US Activist: Internal Crises Overwhelming Racist US, People Will Not Retreat

US Activist: Internal Crises Overwhelming Racist US, People Will Not Retreat 

By Elham Hashemi

The latest riots and looting in the United States of America were triggered by the cold-blooded killing of the US citizen George Floyd. The entire planet knows the sad story of Floyd no need to mention in it here.

But this story is only the tip of the iceberg. For those who think that Floyd’s killing is the real reason that made streets of different US states and regions flood with protestors and rioters, you are mistaken. Underneath the tip of the iceberg is what has been accumulating for long years.

If you know the US well, you must know by now that there is no universal healthcare, there are starvation wages, there exists mass incarceration, the US has a long history of police brutality, there is a lack of opportunities, racist politicians are everywhere, a racist justice system exists, there are no reparations and there is no access to affordable education.

With the coming of Covid-19 and the state of chaos across the country, and the sad crime of killing Floyd, it seems that was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Thanks to alternative and social media networks, nothing is hidden; information flows in specs of a second through fiber optic technology to reach millions across the world.

News activist and analyst Sam G. from the city of Michigan told al-Ahed news that “Information is not monopolistic anymore. People across the world have become news junkies contributing to the multiplicity of informative voices as well as provide information on first-hand experience and what is happening in each country.”

Sam told al-Ahed “Corona, the pandemic which probably should be thanked at a certain point, revealed the spirit of each country, that is, those who are interested in giving more importance to the economy, as is the case of the United States, while other countries such as Iran carried out a coronavirus control policy where the health of its people was given more importance despite being financially sanctioned by the United States where its people are suffering from the individualistic policies of their government.

“The difference is clear, economy versus health, money versus life and here are the countries that suffer the most that are setting the example.”

The activist noted “The United States has loads of internal crises that it needs to overcome. The political crisis has extended to reach US President Donald Trump; his own officials who can no longer support his statements and poor decisions.”

“We are talking about a government that is racist towards its people. It is a country that is sinking in problems and complex issues and has a government that is sort of living in a state of denial. The US suffers an economic crisis where unconventional oil companies declared bankruptcy and the state had to go out to subsidize them while people continue to die for not being able to access the health system that is private and segregating.” 

This, according to Sam, “leads to an unprecedented social crisis that proves once again that the Trump administration has no intention of improving its own country.”

According to Sam, this is only the beginning of change in the US as well as the world and its order. The activist thinks that people are not willing to retreat or stop protesting until they see the arrest of all officers involved in the killing of Floyd and see action in terms of protecting the rights of African Americans at least.

In many parts of the world, the death of yet another black man at the hands of the police in the United States set off mass protests against police brutality. For many activists and community organizers, Floyd’s death under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer was a blunt reminder of Chicago’s racial divide and history of police brutality against African Americans.

Between 2013 and 2019, police in the United States killed 7,666 people, according to data compiled by Mapping Police Violence, a research and advocacy group. In 2019 alone, more than 1,000 people were killed by police, according to Mapping Police Violence, a research group.

Several states have called in National Guard troops to help quell the protests, some of which have turned violent. Cities nationwide have also implemented curfews, but protesters appear undeterred.

The US has even failed in ensuring the right of citizens to protest, which is the simplest form of freedom of expression and human rights in the so-called land of democracies and freedoms. According to the human rights group Amnesty International, police tactics used so far can trigger escalating violence. “Equipping officers in a manner more appropriate for a battlefield may put them in the mindset that confrontation and conflict are inevitable,” read the statement, adding that police “should demilitarize their approach and engage in dialogue with protest organizers”.

Imam Khomeini had a rather practical turn of mind: Falk

TEHRAN – Forty-one years have passed since Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, upon failure to attract popular support, fled Iran forever

January 17, 2020 – 13:2

Over the past decades, despite being faced with threats, provocations, harsh sanctions, and even a variety of covert interventions, Iran has been more stable than ever- a fact even acknowledged by Professor Richard Falk as the former UN Special Rapporteur.

