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Pope: Door of dialogue with Islamic State should not be closed

MEMO | November 26, 2014

Pope Francis said on Tuesday that although it is “almost impossible” to have a dialogue with the Islamic State, or ISIS, the “door should never be closed”, Anadolu news agency reported.

Speaking to Vatican Radio after his return from a visit to the EU parliament in Strasburg, he said: “I never say all is lost, never. Maybe there cannot be a dialogue but you can never shut a door.”

He continued: “It is difficult, one could say almost impossible, but the door is always open.”

Responding to a question about whether or not it would be possible to communicate with rather than fight the militants, he said: “I repeat what I have said: when you want to stop an unjust oppressor, you must do so with international consensus.”

ISIS has been controlling wide areas in the east of Syria and north and west of Iraq for several months. In June, the organisation, which most of the international community has labelled as terrorist, announced a caliphate with Abu-Baker Al-Baghdadi as its leader.

Despite doubts about the relations between Al-Baghdadi, who was a prisoner in an American facility in Iraq, and the US, the latter has been leading an international alliance against ISIS. Some political experts even argue that ISIS is an American made militant group.

November 26, 2014 Posted by | Militarism | , , | 1 Comment

Neocon propagandist frets over Russia’s ‘weaponization of information’

By Maidhc Ó Cathail | RT | November 26, 2014

There was a strong whiff of hypocrisy in the Washington air on November 13 when the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) hosted a discussion of a report entitled ‘The Menace of Unreality: How the Kremlin Weaponizes Information, Culture, and Money’.

The Menace of Unreality is co-authored by Michael Weiss, editor-in-chief of the Interpreter, and Peter Pomerantsev, author of a forthcoming book asserting that Putin’s Russia is a post-modern dictatorship.

Introducing the discussion, NED’s Christopher Walker noted that the US Congress-funded Endowment hadn’t been involved in the production of the report but that it does have “close ties” to Weiss’s online journal and the New York-based think tank that funds it, the Institute of Modern Russia (IMR).

In the course of their report’s self-righteous criticism of the widespread “opaqueness” about who funds think tanks, Weiss and Pomerantsev disclose, in an aside, that their work is “funded by a think tank that receives support from the family of Mikhail Khodorkovsky.” Their critique of the weaponization of money, however, neglects to mention its funder’s conviction for embezzlement and money laundering.

In Washington, Weiss and Pomerantsev were joined in the discussion of their “counter-disinformation” report by an analyst from the Foreign Policy Initiative, a neoconservative advocacy group founded by Robert Kagan and William Kristol, whose earlier Project for a New American Century had played a key role in pushing the lies that led to the US invasion of Iraq.

Inside the report’s cover, which features a reader oblivious to the fact that the broadsheet he’s reading is going up in flames, the Interpreter says it “aspires to dismantle the language barrier that separates journalists, Russia analysts, policymakers, diplomats and interested laymen in the English-speaking world from the debates, scandals, intrigues and political developments taking place in the Russian Federation.”

The similarity between the Interpreter’s stated aspirations and those of the pro-Israel Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) may be more than coincidental. As the liberal Jewish blogger Richard Silverstein observed about a blog in the Telegraph by the Interpreter’s editor-in-chief, “a number of Weiss’claims are based on the notoriously unreliable MEMRI,” which itself claims to bridge “the language gap between the West and the Middle East and South Asia.”

The bio that precedes that June 2011 Weiss blog describes him as “the Research Director of The Henry Jackson Society, a foreign policy think tank, as well as the co-chair of its Russia Studies Centre.”

In addition to a who’s who of neocon luminaries like Kagan and Kristol, the Henry Jackson Society’s international patrons include Ambassador Dore Gold, former permanent representative of Israel to the United Nations, and Natan Sharansky, chair of the executive of the Jewish Agency for Israel.

Weiss’s previous employment at the UK-based, pro-Israel advocacy organization, however, is conspicuously absent from the lengthy “About the Authors” section at the end of the IMR-published, anti-Russia report.

His updated bio, however, reveals that Weiss’ concerns haven’t changed much since his HJS days.

“Weiss has covered the Syrian revolution from its inception, reporting from refugee camps in southern Turkey and from the frontlines of war-torn Aleppo,” the IMR report notes.

