The so-called Deep State and Democratic Party campaign to demonize Russia for allegedly “hacking the US election,” and delivering the country into the hands of Donald Trump suffered a huge and probably mortal blow this week with the release by WikiLeaks of over 7000 secret CIA documents disclosing secret CIA hacking technologies.
The case being made against Russia as being the source of leaked emails of the Democratic National Committee and of Clinton Campaign Chair John Podesta — documents that proved that the DNC had been corrupting the primary process in favor of corporatist candidate Hillary Clinton and undermining the campaign of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, and that also revealed the embarrassing contents of Clinton’s highly paid secret speeches to a number of giant Wall Street banks — had always been tenuous, with no hard evidence ever presented. All the intelligence agencies would say was that they had a “high degree of certainty,” or “strong reason to believe” that the Russians were the source of the deeply damaging documents late in the campaign season.
Adding to doubts that Russia had actually hacked the DNC was WikiLeaks itself, which insisted that it had obtained the DNC and Podesta emails not from a hack of computers, but from an internal DNC staffer who actually pulled them off computers with a thumb drive and provided them to the organization — a person later identified as Seth Rich, who was mysteriously murdered on his way home from DNC headquarters in Washington, shot in the back at night in an unsolved case that the local police quickly labeled a “botched burglary,” although nothing was taken from his body by his assailant — not his wallet or watch even. (Wikileaks has offered a $20,000 reward for information that helps solve that uninvestigated case.)
But one thing the blame-Russia conspiracy theorists did have going for them was their assertion that the leaked DNC documents contained routing information and ISPs that pointed to Russia as the source of the hacks.
Now, however, the new CIA documents released by WikiLeaks — the first of a much larger trove of such documents that are reportedly going to be released as WikiLeaks goes through them to remove information that might jeopardize agents or national security — show that among the technologies and hacking tools that the CIA has been using to attack targeted computers, internet servers and even so-called “smart” appliances in people’s homes, like Samsung TV sets, are a number of Russian-developed hacking programs.
As the New York Times wrote in its article on the latest Wikileaks document release, which it is calling “Vault 7”:
Another program described in the documents, named Umbrage, is a voluminous library of cyber-attack techniques that the CIA has collected from malware produced by other countries, including Russia. According to the WikiLeaks release, the large number of techniques allows the CIA to mask the origin of some of its attack and confuse forensic investigators.
The WikiLeaks material includes lists of softward tools that the CIA uses to create exploits and malware to carry out hacking. Many of the tools are those used by developers around the world: coding languages, such as Python, and tools like Sublime Text, a program used to write code, and Git, a tool that helps developers collaborate.”
What this means is that current efforts by Democratic Party leaders and Deep State leakers in the government intelligence sector to pin the blame on Russia for hacking the election or for trying to help elect Trump as president, now must confront the counter-argument that the Deep State itself, in the form of the CIA, may have been behind the hacks, but is making it look like the Russians did it.
Why would the CIA do that? Well, if the concern was that Trump, as he stated throughout the campaign, wanted to end US hostility towards Russia, and to develop friendly relations with that country and its leader, President Vladimir Putin, what better way to toss a spanner into such plans than to make it look like Russia had tried to corrupt the US election?
That charge has been largely adopted unquestioningly by the corporate media in recent months, but it now founders on the new evidence that the CIA has the ability to pose as a Russian hacker!
It looks like the campaign to portray President Trump as a Putin puppet, and to portray Russia as an evil underminer of US democracy will have to come up with another way to attack the Trump administration, and to gin up a new Cold War with Russia. The current effort will no longer pass the laugh test. Democrats seeking to undermine Trump with the US public will have to do better — like maybe actually analyzing the reasons for their epic election defeat, and coming up with a genuinely populist, as opposed to corporatist, program to show ordinary Americans that the party has their interests at heart, and not just the interests of rich campaign contributors.
WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange, the latter holed up these past four years under threat of arrest in the Ecuadoran Embassy in London, have done it again.
Although the Deep State hasn’t given up. The NY Times, in its report today on the WikiLeaks documents, also includes the rather lame argument by James Lewis, described as “an expert on cybersecurity at the Center for Strategic and International Studies” (a Washington think-tank closely linked to the US defense and intelligence establishment), that the latest WikiLeaks documents “most likely” were provided not by a “conscience-stricken CIA whistleblower,” but rather via another source. Lewis then suggests that:
“… a foreign state, most likely Russia, stole the documents by hacking or other means and delivered them to WikiLeaks, which may not know how they were obtained.”
Lewis gives no real explanation as to why a Russian hack would be “more likely” than a whistle-blowing CIA employee or contractor to be the source of the leaked documents provided to WikiLeaks, but the Times and its intelligence establishment sources are putting that alternative out there anyhow, clearly in an effort to keep the crumbling anti-Russia campaign afloat.
It will be interesting to see how far the McCarthyite campaign to demonize Russia and to damage the Trump presidency by linking it to Russian perfidy will go, given this new information that the CIA was well-equipped to do its hacking work posing as a Russian entity.
My analysis of EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s recent statements on climate change, and the response to his statements.
Last week, there was a controversial interview of Scott Pruitt on CNBC. A sampling of the headlines reporting on his interview:
New Yorker : Scott Pruitt rejects climate change reality. A relatively thorough summary of the interview with Scott Pruitt.
Guardian : EPA head Scott Pruitt denies that carbon dioxide causes global warming. Subtitle: Trump adviser shocks scientists and environmental advocates with statement that negates EPA policy and ‘overwhelmingly clear’ evidence on climate change
David Robert at Vox : Scott Pruitt denies basic climate science. But most of the outrage is missing the point. Subtitle: It’s not about Pruitt and it’s not about facts. Excerpt: The right’s refusal to accept the authority of climate science is of a piece with its rejection of mainstream media, academia, and government, the shared institutions and norms that bind us together and contain our political disputes.