Falk, who came to Tehran as a member of an American delegation in 1979, has an interesting narrative of Bakhtiar’s desperation on the day of Shah-Escape. 

As Iran marks 41th anniversary of Islamic revolution, we asked Professor Falk to share his experience from this historical trip and the visit he later had with the founder of Islamic republic of Iran Ayatollah Khomeini. 

Richard Anderson Falk is an American professor emeritus of international law at Princeton University. He is the author or co-author of 20 books and the editor or co-editor of another 20 volumes. In 2008, the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) appointed Falk to a six-year term as a United Nations special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territories occupied since 1967.   

Following is the full text of the interview:

Q: Before Iran’s Islamic revolution, as a member of an American delegation, you had a visit to Iran. What were the objectives of that trip?

A: I was chair of a small committee in the United States with the name, “Committee for the Defense of Human Rights in Iran,” which sponsored events with Iranian students and some prominent figures. It became active within university settings as the revolutionary movement gathered momentum in 1978.

The Committee had almost no funding, but had dedicated members, and achieved a certain visibility as there was so little attention being given to these historic developments in Iran unfolding as the months passed. The treatment of these issues in the mainstream media was not only mostly very pro-Shah but also quite uninformative, and even uniformed.

It was in this context that I received as chair of the Committee an invitation from Mehdi Bazargan to visit Iran in a delegation of three persons for a period of two weeks. The stated purpose of the visit was to convey to several Americans a better understanding of the revolution underway. I felt that it was important to accept this invitation precisely for the reasons given in the letter of invitation. Our objective, then, was to achieve this better understanding of the revolution movement in Iran, and do our best after returning to share the experience and our impressions as widely as possible, and this is what we did.

In this spirit I did my best to find two persons who would benefit from such a visit, possessed an open mind toward the challenge being posed to imperial rule in Iran, and had some access to media and influential audiences back in the United States. My first two choices both agreed to become members of the delegation along with myself. Ramsey Clark was my first choice. He had been prominent in government, having been Attorney General, was part of a well-known political family, and had previously been considered a possible candidate for the American presidency. Besides being extremely intelligence, Ramsey had a high profile that generated great media interest and had a reputation for telling unpleasant and inconvenient truths.

My second choice was Philip Luce, a prominent religious activist who achieved world fame by his public acts of opposition to the Vietnam War. He was a person of the highest integrity, and fearless in searching for the truth in controversial political settings.
The three of us made the trip without deep prior personal associations, but we got along very well throughout our time together in Iran, and subsequently. 

Q: How different was what you witnessed from the US media narratives of the Iranian revolution’s developments?

A: The differences were spectacular. The US media conveyed very little understanding of the character of the movement in Iran, and was perplexed by its strength and outlook. At the time, the Shah’s government was a close ally of the United States in the midst of the Cold War, and Iran’s strategic location with respect to the Soviet Union made it very important to Washington to keep the Shah’s regime in control of the country. As well, the US Government, having played an important role by way of covert intervention in the 1953 coup that restored the Shah to the Peacock Throne, there was a particularly strong commitment made in Washington to doing whatever was necessary to defeat this nonviolent mass movement led by a then still rather obscure religious figure. It was deemed unthinkable within the United States government that such a seemingly primitive movement of the Iranian people could produce the collapse of the Iranian government that had mighty military and police capabilities at its disposal, possessed a political will to use lethal ammunition against unarmed demonstrators, and gained the geopolitical benefits of a ‘special relationship’ with the most powerful state in the world deeply invested in upholding its regional interests. In such a setting the media reflected the propaganda and ideological outlook of the government, and was not a source of independent and objective journalism.

It was in such an atmosphere that we hoped that we could bring some more informed and realistic commentary on the unfolding revolutionary process in Iran, including identifying its special character as neither left nor right, seemingly led by a religious leader who remained virtually unknown in the West. It was even unclear to us at the time of our visit whether Ayatollah Khomeini was the real leader or only a figurehead, a temporary phenomenon. We hoped to provide some insight into such questions, as well as to understand whether the new political realities in Iran would produce confrontation or normalization. Was the United States prepared, as it was not in 1953, to live with the politics of self-determination as it operated in Iran or would it seek once more to intervene on behalf of its geopolitical agenda? 

