12 February, 2016
Association France Palestine Solidarité
Dear Ms. Bojanowska-Cantor
Thank you for your message of 12 February, 2016. We take very seriously the threats to freedom of speech in France and everywhere, and we are appalled that the courts have upheld the convictions of French activists for advocating a boycott of Israeli products. We feel compelled to ask one question, however. Are you concerned about the freedom to advocate BDS or are you concerned about freedom of speech?
France is the land of Voltaire, whose views have been characterized as “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” We note, for example, that the AFPS never spoke in defense of Dieudonné M’bala M’bala when he was denied his free speech in numerous cities in France and other countries. You may disapprove of what he says, but do you not defend his right to say it?
And what about Jacob Cohen, doyen of anti-Zionism in France? You not only never defended him, but also refused to allow him to register as an attendee at a BDS conference in Paris. What about his freedom of speech?
Why is anti-Semitism a crime in France but not Islamophobia? We disapprove of both, but recognize hate speech as part of the price we pay for free speech, and we believe that the antidote to racist speech is anti-racist speech, not prohibition of some types of free speech that we might disapprove of. We also believe that the accusation of anti-Semitism is too widely made, and that those who object to its use against advocates of BDS nevertheless often approve its use against anti-Zionists.
The Free Palestine Movement will happily and enthusiastically endorse a call for free speech which makes all of these considerations explicit, but we are not interested in a false call which is self serving in purpose and selective in application, which is just another way of denying free speech to those of whom we disapprove while keeping it for ourselves, i.e. a form of hypocrisy.
We understand the strategic need to avoid unnecessary confrontation when seeking a particular goal, and we thoroughly disapprove of it. To compromise principle for the sake of expediency is the worst form of hypocrisy.
Please let us know if you decide to accept our suggestions, but in the meantime, the Free Palestine Movement will not endorse or promote your petition, and we refer you to STYLO France at its website and Facebook page which we helped to create for the purpose of furthering free speech internationally.
The Free Palestine Movement
—– Forwarded Message —–
Sent: Friday, February 12, 2016 6:30 AM
Name: Sonia Bojanowska-Cantor on behalf of the AFPS
Following the recent court decisions to uphold the conviction of French activists merely for calling for the boycott of Israeli products, and in the very difficult climate that France has endured since the Paris attacks that we all condemn, there is a very real threat in France to freedom of expression in the form of calls to boycott Israel for its violations of international law.
In order to put an end to these despicable measures and to avoid their spread to other countries, widespread action is necessary to protect freedom of expression and the right to call for boycott in France.
Please take a minute to read the full text of our call, (published in French by the journal Politis) which is being signed by major figures around the world.
It is open to the public as part of a large-scale international petition, currently counting over 10000 signatures: http://www.avaaz.org/right_to_boycott
Would you be willing to help us spread the word about our call and petition? If so, can you assist us in contacting any high-profile individuals likely to sign our call?
If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me.
Sonia from the AFPS (Association France Palestine Solidarité)
Time: February 12, 2016 at 2:30 pm
IP Address: 22.214.171.124
Contact Form URL: http://freepalestinemovement.org/contact/
Sent by an unverified visitor to your site.
Paul Larudee is one of the founders of the Free Gaza and Free Palestine Movements and an organizer in the International Solidarity Movement.
Israel’s frantic cocoon-weaving entered a new phase last week, as Benjamin Netanyahu’s government stepped up efforts to stifle the last vestiges of dissent.
The military censor’s office, a draconian 70-year-old hangover from British rule in Palestine, extended its powers over Israeli press and TV to prominent blogs and social media.
The government has also threatened to revoke the press cards of “journalists and editors who are negligent in their work” – aimed at those who depart too obviously from the official line.
These moves follow culture minister Miri Regev’s announcement of a “loyalty law” that will deny state funding to artists and cultural institutions that are not sufficiently patriotic.
The education minister, settler leader Naftali Bennett, meanwhile, is reportedly preparing a raft of measures: a ban on access for pupils to literature and theatre not in line with government thinking, cuts to already very limited pluralism education and a new civics textbook vilifying the Palestinian minority.
In this atmosphere of inculcated ignorance and prejudice, it is easy for Mr Netanyahu to persuade public opinion that the recent wave of Palestinian protests and attacks, which have left more than 160 Palestinians and 29 Israelis dead, is solely the result of “incitement” from Palestinian officials and media. The Israeli right suggests that Palestinians who stab or drive cars at their oppressors, most often soldiers and settlers, are easily inflamed into action by words that appeal to ancient prejudice.
As the Israeli public discourse grows ever more detached from reality, Israel’s military commanders sound like an oasis of sanity – at least, by comparison.
The Israeli army actually has an operational interest in understanding what drives the Palestinian attacks – both to better counter them and to quieten growing government pressure for drastic responses, ones that could trigger the collapse of Mahmoud Abbas’s Palestinian Authority.
The military have sent intelligence officials into Israeli prisons to interview Palestinians who were not killed during their attacks, including children as young as 13.
What the army has found should surprise no one. Palestinians feel desperate and hopeless about a situation in which their own and their families’ freedoms are tightly restricted by a seemingly endless Israeli occupation.
The Palestinians behind the attacks – “lone wolves”, as Israelis call them – are often also facing extreme personal crises: suicidal thoughts, financial troubles or grief from a relative or friend’s death at Israel’s hands.
Few have had any experience of Israelis beyond the soldiers who mistreat them at checkpoints and during raids on their villages, and the settlers who lord it over them.
These findings have provoked a widening rift between the government and military.
Mr Netanyahu and his allies, drawing on the Israeli right’s traditional “iron wall” philosophy of ruthlessly crushing Palestinian dissent, have demanded greater privations for those under occupation to make them submit.
Last week, the government responded to an attack on a checkpoint by a Palestinian security official that injured three Israeli soldiers by locking down Ramallah, the Palestinians’ current economic and political capital.
The army effectively overruled that decision the next day. Gadi Eisenkott, the chief of general staff, has repeatedly warned that collective punishment will only fuel Palestinian anger and increase attacks.
He argues that more permits for Palestinian labourers to work in Israel, improving the Palestinian economy, is “an Israeli interest and a restraining factor”. He also prefers nurturing existing ties with the Palestinian security forces.
The military doves, however, are no less deluded than the political hawks.
The politicians want a collective stick to beat the Palestinians, one that will only intensify the conflict. The military, on the other hand, want individual perks for good behaviour to perpetuate the status quo a little longer.
What neither side wishes to talk about is the framework that creates Palestinian despair and anger: the occupation.
The personal crises identified by the military that spur Palestinians to violence – debt, depression and the killing of a friend or relative – are not a stroke of bad luck befalling individuals. They are an inevitable by-product of the systematic abuses inflicted on an entire occupied population.
Lawlessness from land-hungry Jewish settlers, severe movement restrictions, home demolitions and “policing” by a hostile army ensure Palestinians live as a subjugated people, slaves to ever harsher repression.
Anyone who challenges Israelis’ bubble of illusions faces the Israeli government’s wrath, as UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon found last month. When he pointed out the obvious – that it was “human nature to react to occupation” – Mr Netanyahu accused him of “stoking terror”.
Worse vitriol rained down on Sweden’s foreign minister, Margot Wallstrom, when she made much the same point – and urged an investigation into the apparent executions of some of the Palestinians recently killed by the army. She was accused of “defamation” and officially barred from visiting Israel.
The blinkered assumptions of both Israel’s politicians and its generals mean neither can find a way out of the current mire.
Those who wish simply to perpetuate Palestinian suffering may triumph over those who would prefer to intensify it. Either way, Palestinians will continue to resist.
