The Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) has decided to end all security cooperation with Israel, Palestinian officials say.
According to reports on Thursday, the Palestinian Central Council (PCC) of the PLO, led by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, made the decision to cut all forms of security cooperation with Israel after two-day discussions in Ramallah.
“Security coordination in all its forms with the authority of the Israeli occupation will be stopped in the light of its (Israel’s) non-compliance with the agreements signed between the two sides,” the PCC, the second highest Palestinian decision-making body, said in a statement.
Tel Aviv “should shoulder all its responsibilities towards the Palestinian people in the occupied state of Palestine as an occupation authority according to international law,” the statement read.
The statement also called on the United Nations Security Council to “determine a deadline to end the Israeli occupation and ensure that the state of Palestine is enabled to practice its sovereignty on its land occupied since 1967, including its capital east Jerusalem and, resolve the issue of refugees according to resolution 194.”
“The concept of a Jewish state is rejected and also of a (Palestinian) state with provisional borders is rejected. Any formula that will keep an Israeli military or settler presence on any part of the land of the state of Palestine is rejected,” the statement further read.
At the opening of the two-day talks, attended by officials from the PCC, on Wednesday, Abbas (pictured below) denounced a decision by the Israeli regime to withhold Palestinian tax revenues worth more than $100 million a month.
“How are they allowed to take away our money? Are we dealing with a state or with a gangster?” he asked.
The two-day meetings, attended by legislators, union leaders, and other figures, focused on a review of interim agreements with the Israelis.
In response to Palestinian efforts to finally attain membership at the International Criminal Court (ICC), Tel Aviv announced a freeze on the revenues transfer in January.
Palestinians are continuing efforts to file war crime charges against the regime at the ICC.
The Palestinian president further called the tax freeze a provocation, noting that “peaceful, popular resistance is the only way for us” in the fight against Israel.
Abbas also asked “all countries of the world to recognize the state of Palestine.”
“But we want to say to the Israeli side, these recognitions do not mean in any way that we do not want to negotiate, or that we’re running away from negotiations,” Abbas said, adding that talks would continue with “whoever” wins the Israeli general elections on March 17.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu came to Washington this week to prepare the American people for war against Iran. Backed by American neoconservatives, the Israel lobby, and assorted other war hawks, Netanyahu insists that Iran intends to build a nuclear weapon and thus is an “existential threat” to Israel. He has no confidence that President Obama will negotiate an agreement that once and for all will end Iran’s alleged nuclear ambitions.
Thus the prime minister’s objective is nothing less than to wreck the current negotiations and push America into a regime-changing war against Iran.
Netanyahu’s narrative is a fabric of lies and omissions.
To begin, Iran has not sought a nuclear weapon, and the country’s leader declares such weapons contrary to Islam. (For details, see Gareth Porter’s well-documented Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare.) For a quarter century, Netanyahu has warned that an Iranian bomb is imminent. But U.S. and Israeli intel say he’s wrong.
Iran nevertheless wants to reassure the world so that crushing economic sanctions will be lifted. Hence, the current negotiations. (Iran made similar overtures before.)
Iran’s government is a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), subjecting it to inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency, which can account for every atom of uranium.
Members of the NPT are free to have a civilian nuclear-power program, including the ability to enrich uranium, and Iran insists that it be treated as other members are. Nevertheless, for decades the U.S. government has exerted pressure to stop Iran from having a civilian nuclear industry. When Iran a few years ago agreed to forgo enrichment and obtain enriched uranium from abroad, the U.S. government blocked the deal. Netanyahu and his American allies oppose Iran’s having any enrichment capability.
Moreover — and this ignored fact seems rather important — Israel is the nuclear monopolist of the Mideast. That hardly anyone talks about this is at once remarkable and unsurprising. But think about it: Israel has hundreds of nuclear warheads — some of them on invulnerable submarines capable of surviving a first strike. Even if Iran built one warhead, it would be useless — except as a deterrent against Israel — and the country’s rulers know it. Israel has not signed the NPT and does not submit to IAEA inspections. It is a nuclear rogue state.
As Gideon Rose, editor of Foreign Affairs magazine (published by the establishment Council on Foreign Relations), said on CNN recently, Israel could “destroy Iran this afternoon.” If there is an existential threat, Israel is the source and Iran is the target.
How does Netanyahu’s alarmist narrative look now?
It is erroneously believed that Iran has threatened to attack Israel. In fact, Israel and the United States have been waging war — economic, covert, proxy, and cyber — against Iran for decades. Since the repressive U.S.-backed Iranian regime of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, a close friend of Israel, was overthrown in 1979, Israel’s leaders have openly rattled sabers at the Islamic Republic. American presidents have repeatedly declared that “all military options are on the table” — which would include nuclear weapons. The United States helped Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein fight a war of aggression against Iran in the 1980s, providing him with components for chemical weapons and satellite intelligence. Why wouldn’t Iran feel threatened by the United States and its close ally Israel? Even so, Iran has not threatened to attack Israel or America.
Netanyahu would have us believe the Iranian regime wants to exterminate all Jews. But that’s hard to square with the continuous presence of a Jewish community in Iran — today the largest in the Muslim Middle East — for two thousand years. Iran’s steadfast opposition to Israel’s institutionalized injustice against the Palestinians is not anti-Semitism.
So why is Netanyahu pushing war? Among several reasons, demonizing Iran reduces pressure on Israel to negotiate seriously with the Palestinians. Many Israelis prefer building Jewish settlements on Palestinians’ land instead. Moreover, Israel’s rulers oppose any development — such as an Iranian-U.S. detente — that could diminish Israel’s U.S.-financed hegemony in the region.
War with Iran would be a catastrophe all around. Netanyahu and his hawkish American allies — the same people who gave us the disastrous Iraq war and ISIS — must be repudiated.
More than 350 Israeli soldiers who took part in last summer’s military onslaught on the Gaza Strip have since received psychiatric counseling for post-traumatic stress, an Israeli report has revealed.
The report, published Wednesday in the Israel Today newspaper said that soldiers had undergone treatment for symptoms associated with post-traumatic stress, including disorientation, low productivity and recurring nightmares.
