Trump’s Peace Plan Has Been Designed to Fail – Exactly Like Its Predecessors

By Jonathan Cook

July 01, 2019 “Information Clearing House” –   Donald Trump’s supposed “deal of the century”, offering the Palestinians economic bribes in return for political submission, is the endgame of western peace-making, the real goal of which has been failure, not success.

For decades, peace plans have made impossible demands of the Palestinians, forcing them to reject the terms on offer and thereby create a pretext for Israel to seize more of their homeland.

The more they have compromised, the further the diplomatic horizon has moved away – to the point now that the Trump administration expects them to forfeit any hope of statehood or a right to self-determination.

Even Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and architect of the peace plan, cannot really believe the Palestinians will be bought off with their share of the $50 billion inducement he hoped to raise in Bahrain last week.

That was why the Palestinian leadership stayed away.

But Israel’s image managers long ago coined a slogan to obscure a policy of incremental dispossession, masquerading as a peace process: “The Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.”

It is worth examining what those landmark “missed opportunities” consisted of.

The first was the United Nations’ Partition Plan of late 1947. In Israel’s telling, it was Palestinian intransigence over dividing the land into separate Jewish and Arab states that triggered war, leading to the creation of a Jewish state on the ruins of most of the Palestinians’ homeland.

But the real story is rather different.

The recently formed UN was effectively under the thumb of the imperial powers of Britain, the United States, and the Soviet Union. All three wanted a Jewish state as a dependent ally in the Arab-dominated Middle East.

Fuelled by the dying embers of western colonialism, the Partition Plan offered the largest slice of the Palestinian homeland to a minority population of European Jews, whose recent immigration had been effectively sponsored by the British empire.

As native peoples elsewhere were being offered independence, Palestinians were required to hand over 56 per cent of their land to these new arrivals. There was no chance such terms would be accepted.

However, as Israeli scholars have noted, the Zionist leadership had no intention of abiding by the UN plan either. David Ben Gurion, Israel’s founding father, called the Jewish state proposed by the UN “tiny”. He warned that it could never accommodate the millions of Jewish immigrants he needed to attract if his new state was not rapidly to become a second Arab state because of higher Palestinian birth rates.

Ben Gurion wanted the Palestinians to reject the plan, so that he could use war as a chance to seize 78 per cent of Palestine and drive out most of the native population.

For decades, Israel was happy to entrench and, after 1967, expand its hold on historic Palestine.

In fact, it was Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat who made the biggest, unreciprocated concessions to peace. In 1988, he recognised Israel and, later, in the 1993 Olso accords, he accepted the principle of partition on even more dismal terms than the UN’s – a state on 22 per cent of historic Palestine.

Even so, the Oslo process stood no serious chance of success after Israel refused to make promised withdrawals from the occupied territories. Finally, in 2000 President Bill Clinton called together Arafat and Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak to a peace summit at Camp David.

Arafat knew Israel was unwilling to make any meaningful compromises and had to be bullied and cajoled into attending. Clinton promised the Palestinian leader he would not be blamed if the talks failed.

Israel ensured they did. According to his own advisers, Barak “blew up” the negotiations, insisting that Israel hold on to occupied East Jerusalem, including the Al Aqsa mosque, and large areas of the West Bank. Washington blamed Arafat anyway, and refashioned Israel’s intransigence as a “generous offer”.

A short time later, in 2002, Saudi Arabia’s Peace Initiative offered Israel normal relations with the Arab world in return for a minimal Palestinian state. Israel and western leaders hurriedly shunted it into the annals of forgotten history.

After Arafat’s death, secret talks through 2008-09 – revealed in the Palestine Papers leak – showed the Palestinians making unprecedented concessions. They included allowing Israel to annex large tracts of East Jerusalem, the Palestinians’ expected capital.

Negotiator Saeb Erekat was recorded saying he had agreed to “the biggest [Jerusalem] in Jewish history” as well as to only a “symbolic number of [Palestinian] refugees’ return [and a] demilitarised state … What more can I give?”

It was a good question. Tzipi Livni, Israel’s negotiator, responded, “I really appreciate it” when she saw how much the Palestinians were conceding. But still her delegation walked away.

Trump’s own doomed plan follows in the footsteps of such “peace-making”.

In a New York Times commentary last week Danny Danon, Israel’s ambassador to the UN, candidly encapsulated the thrust of this decades-long diplomatic approach. He called on the Palestinians to “surrender”, adding: “Surrender is the recognition that in a contest, staying the course will prove costlier than submission.”

The peace process was always leading to this moment. Trump has simply cut through the evasions and equivocations of the past to reveal where the West’s priorities truly lie.

It is hard to believe that Trump or Kushner ever believed the Palestinians would accept a promise of “money for quiet” in place of a state based on “land for peace”.

Once more, the West is trying to foist on the Palestinians an inequitable peace deal. The one certainty is that they will reject it – it is the only issue on which the Fatah and Hamas leaderships are united – again ensuring the Palestinians can be painted as the obstacle to progress.

The Palestinians may have refused this time to stumble into the trap, but they will find themselves the fall guys, whatever happens.

When Trump’s plan crashes, as it will, Washington will have the chance to exploit a supposed Palestinian rejection as justification for approving annexation by Israel of yet more tranches of occupied territory.

The Palestinans will be left with a shattered homeland. No self-determination, no viable state, no independent economy, just a series of aid-dependent ghettos. And decades of western diplomacy will finally have arrived at its preordained destination.

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

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

Forget Trump’s ‘deal of the Century’. Israel Was Always on Course to Annexation

 • JUNE 20, 2019

When Israeli prime ministers are in trouble, facing difficult elections or a corruption scandal, the temptation has typically been for them to unleash a military operation to bolster their standing. In recent years, Gaza has served as a favourite punching bag.

Benjamin Netanyahu is confronting both difficulties at once: a second round of elections in September that he may struggle to win; and an attorney general who is widely expected to indict him on corruption charges shortly afterwards.

Netanyahu is in an unusually tight spot, even by the standards of an often chaotic and fractious Israeli political system. After a decade in power, his electoral magic may be deserting him. There are already rumblings of discontent among his allies on the far right.

Given his desperate straits, some observers fear that he may need to pull a new kind of rabbit out of the hat.

In the past two elections, Netanyahu rode to success after issuing dramatic last-minute statements. In 2015, he agitated against the fifth of Israel’s citizens who are Palestinian asserting their democratic rights, warning that they were “coming out in droves to vote”.

Back in April, he declared his intention to annex large chunks of the occupied West Bank, in violation of international law, during the next parliament.

Amos Harel, a veteran military analyst with Haaretz newspaper, observed last week that Netanyahu may decide words are no longer enough to win. Action is needed, possibly in the form of an announcement on the eve of September’s ballot that as much as two-thirds of the West Bank is to be annexed.

Washington does not look like it will stand in his way.

Shortly before April’s election, the Trump administration offered Netanyahu a campaign fillip by recognising Israel’s illegal annexation of the Golan Heights, territory Israel seized from Syria in 1967.

This month David Friedman, US ambassador to Israel and one of the chief architects of Donald Trump’s long-delayed “deal of the century” peace plan, appeared to offer a similar, early election boost.

In interviews, he claimed Israel was “on the side of God” – unlike, or so it was implied, the Palestinians. He further argued that Israel had the “right to retain” much of the West Bank.

Both statements suggest that the Trump administration will not object to any Israeli moves towards annexation, especially if it ensures their favoured candidate returns to power.

Whatever Friedman suggests, it is not God who has intervened on Israel’s behalf. The hands that have carefully cleared a path over many decades to the West Bank’s annexation are all too human.

Israeli officials have been preparing for this moment for more than half a century, since the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza were seized back in 1967.

That point is underscored by an innovative interactive map of the occupied territories. This valuable new resource is a joint project of the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem and Forensic Architecture, a London-based team that uses new technology to visualise and map political violence and environmental destruction.