BETHLEHEM – US President Barack Obama intends to sign a sweeping trade agreement including provisions that fail to differentiate between Israel and illegal settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories, as well as discourage the boycott of Israeli goods.
The agreement — H.R. 644: Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015 — was passed 75-20 on Thursday, and includes a provision that no US court can enforce judgement from a foreign court on a US citizen who “conducts business operations in Israel, or any territory controlled by Israel.”
The provision in effect allows US citizens immunity from conducting trade with illegal Israeli settlements, while its terminology fails to distinguish Israeli settlements from the state of Israel, violating the US’ official line against the construction of settlements in occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank.
The White House in a statement released Thursday regarding the agreement said: “As with any bipartisan compromise legislation, there are provisions in this bill that we do not support.”
Of those provisions that the Obama administration did not support was a provision that “contravenes longstanding US policy towards Israel and the occupied territories, including with regard to Israeli settlement activity,” the statement said.
Despite the contravention, Obama plans to sign the agreement into law “to help strengthen enforcement of the rules and level the playing field for American workers and businesses.”
The agreement also includes a provision that in creating commercial partnerships with foreign countries, the US should “discourage politically motivated boycotts of, divestment from, and sanctions against Israel.”
The US government opposes the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel, and while US law requires that products made in illegal Israeli settlements may not be labeled “Made in Israel,” the law is rarely enforced.
Israel has been struggling to tackle a growing Palestinian-led boycott campaign which has had a number of high-profile successes abroad.
The BDS movement aims to exert political and economic pressure over Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories in a bid to repeat the success of the campaign which ended apartheid in South Africa.
However, BDS initiatives have also faced pushback abroad, notably in France, where a court ruled in October that a group of activists advocating for BDS were guilty under French hate speech legislation.
MEMO | February 11, 2016
A delegation from the European Parliament was blocked by the Israeli authorities from entering Gaza on Tuesday, the EU said in a statement.
The lawmakers, who are part of the working group of the European Parliament Delegation for relations with Palestine, arrived in Jerusalem on Monday and was due to visit Gaza to assess the destruction caused in the 2014 conflict and the reconstruction efforts funded by the European Union.
According to the statement, a copy of which was sent to MEMO’s reporter in Gaza, no justification was given to explain the refusal.
Delegation Chair Irish MEP Martina Anderson stated: “The systematic denial by Israel of access to Gaza to European Parliament delegations is unacceptable. The European Parliament has not been able to access Gaza since 2011.”
Anderson added: “This raises questions: what does the Israeli government aim to hide? We shall not give up on the Gazan people.”
The Delegation was led by Anderson and included six other lawmakers: Margrete Auken (Vice-Chair of Delegation, Greens), Roza Thun (EPP), Eugen Freund (S&D), Patrick Le Hyaric (GUE/NGL), Rosa D’Amato (EFDD) and Konstantinos Papadakis (NI).
Benjamin Netanyahu pets his dog Kaia, a biter, at the Prime Minster’s residence in Jerusalem. (Credit: Facebook)
“Anyone who approaches the Zionist problem in a moral aspect is not a Zionist.” – Moshe Dayan, quoting David Ben-Gurion
Ha’aretz correspondent Barak Ravid reported yesterday:
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said during a tour to the construction site of a barrier on the eastern border on Tuesday that he wishes to surround the country with fences and barriers “to defend ourselves against wild beasts” that surround Israel.
Dehumanization of one’s real or perceived adversaries, often in the form of animalization, has long been a hallmark of propaganda. As Netanyahu reinforces Israel’s garrison mentality, he continues building a literal fortress by extending the apartheid wall further around the Zionist state, promising more division, segregation, discrimination, and violence.
“For most human beings, it takes an awful lot to allow them to kill another human being,” Anthony Pratkanis, a psychology professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz, told ABC News back in 2003, as the United States was gearing up to invade Iraq. “The only way to do it is to justify the killing, to make the enemy look as evil as possible.”
The report also quoted Hayward communications professor James Forsher, an expert on propaganda films. “The secret in propaganda is that when you demonize, you dehumanize,” Forsher explained. “When you dehumanize, it allows you to kill your enemy and no longer feel guilty about it. That is why during World War II, a lot of caricatures became animals… You can kill a monkey a lot more easily than you can kill a neighbor.”
Nazi dehumanization of Jews as “vermin” to be exterminated and American anti-Japanese caricatures of rats and snakes from the 1940s are especially grotesque, but the phenomenon was around long before that. Anti-Tsarist and, subsequently, anti-Soviet propaganda often employed the image of an octopus, spreading its imperial tentacles across the globe. During World War I, Germany was depicted a crazed, club-wielding gorilla in a U.S. Army poster encouraging enlistment.
In their 1994 book, Unthinking Eurocentrism: Multiculturalism and the Media, Ella Shohat and Robert Stam note that the common colonial/racist trope of “animalization” was “rooted in a religious and philosophical tradition which drew sharp boundaries between the animal and the human” and “renders the colonized as wild beasts… projected as body rather than mind.”
Zionist colonists and Israeli officials have for years employed this type of rhetoric to dehumanize those they seek to forcibly displace, dispossess, disenfranchise, oppress, occupy and subjugate. The Zionist project is always presented as a bulwark of civilization against the savagery and barbarism of the brutish Eastern, Arab, and/or Muslim hordes; the settlement on the hill; the light amidst the darkness; the “villa in the jungle,” as Ehud Barak once said.
“At the end, in the State of Israel, as I see it, there will be a fence that spans it all,” Netanyahu fantasized yesterday. “I’ll be told, ‘this is what you want, to protect the villa?’ The answer is yes. Will we surround all of the State of Israel with fences and barriers? The answer is yes. In the area that we live in, we must defend ourselves against the wild beasts.”
The animalization of Palestinians, and other perceived enemies, in Israeli rhetoric goes back decades.
Dogs, Animals, Roaches, Grasshoppers and Worms
Shortly after Israel seized military control over the West Bank and Gaza in 1967, Israeli Chief of Staff Moshe Dayan told officials in his center-left political party, Rafi, that unless Palestinians in the newly-occupied territories make “peace” with Israel, they “shall continue to live like dogs, and whoever wishes may leave, and we will see where this process leads.”
On June 8, 1982, two days after the Israel invaded Lebanon, Prime Minister Menachem Begin delivered remarks before the Knesset justifying the military assault as a defense of Jewish lives worldwide. Begin insisted that the widespread rallying cry of terrorists around the globe was that “there is no innocent Jew. Every Jew is doomed – he must be killed.” In response, he declared, “This terror must be eradicated.” Setting Jewish people apart from the rest of humanity, Begin said:
The fate of a million and half a million Jewish children has been different from all the children of the world throughout the generations. No more. We will defend our children. If the hand of any two-footed animal is raised against them, that hand will be cut off, and our children will grow up in joy in the homes of their parents.
In April 1983, outgoing Israeli Chief of Staff Rafael Eitan (who was losing his post due to his responsibility for the 1982 Sabra-Shatila Massacre) reportedly told the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, “The Arabs will never win over us by throwing stones. Our response must be a nationalist Zionist response. For every stone that’’s thrown, we will build ten settlements. If 100 settlements will exist, and they will, between Nablus and Jerusalem, stones will not be thrown. If this will be the situation, then the Arabs will only be able to scurry around like drugged roaches in a bottle.”
During the First Intifada, on March 31, 1988, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir told reporters at the ruins of an ancient Herodian fortress in the occupied West Bank, “Anybody who wants to damage this fortress and other fortresses we are establishing will have his head smashed against the boulders and walls,” adding that Palestinians who resist the Israeli occupation “are like grasshoppers compared to us.”
