It seems as if Israel is about to regurgitate the script which reads that it is debating whether or not to retain its membership in the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC). Following the publication of the council’s inquiry report on last year’s Operation Protective Edge, which deemed that both Israel and Palestinian resistance factions may have committed war crimes, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared, during a closed meeting held on Monday, that a re-evaluation of Israel’s membership of the UN organisation will take place. “As a result of the report, we will consider whether to remain or to leave the council,” he was quoted by the Times of Israel.
The UNHRC report, which Israel slammed as biased, employed the usual diplomatic jargon that absolved, rather than accused, the settler-colonial state of war-crimes, despite the extensive destruction, targeted killings and massacres committed by the Israeli military in Gaza last summer (and on previous occasions).
In March 2012, former Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman announced the decision to cut ties with the UNHRC, citing Palestinian “diplomatic terrorism” when the council announced a probe into Israel’s settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem. The move was supported by the US, which was the only country that had voted against the UN proposal to investigate Israel’s illegal colonial expansion. Since then, Israel has utilised the UNHRC as part of its propaganda campaign to enhance its self-victimisation; an extension of what Zionism has accomplished historically to embark upon the colonisation process in Palestine.
Last week, Netanyahu uttered ridiculous words that portray clearly the extent of Israel’s contempt even for those organisations that do everything in their power to exonerate Israel through language that is based upon hypothesis: “The report is biased. Israel is not perpetrating war crimes but rather protecting itself from an organisation that carries out war crimes.”
Israel’s fabricated state is built upon a constant litany of war crimes, necessitating violence to sustain its existence, as well as the presence of international organisations that pretend colonialism has been rendered obsolete. As for bias, one need only take note of how the UNHRC attempted to criminalise Palestinian resistance, aiming to propagate an illusion of near-parity in military power between the world’s 4th best equipped army and civilians with not a tank or aircraft to their name. The obviously asymmetric nature of the conflict resulted in a much higher death toll of Palestinian men, women and children due to Israel’s persistent bombardment of Gaza.
The report’s publication has simply confirmed all that unravelled before our eyes during last year’s colonial massacre, albeit leaving space for manipulation in order to retain Israel’s untouchable status. Israel’s pondering whether or not to remain in the council is nothing new. Rather, it should be viewed as another, integral, part of its colonial project, as well as wilful subjugation on behalf of the international community. With every sliver of condemnation, despite the absence of severe repercussions, Israel embarks upon creating hypothetical conflicts which always result in it reaping rewards for its aggression against the Palestinian people.
Whether Israel remains in the council or not is irrelevant. On the contrary, the focus should be on the failure of the UN and other organisations to act according to international law and hold Israel’s very existence accountable for the horrors it has perpetrated against the indigenous population. However, that would require the UN to unravel its disseminated myths, including its denial of the existence of Zionist colonisation, which would in turn deal a blow to an organisation thriving upon the permanence of violence and murder.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has reportedly questioned his country’s membership in the United Nation’s Human Rights Council following its recent report on last summer’s Gaza conflict.
The announcement, in which Netanyahu referred to the UNHRC commission as a “hypocritical committee,” was made during a closed-door meeting with top Israeli officials on Monday.
“In light of the [UN Gaza] report, we will consider whether or not to stay in the Human Rights Council,” Netanyahu said, according to Army Radio.
It’s not the first time Israel has been at odds with the Council during the UNHRC’s 9 year-long history. Back in 2012, then-foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman made a decision to quit the council over its probe into Jewish settlements in the West Bank. However, Israel reinstated its membership a year later.
Lieberman, who also was present at Monday’s meeting, reportedly reminded Netanyahu about the precedent. “As foreign minister, I ended Israel’s involvement in the Human Rights Council. Why did you change that decision?” he asked.
On Monday afternoon, about 1,000 people from several European countries, both Jews and Christians, rallied in Geneva to support Israel, as the UN Human Rights Council had another debate on the matter.
“The reason we are here today is to tell the United Nations that it needs to change. It needs to overcome its obsession with Israel. This obsession is destructive and it stands in the way of an effective human rights policy that is so badly needed,” World Jewish Congress (WJC) CEO Robert Singer told demonstrators.
The UN Human Rights Council report on the 2014 Gaza conflict was released last week. It concluded that both Israeli Defense Forces and the Hamas Palestinian group had committed war crimes. The organization also accepted the Palestinian death count, which estimated that 65 percent of those killed in the seige were civilians, or 1,462 out of a total of 2,251 Palestinians killed.
“The report is biased,” Netanyahu said upon the release of the report. “Israel is not perpetrating war crimes but rather protecting itself from an organization that carries out war crimes. We won’t sit back with our arms crossed as our citizens are attacked by thousands of missiles.”
With the case of the Canadian-brokered General Dynamics light armored vehicle sale to the Saudi Arabian government, Canada’s manufacturing sector has become complicit in human rights abuses abroad.
The question of benefit could be framed like this: is General Dynamics employing more people than its equipment is killing?
The Globe and Mail reported that Ed Fast, Canada’s Minister of International trade said, the deal will help the manufacturing area in London to “become the epicentre of a cross-Canada supply chain directly benefiting more than 500 local Canadian firms… Our government will continue to support our exporters and manufacturers to create jobs, as part of our government’s most ambitious pro-trade, pro-export plan in Canadian history.”
That export plan, justified by job-creation involves the sale of light armoured vehicles, manufactured in Canada that the Globe and Mail describes as having “effective firepower to defeat soft and armored targets… options for mounted guns include a 25-mm cannon and 7.62-mm machine guns and smoke grenade launchers.”
The Ottawa Citizen reports that:
“Canada’s defence industry has beaten out German and French competitors to win a massive contract worth at least $10 billion US to supply armoured military vehicles to Saudi Arabia.
The win was announced by International Trade Minister Ed Fast to cheering workers Friday at a factory in London, Ont., and will go a long way in bolstering the Harper government’s case for transforming Canada into a global arms dealer.
But it also raises many ethical questions that will continue to surface as Canada’s arms industry turns more and more to the volatile Middle East and South America for business.