Titled Conquer and Divide, it reveals in detail how Israel has “torn apart Palestinian space, divided the Palestinian population into dozens of disconnected enclaves and unravelled its social, cultural and economic fabric”.

The map proves beyond doubt that Israel’s colonisation of the West Bank was never accidental, defensive or reluctant. It was coldly calculated and intricately planned, with one goal in mind – and the moment to realise that goal is fast approaching.

Annexation is not a right-wing project that has hijacked the benign intentions of Israel’s founding generation. Annexation was on the cards from the occupation’s very beginnings in 1967, when the so-called centre-left – now presented as a peace-loving alternative to Netanyahu – ran the government.

The map shows how Israeli military planners created a complex web of pretexts to seize Palestinian land: closed military zones today cover a third of the West Bank; firing ranges impact 38 Palestinian communities; nature reserves are located on 6 per cent of the territory; nearly a quarter has been declared Israeli “state” land; some 250 settlements have been established; dozens of permanent checkpoints severely limit movement; and hundreds of kilometres of walls and fences have been completed.

These interlocking land seizures seamlessly carved up the territory, establishing the walls of dozens of tightly contained prisons for Palestinians in their own homeland.

Two Nasa satellite images of the region separated by 30 years – from 1987 and 2017 – reveal how Israel’s settlements and transport infrastructure have gradually scarred the West Bank’s landscape, clearing away natural vegetation and replacing it with concrete.

The land grabs were not simply about acquisition of territory. They were a weapon, along with increasingly draconian movement restrictions, to force the native Palestinian population to submit, to recognise its defeat, to give up hope.

In the immediate wake of the West Bank’s occupation, defence minister Moshe Dayan, Israel’s hero of the hour and one of the architects of the settlement project, observed that Palestinians should be made “to live like dogs, and whoever wants to can leave – and we shall see where this process leads”.

Although Israel has concentrated Palestinians in 165 disconnected areas across the West Bank, its actions effectively won the international community’s seal of approval in 1995. The Oslo accords cemented Israel’s absolute control over 62 per cent of the West Bank, containing the Palestinians’ key agricultural land and water sources, which was classified as Area C.

Occupations are intended to be temporary – and the Oslo accords promised the same. Gradually, the Palestinians would be allowed to take back more of their territory to build a state. But Israel made sure both the occupation and the land thefts sanctioned by Oslo continued.

The new map reveals more than just the methods Israel used to commandeer the West Bank. Decades of land seizures highlight a trajectory, plotting a course that indicates the project is still not complete.


Ultimately, Israel wants the Palestinians gone entirely, squeezed out into neighbouring Arab states, such as Egypt and Jordan. That next chapter is likely to begin in earnest if Trump ever gets the chance to unveil his “deal of the century”.If Netanyahu partially annexes the West Bank – Area C – it will be simply another stage in Israel’s tireless efforts to immiserate the Palestinian population and bully them into leaving. This is a war of attrition – what Israelis have long understood as “creeping annexation”, carried out by stealth to avoid a backlash from the international community.

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

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

The israel (apartheid state) lobby’s non-stop attacks on Corbyn will backfire

Not only is the role of pro-Israel partisans in the UK now visible, but their ugly assumptions are under closer scrutiny than ever before

Jonathan Cook

Back in the 1950s, the US intelligence community coined a term: “blowback”. It referred to the unintended consequences of a covert operation that ended up damaging one’s own cause.

There are mounting indications that the intensifying campaign by the Israel lobby in the UK against Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the parliamentary opposition, is starting to have precisely such self-harming repercussions.

A campaign of smears

In the three years since he was elected to lead the Labour party, Corbyn has faced non-stop accusations that his party has an endemic “anti-Semitism problem“, despite all evidence to the contrary. Of late, Corbyn himself has become the chief target of such allegations.

Last week the Daily Mail led a media mauling of Corbyn over disparaging comments he made in 2013 about a small group of pro-Israel zealots who had come to disrupt a Palestinian solidarity meeting. His reference to them as “Zionists”, it was claimed, served as code for “Jews” and was therefore anti-Semitic.

Mounting evidence in both the UK and the US suggests that the Israeli government is taking a significant, if covert, role in coordinating and directing such efforts to sully the reputation of prominent critics

Mounting evidence in both the UK and the US, where there has been a similar escalation of attacks on pro-Palestinian activists, often related to the international boycott movement (BDS), suggests that the Israeli government is taking a significant, if covert, role in coordinating and directing such efforts to sully the reputation of prominent critics.

Corbyn’s supporters have argued instead that he is being subjected to a campaign of smears to oust him from the leadership because of his very public championing over many decades of the Palestinian cause.

Israel lobbyists

Al-Jazeera has produced two separate undercover documentary series on Israel lobbyists’ efforts in the UK and US to interfere in each country’s politics – probably in violation of local laws. Only the UK series has been aired so far.

It showed an Israeli embassy official, Shai Masot, both plotting to “take down” a Conservative government minister seen as too sympathetic to the Palestinian cause and helping to create an anti-Corbyn front organisation in the Labour party.

Masot worked closely with two key pro-Israel groups in Labour, the Jewish Labour Movement and Labour Friends of Israel. The latter includes some 80 Labour MPs.

US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley speaks at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) policy conference in Washington, DC, on 5 March, 2018 (AFP)

Under apparent pressure from the Israel lobby in the US, the series on the US lobby was suppressed.

This week Alain Gresh, the former editor of Le Monde diplomatique, published significant quotes from that censored documentary after viewing it secretly in Dubai. The US lobby’s aims and practices, as reported by Gresh, closely echo what has happened in the UK to Corbyn, as he has faced relentless allegations of anti-Semitism.

The US documentary reportedly shows that Israel’s strategic affairs ministry has taken a leading role in directing the US lobby’s efforts. According to Gresh, senior members of the lobby are caught on camera admitting that they have built up a network of spies to gather information on prominent critics of Israel.

Through its constant attacks on Corbyn, British activists are looking less like disparate individuals sympathetic to Israel and more recognisably like a US-style lobby – highly organised, on-message and all too ready to throw their weight around

In Gresh’s transcripted excerpts, Jacob Baime, executive director of the Israel on Campus Coalition, a group of organisations fighting BDS, states: “When I got here a few years ago, the budget was $3,000. Today it’s like a million and a half [dollars], or more. … It’s a massive budget.”

“It’s psychological warfare,” he adds, noting how the smears damage the targeted groups: “They either shut down, or they spend time investigating [the accusations against them] instead of attacking Israel. It’s extremely effective.”

David Hazony, a senior member of another lobby group, The Israel Project, explains that a pressing aim is to curb political speech critical of Israel: “What’s a bigger problem is the Democratic Party, the Bernie Sanders people, bringing all the anti-Israel people into the Democratic Party. Then being pro-Israel becomes less a bipartisan issue, and then every time the White House changes, the policies towards Israel change. That becomes a dangerous thing for Israel.”

No discussion

These reported quotes confirm much of what was already suspected. More than a decade ago scholars John Mearsheimer and Steven Walt wrote a book examining the composition and role of the powerful pro-Israel lobby in the US.

But until the broadcasting of the Al-Jazeera documentary last year no comparable effort had been made to shine a light on the situation in the UK. In fact, there was almost no discussion or even acknowledgment of the role of an Israel lobby in British public and political life.

Members of the Jewish community protest against Britain’s opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn and alleged anti-Semitism in the party on 26 March 2018, outside Parliament in central London (AFP)

That is changing rapidly. Through its constant attacks on Corbyn, British activists are looking less like disparate individuals sympathetic to Israel and more recognisably like a US-style lobby – highly organised, on-message and all too ready to throw their weight around.

The lobby was always there, of course. And, as in the US, it embraces a much wider body of support than right-wing Jewish leadership organisations like the Board of Deputies and the Jewish Leadership Council, or hardline lobbyists such as the Community Security Trust and BICOM.

