Archive | February 21st, 2011

News**News**News

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by crescentandcross  

 

Revolt Escalates in Libya Capital

 

 

Report: Gadhafi Flees to Venezuela

 

 

Afghan Governor: NATO Strikes Kill 64 Civilians

 

 

HYPOCRISY–US Condemns Crackdowns on Mideast Protests

 

 

Palestinian PM Seeking to Lure Hamas Into Unity Government

 

 

Zionist Gadafi  Calls Protests a Terrorist Plot

 

 

Al-Tuwani children’s struggle to go to school

 

 

Nazi Settlers  uproot 270 olive trees near Nablus

 

 

Witnesses: IsraHell demolishes tents in West Bank village

 

 

IsraHell Gestapo’s arrests children in Beit Ummar

 

 

IsraHell accused of Swiss diamond theft is extraditable

 

 

‘World on threshold of major change’

 

 

Afghan family slain in NATO strike

 

 

IsraHeLl Navy to take Lebanon gas resource

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ZIO-NAZI’S AND THE JEWSH MESSIAH’S

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CLICK HERE TO SEE THE VIDEO

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JFK ASSASINATION EXPOSED

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Zionist Rabbi Mistakenly says the truth!

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Hypocrisy of Zionist Cardiff University

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Week 81 – No freedom of speech for Cardiff University

jodymcintyre | February 17, 2011 URL: http://wp.me/pOOsC-5z

Several weeks ago, I was emailed an invitation to speak alongside Noam Chomsky in Cardiff, in March. The organisers also asked if I would give a talk at Cardiff University the following day; I happily agreed to both proposals.

Yesterday, I got call from Ghaith Jayousi, who had invited me to Cardiff, to inform me that his University had refused to host the event, due to “security concerns coming from higher channels”.

“Most room bookings for public events at Cardiff University usually take 24 hours to be confirmed,” Ghaith told me. “We submitted a room booking request for your talk on March 13th, in Cardiff University Main Building, Large Shandon Theatre. The response was delayed for a few weeks before we were told that the University would not host the event. The reasons presented to us initially were that there were security concerns coming from ‘higher channels’ that the University couldn’t do anything about. When pressuring them they said they could hold the event in the main building, but we would have to pay a fee to fund security arrangements. When we agreed to doing that, they said it would not be possible even if we paid the money.”
Apparently, the problems do not end there. When inviting Professor Chomsky to speak at the university, organisers were informed by the Student Union Manager that the MI5, the MI6 and the police would be contacted to monitor Chomsky’s lecture and its guests. They were also told that if the event was open to the public, security would have to monitor the identities of every single attendee.

Organising events has not always been such a hassle at Cardiff University. When Ron Prosor, Israeli ambassador to the UK, and former commander of the IDF’s artillery division, was invited to speak in April 2010, the university agreed to host the event with no cost to the organisers. How I am bigger ‘security threat’ than a former IDF commander, the same IDF who stand accused by the United Nations of committing “actions amounting to war crimes and possibly crimes against humanity” in Gaza, is beyond me.

This is hypocrisy of epic proportions, and an attack on legitimate freedom of speech. Universities should be home to political debate and discussion, not war propagandists. It’s a shame that the authorities at Cardiff University are failing to recognise that.
Nevertheless, I will be speaking in Cardiff on March 13th, university or no university. Everyone is welcome to come along, even Mr. Prosor if he wishes.

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Protests Ignite Across Middle East

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Many Demonstrators Beaten, Arrested, Some Even Killed
Across the Middle East, peaceful protesters took to the streets. Many have been arrested and beaten by authorities, and some have been killed.

Early this morning in Bahrain, without warning, riot police attacked sleeping protesters, firing teargas, rubber bullets, and pellets.

Police surrounded an area where up to 3,000 protesters, including families with children, were sleeping, leaving no means of escape, said Maryam al-Khawaja, of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights. Three were killed and scores injured, she told us.
Read details of the attacks in Bahrain >>

More than 1,000 demonstrators marched in Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, on Tuesday. Several hundred paramilitaries carrying bats, assault rifles, stun guns, and tear gasguns, charged the protesters, witnesses said.

Mizar Baggash Ghanem told Human Rights Watch that the security forces shocked him with a stun gun. His back bore several fresh red wounds.
Read the accounts of protesters in Yemen >>

Thousands of Iranians gathered Monday to protest a wave of arrests and a clampdown on telephone and internet access. Security forces broke up crowds with teargas and batons, witnesses said.

One demonstrator said he saw many people injured from blows with batons and sticks by riot police and paramilitary forces.

Read eyewitness accounts of attacks in Iran >>

Libyans in Benghazi staged protests after authorities arrested key activists. Authorities used teargas and batons, as well as attackers in street clothes, to disperse them. Sources told us that one person was killed. Human Rights Watch has compiled a list of those arrested.

Read about the arrests in Libya >>

Governments should rein in their riot police and ensure full investigations into these abuses.

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Libya’s regime must now fear its people’s anger

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After Tunisia and Egypt, we Libyans once more have the courage to demand our rights – and voice our dreams

  • Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi prays during a ceremony marking the birth of Islam's Prophet Mohammed

    Gaddafi … the Libyan government’s tentative reform measures to date are seen as inadequate by many young people. Photograph: Sabri Elmhedwi/EPA

    Two months ago, the mere thought of freedom was out of the question in Libya. But today, the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt have sowed the hope of freedom in the hearts of each and every one of us.

     

    For us Libyans, Egypt showed that what happened in Tunisia was not an exception, or something that cannot be repeated. The people who said “Egypt is not going to be another Tunisia” were proved wrong. Watching these epics made us believe that happy endings can happen beyond cinema screens, and that low-quality video clips published on Facebook showing events in the streets and the spontaneous words of demonstrators can have a deeper impact than the most influential works of Hollywood.

     

    Shortly after Hosni Mubarak resigned, I said to an Egyptian friend of mine that the most beautiful thing the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions have given us is the return of the courage to dream and speak out about our dreams and our rights without being ridiculed as if we are tilting at windmills.

     

    This is what the Libyan people are doing now; today, 17 February, is the Libyan “day of anger“. It coincides with the anniversary of what started as a peaceful demonstration in 2006 being met with various forms of repression, including live bullets and tear gas. The Libyan youth have chosen this day to express their anger and demand their rights, despite the very real threat of violence.

     

    The Libyan regime has tried to preempt these protests to salvage anything that can be salvaged and to discourage Libyan youth. The regime, after all, has the best knowledge of the deteriorating conditions of Libyans and their lost rights.

     

    These lost rights include the lack of freedom of expression and are coupled with deteriorating living conditions, high unemployment rates among young people, and the spread of all forms of government corruption such as bribery, nepotism, negligence and ineptitude. The police are corrupt, the health service is corrupt, the education system is corrupt.

     

    The government is aware of these issues, and it knows it caused them, which is why it is taking desperate measures to protect itself, instead of announcing its intention to take real measures for reform. How deceitful!

     

    The measures the government has taken are regarded by many observers, including many young people, as insufficient for their ambitions and dreams of reform. The regime’s decision to distribute loans to young people did not receive much attention, especially because every Libyan knows that these loans will eventually be in the hands of those in power and their relatives.

     

    This is why young people went out to protest on Wednesday in many Libyan cities, mostly in eastern Libya, to tell the government that from this day on, you have to fear your people and not the opposite. We heard the unfolding news of clashes between anti-regime demonstrators on one side and supporters of the regime and security forces on the other.

