Aletho News


There Goes the Guardian, Lying About Ukraine… Again!

By Eric Draitser | CounterPunch | February 20, 2015

The western media is busily trying to prop up their failed narrative of “Russian aggression” in Ukraine in a desperate attempt to legitimize their consciously deceitful reporting. To do so, they are now relying not on experts or western intelligence reports, but a discredited blogger and his corporate media chums.

On February 17, 2015, The Guardian ran a story with the headline “Russia shelled Ukrainians from within its own territory, says study.” The title alone is enough to convince many casual observers that yes, the mainstream media reporting on the civil war in Ukraine has been correct all along. You see, it’s all because of Russian aggression, or so the meme would go. But closer analysis of this story, and the key players involved, should cause any reasonably intelligent and logical person to seriously doubt the veracity of nearly every aspect of the story.

Let’s begin first with the headline and subhead which, as anyone in media knows, is often all that will be read by many readers. The headline leads with a conclusion: Russia shelled Ukraine from within Russian territory. Simple. Clear. Why bother reading further? Well, in reality, the article both overtly and tacitly admits that the so called “study” (more on that later) has not reached that clear conclusion, not even close. Here are some key phrases sprinkled throughout the piece that should give pause to any serious-minded political observer or analyst.

Despite the declaration in the headline, a close reader encounters phrases such as “near conclusive proof,” “estimated trajectories,” “likely firing positions,” and other ambiguous phrases that are more suggestive than they are declarative. In other words, these are mere rhetorical flourishes designed to lead casual, uninformed readers to make conclusions that are simply not backed up by the evidence.

The so called study relied heavily on “crater patterns from satellite photos of three battlefields,” and it is from these crater patterns, and the equally dubious “tyre tracks” that the authors of the study drew their conclusions. However, even the independent military forensics expert contacted by The Guardian “warned that the accuracy of crater analysis in determining direction of fire on the basis of satellite photography was scientifically unproven.”

Indeed, conveniently buried at the end of the long article is the key quote from Stephen Johnson, a weapons expert at the Cranfield Forensic Institute, part of the Defence Academy of the United Kingdom who said quite clearly that crater analysis is “highly experimental and prone to inaccuracy.” Mr. Johnson added that “This does not mean there is no value to the method, but that any results must be considered with caution and require corroboration.”

Wait a second. I thought that our dear expert authors of the study had “near conclusive proof” according to the lead paragraphs of the story. When you actually read what the real expert, as opposed to the non-experts who conducted the “study,” has to say, it immediately casts a long shadow of doubt on the entire narrative being propagated by the article. Is The Guardian here guilty of clear manipulation of the story for political purposes? It would seem at best unprofessional and dishonest reporting, at worst it’s outright lying in the service of the agenda of those at the top of the western political establishment.

Now of course we know that The Guardian has repeatedly been taken to task by highly respected journalists and analysts for its biased and one-sided reporting of issues ranging from its coverage of Russian President Putin and Russia’s actions in Crimea, to its shamefully biased (here, here and here for three of the many examples) coverage of Israel-Palestine conflict, and a number of other important issues.

Perhaps most germane to this discussion is The Guardian’s own reporting last summer, which it references in this article, of Russian military vehicles crossing the border into Ukraine – a significant charge that would be taken seriously if there were one shred of tangible proof. But alas there isn’t. There is only the word of The Guardian’s reporter Shaun Walker, who conveniently could not get a photograph or video of the alleged military vehicles crossing into Ukraine. One would think with mobile phones all equipped with cameras and the vast resources of a major western media outlet, not to mention the seemingly all-encompassing global surveillance architecture at the disposal of western governments, at least some credible, verifiable evidence would have emerged. But no, we just have to take the Guardian’s word for it.

There’s a lot of that going around when it comes to Ukraine. We just have to “take their word for it,” as we were supposed to with regard to the charges of Russian military shooting down MH17, a baseless charge that has since disappeared from the headlines, with the actual results of the investigation being buried or suppressed entirely.

Not only should The Guardian’s reporting be scrutinized, but so too should their darling “expert” blogger Eliot Higgins, aka Brown Moses, the author of this inconclusive “conclusive report.”

Fifty Shades of Brown

Aside from the deceptive language and misleading statements, there is a broader issue that must be addressed, namely the reliability of the source of this so called study. Perhaps first we should dispense with the use of the term “study” as that would imply experts using objective facts, data, etc. Rather, what we are dealing with is a politically motivated report by a source that has already been discredited numerous times.

The report comes from an organization called Bellingcat, purportedly an independent citizen journalism platform that uses social media and other open source information to draw conclusions about everything from military hardware movements to the firing of missiles and artillery. Of course it should immediately raise questions that The Guardian’s article is co-authored by one Eliot Higgins, a self-proclaimed “military expert” who founded the “Brown Moses” blog. Why is this important? Because Bellingcat is a creation of the same Eliot Higgins. Indeed, Bellingcat’s Kickstarter page made no secret of the fact that “Bellingcat is a website founded by Brown Moses… the pseudonym for Eliot Higgins, a laid-off government worker turned blogger turned weapons analysis expert and leading source of information on the conflict in Syria.”

