Video: On the Ground in Syria with Vanessa Beeley

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The Search for Truth in the Rubble of Douma

Robert Fisk

This is the story of a town called Douma, a ravaged, stinking place of smashed apartment blocks – and of an underground clinic whose images of suffering allowed three of the Western world’s most powerful nations to bomb Syria last week. There’s even a friendly doctor in a green coat who, when I track him down in the very same clinic, cheerfully tells me that the “gas” videotape which horrified the world – despite all the doubters – is perfectly genuine.

Douma

War stories, however, have a habit of growing darker. For the same 58-year old senior Syrian doctor then adds something profoundly uncomfortable: the patients, he says, were overcome not by gas but by oxygen starvation in the rubbish-filled tunnels and basements in which they lived, on a night of wind and heavy shelling that stirred up a dust storm.

As Dr Assim Rahaibani announces this extraordinary conclusion, it is worth observing that he is by his own admission not an eyewitness himself and, as he speaks good English, he refers twice to the “jihadi” gunmen of Jaish el-Islam [the Army of Islam] in Douma as “terrorists” – the regime’s word for their enemies, and a term used by many people across Syria. Am I hearing this right? Which version of events are we to believe?

By bad luck, too, the doctors who were on duty that night on 7 April were all in Damascus giving evidence to a chemical weapons enquiry, which will be attempting to provide a definitive answer to that question in the coming weeks.

France, meanwhile, has said it has “proof” chemical weapons were used, and US media have quoted sources saying urine and blood tests showed this too. The WHO has said its partners on the ground treated 500 patients “exhibiting signs and symptoms consistent with exposure to toxic chemicals”.

At the same time, inspectors from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) are currently blocked from coming here to the site of the alleged gas attack themselves, ostensibly because they lacked the correct UN permits.

Before we go any further, readers should be aware that this is not the only story in Douma. There are the many people I talked to amid the ruins of the town who said they had “never believed in” gas stories – which were usually put about, they claimed, by the armed groups. These particular “jihadis” survived under a blizzard of shellfire by living in other’s people’s homes and in vast, wide tunnels with underground roads carved through the living rock by prisoners with pick-axes on three levels beneath the town. I walked through three of them yesterday, vast corridors of living rock which still contained Russian – yes, Russian – rockets and burned-out cars.

So the story of Douma is thus not just a story of gas – or no gas, as the case may be. It’s about thousands of people who did not opt for evacuation from Douma on buses that left last week, alongside the gunmen with whom they had to live like troglodytes for months in order to survive. I walked across this town quite freely yesterday without soldier, policeman or minder to haunt my footsteps, just two Syrian friends, a camera and a notebook. I sometimes had to clamber across 20-foot-high ramparts, up and down almost sheer walls of earth. Happy to see foreigners among them, happier still that the siege is finally over, they are mostly smiling; those whose faces you can see, of course, because a surprising number of Douma’s women wear full-length black hijab.

I first drove into Douma as part of an escorted convoy of journalists. But once a boring general had announced outside a wrecked council house “I have no information” – that most helpful rubbish-dump of Arab officialdom – I just walked away. Several other reporters, mostly Syrian, did the same. Even a group of Russian journalists – all in military attire – drifted off.

It was a short walk to Dr Rahaibani. From the door of his subterranean clinic – “Point 200”, it is called, in the weird geology of this partly-underground city – is a corridor leading downhill where he showed me his lowly hospital and the few beds where a small girl was crying as nurses treated a cut above her eye.

“I was with my family in the basement of my home three hundred meters from here on the night but all the doctors know what happened. There was a lot of shelling [by government forces] and aircraft were always over Douma at night – but on this night, there was wind and huge dust clouds began to come into the basements and cellars where people lived. People began to arrive here suffering from hypoxia, oxygen loss. Then someone at the door, a “White Helmet”, shouted “Gas!”, and a panic began. People started throwing water over each other. Yes, the video was filmed here, it is genuine, but what you see are people suffering from hypoxia – not gas poisoning.”

Oddly, after chatting to more than 20 people, I couldn’t find one who showed the slightest interest in Douma’s role in bringing about the Western air attacks. Two actually told me they didn’t know about the connection.

But it was a strange world I walked into. Two men, Hussam and Nazir Abu Aishe, said they were unaware how many people had been killed in Douma, although the latter admitted he had a cousin “executed by Jaish el-Islam [the Army of Islam] for allegedly being ‘close to the regime'”. They shrugged when I asked about the 43 people said to have died in the infamous Douma attack.

The White Helmets – the medical first responders already legendary in the West but with some interesting corners to their own story – played a familiar role during the battles. They are partly funded by the Foreign Office and most of the local offices were staffed by Douma men. I found their wrecked offices not far from Dr. Rahaibani’s clinic. A gas mask had been left outside a food container with one eye-piece pierced and a pile of dirty military camouflage uniforms lay inside one room. Planted, I asked myself? I doubt it. The place was heaped with capsules, broken medical equipment and files, bedding and mattresses.

Of course we must hear their side of the story, but it will not happen here: a woman told us that every member of the White Helmets in Douma abandoned their main headquarters and chose to take the government-organized and Russian-protected buses to the province of Idlib with the armed groups when the final truce was agreed.

There were food stalls open and a patrol of Russian military policemen – a now optional extra for every Syrian ceasefire – and no-one had even bothered to storm into the forbidding prison near Martyr’s Square where victims were supposedly beheaded in the basements. The town’s complement of Syrian interior ministry civilian police – who eerily wear military clothes – are watched over by the Russians who may or may not be watched by the civilians. Again, my earnest questions about gas were met with what seemed genuine perplexity.

