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Our Reality Can Beat Up Your Reality. Spreading False News Stories on Iran

Taxpayer-Funded Propaganda for Trolls, by Trolls

Global Research, June 17, 2019

Twitter has declared victory over disinformation, deplatforming thousands of pro-Iranian Twitter accounts this week to coincide with US Secretary of State “Rapture Mike” Pompeo’s evidence-free declaration that Iran had attacked two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman. But the mass deletion is merely an effort to distract from the implosion of two anti-Iran troll campaigns dedicated to smearing pro-peace Americans, both tacitly Twitter-approved. And there’s plenty more where those came from. As US media and politicians continues to hyperventilate about Russian bots, who’s the real troll-master?

Pompeo was out front with the blame hours after the attack, absent a shred of proof beyond unspecified “intelligence” and a few other dubious incidents in the Middle East that the US has previously pinned on Iran (also absent a shred of proof). But even mainstream media has initially been reluctant to take his word for it, mostly because the narrative is so improbable – Japan’s PM Shinzo Abe was in Tehran when it happened, promising to make the “utmost effort” to de-escalate tensions, when, as if on cue, one Japanese ship and another carrying Japanese cargo were hit? What are the odds?

When even CNN acknowledged that the attack “doesn’t appear to benefit any of the protagonists in the region,” and Bloomberg admitted “Iran has little to gain” from blowing up the ships of its esteemed guest, Pompeo clearly understood another route of influence was required. Who better to call in for reinforcements than Twitter, which has demonstrated time and again its willingness to serve the US’ preferred narrative with mass deplatformings? 4,779 accounts believed to be “associated or backed by Iran” were removed – less than an hour after Pompeo’s declaration of Iranian guilt – for nothing more than tweeting “global news content, often with an angle that benefited the diplomatic and geostrategic views of the Iranian state.” This was deemed “platform manipulation,” and therefore unacceptable.

One troll down, thousands more to go

Tweeting with an angle that benefits the diplomatic and geostrategic views of the American state, however, is perfectly acceptable – at least, it wasn’t Twitter that brought the “Iran Disinformation Project” crashing to a halt earlier this month. The State Department officially ended its @IranDisinfo influence operation after the social media initiative, ostensibly created to “counter Iranian propaganda,” went rogue, smearing any and all critics of Trump’s hawkish Iran policy as paid operatives of the Iranian government. Human rights activists, students, journalists, academics, even insufficiently-militant American propagandists at RFE/RL, Voice of America and other US-funded outlets were attacked by @IranDisinfo – all on the US taxpayer’s dime.

Congress only learned of the project in a closed-door hearing on Monday, when the State Department confessed the troll campaign had taken $1.5 million in taxpayers’ money to attack those same taxpayers – all in the name of promoting “freedom of expression and free access to information.” The group contracted to operate Iran Disinfo, E-Collaborative for Civic Education, is run by an Iranian immigrant and claims to focus on strengthening “civil society” and “democracy” back home, though its work is almost exclusively US-focused and its connections with pro-war think tanks like the Foundation for Defense of Democracies have alarmed congressional staffers.

“What rules are in place to prevent state-funded organization from smearing American citizens? If there wasn’t public outcry, would the Administration have suspended funding for Iran Disinfo?” Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minnesota) tweeted after the mea culpa meeting. While the State Department was long barred from directing government-funded propaganda at its own citizens, that rule was quietly repealed in 2013 with the passage of the Smith-Mundt Modernization Act, which gave its narrative-spinners free reign to run influence operations at home. And while the Pentagon is technically forbidden from running psychological operations (“psy-ops”) against American citizens, that rule goes out the window in case of “domestic emergencies” – and the domestic emergency declared by then-President George W. Bush days after the September 11 terror attacks remains in effect, 18 years later.

Trump’s favorite anti-Iran troll

Nor was the State Department’s trolling operation the only anti-Iran psy-op to be unmasked in recent weeks. Heshmat Alavi, an anti-Iranian columnist promoted by the Trump administration and published in Forbes, the Hill, and several other outlets, was exposed by the Intercept as a propaganda construct operated by the Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK), a controversial Iranian exile group often called a cult that has only recently lobbied its way off the US’ terror list. The MEK is notorious for buying the endorsement of American political figures, and national security adviser John Bolton, Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ), and former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani are among those who have spoken at its events.

Heshmat Alavi’s stories were used to sell Trump’s withdrawal from the Iran deal to the Washington Post and other more reputable outlets, as well as to promote the MEK as a “main Iranian opposition group” and viable option for post-regime-change leadership of Iran – even though it is very much fringe and hated by the majority of Iranians for fighting on the side of Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s. Indeed, Alavi’s relentless advocacy for the MEK may have scared off a few of the sites that initially published his work.

None of the editors who’d published Alavi’s work had ever spoken to him and none could provide the Intercept with any evidence that he was not, in fact, “a persona run by a team of people from the political wing of the MEK.” Defectors confirmed that Alavi is a small part of a massive US-directed propaganda campaign.

“We were always active in making false news stories to spread to the foreign press and in Iran,” a Canadian MEK defector told the Intercept, describing a comprehensive online propaganda operation run out of the group’s former base in Iraq that sought to control the narrative about Iran on Facebook and Twitter. Alavi may be gone, his account quietly suspended by Twitter in the wake of the Intercept’s unmasking and his stories pulled from Forbes and the Diplomat, but there are more where he came from. The Intercept delivered Twitter all the evidence they needed to take down the MEK’s trolling network, a swamp of “coordinated inauthentic behavior” in which Alavi was a prominent node, but the social network sat on its hands.

