Christian Zionism’s Waning Influence on Presidential Politics

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Earlier this week I participated in a podcast with the people at We Hold These Truths, the Christian, pro-peace organization noted for its opposition to Christian Zionism. The discussion focused largely on the presidential campaign and particularly the January 18 speech given by Donald Trump at Liberty University.

Liberty is the university in Lynchburg, Virginia that was founded by Christian Zionist pastor Jerry Falwell, and today his son, Jerry Falwell Jr., continues to serve as its president. So we’re talking, in other words, about a school steeped in the ideology of Christian Zionism–or at least certainly it’s founder was. But the odd thing about Trump’s speech on January 18 is that not once was Israel even mentioned that evening–not by Trump, nor by Falwell Jr. either in the lengthy introduction he gave Trump. Nobody talked about Israel the entire evening!

I have written previously about evaporating support for Israel among evangelical Christians, and particularly among younger evangelicals, and all of us who participated in the podcast took Trump’s appearance at Liberty, and the absence of any expressions of support for the Jewish state, as kind of a sign of the times–an indication that Israel is fast losing its friends. You can click here to access the full podcast.

Today Terrorism Is Our Common Worry

An Open Letter to Western Youth From Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei

Source

In the Name of God, the Beneficent, the Merciful

To the Youth in Western Countries,

The bitter events brought about by blind terrorism in France have once again, moved me to speak to you young people.  For me, it is unfortunate that such incidents would have to create the framework for a conversation, however the truth is that if painful matters do not create the grounds for finding solutions and mutual consultation, then the damage caused will be multiplied.

The pain of any human being anywhere in the world causes sorrow for a fellow human being.  The sight of a child losing his life in the presence of his loved ones, a mother whose joy for her family turns into mourning, a husband who is rushing the lifeless body of his spouse to some place and the spectator who does not know whether he will be seeing the final scene of life- these are scenes that rouse the emotions and feelings of any human being.  Anyone who has benefited from affection and humanity is affected and disturbed by witnessing these scenes- whether it occurs in France or in Palestine or Iraq or Lebanon or Syria.

Without a doubt, the one-and-a-half billion Muslims also have these feelings and abhor and are revolted by the perpetrators and those responsible for these calamities. The issue, however, is that if today’s pain is not used to build a better and safer future, then it will just turn into bitter and fruitless memories. I genuinely believe that it is only you the youth who by learning the lessons of today’s hardship, have the power to discover new means for building the future and who can be barriers in the misguided path that has brought the west to its current impasse.

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It is correct that today terrorism is our common worry.  However, it is necessary for you to know that the insecurity and strain that you experienced during the recent events, differ from the pain that the people of Iraq, Yemen, Syria and Afghanistan have been experiencing for many years, in two significant ways.  First, the Islamic world has been the victim of terror and brutality to a larger extent territorially, to greater amount quantitatively and for a longer period in terms of time. Second, that unfortunately this violence has been supported by certain great powers through various methods and effective means.

Today, there are very few people who are uninformed about the role of the United States of America in creating, nurturing and arming al-Qaeda, the Taliban and their inauspicious successors.  Besides this direct support, the overt and well-known supporters of takfiri terrorism- despite having the most backward political systems- are standing arrayed as allies of the west while the most pioneering, brightest and most dynamic democrats in the region are suppressed mercilessly. The prejudiced response of the west to the awakening movement in the Islamic world is an illustrative example of the contradictory western policies.

The other side of these contradictory policies is seen in supporting the state terrorism of Israel.  The oppressed people of Palestine have experienced the worst kind of terrorism for the last sixty years.  If the people of Europe have now taken refuge in their homes for a few days and refrain from being present in busy places- it is decades that a Palestinian family is not secure even in its own home from the Zionist regime’s death and destruction machinery. What kind of atrocious violence today is comparable to that of the settlement constructions of the Zionist regime?

This regime- without ever being seriously and significantly censured by its influential allies or even by the so-called independent international organizations- everyday demolishes the homes of Palestinians and destroys their orchards and farms.  This is done without even giving them time to gather their belongings or agricultural products and usually it is done in front of the terrified and tear-filled eyes of women and children who witness the brutal beatings of their family members who in some cases are being dragged away to gruesome torture chambers.  In today’s world, do we know of any other violence on this scale and scope and for such an extended period of time?

Shooting down a woman in the middle of the street for the crime of protesting against a soldier who is armed to the teeth- if this is not terrorism, what is? This barbarism, because it is being done by the armed forces of an occupying government, should not be called extremism? Or maybe only because these scenes have been seen repeatedly on television screens for sixty years, they should no longer stir our consciences.

The military invasions of the Islamic world in recent years- with countless victims- are another example of the contradictory logic of the west. The assaulted countries, in addition to the human damage caused, have lost their economic and industrial infrastructure, their movement towards growth and development has been stopped or delayed and in some cases, has been thrown back decades.  Despite all this, they are rudely being asked not to see themselves as oppressed.  How can a country be turned into ruins, have its cities and towns covered in dust and then be told that it should please not view itself as oppressed? Instead of enticements to not understand and to not mention disasters, would not an honest apology be better?  The pain that the Islamic world has suffered in these years from the hypocrisy and duplicity of the invaders is not less than the pain from the material damage.

Dear youth! I have the hope that you- now or in the future- can change this mentality corrupted by duplicity, a mentality whose highest skill is hiding long-term goals and adorning malevolent objectives.  In my opinion, the first step in creating security and peace is reforming this violence-breeding mentality.  As long as double-standards dominate western policies, as long as terrorism- in the view of its powerful supporters- is divided into “good” and “bad” types, and as long as governmental interests are given precedence over human values and ethics, the roots of violence should not be searched for in other places.

Unfortunately, these roots have taken hold in the depths of western cultural policies over the course of many years and they have caused a soft and silent invasion.  Many countries of the world take pride in their local and national cultures, cultures which through development and regeneration have soundly nurtured human societies for centuries.  The Islamic world is not an exception to this.  However in the current era, the western world with the use of advanced tools is insisting on the cloning and replication of its culture on a global scale.  I consider the imposition of western culture upon other peoples and the trivialization of independent cultures as a form of silent violence and extreme harmfulness.

Humiliating rich cultures and insulting the most honored parts of these, is occurring while the alternative culture being offered in no way has any qualification for being a replacement.  For example, the two elements of “aggression” and “moral promiscuity” which unfortunately have become the main elements of western culture, have even degraded the position and acceptability of its source region.

