De Borchgrave: "Assad appears to be emerging as the winner & Iran will have kept intact its direct link to Hezbollah & Gaza"

Via FLC

“… Today, the magic is long gone. After two wars on the credit card — $1 trillion for Iraq and $500 billion and still counting for Afghanistan — America’s credit is maxed out. But the borrowing continues at a dizzying pace to pay for global policy commitments we can no longer afford. 

If Obama is re-elected to a second term, he will most probably find a way to avoid running up the war bill in Afghanistan for the current commitment of two more years through the end of 2014. And if Mitt Romney becomes the 45th president, it is hard to see him prolonging the agony of the longest war in U.S. history that involves 48 other nations — 37 with troops — that would like to end it ASAP.
How long can the United States put up with green-on-blue killings by Afghan troops turning their guns on their American advisers who supplied them with weapons, ammo and pay? Not much longer.
 

Newsweek quotes one Afghan officer who says he understands why “our men are shooting U.S. and NATO soldiers.” 

“I have been personally hurt by the way American forces behave toward my soldiers, our villagers, our religion and culture. Too many of them are racist, arrogant and simply don’t respect us,” he said. 

U.S. soldiers are watching their backs against Afghan soldiers for fear of insider attacks. Once cordial relations and visits to each other’s quarters have stopped. Some Afghan soldiers are Taliban guerrillas ordered to false-flag volunteer to kill U.S. advisers. 

Anthony Cordesman, a leading strategic thinker at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, writes: “This is a political war where the political impact of combat, politics, governance and economics are far more important than tactical success in directly defeating the enemy. At this level, the insurgents still seem to have significant momentum and are certainly not being decisively defeated.” 

Current plans, says Cordesman, “ignore the fundamental realities shaping the war,” which are: 

— Pakistan is not a real ally and will not become one.
— The United States cannot fully defeat al-Qaida or the threat of Islamist extremist terrorism in Afghanistan.
— There is little prospect of a meaningful, stable and negotiated settlement with the Taliban and Haqqani network.
— The United States, its allies, and (Afghan forces) cannot establish security across Afghanistan or even in all of the “critical” districts by the end of 2014 or at any predictable point thereafter.
— Development of the Afghan security forces now focuses on rushing toward unobtainable numbers of forces, without regard to effectiveness and without clear plans to address funding and self-sustainment.
— Transition alone will not convert Afghanistan into a developed, functional democracy with effective governance, civil rights and rule of law.
— Economic growth and development are more illusory than real and sustaining them through transition will require serious, well-planned outside aid rather than the vacuous goals and pledges of the Tokyo Conference…. … …
 

Nothing is less certain in the light of more urgent strategic priorities.
The U.S. Naval Update Map for Aug. 29 shows two Carrier Strike Groups – the USS Enterprise and USS Dwight D. Eisenhower — and the Amphibious Ready Group USS Iwo Jima , all deployed in the U.S. Navy 5th Fleet Area of Responsibility, which has headquarters in Bahrain in the Persian Gulf. Operations in Afghanistan are a minor part of this deployment.
A third Carrier Strike Group, the USS John C. Stennis, is underway in the Pacific “for a surge to U.S. 5th Fleet AOR deployment.”
 

This formidable display of air and sea power is there to deter Iran’s retaliatory capabilities in the Persian Gulf if Israel decides to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities. 

These U.S. defense decisions were taken before an almost $500 billion defense cut kicks in over the next 10 years.
This could double to $1 trillion unless Democrats and Republicans can agree before sequestration kicks in at year’s end.
 

Meanwhile, Iran managed to convene the 120-nation non-aligned group in Tehran, with some 50 heads of state and government in attendance, including Egypt’s Islamist President Mohamed Morsi, the first such visit in three decades.
At the same time, Iran’s close ally Bashar Assad in Syria appears to be emerging as the winner in a civil war that has killed some 25,000 in 19 months, roughly the same amount his father, the late Hafez Assad, killed in less than a week in Hama in February 1982.
 

If Assad Jr.’s Alawite regime prevails, Iran will have kept intact its direct link with its Lebanon-based proxy, Hezbollah, and from Lebanon south to its other proxy in Gaza. An Israeli attack on Iran would automatically trigger retaliatory capabilities throughout the region…”

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‘Jeffrey Feltman in Khamenei’s Court!’

My,..my! A Truly ‘non-aligned’ summit: ‘Jeffrey Feltman in Khamenei’s Court!’

‘UN Undersecretary for Political Affairs,

Feltman met, Khamenei, Ahmadinejad, Jalili & Larijani.
“… former American diplomat Jim Dobbins told Al-Monitor that Feltman likely would have given the US government at least a courtesy ‘heads up’ about his trip, even if he would not take guidance from them. The meeting “is interesting,” Dobbins, now at the Rand Corporation, said.
And another former senior US official who asked not to be named acknowledged she was “shocked” to learn of the meeting, mostly because the Obama administration had publicly pressed Ban to forgo the trip. Feltman, who served as ambassador to Lebanon during the 2006 war, is thought to be fairly hardline on Iran…”

‘The Norwegian Zionist, Terje Roed Larsen was there too’

 

Israeli agent pays visit to Ayatullah Khameini

The former US ambassador in Lebanon and most senior diplomat at the US State Department, Zionist Jew Jeffrey Feltman, accompanied United Nation secretary-general Ban Ki-moon, to meet Iran’s Supreme Leader. Currently, Jeffrey Feltman is Ki-moon’s Under Secretary for Political Affairs. See Feltman sitting between Ki-Moon and Salehi facing Ayatullah Khameini, and several other photos of NAM participants, here.
 
Feltman is known for his anti-Hizbullah-Syria-Iran obsession. The current US ambassador to Lebanon, Maura Connelly, a former State Department staffer under Jeffrey Feltman was confided by Feltman once, saying:

I have got these SOBs just where we want them Maura! Watch the 1000 slow cuts as we shred Hizbullah – who do they think they’re? And we will do it by using HR-1757 and this time we are going all the way. I told Israel to stay out of Lebanon because the IDF cannot defeat Hizbullah plus the whole region will burn“.

In March 2012 – at a reception at the US Capitol’s Cannon Office Building, Jeffrey Feltman, appearing before a gathering of the right-wing pro-Israel-Saudi ‘Lebanese American Organization’ was undiplomatically aggressive. In fact Feltman unloaded vitriol on Hezbollah, Syria, Iran and anyone who even looked like they might support resistance to US-Israel Middle East hegemony. He instructed Lebanese voters, in no uncertain terms, what he expected of them:

The Lebanese people must join together to tell Hezbollah and its allies that the Lebanese state will no longer be hijacked for an Iranian-Syrian agenda“.

The Obama administration and the Jewish lobby officials are trying to downplay Feltman’s visit which makes him the first known anti-Iran Zionist Jew diplomat being allowed to be in the audience of of the Rehbar. The Jewish spokesperson for the State Department, Victoria Nuland, says Feltman was there as part of its new position at the United Nations. Israel-Firster Dennis Ross, former senior adviser to Obama on the Middle East affairs, who currently works for Israel lobby AIPAC affiliated think tank, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), also says Feltman is not representing the US policy toward the Islamic Republic anymore. Jim Dobbins, former US ambassador who currently heads ME policy department at the RAND Corp. claims that Feltman did not consult US government on his trip to Iran.
 
Benjamin Netanyahu U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (L) meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Mayflower Hotel on the eve of Mideast peace talks August 31, 2010 in Washington, DC. The United States is hosting leaders from Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Egypt and Jordan in hopes of starting a new round of direct peace talks.It’s hard to believe that while both Netanyahu and Hillary Clinton pressed Ban Ki-moon to cancel his visit to attend the 16th Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) summit in Tehran – Jeffrey Feltman would have refused to obey them.

Feltman, with full blessings from both Washington and Tel Aviv, decided to visit Iran to meet anti-regime groups and use his visit in support of his future Zionist propaganda lies against Iranian government.
 
Iran’s Spiritual Leader Ayatullah Khamenie did not hide his contempt for the United Nations in his opening address at NAM.

The UN Security Council has an illogical, unjust and completely undemocratic structure and mechanism. This is a flagrant form of dictatorship, which is antiquated and obsolete and whose exoiry date has passed. It is through abusing this improper mechanism that America and its accomplices have managed to disguise their bullying as noble concept and impose it on the world,said the Rehbar.

Ban Ki-moon, sitting next to the news President of NAM, Dr. Ahmadinejad, at the opening ceremony of the summit – proved once again that he is a poodle of American imperialism. Instead of joining the 120-member NAM support for Iran’s peaceful nuclear program, a nuclear free Middle East and lifting of unlawful sanctions against Iran – Ki-moon asked Iran to ‘come clean on its nuclear ambitions’.
 
In reality, both Ki-moon and Egyptian president Dr. Morsi attended the NAM summit as ‘double agents’.
 

As American ambassador in Beirut, Jeffrey Feltman. shielded Israeli Mossad in the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri in 2005 by blaming it on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a friend of Hariri family. When his allegation could not stand on Zionist legs – he switched the blame on to Lebanese Islamic Resistance Hizbullah. A 2010 poll conducted among 18,132 Arab participants by pro-Zionist Al-Jazeera – 78% of participants claimed that Israel was behind the assassination of Rafik Hariri.

 
Feltman was also the driving force behind the establishment of UN Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL). It’s president Antonio Cassesse was called a ‘great friend of Israel by no other than Professor George Fletcher (Columbia Law school) at Herzliya conference in Israel.
 
 

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Brotherhood Democracy: "One man, one vote, one time!"

FLC

The Islamist cause prospers in Egypt, not so much in Syria.   

 

In Egypt Air Marshal Shafik, Mursi’s principal opponent in the late election is placed on a “watch list” at the ports of departure from Ehypt. This is obviously a prelude to prosecution.  

A suitable charge will be found. Shafik nearly won. That can’t happen again according to the Islamist playbook. “One man, one vote, one time” is their formula.  

The Islamist dominated parliament and constitution drafting committee will put religious freedom to a vote as well as provisions to allow the parliament and president to imprison minister who displease them.   

Proress” is being made in Egypt and the US applauds it.

In Syria even the Washington Post admits that the Islamist rebels are losing. Wherever they try to hold ground, they lose. they shoud read something like “People’s War, People’s Army” by Giap. Nevertheless, Syrian government forces are still described in the Post as “pro-regime” forces 

In Turkey the MB related Erdogan pushes for an attack on the Syrian Air Force. What is left of the Turkish General Staff resists this 


All in all, this is a mixed “bag” for the neo-Wilsonians in the Obama Administration. What will he do to “up the ante” if he is re-elected? What will the neocon tool Romney do if he wins?“Is a puzzlement.” pl

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Syria: New US Middle East Project?

Free Syrian Army fighters run for cover after Syrian forces fired a mortar in the al-Amreeyeh neighborhood of Syria’s northwestern city of Aleppo, 30 August 2012. (Photo: Reuters – Youssef Boudlal)
 
Published Friday, August 31, 2012
 
In March 2011, peaceful protests broke out in Syria in response to the regime’s torture of high school students who sprayed anti-Assad graffiti on walls. At this point, aided by coverage of the cause by “trusty” media outlets, many of us were ready to believe that the wave of the Arab Spring had now reached Syria. We rode this wave and sided with the Syrian people in their revolution, uniting under the common cause that the ruthless dictator, President Bashar al-Assad, had to go.
Seventeen months on, the Syrian revolution has turned sour, and media outlets have also become complicit in distorting the truth and are lacking in objectivity. The only universal truth is that thousands of lives have been lost unnecessarily, and that this figure continues to climb every day. What started off as a peaceful people’s uprising for democracy quickly morphed into an armed rebel movement versus the regime, as Assad’s forces used violent measures to quash the protests. Oddly enough, the “democratic” Western world cheered the armed opposition on as clashes between rebel groups and government forces escalated into bloody, full-scale battles between the Free Syrian Army and regime forces.
To justify their place on the bandwagon of revolution, countries such as the US have spouted well-known cliches that they are there to secure democracy and freedom for the Syrian people. However, after our experiences with “Operation Iraqi Freedom” we know all too well that America whips out its democracy card to conceal its vested interest of securing control of oil reserves. For aren’t countries such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar just as, if not more, autocratic than Assad’s regime? A frequently asked question is why the US doesn’t act as the harbinger of democracy for the Gulf states?
So it seems once again, that despite the US administration’s cries of democracy and lamentations for dying Syrian civilians and human rights violations, people in the oil-rich Middle East still feature as disposable pawns in this US administration-manipulated plot for greater regional control.
The Greater Middle Eastern Partnership Initiative, drawn up shortly after the war in Iraq, is just such a project which demonstrates to what extent the US call for democracy is suspect. Known initially as the Greater Middle Eastern Initiative, the project viewed the promotion of democracy and socio-economic development in the Middle East as one of the main ways of combating the “terrorism” threat posed by Arab countries after 9/11. However, let’s not forget that it was actually adapted from the 1975 Helsinki pact – intended to promote greater freedom and human rights in the Soviet Union and eastern Europe.
 
This readiness to assess the Middle East – a region with different cultural values, economic and political systems to the Soviet Union in Cold War terms, is revelatory of the US administration’s genuine lack of planning and shallow understanding of the region. US insincerity was also exposed when they failed to consult the 22 countries that were involved in the Initiative. Much to their outrage, the plan was leaked to the media and prompted a torrent of angry critique, with Egyptian chief editor of the Arab Human Development Report, Nader Fergany referring to the “the arrogant mentality of the current (Bush) US administration in respect to the rest of the world” in an article published in al-Hayat in February 2004.
As a result of the general Arab furor on not being consulted and left in the dark about plans for their own countries, the Bush administration hastily renamed the project the Greater Middle East “Partnership” Initiative – in order to justify that it was a two-way project – and set about persuading disgruntled Arab states of the Initiative’s benefits by recruiting Turkey as their side-kick and proxy.
As a country which promoted the idea of “conservative democracy” under the umbrella of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) led by PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey appealed to Western countries through its image as a democratic reformer and to Arab countries through its sustaining of a traditional Islamic identity.
 
A perfect choice for the US administration which didn’t want to be seen as barging into the Middle East alone, considering the environment of heightened anti-American sentiment after Iraq. Why not pep-talk Turkey into thinking that it could be a global power and get it to do the dirty work?
In any case, Turkey’s leading role, on behalf of the US in the Initiative, is running into a series of obstacles. Turkey’s “zero problems” foreign policy, as orchestrated by Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, was based on the idea that the country would sustain peaceful and stable relations with its neighbors. Ironically, Turkey’s ties with Israel have been frozen ever since the Gaza flotilla raid in May 2010, and Turkey’s political and military support for the Syrian opposition has broken diplomatic relations with both Damascus and Tehran. Before the Syrian unrest, trade relations between Syria and Turkey peaked at over $3 billion, but has since dwindled.
Turkey’s pro-rebel support and refusal to help free 48 Iranians captured by rebels in Damascus has also drawn heavy criticism from Iran, which backs Assad’s regime. Earlier this month saw diplomatic relations hit rock-bottom when Iran suspended visa privileges for Turkish citizens. Added to worsening ties with its neighbors, Turkey now faces the growing threat of Kurdish rebels. The emerging independence of Syrian Kurds has meant that Turkey now faces a Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) threat that stretches its Iraqi and Syrian frontiers. As it stands, Turkey’s role as regional mediator in the Initiative has not attained its hubristic goals of Ottoman revival and global power.
For the moment, Syria’s civil war shows little sign of waning. With once glorified rebels also shown to be guilty of committing human rights atrocities, calls for a general rethink have surfaced. Are we ready to believe that freedom and democracy for the Syrian people can be built on the foundations of extreme violence? Or is a continuation of the violence in the form of a sectarian showdown in the forecast, when and if Assad goes?
The fact that Assad has been able to cling onto power for the last 17 months may indicate that he actually has considerable domestic support, or that certain opposition figures have withdrawn their support for the violent means used by rebels to secure democracy.
 
It could also mean that the rebels are not receiving as much weaponry and monetary support as they would like. In any case, the FSA is not all that it seems.
 
It lacks a strong central nerve center and is divided ideological and ethnically.
 
Experienced Libyan fighters who helped topple Gaddafi along with Bosnians, Chechens and the odd Turk, Jordanian and Egyptian, according to a local doctor in Antakya, have also joined the ranks of the FSA and undermined the distinctly Syrian nature of the uprising. What’s more, the presence of al-Qaeda and jihadist rebel units among the FSA have ironically confronted the US with a terrorist threat problem that they were supposedly trying to clear by meddling with Syria in the first place.
A revolution is better achieved by the people of a given country who want change. They should be the key players who call the shots and decide what’s best for their country. But throughout this 17-month long conflict, the increasingly prominent role played by Western nations and their allies have changed the face of the Syrian peoples’ revolution into that of a Western-led revolt. The US and their allies conveniently sidestepped the UN Security Council stalemate by fueling the armed opposition with logistics, training and weaponry.
President Obama’s recent announcement – now backed by Britain – that Syria’s chemical and biological weapons constitute a “red-line,” which would invite military intervention if used against rebels, implies that it is wishful to think the US will keep out of Syrian affairs. Curiously, Obama’s speech echoes President Bush’s reference of past years to the threat posed by Saddam Hussein’s non-existing WMDs, which he used as a pretext to invade Iraq.
Even if the Syrian opposition wishes to determine the fate of their own revolution, it may be the case that their struggle is caught in a wider geo-political dispute between the US and its allies on one front, and Russia, China and Iran on the other. While the FSA’s military council calls for a unified Syria post-Assad, the conflicting desires amidst the fragmented units within the group, along with the lack of agreement at the heart of their political wing – the Syrian National Council – have undermined the unity of the Syrian Revolution. Such lack of unity and political infighting has added to the increasingly sectarian hue of the civil war and led to indications that Syria may divide into a mini-states if Assad goes.
But a divided and weakened Syria plays into the US advantage by leaving the path to Iran clear, and strengthens Israeli security in the region by destroying the “axis of resistance” embodied by Syria, Iran and Hezbollah.
Aside from their humanitarian concerns, Russia, China and Iran are all too aware of the downsides of a fragmented Syria. With Syria weakened, and a new pro-US government reinstated in Syria, Russia and China will lose their ties with a country that opened up their access to Mediterranean maritime trade routes.
American and Israeli desires will also converge and focus on dismantling the regime in Iran.
 
Aware of these dangers, Syria’s backers continue to thwart the idea of outside interventions, and state clearly that Syria’s fate must be decided by her own people.
Ultimately, when the last scene unfolds in Syria and Assad is disposed of, the question of whether or not people think the revolution has been achieved will be of little importance for the US administration. Washington will have achieved its goal of dismembering and weakening Syria, in the process providing greater regional positioning for its local ally Israel.
But long after every US ally has claimed a share of the spoils, the memory of the bloodshed and thousands of lives lost unnecessarily will remain with the Syrian people.
Emiko Jozuka is a Japanese freelance multimedia journalist currently based in Antakya.
 

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Can NAM Solve the Syrian Crisis?

Can NAM Solve the Syrian Crisis? asked Vijay Prashad

The author claimes that “NATO’s war in Libya and the Syrian crisis has afforded the US an opportunity to re-enter the Arab world as a major political player. “

In realty the US and Nato attempts, after the fall of the Soviet union, to be the sole politacal player in the Arab world and middle east faced fiece resistance in Afhganistan Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine.

Therefore, it is more presicise to say:

A combination of the cowboy Wars defeats led by the US and NATO (since the Bush administration), and the failure of the Arab stooges and the financial crisis (since 2007) alongside the economic rise of China and India has, however, given a boost to the aspiration of the NAM.

 Moreover the Author clamied that “The Arab Spring of 2011 offered further proof of the new confidence of the people of the ‘South’. Regimes that had given themselves over to pro-Western economic policies and opened their prisons to become the “black sites” of the War on Terror fell like ninepins. If the US had lost Latin America, it was now feared that it would lose the Arab world as well.”

Again, it is more precise to say:

“The Arab Spring of 2011 Resistance Axis offered further proof of the new confidence of the people of the ‘South’ and Arab word, threatning the regimes that had given themselves over to pro-Western economic policies and opened their prisons to become the “black sites” of the War on Terror.

Syria never given itself to pro-western economical policies, and Libya was attacked for trying give-up the pro-western economical policies. Moreover the South America states, and real progressive activists were under attack for standing against the Cowboy WARS on Libya and Syria (Prashad, the author, was against the war on Libya).

The US had lost Latin America, fearing it would lose the Arab world as well, pulled all its cards, the NGO’s the International American Brotherhood highjack the popular movements, and install new puppet regimes in Tunis, Egypt, Libya and Yemen, and at the same time Launched its Global War to destroy Syria, the corner stone of the resistance axis, and turn Syria into a corner stone in the ANTI-RESISTANCE AXIS, to destroy Hezbollah before checking the Iranian King.

The Marxist Author claimed that “Europe, the US and Russia have played central roles in fueling the crisis, but they are not going to be able to be part of the solution.”, without telling US why would Russia fuel the Syrian crisis?  He ignored that the war on Syria is also a Proxy War against Russia, Iran and China,

Therefore, “Egypt’s proposal should be supported as it builds on regionalism and takes seriously the fact that absent the assent of these regional actors, no pressure can be put on the parties in Syria to stand down.  The regional actors need to take the reins. The Contact Group would be strengthened by an endorsement from the NAM, and it would further embolden Brahimi to make serious inroads into the deadlock between the Syrian government and the opposition. Absent regional pressure, backed by NAM, the blood-letting will continue in Syria – to the detriment of all the people of West Asia.”

In fact because “Turkey has reached the point where it has discovered that its own domestic problems (namely the Kurdish question)” therefore, Muris the America‘s other Brother Jumped to continue the Turkish mission of balkanization of Syria. His short stay in Tehran, and his Speech at NAM confirmed that Brotherhood’s Egypt is the real problem and can’t be a part of any solution.

With France and Britain warning “the United Nations that the envoys were unlikely to reach an agreement on buffer zones in Syria.” and with even Romney saying: ‘NO to a Syria no-fly zone’
they know that with flooding Syria with arms those arms maybe used for undesired purposes in unexpected places!’

I always said that Usrael would be glad to see Assad removed by Islamists, ans would be glad to see them killed if they fail, so, I wonder what Mursi can do for his Amecrican brothers in Syria?
Nothing, more than saving the faces of Qataris, Saudis and the Turks, most likely, opportunist Mursi the son of opportunist brotherhood realizing that the battle on Syria is almost over, is trying to reserve a chair on the Syrian reconciliation table, ignoring that where there is no place on that table for traitors as Assad made it clear in his interview by Al-Dunia channel.

Egyptian tanks are seen being carried on the back of trucks
on the Egyptian side of the border city of Rafah on August 29, 2012.
The Egyptian military said that 11 “terrorists” have been killed in its
campaign against Islamist militants in the Sinai peninsula. (Photo: AFP / STR)

The ongoing battle in Syria shall decide the future of Syria. As Assad saidwe are moving forward and the situation is practically better but resolution hasn’t been achieved and this takes time.”   
 