Indeed, we did have some effect on the quality of Western media coverage of the developments in Iran. Ramsey Clark and myself were invited to do many interviews and asked for to describe our impressions by mainstream TV channels and print outlets. As a result, at least until the hostage crisis, discussion of Iran Politics became more informed and some useful political debate emerged, at least for a while.  

Q: You met the then Prime Minister of Iran Shapour Bakhtiar on the same day when Mohammad Reza Pahlavi left Iran. What was Bakhtiar’s assessment of the developments including Shah’s departure?

A: We had the impression from our meeting that the Prime Minister was uncertain about the situation and his own personal fate. Of course, we met with Mr. Bakhtiar at a tense time, only a very few hours after the Shah was reported as having left the country. Bakhtiar had a reputation. of being hostile to intrusions of religion in the domain of politics, and had a personal identity strongly influenced by French culture along with its very dogmatic version of secularism. When we met, the city of Tehran was in a kind of frenzied mood, with cars blowing their horns in celebration, and posters of Khomeini appearing everywhere. We had trouble maneuvering through the traffic so as to keep our appointment.

We found Mr. Bakhtiar cautious and non-committal, and possibly intimidated, not by us, of course, but by the dozen or so others in the room who were never introduced, and wore the clothes associated with security personnel. We assumed that at least some of these anonymous individuals were from the SAVAK, and maybe explained partly why Bakhtiar seemed so uncomfortable. When we asked his help in arranging a visit to prisoners confined in Evin Prison, he seemed unable to answer until he received guidance from one of these advisers present in the room. After a short, whispered instruction, the Prime Minister told us that a visit could be arranged on the following day to the political prisoners, but that we would not be allowed to enter the part of the prison reserved for common criminals. After being at the prison, we felt that the political prisoners were treated well, seen as possibly of a future ruling elite, while the ordinary criminals held no interest for past or present, and lived in crowded cells often with no windows.

Overall, we were left with not much clarity about how Bakhtiar viewed the future of his caretaker government. We had no real opinion on whether what he was saying to us with the others in the room was what they wanted him to say, or expressed his real views, or maybe reflected some sort of compromise. Would he be soon replaced, and his own role challenged as unlawful, or even criminal? We had the impression of a frightened bureaucrat lacking in leadership potential. Maybe our impressions were distorted by the reality that our visit took place at such a tense and difficult moment, which turned out to be transformative for the country and its people. As a result these impressions of a sad and entrapped individual may leave too negative a picture.  

Q: What was the Central Intelligence Agency’s assessment of the Iranian revolution’s developments? Did CIA have a lucid exact assessment of the revolutionary forces and Iran’s future political system?

A: We had no contact with the CIA, but did meet with the American ambassador to Iran at the time, William Sullivan, who had a counterinsurgency background with a militarist reputation. He gave us a briefing that was much more illuminating as to Iranian developments than was our meeting with the Prime Minister. Sullivan acknowledged that the U.S. was caught off guard by both the character and the strength of the movement, and was struggling to keep up with events. He told us that the Embassy had previously constructed no less than 26 scenarios of political developments that might threaten the Shah’s leadership, but not one was concerned about a threat to the established order mounted by Islamically oriented opposition. The American preoccupation, reflecting Cold War priorities, limited its concerns to containing the Marxist and Soviet-oriented left, and the belief that to the extent there was a political side to Islam it was aligned with the West in its anti-Communist agenda as evident in the setting of the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan. 

