Archive | December 19th, 2016

Russian ambassador to Turkey dies after gun attack in Ankara – Foreign Ministry

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LIVE UPDATES: Russian ambassador shot dead in Ankara 

“This is a tragic day in the history of Russian diplomacy. Today, Russian Ambassador to Turkey Andrey Karlov died after being shot at during a public event in Ankara,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said on Monday evening.

The assault on the Russian ambassador is an “act of terrorism,” she added.

“We are in touch with Turkish officials, who assured us that there will be a thorough and comprehensive investigation [into the case],” Zakharova said.

READ MORE: Russia says killing of ambassador in Ankara is act of terrorism

The ambassador, Andrey Karlov, was shot as he was delivering a speech on the opening of the exhibition “Russia in the eyes of Turks.”

View image on Twitter

The perpetrator, who was wearing a suit and a tie, shouted ‘Allahu Akbar’ (‘God is great’ in Arabic) during the attack.

Following the shooting of Karlov, the assailant shouted: “Don’t forget Aleppo! Don’t forget Syria!”

“Only death can take me away from here. Whoever has a role in this cruelty, they will pay for it one by one. They will,” the man went on to say. Since last year, Russia has been providing Syrian government forces with air support in their fight against terror groups and rebels.

Turkish NTV broadcaster says that three other people were also injured in the attack on the ambassador.

The attacker himself has been killed by Turkish Special Forces in a shoot out that followed.

View image on TwitterView image on Twitter

The gunman was a police officer, Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu confirmed.

Previously Interfax, citing a source in the Turkish military, reported that the perpetrator had presented a police ID as he entered the exhibition.

Meanwhile, a picture allegedly showing the perpetrator’s personal file, apparently proving he was indeed a police officer, was posted on social media.

View image on Twitter

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Running from the Truth: Code Pink Excludes Alison Weir from Event

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by

codepink

The Iraq war was based upon lies. Not many people dispute that any longer. The question is no longer that lies were told; the question now is why they were told, and who stood to gain the most from an invasion and the toppling of Saddam Hussein.

Was it all for oil, as some have maintained? Did George W. Bush, perhaps one of the most dimwitted presidents in the history of America, initiate the war all on his own? Or was he pushed into it by a powerful lobby or pressure group?

In the video below, Alison Weir, director of If Americans Knew, discusses how a group of neocons in the US, in collusion with Israeli politicians, including Benjamin Netanyahu, became a powerful force maneuvering the US into war. But Weir says she was not allowed to present this information–even though she had initially been invited–at a “tribunal” held in Washington and dubbed “the People’s Tribunal on the Iraq War.”

The Iraq Tribunal, held December 1-2, was aimed at bringing “the lies that created the war into public awareness,” and also at pushing for “truth and accountability”–that’s according to Code Pink, the activist group which organized the event.

“After 14 years of costly war based on lies, it’s time for truth and accountability,” said Code Pink. The statement goes on to add:

The People’s Tribunal on the Iraq War will unify the global anti-war/peace movements with other justice movements by uplifting testimonies of the costs of this war—and war itself. The Tribunal will bring the lies that created the war on Iraq into public awareness, while demanding Obama act on them. It will build and inspire the anti-war movement that we will need after the inauguration of the next administration in 2017. It will be a tool that all groups can use to build, inspire, and enliven their organizations and communities.

If “truth and accountability” are so important, one wonders why Weir was excluded from the event. I don’t know the answer to that. You’d have to ask Medea Benjamin, one of the founders of Code Pink. You can find her contact information here, should you be so inclined.

The first day of the tribunal was promoted as offering an in-depth look at the lies told to justify the war, while the second day was devoted to the costs, human and otherwise, of the war and subsequent occupation. Reportedly more than 100 people gave “testimonies” on one aspect or another, and my purpose here is certainly not to disparage or criticize their work. But I can’t help feeling that the event would have been enriched had Weir been allowed to participate.

In 2015, Weir was attacked by Jewish Voice for Peace for giving interviews to media outlets the JVP deemed anti-Semitic. Did this have something to do with why she was disinvited from speaking at the Tribunal? Or was it the content and substance of her talk? She does, after all, name some prominent Jewish neocons who “marketed” the Iraq war.

By contrast, you can go here to watch a six-hour video of the first day of the tribunal and which includes Medea Benjamin’s comments, or her official “testimony,” starting at about 1:12:00 in. In the segment, Benjamin talks about lies told by George W. Bush and Donald Rumsfeld, and also about the “complicity of the US mainstream media” and other factors leading up to the war–but makes no mention of Israel or its lobby. The onus is laid pretty much on the Bush administration:

The Bush administration dismissed the inspectors’ findings because their conclusions contradicted those of the US government. The next day, George Bush went on the radio to address the American people, arguing the inspections team did not need any more time because Saddam Hussein was still refusing to disarm, and the rest is history. Iraq posed absolutely no threat to the United States, but the American people, traumatized by the 9/11 attack, were easily duped by the Bush administration’s propaganda.