Friends funding fiends

Add to this toxic US-approved stew the Israeli astroturf operation Act.IL, which in 2018 took $1.1 million from Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs to troll Americans critical of Israeli policies, including its hostility toward Iran. Initially founded to combat the Iran nuclear deal, the Ministry’s mission has pivoted to combating the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, for which it receives significant US funding (Israeli Lt-Gen Gabi Ashkenazi admitted in 2012 that American taxpayers contribute more to the country’s defense budget than Israeli taxpayers). Act.IL boasts it has gotten Americans fired from their jobs, and the app encourages users to accuse American students and journalists who support BDS of antisemitism, mass-report their posts, and otherwise engage in what would be called “coordinated inauthentic behavior” if any other country did it.

Act.IL is by no means the only Israeli trolling campaign aimed at American eyeballs, either. Psy-Group, the Israeli private intelligence company that infamously pitched a social media influence operation to the Trump campaign, ran a multi-pronged online smear operation to influence a local election in California in 2017 and has pitched dozens more. The Israel on Campus Coalition attacks pro-Palestinian student activists and professors through coordinated social media campaigns, while The Israel Project operates a network of Facebook groups whose admitted purpose is to smuggle pro-Israeli propaganda into users’ newsfeeds by concealing it among bland inspirational messages.

Such clear-cut deception by state-sponsored actors is a blatant violation of Facebook’s policies as they’ve been applied to other users, but the site claims the Israeli groups are kosher. Yet of the pro-Iran accounts deleted by Twitter, one “set” included 248 accounts “engaged with discussions related to Israel specifically” – these were shut down for nothing more than their country of origin, even as inauthentic accounts run by Israel were given carte-blanche to spew propaganda. Twitter and Facebook don’t mind being weaponized in the propaganda wars, as long as they’re working for the “right” side.

As 21st century wars are fought more and more in the informational sphere, the brightly-colored propaganda posters of the previous century have been replaced with relatively sophisticated social media influence operations. What Pompeo can’t accomplish by lying to the American public, the State Department will attempt to achieve through the slow and steady drip of disinformation.

US politicians, meanwhile, remain so fixated on the “Russian trolls stole the election!” narrative they’ve been flogging for the last three years that the Senate last week unanimously passed a bill to restrict entry to any foreign national convicted of “election meddling,” a toothless piece of legislative virtue-signaling that reveals their utter disconnection from reality. It’s more than a little ironic that they’d embrace and even pay for foreign meddling as long as they believe the trolls are working for them.

As Friedrich Nietzsche said,

“Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster.” Or a troll.

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This article was originally published in abbreviated form on RT.

Helen Buyniski‘s work has been published at RT, Ghion Journal, Progressive Radio Network, and Veterans Today, among other outlets. A journalist and photographer based in New York City, Helen has a BA in Journalism from New School University and also studied at Columbia University and New York University. Find more of her work at http://www.helenofdestroy.com and http://medium.com/@helen.buyniski, or follow her on Twitter @velocirapture23. She is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

All images in this article are from the author

Towards a Culture of World Peace

Global Research, May 16, 2019

The following text was presented at the closing session of the Conference on Dialogue of Asian Civilisations, programme organized by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), Beijing, May 15-16, 2019

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The World is at a dangerous crossroads. A culture of war and military conquest is upheld. War is presented to public opinion as a US-NATO peace-making endeavor which will ultimately result in the spread of Western democracy.

Military intervention not to mention “economic warfare” (including sanctions) are routinely upheld as part of a humanitarian campaign.  War has been granted a humanitarian mandate under NATO’s “Responsibility to Protect” (R2P).

Culture which is the theme of the Conference on Dialogue of Asian Civilisations (Beijing, May 15-16, 2019) is of utmost importance in resolving conflicts within and between nations. Culture defines perceptions and understanding as well as dialogue and diplomacy.

In this regard, “Towards a Culture of World Peace” constitutes a commitment to Human Livelihood. It is  an initiative  which consists in confronting the discourse in support of  war and military intervention emanating from NATO and the Pentagon. It requires reviving a Worldwide anti-war movement, nationally and internationally as well as establishing a resolve by the governments of sovereign nation states to reject this Worldwide process of militarization.  

The contemporary US-NATO “culture of war” (which has its roots in European colonial history) constitutes an obvious obstacle and impediment to the Dialogue of Civilizations and China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) launched by President Xi Jinping in 2013. 

The culture of peace is universal. It is shared by people and nations Worldwide. Today’s “culture of war” is a US hegemonic project predicated on the creation of conflict and divisions within and between countries. It is this (unilateral) project of global warfare which is intent upon destroying civilization.

“The culture of peace” which was addressed by President Xi Jinping in his opening address of the Conference on Dialogue of Asian Civilizations, constitutes an important instrument which has a bearing on broad geopolitical, economic and strategic relations. The procedure consists in ultimately confronting and dismantling “the culture of war”  which has a pervasive impact on the human mindset. 

This endeavour will not succeed through political rhetoric or a “war of words”.

It requires:

  • Translating the “culture of peace” into concrete actions at the geopolitical and diplomatic levels
  • Confronting media disinformation and war propaganda
  •  A cohesive anti-war movement at the grassroots of society (nationally and internationally)
  • An endorsement by the governments of sovereign countries, member states of the United Nations, namely a decisive inter-governmental rejection of the US-NATO “culture of war”, which is in blatant violation of the UN Charter.
  • The disbandment of military alliances, including NATO, which are supportive of global warfare.
  • The withdrawal of NATO member states and NATO partner member states from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)
  • The adoption of a coherent and Worldwide disarmament programme coupled with major reductions in military spending.
  • The closing down of all military bases, some 800 US military bases in about 80 countries
  • The curtailment in the international trade of weapons
  • The restructuring of national economies with a view to downgrading and eventually closing down the war economy,
  • The reallocation of financial resources and tax revenues towards the civilian economy including social services.