Somewhat to our surprise, Sullivan spoke of his acute frustrations in dealing with the Carter presidency, especially with the National Security Advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski, who he claimed to be unwilling to accept the finality of the Shah’s loss of power or of the outcome of the revolutionary movement. Sullivan advocated coming to terms with the emerging new realities as representing America’s national interests, but he spoke very clearly of the resistance to this view at the White House. Sullivan partly attributed this stubbornness to the influence of the Iranian ambassador on. Brzezinski, a view later supported by State Department officials. 

Q: What were the issues discussed at a meeting you had in Neauphle-le Chateau with the late Islamic Republic’s founder Ayatollah Khomeini and how would you describe his personality?

A: We met for a long time, maybe three hours, and covered many issues. During the conversation, after some rather long introductions on our sides about our experience in. Iran, we listened and responded to concerns expressed by Ayatollah Khomeini. After that we posed a series of questions. I will mention here a few topics discussed that have a lasting interest. 

Ayatollah Khomeini’s first and understandable concern was whether the US Government would try to repeat the intervention of 1953 or live with the outcome of the revolution. Of course, we were not in a position to give a clear answer. We did think there was less disposition by the US to intervene than 25 years earlier, but we knew of the strategic importance attached to keeping Iran allied to the US in Cold War contexts and of the personal as well as ideological closeness between Carter and the Shah, especially after the Carter family spent New Year’s Eve in Tehran as the Shah’s guest in 1978, and Carter made his famous toast about the Shah being surrounded by the love of his people.

Ayatollah Khomeini was also concerned about whether the military contracts with the United States would be fulfilled now that there would be a change of government in Iran. This line of questioning gave us a sense that Ayatollah Khomeini had a rather practical turn of mind.
At the same time, he volunteered the view that he hoped that soon he would be able to resume his religious life, and explained taking up residence in Qom rather than Tehran seemed consistent with such an intention. Ayatollah Khomeini told us that he has reluctantly entered politics because in his words ‘there was a river of blood between the Shah and the people.’

When we asked for his hopes for the revolutionary government, this religious leader made clear that he viewed the revolution as an Islamic rather than an Iranian occurrence. He stressed this issue, but without any sectarian overtones. He did go on to say that he felt that the basic community for all people in the Islamic world was civilizational and religious, and not national and territorial. Ayatollah Khomeini explained in ways I subsequently heard from others, that territorial sovereign states built around national identity did not form a natural community in the Middle East the way it did in Europe.

Ayatollah Khomeini also made clear to us that he viewed the Saudi monarchy was as decadent and cruel as was the Shah, and deserved to face the same fate. He felt that dynastic rule had no legitimate role in Islamic societies.

We also asked about the fate of Jews and Bahais in the emergent Islamic Republic of Iran, aware of their close working relationships with the Shah’s governing structure. We found the response significant. He expressed the opinion that Judaism was ‘a genuine religion’ and if Jews do not get too involved in support for Israel, they would be fine in Iran. His words on this, as I recall them, were ‘it would be a tragedy for us if they left.’ He viewed Bahais differently because of their worship of a prophet after Mohammad, leading him to adopt the view that Bahais were members of ‘a sect’ and did not belong to ‘a true religion,’ and thus its adherents would not be welcome in the new Iran. Afterwards, I learned that Ayatollah Khomeini intervened to oppose and prevent genocidal moves being advocated in relation to the Bahai minority living in Iran, but I have no confirmation of this. 

Q: What was the last US Ambassador to Iran William Sullivan’s mission? He is known to be an anti-riot man. Did he give any intellectual help to Iran military or SAVAK (the secret police, domestic security and intelligence service in Iran during the reign of the Pahlavi)?

A: Of course, Sullivan never would tell us about his covert activities. He had the reputation of being ‘a counterinsurgency diplomat’ as he had served in Laos as an ambassador during the Vietnam War. It was at a time that the embassy was being used to take part in a Laotian internal war that included directing US bombing strikes against rebel forces.

