NYT: Uproar Over Dissident Rattles Saudi Royal Family, King Has No Capacity To Handle Crisis

 

 

Ben Hubbard, David D. Kirkpatrick

As international outrage grew at Saudi Arabia over the apparent killing of the Saudi dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul, an alarmed King Salman dispatched a senior royal to address the matter with Turkey’s president.

Prince Khalid al-Faisal returned home from Ankara with a bleak message for the royal family: “It is really difficult to get out of this one,” Prince Khalid told relatives after his return, one of those family members recalled this week. “He was really disturbed by it.”

Saudi Arabia is facing perhaps its greatest international crisis since the revelation that its citizens planned and carried out the attacks on September 11, 2001.

Members of the ruling family are increasingly worried about the direction of the country under the leadership of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the 33-year-old favorite son of King Salman and the kingdom’s day-to-day ruler.

But unlike 2001, when the royal family came together to protect its collective interests, this time that may not be possible. Instead, there is deep concern, as royals search, so far in vain, for a way to contain the crown prince, who has consolidated power so completely that nearly everyone else is marginalized.kha

The one person who could intervene is the king himself, but senior princes have found it nearly impossible to bring their concerns to the 82-year-old monarch, and some doubt he is fully aware of what is happening or willing to change course.

“The king has no capacity to handle it,” said an employee of a senior prince, speaking on condition of anonymity like others in this article because of fear of repercussions.

Speaking of Crown Prince Mohammed, he said, “He is No. 1 and No. 2.”

Since the Saudi state was founded in 1932, the royal family has at times been torn by disagreements, even an assassination. But the thousands of princes and princesses who make up the House of Saud have ultimately found ways to preserve the dynasty. There was simply too much at stake to let family rifts get in the way of lavish lifestyles, exorbitant allowances and unrivaled privileges.

Then came Crown Prince Mohammed — young, brash and eager — who has systematically dismantled the system of consensus that kept the peace for decades.

With all the power in his hands, the crown prince also abandoned the traditional Saudi foreign policy style that used quiet, behind-the-scenes deal making and checkbook diplomacy. Instead, he moved aggressively, launching a disastrous military intervention in Yemen; kidnapping the Lebanese prime minister; and rupturing relations with Qatar and Canada. Meanwhile, he marketed a new Saudi Arabia abroad in which a dynamic economy would boom and women would drive.

That pitch won over fans who saw him as exactly the kind of leader the kingdom needed to shake off its conservative past. Among those fans was the Trump administration, which made him the pillar of its Middle East policy.

But his rise irked many of his cousins, who now fear the worst as they helplessly watch the kingdom’s reputation become toxic.

Turkish officials have said a 15-member hit team from Saudi Arabia was waiting for Mr. Khoshoggi and dismembered him inside the consulate. It seems unlikely that such an operation could have been undertaken without the crown prince’s knowledge.

Such a prospect has created something the prince’s relatives thought they’d never see: a problem they cannot buy their way out of. And none appear willing or able to match the young prince’s Machiavellian tactics.

“They aren’t a particularly draconian bunch,” said another longtime associate of the royal family, describing the philosophy of some princes as, “We just want to eat burgers and go on foreign holidays.”

Associates of the royal family say that senior princes don’t have the access to King Salman that they had to previous kings, making it hard to voice concerns. Some princes cannot enter the royal court or the king’s palace unless their names have been placed at the door ahead of time, one member of the royal family complained.

Otherwise, they see the king at official events where it is considered bad form to raise thorny issues or they visit him at night when he is playing cards, also a bad time for serious talk.

At the same time, Prince Mohammed has been scrambling to mitigate the damage. One Western adviser said that even he had been taken aback by the outrage.

“He was in real shock at the magnitude of the reaction,” the adviser said.

The palace turmoil has been reflected in Saudi Arabia’s shifting explanations for what happened to Mr. Khashoggi. For weeks, the government officials insisted that he had left the Istanbul consulate shortly after he arrived and they had no idea of his whereabouts.

Early Saturday, Saudi state-run media said Mr. Khoshoggi had been killed in a fistfight inside the consulate and that 18 unidentified Saudis were being held in connection with his death. It was the kingdom’s first admission that Mr. Khoshoggi was dead.

The crown prince has steadfastly rejected the pleas of Wall Street executives to postpone an investor conference he is scheduled to host next week in Riyadh, even as one after another participant has canceled because of the scandal, including United States Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

Instead, the crown prince formed a crisis committee of representatives of the intelligence agencies, Foreign Ministry and security services to update him throughout the day on the latest in the Khashoggi scandal. He has recalled his younger brother, Prince Khalid bin Salman, the ambassador to Washington, accelerating plans to name him as a kind of national security adviser to bring order to what largely has been an ad hoc policy process.

The royal court has threatened to retaliate against any moves taken against the kingdom, suggesting it might use its influence on the oil markets as leverage over the global economy. One closely allied commentator suggested that sanctions against the kingdom could push it and the Muslim world “into the arms of Iran.”

The terse announcement early Saturday that Khashoggi died inside the consulate during a fight appeared to be part of a strategy of acknowledging his death but shifting the responsibility away from the crown prince.

Officials were known to have been weighing whether to blame Maj. Gen. Ahmed al-Assiri, the deputy head of intelligence and a confidant of the young prince. People with knowledge of the plan said it would accuse General Assiri of having orchestrated a plot intended to capture Mr. Khashoggi but that it ultimately killed him — an explanation the Saudis hope will help to shield the crown prince from further recriminations.

On Saturday, General Assiri was removed from his post, state media reported, along with at least three other high-level officials. It was not made clear whether the dismissals had any connection to the Khashoggi case.