Canada has previously sold light armoured vehicles (LAVs) like those used by Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan to Saudi Arabia, with more than 1,000 delivered to the Middle Eastern kingdom in the early 1990s, and 700 more in 2009.
But the government is touting this latest deal as the largest export contract in Canadian history, with the potential to create and sustain 3,000 jobs in southern Ontario and other parts of the country.
Exactly how many LAVs are being sold to Saudi Arabia was not being revealed, but documents filed in the U.S. by General Dynamics Land Systems – Canada, whose London-based subsidiary will be building the vehicles, put the contract at between $10 billion and $13 billion.
Defence and export industry representatives praised the Conservative government Friday for its role in securing the deal.”
The job creation argument that Canada is using stands even more oddly next to the moral cost of the deal, given Saudi Arabia’s human rights record.
Alex Nieve, Secretary General of Amnesty International told the Globe that “[The Saudi government is] known to use armoured vehicles and other weapons in dispersing peaceful protest.”
Jonathan Manthorpe writes for IPolitics that “The Saudi regime is buying these vehicles not to defend the nation from foreign threats, but to protect the regime from Saudis — from internal dissent and demands for reform.”
Hillary Homes of Amnesty told the Globe that “[Saudi Arabia] is among the worst human-rights violators in the world.”
Canada’s support of the Saudi abuse is bad enough, what’s worse is its insistence that working Canadians become participants. The government says it wants this sort of arms manufacturing as the epicentre of a cross-Canada supply chain with connections to over 500 firms. Is that really something Canada wants as an epicentre of any part of its economy?
Let’s consider what that means. If the epicentre of a sector of the manufacturing industry is dependent on the manufacturing of equipment for a third world dictatorship, continued economic progress for that sector would require that government to use that equipment. Canadians would have an interest in the Saudi Arabian government using its old equipment, so it can buy new equipment, made in Canada.
If Amnesty and others are correct, that the equipment that we manufacture will likely be used against civilians and a sector of our economy depends on that manufacturing- that means that a sector of our economy would be dependent on those abuses.
There are good people working in manufacturing. Having their work emanate from third world dictatorships perverts the entire sector. Working people should not be forced to participate in such an exchange, to remain economically viable.
Activists in Britain are planning to block an Israel-linked arms factory to mark one year since Israel’s devastating assault on the Gaza Strip.
In what organisers are billing as “the biggest, most beautiful action” ever seen at a UK arms factory, buses of activists from around the country will descend on Shenstone in the West Midlands on July 6 for “a day of creative action in solidarity with Palestine.”
Last August, during Israel’s attack on Gaza, activists occupied the roof of the UAV Engines Ltd factory in Shenstone, which is owned by the Israeli arms company Elbit Systems. The drone engine factory was shut for two days as a result, which activists claim cost the company more than £180,000.
Elbit-produced drones are used by the Israeli military, and were used to conduct attacks during ‘Operation Protective Edge’.
A year on, and activists plan to ‘Block the factory’ on July 6, “transforming the space around the arms factory… into a fun, creative and child-friendly environment.” The focus is on “an inclusive and family friendly affair”, activists say.
The planned action is “part of the wider Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign (BDS) and the Stop Arming Israel Campaign”, with the latter urging “the UK to end its extensive collaboration with the Israeli weapons industry and to institute a two-way arms embargo.”
Organisers note how “anger and disbelief over last year’s massacre led to widaespread and creative forms of resistance”, including “mass demonstrations, occupations of government buildings and complicit businesses, and growing public pressure on governments and arms companies to stop arming Israel.” The intention is for July 6 to be a continuation of such efforts.
Gaza has been lawlessly blockaded for nine years – entirely for political, not security reasons. Israel wants its 1.8 million people slowly suffocated.
Flotilla III is the latest humanitarian mission bringing vital aid – symbolic of how much more is needed and a call for world leaders to intervene responsibly for suffering Gazans, victimized by Israeli viciousness.
The latest news from Ship to Gaza Sweden reads as follows:
“Marianne and the #FreedomFlotilla right now
Boarded by Israeli navy in international waters
Distance to Gaza: 97 nautical miles
Last known position: 31.716667 latitude, 32.550000 longitude
Position received at: 29 June 00:57 (CET)
Hours earlier, Ship to Gaza’s site reported Marianne’s interdiction in international waters, then taken to Israel’s Ashdod seaport. Activists and international politicians on board include:
Dror Feiler, Sweden: musician and composer
Bassel Ghattas, Israel: Palestinian MK
Dr. Moncef Marzuki, Tunisia: former Tunisian president
Ana Miranda, Spain: European Parliament member
Nadya Kevorkova, Russia: RT International correspondent
Kajsa Ekis Ekman, Sweden: journalist and author
Robert Lovelace, Canada: Queen’s University professor
Ammar Al-Hamdan, Norway: Al Jazeera Arabic correspondent
Mohammed El Bakkail, Morocco: Al Jazeera Arabic correspondent
Ohad Herno, Israel: Israeli TV Channel 2 journalist
Ruwani Perera, New Zealand: MaoriTV journalist
Jacob Bryant, New Zealand: Maori TV journalist
Crew members include: Joel Opperdoes (Sweden) Gustave Bergstrom (Sweden), Herman Reksten (Norway), Kevin Neish (Canada), Jonas Karlin (Sweden), Charlie Andreasson (Sweden)
Three other Flotilla III vessels heading for Gaza changed course and returned to their ports of origin – Rachel, Vittorio and Juliano II.
In total, 47 participants from 17 countries are involved. Their mission is “break(ing) the illegal and inhumane blockade of Gaza,” as well as opening the territory to the world. A statement issued said:
“We once again call on the government of Israel to finally lift the blockade on Gaza. Our destination remains the conscience of humanity.”
The Marianne of Gothenburg carried medical equipment and solar panels. Flotilla spokesman Petros Stergiou reported contact with the vessel lost around 2AM local time Monday as three Israeli naval ships approached it.
“What we learned is that the Israeli navy attacked the Marianne about 100 nautical miles from the shore of Gaza,” he said.
Activists on board “said they could see three military boats approaching them that had identified themselves as being military.”
