By Robert Fantina | Aletho News | September 4, 2015
The tragic photo of the body of a three-year old Syrian boy, Aylan Kurdi, drowned in the sea when attempting to flee that war-torn nation with his family, is seared on the minds of all but the most heartless of people who have seen it. Still wearing his little sneakers, he would seem to be only asleep, where he not lying alone, face down, on a Turkish beach, having been washed ashore by the tide. The unspeakable horrors that his desperate family fled, at great and, as it turned out, tragic risk, can only be imagined by anyone who has not experienced them. The entire world is crying out for a resolution to the problems that led to the death of this child, his brother, mother and countless other desperate refugees.
But the Syrian refugee crisis is not the only one that is leaving children dead and dying. Such publicity was not granted to Palestinian children, bombed to bits by apartheid Israel, using United States-provided weaponry. Over 500 innocent children were killed in a 51-day period last summer; some of them asleep in their own beds, others huddled in United Nations refugee centers, both places where any child should feel, and should be, safe and secure. Their mangled and bloody bodies were shown on social media, but somehow the corporate-owned media did not find them worthy of reporting.
It is impossible to imagine the horror of Aylan’s family, in the water in the black of night, when Aylan and his brother slipped from their father’s desperate grasp. How the children must have suffered! The feelings of panic and desperation experienced by their parents is nothing Hollywood’s best actors could ever mimic.
Why, then, were not the stories of any Palestinian children told? Their parents too struggled desperately to save them, and the photographs of those parents holding the battered, mangled, bloody bodies of toddlers and infants are no less moving than pictures of Mr. Kurdi, as he speaks of his tragic loss.
In April of this year, a devastating earthquake struck Nepal, killing over 8,000 people, and causing millions of dollars of damage. In response, local stores requested that their customers donate to relief programs. Fundraisers were held, donations solicited, and the world did what it could to help these beleaguered people.
In the summer of 2014, more than 2,000 people were killed in the Gaza Strip, with tens of thousands left homeless. Today, most of them are still homeless, some of them living with friends or relatives fortunate enough to have something left to live in, others living in makeshift shelters, built from the ruins of their homes. Children are attending classes in bullet-ridden schools, with some classrooms having huge holes in the walls or ceilings, evidence of the cruel and barbaric bombing of last summer. Yet there has been little news of this. This writer is not familiar with any local relief activities, or any such activities at all. The only donation solicitations that he has seen have been by Palestinian relief agencies with which he is familiar because he has sought for them.
Relief donations increase when people around the world, especially those in First World nations, see the suffering that the relief is designed to alleviate. Why, one wonders, is the acute suffering of the Palestinian people ignored? Even the unspeakable burning alive of a Palestinian toddler, the killing of his mother and the extremely serious burns experienced by his brother had only a brief moment in the public media.
The corporate-owned media, unfortunately, determines what it wants the world to know, and what it would prefer not to reveal. Zionism dictates that Palestinian suffering is not worth showing to the world. After all, Zionists with prominent cabinet positions in the Israeli government have stated that Palestinians are ‘beasts’, and all of them should be destroyed. Having a fundraiser to assist them is not in the plan.
In May of 2014, two Palestinian teens were videotaped being shot in the back by Israeli Defense Force (IDF) terrorists. Is that not newsworthy? One can only imagine how newsworthy the corporate elite who control the media would consider it if two Israeli teens were shot in the back by Palestinians. Yet the reverse is not true.
It is an age-old truism in the U.S. that the ‘enemy’ is less than human. From ‘gooks’ in Vietnam to ‘sand jockeys’ in the various Gulf wars, the U.S. teaches its own terrorists to view their victims as less than human. Since Israeli lobbies own the U.S. Congress, seeing Palestinians as ‘beasts’, whose suffering is not worthy of cluttering up the vacant minds of the typical U.S. news audience, is completely acceptable. A three-year-old Syrian boy washing up on a beach is tragic; a three-year old Palestinian boy, whose body was destroyed beyond recognition by bombs dropped by Israel, isn’t worth anyone’s notice.
This writer wonders what goes through the mind of a Palestinian parent who has lost one or more children to Israeli bombs, as he or she reads about little Aylan, and sees those heart-rending pictures. Certainly, empathy and sympathy for Mr. Kurdi is foremost in their mind. But do they also wonder why the tragic death of their own child or children was ignored? As they see the world demanding help for Syrian refugees, do they wonder why no one seems to be demanding help for them?
It is long past time for the nation of Palestine to be internationally-recognized by the remaining countries, most notably the United States and, to its great shame, Canada, that thus far do not. It is also long past time for the world to rush in with aid to Gaza, and to demand that Israel adhere to international law, or suffer the sanctions and other consequences that any other nation, violating law and abusing human rights, would experience. The trend is moving in the direction of human rights for Palestinians; their suffering at the hands of Israel and the United States must end.
If Americans Knew
As reflected in a recent NATO conference in Latvia and in the Pentagon’s new “Law of War” manual, the U.S. government has come to view the control and manipulation of information as a “soft power” weapon, merging psychological operations, propaganda and public affairs under the catch phrase “strategic communications.”
This attitude has led to treating psy-ops – manipulative techniques for influencing a target population’s state of mind and surreptitiously shaping people’s perceptions – as just a normal part of U.S. and NATO’s information policy.
Dr. Stephen Badsey, Professor of Conflict studies, Wolverhampton University, U.K.
“The NATO case and argument is that NATO’s approach to psy-ops is to treat it as an essentially open, truthful and benign activity and that, plus the elimination of any meaningful distinctions between domestic and foreign media institutions and social media, means that psy-ops and public affairs have effectively fused,” said British military historian, Dr. Stephen Badsey, one of the world’s leading authorities on war and the media.
Badsey said NATO has largely abandoned the notion that there should be a clear distinction between psy-ops and public affairs, although NATO officially rules out the dissemination of “black propaganda,” knowingly false information designed to discredit an adversary.
“The long argument as to whether a firewall should be maintained between psy-ops and information activities and public affairs has now largely ended, and in my view the wrong side won,” Badsey added.
And, as part of this Brave New World of “strategic communications,” the U.S. military and NATO have now gone on the offensive against news organizations that present journalism which is deemed to undermine the perceptions that the U.S. government seeks to convey to the world.
That attitude led to the Pentagon’s new “Law of War” manual which suggests journalists in wartime may be considered “spies” or “unprivileged belligerents,” creating the possibility that reporters could be subject to indefinite incarceration, military tribunals and extrajudicial execution – the same treatment applied to Al Qaeda terrorists who are also called “unprivileged belligerents.” [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Pentagon Manual Calls Some Reporters Spies.”]
The revised “Law of War” manual has come under sharp criticism from representatives of both mainstream and independent media, including The New York Times’ editors and the Committee to Protect Journalists, as well as academics such as Dr. Badsey.
“The attitude toward the media expressed in the 2015 Pentagon manual is a violation of the international laws of war to which the USA is a signatory, going back to the 1907 Hague Convention, and including the Geneva Conventions,” said Badsey, a professor of conflict studies at Wolverhampton University in the United Kingdom and a long-time contact of mine who is often critical of U.S. military information tactics.
“But [the manual] is a reflection of the attitude fully displayed more than a decade ago in Iraq where the Pentagon decided that some media outlets, notably Al Jazeera, were enemies to be destroyed rather than legitimate news sources.”
The Vietnam Debate
The Pentagon’s hostility toward journalists whose reporting undermines U.S. government propaganda goes back even further, becoming a tendentious issue during the Vietnam War in the 1960s and 1970s when the war’s supporters accused American journalists of behaving treasonously by reporting critically about the U.S. military’s strategies and tactics, including exposure of atrocities such as the My Lai massacre.
In the 1980s, conservatives in the Reagan administration – embracing as an article of faith that “liberal” reporters contributed to the U.S. defeat in Vietnam – moved aggressively to discredit journalists who wrote about human rights violations by U.S.-backed forces in Central America. In line with those hostile attitudes, news coverage of President Ronald Reagan’s invasion of Grenada in 1983 was barred, and in 1990-91, President George H.W. Bush tightly controlled journalists trying to report on the Persian Gulf War. By keeping out – or keeping a close eye on – reporters, the U.S. military acted with fewer constraints and abuses went largely unreported.
This so-called “weaponizing of information” turned even more lethal during the presidency of Bill Clinton and the war over Kosovo when NATO identified Serb TV as an enemy “propaganda center” and dispatched warplanes to destroy its studios in Belgrade. In April 1999, acting under orders from U.S. Army General Wesley Clark, American bombers fired two cruise missiles that reduced Radio Televizija Srbija to a pile of rubble and killed 16 civilian Serb journalists working for the government station.
Despite this willful slaughter of unarmed journalists, the reaction from most U.S. news organizations was muted. However, an independent association of electronic media in Yugoslavia condemned the attack.
“History has shown that no form of repression, particularly the organized and premeditated murder of journalists, can prevent the flow of information, nor can it prevent the public from choosing its own sources of information,” the group said.
The (London) Independent’s Robert Fisk remarked at the time, “once you kill people because you don’t like what they say, you change the rules of war.” Now, the Pentagon is doing exactly that, literally rewriting its “Law of War” manual to allow for the no-holds-barred treatment of “enemy” journalists as “unprivileged belligerents.”
Despite the 1999 targeting of a news outlet in order to silence its reporting, a case for war crimes was never pursued against the U.S. and NATO officials responsible, and retired General Clark is still a frequent guest on CNN and other American news programs.
Targeting Al Jazeera
During the presidency of George W. Bush, the Arab network Al Jazeera was depicted as “enemy media” deserving of destruction rather than being respected as a legitimate news organization – and the news network’s offices were struck by American bombs. On Nov. 13, 2001, during the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, a U.S. missile hit Al Jazeera’s office in Kabul, destroying the building and damaging the homes of some employees.
On April 8, 2003, during the U.S. invasion of Iraq, a U.S. missile hit an electricity generator at Al Jazeera’s Baghdad office, touching off a fire that killed reporter Tareq Ayyoub and wounding a colleague. The Bush administration insisted that the attacks on Al Jazeera offices were “accidents.”
However, in 2004, as the U.S. occupation of Iraq encountered increased resistance and U.S. forces mounted a major offensive in the city of Fallujah, Al Jazeera’s video of the assault graphically depicted the devastation – and on April 15, 2004, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld decried Al Jazeera’s coverage as “vicious, inaccurate and inexcusable.”
According to a British published report on the minutes of a meeting the next day between President Bush and UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, Bush suggested bombing Al Jazeera’s headquarters in Qatar but was talked out of the idea by Blair who said it would provoke a worldwide backlash.