While Saudi Arabia was traditionally ruled by senior princes who divided major portfolios and made big policy decisions by consensus under the king, many of those once once-powerful princes have seen their power cut. Some have been removed from prominent posts. Others were locked in the Riyadh Ritz-Carlton last year on accusations of corruption made by Crown Prince Mohammed. Still others and their families are banned from travel and too scared they might be arrested to speak up.

Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, the previous crown prince and counterterrorism czar, remains under virtual house arrest. He, his wife and their two daughters found out earlier this year that their Saudi bank accounts had been drained, a relative said.

The sons of the former king, Abdullah, who died in 2015, have been neutralized. One was removed as the head of the National Guard, accused of corruption and stripped of assets, including the horse track he inherited from his father. His brother, a former governor of Riyadh, is detained, as is another son of another former king. Yet another brother is hiding out in Europe, scared that he could be kidnapped and sent home.

That leaves only the crown prince’s father, King Salman, to check his power.

“There is one person inside Saudi Arabia who can challenge Mohammed bin Salman and it is the king,” said Joseph A. Kechichian, a scholar at the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies in Riyadh.

But the king must consider not only the stain of the Khashoggi issue on his son’s reputation, but also how to continue the reform program known as Vision 2030 that the crown prince has begun, Mr. Kechichian said.

Others question whether the king’s health allows him to grasp all that is happening.

“One worries about the mental state of King Salman,” said Madawi al-Rasheed, a visiting professor at the London School of Economics and author of many books on Saudi Arabia. “Is he really in a position to make these decisions at this late age?”

Removing such a powerful crown prince could prove hugely disruptive, and few princes would want the job with a resentful Mohammed bin Salman scheming against his replacement. But one Western diplomat with long experience in the kingdom suggested that the king might check the young prince by reducing his power, perhaps redistributing control of the security services to other respected princes.

“The brand has been irreparably tarnished — domestically they really do need to do something to rein MBS in,” the diplomat said, referring to the crown prince by his initials. “They need to do something to corral him.”

One of the few with the stature to urge the king to make such a shift might be Prince Khalid, who flew to Ankara to see the Turks. A son of the late King Faisal and now governor of Mecca Province, Prince Khalid, 78, is esteemed in the family as measured and intelligent. That the king sent him on such a touchy mission indicates that he already has the monarch’s trust. His half brother, Prince Turki al-Faisal, was a longtime friend and patron of Mr. Khashoggi in the decades when he worked in the Saudi establishment before he turned critical of Crown Prince Mohammed.

Some foes of the crown prince have hoped for a challenge for the throne from the king’s brother, Prince Ahmed bin Abdulaziz. Prince Ahmed, 73, is the youngest of seven sons of the late King Abdulaziz who all shared the same mother, Hussa bint Ahmed al-Sudairi. The Sudairi seven, as they were known, formed a powerful bloc within the family and passed the throne from brother to brother — a pattern that might have extended to Prince Ahmed if King Salman had not redirected the line of succession to his own son.

So critics of Prince Mohammed were electrified last month when Prince Ahmed addressed protesters on the street in London who were chanting against the royal family over the war in Yemen.

“What does this have to do with the Al Saud?” Prince Ahmed said, in comments caught on video. “Those responsible are the king and his crown prince.”

When asked about the war in Yemen, he replied, “I hope the situation ends, whether in Yemen or elsewhere, today before tomorrow.”

Source: NYT, Edited by website team

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A Reading in Trump’s Isolationist Speech: Bold and Outright Lies

Nour Rida

The world and media are still busy with the Trump speech at the UN Security Council, which got a ripple of murmurs and giggles before it exploded into a wave of laughter when he made his claims on achieving what no other administration has achieved throughout US history.

About a minute to his speech, Trump said

“In less than two years, my administration has accomplished more than almost any administration in the history of our country.”

He did not expect the chuckles, as he clearly stated

“didn’t expect the reaction, but that’s okay”.

Then he tried to improvise and turn it into “they laughed with me rather than at me” while speaking to the media afterwards. The reaction in the echoing General Assembly hall came in presence of more than a hundred and thirty heads of state and dozens of other delegations.

During the presidential campaign, Trump often repeated the phrase “The world is laughing at us.” However, during the UN around 35-minute speech, the world was laughing at Trump.

Of course, on the sidelines of the Assembly, the president used his favorite term of “fake news” that has been popularized, to justify the laughter of the audience by saying the speech was supposed to be received in a cheerful manner and was taken out of context, calling the media’s coverage “fake news.”

Trump’s speech requires long pages of critique however a few highlights does the work. The US President was audacious enough to say the following

“I honor the right of every nation in this room to pursue its own customs, beliefs, and traditions. The United States will not tell you how to live or work or worship.”

The Trump administration not only dictates everyone on this planet on how to live and what to do, it also disrespects its neighbors such as Latin America, and extends its disrespect and supremacy overseas and interferes in the affairs of others. It also disrespects American people living inside the borders of the US because of their descent or origin.

The US president is at odds with Hispanics, Muslims, African Americans and anyone but white supremacist inside and outside America. Around April, US relations with Latin America plummeted as President Trump traded spurs with his Mexican counterpart and canceled attendance at a regional summit.

According to Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee,

“Throughout Latin America, we were at a high water mark in every public opinion poll, [but] perception of America has dramatically dropped. And that is uniquely due to President Trump.”