A number of scientists have responded in various venues regarding their opinion on Scott Pruitt’s statements. Here I include the ‘official’ statement from the AGU:
AGU Responds to Statements from EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt on Climate Change. Excerpt: The position statement of the American Geophysical Union regarding climate change leaves no doubt that increasing atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide resulting from human activity is the dominant source of climate change during the last several decades.
You may recall my concerns about the AGU policy statement on climate change [link]
What Scott Pruitt actually said
Listen to what Scott Pruitt actually said on CNBC and then compare it to the portrayal in the media. Here is the key text:
I think that measuring with precision human activity on the climate is something very challenging to do and there’s tremendous disagreement about the degree of impact, so no, I would not agree that it’s a primary contributor to the global warming that we see. But we don’t know that yet. We need to continue the debate and continue the review and the analysis.
Can you square what Pruitt actually said with the distorted quotes and headlines about this? I can’t.
I think that these two statements made by Pruitt are absolutely correct:
I think that measuring with precision human activity on the climate is something very challenging to do and there’s tremendous disagreement about the degree of impact
We need to continue the debate and continue the review and the analysis.
The other two statements give slightly conflicting messages:
I would not agree that it’s a primary contributor to the global warming that we see. But we don’t know that yet.
The main statement of controversy is:
I would not agree that it’s a primary contributor to the global warming that we see.
You can interpret this in two ways:
1.Pruitt is denying that CO2 is a primary contributor to recent global warming
2.Pruitt is saying that he does not accept as a ‘fact’ that CO2 is a primary contributor because we simply don’t know.
Since his subsequent statement is “But we don’t know that yet”, #2 is obviously the correct interpretation.
I think he is saying that he is not convinced that we know with certainty that humans have caused 100% of the recent warming (which is what some climate modelers are saying, see recent tweets from Gavin Schmidt), or that humans have caused ‘more than half’ of the recent warming (which was the conclusion from the IPCC AR5.
If I am interpreting Pruitt’s statements correctly, I do not find anything to disagree with in what he said: we don’t know how much of recent warming can be attributed to humans. In my opinion, this is correct and is a healthy position for both the science and policy debates.
Exactly what the Trump administration intends to do regarding funding climate science, energy policy and the Paris climate agreement presumably remain as subjects of debate within the administration. Looking at every little leak and quote out of context as a rationale for hysteria simply isn’t rational or useful.
The most interesting reaction to all this is David Robert’s Vox article:
The right’s refusal to accept the authority of climate science is of a piece with its rejection of mainstream media, academia, and government, the shared institutions and norms that bind us together and contain our political disputes.
The ‘problem’: a change of administration and party after 8 years, mainstream media no longer has a lock on the media’s message (given all of the new news sources on the internet), academia’s profoundly liberal bias is being challenged, and the consensus that has been negotiated and enforced by certain elite scientists is being challenged.
Three cheers for democracy, the internet and the scientific process.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ‘working visit’ to Moscow last week had a key objective relating to the conflict in Syria — a demarche at the highest level with President Vladimir Putin over Iranian presence in that country. Before emplaning for Moscow, Netanyahu told his cabinet in public remarks,
- In the framework of a (future peace agreement) or without one, Iran is attempting to base itself permanently in Syria – either through a military presence on the ground or a naval presence – and also through a gradual attempt to open a front against us on the Golan Heights. I will express to President Putin Israel’s vigorous opposition to this possibility.
In characteristic style, he cornered Putin in his very opening statement as they sat down in the Kremlin,
- One of the things that unites us (Israel and Russia) is our common fight against radical Islamic terrorism. Substantial progress has been made over the last year in fighting radical Sunni Islamic terrorism led by ISIS and Al-Qaeda, and Russia has made a great contribution to this result and this progress. Of course, we do not want to see Shia Islamic terrorism led by Iran step in to replace Sunni Islamic terrorism.
The Russian readout faithfully quoted Netanyahu but left out Putin’s brusque response. The Kremlin later chose to convey via an RT report,
- Putin noted that those events had taken place “in the fifth century BC,” added that “we now live in a different world” and suggested discussing the actual up-to-date problems in the region.
In short, Putin urged Netanyahu to get real instead of digging up the ancient legend of an Iranian forefather’s attempt to eradicate the Jewish people. (RT) The Russians are familiar with Netanyahu’s style of functioning — his swagger and capacity to dissimulate. He was obviously hoping to complicate the Russian-Iranian relationship at a time when Moscow and Tehran are working to put together a Syrian settlement. Evidently, Putin saw through the ploy. (Moscow is preparing for an official visit by the Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.)
Netanyahu keeps playing up the Iran bogey to divert attention away from the Palestine problem. However, importantly in the current context, Israel wants a say in the Syrian settlement. Israel’s motivations here are complex.
Israel’s preference is that the al-Qaeda affiliates fighting in Syria, who are its proxies, should be allowed to retain the swathe of land straddling the occupied Golan Heights so that its annexation of the Syrian territory remains unchallenged.
Russia simply will not acquiesce with the presence of any al-Qaeda affiliate in any residual form on Syrian soil. In fact, Jordan is involved in talks with Russia, which appears to be geared to battle plans under preparation to evict the Islamic State and the al-Qaeda from the Jordan-Israel-Lebanon borderline. Israel is getting frantic that the Russian-Iranian juggernaut proposes to put its al-Qaeda surrogates shortly into the meat grinder.
The alliance with Iran becomes vital for Russia in the coming weeks and months before a complete destruction of terrorist groups on Syrian soil is achieved and the peace process reaches the home stretch. However, this does not mean that Russian-Iranian relationship is smooth as silk. There strong convergence of interests at this point, but, as Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Ebrahim Rahimpour said on Saturday in Tehran,
- We will interact with the Russians to the extent that they cooperate with us and we will not be willing to cooperate with them when they are not willing to do so.