The newspaper quoted a senior Israeli official as saying that the number of soldiers receiving psychiatric treatment following last summer’s onslaught on Gaza was higher than those who did so following previous operations.
For 51 days this summer, Israel pounded the Gaza Strip by air, land and sea. More than 2,310 Gazans, 70 percent of them civilians, were killed and 10,626 injured during unrelenting Israeli attacks on the besieged strip this past summer.
According to the UN, the Israeli military killed at least 495 Palestinian children in Gaza during “Operation Protective Edge.” The al-Mezan Center for Human Rights puts the number at 518, while the Palestinian Center for Human Rights puts it at 519.
All three figures exceed the total number of Israelis, civilians and soldiers, killed by Palestinians in the last decade.
The Palestinian Ministry of Health reported that 3,106 Palestinian children were injured in the seven- week assault. The UN estimates that 1,000 children will suffer a permanent disability as a result of their injury.
Moreover, the UN said as many as 1,500 children have been orphaned by Israeli attacks that killed their parents, while 6,000 children will have a parent with a lifelong disability.
The besieged enclave has also seen widespread destruction of its infrastructure, reaching levels of devastation that UN chief Ban Ki Moon called “beyond description” in a visit to the Strip on October 14.
Some 100,000 people remain displaced while 450,000 don’t have access to running water.
Meanwhile, the official, who holds a senior position in the Israeli military’s psychiatric department, said that “hundreds” of soldiers have sought psychiatric treatment for “severe stress.”
He said that 80 percent of the soldiers to have undergone treatment had since been “fully rehabilitated” and returned to service.
Treatment was carried out at southern Israel’s Re’im military base where affected soldiers received up to eight hours of treatment each day, the official was quoted as saying.
A report published in January revealed that at least 10 Israeli soldiers committed suicide in 2014, including four who took part in the onslaught on the Gaza Strip.
In September, Israeli newspaper Maariv reported that the three troops from the elite Golani Brigade had suffered psychological problems in connection to their participation in the recent offensive on the Gaza Strip.
Also in September, 43 reservists and former members of Israel’s elite army intelligence unit have announced in a letter addressed to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that they refuse to serve in the military, slamming “abuses” of Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, annexed East Jerusalem and Gaza.
On March 3rd, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued an impassioned plea to Congress to protect Israel by opposing diplomacy with Iran. Referring to “the remarkable alliance between Israel and the United States” which includes “generous military assistance and missile defense,” Netanyahu failed to mention that Israel has an arsenal of 100 or 200 nuclear weapons.
The Six-Day War
The day before he delivered that controversial address, Netanyahu expressed similar sentiments to AIPAC, Israel’s powerful U.S. lobby. He reiterated the claim that Israel acted in the 1967 Six-Day War “to defend itself.” The narrative that Israel attacked Egypt, Syria, and Jordan in self-defense, seizing the Palestinian territories in the West Bank, Gaza, Jerusalem, the Golan Heights, and the Sinai Peninsula in 1967, has remained largely unquestioned in the public discourse. Israel relies on that narrative to continue occupying those Palestinian lands. And the powerful film “Censored Voices,” which premiered at Sundance in February, does not challenge that narrative.
But declassified high-level documents from Britain, France, Russia and the United States reveal that Egypt, Syria, and Jordan were not going to attack Israel and Israel knew it. In fact, they did not attack Israel. Instead, Israel mounted the first attack in order to decimate the Egyptian army and take the West Bank.
Censored voices uncensored
For two weeks following the Six Day War, Amos Oz and Avrahim Shapira visited Israeli kibbutzim and recorded interviews with several Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers who had just returned from that war. Largely censored by the Israeli government for many years, those reels have finally been made public. “Censored Voices” features the taped voices of young IDF soldiers, as the aging, former soldiers sit silently beside the tape recorder, listening to their own voices.
The testimonies documented in the tapes reveal evidence of targeting civilians and summarily executing prisoners, which constitute war crimes. A soldier asks himself, “They’re civilians – should I kill them or not?” He replies, “I didn’t even think about it. Just kill! Kill everyone you see.” Likewise, one voice notes, “Several times we captured guys, positioned them and just killed them.” Another reveals, “In the war, we all became murderers.” Still another says, “Not only did this war not solve the state’s problems, but it complicated them in a way that’ll be very hard to solve.” One soldier likens evacuating Arab villages to what the Nazis did to Jews in Europe. As a soldier watched an Arab man being taken from his home, the soldier states, “I had an abysmal feeling that I was evil.”
In what proved to be a prescient question, one soldier asks, “Are we doomed to bomb villages every decade for defensive purposes?” Indeed, Israel justifies all of its assaults on Gaza as self-defense, even though Israel invariably attacks first, and kills overwhelming numbers of Palestinians – mostly civilians. Each time, many fewer Israelis are killed by Palestinian rockets.
Israel’s false self-defense claim
The film begins by showing a map of Israel surrounded by Egypt, Syria, and Jordan, with arrows from each country aimed at Israel. The IDF soldiers felt those Arab countries posed an existential threat to Israel. “There was a feeling it would be a Holocaust,” one soldier observed. The Israeli media claimed at the time that Egypt had attacked Israel by land and by air on June 5, 1967. According to British journalist Patrick Seale, “Israel’s preparation of opinion” was “brilliantly managed,” a “remarkable exercise in psychological warfare.”
In his book, “The Six-Day War and Israeli Self-Defense: Questioning the Legal Basis for Preventive War,” published by Cambridge University Press, Ohio State University law professor John Quigley documents conversations by high government officials in Israel, the United States, Egypt, the Soviet Union, France, and Britain leading up to the Six-Day War. He draws on minutes of British cabinet meetings, a French government publication, U.S. documents in “Foreign Relations of the United States,” and Russian national archives. Those conversations make clear that Israel knew Egypt, Syria and Jordan would not and did not attack Israel, and that Israel initiated the attacks.
Egypt was the only one of the three Arab countries that had a military of any consequence. Israeli General Yitzhak Rabin told the Israeli cabinet that the Egyptian forces maintained a defensive posture, and Israeli General Meir Amit, head of Mossad (Israeli’s intelligence agency), informed U.S. Defense Secretary Robert McNamara that Egypt was not poised to attack Israel. Both the United States and the Soviet Union urged Israel not to attack. Nevertheless, Israel’s cabinet voted on June 4 to authorize the IDF to invade Egypt.
