A SYRIAN LEADER TELLS HIS COUNTRY’S STORY: AN INTERVIEW WITH SAA GENERAL HASSAN HASSAN

In Gaza

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Eva Bartlett sits down for an exclusive interview with the head of the Syrian Arab Army’s Political Administration, General Hassan Hassan.

August 5, 2019, Mint Press News

For years, international headlines spotlighting Syria have claimed that the Syrian government, army, and its allies were guilty of a variety of atrocities. Yet as time has passed, many of the accusations levied at government and its allies have been shown to have been either falsified, staged (as in the case of allegations of chemical attacks in eastern Ghouta), or actually committed by the myriad terrorist groups operating in the country.

For their part, Syrian leadership has maintained from the start that the demonstrations in their country were not peaceful, from 2011 and on. Media in the West and the Gulf vilified Syria’s leadership, featuring story after story of government-imposed violence while ignoring or whitewashing the violence of the burgeoning armed groups flooding into Syria.

From as early as 2011, armed groups were throwing civilians from rooftops and committing beheadings, kidnappings, and massacres. The year 2011 alone saw multiple massacres of civilians and security forces committed by what the media called “unarmed protesters” and later by the “Free Syrian Army.” This was the same year that many in the media were insisting that a “peaceful revolution” was underway.

Since that time, those same armed groups, as well as the many iterations they spawned, have starved, tortured, imprisoned, murdered, maimed and even harvested the organs of Syrian civilians, in addition to killing Syrian and allied soldiers and journalists and destroying much of the country’s infrastructure.

To give a voice to the often ignored “other side” — those Syrians that have been working to defend their country since 2011 —  Eva Bartlett interviewed the Syrian Arab Army’s Head of Political Administration, General Hassan Hassan. General Hassan’s shelves and large wooden desk are covered with stacks of books, family photos, and various homages to the country he serves — the general holds a Ph.D. in geopolitical studies. The following is a transcript of Bartlett’s interview with Hassan following the 74th anniversary of the founding of the Syrian Arab Army.

 

Eva Bartlett (EB) | I would like to begin by asking you your thoughts on how honest Western and Gulf media’s reporting on Syria has been, especially regarding their choice of lexicon — for example, regarding the Syrian Army, the Syrian Government, what they call rebels — and the events in Syria in general.

General Hassan (GH) | Media has been one of the weapons of mass destruction used in this war on Syria. The biased media, in addition to the takfiri [Salafi] fatwas — especially the fatwas — have been the weapons that contributed most to the destruction taking place in Syria, including the destruction of human beings, vegetation, civilization,…everything.

President Bashar al-Assad emphasized more than once the necessity of countering the rhetoric used. I can elaborate for two or more hours on the terms used. However, I will limit myself to some examples.

The Free [Syrian] Army is among the lexicons used. What “army” and what “freedom” are they talking about? Every army is known for its discipline, hierarchy, fighting strategies in both defense and attack, and the cause it fights for.

The so-called Free Syrian Army has none of these qualities, except for the ability to kill. The media tried to put into circulation the term Assad’s Brigades or Assad’s Forces. Our army is the Syrian Arab Army, which includes in each of its formations soldiers from all Syrian governorates, with no exception.

I’ll give you an example. Almost three months ago, the militants supported by Turkey targeted a Syrian army position to the north of Latakia. Twelve soldiers were martyred as a result. Each soldier is from a different governorate. This is the Syrian Arab Army.

They used the term “defection.” There is no defection in the Syrian Arab Army; defection did not really occur in the Syrian Arab Army but there are some cases of soldiers running away. The term “defection” is used when a brigade or a squad defect from a certain army. Until now, the Syrian Arab Army has not witnessed what might be called defection even within its smallest units.

In order to spread the idea of defection they resorted to unsophisticated lies. In 2012 they said that General Mohammad al-Rifa’i, commander of the Fifth Squad, had defected from the army. This lie was circulated through the media. Yet, Syrian TV interviewed the general, who had retired in 2001, 11 years prior.

Gangs would stop civilian or military vehicles on highways, hold soldiers hostages, film them and force them at gunpoint to declare that they had defected [from the army].

I’ll give an example available from the internet of their lies regarding the term the Free Syrian Army. Anyone can check the Free Syrian Army term through Google. We type Abu Saqr al-Asadi — right here, I have typed Abu Saqr al-Souri [the Syrian]. We now find [the result] “face to face with the fighter Abu Saqr al-Asadi who ate the heart of a soldier.” (Abu Saqr is also transliterated as Abu Sakkar, as per the BBC article referred to by General Hassan).

That was in 2013 when he was filmed cutting into the chest of the soldier and eating his heart. It is here on Google from the BBC Arabic website. This is not a Syrian media outlet. It is a Western outlet. It is not a pleasant sight to watch him chewing the soldier’s heart.

Abu Saqr al-Asadi was a fighter in the Al-Farouq Brigades, which was an armed rebel organization formed by the Free Syrian Army. When he died he was a member of the Nusra Front. So, he was a member of the Free Syrian Army, used to be with the Farouq Brigades, and then joined the Nusra Front.

I could speak for hours about the issue of lexicon. For instance, they talked about what is called the armed opposition. How could opposition be armed?! Opposition is a political term. Opposition is a political party that did not win elections. Such a party plays the role of opposition in the parliament. These militant groups want to govern the country, the people and everything by armed force. Does this sound normal? Never was there a term called “armed opposition,” except when they spoke about these terrorist gangs.

 

EB | So in the article you’ve just shown, the English version, the BBC did not report it as an act of carnage. They humanized Abu Saqr and asked him what drove him to do such a desperate act?

GH | This is the media war. Either they say he is violent or they say he is an angel; hasn’t he demonstrated how he cut out an organ and ate a piece of it? When the BBC describes a man who ate the heart of a dead soldier as a peaceful man, how then would they describe beasts?

 

EB | Regarding events in Syria in 2011, both Western and Gulf media called it a peaceful unarmed uprising for many months, even for up to a year. Do you have an example of attacks by what the West called unarmed protesters against the Syrian army, police or security forces in 2011?

GH | In 2011 they said the reason behind the first spark was that the army, or another security body, pulled out the nails of some children in Dara`a. Over the past eight years, it has become clear that all of the armed groups are equipped with video cameras and live-streaming devices. Can any of them provide us with a video of one child whose nails were pulled out? Where are these children? Why couldn’t the media that fabricated such lies film the pulled-out nails?

Let’s go back to the peaceful uprising. On April 10, 2011, less than a month after the beginning of the so-called uprising, an army convoy transporting soldiers back to their homes was intercepted on the highway from Tartous to Banias. Nine people were martyred: two officers, five warrant officers, and two civilians. They also fired at the ambulances that tried to reach the wounded.

Other examples are the Nawa massacre in Dara`a, the Jisr al-Shoghur massacre, and the Asi River massacre — where they live-streamed the dumping of people into the river. All these massacres were perpetrated before the end of June 2011.

That is the peaceful [Arab] spring the Western and Gulf media talked about.

Are these examples enough, or should I cite more? It’s important to me that Western readers know how many lies and how much deception there has been, especially by the media.

I’ll give you another minor example. Usually, the BBCAl-Jazeera and France 24, etc. would broadcast that an explosion took place in a certain area. However, there was no explosion. But 15 to 30 minutes later an explosion would take place in the same area. It was like a code to the armed groups to carry out the explosion.

I’ll provide you with a more comprehensive example. When the area of Ma`raba [near al-Tal, a suburb of Damascus] was targeted by the Israeli enemy, cameras were focused on the targeted area even before the missiles hit.

 

EB | So, they were ready?

GH | The cameras were aimed at the area where the missiles were supposed to hit. At the moment that the missiles hit the targeted area, members of armed groups began cheering “Allahu Akbar… Allahu Akbar.” This was documented by their cameras; definitely not Syrian media cameras. At the same time, armed groups in eastern Ghouta attacked Damascus from seven fronts.

As an ordinary person — not as a military figure– I could tell it was a role carried out by three. First, the one who carried out the aggression, and that is the Zionist entity [Israel].

Second, the media outlets that were assigned to broadcast the aggression before it was carried out.  And third, the armed groups who attacked Damascus. Therefore, the cameraman and those militants are substitute recruits of the Israeli enemy. I cannot call them but the substitute army of Israel and the United States.

According to confessions by Israeli and American officials, including previous U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, ISIS was made by America. Later on, ISIS was classified as a terrorist organization.