During the Iraq War, Dr. Badsey wrote the following observation which I cited in my book on military/media relations, Inappropriate Conduct: “The claim that in 2004 at the first battle of Fallujah the U.S. Marine Corps ‘weren’t beaten by the terrorists and insurgents, they were beaten by Al Jazeera television’ rather than that they [U.S. forces] employed inappropriate tactics for the political environment of their mission, is recognizable as yet another variant on the long-discredited claim that the Vietnam War was lost on the television screens of America.”
Although the notion of Vietnam-era journalists for U.S. media acting as a fifth column rather than a Fourth Estate is widely accepted among conservatives, the reality was always much different, with most of the early Vietnam War coverage largely favorable, even flattering, before journalists became more skeptical as the war dragged on.
In a recent interview on NPR radio, Charles Adams, a senior editor of the new “Law of War” manual, was unable to cite examples of journalists jeopardizing operations in the last five wars – and that may be because there were so few examples of journalistic misconduct and the handful of cases involved either confusion about rules or resistance to news embargoes that were considered unreasonable.
Examining the history of reporters dis-accredited during the Vietnam War, William Hammond, author of a two-volume history of U.S. Army relations with the media in Vietnam, found only eight dis-accreditations, according to military files.
Arguably the most serious case involved the Baltimore Sun’s John Carroll, an Army veteran himself who believed strongly that it was important that the American people be as thoroughly informed about the controversial war as possible. He got in trouble for reporting that the U.S. Marines were about to abandon their base at Khe Sahn. He was accused of violating an embargo and was stripped of his credentials, though he argued that the North Vietnamese surrounding the base were well aware of the troop movement.
Toward the end of the war, some reporters also considered the South Vietnamese government so penetrated by the communists that there were no secrets anyway. Prime Minister Nguyen van Thieu’s principal aide was a spy and everyone knew it except the American people.
During his long career, which included the editorship of the Los Angeles Times, Carroll came to view journalists “almost as public servants and a free press as essential to a self-governing nation,” according to his obituary in The New York Times after his death on June 14, 2015.
During the Obama administration, the concept of “strategic communication” – managing the perceptions of the world’s public – has grown more and more expansive and the crackdown on the flow of information unprecedented. More than any of his predecessors, President Barack Obama has authorized harsh legal action against government “leakers” who have exposed inconvenient truths about U.S. foreign policy and intelligence practices.
And Obama’s State Department has mounted a fierce public campaign against the Russian network, RT, that is reminiscent of the Clinton administration’s hostility toward Serb TV and Bush-43’s anger toward Al Jazeera.
Since RT doesn’t use the State Department’s preferred language regarding the Ukraine crisis and doesn’t show the requisite respect for the U.S.-backed regime in Kiev, the network is denounced for its “propaganda,” but this finger-pointing is really just part of the playbook for “information warfare,” raising doubts about the information coming from your adversary while creating a more favorable environment for your own propaganda. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Who’s the Propagandist? US or RT?”]
This growing fascination with “strategic communication” has given rise to NATO’s new temple to information technology, called “The NATO Strategic Communications Center of Excellence” or STRATCOM, located in Latvia, a former Soviet republic that is now on the front lines of the tensions with Russia.
On Aug. 20, some of the most influential minds from the world of “strategic communications” gathered in Latvia’s capital of Riga for a two-day conference entitled “Perception Matters.” A quotation headlined in all its communications read: “Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defenses of peace must be constructed” – noble sentiments perhaps but not always reflected in the remarks by more than 200 defense and communications experts, many of whom viewed information not as some neutral factor necessary for enlightening the public and nourishing democracy, but as a “soft power” weapon to be wielded against an adversary.
Hawkish Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, led a delegation of U.S. senators and said STRATCOM was needed to combat Russia and its President Vladimir Putin. “This Center will help spread the truth,” said McCain – although “the truth” in the world of “strategic communications” can be a matter of perception.
Don North is a veteran war correspondent who covered the Vietnam War and many other conflicts around the world. He is the author of a new book, Inappropriate Conduct, the story of a World War II correspondent whose career was crushed by the intrigue he uncovered.
The United Nations has called for a freeze on Israeli demolitions of Palestinian homes, dozens of aid agencies and the European Union have joined in the protest, and even the U.S. State Department has voiced its dismay. Yet, even as the outcry has become an international issue and reached the highest ranks of our own government, we find a resounding silence at The New York Times.
Times readers are unlikely to know that 31 international organizations recently called on Israel to stop the “wanton destruction of Palestinian property,” including “basic humanitarian necessities,” such as solar panels, animal pens, latrines and tents supplied by the European Union. The groups asked world leaders to take “urgent action,” to hold Israel accountable for “grave breaches” of international law, and to demand reparations for the destruction of their charitable gifts.
The State Department joined both groups with statements made during a press briefing Aug. 19. When spokesman John Kirby was asked about the issue, he had a prepared declaration ready to hand.
The department was “deeply concerned” and “very troubled,” he said, calling the demolitions and evictions “harmful and provocative and indicative of a damaging trend.” He referred to the “destruction of dozens of structures and the displacement of over 150 people in the West Bank and East Jerusalem this month alone.”
His words got the attention of Israeli media, which published his comments at length, but they failed to arouse the interest of the Times.
In fact, Israel’s cruel (and illegal) policy of demolishing Palestinian property has been a constant story in alternative and Palestinian media outlets over the years, and the spate of international protests appearing this past month is not the first. Last February, for instance, some 400 rabbis from around the world urged Israel to halt demolitions in the West Bank.
Israeli forces have destroyed houses, tents, animal shelters, shops and farming structures throughout the West Bank at a steady clip, leaving 486 Palestinians displaced in 2015 as of Aug. 24. The destruction has hit the poorest and most vulnerable populations hardest, as Israel attempts to clear the land for Jewish settlers.
In the midst of this, the Times has seen fit to report on only one official demolition action this summer: the destruction of illegal Jewish settler homes in the West Bank. (This event was accompanied by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s announcement of plans for 500 news settlement homes to replace them.)
When the demolitions have made their way into the pages of the Times, the reports have failed to reveal the full extent of the problem. This year, for instance, the paper took notice of the threatened destruction of the West Bank village Susiya, when international media attention made it impossible to ignore, but dozens of other actual demolitions found no mention in the newspaper.
Again, when bureau chief Jodi Rudoren wrote about East Jerusalem demolitions last year, she underreported the extent of the damage by omitting over 46,000 structures that have been destroyed over the years and mentioning only the 675 that took place for “punitive reasons” during the second intifada.
Although demolitions are a constant threat to thousands of Palestinians in the West Bank, the Times prefers to ignore this reality. Palestinian media, however, issue reports almost daily, and monitoring groups such as the United Nations and the Israeli organization B’Tselem struggle to keep tallies.
These groups also note that demolitions fly in the face of international rules. As the UN release states, they contravene “Israel’s obligations as an occupying power under humanitarian law and human rights law.”
Behind the numbers cited by the United Nations and other groups are thousands of individual stories: herders struggling to shelter their flocks as Israeli forces tear up sheds and corrals, children robbed of playgrounds and schools, communities forced to pay for water deliveries after bulldozers crush their pipelines, families pulling prized possessions out of the rubble of their homes.
These stories find little notice in the Times, even as aid organizations and governments from the European Union to the U.S. State Department have spoken out with alarm and dismay. On many levels, Israeli demolitions are eminently newsworthy, but this is not enough for the Times, which prefers to shield Israel above all.
If Congress derails the hard-won “P+5” nuclear deal with Iran, much blame will fall to powerful New York Sen. Charles Schumer, the first Senate Democrat to join the partisan Republican congressional majority in opposing President Obama’s landmark foreign policy achievement.
Schumer’s insistence on maintaining economic sanctions against Iran supports the undisguised neoconservative agenda of regime change in Iran. Critics of Schumer’s position have demonstrated that his arguments against the deal are disingenuous and misleading. So were his arguments for regime change in Iraq, starting with his bogus claim that Saddam Hussein’s “vigorous pursuit of biological, chemical and nuclear weapons” made him a “terrible danger to the people to the United States.”
Less well known is the fact that Schumer began almost a quarter century ago to push dubious arguments for aggressive regime change in the Middle East to serve the interests of Israeli hard-liners. His focus then was on Syria, led by Hafez Assad, the father of today’s president. And the issue, then as now, was framed around economic sanctions.
In 1990, Israeli officials and their American allies confronted a potential crisis: a thaw was developing in U.S.-Syrian relations under President George H. W. Bush. That spring, Damascus won Washington’s gratitude by obtaining the release of two American hostages held in Lebanon. Later, Syria earned major credit as one of three Arab nations to commit troops to the multinational coalition in the first Gulf War. In November 1991, following the coalition victory, Syria attended a U.S.-sponsored Middle East peace forum in Madrid and announced its willingness to negotiate a settlement with Israel.
Washington rewarded Assad by granting him a meeting with President Bush, the first between the two countries’ heads of state in 13 years. Syria continued its diplomatic offensive by releasing thousands of political prisoners and providing exit permits to Syrian Jews wishing to emigrate to Israel.
Israel and its close allies — including Schumer — fought back by trying to implicate Syria in one of the most emotionally loaded issues of the day: drug trafficking. As one American official observed at the time, “It is in the Israelis’ interest to spin the drugs claim in order to keep Syria on the U.S. State Department list of countries involved in drug trafficking.”
As I describe in my book The Lebanese Connection: Corruption, Civil War and the International Drug Traffic, no one questioned the fact that large amounts of drugs were cultivated in and shipped out of Syrian-occupied lands in Lebanon in the 1980s. At the time, during the height of the Lebanese civil war, Syrian troops occupied a section of Lebanon that included the fertile Beka’a Valley, a region long notorious for growing cannabis and opium poppies. Syria had been invited into Lebanon in 1976 by a Christian-led government to help maintain peace on terms favorable to the country’s Christian population.
The Reagan administration invoked a section of the Foreign Assistance Act to bar aid to Syria on grounds that it failed to cooperate fully with the United States in the war on drugs. But after President George H. W. Bush took office, State Department and Drug Enforcement Administration officials stated that they had no evidence that Syrian forces were running drugs as a matter of state policy, although some individual commanders were corrupt.
Their agnosticism riled Israeli officials and their U.S. allies. In 1990, the American adviser to the Israeli mission at the United Nations, writing in The Washington Post, lamented that “Washington ignores Syrian complicity in the drug trade,” which he claimed was being directed by “the inner circle of Syria’s government.” Later, pro-Israeli sources such as the controversial “terrorism expert” Steven Emerson and Michael Widlanski, who would become a “strategic affairs adviser” to the Israeli Ministry of Public Security, launched a major publicity campaign to implicate Syria’s regime in drug trafficking.
The same campaign included an undocumented but searing public indictment of Syria issued in December 1992 at the request of Rep. Charles Schumer by the Democratic staff of the House Subcommittee on Crime and Criminal Justice, which he chaired. The report, which was not endorsed by the full committee, had a partisan as well as an anti-Syria slant, as suggested by its title: “Syria, President Bush, and Drugs: The Administration’s Next Iraqgate.”