“After the cabinet vote,” Quigley writes, “informal discussion turned to ways to make it appear that Israel was not starting a war when in fact that was precisely what it was doing.” Moshe Dayan, who would soon become Israel’s Minister of Defense, ordered military censorship, saying, “For the first twenty-four hours, we have to be the victims.” Dayan admitted in his memoirs, “We had taken the first step in the war with Egypt.” Nevertheless, Israel’s UN Ambassador Gideon Rafael reported to the Security Council that Israel had acted in self-defense.
“The hostilities were attacks by the Israeli air force on multiple Egyptian airfields, aimed at demolishing Egyptian aircraft on the ground,” according to Quigley. On June 5, the CIA told President Lyndon B. Johnson, “Israel fired the first shots today.”
Article 51 of the UN Charter authorizes states to act in collective self-defense after another member state suffers an armed attack. Although Jordan and Syria responded to the Israeli attacks on Egypt, they – and Egypt – inflicted little damage to Israel. By the afternoon of June 5, Israel “had virtually destroyed the air war capacity of Egypt, Jordan, and Syria,” Quigley notes. “The IDF achieved the ‘utter defeat’ of the Egyptian army on June 7 and 8.”
The United States empowers Israel
U.S. Secretary of State Dean Rusk said that U.S. officials were “angry as hell, when the Israelis launched their surprise offensive.” Yet, Quigley notes, “Israel’s gamble paid off in that the United States would not challenge Israel’s story about how the fighting started. Even though it quickly saw through the story, the White House kept its analysis to itself.”
Although Security Council resolution 242, passed in 1967, refers to “the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war” and calls for “withdrawal of Israel armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict,” Israel continues to occupy the Palestinian territories it acquired in the Six-Day War.
Israel has abandoned its claim that Egypt attacked first. Yet the international community considers that Israel acted in lawful anticipatory self-defense. Quigley explains how the UN Charter only permits the use of armed force after an armed attack on a UN member state; it does not authorize anticipatory, preventive, or preemptive self-defense.
“The UN did not condemn Israel in 1967 for its attack on Egypt,” Antonio Cassese of the University of Florence explained. Quigley attributes this to Cold War politics, as the USSR supported Egypt. “For the United States in particular, Israel’s success was a Cold War defeat for the USSR. The United States was hardly prepared to condemn Israel after it performed this service.”
The United States continues to support Israel by sending it $3 billion per year in military aid, even when Israel attacks Gaza with overwhelming firepower, as it did in the summer of 2014, killing 2,100 Palestinians (mostly civilians). Sixty-six Israeli soldiers and seven civilians were killed.
If Israel were to mount an attack on Iran, the United States would invariably support Israel against Iran and any Arab country that goes to Iran’s defense. Indeed, Netanyahu intoned to Congress, “may Israel and America always stand together.”
Marjorie Cohn is a professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, former president of the National Lawyers Guild, and deputy secretary general of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers. Her most recent book is “Drones and Targeted Killing: Legal, Moral, and Geopolitical Issues.”
Addressing Congress in the style of a State of the Union speech, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu won 41 rounds of applause as U.S. lawmakers eagerly enlisted in the Israeli-Saudi conflict against Iran and its allies – an enthusiasm that may well entangle the U.S. military in more wars in the Middle East.
Speaking to a joint session of Congress for the third time – tying British Prime Minister Winston Churchill for the record – Netanyahu went far beyond excoriating President Barack Obama’s negotiations with Iran to restrict but not eliminate its nuclear program. He portrayed Iran as a dangerous enemy whose regional influence must be stopped and reversed, a position shared by Israel’s new ally, Saudi Arabia.
Netanyahu declared: “In the Middle East, Iran now dominates four Arab capitals, Baghdad, Damascus, Beirut and Sanaa. And if Iran’s aggression is left unchecked, more will surely follow. So, at a time when many hope that Iran will join the community of nations, Iran is busy gobbling up the nations. We must all stand together to stop Iran’s march of conquest, subjugation and terror.”
Netanyahu’s reference to “Iran’s aggression” was curious since Iran has not invaded another country for centuries. In 1980, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq – at the urging of Saudi Arabia – invaded Iran. During that bloody eight-year war, Israel – far from being an enemy of Iran – became Iran’s principal arms supplier. Israel drew in the Reagan administration, which approved some of the Israeli-brokered arms deals, leading to the Iran-Contra scandal in 1986.
In other words, Israel was aiding Iran after the Islamic revolution overthrew the Shah in 1979 and during the time when Netanyahu blamed Iran for the attack on the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983 and various acts of terrorism allegedly committed by Hezbollah, a Shiite militia in Lebanon. Israel only shifted toward hostility against Shiite-ruled Iran in the 1990s as Israel gradually developed a de facto alliance with Sunni-ruled and oil-rich Saudi Arabia, which views Iran as its chief regional rival.
Netanyahu’s choice of Arab cities supposedly conquered by Iran was strange, too. Baghdad is the capital of Iraq where the U.S. military invaded in 2003 to overthrow Saddam Hussein and his Sunni-dominated government — on Netanyahu’s recommendation. After the invasion, President George W. Bush installed a Shiite-dominated government. So, whatever influence Iran has in Baghdad is the result of a U.S. invasion that Netanyahu personally encouraged.
More recently, Iran has supported the embattled Iraqi government in its struggle against the murderous Islamic State militants who seized large swaths of Iraqi territory last summer. Indeed, Iraqi officials have credited Iran with playing a crucial role in blunting the Islamic State, the terrorists whom President Obama has identified as one of the top security threats facing the United States.
Netanyahu cited Damascus, too, where Iran has helped the Syrian government in its struggle against the Islamic State and Al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front. In other words, Iran is assisting the internationally recognized government of Syria hold off two major terrorist organizations. But Netanyahu portrays that as Iran “gobbling up” a nation.
