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Has Obama Changed His Mind About Syria?

October 11, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

The ISIS siege of Kobane continued overnight while cities across Turkey were set ablaze by Kurdish protestors. At least 19 civilians were killed by Turkish riot police who were trying to disperse angry crowds that had gathered to protest the government’s unwillingness to defend the predominantly Kurdish city.  According to Hurriyet, “The worst violence was seen in Diyarbakır during a reported gunfight between the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) supporters and Hizbullah, a radical Islamist group whose members are mostly Kurdish and who allegedly aided the state in the torture and killing of Kurdish activists in the 1990s.” (Hurriyet)

Although the Turkish Parliament approved a measure to allow the government to carry out cross-border  attacks on ISIS,  President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has not yet ordered its tanks and troops into battle. Erdogan has been dragging his feet so that ISIS will prevail over Kobane’s Kurdish fighters thus ending their struggle for autonomy and independence.  This is why the reaction among Turkish Kurds has been so ferocious; it’s because Erdogan is using the Sunni radicals as a proxy army to batter the Kurds into submission. A scathing op-ed in last night’s Hurriyet summarized Erdogan’s tacit support for ISIS like this:

“Naturally, one has to ask who fathered, breastfed and nourished these Islamist terrorists in hopes and aspirations of creating a Sunni Muslim Brotherhood Khalifat state? Even when Kobane and many Turkish cities were on fire, did not the Turkish prime minister talk in his interview with CNN about his readiness to order land troops into the Syrian quagmire if Washington agreed to also target al-Assad?

This is a dirty game….” (Editorial, “Kobane and Turkey are Burning“, Hurriyet Daily News)

This is true, Turkey has “fathered, breastfed and nourished” Sunni extremism which is what makes the country a particularly untrustworthy ally in a war intended to defeat ISIS. According to author Nafeez Ahmed:

“With their command and control centre based in Istanbul, Turkey, military supplies from Saudi Arabia and Qatar in particular were transported by Turkish intelligence to the border for rebel acquisition. CIA operatives along with Israeli and Jordanian commandos were also training FSA rebels on the Jordanian-Syrian border with anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons. In addition, other reports show that British and French military were also involved in these secret training programmes. It appears that the same FSA rebels receiving this elite training went straight into ISIS – last month one ISIS commander, Abu Yusaf, said, “Many of the FSA people who the west has trained are actually joining us.”

(“How the West Created the Islamic State“, Nafeez Ahmed, CounterPunch

Then there’s this from Tuesday’s USA Today:

“Militants have funneled weapons and fighters through Turkey into Syria. The Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra, an al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria, have networks in Turkey….

Turkish security and intelligence services may have ties to Islamic State militants. The group released 46 Turkish diplomats it had abducted the day before the United States launched airstrikes against it. Turkey, a NATO member, may have known the airstrikes were about to begin and pressured its contacts in the Islamic State to release its diplomats.

“This implies Turkey has more influence or stronger ties to ISIS than people would think,” Tanir said.”

(“5 reasons Turkey isn’t attacking Islamic State in Syria”, USA Today)

So while the connection between ISIS and Turkish Intelligence remains murky, it’s safe to say there is a connection which makes Turkey an unreliable partner in a prospective war against the same group. So why is Erdogan so eager to lead the charge into Syria?

It’s because Erdogan thinks he can use ISIS as cover for his real objective, which is seize Damascus, topple Assad and replace him with a Sunni stooge who will tilt in Ankara’s direction. This is from a post by Stratfor at Zero Hedge:

“This is why Turkey is placing conditions on its involvement in the battle against the Islamic State: It is trying to convince the United States and its Sunni Arab coalition partners that it will inevitably be the power administering this region. Therefore, according to Ankara, all players must conform to its priorities, beginning with replacing Syria’s Iran-backed Alawite government with a Sunni administration that will look first to Ankara for guidance.” (“Turkey, The Kurds And Iraq – The Prize & Peril Of Kirkuk”, zero hedge)

So this is why Turkey wants to spearhead the invasion into Syria, so it can expand its power in the region?

It appears so, but there’s more to it than just that. As is true with most conflicts in the Middle East, oil is also a major factor. The Turks expect to be big players in the regional energy market after Assad is removed and pipeline corridors are established from the giant South Pars/North Dome gas field off Qatar. The pipeline will run from Qatar, to Iraq, to Syria and on to Turkey, providing vital supplies for the voracious EU market. There are also plans for an Israel to Turkey pipeline accessing gas from the massive Leviathan gas field located off the coast of Gaza. Both of these projects will strengthen Turkey’s flagging economy as well as bolster its stature and influence in the region.

Naturally, the allure of wealth and power has been a decisive factor in shaping Ankara’s Syria policy. But there’s a good chance that Erdogan’s strategy will backfire and Turkey will get bogged down in a protracted conflict in which there are no clear winners and no easy way out.  In this respect, Erdogan follows a long line of equally aggressive leaders whose ambitions clouded their judgment precipitating their downfall. Only a fool would think that Syria will be a cakewalk.

Turkey has made it clear that it will not go-it-alone in Syria. According to CNN report on Thursday:

“Turkey’s foreign minister insisted Thursday that it is not “realistic” for the world to expect it alone to launch a ground operation against ISIS, even as a monitoring group said the extremists had seized a chunk of a key battleground town near its border.” (CNN)

Erdogan wants US support although, so far, he has not stipulated whether that means ground troops or not. He has said repeatedly, however, that bombing ISIS from the air won’t achieve their purpose. And even on that score, the US has been AWOL.   So far, the US has launched a mere six aerial attacks on ISIS positions on the outskirts of the city, not nearly enough to deter battle-hardened jihadis from pressing deeper into Kurdish territory. Could it be that Obama made a deal with Erdogan to allow Kobane to be overrun in exchange for concessions on the use of Turkish military bases that will be used to carry out attacks on Syria?

It could be, although there’s no way of knowing for sure. What’s clear is that Obama doesn’t really care what happens to the Kurds in Kobane or not. What matters to Obama is toppling Assad and replacing him with a US puppet. The death of innocent civilians at the hands of homicidal maniacs doesn’t even factor into Washington’s calculations. It’s just more grist for the mill. Now check out this excerpt from an article by Patrick Cockburn:

”The leader of the (Kurdish) PYD, Salih Muslim, is reported to have met officials from Turkish military intelligence to plead for aid but was told this would only be available if the Syrian Kurds abandoned their claim for self-determination, gave up their self-governing cantons, and agreed to a Turkish buffer zone inside Syria. Mr Muslim turned down the demands and returned to Kobani.” (ISIS on the Verge of Victory at Kobani”, Patrick Cockburn, Counterpunch)

Is this blackmail or what? Doesn’t this explain why Kurds are rioting and setting buildings ablaze across Turkey? How would you react, dear reader, if your people were told to either  ‘Give up your dreams of independence or face a violent death at the hands of religious fanatics’? Would you think that was an unreasonable demand?

Erdogan wants to defeat the Kurdish fighters in Kobane and put an end to Kurdish nationalism. And he doesn’t care how he does it.

Keep in mind,  that just this week, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said in a CNN interview that the US must agree that Assad will be removed before Turkey will commit ground troops to the war against ISIS. To his credit, Obama has not yet agreed to Erdogan’s terms although pressure in Congress and the media is steadily building.  And this is just one of Erdogan’s many demands. He also wants the US to implement a no-fly zone over Syria and to create buffer zone along the Turkish border. In exchange, Turkey will provide boots on the ground and the use of its military bases. The US can expect to pay a heavy price for Turkey’s help in Syria.

OBAMA: “Don’t do stupid shit”

US policy towards Syria is not yet set in stone, in fact, the Obama administration appears to be in a state of turmoil. It could be that Obama’s chief advisors see the potential pitfalls of an invasion of Syria or of persisting with the same lame policy of arming, training and funding Islamic radicals. Or it could it be that the administration doesn’t want to team up with an unreliable ally like Turkey whose Intel agencies have helped create the present crisis? Or it could simply be that Obama has decided to follow his own advice and “Don’t do stupid shit”. Whatever the reason, the administration seems to be vacillating on the way forward.

One can only hope that Obama will grasp the inherent risks of the poring more gas on the Middle East, reject the orders of his deep state handlers, and seek a peaceful solution to the crisis in Syria. That, of course, would require cooperation with Syria’s allies, Russia and Iran, to settle on a way to defeat the jihadis, strengthen Syria’s sovereign control over its own territory, and restore peace across the country. No doubt Assad would be more than willing to make democratic concessions if he believed it would save his country from the destruction of a full-blown war.


Mike Whitney is a regular columnist for Veracity Voice

Mike Whitney lives in Washington state. He can be reached at: fergiewhitney@msn.com

America’s “Terrorist Academy” In Iraq Produced ISIS Leaders

October 11, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

The University of Al-Qaeda?

“Since 2003, Anglo-American power has secretly and openly coordinated direct and indirect support for Islamist terrorist groups linked to al-Qaeda across the Middle East and North Africa. This ill-conceived patchwork geostrategy is a legacy of the persistent influence of neoconservative ideology, motivated by longstanding but often contradictory ambitions to dominate regional oil resources, defend an expansionist Israel, and in pursuit of these, re-draw the map of the Middle East.” Nafeez Ahmed, “How the West Created the Islamic State“, CounterPunch

“The US created these terrorist organizations. America does not have the moral authority to lead a coalition against terrorism.” Hassan Nasralla, Secretary General of Hezbollah

October 06, 2014 “ICH” – “Counterpunch” –  The Obama administration’s determination to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is pushing the Middle East towards a regional war that could lead to a confrontation between the two nuclear-armed rivals, Russia and the United States.

Last week, Turkey joined the US-led coalition following a vote in parliament approving a measure to give the government the authority to launch military action against Isis in Syria. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan made it clear that Turkish involvement would come at a price, and that price would be the removal of al Assad. According to Turkey’s Hurriyet Daily News:

“Turkey will not allow coalition members to use its military bases or its territory in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) if the objective does not also include ousting the Bashar al-Assad regime, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan hinted on Oct. 1…

“We are open and ready for any cooperation in the fight against terrorism. However, it should be understood by everybody that Turkey is not a country in pursuit of temporary solutions, nor will Turkey allow others to take advantage of it,” Erdoğan said in his lengthy address to Parliament.”..

“Turkey cannot be content with the current situation and cannot be a by-stander and spectator in the face of such developments.” (“Turkey will fight terror but not for temporary solutions: Erdoğan“, Hurriyet)

Officials in the Obama administration applauded Turkey’s decision to join the makeshift coalition. U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel hailed the vote as a “very positive development” while State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said, “We welcome the Turkish Parliament’s vote to authorize Turkish military action…We’ve had numerous high-level discussions with Turkish officials to discuss how to advance our cooperation in countering the threat posed by ISIL in Iraq and Syria.”

In the last week, “Turkish tanks and other military units have taken position on the Syrian border.” Did the Obama administration strike a deal with Turkey to spearhead an attack on Syria pushing south towards Damascus while a small army of so called “moderate” jihadis– who are presently on the Israeli border– move north towards the Capital? If that is the case, then the US would probably deploy some or all of its 15,000 troops currently stationed in Kuwait “including an entire armored brigade” to assist in the invasion or to provide backup if Turkish forces get bogged down. The timeline for such an invasion is uncertain, but it does appear that the decision to go to war has already been made.

Turkish involvement greatly increases the chances of a broader regional war. It’s unlikely that Syria’s allies, Russia and Iran, will remain on the sidelines while Turkish tanks stream across the country on their way to Damascus. And while the response from Tehran and Moscow may be measured at first, it is bound to escalate as the fighting intensifies and tempers flare. The struggle for Syria will be a long, hard slog that will probably produce no clear winner. If Damascus falls, the conflict will morph into a protracted guerilla war that could spill over borders engulfing both Lebanon and Jordan. Apparently, the Obama administration feels the potential rewards from such a reckless and homicidal gambit are worth the risks.

No-Fly Zone Fakery

The Obama administration has made little effort to conceal its real objectives in Syria. The fight against Isis is merely a pretext for regime change. The fact that Major General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Chuck Hagel are angling for a no-fly zone over Syria exposes the “war against Isis” as a fraud. Why does the US need a no-fly zone against a group of Sunni militants who have no air force? The idea is ridiculous. The obvious purpose of the no-fly zone is to put Assad on notice that the US is planning to take control of Syrian airspace on its way to toppling the regime. Clearly, Congress could have figured this out before rubber stamping Obama’s request for $500 million dollars to arm and train “moderate” militants. Instead, they decided to add more fuel to the fire. If Congress seriously believes that Assad is a threat to US national security and “must go”, then they should have the courage to vote for sending US troops to Syria to do the heavy lifting. The idea of funding shadowy terrorist groups that pretend to be moderate rebels is lunacy in the extreme. It merely compounds the problem and increases the prospects of another Iraq-type bloodbath. Is it any wonder why Congress’s public approval rating is stuck in single digits?

TURKEY: A Major Player

According to many sources, Turkey has played a pivotal role in the present crisis, perhaps more than Saudi Arabia or Qatar. Consider the comments made by Vice President Joe Biden in an exchange with students at the John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum at the Institute of Politics at Harvard University last week. Biden was asked: “In retrospect do you believe the United States should have acted earlier in Syria, and if not why is now the right moment?” Here’s part of what he said:

“…my constant cry was that our biggest problem is our allies – our allies in the region were our largest problem in Syria. The Turks were great friends – and I have the greatest relationship with Erdogan, which I just spent a lot of time with – the Saudis, the Emiratis, etc. What were they doing? They were so determined to take down Assad and essentially have a proxy Sunni-Shia war, what did they do? They poured hundreds of millions of dollars and tens, thousands of tons of weapons into anyone who would fight against Assad except that the people who were being supplied were Al Nusra and Al Qaeda and the extremist elements of jihadis coming from other parts of the world…

So now what’s happening? All of a sudden everybody’s awakened because this outfit called ISIL which was Al Qaeda in Iraq, which when they were essentially thrown out of Iraq, found open space in territory in eastern Syria, work with Al Nusra who we declared a terrorist group early on and we could not convince our colleagues to stop supplying them. So what happened? Now all of a sudden – I don’t want to be too facetious – but they had seen the Lord. Now we have – the President’s been able to put together a coalition of our Sunni neighbors, because America can’t once again go into a Muslim nation and be seen as the aggressor – it has to be led by Sunnis to go and attack a Sunni organization.”

Biden apologized for his remarks on Sunday, but he basically let the cat out of the bag. Actually, what he said wasn’t new at all, but it did lend credibility to what many of the critics have been saying since the very beginning, that Washington’s allies in the region have been arming and funding this terrorist Frankenstein from the onset without seriously weighing the risks involved. Here’s more background on Turkey’s role in the current troubles from author Nafeez Ahmed:

“With their command and control centre based in Istanbul, Turkey, military supplies from Saudi Arabia and Qatar in particular were transported by Turkish intelligence to the border for rebel acquisition. CIA operatives along with Israeli and Jordanian commandos were also training FSA rebels on the Jordanian-Syrian border with anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons. In addition, other reports show that British and French military were also involved in these secret training programmes. It appears that the same FSA rebels receiving this elite training went straight into ISIS – last month one ISIS commander, Abu Yusaf, said, “Many of the FSA people who the west has trained are actually joining us.” (“How the West Created the Islamic State“, Nafeez Ahmed, CounterPunch

Notice how the author points out the involvement of “CIA operatives”. While Biden’s comments were an obvious attempt to absolve the administration from blame, it’s clear US Intel agencies knew what was going on and were at least tangentially involved. Here’s more from the same article:

“Classified assessments of the military assistance supplied by US allies Saudi Arabia and Qatar obtained by the New York Times showed that “most of the arms shipped at the behest of Saudi Arabia and Qatar to supply Syrian rebel groups… are going to hardline Islamic jihadists, and not the more secular opposition groups that the West wants to bolster.”

Once again, classified documents prove that the US officialdom knew what was going on and simply looked the other way. All the while, the hardcore takfiri troublemakers were loading up on weapons and munitions preparing for their own crusade. Here’s a clip that Congress should have read before approving $500 million more for this fiasco:

” … Mother Jones found that the US government has “little oversight over whether US supplies are falling prey to corruption – or into the hands of extremists,” and relies “on too much good faith.” The US government keeps track of rebels receiving assistance purely through “handwritten receipts provided by rebel commanders in the field,” and the judgment of its allies. Countries supporting the rebels – the very same which have empowered al-Qaeda affiliated Islamists – “are doing audits of the delivery of lethal and nonlethal supplies.”…

the government’s vetting procedures to block Islamist extremists from receiving US weapons have never worked.” (“How the West Created the Islamic State”, Nafeez Ahmed, CounterPunch)

These few excerpts should help to connect the dots in what is really a very hard-to-grasp situation presently unfolding in Syria. Yes, the US is ultimately responsible for Isis because it knew what was going on and played a significant part in arming and training jihadi recruits. And, no, Isis does not take its orders directly from Washington (or Langley) although its actions have conveniently coincided with US strategic goals in the region. (Many readers will undoubtedly disagree with my views on this.) Here’s one last clip on Turkey from an article in the Telegraph. The story ran a full year ago in October 2013:

“Hundreds of al-Qaeda recruits are being kept in safe houses in southern Turkey, before being smuggled over the border to wage “jihad” in Syria, The Daily Telegraph has learned.

The network of hideouts is enabling a steady flow of foreign fighters – including Britons – to join the country’s civil war, according to some of the volunteers involved.

These foreign jihadists have now largely eclipsed the “moderate” wing of the rebel Free Syrian Army, which is supported by the West. Al-Qaeda’s ability to use Turkish territory will raise questions about the role the Nato member is playing in Syria’s civil war.

Turkey has backed the rebels from the beginning – and its government has been assumed to share the West’s concerns about al-Qaeda. But experts say there are growing fears over whether the Turkish authorities may have lost control of the movement of new al-Qaeda recruits – or may even be turning a blind eye.” (“Al-Qaeda recruits entering Syria from Turkey safehouses“, Telegraph)

Get the picture? This is a major region-shaping operation that the Turks, the Saudis, the Qataris, the Americans etc are in on. Sure, maybe some of the jihadis went off the reservation and started doing their own thing, but even that’s not certain. After all, Isis has already achieved many of Washington’s implicit objectives: Dump Nuri al Maliki and replace him with a US stooge who will amend the Status of Forces Agreement. (SOFA), allow Sunni militants and Kurds to create their own de facto mini-states within Iraq (thus, eliminating the threat of a strong, unified Iraq that will challenge Israeli hegemony), and create a tangible threat to regional security (Isis) thereby justifying US meddling and occupation for the foreseeable future. So far, arming terrorists has been a winning strategy for Obama and Co. Unfortunately for the president, we are still in the early rounds of the emerging crisis. Things could backfire quite badly, and probably will.

(NOTE: According to Iran’s Press TV: “The ISIL terrorists have purportedly opened a consulate in Ankara, Turkey and use it to issue visas for those who want to join the fight against the Syrian and Iraqi governments….The militants are said to be operating freely inside the country without much problem.” I have my doubts about this report which is why I have put parentheses around it, but it is interesting all the same.)

CAMP BUCCA: University of Al-Qaeda

So where do the Sunni extremists in Isis come from?

There are varying theories on this, the least likely of which is that they responded to promotional videos and propaganda on social media. The whole “Isis advertising campaign” nonsense strikes me as a clever disinformation ploy to conceal what’s really going on, which is, that the various western Intel agencies have been recruiting these jokers from other (former) hotspots like Afghanistan, Libya, Chechnya, Kosovo, Somalia and prisons in Iraq. Isis not a spontaneous amalgam of Caliphate-aspiring revolutionaries who spend their off-hours trolling the Internet, but a collection of ex Baathists and religious zealots who have been painstakingly gathered to perform the task at hand, which is to lob off heads, spread mayhem, and create the pretext for US-proxy war. Check out this illuminating article on Alakhbar English titled “The mysterious link between the US military prison Camp Bucca and ISIS leaders”. It helps explain what’s really been going on behind the scenes:

“We have to ask why the majority of the leaders of the Islamic State (IS), formerly the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), had all been incarcerated in the same prison at Camp Bucca, which was run by the US occupation forces near Omm Qasr in southeastern Iraq….. First of all, most IS leaders had passed through the former U.S. detention facility at Camp Bucca in Iraq. So who were the most prominent of these detainees?

The leader of IS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, tops the list. He was detained from 2004 until mid-2006. After he was released, he formed the Army of Sunnis, which later merged with the so-called Mujahideen Shura Council…

Another prominent IS leader today is Abu Ayman al-Iraqi, who was a former officer in the Iraqi army under Saddam Hussein. This man also “graduated” from Camp Bucca, and currently serves as a member on IS’ military council.

Another member of the military council who was in Bucca is Adnan Ismail Najm. … He was detained on January 2005 in Bucca, and was also a former officer in Saddam’s army. He was the head of a shura council in IS, before he was killed by the Iraqi army near Mosul on June 4, 2014.

Camp Bucca was also home to Haji Samir, aka Haji Bakr, whose real name is Samir Abed Hamad al-Obeidi al-Dulaimi. He was a colonel in the army of the former Iraqi regime. He was detained in Bucca, and after his release, he joined al-Qaeda. He was the top man in ISIS in Syria…

According to the testimonies of US officers who worked in the prison, the administration of Camp Bucca had taken measures including the segregation of prisoners on the basis of their ideology. This, according to experts, made it possible to recruit people directly and indirectly.

Former detainees had said in documented television interviews that Bucca…was akin to an “al-Qaeda school,” where senior extremist gave lessons on explosives and suicide attacks to younger prisoners. A former prisoner named Adel Jassem Mohammed said that one of the extremists remained in the prison for two weeks only, but even so was able to recruit 25 out of 34 inmates who were there. Mohammed also said that U.S. military officials did nothing to stop the extremists from mentoring the other detainees…

No doubt, we will one day discover that many more leaders in the group had been detained in Bucca as well, which seems to have been more of a “terrorist academy” than a prison.” (“The mysterious link between the US military prison Camp Bucca and ISIS leaders“, Alakhbar English)

US foreign policy is tailored to meet US strategic objectives, which in this case are regime change, installing a US puppet in Damascus, erasing the existing borders, establishing forward-operating bases across the country, opening up vital pipeline corridors between Qatar and the Mediterranean so the western energy giants can rake in bigger profits off gas sales to the EU market, and reducing Syria to a condition of “permanent colonial dependency.” (Chomsky)

Would the United States oversee what-amounts-to a “terrorist academy” if they thought their jihadi graduates would act in a way that served US interests?

