Two British universities have cancelled lectures by international law professor Richard Falk after he co-authored a UN report which concludes that Israel is an “apartheid” regime.
Falk said Middlesex University called off his speech, citing “health and safety” concerns, while University of East London cancelled his lecture, claiming that the approval for the speech had not followed proper procedures.
“As far as I can tell, there is a growing kind of feeling that the educational establishment in Britain, specifically in England, has been kind of intimidated in dealing with those who are seen as critics of Israel,” Falk told the Middle East Eye news portal.
Falk denounced the cancellations as the “intensification” of a trend of restricting academic freedom on university campuses, warning that depriving students of delving into controversial issues restricts their experience for becoming engaged citizens.
Falk said he has experienced similar assaults on his character after serving as UN special rapporteur on Palestinian human rights from 2008 to 2014.
Since the UN report was published, the Princeton University professor has faced attacks and accusations of bias and anti-Semitism.
He dismissed such criticism as being far from reality and said that Zionist NGOs are trying to “shoot the messenger, rather than address the issues raised in the message.”
“It has been used against a variety of other people – playing the anti-Semitic card rather than dealing with the substance of Palestinian grievances or Israeli violations of international law,” Falk said.
The prominent law professor noted that supporters of Israel will be on weak grounds to discuss the realities in the occupied Palestinian territories, as Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians has fallen below the level of acceptable moral behavior and international legal standards.
Falk’s co-authored report, which was reviewed by three “internationally renowned” jurists before it was published, was withdrawn from the UN website after prompting international uproar.
It documents “apartheid” patterns of discrimination that fragment Palestinian society through “distinct laws, policies and practices.”
“It appears to be an instance where the new UN Secretary-General [Antonio Guterres] gave way to pressure coming particularly from Washington, but also from Israel,” Falk said.
Last week, Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary for UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) Rima Khalaf resigned in protest after Guterres ordered the study to be removed from the UN website.
Falk said the controversy over the report gave it an international visibility that it may not have enjoyed had it been just “one more UN report.”
Prominent American propagandist Howard French recently published a lengthy editorial in the Guardian titled, “Is it too late to save Hong Kong from Beijing’s authoritarian grasp?,” in which he attempts to buttress an otherwise categorically false narrative surrounding an alleged indigenous struggle for democracy and independence within Hong Kong.
French attempts to hold China accountable for backtracking on an agreement made with Britain over the return of its own territory taken from it by force in 1841. He also attempts to portray Beijing’s crackdown on US-UK subversion in Hong Kong as “authoritarian,” never making mention of the extensive funding and meddling both the United States and the United Kingdom are engaged in within Chinese territory.
The article documents only one side of the so-called “independence” movement in Hong Kong, sidestepping any critical analysis of the colonial background of the ongoing political crisis or the neo-colonial aspects that shape current events even now.
The lengthy piece was paid for by a grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, a Washington D.C.-based front that collaborates with the New York Times, PBS, NPR, Time Magazine and other mainstays of US propaganda. These are the same media outlets that helped sell the US invasion and occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as US-led attacks on Libya and US meddling in Syria beginning in 2011. By supporting French’s work, they now help sell to the public a narrative that undermines Chinese sovereignty an ocean away from American shores.
The entire editorial, its contents, author and the special interests that paid for it as well as its placement in the Guardian, represent a continued and concerted effort to maintain an Anglo-American foothold in Hong Kong, part of the last vestiges of Western hegemony within Chinese territory.
The Truth About Hong Kong
Had Howard French penned an honest account of Hong Kong’s recent political crisis, he would have included the extensive, some may say exclusive, control the United States and the United Kingdom exercised over an otherwise fictitious and impossible pro-independence movement. Quite literally every leader of the so-called “Umbrella Revolution” is either directly funded and directed by the US and/or UK government, or possesses membership within an organisation, institution or front funded by Anglo-American money.
The notion that a teen-aged Joshua Wong was single-handedly defying Beijing is preposterous even at face value. He was but one cog of a much larger, well-documented foreign-funded machine aimed at stirring up conflict within Hong Kong, undermine Beijing’s control of the territory and infect Chinese society as a whole with notions of Western-style “democracy.”
Just months before the 2014 “Umbrella Revolution,” one of its leaders, Martin Lee, was literally in Washington D.C., before members of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), pleading for material and political support for upcoming demonstrations. Toward the end of that same year, and despite NED denying Lee was a protest leader, Lee would find himself in the streets of Hong Kong leading the protests from the front shoulder-to-shoulder with Benny Tai and Joshua Wong.
Ironically, after the protests diminished and were finally pushed off the streets by both local police and impatient residents, Lee, Tai and Wong would be invited to Washington D.C. for a special event organised by NED subsidiary, Freedom House, dubbed, “Three Hong Kong Heroes.” The three protest leaders, having attempted to shake off accusations of being Washington puppets, or even protest leaders altogether, would take to the stage with yellow umbrellas in hand.
Howard French, and others attempting to persuade Western audiences of their version of events in Hong Kong omit these critical facts regarding the foreign-funded and directed nature of the “pro-independence” movement. They do so intentionally, with French himself being a 2011 Open Society fellow, Open Society being one of several fronts the US has channelled money through in support of subversion in Hong Kong.
In reality, there is nothing “pro-independence” about the movement in Hong Kong. It is simply the latest in a centuries-long attempt by Western powers to project geopolitical hegemony into Asia and more specifically, upon China itself.
French’s lengthy lament regarding China’s “authoritarianism” captures what may possibly be frustration that Washington and London’s tricks no longer work, and the more “Umbrella Revolutions” they attempt to organise against Beijing, the more familiar the Chinese public will be with them and subsequently, the more determined they will become to frustrate them.
Additionally, China’s influence over Hong Kong and even across Asia as a whole, is stronger, more sustainable and continuously expanding versus waning Western influence. Spectacular political stunts like the “Umbrella Revolution” attempt to leverage global public opinion over which the US media still maintains considerable influence, but ultimately such strategies have been confounded by Beijing and are, in the long-term, unsustainable.
Hong Kong represents a past, strong bastion of Western colonial power, now struggling to maintain itself even as a minor regional foothold. Despite the efforts of manipulators like Howard French and media platforms that lend themselves to his disingenuous narrative, footholds like Hong Kong will continue to diminish until the last remnants of the West’s colonial past are all but swept from modern geopolitics and permanently assigned to the pages of history.
The latest “breaking” story from the Guardian and Luke Harding is hitting the headlines. Almost exactly 1 year after the explosive anti-climax that was “The Panama Papers”, Harding and the coterie of NGOs for which he acts as de-facto spokesperson have a big announcement to make: Banks launder money, and some of it is Russian.
I don’t know why they use American money with a Russian flag superimposed. They were probably afraid nobody would recognise roubles.
We are nearing the anniversary of the release of the Panama Papers, a “big story” involving years of work, hundreds of leaked documents, a team of exceptional journalists (and Luke Harding) and a dramatic reveal: “Sometimes, very rich people use legal loopholes to avoid paying their taxes.”
The list of implicated parties included heads of state, celebrities, athletes, David Cameron’s dad and a cellist that knows Vladimir Putin. We all remember who the Guardian decided to focus on, and we all know why.
Today the same crack-team (and Luke Harding) are releasing the long-awaited sequel to their original hit. “The global Laundromat”, it’s called. It’s a product of a years-long investigation into money laundering in ex-Soviet states, using British shell companies. I can’t comment on the truth of these allegations, because we don’t get to see the evidence, we are simply told that it’s true “according to letters The Guardian has seen”, and “reports shown to the Guardian ”… and other variations on that theme.
They may well be true. Big business and billionaires take part in shady and/or illegal business practices all the time. Just as was the case in the Panama Papers, they tell us something we all already know to be true, and then act like it was a surprise.
There’s a lot to like here. The simultaneous publication of four different articles on the subject, all practically identical. The implication that it is “breaking news”, when their prize factoid is three years old, and the scheme itself hasn’t operated since 2014. The fact that Luke Harding has to publicly declare the US government’s involvement, to stop people like us from pointing it out and making them look silly (like last time). The persistent use of the old Harding trick of simply dotting your story with plenty of “could haves” and “speculations suggests”. It’s all good stuff.
Where it becomes hilariously cack-handed in their agenda-pushing is in trying to force tenuous links to the Kremlin and, of course, Vladimir Putin in particular.
Last year they plastered their front page with pictures of Putin and videos about Putin and editorials about corruption in Russia… despite having to admit in the text:
… the president’s name does not appear in any of the records…
This year they can’t even go that far. They fall to the level of implication. Talking around inconvenient facts on the one hand, and then wildly speculating on the other. Leaving deliberate dots for the reader to join up, whilst never having the courage of their convictions to make plain their insinuations (probably for fear of being sued and/or corrected in the alt-media).
