Paul Estrin is the President of the Green Party of Canada. He recently shared his thoughts on the current fighting in Israel and Gaza.
I thought his comments were worth going over in some detail, if only because they’re so incongruous with what I believe to be some fundamental ‘Green’ principles: namely equality, social justice, human rights and self-determination.
So without further ado . . .
On the Israeli ‘withdrawal’ from Gaza in 2005, Estrin writes:
‘Israel decided to leave, fighting its own citizens, showing once more that it sticks to its word about the settlements not being permanent, but instead something to be removed painfully if peace is achievable to be had’.
But Alvaro De Soto, who was the U.N.’s Peace Envoy to the Middle East at the time, gives quite a different version of events.
In a leaked U.N. report from 2007, he writes that:
‘I don’t think the disengagement marked in any way a conversion by Sharon to the idea of an independent and viable Palestinian state – on the contrary, it was basically a spectacular move that killed and put into ‘formaldehyde’ the Road Map, to quote his key advisor. Sharon used the disengagement to gain vital concessions from the U.S. – including the Bush letter of assurances on retention of settlement blocs and non-return of Palestinian refugees to Israel – while proceeding with the construction of the barrier and the implementation of more settlers in the West Bank’.
The number of settlers living in the Occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem has increased by over 100’000 since 2005, giving credence to De Soto’s analysis.
The De Soto report also disputes that the Israeli occupation of Gaza ever ended, saying that:
‘Since, as I recall, the test of occupation in international law is effective control of the population, few international lawyers contest the assessment that Gaza remains occupied, with it’s connections to the outside world by land, sea and air in the hands of Israel’.
On how Hamas came to be the dominant political force in Gaza, Estrin writes:
‘And then Hamas took power. It has nearly been ten years. Since August 2005, Gazans have been in control of their own destiny’.
It might be worth mentioning here that Hamas actually won parliamentary elections in 2006.
The usual narrative is then to say that Hamas went on to wrest complete control of Gaza in a coup in 2007, driving Fatah out in the process. But that isn’t the full story.
Another facet to the story is that elements in Fatah, working alongside Israel and a George Bush/Condoleezza Rice/Elliot Abrams axis in the U.S., had themselves planned a coup to overthrow Hamas – the democratically elected government of the Occupied Palestinian Territories, remember – and Hamas had simply got wind and pre-empted it.
This is according a lengthy Vanity Fair article based on leaked documents and the testimony of some of those involved.
Either way, to say that Hamas simply ‘took power’ is to remove some important context (and the claim that ‘Gazans have been in control of their own destiny’ since 2005 is just downright false, for reasons already mentioned).
On the state of the economy in Gaza, Estrin writes:
‘instead of showing openness to the world, or managing, or caring . . . Gaza has instead shown that it is not interested in peace, in building a stable economy, in a secure future’.
Notice here that he’s stopped referring to ‘Hamas’, and is openly referring to Gaza as a whole. And Gaza as a whole is not ‘interested in peace, in building a stable economy, in a secure future’, apparently. Is he implying a kind of collective guilt?
But it is no secret that, since 2007, Israel has been deliberately trying to strangle the Gazan economy, as a means of inflicting collective punishment on the population of Gaza. That’s what the so-called blockade is expressly designed to do.
As the International Committee of the Red Cross put it in 2010:
‘The closure imposed on the Gaza Strip is about to enter its fourth year, choking off any real possibility of economic development . . . The whole of Gaza’s civilian population is being punished for acts for which they bear no responsibility. The closure therefore constitutes a collective punishment imposed in clear violation of Israel’s obligations under international humanitarian law’.
Estrin is quite simply engaged in victim blaming here. Lambasting Gazans for not building their economy, while Israel has been deliberately implementing policies to prevent them doing so.
And I just wonder how the U.S., U.K. and Canada would manage their economies if a near total ban on imports and exports was placed on them, and their means of production were destroyed via aerial bombardment every couple of years.
On the Hamas charter, Estrin writes:
‘In Canada and elsewhere, national charters protect the people. In Gaza, the first article calls for the death of Israel and the Jew. (Let me quote just a bit: “Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it”‘.
Personally, I’m more perturbed by the fact that whole areas of Gaza are being obliterated right now, than I am about what a Charter written in 1988 says.
And there are in fact real questions over just how relevant to Hamas’ political program the 1988 charter is anymore.
In January 2009, Jeremy Greenstock – who is a former U.K. ambassador to the U.N., and who has negotiated with Hamas leaders as part of his work with the Ditchley Foundation – told BBC Radio 4’s Today program that Hamas:
‘ . . . are not intent on the destruction of Israel. That is a rhetorical statement of resistance . . . The charter was drawn up by a Hamas linked Imam some years ago, and has never been adopted, since Hamas was elected as the Palestinian government in January 2006, as part of their political program. This is a grievance based organisation desperate to end the occupation’.
Greenstock is Establishment to the bone, and yet even he recognises that the focus on Hamas’ charter is a red herring while Israel continues to build settlements in the Occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, thus making a just two-state solution a virtual impossibility.
On Gaza Vs Syria, Estrin writes:
‘It looks very bad for Israel. 800+ Gazans dead. 1000s injured. Lots of destruction. Meanwhile, in Syria, how many hundreds of thousands of people, including so many Palestinians, are dead or injured … where are the inflammatory protests …’.
This is basically a claim that Israel is being unfairly singled out as compared to Syria.
First and foremost, it’s worth pointing out that the regime in Israel is heavily supported by the governments of the U.K., U.S.A. and Canada. That support takes the form of military sales, economic aid, general praise and diplomatic protection (e.g. the U.S. using its veto to thwart attempts by the U.N.S.C. to hold Israel accountable for its serial war crimes).
I suspect that protests against Israel in the U.K., U.S.A. and Canada are as much designed to get the respective governments in those countries to stop facilitating Israeli crimes as they are designed to express outrage at Israel itself.
Such support for the Assad regime, however, hasn’t been forthcoming from said same governments, and so there have been no protests designed to stop it.
You could argue that there should still have been more protests against the Assad regime regardless, but that doesn’t change this basic context.
