Category Archives: Israel

Shai Masot, the Israel lobby, and its part in the ongoing coup against Jeremy Corbyn

Related news: The main article begins after the asterisk.

Last Monday [Feb 27th] 250 academics signed a letter to the UK government criticising their ‘adoption’ of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism:

“which can be and is being read as extending to criticism of Israel and support for Palestinian rights, an entirely separate issue, as prima facie evidence of antisemitism.” 1

The full letter is included as an addition at the end of this post. You can also read it by clicking here.

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This extended post is based around a recent Al Jazeera investigation broadcast as a four-part series titled The Lobby which has uncovered “from the inside how the Israeli embassy penetrates different levels of British democracy”.

All four episodes are now uploaded on youtube and each is embedded below. I encourage readers, and especially those who are members and supporters of the Labour Party, to watch this documentary series in full. Here is the first episode:

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 shadow Foreign Secretary, Emily Thornberry, said:

“The exposure of an Israeli embassy official discussing how to bring down or discredit a government minister and other MPs because of their views on the Middle East is extremely disturbing.” 2

Instead, however, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) promptly issued a statement:

“The Israeli Ambassador has apologized and is clear these comments do not reflect the views of the embassy or government of Israel.  The UK has a strong relationship with Israel and we consider the matter closed.” 3

To which Thornberry in turn responded:

“It is simply not good enough for the Foreign Office to say the matter is closed. This is a national security issue.”4

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.

In this post I will touch on all of the findings of the Al Jazeera documentaries and supplement their revelations with additional background notes and other open source information of relevance. All parts are thoroughly annotated. The cases against Labour members Jean Fitzpatrick, Jackie Walker and others falsely accused of antisemitism are discussed at length.

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Caught in the act

“… seeking to influence decision-makers and opinion-formers to benefit the interests of a foreign power.” — from MI5 definition of ‘espionage’

There is no starker proof of the golden chains in which Israel has entangled the British political class, than the incredible fact that “diplomat” Shai Masot has not been expelled for secretly conspiring to influence British politics by attacking Britain’s Deputy Foreign Minister [Sir Alan Duncan], suggesting that he might be brought down by “a little scandal”. It is incredible by any normal standards of diplomatic behaviour that immediate action was not taken against Masot for actions which when revealed any professional diplomat would normally expect to result in being “PNG’d” – declared persona non grata.

This was the professional verdict of former UK ambassador Craig Murray in light of Al Jazeera’s investigation into Israel’s clandestine interference in British politics. Murray’s thoroughgoing analysis continues:

Obama has just expelled 35 Russian diplomats for precisely the same offence, with the exception that in the Russian case there is absolutely zero hard evidence, whereas in the Masot case there is irrefutable evidence on which to act.

To compare the two cases is telling. Al Jazeera should be congratulated on their investigation, which shames the British corporate and state media who would never have carried out such actual journalism. By contrast, the British media has parroted without the slightest scrutiny the truly pathetic Obama camp claims of Russian interference, evidently without reading them. 5

Episode two:

Craig Murray:

The Israeli Embassy has seventeen Israeli “technical and administrative staff” granted visas by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. The normal number for an Embassy that size would be about two. I spoke to two similar size non-EU Embassies this morning, one has two and one zero. I recall I dealt with an angry Foreign Minister during my own FCO career incensed his much larger High Commission had been refused by the FCO an increase from three to four technical and administrative staff.

Shai Masot, the Israeli “diplomat” who had been subverting Britain’s internal democracy with large sums of cash and plans to concoct scandal against a pro-Palestinian British minister, did not appear in the official diplomatic list.

I queried this with the FCO, and was asked to put my request in writing. A full three weeks later and after dozens of phone calls, they reluctantly revealed that Masot was on the “technical and administrative staff” of the Israeli Embassy.

This is plainly a nonsense.

Murray then details the many reasons why he dismisses any claim that Shai Masot is a “diplomat” and simply one of the “technical and administrative staff” of the Israeli Embassy. This is an area I wish to come back to later. Regarding the serious implications of Masot’s role in “subverting Britain’s internal democracy”, Murray continues:

What is it they are always saying to us: if you have got nothing to fear, you have got nothing to hide?

I am confident I know what they are hiding, and that is FCO complicity in a large nest of Israeli spies seeking to influence policy and opinion in the UK in a pro-Israeli direction. That is why the government reaction to one of those spies being caught on camera plotting a scandal against an FCO minister, and giving £1 million to anti-Corbyn MPs, 6 was so astonishingly muted. It is also worth noting that while the media could not completely ignore the fantastic al-Jazeera documentaries that exposed the scandal, it was a matter of a brief article and no follow up digging.

This was not just a curiosity, it reveals a deep-seated problem for our democracy. I intend to continue picking at it. 7

Click here to read Craig Murray’s full post entitled “As Netanyahu and May Chat, a Large Nest of Israeli Spies in London Exposed”.

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It sounds like a conspiracy8

“The pro-Israel lobby in this country is the most powerful political lobby. There’s nothing to touch them.” — Michael Mates, Conservative MP and privy councillor 9

The following is a transcript of most damning conversation caught on tape by Al Jazeera’s undercover reporter ‘Robin’. It took place at the Aubaine restaurant close to the Israeli embassy in Kensington, and the videotape captures “senior political officer”, Shai Masot, casually proposing to ‘take down’ Cabinet members with Maria Strizzolo, a civil servant and pro-Israel activist, who was the former chief of staff to Minister of State for Education and former Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party, Robert Halfon:

Masot: Can I give you names of MPs I suggest you take down?

Strizzolo: Well you know, if you look hard enough I’m sure there is something they’re trying to hide.

Masot: Yeah. I have some MPs.

Strizzolo: Well, let’s talk about it.

Masot: No, she knows which MPs I want to take down.

Strizzolo: Yeah, it’s good to remind me.

Masot: The Deputy Foreign Minister [Alan Duncan].

Strizzolo: You still want to go for it?

Masot: No, he’s doing a lot of problems.

Strizzolo: Really?

Masot: Really. It sounds like a conspiracy.

Strizzolo: I thought you had neutralised it a little bit, no?

Masot: No.

Strizzolo: Ah, Boris [Johnson, Foreign Secretary and Duncan’s boss] is good.

Masot: Boris. He is basically good.

Strizzolo: He’s solid on Israel.

Masot: Yeah. He just doesn’t care. He’s busy with everything else, Boris is busy you know… You know he is an idiot but so far… he became Minister of Foreign Affairs without any kind of responsibilities. So technically if something will happen, it won’t be his fault…

Strizzolo: Rob [Halfon] was writing articles. He was doing everything, asking questions in parliament about the terrorist salaries

Masot: When he was an MP? Ah, when he [Duncan] was in DFID [Department for International Development]?

Strizzolo: Yeah, and after a while though Rob was doing a lot of it, and Alan Duncan took him like I think but I don’t exactly remember where… but he took him to one side and threatened him: “If you don’t stop this I’m going to ruin you, I’m going to destroy you” and all that shit.”

And Rob told the Whips, and the Whips just told him to calm down.

Masot: Okay.

Strizzolo: Yeah, you know, never say never.

Masot: Never say never, yeah but…

Strizzolo: A little scandal maybe? Anyway, please don’t tell anyone about our meeting!

Masot: To who would we tell? 10

Both Shai Masot and Maria Strizzolo have since resigned.

Here is episode three:

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The following is part of an anonymous statement made by a former Tory minister in Cameron’s Cabinet and published in the Mail on Sunday in light of these revelations:

For years the CFI and Labour Friends of Israel (LFI), have worked with – even for – the Israeli government and their London embassy to promote Israeli policy and thwart UK Government policy and the actions of Ministers who try to defend Palestinian rights.

Lots of countries try to force their views on others, but what is scandalous in the UK is that instead of resisting it, successive Governments have submitted to it, taken donors’ money, and allowed Israeli influence-peddling to shape policy and even determine the fate of Ministers.

Even now, if I were to reveal who I am, I would be subjected to a relentless barrage of abuse and character assassination.

S/he continues:

The CFI is not affiliated to the Conservative Party. It is incorporated in a way that means it is not to transparent about donors. Yet it arranges for the support of MPs and funds regular visits to Israel which distort the truth. Cameron turned a blind eye to Israeli misconduct – if he ever cared about it – because he was persuaded any criticism would reduce Party donations.

It now seems clear people in the Conservative and Labour Parties have been working with the Israeli embassy which has used them to demonise and trash MPs who criticise Israel; an army of Israel’s useful idiots in Parliament.

The statement concludes:

We need a full inquiry into the Israeli Embassy, the links, access and funding of the CFI and LFI, and an undertaking from all political parties that they welcome the financial and political support of the UK Jewish community, but won’t accept any engagement linked to Israel until it stops building illegally on Palestinian land.

This opaque funding and underhand conduct is a national disgrace and humiliation and must be stamped out. 11

The full statement is reprinted in Appendix A below.

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Joan Ryan and the LFI in the room

“Corbyn is a crazy leader. One of the things he doesn’t understand, he doesn’t get is that the moment you get the leadership, you need to drop all the weirdos. The extremists. It’s good that they were your campaigners. You cannot build a government from extremists. And he doesn’t want to do that. He wants to stay with all those weirdos” — Shai Masot 12

Corbyn is a prominent and long-standing campaigner for Palestinian rights. He is a supporter of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. In short, he is a thorn in the side of the right-wing Zionists who hold power in Israel. From their perspective Corbyn is indeed “an extremist” and so – as the documentaries repeatedly show – this extremely powerful lobby wishes to be shot of him as soon as possible.

Throughout the four parts of the investigation manoeuvres against Corbyn and his base are a constant theme. And their primary tactic is the promotion of claims that the Labour Party under Corbyn is a hotbed for antisemitism. Although founded on bogus allegations (two prime examples are revealed and discussed below), this assertion has been widely promulgated by news outlets including both Channel 4 and the BBC – and more about the BBC below.

Concurrently, the Israel lobby also employs a divide and conquer strategy which is partially exposed during episode 3 when Jeremy Newmark, Chairman of the Jewish Labour Movement (much more on JLM below), is caught on film attempting to drive a wedge between “one of Corbyn’s key lieutenants” and his supporters within Momentum. Here are two quotes revealing the method at work:

“Just to get Clive Lewis, as one of Corbyn’s key lieutenants, onto an openly Zionist JLM platform took a lot of heavy lifting.” 13

And later:

“We already have actual intelligence that from the Momentum political directors’ meeting last night they passed a vote of censure on Clive Lewis, just for coming to our meetings and speaking” 14

In fact, efforts by pro-Israel party members (including some within the PLP) to undermine Corbyn started long before last year’s Liverpool conference. Indeed, the pro-Israel campaign to defeat him predates his first election as Labour leader:

The new chairman of Labour Friends of Israel has acknowledged the “deep concerns” around Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership campaign and urged supporters to instead back a figure who could play a key role in the Middle East peace process.

Joan Ryan was appointed to lead LFI in Parliament on Monday, replacing Anne McGuire who stood down at the general election.

From an article entitled “Don’t vote for Jeremy Corbyn, urges new Labour Friends of Israel chair Joan Ryan” published by The Jewish Chronicle during the 2015 Labour leadership battle which Corbyn won in spite of such well-financed opposition with a massive 59% of the vote.

The same article continues:

[Ryan] pledged to tackle pro-boycott voices within Labour and said she would oppose delegitimisation of Israel. She travelled to the country with LFI last December.

Ms Ryan, who nominated Liz Kendall [of the Blairite group Progress – more below] in the party’s leadership contest, said last month’s Jewish community hustings for the contenders had been a key step in the party’s efforts to “win back the trust and confidence of the Jewish community”.

She added: “We hope that Labour party members and supporters will consider when they vote which candidate is best placed to ensure that the next Labour government can play a constructive and engaged role in the crucial search for a two-state solution.

“We recognise the deep concerns which exist about positions taken, and statements made, by Jeremy Corbyn in the past and recognise the serious questions which arise from these.”

The new chair said Labour must be “steadfast” in its support for Israel.

LFI would “continue to work with progressives in both Israel and Palestine who share our commitment to peace and co-existence.

At the same time, we remain adamantly opposed to boycotts and sanctions, which delegitimise Israel, do nothing to further these goals and have no place in the Labour party.

Ms Ryan was ousted from Parliament in 2010 following the expenses scandal but returned with a majority of more than 1,000 in May. 15 

[Bold emphasis added]

Here is episode four:

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So who is Shai Masot?

“The last position that I applied for that there was a slight chance that I will get it actually, is to be the head of the Foreign Affairs Department of the Intelligence Department in Israel. I’m not a career diplomat, I am a political posting, which means that I came for just one position; to assist in political issues that are specific – sometimes you need someone to take care just of them, to be focused on them. That’s what I do. ” — Shai Masot 16

Astonishingly, the Israeli Embassy’s Senior Political Officer Shai Masot, implicated in a plot against the Deputy Foreign Minister, was not on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s Diplomatic List, the Bible for the status of accredited diplomats. This opens up a number of extremely important questions. Who was he, what was his visa status and why was he resident in the UK? It is very plain that the work he was doing as “Senior Political Officer” would equate normally to senior diplomatic rank.

writes Murray again in an updated post published two days later on January 10th. He continues:

He was a major in the Israeli Navy – in the FCO’s own table of equivalent rank, Major equates to Second Secretary in the Diplomatic Service.

After that he went on to apparently executive positions in the Ministry for Strategic Affairs, before moving to the Israeli Embassy in London. There he held many recorded meetings with politicians, including giving briefings in parliament and at party conferences, and acted in a way that in general would accord with a rank around First Secretary to Counsellor.

So why exactly has he never featured in the FCO’s Diplomatic List? He very plainly outranks many of those Israeli diplomats who are featured. It should be noted it is perfectly normal for diplomats not to come from a country’s foreign affairs ministry. For one example Ivan Rogers who spectacularly resigned recently as Britain’s Ambassador to the EU, was from the Treasury not the FCO. Several people in the Israeli Embassy, who are on the Diplomatic List, are not from the foreign service. So that is not the reason.

This is not an obscure point. As a former diplomat, my first instinct was to look him up on the Diplomatic List. Every country in the world controls the number of permitted foreign diplomats very closely, for two reasons. Firstly it confers an immigration residency status, and secondly it confers tax exemption and an immunity from prosecution. The Diplomatic List is therefore not a loose thing – there is an entire section of good employees in the FCO tasked with policing it in close liaison with the Home Office.

Embassies are allowed a very small number of technical and support staff – IT people and cleaners – in addition. But these must be what they say they are. Plainly Masot was not in reality one of these, and plainly the official Israeli Embassy explanation that he was a “junior member of staff” is a lie. 17

The Israeli Embassy is not given visas for “junior members of staff” except in very specific job categories which Masot plainly does not meet. It is a lie in which the FCO must have been absolutely complicit in organising his immigration residency status in the UK.

I have contacted the media office of the FCO to query Masot’s immigration status, and so far received no reply. But the key questions are these:

Shai Masot was not on the Diplomatic List. What kind of visa and residence status did he have in the UK?
How many other operatives does the Israeli have with the same UK residence status as Masot?
Why is the British Government granting Israeli intelligence operatives false residency immigration status in the UK based on a deliberate lie about their role and position?
How many other Israeli intelligence officers are active in the UK with a false immigration status?
Who, specifically, authorised Masot’s visa, and why?

My advantage as an ex-British Ambassador is that I know the bureaucratically correct questions to ask to get to the heart of a matter. Please do ask them of your MP, and get them to demand answers from the FCO. 18

Click here to read Craig Murray’s full update entitled “Britain’s Most Undesirable Immigrant: Why Was Shai Masot Given a Visa?”

Craig Murray’s formal query to the FCO media department is reproduced below in Appendix B.

Murray first posed these questions on January 10th. On January 12th the FCO asked him to present them in writing. On February 2nd they replied to the first three questions, but refused to comment on questions 4 or 5 about involvement of the intelligence services in Masot’s appointment:

FCO Media Department have replied that they refuse to give me any further information on the subject, and that I should proceed through a Freedom of Information request so the FCO can assess properly whether the release of any further information is in the national interest. 19

As Craig Murray concludes:

The Al Jazeera documentaries plainly revealed that Masot was working as an intelligence officer, acquiring and financing “agents of influence”. It is simply impossible that the FCO would normally grant seventeen technical and administrative visas to support sixteen diplomats, when six of the sixteen are already support staff. The only possible explanation, confirmed absolutely by Masot’s behaviour, is that the FCO has knowingly connived at settling a large nest of Israeli spies in London. I fairly put this to the FCO and they refused to comment.

Click here to read Craig Murray’s full post entitled “As Netanyahu and May Chat, a Large Nest of Israeli Spies in London Exposed”.

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Israel’s useful idiots in Parliament20

 “Out of the forty new MPs who just got in at the last elections… all those ones were in the CFI, Conservative Friends of Israel. In the LFI [Labour Friends of Israel], it didn’t happen obviously. And you need to get more people on board. It’s a lot of work actually.” — Shai Masot 21

In episode four, undercover reporter ‘Robin’ asks Maria Strizzolo, the former chief of staff to Conservative Minister Robert Halfon, “How many of the MPs from your party are in CFI?”

To which Strizzolo replies:

“Oh, Pretty much all of them. When there is the annual lunch, which is just before Christmas, basically the Whips always make sure that the light votes come after to the CFI lunch because it’s like all the party’s there.” 22

Prompted by Masot, Maria Strizzolo adds: “And the PM, and the Chancellor, and the Foreign Secretary and everyone.” 23

As to how these members might best be influenced, Strizzolo explains her approach as follows:

“If at least you can get a small group of MPs that you know you can always rely on, when there is something coming to parliament, and you know you brief them, you say: ‘you don’t have to do anything, we’re going to give you the speech, we are going to give you all the information, we are going to do everything for you.’ Then I think it becomes easier. And from that little group it might grown and grow and grow.

“So if you prepare everything for them, it’s harder for them to say: ‘Oh no, I don’t have the time…’ So if they already have the question to table for PMQs [Prime Minister’s Questions], it’s hard to say ‘Oh no, no, no I won’t do it.’”24

She also offers an example of how the lobby’s influence has affected policy:

“I was in Israel when they found the three kids that had been kidnapped in 2014. And I was on the phone with Rob [Halfon] to convince him to table a question for Prime Minister’s Question Time for paying tribute… [‘Robin’ interjects “Did he do it?”] Yeah. And also tabling an urgent question to get a statement from the government on the three kids.” 25

In fact, Al Jazeera includes footage of Robert Halfon tabling the question in which he says:

“For the world to see the tragic and brutal murders of three Israeli youngsters most probably by Hamas. Will my honourable friends give the Israeli government every possible support at this time? And does he [Prime Minister David Cameron] not agree with me, that far from showing restraint, Israel must do everything possible to take out Hamas terrorist networks, and will he give the Israel government support in this?”

Cameron replies:

“I think it’s very important that Britain will stand with Israel as it seeks to bring to justice those who are responsible.” 26

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In 2009, Channel 4 broadcast a highly commendable episode of their flagship investigative series Dispatches. “Inside Britain’s Israel Lobby” looked into the Conservative Friends of Israel (CFI), a lobby group which then as now claims some 80% of all Conservative MPs as members of whom more than half then made up the Tory shadow cabinet as they now make up the government. Household names include former leaders David Cameron, Iain Duncan-Smith, William Hague; the former Chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee, Sir Malcolm Rifkind; current Cabinet colleagues Sajid Javid, Priti Patel and Liam Fox; and the previous Chairman of the Conservative Party and current Chairman of CFI, Sir Eric Pickles.

Political columnist Peter Oborne, who also presented the Dispatches programme, wrote three years after the broadcast:

There is no doubt that the CFI has exercised a powerful influence over policy. The Conservative politician and historian Robert Rhodes James, writing in the Jerusalem Post in 1995, called it “the largest organisation in Western Europe dedicated to the cause of the people of Israel”. Its power has not waned since. On Tuesday, it hosted approximately 100 Tory MPs, including six Cabinet ministers, and a further 40 peers, at a lunch in central London. The speaker was David Cameron, who pronounced himself a “passionate friend” of Israel, making clear (as he has done in the past) that nothing could break that friendship.

This speech can be seen as part of a pattern. The CFI can call almost at will upon the Prime Minister, Chancellor of the Exchequer or Foreign Secretary. The Palestinians enjoy no such access. They would be lucky to get a single Conservative MP in the audience for their events, and perhaps some moribund peer to make an address. There is no such organisation as the Conservative Friends of Palestinians. 27

Click here to read Peter Oborne’s full article entitled “The Cowardice at the heart of our relationship with Israel”.

Conservative Friends of Palestine is still yet to be founded (don’t hold your breath!), but interestingly there does exist a variety of other parliamentary lobby groups including Liberal Democrat Friends of Israel, Northern Ireland Friends of Israel, European Friends of Israel as well as Labour Friends of Israel, about whom the Al Jazeera series was mainly focussed. According to some reports, there is also a fledgling ‘SNP Friends of Israel’:

The pro-Israel group, whose three founding members are Joe Goldblatt, activist Sammy Stein, and Frank Angell, plan to pay out thousands of pounds for a stall at next month’s SNP conference to challenge support for justice in Palestine within the party. […]

While the group denies connections to support for Israel, its military occupation of Palestinian land, or Israel’s bombing campaigns on Gaza, its members have numerous links to pro-Israel campaigns.

Jeremy Stein said it was unclear where the group would receive the thousands of pounds required to buy access to the conference. He also questioned their claim to be a ‘neutral’ organisation.

“It’s dishonesty on their part,” Jeremy Stein [co-chair of the Glasgow Jewish Education Forum] added. “They don’t support peace in any meaningful sense of the term. They don’t support Palestinian rights.”

From a report published by CommonSpace last September entitled “Jewish community leader speaks out over SNP ‘Israel Front Group’”. It continues:

Jeremy Stein warns that in reality some major funders and supporters of Israel come from a ‘neo-conservative, christian zionist’ perspective, from the more extreme rightwing end of the political spectrum.

“[They have] politics on the far-right of the Israeli political spectrum. They don’t represent mainstream Israeli opinion. A great deal of harm to Israel because they promote the most extreme policies,” he added. 28

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Reframing the campuses

“The Labour Party at the moment is not in a good place to say the least. There are lots of young people coming through who are moderate, with good views on Israel. I think we haven’t really paid attention to those people, you know, people that are going to be in parliament in ten to fifteen years’ time.” 

— Michael Rubin, Parliamentary Officer for the LFI

In episode 1, Al Jazeera’s undercover reporter, identified as ‘Robin’, asks Masot about the formation of a youth group within Conservative Friends of Israel (CFI). In response, Masot confides that it was “my idea” but that having established a youth group within CFI “when I tried to do the same in the Labour [Party], they had a crisis back then with Corbyn.” Adding: “Specifically, LFI young people doesn’t exist. That is the only place where there is a vacuum.”

The investigation then reveals links between Masot, the Israel Embassy’s “Senior Political Officer” and a whole host of pro-Israel groups which include The Parliamentary Friends of Israel, We Believe in Israel and its parent body, the British Israel Communications and Research Centre (BICOM). 29

It transpires that Masot has also been directly involved with Young Conservatives, the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM) and the youth arm of the Fabian Society and says he knows nearly all the activists in the Young Fabians and that he took a Fabian group on a visit to Israel. 30

Moreover, Masot has a close liaison with The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the predominant pro-Israel lobbying group in America, with whom, as we learn in episodes 2 and 4, he is building ties to an organisation called The City Friends of Israel. In fact, on the train to Liverpool in episode 2, Masot announces to colleagues that this is a group he is helping to establish – although later we discover the group is already founded after he invites ‘Robin’ to a function they are holding.

Masot tells ‘Robin’:

“I went to AIPAC last year because I organised the American-British delegation to AIPAC. It was me and the British donors: around thirty, forty rich families which have sponsored CFI. The Conservatives were with us and some from Labour as well, and we all went together to AIPAC. But the bottom line [is] we had a donor meeting with the head of strategy at AIPAC and he met us basically to teach us, you know, give us some ideas for Britain.” 31

In episode four, Masot even discusses a more audacious plan to tackle the BDS movement involving a front company set up by Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs:

“So the Strategic Affairs they asked me, they are establishing a new company – a new private company that basically will work for the Israeli government.

“It’s going to be an office of twenty people, so the position that they suggested to me to do is to be the liaison for the international communities around the world. So it’s good sometimes because you know it’s good to work with AIPAC and all the others, CFI and LFI. It is cool, it’s good.” 32

However, Masot is very careful to distance himself from claiming direct involvement in the formation of any of this multitude of outwardly appearing pro-Israel grassroots organisations, even while, as ‘Robin’ impresses, he encourages him to push ahead with the launch of a new youth branch of LFI. Soon thereafter Masot puts ‘Robin’ in touch with one of his close contacts, Michael Rubin, the Parliamentary Officer for the LFI.

Although prior to contacting Rubin, Masot actually cautions ‘Robin’ saying: “LFI is an independent organisation. No one likes [to think] that someone is managing his organisation.” 33

Later Michael Rubin confides to ‘Robin’ that:

“The Embassy helps us quite a lot. When bad news stories come out about Israel, the Embassy sends us information so we can counter it. Getting it directly from the horse’s mouth, as it were, is quite helpful… We work really closely together, but a lot of it is behind the scenes” 34

Adding, with regards to ‘Robin’s proposed formation of a youth branch:

“We’ve got to be careful because I think there are some people who would be happy to be involved in a Young LFI but wouldn’t necessarily be happy if it was seen as an embassy thing… I think we just have to be careful we’re not to be seen as, you know, ‘Young Israeli Embassy’. You know, we want it to be distinct by itself… We do work really, really closely together. It’s just publicly we try to keep the LFI as a separate identity to the Embassy.35

Rubin then proposes they get in touch with Joan Ryan MP, the Chairperson of the LFI, whom he says “work[s] with the ambassador and the embassy quite a lot, so she’ll speak to Shai most days.” 36

The investigation also steadily reveals how the powerful American lobbying group AIPAC is beginning to channel funds to British campuses through an intermediary known as the Pinsker Centre which was jointly set up by Adam Schapira and Elliot Miller.

Elliot Miller: “I spent a year working in the government of Israel. I was doing a fellowship at the foreign ministry, in the congressional affairs department, so all Congress as far as AIPAC and stuff.” 37

Adam Schapira: “Elliot and I have set up the Pinsker Centre. Our aim is to reframe the rhetoric on UK campuses. I feel like a lot more needs to be done in the educational field, bringing more diverse speakers from across the political spectrum on campus… to present another narrative.” 38

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The blacklisting of Jackie Walker

“I was seeking information and I still haven’t heard a definition of antisemitism that I can work with” — Jackie Walker 39

In episode 2, undercover reporter ‘Robin’ travels to the Labour Party Conference in Liverpool. There he meets up with a sizeable pro-Israel delegation, including Russell Langer, who is the former Campaigns Director at the Union of Jewish Students (UJC) and current Public Affairs Manager with the Jewish Leadership Council (JLC), an influential umbrella group of Jewish organisations in Britain.

Langer tells ‘Robin’: “There’s a Labour Friends of Palestine and the Middle East [event] at 2:30, which I’ll be going to, so I need to charge my phone up so I can get some more recordings.” 40 Many others within the pro-Israel delegation also attend the event as ‘spies’ (a shared joke amongst themselves). One is Luke Akehurst, someone Shai Masot describes as “a great campaigner” and “one of the best in the inside… in all the party”, 41 and head of We Believe in Israel, itself an affiliated branch of BICOM. We learn that Akehurst is intending to write a report of the LFPME event.

Later, we see secretly recorded footage from a different scheduled event. It is a ‘training session’ hosted by Mike Katz, the Vice Chairman of the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM).

Katz opens his session with a presentation entitled “Antisemitism as a phenomenon across the world” during which he informs the delegates about the worrying trend in statistics collected by the Community Security Trust (CST), a charity set up to monitor levels of antisemitism across Britain: “they recorded 557 antisemitic incidents across the UK in the first six months of 2016. That is an 11% increase in the period in 2015. 2014 was the most antisemitic year on record.” 42

Also at the meeting is Labour Party member Christine Tongue who directly challenges the SCT claims saying:

“I’m wondering if I’m now going on that list because my MP actually sent a letter to Jeremy Corbyn asking him to bar me from a rally in Ramsgate because I was an example of antisemitism. Because his office had trawled through my facebook page and found an article that I shared by Norman Finkelstein.” 43

The son of two Jewish holocaust survivors yet staunchly pro-Palestinian, Finkelstein is the bane of the Israel lobby in America. Apparently, he had jokingly proposed a way of ending the occupation of Palestine by resituating Israel within the territory of the United States.

In reposting Finkelstein’s joke, however, Christine Tongue, certainly in the eyes of the Israel lobby, was deemed guilty of the “new antisemitism”, which, as Katz elucidates during the same session, regards any attacks that delegitimise the state of Israel as antisemitic because: “Israel is an integral part of the vast majority of the Jewish community’s identity”. 44 According to this standard, Norman Finkelstein and fellow Jews critical of Israeli policy are likewise denigrated as “self-hating”.

Graham Bash was another Labour Party member who had joined the session. Bash told the audience:

“I’m Jewish and I don’t agree with the concept of a Jewish state because it gives me the right to live in Israel whereas a Palestinian who’s been displaced has a lesser right than me. So when you say it’s not appropriate [“to delegitimise the right of Israel to exist”], are you really saying it’s not appropriate for us to have a political discussion?” 45

Another outspoken delegate at the same session was Jackie Walker, who along with her partner, is Jewish too. Walker, both a political activist and long-standing anti-racist campaigner, was as then Vice Chair of Momentum. And she responded to Katz as follows:

“If you are saying effectively that Zionism, you know, is not open to debate as a concept, then that is really worrying. Antisemitism, like any form of racism, is deplorable, and my feeling about how to tackle this is for Jews to be standing firmly and squarely alongside our Black comrades, our Muslim comrades, who are much more at the moment the target of racism than thankfully at the moment we are…” 46

After delivering her rebuttal, Walker is heard to receive a brief ripple of appreciative applause, and yet soon afterwards she became the centre of a headline-making scandal that would revive allegations of increasing antisemitism within ‘Corbyn’s Labour Party’:

Momentum vice-chair Jackie Walker has been suspended from Labour over controversial comments she made at a party training event.

Leaked footage showed the campaigner saying she had not found a definition of antisemitism she could work with. […]

When she was asked whether she had considered resigning given the outrage among some Jewish groups, Walker said: “Some other prominent Jewish groups, of which I’m a member, think a very different thing. What we have to look at when we’re talking about this subject, particularly at the moment, is the political differences that are underlying this as well.”

She said whomever leaked the footage from a Labour party antisemitism training event “had malicious intent in their mind”. She also said she was anti-Zionist rather than antisemitic, adding: “I think Zionism is a political ideology, and like any political ideology, some people will be supportive and some people won’t be supportive of it. That’s a very different thing.” 47

From a report by the Press Association published in the Guardian on September 30th.

Here is an example of the public support she did receive from other Jewish Labour activists but which the mainstream media were determined to overlook:

We are Jewish Labour activists who were with Jackie Walker at the training session on antisemitism led by Mike Katz, vice chair of the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM) during the Labour Party conference in Liverpool on Monday September 26. Like her, some of us were heckled when we raised questions unpalatable to others in the audience who share the JLM’s bias towards Israel, its coupling of Jewish identity with Zionism and its insistence on the uniqueness of Jewish suffering.

Jackie had every right to question the JLM’s definition of antisemitism and the tendency of mainstream Jewish organisations to focus entirely on the slaughter of Jews when they commemorate the Nazi Holocaust. We share her determination to build greater awareness of other genocides, which are too often forgotten or minimised. Jackie responded appreciatively when one audience member described Holocaust memorial events involving Armenians and others. She has since issued a statement on this issue, reproduced below.

Click here to read the full statement by Free Speech on Israel and see  Appendix C to read Jackie Walker’s personal statement.

Meanwhile, Vice President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews actually went so far as to call Walker “an unapologetic Jew-baiter”. 48

This is how Walker afterwards described the events that unfolded to Al Jazeera:

“At the start they seemed relatively relaxed. It was simply a training session. I think some of us had gone along there with the idea it was kind of strange, because in some ways this was against what Shami Chakrabarti had actually advised. So we wanted to see what was going on. […]

By the time the row actually broke out I was on my way home. I mean none of us thought anything about this training session. I was in the car and suddenly I started to get these tweets coming through to me. And these phone calls from the BBC.” 49

As it transpired, a secretly recorded clip from the ‘training session’ had been leaked to a news outlet.

Walker continues: “What was actually leaked was certain little segments that would be as controversial as possible.” 50

The decontexturalised sound-bite that most ignited this very heated though totally belated reaction was this one: “In terms of Holocaust Day, I would also like to say wouldn’t it be wonderful if Holocaust Day was open to all peoples who experienced Holocaust…” 51

Out of context, her statement quoted at the top of this section also caused considerable furore: that she hadn’t “heard a definition of antisemitism that I can work with”. Of this, Walker explains:

“How it was reported and how it was tweeted was [that] I was basically saying ‘I can’t find anywhere a definition of antisemitism to work with’. That’s total nonsense. I’m an anti-racist trainer. I’ve been an anti-racist trainer for forty years. I’ve been fighting fascists and antisemites on the streets for decades.” 52

Walker concludes:

“I’m not just Jewish, I am black. And my ancestry is of African enslavement. Only this year I spoke at Slavery Remembrance Day, and I spoke to a crowd in Trafalgar Square about the African Holocaust. And that is what we call it. You can disagree with me as to whether I should call that a holocaust but it is not antisemitic for me to call what happened to African people in the diaspora, a holocaust. […]

If they accuse anybody of antisemitism, it’s basically as bad as kind of accusing somebody of being a paedophile or a murderer. And it’s really hard to come back from that.53

Later ‘Robin’ speaks with Masot about Jackie Walker. Masot tells him:

“Yeah, she is problematic. What can we do…? Do not let it go. That’s all you can do. Do not let it go… that’s the key.” 54

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JLM in the campaign against Corbyn

“Some of us would say it was mostly a constructed crisis for political ends. I would say there was a crisis of the way that antisemitism is being manipulated and being used by certain parts of, not just the Labour Party but other parties, and the media to discredit Jeremy Corbyn and a number of his supporters. I mean let’s disagree politically: I’m anti-Zionist, they’re pro-Zionist… Let’s have THAT argument. Not this one that’s going on at the moment.”

— Jackie Walker 55

It was investigative reporter Asa Winstanley from the Electronic Intifada who first revealed last September that Ella Rose, the Director of the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM), was working at the Israel embassy as public affairs officer between September 2015 and August 2016, when she joined JLM as its first director:

Press reports in July announcing Rose’s appointment did not disclose the Israeli embassy link, mentioning only her previous position as president of the Union of Jewish Students.

Jewish critics of the JLM have told The Electronic Intifada that JLM’s link to the Israeli embassy should disqualify it from leading Labour Party trainings on antisemitism.

Ella Rose (second left on right-hand side of table) was part of a January 2015 meeting with then Prime Minister David Cameron which discussed opposing “boycotts and the deligitimization of Israel.” (Photoshot/Newscom)

Importantly, Electronic Intifada also established close ties to the Blairite Labour faction and ginger group ‘Progress’:

Although a dormant organization for many years, the JLM in February rose to prominence not long after it appointed as its new chair Jeremy Newmark, a well-known Israel lobbyist.

It was soon being actively promoted by Progress, the well-funded “moderate” Labour organization which is closely associated with the legacy of former leader Tony Blair.

Predictably, JLM soon became active in supporting the false narrative that Labour has become a cesspit of antisemitism under the leadership of left-winger and long-time advocate for Palestinian rights Jeremy Corbyn.

At the time, Jackie Walker reportedly told them “that in light of Ella Rose’s role at the embassy, JLM’s claim not to be an Israel advocacy organization was ‘highly doubtful.’”:

Walker, a Jewish anti-racism activist who has been falsely smeared as antisemitic by JLM and others, said it was ironic that members don’t have to be Jewish to join JLM, but they do have to be Zionist. 56

Click here to read the full article entitled “New Jewish Labour Movement director was Israeli embassy officer” published by The Electronic Intifada.

Towards the end of episode 2, ‘Robin’ runs into Ella Rose:

“I saw Jackie Walker on Saturday and thought, you know what, I could take her, she’s like 5’2 and tiny… That’s why I can take Jackie Walker. Krav Maga training,”

Still referring to the Israeli army hand-to-hand fighting technique, she then added: “Yeah. I’m not bad at it. If it came to it I would win, that’s all I really care about.”

Jackie Walker again: “What we need to have is some investigation of this from the Labour Party. And I will be making a formal complaint against both Ella Rose and the Jewish Labour Movement” 57

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Outside the comfort zone

“It’s in a way pathetic, but it’s also worrying how such pathetic evidence can be used to intimidate Jeremy Corbyn into publishing an inquiry commission, making daily confessions that he’s not antisemitic. And so on…”

— Ilan Pappé, Israeli historian and activist 58

Members, activists and at least one MP of Britain’s main opposition Labour Party described as “anti-Semitic” a member who challenged their pro-Israel ideas, despite some uncertainty over whether the member’s comments were actually racist, an investigation by Al Jazeera has found.

The charges, made at September’s Labour Party conference, led to the member being suspended pending a full investigation.

In total, the Labour Friends of Israel (LFI) said it had seen three cases of anti-Semitism during the first day of September’s Labour Party conference, with the group of Israel supporters later debating the validity of two of them.

The complaints came in the wake of the Chakrabarti Inquiry, an investigation during summer 2016 into anti-Semitism within the Labour ranks. That report had concluded racism, including anti-Semitism, was not endemic within Labour. 59

Click here to read the full Al Jazeera article – Note that: the link did work prior to posting but the page seems to have been since taken down.

The member in question is Jean Fitzpatrick and it happened during her first visit to a party conference. Joan Ryan was overseeing the LFI stall when Jean Fitzpatrick arrived to pitch a question about the FLI’s stance on Israel’s illegal settlements. After a few minutes, Ryan tells Fitzpatrick that she has decided to end the conversation and it is better that they agree to disagree. But Fitzpatrick persists, and says (correctly) that she has not had a reply to the LFI’s policy regarding the settlements. Then she makes a claim. She says: [LFI] is a “stepping-stone to good jobs”, before adding “a friend of mine’s son’s got a really good job at Oxford University on the basis of having worked for Labour Friends of Israel.”

Afterwards ‘Robin’ records a conversation between Michael Rubin, Jennifer Gerber, Director of LFI, and Alex Richardson, who is Joan Ryan’s Parliamentary Assistant:

JG: “If an antisemite comes up, somebody says to me: ‘Jews, they’re all f**king big noses and control the world’ I’m like wow, you’re an antisemite, that’s terrible. Someone like her [Jean Fitzpatrick] worries me more because is she an antisemite? I don’t know, but she basically denies the fact that it [antisemitism] exists, she just thinks it’s made up…”

“Is that antisemitic guys, I don’t know, like…?”

MR: “I don’t know where that line is anymore…

AR: “I think if it makes you feel uncomfortable, that’s the point which you call it out and report it, and that’s why Joan convinced me to report the one yesterday [with Jean Fitzpatrick] because I was made to feel uncomfortable and though nothing antisemitic was said I’m sure there were undertones of it and it was brought upon by that context.

“At the end of the day, if you feel offended by it and uncomfortable for it – this should be a safe space and anything that breaks that should be reported I think. But there is that line, obviously, I don’t know.” 60

Later Alex Richardson emails undercover reporter ‘Robin’ to ask him to act as a witness to what is now alleged to have been act of antisemitism.

Richardson says:

“I kind of feel it was an antisemitic trope, against Israel. Like Jews controlling and having power and money… although she didn’t say Jews and she said Israel. It is definitely on the line, do you know what I mean? If she had said the word ‘Zionist’ I would have said one hundred percent. A hundred percent.” 61

Notwithstanding his misgivings, Richardson is apparently keen to see Fitzpatrick expelled from the Labour Party:

“How it works is that you make a complaint within the Labour Party and their own rules will decide. I suspect, I don’t know. But I suspect that this woman might be potentially banned because she said something that was antisemitic.” 62

Joan Ryan also discusses it with colleagues.

“They’re antisemitic… you heard her say, you know… ‘join you lot and you get into Oxford’ or ‘you get into working in the bank’ or… That’s antisemitic.”