Indeed, they would. In fact, they’d probably pat themselves on the back for coming up with such a clever idea.


Mike Whitney is a regular columnist for Veracity Voice

Mike Whitney lives in Washington state. He can be reached at: fergiewhitney@msn.com

The Fateful Triangle: Russia, Ukraine And The Jews

June 16, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

The erotic reliefs of Hindu temples with their gravity-defying and anatomy-challenging positions have found a new modern competitor in the Ukrainian crisis. Each party wants to get the Jews on their side, while claiming that the other side is anti-Jewish and a Jewish puppet at once. This impossible, Kama-Sutraesque position is the result of extremely confusing alliances: the Kiev regime lists devout Jews and fiery antisemites among its mainstays. The leading figures of the regime (including the president-elect) are of Jewish origin; strongman and chief financier Mr. Igor (Benya) Kolomoysky is a prominent Jewish public figure, the builder of many synagogues and a supporter of Israel. The most derring-do and pro-active force of the regime, the ultra-nationalists of the Svoboda party and the Right Sector, admire Hitler and his Ukrainian Quisling, Stepan Bandera, “liberators of Ukraine from the Judeo-Muscovite yoke”. Jews are ambivalent, and the sides are ambivalent about them, and a most entertaining intrigue has been hatched.

The Russians tried to pull Israel and American Jews to their side, with little success. President Putin condemned the antisemitism of the Svoboda party; he mentioned the desecration of the Odessa Jewish cemetery in his important talk. The Russians re-vitalised the World War Two narrative, fully identifying the Kiev regime with the Bandera gangs and the Nazi enemy. Still, this rhetoric is not taken seriously by Jews who refuse to feel threatened by cuddly Kolomoysky. “These Nazis are not against Jews, they are against Russians, so it is not a Jewish problem”, they say.

The Kiev regime mirrored the Russian attitude, if not Russia’s tactics. Being rather short of facts to brandish, they faked a leaflet from Donetsk rebels to local Jews calling upon them to register and pay a special poll tax “for the Jews support the Kiev regime”. This rude and improbable hoax was immediately and convincingly disproved, but not before it was used by, no less, Barak Obama and John Kerry. The American Jewish newspaper of record, The Forward, obfuscated the issue by saying that Russians and Ukrainians are antisemites by birth and their denials are to be taken with a grain of salt. This mud-slinging was effective – the hoax has made the front pages, while its debunking was published on the back pages.

The Russians had the facts on their side, and the West knew that: the US refused entry to Oleg Tyagnibok and other Svoboda leaders (now members of Kiev government) because of their antisemitism as recently as in 2013. But Russian appeals to Jewish and American sensitivities failed to make an impact. They know when to feign indignation and when to hush. Pro-Hitler commemorations are frequent in Estonia, Latvia, Croatia, and cause no lifting of a censorious brow, for these countries are solidly anti-Russian. In March of this year, the Obama administration’s special envoy on anti-Semitism, Ira Forman, flatly denied everything and said to the Forward that Putin’s assertions of Svoboda’s antisemitism “were not credible”. The US wants to decide who is an antisemite and who is not; like Hermann Goering wanted to decide who is a Jew and who is not in the Luftwaffe. In the Ukrainian crisis, the Jews remain divided, and follow their countries’ preferences.

Israel is neutral

Recently Prime Minister Netanyahu called President Putin. Putin is always available for and always courteous to Netanyahu, as opposed to President Obama, who shows signs of irritation. (Admittedly Obama has to listen to Netanyahu much more often and for hours.) Netanyahu apologised that he wouldn’t be able to come to St Petersburg for Israeli Culture Week; instead, old reliable Shimon Peres, Israel’s President, will make the trip. He apologised for leaking the news of this visit cancellation to the media, as well.

This is quite typical for the Israeli PM: at first, he asks for an invitation, Russia extends it, then he cancels his visit and leaks it to the press, thus earning brownie points with the Americans. He did it at the Sochi Olympic games, and now again, in St Petersburg. This is his way of expressing Israeli neutrality.

Israel is explicitly neutral in the Ukrainian crisis. Israelis walked out and did not vote on the UN GA Crimea resolution at all, annoying its American sponsors. The Israelis had a flimsy excuse: their Foreign Office was on strike. The Americans weren’t satisfied with this explanation. Strike or not, vote you must!

We learned from our Israeli colleagues the details of the Putin-Netanyahu phone conversation, which elaborated the reasons for Israeli neutrality. Israel is worried that as an asymmetric response to the US sanctions, Russia would deliver its potent air defence systems to Iran and Syria. Iran and Russia had signed a weapons supply contract a few years ago, Iran duly paid; then the shipment was suspended. Iran went to court demanding a massive compensation for the breach of contract. Likewise, the Syrians were supposed to get the S-300 surface-to-air missile system, able to protect its skies from Israeli raids. The deliveries commenced; PM Netanyahu beseeched Putin to put it on hold. Initially Putin objected, stressing the defensive nature of the system. Netanyahu told the Russian president that the S-300 would allow the Syrians to cover the whole North of Israel, at least all the way to Haifa, rendering important airfields unusable and endangering civil aviation as well. Putin agreed to stop the deliveries.

Vladimir Putin is friendly to Israel. He promised he would not allow the destruction of Israel; he promised to save its population if the situation should become truly dangerous. During the recent visit of PM Netanyahu to Moscow, Putin was not carried away by Netanyahu and Liberman’s hints of possible Israeli re-alliance with Moscow instead of Washington. He told the Israelis that their ties with the US are too strong for such a re-alliance being conceivable. Putin said that Russia is satisfied with the present level of friendship and does not demand that Tel Aviv weaken its ties with Washington. Putin visited Israel a few times, he received the Israeli PM in Kremlin. The Israeli ambassador Mme Golender sees Putin more often than do her American or French counterparts.

This friendly attitude has a down-to-earth reason: Putin is not fluent in English or French, while Mme Ambassador speaks Russian to him, eliminating the bothersome need of an interpreter. A deeper reason is Putin’s background: a scion of liberal elites, brought up in St Petersburg, schooled by ultra-liberal Mayor Sobchack, anointed by Boris Yeltsin, Putin is naturally friendly to Jews and to Israel. This friendly attitude annoyed some Russian ultra-patriots, who excitedly circulated his photo taken in the obligatory kippahnear the Wailing Wall. They also counted and recounted the names of Jewish oligarchs in Moscow.

True, some of them – Berezovsky, Gusinsky, Hodorkovsky – had to flee their Russian homeland, but the Russian president is surely not the Jewish-tycoons-Nemesis and the-new-Hitler he is sometimes made out to be. Abramovich and Friedman, to name just two, retain his trust and access. Putin does not mind any oligarch (Jewish or Gentile) – as long as he stays out of politics.

Putin is also friendly with Jewish intellectuals and gentlemen-of-the-media, even if they are outright hostile to him. Masha Gessen, Jewish Lesbian Putin-hater and magazine editor; Alexey Venediktov, Jewish chief editor of Echo Moskvy, a popular liberal medium that attacks Putin every day; many others enjoy access to Putin, – while no Russian nationalist including Dr Alexander Dugin can boast of having met with the president privately.

Putin’s affability does not turn him into a bountiful source for every Jewish initiative. He stopped S-300 deliveries to Iran, but rejected all Israeli overtures asking him to ditch Iran, or Syria, or Hamas. In the course of their last phone conversation, Netanyahu claimed the Israelis discovered proofs of Iranian nukes. Putin politely expressed his doubts and re-addressed him to IAEA. He agreed to receive the Israeli “experts” with their proofs in Moscow, but nothing came of it. Russia’s support for Palestine is unwavering, – there is a Palestinian embassy in Moscow, too.

Putin supported building of a spacious Jewish museum in Moscow and personally contributed to its budget – but Russian street advertising proclaims the Resurrection of Christ, Eastertide, and His Nativity at Christmas. No “season’s greetings”, but open affirmation of Christianity. Russia is not like the US or EU, where external signs of Christian faith are forbidden, Easter and Christmas can’t be mentioned and whatever Jews request must be done immediately. Western Jews are annoyed (so their organisations claim) by public displays of Christian faith, but Russian Jews do not mind; moreover, they intermarry, convert and enter the Church in previously unheard of numbers. They are not strongly pro-Israeli, those that were already left for Israel.

So the Jews of Russia are not an influential factor to the Russian President. Putin will do what is right according to the Christian faith, and what is good for Russia, as he understands it — and he can’t be convinced to give up really important points. Other considerations – such as friendship with Israel – would normally take a much lower place in his priorities. However, in the midst of the Ukrainian crisis, as the Russians are worried by sanctions and by threats of isolation, they try to pull Jews to their side. This makes them increasingly susceptible to Israeli manipulation, whether state-authorised or a private venture.

Last week, Israeli military historian Martin van Creveld visited Moscow. In 2003, he famously threatened Europe with nuclear destruction (the “Samson Option”), saying “Israel has the capability to take the world down with us, and that will happen before Israel goes under”. Now he has explained to Russians Israel’s new policy: While the US enters the period of its decline, Israel must diversify and hedge its bets by drawing close to Moscow, Beijing and Delhi, he wrote in Izvestia daily. Perhaps, but without going too far. A flirt – yes, switching sides – not yet.

Israel prefers to stick to its neutrality. This is easy, as the Israeli populace (excepting its Russians) is not interested in Russian/Ukrainian affairs, does not know the difference between Russia and the Ukraine and is rather unfriendly to Russians/Ukrainians. This goes for both the Left and Right; the Israeli Left is even more pro-American than the Israeli Right. As for Russian Israelis, they are equally divided between supporters of Russia and supporters of Kiev regime. While observing niceties towards Russia, Israel does not intend to side with Moscow. The Jewish oligarchs of Ukraine – Kolomoysky, Pinchuk, Rabinovich – are integrated within the Kiev regime, and they support Israeli right-wing on a large scale. Israeli businessmen are invested in the Ukraine, and the oligarchs are invested in Israel. Kolomoysky controls YuzhMash, the famed missile construction complex in Dnepropetrovsk, and holds the secrets of the Satan ballistic missile, the most powerful Russian strategic weapon. He allegedly intends to share these secrets with the Israelis. If Israel were to side with Moscow regarding Ukraine, the breach with Washington would be unavoidable, and Israel does not intend to provoke it.

Some marginal Israeli right-wingers support Russia; they claim that they represent Israeli public opinion and government. They try to collect on their promises before they deliver. However, this is not an ordinary scam: they are trying to turn Russia into a supporter of right-wing Zionism.

Consider Russian-Israeli far right activist Avigdor Eskin. He impossibly claims that the Israeli government has already decided to jump from the US train to join the Russian one, that Israeli commandos are on their way to fight for the Russians in Donetsk, that Israeli authorities intend to strip Mr Kolomoysky of his Israeli citizenship. Naturally, all that is a load of bunkum, but Russians swallow it hook, line and sinker.

Avigdor Eskin is a colourful personality: a convert to Jewish faith (his mother is not Jewish), an observant Jew, an ex-Kahanist who was arrested in Israel for an alleged attempt to desecrate Al Aqsa mosque and a Muslim cemetery, and who served two or three years in Israeli jail; he styles himself a “Rabbi” and wears a full beard. After serving his time in jail, he moved to Russia and built a network of Israel supporters among the Russian far right. His message is “Israel is a true friend of Russia, while Muslims are Russia’s enemies”. He also adds that Israeli settlers are anti-American and pro-Russian. (If you believe that, the tooth fairy is the next step.)

Recently he claimed that the Aliya Battalion of “experienced Israeli commandos and sharpshooters” came to warring Donbass to fight on the Russian side against the Kiev regime troops. The Aliya Battalion is a battalion in the sense Salvation Army is an army. This is an Israeli NGO, established by Russian Israelis of far-right Zionist persuasion and of some Russian military background. It is not a part of Israeli Army. For a short while, the NGO provided guards for Jewish settlements in Gaza and the West Bank, but the settlements stopped using them as they were extremely unreliable. They boasted of murdering Palestinian civilians, of torturing and killing children, but this was just a sick sadist and racist fantasy, people say. Afterwards, the Battalion leaders turned its name into a profitable scam, roaming American Jewish communities and collecting donations for their supposedly secret activities. As this scam was exposed by Israeli TV (RTVI network; it is available on the YouTube), they had disappeared from the public eye. Now Avigdor Eskin resurrected the old scam, and made a lot of headlines in the Russian media.

Eskin found a soulmate in prominent Russian media man Vladimir Solovyev. The Solovyev is of partly Jewish origin, lived abroad, then returned to Russia; he runs an important political show Sunday Eveningon Russian TV. The Saker (a well-known blogger) described him as follows: “This show is hosted by a famous personality, Vladimir Solovyev, who is a very interesting guy. Solovyev is a Jew, and he is not shy about reminding his audience about it, who was even elected as a member of the Russian Jewish Congress. He is also a Russian patriot, and he is an outspoken supporter of Putin and his policies. His position on the Ukraine is simple: he as a Jew and as a Russian has zero tolerance for Ukrainian nationalism, neo-Nazism or Banderism. He is a determined and total enemy of the new Kiev regime.”

It is possible Solovyev is going through some personal identity crisis: from celebrating his Russian roots, he moved to proclaiming his Jewish origin. Alternatively, it is possible (and more likely) that the Russian decision-makers want to pull Jews on their side, and Solovyev is acting with US Jews in mind. Stalin did it, so Putin could repeat the trick. In 1942, as Nazi onslaught threatened Russia, Stalin had sent some Russian Jews to the US, to speak Yiddish to Jewish communities and lobby for the USSR. The American Jewish community surely carries some clout… Now Solovyev and others are trying to influence Jews abroad; or at least to show to their superiors they are trying.

The price Eskin extracts for his fantasy stories is high. In Solovyev’s prime time programme, he called for the destruction of al Aqsa mosque and for the building of the Jewish temple on its place. He called Palestinians “the people of Antichrist”. Even in Israel such statements can’t be voiced on public TV. In confused Moscow, Eskin was feted and given a place in another important political programme, that of Arcady Mamontov. Who is conning whom: is Eskin conning his Russian hosts, or are his media hosts using him to con their superiors, or are their superiors trying to con the Russian people? Or is Israel hedging its bets? Who knows?

Ukrainian Jews beg to differ

Jews came to the Ukraine a thousand years ago, perhaps from Khazaria. This is not a homogeneous community; rather, they represent several communities. A lot of them emigrated to Israel; even more moved to Russia. They speak Russian and usually do not speak Ukrainian, though they picked up the vernacular over last twenty years. Normally, they wouldn’t care about Ukraine’s independence, as Jews  traditionally side with the strong, be it Poles under Polish rule, with Russians under Moscow rule, or with Germans under Vienna or Berlin. Now many of them have decided to side with the US or EU. One of the reasons why so many people of Jewish origin do well is that the ruling ethnic groups trust the Jews and rely upon their loyalty to the powerful and lack of compassion for their Gentile neighbours.

Another reason is the vague definitions. For last three or four generations, Jews have intermarried freely; children of these mixed marriages are often considered ‘Jews’. These are the ‘Jews’ to the present regime; often they have only one Jewish grandparent.

Ukraine, following its independence in 1991, moved into the Western sphere of influence, but Eastern Ukraine (Novorossia) retained its Russian character and links. Jews did well in both parts. Mr Kolomoysky is a prominent member of the Jewish community, and a mainstay of the Kiev regime.  He is a ruthless businessman, famous for his raiding of others’properties and for his Mafia connections. Rumours connect him with many killings of business adversaries.

On the other side, in Kharkov, the Mayor and the district Governor (nicknamed Dopah and Gepah) are Jewish, and they can be considered pro-Russian. It was thought that Kharkov would become the centre of rising Novorossia; president Yanukovich fled to Kharkov hoping to find allies and supporters. But Dopa and Gepa disabused him, so he continued his flight all the way to the Russian city of Rostov. Their decision to remain loyal to Kiev did not work well for them: one was shot, and the second one has been imprisoned and his attempt to run for president thwarted.

Kharkov is also home to Mr. Hodos, a wealthy and prominent Jew who fought most valiantly against Habad, the Jewish spiritual movement of which Mr Kolomoysky is a prominent member. The Jews of Novorossia apparently support the general pro-Russian trend, though there are exceptions. Practically all Ukrainian Jews have relatives in Russia, and had Russian education.

Israel has a strong network of agents in the Ukraine. They snatched a Palestinian engineer and flew him to an Israeli dungeon, and that could not be done without support of Ukrainian security services. However, the stories of Israeli soldiers fighting in Ukraine are somewhat exaggerated: these are individuals of dual citizenship who act at their own will, not a state representatives.

US Jews are divided

US Jews are divided on the Ukraine, as they were divided on Palestine. Friends of Palestine, people with a strong anti-imperialist record and sound knowledge of East European history – Noam Chomsky and Stephen F. Cohen — recognised and renounced the US attempt to sustain their hegemony by keeping brazen Russia down. A subset of people, Gilad Atzmon aptly called AZZ (anti-zionist zionists), Trots and other faux-Leftist shills for NATO like Louis Proyect – called for American intervention and brayed for Russian blood.

The notorious Israel Lobby is strictly anti-Russian. The State Dept. official Victoria (“Fuck EU”) Nuland personally directed the Kiev coup; she handpicked the government and the president of the new American colony on the Dnieper River. Her husband, Robert Kagan, is a founder of FPI, the successor of infamous PNAC, the extremist Zionist think tank which promoted wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and pushed for a war with Iran. Now they attack Russia, but they do not forget about their support for Israel.

Consider a young American gender activist and journalist, James Kirchick. He entered the Neocon network by shilling for the Lobby. He pink-washed Israel (“Israel as the best friend of gays on earth, while the Palestinians are homophobes who deserve to be bombed”). After doing the Israeli stint, he moved on to fighting Russia. He worked for the CIA-owned and US Congress-funded Radio Free Europe; stage-managed the sensational Liz Wahl’s on-air resignation from the RT and protested alleged mistreatment of gays in Russia. His dirty tricks were revealed by Max Blumenthal, a Jewish American journalist, a known anti-Zionist (working together with a Palestinian Rania Khalek).

While Israel is neutral re Ukraine, Israeli friends in EU and US are hostile to Russia and supportive of American hegemony, while friends of Palestine stand for Russia’s challenge to the Empire. The French Zionist media philosopher Bernard Henri Levy is an example of the former, while Michel Chossudovsky of Global Research is a representative of the latter. Leading critical (“anti-Zionist”) websites Counterpunch, Antiwar, Global Research sympathise with Russia, while pro-Israeli sites are hostile to Russia.

Zionists are nasty and vicious enemies, but they make even worse friends. Edward N. Luttwak is friendly to Russia; he called upon the US to make up with Russia. Strategic union of Russia and America is necessary, he says. Who cares about Ukraine? And here is his pitch line: Russia should fight China for the US benefit. Another Zionist friend, Tony Blair, also calls for peace with Russia – so Russia can fight the Muslim world for Israel. Quite similar to Eskin who offers his pathetic support to Russia in order to neutralise her positive influence and defence of Palestine.

The bottom line: Israel remains neutral for its own reasons. While Jews as individuals differ on Ukraine, there is a correlation with their stand on Palestine and on Syria. Enemies of Putin in Russia, Ukraine, Europe and US do support Israel and are hostile to Palestine, to Syria of Bashar, to Venezuela of Chavez. And the most dangerous lot are those who support Israel and Russia, as they are surely plotting some mischief.


A native of Novosibirsk, Siberia, a grandson of a professor of mathematics and a descendant of a Rabbi from Tiberias, Palestine, he studied at the prestigious School of the Academy of Sciences, and read Math and Law at Novosibirsk University. In 1969, he moved to Israel, served as paratrooper in the army and fought in the 1973 war.

After his military service he resumed his study of Law at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, but abandoned the legal profession in pursuit of a career as a journalist and writer. He got his first taste of journalism with Israel Radio, and later went freelance. His varied assignments included covering Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia in the last stages of the war in South East Asia.

In 1975, Shamir joined the BBC and moved to London. In 1977-79 he wrote for the Israeli daily Maariv and other papers from Japan. While in Tokyo, he wrote Travels with My Son, his first book, and translated a number of Japanese classics.

Email at: info@israelshamir.net

Israel Shamir is a regular columnist for Veracity Voice

Return To Seyeda (Lady) Zeinab—Now Secured And In Protective Hands

February 28, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Seyeda Zeinab, Syria – During a meeting at the Dama Rose hotel in Damascus the other morning, this observer was briefed by ‘Abu Modar,” a reputedly battle-honed field commander of the “Death Brigade,” a unit based in the northern Syria Eskanderoun region, north of Latakia. Abu Modar explained that he personally had chosen the rather peculiar name for his outfit to symbolize the willingness of its members to die for their cause—protecting Syria.

“Before each battle or each mission I ask my God to let me die defending Syria”, he explained. “If we are involved with a joint operation with Hezbollah, who are much admired because of their honesty and trustworthiness, I lead my men to the front line and ahead of Hezbollah troops out of respect for them and because we Syrians believe that as their grateful hosts we have this duty.”

The gentleman began explaining the history of his militia, one of thousands (both pro-and anti-government) operating in Syria these troubled days. It is a history that included some of his predecessors fighting with the PLO in Beirut during the summer of 1982, but as he was relating all this, his phone rang. The conversation was not long. The caller, he informed this observer upon ringing off, was his “contact,” advising him that certain intelligence sources had received information overnight that an individual had been observed in the vicinity of Zeinab’s shrine placing a parcel of explosives into a vehicle, presumably with the intention to detonate it near her resting place. This riveted my attention, in part because this observer was scheduled by chance to join an army escort the next day and visit the historic site, located about 40 minutes south of Damascus. Nearly two months ago the government regained control of the area, but there are still some snipers around, I had been apprised by friends. Abu Modar’s specific mission was to take some of his commandos and kick in the door of the suspect’s house sometime during the night, arrest him, and turn him over to someone for interrogation. His mission struck me as simple enough and he was matter of fact in outlining his plan.

“We do this sort of mission often. This is part of our expertise, and we do it whenever we are asked by Resistance friends and Syrian authorities. It spares the army for their normal work on battlefields, and our unit is specialized, and from long experience we have acquired certain useful skills.”