The Israeli prime minister also mentioned Beirut, Lebanon, and Sanaa, Yemen, but those were rather bizarre references, too, since Lebanon is governed by a multi-ethnic arrangement that includes a number of religious and political factions. Hezbollah is one and it has close ties to Iran, but it is stretching the truth to say that Iran “dominates” Beirut or Lebanon.
Similarly, in Sanaa, the Houthis, a Shiite-related sect, have taken control of Yemen’s capital and have reportedly received some help from Iran, but the Houthis deny those reports and are clearly far from under Iranian control. The Houthis also have vowed to work with the Americans to carry on the fight against Yemen’s Al-Qaeda affiliate.
Leading the Battle
Indeed, Iran and these various Shiite-linked movements have been among the most effective in battling Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State, while Israel’s Saudi friends have been repeatedly linked to funding and supporting these Sunni terrorist organizations. In effect, what Netanyahu asked the Congress to do – and apparently successfully – was to join Saudi Arabia and Israel in identifying Iran, not Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State, as America’s chief enemy in the Middle East.
That would put the U.S.-Iranian cooperation in combating Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State in jeopardy. It could lead to victories by these Sunni terrorists in Syria and possibly even Iraq, a situation that almost surely would force the U.S. military to return in force to the region. No U.S. president could politically accept Damascus or Baghdad in the hands of openly terrorist organizations vowing to carry the fight to Europe and the United States.
Yet, that was the logic — or lack thereof — in Netanyahu’s appeal to Congress. As he put it, “when it comes to Iran and ISIS, the enemy of your enemy is your enemy.” He also argued that Iran was a greater threat than the Islamic State, a position that Israel’s Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren has expressed, too.
“The greatest danger to Israel is by the strategic arc that extends from Tehran, to Damascus to Beirut. And we saw the Assad regime [in Syria] as the keystone in that arc,” Oren told the Jerusalem Post in a 2013 interview. “We always wanted Bashar Assad to go, we always preferred the bad guys who weren’t backed by Iran to the bad guys who were backed by Iran” – even if the “bad guys” were affiliated with al-Qaeda.
In June 2014, then speaking as a former ambassador at an Aspen Institute conference, Oren expanded on his position, saying Israel would even prefer a victory by the brutal Islamic State over continuation of the Iranian-backed Assad in Syria. “From Israel’s perspective, if there’s got to be an evil that’s got to prevail, let the Sunni evil prevail,” Oren said.
Netanyahu made a similar point: “The difference is that ISIS is armed with butcher knives, captured weapons and YouTube, whereas Iran could soon be armed with intercontinental ballistic missiles and nuclear bombs.”
Of course, Iran has disavowed any interest in developing a nuclear bomb — and both the U.S. and Israeli intelligence communities agree that Iran has not been working on a bomb. Further, the negotiated agreement between Iran and leading world powers would impose strict oversight on Iran’s civilian nuclear program, leaving little opportunity to cheat.
Instead, Netanyahu wants the United States to lead an aggressive campaign to further strangle Iran’s economy with the goal of forcing some future “regime change.” […]
Shared Israeli Interests
The Israelis also have found themselves on the side of these Sunni militants in Syria because the Israelis share the Saudi view that Iran and the so-called “Shiite crescent” – reaching from Tehran to Beirut – is the greatest threat to their interests.
That attitude of favoring Sunni militants over Assad has taken a tactical form with Israeli forces launching attacks inside Syria that benefit Nusra Front. For instance, on Jan. 18, 2015, Israel attacked Lebanese-Iranian advisers assisting Assad’s government in Syria, killing several members of Hezbollah and an Iranian general. These military advisers were engaged in operations against Nusra Front.
Meanwhile, Israel has refrained from attacking Nusra militants who have seized Syrian territory near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. One source familiar with U.S. intelligence information on Syria told me that Israel has a “non-aggression pact” with Nusra forces, who have even received medical treatment at Israeli hospitals.
Israel and Saudi Arabia have found themselves on the same side in other regional struggles, including support for the military’s ouster of the elected Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt, but most importantly they have joined forces in their hostility toward Shiite-ruled Iran.
I first reported on the growing relationship between Israel and Saudi Arabia in August 2013 in an article entitled “The Saudi-Israeli Superpower,” noting that the complementary strengths of the two countries made their alliance a potentially powerful influence in the world. Israel wields enormous political and media clout — and possesses nuclear weapons — while the Saudis use their oil, money and investments. [For more details, see Consortiumnews.com’s “Saudis Said to Aid Israeli Plan to Bomb Iran.”]
What the world saw in Netanyahu’s bravura performance on Tuesday before the wildly applauding members of the U.S. Congress was him proving his value to his Saudi cohorts, demonstrating how he can make some of America’s most powerful politicians behave like trained seals, bouncing up and down to cheer him even when he openly seeks to undermine the sitting U.S. President.
Some of the loudest applause came when Netanyahu told the Congress, “My friends, for over a year, we’ve been told that no deal is better than a bad deal. Well, this is a bad deal. It’s a very bad deal. We’re better off without it.”
Netanyahu’s enthusiastic reception signaled to President Obama that he has little political support for a negotiated agreement with Iran and signaled to Iran that all their concessions are unlikely to lead to any meaningful easing of sanctions from the U.S. Congress.
Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).
The New York Times is reporting that most Republican voters as well as quite a few Democrats are leaning in favor of American soldiers intervening directly in Syria and Iraq. Republican politicians are paying attention, sounding more bellicose than ever, demanding “boots on the ground” and even suggesting that a John Bolton presidential run is a real possibility.
Apparently the widely noted war fatigue resulting from all the unsuccessful military engagements after 9/11 has worn off. ISIS and Russia are, of course the enemies du jour, but there is also a frequently expressed hankering to go after the Mullahs in Iran if they don’t completely cede their sovereignty tout suite. And there is always the “Red Menace” from China if all else fails. So many enemies, so little time to defeat them all.
How did all this come about as the United States has almost no actual interests compelling getting involved in the Middle East or Eastern Europe yet again? It is not as if a new foray into realms that we Yanks know little or nothing about is likely to be any more successful than the last couple of misadventures. To be sure, a series of sickening atrocities by ISIS has gotten the juices flowing, but the White House’s desire to obtain blanket authority to initiate and deepen an open ended conflict that presumably will go on forever is just about as poorly defined and prone to failure as was the Bushite global war on terror that it replaces.