And later the same evening, at a rally held ‘to combat antisemitism’ that was organised by the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM), Joan Ryan describes her day at the stall:

“We have also had three incidents of antisemitic harassment on our stand, to the people who are staffing that stall today. And that, I think tells you something about why we need to be having this ‘Against Antisemitism Rally.’”

A formal complaint is made against Jean Fitzpatrick and in episode 4, we learn how she too has become the subject of a formal Labour Party investigation regarding her conduct. In this formal complaint, it is alleged that she had “constantly suggested” that the LFI has “lots of money and power” when in actual fact what she said was the LFI has “money and prestige” and she said it just once. Indeed, as the recording shows, it is Joan Ryan herself who used the alleged words saying: “Labour Friends of Israel have got a lot of power, a lot of money…” presumably in an attempt to elicit a reaction.

The concluding paragraph of the statement against Fitzpatrick read:

“The above incidents and allegations levelled at JF left the complainants feeling victimised, intimidated, and both felt the incident contained what they both described as incidents of anti-Semitism.” 63

In other words, and to quote Joan Ryan’s Parliamentary Assistant, Alex Richardson, again: “I was made to feel uncomfortable and though nothing antisemitic was said I’m sure there were undertones of it…”

Jean Fitzpatrick’s name was cleared. Reflecting on the incident afterwards, she told Al Jazeera:

“I’m just a regular citizen who is concerned about what is happening in the Middle East. And not to be able to talk about that, without being accused of being antisemitic, I find deeply worrying.” 64

A full transcription of the conversation between Joan Ryan and Jean Fitzpatrick (as broadcast) is available in Appendix D below.

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The ‘new antisemitism’ and the PLP’s witch hunt

“The fashion is, if you are on the left today, you are probably very hostile to Israel, if not antisemitic… Some of the people [in the Labour Party] are more Palestinian than the Palestinians” — Mark Regev, Ambassador of Israel 65

Charley Allan, a Jewish member of the party, and a Morning Star columnist, has described the current atmosphere in the press and Labour Party as a “witch hunt.”

It has reached such an absurd volume that any usage of the word “Zionist” is deemed to be anti-Semitic – although tellingly not when used by self-described Zionists.

From an article by Asa Winstanley published last April. The same piece continues:

Smears of anti-Semitism against Corbyn started even before he was elected.

During his leadership campaign in the summer of 2015, the establishment media worked itself into a frenzy of anti-Corbyn hysteria, led more than any other paper by the liberal Guardian.

One of the recurring themes in this campaign was Corbyn’s long-standing support for Palestinian human rights.

Because of this, attempts were made to say outright, or to imply, that Corbyn was a secret anti-Semite, or that he associated with, or tolerated “notorious” anti-Semites.

Although these hit jobs gained some traction, they were soon debunked, and ultimately seemed to have little impact on the leadership election.

Winstanley then unpicks the “anti-Semitism scandal” which allegedly erupted in the Oxford University Labour Club and became a focus of huge media attention:

In a public Facebook posting Alex Chalmers, the co-chair of the club, resigned his position over what he claimed was anti-Semitic behavior in “a large proportion” of the student Labour club “and the student left in Oxford more generally.”

But as evidence he cited the club’s decision, in a majority vote, to endorse Oxford’s Israeli Apartheid Week, an annual awareness-raising exercise by student groups which support Palestinian rights.

This connection was clearly designed to smear Palestine solidarity activists as anti-Semites – a standard tactic of the Israel lobby

The Electronic Intifada can reveal for the first time evidence that Chalmers himself has been part of the UK’s Israel lobby.

Chalmers has worked for BICOM, the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre.

Funded by the billionaire Poju Zabludowicz, BICOM is a leading pro-Israel group in London. […]

Chalmers has also been accused of disseminating a false allegation that a left-wing Labour student at Oxford had organized people into a group to follow a Jewish student around campus calling her a “filthy Zionist,” and that he had been disciplined as a result.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, the accused student said that he had reason to believe Chalmers may have been behind the dissemination of this smear.

Paul Di Felice, the current acting principal of the Oxford college in question, confirmed to The Electronic Intifada the authenticity of a statement from its late principal denying all the allegations. “I have found no evidence of any allegations being made to the college about” the student “involving anti-Semitism, or indeed anything else, during his time at the college,” the statement read.

The Electronic Intifada put all this to Alex Chalmers in an email, but he failed to reply.

In the same article, Asa Winstanley also draws attention to the “large crossover between right-wing, anti-Corbyn Labour and the pro-Israel lobby within the party”:

[MP Wes] Streeting has a long history in Progress, a right-wing faction within the party that continues to support former prime minister Tony Blair.

One of Progress’ leading supporters has described the group as “an unaccountable faction” dominated by the “secretive billionaire” Lord Sainsbury. […]

Streeting and [Chair of JLM, Jeremy] Newmark are arguing for tougher action and changes to the party’s rules.

The head of Progress proposed rule changes in the Mirror which would put “a modern understanding of anti-Semitism” into the party. “It is not acceptable to use the term ‘Zionism’ as a term of abuse,” the article stated, arguing for people who did so to be expelled.

This proposal echoes efforts pushed by Israel lobby groups, including at the University of California, to legislate that opposition to Zionism – Israel’s state ideology – is itself a form of antisemitism. 66

Click here to read the full article entitled “How Israel lobby manufactured UK Labour Party’s anti-Semitism crisis” published by The Electonic Intifada in April 2016.

Back in April 2016, Wes Streeting and Jeremy Newmark were given a free platform by BBC Radio 4’s Today programme to accuse Corbyn of not doing enough to stem the alleged rise in antisemitism, and to call for changes to Labour’s rule book that would make it easier to expel members over charges of antisemitism:

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Meanwhile, there is another battle in Liverpool where MP Louise Ellman, who is the former Chair of the JLM as well as the current Vice Chair of LFI, has called for the suspension of Labour’s Riverside constituency party on the basis of an anonymous dossier:

Momentum and Labour party member Audrey White has now written to the party’s general secretary Iain McNicol urging him to step in, saying the document which was used to accuse far left groups of infiltrating the party, contains “libellous mis-information”.

In her letter to party bosses Audrey White says: “I have recently read that Ms Ellman sent this document to the general secretary of the Labour Party urging the suspension of the Riverside CLP relying on information from this report.

“If this is true, I ask that the NEC not accept this document and give it no credibility whatsoever as this document not only contains falsehoods and whispers, it includes libel.”

Mrs White told the ECHO the MP should “apologise to me and to members of the party” and said: “It’s clearly a dodgy dossier – anything that is unauthored like this is dodgy, and it’s scurrilous. She should be apologising to me, for the hurt to my family from the lies in it, and to the constituency.”

In her letter complaining about the MP she said: “It is wrong for a person holding public office to rely on, quote or promote an anonymous document which is full of lies and scurrilous comments.”

The letter ends: “I find it intolerable that an MP can act in this way and hope that you will take the necessary action.” 67

More recently, veteran activist Audrey White has written to the NEC to say she has no confidence in the investigation – her letter reads:

“Before you make any decisions regarding the future of our CLP I wish to remind you that the Labour Party officials who made unsubstantiated claims of antisemitism at Riverside meetings have a duty of care to all their constituents. What they did amounts to inciting racial tension.

“The many years of work to unite the different communities in our city has been seriously damaged by their actions.

“The fact that these claims were not investigated by the CLP executive or NW Labour for 10 months has helped to create divisions both locally and nationally.

“I am sorry to say I have no confidence in this investigation which I believe is a smokescreen to hide and excuse these powerful people. I fear that in an effort to protect Louise Ellman and (assistant mayor) Nick Small this investigation will produce a headline grabbing false narrative using the words bullying, toxic, intimidation and antisemitism while the solid facts are cast aside.

“There was no bullying and antisemitism this is a fabrication and we will not let this slur against us and our city go unchallenged.” 68

The investigation is ongoing. A list of the allegations contained in the ‘dodgy dossier’ and further responses from the defendants and the Labour NEC can be read in Appendix E.

On January 28th, George Galloway interviewed Audrey White for the second half of his RT show ‘Sputnik’ embedded below:

Click here to watch the same show on the RT website.

The so-called “new antisemitism” – this conflation of antisemitism with all forms of criticism of Israeli policy and its far-right Zionist agenda is Israel’s preferred way to shutdown the debate as I explained in two earlier posts on the subject here and here.

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The BBC and its routine bias against Corbyn

“I am pro-Israel. I believe in the State of Israel” — James Harding, Director of BBC News

The BBC broke accuracy and impartiality rules in a News at Six report about Jeremy Corbyn’s view on shoot-to-kill, the BBC’s governing body has said.

The item, by BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg, was shown three days after the Paris attacks in November 2015.

So begins a damning BBC retraction hidden away in its ‘Entertainment and Arts’ section. The same BBC report then provides a blow-by-blow account of how the interview with political editor Kuenssberg had been deliberately manipulated:

In the News at Six report, Kuenssberg said she had asked Mr Corbyn “if he were the resident here at Number 10 whether or not he would be happy for British officers to pull the trigger in the event of a Paris-style attack”.

He was seen to reply: “I am not happy with a shoot to kill policy in general. I think that is quite dangerous and I think can often be counter-productive.”

The actual question Kuenssberg had asked during the interview was: “If you were prime minister, would you be happy to order people – police or military – to shoot to kill on Britain’s streets?”

The previous question in the interview, in a section that was not used on the News At Six, he had been asked specifically about his response to a Paris-style attack if he was prime minister and whether he would “order security services onto the street to stop people being killed”.

In answer to that question, Mr Corbyn had replied: “Of course you’d bring people onto the streets to prevent and ensure there is safety within our society.” 69

The BBC Trust was strong in its condemnation of Kuenssberg saying:

“The breach of due accuracy on such a highly contentious political issue meant that the output had not achieved due impartiality.”

But in response, James Harding, Director of BBC News, said:

“While we respect the Trust and the people who work there, we disagree with this finding.” 70

Click here to read the full BBC report.

But then Harding, director of BBC News, is very far from an impartial observer. Here is what he said at a media event organized by The Jewish Chronicle in 2011:

“I am pro-Israel. I believe in the State of Israel. I would have had a real problem if I had been coming to a paper [The Times] with a history of being anti-Israel. And, of course, Rupert Murdoch is pro-Israel.”

The strongly Zionist Jewish Chronicle reprinted those words with glee as news of Harding’s BBC appointment broke. And it also took the opportunity to remind its readers that, during the Israeli massacre in Gaza in late 2008 and early 2009, when more than 1,400 Palestinians were slaughtered, Harding wrote a Times editorial titled, “In defense of Israel” (“Signs of The Times at JCC,” 14 April 2011).

Now bringing his pro-Israel biases into the top ranks of the BBC, Harding will be in charge of its flagship news and current affairs programs including Today, Newsnight, Panorama and Question Time. He will also be responsible for daily news bulletins on the BBC’s main television channels and radio stations.

According to the Guardian, Harding now holds “arguably the most important editorial job in Britain” (“James Harding: ex-Times editor could become the story at the BBC,” 16 April 2013).

The news of his appointment to the £340,000 ($518,000) per year post comes just a fortnight after the former Labour Party minister James Purnell took up his new position at the BBC as director of strategy and digital.

Purnell, who was one of Hall’s first appointments, served for two years while in Parliament as chairman of the Westminster lobby group Labour Friends of Israel71

Click here to read the full article entitled “Apologists for Israel take top posts at the BBC” published by The Electonic Intifada in April 2013.

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Click here to read a Guardian article published on May 12th 2016 entitled “BBC may have shown bias against Corbyn, says former trust chair.”

The BBC was also declared guilty of “marked and persistent imbalance” in a report released by the researchers from the Media Reform Coalition and Birkbeck, University of London, which found that “almost twice as much unchallenged airtime was given to people criticising Mr Corbyn than his allies on the BBC”.

Click here to read an Independent article published on July 30th entitled “Media ‘persistently’ biased against Jeremy Corbyn, academic study finds”

The above links were previously appended to this earlier post about last year’s leadership challenge from Owen Smith.

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The scandal of Fox, Gould and Werritty revisited

“If neo-cons such as yourself, Robert [Halfon], are plotting a war in Iran, we should know about it.” — Paul Flynn MP 72

In Craig Murray’s analysis of the revelations involving Shai Masot, he once again draws attention to connections with an earlier scandal surrounding undisclosed and illicit British-Israel relations – the briefly disgraced Liam Fox (quietly rehabilitated and back in May’s cabinet as Secretary of State for International Trade), former UK Ambassador to Israel, Matthew Gould, and their close association with a shadowy figure named Adam Werritty (you can read much more about this in earlier posts here):

The two stories – Russian interference in US politics, Israeli interference in UK politics – also link because the New York Times claims that it was the British that first suggested to the Obama administration that Russian cyber activity was targeting Clinton. Director of Cyber Security and Information Assurance in the British Cabinet Office is Matthew Gould, the UK’s former openly and strongly pro-Zionist Ambassador to Israel and friend of the current Israeli Ambassador Mark Regev. While Private Secretary to David Miliband and William Hague, and then while Ambassador to Israel, Gould held eight secret meetings with Adam Werritty, on at least one occasion with Mossad present and on most occasions also with now minister Liam Fox. My Freedom of Information requests for minutes of these meetings brought the reply that they were not minuted, and my Freedom of Information request for the diary entries for these meetings brought me three pages each containing only the date, with everything else redacted.

I managed to get the information about the Gould/Werritty meetings as a result of relentless questioning, where I was kindly assisted by MPs including Jeremy Corbyn, Caroline Lucas and Paul Flynn. The woman with whom Shai Masot was conniving to undermine Alan Duncan, was Maria Strizzolo, who works for Tory Minister Robert Halfon. It was Halfon who repeatedly tried to obstruct Paul Flynn MP from asking questions of Cabinet Secretary Gus O’Donnell that threatened to get to the heart of the real Adam Werritty scandal.

Both Robert Halfon and Adam Werrity received funding from precisely the same Israeli sources, and in particular from Mr Poju Zabludowicz. Halfon also formerly had a full time paid job as Political Director of the Conservative Friends of Israel. Halfon’s assistant is now caught conspiring with the Israeli Embassy to attack another Tory minister.

Murray then supplies notes from the House of Commons Public Administration Committee, dated 24/11/2011, which you can find reprinted in Appendix F.

Here are the opening exchanges:

Paul Flynn: Okay. Matthew Gould has been the subject of a very serious complaint from two of my constituents, Pippa Bartolotti and Joyce Giblin. When they were briefly imprisoned in Israel, they met the ambassador, and they strongly believe—it is nothing to do with this case at all—that he was serving the interest of the Israeli Government, and not the interests of two British citizens. This has been the subject of correspondence.

In your report, you suggest that there were two meetings between the ambassador and Werritty and Liam Fox. Questions and letters have proved that, in fact, six such meetings took place. There are a number of issues around this. I do not normally fall for conspiracy theories, but the ambassador has proclaimed himself to be a Zionist and he has previously served in Iran, in the service. Werritty is a self-proclaimed—

Robert Halfon: Point of order, Chairman. What is the point of this?

Paul Flynn: Let me get to it. Werritty is a self-proclaimed expert on Iran.

Chair: I have to take a point of order.

Robert Halfon: Mr Flynn is implying that the British ambassador to Israel is working for a foreign power, which is out of order.

Back to Murray:

It is shocking but true that Robert Halfon MP, who disrupted Flynn with repeated points of order, receives funding from precisely the same Israeli sources as Werritty, and in particular from Mr Poju Zabludowicz. He also formerly had a full time paid job as Political Director of the Conservative Friends of Israel. It is not surprising that Shai Masot evidently views Halfon as a useful tool for attacking senior pro-Palestinian members of his own party.

But despite the evasiveness of [Gus] O’Donnell and the obstruction of paid zionist puppet Halfon, O’Donnell confirmed vital parts of my investigation. In particular he agreed that the Fox-Werritty-Gould “private dinner” in Tel Aviv was with Mossad, and that Gould met Werritty many times more than the twice that O’Donnell listed in his “investigation” into the Werritty affair. The truth of the Werritty scandal, hidden comprehensively by the mainstream media, was that Werritty was inside the UK Ministry of Defence working for Israel. That is why it was so serious that Defence Minister Liam Fox had to resign

Of the eight meetings of Fox-Gould-Werritty together which I discovered, seven were while Fox was Secretary of State for Defence. Only one was while Fox was in opposition. But O’Donnell let the cat much further out of the bag, with the astonishing admission to Paul Flynn’s above questioning that Gould, Fox and Werritty held “meetings that took place before the election.” He also referred to “some of those meetings” as being before the election. Both are plainly in the plural.

It is evident from the information gained by Paul Flynn that not only did Fox, Gould and Werritty have at least seven meetings while Fox was in power – with no minutes and never another British official present – they had several meetings while Fox was shadow Foreign Secretary. O’Donnell was right that what Fox and Werritty were up to in opposition was not his concern. But what Gould was doing with them – a senior official – most definitely was his concern. A senior British diplomat cannot just hold a series of meetings with the opposition shadow Defence Secretary and a paid Israeli lobbyist.

All of this underlined the pernicious influence that Israel has in the political class, which is founded on the Israeli lobby’s shameless use of cash for influence – as witnessed in the discussion between Shai Masot and Labour Friends of Israel and his flaunting of a million. Attitudes towards the plight of the Palestinians are an extreme example of the disconnect between public opinion and the views of the political class, and Al Jazeera should be congratulated heartily on giving us a peek into that.

No further evidence is required. There could be no more conclusive evidence of Israel’s undue and pernicious influence than the astonishing fact that Shai Masot has not yet been expelled. 73

Click here to read Craig Murray’s full post entitled “Why Has Israeli Spy Shai Masot Not Been Expelled?”

*

The co-opting of Owen Jones

On February 14th, JLM announced that Owen Jones would be appearing in conversation with their Vice-Chair Sarah Sackman for the inaugural Henry Smith Memorial Lecture on the April 2nd. He is going to speak on “left anti-Semitism, the Middle East and the Labour Party.”

In view of the extraordinary revelations of the recent Al Jazeera documentaries and the prominent role played by JLM in the dirty tricks campaign against Corbyn and his supporters, the timing of Jones’ invitation is highly politically charged. So why did Jones accept?

Here was his offhanded response to criticism from independent journalist Jonathan Cook:

And here is part of Cook’s reply to Jones:

Owen Jones has responded to this blog post both on Twitter, calling it “tedious nonsense” in his usual, dismissive style, and with a post here that tries to deflect attention from my argument with a straw man: that a conspiracy theory is painting him as a stooge of the Israeli government.

No conspiracy is being posited here – only very, very poor judgment. I have also not accused him of working on behalf of the Israeli government. Only of assisting, presumably thoughtlessly, those who are working on behalf of the Israeli government inside the Jewish Labour Movement, including most definitely its current director, Ella Rose.

Sadly, though predictably, he has avoided addressing the point of my criticism. 74

Click here to read the full post on Jonathan Cook’s blog.

Jones ought to be aware, but seems oblivious to the fact, that he is being used:

The Jewish Labour Movement scoring Jones appears to be a high-profile instance of a new push endorsed by Israel’s government to ensure that Palestine solidarity “instigators” are “singled out” from so-called “soft critics” of Israel.

According to The Jewish Daily Forward, the strategy – jointly developed by the Reut Institute and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) – “calls for a big tent approach that accepts progressive critics of Israel” while also demanding “an all-out assault on leading critics of Israel, sometimes using covert means.”

“The instigators must be singled out from the other groups, and handled uncompromisingly, publicly or covertly,” the Reut-ADL report states, according to The Forward, which obtained a copy on condition it not publish the entire document.

The Jewish Labour Movement, a pro-Israel organization within the UK’s main opposition Labour Party, appears to be on board with this strategy.

From a more recent article written by Asa Winstanley and published in The Electronic Intifada. The piece continues:

Following the announcement that Jones would headline the Jewish Labour Movement event, Nazareth-based journalist Jonathan Cook criticized the Guardian columnist for promoting a group “shown to be acting as a front for the Israeli government’s efforts” in Labour.

Jones replied with a blog post calling his critics conspiracy theorists and reaffirming that he was “very glad” to speak at this pro-Israel group’s event.

“I am a passionate opponent of anti-Semitism in all its forms, overt or subtle. It has to be fought, relentlessly, wherever it appears, including on the left,” Jones asserted – an implication that his critics might condone or tolerate anti-Semitism.

Whether Jones realizes it or not, he is facilitating the strategy of isolating Palestine solidarity campaigners by performing the role of “soft critic” of Israel.

Any division in Labour ranks over Jones’ decision will likely be seen by Jewish Labour Movement leaders as a success. 75

Click here to read Asa Winstanley’s full article published on February 21st.

*

Appendix A: Anonymous statement from Tory ex-minister 76

‘Poisonous conduct is a disgrace’:  Minister who served in David Cameron’s government says it is time to end the problem of Israel buying UK policy

Last month Theresa May, like David Cameron each year before her, spoke to the annual lunch of the Conservative Friends of Israel (CFI).

She oozed praise for Israel as a democracy, spoke of the constant terrorist threat they face, and condemned the way that Palestinians supposedly incite violence and anti-Semitism.

Her own policy that considers Israeli settlements on Palestinian land illegal received only a passing mention.

The reason is clear: the Conservative Party wants pro-Israel donors’ money, and principle in the Government’s foreign policy has been relegated.

Matters deteriorated further over Christmas after US Secretary of State John Kerry’s forceful condemnation of the extremism and conduct of Benjamin Netanyahu’s Israeli government.

Instead of agreeing with his comments – which are identical to her own policy – she criticised Kerry.

Behind this inconsistent and concerning attitude lies a serious and troubling problem. British foreign policy is in hock to Israeli influence at the heart of our politics, and those in authority have ignored what is going on.

For years the CFI and Labour Friends of Israel (LFI), have worked with – even for – the Israeli government and their London embassy to promote Israeli policy and thwart UK Government policy and the actions of Ministers who try to defend Palestinian rights.

Lots of countries try to force their views on others, but what is scandalous in the UK is that instead of resisting it, successive Governments have submitted to it, taken donors’ money, and allowed Israeli influence-peddling to shape policy and even determine the fate of Ministers.

Even now, if I were to reveal who I am, I would be subjected to a relentless barrage of abuse and character assassination.

The CFI is not affiliated to the Conservative Party. It is incorporated in a way that means it is not to transparent about donors. Yet it arranges for the support of MPs and funds regular visits to Israel which distort the truth. Cameron turned a blind eye to Israeli misconduct – if he ever cared about it – because he was persuaded any criticism would reduce Party donations.

It now seems clear people in the Conservative and Labour Parties have been working with the Israeli embassy which has used them to demonise and trash MPs who criticise Israel; an army of Israel’s useful idiots in Parliament.

This is politically corrupt, and diplomatically indefensible. The conduct of certain MPs needs to be exposed as the poisonous and deceitful infiltration of our politics by the unwitting agents of another country, which acts in defiance of international law, and whose government Kerry called its most extreme ever.

We need a full inquiry into the Israeli Embassy, the links, access and funding of the CFI and LFI, and an undertaking from all political parties that they welcome the financial and political support of the UK Jewish community, but won’t accept any engagement linked to Israel until it stops building illegally on Palestinian land.

This opaque funding and underhand conduct is a national disgrace and humiliation and must be stamped out.

*

Appendix B: Craig Murray’s query to the FCO media department

For over twelve hours there has been stunned silence from the FCO media department in reply to my questions about the Shai Masot case – I am an NUJ member, and I think the idea of a British journalist actually doing real journalism and asking real questions has astonished them. They have now asked me to put them in writing, and I have just done so. This is what I have submitted.

I am investigating the status of Shai Masot, the Israeli Embassy officer caught plotting against Alan Duncan and who was very active with UK political parties.

I appreciate the FCO line is that the case of his conduct is now closed. But I am not investigating his conduct, I am investigating the improper conduct of the FCO in granting him a visa and residency status in the first place.

My initial questions are these:

1) On what basis was Mr Masot in the UK?
2) He was not on the Diplomatic List, but plainly was a senior officer (an ex Major and current executive in the Directorate of Strategic Affairs) and therefore not qualified in the normal categories of technical and support staff. What precise visa and residence status did he hold?
3) How many more officers does the Israeli Embassy have with that same visa and residence status?
4) Has the FCO connived with the Israeli Embassy to allow many more Israeli intelligence operatives residence in the country than the official and reciprocated diplomatic staff allocation of the Embassy?
5) Did MI5, MI6 or any other of the security services have any input into Mr Masot’s acceptance and visa/residency status?

It is over 12 hours since I contacted the FCO’s media people with these questions. I would appreciate your earliest contact. My number is …

Craig Murray

Do not hold your breath 77

*

Appendix C: A statement from Jackie Walker

“A number of people made comments in a private training session run by the Jewish Labour Movement. As we all know, training sessions are intended to be safe spaces where ideas and questions can be explored. A film of this session was leaked to the press unethically. I did not raise a question on security in Jewish schools. The trainer raised this issue and I asked for clarification, in particular as all London primary schools, to my knowledge, have security and I did not understand the particular point the trainer was making. Having been a victim of racism I would never play down the very real fears the Jewish community have, especially in light of recent attacks in France.

In the session, a number of Jewish people, including me, asked for definitions of antisemitism. This is a subject of much debate in the Jewish community. I support David Schneider’s definition and utterly condemn anti-Semitism.

I would never play down the significance of the Shoah. Working with many Jewish comrades, I continue to seek to bring greater awareness of other genocides, which are too often forgotten or minimised. If offence has been caused, it is the last thing I would want to do and I apologise.”

*

Appendix D: The conversation between Jean Fitzpatrick and Joan Ryan at LFI stall

Labour Party member Jean Fitzpatrick, who was attending her conference, had heard about the Labour Friends of Israel stall and took it upon herself to ask about their position regarding the building of settlements. The dialogue ran as follows [from 8:10 mins]:

Jean Fitzpatrick: Can I just ask you if you’re very anti the settlements – what is Labour Friends of Israel doing about that?

Joan Ryan: We make our view clear and we meet people at all levels in Israeli politics and diplomatic circles, etc. And we make it absolutely clear we’re not friends of Israel and enemies of Palestine, hence our new campaign launching next month and that we’re showcasing here. We believe in a two-state solution and the coexistence and self-determination of both peoples and that’s really important.

JF: And how will that come about do you think?

JR: Well our job is to support any possible means that can bring it about and facilitate…

JF: So what has sort of… come about so far?

JR: Well what we are supporting is coexistence projects, which is what this is about.

JF: But what about Israeli occupation?

JR: Well what we want is a two-state solution and the reason we’ve not got it now at the moment is because there is a distinct lack of security…

This is a big picture situation and we want a two-state solution that is good for all…

JF: No I know, you’ve said that a number of times. But what steps, because you know… So the Labour Party is saying…

JR: Well I’ve told you what steps we’re taking… I’m not going to defend or criticise…

JF: But it seems you are defending Israel.

JR: No. I would defend Israel, I defend Israel’s right to exist. I defend Israel as a democracy, and a social democracy.

JF: But at what expense?

JR: I think we have to be very, very careful not to let our feelings about this morph into anti-Zionism.

JF: So no feelings come into account? No, I’m not being anti-Zionist…

JR: You have to be very careful I think… Don’t we all want a two-state solution based on coexistence and peace?

JF: But I’m asking you how you are bringing about…

JR: So you make your effort and we make ours… Thank you Jean, I’ve enjoyed the conversation, I’m leaving it there.

JF: No, no, I’m asking you about settlements…

JR: Well I’m not answering it anymore, sorry Jean.

JF: … they’ve totally atomised the whole of the West Bank. I’m asking you, I’m really genuinely interested how a two-state solution…?

JR: I’m just working for a two-state solution.

JF: But how can it come about if the whole of the West Bank is atomised?

JR: We’re trying to do everything we can to support and facilitate that solution.

JF: Okay, but in practical terms?

JR: That’s what we’re doing as Labour Friends of Israel, that’s what you’re doing as Palestine Solidarity Campaign. That’s good isn’t it?

JF: No, but I’m asking in terms of the West Bank is atomised, where will the state be? That’s a genuine, genuine question. Where will the state be?

We go over there, we witness, but nothing changes.

You’ve got a lot of money, you’ve got a lot of prestige in the world.

JR: I don’t know where you get that from?

JF: Sorry?

JR: Labour Friends of Israel have got a lot of power, a lot of money… that’s just not…

JF: Well I think so – that’s what I hear. That, you know, it’s a stepping-stone to good jobs. A friend of mine’s son’s got a really good job at Oxford University on the basis of having worked for Labour Friends of Israel.

JR: If you just believe rumours then I…

JF: It’s not a rumour, it’s a fact.

JR: It’s antisemitic.

JF: No it’s not.

JR: It is. It’s a trope.

JF: No it’s not antisemitic, it’s not.

JR: It’s about conspiracy theorists.

JF: It’s not.

JR: Sorry, it is. Anyway, that’s my view and I think we’ll have to agree to differ.

JF: No, I don’t think we do have to agree to differ.

JR: Well I’m agreeing to differ and I am ending the conversation because I am not really wishing to engage in a conversation that talks about getting involved with this [i.e., LFI] and then you get a good job in Oxford or the City or… and that is antisemitic, I’m sorry.

Shortly after her conversation with Jean Fitzpatrick, Joan Ryan discusses it with colleagues.

They’re an antisemitic… you heard her say, you know… “join you lot and you get into Oxford” or “you get into working in the bank” or… That’s antisemitic.

That evening, at a rally to combat antisemitism organised by the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM), Joan Ryan describes her day at the stall:

We have also had three incidents of antisemitic harassment on our stand, to the people who are staffing that stall today. And that, I think tells you something about why we need to be having this Against Antisemitism Rally.

*

Appendix E: The ‘dodgy dossier’ against Riverside CLP

The dossier includes claims that:

* Members and former members of far left groups banned by Labour were attempting to take control of the local party

* A small number of members were attempting to deselect local MP Louise Ellman and local councillors

* Far left members conspired to undermine a local investigation of antisemitism complaints

* The dossier concluded these members were “clearly operating against the best interests of and, in many instances, in direct opposition to the Labour Party”.

But some local party members have said the dossier is “nonsense” – and in her latest letter Ms White says the dossier “contains lies and libel”.

She said: “This is fake news at its most insidious”.

A Labour spokesperson said: “We do not comment on internal party matters. All complaints are taken seriously.”

A Liverpool Labour spokesperson said: “These are serious allegations that have been made in good faith.

“They are being investigated by the Labour Party NEC. They need to be investigated thoroughly.

“What’s important is that everybody gets behind whatever the recommendations are from the NEC, whatever they are, and that people move forward on that basis.”

Louise Ellman’s office said the MP would not comment on Audrey White’s letter and was awaiting the results of the inquiry. 78

Click here to read the full report in the Liverpool Echo.

*

Appendix F: House of Commons Public Administration Committee, 24/11/2011

Q Paul Flynn: Okay. Matthew Gould has been the subject of a very serious complaint from two of my constituents, Pippa Bartolotti and Joyce Giblin. When they were briefly imprisoned in Israel, they met the ambassador, and they strongly believe—it is nothing to do with this case at all—that he was serving the interest of the Israeli Government, and not the interests of two British citizens. This has been the subject of correspondence.

In your report, you suggest that there were two meetings between the ambassador and Werritty and Liam Fox. Questions and letters have proved that, in fact, six such meetings took place. There are a number of issues around this. I do not normally fall for conspiracy theories, but the ambassador has proclaimed himself to be a Zionist and he has previously served in Iran, in the service. Werritty is a self-proclaimed—

Robert Halfon: Point of order, Chairman. What is the point of this?

Paul Flynn: Let me get to it. Werritty is a self-proclaimed expert on Iran.

Chair: I have to take a point of order.

Robert Halfon: Mr Flynn is implying that the British ambassador to Israel is working for a foreign power, which is out of order.

Paul Flynn: I quote the Daily Mail: “Mr Werritty is a self-proclaimed expert on Iran and has made several visits. He has also met senior Israeli officials, leading to accusations”—not from me, from the Daily Mail—“that he was close to the country’s secret service, Mossad.” There may be nothing in that, but that appeared in a national newspaper.

Chair: I am going to rule on a point of order. Mr Flynn has made it clear that there may be nothing in these allegations, but it is important to have put it on the record. Be careful how you phrase questions.

Paul Flynn: Indeed. The two worst decisions taken by Parliament in my 25 years were the invasion of Iraq—joining Bush’s war in Iraq—and the invasion of Helmand province. We know now that there were things going on in the background while that built up to these mistakes. The charge in this case is that Werritty was the servant of neo-con people in America, who take an aggressive view on Iran. They want to foment a war in Iran in the same way as in the early years, there was another—

Chair: Order. I must ask you to move to a question that is relevant to the inquiry.

Q Paul Flynn: Okay. The question is, are you satisfied that you missed out on the extra four meetings that took place, and does this not mean that those meetings should have been investigated because of the nature of Mr Werritty’s interests?

Sir Gus O’Donnell: I think if you look at some of those meetings, some people are referring to meetings that took place before the election.

Q Paul Flynn: Indeed, which is even more worrying.

Sir Gus O’Donnell: I am afraid they were not the subject—what members of the Opposition do is not something that the Cabinet Secretary should look into. It is not relevant.

But these meetings were held—

Chair: Mr Flynn, would you let him answer please?

Sir Gus O’Donnell: I really do not think that was within my context, because they were not Ministers of the Government and what they were up to was not something I should get into at all.

Chair: Final question, Mr Flynn.

Q Paul Flynn: No, it is not a final question. I am not going to be silenced by you, Chairman; I have important things to raise. I have stayed silent throughout this meeting so far.

You state in the report—on the meeting held between Gould, Fox and Werritty, on 6 February, in Tel Aviv—that there was a general discussion of international affairs over a private dinner with senior Israelis. The UK ambassador was present. Are you following the line taken by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government who says that he can eat with lobbyists or people applying to his Department because, on occasions, he eats privately, and on other occasions he eats ministerially? Are you accepting the idea? It is possibly a source of great national interest—the eating habits of their Secretary of State. It appears that he might well have a number of stomachs, it has been suggested, if he can divide his time this way. It does seem to be a way of getting round the ministerial code, if people can announce that what they are doing is private rather than ministerial.

Sir Gus O’Donnell: The important point here was that, when the Secretary of State had that meeting, he had an official with him—namely, in this case, the ambassador. That is very important, and I should stress that I would expect our ambassador in Israel to have contact with Mossad. That will be part of his job. It is totally natural, and I do not think that you should infer anything from that about the individual’s biases. That is what ambassadors do. Our ambassador in Pakistan will have exactly the same set of wide contacts.

Q Paul Flynn: I have good reason, as I said, from constituency matters, to be unhappy about the ambassador. Other criticisms have been made about the ambassador; he is unique in some ways in the role he is performing. There have been suggestions that he is too close to a foreign power.

Robert Halfon: On a point of order, Chair, this is not about the ambassador to Israel. This is supposed to be about the Werritty affair.

Paul Flynn: It is absolutely crucial to this report. If neo-cons such as yourself, Robert, are plotting a war in Iran, we should know about it.

Chair: Order. I think the line of questioning is very involved. I have given you quite a lot of time, Mr Flynn. If you have further inquiries to make of this, they could be pursued in correspondence. May I ask you to ask one final question before we move on?

Sir Gus O’Donnell: One thing I would stress: we are talking about the ambassador and I think he has a right of reply. Mr Chairman, I know there is an interesting question of words regarding Head of the Civil Service versus Head of the Home Civil Service, but this is the Diplomatic Service, not the Civil Service.

Q Chair: So he is not in your jurisdiction at all.

Sir Gus O’Donnell: No.

Q Paul Flynn: But you are happy that your report is final; it does not need to go the manager it would have gone to originally, and that is the end of the affair. Is that your view?

Sir Gus O’Donnell: As I said, some issues arose where I wanted to be sure that what the Secretary of State was doing had been discussed with the Foreign Secretary. I felt reassured by what the Foreign Secretary told me.

Q Chair: I think what Mr Flynn is asking is that your report and the affair raise other issues, but you are saying that that does not fall within the remit of your report and that, indeed, the conduct of an ambassador does not fall within your remit at all.

Sir Gus O’Donnell: That is absolutely correct.

Paul Flynn: The charge laid by Lord Turnbull in his evidence with regard to Dr Fox and the ministerial code was his failure to observe collective responsibility, in that case about Sri Lanka. Isn’t the same charge there about our policies to Iran and Israel?

Chair: We have dealt with that, Mr Flynn.

Paul Flynn: We haven’t dealt with it as far as it applies—

Chair: Mr Flynn, we are moving on.

Paul Flynn: You may well move on, but I remain very unhappy about the fact that you will not allow me to finish the questioning I wanted to give on a matter of great importance.

*

Additional: Open letter to British government signed by 250 academics

The spike in far-right antisemitic incidents on UK campuses that you report (UK universities urged to act over spate of antisemitic stickers and graffiti, 18 February) seems to reflect the increase in xenophobia since the Brexit vote.

Yet the government has “adopted” the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism, which can be and is being read as extending to criticism of Israel and support for Palestinian rights, an entirely separate issue, as prima facie evidence of antisemitism. This definition seeks to conflate criticism of Israel with antisemitism.

Now Jo Johnson, the government minister whose brief includes universities, has written to Universities UK asking for this definition to be disseminated throughout the system. His letter specifically mentions Israeli Apartheid Week (a worldwide activity at this time of year since 2005) as a cause for concern.

The response has been swift. Late last week, in haste and clearly without legal advice, the University of Central Lancashire banned a meeting that was to be addressed by journalist Ben White as well as by academics. The university statement asserted that the meeting on “Debunking misconceptions on Palestine” contravened the definition of antisemitism recently adopted by the government, and would therefore not be lawful.

Meanwhile, the Campaign Against Antisemitism, a body set up during the Israeli assault on Gaza in 2014, cites this definition in asking its supporters to “record, film, photograph and get witness evidence” about Israeli Apartheid Week events; and “we will help you to take it up with the university, students’ union or even the police”.

These are outrageous interferences with free expression, and are direct attacks on academic freedom. As academics with positions at UK universities, we wish to express our dismay at this attempt to silence campus discussion about Israel, including its violation of the rights of Palestinians for more than 50 years. It is with disbelief that we witness explicit political interference in university affairs in the interests of Israel under the thin disguise of concern about antisemitism.

