Susiya, a West Bank village under threat of demolition, has now made it into the pages of The New York Times news section, and we are permitted a view of how Israel wants us to see this disturbing story: All the fuss about Susiya is little more than the result of clever marketing on the part of the villagers.
Thus we find a story today by Diaa Hadid titled (in the online version) “How a Palestinian Hamlet of 340 Drew Global Attention.” This primes readers from the start to expect a tale of simple villagers who devised a winning media strategy, and it distracts from the real issue, which is nothing less than ethnic cleansing: Susiya is to be destroyed to make way for Jewish settlers.
High in her story Hadid writes, in a telling phrase, that “the cause of [this] tiny village” has become “outsized,” in other words overblown, as if Susiya, with its population of 300 or so, is not worth the fuss.
The village first got notice when “sympathetic” foreigners visited Susiya some 20 years ago and took up its cause, Hadid states. By that time the residents had been forced out of their original homes and were living near the centuries-old site that had belonged to their ancestors.
Jewish settlers had taken over the original village in 1986, she writes, and Israeli forces made them move on again them in 1990 “for unknown reasons.” They were expelled once more in 2001, according to Hadid, “as collective punishment over the shooting death of a Jewish settler.”
Her story omits a crucial detail: The authorities knew that the villagers were innocent of the killing but used the incident as an excuse to harass the Susiya residents once more. The Times account leaves the impression that a Susiya resident was responsible for the settler’s death.
Hadid quotes a staff member of B’Tselem, an Israeli rights group, who notes that residents “have managed to place Susiya on the international agenda in ways that other villages have not managed to do,” and her story goes on to say that “years of advocacy appeared to pay off when Susiya’s residents began warning early this month that their village was under threat.”
As a result, the story reports, Susiya received visits from a European Union delegation, Israeli activists and American consular officials. Then, a week ago, the U.S. State Department mentioned Susiya in a press briefing and urged Israel to spare the village.
The Times story suggests that Susiya has received this backing because of its skill in winning attention, and by imposing this angle on the story, the newspaper is attempting to divert readers from the real issues at play: the fact that Israel’s treatment of the villagers is blatantly racist and defies the norms of international and humanitarian law.
Also missing is the context of occupation and dispossession that is crushing Susiya and other villages. Hadid fails to give any sense of this. She writes only that activists have used the village as a symbol of how Israel “has sought to maintain control over large parts of the occupied West Bank.”
We find the word “occupied” here, as usual in Times reporting, but it is devoid of meaning. Readers do not hear that the West Bank is Palestinian territory; that Israel is there as an invading military force; and that the settlements violate international law, which forbids an occupying power from transferring its own population into the foreign territory.
The Times story makes no reference to international law, but it does quote an Israeli military spokesman who says Susiya “was built illegally.” Thus Hadid emphasizes the pretext of legality Israel draws over its defiance of international norms while she ignores the flagrant breaches of the Geneva Convention and other standards.
Readers can pick up some revealing details in the story: the ousted villagers’ descriptions of sleeping outside “in the wild, in the rain,” the fact that they can no longer access two- thirds of their original land because of the settlers, the expectation that if Susiya goes, other vulnerable villages will also fall to Israel’s greed for Palestinian land.
But the story glosses over these details to present the Susiya’s case as above all a successful publicity effort. The Times would have us believe that the real story here is how the village became an “outsized” international cause, through “years of advocacy.”
Susiya is just one of many villages in Israel’s Negev and in the occupied West Bank where Israel is determined to ethnically cleanse certain areas of their indigenous inhabitants and install Jewish residents in their place. Times readers are finally learning about Susiya only because international attention has forced the newspaper to acknowledge the issue.
The village should have been known to readers long before now, just as they should also know of dozens more facing annihilation: Al Araqib, Umm Al Kher and Khirbet Yarza, to name just a few. In the South Hebron Hills alone, where Susiya is located, some 30 villages are faced with demolition.
But even now the Times can’t just tell the story of a village nearly helpless under the weight of Israeli might, a community faced with extinction after centuries of living on the land. Instead we find an effort to play down the tragedy, to present it as an overblown cause, not really worth our concern.
The New York Times has finally done the right thing and informed readers of Israel’s plan to destroy an entire village in the West Bank. This is good to see, but the move exposes a significant fault line in the newspaper: The foreign desk and Jerusalem bureau have been the gatekeepers here, avoiding their responsibilities in reporting the story.
The piece appears on the op-ed page under the byline of one of the threatened villagers—Nasser Nawaja, community organizer and a researcher for the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem. It’s a good article, summarizing the sad history of Susiya and the resistance to Israel’s plan, which comes from local and international supporters.
Nawaja’s article includes a quote from U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby made during a press briefing last week. Kirby was clearly prepared to address the issue and ask Israel to back off. This in itself should have prompted the news section of the paper to address the story, but the Times remained silent. (See TimesWarp 7-20-15.)
Until today the only mention of Susiya’s plight came in a Reuters story that the Times published earlier this week without posting it on the Middle East or World pages. Readers had no way to find it unless they specifically searched for it, by typing in the key word “Susiya,” for instance.
The story of Susiya and its struggle to survive has been reported in news outlets since 2013. The United Nations and other groups, such as Rabbis for Human Rights, have issued statements and press releases on Susiya; the European Union, and now the State Department, have spoken out; but none of this prompted the Times to do what good journalism demands and assign a reporter to the story.
The Times’ treatment of Susiya is reminiscent of a similar story, which emerged during the attacks on Gaza in 2012: In one day Israel targeted and killed three journalists traveling in marked cars, but the Times article describing events that day simply said that “a bomb” had killed two men, even though an officer confirmed the army’s responsibility.
Times readers learned the full story only when columnist David Carr wrote of the journalists’ deaths days later in the Business section. He titled his piece “Using War As a Cover to Target Journalists,” and he did the reporting that was missing in the news section. (See TimesWarp 2-17-15.)
Carr gave the details of the killings, and quoted the lieutenant colonel who affirmed the attacks on the journalists. He then wrote, “So it has come to this: killing members of the media can be justified by a phrase as amorphous as ‘relevance to terror activity.’”
When Carr died earlier this year, the Times was filled with tributes to his work, but none of the articles mentioned this fine moment of his career. The story of the assassinated journalists never again emerged in the newspaper.
Susiya may have a different fate, however. Now that its name has appeared in the back pages of the newspaper, we may find that the story flickers to life in the news section as well. All things are possible, even in the Times.
Although the facts, the law, and admissions by Israeli government officials all pointed otherwise, during the July-August 2014 Israeli assault on Gaza, the Israeli government was successful in promoting its self-defense claim with western news media and in persuading certain U.S. politicians that Israel was implementing its right to defend itself.
Claims of “self-defense” against Hamas rocket fire were invoked by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, U.S. President Barack Obama, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, and the United States Senate, and not only as justification for the Israeli assault. “Self-defense” against the rockets also served to deflect allegations that Israeli forces committed war crimes by targeting civilians and civilian property in Gaza.
Public relations campaigns based on self-defense have been critical to Israeli officials avoiding accountability after each of the six major assaults on Gaza since Israel withdrew its settlers from Gaza in 2005. Notwithstanding the reports of war crimes committed by Israeli forces, the remarkable success of those self-defense based public relations campaigns continued to provide Israeli officials with impunity: the freedom to strike militarily again.
That impunity may come to an end if the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) decides to open an investigation into the situation in Palestine and prosecutions follow. However, immediately after the Prosecutor announced that she was launching a “preliminary examination” on January 16, 2015, Netanyahu launched a multi-pronged “public diplomacy campaign to discredit the legitimacy of the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) recent decision to start an inquiry into what the Palestinians call Israeli ‘war crimes’ in the disputed territories.” The public diplomacy campaign is based entirely on Israel’s claim that it acted in self-defense. The Israeli campaign also included a threat to disregard the decision of the court, a threat to the funding of the court, and the announcement that Israel was freezing transfer of more than $100 million a month in taxes Israel collects for the Palestinian Authority in retaliation for the State of Palestine joining the ICC and requesting the ICC inquiry.
A new 63 page report, “Neither facts nor law support Israel’s self-defense claim regarding its 2014 assault on Gaza,” submitted to the ICC Prosecutor on behalf of the Palestine Subcommittee of the National Lawyers Guild (“the ICC submission”), uses both authoritative contemporaneous Israeli and Palestinian reports and newly released reports and documents to demonstrate that Israeli claims of “self-defense” for its 2014 attack on Gaza are unsupported in both fact and law. The ICC submission notes that the unusual strategy implemented by Israeli officials to publically discredit the court inquiry demonstrated a distinct departure from the traditional method of respectfully presenting evidence and persuasive arguments to the court.
