Archive | May 24th, 2016

The London Mayoral Election: a Victory for Whom?

NOVANEWS

Image result for Sadiq Khan WITH JEWISH LEADER PHOTO

By Thomas Barker | CounterPunch 

The last couple of weeks have been tumultuous for the Labour Party, to say the least. Jeremy Corbyn’s anti-austerity message has made significant gains at the polls, despite the best efforts of Labour right wingers to smear the left of party with accusations of anti-Semitism.

One of the biggest wins for Labour was the election of Sadiq Khan as Mayor of London.

Khan’s campaign benefitted enormously from the surge of grassroots support for Corbyn, many of whom took to social media and the streets under the slogan “Jez We Khan” – an extension of “Jez We Can”, used to back Corbyn in last year’s leadership race.

Curiously, however, whilst accepting support from these activists, London’s first Muslim Mayor has constantly sought to distance himself from his party’s leader, claiming that he has his “own mandate” and is not beholden to Corbyn.

Although Khan is frequently described as soft-left or a “social democrat”, his political record reveals an active hostility toward the principles which saw Corbyn elected as Labour leader last year.

During his election campaign, Khan vowed to be the most pro-business Mayor London has ever had; stated his opposition to the mansion tax”, the nationalisation of banks, and has pledged to work with the Tory government to defeat Corbyn’s push for a Robin Hood Tax – a fee on buying stocks, shares and derivatives publicly backed by the Labour leader last summer; and in recent weeks, Khan has described the fact that there are 140-plus billionaires and 400,000 millionaires in London as a good thing” – echoing the haughty words of Labour’s true blue Tory Peter Mandelson,

Khan has also come out in opposition to Corbyn on the issue of defence, in particular the renewal of Britain’s nuclear “deterrent” Trident – estimated to cost the tax payer a cool £100billion. In an interview with the Telegraph, Khan states unequivocally: “I’m quite clear that I can’t foresee any circumstances in which I would vote to unilaterally end our nuclear capability.”

Since his election, Khan has now expressed support for Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel who, he states, “is doing interesting stuff with the infrastructure bank in Chicago.”

The Chicago Infrastructure Trust is a project, backed by former President Bill Clinton, to entice private investors to fund public projects – hardly a left wing solution.

Mayor Emanuel, a former investment banker, is himself a controversial figure, and has been implicated in a number of high profile corruption cases and is renowned for his hostility toward the public sector.

It has also been exposed that Khan, the man who has pledged to solve London’s housing crisis, accepted almost £30,000 in donations from parasite landlords during his election campaign. £10,000 came from a Mancunian firm which Magistrates fined £14,000 for breaching tenant safety rules. And £19,900 came from a south London developer which campaigns against landlord licensing.

But perhaps most revealing of all, is Khan’s eagerness to join in the witch-hunt against Labour members who criticise the brutal militarism of the Israeli government, which has been purposefully conflated with anti-Semitism.

Just last week, Khan was one of many Labour MPs calling for the suspension of Corbyn’s close political ally Ken Livingstone over alleged anti-Semitic (in reality anti-Israeli government) statements.

Such scurrilous attacks are intended to discredit the left wing leadership of the Labour Party.

The Labour right, with the full backing of the capitalist class, are cynically and sickeningly using this very real form of discrimination to undermine Corbyn, who has close links with pro-Palestine groups, with an eye, first of all, to isolate him, then eventually to remove him as the party leader.

His high profile mayoral campaign has meant that Khan has played a key role in this process.

But perhaps we should not be surprised. Khan’s association with the Labour right goes back to his election as Labour MP in 2005 – the same year that he became a patron to the Blairite faction of the Labour Party, Progress, the group responsible for organising attacks on Corbyn’s leadership.

Apparently, Sadiq Khan’t stop supporting the 1%

Detaining Suspects Without Trial

In February 2005, Tony Blair’s government voted in favour of the Prevention of Terrorism Bill which, amongst other things, legislated to create “control orders”: civil orders made by the Home Secretary against individuals who the intelligence services suspect of “involvement in terrorism-related activity” on a domestic or an international level.

Control orders allow for a range of restrictions from house arrest and electronic tagging to rules on whom the suspect may contact, where they can go and where they may work. The orders also significantly lowered the standard of proof necessary to detain terror suspects (no trial is necessary, for instance).

The legislation was roundly criticised by human rights organisations for providing the Home Secretary, then Charles Clarke, with powers equivalent to that of the judiciary.

Although Khan was not yet an elected MP when this vote was passed, in 2007 and 2010 he voted to renew these highly undemocratic measures… despite being a former human rights lawyer himself and despite being a persistent critic of the War in Iraq!

Corbyn consistently voted against control orders.

Pro-Academisation

In 2006, Blair’s government voted on the Education and Inspections Bill. The bill served as an important step toward expanding the academisation (i.e. privatisation) project, the rotten fruits of which are being reaped today, by encouraging councils to pass schools from the hands of democratically elected Local Authorities into those of private sponsors.

One representative from the National Union of Teachers described Blair’s Education Bill as giving “even greater opportunities to business and religious sponsors to instil their ideas on young people.”

Khan voted in favour of this bill, but the Labour Party faced a major backbench rebellion, with over fifty MPs (including Corbyn) voting against the proposed legislation.

Revealingly, Blair could rely on the full support of the Tory opposition to push through this attack on comprehensive schools, the leader of whom, David Cameron, said that the reforms were in line with Conservative Party policy.

Anti-Worker

With the Prison Officer Association coordinating a series of strikes at the end of 2007 because of privatisation and cuts to pay, the government responded on January 9, 2008 by strengthening the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, section 138 of which prohibits prison workers from taking strike action.

Khan voted in favour of this act, Corbyn against.

Treaty of Lisbon

A few weeks later, the news media was dominated by the issue of the Treaty of Lisbon, which was widely understood as providing an EU-wide legislative basis for the privatisation of public services, as well as facilitating attacks on the wages, conditions, and rights of workers.

Article 188c, for instance, helps to remove the ability of states to veto trade deals involving health and education, opening up the prospect that financial speculators, as a right, could intervene and cherry pick the most profitable aspects of health and education.

The Lisbon Treaty was opposed overwhelmingly by delegates at the Trade Union Congress (TUC). Irish workers rejected the Treaty outright in a referendum.

Whether or not one is in favour of remaining or leaving in the upcoming EU referendum, the decision as to whether or not the Lisbon Treaty should have approved should have been put to the public.

Khan voted in favour of the Treaty, and against a referendum on its imposition. Corbyn voted against the Treaty, and in favour of a referendum.

Khan’s Record on Welfare 1

Perhaps one of the most pernicious attacks on welfare that the Tory-Liberal coalition government (2010-2015) carried out was the introduction of the 2013 Jobseeker’s Bill. After the court of appeal quashed the regulations that underpinned the government’s hated Back to Work programme (introduced in 2011) for “lack of clarity”, the Tories responded by rushing through “emergency” Jobseeker’s legislation to set out the bill in more stark terms.

The Workfare program has been described by Dr Simon Duffy, the Director of the Centre for Welfare Reform, as a form of “modern slavery.”

So, what was Labour’s response?

After much debate, discussion, and disputation, the Labour leadership took the bold move of whipping its MPs into abstaining from the vote.

The reason given for this was that by abstaining, and allowing the coalition government to fast-track the workfare scheme through parliament, Labour were able to negotiate concessions, including a full review into the sanctions regime. And yet, just two months prior, the Labour Party described the Work programme asa worse outcome than no programme at all.”

If this was the case, what would be the purpose of a review?

Khan was one of the many who abstained on the vote. Corbyn voted against it.

Khan’s Record on Welfare 2

Next up is the Welfare Cap which was introduced by the Tory-Liberal coalition in 2014 as a way of curtailing the amount in state benefits that an individual can claim per year, as well as the amount of overall welfare spending.

