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.”

Trump May Kill Netanyahu With Kindness

Photo by thierry ehrmann | CC BY 2.0

Photo by thierry ehrmann | CC BY 2.0

Nazareth.

While the United States presidential election bitterly divided the American public, most Israelis were sanguine about the race. Both candidates – Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton – were keen to end eight years of icy mistrust between Barack Obama, the outgoing president, and Benjamin Netanyahu.

The Israeli prime minister should – at least on paper – be happier with Trump.

Netanyahu, elected four times, has always faced off with Democratic incumbents. Now he has not only a right-wing Republican in the White House but a Republican-dominated Congress too.

Standing guard over the relationship will be Sheldon Adelson, a US casino magnate who is Netanyahu’s most vocal supporter. It will not be lost on Trump that the billionaire is one of the Republican Party’s main financiers.

Netanyahu was among the first to congratulate Trump by phone. The US president-elect reciprocated by inviting him for talks “at the first opportunity”. And yet Netanyahu is reported to be anxious about a Trump White House. Why?

It is certainly not because of Trump’s stated policies on the Israel-Palestine conflict.

He has backed moving the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem – a move that, if implemented, would make the US the first western state to recognise the city as Israel’s capital. It would effectively rubber-stamp Israel’s illegal annexation of East Jerusalem, the expected capital of a Palestinian state.

Previous Republican candidates have made the same promise, but Trump looks like the first who might carry it through. A nervous Palestinian leadership warned at the weekend they would “make life miserable” for him if he did.

A Trump policy statement issued just before the election could have been written by Netanyahu himself.

It dismissed a two-state solution as “impossible”, blaming the Palestinian leadership for rewarding terrorism and educating children in “hatred of Israel and Jews”. It suggested that Israel would have a free hand to expand the settlements.

There were hints too that US military aid might be increased above the record $38 billion over 10 years recently agreed by Obama. And the statement proposed a crackdown on all boycott activities, even those targeting settlements. “The false notion that Israel is an occupier should be rejected,” it concluded.

So why the nerves in Tel Aviv?

However hawkish Netanyahu appears to outsiders, he is relatively moderate compared to the rest of his Likud party and his government coalition partners.

The prime minister has won favour at home by presenting himself as an embattled leader, but one best placed to look out for Israel’s interests against a hostile White House. Now with the battlefield gone, Netanyahu’s armour risks making him look both clumsy and surplus to requirements.

There is another danger. Trump’s advisers on the Israel-Palestine conflict are closer to settler leader Naftali Bennett, the education minister, than Netanyahu. After Trump’s victory, Bennett crowed: “The era of a Palestinian state is over.”

The Israeli prime minister could find himself outflanked by Bennett if the Trump administration approves settler demands to annex most or all of the West Bank.

Netanyahu’s realisation of his Greater Israel dream may prove pyrrhic.

Israel’s complete takeover of the West Bank could trigger an irreversible crisis with Europe; the collapse of the Palestinian Authority, forcing the military and financial burden of the occupation back on to Israel; and a full-blown intifada from Palestinians, battering Netanyahu’s security credentials.

The creation of a Greater Israel could also damage Israel by reframing the Palestinian struggle as a fight for equal rights in a single state. Comparisons with earlier struggles, against South African apartheid and Jim Crow in the US deep south, would be hard to counter.

But Netanyahu has an additional reason to fear an imminent Trump presidency.

There were few US politicians Netanyahu had a better measure of than Hillary Clinton. He knew her Middle East policy positions inside out and had spent years dealing with her closest advisers.

Trump, by contrast, is not only an unknown quantity on foreign policy but notoriously mercurial. His oft-stated isolationist impulses and his apparent desire to mend fences with Russia’s Vladimir Putin could have unpredictable implications for the Middle East and Israel.

He might tear up last year’s nuclear accord with Iran, as Netanyahu hopes, but he might just as equally disengage from the region, giving more leeway to Iran and Russia. The effect on the international inspections regime in Iran or the proxy wars raging in Israel’s backyard, in Syria and elsewhere, would be hard to predict.

In short, Trump could kill Netanyahu with kindness, turn Israel into a pariah state in western capitals and leave it exposed strategically.

