A recording has emerged of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu proposing commercial favors to an Israeli newspaper owner in return for positive coverage.
In a report aired by Israel’s Channel Two television station on Sunday, there is a recording of Netanyahu allegedly offering a commercially beneficial deal to the owner of the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper, Arnon Mozes.
The report claimed that Netanyahu had said he would reduce the circulation of the pro-Netanyahu newspaper, Israel Hayom, if Mozes’ paper took a more favorable stance towards him. A drop in the circulation of Hayom would be a direct benefit to Mozes as it is his main rival in advertising revenues.
The report suggested that the recording was made a few months ago although the exact date is unknown. It also noted that Mozes made the recording.
Netanyahu is already under investigation over alleged corruption charges related to receiving illegal donations and gifts.
He is also under investigation over suspicions that he accepted one million euros (about 1.1 million dollars) from French fraudster Arnaud Mimran for campaign funds during the 2009 Israeli elections.
There are also calls for Netanyahu to be investigated for his role in a billion-dollar deal to purchase three submarines from German shipbuilder ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems GmbH.
The Netanyahu family has faced scrutiny over accusations that their lifestyles are out of touch with regular Israelis. Netanyahu’s wife, Sara, has also come under fire for her lavish tastes and abusive behavior toward staff members.
I was asked to write this short article to be published in the January newsletter of the Society for Academic Freedom and Scholarship (SAFS). A longer version of the article, with references, will be published in a 2017 SAFS conference proceeding.
If we accept an operational definition of “pseudo-science” as whatever any critic of so-called “pseudo-science” probably means, then vehement criticisms of the said “pseudo-sciences” are generally made for one of four reasons:
- To invalidate unworthy ideas, as part of the normal course of science itself — a classic example is the 1989 case of “cold fusion” and its fallout, in the field of condensed matter physics and chemistry
- To celebrate and maintain the middle-class belief that modern society is based on scientific knowledge; to fight against idolatry in the realm of ideas; to participate in improving public discourse and consciousness
- To provide false legitimacy for problematic areas of establishment science that survive owing to systemic financial and professional interests — the preeminent example being establishment medicine (see below)
- To attack a legitimate criticism of a dominant scientific position (collateral attack by appeal to authority or “consensus”, using denigration)
Thus, the full array of motives for engaging in the sport of “pseudo-science” bashing spans a spectrum from good scientific practice to ordinary social behaviour in structured society to support for organized fraud to outright base competition that is incompatible with the science ideal. Here, I outline the last three reasons, as follows. A longer version of this article, with references, will be published elsewhere.
Popular support for establishment science as state religion
Given the epidemic lack of understanding of science concepts, it is not surprising that there is a wide array of beliefs that are at odds with the school lessons about science, including: astrology, “intelligent design”, “free energy”, “orgone”, “creation biology”, and homeopathy.
Realistically, virtually all citizens are entirely unable to critically evaluate what we take as being scientific truth, regarding public policy and regulatory questions. Thus, “public education” means state propaganda. We are reduced to “scientists have concluded” or “there is a scientific consensus that” and so on.
Systemically, from an operational perspective, establishment science is a state religion. It is not anchored in empirical evidence that can be evaluated by the non-expert individual using reason and intellectual discernment. It frames and supports the established order. It provides legitimacy to government programs. It purports to appease our deepest quests for meaning, and supplies a creationist mythology (cosmology, string theory, and so on). Its high priests are venerated and occupy top ranks in the class hierarchy.
Ordinary well-educated citizens have invested in many beliefs delivered by establishment science, and have integrated these beliefs into their personal identities. It is therefore natural that middle-class and professional-class individuals have a learned and reflexive impulse to attack “pseudo-science”. These attacks can be individual or can coalesce via the animal behavioural collective phenomenon known as mobbing.
Legitimacy for problematic areas of establishment science
A stunning example is the organized barrage of criticism and legislation against “alternative medicine” that is largely benign and harmless, intended to imply that establishment medicine — said to be scientifically sound — is the only trustworthy system for repairing individual health.
The problem here is that establishment medicine is anything but shaped by objectively evaluated empirical evidence, and anything but scientifically sound. The eminent medical researcher Dr. John P.A. Ioannidis has demonstrated that “most published research findings are false”.
In North America, between 6% and 8% of citizens will be killed by medical errors of all types. In just one area of establishment medicine, Professor Dr. Peter C. Gøtzsche has come to the point of flatly concluding that long term use of psychiatric drugs cause more harm than good. In his words, based on a decade of research: “Psychiatric drugs are responsible for the deaths of more than half a million people aged 65 and older each year in the Western world, as I show below. Their benefits would need to be colossal to justify this, but they are minimal. … Overstated benefits and understated deaths …”
Attacking legitimate criticisms of establishment positions
Climate science has major domestic and geopolitical implications. It is routine to attack critics as immoral or crazy, and for influential actors and groups to seek legal instruments of intimidation and enforcement. The Wikipedia list of “pseudo-sciences” includes “climate change denial”.
This is a remarkable inclusion because several high-profile establishment climate scientists expressly reject the so-called “consensus”, including: Judy Curry (Georgia Institute of Technology), Richard Lindzen (MIT), Hendrik Tennekes (Royal Dutch Meteorological Institute), Nir Shaviv (Racah Institute of Physics), Craig D. Idso (Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change), and many others. Furthermore, detailed studies contradict claims that industrial-era CO2 has had a causal effect on climate and extreme-weather events.
Agitation against “pseudo-science” has two illegitimate interrelated societal mechanisms: Institutionally, it is propaganda (by word and by action) intended to legitimize and impose establishment science. Individually, it serves to preserve the identity-tied personal investment in belief of the teachings of establishment science.
For those of us who cling to the ideal of the university, a review of anti-“pseudo-science” agitation should lead us to support a strict meaning of academic freedom, which does not admit institutional suppression or containment of any chosen research direction and expression. We must trust that actual freedoms of research and expression lead to the best that society can be, through the discourse that arises, whatever that discourse will be.
Denis Rancourt is a former tenured full professor of physics at the University of Ottawa, Canada. He has published over 100 articles in leading scientific journals, and writes social theory articles. He is the author of the book Hierarchy and Free Expression in the Fight Against Racism
Trump’s tweets and comments are having a good effect already. An ex-CIA director warns Trump’s Comments Will Lead to ‘Wave’ of Resignations.
Former CIA acting director Michael Morell said President-elect Donald Trump’s rhetoric will undermine the agency by causing a “wave of resignations” and affecting its ability to work with foreign intelligence services.
“First, expect a wave of resignations. Attrition at the C.I.A., which has been remarkably low since Sept. 11, 2001, will skyrocket,” Morell wrote in a New York Times op-ed published Friday.
CIA Worse Than Useless
The CIA is worse than useless. They did not foresee the fall of the Berlin wall, any number of assassinations, Benghazi, 911, or anything else meaningful.
Worse yet, the CIA spied on allies, helped overthrow democratically elected governments in Iran and Ukraine (with disastrous consequences). The CIA was directly involved in the kidnapping and torture of US citizens, frequently not even getting the right person.
- Guardian : Senate torture report to be kept from public for 12 years after Obama decision
- RT: 10 most shocking facts we found in CIA torture report
- Wikipedia: Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA torture
From the the first link above.
Barack Obama has agreed to preserve the Senate’s landmark investigation into the CIA’s use of torture after 9/11, but his decision ensures that the document remains out of public view for at least 12 years and probably longer.
The full Senate torture report, which documented brutality by the CIA against at least 119 detained terrorism suspects, will be held out of public view at Obama’s presidential library.