Part of the problem is undoubtedly an ignorant public. Foreign news coverage is superficial and tends to follow a preordained groupthink that is set by the engaged punditry in Washington and New York City. Putin is always evil and the Iranians are always perfidious. Americans remain ignorant because they are fed a steady diet of untruths and are rarely allowed to hear or read alternative viewpoints. The journalists who write the lies for the leading newspapers and who interview Senator John McCain repeatedly on Sunday mornings are far worse than Brian Williams, who only embellished his stories. The Judy Millers of this world go far beyond that in selling a complete set of bogus goods carefully packaged into prefabricated arguments, which, in the case of Iraq, led to an unnecessary and ultimately disastrous war.
The media has a responsibility to challenge such dishonesty but it rarely does so. A recent puff piece in the Washington Post on Republican President wannabe Mike Huckabee’s acting as a tour guide to Israel was astonishing in terms of what it forgot to mention. Huckabee clearly thumped his belief that God and Israel and the United States are all joined at the hip, but along the way he also revealed that he believes that the Palestinian people do not actually exist, denying them any kind of historical claim to their own land. The article also quoted Morton Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America, who was accompanying Huckabee, as saying “there’s really no such thing as the ‘Palestinians’.”
The author of the piece, the Post’s Israel correspondent William Booth, did not point out that the claim is ridiculous and un-historical, that Palestine has been settled for thousands of years with an indigenous population that was initially pagan and Jewish, then mostly Christian, and finally mostly Muslim. If roots define national legitimacy then the Palestinian Arabs have more claim to the land that now makes up Israel than do the recent Jewish settlers who came from Europe, America and elsewhere in the Middle East. But a casual reader knowing none of that would not be enlightened by Mr. Booth and might quite possibly leave the article with the impression that there are no Palestinians.
The Post’s editorial policy is relentlessly neocon under the tutelage of Fred Hiatt, whom, hopefully, Jeff Bezos will be firing when he finally gets around to shaking up the paper’s senior staff. There has been a steady drumbeat to take military action against Russia and Syria while sniping relentlessly against any possible agreement with Iran.
Gems that have appeared recently in connection with the upcoming visit by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu include Dennis Ross’s February 22 nd op-ed on “How to ease Israel’s concerns.” Ross, once described as “Israel’s lawyer,” is inevitably most concerned with making Israel comfortable and proposes legislation mandating a military strike by the U.S. if Iran were perceived to be moving towards weapons grade production of uranium. Of course Ross ignores the evidence that such a perception can be engineered through fake intelligence or by political interests seeking to start a war. The IAEA recently determined that much of the case for Iran having an alleged weapons program in the first place was derived from intelligence fabricated by the United States and also Israel. Ross’s advice would create a trip wire and place the decision whether the U.S. should go to war with Iran in Israel’s hands.
A day later there was a triple whammy. The Post printed a letter from one Robert Tropp claiming that Iran is “developing a nuclear weapon” and “wants to destroy Israel.” Neither assertion is true but the editorial staff apparently felt the letter made a significant contribution to the discussion. On the facing page appeared two articles, one by Hiatt himself, entitled “A credibility gap: Obama’s challenge in selling and Iran deal” and the second by former Senator Joe Lieberman entitled “Hear out Israel’s leader.”
Hiatt argues that President Barack Obama should have sought to “eradicate[e] Iran’s nuclear weapons potential” and points out that the president has backed off from previous foreign policy commitments, including what to do about Iraq, Syria, and Russia. One might note that Hiatt’s desire to “eradicate” a “potential” could be interpreted to mean almost anything that Iran does that the Washington Post does not like.
Because Iran is a Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty signatory whose facilities are open to inspection it has a perfect right to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes. All of which means that Hiatt is essentially saying that Iran’s rights under international law should be abrogated because they make Israel nervous, though he does not, of course, mention Israel. Nor for that matter does he bother to explain exactly how Iran threatens the United States.
Israel, of course, is central to Hiatt’s argument. It has an estimated secret arsenal that includes two hundred nuclear weapons and multiple delivery systems, which Hiatt does not find disturbing, presumably because Benjamin Netanyahu is such a solid individual. Hiatt concludes by expressing his desire to see Congress as a partner in any agreement with Iran. As the Republican majority in Congress is hostile to any deal he is basically calling for a solution that can only fail.
Lieberman on the other hand does not hide his deep regard for Israel and all its works. He encourages all Congressmen to attend the Netanyahu speech on March 3 rd. For Joe, the former “conscience of the Senate,” it is all about hearing Bibi explain how “best to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons” and also because everyone should be a “strong supporter of America’s alliance with Israel.” In addition Congressmen have to be informed by experts like Netanyahu because some day down the road they might have to raise armies and declare war as Iran is not just threatening Israel. Those mad Mullahs are developing nukes and long range missiles that can strike America. And nuclear proliferation by Iran is particularly bad because it might encourage Arab neighbors to do the same.
Joe then returns to his oft repeated meme that “Israel is one of our closest and most steadfast allies” before concluding that Iran “remains the greatest threat to the security of America and the world.” The op-ed is so bad that one suspects Joe wrote it himself, though possibly with a little help from AIPAC. Every single point made is wrong or misleading, most particularly the double assertion that Israel is a wonderful ally. It is not an ally at all and never has been. And if there is an out of control secret nuclear proliferator in the Middle East whose paranoid behavior might well produce a nuclear World War 3 it is Israel, which ex-Senator Lieberman fails to grasp.
If I could I would like to send a message to the mainstream media. It might go something like this: “Please tell your readers the truth for a change. The only thing exceptional about America at the present time is our hubris. We helped create al-Qaeda by attacking the Soviets in Afghanistan. Iraq is a basket case because we invaded it without cause. Syria is in chaos because we have never seriously sought a peaceful solution with Bashar al-Assad. What we have done in Iraq and Syria taken together has produced ISIS. Libya is a toxic mess because we overthrew its government on phony humanitarian grounds. Afghanistan is about to copy Iraq because we have occupied it for thirteen years without a clue how to get out. We started the troubles in Ukraine and with Russia when we broke our promise by expanding NATO and then worked to overthrow an elected government. And finally there is Israel. Israel is not an ally and is the source of many of the problems in the Middle East. American and Israeli interests do not coincide, frequently quite the contrary.”