In addition, becoming the poster child of a controversial and possibly short-lived Trump presidency could rapidly transform Israel into a deeply divisive issue in US politics.

The adage – be careful what you wish for – may yet come to haunt Netanyahu.

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

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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Money Talks as Donald Trump Does U-Turn on Israel

Global Research, July 21, 2016
Jonathan Cook 19 July 2016
Mr_Donald_Trump_New_Hampshire_Town_Hall_on_August_19th,_2015_at_Pinkerton_Academy,_Derry,_NH_by_Michael_Vadon_02

The grubby underside of US electoral politics is on show once again as the Democratic and Republican candidates prepare to fight it out for the presidency. And it doesn’t get seamier than the battle to prove how loyal each candidate is to Israel.

New depths are likely to be plumbed this week at the Republican convention in Cleveland, as Donald Trump is crowned the party’s nominee. His platform breaks with decades of United States policy to effectively deny the Palestinians any hope of statehood.

The question now is whether the Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton, who positions herself as Israel’s greatest ally, will try to outbid Mr Trump in cravenly submitting to the Israeli right.

It all started so differently. Through much of the primary season, Benjamin Netanyahu’s government had reason to be worried about Israel’s “special relationship” with the next occupant of the White House.

Early on, Mr Trump promised to be “neutral” and expressed doubts about whether it made sense to hand Israel billions of dollars annually in military aid. He backed a two-state solution and refused to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

On the Democrat side, Mrs Clinton was challenged by outsider Bernie Sanders, who urged “even-handedness” towards Israel and the Palestinians. He also objected to the huge sums of aid the US bestows on Israel.

Mr Sanders exploited his massive support among Democrats to force Mrs Clinton to include well-known supporters of Palestinian rights on the committee that drafts the party’s platform.

But any hopes of an imminent change in US policy in the Middle East have been dashed.

Last week, as the draft Republic platform was leaked, Mr Trump proudly tweeted that it was the “most pro-Israel of all time!” Avoiding any mention of a two-state solution, it states: “We reject the false notion that Israel is an occupier. … Support for Israel is an expression of Americanism.”

The capitulation was so complete that even the Anti-Defamation League, a New York-based apologist group for Israel, called the platform “disappointing” and urged the Republican convention to “reconsider”. After all, even Mr Netanyahu pays lip service to the need for a Palestinian state.

But Mr Trump is not signalling caution. His two new advisers on Israel, David Friedman and Jason Greenblatt, are fervent supporters of the settlements and annexation of Palestinian territory.

Mr Trump’s running mate, announced at the weekend, is Indiana governor Mike Pence, an evangelical Christian and a stalwart of pro-Israel causes.

So why the dramatic turnaround?

Candidates for high office in the US need money – lots of it. Until now Mr Trump has been chiefly relying on his own wealth. He has raised less than $70 million, a fifth of Mrs Clinton’s war-chest.

The Republican party’s most significant donor is Sheldon Adelson, a casino magnate and close friend of Mr Netanyahu. He has hinted that he will contribute more than $100 million to the Trump campaign if he likes what he sees.

Should Mr Netanyahu offer implicit endorsement, as he did for Mitt Romney in the 2012 race, Christian Zionist preachers such as John Hagee will rally ten of millions of followers to Mr Trump’s side too – and fill his coffers.

Similar indications that money is influencing policy are evident in the Democratic party.

Mr Sanders funded his campaign through small donations, giving him the freedom to follow his conscience. Mrs Clinton, by contrast, has relied on mega-donors, including some, such as Haim Saban, who regard Israel as a key election issue.

That may explain why, despite the many concessions made to Mr Sanders on the Democratic platform, Mrs Clinton’s team refused to budge on Israel issues. As a result, the draft platform fails to call for an end to the occupation or even mention the settlements.

According to The New York Times, Mrs Clinton’s advisers are vetting James Stavridis as a potential running mate. A former Nato commander, he is close to the Israeli defence establishment and known for his hawkish pro-Israel positions.

Mrs Clinton, meanwhile, has promised to use all her might to fight the growing boycott movement, which seeks to isolate Israel over its decades-long occupation of Palestinian territory.

The two candidates’ fierce commitment to Israel appears to fly in the face of wider public sentiment, especially among Democrats.