In late 2004, Yehiel Hazan, a Likud minister and leader of the biggest settler lobbying group, declared on the floor of the Knesset, “The Arabs are worms. You find them everywhere like worms, underground as well as above,” adding, “Until we understand that we’re doing business with a nation of assassins and terrorists who don’t want us here, there will be no let up. These worms have not stopped attacking Jews for a century.”
On June 30, 2012, Israeli lawmaker Ayelet Shaked of the religious nationalist Jewish Home party posted a Facebook message that identified “the entire Palestinian people is the enemy” and calling for the total elimination of Palestine, “including its elderly and its women, its cities and its villages, its property and its infrastructure.” The post, alleged written years ago by now-deceased settler leader Uri Elitzur, added that Palestinian mothers should be executed for giving birth to “little snakes,” that is, Palestinian children. Less than a year later, Netanyahu appointed Shaked to be Israel’s Minister of Justice.
Netanyahu, too, has a penchant for animal allusions when speaking about those he despises most, be they Palestinians, Iranians, or Muslims, in general.
While a possibly apocryphal quote has then-Israel Prime Minister Ehud Barak saying in August 2000, “The Palestinians are like crocodiles, the more you give them meat, they want more,” Netanyahu brought the reptilian analogy up to date when, during a typically verbose and combative speech before the UN General Assembly in September 2011, he said:
[Israel’s] critics continue to press Israel to make far-reaching concessions without first assuring Israel’s security. They praise those who unwittingly feed the insatiable crocodile of militant Islam as bold statesmen. They cast as enemies of peace those of us who insist that we must first erect a sturdy barrier to keep the crocodile out, or at the very least jam an iron bar between its gaping jaws.
Netanyahu probably didn’t realize he was channeling his fellow apartheid champion, P.W. Botha, who led South Africa from 1978 to 1989, and is credited with complaining that “the free world wants to feed South Africa to the red crocodile [Communism], to appease its hunger.” Botha, incidentally, was widely known by the Afrikaans nickname Die Groot Krokodil, or “The Big Crocodile.”
The following March, in one of his most tedious diatribes about the non-existent threat of a nuclear-armed Iran, Netanyahu told attendees at AIPAC’s annual conference that Iran’s fully safeguarded uranium enrichment facilities and medical research reactor were actually a cover for a clandestine nuclear weapons program.
Ladies and Gentlemen, if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then what is it? That’s right, it’s a duck – but this duck is a nuclear duck. And it’s time the world started calling a duck a duck.
Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing
Appearing on Face The Nation on July 14, 2013, Netanyahu decried Iranian president-elect Hassan Rouhani as a “wolf in sheep’s clothing,” whose devious Persian strategy is to “smile and build a bomb.” He repeated this description to a group of U.S. lawmakers the following month.
On October 1, 2013, Netanyahu returned to the UN General Assembly and accused Rouhani of being a “wolf in sheep’s clothing.”
“Rouhani doesn’t sound like Ahmadinejad,” Netanyahu wailed. “But when it comes to Iran’s nuclear weapons program, the only difference between them is this: Ahmadinejad was a wolf in wolf’s clothing. Rouhani is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, a wolf who thinks he can pull the eyes — the wool over the eyes of the international community.”
Seeing the government in Damascus as too far to the left, Washington has been trying to orchestrate a regime change in Syria since at least 2003
Documents prepared by US Congress researchers as early as 2005 revealed that the US government was actively weighing regime change in Syria long before the Arab Spring uprisings of 2011, challenging the view that US support for the Syrian rebels is based on allegiance to a “democratic uprising” and showing that it is simply an extension of a long-standing policy of seeking to topple the government in Damascus. Indeed, the researchers made clear that the US government’s motivation to overthrow the government of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad is unrelated to democracy promotion in the Middle East. In point of fact, they noted that Washington’s preference is for secular dictatorships (Egypt) and monarchies (Jordan and Saudi Arabia.)  The impetus for pursuing regime change, according to the researchers, was a desire to sweep away an impediment to the achievement of US goals in the Middle East related to strengthening Israel, consolidating US domination of Iraq, and fostering free-market, free enterprise economies. Democracy was never a consideration.
The researchers revealed further that an invasion of Syria by US forces was contemplated following the US-led aggression against Iraq in 2003, but that the unanticipated heavy burden of pacifying Iraq militated against an additional expenditure of blood and treasure in Syria.  As an alternative to direct military intervention to topple the Syrian government, the United States chose to pressure Damascus through sanctions and support for the internal Syrian opposition.
The documents also revealed that nearly a decade before the rise of Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra that the US government recognized that Islamic fundamentalists were the main opposition to the secular Assad government and worried about the re-emergence of an Islamist insurgency that could lead Sunni fundamentalists to power in Damascus. A more recent document from the Congress’s researchers describes a US strategy that seeks to eclipse an Islamist take-over by forcing a negotiated settlement to the conflict in Syria in which the policing, military, judicial and administrative functions of the Syrian state are preserved, while Assad and his fellow Arab nationalists are forced to leave office. The likelihood is that if this scenario plays out that Assad and his colleagues will be replaced by biddable US surrogates willing to facilitate the achievement of US goals.
In 2005, Congress’s researchers reported that a consensus had developed in Washington that change in Syria needed to be brought about, but that there remained divisions on the means by which change could be effected. “Some call for a process of internal reform in Syria or alternatively for the replacement of the current Syrian regime,” the report said.  Whichever course Washington would settle on, it was clear that the US government was determined to shift the policy framework in Damascus.
The document described the Assad government as an impediment “to the achievement of US goals in the region.”  These goals were listed as: resolving “the Arab-Israeli conflict;” fighting “international terrorism;” reducing “weapons proliferation;” inaugurating “a peaceful, democratic and prosperous Iraqi state;” and fostering market-based, free enterprise economies. 
Stripped of their elegant words, the US objectives for the Middle East amounted to a demand that Damascus capitulate to the military hegemony of Israel and the economic hegemony of Wall Street. To be clear, what this meant was that in order to remove itself as an impediment to the achievement of US goals—and hence as an object of US hostility—Syria would have to:
o Accept Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state on territory seized from Palestinians, and quite possibly also Syrians and Lebanese, possibly within borders that include the Golan Heights, annexed from Syria by Israel in 1987 and occupied by Israel since 1967.
o End its support for militant groups seeking Palestinian self-determination and sever its connections with the resistance organization Hezbollah, the main bulwark against Israeli expansion into Lebanon.
o Leave itself effectively defenceless against the aggressions of the United States and its Middle East allies, including Israel, by abandoning even the capability of producing weapons of mass destruction (while conceding a right to Israel and the United States to maintain vast arsenals of WMD.)
o Terminate its opposition to US domination of neighboring Iraq.
o Transform what the US Congress’s researchers called Syria’s mainly publicly-owned economy, “still based largely on Soviet models,”  into a sphere of exploitation for US corporations and investors.
US government objections to Syrian policy, then, can be organized under three US-defined headings:
o Economic reform.
These headings translate into:
o Support for Palestinian and Lebanese resistance groups.
o Economic sovereignty.
Terrorism (support for Palestinian and Lebanese resistance groups)
The researchers noted that while Syria had “not been implicated directly in an act of terrorism since 1986” that “Syria has continued to provide support and safe haven for Palestinian groups” seeking self-determination, allowing “them to maintain offices in Damascus.” This was enough for the US government to label Syria a state sponsor of terrorism. The researchers went on to note that on top of supporting Palestinian “terrorists” that Damascus also supported Lebanese “terrorists” by permitting “Iranian resupply via Damascus of the Lebanese Shiite Muslim militia Hezbollah in Lebanon.” 