Much like the Panama Papers launch, there’s an awful lot of verbiage to work through, implications are thick on the ground, evidence less so. No direct sources are named, it is always “an ex-banker living in exile said”, or “a Russian business-man said”. Gorge on words and starve of meaning seems to be the message of the day.
Some interesting bullet points I pulled out:
Now we can reveal Britain’s role in this scheme – and how vast sums of potentially tainted money flowed into and out of western banks, including HSBC and the Royal Bank of Scotland, without raising any alarm.
This is taken from this piece, one of the four long reads The Guardian is currently devoting to this topic. You can tell it’s a Harding creation because of the prose… for want of a better word… style. It might seem inconsequential at first, but note the use of the phrase “potentially tainted”, that means there is no proof of any wrong-doing at all. It means, the money is “potentially” untainted. As in just totally legal money being used to buy things.
Normally speaking I would expect a crime to at least have definitely happened before a paper put it in their headlines. But maybe I’m being old-fashioned.
The ingenious scheme has its origins in Russia. Put simply, it was a way for Kremlin insiders and other well-known Russians to shift cash abroad.
Not a single “Kremlin insider” is named in any of the four stories currently running on this issue.
Before it was rumbled, the scheme was one of several mafia operations that have allowed the rich to spirit money out of the country to spend in the west.
There’s no evidence to back-up this statement, not a single connection to the mafia is ever mentioned again. But even so it’s worth noting. The money is leaving Russia and coming here. Remember that, because it will be important later on.
“Money laundering is the biggest business in Russia,” one former Moscow banker, now living in exile, explained. “You steal from the budget. You’ve got this dirty money. You have to do something with it.”
The source here, the “former banker living in exile”, is naturally unnamed. As an educated guess it’s probably Sergei Pugachev, a banker and oligarch who has fled both Russia and Britain on charges of embezzling and money laundering. Harding has interviewed him before, it would make sense if he became Harding’s primary source on Russian banking.
Pugachev fled Russia after the government seized his assets and charged him with various financial crimes. That’s an important pattern that will repeat, and has repeated, many times over.
Here we come to the “Putin connection”, are you ready?
It features Russian banks, Moldovan oligarchs, and a network of fake UK companies fronted by fake or “nominee” directors, many of them in Ukraine. It had impeccable Moscow connections. Vladimir Putin’s cousin Igor sat on the board of a bank which held accounts that laundered billions.
His cousin worked at one of the banks that held accounts that may have laundered money. That’s it. These are connections that Harding considers “impeccable”. Is there any evidence connecting the two cousins? Phone calls? Photographs? If any exists, none is presented.
Interestingly, Igor Putin is actually a member of an opposition political party in Russia, which supported an alternative presidential candidate in 2012.
You can put the above quote together with another statement, from this article, to see just how completely meaningless it is:
Accounts held at 19 Russian banks were involved in the scheme. In 2014, it was reported that one financial institution was the Russian Land Bank (RZB). A bank board member at the time was Igor Putin.
Yes nineteen, nineteen(!), different Russian banks are “involved” with the scheme, and the “impeccable Moscow connections” are that Putin’s cousin worked at one of them. At least five different British banks were involved, HSBC, Barclays, Lloyds TSB, NatWest and RSB. It’s hard to imagine that every cousin, of every board member, of every bank is currently under investigation by Scotland Yard.
In fact, nobody is under investigation by Scotland Yard, at all. Every single reference to a criminal investigation is talking about Latvia, Moldova… and Russia.
Once the goods had been cleared the UK firms were liquidated. No duty was paid. Often, Russia’s tax inspectors then took the UK companies to court.
In practice, the Laundromat made possible three different crimes inside Russia: tax evasion, evasion of customs duty and money laundering. In 2013 grey import schemes cost the state $40bn, a Russian parliament committee said.
… alleged ringleader Alexander Grigoriev was detained in November 2015 while eating in a Moscow restaurant… In 2014-15, [Russian] regulators stripped Grigoriev of his banking licences amid concerns that funds were mysteriously vanishing… Russian police sources told Kommersant that Grigoriev was one of a number of prominent people who used the Laundromat to move $46bn in liquid assets out of Russia.
In three separate paragraphs, dotted throughout the four different articles he has contributed to, Harding makes reference to three different Russian governmental efforts to control illegal movement of money: Taking foreign companies to court, parliamentary enquiries, and the arrest and suspension of (alleged) criminal bankers.
He makes no such mention of any British efforts to do the same, because there were none.
The FSB, the Russian security service Harding routinely refers to as “the successor to the KGB” (in fact, in one article today he simply calls them the KGB), have apparently launched an investigation into this scheme. How does Harding address this issue? Very simply:
The Russian investigation into Laundromat has been cursory.
There are suspicions the FSB’s real goal was merely to find out how much investigators knew.
… officers from Russia’s FSB spy agency visited detectives in Moldova. They took away records. It is unclear if this was a genuine investigation or an attempt to discover how much the Moldovans knew. Probably the latter.
No sources are linked to back up these assertions. He completely dismisses, without evidence or argument, the FSB investigations.
He doesn’t dismiss the intentions of Britain’s NCA investigations… because, once again, there were none.
A step back, and a gentle examination, paints a rather different picture from the one with which the Guardian is trying to present us. It shows us Russian oligarchs and bankers shifting vast sums of money OUT of Russia and INTO the EU. Now why would this be?
Logic would suggest that money flows FROM regulation INTO corruption. That’s a natural physical force, like water running downhill. Like osmosis. Russia, since the end of the chaotic Yeltsin era, has been going through a slow process of de-oligarchisation, even Shaun Walker (grudgingly) admitted that. The aforementioned Sergei Pugachev can attest to it (he does so, often and loudly). The Russian government has jailed billionaires for embezzling. Russia prosecutes bankers, and demands companies pay their taxes. Is the same true of Britain? Did a single banker see the inside of jail cell after the 2008 crash? Have Amazon, Google or Vodafone been brought to court for their massive tax evasion?
What you’re looking at here, like the Panama Papers, is just further evidence of that which we already know, that the deregulated bank and business sectors in the UK can be abused by the super wealthy for their own personal gain. And, like the Panama Papers, it was deliberately misrepresented by “investigative journalists” in order to exaggerate any connection with the Russian government, and just generally shine a poor light on Russia.
So, who is behind this revelation?
To answer that, let’s take a look at the about page of the driving force behind this “scandal”, The Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP). The following is taken directly from their own website:
OCCRP is supported by grants by the Open Society Foundation, Google Digital News Initiative, the Skoll Foundation, the Sigrid Rausing Trust, Google Jigsaw, the National Endowment for Democracy and the Knight Foundation. OCCRP also receives developmental funds for improving journalism from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) through the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ), the United States Department of State and the Swiss Confederation.
The bolded are all very familiar to us here at OffG, and should be to anyone that has followed our work on US-back NGOs. They form an argument on their own, you don’t need me to tell you what it means.
All this really tells us, so far, is that the US government, their corporate allies and puppet NGOs have spent years of their time, and God knows how much of their near-limitless resources, trying to tie the current Russian administration to any kind of criminal corruption. What have they found? A cellist legally avoiding his taxes and that Russian oligarch’s think their ill-gotten gains are safer in British banks, than Russian ones. A rather damning fact, when you think about it.
This is the result of years of work from the world’s business and intelligence elites (and Luke Harding), and it is, frankly, pitiful.
From the Jewish press we learn that Britain’s House of Commons Home Affairs Committee has summoned executives from Google, Twitter and Facebook for a hearing in order to slam the social media giants for failing to block ‘hate speech’ and ‘anti-Semitic’ content from their platforms. It seems that Labour MP Yvette Cooper took issue with the refusal of YouTube to remove a video in which David Duke accused Jewish people of “organizing white genocide” and Zionists of conducting ethnic cleansing.
I’m left wondering, what it is that motivates British MPs to launch a war against freedom of speech?
Can MP Yvette Cooper or any other British MP for that matter, tell us, once and for all, what exactly are the boundaries of our freedom of expression? Is calling Israel an ethnic cleanser a crime in the UK? But what if Israel is an ethnic cleanser? Is truth not a valid legal defence in modern Britain?
Astonishingly, it was, of all people, Stephen Pollard, Britain’s arch-Zionist and editor of the Jewish Chronicle who stood up for Duke’s elementary freedoms. In The Telegraph Pollard wrote. “It’s clear that the video is indeed antisemitic. In it, Mr Duke says: ‘The Zionists have already ethnically cleansed the Palestinians, why not do the same thing to Europeans and Americans as well? No group on earth fights harder for its interests than do the Jews. By dividing a society they can weaken it and control it.’ So there’s no debate that this is Jew hate in all its traditional poison.”