Diane Abbot gave a particularly impassioned speech against the bill:

This benefits cap is arbitrary and bears no relationship to need, as our benefits system should. It does not allow for changing circumstances—rents going up and population rising—and will make inequality harder to tackle. There are ways to cut welfare. We could put people back to work, introduce a national living wage, build affordable homes and have our compulsory jobs guarantee.

Others read the bill as an attempt to perpetuate a false divide between “strivers” and “scroungers”.

And yet, under the leadership of Ed Miliband, the Labour Party, including Khan, voted overwhelmingly in favour of the cap.Thirteen Labour backbenchers, including Corbyn, defied the party whip to vote against the cap.

Khan’s Record on Welfare 3

More recently we have the controversial Welfare Reform and Work Bill, voted on in the aftermath of the 2015 general elections. The Tories, having narrowly been elected with an outright majority – although with the smallest mandate since Universal Suffrage– took the opportunity to hammer home their cuts agenda against a weak, divided, and (apparently) confused Labour Party.

Amongst other things, the Bill was committed to reducing the household benefit cap from £26,000 to £20,000 (£23,000 in London); freezing the rate of many major benefits and tax credits for four years; limiting the child element of universal credit to a maximum of two children; and stopping those on certain benefits being able to claim additional help towards their mortgage payments.

Against a backdrop of huge anger, the interim Labour leader Harriet Harman whipped fellow MPs to abstain on the vote in order to show the electorate that Labour was listening” to their concerns about welfare. According to Harman:

The temptation is always to oppose everything. That does not make sense. We have got to wake up and recognise this is not a blip and we have got to listen to why. No one is going to listen to us if they think we are not to listening to them.

Amongst those who absented themselves, many remain in the Labour shadow cabinet: Tom Watson, Angela Eagle, Seema Maholtra, Hilary Benn, Andy Burnham, Heidi Alexander, Rosie Winterton, Lucy Powell, Owen Smith, Jon Trickett, Lisa Nandy, Chris Bryant, Lilian Greenwood, Vernon Coaker, Ian Murray, Nia Griffith, Kerry McCarthy, Kate Green, Maria Eagle, Gloria de Piero, Luciana Berger, Karl Turner, John Ashworth, and John Healey.

That is an astonishing 89% of the current shadow cabinet who refused to oppose the Tories’ Welfare Bill (anyone looking for evidence of Corbyn’s isolation within the Parliamentary Labour Party need look no further than this fact). In fact, only three members of the current shadow cabinet opposed it: Corbyn, McDonnell, and Abbott.

Credit to Khan, however, who, unlike the majority of his right wing colleagues, defied the whip to oppose this bill, but given his background and his planned Mayoral bid it is tempting to speculate that there was no small amount of political opportunism in this vote.

In Summary

Jeremy Corbyn’s landslide election as Labour leader showed the potential for creating a mass anti-capitalist party. Unfortunately, however, the majority of Labour MPs and councillors remain pro-capitalist and pro-austerity. Khan is amongst this group

To defeat the right means starting to mobilise the currently fragmented anti-austerity mood into a mass, democratic movement. This will not succeed if it remains trapped within the current undemocratic structure of the Labour Party, vainly trying to compromise with “the 4.5%” – the Blairite representatives of big business in the Labour Party.

Instead it means building an open, democratic movement – organised on federal lines – that brings together all of those who have been inspired by Corbyn and want to see a determined anti-capitalist party.

 

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Soft Coup in Brazil: A Blow to Brazilian Democracy

NOVANEWS
Image result for AMERICAN EMBASSY IN Brazil LOGO
By Juan Sebastian Chavarro, Raiesa Frazer, Rachael Hilderbrand and Emma Tyrou 

The impeachment this week of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff represents the most significant test for Brazil’s institutions since the end of its military dictatorship in 1985. After the Senate voted Thursday to begin an impeachment trial of the country’s first female president, less than halfway through her second term in office, one politician described the events as representing the “saddest day for Brazil’s young democracy.”[1] Since the post-dictatorship transition, impeachment requests have been filed against each and every one of Brazil’s presidents, but none were carried through.[2] Rousseff, however, will be only the second president to experience an actual trial. Portrayed as a crusade against corruption, the current process against a democratically elected president rests on unclear budgetary charges and bears the mark of a right wing retaliation after 13 years of left rule.  This process is further complicated by the fact that virtually all of Brazil’s leading political figures are implicated to some degree in the corruption schemes. In the eyes of many, Brazil’s institutions seem to be failing this test and are not holding all actors equally accountable. From the outside it appears that in the young Brazilian republic, the structures of democracy are being shaken down. While the right-wing claims that Rousseff’s impeachment request is a legitimate response to budgetary malfeasance, her supporters are characterizing the efforts to impeach her as unconstitutional, and therefore a coup.

In “Behind Dilma’s Destitution, a Neoliberal Coup,” Tatiana Roque, a professor at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ) described the events surrounding Rousseff’s impeachment as a “neoliberal coup.” She states: “In the putting on hold of the democratic principles and the weakening of the voting power, we foresee the appearance of a dramatically anti-democratic process.”[3] In coverage of such a complex situation, the crisis has been portrayed by the privately owned media as a movement of the people against a corrupt government, which is ultimately an inaccurate and oversimplified explanation. In light of events this past week, it is even more necessary to analyze the legal ground on which the whole illegitimate process rests and to grasp its significance for the entire region.

Brazil’s Senate Vote to Continue the Impeachment Process

The push to oust Rousseff from office has been a protracted and chaotic process littered with soap opera-like developments and reversals. On Wednesday, May 11, Brazil’s Senate voted in favor 55 votes to 22, after 21 hours of tense debate, to suspend the office of President Dilma Rousseff and to begin the formal impeachment trial against her on charges of fiscal and budget responsibility crimes. The process now moved to the Senate after a series of complicated events. On April 17, the Chamber of Deputies voted to approve the continuation of the impeachment process, in a circus-like atmosphere where almost none of the Deputies directly addressed the charge backing her impeachment. The former President of the Chamber of Deputies, Eduardo Cunha, was removed earlier this week on the grounds of the obstruction of investigations in the Petrobras corruption scandal. He was replaced by Waldir Maranhão who immediately after taking office, decided to annul the April 17 decision only to then cancel the request, a mere 48 hours before the Senate was scheduled to commence and vote. In response to this wild back and forth, the highly respected former Supreme Court (STF) judge, Joaquim Barbosa, tweeted: “Do you know what the whole world must be thinking about us Brazilians? “A laughing stock’.” Amidst all this, Rousseff insists that she will continue to keep fighting until the very end. In Brasilia, while waiting for the announcement of the Senate’s decision the two sides of the makeshift wall that separated those supporting from those opposing the impeachment could not have been more contrasting. While on one side the pro-impeachment crowd dressed in yellow and green had a Carnival like celebration, those opposing the impeachment process were at certain times in the evening subjected to tear gas by the police.

Now the Senate has voted in favor of the commencement of the impeachment trial, which will be conducted in the Senate and led by the President of the Supreme Court Ricardo Lewandowski. Within 180 days and after consideration of evidence and testimonies by both the accusatory commission and Rousseff’s defense team, a verdict will be rendered: guilty or not guilty. Meanwhile, she will be suspended from office and her duties will be temporarily fulfilled by the universally unpopular Vice President Michel Temer, from the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB). Temer, however, is himself implicated in a number of scandals, leaving his political future uncertain. He stands accused of illegal financing during the 2014 elections and also has been cited in a plea bargain regarding his alleged involvement in the Petrobras corruption scandal.[4]

The Veneer of Legitimacy

Opponents of Rousseff’s administration claim that the current impeachment followed a legal procedure: it was voted on by Congress and is a political process acting on the people’s desire to remove an increasingly unpopular president. According to them, the charges behind Dilma’s impeachment request – the maneuvering of funds and tampering with budgets – are sufficient cause for her removal since such acts are illegal under the Constitution due to the Fiscal Responsibility Law. However, the case against Dilma is missing the most important component: proof that a crime of responsibility has been committed.