     

    When I went out on Wednesday morning and wandered the streets of Tripoli, I noticed the heavy presence of various police forces, and also the demonstrations of some regime supporters, who – as rumour has it – are paid to go out in small-scale demonstrations and shout obsolete hypocritical slogans. Some of them put pictures of Gaddafi on their cars and roamed the city with scant regard for other drivers, as they not only disrespect the law but consider themselves to be the law itself.

     

    I, as a humble young Libyan, tell the Libyan government that the Libyan youth are not naive and will not be fooled by promises of food and drink because man does not live by bread alone. The Libyan government has to take the right path for the first time: protect the country from ruin, embark on real reform, and give the people their freedom and rights.

     

    • This article was commissioned in co-operation with Meedan.

    Posted in World1 Comment

    Why Isn’t Wall Street In Jail?

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    Financial crooks brought down the world’s economy — but the feds are doing more to protect them than to prosecute them


    Illustration by Victor Juhasz

    Over drinks at a bar on a dreary, snowy night in Washington this past month, a former Senate investigator laughed as he polished off his beer.

    “Everything’s fucked up, and nobody goes to jail,” he said. “That’s your whole story right there. Hell, you don’t even have to write the rest of it. Just write that.”

    I put down my notebook. “Just that?”

    “That’s right,” he said, signaling to the waitress for the check. “Everything’s fucked up, and nobody goes to jail. You can end the piece right there.”

    Nobody goes to jail. This is the mantra of the financial-crisis era, one that saw virtually every major bank and financial company on Wall Street embroiled in obscene criminal scandals that impoverished millions and collectively destroyed hundreds of billions, in fact, trillions of dollars of the world’s wealth — and nobody went to jail. Nobody, that is, except Bernie Madoff, a flamboyant and pathological celebrity con artist, whose victims happened to be other rich and famous people.

    This article appears in the March 3, 2011 issue of Rolling Stone. The issue is available now on newsstands and will appear in the online archive February 18.

    The rest of them, all of them, got off. Not a single executive who ran the companies that cooked up and cashed in on the phony financial boom — an industrywide scam that involved the mass sale of mismarked, fraudulent mortgage-backed securities — has ever been convicted. Their names by now are familiar to even the most casual Middle American news consumer: companies like AIG, Goldman Sachs, Lehman Brothers, JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America and Morgan Stanley. Most of these firms were directly involved in elaborate fraud and theft. Lehman Brothers hid billions in loans from its investors. Bank of America lied about billions in bonuses. Goldman Sachs failed to tell clients how it put together the born-to-lose toxic mortgage deals it was selling. What’s more, many of these companies had corporate chieftains whose actions cost investors billions — from AIG derivatives chief Joe Cassano, who assured investors they would not lose even “one dollar” just months before his unit imploded, to the $263 million in compensation that former Lehman chief Dick “The Gorilla” Fuld conveniently failed to disclose. Yet not one of them has faced time behind bars.

    Invasion of the Home Snatchers

    Instead, federal regulators and prosecutors have let the banks and finance companies that tried to burn the world economy to the ground get off with carefully orchestrated settlements — whitewash jobs that involve the firms paying pathetically small fines without even being required to admit wrongdoing. To add insult to injury, the people who actually committed the crimes almost never pay the fines themselves; banks caught defrauding their shareholders often use shareholder money to foot the tab of justice. “If the allegations in these settlements are true,” says Jed Rakoff, a federal judge in the Southern District of New York, “it’s management buying its way off cheap, from the pockets of their victims.”

    Taibblog: Commentary on politics and the economy by Matt Taibbi

    To understand the significance of this, one has to think carefully about the efficacy of fines as a punishment for a defendant pool that includes the richest people on earth — people who simply get their companies to pay their fines for them. Conversely, one has to consider the powerful deterrent to further wrongdoing that the state is missing by not introducing this particular class of people to the experience of incarceration. “You put Lloyd Blankfein in pound-me-in-the-ass prison for one six-month term, and all this bullshit would stop, all over Wall Street,” says a former congressional aide. “That’s all it would take. Just once.”

    But that hasn’t happened. Because the entire system set up to monitor and regulate Wall Street is fucked up.

    Just ask the people who tried to do the right thing.

    Wall Street’s Naked Swindle

    Here’s how regulation of Wall Street is supposed to work. To begin with, there’s a semigigantic list of public and quasi-public agencies ostensibly keeping their eyes on the economy, a dense alphabet soup of banking, insurance, S&L, securities and commodities regulators like the Federal Reserve, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC), the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), as well as supposedly “self-regulating organizations” like the New York Stock Exchange. All of these outfits, by law, can at least begin the process of catching and investigating financial criminals, though none of them has prosecutorial power.

    The major federal agency on the Wall Street beat is the Securities and Exchange Commission. The SEC watches for violations like insider trading, and also deals with so-called “disclosure violations” — i.e., making sure that all the financial information that publicly traded companies are required to make public actually jibes with reality. But the SEC doesn’t have prosecutorial power either, so in practice, when it looks like someone needs to go to jail, they refer the case to the Justice Department. And since the vast majority of crimes in the financial services industry take place in Lower Manhattan, cases referred by the SEC often end up in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York. Thus, the two top cops on Wall Street are generally considered to be that U.S. attorney — a job that has been held by thunderous prosecutorial personae like Robert Morgenthau and Rudy Giuliani — and the SEC’s director of enforcement.

    The relationship between the SEC and the DOJ is necessarily close, even symbiotic. Since financial crime-fighting requires a high degree of financial expertise — and since the typical drug-and-terrorism-obsessed FBI agent can’t balance his own checkbook, let alone tell a synthetic CDO from a credit default swap — the Justice Department ends up leaning heavily on the SEC’s army of 1,100 number-crunching investigators to make their cases. In theory, it’s a well-oiled, tag-team affair: Billionaire Wall Street Asshole commits fraud, the NYSE catches on and tips off the SEC, the SEC works the case and delivers it to Justice, and Justice perp-walks the Asshole out of Nobu, into a Crown Victoria and off to 36 months of push-ups, license-plate making and Salisbury steak.

    That’s the way it’s supposed to work. But a veritable mountain of evidence indicates that when it comes to Wall Street, the justice system not only sucks at punishing financial criminals, it has actually evolved into a highly effective mechanism for protecting financial criminals. This institutional reality has absolutely nothing to do with politics or ideology — it takes place no matter who’s in office or which party’s in power. To understand how the machinery functions, you have to start back at least a decade ago, as case after case of financial malfeasance was pursued too slowly or not at all, fumbled by a government bureaucracy that too often is on a first-name basis with its targets. Indeed, the shocking pattern of nonenforcement with regard to Wall Street is so deeply ingrained in Washington that it raises a profound and difficult question about the very nature of our society: whether we have created a class of people whose misdeeds are no longer perceived as crimes, almost no matter what those misdeeds are. The SEC and the Justice Department have evolved into a bizarre species of social surgeon serving this nonjailable class, expert not at administering punishment and justice, but at finding and removing criminal responsibility from the bodies of the accused.

    The systematic lack of regulation has left even the country’s top regulators frustrated. Lynn Turner, a former chief accountant for the SEC, laughs darkly at the idea that the criminal justice system is broken when it comes to Wall Street. “I think you’ve got a wrong assumption — that we even have a law-enforcement agency when it comes to Wall Street,” he says.

