How can I say this politely? Not really sure, but here goes. “Bibi Netanyahu certainly has killed a whole bunch of children in Palestine lately. Does that remind you of anything that happened in the Bible, in this same Palestine, except years ago? ‘When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old or under.’ Does Matthew 2:16-18 come to mind?”
How many kids has Netanyahu killed in Palestine over these past five years? I have no idea. Has he killed more babies than Herod? Is this some sort of competition to see how many mothers’ tears can be shed? It certainly looks like it.
“A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.” Has Netanyahu outdone even Herod? We may never know, but from the latest reports on NBC and CNN, it looks like Bibi has won this competition for sure! http://www.theguardian.com/
“But, Jane,” you might say, “Bibi Netanyahu has such a strong advantage. Herod didn’t have access to Patriot missiles or whatever those phallic-looking ICBM thingies that Bibi has.” All too true.
According to the Global Security Netwire, “Israel manufactures and deploys technologically sophisticated and diverse ballistic missile, cruise missile, and missile defense systems. Several overarching themes characterize Israel’s missile program. First, Israel’s strategy of maintaining a ‘qualitative military edge’ over potential adversaries motivated the country to rapidly develop one of the region’s [and the entire world's] most capable missile production infrastructures, and to deploy the region’s [and the world's] most advanced missile systems.” http://www.nti.org/country-
And with American taxpayers paying for all these hot new baby-killers, Netanyahu is sure to have the edge. Roman-era swords simply can’t compete with all that. Old Herod had better step up his game!
And Hamas’s funky short-range bottle-rockets also suck eggs. They haven’t even killed not even one child. But then Hamas isn’t out to kill kids like King Herod was — or like Bibi.
But actually, my money is on Netanyahu for winning the baby-killing contest right now. Back in Herod’s day, Jesus, Joseph and Mary were able to escape off to Egypt — but now even the Rafah crossing is closed. For Bibi right now, “slaughtering innocents” is like shooting fish in a barrel. If you are a child in Gaza today, you are trapped — and it’s not a matter of if you are going to die but when. I’d say that Bibi definitely has the edge. http://electronicintifada.net/
To quote Seumas Milne in The Guardian, “For the third time in five years, the world’s fourth largest military power has launched a full-scale armed onslaught on one of its most deprived and overcrowded territories. Since Israel’s bombardment of the Gaza Strip began, just over a week ago, more than 200 Palestinians have been killed. Nearly 80% of the dead are civilians, over 20% of them children…. The idea that Israel is defending itself against unprovoked attacks from outside its borders is an absurdity.” http://www.theguardian.com/
Yet how come Herod is considered a vile and cowardly villain for killing so many babies, yet Netanyahu is considered a hero for doing the exact same thing? I truly do not understand.
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.
Public opinion in Western Europe is wrong to regard the Ukrainian crisis as a showdown between Westerners and Russians. In reality, Washington’s goal is not to push the country into the arms of the European Union, but to deprive Russia of its historical partners. To do this, the United States is prepared to ignite a new civil war on the continent.
After having dismembered Yugoslavia during a ten-year civil war (1990-1999), has the United States decided to destroy Ukraine in a similar way? This is what could be inferred from the maneuvers that the opposition is poised to launch during the Sochi Olympic Games.
Ukraine has been historically divided between, in the West, a population turned towards the European Union and, in the East, a population oriented towards Russia, plus a small Muslim minority in Crimea. After the country‘s independence, the government gradually crumbled. Taking advantage of the confusion, the United States organized the «Orange Revolution» (2004) , which brought to power a mafia clan, also pro-Atlanticist. Moscow responded by lifting its subsidies on gas prices, but the Orange government could not rely on its Western allies to help pay the market price. Ultimately, it lost the 2010 presidential election in favor of Viktor Yanukovych, a corrupt politician, and on again-off again pro-Russian.
On 21 November 2013, the government renounces signing the Association Agreement negotiated with the European Union. The opposition responds with protests in Kiev and in the western part of the country, which quickly take on an insurrectionary appearance. It calls for early presidential and parliamentary elections and refuses to form a government when approached by President Yanukovych and the Prime Minister resigns. The events are baptized Euromaidan, then Eurorevolution, by Radio Free Europe (run by the State Department).
The crowd control for the opposition is provided by Azatlyk, a group of young Crimean Tatars who returned from Jihad in Syria especially for the occasion .
The Atlanticist media champion the cause of the «democratic opposition» and condemn Russian influence. High-profile Western figures turn up to manifest their support to the protesters, including Victoria Nuland (Assistant Secretary of State and former Ambassador to NATO) and John McCain (Chairman of the Republican branch of the NED). For its part, the Russian press condemns protesters who have taken to the streets to overthrow democratically elected institutions.
Torch-lit march of 15,000 Nazis in Kiev on 1 January 2014.
At first, the movement seemed to be an attempt to orchestrate a second «Orange Revolution.» But on 1 January 2014 the power in the street changes hands. The Nazi «Freedom» party organizes a 15 000-strong torch-lit march in memory of Stepan Bandera (1909-1959), the nationalist leader who allied himself with the Nazis against the Soviets. Since this event, the capital has been covered with anti-Semitic graffiti and people are attacked on the street for being Jewish.
The pro-European opposition is made up of three political parties:
- The All-Ukrainian Union “Fatherland” (Batkivshchyna), led by the oligarch and former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko (serving a prison sentence following her convictions for embezzlement) and currently headed by lawyer and former Parliament speaker Arseniy Yatsenyuk. It stands for private property and the Western liberal model. It garnered 25.57% of the vote in the 2012 parliamentary elections.
- The Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reform (Udar), of former boxing world champion Vitali Klitschko. It claims to identify with Christian Democracy and picked up 13.98% in the 2012 elections.
- The All-Ukrainian Union “Svoboda” (Freedom), led by the surgeon Oleh Tyahnybok. This political group sprang from the National Socialist Party of Ukraine. It promotes the denaturalization of Jewish Ukrainians. It won 10.45% of the vote in the 2012 parliamentary elections.
- The Congress of Ukrainian Nationalists, a Nazi splinter group from the former NATO stay-behind networks in the Eastern Bloc . A Zionist, he calls for the denaturalization and deportation of Ukrainian Jews to Israel. He received 1.11% of the vote in 2012.
- The Ukrainian Self-Defense, a nationalist splinter group that sent its members to fight the Russians in Chechnya and Ossetia during the Georgian conflict. It got 0.08% of the vote in 2012.
These parliamentary parties have the support of:
In addition, the opposition has received the endorsement of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, in revolt against the Moscow Patriarchate. Ever since the Nazi Party took over the streets, the demonstrators – many of them wearing helmets and dressed in paramilitary uniforms -have erected barricades and stormed government buildings. Certain elements of the police force have also displayed great brutality, going so far as to torture detainees. A dozen protesters were killed and nearly 2,000 were wounded. The unrest spread to the western provinces of the country.
According to our information, the Ukrainian opposition seeks to import military materials acquired on parallel markets. It is obviously not possible to purchase weapons in Western Europe and bring them in without NATO’s green light.
Washington’s strategy in Ukraine would appear to be a combination of proven “color revolution” recipes with others recently concocted during the “Arab Spring” . Moreover, the United States makes no effort to hide it: it dispatched two officials, Victoria Nuland (deputy to John Kerry) and John McCain (who is not only a Republican senator, but also the chairman of IRI, the Republican branch of the NED ) to support the protesters. Unlike Libya and Syria, Washington does not have jihadists on hand to sow chaos (except for Tatar extremists, but they are only located in Crimea). It was therefore decided to lean on the Nazis with whom the State Department worked against the Soviets and has organized in political parties since independence.
The inexperienced reader may be taken aback by this alliance between the Obama administration and the Nazis. However, it must be remembered that Ukrainian Nazis were publicly honored at the White House by President Reagan, including Yaroslav Stetsko, Ukrainian Prime Minister under the Third Reich, who became the head of the anti-Bolshevik Bloc of Nations and a member of the World anti-Communist League . One of his deputies, Lev Dobriansky, became U.S. ambassador to the Bahamas, while his daughter Paula Dobriansky served as Under Secretary of State for Democracy (sic) during the George W. Bush administration. It is the same Ms. Dobriansky who for ten years sponsored a historical research with the aim of clouding the fact that the Holodomor, the famine that hit Ukraine in 1932-33, also devastated Russia and Kazakhstan, thereby reinforcing the myth that Stalin was determined to eliminate the Ukrainian people .
In fact, Washington, who had supported the German Nazi party until 1939 and continued to do business with Nazi Germany until the end of 1941, never had a moral problem with Nazism, not more than it has today in providing military support to jihadism in Syria.
Western European elites, who use Nazism as a pretext to harass firebrands – as seen with the „quenelle“ controversy over French comedien Dieudonné M’Bala M’Bala  – have forgotten what it really is. In 2005, they closed their eyes to the rehabilitation of Nazism by the President of Latvia, Vaira Vike-Freiberga, as if it were trivial . On the simple strength of statements in favor of the European Union, and wrapped up in their blissful Atlanticism, they now support their worst enemy. Civil war could start in Ukraine during the Olympic Games in Sochi.
Thierry Meyssan – French intellectual, founder and chairman of Voltaire Network and the Axis for Peace Conference. His columns specializing in international relations feature in daily newspapers and weekly magazines in Arabic, Spanish and Russian
 “Washington et Moscou se livrent bataille en Ukraine”, by Emilia Nazarenko and the editorial staff, Réseau Voltaire, 1 November 2004.
 “Jihadists in charge of crowd control in Kiev protests”, Translation Alizée Ville, Voltaire Network, 5 December 2013.
 This is the cesspool that the father of the “Orange revolution” alighted from. Cf. “La biographie cachée du père du président ukrainien”, Réseau Voltaire, 18 April 2008.
 “Coup in Western Ukraine: the Arab Spring unleashed in Europe”, by Andrew Korybko, Oriental Review/Voltaire Network, 27 January 2014.
 “La NED, vitrine légale de la CIA”, by Thierry Meyssan, Odnako/Réseau Voltaire, 6 October 2010.
 “La Ligue anti-communiste mondiale, une internationale du crime”, by Thierry Meyssan, Réseau Voltaire, 12 May 2004.
 See: L’Holodomor, nouvel avatar de l’anticommunisme « européen », by Professor Annie Lacroix-Riz, 2008.
 “The Bête Noire of the French Establishment”, by Diana Johnstone, Counterpunch/Voltaire Network, 5 January 2014.
 “Latvian President Rehabilitates Nazism”, by Thierry Meyssan, Voltaire Network, 16 March 2005.
Source: Voltaire Network
“Bias in favor of the orthodox is frequently mistaken for ‘objectivity’. Departures from this ideological orthodoxy are themselves dismissed as ideological.” – Michael Parenti
An exchange in January with Paul Farhi, Washington Post columnist, about coverage of US foreign policy:
Dear Mr. Farhi,
Now that you’ve done a study of al-Jazeera’s political bias in supporting Mohamed Morsi in Egypt, is it perhaps now time for a study of the US mass media’s bias on US foreign policy? And if you doubt the extent and depth of this bias, consider this:
There are more than 1,400 daily newspapers in the United States. Can you name a single paper, or a single TV network, that was unequivocally opposed to the American wars carried out against Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yugoslavia, Panama, Grenada, and Vietnam? Or even opposed to any two of these wars? How about one? In 1968, six years into the Vietnam war, the Boston Globe surveyed the editorial positions of 39 leading US papers concerning the war and found that “none advocated a pull-out”.
Now, can you name an American daily newspaper or TV network that more or less gives any support to any US government ODE (Officially Designated Enemy)? Like Hugo Chávez of Venezuela or his successor, Nicolás Maduro; Fidel or Raúl Castro of Cuba; Bashar al-Assad of Syria; Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran; Rafael Correa of Ecuador; or Evo Morales of Bolivia? I mean that presents the ODE’s point of view in a reasonably fair manner most of the time? Or any ODE of the recent past like Slobodan Milosevic of Serbia, Moammar Gaddafi of Libya, Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, or Jean-Bertrand Aristide of Haiti?
Who in the mainstream media supports Hamas of Gaza? Or Hezbollah of Lebanon? Who in the mainstream media is outspokenly critical of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians? And keeps his or her job?
Who in the mainstream media treats Julian Assange or Chelsea Manning as the heroes they are?
And this same mainstream media tell us that Cuba, Venezuela, Ecuador, et al. do not have a real opposition media.
The ideology of the American mainstream media is the belief that they don’t have any ideology; that they are instead what they call “objective”. I submit that there is something more important in journalism than objectivity. It is capturing the essence, or the truth, if you will, with the proper context and history. This can, as well, serve as “enlightenment”.
It’s been said that the political spectrum concerning US foreign policy in the America mainstream media “runs the gamut from A to B”.
Sincerely, William Blum, Washington, DC
(followed by some of my writing credentials)
Reply from Paul Farhi:
I think you’re conflating news coverage with editorial policy. They are not the same. What a newspaper advocates on its editorial page (the Vietnam example you cite) isn’t the same as what or how the story is covered in the news columns. News MAY have some advocacy in it, but it’s not supposed to, and not nearly as overt or blatant as an editorial or opinion column. Go back over all of your ODE examples and ask yourself if the news coverage was the same as the opinions about those ODEs. In most cases. I doubt it was.
Dear Mr. Farhi,
Thank you for your remarkably prompt answer.
Your point about the difference between news coverage and editorial policy is important, but the fact is, as a daily, and careful, reader of the Post for the past 20 years I can attest to the extensive bias in its foreign policy coverage in the areas I listed. Juan Ferrero in Latin America and Kathy Lally in the Mideast are but two prime examples. The bias, most commonly, is one of omission more than commission; which is to say it’s what they leave out that distorts the news more than any factual errors or out-and-out lies. My Anti-Empire Report contains many examples of these omissions, as well as some errors of commission.
Incidentally, since 1995 I have written dozens of letters to the Post pointing out errors in foreign-policy coverage. Not one has been printed.
Happy New Year
I present here an extreme example of bias by omission, in the entire American mainstream media: In my last report I wrote of the committee appointed by the president to study NSA abuses – Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies – which actually came up with a few unexpected recommendations in its report presented December 13, the most interesting of which perhaps are these two:
“Governments should not use surveillance to steal industry secrets to advantage their domestic industry.”
“Governments should not use their offensive cyber capabilities to change the amounts held in financial accounts or otherwise manipulate the financial systems.”
So what do we have here? The NSA being used to steal industrial secrets; nothing to do with fighting terrorism. And the NSA stealing money and otherwise sabotaging unnamed financial systems, which may also represent gaining industrial advantage for the United States.
Long-time readers of this report may have come to the realization that I’m not an ecstatic admirer of US foreign policy. But this stuff shocks even me. It’s the gross pettiness of “The World’s Only Superpower”.
A careful search of the extensive Lexis-Nexis database failed to turn up a single American mainstream media source, print or broadcast, that mentioned this revelation. I found it only on those websites which carried my report, plus three other sites: Techdirt, Lawfare, and Crikey (First Digital Media).
For another very interesting and extreme example of bias by omission, as well as commission, very typical of US foreign policy coverage in the mainstream media: First read the January 31, page one, Washington Post article making fun of socialism in Venezuela and Cuba.