As a profile of the neocon Henry Jackson Society observes, its members have been “active proponents of Western intervention in Syria’s civil war.” It singles out a March 2012 piece in the New York Times by Weiss advocating that the US “begin marshaling a coalition for regime change in Syria consisting of countries” like “Britain, France, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.”

In an interview with the Jerusalem Post last year, Israel’s previous ambassador to the US Michael Oren admitted that Tel Aviv “always wanted [President] Bashar Assad to go.”

Likewise, one suspects that Weiss’ “set of modest recommendations” on how the West should confront Russia’s supposed “weaponization of information” is motivated at least in part by the challenge Russian media such as RT poses to the monopoly over the narrative of the Syrian conflict coveted by his interventionist friends in the Western media.

Maidhc Ó Cathail is a widely-published writer and political analyst. He is also the creator and editor of the Passionate Attachment blog, which focuses primarily on the US-Israeli relationship.

November 26, 2014 Posted by | Deception, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Neocon propagandist frets over Russia’s ‘weaponization of information’

Humanitarian aid is still a target for the Israeli occupation

By Ibrahim Hewitt | MEMO | November 26, 2014

ibrahim-hewittI have been the chair of trustees for 17 of Interpal’s 20 years as a British charity helping Palestinians in desperate need; it is a privilege to be in such a position. Being a trustee has enabled me to meet and work with some wonderful people, including our incredible beneficiaries in occupied Palestine, Jordan and Lebanon. They inspire us as we try to bring a degree of normality to their extraordinarily abnormal situation.It hasn’t been an easy ride. Interpal was declared by the US government in 2003 to be a “Specially designated global terrorist entity”; there was no due process, no investigation and no immediately obvious right to appeal against the decision. We discovered our new status via the BBC website. I called it “gesture politics” at the time, because claims that the US was freezing Interpal’s assets in America were nonsense; we didn’t have any assets there. In fact, the only money we have in the States now is around $100,000 which was confiscated by Citibank as the transfer of funds for our orphans’ programme in Jordan crossed a computer screen in New York. Orphans went without so that American and Israeli egos could be massaged.

A number of investigations and inquiries by Britain’s charity regulator have found no evidence of illegal activity by Interpal, and the US government has offered no evidence to justify its designation. The absence of any police involvement, said one senior Metropolitan Police officer, “is hugely significant”.

The “terrorist” tag originated in Israel, of course, which has a strong interest in blocking any kind of aid to the Palestinians living under its brutal military occupation; if life is made harsh enough, the theory goes, then perhaps the Palestinians will pack up and cross the Jordan into permanent exile. This is known in Zionist jargon as “silent transfer”. After almost 70 years of occupation, the Israelis obviously do not know the Palestinians, or the people who support them.

The UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), whose senior spokesperson, Chris Gunness, has flown over to speak at Interpal’s 20th anniversary symposium in London, is at the forefront of working to keep the Palestinians afloat. Interpal is proud to be a valued partner of UNRWA and has a number of projects in the pipeline to continue such work in the months and years ahead.

Despite having such a high profile link to a UN agency, accusations of supporting “terrorism” have been thrown at Interpal almost since day one, with a claim in a major broadsheet that we “funded the training of suicide bombers” in 1996. A small charity has been seen as an easy target; we are the pebble in the Israeli shoe and just won’t go away. “Interpal,” said one Israeli politician, “is a tough nut to crack.”

The attack on our charity has been relentless which is odd, given our relatively small size. Italian journalist and author Loretta Napoleoni is an expert on “terrorist financing”. She told me that the US and Israeli governments are going after charities like Interpal precisely because they think that we are easy targets and can be shut down, at which point they can claim to be “cutting off terrorist funding”. The reality, she said, is that most of the $3 trillion drugs and terrorist economy is channelled through legitimate businesses, not charities. In 2012, HSBC confirmed that it was going to pay the US authorities $1.9bn (£1.2bn) in a settlement over money laundering. “A US Senate investigation said the UK-based bank had been a conduit for ‘drug kingpins and rogue nations’,” reported the BBC. The bank “admitted having poor money laundering controls and apologised.” There has been no special designation for a bank involved in very serious crime, but a small charity against whom there are only allegations from vexatious complainants face being driven out of existence; our only “crime” is helping Palestinians.

