Israeli Official Calls for Syrian President Assad’s Assassination

[ Ed. note – It never ceases to amaze me–the bottomless depths of compassion the Israelis try to convince us they feel for the suffering people of Syria…while at the same time they display open hatred and contempt for Palestinians. The mainstream media are now pedaling a State Department claim about Syria operating a “crematorium,” ostensibly to dispose of the bodies of thousands of murdered prisoners, and a member of the Israeli cabinet, Housing Minister Yoav Galant, has used the opportunity to issue an open call for the assassination of Syrian President Bashar Assad (see article below).

All this comes just a week after revelations that Israeli police staged a mock execution of a “terrorist” in front of a group of school children. A video of the demonstration, showing the children looking on, can be found here, and in a commentary on the episode, Jonathan Cook notes that in the video the youngsters can be heard clapping:

As he [the “terrorist” in the demonstration] lies badly wounded, the officers empty their magazines into him from close range. In Israel it is known as “confirming the kill”. Everywhere else it is called an extrajudicial execution or murder. The children can be heard clapping…The purpose of exposing children at an impressionable age to so much gore and killing is not hard to divine. It creates traumatised children, distrustful and fearful of anyone outside their tribe. That way they become more pliant soldiers, trigger-happy as they rule over Palestinians in the occupied territories.

So it appears that in the Israeli scheme of things, it is okay to murder Palestinians but not Syrians, or at least not the terrorists that certain foreign backers paid good money to equip, finance, and send into Syria for the purpose of overthrowing the country’s democratically elected president. Of course, the “news” that the Syrian government incinerated massive numbers of people in a crematorium is in all probability about as fake as last month’s chemical attack, but no matter. The Zionists will likely milk it for all it’s worth. ]

RT
An Israeli minister has bluntly called for Syrian leader Bashar Assad to be assassinated after unsourced media reports claimed Damascus was using a “crematorium” to cover-up mass killings. He said the “serpent’s head” in Tehran should be dealt with next.

“The reality whereby Syria executes people, intentionally uses chemical weapons to hurt them and, now, in the most recent move of extremism, is burning their bodies – this has not been seen in the world in 70 years,” said Israeli Housing Minister Yoav Galant, as cited by Haaretz.

“We are crossing a red line and, in my view, the time has come to assassinate Assad,” he continued.

“And when we finish with the tail of the serpent, we will reach the head of the serpent, which can be found in Tehran, and we will deal with it, too,” he said.

What appears to be the first recorded Israeli threat to assassinate Syrian President Bashar Assad came after the US Department of State alleged, without presenting any hard evidence, that the Syrian government is using “a crematorium” outside Damascus to burn the bodies of people killed by the government.

 photo galant_zpssoamqewn.jpg

Israeli Housing Minister Yoav Galant

Earlier on Tuesday, Galant told Israeli Army radio that Assad’s rule has been the worst since Nazi Germany. “What is happening in Syria is defined as genocide, under all its classifications,” he said on Army radio, according to Jerusalem Post.

Galant, a retired IDF general, added that Israel wants to see Assad and his Alawite government ousted from power and replaced by a moderate Sunni ruler.”

Some previous attempts to compare Assad’s government to the Nazi regime have been met with public outcry. White House spokesman Sean Spicer, who claimed that Hitler’s death squads hadn’t used chemical agents during the Holocaust “in the way that Assad used them” sparked outrage in the US and beyond.

Certain journalists have used the Assad-Hitler comparison when covering claims that Syrian forces have used chemical weapons, but those remarks were dismissed by the public.

Assad, a UK-educated doctor, has been in power since the 1999 passing of his father, Syria’s long-time president, Hafez Assad. Syria is one of the few Arab countries where the president is elected through a nationwide vote.

Israel Tutors Children in Fear and Loathing

Nazareth

A display of Israeli-style community policing before an audience of hundreds of young schoolchildren was captured on video last week. Were the 10-year-olds offered road safety tips, advice on what to do if they got lost, or how to report someone suspicion hanging around the school?

No. In Israel, they do things differently. The video shows four officers staging a mock anti-terror operation in a park close to Tel Aviv. The team roar in on motorbikes, firing their rifles at the “terrorist”.

As he lies badly wounded, the officers empty their magazines into him from close range. In Israel it is known as “confirming the kill”. Everywhere else it is called an extrajudicial execution or murder. The children can be heard clapping.

It was an uncomfortable reminder of a near-identical execution captured on film last year. A young army medic, Elor Azaria, is seen shooting a bullet into the head of an incapacitated Palestinian in Hebron. A military court sentenced him to 18 months for manslaughter in February.

There has been little sign of soul-searching since. Most Israelis, including government officials, call Azaria a hero. In the recent religious festival of Purim, dressing up as Azaria was a favourite among children.

There is plenty of evidence that Israel’s security services are still regularly executing real Palestinians.

The Israeli human rights group B’Tselem denounced the killing last week of a 16-year-old Jerusalem schoolgirl, Fatima Hjeiji, in a hail of bullets. She had frozen to the spot after pulling out a knife some distance from a police checkpoint. She posed no threat, concluded B’Tselem, and did not need to be killed.

The police were unrepentant about their staged execution, calling it “a positive, empowering” demonstration for the youngsters. The event was hardly exceptional.

In communities across Israel this month, the army celebrated Israel’s Independence Day by bringing along its usual “attractions” – tanks, guns and grenades – for children to play with, while families watched army dogs sicking yet more “terrorists”.

In a West Bank settlement, meanwhile, the army painted youngsters’ arms and legs with shrapnel wounds. Blood-like liquid dripped convincingly from dummies with amputated limbs. The army said the event was a standard one that “many families enjoyed”.

The purpose of exposing children at an impressionable age to so much gore and killing is not hard to divine. It creates traumatised children, distrustful and fearful of anyone outside their tribe. That way they become more pliant soldiers, trigger-happy as they rule over Palestinians in the occupied territories.

A few educators have started to sense they are complicit in this emotional and mental abuse.

Holocaust Memorial Day, marked in Israeli schools last month, largely avoids universal messages, such as that we must recognise the humanity of others and stand up for the oppressed. Instead, pupils as young as three are told the Holocaust serves as a warning to be eternally vigilant – that Israel and its strong army are the only things preventing another genocide by non-Jews.

Last year Zeev Degani, principal of one Israel’s most prestigious schools, caused a furore when he announced his school would no longer send pupils on annual trips to Auschwitz. This is a rite of passage for Israeli pupils. He called the misuse of the Holocaust “pathological” and intended to “generate fear and hatred” to inculcate extreme nationalism.

It is not by accident that these trips – imparting the message that a strong army is vital to Israel’s survival – take place just before teenagers begin a three-year military draft.

Increasingly, they receive no alternative messages in school. Degani was among the few principals who had been inviting Breaking the Silence, a group of whistle-blowing soldiers, to discuss their part in committing war crimes.

In response, the education minister, Naftali Bennett, leader of the settlers’ party, has barred dissident groups like Breaking the Silence. He has also banned books and theatre trips that might encourage greater empathy with those outside the tribe.

Polls show this is paying off. Schoolchildren are even more ultra-nationalist than their parents. More than four-fifths think there is no hope of peace with the Palestinians.

But these cultivated attitudes don’t just sabotage peacemaking. They also damage any chance of Israeli Jews living peacefully with the large minority of Palestinian citizens in their midst.

Half of Jewish schoolchildren believe these Palestinians, one in five of the population, should not be allowed to vote in elections. This month the defence minister, Avigdor Lieberman, called the minority’s representatives in parliament “Nazis” and suggested they should share a similar fate.

This extreme chauvinism was translated last week into legislation that defines Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people around the world, not its citizens. The Palestinian minority are effectively turned into little more than resident aliens in their own homeland.