A close look at some of the blurbs noted on the Kickstarter page reveals that this “independent blogger” has been touted by The Guardian, Deutsche Welle, UK’s Channel 4, The Daily Beast, and many other corporate media outlets. Anyone with an understanding of how hard it is to actually be an independent analyst knows that such establishment outlets do not simply promote independent media that provides thoughtful analysis. Rather, Brown Moses and Bellingcat have been seized upon as a convenient foil to true alternative media, spinning the establishment narrative under the guise of “independent reporting.” However, let us not simply deride this obvious sham. Let us evaluate Brown Moses’ own record, which for an “expert” is dismal.

Higgins aka Brown Moses aka BM claimed to have proven that the chemical weapons attack on Ghouta, Syria on August 21, 2013 could only have been carried out by the Syrian military and government. His claims are based on his own “expert” analysis of missile trajectories and other “evidence” he claims to have obtained through videos and other open source information. Of course, in making this claim, Higgins places himself in direct opposition to former UN weapons inspector Richard Lloyd and Prof. Theodore Postel of MIT, the authors of an actual report from the MIT Science, Technology, and Global Security Working Group entitled “Possible Implications of Faulty US Technical Intelligence in the Damascus Nerve Agent Attack of August 21, 2013.” The report, conducted by real experts, not armchair bloggers, concluded that the Syrian government could not have carried out the attack, and that such intelligence was nearly used as justification for yet another aggressive war.

Also debunking BM’s spurious charges is the report from Pulitzer Prize winning investigative journalist Seymour Hersh which revealed the existence of a classified US Defense Intelligence Agency briefing which noted unequivocally that the Al Nusra Front had its own chemical weapons, not to mention deep ties to Saudi and Turkish intelligence and chemical arms suppliers. Hersh’s reporting finally firmly established the fact that the rebels were indeed capable of carrying out the attack on East Ghouta, and that they had help from Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and possibly other regional actors. And so, not only did they have the motive (to blame Assad for using chemical weapons while international investigators were in Syria, thereby justifying a military intervention and regime change), but also the means and opportunity. This is an essential point because the entire ‘case’ against Assad relied on the fact that only Damascus was technologically and logistically capable of carrying out such an attack.

But BM contended that he was right, Hersh, Lloyd, and Postel were wrong, and that the narrative should reflect that. So, on the one hand we have a blogger with no formal training in ballistics, physics, or any relevant scientific or military field, and on the other we have a Pulitzer Prize winner with decades of experience and high-level contacts and sources all over the world. We have the word of some guy in an apartment in the UK, or the scientifically arrived at findings of a former chemical weapons inspector (read actual expert) and an internationally respected Professor of Science, Technology, and National Security Policy at MIT, a world renowned academic and research institution. And which do you think The Guardian chose to promote?

But BM’s noxious odor also pervades the reporting on the downing of MH 17, yet another story that The Guardian utterly distorted, before mostly dropping it from the headlines when the western narrative was discredited. In an August 2, 2014 article written by Higgins entitled “MH17 Missiles Can’t Hide From These Internet Sleuths,” Higgins claims to have concluded that Russia or the anti-Kiev rebels must have shot down the plane with a Buk missile launcher – a weapons system also in the possession of Kiev’s military. What is his evidence? It’s a series of photographs published in various media outlets that he cannot corroborate in any way. Instead, this “sleuth” is making his case based on faith – faith that the photographs were taken where and when they claim to have been, and show what they claim to show.

Of course, it has since been publicly acknowledged on more than one occasion that photographs purporting to show Russian military incursions into Ukraine have been fabricated and/or misrepresented causing tremendous embarrassment for US and European governments that have repeatedly claimed to have such evidence. But our dear BM is unfazed by such revelations. Instead, he seems to simply shriek louder. Rather than leaving analysis of MH 17 to aviation and military experts, he peddles his “opinion.” Rather than acknowledging the bias in his own reporting, to say nothing of the limitations of armchair technical analysis, he continues to grow his image, and with it, the lies, omissions, and distortions he propagates.

And so we return to the new “study” by Higgins and his Bellingcat group of “digital detectives.” They are obviously front-and-center in the western media because their conclusions are aligned with the US-NATO political agenda. They are a de facto arm of the western corporate media and military-industrial complex, providing the veneer of “independent analysis” in order to penetrate the blogosphere and social media platforms where the mainstream narrative is being questioned, scrutinized, and discredited. Bellingcat and Higgins’ names should be known to everyone, but not because their analysis is worthwhile. Rather, they need to become household names so that those who understand how western propaganda and soft power actually works, will be on the lookout for more of their disinformation.

