Yemeni Journalist: Saudi Arabia’s Total Blockade on Yemen is “Death Sentence” for All


United Nations officials say Yemen will face the world’s largest famine in decades if the Saudi-led coalition refuses to lift its blockade on deliveries of aid. On Monday, the coalition shut air, land and sea routes into Yemen after Houthi rebels fired a missile that was intercepted near the Saudi capital, Riyadh. Saudi Arabia says its blockade is needed to stop Iran from sending weapons to the rebels. The U.N. says aid agencies were given no prior notice of the Saudi decision to shut down all land, air and seaports in Yemen. Meanwhile, medical experts warn the clampdown will worsen Yemen’s cholera epidemic, which has sickened more than 900,000 people. We are joined by Afrah Nasser, an independent Yemeni journalist who is the founder and editor-in-chief of the Sana’a Review. Facing death threats, she is in exile from Yemen but continues to report on human rights violations, women’s issues and press freedom there. She is here in the U.S. to receive the International Free Press Award from the Committee to Protect Journalists.

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: We turn now to Yemen, which United Nations officials say will face the world’s largest famine in decades if the Saudi-led coalition refuses to lift its blockade on deliveries of aid. On Monday, the coalition shut air, land and sea routes into Yemen after Houthi rebels fired a missile that was intercepted near the Saudi capital, Riyadh. Saudi Arabia says its blockade is needed to stop Iran from sending weapons to the rebels. U.N. aid chief Mark Lowcock warned that if the blockade is not lifted, the resulting famine will claim millions of lives. He was speaking to reporters after a briefing at the Security Council.

MARK LOWCOCK: There will be a famine in Yemen. It will not be like the famine that we saw in South Sudan earlier in the year where tens of thousands of people were affected. It will not be like the famine which cost 250,000 people their lives in Somalia in 2011. It will be the largest famine the world has seen for many decades, with millions of victims.

AMY GOODMAN: The U.N. says aid agencies were given no prior notice of the Saudi decision to shut down all land, air, seaports in Yemen. The World Food Program said Monday, out of Yemen’s population of 28 million people, about 20 million, quote, “do not know where they’re going to get their next meal.” Meanwhile, medical experts warn the clampdown will worsen Yemen’s cholera epidemic, which has sickened more than 900,000 people.

For more, we’re joined by two guests. We’re going to begin with Afrah Nasser, award-winning independent Yemeni journalist, founder and editor-in-chief of the Sana’a Review. Facing death threats, she’s in exile from Yemen but continues to report on human rights violations, women’s issues, press freedom there. She’s here in the U.S. to receive the International Free Press Award from the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Welcome to Democracy Now!, Afrah. I was wondering if you could start by talking about this blockade, talking about war, famine and cholera in your country, Yemen.

AFRAH NASSER: It’s an extremely dire situation. Like even before this total blockade, there were many reports that every 10 minutes there is one child getting killed because of the implications caused by the war, such as, you know, the total collapse of the healthcare system. Already there was a partial blockade imposed on many entries in Yemen for more than one year, that really exasperated the humanitarian situation because of the lack of access for, you know, humanitarian operations to operate in the country and to send humanitarian aid and send medicine and food. And so, even before this total blockade, there was a partial blockade that impacted all aspects of life. So, the recent, like over the weekend, the decision by Saudi Arabia or the Saudi-led coalition to impose a total blockade means a death sentence that will kill all Yemenis. If we used to warn about a looming famine, it is already there.

Now we will not even hear or listen or know anything about what’s happening on the ground. The journalists are where they’re behind jail. International journalists are not able to have an access to the country. So, it’s going to be like—it’s beyond tragedy, that doesn’t even caught, you know, world’s attention, because of the blockade and the impossible access for journalists to report from there.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, Afrah Nasser, on Monday, you tweeted, quote, “I woke up, reading a message from my family in Sana’a, ‘All entries to Yemen are closed. We will die, we will die.’” Now, your own mother is in Sana’a, and other relatives of yours, whom you’re in touch with regularly. What do you hear from them?

AFRAH NASSER: Most of my family are in Sana’a. And my story is not a exception. Death is the new norm in Yemen. Every household have been impacted by the war. They have one cousin or one brother or one relative who died because of—if it’s not under the Saudi-led airstrikes or the shelling of the Houthi and Saleh forces in Taiz and other disputed areas, the shortage, the extreme lack of medicine and food and healthcare have—you know, I’ve lost count of how many relatives that I know, or friends of friends and relatives of my friends, who died because of the implication caused by the conflict. Myself, I lost my aunt two years ago. Just last week, I lost also another two relatives, distant relatives. And all were not victims of the airstrikes, but they were victims of the blockade and the shortage in medicine and the total collapse of healthcare.

When I got my message—that message from my mother, it was like a pleading message to the world. She knows that I get an access to speak to international media. And she wanted to tell the world that nobody will know what is happening to us, and we will die in a silent death, because of this total blockade.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: And, Afrah Nasser, since you’ve been here, yesterday you met with Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut. You’ve been meeting with officials here in the U.S. What are you telling them? What do you think needs to be done? What should the U.S. position be?

AFRAH NASSER: I think the U.S. administration—actually, to be honest, it’s hopeless with the White House, and our only hope is with the Congress and the senators, who have better sympathy toward the situation in Yemen.

And no question that the U.S. has its hand in what’s going on in Yemen. They are a participant in creating, you know, the world’s largest humanitarian crisis. They are a participant in creating the largest famine that we will see, that the U.N. official was talking about earlier. I think the U.S. administration has to admit that it is giving its political backing to the Saudi-led coalition. It has given its, you know, support with the arms sales and the intelligence and logistic assistance to the military operation, plus even with this total blockade. The U.S. Navy has about 80 percent control over the ports to Yemen. So, absolutely, this is—what’s going on in Yemen is absolutely relevant to the U.S. administration.