Degani and others are losing the battle to educate for peace and reconciliation. If a society’s future lies with its children, the outlook for Israelis and Palestinians is bleak indeed.

Jonathan Cook won the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His website is www.jkcook.net.

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Syria is the Dam Against More Bloody Chaos

MAY 9, 2017

A decade ago I published a book, Israel and the Clash of Civilisations, that examined Israel’s desire to Balkanise the Middle East, using methods it had refined over many decades in the occupied Palestinian territories. The goal was to unleash chaos across much of the region, destabilising key enemy states: Iran, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.

The book further noted how Israel’s strategy had influenced the neoconservative agenda in Washington that found favour under George Bush’s administration. The neocons’ destabilisation campaign started in Iraq, with consequences that are only too apparent today.

My book was published when efforts by Israel and the neocons to move the Balkanisation campaign forward into Iran, Syria and Lebanon were stumbling, and before it was clear that other actors, such as ISIS, would emerge out of the mayhem. But I predicted – correctly – that Israel and the neocons would continue to push for more destabilisation, targeting Syria next, with disastrous consequences.

Today, Israel’s vision of the region is shared by other key actors, including Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states, and Turkey. The current arena for destabilisation, as I warned, is Syria. But if successful, the Balkanisation process will undoubtedly move on and intensify against Lebanon and Iran.

Although commentators tend to focus on the “evil monsters” who lead the states targeted for destruction, it is worth remembering that before their disintegration most were also oases of secularism in a region dominated by medieval sectarian ideologies, whether the Wahhabism of Saudi Arabia or the Orthodox Judaism of Israel.

Syria’s Bashar Assad, Iraq’s Saddam Hussein and Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi are or were ruthless and brutal in the way all dictators are, against opponents who threaten the regime. But before their states were targeted for “intervention”, they also oversaw societies in which there were high levels of education and literacy, well-established welfare states, and low levels of sectarianism. These were not insignificant achievements (even if they are largely overlooked now) – achievements that large sections of their populations appreciated, even more so when they were destroyed through outside intervention.

These achievements were not unrelated to the fact that the regimes were or are more independent of the US than the US and Israel desired. The rulers of these states, which comprise disparate sectarian groups, had an interest in maintaining internal stability through a carrot and stick approach: benefits for those who submitted to the regime, and repression for those who resisted. They also made strong alliances with similar regimes to limit moves by Israel and the US to dominate the region.

Balkanisation has been a powerful way to isolate and weaken these states, allowing the process to be expanded to other renegade states.

This is not to excuse human rights violations by dictatorial regimes. But it is to concentrate on an even more important issue. What we have seen unfolding over the past 15 years is part of a lengthy process – often described in the West as a “war on terror” – that is not designed to “liberate” or “democratise” Middle Eastern states. If that were the case, Saudi Arabia would have been the first state targeted for “intervention”.

Rather, the “war on terror” is part of efforts to violently break apart states that reject US-Israeli hegemony in the region, so as to maintain US control over the region’s resources in an age of diminishing access to cheap oil.

Although it is tempting to prioritise human rights as the yardstick according to which the parties should be judged, by now there should be little doubt that the conflicts unfolding in the Middle East are not about the promotion of rights.

Syria offers all the clues we need.

The agents trying to overthrow Assad in Syria are no longer civil society groups and democracy activists. They were too small in number and too weak to bring about change or threaten the Assad regime. Instead, whatever civil war there may initially have been has transformed into a proxy war. (In a closed society like Syria, it is of course almost impossible to know what drove the initial opposition – was it a fight for greater human rights, or growing dissatisfaction with the regime concerning other issues, such as food shortages and population displacements that were themselves a consequence of long-term processes triggered by climate change?)

A coalition of the US, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states, Turkey and Israel exploited those initial challenges to the Syrian regime, seeing them as an opening. They did not do so to help democracy activists but to advance their own, largely shared agendas. They used Sunni jihadist groups like al-Qaeda and ISIS to advance their interests, which depend on the break-up of the Syrian state and its replacement by a void that empowers them while disempowering their enemies in the region.

Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states want Iran and its Shia allies weakened; Turkey wants a freer hand against Kurdish dissident groups in Syria and elsewhere; and Israel wants to foster the forces of sectarianism in the Middle East to undermine pan-Arab nationalism, thereby ensuring its regional hegemony will go unchallenged.

The agents trying to stabilise Syria are the regime itself, Russia, Iran and Hizbollah. Their concern is to use whatever force is necessary to repel the agents of anarchy and restore the regime’s dominance.

Neither side can be characterised as “good”. There are no “white hats” in this gunfight. But there is clearly a side to prefer if the yardstick is minimising not only the current suffering in Syria but also future suffering in the region.

The agents of stability want to rebuild Syria and strengthen it as part of a wider Shia bloc. In practice, their policy would achieve – even if it does not directly aim for – a regional balance of forces, similar to the stand-off between the US and Russia in the Cold War. It is not ideal, but it is far preferable to the alternative policy pursued by the agents of anarchy. They want key states in the Middle East to implode, as has already happened in Iraq and Libya and has been partially achieved in Syria.

We know the consequences of this policy: massive sectarian bloodspilling, huge internal population displacement and the creation of waves of refugees who head towards the relative stability of Europe, the seizure and dispersal of military arsenals that spur yet more fighting, and the inspiration of more militant and reactionary ideologies like that of ISIS.

If Syria falls, it will not become Switzerland. And if it falls, it will not be the end of the “war on terror”. Next, these agents of anarchy will move on to Lebanon and Iran, spreading yet more death and destruction.

Jonathan Cook won the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His website is www.jkcook.net.

Abbas Fears the Prisoners’ Hunger Strike; 6500 Political Prisoners in Israeli Jails

“Abbas is publicly supportive of the strikers, but in private he is said to want the protest over as quickly as possible. Reports at the weekend revealed that he had urged Egypt’s president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, to intercede with America and Israel to help.”

Global Research, May 02, 2017
Jonathan Cook

The Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas is due to meet Donald Trump in the White House on Wednesday to discuss reviving the long-cold corpse of the peace process.

Back home, things are heating up. There is anger in the West Bank, both on the streets and within the ranks of Abbas’s Fatah movement. The trigger is a two-week-old hunger strike by Palestinian prisoners.

Last Thursday, Palestinians shuttered their businesses in a show of solidarity, and the next day youths clashed with the Israeli army in a “day of rage”.

About a quarter of the 6,500 political prisoners held by Israel – almost all of them in Israeli territory, in violation of international law – are refusing food in protest at their degrading treatment. They want reforms to Israel’s industrial system of incarceration. Some 800,000 Palestinians – 40 per cent of males – have passed through Israel’s cells since 1967.

Israel hopes to break the prisoners’ spirits. It has locked up the leaders in solitary confinement, denied striking inmates access to a lawyer, taken away radios, and last week began confiscating salt rations – the only sustenance along with water the prisoners are taking.

The strike is led by Marwan Barghouti, the most senior Palestinian leader in jail – and the most popular, according to polls.

Abbas is publicly supportive of the strikers, but in private he is said to want the protest over as quickly as possible. Reports at the weekend revealed that he had urged Egypt’s president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, to intercede with America and Israel to help.

In part, Abbas fears the influence of Barghouti, a man often described as the Palestinian Nelson Mandela and seen as Abbas’s likely successor. Notably, the Palestinian president has repeatedly sidelined him within Fatah.

But Abbas is also concerned that the hunger strike will provoke violent clashes in the West Bank with Israeli security forces, damaging his efforts to persuade Trump to back his diplomatic campaign for Palestinian statehood.

Instead, he wants to prove he can snuff out any signs of what Trump might see as “terrorism”. That requires tight security cooperation with Israel.