    In the hierarchy of the SEC, the chief accountant plays a major role in working to pursue misleading and phony financial disclosures. Turner held the post a decade ago, when one of the most significant cases was swallowed up by the SEC bureaucracy. In the late 1990s, the agency had an open-and-shut case against the Rite Aid drugstore chain, which was using diabolical accounting tricks to cook their books. But instead of moving swiftly to crack down on such scams, the SEC shoved the case into the “deal with it later” file. “The Philadelphia office literally did nothing with the case for a year,” Turner recalls. “Very much like the New York office with Madoff.” The Rite Aid case dragged on for years — and by the time it was finished, similar accounting fiascoes at Enron and WorldCom had exploded into a full-blown financial crisis. The same was true for another SEC case that presaged the Enron disaster. The agency knew that appliance-maker Sunbeam was using the same kind of accounting scams to systematically hide losses from its investors. But in the end, the SEC’s punishment for Sunbeam’s CEO, Al “Chainsaw” Dunlap — widely regarded as one of the biggest assholes in the history of American finance — was a fine of $500,000. Dunlap’s net worth at the time was an estimated $100 million. The SEC also barred Dunlap from ever running a public company again — forcing him to retire with a mere $99.5 million. Dunlap passed the time collecting royalties from his self-congratulatory memoir. Its title: Mean Business.

    The pattern of inaction toward shady deals on Wall Street grew worse and worse after Turner left, with one slam-dunk case after another either languishing for years or disappearing altogether. Perhaps the most notorious example involved Gary Aguirre, an SEC investigator who was literally fired after he questioned the agency’s failure to pursue an insider-trading case against John Mack, now the chairman of Morgan Stanley and one of America’s most powerful bankers.

    Aguirre joined the SEC in September 2004. Two days into his career as a financial investigator, he was asked to look into an insider-trading complaint against a hedge-fund megastar named Art Samberg. One day, with no advance research or discussion, Samberg had suddenly started buying up huge quantities of shares in a firm called Heller Financial. “It was as if Art Samberg woke up one morning and a voice from the heavens told him to start buying Heller,” Aguirre recalls. “And he wasn’t just buying shares — there were some days when he was trying to buy three times as many shares as were being traded that day.” A few weeks later, Heller was bought by General Electric — and Samberg pocketed $18 million.

    After some digging, Aguirre found himself focusing on one suspect as the likely source who had tipped Samberg off: John Mack, a close friend of Samberg’s who had just stepped down as president of Morgan Stanley. At the time, Mack had been on Samberg’s case to cut him into a deal involving a spinoff of the tech company Lucent — an investment that stood to make Mack a lot of money. “Mack is busting my chops” to give him a piece of the action, Samberg told an employee in an e-mail.

    A week later, Mack flew to Switzerland to interview for a top job at Credit Suisse First Boston. Among the investment bank’s clients, as it happened, was a firm called Heller Financial. We don’t know for sure what Mack learned on his Swiss trip; years later, Mack would claim that he had thrown away his notes about the meetings. But we do know that as soon as Mack returned from the trip, on a Friday, he called up his buddy Samberg. The very next morning, Mack was cut into the Lucent deal — a favor that netted him more than $10 million. And as soon as the market reopened after the weekend, Samberg started buying every Heller share in sight, right before it was snapped up by GE — a suspiciously timed move that earned him the equivalent of Derek Jeter’s annual salary for just a few minutes of work.

    The deal looked like a classic case of insider trading. But in the summer of 2005, when Aguirre told his boss he planned to interview Mack, things started getting weird. His boss told him the case wasn’t likely to fly, explaining that Mack had “powerful political connections.” (The investment banker had been a fundraising “Ranger” for George Bush in 2004, and would go on to be a key backer of Hillary Clinton in 2008.)

    Aguirre also started to feel pressure from Morgan Stanley, which was in the process of trying to rehire Mack as CEO. At first, Aguirre was contacted by the bank’s regulatory liaison, Eric Dinallo, a former top aide to Eliot Spitzer. But it didn’t take long for Morgan Stanley to work its way up the SEC chain of command. Within three days, another of the firm’s lawyers, Mary Jo White, was on the phone with the SEC’s director of enforcement. In a shocking move that was later singled out by Senate investigators, the director actually appeared to reassure White, dismissing the case against Mack as “smoke” rather than “fire.” White, incidentally, was herself the former U.S. attorney of the Southern District of New York — one of the top cops on Wall Street.

    Pause for a minute to take this in. Aguirre, an SEC foot soldier, is trying to interview a major Wall Street executive — not handcuff the guy or impound his yacht, mind you, just talk to him. In the course of doing so, he finds out that his target’s firm is being represented not only by Eliot Spitzer’s former top aide, but by the former U.S. attorney overseeing Wall Street, who is going four levels over his head to speak directly to the chief of the SEC’s enforcement division — not Aguirre’s boss, but his boss’s boss’s boss’s boss. Mack himself, meanwhile, was being represented by Gary Lynch, a former SEC director of enforcement.

    Aguirre didn’t stand a chance. A month after he complained to his supervisors that he was being blocked from interviewing Mack, he was summarily fired, without notice. The case against Mack was immediately dropped: all depositions canceled, no further subpoenas issued. “It all happened so fast, I needed a seat belt,” recalls Aguirre, who had just received a stellar performance review from his bosses. The SEC eventually paid Aguirre a settlement of $755,000 for wrongful dismissal.

    Rather than going after Mack, the SEC started looking for someone else to blame for tipping off Samberg. (It was, Aguirre quips, “O.J.’s search for the real killers.”) It wasn’t until a year later that the agency finally got around to interviewing Mack, who denied any wrongdoing. The four-hour deposition took place on August 1st, 2006 — just days after the five-year statute of limitations on insider trading had expired in the case.

    “At best, the picture shows extraordinarily lax enforcement by the SEC,” Senate investigators would later conclude. “At worse, the picture is colored with overtones of a possible cover-up.”

    Episodes like this help explain why so many Wall Street executives felt emboldened to push the regulatory envelope during the mid-2000s. Over and over, even the most obvious cases of fraud and insider dealing got gummed up in the works, and high-ranking executives were almost never prosecuted for their crimes. In 2003, Freddie Mac coughed up $125 million after it was caught misreporting its earnings by $5 billion; nobody went to jail. In 2006, Fannie Mae was fined $400 million, but executives who had overseen phony accounting techniques to jack up their bonuses faced no criminal charges. That same year, AIG paid $1.6 billion after it was caught in a major accounting scandal that would indirectly lead to its collapse two years later, but no executives at the insurance giant were prosecuted.

    All of this behavior set the stage for the crash of 2008, when Wall Street exploded in a raging Dresden of fraud and criminality. Yet the SEC and the Justice Department have shown almost no inclination to prosecute those most responsible for the catastrophe — even though they had insiders from the two firms whose implosions triggered the crisis, Lehman Brothers and AIG, who were more than willing to supply evidence against top executives.

    In the case of Lehman Brothers, the SEC had a chance six months before the crash to move against Dick Fuld, a man recently named the worst CEO of all time by Portfolio magazine. A decade before the crash, a Lehman lawyer named Oliver Budde was going through the bank’s proxy statements and noticed that it was using a loophole involving Restricted Stock Units to hide tens of millions of dollars of Fuld’s compensation. Budde told his bosses that Lehman’s use of RSUs was dicey at best, but they blew him off. “We’re sorry about your concerns,” they told him, “but we’re doing it.” Disturbed by such shady practices, the lawyer quit the firm in 2006.