A recent Pew poll found 57 per cent of young, more liberal Democrats sympathised with the Palestinians rather than Israel. Support for hawkish Israeli positions is weakening among American Jews too, a key Democratic constituency. About 61 per cent believe Israel can live peacefully next to an independent Palestinian state.

The toxic influence of money in the US presidential elections can be felt in many areas of policy, both domestic and foreign.

But the divorce between the candidates’ fervour on Israel and the growing doubts of many of their supporters is particularly stark.

It should be dawning on US politicians that a real debate about the nation’s relationship with Israel cannot be deferred much longer.

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 iswww.jonathan-cook.net.

Israel Is Blocking Access to Its Archives: “Israel Concealing Vital Records to Prevent Darkest Periods in its History from Coming to Light”

Global Research, June 10, 2016
Jonathan Cook 9 June 2016
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Israel is concealing vital records to prevent darkest periods in its history from coming to light, academics say 

Israel is locking away millions of official documents to prevent the darkest episodes in its history from coming to light, civil rights activists and academics have warned as the country’s state archives move online.

They claim government officials are concealing vital records needed for historical research, often in violation of Israeli law, in an effort to avoid damaging Israel’s image.

The Israeli army has long claimed to be the “most moral” in the world.

Accusations of increased secrecy come as Israel marks this week the 49th anniversary of the 1967 war, when it seized and occupied Sinai Peninsula, Gaza Strip, West Bank, and Golan Heights.

Many of the records to which access is being denied refer to that war and the first years of Israel’s military rule over Palestinians in Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza.

Menachem Klein, a politics professor at Bar Ilan University, near Tel Aviv, said researchers needed such documents to gain a clearer picture of events half a century ago, the goals of policymakers, and human rights abuses. “We have gradually been able to expose some of what happened in 1948 [the war that established Israel], but there is still very little available to help us understand the 1967 war,” he told Al-Jazeera.

As part of its commemorations this week, the state archives published testimony by military commanders from 1967. However, local media noted that whole pages had been censored on “security grounds”.

Nonetheless, some of the declassified material was revealing. Uzi Narkiss, who headed the army’s central command at the time, suggested that he and other commanders hoped to ethnically cleanse most of the territories under cover of fighting. He told fellow officers: “Within 72 hours we’ll drive out all the Arabs from the West Bank.”

The campaign to open up Israel’s archives is being led by the Akevot Institute, a group of Israeli human rights activists, lawyers and researchers trying to document the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In a new report, Point of Access, they note that only 1 percent of 400 million pages of documents have been made public.

Most of the files should have been accessible after 15 years, with the most top-secret documents locked away for up to 70 years. In many cases, Akevot says, the classified status of documents has expired, but they have still not been made public. Reasons for denial of access are rarely given.

In other instances, documents that were already declassified – some of them decades ago – have been re-sealed and are now unavailable.

Despite the mounting secrecy, historic war crimes are still coming to light.

In March the largest known massacre of Palestinians by the Israeli army during the 1948 war that founded Israel – what Palestinians call al-Nakba – was exposed, in spite of official efforts to keep the atrocity under wraps for nearly seven decades.

The gag was effectively ended with the publication of a soldier’s letter in the Haaretz newspaper, detailing the execution of hundreds of Palestinian men, women and children at the village of Dawaymeh, near Hebron.

“The entire history of Israeli society and its conflict with the Palestinians is to be found in those archives,” Lior Yavne, co-author of the report, told Al-Jazeera. “It is impossible to understand and write about that history without access.” He added: “In practice, most of Israel’s archives are permanently closed.”

According to Akevot, Israel has exploited a new programme to digitally copy existing paper files to increase secrecy.

Archivists are currently scanning and uploading documents to create a comprehensive database – a project that is likely to take more than 25 years. The archive’s website went live in April.

However, the public nature of the database means hundreds of thousands of national security files have been submitted for the first time to an official body known as the military censor. Until now its powers had been largely restricted to oversight of the Israeli media, said Yavne.

The censor is reported to be refusing to release many of the documents, redacting others and reclassifying as secret many records that were previously available to researchers.

A growing backlog of tens of thousands of files that need to be reviewed has also blocked access to researchers, according to Akevot.