Benjamin and Weir obviously  have strikingly different perspectives on who was principally at fault for getting the US into this disastrous war. Weir, after listing a number of neocons and neocon think tanks, including the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, whose advocacy of military intervention was discussed at least in the Israeli press, if not in the American, goes on to cite the supplemental input to the war fever served up by Israeli leaders:

Israeli leaders worked to sell the war to Americans. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and former prime ministers Netanyahu, Peres, and Barak, all told Americans that it was urgent that Iraq’s alleged weapons of mass destruction program be stopped. And Israeli intelligence agencies fed the US reports supposedly documenting these.

Weir doesn’t say so, but it’s worth recalling as well that Saddam Hussein was granting sums of money to the families of Palestinian martyrs who died in attacks against Israel, and that he had begun doing this at least as far back as the early 1990s–which is probably one of the chief reasons the leaders of Israel wanted him killed or at least overthrown. In some cases the payouts were as high as $25,000.

In her talk, Weir cites an article in which former US Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz is described as “over the top crazy when it comes to Israel.” Is it hard to imagine such a man might have had a homicidal urge to take out Saddam Hussein?

At any rate, it seems very much as if the neocons, working in coordination with Israeli leaders, pushed to have Saddam Hussein removed but to have US  military forces do the job for them. Some people simply can’t get their minds around this. Others don’t want to try. Still others, the more fearful types, believe it’s best just to not even talk about it.

Weir’s video was posted on Monday by Greg Bacon, who, alluding to some of the Jewish supporters of Israel referenced by Weir, comments, “what a nice bunch of homicidal maniacs.” Yet Code Pink, despite its avowed purpose of seeking “truth and accountability” on the Iraq war, apparently preferred to keep the tribunal’s attention focused elsewhere for the most part.

It seems this may be somewhat–although not entirely–out of character for the group. Back in 2011, Code Pink organized a protest in response to AIPAC’s annual convention in Washington that year. It has held similar events in other years as well, but the 2011 affair in particular is discussed in an article at Counterpunch by Harry Clark, who notes that the event included a protest as well as an indoor program of speeches and workshops. And ironically Weir was one of the participants, although she and others of her mindset were “relegated to a workshop in the basement,” as Clark puts it (emphasis added):

Alison Weir and other writer-activists, including Jeff Blankfort, photographer (12) and journalist, (13) Janet McMahon of Washington Report on   Middle East Affairs (14) and Grant Smith of Institute for Research: Middle East Policy (15) were relegated to a workshop in the basement, which was very well attended. Code Pink repeated the event in 2012, and the Israel Lobby critics were allowed only to hold an event in the hall afterward, with the hall stripped of all Code Pink identifying material, and the audience invited to further events scheduled else- where at the same time. One hundred twenty-five remained in the hall to hear the Lobby critics. In 2013, the critics were banned from the program altogether.

Why does Code Pink, a leftist organization which presumably places a high value on free speech and the First Amendment, seem so intent on censoring critics of the Israeli lobby? Why would people who have been critical of Israel in the past, as Code Pink has, want to stymie efforts to exposed the true extent of the lobby’s power? One almost gets the impression that such people are afraid of something.

Fear, Loathing, and Jewish Tribalism

Recently journalist/blogger Richard Silverstein published an interesting article on Israeli whistle-blower Shamai Leibowitz, who in 2009, while living in the US, leaked documents to Silverstein exposing Israel’s strategy of trying to provoke a war between the US and Iran. What you’re about to read might seem a bit off topic at first, but please bear with me.

“In 2009, Shamai Leibowitz was working secretly for the FBI, translating wiretapped conversations among Israeli diplomats in this country,” writes Silverstein. “He passed some transcripts of these conversations to me, which described an Israeli diplomatic campaign in this country to create a hostile environment for relations with Iran.”

Leibowitz told Silverstein that the Israeli Foreign Ministry, along with its diplomats posted in America, were waging a “perception management campaign” against Iran. The two talked over how to go about making the information public and finally agreed that Silverstein would publish it on his blog but would do so in such a manner as to try to conceal Leibowitz’s identity. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite work out. The Israelis “became aware that their security was breached,” and Leibowitz was prosecuted by a compliant US Justice Department apparently eager to keep Israeli secrets hidden. Leibowitz ended up going to prison for 20 months and being stripped of his right to practice law. He has also been shunned by his community and fired from jobs he has tried to hold.

So intense apparently were the repercussions that Leibowitz, after the going got rough, made a 180 degree turn by publicly denouncing Silverstein and claiming that in leaking documents he had in reality been trying to expose wrongdoing–not by the Israeli government, but by the FBI (this, keep in mind, while still living in America). As Silverstein puts it:

Though I didn’t know it at the time he first contacted me in 2009, Shamai Leibowitz was a psychologically unstable person.  Not to mention that the relationship with me which he initiated caused him to pay a very heavy price.  By leaking secret documents in order to expose Israel’s strategy of provoking a war against Iran, he lost his job, accrued enormous legal debt, and was sent to federal prison for 20 months.  In order to retain the loyalty of his family and the Orthodox Jewish community which supported him, he renounced his journalistic relationship with me and its original purpose.  After his release he published fraudulent (at least to my mind) accounts of his motives and activities, which claimed he had intended to expose wrongdoing within the FBI.  If that was the case, Shamai never mentioned any such matters to me.  He was wholly dedicated to the notion that Israel had created a campaign within the U.S. to exploit our media, and political leadership to go to war against Iran.  That is the reason he and I worked together.