Meanwhile, Lieberman is not satisfied with Mursi’s performance in Sinai (Cleaning Sinia from Islamists threatening Israel, and destroying Gaza tunnels to cut the the supplied of Islamic Jihad and other resistance factions). Having, started withdrawing his forces from Sinia, Lieberman is waiting to see President Mursi visit Jerusalem.

I don’t think stupid Mursi, is so stupid to do what Mubarak never dared to do.

Published Thursday, August 30, 2012
 
The 16th Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) summit opened on Sunday in Iran, with two-thirds of the world’s governments gathering in the Iranian capital. The NAM, since the 1980s, has been notably adrift. The debt crisis of the 1980s and the emergence of US primacy after the fall of the USSR at the end of the decade created a major crisis in the Global South. As the states of the South became to seek new alignments with the North out of economic needs or political ambitions, the agenda of the NAM fell by the wayside.

A combination of the cowboy wars led by the US and NATO (since the Bush administration) and the financial crisis (since 2007) alongside the economic rise of China and India has, however, given a boost to the aspiration of the NAM.

The assertions of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) in the 2012 Delhi Declaration and the solidarity of the South at UNCTAD XIII in Doha in April of this year underlined the emergence of this new confidence.

The South’s mood has been further enlivened over the past five years by the emergence of popular movements that oppose neoliberalism and imperialism. Their first stand was in Latin America, where the social and political movements were able to translate their popularity into the electoral domain. Most of the governments south of the Rio Grande River now oppose US primacy. In 2010, these Latin American states created the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States to undercut the formerly US-dominated Organization of American States.
The Arab Spring of 2011 offered further proof of the new confidence of the people of the ‘South’. Regimes that had given themselves over to pro-Western economic policies and opened their prisons to become the “black sites” of the War on Terror fell like ninepins. If the US had lost Latin America, it was now feared that it would lose the Arab world as well.

The Syrian Conundrum

NATO’s war in Libya and the Syrian crisis has afforded the US an opportunity to re-enter the Arab world as a major political player. This is what makes the Syrian crisis so central to the work of the NAM – apart, of course, from the more humane objective, which is to end the violence against the Syrian people. A cynical set of geopolitical calculations has made each side to this conflict take maximum positions, which rendered Kofi Annan’s mission to Damascus impossible.

It is essential to create the political context for Lakhdar Brahimi, Annan’s successor, to be able to move an agenda.

One small part of the process to create the policy space for Brahimi has been proposed by Egypt – the Contact Group. The group will include all the major regional players: Egypt, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey. The NAM meeting was to be the setting to increase confidence for the Contact Group. If the NAM gives its endorsement to this Contact Group, it might be able to create a regional roadmap, allowing Brahimi and the UN to try and find a procedure to end the violence in Syria.

Saudi Arabia will be represented by Prince Abdul-Aziz bin Abdullah, the son of King Abdullah. He is a popular prince who is the acting Deputy Foreign Minister. The entire top brass of Iran will be in attendance. To have Iran and Saudi Arabia in the same process is both startling and a sign of hope. Trapped by its own regional alignments, Iran has yoked itself firmly to the Assad regime. Saudi Arabia and Qatar have thrown in their lot with the rebellion, as has Turkey but with less fanfare. Such “unity” was not available at the Arab League summit in March that was held in Baghdad. The Saudis and the Qataris refused to send their top leadership because of their serious difference of opinion with both Syria and Iraq. Qatar sent minor bureaucrats and the Saudis sent their Arab League ambassador, Ahmed Qatan. No princes graced the occasion.
The government of Iraq’s Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki had refused to stop Iranian aircraft from going through their airspace to Syria, and Baghdad was not willing to join in the isolation of Syria. The ground has shifted since March, and now the regional powers seem willing to see if cooperation is possible in order to bring stability to Syria and the region.

Turkey has, unfortunately, refused to come to the NAM meeting. It is not a NAM member, but it has been invited to attend as an observer. There is a precedent for this, since Australia will be in Tehran as the West’s listening post and has threatened to walk out if anything it deems inappropriate is said.
Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu will not attend, and neither will the top leaders of his party in the government. Davutoglu, an academic, has developed a foreign policy that Hurriyet’s editor Yusuf Kanli called “no friends in the neighborhood” strategy.

Turkey has put its hand in the fire of the Syrian cauldron, and no longer knows how to extricate itself. It was one matter to be moved by the violence of the Assad regime, but another to make itself a party to the conflict. Contradictions of geopolitics abound. During the high-point of the Arab Spring, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan put Turkey forward as an example for the new Middle East. Now Turkey has reached the point where it has discovered that its own domestic problems (namely the Kurdish question) might erupt if Turkey presses ahead with the balkanization of Syria.

Egypt’s proposal should be supported as it it builds on regionalism and takes seriously the fact that absent the assent of these regional actors, no pressure can be put on the parties in Syria to stand down. Europe, the US and Russia have played central roles in fueling the crisis, but they are not going to be able to be part of the solution. The regional actors need to take the reins. The Contact Group would be strengthened by an endorsement from the NAM, and it would further embolden Brahimi to make serious inroads into the deadlock between the Syrian government and the opposition. Absent regional pressure, backed by NAM, the blood-letting will continue in Syria – to the detriment of all the people of West Asia.

Vijay Prashad is the author of Arab Spring, Libyan Winter (AK Press, 2012 and Turkish edition, Yordam Kitap, 2012).

The views expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect Al-Akhbar’s editorial policy.
 

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Independent nations must move toward New World Order: Jean Bricmont

by Kourosh Ziabari
Thursday, August 30th, 2012

Prof. Jean Bricmont is a renowned Belgian public intellectual, theoretical physicist, philosopher of science and a professor at the Université catholique de Louvain. A progressive author, he has cooperated with the leading American thinker Noam Chomsky on a variety of anti-war causes.

In 2007, he wrote an article in French discussing the possibility of a US invasion of Iran. One of his famous books is “Fashionable Nonsense: Postmodern Intellectuals’ Abuse of Science” which he has co-written with Alan Sokal. In this book, they talk about a number of issues, including the allegedly incompetent and pretentious usage of scientific concepts by a small group of influential philosophers and intellectuals.

Bricmont’s articles have appeared on Counterpunch, Monthly Review, Voltairenet, Z Magazine, Global Research and other print and online publications.

He has proposed the theory of humanitarian imperialism and is strongly opposed to the U.S. military expeditions around the world and its unilateral attitude toward the independent nations. Bricmont believes that the Non-Aligned Movement countries can move toward establishing a new world order based on the communal interests of the member states.

What follows is the full text of my interview with Prof. Jean Bricmont to whom I’ve talked about a number of issues including the Western powers’ hypocrisy on the human rights issue, America’s wars and military expeditions around the world, the concept of “humanitarian intervention” and Israel’s war threats against Iran.

Dear Jean; in your article, “The Case for a Non-Interventionist Foreign Policy,” you write of the justifications the imperial powers come up with in order to rationalize their military expeditions around the world. Isn’t a hawkish foreign policy an advantage for the politicians in the Western world, particularly the United States, to attract the vote and supporting of the public? Will the American people elect a pacifist President who openly vows to put an end to all the U.S. wars and refrain from waging new wars?

I am not sure that it attracts the votes. In Europe, certainly not. The most hawkish politicians, Blair and Sarkozy were not popular for a long time because of their foreign policy. In Germany the public is systematically in favor of a peaceful foreign policy. As the American pacifist A. J. Muste remarked, the problem in all wars lies with the victor – they think violence pays. The defeated, like Germany, and to some extent the rest of Europe, know that war is not so rosy.

However, I think that, except in times of crisis, like the Vietnam or the Algerian wars, when they turned badly for the U.S. or France, most people are not very interested in foreign policy, which is understandable, given their material problems and given the fact that it looks like being out of reach of ordinary people.

On the other hand, every U.S. presidential candidate has to make patriotic statements, “we are the best”, “a light at the top of the hill”, a “defender of democracy and human rights” and so on. That, of course, is true in all systems of power, the only thing that varies are the “values” to which one refers (being a good Christian or Muslim or defending socialism, etc.).

And, it is true that, in order to get the votes, one must get the support of the press and of big money. That introduces an enormous bias in favor of militarism and of support for Israel.

The imperial powers, as you have indicated in your writings, wage wars, kill innocent people and plunder the natural resources of weaker countries under the pretext of bringing democracy to them. So, who should take care of the principles of international law, territorial integrity and sovereignty? Attacking other countries at will and killing defenseless civilians recklessly is a flagrant parade of lawlessness. Is it possible to bring these powers to their senses and hold them accountable over what they do?

I think the evolution of the world goes in that direction; respect for the principles of international law, territorial integrity and sovereignty. As I said before, the European populations are rather peaceful, both inside Europe and with respect to the rest of the world, at least, compared to the past. Some of their leaders are not peaceful and there is a strong pressure from an apparently strange alliance in favor of war between human rights interventionists and neo-conservatives who are influential in the media and in the intelligentsia, but they are not the only voices and they are rather unpopular with the general public.

As for the U.S., they are in a deep crisis, not only economically, but also diplomatically. They have lost control of Asia long ago, are losing Latin America and, now, the Middle East. Africa is turning more and more towards China.

So, the world is becoming multipolar, whether one likes it or not. I see at least two dangers: that the decline of the U.S. will produce some crazy reaction, leading to war, or that the collapse of the American empire creates chaos, a bit like the collapse of the Roman Empire did. It is the responsibility of the Non-Aligned Movement and the BRICS countries to insure an orderly transition towards a really new world order.

What seems hypocritical in the Western powers’ attitude toward the concept of human rights is that they ceaselessly condemn the violation of human rights in the countries with which they are at odds, but intentionally remain silent about the same violations in the countries which are allied with them. For instance, you surely know that how the political prisoners are mistreated and tortured in Saudi Arabia, Washington’s number one ally among the Arab countries. So, why don’t they protest and condemn these violations?

Do you know any power that is not hypocritical? It seems to me that this is the way power functions in all places and at all times.

For example, in 1815, at the fall of Napoleon, the Tsar of Russia, the Austrian Emperor and the King of Prussia came together in what they called their Holy Alliance, claiming to base their rules of conduct “on the sublime truths contained in the eternal religion of Christ our Savior,” as well as on the principles “of their holy religion, precepts of justice, charity and peace,” and vowed to behave toward their subjects “as a father toward his children.” During the Boer war, the British Prime Minister, Lord Salisbury, declared that it was “a war for democracy” and that “we seek neither gold mines nor territory”. Bertrand Russell, citing these remarks, commented that “cynical foreigners” couldn’t help noticing that “we nevertheless obtained both the mines and the territory”.

At the height of the Vietnam War, the American historian Arthur Schlesinger described U.S. policy there as part of “our overall program of international good will”. At the end of that war, a liberal commentator wrote in the New York Times that: “For a quarter of a century, the United States have tried to do good, to encourage political freedom and promote social justice in the Third World”.

In that sense, things have not changed. People sometimes think that, because our system is more democratic, things must have changed. But that assumes that the public is well informed, which it is not true because of the many biases in the media, and that it is actively involved in the formation of foreign policy, which is also not true, except in times of crisis. The formation of foreign policy is a very elitist and undemocratic affair.

Attacking or invading other countries under the pretext of humanitarian intervention may be legalized and permissible with the unanimity of the Security Council permanent members. If they all vote in favor a military strike, then it will happen. But, don’t you think that the very fact that only 5 world countries can make decisions for 193 members of the United Nations while this considerable majority don’t have any say in the international developments is an insult to all of these nations and their right of self-determination?

Of course. You don’t need unanimity actually, except for the permanent members. But now that China and Russia seem to have taken an autonomous position with respect to the West, it is not clear that new wars will be legal. I am not happy with the current arrangements at the Security Council, but I still think that the UN is, on the whole, a good thing; its Charter provides a defense, in principle, against intervention and a framework for international order and its existence provides a forum where different countries can meet, which is better than nothing.

Of course, reforming the UN is a tricky business, since it cannot be done without the consent of the permanent members of the Security Council, who are not likely to be very enthusiastic at the prospect of relinquishing part of their power. What will matter in the end will be the evolution of the relationship of forces in the world, and that is not going in the direction of those who think that they now control it.

Let’s talk about some contemporary issues. In your articles, you have talked of the war in Congo. It was very shocking to me that the Second Congo War was the deadliest conflict in the African history with some 5 million innocent people dead, but the U.S. mainstream media put a lid on it because one of the belligerents, the Rwandan army, was a close ally of Washington. What’s your take on that?

Well, I am not an expert on that part of the world. But I notice that the Rwandan tragedy of 1994 is often used as an argument for foreign intervention, which, it is claimed, would have stopped the killings, while the tragedy in Congo should be taken as an argument against foreign intervention and for respect of international law, since it was to a large extent due to the intervention of Rwandan and Ugandan troops in Congo.

Of course, the fact that the latter argument is never made shows, once more, how the discourse about humanitarian intervention is biased in favor of the powers that be, who want to attribute to themselves the right to intervene, whenever it suits them.

Just a few days ago, the UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon condemned Iranian leaders for their supposedly “inflammatory and hateful” remarks on Israel. However, I never remember him condemning the Israeli officials for their frequent repeating of dangerous war threats against Iran. What’s the reason behind this hypocrisy?

As you know, the hypocrisy with respect to Israel in the West reaches staggering proportions and Ban Ki-moon, although he is UN Secretary General, is very much on “pro-Western” positions. While I myself have doubts about the wisdom of the Iranian rhetoric about Israel, I think that the threats of military actions against Iran by Israel are far worse and should be considered illegal under international law. I also think that the unilateral sanctions against Iran, taken by the U.S. and its allies, largely to please Israel, are shameful. And, although the people who claim to be anti-racist in the West never denounce these policies, I think they are deeply racist, because they are accepted only because so-called civilized countries, Israel and its allies, exert this threat and those sanctions against an “uncivilized” one, Iran.This will be remembered in the future in the same way that slavery is remembered now.

There are people like you who oppose the U.S. militarism, its imposture and hypocrisy in dealing with the human rights and its attempts to devour the oil-rich Middle East, but unfortunately I should say, you’re in the minority. It’s the Israeli-administered Congress and hawkish think tanks such as the Council on Foreign Relations and National Endowment for Democracy that run the United States, not the anti-war, pro-peace progressive thinkers and writers like you. How much influence do the progressive thinkers and leftist media have over the policies which are taken in the United States?

Well, I think one has to make a difference between support for Israel and the desire to “devour” oil. The two policies are not the same and are, in fact, contradictory. As, I think, Mearsheimer and Walt have shown, the pro-Israel policies of the U.S. are to a large extent driven by the pro-Israel lobby and do not correspond to or help their economic or geo-strategic interests. For example, as far as I know, there would be no problem for our oil companies to drill in Iran, if it weren’t for the sanctions imposed on that country; but the latter are linked to the hostility to Iran from Israel, not from any desire to control oil.

The second remark is that the anti-war people are not necessarily on the left. True, there is a big part of the Right that has become neo-conservative, but there is also a big part of the Left that is influenced by the ideology of humanitarian intervention. However, there is also a libertarian Right, Ron Paul for example, that is staunchly anti-war, and there are some remnants of a pacifist or anti-imperialist Left. Note that this has always been the case: the pro and anti-imperialist position, even back in the days of colonialism, do not coincide with the Left-Right divide, if the latter is understood in socio-economic terms or in “moral” terms (about gay marriage for example).

Next, it is true that we have very little influence, but that is partly because we are divided, between an anti-war Left and anti-war Right. I believe that a majority of the population is opposed to these endless and costly wars, mostly, in Europe, because of the lesson they drew from WWII, or from their defeat in the colonial wars, and, in the U.S., because of war fatigue after Afghanistan and Iraq.

What we do not have is a consistent anti-war movement; to build the latter one would have to focus on war itself and unite both sides of the opposition (Right and Left). But if movements can be built around other “single issues,” like abortion or gay marriage, that put aside all socio-economic problems and class issues, why not?

Although such a movement does not exist now, its prospects are not totally hopeless: if the economic crisis deepens, and if the worldwide opposition to U.S. policies increases, citizens of all political stripes might gather to try to build alternatives.

What’s your viewpoint regarding the U.S. and its allies’ war of sanctions, embargoes, nuclear assassinations and psychological operation against Iran? Iran is practically under a multilateral attack by the United States, Israel and their submissive European cronies. Is there any way for Iran to get out of the dilemma and resist the pressures? How much do you know Iran? Have you heard of its culture and civilization, which the mainstream media never talk about?

I do not know much about Iran, but I do not think I need to know very much about that country although I would certainly like to know more, in order to oppose the policies you mention. I was also opposed to Western interventions in former Yugoslavia or in Libya.

Some people think there are good and bad interventions. But the main issue for me is: who intervenes? It is never really the “citizens” or the “civil society” of the West, or even the European countries on their own, meaning without U.S. support, it is always the U.S. military, mostly its Air Force.

Now, one may of course defend the idea that international law should be disregarded and that the defense of human rights should be left to the U.S. Air Force. But many people who support “good” interventions do not say that. They usually argue that “we” must do something to “save the victims” in a particular situation. What this viewpoint forgets is that the “we” who is supposed to intervene is not the people who actually speak, but the U.S. military.

Therefore, support for any intervention only strengthens the arbitrary power of the U.S., which, of course, uses it as it seems fit, and not, in general, according to the wishes of those who support “good” interventions.

And finally, would you please give us an insight of how the corporate media serve the interests of the imperial powers? How do they work? Is it morally justifiable to use media propaganda to achieve political and colonial goals?

The connection between “corporate media” and war propaganda is complicated, as is the relationship between capitalism and war. Most people on the Left think that capitalism needs war or leads to it. But the truth, in my view, is far more nuanced. American capitalists make fortunes in China and Vietnam now that there is peace between the U.S. and East Asia; for American workers, it is a different matter, of course.

There is no reason whatsoever for oil or other Western companies not to do business with Iran, and, if there was peace in the region, capitalists would descend upon it like vultures in order to exploit a cheap and relatively qualified labor force.

This is not to say that capitalists are nice, nor that they cannot be individually pro-war, but only that war, in general, is not in their interests and they are not necessarily the main force pushing for war.

People are driven to war by conflicting ideologies, especially when they take a fanatical form – for example, when you believe that a certain piece of land was given to you by God, or that your country has a special mission, like exporting human rights and democracy, preferably by cruise missiles and drones.

It is both sad and ironical that an idea that is largely secular and liberal, the one of human rights, has now been turned into one of the main means to whip up war hysteria in the West. But that is our present situation and a most urgent and important task is to change it.

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The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this Blog!

Israeli court legitimizes murder

by Stephen Lendman

My Photo
Cindy and Craig CorrieCindy and Craig Corrie hoped for better. So did sister Sarah. The world knows Israel murdered their daughter, Rachel, in cold blood. On August 28, Israeli justice ruled otherwise.

It’s unsurprising in a nation contemptuous of rule of law principles, democratic values, and life itself. More on the court ruling below.

Israel is a rogue terror state. It’s an out-of-control blight on humanity. It’s a regional menace. Racism and persecution are institutionalized. It’s unfit to live in for most Jews. For Arabs and supporters of equal rights and justice, it’s dangerous.

On March 16, 2003, an Israeli bulldozer soldier/driver murdered Rachel Corrie in cold blood.

Courageously she tried to stop a lawless Rafah refugee camp home demolition. Eye witnesses said she climbed atop a giant militarized Caterpillar tractor, spoke to the driver, climbed down, knelt 10 – 20 meters in front in clear view, and blocked its path with her body.

Activists screamed for it to stop. The operator ignored them. He deliberately crushed Rachel to death. To be sure, he ran over her twice.

He murdered her in cold blood. Israel’s government and military supported him. They still do.
They believe Arab lives and well-being don’t matter. They target activists who support them. They’re considered enemies of the state.

Opposition isn’t tolerated. Murder is official policy to eliminate it. Rachel’s death bears stark witness to institutionalized lawlessness.

Legitimizing it reveals corrupt Israeli justice. Punishment follows Jewish killings. Arab ones or supporters are whitewashed. Orders from the top mandate it. Investigations when they’re held are shams. Israel’s said:

“The state believes that it was proved that the activity of the IDF force is within the framework of ‘war activity.”

“In addition, the state proved that the deceased willfully endangered herself and, sadly, her contributory fault stood at 100%.”

In 2005, Rachel’s family sued: “The estate of Rachel Aliene Corrie v. State of Israel, Ministry of Defense.”

They waited over nine years for justice. The Rachel Corrie Foundation for Peace & Justice (RCFPJ) supports it. Its mission and guiding principles state:
The Foundation continues what Rachel began. It reflects “her vision, spirit, and creative energy….” It supports “build(ing) understanding, respect, and appreciation for differences, and that promote cooperation within and between local and global communities.”

The New York Times, America’s newspaper of record, at first reported nothing. Belated coverage appeared. Online AM editions excluded it. The Washington Post ran an AP piece. Front page headlines omitted it.

AP said “(a)n Israeli court on Monday rejected a lawsuit brought against the military by the parents of a U.S. activist crushed to death by an army bulldozer during a 2003 demonstration, ruling the army was not at fault for her death.”

Rachel was in plain sight. Her bright orange vest and bullhorn made her easy to spot. The soldier-operator lied. He knew she protected a Palestinian home with her body. He claimed he didn’t see her.
Israel called Rachel’s death accidental. A sham investigation report said:

“Rachael Corrie was not run over by an engineering vehicle but rather was struck by a hard object, most probably a slab or concrete which was moved or slid down while the mound of earth which she was standing behind was moved.”

She and others with her were accused of “illegal, irresponsible and dangerous” behavior.
Cindy and Craig sued for justice. Israeli district court judge Oded Gershon contemptuously justified murder. “I reject the suit,” he said. “There is no justification to demand the state pay any damages.”
He claimed Rachel “put herself in a dangerous situation.” He called her death “an accident she brought upon herself.” Blame the victim is Israeli policy.

He said the IDF conducted a proper investigation. It whitewashed Rachel’s death. It absolved cold blooded murder. So did judge Gershon. He rejected her family’s symbolic suit for $1 in damages plus legal expenses.

Family lawyer Hussein Abu Hussein called the verdict “blam(ing) the victim.” His full statement was as follows:

“While not surprising, this verdict is yet another example of where impunity has prevailed over accountability and fairness. Rachel Corrie was killed while non-violently protesting home demolitions and injustice in Gaza, and today, this court has given its stamp of approval to flawed and illegal practices that failed to protect civilian life.”

“In this regard, the verdict blames the victim based on distorted facts and it could have been written directly by the state attorneys.”

“We knew from the beginning that we had an uphill battle to get truthful answers and justice, but we are convinced that this verdict distorts the strong evidence presented in court, and contradicts fundamental principles of international law with regard to protection of human rights defenders.”
“In denying justice in Rachel Corrie’s killing, this verdict speaks to the systemic failure to hold the Israeli military accountable for continuing violations of basic human rights.”

“We would like to thank everyone who supported the family and the legal team; including activists, NGOs, legal observers, US embassy officials, interpreters, reporters who covered the trial, and we look forward to talking to you at the press conference.”

Addressing reporters, Hussein called the ruling “a black day for activists of human rights and people who believe in values of dignity.”