So-called “Humanitarian Warfare”

The victims of U.S. led wars are routinely presented by the Western media as the perpetrators of war.

Realities are turned upside down. “War is Peace” said George Orwell. The Western media in chorus upholds war as a humanitarian endeavor. “Wars make us safer and richer” says the Washington Post.

When war becomes peace, the world is turned upside down. Conceptualization is no longer possible. The consensus is to wage war.

The building of this diabolical consensus consists in the militarization of the “cultural industries”. The latter are supported by the US Department of Defense which allocates a large share of its budget to upholding the “culture of war”.

[T]he ideology of militarism pervades society, glorifying the US state’s use of violence not diplomacy to achieve security in a world divided between a righteous American “us” and an evil and threatening “them,” representing war as the first and most appropriate solution to every problem that vexes America, and reducing patriotism to unquestioning support for each and every incursion. (Tanner Mirrlees, The DoD’s Cultural Policy: Militarizing the Cultural Industries, University of Ontario Institute of Technology, October 2017)

In turn Hollywood in liaison with the Pentagon has endorsed the culture of war and violence:

“[The] Hollywood–Pentagon connection represents a key dimension of the military–entertainment–industrial complex, where a film is simultaneously being used as a tool for recruitment, military public relations, and commercial profit.

According to Tom Secker and Matthew Alford, “A similar influence is exerted over military-supported TV”.

Meanwhile, the balance sheet of death and destruction in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria is casually ignored. Civilians in war torn countries are “responsible for their own deaths”. This narrative pervades the Western media:  233,000 estimated deaths in Yemen since 2015, according to a recent United Nations report. 140,000 children killed. The media is silent: who are the war criminals?

Global Warfare

In September 2000, a few months before the accession of George W. Bush to the White House, the Project for a New American Century (PNAC) published its blueprint for global domination under the title: “Rebuilding America’s Defenses”. This document which has a direct bearing on US foreign policy refers to America’s “Long War”

  • defend the American homeland;
  • fight and decisively win multiple, simultaneous major theater wars;
  • perform the “constabulary” duties associated with shaping the security environment in critical regions;
  • transform U.S. forces to exploit the “revolution in military affairs;”

“The revolution in military affairs” consists in developing advanced weapons systems as well as a new generation of nuclear weapons.

War Culture and Nuclear Weapons

The culture of war is marked by a radical shift in US nuclear doctrine. Starting in 2001, tactical nuclear weapons are heralded as “harmless to the surrounding civilian population”.  A new generation of  “more usable”, “low yield” tactical nuclear weapons (mini-nukes) was put forth. They are heralded as peace-making bombs.

The doctrine of “mutually assured destruction” (MAD) which prevailed during the Cold War era has been scrapped. Under Bush’s 2001 Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) (endorsed by the US Senate in 2002), nuclear weapons are to be used on a “first strike” “pre-emptive basis”, as a means of “self-defense” against both nuclear and non-nuclear states.

This is an absurd and diabolical proposition which can only be sustained by misleading public opinion, i.e. by obfuscating the deadly impacts of  nuclear weapons. Moreover, while the US has waged countless wars in what is euphemistically described as “the post war era” (1945- present), the issue of “self defense” is erroneous: the national security of the United States of America has never been threatened.

While the US and its NATO allies have launched a military adventure which is sustained by the “culture of war”, the public is largely unaware that the use of these “more usable” nuclear weapons (with a variable explosive capacity between one third to twelve times a Hiroshima bomb) threatens the future of humanity.

There are powerful economic interests behind the culture of war: the oil industry, the military industrial complex, Wall Street. In turn, there are powerful lobby groups which influence US foreign policy. Dialogue and debate are required: It is important that these economic actors, including the weapons producers, be made aware of the inherent dangers of global warfare.

Financing the Culture of War

Trump’s 1.2 trillion dollar nuclear weapons program constitutes a financial bonanza for the defense contractors. US media reports suggest that the nuclear weapons program “makes the World safer”.

The “culture of war” sustains a unilateral build up of the weapons industry funded by US tax payers.  The culture of war has triggered mounting military expenditures to the detriment of the civilian economy. Total military spending worldwide was of the order of 1.8 trillion dollars in 2018. US defense expenditure was of the order of 649 billion, which represents 36% of Worldwide military expenditure (all countries) (SIPRI).

The Trump administration has supported a significant hike in defense, war and related “National Security” expenditures. The defense budget presented by the presidency to the US Congress for 2020 is of the order of  750 billion dollars, of which 718 billion will go to the Pentagon.

But this figure of 740 billion is in some regards misleading: Accounting for a massive US intelligence budget, Homeland Security, and related war expenses, the requested annual US National Security (War) Budget for 2020 is estimated to be in excess of 1.2 trillion dollars.

“There are at least 10 separate pots of money dedicated to fighting wars, preparing for yet more wars, and dealing with the consequences of wars already fought”  (See, William D. Hartung, Mandy SmithbergerBoondoggle, Inc.: Making Sense of the $1.25 Trillion National Security State Budget  May 10, 2019).

Compare the figures: The total individual tax revenues for 2020 are of the order of $1.82 billion. Total defense, national security, intelligence, “to make the World safer”, etc is of the order of $1.25 trillion (68.7% of the individual income taxes paid by Americans)

While the weapons industry is booming, the civilian economy is in crisis, civilian infrastructure and social services including medicare are collapsing. Eventually what is required are policy mechanisms for the phasing out of the war economy and the national security apparatus, while channeling resources into rebuilding the civilian economy. No easy task.