Washington has been involved in the war in Syria alongside Saudi Arabia, the UAE and other countries in support of Wahhabi terrorist groups such as ISIS or Daesh. It has been rocketing all sorts of attacks against Iran, claiming to support the Iranian people while crippling them economically in first place. Iran has been a target for Trump before he even made it to office, and no reason seems to be present except for Iran being different and independent. He ruined an internationally accepted deal and showered Iran with avalanches of accusations and criticism at the time Iran had been abiding by its side of the nuclear deal and has never started any aggressive act towards another state actor. Also, before arriving to the love letters part, Trump had threatened North Korea’s Kim Jung Un and calling him a monster over nuclear tensions.

Cynically, if Trump justifies his actions towards North Korea as out of national security concern, he should have destroyed his own nuclear warheads and “bigger button”.

In a tweet back in January, Trump wrote

“North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un stated that the “Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times. Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!”

Trump also falsely claimed in his speech

“Each of us here today is the emissary of a distinct culture, a rich history, and a people bound together by ties of memory, tradition, and the values that make our homelands like nowhere else on Earth.”

But then he called on the more than a hundred and ninety UN nations

“to join us in calling for the restoration of democracy in Venezuela”

and to what he allegedly described as

“support Iran’s people as they struggle to reclaim their religious and righteous destiny.”

Trump’s moments at the speech reinforced his administration’s isolation among allies and foes equally, as his nationalistic policies have created rifts with partners and cast doubt about the credibility of America and the reliability of its commitments around the world.

Of course among all this, Trump focused on his “America first” and “no globalism” ideas, which was reflected in the words of US officials a couple of days before Trump’s speech at the UN. Now it remains a question on whether this “America first” policy will isolate the US especially after the European Union and China statements on Iran one day earlier to his speech.

Some observers have pointed out that Trump’s words are only meant to appease his domestic support base and that essentially, US foreign policy under Trump hasn’t changed much.

“There have been studies that show that substantially when it comes to Asia, not much has really actually changed. In terms of the number of US forces in Asia, its foreign policy makers coming for visits, a lot of the messages have not changed,” said Dr. Hoo Tiang Boon, an expert on US-China relations from the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS).

“Even though they are pushing the America First policy, they still maintain their alliance and relationship. But in terms of the way of communicating, that is certainly very different. And I think a lot of it is about domestic politics.”

One day before Trump delivered his speech, Europe sounded its willingness to cooperate with Iran and was devising ways around US, Chinese state media was whipping up popular sentiment to fight the trade war Trump started, and the US administration was about to miss the deadline for a trade agreement with Canada and Mexico.

Trump’s game at the UN Assembly hall was not very different from his game during the electoral campaign; it is all about humiliation and name-calling and ongoing lies (according to the Washington Post’s Fact Checker list,  since assuming office and before the start of summer, President Donald Trump has made 3,251 false or misleading claims).

Source: Al-Ahed News

Eastern Mediterranean Naval SITREP

by LeDahu for The Saker Blog

https://journal-neo.org/2018/09/27/an-ever-increasing-number-of-military-ships-arrives-to-the-eastern-meddit/

The last couple weeks in the Eastern Mediterranean could remind a casual observer of some sort of a military parade, with members of the US-led coalition bringing an ever increasing number of military assets to the region.

The number of warships flying various flags being dispatched as a show of force to the Eastern Mediterranean has been increasing on a daily basis. The warships of the Standing NATO Maritime Group 2, including HNLMS De Ruyter of the Royal Netherlands Navy, Greece’s Elli,HMCS Ville de Québec of the Royal Canadian Navy, and four American Tomahawk-wielding destroyers – USS Carney, USS Ross, USS Winston S. Churchill and USS Bulkeley. Even the flagship of the US Navy’s Sixth Fleet USS Mount Whitney made an appearance in the region together with at least three of the multi-purpose Los Angeles class nuclear submarines, one of which was the USS Newport News, which was previously stationed in Gibraltar.

Further still, this massive force was then joined by an American carrier strike group, led by the USS Harry S. Truman, bringing along the missile cruiser USS Normandy together with a number of destroyers.

France has also been keeping its FREMM class frigate Auvergne stationed in the area. Further still, Germany’s FGS Augsburg passed through the Strait of Gibraltar and entered the Mediterranean Sea on September 21.

Taking stock

Part 1

A sense of deja-vu. Two recent articles (one here) write about the naval deployments in the Mediterranean, especially in the Eastern part. Both mention the increase in numbers as a show of show. ‘Unprecedented number of military ships’, ‘build-up’ ‘sudden’, ‘massive force’ are used as descriptors. It seems to me that emotions take priority over facts these days, so I would to take stock of what is recent ‘news’ and compare to other naval events that took place in the Eastern Mediterranean.

To quote one article, ‘a casual observer of some sort’ might easily jump to such conclusions.

What both articles failed to recognise that the current state of events is neither ‘massive’ or ‘unprecedented’. Firstly, let’s turn back to March – April 2018, to see a very similar situation, (see image 1), with increased geopolitical tensions, the arrival and then the departure of an US carrier group, (USS Theodore Roosevelt, CVN-71), well before the subsequent missile strikes against Syria. I will provide an outline of the other ‘massive’ event that took place in 2013 in part 2.

The continuous presence of NATO warships, all undertaking maritime situational awareness operations, (watching the Russian Navy ships off Syria). I seem to recall one Danish navy ship ‘Absalon’ getting singled by a Russian reporter as being the obligatory NATO watcher, when the ‘Admiral Kuznetsov’ was deployed to the eastern Mediterranean in November 2016. The fact that the current role is assigned to a group of warships, who take turns to provide NATO’s maritime situational awareness’, is not unprecedented but routine, probably tediously so.