“Once again, the Israeli government and its military acted like state pirates and attacked our boat in international waters,” Stergiou explained. IDF spokesman Peter Lerner called the seizure “uneventful.”
Netanyahu commented as expected, saying “(t)his flotilla is nothing but a demonstration of hypocrisy and lies that is only assisting the Hamas terrorist organization and ignores all of the horrors in our region.”
He congratulated Israeli naval commandos for their high-seas piracy. He lied saying he acted according to international law and support from a “UN Secretary-General committee.”
Defense Secretary Moshe Ya’alon issued a similar statement irresponsibly claiming the mission has “no humanitarian intentions…which instead of caring for Gaza residents, tries to smuggle in weapons (to be) use(d) against Israel and its civilians.”
Fact: Hamas is no “terrorist organization.” It’s Palestine’s democratically elected government.
Fact: Israel and America bear full responsibility for regional “horrors.”
Fact: Palestinians are longstanding victims – along with Iraqis, Libyans, Syrians, Yemenis and others living under monarchal or military dictatorships.
Fact: No flotilla or other humanitarian missions carried weapons for anyone. The whole world knows it. So does Israel.
Its blockade breaches international law. It’s an act of war against 1.8 million largely defenseless Gazans – denied their fundamental human rights.
Poverty and unemployment are extreme. Most Gazans need international aid to survive. The Strip’s most arable land is off limits. Israeli buffer zone diktats prohibit cultivation. Fishing in 85% of Gazan waters is banned.
A nutritional crisis continues along with inaccessibility to clean water for 90% of Gazans. An acute shortage of medicines, medical supplies, building materials and other essentials exists.
Ship to Gaza activists say the international community fails to help a trapped population desperately in need. “As human beings, we cannot stand by silently while witnessing what the blockade is to doing to” people deserving much better. (T)herefore we will act,” they said.
We’ll continue “send(ing) more ships with many more people (in) solidarity with the people of Gaza.”
“New groups are being formed all over the world…(O)ur coalition is growing…Our (mission) is a natural, brotherly action; our objective is humanitarian; our basis lies in international law; and our method is non-violent.”
Israel’s blockade severely restricts movement of people and goods into and from Gaza. It constitutes lawless collective punishment – strictly prohibited under international law.
It deprives Gazans of their livelihoods, security, accessibility to proper nutrition, clean water, medicines, medical care, education, and ability to move freely.
Israeli aggression denies many of their right to life and well-being. Israeli media reported IDF commandos seizing the vessel overnight without incident or injuries to activists on board.
We’ll know more when they’re able to speak for themselves, explain exactly what happened and how they were mistreated.
Israel’s interdiction was high-seas piracy – a lawless bandit act. An IDF statement lied claiming it acted “(i)n accordance with international law.” It blatantly violated it.
Pre-recorded SOS messages called for international help before seizure by Israeli commandos occurred.
Based on how other interdicted activists were treated, Marianne participants can expect short-term detention under harsh conditions, abusive interrogations, confiscation of their possessions, and perhaps denial of food, water and outside contacts, followed by deportations.
Gazans remain trapped and isolated under brutalizing siege. The Al Haq human rights organization reported continued Israeli use of “excessive force” across the West Bank and Gaza – using live fire and other forms of brutality against defenseless civilians, “disregarding Palestinians’ right to life.”
Al Haq director Shawan Jabarin said Palestinian officials delivered documents to the International Criminal Court charging Israel with the crime of apartheid and 22 other criminal offenses, including seven war crimes – pertaining to Operation Protective Edge, illegal settlements, denial of due process and judicial fairness, as well as mistreatment of Palestinian prisoners, mostly held for political reasons.
Throughout nearly half a century of brutalizing military occupation (lawless under international law), punctuated by intermittent acts of aggression, no Israeli government or military official ever was held accountable. Expect justice again denied this time.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at email@example.com.
His new book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.”
The scale of the migrant crisis Europe is facing today cannot be understated. It is truly unprecedented. What is habitually understated, however — and in fact almost completely ignored by mainstream media — are the real roots of the crisis.
The debate around migration into the EU is happening nearly entirely without reference to the causes of the recent influx of migrants from North Africa and the Middle East. The elephant in the room is NATO and nobody really wants to talk about it.
Hundreds of articles, laden down with numbers and proposals and predictions fail to make any direct link between cause and effect. News anchors sit seemingly baffled, mouths agape, at the apocalyptic-like pictures they are seeing land on their desks, and yet few are willing to draw the appropriate conclusions. But it is such a basic and logical connection that it’s hard to believe it is not being made very loudly and very persistently.
Maybe it’s just that these journalists are so conditioned to framing U.S. and NATO policy in a positive light that the links don’t even really occur to them. Or maybe they’re simply embarrassed and trying to shift focus from their long-recorded support for various military interventions in these countries.
Either way, the result is that the story is framed in such a way that it makes the timing of the crisis sound almost random. We’re witnessing a conversation about how to ‘deal’ with boats full of Libyans making their way across the Mediterranean — as if Libya was a country that had just self-imploded yesterday, and for no discernible reason.
A fierce debate is raging over ‘what to do’ about these migrants — and in a way that’s understandable because that is the more immediate problem — but the debate we really need to be having is about the policies, NATO’s policies, which were the catalyst.
Even if Europe unites in formulating a ‘solution’ to the problem, it will be nothing more than a band-aid fix because it will only deal with symptom. After all, what’s the point in covering your open wound with a band-aid when the guy who cut you is still wielding a knife in the same room? It doesn’t take a genius to work out how that story ends.
Whenever the cause is grudgingly mentioned by the media, it is mentioned briefly and abstractly where the author or anchor might refer to “conflict” or make mention of how violence has “reignited” in these countries in recent years and months.
The editors at the New York Times in particular, are big fans of loading all the blame squarely onto Europe’s shoulders. Here a Times piece argues that the migrant crisis “puts Europe’s policy missteps into focus”. Another piece, from the editorial board, lectures Europe on how to handle the situation.
In April, NATO head Jens Stoltenberg called for a “comprehensive response” to the crisis and promised that NATO would help to stabilize the situation. The alliance’s role in “stabilizing” Afghanistan was part of its broader approach to the refugee crisis in the Mediterranean, he said.