The visit to Washington and the hunger strike have brought into sharp relief the biggest fault line in the Palestinian national movement.

Abbas’s strategy is strictly top-down. Its starting point is that western states – those that have consistently betrayed the Palestinian people over many decades – can now be trusted to help them attain a state.

From this dubious assumption, Abbas has sought to suppress anything that plays badly in western capitals. Pressure has only intensified under Trump.

By contrast, the “battle of empty stomachs” is evidence of a burgeoning bottom-up strategy, one of mass non-violent resistance. On this occasion, the demands are limited to prison reform, but the strike’s impact could spread.

Not least, the model of protest, should it succeed, might suggest its relevance to a Palestinian public disillusioned with Abbas’s approach. They too are living in cells of Israel’s devising, even if larger, open-air ones.

The starkly different logic of these two strategies is harder than ever to ignore.

To stand a hope of winning over the Trump administration, Abbas must persuade it that he is the sole voice of the Palestinians.

That means he must keep a lid on the hunger strike, encouraging it to fizzle out before prisoners start dying and Palestinian fury erupts across the occupied territories. His approach is reported to be creating severe tensions within Fatah.

Wishing only to add to those difficulties, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu demanded last week that Abbas halt financial aid to the prisoners’ families, calling it compensation for terrorism.

Abbas also feels compelled to assert himself against his Hamas rivals in Gaza. That is why last week he stopped funding the fuel needed to generate electricity there, having recently cut medical services and salaries to Gaza’s civil servants.

His hope is that, as he turns the screws, Hamas will be toppled or forced to submit to his rule.

But more probably, the fissure with Hamas will deepen, forcing the cornered Islamist movement into another bloody confrontation to break free of Israel’s decade-old blockade. These divisions, most Palestinians increasingly understand, weaken rather than strengthen their cause. Mass non-violent resistance such as the hunger strike, by contrast, has the potential to reunite Fatah and Hamas in struggle, and re-empower a weary Palestinian populace.

Reports have suggested that Barghouti has reached a deal with jailed Hamas leaders committing to just such a struggle in the occupied territories once Abbas has departed.

A popular struggle of non-violence – blocking settlement roads, marching to Jerusalem, tearing down walls – would be hard to characterise as terrorism, even for Trump. It is the Israeli army’s nightmare scenario, because it is the only confrontation for which it has no suitable response.

Such a campaign of civil disobedience, however, stands no chance of success so long as Abbas is there to undermine it – and insists on obediently chasing after illusions in Washington.

A version of this article first appeared in the National, Abu Dhabi.

Jonathan Cook won the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His books include “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His website is www.jonathan-cook.net.

US Embassy Relocation to Jerusalem ‘a War Crime’

Global Research, February 04, 2017
Jonathan Cook 31 January 2017
iStock 20492165 MD - American and Israeli flags

Analysts fear mixed signals from Trump administration may conceal a plan allowing the US ambassador to work out of Jerusalem 

From the windows of the grey, cube-shaped building that houses the US embassy in Tel Aviv, staff enjoy an undisturbed view out over the Mediterranean and a beach adorned in the summer with sunbeds and parasols.

Most days the only evidence of activity is outside on the pavement: A queue of Israelis snake out of a side door, clutching their documents and watched over by Israeli soldiers as they wait expectantly for a US travel visa.

The drab exterior offers no clues of the incendiary battle raging behind the scenes over whether the embassy’s days are numbered. Israel, and its allies in Donald Trump’s new administration, want to relocate the embassy to Jerusalem, 70km away.

The distance may be short but the move risks a political and diplomatic earthquake, according to most analysts.

Move ‘war crime’

If the Trump’s White House approves the relocation, it would overturn decades of international consensus on Jerusalem.

The message to the Palestinians and Arab world would be clear and provocative, said Nabil Shaath, a senior Palestinian official and former Palestinian foreign minister.

“Moving the embassy is the same as recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s united capital. It’s a war crime,” he told Al Jazeera.

There’s no way we or the Arab world could accept it. It would mean the end of the US as the broker of the peace process. We would fight back and mobilise the rest of the world against the move.

The Israeli army has been advising the government of Benjamin Netanyahu on the possible fallout too, according to a report last week in the Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth. A change of address would be seen as a US green light for Israel to extend its sovereignty over the city and its holy places, including the al-Aqsa mosque, in the view of Israeli military intelligence.

Reactions could include mass protests from the Islamic movements inside Israel; riots in the occupied Palestinian territories and neighbouring states such as Jordan, which is the official guardian of al-Aqsa; and the collapse of Mahmoud Abbas’ Palestinian Authority.

The Israeli army believes the move also risks inflaming the wider Muslim world and increasing the threat of terror attacks against Israeli and Jewish sites around the world.

UN protected zone

Tensions over Jerusalem have been high since the United Nations announced a partition plan in late 1947. It treated the city as an internationally protected zone, separate from the Jewish and Arab states it proposed in the rest of historic Palestine.

But months later, in a war that created Israel on the Palestinian homeland, Jerusalem was divided in two, under separate Israeli and Jordanian control.

In that period, Israel worked strenuously to pressure countries to set up embassies in West Jerusalem over stiff opposition from the US, said Nimrod Goren, the author of a book in Hebrew on the battles over the US embassy’s location.

“Initially, Washington stuck by the international consensus so strictly that its diplomats refused even to travel to Jerusalem for political meetings and ceremonies,” Goren, who heads Mitvim, a think-tank on Israeli foreign policy, told Al Jazeera.

But US resolve weakened through the 1950s as Israel’s main institutions, from the parliament to the president’s office, relocated to West Jerusalem.

Illegal annexation

A further turning point came in the early 1960s. “The US started to cultivate much closer ties with Israel, especially in defence matters,” he said. Washington turned a blind eye as Israel offered aid to poor, newly independent states in Africa and others in Latin America in return for establishing their embassies in Jerusalem.

By the time Israel invaded and occupied East Jerusalem in 1967, Goren observed, more than a third of the 54 diplomatic missions in Israel were located in the city.

When Israel formally annexed East Jerusalem in 1980, in violation of international law, declaring the entire city its “eternal, united capital”, the US again pressured states to move out of West Jerusalem. Only El Salvador and Costa Rica remained, until they too pulled out in 2006.

Another significant shift in Washington’s attitude followed the signing of the Oslo accords in 1994. Israel’s lobbyists worked hard to erode the significance of the accords, which, it was widely assumed, would entail the creation of a Palestinian state with its capital in East Jerusalem.

In 1995, the US Congress passed the Jerusalem Embassy Act, which recognised Jerusalem as the “capital” of Israel and required a change in the embassy’s location by May 1999 at the latest.

Daunting ramifications

Like Trump, Bill Clinton and George W Bush promised during their presidential campaigns to implement the Jerusalem Embassy Act. Yet, once in office, they baulked at the daunting ramifications.

The US president, as the chief broker in the Oslo process, could not afford to be seen pre-judging the outcome of negotiations on Jerusalem, the most contentious of the final-status issues.

The continuing sensitivity was evident during Barack Obama’s presidency.

He turned to the US Supreme Court in 2015 to strike down another Congressional measure designed to confer implicit US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The legislation would have entitled American parents of children born in Jerusalem to list “Israel” as the birthplace on their passports.

Last October, the White House also made a point of publicly correcting the dateline on a press release concerning an eulogy delivered by Obama at Shimon Peres’ funeral in Jerusalem. The press release was re-issued with the word “Israel” struck through.

Confusing signals

Will Trump take a different tack, or will he too relent on his embassy pledge now he is in office?

In an interview late on Thursday, Trump indicated that he was not in a hurry to approve the move. “I don’t want to talk about it yet. It’s too early,” he told Fox News.