Schumer’s political indictment declared that the Bush administration “simply refuses to admit the extent to which drug corruption has been institutionalized in the Syrian military forces now occupying Lebanon.” Without specific evidence, it claimed that the Syrian government and military were collecting upward of a billion dollars a year “from those who seek to peddle their poison in the United States.”
Based on Syria’s “continued support of terrorist groups based in Lebanon,” its “repeated attempts to acquire weapons of mass destruction” and “its persistent involvement with known drug traffickers,” the report insisted that “Syria has the capacity to become as great a threat to American interests in the Middle East as Saddam Hussein’s Iraq ever was.”
It added, with a nod to the Bush administration’s invasion of Panama to oust the Noriega regime in late 1989, “The Justice Department must prosecute not only ‘corrupt, crooked and rotten cops’ from Panama, but also the unscrupulous Syrian generals who conspire to put dope on American streets.”
Such inflammatory language foreshadowed Schumer’s rhetoric about Saddam’s “weapons of mass destruction” to justify the invasion of Iraq in 2003. The charge of Syrian military complicity had at least some substance, in that some commanders undoubtedly had unclean hands. But more credible authorities than Schumer pointed out that Syria actually had limited control over the portions of Lebanon that it occupied and thus had chosen not to provoke further armed conflict by cracking down on heavily armed drug clans. In much the same way, NATO forces in Afghanistan consciously decided not to eradicate opium fields for fear of driving peasants into the arms of the Taliban.
As President Assad himself told an interviewer in 1993, “our real fear was for our soldiers, who live among the people in Lebanon where drugs have for a very long time been a source of income.” In the Beka’a Valley, he said, Syria had intervened “to solve a political problem and end the civil war,” not to “chase smugglers.” Nonetheless, he maintained, Syria was helping Lebanon to eradicate drugs, though “of course smuggling is something which continues.”
Assad’s efforts bore fruit. The State Department reported in 1996, six years after the end of the civil war, that Lebanon had worked a near miracle against drug production with Syria’s help:
“Lebanon appears to have won the fight against illicit crop cultivation to the joint Lebanese-Syrian eradication efforts since 1992. There appears to be no cultivation of opium poppy and cannabis (for hashish production) has all but disappeared. . . The joint Syrian-Lebanese effort since 1992 to eradicate the cultivation of cannabis and opium in the Beka’a Valley is a significant accomplishment which has been confirmed by a variety of sources.”
Despite tough lobbying by Israel, the Clinton administration removed Syria from the State Department’s list of major drug producers in late 1997. Chuck Schumer’s attempt to destroy bilateral relations with Syria using the drug issue had failed.
However, efforts by Israeli hardliners and U.S. neoconservatives to derail warming relations with Syria succeeded once again after George W. Bush took office. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “The US Hand in the Syrian Mess.”] We are today living with the ghastly human and economic costs of their violent efforts to “remake the map of the Middle East.”
The Iran nuclear deal offers the first clear opportunity in years to shift U.S. policy toward a more constructive and peaceful role in the region. To make that possible, the American people must repudiate the latest round of fear-mongering by Schumer and fellow hawks.
“Now we do not have an Iron Curtain, we have a newspaper curtain.”
Evgeny Yevtushenko (a prominent Russian poet)
– RT interview, Sept 2009.
Though Russia went through significant domestic changes since 1991, the extent of Russia’s domestic achievements had rarely been acknowledged in the United States. Instead, Russia has been continuously criticized for not democratizing fast enough. American media ignores positive developments in Russia and concentrates on the negative. Russia made significant changes from the Soviet totalitarian system, but instead of acknowledging this progress, Russia is characterized by exploiting misleading historical analogies as ‘closed’, associated with the KGB, the Soviet Union, ‘relentless propaganda’, ‘government control’. The opinions of the Russian citizens on their political system or their president as well as the actions by the Russian state that do not fit the description of ‘dictatorial power’ are typically omitted from Western media coverage. The result of this “selection bias” builds up over time to construct a negative overall image of the country and its president.
Creating an external threat perception in the eyes of the Americans and Europeans becomes an instrument of uniting the public on foreign policy issues, as expressed by Zbigniew Brzezinski in his text, The Grand Chessboard: “As America becomes an increasingly multi-cultural society, it may find it more difficult to fashion a consensus on foreign policy issues, except in the circumstance of a truly massive and widely perceived direct external threat.” (p.211)
The news on Russia became consistently negative after 2000. Positive developments inside Russia, or news regarding Russia’s positive international involvements, were ignored while the negative news received immediate attention. A few examples from the period will illustrate this phenomenon:
William Safire’s article in The New York Times in 2004 concluded: “NATO must not lose its original purpose: to contain the Russian bear.” In 2006, the Wall Street Journal editorial described Russian foreign policy as “openly, and often gratuitously, hostile to the U.S.” and therefore it concluded that “it’s time we start thinking of Vladimir Putin’s Russia as an enemy of the United States.”
In July 2007, US Neoconservative Richard Pipes, who has been for decades a fierce critic of Russia, declared to Corriere della Sera that “For Europe, Russia could be even more dangerous than the threat of Islam, more hazardous than Bin Laden”. According to Pipes, Russia is trying to regain its superpower status and will use economic tools as pressure on the European or even global economy to achieve its goals. Pipes insisted that Russia has always been hostile to the West, and that the best policy that the West should adopt toward Russia is to avoid any contact. Oil companies should stop making contracts with Russia, and banks should cut out any investments. Not surprisingly, Pipes has been a fervent supporter of the missile defense shield in Eastern Europe, which hides behind the pretense of avoiding the spread of Russian influence there.
Similar to Pipes’ Russophobic stance, Vice President Dick Cheney frequently characterized Russian foreign policy as threatening to the United States and therefore has been advocating a policy of isolating Russia. Other officials in the George W. Bush administration who helped to inflate anti-Russian rhetoric are the Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, Senator Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.), and Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.).
David Kramer is particularly descriptive of Russia’s sins: “With this renewed sense of pride comes an arrogance, cockiness, assertiveness, self-confidence, and even aggressiveness that is combined at the same time with paranoia, insecurity, and hypersensitivity.” And journalist Michael Bohn sees Moscow acting out of stubbornness, and as a ‘spoiler’: “Now Moscow has trouble projecting its power…one way it can still project its strength globally and particularly vis-à-vis the United States is to be the spoiler in international affairs, a modern-day version of ‘Mr. Nyet.’” One must ask: What precisely is Moscow ‘spoiling’, and why? Said answers are tellingly avoided in much of this predominantly Western-based anti-Russian commentary.
The commentators, politicians and media personalities consistently portray a negative picture of Russia: ‘aggressive’, ‘non-cooperative, ‘imperialist’ are very common descriptions in the mainstream Western media. Negative media on Russia became especially intense after the brief Russo-Georgian War of 2008, which lasted only five days due in large part to Russia.
Without an investigation of the sources of the conflict, Western media nonetheless immediately took the side of the Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili in the conflict and disregarded any evidence that Russia submitted to the United Nations, calling Russia the “aggressor”. While the Russian State’s account of the event did not receive any Western media coverage, nonetheless Saakashvili’s pleas for ‘protection’ were afforded front page positioning in major Western newspapers.
After Joe Biden visited Georgia and Ukraine in 2009, he expressed his predictions in The Wall Street Journal that Russia will collapse in no less than 15 years, given its “withering economy” and shrinking population base. Biden dismissed any Russian goodwill on nuclear disarmament, attributing it to Russia’s inability to maintain commitment to such a policy: “All of sudden, did they have an epiphany and say: ‘Hey man, we don’t want to threaten our neighbors?’ No. They can’t sustain it.”
Russian analyst, Sergey Roy, expressed the feeling in Russia toward the negative remarks by Biden on Russia:
“Biden’s harangues have done more good than harm. Russia’s leaders, starting with Mikhail Gorbachev, have been too gullible in their dealings with the United States and the West generally. Biden’s Dick Cheney-like stance shows only too clearly the kind of “partner” with whom we are supposed to enter “a new era of mutual respect and improved relations,” as promised by Obama.
Walter Isaacson, the former Chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), which oversees US media coverage directed at foreign audiences, was very open at calling Russia an enemy. Thus, in October 2010, Isaacson called for even more money for the BBG to combat America’s “enemies,” which he identifies as Iran, Venezuela, Russia, and China. “We can’t allow ourselves to be out-communicated by our enemies,” Isaacson bluntly, indiscreetly stated.
The Foreign Affairs journal ran an article by Charles Kupchan, where Russia is listed among other US enemies: Iran, North Korea, Cuba, Syria, and Myanmar. According to the article, Russia is an adversary, “a rivalry that Washington hopes to tame,” it is “on the wrong side of history.” Kupchan compares “recalcitrant autocrats” Putin and Medvedev to Iranian president Ahmadinejad, and Cuban President Raul Castro in their use of anti-Americanism in order to bolster domestic Russian support.
In 2011, The Economist published an article entitled, “The mood of Russia: Time to Shove Off,” where the publication concluded that the most educated and successful Russians are ready to emigrate as a response to Russia’s domestic ‘situation’. The article was based on the statistics provided by Levada-Center stating that 22% of Russians are interested in emigrating out of the country. What The Economist piece forgot, however, was to compare this figure to similar figures from other nations, such as Great Britain, where said figure would be closer to 33%, or to those from Chile, where the number of people wishing to emigrate is 35%, according to a Gallup poll. Mark Adomanis from Forbes responded: “The Economist does have a quite nasty habit of excluding evidence and limiting perspective when it serves its own interests, and the publication has long made clear that it considers Mr. Putin to be a figure of extreme, if not unique, malevolence.”
Russia’s efforts to restore its national pride are misread in Washington as somehow Russia’s efforts toward the restoration of the old USSR. Since most Russians appreciate the increased stability and security prevalent since Putin first assumed the Office of President, the ongoing criticism of Russia from Washington makes Russians wonder: “When we hear US criticism of what’s going on here, it sounds to Russians as if Americans want us to be weak. They want to provoke chaos – not to democratize, but to destroy.”
President Putin’s oft quoted phrase regarding the collapse of the USSR as “the biggest geopolitical catastrophe,” got misquoted numerous times by politicians, analysts, and the media. To those who quote it, the phrase apparently signals Putin’s dreams of rebuilding the Russian Empire. What Putin actually said carried a different meaning than that which is usually attached to the quote:
“The demise of the Soviet Union was the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century. Whoever does not miss the Soviet Union has no heart. Whoever wants it back has no brain. I see that not everyone in the West has understood that the Soviet Union has disappeared from the political map of the world and that a new country has emerged with new humanist and ideological principles at the foundation of its existence.”