Silverstein also sheds light on the ostracization the whistle-blower suffered within the Jewish community, adding that Leibowitz…

…was known in his religious community as a fine Torah reader who beautifully chanted the Torah portion at his Orthodox synagogue. However, when a well-connected member discovered Leibowitz’ “past,” they told the rabbi that he must take this great communal honor from him or they would leave the congregation. Such shunning is, unfortunately, all too common in the Jewish community (remember Spinoza?) for those holding unpopular views of the Israeli-Arab conflict. Luckily, Leibowitz discovered a conservative synagogue whose rabbi embraced him despite his “baggage.” Throughout his subsequent trials and tribulations, this rabbi and community have stood behind Leibowitz and his family.

One wonders how the story might have turned out differently had the whistle-blower not found the lone synagogue willing to “embrace” him. If Leibowitz’s story is any illustration, it would seem that if you are Jewish and you take any action deemed as threatening or disloyal to Israel, the consequences can be quite severe. Some criticism, to be sure, is allowed, but apparently there is a point or a line that you don’t cross–or at least that’s my take on it anyway.

How these threats of social reprobation play into the thinking of Jews, and to what extent it cows or intimidates them from saying anything too critical about Israel or Jewish power, is not something I have a great deal of insight into–although perhaps it’s worth mentioning here that Medea Benjamin is Jewish. Below is a picture of her holding a sign avowing her membership in Jewish Voice for Peace–the very group which launched an attack against Weir in 2015.

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JVP, in a statement published online, charged Weir with being “a repeat guest of white supremacist Clay Douglas on his hate radio show.” Her transgressions also include giving interviews to Pastor Mark Dankof–branded by JVP as “anti-gay, anti-Jewish”–and the American Free Press, labeled a “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center, according to the statement. Weir’s line-by-line rebuttal to their charges can be found here, and you can also access commentaries on the matter, here and here, by Gilad Atzmon, who defends Weir, calls the attack on her “guilt by association,” and who points out additionally that JVP would not have had the same reaction had Weir appeared on Israeli TV–which Atzmon describes as “suffused with Jewish supremacy and racism.”

As for Benjamin, clearly she has supported many worthwhile causes over the years, both in terms of her work with Code Pink as well as with Global Exchange, an organization she helped start up in 1988. Her hard work was acknowledged by writer David Swanson, who gave her a glowing introduction on day one of the tribunal

“Medea Benjamin, born Susan Benjamin, is an American political activist–I assume everyone knows that,” Swanson said. He went on to add:

Best known for co-founding Code Pink, and along with activist and author Kevin Danaher the fair trade advocacy group Global Exchange. Benjamin was also the Green Party candidate in California in 2000 for the US Senate. She currently contributes to Op-Ed News and the Huffington Post. In 2003, the Los Angeles Times described her as, quote, one of the high profile leaders, end-quote, of the peace movement. I would describe her as one of the best leaders of the peace movement. Medea Benjamin…

However, one of course must wonder what ground-changing victories can ultimately hope to be be achieved by any movement–whether it be for peace, social equality, justice for Palestine, or any other noble such goal–when the leaders of those movements, rather than confronting hard truths, are instead ducking and running from them.

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Steve Biko’s 70th Birthday

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Steve Biko’s 70th Birthday: South African anti-apartheid activist died in police custody 39 years ago

‘The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed,’ the legendary activist said.

Steve Biko died 14 years before his goal of bringing down Apartheid rule in South Africa was achieved in 1991.

The activist and leader of the Black Consciousness Movement (BCM) has been commemorated with a Google Doodle on his 70th birthday.

He died in police custody aged 30 – arguably the face of the anti-Apartheid movement along with the then-incarcerated Nelson Mandela.

Soweto anniversary: Uprising marks ending of apartheid

While never a member of the the African National Congress (ANC), Biko was targeted by the South African authorities.

In February 1973,  he was banned from speaking at public gatherings or even talking to more than one person at a time.

Despite this censure, Biko refused to back down and was instrumental in organising the 1976 Soweto student protests.

The rally in Soweto, a black township near Johannesburg, was mostly made up of high school students who protested being taught in Afrikaans – the language most associated with the Apartheid government.

The authorities brutally put down the protest shooting dead 170 people, mostly children. It was one of the key events that condemned the ruling elite in the eyes of the international community.

Biko was arrested at a road block on August 18  1977. He was stripped naked and placed in manacles and taken to the Security Police headquarters in Port Elizabeth where he was subjected to prolonged torture and beating.

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Wikileaks offers to help Obama authenticate Russia hacking claims

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Group which published leaked emails says only it can lend credibility to the process

Wikileaks has offered to help US President Barack Obama authenticate spy agencies’ assessment that Russia was behind the leak of hacked Democratic emails during the presidential election.

The whistleblowing group, led by fugitive Julian Assange and which this summer published online the private medical files of mental health patients and teen rape victims, claimed on Twitter that only its authentication processes could render the conclusions credible.