Requests to see documents can be denied if they damage national security or foreign relations, or violated privacy.

Yavne said access to records after the time restriction had expired was regularly refused without legal authority. Files appeared to be withheld if officials feared they might “highlight human rights violations or shed light on sordid affairs”.

The report notes that the records of government decision-making belong to the public but are treated as “a secret to be kept from it”.

The current emphasis on concealment contrasts with the late 1980s, when parts of the archives from the 1948 war were opened.

A handful of Israeli historians, most notably Benny Morris, Ilan Pappe and Avi Shlaim, revealed that much of Israel’s official history of the state’s founding was based on misinformation.

These “new historians” unearthed evidence of wide-scale massacres of Palestinians, rapes and forced expulsions. They also showed that common assumptions about the war – such as that Palestinians had been ordered to flee by their leaders – were later inventions by Israel to minimise international criticism.

One Israeli academic, Shay Hazkani, has estimated that up to a third of records relating to the 1948 war that were declassified have been put under lock again. Given the large number of documents, many had yet to be examined by researchers.

Nur Masalha, a UK-based Palestinian historian who exposed evidence in Israel’s archives of expulsion, or “transfer”, policies against Palestinians between 1948 and 1967, told Al Jazeera the clampdown on access to documents was part of wider internal repression in Israel.

It reflected, he said, Israel’s mounting concern at the connections being made between Israel’s past and present atrocities. “Israel has faced growing international condemnation for its war crimes in Gaza, and at the same time Palestinians, including those inside Israel, have become more determined to focus attention on the Nakba.”

Some of the most highly classified records – which have been under lock for 70 years – are due to be made public in less than two years’ time. That would turn the spotlight on the most contentious events from Israel’s founding.

However, according to Akevot, no preparations have been made by Israel’s most secretive security agencies, the Shin Bet intelligence service and the Mossad spy agency, to release their archives.

The report says access “is expected to be denied” for the foreseeable future. Yavne said the Shin Bet had already ignored a commitment to make available sections of its archives after 50 years.

Those documents would shed light on Shin Bet policies in the state’s early years, when a fifth of Israel’s population belonging to the Palestinian minority were placed under a military government.

Details of this period would be embarrassing both because of the harsh treatment of Palestinians during military rule and because the template of the military government was later exported into the occupied territories, said Klein.

Archive documents might expose the Shin Bet’s detention and torture practices, its use of blackmail and entrapment to recruit informants, and its harassment of Palestinian leaders. “The Shin Bet has always operated beyond the law,” he said.

The Israeli prime minister’s office, which oversees both the archives and the Shin Bet, declined to comment.

Yavne said Akevot, which was established 18 months ago, was assisting academics and researchers, most of whom were afraid to speak out against the mounting restrictions. “They are worried that if they are seen to be criticising the archive policy, they may face even more restricted access,” he said.

He added that Akevot was creating an alternative database of documents to help researchers to understand the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Among the top-secret documents recently unearthed by the group is one revealing a government order immediately after the 1967 war to remove the Green Line, marking Israel’s internationally recognised borders, from all maps used in Israeli schools.

Klein said the aim was to “root into Israelis’ minds the idea that the occupied Palestinian territories are part of Israel” to make returning them more difficult.

Other classified documents from the period show that Israel’s chief adviser on international law, Theodor Meron, warned that the Geneva Conventions applied to Israel’s behaviour in the occupied territories. Israel has publicly always denied that it is bound by the conventions.

There has been a similar spate of revelations about the 1948 war.

In January Haaretz reported that the archives were still refusing access to a transcript of a cabinet meeting in 1949 in which ministers discussed the widespread desecration of churches the previous year.

The discussion, however, could be reconstructed from other sources.

The Foreign Minister of the time, Moshe Sharett, is recorded as saying the Israeli soldiers had behaved in ways “fit for savages”- a reference to their defecating in churches and looting icons. Sharett suggested paying the Vatican large compensation to “buy their silence”.

Israeli military correspondent Amir Oren recently wrote that archival evidence showed that the current spate of Israeli soldiers executing Palestinians was not a new phenomenon.

The 1948 war, Oren wrote, had “launched the catalogue of murder, rape, looting, contempt for human life” by the Israeli army.