I demurred when he invited me to join him, explaining I was a bit out of shape and did not want to get in the way of his men’s work or potentially hamper their operation. But he insisted, saying that I could stay in his jeep and just observe, and he doubted that I would be in any serious danger. I was tempted to accept his invitation, and agreed to his proposal to meet after lunch to finalize our plans for that night’s outing. At this point, however, I called a trusted and knowledgeable Syrian friend, who knows a lot about these matters, and she seemed exasperated I would even consider tagging along with the Death Brigade.

“Absolutely not Franklin! Khalas! (finish!) You are visiting Seyeda Zeinab bokra with the army and you are not going with anyone else!”

Frankly, I was a bit relieved by my friend’s unequivocal counsel, and my new pal from the “Death” militia (who is acquainted with her) sportively understood. An interesting anecdote was at this point related by my interpreter: that Abu Modor had laughed and claimed a badge of honor upon recently being shown YouTube videos regarding his macho, George-Patton-style exploits in Qusayr, and in villages around Qalamoun, and rebel claims that he and his brigade were “the number one pro-regime murderers in Syria.” I might also mention that the “Death” unit is part of the not-well-known-in-the-West Popular Front for the Liberation of Iskanderun (PFLI), currently fighting rebels north of Latakia, in the mountains bordering Turkey, and whose forces have also periodically spent time guarding the resting place of Zeinab.

The geographical place name “Seyeda Zeinab” can be confusing for an untutored foreigner, the reason being that it may refer to a group of five small cities in the governorate of Damascus—Al Zeyabeya, Hujayr, Husseiniya, Akraba and Babila—or, alternately, to the sacred burial place and shrine for Zeinab bint Ali, the daughter of Ali, the first Shia Imam, and his first wife Fatima. Zeinab was also the granddaughter of the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) and the sister of Husayn and Hassan. Her shrine and pilgrimage destination are located in the small town of Seyeda (Lady) Zeinab, but given its fame, the name also refers to a wider area. As a holy shrine and place of prayer and scholarship, one imagines this place to be in the category of perhaps Qoms in Iran, and Najaf in Iraq. All three attract thousands of pilgrims and tourists, and since the area surrounding Seyeda Zeinab was liberated and essentially pacified by the Syrian Army recently, visitors are again arriving daily from countries including Yemen, Bahrain, Iraq, Iran, India, Pakistan and Lebanon, among others.

The Mayor of Seyeda Zeinab, this observer’s gracious host, is Mohammad Barakat, a Sunni engineer from Homs, roughly in his early 50’s. His staff is of mixed religious backgrounds, and, as with most Syrian citizens I have met over the past three years, was essentially blind to and uninterested in sectarian differences in existence before the current crisis. All the mayor’s staff members are working long hours these days, responding to numerous requests for post-liberation help, appeals which they try their best to accommodate with their limited available resources. My three-hour discussion with Mayor Barakat was interrupted perhaps as many as a couple of dozen times by the appearance of an aid often seeking his signature or mayoral stamp on citizen petitions covering anything from requests for food stuffs, problems with housing, or attempts to find employment with a municipal project now getting started.

In his bee hive of an office, the mayor used a pointer to highlight locations on a large wall map hanging next to his desk, the map illustrating areas where repair and construction projects are being readied. Mr. Barakat enthusiastically proclaimed, “2014 is the year we intend to start and finish area restoration work, and we take pride in the prospect that what we achieve here in Seyeda Zeinab can be a model for restoration work all over Syria that hopefully can begin soon.”


The Mayor of Seyeda Zeinab and staff members in front of the wall may illustrating plans to complete reconstruction of the area by the end of 2014 Photo: 2/25/14)

Barakat and three of his staff members accompanied this observer on an informative and inspiring tour of the Mosque and Shrine of Saeyda Zeinab. The shrine, our hosts informed us, is an example of Shia architecture, and the dome is made of pure gold. The grave of Zeinab is enclosed within a raised, crypt-like structure centered directly beneath the massive golden dome. The doors of the shrine are apparently also made of pure gold, with mirror works on the roof and walls. The minarets and the entrance gate of the holy shrine are covered with Iranian moarrahg tile designed by the famous Iranian architect and tile artist Ali Panjehpour. My colleague from the mayor’s office allowed me to finger one and explained that each 4 x 4 inch tile, of which there were hundreds of thousands in the complex, cost more than $100 USD. There is also a large mosque adjoining the shrine which this observer was advised can accommodate more than 1,300 people and a further 150 in the attached courtyards. The two tall minarets, one of which was damaged by a rebel mortar, dominate the architecture of the mosque as well as a large souk on the other side of a newly-built security wall.

In the cavernous nave of the Seyeda Zeinab, just next to the beautifully inlaid, elevated crypt holding her remains, approximately 50 men were performing mid-day Salat al Duhr prayers. Some were in camouflage uniforms and appeared to be on military leave or from the security units guarding the inside and perimeter of Zeinab’s Shrine.

This observer did not want to awkwardly press his hosts for details regarding the identities of the armed men guarding Seyeda Zeinab or where they are from. Some Western media sources have speculated that Shia fighters from Iraq and Lebanon came to Syria to protect Seyeda Zeinab following the desecration in Iraq of the tomb of Hajar Bin Aday. Several sites on the Internet published reports claiming that a takfiri group exhumed the tomb of Bin Aday, who was one of the most prominent Muslim leaders at the time of the Prophet Muhammad and who was loyal to Imam Ali bin Abi Talib. Bin Aday’s remains were reportedly taken to an unknown location. This observer infers that Hezbollah is currently a prominent presence guarding Seyeda Zeinab, and my Syrian companion noted Lebanese accents in the guard station at the entrance.

At the entrance to the women’s area, several women were praying and others appeared to be part of the shrine’s Women’s Auxiliary, or Guild, as they directed visitors while graciously assisting and providing female visitors with black chadors upon entering the sanctuary. One charming middle age woman, who appeared to be Iranian, smiled knowingly at me, and with a twinkle in her eyes jokingly offered this visiting American a chador as “a gift and souvenir from our Holy Shrine and from our community—to take back to your country, in appreciation of you not bombing us…yet!” And she laughed at her own joke, as did all who heard it, including the mayor, some nearby soldiers, and teen-aged visiting students.


Photo 2/25/14 shows the Gold Dome and the column that was damaged by a mortar round and the new security wall in the background.

Update on the capture of the bad person sought by Abu Modar

Well, did Abu Modar and his “Death Brigade” get their man?

They did indeed, and it was the night before this observer’s arrival at Seyeda Zeinab. Abu Modar detailed to this observer and a few of his militia guys the evening’s events as we made plans to leave the next morning for the Iskandroun region and an interview the PFLI President, Ali Kyali. The capture, it seems, came about not by kicking in the alleged bad guy’s door, American SWAT team-style. Rather, the suspect was stealthily followed and, during the early morning of 2/25/14, apprehended at one of the Syrian army checkpoints that surround the village of Seyeda Zeinab.

Such incidents make it clear that Seyeda Zeinab is still a target of some jihadist types given its great importance to Syria, the region, and among Muslims globally. Yet across sectarian divides here there are growing signs of the great majority of the exhausted populations being ready, to a degree, to forgive and forget at least some of the events of the past nearly 36 months.

Visiting Seyeda Zeinab is a wonderful, solemn, exhilarating and inspiring ecumenical experience—one highly recommended to all tourists planning to come to the Syrian Arab Republic as improving security conditions begin to allow for the return of international visitors.

May the Sainted Martyr, Zeinab bint Ali, whose life was devoted to charity and to nursing others, and who is a model for all humanity of resistance and defiance against oppression and all forms of injustice, forever rest in peace.


Dr. Franklin Lamb is Director, Americans Concerned for Middle East Peace, Beirut-Washington DC, Board Member of The Sabra Shatila Foundation, and a volunteer with the Palestine Civil Rights Campaign, Lebanon. He is the author of The Price We Pay: A Quarter-Century of Israel’s Use of American Weapons Against Civilians in Lebanon and is doing research in Lebanon for his next book. He can be reached at fplamb@gmail.com

Dr. Franklin Lamb is a regular columnist for Veracity Voice

Obama Set For Holy Tomahawk War

August 27, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

The ”responsibility to protect” (R2P) doctrine invoked to legitimize the 2011 war on Libya has just transmogrified into ”responsibility to attack” (R2A) Syria. Just because the Obama administration says so.

On Sunday, the White House said it had ”very little doubt” that the Bashar al-Assad government used chemical weapons against its own citizens. On Monday, Secretary of State John Kerry ramped it up to ”undeniable” – and accused Assad of ”moral obscenity”.

So when the US bombed Fallujah with white phosphorus in late 2004 it was just taking the moral high ground. And when the US helped Saddam Hussein to gas Iranians in 1988 it was also taking the moral high ground.

The Obama administration has ruled that Assad allowed UN chemical weapons inspectors into Syria, and to celebrate their arrival unleashed a chemical weapons attack mostly against women and children only 15 kilometers away from the inspectors’ hotel. If you don’t believe it, you subscribe to a conspiracy theory.

Evidence? Who cares about evidence? Assad’s offer of access for the inspectors came ”too late”. Anyway, the UN team is only mandated to determine whether chemical weapons were deployed – but not by who, according to UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon’s spokesman.

As far as the Obama administration and UK Prime Minister David ”of Arabia” Cameron are concerned – supported by a barrage of corporate media missiles – that’s irrelevant; Obama’s ”red line” has been crossed by Assad, period. Washington and London are in no-holds-barred mode to dismiss any facts contradicting the decision. Newspeak – of the R2A kind – rules. If this all looks like Iraq 2.0 that’s because it is. Time to fix the facts around the policy – all over again. Time for weapons of mass deception – all over again.

The Saudi-Israeli axis of fun

The window of opportunity for war is now. Assad’s forces were winning from Qusayr to Homs; pounding ”rebel” remnants out of the periphery of Damascus; deploying around Der’ah to counterpunch CIA-trained ”rebels” with advanced weapons crossing the Syrian-Jordanian border; and organizing a push to expel ”rebels” and jihadis from suburbs of Aleppo.

Now, Israel and Saudi Arabia are oh so excited because they are getting exactly what they dream just by good ol’ Wag the Dog methods. Tel Aviv has even telegraphed how it wants it: this Monday, the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper headlined with ”On the Way to Attack” and even printed the ideal Order of Battle. (see photo)

Months ago, even AMAN, the Intelligence Directorate of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) concluded that Assad was not a fool to cross Obama’s chemical weapon ”red line”. So they came up with the concept of ”two entwined red lines”, the second line being the Syrian government ”losing control of its chemical weapons depots and production sites”. AMAN then proposed different strategies to Washington, from a no-fly zone to actually seizing the weapons (implying a ground attack).

It’s now back to the number one option – air strikes on the chemical weapons depots. As if the US – and Israel – had up-to-the-minute intelligence on exactly where they are.

The House of Saud had also telegraphed its wishes – after Prince Bandar bin Sultan, aka Bandar Bush, was appointed by King Abdullah as head of Saudi General Intelligence. Abdullah’s hard on is explained by his mother and two of his wives coming from an influential, ultra-conservative Sunni tribe in Syria. As for Bandar Bush, he has more longevity than Rambo or the Terminator; he’s back in the same role he played in the 1980s Afghan jihad, when he was the go-to guy helping the CIA to weaponize president president Ronald Reagan’s ”freedom fighters”.

Jordan – a fiction of a country totally dependent on the Saudis – was easily manipulated into becoming a ”secret” war operation center. And who’s in charge? No less than Bandar’s younger half-brother, and deputy national security adviser, Salman bin Sultan, also known as ”mini-Bandar”. Talk about an Arab version of Dr Evil and Mini Me.

Still, there are more CIA assets than Saudis in the Jordanian front.

The importance of this report cannot be overstated enough. It was initially leaked to Lebanon’s Al-Safir newspaper. Here’s Bandar’s whole strategy, unveiled in his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, already reported by Asia Times Online. After trying – for four hours – to convince Putin to drop Syria, Bandar is adamant: ”There is no escape from the military option.”

Mix Kosovo with Libya and voila!

Former president Bill Clinton resurfaced with perfect timing to compare Obama’s options in Syria to Reagan’s jihad in Afghanistan. Bubba was right in terms of positioning Bandar’s role. But he must have inhaled something if he was thinking in terms of consequences – which include everything from the Taliban to that mythical entity, ”al-Qaeda”. Well, at least al-Qaeda is already active in Syria; they don’t need to invent it.

As for that bunch of amateurs surrounding Obama – including R2P groupies such as Susan Rice and new Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power, all of them liberal hawks – they are all suckers for Kosovo. Kosovo – with a Libya add-on – is being spun as the ideal model for Syria; R2P via (illegal) air strikes. Right on cue, the New York Times is already frantically parroting the idea.

Facts are, of course, absent from the narrative – including the blowing up of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade (a remix in Syria with the Russian embassy?) and getting to the brink of a war with Russia.

Syria has nothing to do with the Balkans. This is a civil war. Arguably the bulk of the Syrian urban population, not the country bumpkins, support Damascus – based on despicable ”rebel” behavior in places they control; and the absolute majority wants a political solution, as in the now near-totally torpedoed Geneva II conference.

The Jordanian scheme – inundating southern Syria with heavily weaponized mercenaries – is a remix of what the CIA and the Saudis did to AfPak; and the only winner will be Jabhat al-Nusra jihadis. As for the Israeli solution for Obama – indiscriminate bombing of chemical weapons depots – it will certainly result in horrendous collateral damage, as in R2A killing even more civilians.

The prospects remain grim. Damn another coalition of the willing; Washington already has the British and French poodles in the bag, and full support – in air-con safety – from the democratic Gulf Cooperation Council petro-monarchies, minion Jordan and nuclear power Israel. This is what passes for ”international community” in the newspeak age.

The Brits are already heavily spinning that no UN Security Council resolution is needed; who cares if we do Iraq 2.0? For the War Party, the fact that Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey said Syrian ”rebels” could not promote US interests seems to be irrelevant.

Washington already has what it takes for the Holy Tomahawks to start flying; 384 of them are already positioned in the Eastern Mediterranean. B-1 bombers can be deployed from Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar. And bunker-busting bombs will certainly be part of the picture.

What happens next requires concentric crystal balls – from Tomahawks to a barrage of air strikes to Special Ops commandos on the ground to a sustained air campaign lasting months. In his long interview to Izvestia, Assad gives the impression he thinks Obama is bluffing.

What’s certain is that Syria won’t be a ”piece of cake” like Libya; even depleted on all fronts, Gaddafi resisted for eight long months after NATO started its humanitarian bombing. Syria has a weary but still strong army of 200,000; loads of Soviet and Russian weapons; very good antiaircraft systems; and full support from asymmetrical warfare experts Iran and Hezbollah. Not to mention Russia, which just needs to forward a few S-300 air defense batteries and relay solid intelligence.

So get used to how international relations work in the age of newspeak. General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s army in Egypt can kill hundreds of his own people who were protesting against a military coup. Washington couldn’t care less – as in the coup that is not a coup and the bloodbath that is not a bloodbath.

No one knows for sure what exactly happened in the chemical weapons saga near Damascus. But that’s the pretext for yet another American war – just a few days before a Group of 20 summit hosted by Putin in St Petersburg. Holy Tomahawk! R2A, here we go.

Source: Pepe Escobar | Asia Times

Has The CIA’s Phoenix Program Been Resurrected In Syria?

August 27, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

In 1964, the U.S. had for years been involved in covert operations in Vietnam designed to destabilize the North Vietnamese leadership and goad them into attacking American and South Vietnamese targets. On August 4th, U.S. naval authorities reported one of two recent “torpedo attacks” in the Gulf of Tonkin, torpedo attacks which were later admitted to be entirely faked in order to provide pretext for an open American invasion.

While Lyndon Johnson was declaring a “police action” in the region (essentially a war declared without the authority of Congress) CIA Station Chief Peer DeSilva was organizing Vietnam operations around a new strategy called “counter-terrorism”. This strategy held that terrorism, used in the hands of “the good-guys”, was not only acceptable, but necessary in order to undermine the support structures of the enemy. CIA counter-terror units were formed using mostly South Vietnamese nationals as well as men from surrounding countries. These hit teams, called Provincial Reconnaissance Units (PRU’s) were coordinated and led by U.S. special operations officers and CIA liaisons under the umbrella of ICEX – the Intelligence Coordination and Exploitation Program, meant to create perfect information sharing and centralization between various teams.  The entire horrifying edifice would eventually be called “The Phoenix Program”:

http://videos.howstuffworks.com/discovery/31295-cia-americas-secret-warriors-the-phoenix-program-video.htm

The Phoenix Program is defended to this day by the CIA as nothing more than a practical counter-insurgency methodology meant to win the war faster, and with fewer casualties:

https://www.cia.gov/library/center-for-the-study-of-intelligence/csi-publications/csi-studies/studies/vol51no2/a-retrospective-on-counterinsurgency-operations.html

In fact, some in the mainstream still argue that Phoenix tactics should be used in Afghanistan and Iraq:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/04/opinion/04moyar.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=mark%20moyar&st=cse

But Phoenix went far beyond aspirations of “winning” in Vietnam. The program utilized a “by any means necessary” strategy to warfare that included the use of random assassination and the FABRICATION of enemy atrocities in order to rally the civilian population around U.S. forces. PRU operators routinely targeted the backwater villages of Vietnam, killing at least 20,000 civilians as later admitted by CIA Director William Colby, and 40,000 civilians as estimated by the South Vietnamese Government. The slaughter of villages was frequently blamed on the Vietcong, while PRU’s ran rampant in the jungles, physically mutilating victims in order to draw greater emotional reactions from Southern citizens as well as oblivious Americans back home.

All of this took place under the close supervision of the CIA. Torture was often applied in CIA substations with high tech security. CIA officers carefully selected PRU troops, specifically seeking out ARVN deserters, VC traitors, and South Vietnamese criminals looking for a reduction in their prison sentences. The CIA planned and mapped operations, including death squad operations. They created teams of monsters and unleashed them upon Vietnam, not just to win against the North, but to create the illusion that the U.S. military presence was justified.

Skip ahead about 20 years…

The same exact theater was used in the 1980’s by the CIA in El Salvador. Militants and fascist political leaders, including El Salvadorian dictator-by-election-fraud Roberto D’Aubuission,trained at the Fort Benning, Georgia’s “School of the Americas” (also known as the School of the Assassins) where they learned the same “counter-terror” methods used during the Phoenix Program. This resulted in the formation of the Mano Blanco (the White Hand), a network of ruthless death squads utilized against Salvadorian citizens, killing tens of thousands in a bloodbath that was covertly endorsed by the U.S. government.

Skip ahead another 30 years…

The techniques and technology have become more sophisticated, but the general strategy remains identical.

The Syria crisis is swiftly escalating with the advent of yet another unverified chemical weapons attack on the civilian population that is being used as a broad permit for the Obama Administration to enter into open operations against the Assad government. A previous chemical attack at the beginning of this summer was left unverified, though the establishment went to great lengths to convince the American public that the Assad government was responsible. It certainly didn’t help that the UN was relying purely on “samples” from a French evening newspaper called Le Monde rather than an officially sanctioned source, and that the UN was forced to acknowledge that the Syrian insurgents may have been involved.

Today, the mainstream media and the U.S. government references “strong indications that Syria’s government used chemical weapons in attacks that opposition groups claimed killed more than 1,100 people” as if their version of events is already considered concrete reality:

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324165204579026123332790830.html

But where are these “strong indications”? Where is this unassailable evidence of Assad’s involvement? The American public hasn’t been given a scrap of verifiable data concerning the attack and its origin. Once again, we are being asked to accept on simple “faith” that our government is telling us the truth and that military intervention must be supported.

Here is what we DO know for a fact…

The Syrian insurgency is made up primarily of Al Qaeda operatives (terrorists and criminals).

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2013/04/11/syria-al-qaeda-connection/2075323/

The CIA trained and supported these operatives using Bengahzi as a base for at least a year before the Bengahzi attacks.

http://thelead.blogs.cnn.com/2013/08/01/exclusive-dozens-of-cia-operatives-on-the-ground-during-benghazi-attack/

http://www.latimes.com/news/world/worldnow/la-fg-wn-cia-syria-20130621,0,6346686.story

Syrian insurgents have been caught on numerous occasions committing startling crimes, including the torture and murder of civilians, and the mutilation of prisoners and even their corpses. Captured Syrian soldiers are commonly executed.

The U.S. government continues to support the insurgents despite their death squad mentality, supplying heavy weapons including anti-aircraft missiles.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/25/world/middleeast/arms-airlift-to-syrian-rebels-expands-with-cia-aid.html?_r=0

Syrian insurgents impose their own fanatical system of theological governance in regions where they have total control. Anyone remotely suspected of being an Assad supporter is tortured, and the civilian population is carefully vetted.

http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2013-03-19/world/37840878_1_al-nusra-deir-aleppo

Clearly, Phoenix Program methods are being used by the CIA in Syria. The only difference in Syria is that the establishment has chosen to use the faction in rebellion as a tool for destabilization and war rather than a prevailing puppet government. Reports are now beginning to surface in the mainstream exposing direct U.S. and Israeli involvement on the ground in the Syrian theatre:

According to our information, the regime’s opponents, supervised by Jordanian, Israeli and American commandos moving towards Damascus since mid-August. This attack could explain the possible use of the Syrian president to chemical weapons.

According to information obtained by Le Figaro , the first trained in guerrilla warfare by the Americans in Jordan Syrian troops reportedly entered into action since mid-August in southern Syria, in the region of Deraa. A first group of 300 men, probably supported by Israeli and Jordanian commandos, as well as men of the CIA, had crossed the border on August 17. A second would have joined the 19. According to military sources, the Americans, who do not want to put troops on the Syrian soil or arming rebels in part controlled by radical Islamists form quietly for several months in a training camp set up at the border Jordanian- Syrian fighters ASL, the Free Syrian Army, handpicked.