Prof Jonathan Rosenhead, Prof Conor Gearty, Prof Malcolm Levitt, Tom Hickey, Prof Dorothy Griffiths, Prof Moshé Machover, Sir Iain Chalmers, Prof Steven Rose, Prof Gilbert Achcar, Prof Penny Green, Prof Bill Bowring, Mike Cushman, Jim Zacune, Dr Jethro Butler, Dr Rashmi Varma, Dr John Moore, Dr Nour Ali, Prof Richard Hudson, Dr Tony Whelan, Dr Dina Matar, Prof Marian Hobson, Prof Tony Sudbery, Prof John Weeks, Prof Graham Dunn, Dr Toni Wright, Dr Rinella Cere, Prof Ian Parker, Dr Marina Carter, Dr Shirin M Rai, Andy Wynne, Prof David Pegg, Prof Erica Burman, Dr Nicola Pratt, Prof Joanna Bornat, Prof Richard Seaford, Dr Linda Milbourne, Dr Julian Saurin, Dr Nadia Naser-Najjab, Prof Elizabeth Dore, Prof Colin Eden, Dr Neil Davidson, Jaime Peschiera, Catherine Cobham, Prof Haim Bresheeth, Dr Uriel Orlow, Dr Saladin Meckled-Garcia, Dr Abdul B Shaikh, Dr Mark Leopold, Prof Michael Donmall, Prof Hamish Cunningham, Prof David Johnson, Dr Reem Abou-El-Fadl, Dr Luke Cooper, Prof Peter Gurney, Dr Adi Kuntsman, Prof Matthew Beaumont, Dr Teodora Todorova, Prof Natalie Fenton, Prof Richard Bornat, Dr Jeremy Landor, Dr John Chalcraft, Milly Williamson, David Mabb, Dr Judit Druks, Dr Charlie McGuire, Dr Gholam Khiabany, Glynn Kirkham, Dr Deirdre O’Neill, Dr Gavin Williams, Prof Marsha Rosengarten, Dr Debra Benita Shaw, Dr João Florêncio, Prof Stephen Keen, Dr Anandi Ramamurthy, Dr Thomas Mills, Dr Don Crewe, Prof Robert Wintemute, Andy Gossett, Prof Mark Boylan, Angela Mansi, Dr Paul Taylor, Tim Martin, Keith Hammond, Karolin Hijazi, Dr Kevin Hearty, Prof Daniel Katz, Dr Richard Pitt, Prof Ray Bush, Prof Glenn Bowman, Prof Craig Brandist, Prof Virinder S Kalra, Dr Yasmeen Narayan, Prof Michael Edwards, John Gilmore-Kavanagh, Prof Nadje Al-Ali, Prof Mick Dumper, Graham Topley, Dr Shuruq Naguib, Prof David Whyte, Peter Collins, Dr Andrew Chitty, Prof David Mond, Prof Leon Tikly, Dr Subir Sinha, Dr Mark Berry, Dr Gajendra Singh, Prof Elizabeth Cowie, Dr Richard Lane, Prof Martin Parker, Dr Aboobaker Dangor, Dr Siân Adiseshiah, Prof Dennis Leech, Dr Owen Clayton, Dr John Cowley, Prof Mona Baker, Dr Navtej Purewal, Prof Mica Nava, Prof Joy Townsend, Dr Alex Bellem, Dr Nat Queen, Gareth Dale, Prof Yosefa Loshitzky, Dr Rudi Lutz, Dr Oliver Smith, Tim Kelly, Prof Laleh Khalili, Prof Aneez Esmail, Fazila Bhimji, Prof Hilary Rose, Dr Brian Tweedale, Prof Julian Petley, Prof Richard Hyman, Dr Paul Watt, Nisha Kapoor, Prof Julian Townshend, Prof Roy Maartens, Dr Anna Bernard, Prof Martha Mundy, Prof Martin Atkinson, Dr Claude Baesens, Dr Marijn Nieuwenhuis, Dr Emma Heywood, Dr Matthew Malek, Prof Anthony Milton, Dr Paul O’Connell, Prof Malcolm Povey, Dr Jason Hickel, Dr Jo Littler, Prof Rosalind Galt, Prof Suleiman Shark, Dr Paula James, Dr Linda Pickard, Pat Devine, Dr Jennifer Fortune, Prof Chris Roberts, Dr Les Levidow, Dr Carlo Morelli, Prof David Byrne, Dr Nicholas Cimini, Prof John Smith, Prof Arshin Adib-Moghaddam, Dr Peter J King, Prof Bill Brewer, Prof Patrick Williams, Prof Daphne Hampson, Dr Wolfgang Deckers, Cliff Jones, Prof Luis Pérez-González, Prof Patrick Ainley, Dr Paul Kelemen, Prof Dee Reynolds, Dr Enam Al-Wer, Prof Hugh Starkey, Dr Anna Fisk, Prof Linda Clarke, Prof Klim McPherson, Cathy Malone, Prof Graham Dawson, Prof Colin Green, Prof Clément Mouhot, Prof S Sayyid, Prof William Raban, Prof Peter Hallward, Prof Chris Rust, Prof Benita Parry, Prof Andrew Spencer, Prof Philip Marfleet, Prof Frank Land, Dr Peter E Jones, Dr Nicholas Thoburn, Tom Webster, Dr Khursheed Wadia, Dr Philip Gilligan, Dr Lucy Michael, Prof Steve Hall, Prof Steve Keen, Dr David S Moon, Prof Ken Jones, Dr Karen F Evans, Dr Jim Crowther, Prof Alison Phipps, Dr Uri Horesh, Dr Clair Doloriert, Giles Bailey, Prof Murray Fraser, Prof Stephen Huggett, Dr Gabriela Saldanha, Prof Cahal McLaughlin, Ian Pace, Prof Philip Wadler, Dr Hanem El-Farahaty, Dr Anne Alexander, Dr Robert Boyce, Dr Patricia McManus, Prof Mathias Urban, Dr Naomi Woodspring, Prof David Wield, Prof Moin A Saleem, Dr Phil Edwards, Dr Jason Hart, Dr Sharon Kivland, Dr Rahul Rao, Prof Ailsa Land, Dr Lee Grieveson, Dr Paul Bagguley, Dr Rosalind Temple, Dr Karima Laachir, Dr Youcef Djerbib, Dr Sarah Perrigo, Bernard Sufrin, Prof James Dickins, John Burnett, Prof Des Freedman, Dr David Seddon, Prof Steve Tombs, Prof Louisa Sadler, Dr Leon Sealey-Huggins, Dr Rashné Limki, Dr Guy Standing, Dr Arianne Shahvisi, Prof Neil Smith, Myriam Salama-Carr, Dr Graham Smith, Dr Peter Fletcher 79

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1 From “Free speech on Israel under attack in universities”; an open letter to the British government signed by 250 academics published in the Guardian on February 27, 2017. https://www.theguardian.com/education/2017/feb/27/university-wrong-to-ban-israeli-apartheid-week-event

2 From an article entitled “Labour calls for inquiry into Israeli diplomat’s ‘take down MPs’ plot” written by Ewan MacAskill and Ian Cobain, published in the Guardian on January 8, 2017. https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/jan/08/labour-calls-for-inquiry-into-israeli-diplomats-take-down-mps-plot

3 Available in a BBC news report entitled “Israel’s ambassador sorry over ‘take down’ Sir Alan Duncan comment” published January 8, 2017. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-38545671

4 From an article entitled “Labour calls for inquiry into Israeli diplomat’s ‘take down MPs’ plot” written by Ewan MacAskill and Ian Cobain, published in the Guardian on January 8, 2017. https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/jan/08/labour-calls-for-inquiry-into-israeli-diplomats-take-down-mps-plot

5 From a post entitled “Why Has Israeli Spy Shai Masot Not Been Expelled?” written by Craig Murray, published on January 8, 2017. https://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2017/01/israeli-spy-shai-masot-not-expelled/

6 On the train to the Labour Party conference in Liverpool, Masot announces the launch of a new organisation with the help if a US congressman, with direct ties to AIPAC it is to be called The City Friends of Israel.

Once at the conference Masot formally introduces undercover reporter ‘Robin’ to Joan Ryan at the LFI stall. They also discuss paying for influential MPs to take a government-run tour of Israel, and Masot tells Ryan that he has received the approval for funds of “more than one million pounds… from Israel”.

Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 2: The Training Session at 7:55 mins

7 From a post entitled “As Netanyahu and May Chat, a Large Nest of Israeli Spies in London Exposed” written by Craig Murray, published on February 7, 2017. https://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2017/02/netanyahu-may-chat-large-nest-israeli-spies-london-exposed/

8 Words used by Shai Masot in his conversation with Maria Strizzolo as reprinted in this section.

9 Quote from Channel 4’s Dispatches: Inside Britain’s Israel Lobby at 0:25 mins.

10 Transcription from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 4: The Takedown at 21:40 mins and 23:00 mins

11 From an article entitled “Israel plot to ‘take down’ Tory minister: Astonishing undercover video captures diplomat conspiring with rival MP’s aide to smear Deputy Foreign Secretary” written by Simon Walters, published in The Mail on January 7, 2017. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4098082/Astonishing-undercover-video-captures-diplomat-conspiring-rival-MP-s-aide-smear-Deputy-Foreign-Secretary.html

12 Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 4: The Takedown at 9:40 mins

13 Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 3: An Antisemitic Trope at 3:50 mins.

14 Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 3: An Antisemitic Trope at 4.35 mins.

15 From an article entitled “Don’t vote for Jeremy Corbyn, urges new Labour Friends of Israel chair Joan Ryan” written by Marcus Dysch, published in The Jewish Chronicle on August 10, 2015. https://www.thejc.com/news/uk-news/don-t-vote-for-jeremy-corbyn-urges-new-labour-friends-of-israel-chair-joan-ryan-1.68062

16 Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 4: The Takedown at 21:05 mins

17 

“Masot was plainly not carrying out technical and administrative duties. The term is a formal one from the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, and it is plain from the convention that technical and administrative staff are in official status lower than the diplomatic staff. The majority of support activities are carried out in all Embassies by locally engaged staff already resident in the host country, but a very small number of technical and administrative staff may be allowed visas for work in particularly secure areas. They may be an IT and communications technician, possibly a cleaner in the most sensitive physical areas, and perhaps property management.

“These staff do not interact with politicians of the host state or attend high level meetings beside the Ambassador. The level at which Shai Masot was operating was appropriate to a Counsellor or First Secretary in an Embassy. Masot’s formal rank as an officer in his cover job in the Ministry of Strategic Affairs would entitle him to that rank in the Embassy if this were a normal appointment.”

From a post entitled “As Netanyahu and May Chat, a Large Nest of Israeli Spies in London Exposed” written by Craig Murray, published on February 7, 2017. https://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2017/02/netanyahu-may-chat-large-nest-israeli-spies-london-exposed/

18 Images and text from an article entitled “Britain’s Most Undesirable Immigrant: Why Was Shai Masot Given a Visa?” written by Craig Murray, published on January 10, 2017. https://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2017/01/britains-undesirable-immigrant-shai-masot-given-visa/

19 From a post entitled “As Netanyahu and May Chat, a Large Nest of Israeli Spies in London Exposed” written by Craig Murray, published on February 7, 2017. https://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2017/02/netanyahu-may-chat-large-nest-israeli-spies-london-exposed/

20 Quoted from anonymous statement made by a former Tory minister in Cameron’s Cabinet (see Appendix A)

21 Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 1: Young Friends of Israel at 3:35 mins.

22 Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 4: The Takedown at 14:00 mins

23 Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 4: The Takedown at 14:25 mins

24 Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 4: The Takedown at 15:15 mins

25 Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 4: The Takedown at 16:05 mins

26 Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 4: The Takedown at 16:40 mins

27 From an article entitled “The Cowardice at the heart of our relationship with Israel” written by Peter Oborne, published in The Telegraph on December 12, 2012. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/israel/9740044/The-cowardice-at-the-heart-of-our-relationship-with-Israel.html

28 From an article entitled “Jewish community leader speaks out over SNP ‘Israel Front Group’” written by Michael Gray, published in CommonSpace on September 22, 2016. https://www.commonspace.scot/articles/9418/jewish-community-leader-speaks-out-over-snp-israel-front-group

29 Shai Masot: “We Believe in Israel is sitting together in the offices of BICOM. But it’s not the same organisation.”

Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 2: The Training Session at 3:40 mins.

30 “I went on one of the trips of the Conservative Friends of Israel to the Middle East. It was brilliantly well arranged. [You were] very well looked after – you got fantastic access. You did meet Palestinians. If all you did was to rely on that one trip, you would have a very one-sided point of view.”  – Peter Oborne

Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 1: Young Friends of Israel at 8:10 mins

31 Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 4: The Takedown at 19:30 mins

32 Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 4: The Takedown at 20:00 mins

33 Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 2: The Training Session at 4:50 mins

34 Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 2: The Training Session at 5:05 mins

35 Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 2: The Training Session at 5:25 mins

Rubin then adds: “Being LFI allows us to reach out to people who wouldn’t want to get involved with the Embassy. Keeping it as a separate thing is actually best for everyone because ultimately we want the same goal of getting more people to be pro-Israel and understand the conflict. It’s just how you do it.”

36 Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 1: Young Friends of Israel at 16:20 mins

37 Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 1: Young Friends of Israel at 23:45 mins

38 Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 1: Young Friends of Israel at 24:35 mins

39 Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 2: The Training Session at 19:45  mins

40 Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 2: The Training Session at 11:10  mins

41 Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 2: The Training Session at 4:05 mins

42 Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 2: The Training Session at 13:45  mins

43 Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 2: The Training Session at 14:15  mins

44 Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 2: The Training Session at 15:30  mins

45 Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 2: The Training Session at 16:15  mins

46 Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 2: The Training Session at 17:15  mins

47 From an article entitled “Labour suspends Jackie Walker over Halocaust comments” published in the Guardian on September 30, 2016. https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/sep/30/labour-suspends-jackie-walker-over-holocaust-comments

48 I cannot find a link but the evidence of this statement is available in Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 2: The Training Session at 20:15 mins

49 Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 2: The Training Session at 13:25  mins and at 18:00 mins

50 Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 2: The Training Session at 18:20  mins

51 Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 2: The Training Session at 18:30  mins

52 Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 2: The Training Session at 19:50  mins

53 Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 2: The Training Session at 19:10  mins and 21:20 mins

54 Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 2: The Training Session at 20:35  mins

55 Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 3: An Antisemitic Trope at 4.55 mins.

56 All quotes above taken from an article entitled “New Jewish Labour Movement director was Israeli embassy officer” written by Asa Winstanley, published in The Electonic Intifada on September 21, 2016. https://electronicintifada.net/blogs/asa-winstanley/new-jewish-labour-movement-director-was-israeli-embassy-officer

57 Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 2: The Training Session at 24:30 mins

58 Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 3: An Antisemitic Trope at 20:00 mins.

59 From a report entitled “Israel Lobby: Antisemitism battle in UK Labour Party” published by Al Jazeera Investigation Unit on January 13, 2017. http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/01/israel-lobby-antisemitism-battle-uk-labour-party-170113073206692.html

60 Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 3: An Antisemitic Trope at 21:30 mins.

61 Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 3: An Antisemitic Trope at 23:20 mins.

62 Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 3: An Antisemitic Trope at 23:45 mins.

63 Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 4:The Takedown at 11:15 mins.

64 Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 4:The Takedown at 12:10 mins.

65 Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 3: An Antisemitic Trope at 3:00 mins.

66 From an article entitled “How Israel lobby manufactured UK Labour Party’s anti-Semitism crisis” written by Asa Winstanley, published in The Electonic Intifada on April 28, 2013. https://electronicintifada.net/content/how-israel-lobby-manufactured-uk-labour-partys-antisemitism-crisis/16481

67 From an article entitled “Formal complaint against Liverpool MP over use of ‘dodgy dossier’” written by Liam Murphy, published in the Liverpool Echo on October 13, 2016. http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/formal-complaint-against-liverpool-mp-12023001

68 From an article entitled “Labour activist slams delays in investigating antisemitism ‘slur’ in Liverpool” written by Alistair Houghton, published in the Liverpool Echo on January 16, 2017. http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/labour-activist-slams-delays-investigating-12463533

69 From an article entitled Laura Kuenssberg report on Jeremy Corbyn inaccurate, says BBC trust” published by BBC news on January 18, 2017. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-38666914

70 Quotes taken from the same BBC article.

71 From an article entitled “Apologists for Israel take top posts at the BBC” written by Amena Saleem, published in The Electonic Intifada on April 23, 2013. https://electronicintifada.net/content/apologists-israel-take-top-posts-bbc/12395

72 Paul Flynn MP speaking at the House of Commons Public Administration Committee, 24/11/2011. See Appendix F.

73 From a post entitled “Why Has Israeli Spy Shai Masot Not Been Expelled?” written by Craig Murray, published on January 8, 2017. https://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2017/01/israeli-spy-shai-masot-not-expelled/

74 From a post entitled “Why is Owen Jones helping to subvert Corbyn?” written and published by Jonathan Cook on February 15, 2017. http://www.jonathan-cook.net/blog/2017-02-15/why-is-owen-jones-helping-to-subvert-corbyn/

75 From an article entitled “How the Israel lobby is using Owen Jones” written by Asa Winstanley, published in The Electronic Intifada on February 21, 2017. https://electronicintifada.net/blogs/asa-winstanley/how-israel-lobby-using-owen-jones

76 From an article entitled “Israel plot to ‘take down’ Tory minister: Astonishing undercover video captures diplomat conspiring with rival MP’s aide to smear Deputy Foreign Secretary” written by Simon Walters, published in The Mail on January 7, 2017. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4098082/Astonishing-undercover-video-captures-diplomat-conspiring-rival-MP-s-aide-smear-Deputy-Foreign-Secretary.html

77 Published as part of Craig Murray’s post entitled “Britain’s Most Undesirable Immigrant: Why Was Shai Masot Given a Visa?” written by Craig Murray, published on January 10, 2017. https://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2017/01/britains-undesirable-immigrant-shai-masot-given-visa/

All quotes transcribed from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 3: An Antisemitic Trope between 8:00–16:00 mins.

78 From an article entitled “Labour activist slams delays in investigating antisemitism ‘slur’ in Liverpool” written by Alistair Houghton, published in the Liverpool Echo on January 16, 2017. http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/labour-activist-slams-delays-investigating-12463533

79 From “Free speech on Israel under attack in universities”; an open letter to the British government signed by 250 academics published in the Guardian on February 27, 2017. https://www.theguardian.com/education/2017/feb/27/university-wrong-to-ban-israeli-apartheid-week-event

 

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anti-Zionism ≠ antisemitism: Jewish voices against the pro-Israel witch hunt

Ask yourself a simple, but serious, question. You go for a job interview. Which trait is most likely to work against you: if you’re ugly, if you’re fat, if you’re short, or if you’re Jewish? It’s perhaps a sad commentary on our society’s values, but the trait most likely to elicit a rejection letter is if you’re ugly. Then fat; then short. The factor least likely to work against you is, if you’re Jewish.

says American Jewish scholar Norman Finkelstein.

Finkelstein, who is the son of holocaust survivors, a leading authority on the Israel-Palestine conflict, and a fierce opponent of Zionism, was replying to questions about Labour’s alleged “antisemitism problem”. Asked about the current campaign against Corbyn, he continued:

The question you have to ask yourself is, why? Why has this issue been resurrected with a vengeance, so soon after its previous outing was disposed of as a farce? Is it because of a handful of allegedly antisemitic social media postings from Labour members? Is it because of the tongue-in-cheek map posted by Naz Shah? That’s not believable. The only plausible answer is, it’s political. It has nothing whatsoever to do with the factual situation; instead, a few suspect cases of antisemitism – some real, some contrived – are being exploited for an ulterior political motive. As one senior Labour MP said the other day, it’s transparently a smear campaign.

Finkelstein has chosen to break his silence on this latest pro-Israel witch hunt by giving an interview to Jamie Stern-Weiner. A transcript published May 3rd is available here.

He concludes the interview as follows:

Labour has now set up an inquiry that is supposed to produce a workable definition of ‘antisemitism’ – which is to say, to achieve the impossible. It’s been tried countless times before, and it’s always proven futile. The only beneficiaries of such a mandate will be academic ‘specialists’ on antisemitism, who will receive hefty consultancy fees (I can already see Richard Evans at the head of the queue), and Israel, which will no longer be in the spotlight. I understand the short-term political rationale. But at some point, you have to say, ‘enough already’. Jews are prospering as never before in the UK. The polls show that the number of, so to speak, hard-core antisemites is miniscule. It’s time to put a stop to this periodic charade, because it ends up besmirching the victims of the Nazi holocaust, diverting from the real suffering of the Palestinian people, and poisoning relations between the Jewish and Muslim communities. You just had an antisemitism hysteria last year, and it was a farce. And now again? Another inquiry? Another investigation? No.

In order to put an end to this, there has to be a decisive repudiation of this political blackmail. Bernie Sanders was brutally pressured to back down on his claim that Israel had used disproportionate force during its 2014 assault on Gaza. He wouldn’t budge, he wouldn’t retreat. He showed real backbone. Corbyn should take heart and inspiration from Bernie’s example. He has to say: no more reports, no more investigations, we’re not going there any more. The game is up. It’s long past time that these antisemitism-mongers crawled back into their sewer – but not before humbly apologising to Naz Shah, and begging her forgiveness.

It is true that Bernie Sanders’ response is an exemplary one, but we should of course bear in mind that he is a Jewish candidate. This provides immunity (at least to some extent – though not entirely as we shall see) from spurious charges of antisemitism.

Incidentally, the published interview was afterwards appended with the following clarification:

Readers have expressed shock at the scandalous remarks attributed to Jonathan Freedland. Finkelstein decided to amend the paragraph so as to quote Freedland word-for-word. Readers will now perhaps be even more shocked.

Here’s what Finkelstein said that caused such a furore:

You can see this overlap between the Labour Right and pro-Israel groups personified in individuals like Jonathan Freedland, a Blairite hack who also regularly plays the antisemitism card. He’s combined these two hobbies to attack Corbyn. Incidentally, when my book, The Holocaust Industry, came out in 2000, Freedland wrote that I was ‘closer to the people who created the Holocaust than to those who suffered in it’. Although he appears to be, oh, so politically correct now, he didn’t find it inappropriate to suggest that I resembled the Nazis who gassed my family.

We appeared on a television program together. Before the program, he approached me to shake my hand. When I refused, he reacted in stunned silence. Why wouldn’t I shake his hand? He couldn’t comprehend it. It tells you something about these dull-witted creeps. The smears, the slanders – for them, it’s all in a day’s work. Why should anyone get agitated? Later, on the program, it was pointed out that the Guardian, where he worked, had serialised The Holocaust Industry across two issues. He was asked by the presenter, if my book was the equivalent of Mein Kampf, would he resign from the paper? Of course not. Didn’t the presenter get that it’s all a game?

Click here to read the full transcript of Finkelstein’s scathing rebuke of all accusations of latent racism within the Labour Party, including those levelled at Ken Livingstone.

*

Naz Shah has been hung out to dry today. She has confessed, recanted and repented. Her shame is absolute. She has had the Labour Party whip withdrawn and people like the rapidly moving rightwards airhead, Owen Jones, was in the vanguard of the witch hunt calling for her suspension John McDonnell was right to swiftly force Naz Shah’s resignation – but now the party has to suspend her. All we need is the scaffold and then she could literally be hung out to dry.

writes founding member of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign in Britain and Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods, Tony Greenstein, who has also written a number of articles for the Guardian’s ‘Comment is Free’, before “being censored because he rejected the idea that comparing Zionism and the Israeli State to the Nazis was anti-Semitic.”

Greenstein continues:

Indeed Naz Shah has confessed to her comments being anti-Semitic. Isn’t that enough proof? No. The defendants in the Stalin purge trials also confessed to being Trotsky’s agents and more. It is perfectly possible to create a psychological atmosphere such that people will confess to all manner of things, even though they are not guilty. Police interrogators have, throughout the years, been quite skilled in obtaining false confessions without the need to beat people up or torture them.

So let me say it here – there is nothing anti-Semitic in what Naz Shah has said. She made what was quite a flippant humorous joke in the midst of something that was anything but funny – the merciless use of American planes, white phosphorous and the most modern missiles and rocket technology against a people who had nothing except pea crackers to fire back with (the ‘rockets’ that Israel used as a pretext for the bombardment and invasion). Let us not forget that 2,200 people were murdered in Gaza including 551 ‘terrorist’ children.

He adds:

The anti-Semitism talked about today is nothing more than an attempt to defend Israel. It has nothing to do with actual anti-Semitism. Zionists (no it’s not a term of abuse it means those who defend the State of Israel – they do after all have a World Zionist Organisation) find it difficult to defend incarceration and torture of children as young as 12 (if they are Palestinian). Jewish children of course can’t be locked up unless they are at least 14 and they have social workers and parents accompanying them unlike Palestinian children who are kept in solitary confinement, beaten and worse. It is difficult defending a system where 93% of Israeli land is reserved wholly for Jewish use. It is much better to cry ‘anti-Semitism’ and attack the messenger rather than the message.

What is happening is that the millions of pounds that the Israeli government has devoted to propaganda is being spent now to destabilise Jeremy Corbyn and the new Labour leadership.  They are hunting down every tweet, email etc. in order to create an atmosphere of permanent instability. I know because tweets I have issued have been taken totally out of context to suggest I am anti-Semitic. If someone calls me a ‘self-hater’anti-Semite’ etc. I will accuse them of being ‘zio scum’ or whatever. Anti-Semitic? Get a life.

Greenstein is another to have been caught up in the recent witch hunt, when he was prominently featured in an article published by The Telegraph on April 1st entitled “Activist who derides critics as ‘Zionist scum’ admitted to Labour in latest anti-Semitism scandal to hit the Party”. The piece very studiously avoids any mention of the rather glaring fact that Greenstein is from an Orthodox Jewish family, although at the end a clarification has since been added that “we have been asked to make clear that we had not intended to imply that Tony Greenstein is anti-Semitic. We are happy to do so.”

Click here to read more from Tony Greenstein’s extended piece entitled “Naz Shah – More False Allegations of ‘anti-Semitism’ – British Jews are NOT oppressed: This is a Bogus Campaign Worthy of Stalin’s Purges”

*

As the witch hunt gathered pace, the Jewish Socialists’ Group issued a formal statement. Thanks to social networking forums it quickly gathered a sizeable audience across the internet. However the corporate media turned an immediate blind eye instead.

I recommend reading the full statement, but here is a flavour:

Accusations of antisemitism are currently being weaponised to attack the Jeremy Corbyn-led Labour party with claims that Labour has a “problem” of antisemitism. This is despite Corbyn’s longstanding record of actively opposing fascism and all forms of racism, and being a firm a supporter of the rights of refugees and of human rights globally. […]

The attack is coming from four main sources, who share agendas: to undermine Jeremy Corbyn as leader of Labour; to defend Israeli government policy from attack, however unjust, racist and harmful towards the Palestinian people; and to discredit those who make legitimate criticisms of Israeli policy or Zionism as a political ideology. As anti-racist and anti-fascist Jews who are also campaigning for peace with justice between Israelis and Palestinians, we entirely reject these cynical agendas that are being expressed by:

  • The Conservative Party
  • Conservative-supporting media in Britain and pro-Zionist Israeli media sources
  • Right-wing and pro-Zionist elements claiming to speak on behalf of the Jewish community
  • Opponents of Jeremy Corbyn within the Labour party.

[…]

The Jewish Socialists’ Group sees the current fearmongering about antisemitism in the Labour Party for what it is – a conscious and concerted effort by right-wing political forces to undermine the growing support among Jews and non-Jews alike for the Labour Party leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, and a measure of the desperation of his opponents.

We stand against antisemitism, against racism and fascism and in support of refugees. We stand for free speech and open debate on Israel, Palestine and Zionism.

*

Concluding remarks:

Back in March, as the current witch hunt was just brewing, I posted an extended article entitled “anti-Zionism ≠ antisemitism: playing the race card cannot diguise Israel’s guilt”. As an epigraph, I quoted a dictionary definition of the word ‘racism’. My idea was to encourage readers to reflect on the strict meaning of the word so as to reach an appreciation that this has significantly drifted and, more importantly, been diluted.

On reflection the use of such a device was gauche and may have appeared sententious, although in light of what has since transpired my concern was surely a justifiable one. Indeed, the need to reclaim the word ‘racism’ is becoming an urgent one. Casually brandished by those whose sole purpose is to blacken the name of their opponents, its proper meaning is cheapened. This is an exceedingly dangerous game. For words very often act as safeguards against the gravest of our errors: ‘racism’ serves as just such a safeguard. We undermine its correct meaning at our collective peril.

*

Update:

Jackie Walker, Vice Chair of the grassroots movement Momentum that helped Jeremy Corbyn become party leader, is another Labour activist who was suspended over alleged antisemitic comments posted on social media.

Walker, who is a black activist of Jewish heritage and lifelong anti-racist campaigner as well as a signatory to Jews For Justice For Palestinians was interviewed by Afshin Rattansi on RT’s Going Underground on March 21st:

 

On May 21st, Walker was invited back on the show to speak about the charge of antisemitism against her and how the suspension has affected her life:

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summary execution in Hebron: Israel denies charge that it carries out routine extra-judicial killings

The video below was shot in Hebron on Thursday [March 24th] by Israel’s B’Tselem human rights group. The footage is graphic (although details are intentionally blurred out) and shows an IDF soldier executing wounded and incapacitated Palestinian suspect, Abed al-Fatah al-Sharif, from point blank range and then, no less shocking, fellow Israeli soldiers and medics ignoring the incident and carrying on as though nothing happened:

“Today, we have the proof, the actual video of the soldier shooting the Palestinian youth in the head after he was shot and wounded and laying on the ground,” said Hisham Sharabati of Al Haq, a Palestinian human-rights group. “Now we will wait and see if the Israeli soldier will be prosecuted for his actions.”

Sarit Michaeli, a spokeswoman for the Israeli rights organization B’tselem, said she thought that prosecution was unlikely, based on past experience. She said that for her, “the most shocking thing about the video, aside from the action of the soldiers, is the callous indifference of the soldiers and officers and members of security forces around him.”

Ms. Michaeli blamed “the public climate in Israel,” with “virtually every politician condoning the notion” that Palestinian attackers should be killed. “You cannot but have an impact on the soldiers on the ground,” she said.

Ms. Michaeli said there were suspicions in at least 12 other cases of Israeli soldiers using disproportionate force to kill Palestinian attackers.

Click here to read more of the same report in The New York Times published on March 24th.

“I state here that this soldier is not a murderer, and that prosecution on a murder clause would be a total loss of control,” Bennett told Israel Radio in remarks echoed by other ministers, including from Netanyahu’s rightist Likud.

Education Minister Naftali Bennett, who heads the far-right Jewish Home party in the coalition government, cautioned against murder charges. Israeli media said Bennett sparred with Netanyahu over the issue at Sunday’s cabinet meeting.

The Hebron incident brought to the boil a debate in Israel over whether excessive force has been used against Palestinian assailants. Palestinian leaders have accused the Israelis of routine extra-judicial killings – a charge that Israel denies.

According to Army Radio, the soldier arrived on the scene after other troops determined the Palestinian no longer posed any danger, and twice told comrades he “deserves to die”.

The infantryman’s family said he had feared the Palestinian might set off a hidden bomb. Supporters circulated an online petition demanding that he be decorated for bravery.

“I state here that this soldier is not a murderer, and that prosecution on a murder clause would be a total loss of control,” Bennett told Israel Radio in remarks echoed by other ministers, including from Netanyahu’s rightist Likud.

[all bold highlights added]

Click here to read more from Reuters report published March 27th.

*

Update:

“Whether he made a mistake or not, is a trivial question,” said an Israeli Jewish man who joined large protests throughout Israel in support of a soldier who calmly, and with precision, killed a wounded Palestinian man in al-Khalil (Hebron). The protesting Jewish man described Palestinians as ‘barbaric’, ‘bestial’, who should not be perceived as people.

This is hardly a fringe view in Israel. The vast majority of Israelis, 68%, support the killing of Abdel Fatah Yusri al-Sharif, 21, by the solider [sic] who had reportedly announced before firing at the wounded Palestinian that the “terrorist had to die.”

writes Ramzy Baroud in an article entitled “The Logic of Murder in Israel: A Culture of Impunity in Full View of the Entire World” published by Counterpunch on April 14th. Baroud continues:

Killing Palestinians as a form of religious duty goes back to the early days of the Jewish state, and such beliefs are constantly corroborated by the country’s high spiritual institutions, similar to the recent decree issued by the country’s Chief Sephardic Rabbi, Yitzhak Yosef. While 94% of ultra-Orthodox agree with the murder edict of Yosef, 52% of the country’s secularists do, too.

In fact, dehumanizing Palestinians – describing them as ‘beasts’, ‘cockroaches’, or treating them as dispensable inferiors – has historically been a common denominator in Israeli society, uniting Jews from various political, ideological and religious backgrounds.

Rabbi Yosef’s decree, for example, is not much different from statements made by Israeli Defense Minister, Moshe Ya’alon, and other army and government official, who made similar calls, albeit without utilizing a strongly worded religious discourse.

Using the same logic, the quote above describing Palestinians as beasts is not divergent from a recent statement made by Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. “At the end, in the State of Israel, as I see it, there will be a fence that spans it all,” Netanyahu said in February. “In the area that we live, we must defend ourselves against the wild beasts,” he added.

Ramzy Baroud concludes the piece:

In case one is still fooled by the ‘rational’ argument used to justify the murder of militarily occupied, oppressed and besieged Palestinians, Batzalel Smotrich, from the Jewish Home Party, which is part of Netanyhu’s ruling coalition, protested via twitter that his wife was expected to give birth in the same hospital room where Arab babies are born.

His written ‘rationale’, after declaring that his wife “is not a racist’, “It’s natural that my wife wouldn’t want to lie next to someone whose baby son might want to murder my son.”

The likes of Smotrich, and the majority of Israelis are morally blind to their own wrongdoing. They have long been sold on the idea that Israel, despite its brutality is a ‘villa in the jungle’. According to a recent Pew survey, nearly half of Israelis want to expel Palestinians Arabs – Muslims and Christians, from their ancestral homeland.

The danger of impunity is not merely the lack of legal accountability, but the fact that it is the very foundation of most violent crimes against humanity, including genocide.

This impunity began seven decades ago and it will not end without international intervention, with concerted efforts to hold Israel accountable in order to bring the agony of Palestinians to a halt.

[All hypertext links added]

Click here to read the full article.

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anti-Zionism ≠ antisemitism: playing the race card cannot disguise Israel’s guilt

racism n.1 a a belief in the superiority of a particular race; prejudice based on this. b antagonism towards other races, esp. as a result of this. 2 the theory that human abilities etc. are determined by race. 1

As you read on please keep in mind this dictionary definition of racism. Reflect upon it and consider if this definition better fits the supporters of Israel’s policy against the Palestinians, or those who support Palestinian rights and in turn accuse Israel of being an apartheid state. Ask too whether in accordance with the strict definition, it is antisemitic, and thus racist, to take either an anti-Israel or an anti-Zionist stance.

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On August 14th 2002, Democracy Now! interviewed Shulamit Aloni, leading Israeli civil rights activist and former Knesset member who headed the Meretz Party. In reply to the question “Often when there is dissent expressed in the United States against policies of the Israeli government, people here are called antisemitic: what is your response?” she said:

Well, it’s a trick. We always use it.

Continuing:

When from Europe somebody’s criticising Israel then we bring up the Holocaust. When in this country [America] someone is criticising Israel then they are antisemitic… It’s very easy to blame people who criticise certain acts of the Israeli government as antisemitic and to bring up the Holocaust and the suffering of the Jewish people and that justifies everything we do to the Palestinian people.

Click here to read a full transcript and to watch the interview on the Democracy Now! website. [The extract above begins at 51 mins in]

Please note that I added the above section with a view to better framing the article. The post originally opened with the dictionary definition directly followed by my own views below.

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Signs of antisemitism?

As the Conservative party divides its time between running the country and tearing itself apart over Europe, Labour has been consumed with a rather different problem. In the past two weeks, it has had to expel two activists for overt racism. That follows the creation of an inquiry into the Labour club at Oxford University, after the co-chair resigned saying the club was riddled with racism. The racism in question is hatred of Jews. 2

writes Jonathan Freedland in a recent Guardian article entitled “Labour and the left have an antisemitism problem”.

Antisemitism has a diabolical history, so can this really be true? Is the Labour Party deeply infected with racism? Or is this really another salvo in the war against Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters – a war that began even before he was elected leader? More later.

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Meanwhile, over at AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, Hillary Clinton last week addressed the more than 14,000 delegates gathered for their annual Policy Conference. She said:

Many of the young people here today are on the front lines of the battle to oppose the alarming boycott, divestment and sanctions movement known as BDS. Particularly at a time when antisemitism is on the rise across the world, especially in Europe, we must repudiate all efforts to malign, isolate and undermine Israel and the Jewish people. I’ve been sounding the alarm for a while now. As I wrote last year in a letter to the heads of major American Jewish organizations, we have to be united in fighting back against BDS. Many of its proponents have demonized Israeli scientists and intellectuals, even students. To all the college students who may have encountered this on campus, I hope you stay strong. Keep speaking out. Don’t let anyone silence you, bully you or try to shut down debate, especially in places of learning like colleges and universities. Antisemitism has no place in any civilized society—not in America, not in Europe, not anywhere. 3

Of course antisemitism – and every form of racism – has no place in any society. But since when did boycott, divestment and sanctions constitute racism? And is it true that antisemitism is on the rise again and “especially in Europe”? Where in Europe is it on the rise? More later.

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AIPAC greets The Donald

Attending this year’s AIPAC convention alongside Hillary were all the presidential hopefuls with the exception of Bernie Sanders and Jill Stein of the Green Party, the only Jewish candidates in the race. Keen to curry favour with their influential hosts, the rest were soon falling over themselves to heap praise and promise unreserved support to Israel.

Prior to his appearance at AIPAC, Trump had declared that he would remain “neutral” in brokering any peace deal between Israel and Palestine. But fickle as ever, ‘The Donald’ was not about to be outdone by his rivals and overeager to push the right buttons. So besides reassuring the audience of his absolute determination to overturn the Iran deal, here is a sample of what else he said last Monday [March 21st]:

When I’m president, believe me, I will veto any attempt by the U.N. to impose its will on the Jewish state. It will be vetoed 100 percent.

And he said:

When I become president, the days of treating Israel like a second-class citizen will end on day one.

And:

Already half of the population of Palestine has been taken over by the Palestinian ISIS and Hamas, and the other half refuses to confront the first half, so it’s a very difficult situation that’s never going to get solved unless you have great leadership right here in the United States.

We’ll get it solved. One way or the other, we will get it solved.

And:

We will send a clear signal that there is no daylight between America and our most reliable ally, the state of Israel.

And:

The Palestinians must come to the table knowing that the bond between the United States and Israel is absolutely, totally unbreakable.

And then he said:

They must come to the table willing and able to stop the terror being committed on a daily basis against Israel. They must do that.

And they must come to the table willing to accept that Israel is a Jewish state and it will forever exist as a Jewish state. 4

And finally he told everyone in the room how much he loved Israel and how much he loved the people in the room who shared his love for Israel and then they all applauded him until their hands were stinging.

Here is how Haaretz correspondent Chemi Shalev reported on Trump’s performance:

Trump entered the Verizon Center in Washington D.C. as a prime suspect but emerged clean as a whistle. In less than half an hour, he took a skeptical and apprehensive audience and turned them into gushing cheerleaders. He went into the arena as a racist demagogue but soon came out as an ostensibly serious contender. He faced a tough test of his mettle but passed it with flying colors and hardly any effort. He came away with a kosher “K” certificate, issued by one of the most powerful and influential organizations in America.

Adding:

In honor of AIPAC… he undertook an extreme makeover, reading a tightly formulated speech from the kind of teleprompter that he usually mocks. He didn’t deviate from his prepared text, which wasn’t any different from the addresses made on Monday by Hillary Clinton, John Kasich and even House Speaker Paul Ryan, another AIPAC favorite. Ted Cruz, usually considered a far better speaker than Trump, suddenly sounded dazed and confused. 5

There were also a handful of delegates who opted to boycott Trump’s appearance on the grounds that Trump himself is a racist. Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld was one of the few and he wrote afterwards:

[And] the laws and teachings of Judaism make it clear that Trump qualifies as wicked. He has equivocated about whether he would disavow support from David Duke and the Ku Klux Klan. He has called for a ban on all Muslims entering the United States. He has suggested that torture be made legal and that the U.S. military kill the families of terrorism suspects (a war crime in international law as surely as it would be an ethical crime in religious law). Sure, he walked back some of those comments, but there is no question that his campaign is inspiring and nourishing the bigots and racists of the world. Lately, he has openly encouraged violence at his rallies. This combination of providing sustenance to racists and encouraging violence is a deadly one that represents an existential threat to our country. That certainly qualifies as wicked.

Before Trump’s speech, I asked other attendees at the AIPAC conference whether they would walk out to protest. Some small groups did leave, to study Torah elsewhere during his address. But most stayed, and many applauded. People told me that they wanted to hear what he had to say. They wanted to hear whether he would be supportive of Israel.

Whether he supports Israel is irrelevant to me. If a person inspires bigotry and racism, we should not overlook those character traits just because he says something with which we agree. Just the opposite: that he does agree with us on some issues makes his message even more dangerous, as it can make his bigotry and racism more palatable. 6

Rabbi Herzfeld is correct and I commend him. The jury can no longer be out on Donald Trump. Trump is an unabashed ethnic supremacist and a racist – he ticks all boxes of any definition. Moreover, those who loudly applaud him, whether within the capricious ranks of America’s so-called libertarian right, or its more rabid offshoot the Tea Party, or amongst Monday’s cheering crowd at AIPAC, thereby condone his racism. To oppose racism, you must denounce Trump.

[But] it is important to note that AIPAC inviting Trump is not an aberration, it is in line with AIPAC’s mission to support Israel regardless of how illegal and repressive its policies are.

writes Samantha Brotman from Jewish Voice for Peace in an article entitled “If Trump’s Racism Shocks You, So Too Should AIPAC’s”.

Brotman continues:

The reality is many of the alarming statements and political proposals that have even AIPAC goers up in arms over Trump’s participation are already policy in Israel. Israel’s Law of Return privileges Jewish immigrants over non-Jews, Israel already refuses to open its doors to Syrian refugees (many of whom are of Palestinian origin), and is building  highly militarized walls both on its southern border to keep out migrants and refugees, and throughout the West Bank to seize land and limit Palestinian freedom of movement. There is not much difference between Netanyahu’s racist fear-mongering to get votes in the 2015 Israeli election, and the blatant racism of Trump, or the no-less-racist dog-whistling by other candidates. And AIPAC unquestioningly supports Israel’s rights to continue these oppressive practices.