Perhaps The Guardian should also be more careful in how it presents its information. By promoting Higgins and his discredited outfit, they are once again promoting disinformation for the purposes of selling war. The US almost went to war with Syria (which it is doing now anyway) based on the flawed intelligence and “analysis” of people like Higgins. Naturally, everyone remembers how The Guardian, like all of its corporate media brethren, helped to sell the Iraq War based on complete lies. Have they learned nothing? It would seem so.

But those interested in peace and truth, we have learned something about propaganda and lies used to sell war. We who have called out these lies repeatedly – from Iraq in 2003, to Syria and Ukraine today – we once again repudiate the false narrative and the drumbeat for war. We reject the corporate media propagandists and their “alternative media” appendages. We stand for peace. And unlike The Guardian and Higgins, we stand on firm ground.

Eric Draitser  can be reached at


February 21, 2015 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , | 2 Comments

UN, banks and oil palm giants feast on the stolen land of Uganda’s dispossessed

By Anne van Schaik & Oliver Tickell | Ecologist  | February 19, 2015

A small community in Uganda is challenging a UN-backed international oil palm venture that has expropriated small farmers and obliterated an entire forest on a Lake Victoria island to establish a vast plantation. Three years after the grab, Friends of the Earth groups are backing the islanders legal action, which is launched today.

Fighting a land grab can seem like a hopeless cause: the odds are hardly even when farmers without land or a source of income are pitted against multinational corporations, European banks and UN Agencies. However in Uganda, one community is fighting back.

Four years ago, an oil palm plantation partly operated by the oil palm giant Wilmar International began on Bugula, a highly biodiverse island on Lake Victoria. Then home to about one hundred small-scale farmers, the project was sold to them with extravagant promises of employment and development.

Yet today, 3,600 hectares of pristine forest have been destroyed, replaced with a vast swathe of oil palm, and many farmers and their families find themselves destitute with little compensation – if any – awarded to them for the loss of their land.

Finding themselves in increasingly desperate circumstances, three of them are today launching their legal action on behalf of the rest of the community against the oil palm company, Oil Palm Uganda Limited (OPUL), demanding the restitution of their land and compensation for lost crops and income.

Although nominally independent, OPUL is 90% owned by Bidco Uganda, itself a joint venture between the oil palm giant Wilmar International, Josovina Commodities and Bidco Oil Refineries, a Kenya-based company. Wilmar International holds at least 39% of the shares in OPUL and is providing technical expertise for the project.

In launching the legal action in Masaka today, the Bugula islanders are taking on more than just these mighty corporations.

The oil palm project is backed by the Ugandan government, which even helped to finance it, and by a United Nations agency: the UN International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), which is “directly overseeing” the project after providing a $52 million loan.

So this is ‘improving access to land and tenure security’?

Established in 1974 after the World Food Conference, IFAD’s ‘motto’ is “Enabling poor rural people to overcome poverty”. Its Financing Policies and Criteria state that the projects it finances should incorporate “engagement with indigenous peoples” and “improving access to land and tenure security”.

The Bugula project is carried out under IFAD’s ‘Vegetable Oil Development Project – Phase 2‘ which claims to be aimed at “increasing the domestic production of vegetable oil and its byproducts, thus raising rural incomes for smallholder producers and ensuring the supply of affordable vegetable oil products to Ugandan consumers.”

According to IFAD, “Oil palm activities are carried out on Bugula Island in Kalangala District (Ssesse islands) and Buvuma Island in Mukono District. In the course of the project, about 3,000 smallholder farmers will directly benefit from oil palm development and 136,000 households from oilseed development. The project is directly supervised by IFAD.”

It records a total project cost of $146.2 million, to which it is contributing a $52.0 million loan repayable in 2018, co-financed with SNV Netherlands Development Organization, which is contributing $0.3 million. It claims to benefit 139,000 households.

The Ecologist spoke today with Alessandro Marini, IFAD’s Country Representative for Uganda by telephone, but he repeatedly refused to comment at that time because he was “on his way into a meeting”. He has since failed to respond to our email requesting his views.

The UK is the single biggest contributor to IFAD.

John Muyiisa’s story

In January, Anne van Schaik of Friends of the Earth Europe joined NAPE / Friends of the Earth Uganda in a fact-finding mission to Bugula Island, Kalangala, and visited the house of John Muyiisa, one of the plaintiffs.

John saw his 43-acre plot taken for the palm oil project, and has since not stopped fighting to get it back. John showed us the state of his house, which is about to collapse because he doesn’t have the resources to repair it. The foundations of the new house he was planning to build for his family have been left abandoned since the project began.

When he showed us the small plot that was left to him, John said: “We all depended on this land. My land was not only my income but also a secured future income for my children. It would have provided me with the money I needed to buy a new house. Now I have lost my land and our plans are shattered.” These concerns have found little sympathy among local government officials.

We also visited the nearby island of Buvuma, where IFAD has financed another oil palm project. When we expressed our interest to hear from the local community about the effects of the island’s palm oil project, they exhausted themselves by explaining the benefits of the project.

