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Alleged Russia-Taliban Arms Link Disputed

By Jonathan Marshall | Consortium News | May 29, 2017

A tiny article from Reuters in late May quoted the director of the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency as telling a Senate hearing, “I have not seen real physical evidence of weapons or money being transferred.” Marine Lt. Gen. Vincent Stewart was addressing widespread claims by top Pentagon officials of Russian arms flowing to the Taliban in Afghanistan.

By conceding the reports have no real substance, Stewart quietly called the bluff of military hardliners who are invoking the Russian menace to justify prolonging and escalating the longest and second-most-costly war in U.S. history. Stories of Russian military shipments to Afghanistan began last December, with a typical headline from the Washington Post: “Russia begins supplying weapons to Afghanistan, sides with Taliban.”

Down in the body of the story, however, it emerged that Moscow had agreed to ship 10,000 assault rifles not to the Taliban but to the Afghan government’s police force in Kabul. A Russian Foreign Ministry official said, “Russia has been consistently pursuing the policy of providing comprehensive assistance to Afghanistan in the establishment of a peaceful, independent, stable and self-sufficient state, free from terrorism and drugs.” Russia previously supplied helicopters and pilot training to Afghan forces, under a contract with the U.S. Department of Defense, which continued thanks to a special U.S. waiver on economic sanctions.

As to the Taliban, the Russian official said only that his government stood ready, in the interests of Afghanistan’s national reconciliation, to support “the possible weakening of the sanctions regime . . . against the Taliban, if it is not contrary to the national interests of Afghanistan.” He added that Russia shared the Taliban’s interest in defeating ISIS in Afghanistan.

Scapegoating the Russians

Starting in March, coincident with urgent requests by the U.S. commander in Afghanistan for thousands more troops to stem the Taliban’s military advances, senior Pentagon officers began blaming Russia for setbacks on the battlefield.

“I think it is fair to assume they may be providing some sort of support to [the Taliban] in terms of weapons or other things that may be there,” General Joseph Votel, chief of U.S. Central Command, told members of Congress.

Defense Secretary James Mattis chimed in with claims, paraphrased by NPR correspondent Tom Bowman, that “the Russians are providing some support, including maybe weapons to the Taliban.” Noting that the details were “murky,” Bowman added, “the commander in Afghanistan, General John Nicholson, thinks this is a way for the Russians just to undermine the U.S. and NATO.”

Staying on message, a spokesman for the NATO coalition in Afghanistan told the Los Angeles Times days later, “We know that actions by Russia in Afghanistan are meant to undermine the work of the United States and NATO to support the Afghan government.” The reporters then stated as fact, “It . . . represents another effort by [Russian President Vladimir] Putin to exert power globally while weakening the U.S.”

In late April, a “senior U.S. military official,” speaking on background, asserted that the Russians had “increased their supply of equipment and small arms to the Taliban over the past 18 months.” He said “the Russians have been sending weapons, including medium and heavy machine guns, to the Taliban under the guise that the materiel would be used to fight the Islamic State in eastern Afghanistan.”

Secretary Mattis, quoted in the same article, said menacingly, “we’re going to have to confront Russia where what they’re doing is contrary to international law or denying the sovereignty of other countries.”

Russian Denials

Russia, increasingly considered a “hostile power” by many Americans, won few converts by denying what it called “irresponsible accusations” based on “rumors and conjectures.” Its special envoy to Afghanistan branded the allegations of its arms transfers to the Taliban insurgents “absolute lies . . . aimed at justifying the failure of the U.S. military and politicians.”

But Russia’s credibility – even after months of strident and varied accusations from Western officials – could hardly have been lower than the Afghan sources quoted in U.S. news accounts to bolster the Pentagon’s claims. One notable example was the police chief of Uruzgan province, who spoke of Russian agents, “dressed in doctor’s uniforms,” infiltrating his region and “enticing people against the government, providing training and teaching how to assemble land mines.”

The rotten corruption of the Uruzgan provincial police has been attested to by no less than the commander of the Afghan army in that province. Police there abandoned the provincial capital last year, allowing Taliban forces to walk in unopposed — not because of Russian weapons but because senior officials had pocketed police pay for months at a time.