American media’s assault on Russia started right after Putin came to power, yet it took on new heights during the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, which coincided with the protests in Ukraine at the end of 2013. The distortions and twisting of facts to create an image of Russia as an enemy is achieved best by using the technique of ‘personalization of a threat’. In Russia’s case, the whole focus of attention is concentrated on the personality of Putin and his role in conducting Russia’s foreign policy. ‘Personalization of a threat’ leads to downplaying substantive discussions of events and the role of the United States in provoking Russia’s foreign policy responses.
Newsweek, in its August 1st, 2014 issue, featured a cover page with a picture of Putin alongside huge letters stating: ” Putin’s Ukraine Mistakes Have Made Him a Pariah” The article, written by Owen Matthews gave a summary verdict of Putin’s involvement in the crash of the Malaysian airline, despite no formal investigation of the accident having even taken place.
One of the more recent examples of a ‘shaper’ of media messages about Russia in the West is that of writer and foreign investment fund manager Bill Browder. In 2003, when Browder was still making billions in Russia, he backed Putin’s decision to arrest former Russian oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky, saying, “A nice, well-run authoritarian regime is better than an oligarchic mafia regime — and those are the choices on offer.” After Khodorkovsky’s arrest, Browder said: “People will forget in six months that Khodorkovsky is still sitting in jail.” During Khodorkovsky’s trial in 2005, Browder attacked the oligarch for the same asset-stripping behavior which Browder supported and profited from, telling the BBC: “Mr. Khodorkovsky is no martyr. He has left in his wake aggrieved investors too numerous to count and is widely credited with masterminding much of the financial trickery that plagued the Russian capital markets throughout the 1990s.” Browder tried to encourage Westerners to invest in Russia by writing in the New York Times : “Putin cares about foreign investors; he just doesn’t care about them enough to allow one oligarch to use his ill-gotten gains to hijack the state for his own economic purposes.” After Browder became unwelcome in Russia, he completely changed his narrative and started demonizing Putin and Russia as a state.
Examples of negative media are too many to mention, but the main victim of this negative media coverage of Russia is U.S. foreign policy itself. Instead of trying to understand complex issues, Russian foreign policy actions and internal developments are presented in a caricatured, black and white dichotomy, resulting in mistrust and making continuing reasonable dialogue between the two nations quite difficult.
Angela Borozna is pursuing a Ph.D in political science, writing her dissertation on Russian foreign policy.
By the worst means, the worst. For mine own good,
All causes shall give way: I am in blood
Stepped in so far, that, should I wade no more,
Returning were as tedious as go o’er.
Jeremy Corbyn is a longtime British Labour MP, hitherto little known outside Britain. Following the resignation of Labour leader Ed Miliband, Corbyn is one of four MPs nominated in the leadership contest, currently subject to ballot amongst Party members and supporters until 10 September.
Corbyn has been subject to a tsunami of criticism and abuse since his nomination, providing abundant evidence on the odious character of the current British political establishment and on the farce that is curiously labeled the democratic process.
Moreover, Corbyn, supporter of the Palestinian cause, has experienced full guns blazing from official British Jewry. On 12 August, the Jewish Chronicle broadsided with ‘The key questions that Jeremy Corbyn must answer’. With the emphasis on ‘must’.
Soon after, Jewish Labour MP Ivan Lewis becomes ‘the first senior Labour politician to attack Corbyn’s credentials on anti-Semitism’. And there will be more to come. How could anyone who finds Israel’s actions unacceptable imagine that they had the right to become leader of a major British political Party?
* * *
The treatment of Corbyn by the British Zionist mafia is not novel but redolent of the behavior of the British Zionist machine since its inception. Some insight into this machine can be had from a forgotten book, which a correspondent has alerted me to. The book is Publish It Not: The Middle East Cover-Up, written by Michael Adams and Christopher Mayhew, published in 1975 (Longman).
Adams (died 2005) was a journalist, Mayhew (died 1997) a Labour MP (later a Liberal) and broadcaster. Both came to be critics of Israel from a position of innocence, product of firsthand experience in their professional capacities. The hostility that they and other critics of Israel experienced on British soil led them to write the book.
The authors draw comfort from Nahum Goldmann, then President of the World Jewish Congress, reported (Jewish Chronicle, 7 June 1974) as claiming:
“… by blindly supporting the mistaken course of Israeli policy and by telling the Israelis only what they wanted to hear, Diaspora Jews had done Israel a disservice.”
Ill-informed (Adams was teaching in cut-off Finland in the late 1940s) and inexperienced, Adams found himself hired as Middle East correspondent for the Manchester Guardian in 1956. He was to remain employed until 1962, but continued to be published there until 1968. With respect to Israel:
“What I saw, in brief, was the fact of injustice; of an injustice which, it seemed, had been knowingly committed and was still being deliberately prolonged; an injustice – worst shock of all – which could be directly traced to a decision taken by a British government. I am speaking, of course, of the injustice done to the Palestinians …”
Adams notes that he could have accepted the past as spilt milk, but for two factors.
“The first of these was the realisation that the world’s ignorance of what had happened and was still happening in Palestine was not accidental: that there were plenty of people about whose primary concern it was to distort and suppress the truth about Palestine without bothering their heads with any concerns about freedom of speech. And the second factor … was the Suez crisis, which it became my duty to observe and report for The Manchester Guardian. It was a decisive experience.”
Then came the Israeli takeover of what was to become the ‘occupied territories’ following the Six Day War of June 1967. For Adams:
“There was a kind of Watergate in action … to protect those who made it their business to defend Israel and to subject to an insidious form of discrimination those who sought to expose the true aims of Israeli policy. Such non-conformists were subtly made aware that their jobs might be at risk, their books unpublishable, their preferment out of the question, their pubic reputations vulnerable, if they did not renounce the heresy of anti-Zionism. And for the most part, the merest flourish of such secret weapons was enough to reduce them to silence.”
The handful of dissenters learned that:
“… the imbalance of public opinion, in this deeply contentious area of foreign politics, was deliberately contrived and painstakingly maintained; and that those who were intent on maintaining it were not above resorting to some very dirty tricks against those who tried, as we were trying, to disturb it. I was to learn this lesson myself the hard way …”
In 1967, Adams, Mayhew and others formed the Council for the Advancement of Arab-British Understanding and the Labour Middle East Council. CAABU membership comprised well-credentialled professionals with Middle Eastern experience, but it was derided as an Arab propaganda front. The Labour Middle East Council was denied affiliation with the Labour Party. Mayhew notes:
“… we were startled by the vehemence with which … we were attacked and exposed to insult, and by the extraordinary anonymous letters which we became accustomed to receiving. In some respects these attacks were so bitter and unrestrained as to appear pathological.”
Christopher Mayhew’s first personal brush with Zionism was upon receipt of a letter dated 5 December 1946:
“We are determined this time to squash you British sons of a bitch and we declare war to the finish against the British. For every Jew you stinking British pigs kill in Palestine you will pay a thousandfold in fetid English blood. The [Lahome Herut Israel] has passed sentence of death on the British pig Mayhew. The execution will soon take place by silent and new means.”
At that time, letter bombs were received by several people. One such package was sent to an avowed anti-Zionist Roy Farran, which killed his brother.
Mayhew’s first professional exposure was as Undersecretary for Labour Foreign Secretary, Ernest Bevin. The Commons, 11 July 1948. It is 8 a.m., after an all night sitting. Mayhew is alone on the Government front bench. The Commons is empty. Save for:
“… behind me, wide awake, well-informed, passionate, articulate and aggressive, would be a group of twenty or thirty pro-Israeli Labour members. Most of them would be Jewish … and also Israel’s most brilliant non-Jewish supporter, Dick Crossman.”
At this ridiculous time, a debate on the recognition of Israel was initiated by a young Labour backbencher. Mayhew replied:
“Has my Honourable Friend ever heard that there is an Arab point of view? … The trouble with my Honourable Friend, as the whole of his speech shows, is that he is not sufficiently in touch with the Arab point of view on the Palestine problem.”
And thus it would be for Mayhew’s entire time in the Commons, harangued, abused, then marginalized. But the early target was Bevin himself, labelled successfully as an anti-Semite. Mayhew again:
“I remember clearly [Bevin’s] dislike of Zionist methods and tactics, and, indeed, of the Zionist philosophy itself. He was passionately and unshakably anti-Zionist. He held that Zionism was basically racialist, that it was inevitably wedded to violence and terror, that it demanded far more from the Arabs than they could or should be expected to accept peacefully, that its success would condemn the Middle East to decades of hatred and violence, and above all … that by turning the Arabs against Britain and the Western countries, it would open a highroad for Stalin into the Middle East. On all these points events proved him right …
“In 1947 and 1948 it was the political pressure on the Labour Cabinet from American Zionists, exerted through the United States government, which angered Bevin the most …. At that time, Britain was dependent on American goodwill for her economic survival [and Truman equally dependent on Zionist goodwill for his campaign funds]. As a consequence, the British government was subject to ruthless pressure from Washington to get the Arabs to accept the Zionists’ demands. It was a disgraceful abuse of power.”
By chance, Mayhew had to meet the US Ambassador, Lou Douglas, by himself. Douglas wanted British assent to admitting a hundred thousand Jewish refugees into Palestine immediately. Mayhew reiterated the government’s position – it was a prescription for war. Douglas then claimed that the President wanted it known that agreement on the intake would help him get the Marshall Aid appropriation through Congress.
“In other words, we must do as the Zionists wished – or starve. Bevin surrendered – he had to – but he was understandably bitter and angry. He felt it outrageous that the United States, which had no responsibility for law and order in Palestine (and no intention of permitting massive Jewish immigration into the United States), should, from very questionable motives, impose an impossibly burdensome and dangerous task on Britain.”
Mayhew’s first visit to the Middle East was in 1953 – as member of a Parliamentary delegation he went to a Palestinian refugee camp in Jordan. There he saw ‘… the refugee camps not merely as relics of a past war, but as seedbeds of future vengeance’.
Other priorities intervened, but in 1963 Mayhew was a member of an official Labour Party delegation which toured Middle Eastern countries. On that tour, the delegation met then Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir and other Israeli leaders. He was disgusted by Meir’s mocking and patronizing attitude towards the Palestinians.
“I remembered now where I had heard it before: at parties given by British settlers in Kenya and Tanganyika before those countries gained their independence. It was the tone in which it would be explained to visitors like myself that the African was scatterbrained but essentially a ‘good chap’, loyal (meaning loyal to his white masters) but easily led astray by trouble makers (meaning those of his fellow-Africans who aspired to self-rule).”
Thus did Mayhew develop a commitment to the Palestinian cause. But Mayhew’s answering back to the Israelis had immediate consequences. When Harold Wilson, a zealous Zionist, formed a government the next year in 1964, Mayhew was excluded from the Cabinet after the lobbying against him.
