Archive | May 24th, 2017

Authoritarianism in Venezuela? A Reply to Gabriel Hetland

NOVANEWS
Image result for MADURO CARTOON
By Lucas Koerner | Venezuelanalysis 

Venezuela is once again dominating international headlines as violent opposition protests bent on toppling the elected Maduro government enter their seventh week. The demonstrations have claimed to date at least 54 lives since April 4, surpassing the previous wave of violent anti-government protests in 2014, known as “the Exit”. However, this time around, the unrest coincides with a severe economic downturn and a transformed geopolitical landscape defined by the return of the right in Brazil and Argentina as well as an even more bellicose regime in Washington.

Meanwhile, the international outcry at this latest violent effort to oust the Chavista government has been far more muffled than the last time.

With the notable exception of an open letter by LASA members, a UNAC/BAP joint statement,  and other smaller protest actions, the US left has been largely passive vis-a-vis both the Trump administration’s escalating intervention against Venezuela as well as the systematic media blackout, preferring silence to active solidarity with Chavismo.

In this environment, some leftist academics have publicly broken with the Maduro administration over its response to the country’s current political and economic crisis.

In a recent piece for NACLA*, University of Albany Assistant Professor Gabriel Hetland parts ways with the Bolivarian government, citing concerns over Maduro’s “authoritarian” slide.

“Yet, while previous claims of Venezuela’s authoritarianism have had little merit, this is no longer the case,” he writes.

While we deeply respect Professor Hetland’s critical contributions to the debate on Venezuela, we at Venezuelanalysis ** – a collective of journalists and activists who at one point or another have lived, studied, and/or worked in Venezuela – firmly reject this charge of authoritarianism on both analytical and political grounds.

Setting the record straight

Hetland cites a number of recent actions of the Venezuelan government to bolster his claim, including the Venezuelan Supreme Court’s (TSJ) alleged “dissolving” of the opposition-held National Assembly (AN), the “cancel[ation]” of the recall referendum, the postponing of “municipal and regional elections that should have occurred in 2016”, and the TSJ’s blocking of the AN’s legislative activity in 2016.

There are of course a number of serious problems with this account.

To begin, several elements of this narrative are misleadingly presented, if not all-together factually inaccurate.

First of all, as Venezuelanalysis reported at the time, the TSJ’s March 29 decisions did not “dissolve” the Venezuelan National Assembly as was almost uniformly reported in the mainstream press. Rather, the rulings sought to temporarily authorize the judiciary to take on pertinent legislative functions, which in this particular case meant approving a pressing joint venture agreement between Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA and its Russian counterpart, Rosneft, which was critical for the former’s solvency. The ruling – which was based on article 336.7 of the Venezuelan constitution – provoked a rift within Chavismo, with the current and former attorney generals lining up on opposite sides of the constitutional divide. One can certainly criticize the since-reversed decision on constitutional and political grounds, but to present it as a “dissolution” of the parliament is just disingenuous.

This brings us to the question of the Supreme Court’s blocking of the opposition-majority legislature in 2016. It is undeniable that the TSJ did in fact strike down three of the four laws the AN managed to approve last year. However, it takes two to tango and Hetland severely understates the opposition’s own role in this protracted institutional standoff. It’s important to note that the AN did not “act beyond its authority” only “in some cases”, as Hetland describes.

From quite literally the moment that the new AN was sworn-in in January 2016, the body explicitly declared war on the Bolivarian institutional order crafted by Chavismo, with AN head Henry Ramos Allup promising to oust Maduro “within six months” – a blatantly unconstitutional threat against a sitting president. A sampling of the legislation pursued by the National Assembly in 2016 includes a law to privatize Venezuela’s public housing program, a law to return expropriated lands and enterprises to their former owners, a law forcing the executive to accept humanitarian aid into the country, the infamous Amnesty Law, as well as a constitutional amendment retroactively shortening the presidential term by two years. We can add to this list the opposition’s attempted parliamentary coup, in which it declared that Maduro had “abandoned his post” first in October and again this past January – which Hetland likewise neglects to acknowledge. Nor does he mention the reason for the legislature’s current “null” status, namely the opposition’s refusal to unseat three of its lawmakers from Amazonas state currently under investigation for alleged vote-buying in flagrant violation of the high court. Again, one may still criticize the TSJ’s blockage of the AN, but to understate the parliament’s systematic efforts to overthrow the Bolivarian government by any means necessary is quite misleading.

Hetland similarly omits the opposition’s own role in the suspension of the recall referendum (RR) process. As we noted, the opposition-held parliament came into office with the objective of overthrowing Maduro “within six months” – a goal evidently incompatible with the RR, which takes a minimum of eight months. Indeed, the RR was just one of the strategies in the opposition’s four-pronged plan to oust Maduro unveiled in March 2016, which also included the aforementioned constitutional amendment, a constituent assembly to rewrite the constitution (which the opposition now opposes), and heating up the streets to force Maduro’s resignation. As a result of the opposition’s own internecine divisions, it delayed in beginning the RR and made serious procedural errors, such as collecting 53,658 fraudulent signatures, which gave the government a pretext to indefinitely stall the process in the courts. There is no doubt that the Maduro administration dragged its feet on the RR process knowing full well it would likely lose, but this was hardly the one-sided drama presented by Hetland.

Lastly, the National Electoral Council (CNE) did in fact postpone the regional elections scheduled for last year, citing logistical conflicts with the RR process, a move which is indefensible on constitutional and political grounds. However, it’s worth noting that there is a precedent for such a delay: the local elections slated for December 2004 were similarly postponed until August 2005 on account of the recall referendum against then President Chávez the year before. Hetland passes over this important detail in his rush to indict Venezuela’s democratic credentials.