“There will be electricity, employment, new roads, and extra income for local palm oil growers”, officials told us. This sounded all-too familiar to what we heard during a visit in 2013, but two years on, these promises seem emptier than ever.

Once we had finished speaking with the officials, we joined them at a community meeting at the district house to discuss compensation for lost land. When the chairperson gave farmers the floor to talk about the effects of the project, many raised their hands.

They talked about how the compensation had been inadequate, how it is totally unclear to them how it had been calculated, and how some of them didn’t want to leave their land but were given no choice. Clearly embarrassed and annoyed, a local official responded and corrected them. “People should not first sign an agreement and then complain after”, he said.

His unsympathetic stance was mirrored by other government officials on both islands. Often we heard jokes about how farmers drank away their compensation money in bars, got themselves a second wife or otherwise managed to fritter it away.

This indifference, although unspoken, is implicitly shared by IFAD, BIDCO, OPUL and Wilmar. Indeed, the chain of responsibility stretches back further – to banks in Europe and the USA whose financial support sets the wheels in motion for these devastating land grabs.

Europe’s mega-banks financing palm oil explosion

Taking the case of Wilmar International, in 2014 US and EU financiers had a total of €371 million of shares in the corporation, and 1.1 billion Euro in loans outstanding to them.

For instance in the Netherlands, ING held more than €26 million in shares; the British bank HSBC held €298 million in loans, while BNP Paribas and Dutch Rabobank held €189 million and €111 million respectively. Deutsche Bank held €4 million in shares and €12 million in outstanding loans.

Like Wilmar, many of these financiers have adopted policies to address the environmental, social and governance impacts of their investments. However, there is no accountability mechanism in place for most of these commitments, and so there is no financial or legal incentive for financiers to follow through.

This means that many European financial institutions, through their investments in agribusiness projects, are supporting a significant number of what are in fact land grabs in the global South. Such incidents are widespread and growing: new cases are reported to civil society organisations on a near-weekly basis in countries from Cambodia and Papua New Guinea to Indonesia, Myanmar and Nigeria.

Europe needs to take action at the political level. Both by ensuring financial institutions on its soil are not complicit in land grabs, and by voting this year to finish reforms to halt the expansion of agrofuels which compete for cropland.

UN-IFAD must hang its head in shame

And clearly IFAD is an organization crying out for abolition. Its financing of the Bugula Island land grab is in clear violation of its financing principles and criteria, indeed the very purpose of its existence – “Enabling poor rural people to overcome poverty”

While IFAD speaks of “community-driven development approach to fighting rural poverty“, “improving access to land and tenure security”, “dynamic and inclusive rural development“, “food and nutrition security for all”, “inclusive growth and poverty eradication”, and “sustainable smallholder agriculture” it is actually financing land-grabbing projects that achieve the precise reverse of all its empty rhetoric.

Indeed it is robbing poor farmers and farming communities of their land and livelihoods, leaving them destitute, and handing over their wealth for plunder by foreign corporations and profiteering financiers.

As for John and the rest of the former farmers of Bugula, the next steps in their fight for justice will be taken in court in Masaka. With pressure coming at them from both sides, the message to oil IFAD, palm companies and financiers alike is clear: the battle against land grabs is on.

Action: to support John Muyiisa’s struggle in his search for legal redress for the farmers of Kalangala, please visit our crowdfunding page.

February 21, 2015 Posted by | Deception, Environmentalism, Malthusian Ideology, Phony Scarcity | , , , , | Leave a comment

Censored voices of Israeli soldiers become uncensored in documentary 50 years later

By Jessica Purkiss | MEMO | February 20, 2015

Voices censored by the Israeli army for nearly 50 years can finally be heard in a powerful documentary that recently premiered in the Sundance Film Festival.

After an initial introduction “Censored Voices” leads into grainy footage showing the triumphant return of Israeli soldiers from the 1967 war. The streets are lined with people celebrating- Israel had just won the war. Fighting against the forces of Egypt, Syria and Jordan, the odds had seemed stacked against the young nation however, after just 6 days, Israel proclaimed victory tripling the area under their control. The soldiers were returning as heroes.

Weeks after the war ended, Avraham Shapira and Amos Oz travelled from kibbutz to kibbutz with a borrowed reel-to-reel tape recorder. They asked the returned soldiers to recount their emotions. They wanted to, in the words of Oz, “try to explain the fact that we’ve all encountered, that people did not come back happy from this war. There is a sense of sadness that the newspapers don’t address.” But when they moved to publish what they had gathered, the Israeli government censored 70 percent of the material. Shapira published the remaining 30 percent in his book “The Seventh Day: Soldiers’ Talk about the Six-Day War.”

Years on, filmmaker Mor Loushy convinced Shapira to give her access to the tapes. She traced some of the voices they recorded and asked the men behind them to take part in the documentary. We listen as these men, now almost 50 years older, hear the recordings for the first time and the past erupts into the present.