Is it really hateful to admit that Zionists ethnically cleansed Palestine? By now, this is an established historical fact that is sustained by current Israeli Law of Return, designed to prevent ethnically cleansed Palestinians from coming back to their land. Is it really hateful to suggest, as does David Duke that “no group on earth fights harder for its interests than do the Jews.” In fact, Yvette Cooper’s grilling of the Google CEO on behalf of the Labour Friends of Israel only confirms Duke’s observation.
I’m left wondering whether George Orwell was, in fact, the last of the prophets. After all, he did foresee British Labour transitioning into a tyrannical institution.
Yet, later on in his piece, Pollard, takes an unexpected turn. He clearly accepts that interfering with elementary freedom is a dangerous development: “Had the video told viewers that their duty was to seek out Jews and attack them – as many posts on social media do – then clearly it should be banned. Incitement to violence is an obvious breach of any coherent set of standards.” Pollard then concludes that “banning views simply because many, or even most, people find them abhorrent is a form of mob rule dressed up in civilised clothes.”
I find myself in complete agreement with this ultra-Zionist: “mob rule dressed up in civilised clothes” is a poetic, yet still truthful, description of current progressive populism. Incitement to violence should obviously be strictly banned, but if we wish to maintain Western ‘values’ then surely open debate in our system must be sustained. If Yvette Cooper doesn’t agree with Duke, she should invite him to the House of Commons and challenge him to debate rather than using her political power to silence him, or anyone else.
But one question remains. What led Yvette Cooper to operate so openly in the service of one particular Lobby group. I guess that veteran Mossad agent Victor Ostrovsky may have an answer to offer…
In the past year the Guardian has been overtly promoting internet censorship. A while back they uncritically coordinated with Yvette Cooper’s insinuating “take back the internet” programme to make sure we all get “the web
we they want”. Last week they uncritically published an opinion piece from Tim Berners-Lee, where he claims we should:
… push back against misinformation by encouraging gatekeepers such as Google and Facebook to continue their efforts to combat the problem…
While, of course….
… avoiding the creation of any central bodies to decide what is “true” or not.
Hmm… tough thing to achieve you may think. Which is possibly why Tim doesn’t bother to tell us how he thinks it should be done. In fact we can be pretty sure, being a bit of a genius allegedly, Tim knows pretty well that Governments and corporations are so irreversibly intertwined, their policies and goals so similar, that by instructing Facebook to “take measures” you are, in effect, privatising Orwell’s Minitrue, and creating precisely the “central bod[y] to decide what is true or not” that he affects to fear.
We can also be pretty sure that if/when Facebook/Twitter and the rest announce the creation of some new “special department” for further “fact-checking”, people at the Guardian will write editorials congratulating them on saving the internet.
That brings us to today. Today the Guardian are – again uncritically – reprinting censorship advocacy, this time by their very close associates GCHQ. This article quotes Paul Chichester, the head of GCHQ’s new National Cyber Security Centre, who says that Facebook and Twitter have a
“social responsibility” to do more to “limit the spread of fake news” and control the flow of “misinformation”.
There is not a single word of analysis, doubt or even equivocation in the article. The headline reads [my emphasis]:
And that’s all the story is, a stenographic report of what Chichester said. Not a single question is asked about the implications of what said, or indeed why he might be saying it. It is a press release. It tells us what the people in power think and, worse than agreeing, simply refuses to acknowledge that disagreeing is even a possibility.
The “journalist” (Josh Halliday) who put this piece together doesn’t acknowledge that state agencies would have an obvious vested interest in controlling what the citizenry reads online, or that mega-corporations such as Facebook or Google could abuse this “plea” to take advantage of their users. He’s content to just reprint the head of the spy agency’s opinion, word for word. He is, essentially, reducing himself from a journalist to a state broadcasting service.
And he most likely has a long career ahead of him.
The danger lies in what might be coming next
The WikiLeaks exposure of thousands of documents relating to the Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA) hacking program, which was expanded dramatically under President Barack Obama between 2013 and 2016, has created something of a panic in the users of cell phones, online computers and even for smart television viewers. The documents describe “more than a thousand hacking systems, trojans, viruses and other ‘weaponized’ malware” and one document even identifies attempts to enable CIA controllers to take control of automobiles that have “On Star” or similar satellite interactive features.
According to analysts who have gone through the documents, any electronic device that is connected to the internet is reported to be vulnerable to being taken over and “weaponized,” manipulated through its microphone or camera function even if it appears to be turned off. Apple, Google, Android and Microsoft products were among the technologies that were targeted, with the security systems being constantly probed for vulnerabilities. When a flaw was discovered it was described as “zero day” because the user would have zero time to react to the detection and exploitation of the vulnerability.
And they are indeed everywhere. Ron Paul has described a woman’s test on the Amazon marketed interactive voice controlled device called Alexa, asking it if it were reporting to the CIA. Alexa, which allegedly cannot tell a lie, refused to answer.
According to Wikipedia, “Alexa is an intelligent personal assistant developed by Amazon Lab126, made popular by the Amazon Echo. It is capable of voice interaction, music playback, making to-do lists, setting alarms, streaming podcasts, playing audiobooks, and providing weather, traffic, and other real time information.” One reviewer observed “In a good but scary feature, Amazon Echo can learn a person’s habits over time. It will get used to the way a person talks, his/her habits and routines and will save all the data in the cloud.”
Alexa demonstrates that CIA and NSA intrusion into the lives of ordinary people is not unique. In the cyber-sphere there are many predators. Amazon has apparently run special sales to get Alexa devices into as many homes as possible, presumably for commercial reasons, to have a machine in one’s home that will eventually replace the cookies on computers that collect information on what people are interested in buying. The company’s president Jeff Bezos also recently completed a deal worth $600 million for Amazon to provide cloud hosting services for the Agency. And there are, of course, two clear conflicts of interest in that deal as Bezos is selling a device that can be hacked by the government while he also owns The Washington Post newspaper, which, at least in theory, is supposed to be keeping an eye on the CIA.
But spying for profit and spying by the government are two different things and the WikiLeaks revelations suggest that the CIA has had a massive program of cyberespionage running for a number of years, even having created a major new division to support the effort called the Directorate for Digital Innovation, with an operation component called the Center for Cyber Intelligence. Media reports also suggest that a major hub for the operation was the American Consulate General in Frankfurt Germany, where the Agency established a base of operations.
First of all, it is necessary to make an attempt to understand why the CIA believes it needs to have the capability to get inside the operating systems of phones and other devices which rely on the internet. It should be pointed out that the United States government already has highly developed capabilities to get at phones and other electronics. It is indeed the principal raison d’etre of the National Security Agency (NSA) to do so and the FBI also does so when it initiates wiretaps during criminal and national security investigations.
Beyond that, since the NSA basically collects all electronic communications in the United States as well as more of the same fairly aggressively overseas, it would seem to be redundant for the CIA to be doing the same thing. The CIA rationale is that it has a different mission than the NSA. It exists to conduct espionage against foreign intelligence targets, which frequently requires being able to tap into their personal phones or other electronic devices by exploiting vulnerabilities in the operating systems. As the targets would be either sources or even prospective agents, the Agency would have to protect their identity in the highly compartmented world of intelligence, making outsourcing to NSA problematical.
This need to develop an independent capability led to the development of new technologies by the CIA working with its British counterparts. There were apparently successful efforts to target Samsung “smart” televisions, which would use their speakers to record conversations even when the set was turned off. The project was called “Weeping Angel,” and other hacking programs were called “Brutal Kangaroo,” “Assassin,” “Hammer Drill,” “Swindle,” “Fine Dining” and “Cutthroat,” demonstrating that government bureaucrats sometimes possess a dark sense of humor.
Being able to enter one’s home through a television would be considered a major success in the intelligence world. And the ability to access cell phones at source through obtaining full control of the operating system rather than through their transmissions means that any security system will be ineffective because the snoopers will be able to intrude and hear the conversation as it is spoken before any encryption is applied. CIA and its British allies were reportedly able to take control of either Android or i-Phones through vulnerabilities in their security systems by using their attack technologies.
WikiLeaks claims to have 8,761 documents detailing efforts to circumvent the security features on a broad range of electronic devices to enable them to be remotely tapped, the information having apparently been passed to WikiLeaks by a disgruntled government contractor, though the Russians are perhaps inevitably also being blamed. The U.S. government has apparently been aware of the theft of the information for the past year and one presumes it has both done damage control and is searching for the miscreant involved. Also, there have been security fixes on both Apple and Android phones in the past year that might well have rendered the attack technologies no longer effective.
So many will shrug and wonder what the big deal is. So the CIA is tapping into the electronics of suspected bad guys overseas. Isn’t that what it’s supposed to do? That question has to be answered with another question: How do we know if that is all the CIA is doing? Technology that can attack and take control of a telephone or television or computer overseas can also do the same inside the United States. And the Agency can always plausibly claim that a connection with a suspect overseas leads back to the U.S. to enable working on related targets on this side of the Atlantic.