    Then, only a few months after Budde left Lehman, the SEC changed its rules to force companies to disclose exactly how much compensation in RSUs executives had coming to them. “The SEC was basically like, ‘We’re sick and tired of you people fucking around — we want a picture of what you’re holding,’” Budde says. But instead of coming clean about eight separate RSUs that Fuld had hidden from investors, Lehman filed a proxy statement that was a masterpiece of cynical lawyering. On one page, a chart indicated that Fuld had been awarded $146 million in RSUs. But two pages later, a note in the fine print essentially stated that the chart did not contain the real number — which, it failed to mention, was actually $263 million more than the chart indicated. “They fucked around even more than they did before,” Budde says. (The law firm that helped craft the fine print, Simpson Thacher & Bartlett, would later receive a lucrative federal contract to serve as legal adviser to the TARP bailout.)

    Budde decided to come forward. In April 2008, he wrote a detailed memo to the SEC about Lehman’s history of hidden stocks. Shortly thereafter, he got a letter back that began, “Dear Sir or Madam.” It was an automated e-response.

    “They blew me off,” Budde says.

    Over the course of that summer, Budde tried to contact the SEC several more times, and was ignored each time. Finally, in the fateful week of September 15th, 2008, when Lehman Brothers cracked under the weight of its reckless bets on the subprime market and went into its final death spiral, Budde became seriously concerned. If the government tried to arrange for Lehman to be pawned off on another Wall Street firm, as it had done with Bear Stearns, the U.S. taxpayer might wind up footing the bill for a company with hundreds of millions of dollars in concealed compensation. So Budde again called the SEC, right in the middle of the crisis. “Look,” he told regulators. “I gave you huge stuff. You really want to take a look at this.”

    But the feds once again blew him off. A young staff attorney contacted Budde, who once more provided the SEC with copies of all his memos. He never heard from the agency again.

    “This was like a mini-Madoff,” Budde says. “They had six solid months of warnings. They could have done something.”

    Three weeks later, Budde was shocked to see Fuld testifying before the House Government Oversight Committee and whining about how poor he was. “I got no severance, no golden parachute,” Fuld moaned. When Rep. Henry Waxman, the committee’s chairman, mentioned that he thought Fuld had earned more than $480 million, Fuld corrected him and said he believed it was only $310 million.

    The true number, Budde calculated, was $529 million. He contacted a Senate investigator to talk about how Fuld had misled Congress, but he never got any response. Meanwhile, in a demonstration of the government’s priorities, the Justice Department is proceeding full force with a prosecution of retired baseball player Roger Clemens for lying to Congress about getting a shot of steroids in his ass. “At least Roger didn’t screw over the world,” Budde says, shaking his head.

    Fuld has denied any wrongdoing, but his hidden compensation was only a ripple in Lehman’s raging tsunami of misdeeds. The investment bank used an absurd accounting trick called “Repo 105″ transactions to conceal $50 billion in loans on the firm’s balance sheet. (That’s $50 billion, not million.) But more than a year after the use of the Repo 105s came to light, there have still been no indictments in the affair. While it’s possible that charges may yet be filed, there are now rumors that the SEC and the Justice Department may take no action against Lehman. If that’s true, and there’s no prosecution in a case where there’s such overwhelming evidence — and where the company is already dead, meaning it can’t dump further losses on investors or taxpayers — then it might be time to assume the game is up. Failing to prosecute Fuld and Lehman would be tantamount to the state marching into Wall Street and waving the green flag on a new stealing season.

    The most amazing noncase in the entire crash — the one that truly defies the most basic notion of justice when it comes to Wall Street supervillains — is the one involving AIG and Joe Cassano, the nebbishy Patient Zero of the financial crisis. As chief of AIGFP, the firm’s financial products subsidiary, Cassano repeatedly made public statements in 2007 claiming that his portfolio of mortgage derivatives would suffer “no dollar of loss” — an almost comically obvious misrepresentation. “God couldn’t manage a $60 billion real estate portfolio without a single dollar of loss,” says Turner, the agency’s former chief accountant. “If the SEC can’t make a disclosure case against AIG, then they might as well close up shop.”

    As in the Lehman case, federal prosecutors not only had plenty of evidence against AIG — they also had an eyewitness to Cassano’s actions who was prepared to tell all. As an accountant at AIGFP, Joseph St. Denis had a number of run-ins with Cassano during the summer of 2007. At the time, Cassano had already made nearly $500 billion worth of derivative bets that would ultimately blow up, destroy the world’s largest insurance company, and trigger the largest government bailout of a single company in U.S. history. He made many fatal mistakes, but chief among them was engaging in contracts that required AIG to post billions of dollars in collateral if there was any downgrade to its credit rating.

    St. Denis didn’t know about those clauses in Cassano’s contracts, since they had been written before he joined the firm. What he did know was that Cassano freaked out when St. Denis spoke with an accountant at the parent company, which was only just finding out about the time bomb Cassano had set. After St. Denis finished a conference call with the executive, Cassano suddenly burst into the room and began screaming at him for talking to the New York office. He then announced that St. Denis had been “deliberately excluded” from any valuations of the most toxic elements of the derivatives portfolio — thus preventing the accountant from doing his job. What St. Denis represented was transparency — and the last thing Cassano needed was transparency.

    Another clue that something was amiss with AIGFP’s portfolio came when Goldman Sachs demanded that the firm pay billions in collateral, per the terms of Cassano’s deadly contracts. Such “collateral calls” happen all the time on Wall Street, but seldom against a seemingly solvent and friendly business partner like AIG. And when they do happen, they are rarely paid without a fight. So St. Denis was shocked when AIGFP agreed to fork over gobs of money to Goldman Sachs, even while it was still contesting the payments — an indication that something was seriously wrong at AIG. “When I found out about the collateral call, I literally had to sit down,” St. Denis recalls. “I had to go home for the day.”

    After Cassano barred him from valuating the derivative deals, St. Denis had no choice but to resign. He got another job, and thought he was done with AIG. But a few months later, he learned that Cassano had held a conference call with investors in December 2007. During the call, AIGFP failed to disclose that it had posted $2 billion to Goldman Sachs following the collateral calls.

    “Investors therefore did not know,” the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission would later conclude, “that AIG’s earnings were overstated by $3.6 billion.”

    “I remember thinking, ‘Wow, they’re just not telling people,’” St. Denis says. “I knew. I had been there. I knew they’d posted collateral.”

    A year later, after the crash, St. Denis wrote a letter about his experiences to the House Government Oversight Committee, which was looking into the AIG collapse. He also met with investigators for the government, which was preparing a criminal case against Cassano. But the case never went to court. Last May, the Justice Department confirmed that it would not file charges against executives at AIGFP. Cassano, who has denied any wrongdoing, was reportedly told he was no longer a target.

    Shortly after that, Cassano strolled into Washington to testify before the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission. It was his first public appearance since the crash. He has not had to pay back a single cent out of the hundreds of millions of dollars he earned selling his insane pseudo-insurance policies on subprime mortgage deals. Now, out from under prosecution, he appeared before the FCIC and had the enormous balls to compliment his own business acumen, saying his atom-bomb swaps portfolio was, in retrospect, not that badly constructed. “I think the portfolios are withstanding the test of time,” he said.