The right-wing of Brazilian politics, represented by different parties – the main being the Brazilian Social Democratic Party (PSDB) – and principally supported by the traditional ruling class, economic elite, and a highly concentrated national mainstream media, have been out of power at the federal level for over a decade. However, in the current political crisis, recession, and corruption scandals, this coalition sees an opportunity to take back power from Rousseff’s Workers Party (PT) that has been ruling for the past 13 years. Since the right-wing has not been able to win at the ballot box, they have stirred up yet another anti-corruption campaign to gain support from the already angered population.[5] In the midst of an economic crisis there may be enough public discontent to push for Dilma’s impeachment due to fiscal irresponsibility, even if she has not committed a crime. Yet the already complicated situation becomes more complex when one considers that many of the very same politicians fighting for Dilma’s impeachment are also accused of personal embezzlement. All parties – those in power, the left; as well as those in the right-wing opposition trying to replace the current government – are involved in some measure of corruption. Ironically, Rousseff is one of the only political leaders not accused of personal enrichment. Nearly a third of the 594 members of Congress, including the leaders of the lower house and the Senate, are under scrutiny before the courts over claims of violating laws including Eduardo Cunha (PMDB), the former President of the Chamber of Deputies, Renan Calheiros (PMDB), the President of the Senate, and Aecio Neves, the opposition’s (PSDB) leader.[6] The motivation behind the impeachment process therefore appears not to be an anti-corruption campaign, but rather the desire to instigate a political war between the right and left in an opportunistic strategy for Brazil’s political elite to regain power without votes or democratic legitimacy.

Rousseff and her government supporters argue that she has not committed any crime that justifies her removal. Under any circumstances, impeachment without proof of a crime should be considered a coup. The legal flaws in the case against Dilma make the continuation of the impeachment process an undemocratic attempt by the Brazilian elite to enter into power by overthrowing a democratically elected leader. President Rousseff was democratically elected by majority vote in 2010 and again in 2014. Given that she was thereby twice granted a democratic mandate to govern in free and fair elections, the entire process, especially now that the trial has opened, is setting a dangerous precedent in Brazilian politics. The Brazilian Constitution (enacted in 1988 after decades of rule by a military junta) defines the country as a “presidential regime” rather than a parliamentary one. In the former, impeachment is designed as an ultimate solution to remove from power a leader guilty of crime, and therefore deemed unfit to conduct the remainder of its mandate. It should by no means be confused with the more common vote of non-confidence, aiming at replacing a leader who has lost legislative support in a parliamentarian system. Simply put, these attempted impeachments are trivializing the impeachment clause process, and are eroding citizens’ faith in their own political system.

Such a situation raises concerns over the prevailing strength of Brazilian democracy. In an interview with Democracy Now! on May 10, journalist Glenn Greenwald stated,

“To sit here and witness the utter dismantling of a democracy, which is exactly what is taking place, by the richest and most powerful people in the society, using their media organs that masquerade as journalistic outlets, but which are in fact propaganda channels for a tiny number of extremely rich families, almost all of whom supported that coup and then the military dictatorship, is really disturbing and frightening to see.”[7]

No more than three years ago, Brazil’s economy was booming, its prospects improving, and in the long-term it looked as if Brazil’s goal to become a developed power in the world was close at hand. The current economic crisis has reversed this process and frustrated the Brazilian people. While approval ratings for Rousseff and her administration were once high, Brazilian voters have directed their frustration towards Dilma and the Worker’s Party due to the economic downturn. The right-wing political and economic elite have used this economic discontent on top of the nation’s largest corruption scandal to remove Dilma from office – even if there is no legitimate claim backing her removal.

Regional Implications

With clear parallels to the 1964 coup that ousted then-President João Goulart as well as to the political crisis that led to oustings of democratically elected presidents in Paraguay and Honduras, Brazil’s ongoing impeachment process is an assault on democracy. The ousting of the current Brazilian president based on political and judicial manipulations, as well as constitutional misinterpretations, undermines the democratic legitimacy of the government but moreover calls into question the viability of Brazil’s major institutions. In its success, the precedents set for future governments are devastating not only in Brazil but in all Latin America. Brazil represents the eighth largest economy in the world, and it is a leading power in the continent.

In the first hours of his new mandate, acting President Temer promised the new government will announce austerity measures.[8]Temer has previously set eyes on Paulo Leme, the chairman of Goldman Sachs in Brazil, to potentially serve as finance minister or central bank chief. Temer also is considering Luiz Fernando Figueiredo, a previous central bank official and founder of asset manager Mauá Capital, to be Treasury secretary for the central bank. They have been consulted for the drafting of “A bridge to the Future”, the PMDB economic plan.[9]

The right wing takeover of the government in Brazil will likely have momentous consequences for the integrity of UNASUR as a bastion of independence from U.S. hegemony in the region. Combined with the neoliberal stance of President Macri in Argentina, we can expect a concerted effort by this conservative wave to drive MERCOSUR in to the free trade camp, isolate Venezuela, and undermine the Bolivarian cause in Bolivia and throughout the region. But just as Macri appears to be overplaying his hand in provoking popular outrage, the right in Brazil may soon find itself faced with an eroding, ephemeral legitimacy.

[1] Watts, Jonathan. “Dilma Rousseff Suspended as Senate Votes to Impeach Brazilian President.” The Guardian. 2016. Accessed May 12, 2016. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/may/12/dilma-rousseff-brazil-president-impeached-senate-vote?utm_source=esp.

[2]  Nolte Detlef, and Llanos Mariana. “The Many Faces of Latin American Presidentialism.” GIGA Focus Latin America, May 2016. Accessed May 11, 2016. https://www.academia.edu/25159273/The_Many_Faces_of_Latin_American_Presidentialism

[3] Roque, Tatiana. “Sous la Destitution de Dilma Rousseff un Coup d’Etat Neoliberal.” Regards, May 12, 2016. Accessed May 12, 2016. http://www.regards.fr/web/article/sous-la-destitution-de-dilma-rousseff-un-coup-d-etat-neoliberal

[4] Esther Fuentes. “Who Is Who in Brazil’s Complicated Lava Jato Corruption Allegations?” COHA. March 17, 2016. Accessed May 12, 2016. http://www.coha.org/who-is-who-in-brazils-complicated-lava-jato-corruption-allegations/

[5]  Jen Glüsing. “Staatskrise in Brasilien: Kalter Putsch.” Der Spiegel, March 19, 2016. Accessed May 12, 2016.http://www.spiegel.de/politik/ausland/brasilien-hexenjagd-auf-lula-ein-kalter-putsch-kommentar-a-1083218.html  and  Laurent Delcourt. “Printemps Trompeur Au Brésil.” Le Monde Diplomatique, May 2016. Accessed May 12, 2016. https://www.monde-diplomatique.fr/2016/05/DELCOURT/55435

[6]  Esther Fuentes. “Who Is Who in Brazil’s Complicated Lava Jato Corruption Allegations?” COHA. March 17, 2016. Accessed May 12, 2016. http://www.coha.org/who-is-who-in-brazils-complicated-lava-jato-corruption-allegations/

[7] Amy Goodman. “Glenn Greenwald on Brazil: Goal of Rousseff Impeachment Is to Boost Neoliberals & Protect Corruption.” Democracy Now! May 10, 2016. Accessed May 12, 2016.http://www.democracynow.org/2016/5/10/glenn_greenwald_on_brazil_goal_of

[8]  “Brazil’s Rousseff Set to Bow out after Senate Votes to Put Her on Trial.” Reuters. May 12, 2016. Accessed May 12, 2016.http://www.reuters.com/article/us-brazil-politics-idUSKCN0Y206H

[9]  “Exclusive: Temer Eyes Goldman Banker, Investor for Brazil Economic Team: Sources.” Reuters. April 15, 2016. Accessed May 12, 2016. https://www.yahoo.com/news/exclusive-temer-eyes-goldman-banker-investor-brazil-economic-205132190–sector.html

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Syria:The hidden massacre

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Image result for Syria: The hidden massacre PHOTO
By Sharmine Narwani 

Several old Russian-made military trucks packed with Syrian security forces rolled onto a hard slope on a valley road between Daraa al-Mahata and Daraa al-Balad. Unbeknown to the passengers, the sloping road was slick with oil poured by gunmen waiting to ambush the troops.