Cindy and Craig will appeal to Israel’s Supreme Court. They’ll continue speaking publicly about Rachel, they said. They won’t let her death be in vain. They criticized Israel’s failure to properly investigate.

“A civil lawsuit is not a substitute for a legal investigation, which we never had,” said Cindy. “The diplomatic process between the United States and Israel failed us. Rachel’s killing could have been and should have been avoided.”

“We’re deeply troubled by what we heard today,” she added. “From the beginning, it was clear to us that there was….a well-heeled system to protect the Israeli military, the soldiers who conduct actions….to provide them with impunity at the cost of all the civilians who are impacted by what they do.”

Israel “worked extremely hard so that the truth behind what happened to my daughter is not exposed.”
“I believe this is a bad day not only for our family, but….for human rights, for humanity, for the rule of law, and also for the country of Israel.”

According to Human Rights Watch representative Bill Van Esveld:

“The idea that there can be no fault for killing civilians in a combat operation contradicts Israel’s international legal obligations to spare civilians from harm during armed conflict and to credibly investigate and punish violations by its force.”

“Military investigators repeatedly failed to take statements from witnesses, to follow up with the witness’s lawyer and to re-interview witnesses to clarify discrepancies.”

In March 2010, multiple oral testimony sessions began. In July 2011, they concluded. They produced over 2,000 pages of court transcripts. Witnesses were flown in. Israeli ones appeared behind screens to conceal their identities. Criminals and supporters sought anonymity.

Cindy and Craig drained their savings. They spent about $200,000 on travel, legal costs, translation services, and other expenses. Their struggle for justice continues.

Sarah Corrie Simpson met with representatives in over 200 congressional offices. She said:

“I hope someday (the bulldozer operator) will have the courage to sit down in front of me and tell me what he saw and what he feels.”

Before the verdict, Craig said:

“You don’t really close a wound like this, but it certainly is a big milestone.”

For days ahead of the ruling, he carried a photo of the then six-year old Palestinian girl whose home Rachel tried to protect. “I think this (picture) in some ways is more hopeful,” he said. “She deserves a future that we all want for our children.”

AP said their case was “the first civil lawsuit of a foreigner harmed by Israel’s military to conclude in a full civilian trial.” Others were settled out of court.

Rachel was an International Solidarity Movement (ISM) volunteer. It’s a nonviolent, direct-action Palestinian movement against occupation and injustice.

Its members used their bodies as human shields to stop home demolitions. During the second Intifada (2000 – 2004), over 1,700 Rafah homes were bulldozed. Around 17,000 Palestinians were left homeless.

Many others throughout Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem lost their homes. Doing so violates Fourth Geneva’s Article 147. It prohibits targeting civilian property.

Rachel justifiably tried to prevent it. Fourth Geneva’s Article 10 supports humanitarian workers. Occupying powers are obligated to protect them. Moreover, Article 54 prohibits targeting civilians.
Rachel was a committed anti-war activist before coming to Gaza in 2002. She arranged peace events in Washington state.

She died in Rafah in southern Gaza. She and other ISM protesters used their bodies to stop other home demolitions. Extremist members of Netanyahu’s coalition government called judge Gershon’s ruling “vindication after vilification.”

PLO Executive Committee member Hanan Ashrawi denounced the decision, saying:

“Despite the testimonies of eyewitnesses, the audio-visual evidence and the overwhelming proof that Rachel was deliberately murdered, the Israeli court insists on victimizing her again in her tragic death.”

“This proves that once again the occupation has distorted the legal and judicial systems in Israel and that the lack of accountability for its violence and violations has generated a culture of hate and impunity.”

“We must make sure that Rachel Corrie’s death is not a senseless incident. It must be stressed that Israel’s habit of blaming the victim and exonerating the criminal is not applied to Palestinian victims, but has also it has extended its reach to international solidarity activists and victims of Israeli violence.”
“The U.S. government has been noticeably absent and its silence is deafening. In their lack of engagement and human empathy, both the legislative and executive branches are complicit in compounding the crime.”

“The Palestinians as a whole will continue to love Rachel and cherish her memory. Her sacrifice will always be a source of hope and a tribute to genuine humanity.”

Ahead of judge Gershon’s ruling, ISM announced it’s scheduled August 28 date, at 9:00AM, in Haifa District Court. Rachel died at age 23. A glorious human being was lost. A militarized Caterpillar D9-R bulldozer crushed her to death.

In its summer newsletter, the Rachel Corrie Foundation for Peace & Justice highlighted the scheduled ruling date. Proceedings began seven and a half years earlier. August 28 was painfully long in coming.
On arrival it left nothing resolved. Rachel’s family members called on others “to show support for this lengthy effort and to seize this moment to challenge the home demolitions (she) opposed….”
In Israel, impunity triumphs over accountability, fairness and justice. Institutionalized lawlessness assures it.

The issue remains as urgent as when Rachel died. On August 29, a live 9:30PM EDT conference call with family members discussed the court ruling. Visits the Foundation site for details and perhaps an audio transcript.

Stephen Lendman was born in 1934 in Boston, MA. In 1956, he received a BA from Harvard University. Two years of US Army service followed, then an MBA from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania in 1960. Supporting progressive causes and organizations, he began writing in summer 2005 on a broad range of issues. Topics regularly addressed include war and peace; social, economic and political equity; and justice for long-suffering peoples globally – notably, victims of America’s imperial wars, Occupied Palestinians and Haitians. In early 2007, he began hosting his own radio program. Currently he hosts the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network. 


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The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this Blog!

Assad from Presidential Palace: Syria Is Fighting Regional, Int’l Battle

 

In an interview that was broadcast Wednesday night on the Syrian channel,  Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad said that his country was engaged in a regional and international battle, what is happening is neither a revolution nor a spring, it is about terrorist acts in every sense of the term.


Syria was targeted for its support to the resistance and its relation with Iran, “Syria does not need a green light neither from its friends nor from its enemies and opponents to defend its sovereign and national causes,” the situation is improving, settling it requires more time, because there is constant arming of militants in Homs specifically, adding that “we cannot separate the situation in Homs from that in other provinces.

‏Photo: صورة من تجمع الشباب باللاذقية لمشاهدة خطاب السيد الرئيس الدكتور بشار الأسد‏

Assad emphasized that “the Syrian media was able to strike real media empires that are not just supported financially but also politically, yet it can develop and become more successful.”

“we don’t respond to rumors because such rumors (about Assad and his family leaving the country) prove their lies”. he added

Regarding the elements that escaped from the country, the Syrian president stated that who runs away is a corrupt person who is either bribed or a coward, or he could be someone who desired a certain position and failed to attain it. This is a self-cleansing of the government firstly and the country generally. Any person who leaves his country is finished in case he had political ambitions, because the Syrian people do not respect anyone who runs away
 

 






President Bashar al-Assad’s Interview with Addounia TV

DAMASCUS- President Bashar al-Assad gave the following interview to Addounia TV on the local and regional developments:

 
Dear viewers of Addounia TV… greetings,
We greet you from the People’s Palace in the Syrian capital of Damascus. We are honored to meet President Bashar al-Assad, President of the Syrian Arab Republic. Mr. President, welcome on Addounia TV.
President al-Assad: Welcome to you and to Addounia TV.
Question: Mr. President, allow me to discuss during today’s meeting the most important issues occupying the thoughts of Syrian citizens which they inquire about daily and in which they dwell upon in all issues, whether it pertains to the situation on the ground or the political situation… we start with the situation on the ground… of course, Aleppo… they talked a lot about Aleppo… what is the situation in Aleppo; how do you view it?
President al-Assad: We cannot separate the situation in Aleppo from the situation in Syria. The difference is that Aleppo and Damascus are the two biggest cities and the two most important cities. One is the political capital and the other is the economic capital. The normal citizen’s evaluation of the situation in general – including Aleppo – comes through escalation; when he sees escalation he considers the situation to be worse and when he sees calm he considers the situation to be better… matters aren’t measured like this. When there are military or security operations then there could be constant escalation and suddenly the situation ends well or the opposite, a continuing calm ends with escalation. In the end, the issue is a battle of wills in the first degree. They have a will to destroy the country. They started with Daraa, moved to Homs and Damascus and Aleppo and Deir Ezzor and Lattakia; to all provinces. They try to move from one place to another. The importance is in the difference in scale or weight of the city in the Syrian context, but if we take into account the scale of the complex battles waged by the armed forces on the technical, tactical and strategic levels, then they are among the most complex types of battles, yet the armed forces achieve great successes in this regard. Everyone hopes that the achievement or the resolution to be within weeks or days and hours. This is illogical; we’re involved in a regional and global battle, so time is needed to resolve it. But I can summarize all this explanation in a sentence: we are moving forward and the situation is practically better but resolution hasn’t been achieved and this takes time.
Question: Mr. President, regarding areas or provinces to which problems moved, starting from Daraa to Damascus Countryside, Homs, Lattakia, Aleppo and Idleb. Of course, there are those who broached the issue of neighboring countries. In this case, many ask what is the position of the Syrian state towards neighboring countries, particularly since some countries facilitate, train, finance and arm in all manners which may constitute a violation of the Syrian state, the security of Syria and the safety of Syrian citizens?
 
President al-Assad: Some neighboring countries stand by Syria [IRAQ] but maybe they’re not exactly able to control the smuggling of logistic supplies to terrorists. Some countries overlook or keep their distance, and some countries participate in this matter, but we have to distinguish between what we as Syria and as Syrian people and as a country want from these countries. Do we seek a relation or a dispute with the country or with the people?
As for Turkey for example; the position of the Turkish state is known, and it assumes direct responsibility for the blood that bled and was shed in Syria. But when we began developing our relation with Turkey, we didn’t look for a relation with individuals or a transient government; rather we looked to a history of tense and turbulent relation for nearly nine decades approximately.  
We wanted to erase it, then do we go backwards because of the ignorance of some Turkish officials, or do we look at the relation with the Turkish people, particularly since this people practically stood with us during this crisis and didn’t drift despite the media and financial pressure to go in the other direction. We must think first of peoples, because governments are transient and we must preserve relations with the peoples because these people are the ones who will practically protect us, as logistic supply will remain weak if the people don’t embrace the issue.
Question: But here we ask about the stances of these peoples towards their governments. Some Syrians expect a movement on the part of these people as their governments polices harm neighboring countries and harm the reputation and dignity of the people.
President al-Assad: Correct, but this needs time, and we mustn’t forget that these peoples themselves are waging battles against these governments. Political battles, of course, and this needs time. We need to be objective, but we must account for winning and losing. Animosity with peoples will not reduce the supply of terrorists; on the contrary, it will make this supply more available. We must improve relations and help these peoples by presenting facts; when these peoples discover the reality of what is happening in Syria and the truth about the position of their officials, they will become stronger in their political battle and the longevity of these governments and these officials will be short in political work., we can withstand this short spell and we can adapt to it while we resolve the battle in Syria.
 
Question: Mr. President, many talked about Homs; Homes which witnessed since the beginnings strong armed activities and high feelings of all types. Many ask: what is the situation in Homs? Why isn’t the situation over in Homs?

President al-Assad: We cannot separate the situation of Homs from the situation of the rest of the provinces. As for the delay of resolving the situation in the city, it’s known that when armed forces wage battles in cities they must take two things into consideration: first, concern for human life, and second, concern for properties. Apart from that, if the armed forces wanted to use all their military capabilities including firepower then they can crush the enemy in a short time, but this is unacceptable and doesn’t achieve the desired results. This type of operations needs time. On the other hand, we cannot forget that there’s constant supply of gunmen in Homs, specifically because they considered Homs to be the center from which the victory they hope for will move, in addition to its proximity to the Lebanese borders.

Question: Can we call it a buffer zone?
President al-Assad: Most Syrian provinces are border provinces; Deir Ezzor, Hasaka, Raqqa, Idleb, Lattakia, Daraa, Sweida, and even Homs partly borders Iraq too. This maybe a reason (why some use buffer zones) but I can’t analyze on behalf of the planners. This issue isn’t important for us, whether they consider them buffer zones or not. A buffer zone is a zone established with the state’s approval through specific agreements between two countries, and we as a state never in any day decided to assume that there’s an area outside Syrian control. When the army wants to enter an area then it can do that. They considered many areas to be outside the state’s control and the army entered most of these areas with ease, which means that they weren’t able to create this zone. Therefore, I believe that talking about buffer zones is firstly nonexistent, and secondly unrealistic, even for countries playing a hostile role.
Question: Mr. President, as the Commander-in-chief of the Army and Armed Force and with your knowledge of the situation on the ground and its details; there are those among the opposition who talk and ask why the Syrian forces and the Syrian army are inside Syrian cities, while not a single bullet has been fired in the Golan for nearly forty years. They ask in this regard if tanks’ natural place is inside Syrian cities and not on the Golan front.
President al-Assad: The task of the army and armed forces in all countries of the world is to protect the homeland. Protecting the homeland doesn’t only mean protecting it from outside, but from within as well; any enemy that comes from any place. You have to defend your country through relevant institutions, primarily the army and armed forces. This time, the enemy moved from within, not from without, and you may tell me that they’re Syrians and I tell you that any Syrian who carries out a foreign and hostile plan becomes an enemy and is no longer Syrian. The proof being that if a Syrian commits espionage then he is sentenced to death by law is execution. In fact, those who implement an enemy’s plan are considered an enemy. The enemy moved from within, so the armed forces moved.
Question: So this doesn’t contradict the concept of resistance and that Syria adopts the ideas of resistance.
President al-Assad: Not at all, on the contrary, Syria adopts the ideas of resistance. But the other idea is that if Syria adopts resistance, then why there isn’t resistance towards the Golan – this may be the idea you mean – then resistance is emerges when a state abandons its responsibility in reclaiming its land, which didn’t happen in Syria like in Lebanon, maybe because of the civil war at the time, and like in Palestine when there’s no state in the first place to reclaim rights, so the resistance had to exist. When we abandon, as a creed, policy and armed forces our primary goal of reclaiming land, then there will be a Syrian resistance.
 
Question: Mr. President, regarding the military operations taking place inside Syria now; there is talk on the Syrian street that Syria received a green light, a Russian green light and Chinese green light, with some going as far as to even say an American green light maybe or a western green light. Does Syria need a green light to carry out what it’s doing now?
President al-Assad: In various stages there was talk of a green light. For example, when Syria entered Lebanon in 1976 there was such talk and it was repeated at other stages. In fact, Syria doesn’t need a green light in sovereign issues, in local issues neither and in national issues, from friends nor from enemies nor from opponents. If we didn’t possess the green light then there’s no need for our existence as a homeland and as a state.
Question: Mr. President, there are those who say that the popular movement in Syria remained peaceful for four or five months and became armed after it was oppressed by the state. Some quote or distort a speech by Your Excellency, the speech before the last in which you said that in Ramadan it became an armed movement and all activities that were out peaceful became armed.
President al-Assad: No, this explanation is inaccurate for a simple reason; if they were unarmed then what explains that in the first week of turbulence and events there were a number of martyrs among security and police forces? Then how did these people die? Did they die from screams? From the sound waves of protestors?
This is illogical. The truth is they died by weapons, but the type of arming and the goal of arming were different. At that time, the main goal was rallying the people by shooting protesters, security men and the police so that the police and security respond and kill more civilians; thereby spreading a state of hostility towards the state.
 
After the failure of this project, they shifted since the last Ramadan to armed action through which they reached rebellious areas that the state cannot enter like Baba Amr and other areas, and of course these areas were entered so the gunmen’s tactic changed. Now, after Baba Amr was entered and after the fall of their sites in various other provinces that they had considered to be fortified, they switched to another method that involved more assassinations and more terrorism against citizens and more of punishing citizens by blocking roads, preventing the arrival of flour for bread, and fuel like diesel, gas oil and gas, and other daily necessities. In fact, the gunmen appeared since the first days. The images broadcast by Syrian TV on what happened in Daraa, the shootings by gunmen which they said at the time were fabricated, were real.
Question: It is said on the street that the state delayed the resolution, meaning that after people saw the progress of military operations they said that the state was capable of doing the sort of military and security operations now which are in the framework of resolution, so why did it delay in this regard, which implied to many who thought that the state is weak so they acquired more weapons, were misled more, and moved forward with this project on a larger scale?
President al-Assad: The state did not delay, and the proof is that when the armed forces sensed a major escalation in Daraa during the beginning of the events in the first months, the army entered Daraa. We never hesitated for a second for the resolution. But with every step the state took, there was a development in their modus operandi, so in turn the state needed more counter steps. Some want us to handle that stage as we handle the stage today. This is illogical. The stage is different, their modus operandi was different, even the public understanding of what is happening was different. Many people were misled in the beginning, thinking that what is happening is a state of excitement a wave of The Arab spring that will affect Syria, that these youths are excitable, that there are no gunmen, that the state is fabricating, all the these things we used to hear. For us as a state, the lack of public understanding was a problem. What helped the state in the resolution in recent months was the clarity of the picture for the larger part of the Syrian population as there’s a change in political conditions and in the security in the security conditions themselves.
There’s a change in the public mood towards what is happening and towards the gunmen as they discovered that what is happening isn’t a revolution nor a spring; they are rather it is terrorist acts in the full meaning of the word, and the clarification of the external factor which wasn’t clear at the beginning. When I delivered my first speech at the People’s Assembly and talked about a conspiracy and confrontation, many wondered what conspiracy and what confrontation, accusing us of saying that everything is a conspiracy and considering what was happening to be a mere case of excitement as I mentioned before, and that if the President had said a few kind and sentimental words then the problem would have been solved. I told them that the problem didn’t begin with sentiments and won’t end with sentiments; there’s a plan and there are internal tools, so from the beginning we took a decision for resolution because the picture was clear, but the method of resolution differs depending on the different stages of the crisis.
Question: Mr. President, this crisis included and was exacerbated by the presence of some personalities who partook in corruption at this stage and exploited the crisis among officials, whether they were in the army security forces or in the state or businessmen and merchants and many activities who exploited the crisis and even contributed to increase it. What about those?
President al-Assad: I wish to distinguish between crisis traders who appear in every crisis in any country, whether they are merchants in the economic or material sense or other people who want to exploit the crisis for other private interests, and they could be inside the state or outside the state, and on the other hand, the mistakes that occur within the crisis and have no relation to prolonging the crisis. There were mistakes that happened, there were transgressions that happened, there were violations, thefts, some of which was uncovered but in a limited number and those were referred to the judiciary many months ago. Everyone who made a mistake or wanted to prolong the crisis for different reasons must be held accountable. This issue is final and isn’t up for discussion or debate, but the Question is how to identify them. You hold accountable the known not the anonymous; and most lawsuits filed and complaints that come in are against anonymous sides, and in the cases in which the individuals were identified and held accountable the wronged party brought the name and there was scrutiny and investigation and the misdemeanor or crime was proven and referred to the judiciary. The main challenge is how to find out who these people are, particularly since that in the conditions of security work and during chaotic circumstances investigation becomes harder than before. As a matter of principle, these individuals must be held accountable even if it were after overcoming these conditions and restoring calm.
Question: Meaning that if they were in positions of power, then dismissal isn’t enough, but also trial?
President al-Assad: When you don’t have proof but rather inconclusive indicators, then you may dismiss that individual for lack of confidence in their performance, but when you have conclusive evidence that this individual did something then he must be referred to the judiciary immediately regardless of the position he occupies.
Question: There are those who say that after nearly a year and a half of the crisis there’s still a problem with the matter of appointments, with some wondering why appoint someone who isn’t qualified, who doesn’t have the ability and qualification needed and who might later cause us problems leading to dismissing and trying them for example. Mr. President, is there a flaw in the appointment mechanism, particularly since the crisis didn’t influence in or maybe didn’t motivate instruments in a bigger way in this regard?
President al-Assad: There’s an objective side to this proposition and a subjective side. The objective sides is that we don’t have in Syria so far human resources management in the scientific sense, and this is a standalone science, and this is what we’re doing by putting the final touches on a project related to public employment, which evaluates the person since entering the government employment and until leaving it with a full course that specifies the development of their work. Someone good may come along and the evaluation is correct but after a while they deviate. The mechanism of entry alone isn’t enough. As for saying that this person came and didn’t prove to be good in the current mechanism in the absence of human resources management then you can only try as you don’t know if this person will fail. You must try to know that they will fail, and as long as they failed and you can replace them then where’s the problem? Of course, this takes time, but you don’t have other options. There are cases where a person is successful in a place and we assume that his success in this place will lead to his success elsewhere, only to discover that this isn’t true after trying. In fact, with the absence of human resources in their scientific form, then you have no option except to try, and the important thing in this case is not to keep quiet over someone who makes mistakes or fails, nor keep them in place, and in turn there’s someone who fails in a place not because they’re bad, but because this place doesn’t suit them, when you transfer them elsewhere they might succeed.
Question: Mr. President, many people link everything to the President, saying the President appointed this minister or issued that or discussed this, confusing a presidential decree with a mistake or something the government is in charge of. Your Excellency talked on more than one occasion about a true supervision that the media should perform on government performance. How can the media have the bigger role in supervision?
President al-Assad: Officials must be monitored from above and monitored form below, which means the public base, but demands so far are to monitor officials from above only, and this isn’t enough. It might be enough for certain levels of responsibility; a minister, a general director and the like, but there are lower levels like employees who need popular oversight in which the media plays a main role. The media tried in various stages to play this role, but this isn’t only through articles highlighting general issues, as the media’s role is to prepare a full case like, in countries that are advanced in what happens this field; the journalist presents a full case containing evidence, and in this case there’s no choice for officials but to refer this case as it is to investigation and later to the judiciary. This is what the media lacks. Of course, for the media to succeed in this, we also need more transparency by the state, as those affected will attempt to shut all doors in the face of the media, but the media must remain persistent and determined in this framework. Of course, for the President’s role, he’s responsible for the entire state and cannot evade or say I’m not responsible for a certain aspect of the state, but there’s a certain reality: no-one can see all corners of the country.
Question: From this comes the emphasis on the role of institutions which Your Excellency talked about since the oath speech, that in a state of establishment each point must assume its true role?
President al-Assad: Exactly. As long as establishments aren’t mature, any official’s role including the President’s will remain a lacking role. The President supervises in a general manner the policies of establishments and intervenes in some cases, but here we’re dealing with thousands of cases each day, cases that relate to citizens who cannot be supervised daily unless there are institutions of establishments or participation on the part of citizens in managing the state’s affairs.
Question: You Excellency said that the media should persist, but is there a mechanism that organizes work more effectively and thus gives – we don’t want to say authority in the literal sense but rather a bigger role for the media? Are we allowed to intervene more in affairs which may be related to oversight?
President al-Assad: It’s more than a question of being allowed or not. For me as an official, when you do your duty, I succeed, and your role is a success for me, and it’s in my personal interest that the media succeeds in this regard, and there’s national interest too as the homeland succeeds, institutions succeed and citizens succeed and become comfortable. In these matters, we all win when you play your role. The media playing its role isn’t a matter of allowing or not, but rather a matter of knowing exactly how to play the role objectively, and for the media not to exploit their role for personal interest. The media, in the end, is one of the authorities that can exploit authority for personal interest, and this relies on the profession’s professional ethics of those working in the field.
Question: Meaning that if the issue is within the supervision framework oversight and the framework of serving the country, then the media, as Your Excellency said, has the green light.
President al-Assad: Exactly, but by overcoming the educational role and playing a more investigative role, and by having the media’s role become investigating cases and finding evidence in addition to solutions, thereby assisting the judiciary and the investigating authorities, and at the same time proposing solutions to officials that we can benefit from in our decisions in the future.
Question: Mr. President, the media is being targeted now in Syria, and Your Excellency highlighted this on more than one occasion. In a previous stage we faced a media war from abroad, then it shifted to targeting the Syrian media politically. We saw the decision of the Arab foreign ministers when they decided to block Syrian channels from satellites which is also a precedent, and bloody targeting that manifested itself in al-Ikhbariya bombing, the bombing of the General Establishment of Radio and Television, and the targeting of Addounia TV and journalists with kidnapping and murder. Where do you place the media in this context?
‏Photo: في عامين و حنا نسمعو في الغنية هدي ههههههههههههههههه ياودي لسنا اغبياء  M.M.H‏
President al-Assad: The answer lies in the question, and it takes us to an important point which is that we must stop self flagellation, despite the presence of shortcomings in all fields including the media, and we wish things had been better. But if this tool has been a failure, as some claim, then it wouldn’t have been targeted. If it were bad, harmful and a failure then they would have provided you, as national media whether public or private, free satellite channels. This affirms that Syrian media managed to expose them and undermine true media empires behind which is not just money but also political decisions in major capitals of the world. This in itself is proof of the success of Syrian media. Of course, we can be stronger and more successful, and this is natural. We haven’t reached our aspirations and you haven’t reached your aspirations as media, and this is the course of life. But to those who say that the media is a failure, this is our answer.
Question: Mr. President, the issue of defections is one of the things that concerned Syrian society lately as well. There were those who promoted the defection of figures like Riyad Hijab, Manaf Tlas, some diplomats and some officers of various ranks, and they said that if these people hadn’t seen something dark in Syria’s future and that the state isn’t stable and isn’t strong, then they wouldn’t have abandoned fortune, power and positions to the unknown.
President al-Assad: Regardless of the names, and assuming that the future is dark, is this a reason to leave the country? What is this limited proposition, it is an accusation of being unpatriotic. But let us examine the term.
 