And indeed, in other important ways, Israel is actually being given highly preferential treatment as compared to Syria. There is no talk of formally sanctioning Israel, for example. No talk of ‘no-fly zones’ or ‘humanitarian intervention’, and no talk of equipping Palestinian rebels with high-tech weaponry so they can better defend themselves and their people.
Compare that to Syria now or Libya in February 2011, when some or all of those things were put on the agenda pretty much straight away, and were then carried out to a greater or lesser degree (for reasons that had nothing to do with humanitarianism or human rights, obviously).
Israel is literally getting away with mass murder scot free, for the third time in five years, and so the idea of Israel being singled out is simply untenable.
On the people who have attended protests against Israeli state violence over the last couple of weeks, Estrin writes:
‘if it is anti-Israel it is an easy band-wagon to get on, to get their anti-Israel war-paint on and join their friends between potlucks, veggie smoothies and coffee breaks’.
Seriously, why didn’t he just call them Long Haired Hippy Freaks and have done with it?
On Israel’s military tactics, Estrin writes:
‘Military experts look at Israel’s military strategy: No carpet bombing, no quick actions, but instead pinpoint strikes whilst warning the enemy in advance of what their plans are, and slow movements . . . What other military calls up the enemy on their phone to tell them that their building will be bombed, to kindly leave, yes, you have enough time to leave, just thought it would be the neighbourly thing to do … anyone else in war, and that is what Hamas is calling this time in Gaza, would simply bomb, kill and destroy’.
Once again, research carried out by mainstream human rights organisations belies this claim that the IDF is a profoundly moral army that tries its hardest to avoid inflicting civilian casualties.
On July 16th, Human Rights Watch published a short report documenting how:
‘Israeli air attacks . . . have been targeting apparent civilian structures and killing civilians in violation of the laws of war . . . Recent documented cases in Gaza sadly fit Israel’s long record of unlawful airstrikes with high civilian casualties’.
On July 21st, Amnesty International published a short report documenting how:
‘Israel’s continuing bombardment of civilian homes in several areas of the Gaza Strip, as well as the shelling of a hospital, add to the list of possible war crimes that demand an urgent independent international investigation’.
Also on July 21st, Medicins Sans Frontieres published a short report documenting how:
‘Since the beginning of Operation Protective Edge in the Gaza Strip, the majority of the dead and wounded in Gaza are civilians and medical workers are also coming under fire’.
Circa 1,000 Palestinian civilians now lie dead, hundreds of homes have been destroyed, and over 100’00 civilians have been displaced. ‘Hell of a pin-point operation’, as John Kerry said.
I am absolutely certain that when international investigators get into Gaza and research these attacks in more detail, they will conclude that Israel has indeed been wilfully targeting civilian infrastructure, and systemically as well, to the extent that both war crimes and Crimes against Humanity have been committed by them.
On ‘Gaza’s’ respect for human life, Estrin writes:
‘And that is it in a nutshell: Whilst Israel does all that is in its power to protect the lives of all its citizens and the lives of those it is attacking, Gaza does all in its power to have all the more die’.
Once again, Estrin is engaged in shameless victim blaming here, and once again he is referring to ‘Gaza’ as a whole. They are trying to get themselves killed in large numbers, see, to make Israel look bad.
But I wouldn’t be at all surprised if, as on previous occasions, the claim that Hamas uses Palestinians as ‘human shields’ turns out to be without foundation – Israeli propaganda, in other words.
For example, the BBC’s senior middle east correspondent, Jeremy Bowen, recently wrote in an article for the New Statesman :
‘I saw no evidence during my week in Gaza of Israel’s accusation that Hamas uses Palestinians as human shields’.
And as they are doing now, Israeli spokespeople also continually accused Hamas of using ‘human shields’ during Operation Cast Lead in 2008/2009, but the Goldstone Report found:
‘ . . . no evidence . . . to suggest that Palestinian armed groups either directed civilians to areas where attacks were being launched or that they forced civilians to remain within the vicinity of the attacks’.
They did, however, uncover:
‘ . . . four incidents in which the Israeli armed forces coerced Palestinian civilian men at gunpoint to take part in house searches during the military operations . . . The Mission concludes that this practice amounts to the use of Palestinian civilians as human shields and is therefore prohibited by international humanitarian law’.
So if anything, it is the IDF, and not Hamas, who have form for using Palestinians as ‘human shields’ in this kind of operation.
Only in the bizarro world inhabited by apologists for Israeli state violence is Gaza free from occupation, and Israel keen on ending the settlement enterprise in the Occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Only in the bizarro world inhabited by apologists for Israeli state violence are Gazans responsible for the ruination of their own economy, and desperate to get themselves killed.
And only in the bizarro world inhabited by apologists for Israeli state violence does the IDF make strenuous efforts to avoid civilian casualties.
In the real world inhabited by the rest of us, the complete opposite is true, and demonstrably so.
Estrin has apparently chosen to firmly ensconce himself in that bizarro world, and its to the detriment of the Green Party of Canada.
The EU has agreed on a new package of sanctions against Russia targeting the military, oil and finance sectors, according to a joint statement by the presidents of the EU Commission and Council.
All 28 member states agreed on the broader economic sanctions, which “will limit access to EU capital markets for Russian State-owned financial institutions, impose an embargo on trade in arms, establish an export ban for dual use goods for military end users, and curtail Russian access to sensitive technologies particularly in the field of the oil sector,” the statement says.
Fresh sanctions come amid the EU’s growing frustration with Russia’s alleged interference in eastern Ukraine, and is being fanned by the tragedy of the shooting down of MH17, which killed hundreds of EU citizens.
The tougher stance goes along with American foreign policy after the US issued a fresh round of sanctions against Russia on July 16.
Many worry that sanctions, which in the past haven’t proved a practical measure in punishing countries, will have a boomerang effect, and end up hurting Western markets more than Russia itself, particularly financial centers like London.
Worldwide, Russia ranks the fifth largest economy by purchasing power, and even after sanctions will remain a large and powerful international player.