How could it be that Douma refugees who had reached camps in Turkey were already describing a gas attack which no-one in Douma today seemed to recall? It did occur to me, once I was walking for more than a mile through these wretched prisoner-groined tunnels, that the citizens of Douma lived so isolated from each other for so long that “news” in our sense of the word simply had no meaning to them. Syria doesn’t cut it as Jeffersonian democracy – as I cynically like to tell my Arab colleagues – and it is indeed a ruthless dictatorship, but that couldn’t cow these people, happy to see foreigners among them, from reacting with a few words of truth. So what were they telling me?

They talked about the “Islamists” under whom they had lived. They talked about how the armed groups had stolen civilian homes to avoid the Syrian government and Russian bombing. The Jaish el-Islam had burned their offices before they left, but the massive buildings inside the security zones they created had almost all been sandwiched to the ground by air strikes. A Syrian colonel I came across behind one of these buildings asked if I wanted to see how deep the tunnels were. I stopped after well over a mile when he cryptically observed that “this tunnel might reach as far as Britain”. Ah yes, Ms May, I remembered, whose air strikes had been so intimately connected to this place of tunnels and dust. And gas?

Source: The Independent, Edited by website team

فيسك: ما تعرض له السكان في دوما يوم الهجوم الكيميائي المزعوم كان نقصا حادا في الأوكسجين

أكد الكاتب الصحفي البريطاني روبرت فيسك أن حملة الأكاذيب التي أثارتها عدد من الدول الغربية بشأن هجوم كيميائي مزعوم في مدينة دوما بالغوطة الشرقية لم تجد من يدعمها في المدينة مع تأكيد طبيب من سكان المدينة نفسها أن الضحايا المزعومين للهجوم كانوا يعانون من نقص حاد في الأوكسجين نتيجة عاصفة غبارية وليس التسمم بالغاز “الكيميائي”.

وقال فيسك في مقال نشره في صحيفة الاندبندنت البريطانية تحت عنوان “البحث عن الحقيقة بين أنقاض دوما”:إنه وخلال لقاء أجراه مع طبيب يدعى عاصم رحيباني من سكان دوما كشف الأخير أن الأشخاص الذين ظهروا كمرضى في أشرطة الفيديو التي صورت الهجوم المزعوم وتم الترويج من خلالها لإصابتهم بأعراض التسمم بغاز كيميائي كانوا في حقيقة الأمر يعانون “من نقص الأوكسجين نتيجة عاصفة غبارية”.

وينقل فيسك عن الطبيب رحيباني قوله في تلك الليلة: “لقد كنت مع عائلتي في المنزل على بعد 300 متر من المشفى لكن كل الأطباء يعلمون ما جرى.. في تلك الليلة كانت هناك اشتباكات وهبت رياح قوية مصحوبة بغيوم ضخمة من الغبار بدأت تتسلل إلى الأقبية والسراديب حيث يقطن الناس وبدأ الناس يصلون إلى المشفى وهم يعانون من نقص الأوكسجين وفجأة صرخ رجل في باب المشفى وهو من (الخوذ البيضاء).. غاز.. وحصل هلع بين الناس وبدأ الناس يرشون الماء على بعضهم البعض.. نعم لقد حصل تسجيل الفيديو هنا ولكن الناس كانوا يعانون من نقص في الأوكسجين وليس من التسمم (بالغاز) “.

وتابع فيسك إنه “ينبغي على القراء أن يدركوا أن رواية الطبيب ليست الوحيدة بهذا المضمون حيث أكد الكثير من الاشخاص الذين التقيتهم في دوما أنهم لا يثقون بروايات الغاز” التي روج لها الإرهابيون.

ولفت فيسك إلى أن ما يسمى “الخوذ البيضاء” التي تتلقى الدعم والتمويل من وزارة الخارجية البريطانية كان لها دور كبير في عمليات المجموعات الإرهابية لافتا إلى أنه اطلع على مكاتب هذه المجموعة في دوما ورأى داخلها اقنعة للغاز ولباسا عسكريا إضافة إلى كبسولات ومعدات طبية مكسورة وملفات.

بدوره انضم “بيرسون شارب” مراسل قناة “ون أميركا نيوز نيتوورك” الأميركية إلى فيسك في تفنيده لرواية الهجوم الكيميائي المزعوم في دوما مؤكدا أنه لم يعثر على أي آثار لمثل هذا الهجوم وقال: إن “السكان المحليين الذين التقاهم هناك لم يروا أو يسمعوا شيئا عن هذا الحادث”.
وأشار شارب إلى أن أحد الأطباء الذي وجد في مستشفى المدينة في يوم الهجوم المزعوم أخبره أن مجموعة من الأشخاص المجهولين اقتحمت المستشفى في السابع من نيسان الماضي زاعمة وقوع هجوم كيميائي وعمد هؤلاء إلى صب الماء على أشخاص أحضروهم إلى المستشفى مصورين كل شيء بواسطة آلة التصوير ثم غادروا المستشفى.

وكانت العديد من الوثائق التي عثر عليها الجيش العربي السوري في المناطق التي حررها من الإرهاب حيث تعمل جماعة “الخوذ البيضاء” كشفت ارتباطها العضوي بالتنظيمات الإرهابية ودعمها لها وخصوصا “جبهة النصرة” بالترويج لاستخدام الأسلحة الكيميائية ضد المدنيين وهذا ما حدث في الغوطة الشرقية بريف دمشق عدة مرات وفي مناطق بحلب لاتهام الجيش العربي السوري.