Moreover, while it’s perfectly legitimate to criticize the Bolivarian government for delaying the governors’ races, municipal elections are a different story. Local elections are scheduled for 2017, meaning that they can be held any time before the close of the year. In suggesting that the government has postponed local elections, Hetland commits yet another factual error that serves to inflate his largely ideological case for the Maduro administration’s “creeping authoritarianism”, as we shall see below.

Fetishizing liberal democracy

Beyond these factual errors and misrepresentations, the main problem with Hetland’s piece is his implicit notion of “authoritarianism”, which he at no point takes the time to actually define.

Without going extensively into the genealogy of this term, it’s key to remember that authoritarianism is hardly a politically neutral concept.

As Hetland correctly observes, the charge of authoritarianism was dubiously leveled against the Chávez administration and other “pink tide” governments who were excoriated by Western commentators and political scientists for daring to challenge the hegemony of (neo)liberal capitalist representative democracy.

Indeed throughout the last decade, political scientists led by former Mexican foreign minister Jorge Casteñeda have distinguished between a “good” reformist, liberal left epitomized by Brazil’s Lula Da Silva that is willing to play ball with the Washington and transnational capital and a “bad” radical, populist left embodied by Hugo Chávez, which has opened up the liberal representative floodgates to direct mass participation in democratic governance.

As Sara Motta underlines, this binary is deeply colonial in nature: the “mature” and Westernized “good-left” has learned from the alleged failures of revolutionary Marxism and embraced incremental reform, while the “bad-left” remains mired in the clientelism and tribal authoritarianism of the “pre-modern” past, rendering it hostile to liberal democracy.

This “good-left”/“bad-left” dichotomy is of course nothing new, amounting to a minor aesthetic rehashing of the “revolutionary”/“democratic” distinction applied to the Latin American left in the wake of the Cuban Revolution, which in turn is founded on the classic “civilization” versus “barbarism” divide.

Hetland, in lieu of questioning the liberal ideological criterion behind this colonial binary, preserves the distinction, announcing that the Maduro government has passed over into the dark realm of authoritarianism:

By cancelling the recall referendum, suspending elections, and inhibiting opposition politicians from standing for office, the Venezuelan government is systematically blocking the ability of the Venezuelan people to express themselves through electoral means. It is hard to see what to call this other than creeping authoritarianism.

In other words, “authoritarianism” for Hetland seems to amount to the quashing of proceduralist liberal democratic norms, including most notably separation of powers, threatening the political rights of the country’s right-wing opposition.

What we get from this formalist approach is a sort of Freedom House-style checklist in which the pluses and minuses of global South regimes (freedom of speech, press, etc.) are statically weighed and definitive moral judgement concerning “democratic quality” are handed down. Venezuela is still not yet a “full-scale authoritarian regime,” Hetland tells us, “given the opposition’s significant access to traditional and social media and substantial ability to engage in anti-government protest.” In this point, Hetland’s conclusion is virtually indistinguishable from that of mainstream Latin American studies, which has long invented convoluted monikers such as “participatory competitive authoritarianism” to characterize the Bolivarian government.

The trouble with this perspective is that it ends up reifying these so-called authoritarian practices, casting them as the cause – together with the opposition’s regime change efforts – of Venezuela’s current crisis rather than a symptom of the underlying correlation of forces.

The Maduro administration’s alleged steamrolling of certain liberal democratic norms – particularly the postponement of regional elections – is undoubtedly quite concerning, precisely because it evidences the catastrophic impasse in the Bolivarian revolutionary process.

We at Venezuelanalysis have long been critical of the Bolivarian government’s top-down institutional power plays to contain the opposition’s efforts to oust Maduro, which we view as a conservative attempt to maintain the status quo in lieu of actually mobilizing the masses of people from below to break the current deadlock and resolve the crisis on revolutionary terms.

In this vein, we have critiqued those tendencies within the Venezuelan state which we see as consolidating the power of corrupt reformist “Boli-bourgeois” class fractions in the bureaucracy and armed forces, including direct military control over imports, the de-facto liberalization of prices, reduced social spending coupled with draconian debt servicing, the Orinoco Mining Arc, a dubious but since-modified party registration process, and a conservative turn in anti-crime policy.

Yet Hetland is strangely silent regarding these reformist retreats and regressions over the past four years, which for all intents and purposes are far more serious than many of the above “authoritarian” abuses he describes.

It is precisely here that the charge of “authoritarianism” betrays its liberal ideological bias: by prioritizing the procedural violations affecting the bourgeois right-wing opposition, Hetland renders invisible the underlying dynamics of class warfare brutally impacting the popular classes.

Therefore, contra Hetland, the problem is not that liberal democratic norms have been undercut per se, but rather that the revolutionary construction of alternative institutions of radical grassroots democracy – the “communal state” in Chávez’s terms – has come up against decisive structural roadblocks.

Here we must be unequivocal: liberal democracy is not absolute nor universal, and its relation to revolutionary processes is always mediated by context. To impose these norms on the Cuban Revolution, for instance, in its context of genocidal imperial siege is the height of absurdity and political irresponsibility. Given these circumstances, Cuba’s model of revolutionary democracy – despite all its faults and limitations – is no less legitimate than other democratic socialist projects that have made strategic use of elements of liberal democracy, such as Chile and Nicaragua in the 70s and 80s or Venezuela and Bolivia today.