I really wonder what it says about the Guardian or its readers that it publishes an article like this one by Yuli Novak, a former Israeli air force officer. The discourse, even on the left, is still so degraded on the issue of Israel-Palestine that this seems to pass for progressive thought.
I am also appalled that I almost find myself pleased that this former soldier, an insider, is telling us that Israel is acting immorally in its current attack on Gaza. But in doing so she bolsters a patently ridiculous mythology that, for most of its history, Israel had a moral army – the most moral in the world, no less – and that only a decade ago the army agonised over every Palestinian death.
As someone who lived and reported through those years, at the start of the second intifada, I can say with certainty that that is utter nonsense. This was a time when the Israeli chief of staff, Moshe Yaalon, the current defence minister, spoke of “searing” defeat into the Palestinian consciousness.
Let’s not forget that the Israeli army, far from once being driven by moral ideals, began life with an act of mass ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, in 1948. It has been maintaining and expanding the cleansed zone ever since.
What’s so dangerous about these “shooting and crying” articles – I remember an equally silly one a few years back in the Observer by Will Hutton about the “once noble ideal” of the kibbutzim, the racially pure communities Israel built over the ruins of Palestine – is that they lay claim to a golden era, one that, of course, never existed, when Israel’s mission was truly wholesome.
Writers like Novak want Israel to return to an imaginary recent past, ignoring the fact that the present is simply a logical extension of everything that went before. The seeds of the current rampage in Gaza were laid in the decades of Israel’s dispossession of the native population, culminating in the Nakba of 1948. Most of the population of Gaza are refugees from that period – their grievances and rights unaddressed all these many years later.
It is some consolation that people like Novak are waking up to the ugliness of Israel’s national mission: to subdue and displace the native Palestinian people. This is evidence of the self-destructive course Israel is set on. But Novak’s moral high ground is undermined entirely if she wants to claim it was all much prettier a few years ago.
The Israeli army continued its illegitimate bombardment of Palestinian homes, and civilian property, and killed five family members of a Palestinian journalist, including two children in Gaza City.
Media sources said the Israeli strikes also targeted government facilities and ministries, media outlets, mosques and even homes of senior political leaders of Hamas, including the deputy head of the Hamas Political Bureau, Ismael Haniyya.
Medical sources said resident Ezzat Dheir, a 23-year-old journalist, working for a local radio, was killed along with four members of his family, after an Israeli missile striking his home.
The slain Palestinians have been identified as:
1. Ezzat Dheir, 23, Rafah.
2. Turkeyya Dheir, 80, Rafah.
3. Yasmeen Dheir, 25, Rafah.
4. Mary Dheir, 12, Rafah.
5. Tasneem Dheir, 8, Rafah.
The al-Hurriyya (Freedom) Radio issued a statement denouncing the ongoing Israeli crimes against the Palestinian people, including journalists and medics, adding that Dheir was its correspondent in Gaza.
Also on Tuesday, head of the al-Borei Local council, Anis Abu Shammala, was killed after an israeli missile was fired into his home.
On Monday, ten children were killed, and more than 30 were injured, when the army fires missiles into a playground north of the Shaty’ refugee camp, west of Gaza City.
The army also fired missiles into clinics of the Shifa Hospital, one of the biggest hospitals in the Gaza Strip, wounding at least five Palestinians.
Another Palestinian was killed, and three were injured, after the army fired a missile into his home in Beit Lahia, in the northern part of the Gaza Strip.
Three Palestinians, including two brothers, have also been killed by an Israeli missile striking a home, belonging to al-Hashshash family, in Rafah.
Gaza’s main power plant was hit by Israeli tank shells on Tuesday, shutting it down completely. The power plant had already been operating at 20% capacity, after having been hit by Israeli airstrikes last week. Most Palestinians depend on the central Gaza power plant to provide electricity.
This will also severely impact the ability of Palestinians to communicate to the outside world via the Internet — which has been the main source of information getting out of Gaza up until this point. Gaza’s main power plant was also heavily bombarded during the Israeli invasion of 2009, which had a serious impact on hospitals’ ability to provide care.
The Iranian Red Crescent Society (IRCS) says it is ready to set up a fully equipped makeshift hospital in the Gaza Strip amid deadly Israeli attacks on the impoverished coastal enclave.
Seyyed Reza Raeis Karami, the IRCS under-secretary general for health, treatment and rehabilitation, said the humanitarian body is ready to dispatch a medical team to Gaza and build a field hospital there to treat those wounded in Israeli attacks.
The hospital could be built up in a six-month period, while a group of 23 Iranian surgeons will also operate in the medical center to treat the injured Gazans, according to the IRCS official.
Karami added that the IRCS will be prepared to send necessary equipment and human resources to set up the hospital after gaining permission and making assessments of the situation in the Palestinian land.
The first consignment of relief aid provided by the IRCS for Gazans has been flown into the Egyptian capital of Cairo and is waiting to be cleared for transfer into the coastal enclave via the Rafah border crossing.
On July 21, Iran’s Health Minister Seyyed Hassan Qazizadeh Hashemi said the country’s hospitals were fully prepared to admit the injured Palestinians, saying the Islamic Republic is ready to supply the wounded with necessary medicine.
Latest reports say Israeli aerial and ground assaults have killed more than 1,100 Gazans and injured over 6,500 others since July 8.
Hospitals in Gaza are in desperate need of medicine and equipment. Over the past days, Israeli warplanes and tanks have pounded several hospitals across the besieged region.
Earlier this month, the Israeli military targeted the hospitals in Deir al-Balah and Beit Hanoun, killing a number of Palestinian civilians and wounding several others.
The Consistency of Official Iranian Commentary, Part III: On Khamenei’s Referendum Rhetoric, Reuters is Wrong
Last week, Iranian leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei addressed a meeting of Iranian university students and, in his first public comments on the ongoing assault on Gaza, spoke of his belief in the necessity of continued Palestinian resistance to Israel aggression, oppression, and occupation.
“Don’t the Palestinians have the right to defend their lives and security?” he asked rhetorically, and condemned Western nations like the United States and Great Britain for openly supporting Israel’s assault and justifying “crimes that no ordinary person would.”