Another issue is the possibility to engage in mischief, with potentially serious consequences. The WikiLeaks documents suggest that the CIA program called UMBRAGE had been able to acquire malware signatures and attack codes from Russia, China, Iran and other places. It does that so it can confuse detection systems and preserve “plausible denial” if its intrusion gets caught, disguising its own efforts as Russian or Chinese to cast the blame on the intelligence services of those countries. It has been alleged that the hack of the Democratic National Committee computers was carried out by Moscow employed surrogates and part of the evidence produced was signature malware that had left “fingerprints” linked to Russian military intelligence in Ukraine. What if that hack was actually done by the CIA for domestic political reasons?
Critics have also pointed out that President Obama in 2014 had come to an agreement with major communications industry executives to share with manufacturers information regarding the vulnerabilities in their systems so they could be addressed and made secure. This would have benefited both the industry and the general public. The agreement was obviously ignored in the CIA case and is just another sign that one cannot trust the government.
However, the real downside regarding the CIA hacking is something that might not even have occurred yet. It is an unfortunate reality that government spying operations largely lack regulation, oversight or any effective supervision by Congress or anyone else outside the agencies themselves. Even if knowledge about communications vulnerabilities has not been employed illegally against American targets or to mislead regarding domestic hacks, the potential to use those capabilities once they are in place will likely prove too hard to resist. As such, no home or work environment will any more be considered a safe place and it is potentially, if not actually, the greatest existing threat to Americans’ few remaining liberties.
Saturday March 11 marks the sixth anniversary of the triple-disaster in north-east Japan – the earthquake, tsunami and the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
And the news is not good. Scientists are wondering how on earth to stabilise and decontaminate the failed reactors awash with molten nuclear fuel, which are fast turning into graveyards for the radiation-hardened robots sent in to investigate them.
The Japanese government’s estimate of Fukushima compensation and clean-up costs has doubled and doubled again and now stands at ¥21.5 trillion (US$187bn; €177bn).
Indirect costs – such as fuel import costs, and losses to agricultural, fishing and tourism industries – will likely exceed that figure.
Kendra Ulrich from Greenpeace Japan notes in a new report that “for those who were impacted by the worst nuclear disaster in a generation, the crisis is far from over. And it is women and children that have borne the brunt of human rights violations resulting from it, both in the immediate aftermath and as a result of the Japan government’s nuclear resettlement policy.”
Radiation biologist Ian Fairlie summarises the health impacts from the Fukushima disaster: “In sum, the health toll from the Fukushima nuclear disaster is horrendous. At the minimum:
+ Over 160,000 people were evacuated most of them permanently.
+ Many cases of post-trauma stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and anxiety disorders arising from the evacuations.
+ About 12,000 workers exposed to high levels of radiation, some up to 250 mSv
+ An estimated 5,000 fatal cancers from radiation exposures in future.
+ Plus similar (unquantified) numbers of radiogenic strokes, CVS diseases and hereditary diseases.
+ Between 2011 and 2015, about 2,000 deaths from radiation-related evacuations due to ill-health and suicides.
+ An, as yet, unquantified number of thyroid cancers.
+ An increased infant mortality rate in 2012 and a decreased number of live births in December 2011.”
Dr Fairlie’s report was written in August 2015 but it remains accurate. More than half of the 164,000 evacuees from the nuclear disaster remain dislocated. Efforts to restore community life in numerous towns are failing. Local authorities said in January that only 13% of the evacuees in five municipalities in Fukushima Prefecture have returned home after evacuation orders were lifted.
As for Japan’s long-hyped ‘nuclear restart’: just three power reactors are operating in Japan; before the Fukushima disaster, the number topped 50.
A nuclear power ‘crisis’?
Nuclear advocates and lobbyists elsewhere are increasingly talking about the ‘crisis’ facing nuclear power – but they don’t have the myriad impacts of the Fukushima disaster in mind: they’re more concerned about catastrophic cost overruns with reactor projects in Europe and the US.
Michael Shellenberger from the Breakthrough Institute, a US-based pro-nuclear lobby group, has recently written articles about nuclear power’s “rapidly accelerating crisis“ and the “crisis that threatens the death of nuclear energy in the West“.
A recent article from the Breakthrough Institute and the like-minded Third Way lobby group discusses “the crisis that the nuclear industry is presently facing in developed countries“.
‘Environmental Progress’, another US pro-nuclear lobby group connected to Shellenberger, has a webpage dedicated to the nuclear power crisis. Among other things, it states that 151 gigawatts (GW) of worldwide nuclear power capacity (38% of the total) could be lost by 2030 (compared to 33 GW of retirements over the past decade), and over half of the ageing US reactor fleet is at risk of closure by 2030.
As a worldwide generalisation, nuclear power can’t be said to be in crisis. To take the extreme example, China’s nuclear power program isn’t in crisis – it is moving ahead at pace. Russia’s nuclear power program, to give one more example, is moving ahead at snail’s pace, but isn’t in crisis.
Nonetheless, large parts of the worldwide nuclear industry are in deep trouble. The July 2016 World Nuclear Industry Status Report provides an overview of the troubled status of nuclear power:
+ nuclear power’s share of the worldwide electricity generation is 10.7%, well down from historic peak of 17.6% in 1996;
+ nuclear power generation in 2015 was 8.2% below the historic peak in 2006; and
+ from 2000 to 2015, 646 gigawatts (GW) of wind and solar capacity (combined) were added worldwide while nuclear capacity (not including idle reactors in Japan) fell by 8 GW.
US nuclear industry in crisis
The US nuclear industry is in crisis, with a very old reactor fleet – 44 of its 99 reactors have been operating for 40 years or more – and no likelihood of new reactors for the foreseeable future other than four already under construction.
Last September, Associated Press described one of the industry’s many humiliations: “After spending more than 40 years and $5 billion on an unfinished nuclear power plant in northeastern Alabama, the nation’s largest federal utility is preparing to sell the property at a fraction of its cost.
“The Tennessee Valley Authority has set a minimum bid of $36.4 million for its Bellefonte Nuclear Plant and the 1,600 surrounding acres of waterfront property on the Tennessee River. The buyer gets two unfinished nuclear reactors, transmission lines, office and warehouse buildings, eight miles of roads, a 1,000-space parking lot and more.”
Japanese conglomerate Toshiba and its US-based nuclear subsidiary Westinghouse are in crisis because of massive cost overruns building four AP1000 reactors in the US – the combined cost overruns amount to about US$11.2bn (€10.7bn) and counting.
Toshiba said in February 2017 that it expects to book a US$6.3bn (€5.9bn) writedown on Westinghouse, on top of a US$2.3bn (€2.1bn) writedown in April 2016. The losses exceed the US$5.4bn (€5.1bn) Toshiba paid when it bought a majority stake in Westinghouse in 2006.
Toshiba says it would likely sell Westinghouse if that was an option – but there is no prospect of a buyer. Westinghouse is, as Bloomberg noted, “too much of a mess“ to sell. And since that isn’t an option, Toshiba must sell profitable businesses instead to stave off bankruptcy.
Toshiba is seeking legal advice as to whether Westinghouse should file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. But even under a Chapter 11 filing, Reuters reported, “Toshiba could still be on the hook for up to $7 billion in contingent liabilities as it has guaranteed Westinghouse’s contractual commitments” for the US AP1000 reactors.
The Toshiba/Westinghouse crisis is creating a ripple effect. A few examples:
+ the NuGen (Toshiba/Engie) consortium has acknowledged that the plan for three AP1000 reactors at Moorside in the UK faces a “significant funding gap“ and both partners reportedly want out of the project;
+ Georgia Power, 45.7% owner of the troubled Vogtle AP1000 project, recently suspended plans for another nuclear plant in Georgia; and
+ Toshiba recently announced its intention to pull out of the plan for two Advanced Boiling Water Reactors at the South Texas Plant, having booked writedowns totaling US$638m (€605m) on the project in previous years.
The French nuclear industry is in crisis
The French nuclear industry is in its “worst situation ever“, former EDF director Gérard Magnin said in November 2016. The French government is selling assets so it can prop up its heavily indebted nuclear utilities Areva and EDF.
The current taxpayer-funded rescue of the nuclear power industry may cost the French state as much as €10bn (US$10.5bn), Reuters reported in January, and in addition to its “dire financial state, Areva is beset by technical, regulatory and legal problems.”
France has 58 operable reactors and just one under construction. French EPR reactors under construction in France and Finland are three times over budget – the combined cost overruns for the two reactors amount to about €12.7bn (US$13.4bn).