US Secretary of State Colin Powell travelled to Damascus on May 3, 2003 to personally issue a demand to the Syrian government that it sever its connections with militant organizations pursuing Palestinian self-determination and to stop providing them a base in Damascus from which to operate. In “testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on February 12, 2004, Powel complained that ‘Syria has not done what we demanded of it with respect to closing permanently of these offices and getting these individuals out of Damascus’.”
The Syrian government rejected the characterization of Hezbollah and Palestinian militants as “terrorists,” noting that the actions of these groups represented legitimate resistance.  Clearly, Washington had attempted to discredit the pursuit of Palestinian self-determination and Lebanese sovereignty by labelling the champions of these causes as terrorists.
“In a speech to the Heritage Foundation on May 6, 2002, then US Under Secretary (of State John) Bolton grouped Syria with Libya and Cuba as rogue states that… are pursuing the development of WMD.”  Later that year, Bolton echoed his earlier accusation, telling the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the Bush administration was very concerned about Syrian nuclear and missile programs. By September 2003, Bolton was warning of a “range of Syrian WMD programs.” 
Syria clearly had chemical weapons (now destroyed), though hardly in the same quantities as the much larger arsenals of the United States, Russia and (likely) its regional nemesis, Israel.  Citing the Washington Post, Congress’s researchers noted that Syria had “sought to build up its CW and missile capabilities as a ‘force equalizer’ to counter Israeli nuclear capabilities.”  It should be noted, however, that the idea that chemical weapons can act as a force equalizer to nuclear weapons is not only untenable, but risible. In WWI it took 70,000 tons of gas to produce as many fatalities as were produced at Hiroshima by a single US atom bomb.  To have any meaning at all, the concept of WMD must include weapons that kill massive numbers of people (nuclear weapons) and exclude those that don’t (chemical weapons.) Otherwise, it is a propaganda term used to magnify the non-threat posed by countries seeking independence outside the US orbit which have CW and biological weapons, but which weapons are no match for the United States’ nuclear weapons and are dwarfed by the Pentagon’s own CW and BW arsenals. Deceptively labelling these weapons as WMD, makes a non-threat a large threat that must be dealt with through military intervention and thereby provides a public relations rationale for a war of aggression.
As to the substance of Bolton’s assertion that Syria had a wide range of WMD programs, the CIA was unable to produce any evidence to corroborate his claim. Alfred Prados, author of a 2005 Congressional Research Service report titled “Syria: U.S. Relations and Bilateral Issues,” listed CIA assessments of Syrian nuclear and BW programs but none of the assessments contained any concrete evidence that Syria actually had such programs. For example, the CIA noted that it was “monitoring Syrian nuclear intentions with concern” but offered nothing beyond “intentions” to show that Damascus was working to acquire a nuclear weapons capability. Prados also noted that Syria had “probably also continued to develop a BW capability,” this based on the fact that Damascus had “signed, but not ratified, the Biological Weapons Convention.” Prados conceded that “Little information is available on Syrian biological programs.”
US president George H.W. Bush is responsible for rendering the concept of WMD meaningless by expanding it to include chemical agents. Before Bush, WMD was a term to denote nuclear weapons or weapons of similar destructive capacity that might be developed in the future. Bush debased the definition in order to go to war with Iraq. He needed to transform the oil-rich Arab country from being seen accurately as a comparatively weak country militarily to being seen inaccurately as a significant threat because it possessed weapons now dishonestly rebranded as being capable of producing mass destruction. It was an exercise in war propaganda.
In 1989, Bush pledged to eliminate the United States’ chemical weapons by 1999. Seventeen years later, the Pentagon is still sitting on the world’s largest stockpile of militarized chemical agents. US allies Israel and Egypt also have chemical weapons. In 2003, Syria proposed to the United Nations Security Council that the Middle East become a chemical weapons-free zone. The proposal was blocked by the United States, likely in order to shelter Israel from having to give up its store of chemical arms. Numerous calls to declare the Middle East a nuclear weapons-free zone have also been blocked by Washington to shelter Israel from having to give up its nuclear arsenal.
Bolton, it will be recalled, was among the velociraptors of the Bush administration to infamously and falsely accuse Saddam Hussein’s Iraq of holding on to WMD that the UN Security Council had demanded it dismantle. In effect, Iraq was ordered to disarm itself, and when it did, was falsely accused by the United States of still being armed as a pretext for US forces to invade the now defenceless country. Bolton may have chosen to play the same WMD card against Syria for the same reason: to manufacture consent for an invasion. But as Congress’s researchers pointed out, “Although some officials… advocated a ‘regime change strategy’ in Syria” through military means, “military operations in Iraq… forced US policy makers to explore additional options,”  rendering Bolton’s false accusations academic.
Since the only legitimate WMD are nuclear weapons, and since there is no evidence that Syria has even the untapped capability of producing them, much less possesses them, Syria has never been a WMD-state or a threat to the US goal of reducing WMD proliferation. What’s more, the claim that Washington holds this as a genuine goal is contestable, since it has blocked efforts to make the Middle East a chemical- and nuclear-weapons-free zone, in order to spare its protégé, Israel. It would be more accurate to say that the United States has a goal of reducing weapons proliferation among countries it may one day invade, in order to make the invasion easier. Moreover, there’s an egregious US double-standard here. Washington maintains the world’s largest arsenals of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, but demands that countries it opposes should abandon their own, or forswear their development. This is obviously self-serving and has nothing whatever to do with fostering peace and everything to do with promoting US world domination. One US grievance with Assad’s Syria, then, is that it refused to accept the international dictatorship of the United States.
Economic reform (economic sovereignty)
In connection with Syria impeding the achievement of US goals in the Middle East, the Congressional Research Service made the following points in 2005 about the Syrian economy: It is “largely state-controlled;” it is “dominated by… (the) public sector, which employs 73% of the labour force;” and it is “still based largely on Soviet models.”  These departures from the preferred Wall Street paradigm of free markets and free enterprise appear, from the perspective of Congress’s researchers, to be valid reasons for the US government to attempt to bring about “reform” in Syria. Indeed, no one should be under the illusion that the US government is prepared to allow foreign governments to exercise sovereignty in setting their own direction economically. That this is the case is evidenced by the existence of a raft of US sanctions legislation against “non-market states.” (See the Congressional Research Service 2016 report, “North Korea: Economic Sanctions,” for a detailed list of sanctions imposed on North Korea for having a “Marxist-Leninist” economy.)
To recapitulate the respective positions of Syria and the United States on issues of bilateral concern to the two countries:
On Israel. To accept Israel’s right to exist as a settler state on land illegitimately acquired through violence and military conquest from Palestinians, Lebanese (the Shebaa Farms) and Syrians (Golan), would be to collude in the denial of the fundamental right of self-determination. Damascus has refused to collude in the negation of this right. Washington demands it.
On Hezbollah. Hezbollah is the principal deterrent against Israeli territorial expansion into Lebanon and Israeli aspirations to turn the country into a client state. Damascus’s support for the Lebanese resistance organization, and Washington’s opposition to it, places the Assad government on the right side of the principle of self-determination and successive US governments on the wrong side.
On WMD. Syria has a right to self-defense through means of its own choosing and the demand that it abandon its right is not worthy of discussion. The right to self-defense is a principle the United States and its allies accept as self-evident and non-negotiable. It is not a principle that is valid only for the United States and its satellites.