The earliest Zionists

That should not surprise us. The earliest Zionists were not Jews but fundamentalist Christians. In the US, the largest group of Zionists by far are Christian evangelicals who believe that the return of Jews to the Promised Land is the key to unlocking the second coming of the Messiah and an apocalyptic end-times. Though embraced by Israel, many of these Christian fundamentalists hold anti-Semitic views.

In Britain, there is an unacknowledged legacy of anti-Semitic Christian support for Zionism. Lord Balfour, a devout Christian who regularly voiced bigotry towards Jews, was also the man who committed the British government in 1917 to create a home for Jews in Palestine. That set in motion today’s conflict between Israel and the native Palestinian population.

In addition, many British gentiles, like other Europeans, live with understandable guilt about the Holocaust.

The media have been only too willing to assist in the smearing of the Labour leader because they have their own separate interests in seeing Corbyn gone

One of the largest and most effective groups in Corbyn’s parliamentary party is Labour Friends of Israel (LFI), most of whose members are not Jewish. LFI takes some of the party’s most senior politicians on all-expenses-paid trips to Israel to wine and dine them as they are subjected to Israeli propaganda.

Dozens of Labour MPs have remained loyal to LFI even as the organisation has repeatedly refused to criticise Israel over undeniable war crimes.

When Israeli snipers executed dozens of unarmed demonstrators in Gaza in May, the LFI took to Twitter to blame Hamas for the deaths, not Israel. After facing a massive backlash, the LFI simply deleted the tweet.

A double whamy

Historically the Israel lobby could remain relatively low-profile in the UK because it faced few challenges. Its role was chiefly to enforce a political orthodoxy about Israel in line with Britain’s role as Washington’s foreign policy junior partner. No British leader looked likely to step far from the Washington consensus.

Until Corbyn.

The Israel lobby in the UK now faces a double whammy.

First, since Donald Trump entered the White House, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has dropped any pretence that Israel is willing to concede a Palestinian state, whatever the Palestinians do. Instead, Israel has isolated the Palestinian leadership diplomatically while seeking to terrorise the Palestinian population into absolute submission.

 

That was all too clear over the summer when those Israeli snipers picked off demonstrators each week in Gaza. As a result, the Israel lobby stands more exposed than ever. It can no longer buy time for Israeli expansionism by credibly claiming, as it once did, that Israel seeks peace.

Second, Israel’s partisans in the UK were caught off-guard by the unexpected rise of Corbyn to a place that puts him in sight of being the next prime minister. The use of social media by his supporters, meanwhile, has provided a counter-weight to the vilification campaign being amplified by the British media.

The media have been only too willing to assist in the smearing of the Labour leader because they have their own separate interests in seeing Corbyn gone. He is a threat to the corporate business interests they represent.

But not only has the messenger – the Israel lobby – now come under proper scrutiny for the first time, so has its message.

English Irony

The success of the lobby had depended not only on it remaining largely out of view. It also expected to shore up a largely pro-Israel environment without drawing attention to what was being advocated, beyond unquestioned soundbites. In doing so, it was able to entirely ignore those who had paid the price for Israel’s diplomatic impunity – the Palestinians.

The campaign against Corbyn has not only forced the lobby to come out into the open, but the backlash to its campaign has forced the lobby to articulate for the first time what exactly it believes and what is at stake.

The latest furore over Corbyn concerns a Youtube video of him speaking at a pro-Palestinian meeting in 2013, two years before he became Labour leader. He has been widely denounced in the media for making disparaging remarks about a small group of hardline pro-Israel partisans well-known for disrupting such meetings.

He referred to them as “Zionists” and suggested that the reaction of this particular hardline group to a speech by the Palestinian ambassador had betrayed their lack of appreciation of “English irony”.

Israel’s lobby, echoed by many liberal journalists, has suggested that Corbyn was using “Zionist” as code word for “Jew”, and that he had implied that all Jews – not the handful of pro-Israel zealots in attendance – lacked traits of Englishness.

This, they say, was yet further evidence of his anti-semitism.

Jonathan Sacks, Britain’s former chief rabbi, told the New Statesman this week that Corbyn’s comment was “the most offensive statement made by a senior British politician since Enoch Powell’s 1968 ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech”. In that notorious speech, the right-wing politician sought to incite race hatred of immigrants.

Calling Corbyn an “anti-Semite”, Sacks added: “It undermines the existence of an entire group of British citizens by depicting them as essentially alien.”

Treacherous words

In a now familiar pattern to lobby claims, Sacks relied on the false premise that all Jews are Zionists. He conflated a religious or ethnic category with a political ideology. The Labour leader has held his ground on this occasion, pointing out that he was using the term “in the accurate political sense and not as a euphemism for Jewish people”.

Others have pointed out that his accusers – many of them senior journalists – are the ones lacking a sense of irony. Corbyn was not “otherising” Jews, he was pointing out a paradox not confirming a prejudice: that a small group of Britons were so immersed in their partisan cause, Israel, that it had blinded them to the “English irony” employed by a foreigner, the Palestinian ambassador.

However, the terms “anti-Semitism” and “Zionism” are likely to prove more treacherous to weaponise against Corbyn than the lobby thinks. As the anti-Semitism controversy is constantly reignited, a much clearer picture of the lobby’s implied logic is emerging, as illustrated by the hyperbolic, verging on delusional, language of Rabbi Sacks.

The argument goes something like this: Israel is the only safe haven for Jews in times of trouble – and the only thing that stands between them and a future Holocaust. The movement that created Israel was the Zionist movement. Today most Jews are Zionists and believe Israel is at the core of their identity. Therefore, if you are too critical of Israel or Zionism, you must wish bad things for the Jewish people. That makes you an anti-Semite.

Problematic premises

It probably doesn’t require a logician to understand that there are several highly problematic premises propping up this argument. Let’s concentrate on two. The first is that it depends on a worldview in which the non-Jew is assumed to be anti-Semite until proven otherwise. For that reason Jews need to be eternally vigilant and distrustful of those outside their “tribe”.

If that sounds improbable, it shouldn’t. That is exactly the lesson of the Holocaust taught to children in Israel from kindergarten onwards.

READ MORE ►

Is Israel behind the attack on Jeremy Corbyn?

Israel derives no universal message from the Holocaust. Its schools do not teach that we must avoid stigmatising others, and discourage sectarian and tribal indentifications that fuel prejudice and bigotry. How could it? After all, Israel’s core ideology, political Zionism, is premised on the idea of tribal and sectarian exclusivity – the “ingathering of exiles” to create a Jewish state.

In Israel, the Holocaust supplies a different lesson. It teaches that Jews are under permanent threat from non-Jews, and that their only defence is to seek collective protection in a highly militarised state, armed with nuclear weapons.

This idea was encapsulated in the famous saying by the late Israeli general Moshe Dayan: “Israel must be seen as a mad dog; too dangerous to bother.”

A ‘globalised virus’

Israel’s ugly, self-serving tribal reading of history has been slowly spreading to Jews in Europe and the US.

Fifteen years ago, a US scholar, Daniel J Goldhagen, published an influential essay in the Jewish weekly Forward titled “The Globalisation of anti-Semitism”. In it, he argued that anti-Semitism was a virus that could lie dormant for periods but would always find new ways to reinfect its hosts.

“Globalized anti-Semitism has become part of the substructure of prejudice in the world,” he wrote. “It is relentlessly international in its focus on Israel at the center of the most conflict-ridden region today.”

This theory is also known as the “new anti-Semitism”, a form of Jew hatred much harder to identify than the right-wing anti-Semitism of old. Through mutation, the new anti-Semitism had concealed its hatred of Jews by appearing to focus on Israel and dressing itself up in left-wing garb.

Perhaps not surprisingly, given his latest comments about Corbyn, that is also an approximation of the argument made by Rabbi Sacks in a 2016 essay in which he writes: “Anti-Semitism is a virus that survives by mutating.”

In a sign of how this kind of paranoia is becoming slowly normalised in Europe too, the Guardian published a commentary by a British journalist this month explaining her decision, Israel-style, to teach her three-year-old daughter about the Holocaust and anti-Semitism. That, she hoped, would prepare her child for eventualities such as Corbyn becoming prime minister.