She concludes:

If Trump’s racism or policy proposals shock us, then so too should AIPAC. If the other candidates’ dehumanizing rhetoric about Palestinians makes us uncomfortable, then so too should AIPAC. If the claim that the BDS movement—a nonviolent movement that includes many Jews and emphasizes human rights—is essentially anti-Semitic confounds us, then so too should AIPAC. AIPAC represents everything we should seek to purge from politics: racism, inhumanity, fear-mongering, and entrenched commitment to the status quo. 7

Click here to read the full article published by Mint Press News.

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Crying wolf at the ADL

Yoav Shamir is an Israeli Jew and an award-winning documentary filmmaker who set off in the late noughties to answer a nagging question. Having never experienced it, he asked himself, “what is antisemitism today?”

Along the way Shamir posed this same question in various ways to amongst others, political scientist John Mearsheimer, who co-authored The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, and Norman Finkelstein, the son of two Jewish concentration camp survivors and a fierce critic of Israeli policy. But central to his search for answers was the Anti-Defamation League (ADL); the biggest organisation in the world fighting antisemitism with an annual budget at the time of over $70 million. Happily, Abraham Foxman, the then-head of the New York-based ADL, had agreed to give Shamir unprecedented access to his organisation.

Yoav Shamir’s film “Defamation” is also available without subtitles by following the link: http://www.disclose.tv/embed/108237

The ADL tell Shamir that they receive reports of about 1,500 incidents of antisemitism a year but are detecting “a spike” in levels which appears to be centred on New York. As Shamir soon realises, however, supporting evidence for this claim is scant. Instead, those inside the ADL have evidently fallen into the habit of mistaking and reclassifying minor irritations and petty disputes as racist assaults.

ADL Regional Director, Bob Wolfson explains the levels to Shamir with the help of a flip chart and a roughly doodled pyramid:

“It starts with an insult, a denigrating statement, and at the very top what you have is genocide—and in between is every bad thing that can happen to someone.”

The film Defamation (2009 – embedded above) is a masterpiece of even-handedness and understatement. What Shamir discovers is how in contrast to very real and often acute feelings of Jewish vulnerability to outside threats and hostility, this sense of jeopardy (certainly in the western world) is for the most part groundless. Moreover, that the ADL itself, having a need to justify its own existence, helps to promote such a culture of suspicion and hypersensitivity by priming a feedback process which promotes and amplifies these anxieties. Unsurprisingly, his documentary was not well-received in all quarters. Shamir answers his critics here.

Today, when Clinton adjudges the BDS campaign antisemitic and places this in the context of the general though unsubstantiated claim that “antisemitism is on the rise across the world” she is appealing to an already heightened anxiety felt by her audience before skilfully playing on its uncertainties and suspicions. In doing so, she further aggravates the situation by saying: “we must repudiate all efforts to malign, isolate and undermine Israel and the Jewish people.” A quite deliberate muddling together of Israel with the Jewish people that would itself be deemed racist, were it not for Clinton’s pro-Israel stance.

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The Corbyn affair

Jonathan Freedland, who describes himself as a ‘liberal Zionist’, wrote in the aftermath of Israel’s euphemistically named “Operation Protective Edge” military offensive of 2014:

Never do liberal Zionists feel more torn than when Israel is at war. 8

Yet the “war” he speaks of was in reality a one-sided massacre in which more than a thousand totally innocent Gazans lost their lives. Just another of Israel’s perennial acts of bloodletting that its most heinous apologists describe as “mowing the lawn”.

In a separate piece published a month later (also in The New York Review of Books), Freedland added:

In the toxic environment that characterizes much, if not most, debate on the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, a special poison is reserved for the liberal Zionist. Such a person, who stands by Israel even as he yearns for it to change, is fated to be hated by both camps: hawkish Zionists despise the liberal for going too far in his criticisms, accusing him of a hand-wringing betrayal of the cause that can only comfort the enemy, while anti-Zionists denounce the liberal for not going far enough, for failing to follow the logic of his position through to its conclusion and for thereby defending the indefensible. The liberal Zionist is branded either a hypocrite or an apologist or both. 9

Freedland’s self-pitying sticks in the throat, the more so after one also reads (within his reflections on “Operation Protective Edge” in the first article):

So there is a weariness in the liberal Zionist fraternity. Privately, people admit to growing tired of defending Israeli military action when it comes at such a heavy cost in civilian life, its futility confirmed by the frequency with which it has to be repeated. Operation Cast Lead was in 2008-2009. Operation Pillar of Defense followed in 2012. And here we are again in 2014. 10

This refrain of the ‘liberal Zionists’ is a familiar one. When we strip it to the bone we see how casually it reduces the murder of civilians to an awkward necessity. “Its futility” – its ineffectiveness – as Freedland says, “confirmed by the frequency with which it has to be repeated”. But because Freedland is an artful wordsmith he is seldom so careless when it comes to abetting Israel’s hypocrisy and defending the indefensible.

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Freedland’s current dispute with the Labour Party is ostensibly about two party activists:

The cases of Gerry Downing and Vicki Kirby certainly look pretty rotten. The former said it was time to wrestle with the “Jewish Question”, the latter hailed Hitler as a “Zionist God” and tweeted a line about Jews having “big noses”, complete with a “lol”. 11

These opinions are abhorrent and offensive and in light of which the Labour Party has acted to suspend Downing and expel Kirby. 12 But these tweets, undeniably antisemitic as they are, represent the views of two individuals and are not ones held by the Labour Party or shared by Jeremy Corbyn.

Incidentally, at the time these cases came to light, the Labour leader was not Corbyn but Ed Miliband – Miliband who is the son of Polish Jews who had emigrated to Belgium but later fled the Nazi occupation. Furthermore, “Red Ed” as the tabloids soon labelled him, was the preferred choice of those ‘on the left’ of the party – the constituency Freedland wishes to hold to account.

However Freedland also has a bigger axe to grind and goes on:

[But] this is the brick wall Jews keep running into: the belief that what Jews are complaining about is not antisemitism at all, but criticism of Israel. Jews hear this often. They’re told the problem arises from their own unpleasant habit of identifying any and all criticism of Israel as anti-Jewish racism. Some go further, alleging that Jews’ real purpose in raising the subject of antisemitism is to stifle criticism of Israel.

So does Freedman deny that critics of Israel are routinely pilloried both on the trumped up charge of antisemitism, or, if the critic happens to be of Jewish ethnicity (as increasingly many are), then on grounds that they are “self-hating Jews”. Well, let’s go on:

What of those who attack not Jews, but only Zionists? Defined narrowly, that can of course be legitimate. If one wants to criticise the historical movement that sought to re-establish Jewish self-determination in Palestine, Zionism is the right word.

But Zionism, as commonly used in angry left rhetoric, is rarely that historically precise. It has blended with another meaning, used as a codeword that bridges from Israel to the wider Jewish world, hinting at the age-old, antisemitic notion of a shadowy, global power, operating behind the scenes.

So being anti-Zionist is equivalent to antisemitism too? Read on further:

To state the obvious, criticism of Israel and Zionism is not necessarily anti-Jewish: that’s why there are so many Jewish critics of Israel, inside and outside the country. But it doesn’t take a professor of logic to know that just because x is not always y, it does not follow that x can never be y. Of course opposition to Israel is not always antisemitic. But that does not mean that it is never and can never be antisemitic.

Any clearer? Well let me translate it. Freedland is saying that if I (a Jew) use the word Zionism to criticise Israel then that’s fine, but if you (a non-Jew) make a parallel argument then there may be grounds for suspicion…

Which brings us to Jeremy Corbyn.

Of course it does – where else could his meandering diatribe possibly have been heading?

No one accuses him of being an antisemite. But many Jews do worry that his past instinct, when faced with potential allies whom he deemed sound on Palestine, was to overlook whatever nastiness they might have uttered about Jews, even when that extended to Holocaust denial or the blood libel – the medieval calumny that Jews baked bread using the blood of gentile children.

Thus begins Freedland’s repetition of an old calumny against Corbyn about how he once unwittingly brushed shoulders with a holocaust denier called Paul Eisen. 13 Corbyn might not be an actual in-the-flesh antisemite, Freedland argues, but perhaps antisemitism doesn’t matter enough to him, which self-evidently explains why he is rude about Israel.

Guilt by association is a recognised type of ad hominem fallacy, as any professor of logic would also know, and literally proves nothing. Moreover, by mudslinging of this sort, Freedland and fellow inquisitors of the “new antisemitism” commit a second fallacy: precisely the one they rightly accuse their enemies of. By concatenating Israel with Jewishness and Zionism with Judaism, as they do, they conjure up spurious accusations that ultimately trivialise the true meaning and evil of racism.

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This is Jeremy Corbyn being arrested at an anti-apartheid protest demo outside the South African embassy in 1984.

And here is Corbyn talking about the incident in the House of Commons later:

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Racism and the Z-word

Here’s what the Urban Dictionary tells us about the word “Zionist”:

1. A person, Jewish or non-Jewish, who, by some action, supports the State of Israel.
2. A substitue [sic] word for ‘jew’ used by anti-semites who, for whatever reason, wish to hide their racist intent.

1. Robin moved to Israel because he is a Zionist. 
2. Any quote by George Galloway using the word ‘Zionist’.

That qualifies as satire apparently.

For the record, I have never heard George Galloway confuse Israel and Judaism. When he was put on trial last February by BBC’s Question Time, denounced by an unbalanced panel (that included Jonathan Freedland) and heckled by hostile audience, he very assiduously outlined the distinction, saying:

“This is a dangerous conflation. It’s a false synonym. Zionism and Israel are different things from Judaism and Jewishness. And anybody who confuses these two things, whether they are an antisemite, or whether they are so-called leaders of the Jewish community is making a grave mistake.”

[from 6:20 mins in]

As I wrote then in an earlier piece, there are plenty of accusations that can be fairly levelled at Galloway, but antisemitism is not on that list. Galloway is not a racist. Indeed, he has consistently spoken out against all types of racism. However, by speaking out loudly against Israel and Zionism, he is now presumed guilty of the “new antisemitism”.

All that said, Galloway’s roasting on Question Time did provide a rare moment of television for another reason. It had been a very long time since such an extended debate about Zionism was broadcast on the BBC.

Today, the word ‘Zionism’ itself is seldom heard in the mainstream media or anywhere respectable outside of Zionist forums themselves. Although within Zionist circles, it is breezily described as the Z-word. For instance, when Ed Miliband visited Israel back in April 2014 and remarked to students at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem that “For me, Israel is the homeland for the Jewish people”, adding that:

“I come here very conscious of my family’s history and also with a deep sense of gratitude to Israel for what they did for my grandmother. Israel was a sanctuary for her from the most indescribable grief. So it’s a personal journey for me as well.”

He was rounded on by some pro-Israel voices for “being afraid to use the Z-word”. The Times of Israel afterwards reported:

It was a full and personal answer, but at the same time a dodge and obfuscation. Miliband managed to say he believed in the necessity of Israel and its right to exist without having to use the Z-word. He had landed himself in hot water for calling himself a Zionist once before in March 2013 – a declaration he had to walk back within twenty-four hours, his office clarifying he had “not used the word Zionist to describe himself” – and wasn’t about to do it again. […]

Since he became the first Jewish leader of the British Labour Party in September 2010, Miliband has made a conscious attempt to court Jewish community leaders and institutions. In contrast to the obviously strong relationship between the community and David Cameron and Boris Johnson, Miliband was unknown and is still, to an extent, distrusted.

The big problem for the “Jewish community”, according the same article, was that Miliband had “come out in strong opposition to Operation Protective Edge”:

While it might at first seem incongruous to have come out against Operation Protective Edge at a time when relations with the Jewish community were just beginning to warm up, it should be understood that the considerations of the Jewish community were very much separate and secondary to internal Labour Party politics. Within the Parliamentary Labour Party, it is fair to say, a majority of MPs subscribe to the view articulated by Miliband. 14

The article I quote above is entitled “Ed Miliband has a very Jewish problem”. But does he really? Or might it be fairer and more accurate to say The Times of Israel has a very Zionist problem? A problem that once again involves the all-too casual muddling up of Jewishness with Israel.

There is plenty of reason, of course, for Miliband to have steered clear of the Z-word, since it is one of those words that encourages asymmetric interpretations depending upon who is using it. Zionists may use it freely amongst themselves, but once anyone from an anti-Zionist quarter picks it up, then no matter how carefully they tread, they are more than likely to be accused of the “new antisemitism” – of racism by stealth – a very serious charge and one that is next to impossible to defend against.

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There has in fact been overall decline in the usage of the Z-word that can be traced back to the late 1970s. 15 So what happened to cause the drop-off?

To understand it helps us to go back to 1975 when the United Nations General Assembly voted overwhelming in favour (72 votes to 35) of a resolution calling for the “Elimination of all forms of racial discrimination”. What was remarkable and perhaps shocking about Resolution 3379 was that it directly pointed to the equivalence between “the racist regime in occupied Palestine and the racist regimes in Zimbabwe and South Africa”. The Resolution ended with this uncompromising declaration: “Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination”. 16

When this resolution was repealed in 1991, The New York Times reported:

Deputy Secretary of State Lawrence S. Eagleburger, who led the American delegation at this afternoon’s session, argued that repeal would bring the United Nations better into line with the realities of the post-cold-war world.

Equating Zionism with racism, Mr. Eagleburger said, “demonstrated like nothing else before or since, to what extent the cold war had distorted the United Nation’s vision of reality, marginalized its political utility and separated it from its original moral purpose.”

Alternatively:

Speaking against repeal on behalf of the Arabs, Lebanon’s representative, Khalil Makkawi, warned that it would hinder the peace process by whetting the appetite of “Israeli extremists wishing to pursue their policy of creeping annexation.”

It would also, he went on, “fuel the passions” of those Arabs “who believe the whole peace process is an exercise in futility which gives Israel more time to expand and achieve its revisionist Zionist project.”

But he said the Arab group “will revise its assumptions” if the sponsors of today’s repeal motion can now persuade Israel to comply with the Security Council’s demands that it cede occupied Arab lands in return for peace. 17

Sadly, post-Cold War history has shown Khalil Makkawi’s forecast to be the accurate one. Palestinian lands do indeed continue to be eaten away by the never-ending construction of illegal Israeli settlements, and as the Palestinian lands are stolen, their non-Jewish population is subjugated in a myriad ways and subjected to collective punishment that includes the partial starvation of those blockaded inside the Gaza Strip. 18

Given the terrible history of racism and oppression that culminated in the Holocaust, it is understandable and justifiable that the Jewish population demanded a right to sanctuary after the Second World War. But to settle the land of Israel those who arrived then callously swept aside a local people and in doing so transformed from victims into oppressors.

Not all Zionists are hawks, of course, and not all endorse the Zionist hawks of Israel’s right-wing Likud government. But Zionists today, liberal Zionists very much included, who unreservedly defend the right to a Jewish homeland are implicitly committed to supporting Israel’s founding principle of division along ethnic lines. They thereby tacitly approve all Israel’s past and current crimes including the horrors of the Palestinian exodus (or al-Nakbah, literally “the disaster”), an ethnic cleansing of more than 700,000 Palestinians during 1948 that was long denied. Somehow after a further half a century of brutal occupation, they can square all of this with their conscience.

Meanwhile, the men running Israel today are avowed Zionists of the most fundamentalist hue and the hard-line agenda they adhere to remains one of segregation and victimisation of the Palestinian people. It is a cruel expansionist apartheid system that is racist by any definition.

As Yousef Munayyer, executive director of U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, replied to political scientist Robert Freedman on a recent episode of Democracy Now! [March 22nd], responding to his claim (like Clinton’s) that BDS means “singling out Israel, when there are so many worse things happening in the world, [and] I think, is in fact antisemitism, and there’s no other way of looking at it”:

It’s the same exact argument, and you can go back and read the op-ed pieces that were written by the apologists for South African apartheid. It’s the same argument that we used to hear back in the ’70s and ’80s. When people were saying it’s time to divest from the apartheid system in South Africa, the apologists for apartheid were saying, “Look, there’s all kinds of horrible things going on in Africa and elsewhere. Why are you singling out South Africa? Don’t you understand the blacks in South Africa have it so much better than blacks elsewhere in Africa?” I mean, the arguments are almost word for word the same. And the reality is that the outcome has to be the same, as well, and the apologists for apartheid cannot be allowed to win. It’s only through the efforts—the nonviolent efforts—of civil society to hold Israel accountable for its violations of abuses—and abuses of Palestinian human rights that we are going to see any kind of change on the ground, especially if governments like the United States government, which is playing such a large role, continue to abdicate in their responsibility of doing something. [from 23 mins in]

Click here to read a full transcript or watch the discussion on the Democracy Now! website.

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The final words I leave with Rachel Sandalow-Ash of Open Hillel:

It’s sort of easy to call anything we don’t like anti-Semitism, but that’s sort of to diminish what real anti-Semitism is. And I think it’s very important to call that out when and where it exists but not to use anti-Semitism, and the fear of it, as a way of shutting down voices that challenge accepted viewpoints in our community.

Taken from an excellent recent article published by Mondoweiss entitled “Zionism is finally in the news, as officials seek to conflate anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism”.

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Update:

Since I posted this article, Bernie Sanders – “the first Jew in American history to win a delegate, much less a primary” (as CNN’s Jake Tapper pointed out) – has likewise been accused of “blood libel”. The accuser on this occasion is former Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren, an American-born historian who now serves in the Knesset. Oren, who is an unrestrained pro-Israel attack dog, claims that Sanders owes Israel an apology after he inadvertently misstated the number of Palestinians massacred in Gaza in 2014.

On April 14th, Democracy Now! invited Joel Beinin, Professor of Middle East history at Stanford University and the former Director of Middle East Studies at the American University in Cairo, to share his thoughts on Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton’s stance on Israel. Beinin said:

Bernie has been evolving. If we remember the summer of Israel’s assault on Gaza, when he tried to shout down people in a town meeting who asked him to be more critical of Israel, he was toeing the Democratic Party line. He has now backed off from that. He wants to be more balanced. He has appointed Simone Zimmerman as his Jewish community outreach coordinator. She recently wrote an op-ed in Haaretz, the leading liberal daily of Israel, saying that we should talk about boycott, divestment and sanctions; very friendly to Jewish Voice for Peace. A lot of what he’s saying is still a good bit away from where I think he should be. But compared to Hillary Clinton, who pretty much parrots the Likud line, he’s in a different place.

And regarding Clinton:

Hillary Clinton was giving you the standard cant. Nobody says Israel has the most powerful military between Morocco and Pakistan. They really don’t need any more armaments. They have 200 nuclear weapons and so on. And moreover, yes, there have been terrorist attacks against Israel. None of them, altogether, represent anything remotely resembling an existential threat to Israel. They’re unfortunate. It’s a tragic loss of civilian life when that happens. But from a security point of view, it’s not a big deal. On the other hand, Israel has aggressively attacked its neighbors in 1956, in 1967, in 1982. On balance, Israel has been the aggressor for most of its historical existence.

Hillary, I don’t know if she knows the history, doesn’t care about the history. She says what candidates need to say in order to get elected. Bernie Sanders is inching his way towards a more reasonable position. He is pointing out that Israel is expanding settlements. He mentioned in the interview with the New York Daily News that the settlements are actually illegal, although he wasn’t clear that every single one of them is illegal according to international law. And that’s not a matter of who thinks international law means what. But he’s moving along. It’s clear that the millennials who support him 85 to 15 are more critical of Israel, and he’s getting closer to their views.

Click here to watch the interview or read the full transcript at the Democracy Now! website.

*

1 Definition taken from The eighth edition of The Concise Oxford Dictionary published by Clarendon Press, Oxford. 1990.

2 From an article entitled “Labour and the left have an antisemitism problem” written by Jonathan Freedland, published in the Guardian on March 18, 2016. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/mar/18/labour-antisemitism-jews-jeremy-corbyn

3 A full transcript of Hillary Clinton’s speech to AIPAC is available here: http://time.com/4265947/hillary-clinton-aipac-speech-transcript/

4 A full transcript of Donald Trump’s speech to AIPAC is available here: http://time.com/4267058/donald-trump-aipac-speech-transcript/

5 From an article entitled “Trump’s Hypnotic Gig at AIPAC Will Go Down in History – or Infamy” written by Chemi Shalev, published in Haaretz on March 22, 2016. http://www.haaretz.com/world-news/u-s-election-2016/1.710222

6 From an article entitled “Donald Trump is wicked. As a rabbi, I had to protest his AIPAC speech” written by Shmuel Herzfeld, published in The Washingon Post on March 23, 2016. https://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2016/03/23/donald-trump-is-wicked-as-a-rabbi-i-had-to-protest-his-aipac-speech/

7 From an article entitled “If Trump’s Racism Shocks You, So Too Should AIPAC’s” written by Samatha Brotman, published by Mint Press News on March 22, 2016. http://www.mintpressnews.com/trumps-racism-shocks-aipacs/214961/

8 From an article entitled “Liberal Zionism After Gaza” written by Jonathan Freedland, published in The New York Review of Books on July 26, 2014. http://www.nybooks.com/daily/2014/07/26/liberal-zionism-after-gaza/

9 From an article entitled “The Liberal Zonists” written by Jonathan Freedland, published in The New York Review of Books on August 14, 2014. http://www.nybooks.com/articles/2014/08/14/liberal-zionists/

10 From an article entitled “Liberal Zionism After Gaza” written by Jonathan Freedland, published in The New York Review of Books on July 26, 2014. http://www.nybooks.com/daily/2014/07/26/liberal-zionism-after-gaza/

11 From an article entitled “Labour and the left have an antisemitism problem” written by Jonathan Freedland, published in the Guardian on March 18, 2016. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/mar/18/labour-antisemitism-jews-jeremy-corbyn

12

At the weekly meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party on Monday night, MPs urged Jeremy Corbyn to act after it emerged Ms Kirby had recently been given her new post – and that the party had said new evidence was needed of further misconduct to expel her.

The decision to simply issue Ms Kirby with a warning was taken by the party’s ruling National Executive Committee in 2014, under Ed Miliband’s leadership.

But today, as the NEC met for its quarterly meeting, the party changed its position. A spokeswoman said: “Vicki Kirby has been suspended from the Labour party pending an investigation.”

Gerry Downing, who had also spoken of the need to “address the Jewish question”, won an appeal against his suspension as a Labour member, but was eventually expelled after “new evidence” came to light.

From an article entitled “Labour Suspends Party Member Vicky Kirby AGAIN After MPs Urge Jeremy Corbyn To Take Action On Anti-Semitism” written by Paul Waugh, published by Huffington Post on March 17, 2016. http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/jeremy-corbyn-vicky-kirby-anti-semitism_uk_56e80319e4b03fb88ede23bf

13

The most shocking accusation, originating with The Daily Mail, is that Corbyn has “long standing links” with Paul Eisen, a “notorious” Holocaust denier involved in the group Deir Yassin Remembered.

Eisen certainly expresses disgusting views, denying the Nazi Holocaust took place and frequently expressing other anti-Semitic opinions on his blog.

However, his only real notoriety is for his attempts to infiltrate the Palestine solidarity movement.

Once it became clear what his views were, he was widely condemned and shunned by a movement which is fundamentally anti-racist in its basic principles. Indeed, even in the blog post which the Mail relied on as the source for its smear, Eisen admits that the movement has long “despised me.”

The only real link between the two men (as the Mail conveniently omitted) is that Eisen happens to live in Corbyn’s Islington parliamentary constituency in North London.

Eisen claims to have met him in that capacity – as Corbyn is his member of parliament. It is nonetheless odd that the Mail would be so keen to take the word of a Holocaust denier when it comes to his relationship with Corbyn.

From an article entitled ‘4 reasons the “anti-Semitism” attacks on Jeremy Corbyn are dishonest’ written by Asa Winstanley, published by The Electronic Intifada on August 19, 2015. https://electronicintifada.net/blogs/asa-winstanley/4-reasons-anti-semitism-attacks-jeremy-corbyn-are-dishonest

14 From an article entitled “Ed Miliband has a very Jewish problem” written by Liam Hoare, published in The Times of Israel on August 14, 2014. http://www.timesofisrael.com/ed-miliband-has-a-very-jewish-problem/

15 You can find a plot of usage with time here: https://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?year_start=1800&year_end=2008&corpus=15&smoothing=7&case_insensitive=on&content=zionism&direct_url=t4%3B%2Czionism%3B%2Cc0%3B%2Cs0%3B%3BZionism%3B%2Cc0%3B%3BZIONISM%3B%2Cc0

The graph peaks in 1978 and then declined by about a third in little more than three decades.

16 You can download the document containing Resolution 3379 (XXX) from the United Nations website following this link: http://www.un.org/documents/ga/res/30/ares30.htm

The full text is also available on wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Nations_General_Assembly_Resolution_3379

17 From an article entitled “U.N. Repeals Its ’75 Resolution Equating Zionism With Racism” written by Paul Lewis, published by The new York Times on December 17, 1991. http://www.nytimes.com/1991/12/17/world/un-repeals-its-75-resolution-equating-zionism-with-racism.html

18

Documents, whose existence were denied by the Israeli government for over a year, have been released after a legal battle led by Israeli human rights group, Gisha. The documents reveal a deliberate policy by the Israeli government in which the dietary needs for the population of Gaza are chillingly calculated, and the amounts of food let in by the Israeli government measured to remain just enough to keep the population alive at a near-starvation level. This documents the statement made by a number of Israeli officials that they are “putting the people of Gaza on a diet”.

From an article entitled “Israeli Government Documents Show Deliberate Policy To Keep Gazans At Near-starvation Levels” written by Saed Bannoura, published by International Middle East Media Center on November 10, 2010. http://www.imemc.org/article/59843

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what’s the truth about the civil war in Syria? update: on the origins of ISIS

According to a recent survey conducted between June 10th  and July 2nd by ORB International, a U.K.-based  market research firm, that was published in the Washington Post on September 15th, 82% of Syrians questioned believe “IS is US and foreign made group”.*

So are four out of every five Syrians mistaken…?

*

This will be the longest article I have ever published and also the most intensively documented. The main assertion is that the story of the Syrian “civil war” as it has been (and continues to be) presented – periodically reframed to conceal the most glaring discrepancies in the permitted narrative – is entirely phoney. That the Arab Spring was not so much the catalyst for an uprising which opened the door for Islamist terrorists, but served as a pretext to orchestrate regime change by means of a deliberate invasion of Salafist death squads. In short, that al-Qaeda factions (ISIS is merely an allied splinter group and a later brand) were always the unwitting agent and enabling force for western expansionism in the pursuit of corporatist geostrategic interests – most obviously for the capture and control of fossil fuel resources.

To argue that al-Qaeda/ISIS operate as our pawns does not mean, however, that we own them – only that (with the help of close allies) we have covertly backed them, and then manoeuvred and manipulated them to pursue our ends. This strategy is not as novel as it may sound, but tried and tested in the Cold War battle to defeat the Soviet Union when we armed and backed the Mujahideen (forerunners to al-Qaeda) during Operation Cyclone.

More than three years ago (August 7th, 2012), I published an article entitled “what’s the truth about the civil war in Syria?” in which I collated evidence of how the west and its allies were already knowingly supporting al-Qaeda fighters against Assad. Back then I wrote:

It seems then, that America are back in the business of supporting al-Qaeda. This is not as unusual as it may sound. If you wind back only as far as the Libyan intervention you’ll find that al-Qaeda was leading much of the opposition there too. Indeed, you may recall that back in November, the black flag of al-Qaeda was actually raised over the courthouse in Benghazi – the place where the Libyan revolution had first ignited

And including an appending quote taken from an article entitled “Al-Qaeda’s specter in Syria”, written by Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies for the Council on Foreign Relations, Ed Husain, that reads:

The Syrian rebels would be immeasurably weaker today without al-Qaeda in their ranks. By and large, Free Syrian Army (FSA) battalions are tired, divided, chaotic, and ineffective. Feeling abandoned by the West, rebel forces are increasingly demoralized as they square off with the Assad regime’s superior weaponry and professional army. Al-Qaeda fighters, however, may help improve morale. The influx of jihadis brings discipline, religious fervor, battle experience from Iraq, funding from Sunni sympathizers in the Gulf, and most importantly, deadly results. In short, the FSA needs al-Qaeda now.

What follows is a sequence of official admissions and mainstream articles that document the origins of ISIS in Iraq and subsequent expansion into Syria which prove beyond contradiction that the west backed the extremists since the earliest stages of the “civil war”, how the majority of the so-called “rebels” are and always have been foreign invaders and not domestic insurgents, and why the only viable long-term solution must be a political one that starts with the total isolation of all Islamist terrorist groups. For as Vice President Joe Biden confessed to us a year ago, when they were looking for opponents to fight the Assad government “there was no moderate middle”. Moreover, Biden, strangely eager to spill the beans, then went on to say:

[America’s allies] poured hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of tons of weapons into anyone who would fight against Assad – except that the people who were being supplied were al-Nusra and al-Qaeda, and the extremist elements of jihadis coming from other parts of the world.

[Joe Biden’s speech from October 2014 is transcribed in its entirety in the timeline below.]

However, what Biden failed to add is how both the emergence and the survival of ISIS are not solely due to Gulf state support nor merely the maintenance of supply lines running via Turkey, but more directly thanks to the clandestine activities of the CIA under the leadership of General David Petraeus and then John Brennan who spent $1 billion a year ($1 out of every $15 of the CIA budget) to train and equip some 10,000 fighters. To a considerable extent, it has been the CIA that built up ISIS:

The CIA declined to comment on the program or its budget. But U.S. officials defended the scale of the expenditures, saying the money goes toward much more than salaries and weapons and is part of a broader, multibillion-dollar effort involving Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey to bolster a coalition of militias known as the Southern Front of the Free Syrian Army.

Much of the CIA’s money goes toward running secret training camps in Jordan, gathering intelligence to help guide the operations of agency-backed militias and managing a sprawling logistics network used to move fighters, ammunition and weapons into the country.

Click here to read the full Washington Post report entitled “Secret CIA effort in Syria faces large funding cut” published on June 12th.

It is also worth bearing in mind that the Nato war against ISIS which began August last year has been an inherently phoney one. A war committed to achieving two mutually incompatible outcomes: on the one hand, the restoration of order by the annihilation of Islamist terrorists in the region, and, on the other, the defeat of the Syrian army to bring about the toppling of the government. And given these contradictory goals, how can we be sure that the primary mission has ever been to weaken ISIS, rather than an opportunity to further damage and degrade Syrian infrastructure, which is, of course, another prerequisite for regime change?

Today’s “coalition of the willing” is in any case intrinsically conflicted. For instance, when the US supported Kurdish resistance fighters in the battle to liberate Kobane a year ago, we are told that they accidentally airdropped weapons and other supplies to Islamic State fighters – which happened because “Turkey would not allow Kurdish fighters to cross its borders into Kobane to bolster the town’s defenses.” So which side is Turkey, a Nato member, on?

More recently, once Turkey had joined the ostensibly anti-ISIS coalition this July, its first action involved the launch of airstrikes simultaneously against both IS and Kurdish forces. Little surprise then, that after well over a year and around $4 billion spent conducting this undeclared air offensive there remains no end in sight at all. Meanwhile, and as with previous wars against Iraq and Libya, the civilian death toll directly resulting from the western intervention is rarely reported upon and officially denied. Our bombs are “surgical” and our killings of civilians simply don’t get counted.

Finally, ISIS really is not the invincible force we are accustomed to believe. Rather, they are affiliated gangs of thugs and murderers, who have been successfully held off and then beaten back by committed and courageous though wholly under-resourced Kurdish resistance forces in the north of Syria. However, for those who desire either to see the butchering continue in order to undermine regional stability, or else to use this threat of murderous hoards in a bait and switch where the ultimate aim is always regime change (the neo-con agenda all along, and an outcome that is furthered by chaos and instability) we should not be surprised if the propaganda tends to magnify the strength of ISIS and to exaggerate the difficulty of eradicating them. In reality, they are surrounded by enemies on many sides and if supplies of armaments, other material support and finance were shut off – with Turkey controlling its own border and with serious pressure applied to their sponsors in the Gulf States – then ISIS, as sitting ducks, would rather quickly wither away.

The greater part of this article will be based around an adaptation and extension of a timeline of mainstream articles put together and published by Kevin Borge. His aim, in part, is to reveal how instead of joining the dots, the corporate media overlooks the evidence (evidence it has actually published), in order to preserve an overarching officially sanctioned narrative which justifies all ongoing western “interventions” on the grounds of spreading “freedom and democracy” and other “humanitarian” goals.

In the same spirit as Borge I have tried to limit my own commentary so far as possible and to let the endless misdirection and duplicity within the mainstream version of events speak for itself. In contrast to Borge, I have also decided to try to prise apart the interlocking roles played by i) the United States, Nato and the other western powers; ii) the Gulf States and most especially – though certainly not exclusively – Saudi Arabia and Qatar; iii) Turkey under President Recep Erdoğan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu; and last but by no means least, iv) Benjamin Netanyahu and Israel.

But I will begin with what is arguably the single most extraordinary admission so far in this sorry tale…

*

When Lieutenant General Michael T. Flynn, former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) was interviewed in late July by Mehdi Hasan on Al Jazeera’s show Head to Head, Hasan pointed to a DIA report presented in August 2012 but recently declassified through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), which correctly predicts: “If the situation unravels, there is the possibility of establishing a declared or undeclared Salafist principality in eastern Syria… and this is exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition want, in order to isolate the Syrian regime.”

In other words, as Hasan points out, “the US saw ISIL caliphate coming and did nothing”

Flynn replies [from 9:35 mins]:

I think that where we missed the point – where we totally blew it – was in the very beginning. I mean we’re talking four years now into this effort in Syria. Most people won’t even remember – I mean it’s only been a couple of years – the Free Syrian Army, that movement, I mean where are they today? Al-Nusra, where are they today? And how much have they changed? When you don’t get in and help somebody they’re going to find other means to achieve their goals. And I think right now, we’ve allowed these extremist militants to come in…

Hasan cuts in: Why did you do that? You were the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency… Did you see this document in 2012? Did this come across your table…? So when you saw this, did you not pick up a phone and say “what on earth are we doing supporting these Syrian rebels? And what did you do about it? Did you say we shouldn’t be supporting these groups?

Flynn responds: I did. I mean we argued about these different groups that are there and we said, you know, who is that is involved here. And I will tell you that I do believe that the intelligence was very clear, and now it’s a matter of whether or not policy is going to be as clear and as defining and as precise as it needs to be. And I don’t believe it was…

Hasan: Just to clarify here, today my understanding is you’re saying we should have backed the rebels.

Flynn: We should have done more earlier on in this effort, you know, than we did…

Hasan: But three years ago, let’s just be clear – for the sake of our viewers – in 2012, your agency was saying quote: “the Salafist, the Muslim Brotherhood, and AQI [Al- Qaeda in Iraq] are the major forces driving the insurgency in Syria.” In 2012, the US was helping coordinate arms transfers to those same groups. Why did you not stop that, if you’re worried about the rise of quote-unquote “Islamic extremists”?

Flynn: I hate to say it’s not my job, but… my job was to ensure that the accuracy of our intelligence that was being presented was as good as it could be. And I will tell you it goes before 2012. I mean when we were in Iraq and we still had decisions to be made before there was a decision to pull out of Iraq in 2011. I mean it was very clear what we were going to face.

Hasan: Well, I admire your frankness on this subject. Let me just clarify once more: you are basically saying that even in government at the time you knew those groups were around. You saw this analysis and you were arguing against it. But who wasn’t listening?

Flynn: I think the administration.

Hasan: The administration turned a blind eye to your analysis…

Flynn: I don’t think they turned a blind eye, I think it was a decision. I think it was a wilful decision.

Hasan: A wilful decision to support an insurgency that had Salafists, Al-Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood?

Flynn: Well, a wilful decision to do what they’re doing… you have to really ask the President, what is it that he actually is doing with the policy that is in place because it is very, very confusing. I’m sitting here today Mehdi and I can’t tell you exactly what that is, and I’ve been at this a long time.

[The transcript above is mine.]

Click here to watch the full interview first broadcast on Friday July 31st at the Al Jazeera website.

*

Before proceeding to the more closely documented timelines, some further background and additional insights are available in a Guardian article written by Nafeez Ahmed and published shortly after the Ghouta gas attack on August 30, 2013. Here are some extracts:

In May 2007, a presidential finding revealed that Bush had authorised CIA operations against Iran. Anti-Syria operations were also in full swing around this time as part of this covert programme, according to Seymour Hersh in the New Yorker. A range of US government and intelligence sources told him that the Bush administration had “cooperated with Saudi Arabia’s government, which is Sunni, in clandestine operations” intended to weaken the Shi’ite Hezbollah in Lebanon. “The US has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria,” wrote Hersh, “a byproduct” of which is “the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups” hostile to the United States and “sympathetic to al-Qaeda.” He noted that “the Saudi government, with Washington’s approval, would provide funds and logistical aid to weaken the government of President Bashir Assad, of Syria,” with a view to pressure him to be “more conciliatory and open to negotiations” with Israel. One faction receiving covert US “political and financial support” through the Saudis was the exiled Syrian Muslim Brotherhood.

According to former French foreign minister Roland Dumas, Britain had planned covert action in Syria as early as 2009: “I was in England two years before the violence in Syria on other business”, he told French television:

“I met with top British officials, who confessed to me that they were preparing something in Syria. This was in Britain not in America. Britain was preparing gunmen to invade Syria.”

After referring back to Wesley Clark’s notorious post-9/11 memo outlining US plans to “attack and destroy the governments in 7 countries in five years”, Ahmed then continues:

Much of the strategy currently at play was candidly described in a 2008 US Army-funded RAND report, Unfolding the Future of the Long War (pdf). The report noted that “the economies of the industrialized states will continue to rely heavily on oil, thus making it a strategically important resource.” As most oil will be produced in the Middle East, the US has “motive for maintaining stability in and good relations with Middle Eastern states”:

“The geographic area of proven oil reserves coincides with the power base of much of the Salafi-jihadist network. This creates a linkage between oil supplies and the long war that is not easily broken or simply characterized… For the foreseeable future, world oil production growth and total output will be dominated by Persian Gulf resources… The region will therefore remain a strategic priority, and this priority will interact strongly with that of prosecuting the long war.”

Adding:

The report noted especially that Syria is among several “downstream countries that are becoming increasingly water scarce as their populations grow”, increasing a risk of conflict. Thus, although the RAND document fell far short of recognising the prospect of an ‘Arab Spring’, it illustrates that three years before the 2011 uprisings, US defence officials were alive to the region’s growing instabilities, and concerned by the potential consequences for stability of Gulf oil.

Click here to read Nafeez Ahmed’s full article.

Incidentally, and contrary to some wilder claims, there is no convincing evidence that most instrumental to igniting hostilities that then plunged the country into “civil war” was the Syrian government’s failure to respond to a severe drought:

There is no doubt that the major drought witnessed in Syria between 2006 and 2011 had a catastrophic environmental and societal impact on the country, but it is not the over-arching cause of the war.

So writes Louis Allday who was working at the British Embassy in Damascus at the time.

Click here to read his full account published on September 11th by Counterpunch.

*

i) Timeline for US, Nato and other western powers from 2006

Please note that the bold emphasis is mine throughout unless otherwise stated.

Time Magazine, December 19, 2006:

http://content.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1571751,00.html

The Bush Administration has been quietly nurturing individuals and parties opposed to the Syrian government in an effort to undermine the regime of President Bashar Assad. Parts of the scheme are outlined in a classified, two-page document that says that the U.S. already is “supporting regular meetings of internal and diaspora Syrian activists” in Europe. The document bluntly expresses the hope that “these meetings will facilitate a more coherent strategy and plan of actions for all anti-Assad activists. […]

The proposal says part of the effort would be run through a foundation operated by Amar Abdulhamid, a Washington-based member of a Syrian umbrella opposition group known as the National Salvation Front (NSF).

The Front includes the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist organization that for decades supported the violent overthrow of the Syrian government, but now says it seeks peaceful, democratic reform […]

Money for the election-monitoring proposal would be channeled through a State Department program known as the Middle East Partnership Initiative, or MEPI. According to MEPI’s website, the program passes out funds ranging between $100,000 and $1 million to promote education and women’s empowerment, as well as economic and political reform, part of a total allocation of $5 million for Syria that Congress supported earlier this year.