With this knowledge, I was invited to testify in the U.S. Senate to oppose his confirmation. Unfortunately, my testimony did not prevent him from being confirmed as ambassador to Iran, although several senators at the time indicated to me privately their agreement with my testimony, but were unwilling to reject President Carter’s choice so early in his presidency. When in Iran I urged the meeting, and Ramsey Clark was skeptical at first, saying that he had had an unpleasant encounter with Sullivan some years earlier. I convinced Ramsey that the credibility of our trip would be compromised if we made no effort to get the viewpoint of the American Embassy. We did make an appointment, Sullivan’s first words as we entered were “I know Professor Falk thinks I am a war criminal..” Yet he welcomed us, and talked openly and at length about the situation and his efforts to get Washington to accept what had happened in Iran. In retrospect, I think he hoped we would be a vehicle for making his views more publicly known.

He made the point that there were no social forces ready to fight to keep the Shah in power. The business community, or national private sector, was alienated by the Shah’s reliance on international capital to fulfill his development plans. The armed forces were also not favorable enough to the throne to fight on its behalf, complaining that the Shah’s abiding fear of a coup mounted against him, created distrust of his own military commanders, and led him to frequently shuffle the leadership in the armed forces. This resulted in a low level of loyalty, and helps explain why the military watched the political transformation take place without showing any pronounced willingness to intervene, despite being nudged in an interventionary, especially in the context of a visit by an American NATO general at the height of the revolutionary ferment. The general was widely reported to be exploring whether it was plausible to encourage the Iranian military to defend the established order. 

We also asked about what would happen to the surviving leaders from the Shah’s government who had been accused of crimes against the Iranian people. Ayatollah Khomeini responded by saying that he expected that what he called ‘Nuremberg Trials’ would be held to hold accountable leading figures from the fallen government, and some from bureaucratic backgrounds, including SAVAK officials. We wondered why this plan was not later followed, and why those from the Shah’s regime accused were often executed after summary, secret trials. We knew some of those who had led the revolution had received support from the CIA during their period as students overseas or even when serving as mosque officials, which would be damaging and confusing to make public at a time of such uncertainty. It is important to remember that until the Islamic Revolution in Iran, Western intelligence assumed that the anti-Marxist approach of those of devout Islamic faith would make all religiously oriented personalities strong allies of Western anti-Communism, a view that persisted to some extent until after the Afghanistan resistance to Soviet intervention which was headed by Islamic forces, and was only decisively shattered by the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon in the United States. 

Q: Why did the liberal–Islamist groups fail to secure the support of Ayatollah Khomeini at the end of the day?

A: It is difficult for an outsider like myself to comment on the internal politics in that revolutionary period. The situation in Iran was still fluid, and worries about a counterrevolutionary coup to bring the Shah back to his throne a second time were widespread. Added to this, the change in Iran came so quickly. Several secular personalities of liberal persuasion told us that ‘the revolution happened too quickly. We were not ready.’ 

Ayatollah Khomeini while still in Paris, seemed originally to believe that liberal Islamically oriented bureaucrats would be needed to run the government on a day to day basis. He may have envisioned a governing process relying on technical experts, especially to achieve good economic policies and results that he thought necessary to keep the support of the Iranian masses. Such expectations seem to be not entirely consistent with the vison of Islamic Government set forth in his published lectures, available to us in English, that were written while he was living as an exile in Iraq. His insistent theme in the lecture was that a government consistent with Islamic values could not be reliably established on democratic principles without being subject to unelected religious guidance as the source of highest authority.

We also were aware of several other explanations for this about face on the governing process. Some in Iran believed that Ayatollah Khomeini only discovered his political popularity after he returned to the country, and this made him believe he had a mandate to impose a system of government that reflected his ideas. Others offered the opinion that he became convinced by his entourage of advisors that the revolutionary spirit and agenda was being lost by the liberals, and hence were urging him to take direct and visible charge of the government. And finally, there arose the view that the liberals were given a chance, and their performance disappointed Ayatollah Khomeini, leading him to reenter politics and move to Tehran to lead the country. As far as I know, this story of transition from the Pahlavi Era to the Islamic Republic remains veiled in mystery.  Hopefully, before long the mystery will disappear with the appearance of more authoritative accounts of what transpired after the Ayatollah Khomeini returned to the country.