    “They offered him an excellent opportunity to redeem himself,” St. Denis jokes.

    In the end, of course, it wasn’t just the executives of Lehman and AIGFP who got passes. Virtually every one of the major players on Wall Street was similarly embroiled in scandal, yet their executives skated off into the sunset, uncharged and unfined. Goldman Sachs paid $550 million last year when it was caught defrauding investors with crappy mortgages, but no executive has been fined or jailed — not even Fabrice “Fabulous Fab” Tourre, Goldman’s outrageous Euro-douche who gleefully e-mailed a pal about the “surreal” transactions in the middle of a meeting with the firm’s victims. In a similar case, a sales executive at the German powerhouse Deutsche Bank got off on charges of insider trading; its general counsel at the time of the questionable deals, Robert Khuzami, now serves as director of enforcement for the SEC.

    Another major firm, Bank of America, was caught hiding $5.8 billion in bonuses from shareholders as part of its takeover of Merrill Lynch. The SEC tried to let the bank off with a settlement of only $33 million, but Judge Jed Rakoff rejected the action as a “facade of enforcement.” So the SEC quintupled the settlement — but it didn’t require either Merrill or Bank of America to admit to wrongdoing. Unlike criminal trials, in which the facts of the crime are put on record for all to see, these Wall Street settlements almost never require the banks to make any factual disclosures, effectively burying the stories forever. “All this is done at the expense not only of the shareholders, but also of the truth,” says Rakoff. Goldman, Deutsche, Merrill, Lehman, Bank of America … who did we leave out? Oh, there’s Citigroup, nailed for hiding some $40 billion in liabilities from investors. Last July, the SEC settled with Citi for $75 million. In a rare move, it also fined two Citi executives, former CFO Gary Crittenden and investor-relations chief Arthur Tildesley Jr. Their penalties, combined, came to a whopping $180,000.

    Throughout the entire crisis, in fact, the government has taken exactly one serious swing of the bat against executives from a major bank, charging two guys from Bear Stearns with criminal fraud over a pair of toxic subprime hedge funds that blew up in 2007, destroying the company and robbing investors of $1.6 billion. Jurors had an e-mail between the defendants admitting that “there is simply no way for us to make money — ever” just three days before assuring investors that “there’s no basis for thinking this is one big disaster.” Yet the case still somehow ended in acquittal — and the Justice Department hasn’t taken any of the big banks to court since.

    All of which raises an obvious question: Why the hell not?

    Gary Aguirre, the SEC investigator who lost his job when he drew the ire of Morgan Stanley, thinks he knows the answer.

    Last year, Aguirre noticed that a conference on financial law enforcement was scheduled to be held at the Hilton in New York on November 12th. The list of attendees included 1,500 or so of the country’s leading lawyers who represent Wall Street, as well as some of the government’s top cops from both the SEC and the Justice Department.

    Criminal justice, as it pertains to the Goldmans and Morgan Stanleys of the world, is not adversarial combat, with cops and crooks duking it out in interrogation rooms and courthouses. Instead, it’s a cocktail party between friends and colleagues who from month to month and year to year are constantly switching sides and trading hats. At the Hilton conference, regulators and banker-lawyers rubbed elbows during a series of speeches and panel discussions, away from the rabble. “They were chummier in that environment,” says Aguirre, who plunked down $2,200 to attend the conference.

    Aguirre saw a lot of familiar faces at the conference, for a simple reason: Many of the SEC regulators he had worked with during his failed attempt to investigate John Mack had made a million-dollar pass through the Revolving Door, going to work for the very same firms they used to police. Aguirre didn’t see Paul Berger, an associate director of enforcement who had rebuffed his attempts to interview Mack — maybe because Berger was tied up at his lucrative new job at Debevoise & Plimpton, the same law firm that Morgan Stanley employed to intervene in the Mack case. But he did see Mary Jo White, the former U.S. attorney, who was still at Debevoise & Plimpton. He also saw Linda Thomsen, the former SEC director of enforcement who had been so helpful to White. Thomsen had gone on to represent Wall Street as a partner at the prestigious firm of Davis Polk & Wardwell.

    Two of the government’s top cops were there as well: Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Robert Khuzami, the SEC’s current director of enforcement. Bharara had been recommended for his post by Chuck Schumer, Wall Street’s favorite senator. And both he and Khuzami had served with Mary Jo White at the U.S. attorney’s office, before Mary Jo went on to become a partner at Debevoise. What’s more, when Khuzami had served as general counsel for Deutsche Bank, he had been hired by none other than Dick Walker, who had been enforcement director at the SEC when it slow-rolled the pivotal fraud case against Rite Aid.

    “It wasn’t just one rotation of the revolving door,” says Aguirre. “It just kept spinning. Every single person had rotated in and out of government and private service.”

    The Revolving Door isn’t just a footnote in financial law enforcement; over the past decade, more than a dozen high-ranking SEC officials have gone on to lucrative jobs at Wall Street banks or white-shoe law firms, where partnerships are worth millions. That makes SEC officials like Paul Berger and Linda Thomsen the equivalent of college basketball stars waiting for their first NBA contract. Are you really going to give up a shot at the Knicks or the Lakers just to find out whether a Wall Street big shot like John Mack was guilty of insider trading? “You take one of these jobs,” says Turner, the former chief accountant for the SEC, “and you’re fit for life.”

    Fit — and happy. The banter between the speakers at the New York conference says everything you need to know about the level of chumminess and mutual admiration that exists between these supposed adversaries of the justice system. At one point in the conference, Mary Jo White introduced Bharara, her old pal from the U.S. attorney’s office.

    “I want to first say how pleased I am to be here,” Bharara responded. Then, addressing White, he added, “You’ve spawned all of us. It’s almost 11 years ago to the day that Mary Jo White called me and asked me if I would become an assistant U.S. attorney. So thank you, Dr. Frankenstein.”

    Next, addressing the crowd of high-priced lawyers from Wall Street, Bharara made an interesting joke. “I also want to take a moment to applaud the entire staff of the SEC for the really amazing things they have done over the past year,” he said. “They’ve done a real service to the country, to the financial community, and not to mention a lot of your law practices.”

    Haw! The line drew snickers from the conference of millionaire lawyers. But the real fireworks came when Khuzami, the SEC’s director of enforcement, talked about a new “cooperation initiative” the agency had recently unveiled, in which executives are being offered incentives to report fraud they have witnessed or committed. From now on, Khuzami said, when corporate lawyers like the ones he was addressing want to know if their Wall Street clients are going to be charged by the Justice Department before deciding whether to come forward, all they have to do is ask the SEC.

    “We are going to try to get those individuals answers,” Khuzami announced, as to “whether or not there is criminal interest in the case — so that defense counsel can have as much information as possible in deciding whether or not to choose to sign up their client.”

    Aguirre, listening in the crowd, couldn’t believe Khuzami’s brazenness. The SEC’s enforcement director was saying, in essence, that firms like Goldman Sachs and AIG and Lehman Brothers will henceforth be able to get the SEC to act as a middleman between them and the Justice Department, negotiating fines as a way out of jail time. Khuzami was basically outlining a four-step system for banks and their executives to buy their way out of prison. “First, the SEC and Wall Street player make an agreement on a fine that the player will pay to the SEC,” Aguirre says. “Then the Justice Department commits itself to pass, so that the player knows he’s ‘safe.’ Third, the player pays the SEC — and fourth, the player gets a pass from the Justice Department.”