Five activists were arrested Sunday in the American capital for demonstrating outside the Washington Convention Center where the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), a well-known pro-Israeli lobby, was holding its annual policy conference.
Believed to be one of the largest pro-Israeli gatherings, the AIPAC policy conference kicked off on Sunday, and will last for three days.
A group of protesters mobilized by an anti-war group known as CODEPINK or Women for Peace on social media under the hashtag #ShutDownAIPAC tried to block the entrance to the convention center. Several civil society organizations, including Jewish ones, joined the demonstration.
Some protesters were waving flags of Hezbollah, a Lebanese resistance movement against Israel which is listed as a “terrorist organization” by the US.
Israel occupied parts of Lebanon for 22 years until 2000 and the two countries are still technically at war.
The latest Israeli war on Lebanon in the summer of 2006 killed more than 1,200 Lebanese, most of them civilians, and 160 Israelis, most of them soldiers.
“The purpose of the rally was to draw attention to this organization’s role as a special interest lobby that maintains a dangerous stranglehold over US policies and diverts US tax dollars from American needs and into Israeli militarism,” a statement by CODEPINK read.
The activists were violently removed by police from the front of the Washington Convention Center while chanting: “Netanyahu, War Criminal! Free, Free, Palestine!”
“We’re here to say that this organization is on the path of war,” one of the protest organizers, Medea Benjamin told Anadolu news agency. … Full article
Out of 2056 votes cast at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, 73% voted in favor of boycotting Israeli academic institutions.
The Palestine Society and the BDS campaign at SOAS state: “This historic result has brought us one step further in our struggle for freedom and justice. We do not tolerate any collaboration with academic institutions which are complicit in human rights violations and which do not practice the values of academic freedom and equality. We call upon other universities to show their solidarity by joining the academic boycott.”
The referendum was called for by the Students’ Union, and was conducted in an open, fair and transparent environment.
SOAS has ties with the Hebrew University, which joined the “war effort” last summer when the Israeli army murdered over 2,000 Palestinians in Gaza.
The academic boycott campaign does not contradict academic freedom as it targets Israeli institutions complicit in the oppression of Palestinians, not individuals. Open enquiry, free exchange of ideas, and intellectual freedom are crucial, but freedom can only be real when it is afforded to all. This has to include the Palestinians.
What’s really terrifying about this threat
By John Chuckman | Aletho News | March 1, 2015
ISIS certainly is not what a great many people think that it is, if you judge what they think by what our corporate press proclaims incessantly.
Judging by what ISIS actually does and whom its acts benefit, its clandestine associates, and the testimony of some witnesses, ISIS is a complex intelligence operation. Its complexity reflects at least in part the fact that it serves the interests of several countries and that it has more than one objective. Its complexity reflects also the large effort to reinforce a false image with disinformation and staged events such as a video of a beheading which could not have been a beheading unless they’ve discovered a bloodless method until now unknown to science.
The subject of ISIS is not without brief glimmers of humor. The image of bands of men, swathed in Arabic robes and bumping their way around the desert in Japanese pick-up trucks with Kalashnikovs raised in the air for every picture has elements of Monty Python. The idea of modern, trained and well-armed military units turning and running from them resembles a war scene in a Laurel and Hardy comedy such as the one with Hardy stuck upside down in a WWI tank turret kicking his legs the whole time Laurel drives towards the German positions managing accidentally to round-up a whole trench-full of prisoners with some wire fencing that becomes snagged on the tank.
Despite the tiresome stupidities we see and hear about it, ISIS unquestionably does kill people and destroy things, that being its purpose, and there is no humor in that.
ISIS appears to have served several tasks so far. First, it frightened Iraq’s Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, out of office in Iraq, a man America and Israel grew very much to dislike owing simply to his good relations with Iran, one of the unintended consequences of America’s invasion of Iraq being expanded Iranian influence in the region. No doubt al-Maliki was terrified not so much by ISIS approaching in their pick-up trucks as he was by his own military’s tendency, as if on cue, to turn and run from ISIS, often leaving weapons behind. The message was clear: you won’t be protected.
Second, America’s highly selective “air war” against ISIS somehow manages to attack infrastructure targets inside Syria with the feeble excuse that they are facilities helping ISIS. We’ve seen what American bombing can do when it’s undertaken seriously, and somehow I have a hard time imaging the men in Japanese pick-ups lasting long when faced with what hit the Taleban in Afghanistan or Gadhafi’s forces in Libya. The air strikes are partly a show for the world – after all, how can America be seen not to be fighting such extremely well-advertised, super-violent terrorists, guys putting out videos regularly from a studio trailer they must haul around with one of their pick-up trucks? The air strikes’ main purpose appears to be a way of hurting Assad and assisting those fighting Syria’s army without coming into conflict with Russia, as they would with a large, direct campaign. They likely also punish elements of ISIS which have exceeded their brief and serve as a reminder to the rest of what could happen to them if they stray too far from their subsidized purpose once the war comes to an end.
Three, in some of the ground fighting in Iraq where we’ve read of Iraqi units fighting ISIS, the units are often Kurdish, and sometimes the press uses expressions like “Iraqi and Kurdish troops.” But the Kurdish region is still part of Iraq legally, although it has been given a good deal of autonomy by the central government. The Kurdish region of Iraq is the country’s prime oil-producing area, and in the estimation of many observers, an area both the United States and Israel would very much like to see severed from Iraq in the way Kosovo was severed from Serbia after America’s devastating air war there. This would not only permanently assure Iraq’s weakness, it would create a rather grateful and more willing oil supplier.
Where does ISIS get its technical equipment and the know-how to produce videos and run Internet sites? These are not qualities commonly found among fanatical fundamentalists anywhere; indeed most true radical fundamentalists tend to eschew technology. A supply of advice, technical assistance, and equipment comes from somewhere. Where does ISIS get the money for food, gasoline, clothes, ammunition, and Japanese pick-up trucks? And I wonder, did one of those wild-looking jihadi types just show up one day at an Iraqi car dealership and order a fleet of Japanese pick-ups? Were they delivered out on the desert or did a gang of jihadists march in, waving their Kalashnikovs, to drive them away?