Bloomberg noted in April 2015 that Areva’s EPR export ambitions are “in tatters“. Now Areva itself is in tatters and is in the process of a government-led restructure and another taxpayer-funded bailout.
On March 1, Areva posted a €665m (US$700m) net loss for 2016. Losses in the preceding five years exceeded €10bn (US$10.5 bn). A large majority of a €5bn (US$5.3bn) recapitalisation of Areva scheduled for June 2017 will come from French taxpayers.
On February 14, EDF released its financial figures for 2016: earnings fell 6.7%, revenue declined 5.1%, net income excluding non-recurring items fell 15%, and EDF’s debt remained steady at €37.4bn (US$39.4bn). All that EDF chief executive Jean-Bernard Levy could offer was the hope that EDF would “hit the bottom of the cycle“ in 2017 and rebound next year.
EDF plans to sell €10bn (US$10.5 bn) of assets by 2020 to rein in its debt, and to sack up to 7,000 staff. The French government provided EDF with €3bn (US$3.2bn) in extra capital in 2016 and will contribute €3bn towards a €4bn (US$4.2bn) capital raising this year.
On March 8, shares in EDF hit an all-time low a day after the €4bn capital raising was launched; the stock price fell to €7.78, less than one-tenth of the €86.45 high a decade ago.
EDF has set aside €23bn (US$24.3bn) to cover reactor decommissioning and waste management costs in France – less than half of the €54bn (US$57bn) that EDF estimates will be required. A recent report by the French National Assembly’s Commission for Sustainable Development and Regional Development concluded that there is “obvious under-provisioning” and that decommissioning and waste management will likely take longer, be more challenging and cost much more than EDF anticipates.
EDF is being forced to take over parts of its struggling sibling Areva’s operations – a fate you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy. And just when it seemed that things couldn’t get any worse for EDF, a fire took hold in the turbine room of one of the Flamanville reactors on February 9 and the reactor will likely be offline until late March at an estimated cost of roughly €1.2m (US$1.27m) per day.
Half of the world’s nuclear industry is in crisis and/or shutting down
Combined, the crisis-ridden US, French and Japanese nuclear industries account for 45% of the world’s ‘operable’ nuclear reactors according to the World Nuclear Association’s database, and they accounted for 50% of nuclear power generation in 2015 (and 57% in 2010).
Countries with crisis-ridden nuclear programs or phase-out policies (e.g. Germany, Belgium, and Taiwan) account for about half of the world’s operable reactors and more than half of worldwide nuclear power generation.
The Era of Nuclear Decommissioning (END)
The ageing of the global reactor fleet isn’t yet a crisis for the industry, but it is heading that way.
The assessment by the ‘Environmental Progress’ lobby group that 151 GW of worldwide nuclear power capacity could be shut down by 2030 is consistent with figures from the World Nuclear Association (132 reactor shut-downs by 2035), the International Energy Agency (almost 200 shut-downs between 2014 and 2040) and Nuclear Energy Insider (up to 200 shut-downs in the next two decades). It looks increasingly unlikely that new reactors will match shut-downs.
Perhaps the best characterisation of the global nuclear industry is that a new era is approaching – the Era of Nuclear Decommissioning (END). Nuclear power’s END will entail:
+ a slow decline in the number of operating reactors (unless growth in China can match the decline elsewhere);
+ an increasingly unreliable and accident-prone reactor fleet as ageing sets in;
+ countless battles over lifespan extensions for ageing reactors;
+ an internationalisation of anti-nuclear opposition as neighbouring countries object to the continued operation of ageing reactors (international opposition to Belgium’s reactors is a case in point);
+ a broadening of anti-nuclear opposition as citizens are increasingly supported by local, regional and national governments opposed to reactors in neighbouring countries (again Belgium is a case in point, as is Lithuanian opposition to reactors under construction in Belarus);
+ many battles over the nature and timing of decommissioning operations;
+ many battles over taxpayer bailouts for companies and utilities that haven’t set aside adequate funding for decommissioning;
+ more battles over proposals to impose nuclear waste repositories on unwilling or divided communities; and
+ battles over taxpayer bailouts for companies and utilities that haven’t set aside adequate funding for nuclear waste disposal.
As discussed in a previous article in The Ecologist, nuclear power is likely to enjoy a small, short-lived upswing in the next couple of years as reactors ordered in the few years before the Fukushima disaster come online. Beyond that, the Era of Nuclear Decommissioning sets in, characterised by escalating battles – and escalating sticker-shock – over lifespan extensions, decommissioning and nuclear waste management.
In those circumstances, it will become even more difficult than it currently is for the industry to pursue new reactor projects. A positive feedback loop could take hold and then the industry will be well and truly in crisis.
Nuclear lobbyists debate possible solutions to the nuclear power crisis
Michael Shellenberger from the Breakthrough Institute argues that a lack of standardisation and scaling partly explains the “crisis that threatens the death of nuclear energy in the West”. The constant switching of designs deprives the people who build, operate and regulate nuclear plants of the experience they need to become more efficient.
Shellenberger further argues that there is too much focus on machines, too little on human factors:
“Areva, Toshiba-Westinghouse and others claimed their new designs would be safer and thus, at least eventually, cheaper, but there were always strong reasons to doubt such claims. First, what is proven to make nuclear plants safer is experience, not new designs. …
“In fact, new designs risk depriving managers and workers the experience they need to operate plants more safely, just as it deprives construction companies the experience they need to build plants more rapidly.”
Shellenberger has a three-point rescue plan:
1/ ‘Consolidate or Die’: “If nuclear is going to survive in the West, it needs a single, large firm – the equivalent of a Boeing or Airbus – to compete against the Koreans, Chinese and Russians.”
2/ ‘Standardize or Die’: He draws attention to the “astonishing” heterogeneity of planned reactors in the UK and says the UK “should scrap all existing plans and start from a blank piece of paper”, that all new plants should be of the same design and “the criteria for choosing the design should emphasize experience in construction and operation, since that is the key factor for lowering costs.”
3/ ‘Scale or Die’: Nations “must work together to develop a long-term plan for new nuclear plant construction to achieve economies of scale”, and governments “should invest directly or provide low-cost loans.”
Josh Freed and Todd Allen from pro-nuclear lobby group Third Way, and Ted Nordhaus and Jessica Lovering from the Breakthrough Institute, argue that Shellenberger draws the wrong lessons from Toshiba’s recent losses and from nuclear power’s “longer-term struggles” in developed economies.
They argue that “too little innovation, not too much, is the reason that the industry is on life support in the United States and other developed economies”. They state that:
+ The Westinghouse AP1000 represents a fairly straightforward evolution in light-water reactor design, not a radical departure as Shellenberger claims.
+ Standardisation is important but it is not a panacea. Standardisation and building multiple reactors on the same site has limited cost escalation, not brought costs down.
+ Most of the causes of rising cost and construction delays associated with new nuclear builds in the US are attributable to the 30-year hiatus in nuclear construction, not the novelty of the AP1000 design.
+ Reasonable regulatory reform will not dramatically reduce the cost of new light-water reactors, as Shellenberger suggests.
They write this obituary for large light-water reactors: “If there is one central lesson to be learned from the delays and cost overruns that have plagued recent builds in the US and Europe, it is that the era of building large fleets of light-water reactors is over in much of the developed world.
“From a climate and clean energy perspective, it is essential that we keep existing reactors online as long as possible. But slow demand growth in developed world markets makes ten billion dollar, sixty-year investments in future electricity demand a poor bet for utilities, investors, and ratepayers.”
A radical break
The four Third Way / Breakthrough Institute authors conclude that “a radical break from the present light-water regime … will be necessary to revive the nuclear industry”. Exactly what that means, the authors said, would be the subject of a follow-up article.
So readers were left hanging – will nuclear power be saved by failed fast-reactor technology, or failed high-temperature gas-cooled reactors including failed pebble-bed reactors, or by thorium pipe-dreams or fusion pipe-dreams or molten salt reactor pipe-dreams or small modular reactor pipe-dreams? Perhaps we’ve been too quick to write off cold fusion?
The answers came in a follow-up article on February 28. The four authors want a thousand flowers to bloom, a bottom-up R&D-led nuclear recovery as opposed to top-down, state-led innovation.
They don’t just want a new reactor type (or types), they have much greater ambitions for innovation in “nuclear technology, business models, and the underlying structure of the sector” and they note that “a radical break from the light water regime that would enable this sort of innovation is not a small undertaking and will require a major reorganization of the nuclear sector.”
To the extent that the four authors want to tear down the existing nuclear industry and replace it with a new one, they share some common ground with nuclear critics who want to tear down the existing nuclear industry and not replace it with a new one.
Shellenberger also shares some common ground with nuclear critics: he thinks the UK should scrap all existing plans for new reactors and “start from a blank piece of paper“. But nuclear critics think the UK should scrap all existing plans for new reactors and not start from a blank piece of paper.