* * *
“The secret of the Zionists’ success has lain in the existence of a large, lively and influential Jewish community in Britain. [In the context of deliberations regarding the Balfour Declaration in 1917, s]upporters of Zionism, whether Jewish or non-Jewish … if they were not in positions of power themselves, they usually had easy access to those who were.”
Mayhew drew on Doreen Ingrams’ Palestine Papers 1917-1922, which highlights that the first drafts of the Balfour Declaration were written under the direction of Zionists (Lord Rothschild and Chaim Weizmann) on Balfour’s invitation. Weizmann had ready access to Balfour. Thus Weizmann to Balfour, 30 May 1918 (from Ingrams):
“The Arabs, who are superficially clever and quick-witted, worship one thing, and one thing only – power and success … The British authorities … knowing as they do the treacherous nature of the Arab, they have to watch carefully and constantly that nothing should happen which might give the Arabs the slightest grievance or ground of complaint. In other words, the Arabs have to be ‘nursed’ lest they should stab the army in the back. … So the English are ‘run’ by the Arabs.”
After the Balfour Declaration’s publication, the government established a special branch for Jewish propaganda in the Foreign office under a Zionist, Albert Hyamson, and a Zionist commission (led by Weizmann) was dispatched to Palestine to facilitate the Zionist agenda.
Mayhew notes the instructiveness of the diaries of Mrs Blanche Dugdale (Balfour’s niece), on ‘the intimacy of the Zionist lobby’s contracts with the Cabinet’, citing a September 1936 entry (p.32). Mayhew concludes:
“What is extraordinary about this extract – and many others in Mrs Dugdale’s revealing diaries – is that she is describing without apology (quite the contrary) a pattern of behaviour which would normally be considered scandalous, if not positively treasonable. A member of the British government was communicating Cabinet secrets to a private individual acting on behalf of a group of foreign nationals [etc] …”
Mayhew notes that the capture of the British Labour Party, even by comparison with the Liberals and Conservatives, has been a remarkable phenomenon.
“By tradition and principle the party was strongly opposed to territorial expansion, colonialism, racialism and military government; yet the Zionist lobby succeeded in committing it to a uniquely close friendship with a foreign government which [failed all these criteria].”
The Labour Party ‘welcomed Zionists most warmly to its ranks and gave the most consistent support to their aims’. Soon after Labour was elected in August 1929, riots broke out in Palestine, driven by the scale and character of Jewish immigration. A subsequent White Paper noted that Britain’s support for Jewish immigration was not formally unconditional. The lobby forced a retreat from Prime Minister MacDonald, following which Jewish immigration into Palestine escalated dramatically.
“In the 1930s and ‘40s the Zionists consolidated their grip on the Labour Party and came completely to control its policy on the Middle East.”
The Party’s National Executive Committee’s 1944 report proposed ‘Let the Arabs be encouraged to move out, as the Jews move in’, and that Jewish migration prospects might be enhanced by ‘extending the present Palestinian boundaries by agreement with Egypt, Syria or Transjordan’. Mayhew notes that the Labour Party thus ‘took on itself the role of a kind of Zionist fifth column’.
Then to the Attlee government. Professor Harold Laski, ardent Zionist, was chairman of the Party’s National Executive Committee during 1945-46, declaring that he was attempting to organize ‘an internal opposition to fight the Attlee-Bevin betrayal of the Jews’. Add the (much cited) Crossman-Strachey incident. Mayhew reproduces the fragment in Hugh Thomas’ biography of John Strachey. Strachey, Under-Secretary of State for Air and member of the government’s Defence Committee, gave Crossman tacit approval for the Haganah to engage in sabotage. Thus did Haganah blow up the bridges over the Jordan (June 1946?), cutting off the British army from its supply lines. As Mayhew notes:
“Such behaviour by supposedly responsible members of the Labour Party and Government would be inconceivable in any context other than that of Zionism.”
Mayhew neglects to add Thomas’ postscript:
“A few days later, the Foreign Office broke the Jewish Agency code. Crossman was for several days alarmed lest he and Strachey might be discovered.”
And on to the Wilson government, the Prime Minister’s contribution to the Zionist cause being unstinting. On 8 December 1972, the UN General Assembly re-affirmed the UN’s November 1967 Resolution 242 (demanding Israeli withdrawal from the Occupied Territories, respect of Palestinian rights, etc). Wilson, in Israel over Christmas, in turn reaffirmed his carte blanche support for Israel’s freedom of action.
As a Jewish newspaper reported on the 29th: ‘Tidings of comfort and joy were brought to Israel’s political leaders this week by Harold Wilson’. Mayhew’s contrary response was:
“Today it is widely recognised that the policies to whose support Mr Wilson committed himself and the British Labour Party were gravely mistaken and that they were the principal cause of the fresh outbreak of war in the Middle East in October 1973.”
The fiftieth anniversary of the affiliation of the organization Paole Zion to the Labour Party was held in September 1970. After the 1920 affiliation, Mayhew notes, ‘a steady stream of pro-Zionist questions began’, involving fraudulent propaganda that ‘greatly influenced generations of credulous Labour Party members’.
The 1970 dinner was presided over by the acting chairman of the Party, the Zionist Ian Mikardo. Mikardo attacked Ernest Bevin (an anti-Zionist and anti-Semite), the British Diplomatic Service, and the Arabs. Said Mikardo, Foreign Office officials were ‘public school boys who share with the Arabs a common tendency towards homosexuality, romanticism and enthusiasm for horses’.
Mayhew claims that the dinner probably marks the zenith of the Zionist influence. Yet the general account of Adams and Mayhew up to the time of the book’s publication highlights that nothing had changed within the Labour Party. Dissenters within the ranks were perennially howled down and abused by the Zionist chorus.
* * *
Adams and Mayhew note that the British media bore a heavy responsibility, through its partisanry and its silences, for the public’s impoverished understanding of the Middle East. Most British media Middle East correspondents were Jewish, and some outlets lazily employed Jewish Israeli residents who doubled as ‘reporters’.
In early 1968 Adams, in visiting the Middle East on invitation by the BBC, arranged with the Guardian that he would write some articles on the state of affairs in the occupied territories – then little known in Britain. Adams was appalled by what he found.
The Guardian published the initial articles, but its editor baulked at the last. It referred to the destruction of three villages (Imwas, Yalu and Beit Nuba) not far from Jerusalem, after the access road from Ramallah was cut, the rubble carted away and the remains ploughed over. Adams confirmed the details with the Israeli military. Not least because none of the rest of the media’s patsies had reported on the affair, the Guardian’s editor found Adams’ account unpalatable. That was the end of Adams’ 12-year relationship with the Guardian.
Some outlets were worse than others. The New Statesman was notable in its partisanry under ‘a succession of vehemently pro-Israeli editors (Kingsley Martin, Paul Johnson, Richard Crossman)’, until 1972; and The Economist under Alastair Burnet. Johnson was subsequently appointed by Harold Wilson to be a member of the 1974 Royal Commission on the Press.
The most influential of the ‘gentile Zionists’ in the early days was the Manchester Guardian. On Adams’ first visit to Jerusalem in 1956 he was surprised to have a distinguished Palestinian refer to his employer as ‘Ah, the Zionist paper’. Adams then discovered that C. P. Scott had ‘launched’ Chaim Weizmann into British political society, introducing Weizmann to Lloyd George and putting ‘the authority of The Manchester Guardian at the disposal of the cause of Zionism’. No doubt Jonathan Freedland, keeping the acrid flame alive, has a photo of Scott on his desk.
The BBC (both television and radio) was consistently partisan through these years. According to Mayhew, the pro-Israel bias was for the most part inbuilt and unconscious. Although management would perennially consciously cave in under pressure from the lobby.
To the media’s bias, the authors add disgust at the silence of the British churches on Israeli abuses, not least because they had representatives on the ground in Jerusalem. The authors lament, in particular, the long silence of the Church of England on the issue.
“The years of acquiescence in the Israeli fait accompli had cost the church any moral standing it might have had in the matter …”
* * *
Adams and Mayhew started Publish It Not in 1974. The text is written in hindsight following the October 1973 war. They note the relative military strength of the combatant Arab states, ‘surprising’, given the seeming invincibility of the Israeli military apparatus. They also note the atypical unity of the Arab states (with Saudi Arabia a late adherent), embodied in the oil embargo and price hike. The western media belatedly started to report Arab opinion.
From this environment the authors conclude:
“Israel’s capacity to survive without making far-reaching concessions, concessions which would severely modify the nature and potential of the Jewish state, seems very doubtful. So far, Israel has established herself, and expanded her territories, on the basis of her dominant military power. But since October 1973 the balance of power has shifted significantly against Israel and the shift seems likely to continue in the same direction.”
What a dramatically flawed prognosis! Still, they weren’t alone. They cite a contemporary, longtime journalist at The Times, (Jewish) David Spanier, 15 January 1974:
“All of a sudden it seems blindingly clear, not to all, but to many, who had somehow looked the other way, that the permanent relegation of large numbers of people as second-class citizens will bring the Zionist mission to an end and may threaten the state itself. According to some religious thinkers, far from the political arena, a policy based on occupation will ultimately corrupt the essential value of Judaism itself.”
And the aftermath? Some time ago, I unearthed a cache of Guardian Weeklys stretching over the years. Product of a hoarding mentality, their existence product of a pre-internet compulsory subscription by an antipodean colonial seeking non-provincial media exposure.
For example, late 2003, with respect to Israel. Well what do you know? Some representative headlines.
‘100,000 [Israelis remembering Yitzhak Rabin] gathered last weekend under banners denouncing occupation and demanding peace
‘A European Commission opinion poll that claims 60% of Europeans see Israel as the greatest threat to world peace has drawn outraged denunciations of anti-semitism
‘Israeli planes kill 10 people in wave of attacks on Gaza
‘The Israeli military has ordered thousands of Palestinians living near the steel and concrete ‘security fence’ that cuts through the West Bank to obtain special permits to live in their own homes
‘Rafah braced for more misery: Eight Palestinians dead and 1,500 homeless – but Israeli raids go on
‘Iran threat must be eliminated – US hawk
‘3,000 dead – yet peace remains elusive; three years of intifada
‘Bitter harvest in West Bank’s olive groves: Jewish settlers destroy fruit of centuries of toil to force out Palestinian villagers
‘Deep anxiety unsettles the Jewish community in France
Add countless letters to the Editor fueled by passion and disgust, emanating from both anti-Zionist and Zionist camps. You couldn’t make it up. Plus ça change!
That interpretative failure of Adams and Mayhew provides a significant lesson. One is forced to ask – why did their prediction so dramatically miss the trend of ensuing decades? Literally, many things have changed. But plus c’est la même chose. The more things have stayed the same. The dialectical evolution of thrust and counter thrust that produced a form of status quo has been inadequately documented and analyzed.