The effort to destroy the Syrian government, whether by means of ISIS or anyone else, is warmly and generously supported by Saudi Arabia and its buddy Qatar – another oil-rich, absolute monarchy where political parties are banned – both these countries’ primary interest being the defence of their immensely privileged situations against creeping threats of all progressive developments such as equal human rights or democracy or indeed against revolt led by external forces. The payments we now know the Saudi royal family long made to Osama bin Laden before 9/11 were simply bribes to keep him and his anti-establishment work out of the country. They really didn’t care a lot about what the money bought elsewhere, but since 9/11 and its many Saudi connections – 15 of the perpetrators plus the past financing plus the many members of the royal family and bin Laden family secretly flown out by American officials at the time – the Saudi authorities were genuinely fearful of how America might respond and have become far more responsive to what America wants in the Middle East and now apply their money to such projects. What America wants in the Middle East is, invariably, what Israel wants, so there is now extensive, secret cooperation where once there was complete official hostility.
We have reports from plane-spotters in the region of daily flights of mysterious planes from Israel to Qatar. We have several eye-witness reports and photographs of supply bundles dropped from unknown planes into ISIS territory. Maybe ISIS has its own air force now? We know Turkey has served both as an entry point for countless terrorists into Syria and as a place of retreat and refuge when fighting with the Syrian army becomes too hot for them, the volumes of such activity having been too great to keep secret. We have reports of Turkish supply flights. A Jordanian official recently told a reporter that ISIS members were trained in 2012 by American instructors working at a secret base in Jordan.
If ISIS is what our corporate news pretends that it is – a fanatical Muslim extremist group that sprang suddenly from the desert sands much like Jack’s bean stalk – one blindingly obvious question is, why does it not attack Israel or Israeli interest? Isn’t that what one would expect from such a cast of characters? But it has not done so, undoubtedly because Israel is an important covert benefactor and supplier.
We might equally ask why ISIS has not attacked Saudi Arabia or its interests, for although the Saudi royal family officially professes a strict and conservative form of Islam, Wahhabism, in fact many of them are very worldly people who spend a good deal of time and money at the world’s great pleasure palaces. Perhaps even more damning for a genuine fanatical fundamentalist, the Saudis now often secretly cooperate and make plans with Israel where mutual interests exist.
No, there is something highly suspicious about Islamic fundamentalist terrorists who avoid such interests while managing to brutally kill poor Syrian soldiers just doing their jobs along with the odd foreign journalist or aid worker who may just have seen something they shouldn’t have seen. Of course, we have Edward Snowden himself having described ISIS as an operation intended to protect Israel. Despite the fact that some news sources have said the interview in which this was revealed never took place, my instincts tell me it likely did. Snowden has never refuted it, and the news sources saying it did not are highly suspect on such a subject.
The way ISIS serves Israeli and American interests is by providing a focus point for extremists, attracting them from various parts of the world so that they can be recorded and kept track of. Also the tracks back to the various countries from which they come provide security services with leads to places where there might be some festering problems. In the meantime, ISIS serves the interest of helping to bring down President Assad, a goal dear to the hearts of Israelis. Please remember that black operations, even the ones about which we know, show little consideration for lives or property. Just think of Israel’s attack on an American spy ship in the Mediterranean during the Six Day War, its pilots knowingly shooting up and bombing for two hours the well-marked ship of its ally and benefactor, no explanation worth hearing ever having been offered.
Just read conservative mainline sources (pretty much a redundant pair of adjectives) about the harm Snowden has done: claims of everything from his revelations about American intelligence having served to help ISIS avoid detection (!) to his revelations having set up the United States for another 9/11! You might think intelligent people would be ashamed of making such asinine public statements, but, no, there are almost no limits to trying to discredit those revealing murderous, dark operations.
We’ve had many reports of officials in various countries, including Canada as I write, concerned about the odd individual or small group running off to join ISIS. Now why should that be a concern? A few flaky people going abroad just removes them from your country, something I should have thought was a complete gain from a security point of view. Even if they were ever to return in future, you would know exactly who they are. Where is the basis for serious concern? But the psychological advantages of noise and hype to scare people about obscure dangers and “lone wolves” and “home-grown terrorists” outweigh completely good sense and intelligence.
Finally, there are numerous reports that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (a nom de guerre, not his real name), the leader of ISIS, is a Western intelligence asset. What little we can learn about him makes that entirely plausible. The Supreme Leader of Iran, Ali Khamenei, has said that the man is a Mossad agent, a claim supported supposedly by documents revealed by Edward Snowden. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is by all accounts a secretive man who speaks directly with few people, and even his birth place, given as Samarra, Iraq, is not sure. Records of his past, as those from his period of American captivity (always a great opportunity to “turn” someone to serving two interests), are not available. He was once reported killed but is still alive. He is said to have received intensive training from Mossad and the CIA, and some sources give his real name as Simon Elliot (or, Elliot Shimon), but few details can ever be certain in such dark operations.
The truly terrifying aspect of ISIS and other forces fighting with it in Syria is that the United States and Israel have approved and supported such wanton destruction in so beautiful and formerly-peaceful a place as Syria. Millions of lives destroyed and countless historic places damaged as though they were all nothing more than a few pieces moved on a geopolitical chessboard. I think it fair to describe that as the work of psychopaths.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has suggested that the Israeli regime deliberately targeted a base of UN peacekeeping forces along Lebanon’s southern border last month, in which a peacekeeper was killed.
“The incident happened at a UNIFIL base which is known perfectly by Israeli forces,” Ban said, using the acronym for the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon.
According to Lebanon’s An-Nahar daily on Saturday, Ban also censured the killing of the Spanish peacekeeper who died in the Israeli shelling of the UNIFIL post in January.
During the Israeli raid on the Lebanese border, the observation tower of a Spanish UNIFIL position in Abbasieh, one kilometer east of Ghajar, was directly struck by an artillery shell, killing Cpl. Francisco Javier Soria Toledo.