Reuters, April 18. 2011:

http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/04/18/us-usa-syria-wikileaks-idUSTRE73H0E720110418

The State Department has secretly funded Syrian opposition groups, according to diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks, The Washington Post reported on Monday. The cables show that the State Department has funneled as much as $6 million since 2006 to a group of Syrian exiles to operate a London-based satellite channel, Barada TV, and finance activities inside Syria, the Post said. Barada TV began broadcasting in April 2009 but has ramped up operations to cover the mass protests in Syria that began last month as part of a long-standing campaign to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad the Post said. The U.S. money for Syrian opposition figures began flowing under President George W. Bush after political ties with Damascus were frozen in 2005, the newspaper said. The financial backing has continued under President Barack Obama, even as his administration sought to rebuild relations with Assad, the Post said.

Reuters, July 20, 2012:

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/08/01/us-usa-syria-obama-order-idUSBRE8701OK20120801

President Barack Obama has signed a secret order authorizing U.S. support for rebels seeking to depose Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his government, U.S. sources familiar with the matter said.

Sydney Morning Herald, September 11, 2012:

http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/alqaeda-now-a-us-ally-in-syria-20120910-25oby.html

In Syria, there is mounting evidence that Al Qaeda and its allies are actively deploying terror tactics and suicide bombers to overthrow the Assad regime.

Syrian citizens who prefer the secular and stable state to the prospect of an Iraqi-style sectarian state may well be turning this same question around to the US government: are you with us, or with the terrorists?

This week, head of the Salafi jihad and close ally of al Qaeda, Abu Sayyaf, pledged “deadly attacks” against Syria as “our fighters are coming to get you” because “crimes” by the regime ”prompts us to jihad”.

If only the Syrian uprising was as simple as the Arab Spring narrative where citizens seek democracy and freedom. But those unarmed protests have long since been hijacked by a cocktail of agendas which have little to do with Syrian democracy, and more to do with a proxy war to create a sectarian Sunni state that weakens Shi’te Iran’s main partner in the region.

[In his “historic” State of the Union address on September 20th, 2001] Bush was correct in claiming that al Qaeda “want to overthrow existing governments in many Muslim countries such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan” – who were all US-Israel allies at that time.

But his list stopped short of mentioning Syria or Iraq, the real targets of al Qaeda. Why does overthrowing Syria, using the same terror tactics, fail to attract the same degree of outrage?

Bush continues: “We will starve terrorists of funding, turn them one against another, drive them from place to place, until there is no refuge or no rest. And we will pursue nations that provide aid or safe haven to terrorism.”

This pledge appears to have fallen on its own sword, given the funding of the jihadists in Syria. The terrorists have bred and spread across borders, which is the opposite of Bush’s prophecy.

The US administration must come clean about its financial aid. It cannot use one hand to sign a blank cheque to the rebels, and the other hand to cover its eyes to their immoral and illegal tactics. It cannot hide behind “the end justifies the means” as there are too many innocent lives at stake. […]

The US regime should be actively and publicly distancing itself from the foreign terrorists and Salafist jihadists that are proliferating within sovereign Syria.

It should be condemning al Qaeda for its militant intervention. It should be condemning the Saudi sheikhs who issue fatwas for an Alawite holocaust. […]

Perhaps the US is applying another principle that they may have learned from their pragmatic Arab allies – the enemy of my enemy is my friend.

Business Insider, October 9, 2012:

http://www.businessinsider.com/us-syria-heavy-weapons-jihadists-2012-10

The official position is that the U.S. has refused to allow heavy weapons into Syria. But there’s growing evidence that U.S. agents — particularly murdered ambassador Chris Stevens — were at least aware of heavy weapons moving from Libya to jihadist Syrian rebels. […]

In November 2011 The Telegraph reported that Belhadj, acting as head of the Tripoli Military Council, “met with Free Syrian Army [FSA] leaders in Istanbul and on the border with Turkey” in an effort by the new Libyan government to provide money and weapons to the growing insurgency in Syria. Last month The Times of London reported that a Libyan ship “carrying the largest consignment of weapons for Syria … has docked in Turkey.” The shipment reportedly weighed 400 tons and included SA-7 surface-to-air anti-craft missiles and rocket-propelled grenades. Those heavy weapons are most likely from Muammar Gaddafi’s stock of about 20,000 portable heat-seeking missiles—the bulk of them SA-7s—that the Libyan leader obtained from the former Eastern bloc. Reuters reports that Syrian rebels have been using those heavy weapons to shoot down Syrian helicopters and fighter jets.

Vice Presidential Debate, October 11, 2012:

http://www.debates.org/index.php?page=october-11-2012-the-biden-romney-vice-presidential-debate

US Vice President Joe Biden:

We are working hand and glove with the Turks, with the Jordanians, with the Saudis, and with all the people in the region attempting to identify the people who deserve the help so that when Assad goes – and he will go – there will be a legitimate government that follows on, not an al-Qaida-sponsored government that follows on.

[almost precisely two years later, October 2014, Biden entirely contradicts this statement – see below]

New York Times, October 14, 2012:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/15/world/middleeast/jihadists-receiving-most-arms-sent-to-syrian-rebels.html?_r=0

Most of the arms shipped at the behest of Saudi Arabia and Qatar to supply Syrian rebel groups fighting the government of Bashar al-Assad are going to hard-line Islamic jihadists, and not the more secular opposition groups that the West wants to bolster, according to American officials and Middle Eastern diplomats. […]

The opposition groups that are receiving the most of the lethal aid are exactly the ones we don’t want to have it,” said one American official familiar with the outlines of those findings, commenting on an operation that in American eyes has increasingly gone awry.

McClatchy, December 2, 2012:

http://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/nation-world/world/middle-east/article24741022.html

Nearly a year later, however, Jabhat al Nusra, which U.S. officials believe has links to al Qaida, has become essential to the frontline operations of the rebels fighting to topple Assad. […]

The group’s prominence makes clear the dilemma of Syria’s revolutionaries, as well as those who might provide support to them. Though members of Nusra operate independently of the other rebel groups that have taken up arms and particularly those that are calling for elections if Assad is deposed it is increasingly clear that their operations are closely coordinated with more secular rebels.

The Guardian, March 8, 2013:

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/mar/08/west-training-syrian-rebels-jordan

Western training of Syrian rebels is under way in Jordan in an effort to strengthen secular elements in the opposition as a bulwark against Islamic extremism, and to begin building security forces to maintain order in the event of Bashar al-Assad’s fall. […]

According to European and Jordanian sources the western training in Jordan has been going on since last year and is focused on senior Syrian army officers who defected. […]

For western and Saudi backers of the opposition, Jordan has become a preferable option through which to channel aid than Turkey. Ankara has been criticised for allowing extremist groups, such as the al-Nusra Front, become dominant on the northern front while it focused on what it sees as the growing threat of Kurdish secessionism. “The Americans now trust us more than the Turks, because with the Turks everything is about gaining leverage for action against the Kurds,” said a Jordanian source familiar with official thinking in Amman. The US has announced an extra $60m (£40.2m) in direct aid to the rebels, including military rations and medical kits.

Reuters, March 10, 2013:

http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/03/10/us-syria-crisis-rebels-usa-idUSBRE9290FI20130310

Americans are training Syrian anti-government fighters in Jordan, the German weekly Der Spiegel said on Sunday

New York Times, April 20, 2013:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/21/world/middleeast/kerry-says-us-to-double-aid-to-the-opposition-in-syria.html

Secretary of State John Kerry announced Sunday morning that the United States would double its aid to the Syrian opposition, providing $123 million in fresh assistance.

New York Times, April 27, 2013:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/28/world/middleeast/islamist-rebels-gains-in-syria-create-dilemma-for-us.html?pagewanted=all&_r=1

In Syria’s largest city, Aleppo, rebels aligned with Al Qaeda control the power plant, run the bakeries and head a court that applies Islamic law. Elsewhere, they have seized government oil fields, put employees back to work and now profit from the crude they produce. Across Syria, rebel-held areas are dotted with Islamic courts staffed by lawyers and clerics, and by fighting brigades led by extremists. Even the Supreme Military Council, the umbrella rebel organization whose formation the West had hoped would sideline radical groups, is stocked with commanders who want to infuse Islamic law into a future Syrian government. Nowhere in rebel-controlled Syria is there a secular fighting force to speak of.

BBC News, May 6, 2013:

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-22424188

Testimony from victims of the conflict in Syria suggests rebels have used the nerve agent, sarin, a leading member of a UN commission of inquiry has said.

Washington Times, May 6, 2013:

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2013/may/6/syrian-rebels-used-sarin-nerve-gas-not-assads-regi/

Testimony from victims strongly suggests it was the rebels, not the Syrian government, that used Sarin nerve gas during a recent incident in the revolution-wracked nation, a senior U.N. diplomat said Monday.

The Guardian, May 8, 2013:                                             

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/may/08/free-syrian-army-rebels-defect-islamist-group

Syria’s main armed opposition group, the Free Syrian Army (FSA), is losing fighters and capabilities to Jabhat al-Nusra, an Islamist organisation with links to al-Qaida that is emerging as the best-equipped, financed and motivated force fighting Bashar al-Assad’s regime. […]

Illustrating their plight, FSA commanders say that entire units have gone over to al-Nusra while others have lost a quarter or more of their strength to them recently. “Fighters feel proud to join al-Nusra because that means power and influence,” said Abu Ahmed, a former teacher from Deir Hafer who now commands an FSA brigade in the countryside near Aleppo. “Al-Nusra fighters rarely withdraw for shortage of ammunition or fighters and they leave their target only after liberating it,” he added. “They compete to carry out martyrdom [suicide] operations.” Abu Ahmed and others say the FSA has lost fighters to al-Nusra in Aleppo, Hama, Idlib and Deir al-Zor and the Damascus region. Ala’a al-Basha, commander of the Sayyida Aisha brigade, warned the FSA chief of staff, General Salim Idriss, about the issue last month. Basha said 3,000 FSA men have joined al-Nusra in the last few months, mainly because of a lack of weapons and ammunition. […]

Al-Nusra has members serving undercover with FSA units so they can spot potential recruits, according to Abu Hassan of the FSA’s al-Tawhid Lions brigade. […]

Western governments say they are aware of the al-Nusra problem, which is being monitored by intelligence agencies, but they are uncertain about its extent.

Reuters, June 19, 2013:

http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/06/19/us-syria-rebels-islamists-specialreport-idUSBRE95I0BC20130619

It’s a pattern repeated elsewhere in the country. During a 10-day journey through rebel-held territory in Syria, Reuters journalists found that radical Islamist units are sidelining more moderate groups that do not share the Islamists’ goal of establishing a supreme religious leadership in the country. […]

Many pledge allegiance to the notion of a unified Free Syrian Army (FSA). But on the ground there is little evidence to suggest the FSA actually exists as a body at all. […]

So far the Islamist groups have been the ones to attract outside support, mostly from private Sunni Muslim backers in Saudi Arabia, according to fighters in Syria. […]

The moderates are losing ground. In many parts of rebel-held Aleppo, the red, black and green revolutionary flag which represents more moderate elements has been replaced with the black Islamic flag. Small shops selling black headbands, conservative clothing and black balaclavas have popped up around the city and their business is booming. Reuters met several Islamist fighters who had left more moderate rebel brigades for hardline groups. One member of Ahrar al-Sham, who would only speak on condition of anonymity, said: “I used to be with the Free Syrian Army but they were always thinking about what they wanted to do in future. I wanted to fight oppression now.”

Los Angeles Times, June 21, 2013:

http://articles.latimes.com/2013/jun/21/world/la-fg-cia-syria-20130622

CIA operatives and U.S. special operations troops have been secretly training Syrian rebels with anti-tank and antiaircraft weapons since late last year, months before President Obama approved plans to begin directly arming them, according to U.S. officials and rebel commanders. The covert U.S. training at bases in Jordan and Turkey, along with Obama’s decision this month to supply arms and ammunition to the rebels, has raised hope among the beleaguered Syrian opposition that Washington ultimately will provide heavier weapons as well. […]

The training began in November at a new American base in the desert in southwestern Jordan, he said. So far, about 100 rebels from Dara have attended four courses, and rebels from Damascus, the Syrian capital, have attended three, he said. […]

But arms shipments from Qatar, Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries, provided with assent from the Americans, took months to arrive and included less than the rebels had expected.

The Telegraph, August 2, 2013:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/africaandindianocean/libya/10218288/CIA-running-arms-smuggling-team-in-Benghazi-when-consulate-was-attacked.html

Up to 35 CIA operatives were working in the city during the attack last September on the US consulate that resulted in the death of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans, according to CNN.” […]

The television network said that a CIA team was working in an annex near the consulate on a project to supply missiles from Libyan armouries to Syrian rebels. Sources said that more Americans were hurt in the assault spearheaded by suspected Islamic radicals than had been previously reported. CIA chiefs were actively working to ensure the real nature of its operations in the city did not get out. So only the losses suffered by the State Department in the city had been reported to Congress.

The Independent, August 27, 2013:

http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/does-obama-know-hes-fighting-on-alqaidas-side-8786680.html

If Barack Obama decides to attack the Syrian regime, he has ensured – for the very first time in history – that the United States will be on the same side as al-Qa’ida. […]

Maybe the Americans should ask al-Qa’ida for intelligence help – after all, this is the group with “boots on the ground”, something the Americans have no interest in doing. And maybe al-Qa’ida could offer some target information facilities to the country which usually claims that the supporters of al-Qa’ida, rather than the Syrians, are the most wanted men in the world.

Washington Post, September 11, 2013:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/cia-begins-weapons-delivery-to-syrian-rebels/2013/09/11/9fcf2ed8-1b0c-11e3-a628-7e6dde8f889d_story.html 

The CIA has begun delivering weapons to rebels in Syria, ending months of delay in lethal aid that had been promised by the Obama administration, according to U.S. officials and Syrian figures. The shipments began streaming into the country over the past two weeks, along with separate deliveries by the State Department of vehicles and other gear — a flow of material that marks a major escalation of the U.S. role in Syria’s civil war. […]

The CIA shipments are to flow through a network of clandestine bases in Turkey and Jordan that were expanded over the past year as the agency sought to help Middle Eastern allies, including Saudi Arabia and Qatar, direct weapons to moderate Syrian rebel forces.

Foreign Affairs (CFR), January 23, 2014:

https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/syria/2014-01-23/good-and-bad-ahrar-al-sham

“The Good and Bad of Ahrar al-Sham, An al Qaeda–Linked Group Worth Befriending”

New York Times, January 28, 2014:

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/29/world/middleeast/rebels-in-syria-claim-control-of-resources.html

Islamist rebels and extremist groups have seized control of most of Syria’s oil and gas resources, a rare generator of cash in the country’s war-battered economy, and are now using the proceeds to underwrite their fights against one another as well as President Bashar al-Assad, American officials say. While the oil and gas fields are in serious decline, control of them has bolstered the fortunes of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, and the Nusra Front, both of which are offshoots of Al Qaeda.

The Independent, April 2, 2014:

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/i-am-not-fighting-againstalqaida-itsnot-our-problem-says-wests-last-hope-in-syria-9233424.html

The rebel leader touted as the West’s last hope to stem the tide of extreme jihadist groups in Syria has said he will not fight against al-Qa’ida, and openly admits to battling alongside them. Speaking from a safe house on the outskirts of the Turkish town of Antakya, Jamal Maarouf, the leader of the Syrian Revolutionary Front (SRF) told The Independent that the fight against al-Qa’ida was “not our problem” and admitted his fighters conduct joint operations with Jabhat al-Nusra – the official al-Qa’ida branch in Syria.

The Telegraph, June 25, 2014:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/al-qaeda/10925602/Al-Qaeda-merges-with-Isis-at-Syria-Iraq-border-town.html

Al-Qaeda’s Syrian offshoot has issued a loyalty pledge to Isis at a remote town on the Iraqi border, a monitor said.[…]

After months of clashes between the two sides, al-Qaeda’s official Syrian arm the al-Nusra Front “pledged loyalty to Isis” in Albu Kamal, said Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman.

Washington Post, June 26, 2014:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/obama-backs-us-military-training-for-syrian-rebels/2014/06/26/ead59104-fd62-11e3-932c-0a55b81f48ce_story.html?wpisrc=al_comboPN

The Obama administration asked Congress on Thursday to authorize $500 million in direct U.S. military training and equipment for Syrian opposition fighters, a move that could significantly escalate U.S. involvement in Syria’s civil war. Money for the assistance, which would expand a CIA covert training program, is included in a $65.8 billion request for the Pentagon’s Overseas Contingency Operations, or OCO.

Brookings Institute, September/October 2014 Issue:

http://www.brookings.edu/research/opinions/2014/09/02-army-defeat-assad-syria-pollack

The cons begin with the simple fact that the United States has no interests in Syria itself. Syria is not an oil producer, a major U.S. trade partner, or even a democracy. […]

But there is, in fact, a way that the United States could get what it wants in Syria — and, ultimately, in Iraq as well — without sending in U.S. forces: by building a new Syrian opposition army capable of defeating both President Bashar al-Assad and the more militant Islamists. The United States has pulled off similar operations before and could probably do so again, and at far lower cost than what it has spent in Afghanistan and Iraq. […]

Second, any proposal must provide for the defeat of both the Assad regime and the most radical Islamist militants, since both threaten U.S. interests. […]

Recruiting Syrian army personnel would be the first task.

Bloomberg, September 25, 2014:

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2014-09-25/syria-to-ukraine-wars-send-u-s-defense-stocks-to-records

Led by Lockheed Martin Corp., the biggest U.S. defense companies are trading at record prices as shareholders reap rewards from escalating military conflicts around the world. Investors see rising sales for makers of missiles, drones and other weapons as the U.S. hits Islamic State fighters in Syria and Iraq, said Jack Ablin, chief investment officer at Chicago-based BMO Private Bank. President Barack Obama approved open-ended airstrikes this month while ruling out ground combat. […]

Lockheed, the world’s biggest defense company, reached an all-time high of $180.74 on Sept. 19, when Northrop, Raytheon Co. and General Dynamics Corp. also set records. That quartet and Chicago-based Boeing accounted for about $105 billion in federal contract orders last year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg Government.

Washington Post, October 6, 2014:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2014/10/06/behind-bidens-gaffe-some-legitimate-concerns-about-americas-middle-east-allies/

During a question and answer session at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government last week, Vice President Biden somehow managed to anger some of the U.S.’s most vital allies in the fight against Islamic State.

Biden has now apologized to both the United Arab Emirates and Turkey for the comments, but to anyone who has been following the conventional wisdom in foreign policy circles, it’s not surprising that he would think this privately (even if it is surprising that he would say so publicly). […]

The vice president’s comments may be a “gaffe” in diplomacy – and, yes, his comments do reveal a worrying habit of lumping al-Qaeda’s al-Nusra Front in with Islamic State and not noting the difference between private and public funding at play here. But there are genuine, though complicated, concerns at the heart of this gaffe.

Here is a FULL transcription of Joe Biden’s now infamous “gaffe”:

The idea of identifying a moderate middle has been a chase America has been engaged in for a long time. We Americans think in every country in transition there’s a Thomas Jefferson hiding behind some rock or a James Madison beyond one sand dune.

The fact of the matter is the ability to identify a moderate middle in Syria was… [hesitation] there was no moderate middle because the moderate middle is made up of shopkeepers, not soldiers, made up of people who in fact have ordinary elements of the middle class of that country.

And what happened was, and history will record this because I’m finding that former administration officials as soon as they leave, write books, which I think is inappropriate. But any rate. [audience laughter] No I’m serious, I do think it’s in appropriate. At least give the guy a chance to get out of office. And what my constant cry was… was that our biggest problem was our allies.

Our allies in the region were our largest problem in Syria. The Turks were great friends, and I have a great relationship with Erdogan, [who] I just spent a lot of time with, [and] the Saudis, the Emirates, etcetera.

What were they doing? They were so determined to take down Assad, and essentially have a proxy Sunni-Shia war, what did they do? They poured hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of tons of weapons into anyone who would fight against Assad – except that the people who were being supplied were al-Nusra and al-Qaeda, and the extremist elements of jihadis coming from other parts of the world.

Now, you think I’m exaggerating? Take a look. Where did all of this go? So now that’s happening, all of a sudden, everybody’s awakened because this outfit called ISIL, which was al-Qaeda in Iraq, when they were essentially thrown out of Iraq, found open space and territory in eastern Syria, [and they] work with al-Nusra, who we declared a terrorist group early on. And we could not convince our colleagues to stop supplying them.

So what happened? Now, all of a sudden – I don’t want to be too facetious – but they have seen the lord. Now we have … been able to put together a coalition of our Sunni neighbours, because America can’t once again go into a Muslim nation and be the aggressor. It has to be led by Sunnis. To go and attack a Sunni organization. And so what do we have for the first time?

Now Saudi Arabia stops funding. Saudi Arabia’s allowing training on its soil. American forces under Title 10 training. The Qataris have cut-off their support for the most extremist elements of the terrorist organisations. And the Turks, President Erdogan told me – he’s an old friend – said “you’re right, we let too many people through.” Now they’re trying to seal their border.

The same Washington Post article includes an oddly bowdlerised transcription of Biden’s speech which is cut short and missing the final highlighted paragraph, which it claims was lost because “the White House recording cuts out”. The article then adds:

Other accounts, however, suggest he went further. According to Hurriyet Daily News, Biden also said:

President Erdoğan told me, he is an old friend, said you were right, we let too many people through, now we are trying to seal the border.

But as you see from the video above, in actual fact Biden’s remarks are significantly different to those reported by Hurriyet Daily News (a Turkish news source). His true statement also contains embarrassing admissions that would certainly have strained US relations with its two closest Gulf allies – hence the rapid apologies and retractions.

Brookings Institute, November 7, 2014:

http://www.brookings.edu/blogs/up-front/posts/2014/11/07-big-questions-islamic-state-threat-hein

Rather than defeat, containing their activities within failed or near-failing states is the best option for the foreseeable future. […]

There is a parallel here between the war on Islamic extremists and the war on drugs: the absolute end-states for both may be unachievable, but that in no way diminishes the need to execute counter operations. Some wars cannot be won but still must be fought. There are other hard questions for even bigger threats in the Middle East, such as how to ensure a nuclear free Iran and how to deal with the Assad regime in Syria. For ISIS, though, we may have it right.

The Telegraph, February 17, 2015:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/11419243/Moderate-Syrian-rebels-to-be-given-power-to-call-in-US-air-strikes.html

The US and Turkey have reached a tentative deal to train and equip moderate Syrian rebels, according to officials from both countries, amid reports that commanders will be given authority to call in air strikes. […]

At the same time The Wall Street Journal reported that some rebels will be equipped with pick-up trucks modified with mounted machine guns as well as radios for calling in US airstrikes – an approach modelled on that used to successful effect by Kurdish forces in Kobane last month.

The Independent, February 17, 2015:

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/africa/sudans-president-claims-cia-and-mossad-stand-behind-isis-and-boko-haram-10051024.html

Sudan’s President has claimed the CIA, America’s intelligence agency, and Israel’s Mossad are behind the Islamist militant groups Boko Haram and Isis.

Foreign Affairs (CFR), March 9, 2015:

https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/middle-east/2015-03-09/accepting-al-qaeda

Since 9/11, Washington has considered al Qaeda the greatest threat to the United States, one that must be eliminated regardless of cost or time. After Washington killed Osama bin Laden in 2011, it made Ayman al-Zawahiri, al Qaeda’s new leader, its next number one target. But the instability in the Middle East following the Arab revolutions and the meteoric rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) require that Washington rethink its policy toward al Qaeda, particularly its targeting of Zawahiri. Destabilizing al Qaeda at this time may in fact work against U.S. efforts to defeat ISIS. […]

It is certainly ironic that at this point, when the United States is the closest it has ever been to destroying al Qaeda, its interests would be better served by keeping the terrorist organization afloat and Zawahiri alive.

The Guardian, June 1 2015:

http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/jun/01/trial-swedish-man-accused-terrorism-offences-collapse-bherlin-gildo

The prosecution of a Swedish national [Bherlin Gildo, 37] accused of terrorist activities in Syria has collapsed at the Old Bailey after it became clear Britain’s security and intelligence agencies would have been deeply embarrassed had a trial gone ahead, the Guardian can reveal.

His lawyers argued that British intelligence agencies were supporting the same Syrian opposition groups as he was, and were party to a secret operation providing weapons and non-lethal help to the groups, including the Free Syrian Army. […]

Gildo’s defence lawyers quoted a number of press articles referring to the supply of arms to Syrian rebels, including one from the Guardian on 8 March 2013, on the west’s training of Syrian rebels in Jordan. Articles on the New York Times from 24 March and 21 June 2013, gave further details and an article in the London Review of Books from 14 April 12014, implicated MI6 in a “rat line” for the transfer of arms from Libya. […]

The attorney general was consulted about Monday’s decision. Karmy-Jones [for the crown] told the court in pre-trial hearings that Gildo had worked with Jabhat al-Nusra, a “proscribed group considered to be al-Qaida in Syria”. He was photographed standing over dead bodies with his finger pointing to the sky.

The Guardian, June 3, 2015:

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/jun/03/us-isis-syria-iraq

Reports were cited that MI6 had cooperated with the CIA on a “rat line” of arms transfers from Libyan stockpiles to the Syrian rebels in 2012 after the fall of the Gaddafi regime. […]

A revealing light on how we got here has now been shone by a recently declassified secret US intelligence report, written in August 2012, which uncannily predicts – and effectively welcomes – the prospect of a “Salafist principality” in eastern Syria and an al-Qaida-controlled Islamic state in Syria and Iraq.

In stark contrast to western claims at the time, the Defense Intelligence Agency document identifies al-Qaida in Iraq (which became Isis) and fellow Salafists as the “major forces driving the insurgency in Syria” – and states that “western countries, the Gulf states and Turkey” were supporting the opposition’s efforts to take control of eastern Syria. Raising the “possibility of establishing a declared or undeclared Salafist principality”, the Pentagon report goes on, “this is exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition want, in order to isolate the Syrian regime, which is considered the strategic depth of the Shia expansion (Iraq and Iran)”. […]

That doesn’t mean the US created Isis, of course, though some of its Gulf allies certainly played a role in it – as the US vice-president, Joe Biden, acknowledged last year. But there was no al-Qaida in Iraq until the US and Britain invaded. And the US has certainly exploited the existence of Isis against other forces in the region as part of a wider drive to maintain western control.

Reuters, June 22, 2015:

http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/06/22/us-mideast-crisis-syria-usa-idUSKBN0P22BX20150622

Syrian rebels receiving U.S. military training to battle Islamic State militants are being paid $250 to $400 per month, depending on their skills, performance and leadership position, the Pentagon said on Monday.

Brookings Institute, June 23, 2015:

http://www.brookings.edu/~/media/research/files/papers/2015/06/23-syria-strategy-ohanlon/23syriastrategyohanlon.pdf

Training opposition fighters in the safety of Turkey, Jordan, and other friendly countries would still be the first step. But it  would not over time be sufficient, either, since many opposition fighters are reluctant to leave their home territories and thereby leave their families  and  communities  unprotected in  order  to  go  abroad  for  training. The idea would be to help moderate elements establish reliable safe zones within Syria once they were able. American, as well as Saudi and Turkish and British and Jordanian and other Arab forces would act in support, not only from the air but eventually on the ground via the presence of special forces as well. […]

This type of plan may be the only realistic path forward… Moreover, while it is not without risks for the United States, the scale of military involvement envisioned is not substantially greater than what we have been doing the last year or so in Afghanistan. President Obama…. should not view Syria as a problem to hand to his successor, but rather a crisis that demands his attention and a new strategy now.

Wall Street Journal, June 25, 2015:

http://www.wsj.com/articles/to-many-iraqis-u-s-is-not-really-seeking-to-defeat-islamic-state-1435224647

“We all know that America is providing ISIS with weapons and food, and that it is because of American backing that they have become so strong,” added Abbas Hashem, a 50-year-old who also escaped from Ramadi and now lives in the makeshift Baghdad camp that is only occasionally supplied with water. Such conspiracy theories about America’s support for Islamic State are outlandish, no doubt. But they are so widespread that they now represent a political reality with real-world consequences—making it harder for the U.S. and allies to cobble together Iraqi forces that could regain the country’s Sunni heartland from Islamic State’s murderous rule one day. […]

This spreading perception that the U.S. isn’t really interested in defeating Islamic State has undermined local resistance to the militant group in Anbar in recent months. It represents a major obstacle to recruiting local Sunni tribes—one of the U.S. strategies in the war—provincial leaders say. […]

“We don’t have any trust in Americans anymore,” said Alia Nusseif, a prominent Shiite lawmaker from Baghdad. “We now think ISIS is being used as a tool by America to divide and weaken Iraq.”

New York Times, August 25, 2015:

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/26/world/middleeast/pentagon-investigates-allegations-of-skewed-intelligence-reports-on-isis.html?_r=1

The Pentagon’s inspector general is investigating allegations that military officials have skewed intelligence assessments about the United States-led campaign in Iraq against the Islamic State to provide a more optimistic account of progress, according to several officials familiar with the inquiry.

*

ii) Timeline for the Gulf States from 2012

Saudi Gazette, February 11, 2012:

http://www.saudigazette.com.sa/index.cfm?method=home.regcon&contentID=20120207117076

The six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) will soon recognize the Free Syrian Army as the sole and legitimate representative of the Syrian people, a high-ranking official in Bahrain told the Saudi Gazette.

The Independent, February 23, 2012:

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/rebel-forces-armed-by-wealthy-exiles-7320510.html

As Syria slides towards a civil war, a wealthy Syrian exile is racing to provide additional arms and ammunition to the loosely organised bands of rebels fighting under the umbrella of the Free Syrian Army (FSA). Abu Qotaiba, a nom de guerre, has lived for the past 19 years in a wealthy Gulf country. He told The Independent he was buying weapons from arms dealers in Lebanon, Iraq and Jordan and sending them into Syria, despite the cost of an AK-47 rising from about $300 to about $1,500. “Now is a chance for [dealers] to sell them at a high price,” Abu Qotaiba said. Earlier this week, US Senator John McCain told reporters that there were ways to get weapons to the Syrian opposition without direct US involvement.

“People that are being massacred deserve to have the ability to defend themselves,” he said. […]

The FSA has proved successful at getting hold of arms, he said. Syrian security forces can no longer go wherever they wanted in the country, especially inside cities such as Homs and Idlib because some streets were controlled by the FSA. Abu Qotaiba refused to say where the Libyan weapons came from, only denying that the arms were provided by Libya’s National Transitional Council. They came “through some revolutionaries,” he said. “There are many Libyan people trying to help. They want to return the slap to Bashar because he supported Gaddafi. They have lived our situation.”

CNN, February 23, 2012:

http://www.cnn.com/2012/02/23/world/meast/syria-unrest/index.html?_s=PM:MIDDLEEAST

Diplomatic sources told CNN that a number of Arab nations are supplying arms to the Syrian opposition. The sources wouldn’t identify which countries.

Al-Arabiya News, February 27, 2012:

http://english.alarabiya.net/articles/2012/02/27/197380.html

In other news, Qatar’s prime minister said Monday he was in favor of delivering arms to the Syrian opposition that is battling President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. “We should do whatever necessary to help them, including giving them weapons to defend themselves,” Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim Al-Thani said during an official visit to Norway.

Washington Post, May 15, 2012:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/syrian-rebels-get-influx-of-arms-with-gulf-neighbors-money-us-coordination/2012/05/15/gIQAds2TSU_story.html

Syrian rebels battling the regime of President Bashar al-Assad have begun receiving significantly more and better weapons in recent weeks, an effort paid for by Persian Gulf nations and coordinated in part by the United States, according to opposition activists and U.S. and foreign officials. […]

Material is being stockpiled in Damascus, in Idlib near the Turkish border and in Zabadani on the Lebanese border. Opposition activists who two months ago said the rebels were running out of ammunition said this week that the flow of weapons — most still bought on the black market in neighboring countries or from elements of the Syrian military — has significantly increased after a decision by Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other gulf states to provide millions of dollars in funding each month. Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood also said it has opened its own supply channel to the rebels, using resources from wealthy private individuals and money from gulf states, including Saudi Arabia and Qatar, said Mulham al-Drobi, a member of the Brotherhood’s executive committee.

Time Magazine, September 18, 2012:

http://world.time.com/2012/09/18/syrias-secular-and-islamist-rebels-who-are-the-saudis-and-the-qataris-arming/

As TIME reports here, disorder and distrust plague two of the rebels’ international patrons: Saudi Arabia and Qatar. The two Gulf powerhouses are no longer on the same page when it comes to determining who among the plethora of mushrooming Syrian rebel groups should be armed. The rift surfaced in August, with the alleged Saudi and Qatari representatives in charge of funneling free weaponry to the rebels clearly backing different factions among the groups — including various shades of secular and Islamist militias — under the broad umbrella that is the Free Syrian Army (FSA).

Huffington Post, September 21, 2012:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/21/switzerland-hand-grenades-syria_n_1904516.html

An investigation has concluded that Swiss hand grenades exported to the United Arab Emirates several years ago found their way to Syria after being given to Jordan, the Swiss government said Friday.

Switzerland set up a joint commission in July with the UAE to investigate whether grenades exported to the Gulf nation were sent on to Syria. The move came after a newspaper published a photograph indicating a Swiss-made grenade was found with Syrian rebels.

Washington Post, June 15, 2013:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/private-money-pours-into-syrian-conflict-as-rich-donors-pick-sides/2013/06/15/67841656-cf8a-11e2-8845-d970ccb04497_story.html

The private funding of individual militias — some with extremist views — further complicates the task facing the Obama administration as it ventures into arming Syria’s rebels. With its decision to increase support for the Syrian opposition, Washington is seeking to influence a patchwork of militia groups with wildly different abilities and views about how Syria should be run after the war.

From Persian Gulf cities hundreds of miles from the battlefield, wealthy patrons help decide which of Syria’s hundreds of rebel groups will receive money to pay salaries and buy weapons and supplies for the fight against the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

In practice, these donors overwhelmingly back Islamist groups whose ultraconservative views reflect their own, intelligence officials and analysts say.

The Telegraph, June 19, 2013:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/10131063/Syrian-rebels-get-first-heavy-weapons-on-the-front-line-of-Aleppo.html

Rebel sources said Russian-made “Konkurs” anti-tank missiles had been supplied by America’s key Gulf ally, Saudi Arabia. They have already been used to destructive effect and may have held up a promised regime assault on Aleppo. A handful of the missiles were already in use and in high demand after opposition forces looted them from captured regime bases. More have now arrived, confirming reports that the White House has lifted an unofficial embargo on its Gulf allies sending heavy weapons to the rebels […]

“We now have supplies from Saudi Arabia,” a rebel source said. “We have been told more weapons are on their way, even higher-end missiles.”

Brookings Institute, December 2013:

From an analysis paper entitled Playing with Fire: Why Private Gulf Financing for Syria’s Extremist Rebels Risks Igniting Sectarian Conflict at Home by Elizabeth Dickinson.

http://www.brookings.edu/~/media/research/files/papers/2013/12/06%20private%20gulf%20financing%20syria%20extremist%20rebels%20sectarian%20conflict%20dickinson/private%20gulf%20financing%20syria%20extremist%20rebels%20sectarian%20conflict%20dickinson.pdf

Over the last two and a half years, Kuwait has emerged as a financing and organizational hub for charities and individuals supporting Syria’s myriad rebel groups. These donors have taken advantage of Kuwait’s unique freedom of association and its relatively weak financial rules to channel money to some of the estimated 1,000 rebel brigades now fighting against Syrian president Bashar al-Asad. […]

From the early days of the Syrian uprising, Kuwait-based donors—including one group currently under U.S.sanction for terrorist financing—began to pressure Syrians to take up arms. The new brigades often adopted the ideological outlook of their donors. As the war dragged on and the civilian death toll rose, the path toward extremism became self-reinforcing. Today, there is evidence that Kuwaiti donors have backed rebels who have committed atrocities and who are either directly linked to al-Qa’ida or cooperate with its affiliated brigades on the ground.

Haaretz, February 24, 2014:

http://www.haaretz.com/news/middle-east/.premium-1.576083

U.S., Saudi Arabia and Jordan are reportedly helping rebels plan attack starting in south and spreading to Damascus. […]

According to reports in the Syrian media and on websites run by the opposition, Jordan is replacing – or perhaps has already replaced – Turkey as the rebels’ new base of operations. […]

Meanwhile, the United States is constructing runways for reconnaissance aircraft near the border between Jordan and Syria, and in recent weeks Saudi Arabia has flown weaponry and ammunition purchased in Ukraine to bases in Jordan.

Reuters, March 9. 2014:

http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/03/09/us-iraq-saudi-qatar-idUSBREA2806S20140309

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has accused Saudi Arabia and Qatar of openly funding the Sunni Muslim insurgents his troops are battling in western Anbar province, in his strongest such statement since fighting started there early this year. […]

“I accuse them of leading an open war against the Iraqi government. I accuse them of openly hosting leaders of al Qaeda and Takfirists (extremists),” he said in the interview when asked about possible Saudi and Qatari links to the violence.

Maliki has long had chilly relations with the Gulf states, who view him as too close to Iran, and has long suspected them of funding al Qaeda-linked groups in order to bring down his Shi’ite-led government.

He accused the Saudi government of allowing “commissions” there “to attract Jihadists, to lure them, to get them fighting in Iraq”.

He also blamed both countries for launching Syria’s three-year civil war through al Qaeda-linked groups that now operate on both sides of the Iraqi-Syrian border, next to Anbar.

“They are attacking Iraq through Syria indirectly. They absolutely started the war in Iraq, they started the war in Syria,” Maliki said. ISIL has been one of the biggest fighting forces in Syria’s civil war.

“Saudi Arabia supports terrorism against the world, Syria, Iraq, Egypt and Libya.”

Both Saudi Arabia and Qatar have played an activist role in the Syria war, supporting armed groups fighting President Bashar Assad. They both deny supporting al Qaeda.

New York Times, March 24, 2014:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/25/world/middleeast/arms-airlift-to-syrian-rebels-expands-with-cia-aid.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

With help from the C.I.A., Arab governments and Turkey have sharply increased their military aid to Syria’s opposition fighters in recent months, expanding a secret airlift of arms and equipment for the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad. […]

Although rebel commanders and the data indicate that Qatar and Saudi Arabia had been shipping military materials via Turkey to the opposition since early and late 2012… Simultaneously, arms and equipment were being purchased by Saudi Arabia in Croatia and flown to Jordan on Jordanian cargo planes for rebels working in southern Syria and for retransfer to Turkey for rebels groups operating from there, several officials said.

Raw Story, August 20, 2014:

http://www.rawstory.com/2014/08/german-minister-accuses-qatar-of-funding-islamic-state-fighters/

German Development Minister Gerd Mueller accused Qatar on Wednesday of financing Islamic State militants […]

In March, David Cohen, the U.S. Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, cited reports of Qatari backing for Islamist fighters in Syria and described this as a “permissive jurisdiction” for donors funding militants.

BBC news, September 1, 2014:

CAUTION!!! Before reading further, please note that the author of this article is Michael Stephens, director of the Royal United Services Institute in Qatar.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-29004253

It is true that some wealthy individuals from the Gulf have funded extremist groups in Syria, many taking bags of cash to Turkey and simply handing over millions of dollars at a time.

This was an extremely common practice in 2012 and 2013 but has since diminished and is at most only a tiny percentage of the total income that flows into Islamic State coffers in 2014.

It is also true that Saudi Arabia and Qatar, believing that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad would soon fall and that Sunni political Islam was a true vehicle for their political goals, funded groups that had strongly Islamist credentials.

Liwa al-Tawhid, Ahrar al-Sham, Jaish al-Islam were just such groups, all holding tenuous links to the “bad guy” of the time – the al-Nusra Front, al-Qaeda’s wing in Syria. […]

So has Qatar funded Islamic State? Directly, the answer is no. Indirectly, a combination of shoddy policy and naivety has led to Qatar-funded weapons and money making their way into the hands of IS.

Saudi Arabia likewise is innocent of a direct state policy to fund the group, but as with Qatar its determination to remove Mr Assad has led to serious mistakes in its choice of allies.

Both countries must undertake some soul searching at this point, although it is doubtful that any such introspection will be admitted in public.

BBC news, October 7, 2014:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-29528482

“Our biggest problem was our allies,” [US Vice President] Mr Biden told students at the Harvard Kennedy School.

“The Turks… the Saudis, the Emirates, etc, what were they doing? They were so determined to take down (Syrian President Bashar al) Assad and essentially have a proxy Sunni-Shia war, what did they do? They poured hundreds of millions of dollars and tens, thousands of tonnes of weapons into anyone who would fight against Assad.”