I also strongly encourage you to read ‘A constitutional crisis’: the CIA turns on the Senate
Liars, Torturers, Murderers
The best possible news would be resignation of the entire CIA.
The UK government should immediately remove Israeli Embassy official Shia Masot from the country after he was filmed discussing how to “take down” a senior government minister, the Scottish National Party said today.
Shai Masot was caught on camera talking to Tory MP Robert Halfon’s former chief of staff Maria Strizzolo at a restaurant in Kensington in October. Masot can be seen saying deputy foreign minister Sir Alan Duncan is causing “a lot of problems” and describes foreign secretary Boris Johnson as “an idiot”.
Following an apology from the Israeli Ambassador Mark Regev the UK Government said it considered the matter closed which Alex Salmond has described as “completely unacceptable”.
However, SNP Foreign Affairs spokesperson Alex Salmond said: “It is completely unacceptable for the UK government to declare the matter closed – Shai Masot must go and go immediately before the end of his tenure at the Israeli Embassy.”
“Boris Johnson must right now revoke Mr Masot’s diplomatic status and remove him from the country as would most certainly have happened had the circumstances been reversed. Perhaps then the Israeli Government representatives will regard the foreign secretary as less of a fool.”
“I would expect the UK government to fully investigate this matter so that we can be confident our elected officials are free to carry out their jobs to the best of their ability and without fear of having their reputation smeared by Embassy officials who do not agree with their views.”
The oppressive, sectarian and violent nature of the Saudi state and its foreign policy is increasingly coming under the spotlight, even in mainstream Western media.
Yet the reality is not, as it is so often portrayed, that ‘civilized’ Britain is somehow sullying itself by ‘supporting’ the Saudi rogues. On the contrary, the Saudis are merely implementing a barbaric policy made in the West.
From Syria to Yemen, wherever there is bloodshed and massacre in the Middle East, Saudi money and guns are never far away. But behind the Saudis lies Anglo-American power. The deal today – as it has been for over a hundred years – is that, in exchange for a Western guarantee of their own security, the Al Sauds effectively cede control of their country’s foreign policy to the West. And the architect of that deal was the British state.
Before their alliance with the British, the Al Sauds were little more than murderous bandits, with little chance of achieving lasting power over any significant portion of the Arab peninsula.
Said Aburish, the biographer of the House of Saud, notes that whilst most Arabian tribes were settling or farming, Ibn Saud “was in the business of raiding other tribes to steal their camels, sheep and grain” – after which he typically “murdered all the men of the raided tribe to prevent future retaliation”.
As a result, the Al Sauds were reviled by most Arabs and Muslims, their leadership not even totally accepted amongst their own tribe, the Ennezza. This hostility between the Al Sauds and the other Arabs was deepened by their adherence to a particularly sectarian interpretation of Islam, Wahhabi’ism, which rejects as apostates pretty much every Muslim who does not subscribe to their medievalist philosophy.
Yet it was precisely this divisive quality which appealed to British imperialism. The British empire of the nineteenth century – guided by the philosophy of ‘divide and rule’ – was always on the lookout for groups lacking ‘native’ support to back, as they would be eternally dependent on British support and therefore could be reliably trusted to act as imperial agents. Furthermore, such groups would be utterly incapable of uniting their people into any kind of independent polity – always Britain’s worst fear within its colonial dominions.
From Syria to Yemen, wherever there is bloodshed and massacre in the Middle East, Saudi money and guns are never far away. But behind the Saudis lies Anglo-American power.
According to the leading historian of the developing Saudi-British relations in this period, Jacob Goldberg, the British elevated Ibn Saud above “people who were religiously, politically and strategically more important”. But this was, of course, the point. For the British, his relative unimportance was his greatest asset, for it left him utterly dependent on the British. Unlike his rivals, such as the Hashemites, he had no other source of power or authority beyond his alliance of convenience with the (Wahabbi’ist) Ikhwan fighters.
Thus, two years after Ibn Saud and his followers conquered Riyadh in 1902 – burning to death 1,200 of its inhabitants, and enslaving many of its women as trophies of their victory – the British began paying a stipend to Ibn Saud. The payment was greatly increased in 1911, with Ibn Saud using the money, says Aburish, to “expand and subsidize the loss-making colonies of soldier-saints of the Ikhwan, or ‘brothers’. [These] were fanatics of the Wahhabi sect to which Ibn Saud belonged, who were to provide the backbone of his conquering forces and whose savagery wreaked havoc across Arabia.”
Aburish noted that, “traditionally committed to individual freedom and achievement, the rest of the Muslims found the idea of the colonies and the fanaticism they produced totally unacceptable”.
Over the next few years – with British aid, arms and advisers – Ibn Saud and his warriors were able to defeat the rival Ibn Rasheeds and capture the Eastern Province of what is now Saudi Arabia. In 1915, Ibn Saud signed a treaty with the British which “elevated him to the role of a British-sponsored ruler of central and eastern Arabia”.
They knighted him the same year.
Ibn Saud’s conquests continued (although, as Aburish put it, “his conquests were no more than raids which, through British support, acquired a permanent nature”), and in 1925 his forces captured the Hijaz, where “as had been feared, Ibn Saud’s Ikhwan followers killed hundreds of males, including children, ransacked an untold number of houses, murdered non-Wahhabi religious leaders who opposed their brutal ways and destroyed whole towns”.
The region’s highly developed legal system was scrapped, and its institutions of representative government – complete with senate, cabinet, and party pluralism – were all abolished.
Instead, Ibn Saud appointed a council of advisers headed by the British Resident Harry St John Philby – and without a single native Saudi. The “feeling” noted by Sir Arthur Hirtel of the British India Office a year earlier – “that it would be good if Ibn Saud established himself in Mecca” – appeared to have been vindicated.
Two years later he had signed a new “friendship and cooperation treaty” with the British which ceded all control of external affairs to them. And he was clearly the right man for implementing ‘divide and rule’, creating border disputes with every one of his neighbors during the 1920s, including Iraq, Jordan, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman, the Yemen and the Trucial states (today’s UAE).
The depth of Ibn Saud’s loyalty to his imperial masters – and the shallowness of his religiosity – was subsequently revealed when in 1929 he turned on his Ikhwan enforcers. They had wanted to expand into Iraq and Kuwait (as their evangelism demanded), but Ibn Saud knew this would be frowned on by the British.
So, with British support, he attacked their base in the village of Sabila and massacred them. If the Ikhwan had been his SA, this was his ‘Night of the Long Knives’. As Aburish put it, “Ibn Saud set his relationship with his sponsors above his connection with religious zealots for whom he no longer had any use”. By this time, Ibn Saud’s British stipend had reached £60,000 per year – equivalent to two-thirds of the country’s national income. Three years later, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia – the only country in the world to be named after its ruling family – was officially founded.
As Aburish has concluded: “The simple, undeniable fact behind Ibn Saud’s rise to power was Britain’s interest in finding someone to deputize for it on the eve of the First World War… Ibn Saud, homeless and hungry, was there for the asking, cheap and willing to accommodate any sponsor”.
Indeed, Ibn Saud conceived of himself as an agent of the British from the very beginning. Like others before, he sought the sponsorship and protection of an imperial power, any imperial power, and following his rejection by the Ottomans, wrote this to the British resident in the Gulf: “May the eyes of the British government be fixed upon us and may we be considered as your proteges”.
Says Aburish, “Rather than acting as a unifier of the Arabs, Ibn Saud afforded an outside power, Britain, the comfort of keeping the Arabs and Muslims divided and protected its commercial and political interests, which opposed an Arab unifier at the helm.”
