Category Archives: Palestine

apartheid Israel — Abby Martin on the ground inside the West Bank

“You do not see human beings in front of you. Do not believe their sorrow, do not believe their smiles, do not believe their feelings. They’re subhuman.”Eran Efrati, a former sergeant in the Israeli military.

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Investigative reporter Abby Martin recently completed an in-depth and highly commendable six-part series of 30 minute documentaries for TeleSUR based around interviews with people living and working in the Palestinian occupied territories, and from her own experiences on the ground. Each of the episodes is embedded below according to the original sequence of broadcasts and including the first which provides historical context for what follows.

As Eran Efrati says in the penultimate episode – an extended interview [from 25:00 mins]:

“What a lot of people like to describe as the most complicated political situation of our time is probably the most simple… It’s a situation about equality.”

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Nakba: the catastrophe

Between December 1947 and January 1949, some 600 villages were entirely flattened and larger cities devastated as thousands of Arabs were massacred and more than 700,000 fled or were expelled from their homes. This frenzy of ethnic cleansing made way for a new wave of European settlers and caused Palestine to be broken up into three parts.

The Empire Files begins its series of reports by looking back on the bloody history of Zionist colonisation, beginning with expansion and the steady expulsion of Palestine’s indigenous inhabitants under British rule – a land grab that quickened in the immediate aftermath of the post-war reign of terror known to Palestinians as Nakba or “the catastrophe”:

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Refugees in their own land

Today nearly 70% of all Palestinians are refugees. Millions of displaced Palestinians are scattered around the world, yet hundreds of thousands remain in their own country, and many of those now crowded inside refugee camps were ethnically cleansed from villages only a few miles away. Of these, more than a million are imprisoned inside the walled-off and blockaded Gaza Strip.

In the first of her on-the-ground reports from Palestine, Martin speaks with those trapped inside two of the most besieged refugee camps in the West Bank, Balata (the largest, where 30,000 people are crammed inside 0.25 square km)* and Aida (nearby Bethlehem with 5,500 people inside 0.1 square km):

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Annexation one settlement at a time

There are absolutely no legal Israeli settlements in the West Bank under international law. Israel, however, takes a different view. Once in a while a caravan arrives on a hilltop adjacent to a large existing settlement. Shortly, a few more settlers arrive there. Soon afterwards, this ‘pirate outpost’ is afforded protection with a military camp and electricity and water are also connected via the main settlement. Access roads are laid, ancient olive groves are cut down, and gradually another slice of the Palestinian land is stolen away as this new settlement is declared ‘legal’. Thus, little by little the Palestinians are evicted and penned behind fences, as their homeland is eaten into and annexed by stealth:

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A tale of two cities – both under enemy occupation

Like Berlin under Soviet rule, Hebron is a divided city. One area is designated H1 and the other H2. To cross from one sector to the other involves security checks where residents must pass through turnstiles but only once their papers are thoroughly checked. For Palestinians this often means delays of hours to get to work or school. So the Palestinian residents are abandoning H2 in droves, forced out by the daily harassment of Israeli forces and the illegal settlers alike. Indeed, to ensure this ethnic cleansing goes on, Palestinian are routinely humiliated, verbally abused, physically attacked and even gunned down on a regular basis because no action is taken by the Israeli authorities. Many acts of extremist terrorism are committed in the name of Zionism but never reported upon or debated in our corporate news:

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“I was the terrorist” – confessions of an Israeli veteran

Eran Efrati was a sergeant in the Israeli military, but has since become an outspoken critic of the occupation of Palestine and Israeli apartheid. In this extended interview he gives testimony on how Israeli war crimes are institutionalised, and how the oppression of the Palestinians is simply a war of conquest that will doubtless be accelerated under the Trump Administration:

Asked to explain more specifically how the culture within the Israeli military fosters anti-Arab racism, Efrati replies [from 17:40 mins]:

I think the system, you know, is not only inside the military. It’s like I said before: that’s actually what being an Israeli means. Being an Israeli, growing up in the Israeli educational departments, you understand that all the Arabs hate you. That they are actually in a way the continuation of the biblical Amalek or Hitler. You know that everybody there wants to throw you into the sea. This is what you’re growing up with and you really believe in that.

I mean going into the military, you already go in so full of hate and fear that at the same time you don’t need much to be very aggressive, violent and racist towards Palestinians. They see the Palestinian women and the Palestinian men as subhuman. The occupied territories are like an [exclave] where those human beings are considered to be not human beings.

This is a process that you start at a very early age, being enforced inside your boot camp, and later on when you’re going into your service… you do not see human beings in front of you. Do not believe their sorrow, do not believe their smiles, do not believe their feelings. They’re subhuman.

Abby Martin interjects: “But they look just like you – there are so many Arab Jews”

Efrati replies [from 19:10]:

I think the Arab Jews in Israel are probably the most tragic story in the entire story of Zionism after the Palestinians. And you know it’s obviously not being talked [about] enough obviously inside Israeli society… The Mizrahi Jews – the Arab Jews – that came around the years of ’50 and onwards into Israel (some came by choice, some came by force) but they didn’t come to a country that was theirs.

They came only about two years after Israel had already given out most of the land to the European people. And they [the Ashkenazi settlers from Europe] understood that they could not hold the territory alone [but] need more people on the ground to fight off Palestinians or Palestinian refugees if they will come back, and then they went off and brought most of the Arab Jews and put them in the most terrible places in Israel: on the borders, on the borders with Egypt or Jordan or Lebanon and Syria. We put them at buffer zones to protect us from Palestinians. […]

Many of them [the Arab Jews] in Iraq or Egypt had a good life (or in Morocco) and wanted to stay. They didn’t know what would be the destiny of this new country – it was very likely that there would be a lot of wars going on there. They felt protected in those countries and they said no. And the Zionist organisations sent other delegations into some of these countries… to terrorise those people [and] to force them to come into Israel. […]

After they came they were being sent into the most disgusting forms of settlement for the newcomers [who were] sprayed with DDT, with gas, to try to “clean them up” before they join with the Ashkenazi – the European kids – to play with them. They were separated and segregated for years – it was not their country and it is still not their country. And what they had to do to start to assimilate themselves inside this new country was to make sure that everybody understood they are not Arabs – they look like Arabs, they talk Arabic, but they are not Arab; they are Jewish. Because you can be an American Jew and you can be a European Jew, but you cannot be an Arab Jew in Israel.

They erased their identity and they started to form what we know today as the most extreme right in Israel. They are the extreme right because they have to solidify themselves as the most loyal citizens of the state.

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Silencing the screams from Palestine

Although Israel’s occupation of the West Bank is an internationally-recognized human rights crime, those who defiantly resist the occupation are harshly punished. “Taking part in political activity” has been criminalised along with most other forms of non-violent resistance including the publication of instances of oppression on social media platforms. Under the latest draconian measures, throwing stones is deemed “an act of terrorism” and punishable with up to twenty years in jail.

Moreover, with recourse to “administrative detention”, Palestinian suspects can be imprisoned without charge on the basis of secret information, and this can be renewed every six months indefinitely. Such arbitrary and indefinite detention may begin with up to 180 days of interrogation, for the first sixty of which the prisoner can be denied access to a lawyer. In fact, 40% of Palestinian men in the West Bank and Jerusalem have spent time in prison, with a conviction rate in the military courts of 99.7%.