Similar claims against Russia came from the governor of Kunduz province, whose capital was overrun by Taliban forces last fall in what reporters described as a “seemingly easy re-entry” into the city after a similar Taliban incursion in 2015 was repelled by U.S. Special Forces. Other Afghan officials, and independent reporters, ascribed the Taliban’s easy victories to the local population’s grievances against the “mafia-like” elite who run the province.

Experts also blamed aid from Pakistan — not Russia — to the Taliban. Echoing their complaint, former U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad said last year, “The issue of the U.S. inability to deal effectively with Pakistan, and the [Taliban] sanctuary problem in Pakistan, has been the mother of all problems for U.S.-Afghan relations and of Afghanistan to some degree since 9/11.”

Another big supplier of the Taliban is Saudi Arabia. An exposé by Carlotta Gall in the New York Times revealed that as a longtime ally of Pakistan, “Saudi Arabia has backed Islamabad’s promotion of the Taliban. Over the years, wealthy Saudi sheikhs and rich philanthropists have also stoked the war by privately financing the insurgents.”

How US Arms Taliban

Perhaps the biggest arms supplier of all to the Taliban is the U.S. taxpayer. The Taliban rake off hundreds of millions of dollars from extortion of U.S.-funded projects in the country. They also fill their armories with U.S.-made weapons. A Taliban commander told Bloomberg News that when he needs more weapons and fuel, he simply buys or steals them from his foe. “It’s simple and cheaper,” he said.

As journalist and book author Douglas Wissing observed recently, “U.S-enabled corruption lost the Afghan War. . . Corruption funds the enemy, with hundreds of millions of dollars skimmed from U.S. logistics and aid money. . . . Empowered and financed by this corruption, Taliban strength has grown at double-digit rates annually since 2005. Insurgents now control about 40 percent of the countryside, and are pressuring government centers across country, including increasingly besieged Kabul.”

In the past, Donald Trump was correct when he tweeted that the war in Afghanistan was a “total disaster” – although as President, he is reportedly considering a Pentagon plan to escalate the U.S. role, again.

Blaming the Russians for the war’s latest reversals may let our Afghan allies and our own military off the hook for losing this long war in slow motion, but it won’t change the outcome.

May 29, 2017 Posted by | Corruption, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , | Leave a comment

Israel regime threat to Middle East nations, humanity: Larijani

Press TV – May 29, 2017

Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani says the “aggressive and racist” nature of the Israeli regime has always been and will remain a source of threat to the nations in the Middle East and humanity in general.

In a message on Monday, Larijani offered his congratulations to Secretary General of the Lebanese Hezbollah resistance movement, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, on the 17th anniversary of the liberation of southern Lebanon from the Israeli occupation.

He said resistance was the only way to liberate Palestine from the Israeli occupation.

“The multiple victories of the Islamic resistance [movement] against the Zionist regime (Israel) clearly demonstrate that the lofty aspirations of the Muslim Ummah for the liberation of the occupied Palestinian territories can be achieved only through harmony, solidarity and resistance,” Larijani added.

The top Iranian parliamentarian expressed confidence that unity and solidarity among different Lebanese groups would shape a “bright future” for people in Lebanon and the Islamic resistance movement.

The Israeli regime first invaded Lebanon in 1978 and later escalated the military operation into a full-scale offensive in 1982.

During the 22-year entanglement with Lebanon, the Israeli military took heavy blows from Lebanese resistance fighters and reportedly lost some 900 of its soldiers.

Following the 1982 offensive, known as the First Lebanon War, Tel Aviv refused to leave southern Lebanon and kept its military presence there in defiance of the UN Security Council Resolution 425 that called on the regime to immediately withdraw.

However, the Zionist enemy eventually buckled under the resistance put up by Hezbollah fighters and pulled out its forces from the occupied areas overnight on May 24, 2000, in what observers call a humiliating defeat for the regime in Tel Aviv and a glorious victory for Hezbollah.

Hezbollah’s victory also served as a source of inspiration for the Palestinians, who launched their second anti-Israel uprising, known as al-Aqsa Intifada, in the occupied territories only four months after Tel Aviv’s withdrawal from southern Lebanon.

Addressing the Lebanese nation from the southern city of Hermel on Thursday, Nasrallah said when southern Lebanon was occupied by Israel, no country in the world except Iran and Syria helped end the occupation.