“Several times we captured guys, positioned them and just killed them,” one veteran recalls. Another says: “I was amazed at the calmness with which I was shooting… it was like at an amusement park.” One returning soldier tells of a time he killed an Egyptian soldier, and when gathering up the man’s papers finds a picture of his children- only then does it seem he registers this man as a human being.

After the war ends, the brutality does not stop. They recount orders to shoot Egyptian soldiers even after the ceasefire had begun, the callous killing of Syrian men, now refugees, yards away from their wives and children and a 70 year old Palestinian man forced to carry his lifetime’s belongings on his back- scenes that echo those of the Holocaust. Watching the elderly man take one last look at his house and weep, one of the soldiers says: “I had an abysmal feeling I was evil, a despicable person and nothing can make that feeling go away.”

The documentary takes an unflinching look at Israeli atrocities during a point in history that has been enshrined as a moment of victory within the Israeli psyche. The men today are mostly disillusioned with the Israeli state and the brand of Zionism it represents. Some say they have given up on peace or humanity, but they do not seem to be anti-Zionism or anti-Israel. It is much more of an anti-war documentary. As one of the few honest accounts of what happened in 1967 through the eyes of those who were part of it, it has great value. As Israel continues to conscript its youth into war, the tales they tell will mirror that of their grandchildren and their grandchildren’s grandchildren.

Towards the end of the documentary one soldier ponders on the future of Israel; “Are we destined to bomb villages every decade for defence purposes?” In 1967, he was tragically close to the truth.

February 21, 2015 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , | 2 Comments

Israel is still banning Gaza students from West Bank universities

MEMO | February 20, 2015

Palestinian students from Gaza are still prevented by Israel from studying at West Bank universities, after an announcement this week to the contrary was retracted as a mistake.

On Wednesday, Israel’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) announced that a quota of 50 students would be permitted to exit Gaza “for the purpose of academic studies” in the West Bank. However, as related by NGO Gisha, the very same evening, COGAT clarified that there had been a “clerical error” in the relevant document, and that there would be no such permits.

The Israeli government has opposed Palestinians from Gaza studying in the West Bank on the grounds of ‘security’. The High Court of Justice has also rejected petitions by human rights groups on the matter, including one filed on behalf of five women studying gender, democracy and law.

In 2009, 21-year-old, Bethlehem University student Berlanty Azzam was arrested at a West Bank checkpoint and immediately returned to the Gaza Strip, after a solider noted Gaza City as the town of residence on her ID.

The ill-fated announcement was included on a list of various measures apparently prepared by Israel to “ease” restrictions. According to reports from COGAT and Palestinian officials, it would appear that the number of merchant permits will rise, as will the type and quantity of goods permitted to exit from Gaza for sale in the West Bank.

Back in November, two truckloads of wooden planks left Gaza for sale in the West Bank, the first time that wood from Gaza has been sold in the West Bank since the blockade was imposed in 2007. The same month, some truckloads of clothes, fish, and agricultural products made the same journey, again for the first time.

This is less indicative of Israeli authorities’ generosity but rather highlights the deception that is the ‘security’ rationale for the restrictions in the first place. Why were Gaza’s farmers allowed to send cucumbers to the West Bank on November 6, 2014 – but not before? Why won’t Israel lift restrictions on exports, save for piecemeal exceptions?

The continued refusal to allow Palestinian students from Gaza to study in West Bank universities is further evidence that Israel’s approach is one based on collective punishment. Worth remembering, the next time someone tries justifying yet another apartheid policy in the name of ‘security’.

February 21, 2015 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , | 1 Comment

UN Peace Coordinator Unwelcome by Palestinians

By Nicola Nasser | Al-Ahram | February 20, 2015

The PLO (Palestine Liberation Organisation) did not object to the appointment of new UN special coordinator for the Middle East peace process Nikolay Mladenov, although he was described by Tayseer Khaled, a member of the PLO’s Executive Committee, as “persona non grata” — not trusted by the Palestinians and nor qualified for the job.

The 15-member UN Security Council unanimously voted to appoint Bulgarian Mladenov, 42, to succeed Holland’s Robert Serry. He would also be the representative of the UN secretary general to the International Quartet (the UN, US, EU and Russia), and personal representative of the UN chief to the PLO and the Palestinian Authority (PA).

Although protocol allows the PLO the right to reject diplomatic representatives to the organisation, observers cannot understand why it accepted Mladenov. There is no convincing answer except a futile desire by the PLO to appease the UN and Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, at a time when PLO diplomatic efforts are focused on the UN and its agencies.

Mladenov not only failed in a similar mission as UN envoy to Iraq and resigned, he is someone who describes himself — and is described by the leaders of the Israeli occupation — as “a good friend of Israel”. As Bulgarian foreign minister, Mladenov suggested a “military alliance” between Bulgaria and Israel. He has often spoken about his bias towards “Israel’s right to exist” and its right “to defend itself” against Palestinians resisting Israeli occupation. He even admitted to being a Free Mason, served Jewish billionaire George Soros, and publicly advocated the US’s “constructive chaos” policies in the Arab world. In fact, his Jewish origins may be the least controversial aspect of him.