Getting detailed facts about Israel’s imposition of martial law in the West Bank, Martin visits the Ramallah offices of Addameer — the most prominent prisoners’ rights organizations in Palestine — where she also hears about the shocking use of torture, and in particular psychological techniques against children, that provides yet another weapon for oppression.

Chronicling this history of resistance and repression from the First Intifada through the 2015 uprising, this final episode reveals the brutal lengths the Israeli occupation will go to silence any and all advocacy for freedom:

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Additional: Lies and distortion in the media coverage of Palestine

In an earlier broadcast [November 2015], Abby Martin looked at how the so-called “Israel-Palestine conflict” was deliberately misrepresented by the western corporate media during the last major crisis in the region. She covered the variety of tactics employed by the state of Israel to control the narrative from its Hasbara propaganda machine to the murder of journalists.

The episode features interviews with Dan Cohen, an investigative journalist who had recently returned from 7 months living and reporting in Gaza and the occupied West Bank, and, Rania Khalek, a writer and editor with the Electronic Intifada:

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* In the programme the figures for the Balata refugee camp are given as 28,000 inhabitants packed inside an area 1km by 1km (i.e., one square km), however wikipedia currently puts the figure at 30,000 residents in an area of only 0.25 square km. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Balata

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Filed under analysis & opinion, did you see?, Israel, Palestine, police state

who’s behind the racist ‘war on terror’? Alison Weir, Bill & Kathy Christison and others speak to Israel’s pivotal role

“Some of these conversations may get a little unpleasant. But you know what, we’re in a war. We’re clearly going into, I think, a major shooting war in the Middle East again.” — Steve Bannon (Nov 2015) 1

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A few background notes on Bannon-Trump and Israel

As Karl Rove was to Bush jnr, so Steve Bannon is the so-called “brains behind Trump”. A former navy officer and a vice president of Goldman Sachs, Bannon went on to achieve his greatest notoriety (to date) as executive chairman of ‘alt-right’ sound cannon Breitbart News, “a website that has pushed racist, sexist, xenophobic and anti-Semitic material” 2, and whose founder Andrew Breitbart referred to him affectionately as the Leni Riefenstahl of the Tea Party movement.

Yet notwithstanding Bannon’s more or less open advocacy for white supremacy in the US, the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) was quick to invite White House chief strategist-in-waiting to their annual gala on November 20th. Here is ZOA Director Liz Berney making no apologies:

The previous embedded video was taken down so here’s an alternative upload:

As Mondoweiss explains:

[T]he fact that the ZOA and other reactionary Zionist organizations, political figures and billionaires would support Trump, is not a surprise. What is surprising is that organizations like the Anti-Defamation League and Jewish Community Relations Council, groups that constantly target Arab, Muslim, Black, Chicano and other progressive organizations who criticize Israel and groups that frequently equate criticism of Israel with antisemitism, would take issue with the ZOA’s support for Trump.

Zionism and Israel rely on antisemitism to justify blatant colonization of Palestine, ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, support for anti-Muslim and anti-Arab racism, collaboration in US wars, attacks on anti-racist organizations in the United States, training of repressive police and military forces and an economy that relies heavily on surveillance and weapons trade. So, its natural allies are, reactionary, racist, repressive governments, elected officials, regimes, movements, religious and political organizations and people of wealth.

And, the ZOA’s validation of Bannon on Sunday night confirms what Palestinians and other anti-Zionists, including anti-Zionist Jews, have always known: Zionism does not equal Jewish, rather it is rooted in antisemitism; support for Israel does not reflect a commitment to the humanity of Jewish people; Zionism is racist and to be anti-racist one has to be anti-Zionist. 3

Click here  to read the full article entitled “Zionists embrace of Trump and Bannon is no surprise”.

For a fuller overview of Bannon’s seamy past, including the graphic details of the accusations made by his second wife Mary Louise Piccard of domestic abuse, I also recommend this concise exposé by independent journalist Abby Martin (although I do feel uncomfortable about Martin’s obfuscations in a defence of ‘globalism’):

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On the racist ‘war on terror’: who’s pushing for it and why…?

President Trump has issued an executive order suspending entry to the U.S for people from Iraq, Syria, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Iran, and Yemen (the order is called “Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States”). These same countries were the focus of the “Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015” under President Obama.

While reports on Trump’s ban emphasize that these are Muslim majority countries, analysts seem to have ignored another significant characteristic that these countries share.

With just a single exception, all of these countries were targeted for attack by certain top U.S. officials in 2001. In fact, that policy had roots that went back to 1996, 1991, 1980, and even the 1950s…

The fact is that Trump’s action continues policies influenced by people working on behalf of a foreign country, whose goal has been to destabilize and reshape an entire region. This kind of aggressive interventionism focused on “regime change” launches cascading effects that include escalating violence. 4

So begins a recent article by independent journalist, political historian and outspoken activist, Alison Weir. The foreign country she refers to “whose goal has been to destabilize and reshape an entire region” is Israel, of course, and Weir afterwards cites numerous sources including historical documents to back the charge that the ‘war on terror’ was founded on policy dictated not merely by a pro-Israel faction in Washington, but as part of long-standing Zionist strategy. Both these claim are incontrovertible as direct evidence below shows. Carefully evaluating the second claim, however, depends upon better establishing the true relationship between America and Israel; a tricky matter and one I shall come back to.

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The following is an extract taken from an article published by Haaretz in the immediate wake of the invasion codenamed Operation Iraqi Freedom that fourteen years ago unleashed a “shock and awe” campaign to topple Saddam Hussein and to kill and maim more than a million people:

In the course of the past year, a new belief has emerged in [Washington]: the belief in war against Iraq. That ardent faith was disseminated by a small group of 25 or 30 neoconservatives, almost all of them Jewish, almost all of them intellectuals (a partial list: Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith, William Kristol, Eliot Abrams, Charles Krauthammer), people who are mutual friends and cultivate one another and are convinced that political ideas are a major driving force of history. They believe that the right political idea entails a fusion of morality and force, human rights and grit. The philosophical underpinnings of the Washington neoconservatives are the writings of Machiavelli, Hobbes and Edmund Burke. They also admire Winston Churchill and the policy pursued by Ronald Reagan. They tend to read reality in terms of the failure of the 1930s (Munich) versus the success of the 1980s (the fall of the Berlin Wall).

The article aptly entitled “White Man’s Burden” is based around interviews with a few of the aforementioned neo-con protagonists. One is William Kristol, described in the piece as “believed to exercise considerable influence on the president, Vice President Richard Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld… [and] perceived as having been instrumental in getting Washington to launch this all-out campaign against Baghdad.”

Here is a little of what Kristol imparts to journalist Ari Shavit:

What is the war about? I ask. Kristol replies that at one level it is the war that George Bush is talking about: a war against a brutal regime that has in its possession weapons of mass destruction. But at a deeper level it is a greater war, for the shaping of a new Middle East. 5

Another extract reprinted below is taken from a Guardian article that had been published six months previously, with the preparations for the Iraq War already well underway:

The “skittles theory” of the Middle East – that one ball aimed at Iraq can knock down several regimes – has been around for some time on the wilder fringes of politics but has come to the fore in the United States on the back of the “war against terrorism”.