I could say, the exact same template is being repeated this turn round, except for the presence of a US carrier group, the ‘USS H Truman’, (CVN 75) group is somewhat in the North Atlantic, between Halifax and Iceland. They are indeed in the 6th Fleet area of operations but wisely avoiding being in the middle of an imminent ‘medicane’, by a few thousand nautical miles (sarc off). A couple of US destroyers nominally attached to this group did make recent port calls into Rota, which triggered the attention of ship OSINT spotters. The ‘USS Normandy; ‘USS Forrest Sherman’, ‘USS Arleigh Burke’ and ‘USS Hue City’ are all with the carrier. This is a similar pattern to what happened back in March and early April, as it is known that some destroyers operate separately to the main carrier escort group. More on the US Navy later on.

NATO

It is therefore not an ‘unprecedented event’, but the latest iteration of a combination of US, NATO, French and Russian naval deployments, (an ebb and flow of arriving ships and departing ships). Take for instance the French Navy’s FREMM frigate currently in the eastern Mediterranean, it is ostensibly part of ‘Operation Chammal’, ongoing for the last 4 years. One or two French naval ships are permanently deployed in the region, autonomously to NATO’s ships. So, no major changes here.

Similarly, the German Navy routinely sends out a ship for the Lebanese-based UNIFIL operations. This time it is the FGS ‘Oldenburg’ that has recently transited the Mediterranean. The FGS ‘Ausburg’ (213) was recently reported to have entered the Mediterranean. Meaning that it is more than likely to replace the ‘FGS Braunschweig’ which is part of another SNMG2 group providing missions in support of ‘Op Sea Guardian’ in the Aegean Sea. The German Navy has provided a ship to this operation since Spring 2016.

Image 2 – Source Russian Ministry of Defence Briefing, March 2018.

This situation update provided by the Russian MoD back in March 2018, outlines the constituent parts of NATO (Operation Sophia with EU in box 1, Operation Sea Guardian in box 2, current location of SNMG2 in box 3) and the UNIFIL naval operations (box 4). The only difference between April and now is the location of the most of the SNMG2 ships, who are understandably now monitoring the increased Russian Navy group. (3 were marked as being in Koper in the above map). Now there are 4, including the ‘HNLMS De Ruyter’ (Netherlands, last in Cyprus), ‘HS ‘Elli’ (Greece), ‘HMCS Ville de Québec’ (Canada) and ‘ESPS Cristobal Colon’ (Spain).

Did you notice those catch-all operations, which apparently have the potential to shape shift, deviate from the original public fronted missions’ statements, according to the political necessities (Chammal, Sea Guardian)? These are the latest evolution of multinational naval forces, operating for well over a decade now. It is just that the security challenges keep evolving too, (mostly self-inflicted too – i.e. Libya), thereby keeping NATO ‘flexible and versatile’. The fact that the Russian Navy has become more permanent and more visible has added another grain into the NATO’s cogs. (More on that in Part 2).

US Navy presence in Mediterranean

From the April’s image, the ‘USS New York’ (central yellow box) left, with only the ‘USS Mount Whitney’, the 6th Fleet flagship, apparently in the Mediterranean, (shown on original image going through the Straits of Gibraltar). To note that ‘USS Mount Whitney’ has been ‘making an appearance’ permanently in the Mediterranean since 2011, contrary to recent comments. The last port call was Thessaloniki, Greece, as part of the Thessaloniki International Fair. The forward-deployed Rota-based destroyers, (DESRON 60), are still there, again no change in numbers or posture. The ‘USS Carney’ was with the French ship ‘Chevalier Paul’, but has since gone westward back towards Spain for a joint exercise: ‘SMARTEX181’. It is more than likely that the ‘USS Porter’, ‘USS Donald Cook’ have called in into a Crete, Cypriot or Turkish port in recent times, like earlier in 2018, like in 2017. The ‘USS Winston Churchill’ is also in the Mediterranean, recently with the ‘USS Carney’.

In a nutshell, there is no ‘doubling-down’ or ‘escalating tensions’, if we are to compare the situation with the end of March and at the beginning of April 18. The real tensions with diplomatic daggers drawn are in the halls and corridors of power.

The Russian Navy

To cap it all, the ‘unprecedented event’ was in fact the build-up of Russian naval forces, from four different regions.

The Russian Navy presence off Syria has recently reduced, with the departure of the ‘Severomorsk’ last week through the Suez Canal, with the oiler ‘Dubna’, to deploy first to the Gulf of Aden and then into the Indian Ocean.

The ‘Admiral Essen’ first visited Poros in Greece last week, followed by a visit to Messina, Italy. The latter was part of the 110th commemoration of a devastating earthquake and tsunami that hit the city in 1908, and in which the Russian Navy were on hand to help. What is interesting to note, both are NATO countries – escalating tensions? Certainly not at ceremonial, diplomatic or national level. Back in May, it was the turn of the oceanographic ship ‘Admiral Vladimirskiy’ to go sightseeing in Messina.

What does this all suggest? That the recent hint of naval posturing and showmanship has largely given way to routine deployments and exercises. The hint of an exception is the standoff with Israel.

Normal military air and sea services resume, judging by the lack of red zones in the NOTAMs since the 27thSeptember.

Next Part 2 – Taking stock: 2013 and 2014 disposal operation of Syrian chemical arms.

PS – contrary to the lurid tale of HMS Talent lurking off Syria, on the 28th September, the Trafalgar-class nuclear submarine was once more off Gibraltar. HMS Dragon was off Gibraltar on the 20th September on route to the Gulf.

ENDS

 

My Response to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Smear: Sir, I Will Not Be Deterred from Defending Human Rights

I am a proud, anti-racist advocate for human rights, yet I now find myself in a situation familiar to so many defenders of the human rights of Palestinians: I am being defamed as an anti-Semite by pro-Israel organizations and pro-Israel politicians, including Canada’s own Prime Minister.

