. I think that was the worst moment. I think we thought these people will do anything – they’re capable of doing anything.” 123

*

BDS = terrorism

“Quite a few among the BDS leaders hold ties… financial, organisational ties and other ties with hostile elements to the State of Israel. Our role is using intel to expose these ties. And by exposing that, we will know how to act against them, to isolate them, to transfer information to different intelligence agencies around the world. Israel must carry out a targeted civil thwarting of the leadership of BDS activists.” — Yisrael Katz, Israeli Minister of Intelligence. 124

“Just stay on message. And what is that message? BDS is a hate movement.” — Yeal Lerman Mazar, the Director of Legal Affairs for StandWithUs. 125

“When you talk about SJP and when you talk about BDS, you talk about them as a hate group, as a movement that absolutely endorses violence against civilians – not military conflict – but violence against civilians, aka terrorism. You discredit the messenger as a way of discrediting the message.” — Noah Pollak, Executive Director of the Emergency Committee for Israel. 126

While it was true that a handful of the tweets posted by students at UTK were unpardonably vile and antisemitic, the main aim of pro-Israel campaigners was to construct a far larger blacklist of students and to spuriously accuse the Palestinian solidarity movement as a whole of sympathising with terrorism. Soon afterwards, posters appeared that linked BDS supporters to Hamas.

Similar posters appeared on campuses across America and the David Horowitz Freedom Center sent out a press release claiming responsibility as “part of the Freedom Center’s campaign, ‘Stop the Jew Hatred on Campus,’ which seeks to confront the agents of campus anti-Semitism and expose the financial and organizational relationship between the terror group Hamas and Hamas support groups such as Students for Justice in Palestine”:

On the night of October 4th, 2016, the David Horowitz Freedom Center launched a campaign to combat the terrorist support groups on college campuses across the country. UCLA was chosen as the first campus for this effort where dozens of posters linking Students for Justice in Palestine to their terrorist heroes were placed on campus. Posters have subsequently been placed on 9 other campuses including UC-Irvine, UC-Berkeley, Brooklyn College, Vassar College, San Francisco State University, San Diego State University, Tufts University, the University of Tennessee, and the University of Chicago. 127

In response to the campaign, Mondoweiss reported:

Palestinian rights activists on American college campuses have become the target of posters that attempt to smear them as supporters of violence, with a new round of posters calling out students and teachers by name.

“Do you want to show your support for HAMAS TERRORISTS whose stated goal is the elimination of the Jewish state?” one poster asks. Then, posing as the national Palestinian rights group, says “Join us! Students for Justice in Palestine.” The poster drives home its point with a cartoon of a man wearing a kaffiyeh, pointing at the viewer like Uncle Sam. 128

Click here to read the full article entitled “New campaign uses racist posters to target Palestinian campus activists by name”.

As The Electronic Intifada’s Ali Abunimah told The Real News on September 10th:

‘Canary Mission’ is part of a much bigger effort, effectively orchestrated by the Israeli government, in which groups like the ‘Israel on Campus Coalition and ‘The Foundation for Defense of Democracies are acting as agents, or front groups, for the Israeli government, helping it to gather information on US citizens; to harass US citizens; and other activities – without being registered as foreign agents of the State of Israel.

Click here to read more in an earlier post entitled “forget ‘Russiagate’, why is no-one talking about ‘Israelgate’”

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Divide and conquer: anti-apartheid and Black Lives Matter

 “Martin Luther King will turn in his grave if he saw the anti-Israel tendencies or policies that are starting to emerge with Black Lives Matter.” — Andy David, the Israeli Consul General in San Francisco. 129

“What’s the model for the BDS movement? The model is South Africa, so was that a bad thing to do?” — Keith Weissman, a former analysis with AIPAC (1993 – 2004). 130

One of the latest strategies developed by The Israel Project (TIP) in efforts to halt BDS has been to co-opt African-American activists by means of a manufactured campaign titled “Stop stealing my apartheid”. The idea is to drip-feed articles by black South Africans into the mainstream press with claims that BDS is subverting their cause.

This appeal to prominent black campaigners has been surprisingly successful as Andy David, the Israeli Consul General in San Francisco, explained to delegates at the annual conference of the IAC:

“Dr Clarence B Jones who wrote the draft speech for Martin Luther King, ‘I have a dream’. He was his lawyer. He was his close friend. He’s somebody that I reached out to, he became a very close and personal friend. Because of that relationship, he published three articles in the Huffington Post, explaining why their agenda was hijacked.” 131

David Brog, Executive Director of the Maccabee Task Force, which combats BDS on American Campuses, also confirmed that this approach can be effective: “Black South Africans who were apartheid activists, who were brought to Israel, saw the reality, came home angry with BDS. They felt lied to, they felt someone had tried to steal their narrative… This is an effective tool. Bringing these black South African former BDS supporters, now Israel supporters, to America campuses.” 132

In their efforts to cultivate a new generation of black leaders that are pro-Israel, the lobby is today inviting black delegates to AIPAC conferences as well as on all-expenses paid trips to Israel. Another speaker at the annual IAC conference, Judith Varnai Shorer, the Israeli Consul General in Atlanta, gave delegates an example of her own:

“I had last week a sit-down dinner at my house for 40 people, which I considered the leadership of the black community. Many very important people. They can be part of our doing and activities.” 133

Along with the usual carrots, the Israel lobby also carries a big stick as Black Lives Matter discovered soon after it declared support for BDS. One New York nightclub was forced to cancel a fundraising event. Eric Gallagher, ‘Tony’s boss, told him that The Israel Project had been behind that decision: “I don’t know if you saw this club ditched a Black Lives Matter event. It was one of our donors, we just put in a call to him and he put in a call to the place.” 134

As Khury Petersen-Smith, an activist with Black Lives Matter, told Al Jazeera: “If you’re disgusted by segregation in this country. If you’re disgusted by South African apartheid, then you should also be disgusted by Israeli apartheid.” 135

Adding: “There’s something on the one hand laughable about it, but there’s something also really insidious about this. You’re using the credibility of a freedom struggle to try to oppose another freedom struggle. And I think that’s appalling.” 136

Keith Weissman told Al Jazeera: “They’re worried that the BDS movement will get to the stature that the South Africa boycott got to, and they’re trying to stop it now. Imagine if the apartheid regime of de Klerk was able to have a lobby in America that made it a crime to support that boycott. Imagine that.” 137

*

Dirty tricks on campus – part II

“We are for example in the process of creating a comprehensive picture of the campuses. If you want to defeat a phenomenon you must have the upper hand in terms of information and knowledge.” — Sima Vaknin-Gil, Director General of Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs. 138

“We built up this massive national political campaign to crush them, and to fight back and to fight fire with fire… What we saw was a growing global movement to destroy Israel that was manifesting on American college campuses. It makes sense that they would try to poison our next generation.” — Jacob Baime, Executive Director of the Israel on Campus Coalition (ICC). 139

Back in episode 1, ‘Tony’ asked Julia Reifkind, Director of Community Affairs at the Israeli Embassy in Washington, to describe a typical day. She told him: “It’s mainly gathering intel, reporting back to Israel. That’s a lot of what I do. To report back to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Strategic Affairs and make sure they have the right information, it’s in The Knesset, of what’s going on here. So that’s why I do a lot of reporting. I talk to people from tons of organisations. Just trying to get the information that I could to report back. Kind of like just talk through some of the issues with those people, see what their plan was, tell them maybe some ideas we’ve had, give them our support in that behind the scenes way. ” 140

However, Reifkind has no contact with her handlers in Israel. Instead, she writes her intelligence briefs and then awaits their instructions: “I write a report and give it to my boss, who translates it. It’s really weird. We don’t talk to them on the phone or email. There’s a special server that’s really secure, that I don’t have access to because I’m an American. You have to have clearance to access the server. It’s called ‘Cables’. It’s not even the same in Hebrew, it’s like literally ‘Cables’. I’ve seen it, it looks really bizarre. So I write reports that my boss translates into the ‘Cables’ and sends them. Then they’ll send something back and he’ll translate it and tell me what I need to do.” 141

Reifkind had also been president of the Pro-Israel group Aggies for Israel at University of California Davis (‘Aggies’ being the collective nickname for all students of UC Davis which was formerly an agricultural college):

“I came to UC Davis, which had a reputation of being really pro-Israel. Now it’s in the top five most anti-Israel schools in the US.” 142

Asked by ‘Tony’, “Is the embassy is trying to leverage faculty?” Reifkind replies flatly, “yeah.” She then adds: “We’re working with several faculty advocacy groups that kind of train faculty, so we are helping them a little bit with funding, connections, bringing them to speak, having them to speak to diplomats and people at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that need this information.” 143

In early 2015, Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) brought a BDS motion before the student senate. Marcelle Obeid, who was then President of SJP at UC Davis, read out a statement denouncing her university “for supporting apartheid and genocide of my people in Palestine”.144 She says: “I was very, very nervous. The entire room was filled. I think we had about 600 students and people from the community coming in to witness this vote… I ended the speech with something along the lines of being on the right side of history and for the university to end its unethical ties with these corporations which were doing brutal things to Palestinians.” 145

Reifkind tells ‘Tony’: “We knew they were going to win because our entire student senate was all pro-BDS. They ran for that purpose and won for that purpose and we had been pushed out of student government for months.” 146 In response, and following on from Obeid’s statement in favour of the motion, Reifkind had issued a very carefully rehearsed address to the senate 147. Then, and not wishing to enter into any actual debate, a pro-Israel student faction staged a walkout; all of which was filmed for later purposes:

“We went into it knowing we were going to lose, so our strategy was how to ultimately win while losing the vote.” 148

Although the BDS motion was resoundingly passed, the campaign waged by the Israel lobby was next stepped up a gear:

“That day all of us released 50 op-eds in major news sources, so that when people made a hashtag [and it was trending] when people opened their Facebook, it wouldn’t be them celebrating their victory, it would be us sharing our stories. Once it blew up, then random people like the Huffington Post contacted me and it was like, ‘Do you have anything to say?’ And I was like, ‘Conveniently I wrote an op-ed two weeks ago just in case.” 149

The op-ed entitled “My 16-Day Journey Confronting Divestment at UC Davis” reads not unlike a personal statement. It begins:

Fifteen days.

I only had 15 days in office before my university faced the Divestment, Boycott and Sanctions Resolution. […] Fifteen days to plan, strategize and act. Fifteen days to delegate, collaborate and struggle. Fifteen days to lose sleep. Fifteen days to gain the trust of a whole community and empower them to believe in me, as a leader, and to believe in themselves.

But those 15 days don’t define me.

And continues:

This past year, I have been involved with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, otherwise known as AIPAC.

After attending two AIPAC Saban Leadership Seminars within the last year, I have learned valuable leadership skills that have taught me how to mobilize, lobby and educate others about the importance of the American-Israel relationship. Now, as the AIPAC Campus Liason for UC Davis, I believe it is very important to take this positive pro-Israel message and be proactive. 150

Reifkind tells ‘Tony’: “We had a ‘Davis Faculty for Israel’ group, and they were hugely helpful to us. Some of them were retired lawyers, so they’d write legal documents for us. They knew the administration. They were tenured. They had pull.” 151

Muslim student Azka Fayyaz was another committed pro-Palestinian activist at UC Davis who the pro-Israel group chose to single out. On the basis of a mischievous Facebook post by Fayyaz in which she had written tongue-in-cheek that “Hamas & Sharia have taken over UC Davis. Brb crying over the resilience” they accused her of political violence: “They just came up to me and said ‘you’re a terrorist’, ‘are you a terrorist?’, ‘are you going to bring terrorism to the student government?’ And things of that nature.” 152

Then, when Fox News picked up the story, they linked footage of the walkout to Fayyaz’s Facebook post. As the story went viral, the course of events was now significantly altered to lend the impression that rather than leaving willingly, the pro-Israel protesters had been forced out of the meeting by baying Islamic extremists. The following dialogue is from Fox News:

“Reports say when the Israel supporters tried to object to this vote, the pro-Palestinian students you just saw tried to shout them down with cries of Allahu Akbar… and what does that represent? The subjugation of women, the torture of homosexuals, the torture of Christians, the crucifixion of Christians, that’s what it has come to represent and that’s what they’re shouting.” 153

Demonisation of the pro-Palestinian cause was then given another tremendous shot in the arm after someone anonymously defaced the Jewish fraternity house by painting it with obscene antisemitic graffiti. The news media arrived at the scene within hours to report on how SJP’s victory in the senate was the trigger for campus hate crimes. Roseanne Barr tweeted: “I hope all the Jews leave UC Davis & it [sic] then it gets nuked!”