Its roots can be traced, at least in part, to a paper published in 1996 by an Israeli thinktank, the Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies. Entitled “A clean break: a new strategy for securing the realm”, it was intended as a political blueprint for the incoming government of Binyamin Netanyahu. As the title indicates, it advised the right-wing Mr Netanyahu to make a complete break with the past by adopting a strategy “based on an entirely new intellectual foundation, one that restores strategic initiative and provides the nation the room to engage every possible energy on rebuilding Zionism …”

Among other things, it suggested that the recently-signed Oslo accords might be dispensed with – “Israel has no obligations under the Oslo agreements if the PLO does not fulfil its obligations” – and that “alternatives to [Yasser] Arafat’s base of power” could be cultivated. “Jordan has ideas on this,” it added.

It also urged Israel to abandon any thought of trading land for peace with the Arabs, which it described as “cultural, economic, political, diplomatic, and military retreat”.

“Our claim to the land – to which we have clung for hope for 2,000 years – is legitimate and noble,” it continued. “Only the unconditional acceptance by Arabs of our rights, especially in their territorial dimension, ‘peace for peace’, is a solid basis for the future.”

The paper set out a plan by which Israel would “shape its strategic environment”, beginning with the removal of Saddam Hussein and the installation of a Hashemite monarchy in Baghdad.

With Saddam out of the way and Iraq thus brought under Jordanian Hashemite influence, Jordan and Turkey would form an axis along with Israel to weaken and “roll back” Syria. Jordan, it suggested, could also sort out Lebanon by “weaning” the Shia Muslim population away from Syria and Iran, and re-establishing their former ties with the Shia in the new Hashemite kingdom of Iraq. “Israel will not only contain its foes; it will transcend them”, the paper concluded. 6

Click here to read the full article written by Brian Whitaker.

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“The removal of Saddam remains a prize because it could give new security to oil supplies; engage a powerful and secular state in the fight against Sunni extremist terror, open political horizons in the GCC [Gulf Co-operation Council] states, remove a threat to Jordan/Israel, undermine the regional logic on WMD. The major challenge would be managing the regional reintegration of Iraq, without damaging important local relationships. Working for regime change could be a dynamic process of alliance building which could effect climatic change in the Arab-Israeli conflict.” […]

“… two further aims: climatic change in the psychology of regimes in the region, a pre-condition for progress in the Arab-Israel dispute … The problem of WMD is an element in driving for action in Iraq. In turn, this should open prospects for Arab‑Israeli talks, and, beyond, regional work to reduce the WMD inventories which threaten Europe as well.”

— From statements provided to the Chilcot Inquiry by anonymous ‘Secret Intelligence Service officer below the rank of chief’ known only as SIS4 and speculated to be Sir Mark Allen, a former director of MI6/SIS. 7

[bold emphasis added]

The ‘global war on terror’ was instigated on the basis a pack of outright lies. Here is a sample that serves as an aidemémoire:

Firstly, there never was a labyrinthine cave complex in the Tora Bora mountains infested with Jihadists… and Bin Laden wasn’t hiding there anyway. 8

Secondly, Saddam Hussein was no friend of al-Qaeda but an enemy who “was distrustful of al-Qaeda and viewed Islamic extremists as a threat to his regime” 9

Lastly (in this extremely fleeting overview) – though Saddam did poison his enemies both during Iraq’s war against neighbours Iran as well as Kurdish and Marsh Arab minorities inside Iraq, the arsenal of WMDs (supplied by the West) were long gone. 10 Along with the concocted false alarm about yellowcake, any threat to the West posed by WMDs was a wholly manufactured fiction.

In fact, it is no longer at issue that the ‘war on terror’ was founded on multiple falsehoods. Nor is there any serious contention that the misinformation was quite deliberately fabricated and promulgated, even though during the lead up to war, this disinformation was consistently reported as factual and well-evidenced by the media. What the majority understood intuitively but our politicians and media generally failed to see is now acknowledged as historical fact. Bush lied. Blair lied. And the intelligence services supplied them with ‘dodgy dossiers’ to support those lies.

This is what Colin Powell said of Iraq in an interview given to CBS in December 2001, not even three months after the September 11th attack:

“Regime change would be in the best interest of the Iraqi people. It is a goal of the United States. But the United Nations’ goal is the inspectors and getting rid of those weapons of mass destruction.” 11

Moreover, in a paper from Tony Blair to George Bush entitled “The War against Terrorism: The Second Phase” also sent in December 2001 and since declassified, we find an overview for possible approaches to terrorist threats again in seven countries: Indonesia, Philippines, Somalia, Syria, Yemen, Iran, and of course Iraq. Five of these correspond with the seven on Trump’s first travel ban and four on General Wesley Clark’s notorious statement that the US plan was “we’re going to take out seven countries in five years, starting with Iraq, and then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and, finishing off, Iran”:

And here is one particularly revealing sentence in the missive from Blair to Bush:

It reads:

If toppling Saddam is a prime objective, it is far easier to do it with Syria and Iran in favour or acquiescing rather than hitting all three at once. 12

But though the details of these foundational myths have since unravelled, justification for the ‘war on terror’ is maintained to this day on the totally fraudulent basis of the original ad hoc justifications. We invade ostensibly to prevent the spread of global terrorism and we bomb to bring ‘freedom and democracy’. For it is as fundamental to twenty-first century subjugation of foreign lands as it was to prior imperialist conquests to appeal to “the white man’s burden” – and the singular difference today rests in the wording: post-modern racism is implicit and undeclared.

Within this story-making there is another facet of today’s racism that is eschewed. The actuality that a small and exceptionally powerful and well-connected neo-con faction has been operating behind the scenes in Washington to bring about regime change in Iraq is widely published, but what is seldom mentioned, is that they were working to promote the interests of a foreign power. The omitted part is discussed in that example of comparatively uncensored journalism published by Haaretz and quoted above. Yet even when the well-attested influence of Israel is discussed, it is rarer again to acknowledge that the ‘war on terror’ serves the anti-Muslim and anti-Arab racism of an ultra-Zionist agenda. Brian Whitaker’s Guardian piece, also quoted above, is somewhat exceptional in this regard.

The following is taken from an article written during the Bush years by former CIA analysts Bill and Kathleen Christison who also draw attention the blackout over discussing “dual loyalties” in Washington:

We write articles about the neo-conservatives’ agenda on U.S.-Israeli relations and imply that in the neo-con universe there is little light between the two countries. We talk openly about the Israeli bias in the U.S. media. We make wry jokes about Congress being “Israeli-occupied territory.” Jason Vest in The Nation magazine reported forthrightly that some of the think tanks that hold sway over Bush administration thinking see no difference between U.S. and Israeli national security interests. But we never pronounce the particular words that best describe the real meaning of those observations and wry remarks. It’s time, however, that we say the words out loud and deal with what they really signify.

Dual loyalties. The issue we are dealing with in the Bush administration is dual loyalties — the double allegiance of those myriad officials at high and middle levels who cannot distinguish U.S. interests from Israeli interests, who baldly promote the supposed identity of interests between the United States and Israel, who spent their early careers giving policy advice to right-wing Israeli governments and now give the identical advice to a right-wing U.S. government, and who, one suspects, are so wrapped up in their concern for the fate of Israel that they honestly do not know whether their own passion about advancing the U.S. imperium is motivated primarily by America-first patriotism or is governed first and foremost by a desire to secure Israel’s safety and predominance in the Middle East through the advancement of the U.S. imperium.