The two countries have their respective long-term objectives and agenda in a future Syrian settlement. Clearly, the Syria that emerges in a settlement can very well be a federated country. The US seems to be working toward a federal Syria and Russia may live with it as the realistic outcome of the brutal conflict. Thus, both US and Russia have dealings with Syrian Kurds whose top priority is the establishment of a Kurdish autonomous region in northern Syria bordering Turkey.
Now, it is entirely conceivable that a federal Syria may overlap the ‘spheres of influence’ of foreign powers. Without doubt, the US intends to keep the military bases it has established in the two Kurdish cantons on the eastern part of the Euphrates in the recent years. Russia too has a big presence along western regions of Syria facing the Mediterranean coast and in the Damascus region. The Russian bases in Latakia and Hmeimim in Syria are on permanent footing.
Therefore, how the emergent scenario of federal Syria would grate on the Russian-Iranian relationship remains a ‘known unknown’. After all, Iran made huge sacrifices to defeat Islamic State and al-Qaeda in Syria. A report last week put the casualty figures of Iranians killed in the fighting as exceeding 2000 military personnel.
Read an analysis, here, by Frederick Kagan of the conservative think tank American Enterprise Institute – surprisingly realistic for an American ideologue – on the complex web that makes Russian-Iranian bonding a geostrategic imperative of our times.
The two minute hate redefined for the Facebook age
Light often arises from a collision of opinions, as fire from flint & steel”Benjamin Franklin, 1760
“The peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.” John Stuart Mill
The “collision of opinion” so endorsed by enlightenment thinkers, is not currently encouraged. If someone says something stupid or blatantly false our first response is no longer to try to prove them wrong – it’s to silence them. To quote Jonathan Pie we focus on “stopping debates instead of winning them.” A good recent example of that is the bizarre trial-by-media of Polish right-wing MEP Janusz Korwin-Mikke.
Let’s be clear. JKM seems to hold a pretty reactionary and unpleasant set of views, about women and much else. Speaking as a woman, I’m not a fan of that. Here is the gentleman, talking about the gender pay gap, in the discourse that ignited the current eruption of outrage:
His English is broken, his reasoning shaky and his conclusions pretty flawed. He’s a self-created straw man, waiting to be knocked over by any reasonably intelligent or astute opponent. But what has the response in the media been?
Yes, that’s right, not a series of rational refutations, but a chorus of offended people hurling abuse and demanding the clown be censored.
Piers Morgan, who invited Korwin-Mikke on to Good Morning Britain did little more than exchange playground insults with the man. Korwin-Mikke says his opinions are based on “scientific studies”. Did Morgan bother to ask what these “studies” might be? Did he offer counter-evidence that proves the nonsense Korwin-Mikke is talking?
No. He just called him “stupid” and a “sexist pig”. Ok, maybe JKM is both those things, but that’s not the point. If he’s wrong he should be shown to be wrong, with rebuttal, not ad hominem. What Morgan did, and was lauded for, isn’t debate, it’s an ignorant brawl, or the two-minutes hate. The fact the hate-figure on this occasion is some man with unpleasant ideologies and dodgy data does not make it a great day for democracy.
The call is mounting for Korwin-Mikke to be “kicked out” of the European parliament. The Soros-funded fake grassroots group Avaaz is leading this campaign, and lying about him into the bargain, publishing photos of him doing a Nazi salute, without bothering to tell anyone he was, as the Independent grudgingly confirms in its text, doing this as a derogatory commentary on current German policies, and not as a tribute to Hitler (yes, it was still inappropriate, but that doesn’t justify a blatant falsehood being propagated in pursuance of a witch hunt). Avaaz’s campaign already has over 700,000 signatories. And indeed Korwin-Mikke is going to be dealt with by the EP itself, who have promised:
… a penalty commensurate with the gravity of the offence”
Offence? Is it actually illegal now to say untrue things about women? We’re going to punish this guy, not prove him wrong?
So, who cares, right? So, one misogynistic fool gets falsely maligned and hounded in the tabloids and maybe even “kicked out” of parliament, who is any the worse for it?
To which the obvious reply is – do you really think it will end there? Do you think the neoliberal press and toxic propagandists such as Avaaz are busy fostering this atmosphere of anti-intellectual intolerance just so they can deal with a handful of women-haters or other nasties?
The point is, once you have installed the culture of suppression, you can use it in any way you like.
The insidious new meme being developed in “progressive” places like the Guardian, and other neoliberal strongholds is that free speech is all very well, but has its limits. Not, you understand, the already established limits defined by law which make it clear free speech does not include the right to threaten, defame or incite violence. No, these are new and woolly limits that involve misty concepts like “hate” (not hate-speech, which is also defined by certain laws, but “hate”, which isn’t), and “consensus facts.” We are told that people who transgress these vague new limits need to be stopped – for the good of society. We are told we are living in a time of unprecedented “hate”, even though prosecutions for hate-crime are dropping. We are told we need to take a stand, “stamp out” this “hate” and make a statement of zero tolerance.
On the surface that’s a reasonable thing. No one sane wants to encourage hate or to be a “hater”. But what we may not notice is that the “progressives” advocating this approach never say exactly what they mean by “hater”. “Hater” of what exactly? Ethnic minorities? Women? Trans people? White men? Oligarchs? Israel? Corrupt politicians? The NSA? What if the corrupt politician is a woman? What if the NSA spokesman is black?
And exactly how far can we go to stamp out “hate”? Is it acceptable – for example – to rescind an elected representative’s right to sit in the European Parliament if he’s branded a “hater”? Who would be empowered to make this decision? The parliament itself? Oligarch-funded pressure groups with hordes of unverified signatories? What are the exact definitions? Where is the line drawn? We aren’t told, and that’s probably not an oversight.