He added that the resistance has grown strong enough not to wait for support from the rest of the world or from inside or outside the country.

May 29, 2017 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Solidarity and Activism, Timeless or most popular | , , , | Leave a comment

JFK at 100: The War on Our Heroes Part 1

By Kit | OffGuardian | May 29, 2017

For, in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.” John F. Kennedy – Commencement Address at American University, June 10, 1963

If the bullets hadn’t flown, John Fitzgerald Kennedy might have been one hundred years old today. Granted, it’s not likely, put definitely possible. If the parade route hadn’t been changed, and the roof taken off the limousine, and the secret service ordered to stand down, the world would likely be a very different place. If the man had safely negotiated the last 54 years, and was still breathing today, what would he make of this mess?

A war on heroes

The American conscience died with Robert, Martin and John” Perry White, Batman vs. Superman

America, a country on the rise in 1963, is now an Empire in decline. Not just a decline in prestige and power, but a decline in intelligence and quality. Even the thin patina of pretend values has tarnished, as America’s ruling class now lack the imagination to even play-act morality. Even their dreams are limited by their own smallness of mind.

Where once we had educated men giving speeches about the nature of peace (see above), about aspiration for the future, or citing Aeschylus to balm a nation’s grief. We now have freeze-dried harpies hurling abuse across the floor of the UN, knuckle-dragging cowboys staggering over basic idioms, entitled lunatics demanding recognition for qualities they barely understand, let alone possess. Semi-literate presidential addresses, in 140 characters or fewer.

Nixon, for all his paranoia and corruption, at least understood the world he lived in whilst Hillary Clinton was, and is, dangerously out-of-touch with reality. Ronald Reagan was a senile fool, a glorified advertising mascot for mega-corporations, but Trump makes even him seem a polished and educated statesman.

Is this decline deliberate? The acting out of a policy, by unspoken powers, to limit public intelligence, education and discourse? Are we deprived of political heroes to engender apathy? Maybe.

Or maybe it’s a simple byproduct of a corrupt system that encourages stupidity and stamps out individual thought. Where the worst among us are artificially raised above the level of their ability, character and intelligence.

The decline is not just in the people or character of politicians, but understanding and conversation. Political debates are now little more than slanging matches. Morality broken down from a societal set of concrete values, to a relative abstract. Acts are right or wrong depending on who does them, and how, rather than the act itself. Wars of words are fought across the internet, by volunteer forces armed with little more than labels.

The very nature of truth is under threat. The scientific method as a pursuit of truth is abandoned, as science is converted into a quasi-religion. A broad set of consensus truths, the public understanding of which is limited and flawed, but adherence to which is mandatory. Enforced under penalty of banishment.

An empire is falling, and under the weight of a collapsing tyrant, words themselves crumble. College campuses ban speakers in the name of freedom. We are lectured by paid propagandists on the “tyranny” of Free Speech, the “unfairness” of direct democracy. Fascist. Sexist. Racist. Words deprived of meaning and impact by overuse, while true fascism – the unimpeded cooperation of business and state – goes unchecked in practically every corner of the Western world.

This can all be traced back to the systematic removal of our heroes. That war is still carried out in attacks against every man, woman, party or group that tries to speak up for high-mindedness, encourage societal cooperation, or place people higher in priority than profit.

Empires Eat Themselves

I love studying Ancient History and seeing how empires rise and fall, sowing the seeds of their own destruction. Martin Scorsese

In a sane world, a just world, psychopathic non-entities like Theresa May would never sniff high-office, and would be condemned to live out their days in middle-management positions at insurance companies. As severe and sadistic deputy head-teachers at private schools. Being traffic wardens. Venting their self-limiting malignity on any unfortunate people who happen into their tiny spheres of influence.

Sadly, this world is never sane and only rarely just.

I have written before about the temptation to view great power, and great evil, as a monolith. There is an assumption that direction and movement require cooperation, and that the corridors of power in Langley and the Pentagon hum with the activity of an ants’ nest. A million minds with one thought and one goal, working with unspoken bonds of purpose.

A less flattering, but more accurate, metaphor might be a swarm of rats in a sewer. Yes, they’re all headed in roughly the same direction, and yes they’re all making the same noises, but there’s no organization, no long-term thinking. Temporarily aligned self-interest is not the same as working together. Ruthless opportunism is not the same as a plan. To us it seems a collective, but to the rats it’s a race.

Psychopaths rise to the top of every power structure eventually. In a game with no rules, those with no morals will always have an edge. A man who will do anything to win has a decided advantage over a man with limitations. That is sadly true, and it’s been used to argue that psychopathy could be the next step in human evolution.

This glamorization of psychopathy is, ironically, a general symptom the degradation of society. We are encouraged to think of morality as “old-fashioned”, a vestigial remnant of the religion we’ve left behind and are likewise supposed to despise. That a free thinking man has no need for the false gods of good and evil.

But Psychopathy is more than a simple disregard for morality. Its lack of recognition of other people’s feelings carries with it a lack of understanding of their experience – meaning psychopaths expect to tell, and get away with, absurd lies. Their inherent narcissism makes them furious when people don’t believe their lies, but unable to learn from the experience. A pathological need to deceive translates into telling lies, when the truth might be more beneficial. They lack impulse control, cannot plan in the long-term and tend toward self-destructive behaviour (drinking, gambling, financial recklessness). They can be superficially charming, but give themselves away with inappropriate emotional reactions.

Think about that list. These are the kind of people in power positions. Barely-there souls driven by goals that aren’t even confinable to simple self-interest, pushed forward by a deranged internal drive toward chaos. Sociopaths and narcissists run the Western world, and have since the US deep-state took a rifle sight to the men that embodied the American conscience, if not before.

Put into this context, the decline of American Empire – both intellectually and morally – makes perfect sense.

Part 2 of this essay will be published tomorrow

May 29, 2017 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular, Video | | Leave a comment

Israeli military test-fires undisclosed type of missile

RT | May 29, 2017

Israel has conducted a test-launch of a rocket propulsion system of an undisclosed missile type, according to the Israeli Air Force.

The launch took place in the early hours of Monday at a military base in central Israel, the military said on Twitter.

The Air Force didn’t specify what system was tested, only saying that the scheduled launch was “carried out as planned.”

The rocket’s flight was seen by a number of residents, who posted videos of the launch on social media.

It is the first missile firing in the country since January, when the military successfully tested its Magic Wand missile interception system, which it said was close to going into service.

Israel currently uses three different systems of air defense. The Iron Dome system intercepts short-range rockets, the Arrow system deals with ballistic missiles outside of the Earth’s atmosphere, and the David’s Sling system shoots down tactical ballistic missiles, medium- to long-range rockets and cruise missiles.

According to Western media reports, Israel is also in possession of its own Jericho 3 surface-to-surface intercontinental ballistic missile, which is capable of carrying a nuclear warhead.

The Jericho 3 propulsion system reportedly had a range of 4,000 kilometers in 2013, which has since been increased to over 10,000 kilometers.

May 29, 2017 Posted by | Militarism | , | 3 Comments

Macron accuses RT and Sputnik of ‘behaving like deceitful propaganda’

RT | May 29, 2017

Newly-elected French President Emmanuel Macron explained his team’s decision to deny RT and Sputnik, both Moscow-based news outlets, accreditation during his campaign, by labeling the media outlets as “propaganda.”

“They didn’t act like the media, like journalists. They behaved like deceitful propaganda,” Macron told RT France head Xenia Fedorova during a joint press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Versailles.

“I have always had an exemplary relationship with foreign journalists, but they have to be real journalists,” explained Macron, who defeated Marine Le Pen in the second round of the election, earlier this month. “All foreign journalists, including Russian journalists, had access to my campaign.”

Macron described RT and Sputnik as “organs of influence and propaganda,” adding that both “produced infamous counter-truths about him.”

Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Moscow “does not agree” with Macron’s statements about the two news organizations.

RT Editor-in-Chief Margarita Simonyan said that Macron’s attack on a news outlet he disagrees with is a threat to freedom of speech.

“Despite the numerous accusations made throughout the duration of the French presidential campaign, to this day not a single example, not a single piece of evidence, has been presented to support the claims that RT spread any slander or ‘fake news’ about Mr. Macron,” Simonyan said in a statement. “By labeling any news reporting he disagrees with ‘fake news,’ President Macron sets a dangerous precedent that threatens both freedom of speech and journalism at large.”