Speaking with ‘Tony’, Julia Reifkind confides:  “I was dealing with news outlets, the media, and it was the day after, there were some swastikas on campus and it was like… it all blew up… We don’t even know [who did them]. We just think it was some random white supremacist type people who just came, did it and left. We don’t think it was students.  ” 154

“That’s very surprising”, says former President of SJP, Marcelle Obeid, who had been at the centre of the storm, “because it was very clear from their behaviour towards us and their attitude towards us that we had done some heinous crime to them and now we deserved to pay for it.” 155

Azka Fayyaz told Al Jazeera: “Students who were part of the divestment movement painted swastikas on the fraternity: that’s what she was hinting, that’s what she was trying to imply.” 156

And nor do Reifkind’s remarks to ‘Tony’ accord with her statement reported given to the Jewish Journal which reads:

Reifkind said she is “grateful” for the UC Davis administration’s condemnation of the swastika incident, but she also expressed disappointment that school leaders have not drawn a more direct and public “connection between the divestment resolution itself and anti-Semitism.” 157

“Why would we act against our interests” asks Marcelle Obeid, “and do that at a moment when we were victorious? The fact that [this crime] was so quickly tossed on to us… was damaging. It was hugely damaging.” 158

And if the antisemitic attack was in fact a hoax then if would not be the only instance:

Reflecting on events, Marcelle Obeid told Al Jazeera: “Wow, it looks like the State of Israel is employing little spies and you can’t take a breath without Israel hearing about it… They actually were found to have put cameras in the rooms where there were meetings going on – I liked meeting outside where there are no rooms, and no possible cameras under the chairs or wherever they may have put them.” 159

“Every single event that I put on you would have these pro-Israel groups coming out before our guests even got there with their cameras videotaping….” 160

“After looking back on everything I feel a little creepy because of what happened after the vote. People that were affiliated with the group were smeared and had to deal with these very personal crises of the world calling us terrorists and the world thinking that we were this spiteful hate group.” 161

She adds: “It’s pretty unequivocal how organised they were. How brutal and ruthless that narrative was and how it affected us in the end.” 162

*

 Canary Mission and the new McCarthyism

“Ensure that today’s radical’s are not tomorrow’s employees” — from Canary Mission promotion video. 163

They are terrified of Canary Mission and it’s about time.” — Jacob Baime, Executive Director of the Israel on Campus Coalition (ICC). 164

Finding her name on the Canary Mission site, Marcelle Obeid says, “It was shattering to me because I had to look for a job… and now I had this website smearing my name before I even got a chance to really make a name for myself.” 165

Summer Awad was another pro-Palestinian activist who discovered her name was listed. She told Al Jazeera: “Somebody did contact my employer and asked for me to be fired based on my profile and my pro-Palestinian activism. They said you know that if they continued to employ me that their values are antisemitic… It can be really scary at first. I was mostly harassed on Twitter. They were tweeting me every two to three days. They take screenshots even way back to my Facebook pictures that don’t even look like me anymore. Just digging and digging through my online presence.” 166

Another pro-Palestinian activist and member of SJP, Mohammed Abou Ghazala, said: “We had always been afraid of ending up on there. It was very personal. They see us as such a threat that they have to twist and turn and delve into our personal lives as if they are trying to scare us into stopping our work. Their Twitter campaign is relentless.”167

Drost Kokoye is another member of SJP who was blacklisted by Canary Mission. She told Al Jazeera: “Every picture that I post on Facebook, it goes on to one of their websites. With every tweet that I put out, every hashtag that I post on to Instagram, goes into one of their files.” 168

At the end of the first half of episode 3, we are reminded of Jacob Baime’s somewhat incriminatory denial. Regarding the dirty tactics employed by Canary Mission to smear and blacklist activists, he tells ‘Tony’: “F—k them, we’re doing it back.” Before quickly inserting, “I mean, not ‘we’, just some anonymous group.” 169

*

The man behind Canary Mission: Adam Milstein

“There’s a guy named Adam Milstein who you might want to meet, he’s a convicted felon. That’s a bad way to describe him. He’s a real-estate mogul.” — Eric Gallagher, former Director (2010–2015) at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). 170

“It is very important that we are proud Jews. We’re not, ‘Oh you know, I was born Jewish, but I’m really not Jewish and I’m not sure. We are proud Jews, we are proud about our history. We have a strong connection to the land of Israel. So this Israeli identity is now all over the world.” — Adam Milstein. 171

Adam Milstein, the son of a real estate developer Hillel Milstein, was born in Haifa. In 1971, he was conscripted into the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and served during the 1973 Yom Kippur War. He then moved to the United States with wife Gila in 1983 and became the co-founder and Chairman of the Israeli-American Council (IAC) in 2007. Two years later in 2009 he was convicted of tax evasion. Gallagher tells ‘Tony’ that when he was at AIPAC and working with Milstein: “I was literally emailing back and forth with him while he was in jail.” 172 He adds, “But he’s loaded. I mean he’s close to half a billion dollars.” 173

In 2000, Milstein founded the Adam and Gila Milstein Family Foundation, which today funds a plethora of pro-Israel campaign organisations, while he personally sits on the board of AIPAC’s National Council, Hasbara Fellowships, StandWithUs and (unsurprisingly) the ICC. In 2015, he collaborated with Trump’s largest campaign donor Sheldon Adelson, and Israeli-American media proprietor Haim Saban, as one of the organizers of the Campus Maccabees Summit, an anti-BDS event held in Las Vegas that had involved more than fifty major pro-Israel groups gathered to promote the concept of a “boycott of boycotters” as advocated by hardline Israeli Education Minister, Naftali Bennett. 174

He told Arutz Sheva TV:

“We are going to boycott the boycotters once we understand clearly who the boycotters are, what groups they are comprised of, who are the individuals behind them, where is the funding coming from. We will boycott them and we will make them illegal on campuses and in the United States.” [from 2:10 mins] 175

Sheldon Adelson, a billionaire casino magnate, financially backed Milstein’s Israeli-American Council and transformed it into a major force within the lobby. 176 He attended the 2016 IAC conference with another of Trump’s most prominent campaign backers and current advisor, Rudy Giuliani. In the official video from the conference, Milstein and Adelson discuss their partnership. Milstein says: “You said ‘you see the vision’ and you tell us ‘go and do it’ and we took your orders and we made it happen… and we took your money!” 177 Adelson replies: “Is there somebody else around who can give you $50 million?”

When ‘Tony’ finally meets up with Adam Milstein at IAC conference, he asks how Milstein believes they should deal with Israel’s critics. Milstein replies: “First of all, investigate who they are. What’s their agenda? They’re picking on the Jews because it’s easy, because it’s popular. We need to expose what they really are. And we need to expose the fact that they are anti- everything we believe in. And we need to put them on the run. Right now they can do whatever they like, terrorise us… We’re doing it by exposing who they are, what they are, the fact that they are racist, the fact that they are bigots, they’re anti-democracy.” 178

‘Tony’ then asks: “Do you think there is a good role to just name them as antisemites?” And Milstein replies: “Not just antisemites, it’s too simple. We need to present them for what they really are. They’re anti-freedom, they’re anti-Christian. They are anti-democracy. That’s what we need to do.” 179

At the end of episode 3, ‘Tony’ speaks again to Eric Gallagher, who tells him: “In this country you have these billionaire types who are starting to realise… I don’t need to participate in the Republican or Democratic Parties, I can build my own apparatus and have influence in Los Angeles or Detroit. Adam Milstein is one of those guys. He funds The Israel Project. He does a lot of great work.” 180

‘Tony’ then asks who is behind Canary Mission, to which Gallagher replies, “It’s him, it’s him – Yeah, I don’t know who he hired to oversee it. Adam Milstein, he’s the guy who funds it.” 181

*

Dirty Tricks on campus – Part III

“The one thing every member of Congress and president and ambassador and newspaper editor has in common is by and large they spent a little bit of time on a college campus and probably those were formative years.” — Jacob Baime, Executive Director of the Israel on Campus Coalition (ICC). 182

“It’s a chance to shout at Arabs” — an unnamed pro-Israel ‘protester’ on his way to the SJP event. 183

In episode 4, ‘Tony’ joined a protest organised by Noah Pollak that aimed to disrupt the national conference for Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) taking place at George Mason University. ‘Tony’ soon discovered that all of the other ‘protesters’ were on a fellowship programme run by the Hoover Institution, a right-wing ‘think tank’.

Marshall introduced himself to ‘Tony’ on the coach and told him, “The whole fellowship strategy is like, ‘You have to be foot soldiers of the conservative movement.’” 184

He admitted to ‘Tony’ that the protest had been poorly planned: “It’s a very fly-by-the-pants procedure. It was basically just Noah Pollak coming in and being like, ‘Look, there are these jihadhis who basically support suicide bombing and they’re on a campus and you have to stop them.” 185

Adding: “They did a really s—ty job of getting me excited to show up and protest.” 186

Eventually Marshall confesses to ‘Tony’ that protesting was just one of the duties expected on the fellowship, telling him: “As we’re leaving, we mentioned to our boss yesterday that we’re going. She was like, ‘Oh, that’s mandatory, you need to go.’” 187

As further proof that the protest has been entirely staged, Marshall then jokes, “Do you know what my worst nightmare is? I’m actually not kidding, it’s a photo of Dion and I together and we’re clearly identifiable. And they’re like, ‘Oh, who are these traitors who sold out to the Jewish conspiracy for money?’” 188

Much to the amusement of his fellow ‘protesters’ on the bus, and relishing his spot in the limelight, Marshall then replies his imaginary interlocutor, saying, “I’m like we did, we cost $50,000 plus benefits.” 189

As the laughter dies down, the ‘protesters’ then have a prolonged discussion over whether or not the protest is actually worth doing. Marshall says, “If I were a high-level Jewish donor I would be a whole lot more realistic about the expectations… I’d continue to do what you’re actually doing which is focussing on the actual power structures and the power structures in and of themselves. The reality is there is not a single college president in this country that would actually sign BDS.” 190

When ‘Tony’ puts it to him that this whole protest appears like astroturfing, Marshall replies, “No, no, no, this is astroturfing… [But] it’s not that astroturfing is wrong. It’s just that Astroturf has to be committed.” 191

The escapade then gets even more farcical as the ‘protesters’ realise they are unable to locate the venue. One says, “We should pull over and ask, ‘Hey, where are the jihadhis?’” 192

Having finally arrived, the ‘protesters’ reconvene with Noah Pollak and legal advisor Yeal Lerman Mazar, the Director of Legal Affairs for StandWithUs. Mazar warns them to behave as “guests of the university” and to avoid types of behaviour that may result in them being accused of disrupting a school-sponsored activity. She ends her briefing with a reminder to “stay on message”, asking: “And what is that message? SJP is a… hate movement.” 193

She ends her briefing on the advice: “The only thing you probably want to mention is that SJP endorses violence, terrorism, things like that.” 194

Afterwards, Al Jazeera spoke to Mohammad Abou Ghazala, who is a member of SJP at George Mason University about the incidents that followed. Ghazala told them: “We start seeing groups of people coming towards us who don’t seem familiar. And they’re brandishing Israel flags and posters and signs…” 195

He continues: “… How do you respond to such wild accusations? It takes a lot to hear this and not respond… Our content is grounded in human rights, morality, ethics and international law.” 196

Although the protest against SJP had had little direct impact on the day, once again the idea was use it to plant and promote what would soon become a much bigger story online and across social media.  The story of the day as it would be told on these platforms was prescripted: that advocates for BDS are antisemitic supporters of terrorism. For instance, this is from a report of the event as it was afterwards portrayed in the Washington Free Beacon, a neoconservative website whose publisher, Michael Goldfarb, has also served as an advisor to Pollak’s Emergency Committee 197:

SJP organizers instructed their members not to acknowledge the [pro-Israel] protest, but that didn’t stop some from speaking out. One SJP member was calling the protestors “Zionist terrorists” before he was scolded to return to his workshop room. Others remarked that “Zionists are so ugly.” Another repeated numerous times that he “can’t even.” One waved his middle finger at the protesters before being escorted away by other anti-Israel activists. 198

The article was provocatively titled “Anti-Israel Hate Group Met With Protests” and carried the deliberately misleading strapline “Hamas-linked activists create student blockade to keep protesters out of annual conference”. Another article, this time published in The Tower was entitled “Why Is George Mason U. Hosting Anti-Israel Activists Who Bully Students and Excuse Terror?” It begins with an appeal to re-evaluate the First Amendment:

As a law student at George Mason University, I can certainly appreciate and defend the First Amendment rights to which all Americans are entitled. Yet we should all be deeply concerned that our university is hosting Students for Justice in Palestine’s (SJP) national convention this weekend. SJP disguises itself as an organization promoting social justice and the Palestinian cause — yet in reality, SJP promotes war, hate, and destruction, with numerous SJP leaders, members, and guest speakers going so far as to endorse terrorism. The GMU student body deserves to know who is using our university as a place to spread extremism and lies. 199

Which is always the point, of course. Not to engage in debate, but to stifle it.

*

Final thoughts

Founded upon a Zionist conviction that denies absolutely the existence of an extant Palestinian people as encapsulated in the slogan, “a land without a people for a people without a land”, last July, The Knesset passed the so-called “nation state law” with a vote of 62-55 in favour, thereby instituting a fully-fledged apartheid system across Israel and the occupied territories. Indeed, the charity War on Want provides a factsheet that details why Israel is an apartheid state:

Under Israeli law, and in practice, Jewish Israelis and Palestinians are treated differently in almost every aspect of life including freedom of movement, family, housing, education, employment and other basic human rights. Dozens of Israeli laws and policies institutionalise this prevailing system of racial discrimination and domination.