Let me state unequivocally that I oppose and condemn antisemitism. Indeed, I oppose and condemn all forms of racism. I am humbled to belong to a principled global solidarity movement against the occupation of Palestine. That wonderful and growing movement includes many brothers and sisters from the Jewish community. We are resolute that fighting all racism is necessary to realize any hope for a just peace in Israel and Palestine.

I have visited and reported on Israel and occupied Palestine. I have borne witness to Palestinian suffering. This has moved me to seek an end to the oppression of Palestinians, which the Canadian government tries to sweep under the carpet.

Over the last decade, pro-Israel organizations in Western nations have attempted methodically to expand the definition of antisemitism to include criticism of Israel and of its advocates. Previously, antisemitism was understood as prejudice and hatred of Jews, their religion, their culture and their religious institutions. The nation-state of Israel was not part of the equation.

Canada just signed on to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism. In 2016, the Western-dominated IHRA adopted a “working definition” of antisemitism that is “non-legally binding.” That definition includes vague language that “manifestations [of antisemitism] might include the targeting of the state of Israel, conceived as a Jewish collectivity.” The IHRA definition also states that “contemporary examples of antisemitism… couldtaking into account the overall context, include… accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations.” [My emphasis.]

This sweeping language has become a weapon in the hands of pro-Israel groups and individuals: deploying it enables them to denounce any critic of Israel as anti-Semitic in order to disrupt, deter, marginalize and even criminalize Palestinian rights activism.

We must not allow such campaigns to diminish our determination to end Israel’s illegal, violent and deeply oppressive occupation and treatment of Palestinians, which has endured for over half a century.

Because international support for the Israeli government is rapidly waning – including among Jews in the United States – Israel’s government and pro-Israel organizations around the world have built new alliances with influential people who support Israel as a Jewish state, including figures who dislike or even hate Jews as a people. They have changed the definition of antisemitism to reflect these new alliances.

These disreputable Israeli supporters include Christian Zionist evangelicals who pray for the day that Christ returns and Christianity rules the earth – resulting in the disappearance of Jews, Muslims and other non-Christians. Two such prominent Christian evangelical leaders were invited to speak at the recent opening of the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem.

Some pro-Israel groups now welcome flat-out racists and neo-Nazis who admire the hyper-militarized, racist regime Israel has become, because these racists see apartheid Israel as a model nation to be emulated elsewhere. In Canada, one such figure is Faith Goldy, a white supremacist who recently promoted a fascist book calling for the “elimination of Jews.” Goldy nevertheless professes to be pro-Israel.

The new IHRA definition of antisemitism has been used viciously against prominent figures such as Britain’s Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn — not because Corbyn bears any hostility toward the Jewish people, but because he openly supports Palestinian rights. That same definition is now being used against me.

Let’s return to August 29th and the events that sparked this libelous charge against me. I helped organize a pro-Palestinian rights demonstration at the head office of B’nai Brith Canada because of B’nai Brith’s attack on the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW). B’nai Brith targeted CUPW because CUPW supports the BDS movement and has also expressed support for the Palestinian Postal Services Workers Union.

The Jewish Defence League Canada (JDL), a violent, anti-Arab and Islamophobic hate group, organized a counter-protest in support of B’nai Brith. Faith Goldy showed up at the JDL counter-protest and was greeted warmly by a number of the counter-protesters, including JDL boss Meir Weinstein.

Immediately following our demonstration and the JDL counter-protest, two B’nai Brith supporters recorded and posted on Facebook a video gushing over Faith Goldy. In that video, they called for the death penalty to be imposed on Prime Minister Trudeau, certain Liberal MPs who are Muslim and/or persons of colour, and NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, stating:

“I just think we should bring in the death penalty. And that would resolve a lot of problems… Justin Trudeau, be the first one to go. I’d love to see him. And Monsef. And Iqra Khalid. And Ahmed Hussein. And Omar Alghabra… And Singh, Singh, let’s make him sing, you know, as he walks toward the gullotine!”

After I publicly exposed this heinous, racist, death-wish video, I called on B’nai Brith, the Center for Israel & Jewish Affairs (CIJA) and Liberal MPs Michael Levitt and Anthony Housefather to denounce the video’s authors and Faith Goldy. They failed to do so.

After days of their silence, I tweeted “Apparently, Liberal MPs Anthony Housefather and Michael Levitt are more devoted to apartheid Israel than to their own prime minister and colleagues in the Liberal caucus.”

The ferocious reaction, in hindsight, was predictable, but I was admittedly naïve. CIJA and B’nai Brith deflected attention from the death threats against the Prime Minister and other MPs and from the racism of supporters of Israel, and screamed “antisemitism” at me because the MPs I tweeted about were Jewish.

To be sure, there are other Canadian MPs who are supportive of Israel, but Levitt and Housefather are Israel’s most outspoken defenders in Canada’s Parliament, and they do not hesitate to advertise themselves as such. They are also major supporters of B’nai Brith. In addition, promptly following the conclusion of our protest at B’nai Brith’s offices, Levitt had specifically condemned our rally in support of CUPW without once mentioning the presence of Faith Goldy or other hate-mongers at the JDL-organized counter-protest. Shamefully, in May of this year, Levitt and Housefather criticized their own party leader, Justin Trudeau, for his mild rebuke of Israel after an Israeli sniper shot Canadian doctor Tarek Loubani while Loubani was attempting to treat unarmed Gazans being shot by Israeli snipers. These snipers have now murdered over 160 unarmed Gazans in the past six months, including children, medics and journalists.