From my meetings so far, there have been some positive feedback, because, you know, as a journalist, I was able to meet and talk and report like firsthand to them. But that is not, you know, like a privilege that other journalists get. If it was not for the support from Committee to Protect Journalists, I wouldn’t have that chance, you know, to give like a firsthand narrative to what’s going on to my family and friends and everyone that I know in Yemen.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, Afrah Nasser, on the question of arms sales, The Independent newspaper in the U.K. reported recently—this week, in fact—that the country’s sales of bombs and missiles to Saudi Arabia have increased by almost 500 percent since the Saudi bombing campaign of Yemen began. The U.S. and the U.K. remain the largest suppliers of arms to Saudi Arabia. Could you talk about that and what you think the U.S. and the U.K.—what can be done to stop these arms sales, or at least to limit them?

AFRAH NASSER: That sounds really shocking, but to be honest, for me, I was not surprised when I read the report. Just like one week or two weeks ago, there was a report that the U.K. general secretary was—state secretary was giving a talk at a hearing, saying that our criticism to Saudi Arabia human rights record would definitely harm our arms sales to them. So, absolutely, there is a double standard from Western governments, like the U.K. and the U.S. and others, that, you know, once their ally have the money and the cash, they will have disregard to the human costs that these weapons or how these weapons could be used to commit war crimes. This is absolutely like a double standard, that Yemenis themselves know or understand better than everyone, that their blood costs nothing. Their lives don’t matter in face of the cash coming from Saudi Arabia or the other members in the Saudi-led coalition, such as United Arab Emirates.

I live in Sweden, and I’m working right now on an article that expose the arms sales from Sweden to the United Arab Emirates. Believe it or not, there is like a military weaponry office and semi-factory in Abu Dhabi, in United Arab Emirates. And I can imagine that living and, you know, thinking that—in Western countries, there are a lot of lecturing about the human rights and respect for democracy values and so on. But once it’s in a country that its only fault that it’s poor, so there is no—there is disregard to the human cost that such a arms deal could, you know, accomplish on the ground. It’s such a—

AMY GOODMAN: Afrah Nasser, let’s go to a clip of an Al Jazeera reporter questioning the U.N. secretary-general’s spokesman on the Saudi blockade.

JAMES BAYS: Does the U.N. believe that by its actions—this blockade—that Saudi is in breach of international humanitarian law?

STÉPHANE DUJARRIC: I’m not in a position to issue a legal ruling. What we do know is that the blockading of ports and airports and land routes can have a tremendously negative impact on a situation which is already catastrophic.

AMY GOODMAN: So, Afrah Nasser, your response to the U.N. secretary-general’s spokesperson?

AFRAH NASSER: I’m not surprised. I’m sorry.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Do you think he should have named Saudi Arabia specifically and said that Saudi Arabia was responsible for the devastation of Yemen today?

AFRAH NASSER: Actually, there are many participants in what’s happening in Yemen. Absolutely, it’s Saudi Arabia and the members of the Saudi-led coalition, and also other Western countries that are directly involved in, you know, the military operation. So, all these countries have responsibility to, you know, to uphold the human well-being, before their—the political and military gains that they are looking for. It’s been more than three years now, with no military gains made by either one side from the warring parts. So, this war sounds insane, actually.

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Lebanon Demands Saudis Return PM Saad Hariri


PM Resigned Amid Claims of Assassination Plot

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, who resigned last week amid claims of an assassination plot, has gone missing from his trip in Saudi Arabia, and despite Saudi denials, Lebanese officials believe he is being held by the Saudi government.

Saad Hariri

Lebanon has yet to accept the resignation, which was made during Hariri’s Saudi visit, and President Aoun is seeking diplomatic help to try to figure out what exactly happened. Other officials are demanding his return, saying restricting his movements is a violation of national sovereignty.

The Hariri resignation was made within Saudi Arabia, and blamed Iran and Hezbollah, at roughly the same time Saudi officials blamed Iran and Hezbollah for a missile fired from Yemen. Saudi Arabia has been moving to escalate tensions with Lebanon ever since.

But Hariri’s fate seems a mystery. Saudi officials initially claimed he’d left, then claimed he could leave any time he wanted. Since then, there’ve been numerous false reports of him being en route to various places, but so far he’s never turned up.

UK Sales of Bombs and Missiles to Saudi Arabia Increase by Almost 500%


Exclusive: Campaigners say ‘mountain of evidence’ shows British-made weapons being used to commit war crimes

The number of British-made bombs and missiles sold to Saudi Arabia since the start of its bloody campaign in Yemen has risen by almost 500 per cent, The Independent can reveal.

More than £4.6bn of arms were sold in the first two years of bombings, with the Government grant increasing numbers of export licences despite mounting evidence of war crimes and massacres at hospitals, schools and weddings.

The United Nations says air strikes by the Saudi-led coalition are the main cause of almost 5,295 civilian deaths and 8,873 casualties confirmed so far, warning that the real figure is “likely to be far higher”.

It has condemned the “entirely man-made catastrophe” leaving millions more on the brink of famine and sparking the world’s worst cholera epidemic, while blacklisting Saudi Arabia for killing and maiming children.

There is also fresh concern over the Kingdom’s attempt to shut all air, land and sea ports into Yemen, which it said was to stop the flow of weapons but will also halt aid imports.

British-made bombs have been found at the scene of bombings deemed to violate international law but the UK has continued its political and material support for Riyadh’s campaign.