On opposition to the US invasion of Iraq. The 2003 US-led aggression against Iraq was an international crime on a colossal scale, based on an illegitimate casus belli, and a fabricated one at that, and which engendered massive destruction and loss of life. It was the supreme international crime by the standards of the Nuremberg trials. Applying the Nuremberg principles, the perpetrators would be hanged. US aggression against Iraq, including the deployment of “sanctions of mass destruction” through the 1990s, which led to hundreds of thousands of Iraqi deaths, and was blithely accepted by then US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright as “worth it,” was undertaken despite the absence of any threat to the United States. The deliberate creation of humanitarian calamities in the absence of a threat, as a matter of choice and not necessity, in pursuit of economic gain, is an iniquity on a signal scale. What, then, are we to think of a government in Damascus that opposed this iniquity, and a government in Washington that demands that Damascus reverse its opposition and accept the crime as legitimate?
Whatever its failings, the Assad government has unambiguously adopted positions that have traditionally been understood to be concerns of the political left: support for self-determination; public ownership and planning of the economy; opposition to wars of aggression; and anti-imperialism. This is not to say that on a spectrum from right to left that the Assad government occupies a position near the left extreme; far from it. But from Washington’s point of view, Damascus is far enough to the left to be unacceptable. Indeed, it is the Syrian government’s embrace of traditional leftist positions that accounts for why it is in the cross-hairs of the world’s major champion of reactionary causes, the United States, even if it isn’t the kind of government that is acceptable to Trotskyists and anarchists.
In 2003, the Bush administration listed Syria as part of a junior varsity axis of evil, along with Cuba and Libya, citing support in Damascus for Hezbollah and groups engaged in armed struggle to achieve Palestinian self-determination.  An invasion of Syria following the US take-over of Iraq in 2003 was contemplated, but was called off after the Pentagon discovered its hands were full quelling resistance to its occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. As an alternative to direct military intervention to topple the Syrian government, the United States chose to pressure Assad through sanctions and by strengthening the opposition in Syria, hoping either to force Assad to accept Israel’s territorial gains, end support for Hezbollah and Palestinian militant groups, and to remake the economy—or to yield power. However, as Congress’s researchers reveal, there were concerns in Washington that if efforts to bolster the opposition went too far, Assad would fall to “a successor regime (which) could be led by Islamic fundamentalists who might adopt policies even more inimical to the United States.” 
On December 12, 2003, US president George W. Bush signed the Syria Accountability Act, which imposed sanctions on Syria unless, among other things, Damascus halted its support for Hezbollah and Palestinian resistance groups and ceased “development of weapons of mass destruction.” The sanctions included bans on exports of military equipment and civilian goods that could be used for military purposes (in other words, practically anything.) This was reinforced with an additional (and largely superfluous) ban on US exports to Syria other than food and medicine, as well as a prohibition against Syrian aircraft landing in or overflying the United States. 
On top of these sanctions, Bush imposed two more. Under the USA PATRIOT Act, the US Treasury Department ordered US financial institutions to sever connections with the Commercial Bank of Syria.  And under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, the US president froze the assets of Syrians involved in supporting policies hostile to the United States, which is to say, supporting Hezbollah and groups fighting for Palestinian self-determination, refusing to accept as valid territorial gains which Israel had made through wars of aggression, and operating a largely publicly-owned, state-planned economy, based on Soviet models. 
In order to strengthen internal opposition to the Syrian government, Bush signed the Foreign Operations Appropriation Act. This act required that a minimum of $6.6 million “be made available for programs supporting democracy in Syria… as well as unspecified amounts of additional funds (emphasis added).” 
By 2006, Time was reporting that the Bush administration had “been quietly nurturing individuals and parties opposed to the Syrian government in an effort to undermine the regime of President Bashar Assad.” Part of the effort was being run through the National Salvation Front. The Front included “the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist organization that for decades supported the violent overthrow of the Syrian government.” Front representatives “were accorded at least two meetings” at the White House in 2006. Hence, the US government, at its highest level, was colluding with Islamists to bring down the Syrian government at least five years before the eruption of protests in 2011. This is a development that seems to have escaped the notice of some who believe that violent Islamist organizations emerged only after March 2011. In point of fact, the major internal opposition to secular Syrian governments, both before and after March 2011, were and are militant Sunni Islamists. Syria expert Joshua Landis told Time that White House support for the Syrian opposition was “apparently an effort to gin up the Syrian opposition under the rubric of ‘democracy promotion’ and ‘election monitoring,’ but it’s really just an attempt to pressure the Syrian government into doing what the United States wants.” 
The US Congress researchers noted that despite “US calls for democracy in the Middle East, historically speaking, US policymakers” have tended to favor “secular Arab republics (Egypt) and Arab monarchies (Jordan and Saudi Arabia.)”  They noted too that since “the rise of political Islam as an opposition vehicle in the Middle East decades ago, culminating in the 1979 overthrow of the Shah of Iran, US policymakers have been concerned that secular Arab dictatorships like Syria would face rising opposition from Islamist groups seeking their overthrow.”  “The religiously fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood,” which the Bush administration enlisted to pressure the Assad government, had long been at odds with the secular Syrian government, the researchers noted. 
Today, Islamic State operates as one of the largest, if not the largest, rebel groups in Syria. A 2015 Congressional Research Service report cited an “unnamed senior State Department official” who observed:
[W]e’ve never seen something like this. We’ve never seen a terrorist organization with 22,000 foreign fighters from a hundred countries all around the world. To put it in context—again, the numbers are fuzzy—but it’s about double of what went into Afghanistan over 10 years in the war against the Soviet Union. Those Jihadi fighters were from a handful of countries.” 
Islamic State differs from other militant Islamist opponents of the Syrian government in seeking to control territory, not only in Syria, but in Iraq and beyond. As such, it constitutes a threat to US domination of Iraq and influence throughout the Middle East and north Africa. In contrast, ideologically similar groups, such as Jabhat al-Nusra, limit the scope of their operations to Syria. They, therefore, constitute a threat to the Syrian government alone, and have proved, as a consequence, to be more acceptable to Washington.
The US government has publicly drawn a distinction between Islamic State and the confined-to-Syria-therefore-acceptable rebels, seeking to portray the former as terrorists and the latter as moderates, regardless of the methods they use and their views on Islam and democracy. The deception is echoed by the US mass media, which often complain that when Russian warplanes target non-Islamic State rebels that they’re striking “moderates,” as if all rebels apart from Islamic State are moderates, by definition. US Director of Intelligence James Clapper acknowledged that “moderate” means little more than “not Islamic State.” He told the Council on Foreign Relations that “Moderate these days is increasingly becoming anyone who’s not affiliated with” Islamic State. 
The rebels are useful to the US government. By putting military pressure on Damascus to exhaust the Syrian army, they facilitate the achievement of the immediate US goal of “forcing a negotiated settlement to the conflict that will see President Assad and some his supporters leave office while preserving the institutions and security structures of the Syrian state,”  as Congress’s researchers summarize US strategy. Hence, Islamic State exists both as a useful instrument of US policy, and as a threat to US domination and control of Iraq and the broader Middle East. To Washington, the terrorist organization is a double-edged sword, and is treated accordingly. US airstrikes on Islamic State appear calculated to weaken the terrorist group enough that it doesn’t gain more territory in Iraq, but not so much that pressure is taken off Damascus. A tepid approach to fighting the hyper-sectarian terrorist group fits with US president Barack Obama’s stated goal of degrading and ultimately destroying Islamic State, which appears to mean destroying it only after it has served its purpose of exhausting the Syrian army. In the meantime, the anti-Shiite cut-throats are given enough latitude to maintain pressure on Syrian loyalists.