The cultural dimension is crucial. US policy-makers believe in their own propaganda. The “culture of war” often combined with twisted ideological and/or religious undertones, influences government officials involved in acts of war.

In 1945, President Truman intimated in the immediate wake of  the bombing of Hiroshima, that God stands on the side of “Us Americans” with regards to the use of nuclear weapons. “We pray that He [God] may guide us to use it [nuclear weapons] in His ways and for His purposes” (August 9, 1945).

Hiroshima was designated as a “military base” in Truman’s historic speech on August 9, 1945. The stated objective of the Harry Truman was to “save the lives of innocent civilians”.

In the contemporary context, diplomatic relations and dialogue are at an all time low. At no time since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis has the World been closer to the unthinkable: a global military conflict involving the use of nuclear weapons.

In this regard, what should be acknowledged is that US government officials in high office who decide upon the deployment and use of nuclear weapons do not have a full understanding of the consequences of their acts.

The Legacy of  History

The contemporary US-NATO “culture of war” has its roots in European colonial history. Starting in the late 15th Century, European colonization was invariably supported by military conquest, violence and political subordination. A colonial economy was established. “Western cultural values” and the language of the colonizers were imposed, civilizations were undermined or destroyed. The colonial system ultimately led to the establishment of hegemonic relations, leading up to the consolidation of the British empire in the 18th and 19th centuries, followed by US neo-colonial expansionism in the late 19th century and in the wake of World War I.

What is significant is that this culture of colonial violence inherited from the British empire has a bearing on the nature of  contemporary US foreign policy, which in large part is predicated on militarization at a global level. The US has currently more than 800 military bases in 80 foreign countries.

Many Asian countries which were the victims of US-led war, not only have military cooperation agreement with the US, they also host US military bases on their territory.

In South and Southeast Asia, European colonialism was marked by conquest coupled with the displacement of the pre-existing silk road trade relations.

Historically, China’s trading relations under the land and maritime silk roads were marked by dialogue and the extensive exchange of culture. China’s trade relations during the Antiquity and Middle Age extended into South and South East Asia, the Middle East, Central Asia, East Africa and Western Europe. Starting during the Han Dynasty (207 BC- 220 AD), the land and maritime silk road played a key role not only in economic exchange between civilizations but also in the spread of social and cultural values.

In contrast to European colonialism, these relations largely respected the sovereignty, independence and identity of the countries with which China was trading with. The silk road  trade did not  seek to impose or develop a dependent colonial relationship. The language of diplomacy was marked by the benefits of bilateral exchange.

Asian Culture and China’s Belt and Road

The mindset in Asian societies, which historically have been the victims of colonialism and US led wars is in marked contrast to the dominant “culture of war”.

The legacy of history prevails. While the “culture of war” characterizes America’s hegemonic ambitions modelled on the legacy of the British empire, China’s contemporary Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)which consists in developing trade relations with a large number of partner Nations states, is largely committed to a “Culture of Peace”.

Most Asian countries have been the victims of Western colonialism starting in the 15th Century, the impacts of which have led to the destruction of the pre-existing maritime and land trade routes as well as the demise of cultural exchange.

And numerous countries in Asia and the Middle East extending from the Mediterranean to the Korean Peninsula have been the victims of US led-wars in the course of what is euphemistically called “the post war era”. Today most of these countries are partners of the Belt and Road Initiative launched by President Xi Jinping in 2013.

As we speak, the US is threatening Iran. Washington has announced the deployment of 120,000 US troops to be dispatched to Persian Gulf . Secretary of State of Mike Pompeo (who has little understanding of history and geography) has justified this deployment, while casually  referring to the “clash of civilizations”.

US led wars are intent upon destroying civilizations as well dialogue between sovereign nation states.

As we conclude this closing session of  the Conference on the Dialogue of Asians Civilizations in Beijing, let us endorse “the Culture of Peace” as a means to ultimately abolishing all wars.

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Michel Chossudovsky is an award-winning author, Professor of Economics (emeritus) at the University of Ottawa, Founder and Director of the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG), Montreal, Editor of Global Research.  He has taught as visiting professor in Western Europe, Southeast Asia, the Pacific and Latin America. He has served as economic adviser to governments of developing countries and has acted as a consultant for several international organizations. He is the author of eleven books including The Globalization of Poverty and The New World Order (2003), America’s “War on Terrorism” (2005), The Global Economic Crisis, The Great Depression of the Twenty-first Century (2009) (Editor), Towards a World War III Scenario: The Dangers of Nuclear War (2011), The Globalization of War, America’s Long War against Humanity (2015). He is a contributor to the Encyclopaedia Britannica.  His writings have been published in more than twenty languages. In 2014, he was awarded the Gold Medal for Merit of the Republic of Serbia for his writings on NATO’s war of aggression against Yugoslavia. He can be reached at crgeditor@yahoo.com

Wealthy Immigrants, Netanyahu and the Movie Tycoon

April 12, 2019  /  Gilad Atzmon

Screen Shot 2019-04-12 at 12.30.55.png

Eve Mykytyn April 11, 2019

What connects wealthy immigrants to Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu and Arnon Milchan, (Israeli operative and producer of 145 movies including 12 Years a Slave and Pretty Woman)? They are all supporters of an Israeli tax exemption that is designed to encourage Jewish billionaires to move to Israel.