But the increasing adoption of Israel’s tribalist doctrine among sections of the British Jewish community – and the related weaponisation of anti-Semitism – is likely to shed further light on what kind of a state hardline Zionists uphold as at the core of their identity.

Paradoxically, the new anti-Semitism turns the tables by legitimising – in fact, necessitating – Jewish racism towards gentiles. Rather than Corbyn stigmatising Jews – except in some feverish imaginations – it is the pro-Israel lobby stigmatising non-Jews, by claiming that they are all tainted by Jew hatred, whether they know it or not.

The more the lobby kicks up a hysteria about Corbyn’s supposed anti-Semitism, the clearer it becomes that the lobby regards much of the non-Jewish public as suspect too.

Palestinians made invisible

The other obvious lacuna in the lobby’s logic is that it only works if we completely remove the Palestinians from the story of Zionism and Israel. The idea of a harm-free Zionism might have been credible had it been possible to establish a Jewish state on an empty piece of land, as the early Zionists claimed Palestine to be. In reality there was a large native population who had to be displaced first.

Pro-Palestine demonstrators march down a street in central London (MEE/Areeb Ullah)

Israel’s creation as a Jewish state in 1948 was possible only if the Zionist movement undertook two steps that violate modern conceptions of human rights and liberal democratic practice. First, Israel had to carry out large-scale ethnic cleansing, forcing more than 80 per cent of the native Palestinian population outside the new borders of the Jewish state it created on the Palestinians’ homeland.

Then, it needed to deny the small surviving community of Palestinians inside Israel the same rights as Israeli Jews, to ghettoise them and stop them from bringing their expelled relatives back to their homes.

These weren’t poor choices by flawed Israeli politicians. They were absolutely essential to the success of a Zionist project to create and maintain a Jewish state. The ethnic cleansing of 1948 and the structural racism of the Jewish state were unmentionable topics in “legitimate” public debates about Israel until very recently.

The lobby and its supporters are not just seeking to silence Corbyn. They also intend to silence the Palestinians and the growing ranks of people who choose to stand in solidarity with the Palestinians

That has been changing, in part because it has become much harder to conceal what kind of state Israel is. Its self-harming behaviour includes its recent decision to make explicit the state’s institutionalised racism with the passage last month of the Nation-State Basic Law. That law gives constitutional weight to the denial of equal rights to a fifth of Israel’s population, those who are Palestinian.

The backlash against Corbyn and other Palestinian solidarity activists is evidence of the lobby’s fears that they can no longer hold the line against a growing realisation by western publics that there was a cost to Zionism’s success.

That price was paid by Palestinians, and there has yet been no historical reckoning over their suffering. By veiling the historical record, Israel and the Zionist movement have avoided the kind of truth and reconciliation process that led to the ending of apartheid in South Africa. The lobby prefers that Israel’s version of apartheid continues.

Loss of moral compass

If there is one individual who personifies the loss of a moral compass in the weaponisation of anti-Semitism against Corbyn and Israel’s critics, it is Rabbi Sacks.

Asked by the New Statesman what he thinks of the new Nation-State Basic Law, the normally erudite Sacks suddenly becomes lost for words. He asks a friend, or in his case his brother, for the answer: “I’m not an expert on this. My brother is, I’m not. He’s a lawyer in Jerusalem. He tells me that there’s absolutely nothing apartheid about this, it’s just correcting a lacuna… As far as I understand, it’s a technical process that has none of the implications that have been levelled at it.”

READ MORE ►

How the IHRA’s anti-Semitism definition is a threat to British democracy

Sacks, it seems, cannot identify apartheid when it is staring him the face, as long as it is disguised as “Jewish”. Similarly, he is blind to the history of Zionism and the mass dispossession of Palestinians in the 1948 Nakba.

He tells the New Statesman: “Jews did not wish to come back to their land [Palestine] to make any other people [Palestinians] suffer, and that goes very deep in the Jewish heart.” Not so deep, it seems, that Sacks can even identify who had to suffer to make possible that Jewish “return”.

In a critique of Sacks’ lengthy 2016 essay on anti-Semitism, a liberal Jewish commentator Peter Beinart noted that the rabbi had mentioned the “Palestinians” by name only once.

He berated Sacks for equating anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism: “By denying that [Palestinians] might have any reason besides bigotry to dislike Zionism, it denies their historical experience and turns them into mere vessels for Jew-hatred. Thus, it does to Palestinians what anti-Semitism does to Jews. It dehumanizes them.”

Topsy-turvy world

In a world that was not topsy-turvy, it would be Sacks and the Israel lobby that were being publicly upbraided for their racism. Instead Corbyn is being vilified by a wide spectrum of supposedly informed opinion in the UK – Jewish and non-Jewish alike – for standing in solidarity with Palestinians.

That is, remember, the Palestinian people who have been the victims of more than a century of collusion between European colonialism and Zionism, and today are still being oppressed by an anachronistic ethnic state, Israel, determined to privilege its Jewishness at all costs.

READ MORE ►

Anti-Semitism and Labour: Jeremy Corbyn must stop apologising and start fighting back

The lobby and its supporters are not just seeking to silence Corbyn. They also intend to silence the Palestinians and the growing ranks of people who choose to stand in solidarity with the Palestinians. But while the lobby may be winning on its own limited terms in harming Corbyn in mainstream discourse, deeper processes are exposing and weakening the lobby. It is overplaying its hand.

A strong lobby is one that is largely invisible, one that – like the financial and arms industries – has no need to flex its muscles. In making so much noise to damage Corbyn, the Israel lobby is also for the first time being forced to bring out into the open the racist premises that always underpinned its arguments.

Over time, that exposure is going to harm, not benefit, the apologists for Israel.

– Jonathan Cook, a British journalist based in Nazareth since 2001, is the author of three books on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He is a past winner of the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His website and blog can be found at: www.jonathan-cook.net.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.

Photo: Demonstrators hold placards and flags of Israel as they protest outside the headquarters of Britain’s opposition Labour party in central London on 4 September, 2018 (AFP)

78 per cent of humanitarian aid intended for Palestinians stolen by israel

Most aid to Palestinians ends up in Israel’s coffers

78 per cent of humanitarian aid intended for Palestinians ends up in Israel’s coffers… To reach the Palestinians, donors have no choice but to go through Israel. This provides ripe opportunities for what he terms “aid subversion” and “aid diversion”… the World Bank estimated that Palestinians lose at least $3.4 billion a year in resources plundered by Israel… Israel also uses the occupied territories as laboratories for testing weapons and surveillance systems on Palestinians – and then exports its expertise. Israel’s military and cyber industries are hugely profitable, generating many billions of dollars of income each year…

By Jonathan Cook, Redress

Diplomats may have a reputation for greyness, obfuscation, even hypocrisy, but few have found themselves compared to a serial killer, let alone one who devours human flesh.

That honour befell Laars Faaborg-Andersen, the European Union’s ambassador to Israel, last week when Jewish settlers launched a social media campaign casting him as Hannibal Lecter, the terrifying character from the film Silence of the Lambs.

An image of the Danish diplomat wearing Lecter’s prison face-mask was supposed to suggest that Europe needs similar muzzling.

Subsidising the occupation

The settlers’ grievance relates to European aid, which has provided temporary shelter to Palestinian Bedouin families after the Israeli army demolished their homes in the occupied territories near Jerusalem. The emergency housing has helped them remain on land coveted by Israel and the settlers.

European officials, outraged by the Lecter comparison, have reminded Tel Aviv that, were it to abide by international law, Israel – not the EU – would be taking responsibility for these families’ welfare.

While Europe may think of itself as part of an enlightened West, using aid to defend Palestinians’ rights, the reality is less reassuring. The aid may actually be making things significantly worse.

Shir Hever, an Israeli economist who has spent years piecing together the murky economics of the occupation, recently published a report that makes shocking reading.