Small is beautiful?
The four Third Way / Breakthrough Institute authors argue that nuclear power must become substantially cheaper – thus ruling out large conventional reactors “operated at high atmospheric pressures, requiring enormous containment structures, multiply redundant back-up cooling systems, and water cooling towers and ponds, which account for much of the cost associated with building light-water reactors.”
Substantial cost reductions will not be possible “so long as nuclear reactors must be constructed on site one gigawatt at a time. … At 10 MW or 100 MW, by contrast, there is ample opportunity for learning by doing and economies of multiples for several reactor classes and designs, even in the absence of rapid demand growth or geopolitical imperatives.”
Other than their promotion of small reactors and their rejection of large ones, the four authors are non-specific about their preferred reactor types. Any number of small-reactor concepts have been proposed.
Small modular reactors (SMRs) have been the subject of much discussion and even more hype. The bottom line is that there isn’t the slightest chance that they will fulfil the ambition of making nuclear power “substantially cheaper” unless and until a manufacturing supply chain is established at vast expense.
And even then, it’s doubtful whether the power would be cheaper and highly unlikely that it would be substantially cheaper. After all, economics has driven the long-term drift towards larger reactors.
As things stand, no country, company or utility has any intention of betting billions on building an SMR supply chain. The prevailing scepticism is evident in a February 2017 Lloyd’s Register report based on “insights and opinions of leaders across the sector” and the views of almost 600 professionals and experts from utilities, distributors, operators and equipment manufacturers.
The Lloyd’s Register report states that the potential contribution of SMRs “is unclear at this stage, although its impact will most likely apply to smaller grids and isolated markets.” Respondents predicted that SMRs have a “low likelihood of eventual take-up, and will have a minimal impact when they do arrive”.
The Third Way / Breakthrough Institute authors are promoting small reactors because of the spectacular failure of a number of large reactor projects, but that’s hardly a recipe for success. An analysis of SMRs in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists sums up the problems:
“Without a clear-cut case for their advantages, it seems that small nuclear modular reactors are a solution looking for a problem. Of course in the world of digital innovation, this kind of upside-down relationship between solution and problem is pretty normal. Smart phones, Twitter, and high-definition television all began as solutions looking for problems.
“In the realm of nuclear technology, however, the enormous expense required to launch a new model as well as the built-in dangers of nuclear fission require a more straightforward relationship between problem and solution. Small modular nuclear reactors may be attractive, but they will not, in themselves, offer satisfactory solutions to the most pressing problems of nuclear energy: high cost, safety, and weapons proliferation.”
Small or large reactors, consolidation or innovation, Generation 2/3/4 reactors … it’s not clear that the nuclear industry will be able to recover – however it responds to its current crisis.
Dr Jim Green is the national nuclear campaigner with Friends of the Earth Australia and editor of the Nuclear Monitor newsletter, where a longer version of this article was originally published. email@example.com
Nuclear Monitor, published 20 times a year, has been publishing deeply researched, often critical articles on all aspects of the nuclear cycle since 1978.
An official visit during the centenary year of the Balfour Declaration could be another nail in the coffin of the British Monarchy
You know that awful feeling of doom when bad news makes your blood run cold? It’s happened to me at least four times already this year,
- when Theresa May invited Trump on a state visit to the UK when he’d been in office only five minutes and clearly ought to be on probation for at least two years;
- when the British Government announced it was going to whoop it up for the centenary of the Balfour Declaration;
- when the British Government announced it had invited Israel’s chief criminal Netanyahu to those Balfour celebrations; and
- when news came the other day that a member of the British Royal Family might break precedent and formally visit Israel later this year.
That fourth one had the Times of Israel crowing with delight. Its report succeeds in portraying Prince Charles as the perfect stooge while Boris Johnson is having a bad hair day as usual. Such a visit would, of course, legitimise Israel as an illegal occupying power and destroy the last shred of British credibility in the Middle East and indeed the rest of the civilised world. But that counts for nothing among the bird-brains that run our country.
Let’s remember how this Balfour lunacy began, Arthur Balfour (later Lord Balfour) being British foreign secretary at the time and a Zionist convert.
His Declaration of 1917 – actually a letter to the most senior Jew in England, Lord Rothschild – pledged assistance for the Zionist cause with total disregard for the consequences to the native majority in the land the Zionists had targeted: Palestine.
Calling itself a declaration of sympathy with Jewish Zionist aspirations, it said: “His Majesty’s Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing and non-Jewish communities….”
Balfour also wrote: “In Palestine we do not propose even to go through the form of consulting the wishes of the present inhabitants of the country. The four powers are committed to Zionism and Zionism, be it right or wrong, good or bad, is rooted in age-long tradition, in present needs, in future hopes, of far profounder import than the desires and prejudices of the 700,000 Arabs who now occupy that land.”
The “running sore in the East” and how it turned septic
Obviously there was opposition. Lord Sydenham warned: “The harm done by dumping down an alien population upon an Arab country may never be remedied. What we have done, by concessions not to the Jewish people but to a Zionist extreme section, is to start a running sore in the East, and no-one can tell how far that sore will extend.”
Well, we know now, a hundred years on.
So what was behind it? I like the account of Jewish businessman Benjamin Freedman who gave a speech at the Willard Hotel, Washington, in 1961. He told his audience that Britain, in WW1, was in dire straits thanks to the success of the German U-boats. She was alone, almost out of ammunition and on the edge of starvation. Germany offered peace terms, and while Britain chewed it over the Zionists of Germany (representing the Zionists of Eastern Europe who wanted an end to the Czar) came to London and said: “We will guarantee to bring the United States into the war as your ally, to fight with you on your side, if you will promise us Palestine after you win the war.” And that was the bargain Britain struck, in October 1916, overturning earlier pledges to the Arabs for their help.
And having done their bit, the Zionists wanted a ‘receipt’ – written confirmation of Britain’s pledge. Hence Balfour’s infamous ‘declaration’ in November the following year, a grubby note addressed to Lord Rothschild promising to pay off the Zionists with land that wasn’t Britain’s to give.
When the war was over a large delegation of Jews attended the Paris Peace Conference in 1919. According to Freedman, who was there, when the Great Powers carved up the losers’ territories – German and Ottoman – the Jewish delegation claimed Palestine, producing Balfour’s promissory note.
In August 1917, while the Palestine deal was still being discussed but before Balfour issued his Declaration, Lord Montague penned an important memorandum to the British Cabinet. Montague, only the second Jew to serve in a British cabinet, was Minister of Munitions in 1916 when, said Freedman, Britain was running out of ammunition. He wanted to place on record that in his opinion the policy of the British Government was anti-Semitic because it would provide a rallying ground for anti-Semites in every country in the world. “Zionism has always seemed to me to be a mischievous political creed, untenable by any patriotic citizen of the United Kingdom,” he said. He assumed that Zionism meant that Mahommedans and Christians were to make way for the Jews and that Jews would be put in all positions of preference.
Montague argued that there was no such thing as a Jewish nation, and he was well aware of the unpopularity of the Jewish community. “We have obtained a far greater share of this country’s goods and opportunities than we are numerically entitled to…. Many of us have been exclusive in our friendships and intolerant in our attitude….”
As for the Balfour Declaration itself he felt the Government was carrying out the wishes of a Zionist organisation “largely run by men of enemy descent or birth”. Furthermore, he said, “I would be almost tempted to proscribe the Zionist organisation as illegal and against the national interest.” His message to Lord Rothschild was that the Government should help Jews in Palestine enjoy liberty of settlement and life on equal terms with inhabitants who hold other religious beliefs, but go no further.
The insane Declaration was followed 30 years later by another monstrous betrayal when the Great Powers pushed the United Nations into cruelly partitioning Palestine, again without consulting those who lived there. Worse still, the UN did nothing to halt the Jewish terror spree and land grab that followed. Justice groups are now saying it’s time the British Government, which accepted the mandated responsibility for the Holy Land up to 1948, had the good manners to admit its part in the catastrophe and say sorry for the needless damage and suffering caused to Palestinian Arabs who once considered themselves Britain’s allies. That would be a reasonable starting point for dealing with the horrendous situation today.
Celebrating Balfour amounts to praising the thieves for keeping what they stole. Those who cannot stomach such a cowardly betrayal of Christian and Arab communities in the Holy Land may consider signing a petition addressed the the Queen’s private secretary asking that she does not travel to Israel at this time. It points out that the situation vis-à-vis Palestine is regarded by the Foreign Office as “unfinished business” and a royal visit would not only add insult to injury to the Palestinians but embroil Her Majesty in a controversy that could damage the international standing of the British Monarchy.