Figures from the Department for International Trade (DIT) show that in the two years leading up to the Yemen war, £33m of ML4 licences covering bombs, missiles and countermeasures were approved.

But in the two years since the start of Saudi bombing in March 2015, the figure increased by 457 per cent to £1.9bn, according to calculations by Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT).

Licences covering aircraft including Eurofighter jets have also risen by 70 per cent to £2.6bn in the same period.

Tom Barns, co-director of CAAT, said the Government has been accelerating sales of “equipment being used to commit atrocities in Yemen” as the pace of Saudi-led air strikes increases.

“Over the course of this year the situation in Yemen is only getting worse,” he added.

“At a time when the UK should at least be putting more consideration into what’s being sold they are giving more and more of these licences.”

The products being sold include Raytheon’s Paveway IV bomb, which was found at the scene of an air strike that hit vital food stores in January last year, and the Brimstone, Storm Shadow, PGM 500 Hakim and Alarm missiles.

Accelerating sales look set to continue after Brexit, with former Defence Secretary Michael Fallon telling a controversial arms fair in London that demand was going “through the roof” because of increasing war and terror.

“As we look to life post Brexit and spread our wings further across the world, it’s high time we do more to compete for a share of this international export market,” he told Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI) before his resignation.

Mr Barns said: “We’re being told that Brexit is a time for new opportunities and trading relationships but what that seems to point to more dodgy deals with the Middle East, propping up dictators and warmongering in the region.”l

The campaign group is launching a crowdfunding campaign to continue its legal battle, which has already cost it £40,000.

Kristine Beckerle, a Yemen researcher at Human Rights Watch (HRW), said a “mountain of evidence” against Saudi Arabia had not been properly considered.

Explaining that international law does not require the intent to kill civilians for a violation to have taken place, she added: “What more does the UK Government need to start exerting leverage over the Saudi-led coalition?”

“The UK goes on and on about how it’s concerned about the humanitarian situation in Yemen but it seems unwilling to pressure the Saudi-led coalition to make it better.

“It’s clear that governments use arms sales as a means of leveraging political support.”

The UK has pointed to Saudi Arabia’s Joint Incidents Assessment Team (JIAT), which investigates allegations of civilian casualties in bombings, but HRW and other groups say its findings are not robust or credible.

“It feels like people are looking for excuses for arms sales to continue when there is clear evidence that there is a real risk,” Ms Beckerle added.


People stand in front of houses destroyed by Saudi-led air strikes in the Yemeni city of Saada (Reuters)

Britain is also carrying out military training for Saudi forces, including a programme helping the Royal Saudi Air Force to “improve their targeting processes”.

But the initiatives appear to have had little effect, with the UN reporting more atrocities on Tuesday.

Rupert Colville, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said it was deeply concerned about attacks killing dozens of civilians, including children, over the past week.

“International humanitarian law prohibits attacks against civilians and civilian objects, indiscriminate attacks, and it obliges all parties to take all feasible precautions to protect civilians and civilian objects,” he said, listing Saudi-led air strikes that destroyed a market, family home and public square alongside Houthi atrocities.

The conflict started in March 2015 after an opposition offensive drove the government out of the capital Sana’a, sparking an intervention by Saudi Arabia and its allies to support the internationally recognised government.

Critics have accused Riyadh, along with Western allies, of hypocrisy in supporting rebels the Syrian conflict and the “legitimate government” in the Yemen.

Saudi Arabia insists its intervention at the request of President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi is a justified operation against his rival’s supporters and Houthi rebels.

The head of the country’s foreign aid agency previously told The Independent Saudi Arabia was the “number one donor for aid and development in Yemen” and that there was “no intention” to bombard civilians.


A child victim of cholera in Yemen (Reuters)

But Mr Barns said the “clear pattern of attacks” causing civilian casualties should have caused the UK to stop arms sales to the authoritarian state long ago.

“It’s a relationship that gives military and political support to one of the most brutal dictatorships in the world,” he added.

“Far from defending the world from terrorism, the bombing of Yemen is also creating ungoverned spaces where al-Qaeda and similar groups are thriving.”

The British Government has emphasised that it is not a member of the Saudi-led coalition or party to the conflict, but reinstated its support for its intervention to “deter aggression by the Houthis and allow for the return of the legitimate Yemeni Government”.

A Department for International Trade spokesperson said: “The UK government takes its export control responsibilities very seriously and operates one of the most robust arms export control regimes in the world.

“We rigorously examine every application on a case-by-case basis against the Consolidated EU and National Arms Export Licensing Criteria. We will not grant a licence if to do so would be inconsistent with these Criteria.

“The Government publishes regular statistics on the value of export licences, but these are not necessarily a measure of actual exports shipped as exporters must re-apply where a licence is unused. This results in double counting.”

But Amnesty International UK said a total halt to British arms exports to Saudi Arabia was “long overdue”.

Polly Trustcott, its foreign affairs analyst, said: “When the High Court made its very disappointing ruling in the summer, we said there was a clear human rights need for the UK and other governments to stop selling arms to the Saudi coalition unless they were willing to risk becoming a party to terrible crimes in Yemen.

“These figures are a further reminder of how the UK Government is apparently more interested in the financial bottom line for the arms industry, than in the need to protect civilians.”

UK accused of blocking UN inquiry into alleged war crimes in Yemen

Jamie Merrill

Rights groups say UK is putting arms sales to Saudi Arabia before investigations into civilian deaths from coalition bombings

Yemeni men walk through a Sanaa building destroyed in a Saudi coalition air attack (AFP)

The UK is set to block an attempt to establish an independent international inquiry into the war in Yemen, prompting dismay among rights groups.