The confusing signals from his officials since his inauguration more than a week ago have hinted at a clash behind the scenes, said Nathan Thrall, a Jerusalem-based analyst with the International Crisis Group, a conflict resolution think-tank.

“The truth is no one really knows what Trump will do, even veteran US diplomats,” he told Al Jazeera.

On the one hand, Trump and his closest advisers on the Middle East have gone out of their way to raise expectations. Trump has invested more political capital on the move taking place than his predecessors.

The difference in approach was underscored by his choice of ambassador to Israel. David Friedman, a former bankruptcy lawyer, is more an ideological partisan – an ally of the settlers – than a diplomat, noted Yossi Alpher, who served as an adviser to former Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak.

Fear of backlash

At the same time, however, Trump is certain to face strong institutional resistance from the US state department, said Thrall. Its officials have long opposed moving the embassy, fearing the consequences for US relations with the Arab world.

Last month, citing national security considerations, Obama signed a presidential waiver included in the Jerusalem Embassy Act to postpone for another six months the law’s implementation – as has happened without fail since it passed 22 years ago.

Trump could use Obama’s waiver to save face by delaying a decision until at least June, observed Goren.

It is possible too that, despite Israeli celebrations over Trump’s promise on the embassy, Netanyahu may prefer in the end to let the matter lie for a while.

“There seems to be an ambivalence among Netanyahu’s circle,” said Thrall. “On the one hand, he has a lot of problems on his plate at the moment [with a series of corruption investigations] and doesn’t need the possibility of triggering a conflagration in the region. And on the other, there’s no great gain for him. If the US moves the embassy, European states will not follow.”

That is how Palestinian officials and diplomats in Jerusalem appear to be reading recent comments from the administration. Shaath said: “We have signs that the administration has retreated a little. But it may simply be a delay. We can’t be sure.”

Hunt for work-around

A European diplomat based in Israel, speaking to Al Jazeera on condition of anonymity, said: “It looks like Trump’s bark may have been worse than his bite. But there’s still a danger that [US ambassador] Friedman and Netanyahu will find a work-around.”

Morton Klein, the head of the Zionist Organisation of American, one of Israel’s key Israel lobby groups in Washington, told the Haaretz daily last week that Friedman had told him he would work out of US offices in Jerusalem.

Alpher suggested a possible scenario might be for Friedman to take over a section of the US consulate in Jerusalem, which serves the occupied territories. The US embassy could then function separately in Tel Aviv.

“If American Jewish leaders are insistent that the embassy moves, I could see the [Trump] administration choosing that as a compromise,” he said.

Shaath said such a manoeuvre should fool no one. “We would not accept any sort of so-called compromise along those lines. If the ambassador is working from Jerusalem, then the embassy has moved – and we will fight it.”

The Proxy War on Syria: the culprits and their intentions ~ [part 5]

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We have published and re-published, over the past years, many posts about the “Proxy War” against Syria, but this series of five articles by the Belgian author Bas Spliet, in our opinion sums up well the whole matter, from the beginning to the present day. (SFP-WP)

NOTE: this is the last part of a five-part series entitled ‘The proxy war on Syria‘. To consult the previous four parts click here

the-proxy-war-on-syria


 

By Bas Spliet, ScrutinisedMinds

The so-called Syrian “civil war” is not in any way, shape, or form a natural development. The US, NATO and their regional allies (Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, Jordan, and Israel) have played a key role in the emergence of all anti-Syrian extremist groups, including Daesh (or IS/ISIS/ISIL). Without foreign involvement, this war would simply not have occurred. Consequently, if the ongoing financial, armaments-, and ideological support to the insurgents would finally be brought to a halt, the suffering of the Syrian people will be over soon.

Rather than a conflict between Syrians, this is a war on Syria. Because an Iraqi-style invasion was off the table since the public is reluctant to boots on the ground, the foreign powers involved decided to wage a proxy war in which each has its own role. While the US, Qatar and Saudi Arabia arm and fund death squads that serve as proxy armies to overthrow the Syrian government, Turkey and Jordan host military bases in which the CIA and US special forces train Syrian “rebels” (including later Daesh militants) and serve as crossing points for foreign jihadis (see part 3). Besides training and funneling arms to the insurgents, the US – and the West in general – is responsible for shaping public opinion in support of the war. A final co-conspirator that should not go unmentioned is Israel. The Zionist state has a more hidden hand in this proxy war, as it can use its powerful lobby groups in the US to push its agenda.

The big question of course remains: what’s at stake?

Pipeline geopolitics

Although wars for resources are illegal under the UN charter, petroleum issues appear to play a major role in much of the global conflicts of recent decades. As journalist John Foster brilliantly stated: “Where there is war, oil, gas and pipelines are never far away.” Indeed, when you look beneath the surface of the wars in Iraq, Libya, Ukraine and Afghanistan, you will find oil, gas, and contested pipeline routes.[1]

The same is true in the case of Syria. All regional powers that have in one way or another been crucial in the rise of the armed opposition in Syria – Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Turkey – have one major thing in common: they are all eager to construct a gas pipeline to the European market that would cross through their countries. In 2000, Qatar proposed to construct a pipeline from the world’s richest gas repository it shares with Iran to Europe. The proposed route for the pipeline would pass through Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria, and Turkey, all of which would of course profit extensively from transit fees. The EU and Turkey were particularly anxious, as the project would relieve them from Russian gas, of which they are the biggest consumers.[2]

Syria, however, rejected the pipeline deal in 2009, as Qatari gas would undermine the gas export to Europe of its longtime ally Russia. Instead, Assad decided to back another pipeline project, which would transport gas from the Iranian side of the Persian Gulf gas field through Iraq and Syria to the ports of Lebanon. This would make Shia Iran, not Sunni Qatar, the principal supplier of gas to Europe, which further enraged Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the US.[3] The Iran-Iraq-Syria pipeline would also jeopardise another Western-backed gas transportation project, the Nabucco pipeline, which is set to connect Azerbaijan gas with Europe through Turkey.[4]

The American role in these obscure political games should not be underestimated. In 2001, then US Vice President Dick Cheney presented a report published by the Council on Foreign Relations and the James Baker Institute for Public Policy – two of Washington’s most prominent think tanks – that hinted Iraq’s oil policy to be a threat to America’s national “energy security.” By now, it is widely acknowledged that opening up Persian Gulf energy resources to the world economy was a primary mover for the 2003 invasion of Iraq.[5] In 2008, by the time the US had left the country in ruins, RAND Corporation – another influential US think tank – reaffirmed that control over the Persian Gulf resources remained “a strategic priority” in America’s “long war.”[6] To extent this control, the think tank recommended the US 1) to support “conservative Sunni regimes” (i.e. the Gulf monarchies) and 2) to employ a “divide and rule” strategy by using nationalist jihadis as proxy-forces.[7] Indeed, this is exactly what the US has been doing in Syria.

The balkanisation of the Middle East

Although pipeline politics was certainly one of the, if not the, covert cause of the proxy war, there is a more long-term objective, too: the breaking up of Syria. After decades of imperialism in the Middle East, Syria remains the only stronghold of secular Arab independence, which makes her an obvious target for the powers that shouldn’t be. As hinted by retired four-star US General Wesley Clark, who served as NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander during the 1999 Kosovo war, Syria was already on the Pentagon drawing board during the very onset of the fraudulent “war on terror.” When he was interviewed by Amy Goodman of Democracy Now in 2007, he said that in the aftermath of the 2001 9/11 attacks a general of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told him that the Ministry of Defense had decided that “we are going to take out seven countries in five years, starting with Iraq, and then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and finishing off [with] Iran.”[8] Accordingly, as revealed by Wikileaks cables, William Roebuck, at the time chargé d’affaires at the US embassy in Damascus, advised his superiors in 2006 to effectively destabilise the Syrian government by coordinating more closely with Egypt and Saudi Arabia to fan the flames of sectarian tensions between Sunni and Shia Muslims in Syria.[9] Essentially, this cable puts the groundwork for fomenting a civil war five years before the actual eruption of violence. These two revelations are of course only words and should not be interpreted as solid evidence. However, it does give a stimulation to dig a little deeper.