The facts don’t fit Israel’s self-defense claim
Among the material considered in the ICC submission is the 277 page Israeli government report, “The 2014 Gaza Conflict: Factual and Legal Aspects” that was released by the Israeli government on June 14, 2015. Although the Israeli government report builds its case around self-defense, to its credit, the Israeli government report openly acknowledges that Israeli military forces (a) had been striking Gaza during 2013 and early 2014, (b) had launched a massive attack on the West Bank in mid-June 2014, and (c) had launched an aerial strike on a tunnel in Gaza on July 5, 2014. However, the Israeli government report omits mention that all these dates were before the night of July 7, 2014, the date a contemporaneous report from an authoritative Israeli source said “For the first time since Operation Pillar of Defense [November 21, 2012], Hamas participated in and claimed responsibility for rocket fire” (emphasis in the original). The contemporaneous report was issued by the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center (ITIC), a private Israeli think tank that the Washington Post says “has close ties with the country’s military leadership.”
While the Israeli government report acknowledged the aerial strike on the tunnel in Gaza, it omitted mention of the extent of Israeli attacks on Gaza during the night before Hamas participated and claimed responsibility for its first rocket fire since 2012: The contemporaneous ITIC July 2 – July 8, 2014 weekly report states that on July 7 “approximately 50 terrorist targets in the Gaza Strip were struck,” by Israeli forces, including strikes that killed six Hamas members in the tunnel.
The Israeli government report states:
On July 7, 2014, after more than 60 rockets and mortars were fired into Israel from the Gaza Strip on a single day, the Government of Israel was left with no choice but to initiate a concerted aerial operation against Hamas and other terrorist organisations in order adequately to defend Israel’s civilian population.
Thus, the Israeli government report claims that the government was acting to defend Israel’s civilian population notwithstanding the fact that it had just admitted to an Israeli government attack that preceded the Hamas rocket fire on July 7. The attack on the tunnel that the ITIC reported killed the six Hamas members.
In a minute by minute timeline of events that day, the Israeli daily newspaper Ha’aretz reported the Israeli attacks that began during the night of July 6 and continued in the early morning hours of July 7 that showed that the Israeli attack on the tunnel preceded the Hamas rockets:
at 2:24 a.m. on July 7:
Hamas reports an additional four militants died in a second Israeli air strike in Gaza, bringing Sunday night’s death total to six. This is the biggest single Israeli hit against Hamas since 2012’s Operation Pillar of Defense.
at 9:37 p.m. on July 7 Ha’aretz reported:
Hamas claims responsibility for the rockets fired at Ashdod, Ofakim, Ashkelon and Netivot. Some 20 rockets exploded in open areas in the last hour.
Thus, an authoritative contemporaneous Israeli report acknowledged the fact that Hamas started firing its rockets some 20 hours after Israeli forces launched the attack on Gaza and killed the six Hamas members.
The Israeli government report couches the more than 60 rockets launched at Israel on the night of July 7 as giving the government of Israel no choice but to escalate aerial operations. But the report fails to mention that Israel actually had a choice as to whether or not to launch its prior lethal attack on the night of July 6 and the early morning hours of July 7. By omitting mention of the timing and the lethal effects of its attack on the tunnel, the Israeli government report avoids recognizing that its killing of the six Hamas members provoked the Hamas rocket fire.
While the Israeli government report mentions strikes on Gaza during 2013 and 2014, it omits mention of the number of Palestinians killed by Israeli attacks during 2013 and the increased rate of such killing during the first three months of 2014.
According to a report issued by the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, “PCHR Annual Report 2013:”
The number of Palestinians who were killed by Israeli forces was 46 victims in circumstances where no threats were posed to the lives of Israeli soldiers. Five of these victims died of wounds they had sustained in previous years. Of the total number of victims, there were 41 civilians, 33 of whom were in the West Bank and eight in the Gaza Strip, including six children, two women; and five non-civilians, including one in the West Bank and the other four in the Gaza Strip. In 2013, 496 Palestinians sustained various wounds, 430 of them in the West Bank and 66 in the Gaza Strip, including 142 children and 10 women.
An escalation of Israeli violence against Palestinians in early 2014 compared to the rate for the entire year 2013 is evident from PCHR’s “Report on the Human Rights Situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, 1st Quarter of 2014.”Among the violations presented in the report, 20 Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces during the first three months of 2014, including 11 civilians of whom two were children; 259 were wounded, of whom 255 were civilians, including 53 children. “The majority of these Palestinians, 198, were wounded during peaceful protests and clashes with Israeli forces.”
Nor does the Israeli government report mention any of the lethal Israeli government attacks on the West Bank and Gaza in the days and weeks before three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped and killed on the West Bank on June 12, 2014:
* Israeli forces shot 9 teenagers demonstrating on the West Bank on May 15, killing two.
* Israeli forces wounded nine Palestinian civilians, including a child during the week of June 5 to June 11.
* Israeli forces launched an extrajudicial execution on June 11 in Gaza that killed one and wounded three.
Nor does the Israeli government report describe the extent of casualties inflicted by the June 13 to June 30 military offensive on the West Bank, Operation Brothers Keeper, in which Israeli forces killed 11 Palestinians and wounded 51, according to the contemporaneous weekly reports issued by the Palestinian Center for Human Rights.
In addition, the Israeli government’s 277 page report omits mention of admissions by Prime Minister Netanyahu of other military and political purposes for its assault on the West Bank, described in a contemporaneous report in the Israeli daily newspaper Yediot Aharonot, on June 15, 2014: to capture Hamas members (some of whom the Israeli government had previously released in a prisoner exchange and some of whom were Parliamentarians in the new Palestinian unity government), create “severe repercussions,” and punish the Palestinian Authority and Hamas for forming a unity government. Importantly, although he accused “Hamas people” of carrying out the kidnapping of the three Israeli teenagers, Netanyahu made no mention of stopping rocket fire. The non-mention of rocket fire by Netanyahu is consistent with the ITIC report of no rocket fire at that time.
Similarly, after describing the Israeli operations that caused Hamas to pay a “heavy price” on the West Bank, as shown in a video of his speech at the US Ambassador’s residence in Tel Aviv on July 4, Netanyahu acknowledged that “in Gaza we hit dozens of Hamas activists and destroyed outposts and facilities that served Hamas terrorists.” Thus Netanyahu himself acknowledged major Israeli military operations in Gaza preceding the launching of Hamas rockets on July 7.
Facilitating the Israeli and U.S. government campaign to pin responsibility on Hamas and support an Israeli self-defense claim, certain western news media, including the New York Times, published an incorrect timeline. The timeline published by the New York Times dated the start of the war to July 8, the first full day of Hamas rocket barrages, and more than a day after Israeli forces had escalated their aerial attack on Gaza killing the six Hamas members. The Times timeline simply omits mention of the lethal Israeli attacks on the night of July 6 and early morning hours on July 7 that Ha’aretz said preceded the Hamas barrage of rockets on the night of July 7. The New York Times timeline also omits mention of the 24 days of “Operation Bring Back Our Brothers,” that began on June 13, the June 11 extra-judicial execution of a Hamas member in Gaza, the June 13 attack on the “terrorist facility and a weapons storehouse in the southern Gaza Strip,” and the killing of the two Palestinian teenagers and wounding of seven other Palestinians who were demonstrating on May 15. The New York Times timeline also omits mention of the lethal Israeli attacks in 2013 and the escalation of those attacks in early 2014 that the Israeli government report admitted under the euphemism “targeted efforts to prevent future attacks.”
The law doesn’t fit Israel’s self-defense claim
Not just facts and admissions stand in the way of Israel’s self-defense claim. In a 2004 decision rejecting Israel’s self-defense claim for the wall, a relatively passive structure crossing occupied Palestinian territory, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) held that, under the UN Charter, self-defense under Article 51 of the UN Charter is inapplicable to measures taken by an occupying power within occupied territory. While the ICJ recognized Israel’s right and its duty to protect its citizens, it said “The measures taken are bound nonetheless to remain in conformity with applicable international law.” While the Israeli government report includes mention of a law review article that relies on an ICJ holding favorable to an Israeli position on another issue, the Israeli government report omits mention of the directly on point ICJ case regarding applicability of self-defense to Israel as occupying power in Gaza.
But even if Israel could overcome the facts showing that Israeli forces initiated the combat, and even if Israel was not the occupying power in Gaza and did not have to address the law regarding self-defense for an occupying power presented in the ICJ decision, Israel’s claim to self-defense would still be invalidated if its assault extended beyond what was necessary and proportionate to deal with an armed attack it was purportedly facing, as more fully described in the ICC submission.
Necessity was contradicted by the data provided by the ITIC showing that Israel had been wildly successful at stopping and/or preventing rocket fire by agreeing to and at least partially observing a ceasefire, while Israel consistently dialed up rocket fire with each of its major assaults on Gaza since 2006. By contrast, as shown in the ICC submission, hundreds of times more rockets were falling on Israel during each day of each of the major assaults on Gaza than were falling in the periods before Israeli forces attacked or after the assault ended with a new ceasefire.