Canada and Holland are hoping to garner broad support for their proposal that the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) in Geneva establish an inquiry to examine civilian deaths in Yemen, where a Saudi-led coalition is accused of committing war crimes as part of a campaign against the Houthis.

More than 5,000 civilians have died since the conflict started in March 2015, with evidence mounting of the deliberate bombing of schools, hospitals and civilian infrastructure in its campaign to support the exiled president, Abd Rabbuh Hadi.

Despite calls from rights groups, the UK government now looks set to neuter calls from Canada and several European countries for a commission, similar to the one in Syria, to document crimes that have been committed by both sides during the conflict.

Saudi investigates own air strikes, clears itself

A rival resolution backed by Egypt, a member of the Saudi-led coalition, rejects calls for an international body to investigate allegations of war crimes.

Alistair Burt, Foreign Office minister for the Middle East and North Africa, recently told reporters at the UN that the UK government believed that Saudi Arabia was best placed to investigate allegations.

“Our view is that it is for the Coalition itself, in the first instance, to conduct such investigations. They have the best insight into their own military procedures and will be able to conduct the most thorough and conclusive investigations,” he said on 21 September.

The UK’s stance on the negotiations in Geneva come after it emerged that Saudi Arabia has investigated just 36 out of 293 allegations that it has breached international humanitarian law in Yemen recorded by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) in London.

The figures, revealed in little noticed written answers in the UK parliament, come after Saudi Arabia’s UK-trained Joint Incidents Assessment Team reported that it only found three targeting errors in its latest batch of investigations.

The panel, which was set up after international pressure, cited the presence of fighters at the homes, school and medical clinics that were targeted. The latest report, released last week, said the coalition had acted in accordance with international humanitarian law, Reuters reported.

Half-hearted investigation

David Mepham, Human Rights Watch’s UK director, said the UK government was making “extraordinary excuses for the Saudi-led coalition” and its “half-hearted” investigations into deadly air attacks.

“Yemen is Boris Johnson’s chance to step up – to match the gravity of events on the ground with a strong British policy, rooted in justice and compassion, which can help build a better future for ordinary Yemenis,” he said.

The deadline for diplomats in Geneva to agree a consensus is Friday, but a source in Geneva told MEE that the likelihood of an independent investigation was slim. If no agreement is reached, this will be the third year in a row that the HRC has failed to address allegations of war crimes in Yemen.

Lobbying effort from Saudi Arabia killed off similar moves two years ago, while last year Saudi Arabia had its name removed from an annual UN list of countries that kill and maim children in war.

The lack of strong action from the Foreign Office comes after Saudi Arabia warned countries earlier this week that support for the resolution could “negatively affect” trade and diplomatic ties with the oil-rich kingdom. The UK granted export licences for more than £3.8bn of arms since the start of the conflict in Yemen.

Not fit for purpose

Andrew Smith, a spokesperson for anti-arms trade pressure group Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), told MEE: “The UK government has been complicit in the atrocities carried out against Yemeni people, and now it is acting to stop them from getting justice.

“The current JIAT process is clearly not fit for purpose. The Saudi regime cannot be trusted to uphold and observe the most basic human rights of Saudi people, so how can it possibly be trusted to investigate itself for war crimes?”

Last week, the MoD announced a new defence and security deal with Saudi Arabia despite increasing political pressure that has seen Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn call for a halt to arms exports to Saudi Arabia over the kingdom’s bombardment of Yemen.

“We are selling arms to Saudi Arabia… and at the same time we are sending aid in, we should not be doing both,” he told delegates at Labour’s annual conference on Wednesday.

A spokesperson for the Foreign Office told MEE: “We are discussing with our international partners the two resolutions that have been proposed on how best to protect human rights in Yemen.”




August 29, 2017  /  Gilad Atzmon


by Michael Lesher

Because I have no ambition either to be the next Chief Rabbi of Barcelona or to be subject to the whims of whoever is – as it is, I’m not even Spanish – it’s of very little direct importance to me that the current occupant of that position, one Meir Bar-Hen, is a blithering idiot.

On the other hand, I am a Jew – and a human being. And on both counts it does matter very much to me that Rabbi Bar-Hen, who claims in the wake of a car-ramming attack in Barcelona (for which the motive remains unclear) that “Europe is lost” so long as its governments allow Muslims to live side by side with other citizens, is not only a fool but a bigot of unspeakable effrontery. In fact, he’s exactly the sort of man who, with Goebbels, would have pointed to Herschel Grynszpan’s murder of a young German diplomat in 1938 as “proof” that Jews could not be tolerated in Germany.

And yet I confess that even the rabbi’s racism – essentially a declaration of war against every Muslim in Europe – is less infuriating to me than the silent complacency with which his remarks have been received throughout the Jewish world.

One might have hoped a few Jews, even today, would remember that being stigmatized as a collective threat to civilization was a familiar Jewish experience not so long ago. In the previous century, when the Reverend A.E. Patton complained of the danger of immigrant “hordes” who were “stealthy and furtive in manner…too filthy to adopt ideals of cleanliness from the start, too bigoted to surrender any racial traditions or to absorb any true Americanism,” he was writing about Jews, not Muslims, and if asked for evidence of the threat would have pointed to nothing less momentous than the gathering storm in Russia. (The Nazis used similar “evidence,” for that matter; so did some of their descendants at the recent violent hatefest in Charlottesville.) Quite apart from its moral reprehensibility, then, is Muslim-bashing a clever game for Jews to play, given our continuing minority status and a little knowledge of our own history?

And in Spain, of all places! Has a Spanish rabbi utterly forgotten what Jewish historians once dubbed the “Golden Age” of medieval Jewry – namely in Spain, under Muslim ruleand that anti-Semitic persecutions followed on the heels of the expulsion of Muslims from that country?