That is rich coming from the head of a ‘security’ and ‘defensive’ alliance which for years has pursued a policy of offensive destabilization in the very regions which people are fleeing from in their hundreds of thousands. But Stoltenberg’s comments and NATO’s actions are easily decoded by the employment of some basic common sense.
The NATO modus operandi is clear. The pattern, repeated over and over, involves the complete destabilization of a region, to be swiftly followed up with another NATO-led ‘solution’ to the problem. When you couple that with the use of spokespeople who are unashamed to feign ignorance and lie blatantly (Jen Psaki, Marie Harf etc.), and a compliant media that will regurgitate the line without question, this is what you get.
The 2011 NATO intervention in Libya was authorized by the United Nations on “humanitarian” grounds and resulted in the deaths of between 50,000 and 100,000 people and the displacement of 2 million. Very humanitarian.
Similarly, after the U.S.-led campaign to destabilize Syria in an effort to topple Bashar al-Assad, facilitating (and even supporting) the rise of ISIS in the region, a staggering 10 million have been displaced (according to Amnesty International) and European countries are left to help pick up the pieces. Germany, for example, has pledged to resettle 30,000 Syrian refugees. Sweden, a non-NATO nation, has taken in similar numbers.
It should be made clear however, that the numbers European countries have taken or pledged to take pale in comparison to the numbers being hosted in other Middle Eastern countries. Lebanon, for example, is hosting 1.1 million Syrian refugees. Jordan is hosting more than 600,000. Iraq hosts nearly a quarter of a million. Turkey hosts 1.6 million.
There is one country that’s getting off scot-free in all of this — at least on the Syrian front. That country is the United States. The U.S. has taken in less than 900 Syrian refugees after four years of war. American officials have cited “national security” in their explanations for not yet taking more, although they have said they would like to see the number increase.
Maybe this has something to do with it?
Debate not allowed
There is a second media crime flying under the radar here and it is this: In European countries where the massive influx of migrants from the Middle East and North Africa have caused serious societal divisions, where migrants have failed to assimilate (for a variety of reasons, including both government policies and often radical religious beliefs), Western media will allow no one to talk about it honestly — and woe betide the person who tries.
Take Sweden, where the disease of political correctness is at an even more advanced stage than it is in the rest of Europe. There, any attempt to debate the coherence of a ‘doors wide open’ immigration policy is branded as “racist”. A further irony in the Swedish context, is that the country is facing a housing crisis and has nowhere to put most of the people they are pledging to resettle. There’s some real forward-thinking, common sense policy for you.
This is a dangerous combination for Europe: An unsustainable influx of migrants, foreign policy which ensures its continuation, a docile media, and an epidemic of political correctness which has infected the entire continent.
Media 101 on the migrant crisis: Talk a lot about migrants, don’t mention why they fled and then call anyone who has a problem with it a “racist” — success! Oh, and you get an added bonus if you can somehow link it all to ‘Russian aggression’, Vladimir Putin and NATO as a ‘defensive’ alliance.
Some European countries are taking a more hardline approach and are getting slammed for it. Hungary, for example, is looking at building a barrier wall along its border with Serbia, similar to barriers along the Greek-Turkish and Bulgarian-Turkish borders. Again, this has sparked accusations of xenophobia and racism from media and political quarters.
But that’s part of the game, isn’t it? If NATO’s war supporters can focus the debate around the idea that anyone who wants to address or critically assess immigration policy is “racist” then we won’t have to talk about why the migrants are here in the first place or why they are facing such dire circumstances at home.
Russia Today’s Oksana Boyko tried recently, to broach this topic with Peter Sutherland, the UN’s special representative on international migration and development, but she got nowhere. She argued that the debate around migration into the EU can’t really be had without addressing the essence and heart of the problem, but found that NATO policy is apparently a topic not up for discussion.
Debating Europe’s migrant crisis without acknowledging the context in which it has been created it useless. It would be like asking Americans to debate police brutality without talking about race. The two are inescapably interlinked and any ‘solutions’ that come from an incomplete debate will ultimately fail.
For now though, it seems Europe will continue to debate this humanitarian crisis in terms of ‘what to do’ without addressing the ‘how to stop’ and we’ll keep running around in a vicious circle.
An easier solution, of course, would be for NATO to put an end to its campaign of destabilization in the Middle East and North Africa, but that would require the acceptance and acknowledgement of some very hard truths.
June 28, 2015
As NATO and Russia revive the old nuclear Cold War, the public is being prepared to accept the first-strike use of tactical nuclear weapons on targets in the Middle East and elsewhere. And as the world inches closer to a World War III scenario, we find the old MAD doctrine being revived in a new round of madness.
Months after the Saudi government pledged to single-handedly meet the United Nations’ (UN) “flash appeal” for humanitarian aid to Yemen, Riyadh is making it clear that the donation doesn’t come without strings attached.
On April 12, as the Saudi-led air campaign rained bombs over Yemen, the UN issued an emergency flash appeal calling for $274 million in aid for the country to address the increasingly dire humanitarian condition. Less than 24 hours later, the call was met entirely by the very government that was leading the attacks against Yemen.
Overseen by the UN Office for Coordination of Human Affairs (UNOCHA), emergency funds are meant to be distributed quickly to where they are most needed. Over two months have passed since Riyadh pledged the full $274 million, however, and the money has yet to be delivered to Yemen.
A UN memo obtained exclusively by VICE news has revealed the reason for this delay is the restrictive conditions the Saudi government has placed on the aid disbursement. What’s more, the UN appears to have consented to these conditions.
On Tuesday, Riyadh announced that $244 million of the total amount pledged will be split between nine UN agencies. The next day, the UN’s undersecretary for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator Stephen O’Brien sent a letter to the Interagency Standing Committee, a global humanitarian coordinating body for humanitarian agencies.
In the letter, O’Brien explained that the funds would go through the King Salman Center for Relief and Humanitarian Work (KSC). He also noted that KSC would dictate the terms of the fund distribution with each of the nine agencies.
“The KSC would like to negotiate the Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) with each recipient agency,” he wrote. “They would also like to be assured that the Government of Yemen in exile is consulted.”