Since 1950, Israel’s Law of Return has offered automatic citizenship to any­one with one Jewish grandparent who resides in Israel for 90 days. Despite some tensions, immigration has overall been profitable for Israel. Ostensively to encourage immigration, during the 2008 global financial slowdown, Israel enacted Amendment 168 to its tax code exempting from both tax and reporting all foreign source income (income earned outside of Israel) of new or returning residents. By so exempting newcomers, Israel made itself into a tax haven.

Amendment 168 was called the Milchan Law in honor of the man who lobbied for the amendment and, in 2009, the Tablet announced that the “fertilizer company scion-turned-movie mogul Arnon Milchan is taking advantage of the generous benefits and moving back to Israel.”

In response to the law, in 2009-2010 many an expatriate Israeli billionaire decided to return to his homeland and in 2018 Russian Jewish billionaire Roman Abramovich became an Israeli citizen and instantly became the country’s wealthiest citizen with a net worth, according to Forbes, of $11.5 billion.

The provision may be a factor in the outsized number of millionaire immigrants to Israel. In 2015 over 4000 millionaires moved to Israel, more than 10% of that year’s 31,013 immigrants. In fact, Israel was fourth in millionaire inflow — after Australia, the United States and Canada, in that order.

Haaretz called for a repeal to the exemption noting that it provides a “clear benefit to the billionaires who save on taxes for 10 years… [and] enjoy the fog of not having to report for 10 years – a fog that gives them time to conceal their assets and profits.” This benefit is paid for “by the citizens of countries where billionaires no longer have to pay taxes, and the citizens of Israel, who don’t benefit from a tax on the billionaires’ income.”

Israel’s Tax Authority Director, General Moshe Asher, said Milchan’s law made Israel into one of the world’s “most generous tax havens.”  Asher defined a  tax haven as a place that a) one doesn’t pay taxes and b) there is an exemption from reporting one’s income. And, Asher pointed out: “In Israel we have something extra. We have an expansive network of tax treaties with developed countries that a typical offshore tax haven does not have. [This means that the immigrant] would pay no taxes abroad because of the tax treaty with Israel, and no taxes in Israel because of the law here.”

Israel’s state comptroller worried that the Amendment gave immigrants an incentive to launder money or to use money that was laundered abroad, “activities which may encourage crime and damage the integrity of Israeli society and the economy.”  In 2014, an audit of 600 bank accounts belonging to recent immigrants found one hundred accounts to have irregular activity that caused the bank to flag them for suspected money laundering.

The reporting exemption also prevents Israel from honoring its 2013 commitment to follow OECD rules and share tax information with other countries. But each year since 2014, a provision canceling the reporting exemption has been included in legislation and each year it has been removed before the legislation was even voted on.

Despite these issues, Netanyahu attempted to increase the exemption period to 20 years in a move that would have helped Milchan but was rejected by the Finance Ministry. The Attorney General has accused Netanyahu of seeking the extension on Milchan’s behalf.

Milchan‘s biography is novelistic. While running businesses in dozens of countries and producing hit Hollywood movies,  Milchan secretly worked for Israel’s intelligence service, acquiring technology and weapons. His efforts included helping Israel develop its nuclear weapons by sourcing uranium from South Africa.

Netanyahu and Milchan’s difficulties began in 2013, when Milchan gave an interview to the Israeli news program Uvda. In the interview Milchan detailed his secret spy work. His revelations led the U.S. to deny Milchan an extension of his ten-year residence visa, jeopardizing his Hollywood career. Netanyahu intervened on Milchan’s behalf with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Milchan was granted an extension.

Then, also in 2013, Milchan began expressing his gratitude by providing luxuries and cash that Netanyahu claims were just gifts from a friend. Under repeated questioning by Israel’s Attorney General Mandelblit, Milchan admitted that what Netanyahu and his wife received were not ‘gifts between friends’ but rather responses to demands made by the Netanyahus.

Mandelblit has announced that after Israel’s election he intends to charge Netanyahu with taking bribes to gain influence and political favors. (The charges resulting from his relationship with Milchan are not the only charges.) Borrowing a page from his friend Donald Trump, Netanyahu has dismissed the investigation as a political witch hunt.  In another echo of Trump, polls show it wouldn’t cost Likud any seats in the Knesset if he were to face charges.


My battle for truth and freedom involves some expensive legal services. I hope that you will consider committing to a monthly donation in whatever amount you can give. Regular contributions will enable me to avoid being pushed against a wall and to stay on top of the endless harassment by Zionist operators attempting to silence me.

“The Media Coverage on Syria is the Biggest Media Lie of our Time”: Interview with Flemish Priest in Syria

Source

By Père Daniel Maes,

First published by Global Research on January 24, 2017

Flemish Father Daniël Maes (78) lives in Syria in the sixth-century-old Mar Yakub monastery in the city of Qara, 90 kilometers north of the capital Damascus. Father Daniel has been a witness to the “civil war” and according to him, Western reports on the conflict in Syria are very misleading. In short: “the Americans and their allies want to completely ruin the country.”

Interviewer: You are very critical of the media coverage on Syria. What is bothering you?

Father Daniel: “The idea that a popular uprising took place against President Assad is completely false. I’ve been in Qara since 2010 and I have seen with my own eyes how agitators from outside Syria organized protests against the government and recruited young people. That was filmed and aired by Al Jazeera to give the impression that a rebellion was taking place. Murders were committed by foreign terrorists, against the Sunni and Christian communities, in an effort to sow religious and ethnic discord among the Syrian people. While in my experience, the Syrian people were actually very united.

Before the war, this was a harmonious country: a secular state in which different religious communities lived side by side peacefully. There was hardly any poverty, education was free, and health care was good. It was only not possible to freely express your political views. But most people did not care about that.”