In the process, it is estimated that Britain’s protege had publicly executed 40,000 people and had the limbs amputated from another 350,000 during his campaign to subdue the peninsula – that is a total of 8 percent of the population either killed or mutilated in order to realize Britain’s desire that sectarian division should reign.
But for Britain – as, later, for the US – the choice of Ibn Saud as its Middle Eastern deputy has been a shrewd one, with the Saudis being the faithful enforcers of imperial skullduggery ever since.
From the very start, for example, the Saudis have been more than happy to throw the Palestinians under a bus to please the British. Throughout the 1930s, Ibn Saud ignored King Ghazi of Iraq’s call for a common Arab front against the colonization of Palestine, and then in 1936, when a 183 day Palestinian national strike was itself putting the British government under serious pressure, Ibn Saud persuaded the Palestinian Mufti to call the strike off, promising he would intercede with the British on the Palestinians’ behalf. British Foreign Office documents, however, show no record of this ‘intercession’ ever having taken place.
Three years later, in exchange for a £20 million payment, Ibn Saud accepted Britain’s proposal for a Jewish state on colonized Arab land. During the Arab-Israeli war of 1948, Saudi Arabia not only refused to send forces to Palestine, but even tried to prevent fighters from traveling there voluntarily, and ordered its newspapers to tone down their reporting of Palestinian suffering.
Today, of course, whilst publicly opposing Israel, the Saudis are perfectly willing to host the enormous Dhahran airbase of Israeli’s biggest military supplier and ally, the US.
In the 1980s, the Saudis encouraged (and financed) the Iraqi attack on Iran, and then kept oil prices low in order to maximize the war’s destructive effect on both countries. When the Iraqis wanted to sue for peace in the mid-1980s, they asked the Saudis to restrict production in order to prod outside powers into bringing the war to an end. Of course, the Saudis refused.
Saddam Hussein’s adviser Sa’ad Al Bassas commented later that “We knew they wanted the war to continue, but we were too dependent on them for financial support to complain out loud. They were following an American policy which called for weakening both countries”. In fact, this was precisely the British policy formulated in 1915, which called for a “weak and divided” Arabia.
In recent decades, the Saudi state has developed an additional niche role in the implementation of Anglo-American imperialism. As revolutionary liberation movements began to threaten the West’s dominion over the third world, especially from the 1970s and 80s onward, Saudi Arabia became the bankroller and conduit for covert, often illegal, Western policies to terrorize such movements and governments into submission. From the contras in Nicaragua, to the UNITA rebels in Angola, to the fascist Phalangists of Lebanon, to the apartheid regime in South Africa, CIA-backed sectarian terror outfits the world over became the recipients of Saudi largess. But it was in Afghanistan where this policy reached its apogee.
The Afghan revolution of 1978 brought the socialist PDPA movement to power. The new government immediately implemented a series of popular reforms including land reform and the constitutional recognition of women’s rights for the first time. The US and Britain saw such a movement as a threat to their control and exploitation of the third world, and especially feared its alliance with the Soviet bloc as undermining their global hegemony.
Beginning in mid-1979, the CIA began providing weapons to ultra right wing terror groups, who used Islam to justify attacks on the new government, its supporters, and its social infrastructure, including an assassination campaign which killed hundreds of teachers and civil servants. This support was designed, admitted Jimmy Carter’s adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski in 1996, not only to undermine the new government, but also to draw in the Soviet Union and bog them down in a demoralizing and costly conflict – that is, as he put it, to “give the USSR its Vietnam war”.
The US and Britain saw such a movement as a threat to their control and exploitation of the third world, and especially feared its alliance with the Soviet bloc as undermining their global hegemony.
The strategy worked. By 1980, the Soviet Union had sent troops to support the embattled Afghan government, but as the years went by – and US, British and Saudi support to the ‘rebels’ was stepped up – the Soviets were eventually unable to sustain the massive cost in both lives and wealth, and withdrew in 1989.
In just one three-year period during this time – from 1987 to 1989 – Saudi Arabia had provided $1.8 billion in financial support to the anti-government fighters in Afghanistan (around twice the amount it had given to the PLO in the previous 14 years), as well as providing thousands of fighters.
But what is intriguing is that this support was not, as is traditionally believed, premised on religious ideology, but was rather driven, once again, by fidelity to the Saudis’ imperial masters. In “Jihad in Saudi Arabia”, Thomas Hegghammer notes that this financial and military support “Clearly… was not an automatic response to the Soviet invasion, because Arabs had not volunteered for other conflict zones in the past and did not to Afghanistan in significant numbers until the mid-to late 1980s”.
Indeed, says Hegghammer, there were only 16 Saudi fighters in Afghanistan before 1985, whilst “the permanent Saudi contingent would not exceed 50 people until early 1987”. In fact, initial Saudi support for the insurgency was primarily diplomatic, political and humanitarian, rather than military. Indeed, it was only at the request of the US that the Saudis agreed, in 1981, to match US funding for the militia groups themselves – and it was therefore only when the US ramped up financial support to such groups – the so-called ‘mujahedin’ in the mid-1980s that the Saudis were obliged to do the same.
Furthermore, says Hegghammer, the main opposition to the encouragement of young men to fight in Afghanistan came precisely from the “religious establishment”: “A common misperception in the historiography of the period is to present the Wahhabi religious scholars as prime movers behind the mobilization to Afghanistan. In fact very few, if any, of the scholars in the religious establishment actively promoted the Afghan jihad as an individual duty for Saudis”.
Saudi support for the mujahedin, just like Ibn Saud’s violence 60 years earlier, was driven not by religious idealism, but by an undying commitment to facilitating Western foreign policy – regardless of the cost in human lives. The ongoing consequences of this Afghan policy – the creation of the worldwide Al Qaeda terror network and offshoots such as ISIS – are well known. But, as Brzezinski put it: who cares about “some stirred-up Muslims” when the policy helped bring about the destruction of the Soviet Union?
Hegghammer summed up the various parties involved thus: “In Afghanistan… volunteerism [that is, the insertion of foreign fighters] was sanctioned by the USA, welcomed by the Afghans [fighting the government] and facilitated by the presence of a transit territory, namely Pakistan”.
This formula – the foreign fighters, financed by Saudi Arabia, and infiltrated through the willing collaboration of Pakistan – is precisely the one which has been used against Syria in recent years, with Turkey in the Pakistani role. Thus does the British-created Saudi state continue to fulfill the imperial role assigned to it over 100 years ago.
As Aburish put it, “Britain created Ibn Saud to protect its Middle East imperial interests and to eliminate those who threatened them… Without the West there would be no House of Saud. The Saudi people or their neighbors or a combination of both would bring about its end”.
Remember that next time a Boris Johnson or a Joe Biden feigns innocence about the role of the ‘dastardly’ Saudis. Everything they do, Boris, they do it for you.
Dan Glazebrook is a freelance political writer who has written for RT, Counterpunch, Z magazine, the Morning Star, the Guardian, the New Statesman, the Independent and Middle East Eye, amongst others. His first book “Divide and Ruin: The West’s Imperial Strategy in an Age of Crisis” was published by Liberation Media in October 2013. It featured a collection of articles written from 2009 onwards examining the links between economic collapse, the rise of the BRICS, war on Libya and Syria and ‘austerity’. He is currently researching a book on US-British use of sectarian death squads against independent states and movements from Northern Ireland and Central America in the 1970s and 80s to the Middle East and Africa today.
It seems so strange, twenty-seven years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, to be living through a new Cold War with (as it happens, capitalist) Russia.
The Russian president is attacked by the U.S. political class and media as they never attacked Soviet leaders; he is personally vilified as a corrupt, venal dictator, who arrests or assassinates political opponents and dissident journalists, and is hell-bent on the restoration of the USSR.