The Bolivarian process is, however, fundamentally different, as it is premised on an electoral road to socialism in which the existing bourgeois democratic order is approached as a strategic space of counter-hegemonic struggle. In this context, the suspension of certain liberal rights such as elections or specific opposition freedoms would only be acceptable under exceptional circumstances in which the Bolivarian government were actually taking revolutionary measures to resolve the current crisis and commanded unquestioned legitimacy among its social bases.

Despite the undeniable spiral of political and economic violence driven by the opposition, Venezuela is unfortunately not going through an equivalent of a “special period” insofar as the leadership of the party and state has thus far failed to go on the offensive against endemic corruption and take the fight to the local and transnational capitalist enemy as was the case during crucial revolutionary turning points in Russia, China, and Cuba.

Given this reality, the message coming from some sectors of Chavismo that there can be no elections under conditions of warfare – a legitimate argument in other contexts including Nazi-besieged Britain – is questionable at best. Nonetheless, this counterfactual is useful insofar as it demonstrates that liberal democracy is a wholly inadequate yardstick for evaluating revolutionary processes, confounding far more than it clarifies, as in the case of Hetland’s critique of “authoritarianism” in Venezuela.

Throw them all out?

In this diagnosis of causes of the current crisis, our position coincides with that of the vast majority of Venezuelan left-wing movements whose chief grievance is hardly the litany of “authoritarian” practices against the right-wing opposition enumerated by Hetland, but, on the contrary, the reformist and at times outright counter-revolutionary policies being pursued by the Maduro government.

The same is true for Venezuela’s popular classes – the social base of Chavismo – who don’t particularly care that the Supreme Court has blocked the National Assembly and the president has been ruling by emergency economic decree since February 2016. According to independent pollster Hinterlaces, around 70 percent of Venezuelans negatively evaluate the opposition-controlled parliament, while 61 percent have little faith that a future opposition government will address the country’s deep economic problems. Rather, the majority of Venezuelans want the Maduro administration to remain in power and resolve the current economic crisis. Their discontent flows not from Maduro’s use of emergency powers – contrary to the international media narrative – but rather from his failure to use them to take decisive actions to deepen the revolution in lieu of granting further concessions to capital.

Despite the setbacks, retreats, and betrayals that have characterized the past four years since the death of Chávez, the mood among the Venezuelan masses is not a uniform rejection of Venezuela’s entire political establishment as Hetland suggests in a sweeping generalization:

If any slogan captures the current mood of the popular classes living in Venezuela’s barrios and villages it is likely this: Que se vayan todos. Throw them all out.

While Chavismo has undoubtedly bled significant support over the past five years and the ranks of independents, or ni-nis, has swollen to over 40 percent of the population , the PSUV remarkably remains the country’s most popular party, actually increasing its support from 27 to 35 percent since January. Similarly, Maduro still has the approval of approximately 24 percent of Venezuelans, making him more popular than the presidents of Brazil, Mexico, and Chile – a fact consistently suppressed by international corporate media. These poll numbers are nothing short of incredible in view of the severity of the current economic crisis ravaging the country, speaking to the partial efficacy of some of the government’s measures such as the CLAPs as well as the opposition’s utter failure to present any alternative program.

Likewise, despite growing disillusionment with the government and hints at a possible rupture, the fact is that the overwhelming majority of Venezuela’s social movements and left-wing political parties continue to back Maduro.

What’s more is that this left unity in support of the Bolivarian government has only hardened in the face of the ongoing opposition onslaught and in anticipation of the National Constituent Assembly to be held in the coming months.

However baffling on the surface, this staunch defense of the Maduro administration actually makes perfect sense for at least two reasons.

First, as any Chavista who has lived through the last six weeks of right-wing terror can attest to, the choice between the continuity of Chavismo in power and an opposition regime is not a matter of mere ideological preference – it’s a question of survival, as there is no predicting the extent of the political and structural violence the opposition would unleash if they manage to take Miraflores. This is in no way to deny or downplay the fallout of the current economic crisis, for which the government bears a great deal of responsibility, but there is no doubt that an opposition government would take this economic war on the poor to new levels of neoliberal savagery.

Second, the existence of the Bolivarian government embodies the lingering possibility of transforming the inherited bourgeois petro-state as part of the transition to 21st Century socialism. While there is cause for skepticism about the real possibilities of pushing forward the democratization and decolonization of the Venezuelan state in this conjuncture, there has been an outpouring of grassroots support for the National Constituent Assembly which could serve as a vehicle to retake the revolutionary offensive and institutionalize radical demands from below.

This broad-based consensus of critical support for the government on the part of Venezuela’s left stands sharply at odds with Hetland’s “plague on both your houses approach”, which, in Steve Ellner’s terms, ends up “placing opposition and Chavista leaders in the same sack” as equally undesirable alternatives.

While there is indeed tremendous anger and frustration with the government – which may in fact translate to a crushing electoral defeat for Chavismo in the next elections – the prevailing sentiment among much of Venezuela’s popular classes in the face of the opposition’s present reign of terror remains “no volverán” (they shall not return).

The role of solidarity

All of this brings us to the position of international solidarity activists with respect to Venezuela.

We wholeheartedly agree with Hetland that it is the duty of each and every self-respecting leftist and progressive to “reject any and all calls for imperialist interventions aimed at ‘saving’ Venezuela”.

Nevertheless, while anti-interventionism is urgently necessary, this begs the question, with whom are we supposed to be in solidarity?

Hetland calls on us to stand with “the majority of Venezuelans who are suffering at the hands of a vengeful, reckless opposition, and an incompetent, unaccountable government.”