These policies ended up helping militants linked to al-Qaeda and ultimately IS, he said.

Reuters, March 4, 2015:

http://uk.reuters.com/article/2015/03/04/uk-mideast-crisis-nusra-insight-idUKKBN0M00G620150304

Leaders of Syria’s Nusra Front are considering cutting their links with al Qaeda to form a new entity backed by some Gulf states trying to topple President Bashar al-Assad, sources said. Sources within and close to Nusra said that Qatar, which enjoys good relations with the group, is encouraging the group to go ahead with the move, which would give Nusra a boost in funding. […]

The Nusra Front is listed as a terrorist group by the United States and has been sanctioned by the United Nations Security Council. But for Qatar at least, rebranding Nusra would remove legal obstacles to supporting it. […]

But if Nusra is dissolved and it abandons al Qaeda, the ideology of the new entity is not expected to change. [The leader of Nusra, Abu Mohamad al-] Golani fought with al Qaeda in Iraq. Some other leaders fought in Afghanistan and are close al Qaeda chief Ayman Zawahri.

BBC News, March 6, 2015:

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-31764114

Being a directly affiliated al-Qaeda group, the Nusra Front is nearer the IS end of the spectrum. Yet, while the Qatari relationship with the Nusra Front appears to be far from straightforward with some of the state’s initiatives failing, indicating some distance between the two, according to recent reports, Qatar appears to want to reform this relationship. This begs the question of why Qatar would want even loosely to associate itself with a group like the Nusra Front. […]

Secondly, the Nusra Front has pledged to concentrate its efforts on removing the Bashar al-Assad government, as opposed to attacking the “far enemy” (ie Western states)… This is why Qatar is hoping to bring the Nusra Front in from the cold.

If the state can get the group to eschew its al-Qaeda affiliation and adhere to a broadly moderate Islamist platform, Qatar can officially commence, with Western blessing, the supply of one of the most effective fighting forces in Syria. […]

But the fact remains that Qatar is a key Western ally. It hosts a critical US military base, it grafted US and UK higher-education institutions and ideas onto its education system, and has long promoted the Middle East’s most visible and powerful woman, Sheikha Mozah bint Nasser al-Missned, the Emir’s mother. These are transparently not the policies of a state with sympathies for the likes of IS or al-Qaeda. Indeed, there is no chance that Qatar is doing this alone: the US and UK governments will certainly be involved in or at least apprised of Qatar’s plans.

*

iii) Timeline for Turkey from 2011

The Telegraph, November 27, 2011:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/africaandindianocean/libya/8919057/Leading-Libyan-Islamist-met-Free-Syrian-Army-opposition-group.html

Abdulhakim Belhadj, head of the Tripoli Military Council and the former leader of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, “met with Free Syrian Army leaders in Istanbul and on the border with Turkey,” said a military official working with Mr Belhadj. “Mustafa Abdul Jalil (the interim Libyan president) sent him there. […]

The meetings came as a sign of a growing ties between Libya’s fledgling government and the Syrian opposition. The Daily Telegraph on Saturday revealed that the new Libyan authorities had offered money and weapons to the growing insurgency against Bashar al-Assad.

[bold emphasis as original]

New York Times, June 21, 2012:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/21/world/middleeast/cia-said-to-aid-in-steering-arms-to-syrian-rebels.html?pagewanted=all

A small number of C.I.A. officers are operating secretly in southern Turkey, helping allies decide which Syrian opposition fighters across the border will receive arms to fight the Syrian government, according to American officials and Arab intelligence officers.

The Telegraph, July 12, 2012:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/9396256/Al-Qaeda-tries-to-carve-out-a-war-for-itself-in-Syria.html

The Daily Telegraph has seen al-Qaeda’s flag flying openly in some areas of Idlib and Aleppo provinces that straddle the borders with Turkey and Iraq and fighters in the rebel Free Syrian Army have told how representatives of the militant group have tried in past months to win control of towns and villages.

Wall Street Journal, July 26, 2012:

http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10000872396390443343704577551281530782466

Al Qaeda in Syria (often operating as the “Al Nusra Front for the People of the Levant”) is using traffickers—some ideologically aligned, some motivated by money—to secure routes through Turkey and Iraq for foreign fighters, most of whom are from the Middle East and North Africa. A growing number of donors from the Persian Gulf and Levant appear to be sending financial support, according to U.S. Treasury Department officials I interviewed.

The Globe and Mail, August 2, 2012:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/obama-authorizes-secret-cia-support-for-syrian-rebels/article4457317/

President Barack Obama has signed a secret order authorizing U.S. support for rebels seeking to depose Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his government, U.S. sources familiar with the matter said. […]

A U.S. government source acknowledged that under provisions of the presidential finding, the United States was collaborating with a secret command center operated by Turkey and its allies. […]

Turkey’s moderate Islamist government has been demanding Assad’s departure with growing vehemence. Turkish authorities are said by current and former U.S. government officials to be increasingly involved in providing Syrian rebels with training and possibly equipment. European government sources said wealthy families in Saudi Arabia and Qatar were providing significant financing to the rebels. Senior officials of the Saudi and Qatari governments have publicly called for Assad’s departure.

The Times, September 14, 2012:

http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/news/world/middleeast/article3537770.ece

A Libyan ship carrying the largest consignment of weapons for Syria since the uprising began has docked in Turkey and most of its cargo is making its way to rebels on the front lines, The Times has learnt. Among more than 400 tons of cargo the vessel was carrying were SAM-7 surface-to-air anti-aircraft missiles and rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs), which Syrian sources said could be a game-changer for the rebels.

Time Magazine, September 18, 2012:

http://world.time.com/2012/09/18/syrias-secular-and-islamist-rebels-who-are-the-saudis-and-the-qataris-arming/

The middlemen of the two countries [Saudi Arabia and Qatar] operate out of Turkey, the regional military power. Ankara has been quite public with its denunciation of Assad even as it denies any involvement in shuffling weapons across the border to Syrian rebels. […]

According to sources who have dealt with him, Saudi Arabia’s man in the Istanbul control center is a Lebanese politician named Okab Sakr. He belongs to the Future Movement, the organization of former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, which has a history of enmity with Damascus. […]

The bulk of Ahrar al-Sham’s substantial funding reportedly comes from Kuwait.

Reuters, December 7, 2012:

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/12/07/us-syria-crisis-rebels-idUSBRE8B60QX20121207

Syrian rebel groups meeting in Turkey elected a 30-member unified command on Friday at talks attended by security officials from international powers, delegates said. The 30 included many with ties to the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafists, and excluded the most senior officers who had defected from President Bashar al-Assad’s military, they said. […]

Another delegate said that two-thirds of the leadership had ties to the Muslim Brotherhood or were politically allied with the group, a composition which resembles that of the civilian opposition leadership coalition created under Western and Arab auspices in Qatar last month.

Jerusalem Post, July 30, 2014:

http://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/Islamic-State-fighter-Turkey-paved-the-way-for-us-369443

Prime Minister’s [sic] Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s “AKP government has helped us a lot” since the war in Syria began, an Islamic State fighter told a Turkish journalist. […]

Turkey paved the way for us. Had Turkey not shown such understanding for us, the Islamic State would not be in its current place. It [Turkey] showed us affection. Large number of our mujahedeen [jihadis] received medical treatment in Turkey,” he said.

Washington Post, August 12, 2014:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/how-turkey-became-the-shopping-mall-for-the-islamic-state/2014/08/12/5eff70bf-a38a-4334-9aa9-ae3fc1714c4b_story.html

Before their blitz into Iraq earned them the title of the Middle East’s most feared insurgency, the jihadists of the Islamic State treated this Turkish town near the Syrian border as their own personal shopping mall.

And eager to aid any and all enemies of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Turkey rolled out the red carpet.

In dusty market stalls, among the baklava shops and kebab stands, locals talk of Islamist fighters openly stocking up on uniforms and the latest Samsung smartphones. Wounded jihadists from the Islamic State and the al-Nusra Front — an al-Qaeda offshoot also fighting the Syrian government — were treated at Turkish hospitals. Most important, the Turks winked as Reyhanli and other Turkish towns became way stations for moving foreign fighters and arms across the border.

“Turkey welcomed anyone against Assad, and now they are killing, spreading their disease, and we are all paying the price,” said Tamer Apis, a politician in Reyhanli, where two massive car bombs killed 52 people last year. In a nearby city, Turkish authorities seized another car packed with explosives in June, raising fears of an Islamic State-inspired campaign to export sectarian strife to Turkey.

The Guardian, October 4, 2014:

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/oct/04/us-jets-attack-isis-syrian-town-turkish-leader-rebukes-biden

In Turkey, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan demanded and received an apology from the US vice-president, Joe Biden, over comments in which Biden said the Turkish leader had admitted Turkey had made mistakes by allowing foreign fighters to cross into Syria.

Erdogan denied ever saying that and told reporters in Istanbul that Biden “will be history for me if he has indeed used such expressions”.

The White House said Biden spoke to Erdogan on Saturday “to clarify comments”, and said Biden apologised “for any implication” that Turkey or other allies had intentionally supplied or helped in the growth of the Isis group or other extremists in Syria.

Responding to questions following his speech at the Harvard Kennedy School on Thursday, Biden described Erdogan as “an old friend” and added: “He [Erdogan] said: ‘You were right. We let too many people through.’ Now they’re trying to seal their border.”

BBC news, October 7, 2014:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-29528482

Mr Biden also claimed [speaking to students at Harvard Kennedy School] that Turkey admitted it had let too many foreign fighters cross its border into Syria.

The incandescent response from Ankara and expressions of “astonishment” from the United Arab Emirates led Mr Biden to “clarify” that he didn’t mean the allies had intentionally facilitated the growth of IS or other violent extremists.

But there is little doubt about the flow of weapons, money and fighters from these countries into Syria. […]

Unlike the other rebel groups, Islamic State has its own sources of revenue, including until recently a booming business in oil smuggling into Turkey. US officials have accused Ankara of, at best, turning a blind eye to the black market trade. Pressing the government to clamp down on it was a key focus of a recent visit by the Secretary of State John Kerry.

And despite denials by the Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the steady flow of fighters, including foreign extremists, across Turkey’s long and porous border with Syria is well-documented.

Huffington Post, August 19, 2015:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/harut-sassounian/turkeys-pays-former-cia-d_b_8002534.html

The Wall Street Journal reported on August 12 that a senior US military official accused Turkey of deceiving the American government by allowing its use of Incirlik airbase to attack ISIS, as a cover for President Erdogan’s war on Kurdish fighters (PKK) in northern Iraq. So far, Turkey has carried out 300 air strikes against the PKK, and only three against ISIS! […]

To conceal its deception and mislead the American public, within days of starting its war on the Kurds, Ankara hired Squire Patton Boggs for $32,000 a month, as a subcontractor to the powerful lobbying firm, the Gephardt Group. Squire Patton Boggs includes former Senators Trent Lott and John Breaux, and retired White House official Robert Kapla.

The Gephardt lobbying team for Turkey consists of subcontractors Greenberg Traurig, Brian Forni, Lydia Borland, and Dickstein Shapiro LLP; the latter recently added to its lobbying staff former CIA Director Porter Goss. Other lobbying firms hired by Turkey are: Goldin Solutions, Alpaytac, Finn Partners, Ferah Ozbek, and Golin/Harris International. According to U.S. Justice Department records, Turkey pays these lobbying/public relations firms around $5 million a year. Furthermore, several U.S. non-profit organizations serve as fronts for the Turkish government to promote its interests in the United States and take Members of Congress and journalists on all-expense paid junkets to Turkey. Among the U.S. lobbyists for Turkey, perhaps the most questionable is Porter Goss, CIA Director from 2004 to 2006, who has agreed to sell his soul and possibly U.S. national secrets for a fistful of Turkish Liras.”

*

Timeline for Israel from 2007

McClatchy, October 7, 2007:

http://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/nation-world/world/article24470350.html

Nearly a month after a mysterious Israeli military airstrike in Syria generated political aftershocks from Washington to North Korea, the Israeli government lifted its official veil of secrecy Tuesday. […]

Israel lifted its ban on reporting that the attack took place after Syrian President Bashar Assad told the British Broadcasting Corp. that Israeli jets had hit an “unused military building.” But Israeli officials refused to say anything about the attack, and almost no one who’d be expected to know — from government officials to former intelligence officers — is talking.

BBC news, April 23, 2008:

The Golan Heights had been captured by Israel during the Six-Day War in June 1967 and occupied ever since – in 1981, this became a de facto annexation under the illegal Golan Heights Law. Then, in April 2008, following secret peace negotiations with Syria, reports were leaked that Israel was prepared to withdraw from occupied Syrian Golan.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/7362937.stm

Israel has passed a message to Syria that it would withdraw from the Golan Heights in return for peace, according to a Syrian government minister.

The expatriates minister, Buthaina Shaaban, said the message had been passed on by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

She said Mr Erdogan had informed the Syrian President Bashar Assad of the offer by telephone on Tuesday morning.

The office of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has declined to comment.

Israel and Syria remain technically at war although both sides have recently spoken of their desire for peace.

The Syrian government has insisted that peace talks can be resumed only on the basis of Israel returning the Golan Heights, which it seized in 1967. […]

In an interview with Al-Jazeera television, Ms Shaaban said the offer had come from the Israeli prime minister.

“Olmert is ready for peace with Syria on the grounds of international conditions, on the grounds of the return of the Golan Heights in full to Syria,” she said. The Syrian newspaper, al-Watan, carried similar news on its website on Wednesday. […]

Mr Olmert’s office did not deny the Syrian reports, choosing only to state that they “refuse to comment on the matter”. […]

The former US President, Jimmy Carter, who held talks with the Syrian leader recently has said he believes “about 85%” of the differences between Israel and Syria have already been resolved, including borders, water rights, the establishment of a security zone and on the presence of international forces.

“[Mr Assad said] the only major difference in starting good-faith talks was that Israel insisted that there will be no public acknowledgment that the talks were going on when Syria insisted that the talks would not be a secret,” Mr Carter said earlier this week.

Mr Carter said it was now “just a matter of reconvening the talks and concluding an agreement” between the neighbouring countries.

[bold emphasis as original]

BBC news, May 21, 2008:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/7412247.stm

Israel and Syria have said they are holding indirect talks to reach a comprehensive peace agreement.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s office said both sides were talking “in good faith and openly”.

The Syrian foreign ministry also confirmed the Turkish-mediated talks, the first since 2000. […]

The Syrian foreign minister, Walid Muallem, said Israel had agreed to withdraw from the Golan up to the armistice line of 1967.

Israel has refused to comment on the claim, although a spokesman for Mr Olmert said the current talks were being carried out with the failure of the previous ones in mind, and that the talks had recently gathered momentum.

The US and the EU have welcomed news of the talks, and both have praised Turkey’s role as facilitator.

[bold emphasis as original]

Haaretz, May 9, 2010:

But then we had the three-week long air offensive Operation Cast Lead (Dec 27, 2008 – Jan 18, 2009) ostensibly to stop Palestinian rocket attacks and to disable Hamas (with their leadership ties in Syria). This so-called “Gazan War” would cost the lives of more than 1,400 Palestinians, the vast majority of who were unarmed civilians including many hundreds of children. The massacre also signalled the ending of peace talks with Syria. The following extracts are drawn from a thoughtful article written by Zvi Bar’el.

http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/opinion/the-missiles-are-coming-1.289149

No doubt, Israel is threatened, but so are Syria, Lebanon, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. It’s enough to listen to Israel’s threats to “take Syria back to the Stone Age,” “destroy Lebanon’s civilian infrastructure” or smash Hamas to understand that the style of the Israeli threat approaches that of Iran. If anyone should be waking up in the morning in a cold sweat, it’s the Lebanese, Syrians and Gazans, not the Israelis.

Nevertheless, even though Syria has suffered military blows from Israel, it continues to act “impudently,” and Lebanon, which was pounded in war, has stepped up its threats. Operation Cast Lead in Gaza did not stop Hamas from arming itself. And in the West Bank, the occupation forces have not completely neutralized the threat. […]

“[Syrian President Bashar] Assad wants peace but doesn’t believe [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu,” Baidatz told the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. But his words were lost in the alarming description of the number of missiles in Hezbollah’s hands. Because even though we understand weapons, and we consider Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah a household name, and we assemble and dismantle centrifuges every day, we lose our way when it comes to the peace process.

Baidatz didn’t explain how it’s possible to gain Assad’s confidence, and he wasn’t asked, just as he wasn’t asked whether returning the Golan Heights to Syria under agreed conditions could neutralize the Syrian-Lebanese-Hezbollah threat. These questions are too dangerous to ask to someone from the army – he just might propose a diplomatic solution.

The Times of Israel, July 1, 2013:

http://www.timesofisrael.com/we-have-no-beef-with-israel-syrian-islamist-rebel-group-says/

A Syrian rebel group operating along the Israeli border in the Golan Heights said it has no quarrel with Israel, and that its fight is with President Bashar Assad, not the Jewish state — and it will remain that way.

The Jewish Press, February 24, 2014:

http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/report-commander-of-syrian-rebels-trained-in-israel/2014/02/24/

Abdul-Ilah al-Bashir, the new commander of the Free Syrian Army, secretly trained in Israel last year after being admitted into to the country for medical treatment, according to the Arabic language Al-Ahd website. He was transferred to a hospital in Israel after he was wounded in a military operation. Rumors spread that he died and was buried in Syria, allegedly to distract attention from his training in Israel.

Haaretz, March 16, 2014:

http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/1.580169

The Syrian opposition is willing to give up claims to the Golan Heights in return for cash and Israeli military aid against President Bashar Assad, a top opposition official told Al Arab newspaper, according to a report in Al Alam.

The Times of Israel, August 13, 2014:

http://www.timesofisrael.com/syrian-rebel-commander-says-he-collaborated-with-israel/

A Free Syrian Army commander, arrested last month by the Islamist militia Al-Nusra Front, told his captors he collaborated with Israel in return for medical and military support, in a video released this week.

Haaretz, December 7, 2014:

http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/.premium-1.630359

Reports by UN observers in the Golan Heights over the past 18 months reveal the type and extent of cooperation between Israel and Syrian opposition figures. The reports, submitted to the 15 members of the UN Security Council and available on the UN’s website, detail regular contacts held on the border between IDF officers and soldiers and Syrian rebels.

The Guardian, December 7, 2014:

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/dec/07/israeli-jets-bomb-syria-says-damascus 

Syria accused Israeli jets of bombing two installations inside the country on Sunday, one near the capital, Damascus, and the second in a town near the Lebanese border. […]

Israel has carried out several air strikes in Syria since the revolt against Bashar al-Assad began in March 2011. Binyamin Netanyahu has repeatedly threatened to take military action to prevent Syria from transferring sophisticated weapons to its ally Hezbollah. In June, Israel struck targets inside Syria, including a military installation, following a cross-border attack that killed an Israeli teenager. Israel said at the time that it had struck nine military targets inside its northern neighbour and had confirmed “direct hits”.

The Times of Israel, June 29, 2015:

http://www.timesofisrael.com/yaalon-syrian-rebels-keeping-druze-safe-in-exchange-for-israeli-aid/

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said Monday that Israel has been providing aid to Syrian rebels, thus keeping the Druze in Syria out of immediate danger. […]

“We’ve assisted them under two conditions,” Ya’alon said of the Israeli medical aid to the Syrian rebels, some of whom are presumably fighting with al-Qaeda affiliate al-Nusra Front to topple Syrian President Bashar Assad.

*

Update:

On the day Russia launched air strikes [Wed Sept 30th] the WSJ published the following:

Wall Street Journal, September 30, 2015:

http://www.wsj.com/articles/putin-seeks-parliaments-approval-for-use-of-force-outside-russia-1443600142

Russia launched airstrikes in Syria on Wednesday, catching U.S. and Western officials off guard and drawing new condemnation as evidence suggested Moscow wasn’t targeting extremist group Islamic State, but rather other opponents of Bashar al-Assad’s regime. […]

Secretary of State John Kerry met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and said he raised U.S. concerns about attacks that target regime opponents other than Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL. In Syria’s multi-sided war, Mr. Assad’s military—aided by Iran and the Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah—is fighting both Islamic State and opposition rebel groups, some of which are supported by the U.S. and its allies.

Mr. Kerry said the U.S. and Russia need to hold military talks as soon as possible and Mr. Lavrov said he agreed. […]

Among seven areas that Syrian state media listed as targets of Russian strikes, only one—an area east of the town of Salamiyah in Hama province—has a known presence of Islamic State fighters. The other areas listed are largely dominated by moderate rebel factions or Islamist groups, such as Ahrar al-Sham and the al Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front.

In other words, “rebel” factions or “Islamic groups” now deemed “moderate” include al-Qaeda in Syria (aka Jabhat al-Nusra or Nusra Front).

*

The timelines above are abridged and rearranged versions of the single line produced by Kevin Borge. The ones above also include a number of additions and extensions to Borge’s original.

Click here to read the original timeline for the Syrian War published by Global Research on August 29th.

 

* Here is a graphic showing polling figures for a range of ten questions taken from the same Washington Post article:

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‘Terror Tuesdays’ European-style, all in the name of the ‘war on terror’

Exactly twenty years ago the European Court of Human Rights found that the British Government had acted illegally in shooting dead three IRA members in Gibraltar, even though the court accepted that the government had a genuine belief that they were planning a bombing attack. Indeed the court accepted the victims were terrorists, and refused compensation to their families on those grounds. But the court refused to accept there was no possibility of foiling the plot through methods other than summary execution.

In the light of the decision that Operation Flavius contravened Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights, it is difficult to understand how the government can claim its killing of British men in Syria, with no trial, is anything other than murder. I personally find it difficult to imagine technically how men journeying in a car in Syria were imminently able to instantly wreak havoc in the UK so that it was impossible to prevent by any method other than their execution without trial. The level of certainty required for that decision would involve sufficient knowledge of what was to happen in the UK to stop it here. If there was vagueness about what was actually to happen in the UK, there cannot have been the certainty about the threat claimed. It is a logical impasse.

Frankly in twenty years of experience working with British security services their level of accuracy (remember Iraqi WMD) was never that good. And everybody is fortunately now deeply sceptical about the continual claims by the security services that there are thousands of dedicated Islamic terrorists in the UK conducting hundreds of plots every year, and yet miraculously never actually managing to kill anybody.

Just in case anybody had not worked out yet that the Guardian is a disgraceful neo-con rag, it has an article by its “legal correspondent” Joshua Rozenberg, married to the even more rabid Zionist militarist Melanie Phillips (who still believes the Iraqi WMD exist, hidden in the bed of the Euphrates). Rozenberg assures us it is absolutely legal for the British government to kill us without trial if it wants. He even suggests the murdered Mr Khan would not object:

“If he was waging war on British troops and civilians, he can hardly complain the UK’s armed forces were one step ahead of him.”

Astonishingly for a lawyer, the disgraceful Rozenberg does not seem to notice that the opening “if” is rather important. “If Mr Jones was engaged in insurance fraud, he can hardly complain at being banged up for twenty years”, so according to Mr Rozenberg we can dispense with all that nonsense about trials and evidence and just take the government’s word for it. Not to mention that the government has now instituted summary execution without trial in a country that does not even have the death penalty.

writes Craig Murray, former UK Ambassador to Uzbekistan, in an article he posted on his blog on Tuesday [Sept 8th].

The following day, Murray wrote a second piece which he declares is possibly “the most important article I [will] ever post” with encouragement for others to repost it – the complete version follows – and original can also be read here:

This may be the most important article I ever post, because it reveals perfectly how the Establishment works and how the Red Tories and Blue Tories contrive to give a false impression of democracy. It is information I can only give you because of my experience as an insider.

It is a definitive proof of the validity of the Chomskian propaganda model. It needs a fair bit of detail to do this, but please try and read through it because it really is very, very important. After you have finished, if you agree with me about the significance, please repost, (you are free to copy), retweet, add to news aggregators (Reddit etc) and do anything you can to get other people to pay attention.

The government based its decision to execute by drone two British men in Syria on “Legal Opinion” from the Attorney-General for England and Wales, Jeremy Wright, a politician, MP and Cabinet Minister. But Wright’s legal knowledge comes from an undistinguished first degree from Exeter and a short career as a criminal defence barrister in Birmingham. His knowledge of public international law is virtually nil.

I pause briefly to note that there is no pretence of consulting the Scottish legal system. The only legal opinion is from the Attorney General for England and Wales who is also Honorary Advocate General for Northern Ireland.

So Jeremy Wright’s role is as a cypher. He performs a charade. The government employs in the FCO a dozen of the most distinguished public international lawyers in the world. When the Attorney-General’s office needs an Opinion on public international law, they ask the FCO to provide it for him to sign.

The only known occasion when this did not happen was the Iraq War. Then the FCO Legal Advisers – unanimously – advised the Attorney-General, Lord Goldsmith, that to invade Iraq was illegal. Jack Straw asked the Attorney General to dismiss the FCO chief Legal Adviser, Sir Michael Wood (Goldsmith refused). Blair sent Goldsmith to Washington where the Opinion was written for him to sign by George Bush’s lawyers. [I know this sounds incredible, but it is absolutely true]. Sir Michael Wood’s deputy, Elizabeth Wilmshurst, resigned in protest.

In consequence Blair and Straw decided that, again for the first time ever, the FCO’s chief legal adviser had to be appointed not from within the FCO legal advisers, who had all declared the war on Iraq to be illegal, but from outside. They had to find a distinguished public international lawyer who was prepared to argue that the war on Iraq had been legal. That was a very small field. Blair and Straw thus turned to Benjamin Netanyahu’s favourite lawyer, Daniel Bethlehem.

Daniel Bethlehem had represented Israel before the Mitchell Inquiry into violence against the people of Gaza, arguing that it was all legitimate self-defence. He had also supplied the Government of Israel with a Legal Opinion that the vast Wall they were building in illegally occupied land, surrounding and isolating all the major Palestinian communities and turning them into large prisons, was also legal. Daniel Bethlehem is an extreme Zionist militarist of the most aggressive kind, and close to Mark Regev, Israel’s new Ambassador to the UK.

Daniel Bethlehem had developed, in his work for Israel, an extremist doctrine of the right of States to use pre-emptive self-defence – a doctrine which would not be accepted by the vast majority of public international lawyers. He clinched his appointment by Blair as the FCO chief legal adviser by presenting a memorandum to the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee in 2004 outlining this doctrine, and thus de facto defending the attack on Iraq and the Bush/Blair doctrine.

A key sentence of Daniel Bethlehem’s memorandum is this

“It must be right that states are able to act in self-defence in circumstances where there is evidence of further imminent attacks by terrorist groups, even if there is no specific evidence of where such an attack will take place or of the precise nature of the attack.”

There is a fundamental flaw in this argument. How can you be certain that an attack in “imminent”, if you are not certain where or what it is? Even if we can wildly imagine a scenario where the government know of an “imminent” attack, but not where or what it is, how could killing someone in Syria stop the attack in the UK? If a team were active, armed and in course of operation in the UK – which is needed for “imminent” – how would killing an individual in Syria prevent them from going through with it? It simply does not add up as a practical scenario.

Interestingly, Daniel Bethlehem does not pretend this is accepted international law, but specifically states that

“The concept of what constitutes an “imminent” armed attack will develop to meet new circumstances and new threats”

Bethlehem is attempting to develop the concept of “imminent” beyond any natural interpretation of the word “imminent”.

Daniel Bethlehem left the FCO in 2011. But he had firmly set the British government doctrine on this issue, while all FCO legal advisers know not to follow it gets you sacked. I can guarantee you that Wright’s Legal Opinion states precisely the same argument that David Bethlehem stated in his 2004 memorandum. Knowing how these things work, I am prepared to wager every penny I own that much of the language is identical.

It was New Labour, the Red Tories, who appointed Daniel Bethlehem, and they appointed him precisely in order to establish this doctrine. It is therefore a stunning illustration of how the system works, that the only response of the official “opposition” to these extrajudicial executions is to demand to see the Legal Opinion, when it comes from the man they themselves appointed. The Red Tories appointed him precisely because they knew what Legal Opinion would be given on this specific subject. They can read it in Hansard.

So it is all a charade.

Jeremy Wright pretends to give a Legal Opinion, actually from FCO legal advisers based on the “Bethlehem Doctrine”. The Labour Party pretends, very unconvincingly, to be an opposition. The Guardian, apparently the leading “opposition” intellectual paper, publishes articles by its staff neo-con propagandists Joshua Rozenberg (married to Melanie Phillips) and Rafael Behr strongly supporting the government’s new powers of extrajudicial execution. In summer 2012 Joshua Rozenberg presented a programme on BBC Radio 4 entitled “Secret courts, drones and international law” which consisted mostly of a fawning interview with … Daniel Bethlehem. The BBC and Sky News give us wall to wall justification of the killings.

So the state, with its neo-con “opposition” and media closely in step with its neo-con government, seamlessly adopts a new power to kill its own subjects based on secret intelligence and secret legal advice, and a very weird definition of “imminent” that even its author admits to be outside current legal understanding.

That is how the state works. I do hope you find that helpful.

This article has been updated to reflect the fact the Daniel Bethlehem is now retired from the FCO.

Meanwhile, across the Channel, evidence is mounting that François Hollande has also recently instituted a programme for the extrajudicial execution of terrorist suspects with Obama-style “kill lists” and “Terror Tuesdays” of his own. As Kumaran Ira writes in an article published on August 19th:

In the name of the “war on terror,” the French state is dramatically accelerating its use of clandestine operations to extra-judicially murder targeted individuals. French President François Hollande reportedly possesses a “kill list” of potential targets and constantly reviews the assassination programme with high-ranking military and intelligence officers.

This programme of state murder, violating basic constitutional rights in a country where the death penalty is illegal, underscores the profound decay of French bourgeois democracy. Amid escalating imperialist wars in France’s former colonial empire and deepening political crisis at home, the state is moving towards levels of criminality associated with the war against Algerian independence and the Vichy regime of Occupied France.

Press reports have revealed the French state’s assassination programme—carried out particularly in the regions where France has launched military interventions supposedly to fight terrorism, in Africa and the Middle East—and applauded it.

In an article on August 8 titled “War on Terror, Licence to Kill,” news magazine Le Point asserted that the French president has the right to kill an individual who has not even been charged with, let alone convicted of, a crime. It wrote,

“The rule of law has its dark side. The president of the republic has the right to kill, despite the abolition of the death penalty. A republican monarch, the head of the army can give the thumbs-down, deciding alone and in cold blood to make a man leave the land of the living.”

Le Point added, “This right is unchallenged, as it is written nowhere. And because it is exercised without discussion, oversight, or control.”

Regarding the French president’s “kill list,” online magazine Slate wrote:

“This list includes the names of terrorists and other stated enemies whose elimination without trial the president of the Republic has authorised. This means their execution without warning, anytime, as soon as the secret services or military intelligence can locate them.”

In truth, I have been unable to track down the articles Kumaran Ira quotes above, however, intimations that Hollande may soon follow America (and Britain)’s lead can be found in other places:

Is France about to follow the lead of the UK and start sending its warplanes to kill French citizens in Syria? The French public would certainly not be against the move, experts say.

The same day that Britain said its drones had killed two of its citizens in Syria, President Francois Hollande announced he would send planes into Syria to locate and possibly destroy people believed to be planning attacks on France. […]

“It is certain that there are French among the jihadists (in Syria) and if there are strikes then they too might well be hit,” said Jean-Vincent Brisset, a former fighter pilot and now an analyst at the French Institute for International and Strategic Affairs (IRIS) in Paris.

“A large part of French public opinion would not be too unhappy if a (French jihadist) was not going to come back to France and carry out an attack here,” he said.

“But I don’t think the French have a kill-list as such, even if there a certain number of (French) persons (in Syria) that France would like to see hit,” said Brisset.

Asked about the possibility and legality of French warplanes taking out French citizens, a spokeswoman at French military headquarters said: “For the moment we are at the stage of reconnaissance flights and no strikes have been carried out. So this is not an issue at the moment.”

Jean-Pierre Maulny, a defence expert, said it was likely that French citizens would sooner or later be killed by French planes, but that he did not think French citizens would be singled out in Syria.

“I don’t think they will differentiate between French jihadists and others.”

Click here to read the complete article published in today’s The Local.

Of course, such denials from the French authorities to the effect that they would never deliberately target their own citizens (have we forgotten the bombing of the Rainbow Warrior?) muddy the waters and further distract us from the crucial fact that Nato has not sought legal sanction for any of its air strikes into Syrian territory. And although some genuine form of military offensive against ISIS appears necessary, this habit of conflating our ostensibly primary objective of defeating ISIS with the toppling of Assad simply shows how the West’s truer intentions are — as in Iraq and Libya before — regime change.

For the overthrow of the stable Syrian government is totally counterproductive to success against ISIS and in the so-called “war on terror”. The “war on terror” itself merely the pretext to spread both terror and war, and the “kill lists” and the “Terror Tuesdays” instituted as precedents that we ought to expect to one day come home to roost. Murderous if as yet still distant encroachments on all our human rights.

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FIFA is patently corrupt, but what’s this FBI sting really been about…?

A precursory note to the disinterested:

I did not originally intend to post an article (certainly nothing so extended) about the ongoing investigations into football’s world governing body, FIFA. However, once I began to scratch just a little beneath the surface of this developing scandal, I found that it immediately led into areas completely unanticipated. Behind the cartoon kleptocracy running the show at FIFA HQ up popped more familiar faces: the gone, but not so easily forgotten Nicolas Sarkozy, the ubiquitous Benjamin Netanyahu, and — never far from any scandal — the unwanted opinion of John McCain. Added to which, there are political entanglements that ought to have a bearing on the current US Presidential election campaign – what is the role the Clintons have played?

*

World Cup fever

When, in 2010, FIFA chief Sepp Blatter announced that Russia would host the 2018 World Cup a few eyebrows were raised… Moments later, however, as Blatter slipped his hand into a second envelope before revealing to the assembly of hopeful delegates that Qatar were to host in 2022, you could barely hear the feigned applause above the sound of jaws collectively dropping around the world.

Russia is a country very much riddled with corruption as we know (after the fall of communism, the so-called “liberalisation of markets” left the way wide open for the rise of the gangster oligarchs), but Russia is also a proud footballing nation. Supporters of the game recognised that Russia had at least earned its right to host football’s greatest tournament. The Qatar decision, on the other hand, instantly turned FIFA into a laughing stock.

Qatar has zero footballing tradition, effectively zero facilities, and due to its arid climate, close to zero blades of grass. What it had instead, and in prodigious abundance, was oil and money, and the political clout that goes with both. In other words, graft had again won the day – and just look who is smiling broadly beside the delegation of Qatari sheikhs as they jump for joy – bottom left of the screen [16 mins in], the sleek, silvery head of former President and (very likely, heaven forfend) soon-to-be (first) First Husband of the United States, Bill Clinton (a lot more on this Clinton connection later):

Whatever lingering hopes we’d had that FIFA may recover a little of its horribly sullied reputation were gone forever (though most supporters knew the score long before 2010), and all that was left was to marvel at the temerity of football’s world governing body, so casually throwing off any last pretence to probity and respectability.

With the rigged voting in 2010, it may be argued that the writing was on the wall for both FIFA and its seamy president Sepp Blatter, but with friends like Qatar around to watch your back, neither FIFA nor Blatter were about to be quite so unceremoniously deposed. Certainly the stage had been set, but the future remained secure for the heads of FIFA, or so it seemed until last week…

*

It wasn’t exactly extraordinary rendition. But when Swiss police arrested seven officials of FIFA, the international football federation, for extradition to the United States, there were some echoes of the secret terrorism arrests. Soccer is a global game, and it matters more to almost everyone than to Americans. So why is the US acting as the international sheriff and grabbing up non-US citizens to try them domestically for corrupting the sport worldwide? And, more to the point, why is this legal?

So writes Noah Feldman, who is a professor of constitutional and international law at Harvard.

Feldman’s questions are germane. But before we come to addressing them, it is worthwhile considering more closely the person in charge of so aggressively pursuing the case, Obama’s newly appointed US Attorney General, Loretta Lynch. Lynch has a point to prove, as an article published by the Guardian in February explains:

Opposition to Barack Obama’s nominee for US attorney general over her handling of the HSBC scandal is growing in Congress after she admitted deciding not to prosecute the bank for money laundering offences without hearing from key regulators or a separate investigation into tax secrecy. […]

“These decisions by the [Department of Justice] and Ms Lynch’s office raise troubling questions about whether pertinent information of public concern regarding HSBC was ‘swept under the rug’, if justice was served, and why HSBC was given special treatment that allowed it to walk away from such serious offences unscathed,” [Senator David] Vitter writes in a letter to current attorney general Eric Holder. “This case is increasingly relevant and pressing now that Ms Lynch has been nominated as the next attorney general.”

Lynch has confirmed she was not aware of the damning tax allegations against the bank when negotiating a deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) over it facilitating money laundering by Mexican drug cartels and helping clients evade US sanctions.

This was despite a separate investigation into documents from whistleblower Hervé Falciani showing HSBC’s role in colluding with Swiss bank clients to hide their assets from tax authorities, which were passed to the US government by French authorities.

“To my knowledge, my office did not have access to the Falciani documents prior to execution of the DPA [Deferred Prosecution Agreement],” said Lynch in responses published on Thursday. “I am not aware of whether or how the information was conveyed to the department, nor do I have information about why my office did not have access to it.”

The admission has angered campaigners who say the crucial Facliona [sic] documents were “lost in the haystack of information” at the DoJ but their public existence could have been easily verified.

“She could have looked it up on Wikipedia,” said Bart Naylor, an expert at Public Citizen1

Click here to read the full article.

Thanks to Lynch’s oversight (in both senses of the word), HSBC escaped prosecution despite proven charges of laundering money for drug cartels and for terrorists – setting an extremely dangerous “too big to jail” precedent. After this remarkably softly, softly approach to Wall Street, however, Lynch is now taking an altogether more muscular stance in the case of FIFA.

An approach which potentially sets a differently dangerous precedent as she risks accusations of judicial overreach, especially given the comparatively speaking, minor felonies – bribery and kickbacks of around £100 million over 24 years is the charge against the accused FIFA officials (close to the price Real Madrid paid Spurs for Gareth Bale), and not the multiple billions of the never-ending banking “scandals”, or, to offer a very different example, the child trafficking allegations for which both DynCorp and Halliburton have been implicated (but no prosecutions brought). Furthermore, these alleged offences were committed by officials not at the head of a multinational corporation, but of a sports body that the average American cares very little about. So, why is the FBI so bothered? Why now? And on what grounds did the FBI make last week’s arrests outside America? Back to Noah Feldman:

It turns out the legal basis for the FIFA prosecutions isn’t all that simple or straightforward – and therein lies a tale of politics and sport. The prosecutions are being brought under RICO, the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organisations Act of 1970, which was designed to prosecute crime syndicates that had taken over otherwise lawful organisations. […]

Generally, as the US Supreme Court has recently emphasised, laws passed by Congress don’t apply outside the US unless Congress affirmatively says so. RICO on its face says nothing about applying beyond US borders. So you’d think it can’t reach conduct that occurred abroad, and much of the alleged FIFA criminal conduct appears to have done so.

But in 2014 the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit held that RICO could apply extraterritorially – if, and only if, the separate criminal acts required by the law, known as “predicate acts”, violated statutes that themselves apply outside US borders. […]

But what’s most remarkable, and even incendiary, about the indictment comes in the fine print. RICO requires the existence of a criminal enterprise. As part of its case, the US Department of Justice is alleging that FIFA, the organiser of the World Cup, became a criminal enterprise as a result of its use of systematic corruption. In effect, the US government is saying that FIFA became the Mafia. 2 [Emphasis added]

*

Sepp Blatter has not (yet) been indicted, but for most of last week he was decidedly the man most in the (media) frame. In spite of this, delegates at the 65th Congress re-elected him as FIFA president and then for days afterwards, Blatter brazenly refused to step down. During this period of prolonged ignominy, it had been Michel Platini, chief of European football’s ruling body, UEFA, who was most vociferous in calling for Blatter’s resignation:

[Blatter’s] speech came just hours after Frenchman Platini said the latest crisis had left him “absolutely sickened”, adding: “People have had enough, they don’t want this president any more.” 3

That was on Thursday 28th, the day before FIFA’s election for president, and after Platini had personally requested that Blatter step down. The same day, Platini also called for delegates to join him in voting for Jordan’s Prince Ali Bin Al-Hussein, saying:

“Sepp, I like to speak to you man to man, face to face. Listen we started together, now I am asking you to leave FIFA because we give a terrible image and this can’t go on.” 4

Now, it is here worth briefly reflecting upon Michel Platini’s reputation as a player. For Platini wasn’t just any old player, but acclaimed by many as the greatest player of his generation. Creative, imaginative, tremendously skilful, Platini had been lauded not only for his prodigious talents, but also for his clean approach to the game. That said, after becoming head of FIFA’s European affiliate UEFA, Platini, like Blatter (who was always a bureaucrat), moved into politics. The politics of sport is politics nevertheless.