So now the question is: are we “sinners” for not wanting an aggressive, vulgar and fatuous culture? Are we to be blamed for blocking the flood of impropriety that is directed towards our youth in the shape of various forms of quasi-art?  I do not deny the importance and value of cultural interaction.  Whenever these interactions are conducted in natural circumstances and with respect for the receiving culture, they result in growth, development and richness.  On the contrary, inharmonious interactions have been unsuccessful and harmful impositions.

We have to state with full regret that vile groups such as DAESH are the spawn of such ill-fated pairings with imported cultures.  If the matter was simply theological, we would have had to witness such phenomena before the colonialist era, yet history shows the contrary.  Authoritative historical records clearly show how colonialist confluence of extremist and rejected thoughts in the heart of a Bedouin tribe, planted the seed of extremism in this region.  How then is it possible that such garbage as DAESH comes out of one of the most ethical and humane religious schools which as part of its inner core, includes the notion that taking the life of one human being is equivalent to killing the whole of humanity?

One has to ask why people who are born in Europe and who have been intellectually and mentally nurtured in that environment are attracted to such groups?  Can we really believe that people with only one or two trips to war zones, suddenly become so extreme that they can riddle the bodies of their compatriots with bullets?  On this matter, we certainly cannot forget about the effects of a life nurtured in a pathologic culture in a corrupt environment borne out of violence.  On this matter, we need complete analyses, analyses that see the hidden and apparent corruptions.  Maybe a deep hate- planted in the years of economic and industrial growth and borne out of inequality and possibly legal and structural prejudice- created ideas that every few years appear in a sickening manner.

In any case, you are the ones that have to uncover the apparent layers of your own society and untie and disentangle the knots and resentments. Fissures have to be sealed, not deepened. Hasty reactions are a major mistake when fighting terrorism which only widens the chasms. Any rushed and emotional reaction which would isolate, intimidate and create more anxiety for the Muslim communities living in Europe and America- which are comprised of millions of active and responsible human beings- and which would deprive them of their basic rights more than has already happened and which would drive them away from society- not only will not solve the problem but will increase the chasms and resentments.

Superficial measures and reactions, especially if they take legal forms, will do nothing but increase the current polarizations, open the way for future crises and will result in nothing else.   According to reports received, some countries in Europe have issued guidelines encouraging citizens to spy on Muslims.  This behavior is unjust and we all know that pursuing injustice has the characteristic of unwanted reversibility.  Besides, the Muslims do not deserve such ill-treatment.  For centuries, the western world has known Muslims well- the day that westerners were guests in Islamic lands and were attracted to the riches of their hosts and on another day when they were hosts and benefitted from the efforts and thoughts of Muslims- they generally experienced nothing but kindness and forbearance.

Therefore I want you the youth to lay the foundations for a correct and honorable interaction with the Islamic world based on correct understanding, deep insight and lessons learned from horrible experiences.  In such a case and in the not too distant future, you will witness the edifice built on these firm foundations which creates a shade of confidence and trust which cools the crown of its architect, a warmth of security and peace that it bequests on them and a blaze of hope in a bright future which illuminates the canvass of the earth.

Sayyid Ali Khamenei

8th of Azar, 1394 – 29th of Nov, 2015

Read Ayatollah Khamenei’s first letter to the youth in the west here.

Drunk on Hate and Mad at the World

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Israel’s Diplomatic Wars of Aggression

By Richard Edmondson

Israel these days seems to be increasingly at odds with a good portion of the rest of the world. In just the past few months it has quarreled with:

  • Spain over arrest warrants issued for Netanyahu and six other Israeli officials for the 2010 attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla;
  • Sweden over comments by its foreign minister who has called for an investigation into extrajudicial executions of Palestinians;
  • college campus student groups supporting the BDS movement;
  • academic associations who have issued calls for academic boycotts of Israeli universities;
  • Brazil over its refusal to recognize an Israeli ambassador who hails from the right-wing Israeli settler movement;
  • The EU over labeling of products from Israeli settlements.
  • The UN over Ban Ki-moon’s recent criticism of the settlements

And really, if truth be known, Israel is probably not too happy just now with Italy either, which recently received Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on a state visit, resulting in a number of agreements between the two countries’ energy sectors as well as cooperation on a future high-speed rail project. Naor Gilon, the Israeli ambassador to Italy, complained that Rouhani was being treated like “the king of the world.”

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Zvi Zameret accuses Wallström of ‘ignorance and arrogance’ and suggests she might meet a violent end

War with Sweden

All in all, Gilon’s comments would have to be viewed as rather tame, however–at least by comparison. For some of the statements issuing from Israelis now, particularly those aimed at Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallström, are positively chilling in their level of malice expressed, and frankly it might behoove the Swedish official to consider hiring a bodyguard at this point, if she hasn’t already done so.

As I noted in an article five days ago, Wallström is now regarded in Israel as “public enemy number 1” (the Jerusalem Post’s words, not mine) because of remarks she has made critical of Israel, including a recent call for an investigation into extrajudicial killings of Palestinians.

Now it seems there may be those in Israel hankering for the foreign minister’s blood–literally. If you haven’t read my article, Swedish Media Target Country’s Foreign Minister Following Her Remarks on Israel, I suggest you do so as it will place what follows into greater perspective. One day after posting that article, I became aware of two other articles, one by blogger Richard Silverstein and the other by Jonathan Ofir and posted at Mondoweiss, both of which discuss what appears to have been a scarcely veiled threat on Wallström’s life by a former Israeli official.

The comment was made by Zvi Zameret, a former official in the Israeli Ministry of Education, in an op-ed piece he wrote for an Israeli newspaper owned by Nevada casino magnate Sheldon Adelson. In the article, Zameret waxes lyrical on the 1948 assassination of Swedish diplomat Folke Bernadotte, and then goes on to suggest that Wallström might meet a similar fate. Here is a bit from Silverstein’s commentary on the matter:

Zvi Zameret, the former director for instruction for the Israeli education ministry has written an op-ed in Makor Rishon, Sheldon Adelson’s pro-settler newspaper, praising the 1948 assassination of UN mediator Count Folke Bernadotte by Yitzhak Shamir’s Lehi gang. Zameret accuses Bernadotte of being an anti-Semite and claims that his views originated in a Swedish society that was suffused with this perspective.  He claims that ridding the world of the Swedish Count was necessary to protect Israel’s new existence.

He wends his way through a long historical discourse involving material already well-known related to Bernadotte’s proposals, which were rejected by Arabs and Jews alike.  Then he brings us up to the present day by alleging that remarks of the current Swedish Foreign Minister, Margot Wallstrom, demanding that Israel be held accountable for the 160 Palestinians killed over the past two months in the latest Intifada, stem from the same well of Swedish anti-Semitism.