Then read the response from two Americans who have spent a lot of time in Venezuela, are fluent in Spanish, and whose opinions about the article I solicited.
I lived in Chile during the 1972-73 period under Salvadore Allende and his Socialist Party. The conservative Chilean media’s sarcastic claims at the time about shortages and socialist incompetence were identical to what we’ve been seeing for years in the United States concerning Venezuela and Cuba. The Washington Post article on Venezuela referred to above could have been lifted out of Chile’s El Mercurio, 1973.
[Note to readers: Please do not send me the usual complaints about my using the name “America(n)” to refer to “The United States”. I find it to be a meaningless issue, if not plain silly.]
JFK, RFK, and some myths about US foreign policy
On April 30, 1964, five months after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, his brother, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, was interviewed by John B. Martin in one of a series of oral history sessions with RFK. Part of the interview appears in the book “JFK Conservative” by Ira Stoll, published three months ago. (pages 192-3)
RFK: The president … had a strong, overwhelming reason for being in Vietnam and that we should win the war in Vietnam.
MARTIN: What was the overwhelming reason?
RFK: Just the loss of all of Southeast Asia if you lost Vietnam. I think everybody was quite clear that the rest of Southeast Asia would fall.
MARTIN: What if it did?
RFK: Just have profound effects as far as our position throughout the world, and our position in a rather vital part of the world. Also it would affect what happened in India, of course, which in turn has an effect on the Middle East. Just as it would have, everybody felt, a very adverse effect. It would have an effect on Indonesia, hundred million population. All of those countries would be affected by the fall of Vietnam to the Communists.
MARTIN: There was never any consideration given to pulling out?
MARTIN: … The president was convinced that we had to keep, had to stay in there …
MARTIN: … And couldn’t lose it.
These remarks are rather instructive from several points of view:
- Robert Kennedy contradicts the many people who are convinced that, had he lived, JFK would have brought the US involvement in Vietnam to a fairly prompt end, instead of it continuing for ten more terrible years. The author, Stoll, quotes a few of these people. And these other statements are just as convincing as RFK’s statements presented here. And if that is not confusing enough, Stoll then quotes RFK himself in 1967 speaking unmistakably in support of the war.
It appears that we’ll never know with any kind of certainty what would have happened if JFK had not been assassinated, but I still go by his Cold War record in concluding that US foreign policy would have continued along its imperial, anti-communist path. In Kennedy’s short time in office the United States unleashed many different types of hostility, from attempts to overthrow governments and suppress political movements to assassination attempts against leaders and actual military combat; with one or more of these occurring in Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, British Guiana, Iraq, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Cuba and Brazil.
- “Just have profound effects as far as our position throughout the world, and our position in a rather vital part of the world.”
Ah yes, a vital part of the world. Has there ever been any part of the world, or any country, that the US has intervened in that was not vital? Vital to American interests? Vital to our national security? Of great strategic importance? Here’s President Carter in his 1980 State of the Union Address: “An attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America”.
“What a country calls its vital economic interests are not the things which enable its citizens to live, but the things which enable it to make war.” – Simone Weil (1909-1943), French philosopher
- If the US lost Vietnam “everybody was quite clear that the rest of Southeast Asia would fall.”
As I once wrote:
Thus it was that the worst of Washington’s fears had come to pass: All of Indochina – Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos – had fallen to the Communists. During the initial period of US involvement in Indochina in the 1950s, John Foster Dulles, Dwight Eisenhower and other American officials regularly issued doomsday pronouncements of the type known as the “Domino Theory”, warning that if Indochina should fall, other nations in Asia would topple over as well. In one instance, President Eisenhower listed no less than Taiwan, Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines and Indonesia amongst the anticipated “falling dominos”.
Such warnings were repeated periodically over the next decade by succeeding administrations and other supporters of US policy in Indochina as a key argument in defense of such policy. The fact that these ominous predictions turned out to have no basis in reality did not deter Washington officialdom from promulgating the same dogma up until the 1990s about almost each new world “trouble-spot”, testimony to their unshakable faith in the existence and inter-workings of the International Communist Conspiracy.
Suicide bombers have become an international tragedy. One can not sit in a restaurant or wait for a bus or go for a walk downtown, in Afghanistan or Pakistan or Iraq or Russia or Syria and elsewhere without fearing for one’s life from a person walking innocently by or a car that just quietly parked nearby. The Pentagon has been working for years to devise a means of countering this powerful weapon.
As far as we know, they haven’t come up with anything. So I’d like to suggest a possible solution. Go to the very source. Flood selected Islamic societies with this message: “There is no heavenly reward for dying a martyr. There are no 72 beautiful virgins waiting to reward you for giving your life for jihad. No virgins at all. No sex at all.”
Using every means of communication, from Facebook to skywriting, from billboards to television, plant the seed of doubt, perhaps the very first such seed the young men have ever experienced. As some wise anonymous soul once wrote:
A person is unambivalent only with regard to those few beliefs, attitudes and characteristics which are truly universal in his experience. Thus a man might believe that the world is flat without really being aware that he did so – if everyone in his society shared the assumption. The flatness of the world would be simply a “self-evident” fact. But if he once became conscious of thinking that the world is flat, he would be capable of conceiving that it might be otherwise. He might then be spurred to invent elaborate proofs of its flatness, but he would have lost the innocence of absolute and unambivalent belief.
We have to capture the minds of these suicide bombers. At the same time we can work on our own soldiers. Making them fully conscious of their belief, their precious belief, that their government means well, that they’re fighting for freedom and democracy, and for that thing called “American exceptionalism”. It could save them from committing their own form of suicide.
Most “NGOs” fomenting regime-changes and color-coded revolutions, promoting “pride marches” and similar “human rights issues,” are in reality Western (mostly U.S.) funded conspiracies pursuing the agenda of their paymasters. That much has been known for years, but in recent days we have witnessed a particularly egregious example of their politically-motivated duplicity.
On December 17 Egypt’s military-backed government filed additional criminal charges against former president Mohamed Morsi, accusing him of being a party to a major terrorist plot that involved killing demonstrators and leaking state secrets to Iran. The authorities described the case against Morsi and several of his close advisors as the biggest of its kind in Egyptian history. Prosecutors additionally accused the former Muslim Brotherhood leader of having made illegal arrangements with the Hezbollah in Iran, with Hamas in Gaza, and with extremists whose goal is to establish an Islamic emirate in Sinai. The scheme allegedly involved smuggling arms into the country and arranging for Brotherhood activists to obtain military training from Hamas in Gaza, Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Revolutionary Guards in Iran.
Human rights groups were quick to condemn the charges, calling them preposterous “because of their vast scale and complexity,” The New York Times reported a day later. “They are pretty fantastical, to say the least,” the NYT duly quoted one Sarah Leah Whitson, the North African Programs Director for Human Rights Watch, as saying of the accusations. “Through both legal processes and their control of the media, the government has been trying to generate this notion that the Muslim Brotherhood is a terrorist organization carrying out violent acts, with the absence of any evidence, and these charges really underscore the extent to which the government is focused on exterminating the Muslim Brotherhood as a political opposition. It is an all-out campaign to destroy it.” Two weeks earlier, the same HRW official complained that the military in Egypt was illegally holding members of Morsi’s government in secret locations.
By contrast, the arrest, trial, and sentencing of hundreds of Turkish military officers on dozens of far more preposterous charges in recent years has passed almost unnoticed in the Western media, and was barely commented upon by the “human rights community.” They were accused of involvement in the Ergenekon and Sledgehammer plots, dating back to 2003-4. The result was the largest show trial ever in the non-Communist world. The charges, too, were worthy of Moscow 1937.
The Sledgehammer plot, the government alleged, was a military conspiracy which should have included bombings of historic mosques in Istanbul, an attack on a museum, and the provocation of military tensions with neighboring Greece, including air attacks on Greek islands by Turkish planes. Such acts of terrorism and outright military aggression were supposedly designed to plunge Turkey into utter chaos and provide an opportunity for the military to step in and remove the Islamist AKP government from power.
The Sledgehammer was connected to the earlier Ergenekon conspiracy, supposedly the Mother of All Plots, the mega-conspiracy in which the “Deep State”—a shadowy coalition of senior military officers, the intelligence services, the judiciary, and organized crime—allegedly planned terrorist attacks to foment unrest, also leading to a military takeover. Arch-secular nationalists, the prosecutors said, had been in bed with the Maoist PKK, the extreme-left Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party, the Islamist Hizbullah and Milli Görüþ, the ultranationalist Turkish Revenge Brigades, the Turkish Workers’ and Peasants’ Liberation Army, and the Marxist-Leninist Communist Party of Turkey.
Prime Minister Erdogan and other AKP leaders provided political support for the prosecutions. There were countless inconsistencies in the accusations, however. Dozens of entities—hospitals, NGOs, companies, and even military units—were referred to by names or acronyms which they acquired many years after the dates cited, in some cases as late as August 2009. The Ergenekon and Sledgehammer cases were no “cases” at all, but a brazen attempt by the AKP regime to neutralize Turkey’s once-powerful military once and for all. The government’s specific objective was to discredit the officer corps, and thus facilitate the abolition of the Army’s traditional role as the guardian of the country’s secular political system.
In 2012, after what amounted to a show trial, over 300 of the 365 “Sledgehammer” suspects were sentenced to prison terms, and 34 suspects were acquitted. (The case is being appealed.) On 5 August 2013, final verdicts were announced in the Ergenekon case. A dozen “consecutive” or “aggravated” life sentences were passed, as well as over two hundred lengthy prison sentences. Only 21 of the 275 defendants were acquitted. All told, 640 were charged, 55 acquitted—impressive even by Soviet standards.
In view of its concern for Morsi and his cohorts, the reaction from Human Rights Watch to the spectacle in Turkey could not have been more different. In 2009, with the trial just starting, it announced that the Ergenekon case “gives Turkey a chance to make clear that it will hold security forces accountable for abuse, but that can only happen if the investigation follows the evidence wherever—and to whomever—it leads.” It did not comment on the course of the trial or the sentences. Remarkably, it did not comment on the “Sledgehammer Case” charges, trial, or sentences at all.
As for The New York Times, last August 6 it commented that “the Ergenekon trial played an important role in efforts to lay to rest a history of military meddling in democratic politics. Much of Turkey’s modern history has been dominated by a secularist military-bureaucratic alliance that regularly derailed the democratic process when confronted with governments or political movements that threatened its political control.” “Some saw the trial as no more than a witch hunt by the governing A.K.P. against its political opponents,” it noted curtly, and added, in sorrow more than anger, that an opportunity was missed “to prove those critics wrong by ensuring a scrupulous commitment to fairness throughout the process.”
As it happens, the Open Society Foundation—belonging to that noted philanthropist George Soros—is the primary donor of the Human Rights Watch, contributing $100 million of $128 million of contributions and grants received by the HRW in the 2011 financial year. And The New York Times is the flagship of America’s journalism.
Damascus – It is Winter Solstice in the Levant. This is the day which astronomically marks the reversal of the gradual lengthening of nights and shortening of days—a day which, since ancient times, has been celebrated with festivals, gatherings, rituals, feasting, singing, dancing and bonfires. Historically it has been viewed as a significant annual event because communities were not certain of living through the winter and had to prepare during the previous nine months for dramatic rises in starvation, communicable diseases, and infant deaths due to hypothermia. For this reason, and because such deaths were particularly common, the first months of winter became known as “the famine months” in the northern hemisphere.
Preparing for a tough next few months is what the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) is doing these days, and the UN specialized agency is working in the face of daunting odds. UNWRA was founded in 1949, and for more than 60 years it has been plagued by harassments, intimidation, and countless conspiracies to close it down, efforts waged by the international Zionist lobby and designed to “put it out of its misery” as Prime Minister Netanyahu recently demanded from the US Congress.
UNRWA has a regional headquarters in Beirut, opposite the Shatila Camp, and one in Damascus, on Mezzah Boulevard, where this observer is a regular visitor these days and where talk often inevitably centers upon the grim link between the Syrian crisis and the conditions of over half a million Palestinian refugees living in 57 UNRWA camps. Other major concerns for UNRWA are the nearly one million Syrian refugees fleeing the civil war, as well as the more than one million refugees in Gaza suffering from climatic conditions exacerbated by the brutal Zionist occupation of Palestine.
The UNRWA Syria Regional Crisis Response Plan for 2014, published this week, sets out the agency’s hoped-for projects to strengthen the resilience of Palestine refugees, and to help them weather the current dangers of frigid temperatures and lack of heat and sanitation. This winter solstice the outlook for Palestine refugees from Syria is increasingly bleak in Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt, as communities, livelihoods, assets and support networks, painstakingly built over decades, are being destroyed.
Displacement among Palestinians is proportionally much higher than that of Syrians, and the threats to safe refuge in Syria, combined with severely restricted options for flight, has confronted Palestine refugees with unprecedented challenges. UNRWA emergency assistance is normally delivered as part of its well-established programs in health, education, community development, microfinance, relief, youth training and employment. Delivered by Palestinian staff, this support is a critical cornerstone, fostering resilience and continuity for both communities and families, in the face of growing hardship. Of the 540,000 Palestine refugees registered with UNRWA in Syria, about 270,000 are displaced within the country, and an estimated 85,000 have fled. Fifty-one thousand of these have reached Lebanon, 11,000 have identified themselves in Jordan, 5,000 are in Egypt, and smaller numbers have reached Gaza, Turkey and farther afield. Those who have managed to land in Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt face risky legal limbos compounded with living conditions so difficult that many decide to return to the dangers of Syria.
Financial support to UNRWA has not kept pace with an increased demand for services caused by expanding need, deepening poverty, and the growing numbers of registered refugees. As a result, the agency’s general fund, which supports UNRWA’s core activities and is 97 percent reliant on voluntary contributions, begins each year with a large projected deficit. UNRWA officials cite an immediate need for US$417.4 million to respond adequately to the needs of Palestinian refugees in Syria; US$90.4 million for those in Lebanon; and US$14.6 for the ones in Jordan. An additional US$2.4 million is required for emergency response needs outside the purview of the UNRWA’s field offices, including token cash assistance for Palestinian families from Syria in Gaza.
Winter storm Alexa, the fiercest storm to hit Gaza and the West Bank in over 100 years, is still wreaking havoc and bringing misery to thousands. As of 12/19/13, some 40,000 people in Gaza have been driven from their homes due to extreme flooding. The situation has been exacerbated by the fuel crisis that has left people without power for up to 21 hours a day and forced raw sewage to flow through the streets. People’s lives and health are at grave risk. Gaza’s Hamas government said 4,306 in all had been evacuated to schools and other centers used as makeshift shelters in the past four days. The strip’s 1.8 million people, trying to survive in one of the most densely populated tracts on earth, have also endured blackouts of around 12 hours a day since the lone power plant was switched off last month due to a fuel shortage. The territory lacks much basic civil infrastructure and lives under an Egyptian-Israeli blockade curbing imports of fuel, building supplies and basic goods. Moreover, reports from UNRWA staff indicate that conditions are worsening due to severe Israeli restrictions on the camps. For instance, emergency responders cannot reconnect power lines downed due to the heavy snow, and the populace has little access to basic necessities such as running water. The crisis is deepening, and the problems are similar in virtually all of the vulnerable refugee camps. People face severe power outages, while some in the West Bank also face systematic attacks by the Israeli army.