First, defection is when one establishment separates from a bigger establishment that presides over it or the defection of a part of an establishment from the main establishment, and at the top of this establishment is an individual or individuals who rebel against the higher levels or the main establishment. This didn’t happen. What happened was that individuals who were occupied certain positions fled the country, which is a process of desertion and escape, not defection. The defection is internal, not external. It’s a rebellion against the state within the country, which didn’t happen. Therefore, these are desertions outside the country, and those who desert or flee are either people who were presented with money and left, and are therefore corrupt and accept bribes, or cowards who were threatened by terrorists or the other side or, as you said, had no hope of a bright future, so they got scared of this future and fled abroad, or maybe it was someone with ambition who believed that he should have gotten gains or benefits or specific ranks but didn’t and decided to flee. Of course, there other reasons.
 
In the end, those who flee are practically either weak or bad, because a patriotic and good person doesn’t runaway and doesn’t flee abroad. Practically, this process is positive and a process of self-cleansing of the state first and the country in general, so we mustn’t be upset by this process because it’s positive.
 
Many people we didn’t know had these qualities and they exposed their truth themselves, which is positive. Add to that that more than one person was said to want to defect before, and what did we do?
 
We told those who proposed that let’s facilitate it for him and let him go. It’s a positive process. Of course, we weren’t sure in all cases, and in return in some cases we were very sure yet we didn’t mind, and despite that many people were discussed before and lately and were allegedly to flee Syria under the slogan of defection, did you hear that the state arrested any of those? Of course not, because we view this positively.
Question: Despite knowing and being aware of this.
President al-Assad: In some cases, we have information and high suspicions. We don’t say fully aware. But the question put by relevant authority was what to do, how to act, should we prevent them? There was a call to prevent them but we told them no, prevention isn’t right, these people’s departure is the right thing.

First, they’re exposed before the Syrian people. Second, every person who leaves the country is finished. If they have political ambition or goals then they’re over for the simple reason which is that the Syrian people don’t respect those who run away, and that Syrian people cannot be led by remote control with wireless devices, and they cannot lead them from abroad. This issue has been resolved historically, so I can say that if there’s a Syrian citizen who knows that about someone who is hesitant and wants to flee, then they should encourage them.

Question: Within the major campaign targeting Syria, can we expect more desertion? Do you have a problem in this regard?
President al-Assad: If desertion is by this kind of people then it’s a positive case, and it’s natural for this sort of people come to the surface during crises, and this a positive thing that we must anticipate and be optimistic about, not pessimistic.
Question: Your Excellency indicated on all occasions the scale of the conspiracy and pressure against Syria and the many things for which all available methods and means have been rallied politically and non-politically, morally and immorally. The Syrians ask: why us? Why are we being targeted with this enormous amount of resources aimed at Syria?
President al-Assad: this is the history of Syria, conflict on Syria took place even when we were part of the Ottoman Empire, because the Levant is a strategic region, following independence and the French evacuation all the coups were funded from outside and aimed at controlling Syria and the Syrian policy as well as dragging it into axes which were present at that time when Syria started to adopt an independent policy, practically after March 8th Revolution and consolidated after the Corrective Movement when the attack on Syria became more powerful than before.

Now, we are paying the price of different stances, some of them related to the principled polices linked to the Syrian rights, our stance on the resistance and our relation with Iran which means with this axes that is not liked by the West.

Some of those are linked to our latest stances, a lot of people aren’t aware that our stance on the shelling of Libya was a lonely stance at the Arab League against the no-fly zone. We objected, and not merely abstained. As we fully understood that the no-fly zone means the start of aggression on Libya and this is what has happened. We pay the price of these stances and the price of the west’s openness towards us in 2008, 2009 and 2010 during which time some have mistakenly believed that it was a real openness stage, but it was a stage through which they aimed to change the way of dealing with Syria , and to reach the needed goals, conspiring against resistance, particularly in Lebanon and targeting relations between Syria and Iran which stands by us and the Arab right, and when they failed during that stage, the Arab Spring was the new justification for them in front of their peoples to conspire once again against Syria. For all these reasons we pay the price.
Question: Mr. President, Was anything were demanded to be done by your side, and you refused to do so during the openness and interest stage which was practiced on Syria between 2008 and 2010, so the ways and means have changed?
President al-Assad: Yes, they clearly and continuously asked us to move away from Iran, and our answer was clear as much as Iran stands by us, supports us and stands by our rights without any hesitation and even without discussions of the details just as it is a Syrian right or a Syrian opinion.
 
So how could we move away from it. In principle, rejecting or inverting on a side or faithful country, this is unacceptable .In terms of interest, a country which changed the Israeli Embassy into a Palestinian one and stood with the Palestinian right. As Arab states, we don’t talk but with the Palestinian right, do we come and turn the table on this country ?? on the other side, the attempts which were made during that time were related to conspiring on the Iranian nuclear file though we are not part of this file, and Iran didn’t ask assistance in this issue, the issue is proposed on the international arena, not on the regional one, what was needed from Syria was to convince Iran with matters against its interest, we saw that issue as an issue which relates to our future interest, our national security in the future, because what is applied to Iran as a state which seeks to get peaceful nuclear energy will be applied to us in future, particularly as this energy is basic in the future, and the West wanted to monopolize the knowledge and prevent it from the developing countries.
 
There is another side related to the resistance, they also wanted us to conspire against the resistance in Palestine, the resistance in Lebanon through some measures which might be happening in Lebanon to prevent it, we rejected all these issues, they relied on the principle of openness and that the Arabs like honoring, and appreciation, and flattery, this openness and the repeated visits and drumming by the western media against Syria whose president was a criminal a few years ago according to their media in 2005 after al-Hariri issue, and suddenly became a peace maker, this gives you an idea of western hypocrisy, and when they failed during that stage, the Arab spring was the opportunity to terminate the Syrian policy.
Question: Syria has and still encounters all forms of sanctions that targeted some Ministers, companies, among them medical, food ones, so the Syrian people was the target. Those sanctions were seemingly imposed on a number of personalities, but the reality is that they impacted the people as a whole, who could Syria avoid all these sanctions, particularly as they say that through economic pressure, or through making Syria collapse economically they might achieve their political goals?
President al-Assad: This kind of sanctions will undoubtedly affect Syria, but it will affect with specific degrees. This depends on how we could we adapt with these conditions. Look to Iran, it progresses forwards in light of severe sanctions throughout many decades. We are a nation that has intelligence throughout history, we have a great ability to adapt, we have lived the crises throughout our history. The stages which were calm were limited stages in the Syrian history, undoubtedly we have capability to adapt with them as we are a productive state, we are not an importer country in principle, we are productive state from agriculture, crafts into small industries, but we have to reformulate our economy in a way that suits with this new condition, in this case we can make achievement. The Syrian industry has developed in light of the eighties siege, you remember at that time we had not even the basic materials, that condition was more difficult than this stage, we had no minimum reserve in our banks, even though we could develop industry, today we have bigger capabilities but they need some thinking, a number of practical plans, not theorization, I believe that we will get benefit, these outcomes will occur after the crisis though self-dependence and keeping away from some unimportant consumer- habits which we have adopted mainly because we live years of welfare, so we have the ability to remain and develop, and what we need is to specify what the best formula for our economy.
Question: Mr. President, You called for dialogue, and the state calls for dialogue, some opposition parties talk now about dialogue, they were rejecting dialogue, but now they accept, some reject, other accept, how the State deals with the call for dialogue since the convening of the conference last year?
President al-Assad: This is a very long story though it lasted a year and a half, but it was very rich and a lot of people don’t know what things were happening and what was the reality of the dialogue, what was the stance of the state and the opposition’s.

At the beginning of the crisis, we asked to conduct dialogue with all the forces and personalities even those who were novice in politics, we went beyond all the political forces reaching social and cultural personalities, etc, we considered the issue as not a political issue, but a national issue, each person in Syria is engaged in resolving this crisis, at that time, the issue of dialogue was proposed on all levels by different sides, and by the states which came to advise us, with good or bad faith, the same thing by the powers existing in Syria which wanted to exploit the crisis, or those who wanted to take a national and real position.

We said that the notion of dialogue is good and we started to work for that purpose, here the sorting out began, particularly regarding the forces of opposition. There was a national opposition which wanted to put aside all its interests and visions which we differ on to put the interest of the Homeland first. Subsequently in the political process, some of them entered elections, others participated in the People’s Assembly and the government.

On the other side, there was the non-national opposition whom we didn’t talk about directly, without specifying who was this opposition, the people will later know who they are, but we have to specify what is happening.

In the beginning, that opposition presented a reform process, reforming, amending, changing laws or amending the constitution. It believed that we would reject this logic, of course, this is what has been proposed by it publically, At the same time, it was bargaining with us through hidden channels that it had no interest in all this and that this speech was for the media or popular consumption, but it wanted to take part in the government.

Of course, in principle we said we have no problem in the issue of participation in the government. The government is not restricted to one side, the government is for all people. We have always let independent people participate. Other forces could come, we have no problem, but we don’t accept blackmail. The basis in dealing with any side is the moral and principled dealing. We reached dialogue.

Those forces were calling for dialogue, we were surprised that they didn’t come, I stress that I talk about part of the opposition, why did those forces refuse to come to dialogue? Because, before dialogue starts, they supposed it to be restricted to the State and those groups, to sit at the dialogue table in the absence of other sides.

Interposition: which means monopolization.
President al-Assad: Yes, for a simple reason: they wanted to pretend to be defenders of the people and representatives for them, and that we are against the people.
They had no popular base, but they tried to achieve a political position for them in as opportunists in order to negotiate with the State, so we rejected this speech and called on all different powers, on the dialogue table there was more than 100 personalities. They represent different Syrian spectrums, this is from one side.
 
Another side was that some of these powers were continuously contacting the western embassies which were actively working in Syria at that time, they were told not to go for dialogue because the life span of the state, or what they call “regime”- and this word is rejected-, the life span of this state is in weeks or a number of months, so you don’t have to talk to a collapsed side. There were other sides which went to Egypt, received money from Gulf countries at the Arab League or through officials at the Arab League in order not to go to the dialogue. There was another reason, they proposed the issue of reform, I met some groups of them, they talked about the constitution and the 8th Article, before a month of the dialogue, I addressed the people at Damascus University, during which I announced reforms.
 
According to them, what was needed from this dialogue was to propose reforms and put us in front of two options; if we accepted, they would say to the people that they brought the reform through negotiations with the state, and if we rejected, they would say that the State was against reform, so let us fight it. So they monopolize the popular base as defenders of the people’s rights. This was clear for us, they are opportunists to a great deal, so we disregarded them, and moved to another stage after dialogue. Of course, they continued their stance through betting on the embassies and the Gulf powers existed at the Arab League and contacted them till they lost hope. Lately, we heard that they started to talk about dialogue.
 
Let us put aside all this opportunism, and suppose good well, let us say to come late is better than not to come, but if you wanted to come late, you have to be true, not to come once more as an opportunist to get on a wave that you see this ship didn’t sink, so let us ensure a place in it. You are talking now about rejecting violence and arming from all sides. This is the word which some are ruminating from time to time, if you admitted of the weapon or arming, why did you reject it a year ago? Would you come and say clearly that you were mistaken or in maximum that you have lied to the people. We don’t expect the second, in minimum, the first. Let him say that he didn’t know, let him say that he made a mistake in evaluation. But to come as if nothing has happened, this speech is rejected, this opportunism is rejected, when they believe that they didn’t find a place for them on the other ship and that it drowned through councils abroad or through the outside’s discovering that the opportunist opposition has no real position in Syria, has no role.
Through betting on the military terrorist act and the failure of this armed terrorist work in Syria to achieve important outcomes, on the contrary it was a retreat and contraction. At that time they began to shift. This speech is unacceptable for us. This is on one side, but on the other, there are other initiatives at work.
Question: Initiatives of the opposition like Rome’s. Here we discussed the three stages of dialogue that first they demanded it, second they refrained from it, and now they demand it again, and with the belief that the ship hasn’t sunk. The number may expand and new spectrums may come to join them.
President al-Assad: In addition to what I said in my previous answer on rejecting dealing with opportunism, we have a principled policy and what we said at the beginning of the crisis we say today. We didn’t change our positions at all towards the events and all the circumstances surrounding it. We say that our dealing with initiatives is also based on what side is making the initiative? What tools do they possess? What is their weight in Syria?

If they’re countries like what is happening now when we hear about an initiative to be carried out by Iran and we supported it, first due to Iran’s role in the region and its importance and principled nature and other reasons, and because it will be with a group of other countries that aren’t necessarily as principled and of the same weight, but they can play a role in one way or another. We ask each side that makes an initiative: what is the weight of this side?

Many initiatives came from various sides, some from foreign organizations like the one that sponsored the recent Rome initiative, and I’m surprised that foreign organizations are sponsoring Syrian initiatives by Syrian people. This is disgraceful for us on the national level. We disregarded many of these initiatives that have no value and no weight, as the crisis isn’t a place for some people to seek positions. This is part of trading in the crisis.

Question: Those who watched the issue of the ship whether it will sink or not, bet on a time frame. We’re talking now about a year and a half. The ship is still strong and it seems that with the determination of this country’s people it will remain strong. We ask: who made Syria so far strong and steadfast in the face of all it went through?
President al-Assad: First, some made a mistake in believing that the ship is the ship of the state or, once again in quotes, a “regime.” The ship is the homeland either Syria drowns or Syria makes it. We must be clear on this point; the state cannot sink and the homeland persists for simple reason which is that despite the many mistakes that exist, there’s a deep bond between this state’s policies and this people’s creed. But if we said who made this country steadfast, the fact is it’s the people in general, and the popular base not its elite. To be clear for history: the wide base which maybe isn’t usually interested in politics.
Interposition: The common people.
President al-Assad: Yes, the common people who maybe aren’t interested in politics, maybe they don’t have degrees, maybe they don’t live in these atmospheres, but they have a deep natural feeling about the truth of the crisis and its substance and essence. This isn’t the first time I discover this or see this scene; we saw it in 2003 after the war on Iraq and its results when some jumped to criticize the Syrian position for opposing major countries and siding with Iraq at the time, and it showed clearly after 2005 when the west conspired against it on the background of the assassination of al-Hariri in Lebanon, and now we see it clearer; it’s the same image.

This wide base of the people is the one that protects the country, not the elite, to be clear whether this satisfies some or upsets them. Doubtless the most important element of this people which made this country steadfast is the armed forces. This army and armed forces, with their security and police, carry out heroic acts in the full sense of the word. They have readiness for sacrifice which we heard of before and believed to be individual cases, and they’re present in any army in the world, individual cases of heroism. But the surprising thing was the general state of readiness for sacrifices, cases of which we saw directly and live on Addounia TV and on the Syrian TV during the battles that showed their bravery and the successes they achieved.

Without the successes of the Syrian Arab Army during these complicated circumstances, the country’s situation would doubtless be in danger, and the people’s embracing of this army is essential. We say the people’s army, as this army is part of this people. If we look at society as sectors of doctors, intellectuals, university graduates, vocational workers, farmers, workers, etc., and if we go back to the beginning of the crisis, the crisis began or relied on sectarian propositions. They wanted in the beginning to create a sectarian divide among the Syrian people to open a large hole in Syria in which this plan can pass very easily and quickly. The sectarian proposition is a departure from religion and deviation from religion, because religions, and Islam in particular, cannot be sectarian and separatist. There are many tools for confronting sectarianism, but the most important tool for this is proper religion, and no-one can play this role like religious figures or scholars. Truth is, for history, the role of religious figures in this crisis was very important and vital, and many people don’t know that a number of respectable religious figures were tortured and imprisoned in basements and some were assassinated and paid with their lives not for standing by the state, but for saying a word of truth or for speaking of the true principles of religion. The essence of the crisis was primarily creating sectarian strife and religious figures had a primary role in combating it. Here we also talk about the media as we said before; if the role of the media in Syria wasn’t important then journalists wouldn’t have paid the price with their lives. There are many groups, there are people in various points. I don’t exclude groups; all groups have patriotic people and people who paid the price with their lives, but there was a focus by the opponents and enemies on specific direction, and these groups or sectors of the people had to fulfill their duty and they carried out their duty. On the other hand, there were of course deviant religious figures who played a negative role either due to ignorance in creed or due to hidden political reasons for which they exploited religion, but those were encircled by the religious figures of Syria. Therefore, I believe this stage is one that should be recorded for all these groups that protected the homeland.

Question: Of course, we remember the assassination of many activities; doctors, engineers, university professors, scientists in all fields.
President al-Assad: This is correct. But maybe what was wanted from each individual in these groups was limited compared to the big slogans that were posed at the beginning of the crisis, yet I go back and say that everyone belongs to this people, and when I started by saying that the people were the ones who protected this country, then this encompasses all groups.
Question: Your Excellency, the Syrians want to know where they are heading, Where are we going? What next? What do you say to the Syrians, Your Excellency?
President al-Assad: We take Syria to the destination we want to as Syrian People and not to any other place. The external factor has an effect as it can speed up a certain process or slow it down or divert the direction, but we can correct the direction. All that is taking place in Syria was never to take place if we had not certain groups: specific groups, but they are influential in pace with the foreign scheme politically or criminally. In the absence of such groups, be sure that a conspiracy led by the entire world against Syria, and in which all the world takes part against Syria is unable to affect the future which we want to draw for ourselves. In short, the fate of Syria is in the hands of the Syrians, NOT in the hands of anybody else; and once we eliminate terrorism, we will have no problem, even the conspirator would return and change.
The Syrians who took part in these events are responsible for encouraging the conspirators to persist in their conspiracies. This is the truth. That is why we need to address the internal situation. The conspiracy is big; but as I said in every speech and every interview, the foundation lies in Syria. When we get rid of those terrorists and return to search later for the causes behind the presence of such criminality which we did not believe existed in our country, then we will be assured. This is the responsibility of society and the entire homeland to eliminate terrorists and search for the real causes and deal with them. Then we should be assured; and then Syria will return as we know it before the crisis and I am certainly confident of this thing.
Question: On more than one occasion, Your Excellency said that Syria is the mother of all her children; and consequently when the state grants an amnesty for those who have been involved in the events, there are those who say that such amnesties might be granted when the state is strong. Some people also empty the amnesty of its significance. The same applies to calls for the armed men to lay down their weapons. Those people say that the state is not in a position which enables it to grant such amnesties.
President al-Assad: The answer is implied in the Question. You show mercy when you are strong, not when you are weak. It is a sign of strength and self-confidence. It is confidence in ourselves and in the people, because the state represents the people and is part of it. Many people have been misled and misguided. Put aside mistakes: some times, in security work, some people get arrested by mistake and are released individually or collectively. But there are cases which are identified by law as offences, and which we might show some tolerance towards. This approach has produced positive results during the past eighteen months. If amnesty achieves positive results, why shouldn’t we pursue it. Solving the crisis is not only through the elimination of terrorism, or through force. We have to use all possible means including tolerance. That is why we continue to embrace this policy.
Question: Part of the Syrian people say – and let us put this between quotation marks – that they no longer believe in pan-Arabism. They say we should put “Syria first” and abandon pan-Arabism after the stances taken by the Arab League and suspending Syria’s membership and the role played by some Arab regimes. Does His Excellency President Bashar al-Assad still believe in pan-Arabism and what is called “Arab action”?
President al-Assad: First, I repeat what I said in one of my speeches, that “Syria first” is self-evident. Every homeland, every village to which a human being belongs is “first”. But this does not contradict with what comes second, which is the city, the larger homeland and the Arab world to which we belong. This talk is reductive and comes as a reaction. When we say “Syria first”, or that we don’t want to belong to the Arab nation, it means that we are handing the Arab nation over to those conspiring against us. On the contrary, I say that today I am more committed to pan-Arabism, more convinced of it and more comfortable with it. After more than a decade of working with some – not all – of those Arab officials at different levels – some of them heads of state – I know that they don’t belong to the Arab nation and it doesn’t belong to them. This assures one that the Arab nation is pure despite some people’s endeavours to make it murky with their existence. As to the Arab league, it is not a standard of a criterion for pan-Arabism. Pan-Arabism is not an organization, it is a state of civilization. This region is based on a number of pillars, the biggest among them are pan-Arabism and Islam. Without both of them as two big bases, the region can never exist in its present form. Without believing in these two main pillars, we show that we do not believe in something which exists in reality whether we like it or not. This is a fact. If you don’t believe in it, you need to change it. Can we cancel away pan-Arabism? This is a different issue.
As to the Arab League, let’s be realistic: in the past 10 years, since the outbreak of the Intifada – In the 1990s it only met once, since there was only one Arab summit. Since the year 2000, what are the achievements of the Arab League in the interest of the Arab nation? In fact, through my presence in all Arab Summits, Syria had no ambition to achieve anything. Our utmost ambition was to decrease losses. We always knew that there were traps and landmines which we needed to dismantle. We never believed that in the Arab League there was real work in the interest of the Arab nation. One of his most difficult political activities was to attend an Arab Summit as to dismantle and deter the set-off of traps and mines, citing the lack of a belief in the presence of a genuine work in the League in the interest of the Arab Nation.
Question: A number of Foreign media outlets said they want President Assad to appear on TV screens every day to dispel rumors about him. They wonder where you are: in Lattakia, in Tehran, in Moscow? Even his wife and children: where are they, inside Syria, outside Syria. Mr. President, where are you now?
President al-Assad: I am with you in the Republican Palace in Damascus. Anyway, such rumors are not entirely negative, as we do not in most cases respond to the rumors which are like ‘bubbles’ exposing their lies and falsifications, though such rumors might confuse the citizen a little, but they confuse them more and confuse their fighters. They try to improve the morale of their fighters through such rumors, and by so doing offer illusions to their tools. This is a good thing and should not annoy us. This means that these tools will soon fail. We should not pay heed nor get upset by such rumors. I am here on the ground, in reality. They are incapable of making fear creep to my heart or into the hearts of the majority of Syrians. They will never achieve this.
Question: Thank you very much Mr. President.