What we do know is that what was established in this transition period has survived for more than 40 years despite being faced with threats, provocations, harsh sanctions, and even a variety of covert interventions. Arguably, Iran has been as stable as any country in the region, and more stable than most. This is impressive, although it does not overcome some criticisms directed at violations of basic human rights of people in Iran.

The Bahrain Gov’t Is Attacking Female Activists – And Trump’s Policies are Emboldening Them

The Bahrain Gov’t Is Attacking Female Activists – And Trump’s Policies are Emboldening Them

By Lucilla Berwick and Bridget Quitter, Ms. Magazine 

In 2017, Bahraini human rights defender Ebtisam al-Saegh found herself sitting in a dark room before a pair of chain smoking officers from Bahrain’s National Security Agency. “No one is going to hear you in this place,” sneered one of the men, who introduced himself as ‘the torturer.’ “No one can protect you here, not the Human Rights Council or any other organization. You know we have a green light from Trump, right?”

It had been a brutal year in the tiny island of Bahrain, the home of the US Navy Fifth Fleet and a key American ally in the Arab Gulf. The government, led by the AlKhalifa monarchy, had begun a severe and ongoing crackdown, which saw all political opposition groups and independent media forcibly dissolved and thousands incarcerated on political charges, amid accusations of rampant torture and due process violations. Ebtisam had recently returned from the UN in Geneva, where she spoke out about Bahrain’s repression.

With her arrest and torture, the government was sending a message: this would not be tolerated.

Women like Ebtisam have long played a central, albeit overlooked, role in Bahrain’s opposition movement. As the government increasingly targeted women for their opinions or those of their relatives, many began to come forward. Our organizations, the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy and Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain, have worked with nine women to share their stories. The resulting report, Breaking the Silence, traces the path of these women – from their arrests, through their interrogations and trials, to their detention at Isa Town Detention Centre, Bahrain’s only women’s prison. We uncovered horrific patterns of abuse, from sham trials to torture and sexual violence.

We encountered considerable obstacles to our work from the outset. The Bahraini state is highly resistant to scrutiny, making it virtually impossible to visit the country for research. UN Special Rapporteurs have not been permitted entry since 2006, while human rights groups, including Amnesty International, have been denied access since 2015. However, through regular phone calls with the imprisoned women and their families, as well as analysis of court rulings and medical reports and comments from psychologists and legal experts, we pieced together a coherent picture of their experiences.

As we assembled their stories, the systematic nature of government abuses became clear. During brutal interrogations, the women experienced extreme violence, ranging from threats of rape or death to beatings, sexual assault and witnessing the torture of relatives. To end these abuses, many agreed to sign pre-written confessions, later used by Bahrain’s widely condemned judiciary to convict them. When they attempted to raise their ill-treatment in court, they were dismissed by judges.

Once sentenced, the women were singled out for mistreatment at Isa Town prison due to their political status, as is common across the Bahraini prison system. They reported punitive measures, including restrictions on family visits, religious discrimination, physical assault and medical negligence. Two of the women who remain in prison today, Medina Ali and Hajer Mansoor, have only seen their children once over the past year – a visit that was granted only after significant international pressure.

The legacies of the women’s abuse affect them to this day. Ebtisam reported she can no longer sleep in the dark or tolerate the smell of cigarettes, both of which immediately transport her back to the smoky room where she was tortured. Others reported psychological trauma in their young children related to their prolonged separation. The stigma attached to incarceration also makes returning to society difficult: After being released following an international campaign against her unlawful conviction, Najah Yusuf was fired by her employer who questioned her integrity due to her criminal record.

“Sometimes I speak normally about my ordeal,” Yusuf told us, “but the truth is that I am bleeding from within. It’s painful, and I have no idea when all of this is going to end.”