Segregation is carried out by implementing separate legal regimes for Jewish Israelis and Palestinians living in the same area. For example, Jewish Israeli settlers living in the illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank are governed by Israeli civil law, while Palestinians also living in the occupied West Bank are governed by Israeli military law.

Israel carries out various acts that are prohibited by the UN Apartheid Convention including:

  • Forcible transfer of  Palestinians to make way for illegal Israeli settlements.
  • Preventing Palestinians from returning to their homes and lands.
  • Systematic and severe deprivation of fundamental human rights of Palestinians based on their identity.
  • Denying Palestinians their right to freedom of movement and residence.
  • Murder, torture, unlawful imprisonment and other severe deprivation of physical liberty, especially of Palestinians living in Gaza.
  • Persecution of Palestinians because of their opposition to Apartheid.

Click here to read more at the War on Want website.

Israel can no longer defend its position on the basis of human rights, morality or international law, and having already forfeited the argument, falls back instead on a strategy that thwarts debate. The main tactics involve deflecting attention onto other rogue regimes, pleading for special privilege and immunity on the basis of the sui generis historical precedent set by The Holocaust, and lastly, most importantly, falsely accusing all opponents of the very crimes it itself commits. Anti-Israel criticism becomes antisemitic; pro-Palestinian organisations are labelled “hate movements”; and BDS supporters are blasted as “terrorist sympathisers”.

Meanwhile, as pro-Israel organisations lend financial support to brown-shirted agitator Tommy Robinson, a latter-day Oswald Mosley, as well as anti-Islam Dutch politician, Geert Wilders; and while Prime Minister Netanyahu is glad-handing his Hungarian counterpart, welcoming the ultra-nationalist Nazi sympathiser Viktor Orbán, on a state visit as a “true friend of Israel”, in Ukraine ultra-right factions of the National Guard are being supplied with Israeli weapons:

Surely then, every friend of Israel should begin asking its government this one deeply serious question. Why would a nation established as a sanctuary and homeland for Jews; one that invests multiple millions in surveilling and blacklisting supporters of BDS on the spurious grounds of antisemitism; simultaneously, be working in league with the SS-wearing Azov Battalion?

Click here to read an earlier post published last September.

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Update:

On Monday 4th, a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit filed in April 2016 by the Louis D. Brandeis Centre against the American Studies Association’s (ASA), the oldest scholarly organisation devoted to the interdisciplinary study of American culture and history, over its resolution to boycott Israeli academic institutions:

The ruling is a significant victory for human rights campaigners and a blow to efforts by Israel lobby groups to use courts to harass, intimidate and silence supporters of Palestinian rights in U.S. universities – a tactic known as lawfare. It’s also a major boost for Americans sacked from their jobs on the back of anti-BDS legislation, denounced by critics as unconstitutional. […]

In the court’s 20-page ruling, U.S. District Judge Rudolph Contreras wrote that the pro-Israeli group had “danced around key issues” and was unable to show that they had suffered enough monetary damages to warrant a federal case.

The judge found that at most, the individual plaintiffs could seek damages of a few hundred dollars to cover membership dues they allege were misappropriated, but they would have to find some other venue to pursue their claims.

Radhika Sainath, senior attorney with the civil rights group Palestine Legal, summed up the court’s judgment saying that “the court basically said, in no uncertain words, that the plaintiffs suing ASA lied when they claimed to have ‘suffered significant economic and reputational damage’.”

“But, as the court explained, ‘nowhere’ in the lawsuit could the plaintiffs explain what that damage was. It didn’t pass the smell test,” she added.

Click here to read the full report written by Middle East Monitor and reposted by Mint Press News on Thurs 7th.

*

Additional: Quotes on Israel’s press relations & Trump’s campaign

“In my job I get to work with every major news network, and I don’t even do media. I do academic affairs. Every university president takes our calls, takes our meetings, works with us because we’re a legitimate government organisation… There are so many organisations focussed on BDS. For the most part when it comes to BDS, we are very behind the scenes. I’m meeting with university presidents, faculty, students. What they’re doing is building relationships with local politicians, making sure politicians know to turn to them when Israel-sensitive things come to the table. ” — Jackie Retig, Director of Academic Affairs at the Israeli Consulate in New York. 200

“One of the reasons why Israel is covered disproportionately is the overwhelming majority of journalists covering the Middle East are based in Jerusalem. Jerusalem is a place where you know after a four o’clock deadline, you can get drunk in a bar and meet beautiful women.” — Eric Gallagher, former Director (2010–2015) at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). 201

“When there’s a terror attack in Israel, our staff usually gets to the scene before the press does… They have bulletproof vests, they have cameras, and as soon as there’s… Twitter… an attack, we have like four guys at the scene. [Lior Weintraub, Director of The Israel Project’s Jerusalem office] has this rapid response team where he has people strategically placed around the country. So if there’s an attack… like the Sarona attack on Sarona Market in Tel Aviv. They take pictures and they get testimonies and by the time the press gets there, we do their jobs for them. They need a quote, they need information, they need… a picture, or a video clip, the full-service shop, you know we just give it to them. By the time the press got there, we were able to help affect the narrative because you know they’re all scrambling, they need to get this stuff to their editors immediately on what happened, back in Brussels or Washington. We’re able to get them information.” — Eric Gallagher. 202

“I was one of the first employees on the [Jeb] Bush campaign. The first time Trump came up in a conversation was when we were going to solicit him for Jeb. And we were like, ‘Why isn’t he writing a cheque?’ We would joke, this is the donor who went nuts… I hope the Justice Department doesn’t make an example out of Bush, because we were operating in a real grey zone. We raised enough money. We figured, ‘Let them come at us, we’ll defend ourselves’. We thought he was going to be the Republican nominee, everyone did at that stage.” — Eric Gallagher. 203

“The 200 families whose giving constitutes 90% of all political giving, are not giving because they want a government contract or because it’s good for their business. They’re doing it because they actually care. In my view, it’s obscene how much money there is.” — Eric Gallagher. 204

“Whatever a journalist reports, if it’s not liked by TIP or people within the government, they will put pressure on the media houses, the big networks.” — Jim Clancy, former correspondent and presenter with CNN (1982–2015). 205

‘Tony’: “So what are the main outlets that TIP work with?”

Eric Gallagher: “Washington Post is the biggest one.” 206

*

1 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 1: “The Covert War” from 40:35 mins

2 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 1: “The Covert War” from 38:40 mins

3 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 4: “Marketing Occupation” from 6:45 mins and 7:20 mins.

4 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 4: “Marketing Occupation” from 13:35 mins and 14:00 mins.

5 From an Al Jazeera report entitled “Israeli forces kill Palestinian woman during Gaza protests” published on January 11, 2019. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2019/01/israeli-forces-kill-palestinian-woman-gaza-protests-190111154925517.html

6 Read more at the International Middle East Media Center (IMEMC) http://imemc.org/article/israeli-army-bombards-gaza/

7

The strike Netanyahu was referring to occurred on Friday night.

Syrian state news agency SANA cited a military source saying on Friday that Syrian air defences had shot down Israeli missiles, but a warehouse had been hit.

Most of the missiles fired by “Israeli military planes” were intercepted at around 11:00pm (2100 GMT), the source said.

“Only a ministry of transport warehouse at Damascus international airport was hit,” SANA cited the military source as saying.

From a report entitled “Netanyahu confirms air strikes on Iranian targets in Syria” published by France 24 with AFP, Reuters on January 13, 2019. https://www.france24.com/en/20190113-israel-claims-air-strike-iran-target-syria

8 From a report entitled “Gaza not ‘liveable’ by 2020 barring urgent action: U.N” written by Nidal al-Mughrabi, published in Reuters on August 27, 2012. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-palestinians-gaza-un/gaza-not-liveable-by-2020-barring-urgent-action-u-n-idUSBRE87Q0OE20120827

9 https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/221/text

10 From an article entitled “U.S. Senate’s First Bill, in the Midst of the Shutdown, is a Bipartisan Defense of the Israeli Government from Boycotts” written by Ryan Grim and Glenn Greenwald, Published by The Intercept on January 5, 2019. https://theintercept.com/2019/01/05/u-s-senates-first-bill-in-midst-of-shutdown-is-a-bipartisan-defense-of-the-israeli-government-from-boycotts/

11 Hat Tip to The Last American Vagabond  broadcast January 13, 2019:

12 From an article entitled “The US Senate Just Quietly Advanced A Free Speech Busting Anti-BDS Bill” written by Whitney Webb, published in Mint Press News on January 29, 2019. https://www.mintpressnews.com/the-senate-just-quietly-passed-a-free-speech-busting-anti-bds-bill/254408/

13 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 4: “Marketing Occupation” from 31:10 mins

14 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 4: “Marketing Occupation” from 42:20 mins

15 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 4: “Marketing Occupation” from 48:05 mins

16 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 1: “The Covert War” from 4:50 mins. Sima Vaknin-Gil, Director General of Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs, was speaking to a gathering of the pro-Israel lobby in Washington.

17 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 3: “The Witch Hunt” from 30:20 mins and 30:35 mins.

18 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 1: “The Covert War” from 36:10 mins

19 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 1: “The Covert War” from 37:20 mins

20 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 3: “The Witch Hunt” from 28:15 mins and 28:50 mins.

21 From an article entitled “What’s in Al Jazeera’a undercover film on the US Israel lobby?” written by Asa Winstanley, published by the Electronic Intifada on March 5, 2018. https://electronicintifada.net/content/whats-al-jazeeras-undercover-film-us-israel-lobby/23496

22 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 3: “The Witch Hunt” from 35:35 mins.

23 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 1: “The Covert War” from 5:50 mins.

24 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 1: “The Covert War” from 34:45 mins

25 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 1: “The Covert War” from 39:15 mins

26 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 3: “The Witch Hunt” from 22:15 mins

27 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 3: “The Witch Hunt” from 22:30 mins

28 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 1: “The Covert War” from 39:55 mins

29 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 1: “The Covert War” from 38:55 mins

30 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 3: “The Witch Hunt” from 49:15 mins

31 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 2: “Managing Elites” from 6:00 and 6:20 mins.

32 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 1: “The Covert War” from 37:55 mins

33 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 2: “Managing Elites” from 12:45 mins.

34 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 2: “Managing Elites” from 9:30 mins.

35 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 2: “Managing Elites” from 10:15 mins

36 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 2: “Managing Elites” from 10:25 mins

37 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 2: “Managing Elites” from 11:40 mins.

38 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 2: “Managing Elites” from 13:05 mins.

39 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 2: “Managing Elites” from 13:55 mins.

40 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 2: “Managing Elites” from 12:20 mins.

41 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 2: “Managing Elites” from 13:25 mins and 14:05 mins.

42 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 2: “Managing Elites” from 7:55 mins.

43 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 2: “Managing Elites” from 8:40 mins.

44 From an article entitled “A Beautiful Friendship? In Search of the Truth about the Israel Lobby’s Influece on Washington” written by Glenn Frankel, published by The Washington Post on July 16, 2006. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/07/12/AR2006071201627_pf.html

45 Pub.L. 110–81, 121 Stat. 735, enacted September 14, 2007

46 Taken from the current American Israel Education Foundation (AIEF) mission statement. http://www.aiefdn.org/

47 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 2: “Managing Elites” from 17:40 mins.

48 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 2: “Managing Elites” from 20:25 mins.

49 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 2: “Managing Elites” from 20:50 mins.

50 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 2: “Managing Elites” from 21:30 mins.

51 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 2: “Managing Elites” from 21:50 mins.

52 From an article entitled “Sorry, Mr Moran, You’re Not Fit For Public Office”, written by Marc Fisher, published in The Washington Post on March 11, 2003. https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/local/2003/03/11/sorry-mr-moran-youre-not-fit-for-public-office/f87b84d3-1564-45fd-8653-cb87196b4097/?utm_term=.d04f16ceb5c3

53 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 1: “The Covert War” from 15:55 mins.

54 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 1: “The Covert War” from 6:15 mins.

55 Source: The Lobby – USA, episode 1: “The Covert War” from 12:55 mins.

56 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 1: “The Covert War” from 13:15 mins.

57 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 3: “The Witch Hunt” from 37:50 mins and 38:15 mins.

58 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 3: “The Witch Hunt” from 6:15 mins and 7:00 mins.

59 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 3: “The Witch Hunt” from 7:40 mins

60 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 3: “The Witch Hunt” from 8:40 mins

61 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 1: “The Covert War” from 5:25 mins.

62 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 2: “Managing Elites” from 23:05 mins.

63 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 1: “The Covert War” from 34:10 mins

64 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 3: “The Witch Hunt” from 40:20 mins and 41:10 mins.

65 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 4: “Marketing Occupation” from 5:05 mins

66 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 4: “Marketing Occupation” from 46:55 mins

67 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 4: “Marketing Occupation” from 45:05 mins

68 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 2: “Managing Elites” from 26:15 mins.