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Libyan Minister: "We will not tangle with Islamists!"

Via FLC

(Reuters) – Libya‘s interior minister said on Tuesday he could would not risk an armed confrontation with hardline Muslims behind a string of sectarian attacks, in an unusually candid admission of the scale of the security challenge facing the country …”

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Glimpse of Freedom at Rafah Crossing

rafah palestine
The Rafah crossing. Credit: Eva Bartlett/IPS.
“I waited from 10 am till 5 pm for my wife to cross from Egypt. She was among many hundreds who were coming into Gaza. Some waited since 6 am, some since the day before.”
Jaber (who requested anonymity out of fear of future restrictions on his exiting Gaza) was relieved when, a few days before Eid holiday began on Aug. 19, his wife was able to cross from Egypt into the Gaza Strip. During the three days of Eid, the Rafah border crossing was closed in both directions.
“Of course I was happy that my wife got through, but I was also disgusted at how Palestinians are forced to wait for, or are denied, the right to exit and enter our country.”
On Aug. 25, the border opened anew, temporarily easing the worries of Palestinians in Gaza who feared the opposite outcome: indefinite closure.
Maher Abu Sabha, head of Gaza’s border crossings, explained the reason for such worries.
“On Aug. 5, unidentified gunman attacked an Egyptian military checkpoint near the Rafah crossing, killing 16 Egyptian soldiers. Immediately, many Israeli and Egyptian journalists wrote that Palestinians had committed the attack.”
Also immediately after the attacks – the perpetrators of which remain unknown – Egypt ordered the Rafah crossing closed.
“Just over a week later, near the end of Ramadan, the border reopened for three days for humanitarian cases needing to travel to or via Egypt, and for Palestinians needing to return to Gaza,” said Abu Sabha.
With no clear border procedure yet defined by Egyptian authorities, Palestinians in Gaza are wondering whether the border crossing will remain less restrictive, as it became after Mohammed Mursi was elected Egypt’s new president, or whether it will devolve to the Mubarak days of heavy restrictions and constant closures.
Abu Sabha says nothing is yet clear. “We’re still waiting for confirmation from Egyptian authorities on what exactly the procedure will be at the Rafah crossing.” Yet, he says that relations between Gaza’s Palestinian authorities and those of the Mursi government are very good.
“Prime Minister Haniyeh (Ismail Haniyeh, prime minister from the Hamas party in Gaza) has visited with Mr. Mursi. They have good relations and there is talk of positive developments for the border and of President Mursi’s promise that Rafah crossing will be open 12 hours every day,” says Abu Sabha.
After Hamas was democratically elected in 2006, and in tandem with implementation of the Israeli-led total siege of Gaza, the Rafah crossing border procedures became as trying and impossible as when Israel physically and militarily occupied the Gaza Strip.
Israeli rights group Gisha reported that from June 2007 to March 2009, Rafah crossing was closed permanently “except for random and limited openings by Egypt, which meet only 3 percent of the needs of the residents of the Gaza Strip to enter and leave.”
“During the hardest years of the ongoing siege of Gaza, Rafah was closed indefinitely. When it did sporadically open, only at most 400 could leave,” says Maher Abu Sabha. “Mubarak was one of the key reasons for Gaza’s closure by the Egyptian side. Since he has been replaced, more people have been able to cross in and out of Gaza via Rafah.

“The Rafah crossing is like no other,” says Abu Sabha. “Other borders around the world, and even other Egyptian borders, are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, no holidays. But Rafah closes Fridays and holidays and is only open from 10 am to 6 pm. It also differs from other borders because it is Palestinians’ only real door to the outside world.”

In 2000, Israel closed Gaza’s sole airport; Israeli bombings in 2001 destroyed it. [It was completely destroyed in the 2008-2009 Israeli attacks on Gaza]
*bombed Gaza airport, November 2008
Under international law, Palestinians, like any people, have the right to leave and enter their country, “a basic right, which the parties who exert control over Rafah crossing are obligated to respect and safeguard,” Gisha notes.
Mazen Aiysh, 35, en route to Jordan to visit family, reiterates Abu Sabha’s words.

“Our situation is different from anyone else’s, that’s obvious. Any other nationality can come and go as they like, but we can’t. It’s my right to leave my country to see my family, to travel, to go other places.”

Also exiting, Iman Salim, 58, says her return home to Jordan was delayed.

“I was supposed to leave before today but wasn’t able to because the border closed. The attack that happened in Egypt has nothing to do with us, but we were punished nonetheless.”

Still waiting for the final word from Egypt, Abu Sabha is optimistic.

“I hope that the Rafah crossing is opened for 24 hours a day, like borders anywhere else in the world, and that goods which are banned under the Israeli siege may be permitted to enter and exit through Rafah.”

Although happy to be reunited with his wife, Jaber does not share the optimism.

“All of this control and these political games are to make our lives difficult and to destroy our will to live. No one actually wants to solve our problem.”

#gallery-11322-2-slideshow .slideshow-slide img { max-height: 410px; /* Emulate max-height in IE 6 */ _height: expression(this.scrollHeight >= 410 ? ‘410px’ : ‘auto’); } Read Haidar Eid’s 2008 “Shades of Checkpoint Charlie at Rafah Crossing
excerpts:

tens of thousands of people were waiting there, children, old people, women, and worst of all, terminally ill people, all sitting under the baking hot sun of this semi-desert area.

we waited. The heat became even worse, children cried, and the sick and the elderly sat desperately on the ground — they could no longer stand and would have to sit on the ground to wait for the gate to open. I decided to join them because it was clear that the wait would be a long one.

We had to wait outside until somebody allowed us to go inside the Palestinian hall to spend the night there. I was so tired and felt ill. I was also desperate for a toilet as none had been made available to us for all these hours.

Next to me was an old woman talking on her cellphone about the pain she was in. Next to her was the family with seven daughters, all on their way to Jordan. Opposite me was an ambulance with a cancer patient — they had been waiting there for 12 hours. The place was so hot and sticky.

I wanted to cry; cry for myself, for my dignity; cry for the old woman sitting next to me; cry for my cousin’s wife; cry for the patient in the ambulance and for the 50,000 desperate people at the gates of Rafah Crossing.

The horror at the crossing continued after I left. Many people spent the entire night there, only to be told the following day that the crossing was still closed and that they should leave.

 

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Is the Syrian Crisis a Proxy War against Russia?

Yusuf Fernandez

During the Cold War, Moscow constructed a solid relationship with many countries of the Arab and the Muslim world that became its allies. However, Saudi Arabia and some other US-backed Arab regimes launched a global jihad campaign in the 1980s against the Soviet Union, which had sent troops to Afghanistan to prevent the fall of the communist regime to the “Islamist insurgents”. At the same time, they conducted a strong propaganda campaign to persuade Muslims that “the Russians” were actually an enemy of Islam.
soviet union
After the end of the Soviet Union, the US invaded Iraq with a false pretext, the non-existent weapons of mass destruction. The Iraq war meant for Russia the loss of another ally and the further reduction of its influence in the Arab and Muslim worlds.

However, Russia worked to reverse this trend and launched a diplomatic offensive in the Arab world in the end of the 2000s. Moscow then offered Syria and Egypt nuclear power stations and reestablished a naval presence at the Syrian port of Tartus. It also started relations with Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic movement ruling the Gaza Strip. As member of the Quartet of Middle East negotiators (along with the EU, the United States and the UN), Russia insisted that Israel should respect the international law and freeze the expansion of its illegal settlements in the Palestinian West Bank and East Jerusalem as a condition of further talks.

Russia began to cooperate in different fields –energy, defence, trade and so on- with Egypt, Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran. This alarmed the US and Saudi Arabia, which understood that if Russia expanded its relations with all these countries, the Middle East would acquire a totally different appearance. That is why they sought to further reduce the Russian presence in the region by toppling two regimes that had traditionally been allies and trading partners of Russia: Libya and Syria.

The Libyan mistake

Most Russians think that one of the biggest mistakes that then president Dmitry Medvedev ever made was to order Russia´s ambassador on the UN Security Council not to veto a West-sponsored resolution to create no-fly zones in Libya.

By naively allowing the creation of these no-fly zones over Libya, Russia gave the US, Britain and France the pretext they needed to openly use the force against Muammar Gaddafi´s regime. They launched a facto campaign of regime change, funded by the Arab monarchies; that overthrew the Libyan government.

What the Western propaganda presented as a “humanitarian intervention” ended up with a convenient result that favoured NATO strategic interests and damaged Russia´s position in the Arab world.

Moscow lost a former ally and trading partner and a $4-billion arms deal with Libya, which the new leaders of this country have not respected. Russian experts claim that the Libyan mistake should never be reLibya nato strikepeated.

The following one in the West´s list was Syria, one of the best allies and clients of Russian arms. In recent years, Syria has increased its weapons purchases. From 2007 to 2010, the value of Russian arms deals with Syria more than doubled to $4.7 billion from $2.1 billion.
Russia also has a naval station at Tartus, in northern Syria, its only military installation outside of former Soviet territories. The site is not actually a real naval base but a station to replenish food and water and carry out some occasional repairs. However, it serves the Russian navy to maintain its presence in the Mediterranean Sea and it big enough to take in a missile cruiser and nuclear submarines.

The commander-in-chief of the Russian navy, Vice-Admiral Viktor Chirkov, was quoted by Russian news agency RIA-Novosti as saying: “This base is essential to us; it has been operating and will continue to operate.”

There are numerous other economic and cultural bonds between Russia and Syria. Many Russian companies are working in oil and natural gas in the Arab country. The state-owned nuclear energy giant, Rosatom, has agreed on building a power plant there. Other Russian companies have also interests in sectors such as agriculture, pharmacy, infrastructures and telecommunications.

In this way, the attempts by a group of Western and Arab states to promote violence in Syria and install a new regime under their influence have led to rising tensions between Russia and these countries, especially Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

Along with its regional ally Qatar, Saudi Arabia has been funnelling money and weaponry to Syrian armed opposition groups. The hostility of these regimes toward Syria has nothing to do with “democracy” –Saudi Arabia is one of the most violently repressive and backwards countries in the world- and everything to do with the alliance of Damascus with Moscow and Tehran. Saudi Arabia is trying to create a group of anti-Iranian states and to expel Russia from the Middle East by depriving it from its main ally in the region.

However, Saudi rulers feel frustrated because the Russian and Chinese vetos have doomed their efforts to promote a foreign military intervention in Syria to failure. Riyadh has accused Moscow of opposing itself to the so-called “Sunni world” while allying itself with the alleged “Shiite” axis. For its part, the Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement on March 2, in which it accused Saudi Arabia of supporting terrorism in Syria.

Konstantin Dolgov, Russian envoy in the Human Rights Commission, has also recently expressed his “great concern” about the situation in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia following the clashes between Saudi security foces and peaceful demonstrators in which several people were killed and dozens were wounded and arrested.

The jihadist war in Syria and the North of Caucasus

Apart from their role in the Middle East, Russia fears that a victory of Saudi and Qatari-sponsored jihadist groups in Syria could also have a negative impact on the situation in Russia´s North Caucasus, where “Wahhabi insurgency” is widespread, especially in regions as Chechnya and Dagestan.
extremist militants
Moscow distrusts Saudi Arabia because of its backing of the Wahhabis or Salafists. Actually, the insurgency in the North of Caucasus has been funded by Saudi private organizations and individuals. At the same time, Russia sees Iran and Syria as two bulwarks to the spread of extremist Wahhabism into Russia´s North Caucasus region.

It is noteworthy to point out that Syria has an important Chechen community with links to the North Caucasus but this community has never given problems to Moscow. However, this could change if rebels toppled Assad´s regime. Syria could then become a haven for anti-Russian activities and a source of funding and support for terrorism in the Russian territory.

Some media has already reported the presence of Russian jihadists in Syria. A Chechen extremist site recently revealed that Rustom Gelayev -son of a former separatist Chechen leader, Ruslan, who participated in the war against Russia- was killed in the streets of Aleppo. Rustom arrived in Syria at the beginning of the summer with two groups of volunteers. He was killed between 11 and 13 August. His body was repatriated on August 17.
 

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Syrian delegation left the summit in protest of the content of Mursi’s speech

Mohammad Mursi [Mubarak] ready to “Cooperate” with all Parties to Stop Syria Bloodshed, will support any Palestinian step taken in the General Assembly or the Security Council and will strive to achieve the just and comprehensive peace.

 
 
الجيش المصري يدمر عشرات الأنفاق في رفح
 


In 3 days Mohammad Mursi [Mubarak] achieved what  what Mohammad Husni [Mubarak] failed to do in 3 decades. He destroyed Gaza’s lifelines.


Mursi Ready to “Cooperate” with all Parties to Stop Syria Bloodshed

Local Editor

Egyptian president Mohammad Mursi [Mubarak] stressed his country’s readiness to cooperate with all parties to stop the bloodshed in Syria, calling upon the influencing states to take the initiative he announced during the exceptional Islamic summit in Egypt.

During his speech at the opening ceremony of the Non-Aligned Movement Summit (NAM) in Tehran Thursday, Mursi said his country “supports the right of using the nuclear power for peaceful purposes and freeing the Middle East region of nukes and weapons of mass destruction,” noting that all countries of the region have signed the non-proliferation treaty except the Zionist entity.

Mursi, however, criticized the current world order, saying that “its structure needs recovery and its role needs activation.”

The Egyptian President believed that the NAM countries are facing great challenges and submitted to local and international risks, calling upon the member states to play a pivotal role at this sensitive stage.

“We should support the Palestinian people’s state right of a UN membership,” he said, stressing that Egypt will support any Palestinian step taken in the General Assembly or the Security Council and will strive to achieve the just and comprehensive peace.

Moreover, the Egyptian president said that developed countries should be encouraged by making decisions and formulating guidelines, noting that it is not acceptable anymore that the current historical injustice still prevails over Africa even after being presented in the United Nations.

Mursi also made it clear that Egypt is seeking a just world order which will get the developing countries out of marginalization towards the welfare.

At the end of his speech, Mursi handed over the NAM chairmanship to Iran in its 16th session. He then presented a report on Egypt’s activities during NAM’s 15th session.

He expressed beliefs that Iran will succeed in chairing the movement.

 

Al-Moallem: Mursi’s Speech on Syria a Breach to NAM Convention
Local Editor

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Al-Moallem considered Thursday that Egyptian Presidnet Mohammad Mursi’s NAM Summit statement about the situation in Syria was an interference in the country’s internal affairs.
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Al-Moallem considered Thursday that Egyptian Presidnet Mohammad Mursi’s NAM Summit statement about the situation in Syria was an interference in the country’s internal affairs.

In a media statement to Al-Alam news channel, Al-Moallem assured that Mursi’s interference in Syria’s internal affairs was a breach to the convention of the Non-Aligned Movement, which Syria is a member in.

The Syrian foreign minister added that the Egyptian president’s speech on Syria was more like a speech of a party chief and not that of a president of a NAM member country.
In parallel, Syrian news agency SANA reported that the Syrian delegation left the summit while Mursi was delivering his speech.

Quoting Al-Moallem, the Syrian official news agency clarifired that “the delegation’s withdrawal from the meeting came in protest of the content of Mursi’s speech”, adding that as it was a breach to the summit’s convention and an interference in Syria’s internal affairs, “it was an instigation for continuing the shedding of the Syrian blood”.

According to SANA, the Syrian delegation returned to follow up the summit’s activities when Mursi finished his statement.

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Gilad Atzmon: Rachel Corrie and the Kosher Legal Stamp


Rachel Corrie and the Kosher Legal Stamp

Gilad Atzmon                    

Judge Oded Gershon’s ruling earlier this week that the state of Israel is not to blame for the death of Rachel Corrie, came as no surprise. In fact it reaffirms everything we know about the Jewish state – its politics, legal system and spirit. Israel is surely a most peculiar state – it is impervious to ethical thinking and humanist thought.

Accordingly, Judge Gershon gave this week a kosher stamp to a cold-blooded murder and by so doing, he proved, once again, that Israeli criminal actions are consistent with the most vile interpretations of Old Testament and Talmudic Goy-hating.

As one would predict, Judge Gershon, restricted himself to legalism and litigation as opposed to ethical thinking – he actually blamed Corrie for not ‘behaving reasonably’. Yet, one may wonder what is this ‘reason’ or more precisely, what does an Israeli mean when he or she refers to ‘reason’.

Rachel Corrie was bulldozed to death by an Israeli military D9 Caterpillar on 16 March 2003. She was part of ISM (International Solidarity Movement), a non-violent pro-Palestinian peace activist group. Being an American youngster, Corrie mistakenly believed that Israeli soldiers were humanly driven. Being a reasonable person she must have believed that an Israeli bulldozer driver would never drive over her body. She was wrong. Corrie clearly failed to grasp that Israeli ‘reasoning’ was lethally fuelled by psychosis and fantasies of destruction.

Corrie failed precisely where so many solidarity activists fail. Israel is no normal state. It is a state of one people only – and a people who believe themselves to be chosen. The meaning of this is both simple and devastating. The people of Israel believe that their lives and security is a cosmic asset that must be maintained at the expense of the rest of humanity. However, make no mistake, Israeli psychosis is consistent and even driven by reason, but this ‘reason’ is somewhat different to that of the rest of us. It is certainly far from being universal.

Rachel Corrie, on the other hand, is a universal symbol. She is the epitome of solidarity, empathic thinking and courage, but her tragic death is also a clear indication that something is fundamentally wrong with Israel. Rachel Corrie’s death makes it clear that it isn’t just the Israeli leadership or military elite who are blind to human life and moral conduct.  It isn’t just Netanyahu or Barak who are in a state of dismissal of human life.  We are dealing here with a murderous continuum; it is the leadership, the anonymous soldier, the bulldozer driver – and also Judge Gershon and the Israeli legal system.

Israel could have used Corrie’s family legal appeal to mend its ways. But Judge Gershon was actually honest enough to admit that the murder of Rachel Corrie was the ‘right thing to do’. It was her fault, she shouldn’t have been there in the first place, he said. Judge Gershon provided us this week with the true meaning of ‘Israeli reasoning’. The murder of Corrie was consistent with Israeli survival philosophy and with Israeli interpretation of Jewish statehood. This week, Judge Gershon left us with a kosher stamp for a cold-blooded murder.


The Wandering Who? A Study Of Jewish Identity Politics, Jewish political interest, Jewish Lobby and beyond..
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Imam Khamenei Urges Creating Nuclear-Free Middle East

Local Editor

Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Sayyed Ali Khamenei called on the United Nations to assume a more decisive role in creating a nuclear-free Middle East.

During the meeting he held with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and his accompanying delegation in Tehran on Wednesday, Ayatollah Khamenei pointed to nuclear disarmament as the common concern for the entire humanity.
He highlighted, “The Islamic Republic of Iran reiterates its stance on a Middle East free of nuclear weapons, and the UN should make serious efforts to allay the concerns with regard to nuclear arms.”

Imam Khamenei warned about the ongoing attempts made by the United States and some world powers to equip “Israel” with more nuclear weapons, noting that the issue “constitutes an extreme danger for the region and the UN is expected to adopt measures in this respect.”

Moreover, Imam Khamenei criticized the “defective structure” of the UN and regretted how “the world most bullying powers, who possess nuclear weapons and have used them before, have dominated the Security Council.”


Referring to the US-engineered allegations against Iran’s nuclear energy program Imam Khamenei stated “The Americans are fully aware that Iran does not seek nuclear weapons and [they are] merely looking for a pretext.”

Imam Khamenei condemned US and “Israeli” attempts to launch cyber attacks against Iran’s nuclear facilities and criticized the IAEA over its inaction with regard to such aggressive measures.

Ayatollah Khamenei also criticized United Nations for its inaction toward the US military threats against Iran, reminding that the world body “was expected to promptly counter the threat.”

Addressing the Syrian unrest, Leader of the Islamic Revolution described the crisis as a “very bitter issue” which has been taking a heavy toll on the “innocent people of the country.”

“Based on its religious teachings and beliefs, the Islamic Republic of Iran is ready to make every effort to solve the Syrian crisis,” the Leader added.

Ayatollah Khamenei deplored the arming of the Syrian insurgents by foreign elements and perpetuation of a “proxy war” against the Syrian government by certain countries as the major obstacle in the way of settling the Syrian crisis.

 

River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian  
The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this Blog!

Does Morsi’s Trip to Tehran Mean Better Egypt-Iran Relations?


Egypt’s President Mohammed Morsi and Qatari Emir Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani greet Jordan’s King Abdullah at the opening ceremony of the Organization of Islamic Conference summit in Mecca Aug. 14, 2012. (photo by REUTERS/Hassan Ali)

By:Bahaa Tawil posted on Tuesday, Aug 28, 2012

Days before his victory in the presidential election was announced, Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi was asked about the future of Egypt’s relationship with Iran once he became president. Morsi responded that he “welcomes a good relationship with Iran.” However, for Morsi, this “good” relationship is dependent on the following condition: “That a good relationship would not be at the expense of Egypt’s ties with the Gulf or compromise the nation’s security.”
 
After 33 years of a political boycott and minimum diplomatic ties, Morsi will fly in his presidential jet to Tehran on Aug. 30 and become the first Egyptian president to visit Iran since President Anwar Sadat’s last visit in 1979.
 
However, Morsi is not visiting Iran to meet with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Rather, it is a quick and brief visit to attend the 16th summit of the Non-Aligned Countries hosted by Tehran where Morsi will preside over the session as the president of Egypt.
 
Tehran tried to take advantage of Morsi’s visit to bridge ties with Cairo, by inviting him to visit its nuclear facilities in Bushehr, Natanz and Isfahan, where uranium enrichment activities take place. However, Morsi refused this offer and decided to keep his visit limited to taking part in the opening ceremony of the summit without having to stay overnight in Tehran.
 
Egypt was quick to announce Morsi’s agenda and details regarding his visit to Iran. The visit will not last more than five hours, which is the required time for Morsi and the Egyptian delegation to go from the Imam Khomeini International Airport to the summit location, where Morsi will deliver a speech on behalf of Egypt, which has been chairing the summit since 2009. Following his speech, Morsi will return to Cairo, without holding any meetings with Ahmadinejad regarding the summit or ties between the two countries.
 