The time for the Royal Family to start being nice to Israel is when Israel starts being nice to its Palestinian neighbours, honours its obligations under the UN Charter, ends its illegal occupation and shows proper regard for international and humanitarian law.
And not before.
Desperation tactics to shut down discussion of the Israeli regime’s mega-crimes reach new heights of absurdity
A fake anti-semitism campaign masterminded by the usual Zio suspects, their Israel lobby colleagues and their stooges in the corridors of power, continues to sweep across UK universities… and our political parties, especially shambolic and rudderless Labour.
The University of Central Lancashire cancelled an event due to be held last month entitled “Debunking Misconceptions on Palestine and the Importance of Boycott Divestment and Sanctions” organised by the University’s Friends of Palestine Society. The University said it would contravene the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s new definition of what constitutes anti-semitism and would therefore be unlawful. The event went ahead, off campus, at the premises of a local voluntary organisation.
Exeter University banned students from staging a re-enactment called Mock Checkpoint, in which some dressed up as Israeli occupation soldiers while others acted the part of Palestinians trying to go about their daily lives. The event was approved by the students’ guild but banned for “safety and security reasons” less than 48 hours before it was due to take place. An appeal was rejected.
At Leeds former British ambassador Craig Murray was asked by the trustees of the University Union to provide details of what he was going to say in his talk “Palestine/Israel: A Unitary Secular State or a Bantustan Solution” just 24 hours before he was due to speak. Craig reluctantly gave them an outline to allow the lecture to go ahead. He writes in his blog: “I have just been told by Leeds University Union I will not be allowed to speak unless I submit what I am going to say for pre-vetting.
I am truly appalled that such a gross restriction on freedom of speech should be imposed anywhere, let alone in a university where intellectual debate is meant to be an essential part of the learning experience. I really do not recognise today’s United Kingdom as the same society I grew up in. The common understanding that the values of a liberal democracy are the foundation of society appears to have evaporated.
Also at Leeds the student Palestine Solidarity Group was refused permission to mount a visual demonstration outside the Leeds Student Union Building or to have a stall inside.
At Liverpool Professor Michael Lavalette was contacted the day before he was due to speak with a demand that he sign the University’s ‘risk assessment’ for the event. This included reading the controversial IHRA definition of anti-semitism and agreeing with it. He emailed his response in which he carefully avoided mention of the dodgy definition and the meeting went ahead.
The University of Manchester allowed a series of talks marking Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW) to go ahead, but only after several meetings and imposing strict conditions which the organisers called “unheard of…. other societies and groups do not face the same problems.” University authorities, however, vetoed the students’ choice of academic to chair an IAW event on BDS over concerns about her “neutrality”, and other speakers had to acknowledge the British government-endorsed definition of anti-semitism.
Meanwhile some reports say that a conference with the title “International Law and the State of Israel: Legitimacy, Responsibility and Exceptionalism” to be held at University College Cork at the end of this month has been cancelled thanks to pressure from Zionist groups. StandWithUs Israel, in cahoots with Irish4Israel, claim the University has been persuaded to impose added security stipulations and other limitations that “amount to a de-facto cancelling of this hateful event”. But these are desperation tactics. Checking with the organisers I’m told the event is “100% going ahead”. The Irish, it seems, are not as easily pushed around as the English. The conference, if you remember, was chased away from Southampton University two years ago by a similar campaign against free speech. The ‘official’ reason, as usual, was security concerns.
Now comes the scandal of the 26 year-old Exeter student, noted for her work on anti-racism, being smeared by the Zionist Inquisition for her Pro-Palestinian activism.
She is accused of having tweeted two years ago: “If terrorism means protecting and defending my land, I am so proud to be called terrorist”. So what? As everyone and his dog knows, or ought to know, the Palestinians are perfectly entitled, under international law, to take up arms and resist a brutal illegal occupier. As Malaka Mohammed herself says:
It may appear as a radical statement that could raise serious concerns at both the University of Exeter and its Students’ Guild. However, it is my honest belief, and as I will attempt to explain, these kind of statements by Palestinians in general, and me in this instance, are most commonly in response to efforts by Israel advocacy groups and the Israeli government to demonize and dehumanize Palestinians. This is done by using the emotive dog whistle by Israeli descriptors of ‘terrorist’ and ‘terrorism’ whenever referring to the ‘Arab’ population. Palestinians who throw stones in response to Israeli soldiers invading their villages are labelled violent thugs, rioters and terrorists. Palestinians who non-violently protest the illegal occupation are portrayed as violent individuals who terrorize Israeli Jews. Practically any Palestinian who resists the Israeli occupation and its plethora of human rights violations, war crimes and serious violations of international humanitarian and human rights law is stigmatized in this way.
After reading that, I dropped the Vice-Chancellor a line:
Sir Steve Smith, Vice-Chancellor University of Exeter
Dear Sir Steve,
I’m writing as a graduate of Exeter University with fond memories of the place, and because I’m shocked to see its good name besmirched by ludicrous accusations linking Palestinian PhD student Malaka Mohammed (aka Shwaikh) to anti-semitism and supporting terrorism.
As an acknowledged international relations specialist you will know the score regarding Israel’s decades-long illegal occupation of the Palestinians’ homeland and its brutal subjugation and merciless dispossession of the Palestinian people. You will also, I imagine, understand who the true terrorists and anti-semites are.
Lest we forget, the US defines terrorism as an activity that
(i) involves a violent act or an act dangerous to human life, property, or infrastructure; and
(ii) appears to be intended
– to intimidate or coerce a civilian population;
– to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or
– to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, kidnapping, or hostage-taking.
And the US has used this definition to terrorise and degrade individuals, groups and countries it doesn’t happen to like.
Ironically it’s a definition that fits the US administration itself – and the thuggish Israeli regime – like a glove.
I sincerely hope that amidst the flurry of investigations going on you will take steps to ensure that plucky Ms Mohammed/Schwaikh ceases to be victimised by tiresome Zionist Inquisitors and is allowed to get on with her studies, and from now on free speech prevails across the beautiful Exeter campus.
Sir Steve is said to earn £400,000 a year according to this report. Perhaps he and many other university bosses need rousing from their plumptious comfort zone.
I’m with Craig Murray on this. I too don’t recognise our society today as the same one I grew up in. Who had the impudence to change our values regarding free speech?
Britain’s multi-million pound trade and aid strategy for programs in Bahrain needs exposed as the tiny gulf kingdom continues its chain of tyranny and torture against the Shia majority.
The British government’s unreserved condemnation of torture and inhumane treatment and punishment seems to vanish when it comes to making more money. As kidnaps, imprisonments and political executions are on the rise in Bahrain, activists and Bahraini opposition figures are troubled by the fact that the UK government is spending taxpayers’ money on these trade and aid programs, especially given the clear risk of complicity in abuse.
Habib Mohamed Habib is the latest Bahraini civilian to be kidnapped from his home the morning of Friday March 3rd 2017 as security forces deployed armored vehicles in and around Diraz, in a continuation of the Al Khalifa Monarchy’s oppression against the Shiite Friday prayers as part of their uninterrupted crackdown on civilians since 2011 in the Bahraini capital Manama.
As Habib’s family struggle to know the whereabouts of their son, traveling in and around Diraz is nothing less than a nightmare with traffic jams at every entry point of the town, which is witnessing an increase in tightened security at its checkpoints.
Meanwhile, since last June the citizens of Diraz have been experiencing an internet blockade every day between 7pm and 1am as a result of a service restriction order from the Bahraini authorities. The citizens of Diraz are increasingly being cut off from the outside world. They cannot even contact emergency services, and if somebody is caught aiding a fellow citizen he/she will disappear like Habib and hundreds of others like him.
Last week alone, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights BHRC documented a total of 17 arbitrary arrests, among whom were six children. In the same week, 129 marches took place in 40 villages in Bahrain to denounce the chain of repressions and kidnappings targeting peaceful protestors and Friday prayers’ attendees. BHRC reported that 26 marches during the same week were attacked by the Bahraini riot police and a total of 19 persons were judged in 6 politically motivated cases.
It is an open secret in Bahrain that after 6 years of constant crackdowns on millions of protestors who clamored for social justice and political self-determination, the ruling Al Khalifa regime has managed to get away with brutalizing, imprisoning, torturing and killing their own civilians under nonsensical pretexts. Although the monarchy has often expressed its desire to negotiate a political solution, promises of change have translated on the ground to a systematic crackdown.
The Al Khalifa regime has utterly failed to bear its responsibility in creating a space of dialogue in order to foster harmony, cohesion and tolerance. Instead of pushing for respect of cultural diversities amongst its citizens as a fundamental basis of democracy and peace-building, the authorities have politicized freedom of religion and successfully used it as a pretext for the incitement of hatred, violence and racial discrimination against groups of individuals and religious minorities.