In the right-wing Daily Caller, notorious neocon darling Reza Kahlili noted that Khamenei reiterated the call by his predecessor, Ayatollah Rouhollah Khomeini, that “Israel must be destroyed,” adding that “until that time with the help of God for this cruel and murderous regime to be destroyed, strong confrontation with steadfast armed resistance is the only solution against this destructive regime.”
Yet the Caller omitted a crucial aspect of Khamenei’s speech – deliberately replaced by an ellipsis linking the the paraphrased Khomeini quote with Khamenei’s endorsement of Palestinian armed struggle – in which the Iranian leader stated that the ideal solution to the current impasse was a democratic vote.
The missing piece, however, was reported by other outlets. “There are logical and practical means to this end, which is for people who live and belong there to pick the government of their choice through a referendum. That would be the end of a usurping fake regime,” Khamenei said, according to a translation by Reuters. Until that time, he continued, “while waiting for an end to this cold-blooded murderous regime, mighty armed resistance is the only way to deal with it.”
Only through a vote by the indigenous population, Khamenei said, will “the usurper and forged regime” of Israel “be practically annihilated.”
Kahlili’s report predictably expunged all mention of a referendum, focusing instead on Iranian military capabilities and nuclear negotiations. More troubling, perhaps, is that “The Young Turks,” a liberal (some might even say, progressive) news and commentary outlet led by host Cenk Uygur, promoted the Daily Caller line in their own round table discussion of the matter. After hearing a portion of the Kahlili article read aloud verbatim, co-host Ana Kasparian described Khamenei’s comments as “extremely violent” and “crazy,” while John Iadarola called such statements “depressing.”
Reuters also quoted Khamenei as saying, “Israel’s annihilation is the only real cure, but that doesn’t mean destroying Jews in this region,” a statement also ignored by the Daily Caller. With this comment, Reuters editorialized, “Khamenei made clear for the first time that he was talking about the dismantling of the state of Israel, not the death of Jews.”
While such clarification is important, the characterization of that distinction as being a new addition to Khamenei’s rhetoric is curious. In fact, this is a distinction made often by Iranian officials when discussing this very topic – and Iran’s official position toward Israel/Palestine. Cursory research into past statements quickly reveals the consistency of such statements and proves the Reuters claim to be, not only sloppy, but ludicrous.
A similar presumption was made last year in the wake of then-newly-inaugurated Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s insistence that, “when it comes to the settlement and resolution of regional issues,” including the colonization and occupation of Palestine, “we believe that the only path is through the ballot box, through democracy.” International news media declared this to be a breakthrough moment, despite the clear fact that Rouhani’s immediate predecessor, the much-maligned Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, had made identical statements throughout his eight-year tenure as president.
“We are opposed to the idea that the people who live there should be thrown into the sea or be burnt,” Ahmadinejad said in comments reported by the New York Times in September 2008. “We believe that all the people who live there, the Jews, Muslims and Christians, should take part in a free referendum and choose their government.”
More to the point, however, Khamenei himself has remained remarkably consistent on this issue, and Iran’s official prescription, for over two decades. In an extensive analysis of Khamenei’s speeches since 1990, published in the Boston Review in November 2013, well-known Iranian dissident Akbar Ganji – no fan of the Iran’s theocratic leadership – revealed the truth: Khamenei has long called for a new, inclusive Palestinian government to supersede the current Zionist one, thereby dismantling what is currently known as “Israel” politically, not violently.
For instance, Ganji notes, on April 17, 1991, Khamenei discussed “his solution for the Palestinian problem and said, ‘The Islamic Republic’s solution is to disband the usurping Zionist regime, forming a government of the Palestinians, and [guaranteeing] peaceful co-existence of Jews, Christians, and Muslims in all of Palestine.'” Four months later, on August 19, 1991, Ganji adds, Khamenei stated, “Solving the Palestinian problem entails destroying and eliminating the illegitimate government there, so that the true owners [of the land] can form a new government; Muslims, Christians, and Jews can live side by side… Our view regarding the Palestine issue is clear. We believe the solution is destroying the Israeli regime.”
Nearly a decade later, Khamenei’s position had not shifted. In a speech to the Basij militia on October 21, 2000, Ganji tells us that Khamenei again laid out his vision for the indigenous people of Palestine to choose their own political path forward. “The solution is for the millions of the Palestinians to return to Palestine, the several millions that live away from home to return to Palestine. The indigenous people of Palestine—Jews, Christians, and Muslims—should hold a referendum to decide what kind of a regime they want. The vast majority are Muslims. There are also Jews and Christians that belong there, as their parents also lived there. They can decide the political system that they favor,” he opined.
In March 2002, Khamenei again stated, “Holding a referendum in Palestine among the Palestinians, and all those that became refugees—if, of course, they want to return to Palestine—is a rational solution.” In June 2002, he repeated, “The only solution for the Palestine problem is that the true Palestinians, not the usurping and occupying immigrants, those who live in Palestine and those who became refugees, decide the type of government that they want. If asking for the vote of the people of a nation is a solution for those who claim to be democracy advocates, [then] Palestine is also a nation and must decide [its fate].”
The Palestinian problem has only one solution, and that is what we proposed several years ago. Hold a referendum among the indigenous Palestinians, those who live there, or are in refugee camps, or live elsewhere, regardless of whether they are Muslim, Christian, or Jew, and ask them to decide the government that they want. Regardless of whether that government is run by the Muslims, Jews, or Christians, as long as it is the result of people’s direct votes, is acceptable, and will solve the problem. Without it [the referendum] the problem will never be solved.
That Reuters would now claim Khamenei’s recent comments about Gaza mark a stark break from the past is absurd. In his Friday prayer sermon on June 20, 2008, Khamenei declared, “No, we have no problems with Jews. We have no problems with Christians, and with adherents of other religions in the world. The usurper is just the Zionist regime. This is the position of our state, and that of our revolution and our people.”