Wikileaks published the leaked emails over the summer, the messages having been hacked from the Democratic National Convention and the account of Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta.

The group tweeted on Friday: “Obama should submit any Putin documents to WikiLeaks to be authenticated to our standards if he wants them to be seen as credible.”

On Saturday it was revealed that the FBI and James Clapper, the US director of national intelligence, had come to agree with the CIA’s assessment that Russia interfered in the election, in part to help Donald Trump win the White House.

Mr Assange had previously claimed in an interview on the Russian state-funded RT channel that Moscow was not the source of the emails. RT says on its website that it seeks to acquaint international audiences “with a Russian viewpoint on major global events”.

Mr Assange has been living in the Ecuadorian embassy in London since he was granted political asylum in 2012. His self-imposed exile began to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning over allegations of sexual assault.

In 2011 he was criticised after Wikileaks published its entire trove of leaked US diplomatic cables online without any attempt to redact them to protect whistleblowers or other innocent people named within. It provoked fears that lives could be endangered.

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We have to accept that Assad will win in Syria

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We have to accept that Assad will win in Syria – and the West should be ashamed of how we drew the conflict out

There will be claims, in the aftermath, that the anti-Assad opposition was betrayed by its Western backers, and accusations of ‘appeasement’ – but the truth is that the opposition to Assad was always too fractious to complete the task it set out to do

The Independent Online

Maybe this is just my imagination. But I have the impression that, even as some of the most significant developments since the start of the conflict are gathering pace in Syria, the West in general – but the UK most particularly – is choosing to look the other way.

There are, of course, other headlines jostling for our public and media space, from migration figures through abuse of young footballers to the continuing dramas of Brexit and the transition to a Donald Trump presidency. For the past week, though, what looks very much like the endgame has begun in Aleppo, if not across Syria, and this has been either disregarded or treated with the self-same hand-wringing condemnations as before.

Russia and President Bashar al-Assad are cast as joint villains-in-chief, while heartrending appeals reach us via the miracle of Skype from families without homes, doctors without hospitals, children without food. Ever more despairing pleas from exile groups land in my inbox, calling on the UK or Europe to do something, anything, to rescue their cause.

Here is my question. Given that Syrian government forces, backed by Russian airpower, are currently advancing into rebel-held eastern Aleppo (and it is not clear who these rebels actually are), which is the more humane response? Is it for the US, the EU, the UK – or whoever – to call for a new ceasefire, to promise more weapons, even to dispatch (more) special forces to help those we still like to call “moderate” opposition forces on the ground? Or is it – brutal and heartless though this undoubtedly is – to leave well alone and let the inevitable happen sooner rather than later?

Aftermath of airstrike in Aleppo

Which response is more likely to curtail the death and destruction? Which is the more likely to save what remains of Syria’s second city and its inhabitants? Which has the better chance of ending Syria’s civil war? Which – Europeans, but also Lebanese, Jordanians and Turks, might ask selfishly – is more likely to stem, or even reverse, the flow of refugees?

The answer should be obvious. Any or all elements of the first option will only prolong Aleppo’s agony. More to the point, it would appear that the United States, if not the EU and the UK, has already chosen the second option, but prefers not to admit it for the time being. As to when the decision was taken? A guess would be that President Obama conceded victory in Syria the moment Hillary Clinton conceded to Donald Trump. Knowing that Trump saw no US interest in the Syria conflict, the outgoing administration may well have decided that Assad was going to prevail and that trying to impede it would only add to the bloodshed.

Arguing continues at the UN Security Council about what, if anything, outside powers can do. But the die has been cast. Regime change – which, despite various twists and turns, essentially remained Western policy – is not going to happen, at least not in the way the US and others had envisaged, and worked for.

Amid the dissension at the Security Council this week, the impassioned appeal made by the UN’s humanitarian affairs chief, Stephen O’Brien, was instructive. He said: “For the sake of humanity we call on – we plead with – the parties and those with influence to do everything in their power to protect civilians and enable access to the besieged part of eastern Aleppo before it becomes one giant graveyard.”

Note: he did not call for a ceasefire (as the UK Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, did a couple of days before). He called for the combatants to facilitate access to the besieged part of the city and for those with the power to do so to protect civilians. This sounds a lot less like an attempt to halt the battle and a lot more like a day-after scenario.

And it will be on the victors that responsibility falls for protecting civilians. It was the great failure of the US and the UK in Iraq, and of France and the UK in Libya, that they failed in that prime victor’s responsibility. We will now see whether the Syrian government, with whatever support Russia decides to give, can acquit itself any better. Will its forces – military and civilian – be able to re-establish order and basic services? Will they be able or willing to prevent recriminations? Will victory in Aleppo discourage continued insurrection elsewhere?

Perhaps. But the Syrian government’s recovery of Aleppo will not mean that the civil war is definitively over or that armed attacks will cease. Even if Syria remains a single state, the power of the centre will be a shadow of its former self, and the territory it controls will be diminished; Kurdish forces, in particular, will not want to give up the territory they have gained.