I readily acknowledge that allegations of divided loyalties have been hurled against Jewish persons by real anti-Semites. I certainly agree that false and racist claims of divided loyalties that are made against Jewish persons must be denounced and opposed. But as the IHRA’s working definition of antisemitism makes clear, not all such claims are anti-Semitic, and when evaluating such claims for potential antisemitism, one must take into account the overall context. As the context here makes abundantly clear, my criticism of Levitt and Housefather has nothing to do with their ethnicity or religion, and everything to do with their extensive record of unqualified and enthusiastic support for Israel’s murderous, racist regime.

Ultimately, this case raises deeply disturbing questions about what our country has become, and what it is becoming. How does the Trudeau government claim with a straight face that it will ‘always stand up for human rights’ even as it lavishes support on Israel’s killing machine? How can it claim that Canada is a land of free speech and tolerance when Trudeau smears a Palestinian rights defender as a racist while remaining silent about real racists like Faith Goldy and the JDL? How can the individual who drew attention to a death wish targeting the Prime Minister become the target of the Prime Minister’s slanderous accusation?  And perhaps most importantly, how can it be in Canada’s interests for its elected officials to side – again and again — with injustice and oppression?

What is happening to me demonstrates why all good Canadians should demand that human rights be applied universally. We must recognize that the fight against antisemitism and other forms of racism is undermined when critics of Israel become the targets of official condemnation. This case is yet another stark lesson that the weaponization of the definition of antisemitism is leading us down a dark tunnel.

I will nonetheless continue to advocate vigorously for justice for the Palestinian people, and for all victims of racism.

Not even a Prime Minister’s smear will deter me from doing so.

ByDimitri Lascaris
Source

DECISION TO BRING WHITE HELMETS TO CANADA DANGEROUS AND CRIMINAL

screenshot-122

August 10, 2018, RT.com

by Eva Bartlett

Did Canadians get to vote on whether or not to bring potential terrorists or supporters of terrorists to Canada? No. Will Canadians get a say in where these potentially dangerous men will be settled? Highly unlikely.

Ninety-eight members of the White Helmets, and a few hundred of their families, were evacuated by Israel and allies to Jordan late in evening of July 21. They will seemingly be shipped off to a few Western nations for resettlement: Canada, the UK, and Germany. So far, Canada has pledged to take 50 White Helmets and around 200 family members.

Wrongly dubbed the “Syrian Civil Defense” (the actual Syrian Civil Defense has existed since 1953), the White Helmets narrative is flawed in every conceivable manner.

Packaged as neutral, heroic, volunteer rescuers, who have “saved 115,000 lives”, according toWhite Helmets leader Raed Al Saleh, they are in reality a massively Western-funded organization with salaried volunteers, and have no documentation of those 115,000 saved. They contain numerous members who have participated in or supported criminal acts in Syria, includingtorture, assassinations, beheading, and kidnapping of civilians, as well as inciting Western military intervention in Syria.

James LeMesurier, a former member of the British military who founded the White Helmets, did so in countries neighbouring Syria: in Turkey and Jordan. They have since worked solely in terrorist-held areas of Syria, and according to Syrian civilians in eastern Ghouta, they worked directly with, or were themselves, extremists of Jaysh al-Islam or other extremist groups. Civilians in east Aleppo said that White Helmets worked with al-Qaeda in Syria (the Nusra Front).

The fact that White Helmets centres are frequently, if not always, found near or next to headquarters of al-Qaeda and other terrorist factions further supports the accusations that they collaborate with terrorists—even with ISIS, as noted by ISIS hostage John Cantlie. He described the White helmets as an “ISIS fire brigade“.

White Helmets have also been at the scene of executions; filmed standing over dead Syrian soldiers; cheering on and cleaning up after an execution in Daraa Governorate, and disposing ofthe bodies of assassinated Syrian soldiers (including decapitated bodies) in Daraa Governorate.

White Helmets members were present to welcome Saudi terrorist Abdullah al-Muhaysini, leader of al-Nusra (al-Qaeda in Syria) who the US government designated a terrorist for “acting for or on behalf of” al-Nusra, and helping to finance them.

Over sixty White Helmets members have clear ties to terrorist and extremist groups, as shown bytheir own social media accounts and videos. In many of their own photos they hold weapons. Some White Helmets members have called for the murders of Shia villagers in Idlib governorate, and were instrumental in the massacre and injury of over 300 villagers, including 116 children in April 2017.

Not exactly neutral and members of the Daraa batch of White Helmets could very possibly be among those soon to be en route to Western nations.

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Not Russian propaganda: Canadian, American, British journalists first exposed the White Helmets

In September 2014, independent Canadian journalist Cory Morningstar wrote about the New York City PR firm, Purpose Inc, and its propaganda role regarding the White Helmets. In March andApril 2015, independent US journalist Rick Sterling, further scrutinized the White Helmets and related “humanitarian” groups serving to call for a no-fly-zone in Syria.

Since then, and for years now, concerned journalists and commentators have written or posed questions on the entity known as the White Helmets. In addition to the years-long investigations by Vanessa Beeley, commentators – from former British ambassador to Syria Peter Ford, award-winning US journalist Gareth Porter, award-winning journalist John Pilger, and even rock legendRoger Waters, have noted that the White Helmets are a dangerous and fraudulent group, or asPilger put it, a propaganda construct.

I have already outlined this chronology of investigations, refuting corporate media claims that voices critical of the White Helmets stem from Russian influence. Yet, slavish supporters of the White Helmets, continue to demonize anyone posing critical and needed questions on this group, generally labelling such people as “Russian bots”, “influenced by Russia”, or some variation of that, in an attempt to insist only people under the influence of Russia have been critical of the White Helmets.