“Denier” is another word like “hater.” “Deniers” are the boogeymen to sell us the idea that free speech is dangerous, not just for minorities, but also for the preservation of truth. The same people who talk about “haters” frequently ask how we can allow “deniers” to keep muddying the argument about [insert contentious issue here], when the world/human health/the future of the universe is at stake.
The starting point is always the fallacy that we can establish truth to a degree that makes further discussion of evidence unnecessary and doubt a sort of crime. Once we know the Truth, the argument goes, we don’t really need free speech any more. In fact free speech in a time of established Truth becomes a regressive force, since it will enable those who don’t believe the Truth, or who are paid to besmirch it, to lead the unwary from the path of certainty into darkness and doubt.
If that sounds like religious fundamentalism it’s because essentially that’s what it is. It’s the fundamentalism of a post-deist world. Just as anti-rational, just as anti-factual, just as atavistic as any other expression of certitude that requires unqualified acceptance as the first article of faith. But this particular “fundamentalism” is being used cynically as another way of levering public opinion away from real free speech and toward “modified” free speech, where the right to air your opinion is conditional upon a lot of poorly defined, and often faith-based ideas about public health and social responsibility.
Let’s pause for a moment and evaluate.
Why do so many of the same neoliberals who support environmental disasters such as global wars and nuclear energy, also swarm the issue of climate change, and so vocally agitate for the silencing or denigration of “deniers”? Why when the absolutely not “denialist” IPCC is openly admitting there can at present be no certainty about the extent or direction of longterm global temperatures, is any kind of demurring from the belief that manmade climate change is not only real but deadly, presented to us in the liberal media as something malign or insane that should not be given airtime?
If the IPCC’s 2013 report on everything from the net warming potential of C02 to the true extent of ice-loss in the Arctic, is a long list of best guesses ranging from “high probability” to “low probability”, with no mention of certainty, how do we even begin to justify dismissing and demonising people whose views of these probabilities may be different?
Note, I’m not saying “why do people believe in the reality of manmade climate change”? I absolutely understand why they do. It’s a very reasonable thing to believe. I’m asking specifically why we are being encouraged to consider doubt or even nuance is invalid and should be expunged, when the IPCC and scientists on both sides acknowledge that doubt and nuance of varying degrees, and indeed complete absence of knowledge, inevitably goes with the territory?
Is the demand for the exclusion of certain points of view based on a) the fear the public may get confused by conflicting viewpoints and accidentally let the planet burn up, or b) the recognition this is a nice thin end of a very thick wedge?
Just as no one sane wants to encourage hate, no one rational wants to destroy the planet. It’s a pretty easy sell to persuade us that we shouldn’t listen, or give air time, to lunatics or shills who apparently want to let the oceans swallow the land and the skies boil. I mean, I don’t want that to happen, do you? Faced with a stark alternative, where we either censor the bad guys or let them usher in the end of the world, which side are we going to pick? Green David versus Goliath the Oil Monster, is a no-brainer, add in George Monbiot, or someone, pointing to the undeniably egregious suppression of the connection between smoking and lung cancer as proof that narrow special interests can confuse arguments and hinder progress, and we’re sold. Let’s silence the pesky deniers and save the planet.
The argument is superficially persuasive because it’s partly true. Big Tobacco did use its clout to suppress inconvenient research and pay off scientists to lie or obfuscate, and this had a very negative impact on public health over many years. It’s reasonable to want to avoid that in future.
But let’s stop and think for a moment. How, in heaven’s name, is the fact Big Tobacco managed to suppress research and manipulate the debate an argument for censoring anyone? What this case proves is the need for more openness and debate, not less. It proves that good science will win out over false representation, when both sides are given equal opportunity to be heard. It was Big Tobacco’s big bucks that kept the truth from coming out, not the principle of free speech. Imagine, forty years ago, Philip Morris International had been able to not simply suppress and distort but to label its critics “tobacco deniers” and demand their voice be banned from the airwaves for the good of humanity?
Are we supposed to believe this kind of suppression is a step forward, just because right now the perceived “good guys” are doing it? Or that the new age of “consensus-driven”, Avaaz-sponsored grass-roots endorsed censorship would only be used by the weak against the strong, truth against lies? Are we supposed to believe, once we have set a precedent of denying the “deniers” and the “haters” their platform, the neoliberal media won’t pretty soon be labeling anyone their bosses don’t like a “denier” or a “hater” and demanding they be silenced or sent to jail? And, if we can be persuaded to stop listening to one side of this argument can’t we most likely be persuaded to stop listening to one side of any argument.
Are we supposed to overlook the fact that while Goliath the Oil Monster certainly does fund climate skeptics, “Green David” is backed by some of the richest and most influential people on the planet?
No, once again, I’m not saying manmade climate change isn’t real. I’m saying, quite specifically, that the current drive to politicise and censor this debate has nothing to do with protecting truth or saving the planet and everything to do with attacking the most important principle of freedom. I’m saying Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, George Soros, Richard Branson, Reid Hoffman, Tom Steyer, the UN, NASA, NOAA, the IPCC, the EU, the Democratic Party et al can probably compete on equal terms with Big Oil. I’m saying their message is getting across and the idea that manmade global warming is some underfunded grassroots campaign that needs special pleading to defend its corner is just another way of persuading people that censorship can be progressive. I’m saying let’s stop buying that schtick.
I’m saying we need to reassert the fact that truth doesn’t require to be defended by censorship, government prosecution, or simplistic one-sided arguments. Truth thrives in open debate and the exchange of ideas. It dies when one side is denied a voice because “If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.”