Similarly, on September 30, 2011, Khamenei spoke at a conference in support of the Palestinian struggle for freedom, justice, and self-determination, and said, “We neither advocate a classic war between Israel and the Islamic countries, nor throwing the Jewish people into the sea, and neither do we accept mediation by the United Nations or any other international organization. We propose a referendum among the Palestinian people. Similar to any other nation, the Palestinians also have the right to decide their fate and pick the type of government they want.”
Addressing the opening assembly of the Non-Aligned Movement on August 30, 2012 in Tehran, Khamenei once again reiterated Iran’s “just and entirely democratic solution” to the conflict:
All the Palestinians – both the current citizens of Palestine and those who have been forced to immigrate to other countries but have preserved their Palestinian identity, including Muslims, Christians and Jews – should take part in a carefully supervised and confidence-building referendum and chose the political system of their country, and all the Palestinians who have suffered from years of exile should return to their country and take part in this referendum and then help draft a Constitution and hold elections. Peace will then be established.
Regardless of whether Khamenei’s proposals are realistic, idealistic, inevitable or impossible, is irrelevant. That he has consistently called for a referendum to alter the exclusivist and discriminatory political system that controls Palestinian lives and has routinely made distinctions between the Zionist government in Israel specifically and Jewish people in general, is indisputable.
Reuters should get their facts straight.
The Hague’s arbitration court was not legally empowered to view the case of Yukos Oil Company v. Russia, and the court’s “one-sided” ruling disregards previous Strasbourg court decisions on the issue, the Russian Finance Ministry said in a statement.
Viewing the case, filed by shareholders of former Russian oil giant Yukos against the Russian government, was not in the jurisdiction of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in the Hague, as Russia has not ratified the Energy Charter Treaty, the ministry said on Monday.
The statement, following the court’s sensational Monday ruling that ordered Russia to pay $50 billion in damages, also provided a detailed list of issues, which, according to the ministry, make the decision “opportunistic” and “politically biased.”
First of all, The Hague court ignored the previous decisions of the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), which in September 2011 ruled that the Russian authorities had carried out “legitimate” and not politically motivated actions against Yukos “to counter the company’s tax evasion,” the ministry noted. The ruling contradicted Yukos shareholders’ claims that the company’s assets were purposefully expropriated by Moscow.
The Russian Finance Ministry meanwhile blasted the arbitration ruling as based on “one-sided investigation with one-sided application of evidence.”
The Hague court in effect reviewed the decisions of Russian courts on Yukos “as if the arbitration court was an additional authority for appealing the court orders,” the ministry said. It has made “theoretical speculations not supported by evidence” over the motivation of the Russian authorities’ actions in the case of Yukos, it added.
The international body failed to note that the people who controlled Yukos, including the oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky released from jail in December, were apparently aware of financial machinations aimed at a mass-scale tax evasion in favor of the company, the ministry stressed. The tax evasion scheme, which involved the creation of numerous bogus companies, was not properly considered in the court.
The arbitration court went as far as to judge “what Russian tax legislation should be like” as opposed to what it required in reality, the ministry said. The court refused to pass several controversial issues on taxes for review by Russian, UK or Cyprus competent authorities despite relying on the Energy Charter Treaty that outlines a need for such reviews, it added.
While in effect saying The Hague court decision was not legally binding for Moscow, the ministry added that “the Russian Federation will challenge the arbitration court’s decisions in the courts of the Netherlands.”
According to the ministry, “the arbitration court failed to approach the adjudication with common sense, which is required from the judges in such situations,” which resulted in an nonobjective and biased decision.
“Such an approach undermines the authority of the Arbitration court and the Energy Charter Treaty, which are being applied in increasingly politicized manner and, as in this case, have become the objects of abuse on behalf of domestic investors trying to evade taxes,” the ministry said.
ECHR is expected to announce a fresh decision on Yukos’ multi-billion dollar claim against Russia on Thursday, as the defunct company’s shareholders have filed a separate application with the Strasbourg court, Reuters reported.
The Ukrainian Civil War took a violent and headline-grabbing international turn for the worst on 17 July following the downing of Flight MH17. Although it appears more and more likely that it was the Ukrainian Army that shot it down and not the anti-Kiev Resistance, pro-Western media has been aggressively pushing the narrative that Russia, specifically President Putin, was involved and has been suppressing evidence to the contrary. It has even gone as far as to infer that “Russian-backed separatists” carried out a “terrorist attack”, further upping the propaganda ante. The reason behind this massive information war is that the US wants to “isolate Russia” and expand NATO into Ukraine, something which it has largely been unable to successfully do up until this point. In fact, it appears as though the US is now readying to play its trump card – granting Ukraine major non-NATO ally status and declaring Russia as a “state sponsor of terrorism”, both of which would in turn advance NATO interests and threateningly force the EU to choose whether its destiny lies with the Atlantic or the Continent.
“Operation: Isolation” before Flight MH17
Prior to the downing of MH17, US-led sanctions against Russia were unsuccessful in isolating Moscow. The EU refused to enact any meaningful sanctions that would endanger its $330 billion yearly trade with Russia, thereby mitigating the US’ economic bullying efforts. In fact, the verbal threat of sanctions was actually beneficial for Russia since it motivated the country to look outside the West for future economic prospects. An historic gas deal with China was signed in May that was worth nearly half a trillion dollars, and in the same month, the Eurasian Economic Union was officially formed. Then, right before 17 July, Putin attended the BRICS conference in Brazil where he met with leaders representing nearly half of the world’s population, and they committed to creating the alternative BRICS Development Bank. Clearly, Russia wasn’t going to be isolated by the West.
All while this was happening, the US kept trying to find a backdoor way for incorporating Kiev’s armed forces into NATO, and it found it through its local lackey, Poland. A plan was concocted by Ukraine to create a joint brigade between it, Lithuania, and Poland, with Poland being the key NATO partner involved (Lithuania on its own is almost insignificant in international and military affairs of any kind). The importance here is that Kiev has been institutionalizing the relationship it has with its new strategic partner, Poland, also inviting its former overlord and mercenary-in-arms into the east to assist with “creating new jobs” (read: plundering) in Donbass. What is happening here is that even if the West was unsuccessful in isolating Russia, it could at the very least move as much of its influence eastward to the Russian frontier as it can in order to enact maximum pressure on Moscow.