Other problems weighing heavily on UNWRA include strikes and threats of strikes by UNWRA employees protesting claimed low wages. Dismay has also been expressed at what is widely perceived as the UNRWA’s weak humanitarian role in Gaza, where normal, day-to-day problems are compounded by the blockade and, most recently, the flood. The workers’ union at the UN agency for Palestinian refugees in Gaza continued protests this week, calling for salary increases. One Hamas official has accused UNRWA officials of receiving exorbitant salaries, charging that the agency at the same time is not up to the tasks it is assigned to do. UNWRA officials who this observer spoke with denied this, but declined any information about any UNWRA salaries.
Like many aid agencies working in Syria, the UNRWA continues to lose staff. UNRWA teacher Suzan Ghazazweh, a popular and accomplished teacher at the Abbasyyeh School in Muzeirib, was killed by shrapnel when a shell struck her home on December 2, 2013. She is the tenth UNRWA staffer killed in Syria.
Enter Professor Alan Dershowitz!
Adding to UNWRA’s myriad problems is the fact that Professor Alan Dershowitz for some reason chose this winter solstice to retire after 46 years on the job at the Harvard Law School. Within hours, if he has not already done so, Alan will depart Harvard’s hallowed halls to devote more time to his current central cause, one which arguably poses his most difficult challenge—“saving Israel from itself and from UNWRA!” as he told a Harvard Crimson stringer on background recently.
The past few years Professor Dershowitz, apparently wanting to make a strong impression on his new students, would start off the beginning of semester classes by offering them his essential view of the law. During the first or second class meeting he reportedly often made references to some of the 13 out of 15 major cases he “won” for the likes of Mike Tyson, Patty Hearst, Jim Bakker, Claus von Bulow and O. J. Simpson to name a few. He would explain to his classes:
“All my big cases I won on a legal technicality! Those cases were lost causes. Otherwise, why would these clients come to me? The first thing to remember as you continue your legal studies is to forget what the law says or even what the facts of a case are! American appellate courts will decide the facts and the law of a case based on what the best advocate says they are. That’s why I win!”
To one public international law class Professor Dershowitz is reported to have sneered, “And you can forget about claims of human rights based on international law and universal standards of morality. You’ll never win s— with that malarkey.”
As he begins preparation for his “legitimization case” on behalf of the last remaining 19th century colonial enterprise—the Zionist theft and continuing illegal occupation of Palestine—Alan, some associates claim, plans to come out swinging against the UNRWA. Throughout his teaching career, Dershowitz has been a loyal supporter, and some say main instigator, of AIPAC. Little surprise, then, that he has joined the Zionist Lobby’s more than two decades of attacks on the UNRWA, seeking to have the agency’s funding cut off. But until now, he has not been “lead attorney of record.”
One source who meets with Professor Dershowitz from time to time in Washington claims that Alan insists that UNWRA is another one of Israel’s growing number of existential threats, this because the UN agency “keeps the Palestinian refugee issue alive and allows human rights types to keep the issue of wrongful dispossession of their homes and land before the global community and with no end in sight.”
Though he makes regular trips to Israel, Alan doesn’t come around Lebanon or Syria much, and frankly this observer has only met him a couple of times. He claims to have a photographic memory and maybe that is why he doesn’t seem to cotton much to this observer. Perhaps he remembers, and even holds a grudge of some kind, from our first meeting more than a quarter century ago. On that day, Alan came to see me in my Congressional House Judiciary office in the Rayburn building. I am not sure who referred him, but only an hour earlier, my boss, Congressman John Conyers, Chairman of Subcommittee on Criminal Justice, called to give me a last minute assignment. It was simple enough, and I had done it before. Congressman Conyers wanted me to escort a visiting judicial official from another country, in this case the chief justice from Egypt’s highest court, across the lawn from Rayburn for a meeting at the Supreme Court with our CJ, Warren Burger. An easy enough assignment it was, because Burger invariably was pleasant, with a southern style aura of gentility about him, but fifteen minutes before the Egyptian CJ was due to join me, an intense, smallish, fast-talking guy shows up, announces he is from the Harvard Law School, and must join “the Egyptian” during his meeting with Burger. Frankly it did not matter much to me one way or the other, but I did call my supervisor, Hayden Gregory, for advice. Basically his reply was, “Not a chance! No way!” Only later did I learn Alan had rubbed Hayden the wrong way over proposed “federal determinate sentencing guidelines,” an issue before our committee at the time.
Long story short, Alan would not take no for an answer. When I made it clear he was not invited and could not join the meeting he became angry and stormed off.
He may still remember, but with me it was not personal, and in any event all this is by way of saying that UNWRA had better baton down its hatches because they have more problems coming their way than they realize or are ready for.
Al Zahera neighborhood, south Damascus…
This brief update is not focused on the ever deteriorating grave conditions of Palestinians and Syrians displaced and often trapped inside dangerous areas in Damascus, where this observer had been visiting some of the 24 former Damascus public schools currently being used as shelters.
Rather it seeks to highlight the esprit de corps, solidarity, resistance, and good will among Palestinians here is Damascus who were forced from Yarmouk and other camps and how they are huddled and preparing for a harsh winter which one senses these frigid nights is not far off.
This is not to gainsay that every shelter is a very fragile social existence for Internally Displaced Persons (IDP’s) as aid agencies here refer to them. In the former schools there is no mazot (fuel oil) currently available to fire-up the furnaces and the among the needs at all the shelters are for “high-thermal” blankets, food, medicines winters clothe and shoes and knitted caps for the kids trekking early in the morning to government schools in the neighborhoods.
Thanks to the continuing cooperation between the Syrian government, particularly the Ministry of Education (MOE), and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) many former public schools have been made available as emergency shelters. Additionally, the MOE has created double shift in many schools offering youngster a 7 a.m. to noon shift followed by a noon to 5 p.m. shift.
Prior to the armed conflict in Syria, Yarmouk, a suburb just south of Damascus city, was home to over 160,000 Palestine refugees. In December 2012 and in the months since, armed conflict has caused at least 140,000 Palestine refugees to flee their homes in Yarmouk, as armed opposition groups established a presence in the area, with government forces controlling the periphery. Between December 2012 and June 2013, civilians could still access UNRWA assistance at the Zahera entrance to Yarmouk. However, from mid-July 2013, Palestine thousands of refugees have been trapped in the area, with little or no access to shops or freedom of movement.
At among the 4 school-shelters in south Damascus near Yarmouk camp and the 8 in the nearby neighbored of al-Vvahra, some of which this observer visited, “The Fayadeen” elementary public school currently houses 56 families- half of them Palestinians totaling 260 people. At “Fayadeen” there is a clean large make-shift kitchen where
approximately half a dozen families use at one time based on a schedule. The Syrian government and some NGO often deliver emergency food packages—most designed to feed a family of five for 15 days. “Fayadeeen” school also has a heavy duty Italian electric washing machine donated by a Palestinian businessman and which is shared by all. There is a high level of sanitation and sheds housing toilet are clean. Three times a week medical teams arrive to administer free government health care. US sanctions have cut off some urgently needed medicines, particularly for cancer patients and cases where weekly doses of medicines are required but often only monthly doses are now available. Shelter rules are enforced. For example, if a family does not enroll their 6-15 year old children in local public schools they are evicted. This observer was briefed at length and shown around by two Syrian professions basketball players on the National team, Hani and Mohamad who have placed their careers and family life on hold to manage four school shelters in a south Damascus.
Several Palestinians in the school shelters have been asking this observer if he has news about their countrymen still trapped inside Yarmouk. There is of increasing concern because their families report that desperately needed humanitarian assistance is still not able to be not delivered nor have repeatedly promised “humanitarian corridors” opened, This despite and despite UNRWA’s numerous appeals and efforts, 32,000 Palestinian civilians and others who remain trapped in Yarmouk have had little or no freedom of movement or access to humanitarian assistance and in addition to facing death and serious injury from the armed conflict, Yarmouk’s civilian residents are exposed to psychological trauma, malnutrition and a lack of health care. The UN Security Council’s Presidential Statement on the humanitarian situation on Syria adopted on 2 October, 2013, among other stipulations called on all parties to grant full humanitarian access and “to comply with their obligations under international humanitarian law.”
Hope among the more than 100,000 refugees displaced from Yarmouk camp rises and sinks with on again off again announcements that militia will leave the camp to civilian Palestinian administration. Just this week a claimed settlement involving intense negotiation mediated by the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) to end the fighting in Yarmouk camp suffered collapsed, after opposition fighters close to Hamas insisted that they be included among the groups that will subsequently manage the affairs of the camp. PLO officials had recently arrived at a preliminary agreement with the various Palestinian factions and opposition armed groups that would lead to a ceasefire but excluded Hamas and the PFLP-General Command led by Ahmed Jabril. Within 72 hours another and still showing life signs, another proposal was announced on 11/22/13. Under the terms of this “agreement”
Palestinian Popular Struggle Front Khaled Abdul Majid , that “the armed groups in the Yarmouk camp aka the“Palestinian Resistance Alliance factions” would be withdrawing from the camp “very soon”. In statements to Al-Watan, Abdul Majid said: “What is happening in Yarmouk is that most of the armed factions have reestablished contact with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – The General Command, as well as the factions of the Palestine Resistance Alliance, after the initiative of the Palestine Liberation Organization (to solve the camp’s crisis) failed. These factions thus expressed their willingness to regulate their situation, handle the issue and withdraw from the camp.” He continued that the discussions with these groups were conducted via mediators, or in some cases through contacts with some of them.
This observer has witnessed the fact that since 11/17/13 almost complete calm has been prevailing over Yarmouk. Services teams from the Palestine Aid Committee have been cleaning the camp’s streets and removing the dirt mounds. This observer has been invited inside Yarmouk to witness this process. Government permission is required and date of entrance is not fixed.
Some refugees from Yarmouk are hopeful but during interviews the past two days most expressed doubt that this latest initiative will succeed any more than the previous dozen. The coming few days will provide the answer.
Palpable fear is also evident because of the fast approaching winter with rumors of severe cold this year, A condition that will be much more severe among the 250 camps in the nearby Lebanese Bekaa valley particularly for the 25 plastic wall and roof make-shift tents in 25 emergency refugee camps that are particularly flood-prone and shared by Syrian and Palestinian refugees.
Our brother and sisters keeper…
Hopefully subsequent updates on the Palestinian condition in Syra will allow for rather more detail regarding many examples of Palestinians helping Palestinians regarding community assistance to their sisters and brothers. But a brief example about a wonderful family is fixed in this observers mind.
It relates to the Khalid al Jrahi family from Haifa now living in “Taher al Jazari” public school shelter. Mr. al Jrahi granted permission to this observer to use his name publicly because he wants friends and relatives with whom he has lost contact since the events of December 17, 2013 which leveled some of his neighborhood in Yarmouk, to know that his family is alive and relatively well.
What a spectacular family. Including five teen-aged and early 20’s girls and two boys. What deeply impressed this observer is the esprit among these sisters, their charisma, charm and dedication to helping others among the approximately 260 refugees sharing the school while eschewing complaints about the own plight. The Al Jrahi family lives in a space probably ten feet wide and 20 feet long. Foam mattresses are neatly stacked along the walls and pillows and clothing stacked in the corners. A clothes line runs along one side of the room which is walled by an UNHCR white and blue lettered plastic tarp separating their neighbors. Shocking? Yes, but inspiring certainly. The girls, whose English is quite good explained why and how they set up a school for pre-K’s in this and one other shelter. How organized it is. They showed me the ‘teaching manual’ they wrote and explained how they run their schools with occasionally donated pencils and crayons and notebooks for thee tots donated by a Palestinian NGO’s or even foreign visitors.
We did not discuss politics but two of the sisters reminded me of Jane Austen’s character Eleanor and Marianne in Sense and Sensibility. Hala is the sensible and reserved eldest of al Jrahi family daughters. She is in charge of the lesson plans for the informal ‘sisters schools’ in the shelter and carefully instructs her younger impetuous Zeina on school rules for the children, trying to keep her attention and her younger sister focused. Hala showed this observer her English grammar notes that she in learning from a tattered UNWRA grammar book. She points to her perfect cursive hand written notes and asks me about “present participles”, “dangling modifiers” and “past perfect tense”! When I last even heard these terms it was half a century ago and I have no idea what the even mean– if I ever did which is questionable.
Her younger sister Zeina is all Austen’s character Marianne, and refuses to check her emotions and dramatically insists that she is ready to return to Yarmouk “despite the dangers even if I am killed going back home!” Her mother Fatima grimaces and Hala is disapproving when Zeina insists that she should teach the children dancing in the street outside the closed in-shelter as well as tree climbing so they “can properly express themselves under the sky.”
Rather wistful and not wanting to leave this family or the shelter, this observer and his companion left the wonderful Al Jrahi family wondering if Ms. Sense or Ms. Sensibility would triumph or if these two remarkable sisters in fact constituted a good balance to one another as they serve their fellow countrymen in emergency shelters.
On July 3, President Mohamed Morsi was ousted. Coup authority replaced him. It did illegitimately. His supporters want him reinstated. They’ve been camped out in Cairo for weeks. SCAF threatened to roust them.
Tensions remained high. Morsi supporters have been repeatedly attacked. Hundreds died earlier. Many others were injured. Scores are imprisoned. Arrests follow regularly.
Ahead of Wednesday’s action, Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy said:
“Law and order has to be in place, and people need to have access to their homes and work and so on.”
“Ultimately, this situation has to be resolved very soon.” He claimed efforts to end sit-ins would be “consistent with the law.” He lied saying so. More on that below.
Interim President Adly Mansour convened an emergency National Security Council meeting. Top SCAF and civilian officials attended.
Crackdowns were planned. Muslim Brotherhood officials urged Morsi supporters to join sit-ins. They called on Egyptian security forces to remain nonviolent, saying:
“We remind our sons and brothers from the great Egyptian army and the men of the Interior Ministry to not attack their peaceful brothers or besiege them or shed their blood.”
Morsi’s under house arrest. He’s at an unknown location. State agency Mena said he’s charged with conspiring with Hamas, killing prisoners and officers “deliberately with prior intent,” kidnapping officers and soldiers, spying, attacking public buildings, and setting fire to Wadi el-Natroun prison.
It claimed doing so helped him escape. During 2011 anti-Mubarak protests, he and other Muslim Brotherhood members were arrested and detained. Morsi said local residents freed them.
Ahead of Wednesday’s crackdown, SCAF threatened to “turn its guns” on pro-Morsi supporters, saying:
“We will not initiate any move, but will definitely react harshly against any calls for violence or black terrorism from Brotherhood leaders or their supporters.”
Its officials warned of civil war. What follows Wednesday’s crackdown remains to be seen.
On August 14, AP headlined “Egypt police storm 2 Pro-Morsi Camps in Cairo,” saying:
“Egyptian security forces, backed by armored cars and bulldozers, swept in Wednesday to clear two sit-in camps of supporters of the country’s ousted President Mohammed Morsi, showering protesters with tear gas as the sound of gunfire rang out at both sites.”
Numbers killed and injured aren’t confirmed. Muslim Brotherhood (MB) spokesman Walid Al-Haddad said 600. Another 9,000 were wounded, he added. Scores were arrested.