But bigots don’t speak the language of history, just as they don’t speak the language of contemporary fact. They speak the language of power – and Rabbi Bar-Hen provides a fine example of how that language can turn the truth inside out. Just look at how neatly his recent statements, though at odds with reality, dovetail with Western imperial propaganda.

“I tell my congregants,” Rabbi Bar-Hen told JTA after the attack that left 14 random victims dead in Barcelona, “this place is lost. Don’t repeat the mistake of Algerian Jews, of Venezuelan Jews. Better [get out] early than late.”

Say what?

Algerian Jews did face discriminatory treatment in the 1960s, in the wake of Algeria’s bloody war for independence from France (which the Jewish community, by and large, did not support). But Venezuela is a “historically open society without significant anti-Semitism,” the U.S. State Department concluded as recently as 2005. The only “grievance” of Venezuelan Jews JTA could scrape up the following year was that President Hugo Chavez had had the temerity to criticize Israeli war crimes in Lebanon.

And anyway, what has Venezuela got to do with Spain?

Well, nothing – except that Chavez was on Washington’s enemies’ list long before ISIS was. And that’s the clue to unpacking Rabbi Bar-Hen’s ominous reference to Latin America: it means, “Jews shouldn’t want open societies where the U.S. doesn’t want them. We must stay on the side of Big Brother.”

The same goes for Bar-Hen’s weird juxtaposition of Spain – where, he claims, Jews can’t survive because “radical” Muslims are “living among you” and “it’s very difficult to get rid of them” – against Israel, where he explicitly encourages his congregants to immigrate.

Now, Rabbi Bar-Hen knows as well as anyone that Israel and its occupied territories have a Muslim population too (in fact, one that is proportionally larger than the Muslim community in Spain), and that this population is not altogether acquiescent. If Spain is a “hub of Islamist terror for all of Europe,” as the rabbi claims, what in the world makes Israel a safe haven?

Again, nothing – except that Israel, unlike Spain, is an American client state. And so what the rabbi is really saying to Jews is, “Go where American power goes. The U.S. is fighting a war against the Muslim world, and we want to be on the side of the powerful – never mind what’s right or wrong.”

And then there’s Bar-Hen’s flagship “proof” that Spain is soft on Muslim terrorism: the fact that the government wouldn’t suppress the free travel of Leila Khaled, a Palestinian refugee who nearly 50 years ago helped hijack an airplane (hurting no one) and who wanted, to the horror of people like Rabbi Bar-Hen, to attend a book festival in Spain this year. This showed that Spanish authorities “do not understand the nature of terrorism, if they treat it as an action by the disenfranchised,” the rabbi told JTA.

Got it? In Bar-Hen’s world, a Palestinian woman who was driven out of her native Haifa at the age of 4 can’t possibly be “disenfranchised.” And any country that would dream of allowing a small-time Palestinian resistance fighter to set foot in it, five decades after her last illegal act – the same country having already welcomed the likes of Shimon Peres, the butcher of Qana and eager backer of apartheid South Africa – should be ashamed of itself. That is, if its moral standard is all about what’s good for the Empire.

Which, in a word, is Bar-Hen’s standard.

Taken separately, each one of Bar-Hen’s remarks amounts to pure stupidity. But their sum total is something rather more sinister. Bar-Hen may be a blithering idiot, as I called him a moment ago, but what am I to call a man who scorns the mayor of Barcelona for saying, after the tragic car-ramming deaths in her city, that “Barcelona is a city of peace,” and that “[t]error will not make us stop being who we are: a brave city open to the world”?

Bar-Hen thought so little of that fine statement that he said he might not attend the public solidarity rally called by the mayor, claiming security officials instructed him to avoid public areas in the coming days – because he is recognizably Jewish.

Rabbi, I doubt you’ll read this column. But if you do, I’m calling your bluff. I want to know which “security officials” told you it’s not safe for a Jew with a skullcap to be seen in the streets of Barcelona, though it’s apparently quite safe for Muslims to show themselves, even immediately after a terrible crime has been blamed on someone in their community, and even with the likes of you whipping up public hysteria against them all. I want to know what entitles you to claim victimhood at the same time you incite violence against roughly a billion people worldwide. I want to know why Leila Khaled’s 50-year-old violence is reprehensible to you, while Israel’s continuing brutality is not.

And I want to tell you something, Rabbi. You’re not losing “Europe.” What you’re losing is your mind – your ability to reason, to ground your opinions in fact, to guide your congregants with truth rather than propaganda.

And you’re losing something else, too: your common decency. Because behind your stupidity is, as I’ve shown, a corrupt agenda every Jew, let alone a rabbi, should repudiate. Because when you sell out to imperial power, you cease to be a religious leader and become one more toady to the powers that be. Because inciting hatred against an already demonized people puts you squarely, and exclusively, in the ranks of vulgar propagandists.

And this is one Jew who isn’t going to let rabbis like you forget how utterly, in a moment of crisis, you morally betrayed and abandoned us all.

Saudi Arabia, member of UNHRC blocks Yemen’s largest port to stop humanitarian aid

Saudi Arabia’s Blockade Of Yemen’s Largest Port Expected To Worsen Humanitarian Crisis

UN elects Saudi Arabia to Human Rights Council

Despite a warning from the UN to end its existing blockades of Yemeni ports, a Saudi-led coalition is planning another major assault on the nation’s largest port city of Al Hudaydah, a move that threatens to worsen Yemen’s already unprecedented humanitarian crisis.


A Yemeni man looks at a World Food Program ship at the port of Aden, Yemen

A Yemeni man looks at a World Food Program ship at the port of Aden, Yemen, Tuesday, July 21, 2015.