Thus, those terrorists made in the U.S. are the rebels of the peaceful [Arab] spring later circulated in the region by means of the foreign media outlets.

 

EB | According to Israeli media, Israel is fighting terrorism, Muslim extremists. However, there are reports of Israel treating militants or terrorists in Israeli hospitals. Can you please outline Israel’s role in the war on Syria?

GH | Everything that has taken place in Syria and in the region — all the blaze erupting in the region,  under what they falsely called the Arab Spring — serves the interests of Israel. These are not my own conclusions; rather, it is the Israeli media who talk about this. The Israeli prime minister appeared on television when he visited wounded terrorists, injured while fighting the Syrian army, being treated in Israeli hospitals. This is number one.

The other issue is that every time the Syrian Arab Army is making an apparent advance, Israel conducts an aggression [airstrike]. When Israel is unable to achieve its objective, it seeks the help of the United States, just as it did when the U.S. Air Force targeted the Tharda Mountains in Deir ez-Zor as the Syrian army was en route to clear Deir ez-Zor of terrorists.

I hope that you underscore the following statement: Those who sponsor terrorism don’t fight it.Israel is an entity based on both killing and falsehood. When Palestine was already inhabited, they claimed that Palestine was a land without people and wanted to give it to people without a land. Thus, the United Kingdom’s Foreign Secretary, Arthur Balfour, gave what the U.K. didn’t own to those who didn’t deserve it.

In 2019, Trump did the same and gave the Golan to Israel as if Trump inherited it from his own father. Who gave Trump the right to give other people’s property to others? The issue here is that international law needs power to protect it. Unfortunately, the United States is still the superpower of the world and the financial and economic despot of the world. U.S. officials are indifferent to falsehood, humanity, law or human rights. All this means nothing to them.

I would like to remind foreign readers that Iraq was destroyed under the pretext of having weapons of mass destruction. The whole world still recalls Colin Powell when he presented what he called a satellite image as evidence of Iraq possessing weapons of mass destruction. When Powell left office, he admitted to U.S. media outlets that that moment was the darkest in his lifetime. The question is: When did he admit it? How many innocent victims were killed as a result?

How come a sovereign state was occupied without international legitimacy? American officials don’t care about this. Wherever the U.S. has interfered around the world, the result has been more killing, destruction, and suffering and successive U.S. administrations are competing to serve Israel.

 

EB | Syria has been accused of using chemical weapons against civilians. Does the Syrian army use chemical weapons against civilians?

GH |  An official mission came to Syria and demanded that the Syrian government carry out an official investigation. They delayed for years before the mission arrived. And those who came submitted an untruthful report.

Syria signed the agreement and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) visited Syria and checked all places and the existing stockpile [of chemical weapons] was destroyed on a U.S. vessel. Accordingly, The OPCW announced that Syria was chemical weapons-free.ve

The Syrian Government has been accused of using chemical weapons many times, in eastern Ghouta and in other areas. Under this pretext, [th U.S. and its allies] launched their aggression on Syria. Syria affirmed many times through statements by Syrian officials, both before and after the agreement was signed, that Syria does not in any way intend to use chemical weapons and that Syria has not used nor will it use chemical weapons.

After the declaration of this organization [OPCW] that Syria is free from chemical weapons, how could Syria use something that it does not have? Despite evidence that chemical substances and weapons entered into areas under the control of militant groups in Syria through Turkish borders, investigations were not resumed.

There are a number of videos showing how the armed groups were the ones using chemical weapons themselves. Each time Syria was accused of using chemical weapons, the Syrian army was on the verge of finishing a military operation. Is it logical they’d use chemical weapons — which would prevent the declaration of victory?

With regard to their claim of using chemicals in Ghouta, the areas there are interconnected. Those who use chemical weapons cannot protect themselves. When those terrorists used chemicals there, both the civilians and the military were hit, as was the case in Khan al-Asal and elsewhere. This was exposed in the [UN] Security Council by Bashar al-Ja’afari.

Syria does not possess chemical weapons. Syria has never used chemical weapons before. Syria cannot use a chemical weapon for a simple reason, or for two reasons in fact: Ethically, Syria does not believe in using chemicals [weapons]. This is number one. Second, Syria does not own chemical weapons.

 

EB | The Rukban Camp is near the U.S. base of al-Tanf. One question is about the U.S. relationship with ISIS in that area and whether or not America has been fighting ISIS in the area. Also, according to Western media, refugees evacuated from Rukban to centers in Homs, for example, are taken and thrown in prison.

For example, the Canadian Globe & Mail, citing a Qatari-based organization, said that from 2017 to 2019 around 2,000 Syrians who returned to government-controlled areas (in general and not from Rukban specifically) were detained and 784 are still in prison. How would you reply to accusations that people returning home were detained or forced to serve in the Syrian army?

GH | In relation to ISIS and the U.S., I can say that a mother does not eat her own son. ISIS is a U.S. product, according to American confessions. However, America sometimes becomes a cat and eats some of its own kittens when they become a burden.

America uses ISIS, fights with ISIS, not against ISIS. Whenever the role of some armed ISIS fighters comes to an end, the U.S. abandons or gets rid of them. The U.S. does not care whether those members get killed or not.

However, when the U.S. needs them, it sends helicopters to evacuate them, just like what happened when Deir ez-Zor was liberated. American helicopters would land and evacuate ISIS leaders together with their families and fly them somewhere else.

Rukban Camp is within the sight of the Americans in the Tanf base. U.S. surveillance can distinguish a hen from a rooster on a street anywhere in the world. How is it that ISIS members are able to move at the Tanf border without being observed by the U.S. military there? How can the U.S. convince the world that it is fighting ISIS when the latter’s members move freely under U.S. observation?

Four months ago, I was working with the Head of the Russian Reconciliation Centre, General Victor Kopcheshen. He told me that the Russian government received an official reply from the Americans that they would not allow any Syrian or Russian to come close to the 55-kilometer line around Rukban Camp to help evacuate people from the camp.

Less than four months ago we first began evacuating a few hundred [people] from Rukban. Now, the number of people who returned from Rukban Camp has exceeded 15,000 (As of July 31, that number has reached 17,458 according to Russia’s Ministry of Defense). Can anyone provide me with the name of even one person who left Rukban and got detained? These claims are flagrant lies.


Author’s note | 

I asked officials at the UN about the accusation that the Syrian government was imprisoning former residents of Rukban, I detailed their reply in a separate article for MintPress:

“David Swanson, Public Information Officer Regional Office for the Syria Crisis UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs based in Amman, Jordan, told me regarding claims of substandard conditions and of Syrians being forcefully held or mistreated in the centers that:

‘People leaving Rukban are taken to temporary collective shelters in Homs for a 24-hour stay. While there, the receive basic assistance, including shelter, blankets, mattresses, solar lamps, sleeping mats, plastic sheets, food parcels and nutrition supplies before proceeding to their areas of choice, mostly towards southern and eastern Homs, with smaller small numbers going to rural Damascus or Deir-ez-Zor.

The United Nations has been granted access to the shelters on three occasions and has found the situation there adequate. The United Nations continues to advocate and call for safe, sustained and unimpeded humanitarian assistance and access to Rukban as well as to all those in need throughout Syria. The United Nations also seeks the support of all concerned parties in ensuring the humanitarian and voluntary character of departures from Rukban.’

Hedinn Halldorsson, the Spokesperson and Public Information Officer for the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) based in Damascus, told me:

‘We looked into this when the rumours started, end of April, and concluded they were unfounded – and communicated that externally via press briefings in both Geneva and NY. The conditions in the shelters in Homs are also adequate and in compliance with standards; the UN has access and has done three monitoring visits so far.’”


GH | I would like to stress a point concerning military service in the army. Several presidential decrees have been issued. Any Syrian citizen [living] abroad who wishes to settle his status and return to Syria can benefit from those decrees, which invalidate any other verdict issued against that Syrian citizen.

These decrees do not nullify a Syrian citizen’s rights nor their duties. Syrian citizens who return to Syria are still Syrian citizens and therefore still have the duties of Syrian citizens. The decrees granted them a grace period of six months to settle their legal status.

For example, a person who lost their official ID, or army service registry or anything, can settle their legal status during this period. It is a normal official procedure to call for duty those who are subject to mandatory or reserve military service. This procedure has been applied to all Syrian citizens in all provinces, not only those who return.

I cannot say just respect the rights and ignore the duties. Everyone is equal before the law. They have to obey what Syrian law states and the majority of them are loyal and doing their duties enthusiastically.