Interviewer: Mother Agnès-Mariam, of your Mar Yakub (“Saint Jacob”) monastery, is accused of siding with the regime. She has friends at the highest level.

Father Daniel: “mother Agnès-Mariam helps the population: she has recently opened a soup kitchen in Aleppo, where 25,000 meals are prepared five times a week. Look, it is miraculous that we are still alive. We owe that to the army of Assad’s government and to Vladimir Putin, because he decided to intervene when the rebels threatened to take power.

When thousands of terrorists settled in Qara, we became afraid for our lives. They came from the Gulf States, Saudi Arabia, Europe, Turkey, Libya, there were many Chechens. They formed a foreign occupation force, all allied to al-Qaeda and other terrorists. Armed to the teeth by the West and their allies with the intention to act against us, they literally said: “This country belongs to us now.” Often, they were drugged, they fought each other, in the evening they fired randomly. We had to hide in the crypts of the monastery for a long time. When the Syrian army chased them away, everybody was happy: the Syrian citizens because they hate the foreign rebels, and we because peace had returned.”

Interviewer: You say that the Syrian Army protects civilians, yet there are all sorts of reports about war crimes committed by Assad’s forces, such as the bombardments with barrel bombs.

Father Daniel: “Do you not know that the media coverage on Syria is the biggest media lie of our time? They have sold pure nonsense about Assad: It was actually the rebels who plundered and killed. Do you think that the Syrian people are stupid?Do you think those people were forced to cheer for Assad and Putin? It is the Americans who have a hand in all of this, for pipelines and natural resources in this region and to thwart Putin.”

Saudi Arabia and Qatar want to establish a Sunni state in Syria, without religious freedom. Therefore, Assad must go. You know, when the Syrian army was preparing for the battle in Aleppo, Muslim soldiers came to me to be blessed. Between ordinary Muslims and Christians, there is no problem. It is those radical Islamic, Western-backed rebels who want to massacre us. They are all al Qaeda and IS. There are not any moderate fighters anymore.”

Interviewer: You once mentioned Hillary Clinton to be a ‘devil in holy water’, because as foreign minister, she deliberately worsened the conflict.

Father Daniel: “I am happy with Trump. He sees what every normal person understands: That the United States should stop undermining countries which possess natural resources. The Americans’ attempt to impose a unipolar world is the biggest problem. Trump understands that radical Islam is a bigger threat than Russia.

What do I care whether he occasionally takes off his pants? If Trump practices geopolitics the way he has promised to do so, then the future looks bright. Then it will become similar to Putin’s approach. And hopefully then, there will be a solution for Syria, and peace will return.”

Interviewer: You understand that your analysis is controversial and will encounter much criticism?

Father Daniel: “I speak from personal observation. And no one has to believe me, right? But I know one thing: The media can either contribute to the massacre of the Syrian people or help the Syrian people, with their media coverage. Unfortunately, there are too many followers and cowards among journalists.”

HIGHLIGHTING THE PEACE DAMASCUS MISSED FOR YEARS WHEN UNDER TERRORISTS’ MORTARS

In Gaza

As I mentioned at the beginning of this clip, when in Syria as a journalist it usually takes 3 or so days to acquire the necessary permissions to go to areas outside Damascus (or rather, areas outside of Damascus where there is a risk due to presence of terrorists, terrorists bombings, or their landmines).

During this time, instead of loitering I try to interview average Syrian civilians, sometimes artisans, and otherwise love walking alone in the meandering back lanes, absorbing the atmosphere–whether daytime or evening.

People ask me about safety: I feel completely safe walking alone in these lanes. In contrast from my first visit in 2014 to the liberation of eastern Ghouta in 2018, I did not feel safe, nor did Syrian civilians, because at any moment a terrorist-fired mortar might strike, as they did incessantly over the years.

As I noted a few weeks ago when I was here, the mood on the streets is completely difference than in previous years. Yes, people remained steadfast and defiant in the face of the terrorism, but now streets are busier than before, late into the night. That doesn’t make a good “story”, so Western media are not, to my knowledge, reporting on this. Instead, I see new stories invented to yet again attempt to demonize Syria or Russia, instead of just allowing Syrians to get back to life. It’s for the hell Syrians have endured and the silence of the media on this hell that I continue to post positive updates while in Damascus.

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The story of AFAMIA started when we purchased the factory land plot in Adra Industrial Zone in Damascus in 2010.

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Yemen, Poisoned Water, and a Green New Deal

Yemen, Poisoned Water, and a Green New Deal

by DavidSwanson

While U.N. figures suggest that it would take 1% of U.S. military spending to provide the world with clean drinking water, the United States could end the worst cholera epidemic in recorded history (in Yemen) for far less than that and far less than what it is spending to create the epidemic through the U.S.-Saudi war on Yemen. And what may turn out to be the most widespread poisoning of water sources around the globe ever is the use of chemicals on U.S. military bases — chemicals that are not needed, used on bases that are worse than not needed.

Yemen

Many of us have been trying to halt senseless counterproductive mass-murder in Yemen since it was a “Constitutional scholar” president doing it with robotic airplanes. The legislation currently in play in Congress leaves a loophole you could fly a thousand drones through. But, as a step, it is well worth taking. Already having moved from 55 to 37 senators voting for endless, unquestioned, and undebated genocide was a step worth taking between last March and last week. When public pressure and Congress blocked Obama from a massive bombing campaign on Syria five years ago, that too was a step worth taking. But refusing to bring something to a vote because it would fail (as with Syria) doesn’t have the same precedent-setting ring to it as passing legislation to end a crime long underway. That’s what may be possible now on Yemen.