“Dual loyalties” has always been one of those red flags posted around the subject of Israel and the Arab-Israeli conflict, something that induces horrified gasps and rapid heartbeats because of its implication of Jewish disloyalty to the United States and the common assumption that anyone who would speak such a canard is ipso facto an anti-Semite. (We have a Jewish friend who is not bothered by the term in the least, who believes that U.S. and Israeli interests should be identical and sees it as perfectly natural for American Jews to feel as much loyalty to Israel as they do to the United States. But this is clearly not the usual reaction when the subject of dual loyalties arises.)

Bill Christison had served as a National Intelligence Officer and as Director of the CIA’s Office of Regional and Political Analysis & Kathleen Christison, a CIA political analyst, is the author of Perceptions of Palestine: Their Influence on U.S. Middle East Policy and Wound of Dispossession: Telling the Palestinian Story. They are also co-authors of the book Palestine in Pieces: Graphic Perspectives on the Israeli Occupation.

Their Counterpunch article entitled “The Bush Neocons and Israel” was published in September 2004, and continues:

Although much has been written about the neo-cons who dot the Bush administration, the treatment of their ties to Israel has generally been [treated] very gingerly. Although much has come to light recently about the fact that ridding Iraq both of its leader and of its weapons inventory has been on the neo-con agenda since long before there was a Bush administration, little has been said about the link between this goal and the neo-cons’ overriding desire to provide greater security for Israel. But an examination of the cast of characters in Bush administration policymaking circles reveals a startlingly pervasive network of pro-Israel activists, and an examination of the neo-cons’ voluminous written record shows that Israel comes up constantly as a neo-con reference point, always mentioned with the United States as the beneficiary of a recommended policy, always linked with the United States when national interests are at issue. […]

The neo-con strategy papers half a dozen years ago were dotted with concepts like “redefining Iraq,” “redrawing the map of the Middle East,” “nurturing alternatives to Arafat,” all of which have in recent months become familiar parts of the Bush administration’s diplomatic lingo. Objectives laid out in these papers as important strategic goals for Israel — including the ouster of Saddam Hussein, the strategic transformation of the entire Middle East, the death of the Palestinian-Israeli peace process, regime change wherever the U.S. and Israel don’t happen to like the existing government, the abandonment of any effort to forge a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace or even a narrower Palestinian-Israeli peace — have now become, under the guidance of this group of pro-Israel neo-cons, important strategic goals for the United States. The enthusiasm with which senior administration officials like Bush himself, Cheney, and Rumsfeld have adopted strategic themes originally defined for Israel’s guidance — and did so in many cases well before September 11 and the so-called war on terror — testifies to the persuasiveness of a neo-con philosophy focused narrowly on Israel and the pervasiveness of the network throughout policymaking councils. […]

The suggestion that the war with Iraq is being planned at Israel’s behest, or at the instigation of policymakers whose main motivation is trying to create a secure environment for Israel, is strong. Many Israeli analysts believe this.

Given the renewed close alignment of Trump-Bannon with Netanyahu and the ultra-Zionists, the culmination of the same article once again sounds disconcertingly prophetic:

The Armageddon that Christian Zionists seem to be actively promoting and that Israeli loyalists inside the administration have tactically allied themselves with raises the horrifying but very real prospect of an apocalyptic Christian-Islamic war. 13

Click here to read the full article.

Embedded above is a talk given by Kathy and Bill Christison on February 19th 2010 at the conference “The United States, Israel and Palestine: What Does Justice Require of US?” at St. Mark’s Cathedral in Seattle, WA. The title of their talk was “The U.S.-Israeli Partnership and the Impact on Palestine”.

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Alison Weir started out as a journalist, but after returning from a solo trip to the Palestinian territories in 2001, she left her job as editor of a weekly newspaper and became an outspoken activist and the founder of If Americans Knew.

Here is Weir delivering an impressive recent presentation entitled “100 Years of Pro-Israel Activism” on Thursday 16th February in Berkeley, California:

Her talk was in three sections. In the first half approximately she reports her own findings based on a meticulous statistical analysis of media bias in the reporting of Israel-Palestine. There afterwards follows a potted history about the origins of Political Zionism and its repercussions for the people of Palestine. And the final fifteen minutes is devoted to Trump’s first executive order banning the entry of Muslims from seven countries – this concluding section is a summarised version of the article quoted above (and returned to below).

Like the Christisons, Weir is unflinching when it comes to laying the blame for the ‘war on terror’, which is in actuality a war on Muslims, at Israel’s door. Appealing solely to evidence recovered from open sources, she is able to put together incontrovertible proof that finds Israel and America guilty as equal partners in the manufacture of the post-9/11 wars with the shared purpose of ‘remaking’ the Middle East. Here is a further extract from her latest article:

Another Ha’aretz article described how some of these individuals, high American officials, gave Israeli leaders tips on how to manage American actions and influence US Congressmen, concluding: “Perle, Feith, and their fellow strategists are walking a fine line between their loyalty to American governments and Israeli interests.”

Ha’aretz reported that the goal was far more than just an invasion of Iraq: “at a deeper level it is a greater war, for the shaping of a new Middle East.” The article said that the war “was being fought to consolidate a new world order.”

“The Iraq war is really the beginning of a gigantic historical experiment…”

We’re now seeing the tragic and violent result of that regime-change experiment. 14

At the risk of alienating her audience, Weir also puts the ongoing neo-con ultra-Zionist strategy of regime change – those ‘seven countries in five years’ as first leaked by General Wesley Clark – within a fuller historical context:

A document called “A Strategy for Israel in the Nineteen Eighties,” proposed by Israeli analyst Oded Yinon, was published by the World Zionist Organization in 1982.

The document, translated by Israel Shahak, called for the dissolution of existing Arab states into smaller states which would, in effect, become Israel’s satellites.

In an analysis of the plan, Shahak pointed out: “[W]hile lip service is paid to the idea of the ‘defense of the West’ from Soviet power, the real aim of the author, and of the present Israeli establishment is clear: To make an Imperial Israel into a world power.”

Shahak noted that Israeli Defense Minister Ariel Sharon planned “to deceive the Americans after he has deceived all the rest.”

Shahak wrote that reshaping the Middle East on behalf of Israel had been discussed since the 1950s: “This is not a new idea, nor does it surface for the first time in Zionist strategic thinking. Indeed, fragmenting all Arab states into smaller units has been a recurrent theme.”

As Shahak pointed out, this strategy was documented in a book called Israel’s Sacred Terrorism (1980), by Livia Rokach. Drawing on the memoirs of the second Prime Minister of Israel, Rokach’s book described, among other things, a 1954 proposal to execute regime change in Lebanon. 15

Click here to read Alison Weir’s full article about Trump’s Muslim ban, which concludes:

I suggest that everyone – both those who deplore the order for humanitarian reasons, and those who defend it out of concern for Americans’ safety – examine the historic context outlined above and the U.S. policies that led to this order.

For decades, Democratic and Republican administrations have enacted largely parallel policies regarding the Middle East and Israel-Palestine. We are seeing the results, and most of us are deeply displeased.

I would submit that both for humanitarian obligations and for security necessities, it is urgent that we find a different way forward.

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Additional: “Is the US Waging Israel’s Wars?”