But the people who have their status settled do not have the right to commit a crime. If I had a son living abroad who returned and settled his status, does it give him the right to commit an offense against his neighbors or to kill somebody or commit a crime? The law is the law and must be adhered to.

 

EB | Western media say that Iran and Russia’s presence in Syria is an attempt to occupy Syria and control it. What are the roles of Iran and Russia in Syria?

GH | Before I answer your question, let us decide what logic we’re using. Are we using the logic of international law or the law of the jungle? Who has the right to speak in the name of the Syrian people? It is only the Syrian state that has the right to speak in the name of the Syrian people. No other side has the right to speak for them. Surely, those who are speaking in the name of the Syrian people do not know the Syrian people. It is really strange that the governments of those who kill the Syrian people are acting as if they were advocates of the Syrian people.

According to international law, it is the right of any state to defend itself when such a country faces hazards endangering its own existence. Such a country has the right to defend its existence and sovereignty by using all means possible. In this respect, this country has the right to rely on its relations with friends and allies as well, no matter whether those allies are Russian, Iranian or any other ally. Neither the U.S., Israel nor the Gulf states have anything to do with this. It is a matter of Syrian sovereignty.

The other thing has to do with the military presence of any country on the territory of another state. Such a presence can be legal in one of the following two cases: when invited by the state concerned, or through a resolution issued by the [UN] Security Council. Otherwise, such a presence is an occupation.

Therefore, there is no reason for the Syrian state to be ashamed of its stance on the presence of Iran or Russia in Syria. The Syrian State declares its stances clearly and explicitly: that the presence of Iran, Russia and Hezbollah is based upon an official invitation by the Syrian government. Thus, their presence is legal according to international law. Can anyone in the West — or the media outlets who claim to be neutral — convince any Syrian citizen that the U.S. presence or the Turkish presence is legal?

The Syrian State says they are forces of occupation. There is no [UN] Security Council resolution allowing them to be present in Syria. So what is the meaning behind their presence? They are using the law of force, rather than the force of law. Thus, they are referring back to the law of the jungle and not to the force of international law.

Those occupiers support terrorism, created terrorism, and are still financing it according to a confession made by the former Qatari prime minister that his country spent $37 billion to arm and finance armed groups in Syria. The Qatari PM confessed that his country and the armed groups had agreed to destroy Syria. Yet, they disputed when things went out of their control. They paid the armed groups to hunt the prey. However, they disputed among themselves when the prey escaped.

 

EB | Syria welcomed Palestinian refugees and has supported the Palestinian resistance. Could you please explain the role of some Palestinians in the events in Syria within the past few years, whether in fighting terrorism or supporting it.

Will Hamas Challenge Fatah in the West Bank?

GH | The Syrian State does not deal with people and does not take stances based on reactions. The Syrian state has its own constants and principles, and it [continues to] adhere to these constants and principles even in its ninth year of war. Syria still believes that the cause of Palestine is the central cause of the Arab world.

So, when some Palestinian groups choose to affiliate themselves with the Muslim Brotherhood rather than being loyal to the Palestinian cause and to Syria, it makes Syria [even] more committed to its principles. Especially as these days, the world knows well that the Muslim Brotherhood [has become] the basis of evil since they’ve adopted terrorism.

The Palestinian cause remains the central cause. Syria will always take interest in the Palestinian cause, in spite of the fact that some [Palestinians] were eager to be part of the war on the Syrian State. Even though weapons that were supposed to be used to fight Israel were used in the war on Syrian citizens.

The Syrian State is now recovering and history will remember those [Palestinians] as traitors. History will show that Syria has been, and will be, loyal to the Palestinian cause.

The Yarmouk Camp is back under Syrian sovereignty. The camp is now free from those who carried weapons and used them against Syrian citizens, whatever names they used — ISIS, Nusra or otherwise — and regardless of their nationality, Palestinian or otherwise. All of them are now gone, thanks to the sacrifices made by the Syrian people the heroism of the Syrian Arab Army and the wisdom of our leader, President Bashar al-Assad.

 

EB | Some Palestinians remained loyal to Syria, including in fighting terrorism, like the Quds Brigade…

GH | Yes, of course. Surely. There are loyal people even inside occupied Palestine. Not all people are ungrateful to those who help them. Not all people bite the hand that is stretched out to help them. Only traitors bite that hand.

 

EB | When eastern Aleppo and eastern Ghouta were being liberated, Western and international media said that the Syrian army was massacring and raping civilians there and that both the Syrian and the Russian militaries were bombing hospitals. Now, they are saying that 29 hospitals in Idlib have been targeted. What would you say about these accusations?

GH | We have liberated eastern Ghouta. We have also liberated eastern Aleppo. In both locations, a number of field hospitals were shown on television with piles of medicine. This implies that these hospitals were not bombed. This is very briefly.

The other point is that when a building is selected as a command center for armed groups under the pretext of its being a hospital, does this mean we should let those positioned in eastern Ghouta target Damascus on a daily basis with their shells?

Didn’t the world watch those angels of mercy, when they entered Adra industrial town, burning people alive in ovens and throwing civilians off fourth and fifth floors?

We’re talking about war here, we’re talking here about armies of terrorists equipped with light, medium and heavy weapons and empires of media around the world, in addition to the regional and world powers supporting them.

It is the duty of the Syrian State, before being its own right, to provide the Syrian people with protection against terrorism. The problem with the national Syrian media is that it does not reach the West.

Crossing points are identified as corridors for the exit of civilians before any military operation gets started in a populated area. Such corridors are then equipped with ambulances, medical services and every other need. Who targeted the nurses, doctors and civilians on their way out when citizens were evacuated from eastern Ghouta?

Has anybody seen the photo of the Syrian soldier carrying an old woman on his back and a child on his arm? That soldier knew he could drop as a martyr carrying this heavy load. Other soldiers fell as martyrs while they were helping civilians escape.

That number, 29 hospitals, is a lie in itself. It is more than the number of [national] hospitals available all over Syria. Do they allocate a hospital for every twenty or thirty people? This is illogical.

There is also something strange about all the field hospitals that we discovered. Saudi, Israeli and U.S. medicine was found in these hospitals. How did such medicine reach the terrorists? Did it come from underneath the ground?

And those who had been targeting Damascus and Aleppo are all of sudden depicted as angels of mercy, peace and freedom advocates calling for democracy?

It’s worth pointing out to people in the West that it has been proven that only a limited number of the fighters in armed groups came from western Europe and North America, while tens of thousands, or hundreds of thousands, came from other countries.

The Turkish president declares that such terrorists are free to leave Syrian territory whenever he gets upset with Europe or the U.S. Subsequently, EU countries and the U.S. get so horrified at the possibility of those terrorists returning home.

The EU countries and the U.S. do not want any of those terrorists to return. Why is it that they do not want them to come back? Are they not their own citizens? They say that such terrorists will spread terrorism, so they spread terrorism there while they plant roses and flowers here? Is it okay for terrorists to spread terror here while they’re forbidden to return to their own countries?

Briefly, these are the types of lies spread by the West.

I’m calling on each and every citizen of Western countries, as I am absolutely sure that they have pure human emotion, not to believe the Western media. I want them to be certain that their governments have participated in the killing of the Syrian people and in the killing of Syrian children. Their governments participated in the killing of Syrian women and the killing of the Syrian elderly and convinced them [Western citizens] that they were promoting something else [freedom].

 

EB | Recently, journalists from CBS and Sky News were in Idlib. I believe one of the two groups, Sky News, claimed that it was targeted by the Syrian army. Could they be reporting independently of al-Qaeda or any of the other terrorist groups in Idlib? They claim they are not [embedded] with al-Qaeda. Is this feasible? Is this realistic? 

GH | It’s a funny question. You’re a journalist. Surely, this is not the first time you have visited Syria. Have you faced any obstacles while entering Syria as a journalist? Do any Western or European countries accept the entry of foreign journalists illegally into their countries?

Sky News, the BBC, and Al Jazeera teams conduct live transmissions while embedded with armed groups — the terrorists. I wish that the mental power of the Syrian soldiers could become super advanced so that they can order shells to avoid foreign correspondents who are side by side with terrorists. The army is responding to attacks launched by terrorists — soldiers and officers of the Syrian army cannot give orders to an exploding shell to avoid this or that.

The most important question is this: What are they doing there? How did they enter? Who is in control in Idlib? Isn’t it the Nusra Front? How are they [the journalists] allowed to be there? They are there under the protection of the Nusra Front. They are under the protection of an internationally-designated terrorist organization. Their countries should hold them accountable for communicating with terrorist groups before asking why the army is targeting them.