In early 2016, US Secretary of State John Kerry suggested that if the Geneva peace talks fail, partitioning Syria “may be the best way to end the war.”[10] UN special envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura, however, acknowledged that both the Syrian government and the armed opposition groups present at the Geneva peace talks reject federalism, let alone partition.[11] As balkanising Syria would happen along sectarian lines, and as it would leave a large amount of the country’s national resources to only a small percentage of the Syrian population, endless conflict between weakened enclaves would be the expected outcome.[12] So, if breaking up Syria is a recipe for never-ending war and is opposed by almost all Syrians, why did Kerry brought it up?

Well, how do you figure out the real objective of US foreign policy? Look at their think tanks of course. Indeed, six months prior to Kerry’s statement the Brookings Institute argued for the establishment of Western-backed safe zones, which would eventually develop into more or less autonomous area’s.[13] In October 2015, the author of the Brookings article, Michael O’Hanlon, specified his vision of Syrian balkanisation:

“One largely Alawite (Assad’s own sect) [sector], spread along the Mediterranean coast; another Kurdish, along the north and northeast corridors near the Turkish border; a third primarily Druse, in the southwest; a fourth largely made up of Sunni Muslims; and then a central zone of intermixed groups in the country’s main population belt from Damascus to Aleppo.”[14]

From 2013 onwards, variations to this plan (e.g. a threefold partition into an Alawitistan and Kurdistan aside from a Sunni heartland) have repeatedly been proposed by US establishment figures.[15] Kerry’s “plan B” thus sounds an awful lot like the “plan A” of a number of US strategists, policy makers, and imperialist organs. The fact that upper neocons like Henry Kissinger and John Bolton have supported the breaking up of Syria as the best possible outcome should tell you enough.

The idea to weaken a sovereign nation by exploiting sectarian division, ethnic tension and internal violence is not new. The US and its allies have used the tactic throughout history in various parts of the globe, including in Africa, Latin America, and the Balkans. In the case of the Middle East, the carving up of the Arab world was brought up for the first time in Anglo-American strategist circles by British-American historian Bernard Lewis. Lewis, a British military intelligence officer during World War II and longtime supporter of the Israeli right, wrote an article as far back as 1992 called Rethinking the Middle East – published in Foreign Affairs, the quarterly of the Council on Foreign Relations – in which he predicted the “lebanonisation” of the Middle East:

“Most of the states of the Middle East – Egypt is an obvious exception – are of recent and artificial construction [sic][16] and are vulnerable to [“lebanonisation”]. If the central power is sufficiently weakened, there is no real civil society to hold the polity together, no real sense of common national identity or overriding allegiance to the nation-state. [sic][17] The state then disintegrates – as happened in Lebanon – into a chaos of squabbling feuding, fighting sects, tribes, regions and parties.”[18]

According to Lewis, American policy is mainly aimed at preventing regional hegemony (whether in the form of pan-Arabism or in the form of one strong regional power) that would establish monopolistic control over the Middle Eastern oil reserves. The US does not pursue this policy of “lebanonisation” in a classical imperial fashion, hints Lewis, but instead by invigorating Islamic fundamentalism, as religious opposition groups are the only ones that have at their disposal a network outside the control of the state.[19]

This is essentially what happened in Iraq, and what is happening now in Syria. The US and its allies are doing everything they can to exploit sectarian tensions in order to break up existing sovereign Arab nations into small and inter-fighting weakened microstates. The very first time this tactic was described in detail, however, was not by an American strategist, but an Israeli one. To understand why all the above-mentioned leads back to an Israeli paper, a deeper look into Israel’s role in Middle Eastern conflicts is essential, however.

Divide and conquer: Israel’s role behind the scenes[20]

“Senior IDF officers and those close to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, such as National Security Advisor Ephraim Halevy, paint a rosy picture of the wonderful future Israel can expect after the war [with Iraq]. They envision a domino effect, with the fall of Saddam Hussein followed by that of Israel’s other enemies: [the PLO’s Yasser] Arafat, [Hezbollah’s] Hassan Nasrallah, [Syria’s] Bashar Assad, the ayatollah in Iran and maybe even [Libya’s] Muhammar Gaddafi.”[21]

Aluf Benn in Ha’aretz, one month before the US invasion of Iraq

“After the war in Iraq, Israel will try to convince the US to direct its war on terror at Iran, Damascus and Beirut.”[22]

Uzi Benziman in Ha’aretz’, just after the US invasion of Iraq started

The power of the Israel lobby in the United States is like an elephant in the room: it is practically impossible to disregard its presence, but still, people are afraid to talk about it. For those of you that are not aware of the power of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and their fellow Zionist lobbyists, I strongly recommend you to read The Israel lobby and U.S. foreign policy, an in depth article by distinguished American professors John Maersheimer and Stephen Walt that is essential in understanding Israel’s role in past and current crises in the Middle East.[23] The two professors, both specialised in international relations, came to the conclusion that the central focus of US foreign policy in the Middle East is not in its own national interest, but instead lies in its relationship with Israel.[24] Writing at the height of the US occupation of Iraq in 2006, Maersheimer and Walt put forward a myriad of evidence that Israeli pressure in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks was absolutely crucial in the final push towards Washington’s decision to invade Iraq.[25]

British-Israeli journalist Jonathan Cook further corroborates this thesis in his eye-opening book Israel and the clash of civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the plan to remake the Middle East. When the US invaded Iraq in 2003, Cook argues, it broke with its traditional policy of rewarding and punishing strongmen and resorted instead to regime overthrow and direct occupation. This policy change, which predictably brought sectarian divide with it, was opposed by the oil industry as well as the US State Department, however, as both preferred the old tactic of replacing Saddam Hussein with another US handpicked dictator. Rather than the oil giants, Cook concludes, it was the Israel lobby that persuaded the neocons that this new policy of invasion and occupation would be beneficial not only to Israel, but to American interests too.[26]

As substantiated above by Gen. Wesley Clark, but also by Maersheimer and Walt’s paper[27] and by many other analysts and commentators, the neocons and Israel never had the intention to end the “war on terror” after Iraq and Afghanistan were left in ruins. Rather, they saw war with Iraq as the first step in an ambitious campaign to remake the Middle East. With Saddam Hussein out of the way, they turned their sights on Israel’s other regional adversaries, Iran and Syria.

As was the case with the invasion and occupation of Iraq, Israel’s role in the current Syria debacle at first seems minimal. Indeed, aside from a few occasional airstrikes,[28] giving medical treatment to wounded jihadis,[29] and once in a while funneling weapons to Syrian rebels,[30] it does not have a direct role in the proxy war. That does not mean that Israel is not a fierce supporter of Assad’s overthrow, however. Israel would undoubtedly gain significantly from the breaking up of Syria, which has always – contrary to many of its fellow Arab states – remained a fierce opponent of the Zionist state. With regards to the Golan Heights, occupied by Israel since 1967, the destabilisation of Syria could allow Israel to finalise the land grab it started decades ago. Also, the Israeli government has recently granted a US company the right to explore oil and natural gas in the Golan Heights.[31] If Syria ceases to exist as a sovereign state, and Israel’s illegal annexation of the area is no longer contested, opposition against this move might fade away too. More importantly, Israel is afraid of the so-called Shia land bridge, which connects their propped up number one enemy, Iran, with Hezbollah through Iraq and Syria. The destabilisation of Syria and the consequent breaking up of the Shia land bridge would not only kill the Iran-Iraq-Syria pipeline project, it would also destroy or further isolate three of Israel’s main enemies: Syria, Hezbollah, and Iran.