Brakes were pumped as the trucks slid into each other, but the shooting started even before the vehicles managed to roll to a stop. According to several different opposition sources, up to 60 Syrian security forces were killed that day in a massacre that has been hidden by both the Syrian government and residents of Daraa.

One Daraa native explains: “At that time, the government did not want to show they are weak and the opposition did not want to show they are armed.”

Beyond that, the details are sketchy. Nizar Nayouf, a longtime Syria dissident and blogger who wrote about the killings, says the massacre took place in the final week of March 2011.

A source who was in Daraa at the time, places the attack before the second week of April.

Rami Abdul Rahman, an anti-government activist who heads up the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), the most quoted Western media source on Syrian casualties, tells me: “It was on the first of April and about 18 or 19 security forces – or “mukhabarat” – were killed.”

Syria’s Deputy Foreign Minister Dr. Faisal Mekdad is a rare government official familiar with the incident. Mekdad studied in Daraa, is from a town 35 kilometers to the east called Ghasson, and made several official visits to Daraa during the early days of the crisis. The version he tells me is similar, down to the details of where the ambush took place – and how. Mekdad, however, believes that around 24 Syrian army soldiers were shot that day.

Why would the Syrian government hide this information, when it would bolster their narrative of events – namely that “armed groups” were targeting authorities from the start, and that the uprising was not all “peaceful”?

In Mekdad’s view, “this incident was hidden by the government and by the security for reasons I can interpret as an attempt not to antagonize or not to raise emotions and to calm things down – not to encourage any attempt to inflame emotions which may lead to escalation of the situation – which at that time was not the policy.”

April 2011: The killing of soldiers

What we do know for certain is that on April 25, 2011, nineteen Syrian soldiers were gunned down in Daraa by unknown assailants. The names, ages, dates of birth and death, place of birth and death and marital/parental status of these 19 soldiers are documented in a list of military casualties obtained from Syria’s Defense Ministry.

The list was corroborated by another document – given to me by a non-government acquaintance involved in peace efforts – that details 2011 security casualties. All 19 names were verified by this second list.

Were these the soldiers of the “Daraa massacre?” April 25 is later than the dates suggested by multiple sources – and these 19 deaths were not exactly “hidden.”

But even more startling than actually finding the 19 Daraa soldiers on a list, was the discovery that in April 2011, eighty-eight soldiers were killed by unknown shooters in different areas across Syria.

Keep in mind that the Syrian army was mostly not in the field that early on in the conflict. Other security forces like police and intelligence groups were on the front lines then – and they are not included in this death toll.

The first Syrian soldiers to be killed in the conflict, Sa’er Yahya Merhej and Habeel Anis Dayoub, were killed on March 23 in Daraa.

Two days after those first military casualties, Ala’a Nafez Salman was gunned down in Latakia.

On April 9, Ayham Mohammad Ghazali was shot dead in Douma, south of Damascus. The first soldier killing in Homs Province – in Teldo – was on April 10 when Eissa Shaaban Fayyad was shot.

April 10 was also the day when we learned of the first massacre of Syrian soldiers – in Banyas, Tartous – when nine troops were ambushed and gunned down on a passing bus. The BBC, Al Jazeera and the Guardian all initially quoted witnesses claiming the dead soldiers were “defectors” shot by the Syrian army for refusing to fire on civilians.

That narrative was debunked later, but the story that soldiers were being killed by their own commanders stuck hard throughout 2011 – and gave the media an excuse to ignore stories that security forces were being targeted by armed groups.

The SOHR’s Rami Abdul Rahman says of the “defector” storyline: “This game of saying the army is killing defectors for leaving – I never accepted this because it is propaganda.” It is likely that this narrative was used early on by opposition activists to encourage divisions and defections among the armed forces. If military commanders were shooting their own men, you can be certain the Syrian army would not have remained intact and united three years on.

After the Banyas slayings, soldier deaths in April continued to pop up in different parts of the country – Moadamiyah, Idlib, Harasta, al-Masmiyah (near Suweida), Talkalakh and the suburbs of Damascus.

But on April 23, seven soldiers were slaughtered in Nawa, a town near Daraa. Those killings did not make the headlines like the one in Banyas. Notably, the incident took place right after the Syrian government tried to defuse tensions by abolishing the state security courts, lifting the state of emergency, granting general amnesties and recognizing the right to peaceful protest.

Two days later, on April 25 – Easter Monday – Syrian troops finally moved into Daraa. In what became the scene of the second mass slaying of soldiers since the weekend, 19 soldiers were shot dead that day.

This information also never made it to the headlines.

Instead, all we ever heard was about the mass killing of civilians by security forces: “The dictator slaughtering his own people.” But three years into the Syrian crisis, can we say that things may have taken a different turn if we had access to more information? Or if media had simply provided equal air-time to the different, contesting testimonies that were available to us?

Facts versus fiction

A report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) relies entirely on 50 unnamed activists, witnesses and “defected soldiers” to set the scene for what was taking place in Daraa around that time.

HRW witnesses provided accounts of “security forces using lethal force against protesters during demonstrations” and “funeral processions.” In some cases, says HRW, “security forces first used teargas or fired in the air, but when the protesters refused to disperse, they fired live ammunition from automatic weapons into the crowds… From the end of March witnesses consistently reported the presence of snipers on government buildings near the protests who targeted and killed many of the protesters.”

The HRW report also states: “Syrian authorities repeatedly claimed that the violence in Daraa was perpetrated by armed terrorist gangs, incited and sponsored from abroad.”

Today we know that this statement is fairly representative of a large segment of Islamist militants inside Syria, but was it true in Daraa in early 2011 as well?

There are some things we know as fact. For instance, we have visual evidence of armed men crossing the Lebanese border into Syria during April and May 2011, according to video footage and testimony from former Al Jazeera reporter Ali Hashem, whose video was censored by his network.

There are other things we are still only now discovering. For instance, the HRW report also claims that Syrian security forces in Daraa “desecrated (mosques) by scrawling graffiti on the walls” such as “Your god is Bashar, there is no god but Bashar” – in reference to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Just recently a Tunisian jihadist who goes by the name Abu Qusay, told Tunisian television that his “task” in Syria was to destroy and desecrate mosques with Sunni names (Abu Bakr mosque, Othman mosque, etc) in false-flag sectarian attacks to encourage defection by Syrian soldiers, the majority of whom are Sunni. One of the things he did was scrawling pro-government and blasphemous slogans on mosque walls like “Only God, Syria and Bashar.” It was a “tactic” he says, to get the soldiers to “come on our side” so that the army “can become weak.”

Had the Syrian government been overthrown quickly – as in Tunisia and Egypt – perhaps we would not have learned about these acts of duplicity. But three years into this conflict, it is time to establish facts versus fiction.

A member of the large Hariri family in Daraa, who was there in March and April 2011, says people are confused and that many “loyalties have changed two or three times from March 2011 till now. They were originally all with the government. Then suddenly changed against the government – but now I think maybe 50% or more came back to the Syrian regime.”