However, Morsi’s stance did not reassure his allies and has irritated many Egyptians. Ahmed Khalil, member of the Salafist al-Nour Party — the Muslim Brotherhood top ally — said that “the strengthening of times between Egypt and Iran may lead to unprecedented anger on the part of Salafists toward the Brotherhood.” Khalil told reporters that it is unacceptable for Egypt to normalize its relations with Tehran, which supports the Assad regime “that is exterminating the Sunni people of Syria.”
 
Khalil added that “there is a significant concern that Iran exploits normal relations with Egypt to spread Shiism,” noting that the only advantage of the Mubarak regime was the fact that he did not form close ties with Tehran.
 
Salafist anger toward Morsi’s visit has reached the point that Sheikh Ali Galeb, Imam of al-Daawa al-Salafia (the call for returning to the basics of Islam), sharply attacked Morsi and the Brotherhood during his Friday sermon in Mersa Matruh province, a stronghold of the Salafist movement. He said that Morsi’s visit to Tehran “represents the betrayal of Syrians experiencing bloodshed,” and called on Morsi to immediately cancel his visit to Iran. Galeb added that “when Morsi became president of Egypt, he said that Saudi Arabia and Egypt are the guardians of the Sunnis,” adding: “Is this how you protect them?”
The Brotherhood responded to the angry Salafist leader, attempting to justify Morsi’s visit to Tehran. The Muslim Brotherhood’s official spokesman, Mahmoud Ghozlan, clarified that the purpose of the visit is to pressure Tehran to halt its support to the Syrian regime. He said ties between Cairo and Tehran are dependent on the following:

“Iran must not spread Shiism in Sunni countries and must also guarantee the national security of the Gulf, which is a part of Egypt’s security.”

Away from the Islamic leadership, optimism is spread among many observers and analysts, who are hoping that Morsi’s visit to Tehran will thaw the ice between the two countries. Egyptian writer Emad El-Din Hussein hopes that Morsi’s visit will lay genuine foundations for Iranian-Egyptian relations, based on mutual interests, without resulting in “a campaign to destroy normal relations in Egypt.” Hussein added that these relations should be in the interest of both countries’ economies and lead to the end of Iran’s occupation of UAE Islands, as well as stopping Iran’s interference in the internal affairs of Gulf countries.
However, this optimism collides with the realistic vision of Emad Gad, an expert with the Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies. The Los Angeles Times quoted Gad as saying that he does not believe that Morsi’s visit will contribute to improve relations between Cairo and Tehran, stressing that “Morsi is currently unable to challenge the United States and Gulf countries, since they are his strategic allies and he is in need of their support and assistance. They will not be happy or satisfied with improved Iranian-Egyptian relations.”
 

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The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this Blog!

‘Syria’s rebels are not yet worthy of our trust’

‘Syria’s rebels are not yet worthy of our trust’

“… To judge by the performance of the main Syrian opposition groups to date, it is by no means clear that they can overcome their differences to form a united front. And even if they did succeed in putting together a provisional government, it is unlikely that its agenda would be one that has much appeal for the West.  

It is sensible to assume that al-Qaeda’s claims about playing a leading role in the struggle to overthrow Assad’s regime are exaggerated. But the presence of its cells of suicide bombers, with their distinctive black and white flags, on the rebels’ front lines certainly does not inspire confidence that post-Assad Syria will be to the West’s liking. This is one reason that all the major Western powers – including France – have refrained from arming the rebels.  

We should also remember that the majority of those participating in the anti-government rebellion are Sunni Muslims who support Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist movement that was brutally suppressed by the former president, Hafez al-Assad, when it attempted to overthrow his government in 1982. The Muslim Brotherhood might not pursue the same hateful agenda as the fanatics of al-Qaeda, but it is highly unlikely that the establishment of an Islamist government in Damascus would make Syria any better disposed to the West than it is under the current regime. 

Indeed, the prospect of a second Muslim Brotherhood government taking root in the Arab world is one of the reasons that Egypt’s newly elected president Mohamed Morsi will be looking forward to his visit to Iran later this week, when he will be discussing the possibility of finding a regional solution to the Syrian conflict. 

With avowedly Islamist leaders such as Mr Morsi seeking to determine the political outcome in Damascus, it certainly makes sense for the West to find out how the Syrians view their own destiny before making any rash commitments about no-fly zones and the like. And it is why Mr Hollande’s proposal, plausible and level-headed though it may sound, should be treated with extreme caution.”

River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian  
The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this Blog!

Swindler’s List: A Brief Look at the Holocaust Reparations Racket

SHAKEDOWN: Negotiators from the Claims Conference (L) met with German government
officials in New York in July to discuss compensation to alleged Jewish Holocaust survivors
currently living in the former Soviet Union.

By Richard Edmondson

After the conclusion of World War II did the Germans pay reparations of some sort to the Jews?

A lot of people would probably assume that, yes, some sort of redress did occur, but that whatever it was, most likely was paid out in one, two, three, or perhaps four lump sum payments, and that the matter was over, settled, and done with, oh, say maybe five years after the war, or ten at most. Few people—or at any rate few who aren’t Jewish, or who don’t make a regular habit of reading the Jewish press—would guess that today, fully 67 years after the war, Germany continues to pay reparations to Jews, or that the benefits doled out keep going up every year, rather than down. But this is indeed the case.

In July of 2012 observances were heldmarking the 60th anniversary of the Luxembourg Agreement. The event took place in Washington D.C., with ceremonies held at the Israeli Embassy, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, and the Hart Senate Office Building. So what, you may ask, is the Luxembourg Agreement?


Forcing the Germans to Pay Up

Formally known as the Reparations Agreement between Israel and West Germany, Luxembourg is an agreement signed on September 10, 1952 following lengthy negotiations between an ad hoc committee of Jews representing various Jewish organizations, including the World Jewish Congress; officials from the new state of Israel; and representatives of the West German government, including the country’s then-chancellor Konrad Adenauer. The upshot of the accord was that West Germany was to make restitution, partly in the form of large payments to Israel, on behalf of Jews who had suffered during the Nazi era. The agreement is discussed at some length in an article by Mark Weber, who tells us the West Germans basically had little choice in the matter, and who also supplies us with a rather illuminating quote from Adenauer’s memoirs:

It was clear to me that, if the negotiations with the Jews failed, the negotiations at the London Debt Conference [which were going on at the same time] would also run aground, because Jewish banking circles would exert an influence upon the course of the London Debt Conference which should not be under-estimated. On the other hand it was self-evident that a failure of the London Debt Conference would bring about a failure of the negotiations with the Jews. If the German economy was to achieve a good credit standing and become strong again, the London Conference would have to be ended successfully. Only then would our economy develop in a way that would make the payments to Israel and the Jewish organizations possible. See 5.

More on the London Debt Conference can be found in a summary here, but basically it was an agreement on how German debts, mainly from the period between the two world wars, would be settled with a number of creditor nations, including the US, Britain, and France. Weber goes on to relate (emphases added):

Zionist leader Nahum Goldmann, President of the World Jewish Congress and chairman of the Claims Conference, warned of a worldwide campaign against Germany if the Bonn officials did not meet the Zionist demands: “The non-violent reaction of the whole world, supported by wide circles of non-Jews, who have deep sympathy with the martyrdom of the Jewish people during the Nazi period, would be irresistible and completely justified.” See 6. The London Jewish Observerwas more blunt: “The whole material weight of world Jewry will be mobilized for an economic war against Germany, if Bonn’s offer of reparations remains unsatisfactory.” See 7.
Goldman and the other Jews who participated in the negotiations collectively came to be known as The Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, or simply the Claims Conference (CC). As a result of the agreement, the CC was installed, not only as the representative of world Jewry, but also essentially almost as an arbiter, procuring payments from West Germany on the basis of claims filed by individual Holocaust survivors. And here it should be strongly emphasized that German funds have gone out not just to the Jewish state, but also to Jewish individuals as well. According to one source, more than $60 billion has been paid out in the past 60 years to some 500,000 purported Holocaust survivors living in 87 different countries.

The claims process works like this: the money is handed over by Germany to the CC, which in turn will allocate it into different fundsthat it oversees, with each fund earmarked for a specific purpose. There is, for instance, an Article 2 Fund, which provides lifetime pensions for anyone held in a concentration camp, ghetto, or who worked on a forced labor battalion. Also eligible for an Article 2 pension would be those who were only “forced to go into hiding,” as Wikipedia puts it. And then we have a Hardship Fund, which provides one-time payments for those Jews who emigrated to the West from Soviet-bloc countries, and a Holocaust Victims Compensation Fund, providing one-time payments to emigrants from the former Soviet Union itself. The compensation amounts have increased over the years. Currently the Article 2 pensions are set at 300 euros a month, while payments from the Hardship Fund are 2,556 euros each, and the Holocaust Victims Compensation Fund 1,900 euros each.

In addition there is also a Central and Eastern European Fund, which, like Article 2, allocates monthly pensions, only these specifically are provided for Jewish survivors who, rather than emigrating to the West, remained in Eastern Europe or the former Soviet Union. These pensions are currently set at 260 euros per month, however, as of Jan. 1, 2013, they will increase to 300 euros a month, making them equal to the Article 2 pensions.

Different funds have different eligibility requirements. For instance, a person may qualify for the Hardship Fund if he/she underwent i) deprivation of liberty; ii)flight from the Nazi regime; iii)“restriction of liberty” as defined under BEG, a German restitution law passed in the 1950s; iv) restriction of movement such as having to observe a curfew, as well as compulsory registration with limitation of residence, or wearing the star of David; or if they v) resided in Leningrad at some time between September 1941 and January 1944, or fled from there during the same period. According to the Claims Conference website, the CC has approved 355,146 claimants and paid out $971 millionunder the Hardship Fund. Figures are also available for certain of the other funds: under the Article 2 fund, for instance, 85,608 applicants have been approved with a total payout of $3.3 billion; and for the Central and Eastern European Fund—24,307 applicants and $479 million . No figures seem to be available for the Holocaust Victim Compensation Fund, or for a new fund, known as the Orphans Fund, set up as of January 1 this year, The latter offers a one-time payment of 1,900 euros to those born 1928 or later who “were orphaned due to Nazi persecution” with both parents having been killed.

As mentioned above, the Israeli government has also been a recipient of huge piles of money (and goods) at the expense of German taxpayers (in fact, between largess from the taxpayers of Germany, as well as those in the U.S., the Zionist state is doing rather superbly for itself), and here again Weber provides some quotes that are quite instructive. One of these is from Goldman’s autobiography:


What the Luxembourg Agreement meant to Israel is for the historians of the young state to determine. That the goods Israel received from Germany were a decisive economic factor in its development is beyond doubt. I do not know what economic dangers might have threatened Israel at critical moments if it had not been for German supplies. Railways and telephones, dock installations and irrigation plants, whole areas of industry and agriculture, would not be where they are today without the reparations from Germany. And hundreds of thousands of Jewish victims of Nazism have received considerable sums under the law of restitution. See 11.
The second quote is also from Goldman, though taken from a 1976 interview with the French magazine Le Nouvel Observateur:

Without the German reparations, the State of Israel would not have the half of its present infrastructure: every train in Israel is German, the ships are German, as well as the electricity, a large part of the industry … without mentioning the individual pensions paid to the survivors … In certain years, the amount of money received by Israel from Germany exceeds the total amount of money collected from international Jewry-two or three times as much. See 12.
Goldman of course played a key role in negotiating the Luxembourg Agreement, so maybe he’s only overly-touting his own achievements. But at this point Weber also supplies us with a quote from Jewish historian Walter Laqueur:

The ships laden with German capital goods began to call at Haifa regularly and unfailingly, becoming an important — ultimately a decisive — factor in the building up of the country. Today [1965] the Israeli fleet is almost entirely “made in Germany,” as are its modern railway equipment, the big steel foundry near Acre, and many other enterprises. During the 50’s and early 60’s about one-third of investment goods imported into Israel came from Germany … In addition to all this, many individual Israelis received restitution privately. See 13.
Weber then adds his own comment:

It is difficult to exaggerate the impact of the program: the five power plants built and installed by West Germany between 1953 and 1956 quadrupled Israel’s electric-power-generating capacity. West Germans laid 280 kilometers of giant pipelines (2.25 and 2.5 meters in diameter) for the irrigation of the Negev (which certainly helped to “make the desert bloom”). The Zionist state acquired 65 German- built ships, including four passenger vessels. See 14.

Massive Fraud and Exorbitant Salaries

Over the years the CC has been touched by controversies and scandals, but perhaps nothing like what erupted in late 2009, when it was discovered that colossal amounts of money had been paid out in fraudulent claims made by alleged “survivors” of German war crimes. One Jewish news service referred to it as “massive fraud,” an episode that potentially could “sully the whole Jewish effort to recoup compensation for Jewish suffering at the hands of the Nazis.”

In a story posted inJuly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported that so far about $4.3 million has been recovered from the fraud, and that an additional $3.3 million is scheduled to be returned in installment payments. Well that’s nice. But out of a total of how much? In other words, how much has been bilked altogether? No one seems to know for sure, but it is at least $57 million, and perhaps higher. Even the directors of the CC don’t seem to know.

“Never in the six-decade history of the organization had theft of this scale ever been discovered,” reported the JTA (emphasis added).

What is certain is that the operation involved CC employees and that the money looted came out of the Article 2 and Hardship Funds. Apparently a group of “corrupt Russian-speaking employees of the Claims Conference” (as the JTA refers to them) hired “recruiters” to go around the Russian-speaking community in New York and sign up all comers for Holocaust reparations payments. Whether the applicants were even old enough to have been survivors mattered little as long as they were close enough to pass. Forged or altered documents such as birth certificates, passports, and other identifying materials, were submitted, along with the fraudulent applications, while employee accomplices within the CC gave quick approval to the claims. Some of these employees received as much as $1000 per applicant—while the recruiters of course got a cut too.

So far 31 people have been arrested in the case, and the first sentence was handed down a year ago—to one of the recruiters, Polina Anoshina, who enlisted 30 people for the scheme. Her efforts resulted in the pay out of about $105,000 in fraudulent claims, of which she herself netted approximately $9,000. Her lawyer called her “a very small part of a very large wheel.”

Also interesting to note is that estimates of the total amount stolen have gone steadily upward with the passage of time. In December of 2009, roughly a month after the irregularities were discovered, the figure was put at $5 million. By February of 2010 this had risen to $7 million, and in November of 2010 to $42 million. Today, as I said, the number stands at $57 million, although officials acknowledge it could rise even higher. All of this, keep in mind, has been paid for by the German taxpayers.

But as I say, this isn’t the only controversy the CC has found itself in. The issue of survivor claims was also examined in the 2000 book, The Holocaust Industry, by Norman Finkelstein, who discusses how the number of Holocaust survivors has been exaggerated, and who also takes to task the World Jewish Congress for its legal campaign to extort reparations payments from Swiss banks.

And then came the 2006 revelations about exorbitant salaries and lavish expense accounts enjoyed by CC employees, including its then-President Israel Singer. It was a discovery that came at a time when the CC was under heavy fire for giving large sums of money to Jewish organizations while providing only minimal assistance to presumably genuine Holocaust survivors.


IRS reports show that there are 100 employees of the Claims Conference who enjoy salaries of close to 6.9 million dollars. Add to this the lavish spending of money which could otherwise be used to save Holocaust survivors from becoming destitute: The heads of the Claims Conference enjoy many benefits, including first class travel around the world, deluxe hotel accommodation and dining at fancy restaurants.

The above is found in a December 2006 story posted at the Israeli website Ynet, entitled “Where Did the Shoah Money Go?”. The story informs us the CC’s management expenses were reaching “tens of millions of dollars each year” while at the same time individual survivors such as “N”—quoted in the story—were in desperate need of additional funds. “I live in an Amidar apartment, spend thousands of shekels on medication and I have nothing to eat,” said “N.” “I telephoned organizations who are supposed to help Holocaust victims and the Claims Conference and asked for some help from, but they waved me off.”

The story found that the CC was distributing some $90 million a year, but that a substantial amount of this was going to Jewish organizations rather than individuals in need. “In reality, not enough money actually reaches the survivors.” The Israeli Hasidic group Gur Hasidim and the Jewish Agency are identified as receiving CC funding, along with “an American ambulance organization” and “certain hospitals in Israel,” but apparently these were only a small number of the total.

Israel Singer

At the time the scandal broke, Israel Singer, in addition to heading the CC, was also serving as secretary general of the World Jewish Congress. In January of that year Eliot Spitzer, then New York State Attorney General, issued a damning report on how money was being handled by the WJC, including apparent financial irregularities “amounting to millions of dollars,” according to Ynet. These included the “circular transfers” of some $1.2 million from the accounts of the WJC in New York to a bank account in Geneva, then on to an account in England, and finally ending up in an account held by a private company called Solar.

Spitzer revealed the use of money by Singer for personal purposes. In his report, he describes, for example, how Singer managed to accumulate more than 450,000 points on his credit cards. Singer held several credit cards, including the exclusive black card of American Express, “Centurion”, which is restricted to only the rich and famous. This magnificent card gives its holder unlimited credit and the cost of holding such a card is thousands of dollars a year. In total, according to Spitzer’s assessment, Singer withdrew in cash approximately USD 671,000 to disburse on overseas trips (see WJC response below).

For example, in 2003, he submitted to the WJC, expense accounts amounting to USD 431,129 and in 2004, in the amount of USD 261,294. A breakdown of Singer’s movements show that he flew to almost the entire world, sometimes together with his wife. For example, for two tickets to Germany, he paid (at the expense of the WJC, of course) USD 24,000. On the same day in September 2003, he paid an additional USD 1,000 for another flight. Six days later, his flight to Europe cost USD 12,000 and a week later, he paid EL AL USD 8,500. This was all paid by the WJC.

The total of all Singer’s flights in 2003 was approximately USD 232,000 and the cost of his hotel accommodation amounted to approximately USD 173,000. In 2004, he really cut back and the cost of his flights and accommodation came to approximately USD 200,000.

Singer lives in New York, but this did not inhibit him from staying at deluxe hotels in the Big Apple, on which he spent in 2003 approximately USD 60,000 of WJC funds. In that year, he also stayed in deluxe hotels in Paris, Berlin, Rome, Vienna, Geneva, Rio de Janeiro, Budapest, London – as well as in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. In addition, he withdrew more than USD 134,000 in cash from the WJC account in New York and claimed before the Attorney General that he used the money for travel purposes.


Apparently Singer’s travel expenses were paid for by the WJC rather than the CC, at least if we go by the statement of CC spokesperson Renana Levin:

“According to the procedures of the Claims Conference, the role of the President of the Claims Conference is to deal with foreign policy and he does not deal with internal financial affairs of the organization,” Levin said. “I want to stress that the Claims Conference did not finance any of the travels made by Israel Singer on its behalf.”

Levin was also asked why the CC was paying out so much money to Jewish organizations rather than individual survivors:


“The Claims Conference allocates budgets for organizations and institutions who provide social services to Jews persecuted by the Nazis. The organization also allocates funds to organizations and institutions which work in education, documentation and research of the Holocaust.

“Over the years, money was allocated to “Bet Yaacov” and the seminar of Hasidut Gur to train educators to teach the Holocaust to Haredi communities.

“The allocation to the ‘March of the Living’ amutah is defined by the Conference as an Israeli allocation, because all the participants, who come from all over the world, visit Israel at the end of the trip. In addition, the Conference funds scholarships of youth with limited means to participate in the March.”


So German reparations money is being allocated to “teach the Holocaust” to Haredi Jews? Do Haredi Jews need to learn something additional about the Holocaust that isn’t already taught in public schools? Perhaps. The March of the Living, according to Wikipedia, is “an annual educational program which brings students from around the world to Poland, where they explore the remnants of the Holocaust.” The two week event, which includes a march from Auschwitz to Birkenau, ostensibly benefits the students by “strengthening their sense of Jewish identity.” The Wikipedia article adds:

After spending a week in Poland visiting other sites of Nazi Germany’s persecution and former sites of Jewish life and culture, many of the participants in the March also travel on to Israel where they observe Yom Hazikaron (Israel’s Remembrance Day) and celebrate Yom Haatzmaut (Israel’s Independence Day).
March of the Living— an annual “Holocaust
education program” funded by Germany

CC grants to the March of the Living began in 1998, and by 2007 had totaled more than $7.4 million, while the “education program’s” annual budget stood at $4.2 million in 2005. One would perhaps not be too surprised, then, that, like the CC and WJC, the MOL has found itself under scrutiny for financial improprieties as well.

In April of 2007, the Jewish Week reported that the MOL paid $709,000 to Curtis Hoxter, a Manhattan public relations consultant, for work that neither he nor the MOL were able  to adequately explain.


March of the Living employed Hoxter from 2003 through 2005 at the urging of Israeli Finance Minister Avraham Hirchson, who founded the organization. Hirchson is currently on leave from his cabinet post due to a police investigation into allegations that he embezzled millions of dollars in funds from a union confederation and a health care fund.

The story identified Hoxter as “a close and longtime associate of Claims Conference President Israel Singer,” and thus maybe not surprisingly the MOL was also found to have been getting funding from the WJC—specifically $657,000 between 2001 and 2003. Furthermore, the outlays were not reported on the WJC’s tax forms, the report stated.

The CC seems at this point to have gone into damage control mode, announcing it would conduct an “in-depth audit” of the MOL, but significantly the audit was to cover only those “procedures of March of the Living that are currently in place,” meaning the year 2007. Specifically excluded from the focus were to be any improprieties that may have taken place from 2003-2005, the period Hoxter was employed. But then, apparently responding to criticism, the CC reversed course and announced that it would examine the earlier years in question after all—however, by 2009 the audit still had not been completed.


Singer Takes a Bow

Singer served as secretary general of the WJC from 1986-2001, but stepped down from this position following allegations of financial irregularities, even though, as Ynet notes, there were no criminal findings. And while he resigned his position as top executive officer, he did not leave the WJC altogether. Far from it. Instead he became the chairman of the organization’s Governing Board “after it was made clear that he would not deal with financial affairs.” So why was Singer allowed to remain in a leadership position, even though he had been suspected of financial mismanagement? The answer seems to be that he got results.

A 2003 article entitled “Restitution: The Second Round,” is quite telling on this count. The article is posted at the website of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and includes lengthy excerpts of an interview with Singer. The words “The Second Round” refer to efforts by international Jewish organizations, beginning in the early 1990s, to extract additional restitution monies on behalf of purported Holocaust survivors. The feeling seems to have been that while the Luxembourg Agreement was nice, more penance was needed, and it shouldn’t be just Germany alone; other countries should be forced to pay up as well. These additional countries included Norway, Sweden, Austria, and Switzerland; also the Soviet Union had just collapsed, and so the former East bloc countries were targeted too. Throughout the interview, Singer goes skipping from country to country, describing his mostly successful efforts at pressuring governments, as well as private banks, into coughing up reparations payments.

On Norway:


“In that year we chose Norway as our first target among the occupied countries. When we started complaining about the Norwegian government’s behavior, Michael Melchior, the country’s chief rabbi, told us more about what had happened during the rule of the Quisling government and after the war.