(The latter claim rests largely on Vladimir Putin’s comment that the dissolution of the Soviet Union was a “catastrophe” and “tragedy” — which in many respects it was. The press chooses to ignore his comment that “Anyone who does not miss the Soviet Union has no heart, while anyone who wants to restore it has no brain.” It conflicts with the simple talking-point that Putin misses the imperial Russia of the tsars if not the commissars and, burning with resentment over the west’s triumph in the Cold War, plans to exact revenge through wars of aggression and territorial expansion.)
The U.S. media following its State Department script depicts Russia as an expansionist power. That it can do so, so successfully, such that even rather progressive people — such as those appalled by Trump’s victory who feel inclined to blame it on an external force — believe it, is testimony to the lingering power and utility of the Cold War mindset.
The military brass keep reminding us: We are up against an existential threat! One wants to say that this — obviously — makes no sense! Russia is twice the size of the U.S. with half its population. Its foreign bases can be counted on two hands. The U.S. has 800 or so bases abroad.
Russia’s military budget is 14% of the U.S. figure. It does not claim to be the exceptional nation appointed by God to preserve “security” on its terms anywhere on the globe. Since the dissolution of the USSR in 1991, the U.S. has waged war (sometimes creating new client-states) in Bosnia (1994-5), Serbia (1999), Afghanistan (2001- ), Iraq (2003- ), Libya (2011), and Syria (2014- ), while raining down drone strikes from Pakistan to Yemen to North Africa. These wars-based-on-lies have produced hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths, millions of refugees, and general ongoing catastrophe throughout the “Greater Middle East.” There is no understating their evil.
The U.S. heads an expanding military alliance formed in 1949 to confront the Soviet Union and global communism in general. Its raison d’être has been dead for many years. Yet it has expanded from 16 to 28 members since 1999, and new members Estonia and Latvia share borders with Russia.
(Imagine the Warsaw Pact expanding to include Mexico. But no, the Warsaw Pact of the USSR and six European allies was dissolved 26 years ago in the idealistic expectation that NATO would follow in a new era of cooperation and peace.)
And this NATO alliance, in theory designed to defend the North Atlantic, was only first deployed after the long (and peaceful) first Cold War, in what had been neutral Yugoslavia (never a member of either the Warsaw Pact nor NATO), Afghanistan (over 3000 miles from the North Atlantic), and the North African country of Libya. Last summer NATO held its most massive military drills since the collapse of the Soviet Union, involving 31,000 troops in Poland, rehearsing war with Russia. (The German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier actually criticized this exercise as “warmongering.”)
Alliance officials expressed outrage when Russia responded to the warmongering by placing a new S-400 surface-to-air missiles and nuclear-capable Iskander system on its territory of Kaliningrad between Poland and Lithuania on the Baltic coast. But Russia has, in fact, been comparatively passive in a military sense during this period.
In 1999, as NATO was about to occupy the Serbian province of Kosovo (soon to be proclaimed an independent country, in violation of international law), nearby Russian peacekeepers raced to the airport in Pristina, Kosovo, to secure it and ensure a Russian role in the Serbian province’s future. It was a bold move that could have provoked a NATO-Russian clash. But the British officer on the ground wisely refused an order from Gen. Wesley Clark to block the Russian move, declaring he would not start World War III for Gen. Clark.
This, recall, was after Bill Clinton’s secretary of state, Madeleine Albright (remember, the Hillary shill who said there’s a special place in hell reserved for women who don’t vote for women) presented to the Russian and Serbian negotiators at Rambouillet a plan for NATO occupation of not just Kosovo but all Serbia. It was a ridiculous demand, rejected by the Serbs and Russians, but depicted by unofficial State Department spokesperson and warmonger Christiane Amanpour as the “will of the international community.” As though Russia was not a member of the international community!
This Pristina airport operation was largely a symbolic challenge to U.S. hegemony over the former Yugoslavia, a statement of protest that should have been taken seriously at the time.
In any case, the new Russian leader Putin was gracious after the 9/11 attacks in 2001, even offering NATO a military transport corridor through Russia to Afghanistan (closed in 2015). He was thanked by George W. Bush with the expansion of NATO by seven more members in 2004. (The U.S. press made light of this extraordinary geopolitical development; it saw and continues to see the expansion of NATO as no more problematic than the expansion of the UN or the European Union.) Then in April 2008 NATO announced that Georgia would be among the next members accepted into the alliance.
Soon the crazy Georgian president Mikhail Saakashvili, emboldened by the promise of near-term membership, provoked a war with the breakaway republic of South Ossetia, which had never accepted inclusion of the new Georgian state established upon the dissolution of the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic in 1991. The Ossetians, fearing resurgent Georgian nationalism, had sought union with the Russian Federation. So had the people of Abkhazia.
The two “frozen conflicts,” between the Georgian state and these peoples, had been frozen due to the deployment of Russian and Georgian peacekeepers. Russia had not recognized these regions as independent states nor agreed to their inclusion in the Russian Federation. But when Russian soldiers died in the Georgian attack in August, Russia responded with a brief punishing invasion. It then recognized the two new states of South Ossetia and Abkhazia (breakaway states in what had been the Georgian SSR) six months after the U.S. recognized Kosovo.
(Saakashvili, in case you’re interested, was voted out of power, disgraced, accused of economic crimes, and deprived of his Georgian citizenship. After a brief stint at the Fletcher School of International Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University — of which I as a Tufts faculty member feel deeply ashamed — he was appointed as governor of Odessa in Ukraine by the pro-NATO regime empowered by the U.S.-backed coup of February 22, 2014.)
Sen. John McCain proclaimed in 2008: “We are all Georgians now,” and advocated U.S. military aid to the Georgian regime. An advocate of war as a rule, McCain then became a big proponent of regime change in Ukraine to allow for that country’s entry into NATO. Neocons in the State Department including most importantly McCain buddy Victoria Nuland, boasted of spending $5 billion in support of “the Ukrainian people’s European aspirations” (meaning: the desire of many Ukrainians in the western part of the country to join the European Union — risking, although they perhaps do not realize it, a reduction in their standard of living under a Greek-style austerity program — to be followed by NATO membership, tightening the military noose around Russia).
The Ukrainian president opted out in favor of a generous Russian aid package. That decision — to deny these “European aspirations” — was used to justify the coup.
But look at it from a Russian point of view. Just look at this map, of the expanding NATO alliance, and imagine it spreading to include that vast country (the largest in Europe, actually) between Russia to the east and Poland to the west, bordering the Black Sea to the south. The NATO countries at present are shown in dark blue, Ukraine and Georgia in green. Imagine those countries’ inclusion.
And imagine NATO demanding that Russia vacate its Sevastopol naval facilities, which have been Russian since 1783, turning them over to the (to repeat: anti-Russian) alliance. How can anyone understand the situation in Ukraine without grasping this basic history?
The Russians denounced the coup against President Viktor Yanukovych (democratically elected — if it matters — in 2010), which was abetted by neo-fascists and marked from the outset by an ugly Russophobic character encouraged by the U.S. State Department. The majority population in the east of the country, inhabited by Russian-speaking ethnic Russians and not even part of Ukraine until 1917, also denounced the coup and refused to accept the unconstitutional regime that assumed power after February 22.
When such people rejected the new government, and declared their autonomy, the Ukrainian army was sent in to repress them but failed, embarrassingly, when the troops confronted by angry babushkas turned back. The regime since has relied on the neo-fascist Azov Battalion to harass secessionists in what has become a new “frozen conflict.”