While abuses in Bahrain may seem distant, the US exerts a huge influence on the country, and American policy has actively contributed to the crackdown. Since Trump’s election, Obama-era human rights conditions on arms sales have been removed and the State Department has approved an unprecedented $8.5 billion worth of arms sales, upgrades, services and training to the country. Despite evidence that some of this funding has gone directly to bodies implicated in the abuse of the women we interviewed, the US places no human rights conditions on its substantial investment in Bahrain.

Trump seemingly gave the “green light” to Bahrain’s crackdown during a state visit in May 2017, where he promised an end to the “strain” his predecessor had placed on US-Bahrain relations. Two days later, Bahraini police opened fire on peaceful protests in the village of Diraz, in what the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights described as among the “deadliest” operations since Bahrain’s pro-democracy uprising was crushed in 2011. The conservative shift in American domestic policy has also encouraged Bahrain’s rights abuses: days after the White House announced the resumption of federal executions in July 2019, Bahrain executed two torture victims amid international outcry; when asked for comment ahead of the executions, the Bahraini Embassy in Washington, DC explicitly referenced the US decision.

Trump’s barely-concealed enthusiasm for authoritarianism is bolstering a climate of impunity in the region. In Bahrain, this means abusers are free to operate without fear of consequences. When Trump received Bahrain’s Crown Prince to discuss arms deals last month, he made the message very clear: keep buying arms, and we will stay silent on rights abuses.

For the women we worked with, the knowledge that they could be seized again at any point is among the most terrifying aspects of their entire experience. It is time for Congress to make clear that these violations cannot be tolerated.

These nine women have broken the silence. Now it is up to us to raise our voices and make sure that their efforts are not in vain.

Human Rights as Seen by the White House: Concessions to Israel Are Notable

By Philip Giraldi
Source

Pompeo Joins Netanyahu 6165b

The State Department’s just issued annual Human Rights Report for 2018 is a disgrace, a document so heavily politicized by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his crew of hardliners that it might be regarded as a model in how to make something that is black appear to be white. Which is not to say that it is not cleverly composed, quite the contrary, but it uses its choice of words and expressions to mitigate or even dismiss some actual human rights abuses while regarding as more grave other lesser offenses to make political points. And then there is what it does not say, deliberate omissions intended to frame situations in terms favorable to America and its dwindling number of friends in the world.

Not surprisingly, the region that has received the most massaging by the authors of the report is the Middle East, where an effort has been made to depict Israel in a positive light while also denigrating the Palestinians and Iranians. The language used regarding Israel’s occupation of much of the West Bank and the Golan Heights has been particularly welcomed by the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and also by the Israeli media. The word “occupation” or “occupied” to describe the status quo of those areas administered by the Israeli military has been dropped in favor of “Israeli controlled.” The difference is important as occupation has specific legal implications defined by the Geneva Conventions in terms of what the occupying power can and cannot do. To starve and dispossess the Arab inhabitants of the occupied area, as the Israelis are doing to build their settlements, is a war crime. Also, an occupation must have a terminus ante quem date whereby the occupation itself must end. It cannot be permanent.

The new language is a gift to Israel on the eve of its April 9th election and it allows incumbent Benjamin Netanyahu to claim that he is the candidate best able to obtain concessions from Washington. America’s so-called Ambassador to Israel is a former Trump bankruptcy lawyer named David Friedman who is more involved in serving up Israeli propaganda than in supporting the actual interests of the United States. He probably believes that what is good for Israelis is good for Americans.

Friedman personally supports the view that the illegal Jewish settlements are legitimately part of Israel, choosing to ignore their expansion even though it has long been U.S. policy to oppose them. He has also long sought to change the State Department’s language on the Israeli control of the West Bank and Golan Heights, being particularly concerned about the expression “occupied” which has previously appeared in U.S. government texts describing the situation in the Israel-Palestine region. Friedman now appears to have won the fight over language, to the delight of the Netanyahu government.