 

EB | How can Idlib be liberated when Turkish forces occupy northern Syria and there are civilians in Idlib, in addition to the 70,000 al-Qaeda and other terrorist fighters?

GH | There were civilians and armed groups in Homs. There were civilians and armed groups in Ghouta as well. There were civilians and armed groups all over Dara`a.  All these regions have been liberated. The majority of citizens remained there while the terrorists were wiped out. Idlib is no exception. Eastern parts of the Euphrates are no exception either.

Each square centimeter of Syrian land is part and parcel of Syria as a whole. It is the duty and the right of the Syrian State to eradicate terrorism.

Unless under an invitation by the Syrian government, any foreign military presence on the Syrian territory is a force of occupation. The Syrian State is entitled to face such an occupation with every possible means.

The Syrian State has opened the door wide for reconciliation. The Syrian State trusts the wisdom of Russian and Iranian friends and relies on its relations with Turkey.

Surely each Syrian citizen, civilian or military, wishes that not even one drop of blood be spilled. This does not mean to yield to occupation in any way.

Idlib will be freed either through reconciliations or a political agreement. Otherwise, the Syrian State will find the means to liberate Idlib in the same way it liberated all other regions. I am absolutely certain — not as an officer but rather as a citizen — I know how Syrian citizens think; they believe that Idlib will be freed, as will each and every inch of the Syrian territory.

The presence of U.S., Turkish, or any other occupation force does not mean such a force is a destiny that cannot be faced. As long as we [the Syrian State] spare no effort or means — whether military, political, economic or diplomatic —  to win this war [against terrorism] by God’s will, and I hope it is not going to be through military action. But if things reach a dead-end, Idlib will not remain under occupation.

 

EB | Can you speak to the importance of liberating Idlib, not only for Syria’s territorial integrity but also for the villages in Northern Hama that are affected by terrorists in Idlib? The media is not talking about Mahardeh, Sqailbiyeh and other places being attacked by terrorists.

GH | When Mhardeh and Sqailbiyeh are targeted, as a Syrian citizen, I do not see these two towns as less important than Damascus. Likewise when the neighborhoods of Homs were targeted.

All areas inhabited by Syrian citizens under the control of the Syrian State have been targets for those armed terrorist groups that are supported by the West, which claims it is standing by human rights and cares about the interests of the Syrian people.

For Syrian citizens, the liberation of each centimeter, or rather each grain of sand, is as important as the liberation of Idlib. Of course, the existence of armed groups in Idlib leads to abnormal circumstances that cause dysfunction in citizens’ daily lives. Thus, it is important to liberate Idlib to guarantee the return of normal life in Mahardeh, Sqailbiyeh and other areas.

At the same time, it is important to end the occupation by the U.S. and its allies.

I hope that each European or American citizen will ask: Why do Syrian citizens return to areas that have been liberated? Why do citizens welcome the army? Why do citizens — except those who are held hostage by terrorists — flee from areas under the control of terrorist groups?

The civilians residing in terrorist-held areas are helpless hostages. A year ago all of the neighborhoods in eastern Ghouta were populated by terrorists. If the Syrian army had been shelling civilians in the past, why not do now? Why are people now living in peace there?

These are questions that I put forward to people living in the West. I hope they are human enough to ask [themselves] these questions.

 

EB | Regarding misinformation from international media on the Syrian Arab Army, portraying them as murderers and rapists. Can you speak about the sacrifices of the Syrian Arab Army throughout these eight years of war?

GH | I will answer your question with a question. Syria is an area of 185,000 square kilometers. According to United Nations documents, 360,000 armed terrorists infiltrated Syrian territory.

I would like to draw an example other than Syria. I’ll give the U.S., the superpower of the world, as an example. Let’s suppose that 36,000, rather than 360,000, terrorists infiltrate any state of the United States. That’s 10 percent of the number of terrorists who made their way into Syria. Let’s also suppose that such terrorists are supported by world powers. What would have happened to the U.S.?

The achievements of the Syrian Arab Army are not ordinary; these achievements are miraculous accomplishments.

The two greatest armies in modern history have failed to achieve what the Syrian Army has accomplished. In Afghanistan, fewer than 10 percent of the number of terrorists in Syria were able to defeat two armies: the Red Soviet Army and the U.S. Army.

But, the Syrian Army defeated such terrorism. According to military theory, any fight between an army and terrorist militia of armed gangs will end with the armed gangs winning. This has been evident throughout military history.

For the first time in the history of humankind, a traditional army has defeated armies of militant groups. The Syrian Army fought battles that can be classified as new in military science. The Syrian Army fought above ground and underground battles in addition to their battles against the media war, intelligence war, information war, economic war, gang and street-to-street wars. Despite all of that, the Syrian Army achieved victory. Therefore, can we imagine the magnitude of the sacrifices made in this respect by the Syrian Army?

In the first months of this war, the Syrian leadership realized that the terrorists wanted Syrians to be used to seeing blood everywhere. So, soldiers were forbidden from carrying weapons, even handguns, when they went to areas of so-called demonstrations to prevent demonstrators from destroying infrastructure.

For months the soldiers confronted the militants knowing that they could be martyred. However, the discipline of the Syrian army pushed the soldiers to do their missions without carrying a weapon.

Let any Western citizen imagine how it would be for a soldier with no weapons facing armed militants to stop them from destroying infrastructure and targeting civilians.

This is the Syrian army. The Syrian army cleared most of the Syrian regions occupied by the fiercest types of terrorism ever witnessed in the history of mankind.

 

EB |  Thank you very much for your time and for the interview in general.

GH |  I also would like to thank you all for what you’ve done so far and for all of the questions you raised. I kindly request that you share my replies with foreign readers.

Personally, I think your role as an objective journalist transcends the traditional role of journalism. It reflects an ethical responsibility of telling the truth about what you’ve seen. If you want to help the Syrian people, the greatest help you can offer the Syrian people is to tell the truth you have seen with your own eyes, not just what is said all over the internet.

Again, anyone can look up Abu Saqr al-Souri and see how he ate the heart of a dead soldier. He was a member of the so-called peaceful group of the Free Syrian Army, when he was killed — he was with the Nusra Front. This can be enough to convey the message.

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BBC-staged footage on Syria’s Douma Western media’s ‘theater of absurd’: Russia

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Press TV – February 14, 2019

Russia's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova reacts during the annual news conference of Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (not pictured) in Moscow, Russia, on January 16, 2019. (Photo by Reuters)Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova reacts during the annual news conference of Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (not pictured) in Moscow, Russia, on January 16, 2019. (Photo by Reuters)

Russia says the latest revelations by BBC that the footage of an April chemical attack near the Syrian capital was fabricated proves the “theater of absurd” in Western media’s coverage of events in the Arab country.

“Over the past few years, and not just in Syria, we have been witness to a travesty being staged by the West and its media agencies, which on [the one] hand brags about brilliant democratic goals and support for civilians of a sovereign state, but on the other does not … give a damn about … international law, various forms of freedom and rights of a nation or a certain minority,” the spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, Maria Zakharova, told reporters in Moscow on Thursday.

The footage broadcast by BBC showed people being treated after a chemical attack in Douma.

BBC Syria producer Riam Dalati wrote on Twitter on Wednesday that the issue had been investigated for six months.

Zakharova added, “The culmination of this theater of absurd may be a statement by a BBC producer, who confirmed based on his own research that the footage [in Douma] had been staged with direct participation of [the so-called civil defense group] White Helmets.

She further pointed out that Russia wanted to listen to BBC’s explanation because it actively covered the events in favor of the US-led coalition purportedly fighting the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group.

The Western-backed White Helmets group, which has been repeatedly accused of cooperating with Takfiri terrorists and staging fictional chemical attacks, published a video in April 2018, alleging that Syrian government forces had launched a chemical assault in the city of Douma, located about 10 kilometers northeast of Damascus.

The US has warned it would respond to any possible chemical weapons attack by Syrian government forces with retaliatory strikes, stressing that the attacks would be stronger than those conducted by American, British and French forces last year.

On April 14, 2018, the US, Britain and France carried out a string of airstrikes against Syria over a suspected chemical weapons attack on the city of Douma.

Washington and its allies blamed Damascus for the Douma attack, an allegation rejected by the Syrian government.

On September 11 last year, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov censured the US threats to use military force against Syria as part of Washington’s blackmail policy.