The memo indicates that the pledge was a calculated move on the part of the Saudi government to monopolize the aid and control where it goes and when. According to VICE, the letter alarmed many aid workers who say that it was too vaguely worded, thereby giving Riyadh leeway for further delays.
“It’s really unusual for a single donor to have any substantive role once they contribute funds, let alone negotiate individual MoUs with agencies,” an anonymous official involved in the Yemen response told VICE.
He also noted the UN’s acquiesce to Riyadh’s stipulations.
“The charitable way of saying it is this is a compromise – the less charitable way of saying it is that they folded,” he said. “Now the UN has punted and handed off the problems to these agencies. I’ve never seen that before.”
The letter comes as the UNOCHA struggles with massive funding deficits in over two dozen countries, including in Yemen where the agency estimates that 80% of the population needs humanitarian aid, and may explain the UN’s agreement to the Saudi government’s stipulations.
“With regard to NGOs, I am aware that there are sensitivities in receiving funding directly from the KSC,” O’Brien wrote, acknowledging the unusual Saudi stipulations. “We therefore must work actively to mobilize additional funds to be allocated directly, or via the Pooled Fund, to our front-line partners.”
However, another aid worker with an organization that delivers humanitarian supplies to Yemen told VICE that O’Brien’s acknowledgement does not take away from the UN’s concession to Saudi over control of the fund disbursement.
“The thing about this communication that we all got, it’s really vague,” he said. “We are trying to assume and guess what they mean by this plan, but it’s not clear. The Saudis might very well sit on it for a long time.”
While it is not unusual for donor countries to have a degree of control over the distribution of funds, InterAction humanitarian vice president Joel Charny notes that emergency situations require agencies like the UN to make the final call.
“It’s not that donors don’t care where the money goes, but there’s a sense that in an urgent case like Yemen you let the professionals make the call,” he said.
O’Brien also told VICE a day before the letter was released that, as a general rule, the UN does not “condone any modality based on geography,” meaning that donors cannot restrict aid distribution from certain areas.
Yet Riyadh has already asked for the restriction of aid distribution to Houthi-held areas in Yemen.
Saudi Arabia launched its air campaign against Houthi rebels in Yemen in March in an effort to reinstate Yemeni President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi. Since the beginning of the airstrike campaign, over 2,800 people have been killed in the fighting and 13,000 have been wounded, according to local hospitals.
The NATO military alliance is preparing to implement a more aggressive nuclear weapons strategy in response to alleged “Russian aggression,” according to NATO sources cited by the Guardian Wednesday evening.
Proposed changes include provisions for greater involvement of nuclear forces in ongoing NATO military exercises along Russia’s borders and new guidelines for nuclear escalation against Russia, according to the NATO officials.
The alliance’s nuclear doctrine has been the subject of quiet, informal discussions “on the sidelines” of the ongoing NATO summit. The new policies will be formally articulated and confirmed at an upcoming conference of the alliance’s Nuclear Planning Group, which was rescheduled for an earlier date this week as word got around about the secretive planning.
“There is very real concern about the way in which Russia publicly bandies around nuclear stuff. So there are quite a lot of deliberations in the alliance about nuclear weapons,” an unnamed NATO diplomat told the Guardian.
The claim that discussion about a revision of nuclear weapons policy is in response to Russian aggression turns reality on its head. In the aftermath of the US and NATO-backed coup in Ukraine last year, the major imperialist powers have engaged in a relentless militarization of Eastern Europe, including the establishment of a rapid reaction force of 40,000 troops.
This week, US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter announced that the US would permanently deploy tanks, military vehicles and other equipment to countries bordering Russia. There are also ongoing discussions about directly arming Ukraine, beyond the extensive assistance the right-wing government already receives.
NATO is now planning to respond to any attempt by Russia to maintain or counter US imperialism’s aggressive moves in Eastern Europe with even more massive military response, including nuclear weapons.
An indication of the thinking of NATO strategists was provided by a report in the Financial Times. In the event of a conflict involving one of the Baltic countries, “Russia might… accuse the alliance of escalating the conflict and threaten to use intermediate range nuclear weapons.” The Times quotes Elbridge Colby, of the Center for a New American Security (CNAS): “NATO does not need a total nuclear rethink. But it needs to be realistic about how it would respond and willing to show Putin that he would not get away with it.”
This scenario builds on allegations from the US that Russia has violated the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), allegations that the Russian government has denied. US officials have stated that the Pentagon is preparing to launch preemptive attacks against missiles or other targets in Russia, including with nuclear weapons, in response to Moscow’s alleged violation of the treaty.
The announcement of major revisions to NATO’s nuclear strategy came just days after the publication of an extensive report, “Project Atom: Defining US Nuclear Strategy and Posture for 2025-2050,” by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). The main portions of the report were authored by a career US government strategist and senior CSIS analyst, Clark Murdock, a man who previously worked in high-level strategy jobs at the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the Department of Defense (DOD), the US Air Force and the National War College. The report included contributions from a large team of researchers and experts, including panels from the CNAS and the National Institution for Public Policy (NIPP).
The thrust of the CSIS analysis is that the US must make its nuclear arsenal easier to use in a war with Russia, China or some other power. The military must adopt “a US nuclear strategy designed for twenty-first century realities,” based on new generations of tactical warheads and delivery systems.
More advanced tactical nuclear weapons will enable Washington to threaten and launch small nuclear wars, without being “self-deterred” by concerns that its actions would lead to a nuclear holocaust, the CSIS report argues.
“The United States needs to develop and deploy more employable nuclear weapons,” the CSIS wrote, including “low collateral damage, enhanced radiation, earth penetration, electromagnetic pulse, and others as technology advances.”
Such advances, the report argues, are the only way to counter the erosion of American technological superiority by the growth of the Chinese and Russian nuclear arsenals, together with the addition of as many as nine new governments to the “nuclear club.”
Under the “Measured Response” theory advocated by the CSIS and Murdock, these types of highly mobile nuclear strike forces could engage in “controlled nuclear operations,” firing “low yield, accurate, special effects” nukes against enemy targets without leading to a full-scale nuclear war.