And the elimination of “occupied” will apparently be only the first of several gifts intended to bolster Netanyahu’s chances. Senator Lindsey Graham, who also boasts of his close ties to the Israeli Prime Minister, recently stated his intention to initiate legislative action to go one step further and compel the United States to actually recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, the Syrian territory that was annexed after fighting in 1967, but which has not been recognized as part of Israel by any other country or international body.

Last Thursday, President Donald Trump announced that the Senate vote promoted by Graham would not be necessary, that he would order the State Department to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the area.  This will hugely benefit Bibi and further damage America’s standing in the Middle East and beyond. Some sources are already predicting that recognition of the annexation of the Golan Heights will soon lead to U.S. government recognition of Israel’s sovereignty over much of the West Bank, both ending forever any prospect for a Palestinian state and making it clear that the United States is running a foreign policy to benefit Israel.

There is, of course, much more in the Human Rights Report. The executive summary and first section on Israel and Palestine include text that could easily have come from an Israeli government press release or been featured as an editorial in the New York PostWashington Post or Wall Street Journal: “Human rights issues included reports of unlawful or arbitrary killings, including Palestinian killings of Israeli civilians and soldiers…From March 30 to December 5, Palestinian militant groups launched more than 1,150 rockets and mortars from the Gaza Strip toward arbitrary or civilian targets in Israel. Gaza-based militants shot and killed one Israeli soldier, and a rocket launched by Gaza-based militants killed one Palestinian laborer in Ashkelon. More than 200 Israelis required treatment from these attacks, mostly for shock. Beginning on March 30, Israeli forces engaged in conflict with Palestinians at the Gaza fence, including armed terrorists, militants who launched incendiary devices into Israel, and unarmed protesters. This occurred during mass protests co-opted by terrorist organization Hamas and dubbed a ‘March of Return.’ The government stated that since March 30 it had been ‘contending with violent attempts led by Hamas to sabotage and destroy Israel’s defensive security infrastructure separating Israel from the Gaza Strip, penetrate Israel’s territory, harm Israeli security forces, overrun Israeli civilian areas, and murder Israeli civilians.’”

A separate report section on Gaza adds “On March 30, Palestinians in Gaza launched the ‘March of Return,’ a series of weekly protests along the fence between Gaza and Israel. The protests, some of which drew tens of thousands of people, and included armed terrorists, militants who launched incendiary devices into Israel, and unarmed protesters, continued throughout the year. Hamas took control of the weekly protests, and many of the protests were violent as encouraged by Hamas.”

Interestingly, the Report does not even have a dedicated section on Iran, only providing a link to a separate document: “Read the State Department’s new report detailing the magnitude of the Iranian regime’s destructive behavior at home and abroad. The report covers Iran’s support for terrorism, its missile program, illicit financial activities, threats to maritime security and cybersecurity, human rights abuses, as well as environmental exploitation.” A second link is to a speech by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo given before the neocon group United Against Nuclear Iran: “The Iranian regime’s track record over the past 40 years has revealed it as among the worst violators of the UN Charter and UN Security Council resolutions – perhaps, indeed, the worst violator. It is truly an outlaw regime.”

Exonerating perpetual victim Israel of all its misdeeds and blaming the Israel-Palestine problem on the Palestinians while also labeling them as “terrorists” is both delusional and propaganda, not responsible analysis. Nor is damning Iran when speaking before a partisan group and falsely calling it a “worst violator of the U.N. Charter and U.N. Security Council resolutions” exactly informative. It is actually Israel that is the worst violator of U.N. Security Council resolutions, a fact that is not mentioned in the Human Rights Report.

One might well question why to write a Human Rights Report at all, but that is something that can be blamed on Congress, which ordered the State Department to prepare it. And one should note the key omission in the document: there is no admission of causality. The United States foreign and national security policies over the past twenty years have created a “human rights” disaster mostly in Asia but also elsewhere, a virtual tsunami rolling over ruined countries that has killed millions of people while also displacing millions more. In reckoning the terrible circumstances being endured by many in so many places there is no mention of the American role. And, unfortunately, there is no section in the Human Rights Report for “United States of America.

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