بينما أكد الكاتب الأميركي كارتا لوتشي أن جماعة “الخوذ البيضاء” ليست إلا “واحدة من المسرحيات الأميركية المضللة للرأي العام وهي منظمة مشبوهة”.

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If I Were MBS, I’d Be Cynical About This Visit

Robert Fisk

08-03-2018 | 10:52

Thank heavens Theresa May is giving a warm welcome today to the illustrious Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, His Royal Majesty Mohammad bin Salman. For it is meet and right that she should do so. His Royal Highness is a courageous Arab reformer, keen to drag his wealthy nation into the 21st century in a raft of promises – women’s rights, massive economic restructuring, moderate Islam, further intelligence gathering on behalf of the West and an even more vital alliance in the “War on Terror”.

MBS

Thank God, however, that Theresa May – in her infinite wisdom – is not going to waste her time greeting a head-chopping and aggressive Arab Crown Prince whose outrageous war in Yemen is costing thousands of lives and tainting the United Kingdom with his shame by purchasing millions of dollars in weapons from May to use against the people of Yemen, who is trying to destroy his wealthy Arab brothers in Qatar and doing his best to persuade the US, Britain and sundry other Westerners to join the Saudi war against the Shias of the Middle East.

You see the problem? When it comes to money, guns and power, we will cuddle up to any Arab autocrat, especially if our masters in Washington, however insane, feel the same way about him – and it will always be a “him”, won’t it? And we will wash our hands with them if or when they have ceased to be of use, or no longer buy our weapons or run out of cash or simply get overthrown. Thus I can feel some sympathy for young Mohammad.

I have to add – simply in terms of human rights – that anyone who has to listen to Theresa “Let’s Get On With It” May for more than a few minutes has my profound sympathy. The Saudi foreign minister, Adel al-Jubeir, a very intelligent Richelieu, must surely feel the same impatience when he listens to the patently dishonest ramblings of his opposite number. Boris Johnson’s contempt and then love for the Balfour Declaration in the space of less than 12 months is recognized in the Arab world as the cynical charade that it is.

Human rights groups, Amnesty and the rest are angrily calling Crown Prince Mohammad to account this week. So are the inevitable protesters. Any constable who raises a baton to keep order will be “doing the Saudis’ work”, we can be sure. But I fear that the Crown Prince should be far more concerned by the Government which is now groveling to his leadership. For he is dealing with a Western power, in this case the Brits. And the only advice he should be given in such circumstances is: mind your back.

A walk, now, down memory lane. When Gaddafi overthrew King Idris, the Foreign Office smiled upon him. A fresh face, a safe pair of hands with an oil-bearing nation whose wealth we might consume, we thought Gaddafi might be our man. The Americans even tipped him off about a counter-coup, just as we much later helped Gaddafi round up his opponents for torture. Then Gaddafi decided to be an anti-colonial nationalist and eventually got mixed up with the IRA and a bomb in a West Berlin nightclub – and bingo, he became a super-terrorist. Yet come the “War on Terror” and the invasion of Iraq, Gaddafi was kissed by the Venerable Blair and became a super-statesman again. Until the 2011 revolution, at which point he had to become a super-terrorist once more, bombed by NATO and murdered by his own people.

Talking of Iraq, Saddam had a similar experience. At first we rather liked the chap and the Americans even tipped him off on the location of his communist opponents. He was a head-chopper, to be sure, but as long as he invaded the right county, he was a super-statesman. Hence we helped him in his invasion of Iran in 1980 but declared him a super-terrorist in 1990 when he invaded the wrong country: Kuwait. And he ended up, like Gaddafi, killed by his own people, albeit that the Americans set up the court which decided to top him.

Yasser Arafat – not that we even think of him these days – was a Palestinian super-terrorist in Beirut. He was the center of World Terror until he shook hands with Yitzhak Rabin and Bill Clinton, at which point he became a super-statesman. But the moment he refused to deviate from the Oslo agreement and accept “Israeli” hegemony over the West Bank – he was never offered “90 per cent” of it, as the American media claimed – he was on the way to super-terrorism again. Surrounded and bombarded in his Ramallah hovel, he was airlifted to a Paris military hospital where he conveniently died. The “Israelis” had already dubbed him “our bin Laden”, a title they later tried to confer on Arafat’s luckless successor Mahmoud Abbas – who was neither a super-terrorist nor a super-statesman but something worse: a failure.

It should not be necessary to run through the other Arab transmogrifications from evil to good to evil again. Nasser, who helped to overthrow the corrupt King Farouk, quickly became a super-terrorist when he nationalised the Suez Canal and was called the “Mussolini of the Nile” by Eden – a slightly measly comparison when you remember that Saddam became the “Hitler of the Tigris” in 1990. [His eminence Imam] Khomeini was a potential super-statesman in his Paris exile when the Shah was overthrown. Then he became a super-terrorist-in-chief once he established the Islamic Republic. The French Jacobins thought that Hafez al-Assad was a potential super-statesman but decided he was a super-terrorist when Bashar al-Assad – lionized in France after his father’s death – went to war on his opponents, thus becoming a super-terrorist himself. The Brits quickly shrugged off their loyalties to Omani and Qatari emirs when their sons staged coups against them.