In culminating with the status quo, there has been non-stop turbulence. What? We have witnessed the annexation of the Golan, two invasions of Lebanon, the repression of two intifadas, the creeping appropriations of East Jerusalem and the West Bank, the perennial ravaging of Gaza, the perennial murder of Palestinians and long term incarceration of Palestinians, the wilful repulsion of Gaza-bound maritime traffic, etc. The entrenchment of an apartheid state.
Israel has never fulfilled the conditions on which it was admitted into UN membership; it has ignored myriad UN resolutions, it has attacked UN infrastructure and personnel, and has just sent a racist extremist to the UN as ambassador. Israel retains privileged access to the crucial markets of the European Union. And, of course, this state with the reputed strength of Solomon sucks voraciously on the American taxpayer teat.
Israel continues to operate with complete impunity for its crimes.
* * *
Serendipitously, a second edition of Publish It Not was published in 2006 (Signal Books). It is a desirable read, both for the insight, courage, commitment yet sobriety of the prose of Michael Adams and Christopher Mayhew, but also for the latter day complements. Jeremy Corbyn might profitably read it (for his sanity), if he has not already done so. The 2006 edition has three additions.
“It was only when I read Publish It Not … that I learned just how pervasive Zionist control of our media was and recognized the extent and effectiveness of its indoctrinating power. That was the moment that I changed my allegiance in this cause. It was the simple response of a man who awakened to the fact that he had been lied to.”
The Times Literary Supplement commissioned Tucker’s review, and the copy editor approved it. But the TLS editor pulled the plug (‘He doesn’t feel that the review is right for [us]’), instead publishing a dishonest Zionist review of the books. Exhibit A for the Adams/Mayhew narrative.
Two. There is an extended ‘testimony’ by Marion Woolfson of her experience as an honest reporter of Middle Eastern affairs. Woolfson’s experience is mentioned briefly by Mayhew in the 1975 text. But Woolfson’s account is harrowing.
Jewish, Woolfson moves to London following her husband’s death and visits her in-laws. She was informed over dinner that then Labour MP Christopher Mayhew was ‘evil, murderous, a Nazi and a terrible Jew-hater’. It was all downhill from then on.
Her media reports and letters lead to her being subject to (literally) non-stop harassment, brutalization, physical attacks. Endless letters and telephone calls calling her ‘a treacherous lying bitch’, receiving money from or sleeping with ‘filthy Arabs’, etc. She changes her number, made silent, but that number is readily made available to the harassers (!). The nature of the beast (in lieu of a local chapter of the vicious Jewish Defense League) deserves reproduction:
“Each evening … salesmen from a number of double-glazing firms would call and then throughout the night there would be a procession of taxis ‘to take me to the airport’. … Then lorries began arriving from early morning, laden with cement mixers, sand or gravel so that the narrow mews in which I lived was totally jammed and the lorry drivers … would be cursing. … Eventually I had to move out of my house until the harassment stopped. Not long after my return, I found a large swastika painted on my front gate. …
“Then, a huge rock was thrown through my large, plate-glass dining-room window with such force that it broke the wall opposite. … (There was a similar incident last year when the missile crashed through my bedroom window, at my present home, at 2 a.m. I tell myself that this was merely the action of a local hooligan.) Soon afterwards, a man called at my house. … A few days later … a man, who … had what looked like a metal cosh in his hand hit me on the forehead … [etc.]”
She is shut out of the media, prevented from plying her profession. She is ex-communicated from the bulk of the Jewish community. At least she should take heart from the experience of the valiant Spinoza.
Three. There is an extended foreword by longtime BBC journalist Tim Llewellyn. It is addressed specifically to the mis-judgment of Adams and Mayhew.
Llewellyn notes the changes. The Labour MP Zionist bully boys have gone. The public is far better informed, courtesy of considerable critical scholarly literature and daily internet exposés. The lies have been exposed as lies. The media acquired slightly more balance.
But the Parliamentary bully boys have been replaced by the trans-party ‘Friends of Israel’ cabals. Thus, for example, in September 2011, the Tory-Liberal Government moved to facilitate ready access of Israeli war criminals to British soil. And the public, no matter how better-informed, is ignored (witness the zero impact of the anti-Iraq invasion demonstrations). Since 2000, the BBC has backtracked, following 9/11, the second intifada, and Blair Labour’s relentless pressure for conformity. Add the organically pro-Israel Murdoch media (including The Times since 1981) and the Daily Telegraph.
More, the Zionist lobby is now better resourced, as powerful as ever. So-called representative national Jewish organizations, as in other countries, are first and foremost, pro-Israel lobby groups (have I missed a low-lying exception?). Claims Llewellyn:
“Since 1975, when the authors went into print, the official and institutional ranks of the Zionists in Britain have mounted and continue to mount campaigns of disinformation that dwarf their efforts of thirty and forty years ago. … the work goes on … not just in selling the Israeli package to the ordinary British people but also in changing the nature of British Jews’ perception of themselves and their relationship to Israel. Or, to put it another way, Israel’s alleged centrality to the life of a British Jew.”
As above, David Spanier was concerned that ‘a policy based on occupation will ultimately corrupt the essential value of Judaism itself’. Quite. The culturally unifying role of Judaism, in many families reduced to the conventionalized ritual of the Judaic calendar, has been displaced by the culturally unifying role of Israel. If less spiritual, a decidedly more muscular apparatus to be proud of (save for the hostility to this ersatz substitution by some Orthodox communities). And this even given that the majority of Jewry would never contemplate living there.
But the more does Israel perpetrate unsavory actions, the more does Israel need an effective propaganda machine. Llewelyn again, noting that the Americans arrived after 2000 to advise the British Israel Communications and Research Centre:
“The message was clear: be aggressive; pester and menace the media and the politicians in all their forms; go to court; never let up; let no adverse image or mention of Israel go unchallenged, however true, however perceived. In a word, the only story is our story: make sure everyone knows that.
“If Adams and Mayhew had been appalled at the Zionist intrusions they suffered in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, they would have been paralysed by the sheer aggression of the Zionist movement here, especially concerning the media after 2000 and the success it achieved with its tactics …”
Thus the Zionist messiah, political version, is now made flesh. But in its nurturing of human nature at its worst, it requires a most unholy propaganda and lobbying edifice to keep its yet incomplete pursuit of purity of spirit on track. The exercise, with its inevitable criminality, is fundamentally dependent upon the ‘dual loyalty’ (singular?) of the so-called Diaspora. And woe to the ‘self-hating’ Jews who dissent from the rule, saying ‘not in my name’.
In short, tribalism trumps reason, humanity and moral integrity. Can the evidence allow any other inference? Reason, humanity and moral integrity aside, what a brilliant success story.
* * *
Of the propaganda armory, the very rusty ‘anti-Semitism’ sword is still being brandished, and still to good effect. Here is Adams and Mayhew on the long silence of the churches:
“Nor was the situation any better in other western countries: the damaging accusation of anti-Semitism was held like a sword over the head of anyone rash enough to criticise Israel, from a moral or a spiritual standpoint, as from a political one.”
And Llewellyn on the BBC as highly-exposed public broadcaster:
“In institutional broadcasting there is a climate of fear. Executives do not like to be accused of anti-Semitism, which is the ready-to-hand smear the Zionists and their friends have available if they think Israel is receiving a bad press.”
It’s staggering to think that this canard still carries leverage, not least because it shits on the substantive anti-Semitism that has been central to the Jewish experience for centuries.
Thus the pro-Palestinian Jeremy Corbyn is naturally a target of this trusty weapon. Frankly, I don’t like his chances. If he manages to transcend the slur and its baggage, it will be a new day.
On the subject of this crime by Zionism against Jewry itself, one is perennially drawn to the stance of the philosopher Michael Neumann, outlined in Cockburn and St. Clair’s 2003 The Politics of Anti-Semitism. Neumann notes that definitional inflation cheapens the currency. (One might add that, as in Gresham’s Law in economics, ‘bad money drives out good’.)
With respect to the growth of Arab anti-Semitism, Neumann notes:
“… its chief cause is not anti-Semitic propaganda but the decades’ old (sic), systematic and unrelenting efforts of Israel to implicate all Jews in its crimes.”
Is opposition to the settlements (the Jews’ claimed historic right to Eretz Israel?) anti-Semitic? Claims Neumann:
“… since we are obliged to oppose the settlements, we are obliged to be anti-Semitic. Through definitional inflation, some form of anti-Semitism becomes morally obligatory.
“… anti-Zionism is a moral obligation, so, if anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism, anti-Semitism is a moral obligation.”
The Zionist armory, if one can be excused a mixed metaphor, has no clothes. It is long overdue that Zionism and its incarnation in the state of Israel be subject to the supposedly universal standards of reason, humanity and moral integrity.
You’ve probably heard of iSideWith.com; it’s the site with that helpful quiz that tells you which of the presidential candidates you most agree (and disagree) with on a range of political and social issues.
The efficacy of the quiz, however, requires the asking of questions based on accurate information. Unfortunately, the single Iran-related query in the poll and the accompanying explanatory information are rife with factual errors. These errors and misinformation undoubtedly shape the ways in which less-informed users understand the issue and how they will respond.
Here’s the Iran question:
Should the U.S. conduct targeted airstrikes on Iran’s nuclear weapons facilities?
The iStandWith poll, in its framing of the Iran question, repeats an egregious error. Iran does not have any “nuclear weapons facilities,” quite simply because – as affirmed by all American, European and Israeli intelligence communities and others for years now, including the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) – Iran has no nuclear weapons program. All 16 U.S. intelligence agencies have collectively concurred since 2007 that, even if Iran had conducted research into nuclear weaponry in the past, this research (which is not itself prohibited under international law) ceased in 2003 and has not resumed. This assessment has been reaffirmed multiple times since.
Not only this, the Iranian leadership is judged time and again not to have even made a decision on whether to embark on a nuclear weapons program (unless, of course, you count the decades-long repetition by the Iranian government that they have indeed made such a decision: and that decision is to never build or acquire a nuclear weapon).
So iStandWith’s entire contention is faulty from the start. The U.S. can’t bomb Iran’s “nuclear weapons facilities” because they don’t actually exist. Such a flawed question is sure to elicit mistaken comprehension by respondents unfamiliar with these facts, who are led to believe that Iran is doing something it’s not actually doing at all.
For those less informed on this issue, however, iStandWith provides a brief primer for interested users. By clicking a “learn more” button, this paragraph of text is revealed:
In July 2015 the U.S. reached an accord with Iran to limit their ability to put uranium or plutonium in weapons. Iran agreed to turn one nuclear plant into a scientific research facility and shut another one down. Iran agreed to let the International Atomic Energy Agency inspect these sites. Critics argue that the deal gave too many concessions to the Iranians including a provision that gives them up to 24 days to grant inspectors access to their facilities. Proponents argue that the deal makes the possibility of Iran developing a nuclear weapon in the next 25 years extremely remote.