MINNEAPOLIS – While the Syrian conflict has long dominated international coverage of Middle Eastern crises, the humanitarian crisis in Yemen has been continually overlooked by the mainstream media. Since March 2015, the nation has been in a state of chaos following the overthrow of former Yemeni President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, who was installed by the United States and Saudi governments, by a grassroots political movement led by the Houthis.

Following the Houthi-led coup, Saudi Arabia essentially invaded Yemen, eager to maintain control over the strategic Bab al-Mandab strait, a critical area for the region’s oil trade. The Saudis’ efforts to maintain their undue influence in Yemeni politics and maintain hegemony over a key oil route has now manifested as a war effort bordering on genocide — one that has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people, most of them civilians. In addition, more than a third of Saudi airstrikes in the nation are believed to have destroyed civilian targets.

Despite the severity of the crisis, as well as Saudi Arabia’s apparent penchant for bombing hospitals and civilian infrastructure, the U.S. has remained unusually silent, essentially turning a blind eye in the face of repeated war crimes committed by its ally. The U.S. has involved itself militarily in Yemen to aid in the Saudis’ destruction of their southern neighbor, launching missiles and – more recently – botched raids that claimed the lives of numerous civilians, including an eight-year-old U.S. citizen.


The U.S. has also enabled the Saudis to commit war crimes in Yemen by continuing to sell them millions of dollars in weapons, despite their documented tendency to attack and bomb civilians. While the U.S. has been quick to accuse other nations of similar atrocities in Syria, it has been eerily silent, as well as complicit in, the crimes committed by Saudi Arabia.

The combination of minimal media attention, as well as tacit U.S. support for the Saudi war effort, has Yemen on the verge of collapse. According to the NGO Save the Children, tens of thousands of children in the embattled nation are dying due to the collapse of the country’s health care system. Since Saudi Arabia first invaded, more than 270 health facilities have been damaged or destroyed, many directly by the Saudis.

In addition, more than half of Yemen’s estimated 3,500 health facilities are closed or barely functioning, leaving nearly eight million Yemeni children without access to adequate health care, resulting in the deaths of nearly a thousand children every week, according to estimates.

But the health crisis is only part of the suffering that has become a daily reality for Yemenis. Famine is also taking its toll, with an estimated 19 million people – two-thirds of Yemen’s entire population – in desperate need of humanitarian assistance. More than half of the nation is suffering from a lack of adequate nutrition, according to UN estimates, with more than 370,000 children under the age of five suffering from severe malnutrition.

Much of the famine is preventable, as it has largely manifested as a direct result of the Saudis’ naval blockade of key Yemeni ports. Recent changes to Yemen’s central bank also threaten to rob many Yemenis of their capacity to purchase what little food is still available in the country.

In this Tuesday, March 22, 2016 photo, infant Udai Faisal, who is suffering from acute malnutrition, is hospitalized at Al-Sabeen Hospital in Sanaa, Yemen. Udai died on March 24. Hunger has been the most horrific consequence of Yemen’s conflict and has spiraled since Saudi Arabia and its allies, backed by the U.S., launched a campaign of airstrikes and a naval blockade a year ago. (AP Photo/Maad al-Zikry)

In this Tuesday, March 22, 2016 photo, infant Udai Faisal, who is suffering from acute malnutrition, is hospitalized at Al-Sabeen Hospital in Sanaa, Yemen. Udai died on March 24th. Hunger has been the most horrific consequence of Yemen’s conflict and has spiraled since Saudi Arabia and its allies, backed by the U.S., launched a campaign of airstrikes and a naval blockade two year ago. (AP/Maad al-Zikry)

Despite UN pleas to the Saudis to end their blockades, the Saudis and their anti-Houthi coalition have announced plans to assault Al Hudaydah, Yemen’s largest port city. Catherine Shakdam, associate director of the Beirut Center for Middle Eastern Studies and an expert on Yemen, told MintPress that “government officials in Hodeida have already confirmed an increase in attacks in Yemeni waters” as a result of the latest Saudi-led assault. She added that “fishermen have been shot at for trying to feed their families and drones have been spotted doing what is believed to be reconnaissance work.”

Shakdam added that this assault is only the most recent effort by the Saudis to cripple the strategic port city, remarking that the Saudis are “determined to punish civilians in the hope they will rise against the resistance movement and defeat its forces from the inside.”

Russia’s foreign ministry condemned the Saudis’ latest plan to cripple the Houthi movement, saying that the operation “would not only inevitably lead to a mass exodus of the [local] population but would also de facto cut the [Yemeni] capital of Sanaa from… food and humanitarian aid supplies.” The U.S. has yet to comment on the plan, but its silence thus far already speaks volumes

Saudi, Muslim on the outside, Zionist/Imperialist on the inside

Muslim on the outside, Zionist/Imperialist on the inside


The Arabian rulers have exposed themselves by their unrelenting hostility towards the Islamic Republic when they should have embraced it. These hypocrites put on the appearance of being Muslims but are in reality stooges of Zionism and imperialism.

The Zionist-Imperialist-Arabian officials and their religious and civil employees have shown the world a consistency of blowing hot and cold against the Islamic awakening in Iran since its very inception 38 years ago. And if the past is an indicator, these talk-big loudmouths will continue to blow their own noisy trumpets against the Islamic base in Iran.

The Muslims’ problem is not with imperialism and Zionism — these are the avowed enemies of Islamic awareness, Islamic emergence, and Islamic development. Most Muslims know this well. The Muslims’ problem is with the Arabian regimes that have an Islamic exterior (appearance) and an anti-Islamic interior (essence). These inferiority-afflicted regimes have shown all types of hostilities toward the Islamic comeback in Iran. In the course of the past 38 years, they have pursued policies and plots to sometimes intimidate and sometimes threaten, and yet at other times to overawe the standing-tall Islamic state. They were, in their munafiq ways, behind the wars that were directly and indirectly launched against this self-governing Islamic state.