The “Terrorist” Label and Shadow NATO
Almost immediately after it happened, the MH17 catastrophe was seized upon by Western political opportunists as valuable capital for their geostrategic game. As was mentioned in the first paragraph, pro-Western media outlets immediately laid the blame squarely at Putin’s feet, and this wasn’t coincidental. The objective in doing so has been to generate enough anti-Russian sentiment in Europe so as to justify mutually disadvantageous sanctions (more so for the socially and politically fractured EU, many of whose members are still in recession, than for the economically resolute Russia). The EU, and especially Germany, will only “shoot itself in the kneecaps” as either an emotional or forced response, as to do so under any normal circumstances would be absolutely unreasonable.
Thus, the “terrorist” label entered the discourse.
It has now become popular for Western opinion makers to repeat the Kiev slur that the anti-coup Resistance are “terrorists”, emphasizing that they are “Russian-backed” and “supported by Putin”. It doesn’t matter that none of this is true – what is important is that it is repeated as loudly and as often as can be. The result is to acclimate the public into believing that Russia under Putin is a pariah state, much as Newsweek magazine tried to convince their audience with its last hate piece. Poroshenko has taken things even further, likening MH17 to Lockerbie and 9/11 and trying to get Donetsk and Lugansk’s governments on the international terrorist list.
It is only a short leap of “logic” to see the connection between Russia and Putin as terrorist sponsors and the US’ designation of state-sponsor-of-terrorism status onto the country. Such a step would lead to immediate US sanctions and intense pressure on the EU to cut off its major non-energy trade contacts with Russia and fiendishly move towards diversifying away from Russian gas (to say nothing of killing the South Stream project). The US will only take this extreme step if it is sure that it has more influence over Europe than Russia does and that Europe can be convinced to sacrifice its economic well-being for ideological and political reasons (which is not that far-off of a possibility for such an indoctrinated leadership).
Just as before the tragedy, it must be noted that the US is still pursuing the goal of shadow NATO integration with Ukraine parallel to isolating Russia. It is reported that it may be on the cusp of granting Ukraine major non-NATO ally status and even providing pinpoint precision intelligence for attacking anti-Kiev SAM sites. This could rapidly creep into something much more, per the Libya model, especially since US military advisors will be on the ground. Thus, in one fell swoop, by evoking the “terrorist” label, the US can ‘kill two birds with one stone’ – guilt/force the EU into “isolating Russia” (thereby isolating and harming itself as well) and swallow Ukraine into Shadow NATO.
The US has plainly demonstrated that it is salivating for a Cold War redux with Russia, and once more, Europe is caught in the middle. It is completely contrary to any of its interests for it to participate in this needless and aggressive geopolitical struggle, but as the EU seems wont to do nowadays, it may easily get sucked into it out of misguided ideological and political reasons dictated by the US. In fact, it may have little choice: the US could unilaterally declare Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism and then force the EU, whose largest export market is the US and with whom it is negotiating the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (which European political elite naively believe will benefit them), into acquiescing to its military occupier’s demands. This wouldn’t “isolate” Russia, which has already made a strong push into the non-Western world since April, as much as it would isolate the EU, but ironically, this may even work in Washington’s favor by crippling its friendly economic rival and keeping it under its thumb for at least another decade.
Moreover, Russia as a “state sponsor of terrorism” would create a clear dividing line between the West and Russia and could give a renewed hybrid purpose to NATO. Whereas in the Cold War it was an anti-Russian organization and then in the “Global War on Terror” it nominally became an anti-terrorist organization, it may soon carry the new hybrid mission of containing a “terrorist-supporting” Russia. This would also provide enhanced justification to European populations for the deployment of even more US and NATO personnel in Eastern Europe, as well as deeper and faster Shadow NATO integration for Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova, thereby laying the framework for a Western battering ram into Russia’s Near Abroad. All of this would rightfully alarm Russia, which would then defensively ramp up its multivector cooperation with ‘The Rest’ and BRICS. This would be especially so for its prized strategic partner and fellow Western target, China, potentially creating an eventual de-facto alliance between the two giants out of shared security concerns and transforming the Eurasian strategic landscape.
Former CIA Boss George Tenet Leading Plans To Attack Upcoming Senate Report On CIA’s Torture Program
As we continue to wait for the White House to finally release the heavily redacted version of the executive summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s CIA torture report (the full report is over 6,300 pages and cost $40 million to produce), it appears that those who are likely to take the blame are already preparing their response. As has already leaked out over the past few months, the report will show how the program went further than people expected, that it basically uncovered no terrorist plots and that the CIA regularly lied to Congress about the nature of the program and its impact. The CIA, led by current boss John Brennan, has hit back against these conclusions, but it appears that those who were actually in power during the torture program are even more worried. Former CIA boss George Tenet, who was already considered something of a disgrace for the CIA’s intelligence failures prior to invading Iraq, is apparently working hard behind the scenes to coordinate an attack on the credibility of the report — because it pretty clearly is going to attack his credibility.
Just after the Senate Intelligence Committee voted in April to declassify hundreds of pages of a withering report on the Central Intelligence Agency’s detention and interrogation program, C.I.A. Director John O. Brennan convened a meeting of the men who had played a role overseeing the program in its seven-year history.
The spies, past and present, faced each other around the long wooden conference table on the seventh floor of the C.I.A.’s headquarters in Northern Virginia: J. Cofer Black, head of the agency’s counterterrorism center at the time of the Sept. 11 attacks; the undercover officer who now holds that job; and a number of other former officials from the C.I.A.’s clandestine service. Over the speakerphone came the distinctive, Queens-accented voice of George J. Tenet.
Over the past several months, Mr. Tenet has quietly engineered a counterattack against the Senate committee’s voluminous report, which could become public next month.
Apparently Tenet and others demanded early access to the report, and eventually Dianne Feinstein, the White House and those former CIA officials negotiated a deal letting them read the report over in James Clapper’s offices. The NY Times report also details how Brennan is basically a Tenet lackey whose rise through the ranks occurred under Tenet — making it more likely that Brennan wants to protect the reputation of his former boss.