“Unlike the United States, Britain and their allies, Russia provides particular facts on a daily basis through its Defense Ministry, the Foreign Ministry as well missions in New York, The Hague and Geneva. We particularly name geographical points, where preparations are underway for certain terrorist groups backed by the US and its allies to carry out provocations,” Ryabkov said.

 

Major Psy-Op in Europe Exposed: UK Government Tramples on Values It Vowed to Protect

Major Psy-Op in Europe Exposed: UK Government Tramples on Values It Vowed to Protect

Major Psy-Op in Europe Exposed: UK Government Tramples on Values It Vowed to Protect
Those who have been saying that the West has turned Russia into a scapegoat to be blamed for each and every thing that goes wrong have been proved right. We have witnessed concocted stories invented to denigrate Moscow that have gone viral as directed by the secret services. The UK, the country that is spearheading the anti-Russian information campaign, offers a good example that illustrates how this is being done.An online group of hackers known as Anonymous has just revealed covert UK activities in the EU. According to the documents released by that group, London is in the midst of a major program to interfere in the internal affairs of EU members, the US, and Canada. Anonymous threatens to release more information on the clandestine operations of the UK government, unless it agrees to remove the shroud of secrecy protecting those information-warfare efforts. On Nov. 24 Twitter deleted RT comments on the issue. The UK knows it has friends it can rely on in a crunch.

The Integrity Initiative is a London-based organization set up and funded by the government-friendly Institute for Statecraft, in cooperation with the Free University of Brussels (VUB) to wage information-warfare operations against Russia. Anonymous calls it a “large-scale information secret service.” It aims to “change attitudes in Russia itself” as well as the influence of Russian natives living abroad. The Integrity Initiative’s budget for the fiscal year ending on March 31, 2019 is estimated at £1.96 million ($2.51 million). The network has received grants from NATO, the US State Department, and Facebook.

The Initiative’s operations have been kept under wraps. Its activities are conducted by “clusters” of local politicians, journalists, military personnel, scientists, and academics involved in anti-Russian propaganda efforts. The list includes William Browder, a US-British businessman convicted in absentia in Russia for tax evasion.

The Integrity Initiative network has offices from which to conduct its covert operations in France, Germany, Italy, Greece, the Netherlands, Lithuania, Norway, Serbia, Spain, and Montenegro. Its plans to expand to the US, Canada, Eastern Europe, and the MENA region are already underway.

The Anonymous hackers mention Operation Moncloa that was launched in June in Spain to prevent Pedro Baños, a colonel known for his Russia-friendly views, from being appointed the new head of Spain’s influential national security agency.

It’s all part of a broader picture. In March, Prime Minister Theresa May promised to “defeat” Russia with a new cyber-warfare initiative titled the Fusion Doctrine. Back then, Ms. May told British intelligence services to use social media “to prevent the spread of misinformation.” In other words, she has pulled the military into this anti-Russian propaganda effort. Security sources have floated the idea that that the UK must harness “soft power” and “counter-propaganda” on social media networks. Is it possible to imagine any media remaining independent in a country where they’re part of a “soft power strategy” implemented by the government under the rallying cry of protecting national security?

This is the origin of so many fantasies about Russia and the imaginary threat it poses. The plan included an enhanced role for the BBC World Service to promote British “values” abroad, ensuring that the Ofcom shuts down media organizations that fail to meet “high British standards.” Only gullible people can believe that such “values” and “standards” exist. Russia has been used as a bogeyman to justify measures aimed at killing off the freedom of the media. Any story about Russia’s nefarious deeds spread by British news outlets should be taken with a grain of salt.

The UK government is facing some hard times. The Brexit deal with the EU is headed to parliament for approval. It’s impossible to predict whether the MPs will vote yes or no. Both outcomes threaten the very existence of the United Kingdom. The use of the “Russian threat” is seen as one way to keep the nation united and the media under control.

Keeping its activities out of the public eye, the government is doing exactly what it has so indignantly accused Russia of. The pot is calling the kettle black. As the freedom of the press is being suppressed and the media networks are following the government’s instructions about what information they should offer their readers, UK officials continue to brazenly deliver their pompous speeches about the need to protect those very values to which the government itself poses the greatest challenge. Anonymous is right — any responsible government must explain the intentions behind the Integrity Initiative, how exactly it is funded, and why its activities should be shielded from public view.

Israel Cannot Use Violent Self-Defense While Occupying Gaza

Photo Source U.S. Embassy Jerusalem | CC BY 2.0

Whenever bombings and shootings escalate in the Middle East, Israeli propagandists say that Israel is exercising its right of military self-defense against indiscriminate attacks coming from the Gaza Strip. But as this article documents, the right to use force in self-defense is contingent on Israel ending its military occupation and blockade of Gaza.

DON’T MISQUOTE ME ON THAT!

Doubtless some unscrupulous person or persons will quote or interpret this article out of context and claim that I’m saying that Israel has no right to self-defense at all. So, let me be clear: Israel is a nation-state like any other, like it or not. It therefore has the same legal rights as any nation-state, like it or not; including the right to use self-defense when under attack.

However, that right within the context of occupation is contingent on Israel’s adherence to international law; again, just like any state. For example: The US and British forces had no legal right to hurt or kill Iraqis resisting the illegal US-British invasion and occupation, which began in 2003. The only rights that the US and British had there was to leave.

Since 1967, Israel has occupied the Gaza Strip (and the West Bank of the Jordan, which it has now de facto annexed) in violation of international law. Yes, Israel withdrew its illegal colonies from Gaza in 2005, but it maintained the military blockade, which is an act of war and a violation of the IV Geneva Convention, which prohibits collective punishment.

As long as it continues its occupation/annexation of the Palestinian territories, Israel cannot use force in self-defense from attacks, even indiscriminate ones, emanating from Gaza. If it ended the occupation and blockade of the Palestinian territories, then it could argue a case for the use of force, assuming peaceful options are exhausted.

WHAT THE LIBERAL MEDIA SAY

Forget the madcap right-wing (e.g., a Fox News reporter standing next to what he claims is a flaming bakery hit by Palestinian rockets). How are the supposedly more intelligent and humane liberal media reporting the current violence?

The BBC says that “Violence has flared between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza, a day after seven militants and an Israeli soldier were killed during an undercover Israeli operation in Gaza.” Militants? It goes on to say that: “Militants fired 300 rockets and mortars at Israel. One hit a bus, seriously injuring a soldier nearby. Israel responded with more than 70 strikes on what it said were targets belonging to Hamas and Islamic Jihad.” Responded? Surely the BBC means to say that armed Palestinian groups responded to Israel’sactions, which occurred in the context of its unlawful 50-year occupation?

Notice the use of the word “militants.” The report doesn’t use words like “Zionists” when describing Israelis.

The online article includes an embedded tweet from the Israeli Defense Forces: “RAW FOOTAGE: The skies of southern Israel RIGHT NOW. Dozens of rockets are being fired from #Gaza at Israeli civilians.” There is no embedded video of the shocking conditions in which Palestinian civilians are forced by Israel to live (a point to which we shall return). Near the bottom of the article, the BBC approaches something bordering truthfulness when it says: “Israel, along with Egypt, has maintained a blockade of Gaza,” but it then goes back to the lies: “…since about 2006 in order, they say, to stop attacks by militants.”

The word “occupation” is mentioned not once. So, the gist of the BBC’s reporting is that Gaza is plagued by dangerous Islamists hell-bent on Israel’s destruction and that Israel is doing what it can, sometimes ham-fistedly (as in the latest “botched” special forces operation), to defend itself.

CNN quotes Israeli PM Netanyahu as saying that “Hamas vowed to destroyed Israel,” ergo long-term peace was “impossible.”

The Washington Post claims that the latest “flare-up” was “triggered” by a “botched” Israeli operation inside Gaza. It quotes Israeli Army spokesman Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, that Israelis under Palestinian rocket-fire face “the most severe attack on … civilians by terrorist organizations from Gaza since our 2014 operation [Protective Edge].” Near the end of the article, the reporters mention, casually, Israel’s “tight restrictions on trade and travel.” Below, we’ll take a look at what these “tight restrictions” actually mean.

The New York Times describes what is happening as “An eruption,” rather than a continuation and predictable consequence of Israel’s ongoing brutality. It also mentions Israel’s “tight control over the border,” which has endured since 2005, they claim (not 1967 as is the reality), when Israel withdrew its illegal colonies. Approaching truth toward the end of the article, the NTY, unlike the BBC, quotes Chris Gunness of the UN Relief and Works Agency, who describes the humanitarian situation in Gaza for nearly 2 million ordinary civilians, half of whom are children, as a disaster and a “collective punishment.”