Silverstein says Zameret “hints that Wallström herself should share a similar fate to Bernadotte” and then gives us a direct quote from his article as per its English translation:

“What do the things I have mentioned attest about Bernadotte? [They indicate] covert anti-Semitism, ignorance and arrogance, collaboration with senior elements in Israel [Hebrew University President Judah Magnes] and interests that play a decisive role. Has anything changed in the Swedish DNA in the decades following Bernadotte’s death? Nothing has changed.

The Swedish foreign minister Margot Wallstrom, in the covert anti-Semitism which characterizes her, along with her ignorance and arrogance, and anticipation of the interests of her future Muslim voters–she too is attempting to battle against the basic foundation of the State of Israel.  I am certain that her intentions will be defeated, just as were those of the disreputable Count Bernadotte.

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Count Folke Bernadotte

Bernadotte was assassinated by Lehi, also known as the Stern Gang, the same Jewish terrorist group that carried out the Deir Yassin massacre. Zameret’s glorification of his murder doesn’t seem entirely lucid or rational–during World War II Bernadotte negotiated the release of 31,000 prisoners from German concentration camps, including a large number of Jews. After the war, he became the UN Security Council’s unanimous choice, in a vote on May 20, 1948, to try and mediate a settlement in the Palestine-Israeli conflict.

His murder took place September 17, 1948, carried out by a four-man team of assassins. The Stern Gang had been around since 1940. Its stated goal was to terminate the British mandate in Palestine and set up  a “new totalitarian Hebrew republic,” and one of its members, Yithak Shamir, ended up becoming an Israeli prime minister. It was Shamir, in fact, who ordered Bernadotte’s assassination. The man who actually pulled the trigger, Yehoshau Cohen, later became a close confidante of David Ben Gurion and was never charged in the case.

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Margot Wallström

In October of 2014, shortly after Wallström took over as foreign minister, Sweden became one of the first Western countries to recognize Palestinian statehood. Wallström called it “an important step that confirms the Palestinians’ right to self-determination”  and added that “We hope that this will show the way for others.”

In November of last year, shortly after the Paris terror attacks, Wallström suggested that Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians could be helping to fuel terrorism. She followed that up with a comment in December about Israeli “extrajudicial executions,” and this month called for an investigation of Israel.

“Whether Zameret advocates Wallstrom’s demise explicitly or implicitly is hardly important,” comments Silverstein. “Even if you accept the argument that he isn’t explicit, clearly the reason Bernadotte failed in his mission is that Jewish terrorists assassinated him.  When you say you wish her intentions to be defeatedjust as his were, the line between murder and political defeat becomes exceedingly murky.”

Boycott Sweden! say Israeli Mayors

But of course it isn’t just Zameret. Lots of people in Israel despise Wallström and have “vociferously attacked her contentious words,” as an article here puts it. And this apparently applies to a good many Israeli officials. The same article goes on to give us the low-down on a “boycott movement” launched by 15 Israeli mayors and aimed at Sweden. The mayors were planning to attend a conference in the Scandinavian country in March, but recently announced they have cancelled, while former Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has also called for a boycott of Ikea.

War With Spain

In November of last year, a Spanish judge issued arrest warrants for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and six other officials in connection with Israel’s 2010 raid on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, a violent episode in international waters which resulted in the deaths of 10 people.

The warrants were issued by Judge Jose de la Mata, and in  effect meant that should any of the seven officials set foot on Spanish soil they would be subject to arrest.

“Spain is just the latest member of the international community to accuse Israel of war crimes and pursue Israeli officials over the affair,” the Jerusalem Postreported at the time. And that is indeed correct. Both South Africa and Turkey had previously issued similar warrants.

Predictably, the Israeli government expressed hostility and outrage.

“We consider it to be a provocation,” said an Israeli foreign ministry spokesperson. “We are working with the Spanish authorities to get it cancelled. We hope it will be over soon.”

What do you suppose the words “working with Spanish authorities” might imply? Did it include issuing threats? Whatever it was, it took only two months to accomplish. The arrest warrants were in fact cancelled, according to a report published January 13 by the Adelson-owned Israel Hayom newspaper.

War with Brazil

Brazil, on the other hand, seems to be showing a little more resilience. According to a report here, “Israel and Brazil remain at loggerheads five months after Brazil refused to recognize Israel’s appointment of a right-wing settler as its next envoy to the South American country.”

“Settlers are Zionist agents that the world cannot accept, they steal others’ land, they are an insult to Brazil, to the government, and to millions of Brazilians with roots in the Arab world,” said Brazilian parliament member Carlos Maron.

Maron isn’t alone. A group of 40 retired Brazilian diplomats signed a statementagainst the appointment of Dani Dayan, who lives in the Israeli settlement of Ma’ale Shomron, in the Occupied West Bank. Dayan is an advocate of the settler movement and has made no secret of his views, having widely published articles in the mainstream media, including the New York Times.

“We consider it unacceptable that the Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, has publicly announced the name of the person he intended to appoint as his country’s new Ambassador to Brazil before submitting it, in accordance to the norm, to our Government,” said the diplomats. The announcement of Dayan’s appointment was reportedly posted initially on Twitter rather than being communicated directly to the Brazilian government.

The statement continues:

This rupture with a diplomatic practice seems to have been on purpose, an attempt to establish facts, since the appointed, Dani Dayan, between 2007 and 2013, was the President of the Yesha Council, responsible for the settlements in the West Bank, which are considered illegal by the international community, and has already declared himself contrary to the creation of the Palestinian State, which counts on the support of the Brazilian Government and was already recognized by over 70% of the UN member States.

Reportedly a group of 200 Brazilian academics have also endorsed a boycott of Israel. Netanyahu has refused to withdraw Dayan’s nomination or to appoint someone more acceptable to the Brazilians. If the Brazilian government stands its ground, it will mean a de facto end to diplomatic relations between the two countries.

War with the EU

On January 18, the EU’s Foreign Affairs Council reaffirmed requirements that export products from the Israeli settlements be labeled as such. More or less as with Sweden, Spain, and Brazil, the EU’s action has prompted cries of Israeli outrage. Netanyahu pronounced his unwillingness to “accept the fact that the EU labels the side being attacked by terror,” while ‘Justice’ Minister Ayelet Shaked called the EU measure “anti-Israel and anti-Jewish.”

Likewise, opposition party leader Isaac Herzog (supposedly a liberal) compared it to the “Zionism equals Racism” resolution passed by the UN in 1974, while Yair Lapid, another opposition party member, denounced the EU for “capitulating to the worse elements of jihad.”