Last but not least, Israel would be the first in line to benefit from the disintegration of sovereign Arab nations, because as long as Arabs fight among each other, they cannot, and will not, unite in their struggle against Zionism. This brings us back to where we dwelt off: the balkanisation of the Middle East. Oded Yinon, an Israeli journalist with a past in Israel’s Foreign Ministry, published the very first detailed plan to break up Iraq and Syria along sectarian lines in the journal of the World Zionist Organisation in 1982, long before it gradually found its way to Anglo-American think tanks.[32] The paper, called A strategy for Israel in the nineteen eighties, argues that in order for Israel to become an imperial regional power, it must effect the division of all existing Arab nations into microstates based on ethnicity or religion. Consequently, Arabs would be left inter-fighting and severely weakened, which would enable Israel to “ottomanise” the Middle East: that is, recreate the state of affairs that existed before the arrival of the European colonists, but with Israel replacing the Ottoman Empire as the dominant power exercising hegemony.[33]

If Israel achieves its objective of becoming the uncontested ruler over the Middle East, it might be able to realise its dream of “Greater Israel,” which according to Zionism’s founding father, Theodor Herzl, extends all the way “from the Brook of Egypt [i.e. the Nile] to the Euphrates.”[34] The actual annexation of such a large piece of the Arab world is of course (or so I hope) likely never to happen. But still, “Greater Israel” is very much present in Zionist mythology.[35] Therefore, as biblical references and mythology are often used in legitimising the Zionist colonisation of Palestine, the dream of “Greater Israel” might as well serve as an incentive to destroy all of Israel’s neighbour states, regardless of the human lives it would cost to achieve it.

To date, the Yinon plan is the most explicit, detailed and unambiguous Zionist strategy for the Middle East. Its significance for Syria is enhanced by its date of publication, as it is written around the time of the US-backed 1982 Muslim Brotherhood’s insurgency at Hama, where sectarian tensions were exploited on a similar level as today. According to Yinon:

“Lebanon’s total dissolution into five provinces serves as a precedent for the entire Arab world including Egypt, Syria, Iraq and the Arabian peninsula. […] The dissolution of Syria and Iraq into ethnically or religiously unique areas such as in Lebanon, is Israel’s primary target on the Eastern front in the long run, while the dissolution of the military power of those states serves as the primary short term target. Syria will fall apart, in accordance with its ethnic and religious structure, into several states such as in present day Lebanon, so that there will be a Shi’ite Alawi state along its coast, a Sunni state in the Aleppo area, another Sunni state in Damascus hostile to its northern neighbor, and the Druzes who will set up a state, maybe even in our Golan.”[36] (emphasis added)

Ironically, according to Yinon, “this state of affairs will be the guarantee for peace and security in the area in the long run.”[37] I wish he could have personally told that to the family members of the hundreds of thousands of dead Syrians, let alone to those of the over a million Iraqi war casualties. Indeed, imperial Zionists are only interested in “peace and security” for Israel, i.e. the downfall of everyone who denounces Zionism, i.e. the dissolution of all independent Arab states, i.e. Israeli hegemony in the Middle East.

This is not just an old plan which “conspiracy theorists” recovered from the dust bin. Yinon’s strategy falls perfectly in line not just with what has happened to the Middle East since its publication, but, as we saw in the previous paragraph, it also corresponds to many statements made over the years by both Israeli and US-NATO strategists, think tanks and officials. Most recently, Israel’s right-wing Defense Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, reiterated that the balkanisation of the Middle East would be vital to Israel’s “national security” in December 2016:

“Many of the countries in the Middle East were established artificially, as a result of the Sykes-Picot Agreement and based on colonial considerations that did not take into account the pattern of inhabitance and the deep sectarian rifts within the respective societies. Thus, to genuinely solve the region’s problems, borders will have to be altered, specifically in countries like Syria and Iraq. Boundaries need to be redrawn between Sunnis, Shia and other communities to diminish sectarian strife and to enable the emergence of states that will enjoy internal legitimacy. It is a mistake to think that these states can survive in their current borders.”[38]

Taking all of this into account, it might be easier to grasp why Efraim Inbar, an Israeli think tank director, believes that the destruction of Daesh would be a strategic mistake for his country, saying that “allowing bad guys to kill bad guys sounds very cynical, but it is useful and even moral to do so if it keeps the bad guys busy and less able to harm the good guys.”[39] It also might be easier to understand a leaked email from US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton from 2012:

“The best way to help Israel deal with Iran’s growing nuclear capability is to help the people of Syria overthrow the regime of Bashar Assad. […] It is the strategic relationship between Iran and the regime of Bashar Assad in Syria that makes it possible to undermine Israel’s security. […] The end of the Assad regime would end this dangerous alliance. […] The rebellion has now lasted more than a year. The opposition is not going away, nor is the regime going to accept a diplomatic solution from outside. With his life and his family at risk, only the threat or use of force will change the Syrian dictator Bashar Assad’s mind.”[40] (emphasis added)

In other words, as the New Observer put it: “Destroy Syria for Israel.”[41]

Conclusion

The decision to invade and occupy Iraq was only made when two neocon goals, US control of oil on the one hand and Israeli regional dominance on the other, merged together in one shared vision.[42] Similarly, I would argue that both pipeline geopolitics and the US-Israeli goal of balkanising the Middle East were on their own necessary but insufficient conditions for this proxy war to take root. Only when the opportunity presented itself after Syria refused the Qatari gas pipeline, but also when other factors – like the Arab Spring protests and the Gulf’s desire to export Islamist fundamentalism across the region – merged together with the US-Israeli desire to break up Syria, could this conspiracy unfold. Therefore, not too much effort should be put in figuring out who is dominating who. It is more important to understand that the US, NATO and Israel work together as one force, and with their regional allies, in destroying Syria. This force – or more accurately, the powers behind it – are trying to achieve global dominance by systematically targeting independent nations. Syria, however, is one of the few nations left that stands defiant against giving up its pride and sovereignty. For instance, it still has a state-owned central bank, is not in debt with the IMF, and has banned genetically modified seeds.[43] Unfortunately, the Syrian population has paid a high price for being proud of their independence. Coupled with the dire consequences of US and EU sanctions (that punish ordinary Syrians instead of the government, as acknowledged by the UN),[44] the brutal proxy war has left millions of Syrians impoverished and starved, millions displaced, and hundreds of thousands dead.

Syria is not the first country that has been targeted in the war of terror, though. Over the last 15 years alone, The US-NATO-Israel alliance has been responsible for making life for the Palestinians even more unbearable; for the ongoing bloodshed in Afghanistan, a direct result of the US invasion and occupation; for destroying Iraq, leaving over a million of its inhabitants dead; for turning Libya from Africa’s richest country into to a failed state; and now for openly provoking war with Iran. Since 1945, the US has launched countless overt and covert campaigns to overthrow sovereign governments, in which it is responsible for the deaths of an estimated 20 to 30 million people.[45] And yet, we keep giving them moral authority over the world. Time and time again, we fall for the same trap, thinking that the annihilation of yet another nation is yet another miscalculated mistake. Is this not the definition of pure insanity?

Where is this leading? What are the ramifications of the war on Syria on a global scale? Are we heading towards a World War III scenario? And more importantly, what is the solution? I guess an afterword is necessary.


Notes

[1] John Foster, “Where there is war, oil, gas and pipelines are never far away,” The Ecologist, 04.03.2014, http://theecologist.org.

[2] If you want to read more about the overlapping history of imperialism and pipeline geopolitics in Syria, I highly recommend Robert F. Kennedy’s (cousin of late US President John F. Kennedy) article “Syria: another pipeline war,” Eco Watch, 25.02.2016, http://ecowatch.com.