WHAT HUMAN RIGHTS GROUPS SAY

With the exception of the Gunness quote, the media have suppressed the severity of the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. The crisis is caused by the US-enabled Israeli blockade. Its importance in terms of the number of people affected vastly eclipses the firing of indiscriminate rockets into Israel by armed Palestinian groups.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs states:“Palestinians in Gaza are ‘locked in’, denied free access to the remainder of the occupied Palestinian territory and the outside world.” According to the UN children’s fund UNICEF, “more than 96 per cent of abstracted water is polluted and not fit for human consumption due to high salinity levels from sea water intrusion and high nitrate levels from excessive use of agrochemicals and wastewater infiltration.”

Jamie McGoldrick and James Heenan of the UN say:

“All over the occupied Palestinian territory, but particularly in the Gaza Strip, we see children robbed of every right. Families cope with four hours of electricity per day in the sweltering heat. Clean drinking water is expensive and hard to find. The start of the school year in one month will be very difficult for tens of thousands of families who cannot afford basic school supplies.”

When trapped Gazans resist with overwhelmingly non-violent protest, they receive the following treatment, as described by a Red Cross doctor, Gabriel Salazar: “We estimate there are over 1,300 people with complex, sometimes multiple injuries,” care of the Israeli Defense Forces responding to the protests, “that will require at least three to five surgeries each. The recovery period may take months or even years and we believe some 400 will remain with temporary or permanent disability.” Many demonstrators are deliberately shot in the legs and refused treatment by Israel in neighboring Jordan.

IS GAZA STILL OCCUPIED?

Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, have been unlawfully occupied by Israel since June 1967. This means that every Israeli military action in those territories, except withdrawal, is unlawful. In November 1967, the United Nations adopted Security Council Resolution 242, which states:

Emphasizing the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war and the need to work for a just and lasting peace in which every State in the area can live in security,…

1. Affirms that the fulfillment of Charter principles requires the establishment of a just and lasting peace in the Middle East which should include the application of both the following principles:

(i) Withdrawal of Israel armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict…

In 2004, the International Court of Justice opined:

“All these territories (including East Jerusalem) remain occupied territories and Israel has continued to have the status of occupying Power … Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, are illegal … The Court concludes that the Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (including East Jerusalem) have been established in breach of international law.”

In 2018, the UN Human Rights Council reaffirmed that Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, are occupied by Israel:

“In the resolution, adopted by a vote of 29 in favour, two against [the US and Australia], and 14 abstentions, the Council decided to urgently dispatch an independent, international commission of inquiry, to be appointed by the President of the Human Rights Council, to investigate all alleged violations and abuses of international humanitarian law and international human rights law in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, particularly in the occupied Gaza Strip, in the context of the military assaults on the large-scale civilian protests that began on 30 March 2018.”

ISRAEL’S RIGHT OF SELF-DEFENSE

Given that the international consensus is that Israel remains the illegal occupying power in the Palestinian territories (including Gaza and East Jerusalem), Israel has no right to use force to defend itself against Palestinian attacks while it remains the illegal occupying power. If Israel ended the occupations of Gaza and the West Bank, it would be entitled to use force in self-defense, assuming that peaceful options are exhausted.

Hyde’s International Law Volume III states: “A belligerent,” i.e., Israel in this case, “which is contemptuous of conventional or customary prohibitions,” i.e., Israel continues to occupy Gaza, “is not in a position to claim that its adversary,” i.e., Hamas and other armed Palestinian groups, “when responding with like for like,” i.e., rocket-fire into Israel, “lacks the requisite excuse” (emphasis in original).

The Annual Digest and Reports of Public International Law Cases 1948 states: “Under International Law, as in Domestic Law, there can be no reprisal against reprisal. The assassin who is being repulsed by his intended victim may not slay him and then, in turn, plead self-defense.” By the same logic, Israel cannot occupy Gaza, collectively punish the population, and then claim to be acting in self-defense against Gazan rocket-fire.

In response to the Gaza massacre 2014, international jurist John Dugard said: “given the fact that Gaza is an occupied territory, it means that Israel’s present assault is simply a way of enforcing the continuation of the occupation, and the response of the Palestinian militants should be seen as the response of an occupied people that wishes to resist the occupation.”

More articles by:

Dr. T. J. Coles is director of the Plymouth Institute for Peace Research and the author of several books, including Voices for Peace (with Noam Chomsky and others) and the forthcoming Fire and Fury: How the US Isolates North Korea, Encircles China and Risks Nuclear War in Asia (both Clairview Books).

Gaza: The Most Important Story Not Covered in the MSM

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 by Maj. Danny Sjursen

The American news cycle is so dominated by the drama and minutiae surrounding the current administration that the most serious foreign policy crises go unreported.

The Israelis military is killing kids in the Gaza Strip – like, on the regular. You wouldn’t know it though; not unless you watch the BBC or Al Jazeera, that is. The uncomfortable truth is this: most Americans, frankly, don’t care. Most of the populace and a bipartisan coalition of nearly all policymakers are so reflexively pro-Israel that any critique of Israeli militarism is immediately labeled as anti-Semitism.

Nevertheless, Americans should start paying attention. We in the U.S. are, after all, veritably obsessed with our national security. So much so, indeed, that Washington has waged a perpetual “war on terror” across the Greater Middle East and Africa, restricted some civil liberties, and garrisoned the globe with hundreds of foreign military bases. The problem is that none of this expeditionary military action has made the homeland safer or lessened the appeal of violent jihadi Islam.

Two factors mainly explain this phenomenon of counter-productivity in US foreign policy. First off, folks simply don’t respond well to foreign military occupation in their countries. Thus, the very presence of US service members often enflames local passions, nationalism, and fundamentalist Islamism. The result: terror attacks, guerrilla warfare, and – sometimes – the outbreak of an outright insurgency. Need evidence? See the following exhibits: Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, West Africa, and on and on.

The second factor is the (accurate) perception – across the Islamic world – that Washington arms, funds, and otherwise enables an extreme right-wing Israeli regime that has systematically constructed an apartheid-like regime in the Palestinian Territories (to the extent they exist) of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Palestinians live as second-class citizens, under essentially military rule. They are restricted to separate roads, different water sources, and alternative civil/political structures. They are walled off, subjected to ubiquitous military checkpoints, and colonized by illegal Israeli Jewish settlements.

That’s just the daily structural injustice of Palestinian life. Matters have only deteriorated from there. For several months now, (peacefully) protesting Gazans have been slaughtered in droves along the border fences. At least 40 children have been killed, along with women, old folks, and unarmed young men. More than 168 Palestinians have been fatally shot and thousands more wounded. It’s a humanitarian tragedy – a borderline war crime. The Israeli military has little sense of proportionality. Even though Israeli leaders label all the protesters – even the babies – as Hamas terrorists, the casualties are so lopsided between the Palestinian and Israeli sides as to be absurd. Which leads us to a logical conclusion: either A) the protesters are the least effective terrorists of all time (since barely any Israelis have been killed), or B) some Israeli politicians are lying to the world and being completely dishonest. The rational analyst would have to conclude the latter.

Which gets back to the US media (or really entertainment) industry. You hardly hear about any of this, even on the “liberal” network – MSNBC. Palestinian lives, even children’s lives, just don’t garner much sympathy in the U S of A. It’s obvious, and, understandable. The American populace is treated to distraction media: obsessions with President Trump’s every move, the Kavanaugh hearings, heck – even Kanye’s bizarre visit to the oval office. There’s precious little air time left over for any mention of foreign policy; of the fact that the US is at war in at least seven countries, that Yemeni’s are being starved and bombed by a Washington-backed Saudi coalition, and that the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) have been shooting down Gaza civilians for several months now.

Here’s the kicker though: you know who doesn’t forget? Global Muslims. US policy towards Israel and Middle East more generally is, and has been, radicalizing a generation of impoverished, frustrated Muslim youth from West Africa to South Asia. This is a genuine national security threat partly of our own making. Poll after credible global poll indicates that the international public considers the United States to be the greatest threat to world peace. Not North Korea, Syria, Russia, or China – nope, America. That’s a problem and, obviously, a threat to the US homeland.