Necessity was also contradicted by an article in the May 2013 Jerusalem Post, “IDF source: Hamas working to stop Gaza rockets,” quoting the IDF General who commands the army’s Gaza Division who said that Hamas had been policing other groups in Gaza “to thwart rocket attacks from the strip.” The Hamas observance of the ceasefire and its policing of other groups to prevent rocket fire demonstrated an effective alternative to an Israeli assault. The Israeli attacks on the West Bank and Gaza during the period between June 13 and the early morning hours of July 7, 2014 put that ceasefire and that Hamas policing of other groups at risk. Israel could have more effectively protected its citizens from rocket fire by continuing to at least partially observe the successful cease-fire in place before Israel escalated its assaults on the West Bank and Gaza. So the necessity for the escalation on June 13 and the further escalation on July 7 to protect Israeli citizens from rocket fire has not been shown.
The necessity and proportionality requirements for a self-defense claim were also contradicted by evidence that actions by Israeli forces during the assault on Gaza went outside the laws of war by directly targeting Palestinian civilians and Palestinian civilian property. The proportionality requirement was further contradicted by evidence of widespread Israeli attacks that harmed civilians or civilian property disproportionate to the military advantage Israeli forces received from the attacks. The evidence for such war crimes cited in the ICC submission comes from reports of investigations conducted by the UN Human Rights Council Commission of Inquiry (June 22, 2015); the Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, Lawyers for Palestinian for Human Rights (LPHR), and Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) (June 26, 2015); the UN Human Rights Council (December 26, 2014); Defense for Children International Palestine (April 2015); Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHR-Israel) (January 20, 2015); Al-Haq (August 19, 2014); the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) (September 4, 2014); Breaking the Silence (May 3, 2015); The Guardian (May 4, 2015); The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) (March 27, 2015), and contemporaneous and periodic reports issued by the Palestinian Center for Human Rights.
Along with support from top U.S. officials, the enormously successful public relations campaigns based on claimed self-defense that Israeli officials mounted during and after each of the Israeli assaults on Gaza allowed Israel to avoid accountability, maintain impunity, and launch subsequent attacks. In view of that successful record, the effectiveness of Israel’s “public diplomacy campaign to discredit the ICC inquiry” based on the same self-defense claims should not be underestimated. Widespread recognition that Israel’s self-defense claim is deeply flawed is needed to counter the intense pressure Israeli officials and their allies are exerting on the ICC so the court may resist that pressure and base its decisions strictly on the facts and law.
James Marc Leas is a patent attorney and a past co-chair of the National Lawyers Guild Palestine Subcommittee. He collected evidence in Gaza immediately after Operation Pillar of Defense in November 2012 as part of a 20 member delegation from the U.S. and Europe and authored or co-authored four articles for Counterpunch describing findings, including Why the Self-Defense Doctrine Doesn’t Legitimize Israel’s Assault on Gaza. He also participated in the February 2009 National Lawyers Guild delegation to Gaza immediately after Operation Cast Lead and contributed to its report, “Onslaught: Israel’s Attack on Gaza and the Rule of Law.”
Thomas Friedman, the New York Times op-ed-page representative of the foreign-policy elite, is unhappy with how the overtime Iran nuclear talks are going. He says that President Obama, like his predecessor George W. Bush, hasn’t been tough enough. Obama holds all the cards, but somehow the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is dictating terms. He writes:
It is stunning to me how well the Iranians, sitting alone on their side of the table, have played a weak hand against the United States, Russia, China, France, Germany and Britain on their side of the table…..
For the past year every time there is a sticking point … it keeps feeling as if it’s always our side looking to accommodate Iran’s needs. I wish we had walked out just once. When you signal to the guy on the other side of the table that you’re not willing to either blow him up or blow him off — to get up and walk away — you reduce yourself to just an equal and get the best bad deal nonviolence can buy. [Emphasis added.]
Friedman glosses over the fact that it is not “him” (foreign minister Javad Zarif?) who would be blown up in a war against Iran. It would be countless ordinary Iranians, who have done nothing to harm the American people. Those same innocent people would be harmed, admittedly in more subtle ways, if the P5+1 “blew off” Iranian negotiators because that would mean no relief from long-standing U.S.-led sanctions that have devastated the Iranian economy, boosting food and medicine prices among other inhumane consequences. Sanctions are acts of war. Would someone remind Friedman of that fact?
Friedman is ever the optimist, however. He believes it is still possible to get at least a “good bad deal,” the chances of a good deal having been blown by Obama’s “empty holster” strategy. It would be a deal “that, while it does not require Iran to dismantle its nuclear enrichment infrastructure, shrinks that infrastructure for the next 10 to 15 years so Iran can’t make a quick breakout to a bomb…. A deal that also gives us a level of transparency to monitor that agreement and gives international inspectors timely intrusive access to anywhere in Iran we suspect covert nuclear activity[.] One that restricts Iran from significantly upgrading its enrichment capacity over the next decade….” (As he notes, it would be deal approved by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, which he fails to point out is a spin-off think-tank of the chief Israel lobbyist, AIPAC.
Before judging Friedman’s analysis, certain facts must be kept in mind. Iran has never had a program designed to build a nuclear bomb. You wouldn’t know from his column that Iran is a party to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), subjecting it to intrusive inspections for many years. During those years the International Atomic Energy Agency has unfailingly certified that Iran has diverted not one uranium atom to military purposes. As Gareth Porter heavily documents in his conveniently ignored book, Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare, Iran’s leadership has directed its nuclear research and facilities to the production of electricity and medical isotopes. The so-called evidence against Iran, Porter shows, is little more than the alleged contents of a suspect laptop, which has yet to be presented for independent verification. The nonthreat has been affirmed by U.S. and Israeli intelligence.
A few minutes’ thought will indicate that Iran’s leadership has many reasons not to want nuclear weapons, which Khamenei condemned in a fatwa some time ago. What exactly would Iran do with a bomb? The U.S. government has thousands, and Israel has a few hundred, including submarine-mounted nukes that would be available for a second strike if anyone were crazy enough to launch a first strike against the Jewish State. By the way, unlike Iran, Israel refuses to sign the NPT and thus is subject to no inspections.
In other words, Iran has been framed. Friedman is simply doing the bidding of those who want a U.S. war of aggression against the Islamic Republic — namely, Israel, the Israel Lobby/neoconservative alliance, and Saudi Arabia.
Three Israeli civilians are standing trial for killing a Palestinian teenager in a brutal murder last summer, and The New York Times is on hand to report the details. It is all meant to carry a clear message to readers: that democracy is at work in Israel and the law is on hand to deal out justice.
So we read that Israeli prosecutors are pressing defendants to admit their intent to kill, that the families of defendants and the victim are on hand and that the “cramped courtroom” in Jerusalem is crowded with judges, lawyers and observers.
But for all its detail, this story by Isabel Kershner is missing some crucial context: the fact that Israel runs a blatantly racist system of justice, with strikingly different treatment for Israelis and Palestinians. The present trial—for the murder of 16-year-old Muhammad Abu Khdeir, who was doused with gasoline, beaten and burned in a wooded area a year ago—is far from typical.
In reality, Israeli civilians and security forces rarely stand trial for attacks on Palestinians. A study by the Israeli human rights monitoring organization, Yesh Din, released this May, shows that Palestinian complaints against Israeli civilians lead to indictments only 7.4 percent of the time, and only a third of these (or 2.5 percent of the complaints) result in even partial convictions.
Security forces are also shielded from prosecution. Yesh Din notes that criminal investigations against soldiers are rare and even when they do take place, they are closed without indictments 94 percent of the time. And, Yesh Din states, “In the rare cases that indictments are served, conviction leads to very light sentencing.”
In the Times story Kershner quotes the parents of the victim, who are skeptical of the Israeli justice system. “It is all an act,” the boy’s father says. “They burned Muhammad once. Every day we are burned anew.”
Readers are likely to dismiss his misgivings as rhetoric and prompted by anger and grief. In fact, Palestinians have reason for doubting that they can find justice in Israeli courts.
West Bank settlers, for instance, are tried in civilian courts, while their Palestinian neighbors—even the children—face trial in military courts, which are notorious for their lack of due process and impossibly high conviction rates. As UNICEF noted in an extensive report on the abuse of Palestinian children in Israeli custody: “In no other country are children systematically tried by juvenile military courts that, by definition, fall short of providing the necessary guarantees to ensure respect for their rights.”
Palestinians tried in Israeli military courts are convicted 99.74 percent of the time, according to Israeli Defense Force data. Knowing this, most Palestinians and their lawyers opt for plea bargains and give up even the faintest hope of receiving a fair trial.