Thus Mohammad bin Salman, may his name be praised, might be reminded by Adel al-Jubeir as he settles down in London: “Memento homo”, the gladiator’s reminder to every emperor that he is only “a man”. What if the Yemen war is even bloodier, what if the Saudi military become increasingly disenchanted with the war – which is almost certainly why the Crown Prince staged a putsch among his commanders last month – and what if his Vision2030 proves a Saudi South Sea Bubble? What if the humiliated and vexatious princes and billionaires he humbled in the Riyadh Ritz Hotel come to take their revenge? What if – dare one speak his name? – a future British prime minister reopened the Special Branch enquiry into the Al-Yamamah arms contract? And, while we’re on the subject, what if someone discovers the routes by which US weapons reached Isis and their chums after 2014?

Or a real war breaks out with Iran? Please note, no mention here of the Sunni-Shia struggle, the 2016 butchery of Shia opponents in Saudi Arabia – most described as “terrorists”, most of them decapitated – and absolutely no reference to the fact that Saudi Arabia’s Wahhabist doctrines are the very inspiration of Isis and al-Qaeda and all the other ‘jihadi” mumbo-jumbo cults that have devastated the Middle East.

Nope. The truth is, you can’t just tell who your friends are these days.

Wasn’t it the Brits who double-crossed the Saudi monarchy’s predecessors in Arabia by promising them an Arab empire but grabbing Palestine and Transjordan and Iraq for themselves?

Wasn’t it the Brits who published the Balfour Declaration and then tried to betray the Jews to whom they’d promised a homeland and the Arabs whose lands they had promised to protect?

Wasn’t it – since we are talking autocrats – the Brits who gave Ceaucescu an honorary knighthood and then took it back when he was deposed? We gave Mugabe the same gong and then took it back. Incredibly, we gave one to Mussolini too. Yes, we took it back in 1940.

So have a care, Crown Prince Mohammad. Don’t trust perfidious Albion. Watch your back at home, but also abroad. Thanks for all the arms purchases. And thanks for all the intelligence bumph to help us keep track of the lads who are brainwashed with the Wahabi faith. But don’t – whatever you do – be tempted by an honorary knighthood.

Source: The Independent, Edited by website team

If Trump Declares Al-Quds the Capital of ‘Israel’, Chaos Will Reign


06-12-2017 | 10:11

Amid three catastrophic Middle East wars, it would be difficult to imagine anything more provocative, dangerous – or just plain insane – than for the Americans to move their embassy from Tel Aviv to [Al-Quds] ‘Jerusalem’. Yet that is just what Donald Trump is this week thinking of doing. In a way, we should have expected this: mad presidents do mad things.
 

AlQuds


But is there no one in the White House able to restrain him? Not even Jared Kushner, who is supposed to be Trump’s Middle East hand? Or is Kushner too bound up in his latest scandal – just revealed by Newsweek that he failed to disclose his co-directorship of a foundation funding illegal Jewish colonies in the West Bank when he filed financial records with the Office of Government Ethics this year – to speak out?

For it’s not that the embassy itself is just a symbolic move. It means that the United States would acknowledge that the city of al-Quds, sacred to Muslims, Jews and Christians, is the capital of ‘Israel’, and that the Palestinians can never share it. The slovenly “peace process” – abandoned by the ‘Israelis’, then by the Palestinians and then by the Americans years ago, although “statesmen” still talk about it in the dream world in which they live – would no longer exist even in our imaginations.

That’s why everyone from Macron to Erdogan, from the Saudis to the EU, and of course the poor old Palestinians, have been variously criticizing and condemning Trump’s potential decision. If he doesn’t sign the old waiver – which has to be renewed every six months – to the US law to move the embassy, then he will indeed, to quote the Palestinian leadership, be risking an “ethnic” conflict.

Aren’t there enough wars in the Middle East to keep even the crazed White House busy? Trump has long ago taken the Sunni side in the Sunni-Shia conflict – but now he risks turning up the heat by infuriating both of them. The Arabs all know – and many ‘Israelis’ agree – that President Trump is bananas. But the ramifications of any movement of the embassy – or acceptance by Trump that al-Quds is indeed the ‘capital’ of ‘Israel’ – will be enormous. It will tell the Arabs, both Muslims and Christians, that their second most holy city belongs to the Jews of ‘Israel’ and not to them. It will tell the Iranians the same. It will mean the same to all the Muslim countries of the world.

Could Trump expect another warm welcome and traditional sword dance in Riyadh? Would the Saudis choose to buy all those billions of weapons from the US if it hands al-Quds to the ‘Israelis’? Muslims generally believe that the Prophet, born in Arabia, ascended from al-Quds to heaven.

In the West, it will further tear apart the relationship between Washington and the EU, it will damage Canadian-American relations – for Ottawa is surely not going to follow Washington’s move – and the EU, still fondly believing in the famous “peace process”, is certainly not going to respond by moving its own embassies to al-Quds. There are, of course, European consulates in al-Quds – but to cover the East al-Quds and the West Bank, not ‘Israel’.

Bibi Netanyahu and his extraordinarily right-wing ‘Israeli’ government will certainly be happy, for it will unleash a new and far greater expansion of Jewish colonies – which we still oddly call “settlements” – on Arab land, further aggravating the Palestinians. The ‘Israelis’ have been stealing land from their legal Arab owners for years, but President Trump would be taking from them even the hope of a capital in East al-Quds.

And how would the Palestinians of the refugee camps in Lebanon respond? There is scarcely a Palestinian home without a photograph of the al-Aqsa mosque on the wall. How will Hezbollah respond? Can they merely satisfy themselves with rhetoric – or will they need to fire some missiles over the ‘Israeli’-Lebanese border to express their fury?