What’s more, there’s little sign that Washington will reverse policy or reign in Israeli violence. To understand the cynicism of Israeli policy, consider that the Israelis are crafting a burgeoning partnership with the extremist, Wahhabi state of Saudi Arabia. That’s right: the keepers of the holy places of Mecca and Medina, the Saudis who ostensibly support the Palestinians (but don’t really give a darn about them), and who spread their fundamentalist version of Islam across the region are making a deal with Israel. And as for those Saudis, the US shows no sign of pulling support from this murderous regime any time soon. The Saudis have briefly, if controversially, entered the news cycle after (probably) murdering a dissident journalist, but the safe bet is the US will stick with the Saudis and close that $110 billion arms deal.

This one-sided policy will have consequences. New terrorists will be motivated to attack the US in response to its pro-Israel policies. Even General David Petraeus – far from a lefty pacifist – once even caused a stir by admitting that America’s Israel policy motivates radical jihadis.

Washington loves to taut Israel as the “only democracy in the Middle East.” That’s not strictly true, of course. The inconvenient truth is that Israel may either be a Jewish state or a democratic state – it may not be both, since a large portion of its population remains Arab and Muslim. If the US continues to enable Israeli violence and the structural disenfranchisement of the Palestinians, it will reap the whirlwind. And, when we are attacked, we’ll revert to our usual cry: “Why do they hate us?”

I can think of a few reasons.

Danny Sjursen is a US Army officer and regular contributor to Antiwar.com He served combat tours with reconnaissance units in Iraq and Afghanistan and later taught history at his alma mater, West Point. He is the author of a memoir and critical analysis of the Iraq War, Ghostriders of Baghdad: Soldiers, Civilians, and the Myth of the Surge. Follow him on Twitter at @SkepticalVet.

[Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author, expressed in an unofficial capacity, and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, Department of Defense, or the U.S. government.]

Blanket Silence: Corporate Media Ignore New Report Exposing Distorted and Misleading Coverage of Corbyn

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By Media Lens,

If there’s one thing we’ve learned in the 17 years since Media Lens began, it’s that media professionals generally hate being challenged, critiqued or criticised. This fierce antipathetical belligerence underlies the corporate media’s total refusal to mention, far less discuss, a recent damning report on how the corporate media have been misreporting Labour and its supposed ‘problem’ with antisemitism.

The report was published last week by the Media Reform Coalition (MRC), set up in 2011 in the wake of the News International phone hacking scandal, to promote debate about the media and democracy. The MRC coordinates effective action by civil society groups, academics and media campaigners, and is currently chaired by Natalie Fenton, Professor of Communication and Media at Goldsmiths, University of London.

The urgent need for such a media initiative is highlighted by the disturbing reality that Britain has one of the most concentrated media environments in the world, with just three companies in control of 71% of national newspaper circulation and five companies running 81% of local newspaper titles.

In the careful MRC study, articles and news segments on Labour and antisemitism from the largest UK news providers, both online and television, were subjected to in-depth analysis. The research was undertaken by Dr Justin Schlosberg, Senior Lecturer in Journalism and Media at Birkbeck, University of London, together with Laura Laker, an experienced freelance journalist.

In their study, Schlosberg and Laker identified:

‘myriad inaccuracies and distortions in online and television news including marked skews in sourcing, omission of essential context or right of reply, misquotation, and false assertions made either by journalists themselves or sources whose contentious claims were neither challenged nor countered. Overall, our findings were consistent with a disinformation paradigm.’

In other words, the corporate media have been pumping out reams of ‘fake news’ promoting a narrative that Corbyn and Labour are mired in an ‘antisemitism crisis’.

Out of over 250 articles and news pieces examined by Schlosberg and Laker, fully 95 examples were found of misleading or inaccurate reporting. In particular, there were (our emphasis):

• 29 examples of false statements or claims, several of them made by news presenters or correspondents themselves, six of them on BBC television news programmes, and eight on the Guardian website.

• A further 66 clear instances of misleading or distorted coverage including misquotations, reliance on single -source accounts, omission of essential facts or right of reply, and repeated value-based assumptions made by broadcasters without evidence or qualification. In total, a quarter of the sample contained at least one documented inaccuracy or distortion.

Overwhelming source imbalance, especially on television news where voices critical of Labour’s code of conduct on antisemitism were regularly given an unchallenged and exclusive platform, outnumbering those defending Labour by nearly 4 to 1. Nearly half of Guardian reports on the controversy surrounding Labour’s code of conduct featured no quoted sources defending the party or leadership.

This is, to say the least, totally unacceptable from any supposedly responsible news outlet. It is even more galling when it comes from the Guardian and BBC News, both with large global audiences, who constantly proclaim their credentials for ‘honest and balanced reporting’.

Much recent corporate media coverage has focused on the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of ‘antisemitism’. Corporate media across the spectrum have argued that in refusing to accept the IHRA definition in total, with all of its accompanying examples, Corbyn has promoted antisemitism, alienated Britain’s Jewish community and divided his own party.

Philip Collins wrote in The Times of Corbyn (our emphasis):

‘He has, for some reason he cannot articulate, insisted that the Labour Party should be just about the only institution that does not accept the definition of antisemitism approved by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance.’

In July, a Times editorial stated of Labour’s National Executive Committee (our emphasis):

‘Instead of adopting a standard definition of antisemitism formulated by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, and endorsed by governments around the world, the NEC has amended it in unacceptable ways… Let there be no doubt: these are unconscionable and antisemitic accusations.’

In September, another Times leader opined (our emphasis):

‘Labour’s national executive committee will vote today on whether to adopt the internationally recognised definition of antisemitism. It is essential that it does. Governments and organisations worldwide have adopted the carefully worded textdeveloped by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance. Jeremy Corbyn’s hamfisted attempt to rewrite it, without consultation and with the apparent aim of protecting certain activists, shames his party.’

The Times added:

‘British Jews are well placed to define what constitutes racism towards them, just as any minority deserves the last word in the debate as it applies to them. Gordon Brown has called for Labour to “unanimously, unequivocally and immediately” adopt all the examples. Anything less would mark a dark day indeed for the party.’

Noting that three leading British Jewish newspapers had declared that a Corbyn-led government would pose ‘an existential threat to Jewish life in this country’, senior Guardian columnist and former comment editor Jonathan Freedland asked:

‘How on earth has it come to this?’

Part, but not all, of the problem, Freedland suggested, was (our emphasis):

‘Labour’s failure to adopt the full text of the near universally accepted International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) definition of antisemitism, including all its illustrative examples’.

He added:

‘When Jews hear that the IHRA is not good enough, they wonder: what exactly is it that Labour wants to say about us?’

And yet, as the MRC report [pdf] makes clear, although the IHRA is an international body with representatives from 31 countries, only six of those countries have, to date, formally adopted the definition themselves. Several high-profile bodies have rejected or distanced themselves from the working definition, including the EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency – a successor to the body that drafted the original wording on which the definition is based – and academic institutions including the London School of Economics and School of Oriental and African Studies. Moreover, academic and legal opinion has been overwhelmingly critical of the IHRA definition, including formal opinions produced by four leading UK barristers.

But, note Schlosberg and Laker:

‘Virtually none of this essential context found its way into news reports of the controversy. Instead, the Labour Party was routinely portrayed by both sources and correspondents as beyond the pale of conventional thinking on the IHRA definition.’

Nearly 50% of Guardian reports failed to include any quotes from those critiquing the IHRA definition or defending Labour’s code of conduct on antisemitism. In fact, media reporting (our emphasis):

‘effectively gave those attacking Labour’s revised code and championing the IHRA definition a virtually exclusive and unchallenged platform to air their views. By comparison, their detractors – including a number of Jewish organisations and representatives of other affected minorities – were systematically marginalized from the coverage. Furthermore, Labour MPs adopting even moderate positions defending the code were subjected to far more aggressive questioning from interviewers than those adopting extreme positions attacking it.

In a calm, methodical and rigorous manner, the MRC has exposed to public view the blatant anti-Corbyn bias of even the ‘best’ media outlets: the BBC and the Guardian.

Response To The Media Reform Coalition Report

Our searches using the ProQuest newspaper database reveal that there has not been a single news article or editorial published about the report. This is a remarkable symptom of the glaring tendency of the media to reject, or simply blank, reasoned, well-researched criticism.

When The Canary website published an article about the MRC report, they approached both the Guardian and the BBC for comment. The Guardian‘s response was boilerplate rhetoric – ‘The Guardianhas featured a wide range of voices in this debate’, etc – that failed to acknowledge the paper’s unambiguous distortions and omissions. The BBC did not even provide a comment.