At the onset of the Islamic change in Iran, these Arabian executives and officers could not offer themselves the time that was needed to evaluate and ascertain the direction of the newly established state. More than that, these Arabian political slaves of Zionism and imperialism showed their favoritism for the Iranian Shah hoping that he could survive the locking of hands between the ‘ulama’ and the people in Iran. When the master imperialist in Washington washed his hands of the Shah, these Arabian surrogate rulers were still hoping and bargaining on his return to Iran. Arabian mouthpieces and media networks went into a frenzy to discourage the Iranian and Arabic-speaking peoples from identifying the uncompromising Islamic Revolution in Iran. None of that worked. The Islamic momentum in Iran was a people’s momentum and the makeover and transformation of a jahili Iran into an Islamic Iran was here to stay and for good.

Last month (February 22–23), the 38-year enduring Islamic Revolution/ Republic held an international conference to enhance the struggle of the Palestinians — their struggle for freedom, justice, and the right to return to their homes and cities in all of Palestine. This conference is not the first (it was the sixth such conference) and will not be the last. Consistent with the strategy of a truly independent Islamic state, Tehran from its very first days of Islamic self-determination espoused the liberation of the land and mind from Zionist colonization and proselytization.

The USA, ever the Zionist minion, could never approve of a popular Islamic movement. The Arabian regimes had other things on their mind; they could not envision a non-Arabian government taking the lead and working night and day on a strategy that would rid the Holy Land of the ungodly Zionists. When Islamic Iran stands out in support of Palestinian rights it makes some Arabian fat-cat regimes resentful and others spiteful. These Arabian kingdoms and republics calculated through their gut-feelings that if the Palestinian cause was to be championed by non-Arabians (Islamic Iran) — at a time when Anwar al-Sadat’s Egypt had capitulated lock, stock, and barrel to the Zionist lord and the Shah became a wandering royal vagabond — it would only be a matter of time before their true political subservience would surface for all to see. This self-survival gut feeling now drives these political primitives into the lap of Zionists and the hugs of imperialists. Then and now they are doing everything they can to obstruct the course of Islamic Iran.

On the other hand, there were masses of Arabs who were excited to see an independent Iran and an Islamic Iran take the lead. They were optimistic that this self-determining and non-aligned Islamic country with its spectacular revolution will usher in a new phase in an otherwise deteriorating part of the world. The intuition of the Arab peoples was positive as opposed to the gut-feeling of the Arabian regimes, which was negative toward the Islamic paradigm shift in Iran. And as is the case in most circumstances, those in power reacted first. With the help of their Zionist, British, and American masters, these Arabian regimes began an extensive two-pronged attack on Islamic public opinion. They used practically all of their institutions (media, academia, political, economic, etc.) to mug Islamic Iran with their vile propaganda. They gave it all they had to convince Arabs and Muslims that Iran is an outcast Shi‘i state and the Iranian people are nothing more than fire-worshipping Zoroastrians or sectarian Safawis. These regimes wanted this propaganda to take effect in the manner of a barrier to prevent the Arabs and Muslims from following the Iranian lead in getting rid of despotic dictators and tyrannical taghuts. This poisonous propaganda was infused with all the Sunni-Shi‘i buzzwords and nationalistic catchwords. The demons of division were resurrected out of which came the monsters of animosity and the hate that loves to kill (takfir). The Arabian regimes opened the Pandora’s Box of fitnah. These Arabian regimes (especially in the Arabian Peninsula) accuse Iran of instigating this fitnah. The fact is that they themselves set off this Sunni-Shi‘i and Arab vs. ‘Ajami fitnah. These regimes and their “scholars” went looking for some controversial statements in the Shi‘i context and history and they found some. Such controversial statements are found in every context and history — the Sunni one included. And then these official Arabians began to exaggerate and blow everything out of proportion. This led and leads to an internal Islamic hemorrhage that can only benefit Zionism and imperialism.

The towering Islamic Revolu-tion/Republic produced a model of factual and faithful independence. It rejected all types of foreign interference. It proclaimed that the security of the region is the responsibility of the peoples of the region and not that of the US or the Zionist regime or any other far-off or extraneous nation-state. This did not sit well with the regimes dependent on imperialism and Zionism; true and truthful independence would mean that they would cease to exist. Regional security becoming the responsibility of regional peoples would mean that the Arabian regimes dependent on the US, Britain, and Israel would have to part with reliance on Washington, London, and Tel Aviv. To counter this, the Arabian regimes went on a verbal offensive accusing Islamic Iran of “exporting its revolution” or “interfering in the internal affairs of their countries.” Instead of opting for their own independence and self-reliance, these Arabian monarchies tried (and are still trying) their best to keep public opinion from contrasting Islamic Iran’s independence with their own dependence on the US, Britain, and Israel. There are no foreign military bases in Islamic Iran; there are scores of military bases, installations, and operation centers in Arabdom. Islamic Iran has gone a long way in building its civil, industrial, and military infrastructure. The Arabian regimes are addicted to signing military contracts with all and sundry. No Arabian official has ever told us why they are so afraid of Islamic Iran and not so afraid of Zionist Israel! They haven’t explained to us why they cannot build their own infrastructure! Who prohibits them from having their own military industry! Is it Islamic Iran? Or is it the US, Israel, and Britain?