Which should dictate the need for a new settlement – the sort of political settlement that was mooted so many times in what seemed like the endless rounds of talks between the US Secretary of State, John Kerry, and his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov. The tentative outline then was for roundtable talks with a wide range of parties, including Assad, and elections which could lead to a peaceful transition of power or otherwise determine Assad’s future role.

The drawback here was that even the agreement reached by Kerry and Lavrov this past September, which involved other parties, soon came to grief because no one was able to control fully the disparate forces on the ground. Like it or not, a clear victory in Aleppo probably has a better chance of sticking than a brokered deal from which all sides still hope to improve their positions.

There will be claims, in the aftermath, that the anti-Assad opposition was betrayed by its Western backers, as there are already claims that Obama’s failure to enforce his “red line” on chemical weapons, not only gave succour to Assad, but created a vacuum for Russia to fill. And there will be accusations of “appeasement”, with all the 1930s overtones.

A more accurate version might be, however, that the opposition to Assad was always too fractious to complete the task it had taken on, and that the US, UK and others, seduced once again by a persuasive diaspora, should never have lent it even the support they did. And when the question is asked in months to come about responsibility for the catastrophe in Syria, the answer must be that, yes, Assad began it, but we, the West, made the conflict longer, more costly and more complicated than it would otherwise have been.

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Nazi Soldiers Abduct Palestinian Child In Silwad

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wardhamed-e1481959273282Nazi soldiers abducted a Palestinian child in Silwad town, east of the central Nazi illegally occupied West Bank city of Ramallah, on Friday evening.

The Palestinian Prisoners Society (PPS) said the child has been identified as Ward Abdul-Qader Hamed, 15, and that he was abducted after the soldiers stopped him at the western entrance of the town.

It is worth mentioning that the abducted child is the son of Qaddoura Fares, the head of the Palestinian Prisoners’ Society.

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British military specialists arrive in Middle East to train Syrian rebels

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Image result for British military specialists PHOTO

RT 

Their arrival was announced as the UK hosts a conference of defense ministers from countries involved in the coalition fighting Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL).

The 20 trainers – who are likely to be special forces soldiers – will teach so-called ‘moderate’ fighters infantry skills, combat first aid and other battlefield tactics.

The existing deployment is thought to be made up of around 500 soldiers from the 4 Rifles infantry regiment, which is based near the Kurdish-held city of Erbil alongside specialist soldiers from the Royal Engineers and Royal Signals.

Defence Secretary Michael Fallon has previously stated that anyone receiving UK training would be vetted to ensure that no knowledge was passed on to jihadist groups.

The deployment of UK special forces has come under increasing scrutiny, with critics claiming that it has now become the basic form of UK military operations and as such should be brought under democratic oversight.

The UK is one of the few countries which flatly refuses to comment on covert military activities to either the media or to questions by elected lawmakers in parliament.

Calls for a new war powers act have been backed by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, among others, who made his case to the Middle East Eye website in August.

“I’m very concerned about this because [former Prime Minister] David Cameron – I imagine [Prime Minister] Theresa May would say the same – would say parliamentary convention requires a parliamentary mandate to deploy British troops. Except, and they’ve all used the ‘except,’ when special forces are involved,” Corbyn said.

His comments were immediately attacked by former soldier-turned-Tory MP Bob Stewart, who told the Times that the PM must have the opportunity to deploy troops “when they think it’s crucial.”

 

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Unverified Aleppo ‘On the Spot’ Executions

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Land Destroyer 

After a day of claiming up to 82 civilians were “shot on the spot” by Syrian forces battling to retake the northern city of Aleppo from armed terrorists who have occupied it since invading the city in 2012, no evidence or even the source of the claim has surfaced.

According to the BBC, the UN Human Rights office in Geneva received reports of the incident.

Despite Western journalists having been on the ground in Aleppo, along with UN staff, the reports were actually received in Geneva from unnamed sources alleged to be in Aleppo, not acquired – or verified – on the ground by either the Western media or UN staff.

The BBC, in its article, Aleppo battle: UN says civilians shot on the spot,” would admit (emphasis added):

“Yesterday evening, we received further deeply disturbing reports that numerous bodies were lying on the streets,” Mr Colville added, while admitting it was hard to verify the reports.

It should be noted that the BBC left the accusation on their website for hours before eventually adding that the reports were both unverified, and acquired by “sources,” not by UN staff firsthand in Aleppo.

The purpose of this was to maximize the initial impact of the shocking, easily “re-tweeted” headline without being burdened with providing evidence. Once the headline went “viral,” the BBC eventually filled in the details – which had they been included in the initial report – would have significantly blunted the impact of the headline.

With talk of “fake news” reaching hysterical levels, the BBC in collaboration with the UN itself prove that organizations and institutions of the West have long held a monopoly on generating “fake news” and leveraging it not just to manipulate politics and public perception, but to perpetuate war and the destruction of human life.

Other Lies Exposed 

A day after the Western media’s coverage of Aleppo reached a fevered pitch, and with the fighting effectively over, other lies repeated ad nauseam just a day ago are now surfacing as obvious, malicious fabrications.

CNN in a report titled, “Estimated 100,000 civilians trapped in Aleppo,” admits that the supposed “rebels” only hold, “a few streets, a few blocks, maybe a neighborhood,” admits that it is “very difficult to verify any of these reports,” and repeatedly uses the term “might be” in reference to the supposed 100,000 civilians the Western media and the UN claim are still in “eastern Aleppo.”