Another MB spokesman, Gehad El-Haddad claimed up to 2,000 killed and 10,000 injured. Intensive gunfire was heard. Official reports downplay numbers. Bodies were taken to makeshift morgues.
Senior MB leader Mohammed el-Beltagy estimated 300 deaths. He called on police and military forces to rebel. He urged Egyptians to protest publicly, saying:
“Oh, Egyptian people, your brothers are in the square. Are you going to remain silent until the genocide is completed?”
Hours later he was arrested. Witnesses said security forces used live fire on Morsi supporters. EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton’s spokesman, Michael Mann, said:
“The reports of deaths and injuries are extremely worrying. We reiterate that violence won’t lead to any solution, and we urge the Egyptian authorities to proceed with utmost restraint.”
Most EU countries are NATO members. Belligerence and other forms of violence are official policy. Ashton’s concern for Egyptian lives lacks credibility.
She, other EU leaders and Washington don’t give a damn about SCAF ruthlessness. They care plenty about it making world headlines.
They want reports of state-sponsored violence suppressed. They want business as usual continued. They want it out of sight and mind abroad.
They want Israeli interests addressed. They include destroying Gaza’s tunnel economy, keeping Rafah crossing closed, and joint IDF/SCAF attacks on Sinai-based pro-Morsi Islamists.
Days earlier, SCAF promised to roust Morsi supporters. Around 7AM, they acted. Clashes occurred in Cairo, Alexandria, Suez, Aswan, Assiut, Minya, and other cities nationwide.
By mid-morning, state television said security forces finished breaking up Cairo sit-ins. Bulldozers began clearing makeshift camps.
Major roads into Cairo are blocked. Railway authority officials said trains in and out of the city were stopped. So are others serving major cities nationwide. It’s “for security reasons to prevent people from mobilizing,” they said.
Egypt’s Interior Ministry said security forces have “total control” over Nahda Square. “Police forces removed most tents.”
Access to the area was blocked. Egypt’s major state daily Al Ahram said the interim government warned “it would react sternly to acts of sabotage and attacks against state institutions.”
An official statement said:
“In accordance with government instructions to take necessary measures towards the sit-ins at Rabaa Al-Adawiya and Nahda, and for the safety of the country, security forces started taking measures to disperse the sit-ins early Wednesday.”
“The government insists on moving forward with the future roadmap in a way that guarantees that no faction will be excluded from participating in the political process which will achieve a democratic transition.”
It bears repeating. Egypt’s no democracy. Junta power rules. Appointed President Adly Mansour and other interim officials serve at its pleasure.
Events are fast moving. Egypt’s central bank ordered commercial banks to close branches in conflict areas. Some had power shut off.
The Ministry of Antiquities ordered Giza Pyramids closed to visitors. Cairo’s Egyptian museum was closed. MB officials are charged with inciting violence and/or conspiring to kill protesters.
MB’s London office said:
“The world cannot sit back and watch while innocent men, women and children are being indiscriminately slaughtered. The world must stand up to the military junta’s crime before it is too late.”
Egypt’s a tinderbox. Cairo’s a virtual war zone. Ousting Morsi along with unaddressed major grievances has millions nationwide enraged.
Blaming victims is policy. Egypt’s government made baseless accusations, saying:
“The government holds (MB) leaders fully responsible for any spilt blood, and for all the rioting and violence going on.”
Egypt’s Interior Ministry claimed it intercepted phone calls calling on supporters to attack police stations. Planned assaults were foiled, it added.
MB officials were arrested. Al-Azhar Grand Imam Ahmed el-Tayeb urged restraint. He did so on state television. He opposed Morsi. He backed his ouster. He comments lack credibility.
Clashes erupted across Egypt. Minya, Assiut and Sohag Christian Coptic Churches were torched.
In Bani Suef south of Cairo, police cars were set ablaze. Clashes threaten to continue.
Interim President Mansour said diplomacy ended. SCAF gloves are off. Egyptian security forces are notoriously hardline.
Ahead of Wednesday’s crackdown, Robert Fisk asked:
“Why does the Egyptian crisis appear so simple to our political leaders yet so complicated when you actually turn up in Cairo?”
State media create “fantasies.” They claim SCAF “follow(ed) the will of the people” ousting Morsi. They exaggerated opposition crowds. They called them “the largest political demonstration(s) in history.”
Numbers reported suggested over half the adult working age population turned out. Unlike early 2011, “the country kept running.”
John Kerry claimed SCAF intervened to restore democracy. “Thank God for the Egyptian army,” Fisk added. He did so with tongue in cheek.
Le Monde’s Alain Gresh headlined his latest article “Shadow of the army over Egypt’s revolution,” saying:
The Muslim Brotherhood “faced a destabilisation campaign by the former regime, with the dissolution of the elected parliament, the police refusing to maintain public order and protect its premises (significantly the interior minister was reinstated in office after 30 June), and the courts acquitting former Mubarak officials.”
Media pluralism didn’t follow Morsi’s ouster, said Gresh. Some TV stations were banned. Journalists were arrested.
Ruling officials are hostile to critical foreign media. Interim leaders maintain “a ministry of information.” Doing so’s not a good sign.
State media ignore pro-Morsi demonstrations. Hundreds of thousands participate nationwide.
“A textbook example is the coverage of the repression of a sit-in organised by the Brotherhood on 8 July outside the headquarters of the Republican Guard, during which at least 50 people were killed,” said Gresh.
“Army spokesman Colonel Ahmed Mohammed Ali told the Associated Press: ‘What excessive force? It would have been excessive if we killed 300.’ ”
“The English-language website Madamasr has posted damning witness statements, especially one by a cameraman working for an opposition television station, which showed images of soldiers shooting at the crowd, for no reason.”
Interim President Mansour has links to the Mubarak regime and Saudi Arabia. He worked there for over a decade.
He published a constitutional declaration. It gives him full executive and legislative powers for six months. It does so ahead of elections.
Egypt’s government is dominated by neoliberal hardliners. They force-feed austerity on millions of poor people. They have added pain in mind. Doing so risks turning a tinderbox into a raging inferno.
Observers wonder “whether Egypt will ever see pluralist elections again, now that its first democratically elected president has been overthrown,” said Gresh.
Mansour and other interim officials remain silent about MB repression. Ignoring it means support.
Mohamed ElBaradei’s an apparent exception. He resigned saying:
“(T)he beneficiaries of what happened today are those who call for violence, terrorism and the most extreme groups.”
“It has become difficult for me to continue bearing responsibility for decisions that I do not agree with and whose consequences I fear. I cannot bear the responsibility for one drop of blood.”
ElBaradei wants to be Egypt’s president. Perhaps he believes resigning now makes it possible later. Allying with state-sponsored repression assures rejection.
Gresh wonders what’s next for Egypt. “How long will it be before people are put on trial for having demanded Mubarak’s resignation in 2011,” he asked?
“Perhaps the aim is to provoke the Brotherhood into resorting to violence, so as to allow a reinstatement of the state of emergency in the name of the war on terror.”
“Or the excuse may be the instability of the Sinai region, which predates Morsi.”
All sides vying for power and influence must “learn from their failures.” They must “abandon their secretive culture.”
Shutting MB and other Islamists out risks “pushing them on to a radical path that could cost Egypt dear(ly),” Gresh concluded.
On Wednesday, a state of emergency was declared. Martial law’s in effect. Major city 7:00PM – 6:00AM curfews were imposed. It’s effective until further notice.
MB supporters won’t back down. They pledged to die rather than quit. One Morsi protester perhaps spoke for others, saying:
“We don’t care about death. We believe in one thing. When your time to die comes, you will die.”
“So will you die as a courageous martyr, or as a coward? That’s the point: we want to die as martyrs.”
They want Morsi reinstitated. Civil war’s possible follow. MB spokesman Gehad El-Haddad twittered:
“8 hours of mass killings & not a single sane person in Egypt or in world 2 stop this!! Over 2,000 killed and & over 10,000 injured & world watches.”
Egypt’s a virtual war zone. Anything ahead is possible.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at email@example.com.
His new book is titled “Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity.”
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.
No Shame on Pennsylvania Ave…
Beirut — Fatou Bom Bensouda, the Gambian-born deputy prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), was never Washington’s first choice to succeed the inveterately self-promoting elitist ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo.
And it is doubtful that key Obama administration officials have changed their minds this week given Ms. Bensouda’s impassioned invitation on 6/27/13 to Palestine, urging its accession to the Rome Statute and the ICC, the former signed and ratified, as of this month, by 122 states with 31 additional countries, including Russia, having signed with ratification pending in their legislatures.
Visiting Al Jalil UNWRA high school across from Shatila camp here in Beirut recently, this observer was asked several questions by students and staff and the most frequent inquiry, which came as no surprise, concerned why the Lebanese government, even those who claim to support the Palestinian cause, still have not acted in Parliament to grant Palestinian refugees the same elementary civil right to work and to own a home that every refugee everywhere, even in Zionist occupied Palestine, have long enjoyed.
The second most commonly asked question, did surprise me a bit and it was why the Palestinian leaders in Ramallah have not joined the International Criminal Court (ICC) in order to challenge the criminal, apartheid regime in occupied Tel Aviv and hold it accountable under international humanitarian law for crimes against Palestinian prisoners and more than a dozen equally brutal campaigns that target the indigenous population increasingly being condemned internationally.
From my time visiting Al Jalil School, it became clear that the students and faculty want their country, Palestine, to join the ICC. One is advised that this sentiment is the same in all 54 Palestinian refugees’ schools in Lebanon and this insistence mirrors virtually all Palestinian, camps, groups and NGO’s with whom I have discussed the subject.
The new ICC Prosecutor Bensouda is also encouraging Palestine to join the International Criminal Court, as she prepares for the cases that are likely to be filed with the ICC in the coming months. Addressing this week’s Transitional Justice and International Justice the Arab World conference, she declared that her office believes Palestine qualifies to join the ICC after the UN General Assembly voted to admit Palestine as a non-member state last November.
The ICC prosecutor’s office is rumored in The Hague to be particularly impassioned and focused on those areas in which their chief, Ms. Bensouda, has particular international legal expertise. With the main area being international crimes comprising the category of continuous crimes against humanity, which, arguably, since 1948, have been most egregiously committed by the last 19th century colonial enterprise that still brutally occupies Palestine.
Prosecutor Bensouda and her ICC staff is reported to be particularly intent on investigating continuing violations of basic humanitarian principles, standards and rules and both have spoken about the case of Palestinian Maysara Abu Hamdiyeh, a cancer-sufferer who died in Israeli custody on 6/25/13 after the Israeli government rejected repeated international calls and protests for his release. This, even as its officials conceded that Mr. Abu Hamidiyeh was no threat to society and could likely be successfully treated if allowed medical treatment for his life threatening condition. One ICC investigator, who asked for anonymity, stated that she and her colleagues considered the actions of the Netanyahu government with respect to the Abu Hamidiyeh, and similar cases, to be “sick!”
The White House and its allies are not pleased by prospects for an eventful next few years at the ICC. What have particularly unnerved outgoing UN Ambassador, Susan Rice and Israeli PM Netanyahu, are the 5/23/13 comments of Ms. Bensouda during the 38th FIDH Congress in Istanbul which celebrated the 15th anniversary of the Rome Statute which created the ICC.
“Gone are the days when those who commit international crimes, could be cleansed of their atrocities through a mere hand shake and a scribble of their initials on a piece of paper which purports to bind them to conditions that they have no intention of ever observing.” She added: “My challenge is to consolidate what has been achieved, to build on from it, and to answer victims’ calls for justice. That is the promise made in Rome and that is the promise we cannot fail to fulfill”.
One the several “going out the door” comments Ms. Rice made on cleaning out her UN office on her way to become President Obama’s National Security Adviser, was basically a reiteration of her livid expressions made following last fall’s UN General Assembly vote giving Palestine its new international status. When asked if she considered the UN vote a repudiation of the Obama administration and her personally, Ms. Rice scolded:
“That resolution is not going to take them closer to statehood, or to the ICC! It may actually make the environment more difficult for them and public references to the “State of Palestine” do not make it a sovereign state. Any reference to the ‘State of Palestine’ in the United Nations, including the use of the term ‘State of Palestine’ on the placard in the Security Council or the use of the term ‘State of Palestine’ in the invitation do not reflect acquiescence that ‘Palestine’ is a state,” she said.
It may be recalled that in a letter addressed to the Secretary-General of the United Nations and the President of the UN Security Council immediately following the 11/29/12 General Assembly vote, the permanent UN observer of Palestine reiterated his delegation’s position that ”all Israeli settlement activities are illegal, constituting grave breaches of article 49 (6) of the Fourth Geneva Convention and thus constituting war crimes, as further determined in accordance with article 8 (2) (b) (viii) of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. Israel, the occupying Power, must be held accountable for all of the war crimes it is committing against the Palestinian people.”
This letter was cited by the most recent UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) report of February 2013, which also found Israel, as an occupying power, in violation of Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention for ”transferring parts of its civilian population into territory that it occupies.”
Adding to all its currents problems, is this week’s announcement that President Obama’s “favorite general,” Retired Gen. James “Hoss” Cartwright will likely cause yet more serious problems for the administration when details of his suspected leaks of information about a covert U.S.-Israeli cyber-attack on the Islamic Republic of Iran’s nuclear program, for which he is expected to soon be arrested and indicted. Coming on the heels of the Edward Snowden’s NSA leaks case, Washington is said to have no patience whatsoever, for Palestine making more problems and opening an ICC Pandora’s box.
Ramallah is being flooded with threats this month from Middle East envoy, Tony Blair, US Secretary of State, John Kerry, now on his 5th visit to the Middle East in as many months, Jordan’s King Hussein and reportedly, several others. The message for Mahmoud Abbas is that the Palestinian Authority risks a cut-off of funds and US dis-engagement from any “peace process” as well as the scrapping of the rumored “mega economic & development package” which Kerry aids are currently finalizing, if Palestine goes anywhere near the International Criminal Court.
It’s a tough call for President Mahmoud Abbas and his supporters because Hamas wants Palestine to immediately file cases against Israel at the ICC and so it appears, do a large majority of Palestinians, in Lebanon and internationally.
Many Lebanese and Syrian supporters of this regions Resistance culture, increasingly led by Hezbollah, are chastising, for a number of reasons, their former Islamist ally Hamas. Pillorying them with accusations that the latter are ingrates who are creating a host of problems for Hezbollah and its support for the Syrian regime, during the continuing crisis. Unnecessary problems, it is frequently asserted, that inure to the benefit of their mutual arch enemies, the Zionist colonizers of Palestine and their American and Arab enablers.
An outsider living near the center of the security zone in Dahiyeh, South Beirut, including this observer, hears from friends and neighbors both sides of this rancorous ‘domestic argument’. Having respect for, and being a supporter of both, one feels a bit awkward– rather like a good friend of a married couple, who are engaged in an increasingly acrimonious marital spat.
While sympathetic to each friends seemingly legitimate complaints with the other, one does not want to take sides for a few reasons with one being the risk of appearing disloyal to mutual friends and alienating perhaps both while being labeled a weak charactered “friend betrayer.”