War Against the BDS Movement

In summer of 2015, ‘Justice’ minister Shaked announced she was preparing lawsuits against BDS activists. The announcement was reported at the time by theTimes of Israel in a story which also mentions that Shaked has expanded one of the departments within her ministry in order to “push ahead with the program as soon as possible.”

Ministry officials believe that legal circumstances present the option of suing activists for damaging Israeli trade, and for discrimination and racism, based upon laws as they currently exist in various countries, the report said.

So far as I’m aware, no lawsuits have been filed against individual activists, however Naftali Bennett, leader of the Jewish Home Party, seems to be generally in support of the idea of striking back in some manner at the BDS movement.

“Let it be clear to any company or organization that’s considering boycotting us: We will hit back. We will attack our attackers. We will boycott our boycotters,” Bennett said.

“The boycott weapon is a double-edged sword,” he added. “If you’re thinking of boycotting Israel, keep in mind that there are tens of millions of Israel supporters around the world — Jews and non-Jews — with considerable buying power and boycott power. Whoever boycotts Israel will be boycotted. Whoever hits Israel, will be hit back. We will no longer remain silent.”

Bennett’s comments about the “tens of millions of Israel supporters around the world” are perhaps salient. Also last summer, Adelson hosted an anti-BDS summit in Las Vegas with the aim of establishing and funding “successful strategies for countering the wave of anti-Israel activity on college campuses.” Held at the billionaire’s Venetian hotel on the Vegas strip, the conference was attended by a number of wealthy Jews, including Haim Saban.

“The key decision reached at the conference was that there would be a concerted effort to curtail BDS,” reported the Jerusalem Post.

Though Netanyahu did not attend, a letter from him was read aloud to the conference participants. “De-legitimization of Israel must be fought, and you are on the front lines. It’s not about this or that Israeli policy. It’s about our right to exist here as a free people,” the letter stated.

Reportedly the Israeli government intends to allocate NIS 100 million, or roughly $25.2 million, to the anti-BDS effort.

War Against Academic Associations

At a business meeting held in November, members of the American Anthropological Association voted overwhelmingly (88.4 percent) in favor of a resolution to boycott Israeli academic institutions. A similar measure was passed that same month by the National Women’s Studies Association Executive Committee. These aren’t the first boycott actions taken by academic organizations in the US. The American Studies Association, The Association for Asian American Studies, and the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association have all passed academic boycott measures against Israel. And this is just in the US.

Measures have also been passed by academic organizations in Brazil, South Africa, Canada, the UK, and, of course, in Palestine, and probably elsewhere. And perhaps most recently a group of 71 British doctors have called upon the World Medical Association to expel the Israeli Medical Association. The physicians have accused Israeli doctors of “medical torture” on Palestinian patients and want to see a ban on joint projects with Israeli universities.

On January 20, the Science and Technology Committee of the Israeli Knesset held a meeting to discuss the issue (H/T Helvena). A press release on the discussion which took place can be found here on the Knessett’s website. One of those who gave input at the meeting was Peretz Lavie, president of Technion, or the Israeli Institute of Technology.

“We have no complaints against the global academic leadership; our problem is the campuses,” Lavie said. “Initially it was insignificant campuses, but it quickly spread to leading campuses in the United States.”

When Lavie says he has “no complaints against the global academic leadership” he is probably referring to the Association of American Universities, which on January 14, in response to the vote by the Anthropological Association, re-issued an earlier statement in opposition to academic boycotts. The AAU is an organization whose leadership consists of the presidents and chancellors of the 60 universities (in both the US and Canada) that are its members. Membership is by invitation only. The group’s statement opposing boycotts was initially released in 2013 in response to the boycott actions taken by the American Studies and Native American and Indigenous Studies associations.

The group’s re-release of that canned statement from more than two years ago was described by the Jerusalem Post as “a blow to the BDS movement.”

“Students who are exposed to this activity will be the next generation`s senators, and therein lies the great danger in the long term,” Lavie went on in his testimony before the Science and Technology Committee.

“In its report, the American Anthropological Association referred to us as universities of apartheid and decided to conduct a survey on whether the Israeli academia should be boycotted. We have to reach all 12,000 members of the Association. It is a symptom, and if we do not act now, it will spread. There must be one entity that will concentrate all the efforts related to this issue,” he added.

Another person who gave testimony was Ze’ev Feldman of the Israel Medical Association. It was Feldman who informed the committee of the recent statement by the 71 British doctors.

”The sword of the boycott is being raised on the Israeli scientific-medical community,” he said.

Ariel University Chancellor Yigal-Cohen Orgad asserted that Israel has “a real problem with governments, including western governments that encourage boycotts,” while Professor Zvi Ziegler warned, “We are unable to stop anyone with our meager resources.”

Several committee members are also quoted, including Chairman Uri Maklev:

“There is no doubt that the academic boycott phenomenon is expanding and is connected to the financial and consumer boycotts on Israel. Economic and commercial boycotts are associated with politics, but an academic boycott by educated and moderate people has a very strong effect.”

But rather than calling for an end to the settlements, most of the committee members seemed to be of the opinion that the Israeli government needed to devote more resources to fighting the boycott movement. The one exception to this was Arab Knesset member Basel Ghattas:

The world considers the settlements to be illegitimate. You can think differently from the entire world, it is your right, but it is also the world`s right to take measures in order to force you to establish two states.

War with the UN

On October 1, 2015, Netanyahu gave a speech before the United Nations General Assembly that was marked by a 45-second segment during which he paused and projected hostile glares out at those present:

On January 26, 2016, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon broke the UN’s “deafening silence” and, in a rare display of courage, issued a scathing criticism of Israel’s settlement policies.

Progress towards peace requires a freeze of Israel’s settlement enterprise.

Continued settlement activities are an affront to the Palestinian people and to the international community.  They rightly raise fundamental questions about Israel’s commitment to a two-state solution.

I am deeply troubled by reports today that the Israeli Government has approved plans for over 150 new homes in illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank.

This is combined with its announcement last week declaring 370 acres in the West Bank, south of Jericho, as so-called “state land”.  These provocative acts are bound to increase the growth of settler populations, further heighten tensions and undermine any prospects for a political road ahead.

The inevitable furious response came quickly, with Netanyahu excoriating the UN chief for helping to “stoke terror.”

“There is no justification for terrorism,” he said. “The Palestinian terrorists don’t want to build a state; they want to destroy a state, and they say that proudly. They want to murder Jews everywhere and they state that proudly. They don’t murder for peace and they don’t murder for human rights.”