International community’s deafening silence
Despite the fact that the Bahraini authorities have been only tightening restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression and association and continuing to curtail the right to peaceful assembly while detaining and charging several human rights defenders, banning others from traveling abroad, dissolving the main opposition group and stripping more than 80 people of their Bahraini citizenship, the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) has largely remained silent on the situation in Bahrain.
According to a joint NGO letter to Permanent Representatives of Member and Observer States of the UN Human Rights Council, Bahrain’s courts continued to play a key role last year in issuing repressive orders and granting the authorities broad discretionary powers to revoke Bahrainis’ citizenship, in some cases leaving them stateless.
The ultimate repressive order was issued on January 9, 2017 by Bahrain’s Court of Cassation upheld death sentences against three protestors convicted of killing police including three police officers in a bomb attack.
Sami Mushaima (42), Ali Al-Singace (21) and Abbas Al-Samea (27), who were executed on the morning of January 15, 2017 by firing squad, were reported by Bahrain Center for Human Rights BHRC to have been tortured during interrogation to force them to confess to the bomb attack. According to the BHRC, the lawyers of the executed men were not given access to all the hearings against the defendants, nor allowed to cross-examine prosecution witnesses during court hearings.
The shocking part about the atrocities inflicting the Bahrainis is no longer the blatant violations of the Al Khalifa monarchy as much as it is the international community turning a blind eye to the Bahraini people’s legitimate struggle for democratic rights.
UK government complicit in oppression
The US and the UK are two major western states supposedly committed to supporting human rights, democratic values, free speech and political self-determination, while, at the same time, are flagrantly partnering with dictatorships like that of the Bahraini Monarchy to advance their foreign agenda.
For instance, the government of the United Kingdom signed what the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) called a “landmark defense agreement” with the Gulf island kingdom of Bahrain in 2014. Clearly ongoing human rights abuses committed by those partners on their own citizens are not considered a shared strategic and regional threat especially when Bahrain is home to a major Royal Navy base. The multi-million-pound Royal Navy facility in Bahrain, which was founded in November 2016 housing up to 600 UK military personnel, became the staging-post for Britain in the Middle East and is designed to assert influence over the Gulf. Bahrain has paid most of the £30million-plus cost, with the UK contributing around £7.5million.
During the opening of the new Naval Support Facility (NSF) in Manama, Britain’s first permanent military base in the region since 1971, the Telegraph published an OpEd by Fawaz bin Mohamed Al Khalifa, Bahrain’s Ambassador to London, who claimed that King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa outlined the Gulf Cooperation Council’s interest in a free trade agreement between the UK and the GCC, which would significantly increase the UK’s access to the GCC’s £1.3 trillion market; a market estimated to grow by a further £400 billion by 2020.
Relative to its size, Bahrain already hosts a large number of British companies. The Bahraini Ambassador to London put the figures at “500 British brands, 90 British company branches, and 350 Bahraini-British business partnerships”. These businesses operate in some of Bahrain’s key sectors, including banking, accounting, law and industry. Meanwhile bilateral trade between Bahrain and the UK generated a staggering £432 million in 2015 alone, which would simply explain why the UK would choose to remain silent on all the human rights violations in the tiny gulf kingdom.
These bilateral relations are signed and sealed with Bahraini blood, says Ali Alaswad, former Bahraini Member of Parliament who was elected in October 2010, but resigned in February 2011 in response to the Governments’ crackdown on peaceful democracy protesters.
After his home was targeted by security forces, AlAswad left Bahrain and now resides in London where he continues his political work to achieve a democratic Bahrain. As I spoke with MP AlAswad, he emphasized that the UK’s current disappointing stance towards ignoring the human rights violations in Bahrain provides “a green light to the Bahraini government to abuse the basic human rights of the civilians which permits it to become more violent against the Shia majority and the Bahraini opposition.”
AlAswad told me “it doesn’t matter who you are in Bahrain, if you dare to demand for your basic rights then you will be in grave danger, which is why if the UK government as a strategic ally to the Bahraini government doesn’t use its ties as a strong card to support the oppressed Bahraini people to at least secure their basic human rights as enlisted in the declaration of human rights, then the UK is whitewashing the Bahraini authorities’ shocking human rights record by deliberately blocking official criticism of the Kingdom especially at international forums like the UN”.
The UK government is now seen by human rights activists and Bahraini opposition figures as a complicit in the tiny gulf kingdom’s tyranny against the outcry of the legitimate and basic demands of the Bahraini civilians until an official statement is issued from the UK government to condemn the acts of oppression of the Bahraini monarchy against its people.
“How do you expect the majority of the population to react when they see their leaders and clerics being detained, unlawfully imprisoned and even sometimes deported from their own country?” asks MP AlAswad.
Sheikh Ali Salman, a Shiite cleric and head of the Al-Wefaq opposition party, is now sentenced to serve nine years in jail for allegedly inciting hatred and calling for regime change by force.
The Bahraini authorities then went overboard when they stripped the highest religious authority in the country Sheikh Isa Qassim, a 79-year-old cleric, of his citizenship in June 2016 over accusations that he used his position to serve foreign interests and promote sectarianism and violence. This happened a week after the government of Bahrain suspended the Shia opposition group al-Wefaq.
The implications of this arrest is sending shockwaves on the streets of Manama, Diraz, Sanabes, Karbabad, Karzakan and Barbar with protestors refusing to back down. This resistance is prompting even more oppression and kidnapping from the Bahraini authorities.
Earlier this week, Al-Wefaq Deputy Secretary General, Sheikh Hussein al-Daihi, said through his twitter account, that targeting Ayatollah Qassim is triggered by his brave and firm stances, to demand legitimate rights for the oppressed Bahraini people. The deputy SG also stressed that Ayatollah Qassim is a red line, and the repercussions of crossing that line would go beyond the country’s borders.
Ms. Marwa Osman. PhD Candidate located in Beirut, Lebanon. University Lecturer at the Lebanese International University and Maaref University. Political writer/commentator on Middle East issues with many international and regional media outlets.
The British government is helping universities across the UK suppress the right to criticize Israel over its human rights violations in Palestine, says a Jewish professor, vowing to never give in to the pressure.
“They are trying to stop us talking about Palestinian rights, and about peace and we will just not shut up,” Dr. Haim Bresheeth, a Jewish academic and filmmaker, told Press TV on Wednesday.
“Unfortunately the government has helped the universities that want to shut up free speech by accepting a definition of anti-Semitism that makes anti-Semitism any criticism of Israel,” he added.
The scholar was referring to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA)’s definition that was adopted by the government of Prime Minister Theresa May last year.
It was based on IHRA’s definition that the University of Exeter and the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) cancelled an annual pro-Palestinian event on Monday, which was aimed at raising awareness about human rights violations in the occupied territories.
Following the move, some 250 academics at dozens of universities across the UK penned an open letter, condemning the Tory government’s attempts to curb their right to free speech by banning criticism of Israel.
The professors said in their letter that the government’s definition of anti-Semitism is too broad and can include any criticism of Israel with regards to its occupation of Palestinian lands.
“The government has ‘adopted’ the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of anti-Semitism, which can be and is being read as extending to criticism of Israel and support for Palestinian rights, an entirely separate issue, as prima facie evidence of anti-Semitism,” read the letter, sent to the Guardian.
“This definition seeks to conflate criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism,” the academics charged, accusing universities minister Jo Johnson of asking for the definition to be “disseminated” throughout the higher education system.
In his interview with Press TV, Bersheeth said the definition sought to protect “Zionism and Israel” from criticism.
“You can criticize and you should criticize every political institution that you wish,” he argued. “We are told now that Jews who criticize Israel like me are anti-Semitic. This is nonsense.”
I am giving a talk entitled “Palestine/Israel: A Unitary Secular State or a Bantustan Solution” in Leeds University tomorrow. I have just been told by Leeds University Union I will not be allowed to speak unless I submit what I am going to say for pre-vetting.
I am truly appalled that such a gross restriction on freedom of speech should be imposed anywhere, let alone in a university where intellectual debate is meant to be an essential part of the learning experience. I really do not recognise today’s United Kingdom as the same society I grew up in. The common understanding that the values of a liberal democracy are the foundation of society appears to have evaporated.
As regular readers know well, I do not write speeches in advance but always speak extempore. My opinions on Israel and Palestine are very well documented on this blog and elsewhere. I want to see a single, unitary state in Israel/Palestine, encompassing everyone who currently lives in those territories, as a secular democracy blind to ethnicity and religion. This includes an acceptance that further forced large population movements by anybody are not desirable and the Palestinians should receive more compensation than restitution. If I am not permitted to express this view within a University, I find that truly shocking.
I should be equally shocked if anybody who held views very different to my own were not permitted to express them.
I think that if people like me are now being prevented from speaking, society has crossed a very dangerous line indeed.