A report submitted to the UN Security Council on Friday by the UN’s Special Coordinator for Lebanon Sigrid Kaag held the Israeli regime “fully liable for the death of the peacekeeper.”
Israel launched the attack after Lebanese resistance movement Hezbollah targeted an Israeli military convoy in the Israeli-occupied Shebaa Farms on January 28, killing two soldiers and wounding several others while destroying at least nine Israeli military vehicles.
The attack by Hezbollah was launched in response to an Israeli airstrike in the town of Qunaitra in Syria’s Golan Heights 10 days earlier, which killed several top members of the Lebanese resistance movement and an Iranian commander.
The Israeli attack on the UNIFIL post in January was not the first of its kind.
Four UN observers were killed in an Israeli airstrike on their post in Khiam, southern Lebanon, during the 2006 Israeli war on the Arab country. Then-UN chief Kofi Annan said at the time that the attack appeared to be “deliberate.”
A French UN observer was also killed in 2005 near the Shebaa Farms by Israeli tank shelling.
The most notorious Israeli attack, however, came in April 1996, when artillery shells fired by the regime’s forces struck the Fijian battalion headquarters in Qana, killing 107 civilians who had taken refuge at the compound.
Israel reportedly bypassed the White House and asked the US Congress for an extra $317 million to be added to President Barack Obama’s budget for the next fiscal year in order to fund Israeli missile defense programs, Bloomberg reported.
The requested funds would be in addition to the $158 million already proposed by the Pentagon for Israel’s security needs for the fiscal year that will begin on October 1. The new allocation will allegedly finance the ‘David’s Sling’ and ‘Arrow-3′ programs – designed to intercept medium- to long-range missiles – as well as provide an anti-ballistic missile system.
According to Bloomberg’s report on Friday, the director of Israel’s missile defense organization Yair Ramati “visited lawmakers and aides to the congressional defense committees on February 2 and 3 to outline the case for more money and thank them for past assistance.”
Ramati completely bypassed the White House and the Pentagon. The report links the move to the tense relationship between the Obama administration and the Israeli government ahead of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to Congress on March 3, which is likely to stress that the White House is pursuing a “bad deal” by negotiating to curb Iran’s nuclear program.
The report revealed that Ramati’s proposal included $250 million to start production of the David’s Sling system, in addition to Obama’s $37 million request for development. Another $35 million Ramati requested for the initial production of Arrow 3, in addition to the $55.7 million the US administration is seeking for development.
During his visit to Capitol Hill, Ramati “distributed one-page sheets naming US contractors that would benefit from production funds for each of the missile defense systems.” According to Bloomberg’s information, the list included Chicago-based Boeing Co.; Waltham, Massachusetts-based Raytheon Co.; Arlington, Virginia-based Orbital ATK Inc.; and Falls Church, Virginia-based Northrop Grumman Corp.
When contacted by Bloomberg, the Israeli embassy in the US declined to comment on the report.
The US already provides Israel with $3.1 billion a year as “foreign military financing,” which excludes other missile defense funds, according to the report.
For the current fiscal year, Congress has reportedly provided $620 million, including about $347 million for missile defense programs. US Congress has appropriated more than $1.2 billion since 2011 for the Iron Dome, which is designed to intercept and destroy rockets.
In light of the large amounts of distributed funds, US lawmakers have been insisting that Israel use American-based defense contractors when spending the received money.
Last year, the Israeli government agreed to spend more than half the funds provided by the Pentagon for the Iron Dome in the US by this year. Until recently, the missile system was been built solely in Israel by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd.
Iran nuclear talks have created a significant rift between Israel and the US. Last week, the White House and State Department stated that Israel inaccurately provided information and twisted the official US position in nuclear talks with Iran, and accused Tel Aviv of “selectively” leaking details of sensitive talks.
Washington has also voiced suspicion that Netanyahu’s office directly provided Israeli journalists with the leaked information, including an alleged offer to Iran to keep 6,500 centrifuges for uranium enrichment. A White House spokesman expressed frustration with the “cherry-picked” information released by the Israelis out of context.
Israel Secretly Arrests Golani Druze, Accusing Him of Exposing Syrian Rebel-Jewish State Collaboration
Israel’s Shin Bet rearrested Golani Druze Sedki al-Maket (age 48). Until his release in 2012 (Hebrew), he’d been the longest serving Israeli security prisoner, having spent 27 years detained. News of his arrest is under gag order by Israeli media. The gag is laughable since the arrest has been reported not only by Syrian media, but in a Hebrew Facebook post.
Though Israeli security services haven’t offered any reason for his arrest, it’s likely they’re angered because a week ago he followed Syrian rebels to a meeting inside Israeli-occupied territory. The rebels met with Israeli forces who’ve previously been shown to receive logistical and intelligence support from Israel in previous reports here and in Israel and foreign media. Al Maket filmed a video while the meeting was underway, in which he described what he saw and offered it to Syrian TV. It was aired to the entire nation and likely monitored by Israeli security.
The Shin Bet doesn’t want any further leaks about such collaboration because it allows the Syrian regime to paint the rebels as Israeli stooges. It also gives the lie to those Israeli intelligence figures and journalists who’ve spoken falsely about Israel remaining neutral regarding the two sides fighting in Syria. Despite numerous air attacks against Syrian government facilities, assassinations of Syrian, Hezbollah and Iranian military, and security cooperation with rebels, Israel continues to maintain the fiction it hasn’t chosen sides.
If anyone wonders why Islamists are beheading western journalists and occupying Iraq and Syria, while carefully avoiding Israeli targets, this will explain a lot. It will also explain Israel’s approach which is to weaken central power in Syria, so that the Golan region closest to the border will become a protectorate, as was southern Lebanon until Israel’s withdrawal in 2000. Having Syrian rebels under Israeli sponsorship ruling the Syrian Golan will be much more conducive to maintaining Israel control and occupation for years to come.
Meanwhile, the Israeli media is content to publish happy news about the Golani Druze village of Majd al-Shams (home to al-Maket), which apparently has become a playground for a certain hip Israeli scene which enjoys pub crawling in the midst of Israeli-occupied Golan. If the report is to be believed, you can hardly tell the difference between it and Berlin or New York!