According to this expert on the region, the idea proposed by Washington would be the possible establishment of a buffer zone from the south of Syria, or even a no-fly zone, which would cause opponents safely until the balance of power changes. This is the reason why the United States has deployed Patriot batteries and F16 in late June Jordan.”

http://www.lefigaro.fr/international/2013/08/22/01003-20130822ARTFIG00438-syrie-l-operation-anti-assad-a-commence.php

This report from Le Figaro has not yet been confirmed by a secondary source, but it fits perfectly with the Phoenix paradigm. The so called “rebels” have been trained by CIA operatives and U.S. interests. The rebels are armed and funded by the U.S. government. The rebels are vicious and amoral in their tactics, frequently targeting innocent civilians in death squad fashion. And finally, the rebels, it appears, are being directed on the ground by U.S. assets. The natural next step in this process would be a false flag, and what better way than to use chemical weapons against non-combatants; a “red line” which Barack Obama previously stated “cannot be crossed”?

As I have pointed out in numerous articles dealing with engineered disaster events, if you aren’t examining who benefits, you aren’t seeing the big picture.

Who REALLY benefits from the latest chemical weapons attack in Syria? Assad, already nearing victory against the insurgents, gains absolutely nothing from killing hundreds if not thousands of his own people with Sarin gas on the same exact day that a UN inspections team arrives in the country. However, the insurgents gain immense military support from the West if Assad is successfully labeled a war criminal. The establishment gains a pretext for air strikes, no-fly zones, and eventually a physical invasion of the region, which is something they have obviously wanted for quite some time given the fact that they have manipulated the Syrian revolution from its very inception.

It’s all happened before, with different players, different faces, and different ideologies, but always the same winner – the global elites. Call it the “Phoenix Program”, call it the “School Of The Americas”, call it the “Arab Spring”; it doesn’t really matter. The endgame is predictable. Unilateral war without the approval of the American people or even Congress. Collapse of a nation or multiple nations resulting in the deaths of tens of thousand, hundreds of thousands, or perhaps millions. Severe economic and social implications reverberating throughout the rest of the world. And American culture takes several steps closer to a totalitarian hell on Earth

I have been predicting the use of Syria as a catalyst for wider war for years:

http://www.alt-market.com/articles/994-syria-and-iran-dominos-lead-to-world-war

And in recent months, I reiterated my concerns and predictions, many of which are coming true as you read this:

http://www.alt-market.com/articles/1535-the-terrible-future-of-the-syrian-war

I do believe that the Obama Administration is going to steamroll forward with overt U.S. action in Syria, Iran, and likely Egypt. I do believe that the consequences economically and politically in America will be catastrophic. I believe that if extended U.S. or Israeli strikes occur in Syria, they will be accompanied by subsequent attacks here at home (false flag or otherwise). I believe that a Syrian strike should be considered a Red Alert event for those in the Liberty Movement preparing for the worst. We may not be able to stop the landslide of devastation that will be triggered in coming months, but we can still decide the outcome. Make yourselves ready now, and do not waver.

Source: Brandon Smith | Alt-Market

Hezbollah And The Syrian Pit

May 25, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Why Washington and Tel Aviv Want Hezbollah to Keep Fighting in al-Qusayr…

Homs Province, Syria…

During a tour of some of the neighborhoods in Homs, Syria’s third largest city after Aleppo and Damascus, with a pre-conflict population of approximately 800,000 (nearly half  Homs residents have fled over the past two years) located maybe about 22 miles NE of the current hot-spot of al-Qusayr, this observer engaged is a few interesting conversations.  More accurately labeled diatribes–with some long bearded Sunni fundamentalists who claimed they came from Jabhat al Nusra, aka Jabhat an-Nuṣrah li-Ahl ash-Shām, “Front of Defense for the People of Greater Syria”), and were preparing to return to al Qusayr to fight “the deniers of Allah”!

It is the strategic crossroads town of al-Qusayr, and its environs, which whoever controls, can block supplies and reinforcements to and from Damascus and locations north and east.  For those seeking the ouster of Syria’s government, including NATO countries led by Washington,  were their “allies”  to lose  control of al-Qusayr it would mean the cutting off of supplies from along the Lebanese border, from which most of the local opposition’s weapons flow and fighters have been smuggled over the past 26 months. If the Assad regime forces regain control of the city, Washington believes they will move north and conquer current opposition positions in Homs and Rastan, both areas being dependent on support from Lebanon and al-Qusayr. Some analysts are saying this morning, with perhaps a bit of hyperbole that as al-Qusayr goes so goes Syria and the National Lebanese Resistance, led by Hezbollah.

If government forces can retake the city it will  put an end to the  Saudi-Qatari green light, in exchange for controlling al-Qusayr, of the setting up a Salafist emirate in the area which would constitute a threat to the nearly two dozen Shia Lebanese inhabited villages of the Hermel region. If the Syrian army re-takes al-Qusayr, it would also avoid the likelihood of a full-fledged sectarian war on both sides of the border.

Meeting with a few self-proclaimed al Nusra Front militiaman last week, in Homs, one who spoke excellent British English they had plenty to say  to this observer about current events in al Qusayr to which they planned to return the next day to fight enemies “by all means Allah gives us”.  One added, when asked if they had confronted Hezbollah: “Of course but Hezbollah can’t defeat us. Eventually they will withdraw from Syria on orders from Tehran.  But first enshallah we will bleed Hezbollah with thousands of cut throats”, he boasted raucously as nearby kids  cheered and gave V for victory signs, smiles, giggles and cackling all around.

Such Jihadist rants are music to more than a few US congressional and White House ears these days, as once more in this region,  a major US-Israeli carefully calibrated regime change project,  appears to be falling short.

This week, the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted overwhelmingly to arm elements of the Syrian opposition with a recommendation to “provide defense articles, defense services, and military training” directly to the opposition throughout Syria, who naturally, will “have been properly and fully vetted and share common values and interests with the United States”.  History teaches that the vetting part would not happen if the scheme is implemented, despite only a few in Congress objecting.

Perhaps lacking some of his father Ron Paul’s insights into US hegemonic plans for this region, Senator Rand Paul did object to the measure and he fumed at his colleagues: ”This is an important moment. You will be funding, today, the allies of al Qaeda. It’s an irony you cannot overcome.”

According to the Hill Rag weekly, veteran war-hawks Senators John McCain and Lindsay Graham, flashed a knowing smile but gave no rebuttal, perhaps realizing that Senator Paul is a bit untutored on the reality of current Obama Administration policy in Syria generally, and for al-Qusayr, in particular.

Contrary to the shock and anger expressed by Senator Paul, American policy in Syria is  to de facto  assist allies of al Qaeda including the US  “Terrorist-listed”  Al-Nusra Front as well as anti-Iran, anti-Shia and anti-Hezbollah groups gathering near al-Qusayr. These groups currently include, but not limited to,   Ahl al-Athr Brigade, Ahrar al-Sham,  Basha’ir al-Nasr Brigades, Commandos Brigades, Fajr al-Islam Brigades, Independent Farouq Brigades, Khalid bin al-Waleed Brigade, Liwa al-Haq, Liwa al-Sadiq, Al-Nour Brigade, Al-Qusayr Brigade, Suqur al-Fatah, Al-Wadi Brigades, Al-Waleed Brigades and the 77th Brigade among the scores  of other Jihadist cells currently operating in, near, or rushing to, al-Qusayr.

Their victory according to US Senate sources would be a severe blow and  challenge to Iran’s rising influence in the region and Iran’s  leadership of the increasing regional and global resistance to the Zionist occupiers of Palestine in favor of the full right to return of every ethnically cleansed Palestinian refugee.

While Congress was considering what else to do to help the “rebels”, on 5/22/13,  no fewer than 11 so-called “World powers” foreign ministers, including Turkey and Jordan, met in Amman to condem,  with straight faces, even, tongues in cheek, the “flagrant intervention” in Syria by Hezbollah and Iranian fighters.”  They urged their immediate withdrawal from the war-torn country. In a joint statement, the “Friends of Syria” group called “for the immediate withdrawal of Hezbollah and Iranian fighters, and other regime allied foreign fighters from Syrian territory.”

Not one peep of course, about the Salafist-Jihadist-Takfuri fighters from more than 30 countries now ravaging Syria’s population. The truth of the matter is that the governments represented by their foreign ministers this week in Amman, will follow the US lead which means they will assist, despite some cautionary public words, virtually any ally of al-Qaeda whose fighting in Syria may be seen as weakening the Assad government and its supporters in Iran and Lebanon.

According to one long-term Congressional aide to a prominent Democratic Senator from the West Coast, while the Amman gathering described Hezbollah’s armed presence in Syria as “a threat to regional stability”, the White House could not be more pleased that Hezbollah is in al-Qusayr.”  When pressed via email for elaboration, the Middle East specialist offered the view that the White House agrees with Israel that al-Qusayr may become Hezbollah’s Dien Bein Phu and the Syrian conflict could well turn into Iran’s “Vietnam”. ..Quite a few folks around here (Capitol Hill) think al-Qusayr will remove Hezbollah from the list of current threats to Israel.  And the longer they keep themselves bogged down in quick-sand over there the better for Washington and Tel Aviv. Hopefully they will remain in al-Qusayr for a long hot summer and gut their ranks in South Lebanon via battle field attrition and Israel can make its move and administer a coup de grace.”

The staffer followed up with another email with only one short sentence and a smiley face:

“Of course the White House and its concrete wall-solid ally might be wrong!”

The dangers for Hezbollah are obvious – that it may be drawn ever deeper into a bottomless pit of conflict in Syria that could leave it severely depleted and prey to a hoped for death-blow from Israel.

Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah and other party officials have dismissed that possibility.

The next few weeks may tell.


Dr. Franklin Lamb is Director, Americans Concerned for Middle East Peace, Beirut-Washington DC, Board Member of The Sabra Shatila Foundation, and a volunteer with the Palestine Civil Rights Campaign, Lebanon. He is the author of The Price We Pay: A Quarter-Century of Israel’s Use of American Weapons Against Civilians in Lebanon and is doing research in Lebanon for his next book. He can be reached at fplamb@gmail.com

Dr. Franklin Lamb is a regular columnist for Veracity Voice

War Scare In Korea – A Manufactured Crisis

March 31, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

The United States and the two feuding Koreas could blunder into a real war unless both Pyongyang and Washington cease provoking one another.

Last week, two nuclear-capable US B-2 stealth bombers flew non-stop from America to South Korea, and then home. These ‘invisible’ aircraft can carry the GBU-43/B MOAB 13,600kg bomb that is said to be able to blast through 70 meters of reinforced concrete, putting North Korea’s underground nuclear facilities and its leadership’s command bunkers under dire threat.

Earlier this month, US B-52’s heavy bombers staged mock attack runs over South Korea – within minutes flying time of the North – rekindling memories of the massive US carpet bombing raids that devastated North Korea during the 1950’s Korean War. US-South Korean-Australian war games in March were designed to train for war with the North. The US media ignored these provocative exercises, but, as usual, North Korea went ballistic, foolishly threatening to attack the US with long-ranged missiles it does not yet possess.

We have grown jaded over the years by North Korea’s threats and chest-beating. But its recent successful nuclear test and work on a long-ranged missile have begun to add muscle to Pyongyang’s threats. No sooner was the new young North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, in power than the US, South Korea and Japan began testing him.

More important, the US-South Korea defense treaty calls on Washington to militarily intervene if war erupts between North and South Korea. Given present tensions, a border fight on the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), commando raids by North Korea’s 110,000-man special forces, air or naval clashes could quickly lead to full war.

North Korea has repeatedly threatened to flatten parts of South Korea’s capitol, Seoul, using 11,000 heavy guns and rocket batteries hidden in caves along the DMZ. North Korean commandos and missile batteries are tasked with attacking all US airbases and command headquarters in South Korea. The 28,500 US troops based in South Korea will also be a primary target.

North Korea’s medium ranged missiles are aimed at US bases on mainland Japan, Okinawa and Guam. North Korea’s tough 1.1-million man army is poised to attack south. Massive US airpower would eventually blunt such an advance, but that would mean moving US warplanes from the Gulf and Afghanistan. The US Air Force’s stocks of bombs and missiles are perilously low and its equipment showing heavy wear and tear.

The US has become accustomed to waging war against small nations whose ‘threat’ has been wildly overblown: Grenada, Somalia, Iraq, Libya. The last real war fought by the US, against Vietnam, was an epic defeat for American arms. North Korea is not an Iraq or Libya.

North Korea’s air force and navy would be quickly destroyed by US and South Korean air power within days of war. But taking on North Korea’s hard as nails army will be a serious challenge if it fights on the defensive. Pentagon studies show that invading North Korea could cost the US up to 250,000 casualties. So the US would be clearly tempted to use tactical nuclear weapons. But North Korea vows to nuke Japan if the US goes nuclear. And there is the threat of Chinese intervention.

The US would be wise to back off from this confrontation and lower tensions with North Korea. America’s empty Treasury can’t afford yet another war, having already blown $2 trillion on the lost wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. America’s armed forces, bogged down in the Mideast and Afghanistan, are in no shape to fight a real war in Korea. Just moving heavy armor and guns there would take months.

Now might be a good time for Washington to ease rather than keep tightening sanctions on North Korea. Pyongyang’s real objectives are to gain a non-aggression treaty with the US and direct, normal relations. Washington won’t hear of this, though it deals with other repellant regimes. American neocons are determined to overthrow North Korea’s regime, fearing it will send advanced arms to Israel’s Mideast foes.

Military forces on the Korean Peninsula are on hair-trigger alert. Flying B-2’s near the North is almost daring it to attack. Diplomats, not air force generals, should be running this largely manufactured crisis.

Source: ericmargolis.com

War Porn: The New Safe Sex

April 1, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

The early 21st century is addicted to war porn, a prime spectator sport consumed by global couch and digital potatoes. War porn took the limelight on the evening of September 11, 2001, when the George W Bush administration launched the “war on terror” – which was interpreted by many of its practitioners as a subtle legitimization of United States state terror against, predominantly, Muslims.

This was also a war OF terror – as in a manifestation of state terror pitting urban high-tech might against basically rural, low-tech cunning. The US did not exercise this monopoly; Beijing practiced it in Xinjiang, its far west, and Russia practiced it in Chechnya.

Like porn, war porn cannot exist without being based on a lie – a crude representation. But unlike porn, war porn is the real thing; unlike crude, cheap snuff movies, people in war porn actually die – in droves.

The lie to finish all lies at the center of this representation was definitely established with the leak of the 2005 Downing Street memo, in which the head of the British MI6 confirmed that the Bush administration wanted to take out Iraq’s Saddam Hussein by linking Islamic terrorism with (non-existent) weapons of mass destruction (WMD). So, as the memo put it, “The intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.”

In the end, George “you’re either with us or against us” Bush did star in his own, larger-than-life snuff movie – that happened to double as the invasion and destruction of the eastern flank of the Arab nation.

The New Guernica

Iraq may indeed be seen as the Star Wars of war porn – an apotheosis of sequels. Take the (second) Fallujah offensive in late 2004. At the time I described it as the new Guernica. I also took the liberty of paraphrasing Jean-Paul Sartre, writing about the Algerian War; after Fallujah no two Americans shall meet without a corpse lying between them. To quote Coppola’s Apocalypse Now, there were bodies, bodies everywhere.

The Francisco Franco in Fallujah was Iyad Allawi, the US-installed interim premier. It was Allawi who “asked” the Pentagon to bomb Fallujah. In Guernica – as in Fallujah – there was no distinction between civilians and guerrillas: it was the rule of “Viva la muerte!”

United States Marine Corps commanders said on the record that Fallujah was the house of Satan. Franco denied the massacre in Guernica and blamed the local population – just as Allawi and the Pentagon denied any civilian deaths and insisted “insurgents” were guilty.

Fallujah was reduced to rubble, at least 200,000 residents became refugees, and thousands of civilians were killed, in order to “save it” (echoes of Vietnam). No one in Western corporate media had the guts to say that in fact Fallujah was the American Halabja.

Fifteen years before Fallujah, in Halabja, Washington was a very enthusiastic supplier of chemical weapons to Saddam, who used them to gas thousands of Kurds. The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) at the time said it was not Saddam; it was Khomeinist Iran. Yet Saddam did it, and did it deliberately, just like the US in Fallujah.

Fallujah doctors identified swollen and yellowish corpses without any injuries, as well as “melted bodies” – victims of napalm, the cocktail of polystyrene and jet fuel. Residents who managed to escape told of bombing by “poisonous gases” and “weird bombs that smoke like a mushroom cloud … and then small pieces fall from the air with long tails of smoke behind them. The pieces of these strange bombs explode into large fires that burn the skin even when you throw water over them.”

That’s exactly what happens to people bombed with napalm or white phosphorus. The United Nations banned the bombing of civilians with napalm in 1980. The US is the only country in the world still using napalm.

Fallujah also provided a mini-snuff movie hit; the summary execution of a wounded, defenseless Iraqi man inside a mosque by a US Marine. The execution, caught on tape, and watched by millions on YouTube, graphically spelled out the “special” rules of engagement. US Marine commanders at the time were telling their soldiers to “shoot everything that moves and everything that doesn’t move”; to fire “two bullets in every body”; in case of seeing any military-aged men in the streets of Fallujah, to “drop ‘em”; and to spray every home with machine-gun and tank fire before entering them.

The rules of engagement in Iraq were codified in a 182-page field manual distributed to each and every soldier and issued in October 2004 by the Pentagon. This counter-insurgency manual stressed five rules; “protect the population; establish local political institutions; reinforce local governments; eliminate insurgent capabilities; and exploit information from local sources.”

Now back to reality. Fallujah’s population was not protected: it was bombed out of the city and turned into a mass of thousands of refugees. Political institutions were already in place: the Fallujah Shura was running the city. No local government can possibly run a pile of rubble to be recovered by seething citizens, not to mention be “reinforced”. “Insurgent capabilities” were not eliminated; the resistance dispersed around the 22 other cities out of control by the US occupation, and spread up north all the way to Mosul; and the Americans remained without intelligence “from local sources” because they antagonized every possible heart and mind.

Meanwhile, in the US, most of the population was already immune to war porn. When the Abu Ghraib scandal broke out in the spring of 2004, I was driving through Texas, exploring Bushland. Virtually everybody I spoke to either attributed the humiliation of Iraqi prisoners to “a few bad apples”, or defended it on patriotic grounds (“we must teach a lesson to “terrorists”).

I Love A Man In Uniform

In thesis, there is an approved mechanism in the 21st century to defend civilians from war porn. It’s the R2P – “responsibility to protect” doctrine. This was an idea floated already in 2001 – a few weeks after the war on terror was unleashed, in fact – by the Canadian government and a few foundations. The idea was that the concert of nations had a “moral duty” to deploy a humanitarian intervention in cases such as Halabja, not to mention the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia in the mid-1970s or the genocide in Rwanda in the mid-1990s.

In 2004, a panel at the UN codified the idea – crucially with the Security Council being able to authorize a “military intervention” only “as a last resort”. Then, in 2005, the UN General Assembly endorsed a resolution supporting R2P, and in 2006 the UN Security Council passed resolution 1674 about “the protection of civilians in armed conflict”; they should be protected against “genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity”.

Now fast-forward to the end of 2008, early 2009, when Israel – using American fighter jets to raise hell – unleashed a large-scale attack on the civilian population of the Gaza strip.

Look at the official US reaction; “Israel has obviously decided to protect herself and her people,” said then-president Bush. The US Congress voted by a staggering 390-to-5 to recognize “Israel’s right to defend itself against attacks from Gaza”. The incoming Barack Obama administration was thunderously silent. Only future Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, “We support Israel’s right to self-defense.”

At least 1,300 civilians – including scores of women and children – were killed by state terror in Gaza. Nobody invoked R2P. Nobody pointed to Israel’s graphic failure in its “responsibility to protect” Palestinians. Nobody called for a “humanitarian intervention” targeting Israel.

The mere notion that a superpower – and other lesser powers – make their foreign policy decisions based on humanitarian grounds, such as protecting people under siege, is an absolute joke. So already at the time we learned how R2P was to be instrumentalized. It did not apply to the US in Iraq or Afghanistan. It did not apply to Israel in Palestine. It would eventually apply only to frame “rogue” rulers that are not “our bastards” – as in Muammar Gaddafi in Libya in 2011. “Humanitarian” intervention, yes; but only to get rid of “the bad guys.”

And the beauty of R2P was that it could be turned upside down anytime. Bush pleaded for the “liberation” of suffering Afghans – and especially burqa-clad Afghan women – from the “evil” Taliban, in fact configuring Afghanistan as a humanitarian intervention.

And when the bogus links between al-Qaeda and the non-existent WMDs were debunked, Washington began to justify the invasion, occupation and destruction of Iraq via … R2P; “responsibility to protect” Iraqis from Saddam, and then to protect Iraqis from themselves.

The Killer Awoke Before Dawn

The most recent installment in serial episodes of war porn is the Kandahar massacre, when, according to the official Pentagon version (or cover up) an American army sergeant, a sniper and Iraqi war veteran – a highly trained assassin – shot 17 Afghan civilians, including nine women and four children, in two villages two miles apart, and burned some of their bodies.

Like with Abu Ghraib, there was the usual torrent of denials from the Pentagon – as in “this is not us” or “we don’t do things these way”; not to mention a tsunami of stories in US corporate media humanizing the hero-turned-mass killer, as in “he’s such a good guy, a family man”. In contrast, not a single word about The Other – the Afghan victims. They are faceless; and nobody knows their names.

A – serious – Afghan enquiry established that some 20 soldiers may have been part of the massacre – as in My Lai in Vietnam; and that included the rape of two of the women. It does make sense. War porn is a lethal, group subculture – complete with targeted assassinations, revenge killings, desecration of bodies, harvesting of trophies (severed fingers or ears), burning of Korans and pissing on dead bodies. It’s essentially a collective sport.

US “kill teams” have deliberately executed random, innocent Afghan civilians, mostly teenagers, for sport, planted weapons on their bodies, and then posed with their corpses as trophies. Not by accident they had been operating out of a base in the same area of the Kandahar massacre.

And we should not forget former top US commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, who in April 10, 2010, admitted, bluntly, “We’ve shot an amazing number of people” who were not a threat to the US or Western civilization.

The Pentagon spins and sells in Afghanistan what it sold in Iraq (and even way back in Vietnam for that matter); the idea that this is a “population-centric counter-insurgency” – or COIN, to “win hearts and minds”, and part of a great nation building project.

This is a monumental lie. The Obama surge in Afghanistan – based on COIN – was a total failure. What replaced it was hardcore, covert, dark war, led by “kill teams” of Special Forces. That implies an inflation of air strikes and night raids. No to mention drone strikes, both in Afghanistan and in Pakistan’s tribal areas, whose favorite targets seem to be Pashtun wedding parties.