None of this appears in Kershner’s story, but the context of Israeli justice as it applies to Palestinians is crucial to understanding what is really happening here. The fact is, Israeli officials know the world is watching this trial, just as it watched events unfold after Abu Khdeir was abducted and killed. We can expect at least the appearance of justice to be on display.
The Times, which has ignored the hundreds of cases that show Israel in a far different light, is ready here to present Israeli prosecutors pressing for justice. Readers will not suspect that the newspaper has failed to inform them of other, less savory, outcomes to Israeli crimes against Palestinians.
We can name a few:
- This past April, two years after 16-year-old Samir Awad of the West Bank village of Budrus was killed with three bullets to his back and head, the State Attorney’s Office opted to charge his accused assailant with the minor offense of a “reckless and negligent act using a firearm.” B’Tselem, the Israeli rights organization, called this decision “a new low in Israeli authorities’ disregard for the lives of Palestinians.”
- In January Israel closed an investigation into the killing of Musad Badwan Ashak Dan’a, 17, in Hebron, four years after the event, saying there was no evidence available. In fact, the army investigating unit had plentiful evidence, including medical documents and eyewitness accounts.
- Israel forces shot and killed Yusef a Shawamreh, 14, in March last year as he collected herbs near the Separation Barrier in the West Bank. Three months later, investigators closed the case, saying there was no breach of military rules involved. Videos of the incident show that the boy and his companions posed no possible threat to the soldiers or Israeli security.
All of these (and dozens of others) were newsworthy items, fit to print in the Times, but the newspaper has preferred to look away. Only Samir Awad’s name appeared briefly in an online Reuters story that never made it into print; the others received no mention.
Now, however, Israel knows that the world is aware of the Abu Khdeir case, and a trial is in progress. It is likely that the prosecutors and judges will remain on their best behavior throughout the proceedings.
The Times, as well, is ready to present a narrative of Israeli justice at work. We can expect more reports from the Jerusalem courtroom, but readers are unlikely to learn that the trial is a rare event, an aberration in a system of flagrant inequality.
Now, with the seizure of a Swedish boat in international waters, The New York Times can no longer ignore Flotilla III, the latest attempt to break Israel’s illegal blockade of Gaza. So we find a story today that ends the paper’s silence on this weeks-long saga that began in Gothenburg last month.
Times readers learned nothing of the Marianne and her three companion vessels as the international organizers of the flotilla announced their plans and gathered crews throughout the spring. Even when one of the boats was sabotaged last week or when a Palestinian member of the Knesset announced that he was joining the group, none of these events appeared in the Times.
Those who checked out The Washington Post, Newsweek, CBS News or Israeli media would have known that Flotilla III was on its way to Gaza, with the Swedish vessel approaching the strip and the others far behind. The Times, however, avoided any mention of the effort until today, when the Israeli navy announced that it had seized the Marianne and was taking her to the port of Ashdod. (The other vessels by then had turned back toward Europe.)
Now the Times has published an article by Diaa Hadid on the seizure, and her piece gives precedence to Israeli spin, allowing official excuses for the brutal siege of Gaza to stand as fact. Thus, she writes that Israel maintains a naval blockade of the strip “because militants have tried to smuggle in weapons and attack Israel by sea.”
Hadid repeats this formula in the subsequent paragraph where she states that Israel allows only “small amounts” of construction materials into Gaza “because Hamas has used building materials to construct tunnels to attack Israel.”
United Nations investigations have provided very different takes on these two issues: A 2010 fact-finding mission, for instance, declared that Israel has imposed the blockade (by land and sea) out of “a desire to punish the people of the Gaza Strip for having elected Hamas. The combination of this motive and the effect of the restrictions on the Gaza Strip leave no doubt that Israel’s actions amount to collective punishment as defined by international law.”
Where Hadid’s piece implies that tunnels have been used for random “terror” attacks on Israel, a recent UN report on the 2014 conflict found that the tunnels had been used only for legitimate means, to engage with Israeli troops during the fighting this past summer. Neither the Times nor any other media outlet has named a single Israeli civilian who was harmed because of these tunnels. (See TimesWarp 6-22-15.)
Unfortunately, Hadid fails to mention either of these findings and repeats Israeli spin as accepted fact. She fails to make even a minimal attempt at attribution, and so we have no “according to” or “Israel claims” here—just the bald, assertive “because.”
Her story ends with a poignant quote that begs for explanation. As fishermen gathered in Gaza to protest the seizure of the Marianne, one of them spoke to a Times representative. “We hope that other activists come to Gaza to help us break the naval siege,” he said, “so that we can sail again without fear.”
The article leaves us with an unanswered question: Why are the fishermen living in fear? Times readers, however, never learn the answer: Israeli naval boats routinely open fire on fishermen as they sail within the 6-mile limit imposed by the blockade. At least one died this year, several have been injured, and several have lost their boats and equipment because of the Israeli attacks.
The Times ignores this ongoing breach of the August 2014 truce, which stated that the fishing limit would expand to 12 miles. (This in itself is still far short of the 20-mile boundary set by the Oslo accords.) The paper also ignores Israel’s military incursions into Gaza, which are further breaches of the ceasefire.
Times editors are counting on a short shelf life for the Flotilla III story. Too much attention to such messy topics as international law, the definition of piracy, assaults on unarmed fishermen and Israeli breaches of the 2014 ceasefire might expose some inconvenient facts about Israel’s pitiless siege of Gaza, and this is not to their taste.
It now appears that the longest drawn out negotiations in history since the Treaty of Westphalia ended the Thirty Years War will again be prorogued. I am, of course, referring to the P5+1 talks in Vienna seeking to come up with a peaceful resolution to the problem of Iran’s nonexistent nuclear weapons program. Today represents the third deadline as the negotiations have already been extended twice, ostensibly to permit further discussion of details of timing for the lifting of sanctions as well as verification and inspection procedures.
I refer to a “nonexistent” program as the frequently cited intelligence suggesting that a weapon was being developed has turned out to be based on forgeries provided by the Israelis. Currently, both the CIA and Mossad agree that no such program exists though both Washington and Tel Aviv persist in suggesting that Iran might change its mind and therefore must not even be able to develop relevant technologies in the future.
In theory an agreement should have been reached long ago as the two basic elements are well understood: Iran wants an end to sanctions and the United States plus its negotiating partners want a verifiable end to existing and potential programs in Iran that could possibly produce a nuclear weapon. The devil would appear to be in the details but that is not necessarily the case as the real problem is political. The talks have in fact been subject to a relentless media campaign by Israel and its friends in the U.S. to derail any possible agreement, to include a number of appearances by none other than Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before both the United Nations and the U.S. Congress. Netanyahu has been warning that an Iranian weapon is imminent since 1996 and he has even produced a cartoon showing a bomb with a ticking fuse to illustrate his thinking on the issue.
The intensity of the anti-Iran campaign has increased to a boiling point as the end of June deadline has approached, to include full page ads in newspapers and a rash of editorials, op-eds and letters to the editor. If you read an article about the negotiations on an unmoderated site like yahoo you will see numerous comments trashing Iran using the same misspellings and phrases, suggesting that they originate in the banks of paid students organized and directed by the Israeli Foreign Ministry.
In order to avoid constantly rehashing the same material, the well-funded and highly creative exploration of Persian perfidy has meant in practice that the media and punditry are constantly raising new issues that have nothing to do with the nuclear weapons themselves. These have included demanding that a contrite Iran confess that it once sought a weapon, addressing the state of possible missile delivery systems in the discussions, assessing Iran’s intentions as a regional power, critiquing the country’s human rights record and examining Tehran’s support of organizations that critics choose to describe as terroristic. Congress is on record calling for the prevention of Iran’s “capability” to construct a weapon, a threshold that it already has passed. Presidential wannabe Senator Marco Rubio has even demanded that Iran recognize “Israel’s right to exist.” The latest wrinkle is to insist on assurances over what might happen in ten years’ time when any agreement negotiated currently will presumably expire.
Assuming that the neocons’ other pet projects to go to war with Russia and eventually also China do not actually materialize and that we will all still be here in a decade, it has to be recognized that what is occurring in Vienna this week is already a war. On one side are the serious players, including Secretary of State John Kerry acting for the president as well as the Russians, Germans, Chinese, British and French, all of whom understand that no agreement leaves armed conflict as the only remaining option. They realize that a major explosion in the Persian Gulf would be disastrous for all parties and potentially even for the world economy. On the other side are the naysayers from Israel and its formidable amen section, deeply embedded in the media and among politicians at all levels. Many believe that, as Israel firster mega billionaire Sheldon Adelson has recommended, all Iran really needs is an admonitory nuclear strike to show the Mullahs that we are serious about the military option.
As in any war it is important to know what the enemy is doing. That generally requires massive mobilization of resources to collect intelligence, but in this case we are fortunate in that our enemies write for the Washington Post, The Weekly Standard and the Wall Street Journal when they are not, collectively speaking, busy appearing on the Sunday morning talk shows and on Fox.