69 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 2: “Managing Elites” from 16:45 mins.

70 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 3: “The Witch Hunt” from 38:40 mins.

71 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 3: “The Witch Hunt” from 39:05 mins.

72 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 3: “The Witch Hunt” from 45:20 mins and 45:35 mins.

73 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 3: “The Witch Hunt” from 45:50 mins and 47:00 mins.

74 From an article entitled “The Holy Land Five” published by Al Jazeera on October 5, 2016. https://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/aljazeeraworld/2016/10/holy-land-foundation-hamas-161004083025906.html

75 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 1: “The Covert War” from 33:25 mins

76 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 3: “The Witch Hunt” from 15:35 mins.

77 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 1: “The Covert War” from 18:00 mins.

78 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 3: “The Witch Hunt” from 3:55 mins.

79 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 3: “The Witch Hunt” from 5:05 mins.

80 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 3: “The Witch Hunt” from 15:20 mins.

81 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 3: “The Witch Hunt” from 15:05 mins

82 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 3: “The Witch Hunt” from 5:25 mins.

83 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 3: “The Witch Hunt” from 5:35 mins.

84 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 3: “The Witch Hunt” from 12:15 mins

85 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 3: “The Witch Hunt” from 13:45 mins

86 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 3: “The Witch Hunt” from 14:15 mins

87 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 2: “Managing Elites” from 33:00 mins.

88 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 1: “The Covert War” from 13:45 mins.

89 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 2: “Managing Elites” from 33: 25 mins.

90 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 2: “Managing Elites” from 33: 50 mins.

Although a Jewish organisation, JVP is also pilloried by the Israel Lobby: “Jewish Voice for Peace or as I call it Jewish Voice for Hamas… It would be like having a group called ‘African Americans for Slavery’. It’s crazy right? A lot of the JVP people are not Jewish. They’ve had a real problem of people basically pretending to be Jews because the anti-Israel activism sounds – it’s a little more sexy.” — Noah Pollak, Executive Director of the Emergency Committee for Israel.

An accusation that Joseph Berman, a rabbi and campaigner with JVP, described as “an absurd claim”

From The Lobby – USA, episode 3: “The Witch Hunt” from 46:25 mins

91 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 2: “Managing Elites” from 34: 10 mins.

92 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 2: “Managing Elites” from 40: 00 mins and 41:10.

93 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 4: “Marketing Occupation” from 31:50 mins

94 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 4: “Marketing Occupation” from 32:05 mins

95 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 4: “Marketing Occupation” from 32:30 mins

96 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 4: “Marketing Occupation” from 32:45 mins

97 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 4: “Marketing Occupation” from 33:00 mins

98 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 4: “Marketing Occupation” from 33:05 mins

99 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 4: “Marketing Occupation” from 35:55 mins

100 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 4: “Marketing Occupation” from 34:20 mins

101 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 4: “Marketing Occupation” from 34:55 mins

102 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 4: “Marketing Occupation” from 35:45 mins

103 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 4: “Marketing Occupation” from 39:40 mins

104 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 4: “Marketing Occupation” from 39:55 mins

105 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 4: “Marketing Occupation” from 37:30 mins

106 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 4: “Marketing Occupation” from 37:35 mins

107 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 4: “Marketing Occupation” from 37:00 mins

108 From an article entitled “What’s in Al Jazeera’s undercover film on the US Israel Lobby?” written by Asa Winstanley, published in The Electronic Intifada on March 5, 2018. https://electronicintifada.net/content/whats-al-jazeeras-undercover-film-us-israel-lobby/23496

109 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 1: “The Covert War” from 6:55 and 7:40 mins.

110 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 1: “The Covert War” from 7:20 mins.

111 From an article entitled “EXCLUSIVE: ‘Cesspool’ of Anitsemitic, Anti-Israel, Racist Behavior at U of Tennessee Uncovered by Covert Watchdog Group” written by Lea Speyer, published in the Algemeiner on August 4, 2016. https://www.algemeiner.com/2016/08/04/exclusive-cesspool-of-antisemitic-anti-israel-racist-behavior-at-u-of-tennessee-uncovered-by-watchdog-group/

112 https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3730310/University-Tennessee-cesspool-anti-Semitic-racist-behavior-anonymous-watchdog-group-alleges.html

113 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 2: “Managing Elites” from 27:15 mins.

114 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 2: “Managing Elites” from 27:55 mins.

115 From The Lobby – USA, episode 2: “Managing Elites” from 34: 30 mins.

116 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 2: “Managing Elites” from 32:00 mins and 32:25 mins.

117 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 2: “Managing Elites” from 34: 45 mins.

118 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 2: “Managing Elites” from 44: 15 mins.

119 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 3: “The Witch Hunt” from 16:40 mins, 17:05 mins and 18:10 mins.

120 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 3: “The Witch Hunt” from 19: 05 mins.

121 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 3: “The Witch Hunt” from 16:50 mins and 17:15 mins.

122 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 3: “The Witch Hunt” from 17:50 mins and 18:20 mins.

123 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 3: “The Witch Hunt” from 18: 25 mins.

124 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 1: “The Covert War” from 16:45 mins. Yisrael Katz, Israeli Minister of Intelligence speaking at the International Convention Center, Jerusalem.

125 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 4: “Marketing Occupation” from 20:35 mins

126 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 3: “The Witch Hunt” from 47:00 mins.

127 http://www.stopthejewhatredoncampus.org/news/images-freedom-center-posters-targeting-hamas-and-bds-supporters-fall-2016

128 From an article entitled “New campaign uses racist posters to target Palestinian campus activists by name” written by Wilson Dizard, published in Mondoweiss on October 27, 2016. https://mondoweiss.net/2016/10/campaign-palestinian-activists/

129 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 4: “Marketing Occupation” from 11:50 mins

130 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 4: “Marketing Occupation” from 5:30 mins

131 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 4: “Marketing Occupation” from 11:20 mins

132 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 4: “Marketing Occupation” from 7:55 mins

133 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 4: “Marketing Occupation” from 9:30 mins

134 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 4: “Marketing Occupation” from 12:40 mins

135 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 4: “Marketing Occupation” from 8:40 mins

136 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 4: “Marketing Occupation” from 12:00 mins

137 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 4: “Marketing Occupation” from 5:50 mins

138 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 1: “The Covert War” from 17:30 mins.

139 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 3: “The Witch Hunt” from 4:25 mins and 4:35 mins.

140 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 1: “The Covert War” from 41:20 mins

141 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 1: “The Covert War” from 44:45 mins

142 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 1: “The Covert War” from 19:25 mins.

143 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 1: “The Covert War” from 18:40 mins.

144 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 1: “The Covert War” from 20:20 mins.

145 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 1: “The Covert War” from 20:00 mins.

146 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 1: “The Covert War” from 20:35 mins.

147

“We have been ignored and disrespected year after year, but we have never been silenced. We are a beacon of peace and inclusion on a campus plagued by anti-Semitism… The intolerance that spawned this resolution is the same kind of intolerance that has spawned anti-Semitic movements throughout history.”

Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 1: “The Covert War” from 21:10 mins.

148 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 1: “The Covert War” from 22:10 mins.

149 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 1: “The Covert War” from 24:20 mins.

150 From an op-ed entitled “My 15-Day Journey Confronting Divestment at UC Davis” written by Julia Reifkind, published by the Huffington Post on February 12, 2015. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/my-15day-journey-confront_b_6669890

151 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 1: “The Covert War” from 32:40 mins

152 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 1: “The Covert War” from 25:40 mins.

153 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 1: “The Covert War” from 28:10 mins

154 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 1: “The Covert War” from 30:20 mins

155 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 1: “The Covert War” from 30:40 mins

156 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 1: “The Covert War” from 31:05 mins

157 From an article entitled “UC Davis Community, ADL respond to hate-crime graffiti, written by Ryan Torok, published in the Jewish Journal on February 4, 2015. https://jewishjournal.com/news/nation/154873/

158 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 1: “The Covert War” from 31:10 mins

159 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 1: “The Covert War” from 41:55 mins and 43:45 mins

160 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 1: “The Covert War” from 44:25 mins

161 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 1: “The Covert War” from 33:10 mins

162 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 1: “The Covert War” from 33:30 mins

163 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 3: “The Witch Hunt” from 20:30 mins

164 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 3: “The Witch Hunt” from 21:30 mins

165 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 3: “The Witch Hunt” from 20:40 mins

166 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 3: “The Witch Hunt” from 20:55 mins

167 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 3: “The Witch Hunt” from 21:35 mins

168 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 3: “The Witch Hunt” from 22:00 mins

169 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 3: “The Witch Hunt” from 23:25 mins

170 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 3: “The Witch Hunt” from 24:35 mins

171 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 3: “The Witch Hunt” from 26:50 mins

172 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 3: “The Witch Hunt” from 24:50 mins

173 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 3: “The Witch Hunt” from 24:55 mins

174 http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/196406

175 From an article entitled “We Will Boycott the Boycotters” written by Yoni Kempinski, published in Arutz Sheva on June 9, 2015.  http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/196465#.VZtjehNVikp

176 IAC activities are funded by its board of directors, its members, and donors within the Israeli-American and the Pro-Israel American communities, including Sheldon and Miri Adelson, Haim and Cheryl Saban, Beny and Adele Alagem, Leo and Ruth David and David Wiener. In addition, the organization receives support from several Jewish-American foundations in the U.S.

From a report entitled “Israeli American Council Announces Major U.S. Expansion Plan” published by eJewishPhilanthropy.com on September 11, 2013. http://ejewishphilanthropy.com/israeli-american-council-announces-major-u-s-expansion-plan/

177 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 3: “The Witch Hunt” from 26:05 mins

178 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 3: “The Witch Hunt” from 27:15 mins

179 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 3: “The Witch Hunt” from 27:50 mins

180 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 3: “The Witch Hunt” from 47:50 mins

181 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 3: “The Witch Hunt” from 48:15 mins

182 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 3: “The Witch Hunt” from 4: 45 mins.

183 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 4: “Marketing Occupation” from 15:40 mins

184 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 4: “Marketing Occupation” from 14:55 mins

185 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 4: “Marketing Occupation” from 15:25 mins

186 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 4: “Marketing Occupation” from 17:25 mins

187 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 4: “Marketing Occupation” from 15:40 mins

188 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 4: “Marketing Occupation” from 15:55 mins

189 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 4: “Marketing Occupation” from 16:05 mins

190 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 4: “Marketing Occupation” from 16:55 mins

191 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 4: “Marketing Occupation” from 17:35 mins and 18:00 mins.

192 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 4: “Marketing Occupation” from 18:25 mins

193 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 4: “Marketing Occupation” from 20:35 mins

194 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 4: “Marketing Occupation” from 20:45 mins

195 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 4: “Marketing Occupation” from 21:15 mins

196 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 4: “Marketing Occupation” from 21:50 mins, 22:45 mins and 23:20 mins

197 https://grayzoneproject.com/2018/08/28/leaked-scenes-from-censored-documentary-expose-israel-lobbyist-noah-pollak-astroturfing-an-anti-palestinian-protest/

198 From an article entitled “Anti-Israel Hate Group Met With Protests” written by Brent Schler, published in the Washington Free Beacon on November 11, 2016. https://freebeacon.com/culture/anti-israel-hate-group-protests/

199 From an article entitled “Why Is George Mason U. Hosting Anti-Israel Activists Who Bully Students and Excuse Terror” written by Jessie Nejberger, published in The Tower on November 6, 2016. http://www.thetower.org/why-is-george-mason-u-hosting-anti-israel-activists-who-bully-students-and-excuse-terror/

200 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 4: “Marketing Occupation” from 3:20 mins and 3:45 mins

201 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 4: “Marketing Occupation” from 24:55 mins

202 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 4: “Marketing Occupation” from 26:25 mins, 26:40 mins and 27:15 mins

203 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 2: “Managing Elites” from 16:35 mins.

204 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 2: “Managing Elites” from 17:00 mins.

205 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 4: “Marketing Occupation” from 31:30 mins

206 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 2: “Managing Elites” from 22:30 mins.

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the counter-revolution will be televised (by its cheerleaders): on the latest attempted coup in Venezuela

Background

A 2003 documentary entitled The Revolution Will Not Be Televised (Spanish: La revolución no será transmitida) provides a fascinating insight and behind the scenes account of the US-backed but failed Venezuelan coup of April 2002. Irish filmmakers Kim Bartley and Donnacha Ó Briain, who had been given direct access to Hugo Chavez with the intention only of making a fly-on-the-wall biography, suddenly finding themselves trapped in the midst of quite extraordinary political turmoil and turnaround:

The Youtube upload has since been taken down, however, I have embedded another version below:

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If at first you don’t succeed…

NEUMANN: Thank you very much. Vanessa Neumann, Asymmetrica. I am a dual America and Venezuelan citizen. So here goes my question, because we’re not covering anything about Western Hemisphere in this forum. Obviously Maduro in Venezuela regime change looks to be, we hope imminent or spiraling down until we either become Cuba in two weeks time or – and die forever or there’s a change in 60 to 90 days. I’m interested in your open assessment on American interests in or threats from Venezuela and which of course has Russian, Iranian et cetera interests and – for the region. Thank you, sir.