The province was largely pro-government before things kicked off. According to the UAE paper The National, “Daraa had long had a reputation as being solidly pro-Assad, with many regime figures recruited from the area.”

But as Hariri explains it, “there were two opinions” in Daraa. “One was that the regime is shooting more people to stop them and warn them to finish their protests and stop gathering. The other opinion was that hidden militias want this to continue, because if there are no funerals, there is no reason for people to gather.”

“At the beginning 99.9 percent of them were saying all shooting is by the government. But slowly, slowly this idea began to change in their mind – there are some hidden parties, but they don’t know what,” says Hariri, whose parents remain in Daraa.

HRW admits “that protestors had killed members of security forces” but caveats it by saying they “only used violence against the security forces and destroyed government property in response to killings by the security forces or… to secure the release of wounded demonstrators captured by the security forces and believed to be at risk of further harm.”

We know that this is not true – the April 10 shootings of the nine soldiers on a bus in Banyas was an unprovoked ambush. So, for instance, was the killing of General Abdo Khodr al-Tallawi, killed alongside his two sons and a nephew in Homs on April 17. That same day in the pro-government al-Zahra neighborhood in Homs, off-duty Syrian army commander Iyad Kamel Harfoush was gunned down when he went outside his home to investigate gunshots. Two days later, Hama-born off-duty Colonel Mohammad Abdo Khadour was killed in his car. And all of this only in the first month of unrest.

In 2012, HRW’s Syria researcher Ole Solvag told me that he had documented violence “against captured soldiers and civilians” and that “there were sometimes weapons in the crowds and some demonstrators opened fire against government forces.”

But was it because the protestors were genuinely aggrieved with violence directed at them by security forces? Or were they “armed gangs” as the Syrian government claims? Or – were there provocateurs shooting at one or both sides?

Provocateurs in “Revolutions”

Syrian-based Father Frans van der Lugt was the Dutch priest murdered by a gunman in Homs just a few weeks ago. His involvement in reconciliation and peace activities never stopped him from lobbing criticisms at both sides in this conflict. But in the first year of the crisis, he penned some remarkable observations about the violence – this one in January 2012:

“From the start the protest movements were not purely peaceful. From the start I saw armed demonstrators marching along in the protests, who began to shoot at the police first. Very often the violence of the security forces has been a reaction to the brutal violence of the armed rebels.”

In September 2011 he wrote: “From the start there has been the problem of the armed groups, which are also part of the opposition… The opposition of the street is much stronger than any other opposition. And this opposition is armed and frequently employs brutality and violence, only in order then to blame the government.”

Certainly, by June 5, there was no longer any ability for opposition groups to pretend otherwise. In a coordinated attack in Jisr Shughur in Idlib, armed groups killed 149 members of the security forces, according to the SOHR.

But in March and April, when violence and casualties were still new to the country, the question remains: Why would the Syrian government – against all logic – kill vulnerable civilian populations in “hot” areas, while simultaneously taking reform steps to quell tensions?

Who would gain from killing “women and children” in those circumstances? Not the government, surely?

Discussion about the role of provocateurs in stirring up conflict has made some headlines since Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Paet’s leaked phone conversation with the EU’s Catherine Ashton disclosed suspicions that pro-west snipers had killed both Ukrainian security forces and civilians during the Euromaidan protests.

Says Paet: “All the evidence shows that people who were killed by snipers from both sides, among policemen and people from the streets, that they were the same snipers killing people from both sides… and it’s really disturbing that now the new (pro-western) coalition, they don’t want to investigate what exactly happened.”

A recent German TV investigation the sniper shootings confirms much about these allegations, and has opened the door to contesting versions of events in Ukraine that did not exist for most of the Syrian conflict – at least not in the media or in international forums.

Instead of writing these things off as “conspiracy theories,” the role of provocateurs against targeted governments suddenly appears to have emerged in the mainstream discourse. Whether it is the US’s leaked plan to create a Cuban twitter” to stir unrest in the island nation – or – the emergence of “instructional” leaflets in protests from Egypt to Syria to Libya to Ukraine, the convergence of just one-too-many “lookalike” mass protest movements that turn violent has people asking questions and digging deeper today.

Since early 2011 alone, we have heard allegations of “unknown” snipers targeting crowds and security forces in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria and Ukraine. What could be more effective at turning populations against authority than the unprovoked killing of unarmed innocents? By the same token, what could better ensure a reaction from the security forces of any nation than the gunning down of one or more of their own?

By early 2012, the UN claimed there were over 5,000 casualties in Syria – without specifying whether these were civilians, rebel fighters or government security forces. According to government lists presented to and published by the UN’s Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria, in the first year of conflict, the death toll for Syrian police forces was 478, and 2,091 for military and security force casualties.

Those numbers suggest a remarkable parity in deaths between both sides in the conflict, right from the start. It also suggests that at least part of the Syrian “opposition” was from the earliest days, armed, organized, and targeting security forces as a matter of strategy – in all likelihood, to elicit a response that would ensure continued escalation.

Today, although Syrian military sources strongly refute these numbers, the SOHR claims there are more than 60,000 casualties from the country’s security forces and pro-government militias. These are men who come from all parts of the nation, from all religions and denominations and from all communities. Their deaths have left no family untouched and explain a great deal about the Syrian government’s actions and responses throughout this crisis.

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A Zionist project to criminalise criticism of I$raHell

Boycott Israel

By Lawrence Davidson

Some historical background

From the 1920s to the 1990s, the Zionists controlled the storyline in the West on the Israel-Palestine conflict. This meant that their version of history was the only version as far as most of the people in the West were concerned. Consequentially, they had an uncontested media field to label the Palestinians and their supporters as “terrorists” – the charge of anti-Semitism was not yet widely used. Also, as a consequence of their monopoly, the Zionists did not bother to engage in public debate.

Then, over the last 20 years the Zionists slowly lost their monopoly. In part, this was due to the fact that in 1993 the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) recognised Israel’s right to exist and renounced terrorism, and in the following years many of the Arab states made or offered peace. However, the Israelis did not respond in kind. In particular, they failed to respond in a fair and just way to US-sponsored peace efforts. Why so?

The answer to why the Israelis did not, in good faith, take up multiple historic opportunities to make peace with the Palestinians lies in the very nature of the Zionist movement. From its beginning, and certainly from the establishment of the state of Israel, Zionism has been driven by dreams of colonial expansion and religious exclusiveness. Each of these goals is seen as part of Zionism’s God-given mission, and they still prevail. Professor David Schulman of Hebrew University, writing in the New York Review of Books (23 April 2015), describes the consequences of this situation: “The Israeli electorate is still dominated by hyper-nationalist, in some cases proto-fascist, figures. It is no way inclined to make peace. It has given a clear mandate for policies… that will further deepen Israel’s colonial venture.” As a consequence, Israel’s credibility with an increasing number of people in the West has eroded.

This erosion led to a relatively short period of time in the early 2000s when the Zionists attempted to counter the situation by engaging with their critics in public debate. However, the majority of time they lost. Israel’s barbarous behaviour on the ground, combined with the fact that its historical version of events was shown to be full of holes, condemned it to an increasingly weak defensive position. This proved to be intolerable to the Zionists, so they withdrew from the debating field. And, as they did, they began to level charges of anti-Semitism against their critics, even those who are Jewish. These accusations of the worst sort of racism have been with us ever since – which is really ironic because much of what Israel is being criticised for is its own racist, apartheid nature.

This was an important change in tactics for Israel because it opened the way to misusing Western laws to Israel’s advantage. Just as the charge of terrorism has often been misused in a broad and sweeping manner (for instance, levelled against non-violent supporters of Palestinian charitable organisations), so the charge of anti-Semitism can potentially be used in an almost unlimited fashion by over-aggressive, pro-Zionist Western prosecutors against any critic of Israeli behaviour.