My favorite Queen of Mean among the pro-Israel shock troops is Jennifer Rubin, who writes a blog appropriately labeled “Right Turn” for the Washington Post. In previous incarnations before she found her niche with editorial page chief Fred Hiatt at the Post Jennifer wrote for neocon house organs Commentary, Human Events and Bill Kristol’s The Weekly Standard. Jenn has ungraciously referred to President Barack Obama as the “most anti-Israel president ever.” Ben Smith at Politico describes her as “caustic and single minded” possessing an “intense and combative interest in foreign affairs and politics in general, and in Israel in particular – the sole bumper sticker on her gray Honda Pilot reads, “JERUSALEM IS NOT A SETTLEMENT. It’s Israel’s Eternal And Undivided Capital.” A recent comment on one of her pieces observed “Science is wrong. The world revolves around Israel. Jennifer knows it to be true. Bibi told her.”
Rubin writes about Iran frequently. Between June 16th and the 26th she penned no less than seven articles attacking the Mullahs – “Obama ignores Iran’s human rights atrocities,” “The Iran missile mistake,” “Democrats, Republicans, neutral experts reject Iran sellout,” “The Iran debacle unfolds,” “Iran appeasement relies on self-delusion,” “Can these forces stop a rotten Iran deal?” and “Iran sanctions back on the table.” All of her writing on Iran beats to death the same theme, i.e. that Iranians are both evil and liars and are out to destroy Israel. Driven by her obsession with Israel, she is constantly at work finding connections and seeing things that the rest of us cannot discern, appreciating as she does that there is always an Israeli angle as well as an evil Muslim narrative hidden somewhere as long as one looks long and hard enough. One of her most recent gems “Can these forces stop a rotten Iran deal?”, which appeared on June 25th, does a good job recounting recent commentary by all her friends in the Israel Lobby who are opposing a nuclear deal, which to her mind represents objective opinion. As is always the case, I searched in vain for any real evidence that Iran in any way threatens the United States but that does not appear to be on her agenda. She does, however, quote a number of Israeli politicians.
And Rubin is far from a lonely voice crying in the wilderness. The New York Times featured a story last Wednesday revealing that “former members of President Obama’s inner circle of Iran advisers” had written a letter advising caution on the possible Iran agreement. The article describes in some detail the objections of Dennis Ross, David Petraeus, Robert Einhorn, Gary Samore, Stephen Hadley and General James E. Cartwright. The signatories, who are accepted at face value in the article, should give one pause. Ross is chairman of the Jewish People Policy Institute (which opposes intermarriage of Jews with non-Jews) and has been described as “Israel’s lawyer” while Hadley, a National Security Adviser for George W. Bush, believes that Iran is intent on dominating much of the Middle East and has a nuclear program that “…is a complex threat to international peace and stability.” Einhorn, who helped “devise and enforce the sanctions against Iran,” and Gary Samore have been persistent critics of the ongoing negotiations. Samore is a fixture at the Harvard Belfer Center, a neocon stronghold, and heads United Against Nuclear Iran. Petraeus is probably the best known of the signatories but I will leave it up to the reader to judge his integrity.
If one were looking for someone who might just entertain the thought that Iran has a legitimate point of view it would not be found in the letter nor in the Times coverage. But the most astonishing thing about the article is what the editors chose not to mention, an omission that would appear to constitute deliberate obfuscation of the letter’s intent. The Times notes towards the end of the article that the letter was commissioned by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), but it does not reveal that WINEP is a spin-off of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). AIPAC is an organization that is de facto opposed to any agreement with Iran that is not endorsed by Benjamin Netanyahu, which means no deal at all.
Interestingly, Israel is not mentioned even once in the letter nor in the Times coverage of it even though it certainly loomed large in the mind of Ross in particular and likely for all of the other co-authors. One might also note that the arguments against the possible agreement made by the signatories is based on the reader’s acceptance of the view that Iran is some kind of global threat, though they make no attempt to explain how that is so and they also assume that its rulers are not to be trusted without an intrusive inspection regime directed against all military facilities in the country, something that no government anywhere could possibly accept. The five signatories of the letter all claim to support a negotiated settlement with Iran but they are just not happy with what Obama has come up with, which is a characteristic line for many of those who in reality want no agreement at all.
Finally, in a completely bizarre instance of the Israel Lobby’s unwillingness to miss any opportunity in its campaign against Iran, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft traveled to Israel last week with an entourage of 20 Hall of Fame football players. They met with Prime Minister Netanyahu who lectured the players, attired in their Hall of Fame gold Jackets, all about Iran by using a football metaphor: “Iran is one yard away from the goal line. If they get nukes, the preeminent terrorist regime of our day will be armed with nuclear weapons. That’s dangerous for the United States and for Israel and for the entire world. And our effort today is to make sure that we block them and push them back.” The appreciative players gave Bibi a game jersey, a helmet and a signed football in return.
And so the enormous smear campaign against Iran goes on, though I suppose we can always hope that Obama will show a little intestinal fortitude and go ahead with an agreement. I will most certainly never watch the New England Patriots again, but I made that decision some time ago based on their win at any cost ethos. Indeed, since the Israel Lobby is very much in the game of punishing critics as it is doing with its odious website Canary Mission perhaps it is past time for a little pushback coming from Americans who would like to take their government back. Folks like myself who object to the Lobby’s overweening influence over our foreign policy might initiate personal boycotts of the products and business interests of those billionaires who are the most enthusiastic supporters of Benjamin Netanyahu and who are the enablers of Israel’s crimes against humanity. It would be partial payback for nearly seventy years of systematic abuse of America’s true interests. Don’t attend their sporting activities, don’t buy their products, don’t watch their films and don’t stay in their hotels or play in their casinos. Such a reckoning would certainly include people like Robert Kraft, Las Vegas casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, as well as Hollywood moguls Haim Saban and Arnon Milchan. Milchan notoriously spied against the U.S. for Israel and is still walking around free, which I don’t quite get. I won’t suggest any additional names but other over the top friends of Likudnik Israel are easily identifiable through Google. As the Mikado’s Lord High Executioner once put it, “I’ve got a little list.”
In George Orwell’s 1984, the leaders of Oceania presented “Two Minutes Hate” in which the image of an enemy was put on display and loyal Oceanianians expressed their rage, all the better to prepare them for the country’s endless wars and their own surrender of freedom. And, now, in America, you have The New York Times.
Surely the Times is a bit more subtle than the powers-that-be in Orwell’s Oceania, but the point is the same. The “paper of record” decides who our rotating foreign enemy is and depicts its leader as a demon corrupting whatever he touches. The rest of us aren’t supposed to think for ourselves. We’re just supposed to hate.
As the Times has degenerated from a relatively decent newspaper into a fount of neocon propaganda, its editors also have descended into the practice of simply inventing a narrative of events that serves an ideological purpose, its own version of “Two Minutes Hate.” Like the leaders of Orwell’s Oceania, the Times has become increasingly heavy-handed in its propaganda.
Excluding alternate explanations of events, even if supported by solid evidence, the Times arrogantly creates its own reality and tells us who to hate.
In assessing the Times’s downward spiral into this unethical journalism, one could look back on its false reporting regarding Iraq, Iran, Syria or other Middle East hotspots. But now the Times is putting the lives of ourselves, our children and our grandchildren at risk with its reckless reporting on the Ukraine crisis – by setting up an unnecessary confrontation between nuclear-armed powers, the United States and Russia.
At the center of the Times’ propaganda on Ukraine has been its uncritical – indeed its anti-journalistic – embrace of the Ukrainians coup-makers in late 2013 and early 2014 as they collaborated with neo-Nazi militias to violently overthrow elected President Viktor Yanukovych and hurl Ukraine into a bloody civil war.
Rather than display journalistic professionalism, the Times’ propagandists ignored the evidence of a coup – including an intercepted phone call in which U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland and U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt discussed how to “mid-wife” the regime change and handpick the new leaders.
The Times even ignored a national security expert, Statfor founder George Friedman, when he termed the ouster of Ukraine’s elected president “the most blatant coup in history.” The Times just waved a magic wand and pronounced that there was no coup – and anyone who thought so must reside inside “the Russian propaganda bubble.”[See Consortiumnews.com’s “NYT Still Pretends No Coup in Ukraine.”]
Perhaps even more egregiously, the Times has pretended that there were no neo-Nazi militias spearheading the Feb. 22, 2014 coup and then leading the bloody “anti-terrorist operation” against ethnic Russians in the south and east who resisted the coup. The Times explained all this bloodshed as simply “Russian aggression.”
It didn’t even matter when the U.S. House of Representatives – of all groups – unanimously acknowledged the neo-Nazi problem when it prohibited U.S. collaboration in military training of Ukrainian Nazis. The Times simply expunged the vote from its “official history” of the crisis. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “US House Admits Nazi Role in Ukraine.”]