Of course, with evacuations underway now, it is clear there were nowhere near 100,000 civilians left in the remaining territory occupied by armed militants, revealing yesterday’s news coverage of just the latest in a long line of politically motivated performances carried out by an otherwise unjournalistic Western media.

Patrick Cockburn in a UK Independent article titled, This is why everything you’ve read about the wars in Syria and Iraq could be wrong,” attempts to offer a conciliatory explanation as to why the Western media’s coverage has been so divergent from reality.

He claims:

It is too dangerous for journalists to operate in rebel-held areas of Aleppo and Mosul. But there is a tremendous hunger for news from the Middle East, so the temptation is for the media give credence to information they get second hand.

He also states:

Unsurprisingly, foreign journalists covering developments in east Aleppo and rebel-held areas of Syria overwhelmingly do so from Lebanon or Turkey. A number of intrepid correspondents who tried to do eyewitness reporting from rebel-held areas swiftly found themselves tipped into the boots of cars or otherwise incarcerated.

Experience shows that foreign reporters are quite right not to trust their lives even to the most moderate of the armed opposition inside Syria. But, strangely enough, the same media organisations continue to put their trust in the veracity of information coming out of areas under the control of these same potential kidnappers and hostage takers. They would probably defend themselves by saying they rely on non-partisan activists, but all the evidence is that these can only operate in east Aleppo under license from the al-Qaeda-type groups.

Cockburn also notes that much of the overt bias and poor reporting coming from across the Western media is politically motivated. When the light of reality began showing through in reports from journalists, experts, and diplomats, leadership in Western capitals intentionally ignored it, fixated only on regime change.

 

Image: A lady making claims in a Skype call is not evidence. But CNN and others have no qualms reporting their claims as if it were real news. And while CNN defends this practice of repeating unverified claims by “activists” in Syria, they have intentionally ignored pro-government bloggers for years, proving it is an agenda that has skewed their reporting, not a lack of access to the conflict and its participants.

And while the Western media itself has attempted to use its inability to report from on the ground as an excuse for repeating verified lies told to them by their “sources” in Syria, it should be noted that an equal or greater number of pro-government bloggers have been covering the conflict since 2011 as well, only to be intentionally ignored, even attacked by the Western media.

This goes far in explaining why the Western media finds itself eagerly defending militants who by all accounts are dominated by Jabhat Al Nusra, a US State Department-designated foreign terrorist organization and repeating their propaganda no matter how absurd.

Those across the West listening to this coverage would be led to believe that the hospital to population ratio in eastern Aleppo was nearly 1:1, that every inhabitant of eastern Aleppo was either a doctor, a woman, or a child, and that the remaining neighborhood amid the battle for the city housed a population larger than the entire city of Idlib, the defacto terrorist capital of Jabhat Al Nusra in Syria.

It is important to expose these lies, because while the city of Aleppo has been fully liberated, Idlib, Al Raqqa, and now once again Palmyra remain battles yet to be fought.

The capacity of the West and its proxies to destroy peace and security for the people of Syria rests in their capacity to continue lying about the nature of Western involvement in Syria in the first place. Undermine this capacity, and undermine their ability to disrupt and destroy the future of Syrians any further.

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Remember Naboth: Israel’s “legalising” of the theft of private Palestinian property

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Jewish colonist boys play with guns

By Uri Avnery

An incredible piece of legislation is now being debated in Jerusalem.

The country is busy with a settlement called Amona. There, deep in the occupied territories, a few dozen Jewish families have set up an illegal settlement – illegal even under Israeli law, not to mention international law.

The trouble is, they did not take the trouble to find out who owns the land on which they settled. As it turns out, it actually belongs to private Arab farmers. The Israeli Supreme Court ordered the settlers to evacuate the site.

“A gigantic act of stealing the property of private persons”

Evacuate Jews? Unthinkable! The Amonites swore “passive” resistance. This means calling upon tens of thousands of settlers from all over the occupied Palestinian territories to rush to the scene. It means crying babies, screeching girls, violent youngsters pushing bewildered soldiers (many of them settlers themselves), men wearing Nazi-era yellow stars, woman clutching their many weeping children, cameras galore. Awful.

So, as the date set for the evacuation comes closer and the court refuses to grant another postponement – after years of legal playing around – the government has found a way out: the Amona settlers will move a hundred yards, to land on a part of the same hill which does not officially belong to private persons.

In return for this favour by the settlers, the government promises to enact a “legitimisation law”, an invention of sheer legal genius. It says that in many dozens of places all over the West Bank, where other settlements have been set up on private Palestinian property, the land will simply be expropriated, and the rightful owners will be paid compensation.

In short: a gigantic act of stealing the property of private persons, who happen to be Palestinian Arabs, in order to “legitimize” the settlements of fanatical far-right Jews.

When I read the text of the proposed bill, I was reminded of a sentence in the Bible that has always bewildered me.

Biblical theft

It’s in Exodus (12). When Pharaoh at long last allowed the Children of Israel to leave Egypt, after the awful ten plagues, they did something extraordinary.