He went on to assert that the UN has “lost its neutrality and its moral force, and these statements by the Secretary-General do nothing to improve its situation.”

latuff_inciteIt seems Israel is now at war with the UN as well.

A Lack of Imagination?

Perhaps most striking in all this is the Israeli lack of imagination–or at least that is one way of looking at it. Nowhere in his hostile comments aimed at his various enemies on the global stage does Netanyahu give the slightest indication of having once thought about halting the settlements and pulling back to Israel’s internationally recognized pre-1967 borders. Ditto with the other Israeli officials quoted above, with the lone exception of the Arab Knessett member. It is almost as if the idea has never even occurred to them.

If that  is the case, one could perhaps ascribe all of this to a lack of imagination. Certainly at this point, after 68 years of oppression, is probably does indeedrequire considerable imagination to conceive of how the two peoples could live at peace. But of course it wasn’t always so. And had Israel, starting in 1967, respected the people of the West Bank, and above all else respected their space rather than crowding them in with settlements and walls and soldiers, a peaceful resolution to the conflict probably could have and would have been achieved by this time.

Yet even now, it isn’t too late. Though it would be politically difficult, Israel coulddismantle its settlements (anything is possible when the national will is present) and pull back to the pre-1967 borders–basically the terms of the Arab Peace Initiative proposed back in 2002. If necessary, and it probably would be for a lengthy period of time, UN peacekeeping troops could be deployed along the border.

But Israel’s response to the Arab Peace Initiative was to call it a “non-starter,” and that seems to be its position today as well. And not only is there little prospect of dismantling of presently-existing settlements, but we see even a refusal to halt the construction of new ones. All of which would suggest that Ban Ki-moon is correct and that the settlement enterprise raises “fundamental questions about Israel’s commitment to a two-state solution.”

Or in other words, Israel has no intentions of making peace.

Certainly it’s possible that things could change, and that a new slate of leaders could arise in Israel with the imagination necessary to see the wisdom of complying with international norms of conduct. And that is what its more liberal Jewish supporters in America seem to be hoping for. But failing this, Israel’s wars with the rest of the world are likely to grow in stridency and ferociousness, and at some point could expand from the realms of diplomacy and/or covert operations fully outright into the military arena.

The Crimes of NATO and the United States

The Crimes of NATO and the United States

Translated by Ollie Richardson for Fort Russ

30th January, 2016
 
 
 
 
 
Today, Ratko Mladić, Radovan Karadžić and Vojislav Šešelj are in the Hague prison. “The most fair court in the world” – the Hague – accused the former leader and former military leader of the army of Republika Srpska, for crimes against humanity and called them “the most bloody dictators of the late twentieth century”. However, the European Themis has obvious problems with memory, eyesight and hearing. Because, how does one explain that those responsible for the death of millions of people are not sat next to the “Serbian criminals”? Namely, the top leadership of NATO, who have unleashed over the last 20 years, several bloody conflicts, which they diplomatically called “peacekeeper wars”.
Afghanistan, 2011 – The victim of a mistaken NATO airstrike 
This section being dedicated not only to NATO crimes but also the United States of America is not accidental. Being one of the founding members of a military bloc and its main driving force, as well as having their representatives as the leaders of majority committees to the headquarters of NATO, the US often acts as a main initiator of the military operations.
 
STATISTICS FOR NATO’S “PEACEKEEPING OPERATIONS”
Yugoslavia
  • Dead – 5,700 people, including 400 children
  • Wounded – nearly 7,000 civilians, 30% of them children
  • Missing – 821 people
  • Excess mortality as a result of deterioration of conditions of existence not estimated
 
 
Afghanistan
 
  • Dead – 35,000 people
  • Refugees – 500,000 people
  • As well as the aggravation of inter-ethnic conflicts, terrorist attacks, increased drug trafficking
 
 
Iraq
 
  • During the war in Iraq over 1 million Iraqis were killed – this is a greatest loss in modern history. A quarter of them women and children.
  • During the operation, NATO forces used forbidden weapons, namely white phosphorus.
 
 
Libya
 
  • Killed more than 20,000 people (military and civilians)
 
  • Refugees – more than 350,000 people
 
In August 2011, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen claimed that the actions of the aviation of NATO forces in Libya caused no civilian casualties.
Libya, 2011 – Doctors help child who suffered from wounds in the besieged Libyan city of Misrata
LIST OF NATO’S CRIMES
1. DECEIVING THE WORLD COMMUNITY
Someone wise once said, “Anyone who has once proclaimed violence as his method must inexorably choose lying as his principle”. The US alone, or via the use of NATO forces, have started all military conflicts with deception, distorting the true reasons of the start of hostilities.
Vietnam
The incident in the Gulf of Tonkin in August 1964 may serve as the beginning of the great American fraud, which unleashed the bloody campaign of Vietnam, which began due to the fact that North Vietnamese speedboats, allegedly, attacked the United States fleet. After 40 years, the U.S. government declassified archival military documents from which it became clear that the cause of the beginning of the Vietnam campaign was shamelessly fabricated (mywebs.su/blog/1310.html). Following the Tonkin incident, the bombing of settlements in Vietnam resulted in thousands of victims among the civilian population.
 
Vietnam, 1 January 1966 – Women and children hide in a ditch from the intense shelling 
The countries of former Yugoslavia
After the collapse of the Soviet Union and the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact, the Alliance began to feverishly look for a reason for their continued existence. The main one was the so-called “peacekeeping mission” when NATO entered in the resolution of ethnic conflicts, pursuing purely personal goals (especially the extension of their influence). As, for example, in the Balkans, when they invaded the region, and directly participated in the escalation of ethnic wars.
The military action of NATO against the former Republic of Yugoslavia, marking the beginning of the modern operations unit, is an example of flagrant violations of all norms and legislation, including the Organization of the North Atlantic Alliance (beta-press.ru/article/34). First of all, NATO violated its own Charter, the Washington Treaty, the 1st article of which stipulates that members of the Alliance must “settle all international disputes in which they may be involved in by peaceful means in such a way as not to endanger international peace, security and justice, and to refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force in any manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations”. The 6th article of the Treaty was also grossly violated, which states that the competence of NATO is limited to the territory of member countries of the Alliance, and Yugoslavia, Macedonia, Albania and Bosnia were not members of NATO. What can we say about the 7th article of the Washington Treaty, which clearly stipulates that the Alliance recognizes “the responsibility of the Security Council for the maintenance of international peace and security” (nato.int/cps/ru/natolive/official_texts_17120.htm).
 