Meanwhile, the occupation state does not hesitate in ignoring the UN, its resolutions and representatives, disregarding and even assassinating them when necessary. Most recently, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman threatened to “expel” Mladenov’s predecessor Serry as “persona non grata”. Shortly before that, William Schabas, the head of the UN commission investigating the occupation’s recent war on the Gaza Strip, resigned after Israel refused to cooperate with him or allow him to enter the country.

After the UN tolerated the assassination of its first envoy to Palestine, Swedish Count Folke Bernadotte in 1948, at the hands of the Zionist Stern Gang led by Yitzhak Shamir (who later became prime minister of the occupation state), Israel was emboldened to adopt a permanent policy of disregarding the UN without deterrence so far.

In fact, over the past two years the occupation state has carried out a proxy war against the UN. It has facilitated logistics, intelligence, firepower and medical assistance to allow the domination of militias fighting the Syrian regime on its side of the disengagement zone between the liberated and occupied Arab Syrian Golan. This compelled the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) to withdraw after its positions were attacked, dozens of its troops kidnapped and their weapons and equipment seized. Until today, the UN has not dared to rectify the situation, which resulted in the collapse of the UN-sponsored ceasefire and rules of engagement between Syria and Israel.

The Middle East is teeming with international peace envoys. The UN has one, so does the US, the EU, Russia, China and the Quartet. Their names change without anything on the ground in occupied Palestine changing. Except for expanding the occupation through settlements under the “peace” umbrella these envoys provide, without any hope that the international community they represent will be able to effect any real tangible change for the present and future of the Palestinian people on the ground.

So what can Mladenov do that his predecessors, the UN, the Quartet, the Arab League and others, couldn’t?

Khaled believes the real test, to remove Palestinian doubts about Mladenov’s role and mission, will be his position on the siege on Gaza and reconstruction there. However, Mladenov’s track record does not indicate there is cause for optimism. Nor does the track record of “UN special coordinators” since the creation of the position in 1994 and the subsequent expansion of its role, as well as the extensive history of choosing UN and US envoys of Jewish origins or related in the first degree to Jews, such as Henry Kissinger, Madeleine Albright, John Kerry, Dennis Ross, Martin Indyk and Quartet representative Tony Blair.

On 6 February, the secretaries general of the UN and Arab League issued a joint statement expressing “deep concern” about conditions in Gaza. They urged Arab and international donors to honour their financial pledges made at the Cairo Conference last October “as soon as possible”, in order to rebuild the Gaza Strip and end the siege there. A few days ago, James Rowley, UN coordinator for humanitarian affairs in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, sent out an “urgent call” for these commitments to be fulfilled and an “immediate” lift of the siege on Gaza, because he is “very concerned another conflict will break out” if not.

The Palestinian Foreign Ministry described the statement by the Quartet on 8 February after it met in Munich, Germany, as “short of expectations” because it ignored “all the old-new and evolving truths” of the occupation state.

The Quartet also said it is “deeply concerned” about the “difficult conditions in Gaza where reconstruction needs to be quicker” and urged donors to “pay their financial pledges as soon as possible”. However, it linked this to encouraging both sides to “restart negotiations as soon as possible”.

Restarting talks “as soon as possible”, nonetheless, must await the outcome of general elections in Israel and the US. This means the Palestinian people must wait for another two years in the vain hope of reconstructing Gaza. It is obvious the occupation state is enjoying the luxury of time, making easy the occupation without resistance, as well as building settlements without deterrence.

Before handing over the reins to Mladenov, Serry described the failure of donors to pay their dues as “scandalous” and warned “if there is no progress in the coming months” — not two years — towards a two-state solution, “the reality will be a one state [solution]”: the single state of Israel. Former UN coordinator Terry Rod Larsen said in 2002, “the Palestinian patient is dying in the interim.”

Last December, Serry warned in his report to the Security Council that a war in Gaza “could re-ignite if conditions on the ground do not change” in the besieged Gaza Strip. It is clear that what Serry described as a “deadly diplomatic vacuum” coupled with the ongoing siege on rebuilding Gaza, are an explosive recipe in the besieged Gaza Strip, the outcome and ramifications of which are unpredictable.

The “scandal” of donors not paying their dues to rebuild Gaza, as Serry described it, under the pretext that the PLO government does not control the Gaza Strip, is a green light given by the international community to the occupation state to carry out another military assault on national resistance forces in Gaza.

The scandal of Arabs not paying their pledges at Arab summits to provide the PA with a financial “safety net” amounts to flagrant Arab pressure on the PLO to accept the Quartet’s proposal to restart talks with the occupation state “as soon as possible”.

This is Mladenov’s dual mission as the new UN special coordinator for the Middle East peace process. PLO negotiators continue to wait for a breakthrough by “peace” envoys that are imposed on them and appointed by the US and the UN, although they represent the occupation state. Mladenov is the most recent. He will not change anything on the ground.