And the Russians, the greatest ally of Syria – where Bashar al-Assad would surely declare his regime the standard bearer in a new battle for a “liberated al-Quds” – can scarcely let such a moment pass without taking the Arab side. And selling them the warships, fighter aircraft and missiles which they have hitherto bought from the Americans.

An ‘Israeli’ dream might come true if Trump announces al-Quds as ‘Israel’s’ capital. But so will an Arab nightmare. At least when al-Quds remained the subject of ‘Israeli’-Palestinian negotiations, the Arabs of the West Bank could believe in the vague hope of a share of the city. But if Trump goes ahead, then America can never field another “peace process”, even an imaginary one. “A colossal blunder” will be the least the world will say about the United States if Trump does not sign the waiver.

Source: The Independent, Edited by website team

The Balfour Anniversary

The 1ooth anniversary of the Balfour Declaration was two days ago. Below is as collection of videos, including Theresa May’s Downing Street reception of Benjamin Netanyahu, as well as comments by Palestinians given in response, and finally a commentary by British journalist Robert Fisk.

“Balfour had more right to offer a state in Wales than Palestine” says @kamelhawwash vice chair of the British Palestinian Policy Council.

***

Everything Wrong with Theresa May’s Ridiculous Assertion that We Should Feel Proud of the Balfour Declaration

By Robert Fisk

So now it’s time for us all to follow Theresa May’s bone-headed suggestion that we feel “proud” of the iniquitous Balfour Declaration on its hundredth anniversary this week. The Israelis will be celebrating – and why not, for it set Britain’s seal on the future Israeli state in Palestine. Perhaps Israel would not have been created without it. But the fearful suffering and tragedy of the Palestinian refugees which was to follow in the coming years suggest that the Balfour letter – through its very wording – was certain to create a terrible wrongdoing which to this day curses the place we used to call the Holy Land.

Even more disgraceful than May’s foolish words – for many Britons may well feel shame or prefer silence when they contemplate this episode of history – were Mark Regev’s remarks this week that citizens of the United Kingdom, to which he is currently accredited as ambassador – are “extremists” if they oppose the Balfour Declaration.

Thus, the man whose nauseous excuses for the slaughter in Gaza we had to put up with when he was an Israeli government spokesperson, continues that “those who oppose the Balfour Declaration are exposing themselves for the extremists they are. If you oppose a Jewish national home, that means you think Israel should be destroyed. And let’s be clear: that’s the position of the Iranian government; that’s the position of terrorist groups like Hezbollah and Hamas.”

So I get it. Instead of giving the Israeli ambassador a dressing down for such undiplomatic language towards her own citizens, May preferred to keep a cowardly silence while Israel’s ambassador told us what to think about the Balfour Declaration – and that if we didn’t agree with him, we were all extremists, terrorists, and therefore presumably antisemites, racists, Nazis, not to mention sympathisers of Hamas.

What gall this man has. Does Regev not even realise – as at least one Israeli journalist has pointed out – that the Balfour Declaration may itself have been, by extension, antisemitic? It followed only a few years after Britain passed laws specifically introduced to prevent further Jewish immigration to the UK from Russia and Eastern Europe. In 1917, we certainly wanted the support of the Jews of Europe and America in the First World War – but we preferred any Jewish immigrants to avoid dank London and head for sunny Palestine.

Yet let’s point out something right away. Israel – whether or not Balfour was its original foreign sponsor – exists, and will only disappear if it destroys itself (which its prime minister’s continued policy of thieving even more Arab land for Israeli colonists might ultimately bring about).

As one of Israel’s finest historians, now an Oxford scholar, has rightly pointed out, Israel’s existence might have been grossly unjust to the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who lost their homes – now a diaspora of more than six million refugees – but it is legal and came into existence legally. It is internationally recognized – though its colonies in the West Bank are not – and it is a member of the United Nations and has diplomatic relations with 159 countries.

This, however, does not excuse Theresa May’s “pride”. Indeed, it was instructive to note that in her remarks, she placed Britain’s trade relations in front of the terrifying injustice done to the Palestinians. Of course she did. For she cares more about the results of Brexit than she cares about millions of refugees. This, remember, is the lady who held Donald Trump’s hand.

Here, for the record, is what she actually said about Balfour: “I am … pleased that good trade relations and other relations that we have with Israel we are building on and enhancing. We must also be conscious of the sensitivities that some people do have about the Balfour Declaration and we recognise that there is more work to be done. We remain committed to the two-state solution in relation to Israel and the Palestinians.” And that is about as disgraceful as the Balfour Declaration itself.

So let’s remember what this document actually said in 1917: “His Majesty’s government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.”

The obvious lie in this single sentence – a charter for “refugeedom” if ever there was one – is that while Britain would support a Jewish “homeland”, the majority of the population (700,000 Arabs as opposed to 60,000 Jews, according to Hanan Ashrawi) are not regarded as having a “homeland” at all – but merely referred to as “existing non-Jewish communities”. They are not even called Arabs or Muslims – which most of them were – but as just “communities” which “exist”. And which of course might be persuaded one day to exist somewhere else.

We can forget that Balfour and his chums admitted within months that they didn’t intend to give the Arabs any attention. They certainly didn’t get any. Within just over 30 years, Israel itself was created and the Palestinian tragedy began. And in this, Theresa May takes “pride”.