Congress’s researchers concur with this view. They conclude that “US officials may be concerned that a more aggressive campaign against the Islamic State may take military pressure off the” Syrian government.  This means that the US president is moderating efforts to destroy Islamic State to allow a group he decries as “simply a network of killers who are brutalizing local populations”  continue their work of brutalizing local populations. If he truly believed Islamic State was a scourge that needed to be destroyed, the US president would work with the Syrian government to expunge it. Instead, he has chosen to wield Islamic State as a weapon to expunge the Syrian government, in the service of building up Israel and fostering free market and free enterprise economies in the Middle East to accommodate US foreign investment and exports on behalf of his Wall Street sponsors. 
1. Alfred B. Prados and Jeremy M. Sharp, “Syria: Political Conditions and Relations with the United States After the Iraq War,” Congressional Research Service, February 28, 2005.
2. Prados and Sharp.
7. Alfred B. Prados, “Syria: U.S. Relations and Bilateral Issues,” Congressional Research Service, March 13, 2006.
11. Israel signed the global treaty banning the production and use of chemical weapons, but never ratified it.
13. Stephen Gowans, “Rethinking Chemical Weapons,” what’s left, August 14, 2015.
14. Prados and Sharp.
16. Steve R. Weisman, “US threatens to impose penalties against Syrians,” The New York Times, April 14, 2003.
17. Prados and Sharp.
22. Adam Zagorin, “Syria in Bush’s cross hairs,” Time, December 19, 2006.
23. Prados and Sharp.
26. Christopher M. Blanchard and Carla E. Humud, “The Islamic State and U.S. Policy,” Congressional Research Service, December 28, 2015.
27. James Clapper: US Director of Intelligence: http://www.cfr.org/homeland-security/james-clapper-global-intelligence-challenges/p36195
28. Blanchard and Humud.
29. Christopher M. Blanchard, Carla E. Humud Mary Beth D. Nikitin, “Armed Conflict in Syria: Overview and U.S. Response,”Congressional Research Service,” October 9, 2015.
30. Blanchard and Humud.
31. Virtually every member of the Obama administration, past and present, is a member of the Wall Street-dominated Council on Foreign Relations, or additionally, has spent part of his or her career on Wall Street. Wall Street was a major source of Obama’s election campaign funding. The strong interlock between Wall Street and the executive branch of the US government is not unique to the Obama administration. See my “Aspiring to Rule the World: US Capital and the Battle for Syria,” what’s left, December 15, 2015.
‘The politics of deflection’ (shoot the messenger, ignore the message) exposed
With obvious relish Richard Falk, former professor of international law at Princeton and UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Occupied Palestine, has issued a well deserved slap on the wrist to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon for his naivety. It follows Israel’s furious reaction to Ban’s remark to the Security Council that “Palestinian frustration is growing under the weight of a half-century of occupation and the paralysis of the peace process”.
The usually timid Ban, suddenly emboldened, also called Israel’s illegal settlement building “an affront to the Palestinian people and to the international community”. He added: “Security measures alone will not stop the violence. They cannot address the profound sense of alienation and despair driving some Palestinians – especially young people.” Whereupon Israel’s prime minister Netanyahu, fresh from approving another 150 squatter homes on stolen Palestinian land, accused the Secretary General of giving a “tailwind to terror”.
Falk penned an open letter to Ban reminding him of his earlier attempts to get Falk dismissed from his UN job for speaking the same truths. “Having read of the vicious attacks on you for venturing some moderate, incontestable criticisms of Israel’s behaviour, I understand well the discomfort you clearly feel. What intrigues and appals me is that while I was Special Rapporteur for Occupied Palestine during the period 2008-2014, you chose to attack me personally in public on several occasions, joining with US and Israel diplomats calling for my dismissal and doing the utmost to undermine my credibility while discharging this unpaid UN job under difficult conditions.
“At the time, I was doing my best to bear witness to some of the same truths about Israel’s unlawful and immoral behavior that recently got you in similar hot water. My UN mandate was to report upon the reality of Israeli violations of international law while sustaining their apartheid regime of oppressive control over the Palestinian people.”
Referring to Ban’s concern that we are reaching “a point of no return” for the two-state solution and his reminder to the Security Council that the UN will “continue to uphold the right of Palestinians to self-determination”, Falk warns that, given present realities, self-determination must be understood as something more than just “another delusionary embrace of a diplomatically negotiated two-state solution”.
He points out that Israel’s leaders want the idea of a Palestinian state abandoned altogether and that reliance on such a discredited diplomatic path [a two-state solution] has resulted over and over again in severe encroachments on occupied Palestine and intense suffering for its people. “Clinging to the two-state mantra is not neutral. Delay benefits Israel, harms Palestine. There is every reason to believe that this pattern will continue as long as Israel is not seriously challenged diplomatically and by the sorts of growing pressures mounted by the international solidarity movement and the BDS campaign.”
Around 90,000 Palestinians remain displaced in the Gaza Strip, almost 18 months after the ceasefire that ended Israel’s ‘Operation Protective Edge’ offensive in 2014. Furthermore, the reconstruction or repair of homes of 74 percent of displaced families is yet to even start.
According to UN OCHA, living conditions for the more than 16,000 displaced families are characterised by “overcrowding, limited access to basic services, lack of privacy, tensions with host communities, risks due to unexploded ordnance and exposure to adverse weather.”
By the end of January 2016, only 15 percent of displaced families had been able to return to repaired or reconstructed homes. The repair and reconstruction of an additional 2,000 homes is ongoing, with many of these homes nearing completion.
Israel’s assault on the Gaza Strip in July-August 2014 destroyed 11,000 homes and severely damaged or rendered uninhabitable an additional 6,800 homes.
Hebron, Occupied Palestine – On Tuesday, February 9, Israeli forces patrolled the Palestinian market in occupied al-Khalil (Hebron), harassing and intimidating residents.
A group of soldiers marched through the souq, the main Palestinian market since the closure of Shuhada Street for Palestinians after the Ibrahimi mosque massacre in 1994. Any male adult or youth was stopped on their way to work and forced by the Israeli soldiers to lift up their shirts and trouser-pants, as well as throw their IDs on the ground. After throwing their IDs on the ground Israeli soldiers ordered the men to move back, so they could pick up the IDs from a ‘safe distance’. Most Palestinians were dismissed after this humiliating procedure, whereas some of them were detained for minutes or violently body-searched.
International human rights defenders documenting the Israeli forces violations of basic human rights of Palestinians, were intimidated and harassed by the Israeli soldiers in an attempt to prevent them from documenting. Soldiers took photos of the internationals with their private phones held right in the volunteers faces and as an intmidation tactic ID-checked them.
During the more than one hour patrol Israeli forces repeatedly pointed their assault rifles at the internationals as well as Palestinians.
Not only adults were surprised and shocked by the sudden presence of heavily-armed soldiers right outside their houses, but also children on their way to school and work. Some children, scared by the soldiers, turned around right away after spotting the soldiers and ran back home instead of continuing their way to school or kindergarten. International human rights defenders walked several scared children past the soldiers so they could safely reach their schools and kindergarten.
Nearly every western country has an Israel lobby
Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom recently suggested an inquiry into a surge in Israel’s reported extra-judicial killing of Palestinian demonstrators after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for a harsh response and told his police and soldiers that those opposed to the continued occupation of the West Bank were “terrorists.” Almost immediately, the Israeli government denounced Wallstrom as engaging in “political stupidity,” banning her from travel to Israel, while one newspaper close to the government suggested that she might be assassinated, as fellow Swede Count Folke Bernadotte was by Jewish militants in 1948, because anti-Semitism appears to be in the Swedish DNA.