“We could also have fixed the Netherlands as our first target. We wanted, however, to start with a nation where we were reasonably sure we would win. We thus chose Norway not for moral or justice reasons, but strategic ones. It was a guilty country with a small number of Jews.

“As far as money was concerned, the problem there was easily manageable. Norway is rich and has abundant oil reserves. Whatever payment the Norwegians were to make to the Jewish community or to individuals would not affect their well-being. Paying out some money to Holocaust survivors would not mean individual Norwegians would have to make sacrifices. On the other hand, the result would be limited as it would not really change the lives of the Jews who received the funds….

“Everyone was aware that among Ukrainians and Lithuanians there were many anti-Semites. Norway however had maintained its gentle image, despite severe discrimination against its surviving Jews after the Holocaust.”


The East bloc:

“When I became secretary-general in 1985, I visited Hungary and then other eastern European countries, including Russia. The WJC had initiated negotiations with these countries in order to let the Jews there freely emigrate. In the process we also met government-appointed Jewish leaders who opposed these efforts. The old Jews I saw in the synagogues – some of them literally starving – were afraid to talk to us. During the Holocaust these people had either been in concentration camps, slave labor camps, or in hiding. They did not receive any restitution from Germany. Many of them have since died.

“In the mid-eighties I spoke to the East German Prime Minister Erich Honecker. I asked him to accept joint responsibility for what Germany had done to the Jews in the Holocaust. At first he refused. Thereafter, he began negotiating with us, eyeing a kind of most favored nation status with the U.S. similar to the one already enjoyed by Romania. He offered an initial hundred million dollar payment…

“After the fall of communism, the eastern European countries wanted to be acceptable to the West. They dealt with many problems except one: their obligation to restitute the property stolen from millions of Jews. The financial side of our claims was important, yet secondary to the historical one. There were so many scandals attached to the restitution process in these countries that would cause much publicity.

“In 1992 the WJC and the Jewish Agency – together with seven other Jewish organizations – created the World Jewish Restitution Organization (WJRO). Its aim was to negotiate on Jewish war claims with eastern European countries; they were not part of the Claims Conference’s mandate which was specifically limited to Germany and Austria. Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin wrote the WJRO a letter naming it Israel’s representative in these negotiations.”


Of course for all of these endeavors to be successful, the idea of Jewish victimization had to be reinforced and heavily promoted. Singer claimed new historical research showed that “27,600 trainloads of Jewish property” were stolen by the Germans. “No one was reimbursed for these thefts, but the principle of theft was established,” he insisted.

On Austria:


“Among Israeli Prime Ministers, Binyamin Netanyahu was probably the best partner we had. Earlier, in the 1980s, when he was Israeli ambassador to the United Nations, he had participated in the unmasking of the war past of former UN Secretary-General Kurt Waldheim [who was at that time president of Austria]. Since Ehud Barak also supported us, we have had almost continuous backing from Israeli prime ministers…

“Things started moving in many countries. To our surprise, in 1997 the British Government called a conference in London on looted gold. Foreign Minister Robin Cook, who was extremely anti-Israel, initiated this conference because he considered it part of ‘a foreign policy with a moral face.’ His behavior followed a classic pattern: one is anti-Israel and then tries to compensate for that by being good for Diaspora Jews. French President Jacques Chirac’s attitude is another typical example of such behavior.

“After so many years, news was emerging on Jewish properties in Poland and restitution issues re-surfaced in Germany. From my personal viewpoint, the CEF agreement with the Germans is the most significant moral victory. This body, the Central European Foundation of Repair to European Jews, now makes life pensions available to 92,000 East European Jews. The Austrians suddenly were willing to make new payments because it was bad publicity for them when we made agreements with the Germans at the same time stressing how horribly the Austrians behaved.


Sweden:

“Over the years, an enormous momentum built up. The Swedes, for instance, were trying to make various settlements with us and ultimately took the initiative for the January 2000 Stockholm Conference on Holocaust Education. We had now finally reached critical mass. The restitution process became uncontrollable and rather chaotic. Several countries tried to make private deals by approaching various Jewish organizations and making donations to them.

But Singer’s biggest triumph may have been in Switzerland, where he managed to squeeze some $1. 25 billion out of certain of the nation’s banks:

“The historical research which accompanied the restitution process informed the world of many injustices about which even Jewish leaders knew very little. They had been studied somewhat in the past, but had since been forgotten. This led to the U.S. investigations of the stolen gold the Germans sent to neutral countries in 1997. Simultaneously we became aware of the issue of heirless property in Eastern Europe. We also familiarized ourselves with the subject of the dormant Swiss bank accounts as well as the insurance policies which had not been paid. The revelations in one country impacted on another and vice versa.”…

“Some people had been well aware – long before the WJC – of the dormant Swiss accounts and the banks’ resistance to help heirs reclaim money due to them. Paul Erdman – an author who had many other grievances against the Swiss banks – wrote a novel called The Swiss Account. It was only around 1994 that we discovered that there was much official documentation available on the heirless and other accounts.

“Allen Dulles had been the American consul during the War in the Swiss capital Bern, where he spied on money transfers from Germany to Switzerland. Later, in his autobiography he mentioned a project initiated in 1944, called ‘Safehaven.’ It was part of economic warfare against the Axis and aimed at blocking the transfer of German assets to neutral countries.

“When Dulles became the head of the CIA in 1953, he attempted to blot out all information about this project. When we started investigating we learned about Safehaven’s existence from the autobiography he wrote many years later. We could access a multitude of documents concerning it under the Freedom of Information Act.”


A visit today to the official Swiss Banks Settlement website, shows that claims filed are subdivided into certain classes. For instance, persons could qualify for payments under the “Refugee Class” if they “were denied entry into or expelled from Switzerland, or admitted into Switzerland but abused or mistreated.” There is also a “Slave Labor Class I” that applies to “those claimants who performed slave labor for German and other companies which may have transacted their profits through Swiss entities.” The website also informs us that the claimants were not limited to Jews, but also included Roma, Jehovah’s Witness, homosexual, or disabled claimants.

This targeting of Swiss banks is also discussed by Norman Finkelstein in his book The Holocaust Industry. In an article here, Finkelstein calls the case against Switzerland “dubious at best,” yet as he relates, a number of US political leaders threw their weight behind the effort to force the Swiss to pay up:


The Swiss stood accused of directly and indirectly profiting from the Nazi persecution of Jews. Acting at Israel’s behest, the World Jewish Restitution Organization mobilized officials at the federal, state and local levels in the United States to press Switzerland for Holocaust compensation. A senior official in the Clinton administration, Stuart Eizenstat, conscripted twelve federal agencies for this initiative. A major international conference was convened in London. The House and Senate banking committees held multiple hearings. Class action lawsuits against Switzerland were filed in American courts. State and local legislatures across the United States implemented economic boycotts.

If the Holocaust reparations game has become in essence a racket, the U.S. very much plays the role of enforcer. And this cuts across both Democrats and Republicans. In the article at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, Singer talks about how Bill Clinton and then-New York Senator Alfonse D’Amato were recruited to the cause:

“Thereafter, things started changing mainly because we managed to get two major players involved. On the same day, we went to the Republican Senator of New York, Alfonse D’Amato and President Clinton. Their relationship was extremely unpleasant because as chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, D’Amato was investigating Clinton on the Whitewater affair.

“Both sought re-election, yet had severe problems: the President was under investigation and D’Amato was not showing visible success. Clinton – despite his extreme dislike of D’Amato – was willing to collaborate with him on the restitution issue. D’Amato who has a huge Jewish constituency, said that the Jewish case was a just one and there weren’t many Swiss voters in the United States anyhow.”

Singer doubts whether the Bush administration would have been similarly forthcoming, as it is so strongly supportive of Israel. “You always see that administrations will back you on relatively marginal issues if they cannot do so on central ones. The reverse is also true because once they are supportive on critically important matters, they don’t have to bother much about other ones. The one exception was the struggle for Soviet Jewry where all administrations have been supportive of the Jews, even if they were lukewarm on Israel.”

Singer took an old woman to see D’Amato. She told him her father had an account in Switzerland and she was turned away when she had gone to inquire about it in 1946. They had wanted her father’s death certificate from Auschwitz. D’Amato then related the story on television.

“We first approached Clinton through Hillary. When she heard we were working with D’Amato, she said, ‘It’s like Haman and Mordechai working together.’ She knew her Bible better than the Jews and she could have thus been seen as Queen Esther. The President said, ‘You have my full presidential support.'”


As Finkelstein noted (see above), class action lawsuits were filed in U.S. courts. The question of course is would the Swiss be afforded a fair judgment in the American judicial system? The words “dubious at best” would again seem to apply if we examine Singer’s comments on the matter:

“In 1996 we convinced Alan Hevesi, the Jewish comptroller of New York City, to collaborate with us. His office manages many billion dollars of investments. In that year we organized a meeting of 800 state financial officers and comptrollers from government bodies under his chairmanship. Together they managed a total of thirty trillion dollars of funds. They indicated that if the Swiss banks did not solve the dormant accounts issue, they would no longer do business with them. The Swiss thought that these threats could lead to a major worldwide boycott.

“Hevesi was inclined to discuss a boycott on behalf of the 800 financial officers against the Swiss banks. He wrote a letter to Judge Edward Korman, who was dealing with the class actions against them in New York, informing him of what was going on. I kept stressing we did not want a boycott.

“In April 1996 the chairmen of the three major Swiss banks who felt threatened each wrote me a letter agreeing to the principle of global settlements. In 1997 Judge Korman began holding sessions in camera, on the restitution issues, which finally led to a global settlement. Strangely enough, all actors in the hearing were Jewish: the judge, the bank representatives and the lawyers.


From presidents and senators, all the way down to city comptrollers, the pressure was applied. Like the Germans at the Luxembourg negotiations more than 40 years previously, the Swiss now had little chance of avoiding the financial hit coming their way. Finkelstein sheds additional light on the coercion tactics:

The chairman of the House Banking Committee, James Leach, maintained that states must be held accountable for injustices even if committed a half-century ago: ‘History does not have a statute of limitations.’ Eizenstat deemed Swiss compensation to Jewry ‘an important litmus test of this generation’s willingness to face the past and rectify the wrongs of the past.’ Although they couldn’t be ‘held responsible for what took place years ago,’ Senator Alfonse D’Amato of the Senate Banking Committee acknowledged that the Swiss still had a ‘duty of accountability and of attempting to do what is right at this point in time.’ Publicly endorsing the Jewish demand for compensation, President Clinton likewise reflected that ‘we must confront and, as best we can, right the terrible injustice of the past.’ ‘It should be made clear,’ bipartisan Congressional leaders wrote in a letter to the Secretary of State, that the ‘response on this restitution matter will be seen as a test of respect for basic human rights and the rule of law.’ And in address to the Swiss Parliament, Secretary of State Albright explained that economic benefits Switzerland accrued from the plundering of Jews ‘were passed along to subsequent generations and that is why the world now looks to the people of Switzerland, not to assume responsibility for actions taken by their forbears, but to be generous in doing what can be done at this point to right past wrongs.’

But as stated above, it wasn’t only Switzerland in the crosshairs. US officials began flagellating the countries of Eastern Europe as well. Again from Finkelstein:

In negotiations with Eastern Europe, Jewish organizations and Israel have demanded the full restitution of or monetary compensation for the pre-war communal and private assets of the Jewish community.[4] Consider Poland. The pre-war Jewish population of Poland stood at 3.5 million; the current population is several thousand. Yet, the World Jewish Restitution Organization demands title over the 6,000 pre-war communal Jewish properties, including those currently being used as hospitals and schools. It is also laying claim to hundreds of thousands of parcels of Polish land valued in the many tens of billions of dollars. Once again the entire US political and legal establishment has been mobilized to achieve these ends. Indeed, New York City Council members unanimously supported a resolution calling on Poland ‘to pass comprehensive legislation providing for the complete restitution of Holocaust assets’, while 57 members of Congress (led by Congressman Anthony Weiner of New York) dispatched a letter to the Polish parliament demanding ‘comprehensive legislation that would return 100% of all property and assets seized during the Holocaust’.

Testifying before the Senate Banking Committee, Stuart Eizenstat deplored the lax pace of evictions in Eastern Europe: ‘A variety of problems have arisen in the return of properties. For example, in some countries, when persons or communities have attempted to reclaim properties, they have been asked, sometimes required … to allow current tenants to remain for a lengthy period of time at rent-controlled rates.’ The delinquency of Belarus particularly exercised Eizenstat. Belarus is ‘very, very far’ behind in handing over pre-war Jewish properties, he told the House International Relations Committee. The average monthly income of a Belarussian is $100.

To force submission from recalcitrant governments, those seeking Jewish restitution wield the bludgeon of US sanctions. Eizenstat urged Congress to ‘elevate’ Holocaust compensation, put it ‘high on the list’ of requirements for those East European countries that are seeking entry into the OECD, the World Trade Organization, the European Union, NATO and the Council of Europe: ‘They will listen if you speak … They will get the hint.’ Israel Singer, of the World Jewish Restitution Organization, called on Congress to ‘continue looking at the shopping list’ in order to ‘check’ that every country pays up. ‘It is extremely important that the countries involved in the issue understand,’ Congressman Benjamin Gilman of the House International Relations Committee said, ‘that their response … is one of several standards by which the United States assesses its bilateral relationship.’ Avraham Hirschson, chairman of Israel’s Knesset Committee on restitution and Israel’s representative on the World Jewish Restitution Organization, paid tribute to Congressional cooperation. Recalling his ‘fights’ with the Romanian prime minister, Hirschson testified: ‘But I ask one remark, in the middle of the fighting, and it changed that atmosphere. I told him, you know, in two days I am going to be in a hearing here in Congress. What do you want me to tell them in the hearing? The whole atmosphere was changed.’


And of course, if all the additional countries named above could be squeezed for money, there was no reason Germany shouldn’t have to pay out even more. Was there? Certainly not in the view of the Jewish organizations involved. Thus the newly-reunified Germany, too, became a target of “the second round” of the Holocaust racket. Again from Singer:

“One of his (East German Prime Minister Erich Honecker) successors, Lothar de Maiziere, bridged the transition from Honecker’s offer to the claim against unified Germany. This gave us the opportunity to present our claim to German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, saying that one cannot take over East Germany’s assets without inheriting its part of the responsibility toward the Jews. He then recognized the principle of our claim.

“Many Jewish leaders considered these efforts worthless as they saw no chance of success. Today all the Claims Conference’s funds come from these endeavors. The new pensions for Soviet and eastern European Jews and those who emigrated to Israel from these countries are paid from monies obtained from claims against Germany after unification.”


Singer also discussed with his interviewer the secrets of his success over the years in pushing his cause. A lot of it seems to have to do with being as abrasive as possible and playing the “anti-Semite” card:

“There is often criticism about the aggressive methods we’ve used. A small organization confronting powerful unyielding governments cannot be soft if it wants to achieve anything. If I had listened to all the good Jewish advisors who said we shouldn’t scream, the survivors would not have received anything. Fighting for the truth cannot be done in a nuanced way.

“I approached German Prime Minister Helmut Kohl as head of a state which had stolen money from the Jews. He told me my behavior was unpleasant. I answered that I had no reason to be nice. As he viewed Germany as a superpower, he kept telling me, after we had reached an agreement, that we had defeated his country. It is only because we succeeded that he respects the Jews and me. Many leading European politicians made outright nasty remarks. [French President Jacques] Chirac, for instance, told me that Jews are the cause of anti-Semitism in France and everywhere else.

“It became clear when dealing with the Swiss bankers, that they were anti-Semites. A senior banker in one of our early meetings asked me, ‘What do you mean when you talk about the wealth of the Jews? I saw pictures of the Jews of Europe in Roman Vishniac’s book, A Vanished World. They had rags on their feet.’

“I told him the Jews in Vienna – where my parents had lived – were university professors, founders of psychology, fathers of modern rationalism, the initiators of human rights and the bankers who had given the Swiss bankers’ grandfathers jobs. I made it clear to him that his remarks were abusive and anti-Semitic. Then Avraham Burg related this story to the newspapers.

“A Swiss Jewish banker told me that his non-Jewish colleagues had always been anti-Semites and even though he sat on their side of the table, they considered him to be one of their Jewish counterparts.”


Singer also has his eyes set on works of art that allegedly once belonged to Jews, and he looks forward “to the day when I can walk into an auction house and say, ‘This picture is stolen; it belongs to the Jewish people. You can’t sell it.’ I want to be arrested and taken away handcuffed and attract media attention. I have done many things in my life, but not this yet,” he confided.

Singer Fired

Had Singer confined his “reparations” harvest to art dealers, Swiss bankers, and anxiety-ridden government leaders, he might eventually have ridden off into the sunset in a blaze of glory, hailed as a genuine, true-blue Jewish hero. But there are some who didn’t seem to feel he was worthy of hero status, and one of these was Edgar Bronfman, president of the WJC, who in March of 2007 fired Singer as the organization’s chairman.

Bronfman said he discovered Singer “had helped himself to cash from the WJC office, my cash.” The activity, he said, had been going on for “a very long time,” and he went on to add, “The final blow came when we discovered that he was playing games with his hotel bills in Jerusalem.”

Singer responded that Bronfman would “regret having stained my good name.”

Commenting on his longtime friendship with Singer, Bronfman said he went through “many weeks of crying to find out that I was so badly used by a man I used to love.”

Keep in mind this took place in March of 2007—a bit over a year after Spitzer’s report on WJC financial irregularities had been issued. As in 2001, no criminal charges were filed. However, in June of 2007 Singer voluntarily ended his presidency at the CC as well.


‘I always knew I wanted to do Jewish’
If the misuse of funds at the WJC went on for “a very long time,” the same could be said of the fraud at the CC that came to light in 2009. That scheme went undetected for years. The fraudulent claims upon the Article 2 Fund alone are believed to have dated back to at least 1993. Credited with discovering the scam is Greg Schneider, who became head of the CC in July of 2009 and who continues to serve in that role today.
Schneider

 “I was petrified somebody would find this out before we could make it clear that we were on top of it. I insisted we go to the authorities immediately,” he said.

And in fact, the article at the JTA paints Schneider as something of a knight in shining armor who managed to avert total disaster—first by spotting the fraud; then by contacting CC Chairman Julius Berman initially, and then the FBI; and thereafter by cooperating fully with the investigation.


Over the next couple of days, Berman, Schneider and senior leaders at the Claims Conference tried to figure out a game plan. If word was to leak that the organization had allowed millions of dollars to be fraudulently obtained from Germany in the name of Holocaust survivors, it could jeopardize the Claims Conference’s entire operations, its relationship with the Germans and the distribution of hundreds of millions per year to Holocaust survivors around the world.

Uriel Heilman, the JTA writer, goes on to relate how the Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s office praised the CC for its “extraordinary continued cooperation.” Heilman additionally noted that “perhaps most important, the Germans seem to trust Schneider.”

A different view of Schneider is expressed by Finkelstein:


The biggest crooks are not those who embezzled money from the Crooks’ Conference but those who run it, in particular the filthy Greg Schneider.

While Schneider, as mentioned above, became head of the CC in 2009, his employment with the organization actually began in 1995 after he obtained a master’s degree in public policy at the Harvard Kennedy School. Heilman even discusses Schneider’s early life on a farm in Connecticut, as well as a trip to Israel at the age of 15.

“After a few days in Israel, I felt more at home and more connected than I did in 15 years on the farm,” Schneider told Heilman. “I didn’t fit in with that farm life. I always knew I wanted to do Jewish.”


‘As impossible to anticipate as the attacks of 9/11’

You might think that with a $57 million scandal on the books, the CC might have seen some resignations at the top. But no, that has not happened. Both Schneider and Berman remain on the job, and both have varying justifications for why this is so. For Schneider it seems largely a matter of regarding himself as, well, indispensable.

Schneider, who was COO of the Claims Conference when the fraud was happening before he became the organization’s chief executive, said the notion that he should be the one to resign is misplaced and counterproductive
. Schneider, whose formal title is executive vice president, says he’s indispensable and that nobody is more committed or better suited to rooting out the fraud.

“There’s too much at stake here,” Schneider told JTA. “It would be detrimental to the organization. It would be detrimental to survivors. The results are more important than the symbolism of a resignation.”


But for Berman it appears a case of ataraxia has set in. Berman didn’t do anything wrong, he maintains—so why on earth should he quit?

I feel no fault at all,” he said. “Whether I’m a lay chairman or a CEO, it’s the kind of process that I had nothing whatsoever to do with instituting.”

Calling the controls that the Claims Conference had in place to prevent fraud “reasonably adequate,” Berman said the deception was as impossible to anticipate as the attacks of 9/11. “Until it happens once,” he added. “Then you’re on notice that something you never foresaw can happen.”

Berman

Though perhaps it was unintended, Berman’s analogy to 9/11 gives rise to
a measure of levity. But let’s not forget that other “indispensable” higher-ups—either in or out of the loop—were also on hand as the fraud was occurring. One was Gideon Taylor, who comes from a family of powerful Jews—whose grandfather was Samuel Fisher, a British lord and former president of the Board of Directors of British Jews.

Schneider’s predecessor, Gideon Taylor, under whose 10-year tenure the fraud ran undetected, declined to be interviewed on the subject.

“The day I left I made a decision: I’m not going to speak publicly about the Claims Conference because I’ve moved on,” Taylor told the JTA. “It is what it is.”


Yes, Taylor has moved on, but not that terribly far, and the grass in his new location also seems pretty green:

Taylor is now COO of programs at the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, which distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in Jewish aid annually around the world — approximately $110 million of which comes from the Claims Conference. The money, designated for aid programs to Jews in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, constitutes slightly less than one-third of the JDC’s total annual budget.

Just after announcing his intentions to leave the CC, Taylor shared some thoughts on life, loot, and Israel with the Jewish Chronicle, commenting, “Of all the times to have been at the Claims Conference, this was probably the busiest, with the big agreements on slave labour, the discussions with Swiss banks and negotiations with insurance companies.” The date on the article is April 2, 2009—less than three months after Israel’s murderous assault upon Gaza in Operation Cast Lead. Taylor went on to say: “We are living in turbulent times for the Jewish world and Israel. There are the economic challenges, the security and political challenges and the atmosphere.”

One former CC higher-up who is facing charges in the affair is Semen Domnitser. According to the JTA, Domnitser oversaw the Hardship and Article 2 Funds. Through his lawyers he has maintained his innocence.


Today

As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, the 60thanniversary of the Luxembourg Agreement was marked in July of 2012 with observances held in Washington. Interesting to note is that those observances followed close on the heels of yet another victory for the Holocaust reparations racket—again at the expense of German taxpayers. On Monday, July 9, the first day of the observances, it was announced that negotiations between German officials and the CC had resulted in an agreement to extend reparations paymentsto an additional 80,000 purported survivors living in the former Soviet Union. The agreement will result in a payout of about $300 million.

“It has never been about the money,” claimed Berman, who was on hand for the festivities at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. “It has always been about the recognition, the validation, the acknowledgement. Today for the first time in 60 years, we can say that every Holocaust victim alive today is entitled to some form or recognition. We are all painfully aware that we are entering the twilight years for survivors. All we can do is hope to make their final years ones of dignity and promise to carry the lessons of the Shoah forward.”