I did particularly enjoy those “sensitivities” she referred to. Not, presumably, the “sensitivities” of the Palestinian refugees, but perhaps a few Tory MPs and, I suppose poor Jeremy Corbyn who’s getting his usual whipping, this time for not attending the Balfour Declaration formal dinner in London. If only he could be as forthright as this over Brexit and denounce the whole shambles of leaving the EU – but alas, he’s more worried about his Labour constituencies.

Anyway, for May, there is “more work to be done” and she still supports a two-state solution. More “work” to do? When the occupied Arab West Bank is still being concreted over? When any sane person realises that the “peace process” has collapsed?

This is a tragedy, of course, for Israelis as well as Palestinians. Israel’s achievement is that it has stayed alive – with massive and uncritical support and subventions from the United States, to be sure – and actually does exist as a state. But without peace with its neighbours and an end to Jewish colonisation of other people’s land, and without a Palestinian state – which alas, I suspect will never exist – Israel will always be at war, always live in fear and always have enemies. But there you go.

Feel plenty of “pride” like Theresa. And if you don’t, consider yourself a Nazi.

Why ‘Israel’ and Saudi Arabia Are United?

Robert Fisk 

Once upon a time, the Saudi head-choppers and ‘Israeli’ occupiers united into an alliance.

Theresa May


When the wealthiest Saudis fall ill, they have been known to fly into Tel Aviv on their private jets for treatment in the Zionist entity’s finest hospitals. And when Saudi and ‘Israeli’ bombers take to the air, you can be sure they’re going to bomb Shia – in Yemen or Syria respectively.

And when King Salman – or rather Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad – points the finger at Iran as the greatest threat to Gulf security, you can be sure that Bibi Netanyahu will be doing exactly and precisely the same thing, replacing “Gulf security”, of course, with “‘Israeli’ security”. But it’s an odd business when the Saudis set the pace of media suppression only to be supported by that beacon of freedom, democracy, human rights and liberty known in song and legend as ‘Israel’.

For if an unwritten alliance really exists between Saudi Arabia and ‘Israel’, then all options – as US presidents and secretary Hillary Clinton used to say – are “on the table”.

Imprisonment without trial, extrajudicial executions, human rights abuses, corruption, military rule – let’s say this at once: all these characteristics belong to “almost all” Arab nations – and to ‘Israel’ in the lands it occupies.

If you ask why ‘Israel’ has never bombed terrorists based in the Middle East – indeed, ask why ‘Israel’ has given hospital treatment to wounded militants from the al-Nusra terrorist group- in other words, al-Qaeda, the perpetrators of 9/11.

Besides, we must not forget that America’s insane President and his weird regime is also part of the Saudi-‘Israeli’ anti-Shiite confederation. Trump’s obscene $350bn arms sales to the Saudis, his fingering of Iran and his hatred of the world’s press and television channels makes him an intimate part of the same alliance.

Indeed, when you look at one of Trump’s saner predecessors – George W Bush, who also hated Iran, kowtowed to the Saudis and actually talked to Tony Blair of bombing Al Jazeera Channel’s headquarters in Qatar, he who made sure the wealthy bin Laden family were flown out of the States after 9/11 – this American-Saudi-‘Israeli’ covenant has a comparatively long history.

Netanyahu wants to close down Al Jazeera’s office in occupied al-Quds. Crown Prince Mohammad wants to close down Al Jazeera’s office in Qatar. Bush actually did bomb Al Jazeera’s offices in Kabul and Baghdad. Theresa May decided to hide a government report on funding terrorism, lest it upset the Saudis – which is precisely the same reason Blair closed down a UK police enquiry into BAE-Saudi bribery 10 years earlier.

And we wonder why we go to war in the Middle East. And we wonder why Daesh [ISIS/ISIL] exists, un-bombed by ‘Israel’, funded by Gulf Arabs, its fellow Sunni Salafists cosseted by our wretched presidents and prime ministers…

Source: The Independent, Edited by website team

11-08-2017 | 15:20

كاتب بريطاني: أثرياء السعودية يطيرون بطائرات خاصة للعلاج في مستشفيات (إسرائيل) الفخمة

نشرت صحيفة “إندبندنت” البريطانية مقالا لمحررها لشؤون الشرق الأوسط، الكاتب البريطاني المعروف روبرت فيسك، تناول خلاله الأزمة الخليجية وتداعياتها الخارجية، كما تناول أيضا قضية غلق قناة “الجزيرة” القطرية.

وقال فيسك، إنه “عندما تطلب السعودية وإسرائيل بغلق قناة “الجزيرة” الفضائية القطرية، فيجب أنها تفعل شيئاً صحيحاً”. و”لكن لا تكن رومانسياً جداً حول هذا الموضوع. فعندما يمرض السعوديون الأثرياء، كان من المعروف أنهم يطيرون إلى تل أبيب على طائراتهم الخاصة لتلقي العلاج في أرقى المستشفيات في إسرائيل. وعندما تقلع المقاتلات السعودية والإسرائيلية إلى الهواء، يمكنك التأكد من أنها سوف تقصف اليمن أو سوريا”.

وأضاف “عندما يشير الملك سلمان — أو بالأحرى ولي العهد السعودي الأمير محمد بن سلمان — بإصبعه على أن إيران هي أكبر تهديد لأمن الخليج، يمكنك أن تتأكد من أن نتنياهو سوف يفعل بالضبط وعلى وجه التحديد نفس الشيء، ولكن يحل محل “أمن الخليج” بطبيعة الحال “الأمن الإسرائيلي”. لكنه عمل غريب عندما يرتبط رفع السعوديون وتيرة قمع وسائل الإعلام بدعم من “منارة الحرية والديمقراطية وحقوق الإنسان” إسرائيل ونتنياهو وحكومته”.