Yet, for an Orwellian “Two Minute Hate” to work properly, you need to have a villain whose face you can put on display. And, in the case of Ukraine – at least after Yanukovych was driven from the scene – that villain has been Russian President Vladimir Putin, who embodies all evil in the intense hatred sold to the American public.
So, when Putin presents a narrative of the Ukraine crisis, which notes the history of the U.S.-driven expansion of NATO up to Russia’s borders and the evidence of the U.S.-directed Ukrainian coup, the Times editors must dismiss it all as “mythology,” as they did in Monday’s editorial regarding Putin’s remarks to an international economic conference in St. Petersburg.
“President Vladimir Putin of Russia is not veering from the mythology he created to explain away the crisis over Ukraine,” the Times’ editors wrote. “It is one that wholly blames the West for provoking a new Cold War and insists that international sanctions have not grievously wounded his country’s flagging economy.”
Without acknowledging any Western guilt in the coup that overthrew the elected Ukrainian government in 2014, the Times’ editors simply reveled in the harm that the Obama administration and the European Union have inflicted on Russia’s economy for its support of the previously elected government and its continued backers in eastern and southern Ukraine.
For nearly a year and a half, the New York Times and other major U.S. news organizations have simply refused to acknowledge the reality of what happened in Ukraine. In the Western fantasy, the elected Yanukovych government simply disappeared and was replaced by a U.S.-backed regime that then treated any resistance to its rule as “terrorism.” The new regime even dispatched neo-Nazi militias to kill ethnic Russians and other Ukrainians who resisted and thus were deemed “terrorists.”
The upside-down narrative of what happened in Ukraine has become the conventional wisdom in Official Washington and has been imposed on America’s European allies as well. According to The New York Times’ Orwellian storyline, anyone who notes the reality of a U.S.-backed coup in Ukraine is engaging in “fantasy” and must be some kind of Putin pawn.
To the Times’ editors, all the justice is on their side, even as Ukraine’s new regime has deployed neo-Nazi militias to kill eastern Ukrainians who resisted the anti-Yanukovych coup. To the Times’ editors, the only possible reason to object to Ukraine’s new order is that the Russians must be bribing European dissidents to resist the U.S. version of events. The Times wrote:
The Europeans are indeed divided over the extent to which Russia, with its huge oil and gas resources, should be isolated, but Mr. Putin’s aggression so far has ensured their unity when it counts. In addition to extending existing sanctions, the allies have prepared a new round of sanctions that could be imposed if Russian-backed separatists seized more territory in Ukraine. …
Although Mr. Putin insisted on Friday that Russia had found the ‘inner strength’ to weather sanctions and a drop in oil prices, investment has slowed, capital has fled the country and the economy has been sliding into recession. Even the business forum was not all that it seemed: The heads of many Western companies stayed away for a second year.
An Orwellian World
In the up-is-down world that has become the New York Times’ editorial page, the Western coup-making on Russia’s border with the implicit threat of U.S. and NATO nuclear weapons within easy range of Moscow is transformed into a case of Russian aggression. The Times’ editors wrote: “One of the most alarming aspects of the crisis has been Mr. Putin’s willingness to brandish nuclear weapons.”
Though it would appear objectively that the United States was engaged in serious mischief-making on Russia’s border, the Times editors flip it around to make Russian military maneuvers – inside Russia – a sign of aggression against the West.
Given Mr. Putin’s aggressive behavior, including pouring troops and weapons into Kaliningrad, a Russian city located between NATO members Lithuania and Poland, the allies have begun taking their own military steps. In recent months, NATO approved a rapid-reaction force in case an ally needs to be defended. It also pre-positioned some weapons in front-line countries, is rotating troops there and is conducting many more exercises. There are also plans to store battle tanks and other heavy weapons in several Baltic and Eastern European countries.
If he is not careful, Mr. Putin may end up facing exactly what he has railed against — a NATO more firmly parked on Russia’s borders — not because the alliance wanted to go in that direction, but because Russian behavior left it little choice. That is neither in Russia’s interest, nor the West’s.
There is something truly 1984-ish about reading that kind of propagandistic writing in The New York Times and other Western publications. But it has become the pattern, not the exception.
The Words of the ‘Demon’
Though the Times and the rest of the Western media insist on demonizing Putin, we still should hear the Russian president’s version of events, as simply a matter of journalistic fairness. Here is how Putin explained the situation to American TV talk show host Charlie Rose on June 19:
Why did we arrive at the crisis in Ukraine? I am convinced that after the so-called bipolar system ceased to exist, after the Soviet Union was gone from the political map of the world, some of our partners in the West, including and primarily the United States, of course, were in a state of euphoria of sorts. Instead of developing good neighborly relations and partnerships, they began to develop the new geopolitical space that they thought was unoccupied. This, for instance, is what caused the North Atlantic bloc, NATO, to go east, along with many other developments.
I have been thinking a lot about why this is happening and eventually came to the conclusion that some of our partners [Putin’s way of describing Americans] seem to have gotten the illusion that the world order that was created after World War II, with such a global center as the Soviet Union, does not exist anymore, that a vacuum of sorts has developed that needs to be filled quickly.
I think such an approach is a mistake. This is how we got Iraq, and we know that even today there are people in the United States who think that mistakes were made in Iraq. Many admit that there were mistakes in Iraq, and nevertheless they repeat it all in Libya. Now they got to Ukraine. We did not bring about the crisis in Ukraine. There was no need to support, as I have said many times, the anti-state, anti-constitutional takeover that eventually led to a sharp resistance on the territory of Ukraine, to a civil war in fact.
Where do we go from here?” Putin asked. “Today we primarily need to comply with all the agreements reached in Minsk, the capital of Belarus. … At the same time, I would like to draw your attention and the attention of all our partners to the fact that we cannot do it unilaterally. We keep hearing the same thing, repeated like a mantra – that Russia should influence the southeast of Ukraine. We are. However, it is impossible to resolve the problem through our influence on the southeast alone.
There has to be influence on the current official authorities in Kiev, which is something we cannot do. This is a road our Western partners have to take – those in Europe and America. Let us work together. … We believe that to resolve the situation we need to implement the Minsk agreements, as I said. The elements of a political settlement are key here. There are several. […]
The first one is constitutional reform, and the Minsk agreements say clearly: to provide autonomy or, as they say decentralization of power, let it be decentralization. This is quite clear, our European partners, France and Germany have spelled it out and we are quite satisfied with it, just as the representatives of Donbass [eastern Ukraine where ethnic Russians who had supported Yanukovych have declared independence] are. This is one component.
The second thing that has to be done – the law passed earlier on the special status of these territories – Luhansk and Donetsk, the unrecognized republics, should be enacted. It was passed, but still not acted upon. This requires a resolution of the Supreme Rada – the Ukrainian Parliament – which is also covered in the Minsk agreements. Our friends in Kiev have formally complied with this decision, but simultaneously with the passing by the Rada of the resolution to enact the law they amended the law itself … which practically renders the action null and void. This is a mere manipulation, and they have to move from manipulations to real action.
The third thing is a law on amnesty. It is impossible to have a political dialogue with people who are threatened with criminal persecution. And finally, they need to pass a law on municipal elections on these territories and to have the elections themselves. All this is spelled out in the Minsk agreements, this is something I would like to draw your attention to, and all this should be done with the agreement of Donetsk and Luhansk.
Unfortunately, we still see no direct dialogue, only some signs of it, but too much time has passed after the Minsk agreements were signed. I repeat, it is important now to have a direct dialogue between Luhansk, Donetsk and Kiev – this is missing.
Also missing is any objective and professional explanation of this crisis in the mainstream American press. Instead, The New York Times and other major U.S. news organizations have continued with their pattern of 1984-ish propaganda.
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 has had plenty to say about the infamous tunnels built from Gaza into Israel, providing us with photos, articles, videos and frequent talk of “terrorist attacks.” The presence of the tunnels, Times editors said, justified the bloody ground invasion of the strip last summer.
Today we find little mention of these threatening tunnels in a story by Jodi Rudoren about the just-released United Nations Human Rights Council report on the attacks. She tells us that the report “extensively discussed the tunnels militants had used to infiltrate Israeli territory,” but that is the end of it. [Note: this was expanded in later versions of the article.]
The report by the Independent Commission of Inquiry on the 2014 Gaza conflict had this to say about the tunnels: “The commission observes that during the period under examination, the tunnels were used only to conduct attacks directed at IDF positions in Israel in the vicinity of the Green Line, which are legitimate military targets.”
It seems that the Times has scant interest in telling readers that tunnels were used for legitimate purposes. The discussions Rudoren mentions have little to say except that Israelis were scared by the tunnel reports; the final tally shows that not a single civilian was harmed because of them.