Incidentally, the CIA claims that since May 2010, ultra-smart drones have killed more than 600 “carefully selected” human targets – and, miraculously, not a single civilian.

Expect to see this war porn extravaganza celebrated in an orgy of upcoming, joint Pentagon-Hollywood blockbusters. In real life, this is spun by people such as John Nagl, who was on General David Petraeus’ staff in Iraq and now runs the pro-Pentagon think-tank Center for New American Security.

The new stellar macho, macho men may be the commandos under the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC). But this a Pentagon production, which has created, according to Nagl, an “industrial strength counter-terrorism killing machine”.

Reality, though, is much more prosaic. COIN techniques, applied by McChrystal, relied on only three components; 24-hour surveillance by drones; monitoring of mobile phones; and pinpointing the physical location of the phones from their signals.

This implies that anyone in an area under a drone watch using a cell phone was branded as a “terrorist”, or at least “terrorist sympathizer”. And then the focus of the night raids in Afghanistan shifted from “high value targets” – high-level and mid-level al-Qaeda and Taliban – to anyone who was branded as helping the Taliban.

In May 2009, before McChrystal arrived, US Special Forces were carrying 20 raids a month. By November, they were 90 a month. By the spring of 2010, they were 250 a month. When McChrystal was fired – because of a story in Rolling Stone (he was competing with Lady Gaga for the cover; Lady Gaga won) – and Obama replaced him with Petraeus in the summer of 2010, there were 600 a month. By April 2011, they were more than 1,000 a month.

So this is how it works. Don’t even think of using a cell phone in Kandahar and other Afghan provinces. Otherwise, the “eyes in the sky” are going to get you. At the very least you will be sent to jail, along with thousands of other civilians branded as “terrorist sympathizers”; and intelligence analysts will use your data to compile their “kill/capture list” and catch even more civilians in their net.

As for the civilian “collateral damage” of the night raids, they were always presented by the Pentagon as “terrorists”. Example; in a raid in Gardez on February 12, 2010, two men were killed; a local government prosecutor and an Afghan intelligence official, as well as three women (two of them pregnant). The killers told the US-North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) command in Kabul that the two men were “terrorists” and the women had been found tied up and gagged. Then the actual target of the raid turned himself in for questioning a few days later, and was released without any charges.

That’s just the beginning. Targeted assassination – as practiced in Afghanistan – will be the Pentagon’s tactic of choice in all future US wars.

Pass The Condom, Darling

Libya was a major war porn atrocity exhibition – complete with a nifty Roman touch of the defeated “barbarian” chief sodomized in the streets and then executed, straight on YouTube.

This, by the way, is exactly what Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in a lightning visit to Tripoli, had announced less than 48 hours before the fact. Gaddafi should be “captured or killed”. When she watched it in the screen of her BlackBerry she could only react with the semantic earthquake “Wow!”

From the minute a UN resolution imposed a no-fly zone over Libya under the cover of R2P, it became a green card to regime change. Plan A was always to capture and kill Gaddafi – as in an Afghan-style targeted assassination. That was the Obama administration official policy. There was no plan B.

Obama said the death of Gaddafi meant, “the strength of American leadership across the world”. That was as “We got him” (echoes of Saddam captured by the Bush administration) as one could possibly expect.

With an extra bonus. Even though Washington paid no less than 80% of the operating costs of those dimwits at NATO (roughly $2 billion), it was still pocket money. Anyway, it was still awkward to say, “We did it”, because the White House always said this was not a war; it was a “kinetic” something. And they were not in charge.

Only the hopelessly naïve may have swallowed the propaganda of NATO’s “humanitarian” 40,000-plus bombing which devastated Libya’s infrastructure back to the Stone Age as a Shock and Awe in slow motion. This never had anything to do with R2P.

This was R2P as safe sex – and the “international community” was the condom. The “international community”, as everyone knows, is composed of Washington, a few washed-up NATO members, and the democratic Persian Gulf powerhouses of Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), plus the House of Saud in the shade. The EU, which up to extra time was caressing the helm of Gaddafi’s gowns, took no time to fall over themselves in editorials about the 42-year reign of a “buffoon”.

As for the concept of international law, it was left lying in a drain as filthy as the one Gaddafi was holed up in. Saddam at least got a fake trial in a kangaroo court before meeting the executioner (he ended up on YouTube as well). Osama bin Laden was simply snuffed out, assassination-style, after a territorial invasion of Pakistan (no YouTube – so many don’t believe it). Gaddafi went one up, snuffed out with a mix of air war and assassination. They are The Three Graceful Scalps of War Porn.

Sweet Emotion 

Syria is yet another declination of war porn narrative. If you can’t R2P it, fake it.

And to think that all this was codified such a long time ago. Already in 1997, the US Army War College Quarterly was defining what they called “the future of warfare”. They framed it as “the conflict between information masters and information victims”.

They were sure “we are already masters of information warfare … Hollywood is ‘preparing the battlefield’ … Information destroys traditional jobs and traditional cultures; it seduces, betrays, yet remains invulnerable … Our sophistication in handling it will enable us to outlast and outperform all hierarchical cultures … Societies that fear or otherwise cannot manage the flow of information simply will not be competitive. They might master the technological wherewithal to watch the videos, but we will be writing the scripts, producing them, and collecting the royalties. Our creativity is devastating.”

Post-everything information warfare has nothing to do with geopolitics. Just like the proverbial Hollywood product, it is to be “spawned” out of raw emotions; “hatred, jealousy, and greed – emotions, rather than strategy”.

In Syria this is exactly how Western corporate media has scripted the whole movie; the War College “information warfare” tactics in practice. The Syrian government never had much of a chance against those “writing the scripts, producing them, and collecting the royalties”.

For example, the armed opposition, the so-called Free Syrian Army (a nasty cocktail of defectors, opportunists, jihadis and foreign mercenaries) brought Western journalists to Homs and then insisted to extract them, in extremely dangerous condition, and with people being killed, via Lebanon, rather than through the Red Crescent. They were nothing else than writing the script for a foreign-imposed “humanitarian corridor” to be opened to Homs. This was pure theater – or war porn packaged as a Hollywood drama.

The problem is Western public opinion is now hostage to this brand of information warfare. Forget about even the possibility of peaceful negotiations among adult parties. What’s left is a binary good guys versus bad guys plot, where the Big Bad Guy must be destroyed at all costs (and on top of it his wife is a snob bitch who loves shopping!)

Only the terminally naïve may believe that jihadis – including Libya’s NATO rebels – financed by the Gulf Counter-revolution Club, also know as Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) are a bunch of democratic reformists burning with good intentions. Even Human Rights Watch was finally forced to acknowledge that these armed “activists” were responsible for “kidnapping, detention, and torture”, after receiving reports of “executions by armed opposition groups of security force members and civilians”.

What this (soft and hard) war porn narrative veils, in the end, is the real Syrian tragedy; the impossibility for the much-lauded “Syrian people” to get rid of all these crooks – the Assad system, the Muslim Brotherhood-controlled Syrian National Council, and the mercenary-infested Free Syrian Army.

Listen To The Sound of Chaos 

This – very partial – catalogue of sorrows inevitably brings us to the current supreme war porn blockbuster – the Iran psychodrama.

2012 is the new 2002; Iran is the new Iraq; and whatever the highway, to evoke the neo-con motto, real men go to Tehran via Damascus, or real men go to Tehran non-stop.

Perhaps only underwater in the Arctic we would be able to escape the cacophonous cortege of American right-wingers – and their respective European poodles – salivating for blood and deploying the usual festival of fallacies like “Iran wants to wipe Israel off the map”, “diplomacy has run its course”, “the sanctions are too late”, or “Iran is within a year, six months, a week, a day, or a minute of assembling a bomb”. Of course these dogs of war would never bother to follow what the International Atomic Energy Agency is actually doing, not to mention the National Intelligence Estimates released by the 17 US intelligence agencies.

Because they, to a great extent, are “writing the scripts, producing them, and collecting the royalties” in terms of corporate media, they can get away with an astonishingly toxic fusion of arrogance and ignorance – about the Middle East, about Persian culture, about Asian integration, about the nuclear issue, about the oil industry, about the global economy, about “the Rest” as compared to “the West”.

Just like with Iraq in 2002, Iran is always dehumanized. The relentless, totally hysterical, fear-inducing “narrative” of “should we bomb now or should we bomb later” is always about oh so very smart bunker buster bombs and precision missiles that will accomplish an ultra clean large-scale devastation job without producing a single “collateral damage”. Just like safe sex.

And even when the voice of the establishment itself – the New York Times – admits that neither US nor Israeli intelligence believe Iran has decided to build a bomb (a 5-year-old could reach the same conclusion), the hysteria remains inter-galactic.

Meanwhile, while it gets ready – “all options are on the table”, Obama himself keeps repeating – for yet another war in what it used to call “arc of instability”, the Pentagon also found time to repackage war porn. It took only a 60-second video now on YouTube, titled Toward the Sound of Chaos, released only a few days after the Kandahar massacre. Just look at its key target audience: the very large market of poor, unemployed and politically very naïve young Americans.

Let’s listen to the mini-movie voice over: “Where chaos looms, the Few emerge. Marines move toward the sounds of tyranny, injustice and despair – with the courage and resolve to silence them. By ending conflict, instilling order and helping those who can’t help themselves, Marines face down the threats of our time.”

Maybe, in this Orwellian universe, we should ask the dead Afghans urinated upon by US Marines, or the thousands of dead in Fallujah, to write a movie review. Well, dead men don’t write. Maybe we could think about the day NATO enforces a no-fly one over Saudi Arabia to protect the Shi’ites in the eastern province, while Pentagon drones launch a carpet of Hellfire missiles over those thousands of arrogant, medieval, corrupt House of Saud princes. No, it’s not going to happen.

Over a decade after the beginning of the war on terror, this is what the world is coming to; a lazy, virtually worldwide audience, jaded, dazed and distracted from distraction by distraction, helplessly hooked on the shabby atrocity exhibition of war porn.

Source: Asia Times

The Marriage from Hell: Jane Harman and the Woodrow Wilson Center

January 14, 2012 by · 1 Comment 

“Woodrow Wilson, the 28th American president, is looking down in horror at what the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars (WWC) is doing in his name.”

I wrote that last year in two exposés: The Selling of the WWC”  and “The WWC Desecrates its Namesake’s Legacy”.  They revealed that the Washington, DC-based Wilson Center is violating its Congressional mandate and is up to its neck in tainted corporate cash.

A leading Congressman, a Wilson family descendant, citizens’ groups, and many others agreed. One prominent journalist called the WWC “a global joke.”

Several months ago, this Congressionally-created, multi-million dollar think tank, funded partly by taxpayers, made another colossal blunder.  It hired former eight-term Congresswoman Jane Harman (D–CA) to be its president, replacing Lee Hamilton, also a former Congressman.

Harman, like Hamilton, is not only part of the good-old-boy (and girl) network of which the WWC is so fond.   Among her other baggage, charges of illegal conduct in a spy scandal involving AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) have shadowed Harman for years.

Let’s take a closer look at Harman and the Wilson Center to see why they’re the marriage from hell.

Harman’s spy scandal

Two top AIPAC officials, Steven Rosen and Keith Weissman, were indicted on spy charges in 2005 for passing classified documents to Israel.

Citing confidential sources, Time magazine, in 2006, and Congressional Quarterly, two years ago, reported that the Feds had wiretapped Cong. Jane Harman and a “suspected Israeli agent” agreeing to this deal: Harman would persuade the Justice Department to reduce the charges against Rosen and Weissman; in exchange, AIPAC and its influential supporters would persuade then-Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to reappoint the unpopular Harman as top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.

Harman apparently promised the “Israeli agent” to “waddle into”  the AIPAC scandal “if you think it’ll make a difference.”  Harman ended the exchange with “this conversation doesn’t exist.”

The Justice Department and CIA wanted to prosecute Harman.  But Alberto Gonzales, President Bush’s Attorney General, reportedly refused because – ironically – he “needed Jane” to support the government’s ongoing warrantless wiretapping program.

Shockingly, charges against Rosen and Weissman were dropped  in 2009 because a judge put constraints on Federal prosecutors.  Larry Franklin, the Defense Department official who passed the classified documents to the two AIPAC officials, wasn’t so lucky.   He pled guilty three years earlier and went to prison.

Harman has long denied any wrongdoing.  She has never, however, given a full account of her conversations regarding Rosen and Weissman.  Full accounts, as we shall see, are not one of Harman’s virtues.

Harman’s genocide flip-flop

While co-sponsoring Congressional resolution HR 106 on the Armenian genocide  committed by Turkey, Cong. Harman went behind the backs of her constituents in October of 2007 by asking then-Foreign Relations Chair Tom Lantos (D-CA) to bury the resolution.  Only after her constituents discovered this through other sources did she admit to it.

But the explanations for her flip-flop made little sense. “This is the wrong time” for the resolution, wrote Harman.  But she couldn’t cite anything relevant in 2007 that had changed regarding Turkey, Armenia, or the Middle East since she signed onto the resolution a few years earlier.

Harman claimed that a genocide resolution would “embarrass or isolate the Turkish leadership.” This claim came suspiciously soon after she met with Turkey’s threatening Prime Minister, Recep Erdogan. Apparently, recognizing a genocide requires an OK from the perpetrating country’s leader.

But Harman reached truly ridiculous heights by claiming– again, this was in 2007 – that it was “obvious” that Turkey’s “leadership” was needed for “resolving the Israel-Palestine issue.”  Turkey had never, of course, played a significant role in mediating between Israelis and Palestinians. What really caused Harman’s genocide flip-flop?

Jewish groups and Turkey

AIPAC was (and is) one of several major Jewish American organizations that have colluded with Turkey to, among other things, defeat Armenian genocide resolutions. Israel, Turkey, and Jewish groups formed their ménage-à-trois in the 1990’s.

Yola Johnston, Community Outreach Director for the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, has admitted that AIPAC, the American Jewish Committee, B’nai B’rith, her own organization, and “the Jewish lobby” have “quite actively supported Turkey in their efforts to prevent the so-called Armenian genocide resolution from passing.”

AIPAC, reported the Washington Times last year, had “lit up the phones” against the genocide resolution when “the Turks” asked a “senior researcher” at AIPAC to do so.  That “senior researcher” and “architect of the Jewish community’s support for Turkey” was none other than AIPAC’s notorious Keith Weissman.   So the Harman-AIPAC-Weissman threesome was at the center of not only a spy scandal but also a genocide cover-up.

And there’s more. Yet another scandal may have induced Harman’s genocide duplicity.

Anti-Defamation League scandal

Harman wrote her genocide flip-flop letter to Chairman Lantos just as the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) was taking a beating in the U.S. and internationally for denying the Armenian genocide and helping Turkey lobby against Armenian genocide recognition.  Human rights activists, principled Jews, and Armenian Americans had just months earlier launched a campaign (see NoPlaceForDenial.com) that was to result in more than a dozen Massachusetts cities’ evicting the ADL’s so-called “No Place for Hate” anti-bias program.

The Turkish government was furious that the embarrassing arrangement among it, Jewish groups, and Israel was being splashed across the headlines.

Prime Minister Erdogan made a frantic call to Israeli President Peres, while Turkey’s foreign minister reportedly warned the Israeli ambassador that “our bilateral relations will suffer.”

Did Harman, who was certainly aware of this uproar, panic at the prospect of a further deterioration in the already strained relations between Israel and Turkey?  Did she ask Lantos to kill the genocide resolution because Turkey would blame Israel, AIPAC, the ADL, and even Harman herself if the resolution succeeded?

Considering the timing, Harman’s relationship to Israel and the genocide-denying AIPAC, and the illogical explanations for her flip-flop, it seems probable.  Though the House Committee narrowing passed the resolution, Harman had to be pleased that it did not make it any further.  Her appeasement of Turkey, however, proved to be in vain:

  • Erdogan was soon calling Shimon Peres a mass murderer  (January 2009) for Israel’s offensive against Gaza.
  • Erdogan has expelled the Israeli ambassador, cut defense ties with Tel Aviv, and threatened military retaliation unless Israeli apologizes and pays compensation for the flotilla killings.

But when, like Harman, one has few firm principles and has fooled herself into believing that a country such as Turkey is a friend, she inevitably winds up with yogurt on her face.

No self-respecting institution would have considered hiring anyone with Harman’s background.   That may explain why the Wilson Center hired her.  It has little respect for its mission or the American people.

The Wilson Center flouts Congress

The Woodrow Wilson Memorial Act of 1968 was crystal clear:  The WWC must commemorate Wilson’s “ideals and concerns” and memorialize “his accomplishments.” Yet it has ignored large swaths of the Wilson administration’s record on the Caucasus (Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia), Turkey, and the Middle East.

The WWC isn’t just thumbing its nose at Congress and taxpayers.  It has closed its eyes to a wealth of political knowledge about a region in which the U.S. has enormous interests.  The Caucasus, for example, is a major locus for producing and transporting oil and gas.  It’s also ground-zero in the new Cold War between the U.S. and Russia, particularly since the Russian-Georgian war of 2008.

Donald Wilson Bush, President of the Woodrow Wilson Legacy Foundation and a Wilson family descendant, has rightly accused the WWC of “violating [its] very own mission and purpose.”

Wilson’s Record

Wilson and the State Department’s record on the region from the WW 1 era is extensive.  Though the U.S. did not formally declare war against Turkey in WW1, Turkey was the main ally of Germany, America’s enemy.  Wilson condemned, in the strongest terms, Turkey’s genocide of Armenians and was a fervent advocate of Armenian independence.   By the terms of the Treaty of Sèvres – a product of the Paris Peace Conference in 1920 – the U.S. formally delineated the borders of that part of Armenia and Kurdistan that now lies within Turkey’s eastern regions.  Turkey later reneged on the Treaty.

Yet, despite the clear stipulation of Congress, Wilson’s record has been almost totally ignored by the WWC.  Indeed, three years ago, historian and legal scholar Ara Papian, a Canadian resident and former Armenian Ambassador to Canada, applied for a WWC Fellowship to do ground-breaking research on the U.S. archival record regarding Turkey and the Caucasus – a proposal the WWC should have jumped at.  Papian was rejected without explanation.  Ironically, several months ago Lee Hamilton told the American Historical Association that U.S. foreign policy officials need the views of “historians.”  Yet as WWC president, he all but ignored the history of Wilson’s Caucasus policies.

Tainted corporate cash

The WWC has been corrupted by its gluttony for corporate cash.  Case in point:  it acknowledged that money was the main reason it journeyed to Turkey in 2010 to honor a Turkish billionaire whose Dogus Holding conglomerate is a WWC donor, and to give a much-criticized award to Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.

Cong. Gary Ackerman (D-NY), Chair of the House Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia, blasted Lee Hamilton for honoring Davutoglu.  Ackerman cited Turkey’s military occupation of Cyprus, closure of the border with Armenia, and denial of the Armenian genocide.  Honoring Davutoglu was “absolutely inconsistent with the mission of the WWC and the ideals that animated President Wilson’s administration and foreign policy.”

The Wilson Center, added Donald Wilson Bush, had engaged in “Turkish diplomatic appeasement.”  It had “sacrificed its legitimacy as a ‘neutral forum for open, serious, and informed dialogue.’”

“Why,” asked Claudia Rosett, “should Congress keep fueling this morally blank, misleading and venal exercise [the WWC] with millions of American tax dollars?”  Good question.

Part of why the WWC has all but ignored Wilson’s record on Turkey and the Caucasus is undoubtedly that many major donors (present and past members of its elite “Wilson Alliance”) have lobbied for, or been members of trade organizations that have lobbied for, Turkey and against the Armenian resolution.  These include Alcoa, BAE Systems, Bechtel, Boeing, Bombardier, Chevron, Coca Cola, Exxon-Mobil and Honeywell.

In fact, Harman’s predecessor, Lee Hamilton, engaged in a clear conflict of interest during his tenure by sitting on the board of BAE Systems, a defense giant which does lots of business with Turkey.  Last year a Federal judge slapped BAE’s parent corporation with a $400 million criminal fine for “deception, duplicity and knowing violations of law … on an enormous scale.”  Too bad the judge didn’t also look into the Wilson Center.

Hamilton also sat on the board of the Albright Stonebridge Group, a “global strategy firm” headed by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

Hamilton’s WWC bio, incredibly, was dead silent about his corporate affiliations. This same Lee Hamilton co-chaired the official National Commission on the 9/11 attacks, whose report has been widely criticized as incomplete and biased.    Hamilton and Harman, you see, can be counted on not to rock the corporate establishment’s boat.

The WWC is rife with other questionable characters, including those with deep ties to Turkey, such as former board member and present Wilson Council member Ignacio Sanchez, a lobbyist employed by DLA Piper, which is a registered foreign agent for Turkey.  And former “Wilson Public Policy Scholar” Marc Grossman, ex-US ambassador to Turkey and DLA Piper bigwig.  “Coincidentally,” Sanchez and Grossman were both on the WWC Search Committee that hired Harman.

Made for each other

If ever there was a marriage made in hell, therefore, Jane Harman and the Wilson Center are it:

  • The WWC receives millions in “donations” from the military-industrial complex, which influences the Center’s agenda and policies.  Similarly, Harman – a former Defense Department lawyer – has received large campaign contributions from defense and aerospace firms’ Political Action Committees and employees, including those in El Segundo, a key military–industrial center located in her former Congressional district.

“Coincidentally,” major Wilson Center donors BAE Systems (Lee Hamilton’s comrade-in-arms), Boeing, and Chevron have offices in El Segundo.  Indeed, BAE, Boeing, and Chevron were her “constituents” (and American Turkish Council members) not only when she was in Congress. Those corporations – another “coincidence” – are her “constituents” again, at the WWC.  Might the WWC have hired Harman for her expertise in raking in military-industrial “donations”?

  • The WWC has ingratiated itself with Turkey.  It has given awards to its Foreign Minister and a major Turkish corporate donor, and virtually ignored Wilson’s policies regarding Turkey and the Caucasus.   Harman, too, has ingratiated herself with Turkey.  She reversed her stance on the Congress’s Armenian genocide resolution (and gave absurd reasons for doing so).
  • And just as the Wilson Center has gotten away (so far, anyway) with violating its Congressional mandate, Jane Harman has escaped prosecution (so far, anyway) for her dealings with a “foreign agent” in the AIPAC espionage scandal.