The first sentence – like the last – is reductive, speculative, and incomplete, but okay, fine. It’s the stuff in the middle that’s extremely problematic and, unfortunately, the mistakes compound rapidly.
iSideWith says: Iran agreed to turn one nuclear plant into a scientific research facility and shut another one down.
The facility at Fordow, which iStandWith describes as a “nuclear plant,” is actually a uranium enrichment facility, which, yes, Iran has agreed to convert into an international nuclear, physics, and technology research lab. The installed and operational centrifuges at Fordow will no longer enrich uranium, but will be used for experiments involving non-fissile material.
The other facility referenced above is the Arak heavy-water research reactor, which will not be “shut down,” as iStandWith claims. Actually, it is still under construction and, as such, has never been operational, so there’s nothing to “shut down.” The Arak reactor, far from being shuttered or dismantled under the agreement, will be reconfigured with international support and will operate under full safeguards as planned.
iSideWith says: Iran agreed to let the International Atomic Energy Agency inspect these sites.
The sites mentioned by iStandWith above – Fordow and Arak – have already been inspected regularly by the IAEA for years: Fordow since it was declared in 2009 and Arak since it was declared in 2002. They are fully-safeguarded facilities, under constant IAEA containment and surveillance. Inspections are not the result of the new deal. Many other sites related to Iran’s nuclear program are also routinely inspected and have been for years. All nuclear material remains under agency seal, containment and surveillance and no diversion of nuclear material to military purposes has ever been reported.
iSideWith says: Critics argue that the deal gave too many concessions to the Iranians including a provision that gives them up to 24 days to grant inspectors access to their facilities.
This is just all kinds of wrong. All of Iran’s declared nuclear facilities and sites (including hospitals that use radioisotopes to treat cancer patients) are already open and accessible to inspectors at all times. This is not a function of the agreement, this is standard practice under Iran’s safeguards protocol with the IAEA, in place since 1974. This constant and consistent access now includes, under the new deal, inspections and monitoring of all aspects of Iran’s nuclear supply chain, such as centrifuge workshops and uranium mines and mills. These kinds of non-nuclear facilities are not safeguarded anywhere else on Earth. Inspectors have daily access to all of these sites; no provision in the deal limits this. This fact alone is proof of the massive concessions Iran has agreed to to try and end this absurd decades-long charade.
(By the way, no other nation involved in these negotiations has relinquished any aspect of their own sovereignty, inalienable rights or self-determination to achieve this deal. The lifting of sanctions, designed specifically to force Iranian capitulation to American demands, the abrogation of internationally-recognized and guaranteed national nuclear rights, and exact suffering upon the Iranian people, is not a concession – it is the inevitable, and theoretically desired, result of successful diplomacy and voluntary Iranian compromise.)
The specific bone of contention mentioned by iSideWith – the so-called 24-day delay – is also completely misunderstood. For one, the claim has to do with undeclared sites where the IAEA may suspect Iran is conducted proscribed activities. Undeclared sites, such as military bases and research installations, are legally off-limits to inspectors. The seven parties to the deal – Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia, the United States and Iran – have attempted to square this circle through a reasonable review process.
Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, has explained that, rather than 24 days, “the IAEA will need to give only 24 hours’ notice before showing up at a suspicious site to take samples. Access could even be requested with as little as two hours’ notice, something that will be much more feasible now that Iran has agreed to let inspectors stay in-country for the long term. Iran is obligated to provide the IAEA access to all such sites…”
“What happens if Iran tries to stall and refuses to provide access, on whatever grounds?” Lewis continues, before laying out the parameters of the process:
There is a strict time limit on stalling. Iran must provide access within two weeks. If Iran refuses, the Joint Commission set up under the deal must decide within seven days whether to force access. Following a majority vote in the Joint Commission — where the United States and its allies constitute a majority bloc — Iran has three days to comply. If it doesn’t, it’s openly violating the deal, which would be grounds for the swift return of the international sanctions regime, known colloquially as the “snap back.”
This arrangement is much, much stronger than the normal safeguards agreement, which requires prompt access in theory but does not place time limits on dickering.
What opponents of the deal have done is add up all the time limits and claim that inspections will occur only after a 24-day pause. This is simply not true.
Unfortunately, the guys running iSideWith – Taylor Peck and Nick Boutelier – don’t seem to know any of this. But they should, especially since they’re claiming to be providing context upon which their users can make informed decisions about supporting an unprovoked and illegal military assault on a country of 80 million people.
It appears that iSideWith should first inform itself before siding with discredited allegations and base propaganda over clear facts. Without a doubt, the Iran poll question should be updated to reflect reality.
A Forbes report on alleged Russian army casualties in Ukraine citing a dodgy Russian website has sparked a media and Twitter storm. Some said Russia had “finally slipped” with the leak on its troops in Ukraine; others were baffled by the “fake publication.”
A Forbes contributor, Paul Roderick Gregory, published an article on Wednesday citing a Russian web source called “Delovaya Zhizn” (translated as Business Life ), which was said to reveal “official figures on the number of Russian soldiers killed or made invalids in eastern Ukraine.”
The report, dated March 2015 and entitled “Increases in Pay for Military in 2015,” was altered, with the relevant information being removed, after the Forbes publication came out. However, the original copy was webcached by Google.
The cache shows that the website, which has articles on Russian finance, markets and leisure, claimed that the Russian government had paid monetary compensation to Russian soldiers who “took part in military actions in Eastern Ukraine.”
Without citing a source, the article claimed that as of February 1, more than 2,000 families of soldiers killed in Ukraine had received compensation of 3 million rubles (about $50,000) and those crippled during military action – a half million rubles (about $25,000). It added that another 3,200 soldiers wounded in battle had received compensation of 1,800 rubles for every day they were in the conflict zone.
The Forbes contributor accused “Russian censors” for “quickly removing the offending material.”
The Forbes report was picked up by Western media and independent journalists. The International Business Times reported that the Russian article had “accidentally published the leaked figures.”
An article by The Independent on Wednesday called Delovaya Zhizn a “respected news site in Russia,” and cited the head of the Russia and Eurasia Programme at Chatham House, James Nixey, who said that the report is a “nail in the coffin” in proving Russia is engaged in military action.
Another media outlet piling on was was Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), which claimed it had received a response from some Anatoly Kravchenko from Delovaya Zhizn, who said the website had “received the casualty figures from relatives of dead servicemen as well as ‘insider information’ from the Russian Defense Ministry.” However, they added that the website’s representative had “declined to identify any specific sources.”
Western officials, including two former US ambassadors to Russia and to Ukraine and the US ambassador to OSCE, also retweeted the report.
The publication sparked a Twitter storm with some western journalists, researchers, analysts and think-tanks giving their full trust to the source.
However, at a certain point the media storm came to a halt. Bloomberg’s Leonid Bershidsky concluded that the initial Delovaya Zhizn report was fake, questioning the URL, Bs-life.ru, and exposing a grammatical error (“v Ukraine” instead of “na Ukraine”).
AP journalist Nataliya Vasilyeva pointed out the ease of spreading fake information on the web.
“The ease of spreading rumors in the digital world is astonishing,” she wrote.
“Two days of Western officials retweeting a Forbes report quoting a Ukrainian web-site quoting a non-existent Russia news web-site re Ukraine,” she added.
“The main problem here is, of course, where was the Forbes online editor when the story was published, why nobody bothered to check sources?”
Indeed, the Russian State media watchdog, Roscomnadzor, has four registered media sources of that name on its website. All of them are listed as print publications – newspapers or magazines. Electronic media is not mentioned.
The Delovaya Zhizn (bs-life.ru) website, however, does not contain any reference to a print edition or mail subscription. Moreover, it does not detail its staff, its owner or founder, or any relevant contact information except for an online reply form.
RT attempted to contact the publication by phone numbers collected through open sources on the web, but received no answer by phone – or via the online form.
This is not the sole example of unverified information related to the Ukrainian conflict appearing on the web. However, few such “leaks” make it to big media.
In one of the instances, US ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt was caught posting unverified images on his Twitter feed in September 2014. The photos, which he said showed US-Kiev military exercises in Ukraine, had already been published in July 2014 and in October 2013.
In another case in April, Pyatt claimed that Russia’s military was continuing to expand its presence in eastern Ukraine. As proof, he posted a picture of a Buk-M2 missile defense system that he said was stationed in Ukraine. However, it turned out to be a two-year-old photo from an air show near Moscow.
The International Republican Institute in the United States has published results of polling of attitudes of Ukrainians on the key issues facing the country. The polling was conducted in the latter two weeks of July 2015 by Rating Group Ukraine on behalf of the IRI.
The poll provides more evidence of deepgoing and growing political dissatisfaction and alienation in Ukraine. Absolute or relative majorities of Ukrainians now express unfavorable views of all major government leaders and politicians from major parties in Ukraine.
The people of the rebel region of Donbas are not included in the poll, which means that the levels of dissatisfaction of Ukrainian residents are even higher than what is reported by the IRI.
The poll results are unlikely to be reported in Western mainstream media, even though the poll is commissioned and published by a right-wing U.S. institute. That’s because the results fly in the face of the “news” and editorial opinions peddled by Western media. It proves that media is lying to its readers and grossly misleading them when it inaccurately presents the war in eastern Ukraine as a virtuous war against an aggressive Russia that is supported by the majority of the Ukrainian people.
Media also chooses to be silent about the profound economic crisis that is wracking Ukraine as a result of the Kyiv regime’s turn to austerity association with the European Union, and about the massive human rights violations accompanying the civil war of the Kyiv regime against the people in the eastern and southern regions of the country. The IRI poll shows extremely high levels of dissatisfaction with the economic crisis and the war.
The poll will also be ignored by the Russophobes in the governments and mainstream political parties in the NATO member countries who decry “Russian aggression” and “Russian imperialism” in Ukraine, and by the many pseudo-lefts in the international arena who are acting as echo chambers of that messaging.
Similarly stunning results of polling of the Crimean people in late 2014 and early 2015 were ignored by the same constellation of forces. That polling showed extraordinarily high levels of satisfaction with the democratic decision of Crimeans in March 2014 to secede from Ukraine. The polls contradict the ongoing stories of Russian “annexation” of Crimea.
The 71-page report International Republican Institute polling report can be read here. Enclosed below are 11 selected charts from the poll:
State Department is hobbled by identity politics
The pending normalization of full diplomatic relations with Cuba is long overdue and it is to be hoped that the agreement to limit Iran’s nuclear program will survive a congressional onslaught next month. That is all to the good and the administration of President Barack Obama deserves full credit for persevering in spite of nearly incessant attacks from the Israeli and Cuban lobbies both in congress and the media.