The end result of such a “plague on both your houses” approach is a refusal to take a side in this struggle – in a word, neutrality. This posture flows naturally from Hetland’s liberal framework of authoritarianism, which necessarily posits the Western intellectual as a disembodied arbiter – occupying the Cartesian standpoint of the “eye of God” in Enrique Dussel’s terms – uniquely capable of objectively weighing the democratic virtues and deficits of Third World regimes.

In contrast, we at Venezuelanalysis stand unconditionally with Venezuela’s Bolivarian-socialist movement, which at this conjuncture continues to critically support the Maduro administration.

We take this stance not out of a willful blindness to the Bolivarian government’s many faults and betrayals, but because we (and particularly our writers on the ground) know that for a great many Chavistas the choice between radicalizing the revolution and right-wing restoration is, quite literally, a matter of life and death.

A version of this article was submitted to NACLA, but no initial response was received. The editor elected to go ahead and publish at venezuelanalysis.com in the interest of a timely response. UPDATE: NACLA did ultimately respond to our submission on the afternoon of May 19, but by that time, the article was already published. 

** Written by Lucas Koerner on behalf of Venezuelanalysis’ writing and multimedia staff as well as VA founder Greg Wilpert.

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The Riyadh Declaration of Escalated Regional War

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Image result for SAUDI WAR IN YEMEN CARTOON
By Stephen Lendman 

On the phony pretext of combating ISIS, the scourge America and its rogue regional allies support, a so-called Riyadh Declaration was agreed to by 55 Muslim countries in the Saudi capital on Sunday.

Claiming it’s “to combat terrorism in all its forms, address its intellectual roots, dry up its sources of funding, and take all necessary measures to prevent and combat terrorist crimes in close cooperation among their states” is a statement of mass deception.

Saudi Arabia, Israel and America’s regional presence constitute the epicenter of regional and global state terrorism – supporting its scourge, not combating it.

The Saudi Press Agency, saying “a global center for countering extremist thought… combating intellectual, media and digital extremism, and promoting coexistence and tolerance among peoples” based in Riyadh would be laughable if the threat posed by Washington, the Saudis and other regional rogue states wasn’t so grave.

Riyadh Declaration signatory countries committed to provide “a reserve force of 34,000 troops” – not “to support operations against terrorist organizations in Iraq and Syria when needed,” as claimed.

They’ll partner with Washington’s destructive imperial agenda, a plot to eliminate Syrian and Iranian sovereignty, assuring endless Middle East wars.

Iran was especially singled out, the document saying signatories “confirmed their absolute rejection of the practices of the Iranian regime designed to destabilize the security and stability of the region and the world at large and for its continuing support for terrorism and extremism” – polar opposite Tehran’s agenda.

It’s targeted for its sovereign independence, a nation America doesn’t control, a Saudi rival. Imperial plans call for regime change.

On Sunday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted “Iran – fresh from real elections – attacked by @POTUS in that bastion of democracy & moderation (Saudi Arabia). Foreign Policy or simply milking KSA of $480 billion?”

Separately in a London-based al-Araby al-Jadeed news network op-ed, Zarif said Trump “must enter into dialogue with (the Saudis) about ways to prevent terrorists and Takfiris from continuing to fuel the fire in the region and repeating the likes of the September 11 incident by their sponsors in Western countries.”

“(T)he Iranophobia project (was) initiated and promoted by the Zionist regime for years… Iran (seeks) stability in the entire region because it knows that achieving security at home at the expense of insecurity among neighbors is basically impossible.”

Sadly as Zarif knows, US and Saudi policies foster terrorism, using ISIS and likeminded groups to further their imperial agendas.

Trump’s Sunday Muslim world address was an exercise in deception – exposed by longstanding US policies, its endless wars of aggression, and announced deal to sell Riyadh hundreds of billions of dollars worth of powerful weapons over the next decade, entirely for offense, not defense.

Washington’s goal isn’t “stamping out (terrorist) extremism,” as Trump claimed, it’s supporting and encouraging it to further US aims for unchallenged global dominance.

The Riyadh Declaration is part of the scheme to pursue this objective, polar opposite what its signatories claim.

Stephen Lendman can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. His new book is titled Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.

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Not Remembering the USS Liberty

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By Ray McGovern | Consortium News 

It is safe to assume that when President Donald Trump lands in Israel Monday, he will not have been briefed on the irrefutable evidence that, nearly 50 years ago – on June 8, 1967 – Israel deliberately attacked the USS Liberty in international waters, killing 34 U.S. sailors and wounding more than 170 other crew. All of Trump’s predecessors – Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama – have refused to address the ugly reality and/or covered up the attack on the Liberty.

It is not too late for someone to fill Trump in on this shameful episode, on the chance he may wish to show more courage than former presidents and warn the Israelis that this kind of thing will not be tolerated while he is president.

A new book by Philip Nelson titled: Remember the Liberty: Almost Sunk by Treason on the High Seas, is a must-read for anyone wishing to understand what actually happened to the Liberty and to contemplate the implications.

As I wrote in the book’s Foreword: Even today, scandalously few Americans have heard of the deliberate Israeli attack on the USS Liberty, because the cowardly U.S. political, military, and media establishments have managed to hide what happened.  No one “important” wanted to challenge Israel’s lame “oops-mistake” excuse.  Intercepted Israeli communications show beyond doubt it was no “mistake.”

Chief Petty Officer J.Q. “Tony” Hart, who monitored conversations between then-Defense Secretary Robert McNamara and Sixth Fleet Carrier Division Commander Rear Admiral Lawrence Geis, reported McNamara’s instructive reply to Geis, who had protested the order to recall the U.S. warplanes on their way to engage those attacking the Liberty. McNamara: “President Johnson is not going to go to war or embarrass an American ally (sic) over a few sailors.”