No, there’s no prospect that Harman will lead the WWC to adhere to the Woodrow Wilson Memorial Act of 1968, fulfill its pledge to be a “neutral forum for open, serious, and informed dialogue,” and release the grip that mega-corporations have on it.

If Congress of its own volition will not bring the Wilson Center to its senses, then Congress must be pushed by the American people to do so.  Other possibilities are investigations and legal action by third parties.

Just don’t count on Jane Harman’s cooperation.

David Boyajian is a guest columnist for Veracity Voice

David Boyajian is a Massachusetts-based freelance investigative writer.

Killing Goyim and Beyond

July 6, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Israeli Police is now arresting leading Rabbis for endorsing and supporting ‘Torat Hamelech’ (The King’s Torah), the Jewish religious book that justifies the killing of Gentiles.

Rabbi Yaakov Yosef, son of Shas spiritual leader Ovadia Yosef, was questioned Sunday morning on suspicion of incitement to racism and violence following his endorsement of the religious tract which preaches Goy hatred.

Kiryat Harav’s Chief Rabbi Dov Lior was also detained a few days ago for his endorsement of the same racist text.

The arrest of the Rabbis  sparked violent protest across Israel. It also raised harsh criticism against the police and state prosecution by right-wing elements.

I guess that one may be puzzled by the whole saga and wonder how come the Jewish State, a state that legally discriminates people on racial grounds, a state that institutionally abuses its non-Jewish population, an entity that terrorises and starves the indigenous people of the land and often enough kills them en masse, is so concerned with a few Rabbis who endorse the Halacha interpretations that actually justify such lethal barbarian policies and practices.

The answer is pretty interesting. Zionism was initially an attempt to erect a Jewish civil society- a Jewish homeland where Jews could be subject to newly formed Jewish civil law instead of religious law.  As much as this idea appealed to some assimilated Jews at the time and a few new Israelis later, Rabbinical Judaism has never approved of the revolutionary innovative move. In fact, Rabbinical Judaism defies the notion of Jewish civil law.  For Israeli Rabbis, it is clear beyond doubt that if Israel defines itself as the Jewish state, it better be driven legally and spiritually by Halacha Laws.

The current debate in Israel is not new. It is as old as the Jewish State, yet there is an intellectually intriguing element in that ideological battle. Following the last Rabbi arrest, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, issued a statement backing the law-enforcement system. However, Netanyahu is not exactly a leading humanist dove. It is his government that keeps Gaza in a brutal siege and other Palestinians in open air prisons. It was his Government which unleashed Israeli Commandos to commit their deadly crime against the human aid flotilla in high seas last year. Netanyahu’s hands are soaking with the blood of innocent Goyim. On the face of it, there is an apparent continuum between the Halacha anti Gentile teaching and Israeli murderous policies and practices.

So here is the question, how come Netanyahu’s government arrests Rabbis who preach for lethal acts which Israeli Government happens to perform ? The answer may be devastatingly simple. Those Rabbis are arrested in Israel because they actually support the accusation that Goyim killing may be inherent to the Jewish Halacha law (or at least inherent to some interpretations of the Halacha). While Israel insists to present itself as a peace seeking nation arguing that the killing of Palestinians is no more than unfortunate incidents, by endorsing ‘Torat Hamelech’ some Rabbis actually confirm that killing non- Jews is justified as far as Judaism is concerned.

It is obvious that the Jewish state seems to be pretty confused by the notion of Jewishness. As much as it yearns to celebrate an imaginary phantasmic notion of Jewish  heritage, it invests a lot of effort to conceal the real meaning of what Jewish heritage is in reality.


Gilad Atzmon was born in Israel in 1963 and had his musical training at the Rubin Academy of Music, Jerusalem (Composition and Jazz). As a multi-instrumentalist he plays Soprano, Alto, Tenor and Baritone Saxes, Clarinet and Flutes. His album Exile was the BBC jazz album of the year in 2003. He has been described by John Lewis on the Guardian as the “hardest-gigging man in British jazz”. His albums, of which he has recorded nine to date, often explore political themes and the music of the Middle East.

Until 1994 he was a producer-arranger for various Israeli Dance & Rock Projects, performing in Europe and the USA playing ethnic music as well as R&R and Jazz.

Coming to the UK in 1994, Atzmon recovered an interest in playing the music of the Middle East, North Africa and Eastern Europe that had been in the back of his mind for years. In 2000 he founded the Orient House Ensemble in London and started re-defining his own roots in the light of his emerging political awareness. Since then the Orient House Ensemble has toured all over the world. The Ensemble includes Eddie Hick on Drums, Yaron Stavi on Bass and Frank Harrison on piano & electronics.

Also, being a prolific writer, Atzmon’s essays are widely published. His novels ‘Guide to the perplexed’ and ‘My One And Only Love’ have been translated into 24 languages.

Gilad Atzmon is a regular columnist for Veracity Voice

Visit his web site at http://www.gilad.co.uk

Gaza Flotilla vs. Diaspora Jewery

July 2, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

The Israelis are preparing themselves for another massacre on the high seas.

This should not take us by surprise: after all, people who are detached from a true notion of history, and driven by a continuous fantasy of destruction, would be the last to draw a lesson from their past.

Earlier today I learned that The Israeli Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Ministry held a simulation practice, ahead of the Gaza flotilla: in the course of the exercise, Minister Yuly Edelstein formed a ‘special situation room’ that is designated to disseminate ‘public diplomacy’ on the internet ,via messages, 
photos, video clips and additional materials, with emphasis on Diaspora 
communities, Jewish organisations, and friends of Israel around 
the world.

Just in case you weren’t sure what the expected role of Diaspora Jews is, I guess that by now Minister Edelstein has provided the answer.

However, the most interesting part of the story is the detailed description of the flotilla simulation itself: the imaginary scenarios depicted by Minister Edelstein and the IDF provide a glimpse into Israeli collective psychosis.

“The exercise was based on a scenario in which approximately 500 activists on 
approximately ten ships reached Israel’s territorial waters at 10:00,” says the Israeli document. 
”Despite having been warned by the IDF, the ships continued on their way. At 
10:30, the Israel Navy began approaching the ships. Stun grenades were 
thrown at the IDF soldiers, as well as one live grenade that caused a number 
of casualties to our forces.”

But what are we to make of such an absurd supposition in Edelstein’s exercise, that the flotilla volunteers ( many of whom are women and elderly ) will be armed and dangerous, and intent of attacking the IDF?  We have seen repeated statements from the Flotilla organisers reassuring the Israelis that the Flotilla is a peaceful  humanitarian mission that has no combative intentions, and the  media have been invited to visit the boats to verify the innocent nature of the Gaza bound cargo.

What is it then? Why are these Israelis  preparing for a war? The answer is clear and simple: as I have explored in the past, Jewish identity politics is shaped by a totally unique psychological disorder. I call it Pre Traumatic Stress Syndrome (as opposed to Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome). Jewish reality is shaped by an imaginary fictional future threat. To repeat the 19Th century Yiddish joke. “A Jewish telegram: get worried, details to follow.” Yet, the lack of capacity to differentiate between reality and imagination leads to the inevitable emergence of the most tragic possible scenarios. Time after time, the Israeli collective  easily buys into any given tragic fictional and imaginary treat, and would approve any ‘counter’ measures.

The end result is known to us all: an endless  chain of colossal Israeli war crimes, that are committed in the name of the Jewish people.

The Israeli simulation scenario continues, with an inevitable body count: “At 11:00, the order was given for IDF units to 
physically seize control of the ships on which there was resistance. Our 
forces were attacked with live – and other – weapons and were obliged to 
neutralise the assailants. The results, by 11:45, were ten IDF soldiers 
wounded (one critically, four severely and the rest lightly). Among the 
flotilla participants, there were two dead and 14 wounded, including two 
severely.”

Brilliant isn’t it? The peace activists (most of whom, remember, are  women and  elderly) ‘opened fire,’ seeking a battle with the best and most lethal Israeli commando unit. How realistic is that ?

Then, as the imagined scenario unfolds, a fierce battle develops, in which just fourteen activists are wounded, and  only one dies. At this point, for those who fail to remember what really happened last time around, here is video footage of Israeli commandos  executing peace activists on the Mavi Marmara.

But Minister Edelstein is far from being worried: after all, the Israelis have friends around the world.  “As the events were taking place,” the scenario continues,  “the media – with emphasis on the Internet, 
Facebook and Twitter – were flooded with mendacious reports (by private 
users, Hamas and others among Israel’s enemies). The situation room, in 
coordination with the IDF Spokesperson and the National Information 
Directorate, began to disseminate credible messages to Jewish communities 
and friends of Israel around the world. Those in the situation room 
responsible for new media began to update messages on the social networks, 
Facebook and Twitter.”

For those of us who still fail to recognise the shifts and changes that have taken place within  Zionism, Edelstein makes it clear: whilst Zionism was initially a plan to re-settle the Jews in Zion, nowadays, to be a Zionist means to stay in the Diaspora, and to ‘tweet for Israel’.  The role of  American, French and British Jews, according to Edelstein,  is to coordinate with Israel, and to  join the Hasbara war: “Given the provocation by the flotilla,” says Diaspora Minister Edelstein, “we 
established a special situation room that will ensure coordination between 
Government officials, Diaspora Jewish communities and friends of Israel 
around the world.. I 
am certain that alongside us will stand significant force multipliers in the 
form of thousands of activists from Jewish communities around the world.”

I do not have any doubt that many Jews around the world want nothing to do with Minister Edelstein and his Hasbara initiative.  They are clearly going to ignore his call. I also feel sure that many Jews feel sickened and ashamed to wake up, all too often, into yet another atrocious Israeli war crime.

Yet, if the Israelis themselves clearly regard Diaspora Jews as their ‘foreign brigades’, surely we should also be allowed to look into the issue, and examine the lethal continuum between the Jewish State and its vile supporters around the world.


Gilad Atzmon was born in Israel in 1963 and had his musical training at the Rubin Academy of Music, Jerusalem (Composition and Jazz). As a multi-instrumentalist he plays Soprano, Alto, Tenor and Baritone Saxes, Clarinet and Flutes. His album Exile was the BBC jazz album of the year in 2003. He has been described by John Lewis on the Guardian as the “hardest-gigging man in British jazz”. His albums, of which he has recorded nine to date, often explore political themes and the music of the Middle East.

Until 1994 he was a producer-arranger for various Israeli Dance & Rock Projects, performing in Europe and the USA playing ethnic music as well as R&R and Jazz.

Coming to the UK in 1994, Atzmon recovered an interest in playing the music of the Middle East, North Africa and Eastern Europe that had been in the back of his mind for years. In 2000 he founded the Orient House Ensemble in London and started re-defining his own roots in the light of his emerging political awareness. Since then the Orient House Ensemble has toured all over the world. The Ensemble includes Eddie Hick on Drums, Yaron Stavi on Bass and Frank Harrison on piano & electronics.

Also, being a prolific writer, Atzmon’s essays are widely published. His novels ‘Guide to the perplexed’ and ‘My One And Only Love’ have been translated into 24 languages.

Gilad Atzmon is a regular columnist for Veracity Voice

Visit his web site at http://www.gilad.co.uk

Interview with Stuart Littlewood on Israeli-Palestinian conflict

April 2, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

The Zionists wield their influence by winning the ongoing propaganda war: Stuart Littlewood…

Stuart LittlewoodStuart Littlewood is a British writer and photographer. He is the co-author of the book “Radio Free Palestine” in which he has elaborately described the plight of the Palestinian nation under the Israeli occupation. Littlewood’s articles on the cause of the Palestinian nation have been published on a variety of websites, newspapers and online magazines including Intifada Palestine, Veterans Today, Palestine Chronicle, Dissident Voice, Ramallah Online and Voltaire Net. In a 2009 interview with Media Review, Littlewood described his contributions to raising the public awareness of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the ignorance of the British people concerning the suffering of the Palestinian nation.

Stuart joined me in an in-depth interview to discuss the ongoing anguish of the people of Palestine, the situation of Gaza Strip and West Bank, the influence of Israeli lobby over the mass media in the West and the international isolation of Iran due to its unconditional support for the Palestinian people.

Kourosh Ziabari: Zionists have always claimed that the Land of Israel historically belongs to them and this verdict is clearly emphasized in the Hebrew Bible. They say that according to the Book of Genesis, the land was promised by God to the descendants of Abraham through his son Isaac and to the Israelites, descendants of Jacob, Abraham’s grandson. So, what’s your response to them? Do they have the right to cite claims over what is called the Land of Israel? Is there any historical evidence to demonstrate that Palestinians are the true possessors of this land?

Stuart Littlewood: Using mythical scripture to make out that God is a racist who favors one tribe above all others, is bizarre to say the least. Some Zionists don’t believe it, so why should anyone else? In a booklet called “Zionism: A Jewish Communal Response” recently launched by The Board of Deputies of British Jews, Rabbi Tony Bayfield writes: “I am horrified by some strands of Zionism which treat the Bible as an exclusive title deed written by God. I do not regard the Torah as an extra-historical document written by the Divine hand… It is not Judaism’s title deed to the land.”

But it provides cover for the Zionists’ criminal scheme to dispossess the Palestinians-Arabs and Christians – so its importance is pumped up to bursting point. But why any non-Jews should take it seriously is beyond me.

The Jews were expelled by the Roman occupation. These days the right of return must be exercised as soon as the reason for expulsion, for example, foreign occupation, ceases. The Jews had their chance when the Roman Empire collapsed. They didn’t take it. It’s ridiculous to lay claim 16 centuries later at gun-point and eject the people whose homeland it now is. Most of today’s Jews, I’m told, have no ancestral links to the Holy Land anyway.

The Jerusalem Declaration of 2006 by the Latin Patriarch and Local Heads of Churches sums it up for me: “We categorically reject Christian Zionist doctrines as a false teaching that corrupts the biblical message of love, justice and reconciliation… We reject the teachings of Christian Zionism that facilitate and support these policies as they advance racial exclusivity and perpetual war…”

As for Jerusalem itself, it was already 2000 years old and belonged to the Canaanites when King David captured it.  Historians say that before the present-day conflict the Jews controlled Jerusalem for some 500 years, whereas it was subsequently ruled by Muslims for more than twice that long. And for nearly 90 years it was a Christian kingdom. Lots of people, besides the Jews, conquered Jerusalem, so there are many competing claims, which is probably why the UN declared it should be independently administered as an international city.

Matters weren’t helped when Obama opened his big mouth and declared to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) that Jerusalem “will remain the capital of Israel and it must remain undivided”. Realizing it was a stupid thing to say, he added: “Well, obviously, it’s going to be up to the parties to negotiate a range of these issues. And Jerusalem will be part of those negotiations… And I think that it is smart for us to work through a system in which everybody has access to the extraordinary religious sites in Old Jerusalem, but that Israel has a legitimate claim on that city.” A legitimate claim? As everyone knows, the Old City officially belongs to Palestinian East Jerusalem.

I don’t think it’s a question of the Palestinians proving ownership, though I imagine most families can produce Ottoman-era land deeds – if the Israelis haven’t confiscated and forged them.

Hamas chief Khalid Misha’al has said: “We shall never recognize the right of any power to rob us of our land and deny us our national rights. We shall never recognize the legitimacy of a Zionist state created on our soil in order to atone for somebody else’s sins or solve somebody else’s problem.” That doesn’t sound unreasonable.

KZ: As you mentioned in one of your recent articles, the UK Foreign Secretary William Hague has categorically condemned the atrocities committed by the regime of Moammar Gaddafi and the mass killing of Libyan citizens by his mercenaries. The UK government revoked Gaddafi’s and his family members’ political immunity in an action aimed at threatening the interests of the Libyan dictator worldwide; however, we haven’t seen any action against or condemnation of the brutal massacre of the defenseless Palestinians by the Israeli regime in the December 2008 and January 2009. What does this exercise of double standards imply? Is it possible to justify it?

SL: It’s no use looking to the British government for fair play. The political scene here is heavily infiltrated by the pro-Israel lobby, and money talks. The Friends of Israel movement claims 80 per cent of Conservative Party MPs including of course its leader, David Cameron. Membership, I hear, is a necessary stepping stone to high office. Cameron calls himself a Zionist and our foreign secretary, William Hague, has been a Friend of Israel since his schooldays.  His side-kick, Liam Fox, the defense secretary, thinks that “we must remember that in the battle for the values that we stand for, for democracy against theocracy, for democratic liberal values against repression – Israel’s enemies are our enemies and this is a battle in which we all stand together or we will all fall divided”. The minister for Middle East affairs was an officer of Conservative Friends of Israel.  It’s all sewn up.

David Cameron recently told Jewish dinner guests: “With me you have a prime minister whose belief in Israel is indestructible… I will always be a strong defender of the Jewish people. I will always be an advocate for the State of Israel.” Cameron, and Brown and Blair before him, are patrons of the Jewish National Fund. Quite simply, Israel is never punished. It is allowed to get away scot-free.

A body called the Committee on Standards in Public Life is supposed to call to account MPs who place themselves under any financial or other obligation to outside individuals or organizations that might influence them in the performance of their official duties, but it too has been infiltrated.

It’s interesting to see how the British Government rushed to press for a UN mandate to take whatever steps might be necessary to protect Libyan civilians from their bully-boy dictator and wasted no time establishing a no-fly zone and annihilating Qaddafi’s air defenses. But it stood idly by and watched the Israeli slaughter of Gazan civilians and showed no sign of wanting it stopped.

Headlines this week quoted Hague saying, “There can be no hiding place for tyrants”, referring to Qaddafi, but he’s leading the rush to change our Universal Jurisdiction laws to protect Israel’s war crimes suspects from arrest. These double standards are the hallmark of a corrupted political class. It can never be justified, but for the moment we’re stuck with these people.

Hague condemned the recent Jerusalem bomb blast as “a callous and disgusting act of terrorism” but he’s careful not to condemn the almost daily air-strikes by Israel on Gaza’s civilians. I’m reading a report now on just one day’s horror inflicted by the Zionist military on the Occupied Territories that says:

24 hours to 8 am, 23 March 2011

3 air strikes – 7 attacks – 28 raids including home invasions – 8 dead – 15 injured – 1 curfew – 15 taken prisoner – 14 detained – 79 restrictions of movement

 

Child, teenager and 3 adults killed in Israeli shelling – homes damaged

Injury and 4 deaths in Israeli air strikes

Agricultural sabotage: farms and homes under Israeli fire in 3 Gaza areas – crops bulldozed

Israeli Navy opens fire on Palestinian fishing boats

Zionist mob smashes on-duty ambulance windscreen

Zionist militants cut down Palestinian olive trees

Night peace disruption and/or home invasions in 8 towns and villages

 

[Source of statistics: Palestinian Monitoring Group]

The Fourth Geneva Convention puts Contracting Parties under a solemn obligation to act. They don’t seem to have grasped that.

 

KZ: It’s widely believed that the Zionist lobby has an enormous influence over the mass media in the U.S. and European countries. AIPAC and other influential Zionist circles usually block the publication of materials critical of Israel and its policies, and vilify as anti-Semitist whoever dares question the barbaric conducts of this illegitimate regime. What’s your idea about the dominance of Zionist lobby over the mainstream media in the West?

SL: You are right to focus on this question. The Zionists wield their influence by winning the ongoing propaganda war. The Arabs, after being on the losing end for decades, still haven’t learned how to fight it and don’t show any sign of wishing to. I have put forward proposals for media skills training but it’s hopeless. Even allowing for the PA being dominated by Israel’s stooges their failure to address this is not only ignorant but a major strategic blunder.

Last year The Israel Project, a US media advocacy group, produced a revised training manual to help the worldwide Zionist movement maintain its control over the propaganda war, keep their ill-gotten territorial gains and persuade international audiences to accept that their crimes are not only necessary but conform to “shared values” between Israel and the civilized West.

It’s a clever document. It teaches how to ‘justify’ the slaughter, the ethnic cleansing, the land-grabbing, the cruelty and the blatant disregard for international law and UN resolutions, and give it a sweeter smell. It is designed to have us gullible Americans and Europeans believing that we actually share values with the psychopaths of Israel’s racist regime and that their abominable behavior deserves our support.

The strategy from the start is to isolate Hamas and rob the resistance movement and the Palestinian population of their human rights…. It drums into them nonsense like, “The language of Israel is the language of America: ‘democracy,’ ‘freedom,’ ‘security,’ and ‘peace.’ These four words are at the core of the American political, economic, social, and cultural systems, and they should be repeated as often as possible because they resonate with virtually every American.”

Most mainstream media in the UK are under pro-Israel influence, if not Zionist ownership. The BBC also is heavily biassed and too often broadcasts Israel’s definition of the situation. However, a small number of outlets, such as Channel 4 News, take an independent line.

Then there’s the over-representation of Jews in Parliament. If Muslims were over-represented to the same extent they’d have 200 MPs. And there’d be a big fuss.

These are not the only issues. It has to be admitted that Israel’s propaganda people do a good job of cultivating the news media, providing timely briefings and making sure spokesmen with good English are available whenever needed. The Palestinians on the other hand are lazy, disorganised and their embassy here in London is worse than useless. They fail to take media relations seriously so they and their countrymen pay a heavy price.

Nor is it enough to be the crushed victim. Having labels like “extremist”, “militant” and “terrorist” pinned on them, no matter how unjustly, is deeply damaging. The Palestinians must shake off these slurs, but before they can do so Hamas must re-write its objectionable charter and ‘re-brand’ itself.

Hamas and Hezbollah are only regarded as terrorists by the White House and Tel Aviv and by US-Israeli stooges and flag-wavers at Westminster and elsewhere. The definition they use describes the antics of the US and Israel perfectly, and the whole situation needs reframing to reflect this.

The resistance movements have work to do on this. The propaganda battle can’t be won without a properly planned communications strategy skillfully executed.

 

KZ: The 13 May 2010 incursion of IDF commandos into the Gaza Freedom Flotilla was followed by the astounding silence of the international community, United Nations and the United States. No credible investigation was carried out to shed a light on the atrocious attack of Israel on the international peace activists and Tel Aviv never heeded the call of Turkey to officially apologize for its criminal action against the peace activist. Let’s imagine that a third country, for example Iran, had attacked the flotilla of Israeli activists in the international waters, killing 9 and injuring tens of others. What would the reaction of international community, UN and the U.S. have been? Would they assume the same passive stance and remain silent deafeningly?