All of that outrage and personal ridicule is pro forma for an Israeli government that reflexively smears and denigrates any and all critics, but the more interesting epilogue was the unanticipated discovery by the Swedish and international media that Wallstrom has not been paying the full rent on the subsidized government apartment that she occupies. The revelation follows a familiar pattern, where critics of Israel suddenly find themselves being discredited for something completely unrelated to the Middle East. President George H. W. Bush (the good Bush) suffered a similar come to Jesus moment in 1991 when he went on national television to denounce the pressure tactics of the Israel lobby. The Israeli government was demanding U.S. Treasury backed loans to construct illegal settlements. President Bush, who was running for reelection and far ahead in the opinion polls, suddenly was confronted by a well-funded and organized opposition raising doubts about him and his record. And President Bush was not reelected, presumably learning along the way that one does not trifle with the Israel Lobby, to be replaced by the enthusiastically Zionist Bill Clinton.
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is also wondering about Israel’s alleged commitment to peace. On Tuesday he said “it was human nature to react to occupation,” following up with a comment on Wednesday regarding Israel’s “stifling” occupation of Palestine. Netanyahu reacted with his usual over the top rhetoric, stating that Ban “was encouraging terror.” One might also anticipate, as in the case of Wallstrom, a well-orchestrated media blitz questioning Ban’s motives or explaining how he has always been a closet anti-Semite. It is par for the course and fully expected when one criticizes Israel.
Indeed, it is a global phenomenon. Wherever one goes – Western Europe, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United States – there is a well-organized and funded lobby ready, willing and able to go to war to protect Israel. Most of the organizations involved take at least some direction from officials in Tel Aviv. Many of them even cooperate fully with the Israeli government, its parastatal organizations and faux-NGOs like the lawfare center Shurat HaDin. Their goal is to spread propaganda and influence the public in their respective countries of residence to either hew to the line coming out of Tel Aviv or to confuse the narrative and stifle debate when potential Israeli crimes are being discussed.
Israel’s diaspora allies are backed up by a formidable government organized machine that spews out disinformation and muddies the waters whenever critics surface. The Israeli Foreign Ministry has a corps of paid “volunteers” who monitor websites worldwide and take remedial action and there is a similar group working out of the Prime Minister’s office. That is why any negative story appearing in the U.S. about Israel is immediately inundated with pro-Israel comments, many of which make exactly the same coordinated points while exhibiting the same somewhat less than perfect English. On sites like Yahoo they are actually able to suppress unwelcome comments by flooding the site with “Dislike” responses. If a comment receives a large number of dislikes, it is automatically blocked or removed.
The sayanim, local Jews in their countries of residence, are essential to this process, having been alerted by emails from the Israeli Foreign Ministry about what to do and say. The reality is that Israel has lost the war of public opinion based on its own actions, which are becoming more and more repressive and even inhumane and so are difficult to explain. That means that the narrative has to be shifted by Israel’s friends through subterfuge and the corruption of the information process in each country. In some places the key media and political players who are engaged in the process can simply be bought. In other places they can be intimidated or pressured into taking positions that are neither in their own countries’ interests nor morally acceptable. In large countries like the United States, Britain and France a combination of friendly suasion and coercive elements often come together.
In all cases, the objective is the same: to repress or misrepresent any criticism of Israel and to block any initiatives that might be taken that would do damage either to the Israeli economy or to the country’s perceived standing in the world. In some countries Israel’s advocates work right out in the open and are highly successful in implementing policies that often remain largely hidden but that can be discerned as long as one knows what to look for.
Recent Israel Lobby activity in the United States has included legislation at state levels to make illegal divestment from Israel or to promote boycott of Israeli products. A trade pact with Europe will reportedly include language requiring the United States to take retaliatory action if any European country tries to boycott Israel, to include the West Bank settlements, which the empowering legislation regards as part of Israel proper.
Israel is also working to create a mechanism for global censorship of the internet to ban “incitement,” which clearly is a euphemism for material that is critical of its policies. Recently Facebook has begun to delete from its site any “hate speech” and “terrorism” related material but what has not been widely noted is that the apparent restrictions also have involved sites critical of Israel including Christians United for Peace.
Many prominent critics of the American Israel Political Action Committee (AIPAC) are unaware that AIPAC exists in various forms in a number of other countries. BICOM , the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre, is located in London. The French equivalent is the Conseil Representatif des Institutions Juives de France (CRIF). In Canada there is a Center for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) , in Australia a Zionist Federation of Australia and in New Zealand a Zionist Federation of New Zealand .
While AIPAC is specifically focused on the U.S.-Israel relationship, its counterparts in Europe often deal with a whole range of issues that they define as Jewish, but protecting Israel is always part of their agenda, particularly for those groups that label themselves as Zionist. The political power and financial muscle of the groups gives them access to government far beyond the actual numbers of their supporters. In France this has led to the legislation of hate crimes that de facto exist to protect Jews that have also been interpreted as limitations on one’s ability to criticize Israel. In its most recent test, a French court declared that a peaceful protest promoting Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) directed against Israel was illegal.
Many believe that France now has less free speech than any other European country. Recently, the alleged humor magazine Charlie Hebdo, ran a revolting cartoon showing the little Syrian boy Alan Kurdi who drowned in Turkey last summer as all grown up and sexually assaulting a woman in Germany. There was considerable outrage throughout the world but no sign that the French government will do anything to prosecute the magazines since it was Muslims who were being ridiculed. Charlie Hebdo frequently insults Muslims (and also Christians) but rarely lampoons Jews.
In Britain, Jewish organizations uniquely are allowed to patrol heavily Jewish neighborhoods in police-like uniforms while driving police type vehicles and there have been reports of their threatening Muslims who enter the areas. Prime Minister David Cameron’s government, which is responsive to a Conservative Friends of Israel lobbying group, has also done its part to create official barriers to any spread of the BDS movement. It is proposing legislation that will enable it to overrule decisions by local government councils that seek to cut business or investment ties with Israel and, more particularly, Israeli settlements, under the pretext that such action interferes with the conduct of foreign affairs. The British government is also considering its own brand of hate speech legislation, banning from social media any commentary that is considered to be anti-Semitic, which will almost certainly extend to criticism of Israel.
Canada’s government has also threatened to use hate speech laws to block criticism of Israel and forbid BDS related activity. Australia meanwhile, has ceased referring to east Jerusalem as “occupied” and is apparently leaning towards similar “non-pejorative” language relating to the militarized occupation of the West Bank, preferring the neocon favored dodge “disputed.” New Zealand has proposed Israeli-Palestinian peace talks that specifically demand that participants “refrain from referring a situation… to the International Criminal Court,” which would effectively decriminalize war crimes committed by both sides during the two recent invasions of Gaza. As a United Nations investigation determined that Israel was disproportionately responsible for what did occur, the proposal eliminates accountability and is effectively a get out of jail free card for some Israeli government officials.
And so it goes. Criticize Israel and there will be a comeuppance by virtue of a highly developed international system that relies on government direction as well as volunteer supporters who are able to shape both the media message and the political response. Accepting that as a given, I suppose one should be proud of being called an anti-Semite every time the label is misapplied to stifle dissent, but it all sadly reflects a lowering of the discussion to a dirt level. This might just be because there is no justification for Israeli behavior. The fact is that in terms of systematic human rights violations Israel is something beyond an apartheid state, frequently engaging in open racism and, in the opinion of many observers, crimes against humanity. It is furthermore a persistent source of instability in the Middle East and even beyond.
Israel is a liability to the United States and to the European nations that it has successfully manipulated into acquiescence regarding its bad behavior. When AIPAC and its overseas clones act for Israel the host nations in which these organizations exist should recognize exactly what is taking place. … Full article
The newspaper had plenty to say about Israeli Jewish life, however: two lengthy stories about prayer space at the Western Wall and one discussing Zionism. Each of these stories ran over a thousand words.