Like others, he believes international aid has allowed Israel to avoid footing the bill for its decades-old occuption. But he goes further.

His astonishing conclusion – one that may surprise Israel’s settlers – is that at least 78 per cent of humanitarian aid intended for Palestinians ends up in Israel’s coffers.

The sums involved are huge. The Palestinians under occupation are among the most aid-dependent in the world, receiving more than USD 2 billion from the international community a year. According to Hever, donors could be directly subsidising up to a third of the occupation’s costs.

Other forms of Israeli profiteering have been identified in previous studies.

In 2013 the World Bank very conservatively estimated that the Palestinians lose at least USD 3.4 billion a year in resources plundered by Israel.

Further, Israel’s refusal to make peace with the Palestinians, and as a consequence the rest of the region, is used to justify Washington’s annual USD 3 billion in military aid.

Israel also uses the occupied territories as laboratories for testing weapons and surveillance systems on Palestinians – and then exports its expertise. Israel’s military and cyber industries are hugely profitable, generating many billions of dollars of income each year.

A survey published last week found tiny Israel to be the eighth most powerful country in the world.

But whereas these income streams are a recognisable, if troubling, windfall from Israel’s occupation, Western humanitarian aid to the Palestinians is clearly intended for the victims, not the victors.

So how is Israel creaming off so much?

Aid subversion and aid diversion

The problem, says Hever, is Israel’s self-imposed role as mediator. To reach the Palestinians, donors have no choice but to go through Israel. This provides ripe opportunities for what he terms “aid subversion” and “aid diversion”.

The first results from the Palestinians being a captive market. They have access to few goods and services that are not Israeli.

Who Profits? – an Israeli organisation monitoring the economic benefits for Israel in the occupation – assesses that the dairy firm Tnuva enjoys a monopoly in the West Bank worth USD 60 million annually.

Aid diversion, meanwhile, occurs because Israel controls all movement of people and goods. Israeli restrictions mean it gets to charge for transportation and storage, and levy “security” fees.

Aid destruction

Other studies have identified additional profits from “aid destruction”. When Israel wrecks foreign-funded aid projects, Palestinians lose – but Israel often benefits.

Cement-maker Nesher, for example, is reported to control 85 per cent of all construction by Israelis and Palestinians, including the supplies for rebuilding efforts in Gaza after Israel’s repeated rampages.

Significant segments of Israeli society, aside from those in the security industries, are lining their pockets from the occupation. Paradoxically, the label “the most aid-dependent people in the world” – usually affixed to the Palestinians – might be better used to describe Israelis.

What can be done? International law expert Richard Falk notes that Israel is exploiting an aid oversight vacuum: there are no requirements on donors to ensure their money reaches the intended recipients.

What the international community has done over the past 20 years of the Oslo process – inadvertently or otherwise – is offer Israel financial incentives to stabilise and entrench its rule over the Palestinians. It can do so relatively cost-free.

While Europe and Washington have tried to beat Israel with a small diplomatic stick to release its hold on the occupied territories, at the same time they dangle juicy financial carrots to encourage Israel to tighten its grip.

There is a small ray of hope. Western aid policy does not have to be self-sabotaging. Hever’s study indicates that Israel has grown as reliant on Palestinian aid as the Palestinians themselves.

The EU noted last week that Israel not Brussels should be caring for the Bedouin it has left homeless. Europe could take its own advice to heart and start shifting the true costs of the occupation back on to Israel.

That may happen soon enough whatever the West decides, if – as even Israel is predicting will occur soon – the Palestinian Authority of Mahmoud Abbas collapses.

RT Documentary on Ahed Tamimi

Posted on 

The above documentary is very much worth watching. Uploaded on March 9 and entitled “The Slap Heard Around the World: The People of Israel vs. Ahed Tamimi,” the video focuses not only on the Tamimi family and Ahed’s case in the Israeli military court system, but also the hysteria that has erupted in Israeli society over the whole affair. It includes interviews with members of the Tamimi family as well as Israeli journalist Gideon Levy.

For the past couple of days I’ve been trying to find out what, if anything, occurred in the Ofer military court on Sunday, March 11, the day Ahed’s trial was supposed to open. For some reason the Israeli media, at least the outlets that publish in English, have largely gone mum on the case. About the only reference I could find was a Haaretz piece published a bit earlier today and which, though vague on details, seems to suggest that the trial has been postponed once again so that the court may consider an appeal of its decision to close proceedings to the public.

Ahed’s pre-trial hearings were open to the public, but on February 13 a ruling was issued saying the trial would be held behind closed doors. Then on February 26, Israeli soldiers carried out another raid in Nabi Saleh, arresting Mohammed Tamimi, Ahed’s 15-year-old cousin, the boy who was shot in the head by a rubber-coated bullet. One day after that arrest an Israeli official went public with a claim that Mohammed had “admitted” under interrogation that the head injury had been from a bike accident. The bogus claim is covered in the video above.

The latest charade the Israelis seem to be playing is that it is not the prosecution that objects to having the trial opened to the public, but that this decision was made by the court alone and with Ahed’s best interest at heart.

“We left the request to open the hearings to the judgment of the court of first instance, and we will leave that request to the discretion of this honorable court,” says Maj. Gilad Peretz, the military prosecutor quoted in the Haaretz story.

In other words, Peretz purports to be neutral on the question of a trial behind closed doors, but with an air of touching concern for the girl’s welfare believes that keeping the proceedings closed would be “to Tamimi’s advantage.”

The appeal, filed by defense attorney Gabby Lasky, calls for the trial to be opened to the public, and while the court did not issue a ruling in a hearing held on Monday, it is “expected to do so shortly,” the report states.

It’s interesting that the Israeli media, aside from the Haaretz article (which is very brief) have gone so quiet on the story–in stark contrast to the kind of reporting we were seeing back in January, February and the latter part of December, when stories were coming out virtually every day. Apparently “out of sight out of mind” is the operative theory now.

Meanwhile, Ahed and her mother, Nariman, remain locked up in an Israeli prison.

Below is a commentary written by Jonathan Cook and published a bit over a week ago by Mondoweiss.

***

Israeli Army’s Lies Can No Longer Salvage Its Image

By Jonathan Cook

It is has been a very bad week for those claiming Israel has the most moral army in the world. Here’s a small sample of abuses of Palestinians in recent days in which the Israeli army was caught lying.

A child horrifically injured by soldiers was arrested and terrified into signing a false confession that he was hurt in a bicycle accident. A man who, it was claimed, had died of tear-gas inhalation was actually shot at point-blank range, then savagely beaten by a mob of soldiers and left to die. And soldiers threw a tear gas canister at a Palestinian couple, baby in arms, as they fled for safety during a military invasion of their village.

In the early 2000s, at the dawn of the social media revolution, Israelis used to dismiss filmed evidence of brutality by their soldiers as fakery. It was what they called “Pallywood” – a conflation of Palestinian and Hollywood.

In truth, however, it was the Israeli military, not the Palestinians, that needed to manufacture a more convenient version of reality.

Last week, it emerged, Israeli officials had conceded to a military court that the army had beaten and locked up a group of Palestinian reporters as part of an explicit policy of stopping journalists from covering abuses by its soldiers.

Israel’s deceptions have a long history. Back in the 1970s, a young Juliano Meir-Khamis, later to become one of Israel’s most celebrated actors, was assigned the job of carrying a weapons bag on operations in the Jenin refugee camp in the West Bank. When Palestinian women or children were killed, he placed a weapon next to the body.

In one incident, when soldiers playing around with a shoulder-launcher fired a missile at a donkey, and the 12-year-old girl riding it, Meir-Khamis was ordered to put explosives on their remains.

Continued here

 

israel’s Secret Police To Face First-Ever Torture Probe

Source

Israel’s Secret Police To Face First-Ever Torture Probe

By Jonathan CookIsrael: For the first time in its history, an interrogator from Israel’s secret police agency, the Shin Bet, is to face a criminal investigation over allegations of torture. It will be the first probe of the Shin Bet since Israel’s supreme court issued a landmark ruling nearly two decades ago prohibiting, except in extraordinary circumstances, the use of what it termed “special methods” of interrogation.