The late Adm. Thomas Moorer after interviewing the commanders of the U.S. aircraft carriers America and Saratoga confirmed that McNamara ordered the aircraft back to their carriers. Moorer called it “the most disgraceful act I witnessed in my entire military career.”

Thanks to this book, those who care about such things can learn what actually happened 50 years ago:

(1) On June 8, 1967, Israel attempted to sink the US Navy intelligence collection ship USS Liberty and leave no survivors. The attack came by aircraft and torpedo boat, in full daylight in international waters during the Six-Day Israeli-Arab War;

(2) The U.S. cover-up taught the Israelis that they could literally get away with murder; they killed 34 U.S. sailors (and wounded more than 170 others); and

(3) As part of an unconscionable government cover-up, the Navy threatened to court martial and imprison any survivor who so much as told his wife what had actually happened. (This, incidentally, put steroids to the PTSD suffered by many of the survivors.)

One Stab at Truth

The only investigation worth the name was led by Adm. Moorer, who had been Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He led a blue-ribbon, independent commission to examine what happened to the Liberty. Among the findings announced by the commission on October 2003:

Israeli PM Menachem Begin

“…Unmarked Israeli aircraft dropped napalm canisters on the USS Liberty bridge, and fired 30mm cannon and rockets into the ship; survivors estimate 30 or more sorties were flown over the ship by a minimum of 12 attacking Israeli planes. …

“…The torpedo boat attack involved not only the firing of torpedoes, but machine-gunning of Liberty’s firefighters and stretcher-bearers. … The Israeli torpedo boats later returned to machine-gun at close range three of the Liberty’s life rafts that had been lowered into the water by survivors to rescue the most seriously wounded.”

Shortly before he died in February 2004, Adm. Moorer strongly appealed for the truth to be brought out and pointed directly at what he saw as the main obstacle: “I’ve never seen a President … stand up to Israel. … If the American people understood what a grip these people have on our government, they would rise up in arms.” [As quoted by Richard Curtiss in A Changing Image: American Perception of the Arab-Israeli Dispute.]

Echoing Moorer, former U.S. Ambassador Edward Peck, who served many years in the Middle East, condemned Washington’s attitude toward Israel as “obsequious, unctuous subservience … at the cost of the lives and morale of our own service members and their families.”

And the Six-Day War? Most Americans believe the Israelis were forced to defend against a military threat from Egypt. Not so, admitted former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin 35 years ago: “In June 1967, we had a choice. The Egyptian army concentrations in the Sinai approaches do not prove that [Egyptian President] Nasser was really about to attack us. We must be honest with ourselves. We decided to attack him.” [The New York Times quoting an August 1982 Begin speech.]

Adm. Moorer kept asking why our government continues to subordinate American interests to those of Israel. It is THE question.

The War in Syria

Fast forward to the catastrophe that is now Syria. U.S. policy support for illusory “moderate rebels” there – including false-flag chemical attacks blamed on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad – can only be fully understood against the mirror of U.S. acquiescence to Israeli objectives.

New York Times Jerusalem Bureau Chief in 2013, Jodi Rudoren, received an unusually candid response when she asked senior Israeli officials about Israel’s preferred outcome in Syria. In a New York Times article on September 6, 2013, titled “Israel Backs Limited Strike Against Syria,” Rudoren reported the Israeli view that the best outcome for Syria’s civil war was no outcome:

“For Jerusalem, the status quo, horrific as it may be from a humanitarian perspective, seems preferable to either a victory by Mr. Assad’s government and his Iranian backers or a strengthening of rebel groups, increasingly dominated by Sunni jihadis.

“‘This is a playoff situation in which you need both teams to lose, but at least you don’t want one to win — we’ll settle for a tie,’ said Alon Pinkas, a former Israeli consul general in New York. ‘Let them both bleed, hemorrhage to death: that’s the strategic thinking here. As long as this lingers, there’s no real threat from Syria.’”

Obama may have read or been briefed on Rudoren’s article. In any event, last year he told journalist Jeffrey Goldberg how proud he is at having resisted strong pressure from virtually all his advisors to fire cruise missiles on Syria in September 2013. Instead, Obama chose to take advantage of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s offer to get the Syrians to surrender their chemical weapons for destruction, verified by the U.N., aboard a U.S. ship configured for such destruction. President Trump, in contrast, chose to go with his “mad-dog” advisors. It is not yet clear whether he was successfully mousetrapped, or whether he saw the April 4 chemical incident in Syria as an opportunity to “retaliate,” and get a bump in popularity.

There are wider ramifications of rank dishonesty and cover-up, at which Establishment Washington excels. Have we not seen this movie before?  Think Iraq. Once again, the “intelligence” is being “fixed.”

Back to the Liberty, Adm. Moorer is right in saying that, if Americans were told the truth about what happened on June 8, 1967, they might be more discriminating in seeing through Israel’s rhetoric and objectives. Moorer insisted that we owe no less to brave men of the USS Liberty, but also to every man and woman who is asked to wear the uniform of the United States. And he is right about that too.

This book makes a huge contribution toward those worthy ends.