[3] Kennedy, “Syria: another pipeline war.”

[4] Greg, “The destabilization of Syria – who gains?”, Passion For Liberty, 14.09.2013, http://passionforliberty.com.

[5] Nafeez Ahmed, “Iraqi invasion was about oil,”  Guardian, 20.03.2014, http://theguardian.com.

[6] Christopher Pernin et al., Unfolding the future of the long war: motivations, prospects, and implications for the U.S. army (Santa Monica: RAND Corporation, 2008), 174.

[7] Pernin et al., Summary of Unfolding the future of the long war, 16.

[8] Amy Goodman, interview with Wesley Clark, Daily Show, Democracy Now, 02.03.2007, available online: “Gen. Wesley Clark weighs presidential bid: ‘I think about it every day’,” Democracy Now, 02.03.2007, http://democracynow.org.

[9] William Roebuck, “Influencing the SARG in the end of 2006,” 13.12.2006 (Wikileaks, Cable 06 Damascus 5399 a).

[10] Patrick Wintour, “John Kerry says partition of Syria could be part of ‘plan B’ if peace talks fail,” Guardian, 23.02.2016, http://theguardian.com.

[11] “Syria government, opposition reject federal system: De Mistura,” Press TV, 17.03.2016, http://presstv.ir.

[12] Maram Susli, “Kerry’s plan at balkanizing Syria,” New Eastern Outlook, 29.03.2016, http://journal-neo.org.

[13] Michael O’Hanlon, “Deconstructing Syria: a new strategy for America’s most hopeless war,” The Brookings Institute, 30.06.2015, http://brookings.edu.

[14] Michael O’Hanlon, “Syria’s one hope may be as dim as Bosnia’s once was,” Reuters, 06.10.2015, http://blogs.reuters.com.

[15] Brandon Turbeville, “Kurdish ‘federalization’ reminiscent of Kerry’s plan B, Brzezinski, NATO plan A,” Activist Post, 18.03.2016, http://activistpost.com; Steven MacMillan, “Creating Sunnistan: Foreign Affairs calls for Syria and Iraq to be balkanized,” New Eastern Outlook, 31.12.2015, http://journal-neo.org.

[16] Contrary to what is often asserted, Syria is an exception too. The term Syria dates back to Roman times, and has been used to describe the area for thousands of years. If Syria is not a historical state, no state is.

[17] The previous articles of this series have shown that there is a very strong sense of national identity, and that the Syrian government enjoys major popular support, in spite of the fact that it is severely weakened.

[18] Bernard Lewis, “Rethinking the Middle East,” Foreign Affairs 71, no. 4 (1992): 116-7.

[19] Lewis, “Rethinking the Middle East,” 107-16.

[20] Please note that this is by far the most controversial part of this series. There exists a taboo on scrutiny of Israel in academia and mainstream press, especially in the US. However, the true reasons behind the proxy war on Syria would not be fully revealed – at least in my opinion – if I would leave aside Israel’s role behind the scenes. I would like to stress with the strongest possible emphasis that this part is not in any way, shape or form motivated by antisemitism (after all, Arabs are Semites too), nor by any other kind of hatred. To the contrary, I regard all my fellow humans as equal, and it is precisely that principle which encouraged me to write about topics like these.

[21] Aluf Benn, “Background enthusiastic IDF awaits war in Iraq,” Ha’aretz, 16.02.2003, http://haaretz.com.

[22] Uzi Benziman, “Corridors of power – who will give the go-ahead?”, Ha’aretz, 21.03.2003, http://haaretz.com.

[23] John Maersheimer and Stephen Walt, “The Israel lobby and U.S. foreign policy,” Middle East Policy 13, no. 3 (2006): 29-87.

[24] Maersheimer and Walt, “The Israel lobby and U.S. foreign policy,” 30.

[25] Maersheimer and Walt, “The Israel lobby and U.S. foreign policy,” 53-8.

[26] Jonathan Cook, preface to Israel and the clash of civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the plan to remake the Middle East (London: Pluto Press, 2008), 13-4.

[27] Maersheimer and Walt, “The Israel lobby and U.S. foreign policy,” 58-61.

[28] “Israel joins forces with ISIS? Tel Aviv bombs Syria for sixth time in 18 months,” 21st Century Wire, 20.01.2015, http://21stcenturywire.com; Leith Fadel, “Israeli air force attacks Syrian army in the Golan Heights,” Al-Masdar News, 17.09.2016, http://almasdarnews.com.

[29] “Report: Israel treating al-Qaida fighters wounded in Syria civil war,” The Jerusalem Post, 13.03.2015, http://jpost.com.

[30] See for instance: Majd Fahd, “Syria’s security forces confiscate huge amount of Israeli ammo,” Al-Masdar News, 27.04.2016, http://almasdarnews.com; “Large amounts of munitions, including Israeli-made weapons, seized in western Sweida,” SANA, 14.02.2016, http://sana.sy.

[31] Daniel Graeber, “Cheney-linked company to drill in occupied Golan Heights,” Oil Price, 22.02.2013, http://oilprice.com.

[32] Oded Yinon, “A strategy for Israel in the nineteen eighties,” Kivunim, translated by Israel Shahak (Massachusetts: Association of Arab-American University Graduates, 1982).

[33] Noam Chomsky, Fateful triangle: The United States, Israel, and the Palestinians (London: Pluto Press, 1999), 767.

[34] Theodor Herzl, Complete Diaries of Theodor Herzl, vol. 2 (New York: Herzl Press, 1960), 711.

[35] According to several passages in the Old Testament, the ancient kingdom of Israel allegedly compromised a large part of the Middle East – including parts of present-day Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Palestine, Iraq, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia – under David and Solomon. The map of this “Greater Israel” is also projected on the smallest Israeli coin, the 10 agora. Furthermore, almost 70 years after its inception, Israel has not yet defined its borders.

[36] Yinon, “A strategy for Israel in the nineteen eighties,” paragraph 22.

[37] Yinon, “A strategy for Israel in the nineteen eighties,” paragraph 22.

[38] Avigdor Lieberman, “Israel’s national security in a turbulent Middle East,” Defense News, 02.12.2016, http://defensenews.com.

[39] Efraim Inbar, “The destruction of the Islamic State is a strategic mistake,” BESA Center Perspectives, paper no. 352 (2016).

[40] Hillary Clinton, “New Iran and Syria 2.doc,” 2012

 

(Wikileaks, Hillary Clinton Email Archive, U.S. Department of State, case no. F-2014-20439, doc no. C05794498).

[41] “Clinton: destroy Syria for Israel,” The New Observer, 22.05.2016, http://newobserveronline.com.

[42] Cook, Israel and the clash of civilisations, 86-91.

[43] Adrian Salbuchi, “Why the US, UK, EU & Israel hate Syria,” RT, 09.09.2013, http://rt.com.

[44] Rania Khalek, “U.S. and EU sanctions are punishing ordinary Syrians and crippling aid work, U.N. report reveals,” The Intercept, 28.09.2016, http://theintercept.com.

[45] James Lucas, “Study: U.S. regime has killed 20-30 million people since World War Two,” Signs of the Times, 24.04.2007, http://sott.net.


SOURCES:
By Bas Spliet, ScrutinisedMinds
Submitted by SyrianPatriot 
War Press Info Network at :
https://syrianfreepress.wordpress.com/2016/12/29/proxy-war-syria-5/
~

israeli rabbis launch war on Christmas tree

Shopping for Christmas trees and glitter in Tel Aviv. The shop has been repeatedly heckled for selling these emblems of Christmas. Photo by Ben Sales/JTA

Israeli rabbis launch war on Christmas tree

Jerusalem hotels receive warning letter noting that Jewish religious law forbids Christmas trees and new year’s parties

By Jonathan Cook, his blog and Al Jazeera
December 23, 2016

As tens of thousands of Christian pilgrims converge on the Holy Land this week to celebrate the birth of Jesus, senior Israeli rabbis have announced a war on the Christmas tree.