Before the ruling, physical abuse of Palestinians had been routine and resulted in several deaths in custody.

According to human rights groups, however, the supreme court ban has had a limited impact. The Shin Bet, formally known as the Israel Security Agency, has simply been more careful about hiding its use of torture, they say.

More than 1,000 complaints from Palestinians have been submitted to a government watchdog body over the past 18 years, but this is the first time one has led to a criminal investigation.

Many Palestinians are jailed based on confessions either they or other Palestinians make during Shin Bet questioning. Israeli military courts almost never examine how such confessions were obtained or whether they are reliable, say lawyers, contributing to a 99.7 percent conviction rate.

Last month, in freeing a Palestinian man who was jailed based on a false confession, an Israeli court accused the Shin Bet of using techniques that were “liable to induce innocent people to admit to acts that they did not commit”.

 

‘Exception proves the rule’

But rights groups have told Al Jazeera the current investigation of the Shin Bet agent is unlikely to bring an end to the long-standing impunity of interrogators, or a change in its practices.

Instead, they noted, an updated decision last month on torture from the Israeli supreme court, revising the 1999 landmark ruling, had moved the goalposts significantly in the Shin Bet’s favour.

Hassan Jabareen, director of Adalah, a legal rights group representing Israel’s large Palestinian minority, said: “This case is the exception that proves the rule – one investigation after many hundreds of complaints have been ignored.

“It will be promoted to suggest – wrongly – that the system has limits, that it respects the rule of law.”

That view was shared by Rachel Stroumsa, head of the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel, which has submitted many of the 1,100 complaints of torture filed against the Shin Bet.

She told Al Jazeera that Israel was “highly unusual” in making legal justifications for interrogation practices that clearly violated the United Nations Convention Against Torture, which Israel ratified in 1991.

The convention forbids intentionally inflicting “severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental” on those in detention to gain information.

The 1999 ruling by the Israeli supreme court banned torture except in extremely rare cases of “necessity”, or what it termed “ticking bombs” – suspects from whom it was essential to gain information quickly.

But Stroumsa said the large number of complaints from Palestinians submitted to Mivtan, a watchdog body in the justice ministry, indicated that the Shin Bet had never stopped using torture.

Mivtan’s consistent failure

The justice ministry has refused to divulge details of the criminal investigation, apart from saying it refers to “a field interrogation” in 2015. Field interrogations are usually conducted moments after a Palestinian has been seized by security forces.

Speaking of the case at the weekend, Emi Palmor, director general of the justice ministry, said that this was “the first case that will be translated, presumably, into an indictment”.

Stroumsa said the investigation was not in response to a complaint her committee had filed. Israeli media have speculated that the case may have progressed only because it was supported by testimony from another Israeli intelligence agent.

Rights groups have been harshly critical of Mivtan over its consistent failure to investigate Palestinian complaints of torture.

For most of its history, the unit was part of the Shin Bet and employed only one investigator.

But following criticism in 2013 from a state inquiry, the Turkel Commission, Mivtan was transferred to the justice ministry. Last year it recruited a second investigator, who reportedly speaks Arabic.

 

Prisoners ‘feel buried’

Before the 1999 ruling, the Shin Bet was regularly accused of violently shaking prisoners and beating them, including by banging their heads against a wall.

According to testimonies, the Shin Bet still uses physical violence, though less routinely, including choking, forcing victims into stress positions that cause intense pain, and tightly cuffing their hands to prevent blood flow.

But the Shin Bet is reported now to prioritise mental torture that does not leave tell-tale signs doctors could identify. These include threats of physical and sexual violence, including against family members, interrogation lasting for days, sleep deprivation, and prolonged exposure to loud music.

Palestinians are often denied access to daylight, sometimes for weeks, so they become disoriented. “They are completely isolated – they feel buried. They don’t know when their interrogation will end or how it will end,” Anat Litvin, a researcher for Physicians for Human Rights – Israel told Al Jazeera.

She added that it was often hard to prove torture because the Shin Bet denied requests for doctors to inspect prisoners. “That creates a vicious circle – those who are tortured cannot prove they were because there is no documentation.”

Even so, she said, doctors usually only recorded bumps and bruises without noting claims from Palestinians that their injuries were inflicted by their interrogators.

Last year an unnamed senior interrogator confirmed that the agency uses torture to the Haaretz newspaper. He said agents were required to record details of how many blows they inflicted and what painful positions they used on detainees. Interrogators concentrated on sensitive regions such as the nose, ears and lips.

In an indication of high-level support for torture in Israel, he said logs were sent afterwards to the attorney general, Israel’s chief law officer.

“Israel is a torturing society,” said Litvin. “It requires that all levels of the system turn a blind eye – the Shin Bet, investigators, government officials, the courts, and doctors. There has to be a climate that allows this to happen.”

Interrogations not recorded

A global survey by the International Red Cross in 2016 found more support for torture in Israel than any other country apart from Nigeria. Half of Israelis backed its use, with only a quarter opposed.

Stroumsa said: “The fact is many Israelis can live with these things as long as they are being done in the dark, out of view, without any documentation. They assume all cases of torture are ‘ticking bombs’.”

Efforts to prove torture have also been hampered by an emergency order passed in 2002, in the wake of the supreme court ruling, that exempts Shin Bet interrogations from being recorded on video.

In 2015 the cabinet justified the exemption on the grounds that video recording “could cause real damage to the quality of the interrogation and the ability to investigate security offenses”.

Stroumsa noted that, aside from the moral problem, research has shown that torture is ineffective. A US Senate report, published in 2014, concludedthat it was “not an effective means of obtaining accurate information”.

 

Ticking bomb ‘loophole’

Nonetheless, the signs are that the Israeli courts are rolling back the restrictions on torture they put in place at the end of the 1990s.

Last month the supreme court issued a ruling in the case of Assad Abu Ghosh, a Hamas activist who, the Israeli state admits, was subjected to “special methods” of interrogation in 2007.

According to a petition to the court from the Public Committee, he was beaten and repeatedly slammed against a wall, and forced into the “banana position”, putting extreme pressure on his back. Abu Ghosh was left with neurological damage as a result.

Human rights groups had hoped the court would close the ticking bomb “loophole”, which has allowed the Shin Bet to carry on torturing prisoners, or at least more tightly control the kinds of methods they use.

Instead, said Jabareen, of Adalah, the ruling appeared to give greater licence to the Shin Bet to use torture.

“It is now enough that the [Shin Bet] agent believes subjectively that the prisoner is a ‘ticking bomb’, even in the absence of objective facts to support that belief,” he said. “His actions will not be treated as criminal in nature because they are assumed to be done in good faith.”

Stroumsa said she found the judges’ ruling in the Abu Ghosh case “astonishing”, given the injunction in international law against torture.

“The court ruled that, even if technically in international law interrogation methods were considered torture, in Israel they were not regarded as such. The judges effectively gave the Shin Bet a green light to continue with torture.”

 

Jonathan Cook is an award-winning British journalist based in Nazareth, Israel, since 2001.

Fakery, Fakery, and More Fakery

“I think if it is accurate, I think it’s a disgrace to all of media, to all of journalism. I think that we have gone to a place where if the media can’t be trusted to report the news, then that’s a dangerous place for America.”

So says Sarah Huckabee-Sanders. The video the White House press secretary was referring to apparently is Project Veritas’  “American Pravda” report. That video–(in case you haven’t seen it, you can check it out here )–shows some private comments made by a CNN producer named John Bonifield, who apparently did not know he was being filmed. In the conversation, recorded covertly, Bonifield admits that CNN’s Russia coverage is “mostly bullshit” and that President Trump is right when he accuses the media of engaging in “witch hunting.” He also says the Russia coverage has been driven by ratings.

As for Huckabee-Sanders, her comments, shown in the video above, were made on Tuesday, June 27, one day after the Veritas video was uploaded.