The message from our New York lawyer is that the US Treasury can only do so much about the designation: “It was a political decision and needs a political decision to rescind it.” In other words, the State Department must be involved, which is why Interpal has asked the Foreign and Commonwealth Office a number of times to speak on its behalf. Even though HM Government intervened on behalf of British banks facing legal action in the US, this British charity has been told “you need to raise it yourselves with the Americans”. Individual parliamentarians in both Houses have been very supportive over the years, but of government action there has been none.

Interpal distributes on average around £4 million a year and every penny is accounted for. In the great scheme of things, this is a relatively miniscule amount (Israel gets $8m a day from the US). The bureaucratic system that we have in place makes it ridiculous to suggest that we divert donations for illegal purposes.

The fact that many of the projects Interpal has funded are also funded by USAID doesn’t carry any weight in Washington, and America insists that we should discriminate along political lines in the distribution of our funds; discrimination of any kind is illegal for British charities, and rightly so. We will continue to support Palestinians with humanitarian aid without fear or favour, the only criteria being need.

Many of Interpal’s beneficiaries are women and children. The children of Palestine, Muslims and Christians alike, have had their childhood stolen from them; we should all hang our heads in shame at this. More than 80 per cent of the children in the Gaza Strip suffer from post-traumatic stress. Every time an Israeli jet flies overhead, or a helicopter, or a drone, these children wait for the bombs to follow; that is what they have come to expect. It is a shameful situation.

The recent news that the dedicated surgeon and activist Dr Mads Gilbert has been given a lifetime ban by Israel from entering the Gaza Strip illustrates perfectly the Israeli attitude towards anyone offering humanitarian assistance to Palestinians. It has nothing to do with “terrorism” and everything to do with enforcing an immoral and illegal blockade on the territory. What is being done in the name of “the only democracy in the Middle East” is not only undemocratic but also breaks international law. Israel’s leadership knows this but carries on regardless and with apparent impunity. NGOs and others will do likewise until justice is seen to be done and a free and independent Palestine emerges from the rubble.

This is an edited version of the speech given by Ibrahim Hewitt at Interpal’s 20th anniversary symposium in London on 25th November.

November 26, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , | 1 Comment

Israel transforms Jerusalem’s suburbs into a “big prison”

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Concrete blocks are placed by Occupation security forces at the entrances to the Palestinian village of al-Ram, northeast of Jerusalem on November 19, 2014. Issam Rimawi – Anadolu Agency

By Mohammed Abdel Fattah | Al-Akhbar | November 26, 2014

Perhaps Israeli prisons can not accommodate more Palestinians, and so Israeli authorities have now chosen to imprison Palestinians inside their villages, especially in the suburbs of Jerusalem. That is part of the collective punishment inflicted on villages, whose residents dared to rise up against the occupation and the discriminatory policies it imposes on Palestinians – such as preventing them from praying at al-Aqsa Mosque, repeatedly storming the mosque, and turning a blind eye on violence and murder of Palestinians at the hands of fanatical Israeli settlers.

Occupied Jerusalem – The Israeli response to a village that revolts is to surround it with concrete barriers and military checkpoints, in addition to using weapons of all types and sizes against young demonstrators. Recently, the occupation forces began to seal off the villages of Hay al-Thawri, Sur Baher and al-Ram in the Jerusalem district after a series of protests against the killing of Ghassan and Uday Abu Jamal, both of whom carried out the recent Knesset operation. Before sealing off these villages, the Israelis encircled and sealed off the village of al-Issawiya, but the concrete barriers were later removed from its entrances following a protest by hundreds of its residents.

Sur Baher, located south of occupied Jerusalem, continues to be closed, hemming in its 27,000 residents. The Israelis tightened the noose around the village by closing its entrances with concrete barriers, leaving only one route for its residents. The people of Sur Baher enter and leave the village through that road, where an Israeli military checkpoint manned by abusive Israeli soldiers regularly mistreat anyone who passes by on foot or in a vehicle. Going in and out of the village presently takes an hour, while Israeli soldiers search every single person from head to toe and search cars from the hood to the trunk.