[For more on this topic, see Navy Vet Honored, Foiled Israeli Attack”; “Still Waiting for USS Liberty’s Truth”; “A USS Liberty’s Hero’s Passing”]

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JEWISH ISRAEL IMPRISONS MAN FOR HOLDING TORAH PRAYER IN PUBLIC

NOVANEWS
Marianne Azizi
Jewish Israel imprisons man for Holding Torah Prayer in public
Israeli arrested for holding religious banner – 16 hours in prison as police accounce a ‘martial law’ against further protests in City

Things are definitely ‘hotting up’ in the city of Petach Tikvah. The city is notorious for its family court judges. Judge Elia Nuss and Rivkah Makias are famous for being in more suicide notes of men than any other judges in Israel. The judiciary itself is under fire for its corruption and fixing of cases.

More than this, Attorney General Mandleblitt lives in the city. For six months, peaceful gatherings to protest for a thorough investigation into Prime Minister Netanyahu have escalated into police brutality against people whose average age is over 50.

Despite it being legal to protest outside both the home and office of a public official, the activists were moved to an 800m distance of Mandleblitts home. Following the violence by police last Saturday – one gentleman,Oren Simon, has been going from city to city with a banner which quotes Isiaiah

Isaiah 1:21-

The Degenerate City

21 How the faithful city has become a harlot!
It was full of justice;
Righteousness lodged in it,
But now murderers.
22 Your silver has become dross,
Your wine mixed with water.
23 Your princes are rebellious,
And companions of thieves;
Everyone loves bribes,
And follows after rewards.
They do not defend the fatherless,
Nor does the cause of the widow come before them.

Despite no problems in Tel Aviv outside the university, Oren was arrested in Petach Tikvah for holding his banner, and charged with public disorder and obstructing justice:

The arrest is incredible. Oren was standing with a quote from the Bible and standing in silence. Expressing his beliefs.  Repressing religious expression is illegal in Israel. Following his interview on the radio, police stated all protests were now banned in 3 cities, despite High Court and Supreme Court judgements allowing them.

http://www.kan.org.il/Radio/program.aspx/?profig=1142 (proof with link…in hebrew).

This is in effect a declaration of martial law and a war against citizens.

Donald Trump will not have heard or seen citizens who want to ask him for help. Like any good ‘regime’, all publicity is gagged and protestors are made out to be lunatics or just a small fringe of society.

The protests are not about small stuff. The more the police try to quell them, the bigger they will become. Of course watching Facebook posts means people already are at risk if they publish.

But for many, enough is enough. They are tired from such oppression, and even more frustrated that their message is being shot down or ignored. Outside Israel, Jews refuse to believe anything. But what is clear, is that people need real help and support in order to get the truth out into the world.

Saturday 27th May will be another night to remember in the City of Petach Tikvah, and everyone will defy police statements and go to make their legal protest.

How ironic that the Jewish State of Israel should stop a Jewish man with a quote from his own Torah.

#Oren Simon, #Oren Simon imprisoned in Israel for Torah quote, #Israel afraid of silent protestor, #Civil protest under pressure in Israel, #Why does mainstream news gag the real stories in Israel, #Petach Tikvah Police blunder again, #False arrest of lone man with prayer in Israel

Posted in ZIO-NAZIComments Off on JEWISH ISRAEL IMPRISONS MAN FOR HOLDING TORAH PRAYER IN PUBLIC

No proof to back allegations Russia gave weapons to Taliban – US military intel chief

NOVANEWS
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The thinly-veiled accusations in the US that Russia supplied arms to Taliban militants were not based on any physical evidence of weapons or money transfers, a senior US military official told lawmakers.

“We have seen indication that they offered some level of support but I have not seen real physical evidence of weapons or money being transferred,” Marine Lieutenant General Vincent Stewart, who serves as director of the US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), said at a Senate hearing.

Last month allegations against Russia were voiced by some US officials, including US Army General Curtis Scaparrotti, military commander of alliance forces in Europe, and US Army General John W. Nicholson Jr., who commands US troops in Afghanistan.

The officials claimed that Russia was exerting influence on the Taliban and may be involved in supplying weapons to the militants.

The Russian Foreign Ministry dismissed the allegations as “fabrications designed to justify the failure of the US military and politicians in the Afghan campaign.”

Stewart was reporting to the Senate Arms Services Committee on the Pentagon’s view on global threats to the US and its allies.

Posted in Afghanistan, RussiaComments Off on No proof to back allegations Russia gave weapons to Taliban – US military intel chief

Trump’s Saudi visit wasn’t about Islam or Iran. It’s about America First.

NOVANEWS
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By M K Bhadrakumar | Indian Punchline 

The Saudi Arabian government didn’t do well to schedule US President Donald Trump’s speech at the Arab-Islamic-American Summit at Riyadh for May 21. Just a day earlier, the headlines in the world media were all about a unique event in the Muslim Middle East – free and fair elections in Iran which enabled the moderate-reformist President Hassan Rouhani to secure a second term by beating an opponent who was widely seen as representing the religious establishment.

Trump would have understood the awkwardness of his position. He was obliged to show gratitude to his Saudi hosts who propose to spend $350 billion in the US economy that would create hundreds of thousands of new jobs for the American people. On the other hand, he was expected to condemn and pillory what is, arguably, the one and only democratic country in the Persian Gulf – Iran.