“And I think if that is the place that certain outlets are going, particularly for the purpose of spiking ratings, and if that’s coming directly from the top, I think that’s even more scary and certainly more disgraceful,” she said.

It’s hard to ague with words such as these. Certainly reporting by the mainstream media has been disgraceful–not just on Russia but in a number of other areas as well. And certainly this malfeasance on the part of the media has taken us to a dangerous place in America.

But Huckabee-Sanders’ comments came less than 24 hours after her colleague in the Trump administration, Sean Spicer, made a preposterous accusation against the Syrian government while providing no evidence to back it up. According to Spicer, the US “has identified potential preparations for another chemical weapons attack by the Assad regime that would likely result in the mass murder of civilians, including innocent children.”

Spicer added, by way of warning, that if “Mr. Assad  conducts another mass murder attack using chemical weapons, he and his military will pay a heavy price.”

This is the Trump administration–the same administration that has been accusing the media of purveying fake news.

On April 6, US forces launched Tomahawk missiles at a Syrian air base over claims made by the media that Syria had carried out a chemical weapons attack in Idlib Province, killing dozens of people. This was one day after the New York Times had reported on what it referred to as the “worst chemical attack in years in Syria.”

“Dozens of people, including children, died–some writhing, choking, gasping or foaming at the mouth–after breathing in poison that possibly contained a nerve agent or other banned chemicals, according to witnesses, doctors and rescue workers,” the Times’ April 5 report said.

One of the reporters sharing a byline on that story was Michael R. Gordon, the same New York Times reporter who, along with Judith Miller, had reported on Saddam Hussein’s alleged weapons of mass destruction back in 2002.

It’s almost like a revolving wheel, isn’t it?

And so now we have the White House claiming Assad is plotting to kill children–where pray tell did they get this information? Hard to say for sure, but certainly it’s possible it was fed to them by the Israelis. And the gullible idiots in the Trump administration either believed it…or simply followed orders and had Spicer go out, hold a press conference, accuse the Syrian president of mass murder, and threaten to attack the country again.

As I have said in previous posts, everything in America these days is centered around fakery. Even the people who accuse others of being fakes, are fakes themselves. The irate reporter who accuses Huckabee-Sanders of being “inflammatory” in the video above? What a charming segment! It’s almost like watching two fakes argue over who is the more talented.

A report published several days ago by investigative journalist Seymour Hersh suggests that the “chemical weapons attack” which prompted Trump’s April 6 attack upon Syria was not a deliberate chemical attack on the town of Khan Sheikhoun, as was reported, but in fact a bombing of a jihadist meeting site and which used a conventional bomb dropped from the air.

The meeting, consisting of high level operatives from Al-Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham, was held in a two story cinder block building that was used for a variety of purposes including storage of fertilizers, weapons and ammunition, propane, cooking oil, insecticides, medicine, and chlorine-based decontaminants. Moreover, according to Hersh’s sources, the Americans even knew in advance that the attack was going to take place because the Russians had tipped them off to it (this was back when the Americans and the Russians in Syria were still speaking with, and coordinating their military movements with, each other).

The bombing of the building, says Hersh, “triggered a series of secondary explosions that could have generated a huge toxic cloud that began to spread over the town, formed by the release of the fertilizers, disinfectants and other goods stored in the basement, its effect magnified by the dense morning air, which trapped the fumes close to the ground.”

So this is what was portrayed in the media as a deliberate chemical attack by the Assad government. Hersh’s sources claim President Trump was advised as to the true details of the attack but that he deliberately chose to ignore it. Whether this is a self-serving statement on the part of an anonymous intelligence agent would be hard to say for sure, but here, in any event. is how Hersh reports it:

Some American military and intelligence officials were especially distressed by the president’s determination to ignore the evidence. “None of this makes any sense,” one officer told colleagues upon learning of the decision to bomb. “We KNOW that there was no chemical attack … the Russians are furious. Claiming we have the real intel and know the truth … I guess it didn’t matter whether we elected Clinton or Trump.”

Hersh’s report was published by the German newspaper Die Welt. A commentary on it has also been published by Jonathan Cook, who makes some valid observations of his own–namely that those attempting to make a case for Assad’s use of chemical weapons must concede certain particulars that are highly implausible. Among these are that:

  1. Assad is so crazed and self-destructive – or at the very least so totally incapable of controlling his senior commanders, who must themselves be crazed and self-destructive – that he has on several occasions ordered the use of chemical weapons against civilians. And he has chosen to do it at the worst possible moments for his own and his regime’s survival, and when such attacks were entirely unnecessary.
  2. That Putin is equally deranged and so willing to risk an end-of-times conflagration with the US that he has on more than one occasion either sanctioned or turned a blind eye to the use of sarin by Assad’s regime. And he has done nothing to penalise Assad afterwards, when things went wrong.

He also makes a point about Hersh’s critics–i.e. that to validate their case they must assume that Hersh “has decided to jettison all the investigatory skills he has amassed over many decades as a journalist to accept at face value any unsubstantiated rumours his long-established contacts in the security services have thrown his way.”

Russia’s response to the Trump administration’s latest fantasia on Syria came from Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov.

“We heard about this statement,” Peskov told reporters. “We do not know what is the basis for this. And of course we categorically disagree with the ‘another attack’ wording.

“We also consider any similar threats to the legitimate leadership of the Syrian Arab Republic unacceptable,” he added.

“Unacceptable” is pretty strong language for Russian officials, who aren’t especially prone to making “inflammatory” statements. America, long touted for its supposed freedom of the press, is indeed in a “dangerous place.”  Huckabee-Sanders has at least that much right. It would be ironic if World War III, and possible planetary annihilation, were triggered by a long jet stream of fake news streaking across the sky, but that seems like a distinct possibility at this point.

Of course, none of this is intended to be “inflammatory” toward the poor, hardworking reporters at CNN who, naturally, are “only trying to do their job.”

Hersh’s New Syria Revelations

The Facts Proving Corbyn’s Election Triumph

Watching the BBC’s coverage of the election, you could be excused for taking away two main impressions of last night’s results. First, that Theresa May had a terrible, self-sabotaging campaign; and second that, while Jeremy Corbyn may be celebrating, he decisively lost the election.

Those are the conclusions we would expect a pundit class to draw that has spent two years slandering Corbyn, calling him “unelectable”, warning that he appealed to little more than a niche group of radical leftists, and claiming that Labour was about to face the worst electoral defeat in living memory – if not ever. Corbyn’s social justice message was supposedly alienating the heartlands of the UK.

So let’s stand back, look at the voting figures and see how a Corbyn-led Labour party actually did.

Corbyn received 41 per cent of the vote, against May’s 44 per cent. Given the UK’s inherently flawed, first-past-the-post electoral system, he won some 50 fewer seats than the Conservatives, but that was still a big improvement on Labour’s share of seats in the last election, under Ed Miliband. There is now a hung parliament, and to survive May will need to depend on the votes of a small group of Northern Irish Ulster unionists, creating a deeply unstable government.

But how did Corbyn do in terms of the Labour vote compared to his recent predecessors? He won many more votes than Ed Miliband, Gordon Brown and Neil Kinnock, who were among those that, sometimes noisily, opposed his leadership of the party.

They lost their elections. But what about Corbyn’s share of the vote compared to Tony Blair, his most high-profile critic, whose many allies in the parliamentary Labour party sought relentlessly to subvert Corbyn’s leadership over the past two years and tried to bring him down, including by staging a leadership challenge last year.

Here are the figures for Blair’s three wins. He got a 36 per cent share of the vote in 2005 – much less than Corbyn. He received a 41 per cent of the vote – about the same as Corbyn – in 2001. And Blair’s landslide victory in 1997 was secured on 43 per cent of the vote, just two percentage points ahead of Corbyn last night.