The boycott movement

In the West, much of the organised criticism of Israel now comes from campaigns aimed at promoting Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) of the Zionist state. So robust has the BDS movement grown that Gilad Erdan, Israel’s newly appointed minister of public security, strategic affairs and public diplomacy, has described it as one of the most “urgent issues” facing Israel. Israel’s president, Reuven Rivlin, has described the developing academic boycott, just one part of BDS, as a “strategic threat of the first order”.

Israel’s prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, has taken it upon himself to set the tone of Israel’s counter-attack on BDS. He has declared that there is an “international campaign to blacken Israel’s name” and he alleges that it is not motivated by Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians but rather seeks to “delegitimise Israel… and deny our very right to live here”. In other words, he is claiming that present criticism of Israel is really an attack on its existence, and not on its behaviour. For Netanyahu this has to be a form of anti-Semitism. As Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the PLO executive committee, describes Netanyahu’s argument, “If you criticise me you are anti-Semitic… If you accept any kind of punitive measure or sanctions against Israel, you want to destroy Israel.” That is how the prime minister avoids confronting the facts.

As bad as this is, it gets even worse. Declaring the goal of BDS to be the elimination of Israel allows the Zionists to use their influence with Western legislators to make cooperation with the boycott subject to penalties. In the United States, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the most powerful of the Zionist lobbies, is working on legislation similar to that used against Iran and also the Arab boycott of Israel in the 1970s. This legislation would penalise businesses, both at home and abroad, that favourably respond to calls for boycott. If this works we can expect the Zionists to go further and try to subvert the US constitution’s free speech provisions and then go after individuals as well as businesses. In this regard, efforts are also under way in Canada and France.

Money magic

Finally, there is the assumption that money can destroy Israel’s critics. This is a special belief of Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire casino magnate and enthusiastic backer of Netanyahu. Adelson has taken aim at activity critical of Israel on US college campuses. In the first week of June 2015, he and his supporters convened a Campus Maccabees Summit, the purpose of which was “to develop the conceptual framework for the anti-BDS action plan [on college campuses], assign roles and responsibilities to pro-Israel organisations, and create the appropriate command-and-control system to implement it”. Fifty activist Zionist organisations attended the conference, as did 20 donors, each of whom pledged one million dollars to the cause over the next two years.

Conclusion

Prime Minister Netanyahu personifies the problem with Zionist thinking. He is wholly self-centred and seemingly incapable of recognising, much less taking responsibility for, Israel’s racist behaviour. Thus, with the Zionists having spent the last 100 years planning and then actually doing what was needed to deny as many non-Jews as possible the “very right to live in” Palestine, Netanyahu now accuses others of doing the same thing to him and his kin – and labels it a criminal act.

…the ideology that drives Israeli racism and colonial expansion [Zionism] must be done away with, in the same way that apartheid was brought down in South Africa.

The truth is that most Western critics, including supporters of BDS, are not trying to kick the Jews out of Israel. They are trying to bring maximum pressure on the Israeli government to stop kicking non-Jews out, to stop territorial expansion in violation of international law, and to start acting like the democratic state it so questionably claims to be.

Speaking strictly for myself, I don’t believe any of these goals are possible unless Zionism is in fact kicked out of what is now Israel. That is, the ideology that drives Israeli racism and colonial expansion must be done away with, in the same way that apartheid was brought down in South Africa. That did not result in South Africa being destroyed or all white South Africans being deported. But it did result in a democracy being imported. The same scenario is necessary for Israel.

No doubt many Israelis and their supporters would equate this goal of extirpating Zionism with promoting another holocaust. This is not so, but they are scared enough to label the effort of bringing a real democracy to Israel as anti-Semitic, and to try to get it declared illegal in the West.

Finally, besides the public outcry over anti-Semitism, the Zionists are working behind closed doors – the closed doors of American state and federal legislatures and university board rooms – where they do not have to face serious debate. This might prove the most dangerous of their manoeuvres. For behind closed doors the Zionist monopoly resurfaces and truth is all the easier to suppress.

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Zionism begins to unravel 

Zionism unravels

By Lawrence Davidson

A flaw in the ideological outlook

Ideological movements, be they religious or secular, are demanding and Procrustean movements. By ideological movements I mean those that demand of their adherents resolute belief in some “deep set of truths” posited by a deity, by supposed immutable historical laws, or by some other equally unchallengeable source. Their followers, once initiated, or even just born into the fold, are expected to stay there and, as the saying goes, “keep the faith”.

However, in cultural, political and religious terms there are no eternal deep truths. History has an abrasive quality that erodes our beliefs in this god and that law. Though the process might take a longer or shorter time to manifest itself, yesterday’s faith will at some point start to ring less true. At some point followers start to fall away.

What happens when ideologically driven leaders start to lose their following? Well, they get very upset because those who are supposed to affirm everything the movement stands for are now having doubts. Such doubters are dangerous to the supposed true faith and so are usually dealt with in one of two ways: (1) the ideologues in charge attempt to marginalise the disaffected by denigrating them and then casting them out of the fold or (2) if we are dealing with totalitarian types, they send the dissenters off to a gulag, or worse.

Zionism unravelling

This sort of unraveling – the loss of growing numbers of traditional followers of an ideological movement – seems to be going on within the Zionist community, particularly among American Jews. Zionism is an ideological movement that preaches the God-given Jewish right to control and settle all of historical Palestine. Since the founding of Israel in 1948 the Zionists have also claimed that the “Jewish State” represents all of world Jewry, thus self-aware Jews owe allegiance to both Israel and its prevailing Zionist philosophy. However, in the last 10 or so years that allegiance has been breaking down. In the US a growing “disconnect” has been noted between the outlook and actions of the ideologically rigid leaders of major US Jewish organisations (who remain uncritically supportive of Israel) and the increasingly alienated Jewish American rank and file whom, at least up until recently, the leaders claimed to represent. This gap has been repeatedly documented by several sources ranging from,Pew Research Centre surveys, to the Jewish Forward newspaper and the organisation of Reform Judaism.

As characterised by the Jewish Forward, the situation is that ordinary American Jews are “far more critical of Israel than the Jewish establishment”. Almost half of the American Jews surveyed by a Pew study in 2013 did not think the Israeli government was making a “sincere effort” to achieve peace with the Palestinians. Almost as many saw Israel’s expanding colonisation of the West Bank as counterproductive. Thus, this disconnect is not a sudden or new situation. The numbers of questioning American Jews have continued to grow, and things have only gotten worse for the Zionist leadership. Indeed, just as many young American Jews may be joining pro-peace activist groups as are cheering on AIPAC [American Israel Public Affairs Committee] at its conventions.

Leadership reactions in the US

Following the two-option scheme described above, the main reaction of the leadership of American Jewish organisations is to try to marginalise these questioning Jews – to dismiss them as uninformed, unengaged, or wrong. To that end, American Jewish officials are now conveniently asking if they really need to represent “the disorganised, unaffiliated Jewish community… the 50 per cent of Jews who, in a calendar year, do not step into a synagogue, do not belong to a JCC [Jewish Community Centre], and are Jews in name only”.

This sort of marginalising of all but the true believers was articulated by Abraham Foxman, the national director of the Anti-Defamation League. He told the Jewish Forward: “You know who the Jewish establishment represents? Those who care.” Here, Foxman was engaging in a bit of circular thinking: the important constituency are those represented by the establishment. How do we know? They are the ones who still “care” about Israel. How do we define caring? Caring means continuing to believe what the Jewish establishment and the Israeli government tell them. Eventually, Foxman goes even further, concluding that Jewish leaders aren’t beholden to the opinions of any aspect of the Jewish public. “I don’t sit and poll my constituency,” Foxman said. “Part of Jewish leadership is leadership. We lead.” It would appear that, over time, he is leading diminishing numbers.