Yet one cannot disagree with the Palestinian community in both Syria and Lebanon who repeatedly assert that they want to stay neutral in the Syrian crisis, whick appears unlikely to end anytime soon. Palestinian refugees, who have manifold problems in Palestine as well as Syria and Lebanon, want to stay sidelined from internecine conflicts and focus on trying to survive and staying focused on confronting their only enemies, those being the ones who stole and are still living on their land and villages.
Some supporters of Hezbollah and the Palestine Resistance seek to avoid exhibiting dirty laundry to public view, but given the voracious craving of media outlets linked to various local parties and foreign sponsors, there is much pressure and opportunity to condemn each side by broadcasting, some real but many illusory, Hezbollah-Palestinian cross border conflicts. This mutually destructive phenomenon is becoming commonplace and appears to be spreading.
Hezbollah’s local Palestinian problem started to form in the spring of 2011 as the Syrian crisis quickly gained momentum. Some Palestinians joined the rebels and nearly 28 months into the maelstrom, unknown numbers continue fighting the Assad government. But the numbers do appear to this observer to be a tiny fraction of the unemployed, discouraged Palestinian youth, facing a bleak future because they are bared by Lebanese law from even the most elementary civil rights to work or to own a home. Some have succumbed to the allure of $ 200 per month, free cigarettes, and an AK-47 and have joined one the literally hundreds of militias operating in Syria with affiliated jihadists currently scoping out and probing Lebanon.
Some point out those Palestinian refugees in Syria should not be seen as betraying those who have helped them most. This includes the undeniable fact that Palestinian refugees in Syria have been granted by its government, for more than six decades, rights to education, medical care, housing, employment, even with the government, as well as preferential treatment in many instances. In addition, Syria has granted them identity and travel documents, on a basis that no other Arab League country has ever granted them. This despite decades of Arab potentates blathering interminably about supporting the ‘bloodstream and sacred cause of Palestine.”
So there is festering resentment among some when certain media blare that Palestinian groups such as Hamas, are with the rebels and are insisting that Hezbollah fighters not enter Syria under any pretext. Hamas stands accused of closing their Damascus offices, accepting a $ 400 million grant from Syria’s nemesis Qatar, and of joining the US-Israel axis by harming their own people as well as undermining the Resistance to the Zionist regime in the process. Certain other Palestinians in camps such as Yarmouk in Syria and Shatila in Lebanon tacitly accuse Hamas of abandoning the Palestinian cause and misguidedly sparking sectarian strife with Hezbollah. Others argue just the opposite and blame Hezbollah.
Some Palestinians are also said to be carrying guns for the Saida, Lebanon based, Salafist cleric Sheikh Ahmed al-Asir, the imam of Sidon’s Bilal bin Rabah Mosque, while supporting his anti-Hezbollah-Assad regime movement which is trying to unite Sunnis, who make up roughly 85% of the world’s Muslim population, to eliminate Shia Muslims.
Syrian government forces claim that Hamas has even trained Syrian rebels in the manufacture and use of home-made rockets. Some Hezbollah fighters go further and complain that they taught Hamas many of their battlefield skills and they turned around and used their fighting skills and IED’s against Hezbollah forces in al-Qusayr and are preparing to do the same, with larger numbers, in the coming battle for Aleppo, Syria’s largest city.
Many supporters of Hezbollah believe Hamas and some other Palestinian factions were being needlessly provocative when a few officials issued an unusual admonishment of Hezbollah on 6/17/13, calling on their ally and mentor of more than 20 years to direct its firepower at Israel and demanding that it withdraw from Syria. “We demand of Hezbollah to withdraw its forces from Syria and call on it to leave its weapons directed only at the Zionist enemy,” read a statement allegedly from Hamas, posted on the Facebook page of its deputy political leader Moussa Abu Marzouq.
Despite its withdrawal from Syria in early 2012, Hamas, as an Islamic organization as opposed to some of its individual members and a few officials, has been wary of publicly criticizing Hezbollah for its military support of the Assad regime. On 6/5/13, the London-based daily Al-Quds Al-Araby reported that a schism existed within Hamas regarding its attitude toward Hezbollah. Hamas’s military wing, the Izz Ad-Din Al-Qassam Brigades, reportedly endorsed the alliance with the Syria-Hezbollah axis, while its political leadership opposed it. Some have questioned the accuracy of this report.
Other more petty accusations have been made by some Hezbollah supporters, for example that Hamas and perhaps others had prevented some Palestinian camp residents in Ein el Helwe and Jalil camp near Baalbek, from burning refugee aid packages provided by Hezbollah for Syrian and Palestinians forced to flee Syria. The reasons cited were that the Palestinians felt they could not, given moral Islamic values, accept “blood” gifts, even of much needed food.
This observer met with some Palestinian leaders from different factions and is satisfied by their explanations that this was not the case. Hezbollah has given emergency aid to all the Palestinian camps. What happened with the symbolic burning of a few parcels was entirely politically motivated and organized by certain salafists in Saida and a few troublemakers from the pro-Saudi/US factions, including rump elements from the so-called pro-western March 14 alliance. That issue has now been resolved by Palestinian popular committees and the Hezbollah donors and hopefully will not recur.
Some Hezbollah partisans complain that certain Palestinian factions have circulated rumors in the media accusing the Resistance of wrongdoing and thereby are in effect collaborating with the US and Israel to divide and weaken the National Lebanese Resistance.
Yet additional criticism of certain Palestinian factions, specifically Hamas, relates to the nature and future of the movement’s relationship with the state of Qatar which is accused of essentially appointed itself godfather of all the Islamist and Muslim Brotherhood movements in the region. According to some criticism, Hamas’s change of stands has caused the movement to lose the credibility and popularity that it once enjoyed from diaspora Palestinians and the Arabs.
The Palestinians’ Hezbollah Problem
Revisiting the “marital spat” analogy, some of the accusations against certain Palestinians mirror those made against Hezbollah.
Some Lebanese analysts and some camp Palestinians have warned that Hezbollah’s foray into Syria is fueling a Sunni-Shiite polarization that threatens to feed extremism on both sides and catapult the conflict to the wider region
Syrian opposition groups reported on 5/30/13 that Hezbollah had ordered Hamas’s representative in Beirut, Ali Baraka, to leave the country immediately over Hamas’s public support for Syrian rebels fighting Assad. Baraka denied the report, telling Lebanese media and his neighbors there was no change in the relationship between the two organizations. Baraka’s assessment may be a bit understating the reality, but it is not too late to fix this problem. As of today, this observer’s kitchen balcony overlooks over the Hamas office in central Haret Hreik and it is clear that the Hamas office is still functioning.
The Hamas disagreement with Hezbollah still stands but both parties have agreed to discuss it by holding a series of meetings. In response to a question on this subject, former Foreign Ministry undersecretary in the ousted government in Gaza Ahmad Youssef, pointed out that Hamas needs and very much wants the support of all the powers and sides in the region to face the colonial Zionist implantation, what some refer to as “the 9th Crusade.” Youssef explained: “We needed and still need Iran and Hezbollah. However, the movement’s position is that this behavior had damaged the relations which we wanted to be close and strong with the party.” Next month, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abass will reportedly visit Lebanon to meet with Palestinians who fled Syria for Lebanon as is expected to attempt a Hamas-Hezbollah Musalaha or reconciliation.
The Resistance to the Zionist colony has multiple pillars two key ones of which are Hezbollah and the Palestine National Movement, which itself is becoming international, given that world opinion increasingly opposes the illegitimate apartheid regime still clinging to occupy Palestine. Both of these powerful forces as well as a growing number of others, including hundreds of militia now fighting in Syria, share one, if not other, common objective which must not be squandered by relatively soluble problems. And that bond is the shared reason d’etre to liberate every inch of occupied Palestine from the river to the sea and to return-by all means necessary. They share a moral, religious duty to struggle until victory in achieving the full right to return for the rightful indigenous inhabitants and their off-spring, from the 531 Palestinian villages that were ethnically cleansed 65 years ago. It is latter who, post liberation, who will decide, based on one person one vote without religious preferences, for all Jews and Arabs who choose to live in peace, how best to rebuild and administer Palestine on the basis of absolute equality before the law.
Neither Hezbollah or certain Palestinians now fighting each other in Syria, and god-forbid soon in Lebanon if the US-Israeli is successful in achieving this project which both are investing in, need the 2-cents worth of advice from this foreign observer.
But surely most from each camp will agree that this is not the time for Hezbollah and the Palestinians to use their over stretched resources to right perceived wrongs claimed to have been inflicted by the other. There will be time enough to discuss that, if either group is still feeling unjustly wronged, after Palestine is freed from its racist colonial yoke.
Obama Is Making Us De Facto Allies Of Al-Qaida…
Thursday, while he was ringing in Gay Pride Month with LGBT revelers, a staffer, Ben Rhodes, informed the White House press that U.S. weapons will be going to the Syrian rebels.
For two years Obama has stayed out of this sectarian-civil war that has consumed 90,000 lives. Why is he going in now?
The White House claims it now has proof Bashar Assad used sarin gas to kill 100-150 people, thus crossing a “red line” Obama had set down as a “game changer.” Defied, his credibility challenged, he had to do something.
Yet Assad’s alleged use of sarin to justify U.S. intervention seems less like our reason for getting into this war than our excuse.
For the White House decided to intervene weeks ago, before the use of sarin was confirmed. And why would Assad have used only tiny traces? Where is the photographic evidence of the disfigured dead?
What proof have we the rebels did not fabricate the use of sarin or use it themselves to get the gullible Americans to fight their war?
Yet, why would President Obama, whose proud boast is that he will have extricated us from the Afghan and Iraq wars, as Dwight Eisenhower did from the Korean War, plunge us into a new war?
He has been under severe political and foreign pressure to do something after Assad and Hezbollah recaptured the strategic town of Qusair and began preparing to recapture Aleppo, the largest city.
Should Assad succeed, it would mean a decisive defeat for the rebels and their backers: the Turks, Saudis and Qataris. And it would mean a geostrategic victory for Iran, Hezbollah and Russia, who have proven themselves reliable allies.
To prevent this defeat and humiliation, we are now going to ship arms and ammunition to keep the rebels going and in control of enough territory to negotiate a peace that will remove Assad.
We are going to make this a fair fight.
What is wrong with this strategy? It is the policy of an amateur. It treats war like a game. It ignores the lessons of history. And, as it continues a bloodbath with no prospect of an end to it, it is immoral.
In every great civil war of modernity — the Russian civil war of 1919-1921, the Spanish civil war of 1936-1939, the Chinese civil war of 1945-49, one side triumphs and takes power.
The other loses and lives with the consequences — defeat, death, exile.
What is the likely reaction to our escalation from humanitarian aid to military aid? Counter-escalation. Russia, Iran and Hezbollah are likely to rush in more weapons and troops to accelerate the progress of Assad’s army before the American weapons arrive.
And if they raise and call, what does Obama do?
Already, a clamor is being heard from our clients in the Middle East and Congress to crater Syria’s runways with cruise missiles, to send heavy weapons to the rebels, to destroy Assad’s air force on the ground, to bomb his antiaircraft sites.
All of these are acts of war. Yet under the Constitution, Congress alone authorizes war.
When did Congress authorize Obama to take us to war in Syria? Where does our imperial president get his authority to draw red lines and attack countries that cross them?
Have we ceased to be a republic? Has Congress become a mere spectator to presidential decisions on war and peace?
As Vladimir Putin seems less the reluctant warrior, what do we do if Moscow answers the U.S. escalation by delivering on its contract to provide A-300 antiaircraft missiles to Damascus, which can cover half of Israel?
Obama has put us on the escalator to a war already spilling over Syria’s borders into Turkey, Lebanon, Iraq and Jordan, a war that is now sundering the entire Middle East along Sunni and Shia lines.
He is making us de facto allies of the Al-Qaida-like al-Nusra Front, of Hamas and jihadists from all across the region, and of the Muslim Brotherhood. Egypt’s President Mohammed Morsi just severed ties to Syria and is demanding a “no-fly zone,” which one imagines the United States, not the Egyptian air force, would have to enforce.
Our elites shed tears over the 90,000 dead in Syria. But what we are about to do will not stop the killing, but simply lengthen the duration of the war and increase the numbers of dead and wounded.
At the top of this escalator our country has begun to ascend is not just a proxy war with Iran in Syria, but a real war that would entail a disaster for the world economy.
If the ouster of Assad is what the Sunni powers of Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Egypt demand, why not let them do it?
Anti-interventionists should demand a roll-call vote in Congress on whether Obama has the authority to take us into this Syrian war.
Patrick J. Buchanan is the author of “Suicide of a Superpower: Will America Survive to 2025?” To find out more about Patrick Buchanan and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com.
This article was originally published at Creators
Hundreds of Turkish police officers backed by armored cars moved in on Istanbul’s Taksim Square early Tuesday morning and reclaimed the site after pulling out on June 1. By midday bulldozers had removed barricades of paving stones and corrugated iron. The crackdown surprised protesters, hundreds of whom had been sleeping in a makeshift camp in the adjoining Gezi Park. Some threw stones and incendiary devices in response, but the authorities are now in control of the focal point of Turkey’s most widespread anti-government protests in decades. Prior to the police action the protests appeared to be diminishing, with fewer demonstrators gathering in Taksim on Monday night than at any time since the unrest started on May 31.
That the unrest is abating has been evident from the muted reaction of the markets. In recent days the lira registered a modest decline, reaching the October 2011 level against its dollar/euro basket, but this may be seen as good news for Turkey’s export-oriented economy. The cost of insuring Turkish debt against default rose slightly but not alarmingly: it the same now as in August of last year, well below crisis levels.
A further sign of government confidence is the continuing clampdown on the Turkish army top brass. On June 6 a criminal court in Ankara approved an indictment filed by the prosecutor’s office under which 102 retired officers (76 of whom are in prison) will be tried for allegedly staging the military coup in 1997. Right now there are 450 active and retired officers accused of either toppling former governments, or making plans to unseat the current government. As The Daily Zaman’s columnist Lale Kemal noted the other day, this raises the issue of the state of the morale of the Turkish Armed Forces at a sensitive time.
In the early days of unrest, street protests in Turkey were compared in the Western media to the misnamed “Arab Spring.” The comparison was inaccurate: no regime change was on the cards, no foreign money and logistics were in evidence, and outside a few hotspots in Istanbul, Ankara, and a few other cities Turkey’s life went on as usual. The government remained firmly in control of the state apparatus, the police proved obedient, and the army—already purged of hundreds of senior officers and no longer a significant political factor—stayed silent.
Prime Minister Rejep Tayyip Erdogan’s decade-old, increasingly personal rule is being challenged, but that challenge comes from unexpected quarters: from his fellow religious conservatives who resent his authoritarian style and arrogance.
There are many influential Turks of Islamist persuasion—both within and outside the ruling AKP (Justice and Development Party)—who are increasingly disenchanted with Erdogan. They have not been adverse to the drift away from secularism at home and to the assertive pursuit of neo-Ottomanism abroad, but they believe that the power of “the Sultan” (as Erdogan is known among his friends and foes alike) needs to be curtailed. While they do not identify with the values and aspirations of the secular and liberal urban middle class which has provided the backbone of protests, some religious conservatives see recent unrest as an opportunity to persuade the “Sultan” that he needs to listen to the neglected pashas and viziers.