Translation by Palestine Chronicle

Nicola Nasser is a veteran Arab journalist based in Bir Zeit, West Bank of the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories. He can be reached at:

February 21, 2015 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , , | 1 Comment

Hamas says no militants crossed into Egypt from Gaza

MEMO | February 21, 2015


Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri

Palestinian faction Hamas on Saturday denied reports of militants crossing into Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula from the Gaza Strip.

“There haven’t been any militants crossing [into Egypt from Gaza], especially after the destruction of all underground tunnels and the deployment of [Egyptian and Palestinian] security forces on border,” Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said in a statement.

Abu Zuhri called on Arab parties to shoulder their responsibility in standing against any form of “slander and incitement” against the Palestinian people.

He also went on to appeal to scholars and intellectuals to organize a major media campaign to expose what he described as “pro-Israel media”.

On Friday, the United Arab Emirates-based Sky News Arabia reported that the Egyptian army raised the alert level in the country’s eastern Sinai Peninsula following reports that militants from self-styled “Army of Islam” group crossed into Egypt from Gaza.

The Egyptian army has not commented on the report.

Last month, an Egyptian court declared the military wing of Hamas, Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades, a “terrorist organisation.”

Abu Zuhri had described the court verdict as “politically-motivated”, and reiterated that his movement does not interfere in Egypt’s internal affairs.

February 21, 2015 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Wars for Israel | , , | Leave a comment

‘ISIL fight’ spells lucrative arms deals: UK arms maker

Press TV – February 21, 2015

British arms maker BAE Systems boasts lucrative weapons deals as the result of the so-called anti-ISIL fight. (File photo)

British arms maker BAE Systems boasts lucrative weapons deals as the result of the so-called anti-ISIL fight

British arms manufacturer BAE Systems has boasted hiking demand for its support services of war machines, citing growing engagement of its Arab clients in the so-called anti-ISIL battle.

Speaking to journalists after posting the weapon maker’s 2014 spending, BAE’s Chief Executive Officer Ian King described the rise in demand as a “call to arms” and said, “You cannot let any performance degrade at this time when people are dependent on these assets,” RT reported Friday.

King further said the rise of the ISIL terror group as well as the persisting conflict in Ukraine would mean that governments will keep military spending high on their agenda despite degrading defense budgets due to austerity measures.

“We have a lot of bidding activity going on at the moment and a lot of support activity going on,” he said.

The report comes as some Middle Eastern states, including Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan, Bahrain, have joined the so-called anti-ISIL alliance led by the United States.

This is while some of the parties to the same coalition have been among the staunch supporters of the Takfiri groups operating against Syria over the past few years.

“For the first time in the Middle East, the big Middle East countries are deploying their assets against IS[IL],” King said. “Urgent operational requirements are high, support arrangements are high. It is high up on people’s agendas.”

According to the report, BAE’s support service to Saudi Arabia is its third largest market after Britain and the US. However, there is no evidence that the Saudis have engaged in any strikes against the ISIL terrorist group, which is widely believed to be financed by the US-backed kingdom and its other Persian Gulf rulers.

US admits ISIL established by its allies

The development comes after a former US military official admitted earlier this week that Washington’s Middle Eastern allies established the ISIL as part of a strategy to eliminate the Lebanese Islamic resistance group Hezbollah.

“ISIS got started through funding from our friends and allies,” said retired US general Wesley Clark on Tuesday, using another acronym for ISIL, adding the only group that would fight Hezbollah is ISIL because they are “zealots” and resemble a “Frankenstein.”

‘BAE prosperity at expense of human rights’

Critics, however, insist that BAE’s emerging prosperity comes at the expense of human rights and ethical trading. BAE weaponry is also thought to have fallen into the hands of the ISIL terrorists.

Speaking to RT, Andrew Smith of Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) described the remarks by BAE’s chief as “tasteless.”

“This is yet another tasteless reminder that arms companies like BAE depend on war and conflict in order to make a profit. BAE isn’t concerned about human rights or democracy; many of the governments it sells weapons to are among the most oppressive in the world,” he said.

CAAT had also emphasized in the past that the British government is highly in favor of international weapons trading.

February 21, 2015 Posted by | Economics, Militarism, Wars for Israel | , , , , , | Leave a comment

US and Turkey, Pouring Gasoline on the Fire

By Richard Edmondson | Uprooted Palestinians | February 19, 2015

The US and Turkey have come to an agreement under which US military personnel will begin training so-called moderate rebels to fight in Syria. The announcement was made Tuesday. This is not just a foolish move; it is the equivalent of pouring gasoline on a fire.

There are no moderate rebels. The moderate people in Syria support their government. If Obama is really serious about fighting ISIS he should join forces with the Syrian government and with Hezbollah–because they are the “boots on the ground” who are taking the fight to the terrorists.

How will the US know the “moderates” it trains aren’t really ISIS secret agents? That may sound funny, but I’m serious. In a report here we are told that the US has so far “screened” about 1,200 rebel fighters  said to have been drawn from “several moderate groups in Syria.”