Leadership reactions in Israel

Reaction out of Israel to reports of the growing alienation of American Jews has been aggressively negative. After all, Israel is the centrepiece of Zionist ideology – its grand achievement. Being the subject of criticism by growing numbers of Jews, in the US or elsewhere, is utterly unacceptable to those now in charge of Israel’s ruling institutions.

These leaders, both secular and religious, have begun to write off critical and sceptical Jews as apostates, even to the point of denying that they are Jews at all.

Seymour Reich, who is a former chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organisations (such folks always wait till they retire to speak out critically), has recently described Israel’s current leadership as alarmingly anti-democratic. He writes of “the Israeli government’s assault on democratic values” and its use of “legislation and incitement to strike down dissent”, be it expressed through “speech, press, religion [or] academic freedoms”.

He goes on to quote the Israeli minister of religious affairs, David Azoulay. “Speaking about Reform and Conservative Jews,” who happen to make up the majority of Jews in the US, are often of liberal persuasion and increasingly alienated by the ultra-Orthodox  policies of Israel’s religious establishment, Azoulay said: “I cannot allow myself to call such a person a Jew,” and: “We cannot allow these groups to get near the Torah of Israel.”

Things appear potentially even worse when we hear Israel’s intelligence minister, Israel Katz, calling for the “targeted killing” of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) leaders. In the US many of these leaders are Jewish.

Such official Israeli attitudes make a mockery of the claims of American politicians, such as Hillary Clinton, that Israel “is built on principles of equality, tolerance and pluralism… And we marvel that such a bastion of liberty exists in a region so plagued by intolerance.” It should be noted that in January 2016 the Israeli Knesset rejected a bill that would have secured in law equality for all the country’s citizens.

Conclusion

In truth, Zionism and the state it created have always been ideologically rigid. Every effort at modifying the movement’s basic demand for a state exclusive to one people, from early concepts of “cultural Zionism” to more recent notions of “liberal Zionism”, has failed. The occasional bit of propagandistic dissimulation notwithstanding, Zionist leaders from Ben Gurion to Netanyahu have been dedicated to (a) territorial expansion based on the principle of Eretz Israel (Greater Israel) and (b) the principle of inequality – none of them has ever seriously considered equal social and economic, much less political, treatment for non-Jews. That means that the present, obnoxiously rigid hardliners both in the US and Israel are pushing persistent racist and colonialist themes.

It is the persistence of these Zionist themes that has led to increasing scepticism among US Jews, most of whom take the ideals of democracy seriously. And it is the ideologically rigid refusal to reach a just peace with the Palestinians, who 67 years after the triumph of Zionism are still being ethnically cleansed, that has pushed many otherwise passive Jews into open opposition.

It has taken us several generations to get to this point, but our arrival has been predictable all along. That is because the ideology of Zionism brooks no compromises and admits to no sins – even as Israeli behaviour grows ever more barbaric. Thus, the number of dissenters and critics grow and the ideologues start to become anxious and vengeful – a display of aggression that only alienates more Jews. Thus it is that Zionism has begun to unravel.

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Washington Coup in Brazil? Was Incoming President US Embassy Informant?

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Image result for cia cartoon

By Daniel McAdams

Adding to suspicions of a US role in the ouster of independent-minded Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff is a revelation making the rounds today that Michel Temer, the opposition leader who will step in as interim president, had met with US embassy officials in Sau Paulo to provide his assessment and spin on the domestic political situation in Brazil. Thanks to Wikileaks, we have the US embassy cable that resulted from the incoming president’s visit to US political officers.

Acting president Temer will hold office for up to six months while impeached president Rousseff stands trial in the Brazilian senate. If her impeachment is finalized by a two-thirds vote, Temer will remain in office until elections in 2018.

Rousseff’s ouster has been curious all along. She claims it is a coup against the will of the Brazilian voter and indeed she has not been accused of corruption or serious crime. Instead, she has been impeached for accusations that she used some tricky bookkeeping maneuvers to hide the extent of Brazil’s budget deficit in advance of her successful 2014 re-election bid. Observers would note that if fiddling with economic statistics to make a country’s balance sheet look better were grounds for impeachment in the United States, there would have been successive impeachments for decades or perhaps longer.

There are more curiosities surrounding the US role in Brazil’s “regime change” this week. Just weeks ago, as Brazil’s lower house of parliament began the process by voting 367 to 137 for impeachment, one very powerful opposition senator made his way to Washington to make his case in the Beltway corridors of power.

The Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald wrote at the time:

Today — the day after the impeachment vote — Sen. Aloysio Nunes of the (opposition) PSDB will be in Washington to undertake three days of meetings with various U.S. officials as well as with lobbyists and assorted influence-peddlers close to Clinton and other leading political figures.

Sen. Nunes is meeting with the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Bob Corker, R-Tenn., and Ben Cardin, D-Md.; Undersecretary of State and former Ambassador to Brazil Thomas Shannon; and attending a luncheon on Tuesday hosted by the Washington lobbying firm Albright Stonebridge Group, headed by former Clinton Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and former Bush 43 Commerce Secretary and Kellogg Company CEO Carlos Gutierrez.

The US has long been opposed to Rousseff, seeing her independent-mindedness and participation in the BRICS trade grouping as a threat to US influence in the region. Leftist governments in both Brazil and Venezuela have long been targets of US destabilization efforts. When Edward Snowden revealed that the NSA had been tapping her phones, Rousseff delivered a blistering speech at the United Nations accusing the US of violating international law and violating “the principles that must guide the relations among…friendly nations.” Most foreign leaders when informed that the NSA had been spying on them sheepishly dropped the subject. Rousseff was almost alone in venting her rage over what she viewed as betrayal by a friendly government.

Is today’s news about Temer’s trips to the US embassy a smoking gun of a US role in this week’s dramatic events? It must be stated that a meeting between political opposition figures and US embassy officials is not uncommon, and some alternative press accusations that the meeting makes Temer a US “informant” or even a US intelligence agent are probably over-blown. Embassy personnel as a matter of course cultivate political leaders in countries where they are posted to help get an understanding of the broad political situation. But it is part of the US interventionist strategy, from Moscow to Budapest to Minsk to Damascus to Sau Paulo, for US embassy personnel to actively engage opposition figures in countries where the US would like to see regime change. While it is understandable — and can even be admirable — that US embassy political officers actually get out from behind the embassy walls, it is also no secret that these meetings can be highly selective and can serve as a way to reinforce existing US policy toward a particular country instead of gaining a better understanding of the broad political landscape.

How deeply are Washington’s fingers in the pie of Brazil’s political crisis? There is at least one precedent, Greenwald notes in the above article. After years of strident US denial, secret documents were finally released revealing the central role played by the US in Brazil’s 1964 military coup to remove a left-wing government. Plus ça change?

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Nazi demolition order threatens home of Issawi family of three prominent Palestinian prisoners

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issawis3

Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network

Nazi occupation has issued a home demolition order against the Issawi family, including imprisoned family members Shireen, Medhat and Samer Issawi, and their home in Issawiya village northeast of Jerusalem.

The order, which alleges that the home was constructed without an Nazi building permit, states that the home, which has stood since the 1970s, will be demolished. Leyla Issawi, 65, the mother of Shireen, Medhat, Samer and their siblings, said that this comes as an attack against her imprisoned children and the will and steadfastness of their family.

issawihome

Construction permits are routinely denied to Jerusalemite Palestinians and their homes targeted for demolition. Fewer than 4,500 construction permits have been issued for Palestinians since 1967; over 48,000 Palestinian homes and buildings have been demolished by the Nazi occupation army in that time period.

Shireen and Medhat Issawi are serving 4 and 8 year sentences, respectively, for their work in helping families to support and gain representation for their imprisoned loved ones; Samer Issawi’s original 26-year sentence was reimposed after his 2014 re-arrest. He had previously been freed after a lengthy hunger strike.