Israel Moves to Outlaw Palestinian Political Parties in the Knesset

Global Research, November 05, 2014
reconstructgaza

The Israeli parliament voted overwhelmingly last week to suspend Haneen Zoabi, a legislator representing the state’s large Palestinian minority, for six months as a campaign to silence political dissent intensified.

The Israeli parliament, or Knesset, voted by 68 to 16 to endorse a decision in late July by its ethics committee to bar Zoabi from the chamber for what it termed “incitement.”

It is the longest suspension in the Knesset’s history and the maximum punishment allowed under Israeli law.

At a press conference, Zoabi denounced her treatment as “political persecution.”

“By distancing me from the Knesset, basically they’re saying they don’t want Arabs, and only want ‘good Arabs.’ We won’t be ‘good Arabs,’” she said.

The Knesset’s confirmation of Zoabi’s suspension comes as she faces a criminal trial for incitement in a separate case and as the Knesset considers stripping her of citizenship.

But Zoabi is not the only Palestinian representative in the firing line. Earlier this year the Knesset raised the threshold for election to the parliament, in what has been widely interpreted as an attempt to exclude all three small parties representing the Palestinian minority. One in five citizens of Israel belong to the minority.

In addition, it emerged last week that a bill is being prepared to outlaw the northern branch of the Islamic Movement, the only extra-parliamentary party widely supported by Palestinian citizens.

Along with Zoabi, the Islamic Movement’s leader, Sheikh Raed Salah, has been among the most vocal critics of Israeli policies, especially over the al-Aqsa mosque compound in occupied Jerusalem.

Death threats

Zoabi was originally suspended after legislators from all the main parties expressed outrage at a series of comments from her criticizing both the build-up to Israel’s summer assault on Gaza, dubbed “Operation Protective Edge,” and the 51-day attack itself, which left more than 2,100 Palestinians dead, most of them civilians.

In particular, fellow members of Knesset were incensed by a radio interview in which she expressed her disapproval of the kidnapping of three Israeli youths in the occupied West Bank, but refused to denounce those behind it as “terrorists.” The youths were later found murdered.

Zoabi faced a wave of death threats and needed to be assigned a bodyguard for public appearances.

During the Knesset debate on her appeal against the suspension, Zoabi said:

“Yes, I crossed the lines of consensus — a warlike, aggressive, racist, populist, chauvinist, arrogant consensus. I must cross those lines. I am no Zionist, and that is within my legal right.”

Zoabi, who has come to personify an unofficial political opposition in the Knesset against all the main parties, is under attack on several fronts.

Last week she was informed that the state prosecution service had approved a police recommendation to put her on trial for criminal incitement for “humiliating” two policemen.

She is alleged to have referred to the policemen, who are members of the Palestinian minority, as “collaborators” as she addressed parents of children swept up in mass arrests following protests against the Israeli assault on Gaza over the summer.

Faina Kirschenbaum, the deputy interior minister in the government of Benjamin Netanyahu, has also drafted two bills directly targeting Zoabi.

The first would strip someone of the right to stand for the Knesset if they are found to have supported “an act of terrorism,” while the second would strip them of their citizenship.

Because ministers are not allowed to initiate private bills, the task of bringing the measures to the floor of the parliament has been taken up by the Knesset’s Law, Constitution and Justice Committee.

Intentional subversions

Zoabi further infuriated fellow members of Knesset this month when she compared the Israeli army to the Islamic State, the jihadist group that has violently taken over large parts of Syria and Iraq and has become notorious for kidnapping westerners and beheading them.

In an apparently intentional subversion of Netanyahu’s recent comparison of the Islamic State and Hamas, the Palestinian resistance movement, Zoabi described an Israeli Air Force pilot as

“no less a terrorist than a person who takes a knife and commits a beheading.” She added that “both are armies of murderers, they have no boundaries and no red lines.”

Avigdor Lieberman, the foreign minister, was among those who responded by calling Zoabi a “terrorist.”

“The law must be used to put the terrorist — there is no other word for it — the terrorist Haneen Zoabi in jail for many years,” he told Israel Radio.

A poll this month found that 85 percent of the Israeli Jewish public wanted Zoabi removed from the Knesset.