Two shorter news articles reported that the murderers of a Palestinian teen had been sentenced to prison and that a knife attack left one Israeli police officer dead, but nothing in either of these provided the context crucial to understanding events in the occupied territories.
Meanwhile, as the Times obsesses over Israeli identity and attitudes, the occupation grinds on, producing news that appears elsewhere. At the top of the list were two major stories: A Palestinian prisoner was near death after passing his 75th day on hunger strike, and Israeli forces carried out a massive demolition of over 20 homes, rendering more than 100 Palestinians homeless in the dead of winter.
The ordeal of Mohammed al-Qeeq, a journalist held without trial since Nov. 21 of last year, drew the attention of Israeli and international media outlets, which recounted his legal appeals, protests on his behalf and an Israeli Supreme Court decision which “froze” his detention but confined him to a hospital. (Al-Qeeq refused the offer and continued his fast.)
Al-Qeeq’s hunger strike was deemed unfit to print in the Times, perhaps because it would touch on Israel’s use of administrative detention, which holds prisoners without trial. Readers are not to know that as of last December 660 Palestinians were held in this limbo, nor were they to be informed that a number of human rights groups have protested Israel’s unsavory use of the practice.
And then there is the matter of two impoverished villages in the South Hebron Hills of the West Bank, Khirbet Jenbah and Khirbet Al-Halawah, which were made even more destitute after Israeli army crews arrived last Tuesday and demolished 22 structures, displacing 110 people, including dozens of minors. The army also confiscated solar panels, which, like many of the homes, had been donated by aid organizations.
The military claimed that it destroyed Jenbah and Al-Halawah because they were located in a declared firing zone. The Israeli publication 972 Magazine, however, noted that “Jewish settlements within [the zone] have not been served with eviction orders.”
This was the largest mass demolition in a decade, and the plan to destroy villages within the firing zone has drawn international attention and a petition from world-renowned authors to spare the communities. None of this, however, was enough to draw the interest of the Times.
Instead, the Times considered it more urgent to examine the effects of a new prayer space at the Western Wall—not once, but twice—and to take a look at Zionism today. Villagers thrown out in the cold of winter and a prisoner on the brink of death took a back seat to these concerns.
The Times claims that it gives readers “the complete, unvarnished truth as best as we can learn it,” and it insists that the newspaper’s overriding goal is to “cover the news as impartially as possible.” Readers who never stray to other sources of information may actually believe this.
Has anyone seen Gaza lately? A Palestinian I met the other day told he was from Gaza, he told me about his eighty year old mother living in horrid conditions there, so I decided to look through the newspapers, surf the news online and run through TV channels, local, international and I even looked at news from the Middle East, but all was in vain. I can’t find Gaza, not a single word, not a bit of news anywhere. I know it was there at one time, so I desperately decided to look through old notes, vintage news clips old videos and clearly there are signs that it was there at one time, but now I can find no sign of its existence. Once again, in a magic trick of epic proportions Israel made Gaza disappear.
As I write these words, I sit in front of my computer screen scratching my head. How did it disappear? Where did Gaza go? Almost two million people vanished into thin air. Now I suppose there is no need to worry about the tens of thousands of people injured in Israeli attacks and then forsaken with no care. We can all conveniently forget about the countless children traumatized by the constant humming of drones and the terror of missiles destroying homes and killing family members. We can stop worrying whether or not there are sufficient supplies of medicine reaching the besieged people or if there is any electricity to keep people warm and maintain hospitals. We can rest assured that there are no more babies born prematurely who are likely to die due to lack of proper postnatal care.
When Gaza was there it was really quite terrible. There were people there with no access to clean water, there was food insecurity and thousands were homeless because Israel destroyed their homes. What made it even worse is that five minutes from where Gaza used to be, Israelis were living perfectly secure, with plenty of food and water, no shortage of electricity, warmth in the winter and cooling in the hot summers. Hospitals were functioning and medicine was available for anyone who required help. But the people in Gaza had no access to any of this because Israel did not allow them out of what used to be a huge concentration camp. With few exceptions, Israel also didn’t permit people who wanted to go to Gaza to help, to do so, Israel didn’t allow food, water or medicine in and when the people in Gaza dug tunnels in order to smuggle food and other necessities, these tunnels were destroyed by Israel’s great ally, President/Generalisimo Abdel Fatah Sisi of Egypt.
Before Gaza disappeared there would be occasional rocket fire from Gaza and attempts by Palestinians to fight off the Israeli military. The rockets were called “Qassam” rockets and the fighters were called terrorists. Even though there were cases in other parts of the world where people who fought for their freedom were called heroes, this never happened in Gaza. Young fighters in Gaza who sacrificed everything and died attempting to fight the Israeli war machine were never called heroes, because, and one can only guess because Gaza is no longer there to verify, but one assumes it is because in this world in which we live, Palestinians are not permitted to be heroes. No, Palestinians are only accepted as victims or as terrorists. Heroism is not permitted for the people who used to exist in what used to be Gaza.
The gentleman I met the other day who said he was from Gaza described a story that was heart wrenching, but since it cannot be verified I have to doubt its validity. It cannot be possible that such horror, such suffering exists only minutes from Israeli towns and cities, and barely an hour drive from Tel-Aviv and no one would report it, not a single news outlet would pick it up. It is inconceivable that almost two million people would be caged in like animals, living in conditions that can only be described as inhumane – and the world would be completely silent. After all the enlightened Western civilization, the developed world, the major countries of the world wouldn’t just sit there and say nothing, do nothing and allow this to continue. After all, we are not talking about some remote hilltop in Afghanistan or some unheard of village in Kurdistan or Iran we are talking about Israel. Yes, Israel, an ally of the US, a country hailed by the UK, France, Germany as the only democracy in the Middle East.
Had Gaza and the nearly two million people who used to live in it hadn’t mysteriously disappeared, someone would have demanded that Israel, the recipient of billions of dollars in foreign aid would use that money to provide relief to the people in Gaza. That it would use these billions of dollars to build homes for the homeless, provide food for the hungry, medicine and medical care for the sick and injured and provide comfort for the hundreds of thousands of traumatized children who have been emotionally scarred because of the brutality of Israeli terrorism. The world would demand that those within Israel who were responsible for the terrible crimes committed by the Israeli army in Gaza be brought to justice, pay for their crimes agains innocents.
Israel had used magic tricks to fool the world before, but this time it really outdid itself. Does anyone remember the Iran smoke screen? The nuclear threat that never was? The existential threat that never existed? Yes, these were all quite amazing and very effective. They fooled millions of people the world over. But to make Gaza disappear is an even grater achievement. Its more complex than the “self-defense” trick where Israel bombed Gaza and murdered thousands of people who never hurt a soul, and then convinced the world that murdering people in Gaza was an act of self-defense.
I think of this gentleman from Gaza, Mohammad is his name, I’m amazed. He is a highly educated, successful man, he has seven children and he works hard to provide them with an education. One of his daughters is a heart surgeon. He came up to me after a recent lecture in Huntsville, Alabama and I was moved by his story. He even bought a copy of my book, and as he leafed through it and saw the photo of the Palestinian hero Abu Ali Shahin he told me that Abu Ali was his uncle from his mother’s side. His mother’s family came from the village of Besshit, the same village, now destroyed by Israel, from where Abu Ali Shahin told me that he came. So I am puzzled. Mohammad told me a story that was real, painful. He told me he can’t visit his mother, nor can he send her the medicine she needs but cannot find in Gaza. So is it possible that Gaza didn’t disappear? Could it be that it is still there and no one talks about it?