And that is only more true when the truth may have a dozen billionaires and the entire neoliberal establishment advocating for it.
I’m saying that in a society of “believers” and “deniers” we all become Inquisitors, of each other and ourselves. We are currently encouraged by our betters to be Brown Shirts, dumb as a bag of hammers, zero-tolerant and proud of it, beating down unacceptable minority views with a big populist stick. We are urged, not to arrive at opinions through analysis, but to just know what’s true, because the right people say so, because our Facebook friends give it a lot of likes, because it just is ok? We don’t engage with different opinions we scream at them until they go away or get put down.
I’m saying that as a modern day Milgram experiment this push to get intelligent, caring people to act like Salem witch hunters is interesting, demonstrating that the smartest, sanest person can be enjoined to act against their deepest ideals and even common sense, if given the proper cues.
We’re forgetting that the point of free speech is it guarantees a voice to the weaker party, the oppressed, the otherwise disenfranchised. And in the age of the internet this principle can be put into practice to a degree unimaginable.
This is why the powerful and the wealthy are currently trying to persuade us to fear and distrust each other. To hate in the name of anti-hate, silence in the name of progress. Bit by bit. Voice by voice. Until the only sound left is the dispossessed lunatic scream.
The horrible thing about the Two Minutes Hate was not that one was obliged to act a part, but that it was impossible to avoid joining in. Within thirty seconds any pretence was always unnecessary. A hideous ecstasy of fear and vindictiveness, a desire to kill, to torture, to smash faces in with a sledge hammer, seemed to flow through the whole group of people like an electric current, turning one even against one’s will into a grimacing, screaming lunatic. And yet the rage that one felt was an abstract, undirected emotion which could be switched from one object to another like the flame of a blowlamp George Orwell, 1984
PS: Just once again and to be quite sure any skim-readers get the message – No, I am still NOT saying man made climate change is a lie.
Desperation tactics to shut down discussion of the Israeli regime’s mega-crimes reach new heights of absurdity
A fake anti-semitism campaign masterminded by the usual Zio suspects, their Israel lobby colleagues and their stooges in the corridors of power, continues to sweep across UK universities… and our political parties, especially shambolic and rudderless Labour.
The University of Central Lancashire cancelled an event due to be held last month entitled “Debunking Misconceptions on Palestine and the Importance of Boycott Divestment and Sanctions” organised by the University’s Friends of Palestine Society. The University said it would contravene the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s new definition of what constitutes anti-semitism and would therefore be unlawful. The event went ahead, off campus, at the premises of a local voluntary organisation.
Exeter University banned students from staging a re-enactment called Mock Checkpoint, in which some dressed up as Israeli occupation soldiers while others acted the part of Palestinians trying to go about their daily lives. The event was approved by the students’ guild but banned for “safety and security reasons” less than 48 hours before it was due to take place. An appeal was rejected.
At Leeds former British ambassador Craig Murray was asked by the trustees of the University Union to provide details of what he was going to say in his talk “Palestine/Israel: A Unitary Secular State or a Bantustan Solution” just 24 hours before he was due to speak. Craig reluctantly gave them an outline to allow the lecture to go ahead. He writes in his blog: “I have just been told by Leeds University Union I will not be allowed to speak unless I submit what I am going to say for pre-vetting.
I am truly appalled that such a gross restriction on freedom of speech should be imposed anywhere, let alone in a university where intellectual debate is meant to be an essential part of the learning experience. I really do not recognise today’s United Kingdom as the same society I grew up in. The common understanding that the values of a liberal democracy are the foundation of society appears to have evaporated.
Also at Leeds the student Palestine Solidarity Group was refused permission to mount a visual demonstration outside the Leeds Student Union Building or to have a stall inside.
At Liverpool Professor Michael Lavalette was contacted the day before he was due to speak with a demand that he sign the University’s ‘risk assessment’ for the event. This included reading the controversial IHRA definition of anti-semitism and agreeing with it. He emailed his response in which he carefully avoided mention of the dodgy definition and the meeting went ahead.
The University of Manchester allowed a series of talks marking Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW) to go ahead, but only after several meetings and imposing strict conditions which the organisers called “unheard of…. other societies and groups do not face the same problems.” University authorities, however, vetoed the students’ choice of academic to chair an IAW event on BDS over concerns about her “neutrality”, and other speakers had to acknowledge the British government-endorsed definition of anti-semitism.
Meanwhile some reports say that a conference with the title “International Law and the State of Israel: Legitimacy, Responsibility and Exceptionalism” to be held at University College Cork at the end of this month has been cancelled thanks to pressure from Zionist groups. StandWithUs Israel, in cahoots with Irish4Israel, claim the University has been persuaded to impose added security stipulations and other limitations that “amount to a de-facto cancelling of this hateful event”. But these are desperation tactics. Checking with the organisers I’m told the event is “100% going ahead”. The Irish, it seems, are not as easily pushed around as the English. The conference, if you remember, was chased away from Southampton University two years ago by a similar campaign against free speech. The ‘official’ reason, as usual, was security concerns.
Now comes the scandal of the 26 year-old Exeter student, noted for her work on anti-racism, being smeared by the Zionist Inquisition for her Pro-Palestinian activism.
She is accused of having tweeted two years ago: “If terrorism means protecting and defending my land, I am so proud to be called terrorist”. So what? As everyone and his dog knows, or ought to know, the Palestinians are perfectly entitled, under international law, to take up arms and resist a brutal illegal occupier. As Malaka Mohammed herself says:
It may appear as a radical statement that could raise serious concerns at both the University of Exeter and its Students’ Guild. However, it is my honest belief, and as I will attempt to explain, these kind of statements by Palestinians in general, and me in this instance, are most commonly in response to efforts by Israel advocacy groups and the Israeli government to demonize and dehumanize Palestinians. This is done by using the emotive dog whistle by Israeli descriptors of ‘terrorist’ and ‘terrorism’ whenever referring to the ‘Arab’ population. Palestinians who throw stones in response to Israeli soldiers invading their villages are labelled violent thugs, rioters and terrorists. Palestinians who non-violently protest the illegal occupation are portrayed as violent individuals who terrorize Israeli Jews. Practically any Palestinian who resists the Israeli occupation and its plethora of human rights violations, war crimes and serious violations of international humanitarian and human rights law is stigmatized in this way.