Students are forced to step out of cars and buses to cross the checkpoint on foot in order to get to school even if that means arriving half an hour late.

The director of the company Sur Baher Buses for Public Transportation, Raafat Nimr, complained that now they have to leave an hour before it is time to pick up students from outside the village to be able to drop them off at school somewhat on time.

He said his and other bus companies have suffered from closing the village and restricting access in and out to one checkpoint as it cut the number of trips buses take from the village in half. This will force the company to close down soon because the cost of “loading passengers increased and there is no longer a large number of trips to make up for it,” he said.

People who do not have a business to take care of outside the village have decided not to leave the village so that they won’t get upset and agitated. For example, Hamza Umaira has not left Sur Baher for a week. Besides, Israeli soldiers at the checkpoint regularly prevent him from going to Jerusalem to pray at al-Aqsa Mosque.

In Hay al-Thawri, where the family of Moataz Hijazi lives, the martyr who carried out the assassination attempt on the life of the extremist rabbi, Yehudah Glick, the situation is as bad as the rest. Like Sur Baher, the Israeli occupation sealed the village twice. The first time after killing Hijazi and the second time after the operation carried out by Ghassan and Uday Abu Jamal. The difference with this neighborhood to others is that it has been encircled with concrete barriers without military checkpoints. This prompts people to take bypass roads, delaying workers and students.

The town facing the worst mistreatment is al-Ram, whose closure affects the residents of the nearby Qalandia refugee camp as they go to and from Ramallah and Jerusalem. In addition to closing the northern entrance to the town with concrete blocks, the closure affects the revenue of businesses located along the road to the northern entrance. The Israeli authorities also closed the Jabaa road adjacent to the town, thereby creating a suffocating traffic jam that takes people two hours to get out of.

Just like the average citizen suffers, medical services suffer too. Turning the Palestinian villages surrounding Jerusalem into “large prisons” obstructs ambulances and prevents them from reaching areas where sick and wounded people need to be taken to hospitals.

Palestinian Red Crescent official, Amin Abu Ghazaleh, said that Israeli occupation forces deal with Red Crescent ambulances as though they are part of the young people’s uprising against them, especially after Israeli ambulances refused to enter Arab areas.

He pointed out that Israeli soldiers did not make it easy for ambulances to enter confrontation areas, treat the injured there or transfer them to hospitals. Instead, they refused to remove any barriers, which increases the rate of field medical treatment.

Residents of the villages facing closure believe that this policy will add to the tension in the city because most of their villages lack basic facilities, such as hospitals and markets.

For his part, political analyst, Fadel Tahboub argues that “Israelis do not want to calm the situation down in Jerusalem, so they continue to close villages and settlers continue to storm al-Aqsa Mosque.”

“The goal of the Israeli occupation is to isolate the Palestinian villages from Jerusalem in order to reduce the Arab population in the city, and to pave the way for annexing them to the West Bank at a later time, completely disconnecting them from occupied Jerusalem,” he concluded.

November 26, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture | , , , | Comments Off on Israel transforms Jerusalem’s suburbs into a “big prison”

Israel’s Model of Political Despair in Jerusalem

By Jonathan Cook | Dissident Voice | November 26, 2014

Relations between Israelis and Palestinians have descended into a dangerous melee of tit-for-tat attacks and killings, with the violence of the past few weeks centred on Jerusalem. The city, claimed by Israel as its “undivided capital”, has been torn apart by clashes between Israeli police and Palestinian residents since the summer, when 16-year-old Mohammed Abu Khdeir was burnt alive by Jewish extremists.

Subsequent attacks by Palestinians culminated last week in a shooting and stabbing spree by two cousins at a synagogue that killed four Jews and an Israeli policeman. In this atmosphere, both sides have warned that the political conflict is mutating into a religious one.

Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, cautioned that Israel’s intensified efforts to extend its control over the Al Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem’s Old City, including by imposing severe restrictions on Muslim worship, risked plunging the region into “a detrimental religious war”.

Yoram Cohen, the head of Israel’s Shin Bet intelligence service, concurred. He warned last week that Israel was stoking religious discord by encouraging Jews to pray at the site over rabbinical objections.