ويقول فيسك بسخرية “لذلك دعونا نعرض باختصار آخر مظاهر التسامح الإسرائيلي تجاه حرية التعبير التي نؤيدها جميعا ونعززها ونحبها ونعشقها ونعتبرها حجر الزاوية لديمقراطيتنا وما إلى ذلك، وما إلى ذلك، وما إلى ذلك. خلال هذا الأسبوع، كشف أيوب كارا، وزير الاتصالات الإسرائيلي، عن خطط لسحب تصاريح صحفيي “الجزيرة”، وإغلاق مكتبها في القدس، ووقفها من محطات البث التي تقدم خدمات الكابلات والأقمار الصناعية المحلية”.

ويضيف “اتهم نتنياهو منذ وقت طويل قناة “الجزيرة” بالتحريض على العنف في القدس، وخاصة في تقاريرها عن عمليات القتل الأخيرة في القدس، ولكن كل صحفي أجنبي في “إسرائيل” وخارجها تجرأ على انتقاد الدولة في وقت أو آخر اتهم بالتحريض وكذلك معاداة السامية وغيرها من “الأكاذيب”.

ويقول فيسك “لقد وجدت أنا شخصيا أن تقارير “الجزيرة” من إسرائيل مثيرة للشفقة جداً، لقد كانت تتودد وتبجل بوضوح عندما ظهرت مذيعتها القطرية التي أعربت للمتحدث باسم الحكومة الإسرائيلية على الهواء عن تعازي قناتها في وفاة أرييل شارون، وهو المسؤول عن مذبحة صبرا وشاتيلا التي وقعت في عام 1982 والتي أدت إلى مقتل 1700 فلسطيني”.

ويتابع فيسك في مقاله “مع ذلك اتخذ أيوب كارا نفس موقف زملائه العرب. وقال إن على “إسرائيل” أن تتخذ خطوات ضد “وسائل الإعلام التي تتهمها جميع الدول العربية تقريباً بتأييد الإرهاب”. “إذا كان هناك تحالف غير مكتوب بين المملكة العربية السعودية وإسرائيل، فإن جميع الخيارات — كما قال الرئيس الأمريكي وهيلاري كلينتون — كانت على الطاولة”. “فالسجن دون محاكمة والإعدام خارج نطاق القانون وانتهاكات حقوق الإنسان والفساد والحكم العسكري — كل هذه الخصائص تنتمي إلى “جميع” الدول العربية تقريبا — وإسرائيل في الأراضي التي تحتلها”.

ويضيف “أما بالنسبة لكونها “مؤيدة للإرهاب” (أقتبس من الوزير الإسرائيلي كارا مرة أخرى)، يجب أن نسأل أولا لماذا صدر العرب الخليجيون مقاتليهم وأموالهم إلى الإسلاميين الأكثر شراسة في الشرق الأوسط. ثم نسأل لماذا لم تقصف “إسرائيل” هذه المخلوقات الخبيثة نفسها، بل نسأل لماذا أعطت “إسرائيل” العلاج بالمستشفيات للمقاتلين الجرحى من “جبهة النصرة” أي تنظيم “القاعدة”.

ويتابع فيسك “كما يجب ألا ننسى أن الرئيس الأمريكي ونظامه الغريب هو أيضا جزء من الكونفيدرالية السعودية — الإسرائيلية المناهضة للشيعة. ترامب أبرم صفقات مبيعات أسلحة بـ350 مليار دولار للسعوديين، وموقفه من إيران وكراهيته للصحافة والتلفزيون في العالم يجعله جزءاً حميما من نفس التحالف.

ويضيف “لكن لا يزال هناك إسرائيليون شرفاء يطالبون بدولة للفلسطينيين. وهناك سعوديات متعلمات جيداً يعترضن على “الوهابية المظلمة” التي تأسست عليها مملكتهن، وهناك الملايين من الأميركيين من البحر إلى البحر، الذين لا يعتقدون أن إيران عدوهم ولا السعودية صديقتهم. ولكن المشكلة اليوم في كل من الشرق والغرب هي أن حكوماتنا ليست أصدقائنا. هم مضطهدينا أو أسيادنا، ويقمعون الحقيقة وحلفاء للظالم”.

ويضيف “يريد نتانياهو إغلاق مكتب “الجزيرة” في القدس. وولي العهد السعودي الأمير محمد بن سلمان يريد إغلاق مكتب “الجزيرة” في قطر. بوش فعلا قصف مكاتب “الجزيرة” في كابول وبغداد. وقررت تيريزا ماي إخفاء تقرير حكومي عن تمويل “الإرهاب”، خشية أن يزعج السعوديين — وهذا هو بالضبط السبب الذي أخفاه بلير في تحقيق أجرته الشرطة البريطانية بشأن الرشوة المزعومة من قبل السعودية قبل عشر سنوات”.

“سبوتنيك”

This Is The Real Story Behind The Crisis Unfolding In Qatar

Only Shakespeare’s plays could come close to describing such treachery – the comedies, that is

By Robert Fisk

June 11, 2017 “Information Clearing House” –

The Qatar crisis proves two things: the continued infantilisation of the Arab states, and the total collapse of the Sunni Muslim unity supposedly created by Donald Trump’s preposterous attendance at the Saudi summit two weeks ago.

After promising to fight to the death against Shia Iranian “terror,” Saudi Arabia and its closest chums have now ganged up on one of the wealthiest of their neighbours, Qatar, for being a fountainhead of “terror”. Only Shakespeare’s plays could come close to describing such treachery. Shakespeare’s comedies, of course.