 
American TIME magazine on September 11, 1995 was published under the title “Bringing the Serbs to heel. Massive bombing opens the door to peace”
NATO’s aggression against the former Yugoslavia almost negated all UN peacekeeping missions. The main reason for the invasion of the bloc in the Balkan country became its steadfast refusal to the ultimatum of NATO to concede its territory to the military forces of the Alliance. The condition of the Alliance meant nothing other than hard intervention in the internal affairs of a sovereign state and a threat to its territorial integrity. All of these actions violated the 1st article of the UN Resolution of 1974: “Aggression is the use of armed force by a state (group of States) against the sovereignty, territorial integrity or political independence of another state or in any other manner inconsistent with the Charter of the United Nations, as set out in this definition” (politics.ru/articles/database/global/pravoviie_dokumentii/rezoliutsiia_generalnoij_assamblei_oon_%C2%ABopredelen.shtml).
The best thing about the crimes of the U.S. and NATO in Yugoslavia was, the once the best friend of the West, dissident and human rights activist Alexander Solzhenitsyn, comparing the actions of the Alliance with Nazi crimes: “The worst thing that is happening today is not even the bombing of Serbia, while it is difficult to pronounce, – the most terrible thing is that NATO has transferred us into a new era. Just as Hitler once was, playing another adventures, withdrawing Germany from the League of Nations… USA and NATO removed the UN system of collective security, the recognition of the sovereignty of states. They started a new era: who ever is stronger, will crush. It’s scary…” (aif.ru/politics/article/comments/53043).
Iraq
The U.S invaded Iraq under the pretext of the presence of weapons of mass destruction, namely bacteriological (anthrax) (newsru.com/world/05feb2003/powellun.html). An additional reason was already familiar by that point – the fight for democracy. “Democratization” of Iraq has cost the lives of a million civilians (excluding losses for the military). “The dictator” Hussein was publicly executed, and weapons of mass destruction, which allegedly threatened the world, were never found. Later, in 2004, the U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell admitted the published data, which marked the beginning of a bloody war, were, to put it mildly, “inaccurate” or simply falsified. “When I did a report in February 2003, it was based on the best information which was provided by the CIA. Unfortunately, over time, it became clear that the sources were inaccurate and wrong and in some cases, deliberately misleading. I’m deeply disappointed and I regret it” – Powell told the press (aif.ru/politics/article/comments/53043). He is sorry.
 
Iraq, 2003 – A father carries his mutilated, dead daughter after NATO’s bombing 
2. THE USE OF PROHIBITED WEAPONS
Vietnam
They used Napalm bombs – a weapon that is an incendiary, flamethrower mixture. As gelled gasoline, Napalm literally burnt them alive. Later, in 1980, the UN adopted the Convention on the prohibition of certain types of weapons, the 3rd Protocol would read that the use of incendiary weapons, including Napalm, against civilians is a crime. But during the Vietnam war these bombs had already killed and affected hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese.
8 June 1972 –  9 year-old Kim Phuc (center) flees from a Napalm bombing on the highway near Trang Bang. This photo went around the world and raised a storm of protest against the criminal policy of the USA in Vietnam
The countries of former Yugoslavia
In military operations against that country, NATO used weapons that were banned by the Nuremberg Charter and Geneva and Hague conventions. Firstly, in Yugoslavia, shells with a low concentration of uranium were used. This kind of weapon is not only highly accurate, but radioactive and highly toxic, and is dangerous to humans and the environment. Secondly, NATO used so-called cluster bombs – weapons of indirect fire, explosive projectiles, prohibited from the later “Ottawa process minefield” (icbl.org/intro.php). The peculiarity of this weapon is that the explosion occurs only in 50% of cases. Other bombs can lie for years in the ground, activating only in case of accidental contact.
Iraq
The Iraqi venture was marked by a number of high-profile crimes of the Alliance. Torture and abuse of Iraqi detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison stirred up the whole world…
Iraq, 2004 – Americans are photographed in the background of a dumped pile of naked prisoners in Abu Ghraib 
There was violence against civilians (murder, rape, robbery). And, of course, the use of one of the most dreaded types of incendiary chemical weapons, white phosphorus, (during the battle for Nasiriyah in April 2003, as well as the assaults on Fallujah in April and November 2004). This type of weapon, which burns the body and dissolves the flesh to the bone, was banned by the UN Convention on certain weapons in 1980, but the US never ratified it.
Photos of casualties from the use of white phosphorus we will not publish, because it is indeed a very scary sight.
Libya
There is information, which the leadership of NATO stubbornly refuses to acknowledge, that during the conflict in Libya, the military also used cluster bombs and white phosphorus, as was the case during the operations in Yugoslavia and Iraq (oko-planet.su/fail/failvideo/videoweapon/86827-nato-ispolzovalo-klasternye-bomby-v-livii-hotya-otricaet-eto-smotrite-sami.html). Also there is a possibility that NATO dumped uranium dust – a radioactive substance, banned by UN Convention, on Iraqi facilities (voltairenet.org/Voennye-prestupleniya-NATO-uchenye). Finally, many sources claim that in Libya, NATO used mustard gas in combat, a toxic substance “tested” during the years of World wars, and prohibited under various conventions as it is extremely dangerous (newsland.ru/news/detail/id/778279).
 
3. THE ARMS RACE
One of the main NATO crimes is pulling the world into a new arms race era. NATO is not only placing missile defense systems on the European continent, but also heavily increasing its nuclear capabilities. By the way, the official military doctrine of the Alliance recognizes the right to use nuclear weapons – the kind of weapons banned in 1996 by the world court (beta-press.ru/print.php?id=34), because it can lead to the destruction of humanity. Today, if we add up full military potential of the country-members of the bloc, NATO has 60% of the world’s nuclear arsenal.
The countries of the Alliance from year to year are increasing their military capabilities under the pretext: to “force protection, mobility, and high efficiency” (beta-press.ru/print.php?id=34). They spend huge money on it. For example, the military budget of the EU is about 11%. The spending for defense in the USA and Canada is growing. In the conditions of crisis, this money could go to peaceful humanitarian purposes, who preach to the West for medical services and education, on the development of social policies and environmental protection. But NATO needs a strong army to establish fully and definitively their hegemony in the world.
WHY DOES NATO START MILITARY CONFLICTS?
Americans themselves like to say that they are people of practical storage. They, like anyone else, know how to count money. And like all of history, humanity has fought over resources – be it gold, timber, or oil, and today, Americans aim to establish their influence in all strategically important regions of the planet. Petroleum countries have recently found problems with democracy and their mandatory dictator leader. It is in these countries that NATO tries to dominate, with the help of the world community, or by simply ignoring their opinion. As they say, morality in business is the concept of losing. So was Iraq and so was Libya. And in turn – Damascus.
The Expert Council for Foreign and Defense Policy, Sergey Karaganov, characterizes the current policy of the NATO countries – a priori cannot be a guarantor of stability and security in the world: “For example, Europe has officially announced that one of the main objectives of its policy – the access of European companies to the African market and resources. At any cost! It, above all, affects the interests of China, who, incidentally, are assessing the situation in the Middle East, having serious levers of pressure on Europe, and have not yet said their weighty word. This concerns Russia: in Guinea, the Europeans are already trying to remove RUSAL, “LUKOIL” from Côte d’Ivoire… And in the battle for Africa, the Europeans need to turn the Mediterranean sea into a “NATO Lake”. To solve this problem, Syria could become another Algeria (newsland.ru/news/detail/id/984811/).
So NATO, in this business scheme, is just a means to achieve the goal.