The shortcomings of the current Congressional action must be known if we are to build on it. The Senate still must vote on cloture, on — likely both good and terrible — amendments, and on final passage. And then there’s the House, and then there’s the threatened veto, and then there’s the question of expecting compliance from a president explicitly granted immunity from impeachment by Nancy Pelosi, by preemptive strike as it were. And then there’s that loophole that allows any war to roll on that claims to be against Al Qaeda. The fact that the U.S. and Saudi Arabia have been partnering with Al Qaeda on the destruction of Yemen is absolutely no reason the White House won’t claim the war is against Al Qaeda.

Understanding all of that should make clear to us that a long-term and relentless public education and mobilization campaign is needed locally and globally, and that the notion of a “good war” must be disallowed and defunded along with the murdering of Yemeni families. We must encourage Congress to get a move on with each step it takes, even while condemning legislation that violates the U.N. Charter and the Kellogg-Briand Pact by claiming to allow certain varieties of the crime of war. The notion that Saudi Arabia should not be helped out in the murder of tens of thousands and potentially millions of people because it murdered one particular person (Jamal Khashoggi) must be permitted to accomplish whatever good it can, even while we work to help people see through the idea that selling bombs only to nations that don’t “violate human rights” is a piece of grotesque nonsense, as there is no use of bombs that respects human rights. Banning weapons sales to Saudi Arabia, for whatever reasons, is a step that must be taken in addition to — and if possible by amendment to — the legislation that would cut off U.S. military participation in the slaughter.

All of that being grasped, the fact remains that there is a reason that Trump has threatened a veto, and a reason that he sent Pompeo and Mattis scurrying over to the Senate to beg and plead for genocide, even though they apparently had nothing whatsoever to use to persuade even some of the most bloodthirsty senators ever to have lived. The White House and Pentagon and State Department are horrified at the prospect of the Congress, after a couple of centuries of ever increasing slumber, waking up and doing its job and stopping a war. Imagine if this were to really happen. What would prevent some Congress member’s brain from stumbling across the thought that if one war could be ended, another might be as well? What would prevent ending a half dozen of the ghastly horrors? What would prevent Congress members from hearing people’s screams immediately upon the start of each new war and voting immediately to block any war? This is the nightmare that keeps weapons profiteers tossing and turning in their gold-plated beds.

Why were 55 Senators for Genocide reduced to 37? Three reasons: public pressure, the murder of Khashoggi, and the fact that the Pentagon told a bunch of simplistic lies and made a bunch of baseless promises eight months ago and didn’t think up anything new to explain them away this time around. Each of these three reasons is encouraging and worth building on.

1. The relentless lie that the corruption is complete and that the public cannot have any influence has to be torn down as many times as it takes. If people were aware that public pressure was a big influence on last week’s vote, there would be a 100-fold increase in public pressure.

2. While it seems ridiculous to turn against the murder of thousands of people because of the murder of one person, that very sort of nonsense has always been available in every war. U.S. war efforts and those of their allies are always accompanied by vicious outrages outside of the framework typically thought of as the war. Saudi Arabia publicly murders or whips people in small numbers all the time. Ukrainian Nazis are no better. (An anniversary of the Odessa Massacre is coming up.) Allies in Afghanistan and Iraq make the Mafia look like a peace and justice club. Allies being courted for a hoped-for war on Iran make Ukrainian Nazis look like a pink pussy-hat march. More study is needed of how a particular atrocity can be forced into the U.S. corporate media.

3. When a White House loses credibility even with U.S. Senators, something else is going on that needs to be encouraged and promoted. The U.S. public may not have rushed into the streets when Obama’s wars became Trump’s, but certain parts of the corporate elite and the silent middle-class and even of the U.S. government have lost their faith in the redemptive power of genocide. Any wedge that can now be placed between Congress and the White House that could lead to Congress actually doing its job might work wonders.

Bases

The war on Yemen is killing directly through violence, but more so through the cut-off of supplies and through environmental destruction and the destruction of public resources — results that lead to starvation and disease. People don’t have food. People don’t have clean water. People are afraid to leave their houses. In comparison with this state of affairs, fairy tales about Muslim Mexicans stealing your job seem downright charming.

A Congress that actually did its job would be subpoenaing and making public U.S. military plans for major permanent U.S. bases in the aftermath of Yemen, which I’d bet you a MAGA hat do exist. Most of the rest of the world has been coated with U.S. bases. A major global conference was just held in Ireland on the topic of how to close U.S. bases. A U.S. coalition just announced a proposal on Capitol Hill. The struggles against U.S. bases in Japan and many other places are at fever pitch.

Foreign bases are not just provokers and instigators of war. They’re not just tools for propping up brutal dictatorships. They’re not just the secrets to be hushed up during each future chorus of “But why do they hate us?” They’re not just zones of rape and drunkenness and resentment. They’re not just carcinogenic chemical leaks living under legal immunity. They’re not just would-have-been EPA Superfund Sites to never benefit from any minor pretense of a cleanup because they’re not in the United States. They’re also this: a threat to global water supplies. Pat Elder has summarized this latest toxic development:

“The water in thousands of wells in and around U.S. military installations across the globe have been tested and have been shown to contain harmful levels of PFOS and PFOA. The health effects of exposure to these chemicals include frequent miscarriages and other severe pregnancy complications, like long-term fertility issues. They contaminate human breast milk and sicken breast-feeding babies. PFOS and PFOA contribute to liver damage, kidney cancer, high cholesterol, decreased response to vaccines, an increased risk of thyroid disease, along with testicular cancer, micro-penis, and low sperm count in males.”