For, truly, there is something vastly fantastical about this charade. Qatar’s citizens have certainly contributed to Isis. But so have Saudi Arabia’s citizens.

No Qataris flew the 9/11 planes into New York and Washington. All but four of the 19 killers were Saudi. Bin Laden was not a Qatari. He was a Saudi.

But Bin Laden favoured Qatar’s al-Jazeera channel with his personal broadcasts, and it was al-Jazeera who tried to give spurious morality to the al-Qaeda/Jabhat al-Nusrah desperadoes of Syria by allowing their leader hours of free airtime to explain what a moderate, peace-loving group they all were.

Saudi Arabia cuts ties with Qatar over terror links

First, let’s just get rid of the hysterically funny bits of this story. I see that Yemen is breaking air links with Qatar. Quite a shock for the poor Qatari Emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, since Yemen – under constant bombardment by his former Saudi and Emirati chums – doesn’t have a single serviceable airliner left with which to create, let alone break, an air link.

The Maldives have also broken relations with Qatar. To be sure, this has nothing to do with the recent promise of a Saudi five-year loan facility of $300m to the Maldives, the proposal of a Saudi property company to invest $100m in a family resort in the Maldives and a promise by Saudi Islamic scholars to spend $100,000 on 10 “world class” mosques in the Maldives.

And let us not mention the rather large number of Isis and other Islamist cultists who arrived to fight for Isis in Iraq and Syria from – well, the Maldives.

Now the Qatari Emir hasn’t enough troops to defend his little country should the Saudis decide to request that he ask their army to enter Qatar to restore stability – as the Saudis persuaded the King of Bahrain to do back in 2011. But Sheikh Tamim no doubt hopes that the massive US military air base in Qatar will deter such Saudi generosity.

When I asked his father, Sheikh Hamad (later uncharitably deposed by Tamim) why he didn’t kick the Americans out of Qatar, he replied:

“Because if I did, my Arab brothers would invade me.”

Like father, like son, I suppose. God Bless America.

All this started – so we are supposed to believe – with an alleged hacking of the Qatar News Agency, which produced some uncomplimentary but distressingly truthful remarks by Qatar’s Emir about the need to maintain a relationship with Iran.

Qatar denied the veracity of the story. The Saudis decided it was true and broadcast the contents on their own normally staid (and immensely boring) state television network. The upstart Emir, so went the message, had gone too far this time. The Saudis decided policy in the Gulf, not miniscule Qatar. Wasn’t that what Donald Trump’s visit proved?

But the Saudis had other problems to worry about. Kuwait, far from cutting relations with Qatar, is now acting as a peacemaker between Qatar and the Saudis and Emiratis. The emirate of Dubai is quite close to Iran, has tens of thousands of Iranian expatriates, and is hardly following Abu Dhabi’s example of anti-Qatari wrath.

Oman was even staging joint naval manoeuvres with Iran a couple of months ago. Pakistan long ago declined to send its army to help the Saudis in Yemen, because the Saudis asked for only Sunni and no Shia soldiers; the Pakistani army was understandably outraged to realise that Saudi Arabia was trying to sectarianise its military personnel.

Pakistan’s former army commander, General Raheel Sharif, is rumoured to be on the brink of resigning as head of the Saudi-sponsored Muslim alliance to fight “terror”.

Five things to know about Qatar’s first 2022 World Cup stadium

President-Field Marshal al-Sissi of Egypt has been roaring against Qatar for its support of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood – and Qatar does indeed support the now-banned group which Sissi falsely claims is part of Isis – but significantly Egypt, though the recipient of Saudi millions, also does not intend to supply its own troops to bolster the Saudis in its catastrophic Yemen war.

Besides, Sissi needs his Egyptian soldiers at home to fight off Isis attacks and maintain, along with Israel, the siege of the Palestinian Gaza Strip.

But if we look a bit further down the road, it’s not difficult to see what really worries the Saudis. Qatar also maintains quiet links with the Assad regime. It helped secure the release of Syrian Christian nuns in Jabhat al-Nusrah hands and has helped release Lebanese soldiers from Isis hands in western Syria. When the nuns emerged from captivity, they thanked both Bashar al-Assad and Qatar.

And there are growing suspicions in the Gulf that Qatar has much larger ambitions: to fund the rebuilding of post-war Syria. Even if Assad remained as president, Syria’s debt to Qatar would place the nation under Qatari economic control.

And this would give tiny Qatar two golden rewards. It would give it a land empire to match its al-Jazeera media empire. And it would extend its largesse to the Syrian territories, which many oil companies would like to use as a pipeline route from the Gulf to Europe via Turkey, or via tankers from the Syrian port of Lattakia.

For Europeans, such a route would reduce the chances of Russian oil blackmail, and make sea-going oil routes less vulnerable if vessels did not have to move through the Gulf of Hormuz.

So rich pickings for Qatar – or for Saudi Arabia, of course, if the assumptions about US power of the two emirs, Hamad and Tamim, prove worthless. A Saudi military force in Qatar would allow Riyadh to gobble up all the liquid gas in the emirate.

But surely the peace-loving “anti-terror” Saudis – let’s forget the head-chopping for a moment – would never contemplate such a fate for an Arab brother.

So let’s hope that for the moment, the routes of Qatar Airways are the only parts of the Qatari body politics to get chopped off.

This article was first published by The Independent

The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Information Clearing House.

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