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In the case of the Atlantic Council’s Ben Nimmo, his tweet on the lack of or scant mention by RT or Sputnik in 2014, 2015, to mid 2016 of the White Helmets supports my argument: those are precisely the times when the above-mentioned independent journalists were investigating the group.

White Helmets next to terrorists’ headquarters

In Syria, I saw two different White Helmets centres in close proximity to terrorists’ headquarters: one in eastern Aleppo, and one in Saqba, eastern Ghouta. The Saqba centre was two hundred metres from a factory extremists used to manufacture mortars and missiles, quite possibly those used to bomb civilians in Damascus.

It contained a fire-truck stolen from the real Syrian Civil Defense, as well as ambulances and vehicles all torched when the White Helmets left Ghouta with terrorists of Jaysh al-Islam and Faylaq al-Rahman, among others. They were all safely transported to Idlib as per the deal with the Syrian government.

The other White Helmets centre I saw was in the Ansari district of Aleppo’s east. Formerly a school (and now returned to this status), this centre was a half minute’s walk to the headquarters of al-Qaeda in Syria, as well as the Abu Amara Brigades, and other extremists.

Vanessa Beeley, who had previously been to Ansari, wrote a detailed article additionally noting that just 200 metres from that same White Helmets centre was Al Mashad Square, where 12-year-old Palestinian youth, Abdullah Issa, was savagely tortured and then slowly beheaded.

In the Old City, next to Aleppo’s citadel last May, I spoke with an older man who had remained in Aleppo during the terrorists’ rule. He told me: “The Civil Defence is supposed to rescue people, but they used to steal women’s earrings from their dead bodies. If she was wearing gold, they’d cut her hand to steal it. They are thieves, not rescuers. We saw them murdering people, many times.

In Douma and Kafr Batna, I spoke with civilians who told me they saw Jaysh al-Islam extremists wearing White Helmets uniforms, and White Helmets working with Jaysh al-Islam. Another eastern Ghouta resident, Marwan Qreisheh, said the early White Helmets members who came to Ghouta weren’t Syrian, didn’t speak Arabic, and used their money to attract “volunteers”.

He spoke of them staging rescue scenes: “They’d start filming and claiming that SAA hit this area, it was in front of our eyes, and we knew it was all staged, but we didn’t dare to stand against them because they would kill us, they would empty their gun in you immediately.

Who killed the civilians in White Helmets Douma videos?

It was the White Helmets who released (WARNING: EXTREMELY GRAPHIC) videos and photosalleging a chemical attack in Douma in April 2018. Yet, no civilian among the many I met in Douma believed there had been a chemical attack and medical staff didn’t see patients exposed to a chemical agent. More recently, the OPCW ruled out the use of a nerve agent used in Douma, finding only traces of “chlorinated organic chemicals”.

So, who and what killed the women and children shown in the White Helmets-distributed video from Douma? Did the White Helmets take part in their murder, or merely film their bodies (somearranged) after the fact?

Corporate media has diligently avoided asking a single honest question of the propaganda group they laud, and has for years attacked those of us who do ask questions and take testimonies of Syrian civilians on this matter.

Canadian cover for White Helmets

Canada has been assisting the White Helmets for some years now, under the pretext of aiding humanitarians. While the full extent of Canadian financial support to the White Helmets has yet to be revealed, at least Can$7.5 million (US$5.7mn) was given to the group, helping with “the development and expansion of early warning air raid systems.

Following the Israeli evacuation of White Helmets and their families from southern Syria, Global Affairs Canada released a statement by Minister of Foreign Affairs, Chrystia Freeland, on the “courageous volunteers”, regurgitating the White Helmets “save the innocent and the wounded” unsubstantiated claim.

Unsubstantiated because, in spite of the fancy videos, neither the White Helmets nor its UK backers can provide a list of the supposed over 115,000 civilians rescued.

While the media has lauded Canada’s role in the evacuation of the White Helmets members, it’s worth noting the person, Robin Wettlaufer, behind this evacuation effort. Wettlaufer met withWhite Helmet leader Raed Saleh (once denied entry to the US due to his potential ties to extremists, according to Mark Toner) in late June, as the Syrian army was regaining territory in Daraa governorate.

Wettlaufer has held the Istanbul-based position of Special Representative for Syria, under  Global Affairs Canada, from March 2014 to present, according to her LinkedIn page.

In fact, she is the Special Representative to the Syrian Opposition, something noted in a December 2016 Global Affairs Canada video featuring Wettlaufer.

Given that Wettlaufer is thus Canada’s Representative to extremists in Syria, her key role in instigating the evacuation of the White Helmets is hardly surprising, let alone praise-worthy. But it should be worrying to Canadians. Did Canadians get to vote on whether or not to bring potential terrorists or supporters of terrorists to Canada? No. No vote in the Parliament, no public discussion. Will Canadians get a say in where these potentially dangerous men will be settled? No sign of that so far, and indeed highly unlikely.

Why did the Canadian government refuse the entry of 100 injured Palestinian children from Gaza in 2014, a truly humanitarian effort, and yet will fast-track the entry of potentially dangerous men with potential ties to terrorists?

As for the claims of danger to the White Helmets in southern Syria, their comrades in eastern Aleppo and in eastern Ghouta were safely transported out of those areas, along with their families and with extremists who refused to take amnesty, while Aleppo and eastern Ghouta had peace restored. The White Helmets are potential security threats to citizens in the Western nations planning on hosting them.

As citizens privy to all this information and all the questions on the White Helmets, we must demand our governments reverse this plan, or at least provide us with confirmation that the immigrants in question have been fully investigated and have not been involved in terrorist activities in Syria in any way.