Russia has no doubt assisted the secessionists while refusing to annex Ukrainian territory, urging a federal system for the country to be negotiated by the parties. Russian families straddle the Russian-Ukrainian border. There are many Afghan War veterans in both countries. The Soviet munitions industry integrated Russian and Ukrainian elements. One must assume there are more than enough Russians angry about such atrocities as the May 2014 killing of 42 ethnic Russian government opponents in Odessa to bolster the Donbas volunteers.
But there is little evidence (apart from a handful of reports about convoys of dozens of “unmarked military vehicles” from Russia in late 2014) for a Russian “invasion” of Ukraine. And the annexation of Crimea (meaning, its restoration to its 1954 status as Russian territory) following a credible referendum did not require any “invasion” since there were already 38,000 Russian troops stationed there. All they had to do was to secure government buildings, and give Ukrainian soldiers the option of leaving or joining the Russian military. (A lot of Ukrainian soldiers opted to stay and accept Russian citizenship.)
Still, these two incidents — the brief 2008 war in Georgia, and Moscow’s (measured) response to the Ukrainian coup since 2014 — have been presented as evidence of a general project to disrupt the world order by military expansion, requiring a firm U.S. response. The entirety of the cable news anchor class embraces this narrative.
But they are blind fools. Who has in this young century disrupted world order more than the U.S., wrecking whole countries, slaughtering hundreds of thousands of innocents, provoking more outrage through grotesquely documented torture, generating new terror groups, and flooding Europe with refugees who include some determined to sow chaos and terror in European cities? How can any rational person with any awareness of history since 1991 conclude that Russia is the aggressive party?
And yet, this is the conventional wisdom. I doubt you can get a TV anchor job if you question it. The teleprompter will refer routinely to Putin’s aggression and Russian expansion and the need for any mature presidential candidate to respect the time-honored tradition of supporting NATO no matter what. And now the anchor is expected to repeat that all 17 U.S. intelligence services have concluded that Vladimir Putin interfered in the U.S. presidential election.
Since there is zero evidence for this, one must conclude that the Democratic losers dipped into the reliable grab bag of scapegoats and posited that Russia and Putin in particular must have hacked the DNC in order to — through the revelation of primary sources of unquestionable validity, revealing the DNC’s determination to make Clinton president, while sabotaging Sanders and promoting (through their media surrogates) Donald Trump as the Republican candidate — undermine Clinton’s legitimacy.
All kinds of liberals, including Sanders’ best surrogates like Nina Turner, are totally on board the Putin vilification campaign. It is sad and disturbing that so many progressive people are so willing to jump on the new Cold War bandwagon. It is as though they have learned nothing from history but are positively eager, in their fear and rage, to relive the McCarthy era.
But the bottom line is: U.S. Russophobia does not rest on reason, judgment, knowledge of recent history and the ability to make rational comparisons. It rests on religious-like assumptions of “American exceptionalism” and in particular the right of the U.S. to expand militarily at Russia’s expense — as an obvious good in itself, rather than a distinct, obvious evil threatening World War III.
The hawks in Congress — bipartisan, amoral, ignorant, knee-jerk Israel apologists, opportunist scum — are determined to dissuade the president-elect (bile rises in my throat as I use that term, but it’s true that he’s that, technically) from any significant rapprochement with Russia. (Heavens, they must be horrified at the possibility that Trump follows Kissinger’s reported advice and recognizes the Russian annexation of Crimea!) They want to so embarrass him with the charge of being (as Hillary accused him of being during the campaign) Putin’s “puppet” that he backs off from his vague promise to “get along” with Russia.
They don’t want to get along with Russia. They want more NATO expansion, more confrontation. They are furious with Russian-Syrian victories over U.S-backed, al-Qaeda-led forces in Syria, especially the liberation of Aleppo that the U.S. media (1) does not cover having no reporters on the ground, and little interest since events in Syria so powerfully challenge the State Department’s talking points that shape U.S. reporting, (2) misreports systematically, as the tragic triumph of the evil, Assad’s victory over an imaginary heroic opposition, and (3) sees the strengthening of the position of the Syrian stats as an indication of Russia’s reemergence as a superpower. (This they they cannot accept, as virtually a matter of religious conviction; the U.S. in official doctrine must maintain “full spectrum dominance” over the world and prohibit the emergence of any possible competitor, forever.)
The first Cold War was based on the western capitalists’ fear of socialist expansion. It was based on the understanding that the USSR had defeated the Nazis, had extraordinary prestige in the world, and was the center for a time of the expanding global communist movement. It was based on the fear that more and more countries would achieve independence from western imperialism, denying investors their rights to dominate world markets. It had an ideological content. This one does not. Russia and the U.S. are equally committed to capitalism and neoliberal ideology. Their conflict is of the same nature as the U.S. conflict with Germany in the early 20th century. The Kaiser’s Germany was at least as “democratic” as the U.S.; the system was not the issue. It was just jockeying for power, and as it happened, the U.S. intervening in World War I belatedly, after everybody else was exhausted, cleaned up. In World War II in Europe, the U.S. having hesitated to invade the continent despite repeated Soviet appeals to do so, responded to the fall of Berlin to Soviet forces by rushing token forces to the city to claim joint credit.
And then it wound up, after the war, establishing its hegemony over most of Europe — much, much more of Europe than became the Soviet-dominated zone, which has since with the Warsaw Pact evaporated. Russia is a truncated, weakened version of its former self. It is not threatening the U.S. in any of the ways the U.S. is threatening itself. It is not expanding a military alliance. It is not holding huge military exercises on the U.S. border. It is not destroying the Middle East through regime-change efforts justified to the American people by sheer misinformation. In September 2015 Putin asked the U.S., at the United Nations: “Do you realize what you’ve done?”
Unfortunately the people of this country are not educated, by their schools, press or even their favorite websites to realize what has been done, how truly horrible it is, and how based it all is on lies. Fake news is the order of the day.
Up is down, black is white, Russia is the aggressor, the U.S. is the victim. The new president must be a team-player, and for God’s sake, understand that Putin is today’s Hitler, and if Trump wants to get along with him, he will have to become a team-player embracing this most basic of political truths in this particular imperialist country: Russia (with its nukes, which are equally matched with the U.S. stockpile) is the enemy, whose every action must be skewed to inflame anti-Russian feeling, as the normative default sentiment towards this NATO-encircled, sanction-ridden, non-threatening nation, under what seems by comparison a cautious, rational leadership?
CNN’s horrible “chief national correspondent” John King (former husband of equally horrid Dana Bash, CNN’s “chief political correspondent”) just posed the question, with an air of aggressive irritation: “Who does Donald Trump respect more, the U.S. intelligence agencies, or the guy who started Wikileaks [Assange]?”
It’s a demand for the Trump camp to buy the Russian blame game, or get smeared as a fellow-traveler with international whistle-blowers keen on exposing the multiple crimes of U.S. imperialism.
So the real question is: Will Trump play ball, and credit the “intelligence community” that generates “intelligence products” on demand, or brush aside the war hawks’ drive for a showdown with Putin’s Russia? Will the second Cold War peter out coolly, or culminate in the conflagration that “Mutually Assured Destruction” (MAD) was supposed to render impossible?
The latter would be utterly stupid. But stupid people — or wise people, cynically exploiting others’ stupidity — are shaping opinion every day, and have been since the first Cold War, based like this one on innumerable lies.
Gary Leupp is a Professor of History at Tufts University, and author of numerous works on Japanese history. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Scores of people have staged a protest in a northern German port city against the deployment and transport of NATO troops and weapons through the city.
The protest was held in the port city of Bremerhaven on Saturday.
US military hardware, including 87 tanks and 144 Bradley fighting vehicles, were docked in the port city a day earlier for eventual transfer to NATO member countries in Eastern Europe to enhance what was described as “deterrence against possible Russian aggression.”