But despite these warnings, the Israeli government announced today it was drafting a law that would ban Muslim guards on the esplanade, making it yet easier for Jews to visit.

Government ministers, meanwhile, accused Abbas of religious “incitement” and masterminding the violence in Jerusalem.

Ari Shavit, an influential Israeli analyst, also blamed what he termed an emerging “holy war” not on oppressive Israeli policies, but on the spread of an Islamist extremism.

Shavit and other Israelis have preferred to overlook the obvious parallels between last week’s killings and an even graver incident 20 years ago. Then, Baruch Goldstein, a Jewish settler, entered the Ibrahimi mosque in the West Bank city of Hebron in his Israeli army captain’s uniform and opened fire on Muslim worshippers, killing 29 and wounding 125.

One can only wonder why the timeline for Shavit’s holy war did not extend back to Goldstein’s massacre, or include the waves of attacks, including arson, by settlers on Muslim and Christian places of worship ever since.

Israel’s responses to these two massacres are more helpful in illuminating the fundamental causes of the recent surge in violence.

In Hebron, Palestinians rather than the settlers paid the price for Goldstein’s slaughter. Israel divided the Ibrahimi mosque to create a Jewish prayer space and effectively shut down Hebron’s commercial centre, displacing thousands of Palestinian residents.

Instead of pulling the settlers out from the occupied territories following the massacre, Israel allowed their numbers to grow at record pace.

Although the anti-Arab Kach group Goldstein belonged to was outlawed, it has continued to operate openly in the settlements, including in Jerusalem. Goldstein’s tomb, next to Hebron, is a site of pilgrimage for thousands of religious Jews.

Palestinians, not Israelis, are again the ones suffering, this time after last week’s synagogue attack.

Israel has begun demolishing the homes of those involved in recent attacks, and is drafting laws to jail stone-throwers for up to 20 years and harshly penalise the parents of those too young to be jailed themselves.

On Sunday the interior minister revoked the Jerusalem residency of a Palestinian convicted of driving a suicide bomber into Tel Aviv 13 years ago – a prelude, according to prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, to many more such revocations.

Israel is also preparing to relax gun controls to allow thousands more Israeli Jews to carry weapons at a time when Palestinian taxi and bus drivers in Jerusalem say they are being regularly assaulted. Last week a bus driver died in mysterious circumstances, which Palestinians suspect was a lynching.

It should be no surprise that Jerusalem is the eye of the storm. For more than a decade it has served as a laboratory for the Israeli right to experiment with a model of political despair designed to make Palestinians either submit or leave.

House demolitions for Palestinians and settlement building for Jews, brutal policing and the encouragement of crime as a way to recruit collaborators are happening faster and more aggressively in Jerusalem than anywhere else in the occupied territories.

Since the second intifada erupted in 2000, East Jerusalem has been a political orphan. Israel expelled the Palestinian Authority, and jailed or deported Hamas leaders as they tried to fill the vacuum. Since then, Palestinians in Jerusalem have been defenceless against Israel’s intrigues.

Netanyahu and the right have made little secret of their wish to export a similar model to the West Bank, gradually eroding what control the PA still enjoys. But the spiralling violence in Jerusalem has exposed the paradox at the heart of their strategy.

Palestinian anger in the West Bank is every bit as intense as in Jerusalem but Abbas’ security forces still have the will and, just barely, the upper hand to keep a lid on it.

In Jerusalem, on the other hand, protesters face off directly with Israeli police. Because the city lacks organised Palestinian groups, the security services have been unable to penetrate them with collaborators. Instead Israel has been caught off guard by unpredictable attacks as individual Palestinians reach their breaking point.

By refusing to recognise any Palestinian national claims in Jerusalem, Netanyahu has forced the population to recast the conflict in religious terms. Unable to identify politically with either Fatah or Hamas, Jerusalem’s Palestinians have found powerful consolation in a religious struggle to counter the mounting threats to Al-Aqsa.

From this perspective, Netanyahu’s continuing efforts to weaken and undermine Abbas and the PA appear strategically self-destructive. Without them, the West Bank will go the way of Jerusalem – an ever more unmanageable colonial conflict that risks heading towards religious conflagration.

November 26, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , | 2 Comments