The Times, however, bought into the hype of the Israeli government and army. At the beginning of the ground invasion, it ran an editorial claiming that troops were in Gaza to stop rockets and “terrorist attacks via underground tunnels” even though the newspaper had yet to report even one such assault.
The absence of civilian casualties or even of a single attack, however, did not stop the Times from publishing three articles (here, here and here), two of them with Rudoren’s byline, and two videos (here and here), which focused on the tunnels, all of this in addition to the editorial.
It later followed up with a piece about Hezbollah tunnels reportedly running from Lebanon into northern Israel. Again, the Hezbollah story has only Israeli fear to report and no hard evidence of either tunnels or their use in attacks.
The UN report notes such Israeli anxieties in its Concluding Observations: “The increased level of fear among Israeli civilians resulting from the use of the tunnels was palpable.” This is the full extent of damage from the notorious “terror tunnels”—they frightened people.
When the Israeli army and government eagerly played up this supposed evidence of Palestinian “terrorist” intentions, The New York Times (and the United States government) followed suit, citing the tunnels as justification for the invasion. With so much hysteria emanating from the media and officialdom, it is no wonder Israeli civilians were expressing fear.
With its alarmist focus on the Gaza-Israel tunnels, the Times played the role of propagandist for Israel. Now, with the UN report, it could place the issue in a more valid perspective, but Rudoren’s piece suggests that the newspaper would rather avoid the facts in favor of a false Israeli narrative.
When a 22-year-old man died under an Israeli army jeep recently, The New York Times virtually ignored the incident. Now come reports of another death in the West Bank, and the newspaper has given notice with an article appearing both online and in print.
The difference is all in the ethnicity: The first man was Palestinian and his attackers were Israeli soldiers. The second was Israeli and died at the hands of a Palestinian gunman.
When Abdallah Ghuneimat died on Sunday, eyewitnesses reported that he had been shot and then deliberately run down by soldiers in a jeep; the army, however, claimed the vehicle had fallen on him by accident. The Times made fleeting mention of the incident in a wire service story that appeared only online. (See TimesWarp 6-17-15.)
The newspaper has continued to turn its back on the story even as new eyewitnesses have come forth to say that Ghuneimat “was left bleeding under the jeep for hours while Israeli soldiers were jubilantly cheering.” Witnesses also said that troops fired tear gas, stun grenades and live ammunition to prevent villagers from approaching the victim.
Now, with the death of an Israeli four days later, we find a different approach from the Times. Editors were not content with a wire service report in this case; they assigned a reporter to cover the incident and published a story replete with quotes from Israeli president Reuven Rivlin, education minister Naftali Bennett and a United Nations coordinator.
The Israeli victim, Danny Gonen, 25, had come to the West Bank with a friend to visit a spring near the illegal Israeli settlement of Dolev, according to the account. As they were leaving the area, a man flagged down the car and asked if there was water in the spring. He then pulled out a gun and shot both men. The friend was slightly wounded, but Gonen was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital.
The author of the Times story, Diaa Hadid, writes in the second paragraph that the timing of shooting was a “grim reminder of the kidnapping and killing of three Jewish teenagers” last year, “which unleashed tensions that culminated in a seven-week war between Israel and Hamas.”
Missing from her article is the context of Israeli attacks on Palestinians, including the deaths of two Palestinian men so far in June. According to United Nations data, Israeli forces injure an average of 39 Palestinians each week, and they have killed 13 so far this year. These numbers do not include injuries inflicted by settlers.
The same UN report notes that Palestinians have injured an average of two Israeli civilians each week. Two, including Gonen, have died this year.
In spite of these facts, Hadid has chosen to emphasize Palestinian violence and ignore Israeli attacks, which have injured and killed at a significantly higher rate.
Her story also glosses over another unsavory fact of life in the West Bank by noting that the territory “is dotted with springs” used by Israelis and Palestinians, but some have been made off limits to Palestinians. In her brief treatment of the issue, she fails to describe the full injustice here.
Settler takeovers of springs on private Palestinian land have become so flagrant that the United Nations issued a report specifically addressing the problem. The report states that settlers use threats, intimidation and barriers to prevent villagers from accessing their traditional water sources, at great cost to farmers and herders. The Israeli government acquiesces in these crimes and sometimes actively supports them, the UN says, often allowing the settlers to turn the springs into revenue generating tourist attractions.
But readers learn none of this—neither the casualty rates nor the extent of water theft in Palestinian territory. Although this tragic incident provided an opportunity to inform the public of facts on the ground in the West Bank, the Times has little interest in reporting these details. It glosses over Palestinian deaths, dwells on Israeli casualties and turns its back on the brutality of the Israeli occupation.
IF YOU DON’T WANT TO KNOW how sausages are made, don’t start reading Visas for Al Qaeda: CIA Handouts That Rocked the World by Michael Springmann. The sausages in this case: the string of too-easily-swallowed accounts of bloody events in the “global war on terror,” served up daily with relish by the mainstream media. In reality these sausages are filled with tainted meat that’s making everyone sick.
Springmann is a brave whistle blower living in Washington, D.C. He’s written an accessible book, safe to digest, highlighting details of the corruption of the American Empire (and its accomplices, including Canada) as he experienced them from the inside during his years with the U.S. State Department.
While he served as a visa officer in the U.S. consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, for instance, he was obliged under threat of dismissal to issue visas to persons hired clandestinely by the CIA to become trained-in-the-USA terrorists. Most of these psychopathic thugs were clearly and legally unqualified to be issued visas. There is every reason to believe the “Visas for Terrorists” program remains fully operative today. It takes a lot of expendable terrorists to run a global terrorism op.
Springmann places his experiences both within the context of the historical roots of the U.S. Empire and within its current ongoing global destabilization project.
“This tale,” the author states near the beginning, “is a sordid sketch of backstabbing, disloyalty, double crosses, faithlessness, falsity, perfidy, sellouts, treachery, and betrayal.”
And that only covers the bureaucratic aspect. Even more sobering is his sketch of human rights violations: torture, assassinations, massacres including bombings of markets, invasions and occupations of countries, destabilization of nations and regions.
Then there’s the financial side: widespread criminality, resource theft, bribery, diversion of funds, illicit drug dealing and more.
Not to mention the flouting of international laws. This dimension includes gross infringements on national sovereignty, the casual violation of treaties and ho-hum everyday general lawlessness, risking even the threat of nuclear annihilation.
All this before taking into account the moral dimension, in which trashing the Ten Commandments is just an opening trifle.
“My story shows how things really work,” Springmann writes, correctly. In the book’s 250 pages he names names, dates, times and places – presumably opening himself up to lawsuits, should there be anything here that the individuals named deem libelous. They might think twice, however, since Springmann is a lawyer by profession and knows his way around the Empire’s capital – as well as some of its outlying ramparts such as Stuttgart, New Delhi and especially Jeddah.
Stinging in itself, Springmann’s book also can be read as an authenticating companion to Michel Chossudovsky’s Towards a World War III Scenario (2012) and The Globalization of War: America’s “Long War” Against Humanity (2015). Along the way, both authors deal, to one extent or another, with the ideological, hubristic and increasingly bellicose role of the Harper government as handmaiden to the American Empire, including military involvements in Libya, Serbia and the Ukraine. Springmann necessarily refers very little to Canada, but to read his account of the cowardly and unnecessary rain of death inflicted on Libya, for instance, is to be obliged as a Canadian to think of Harper’s enthusiasm and pride in having this country share in the slaughter and destabilization carried out under the Orwellian “responsibility to protect” notion.
Springmann quotes Maximilian C. Forte who notes that before the attack Libya enjoyed the highest Human Development Index (a UN measurement of well-being) in all Africa. “After Western military forces destroyed the country the Index only records the steep collapse of all indicators of well-being. More Libyans were killed with intervention than without. It was about control, about militarizing Africa,” Forte argues.
What Springmann brings uniquely to the table is his firsthand knowledge of precisely how the USA recruits terrorists (no quotation marks needed), sends them to the USA for training and then deploys them to carry out murders, torture, bombings and more. The bloody mayhem carried out by these thousands of paid mercenaries – ostensibly beheading-habituated “jihadists” fighting against democracy, decency and the USA and its “allies – is planned, organized and funded by none other than the same USA and its allies. It’s a global false flag operation – the largest by far in history.
As Springmann on page 65 writes of the “Visas for Terrorists Program:”
This was not an ad hoc operation, conceived and carried out in response to a specific foreign policy issue. Rather, it was another of too many CIA efforts to destroy governments, countries, and politicians disfavored by the American “establishment” in its “bipartisan” approach to matters abroad. Whether it was opposing the imaginary evils of communism, the fictitious malevolence of Islam, or the invented wickedness of Iran, America and its intelligence services, brave defenders of “The City Upon A Hill,” sought out and created fear and loathing of peoples and countries essentially engaged in efforts to better their lives and improve their political world. Along the way, Agency-sponsored murders, war crimes, and human rights violations proved to be good business. Jobs for the Clandestine Service (people who recruit and run spies), sales of weapons and aircraft, as well as the myriad items needed to control banks, countries and peoples all provided income for and benefits to American companies.