For the first time since he became prime minister 11 years ago, some AKP-friendly media outlets have started to criticize Erdogan, following his near-paranoid reaction to the demonstrations. His calling protesters looters, drunks, marauders, extremists, and foreign agents, his ominous hints that his “patience is running out,” and his calls for counter-rallies by his supporters have not played well with Turkey’s more cautious conservatives, especially in the business community, who see his combative style as counterproductive. They are uncomfortable with Erdogan’s portrayal of the protest as a struggle between the “white Turks” (non-religious, upper-class, urban elites) versus the ‘black Turks’ (socially conservative, lower-middle and working class Sunnis from Anatolia). Even in his hitherto reliable power base in the Anatolian heartland, President Abdullah Gul—Erdogan’s long-time ally—is now mentioned as someone who could pursue the long-term AKP project of de-Kemalizing Turkey with greater caution and tact.
The real test will come later this year, when Erdogan will try to change the constitution and inaugurate an authoritarian presidential system. On June 6 Foreign Affairs published an interesting article by Halil Karaveli which aptly summarized the “Sultan’s” problem: “Erdogan’s own party members sense the changing tide. Indeed, even before the protests, there was widespread uneasiness within the AKP ranks. Most AKP parliamentarians had little enthusiasm for Erdogan’s plan to change the constitution and introduce an executive presidency. His scheme would have concentrated all power into the hands of a supreme leader, a position that Erdogan covets, basically neutering all other government officials.”
There is unease with Erdogan in Washington, too. Nobody in the U.S. Administration wants a regime change in Ankara, but some old Turkish hands advocate more strongly worded criticism of Erdogan’s methods as a means of reining him in. His switch from neutrality to support for the rebellion in Syria a year ago was welcomed in Washington, but his continuing public advocacy of intervention is becoming wearisome in view of Bashar’s recent battlefield successes. His open support for Hamas in the Palestinian Authority, and his close links with the putative Kurdish statelet in northern Iraq, are also deemed problematic in Washington—not to mention his strident criticism of Israel, which has decisively turned Israel’s friends on the Hill against him.
The protesters cannot threaten the overall architecture of Turkish politics because the majority of Turks are in agreement with the dual policy of de-secularization of the state and capitalist-based growth. That growth has been impressive, almost on par with China after Deng, but it has not dampened political and cultural tensions. There is an inherent discrepancy at work between the Islamic stamp on the country’s cultural and political scene which Erdogan has imposed, and the deepening gap between Turkey’s haves and the have-nots which the decade of prosperity has produced. The AKP-connected new oligarchs, in many ways similar to their uncouth Russian and East European counterparts, are Erdogan’s creation. Thanks to their party political affiliations they have profited from massive government-financed construction projects—like the proposed redevelopment at Taksim that triggered off the protests two weeks ago. To a devout yet poor, unemployed or underemployed Turk, increasing social stratification is incompatible with Erdogan’s advocacy of Islamic moral and social values which are deeply egalitarian. The losers in the process of Turkey’s transition in the villages generally do not oppose further de-secularization, but their loyalty to Erdogan personally should no longer be taken for granted.
Erdogan is in trouble because the harmless Istanbul protests showed him to be an intransigent autocrat and his rivals within the establishment sense his weakness. Having scored his third consecutive election victory in 2011, Erdogan focused on empowering his core constituency through a crony capitalism. He also pushed through a series of measures for state enforcement of conservative religious mores, like banning Turkish Airways flight attendants from wearing red lipstick and restricting the sale and consumption of alcohol, which even his supporters see as unnecessarily divisive and potentially destabilizing. Abroad, they feel that he has overplayed his hand on Syria. Most Turks, AKP supporters and Kemalists alike, are opposed to Erdogan’s support for the Syrian rebels and advocacy of foreign intervention, which is perceived as an “American,” rather than “Turkish” policy. By overplaying his hand on Syria, Erdogan has forfeited his hoped-for role as the leader of the Islamic Greater Middle East. His foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu’s policy of “zero problems with all neighbors” has failed, not only in Syria, but also vis-à-vis Iraq and Iran, both of which support Bashar.
A powerful Sunni imam, Fethullah Gülen, may decide Erdogan’s political future. Little-known in the West—although he has lived in self-imposed exile in rural Pennsylvania for years—Gulen controls a global empire of media outlets (including Turkey’s top circulation daily), charities, businesses and schools now known simply as Hizmet (“The Service”). Shortly after the military coup in 1997, the army leaders started a purge of the movement. Gülen went abroad, was tried in absentia for seeking to overthrow Turkey’s secular order, but he was cleared in 2006, after Erdogan came to power. His is by far the most powerful religiously-based movement in Turkey, described as the country’s third power, alongside Erdogan’s increasingly authoritarian AKP and Turkey’s decreasingly influential military. “While the group is often described as ‘shadowy’ or ‘mysterious,’ this is inaccurate,” according to journalist Claire Belinski, based in Istanbul. “Quite a bit is known about it. Its behavior is both observable and predictable.”
Having supported Erdogan’s rise to power in 2002, Gülen was able to expand his network within the political establishment. The two men had a strategic partnership at first, with Gülen providing the AKP with votes while Erdogan protected the “cemaat,” as the former’s network is known. Already by 2004 one-fifth of the AKP’s members of parliament were members of the Gülen movement, including the justice and culture ministers. In 2006, former police chief Adil Serdar Sacan estimated that the “Fethullahcis” held more than 80 percent of senior positions in the Turkish police force. As we noted in these pages last August, for all his philanthropic pretenses Gülen controls a fundamentalist sect calling for a New Islamic Age based on the “Turkish-Islamic Synthesis.” By now it is all-pervasive, with many rich businessmen, judges and senior civil servants donating an average of 10 percent of their income to thecemaat.
Gülen now feels strong enough to engineer Erdogan’s comeuppance that will not disrupt the regime while increasing the power of his followers. The rift between Erdogan (a fellow imam) and Gülen is now in the open. Speaking in the U.S. last week, the latter effectively blamed Erdogan for the protests: “Are the ones at fault those who were unconcerned, who underestimated [the protest] by labeling it as ‘this and that’? … If innocent people are killed, if some are choked with gas bombs and if some are blind enough not to see this, the fire could rage.” Shortly before the protests erupted Gülen warned against the arrogance of power, saying “even if a person is a believer, they can morally be a pharaoh… He may always look at people from on high, telling them ‘stay in your place’.”
Gülen seems to think that the power structure will not be unduly strained if Erdogan is weakened or even replaced. The army has been neutered and there is no strong leader in the ranks of secularists and liberals. The protesters have unwittingly aided Fethullahcis, ominously Stalinist in their steady march through Turkey’s institutions, against Erdogan’s Trotsky-like zeal for rapid re-Islamization.
Beirut — A number of analysts and security experts who specialize in intelligence and security subjects in Lebanon and France have expressed this week shock at the way many Western authorities, including several in Europe and the United States, are avoiding engagement with the Syrian authorities and thus missing important avenues to help end the crisis in Syria.
This dismay follows increasing evidence of the grave dangers now threatening to turn Syria into a main operations base for anti-Western and anti-sectarian international jihadist groups and organizations. Some specialists spoke to “Afrique Asie” recently and expressed surprise and concern that authorities in the United States and Europe are deliberately ignoring the daily warnings sent out by intelligence and security organizationsin those countries including the Intelligence Community in the US with is comprised of the 16 American intelligence organizations , also referred to as “elements”. These are the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA),United States Department of Defense, Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), National Security Agency (NSA),National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA),National Reconnaissance Office (NRO),Air Force Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Agency (AFISRA),Army Intelligence and Security Command(INSCOM),Marine Corps Intelligence Activity (MCIA), Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI), United States Department of Energy , Office of Intelligence and Counterintelligence (OICI), United States Department of Homeland Security, Office of Intelligence and Analysis (I&A),Coast Guard Intelligence (CGI),United States Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI),Drug Enforcement Administration, Office of National Security Intelligence (DEA/ONSI),United States Department of State, Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR), United States Department of the Treasury, and the Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence (TFI).
One of France’s leading experts on terrorism, who visited Libya and Syria after the start of the turbulences, concluded:
“It is understandable that the that authorities in the United States and Europe are deliberately exploiting the Syrian revolution to punish President Bashar Al-Assad for his policies of siding with Iran and supporting organizations, such as Hamas and Hezbollah, that pose threats on Israeli security. However, the real strangeness lies in the fact that those nations are continuing to provide support, weaponry, military training and funding to the Syrian opposition and the media, with their knowledge that the class dominating the armed Syrian opposition is that of Al-Nusra terrorists who are closely affiliated with Al-Qaeda.”
Discussing the reasons preventing those authorities from changing their stance, the acknowledge expert concluded that Western political authorities, including the White House, believe that the Salafist movement’s attacks can be controlled through countries such as Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Hitherto, the relationship with Bashar Al-Assad has proven his independence as well as his adherence to the policies that bound him to Iran and other anti-Israeli organizations. However, French, European and American security officials perceive this differently.
Most Western intelligence apparatuses sounded out their danger sirens pointing to the necessity of cooperating with Syrian security authorities. This is because the Syrian intelligence is still considered the most effective party facing Salafist movements in the Middle East, and the Syrian army is fighting “terrorist/jihadists” on a daily basis. In this context, the Syrian intelligence never lost the penetrations it had into Al-Qaeda and other Syria-based Salafist movements as part of it work of planning to neutralize future terrorist attacks. To this end, Syrian intelligence committed substantial resources and senior officers in pursuit of international terrorists who are currently based in Syria, but who are laying the groundwork for terrorist attacks soon to be executed in European capitals.
While the United States and its Western allies are offering military, media, financial and political aid to thearmed opposition in Syria, allied with Al-Qaeda and like movements, the Syrian intelligence continues to fight against terrorism on behalf of the world, but with no assistance from countries whose interests and people they are work to protect.
One expert posed a rhetorical question, “Imagine that an assassination as big as that of the “Crisis Cell” officers in Syria was executed during the time when we discovered that among the victims was one of the most cooperative Syrian people with the French intelligence services in the fight against terrorism. And what have we done to protect it? Nothing.” However, as the Syrian story puts it, the Americans might well have been involved with his assassination.
In addition to the death of the “Crisis Cell” officers, in July of 2012, in a complex security operation widely believed to have been executed by the Syrian opposition, Western authorities are in pursuit of Syrians officers who helped save the lives of thousands of French and other Europeans over the past years. It is worthy to note here that one of those officers was wounded and almost killed while he was defending Western embassies under attack by” terrorists.”
When the scholar was asked whom he meant by this and replied: “It is obvious Colonel Hafez Makhlouf, the competent expert in combating Salafist terrorism who currently resides in Syria. It was through the efforts of officer Makhlouf that the Syrian authorities captured a number of terrorist cells, and thus, thwarted major operations that were being prepared for execution in Europe in general, and specifically in France.”
For his part, the security expert and former Lebanese Army General Elias Farhat, argued recently that security operations targeting senior Syrian officers do not only affect Syrian security, but are undermine operations for weakening international security and strengthening terrorists around the world. This is because the Syrian role is viewed even by the US Intelligence Community as being effective in fighting “international terrorism”, and had it not been for the cooperation the Syrians provided to Western security services, “terrorist organizations” would have succeeded in many attacks on European capitals.
Regarding the impact of sanctions imposed by the United States and Europe on the Syrian officers for global security, General Farhat argued that what is incomprehensible is the self-targeting process today being carried out by Western powers because what they are doing with the Syrian security authorities is similar to refusing any help offered to save them from the monster of “terrorism.”
According to the Lebanese General, “Western authorities are providing enormous support for the armedopposition in Syria and they continue targeting senior Syrian officers, with sanctions, as well as planning and executing assassinations against the very peoples who helped save the lives of many Europeans. By doing so inlight of the internal security crisis in Syria, these authorities are curbing all future prospects for Syriancooperation.”
Indeed, Maj. Gen. Ali Mamlouk, who was largely responsible for security cooperation to combat international terrorism between the Syrians and the West in the past decade, was subject to the sanctions imposed by the United States and Europe. In addition, the “Crisis Cell” operation, which participated in the assassination ofagents who were undoubtedly related to the West, resulted in the death of a number of Syrian officers who were responsible for some key security cooperation between Syria and the West. The West is killing and sanctioning many of those who provide it with help.
Walid Zeitouni, a former Lebanese Army General and an intelligence and extremist movements specialist, claims that imposing sanctions on Syrian Generals and senior security officers by the United States and Europe “is suicide carried out by Western governments. These sanctions can only be categorized under stupidity, forthe assassination of the members of the most prominent cell in Syrian security was indisputably executed by Western intelligence agents. Moreover, imposing sanctions on Colonel Hafez Makhlouf came simultaneous to him achieving a lot of security accomplishments not only in favor of Syria, but also for the benefit of international security and that of the West in particular.
The West killing senior Syrian intelligence officers who are some of the key individuals fighting terrorists who are enemies of the West while claiming to fight terrorism while they are taking measures to intensify political, economic, security and media pressure on Syria and its officers and leaders, is self-destructive for these countries.
It is these Syrians are considered among the most effective forces combating global terrorism. While Al-Qaeda and the West are working hand-in-hand in their fight the Syrian army, the West is also busy conspiring against Syria, while engaging in, and aspiring for, the formulation of yet more sanctions against the population of Syria in order to achieve a purely politically motivated regime change. These sanctions are in fact resulting in the rise to power of fundamentalist groups promoting terrorism.
Moreover, there is no benefit for Europe in such a policy, as it targets those who offer help by killing some of their officers, imposing sanctions on others, and aspiring to transfer others to the International Criminal Court. Those being punished are the same people helping fight terrorism on behalf of the world – as with the cases of Colonel Hafez Makhlouf, Maj. Gen. Ali Mamlouk, and the officers of the “Crisis Cell”.
In both the Makhlouf and Mamlouk’s cases, both were blacklisted and sanctions were imposed on them by the United States and Europe, preparatory to transferring them to the International Criminal Court. However, this did not detour either gentleman from continuing to combat terrorist organizations funded by the West to fight President Bashar Al-Assad’s regime.
These organizations are working in parallel and currently are planning terrorist and security attacks in Western capitals, despite the fact that a number of Western and Jordanian officers have repeatedly certified that Colonel Makhlouf achieved numerous successes in the field of security, especially in the fight against international terrorism. Makhlouf’s efforts resulted in saving the lives of many Westerners who were targeted in their home towns by Al-Qaeda’s assets in Syria who operate a planning center. Makhlouf also arrested a number of senior terrorists in Damascus who confessed to planning for operations that were halted through the information offered by the Syrians to the West via intermediary security organizations in the Middle East. When the French requested that the cooperation with the Syrians be restored, their request was turned down, pending the French governments ending its fighting alongside the terrorists in Syria.
Brigadier-General Mahmoud Matar, who was involved in person during the Cold War in a Lebanese-Western security operation that led to foiling a Russian KGB operation to steal a Mirage Airplane from Lebanon to Russia, told “Afrique Asie”:
“It is unfortunate that the extensive presence of Western security agents in Syria is serving the aim to fight the opponents of terrorism, which is wrong. However, I expect that the West would conduct a comprehensive review of its policy in Syria, and that security cooperation between the West and President Bashar Al-Assad’s regime be restored, since the situation is now even worse for the West than it is for Syria.”
This is one subjects that is reportedly being analyzed by the by US Intelligence Community. It is to be hoped that Washington and Brussels listen and act appropriately. If so they will avoid a steep price for their currently flawed policy.