After reading that, I dropped the Vice-Chancellor a line:
Sir Steve Smith, Vice-Chancellor University of Exeter
Dear Sir Steve,
I’m writing as a graduate of Exeter University with fond memories of the place, and because I’m shocked to see its good name besmirched by ludicrous accusations linking Palestinian PhD student Malaka Mohammed (aka Shwaikh) to anti-semitism and supporting terrorism.
As an acknowledged international relations specialist you will know the score regarding Israel’s decades-long illegal occupation of the Palestinians’ homeland and its brutal subjugation and merciless dispossession of the Palestinian people. You will also, I imagine, understand who the true terrorists and anti-semites are.
Lest we forget, the US defines terrorism as an activity that
(i) involves a violent act or an act dangerous to human life, property, or infrastructure; and
(ii) appears to be intended
– to intimidate or coerce a civilian population;
– to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or
– to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, kidnapping, or hostage-taking.
And the US has used this definition to terrorise and degrade individuals, groups and countries it doesn’t happen to like.
Ironically it’s a definition that fits the US administration itself – and the thuggish Israeli regime – like a glove.
I sincerely hope that amidst the flurry of investigations going on you will take steps to ensure that plucky Ms Mohammed/Schwaikh ceases to be victimised by tiresome Zionist Inquisitors and is allowed to get on with her studies, and from now on free speech prevails across the beautiful Exeter campus.
Sir Steve is said to earn £400,000 a year according to this report. Perhaps he and many other university bosses need rousing from their plumptious comfort zone.
I’m with Craig Murray on this. I too don’t recognise our society today as the same one I grew up in. Who had the impudence to change our values regarding free speech?
“This picture belittles the sacrifice that thousands of Palestinians have made throughout the years,” according to Ramzy Baroud. (Photo: Walled Off Hotel)
BETHLEHEM – Israel’s infamous separation wall in the occupied West Bank, while cutting off Palestinians from their lands and religious sites, isolating communities, and eroding the livelihood of scores of Palestinians along its route, has become an unlikely breeding ground for tourism.
Adjacent to the graffiti-stained separation wall in the city of Bethlehem, which is surrounded by illegal Israeli settlements, and next door to the Aida refugee camp, elusive UK artist Banksy now welcomes guests to his latest project: the Walled Off Hotel.
The wall’s destruction of livelihoods
In a message written in Arabic, English, and Hebrew, a plaque posted at the entrance to the hotel-cum-art museum tells its guests not to “choose sides” in the conflict. In describing the separation barrier, deemed illegal by International Court of Justice, the statement says: “The wall is a lie. It sells the idea that there is a simple divide between the people here, but there isn’t.”
But according to Palestinian-American journalist and author Ramzy Baroud, Bethlehem’s isolation from Jerusalem through Israel’s separation wall and two massive illegal settlements — with a third on its way — is far from “a lie,” has taken a tangible toll on the city’s economy, which once boasted a thriving tourism industry thanks to its many historical and religious sites.
“This tragic reality left Bethlehem, one of the most endeared Palestinian cities, struggling for survival, and reduced it in many instances to utilize its very subjugation as a method of generating income,” Baroud told Ma’an.
Banksy’s hotel is not the first project that has attempted to develop an alternative tourism industry seeking to raise awareness about Palestinian dispossession and routine Israeli military violence.
Following the wall’s construction in the area, the livelihoods of numerous Palestinians were destroyed, forcing some to develop alternative livelihoods dependent on funds generated around foreign tourists coming to the area to view Israel’s separation wall.
Diana Buttu, a Palestinian-Canadian lawyer and former spokesperson for the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), emphasized to Ma’an that local Palestinians’ dependency on tourism centered around the wall was not just about financial profit.
“For some Palestinians, foreigners coming to see the wall is essential for their ability to stay alive. If they don’t get people to recognize what is going on in Palestine, then their deaths become just numbers,” she said.
“The idea of showing others the wall is a way of ensuring that their oppression and resistance is not experienced in silence.”
The separation wall in Bethlehem with a mural of Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) leader Leila Khalid (MaanImages/Jaclynn Ashly)
These days, the few shops open in the area near the wall in Bethlehem cater to international tourists visiting the site to take pictures of graffiti and the impressive murals decorating the concrete. Banksy’s artwork in the area has become a centerpiece for such tourism.
Yamin al-Abed, a local tour guide and owner of the Banksy souvenir shop right beside the new hotel, told Ma’an that he expected Banksy’s hotel to triple the amount of visitors to Bethlehem. “This area is going to be crowded soon,” he said. “I am really looking forward to it.”
Banky’s artwork has “brought life back into a dead area,” al-Abed said, by developing a business around the now-iconic stencil work Banksy painted on the wall more than 10 years ago.
However, the hotel’s elusiveness on its planned financial model — as its website only states that it would “put any profits back into local projects” while remaining vague which specific projects would be concerned — has led observers to question whether or not the new business will positively benefit to the community.
A local worker at a nearby hotel, who preferred to remain unnamed, expressed his confusion over the hotel’s opening to Ma’an. “It is strange that this hotel was constructed in an area where commercial shops and hotels have been killed by the wall’s construction,” he said, adding that his own hotel had faced serious financial setbacks since the wall was built.