And the Children of Israel …borrowed of the Egyptians jewels of silver and jewels of gold and raiment… and they spoiled the Egyptians.

Since the Children of Israel were leaving for good, “borrowing” meant stealing. And not from Pharaoh and the state, but from ordinary people, their neighbours.

It is now generally agreed among experts that the exodus never really happened,1 and that the story was written about a thousand years after the purported event. But why would a writer attribute to his forefathers such disgusting behaviour? Especially when it never happened?

The only answer I can imagine is that the writers and editors at the time saw nothing disgusting in this story. Cheating and plundering non-Israelites was alright.

It is also alright now for the settlers and the government of Israel.

Another chapter of the Bible is even more pertinent to the present happenings. It is a text which every Israeli schoolboy learns in his early teens. In the Hebrew original it is of exquisite literary beauty, apart from its overpowering moral power.

It recounts (1 Kings, 21) that:

Naboth the Jezreelite had a vineyard… hard by the palace of Ahab, King of Samaria.

And Ahab spake unto Naboth, saying: “Give me thy vineyard, that I may have it for a garden of herbs, because it is near unto my house, and I will give thee for it a better vineyard than it, or, if it seems good to thee, I will give thee the worth of it in money.”

And Naboth said to Ahab: “The Lord forbid it me, that I should give the inheritance of my fathers unto thee!

And Ahab came into his house heavy and displeased… But Jezebel his wife came to him and said unto him: “Why is thy spirit so sad?”

The wife took matters into her own hands, ordered the elders of Samaria to put Naboth on trial on false charges, and had him stoned to death.

God the Almighty did not like this at all. He sent his prophet, Elijah, who accosted Ahab and said unto him:

Hast thou killed and also taken possession?

… Where dogs licked the blood of Naboth, shall dogs lick thy blood!”

And so it came to pass. Ahab died a hero’s death in battle, felled by an arrow shot at random. The dogs licked his blood from his battle-carriage. They also ate the flesh of Jezebel, his wife.

In Hebrew the story sounds infinitely more beautiful than in translation. Non-religious people can read it with as much aesthetic pleasure as the religious.

If God were around today, he would surely send one of his on-duty prophets to Binyamin Netanyahu (a nice Biblical-sounding name), and tell him about today’s blood-licking dogs. (Journalists? TV reporters?)

“Sheer theft” by any definition

The proposed “legalisation” of the taking of private Arab property, under any conditions, is sheer theft. Any Arab landowner would quote Naboth, “Allah forbid it me…”

Netanyahu does not need to trouble his wife, Sarah’le, who has her own troubles with the law. Instead of Jezebel, he has the Knesset and the attorney-general.

Yet the proposed solution – moving the settlers a few yards to government-owned properties – is no better than Ahab’s proposal to Naboth. Actually, it is much worse.

King Bibi, like King Ahab, offers money in compensation, but he does not offer other – and better – land. Actually, he expects the Arabs to take the money and move to Brazil or Sweden.

The legal fiction of “government-owned land”

The offer to move the settlers of Amona to “government lands” nearby needs some explanation. How come that the Israeli government owns lands in the occupied West Bank (as distinct from the East Bank of the Jordan river, which is the Kingdom of Jordan. The government and the settlers themselves call the territory Samaria, as in the Bible.)

In the good old days of the Ottoman Empire, the land belonged to the sultan, who rented it out to the fellaheen (peasants). Before World War I, when the sultan was – as usual – bankrupt, he sold off some land to private subjects, mostly rich Arab merchants in Jaffa, Beirut or Monte Carlo. They were absentee landlords, and the peasants on the land did not change.

However, most of the land continued to belong to the sultan, until the end of World War I, when the government of the new British mandate in Palestine took over. The local Palestinian peasants, of course, remained.

No need to add that all this is totally illegal under international law, which categorically forbids the “occupying power” from moving its citizens into the occupied territory.

This was the situation when – after the Israeli-Arab war of 1948 – the Jordanian government took possession of the land. Nothing changed. The government of Jordan retained formal ownership of the land, the fellaheen worked their plots as they had done for many generations.

When Israel occupied the West Bank in 1967, a totally different situation arose. Unlike the Turks, the British and the Jordanians, the present Israeli government has designs on the land. It wants to turn it over to Jewish settlers, extreme rightist settlers, extreme religious settlers or both.

The legal fiction of “government-owned land” became a reality overnight. Huge stretches of land on the West Bank suddenly belonged to the government of Israel. Other huge stretches, which belonged to the Palestinians who had fled or were driven out in the 1967 war, so-called “absentee property”, was also expropriated by the Israeli government.

All this is now “government land”, on which Israelis can settle freely according to Israeli law. No need to add that all this is totally illegal under international law, which categorically forbids the “occupying power” from moving its citizens into the occupied territory.

This, then, is the legal situation: putting Israeli settlers on “government lands” is legal under Israeli law, but absolutely forbidden under international law. Putting settlers on private Palestinian land is forbidden by both international and Israeli law.

As of now, the Amona settlers are asked by the government to move to nearby “government land”. They now face the choice between eviction or agreeing to walk the hundred yards to their new abode.