By “forward deploying a robust set of discriminate nuclear response options,” the US could launch tactical nuclear strikes “at all rungs of the nuclear escalation ladder,” Murdock wrote.
Such “small-scale” nuclear conflicts would inevitably claim tens, if not hundreds of millions of lives, even assuming they did not escalate into a global nuclear war.
The continental US, according to this theory, would be protected from the consequences of regional-scale nuclear warfare by the deterrent effect of Washington’s huge arsenal of high-yield strategic weapons. Any “controlled” nuclear conflicts started by the US government, moreover, would not involve nuclear operations targeting or launched from North America.
“The US homeland would not be engaged in the US response to a nuclear attack on a regional ally,” the CSIS wrote.
In barely veiled language, CSIS is suggesting that the US should utilize allied and client governments as staging areas and arenas for “controlled” atomic warfare.
As the product of collaboration between an extensive network of ruling-class policy theorists, such proposals are extremely ominous and represent a grave warning to the international working class.
There have been other calls for a significant expansion of US nuclear weapons capacity. In comments to the Atlantic Council earlier this week, US Congressman Mac Thornberry, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, called for a “national conversation about building new nuclear weapons.”
“That’s something we haven’t been able to even have a conversation about for a while, but I think we’re going to have to,” Thornberry declared.
Late last year, the Obama administration announced plans for a $1 trillion, three-decades-long upgrade of nuclear weapons capability.
In the writings of the CSIS and the other discussions within the state apparatus, there is a degree of insanity. The strategists of American imperialism are coldly calculating the best tactics for waging and winning nuclear war. Yet this insanity flows from the logic of American imperialism and the drive by the financial aristocracy to control—ever more directly through the use of military force—the entire world.
BETHLEHEM – One of the ships taking part in a flotilla headed towards the Gaza Strip was sabotaged south of Crete, an activist aboard one of the ships said Thursday.
Israeli-born Swedish activist Dror Feiler told Nazareth-based al-Shams radio that the ship had been sabotaged by professionals, and would have sunk if sailed at sea.
“Somebody went underneath the ship at night and sabotaged its propellers, just like they sabotaged the same ship in 2011,” Fieler said referring to similar damage that was inflicted upon a ship participating in a previous flotilla.
Feiler, who relinquished his Israeli citizenship after moving to Sweden, boarded the trawler Marianne of Gothenburg in Sweden with 18 other activists six weeks ago. The crew had refrained from stopping at European ports prior to avoid being held by authorities, but their trip was cut short after realizing that they might have drowned had they continued.
Despite the sabotage, the remainder of the flotilla convoy will move as planned with the ships expected arrive in Gaza in succession within three days, Feiler said.
The flotilla is the third of it’s kind to attempt to access the Gaza Strip by sea since 2010, aiming break the nearly nine-year Israeli blockade causing what is termed by rights organizations as a humanitarian crisis for the strip’s 1.8 million residents.
In May 2010, Israeli forces staged a raid on a six-ship flotilla which ended in bloodshed, claiming the lives of 10 Turkish rights activists and sparked a crisis with Ankara.
The participation in this year’s flotilla of Palestinian Knesset member Bassel Ghattas sparked an outcry among right wing members of the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, who called for Ghattas to be stripped of immunity from prosecution for joining.
Similar response was given to Palestinian MK Hanin Zoabi who took part in the 2010 flotilla, when Israeli minister Miri Regev accused Zoabi for “joining terrorists.”
Israeli leaders say that joining efforts to break the Israeli military blockade of Gaza is directly working against the security of Israel.
“It is the gravest thing possible that an Israeli MP would join the flotilla whose aim is to help the Hamas terror organisation,” said Israeli Immigration Minister Zeev Elkin from the ruling right-wing Likud party earlier this week.
Ghattas will be joined by the former Tunisian president, European lawmakers, and activists in what the Freedom Flotilla Coalition described as “a peaceful, nonviolent action to break the illegal and inhumane blockade of the Gaza Strip.”
The UN has now released its investigation into Israel’s 2014 massacre in Gaza. While the report covers crimes committed by both Israel and the comparatively defenseless resistance bands in the Gaza refugee ghetto, international law experts remind that this does not mean there is any equivalence between the “sides” or the gravity of their violations:
“George Bisharat, a professor at the University of California, Hastings College of the Law who has an expertise in law and politics in the Middle East, said that it is ‘sheer nonsense‘ to equate the crimes allegedly committed on both sides.”
It is important to keep in mind, Bisharat continues, that “the gravity of Israel’s violations of international law are far greater than those of the Palestinians.”
“Katherine Gallagher, senior staff attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights agreed, saying, ‘certainly the commission sought to present a holistic picture but just because it’s holistic doesn’t mean it’s an equal picture.’
‘The number of civilians killed in Gaza was simply unprecedented — this is a traumatized society facing its third military assault in five years and living under blockade,‘ Gallagher said.”
The UN finds that the Israeli massacre killed 1,462 Palestinian civilians, including over 500 children, and 2,100 Palestinians total, while 67 Israeli soldiers and six civilians, including 1 child, were killed. Thus the ratio of Palestinian to Israeli children killed in what Western media, to disguise the reality of the situation, calls a “war”, was about 530 to 1.
The report offers firsthand accounts (see link for more) of people effected by the massacre:
“I was sitting with my family at the table, ready to break the fast. Suddenly we were sucked into the ground. Later that evening, I woke up in the hospital and was told my wife and children had died,” Tawfik Abu Jama told the inquiry.
On 20 July the father of eight lost 26 family members, including all of his children and his wife, in a single bomb attack.
“I saw my family all ripped to pieces…”
“I am 52 years old and I have lost everything I cared for. In only a few minutes, they killed everyone and everything that was dear to me. They killed my dream, and my daughter’s dream who wanted to be a doctor.”
The UN reports that the explosive devices Israel illegally plants and detonates in Gaza can “tear off limbs hundreds of meters from the blast site.”
“The shock waves create thousands of pounds of pressure per square inch”, while “the injury threshold is 15 pounds per square inch.”