In short, Corbyn has proved himself the most popular Labour leader with the electorate in more than 40 years, apart from Blair’s landslide victory in 1997. But let’s recall the price Blair paid for that very small margin of improvement over Corbyn’s vote. Behind the scenes, he sold Labour’s soul to the City, the corporations and their lobbyists. That Faustian pact secured Blair the backing of most of the British media, including Rupert Murdoch’s stable of papers and TV channel. The corporations mobilised their entire propaganda machine to get Blair into power. And yet he managed it with only 2 percentage points more than Corbyn, who had that same propaganda machine railing against him.

Also, unlike Corbyn, Blair did not have to endure a large section of his own party trying to destroy him from within.

And in addition, Blair was able to rely on a strong Scottish vote for the party that no longer existed by the time Corbyn became leader. Most of that vote now goes to the Scottish National Party (SNP) over the issue of independence for Scotland.

All of this indicates the extent of Corbyn’s achievement.

Another point. Blair’s 1997 landslide was the peak of his success. As Labour members realised what he had done to achieve victory, support ebbed away relentlessly until he was forced to step down and hand over a profoundly damaged party to Gordon Brown.

With Corbyn, the election campaign proved that there is a huge appetite for his honesty, his passion, his commitment to social justice – at least when audiences got a chance to hear from him directly, rather than having his policies and personality mediated and distorted by a biased and self-serving corporate media. Unlike Blair, who destroyed Labour to turn it into a Thatcher-lite party, Corbyn is rebuilding Labour into a social movement for progressive politics.

Here is a graph that offers another measure of the extent of Corbyn’s achievement last night.

It shows that he has just won the largest increase in the share of the Labour vote over the party’s previous general election performance since Clement Attlee in 1945. In short, he’s turned around the electoral fortunes of the Labour party more than any other party leader in 70 years.

And unlike Blair, he’s done it without making back-room deals with big business to eviscerate his party’s economic and social programmes.

More articles by:

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

How Israeli Moves in Jerusalem Are Scotching Trump’s ‘Ultimate Deal’

Global Research, May 30, 2017

A decision by Donald Trump this Thursday could prove fateful for the immediate future of Jerusalem, the wider Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the region.

He must decide whether to renew a presidential waiver, signed by his predecessor, Barack Obama, that expires on June 1. The six-month waiver delays implementing a law passed by Congress in 1995 that requires the US to recognise occupied Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and relocate its embassy there from Tel Aviv.

It is a law every president for the past 22 years has baulked at. It would pre-empt the Oslo accords and negate Washington’s assumed role as “honest broker”. Carrying out Congress’s wish would deny the Palestinians East Jerusalem, the only credible capital of a future Palestinian state.

But equally significantly, the law would recognise Israel’s efforts to claim sovereignty over the Old City’s holy places, especially the incendiary site of Al Aqsa mosque. That could provoke a conflagration both locally, among Palestinians, and more generally in the Middle East.

Image result

Al-Aqsa mosque (Source: Wikipedia)

Trump’s key advisers are reported to be bitterly divided. Some, such as secretary of state Rex Tillerson, warn that, if the president fails to approve the deferral, his claims to be crafting the “ultimate deal” to bring peace to the region will be doomed from the outset.

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his allies, including in the US Congress, are doing their best to pressure Trump in the opposite direction.

On Sunday, Netanyahu staged a provocative stunt, holding his weekly cabinet meeting in a tunnel under Al Aqsa mosque compound to announce measures to bring millions more Jewish visitors to the occupied Old City, including a new cable car to the edge of the mosque.

It was Netanyahu’s decision to open the Western Wall Tunnel in 1996, when he first became prime minister, that brought the Oslo process into almost terminal crisis at an early stage. Three days of clashes killed more than 100 Palestinians and 17 Israeli soldiers.

Next Tuesday, meanwhile, the US Congress and Israel’s parliament in Jerusalem are due to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Israel’s illegal occupation of the city in a ceremony conducted via video link.

The Jerusalem Post reported on Monday that either Trump or vice-president Mike Pence are due to participate, in what could be interpreted as the first tacit recognition by the White House of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

That would be a continuation of Trump’s break with official US policy towards Jerusalem during his visit to the region last week. He became the first sitting president to visit the Jewish prayer plaza at the Western Wall, below Al Aqsa. It was unclear whether his advisers had explained that where he stood had been a Palestinian neighbourhood 50 years ago, before it was ethnically cleansed.

Trump stuffed a note into the wall, in what observers hoped was a plea for divine help in solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

But the Western Wall visit was more probably an effort to placate his core supporters. Christian evangelicals paid for dozens of billboards across Jerusalem reminding Trump that he won the election only because of their votes – and that they expect the US embassy to be moved to Jerusalem.

Image result

Western Wall in Jerusalem (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

The day after Trump’s departure, Netanyahu exploited the president’s attendance at the wall to further damage prospects for peacemaking. He made a provocative speech to mark “Jerusalem Day”, Israel’s annual show of strength in East Jerusalem.

He claimed that Trump had disproved the “lies” promoted by the United Nations cultural body, Unesco, when it voted this month to re-state that Jerusalem is occupied.

In truth, it was Netanyahu who indulged in gross mendacity, claiming that East Jerusalem had been “desolate” and “neglected” before its occupation. Israel had “redeemed” the city, he said, while Al Aqsa mosque would “always remain under Israeli sovereignty”.

His supporters tried to give that claim concrete expression by staging the largest-ever march through the Old City on Jerusalem Day. Palestinians were forced into hiding or fled early as police allowed 60,000 Jewish ultra-nationalists to besiege the heart of East Jerusalem.

In a sign of the power balance in Israel, a small group of 50 left-wing Jews – many from the US – linked arms to try to block the march at the Old City’s entrance. Footage showed police brutally arresting them, grabbing them in chokeholds and breaking one woman’s arm.

Jerusalem is the most intractable of the final-status issues set out in the Oslo process. Those expecting miracles of Trump are going to be disappointed. His commitment to pressuring Netanyahu is weak, while the Israeli prime minister’s commitment to making concessions is non-existent.

Whether Trump signs the waiver or not on Thursday, all indications are that the US president – faced with domestic pressures and an intransigent Israeli government – is going nowhere with his “ultimate deal”.

The only real question to be decided on Thursday is whether Trump prefers to take the fast or protracted route to failure.

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

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

Israeli Official Calls for Syrian President Assad’s Assassination

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 photo galant_zpssoamqewn.jpg

Israeli Housing Minister Yoav Galant

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

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

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

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

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

Israel Tutors Children in Fear and Loathing

Nazareth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More articles by:

Syria is the Dam Against More Bloody Chaos

MAY 9, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Syria offers all the clues we need.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Global Research, May 02, 2017
Jonathan Cook

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

US Embassy Relocation to Jerusalem ‘a War Crime’

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

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

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

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

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

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

Move ‘war crime’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

UN protected zone

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

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

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

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

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

Illegal annexation

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

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

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

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

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

Daunting ramifications

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

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

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

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

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

Confusing signals

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fear of backlash

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hunt for work-around

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

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

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

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

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

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

terrorism-by-proxy-990x260

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

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

the-proxy-war-on-syria


 

By Bas Spliet, ScrutinisedMinds

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

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

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

Pipeline geopolitics

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

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

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

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

The balkanisation of the Middle East

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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


Notes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

israeli rabbis launch war on Christmas tree

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

Israeli rabbis launch war on Christmas tree

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Interest in Santa hats

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

‘No danger’ to Judaism

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

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

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

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

Tree-free Knesset


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

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

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

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

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

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

Attack on religious freedoms

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

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

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

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

Threat to kosher status

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trump May Kill Netanyahu With Kindness

Photo by thierry ehrmann | CC BY 2.0

Photo by thierry ehrmann | CC BY 2.0

Nazareth.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So why the nerves in Tel Aviv?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More articles by:

Money Talks as Donald Trump Does U-Turn on Israel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So why the dramatic turnaround?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Global Research, June 10, 2016
Jonathan Cook 9 June 2016
israel-1157540_960_720

Israel is concealing vital records to prevent darkest periods in its history from coming to light, academics say 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

%d bloggers like this: