Israeli police brutally beat up an Arab supermarket worker in Central Tel Aviv after he refused to identify himself because he didn’t know who they were, according to eyewitnesses.
The border police officers were off-duty in civilian clothes when they attacked the worker, an Israeli Arab, on Sunday afternoon at the Super Yuda supermarket on Ibn Gairol Street, opposite the Tel Aviv municipality.
The worker went to dispose of garbage when one of the policemen, dressed in shorts, demanded he identified himself. When the worker asked by what authority he was being asked to identify himself, the policeman began hitting him, witnesses said, according to the newspaper Haaretz.
“The blows were murderous, from the guy and from one of his friends. I’ve never seen anything like it. Teeth were flying through the air. The Arab was torn apart,” Erez Krispin, an eyewitness, wrote in a Facebook post that has since gone viral.
An old woman tried to interfere asking why they were beating him but the attackers screamed at her telling her to leave.
“Then police arrived and joined the two hooligans in beating him… I really don’t know if the Arab is still alive. They pushed him into a police van, not an ambulance, and disappeared. It later turned out that the two were Border Policemen (who didn’t identify themselves)” the witness said.
Another witness said, “He was beaten only because he’s Muslim,” Super Yuda owner Kobi Cohen told Walla News. “His only crime was that he’s not Jewish.”
Cohen further said that the original attackers were joined by plainclothes policemen and that there were as many as 10 people beating the worker.
“All the neighborhood knows him and knows that he’s a good guy who isn’t looking for trouble,” the victim’s father told Haaretz.
The father of the assaulted youth further said that this attack demonstrates the situation in Israel at the moment and he holds the prime minister and the public security minister responsible for such horrible incidents.
He added that the entire nation has seen the video and the police shouldn’t wait for his complaint but should check this on their own and make those cops and thugs pay.
The Israeli Police on the other hand made a statement saying that according to an initial investigation the Border Police officers identified a young man who they thought looked suspicious and asked him to identify himself. The suspect refused to identify himself and attacked the policemen, one of whom was bitten.
MK Dov Henin (Joint Arab List) filed an urgent appeal with the public security minister, asking for answers “about what appears to be, on the face of it, a lynching in broad daylight, an attack of an innocent civilian by police, only because he’s Arab.”
Gaza made the front page of The New York Times recently, with an article highlighting the fears of residents who suspect Hamas of building tunnels under and near their homes. The topic was ready-made for the newspaper, fitting perfectly into the Israeli (and Times) spin on the besieged enclave.
According to the accepted narrative, the problems in Gaza are due to Hamas, and Israel is free from blame. Thus we find the tunnel story played prominently on the front page under the headline “As Hamas Tunnels Back Into Israel, Palestinians Are Afraid, Too.”
There is much cause for despair in Gaza—fishermen and farmers come under attack, drinking water is ever more scarce, patients are desperate for adequate medical care—but the Times has failed to highlight any of these issues, which are so clearly due to Israeli actions and policies.
The official Israeli line is that Hamas oppresses the residents under its control, and Israeli political leaders use this charge to help justify their airstrikes on Hamas sites and other actions, such as restrictions on the delivery of building materials to Gaza. The Times has been a willing partner in this effort.
So it is no surprise when the newspaper informs us that Hamas has rebuilt many of the tunnels it used during the assaults on Gaza in the summer of 2014, and this is causing anxiety for some Gaza residents who live near signs of underground construction work. They fear that Israel will bomb their neighborhoods to destroy the tunnels.
The story is just what the Israeli army press office ordered, and the Times willingly promotes this propaganda effort even as it shows little interest in even more urgent concerns that plague the residents of the strip. It had nothing to say, for instance, when Israel arrested 20 Gaza fishermen over less than a week this month and confiscated seven of their boats (here and here) even though they were fishing within the approved limit set by Israel.
Israeli harassment of the beleaguered fishermen has been a constant over the years: According to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, Israeli forces detained 71 fishermen and confiscated 22 fishing boats in 2015, firing on fishing boats at least 139 times, wounding 24 fishermen and damaging 16 boats. The attacks have continued without letup this year.
The Times, however, has almost totally ignored the subject. The paper took notice briefly last month, when Israel announced new rules allowing Gaza boats to sail farther out to sea, and the story most certainly made the grade because it was a chance to show Israel in a benevolent light. The Times has been silent on the issue ever since.
Farmers with land near the border fence also face frequent attacks by Israeli soldiers who fire live ammunition at workers tending their fields, and Israel has destroyed crops and farm buildings, spraying fields of spinach and peas with herbicides and leveling land with bulldozers.
The Times has failed to report these incursions as well, although the United Nations documents them in weekly reports, and other news sources routinely tell of the assaults.
According to the UN, as of May 16, the Israeli military had made 30 incursions into Gaza this year. Its forces entered the enclave at least 56 times during 2015. These mini invasions—which include tanks, bulldozers and live fire—are breaches of the truce agreement made to end hostilities in 2014, but the Times has not seen fit to report them.
Instead, the newspaper prefers to raise the alarm about possible attacks from Gaza via the tunnels, ignoring the relevant context: the frequent shootings and other assaults by Israeli forces and the nine-year blockade, which finds not a single mention in the tunnel article.
Israel blocks the entry of needed medical supplies into Gaza, denies doctors the right to upgrade their skills in foreign countries and prevents many patients from leaving the enclave to receive the treatment they need. It has destroyed electrical equipment, wells and water treatment plants, and the lack of potable water has reached such a critical stage that only some 5 percent of the water in Gaza is safe to drink.
The Times, however, has shown no interest in exploring these crucial issues. It follows a prescribed narrative in deflecting blame from Israel and demonizing Hamas. The tunnel story fit this bill and thus merited a prime placement on page 1 above the fold.
In a letter to the International Network of Genocide Scholars (INoGS), 270 academics from 19 countries have called for the cancellation of the 5th Global Conference on Genocide taking place on 26-29 June at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
The letter sent to the organizers of the conference on the 3rd of May points at the hypocrisy of having the conference in Israel at a time when Israel’s actions are “increasingly being viewed through lenses of ethnic cleansing and genocide linked to settler colonialism”. The signatories call on scholars and professionals to boycott the conference should it go ahead.
John Dugard, former UN Rapporteur for Human Rights in the OPT and a signatory to the letter, commented: “There are serious allegations that Israel committed crimes against humanity in its 2014 assault on Gaza. In these circumstances it is highly inappropriate to hold a conference on Genocide in Israel.”
Citing Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, the letter expresses shock “that INoGS plans to hold its 2016 Global Conference at the Mt. Scopus campus of the Hebrew University that is partially built on stolen Palestinian land in occupied East Jerusalem”. The INoGS conference website bills Jerusalem as part of Israel, defying international consensus on the issue and ignoring Israel’s ongoing and systematic campaign of displacement of Palestinians from the city.
According to Professor John Docker, who has written extensively in the fields of genocide and massacre studies, “Genocide studies is now, it seems clear, actively seeking opportunities to be complicit in Israel’s flouting of international law, not least the Fourth Geneva Convention.”
INoGS did not respond to the joint letter and it had ignored an earlier appeal by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI).
Dr. Haidar Eid, a member of PACBI, said: “I am an academic living in besieged Gaza. I have witnessed three massacres committed by Israel, I almost lost my own life and saw my comrades, colleagues, relatives, and students perish in them. I have read with agony the names of 44 of our students and colleagues who lost their lives and 66 families wiped out by Israeli weapons. INoGS is lending its name to the perpetrators of these crimes in a move that is not unlike holding a conference on racism in apartheid South Africa.”
The conference is sponsored by five Israeli academic institutions, including the Hebrew University, which have been deeply complicit in Israel’s decades-long oppression of Palestinians. Thousands of academics in the UK, Ireland, Italy, South Africa, US and Brazil have signed national pledges to boycott Israeli academic institutions. The pledges are part of a growing movement to hold Israeli universities accountable to their role in systematic Israeli state violence against the Palestinian people.
The joint letter remains open for endorsements at the following link.
Haaretz reported today that “Israeli Death Penalty for Terrorists Won’t Apply to Jews.”
The death penalty for murder in a ‘terror act’ that incoming Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman seeks will only apply to military courts, said a Likud source involved in the talks to bring Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu party into the governing coalition.
Such a move, which Lieberman demands if his party is to join the government, would effectively exclude its application against Jews. Palestinians accused of terror offenses are prosecuted in Israeli military courts, while Jews charged with similar crimes against Palestinians are usually tried in Israeli civilian courts, noted the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The meaning of it is simple. Though Jews are not a race, Jewish politics (left, right and centre) is always racist to the core.
British Professor Catherine Hall
A prominent British academic and historian has refused to accept a $330,000 prize by an Israeli university.
Professor Catherine Hall of University College London was slated to receive the Dan David Prize by Tel Aviv University on Sunday, but withdrew her acceptance citing political reasons.
“This was an independent political choice, undertaken after many discussions with those who are deeply involved with the politics of Israel-Palestine, but with differing views as to how best to act,” Hall said in a statement.
The annual academic award includes a series of $1 million prizes which are handed out in three fields.
As a historian, Hall was due to receive the prize for her “impact on social history, as a pioneer in gender history, race and slavery.”
Hall’s work on women’s history in the 1970s has helped her become known as a major feminist.
The British Committee for the Universities of Palestine described Hall’s decision as “a significant endorsement of the campaign to end ties with Israeli institutions.”
Hall’s share of the million dollar prize will now be given to three economists involved in the fight against poverty, three nano-science researchers, and two historians of social history.
The news comes amid tensions between Tel Aviv and London over remarks by several key British political figures who have condemned the Israeli regime’s crimes against the Palestinian people.
Ken Livingstone, the former mayor of London, was suspended from the Labor Party in late April after bringing up the issue of Israeli war crimes and stating that Adolf Hitler was a supporter of Zionism.
Before him, Naz Shah, a member of the British Parliament resigned as an aide to the party’s shadow chancellor after being forced to apologize for backing calls for Israel to “relocate” to the United States.
In early July 2014, Israel waged a devastating war on the Gaza Strip. The 50-day offensive claimed the lives of nearly 2,200 Palestinians, including 577 children.
The British government has banned all public bodies from joining the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel which demands the end of Israeli occupation and colonization of Palestinian land particularly through illegal settlement constructions in the occupied territories.
The manufactured “anti-semitism crisis” in the British Labour party rumbles on into new realms of ideological insanity. The witch-hunt against commentary critical of Israel or Zionism has been in full flow, and now an internal party inquiry led by Jan Royall has reached its conclusions.
Note that in this report by the Guardian newspaper, it appears to be a given both by Royall and the Guardian that Ken Livingstone and the others suspended from the party are guilty of anti-semitism rather than anti-Zionism. I have challenged that assumption in previous posts, such as here and here. I am therefore going to put quotation marks around the word “anti-semitism”, at least as used by Royall, because it is far from clear to me that most of those under investigation have said things that are anti-semitic.
Royall’s first conclusion is that there should be no “statute of limitations” on “anti-semitism.” That’s a green light for every right-winger and Blairite to go trawling through Labour party members’ back catalogue of social media posts in search of anti-Zionist or anti-Israel utterances. Here’s a simple piece of advice to John Mann and the Blairite brigade: if you want to simplify your task, examine postings from winter 2008 and summer 2014, when Israel was killing hundreds of children in Gaza. I suspect you’ll find the “anti-semitism” you’re looking for in those periods.
Royal also suggests that there may be a need for “more rigorous vetting procedures for national and local government candidates.” So the Blairites will be further encouraged to trawl through candidates’ social media postings on Israel in the knowledge that they can thereby ensure only people like themselves get to stand for election.
Another of Royall’s conclusions is that a membership ban for “anti-semitism” should not be for life if there is “demonstrable” change by the offender. Re-education camps, anyone?
So members may be allowed back into the Labour party if they can show that over a sustained period of time they have disavowed their criticisms of Israel. Presumably, to reassure the party that they are not likely to slip back into their former bad ways of thinking, they will need to enthusiastically embrace Zionism and support an ethnic Jewish state that oppresses Palestinians in the occupied territories and systematically discriminates against the fifth of its citizens who are Palestinian.
In other words, these measures will have the practical effect of ensuring that the party is reserved for those of a Blairite persuasion.
There are other disturbing conclusions reached by Royall. She is apparently recommending that an imminent external inquiry she will also sit on consider whether members should qualify for investigation simply because “the victim or any other person” has “perceived” a comment to be anti-semitic. In short, every Netanyahu-loving Zionist may soon be guaranteed the chance to force the suspension of any Labour member who offends them by criticising Israel.
Royall suggests that the coming inquiry consider “swifter action to deal with antisemitism”, which is surprising given that the current suspensions have all been implemented summarily.
And she prefers “a review of how online debate is conducted to make it welcoming and productive.” In other words, Labour members will be expected not to criticise Israel or Zionism in case it puts off hardcore Israel supporters.
It is not hard to see where all this is leading, and was designed to lead by the Blairite faction trying to engineer a coup against leader Jeremy Corbyn. Polls show that Corbyn’s support has actually grown over the past year among ordinary members, despite the endless character assassination against him.
So the Blairites who dominate the Labour parliamentary caucus are simply re-engineering the party more to their liking: terrify into submission a new generation of candidates who have been inspired by Corbyn to enter politics, and through a war of attrition demoralise the hundreds of thousands of new members who joined the party, in the hope they will leave.
This is self-sabotage on a vast scale. The Blairites (and their cheerleaders in liberal media like the Guardian ) would prefer to destroy the party than help Corbyn and his supporters mount a credible challenge to the Conservative government. And that insight tells you all you need to know about the true ideological sympathies of the Blairites, who were so ready to cosy up to the corporations and the Murdoch media.
Saudi Arabia and its allies have asked Israel to resume Middle East negotiations under new terms which include changes to Riyadh’s “peace” initiative, Israeli media reports say.
The kingdom, its Persian Gulf allies, Jordan and Egypt have been sending messages to Israel through various emissaries, including former British PM Tony Blair, the Israeli newspaper Arutz Sheva reported.
“They are expecting to receive from Israel a response and are also expecting Israel to make gestures toward the Palestinians” in the West Bank, the paper said.
The Saudi “peace” initiative, unveiled in 2002, offers to normalize ties with Israel by 22 Arab countries in return for Tel Aviv’s withdrawal from the occupied West Bank.
Tel Aviv has rejected the Saudi initiative due to the fact that it calls for Israel to accept the right of return for the Palestinians who were forced to flee their homes under the Israeli occupation.
Saudi Arabia and its allies are now prepared to discuss changes to the initiative in order to resume talks between Tel Aviv and the Palestinian Authority, Israels’ Channel 10 News revealed.
The daily Maariv revealed earlier this month that the Israeli regime would present a bill to the Knesset in the coming weeks, calling for the annexation of 60% of the West Bank.
According to the paper, preliminary talks have been held to annex Area C of the West Bank where more than 350,000 illegal Israeli settlers are based.
Nevertheless, there is a desire among the leadership of the Arab countries in the region to change their attitude towards Israel and to start taking an active mediating role, Channel 10 reported, citing diplomatic sources.
The report comes days after Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi urged Israelis and Palestinians to seize what he said was a “real opportunity” and renew “peace” talks.
Most extremist cabinet in the works
PM Benjamin Netanyahu, however, is set to form the most extremist cabinet in Israel’s history after revealing his intention to name notorious politician Avigdor Lieberman as the new minister of military affairs.
Palestinians have denounced the planned appointment, saying the decision showed Israel was intent on spreading extremism and expanding illegal settlements.
As the minister of military affairs, Lieberman would oversee military operations in the Palestinian territories and have a major say in policy towards the settlements.
Lieberman himself lives in a settlement which the international community considers illegal and persistent expansion of settler units as one of the biggest causes of the escalating tensions.
He has called on the Israeli regime to treat Palestinian resistance movement Hamas the same way as the United States treated “the Japanese in World War II.”
On Saturday, an Israeli website said the “nightmare” of those critical of the new Israeli cabinet “is if Saudi King Salman and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, along with Netanyahu and Lieberman, will sit on the same podium and sign a cooperation agreement.”
“But this is a reality that is happening every day, not just wishful thinking,” the Israeli military intelligence website Debkafile wrote.
Last month, a well-connected former general in the Saudi military said the kingdom would open an embassy in Tel Aviv if Israel accepted the Saudi initiative to end the Middle East conflict.
Anwar Eshki was asked during an Al Jazeera interview how long it would be before Riyadh opened an embassy in Israel.
“You can ask Mr. Netanyahu,” Eshki replied, referring to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Jerusalem Post reported on its website.
“If he announces that he accepts the initiative and gives all rights to Palestinians, Saudi Arabia will start to make an embassy in Tel Aviv,” Eshki said.
Eshki met publicly in June with Dore Gold just before the latter was appointed director-general of the Israeli foreign ministry. Gold said then Israel had contacts with “almost every Arab state.”
In the interview, Eshki said the Saudis are not interested in “Israel becoming isolated in the region.”
In March, Netanyahu said Israel’s relations with regional Arab countries were “dramatically warming” in what analysts said was an acknowledgement of behind-the-scenes ties.
Moshe Ya’alon, Israel’s minister of military affairs who resigned on Friday, pointed to open channels between the regime and Arab states in February.
Ya’alon said he was unable to shake hands with Arab officials in public due to the “sensitive” political realities, however, the two sides “can meet in closed rooms.”
The Israeli minister later publicly shook the hand of Saudi Prince Turki bin Faisal al-Saud, who himself has openly met with a number of Israeli officials in the past.
Israeli training Saudi forces: Hezbollah
Sheikh Naim Qassem, deputy secretary general of Lebanon’s Hezbollah resistance movement, said in April that Israel was training Saudi military forces under the framework of clandestine relations.
Dozens of Saudi military officers were being trained following secret contacts that led to military cooperation, he said.
“The Saudis are currently fulfilling the cycle of the Israeli project in public and secret meetings,” he added.
The latest thematic report by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) concerning Colombia makes for shocking though quite important reading. In short, it details human rights abuses on a massive scale, and lays the blame for these abuses chiefly upon the right-wing paramilitaries aligned with the Colombian State. Citing Colombia’s Center for Historical Memory, the IACHR concludes that Colombia, with its over 6 million internally displaced persons, is indeed “a displaced nation.”
Exhibit at Center for Historical Memory, Showing Personal Effects of “False Positive” Victim
As the IACHR explains, the paramilitaries were responsible for 72% of the attacks recorded in the first half of 2015. Incredibly, the Colombian State, along with its U.S. sponsor, insist that the paramilitaries (also known as Autodefensas) no longer exist as a result of a demobilization (largely faked) back in 2003-2006. And, it is this very denial, the IACHR points out, which allows the paramilitaries to carry out their reign of terror with near complete impunity. After all, the State will not dismantle or prosecute what it claims does not even exist.
As explained in the report, “during 2015 the IACHR has continued receiving information about actions of the illegal armed groups that emerged after the demobilization and which are identified as being related or having among their members, persons that belonged to paramilitary groups who, in many cases allegedly continue acting under the protection of State agents.”
The misdeeds the paramilitaries are carrying out under State protection include disappearances, of which there were an incredible 3,400 during the first 7 months of 2015 alone. In all, the IACHR reports that there have been a total of between 45,000 and 61,918 forced disappearances in Colombia in the past 30 years. Thus, there have potentially been more than three times the disappearances in Colombia than in Argentina during all of the Dirty War years. And, of course, with such disappearances come mass graves, of which Colombia has many – 4,519 of them to be exact, with 5,817 bodies exhumed from them so far.
Meanwhile, the IACHR reported on the fact that at least 5,736 individuals were the victims of extrajudicial executions by the Colombian State forces between 2000 and 2010 – that, is during the period of the U.S.’s major military support for Colombia known as Plan Colombia. Nearly all of these executions were “false positive” killings in which the Colombian military murdered innocent civilians – many of them young, unemployed men – and then dressed them up as guerillas to justify to the U.S. the military assistance the Colombian military was receiving for counter-insurgency purposes. And, while the rate of such killings has decreased since 2010, they nonetheless continue, with 230 reported cases since then.
To the extent Colombia is covered at all in the mainstream press these days, one rarely gets a glimpse into the horror show which is taking place in that country. And, casual visitors to places such as Bogota or Medellin would rarely get a glimpse of this either. This is so because the lion’s share of the violence described above is taking place in the more remote areas where Colombia’s Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities live, and it is these communities which are suffering the brunt of this violence.
As the IACHR explains, these communities are largely “invisible” in Colombian society, “are victims of racial discrimination and disproportionately affected by violence, forced displacement, poverty and social exclusion.” In addition, “the majority of victims of sexual violence in armed conflict are Afro-descendant and indigenous women.” And, impunity for sexual violence in Colombia is near total “given that sexual violence against women would be perpetrated mainly by paramilitary, but also by agents of the government . . . .”
As for the issue of poverty, these communities are suffering from some of the most extreme versions of it, and live in conditions of misery which residents in the major cities are often shielded from. For example, in Choco – a town nestled in between the Pacific and Caribbean coasts and populated by mostly Afro-Colombian and indigenous – the infant mortality rate is 42.69 per 1000. This figure is higher than that of post-invasion Iraq, and nearly as high as that in such countries as Burma, Bangladesh, Namibia and Haiti. Meanwhile, in Bogota, the figure is 12.88 per 1000. These figures underscore the incredible inequities and disparity in wealth which make Colombia one of the most unequal societies on earth, with a very stark divide along racial and ethnic lines.
However, the violence against Afro-Colombians and indigenous is not just the product of racism, but is also the product of the unfettered capital penetration of their rich, ancestral land. As the IACHR points out, large scale megaprojects – many of them mining projects – “have led to the appropriation of Afro-Colombian’s collective territories, and have resulted in “brutal forced displacements, massive violence and selective assassinations.”
And, of course, many of these megaprojects are owned, in whole or in part, by North American companies to which the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement (FTA) has opened Colombia wide open.
An example of such a deadly megaproject detailed in the IACHR report is the port expansion of Buenaventura, a town which is 90% Afro-Colombian. This port expansion was carried out to facilitate the trade and tourism created by the FTA. And, the struggle of the paramilitaries to control the wealth generated by the port expansion has led to the forced disappearances of hundreds of Buenaventura residents “and the operation of ‘chop houses’ (casa de pique)” where people are chopped up alive.
Like the Colombian and U.S. governments denials of the existence of the paramilitary death squads, the very failure of our mainstream media to acknowledge or discuss the existence of the above-described crimes allows them to continue. Thus, the U.S. government is able to continue supporting the Colombian military, and by extension its paramilitary allies, and North American multi-nationals are able to keep violently exploiting the Colombian people and their land by virtue of the fact that we are kept in the dark about this reality by a press corps which is failing in its duty to report on such matters of public concern. It is only by breaking this silence around these crimes that we have any chance of stopping them.
Daniel Kovalik lives in Pittsburgh and teaches International Human Rights Law at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law.
Jerusalem, Occupied Palestine – The 14 members of Abu Sadam’s family remain homeless after their home was destroyed by the Israel Army in the early hours of Tuesday morning in the Hizbet area of Wadi Joz, Jerusalem.
The family are calling for solidarity and support and would welcome visitors to join them.
If you want to help please contact: email@example.com.
The leader of the Lebanese resistance movement Hezbollah, Seyyed Hassan Nasrallah, heaps praise on the movement’s military commander Mustafa Badreddine, who was killed in Syria last week, saying he was a front-runner in the fight against Israel.
“Badreddine played a key role alongside [his predecessor] Imad Mughniyeh… in the 2006 war against Israel before assuming several responsibilities including the dismantling of Israeli spy networks,” Nasrallah said in a televised speech on Friday.
Nasrallah was speaking to mark one week after Badreddine was killed.
He said Badreddine was tasked with overseeing Hezbollah’s security and military units in Syria since Takfiri militants initiated a war there in 2011.
Hezbollah fighters are combating alongside the Syrian government forces against a range of terrorist groups operating in the war-torn Arab country, including Daesh and the al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Nusra Front.
The Hezbollah leader said Badreddine was initially directing the Syria operation from Lebanon, but later “insisted” on traveling to Syria to oversee in person the sensitive operation.
Nasrallah said Hezbollah was against Badreddine’s presence in Syria as the group knew of the media controversy that would arise of his involvement in the war.
He noted that Badreddine’s presence in Syria helped Hezbollah prevent the fall of the country “into the hands of Takfiris and their American masters and spies in the region.”
The 55-year-old Hezbollah commander led Hezbollah’s military wing which is helping the Syrian government drive out foreign-backed Takfiri terrorists from Syria.
Badreddine also directed military operations against the Israeli invasion of Lebanon and was a frequent target of attempts by Tel Aviv, Washington and its allies to assassinate or capture him.
He was the cousin and brother-in-law of Imad Mughniyeh, who was assassinated by Israel in 2008.
He said Hezbollah has not entirely ruled out Israel of having a hand in Badreddine’s killing, but the group has not found any clues during the probe that could directly hint at Israel’s role.
Nasrallah denied speculations raised in some Arab media that Hezbollah did not assign blame on Israel for Badreddine’s killing because it wanted to escape responsibility for retaliation, saying throughout 34 years of confrontation with Israel, the regime in Tel Aviv has never doubted the genuineness of Hezbollah pledges for carrying out such retaliations.
“Our history is a proof that when we vow to retaliate we honor our pledges,” Nasrallah said, adding that Hezbollah would not stand on ceremony to openly blame Israel for perpetrating a crime when the evidence exists.
Nasrallah said Badreddine’s murder came at the hands of Takfiri groups and was orchestrated by those actively seeking to undermine the resistance front, including the United States.
He said, however, that the death of the commander would not lead to Hezbollah withdrawing from Syria. “Badreddine’s blood will push us to a bigger presence in Syria… We will remain in Syria and more leader will go into Syria,” Nasrallah said.
Else in his speech blasted Al-Saud’s calls for « democracy » in Syria and said:
The Saudi regime wants early parliamentary and presidential elections in Syria. But Saudi Arabia from its very inception as a nation-state until now has never had elections on its own soil. There is a ‘king’ and a ‘royal’ family and a dictatorship. Does anyone dare open his mouth against the regime in Saudi Arabia?! If someone dares to post two lines on Twitter, the ‘royal’ family goes crazy and sentences him to 1,000 lashes. What kind of Islam is this?! What sort of religion is this?! This is the ugliest form of hypocrisy!
Nasrallah continued, “This is not about freedom or democracy or elections or constituons! This is about the Syrian government not kneeling! This is about #Syria refusing to be a tool of American-Zionist hegemony. This is because Syria holds on to Resistance, refuses to betray Iran, defends Palestine, demands the return of the Golan Heights and maintains its sovereignty. This is because Syria is still a bastion of Arabism. Mark my words, if Bashar al-Assad was to say right now that he’d become a slave of the US-‘Israeli’ project, the war against Syria would be over tomorrow.”
Hizbollah Secretary Genral concluded his speech by saying: “I say to you with all confidence, throughout our 34 years, we have witnessed worse circumstances than what we’re dealing with today. And with our loyalty, steadfastness and commitment to the ongoing march on our path of Resistance, we shall overcome this new phase as well. In this battle, we are advancing and achieving victories. The Americans, the Zionists and Al-Saud said they’d gobble up #Syria five years ago, but yet Syria still stands today! This is because of the sacrifices of our martyrs. Indeed, Sayyed Mustafa’s blood and the blood of all our martyrs is the fuel which contributes to driving us to victory in this historic defense of the Ummah. Therefore our decision about continuing this fight is a simple one. I say to all of you who propagandized we’d leave Syria because of Sayyed Mustafa’s martyrdom – The martyrdom of any of our commanders has never made us leave any battle. Quite to the contrary, their martyrdoms will only make us increase our presence in Syria. We will be in Syria in greater numbers and different forms until victory. This is how we honor our martyrs and bring defeat to the US-Zionist-Takfiri-Saudi project. This project will fall; this project will be destroyed. I vow to you once more, Syria will never become the tool of our enemies and they will never get control of our region!”
On June 29, 2009, one day after Honduran military leaders ousted their country’s democratically elected president, President Obama publicly branded the coup illegal and denounced it as “a terrible precedent.” Yet even as he spoke, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was ensuring that U.S. aid continued and that major capitals would recognize the new regime.
Human rights activists have long decried her for abandoning democratic rights and values in Honduras. But many have overlooked her cozy embrace of the morally compromised Latin American leader who happened to be sharing the White House podium when Obama made his remarks: Colombian President Álvaro Uribe.
Obama was hosting Uribe to build political support for the U.S.-Colombia free trade agreement, which both he and Hillary Clinton had vigorously opposed during the 2008 election campaign. Obama praised Uribe’s “courage” and his “admirabl(e)” progress on human rights and fighting drug cartels since taking office in 2002 — a controversial claim that Clinton’s State Department would certify that September.
A year later, the love affair between the Obama administration and Uribe grew even hotter. After landing in Bogota for an official visit in April 2010, Defense Secretary Robert Gates lauded the “historic” progress that Uribe’s government had made in the war against “narco-traffickers and terrorists.”
“Uribe, in my view, is a great hero and has been an enormously successful president of Colombia,” Gates told reporters.
Human rights campaigners were aghast. In an email to Hillary Clinton’s chief of staff, a senior aide to Massachusetts Rep. Jim McGovern cited Gates as an example of what not to do during Clinton’s upcoming visit to Colombia that June: “The most important thing the Secretary can do is avoid effusive praise for President Álvaro Uribe, who leaves office in August.”
McGovern’s aide cited several damning facts:
–Contrary to claims from Bogota, reports by the General Accountability Office and the U.S. Agency for International Development showed that U.S. aid and Colombia’s anti-drug programs were failing to meet their goals and in some cases were actually stimulating coca production.
–Military killings of civilians were up — with as many as 1,486 civilians killed “during the first six years of Álvaro Uribe’s presidency,” she noted. (The actual number was likely more than double that.)
–There were also “mounting allegations that the President’s intelligence service, the DAS, was put at the service of paramilitary leaders and narco-traffickers; used to spy on and intimidate Supreme Court justices, opposition politicians, journalists and human rights defenders; and employed in a campaign of sabotage and smears against political opponents” of Uribe.
–Dozens of President Uribe’s political supporters were under investigation for corruption and ties to illegal paramilitary units, she reported. “Many are large landholders with ties to narco-trafficking, the same local leaders who created and fostered the brutal pro-government paramilitary groups that killed tens of thousands of non-combatants in the 1990s and early 2000s. . . Those embroiled . . . include the President’s cousin, Mario Uribe; the brother of his former foreign minister; and individuals whom the President had named to be Colombia’s ambassadors to Chile, the Dominican Republic, and Canada.”
In conclusion, she maintained, the real heroes were not Uribe but “Colombian prosecutors, investigators, witnesses and non-governmental organizations trying to uncover the truth about these abuses” under conditions of great personal risk.
Falling on Deaf Ears
Her advice fell on deaf ears. Just one week later, Secretary Clinton was in Bogota to affirm the administration’s strong support for a free trade agreement, and underline Washington’s commitment to helping Uribe “consolidate the security gains of recent years” against “the insurgents, the guerillas, the narco-traffickers, who would wish to turn the clock back.”
Echoing her friend Bob Gates, she added, “because of your commitment to building strong democratic institutions here in Colombia and to nurturing the bonds of friendship between our two countries, you leave a legacy of great progress that will be viewed in historic terms.”
Clinton had nothing to say about the quarter million victims of right-wing paramilitary groups, many of them backed by the military, as reported in a November, 2009 cable from the U.S. embassy in Bogota. Nor did she have anything to say about the more than 2,700 union members murdered since 1986 (including hundreds under Uribe), making Colombia by far the world’s most dangerous place for organized labor.
Secretary Clinton may have been influenced by her husband’s warm relationship with Uribe. As President, he had signed and implemented a multi-year aid package called Plan Colombia, which contributed more than $8 billion to Colombia’s counterinsurgency wars, despite Washington’s full knowledge of the military’s “death-squad tactics” and cooperation with drug-running paramilitary groups.
In retirement, former President Clinton deepened his ties to Uribe and Colombia. In 2005, he introduced Uribe to Canadian mining magnate Frank Guistra, who was a leading donor to the Clinton Global Initiative fund; Guistra was interested in acquiring mineral and oil rights in Colombia. In 2005, Clinton also picked up $800,000 from a Colombia-based group for a speaking tour of Latin America to tout the merits of a U.S-Colombia free trade agreement. (Guistra provided the private jet for Clinton’s tour.)
To further promote the trade pact, Bogota provided a $300,000 P.R. contract to Clinton’s pollster Mark Penn. As part of his publicity campaign, Penn arranged for Uribe to hold an award banquet in honor of Clinton in 2007. Clinton reciprocated by featuring Uribe as an honored guest at his Clinton Global Initiative annual meeting a few months later.
When news of Penn’s contract with Bogota got out in 2008, Hillary Clinton had to fire him as her campaign strategist, lest she lose endorsements from labor unions. She insisted that her husband’s relationship with Colombia would not influence her stand on the free trade deal, which she opposed because of “the history of violence against trade unionists in Colombia.”
As we have seen, both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton reversed course once in office. Clinton may simply have been following the President’s lead, but critics point to her family’s unsavory financial connections as another explanation for her change of heart. As International Business Times reported last year:
“When workers at the country’s largest independent oil company staged a strike in 2011, the Colombian military rounded them up at gunpoint and threatened violence if they failed to disband, according to human rights organizations. Similar intimidation tactics against the workers, say labor leaders, amounted to an everyday feature of life. . .
“Yet as union leaders and human rights activists conveyed these harrowing reports of violence to then-Secretary of State Clinton in late 2011, urging her to pressure the Colombian government to protect labor organizers, she responded first with silence, these organizers say. The State Department publicly praised Colombia’s progress on human rights, thereby permitting hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. aid to flow to the same Colombian military that labor activists say helped intimidate workers.
“At the same time that Clinton’s State Department was lauding Colombia’s human rights record, her family was forging a financial relationship with Pacific Rubiales, the sprawling Canadian petroleum company at the center of Colombia’s labor strife. The Clintons were also developing commercial ties with the oil giant’s founder, Canadian financier Frank Giustra, who now occupies a seat on the board of the Clinton Foundation, the family’s global philanthropic empire.
“The details of these financial dealings remain murky, but this much is clear: After millions of dollars were pledged by the oil company to the Clinton Foundation — supplemented by millions more from Giustra himself — Secretary Clinton abruptly changed her position on the controversial U.S.-Colombia trade pact.
“Having opposed the deal as a bad one for labor rights back when she was a presidential candidate in 2008, she now promoted it, calling it ‘strongly in the interests of both Colombia and the United States.’ The change of heart by Clinton and other Democratic leaders enabled congressional passage of a Colombia trade deal that experts say delivered big benefits to foreign investors like Giustra.”
According to a report this May by the AFL-CIO and four Colombian unions, 99 Colombian workers and union activists have been killed since the trade agreement took effect in 2011. Another six were kidnapped and 955 received death threats. Only a small fraction of those crimes were every solved.
Meanwhile, Uribe continues to be a major force in Colombian politics. In April, he mobilized a street protest against efforts by the current government to bring about a lasting peace with the Marxist guerrilla group FARC; a leading newspaper reported that Uribe’s protest was backed by Colombia’s largest paramilitary drug-trafficking organization, Los Urabeños, which managed to shut down much of the north of the country for 72 hours after assassinating a dozen policemen.
Ties to Drug Trade
A connection between Uribe, paramilitary groups, and drug traffickers is all too easy to imagine, despite his denials and Washington’s hero worship. Consider a few family connections, among the many that have been alleged:
–One of Uribe’s brothers was arrested this February for allegedly leading a death squad against suspected leftists that was run from the family cattle ranch. A Colombian legislator cited testimony that Álvaro himself may have “ordered massacres” from the ranch.
—Another brother was arrested (but not convicted) for suspected ties to cocaine kingpin Pablo Escobar; his extramarital partner was later arrested on a U.S. warrant for allegedly working with the head of Mexico’s Sinaloa Cartel, Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán. Their daughter was also listed by the U.S. Treasury Department as a major money launderer.
–Uribe’s two sons are under investigation for massive tax evasion and showed up in the recent “Panama papers” leak as shareholders in a British Virgin Islands tax shelter;
–Uribe’s campaign manager and former chief of staff was flagged by DEA in 2001 as Colombia’s largest importer of a key precursor chemical for the production of cocaine.
–Uribe received contributions to his 2002 presidential campaign from the country’s largest and most murderous paramilitary organization, the AUC, which was listed by Washington as an international terrorist organization. By the time of Uribe’s election, according to one expert, “the AUC had become the most powerful network of drug traffickers in the country’s history.”
Uribe arranged a sweetheart deal to allow AUC leaders to escape serious justice with most of their wealth intact, until the nation’s top courts intervened. Uribe’s chief of security from 2002 to 2005 pleaded guilty in 2012 to taking bribes to protect the AUC.
–And as far back as 1991, a confidential U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency report called Uribe a “close personal friend” of Pablo Escobar, and said he was “dedicated to collaboration with the Medellín cartel at high government levels.” It also noted that his father had been murdered “for his connection with the narcotic traffickers.”
On the plus side, President George W. Bush awarded Uribe the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Georgetown University’s Walsh School of Foreign Service named him a Distinguished Scholar. And Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation named him to its Board of Directors in 2012.
Hillary Clinton clearly sides with the camp of Uribe’s admirers. It’s time to call her out and make her account for that choice — and for a record that calls into question her professed devotion to human freedom, democratic values, and the rights of organized labor.
Jonathan Marshall is author or co-author of five books on international affairs, including The Lebanese Connection: Corruption, Civil War and the International Drug Traffic (Stanford University Press, 2012).