Many throughout the Muslim world and beyond are asking this question: What are the real reasons behind the US invasion of Iraq and its wish to overthrow the governments of Syria and Iran?

For all their grandiose posturing, in truth, Iraq, Syria and Iran have never posed a direct threat to the US mainland. Put simply, they’re too far away from the neighbourhood. So why would the US be willing to expend so many human lives and so much treasury on changing the regimes of countries it doesn’t like?

Asks award-winning political commentator Linda S. Heard in a piece entitled “Is the US Waging Israel’s Wars?” published in April 2006 also reprinted by Counterpunch.

Heard continues:

A premise, which many in the Arab world believe, should also be dissected. Is the US manipulating and remoulding the area so that Israel can remain the only regional superpower in perpetuity?

This is not as fanciful as one might imagine on first glance. Read the following strangely prophetic segment from an article published in 1982 by the World Zionist Organisation’s publication Kivunim and penned by Oded Yinon, an Israeli journalist with links to the Israeli Foreign Ministry.

Yinon’s strategy was based on this premise. In order to survive Israel must become an imperial regional power and must also ensure the break-up of all Arab countries so that the region may be carved up into small ineffectual states unequipped to stand up to Israeli military might.

And she directly quotes part of Oded Yinon’s original strategy:

“The dissolution of Syria and Iraq into ethnically or religiously unique areas such as in Lebanon is Israel’s primary target on the Eastern front. Iraq, rich in oil on the one hand and internally torn on the other is guaranteed as a candidate for Israel’s targets. Its dissolution is even more important for us than that of Syria. Iraq is stronger than Syria. In the short run, it is Iraqi power which constitutes the greatest threat to Israel.

“An Iraqi-Iranian war will tear Iraq apart and cause its downfall at home even before it is able to organize a struggle on a wide front against us. Every kind of inter-Arab confrontation will assist us in the short run and will shorten the way to the more important aim of breaking up Iraq into denominations as in Syria and Lebanon.

“In Iraq, a division into provinces along ethnic/religious lines as in Syria during Ottoman times is possible. So, three (or more) states will exist around the three major cities: Basra, Baghdad and Mosul and Shiite areas in the South will separate from the Sunni and Kurdish north.”

Heard also reviews the situation as it then appeared some twenty-four years on:

The eight-year long Iran-Iraq War that ended in 1988 was responsible for over a million casualties but did not result in Yinon’s desired break-up. Iraq still stood as a strong homogenous entity.

Iraq was, however, severely weakened in 1991 as a result of the Gulf War brought about by Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait. Still, the country remained unified.

It took the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq and the subsequent occupation to destabilize Iraq and split the country on sectarian lines. Indeed, its new constitution is drawn around a loose federation with partial autonomy for the northern Kurds and the southern Shiites, and the country is now rife with sectarian, religious and ethnic strife. Some say “civil war”.

Turning to Syria, until the March 2003 invasion of Iraq Syria under President Bashar Al-Assad enjoyed reasonably good relations with the West. We should also remember that Syria fought alongside the US-led allies during the Gulf War. Syria also voted, albeit reluctantly, for the UN resolution that oiled the invasion, and was a strong partner in the so-called ‘War on Terror’.

Then, lo and behold, Syria could do no right. Suddenly, it was accused to all kinds of ‘crimes’ from hiding Iraq’s mythical weapons of mass destruction, harbouring insurgents and terrorists, and allowing the free passage of fighters and arms into Iraq.

Heavy pressure was then put on to Damascus to end its de facto occupation of Lebanon following the assassination of the former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, and, now the Syrian government is being investigated by the UN, accused of involvement.

Today the US is actively engaged in weakening the Al-Assad government and is supporting opposition parties. If it is successful, experts predict that Syria, like Iraq, will fall victim to sectarianism and internecine conflict.

Ten years on and Syria has indeed “fall[en] victim to sectarianism and internecine conflict”.

Heard finishes off with a brief discussion about how although Yinon’s essay does not focus on Iran, Israel is already leading the charge against its “purported nuclear ambitions”. She concludes:

Back to the question of whether the US is, indeed, waging wars on behalf of Israel. In short, we can’t be certain and we may never know since the Bush White House has sealed its private tapes and papers for 100 years.

There is one thing that we do know. Oded Yinon’s 1982 “Zionist Plan for the Middle East” is in large part taking shape. Is this pure coincidence? Was Yinon a gifted psychic? Perhaps! Alternatively, we in the West are victims of a long-held agenda not of our making and without doubt not in our interests. 16

Click here to read Linda Heard’s full article.

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1 From Breitbart News Daily recorded on November 27, 2015 beginning at 5:25 mins. https://soundcloud.com/breitbart/breitbart-news-daily-brandon-darby-bob-price-november-27-2015

2 From an article entitled “Inside Donald Trump’s Chaotic Transition” written by Philip Elliott and Zeke J Miller, published in Time magazine on November 21, 2016. http://time.com/4574493/donald-trump-chaotic-transition/ 

3 From an article entitled “Zionists embrace of Trump and Bannon is no surprise” published in Mondoweiss on November 20, 2016. http://mondoweiss.net/2016/11/zionists-embrace-surprise/ 

4 From an article entitled “Trump’s Muslim ban: Israeli strategic plans to ‘remake the Middle East’ from 2001 and before targeted the same countries” written by Alison Weir, published by If Americans Knew on February 4, 2017. http://ifamericaknew.org/history/muslimban.html

5

[The neo-con] doctrine maintains that the problem with the Middle East is the absence of democracy and of freedom. It follows that the only way to block people like Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden is to disseminate democracy and freedom. To change radically the cultural and political dynamics that creates such people. And the way to fight the chaos is to create a new world order that will be based on freedom and human rights — and to be ready to use force in order to consolidate this new world. So that, really, is what the war is about. It is being fought to consolidate a new world order, to create a new Middle East.

From an article entitled “White Man’s Burden” written by Ari Shavit, published in Haaretz on April 3, 2003. http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/white-man-s-burden-1.14110

6 From an article entitled “Playing skittles with Saddam” written by Brian Whitaker, published in the Guardian on September 3, 2002. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2002/sep/03/worlddispatch.iraq

7 From The Report of the Iraq Inquiry (Chilcot Report), Section 3.1, p 364, §307 and §310. www.iraqinquiry.org.uk/media/247919/the-report-of-the-iraq-inquiry_section-31.pdf

8

Let’s not forget that Bin Laden’s own design experiments were regularly thwarted. First there were the famous Tora Bora caves in eastern Afghanistan. According to the press, these really were the stuff of Bond movies. A month after 9/11, the Independent published a sensational description of Tora Bora as an impregnable base built deep inside a mountain. The Times then printed an even more preposterous cross-section of “Bin Laden’s underground fortress”, equipped with its own hospitals, offices, bedrooms, hydroelectric power supply, and roads big enough to drive a tank into, apparently. The US did little to deny it. Presented with this fantasy design, Donald Rumsfeld stated, “there’s not one of those, there are many of those“.

From an article entitled “Why did Osama bin Laden build such a drab HQ?” written by Steve Rose, published in the Guardian on May 4, 2011. https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2011/may/04/bin-laden-build-compound-lair

9

There is no evidence of formal links between Iraqi ex-leader Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda leaders prior to the 2003 war, a US Senate report says.

The finding is contained in a 2005 CIA report released by the Senate’s Intelligence Committee on Friday.