That the American Empire has been able to carry out such a massive illegal program for so long is the saddest of commentaries on how deep the rot is, how effective the secrecy, how complicit the media.
As to the span of dangerous widespread deception, Springmann notes that Rahul Bedi wrote in Jane’s Defence Weekly on September 14, 2001 that beginning in 1980 “thousands [of mujahideen] were … brought to America and made competent in terrorism by Green Berets and SEALS at US government East Coast facilities, trained in guerilla warfare and armed with sophisticated weapons.”
The point is made repeatedly that Al Qaeda and now ISIS/ISIL/the Islamic State are essentially “Made in USA” entities, brought into being and organized for the Empire’s purposes. Among the elements that make possible such a vast fraud are deception, compartmentalization and secrecy. Springmann quotes attorney Pat Frascogna, “a man with FOIA expertise,” about secrecy and its purpose:
Thus whether it be learning the dirty and unethical business practices of a company or the secrets of our government, the same deployment of denials and feigning ignorance about what is really going on are the all-too-common methods used to keep the truth from the light of day.
Langley recruited the Arab-Afghans so clandestinely that the terrorists didn’t know they had been recruited. They thought that they had found a battlefield on their own, or through the Internet or through Twitter or through television…
Frascogna’s observation intersects with Springmann’s on-the-job experiences as a visa officer in Jeddah starting in 1987. Springmann was repeatedly overruled when he turned down disqualified applicants for U.S. visas. He writes:
As I later learned to my dismay, the visa applicants were recruits for the war in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union’s armed forces. Further, as time went by, the fighters, trained in the United States, went on to other battlefields: Yugoslavia, Iraq, Libya, and Syria. They worked with the American intelligence services and the State Department to destabilize governments the United States opposed. While it’s no secret, most knowledgeable people still refuse to talk about this agenda.
As Springmann learned, “the average percentage of intelligence officers to real diplomats at a given Foreign Service post is about one in three. My experience in Jeddah, Stuttgart, and New Delhi might place it higher—at least 50 percent, if not more.” According to the Anti-CIA Club of Diplomats: Spooks in U.S. Foreign Service [sic], a twelve-page, 1983 Canadian publication (see namebase.org), the percentage is 60 percent.
“At Jeddah,” Springmann writes, “to the best of my knowledge, out of some twenty US citizens assigned to the consulate, only three people, including myself, worked for the Department of State. The rest were CIA or NSA officials or their spouses.” Elsewhere Springmann suggests that essentially the CIA runs the State Department, and that this is true of many other U.S. government departments and agencies as well. It seems that it’s almost impossible to over-estimate the reach of the CIA’s tentacles or the overweening treason of its nonstop black ops and unconstitutional operations domestically.
Springmann toward the end of the book refers to the beginnings of the CIA. It’s interesting for this reviewer to think that he was 13 years of age in 1947 when U.S. president Harry Truman agreed with the National Security Council (NSC) to secretly create the CIA and NSA. I remember that in my teenage years a few of my peers said there “was something” called “the CIA.” This was around the time a few people also said there “was something” called “the Mafia.” The consensus was that both ideas were very far-fetched.
In 1948 Truman approved yet another NSC initiative, providing for “propaganda, economic warfare; preventive direct action, including sabotage, antisabotage,
demolition and evacuation measures; subversion against hostile states, including assistance to underground resistance movements, guerillas, and refugee liberation groups, and support of indigenous anti-Communist elements in threatened countries of the free world.” That’s a tabula rasa if there ever was one: a license for lawlessness.
The CIA’s twisted hits have just kept coming. It’s worth noting that Truman didn’t singlehandedly initiate this monstrosity. The dark recesses of the Deep State, as Peter Dale Scott calls it, are where the demonic entity was spawned. Ever since, Frankenstein’s monster has been a harmless schoolboy by comparison.
To read of the rape of Libya with active Canadian military complicity makes for difficult reading. The lies are piled as high as the bodies, and these two categories are insuperably paired.
Equally sordid, especially in light of Stephen Harper’s enthusiasm for expanding the war on Russia (the economic sanctions and the diplomatic exclusion of Russia from the G8 are forms of warfare, not to mention decades of covert* military incursion by the West onto the territory of the former USSR and now the Russian Federation, as described in Visas for Al Qaeda) is to read some of the history of the Ukraine. “The West’s” meddling in the Ukraine has a long illicit pedigree. As Springmann writes:
It seems that the CIA had problems [in the immediate post World War II period] distinguishing between underground groups and above-ground armies. Langley used Marshall Plan money to support a guerrilla force in the Ukraine, called “Nightingale.” Originally established in 1941 by Nazi Germany’s occupation forces, and working on their behalf, “Nightingale” and its terrorist arm (made up of ultranationalist Ukrainians as well as Nazi collaborators) murdered thousands of Jews, Soviet Union supporters, and Poles.
Even relatively recently, since the so-called Orange revolution in the Ukraine made events there eminently newsworthy, I can’t remember seeing in the mainstream media a single substantial article dealing with the historical relationships between the Ukraine and Russia going back to World War II, nor such an article laying out the history of the involvement –overt or covert – of “the West” in the Ukraine.
Instead, we see the surreal ahistorical likes of the top headline in The New York Times International Weekly for June 13-14, “Russia is Sowing Disunity,” by Peter Baker and Steven Erlanger. They report breathlessly in the lead paragraph: “Moscow is leveraging its economic power, financing European political parties and movements, and spreading alternative accounts of the Ukraine conflict, according the American and European officials.
True to the narrative of “the West” as a pitiful giant facing a powerful and expansionist Russia, the writers posit that the “consensus against Russian aggression” is “fragile.
The drift of this NYT yarn, typical of Western propaganda across the board, is that there remains in effect a behemoth “Soviet empire” surreptitiously shipping “Moscow gold” to dupes in “green movements” and so on. Even a former American national intelligence officer on Russia, Fiona Hill, now at the Brookings Institution, told the writers: “The question is how much hard evidence does anyone have?
Maybe this NYT propaganda, like its clones across the mainstream media, is not ahistorical after all. The story comes across rather as an historical relic of the Cold War – found in a time capsule in a fallout shelter – that the NYT editors decided to publish as a prank. A sausage.
* Military action by “the West” has not always been covert. Springmann notes that American and Japanese soldiers were dispatched to Russia in 1917 to squelch the fledgling Russian revolution. The soldiers were part of what was called the Allied Expeditionary Force. Winston Churchill for his part said: “We must strangle the Bolshevik baby in its crib.” Springmann might have noted that Canadian soldiers were part of the AEF.
Abdullah Iyad Ghanayim, 22, died under an Israeli army jeep last Sunday in the West Bank village of Kafr Malik. The New York Times barely took notice. Other news media inform us that there is a story here and one that is in dispute.
Eyewitnesses in the village east of Ramallah say soldiers shot Ghanayim in the back and then ran him down with a jeep, crushing him against a wall, which collapsed on the vehicle and knocked it over. The soldiers got out, observers say, left the man pinned under the jeep and prevented medics from attending to him.
According to witnesses, Ghanayim was throwing stones when he was shot and bled to death after being left unattended for more than an hour. The mayor of Ramallah, Laila Ghannam, told reporters that soldiers killed Ghanayim “in cold blood.”
The Israeli army had a different story: Ghanayim was throwing a Molotov cocktail at the jeep, and this caused it to swerve and crash. After the vehicle turned over on the victim, the army claimed, “forces later entered the village to try and provide medical assistance,” but the man had already died.
In spite of the army’s failure to explain why “forces” had to enter the village to provide aid when soldiers were already present, The New York Times goes with the army account. This appears in the form of a three-paragraph Associated Press story, which made an obscure and fleeting appearance online and none at all in print. The article gives a brief nod to the eyewitness accounts, saying the mayor of the village claimed the man was shot first.
It’s possible the Times was unable to assign one of its three reporters in Israel to get a firsthand account, but the paper also omitted the story from its World Briefing section, where it frequently runs AP and Reuters news.
The Times had a choice. It could have run a Reuters story by Ali Sawafta and Dan Williams, which states in the lead that “military and locals gave conflicting accounts” and also quotes witnesses who said the man was “run down and then crushed.” Instead it chose the AP version, which relies almost entirely on the Israeli army.
We find fuller reports elsewhere, such as in The National, Agence France-Presse, and Maan, but the Times treatment falls short. It has chosen a biased wire service piece over a more complete and honest report. Thus it avoids revealing unsavory charges against the Israeli army and allows one more Palestinian death to pass unnoticed.