The protesters marched through the city, holding signs and banners that read, “No NATO deployments! End the militaristic march against Russia!” and “Out of NATO.”
“I am here to explain peace to Russians, because I am afraid of new wars… and this big maneuver is one that quite scares me, and I am here to speak against this,” a protester said.
The deployment by the US military, which also includes the mobilization of 4,000 troops, is aimed at shoring up NATO’s “Operation Atlantic Resolve,” which entails military buildup in Poland and the Baltic countries to counter perceived Russian aggression. US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter announced the move last year, declaring that the force would take part in regular military drills across the region with NATO allies.
Russia has repeatedly voiced concern about the US-led alliance’s military build-up near its borders. In response to NATO’s aggressive moves, Russia has beefed up its southwestern military capacity.
NATO has suspended all practical cooperation with Russia as part of efforts by the US, Europe, and their allies to exert pressure on the Kremlin following the Crimean Peninsula’s separation from Ukraine and adhesion to Russia. In 2014, the majority ethnic Russians in Crimea voted to join the Russian Federation in a referendum not sanctioned by the Ukrainian authorities.
Western countries have been fearful of a repeat of that scenario in other countries, and have sought to boost their defenses under NATO’s umbrella.
‘Groundless smear attempt’
Beijing has challenged Washington to explain its own global spying activities following US media reports alleging that China is using two Chinese hotels as spy centres, describing the reports as a “groundless” smear attempt.
On Wednesday, The Washington Times published an article where it alleged that the 4PLA, a unit attached to the Chinese Defence Ministry, used the Jintang and Seasons hotels in the capital Beijing to conduct espionage.
The publication cited an open-source intelligence dossier produced by the Army’s Asian Studies Detachment, as the source of its report. The document does not explain why and how the hotels were allegedly used by the Chinese for hacking.
On Friday the Ministry of National Defense vigorously denied that any hotels in the Haidian District of Beijing served as a base for any cyber-espionage operations.
“The Chinese military has never supported any hacking activities, and the Chinese government has always been firmly opposed to and cracking down on relevant criminal activities in accordance with law, including network attacks,” China’s Defence Ministry said.
“Relevant accusation is totally groundless and a bad act of smearing China,” the statement added, calling on Washington to stop making “groundless accusation against China.”
Instead of blaming China for spying, Beijing challenged Washington to “give a clear explanation on the Prism Gate incident, ” not just to China, but to the entire international community.
First revealed through the Edward Snowden leaks in 2013, PRISM is a code name of the NSA surveillance program used to gain access to the private communications of users of nine popular Internet services, including Verizon, Apple, Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and Facebook.
The system grants NSA access to email, chat logs, VoIP traffic, files transfers, and other social networking data from companies. PRISM is just one of the numerous US spying tools and techniques exposed by Snowden.
SALFIT – Israeli forces raided the town of Kifl Haris in the Salfit district of the central occupied West Bank overnight Saturday to provide protection for Israeli settlers visiting a site believed to be a Jewish shrine.
Eyewitness Yousif Yaqoub told Ma’an that he counted about 30 Israeli military vehicles storming the center of the town to escort the settlers, with Israeli soldiers firing stun grenades.
Israeli forces then set up military checkpoints at the entrances to Kifl Haris and imposed curfew, according to Yaqoub.
An Israeli army spokesperson told Ma’an that overnight, “Israeli forces escorted Jewish pilgrims to the tomb of Joshua,” saying that the visit took place “without incident.”
A visit by settlers to the site earlier this month that was not carried out in coordination with the Israeli army sparked clashes with locals youth, prompting Israeli army forces to raid Kifl Haris, when a number of Israeli settlers were reportedly detained and interrogated over “violating Israeli military orders that bans Israelis from entering Palestinian districts.”
Residents of Kifl Haris have been living a continuous tension due to Israeli settlers’ raids to allegedly visit Jewish religious sites.
A number of tombs exist in Kifl Haris, which Palestinians in the area believe to be the graves of Muslim prophet Dhul-Kifl, the Sufi saint Dhul-Nun, and another shrine built by 12-century Sultan Saladin.
However, some Jews believe the tombs belong to the biblical figures Joshua, Caleb, and Nun.
Like many other Palestinian towns across the West Bank with religiously significant sites, Kifl Haris, situated on the main road connecting the illegal Ariel settlement to Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, commonly experiences incursions by Israeli settlers accompanied by armed escorts.
Settlers who visit the tombs to pray often actively disrupt Palestinian residents and damage property.
Meanwhile, Palestinians are restricted from visiting holy sites in Israel without hard-to-obtain permits from Israeli authorities.
I consider Nick Cohen an unpleasant man. His columns are smug, rude, ill-informed, intellectually dishonest, hypocritical and self-righteous. A perfect example of the modern journalist, in his natural habitat. However, before today, I never considered him to be truly, literally insane.
Russian Treachery is extreme and it is everywhere!
This startlingly subtle sentiment is the headline to Cohen’s latest… offering. I haven’t changed it or exaggerated it, with the exception of adding an exclamation point that is, in the original, only heavily implied.
In the past I have written detailed, point by point refutations of pieces from the Guardian – similarly bizarre ramblings from Cohen and Natalie Nougayrede – but when the message is so rampantly hysterical… what is there to say? There’s nothing to refute here but the loud and incoherent repetitions of made up facts and establishment lies, already disproven a million different times by a thousand dedicated and honest alt-news sites. The work has been done. The truth is out there. To not see it, at this point, is an act of willful blindness.
There’s no evidence any of the European “far right” are funded by the Russian government, there’s no evidence the FSB (or whoever) hacked the US presidential election, there’s no evidence the Syrian or Russian military deliberately targeted hospitals. Corbynistas aren’t anti-semites. Brexiters aren’t neo-Nazis. Hashtag fakenews.
A year of Brexit and Corbyn and Syria and Trump seems to have pushed the whole world of establishment journalism right up to the ragged edge, and recent frothing op-eds from the WaPo to the NYT to the Guardian suggest they are due a big fall and a hard landing.
This isn’t journalism, true mainstream journalism died generations ago… if it ever truly existed. This isn’t even propaganda, the coherent and dishonest distortion of reality to suit an agenda. This is rudderless, leaderless, meaningless. It is the dying breath of a flabby king. The wild-eyed, claw-handed, scrabbling desperation of brittle delusions impacting a hard truth.
It’s a drunk muttering threats in a doorway, an old man shaking his fist at the sky. A tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury and signifying nothing. It’s almost sad.
There is no starker proof of the golden chains in which Israel has entangled the British political class, than the incredible fact that “diplomat” Shai Masot has not been expelled for secretly conspiring to influence British politics by attacking Britain’s Deputy Foreign Minister, suggesting that he might be brought down by “a little scandal”. It is incredible by any normal standards of diplomatic behaviour that immediate action was not taken against Masot for actions which when revealed any professional diplomat would normally expect to result in being “PNG’d” – declared persona non grata.
Obama has just expelled 35 Russian diplomats for precisely the same offence, with the exception that in the Russian case there is absolutely zero hard evidence, whereas in the Masot case there is irrefutable evidence on which to act.
To compare the two cases is telling. Al Jazeera should be congratulated on their investigation, which shames the British corporate and state media who would never have carried out such actual journalism. By contrast, the British media has parroted without the slightest scrutiny the truly pathetic Obama camp claims of Russian interference, evidently without reading them. When I was sent the latest “intelligence report” on Russian hacking a couple of evenings ago, I quite genuinely for several minutes thought it was a spoof by the Daily Mash or similar, parodying the kind of ludicrous claims that kept being advanced with zero evidence. I do implore you to read it, as when you realise it is supposed to be serious it becomes still more hilarious.