The committee concluded that the CIA had evidence of several instances of contacts between the Iraqi authorities and al-Qaeda throughout the 1990s but that these did not add up to a formal relationship.

It added that the government “did not have a relationship, harbour or turn a blind eye toward Zarqawi and his associates”.

It said that Iraq and al-Qaeda were ideologically poles apart.

“Saddam Hussein was distrustful of al-Qaeda and viewed Islamic extremists as a threat to his regime, refusing all requests from al-Qaeda to provide material or operational support,” it said.

From an article entitled “Saddam ‘had no link to al-Qaeda’” published by BBC news on September 9, 2006. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/5328592.stm

10

It is long established that Iraq — with assistance from the U.S. and other Western countries — produced enormous quantities of chemical weapons during its eight-year war with Iran in the 1980s. After Iraq was expelled from Kuwait during the Gulf War in 1991, the United Nations Security Council sent inspectors to ensure that Iraq disclosed and destroyed its entire chemical (and biological and nuclear) weapons programs. Iraq repeatedly said that it had done so, while the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations claimed it was still hiding pre-1991 weaponry.

From an article entitled “Twelve Years Later, US Media Still Can’t Get Iraqi WMD Story Right”, written by Jon Schwarz, published in The Intercept on April 10, 2015. https://theintercept.com/2015/04/10/twelve-years-later-u-s-media-still-cant-get-iraqi-wmd-story-right/ 

11 From interview on CBS Face the Nation broadcast on December 2, 2001, transcribed and reprinted in The Report of the Iraq Inquiry (Chilcot Report) Section 3.1, p 351, §229. www.iraqinquiry.org.uk/media/247919/the-report-of-the-iraq-inquiry_section-31.pdf

12 Paper Blair [to Bush], 4 December 2001, ‘The War Against Terrorism: The Second Phase’.  www.iraqinquiry.org.uk/media/243731/2001-12-04-note-blair-to-bush-the-war-against-terrorism-the-second-phase.pdf

13 From an article entitled “The Bush Neocons and Israel” written by Bill and Kathleen Christison published in Counterpunch on September 6, 2004. http://www.counterpunch.org/2004/09/06/the-bush-neocons-and-israel/ 

14 From an article entitled “Trump’s Muslim ban: Israeli strategic plans to ‘remake the Middle East’ from 2001 and before targeted the same countries” written by Alison Weir, published by If Americans Knew on February 4, 2017. http://ifamericaknew.org/history/muslimban.html

15 From an article entitled “Trump’s Muslim ban: Israeli strategic plans to ‘remake the Middle East’ from 2001 and before targeted the same countries” written by Alison Weir, published by If Americans Knew on February 4, 2017. http://ifamericaknew.org/history/muslimban.html

16 From an article entitled “Is the US Waging Israel’s Wars?” written by Linda S. Heard, published in Counterpunch on April 25, 2006. http://www.counterpunch.org/2006/04/25/is-the-us-waging-israel-s-wars/

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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.

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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.

*

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.

*

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:

*

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.

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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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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?

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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…

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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]

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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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Filed under analysis & opinion, Israel, Palestine, Qatar, Russia, USA

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.

*

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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Max Blumenthal on the isolation of Netanyahu and fortress Israel

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, speaking recently before the U.N. General Assembly, claimed that although “Ahmadinejad was a wolf in wolf’s clothing; Rouhani [the new Iranian Prime Minister] is a wolf in sheep’s clothing; a wolf who thinks he can pull the wool over the eyes of the international community.”

On October 4th, Democracy Now! interviewed journalist Max Blumenthal, author of a new book, Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel, which is the culmination of four years of reporting from inside Israel-Palestine. They began by asking him to respond to Netanyahu’s latest statement:

[Netanyahu] came to power in 2009 at the helm of the most right-wing government in Israeli history. And he’s kind of occupying the centre in Israel. He markets himself to Israelis as—you know, he appears in my book as the salesman, and he markets himself as a man who can go to the U.S. and market a lemon, who can sell a lemon to the American public, because he speaks English perfectly, he was educated at MIT, he worked at Boston Consulting with Mitt Romney.

And here he’s returned to the U.S. to sell the Israeli position to an American public that wants diplomacy, that welcomed Barack Obama’s historic phone call with Hassan Rouhani. And Obama has been forced to sit with Netanyahu for two and a half hours in the White House, during a government shutdown, to hear Netanyahu’s complaints and lecturing. He’s effectively become the Bibi-sitter1, meeting with Netanyahu more times than any foreign leader, the head of this country the size of New Jersey. And so, Netanyahu really looks kind of desperate and diminished at the U.N., and he’s—but, I mean, he loves these animal metaphors. And he has concocted this very belligerent and stentorian speech that really would maybe appeal to elderly evangelicals or an AIPAC crowd, but it’s not resonating with the American public.

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

Blumenthal goes on to speak about the isolation both of Netanyahu, with the right wing views of his Likud party falling out of favour with Democratic voters, and also the State of Israel itself, which, due in large part to its expansionist policy of building illegal settlements, feels a growing need to strengthen its borders, surrounding all of its territories (legally recognised and not) with walls to the extent that it is becoming a fortress – not that security alone is the reason for the walls:

I was dying to see the Syria vote take place, because Obama had compelled AIPAC, the central arm of the Israel lobby, to actually come out in favor of this war that was overwhelmingly unpopular with Americans. And it exposed the Israel lobby as acting sort of on behalf of Netanyahu against the will of the American public. And, of course, the vote was canceled, so this rift wasn’t exposed. But we see—we can see the Republicanization of pro-Israel support in the recent Pew poll of Jewish attitudes, where 82 percent of evangelicals believe that Israel is the promised land, that it was given to the Jews by God. Only 16 percent of secular Jews believe this. And so there’s—so the future base of Israel, as long as it’s under the control of people like Netanyahu and those to his right, like Naftali Bennett, is the Bible Belt. That’s Israel’s safety belt, Christian Zionism. And so, this is a dynamic that’s really going to develop in American foreign policy and play out in the next presidential campaign.

The wall is the separation wall, which has expropriated over 100,000 acres of Palestinian land and really serves as sort of a demographic wall. It actually has no real security value. And so, the point of it is to accomplish what Netanyahu warned would be—to prevent what Netanyahu warned would be demographic spillover. It’s an incredibly racist and bizarre concept that is sort of unfamiliar, I think, to real democracies. […]

It’s enormously tall, and it extends for hundreds of kilometers across the West Bank. I think anyone who visits Israel-Palestine has to see it. But there’s not just that wall. The entire Gaza Strip is surrounded by walls and electric fencing. Netanyahu has authorized $360 million, cutting social spending, to build a wall against the border of Jordan. The entire border between Israeli-occupied Golan Heights and Syria is mined. Netanyahu has just built a wall against the Sinai desert to prevent African migrants and asylum seekers, who are fleeing genocide, from getting to Israel. So almost all of the state of Israel, the Jewish state, is surrounded by walls. And one of Netanyahu’s advisers, Arnon Soffer, has proposed sea walls. They are covered by an iron dome, an anti-missile system provided by the U.S., by U.S. taxpayers. It sounds—it’s an absolute dystopian situation that fulfills the prophecy in the Book of Numbers, that the people of Israel will stand alone and not be reckoned among the nations.