Palestinian youths get 15 years in prison for stone throwing they denied. Only jews are allowed to throw stones

Palestinian youths get 15 years in prison for stone throwing they denied

29 January 2016


Ali Shamlawi

Five Palestinian youths, known as the “Hares boys,” after their home village in the West Bank, have concluded a nearly three-year military trial by agreeing to a plea deal with Israeli occupation authorities.

They will each serve 15 years in prison.

Ali Shamlawi, Muhammed Kleib, Muhammed Suleiman, Ammar Souf and Tamer Souf, all 16 and 17 when they were arrested in March 2013, were charged with 20 counts of attempted murder.

Israel alleges they threw stones on a highway that connects Israeli settlements in the central West Bank to Tel Aviv and other towns in present-day Israel.

The young men all maintained their innocence and said that the Israeli accusations were based on confessions extracted by torture.

A settler crashed her car into a truck, causing significant injury to her three young daughters. The woman claimed she had crashed the car due to Palestinians throwing stones. There were no eyewitnesses.

Earlier this year, one of the girls, 4-year-old Adelle Biton, died of pneumonia, which is believed to have become fatal due to the neurological damage she sustained in the accident.

As part of the deal, the young men’s families will also pay a total of $39,000 that will be given to the family of Adelle Biton.

Stone throwing in israel carries a jail sentence, unless of course you are jewish

Embedded image permalink
 Unequal laws

Muhammad Kleib

The deal concludes one of the most protracted prosecutions in a military court system that maintains a nearly 100 percent conviction rate and relies largely on plea bargains.

Under Israel’s two-tiered legal system, only Palestinians in the occupied West Bank are subject to military trials.

Israeli settlers are subject to Israeli civilian courts which typically treat them much more leniently in the rare cases where they are brought to trial for attacks on Palestinians.

“The Hares boys case reflects the shortcomings of the Israeli military system that includes prolonged legal proceedings and a harsh interrogation process,” Bashar Jamal, a spokesperson for Defense for Children International-Palestine, told The Electronic Intifada.

Jamal noted that nearly 700 Palestinian children are arrested and prosecuted in Israel’s military court system each year.


Ammar Souf

“The comparison between the application of justice in the Hares boys case and the Dawabsha family is critical. The perpetrators of the Dawabsha family are still free,” Jamal continued.

Last summer, a firebomb was thrown into the Dawabsha family home in the occupied West Bank village of Duma, killing 18-month-old baby Ali and fatally injuring his parents Riham and Saad.

Forced confessions

In the hours and days after the accident, Israeli forces mounted raids on the village of Hares, near Nablus, and searched houses looking for teenagers.

For nearly three years, the Hares boys maintained that they had not been throwing stones on the day of the car accident.

A plea deal was offered to the five boys soon after they were charged but, on the recommendation of attorney Labib Habib, they decided to go to trial.

But when Adelle Biton died, the boys and their families feared their chances of being cleared had worsened.

Her death meant that the boys’ charges could be raised to manslaughter, and result in even longer sentences.


Muhammad Suleiman

As evidence against the boys, the prosecution relied on forced confessions and insurance claims made by 20 Israeli drivers that their cars had been pelted by rocks that day.

After they were arrested, the boys had all signed confessions, which they immediately recanted, saying they had been extracted by torture and threats.

Ali Shamlawi appeared before the Israeli military court less than a month after his arrest and told the judge that he had been beaten, choked and forced to sign a confession in Hebrew while one hand remained cuffed to the chair.

Shamlawi’s mother told Al Jazeera English that her son had been kept in solitary confinement for two weeks, denied sleep and psychologically pressured to confess by threats against his mother and sister.

In 2013, Defense for Children International–Palestine reported that three quarters of Palestinian child detainees endured some kind of physical violence during their arrest, transfer or interrogation.


Tamer Souf

Israel’s B’Tselem human rights group has also found that Palestinian children are systematically subjected to torture and violence, including threats of rape against them or family members, by Israeli interrogators, in order to force them to confess to stone throwing.

Attorney Habib told The Electronic Intifada that ordinarily he would not have recommended the plea deal.

“But because of the military court and the general incitement in the country we thought that we don’t have any chance for a fair trial, that’s why we took the decision,” he said.

Politicians including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seized on Adelle Biton’s death as an opportunity to condemn Palestinians and declare that “stones are lethal weapons.”

In recent months, Israel has ramped up its criminalization of stone throwing.

Israel’s occupation laws permit up to 20 years imprisonment for Palestinians accused of stone throwing in the West Bank. However most sentences are for less than a year.

This summer, Israel’s parliament amended its penal code to allow for the imprisonment of alleged stone throwers for up to 20 years, bringing the country’s criminal laws into closer alignment with the occupation regime in the West Bank.

In September, Israeli police expanded their use of snipers against Palestinian protesters, including alleged stone throwers.

Images courtesy of Hares Boys.

Female prisoners in israel’s gulags subjected to violence, sexual harassment and denied medical treatment

Female prisoners endure hard situation inside Israeli jails

Sexual harassment is form of the unethical Israeli violence practiced against the female prisoners

Fifty-eight Palestinian female prisoners including seven minors are being held in Israeli jails are enduring hard conditions, a Palestinian Authority (PA) lawyer said on Friday.
The lawyer said: “Some of the prisoners concede their right to stand before the court in order to avoid the miserable journeys to the Israeli courthouses.”

Days of Palestine, West Bank –Fifty-eight Palestinian female prisoners including seven minors are being held in Israeli jails are enduring hard conditions, a Palestinian Authority (PA) lawyer said on Friday.