When all this propaganda hot air gets them nowhere, these Arabian scaredy-cats go running to mama in Washington, London, and Tel Aviv. And guess what? The next step, we are told, is that “everything is on the table,” by which they mean war and they hint at using nuclear weapons. This, of course, is a shot of opium to the Arabian political addict who needs his Zionist-imperialist fix. The Saudi regime and its chickenhawks scared the Ba‘th regime into a war with Islamic Iran. Actually, it was the Zionists and the imperialists speaking through the Saudis and their hangers-on that if Íaddam does not defeat Islamic Iran, Islamic Iran will defeat Íaddam: either, or! This Arabian war of aggression on behalf of Zionism and imperialism resulted in a long drawn out conflict against Islamic Iran, draining the Muslim East of precious resources and sapping the Muslim generation of an important military potential had it been directed against Israeli aggression and warmongering. The Capitalist-Israeli-Arabian (CIA) alliance was ecstatic during those eight years when Muslims killed Muslims — depleting Iran and debilitating Iraq.

Through all these years of combat and conspiracies, the Islamic Revolution/Republic has left an undeniable impression and a strong influence on the masses of Arabs and Muslims. When Islamic Iran terminated the Zionist embassy in its capital, other Arabian regimes were germinating Zionist embassies or missions in their capitals. How can thinking Muslims not take notice of this?

When Islamic Iran supports Palestinian freedom fighters and Hizbullah, and the Arabian regimes speak for or cheer on the Zionist attacks on Palestinians and Lebanon, how can thinking Muslims not take notice of this?

Islamic Iran has raised the consciousness of the Muslim public concerning the capitalist and imperialist theft of Islamic resources. Islamic Iran has been and will continue to raise the revolutionary temperature of Muslim and oppressed peoples in the Muslim East and in the oppressed south. Islamic Iran has elevated public awareness pertaining to the terrible trio: America, Israel, and Arabia. Islamic Iran lifted the spirits of the committed Muslims belonging to the Islamic movement in the world while at the same time it caused the sectarian zealots (Sunnis and Shi‘is) to come out in the open.

As tardy as it is for some to confess, the Islamic Revolution in Iran is the first real success story of Islamic self-determination in contemporary history. As a sideshow to this groundbreaking revolution, Arabian rulers began to show up in masjids, on camera, and for publicity’s sake. Kings and presidents began to show up more frequently to the public during Ramadan.

The US and Israel contributed to the popularity of Islamic Iran — not that they meant to do so, of course. Words of condemnation from Tel Aviv and Washington turned into popular adulation for the Islamic Revolution. Sanctions that were meant to bring the Islamic leadership in Tehran to its knees caused Islamic Iran to stand up on its own feet, and by relying on its own resources to stand tall among the nations. The US through its myriad policies in the Muslim East inferioritized the Arabians and superioritized the Zionists. Islamic decision-making in Iran broke out of that inferiority-superiority dichotomy by building an independent economy and a strong military. This military-economic independence of Islamic Iran scares the daylights out of the Zionists and their vassals. Islamic Iran does not go to Washington or London or any other capital to sign military contracts. Saudi Arabia and its Arabian juniors and jahili juveniles import everything from potato chips to computer chips. Not so with Islamic Iran. It has developed research and development institutions, it put scientific minds to work, it enhanced scientific investigations and discoveries, etc. It worked its will all the way to acquiring nuclear technology. In the meantime, the Arabian talkathon diplomats were busy concocting conspiracies and following orders.

Islamic Iran has its space program; it has put satellites into orbit and others are being prepared for launch. Jahili Arabia orbits around its midriff and waistline. Islamic Iran may be working on developing intercontinental missiles; Arabian officials are hardworking on intra-Islamic fitnahs. Islamic Iran supports the Palestinians openly. The Arabian stab-them-in-the-back rulers support the Israelis clandestinely. The result: Israel could not defeat freedom fighting Palestinians and Lebanese in the last four war attempts. Israel when supported by Arabian regimes defeats Arabian armies, but Israel when opposed by Islamic Iran is defeated by Arab fighters. The Arabian fitnah-masters tried to draw Islamic Iran into sectarian wars in Iraq, Bahrain, Yemen, and Syria, but Islamic Iran showed great maturity by avoiding sectarianism and standing on principle in all these cases.

The US, the workhorse of Zionist interests, is trying its best to connive against Islamic Iran with calls for renewed sanctions and the forging of an alliance between Saudi Arabia, Israel, Egypt, and Jordan. This will come to naught because there is a limitation to imperialist power and a limitation on people’s ignorance. The Arabian emperors have no clothes. Their alliance with Yahud (Zionists) and Naßara (imperialists) is out in the open. Victory may be less than a generation away.

The “Muslim” in the “Arabian” will wake up one day soon. This “Muslim” will discover how jahili juvenile he was by always relying on an imperialist master and a Zionist boss to solve his self-inflicted problems. Liberated from his inferiority past, he will realize how obsessed he was with the false powers of the mustakbirin. The Arabian problem, in one sense, is that it cannot coexist with an Islamic power but can coexist with an anti-Islamic Zionist and imperialist power. Arabians are quick to go to war with themselves: from pre-Islamic Aws and Khazraj, Dahis wa-al-Ghabra’ all the way to today’s Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Bahrain, etc. And when it comes to Zionist Israel none of these Arabians can marshal an iota of courage! Arabians, in their political madness, cannot tolerate freedom for the “other” (Iranians) when they themselves are slaves! Therefore, Iran must remain under the yoke of Zionism and imperialism — Iran must remain a slave! If these Arabians had independent minds they would have spent all those trillions of dollars on building their industries and infrastructures instead of spending it on self-destructive wars, leaving hundreds of millions of Muslims poor, hungry, malnourished, ignorant, and displaced.

A salute to Islamic Iran… and a slap to jahili Arabia!

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