With regards to the Biblical reference in the title of his book, Blumenthal says:

Well, I chose it because of the biblical tale of David and Goliath, and also because my editors forced me to choose it. And I think it’s a good title, especially because my last book, Republican Gomorrah, has, you know, biblical resonances and begins with the letter G. But there’s an interesting quote in my book. There’s a person I quote in my book who is the first Jewish ambassador of the United Kingdom to Israel, Matthew Gould. And he went on Israeli TV, and he said, “You’re obsessed with these hasbara, or propaganda, efforts to explain your position to the world and to cover everything up. You have to recognize that Israel is now seen as the Goliath, and Palestinians are seen as the David. Cut the hasbara, the propaganda, out, and end the occupation. Maybe then you won’t be seen that way.” And that’s the problem. That’s the problem with Netanyahu. It’s the problem in Israeli society. This occupation will not end as long as this current system is intact. And so, I think Goliath is the perfect title.

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

1 Bibi is an affectionate nickname given to Benjamin Netanyahu.

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another massacre in Gaza: Israel thanks President Obama

At the end of a week of intensive air strikes against Gaza causing the deaths of over 150 Palestinians, and injuries to a thousand more, even those most pro-Israel must be questioning the efficacy, to say nothing of the outright immorality, of inflicting such massive and disproportionate casualties on what is a largely civilian population. Just what do the leaders of Israel and others who support such a deliberate escalation of violence think it will ever achieve?

On Sunday [Nov 18th] Barack Obama said:

Israel has “every right” to defend itself against missile attacks by militants inside Gaza but warned that escalating the offensive with Israeli ground troops could undermine any hope of a peace process with the Palestinians.

“Let’s understand what the precipitating event here that’s causing the current crisis and that was an ever-escalating number of missiles that were landing not just in Israeli territory but in areas that are populated, and there’s no country on Earth that would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders,” Obama said at press conference in Thailand at the start of a three-nation tour in Asia.1

Click here to read the full nbcnews article.

Whilst Obama is quite right to say that “there’s no country on Earth that would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders”, this is precisely the situation the people of Gaza also find themselves in – his underlying message appearing to be that Palestinians don’t count. And as for the “precipitating event”, which was, according to Obama (and Israel), the “ever-escalating number of missiles”, well that all depends on when you decide to start the clock. Phyllis Bennis, Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies and author of several books, including “Understanding the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict: A Primer”, outlined this on yesterday’s Democracy Now! :

History can be determined by when you start the clock. If we start the clock the way most of the U.S. press now is, which is a change, now saying that this escalation began when Israel assassinated a Hamas leader on November 14, that is one time-line. The Israeli position is, well, we did it because they fired — the Palestinians fired a rocket at an Israeli Jeep. Well, why did that happen? That happened because a few hours before there had been that firing on an Israeli military Jeep and a patrol, there had been the killing of a 13-year-old child in Gaza who was playing soccer. Two days before that, there had been the assassination of a young man walking in the no walk area, the no go zone near the border, where Israelis say, we told him, we called out to him not to go there and he did not listen.

It turns out this was a mentally disabled man who maybe didn’t hear, maybe didn’t understand, continued to walk and was shot dead. We could start the clock then. But, at the end of the day, we can look back four years, we can look back to the end of [Operation] Cast Lead and say, since Cast Lead, 271 Palestinians, according to the Israeli human rights organization B’tselem, have been assassinated by Israeli air strikes, by drones, by planes, by helicopters. 271 Palestinians in Gaza killed by Israelis, zero Israelis killed by Palestinian rockets.

If Israel was seriously trying to protect its population, that’s the period when no Israelis were killed. During this escalation, three Israelis were killed, tragically, civilians who should not have been killed. But, the reality is, that this goes back to the occupation. If we don’t acknowledge this in the context of occupation, the siege of Gaza, the traditional occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, we will never be able to stop it. We can get a ceasefire right now, stop it for the moment, but then it will continue because there is no option.

In other words, the “precipitating event” that leads to the Palestinian rocket attacks is really nothing less than decades of fear and oppression living under the shadow of a menacing Israeli presence. This is not to condone or to justify Palestinian terrorist attacks (any use of indiscriminate violence to political ends being, by definition, acts of terrorism), but merely to contextualise. The onslaught on Gaza being the latest infliction of altogether more terrifying (since more effective) Israeli state terrorism, which has no clear purpose other than the collective punishment of the ordinary Palestinians, whilst meanwhile presenting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu the opportunity to prove his ‘toughness’ just before he faces re-election.

Phyllis Bennis again:

We hear a great deal from world leaders about the responsibility to protect [which is] the new mantra of the United Nations. We have a responsibility to protect the people of Libya, we have a responsibility to protect the the people of Syria. There are serious reasons why the responsibility to protect should have been invoked, in my view, not the way it was, but the world did owe a level of protection to people living under repressive regimes around the world. That has also been true of U.S.-backed regimes that continues around the world. What we have seen in Bahrain and other places.

But, in the question of Palestine, that responsibility to protect for the Obama administration — as was true of every administration before it — only applies to Israel. We heard it again and again from President Obama, from other officials of the administration, members of congress. Israel has the right to defend itself. Israel has the right of self-defense. Asked whether Palestinians have the right of self-defense, the State Department’s spokesperson said, “Israel has the right of self-defense.” Implying Palestinians have no rights at all, they only apparently have the right to die under Israeli rockets. […]

It’s extraordinary for Obama to say no country would allow this, as if the Palestinians don’t even exist, that they don’t have those same rights. So, I think if we’re serious about this, two things need to happen. An immediate ceasefire on all sides to stop the rockets in all directions, stop the bombings in all directions. But, immediate end to the siege of Gaza that has given rise to this kind of desperate resistance in the first place. If that does not happen, the immediate ceasefire that will happen, whether it’s today or tomorrow, that will happen, but it will not last unless the fundamental underlying root causes are addressed. The immediate root causes have to deal with the siege of Gaza, the closure, the turning of 1.6 million Gazan residents, half of them children under 16, into inmates in an open-air prison. That’s what has to stop.

Four days after the so-called “Operation Pillar of Cloud” offensive began, Israeli Defense Minister, Ehud Barak, said the following:

“This effort could not have been concluded without the generous and consistent support of the American administration led by President Obama.”

And Phyllis Bennis concurs:

This is very definitely a U.S. central institutionalized action that’s going on. We heard, just in the last couple of days, from the Israeli Defense Minister who said directly, this effort could not have been concluded without the generous and consistent support of the American administration led by President Obama.

I think that’s the most important thing for those of us in the U.S. to keep in mind. This is something where the United States has made clear that it is giving Israel carte blanche to use U.S.-made weapons — we’re talking about F-16’s, we’re talking about Apache helicopters, we’re talking about armored Caterpillar bulldozers, we’re talking about drones — most of which are produced in the U.S., purchased with our tax dollars, in violation, in this use, of U.S. laws, specifically the Arms Export Control act that makes it illegal to use U.S. arms in an illegal way. For example, in maintaining an illegal occupation, in violating the Geneva conventions, etc. […]

If there is not an end to the siege of Gaza, if the Gaza crossings are not opened, the Israeli controlled crossings — because, we should remember, Gaza is still under occupation, despite the withdrawal of troops and soldiers in 2005, Israel continues its control over the airspace, the waters, the borders, everything about Gaza is under Israeli control. Given that, if there is not an agreement to end that control, to open the border crossings, to let Gaza breathe, this will continue. It will continue in a year, in two years, in four years. Maybe once again just after the next U.S. elections, that seems to be the favorite Israeli timeline. Maybe just before the next Israeli elections, which is what we’re looking at right now.