The existence of a natural preference in Russia to see a US President who does not want to start World War III is quoted as itself evidence that Russia interfered, just as the fact that I could do with some more money is evidence I robbed a bank. The fact that Russia did not criticise the electoral process after the result is somehow evidence that Putin personally ordered electoral hacking. Oh, and the fact that Russia Today once hosted a programme critical of fracking is evidence of a Russian plot to destroy the US economy. Please do read it, I promise you will be laughing for weeks.
In passing, allow me to destroy quickly the “we have smoking gun evidence but it’s too secret to show you” argument. Given the Snowden revelations and the whistleblowing of the former NSA Technical Director Bill Binney, for the US government to claim to be hiding the fact that it can tack all electronic traffic in the USA is risible. This is like saying we can’t give you the evidence in case the Russians find out the sky is blue. If there were hacks, the NSA could identify the precise hack transmitting the precise information out of Washington. Everybody knows that. There were no hacks so there is no evidence. End of argument. They are internal leaks.
The two stories – Russian interference in US politics, Israeli interference in UK politics – also link because the New York Times claims that it was the British that first suggested to the Obama administration that Russian cyber activity was targeting Clinton. Director of Cyber Security and Information Assurance in the British Cabinet Office is Matthew Gould, the UK’s former openly and strongly pro-Zionist Ambassador to Israel and friend of the current Israeli Ambassador Mark Regev. While Private Secretary to David Miliband and William Hague, and then while Ambassador to Israel, Regev held eight secret meetings with Adam Werritty, on at least one occasion with Mossad present and on most occasions also with now minister Liam Fox. My Freedom of Information requests for minutes of these meetings brought the reply that they were not minuted, and my Freedom of Information request for the diary entries for these meetings brought me three pages each containing only the date, with everything else redacted.
I managed to get the information about the Gould/Werritty meetings as a result of relentless questioning, where I was kindly assisted by MPs including Jeremy Corbyn, Caroline Lucas and Paul Flynn. The woman with whom Shai Masot was conniving to undermine Alan Duncan, was Maria Strizzolo, who works for Tory Minister Robert Halfon. It was Halfon who repeatedly tried to obstruct Paul Flynn MP from asking questions of Cabinet Secretary Gus O’Donnell that threatened to get to the heart of the real Adam Werritty scandal.
Both Robert Halfon and Adam Werrity received funding from precisely the same Israeli sources, and in particular from Mr Poju Zabludowicz. Halfon also formerly had a full time paid job as Political Director of the Conservative Friends of Israel. Halfon’s assistant is now caught conspiring with the Israeli Embassy to attack another Tory minister.
House of Commons Publc Admininstration Committee 24/11/2011
Q Paul Flynn: Okay. Matthew Gould has been the subject of a very serious complaint from two of my constituents, Pippa Bartolotti and Joyce Giblin. When they were briefly imprisoned in Israel, they met the ambassador, and they strongly believe—it is nothing to do with this case at all—that he was serving the interest of the Israeli Government, and not the interests of two British citizens. This has been the subject of correspondence.
In your report, you suggest that there were two meetings between the ambassador and Werritty and Liam Fox. Questions and letters have proved that, in fact, six such meetings took place. There are a number of issues around this. I do not normally fall for conspiracy theories, but the ambassador has proclaimed himself to be a Zionist and he has previously served in Iran, in the service. Werritty is a self-proclaimed—
Robert Halfon: Point of order, Chairman. What is the point of this?
Paul Flynn:> Let me get to it. Werritty is a self-proclaimed expert on Iran.
Chair:> I have to take a point of order.
Robert Halfon:> Mr Flynn is implying that the British ambassador to Israel is working for a foreign power, which is out of order.
Paul Flynn:> I quote the Daily Mail: “Mr Werritty is a self-proclaimed expert on Iran and has made several visits. He has also met senior Israeli officials, leading to accusations”—not from me, from the Daily Mail—“that he was close to the country’s secret service, Mossad.” There may be nothing in that, but that appeared in a national newspaper.
Chair:> I am going to rule on a point of order. Mr Flynn has made it clear that there may be nothing in these allegations, but it is important to have put it on the record. Be careful how you phrase questions.
Paul Flynn:> Indeed. The two worst decisions taken by Parliament in my 25 years were the invasion of Iraq—joining Bush’s war in Iraq—and the invasion of Helmand province. We know now that there were things going on in the background while that built up to these mistakes. The charge in this case is that Werritty was the servant of neo-con people in America, who take an aggressive view on Iran. They want to foment a war in Iran in the same way as in the early years, there was another—
Chair:> Order. I must ask you to move to a question that is relevant to the inquiry.
Q Paul Flynn:> Okay. The question is, are you satisfied that you missed out on the extra four meetings that took place, and does this not mean that those meetings should have been investigated because of the nature of Mr Werritty’s interests?
Sir Gus O’Donnell:> I think if you look at some of those meetings, some people are referring to meetings that took place before the election.
Q Paul Flynn:> Indeed, which is even more worrying.
Sir Gus O’Donnell:> I am afraid they were not the subject—what members of the Opposition do is not something that the Cabinet Secretary should look into. It is not relevant.
But these meetings were held—
Chair:> Mr Flynn, would you let him answer please?
Sir Gus O’Donnell:> I really do not think that was within my context, because they were not Ministers of the Government and what they were up to was not something I should get into at all.
Chair:> Final question, Mr Flynn.
Q Paul Flynn:> No, it is not a final question. I am not going to be silenced by you, Chairman; I have important things to raise. I have stayed silent throughout this meeting so far.
You state in the report—on the meeting held between Gould, Fox and Werritty, on 6 February, in Tel Aviv—that there was a general discussion of international affairs over a private dinner with senior Israelis. The UK ambassador was present. Are you following the line taken by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government who says that he can eat with lobbyists or people applying to his Department because, on occasions, he eats privately, and on other occasions he eats ministerially? Are you accepting the idea? It is possibly a source of great national interest—the eating habits of their Secretary of State. It appears that he might well have a number of stomachs, it has been suggested, if he can divide his time this way. It does seem to be a way of getting round the ministerial code, if people can announce that what they are doing is private rather than ministerial.
Sir Gus O’Donnell:> The important point here was that, when the Secretary of State had that meeting, he had an official with him—namely, in this case, the ambassador. That is very important, and I should stress that I would expect our ambassador in Israel to have contact with Mossad. That will be part of his job. It is totally natural, and I do not think that you should infer anything from that about the individual’s biases. That is what ambassadors do. Our ambassador in Pakistan will have exactly the same set of wide contacts.
Q Paul Flynn:> I have good reason, as I said, from constituency matters, to be unhappy about the ambassador. Other criticisms have been made about the ambassador; he is unique in some ways in the role he is performing. There have been suggestions that he is too close to a foreign power.
Robert Halfon:> On a point of order, Chair, this is not about the ambassador to Israel. This is supposed to be about the Werritty affair.
Paul Flynn:> It is absolutely crucial to this report. If neo-cons such as yourself, Robert, are plotting a war in Iran, we should know about it.
Chair:> Order. I think the line of questioning is very involved. I have given you quite a lot of time, Mr Flynn. If you have further inquiries to make of this, they could be pursued in correspondence. May I ask you to ask one final question before we move on?
Sir Gus O’Donnell:> One thing I would stress: we are talking about the ambassador and I think he has a right of reply. Mr Chairman, I know there is an interesting question of words regarding Head of the Civil Service versus Head of the Home Civil Service, but this is the Diplomatic Service, not the Civil Service.
Q Chair:> So he is not in your jurisdiction at all.