The sole newspaper mention to date is a letter in the Guardian which may only have been published because Noam Chomsky is one of the signatories, along with high-profile figures such as Brian Eno, Yanis Varoufakis, Ken Loach and a number of media academics. They make a crucial point that relates to criticism of the Guardian itself (mentioned earlier):

‘In relation to the IHRA definition of antisemitism that was at the heart of the dispute, the research found evidence of “overwhelming source imbalance” in which critics of Labour’s code of conduct dominated coverage, with nearly 50% of Guardian reports, for example, failing to include any quotes from those defending the code or critiquing the IHRA definition.’

The letter also notes the MRC researchers’ conclusion that media distortions and inaccuracies:

‘were not occasional lapses in judgment but “systematic reporting failures” that served to weaken the Labour leadership and to bolster its opponents within and outside of the party.’

Chomsky and his co-signatories add:

‘In covering the allegations that Labour is now “institutionally antisemitic”, there have been inaccuracies, clear distortions and revealing omissions across our most popular media platforms. We believe that significant parts of the UK media have failed their audiences by producing flawed reports that have contributed to an undeserved witch-hunt against the Labour leader and misdirected public attention away from antisemitism elsewhere, including on the far right, which is ascendant in much of Europe.’

Given the Guardian‘s appalling record of boosting fake news of a Labour ‘antisemitism crisis’, and given its vehement opposition to Corbyn’s brand of moderate socialism, it is no wonder that #DumpTheGuardian and #BoycottTheGuardian were trending in the UK last Friday as part of a dedicated Twitter campaign.

Pro-Corbyn Labour MP Chris Williamson tweeted his support in response to the MRC report:

‘My reference to McCarthyism vindicated by this report. The Guardian newspaper’s deplorable contribution explains why so many people are saying #BoycottTheGuardian’

Last Wednesday, Jeremy Corbyn gave a speech to the Labour Party conference in which he dared to criticise the British corporate media who have been gunning for him ever since he became the party’s leader:

‘It turns out that the billionaires who own the bulk of the British press don’t like us one little bit.

‘Now it could be because we’re going to clamp down on tax dodging. Or it may be because we don’t fawn over them at white tie dinners and cocktail parties.’

He added:

‘We must, and we will, protect the freedom of the press to challenge unaccountable power.

‘Journalists from Turkey to Myanmar and Colombia are being imprisoned, harassed or sometimes killed by authoritarian governments and powerful corporate interests just for doing their job.

‘But here, a free press has far too often meant the freedom to spread lies and half-truths, and to smear the powerless, not take on the powerful.

‘You challenge their propaganda of privilege by using the mass media of the 21st century: social media.’

Pippa Crerar, Guardian deputy political editor, responded with the standard kneejerk conflation of Corbyn’s reasoned comments with the idiotic ‘fake news’ mantra of Trump. She tweeted:

‘Corbyn criticises some parts of British media, claiming they “smear the powerless, not take on the powerful”. As a journalist, makes me very uncomfortable to hear him leading attack on our free press. Dangerous, Trumpian territory.’

We responded:

‘Honest, rational criticism is not an “attack”, and it is not “dangerous”. A corporate press that refuses to listen or respond to this kind of reasonable criticism is itself dangerous. If anyone has a right to criticise media smears, it is @jeremycorbyn.’

The level of popular support for this view is indicated by the fact that our tweet has so far received 518 retweets and 1,222 likes; a massive response by our standards.

To her credit, Crerar did engage with us reasonably, unlike the vast majority of her media colleagues over many years:

‘Totally agree media has to reflect/listen. Not for a minute saying we’re perfect (some elements extremely *imperfect*). But orgs also do invaluable work eg Windrush, grooming scandal, MPs expenses so just not true to say we don’t hold power to account.’

We answered:

‘Thanks for replying, Pippa, very much appreciated. Glad you agree “media has to reflect/listen”. Doesn’t that mean taking Corbyn’s thoughtful, reasoned criticism seriously, rather than lumping it in with Trump’s awful tub-thumping? Corbyn and Milne really aren’t “dangerous”.’

Her follow-up:

‘I’ve sat back today & watched pile-on. I’d always rather engage but not when abusive. Like I said, media far from perfect, but I fear JC’s comments ignored excellent journalism that does exist & undermined journalists who produce it. Of course, nowhere near as extreme as Trump.’

And our reply:

‘Our response generated nearly 800 [now 1,700] likes and retweets – that gives an idea of the strength of feeling. Like other media, the Guardian’s smearing of Corbyn has gone way too far. It’s time to start listening to your readers @KathViner.’

To date, there has been no further exchange; and certainly not a peep out of Guardian editor, Katharine Viner; which is typical for this extraordinarily unresponsive media professional.

Justin Schlosberg, lead author of the MRC report, told The Canary:

‘Neither the Guardian nor the BBC have acknowledged or even directly responded to the myriad reporting failures highlighted in our research. It is completely inadequate to offer blanket dismissals or simply kick into the long grass of their respective complaints procedures.’

Schlosberg pointed out:

‘The failure to answer to these allegations is even more serious than the reporting failures themselves.’

Conclusion

As a further, related example of bias, consider the corporate media’s stunning indifference to the bomb threat that interrupted the screening of a new film, ‘The Political Lynching of Jackie Walker’, in Liverpool on September 25. Walker is a former Momentum Vice-Chair who was suspended from the Labour party as part of a propaganda blitz attempting to silence critics of Israel. The screening was organised by Jewish Voice for Labour which has been supportive of Jeremy Corbyn.

If the corporate media were genuinely motivated by concerns about alleged rising antisemitism, this shocking threat would have generated headline coverage. Instead it was met by a blanket of silence. A brief online Guardian piece was, to say the least, ambiguous in its narrative. Ex-Guardian journalist Jonathan Cook noted:

‘Another “fake news” master-class from the Guardian. A bomb hoax to stop Corbyn-supporting, Jewish Labour members screening a film about how Labour’s “anti-semitism crisis” has been manufactured is framed as *more* evidence of Jew hatred in the party!’

According to our ProQuest database search, the only mentions in the print press have been in the Liverpool Echo and The Times of Israel. Where are all the editorials and major comment pieces in the Guardian, The Times and elsewhere?

As for the Media Reform Coalition report itself, it is no surprise that the BBC, the Guardian and the rest of the corporate media should brush away detailed reasoned criticism of their biased reporting, or pretend such clear evidence does not exist. These media outlets sell themselves as publicly accountable; or, at least, as defenders of the public interest; a valiant fourth estate standing up for the truth and honest, neutral news coverage. And yet, when the alternative media makes a mistake, or says ‘the wrong thing’, there are angry howls and screaming mockery from the corporate commentariat. The hypocrisy is staggering, and, again, entirely predictable.

*

Featured image is from Media Lens.

BBC accused of lying in its anti-Corbyn campaign

Source

The BBC has been accused of lying to its audience in its ongoing campaign to discredit the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Listeners of its early morning Radio 4 programme woke up to presenter John Humphrys’ speaking about the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism, which is at the centre of the row within the Labour Party.

Humphrey’s reportedly said that “almost every country in the world has adopted the IHRA definition and examples of anti-Semitism.” His remark was picked up by listeners and was denounced as another one of “BBC fiction”.

Listeners rushed to correct the BBC on social media to point out that of the 195 countries in the world only 31 have adopted the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism, citing the Jewish Chronicle as their source. Of those only six are said to have endorsed and adopted it fully with all the examples.

OPINION: A new Israeli campaign against Corbyn

They also pointed out that the six include: Austria is threatening to make Jews put their names on a state register in order to get kosher meat. Lithuania, whose government supports commemorations of Nazi wartime events. And Israel, which has just enacted a constitutional law entrenching apartheid

Listeners berated Humphrys as an “overpaid liar” for failing to fact check his information on such a crucial topic.

The IHRA definition has been presented by the BBC and the mainstream media as the gold standard which the international community has endorsed in full. This narrative has been pushed by the media, including the Conservative Party to berate Corbyn, even though the reality is the complete opposite.

Not only have the overwhelming majority of countries not adopted the IHRA definition even the Tories do not include the controversial definition in their rule book. The Conservative code of conduct, Channel 4 News found, does not at any point mention the word “anti-Semitism” or spell out a definition of anti-Semitism, IHRA-approved or otherwise.

This is not the first time the BBC has allowed itself to be used to advance a false narrative. Last month the broadcaster was found to have a conflict of interest after it was discovered that the daughter of Labour MP Margaret Hodge, who is at centre of the row, is employed as deputy editor for its main news programmes.

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