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Palestinian journalist jailed for 9 months for alleged Facebook “incitement”

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sami-saee-cameras

Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network

Palestinian journalist Sami al-Saee, an editor at Al-Fajer TV, was sentenced to 9 months in prison by Nazi military court on Monday, 16 May, for alleged “incitement” by facebook postings. Al-Saee has been imprisoned since 9 March 2016 when his Tulkarem home was violently raided at 3:00 am while his mobile phone and computer were confiscated.

Ghaith Ghaith
Ghaith Ghaith

His detention was repeatedly extended without charge until the imposition of the Facebook “incitement” charges; he is sentenced to 9 months imprisonment and a 12-month suspended sentence for three years. Ghaith Ghaith of Jerusalem was also sentenced today to six months imprisonment over charges of Facebook “incitement.”

Over 150 Palestinians have been arrested and accused of “Facebook incitement” or sent to administrative detention over social media posts

including 22-year-old Palestinian beautician Majd Atwan and poet Dareen Tatour of Nazareth, who is facing imprisonment for posting her poetry on Facebook and Youtube. Palestinian professor Imad Barghouthi, held under administrative detention without charge or trial, is allegedly being imprisoned largely due to allegations over Facebook postings, claim the Nazi military.

Samah Dweik, another Palestinian journalist accused of “incitement” for Facebook postings, was to face a military court also on Monday, 16 May,but the hearing in her case was postponed until at least 1 June. Dweik has been jailed since 10 April since an early-morning raid on her home in the Ras al-Amud neighborhood of Silwan.

samah-dweik-2

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In Kerry’s Footsteps: What Saudi Zio-Wahhabi ‘Plan B’ Actually Means for Syria and Iran

NOVANEWS

Image result for kerry cartoons

Saudi Arabia has signaled it is ready to implement the much-talked-about ‘Plan B’ in Syria. What does Riyadh actually mean?

Following the International Syria Support Group (ISSG) meeting in Vienna Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister told journalists that it is time to shift the focus to the so-called ‘Plan B’ in Syria.

“We believe we should have moved to a ‘Plan B’ a long time ago,” Adel al-Jubeir told reporters, as quoted by Reuters.

“The choice about moving to an alternative plan, the choice about intensifying the military support (to the opposition) is entirely with the Bashar [Bashar al-Assad] regime. If they do not respond to the treaties of the international community… then we will have to see what else can be done,” he stressed.

What lies behind al-Jubeir’s statement?Saudi Arabia has long been calling for toppling the legitimate and democratically-elected Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad. It is no secret that the Gulf kingdom has poured millions of US dollars into anti-Assad Islamist radical groups.

The Saudi-backed High Negotiations Committee (HNC) includes such Syrian “opposition groups” as Ahrar ash-Sham and Jaish al-Islam groups which differ from Daesh and the al-Qaeda affiliate al-Nusra Front in name only.

In April, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov underscored that Ahrar ash-Sham and Jaish al-Islam shared the same ideology as Daesh, which is outlawed in Russia, the United States and many other countries.

However, the West still hesitates to recognize the brutal extremist groups as terrorists.

The possibility of Plan B’s implementation was voiced by US Secretary of State John Kerry immediately after the US and Russia announced an agreement on cessation of hostilities in Syria.

“There is a significant discussion taking place now about a Plan B in the event that we do not succeed at the [negotiating] table,” Kerry told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on February 23, 2016.

The plan envisages the partition of Syria and empowering the country’s “moderate opposition.” It should be noted that Washington is well aware that the so-called moderates have no scruples about intermingling with al-Nusra Front terrorists from time to time.As for Riyadh, it has repeatedly pledged its willingness to deploy Saudi boots on Syrian ground. In the eyes of Saudi Arabia, ‘Plan B’ will allow Riyadh to ultimately get rid of Bashar al-Assad, paving the way for undermining the Middle Eastern Shiite Crescent and “encircling” of Iran.

Actually, the roots of the US-Saudi ‘Plan B’ originated in the times of George W. Bush. After Iraq had been occupied by the US, Saudi Arabia urged Washington to shift its attention toward Iran and Syria, parts of the so-called Shiite Crescent in the Middle East.

“In testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in January [2007], Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that there is ‘a new strategic alignment in the Middle East,’ separating ‘reformers’ and ‘extremists’; she pointed to the Sunni states as centers of moderation, and said that Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah were ‘on the other side of that divide.’ (Syria’s Sunni majority is dominated by the Alawi sect.) Iran and Syria, she said, ‘have made their choice and their choice is to destabilize’,” Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist Seymour Hersh wrote in his 2007 article “The Redirection” for The New Yorker.

According to Kerry and al-Jubeir, Plan B would be implemented should the ceasefire in Syria collapse. As of yet the truce is holding despite numerous violations.

The recent 17-nation ISSG talks were devoted to discussing the stalled negotiations, suspended after the Saudi-backed opposition faction, the HNC, unilaterally withdrew from negotiations, demanding serious concessions from the Syrian government.

It seems that neither HNC, the Riyadh-sponsored “opposition” group, nor its Saudi masters are interested in further diplomatic efforts.

Read more: Kerry’s Ultimatum to Assad: Why US Plan Means ‘Capitulation to Al-Qaeda’

Posted in USA, Saudi Arabia, SyriaComments Off on In Kerry’s Footsteps: What Saudi Zio-Wahhabi ‘Plan B’ Actually Means for Syria and Iran

28 Palestinian young women arrested over Facebook

NOVANEWS

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At least 28 Palestinian women have been detained by Nazi army since October over alleged “incitement” on social media, with six of them still in prison, the Palestinian Prisoners’ Center for Studies (PPCS) said in a statement released on Wednesday.

PPCS spokesman Riyad al-Ashqar said that most of the women had been released hours or days after they were first detained, but that eight had been held in administrative detention — internment without trial or charges.

Al-Ashqar identified the six women still held over alleged social media incitement as Suad Abed al-Karim Irzeiqat, 28, from the city of Hebron; Dunia Ali Musleh, 19, from the town of Bethlehem; Sanaa Nayif Abbad from the town of Dura; Hanin Abd al-Qader Amr, 39, from the city of Tulkarem; Majd Yousif Atwan, 23, from the village of al-Khader; and Samah Dweik, 25, from occupied East Jerusalem.

Dweik, a journalist working for Shabakat al-Quds (The Jerusalem Network), was detained on April 10 in her home in the occupied East Jerusalem neighborhood of Ras al-Amud after writing a Facebook status and sharing an image in support of Palestinians recently killed by Nazi forces.

Meanwhile, Atwan was sentenced by an Nazi court earlier this month to 45 days in prison and a 3,000 shekel ($794) fine over charges of incitement on her Facebook account.

In recent months, Nazi Gestapo has detained scores of Palestinians for social media activity, alleging that a wave of unrest that swept the occupied Palestinian territory last October was encouraged largely by “incitement.”

Palestinians have instead pointed chiefly to the frustration and despair brought on by Nazi’s nearly 50-year military occupation of the Palestinian territory and the absence of a political horizon.

Al-Ashqar claimed that Nazi Gestapo was detaining Palestinian women under different pretexts to discourage and prevent them from taking part in resistance against the Nazi occupation, as well as to exert pressure on relatives also detained by Nazi forces.

More than 200 Palestinians have been killed since October, although the number of Palestinian deaths saw a dramatic drop over the last two months, with Israeli leadership suggesting its severe security measures were responsible for the emerging trend.

However, the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research found in a poll last month that support for stabbing attacks had seen a decline in the West Bank in recent months — “due, it seems, to a rising perception in its inefficacy.”

According to prisoners’ organization Addameer, 7,000 Palestinians are detained in Nazi Camp.

Posted in Palestine Affairs, ZIO-NAZIComments Off on 28 Palestinian young women arrested over Facebook

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