Hanan al-Khatib, the lawyer working with the PA Committee for Prisoners’ Affairs said that the youngest female prisoner is 14-year-old Kariman Swidan from the West Bank village of Azzun.

According to Al-Khatib, five of the female prisoners were wounded by the Israeli occupation forces before they were arrested and they are denied proper medical treatment.

In addition, Al-Khatib said: “The female prisoners are being held in miserable conditions”, noting that the Damon Prison, which was recently reopened, lacks electrical equipment.

“There is also a problem with overcrowding cells as each one has a total of 17 beds and just one toilet,” the lawyer said.

She noted that the prisoners are afraid of diseases and pollution, and there are already cases of infections among prisoners.

About the journey of the female prisoners to the courts, Al-Khatib said: “The prisoners are transported in cold cars, and the trip takes long hours, even days to the courthouse where the prisoners have to wait for long hours in the cold.”

She added: “Some of the prisoners concede their right to stand before the court in order to avoid the miserable journeys.”

Al-Khatib warned that the prisoners are suffering from great psychological pressure, a form of which is sexual harassment, and that many of them need medical assistance.

 

 

There are big changes underway in Saudi feudal dictatorship, perhaps a real “Arab Spring”

  There are big changes underway in Saudi Arabia

The House of Saud is crushing dissent and cutting benefits at home, while intervening militarily abroad. Why? Here’s everything you need to know:

Are the Saudis nervous?
Very. The royal family feels threats from within the country and without, as the price of oil plunges, the predominantly young population grows restless, and Saudi Arabia’s bitter rival, Shiite Iran, seeks to expand its influence throughout the region. The Saudis were also deeply alarmed by the Arab Spring, which saw long-established regimes crumble; the U.S.’s nuclear deal with Iran; and the rise of ISIS. Since King Salman took the throne a year ago, Saudi authorities have intensified government repression to a severe degree. New counterterrorism legislation, enacted shortly before he took power, defines terrorism as any act with criminal intent that undermines public order, as well as any “deviant thought” that questions Wahhabism, the fundamentalist sect of Sunni Islam that dominates all aspects of Saudi life.

What is the impact of this law?
Any form of dissent is being prosecuted as a crime. Executions are at a two-decade high, with more than 150 public beheadings in 2015 and 47 in just the first week of this year — including the execution of a prominent Shiite cleric (see below), an act that led Iran to sever diplomatic ties. For urging Saudi society to be more liberal and secular, prominent blogger Raif Badawi was flogged, and his lawyer was jailed for defending him. When the lawyer’s wife complained on Twitter about his arrest, she was jailed, too.

Who’s pushing this crackdown?
A new group of leaders. The House of Saud has been led by elderly sons of modern Saudi Arabia’s founder, Ibn Saud, for many decades. But King Salman, 80, has chosen not to name one of his younger half-brothers as his likely successor. Instead, he appointed his son Mohammed bin Salman al Saud, 30, as deputy crown prince and defense minister — and Mohammed is clearly the real power behind the throne. Unlike the older, U.S.-educated generation, Mohammed went to a Saudi university, has had little exposure to Western culture, and has “a reputation for arrogance and ruthlessness,” says Bruce Riedel of the Brookings Institution.

What has Mohammed done?
The young prince plunged straight into a war in Yemen. “The previous, cautious diplomatic stance of older leaders within the royal family is being replaced by a new, impulsive policy of intervention,” said a report from the German foreign intelligence service BND. Saudi Arabia is locked in a struggle with Iran for primacy in the Middle East. The rise of a Shiite government in Iraq brought that country firmly into the Iranian camp, and Lebanon was already there. The conflict in Syria has become a proxy war between the Assad regime, backed by Iran, and militias funded by the Saudis. So when Shiite Houthi militants toppled the Yemeni government, Mohammed moved in swiftly to prevent his country from being bookended by Shiite powers. Saudi airstrikes have killed thousands of Yemeni civilians, but the prince has been undeterred.

What about domestic policy?
Mohammed says he plans sweeping, market-based economic reforms. For 80 years, the Saudi economy has been based almost entirely on oil revenue. High oil prices brought in enormous wealth, which enables the government to fund a generous welfare state without levying any income tax. Most actual work is done by foreigners — a vast army of nearly nine million immigrants from South Asia and the Middle East who serve some 18 million Saudis. Saudis are employed largely in the bloated public sector, many of them drawing fat salaries for little work. But this model is becoming unsustainable. People under 25 make up more than half the population, and there aren’t enough jobs for them as they reach working age. Worse, the collapse in oil prices — from $115 a barrel in 2014 to under $35 now — means there isn’t enough money flowing in to sustain benefits at such generous levels.

Why not?
In the past, when oil prices have fallen, the Saudis have cut production to raise them. But this time, they’ve kept pumping with abandon. The goal is to preserve Saudi market share by driving higher-cost oil producers — notably the U.S. fracking industry — out of business. But the sharp drop in revenue requires painful cuts to the subsidies and expense accounts that so many Saudis rely on.

How will Saudis react to those cuts?
That’s one of the things worrying the royal family. The Saudi people have long had a tacit agreement with their rulers: In return for a cushy life and generous benefits, they put up with an almost total lack of political freedom or say in their own government. Many Saudis are rich enough to skip off to Bahrain or Dubai for the weekend, where they can drink alcohol and the women can shed their burqas. Most, though, are middle-class, and around one-fifth are actually poor, and if Mohammed makes good on his pledge to replace the free health care with an insurance-based system and partially privatize education, they will suffer. “With a decline in social spending and a reduction in subsidies,” says analyst Alberto Gallo, “comes the risk of rising domestic turmoil.”

The oppressed Shiite minority
The Saudi regime said it executed Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr for terrorism, but critics said the real reason was his activism in organizing the Shiite minority and denouncing the House of Saud. Shiites make up 15 percent of the population in Saudi Arabia, and they are strongly discriminated against. They are excluded from the cushy government jobs, and Saudi television and Saudi clerics routinely spread anti-Shiite propaganda. For three years, activists in the oil-rich eastern province of al-Ahsa, abutting Shiite-majority Bahrain, have been protesting, sometimes violently. “You are now standing on top of oil fields that feed the whole world,” Shiite activist Fathil Al Safwani told the BBC. “But we see nothing of it. Poverty, hunger, no honor, no political freedom, we have nothing.” By executing Nimr, the House of Saud sent a clear signal that nothing will change; indeed, even complaining about anti-Shiite discrimination will get you beheaded.

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