SL: Former British MP George Galloway, a mainspring behind the Free Gaza movement, called the assault “a murderous act of piracy” on innocent humanitarian aid workers and demanded a wholesale review of the international community’s relationship with “the criminal pirate state of Israel”.

But Israel’s Mark Regev told BBC TV. “We did everything we could to avoid violence. They [the aid workers] chose the path of confrontation… This is elementary, we have to defend ourselves.” He claimed the Israeli boarding party was attacked! The BBC failed to question Israel’s act of piracy in international waters and its blatant violation of maritime law.

As it turns out, the Israelis did themselves immense damage by attacking the Mavi. They were too stupid to understand how it would be seen as an ‘own goal’.

It’s funny how HMS Cumberland and York magically appeared in the Mediterranean when Hague or prime minister David Cameron snapped their fingers during the Libyan crisis.  Where were these ships when British nationals on the Mavi Marmara and the Dignity and other vessels were being assaulted in international waters and terrorized by Israeli pirates, abducted and thrown in their stinking jails? Why weren’t they bringing life-saving aid to innocent Palestinians after Israel’s indiscriminate ‘Cast Lead’ blitzkrieg?

Our ships have been protecting victims of Qaddafi, and HMS York unloaded tons of medical supplies and other humanitarian aid for the Benghazi Medical Centre. Israel is still bombing and strafing Palestinian civilians in Gaza with impunity on a daily basis, so when the Libyan crisis dies down I see no reason why York shouldn’t be loaded up with more supplies and sail for Gaza, along with the rest of the NATO fleet, where the humanitarian crisis continues unabated.

On the Libya situation Hague has been sounding off with loud threats of retribution. “Crimes will not go unpunished and will not be forgotten; there will be a day of reckoning and the reach of international justice is long,” he says.

Let’s not imagine Iran attacking the humanitarian flotilla. If Britain and the so-called civilized countries of the West won’t call Israel’s bluff and break the blockade let’s imagine Iran doing so.

KZ: In its resolutions, the United Nations Security Council has always called Israel the occupying power, implicitly attesting to the occupation of Palestinian territories by the Israeli regime; however, no practical steps were ever taken to end the occupation of Palestinian lands by Tel Aviv. Do you know of any effective solution to bring an end to this occupation and hold Israel accountable for the crimes it has committed against the Palestinian nation?

SL: Israel is violating over 30 Security Council resolutions that require action by it and it alone. If any other state in the world were to defy the will of the international community so persistently, it would be subjected to economic and/or military sanctions.

UN resolutions must be implemented and international law enforced. If the international community won’t act to rein in the delinquent all hopes of global peace will remain in shreds. UN Security Council Resolution 242 (fully binding) affirms among other things the necessity for guaranteeing freedom of navigation through international waterways in the area. The blockade must be broken, if necessary by vessels with an armed escort.

The Israeli regime relies heavily on the EU for its exports and enjoys preferential treatment under the EU-Israel Association Agreement of 1995. An obvious part of the solution would be the suspension of this agreement. Its terms require compliance with the principles of the United Nations Charter placing emphasis on peace, security and regional co-operation, and on the need to contribute to the stability and prosperity of the Mediterranean region and promote understanding and tolerance.

Article 2 says that “respect for human rights and democratic principle constitute an essential element of this agreement”. Israel has never complied but continues to reap the benefits. In April 2002 the European parliament, with a large majority, requested the European Commission and the Council of Europe to suspend the agreement, without success. The EU has all the leverage needed but is afraid to use it.

We are maybe halfway through the process of educating and informing Western citizens. There will come a point, I feel sure, when civil societies will be savvi enough to clean up their Zionist-infested politics and force the necessary action. In the meantime the Palestinians need to be heard in Western Europe and the United States. A proper on-the-ball communications and media centre and a radio station should have been established years ago. Iran too needs to improve its image to counter the barrage of smears.

Israel is always trying to upgrade its image, but no amount of marketing gloss can hide the evil beneath.

KZ: What’s in your view, the reason behind the unconditional support of Israel by the United States? Why does the White House endanger its interests to pay for the atrocities and brutalities of Tel Aviv? Why does it distort its global image in compensation for the suicidal mistakes of Israel?

SL: The ignorance of your average American citizen plus Jewish domination of major business, media and financial institutions and the whole political fabric.

Another reason why Americans are soft in the head about Israel is the Scofield Bible, which became the standard fodder of fervent Christians. Cyrus Scofield, a sleazy character and convicted criminal, was commissioned to re-write the King James Version of the Bible by inserting Zionist-friendly notes. The aim was to change the Christian view of Zionism by creating and promoting a pro-Zionist subculture within Christianity.  The Oxford University Press used Scofield as the editor, and the Scofield Reference Bible, as it was called, has been a best-seller in America for over 90 years.

It introduced a new worship icon, the modern State of Israel, which did not exist at the time but was already on the drawing board of World Zionist movement.

KZ: A report which is attributed to CIA indicates that the political entity of Israel will decline within 20 years. Do you agree with this prediction? Will Israel survive, should the United States lift its support and backing for it? Is Israel capable of standing on its own feet without the assistance and endorsement of the United States?

SL: Israel has an attitude problem. I suppose it might survive without US support if it mended its manners drastically. But I doubt if it will ever be able to throw off its pariah status or stop shooting itself in the foot. It will become isolated and slowly crumble. Thanks to its selfish fanaticism and unhinged leadership it will do a great deal of damage in the process.

Fortunately, a good many Jews across the world are not Zionists and are disgusted by Israel’s conduct, and their number seems to be growing.

And the worldwide boycott and disinvestment movement is making good progress and the effect is hurting Tel Aviv.

So the tide is turning.

US government aid to Israel runs at around $3 billion annually and Israel is not required to account for how it is spent. The money helps pay for Israel’s costly occupation and the high-tech paraphernalia of military oppression. Most of it violates the US’s own laws, but that doesn’t seem to matter to the brainwashed Washington administration. Israel usually gets another $2 to 3 billion in indirect aid – military support, loan write-offs and special grants. The US has also been paying Egypt and Jordan to buy their co-operation with Israel.

If Americans wake up to what’s going on and aid is withheld until Israel complied with UN resolutions and international law there would probably be peace. But hostilities would soon flare up again if aid resumed. The tap has to be turned off permanently.

KZ: Israel‘s illegal nuclear activities are almost known to everyone. Under the pretext of not being a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Israel has deposited more than 200 atomic warheads in its arsenal and the Federation of American Scientists has admitted that Israel is the sole possessor of nuclear weapons in the Middle East. However, in violation of the UNSC resolutions that demand Israel to bring its nuclear program under the safeguards of IAEA, Tel Aviv is secretly continuing to develop atomic bombs. How should this concern be tackled? Who is responsible for disarming Israel?

SL: The responsibility is America’s, because it has encouraged Israel to duck its international obligations. In October 2009 the Washington Times ran a report, by Eli Lake, that Obama had agreed to keep Israel’s nukes secret by reaffirming a decades-old understanding that allowed Israel to keep a nuclear arsenal without opening it to international inspections.  Under this understanding the US has not pressured Israel to disclose its nuclear weapons or sign the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which could require Israel to give up its estimated several hundred nuclear bombs.

Israel is never required to honor what it signs up to. Back in 1995 it agreed, with the other parties to the Barcelona Declaration, to “pursue a mutually and effectively verifiable Middle East Zone free of weapons of mass destruction, nuclear, chemical and biological, and their delivery systems” and “consider practical steps to prevent the proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons as well as excessive accumulation of conventional arms.”

There has been no progress, either, on the Security Council’s demand in resolution 487, passed in 1981, that “Israel urgently … place its nuclear facilities under IAEA safeguards”.

Considering the Zionist regime’s notorious lack of restraint, it is obvious that Israel’s 200 (or is it 400?) nuclear warheads pose a massive threat not only to the Middle East but the rest of the world.

As you say, it is the only state in the region that possesses nuclear weapons (and probably the only one that possesses chemical and biological weapons) while not being a party to the Non-Proliferation Treaty. It has signed but not ratified the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty. Israel has not signed the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention. It has signed but not ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention. Why not?  Because being a menace is necessary to its ambitions.

Israel is capable of wiping Iran, and every Arab state, off the map at the touch of a button. Its warheads can also be targeted on European cities and, some say, already are.

Despite all this, in the words of Israel’s chief spin-doctor Mark Regev, “Israel is very concerned about the Iranian nuclear program. And for good reason. Iran’s President openly talks about wiping Israel off the map. We see them racing ahead on nuclear enrichment so they can have enough fissile material to build a bomb. We see them working on their ballistic missiles…  The Iranian nuclear program is a threat, not just to my country, but to the entire region. And it’s incumbent upon us all to do what needs to be done to keep from proliferating.”

Iran’s nuclear facilities, including its uranium enrichment facilities, are under IAEA supervision. Strange, isn’t it, that the West is putting such immense pressure on Iran about its nuclear activities, but not Israel.

KZ: As you may acknowledge, Iran is at the forefront of ideological battle with Israel. Tehran has already paid the price for its confrontation with Tel Aviv and championing the cause of the Palestinian people: diplomatic isolation and financial sanctions. What’s your viewpoint regarding the role of Iran in solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?

SL: Here’s what Israel’s infamous propaganda handbook says: “The force undermining peace is Iran and their proxies Hezbollah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad. You must not call Hamas just Hamas. Call them what they are: Iran-backed Hamas. Indeed, when they know that Iran is behind Hamas and Hezbollah, they are much more supportive of Israel.”

That’s the sort of poison being pumped out to demonize Iran. The point for the West to remember, I think, is that Iran as a member of the region is entitled to be involved in its affairs. The US, an outsider, isn’t.

Back in the 1920s the US State Department described the oil deposits in the Middle East as “a stupendous source of strategic power, and one of the greatest material prizes in world history”. Since then, its designs on Iraq and Iran have been plain to see.

Nobody has forgotten how the US and Britain schemed to snuff out Dr. Mossadeq’s first steps towards democracy in the 1950s and reinstated the hated Shah.

The West has betrayed the Palestinians for nearly 100 years and immediately strangled their fledgling democracy when they made an ‘inconvenient’ choice in the 2006 election.

Democracy is not what they want to see in the Middle East. It’s too uncontrollable.

In the turmoil following Iran’s presidential election, the country’s Supreme Leader denounced Britain as the “most treacherous” of Iran’s enemies. Western diplomats, he said, “are displaying their enmity against the Islamic state, and the most evil of them is the British government”.

I seem to remember from my own business experience with Tehran that relations between Iran and Britain remained surprisingly good up to the Iran-Iraq war when the UK government pulled the plug on trade. “Her Majesty’s Government does not encourage trade with, or investment in, Iran,” says the government’s trade website now. “Nor do we offer any commercial services for companies wanting to do business with Iran. We do not give financial support for trade promotion activities and we do not organize trade missions.”

Turn to Israel and it says: “Israel is a remarkable success story for British exporters… Bilateral trade has consistently been in excess of £2 billion over the last 10 years and should reach £3 billion by 2015. Companies who dismiss Israel as too small without exploring its potential are overlooking a serious market of solid and regular opportunity. Israel can be seen as the land of opportunity especially in all high tech sectors.” Words supplied by Tel Aviv’s scriptwriters, I imagine.

Iran clearly needs more friends in the West. A good move would be to re-establish business links and forge new friendships regardless of silly ministerial hostility.


Kourosh Ziabari is a freelance journalist and media correspondent, Iran

Kourosh Ziabari is a regular columnist for Novakeo.com

Interview with Kenneth O’Keefe

September 16, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Kenneth  O'Keefe

Kenneth O’Keefe is a world citizen. As an anti-war activist and social entrepreneur, he renounced his U.S. citizenship on March 1, 2001 and burned his American passport on January 7, 2004 in protest to the United States’ Imperialism and called for the immediate withdrawal of American forces from Iraq. O’Keefe is a former U.S. Marine who served in the 1991 Persian Gulf War and subsequently revealed the use of depleted uranium by the United States as a crime against humanity.

O’Keefe has taken part in a number of substantial anti-war movements and served as the director of Human Shield Action to Iraq. He founded a group of activists who traveled to Iraq to act as human shields to prevent the U.S.-led coalition troops from bombing certain locations during the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

In 2004 O’Keefe established an association known as the “P10K Force,” a group of 10,000 Westerners intended to act as international observers in the occupied Palestinian territories and help bring peace with Israel

In the fall of 2008, he served as a Captain and 1st Mate with the Free Gaza Movement, a direct action in which 46 people successfully challenged the Israeli siege of Gaza

O’Keefe was one of the international peace activists onboard the Gaza Freedom Flotilla that was intended to end the Israeli siege of Gaza Strip.

Kenneth O’Keefe joined me in an in-depth interview to answer my questions on his anti-imperialistic viewpoints, the prospect of Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the continued international controversy over Iran’s nuclear program, the chronic hostility between the United States and Iran and his experiences in the Freedom Flotilla mission.

Kourosh Ziabari: as an anti-imperialist activist, what’s in your view, the source of America’s enormous imperialistic power? America is a country with less than 400 years of history; however, it has successfully transformed the international order, dominated the less powerful countries around the world and revolutionized the global political equations. How is it possible for the United States to do so?

Kenneth O’Keefe: The world is full of illusions that are used by the rich and powerful to manipulate and control the people. The greatest illusion, and the one with the most devastating consequences, is that the American people and the Israeli, and the British, and numerous others, vote in their governments and hold them to account. Those who really control the governments are those powerful few who control the banking systems, the major multi-national corporations and, of course, the mass media. If you look beyond the faces of the presidents, prime ministers and politicians you will see that these governments’ policies remain virtually the same, no matter who is ‘leading’ these countries. These ‘leaders’ do not answer to the people they have pledged to serve; they answer to those who remain behind the scenes.

These powerful people and entities have key strategic needs in order to maintain power:

1) They must keep the people ignorant and disempowered.

2) They must keep the people divided. They conquer by dividing the people, never giving people the chance to unite; constantly fostering war by pitting the masses against each other

This system has been controlled by the same families for millennia, and people have been manipulated into a collective state of insanity throughout. Over the course of this tragic situation, empires have come and gone, each one giving way to the next. America is simply the latest in that repeating pattern, and it will fall like all empires do. However, the powers behind it, those controlling the banking, the governments and the propaganda, they will remain in place and prop up the next empire and the pattern will repeat.

We are constantly looking at the faces that these powers present to us, the puppets in effect. The powers themselves remain hidden, with many layers of separation between themselves and the people, and an intricate and complex legal system to protect and hide them. In the west this conspiracy has been called a theory, and everything is done to try and marginalize and ridicule the people who speak correctly about the way the world works. Until this system and those behind it are exposed, we will continue our cycle of self-destruction and continue marching towards a nuclear Armageddon. The most powerful weapon we have is the truth, and until we yield its full power, we will never have justice and peace in this world.

KZ: how is it possible to resist the American Imperialism while the absolute majority of powerful, wealthy states in the world are the stalwart allies of Washington and the other developing, underdeveloped countries are starving of insufficiency and poverty? Even the Non-Aligned Movement which consists of 118 countries isn’t capable of dictating its will to the United States and its European allies. One clear instance is Iran’s nuclear program which is favored and supported by the 118 members of NAM, but fails to prosper due to the objection of some 5, 6 European countries plus the United States. What do you think?

KO: I believe the process of destroying American imperialism is already in place. The truth is the most powerful weapon of all, and the rise in popularity of international news stations like Press TV, Al Jazeera English and RTTV is evidence that people are hungry for the truth they are denied. Despite a huge effort by the western/Zionist controlled media to keep people ignorant, and thus divided, they are losing ground to such important journalistic endeavors that disseminate a truthful version of world events.

The truth is on our side and it shall set us free. There are many creative ways to expose the truth, and we must use them to educate people about how they are being used to maintain the Zionist/Imperialist agenda that makes the rich richer, and the masses more impoverished. If we persevere, we can teach those in the west that the portrayal of Muslim peoples engaged in violent resistance as lunatics and fanatics is simply a means adopted by the Imperialist propaganda machine to divide and conquer. If people understand that the only beneficiaries of war are those who propagate it, we will break free from the tyranny of war, occupation and the monetary system that enslaves us all.

The people of the world, billions of us, can demand the transformation of the UN, or replace it with a genuine system that actually does the job the UN has failed to do since its inception. If we dedicate ourselves to the task, we can end the five permanent member state system that neutralizes any power this institution may wield.

The Non-Aligned Movement is important despite its inability thus far to effect the greater change required. The NAM is a solid foundation that we can build on.

The hypocrisy of Israel having undeclared nuclear weapons in the hundreds while an open nuclear program in Iran is grounds for war is beyond absurd. War can only take place if the propaganda machine is successful in keeping people ignorant. I believe that the pre-planned attack on Iran was scheduled to take place at least a year or two ago. The reason it has thus far not transpired is that those agents of the truth have worked tirelessly and effectively to expose the pending attack as the final confirmation of America’s monstrous imperialism and the use of Israel as its vicious attack dog. If America, Israel and Britain, the true ‘Axis of Evil’, attack, I believe the world will unite against them in a sufficient manner. Nonetheless, attacks on Iran, Lebanon and Gaza remain very possible; hence more and more investment in exposing the truth must be made.

Confronting the tyrants responsible for the blockade of Gaza is in my opinion a priority. That is why I am working with a brilliant team of people on organizing a massive flotilla, with large ships and thousands of passengers representing every nation on Planet Earth, to break the blockade.  As well as the Turkish people, I see the Iranian, South African, Irish, Venezuelan and colonized, aboriginal peoples playing a substantial role in that mission.

When all is said and done, we have a choice between surrendering to our enslavement or fighting for a just and peaceful world. I feel that the only way to honor myself, my children and the generations yet unborn is to fight, with the truth as our ultimate weapon, until justice prevails.

KZ: Iran and U.S. have been at loggerheads over the past 30 years hostilely. Do you know of any way to bring the two nations closer together, increase the mutual understanding and promote peace, friendship between the two adversaries?

KO: The primary means of fostering a mutual understanding and friendship between these two hostile nations is no secret. I repeat my conviction that the truth is the ultimate weapon, and anything we can do to propagate the truth is our only option. The American people are a hard-working, idealistic and honest people who have been gravely deceived, to their own detriment.  We must strive to educate them, not in a condescending, patronizing way, but with empathy, understanding that we too once believed the lies of those we trusted, and were misguided into actions that caused grave harm to others. Paying taxes is an example. We must teach them the true history of their nation, including its part in the formation of Israel. We must understand that arriving at and accepting the truth is a slow and often painful process, especially when the realization of the damage caused by our own actions dawns. Most importantly, we must be there to welcome those who have traversed the painful road to the truth, and embrace them as our brothers and sisters.

KZ: some analysts suggest that the reason behind the United States’ unconditional support for Israel lies in the fact that Washington wants to maintain its interests in the Middle East through a proxy representative. Some others believe that United States supports Israel on an ideological basis. What’s your viewpoint?

KO: This ties into my last answer. Israel is simply another face, or front, if you like, that the hidden powers that be present to the people. Israel’s primary function is to maintain perpetual conflict in the Middle East. Soon enough, Israel will be spreading this conflict on a global level. I have no doubt that the pending attack on Iran is intended to take us straight into World War III, with a regional nuclear war very likely. This is quite obviously a disaster to any sane human being.

However, to those who see their power threatened by the spreading of truth, 9-11, Zionism, the banking system, etc, this is a very necessary act to help them maintain their grip of control over peoples of the world. This ‘divide and conquer’ strategy has served them well for millennia. On the surface, war is catastrophic, and it seems incomprehensible that anyone could stand to benefit from war. In truth, however, the powers that be become even richer and more powerful as they gain a foothold in yet another peoples’ territory, and afford themselves access to their resources, just take Iraq as an example. The looming death and destruction serves to further divide people and divert them from the truth. What these powers fear more than anything is people coming together in the spirit of humanity. Thus, war is the ultimate tool to prevent the union of the people.

KZ: Israel’s lawlessness is troubling the international community seriously. Israel continues to possess nuclear weapons in violation of the UNSC resolution 487. It is also keeping up with its despotic policies in blockading the Gaza Strip and West Bank. How is it possible to hold Israel accountable for the crimes it commits while the United States is standing by Israel unreservedly?

KO: I believe that Palestine hits at the heart of all injustice, and that the issue of justice for Palestinians threatens to flagrantly expose the powers that have made this situation so. The Zionist project has been invested in heavily, and the powers that be will not relinquish it lightly.

As I stated earlier, there is an intricate and sophisticated legal system that protects the powers that be and enables them to continue their domination over the peoples of this earth. Two such institutions that are being used to enable and perpetuate Israel’s lawlessness are the UN and the International Criminal Court. I strongly advocate the abolition of the UN in its present form.

Giving five permanent member states veto powers over all other states in the world is an insult to the international community and an affront to the cause of justice. Universal Jurisdiction and full accountability for every nation can and will be achieved when we as a people make it so. Until such time, the United Nations is a cruel joke and the International Criminal Court is a sham. Both are fronts presented by the powers that be to convince the people that justice is being administered.

We as people must use our finite resources and come together if we are to effect meaningful change. We are too scattered, fighting each other on minor details and continually resisting and protesting. We must take a proactive approach to effecting justice, and do so in a focused, intelligent, disciplined and fearless way.

KZ: tell us about your experience on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla. You were among tens of activists who were brutally beaten and tortured by Israel while trying to breaking the Gaza blockade. What happened first when they boarded on your ship? How did they treat you? What was your reaction? What will be the prospect of Freedom Flotilla?

KO: The Israeli attack began under cover of darkness at about 3.40 in the morning. Within the first five minutes of the attack, even before the commandos dropped down from the helicopter and boarded our vessel, we were taking casualties, and the first man was murdered with a gunshot to the head. Percussion grenades, tear gas, smoke bombs, paintball rounds and live ammunition were all being used.  It was like a combat situation, except that one side was not armed with combat weapons.

About one hour after the onset of the attack, I had seen at least five men murdered and dozens of bloody injuries.

Twice during the course of the attack, I was directly confronted by a commando. In both cases, myself and another defender disarmed them. During the first confrontation, I took possession of a 9mm pistol, the same weapon used to kill eight out of the nine men that morning.  During the second, the other defender took possession of the commando’s sub-machine gun. A third commando was also disarmed. These three completely disarmed commandos were taken below deck and treated for any injuries they might have sustained. Nevertheless, the bravado and audacity they exhibited while in possession of their lethal weapons vanished. While in our custody, they looked like frightened little children.