Since Platini took the helm at UEFA, he too became deeply embroiled in scandals seemingly of his own making – scandals I will return to in a moment. Yet at the present time, the media have collectively latched onto Platini and adopted him as football’s knight in shining armour. So whatever Platini is reported to have said is often presented as though Platini himself has no political ambitions. But this is nonsensical. And in actual fact, Platini’s own decisions as a footballing chief also played a significant part in FIFA’s downfall too – if, that is, we accept that FIFA’s real troubles began with the absurd 2010 vote and Qatar’s moment in the sun.

*

Qatar

In a 20-page investigation headlined “Qatargate”, the respected magazine France Football said that “acts of collusion and corruption” shaped the much-criticised FIFA decision to award the 2022 competition to the tiny, oil-rich Gulf state.

Among the alleged “acts of collusion”, the magazine listed a secret meeting called by President Sarkozy at the Elysée Palace on 23 November 2010. Ten days later – to worldwide astonishment – Qatar was chosen by a FIFA executive committee meeting in Zurich to host the World Cup in June-July 2022, despite summer temperatures in the Gulf of up to 50C.

This is taken from an article published by The Independent in January 2013. It continues:

Mr Sarkozy’s lunch guests included the crown prince of Qatar, Tamin bin Haman al-Thani, Michel Platini, president of the European Football Association (EUFA), and a representative of the investment fund which owned the then struggling French football club, Paris Saint-Germain (PSG).

France Football said that Mr Platini – a star of the France team of the 1980s – came under pressure at the lunch to switch his vote from the United States to Qatar.

The article ends with a quote from Nicolas Sarkozy:

One of the few international figures to have consistently supported the choice of Qatar is Mr Sarkozy. Just after the FIFA vote in 2010, he said: “Sport does not belong to a few countries. It belongs to the world… I don’t understand those who say that events should always be held in the same countries and the same continents.” 5

Click here to read the full article.

Eighteen months later, as the scandal rumbled on, we learned that Platini not only voted for Qatar in the ballot, but that he had been involved in another private meeting linked to the Qatar bid:

The Telegraph has unearthed evidence that Mr Platini, a former leading French international and the president of Uefa, European football’s governing body, had a private discussion with Mohamed Bin Hammam, the controversial Qatari [a former Fifa executive committee member and ex-president of the Asian Football Confederation] who paid millions of pounds to football officials around the world. […]

It is understood that the meeting took place shortly before Fifa awarded the 2022 World Cup to Qatar, and that Mr Bin Hammam personally lobbied Mr Platini to support the Emirate’s bid.

Fifa executive committee members vote in secret, but Mr Platini has disclosed that he voted for Qatar in the ballot, which was held in 2010. 6

Platini, whose son Laurent happened to be the chief executive of Qatar owned sports company Burrda, quickly denied the allegations, writing in response to The Telegraph article:

“I find it astonishing that conversations with a fellow member of the FIFA Executive Committee could suddenly be transformed into a matter of state.

I have obviously met with Mr. Mohamed Bin Hammam on many occasions in 2010 as we were both members of the same FIFA Executive Committee since 2002.

During those conversations with Mr. Bin Hammam, the topic of the discussions was my potential candidature for the FIFA Presidency. Mr. Bin Hammam was indeed trying to convince me to become a candidate for the 2011 FIFA Presidential elections.

Additionally, I wish to reiterate that I am the only member of the FIFA Executive Committee who publicly stated for which bid I have voted – proof of my full transparency – and that no one ever dictates terms or conditions to me.

Unfortunately, I am no longer surprised by the circulation of unfounded rumours which aim at tarnishing my image, especially in such an important time for the future of football.”

*

Ukraine and Russia

[Nonetheless,] the bid was still considered the outsider of the three.

Poland is still recovering from a match-fixing scandal and its government has been warned by Uefa and Fifa about political interference in the country’s football governing body.

Meanwhile, Ukraine has been hit by a political crisis, with the president trying to dissolve parliament. 7

This was how the BBC reported on the surprise victory by the joint Poland-Ukraine bid to host the Euro 2012 tournament. At the time, Italy had been favourites to win, even though their own bid was similarly overshadowed with issues relating to crowd violence as well as to a match-fixing scandal. The Italian authorities have always accepted the result, however, one person, and not an Italian but a Cypriot, would later publicly claim that he held evidence of backroom deals. UEFA’s response was swift:

European football’s governing body, Uefa, says it is taking legal action in response to allegations of corruption in the bidding race for Euro 2012.

Spyros Marangos, a former treasurer of the Cyprus Football Association [CFA], claimed this week that money had changed hands before the championship was handed to Poland and Ukraine.

He was told to provide evidence within two days to back up his claims.

But, according to Uefa, Mr Marangos had complained that was too short notice.

His lawyers told the BBC on Monday that Mr Marangos had tried for the past two years to draw the football body’s attention to the allegations for which he had witnesses. 8

Spyros Marangos, who had left the CFA in 2007, “made the allegations in German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung before telling Italian daily La Gazzetta dello Sport that he had proof to back up his claims.” In response, UEFA filed for damages in the Swiss courts and lodged a complaint with the Cypriot Attorney General. They also released an official statement:

‘UEFA has been obliged to take legal action firstly in order to establish whether any of the claims made by Mr Marangos have any substance to them, and therefore to make available any tangible elements in order to substantiate these claims. And secondly, to protect the integrity and the good name of UEFA and European football in general, which have been seriously damaged by these allegations.’ 9

Not that scandal surrounding the Euro 2012 tournament ended with Spyros Marangos’ unsubstantiated allegations. There have since been claims that once construction for the tournament started, as much as £2.5 billion (compare this with the £100 million in alleged bribes currently being investigated by the FBI) went missing in Ukraine alone:

Uefa, the governing body of football in Europe, is under pressure to investigate claims of massive corruption during Ukraine’s preparations for Euro 2012, amid allegations that as much as $4bn (£2.5bn) in state funds allocated for the tournament was stolen by officials.

Rebecca Harms, the leader of the Green faction in the European parliament, said Uefa had to investigate why Ukraine cancelled competitive tenders for all Euro 2012 projects in 2010. Instead, contracts for building stadiums, roads and other infrastructure projects were awarded to a handful of shadowy companies, including one based offshore in Belize. […]

Harms, a German MEP who visited Ukraine’s second city, Kharkiv, last week, told the Guardian: “I will confront Uefa with these questions. I will also raise them in parliament. In whose private pocket did the money go? Uefa [under Platini’s watch – my note] must take responsibility.” 10

This comes from a Guardian article published in 2012, a time when former Prime Minister “the gas princess” Yulia Tymoshenko had been jailed for her own part in a corruption scandal soon after her fierce opponent Viktor Yanukovych was re-elected into office. With pro-western Tymoshenko behind bars and more Russophilic Yanukovych back in power, the corporate media was much keener to switch its spotlight on to Ukrainian criminality.

But for reasons of political expedience, Ukraine and its oligarchs now get a more or less free pass. The media turns a blind eye, not merely to its corruption scandals, but to Kiev’s deliberate bombing campaign against civilians (a million people forced to flee to Russia), to its complicity in a massacre, and to the overt rise of fascism both within government spheres and military brigades. When searching out stories of corruption, attention has instead shifted solely to the misdemeanours of Russian oligarchs and to crimes committed (“allegedly” is a word reserved for western misdemeanours and indiscretions) by the Kremlin. Which brings us back to FIFA…

Given the sordid history of FIFA, the allegations will likely have a solid foundation. Four other people and two companies have already pleaded guilty to charges in the case. Allegations of bribery have long dogged FIFA. Vast fortunes are at stake when it comes to hosting prestigious sporting events, such as the World Cup and Olympics. Bribery has become endemic in the allocation of these events.

Mass sporting events, which are backed and sponsored by gigantic corporate interests, are fundamentally managed no differently than anything else organised by big business and the imperialist powers.

The decision by the Obama administration to pursue and file the charges, however, is both hypocritical and politically motivated. Indeed, the sums cited in the criminality within FIFA are dwarfed by the corrupt practices associated with the US and global financial system.

Following the arrests, FBI Director James Comey said, “If you corrupt our shores with your corrupt enterprise, whether that is through meetings or using our world-class financial system, you will be held accountable for that corruption. Nobody is above or beyond the law.”

Loretta Lynch, the Obama administration’s attorney general, spoke of a culture of “rampant, systemic and deep-rooted” corruption. In the attempt to justify action against individuals residing in and largely operating outside of the US, Lynch said, “In many instances, the defendants and their co-conspirators planned aspects of this long-running scheme during meetings held here in the United States.”

Comey and Lynch speak as representatives of a US elite that is guilty of criminality on a much larger scale. Their “world-class financial system” is one that allowed a parasitic elite to indulge in financial skulduggery that collapsed the world’s banking system in 2008, leading to a global recession. And they rewarded these same people for their criminal behaviour with trillions of dollars of public money.

“Rampant, systemic and deep-rooted” corruption is an apt description of the daily operations of US banks, yet no executive of a major bank has been arrested or prosecuted.

The well-documented financial corruption within football’s ruling body is being utilised by the US primarily as a propaganda weapon against Russia.

That comes from an article published on the World Socialist Web Site. I reprint such an extended passage simply because it so cogently summed up my own thoughts upon hearing that FIFA had been busted by the FBI. Can anyone honestly fail to make the same connection? Especially since, as the same article goes on to point out:

Moscow’s hosting of the 2018 World Cup has been turned by figures with the US ruling elite and their allies internationally into a question of paramount importance.

Senator Robert Menendez, who in April was indicted on federal corruption charges, said he was “especially pleased that Swiss and US authorities are investigating FIFA’s granting of the World Cup to Russia in 2018 and Qatar in 2022”, as he had “long been concerned about FIFA’s selection of Russia.”

He was supported by Senator John McCain, who jointly authored a letter to FIFA declaring, “In light of President Blatter’s continued support for Russia hosting the 2018 FIFA World Cup—despite Russia’s ongoing violations of Ukraine’s territorial integrity and other challenges to the post-WWII security architecture—we ask that you reconsider your support for President Blatter’s fifth term as FIFA President.

This follows a letter to FIFA last month from 13 US senators requesting that Blatter step in to take the World Cup away from Russia. 11 [Emphasis added]

As the new Cold War sets in, this action is rather blatantly about Russia – an Anglo-American desire to embarrass Putin – although there are more reasons besides why this meeting taking place in Zurich about the immediate future of “global soccer” might have been troubling some on Capitol Hill…

*

Israel

In 2007, FIFA suspended Kuwait from all international matches because of “governmental interference in the national game”. In 2013, Cameroon Football Federation (Fecafoot) was suspended, and then last year, the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) was also suspended “on account of government interference.” This year, both FIFA and UEFA were threatening to sanction Greece, who had previously been suspended briefly in 2006 when they were then-reigning European champions, before the threat was dropped.

This time around, however, it was the Israeli FA that were facing possible suspension, and not because of “governmental interference in the national game” (as is usually the case), but on the more aggravated grounds that Israel had violated rules relating to free movement of players and of racism. In fact, Israel was about to be called to account for its abuses against Palestinian footballers that have included harassment, assaults, arrests, deliberately targeted shootings 12 and actual killings 13. One of the most high profile cases involved Mahmoud Sarsak, who at 14 years old was the youngest-ever player in the Palestine League:

Its abuse of Palestinian footballer Mahmoud Sarsak undermined a promising career. In 2009, Israeli security thugs arrested him for trying to cross from Gaza to the West Bank to participate in a match – his legitimate right.

He was horrifically abused, lawlessly kept in administrative detention for three years uncharged. His lawyers were denied access to fabricated evidence against him.

He was guilty of the crime of football – freed in summer 2012 after a 92 day hunger strike. Israel ruthlessly targets other Palestinian footballers like Sarsak. 14

A more detailed list of Israel’s violations are available at the Stop the War Coalition website.

The Palestinian Football Association (which has been recognised by FIFA since 1998 and is led by president Jibril Rajoub) had been granted a vote on Israel’s suspension at last week’s FIFA Congress, and Palestine supporters were also gathered outside to lend vocal support to the call for Israel’s expulsion. Although delayed because of a bomb scare, the Palestinians  remained optimistic that the ballot would return a decision in their favour:

The Palestinian Football Association will push ahead Friday for a vote calling for the suspension of Israel from the world football organisation at Fifa’s scandal-riven congress in Zurich.

Despite last-ditch attempts at mediation by world football officials, the Palestinian delegation insisted it would push for a vote unless Israel expels five teams based in illegal Israeli settlements from its football league. […]

Both Palestinian and Israeli delegations in Zurich have been working around the clock since arriving in the midst of the biggest scandal to hit the world football organisation.

Twin Swiss and US investigations focussing on a far-reaching culture of kickbacks in Fifa have thrown the congress in Zurich into chaos, including both the re-election bid of Fifa president Sepp Blatter and other business on the agenda including the Palestinian bid to have Israel suspended.

Israel has sought the support of the European regional grouping UEFA of which it is a member to vote against the proposed suspension. [I will come back to this]

Its efforts to avoid a vote – which some see as damaging in itself as a vote for suspension – have seen it enlist Israel’s ministry of foreign affairs as well as the lobbying of key Fifa officials.

The Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, weighed in on Thursday, telling reporters that if Israel is suspended “it would be a blatant politicisation of sport and the result will be Fifa’s collapse”15

[Emphasis added]

That was taken from a Guardian article published on the morning of Friday 29th, the day of the vote, but by the evening everything had changed:

The Palestinian Football Association has withdrawn its call to have Israel suspended from Fifa in a chaotic last minute climbdown at the congress of football’s governing body in Zurich. Following days of negotiations, and the mediation of Fifa president Sepp Blatter, the Palestinian moves at the scandal-ridden congress appeared comprehensively outmanoeuvred by feverish Israeli lobbying and the opposition of senior Fifa officials, including Blatter.

As details of an impending deal emerged, the Palestinian delegation came out of the last round of talks expecting the congress to vote on an amendment to refer the main sticking point, the status of five Israeli clubs based in illegal settlements on the West Bank, to the United Nations.

But the Palestinian move was overruled by Blatter, to the clear dismay of the Palestinian delegation, whose lawyer tried to appeal from the floor. Instead, the issue will be referred to a new Fifa committee. […]

Palestinian sources confirmed that Rajoub had been under huge pressure to withdraw the suspension motion from delegates. “It is true everyone was putting pressure on him to withdraw,” said one. Blatter has always made clear he opposed a vote on suspension.

Following the withdrawal of the request to suspend Israel over claims of its racist and discriminatory policies towards Palestinian football, 90% of delegates voted to set up a new monitoring inspections committee to oversee a mechanism to ensure movement of players and equipment.

The size of the vote in favour of the motion – 165-18 – is likely to be the only consolation for the Palestinian side, which has been pushing a long-term campaign over what it says are Israeli abuses of Palestinian football.

The outcome seemed certain to be a cause for celebration for Israel. […]

Commenting on the outcome, Netanyahu said: “Our international effort has proven itself and led to the failure of the Palestinian Authority attempt to oust us from Fifa.” 16

Click here to read more of this follow-up Guardian article

Afterwards, Israeli minister, Yisrael Katz, posted this on Facebook:

Rajoub failed in his mission of throwing Israel out of FIFA.  Now’s the time to imprison him in the Muqata [like Israel did to Arafat] and let him play Stanga [hackysack] with his pals 17

Newly re-elected president Sepp Blatter, who had stated his opposition to the suspension of Israel, tried to be conciliatory, but what he said was all the more risible for his attempt:

“This has been an issue for the past two FIFA Congresses and I’m so happy that we’re coming to a solution. I’m sure both sides will apply the basic principle of FIFA which is solidarity, it is up to Israel to help and share a little bit more with Palestine.”

But Blatter was not alone in defending the indefensible. Back in April, Platini too had given his backing to Israeli Football Association (IFA) officials. The IFA later releasing a statement saying:

“Platini stressed that Israel is an inseparable part of UEFA and is an equal member that is welcome in the UEFA family.”

Then, at a press conference on the eve of the FIFA congress, Platini reiterated that:

[The] football’s world governing body ‘wouldn’t accept’ the Palestinian FA’s bid to ban Israel from FIFA, should the motion be put to a vote tomorrow. 18

So punishment that was thought good for Cameroon, Nigeria, Greece and many others, including even oil-rich Kuwait (should anyone suppose this is simply about money), was withheld from Israel. All the turmoil going on at FIFA can hardly have helped the Palestinian cause.

*

Back to Qatar (and the Clintons)

Dozens of Nepalese migrant labourers have died in Qatar in recent weeks and thousands more are enduring appalling labour abuses, a Guardian investigation has found, raising serious questions about Qatar’s preparations to host the 2022 World Cup.

This summer, Nepalese workers died at a rate of almost one a day in Qatar, many of them young men who had sudden heart attacks. The investigation found evidence to suggest that thousands of Nepalese, who make up the single largest group of labourers in Qatar, face exploitation and abuses that amount to modern-day slavery, as defined by the International Labour Organisation, during a building binge paving the way for 2022.

According to documents obtained from the Nepalese embassy in Doha, at least 44 workers died between 4 June and 8 August. More than half died of heart attacks, heart failure or workplace accidents. 19

This is the opening to one of the earliest mainstream reports on the use of slave labour in constructing the World Cup infrastructure ready for Qatar 2022.

As this whole corruption fiasco has played out, and when not conducting the growing chorus of disapproval towards the disgraced but shameless Blatter, the media has also occasionally drawn a little more attention to the unseen costs of FIFA’s shock decision in 2010. For this is apparently what it takes to get our western media to fully investigate and to seriously challenge conditions within the despotic regimes of our Gulf State partners. And, on a similar note, we may now also return to consider the role of the Clintons in this whole debacle:

Bill Clinton looked anything but happy as he strode into the Savoy Baur en Ville hotel in Zurich in December 2010. The receptionists could tell he was irritated, but had no idea just how angry he was.

After closing the door to his suite, he reached for an ornament on a table and threw it at a wall mirror in a fit of rage, shattering the glass.

The former US president, who had spent two years travelling the world glad-handing members of football’s governing body, Fifa, could not believe America’s bid to host the 2022 World Cup had been beaten by, of all places, Qatar. 20

Hmmm, well he certainly doesn’t look like a man about to throw an ornament into a mirror in a fit of pique in that footage (embedded above), but then Bill is a renown diplomat, so presumably he was just putting a brave face on it. But hold up, what’s this…?

Former President Bill Clinton served as the honorary chairman of the U.S. committee that worked unsuccessfully to win the right to host the 2022 World Cup. The surprise winner that year was Qatar–and it turns out that the Qatari committee now planning the massive event has been a major donor to Clinton’s charitable foundation. […]

The foundation’s donor records, posted on its Web site, show that FIFA, or the Fédération Internationale de Football Association, has donated between $50,000 and $100,000 to the Clinton foundation. The Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee, which was formed in 2011 to build stadiums and other infrastructure after Qatar was named the 2022 host, has given between $250,000 and $500,000 to the foundation.

Naturally therefore, top of Loretta Lynch’s list will now be inquiries regarding these donations into the Clinton funds… Well, no:

U.S. officials Wednesday unsealed indictments against 14 top officials involved with soccer, accusing the group of bribery, money laundering and fraud.

While the [Clinton] foundation has no involvement with the investigations, it’s a reminder that the global philanthropy has accepted donations from many of the world’s richest and most powerful players. Its donor list runs to 200,000 names, and includes foreign governments, Wall Street and foreign financial institutions, energy conglomerates and others. The government of Qatar, for instance, which aggressively sought the World Cup, has given the foundation between $1 million and $5 million. 21

[Emphasis added]

Other “philanthropic” donations to the Clinton Foundation have come from Lockheed Martin, Boeing, General Electric and another less well-known aerospace manufacturer Hawker Beechcraft, who were part owned by Goldman Sachs. Coincidentally, many of these state and corporate donors had trade deals approved by Hillary Clinton’s State Department:

The monarchy in Qatar had similarly been chastised by the State Department for a raft of human rights abuses. But that country donated to the Clinton Foundation while Hillary Clinton was running the State Department. During the three full budgetary years of her tenure, Qatar saw a 14-fold increase in State Department authorizations for direct commercial sales of military equipment and services, as compared to the same time period in Bush’s second term. The department also approved the Pentagon’s separate $750 million sale of multi-mission helicopters to Qatar. That deal would additionally employ as contractors three companies that have all supported the Clinton Foundation over the years: United Technologies, Lockheed Martin and General Electric. 22

To read more about how these Clinton Foundation donors received contracts from Hillary Clinton’s State Department click here.

So let me pose this: is the bigger story here the one about a few (so far numbering fourteen) corrupt FIFA officials, or is it one about the financial irregularities of a former US President and his warmongering Presidential candidate wife?

[There are a great many other “scandals” surrounding and involving the Clintons, but I prefer to hold back from writing more about the misadventures of Bill and Hillary until a later date.]

*

Beyond Blatter

Now that Blatter is gone, what about the future of world football itself? The consensus amongst supporters – in Europe at least – appears to be that FIFA as a whole ought to be reformed, or even abolished. But here (as always) I believe it is wise to be very careful what we wish for.

During my time as a football fan (a period that encompasses nearly my whole life) there have been enormous changes in the sport. In England, surely the most significant of these was the establishment of the Premier League.

Prior to the Premier League, the wealthiest clubs in England were already in the habit of pestering for a bigger share of the television revenues. Breakaway threats would come and go, but nothing very much altered. It happens, however, that there have always been two ruling bodies in English football – The Football League and the Football Association (FA) – and eventually all this talk of divorce was formalised by the oldest and grandest of two, the FA, who foisted a deal against The League’s broader interests and on behalf of the richest “big five” clubs. In consequence, the top division became effectively a league of its own, administered under the auspices not of The League, but the FA. Extra money from the new TV rights could then be divvied up amongst the clubs in the new Premier League. Thus greed won out over democracy, as was the fashion in the early 1990s (and as now).

There have been many consequences to the formation of the FA Premier League. Increased revenues have enabled its clubs to attract star players from across the world, and the standard of top level English football has certainly improved. But the new money mostly went into players’ wages, and as salaries and bonuses rapidly inflated, ticket prices also escalated, squeezing out many of the game’s long-standing supporters. As clubs’ loyalty to their supporters waned, so too did the players’ loyalty to their clubs. Loyalty in football has all but disappeared.

In short, the establishment of the Premier League has helped to accelerate the corporatisation of English football. Thirty years ago there were arguments about whether players’ shirts should be allowed to carry advertisements (the BBC allowed ads on Formula One cars but baulked at letting football go the same way), and debate over whether football matches could be played on Sundays (a day of rest, for those who remember). Who could have envisaged a future when TV executives (primarily at Sky) would demand football matches are played literally every day of the week and three times on Sundays! Meantime, the supporters, who often travel great distances to watch their teams, and who cling to the belief that the game belongs to them (I remain one of the millions of likewise deluded fools), have in truth become little more than an advertising backdrop. Colourful scenery for corporate giants to hang their logos on.

As this latest FIFA scandal unfolded, it was the corporate sponsors, we have repeatedly been informed, who pushed hardest for Blatter’s resignation, deeply concerned that their own brand may become tarnished with ties to FIFA’s corruption. Hurrah for enlightened self-interest; this is what we’re supposed to think. Forgetting how those very same offshore (for tax purposes) multinational entities, exploit their distant workers in third world sweatshops, twisting every health and safety and environmental regulation in unremitting efforts to maximise profit. We ought really to laugh out loud, if only it didn’t hurt so much.

Likewise, the news is that UEFA may soon be split from FIFA altogether. A move which the corporations would doubtless prefer – two tiers in world football, very much along the lines of the two-tiered English league. So is UEFA about to usurp FIFA just as the FA usurped the Football League in the early ’90s? I sincerely hope not.

One thing I have learned about FIFA during the last week or so that surprised me in a good way, is how its voting systems are actually more democratic than those for most other global institutions. Each affiliated football association, irrespective of its size or importance, gets just one vote. It is this equality amongst nations that has helped to preserve the World Cup as a genuinely international competition. The diversity surviving by virtue of one simple but surprising fact: that it is very much easier for teams from Oceania, Asia, Africa and even North America to qualify than for those from the footballing superpowers in Europe and South America. Such handicapping makes the World Cup what it is – and FIFA deserve credit for keeping the playing field unlevel.

FIFA’s “one association one vote” system is arguably the very epitome of what footballing democracy ought to be, and not as the media has repeatedly presented it, another measure of corruption within the organisation itself. Of course, FIFA’s system does make the buying-off of local officials in smaller and poorer nations worthwhile, whereas if the major nations were prioritised (as is usually the case), corruption of a different but more familiar form would likely proliferate instead. Meanwhile, the insinuation that only officials of the “lesser nations” are prone to corruption is one that smacks very much of racism.

In any case, once the pressure has built to overhaul the existing system, the great tendency will be to make changes to benefit the superpowers of the game. And with more control in the hands of those in Europe (assuming UEFA prevails), western domination of the world’s favourite sport will also mean football imperialism.

I would like to finish on a related issue presented again by Noah Feldman, professor of constitutional and international law at Harvard, as he concluded his piece for Bloomberg View:

How will the rest of the world react to the claim that soccer’s international governing body is a criminal enterprise under U.S. law? One possibility is that international observers will be grateful that someone finally stepped in to do something about endemic corruption within FIFA. It’s been a more or less open secret over the years that FIFA was corrupt in the ordinary, nontechnical meaning of the word. Perhaps – just perhaps – fans will be pleased or relieved that someone has taken on the task of cleaning up the mess.

That interpretation is optimistic, given America’s reputation for extraterritorial imperialism. The relative unimportance of soccer in the U.S. compared with every place else on earth makes concerns about imperialism still more pressing. Through creative and aggressive use of a highly unusual American law, the U.S. may well be seen as attempting a takeover of international soccer. 23

*

Additional: The 3 Horse Race at FIFA

“This guy, if he gets in, will make Blatter and co seem like saints.” So wrote a very good friend of mine after hearing rumours (months ago) that another ex-footballer Luis Figo might be standing for the FIFA presidency.

Well, I have just looked at the odds for the various candidates and it appears to be roughly a three horse race. Prince Ali Al-Hussein is favourite – the bookies not the people’s. Platini is a close second, and next is indeed Luis Figo. So might it be that Platini was only the stalking horse — perhaps, Prince Ali too? Although if you are looking for a really long shot, then the bookies are offering 500-1 on Vladimir Putin (in the same spirit, I’m offering 1000-1 on both Bill or Hillary Clinton — take your pick!)

*

Update: Where were the auditors?

Auditors are fond of telling anyone prepared to listen that they cannot be expected to spot every fraud or impending disaster when they comb through a company’s books.

But the Fifa affair, which has finally claimed the scalp of president Sepp Blatter, raises questions about long-term auditor KPMG, which did not raise an alarm despite the openly lavish lifestyles of some officials.

It is just the latest embarrassment for KPMG – the firm audited a string of scandal-hit clients including HSBC, HBOS, the Co-op Bank and US mortgage lender Fannie Mae, apparently without noticing anything amiss.

It is not alone. Its peers, EY, PricewaterhouseCoopers and Deloitte also stand accused of not spotting impending disasters on their client lists.

The latest furore inevitably raises questions not only over the conduct of KPMG, but the wider issue of how accountable are the accountants.

‘The Fifa affair begs a question of exactly what are audits good for,’ says Professor Prem Sikka of Essex University Business School.

‘If the auditors can’t spot millions of pounds going astray over many years, what can they do?

Click here to read the full article at thisismoney, which questions the ‘revolving door syndrome’ between accountancy firms, corporate boardrooms and our financial regulators.

*

1 From an article entitled “Loretta Lynch confirmation as attorney general dogged by HSBC scandal” written by Dan Roberts, published in the Guardian on February 20, 2015. http://www.theguardian.com/business/2015/feb/20/loretta-lynch-confirmation-attorney-general-hsbc-scandal

2 From an article entitled “U.S. Treats FIFA Like the Mafia” written by Noah Feldman, published by Bloomberg View on May 27, 2015. http://www.bloombergview.com/articles/2015-05-27/u-s-treats-fifa-like-the-mafia

3 From an article entitled “Fifa: Blatter refuses to quit as president & vows ‘to restore trust’” published by BBC news on May 28, 2015. http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/football/32914907

4 Quoted here: http://www.morningstar.co.uk/uk/news/AN_1432819609175844000/platini-calls-on-blatter-to-step-down-uefa-to-attend-fifa-congress.aspx

5 From an article entitled “Nicolas Sarkozy ‘colluded’ to get Qatar 2022 World Cup” written by John Lichfield, published in The Independent on January 29, 2013. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/nicolas-sarkozy-colluded-to-get-qatar-2022-world-cup-8471758.html

6 From an article entitled “Qatar World Cup 2022: France embroiled in corruption scandal” written by Claire Newell, Holly Watt & Ben Bryant, published in The Telegraph on June 2, 2014. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/football/world-cup/10871065/Qatar-World-Cup-2022-France-embroiled-in-corruption-scandal.html

7 From an article entitled “Poland and Ukraine host Euro 2012” published by BBC news on April 18, 2007. http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/europe/6562527.stm

8 Uefa to sue Cypriot over Euro 2012 corruption claim” published by BBC news on October 28, 2010. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-11645694

9 The quote and details above are taken from an article entitled “UEFA launch legal action over corruption allegations surrounding Poland and Ukraine” published in the Daily Mail on October 30, 2010. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-1325142/UEFA-launch-legal-action-corruption-allegations-surrounding-Poland-Ukraine.html

10 From an article entitled “Euro 2012: Uefa urged to investigate $4bn corruption allegations in Ukraine” written by Luke Harding and David Leigh, published in the Guardian on June 20, 2012. http://www.theguardian.com/football/2012/jun/20/euro-2012-corruption-allegations-ukraine

11 From an article entitled US seizes on FIFA corruption to pursue campaign against Russia” written by Robert Stevens and Chris Marsden, published on the World Socialist Web Site on May 29, 2015. https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2015/05/29/fifa-m29.html

12

Outrage has surfaced over the case  of two Palestinian teenage football players [two teenagers, Jawhar Nasser Jawhar, 19, and Adam Abd al-Raouf Halabiya, 17] who were reportedly shot in the feet at an Israeli checkpoint on their way home from practise on January 31. Israeli security forces said  the two were trying to throw bombs at police officers.

Doctors reportedly said  the two teens will never be able to play sports again due to their injuries, and will need months of treatment before assessing whether they can walk.

From an article entitled “Shooting renews calls for FIFA to kick out Israel” published by Al Jazeera on March 5, 2014. http://stream.aljazeera.com/story/201403052234-0023531

You can also read more on the same story here: http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/palestinian-teenagers-shot-feet-by-israeli-soldiers-after-playing-football-calls-fifa-israel-ban-1439183

13

Ahed Zaqout, a former Palestinian national team player, has been killed by an Israeli bomb that hit his apartment in Gaza, Palestinian medical officials said on Thursday.

“Palestine has lost one of its best players, he may have been the best midfielder we ever had,” Gaza sports journalist Khaled Zaher told Reuters.

From an article entitled “Former midfielder on Palestinian national team killed in Gaza air strike” written by Nidal Al-Mughrabi, published by Haaretz on July 31, 2014. http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/1.608224

14 From an article entitled “Soccer Politics: Palestinian Bid to Expel Israel from FIFA Dropped” written by Stephen Lendman, published by Global Research on May 30, 2015. http://www.globalresearch.ca/soccer-politics-palestinian-bid-to-expel-israel-from-fifa-dropped/5452598

15 From an article entitled “Palestinian Football Association to push ahead for Israel’s suspension from Fifa” written by Peter Beaumont, published in the Guardian on May 29, 2015. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/may/29/palestinian-football-association-to-push-ahead-for-israels-suspension-from-fifa

16 From an article entitled “Palestine withdraw call to suspend Israel from Fifa” written by Peter Beaumont, published in the Guardian on May 29, 2015. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/may/29/palestinians-withdraw-call-to-suspend-israel-from-fifa-west-bank

17 Read more and find translation here: http://www.globalresearch.ca/did-israel-buy-its-way-out-of-fifa-suspension/5452609 

18 From an article entitled “Platini: FIFA ‘won’t accept’ Palestinian bid to suspend Israel” published by Jewish News on May 28, 2015. http://www.jewishnews.co.uk/platini-fifa-wont-accept-palestinian-bid-to-suspend-israel/

19 From an article entitled “Revealed: Qatar’s World Cup ‘slaves’” written by Pete Pattisson, published in the Guardian on September 25, 2013. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/sep/25/revealed-qatars-world-cup-slaves

20 From an article entitled “Qatar World Cup 2022 scandal: Bill Clinton’s fury at vote triggered global search for truth” written by Holly Watt, Claire Newell & Ben Bryant, published by The Telegraph on June 3, 2014. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/football/world-cup/10871114/Qatar-World-Cup-2022-scandal-Bill-Clintons-fury-at-vote-triggered-global-search-for-truth.html

21 From an article entitled “Clinton Foundation donors included FIFA, Qatar host committee” written by Rosalind S. Helderman, published in the Washington Post on May 27, 2015. http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-politics/wp/2015/05/27/clinton-foundation-donors-included-fifa-qatar-host-committee/ 

22 From an article entitled “Clinton Foundation Donors Got Weapons Deals From Hillary Clinton’s State Department” written by David Sirota and Andrew Perez, published in the International Business Times on May 26, 2015. http://www.ibtimes.com/clinton-foundation-donors-got-weapons-deals-hillary-clintons-state-department-1934187

23 From an article entitled “U.S. Treats FIFA Like the Mafia” written by Noah Feldman, published by Bloomberg View on May 27, 2015. http://www.bloombergview.com/articles/2015-05-27/u-s-treats-fifa-like-the-mafia

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show trial by television: Galloway was set up by BBC to be accused

A few hours ago I watched BBC1’s Question Time programme. I imagined it might be one of the more interesting outings of what has increasingly become a lame excuse for a serious political debate.

In general, the QT panel is composed of three mainstream politicians, each determined to spin their views as tightly as they can around the gurgling corporate sluice that is nowadays mistaken as political middle ground. Their prefabricated offerings are then juxtaposed against on the one hand, a boring but self-righteous and loud-mouthed journalist/business leader/blogger, and other the other an insane academic (generally an historian) who is no less loud-mouthed or self-righteous, and only less boring by virtue of being so completely potty.

In fact Question Time has long since become just another of the many hours of predicable political dross I occasionally skim through on the iplayer. But then sometimes, when the moon is blue and there are a pair of R’s in the month, there will appear one guest on the panel who not only speaks their mind, but actually has a mind worth speaking.

Just such an occasional panellist is George Galloway. For love or despise ‘Gorgeous George’, Question Time with Galloway is just about worth tuning in for. So tonight’s show (and I choose the word “show” very, very carefully) certainly did not disappoint in this regard. With Galloway posted on the panel, QT was once again livened up immeasurably.

Indeed, tonight’s show actually left me shaking… though not with excitement (as such) or anger, but literally with fear. In fact, by the end of the final half hour, I was trembling and thoroughly exhausted by the spectacle. I could barely even make a cup of tea to calm down afterwards. I also needed to write this post without delay and before I could possibly sleep. Writing in such haste has meant, of course, that I needed to get by with rather minimal research – hence the many references to wikipedia. But in searching wikipedia there was already enough evidence to validate my suspicions without any real need for digging deeper (although I do try to dig deeper as I go along).

It really didn’t take me very long to gather more than sufficient evidence to show how the programme had been deliberately framed with Galloway set up precisely as he had appeared to be: centre stage in a show trial.

The greatest proof of this comes in considering the backgrounds of the assembled hit squad – supposedly a neutral panel – whom I am about to name and shame more or less as they appeared in turn. There was also the audience… but I’ll come back to that later. Let’s begin with the man who led on the prosecution. Here is a little of what the wikipedia entry has on Jonathan Freedland (with original footnotes maintained):

Jonathan Saul Freedland (born 25 February 1967)[1] is a British journalist, who writes a weekly column for The Guardian and a monthly piece for The Jewish Chronicle.

A leading liberal Zionist in the UK,[9] he wrote in 2012 that he only uses the word Zionism infrequently. He explained:

“That is because the word has become so misunderstood, so freighted with excess baggage, that it has become all but impossible to deploy it without extensive explanation and qualification. Most of the time, it is best avoided. Part of the trouble is that a single variant – right-wing Zionism – has come to stand for the whole.”[10]

And this is Freedland speaking at — um — what’s the name of the place…? (also from wikipedia):

Next up on this supposedly balanced panel was someone called Cristina Odone:

Cristina Patricia Odone (born 11 November 1960)[1] is a journalist, editor, and writer. She has written for several newspapers, and was formerly the editor of The Catholic Herald, and deputy editor of the New Statesman.[2]

Odone’s father was a World Bank official, which led to the family regularly moving.

Odone is married to Edward Lucas,[2] a writer for The Economist magazine.[22]

Odone is also from the Legatum Institute think tank. What’s that you may ask? Well, here’s wikipedia again:

Legatum is a private investment firm headquartered in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Legatum invests proprietary capital in commercial investments.

So how is Legatum Institute think tank connected to the Legatum private investment firm? Well, read on…

The Legatum Institute is an independent policy, advisory and advocacy organisation within the Legatum group of companies based in London, United Kingdom.[1] The Institute researches and promotes the principles that drive the creation of global prosperity and the expansion of human liberty.

Hmmm, sound lovely, don’t they…? well, if you want more information it helps to go to their own website:

Sian Hansen is the Executive Director.

Previously Sian spent seven years as the Managing Director of the UK think tank Policy Exchange; an educational charity promoting research and discourse on public policy. Sian is a Non-Executive Director of the JP Morgan Income and Capital Trust plc. and is a Non Executive Director on the Advisory Board for Cerno Capital PLC.

And then there is Director of the Transitions Forum Anne Applebaum who “leads the Legatum Institute’s Transitions Forum, a series of projects which examine the challenges and opportunities of radical political and economic change”:

She is a former member of the Washington Post editorial board, a former deputy editor of the Spectator magazine, a former political editor of the Evening Standard and a former Warsaw correspondent of the Economist. Her work also appears regularly in the New York Review of BooksForeign Policy, the New Republic, the Daily Telegraph and many other UK and US publications. She is married to Radek Sikorski, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Poland.

Connected – you might say.

So yes, in short, Cristina Odone is an establishment insider who happens to be married to another establishment insider and neo-liberal enthusiast, Edward Lucas:

Lucas works for The Economist, the London-based global newsweekly. He was the Moscow bureau chief from 1998 to 2002, and thereafter the central and east European correspondent.[1] He has also been a correspondent for The Independent and the BBC. Lucas also writes occasionally for The Daily Mail.

Lucas is Senior Fellow and Contributing Editor at the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA) in Washington D.C.[2]

I come back later to the CEPA too.

It turns out that Edward Lucas has locked horns with Galloway on an earlier occasion:

Whilst on December 22nd, he had tweeted the following: “interesting but incomplete infographic of Putinistas in Europe. Why no Die Linke, Commies, George Galloway?”

So not exactly a friend, we might say…!

Then, of the remaining two panellists, there was also Tristram Hunt:

Tristram Julian William Hunt, FRHistS (born 31 May 1974) a British Labour Party politician, historian and broadcast journalist, who currently serves as Member of Parliament for Stoke-on-Trent Central in Staffordshire.

He is a regular writer for The Guardian and The Observer.[2]

The Guardian being the paper that Jonathan Freedland is (as noted above) the executive editor. And here is an excerpt from a recent article which offers a flavour of Hunt’s personal position when it comes to Middle Eastern politics and Israel:

Splits within the Labour party over the Palestinian question were laid bare last night as one of Ed Miliband’s most senior frontbenchers invoked Winston Churchill in a passionate tribute to Israel.

Tristram Hunt, the shadow education secretary, praised the former prime minister’s 1921 declaration that he had “full sympathy for Zionism”. 1

Taken from a Times article published only a month ago under the headline “Hunt risks party split with loving ode to Israel”.