Is there some constituency that array of maladies doesn’t concern? Are there certain groups who, after thoughtful consideration, place flags and war slogans above that entire list of illnesses? Of course there are. Until I say this: The “U.S. military installations across the globe” include thousands across the United States. It’s OK to pretend that last sentence isn’t what finally grabbed your attention. That pretense suggests a positive tendency.

Progressive Except for Peace

Senator Elizabeth Warren’s big new speech and article on foreign policy last week pretended that a war on Iraq that killed over 1 million people had killed 6,000; proposed to end wars in order to be more prepared for other wars; dishonestly demonized other nations; advocated “better” weapons; urged that U.S. troops be brought back from Afghanistan “starting now” (rather than ending now — it’s been starting over and over again for more than a decade), and generally promoted militarism while rhetorically opposing it. There was no proposed military budget, no proposed joining of any treaties, no proposed actual ending of any wars, no concrete policy at all, no draft legislation the way one might expect on any other topic.

Senator Bernie Sanders, while helping to lead the push on Yemen, otherwise continues to promote militarism and to address other topics as if militarism were unrelated. Last week over 100 scholars and activists signed a letter to Sanders that thousands of others have since added their names to. Part of the letter — which is addressed to Sanders but could be addressed with minor changes to any other Senator — reads:

“Your recent 10-point plan omits any mention of foreign policy whatsoever. We believe this omission is not just a shortcoming. We believe it renders what does get included incoherent. Military spending is well over 60% of discretionary spending. A public policy that avoids mentioning its existence is not a public policy at all. Should military spending go up or down or remain unchanged? This is the very first question. We are dealing here with an amount of money at least comparable to what could be obtained by taxing the wealthy and corporations (something we are certainly in favor of as well). A tiny fraction of U.S. military spending could end starvation, the lack of clean water, and various diseases worldwide. No humanitarian policy can avoid the existence of the military. No discussion of free college or clean energy or public transit should omit mention of the place where a trillion dollars a year is going. War and preparations for war are among the top destroyers, if not the top destroyer, of our natural environment. No environmental policy can ignore them.”

No environmental policy can ignore them. But every environmental policy does.

A Green New Deal

Have you actually read the Green New Deal — I mean the Democrats’ version under the same name but radically different from the Green Party’s version.

It includes: “decarbonizing the manufacturing, agricultural and other industries,” but does not mention the top producer of carbon around, the U.S. military — or for that matter that the main problem with agriculture is methane, not carbon.

It includes: “decarbonizing, repairing and improving transportation and other infrastructure,” but no mention of military bases.

It includes “funding massive investment in the drawdown and capture of greenhouse gases,” but no mention of the military as a top emitter of carbon, and no mention of the military as the place where all the money goes that could be most easily moved into any useful “massive investment.” Instead, the Green New Democrats’ Deal reads:

“Many will say, ‘Massive government investment! How in the world can we pay for this?’ The answer is: in the same ways that we paid for the 2008 bank bailout and extended quantitative easing programs, the same ways we paid for World War II and many other wars. The Federal Reserve can extend credit to power these projects and investments, new public banks can be created (as in WWII) to extend credit and a combination of various taxation tools (including taxes on carbon and other emissions and progressive wealth taxes) can be employed.”

To read this as anything other than a conscious and explicit commitment to continuing to dump $1 trillion per year into the most environmentally destructive program ever devised, while seeking out any other possible way to pay for a “green deal” would be delusional. If the military budget’s existence were going to be acknowledged, it would have been acknowledged here.

The exclusion of the world’s worst environmental destroyer from environmentalism is not new. It is enshrined in the Kyoto and Paris agreements. It is embodied in the work of all of the biggest environmental organizations. Leading up to the April 2017 Climate March in Washington, D.C., many of us raised as much hell as we could, until a little peace ghetto was permitted in part of the march. I’m not sure that doing that for the upcoming December 10th rally for the Green New Deal makes sense. I think Congresswoman-Elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her colleagues should either admit that the military exists and act accordingly, or not. Here’s what I said at the Climate March:

Most countries on earth have the U.S. military in them.

Most countries on earth burn less fossil fuel than does the U.S. military.

And that’s without even calculating how much worse for the climate jet fuel is than other fossil fuels.

And it’s without even considering the fossil fuel consumption of the world’s leading weapons makers, or the pollution caused by the use of those weapons all over the world.

The U.S. is the top weapons dealer to the world, and has weapons on multiple sides of most wars.

The U.S. military created 69% of super fund environmental disaster sites and is the third leading polluter of U.S. waterways.

When the British first developed an obsession with the Middle East, passed along to the United States, the desire was to fuel the British Navy.

What came first? The wars or the oil? It was the wars.

Wars and the preparations for more wars consume a huge amount of oil.

But the wars are indeed fought for control of oil. So-called foreign intervention in civil wars is, according to comprehensive studies, 100 times more likely — not where there is suffering, not where there is cruelty, not where there is a threat to the world, but where the country at war has large reserves of oil or the intervener has a high demand for oil.

We need to learn to say

No More Wars for Oil

and

No More Oil for Wars

You know who agrees with that? Pre-presidential campaign Donald Trump. On December 6, 2009, on page 8 of the New York Times a letter to President Obama printed as an advertisement and signed by Trump called climate change an immediate challenge. “Please don’t postpone the earth,” it said. “If we fail to act now, it is scientifically irrefutable that there will be catastrophic and irreversible consequences for humanity and our planet.”

In fact, Trump is now acting to speed up those consequences, an action prosecutable as a crime against humanity by the International Criminal Court — at least if Trump were African.

It’s also a crime impeachable by the United States Congress — at least if there’s some way to involve sex in it.

Holding this government accountable is up to us.

No More Wars For Oil
No More Oil for Wars

Say it with me.

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