RELATED LINKS:

SYRIA: AVAAZ, PURPOSE & THE ART OF SELLING HATE FOR EMPIRE, September 17, 2014, Cory Morningstar, Wrong Kind of Green

Seven Steps of Highly Effective Manipulators: White Helmets, Avaaz, Nicholas Kristof and Syria No Fly Zone, April 9, 2015, Rick Sterling, Dissident Voice

Humanitarians for War on Syria, March 31, 2015, Rick Sterling, Counter Punch

EXCLUSIVE: The REAL Syria Civil Defence Exposes Fake ‘White Helmets’ as Terrorist-Linked Imposters, September 23, 2016, Vanessa Beeley, 21st Century Wire

The White Helmets Files, variety of articles including especially the investigations of Vanessa Beeley, 21st Century Wire

A Flawed UN Investigation on Syria, March 11, 2017, Gareth Porter, Consortium News

JOHN PILGER: “WHITE HELMETS ARE A COMPLETE PROPAGANDA CONSTRUCT IN SYRIA”, May 24, 2017, RT.com, (exact clip here)

How the Mainstream Media Whitewashed Al-Qaeda and the White Helmets in Syria, January 6, 2018, Eva Bartlett, Global Research

LAST MEN IN ALEPPO: Al Qaeda Presented as ‘White Helmets’ for the Annual Terrorist ‘Oscar’ Nomination, January 28, 2018, Vanessa Beeley, 21st Century Wire

Ex-Pink Floyd singer denounces White Helmets as propaganda tool during Barcelona concert (VIDEO), April 16, 2018, RT.com

Torture, starvation, executions: Eastern Ghouta civilians talk of life under terrorist rule,  June 10, 2018, Eva Bartlett, RT.com

‘Propaganda organization’: White Helmets ‘engage in anti-Assad activities’ – author Sy Hersh to RT, June 30, 2018, RT.com

Whitewashing the White Helmets – Peter Ford, Former UK Ambassador to Syria Responds to UK Government Statement, July 23, 2018, 21st Century Wire

White Helmets coming ‘home’: West & Israel provide ‘exceptional’ rescue strategy for NATO’s ghosts, July 26, 2018, Vanessa Beeley, RT.com

Canada Will Continue to Stand up Strongly for Human Rights: PM

August 24, 2018

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressed concern Thursday over reports that human rights activists in Saudi Arabia face the death penalty.

The two countries are locked in a diplomatic dispute over Canada’s criticism of the kingdom’s human rights record, but Trudeau said Canada continues to “engage diplomatically” with Saudi Arabia.

Human rights groups say Saudi prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for five human rights activists, including, for the first time, a woman.

The five stand accused of inciting mass protests in mainly Shiite areas of the kingdom’s oil-rich Eastern Province. Human rights groups say that the execution threat is a calculated bid to stifle dissent.

“I think it’s important to have positive relationships with countries around the world,” Trudeau told a press conference in British Columbia.

“At the same time, we have expressed our concern with the sentence handed down by Saudi Arabia, our concern for defending human rights and our shared values all around the world,” he added.

“Canada will continue to stand up strongly for human rights,” said Trudeau.

Two weeks ago Canada called for the immediate release of detained activists, including award-winning women’s rights campaigner Samar Badawi.

Saudi Arabia froze all new trade and investments, moved to pull out thousands of Saudi students from Canadian universities and pledged to stop all medical treatment programs in Canada. State airline Saudia also suspended flights to Toronto.

In the end the Saudis gave its students an extension until September 22, according to several universities.

SourceAgencies

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Canada Condemns Saudi Arabia’s Planned Beheading of Female Activist

Local Editor

 

Human Rights advocates said Israa al-Ghomgham, along with five other activists, are being tried by the country’s terrorism tribunal on charges “solely related to their peaceful activism”.

Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland inflamed tensions with a single tweet last month, in which she expressed concern surrounding the imprisonment of activists in Saudi Arabia.

The dispute escalated and Saudi Arabia cancelled all flights to Canada on the state airline, recalled students studying in the North American nation, cut investment and issued threats.

Following the news of the planned beheading of Israa al-Ghomgham, a Foreign Affairs Department spokesman renewed Canada’s concerns in a statement.

They said: “As Minister Freeland has previously stated, Canada is extremely concerned by the arrests of women’s rights activists.

“These concerns have been raised with the Saudi government.

“Canada will always stand up for the protection of human rights, including women’s rights and freedom of expression around the world.”

Ghomgham’s trial started earlier this month, almost three years after her arrest in late 2015.

The Shia female activist was part of a political movement which continued until 2014.

The European-Saudi Organization for Human Rights commented on Ghomgham’s activism, saying: “She called for fundamental and basic civil and political rights, such as peaceful assembly and expression, for the release of prisoners of conscience and human rights defenders, and expressed her peaceful opinions on social media platforms.”

State prosecutors are seeking to sentence Ghomgham with the death penalty, and if delivered, it will mark the first time a female activist is executed in Saudi Arabia for their political activities.

According to the Human Rights Watch, Saudi authorities have also been holding five other activists, who are facing the death penalty, in pre-trial detention without legal representation for over two years.

The next court date is scheduled for October 28, 2018.

146 people were executed in Saudi Arabia last year, according to Amnesty International.

Beheading is the most common method of execution in Saudi Arabia.

Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, said: “Any execution is appalling, but seeking the death penalty for activists like Israa al-Ghomgham, who are not even accused of violent behaviour, is monstrous.

“Every day, the Saudi monarchy’s unrestrained despotism makes it harder for its public relations teams to spin the fairy tale of ‘reform’ to allies and international business.”

Source: News Agencies, Edited by website team

 

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