Trump ended up saying the irreducible minimum regarding Iran:

  • But no discussion of stamping out this (terrorism) threat would be complete without mentioning the government that gives terrorists all three-safe harbor, financial backing, and the social standing needed for recruitment. It is a regime that is responsible for so much instability in the region. I am speaking of course of Iran. From Lebanon to Iraq to Yemen, Iran funds, arms, and trains terrorists, militias, and other extremist groups that spread destruction and chaos across the region. For decades, Iran has fueled the fires of sectarian conflict and terror.
  • It is a government that speaks openly of mass murder, vowing the destruction of Israel, death to America, and ruin for many leaders and nations in this room. Among Iran’s most tragic and destabilizing interventions have been in Syria. Bolstered by Iran, Assad has committed unspeakable crimes…The Iranian regime’s longest-suffering victims are its own people. Iran has a rich history and culture, but the people of Iran have endured hardship and despair under their leaders’ reckless pursuit of conflict and terror.
  • Until the Iranian regime is willing to be a partner for peace, all nations of conscience must work together to isolate Iran, deny it funding for terrorism, and pray for the day when the Iranian people have the just and righteous government they deserve. (Transcript)

At the end of the day, Trump settled for a policy to “isolate” Iran and to “pray for the day” when Iran will be an agreeable partner. There was no itch to confront Iran or attack Iran. If a benchmark is needed, go back to George W. Bush’s famous ‘axis of evil’ speech regarding Iran in January 2002. (Watch the YouTube here.)

Indeed, the so-called Riyadh Declaration issued after the Arab-Islamic-American summit of 50 countries on Sunday contained much harsher language regarding Iran, but then, it is essentially a Saudi document, which the regime drafted exercising its prerogative as the host country. By no means is it a statement reflecting the Iran policy of the US or of the other 48 statesmen who gathered in Riyadh, including from Egypt, Pakistan, Oman and so on.

Equally, it was also apparent from the noticeably restrained moderate remarks regarding Iran by the US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in the two joint press conferences with Saudi FM Adel Al Jubeir that the Trump administration took care not to exacerbate tensions with Iran. Jubeir spewed venom, but Tillerson simply listened. In his prepared statements regarding terrorism, interestingly, Tillerson did not even mention Iran. The ‘operative’ part of Tillerson’s remarks during the Q&A can be reproduced as follows:

  • We are closely coordinating our efforts in terms of how to counter Iran’s extremism… in particular its support for foreign fighters… its support of militia not just in Yemen but in Iraq and in Syria.
  • We are coordinating carefully around how we view the nuclear agreement.
  • What I would hope – is that Rouhani now has a new term, and that he use that term to begin a process of dismantling Iran’s network of terrorism, dismantling its financing of that terrorist network, dismantling the manning and the logistics and everything that they provide to these destabilizing forces that exist in this region. That’s what we hope he does. We also hope that he puts an end to [Iran’s] ballistic missile testing. We also hope that he restores the rights of Iranians to freedom… That’s what we hope this election will bring. I’m not going to comment on my expectation. But we hope that if Rouhani wanted to change Iran’s relationship with the rest of the world, those are the things he could do.
  • So it is our hope that – and we have a new leadership or a renewed leadership beginning another term in Iran – that they will begin to examine what this behavior is gaining for them, and rather, they will find their way back to a place that Iran historically enjoyed: good relations with its neighbors. And that’s what we hope they find their way back to as well. In the meantime, we will continue to take action to make it clear to Iran when their behavior is unacceptable… we will continue to take action through sanctions and we will continue to encourage others in the global community to take action as well so that Iran understands this is not acceptable. So we will be dealing with Iran in the economic sanction front and we will be dealing with Iran in these countries where they have decided to put their presence militarily.

In sum, Tillerson recapitulated the Obama administration’s policies toward Iran. No threat of war – ‘all-options-are-on-the-table’, etc. – no threat of regime change, no containment strategy.  On the contrary, the subtle emphasis has been on the terms of engagement with Iran someday in a conceivable future.

Thereupon, Tillerson dropped a bombshell. The following was his answer when he was asked by a journalist, “Will you ever pick up the phone and call Iran’s foreign minister? Have you ruled out diplomacy with Iran?” :

  • Well, in terms of whether I’d ever pick the phone up, I’ve never shut off the phone to anyone that wants to talk or have a productive conversation. At this point, I have no plans to call my counterpart in Iran, although, in all likelihood, we will talk at the right time.

Tillerson said effectively that the US hopes to engage with Iran “in all likelihood”. It is no small matter that he said this from Riyadh, while summing up what has been an extraordinarily successful visit by Trump in pursuit of his ‘America First’ doctrine.

Of course, the US-Iranian relations will remain highly problematic. But then four years is a long time in politics – and both Trump and Rouhani have that much time in hand. One can anticipate that Tehran will be savvy enough to sense the vibes from Riyadh and accordingly plot the road map ahead in its dealings with the Trump administration.

Do not forget that Bush’s ‘axis of evil’ speech in 2002 notwithstanding, Washington and Tehran had already got into a waltz in Iraq circa 2005 in a coordinated enterprise to advance Shi’ite empowerment in that country. Both the US and Iran knew the ground rules and the ‘red lines’ in Iraq, and they largely respected them in a co-habitation in mutual interests that was truly exceptional in contemporary world politics.

The bottom line today is that without Iran’s cooperation, the US cannot get very far in the war against the ISIS, al-Qaeda and other extremist groups in Iraq and Syria. To be sure, there will be a lot of jostling for space and influence but a US-Iran confrontation is not on cards. Neither side is seeking it.

Posted in USA, Saudi ArabiaComments Off on Trump’s Saudi visit wasn’t about Islam or Iran. It’s about America First.

The Most Dangerous Spy You’ve Never Heard Of: Ana Belén Montes

NOVANEWS
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By Susan Babbitt | CounterPunch 

Ana Belén Montes gave classified information to Cuba for 17 years before her arrest in 2001 for espionage. Pleading guilty, she avoided conviction for treason, which carries the death sentence. She is called “the most dangerous spy you’ve never heard of.”[i] She deserves to be known now.