The US is the world’s biggest arms trafficker and provides most of those weapons. Israel is the biggest recipient of US aid, and the amount has been increased by Obama after each of Israel’s massacres against Gaza since Obama has taken office, which include Cast Lead, Pillar of Cloud, and 2014’s Solid Cliff.
Georgetown University international law expert Dr. Noura Erakat reminds that the responsibility “to preserve protection for civilians rests upon the shoulders of citizens, organizations, and mass movements who can influence their governments enforce international law. There is no alternative to political mobilization to shape state behavior.”
The US has a long and shameful history, extending to its origins and beyond and continuing today, of carrying out and supporting countless massacres. We cannot undo these crimes, but we can easily choose to stop allowing them today by, for one, following Erakat’s advice and mobilizing to cut off support for Israel until it decolonizes and stops occupying Palestine, ends its illegal blockade of Gaza, and stops carrying out aggression and massacres. Ceasing to enable these crimes is both legally required of us and would be helpful for the health of Israeli society.
The June 7 parliamentary election in Turkey could have a huge impact on the conflict in Syria. The invincible image of President Erdogan has been cracked. There is a real chance that the election might lead to substantive change in Turkish foreign policy promoting the war in Syria.
Even though Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) won the most votes, they lost their majority in parliament and must now find a coalition partner. Turkey’s new parliament was seated for the first time on Tuesday June 23. Now begins the political bargaining and negotiations to form a governing coalition. Depending on the outcome, Turkey may stop or seriously restrict the flow of weapons and foreign fighters through its territory into Syria. If Turkey does this, it would offer a real prospect for movement toward negotiations and away from war in Syria. Why? The Syrian war continues because Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, USA, France, UK and others are spending billions of dollars annually to fund the armed opposition and sustain the war in violation of the UN Charter and international law.
Closely allied with Qatar and the Muslim Brotherhood, Turkey has been the primary path for weapons and foreign fighters in Syria. ISIS has depended on export of oil and import of weapons and fighters through Turkey. Jabhat al Nusra, Ahrar al Sham and other armed opposition groups have depended on weapons and foreign fighters coming in via Turkey for attacks on northern Syria including Syria’s largest city, Aleppo.
Turkish Government Support of War on Syria
The following examples show the extent of Turkish involvement in the war on Syria:
- Turkey hosts the Political and Military Headquarters of the armed opposition. Most of the political leaders are former Syrians who have not lived there for decades.
- Turkey provides home base for armed opposition leaders. As quoted in the Vice News video Syria: Wolves of the Valley: “Most of the commanders actually live in Turkey and commute in to the fighting when necessary.”
- Turkey’s intelligence agency MIT has provided its own trucks for shipping huge quantities of weapons and ammunition to Syrian armed opposition groups. According to court testimony they made at least 2,000 trips to Syria.
- Turkey is suspected of supplying the chemical weapons used in Ghouta in August 2013 as reported by Seymour Hersh here. In May 2013, Nusra fighters were arrested in possession of sarin but quickly and quietly released by Turkish authorities.
- Turkey’s foreign minister, top spy chief and senior military official were secretly recorded plotting an incident to justify Turkish military strikes against Syria. A sensational recording of the meeting was publicized, exposing the plot in advance and likely preventing it from proceeding.
- Turkey has provided direct aid and support to attacking insurgents. When insurgents attacked Kassab Syria on the border in spring 2014, Turkey provided backup military support and ambulances for injured fighters. Turkey shot down a Syrian jet fighter that was attacking the invading insurgents. The plane landed 7 kms inside Syrian territory, suggesting that Turkish claims it was in Turkish air space are likely untrue.
- Turkey has recently increased its coordination with Saudi Arabia and Qatar. This has led to the recent assaults by thousands of foreign fighters on Idlib and Jisr al Shugour in northern Syria. Armed with advanced weaponry including TOW missiles, and using suicide bomb vehicles, the armed groups over-ran Syrian armed forces defending both cities. The assaults were facilitated by Turkey jamming and disrupting Syrian radio communications.
- Turkey has facilitated travel into northern Syria by extremist mercenaries from all parts of the globe including Chechen Russians, Uyghur Chinese, Europeans, North Africans, South Asians including Indonesians and Malaysians. The assault on Jisr al Shugour was spearheaded by Chinese Uyghur fighters and suicide bombers crossing over from Turkey with tanks and heavy artillery.
- Turkey itself has provided steady supply of recruits to the Islamic State. Like other countries which have had citizens indoctrinated with wahabi fanaticism, they have done little or nothing to limit the indoctrination or restrict emigration for ‘jihad’.
- Turkey has permitted the supply of huge quantities of car bomb ingredients (ammonium nitrate fertilizer) to the Islamic State. On May 4 the NY Times reported these shipments at the Turkish border. Sixteen days later ISIS over-ran Ramadi in an assault that began with 30 car bombs with ten reportedly the size of the Oklahoma City bombing.
- Finally, as part of its continuing effort to draw the U.S. and NATO into direct participation in the war on Syria, Turkey is an active player in various propaganda campaigns. For example, the “White Helmets” or “Syrian Civil Defence” are trained and supplied in Turkey. Some of the videos purportedly from Syria are likely filmed in Turkey at their training site. White Helmets and Syrian Civil Defence are both creations of the West and join with Turkey in calling for a “No Fly Zone”.
Turkish Repression of Journalism, Police and Courts
The AKP government has vigorously tried to suppress information about the extent of Turkey’s support of the war on Syria. They have resorted to repression and intimidation such as:
- Turkish authorities have charged four regional prosecutors with attempting to topple the government. Their “crime” was to insist on the inspection of four trucks headed from Turkey to Syria. The trucks contained weapons and ammunition in violation of Turkish law. The trial of the four prosecutors is ongoing, 18 months after the inspection.
- Turkish authorities arrrested seven high ranking military officers over the inspection of trucks taking weapons and fighters to Syria.
- Turkish authorities banned social media and news outlets from reporting on arms shipments through Turkey to Syria. Twitter and Facebook accounts that talked about the shipments where shut down. Erdogan went on to threaten to “eradicate” Twitter.
- Turkish President Erdogan threatened two life term sentences for the editor of Hurriyet daily newspaper for publicizing support of the armed opposition in Syria by Turkey’s intelligence agency MIT.