Sir Gus O’Donnell:> No.
Q Paul Flynn:> But you are happy that your report is final; it does not need to go the manager it would have gone to originally, and that is the end of the affair. Is that your view?
Sir Gus O’Donnell:> As I said, some issues arose where I wanted to be sure that what the Secretary of State was doing had been discussed with the Foreign Secretary. I felt reassured by what the Foreign Secretary told me.
Q Chair:> I think what Mr Flynn is asking is that your report and the affair raise other issues, but you are saying that that does not fall within the remit of your report and that, indeed, the conduct of an ambassador does not fall within your remit at all.
Sir Gus O’Donnell:> That is absolutely correct.
Paul Flynn:> The charge laid by Lord Turnbull in his evidence with regard to Dr Fox and the ministerial code was his failure to observe collective responsibility, in that case about Sri Lanka. Isn’t the same charge there about our policies to Iran and Israel?
Chair:> We have dealt with that, Mr Flynn.
Paul Flynn:> We haven’t dealt with it as far as it applies—
Chair:> Mr Flynn, we are moving on.
Paul Flynn:> You may well move on, but I remain very unhappy about the fact that you will not allow me to finish the questioning I wanted to give on a matter of great importance.
It is shocking but true that Robert Halfon MP, who disrupted Flynn with repeated points of order, receives funding from precisely the same Israeli sources as Werritty, and in particular from Mr Poju Zabludowicz. He also formerly had a full time paid job as Political Director of the Conservative Friends of Israel. It is not surprising that Shai Masot evidently views Halfon as a useful tool for attacking senior pro-Palestinian members of his own party.
But despite the evasiveness of O’Donnell and the obstruction of paid Zionist puppet Halfon, O’Donnell confirmed vital parts of my investigation. In particular he agreed that the Fox-Werritty-Gould “private dinner” in Tel Aviv was with Mossad, and that Gould met Werritty many times more than the twice that O’Donnell listed in his “investigation” into the Werritty affair. The truth of the Werritty scandal, hidden comprehensively by the mainstream media, was that Werritty was inside the UK Ministry of Defence working for Israel. That is why it was so serious that Defence Minister Liam Fox had to resign
Of the eight meetings of Fox-Gould-Werritty together which I discovered, seven were while Fox was Secretary of State for Defence. Only one was while Fox was in opposition. But O’Donnell let the cat much further out of the bag, with the astonishing admission to Paul Flynn’s above questioning that Gould, Fox and Werritty held “meetings that took place before the election.” He also referred to “some of those meetings” as being before the election. Both are plainly in the plural.
It is evident from the information gained by Paul Flynn that not only did Fox, Gould and Werritty have at least seven meetings while Fox was in power – with no minutes and never another British official present – they had several meetings while Fox was shadow Foreign Secretary. O’Donnell was right that what Fox and Werritty were up to in opposition was not his concern. But what Gould was doing with them – a senior official – most definitely was his concern. A senior British diplomat cannot just hold a series of meetings with the opposition shadow Defence Secretary and a paid Israeli lobbyist.
All of this underlined the pernicious influence that Israel has in the political class, which is founded on the Israeli lobby’s shameless use of cash for influence – as witnessed in the discussion between Shai Masot and Labour Firends of Israel and his flaunting of a million. Attitudes towards the plight of the Palestinians are an extreme example of the disconnect between public opinion and the views of the political class, and Al Jazeera should be congratulated heartily on giving us a peek into that.
No further evidence is required. There could be no more conclusive evidence of Israel’s undue and pernicious influence than the astonishing fact that Shai Masot has not yet been expelled.
Israeli Embassy employee discussed ‘taking down’ MPs & state foreign minister with Tory staffer
A senior official at the Israeli Embassy in London was secretly filmed discussing with a Conservative staffer how British officials with a pro-Palestinian stance could be “taken down.”
The footage of the controversial conversation was released on Sunday by Al Jazeera, which said it was a preview for a larger four-part expose on Israeli influence on British politics, which would be aired starting next Sunday.
The footage showed a lunchtime discussion between Israeli Embassy official Shai Masot and Maria Strizzolo, who was chief of staff to MP Robert Halfon, the deputy chairman of the Conservative Party at the time the recording happened. The filming was done by an Al Jazeera reporter, who was posing as a pro-Israeli activist, Al Jazeera said.
On the record, Masot is heard asking Halfon whether he could give her the names of some MPs to “take down.” Strizzolo is heard laughing and saying: “Well you know, if you look hard enough I’m sure that there is something that they’re trying to hide.”
They then move on to the topic of “taking down… the deputy foreign minister” or, according to Al Jazeera, Sir Alan Duncan, a state minister under UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson. Duncan has been publicly critical of Israeli settlements in the occupied territories.
Strizzolo asked: “You still want to go for it?” Masot ambiguously replied that the British official was still causing problems. Strizzolo then said: “I thought we had, you know, neutralized him just a little bit, no?” to which Masot said: “No.”
The two also discussed Secretary Johnson, who the Israeli official described as “basically good,” but also “an idiot” who became Britain’s top diplomat “without any kind of responsibilities.”
“So technically if something real happened, it won’t be his fault,” he added.
Responding to the report, the Israeli Embassy released a statement in which Ambassador Mark Regev apologized to Duncan and called Masot’s remarks “completely unacceptable.”
The embassy called its staffer a junior employee rather than a diplomat, and said he “will be ending his term of employment with the embassy shortly.”
During the conversation with Strizzolo, Masot described his ambition to become head of the Foreign Affairs department and “the Intelligence Department in Israel.” His business card calls him “a senior political officer,” according to the Guardian.
Strizzolo told the newspaper the quotes were used out of context, and that the conversation was “light, tongue-in-cheek and gossipy.”
“Any suggestion that I, as a civil servant working in education, could ever exert the type of influence you are suggesting is risible,” she said.
The British Foreign Office expressed satisfaction with the apology, saying that it was “clear these comments do not reflect the views of the Embassy or the Government of Israel. The UK has a strong relationship with Israel and we consider the matter closed.”
Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri says Muslim nations should close their ranks in the face of Israeli attempts to take advantage of rifts in the Islamic world and the terror threats facing the Middle East.
Hariri made the remarks in a meeting with Alaeddin Boroujerdi, the chairman of the Iranian Parliament’s Committee on National Security and Foreign Policy, in Beirut on Saturday.
He said divisions in the Muslim world, including those among Palestinian factions, besides the terror activities in the region serve the interests of the Israeli regime, urging Muslims to set aside their rifts and focus, instead, on common goals.
Cooperation among Muslim countries can turn the Islamic world into “a large economic hub” and consequently upgrade its status, the premier added.
Hariri further underlined his resolve to reinforce relations between Tehran and Beirut in all areas, especially in economy and trade, calling for measures to remove the obstacles to the expansion of bilateral ties.
In turn, Boroujerdi described his meeting with the Lebanese prime minister as “constructive and positive,” saying they discussed the restoration of security to the region, Lebanon’s National News Agency quoted him as saying.
He further emphasized that the two countries have a common position on the political settlement of the Syria crisis.
“There is no doubt that stability and security in Syria reflect positively on security and stability in Lebanon, in Iran and the region in general. We agreed that the shameful and heinous acts carried out by terrorist Takfiri extremist groups are not related to the Islamic religion in any way,” the senior Iranian lawmaker said.
Touching on the issue of bilateral ties, Boroujerdi said Iran is ready “to build on the bright, positive and constructive political circumstances that have arisen in Lebanon.”
Hariri became prime minister last December, after the Lebanese parliament elected Michel Aoun as president, ending a 29-month-long political stalemate in the country.