POMPEO: So I appreciate the question. At any time you have a country as large and with the economic capacity of a country like Venezuela, America has a deep interest in making sure that it is stable, as democratic as possible. And so, we’re working hard to do that,

I am always careful when we talk about South and Central America and the CIA, there’s a lot of stories.

(Laughter)

POMPEO: So I want to be careful with what I say but suffice to say, we are very hopeful that there can be a transition in Venezuela and we the CIA is doing its best to understand the dynamic there, so that we can communicate to our State Department and to others. The Colombians, I was just down in Mexico City and in Bogota a week before last talking about this very issue trying to help them understand the things they might do so that they can get a better outcome for their part of the world and our part of the world.1

This exchange between Mike Pompeo, then-Head of the CIA, and businesswoman Vanessa Neumann took place during a Q&A session at a security forum organised by the foundation funded Aspen Institute ‘think tank’. It is an admission that the US is once again covertly engaged in a regime change operation in “America’s backyard”.

Click here to read more in an article entitled “CIA chief hints agency is working to change Venezuela government” published by The Independent on July 25th 2017.

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The night before Juan Guaidó declared himself interim president of Venezuela, the opposition leader received a phone call from Vice President Mike Pence.

Mr. Pence pledged that the U.S. would back Mr. Guaidó if he seized the reins of government from Nicolás Maduro by invoking a clause in the South American country’s constitution, a senior administration official said.

Click here to read the full article published by The Wall Street Journal entitled “Pence Pledged U.S. Backing Before Venezuela Opposition Leader’s Move”.

The clause in question is Article 233 of Venezuela’s Constitution. It reads as follows:

“The President of the Republic shall become permanently unavailable to serve by reason of any of the following events: death; resignation; removal from office by decision of the Supreme Tribunal of Justice; permanent physical or mental disability certified by a medical board designated by the Supreme Tribunal of Justice with the approval of the National Assembly; abandonment of his position, duly declared by the National Assembly; and recall by popular vote.”

“When an elected President becomes permanently unavailable to serve prior to his inauguration, a new election by universal suffrage and direct ballot shall be held within 30 consecutive days. Pending election and inauguration of the new President, the President of the National Assembly shall take charge of the Presidency of the Republic.”

None of this is applicable of course. Nicolás Maduro is not and never has been absent in any way whatsoever. Moreover, he was re-elected only eight months ago in May 2018 having won 67.8% of the vote in free and fair elections monitored by European observers, when Guaidó chose not to stand. Unlike Maduro, Guaidó has never stood in any presidential election. In short, this is the flimsiest of fig leaves to cover a flagrant breach of international law.

As former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray, writes:

But I can think of no precedent at all for recognising a President who does not have and has never had control of the country – and has never been a candidate for President. This idea of the West simply trying to impose a suitably corrupt and biddable leader is really a very startling development. It is astonishing the MSM commentariat and political class appear to see no problem with it. It is a quite extraordinary precedent, and doubtless will lead to many new imperialist adventures.

Click here to read the full article posted by Craig Murray on Thurs 24th entitled “The Coup in Venezuela Must Be Resisted”

Wikipedia quickly fell into line adjusting its entry for Juan Guaidó and validating his illegitimate claim to being “interim president” of Venezuela:

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Update:

On January 29th Max Blumenthal and Dan Cohen released an extended exposé on The Grayzone Project detailing how presidential wannabe Juan Guaidó is “the product of a decade-long project overseen by Washington’s elite regime change trainers”. Here is just one of incidents documented in their article:

Around 43 were killed during the 2014 guarimbas. Three years later, they erupted again, causing mass destruction of public infrastructure, the murder of government supporters, and the deaths of 126 people, many of whom were Chavistas. In several cases, supporters of the government were burned alive by armed gangs.

Guaidó was directly involved in the 2014 guarimbas. In fact, he tweeted video showing himself clad in a helmet and gas mask, surrounded by masked and armed elements that had shut down a highway that were engaging in a violent clash with the police. Alluding to his participation in Generation 2007, he proclaimed, “I remember in 2007, we proclaimed, ‘Students!’ Now, we shout, ‘Resistance! Resistance!’”

Guaidó has deleted the tweet, demonstrating apparent concern for his image as a champion of democracy.

Click here to read the full article entitled “The Making of Juan Guaidó: How the US Regime Change Laboratory Created Venezuela’s Coup Leader”.

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It’s the economic war, stupid!

The political and economic crisis facing Venezuela is being endlessly pointed to as proof of the superiority of the free market.

Images and portrayals of Venezuelans rioting in the streets over high food costs, empty grocery stores, medicine shortages, and overflowing garbage bins are the headlines, and the reporting points to socialism as the cause.

The Chicago Tribune published a Commentary piece titled: “A socialist revolution can ruin almost any country.” A headline on Reason’s Hit and Run blog proclaims: “Venezuelan socialism still a complete disaster.” The Week’s U.S. edition says: “Authoritarian socialism caused Venezuela’s collapse.”

So begins an article by Caleb T. Maupin published back in July 2016. Maupin continues:

In reality, millions of Venezuelans have seen their living conditions vastly improved through the Bolivarian process. The problems plaguing the Venezuelan economy are not due to some inherent fault in socialism, but to artificially low oil prices and sabotage by forces hostile to the revolution.

Starting in 2014, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia flooded the market with cheap oil. This is not a mere business decision, but a calculated move coordinated with U.S. and Israeli foreign policy goals. Despite not just losing money, but even falling deep into debt, the Saudi monarchy continues to expand its oil production apparatus. The result has been driving the price of oil down from $110 per barrel, to $28 in the early months of this year. The goal is to weaken these opponents of Wall Street, London, and Tel Aviv, whose economies are centered around oil and natural gas exports.

Venezuela remains a deeply divided country and there is no doubt that the government under Maduro is at fault in part for the current economic crisis, but as Maupin points out, the opposition is extremely fractured and many do not wish to see a return to the rampant neo-liberalism of the pre-Chavez era:

The artificially low oil prices have left the Venezuelan state cash-starved, prompting a crisis in the funding of the social programs that were key to strengthening the United Socialist Party.

It is odd that the mainstream press blames “socialism” for the food problems in Venezuela, when the food distributors remain in the hands of private corporations. As Venezuelan political analyst Jesus Silva told me recently: “Most food in Venezuela is imported by private companies, they ask for dollars subsidized by the government oil sales to do that; they rarely produce anything or invest their own money.”

According to Silva, the economic sanctions imposed on Venezuela by the U.S., in addition to the oil crisis, have made it more difficult for the Venezuelan government to pay the private food importing companies in U.S. dollars. In response, the food companies are “running general sabotage.”

“Venezuela’s economy depends on oil sales. Now that oil prices are dropping down, the challenge is to get other sources of economic income,” he explained. “Meanwhile, the opposition is garnering electoral support due to the current economic crisis.” […]

While a clear majority cast a voto castigo (“punishment vote”) in December, punishing the government for mismanaging the crisis, the Maduro administration has a solid core of socialist activists who remain loyal to the Bolivarian project. Across Venezuela, communes have been established. Leftist activists live together and work in cooperatives. Many of them are armed and organized in “Bolivarian Militias” to defend the revolution.

Even some of the loudest critics of the Venezuelan government admit that it has greatly improved the situation in the country, despite the current hardships.

In December, I spoke to Glen Martinez, a radio host in Caracas who voted for the opposition. He dismissed the notion that free market capitalism would ever return to Venezuela. As he explained, most of the people who voted against the United Socialist Party — himself included — are frustrated with the way the current crisis is being handled, but do not want a return to the neoliberal economic model of the 1999s.

He said the economic reforms established during the Chavez administration would never be reversed. “We are not the same people we were before 1999,” Martinez insisted.2

Click here to read the full article entitled “US-Led Economic War, Not Socialism, Is Tearing Venezuela Apart”

On January 25th, Sharmini Peries hosted a discussion for ‘The Real News’ on this latest attempted coup in Venezuela with Abby Martin, Greg Wilpert and Paul Jay:

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The Empire never gives up

‘Dictator’ is the epithet of choice the corporate media dishes out whenever it wishes to denigrate foreign leaders not fully subordinate to western interests. Likewise, ‘regime’ operates as a preferred synonym to denounce the members of every government hostile to Anglo-American imperialism. Hugo Chavez was routinely branded a ‘dictator’ even though he fought and won more elections than any other contemporary world leader. Like Chavez before him, Nicolás Maduro is the elected head of a democratic state.

Conversely, the media has its blinkers firmly attached whenever exalting those in opposition to a targeted ‘regime’. ‘Rioters’ become more benign ‘protesters’, and ‘insurgents’, ‘separatists’ or ‘terrorists’ are elevated to the level of ‘freedom fighters’. Thus in Libya, the murderous salafist gangs who lynched black Africans were portrayed as the valiant ‘rebels’. In Ukraine the brown-shirted brigades that gathered under wolfsangels and swastikas were heralded as Europhile crusaders for democracy – at one point the BBC actually embedded one of its journalists within the ranks of the neo-Nazi Azov Battalion. And in Syria, the al-Qaeda affiliated ‘rescue workers’ known as the White Helmets became the ‘indomitable first responders’ of an Oscar-winning documentary – they have also been promoted by human rights organisations including Amnesty International. Indeed, with the arrival of ISIS, some purportedly less savage though self-proclaimed al-Qaeda militia have come in for more favourable mainstream coverage – take for instance this BBC Newsnight report.

Yet the propaganda coverage of the crisis suddenly engulfing Venezuela is arguably more egregious again. For unlike each of the cases cited above, the West is not (at least not officially) engaged in any conflict inside Venezuela. Indeed, the fog of war offers no excuse for comparable lapses in journalistic integrity. Furthermore, recent history ought to make all journalists extremely cautious when it comes to covert US-led intervention in Latin America and suspicious of opposition claims in Venezuela especially given what we know about the last failed coup. Here is a New York Times editorial the day after Hugo Chavez was kidnapped and military junta briefly installed in April 2002:

UPRISING IN VENEZUELA: THE GOVERNMENT; VENEZUELA’S CHIEF FORCED TO RESIGN; CIVILIAN INSTALLED

By JUAN FORERO APRIL 13, 2002

A transitional government headed by a leading businessman replaced President Hugo Chavez today, hours after military officers forced him to resign. It was a sudden end to the turbulent three-year reign of a mercurial strongman elected on promises to distance his country from the United States while uprooting Venezuela’s old social order —

Pedro Carmona Estanga, the head of Venezuela’s most important business association, was installed as interim president at a ceremony at 6 p.m. He promised that the new government would adhere to “a pluralistic vision, democratic, civil and ensuring the implementation of the law, the state of law.”

Elections will be held within a year, officials said. The Bush administration laid the blame for Mr. Chavez’s overthrow firmly with the ousted leader. Officials portrayed the ouster as a victory for democracy —

And here is the New York Times offering a retraction (of sorts) the following day:

Popular Uprising Allows Chavez to Reclaim Venezuelan Presidency

By GINGER THOMPSON and JUAN FORERO APRIL 14, 2002

Two days after one huge political movement forced President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela out of power, a countervailing uprising that swept like wildfire through the slums surrounding the capital carried the populist leader back to the presidency today.

Once in power, the short-lived interim government, led by a prominent businessman, Pedro Carmona Estanga, dismantled the National Assembly, fired the ministers of the Supreme Court, arrested high-level members of the Chavez government and sent others into hiding.

The new government announced that Mr. Chavez had resigned from power. But word began to spread mostly through international television news reports that Mr. Chavez had not resigned. His followers in slums and poor towns across the country began to worry for his safety. They took to the streets to demand that Mr. Chavez be freed. And they won.

The extracts above are drawn from a well-sourced article entitled “Venezuela Regime Change Project Revealed” written by David William Pear and published on August 6th, 2017. Note that even after the coup which admittedly “dismantled the National Assembly, fired the ministers of the Supreme Court, arrested high-level members of the Chavez government and sent others into hiding” has failed, the NYT continues to describe the criminals behind the coup as a “short-lived interim government”.

As Pear says:

The Bush Administration, the New York Times and the mainstream media showed no remorse or shame—the U.S. government continued to watch and undermine the Chavista movement, Venezuela’s Bolivarian Socialism, in any way that it can. The U.S. continues to be involved and fund a long-term regime change project. The Empire never gives up. 3

Click here to read a post entitled “the Latin American Spring they never mention” published to mark the death of Hugo Chavez in March 2013.

Also on January 25th, Ben Norton of ‘Moderate Rebels’ spoke with Jordan Chariton to discuss the US-led coup in Venezuela:

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Final thoughts

As America struts about the world stage bullying the poorest nations into submission, a complaisant media can always be relied upon to leap to the defence of every imposition of sanctions and every regime change operation. Even a president as weakened and reviled as Trump (loathed by a supposedly hostile liberal press) can command support just as soon as he calls for the leader of any enemy state to be deposed. Quick to abandon any pretence to upholding international law, senior political figures in the West can also be relied upon to follow suit. America’s allies are ever eager to carry water for the empire. Indeed the leaders in Europe responded to Trump’s latest call for regime change by issuing their own ultimatum:

Three major European countries – Germany, France and Spain – have come out on Saturday saying they are ready to recognize Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s interim president if elections are not called within eight days.