Last month’s accreditation delay for RT and Sputnik, which ended up becoming an outright refusal, provoked a heated reaction from Moscow.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova called it “deliberate and bare-faced discrimination against Russian media by the presidential candidate of a state that has historically been vigilant when it comes to free speech.”

Simonyan accused Macron’s team back then of “building electoral campaign on lies about RT and Sputnik.”

Macron’s campaign repeatedly accused Russia of interference in the election, claiming that Russian hackers attempted to gain access to its data, and impede the work of its website. A trove of communication purportedly from Macron’s staff was leaked on the internet a day before the run-off election. Moscow has staunchly denied any interference.

Despite an anticipated coolness in relations, the Russian president is one of the first world leaders to travel to Paris since Macron’s convincing election win.

On Monday, the pair spent three hours in what the French leader called a “frank exchange of views,” which Putin said would lead to a “qualitative” improvement in relations between the two countries.

May 29, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance | , | 1 Comment

Trump’s visit to Israel: How Palestine disappeared from US media coverage

By Ramzy Baroud | MEMO | May 28, 2017

As if he has, overnight, been transformed into a master politician, Donald Trump’s 27-hour trip to Israel has left many analysts mystified.

Quoting former Israeli political adviser, Mitchell Barack, the New York Times referred to Trump as the “Liberace of world leaders”, in reference to flamboyant, piano player, Wladziu Valantino Liberace. The latter, known as “Mr. Showmanship”, was, at times, the highest paid entertainer in the world and his successful career lasted over four decades.

New York Magazine Online quoted former US ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro, too, trying to decipher the supposedly complicated persona of Trump.

“Either Trump’s visit was substance-free – or he ‘is being uncharacteristically subtle’ in planting the seeds for new round of peace negotiations,” NYmag quoted and paraphrased Shapiro’s tweets.

“Liberal” US media, which has stooped to many lows in its attacks on Trump – including his family, his mannerism, his choice of words, even mere body language – became much more sober and quite respectful in the way they attempted to analyze his short trip to Israel, and the very brief detour to Bethlehem, where he met with Palestinian Authority leader, Mahmoud Abbas.

“Mr. Trump’s speech at the Israeli Museum was so friendly and considerate of Israeli emotions,” reported the New Your Times, “that one right-wing Israeli legislator described it as deeply expressive of the ‘Zionist narrative’.”

Palestinian emotions, however, were of no consequence, neither to the Trump entourage, nor, of course, to the New York Times or others in mainstream media.

The Washington Post, on the other hand, still found faults, but, certainly not because of Trump’s lack of balance and his failure to deride the Israeli occupation and Israel’s mistreatment of Palestinians.

Despite the fact that Trump has, indeed, fully embraced a “Zionist narrative”, and a rightwing version of it (for example, he made no reference to a Palestinian state), he still fell short. His performance at Israel’s national Holocaust Memorial (Yad Vashem) did not impress.

Max Bearak wrote in the Post : “Trump’s entry in the guest book at Israel’s National Holocaust Memorial was strangely upbeat, self-referential and written in his signature all caps: ‘IT IS A GREAT HONOR TO BE HERE WITH ALL OF MY FRIENDS — SO AMAZING & WILL NEVER FORGET!’”

Bearak found such choice of words and the style in which it was written sort of offensive, especially if compared with the supposed thoughtfulness of former President Barack Obama.

In contrast, Obama wrote a significantly longer note, which partly read: “At a time of great peril and promise, war and strife, we are blessed to have such a powerful reminder of man’s potential for great evil, but also our capacity to rise up from tragedy and remake our world.”

Neither then, nor now, did the Washington Post bother to examine the historical context in which this particular sentence was written and find the hypocrisy of the whole endeavour.

If they bothered to ask Palestinians, they would have found a whole different interpretation of Obama’s words.