We’ll see how this eventual “response” comes out, but given the initial leaks from the report, it sounds like it’s going to be fairly devastating, and make a further mockery of Tenet. As the report linked above also notes, back in 2007 Tenet got angry at a 60 Minutes interviewer and started wagging his finger at the correspondent, while insisting “We don’t torture people!”
Wagging a finger at the correspondent, Scott Pelley, Mr. Tenet said over and over, “We don’t torture people.”
“No, listen to me. No, listen to me. I want you to listen to me,” he went on. “Everybody forgets one central context of what we lived through: The palpable fear that we felt on the basis of that fact that there was so much we did not know. I know that this program has saved lives. I know we’ve disrupted plots.”
It’s pretty easy to say that when no one can fact-check you. But it appears that the report is going to point out that almost none of what Tenet said was true. No wonder he’s so concerned about leading the attack on the report.
General Hugo Carvajal arrived Sunday evening in Venezuela after being released from a jail in Aruba, where he had been arbitrarily detained since July 24, and immediately headed to Caracas to be received by President Nicolas Maduro at the Third Congress of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV).
Venezuelan Foreign Relations Minister Elias Jaua received Carvajal and the deputy Minister of Foreign Relations to Europe, Calixto Ortega, at the Maiquetia International Airport, some 18 miles from the capital’s city of Caracas.
Ortega told teleSUR that, “The government of the Netherlands — which recognized that the arrest of the official had been illegal and in violation of international treaties on diplomats — accepted the criteria of the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry in regards to the fact that the Major General is a diplomatic official.”
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said he was satisfied with the release of the general consul Hugo Carvajal, who he said was falsely accused of drug trafficking by the United States.
“Hugo Carvajal broke world records by arresting over 75 heads of drug trafficking organizations,” said Maduro during the second day of the Third National Congress of the PSUV. Carvajal was standing next to Maduro in the presence of the 985 delegates of the ruling party participating in the political event.
Maduro said Carvajal was an innocent victim of “lies fabricated” against him by Western media.
Carvajal was released this Sunday evening by the Dutch autorities in Aruba, after they admitted they had illlegaly arrested him on July 24.
Special Correspondent for teleSUR, Madelein Garcia, reported that Carvajal exited the prison in Aruba, accompanied by deputy Minister of Foreign Relations to Europe, Calixto Ortega, and his lawyers.
The government of Netherlands said on Sunday that General Hugo Carvajal would be released. The Venezuelan official was arrested by Aruban authorities in violation of international law, in particular the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.
The announcement of Carvajal´s release was made on Sunday by Jaua, in the framework of the III National Congress.
Jaua read a statement sent by the Netherlands to the Venezuelan government, in which it recognized that the arrest occurred “outside international treaties for diplomatic personnel.”
“Comrade Hugo Carvajal at this time is in a prison and probably still does not know this news,” Jaua said. He stressed that the Netherlands rectified and complied with international law.
The Venezuelan Foreign Ministry issued a statement on Thursday rejecting the arrest and said the Venezuelan government will provide all support to Carvajal.
Gaza fighters clash with Israeli forces in Occupied Palestine after strike kills eight children on Eid
Updated 8:08 pm: Palestinian gunmen slipped into Occupied Palestine from the Gaza Strip on Monday and penetrated a village near the border before entering clashes with occupation forces, Israeli television said, adding that five militants had been killed.
Hamas said in a statement their fighters had killed 10 Israeli soldiers in the incident before returning home safely. But an Israeli security source told AFP that five Palestinian fighters were shot dead in the gun battle with Israel troops.
Earlier on Monday, an Israeli airstrike hit a public garden in the Beach refugee camp in northern Gaza killing 10 people, eight of them children, according to medics, ending a relative lull in fighting during the Muslim Eid holiday.
The attack brought the death toll in 21 days of attacks to 1,046.
Another explosion shook the grounds of Gaza’s main Shifa hospital, witnesses and an AFP reporter said. It was not immediately clear if there were any casualties.
Pools of blood lay on the ground in the Beach refugee camp garden in the aftermath of the explosion.
“We came out of the mosque when I saw the children playing with their toy guns. Seconds later a missile landed,” said Munther Al-Derbi, a resident of the camp.
“May God punish … Netanyahu,” he said, referring to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Earlier Monday, Israeli tank fire killed a four-year-old boy in the northern Gaza Strip, in what was the first death since the two sides began observing an unofficial truce, Palestinian medics said.
According to emergency services spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra, the child was killed when a shell hit a house to the east of Jabalia where fighting had recently erupted between Israeli soldiers occupying Gaza and Hamas forces.
The boy, Samih Ijneid, was the first person to be killed in Gaza on Monday although three others also succumbed to their injuries during the night, Qudra said, including a man injured in a July 11 strike.
The latest deaths raise to 1,046 the total number of Palestinians, the overwhelming majority of whom civilians, killed in Israel’s US-backed terror campaign against Gaza which began on July 8.
At least 6,233 Palestinians have also been injured since the beginning of the assault.
Israeli media also reported that four civilians were killed when a rocket launched from Gaza hit the Eshkol Regional Council in the occupied Negev.
Israel had initially eased its assault against the Gaza Strip and Palestinian rocket fire from the besieged enclave declined sharply on Monday, as a fragile Eid al-Fitr truce appeared to be holding up.
But the Associated Press reported that Israeli war jets bombed three targets in central and northern Gaza in the late morning, shattering nearly 12 hours of relative calm.
The occupation forces had said they would halt attacks against Gaza unless rocket fire is renewed.
But Israeli soldiers were still occupying Gaza under the pretext of searching for tunnels.
Hamas said on Sunday it wanted a 24-hour truce to mark the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr marking the end of Ramadan, which started on Monday. In the hours after its announcement, Gaza gradually fell quiet.
Just one rocket was fired out of the battered coastal territory at Ashkelon in the first nine hours of Monday, the occupation army said. Gaza residents reported brief bursts of tank shelling and no casualties.