    When I ask a former federal prosecutor about the propriety of a sitting SEC director of enforcement talking out loud about helping corporate defendants “get answers” regarding the status of their criminal cases, he initially doesn’t believe it. Then I send him a transcript of the comment. “I am very, very surprised by Khuzami’s statement, which does seem to me to be contrary to past practice — and not a good thing,” the former prosecutor says.

    Earlier this month, when Sen. Chuck Grassley found out about Khuzami’s comments, he sent the SEC a letter noting that the agency’s own enforcement manual not only prohibits such “answer getting,” it even bars the SEC from giving defendants the Justice Department’s phone number. “Should counsel or the individual ask which criminal authorities they should contact,” the manual reads, “staff should decline to answer, unless authorized by the relevant criminal authorities.” Both the SEC and the Justice Department deny there is anything improper in their new policy of cooperation. “We collaborate with the SEC, but they do not consult with us when they resolve their cases,” Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer assured Congress in January. “They do that independently.”

    Around the same time that Breuer was testifying, however, a story broke that prior to the pathetically small settlement of $75 million that the SEC had arranged with Citigroup, Khuzami had ordered his staff to pursue lighter charges against the megabank’s executives. According to a letter that was sent to Sen. Grassley’s office, Khuzami had a “secret conversation, without telling the staff, with a prominent defense lawyer who is a good friend” of his and “who was counsel for the company.” The unsigned letter, which appears to have come from an SEC investigator on the case, prompted the inspector general to launch an investigation into the charge.

    All of this paints a disturbing picture of a closed and corrupt system, a timeless circle of friends that virtually guarantees a collegial approach to the policing of high finance. Even before the corruption starts, the state is crippled by economic reality: Since law enforcement on Wall Street requires serious intellectual firepower, the banks seize a huge advantage from the start by hiring away the top talent. Budde, the former Lehman lawyer, says it’s well known that all the best legal minds go to the big corporate law firms, while the “bottom 20 percent go to the SEC.” Which makes it tough for the agency to track devious legal machinations, like the scheme to hide $263 million of Dick Fuld’s compensation.

    “It’s such a mismatch, it’s not even funny,” Budde says.

    But even beyond that, the system is skewed by the irrepressible pull of riches and power. If talent rises in the SEC or the Justice Department, it sooner or later jumps ship for those fat NBA contracts. Or, conversely, graduates of the big corporate firms take sabbaticals from their rich lifestyles to slum it in government service for a year or two. Many of those appointments are inevitably hand-picked by lifelong stooges for Wall Street like Chuck Schumer, who has accepted $14.6 million in campaign contributions from Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and other major players in the finance industry, along with their corporate lawyers.

    As for President Obama, what is there to be said? Goldman Sachs was his number-one private campaign contributor. He put a Citigroup executive in charge of his economic transition team, and he just named an executive of JP Morgan Chase, the proud owner of $7.7 million in Chase stock, his new chief of staff. “The betrayal that this represents by Obama to everybody is just — we’re not ready to believe it,” says Budde, a classmate of the president from their Columbia days. “He’s really fucking us over like that? Really? That’s really a JP Morgan guy, really?”

    Which is not to say that the Obama era has meant an end to law enforcement. On the contrary: In the past few years, the administration has allocated massive amounts of federal resources to catching wrongdoers — of a certain type. Last year, the government deported 393,000 people, at a cost of $5 billion. Since 2007, felony immigration prosecutions along the Mexican border have surged 77 percent; nonfelony prosecutions by 259 percent. In Ohio last month, a single mother was caught lying about where she lived to put her kids into a better school district; the judge in the case tried to sentence her to 10 days in jail for fraud, declaring that letting her go free would “demean the seriousness” of the offenses.

    So there you have it. Illegal immigrants: 393,000. Lying moms: one. Bankers: zero. The math makes sense only because the politics are so obvious. You want to win elections, you bang on the jailable class. You build prisons and fill them with people for selling dime bags and stealing CD players. But for stealing a billion dollars? For fraud that puts a million people into foreclosure? Pass. It’s not a crime. Prison is too harsh. Get them to say they’re sorry, and move on. Oh, wait — let’s not even make them say they’re sorry. That’s too mean; let’s just give them a piece of paper with a government stamp on it, officially clearing them of the need to apologize, and make them pay a fine instead. But don’t make them pay it out of their own pockets, and don’t ask them to give back the money they stole. In fact, let them profit from their collective crimes, to the tune of a record $135 billion in pay and benefits last year. What’s next? Taxpayer-funded massages for every Wall Street executive guilty of fraud?

    The mental stumbling block, for most Americans, is that financial crimes don’t feel real; you don’t see the culprits waving guns in liquor stores or dragging coeds into bushes. But these frauds are worse than common robberies. They’re crimes of intellectual choice, made by people who are already rich and who have every conceivable social advantage, acting on a simple, cynical calculation: Let’s steal whatever we can, then dare the victims to find the juice to reclaim their money through a captive bureaucracy. They’re attacking the very definition of property — which, after all, depends in part on a legal system that defends everyone’s claims of ownership equally. When that definition becomes tenuous or conditional — when the state simply gives up on the notion of justice — this whole American Dream thing recedes even further from reality.

    Posted in USAComments Off on Why Isn’t Wall Street In Jail?

    US Vetoes UN Vote on Israeli Settlements

    NOVANEWS

     

    The United States vetoed a UN resolution Friday that would have condemned Israeli settlements as “illegal” and called for an immediate halt to all settlement building.

     

    All 14 other Security Council members voted in favour of the resolution.

    British Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant, speaking on behalf of his country, France and Germany, condemned Israeli settlements in the West Bank. “They are illegal under international law,” he said.

    He added that the European Union’s three biggest nations hope that an independent state of Palestine will join the United Nations as a new member state by September 2011.

    The Obama administration’s veto is certain to anger Arab countries and Palestinian supporters around the world. An abstention would have angered the Israelis, the closest US ally in the region, as well as Democratic and Republican supporters of Israel in the American Congress.

    Washington says it opposes settlements in principal, but claims that the UN Security Council is not the appropriate venue for resolving the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

    US ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice told council members that the veto “should not be misunderstood to mean we support settlement activity.

    “While we agree with our fellow council members and indeed with the wider world about the folly and illegitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity, we think it unwise for this council to attempt to resolve the core issues that divide Israelis and Palestinians,” she said.

    Palestinians said the veto is counterproductive to the peace process, helps Israel maintain illegal buildings.

    “The American veto does not serve the peace process and encourages Israel to continue settlements, and to escape the obligations of the peace process,” said Nabil Abu Rdainah, a close aide to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

    Pressure to drop resolution

    Earlier, the Obama administration has exerted pressure on the Palestinian Authority to drop the UN resolution in exchange for other measures.

    Abbas has refused Washington’s request to withdraw a UN Security Council resolution demanding Israel to freeze settlement expansion on occupied Palestinian land.

    The decision was made unanimously by the Palestine Liberation Organisation’s executive and the central committee of Abbas’s Fatah movement on Friday, at a meeting to discuss US President Barack Obama’s appeal to Abbas by telephone a day earlier.

    “The Palestinian leadership has decided to proceed to the UN Security Council, to pressure Israel to halt settlement activities. The decision was taken despite American pressure,” said Wasel Abu Yousef, a PLO executive member.