But even as the dust begins to settle the New York Times is reporting on a new existential crisis: same-sex marriages in the Foreign Service explored in an article entitled “State Department Fights for Rights of Gay Envoys.” Not that the Gray Lady is opposed to same-sex marriages for diplomats, quite the contrary. Its concern is that many highly qualified diplomats are turning down assignments because some benighted countries do not recognize same-sex unions and therefore do not accept that a man plus man or woman plus woman relationship actually qualifies as a diplomatic family. Which means that some Foreign Ministries are denying visas or accreditation for same-sex spouses. Worse still, as many countries regard homosexual behavior as a criminal offense, it suggests the possibility that some categories of Embassy and Consular family members not covered by full diplomatic immunity might find themselves arrested.
The Obama Administration is predictably outraged and is reported to be frantically working on the problem with the State Department making “securing the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people around the world a priority” (my emphasis). But to my mind the fundamental problem is not same-sex marriage per se, which most Americans now no longer oppose, but the failure to comprehend what Embassies and Consular posts are supposed to do coupled with a characteristic inability to understand that American principles and rules, such as they are, do not have universal applicability. This is particularly true in the case of gay marriage, which impacts on sincerely held religious views and which is still a bone of contention even in the relatively tolerant United States and Western Europe.
Government at the White House level frequently does not understand how the great federal bureaucracies actually work. Contrary to the Times headline, being part of a diplomatic mission is a privilege, not a universal right, and both by law and convention the host country pretty much sets the rules on who may enter and under what conditions.
The article quotes Michael Guest, a gay former ambassador to Romania, who said “It’s increasingly a problem, as some countries have wanted to take a stand on the issue of marriage equality that isn’t really theirs to take.” He is wrong. The Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations stipulates that any country can expel or refuse to accept the presence of a foreign diplomat without providing any reasons whatsoever. Article 9 includes “The receiving State may at any time and without having to explain its decision, notify the sending State that the head of the mission or any member of the diplomatic staff of the mission is persona non grata or that any other member of the staff of the mission is not acceptable.” This is an option that the United States has exercised frequently in espionage cases as well as more recently in refusing to issue a visa to a proposed Iranian Ambassador to the United Nations in New York, for which the U.S. is the host nation.
The United States has also somewhat more questionably taken steps to restrict the travels of accredited diplomats with whom it is uncomfortable. Soviet era dips from Eastern Europe and Russia were generally required to get approval for traveling more than 25 miles outside of New York City or Washington and there have been similar restrictions on the movement of both Palestinian and Iranian representatives. So the host country is not obligated to accept anyone else’s standards and can in many respects set whatever rules it wishes within its sovereign territory.
Past U.S. determinations of who or what was acceptable were based on what were deemed to be security issues but the same sex marriage problem is something quite different. To be sure there have been homosexuals in government since the time of Pharaoh Khufu, and the United States Department of State has long had considerably more than its share with the once-upon-a-time understanding that it was best to stay in the closet. This was the rule in post-World War 2 America, both for diplomats and intelligence personnel, and it was largely justified by the danger of blackmail or the creation of diplomatic “incidents” as homosexual activity was illegal almost everywhere. When I served in the Rome Embassy in the 1970s one particularly flamboyant political officer who was almost but not quite out of the closet was generally accepted until he was observed regularly cruising at odd hours in the nearby Villa Borghese Park, leading to his being warned to cool his jets lest he come to the attention of the Carabinieri, who at that time staged regular roundups at gay gatherings to target what was then regarded as public indecency.
But one’s sexual preferences were rarely a problem in Italy back then and even less so now as homosexual relations have been legal since 1890. Civil unions that guarantee property rights, pensions or inheritance without regard to gender do not, however, exist in law, which means there are no same-sex marriages. One imagines that same-sex couples who go to diplomatic posts in Italy do so with a wink and a nod from the authorities at the Foreign Ministry, who are not likely to make an issue out of it. But Italian deliberate ambiguity about what constitutes a marriage is not the norm everywhere else. By one estimate 50% of all Foreign Service posts do not recognize or accept same-sex diplomatic or official couples.
The State Department sensibly insists that all of its employees should be free to accept assignments anywhere in the world, but not so sensibly it has appointed a Special Envoy for the Rights of Gay, Bisexual and Transgender people, both politicizing the issue and turning American diplomats into promoters of personal choices that many foreigners consider immoral as well as illegal. And Congress has predictably jumped on the band wagon with 100 Congressmen (99 Democrats and one Republican) calling on State to reciprocate by denying visas for families of diplomats from countries that discriminate against homosexuals.
In tackling the LGBT issue as a global crusade while also making it a major concern for U.S. embassies the White House and Democrats in Congress are not really doing anyone any favors. Overseas diplomatic missions exist to benefit broad American national interests, not to promote specific group agendas or to confront the host country on its laws and customs. Ambassadors traditionally enabled dialogue and established communications channels among nations while the consular services provided a mechanism to help ensure that American travelers and businessmen would be treated fairly by the local authorities. Having an embassy did not mean that Americans should not be subject to local laws, nor did it serve as a blunt instrument to demand that the foreigners be required to accept American values and customs.
But that vision of diplomacy was all before “democracy promotion,” much loved by Democratic presidents enamored of social engineering, for whom LGBT is almost certainly seen as a subset of democracy. And if past experience of government is anything to go by, this Obama initiative will probably morph into a War on Homophobia under President Hillary Clinton complete with a Czar and a substantial budget to pay for lots of first class travel to hotspots like Copenhagen to participate in conferences convened by gay rights activists.
In truth, the democracy cum human rights agenda has undeniably done a great deal of damage to the United States. It is still falsely cited as the one benefit that came out of the invasion of Iraq and is also used to justify the continued presence in Afghanistan. It led to the unfortunate intervention in Libya, fueled the drive to “do something” in Syria, overthrew an elected government in Ukraine and it is also behind much of the criticism of Russia and its president Vladimir Putin. In reality all the frenetic activity to turn the world into Peoria has produced little beyond trillions of dollars of debt, thousands of dead Americans and quite likely millions of dead foreigners.
And the focus on cultural and social issues is frequently a perversion of diplomacy. Some recent Ambassadorial appointees, to include Michael McFaul in Russia and Robert Ford in Syria, were intended to confront the domestic policies of local governments that Washington disapproved of rather than to engage with them in dialogue. Beyond that, America’s roving mischief makers to include the State Department’s Victoria Nuland and various Senators named McCain and Graham showed up regularly in troubled regions to harass the local authorities. To put it mildly, that is not what diplomacy is all about. Diplomacy is a process whereby no one wins everything while no one loses completely producing a result that everyone can live with. It is not about “We are right. Take it or leave it.”
It is indeed acceptable for a national government to urge greater tolerance as President Obama did on his recent trip to Africa but creating a bureaucracy to assert the global primacy of American values to include what constitutes a marriage benefits no one, least of all those being “protected,” as in many countries that would only serve to enable labeling the sexual dissidents as American agents. And the idea of punishing the families of diplomats from countries that see marriage differently is completely absurd as it will produce retaliation, damaging to genuine American interests and potentially threatening the security of U.S. diplomats overseas.
The entire feel good process of instructing others how to live derives from a peculiar American sense that we somehow understand important things better than anyone else and everyone should follow our lead. It is a dangerous conceit as it breeds resentment and inevitably leads to tit-for-tat responses that serve no purpose. The United States is already viewed negatively by a large part of the world. Adding fuel to the fire by complaining about others’ values while promoting marginal causes that inevitably will be controversial is not what most American citizens should expect from their government. Unfortunately it is all too often what we wind up getting.
Israel’s attacks on Gaza ended a year ago, but the strip remains an expanse of rubble and devastation. Who’s to blame for this outrage? The New York Times has an answer: everyone but Israel.
Jodi Rudoren comes up with this response in a story that aims to whitewash Israel’s brutal treatment of Gaza by blaming the Palestinian victims along with the international community for the lack of rebuilding. It is all summed up in the story’s subhead, “Political Infighting and Lack of Funds Stymie a Reconstruction Mechanism.”
Her article takes pains to present the process as a collaborative project between the Palestinian Authority, Israel and the United Nations, and she is hazy about Israel’s role, describing it as nothing more than “involvement in approving projects and participants.”
Rudoren furthers her efforts in a single paragraph that absolves Israel completely: “[The Palestinian minister of housing], other Palestinian leaders and United Nations representatives all said that Israel had done its part in reasonable time and allowed cement into Gaza. Empty coffers, they said, are the primary problem.”
Times readers, however, never learn the direct quotes or the names of the “leaders” and “representatives” that would help substantiate this claim, nor does Rudoren explain what “Israel’s part” actually refers to here.
In fact, Israel controls everything that goes into Gaza, from people to foodstuffs to building material, and the agreed-on process for rebuilding the strip—the “reconstruction mechanism” referred to in the subhead—is built solely on Israeli demands. (Israel also blocks Gaza traffic by sea and has the full cooperation of the Egyptian government on that border as well.)
Although the United Nations and the Palestinian Authority have roles in the process, Israel determines who gets building materials, what they get and in what amounts. As Harvard-based Gaza expert Sara Roy notes, the two major documents outlining the reconstruction process “read like security plans, carefully laying out Israeli concerns and the ways in which the United Nations will accommodate them.”
Roy adds, “Israel will have to approve all projects and their locations and will be able to veto any part of the process on security grounds.” Moreover, she writes, “No mechanism for accountability or transparency will apply to Israel.”
Without doubt, Palestinian bureaucracy, donor fears of yet another attack on Gaza and other factors come into play in reconstruction efforts, but Rudoren ignores the major element, which is the Israeli blockade.
Her story, in fact, never refers to the eight-year blockade of Gaza and makes only vague mention of Israeli “control” of the enclave. Readers are left without any relevant context.
Rudoren’s article also omits other details that would place Israel’s role in a different light: the fact that by July of this year it had allowed the passage less than 1 percent of the construction materials needed to adequately house Gaza residents or that as of May, a total of 20 schools (kindergarten to college level) completely destroyed by Israel had yet to be repaired.
Readers never learn, for instance, that aid agencies in Gaza were forced to rely on temporary building materials as the Israeli-mandated process kept concrete, cement and steel supplies to a trickle. They also never learn the sequel to this chapter: that Israel stepped in to squelch the effort just as it was gaining momentum.
The project was run by Catholic Relief Services, which began using lumber to build temporary homes for the displaced residents this year, and media reports in February and March stated that 70 had been built and 40 families had moved into the new houses. CRS had plans to construct more than 100 additional wooden homes, but in April the program came to an end when Israel suddenly banned all lumber for housing.
Here we can see how Israel actually operates in the opaque rebuilding process mentioned in Rudoren’s piece. Times readers, however, never learn of this sad narrative nor of many others that would reveal how Israeli actions are destroying the economy and depressing the living conditions in Gaza.
And yet, the Times story would have us believe that Israel has “done its part” in the reconstruction of Gaza, ignoring the obvious: that Israel alone has complete control of its borders with the strip, and if Israel so willed, Gaza residents would have moved out of the rubble long ago.