“The government of Spain gives [President] Nicolas Maduro eight days to call free, transparent and democratic elections,” said Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said in statement.

“If that doesn’t happen, Spain will recognize Juan Guaido as interim president in charge of calling these elections.”

In what appears to be a coordinated message from European Union countries, at almost the same time French President Manuel Macron sent a tweet echoing Sanchez’s comments.

Macron’s tweet reads: “The Venezuelan people must be able to freely decide their future. Without elections announced within 8 days, we will be ready to recognize @jguaido as “President in charge” of Venezuela to initiate a political process. We are working on it between European partners.”

Yes, this is the same Macron whose government is deploying water cannon, tear-gas and rubber bullets to crackdown on the Gilets Jaunes protests sweeping France during the last three months.

From a Reuter’s report entitled “Germany, France, Spain poised to recognise Venezuela’s Guaido”.

This post is a reworking of an earlier post entitled “as the empire strikes back in Venezuela, our news media does its bidding (again)” published on August 9th 2017.

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Additional: Hands Off Venezuela

The Stop the War Coalition released this statement on January 28th:

“The United Kingdom believes Juan Guaido is the right person to take Venezuela forward. We are supporting the US, Canada, Brazil and Argentina to make that happen”. Jeremy Hunt’s comments last week are solid proof that the UK remains fully on board with US-led regime change In Venezuela as with other parts of the globe. Such statements show utter contempt for even the most basic democratic principles and demonstrate an open willingness on behalf of the Conservative government to use its ‘soft power’ to bolster those aligned with Donald Trump.

The briefest glance at the catastrophic history of US intervention in Latin America proves that this latest attempted coup is motivated purely by self-interest on the side of the US and its puppet politicians in Venezuela. Whatever the failings of Maduro’s regime a US intervention will do nothing to improve the lives of Venezuelans and must be opposed.

Venezuela Solidarity Campaign have organised an emergency rally this Thursday at which Stop the War’s Convenor, Lindsey German, will be speaking alongside Tariq Ali and Kate Hudson.

Please also sign the Stand up to Trump & Pence’s threats of ‘regime change’ in Venezuela petition here.

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On Jan 18th, Democracy Now! interviewed Venezuelan Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jorge Arreaza, who said:

“You see this man, who nobody knows in Venezuela—you ask in the streets, “Who is Juan Guaidó?” and nobody knows him—but he’s being pushed to say that he is the new president, by the U.S. He hasn’t said that, but Pompeo says it, Almagro from the OAS says it, and other presidents say that now he’s the president. They are trying to push a political conflict in Venezuela. They are calling the armed forces to make pronunciations against President Maduro. That’s what they want, a coup d’état in Venezuela. They want a war in Venezuela. And it’s not going to happen.”

Asked about the role being played by the United States, Arreaza replied:

“They are the bosses of the opposition. They tell them what to do. Nothing that the opposition does is without the permission or authorization of the State Department, at least, here in the United States. And they confess this. They say, “We have to make consultations with the embassy. We have to make consultations with the Department of State.” It happens. I mean, they are not free. They are not independent.”

Click here to read the full transcript and to watch the interview on the Democracy Now! website.

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On Thurs 24th, Democracy Now! spoke with Alfred de Zayas who visited Venezuela as a United Nations rapporteur in 2017:

ALFRED DE ZAYAS: Well, the mainstream media has been complicit in this attempted coup. The mainstream media has prepared, through a conundrum of fake news, an atmosphere that the public should accept this regime change imposed by the United States on the people of Venezuela because, ultimately, it’s supposed to be for the good of the Venezuelans.

Now, this reminds us of the run-up to the Iraq invasion of 2003. Now, the mainstream media supported all the lies, all the manipulations of George W. Bush and of Tony Blair to convince the world that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. And on this excuse, it was made somewhat palatable to world public opinion that you would enter Iraq and change the government by force. Now, the fact is that here you had not only a crime of aggression, not only an illegal war, as former—the late Secretary-General Kofi Annan, in more than one occasion, stated. Here you have actually a revolt of 43 states, the “coalition of the willing,” against international law. If there is one tenet of the U.N. Charter that is jus cogens, that is peremptory international law, it’s the prohibition of the use of force. And this attack on Iraq was conducted by 43 states in collusion, breaking all the rules of international law. Now, that was preceded by this media campaign.

Now, we have had, for the last years, actually, a media campaign against Venezuela. And I am particularly familiar with it, because before I went to Venezuela, I had to read everything and all the reports, not only of The Washington Post and of The New York Times, but also the reports of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the reports of Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, etc., proposing that there was a humanitarian crisis in Venezuela.

Now, when I went to Venezuela, I again took the opportunity to interview representatives of Amnesty International and PROVEA and the other opposition NGOs, but I also had the opportunity to study the documents, to compare, to see the statistics, etc., etc. And, of course, there was no humanitarian crisis. There was hunger. There was, what we say in Spanish, zozobra. There was suffering. There was malnutrition, etc., etc. But it’s not just stating that there is an economic crisis. That’s not the crucial point. The crucial point is which are the causes of that so-called humanitarian crisis. And certainly, those who are crying humanitarian crisis should be the least to say that they should now solve the problem. There’s a principle of international law called ex injuria non oritur jus, which is the principle to estoppel. So they should be estopped from demanding regime change when they themselves are the ones who are aggravating a situation, caused initially by the dramatic fall of the oil prices.

I wanted to make a reference to a professor, Pasqualina Curcio, of the University of Caracas. I had the opportunity of seeing her for a couple of hours when I was there. And she published a book called The Visible Hand of the Market. This is a book that documents the financial blockade, documents the whole complex economic war being waged against Venezuela, which reminds you of the economic war that was waged against Salvador Allende. And what’s interesting is, after three years of economic war against Allende not succeeding in toppling Salvador Allende, it took a coup d’état by General Augusto Pinochet, which brought the Chilean people 17 years of dictatorship.

Click here to read the full transcript and to watch the interview on the Democracy Now! website.

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1 From official transcript of “Aspen Security Forum 2017: The View From Langley” on July 20, 2017, published by The Aspen Institute. http://aspensecurityforum.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/The-View-from-Langley.pdf

2 From an article entitled “US-Led Economic War, Not Socialism, Is Tearing Venezuela Apart” written by Caleb T. Maupin, published in Mint Press News on July 12, 2016. http://www.mintpressnews.com/us-led-economic-war-not-socialism-tearing-venezuela-apart/218335/

3 From an article entitled “Venezuela Regime Change Project Revealed” written by David William Pear, published in Off-Guardian on August 6, 2017. https://off-guardian.org/2017/08/06/venezuela-regime-change-project-revealed/

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an alternative review of the year by Chunky Mark

To love. To be loved. To never forget your own insignificance. To never get used to the unspeakable violence and the vulgar disparity of life around you. To seek joy in the saddest places. To pursue beauty to its lair. To never simplify what is complicated or complicate what is simple. To respect strength, never power. Above all, to watch. To try and understand. To never look away. And never, never, to forget — Arundhati Roy

When I came across Chunky Mark’s (aka the Artist Taxi Driver) three hour youtube upload entitled “JEZZA the movie 2018” I was intrigued. Three hours later I was impressed: it had really felt like three hours well spent.

The film includes interviews with Dr Bob Gill, producer of The Great NHS Heist; David Graeber, anthropologist and author of Debt: The First 5000 years; Aaron Bastani, co-founder of Novara Media; Paul Mason, former Economics Editor for BBC Newsnight and Channel 4 News; Magid Magid, the incumbent Lord Mayor of Sheffield; as well as comedians Norman Lovett and Eddie Izzard. He speaks with Ed Miliband, and about half the current shadow cabinet: Emily Thornberry, Barry Gardiner, Richard Burgeon, Dan Carden, Jon Ashworth and John McDonnell. He even gets an interview with French presidential candidate, Jean-Luc Mélenchon. He also introduces us to Chilean filmmaker Felipe Bustos Sierra and his newly released documentary Nae Pasaran which tells the remarkable story of four factory workers at the Rolls Royce plant in East Kilbride who downed tools in solidarity with the victims of Pinochet’s reign of terror:

(Caution: strong language in parts)

A lot of ground is covered as he slow tours Liverpool, Sheffield and London; the trail of his video diaries interspersed with an occasion lyrical rant which is the trademark of Chunky Mark’s online performances. Topics range from austerity, tax havens, pensions, fracking, homelessness, the privatisation of the NHS, the Windrush scandal, the neglect of the Grenfell survivors, the march against Trump’s visit, the ongoing fight for justice for the Hillsborough victims, the plight of refugees, to the peril of a resurgent far right. Mark McGowan (his real name) speaks to those most deeply affected and closely involved. To a young man who is living on the streets of London, to three Muslim women who run a soup kitchen, to nurses and doctors, to a fellow (he is actually one) taxi driver and to a handful of the WASPI women. Most poignantly he visits a few of the migrant camps near Calais including that one nicknamed “The Jungle” (isn’t that shameful enough?)

In truth I paused a few times during the three hours – there’s a lot to take in and some sequences are a little slack, which is only to be expected. Judged fairly, this is a fine piece of amateur filmmaking: sensitive, constantly thought-provoking, and in parts hilarious. Though it will not win any Golden Globes, it deserves an audience, which is why I am recommending it.

Oh, and at one point I stopped for about half an hour to gaze out of my bedroom window over the rooftops and the gardens, watching as fireworks lit up the Sheffield sky welcoming in the New Year. The annual people’s firework display (as I regard it) is one recent tradition I look forward to. How different from our long-established Bonfire Night which goes on and on for days and means what? Why do we celebrate the uncovering of the so-called ‘gunpowder plot’ to blow up parliament by detonating lots of mini explosives? Yet it feels right that we celebrate something as arbitrary and ephemeral as the passing of the minute hand at the start of every year with such a nonsensical flurry of sound and fury. Countless individuals in countless backyards lighting blue touch papers that launch into one glorious, synchronised citywide spectacular.

Reflecting upon the moment of yearly rebirth can feel a bit like pinching yourself; uncannily becoming aware of the thing you are forever forgetting. Not merely another year passing and I am still here, but right now I am here. And in a way Chunky Mark’s review is a gentle slap to our political consciousness (whereas most other annual reviews are to entertain and distract). His appraisal of Britain’s mounting social problems is unsettling, but there is constant encouragement too. It is not so much a homage to the Labour leader as a heartfelt tribute to grassroots activism.

Incidentally, Corbyn is featured just twice (in spite of the title) — quoting the beautiful words of Arundhati Roy at the beginning and then at the end rallying supporters saying:

That is why those great people who founded our movement, those great people who struggled against enormous odds in the last two centuries to try to bring about the kind of strength and organisation that we’ve got in trade unions and in the Labour Party [made] all those things possible for us. Now my friends, let’s dedicate ourselves absolutely to taking that message of decency, justice, social justice, socialism out there on the streets all around this country and say to the Tories “we are many, you are few — We are for the many, you are for the few.”

Wishing you all a very happy New Year!!!

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Correction:

Mark McGowan is a real minicab driver although in the original post I had written that he spoke to: “… a (‘fellow’ – he’s not actually one) taxi driver…”

You can read more about him in this Guardian review by Dawn Foster published in January 2015.

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Additional:

New Year’s greetings from Syria courtesy of independent journalist Eva Bartlett:

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faked concern: Haley & corporate media bleating about Idlib civilians, ignore terrorists’ presence | Eva Bartlett

Eva Bartlett | InGaza

Nikki Haley, the hypocritical US Ambassador to the UN, mistakenly thinks she can dictate – from New York City, far from the terrorists which her country supports – that the Syrian army cannot fight and eradicate al-Qaeda in Idlib.

Her, and other American figures’ words, come with faked concern over the lives of Syrian civilians.

This is particularly ironic given that the US-led coalition, illegally in Syria, destroyed the Syrian city of Raqqa and killed untold numbers of civilians along the way, in their fake fight against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) – a pretext which has only time and again strengthened IS in Syria. Raqqa remains uninhabitable, and even today corpses are still being unearthed.

Haley and the Western corporate media have been bleating in chorus about Idlib and the civilians there, deliberately ignoring the presence of Al-Qaeda and affiliated terrorists occupying the governorate and surrounding areas in Aleppo and Hama governorates.

They ignore, too, the reality of life in areas which were once occupied by these terrorists: the torture, imprisonment, maiming, assassination, and starvation endured by the civilian population at the hands of these extremists and paid mercenaries.

The other reality Haley and co-regime change mouthpieces whitewash is that once these areas are liberated of Al-Qaeda, Ahrar al-Sham, Jaysh al-Islam, and the myriad other extremist terrorist groups, life gets back to normal, schools reopen, cities and towns repopulate, ancient traditions resume as they have for thousands of years in this cradle of civilization.