‘It’s not meant for Palestinians’
“What Bethlehem truly needed was breaking this sad paradigm, not cementing it,” Baroud said, echoing local concerns that the livelihoods generated around the wall has served to further entrench the Israeli occupation in the West Bank by basing a local economy on its most visual and destructive feature.
Buttu said that the most worrying aspect of what she referred to as “oppression tourism” was the parts of the wall which had not been decorated with graffiti and murals.
“The vast majority of Israel’s wall is completely ignored by tourists. And these parts of the wall are actively scooping out large areas of Palestinian land.”
Tourists are typically attracted to the “visual elements” of the cement wall, she said, and often disregard parts of the wall with barbed wire and electric fences, underscoring that these areas tend to be the most devastated as locals are dependent on farming and have no other alternative livelihood.
According to Buttu, “Many people really wanted visitors to see the wall for its ugly reality, and not use art and graffiti to mask or erase the reality Palestinians were living.”
While she wanted to give Banksy “the benefit of the doubt,” she said that the hotel risked feeding into the same process that Palestinians have been attempting to challenge. “Palestinians want foreigners to actually do something for their struggle, not just come and take pictures.”
Baroud, meanwhile, commented that certain aspects of the hotel were deeply offensive to Palestinians. Referring to one painting hung in a $265-per-night suite that lightheartedly depicts an Israeli soldier having a pillow fight with a Palestinian protester, Baroud said that it was “deeply insulting” and “belittles the sacrifice that thousands of Palestinians have made throughout the years.”
For local resident Muna Hassan, the hotel reflects larger issues in occupied Palestine.
“Palestinians feel hopeless. All we have now are foreigners coming here and advocating social and political projects that don’t help us at all. Meanwhile, our economy is dependent on international aid which arrives with conditions and tells us how we should behave,” she said.
According to Hassan, this kind of tourism exists because “there’s nothing left for us to do.”
“We have a government that doesn’t represent us. Israel has destroyed all our political movements and has stolen our land. They took everything from us. We have nothing left.”
Hassan told Ma’an that Palestinians had become tired of social and political projects originating from the international community. “We need better hospitals and schools. We need businesses that help us define and change our own society. We should create spaces where young Palestinians can develop their own conceptions of art, instead of just catering to foreigners who want to draw on the wall and snap pictures of Banksy paintings.”
She noted that, for her, the hotel was “not meant for Palestinians. It’s just more entertainment for tourists.”
One of the most controversial elements of Banksy’s new hotel is the stated aim of welcoming Israelis to the West Bank, with the hotel itself being constructed in an Israeli-controlled area of Bethlehem.
The trilingual statement posted at the hotel’s entrance claims that most Israelis are “opposed to the cruelties inflicted by the wall,” while the ones who support it “are deeply fearful for their security.”
According to the hotel’s owner Wissam Salsa, one focus of the project is to “educate Israelis on Palestinian suffering” caused by the separation wall and the Israeli occupation. “We also want to show our guests what it’s like to live on this side of the wall.”
Al-Abed said that he believed it was important for Israelis to visit the West Bank, saying that “I am sure that once they come and see our miserable lives, they will return to Israel and attempt to change their government.”
However, Buttu told Ma’an that Israel’s policies have actually received widespread support from an Israeli public that has “benefited immensely” from these policies, while feeding into Israeli desires of a “Jewish state.” According to a poll released earlier this year, 62 percent of Israelis support continuing Israel’s illegal settlement construction in Palestinian territory.
“You will not find Israelis who support going back to life pre-1993, when you didn’t have separation and Palestinians had freedom of movement into Israel. Most Israelis are happy with this separation system in place,” she said.
One visitor to the hotel, a local Palestinian student who preferred not to be named, rapidly shifted from excitement to frustration after being informed that the project was aimed at creating dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians.
“We can have dialogue once Palestinians have equal rights,” he said. “If Israelis really want to understand Palestinian suffering, they should fight for the wall’s destruction and not stay in a hotel right next to it.”
Buttu noted the futility of the initiative, saying that “we can’t just pretend that it’s easy for Palestinians and Israelis to come together, hold hands, and sing songs.”
“This is a state system of apartheid and settler-colonialism. Unless Israelis recognize this, then there is no point in having these fake gatherings and dialogues.”
Israeli police officers abducted, on Saturday morning, a Palestinian novelist after she finished writing her latest work dubbed “The Jackal’s Trap,” talking about informants and collaborators, spying on their own people.
The Palestinian novelist, identified as Khaleda Gousha, was abducted after the police and soldiers stormed her home, in Beit Hanina neighborhood, north of occupied Jerusalem.
Khaleda’s business manager, Amani Abdul-Karim, said Khaleda was moved to an interrogation facility in Nevi Yacov illegal colony, built on illegally-confiscated Palestinian lands, owned by Beit Hanina residents.
She added that Khaleda called her colleagues from the interrogation center, and informed them that she needs a lawyer to represent her.
Khaleda said that she was officially informed that the reason behind her abduction and interrogation is her latest Novel, The Jackal’s Trap, which she intends to publish this coming October.
Syria demanded that the United Nations and participants of Geneva and Astana talks condemn the two terrorist bombings that took place in Damascus on Saturday.
Syria’s Foreign Ministry made the call on Saturday in a letter sent to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and the UN Security Council, in which it demanded the condemnation of the deadly bombings which killed 46 people.
Two bomb attacks took place near Bab al-Saghir cemetery in the Bab Mousalla area of Damascus. Most of the martyrs were Iraqi pilgrims.
The letter condemned the “cowardly” attack which coincided with a series of mortar and rocket attacks on the city that resulted in a large number of casualties, SANA news agency reported.
It added that such actions are carried out in retaliation for gains made by the Syrian army against the Takfiri terrorists across the country.