    Obama, who had said Israeli settlements in territories it captured in a 1967 war are illegal and unhelpful to the peace process, says the resolution could shatter hopes of reviving the stalled talks.

    In a 50-minute phone call on Thursday, he asked Abbas to drop the resolution and settle for a non-binding statement condemning settlement expansion, Palestinian officials said.

    ‘Goldstone 2′

    “Caving in to American pressure and withdrawing the resolution will constitute Goldstone 2,” said a Palestinian official, speaking on terms of anonymity before the meeting.

    He was referring to the wave of protest in October 2009 accusing Abbas of caving in to US pressure by agreeing not to submit for adoption a UN report that accused Israel and Hamas of war crimes during the invasion of Gaza two years ago.

    Abbas maintains he insisted on submitting the report. A second Palestinian official, speaking before the decision was formalised, said it would be “a political catastrophe if we withdraw this resolution”.

    “People would take to the streets and would topple the president,” he said, noting the wave of protest in the Arab world that swept out the Egyptian and Tunisian presidents.

    The Palestinians say continued building flouts the internationally-backed peace plan that will permit them to create a viable, contiguous state on the 1967 land, after a treaty with Israel to end its occupation and 62 years of conflict.

    Israel says this is an excuse for avoiding peace talks and a precondition never demanded before during 17 years of negotiations, which has so far produced no agreement.

    The diplomatic standoff is complicated by the effects of Middle East turmoil on the Arab League, whose members backed the resolution. Egypt, a dominant member, and Tunisia are preoccupied with their transitions from deposed autocracies, and protests are flaring in Libya, Yemen and Bahrain.

    Washington is trying to revive peace talks stalled since September over Israel’s refusal to extend a moratorium on settlement building and Abbas’s refusal to negotiate further until the Israelis freeze the illegal buildings.

    ‘Nothing to lose’

    Obama initially pressured Israel to maintain the moratorium only to relent in the run-up to the 2010 US mid-term elections to avoid, some analysts said, alienating key voters.

    Instead of the resolution, Obama told Abbas he would back a fact-finding visit by a delegation of the Security Council to the occupied territories.

    One PLO official said the leadership was determined not to cave in “even if our decision leads to a diplomatic crisis with the Americans”, adding: “Now we have nothing to lose.”

    Kristin Saloomey, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in New York, said that the US has been doing everything it can to stop this vote from happening, including incentives and threats.

    “Apparently Obama threatened [on the phone to Abbas] that there would be repercussions if this vote actually came to the floor of the UN Security Council,” she said.

    “Today secretary of state, Hilary Clinton, called president Abbas [to put on more pressure] but none of this is getting through to the Palestinians.

    “Obama is facing intense domestic pressure not to support the vote. The US is in a tough position, they know that a veto is going to make them look very bad in the Arab world … and also the rest of the world is really in support of this resolution.

    “All of the Security Council members are on the record saying they are going to vote for this resolution including US allies”.

    Since 2000, 14 Security Council resolutions have been vetoed by one or more of the five permanent members — Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States. Of those, 10 were US vetoes, nine of them related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

    Source: Al Jazeera

    Also see:

    M J ROSENBERG : Bullying the Palestinians

    M J ROSENBERG : Obama’s Middle East turkeys

    Posted in USAComments Off on US Vetoes UN Vote on Israeli Settlements

    Truth in Stuttgart, Israel Worse than Nazi Germany

    NOVANEWS

     

    by Gilad Atzmon 

     

    Three months ago, I briefly participated in a Palestinian solidarity conference in Stuttgart. The event was dedicated to the ‘One State Solution’. As it happened, I was touring in Germany at the time, and thus accepted an invitation by the organiser to say a few words.

    Being primarily an artist, rather than a politician or an activist, I am committed to truth and beauty rather than a party-line or any given ideological doctrine. Yet, without my intending to do so, and in just a few sentences – I managed to cross every possible ‘red line’, and I bought myself a few more enemies.

    In my speech, I said that as much as ‘universalism’ is a beautiful idea, it is incompatible with Jewish culture, since Jewish culture is tribally oriented. I also told the German Palestinian supporters that as much as ‘peace’ is a beautiful concept, associated as it is with harmony and reconciliation,  Shalom, the Hebrew word for peace, is actually interpreted by Israelis as ‘security for the Jews’.

    I thought that the supporters of the ‘One State Solution’ should be aware of the complexities that lie ahead.

    I also managed  to infuriate some, by suggesting that I was against the comparisons between Israel and Nazi Germany. Indeed, I believe that from certain ideological perspective, Israel is actually far worse than Nazi Germany, for unlike Nazi Germany, Israel is a democracy and that implies that Israeli citizens are complicit in Israeli atrocities.


    YouTube – Veterans Today –

    Needless to say, a few of the attendants of the conference were angry with me.  Such ideas are hardly expressed on German soil. Some of the Jewish activists, and at least one Marxist, demanded that I should be removed from the protocol.

    I was obviously sad about it — I believed that those who advocated the ‘One State solution’ should be able to support intellectual pluralism — But it turns out that a few of those who promote democracy in Palestine would be better advised to first confront their own Stalinist tendencies.

    Later, I learned that one legendary German Jewish activist and speaker at the conference stood by me.  Evelyn Hecht-Galinski firmly announced that if I was to be removed from the protocol, then she also wanted to be removed. She argued in my defense that I was telling the truth about both Jewish and Israeli culture.

    In spite of relentless Jewish pressure, a video of my presentation was later uploaded to youtube and has now been seen by many.

    Two days ago I learned that Arbeiterfotografie, (the group who documented the conference) transcribed my talk and considered it “most convincing and humane”. They thought that it should be ‘disseminated widely’ (read below).

    I guess that truth cannot be suppressed anymore — not even in Germany.   If Israel defines itself as a Jewish State, then surely, it is our duty to question what Jewishness is all about.

    I believe that solidarity with Palestine becomes a more meaningful event once we are brave enough to stand for the truth. Rather than fit ourselves into any given consensus or discourse, our duty is to present an alternative reality, whilst aiming at ethics and beauty.

    For Justice to prevail, truth must be told.

    Arbeiterfotografie: What did Gilad Atzmon actually say in Stuttgart?

    One of the most essential phrases at the very beginning of Gilad Atzmon’s welcome address at the Stuttgart conference is certainly the following: “We all agree upon ‘ONE state’, and we all agree that this is most probably the only ethical and universal approach to the crisis. We all agree that this is the right road to peace.” Gilad Atzmon explains that universality and peace, in the sense of reconciliation, are alien to the Jewish – and especially Israeli – culture. He states that Jewish culture is tribe-oriented. And that when Israelis use the word ‘shalom’, they do not mean peace but security for the Jews. He believes that it is crucial to apply maximum pressure on Israel through « Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions » (BDS).

    Although it may be fair to say that statements of this nature are bound to cause strong reactions amongst the proponents of racist and zionist ideologies, it is barely comprehensible that this should be the case within the Palestine Solidarity movement.

    It is the following passage in particular that has been quoted out of context: “I think Israel is much worse than Nazi Germany. Why? Israel is a democracy. Nazi Germany was not a democracy. The Reichstag was dissolved, the Germans have no responsibility for actions and crimes committed by the Nazis. Israel is a democracy; hence every citizen is complicit. Every citizen is complicit, as am I, as a British citizen, in the crimes committed in Iraq.”