Occupation, Liberation, Peace and Stability

With the exception of Deir ez-Zor, and smaller hamlets throughout the Syrian countryside, I’ve been to every major city and town liberated by Syria and allies from Al-Qaeda and co-terrorists. They are all now in peace, with many of the areas thriving, rebuilding, and the other areas at least in peace without the sadistic rule of terrorists.

In June 2014, I went to the old city of Homs just one month after the reconciliation deals that saw Al-Qaeda and Free Syrian Army terrorists bused out of the city. This beautiful historic old city and its ancient churches were in shambles. Some of that was due to the Syrian army fighting the terrorists, but most of it was due to the terrorists burning, looting, and booby trapping the buildings they had occupied.

Indeed, a resident of the old city, Abu Nabeel, took me around, showing me the destruction, vandalization, burning and looting that terrorists did before leaving Old Homs, including leaving bombs in residents’ homes, to inflict yet more loss of life even after the terrorists had left. But also while there in June 2014, I saw residents and youth volunteers scraping the debris, painting hopeful art on walls, beginning the rebuilding process.

Also in June 2014, two months after its liberation, I went to the ancient village of Maaloula, which had been occupied or targeted by al-Qaeda and co-terrorists from September 2013 to April 2014. They systematically destroyed, looted, burned or stole ancient relics and vandalized historic buildings. In summer 2016 and more recently in September 2018, I returned to find life pulsing during the Celebration of the Holy Cross, a nearly-1700 year old celebration interrupted only during the terrorists’ occupation of Maaloula.

In December 2015, I returned to Old Homs to find that some reconstruction had occurred. Churches were partially repaired, a school was fully rehabilitated, shops had opened, and residents were putting up Christmas decorations.

In June 2017, when I returned to Homs, I saw a city pulsing with life, and peace. That June, I also went back to Aleppo, which I’d been to four times prior to its December 2016 liberation [see: Western corporate media ‘disappears’ over 1.5 million Syrians and 4,000 doctors,  The Villages in Aleppo Ravaged by America’s “Moderate” “Rebels”, and: Aleppo: How US & Saudi-Backed “Rebels” Target ‘Every Syrian’, November 29, 2016, Mint Press News].

I saw eastern areas that had been occupied by Al-Qaeda, Nour al-Din al-Zenki, IS and other terrorist factions. The destruction was indeed immense, as terrorists had holed up underground, including occupying schools and hospitals. The complex housing the Eye and Children’s Hospitals was turned into a headquarters for Al-Qaeda and IS, with basements turned into prisons, prisoners’ fates decided by Sharia courts of the extremists.

I returned to Aleppo in May 2018, and spent hours at the ancient Citadel, both filming people enjoying their time around the Citadel, and later joining them at one of the cafes encircling this historic site. Talking with Aleppo MP, Fares Shehabi, we discussed how none of this had been possible under the rule of the extremists.

WATCH: Life in Old Aleppo, around the historic Citadel

WATCH: Aleppo MP Fares Shehabi on improved life in Aleppo since liberation

Indeed, in November 2016, standing near the ruins of the Carlton Hotel, tunnel-bombed by terrorists in May 2014, and looking towards the Citadel, I was told to step back due to the risk of Al-Qaeda snipers. But the Aleppo I saw in May 2018 was likewise pulsing with life, and peace.

In media campaigns to demonize the Syrian and Russian governments, Western media mentioned al-Waer, Homs, and Madaya. But few, or none, that I’m aware of bothered to go to those places after they were restored to peace. I did, in June 2017, and unsurprisingly heard what journalists in eastern Aleppo heard when those areas were liberated: the reason they had been starving was because  terrorists had stolen all the food aid that entered the town and kept it for themselves. Indeed, near a munitions workshop, I found the remnants of one such parcel, a Red Cross package. And like in eastern Aleppo, terrorists in Madaya had imprisoned civilians, and had tortured them.

When in April and May 2018 I went to various areas of eastern Ghouta, I again heard about terrorist-induced starvation. When I asked whether residents could access their farmland – as eastern Ghouta is an agricultural region – I was told that, no, they couldn’t, terrorists controlled the farmland, too, leaving them literally starving.

A few weeks ago I returned to Daraa City. I’d been there in May 2018, at a time when terrorists in Daraa al-Balad and outskirts were heavily shelling the city. At great risk, I was able to go to the state hospital, with snipers just 100 metres away from the sole route leading there. The hospital was severely damaged, with entire wards destroyed. The Children’s Hospital wing was damaged and off limits due to the proximity of terrorists roughly 50 metres away – as I would learn when I returned a few weeks ago.

In Daraa this September, there was no bombing, just the scraping of rubble as bulldozers and residents cleaned up the remnants of this foreign war on Syria.

On September 11, I went to Mhardeh, a town in northern Hama, where 13 civilians were killed by terrorists missiles targeting the town on September 7. Most of the dead were killed right away, others died slowly of critical injuries. One man lost his wife, three young children and mother to the terror attacks. He lost everything.

When I asked him how the situation of Idlib, occupied by at least 70,000 terrorists, a modest estimate – impacted him and Mhardeh, he replied that Idlib is the cause of their suffering.

WATCH: Shadi Shehda on his murdered children, mother, and wife, killed by terrorists in Idlib

The September 7 attacks on Mhardeh weren’t the first. To the contrary, the town has been relentlessly targeted for the past 7 years, its local defense commander, Simon al-Wakil, told me.

WATCH: Simon al Wakeel Speaks on Mhardeh’s National Defense Forces and Civilians Under Terrorist Attacks

So did the Presbyterian Church’s Reverend Maan Bitar, who said: “The gunmen, the terrorists, they are in all the region of Idlib, not just Idlib city. They are also two kilometers from here (in northern Hama). We’ve received more than 7,000 missiles, rockets, and mortars these past eight years. Every time the terrorists feel they are in a critical situation, militarily speaking, from the government, they shell civilians. Nobody spoke about that. For eight years, Mhardeh town is being shelled, and civilians killed, but nobody spoke of that.”

WATCH: Reverend Maan Bitar on Terrorism Against Mhardeh Civilians, and Need to Liberate Idlib

Nearby al-Skalbiyye has also been relentlessly targeted, including with 10 Grad missiles fitted with cluster bombs, as noted by British journalist Vanessa Beeley who visited the town.

Idlib Reality: an al-Qaeda safe-haven

With the Nikki Haleys and laptop media now droning incessantly about “3 million civilians” in Idlib prone to being massacred by the Syrian and Russian armies, it’s time to reflect on a number of points.

First of all, there is no accurate figure for the number of civilians in Idlib, much less the number of terrorists. Given that when we heard the same cries before the liberation of Aleppo, with the UN itself chiming in to claim that 300,000 civilians were trapped in Aleppo’s eastern areas – the actual number was less than half that figure – we can at least be sceptical about the current claims of 300,000 in Idlib.

Moreover, among the population in Idlib, how many are terrorists? How many are being held against their will by terrorists? How many are Syrians?

Al-Qaeda’s presence in Idlib isn’t a conspiracy theory, it’s an established fact that even US State Department’s Special Envoy, Brett McGurk, made clear when he said: “Look, Idlib province is the largest Al-Qaeda safe-haven since 9/11. Idlib now is a huge problem, is an Al-Qaeda safe-haven right on the border with Turkey.

Yet, outlets like CNN whitewash their presence. While there are no definitive figures for the number of non-Syrians among those terrorists, it is a fact that there are extremists from around the world.

What Western leaders and media fail to address is the reign of terror the different extremist gangs inflict on Syrian civilians. This includes their kidnapping of untold numbers of civilians, particularly children.

Vanessa Beeley wrote this just weeks ago, noting that in a liberated area of eastern Idlib, she was told that over 600 children and adults had been kidnapped by “both the terrorist groups and the #WhiteHelmets” in the last 12 months there.

Further, it is from positions within Idlib governorate that terrorists continue to fire on Aleppo. So in spite of the liberation of Aleppo from these extremists, areas closest to them are routinely bombed.

Fares Shehabi tweeted in September about a rocket attack on Aleppo believed to have originated from Idlib.

In all of the areas I mentioned, the Syrian and Russian governments worked to offer amnesty and reconciliation to Syrians holding arms, and indeed these reconciliations enabled the return to peace in many of these areas.

The Syrian and Russian governments have again opened humanitarian corridors for civilians to leave Idlib, and as with corridors opened in Aleppo, terrorists have attacked the corridor, to prevent civilians from leaving. Some updates state that Syrians have been able to exit when the corridor wasn’t being targeted, and other updates note that terrorists are preventing civilians from leaving, or demanding money from civilians who want to leave.

Syria and Russia have again offered reconciliation and amnesty. It is terrorists within Idlib who refuse this, refuse a political process, and instead continue to hold civilians hostage and occupy Syrian territory.

On September 28, Russia’s Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, addressed media the day of a General Assembly meeting, noting the US-led destruction of both Raqqa and Mosul, Iraq, also noting that Russia and Syria prevented this in Aleppo and in Eastern Ghouta.

These are all points to keep in mind the next time Nikki Haley shrilling performs for the cameras. It is time to liberate Idlib, by military or political means, and bring peace to Syria.

Click here to read the same article as it was originally posted on Eva Bartlett’s website InGaza.

A shorter version of the article was first published on October 8th at RT.com

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RELATED:

I would like to thank Eva Bartlett for allowing me to reproduce this article.

Not all of the views expressed are necessarily views shared by ‘wall of controversy’.

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“This is a moment Avaaz was made for” (or cognitive infiltration for dummies)

Background:

“You won’t have a shutdown of news in modern America – it is not possible. But you can have, as Frank Rich and Sidney Blumenthal have pointed out, a steady stream of lies polluting the news well. What you already have is a White House directing a stream of false information that is so relentless that it is increasingly hard to sort out truth from untruth. In a fascist system, it’s not the lies that count but the muddying. When citizens can’t tell real news from fake, they give up their demands for accountability bit by bit.”

— Naomi Wolf 1

The extract above is drawn from an excellent and extremely prescient article written by Naomi Wolf and published by the Guardian in 2007. It is entitled “Fascist America, in 10 Easy Steps”.

In 2011, I produced an updated version by taking Wolf’s analytical breakdown of the Bush years, applying her identified sequence of steps to Obama’s term in office. Here is what I wrote under Step #8. Control the press:

Five years on, and the mainstream media is no less bridled; the same small corporate cartel, that is bent on privileging the special interests of a few powerful owners and sponsors, maintains its dominance. And although, in the meantime, the challenge from independent voices has been steadily on the rise via the internet, it is in precisely these areas of the “new media” where controls are now being brought in.

But applying restrictions requires justification, and so these latest attacks against freedom of speech are couched as a necessary response to what the government deems, and thus what the public is encouraged to believe, to be a threat.

Following which I reminded readers of the Machiavellian role played by Cass Sunstein (married to warmongering former US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Powers), who, in September 2009, had been appointed as Obama’s Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. In 2008, Sunstein co-authored a paper with Adrian Vermeule, entitled “Conspiracy Theories,” in which they propose methods for dealing with the spread of faulty  information saying “the best response consists in cognitive infiltration of extremist groups”:

“Government agents (and their allies) might enter chat rooms, online social networks, or even real-space groups and attempt to undermine percolating conspiracy theories by raising doubts about their factual premises, causal logic or implications for political action.”

The authors also advocate other methods for muddying the waters such as the recruitment of “independent experts”:

“government can supply these independent experts with information and perhaps prod them into action from behind the scenes… too close a connection will be self-defeating if it is exposed.”

Indeed, they provide no less than five alternative responses that the US government might take to hinder and restrain such unwanted freedom of speech:

We can readily imagine a series of possible responses. (1) Government might ban conspiracy theorizing. (2) Government might impose some kind of tax, financial or otherwise, on those who disseminate such theories. (3) Government might itself engage in counterspeech, marshaling arguments to discredit conspiracy theories. (4) Government might formally hire credible private parties to engage in counterspeech. (5) Government might engage in informal communication with such parties, encouraging them to help. 2

As I wrote in September 2011:

So which is the greater threat, a few people with alternative views and accounts, or the kinds of subversion of (or even outright clampdown on) free speech proposed, and now being put into effect by Cass Sunstein?

Simply being out of step with the official line is now enough to get you categorised as an “extremist”, and so a distinction that was once reserved for those who threatened the use of violent overthrow, is now directed against anyone who merely disagrees.

Click here to read my full post entitled “12 steps to tyranny – the state of America under Obama”.

Please note that everything above is reprinted in full from part 7 of an extended article entitled “spin, lies and propaganda from yesterday, today and tomorrow – 8 ways of looking at fake news” published in April 2017.

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“Avaaz’s Elves”

Yesterday I received the latest circular email from Avaaz (see screenshot in addendum), which calls upon its members to become actively engaged as “Citizen elves” in what Sunstein defines as ‘counterspeech’ (in fact usefully serving as “credible private parties” as outlined under item (4) of Sunstein’s list above):

Our movement is mobilising to defend democracy on all fronts:

    • hammering Facebook and others to clean up their sites by shutting down fake news and troll accounts;
    • pushing for governments to defend our democracies by passing laws to protect elections from interference;
    • disrupting disinformation online, setting up teams of citizen ‘Elves’ to take on Putin’s ‘trolls’;
    • battling the far right’s divisive narratives in country after country, as elections approach.