“There is a great deal of frustration among Israeli politicians and the public at their army’s failure to defeat the Palestinian resistance in Gaza,” said Awad Abdel Fattah, the secretary general of Balad, a political party representing Palestinians in Israel. “At times like this, the atmosphere of repression intensifies domestically.”

Silencing all political dissent

The initiatives against Zoabi are the most visible aspects of a wider campaign to silence all political dissent from the Palestinian minority.

Last week, Lieberman instructed one of his members of Knesset, Alex Miller, to initiate a bill that would outlaw Salah’s Islamic Movement.

The legislation appears to be designed to hold Netanyahu to his word from late May. Then, the Israeli media revealed that the prime minister had created a ministerial team to consider ways to ban the movement.

At the same time, the Israeli security services claimed that Salah’s faction was cooperating closely with Hamas in Jerusalem.

After Israel barred the Palestinian Authority from having any presence in Jerusalem more than a decade ago and expelled Hamas legislators from the city, Salah has become the face of Palestinian political activism in Jerusalem.

Under the campaign slogan “al-Aqsa is in danger,” he has taken a leading role in warning that Israel is incrementally taking control of the most sensitive holy site in the conflict.

Last month it emerged that the Knesset is to vote on legislation to give Jewish religious extremists greater access to the mosque compound. Already large numbers of Jews, many of them settlers, regularly venture on to esplanade backed by armed Israeli police.

They include Jewish extremists that expressly want to blow up the al-Aqsa mosque so that a replica of a Jewish temple from 2,000 years ago can be built in its place.

Last week, Yehuda Glick, a leader of one of these extremist groups, was shot and wounded in Jerusalem. In response, Israel shut down al-Aqsa for the first time since the outbreak of the second intifada fourteen years ago. Mahmoud Abbas, the head of the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority, called it a “declaration of war.”

According to the text of Lieberman’s bill, the northern wing of the Islamic Movement “subverts the State of Israel’s sovereignty while making cynical use of the institutions and fundamental values of the Jewish and democratic state.”

It also blames the movement for “an eruption of violence and unrest among the Arab minority in Israel, while maintaining close relations with the terrorist organization Hamas.”

Raising the threshold

The attacks on Zoabi and the Islamic Movement come in the wake of legislation in March to raise the electoral threshold — from 2 percent to 3.25 percent — for a party to win representation in the Knesset.

The new threshold is widely seen as having been set to exclude the three Palestinian parties currently in the Knesset from representation. The minority’s vote is split almost evenly between three political streams.

Zoabi’s Balad party emphasizes the need for the Palestinian minority to build its own national institutions, especially in education and culture, to withstand the efforts of Israel’s Zionist institutions to strip Palestinian citizens of their rights and erase their identity. Its chief demand has been for “a state for all its citizens” — equal rights for Jewish and Palestinian citizens.

Balad’s chief rival is the joint Jewish-Arab party of Hadash, whose Communist ideology puts a premium on a shared program of action between Jewish and Arab citizens. However, its Jewish supporters have shrunk to a tiny proportion of the party. It too campaigns for equal rights.

And the final party, Raam-Taal, is a coalition led by prominent Islamic politicians.

The three parties have between them eleven seats in the 120-member Knesset, with one held by a Jewish member of Knesset, Dov Chenin, for Hadash.

Abdel Fattah said his Balad party had been urging the other parties to create a coalition in time for the next general election to overcome the new threshold.

So far it has faced opposition from Hadash, which is worried that an alliance with Balad would damage its image as a joint Jewish-Arab party. A source in Hadash told Israeli daily Haaretz in late September: “Hadash is not an Arab party, and there’s no reason it should unite with two Arab parties.”

Abdel Fattah said Hadash’s objections were unreasonable given that both Balad and the Islamic faction believed it was important to include Jewish candidates on a unified list. “Eventually they will have to come round to a joint list unless they want to commit political suicide,” he remarked.

Falling turnout

Balad has been under threat at previous general elections. The Central Elections Committee, a body representing the major political parties, has repeatedly voted to ban it from running. Each time the decision has been overturned on appeal to the Supreme Court.

In 2007 the party’s former chairman, Azmi Bishara, was accused of treason while traveling abroad and has been living in exile ever since.