The letter went on to say that while the Syrian government condemns this and other such acts of terrorism committed by the terrorist organizations and backed by known governments and regimes, “it reiterates again that all parties participating in the talks held in Astana and Geneva distance themselves from the terrorist organizations.”
The Ministry meanwhile, demanded in its letters a condemnation from the UN Secretary General and the Security Council of this terrorist attack and that the governments and regimes supporting the terrorist organizations, mainly those of Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
The first round of the Astana talks, organized by guarantor states Russia, Turkey and Iran took place on January 23-24 and brought together representatives from the Damascus government and opposition groups. The second round of the negotiations, similarly brokered by the trio, was held on February 15-16.
The fourth round of the UN-mediated discussions was held between February 23 and March 3 in Geneva, and a fifth one has been scheduled for March 23.
Any foreign forces, including those from the US, that enter Syria without invitation are invaders, Syrian President Bashar Assad told Chinese media in an interview, noting that no one had given the US troops currently in Manbij permission to be there.
“Any foreign troops coming to Syria without our invitation or consultation or permission, they are invaders, whether they are American, Turkish, or any other one,” Assad told Chinese PHOENIX TV, as cited by the Syrian state-run SANA news agency.
When a journalist asked the Syrian president if Damascus had “opened doors” for American troops in Aleppo province’s city of Manbij, Assad said “No, we didn’t.”
“What are they [foreign troops] going to do? To fight ISIS [Islamic State, formerly ISIL]? The Americans lost nearly every war. They lost in Iraq, they had to withdraw at the end. Even in Somalia, let alone Vietnam in the past and Afghanistan.”
According to Assad, the US “didn’t succeed anywhere they sent troops, they only create a mess; they are very good in creating problems and destroying, but they are very bad in finding solutions.”
The Pentagon confirmed earlier in March that US troops had been sent to Manbij to prevent conflict between US-backed Kurdish forces and rebels backed by Turkey.
Without foreign intervention, the Syrian war “will take a few months” to bring to an end, Assad noted.
“The complexity of this war is the foreign intervention. This is the problem,” he said.
Syria’s president stressed that government troops are now very close to Raqqa, Islamic State’s stronghold some 100 kilometers from Manbij.
American troops were first spotted in the town earlier in March. Reports emerged at the time claiming that a deal had been struck for the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to hand over some 20 villages in a zone between Manbij and Al-Bab, which had been recently taken by Turkish-backed forces, to the Syrian government.
“They [Syrian forces] are certainly aware of where we [US] are, and we are aware of where they are. There is no intention between the two of there being any conflict against any party other than ISIS,” Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis told reporters.
On Thursday, the US-led coalition confirmed that around 400 American marines and army rangers had arrived in Syria to establish an outpost to support an operation to take the city of Raqqa. The new contingent adds to the 500 US troops already in Syria. US Air Force Colonel John Dorrian, the coalition’s spokesman, says the new soldiers have been deployed to expedite the defeat of the terrorists in Raqqa.
Iran’s Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani
Iran says the Israeli prime minister “clearly” showed in his recent remarks opposing Iranian counterterror contribution to Syria that Tel Aviv is behind the ongoing war in the Arab country.
Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani made the remarks on Sunday, concerning a Friday conversation between Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow.
Netanyahu reportedly expressed “Israel’s strong opposition to the presence of Iranian forces” north of Israel “in the context of the talks on a settlement of any kind.”
Iran has been lending advisory support to the Syrian military in its battle against foreign-backed militancy, while avoiding any direct military involvement in the conflict.
“Netanyahu laid the conditions for peace in Syria,” Larijani told the parliament session in Tehran. “He clearly stated that the Zionist regime is behind the war in Syria.”
“If some regional leaders were so far in a doubt that the war in Syria is not in line with the interests of Muslims, the least of which Sunni Muslims, they should have been disillusioned with these remarks by the head of the Zionist regime,” he added.
“The main reason behind the adventures in the region is to defeat resistance and its supporters to pave the way for the Zionist regime’s complete dominance here,” Larijani further said.
Netanyahu was also cited as telling Putin “the fact that the Golan Heights is not part of the discussion on any outline” of the peace agreement.
Israel has been occupying Golan since 1967. Since the start of the foreign-backed militancy in Syria, it has been providing medical treatment to injured Takfiri terrorists arriving at the territory, claiming it would do so for all those in the areas “under its control.”
Tel Aviv wants Syrian President Bashar al-Assad ousted. It has been carrying out air raids against Syria-based targets from Lebanese airspace on many occasions.
Late last month, Israel’s Channel 2 said the regime had sent its troops on repeated spying missions into a village located half a kilometer inside Syria’s territory. The Israeli military has also deployed intelligence-gathering equipment in the Golan Heights to record movements by the Syrian military and foreign-backed militants.
Bibi’s ignorance of history
Meeting with Putin, the Israeli premier also claimed ancient Persia had made a failed attempt to “destroy the Jewish people” some 2,500 years ago, a legend commemorated through the Jewish holiday of Purim, which Israel started celebrating Saturday night.
While scholars do not agree on the accuracy of the Purim story, Netanyahu has constantly referred to the legend as a basis of his anti-Iran arguments in his meetings with different world leaders.
Larijani said making the comments, Netanyahu had both misreported Iran’s pre-Islam history and inverted facts.
“Apparently, he is neither acquainted with history, nor has read Torah,” the said Iranian top parliamentarian.
According to Jewish accounts, Persian King Ahasverous discovered his viceroy’s conspiracy to slaughter Jews some 2,500 years ago and had him executed.
Nevertheless, Netanyahu has been selective in his recount of history, ignoring the Hebrew Bible that has repeatedly praised Persian King Cyrus the Great as the patron and deliverer of the Jews, who put an end to their Babylonian captivity.