But just before noon, Israel’s occupation army claimed it bombed a facility for manufacturing rockets, and two rocket launchers in response to the single rocket fired from Gaza.
The UN Security Council called on both sides to implement a humanitarian truce that stretched beyond Eid.
Netanyahu’s security cabinet met into the early hours of Monday to debate ceasefire proposals and also a possible escalation of the Gaza assault.
Israel says 43 of its soldiers have been killed by Palestinian forces, along with seven civilians killed by rocket and mortar fire from Gaza, including four killed Monday.
Kerry calls for Hamas disarmament
Israel and the Palestinians have expressed “serious interest” in a 24-hour truce in the Gaza conflict, but a deal has yet to be reached, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Monday, as he raised concerns about the proportionality of Israel’s military operation.
“The people of Gaza have nowhere to run. They are trapped and besieged on a speck of land. Every area is a civilian area,” Ban told reporters in New York on Monday after returning from a week in the Middle East trying to help broker a ceasefire.
“The casualty and damage figures also raise serious questions about proportionality,” he said.
Under international humanitarian law, proportionality means refraining from launching an attack when it is expected to cause excessive loss of civilian life in relation to the anticipated military advantage.
Ban, who spoke with Netanyahu on Monday, said the temporary pause in fighting during the weekend “revealed how much the massive Israeli assault has devastated the lives of the people of Gaza,” where some 1.8 million people live.
“Some described it as a ‘man-made hurricane’ – whole neighborhoods reduced to debris, rubble; blocks of flattened apartment buildings; scores of bodies still buried under mountains of twisted wreckage,” Ban said.
“It’s a matter of their political will,” Ban told reporters of the obstacle to a ceasefire in Gaza. “They have to show their humanity as leaders, both Israeli and Palestinian.”
He said it was “morally wrong” for the leaders to allow the deadly violence to continue.
Meanwhile, US Secretary of State John Kerry Monday said that international efforts to agree a truce in Gaza must lead to the disarmament of Hamas.
Kerry told reporters he was continuing to work “toward establishing an unconditional humanitarian ceasefire.” But he added: “We also believe that any process to resolved the crisis in Gaza in a lasting and meaningful way must lead to the disarmament of Hamas and all terrorist groups.”
Kerry did not discuss the Israeli blockade of Gaza as a solution to the crisis.
(Reuters, AFP, Al-Akhbar)
On Friday, a draft of US Secretary of State John Kerry’s ceasefire proposal was shown to Israeli officials. The draft apparently called for the opening of border crossings between Gaza and Israel and included measure to ensure “the economic livelihood” of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.
According to Haaretz, the document, which was titled “Framework for Humanitarian Ceasefire in Gaza,” also said that a lasting truce would make possible the “transfer of funds to Gaza for the payment of salaries for public employees.”
The proposed ceasefire would also “address all security concerns”, stipulating that Israel would not be allowed to continue destroying tunnels during the initial ceasefire and making no explicit mention of the demilitarizing Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip.
Israeli officials were apparently shocked after reading the draft, according to Ma’an, saying that it ignored Israel’s security concerns.
“We succeeded in foiling that document and now we are discussing other options,” Haaretz quoted officials as saying.
One of Kerry’s associates is said to have responded:
“There is no paper and no proposal. The draft was based on the Egyptian proposal that Israel wholeheartedly supported. So if they are opposed, they are opposed their own plan.”
Israel refused to work with the ceasefire proposed on Friday, agreeing instead to a 12-hour humanitarian truce which started Saturday at 8am.
Israel resumed its assault on Gaza for the 20th day on Sunday afternoon, killing ten Palestinians in attacks on Sunday.
Hamas leader Khaled Mashal spoke Sunday with PBS interviewer Charlie Rose. In the interview, Mashal stressed that the group was ready to “coexist with the Jews” but would not tolerate “occupiers.”
During a continuation of Saturday’s temporary ceasefire, the Israeli army killed at least ten Palestinians.
Israeli forces have also killed a number of Palestinians in solidarity protests across the West Bank over the past several days, jailing even more.
This afternoon, after the expiration of the previous temporary ceasefire, Hamas announced that all militant groups would be respecting a 24-hour ceasefire, beginning at 2pm.
Israeli airstrikes continued, however, as officials announced their rejection to any permanent ceasefire deal currently on the table and, thus, resistance rocket fire resumed from the Gaza Strip as well.
One Israeli civilian was injured. 43 Israelis have been killed during “Operation Protective Edge”, all of them soldiers apart from three civilians.
Over a thousand Palestinian deaths have been reported in the past 20 days, with many still unidentified , most of which are accounted for by heavy, indiscriminate assaults on civilian neighborhoods, municipal facilities, end even hospitals.
Hamas insists that any lasting ceasefire must begin with lifting the blockade on Gaza, with leader Khaled Mashal warning that Palestinians cannot coexist with their neighbors while their land is occupied.
Gaza has been under a severe economic blockade imposed by Israel since 2006, leading to frequent humanitarian crises. Backed by Egypt, Israel tightened the blockade in 2007, following an election victory by Hamas. Israel does not even respect their own impositions on Gaza’s fishing industry and frequently fires on Palestinian fishermen, often damaging or even confiscating their equipment.
Charlie Rose asked Khaled whether he could foresee [Hamas] living beside Israelis in peace. He responded that only a future Palestinian state could decide upon [Hamas'] recognition Israel.
“We are not fanatics, we are not fundamentalists. We are not actually fighting the Jews because they are Jews per se. We do not fight any other races. We fight the occupiers…
I’m ready to coexist with the Jews, with the Christians and the Arabs and non-Arabs. However, I do not coexist with the occupiers.
…Palestinian people can have their say when they have their own state without occupation.”
Further pressed on whether Palestinians could recognize the state of Israel as a Jewish state, Mashal reiterated Hamas’ position — the group does not recognize Israel.
“When we have a Palestinian state then the Palestinian state will decide on its policies. You cannot actually ask me about the future. I answered you,” he said.
A full version of the interview is to be broadcast late Monday.