Indeed, wherever occupied Palestinians look, they find “man’s potential for great evil”: a 400-mile Israeli Wall being mostly built over their land; hundreds of military checkpoints dotting their landscape; a suffocating military occupation, controlling every aspect of their lives. They see the holiest of their cities, Bethlehem and Al-Quds – occupied East Jerusalem – subdued by a massive military force; thousands of their leaders thrown into prison, many without charge or trial. They see siege; an endless war; daily deaths and senseless destruction.

But since none of this matters to the “Zionist narrative”, it subsequently matters so very little to mainstream American media, as well.

Trump’s trip to Israel, however short, was, indeed, a master stroke by the ever-unpredictable Liberace of world politics, although, it takes no particular genius to figure out why.

From an American mainstream media perspective, to be judged “presidential” enough, all US presidents would have to commit to three main policies. They are, in no particular order: privileging the economic business elites, war at will and unconditionally supporting Israel.

So far, US media, which has been otherwise polarized based on political allegiances, has taken a break from its raging conflict over Trump’s presidency, and rallied behind him on two separate occasions: when he randomly bombed Syria and during his visit to Israel.

Ironically, the man has been often judged for lacking substance on numerous occasions in the past. In fact, his trip to Israel was the most lacking and most divisive. However, the fact that he, time and again, reiterated Israeli priorities was all that the media needed to give the man a chance. Their collective verdict seems to rebrand his lack of substance as his unique “subtle” way of making politics.

Israeli media, which is often more critical of the Israeli government than US media ever dare, needed to keep up with its “democratic” tradition. But Trump’s groveling also gave them little room for criticism. The often-impulsive Trump, this time stuck to the script and followed his repeatedly rehearsed speech and media comments to the letter.

But Josefin Dolsten insisted on finding a way to nitpick, composing for the Times of Israel the “7 awkward moments from Trump’s Israel trip.”

One of these awkward moments, Dolsten wrote was “a White House statement listing Trump’s goals for the trip included a hilarious (and juicy!) typo: ‘Promote the possibility of lasting peach’ between Israel and the Palestinians. Yes, we get it — it meant to say peace, but who’s to say the two sides can’t bond over some delicious fruit?”

For Palestinians, it must not be easy to find the humour in these tough times. Hundreds of their prisoners, including their most popular leader, Marwan Barghouthi, were enduring a prolonged and life-threatening hunger strike in which they were making the most basic demands for better treatment, longer visitation hours with their families and ending of arbitrary detentions.

More telling, on the day Trump, along with rightwing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, lectured Palestinians on peace, a 17-year-old Tuqua Hammad was shot for allegedly throwing stones at Israeli military vehicles at the entrance of her village of Silwad, near Ramallah.

Tuqua “was shot in the lower extremities and Israeli troops prevented a Palestinian ambulance from accessing the victim to treat her,” Ma’an news agency reported.

Merely a few miles away, Trump was writing his remarks after visiting Israel’s Holocaust Museum. Regrettably, he failed to meet the expectations of the Washington Post, for unlike Obama, he was not poignant enough in his language and style.

The irony of the whole story is inescapable; but American media cannot see this, for it, too, seems to follow a script, in which Palestinian rights, dignity and freedom are hardly ever mentioned.

May 29, 2017 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , | Leave a comment

Israeli authorities move forward plan for new illegal West Bank settlement

Ma’an – May 29, 2017

BETHLEHEM – Israeli authorities have greenlit the construction of a new illegal settlement on occupied Palestinian lands, Israeli media reported on Sunday, advancing plans for the first settlement to officially be created by the Israeli government in decades as compensation for residents of the illegal settlement outpost of Amona.

According to news outlet Ynet, the Israeli Civil Administration approved jurisdiction for an area designated for the construction of a new settlement promised by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Amona settlers, after their outpost was evacuated by Israeli authorities in February due to it being built illegally on private Palestinian lands.

However, the settlement, which will be located in the central occupied West Bank and has been referred to as both Amichai and Emek Shilo, still requires the approval of Israel’s military central command before construction can proceed, Ynet reported, adding that the next step of would then be the establishment of a full construction plan.

There are some 196 government recognized Israeli settlements scattered across the Palestinian territory, all considered illegal under international law. While Israeli outposts are considered illegal even under Israeli domestic law, earlier this year, Israel passed the outpost Regularization law, which would pave the way for the retroactive legalization of dozens of Israeli settler outposts.