In Jerusalem, the rabbinate has issued a letter warning dozens of hotels in the city that it is “forbidden” by Jewish religious law to erect a tree or stage new year’s parties.

Many hotel owners have taken the warning to heart, fearful that the rabbis may carry out previous threats to damage their businesses by denying them certificates declaring their premises to be “kosher”.

In the coastal city of Haifa, in northern Israel, the rabbi of Israel’s premier technology university has taken a similarly strict line. Elad Dokow, the Technion’s rabbi, ordered that Jewish students boycott their students’ union, after it installed for the first time a modest Christmas tree.

He called the tree “idolatry”, warning that it was a “pagan” symbol that violated the kosher status of the building, including its food hall.

About a fifth of the Technion’s students belong to Israel’s large Palestinian minority.

Issa Kassissieh, a former professional basketball player, is Jerusalem’s Santa Claus. Photo by Jessica Steinberg/Times of Israel

 

While most of Israel’s Palestinian citizens are Muslim, there are some 130,000 Christians, most of them living in Galilee. Other Palestinian Christians live under occupation in East Jerusalem, which Israel has annexed in violation of international law.

“This is not about freedom of worship,” Dokow told the Technion’s students. “This is the world’s only Jewish state. And it has a role to be a ‘light unto the nations’ and not to uncritically embrace every idea.”

Rabea Mahajni, a 24-year-old electrical engineering student, said that placing the tree in the union was backed by Palestinian students but had strongly divided opinion among Jewish students and staff. The majority, he said, were against the decision.

“One professor upset [Palestinian] students by taking to Facebook to say that the tree made him uncomfortable, and that those who wanted it should either put one up in their own home or go to Europe,” he told Al Jazeera.

Mahajni added: “This is not really about a Christmas tree. It is about who the tree represents. It is a test of whether Jewish society is willing to accept an Arab minority and our symbols.”

He pointed out that Palestinian students had not objected to the students’ union also marking Hanukkah, referring to the Jewish winter “festival of lights” that this year coincides with Christmas.

Interest in Santa hats

For most of Israel’s history, the festive fir tree was rarely seen outside a handful of communities in Israel with significant Christian populations. But in recent years, the appeal of Christmas celebrations has spread among secular Israeli Jews.

Interest took off two decades ago, after one million Russian-speaking Jews immigrated following the fall of the Soviet Union, said David Bogomolny, a spokesman for Hiddush, which lobbies for religious freedom in Israel.

Many, he told Al Jazeera, had little connection to Jewish religious practice and had adopted local customs in their countries of origin instead.

“The tree [in the former Soviet Union] was very popular but it had nothing to do with Christmas,” he said. “Each home had one as a way to welcome in the new year.”

Nazareth, which claims to host the tallest Christmas tree in the Middle East, has recently become a magnet for many domestic tourists, including Jews, Christians and Muslims. They come to visit the Christmas market, hear carols and buy a Santa hat.


Santa hats are particularly popular at Christmas markets, this one in the Wadi Nisnas neighbourhood of Haifa. Photo by Jorge Novominsky/FLASH90

Haifa and Jaffa, two largely Jewish cities with significant Palestinian Christian populations, have recently started competing. Jaffa, next to Tel Aviv, staged its first Christmas market last year.

Meanwhile, hotels are keen to erect a tree in their lobbies as a way to boost tourism revenue from Christian pilgrims, who comprise the bulk of overseas visitors.

‘No danger’ to Judaism

But the growing popularity of Christmas has upset many Orthodox rabbis, who have significant powers over public space. Bogomolny said that some rabbis were driven by a desire to make the state “as Jewish as possible” to avert it losing its identity.

Others may fear that the proliferation of Christmas trees could lure Israeli Jews towards Christianity.

Wadie Abu Nassar, a spokesman for the Latin Patriarch in Jerusalem, said that he had noticed an increasing interest from Israeli Jews in Christian festivals, including in some cases requests to attend Christmas mass.

He told Al Jazeera this was not a threat to Judaism, but healthy curiosity. “If we want to live together in peace, we have to understand each other and learn to trust,” he said.

Tree-free Knesset


A Christmas tree in Jerusalem. The chief rabbis’ request appears to contradict guidelines issued by the Chief Rabbinate in 2015, stating that the kashrut certification of hotels could not be revoked based on music, photography, or the displaying of Christmas trees. The guidelines were implemented in response to a petition by Israeli NGO Hiddush*- For Religious Freedom and Equality, demanding that that the existing regulations be changed. Caption from jp updates, Photo by Nati Shohat/Flash90

The controversial status of Christmas in Israel was underscored four years ago when Yair Netanyahu, the 21-year-old son of Israel’s prime minister, caused a minor scandal by being photographed wearing a Santa hat next to a Christmas tree.

The office of Benjamin Netanyahu hurriedly issued a statement saying that Yair had posed as a joke while attending a party hosted by “Christian Zionists who love Israel, and whose children served in the [Israeli army]”.

Two years earlier, Shimon Gapso, the mayor of Upper Nazareth, originally founded for Jews on Nazareth’s land, banned all signs of Christmas in the city’s public places. He has been a vociferous opponent of an influx of Christians from overcrowded Nazareth.

The Israeli parliament, the Knesset, has also been declared a Christmas tree-free zone.

In 2013, its speaker rejected a request from Hanna Swaid, then a Palestinian Christian legislator, to erect a tree in the building. Yuli Edelstein said it would evoke “painful memories” of Jewish persecution in Europe and chip away at the state’s Jewish character.

Attack on religious freedoms

Swaid pointed to the prominence of Jewish symbols in public spaces in the United States, including an annual Hanukkah party at the White House, during which the president lights menorah candles.

“Israeli leaders expect the US to be religiously inclusive, but then they refuse to practise the same at home,” he told Al Jazeera.

He also noted that the religious freedoms of the Palestinian minority were under ever greater attack, most notably with the recent drafting of a so-called “muezzin bill”, which would crack down on mosques’ use of loudspeakers for the call to prayer.

“Given this hostile political climate, the battle to gain legitimacy for our religious symbols becomes all the more important,” he said. “Otherwise we face a dark future.”

Threat to kosher status

Nonetheless, there has been a backlash, especially from secular Jews, against the rigid control exercised by Orthodox rabbis.

Haifa’s mayor, Yona Yahav, overruled the city’s rabbi in 2012 when he tried to ban Christmas trees and new year’s parties. The Jewish new year occurs several months before the Christian one.

And last year, in the face of a legal challenge from Hiddush, the chief rabbinate backed down on threats to revoke the kosher status of businesses that celebrate Christmas.

But while the ban on Christmas trees has been formally lifted, in practice it is still widely enforced, according to Bogomolny.

“The problem is that the chief rabbinate actually has no authority over city rabbis, who can disregard its rulings, as we have seen with the letter issued by the Jerusalem rabbis,” he said.

Most hotels wanted to ignore the prohibition on Christmas trees because it was bad for business, but feared being punished.
“It is a problem throughout the country,” he said. “The hotels are afraid to take a stand. If they try to fight it through the courts, it will be costly and could take years to get a ruling.”

One hotel manager in West Jerusalem to whom Al Jazeera spoke on condition of anonymity said he feared “retaliation” from the rabbis.
“The letter was clearly intended to intimidate us,” he said. “The Christian tourists are here to celebrate Christmas and we want to help them do it, but not if it costs us our certificate.”

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