- A whistle-blowing MIT (intelligence agency) officer who opposed the agency’s collusion with terrorism in Syria was arrested, convicted and imprisoned. After two years he managed to escape and tell his story. The blockbuster account was broadcast on Turkey’s OdaTV and later translated into English and published here.
Was American Journalist Serena Shim Murdered?
As seen in the examples above, Turkish AKP authorities have aggressively tried to suppress information on the involvement in Syria. If they have been that aggressive with Turkish journalists, prosecutors and military officers, how far might they go against a foreign journalist working for Iran’s Press TV?
The American born journalist Serena Shim died just days after she documented the use of World Food Program trucks to transport foreign fighters to the border with Syria and into ISIS territory. After learning that Turkish intelligence was looking for her, Serena Shim was so concerned that she expressed her fear on television. Two days later, Serena Shim’s car was hit head-on by a cement truck. The driver of the cement truck disappeared but was later found. There are many discrepancies about what happened. The first reports indicated the truck and driver left without stopping. Then the driver and truck were located, and then photos appeared showing a collision.
While some Turkish security services have preemptively exonerated the driver of the cement truck, the local prosecutor has filed charges against the driver, accusing him of causing death through negligence. There are many suspicious aspects, not least is the fact that the cement truck’s wheels are angled toward the car, not away as one would expect with a vehicle trying to avoid collision.
The death of American journalist Serena Shim, and her factual investigative reporting on Syria and Turkey, stands in sharp contrast with the sensational media accounts about the “kidnapping” of NBC reporter Richard Engel. That event turned out to be a hoax contrived by “rebels” to manipulate American political opinion. With the complicity of individual reporters and mainstream media, the fraud was successful. The bias in mainstream western media is further demonstrated by the almost complete media silence about the death of Serena Shim and her important journalistic work.
For the past 13 years Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) has had majority control of Turkey’s parliament. In the recent election AKP’s share of the popular voted plummeted 10% and they lost their parliamentary majority. The results are a clear rebuff to Erdogan and AKP policies. Sixty percent of voters went against AKP, splitting the vote among the three alternative parties. The pro-Kurdish and Leftist People’s Democratic Party (HDP) burst onto the scene capturing 13% of the votes and equaling the number of parliamentary seats captured by the rightist and anti-Kurdish National Movement Party (MHP). The main opposition party is the social democratic Republican Peoples Party (CHP) with 26% of the vote.
Over the coming weeks, AKP will try to form a coalition government with one or more of the alternate parties. However, it won’t be easy. The natural bedfellow would be the anti-Kurdish and rightist MHP, but they are demanding the resumption of a corruption trial against AKP leaders including Erdogan’s son Bilal. That trial would probably lead back to President Erdogan himself, so it seems unlikely AKP will ally with MHP. The three alternative parties could form a coalition to govern without AKP, but it’s hard to imagine the staunchly anti-Kurdish MHP allying with the pro-Kurdish HDP.
If a majority coalition cannot be formed within 45 days, the Turkish constitution requires a rerun of the election.
Election Should Bring Major Change in Syrian Policy
Even with severe repression and intimidation, the Turkish public is aware of Turkey’s policy supporting war on Syria. One consequence of the war has been almost 2 million immigrant refugees with the dispersal of many throughout Turkey, providing cheap labor and adding significantly to the unemployment problem. In addition, there have been terrorist attacks in the border region and an escalation of corruption and repression as external money and weapons have flooded the area en route to Syria. The war against Syria has been widely unpopular and played a significant role in the election.
- All the opposition parties called for change in Turkey’s foreign policy.
- Criticism of Erdogan and Davutoglu’s policy even comes from within the AKP membership: “Many believe that one reason for the AKP’s dismal showing in the 2015 elections is its policy on Syria.”
- The head of the main opposition party (CHP) says Turkey will start controlling the border and stop the flood of arms and fighters into Syria.
The coming weeks will indicate how Turkey moves forward: Will AKP manage to form a coalition government with one of the opposition parties? Or will there be another election?
Will Turkey start enforcing the border and stop shipments of arms to the armed opposition as demanded by the leader of the main opposition party? This would be a huge change in the dynamics within Syria. Without a rear base of constant and steady support, the armed opposition would be forced to rely on their own resources rather than those of foreign governments. They would quickly wither since they have very little support base within Syria.
Since the election, there are already signs of a shift in the balance. Kurdish forces recently captured ISIS’ important border crossing at Tal Abyad. This has been the main route of weapons, fighters and supplies between Turkey and the Islamic State’s ‘capital’ at Raqqa in eastern Syria.
The Past Year and Looking Ahead
Thirteen months ago it looked like the war in Syria was starting to move toward resolution. The last remaining armed opposition in the “capital of the revolution” Homs, reached reconciliation and withdrew from the Old City of Homs in May 2014. On June 3, 2014 the election in Syria confirmed substantial support for the government.
Since then, we have seen dramatic changes. On June 10, 2014 ISIS surged through western Iraq and captured the city of Mosul and huge quantities of American armaments including tanks, rockets, humvees, etc. That led to the creation of the “Islamic State” and expansion in eastern Syria including Tabqa Air Base where hundreds of Syrian soldiers and ISIS fighters died.
This past spring saw the coalescing of numerous foreign and Islamist groups into the Jaish al Fatah (Army of Conquest) supported by Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. With high powered TOW anti-tank missiles and thousands of shock troops they were able to overtake both Idlib and Jisr al Shugour near the Turkish border.
ISIS and the Army of Conquest are both dependent on the Turkish supply line. If that is closed off or seriously restricted, it will dramatically change the situation.
With the prospect of losing their base of support in Turkey, will the opposition try something desperate to draw the US and NATO into the conflict directly?
The Turkish people have indicated they want to stop their government’s war on Syria. If their will is respected, it should lead to restricting and stopping the foreign funding and promotion of the conflict. If Turkey stops the flood of weapons and foreign fighters into northern Syria, it will be following instead of violating international law. This will give peace a chance in Syria.
Rick Sterling is active with the Syria Solidarity Movement and Mt Diablo Peace and Justice Center. He can be emailed at: firstname.lastname@example.org.