[colour highlight added]

The main justification given by Avaaz in calling for its members to engage in Sunstein-style cognitive infiltration are the same ones first rolled out to disguise the true reasons the Clinton campaign bombed. Those entirely unsubstantiated allegations that “Russia hacked the election” (later rebutted by such experts as William Binney) were afterwards repurposed both to keep Trump on his leash by derailing any attempts to restore US-Russian relations and also to clampdown on alternative media – as everyone who disavowed the sanctioned mainstream narrative was quickly branded a Russian troll. Keep in mind that ‘fake news’ is a meme that has been spread most virulently, not by Trump himself (although he is frequently credited with it), but by his opponents.

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“A moment Avaaz was made for”

The email from Avaaz was titled “This is a moment Avaaz was made for”, and in this regard I happen to believe we ought to take them seriously. After all, Avaaz is nothing like the grassroots campaign it takes such pains to promote itself as, but heavily astroturfed since its inception. It was founded for a purpose (and is allied to a consulting firm literally called Purpose Inc) as independent investigative journalist, Cory Morningstar, who has probed deeply into the organisation, explains:

Avaaz and GetUp co-founders Jeremy Heimans (CEO) and David Madden are also founders of the New York consulting firm, Purpose Inc.

Avaaz was created in part by MoveOn, a Democratic Party associated Political Action Committee (or PAC), formed in response to the impeachment of President Clinton. Avaaz and MoveOn are funded in part by convicted inside-trader and billionaire hedge fund mogul, George Soros.

Avaaz affiliate James Slezak is also identified as a co-founder and CEO of Purpose at its inception in 2009.

The secret behind the success of both Avaaz and Purpose is their reliance upon and expertise in behavioural change.

While the behavioural change tactics used by Avaaz are on public display, double-breasted, for-profit Purpose, with its non-profit arm, sells their expertise behind the scenes to further the interest of hegemony and capital. Whether it be a glossy campaign to help facilitate yet another illegal “humanitarian intervention” led by aggressive U.S. militarism (an oxymoron if there ever was one), or the creation of a new global “green” economy, Purpose is the consulting firm that the wolves of Wall Street and oligarchs alike depend upon to make it happen. 3

Click here to read the full article on Cory Morningstar’s website Wrong Kind of Green.

Morningstar also follows the money in another excellent article entitled “Imperialist Pimps of Militarism, Protectors of the Oligarchy, Trusted Facilitators of War”:

Avaaz states that they take “absolutely no money from governments or corporations…. While we received initial seed grants from partner organizations and charitable organizations, almost 90% of the Avaaz budget now comes [from] small online donations.” The 2009 Form 990 for George Soros’ Foundation to Promote Open Society reports (page 87) $300,000 in general support for Avaaz and an additional $300,000 to Avaaz for climate campaigning. […]

In addition to receiving funding from the Open Society Institute, Avaaz has publicly cited the Open Society Institute as their foundation partner. This admission by founder Ricken Patel is found on the www.soros.org website. [As discussed in part I, The Open Society Institute (renamed in 2011 to Open Society Foundations) is a private operating and grantmaking foundation founded by George Soros, who remains the chair. Soros is known best as a multibillionaire currency speculator, and of late, an avid supporter of Occupy Wall Street. Soros is a former member of the Board of Directors of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). The CFR is essentially the promotional arm of the ruling elite in the U.S. Most all U.S. policy is initiated and written by the exclusive membership within the CFR.]

Avaaz utilized/utilizes their Open Society Institute relationship to distribute member donations via “Avaaz partners at the Open Society Institute.” 4

Click here to read this thorough examination of Avaaz‘s finances by Cory Morningstar.

In short, Avaaz is tightly allied to the Soros NGO empire – the same George Soros who has candidly admitted to his pivotal role in fomenting the colour revolutions across the former Eastern Bloc and Soviet Union. The same Soros who proudly says he backed the coup of 2014 in Ukraine. As he told CNN host Fareed Zakaria in May 2014:

“Well, I set up a foundation in Ukraine before Ukraine became independent of Russia. And the foundation has been functioning ever since and played an important part in events now.”

So when Avaaz warns me that “Russia’s President has forged an alliance with the far-right, and deployed an army of hackers and trolls, legions of fake social media accounts, and suitcases full of dirty money to sabotage our public debate and elections”, I hear little more than the hypocrisy of Soros who supported the fascists of the Maidan in Kiev.

And whilst Avaaz are writing to inform me that “The British people are calling out the Brexit scam”, another Soros-funded campaign group, Best for Britain, co-founded by Gina Miller, who took the UK government to court in 2016 over its triggering of the Article 50, are already busy rallying public opinion and encouraging MPs to vote against a Brexit deal.

Avaaz says:

The threat we’re up against is everywhere, but so are we. That threat is political, but we can be too when we need to be. That threat claims to be people-powered, but we’re the REAL people power.

About half of this is the truth and half is baloney, as is usually the case with Avaaz. Based on the evidence outlined above, I’ll leave readers to separate fact from fiction.

For more on Avaaz I strongly encourage readers to follow the links here and here to Cory Morningstar’s excellent investigative work and also to read this earlier extended post.

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Addendum: Screenshot of Avaaz email

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1 “Fascist America, in 10 Easy Steps” by Naomi Wolf, published in the Guardian on April 24, 2007.

From Hitler to Pinochet and beyond, history shows there are certain steps that any would-be dictator must take to destroy constitutional freedoms. And, argues Naomi Wolf, George Bush and his administration seem to be taking them all

http://www.guardian.co.uk/usa/story/0,,2064157,00.html

2 Conspiracy Theories by Cass Sunstein, Adrian Vermeule, published January 15, 2008. https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1084585

3 From an article entitled “Syria: Avaaz, Purpose & The Art of Selling Hate for Empire” written by Cory Morningstar, published on September 17, 2014.

http://www.wrongkindofgreen.org/2014/09/17/syria-avaaz-purpose-the-art-of-selling-hate-for-empire/

4 From an article entitled “Imperialist Pimps of Militarism, Protectors of the Oligarchy, Trusted Facilitators of War”, Part II, Section I, written by Cory Morningstar, published September 24, 2012. Another extract reads:

The 12 January 2012 RSVP event “Reframing U.S. Strategy in a Turbulent World: American Spring?” featured speakers from Charles Kupchan of the Council on Foreign Relations, Rosa Brooks of the New America Foundation, and none other than Tom Perriello, CEO of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Perriello advanced his “ideology” during this lecture.

http://www.theartofannihilation.com/imperialist-pimps-of-militarism-protectors-of-the-oligarchy-trusted-facilitators-of-war-part-ii-section-i/

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solidarity with the Frack Free Four

On Wednesday 26th, Simon Roscoe Blevins (right), a soil scientist from Sheffield, and Richard Roberts (centre), a piano restorer from London, were each sentenced to 16 months in prison for climbing onto delivery lorries as they tried to enter the Cuadrilla fracking site at Preston New Road near Blackpool, Lancashire. Another protector, Richard Loizou (left), a teacher from Devon, received 15 months for causing a public nuisance and a fourth defendant, Julian Brock, was given a 12-month suspended sentence after pleading guilty to the same offence.

Remarkably, the men had stayed on the lorries for at total of 99.5 hours.

Click here to read a full report on the sentencing hearing.

And here to sign the 38 Degrees petition to oppose fast-track fracking

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Although I do not share all the views of the four protectors and my own reason for opposing shale gas extraction is based on overwhelming evidence of the toxic contamination of water, air and soil of the local environment (much of which is irreversible), I greatly admire their conviction and tremendous courage and fully endorse this campaign of non-violent direct action.

In solidarity I have written to my local MP, Paul Blomfield, and encourage others to do the same.

Dear Paul,

I am delighted that you are fully behind Labour’s ban on fracking.

A few days ago I was deeply shocked to read about the imprisonment for 16 months of three peaceful anti-fracking protestors (another received a suspended sentence). As you may be aware, one of the four, Simon Roscoe Blevins, is a university soil scientist who lives in Pitsmoor. He is a friend of some of my own friends. You can read his own testimony here:

I’ve Been Jailed For Protesting Fracking – Here’s Why I Won’t Give Up The Fight

The handing out of custodial sentences for non-violent protest that does not involve criminal damage or intimidation is very nearly unprecedented in modern times. Comparisons have been made to the jailing of activists involved in the mass trespass on Kinder Scout in 1932, but even this comparison is inaccurate, because those involved were not sentenced for trespass but found guilty of affray, having been involved in scuffles with the landowner’s henchmen.

In this instance, Lancashire Council has already voted against fracking but the local democratic process was later overturned. As the government now seeks to allow “permitted development” for fracking more widely (mostly in “the desolate north”), protestors like Simon Roscoe Blevins are the last line of defence against this appalling industry. The draconian sentencing of non-violent protestors is yet another bullying tactic.

This week’s decision to jail three men for peaceably defending the environment represents a travesty of justice. The potential repercussions are so serious that I ask if you will raise the matter in Parliament.

With kind regards,

James Boswell

I received a reply from Paul Blomfield on October 10th as follows:

Dear James,

Thanks for your email regarding the sentence imposed on Simon Blevins. I was shocked by the sentence when I read about it and made my view clear at a public meeting on the 26th September, which I had organised with Sheffield Climate Alliance as part of my Big Conversation. I do oppose fracking, but there is a wider issue at stake on the treatment of peaceful protest. I’ve organised many protest activities over the years and recognise that there are consequences if activities step outside the law but am deeply concerned by the severity of this sentence.

I’ll certainly be doing all I can, recognising that Simon works in my constituency, but am liaising with Gill Furniss as his MP. I’ve read that he intends to appeal the sentence and we’ll therefore liaise with his solicitor, to ensure that any intervention helps the legal process.

With best wishes

Paul

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Additional:

David Smythe was Professor of Geophysics at the University of Glasgow. Following early retirement in 1998 he consulted intermittently for the oil industry. Since 2013 he has researched the risks of contamination of groundwater resources by fracking.

In this TEDx talk from February he speaks specifically to the risks of fracking in the Lancashire Fylde and more generally exposes the fracking industry as both uneconomical and environmentally damaging. He also details ways in which both the industry and the government have been deliberately misleading the public:

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Update:

More than a thousand academics – lecturers, researchers and professors at more than 70 institutions across the UK and abroad – have since signed an open letter calling for a judicial review of the prison sentences given to three men who took part in anti-fracking protests. The letter was originally entitled “Open letter from University of Sussex academics: The harsh sentencing of anti-fracking campaigners sets a dangerous precedent.” It reads:

We the undersigned are writing to express our growing concern about the shrinking space for communities and environmental defenders to engage in civil opposition to fracking developments in the UK.

This week three non-violent campaigners opposing fracking were jailed for 15 to 16 months simply for ‘causing a public nuisance’ and for not expressing regret. This is the first time since 1932 that environmental defenders have been imprisoned for such long periods of time for staging a protest in the UK. It is also the first time ever that activists have been jailed for anti-fracking actions.

With fracking companies increasingly granted civil injunctions to prevent protest, the scope of protest is becoming more and more restricted, representing a threat to fundamental rights to freedom of expression and assembly.

Fracking is controversial in the UK. According to government surveys conducted in 2017, only 16% of people support fracking development. Given the grave environmental consequences of hydraulic fracturing and growing concerns about climate change, this is not surprising.

The ruling sets a worrying precedent, curtailing opportunities for the kind of public protests that have historically been effective in instituting the legal and policy changes that defend our environment for our future generations. We need more, not less, space for action to confront unsustainable industrial practices that harm our communities and perpetuate our reliance on fossil fuels.

We join calls for a judicial review of this absurdly harsh sentence, and an inquiry into the declining space for civil society protest that it represents.

Sincerely,

The original source of this article is University of Sussex

Copyright © Andrea Brock, Dr Amber Huff, and Prof. Lyla Mehta, University of Sussex, 2018

Click here to find the letter and read a periodically updated list of signatories as reprinted by Global Research.

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On October 3rd, MEPs from across Europe joined in a protest at the European Parliament to send a message of solidarity to the campaigners. One of the MEPs, Keith Taylor, said:

“I am pleased so many of my colleagues join me in sending a united message of support to the brave heroes whose fight to protect our planet has robbed them of their liberty.”

“We are supposed to be, the theory goes, a mature liberal democracy that can accommodate dissent.

“The decision to jail peaceful fracking protesters blows that myth wide-open; authoritarianism has become a favourite tool of a minority government that lacks the public’s support to force through its environmentally destructive agenda by any other means.

“Any government that conspires with the dirty fossil fuel industry against its own people is rotten to the core.”

Click here to read more in a report entitled “1000+ academics call for review of fracking protest prison sentences” written by Ruth Hayhurst and published in Drill or Drop.

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On October 5th, Ian Crane devoted the first twenty minutes of episode 119 Fracking Nightmare to the case:

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