While the Israeli government has carried out demolitions of Israeli outposts in the past, most notably the demolition of Amona earlier this year, it has at the same time fast-tracked the expansion of official Israeli settlements throughout the Palestinian territory.

“It is still too early to be happy.” Ynet quoted Amona leader Avichai Boaron as saying on Sunday. “Only a GOC Central Command injunction for the establishment of a temporary residential site can take us out of our desperation.”

Boaron added that Amona settlers had still not heard back from the army central command weeks after having requested approval for the settlement construction plan.

Boaron threatened Netanyahu if he did not uphold his promise to the settlers. “If he does not do so, we will have no choice but to unilaterally uphold the agreement and go up to the land on our own,” the Times of Israel quoted him as saying.

Palestine Liberation Organization Executive Committee member Hanan Ashrawi slammed the Israeli plan for the new settlement in March, saying that it “once again proves that Israel is more committed to appeasing its illegal settler population than to abiding by the requirements for stability and a just peace.”

Peace Now meanwhile accused the Israeli government in April of attempting to “fool the international community” by developing a policy of restraint around Israeli settlement construction in name only, while actually contributing to the unfettered expansion of illegal settlements, which has been consistently condemned and deemed illegal by the international community.

Between 500,000 and 600,000 Israelis live in Jewish-only settlements across occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank in violation of international law, with recent announcements of settlement expansion provoking condemnation from the international community.

Israeli human rights group B’Tselem argued in a report in December that settlers acted as “envoys” of Israel in pushing land grabs in the occupied Palestinian territory, allowing the government to officially detach themselves from the settlers’ violent and illegal actions, while avoiding or blocking any legal penalties that could be imposed on the settlers, except in the most extreme of cases.

“The state helps settlers operate as a mechanism for dispossession in Palestinian space — settlers serving as a means purportedly not under state control, and settlers also use serious violence against Palestinian residents,” the group explained.

Many have linked the increase in Israeli settlement expansion plans in 2017 to the election of US President Donald Trump, who is widely seen as a stalwart ally of the Israeli government, despite Israeli authorities reported postponing decisions regarding settlements to after Trump’s visit to Israel on Monday, the Times of Israel said.

May 29, 2017 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation | , , , , | 2 Comments

Israel’s economy heading for disaster, experts warn

RT | May 29, 2017

A report released by the Taub Center for Social Policy Studies in Israel shows the country has the highest poverty rates among OECD countries and faces “worrisome trends” that could have disastrous effects on its growing population.

According to the Picture of the Nation 2017 report, with Israel’s aging population and rising costs across the board, its “current sources of economic growth are not sustainable.”

The country ranks 22nd out of 34 of the OECD (The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) regarding GDP and takes the 24th spot within the market income poverty rate. Among developed countries, Israel has the highest percentage of its population living below the poverty line.

“The past year has seen a decline in unemployment and a large rise in GDP,” but “unfortunately, it appears that this positive trend will not continue and new sources of growth must be found,” said the report.

The Taub Center also described Israel’s four percent GDP growth as an “outlier and not a trend.”

A separate report which was released earlier this month by the Shoresh Institution for Socioeconomic Research looked at economic trends over the entire 69-year history of the country. It concluded the economy shows deep-seated and long-term shortcomings that threaten to weaken the army and constitute an “existential threat” to the country’s future.

In terms of GDP, Israel has been falling further and further behind the G7 average since the mid-1970s, with a more than threefold increase having developed in the gap between them. This, according to the report, “reflects steadily widening disparity between what an employed person living in Israel can attain and what that person could attain in the countries that are pulling away from Israel.”

Professor Dan Ben-David, founder and chair of the Shoresh Institution and co-author of the report, has warned if Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “continues to ignore the future” the country could be facing a catastrophe of massive proportions.

Netanyahu has recently held some meetings with Israeli media outlets, claiming the reports do not reflect “what the public feels.”

“It is an industry of despair. Where they see unemployment, I see full employment. Where they see an economy in ruin, I see a flourishing economy. Where they see traffic jams, I see junctions, trains, and bridges. Where they see a crumbling state nearing collapse, I see Israel as a rising global power,” he was cited as saying by the Times of Israel.

May 29, 2017 Posted by | Economics, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , | 4 Comments