 

Comment:  This is real Azmi Bishara

But the representation of all the parties is now in danger from the raised threshold. Over the past thirty years, turnout among Palestinian citizens has dramatically fallen to little more than half of potential voters, as the minority has seen its political demands for equality greeted with a wave of laws entrenching discrimination.

Among the anti-democratic measures passed in recent years are laws that penalize organizations commemorating the Nakba, the Palestinians’ dispossession of their homeland in 1948; that provide a statutory basis to admissions committees, whose function is to prevent Palestinian citizens living on most of Israel’s territory; and that make it impossible for most Palestinian citizens to bring a Palestinian spouse to live with them in Israel.

Uncompromising stance

Last week, Balad MKs boycotted the opening ceremony of the Knesset, following the summer recess, in protest at Zoabi’s treatment.

At a press conference in the parliament, her colleague, Basel Ghattas, warned: “The day is approaching when Arab MKs will think there is no use participating in the political sphere. We are discovering more and more that we are personae non gratae at the Knesset.”

On Facebook, Lieberman responded that he hoped the Arab MKs would “carry out this ‘threat’ as soon as possible.”

The increasingly uncompromising stance towards all the Palestinian minority’s political factions marks a shift in policy, even for the right.

Although no Israeli government coalition has ever included a Palestinian party, and the Nasserist al-Ard movement was banned in the 1960s, Jewish politicians have generally viewed it as safer to keep the Palestinian parties inside the Knesset.

Analyst Uzi Baram observed in Haaretz that even Menachem Begin, a former hardline prime minister from Netanyahu’s Likud party, believed it would be unwise to raise the threshold to keep out Arab parties. If they were excluded, Baram wrote, it was feared “they would resort to non-parliamentary actions.”

‘Paving the way toward fascism’

Zoabi petitioned the Israeli Supreme Court against her suspension from the Knesset in early October. However, the judges suggested she first use an arcane appeal procedure before the Knesset’s full plenum to demonstrate she had exhausted all available channels for lifting the suspension.

Israeli legal scholars have noted the irregularities in the ethics committee’s decision to impose a record-long suspension on Zoabi. The committee’s task is to regulate parliament members’ behavior inside the Knesset, not political speech outside it.

Aeyal Gross, a constitutional law professor at Tel Aviv University, warned that the Knesset’s treatment of Zoabi was “paving the way towards fascism and tyranny.”

Gross noted the extreme severity of the committee’s punishment of Zoabi, contrasting it with that of another MK, Aryeh Eldad. In 2008 he called for Ehud Olmert, the prime minister at the time, to be sentenced to death for suggesting that parts of the occupied territories become a Palestinian state.

Eldad was suspended for just one day, even though it was a clear example of incitement to violence in a country where a former prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin, was murdered by a right-wing extremist, citing similar justification for his actions.

Tyranny of the majority

The Supreme Court, which has shifted rightwards in recent years, may not be sympathetic to Zoabi’s appeal against her suspension.

In September the court jailed Said Nafaa, a former MK from her Balad party, for one year after he was convicted of visiting Syria in 2007 with a delegation of Druze clerics and meeting a Palestinian faction leader in Syria.

The crime of making contact with a foreign agent is the only one in Israeli law in which the defendant must prove their innocence.

The court may also be wary of making unpopular rulings at a time when it is under concerted attack from the Israeli right for being too liberal.

Ayelet Shaked, of the settler Jewish Home party, which is in the government coalition, has introduced a bill that would allow a simple majority of the Knesset to vote to override Supreme Court rulings.

Human rights lawyers warned that the bill would further erode already limited protections for minority rights.

Debbie Gild-Hayo, a lawyer with the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, warned that protections for minorities from the tyranny of the majority would be in severe jeopardy as a result. “These proposals wish to break down the checks and balances that are fundamental to democracy,” she said.

Zoabi remained defiant. She noted that, while she was being hounded, the legal authorities had ignored genocidal remarks made by Jewish politicians against Palestinians during the summer attack on Gaza.

“They’re putting me on trial over a trivial, meaningless matter, while ministers and MKs who incited to racism and incited to violence and even to murder aren’t being investigated, even after complaints were filed against them.”

She added: “If I am indicted, I’ll turn the hearings into the most political trial in Israel’s history.”

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