Various German officials were also present, and some of their remarks are striking:


Ludger Schlief, head of the finance policy division of the Federal Chancellery of Germany, said that restitution for Shoah survivors will not be a victim of the current European currency crisis. Payments to Shoah victims is “an especially high priority of the government of Angela Merkel during her terms in office,” Schlief said. Though Germany is facing “enormous challenges” in the current European economic situation, “This and other crises will not deter Germany from its historic responsibility,” he said.

And Dr. Peter Ammon, Ambassador of Germany to the United States, stressed that the nation understands its burden of history and will continue to fulfill its historic and moral responsibility to those who suffered under the Third Reich. “Germany has accepted its historical responsibility and will do so for generations to come,” said Ammon.


Will all of this end when the last Holocaust survivor dies? Or will the penance and restitution go on for “generations to come,” as Ammon puts it? Perhaps the case of Croatia offers us an indicator. In an address before the Israeli Knesset on February 15 of this year, Croatian President Ivo Josipović issued a groveling apology for his country’s role in the events of the Nazi era.

“We need to look into our hearts, and to come to terms with the darkest stain in our history. Here I am, standing before the parliament of the Jewish state, and more importantly, in front of people born in Croatia, and with no ambiguity, I apologize and I ask for forgiveness from all the Holocaust survivors and all the victims,” Josipović said.
Josipović —“I ask for forgiveness”

Josopović went on to say he felt convinced that amendments to his country’s “compensation law” would be passed soon, and that these would include payments to “Holocaust survivors, private individuals, their inheritors or local communities.” But apparently this was not enough to placate Eizenstat. Croatia incidentally wants to join the European Union, and Eizenstat is calling upon EU leaders to exercise “leverage” against Croatia vis-a-vis its application for admission. “Now is the time for the European Union to exact the maximum amount of leverage,” said Eizenstat. “Once they’re in, the leverage is lost.”

So what does Eizenstat want exactly? Well according to Haaretz, he desires Croatia to “commence with a restitution program and the formation of an independent commission of international scholars to examine the country’s wartime past.”

The matter is discussed in a recent article by former Israeli Roy Tov, who informs us that similar demands are being made upon Serbia—also seeking EU membership.


For a second I was so puzzled that I opened timeanddate.com just to make sure that today was June 22, 2012. Yet, the interview I had just read in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz seemed taken from the 1950s. Yesterday, former Under Secretary of State Stuart E. Eizenstat—who served in the Clinton Administration—told the newspaper that the EU must encourage Coratia and Serbia to take responsibility for their roles in the Holocaust before granting them EU membership…

I apologize to the Honorable Mr. Eizenstat, but his strategy, succinctly summarized by him as “once they’re in, the leverage is lost,” is nothing but an extortion attempt. Extortion is a crime which occurs when money, property, or services are obtained from somebody through coercion. The extortionist refrain from doing harm is called protection, or “Vitamin P” in Israel. The difference between extortion and robbery is that extortion involves a written or verbal threat whereas robbery can occur without any verbal or written threat. Mr. Eizenstat, your implied threat to deny Croatioon membership in the EU was a crime.


Singer’s comments about how he would like to walk into an art auction one day and say—“This picture is stolen; it belongs to the Jewish people. You can’t sell it.”—should also be kept in mind. A visit to the CC’s website shows that the organization is pursuing a “worldwide intensified effort for the restitution of cultural and religious property looted from Jews” with a special emphasis of taking possession of works of art. This is spelled out very clearly:

Restitution efforts in this area have in the past yielded far fewer results than efforts to restitute other assets such as property and financial holdings. The reasons for this lack of progress include the ease of transporting art across international borders, the lack of public records documenting original ownership, the difficulty of tracing art transactions through the decades, and the lack of a central authority to arbitrate claims for artwork.

The Claims Conference and the WJRO have begun to work with relevant Jewish communities and governments around the world to bring increased attention to the restitution of looted movable cultural and religious property. The organizations are focusing on the systemic issues involved in art restitution with the intent of improving and creating processes to enable more owners and heirs to recover their property.

The return of plundered artworks and religious artifacts often has meaning beyond that of the restitution of other types of assets. These were personal possessions valued for their beauty and cultural significance, often handed down through several generations. In many cases, these artworks or artifacts are the last personal link heirs may have to families destroyed in the Holocaust. Many of these artworks have ended up in museums around the world, with no centralized method for families to locate them.


So who will pay for this? Will the museums in which the artworks presently reside be forced to bite the bullet? Or will Germany, the other countries, and the Swiss banks be obliged to bear the costs? Perhaps an arrangement could be worked out under which the banks, museums and national governments will each divvy up an equal amount? One thing is for sure. If the issue is pressed, somebody (regardless of what the actual historic facts may be) will end up paying…and paying…and we can probably safely assume it won’t be Jews.

Let us also return briefly to the comments of Ludger Schlief, the German finance minister quoted above. You’ll recall Schlief conceded that his country faces “enormous challenges” with regard to the EU’s current economic crisis, but that this “will not deter Germany from its historic responsibility.” Is the feeling, then, that no matter how tough times get for the rest of us, Jews who may have suffered at some point in the past must at all costs be provided for? This seems to be Schlief’s view as well as the CC’s. And in fact, a principle bearing strong resemblance to this is being applied now in one of the hardest hit European countries—Greece—where the CC is triplingits aid to purported survivors. The matter was discussed in a JTA article posted just two months ago:


Some 5,000 Jews are living in Greece, including more than 500 Holocaust survivors who have seen their living conditions and social services deteriorate rapidly as the country struggles with the fifth year of a harsh recession.

Government pensions have been slashed, income from property rentals have fallen significantly and there have been steep tax hikes and price rises. At the same time, state social services and medical assistance has been significantly reduced.

“Today’s economic crisis has made these survivors more vulnerable than ever at a time in their lives when they most need aid,” Gregory Schneider, executive vice president of the Claims Conference, wrote in a report on the new assistance.

“The Claims Conference is taking dramatic and immediate action to help ease their situation as much as possible and to prevent a crisis from becoming a catastrophe for this vulnerable population.”


The article also informs us that an allocation of “nearly $120,000” will be given to the Jewish Museum of Greece—for yet another Holocaust education program.

As for Schneider’s thoughts on the $57 million that went missing, he feels far too much attention has been paid to this and not enough to his organizations accomplishments—and he believes those accomplishments are considerable.

“This is the last moment of the last generation of survivors. We have to give them the dignity they deserve. We only have a few years left when we can still make a difference,” he says.

Does he feel that at some point the CC and other Jewish organizations may have overplayed their hands and gotten a little too greedy? Apparently not.

“The Germans say, when will it ever end? Hasn’t it been enough already?” Schneider said, then added: “The suffering hasn’t ended. The nightmares haven’t ended. How can you possibly say enough? It won’t be enough until the very last survivor, and even then it won’t be enough.”

***
What About Nakba Reparations for the Palestinians?

By Richard Edmondson

Perhaps one of the greatest ironies of history is that since approval of the Luxembourg Agreement 60 years ago, Jews have been collecting reparations payments for offenses that in some cases are identical to those which they themselves have inflicted upon the Palestinians in the same period.

For instance : Jews who became “refugees and stateless persons” in the Nazi era may qualify for assistance under the Hardship Fund which is administered by the Claims Conference. Additionally those Jews who also “suffered considerable damage to health as a result of Nazi persecution” would equally qualify for reparations under the same fund.

How many Palestinians, particularly those in Gaza, have been denied access to needed medical care or life-saving drugs and suffered ill-health effects as a result? How many, due to the Israeli blockade, have been prevented from leaving Gaza to get treatment at hospitals in Egypt or Israel?

The Hardship Fund also offers assistance to those Jews who fled “from areas of the Soviet Union that were generally up to 100 kilometers from the most easterly advance of the German army (Wehrmacht) but were not later occupied by the Nazis.” If the same principle applied to Nakba reparations, would not Palestinians who fled into neighboring countries such as Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan also be eligible for reparations?

Jews who endured “deprivation of liberty,” as well as “curfew” and “restriction of movement” can also get help from the Hardship Fund. Palestinians in the West Bank have suffered conditions that meet the same identical criteria. Why are they not eligible for reparations?

For those Jews able to meet the eligibility requirements, the Harship Fund provides a one-time payment of 2,556 euros.

But the Article 2 Fund provides much more even than that—a lifetime pension of 300 euros a month. According to the CC website, the Article 2 Fund “is limited to Jewish Holocaust survivors” (apparently Roma, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and non-Jewish homosexuals or disabled do not qualify, whereas these groups are included in the Swiss Banks settlement) that meet certain eligibility requirements. These include those who:


* Were “imprisoned for at least 18 months” in a “ghetto” as defined by the German government

* Were “in hiding for at least 18 months” under “inhumane conditions, without access to the outside world” either in “German Nazi-occupied territory” or in “Nazi satellite states”

* Lived “illegally under false identity or with false papers for at least 18 months” again in a Nazi-occupied territory or satellite state


Interesting to note is that the 18-month requirements in the three conditions above were reduced—to 12 months—as of January 1 this year.

In addition, Article 2 pensions are available to those who “were incarcerated for at least six months” in different categories of facilities, including a “concentration camp as defined in accordance with the German Federal Indemnification Law,” or BEG, as well as various other types of camps or forced labor battalions that are defined under different criteria and located in various geographic regions.

But it doesn’t stop there. The German government, in 2007, established yet another reparations program, entitled the “German Government Ghetto Fund”, or BADV. Under this program a one-time payment of 2,000 euros is given to purported survivors who carried out work “without force” in a ghetto. According to the CC website, the fund was created to “acknowledge ghetto survivors who had otherwise been rejected for German Social Security payments”—(known as the “Ghetto Pension” and created under a separate German law)—“and it came as a response to intense international pressure spearheaded by the Claims Conference.”

Have no doubt about the latter point. Initially, the German Government Ghetto Fund and the Ghetto Pension were set up to be mutually exclusive. People could apply for and receive one or the other, but not both. However, this stipulation has since been done away with. Now those who were confined to a ghetto may receive a pension and a one-time payment!

And then we come to the matter of stolen property. Restitution for stolen or confiscated property has been an ongoing issue since even before the war ended, and efforts to recoup losses have met with varying degrees of success depending on country. According to one source:


At most, 15 percent of Jewish assets confiscated from 1934 to 1945 were returned after the war to their owners, their heirs, and Jewish organizations representing heirless claimants. Within Western Europe, the percentage restored for each country roughly ranged from 10 to 60 percent. In Eastern Europe, restitution was negligible. This meant the value of unrestored assets by the mid-1990s amounted to $120-$180 billion at 2005 prices.

The process was helped along by restitution laws passed by the allied occupation powers from 1947 to 1950. Then in 1957, West Germany passed the BRÜG law to provide “compensation for moveable property stolen by the Nazis, which the claimant could identify but could no longer locate.” This included household goods, bank accounts, jewelry, and securities. Over the years the BRÜG was gradually expanded, with a major change coming in 1994 when the law was expanded to include property stolen in the former East Germany.

By 1954, the value of recovered property amounted to roughly 1 billion DM, or $150 million at late-1930s value. But by 1997, payments under the BRÜG reportedly stood at about 4 billion DM, paid out to roughly 750,000 claimants. The figure amounts to about $400 million in 1930s values.

Then came “the second round” starting in the 1990s. In 1992, the World Jewish Restitution Organization was formed with the purpose of putting the squeeze on the former Soviet bloc countries of Eastern Europe. The US Congress started holding hearings in the matter and “state banking and insurance regulators (mainly in New York and California) threatened to halt bank mergers involving European banks and not allow insurance companies to do business in their state unless restitution was adequately addressed.” A number of “aggressive class action suits” were filed as well. As this report puts it:


Because of the greater awareness of the issue, European governments and companies were forced to take action. Numerous independent historical commissions were established that documented the means by which the assets were stolen, the complicity of governments, businesses, and individuals in facilitating the looting of Jewish property, and the problems with postwar restitution efforts. This led to apologies by the leaders of several countries.

When it came to returning or paying for stolen assets, however, the negotiations with European countries and businesses were long and arduous.  From the mid-1990s to 2006, only some $3.4 billion was pledged to restore unpaid assets directly to survivors or their heirs or as humanitarian funds to account for the many potential claimants who after fifty years lacked proof and/or knowledge of the stolen assets.[11] Most humanitarian funds were designated to support needy survivors, with some money going to help reestablish European Jewish communities. In addition to these pledges, about half a billion dollars was paid via a few high-profile individual art and real estate legal cases, bringing the total to nearly $4 billion.


Another milestone came in 2009 when the Conference on Holocaust Era Assets was held in Prague, attended by 46 nations. Forty-three of them ended up signing a set of guidelines that included: a) recognition of “the legitimate Jewish owners of property seized by the Nazis and their collaborators”; b) the establishment of “transparent and accessible claims processes”; c) allowing full and free access to national archives by claimants; d) the awarding of “full title or fair compensation” for those successful in pressing their claims; and finally, e) “consider allocating the proceeds from unclaimed and heirless property to benefit Holocaust survivors in need.”

One question of course is how much Palestinian property has been stolen in the last 64 years. Would it amount to “27,600 trainloads”? Or perhaps even more? Consider the following video of Israeli soldiers looting sewing machines from a girls orphanage in Hebron:

More on the looted orphanage can be found here.

It is of course outside the scope of this article to document every crime committed by Israel against the Palestinians in the last 64 years, but these crimes include looted property, land confiscation, house demolition, indefinite detention, murder and torture. Instead of trying to milk every last penny they can get out of the Germans, why don’t Jews begin addressing this issue?

Jewish author Norman Finkelstein has suggested that German reparations to the Jews could—and should— serve as a legal precedent to Israeli reparations to the Palestinians.


Apart from the moral link joining Jewish claims against Europe, on the one hand, and Palestinian claims against Israel, on the other, a direct material link potentially joins the respective demands. When Israel first entered into negotiations with Germany for reparations after the war, the Israeli historian Ilan Pappe reports, Foreign Minister Moshe Sharett proposed transferring a part to Palestinian refugees, ‘in order to rectify what has been called the small injustice (the Palestinian tragedy), caused by the more terrible one (the Holocaust)’.[5] Nothing ever came of the proposal.

Of course since Sharett made his proposal, 60 years have elapsed—60 years in which the crimes have mounted up. Finkelstein continues:

A respected Israeli academic, Clinton Bailey, recently suggested using part of the funds from the Holocaust settlements with Switzerland and Germany for the ‘compensation of Palestinian Arab refugees’.[6] Given that almost all survivors of the Nazi holocaust have already passed away, this would seem to be a sensible proposal.

The issue of reparations has also been addressed in the Jerusalem Sabeel Document, drawn up in 2006 by the Palestinian Christian movement Sabeel. Listed in the document are a total of seven “Principles” the organization feels are necessary in order to achieve peace. The first of the seven reads as follows:

Israel must admit that it has committed an injustice against the Palestinian people and must accept responsibility for that. This means that reparation must be paid to all Palestinians who have suffered as a result of the conflict since 1948 whether they are Palestinian citizens of Israel, Palestinians living on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, or Palestinians living in the Diaspora. The road to healing and reconciliation passes through repentance, forgiveness and redress.

I would suggest the time has come for Jews, or at any rate those who claim to hold “Jewish values” (whatever those are), to raise their voices and call for reparations to the Palestinians. There are 64 years’ worth of wrongs to be undone (the Nazi era in Germany lasted a mere 12 years), 64 years of crimes to be redressed, and even though the dead cannot be brought back to life, compensation can indeed be paid to the living. Equality is the universal ambition of humanism. Are you Jewish? And if so, can you not find it in your heart to issue a call for reparations for the Palestinians? If the answer to that is no, then you are guilty of the sin of believing that Jewish suffering supersedes all others.

River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian   The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this Blog!

"… Funnily, what the US newspapers claim is Hasan Nasrallah’s thoughts, is in fact what he presents as Israel’s & not what he thinks."

Via FLC

“… I received a copy from the New York Times of the BBC report on Nasrallah speech from 2005, which was cited in the correction today.   

The report said: 

““would dry up the sources of finance, end moral, political and material support, stifle voices, whether they are the voices of the resistance or the voices which support the resistance, pressure states which protect the resistance in one way and another, and pressure the Lebanese state, Iran and Iraq, but especially the Lebanese state, in order to classify it as a state which supports terrorism.”


But I looked up the actual speech. Here is what he actually said: 

“Due to the shelving of the military option by the Israelis, they resorted to two option. The first was to target the leaders of the resistance, and the second was to put a siege on the resistance in Lebanon and Palestine, politically and diplomatically, through a comprehensive plan…the Zionist effort seeks to convince countries of the world and the international community that the resistance in Lebanon, which Hizbullah constitutes its most prominent headline, is a terrorist organization…If the Zionists succeed in this, it will mean an international and global war on the resistance under the headline of “war on international terrorism” through a political and financial and media war and to pressure the states that protect the resistance especially in Lebanon, Syria and Iran. The Zionists who failed in their military and security confrontation in Lebanon are trying through political action and international relations to end the role of the resistance in Lebanon and Palestine. They want from the Lebanese and Palestinians to end the role of the resistance…


As you can see, it is an entirely different meaning and words altogether.

PS Hamzah found an audio of the speech and he wrote me this: “Ok I found it ..it’s at at minute 15..Funnily, what the US newspapers guys claims from sayyed [Hasan Nasrallah] is what he presents as Israel’s thoughts not what he thinks.” 

PPS And in this full text of the speech he makes it clear that he was not speaking about what could happen but about he Zionist plans which he ridiculed and denied any presence of an international arm of the party–meaning, the entire speech refutes the very premise of the first article in the Times. He was talking about what the Zionists want to do and said that they think that they can “dry up the sources of funding, and to end the political, moral, and material sources of support, muzzling voices whether they are voices of resistance or voices supportive of resistance, and to pressure the states…

 

River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian  
The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this Blog!

Wissam al-Hassan and the Information Branch

Published Wednesday, August 29, 2012
The behavior of the Information Branch of the Internal Security Forces (ISF) in the Michel Samaha case is no different than in any other. This agency operates as part of a political venture. It successfully dealt a powerful head-punch to its opponents.It was a master-stroke, as they say. The professionals on the other side faulted Samaha and his accomplices in Syria, but they raised their hats to the Information Branch – even if some continue to claim it all had less to do with the efforts of Wissam al-Hassan and his outfit than the expertise of foreign intelligence agencies.

كن عميلاً عند سعد الحريري ووسام  واحصل على فيلا رائعة في كندا ... وانسى قطع طريق المطار والعذابThe debate about the judicial and security merits of what happened is unimportant. This was a controlled game, in which entrapment played a big part. That is apparent from the nature of the questions put to Samaha by the informer Milad al-Kfouri, according to the transcripts of his interrogation and conversations (leaked on the orders of ISF chief Ashraf Rifi, and perhaps by his office, as the latest information from the probe into the affair indicates). Yet regardless of the many questions that remain unanswered, Samaha committed a fatal blunder. He is the cause of what happened to him, and of the damage sustained by his political allies.
Whenever the Information Branch strikes, we are taken back to the debate about its establishment as a state security agency. Its existence was justified in terms of the country’s political composition.
It posthumously fulfilled Rafik al-Hariri’s dream of creating a paramilitary security force under his control in his capacity as the Sunni sect’s representative in the state.
Its critics from the same sect want it to remain effective, but in their service. Its other critics increasingly treat it as a hostile force and a tool for sabotage, and want to get rid of it.
Thus the political debate continues.

Which takes us back to the person of Wissam al-Hassan.

Hassan is no ordinary officer in the security forces. He represents the political faction that appointed him to the position. His special status is due to several reasons, including that he was one of Rafiq al-Hariri’s chief aides. He also has detailed information about most if not all the figures in and around the Future Movement camp, and the forces and figures that joined it after Hariri’s assassination.

He has been able to find out more about the latter, including intimate details.

He has also, for a variety of reasons, been able to strengthen his position as an interlocutor with regional and other foreign intelligence agencies. He can now claim to have links with most of the world’s security agencies, including those considered to belong to the axis that Hassan and his political camp oppose.

Hassan is not a new phenomenon in Lebanon. Like others from a political-security background, he has enough cover to be able to operate with considerable freedom. He also has official cover, which effectively spares him from being scrutinized. Even when a mistake is made, he finds the people to afford him the necessary protection.

Hassan’s relationship with former state prosecutor Said Mirza enabled him to do things the heads of the other security agencies could not. This was not due to any political or personal affinity between the two men, but in line with the political reality that governed their work. Accordingly, the Information Branch has recently had to make some changes to the way it functions. The new acting state prosecutor, Judge Samir Hammoud, does not differ radically in political terms, but has his own somewhat different personality. That obliges Hassan and his security team to bide their time while the picture unfolds. A new permanent state prosecutor is supposed to be appointed soon, but there are still differences within governing circles over the matter.

In general, Hassan behaves in accordance with this public position. His stature increasingly exceeds that of his job. He has a substantial media profile, and has acquired a network of collaborators within major institutions. He also has many years experience of managing assistance budgets in furtherance of the political role assigned to the Information Branch. Thus Hassan does not fear being purged unless the underlying power-structure that rules Lebanon undergoes a complete upheaval.

The problem, here, is not with Hassan continuing to operate in accordance with his convictions. It is that his adversaries from the opposing axis have been unable to present their own version of him. Until then, March 8 activists and leaders had best beware.

Ibrahim al-Amin is editor-in-chief of Al-Akhbar.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

Telegraph: Syrian Opposition Activists Trained by Britain, US

Local Editor

An underground network of Syrian opposition activists is receiving training and supplies of vital equipment from a combined American and British effort to forge an effective alternative to the Damascus regime, reported the British Telegraph newspaper.

According to a report it published on Sunday,

“Dozens of dissidents have been ferried out of Syria to be vetted for foreign backing. Recipients of the aid are given satellite communications and computers so that they can act as a local “hub” linking local activists and the outside world.” 

As for the location, “The training takes place in an Istanbul district where handsome apartment blocks line the steep slopes and rooftop terraces boast views over the Golden Horn waterway.”
 

“We are not ‘king-making’ in Syria. The UK and the US are moving cautiously to help what has been developing within Syria to improve the capabilities of the opposition,” said a British consultant overseeing the programme.

“What’s going to come next? Who is going to control territory across Syria. We want to give civilians the skills to assert leadership,” he added.
The schemes are overseen by the US State Department’s Office of Syrian Opposition Support (OSOS) and Foreign Office officials.
America has set aside $25 million for political opponents of President Bashar al-Assad while Britain is granting £5 million to the cause of overthrowing the regime.
The report narrates the story of one on of the program’s gradates.

“Mina al-Homsi (a pseudonym) is one of the first graduates of the training. She now spends her days plotting how to spread seditious messages throughout her homeland through her own network, named Basma.”

“One of its main activities is to repackage video shot by amateurs into a format that can be used by broadcasters,” wrote the report, adding that “the Basma team have had “tens of thousands” of satirical stickers depicting President Bashar al-Assad as a featherless duck for distribution as agitprop.”

Source: The Telegraph, edited by moqawama.org

River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian  
The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this Blog!

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