According to the report, the “screening” process is being headed up by Maj. Gen. Michael Nagata. The plans are to train about 5,000 “moderates” per year, but the process is going slowly because each applicant is supposedly being thoroughly checked. Some 100 US personnel are already in the area setting up three training camps–in Turkey, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia–and eventually about 1,000 US troops are expected to be involved in the program.

Question: how does Nagata know that at least some of the “moderates” being recruited for this effort aren’t in reality deep-cover ISIS operatives? Answer: he doesn’t. And even if they are moderates now, what’s to stop them from going over to the other side once they get their American training and equipment?

We saw an instance, late last year, in which two “moderate” rebel groups who had received US training–Harakat Hazm and the Syrian Revolutionary Front–laid down their weapons and surrendered after coming into military conflict with Al-Nusra. The two groups had been supplied with GRAD rockets and TOW anti-tank missiles. All of this equipment ended up in Al-Nusra’s possession. It is said that Harakat Hazm gave up “without firing a shot,” and that some of its members even defected over to the takfiri militants. These events took place in early November of 2014, and they proved somewhat embarrassing for the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, or WINEP.

In April of 2014, WINEP fellow Jeffrey White published an article in which he referred to Harakat Hazm as “rebels worth supporting.” I discussed White’s piece in a post entitled The Myth of the ‘Moderate’ Rebels, which I put up on October 15 last year. At that time, Harakat Hazm had not yet surrendered to Al-Nusra, but the post included a video about the organization that placed its supposed “moderation” into considerable doubt. Below is that video. Starting at about 1:04 in you will see footage showing five men seated at a table. The one in the center is Salim Idris, former chief of staff of the Free Syrian Army–another supposed “moderate.”

In my article I noted that the best way for the US to defeat ISIS, perhaps the only way, is to join forces with the Syrian government. But this will not happen, I also mentioned, because it runs counter to the wishes of the Zionist lobby in America, which wants to see regime change in Syria.

Now, just months later, one has to wonder: was it Maj. Gen. Michael Nagata who made the decision to give GRAD rockets and TOW missiles to Harakat Hazm? Nagata was already on the job training Syrian rebels in October of last year, and you can go here to see a report filed at that time that offers a little bit of insight into his background. The report doesn’t leave you with a great deal of confidence in him.

Once the initial 1,200 “moderates” have undergone their training, what happens then? Will they simply be wished the best of luck, sent off into Syria, at which point that’s the end of it? Hardly. According to a report here, once they are in Syria, the “moderate” rebels will be given the power to call in US airstrikes, which opens up a host of possibilities, including a scenario in which US air power is manipulated by those on the ground for purpose of attacking rival rebel groups. And this, too, has happened before–in Afghanistan.

How much of our tax dollars are being wasted on this enterprise? How much is being wasted now–and how much will be wasted in the years to come? Another consideration is the chance that all this will escalate. Those who remember history will recall that the Vietnam war started out with just a small number of US “advisers” in the country to train South Vietnamese troops. In 1959, a total of just 760 US personnel were in South Vietnam; in 1960, the number grew to 900. By 1968, America had more than a half million troops stationed in the country.

As mentioned above, one of the US training camps being set up is in Saudi Arabia. The Wahhabist ideology was born in Saudia Arabia, and the kingdom today remains its epicenter. Exactly what sort of persons do you suppose Nagata will be providing training for in his camp there? Perhaps they will include the enlightened followers of a Saudi cleric who recently explained why, in his view, the earth doesn’t rotate. The cleric has been identified as Sheikh Bandar al-Khaibari:

The above video surfaced earlier this week. The following video, below, was posted three months ago and shows Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah discussing, in a somewhat bemused manner, the beliefs of clerics like al-Khaibari:

Not only is the “moderate rebel” a myth, but the notion that Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar are sincere partners in fighting ISIS is also a myth. All three countries have been heavily implicated in providing assistance to the very terrorists the Obama administration claims to be fighting. Due to the low price of oil, filling up gasoline cans is cheap these days.

The only people who attempt to put out fires with gasoline are either, a) the very stupid; or, b) those who only pretend to want to see the fire put out but who in reality are seeking to create a bigger fire.

In a speech given on Thursday, February 19, Obama asserted that the world is “united against the scourge of violent extremism and terrorism.” This is a fairly accurate statement as far as it goes; the vast majority of the world’s people are indeed united on that point. The question, of course, becomes: does Obama really not know who his friends are in this fight?

The Middle East is really not that hard to figure out. The best, the brightest, the most patriotic of the region–these people already know what side they are on; they have joined the ranks of Hezbollah, the Syrian and Lebanese Armies, and the Syrian National Defense Force. They will fight and they will defeat America’s trained proxies, and then when nothing is left but for America to send in its own ground forces, they will fight America as well.

This is the course our leaders are presently headed on–all for Israel.

February 21, 2015 Posted by | Militarism, Video, War Crimes, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , | Leave a comment