    The above passage has served to disqualify Gilad Atzmon and reject a discussion with him. Is this justified? The answer to this question becomes apparent as soon as we reflect on the context these phrases were spoken in. The passage that has been taken out of context is part of a digression in which Gilad explains why he dislikes comparisons – comparisons between Israel and Nazi Germany, and comparisons between Israel and South Africa. By reducing his words to the passage in question, his statement is deprived of its original intent and meaning. [See complete interpolation below].

    Gilad Atzmon’s most fundamental concern, however, is to bring understanding to the Israelis with regard to an idea that he describes as follows: “But then suddenly a very important concept became clear to me. And it is the only one we can make the Israelis understand. It is very simple [interpolation, see below]. I believe the Israelis’ fear and hysteria regarding the delegitimisation of Israel has to do with the fact that they may be beginning to understand that sooner or later they will be living together with the Palestinians … This is also my main message to you today. It is the Israelis who are now prisoners – prisoners of future Palestinian benevolence. No one can absolve the Israelis from their deeds and their crimes – neither the British, the French, nor the Germans. The only people who will ever be able to forgive them are the Palestinians. In order to receive forgiveness, the Israelis must start thinking NOW. [They must start thinking:] Destiny has condemned us to live in this society. It is an irrevocable process. There will be ONE state, and we must make sure they understand this – and understand that everything they do from now on will be subject tp Palestinian benevolence. We must make this point clear to them.”

    His train of thought is unusual, but it is by no means deserving of condemnation.

    It is a most convincing and humane idea, and we should support and disseminate it widely. We should no longer play along in the game that consists in reversing the roles of the robbers and robbed, the oppressors and oppressed, the terrorists and terrorised. We must recognise who has systematically committed crimes against whom over the decades. And in this context we must acknowledge Gilad Atzmon’s idea: the situation can no longer go on in this way. Each and every additional crime committed by Israel against the Palestinians plants hatred towards this state and makes reconciliation even more remote. This cannot be what we want, especially if we are part of a Christian society.

    The intellectual digression in full [in italics]: “We have already heard about the comparison between Israelis – Israel and Nazi Germany. I am not fond of this comparison, as I believe Israel is far worse than Nazi Germany. Why? Simply because Israel is a democracy. Nazi Germany was not a democracy. The Reichstag was dissolved, the Germans were in no way responsible for the actions committed by the Nazis – apart from those who directly committed a crime or were politically responsible. Israel, by contrast, is a democracy:

    Hence every citizen is complicit, as am I, as a British citizen, in the crime currently being committed in Iraq. Obviously, I am not as responsible as Tony Blair or Lord Goldsmith, or perhaps Lord Levy (his no. 1 fundraiser). As for the comparison between Israel and South Africa …. there were massacres [in South Africa] – but there was no genocide, no genocidal politics against blacks. This [however ] is what is taking place in Israel. We all witnessed what happened in Gaza in 2008/2009. At any rate, I do not care for comparisons, yet ….”

    These are reflective asides. They are thought-provoking but by no means justify a rejection of communication, the more so as they focus on a concept that could hardly be more humane.

    Gilad Atzmon Speech Transcription

    (the transcription was lightly edited to make it readable)

    Good afternoon. I’m honoured to be here. In fact, I wasn’t planning to be here, but as it happens, I have a concert nearby.  I’m delighted to take part in this platform with such incredible people. I think that you have managed to gather some of the most profound and eloquent intellectuals, speakers, and activists to speak on this very important issue.

    I usually manage to say everything I want to say in just a few words because I do not hold back. I have a reputation for being a ‘suicidal activist’.

    We all agree about the principle of one state. We all agree that this is probably the only ethical and universal approach to the crisis. And we all agree that this is the right course towards peace. But somehow we tend to forget, or to dismiss the fact that the word ‘universal’ is actually very foreign to Jewish culture. Jewish culture is tribally oriented. We tend to overlook the clear fact that the notion of ‘peace’, as we know it — a form of reconciliation, or ‘loving your neighbour’ — is very foreign to Jewish culture, and it is definitely an alien concept to Israeli culture. Israelis use the word ‘shalom’ — you have heard the word ‘shalom’ before — however, ‘shalom’ doesn’t mean peace: ‘Shalom’ actually means security to the Jews. And only for the Jews. It’s a very different concept.

    Shockingly enough, Zionism started out as a very interesting project: Its intention was to ‘civilise’ the Jews. This is not Gilad Atzmon speculating now – the following is actually from Theodor Herzl, the founder of political Zionism — Herzl said, ‘We (the Jews) want to be people like all other people,’ which means, we want to transcend ourselves beyond a tribal ideology. We want to understand what peace is all about. We want to be authentic; to live on ‘our’ land, to work, and so on. It was quite a nice idea — except for the fact that it was at the expense of another people.  Probably this planet was not the right place for the Jewish State; simply because the notion of loving your neighbour, was, and still is, foreign to the culture.  This is why Christ is such an interesting revelation. Christ basically argued : ‘Everything is fine; let us just accept the fact that we are all brothers and sisters.’

    Today we want to pursue with the harmonious agenda, and as I understood from listening to Ilan Pappe and Ali Abunimah,  we are becoming a mass movement in spite of our politicians who betray us on a regular basis, and not just in regard to Palestine.  Look at our economy — Palestine is only one part of the story. The Zionification of Western politics is a disaster. The Zionist wars we end up fighting in is something no one dares to talk about. The war in Iraq has so far cost the life of million and half Iraqis, and it is not that complicated to trace the Israeli role in setting off this devastating event. And I think that now, more and more people are starting to see it, clearly.

    Here is the only concept we can deliver to the Israelis, and it is very simple. We have heard already about comparisons between Israel and Nazi Germany. But I don’t like these comparisons, because I truly think that Israel is far worse than Nazi Germany. Why do I believe so? Because Israel is a democracy. Nazi Germany was not a democracy; the Reichstag had been dissolved. The Germans had zero responsibility for acts that were committed by Nazis — apart of course from those who were directly perpetrating a crime, or were politically leading it. However, Israel is a democracy — and therefore, every citizen is complicit.   Every citizen is complicit, as much as I am complicit, as a British citizen, in the crime that is being committed in Iraq, right now. I am not as responsible as Tony Blair, or Lord Goldsmith, or perhaps Lord Levy, who acted as Blair’s number one fund-raiser — but I am still responsible.

    Another common comparison is the comparison between Israel and South Africa. However, South Africans didn’t kill – yes, there were massacres — but there was no genocide, or genocidal policy against blacks. Yet that is what is happening in Israel. We can all remember too well what happened in Gaza in 2008 – 2009.

    However much I don’t like comparisons, I think that it is the fear of the Israelis, and the hysteria regarding the delegitimisation of Israel, that may, at last, bring Israelis to the point of realising that they are going to have to live with Palestinians — in one state.

    And that is the most important thing I can tell you today.

    Israelis are now imprisoned — imprisoned by Palestinian future kindness. No-one can forgive the Israelis for what they do; not the British, nor the French, nor the Germans.

    The only people that will ever be able to forgive them — are the Palestinians. For Israelis, to get amnesty, they have to start to think, right now — because they are doomed to live in this society. This is an irreversible process now. It will be one state, and we have to make sure that the Israelis understand it. They must understand that every crime they are committing in the present — will make them subject to future Palestinian kindness.

    Thank you very much

    Posted in ZIO-NAZIComments Off on Truth in Stuttgart, Israel Worse than Nazi Germany

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