Soon after the commandos were captured and subdued a group of about 7 IHH members escorted the soldiers from the main cabin to the bow of the ship, released them and walked away.

The captain of the ship eventually announced via the PA system that the Israelis had taken control of the ship’s bridge. He then instructed us to stop all resistance which we did.

Over the next several hours, we surrendered to the Israelis one by one. Each one of us was searched for weapons and then handcuffed. Most of the men, including myself, were kicked or punched without provocation while restrained.

From this point forward we were treated like dogs. Elderly people were physically abused, women were sexually abused during bodily searches, we were all denied water and food, as well as access to a toilet, one elderly man consequently urinated on himself, and any communication with lawyers was not allowed. We were lied to incessantly, and had our personal possessions stolen, including cash, credit cards, laptop computers, cameras and footage. Of crucial importance, they stole all of the video and photographic footage that without doubt shows them murdering people in cold blood.

It was clear to all of us in Israeli custody that we were being held captive by a force that had completely lost the ability to see others as human beings. These people are thoroughly brainwashed to believe themselves God’s ‘chosen ones’, and thus they believe they have the right to treat all others as animals. Many of us were beaten while in their custody on land, after being beaten on the ship.

On our arrival in the Port of Ashdod, I handed them my Palestinian passport – I had previously hidden my Irish passport on the ship. Many of the Israeli soldiers knew of me from my previous activities, so this just incensed them. I refused to sign any deportation papers, or any statement that I would never attempt re-entry to Gaza or the Occupied Palestinian Territories. I demanded to appear before a judge in court. My internment was illegal, and I wanted to be repatriated to Gaza. Eventually I was deported from Israel, I was one of the very last to go.

Two days after my deportation the IDF spokesperson issued a press release identifying me as a “terror operative” who was traveling to Gaza to “train a commando unit for Hamas.”

These charges are beyond ridiculous, and it seems to me they were made to gloss over the IDF’s embarrassment at having one of the most elite forces in the world disarmed and humiliated.

It is the nature of the Zionist Israeli propaganda machine to levy such grave charges on those who resist their aggression. War crimes, mass-murder, piracy, lying, torture, organ theft, Apartheid, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity are justified at every turn, and the blame shifted to those who defend themselves.

It was a real honor to be aboard the Mavi Marmara with my Turkish brothers and sisters. The Turkish people have the kind of strength and courage required to face a force such as the Israelis and defend their mission as if they were defending their own children. Fearless resistance of proactive measures is what is needed to face the Israeli monster that is killing, maiming and destroying the lives of countless people, including over 800,000 children in Gaza. We must see those children as our children, and we must defend them as such.

I appreciate all efforts put forth to bring an end to the suffering of the Palestinians at the hands of the Israelis. However, I do not believe that the flotilla leaving this month or next has either the scale, or the courageous elements, namely active resistance by the participants, essential for success. I cannot see the blockade being broken unless we as people of conscience from around the world do everything in our power to neutralize the might of the Israeli military. I know this is possible, and soon a plan will be revealed for a flotilla in 2011 that has the potential to achieve the goal of breaking the blockade once and for all. This plan will require several large ships and most definitely a strong Turkish presence. A delegation representing this plan will soon be arriving in Iran as well as numerous other countries to put this plan to the people, and we shall see if the people of the world decide to make it a reality.

KZ: how do you assess the prospect of Israeli regime? Given its continued violation of the international law and its aggressive subjugation of the Palestinian nation, is Tel Aviv going to survive politically?

KO: No. The Zionist regime will not survive any more than the Nazi regime or the South African Apartheid regime. The Zionists will go the same way. God is God of all people, not one group, one way or the other the Zionists will learn this. The people of conscience will ensure that justice prevails. Gaza will rise from the ashes and be a thriving metropolis once more. Palestine will be united and reborn because the will of the people, and their cogent action, will have made it so. It is vital that we envision, and never cease working for, that day. Palestine hits at the heart of all injustice, and when we solve this problem we set the stage for a world worthy of handing down to our children. This is our ultimate worldly calling.


Kourosh Ziabari is a freelance journalist and media correspondent, Iran

Kourosh Ziabari is a regular columnist for Novakeo.com

Press TV Under Attack

August 5, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Press TVTo tell the truth about Israeli barbarism is a breach of impartiality. The Guardian and the Jewish Chronicle reported today that, Ofcom, the UK broadcasting standards body, has ruled that Iranian-backed Press TV’s coverage of the Gaza flotilla incident breached guidelines on impartiality.

You ask yourself why?

Their coverage of the Flotilla wasn’t pro-Israeli enough.

The regulator said the station had not shown due impartiality during a broadcast on June 5th which dealt exclusively with the events surrounding the interception by Israeli commandos of the pro-Palestinian convoy off the coast of Gaza.

The Jewish Chronicle reports that During an episode of a current affairs show Remembering Palestine, presenter Lauren Booth discussed the flotilla with studio guests and participants of the convoy. Ofcom said the show had started with “a pro-Palestinian song set to anti-Israeli/pro-Palestinian imagery”.

Ofcom is absolutely right,  Booth should have thought about it, and played Hava Nagila along with the images of Israel executing 9 peace activists in International waters.  Such an act would bring to light the cheerful aspect in Israeli murderous zeal. It would also cement the cultural continuum between the IDF’s crimes and Jewish cultural heritage.

Watch the Israeli execution on the Mavi Marmara

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pi6c10ntFZk

The watchdog said comments made by Ms Booth and her guests “could be interpreted as being highly critical of the actions of the Israeli government and its military forces”.  The comments included: Lauren Booth saying: “Israeli commandos…committed a massacre of innocent civilians sailing aid ships to the besieged Gaza Strip.”

I am slightly puzzled  here, how would Ofcom suggest to call a deliberate execution of civilians in the middle of the night? Is there a better word in English to describe the event?

Booth also said “This was obviously a barbarous attack on civilians. One thing is certain: As Turkey buries its murdered citizens…the brave men and women on those ships, in one move, have shifted world opinion against Israeli apartheid.”

Obviously, Booth was very observant, just five days after the Israeli massacre she gathered that the world has changed. Now we all see Israel and its supporters for what they are.  I guess that the video above shows clearly a deliberate murderous act. I think that Ofcom should visit Youtube, they can also wait for the results of the UN fact finding mission into Israel’s murdering on the Mavi Marmara.

On a further note, I just wonder, if  the British press is not allowed to tell the truth about Israel, who exactly is going to stop Israel from using its nuclear bombs?  How should we protest against Israeli war crimes?   Should we count on the Conservative Friends of Israel to do the job?   Or even  Kenneth  Clark  who under the Israeli Lobby pressure moved quickly to block war crimes prosecutions in the UK so “The likes of Henry Kissinger, Tzipi Livni and Ehud Barak could slip a little easier” into the UK.

I would use this opportunity to say thanks for Press TV and Lauren Booth for being there. I am certain, that such publicity will bring many more viewers to the one and only broadcaster in the UK that tells the truth about Israeli crimes and the Israeli Lobby in Britain.


Gilad Atzmon was born in Israel in 1963 and had his musical training at the Rubin Academy of Music, Jerusalem (Composition and Jazz). As a multi-instrumentalist he plays Soprano, Alto, Tenor and Baritone Saxes, Clarinet and Flutes. His album Exile was the BBC jazz album of the year in 2003. He has been described by John Lewis on the Guardian as the “hardest-gigging man in British jazz”. His albums, of which he has recorded nine to date, often explore political themes and the music of the Middle East.

Until 1994 he was a producer-arranger for various Israeli Dance & Rock Projects, performing in Europe and the USA playing ethnic music as well as R&R and Jazz.

Coming to the UK in 1994, Atzmon recovered an interest in playing the music of the Middle East, North Africa and Eastern Europe that had been in the back of his mind for years. In 2000 he founded the Orient House Ensemble in London and started re-defining his own roots in the light of his emerging political awareness. Since then the Orient House Ensemble has toured all over the world. The Ensemble includes Eddie Hick on Drums, Yaron Stavi on Bass and Frank Harrison on piano & electronics.

Also, being a prolific writer, Atzmon’s essays are widely published. His novels ‘Guide to the perplexed’ and ‘My One And Only Love’ have been translated into 24 languages.

Gilad Atzmon is a regular columnist for Novakeo.com

Visit his web site at http://www.gilad.co.uk

The Illegality of Israel’s Naval Blockade of Gaza

July 22, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

congressIn “The Legal Basis of Israel’s Naval Blockade of Gaza” at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (JCPA), Professor Emeritus of International Law at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem Ruth Lapidoth argues that Israel’s attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, in which nine Turkish peace activists were killed by Israeli commandos, was perfectly “legal”.

Lapidoth begins by arguing that “the rules of the laws of armed conflict apply” to the “armed conflict” between Israel and Hamas. From this, Lapidoth draws the conclusion that, “This means that Israel may control shipping headed for Gaza—even when the vessels are still on the high seas.”

Examining how the conclusion that Israel may legally blockade Gaza is arrived at, Lapidoth argues that: “The rules on blockades are based on customary international law, as there is no comprehensive international treaty on this subject…. The customary rules on blockade can be found in the manuals of the laws of war issued by certain Western countries such as the United States and Britain. In addition, there is a manual prepared by an international group of experts in 1994 called the San Remo Manual.”

By claiming that we must depend upon “customary international law” to decide whether or not a blockade is legal or not, Lapidoth implies that the body of formal international law is somehow irrelevant and inapplicable. The reason for this argument becomes perfectly clear when one actually examines what international law has to say about Israel’s deadly attack on a humanitarian vessel in international waters, which reveals that this entire foundational premise for the argument is false.

For instance, Israel as a party to the U.N. Charter, which states that: “All Members shall settle their international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice, are not endangered…. All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations” (Article 2).

The prescription for seeking remedy to an international dispute or grievance is given: “The parties to any dispute, the continuance of which is likely to endanger the maintenance of international peace and security, shall, first of all, seek a solution by negotiation, enquiry, mediation, conciliation, arbitration, judicial settlement, resort to regional agencies or arrangements, or other peaceful means of their own choice” (Article 33).

For Member states, it is up to the U.N. Security Council to “determine the existence of any threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression” and to “make recommendations, or decide what measures shall be taken in accordance with Articles 41 and 42, to maintain or restore international peace and security” (Article 39).

If the Security Council finds such a situation exists, it may authorize the use of force “as may be necessary to maintain or restore international peace and security”, including the implementation of a “blockade” (Article 42).

Thus, Israel has a legal obligation to bring any grievances it may have to the U.N. Security Council, which may authorize and enforce a blockade. Yet, Israel has never sought U.N. authorization for a blockade as a remedy for any grievance, and the Security Council has not authorized the blockade of Gaza. Israel’s unilateral blockade, being in contravention to its obligations under the U.N. Charter, is therefore unlawful.

Israel is also party to the Fourth Geneva Convention, which according to Lapidoth’s own argument, applies. The Convention prohibits any acts constituting collective punishment of a civilian population: “No protected person may be punished for an offence he or she has not personally committed. Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited” (Article 33).

Under the Fourth Geneva Convention, Israel is legally bound to allow humanitarian shipments into Gaza: “To the fullest extent of the means available to it, the Occupying Power has the duty of ensuring the food and medical supplies of the population; it should, in particular, bring in the necessary foodstuffs, medical stores and other articles if the resources of the occupied territory are inadequate” (Article 54).

Additionally: “If the whole or part of the population of an occupied territory is inadequately supplied, the Occupying Power shall agree to relief schemes on behalf of the said population, and shall facilitate them by all the means at its disposal”, including “consignments of foodstuffs, medical supplies and clothing.” Israel is legally obligated to “permit the free passage of these consignments” and to “guarantee their protection” (Article 59).

Israel’s blockade of humanitarian shipments into Gaza ipso facto constitutes an act of collective punishment against the civilian population, and is therefore illegal.

Lapidoth acknowledges that “A blockade has to permit the passage of humanitarian assistance if needed”, but adds: “However, the San Remo Manual includes two conditions (in Article 103): first, the blockading party may decide where and when and through which port the assistance should reach the coast. In addition, the state may require that a neutral organization on the coast should control the distribution of the items.”

Yet, as shall be seen, these conditions only apply in cases where there is a lawful blockade to begin with; which means they don’t apply in Israel’s case. It’s instructive that Lapidoth, far from disputing the fact, tacitly acknowledges here that the Israeli blockade denies the passage of humanitarian assistance; thus the necessity of his legalistic, cherry-picked argument. A look at the document cited reveals that Lapidoth is simply not being honest about what the San Remo Manual actually says.

The San Remo Manual applies to “armed conflict at sea” (Article 1). Yet there is no armed conflict at sea in this case. Gaza has no navy (nor does it have an army or air force). Attacks against Israel are limited to rockets fired by militant groups from the land against targets on the land. Nonetheless, let us consider that a state of “armed conflict” exists and presume the principles of the San Remo Manual are fully applicable.

The Manual explicitly states that: “The principles of necessity and proportionality apply equally to armed conflict at sea and require that the conduct of hostilities by a State should not exceed the degree and kind of force, not otherwise prohibited by the law of armed conflict, required to repel an armed attack against it and to restore its security” (Article 3).

“Parties to the conflict shall at all times distinguish between civilians or other protected persons and combatants and between civilian or exempt objects and military objectives” (Article 39).

“In so far as objects are concerned, military objectives are limited to those objects which by their nature, location, purpose or use make an effective contribution to military action and whose total or partial destruction, capture or neutralization, in the circumstances ruling at the time, offers a definite military advantage” (Article 40).

“Attacks shall be limited strictly to military objectives. Merchant vessels … are civilian objects unless they are military objectives in accordance with the principles and rules set forth in this document” (Article 41).

Moreover, “it is forbidden to employ methods or means of warfare which … are of a nature to cause superfluous injury or unnecessary suffering” or “are indiscriminate, in that … they are not, or cannot be, directed against a specific military objective” (Article 42).

Israel had an obligation to take “precautions” in its attack, such as “determining whether or not objects which are not military objectives are present in an area of attack”, to “do everything feasible to ensure that attacks are limited to military objectives”, and to “take all feasible precautions in the choice of methods and means in order to avoid or minimize collateral casualties or damage”. Additionally, “an attack shall not be launched if it may be expected to cause collateral casualties or damage which would be excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated from the attack as a whole” (Article 46).

Lapidoth, in citing the San Remo Manual to support an argument that Israel’s attack on the Mavi Marmara was legal, neglects to point out that the Manual states explicitly that among the “classes of enemy vessels” that “are exempt from attack” are “vessels engaged in humanitarian missions, including vessels carrying supplies indispensable to the survival of the civilian population, and vessels engaged in relief actions and rescue operations” and “passenger vessels when engaged only in carrying civilian passengers” (Article 47).

Furthermore, the San Remo Manual states that a prerequisite for any lawful blockade is a declaration that “shall specify the commencement, duration, location, and extent of the blockade and the period within which vessels of neutral States may leave the blockaded coastline” (Article 94). Israel has never made a declaration meeting these requirments.

And to be lawful, “A blockade must be effective. The question whether a blockade is effective is a question of fact” (Article 95). Israel’s blockade is not effective towards any military objective whatsoever, having served only to deny humanitarian shipments into Gaza.

Even if Israel had made a proper declaration of its intent, the Manual notes that: “The declaration or establishment of a blockade is prohibited if … it has the sole purpose of starving the civilian population or denying it other objects essential for its survival” or if “the damage to the civilian population is, or may be expected to be, excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated from the blockade” (Article 102).

Lapidoth also acknowledges that “there is the condition that a state may not starve the civilian population (San Remo, Article 102).” Lapidoth makes no further comments on this condition for the “legality” of a naval blockade, despite the fact that the blockade prevents food from entering Gaza.

Even if one could argue that blocking humanitarian supplies was not the sole purpose of Israel’s blockade, the fact remains that the continuing suffering of the civilian population was and is a predictable consequence of Israel’s actions, which are indiscriminate, disproportionate, and otherwise excessive in relation to any possible legitimate military objective.

Apologists for the Israeli attack on the Mavi Marmara, the flagship ship of the flotilla, have claimed that the nine activists were killed in an Israeli act of “self-defense” against passengers aboard the ship who attacked Israeli commandos with clubs and knives. But whether or not it is true that passengers attacked the commandos who stormed their ship is irrelevant, since (a) Civilians aboard a peaceful vessel operating in international waters have an inherent right to self-defense against armed aggression, such as the storming of their ship by armed Israeli commandos, and (b) the Israeli attack, being against a civilian and not a military target, as discussed above, was a war crime in and of itself. The murder of nine peace activists is thus a further crime.

According to the absurd logic of the argument to the contrary, the burglar who breaks into a home and kills the homeowner who attacks him with a knife commits no crime because he killed the homeowner in “self-defense”.

Continuing, Lapidoth argues that “A merchant ship may be visited, searched, or captured; and if the ship resists, it may be attacked…. A ship that clearly intends to breach the blockade can be dealt with while it is still on the high seas. Stopping the flotilla in international waters 100 kilometers from Israel was legal: In time of armed conflict, ships breaching the blockade may be searched even on the high seas.”

Yet what the San Remo Manual actually states, and what Lapidoth conveniently ignores, is that the “visit and search” of “merchant vessels” must occur only when “there are reasonable grounds for suspecting that they are subject to capture” (Article 118).

There were absolutely no reasonable grounds to suspect that the Mavi Marmara or the rest of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla were “subject to capture”—that is to say, that they served any kind of military purpose or that preventing the humanitarian shipment served any kind of military objective whatsoever.

The flotilla was forcibly redirected Israel. Yet the San Remo Manual specifically notes that under international law, it is only “with its consent” that a merchant vessel my “be diverted from its declared destination” (Article 119). Israel’s diversion of the flotilla was not done with consent, but under threat of violence and with force of arms, a further violation of international law.

Lapidoth cites precedents of blockades during the Korean War, the Iran-Iraq war, and others, concluding again that, “In the treatment of the flotilla heading for Gaza, Israel has acted in compliance with international law because it has fulfilled all the conditions for a lawful blockade” because “Israel notified the relevant authorities of its blockade in Gaza”.

It’s not clear what relevance Lapidoth thinks previous instances of blockades have to do with the situation in Gaza, and it does not follow from the observation that there have been blockades in the past that therefore Israel “has acted in compliance with international law”. Lapidoth’s claim that because Israel “notified” authorities of its blockade it is “in compliance with international law” is also a non sequitur. As already noted, Israel has never declared its intentions in such a manner as the San Remo Manual states is required for such a blockade, among the other conditions outlined above, for its blockade to be considered legitimate and lawful.

Asking “Can Gaza be considered an enemy although it is not a state?” Lapidoth answers: “According to international law, this is possible.” In the brief discussion that follows, Lapidoth offers no logical rationale for how this conclusion was arrived at. But assuming it’s a correct conclusion, it does not follow that because Gaza can be considered enemy territory that the blockade is legal.

Finally, Lapidoth address the question of whether Israel is, under law, the Occupying Power in Gaza. “Some say that since Israel is still in control of Gaza’s airspace and adjacent sea, Israel is still the occupier”, Lapidoth notes, without identifying who “Some” are. “According to another opinion,” Lapidoth continues, “under the Hague Regulations of 1907 (Respecting the Laws and Customs of War on Land), occupation has to include full control of the area. (‘Territory is considered occupied when it is actually placed under the authority of the hostile army. The occupation extends only to the territory where such authority has been established and can be exercised.’ – Article 42), and of course Israel does not control the whole territory of Gaza. Therefore, it is not responsible for what happens there.”

Lapidoth concludes, “In my opinion, since Israel is not in control of Gaza, it is not the occupier, but in those areas in which Israel still has control – which means sea and airspace – Israel is responsible. Here we have to distinguish between full control of the territory and control only of the sea and airspace.”

But this is argument is prima facie invalid. Article 42 simply does not say a nation must “control the whole territory” for the conditions of an occupation to exist. This is a strawman argument. Moreover, it is simply false that Israel maintains “control only of the sea and airspace” of Gaza. Israel also controls most of the length of the border of the territory, other than the short stretch of it Gaza shares with Egypt. Israel cannot on one hand claim authority to militarily control Gaza’s land, sea, and airspace while on the other maintaining that the conditions of occupation do not exist. Two plus two does not equal five.

In sum, Israel has a legal obligation under the U.N. Charter to bring forth any grievances it has to the Security Council, which may then authorize a legal blockade if it thinks necessary. Yet Israel did not do so, choosing rather to unlawfully implement a unilateral blockade.

Israel has a legal obligation to permit humanitarian supplies into Gaza, and not to engage in indiscriminate warfare or inflict collective punishment on the civilian population of Gaza. Yet on its face, collective punishment is the effective consequence of the blockade and Israel’s denial of aid.

Moreover, preventing ships known to be carrying only humanitarian supplies from entering Gaza in no demonstrable way helps Israel “to repel an armed attack” or “to restore its security”.  By failing to distinguish between civilian objects and military objectives, Israel’s attack on the flotilla was indiscriminate, and therefore prohibited.

By blocking humanitarian goods that serve no military purpose, Israel’s attack constituted collective punishment against the civilian population, and therefore prohibited.

Additionally, since it could be foreseen that sending armed commandos to threaten and forcibly board and take control of a ship inherently presents a risk of causing “collateral casualties” excessive in relation to any military advantage anticipated (which was totally nonexistent in this case), it was therefore prohibited and constituted a war crime.

Lapidoth’s argument that there are “conditions” under international law by which its actions were lawful is a fallacy dependent upon dishonest cherry-picking from the San Remo Manual, which makes clear that those conditions only apply to situations where there is an effective legal blockade necessary for security that is not in practice indiscriminate, and only when, following on those conditions, there are reasonable grounds to believe that a ship may be serving a military purpose and thus exempt from attack. Israel’s capture and redirecting of the flotilla to Israel was a further violation of international law, in addition to the initial attack and the blockade itself.

Jeremy R. Hammond is an independent political analyst whose articles have been featured in numerous print and online publications around the world. He is the founder and executive editor of Foreign Policy Journal (www.foreignpolicyjournal.com), an online source for news, critical analysis, and opinion commentary on U.S. foreign policy. He was a recipient of the 2010 Project Censored Awards for Outstanding Investigative Journalism and can also be found on the web at www.jeremyrhammond.com.

Jeremy R. Hammond is a regular columnist for Novakeo.com

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