Click here to read a full transcript or to watch the interview on the Democracy Now! Website.

In the last few hours, a ceasefire has been agreed, and we must all hope for the sake of the people in Gaza and Israel that the peace is lasting. Realistically, however, the spiral of violence between Israel and Palestine will never be ended so long as the Israeli occupation continues, and it is only Israel that can decide to make this change. Of course, they will need America to push them.

If Obama sincerely wishes to see a long-term peaceful settlement to the conflict, he must also begin demanding an immediate return to the rule of international law. Deliberate targetting of schools, private residences, civil service offices and media centres (news journalists in the same tower having been bombed twice) is illegal, and for all such war crimes, the perpetrators should now be brought to justice.

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Additional:

On November 18th, Glenn Greenwald published a concise but carefully documented article reflecting on America’s role in the latest assault on Gaza and the unsurprisingly tilted mainstream news coverage. Here is an extract:

[But] pretending that the US — and the Obama administration — bear no responsibility for what is taking place is sheer self-delusion, total fiction. It has long been the case that the central enabling fact in Israeli lawlessness and aggression is blind US support, and that continues, more than ever, to be the case under the presidency of the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize winner.

The same article also includes (near the end) an embedded video showing a short interview with Middle East expert Jeremy Scahill. Scahill discusses Obama’s foreign policy both in the region and more widely.

 

1 From an article entitled “Obama: Israel has ‘every right’ to defend itself from Gaza missile attacks” published by nbcnews. http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/11/18/15257041-obama-israel-has-every-right-to-defend-itself-from-gaza-missile-attacks?lite

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Obama reaffirms US stance on Israeli control of West Bank

From Democracy Now! headlines for Monday 23rd May:

“President Obama has confirmed his administration is continuing longstanding U.S. policy of rejecting a full Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank. Speaking before a gathering of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), Obama addressed what he called “misrepresentations” of his call last week [May 19th] for a peace deal based on the 1967 borders. Mirroring the stance of his predecessor George W. Bush, Obama suggested he would back Israel’s retention of its settlement blocs in the West Bank.”

President Obama: “By definition, it means that the parties themselves—Israelis and Palestinians—will negotiate a border that is different than the one that existed on June 4, 1967. That’s what mutually agreed-upon swaps means. It is a well-known formula to all who have worked on this issue for a generation. It allows the parties themselves to account for the changes that have taken place over the last 44 years.”

“Obama also renewed his opposition to a Palestinian campaign to seek recognition of statehood at the United Nations.”

President Obama: “I firmly believe, and I repeated on Thursday, that peace cannot be imposed on the parties to the conflict. No vote at the United Nations will ever create an independent Palestinian state. And the United States will stand up against efforts to single Israel out at the United Nations or in any international forum. Israel’s legitimacy is not a matter for debate. That is my commitment. That is my pledge to all of you.”

“Obama’s speech last week had been billed as a major breakthrough in U.S. recognition of Palestinian rights to a state in the Occupied Territories. But speaking on Democracy Now!, the author and historian Norman Finkelstein said Obama had effectively endorsed ongoing Israeli control of the West Bank.”

Norman Finkelstein: “The formula has to be exactly as the International Court of Justice said in July 2004 and as the U.N. General Assembly says every year with near-unanimous support. The Palestinians have the right to self-determination in the whole of the West Bank, the whole of Gaza, with East Jerusalem, the whole of East Jerusalem, as its capital. That’s the Palestinian right. That’s not subject to negotiations. Rights are enforced; they are not negotiated. The moment you say it has to be mutually agreed upon means Israel has a veto over Palestinian rights.”

Previously, on May 20th, Democracy Now! had hosted a  roundtable discussion on the implications of Obama’s May 19th speech involving author Norman Finkelstein, Palestinian human rights lawyer Noura Erakat, and Jeremy Ben-Ami, head of the lobby group J Street. The full debate is in three parts:

Norman Finkelstein: Well, if you were to juxtapose the two speeches [Obama’s and Bush’s speech from three years ago], you would see not only is there no difference in content, but there’s actually no difference in form. It’s the same wording: mutually agreed land swaps based on the June 1967 borders. That’s basically been the position of the United States since, you could say, the last 20 or 25 years. There was no new ground in President Obama’s speech. And frankly, there’s no recipe there, there’s no formula there, for resolving the conflict.

Norman Finkelstein: The U.N., every year, has this resolution called “Peaceful Settlement of the Palestine Question.” It’s every year in the United Nations, in November of each year. And every year they outline the principles for resolving the conflict. We don’t need Mr. Obama to conjure up new principles any more than we needed President Bush to conjure them up. We have the platform or the basic principles based on international law. And those principles have been ratified every year not only by the U.N. General Assembly; they’re ratified every year by all 22 members of the Arab League. They’re ratified—they were ratified by the 57 members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference.

Noura Erakat: Israel has the right to defend itself, but it also has the obligation to respect the laws of war that limit the deliberate attack on civilians and their targeting. What happened in Gaza is unacceptable. And any solution requires Obama not to map out and reiterate these same principles over and over. What the U.S. needs to do is to apply pressure to end the settlement expansion…

Israel’s 2008-2009 assault on the Gaza Strip led to the deaths of about 1,400 Palestinians. Last month, the chair of the United Nations’ inquiry into the assault, Judge Richard Goldstone, retracted his key finding that Israel deliberately targeted Palestinian civilians in its three-week assault.

On April 2nd, Goldstone wrote in the Washington Post:

“If I had known then what I know now, the Goldstone Report would have been a different document.”1

Israel, with U.S. backing, has seized on Goldstone’s comments and called for the United Nations to retract the report.

Goldstone came under criticism from his co-panelists who co-wrote the original report. In a statement, the three—Hina Jilani of Pakistan, Desmond Travers of Ireland, and Christine Chinkin of Britain—wrote:

“[We] find it necessary to dispel any impression that subsequent developments have rendered any part of the mission’s report unsubstantiated, erroneous or inaccurate.”

They continued, “Had we given in to pressures from any quarter to sanitize our conclusions, we would be doing a serious injustice to the hundreds of innocent civilians killed during the Gaza conflict, the thousands injured, and the hundreds of thousands whose lives continue to be deeply affected by the conflict and the blockade.”

Colonel Desmond Travers, a retired Irish soldier and peacekeeper, explained his misgivings on Democracy Now!:

Well, basically, the report is an inquiry. I mean, it has limited legal status. It is an inquiry designed to determine whether events took place of sufficient gravity, which were proven to have occurred, which would justify causing the parties to the conflict to examine the actions of their combatants and their military units. That’s what the purpose was. And that was the limit. It wasn’t a legal document in the absolute sense of the word. It couldn’t generate punishments, for example. And that’s the limit to it. And that’s the intention that was behind its creation, if you like.

1 From an article entitled “Reconsidering the Goldstone Report on Israel and war crimes”, published on April 2nd in the Washington Post. www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/reconsidering-the-goldstone-report-on-israel-and-war-crimes/2011/04/01/AFg111JC_story.html

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