But then the muck gets thicker, as we come to an article published by The Independent on Tuesday, just two days prior to the broadcast of tonight’s Question Time broadcast. It reads:

George Galloway, leader of the Respect Party, has caused a stir in a constituency that has one of the largest populations of Jewish people in the UK after it was announced that he would appear in the area on Question Time this week.

The broadcaster’s inclusion of the MP, who is a vocal opponent of Israel, was criticised as being “deliberately provocative” by Mike Freer, the MP for Finchley and Golders Green in north London. […]

The MP for Bradford West is to sit on the panel alongside Tory education secretary Nicky Morgan, Labour shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt, deputy chairman of Ukip Suzanne Evans and The Guardian executive editor and columnist Jonathan Freedland.

This was later changed, of course. After UKIP’s Suzanne Evans went absent without leave, into her seat was plonked Cristina Odone instead: that representative of the UAE’s Legatum Institute; daughter of that World Bank official; as well as wife of Edward Lucas from the globalist think tank CEPA, which gets glowing praise from not only Zbigniew Brzezinski, but also Radosław Sikorski, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland. You remember Radek, he is husband of Legatum Institute’s Director of the Transitions Forum, Anne Applebaum (see above). But back to The Independent article:

A BBC spokesperson said: “Question Time invites panellists who reflect a significant range of opinions on a number of different topics. Whilst Mr Galloway’s views are entirely his own, as an MP he has a right to appear on the programme and has done so previously.

“A significant range of opinions” Really…? So do they not have access to wikipedia at the BBC?

The piece goes on:

“Subjects for discussion are chosen by our audience ahead of each show and this edition of Question Time will be no different.” 2

Does that include the question asked by audience member Gabriel Rosen: “Why is anti-Semitism rising in the UK and does a certain member of the panel bear some responsibility?” This was the extremely pointed question that actually kicked off the main event of the evening – the last half an hour of the show. An outcome that was hardly surprising given the insinuation of a direct link between “a certain member of the panel” and the rise in anti-Semitism in Britain. In effect, what Galloway is being asked can be reduced to: “are you ashamed of yourself for provoking anti-Semitism in this country?” It’s a “have you stopped beating your wife?” kind of a question.

Part of Galloway’s answer to this more or less unanswerable accusation – an accusation from which he was in any case given inadequate opportunity to defend himself – is embedded below. All of the answers he gave during this inquistion by television were notable for their restraint:

Galloway is a politician and so it is entirely proper that his opinions and actions are closely scrutinised. As I say, you are absolutely at liberty to detest Galloway, but the issue here is what on earth had led the BBC to consider it justifiable for him (or anyone else for that matter) to publicly tried in such a fashion?

This was, in my view, an unedifying spectacle, and one that presents us with a terrifying indication of how narrowly restricted real freedom of speech is becoming. These are scary times, and it was not without reason that as I finished watching earlier, I felt shaken.

We know perfectly well where true racism always leads, and so it is our duty to ask with unflinching honesty, who is really inciting racial division and stirring up hatred? In last night’s so-called discussion, I say it certainly wasn’t Galloway. I go further, and say that for all of his faults, Galloway cannot be justly accused of racism. He is not a bigot. And shame on the BBC for ever orchestrating such a disgusting piece of inflammatory propaganda.

To judge for yourself (if you didn’t watch earlier) then click here to see the whole show on BBC iplayer. [And now I must sleep]

*

Update:

George Galloway has since published his own highly critical response to the QT show of February 5th. He writes:

Mr Dimbleby [presenter and mediator] told me immediately after the show that the final question posed by the audience was not in fact the question which had been tabled and selected. The last part of the question which sought to put me on show trial, make the final part of the show about me, had merely been added after the fact by the questioner. This has subsequently been admitted by the questioner in the Jewish Chronicle.

But there there [sic] was no point in telling me this in private with an apologetic air (he did not actually apologise, I gave him more credit than he deserved in my initial comments after the show) when millions of people oblivious to the trickery were about to watch the results on the show.

Mr Dimbleby had a couple of options when this ruse occurred:

He could have shot the question again, the show is not live, there is time for editing (although the only person who was edited was me with a chunk of my answer on Bradford schools mysteriously excised).
He could have made it clear on the recording, immediately, that the question had been changed, with obviously potentially defamatory consequences.

He did neither and with predictable results.

He also points an accusing finger toward both Cristina Odone and Tristram Hunt, whilst singling out Jonathan Freedland as “Hypocrite in Chief”:

A special place in the hall of shame must go to the Guardian’s executive editor Jonathan Freedland selected for the role of chief prosecutor in the show trial. The Guardian, a faux liberal newspaper which last summer accepted (that which even Rupert Murdoch had declined) a paid full page advertisement from an Israeli organisation while the blood was still running in the streets of Gaza seeking to justify the slaughter and slander the Palestinians, thousands of whom had by then been slain.

There is intense competition for the title of Hypocrite in Chief at The Guardian but Freedland in my view shades it.

Once the doctored question had been posed, he lit the touch paper before smugly stepping well back. He made a series of distorted allegations against me knowing that if I got into rebutting them there would have been no time for the bigger picture. Like a latter day McCarthy he patted a portfolio which he claimed contained the basis for his allegations. Who produced this dodgy dossier must be open to question.

Click here to read Galloway’s full reply.

*

1 From an article entitled “Hunt risks party split with loving ode to Israel” written by Laura Pitel, published in The Times on January 7, 2015. http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/news/politics/article4315908.ece

2 From an article entitled “Jewish groups protest against George Galloway appearance in Finchley for BBC’s Question Time” written by Lamiat Sabin, published by The Independent on February 3, 2015. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/news/jewish-groups-protest-against-george-galloway-appearance-in-finchley-for-bbcs-question-time-10021775.html

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Filed under analysis & opinion, Britain, did you see?, Israel

Oh, what a lovely war…! Gaza, ISIS and Ukraine

The continuing slowness of economic growth in high-income economies has prompted soul-searching among economists. They have looked to weak demand, rising inequality, Chinese competition, over-regulation, inadequate infrastructure and an exhaustion of new technological ideas as possible culprits.

An additional explanation of slow growth is now receiving attention, however. It is the persistence and expectation of peace.

The world just hasn’t had that much warfare lately, at least not by historical standards. Some of the recent headlines about Iraq or South Sudan make our world sound like a very bloody place, but today’s casualties pale in light of the tens of millions of people killed in the two world wars in the first half of the 20th century. Even the Vietnam War had many more deaths than any recent war involving an affluent country.

So says Professor of Economics at George Mason University, Tyler Cowen, writing an opinion piece for The New York Times.

Not enough war! – at first glance Cowen’s argument might appear not just shocking, but plainly nonsensical (or “counterintuitive” as Cowen puts it), although that’s mainly because ordinary folk (such as you and I) are in the habit of forgetting how war is extremely good business – if only for those in the business of war. What Cowen’s article reveals above all, therefore, is a cold calculating detachment that has always been secretly preferred by those moving within select circles. A moral relativism that has come to dominate in our degenerate age of coldly calculating neo-liberal orthodoxy. Cowen is unabashed in telling it like it (i.e., as he wishes to find it), because the vision of a better, saner alternative has been totally abandoned by his type.

He writes:

It may seem repugnant to find a positive side to war in this regard, but a look at American history suggests we cannot dismiss the idea so easily. Fundamental innovations such as nuclear power, the computer and the modern aircraft were all pushed along by an American government eager to defeat the Axis powers or, later, to win the Cold War. The Internet was initially designed to help this country withstand a nuclear exchange, and Silicon Valley had its origins with military contracting, not today’s entrepreneurial social media start-ups. The Soviet launch of the Sputnik satellite spurred American interest in science and technology, to the benefit of later economic growth.1

Reading Cowen’s case for war causes me to remember Orson Welles’ famous speech in The Third Man:

In Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love – they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.”

It reminds me too of the less celebrated scene that leads into Orson Welles’ most famous soliloquy. When high over postwar Vienna, gently rocking in a cabin on that famous old Ferris wheel, Harry Lime (played by Welles), who is racketeering in penicillin, justifies his actions to his old friend Holly Martins (Joseph Cotton), saying that he really shouldn’t worry so much about what happens to ‘the dots’:

Victims? Don’t be melodramatic. Look down there. Tell me. Would you really feel any pity if one of those dots stopped moving forever? If I offered you twenty thousand pounds for every dot that stopped, would you really, old man, tell me to keep my money, or would you calculate how many dots you could afford to spare? Free of income tax, old man. Free of income tax – the only way you can save money nowadays.”

*

Gaza

The Gaza Strip is tiny. Twenty-five miles long and less than ten miles wide, yet home to nearly two million Palestinians. Unsurprisingly then, it is one of the most densely populated places on Earth. It also happens to be one of the poorest.

Since 2007, Gaza has been blockaded on all sides. And with its air space tightly restricted and regularly patrolled by Israeli fighter jets and drones it is not so much a reservation for Palestinians, the majority of whom are forced to live in refugee camps composed of concrete shacks and open sewers, but also their de facto internment camp. For Gaza as a whole might better be thought of as the world’s largest prison:

Even a single night in jail is enough to give a taste of what it means to be under the total control of some external force. And it hardly takes more than a day in Gaza to begin to appreciate what it must be like to try to survive in the world’s largest open-air prison, where a million and a half people, in the most densely populated area of the world, are constantly subject to random and often savage terror and arbitrary punishment, with no purpose other than to humiliate and degrade, and with the further goal of ensuring that Palestinian hopes for a decent future will be crushed and that the overwhelming global support for a diplomatic settlement that will grant these rights will be nullified.

So begins Noam Chomsky in an article he entitled “Impressions of Gaza” published in late 2012. Chomsky continues:

Punishment of Gazans became still more severe in January 2006, when they committed a major crime: they voted the “wrong way” in the first free election in the Arab world, electing Hamas. Demonstrating their passionate “yearning for democracy,” the US and Israel, backed by the timid European Union, at once imposed a brutal siege, along with intensive military attacks. The US also turned at once to standard operating procedure when some disobedient population elects the wrong government: prepare a military coup to restore order.

Gazans committed a still greater crime a year later by blocking the coup attempt, leading to a sharp escalation of the siege and military attacks. These culminated in winter 2008-9, with Operation Cast Lead, one of the most cowardly and vicious exercises of military force in recent memory, as a defenseless civilian population, trapped with no way to escape, was subjected to relentless attack by one of the world’s most advanced military systems relying on US arms and protected by US diplomacy.2

The Gaza War, as Operation Cast Lead is also known, cost the lives of more than 1,400 Palestinians at least 900 of whom were civilians. Over 4,000 homes were destroyed and more than 50,000 residents displaced. On the Israeli side, ten soldiers were killed (four due to friendly fire) and three civilians also lost their lives. These figures alone show how this previous “Gaza War” was actually no war at all, but a one-sided, single-minded slaughter.

Then, in 2012, there was Operation Pillar of Cloud (sometimes translated, presumably to heighten the absurdity, as Operation Pillar of Defense). A blitzkrieg of aerial bombardment that ended with more than a hundred Palestinian civilians dead. Pillar of Defense – hardly. Pillar of something most definitely… and yet another tissue of lies.

And now, less than two years on, we are in the midst of another massacre being carried out under the even more risibly named Operation Protective Edge. To date more than 1,700 Palestinians have been killed (a number that grows by the hour), the majority of whom are again civilians, and predominately women and children.

For what happens every few years is simply this: the Israeli generals, at the behest of their government, make the decision to “mow the lawn”. Meanwhile, the official pretext remains, that the escalating spiral of violence is solely the fault of Hamas and that hostilities will end only once the firing of Hamas rockets on Israel is stopped. The fact is, of course, that Israeli hostilities are never-ending. That those hostilities will end once Gaza is no longer a prison camp, which is a decision only Israel can make. Meanwhile, the regular collective punishment of the Palestinians for the crimes of Hamas can neither be morally nor legally sanctioned, and from a strategic point of view it is inexpedient in the extreme – presuming that the long-term aim really is to bring an end to the cycles of violence. For whilst clearly in violation of international law, this current outrage is not just extremely damaging to Israel’s international reputation, but also, and inevitably, it is bolstering support for Hamas, and just as their influence was beginning to wane. We must conclude therefore that those in charge of Israel are either remarkably stupid, or that they are more intent on keeping the conflict going, as well as keeping Gaza under siege, rather than seeking any offers of lasting peace.

*

After writing this, I came across an article entitled “Into the fray: Why Gaza must go” written by Martin Sherman, Head of the Israeli Institute of Strategic Studies, and published in the Jerusalem Post. In the piece, Sherman unflinchingly calls for the ethnic cleansing of the Gaza Strip. He writes:

Mowing the lawn’ won’t cut it

The reluctance to face unpalatable realities has spawned new terminology to paper over intellectual surrender, and mask unwillingness to accept the need for regrettably harsh but essential policies.

First, we were told that since there was “no solution” to the Israel-Arab conflict, we should adopt an approach of “conflict management” rather than “conflict resolution.”

Now we have a new term in the professional jargon to convey a similar perspective: “mowing the grass.” This is the name for an approach that entails a new round of fighting every time the Palestinian violence reaches levels Israel finds unacceptable.

Its “rationale” – for want of a better term – was recently articulated by Efraim Inbar and Eitan Shamir of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, Bar-Ilan University, as: “The use of force, not intended to attain impossible political goals, but rather [as a] long-term strategy of attrition designed primarily to debilitate the enemy capabilities.”

Sadly, what we have seen is that far from “debilitating the enemy capabilities,” because said enemy keeps reappearing, spoiling for a fight, ever bolder with ever-greater capabilities.

It is an open question just how many more rounds of “mowing” the residents of southern Israel will endure before losing confidence that the government will provide adequate protection and choose to evacuate the area.

No, periodically mowing the lawn is not a policy that can endure for long – it simply will not cut it. The grass needs to be uprooted – once and for all.3

Click here to read Martin Sherman’s full article.

*

ISIS

Where did ISIS come from?” a friend asked a few months ago. Well, although they first spread their obscene wings in the war on Syria, I reminded him, and in common with all factions within al-Qaeda, you can actually trace their ugly origins right back to Saudi Arabia. Then there is Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. It was al-Baghdadi who officially founded the group he called the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) – now translated, for reasons unknown to me, as the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (or ISIS) – during April last year. Back then, ISIS were closely affiliated with another al-Qaeda faction known as Jabhat al-Nusra but soon afterwards bloody factional infighting caused a rift and a formal separation from the rest of al-Qaeda.4

More recently again, in fact just a month ago, al-Baghdadi called on other Muslims to rush to the aid of his pan-Islamic caliphate, now simply called ‘Islamic State’, whose caliph is, somewhat unsurprisingly, al-Baghdadi himself.5 At the time indeed the news was full of it – constantly repeating those promotional videos for ISIS. There is a growing concern that British Muslims may be attracted to the Jihadist cause by these glossy new commercials, we kept hearing… like a commercial.

Aside from having generous sponsors in Saudi Arabia and Qatar – and fingers have been pointed toward Saudi Prince Adbul Rahman al-Faisal in particular6 – many in the ranks of this latest batch of Islamists were also more directly assisted with training courtesy of the British, French and US across the border in Jordan. This is denied, of course, since officially we only trained “ the moderates”. But then prior to the well-advertised emergence of ISIS, western powers had become remarkably candid in their disinterest when it came to making careful distinctions between the various “rebel forces”. Any enemy of Assad was a friend of ours.

And, in reality, the moderates in the Syrian conflict had been rather quickly squeezed out (as I pointed out in a number of previous articles), so that when groups like al-Nusra and then ISIS moved in to spearhead the continuing offensive, the West had knowingly continued to back them (I refer the reader again to previous posts and recommend following the “al-Nusra” tag).

Not that this feckless approach to foreign policy is particularly novel. Al-Qaeda was always an American formulation, having been purpose-built to defeat the Soviets in Afghanistan. Since which time, its growth has been encouraged less directly thanks to power vacuums which followed in the wake of attacks on Iraq, Libya and Syria. Added to which, weapons and forces from Libya were more deliberately transported into Syria as Seymour Hersh, amongst others, has since exposed. So, and to answer my friend’s question more fully, ISIS is to a very great extent our own monster. For it is western foreign policy that has allowed ISIS to establish itself, and without continued support from the Gulf States – our allies – ISIS might now be rather promptly eradicated.

If the aim is to stop al-Qaeda in their tracks (or at least their latest branch, ISIS), then it would be very much more profitable to pull the whole operation out by its roots – roots that lie fully exposed in Saudi Arabia. So instead of drone attacks or air strikes on Iraq (and in the likely future Syria), why aren’t we sending our ultimatum to the Saudis?

*

Ukraine

The conflict over Palestine goes back some seventy years to the very formation of Israel, and whilst the rise of al-Qaeda across wide expanses of Iraq and Syria can easily be traced to the illegal Iraq War that was ignited by Bush and Blair more than a decade ago (and which has never properly ended), the immediate origins of today’s escalating “crisis” in Ukraine take us back just a few months.

Divisions between East and West regions, pro- and anti-Russia, that had been festering but were mostly dormant found a new expression. What was then widely presented as a grassroots pro-European uprising in fact turning out to be nothing other than a EU-inflamed and US-coordinated colour revolution ending in a bloody coup. Not a glorious liberation from oligarchy, but simply the replacement of one oligarchical coterie with another, more western-oriented oligarchical coterie. Worse, for this new clique were openly affiliated with leading members of the extreme right. The fascist party Svoboda now linked arms with the even more odious Right Sector as both sought a share of power; grabbing the chance of appointing one another into office.

Embedded below is an uncharacteristically candid BBC report about who really seized power in Kiev. It was broadcast in February on Newsnight:

Has the subsequent election (which was not even recognised as legitimate in many Eastern regions) of chocolate magnate Petro Poroshenko as President of Ukraine helped to reign in the extremists? Well, this is the situation as it currently stands: three members of the cabinet including Vice Prime Minister Oleksandr Sych are Svoboda representatives, whilst the speaker of parliament, Oleksandr Turchynov, more recently announced the complete dissolution of the Communist Party faction in the Verkhovna Rada. The banning of political parties is one measure of how far Ukraine is from functioning like a democratic state. Another being the monthly fist fights that take place inside the Rada.

This was April:

And this happened just a few weeks ago:

There is also President Poroshenko himself. The following is taken from a Guardian report published on Sunday July 13th , little more than one month after he had assumed office:

Over the weekend there was an escalation of both military action and rhetoric in the conflict in eastern Ukraine, as Ukrainian jets carried out air strikes against separatist positions. On Friday, 23 Ukrainian servicemen were killed in an attack using Grad missiles.

“For every soldier’s life, the militants will pay with dozens and hundreds of their own,” said Ukraine’s president, Petro Poroshenko, after Friday’s attack.7 [bold emphasis added]

Hardly the voice of reconciliation. And lastly, a more recent report, this time from BBC news, which delves into who exactly is fighting on the pro-government side of the conflict:

Mikael Skillt is a Swedish sniper, with seven years’ experience in the Swedish Army and the Swedish National Guard. He is currently fighting with the Azov Battalion, a pro-Ukrainian volunteer armed group in eastern Ukraine. He is known to be dangerous to the rebels: reportedly there is a bounty of nearly $7,000 (£4,090; 5,150 euros) on his head. […]

As to his political views, Mr Skillt prefers to call himself a nationalist, but in fact his views are typical of a neo-Nazi. […]

Mr Skillt believes races should not mix. He says the Jews are not white and should not mix with white people. His next project is to go fight for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad because he believes Mr Assad is standing up to “international Zionism”.

Leaving Mr Skillt’s sordid opinions to one side, what are the thoughts of his comrades in arms?

Not all of Mr Skillt’s views are widely shared in the Azov Battalion, which is about 300-strong in total.

He says his comrades do not discuss politics much, though some of them may be “national socialists” and may wear swastikas. On the other hand, “there is even one liberal, though I don’t know how he got there”, he adds, with a smile in his voice.8

So much for freedom and democracy in Ukraine, an already latest benighted region suffering from an extreme economic crisis, and now deeply fractured by a terrible civil war from which, the UN reports, a hundred thousand refugees have already fled9, and where another thousand civilians have so far lost their lives.10

*

For months, the US-backed regime in Kiev has been committing atrocities against its own citizens in southeastern Ukraine, regions heavily populated by Russian-speaking Ukrainians and ethnic Russians. While victimizing a growing number of innocent people, including children, and degrading America’s reputation, these military assaults on cities, captured on video, are generating intense pressure in Russia on President Vladimir Putin to “save our compatriots.” Both the atrocities and the pressure on Putin have increased even more since July 1, when Kiev, after a brief cease-fire, intensified its artillery and air attacks on eastern cities defenseless against such weapons.

The reaction of the Obama administration—as well as the new cold-war hawks in Congress and in the establishment media—has been twofold: silence interrupted only by occasional statements excusing and thus encouraging more atrocities by Kiev. Very few Americans (notably, the scholar Gordon Hahn) have protested this shameful complicity. We may honorably disagree about the causes and resolution of the Ukrainian crisis, the worst US-Russian confrontation in decades, but not about deeds that have risen to the level of war crimes.11

So writes Stephen Cohen, who is professor emeritus of Russian studies and politics at New York University and Princeton University, in an article published by The Nation magazine on June 30th. A few weeks later, on July 18th, Cohen appeared on Democracy Now! to discuss the ramifications of the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 and the loss of all 298 lives on board. Asked: “what do you think we should understand about what has taken place?”; Cohen began:

The horror of it all, to quote Conrad, watching your reports on Gaza, knowing what I know but what’s not being reported in the mainstream media about what’s been going on in eastern Ukraine cities—these cities have been pounded by Kiev—and now this. “Emeritus,” as you call me, means old. I’ve seen this before. One function of cold war is innocent victims. The people who died, nearly 300, from many countries, are the first victims, nonresidential victims, of the new Cold War. This crash, this shootdown, will make everything worse, no matter who did it.

There are several theoretical possibilities. I am not a conspiracy buff, but we know in the history of the Cold War, there are provocations, people who want to make things worse. So, in Moscow, and not only in Moscow, there are theories that somebody wanted this to happen. I just can’t believe anybody would do it, but you can’t rule anything out.

The other possibility is, because the Ukrainian government itself has a capability to shoot down planes. By the way, the Ukrainian government shot down a Russian passenger jet, I think in 2001. It was flying from Tel Aviv to Siberia. It was an accident. Competence is always a factor when you have these weapons.

Another possibility is that the rebels—we call them separatists, but they weren’t separatists in the beginning, they just wanted home rule in Ukraine—that they had the capability. But there’s a debate, because this plane was flying at commercial levels, normally beyond the reach of what they can carry on their shoulders.

There’s the possibility that the Russians aided and abetted them, possibly from Russian territory, but I rule that out because, in the end, when you don’t know who has committed a crime, the first question a professional investigator asks is, “Did anybody have a motive?” and the Russians certainly had no motive here. This is horrible for Putin and for the Russian position.

That’s what we know so far. Maybe we’ll know more. We may never know who did this.

Click here to read the full transcript or watch the interview on the Democracy Now! website.

Most of the news media went into a rapid and sustained feeding frenzy after the downing of flight MH17, but the question of whether or not it was the Russian separatists who shoot down the plane using “Putin’s Missile” remains hanging. One very laudable exception to the rule was tenacious Associated Press reporter Matt Lee. Here is Lee questioning US State Department spokesperson, Marie Harf, about the lack of evidence being presented. His main question: is there anything besides those uploads on social media? Her flustered answer can be summed up succinctly as no:

In defending the inherent flimsiness of the US position, which is that it’s suddenly common sense to trust in social media, Marie Harf told Lee that the State Department does have other evidence which proves the separatists were responsible, though she intimates that it is too sensitive to be released. But then the same US State Department made identical claims a mere twelve months ago, and had they been believed, we might have been rushed to launch air attacks against Damascus. As it turned out, however, the White House was lying and deliberately exaggerating the evidence they really held about the sarin attack on Ghouta. Contrary to what Marie Harf asserts, therefore, it is common sense to presume that the State Department would be prepared to deliberately lie again.

Click here to read Seymour Hersh’s subsequent disclosure of the US evidence relating to the gas attack on Ghouta.

As the civil war in Ukraine worsens, we have been constantly reminded that this is Putin’s war. Just as the cause of the tragedy of MH17 was “Putin’s missile!” Not that Putin organised the overthrow of an elected government in Kiev, nor that Putin ordered a missile strike against a passenger plane, nor even that Putin’s “separatist” forces are deliberately shelling homes in Eastern Ukraine – the shelling of homes, as in Gaza, is the work of government forces. Putin is not presumed guilty on any of these counts even by his most vehement opponents, but he is found guilty on the grounds that he is covertly backing the anti-Kiev rebels (as we might alternatively call them), and arming them. Guilty, in other words, of doing what the West have done and are very likely still doing in Syria.

I take no pleasure in defending Putin, who is rightly vilified on so many other counts, but the facts remain and should speak for themselves. And it is Russia, not Putin, that we should be talking about in any case. For Russia has her own interests, and so long as Nato continues its encirclement, whoever holds office in the Kremlin will be held to account for protecting those interests. But we are being encouraged to obsess over Putin. What was once Bin Laden, Bin Laden, Bin Laden… is now Putin, Putin, Putin!

Meanwhile, the facts surrounding the crash of MH17 are still unclear. Not only do we not know which army fired the missile, but, with absolute certainty, we still do not know whether it was a missile that brought down the plane. Until a full and independent forensic investigation can establish the truth of what happened, we will continue remain in the dark.

Click here to read an article by Jason Ditz, writing for antiwar.com [July 22nd], which outlines the flimsiness of the evidence thus far presented by the US State Department.

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Final thoughts

I was exploring the byways of the web recently, scrolling across old territory and keeping a careful eye out for neglected news stories and offbeat opinions, when I came across a Guardian article from a decade ago that firmly arrested my attention. The article began as follows:

Vladimir Putin yesterday rejected Anglo-American claims that Saddam Hussein already possesses weapons of mass destruction and told Tony Blair that the best way to resolve the conflict of evidence is not war, but the return of UN inspectors to Iraq.

With a tense Mr Blair alongside him at his dacha near Moscow, the Russian president took the unusual step of citing this week’s sceptical CIA report on the Iraqi military threat to assert: “Fears are one thing, hard facts are another”.

Times were rather different then, of course – as the closing statement in the same article reminds us:

Mr Blair called Mr Putin “a critical partner for ourselves and the whole of the western world.”

And times were different in another way too:

In his remarks Mr Blair, very much the bridge between the hawks in Washington and wider global scepticism, again said that “conflict is not inevitable” but that the international community must give a “strong and clear signal” to Baghdad to comply with its demands.12

Conflict was indeed not inevitable, but it happened anyway. And as the leakedBush-Blair memo later revealed, only months after meeting with Putin, Blair had been scheming with Bush on plans to launch their invasion – including a discussion of ways they might provoke Saddam Hussein into a confrontation. In the finish, however, no provocation was needed; barefaced lies would be enough.

Today marks a moment precisely a hundred years since the western world first went mad for war. The centenary of the start of that “war to end all wars”. Which didn’t happen: the wars go on. The blood-drenched mud of the trenches providing fertile ground for the rotten fruit of fascism to grow upon. The interwar period turning out to be just a lull before the still greater storm of carnage which was the Second World War – the bloodiest war that the world has ever known. Since when, with a Cold War promptly established against our former ally Russia, conflicts have constantly flared up in places far and wide. For sadly, no other century in history can compete with this last one when it comes to war.

It appears that pressure is rising again, with the many on-going regional wars worsening and spreading, and so one wonders with horrible trepidation where all this might be leading. Especially now that we are giving a “strong and clear signal” not to Baghdad but to Moscow. For what is the West’s real objective when it comes to tightening sanctions on Russia? Is the aim simply to pressure Putin with the hope of unseating him (an unlikely outcome given his current popularity), or will this eventually lead to a full-blown economic war. Sanctions in the past have opened the way for military conflict, so does war against Russia remain unimaginable… well yes, for the sane it does!

But there are also those who dream along the lines of Tyler Cowen. They view war as an opportunity, more than a threat, because they know that war is good for business. “Victims?” says Harry Lime, “Don’t be melodramatic.” Lime is a villain, but he knows the score.

War is a Racket is a pamphlet that was written by America’s most highly decorated soldier, General Smedley Butler. In it Butler explains, in painstaking detail, who actually won the First World War. The major corporations and financiers were its only real victors, he tells us, pointing out how the same can be said for all of the many other wars he helped to fight in. And so, as today we solemnly remember the sacrifice of the millions who laid down their lives a century ago, let this be the lasting lesson we take from that war. “War is a racket. It always has been.” Lest we forget.

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Update:

Israel’s month-long assault has so far left at least 1,865 Palestinians dead. As Israel pulled its ground forces from the Gaza Strip under the 72-hour ceasefire, Democracy Now! spoke with Jewish author, historian and political activist Norman Finkelstein, to discuss the events of the last month, and what in light of the new ceasefire, the likely outcome of talks will be. He began:

Well, the first thing is to have clarity about why there is a ceasefire. The last time I was on the program, I mentioned that Prime Minister Netanyahu, he basically operates under two constraints: the international constraint—namely, there are limits to the kinds of death and destruction he can inflict on Gaza—and then there’s the domestic constraint, which is Israeli society doesn’t tolerate a large number of combatant deaths.

He launched the ground invasion for reasons which—no point in going into now—and inflicted massive death and destruction on Gaza, where the main enabler was, of course, President Obama. Each day he came out, he or one of his spokespersons, and said, “Israel has the right to defend itself.” Each time he said that, it was the green light to Israel that it can continue with its terror bombing of Gaza. That went on for day after day after day, schools, mosques, hospitals targeted. But then you reached a limit. The limit was when Israel started to target the U.N. shelters—targeted one shelter, there was outrage; targeted a second shelter, there was outrage. And now the pressure began to build up in the United Nations. This is a United Nations—these are U.N. shelters. And the pressure began to build up. It reached a boiling point with the third shelter. And then Ban Ki-moon, the comatose secretary-general of the United Nations and a U.S. puppet, even he was finally forced to say something, saying these are criminal acts. Obama was now cornered. He was looking ridiculous in the world. It was a scandal. Even the U.N. secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, was now calling it a criminal act. So finally Obama, the State Department said “unacceptable,” “deplorable.” And frankly, it’s exactly what happened in 1999 in Timor: The limits had been reached, Clinton said to the Indonesian army, “Time to end the massacre.” And exactly happened now: Obama signaled to Netanyahu the terror bombing has to stop. So, Obama—excuse me, Netanyahu had reached the limit of international tolerance, which basically means the United States.

The youtube clip embedded above is a slightly truncated version of the original. Click here to read the full transcript and to watch the interview on the Democracy Now! website.

Tuesday’s [Aug 5th] Democracy Now! also interviewed Theodore Postol, a professor of science, technology and national security at MIT and a leading missile expert, who believes there is no convincing evidence that Israel’s much-vaunted missile interception system Iron Dome is effective. This has not stopped President Obama signing a bill on Monday which grants an additional $225 million in emergency funding for Israel to replenish its arsenal of interceptor missiles for Iron Dome. American “foreign aid” that will be transferred directly into the pockets of one of America’s largest weapons companies, Raytheon. Postol doesn’t describe this as a racket, but if the Iron Dome is really as unreliable as he claims, then what else can such an enormous transfer of money from public to private hands be called…?

Click here to read the same interview on the Democracy Now! website.

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To hear more about the rise of ISIS, I also recommend the following Democracy Now! interview with Middle East correspondent for The Independent, Patrick Cockburn, speaking on August 13:

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1 From an article entitled “The Lack of Major Wars May Be Hurting Economic Growth” written by Tyler Cowen, published by The New York Times on June 13, 2014. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/14/upshot/the-lack-of-major-wars-may-be-hurting-economic-growth.html?smid=tw-share&_r=1

3 From an article entitled “Into the fray: Why Gaza must go” written by Martin Sherman, published in The Jerusalem Post on July 24, 2014. http://www.jpost.com/Opinion/Columnists/Into-the-fray-Why-Gaza-must-go-368862

7 From an article entitled “Ukraine’s shelling could have irreversible consequences, says Russia” written by Shaun Walker, published by the Guardian on July 13, 2014. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jul/13/ukrainian-shell-russian-border-town-donetsk

8 From an article entitled “Ukraine conflict: ‘White power’ warrior from Sweden” written by Dina Newman, published by BBC news on July 16, 2014. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-28329329

9 “Since the start of 2014, approximately 110,000 Ukrainians had arrived in Russia – with only 9,600 requesting asylum – while more than 700 others went to Poland, Belarus, Czech Republic and Romania.”

http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=48159#.U96_7qOg6Uk

11 From an article entitled “The Silence of American Hawks About Kiev’s Atrocities” written by Stephen F. Cohen, originally published in The Nation magazine on June 30, 2014 (revised on July 7 and July 17). http://www.thenation.com/article/180466/silence-american-hawks-about-kievs-atrocities#

12 From an article entitled “Putin demands proof over Iraqi weapons” written by Michael White, published in the Guardian on October 12, 2002. http://www.theguardian.com/uk/2002/oct/12/russia.politics

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some things just are black and white

When Nelson Mandela died on December 5th, throughout the world people mourned the loss of a peacemaker and great statesman. The Telegraph, of all newspapers, immediately announced the release of a seven-part biography “of Mandela’s tempestuous life, filled with hardship and struggle and crowned by a singular triumph” under a strapline that read:

Nelson Mandela, who has died aged 95, was the architect of South Africa’s transformation from racial despotism to liberal democracy, saving his country from civil war and becoming its first black president.1

There had been a time, of course, and not so long ago, when organs of the British establishment such as the Daily Telegraph were in the habit of branding Mandela not merely a communist but a terrorist too. Indeed, as an article in the Washington Post points out, until astonishingly recently the United States had quietly maintained its position that Mandela was persona non grata:

But with all the accolades being thrown around, it’s easy to forget that the U.S., in particular, hasn’t always had such a friendly relationship with Mandela – and that in fact, as late as 2008, the Nobel Prize winner and former president was still on the U.S. terrorism watch list.2

But suddenly, with world leaders, assorted celebrities, demi-celebrities (Richard Branson springs to mind) and even the media itself jostling to bathe in Mandela’s reflected glory, the bigger historical picture was being brushed aside and overwritten. An excellent article written by Chris McGreal (this time in the Observer) offered a better perspective:

Listening to the leaders of the free world compete to extol South Africa’s first democratically elected president, there is a striking absence of acknowledgement not only of how little their countries did to get him out of prison but how much they supported the regime that kept him locked up for 27 years. No mention from David Cameron of Margaret Thatcher’s vigorous opposition to sanctions against the white regime and her deriding of Mandela’s supporters as “living in cloud cuckoo land” for believing he might one day lead South Africa. No acknowledgement from Barack Obama of Ronald Reagan’s trumpeting of the Afrikaner-led government as a beacon of democracy in Africa while he consigned Mandela and the African National Congress to the terrorism list.

With Mandela’s parting, it is rather easy to make comparisons to Gandhi. ‘Father’ to their respective nations, both had thrown off the yoke of oppressive regimes, and once in power, had pressed for reforms that would be inclusive, reconciliatory and democratic. That said, where Gandhi’s methods for overthrowing British rule had been strictly non-violent, Mandela’s resistance ultimately was not. Inspired in part by the writings of Gandhi, but also by Che Guevara and Mao, he had eventually felt compelled to take a more aggressive stance, confronting the political violence of the state with a campaign of sabotage.

Here is a little more from the piece by Chris McGreal:

But perhaps the most shameless piece of historical revisionism of recent days came from Binyamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister. He greeted news of Mandela’s death by proclaiming him “a freedom fighter who disavowed violence”. That was a pointed jab at the Palestinians. It’s also untrue. Mandela was instrumental in founding the ANC’s armed wing and stood by the right to violent resistance until apartheid was buried. It may not have been a very effective armed campaign, and it did not resort to the indiscriminate killing of civilians by suicide bomb, but Mandela never disavowed violence in the struggle against a violent system.3

Click here to read Chris McGreal’s full article.

Ariel Sharon was another tenacious fighter for a different cause, but when he died only a few weeks later on January 11th, it was hardly surprising that the obituaries were more circumspect. After all, what can one politely say about a man nicknamed “the Bulldozer” (a favourite weapon he used to flatten Palestinian homes) who had forced the displacement of thousands of Palestinians and then shredded their homeland with the construction of illegal settlements and Berlin-style walls? Or Sharon as primary architect of the 1982 Lebanon War which had resulted in the deaths of 20,000 people, including somewhere between 800 and 3000 (depending on estimates) of mostly women, children and elderly men indiscriminately slaughtered in the Sabra and Shatila massacres.

On January 13th, Democracy Now! presented, as part of its own retrospective on Sharon, a description of the killings by Ellen Siegel, a Jewish-American nurse who was working at the Sabra camp at the time of the attacks:

So Sharon, the “warrior”, as he titled his autobiography, was also Sharon, the war criminal. Nevertheless, Sharon still has his apologists. Here is the Telegraph again:

The life of the late Ariel Sharon tells us a great deal about the shifting politics of Israel. He came to the world’s attention as a militant willing to use controversial methods to secure his country’s future. But he ended his career with a more complex image, as a tough-minded statesman searching for peace. His example offers hope.4

Hope of what precisely? For the Palestinians, many of whom actually celebrated Sharon’s death (just as many in Britain celebrated Thatcher’s demise last year), his example offered only reason to despair. And as for a man “searching for peace”; this is a grotesque parody of the truth.

As Avi Shlaim, Emeritus Professor of International Relations at Oxford University, explained on the same Democracy Now! broadcast, Sharon, who regarded himself as a crusader for a greater Israel, shunned diplomacy unless, under cover of negotiations, he saw a way to gain strategic advantage against his enemies. Withdrawal from Gaza, his one decisive act of non-aggression, was also a tactical retreat to strengthen Israel’s position in the West Bank. Shlaim reminds us:

Sharon committed his first war crime as a young major in 1953 when he destroyed many houses in the Jordanian village of Qibya, and he was responsible for the massacre of 69 civilians. So that was his first war crime, but it was not to be his last. And the consistent thread in his career as a soldier and as a politician was to use brute force, not just against the regular armies of the Arab states, but also against Palestinian civilians. And the other consistent thread is to shun diplomacy and to rely on brute force to impose Israeli hegemony on the entire region. President George W. Bush famously called Sharon a man of peace. Sharon was nothing of the sort. He was a man of war through and through, and he called his autobiography Warrior, not Diplomat. His approach to diplomacy reversed Clausewitz’s dictum; for Sharon, diplomacy was the pursuit of war by other means. For the last 40 years, the Arab-Israeli conflict has been my main research interest, and I can honestly say that I have never come across a single scintilla of evidence to support the notion of Sharon as a man of peace.

Mandela had committed himself body and soul to the dismantling of the apartheid system in South Africa and he succeeded. Tribalism was something Mandela disdained. So under Mandela, white apartheid was not about to be replaced by its black equivalent. But whereas Mandela will be remembered for trying unify his nation, Sharon’s memorial is a twenty-foot concrete barrier protected by sniper towers that snakes across the occupied West Bank. A wall that divides his own tribe from the neighbours, ensuring an apartheid within Israel-Palestine that will be enduring.

“There is a convention that you’re not supposed to speak ill of the recently dead”, said Noam Chomsky after Sharon’s death, continuing “which unfortunately imposes a kind of vow of silence because there’s nothing else to say.”

Click here to watch the full discussion of Sharon’s legacy with Avi Shlaim, Noam Chomsky, and Rashid Khalidi, who is Edward Said Professor of Arab Studies at Columbia University, on the Democracy Now! website.

1 From Nelson Mandela’s obituary published by the Telegraph on December 5, 2013. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/nelson-mandela/10115323/Nelson-Mandela-obituary.html

2 From an article entitled “Why Nelson Mandela was on a terrorism watch list in 2008” written by Caitlin Dewey, published by the Washington Post on December 7, 2013. http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-fix/wp/2013/12/07/why-nelson-mandela-was-on-a-terrorism-watch-list-in-2008/

3 From an article entitled “Mandela: never forget how the free world’s leaders learned to change their tune” written by Chris McGreal, published in The Observer on December 8, 2013. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/dec/08/world-leaders-hypocrisy-mandela

4 From an editorial entitled “Ariel Sharon and the troubled road to peace” published by the Telegraph on January 11, 2014. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/telegraph-view/10565265/Ariel-Sharon-and-the-troubled-road-to-peace.html

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