What I have noticed is that whenever a stunning episode occurs, such as 9/11 or the Boston Marathon bombing, most everyone whether on the right or left goes along with the government’s explanation, because they can hook their agenda to the government’s account.
The leftwing likes the official stories of Muslims creating terrorist mayhem in America, because it proves their blowback theory and satisfies them that the dispossessed and oppressed can fight back against imperialism.
The patriotic rightwing likes the official story, because it proves America is attacked for its goodness or because terrorists were allowed in by immigration authorities and nurtured by welfare, or because the government, which can’t do anything right, ignored plentiful warnings.
Whatever the government says, no matter how problematical, the official story gets its traction from its compatibility with existing predispositions and agendas.
In such a country, truth has no relevance. Only agendas are important.
A person can see this everywhere. I could write volumes illustrating how agenda-driven writers across the spectrum will support the most improbable government stories despite the absence of any evidence simply because the government’s line can be used to support their agendas.
For example, a conservative writer in the June issue of Chronicles uses the government’s story about the alleged Boston Marathon bombers, Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, to argue against immigration, amnesty for illegals, and political asylum for Muslims. He writes: “Even the most high-tech security systems imaginable will inevitably fail as they are overwhelmed by a flood of often hostile and dangerous immigrants.”
The writer accepts all of the improbable government statements as proof that the brothers were guilty. The wounded brother who was unable to respond to the boat owner who discovered him and had to be put on life support somehow managed to write a confession on the inside of the boat.
As soon as the authorities have the brother locked up in a hospital on life support, “unnamed officials” and “authorities who remain anonymous” are planting the story in the media that the suspect is signing written confessions of his guilt while on life support. No one has seen any of these written confessions. But we know that they exist, because the government and media say so.
The conservative writer knows that Dzhokhar is guilty because he is Muslim and a Chechen. Therefore, it does not occur to the writer to wonder about the agenda of the unnamed sources who are busy at work creating belief in the brothers’ guilt. This insures that no juror would dare vote for acquittal and have to explain it to family and friends. Innocent until proven guilty in a court has been thrown out the window. This should disturb the conservative writer, but doesn’t.
The conservative writer sees Chechen ethnicity as an indication of guilt even though the brothers grew up in the US as normal Americans, because Chechens are “engaged in anti-Russian jihad.” But Chechens have no reason for hostility against the US. As evidence indicates, Washington supports the Chechens in their conflict with Russia. By supporting Chechen terrorism, Washington violates all of the laws that it ruthlessly applies to compassionate Americans who give donations to Palestinian charities that Washington alleges are run by Hamas, a Washington-declared terrorist organization.
It doesn’t occur to the conservative writer that something is amiss when martial law is established over one of America’s main cities and its metropolitan area, 10,000 heavily armed troops are put on the streets with tanks, and citizens are ordered out of their homes with their hands over their heads, all of this just to search for one wounded 19-year old suspect. Instead the writer blames the “surveillance state” on “the inevitable consequences of suicidal liberalism” which has embraced “the oldest sin in the world: rebellion against authority.” The writer is so pleased to use the government’s story line as a way of indulging the conservative’s romance with authority and striking a blow at liberalism that he does not notice that he has lined up against the Founding Fathers who signed the Declaration of Independence and rebelled against authority.
I could just as easily have used a left-wing writer to illustrate the point that improbable explanations are acceptable if they fit with predispositions and can be employed in behalf of an agenda.
Think about it. Do you not think that it is extraordinary that the only investigations we have of such events as 9/11 and the Boston Marathon bombing are private investigations, such as this investigation of the backpacks: http://whowhatwhy.com/2013/05/20/official-story-has-odd-wrinkles-a-pack-of-questions-about-the-boston-bombing-backpacks/
There was no investigation of 9/11. Indeed, the White House resisted any inquiry at all for one year despite the insistent demands from the 9/11 families. NIST did not investigate anything. NIST simply constructed a computer model that was consistent with the government’s story. The 9/11 Commission simply sat and listened to the government’s explanation and wrote it down. These are not investigations.
The only investigations have come from a physicist who proved that WTC 7 came down at free fall and was thus the result of controlled demolition, from a team of scientists who examined dust from the WTC towers and found nano-thermite, from high-rise architects and structural engineers with decades of experience, and from first responders and firefighters who were in the towers and experienced explosions throughout the towers, even in the sub-basements.
We have reached the point where evidence is no longer required. The government’s statements suffice. Only conspiracy kooks produce real evidence.
In America, government statements have a unique authority. This authority comes from the white hat that the US wore in World War II and in the subsequent Cold War. It was easy to demonize Nazi Germany, Soviet Communism and Maoist China. Even today when Russian publications interview me about the perilous state of civil liberty in the US and Washington’s endless illegal military attacks abroad, I sometimes receive reports that some Russians believe that it was an impostor who was interviewed, not the real Paul Craig Roberts. There are Russians who believe that it was President Reagan who brought freedom to Russia, and as I served in the Reagan administration these Russians associate me with their vision of America as a light unto the world. Some Russians actually believe that Washington’s wars are truly wars of liberation.
The same illusions reign among Chinese dissidents. Chen Guangcheng is the Chinese dissident who sought refuge in the US Embassy in China. Recently he was interviewed by the BBC World Service. Chen Guangcheng believes that the US protects human rights while China suppresses human rights. He complained to the BBC that in China police can arrest citizens and detain them for as long as six months without accounting for their detainment. He thought that the US and UK should publicly protest this violation of due process, a human right. Apparently, Chen Guangcheng is unaware that US citizens are subject to indefinite detention without due process and even to assassination without due process.
The Chinese government allowed Chen Guangcheng safe passage to leave China and live in the US. Chen Guangcheng is so dazzled by his illusions of America as a human rights beacon that it has never occurred to him that the oppressive, human rights-violating Chinese government gave him safe passage, but that Julian Assange, after being given political asylum by Ecuador is still confined to the Ecuadoran embassy in London, because Washington will not allow its UK puppet state to permit his safe passage to Ecuador.
Perhaps Chen Guangcheng and the Chinese and Russian dissidents who are so enamored of the US could gain some needed perspective if they were to read US soldier Terry Holdbrooks’ book about the treatment given to the Guantanamo prisoners. Holdbrooks was there on the scene, part of the process, and this is what he told RT: “The torture and information extraction methods that we used certainly created a great deal of doubt and questions in my mind to whether or not this was my America. But when I thought about what we were doing there and how we go about doing it, it did not seem like the America I signed up to defend. It did not seem like the America I grew up in. And that in itself was a very disillusioning experience.” http://rt.com/news/guantanamo-guard-islam-torture-608/
In a May 17 Wall Street Journal.com article, Peggy Noonan wrote that President Obama has lost his patina of high-mindedness. What did Obama do that brought this loss upon himself? Is it because he sits in the Oval Office approving lists of US citizens to be assassinated without due process of law? Is it because he detains US citizens indefinitely in violation of habeas corpus? Is it because he has kept open the torture prison at Guantanamo? Is it because he continued the war that the neoconservatives started, despite his promise to end it, and started new wars?
Is it because he attacks with drones people in their homes, medical centers, and work places in countries with which the US is not at war? Is it because his corrupt administration spies on American citizens without warrants and without cause?
No. It is none of these reasons. In Noonan’s view these are not offenses for which presidents, even Democratic ones, lose their high-minded patina. Obama can no longer be trusted, because the IRS hassled some conservative political activists.
Noonan is a Republican, and what Obama did wrong was to use the IRS against some Republicans. Apparently, it has not occurred to Noonan that if Obama–or any president–can use the IRS against opponents, he can use Homeland Security and the police state against them. He can use indefinite detention against them. He can use drones against them.
All of these are much more drastic measures. Why isn’t Peggy Noonan concerned?
Because she thinks these measures will only be used against terrorists, just as the IRS is only supposed to be used against tax evaders.
When a public and the commentators who inform it accept the collapse of the Constitution’s authority and the demise of their civil liberties, to complain about the IRS is pointless.
Source: Paul Craig Roberts
President Barack Obama’s Middle Eastern tour, scheduled for the end of March, has triggered a wave of intense speculation about its objectives in recent days. It centers on reports from Israeli sources that Obama will tell Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that a “window of opportunity” for a military strike on Iran will open in June.
The President will allegedly bring the message that Israel should “sit tight” and let the U.S. take the stage—even if that means remaining on the sidelines during an American military operation. It seems improbable, however, that an American president needs to make a 12,000-mile round-trip to provide such reassurance to a difficult partner whom he dislikes, and whose sentiments are fully reciprocated. Last year Obama had no qualms about turning down Netanyahu’s request for a meeting following the latter’s public criticism of the Administration for its reluctance to act against Iran. It is also unlikely that Obama would let Netanyahu know of his strategy so far in advance, even if the ‘window of opportunity’ claim was true.
As for the perennial issue of the Arab-Israeli conflict, it is an even bet that Mr. Obama will not be able to kick-start the stalled ‘peace process.’ At most, notes The Economist, Israel may accept a partial freeze on settlement construction in exchange for a Palestinian pledge not to take Israel’s settlement activity to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague. Both sides are primarily interested in making the opponent take the blame for the continuing deadlock. Amos Yadlin—former military intelligence chief who now heads the Institute for National Security Studies in Jerusalem—aptly summarized the Israeli position when he said, “We have to submit a proposal to the Palestinians, a decent proposal, a fair proposal. If the Palestinians will accept it, it’s a win of peace. If they refuse—as we think they will—then at least we win the blame game and we can continue to shape our borders by ourselves without the need to wait for the Palestinians to agree.”
It is obvious that the new Israeli government does not envisage a two-state solution as the foundation of a “decent and fair” proposal. Netanyahu’s plans for settlement construction in annexed east Jerusalem would effectively cut the West Bank in two and force a fait accompli on the status of the Holy City that no Palestinian leader would ever accept. Further settlement construction is “the biggest single threat to the two-state solution,” and Netanyahu knows it. His move reflects his strategic vision: a lasting peace with the Arabs is not obtainable; the conflict is structurally irresoluble; and Israel’s security therefore demands open-ended maintenance of military superiority and physical control over as much territory as possible. Meaningless concessions may be made for PR purposes—a few Palestinian prisoners can be released here, further expansion of a few settlements may be suspended there—but Israel needs to manage the conflict by maintain the status quo for many years to come.
An important element of this strategy is the assumption that the United States will continue to support it politically, militarily, and financially. Quite apart from various moral and legal issues involved, the U.S. Government appears increasingly reluctant to condone Netanyahu’s vision—which is just as well, primarily because doing so would not be in the American interest, but also because the strategy of permanent conflict management is not in the interest of Israel’s long-term survival. Israel may seem strong and secure at the moment, but its position vis-à-vis its hostile Arab neighbors is steadily deteriorating.
The wave of political changes in the Arab world over the past two years has changed the security architecture of the Middle East to Israel’s detriment. One of its consequences is that in relation to Israel the new leaders are more representative of the wishes of their people. In Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood’s manipulation of the political process has enabled it to concentrate all power in its hands. President Mohamed Morsi’s skill and cunning ensured the Brotherhood’s victory at the forthcoming sham parliamentary election. For the time being, Morsi is paying lip service to the maintenance of the peace treaty with Israel. He knows that this is the precondition for continuing American aid to his country’s depleted coffers, but his long-term intentions are better reflected in his speech made nearly three years ago, in which he urged Egyptians to “nurse our children and our grandchildren on hatred” for Jews. In a television interview months later, he blasted “these bloodsuckers who attack the Palestinians, these warmongers, the descendants of apes and pigs.” Denying Israel’s right to exist is a key pillar of the Brotherhood’s ideology and its activists murdered President Anwar al-Sadat in 1981 for signing that same peace treaty two years earlier. Nothing has changed in its position. Israel’s southwestern frontier is no longer secure; and if Bashar al-Assad falls in Syria, the same will apply to the northeastern frontier in the Golan.
With the Muslim Brotherhood’s takeover of the geographic, demographic and cultural center of the Arab world well-nigh irreversible, the entire Middle East is in turmoil. Libya is a failed state in which rival tribal militias and terrorist groups run the show outside central Tripoli and use its territory to launch attacks in Algeria. In Syria, the rebel movement is dominated by the Islamic People’s Brigade, the Islamic Dawn Movement, the Battalions of Islam, and many similar groups which share an ideology that includes a relentless hatred of Israel. If victorious, these seasoned foreign and home-grown jihadists will cause Israel to nostalgically remember three decades of peace in the Golan Heights under Bashar al-Assad and his father before him.
If the momentum of the past two years provides pointers for the future, by the end of this decade the Greater Middle East will be more firmly Islamic than at any time since the heyday of the Ottoman Empire under Suleyman, and thus more implacably anti-Israeli than ever. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan heralded the shift four years ago, and Turkey has rapidly morphed from Israel’s key strategic partner in the region into a hostile Islamic power. To take but one example, speaking the the United Nations on February 27 Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu called on the international community to “put an end to the Palestinians’ suffering in the occupied territories” and urged the world “to put pressure on Israel to respect human dignity.”
Closer to Israel’s borders, it is only a matter of time before Morsi’s protégé, Hamas, prevails over the more moderate Fatah in the Palestinian power struggle. The precarious stability of Jordan—which has long acted as if it had not merely a nonbelligerency agreement, but a fully-fledged peace treaty with Israel —will be tested by sectarian tensions between East Bank Jordanians and Jordanians of Palestinian origin. King Abdullah’s reluctant reforms may create a revolution of rising expectations, and lead to yet another regime change detrimental to Israel’s interests. There will be no “peace process,” of course. With the storm clouds gathering around them, many Israelis will have reason to regret the support that Netanyahu’s friends in Washington had given to the Arab Islamic Winter.
Diplomatically, Israel is more isolated than ever since 1967. The settlement enterprise is not only a security liability, rather than an asset, but also a diplomatic millstone which materially contributed to the overwhelming UN vote in favor of Palestinian de facto statehood last fall. Since then, settlement policies have elicited a chorus of condemnation, including a call for sanctions against Israel by the European union. The unelected elite running the EU is inherently hostile to a state based on the principle of blood and religion, but its antagonism to Israel is further exacerbated by rising influence of the Muslim diaspora in several key EU countries, notably France, Germany and Britain. More significantly still, Chuck Hagel’s swift confirmation has exposed the growing weakness of pro-Israeli lobbying groups in Washington. Two years ago, former Mossad chief Meir Dagan warned the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that “Israel is gradually turning from an asset to the United States to a burden.” Following the botched anti-Hagel campaign, increasing numbers of Washingtonian insiders are prone to agree with his assessment.
Demographic trends are another alarming aspect of Israel’s long-term geopolitical position, which has always been shaped by the implacable determinants of land and population. The Palestinians are adamantly insistent on the “right of return” of the descendants of some 700,000 refugees of 1948, and estimates indicate that there are more than four million of them in the PA and elsewhere in the Arab world. Over 90% of them reject the possibility of monetary compensation in lieu of that right. This is anathema to Israelis, as it would signal the end of the Jewish state, and the elusive two-state solution seems to offer the only viable defense from the demographic bomb. Between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, the Jews are already in a minority. Since birth rates in the West Bank and Gaza remain much higher than in Israel, the Arab population of the Palestinian Authority will exceed the number of Israeli Jews by 2040. On current form, Arabs will account for a quarter of Israel’s population by that time, up from just over a fifth today.