I wonder what the prophet Elijah would have said about all this. He was not a person given to understatement.

Israeli dogs will not lick the blood of Netanyahu. Nor will they eat the flesh of Sarah’le. God forbid.

Posted in Palestine Affairs, ZIO-NAZIComments Off on Remember Naboth: Israel’s “legalising” of the theft of private Palestinian property

The media are misleading the public on Syria

NOVANEWS
New recruits trained to fight alongside opposition in Aleppo, Syria.
AFP/GETTY IMAGES New recruits trained to fight alongside opposition in Aleppo, Syria.

COVERAGE OF the Syrian war will be remembered as one of the most shameful episodes in the history of the American press. Reporting about carnage in the ancient city of Aleppo is the latest reason why.

For three years, violent militants have run Aleppo. Their rule began with a wave of repression. They posted notices warning residents: “Don’t send your children to school. If you do, we will get the backpack and you will get the coffin.” Then they destroyed factories, hoping that unemployed workers would have no recourse other than to become fighters. They trucked looted machinery to Turkey and sold it.

This month, people in Aleppo have finally seen glimmers of hope. The Syrian army and its allies have been pushing militants out of the city. Last week they reclaimed the main power plant. Regular electricity may soon be restored. The militants’ hold on the city could be ending.

Militants, true to form, are wreaking havoc as they are pushed out of the city by Russian and Syrian Army forces. “Turkish-Saudi backed ‘moderate rebels’ showered the residential neighborhoods of Aleppo with unguided rockets and gas jars,” one Aleppo resident wrote on social media. The Beirut-based analyst Marwa Osma asked, “The Syrian Arab Army, which is led by President Bashar Assad, is the only force on the ground, along with their allies, who are fighting ISIS — so you want to weaken the only system that is fighting ISIS?”

This does not fit with Washington’s narrative. As a result, much of the American press is reporting the opposite of what is actually happening. Many news reports suggest that Aleppo has been a “liberated zone” for three years but is now being pulled back into misery.

Americans are being told that the virtuous course in Syria is to fight the Assad regime and its Russian and Iranian partners. We are supposed to hope that a righteous coalition of Americans, Turks, Saudis, Kurds, and the “moderate opposition” will win.

This is convoluted nonsense, but Americans cannot be blamed for believing it. We have almost no real information about the combatants, their goals, or their tactics. Much blame for this lies with our media.

Under intense financial pressure, most American newspapers, magazines, and broadcast networks have drastically reduced their corps of foreign correspondents. Much important news about the world now comes from reporters based in Washington. In that environment, access and credibility depend on acceptance of official paradigms. Reporters who cover Syria check with the Pentagon, the State Department, the White House, and think tank “experts.” After a spin on that soiled carousel, they feel they have covered all sides of the story. This form of stenography produces the pabulum that passes for news about Syria.

Astonishingly brave correspondents in the war zone, including Americans, seek to counteract Washington-based reporting. At great risk to their own safety, these reporters are pushing to find the truth about the Syrian war. Their reporting often illuminates the darkness of groupthink. Yet for many consumers of news, their voices are lost in the cacophony. Reporting from the ground is often overwhelmed by the Washington consensus.

Washington-based reporters tell us that one potent force in Syria, al-Nusra, is made up of “rebels” or “moderates,” not that it is the local al-Qaeda franchise. Saudi Arabia is portrayed as aiding freedom fighters when in fact it is a prime sponsor of ISIS. Turkey has for years been running a “rat line” for foreign fighters wanting to join terror groups in Syria, but because the United States wants to stay on Turkey’s good side, we hear little about it. Nor are we often reminded that although we want to support the secular and battle-hardened Kurds, Turkey wants to kill them. Everything Russia and Iran do in Syria is described as negative and destabilizing, simply because it is they who are doing it — and because that is the official line in Washington.

Inevitably, this kind of disinformation has bled into the American presidential campaign. At the recent debate in Milwaukee, Hillary Clinton claimed that United Nations peace efforts in Syria were based on “an agreement I negotiated in June of 2012 in Geneva.” The precise opposite is true. In 2012 Secretary of State Clinton joined Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Israel in a successful effort to kill Kofi Annan’s UN peace plan because it would have accommodated Iran and kept Assad in power, at least temporarily. No one on the Milwaukee stage knew enough to challenge her.

Politicians may be forgiven for distorting their past actions. Governments may also be excused for promoting whatever narrative they believe best suits them. Journalism, however, is supposed to remain apart from the power elite and its inbred mendacity. In this crisis it has failed miserably.

Americans are said to be ignorant of the world. We are, but so are people in other countries. If people in Bhutan or Bolivia misunderstand Syria, however, that has no real effect. Our ignorance is more dangerous, because we act on it. The United States has the power to decree the death of nations. It can do so with popular support because many Americans — and many journalists — are content with the official story. In Syria, it is: “Fight Assad, Russia, and Iran! Join with our Turkish, Saudi, and Kurdish friends to support peace!” This is appallingly distant from reality. It is also likely to prolong the war and condemn more Syrians to suffering and death.

Posted in SyriaComments Off on The media are misleading the public on Syria


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