Jewish immigration does not make much difference to the trend. It has oscillated between 15 and 20,000 over the past decade, the massive influx from the former USSR having dried up. It is noteworthy that considerably higher numbers of Jews are leaving—many of them highly skilled professionals. In 2011, the government estimated the number of Israeli citizens living abroad at between 800,000 and one million, representing up to 13% of the population.Consistent with the latter figure is the estimated one million Israelis in the Diaspora reported at the first global conference of Israelis living abroad, held in January 2011. According to the Foundation for the Middle East Peace, about 45 percent of the adult Israeli expatriates have completed at least a university degree, in contrast to 22 percent of the Israeli population. The Israeli emigrants are generally younger than the immigrants to Israel. Significantly, up to 60 percent of Israelis had approached or were intending to approach a foreign embassy to ask for citizenship and a passport. Analysts warn that it will be a challenge for Jewish Israelis to maintain their current dominant majority of approximately 75 percent, primarily due to higher fertility among non-Jewish Israelis — nearly one child per woman greater — the depletion of the large pool of likely potential Jewish immigrants, and large-scale Jewish Israeli emigration: “Consequently, demographic projections expect the Jewish proportion of the country—which peaked at 89 percent in 1957—to continue declining over the coming decades, approaching a figure closer to two-thirds of the population by mid-century.” As a commentator noted in the London Independent noted two years ago (“Will Israel Still Exist in 2048?”), with the early pioneering spirit fading, and even the Holocaust—dare one hazard—less of a unifying force, Israel is not the same country it was 60, 30, even 10 years ago:
And demography means that it will continue to change, with the Arab, Orthodox Jewish and second-generation Russian populations increasing much faster than other groups. The Israel of the next 30 years is likely to be more divided, less productive, more inward-looking and more hawkish than it is today—but without the financial means and unquestioning sense of duty that inspired young people to defend their homeland by force of arms.
The Palestinians believe that time is on their side. The young—one-half of the population—are angry, disillusioned and more radical than their parents. As Professor Menachem Klein of Bar Ilan University wrote last November, they see the ailing Palestinian Authority pegged down at bare subsistence levels, without state authority or geographical contiguity, an undeveloped economy totally dependent on Israel and foreign donors, and a Palestinian elite accorded VIP status in reward for its collaboration in maintaining the status quo:
Today there is no longer a sole Palestinian representative—Hamas is in the game too. Moreover, the talks singularly failed to produce a permanent settlement or end the occupation. On the contrary, the reality on the ground has changed for the worse, to the extent that among the New Palestinians belief in the in the two-state solution is rapidly dwindling. The young generation sees Abbas and his people at a loose end, with no practical program or longer term vision… The young people also hear him talking about non-violent resistance to the occupation, while doing virtually nothing to promote it. But the New Palestinians are already on a different wavelength.
These “New Palestinians,” increasingly drawn to Hamas in preference to the corrupt old Fatah elite, will present a greater threat to Israel’s future than their stone-throwing predecessors. They will never accept Israel’s West Bank barrier as a permanent fact of life. They will also be even more inclined than their elders to view the conflict in ontological terms—as a struggle not only for Palestinian rights and viable statehood, but also for the divinely ordained claims of the Ummah against the usurping unbelievers. It is only a matter of time before the “New Palestinians” start perceiving Israel’s rejection of the two-state model and the expansion of settlements as a welcome lapse of judgment, a single-state trap from which the Jewish state will find it hard to extricate itself. They hope that the expansion of the fortress state will eventually morph into one-state solution by other means.
They are no longer deterred or intimidated by Israel’s military superiority. The IDF performed poorly in southern Lebanon in 2006, showing itself poorly prepared for the “fourth generation warfare” against an elusive non-state opponent like Hezbollah. According to a Brookings Institution 2011 report, “The IDF’s poor performance on multiple levels—leadership, coordination, logistics, and fighting capabilities—undermined Israel’s much-prized deterrent factor, and led to the perception of defeat.” The same problem occurred in Gaza in late 2008, where Hamas could be beaten but not defeated, and with the Gaza flotilla raid in 2009, the political costs of which far exceeded the utility of keeping the city under tight naval blockade. The fact that Israel possesses nuclear weapons changes but little in the equation. Of eight other countries possessing the bomb, not one has ever been able to change the status quo in its favor by threatening to use it, let alone by using it. Worryingly for Israel, South Africa had developed its own nuclear arsenal in the 1980s—it has been dismantled since—but this did not enhance its government’s ability to resist the winds of change in the early 1990’s.
Netanyahu’s vision of a Greater Israel and his open-ended strategy of military containment do not take into account the shifting environment and changes within Israel, which make his approach unsustainable in the long term. From its inception Israel has faced numerous threats, but its ability to cope with them in the past does not mean that it will be able to do so indefinitely. The issue is not whether Israel should survive, but whether it has the wherewithal to survive on the basis of the flawed grand strategy to which its ruling political elite subscribes.
Damascus – Iran is expected to meet with other world powers in Astana, Kazakhstan to discuss its nuclear program. Discussions that the occupiers of Palestine fervently hope will not be successful. It is toward this end that their key demand this week to the US Congress, the White House and the European Union is “to cast responsibility on the Iranians by blaming them for the talks’ failure in the clearest terms possible.”
According to the Al-Monitor of 3/19/13, Israel also demands that the countries meeting in Kazakhstan “make it perfectly clear that slogans such as ‘negotiations can’t go on forever’ are their marching orders to the White House, and they want the Kazakhstan attendees to act “so severely that the Iranians realize that they face a greater threat than just Israeli military action.” “The message must be that this time the entire west, behind Israel’s leadership, is contemplating the launch of a massive military action.” Unsaid is that “the entire West” is expected to confront Iran militarily while Tel Aviv’s forces will mop up Hezbollah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Syria if necessary.
Pending the above arrangements, Israel this week is further demanding that the Obama White House issue another Executive Order dramatically ratcheting up the US-led Sanctions against Iran and Syria while it prepares for a hoped for “ game changing international economic blockade, including no-fly zones enforced by NATO.
To achieve yet another lawyer of severe sanctions, and at the behest of AIPAC, a “legislative planning” meeting was called by Congressman Eliot Engel, who represents New Yorks 17th District (the Bronx) and who is the Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Rep. Ros-Lehtinen (Florida’s 27th District), Chair of the House Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa. The session was held in a posh Georgetown restaurant and participant’s included representatives from AIPAC, Israel, and Saudi Arabia, Bahrain plus half a dozen Congressional staffers.
Congressman Engel has co-sponsored virtually every anti-Arab, anti-Islam, anti-Palestinian, anti-Iran, and anti-Syrian Congressional broadside since he entered Congress a quarter-century ago. His campaign literature last fall stated: “I am a strong supporter of sanctions against those who repeatedly reject calls to behave as responsible nations. (Israel excepted-ed). I have authored or helped author numerous bills which have been signed into law to impose sanctions against rogue states including Iran and Syria.” Ros-Lehtinen and Engel led all members with AIPAC donations on the House side in last fall’s Congressional elections. They are ranked number one and two respectively as still serving career recipients of Israel-AIPAC’s “indirect” campaign donations.
Some Congressional operatives accuse Rep. Ros-Lehtinen of being a bit lazy and neglecting the bread and butter needs of her Florida constituents. But others argue that it depends on which constituents one has in mind. Her election mailings and her Congressional website claim that the Congresswoman “led all Congressional efforts tirelessly to generate votes to block what she views as anti-Israel resolutions offered at the former UN Commission on Human Rights.”
A big fan of US-led sanctions against Iran and Syria, Rep. Ros-Lehtinen introduced the Iran Freedom Support Act on January 6, 2005, which increased sanctions and expanded punitive measures against the Iranian people until the Iranian regime has dismantled its nuclear plants. Rep. Ros-Lehtinen also introduced H.R. 957, the Iran Sanctions Amendments Act, which she claims “will close loopholes in current law by holding export credit agencies, insurers, and other financial institutions accountable for their facilitation of investments in Iran and sanction them as well.” In addition, H.R. 957 seeks to impose liability on parent companies for violations of sanctions by their foreign entities. She also co-sponsored H.R 1357 which requires “U.S. government pension funds to divest from companies that do any business with any country that does business with Iran.” Her campaign literature states that, “She was proud to be the leading Republican sponsor of H.R. 1400, the Iran Counter-Proliferation Act. This bill applies and enhances a wide range of additional sanctions.”
In addition, last year Illeana introduced H.R. 394, which enlarges US Federal Court Jurisdiction regarding claims by American citizens their claims in U.S. courts. Unclear is whether she realizes that one consequence of her initiative would be to open even wider US courtroom doors to Iranian-Americans and Syria-Americans who today are being targeted and damaged by the lady’s ravenous insatiable craving for civilian targeting economic sanctions.
But Ileana and Elliot appear to be fretting.
So is Israel.
The reasons are several and they include the fact that the US-led sanctions have failed to date to achieve the accomplishments they were designed to produce. These being to cripple the Iranian economy, provoke a popular protest among the Iranian people over inflation and scarcity of food and medicines, weaken Iran as much as possible before adopting military measures against it, and, most essentially, achieving regime change to turn the clock back to those comfortable days of our submissive, compliant Shah.
Zionist prospects for Syria aren’t any better at the moment. Tel Aviv’s to intimidate the White House into invading Syria have not worked. Plan A has failed miserably according to the Israeli embassy people attending the Engel-Ros Litinen’s informal conflab. Neither did the “how about we just arm the opposition” plan that originated last year with David H. Petraeus and was supported by Hillary Clinton while being pushed by AIPAC. The goal was to create allies in Syria that the US and Israel could control if Mr. Assad was removed from power. Moreover, the White House believes that there are no good options for Obama. It has vetoed 4 recent Israeli proposals including arming the rebels and is said to believe that Syria is already dangerously awash with “unreliable arms.”
The recent shriveling of Israeli prospects for a dramatic Pentagon intervention in Syria reflect White House war weariness. And also Israel’s predilection to bomb targets itself in Syria, as it did recently to assassinate a senior Iranian officer in the Quds force of the Revolutionary Guards, Gen. Hassan Shateri. Contrary to the false story that Israel attacked a missiles convoy, some unassembled equipment was damaged but that was not the primary target according to Fred Hof, a former U.S. State Department official. Gen. Shateri was.
Making matters worse for Tel Aviv, the Israeli military is reportedly becoming skittish due to its deteriorating political and military status in the region and its troops have recently completed subterranean warfare drills to prepare them for a potential clash with Hezbollah in southern Lebanon, the Jerusalem Post reported on 2/20/13. “Today during training, we simulated a northern terrain, that included what we might encounter,” Israeli Lt. Sagiv Shoker, commander of a military Reconnaissance Unit of the Engineering Corps, based at the Elikim base in northern Israel near the border with Lebanon explained. Shoker added that his units spent a week focused on how to approach Hezbollah’s alleged underground bunkers and tunnels in South Lebanon and the Bekaa Valley quietly and quickly. Israeli forces commander Gantz has been complaining recently to the Israeli cabinet that Hezbollah Special Forces are gaining much valuable experience in Syria fighting highly skilled and motivated al Nusra jihadists and his troops may not be prepared to face them on the battlefield if a conflict erupts. It has been known since 2006 that Israeli soldiers “are having motivation deficits” as Gantz and others have complained.
Ordinary citizens in Iran and Syria with whom this observer met recently, including some with whom he has shared lengthy conversations while posing many questions, cannot ignore the burden of the US-led sanctions in various aspects of their lives. Nor can the Iranian or Syrian governments or their economic institutions. At the beginning of the summer of 2010, and even more so since the summer of 2012, the US-led civilian targeting sanctions imposed were significantly tightened by the Obama administration and its allies. The administration realized that the sanctions imposed on Iran until then were ineffective and understood that Iran’s steady progress toward nuclear power capability would quickly leave the US with no alternative than the acceptance of a nuclear Iran. But the administration, according to former State Department official Hof, believed that unless it took more drastic measures against Iran, Israel would launch a military strike against Iran which would likely destroy Zionist Israel- a prospect not every US official and Congressional staffer privately laments. Congressional sources report that the White House now feels that Iran has achieved deterrence and that Israel would be dangerously foolhardy to attack the country.
While Israel advocates an economic blockade of Iran and Syria, under binding rules of international and US law, economic blockades are acts of war. They are variously defined as surrounding a nation with hostile forces, economic besieging, preventing the passage in or out of a country of civilian supplies or aid. It is an act of naval warfare to block access to a country’s coastline and deny entry to all vessels and aircraft, absent a formal declaration of war and approval of the UN Security Council.
All treaties to which America is a signatory, including the UN Charter, are binding US law. Chapter VII authorizes only the Security Council to “determine the existence of any threat to the peace, or act of aggression (and, if necessary, take military or other actions to) restore international peace and stability.” It permits a nation to use force (including a blockades) only under two conditions: when authorized by the Security Council or under Article 51 allowing the “right of individual or collective self-defense if an armed attack occurs against a Member….until the Security Council has taken measures to maintain international peace and security.”
As International law Professor Francis Boyle reminds us, Customary International Law recognizes economic blockades as an act of war because of the implied use of force even against third party nations in enforcing the blockade. Writes Boyle, “Blockades as acts of war have been recognized as such in the Declaration of Paris of 1856 and the Declaration of London of 1909 that delineate the international rules of warfare.” America approved these Declarations, thereby are became binding US law as well “as part of general international law and customary international law.” US presidents Dwight Eisenhower and Jack Kennedy, called economic blockades acts of war.
So has the US Supreme Court.
In Bas v. Tingy (1800), the US Supreme Court addressed the constitutionality of fighting an “undeclared war” (read extreme economic sanctions). It ruled the seizure of a French vessel (is) an act of hostility or reprisal. The Court cited Talbot v. Seaman (1801) in ruling that “specific legislative authority was required in the seizure. In Little v. Barreme (1804), the Court held that “even an order from the President could not justify or excuse an act that violated the laws and customs of warfare. Chief Justice John Marshall wrote that a captain of a United States warship could be held personally liable in trespass for wrongfully seizing a neutral Danish ship, even though” presidential authority ordered it.
“The Prize Cases” (1863) is perhaps the most definitive US Supreme Court ruling on economic blockades requiring congressional authorization. The case involved President Lincoln’s ordering “a blockade of coastal states that had joined the Confederacy at the outset of the Civil War. The Court….explicitly (ruled) that an economic blockade is an act of war and is legal only if properly authorized under the Constitution.”
Iran and Syria pose no threat to the US or any peaceful law abiding nation. Imposing a blockade against either violates the UN Charter and settled international humanitarian laws as well as US law. It would constitute an illegal act of aggression that under the Nuremberg Charter is the designated a “supreme international crime” above all others. It would render the Obama administration and every government of other participating nations criminally liable.
Contrary to what the occupiers of Palestine may fantasize, if the White House wants an economic blockade of Iran or Syria it must declare war, letting the American people be heard on the subject and convince the UN Security Council to pass a UNSCR under Chapter 7.
The White House cannot legally, morally or consistently with claimed American humanitarian values continue to target civilian populations with economic sanctions on the cheap.