Her story shows the personal cost of some truths. I don’t mean the suffering endured in prison, a predictable result of breaking US law. I mean the cost of believing, as US citizen and government employee, truths about US state terror, supported by evidence. The truths are well-known, or at least readily available. But they’re not easily believed, even when known to be true.

By the time Montes began spying for the Cubans, the US had been carrying out a ruthless “war against subversion” across Latin America for decades. The targets were anyone who resisted, or might resist, US hegemony in the region. Operation Condor, formed in the early seventies, enabled multinational death squads to carry out state-sponsored cross-border political repression.

Unionists, peasant leaders, party activists, students, teachers, priests, nuns – indeed, whole social sectors – were targets. The CIA provided new forms of torture. In Uruguay, for example, a “parallel apparatus” used homeless beggars for torture training. In a soundproof room, instructors demonstrated the effects on the body of electric voltage and chemical substances. The test subjects died.[ii]

In 2005, a special conference was organized in Havana on terrorism. Speakers from Latin America, the US and Europe presented research, often drawing upon declassified US documents, about CIA-inspired terror tactics of Operation Condor. The recurring theme, in presentation after presentation, was impunity: The data piles up. It is widely diffused. Yet somehow, in the public mind, it doesn’t matter.

The occasion for the conference was the entrance into the US of Louis Posada Carriles, jailed in Venezuela (he escaped) for master-minding the shooting down of a Cuban plane, killing all aboard (1976).  Posada confessed his responsibility to Ann Louise Bardach (New York Times). He walks free in the US despite the evidence. He celebrates his birthdays on camera, before the media.

In John Pilger’s documentary, War on Democracy, Pilger interviews Sister Diana Ortiz, a US citizen raped and beaten by US servicemen protecting the dictatorship in El Salvador. Ortiz says, “When I hear people express surprise about Abhu Graib [site of US torture in Iraq], I ask myself ‘What planet are they living on? Don’t they know the history of our country?’”

It’s not that they don’t know the history. It is that they possess the facts, know they are true, and don’t assimilate them. They want to think the US is “leader of the free world”. It is not hard to see – thanks to books, documentaries, declassified documents, journal articles, and conferences – that US foreign policy has nothing to do with freedom and democracy. However, we have to care to know.

Ana Belén Montes says she doesn’t want to be treated as a hero. True, she shouldn’t have to be a hero. What she did was believe the obvious. She told the sentencing judge, “I engaged in the activity that brought me before you because I obeyed my conscience”.

In 1960, apolitical Beat poet, Leroi Jones, went to Cuba “determined not to be ‘taken’”. Returning to the US, in his famous “Cuba Libre”, he denounced the “thin crust of lie that we cannot even detect in our own thinking”.

Jones detected that “crust of lie” because of what he felt, in Cuba. He expected Cubans to be indoctrinated, even evil. Instead, he experienced them as happy, interesting and smart. He describes a feeling, a human connection. It contradicted his beliefs. He gave up the beliefs.

Jones could have dismissed his feelings as crazy, and maintained his web of beliefs. That would have been more comfortable, even praiseworthy. Instead, Jones returned to the US radicalized. The “thin crust of lie” was just that: a thin crust. There was more. Jones didn’t want to be living the entire hidden iceberg of lies.

The “thin crust of lie”, undetectable, explains a slogan of the anti-war movement: “There are no innocents”. It means that a comfortable white life was collusion in the slaughter in Vietnam. Lifestyles generate and nurture values and beliefs. They support myths making it easy to explain away truths, even obvious ones. We offer our daily consent, quietly, comfortably.

Ana Belén Montes could have dismissed what she knew to be true about the US war on democracy. She is, in the end, a hero just because of what she believed, because she has believed it, and because she continues to do so.

Fidel Castro said about Che Guevara after his death that Guevara insisted on the power of example. There’s a philosophical point here: We are interdependent creatures, always giving to and receiving from the beings, human and non-human, with whom we interact. It was Marx’s naturalistic vision of who we are as human beings: part of nature, dependent upon others even for thinking.

Such naturalism is expressed also by smart, sensitive thinkers across the ages. The Buddha was one, as was José Martí, leader of Cuba’s last independence war against Spain. It is simply a scientific fact that how we think depends, in ways we often do not know, on the people and stories we surround ourselves with. They speak to us silently, continually, at myriad levels. We don’t think alone, contrary to the liberal/libertarian myth that we live “from within”, hearing an “inner voice”.

That “inner voice” is always the voice of others, indeed whole histories of others.

It’s why certain examples matter so much and why they’re worth working for. They may be all we have to see through the lies, well-known lies that they are. The hidden histories matter to what can be imagined, morally. It’s no surprise we haven’t heard about Ana Belén Montes. Such a significant example is hidden deliberately. The press, without evidence, suggests she was mentally ill.

Ana Belén Montes must no longer be hidden.

Speaking truth to power is relatively easy. Believing it is more challenging. Murdered Honduran activist Berta Cáceres said North Americans are too attached to our comfort. It affects moral imagination. For those of us who benefit from the US Empire, it is not possible to believe what is clearly true about that Empire without personal cost. It’s just the nature of reason and its dependence on surroundings.

The “thin crust of lie” gets ever thicker. We need the example of Ana Belén Montes more than ever. [iii]

Notes

[i] Jim Popkin The Washington Post  http://www.washingtonpost.com/sf/feature/wp/2013/04/18/ana-montes-did-much-harm-spying-for-cuba-chances-are-you-havent-heard-of-her/?utm_term=.d3e99f7d9503

[ii] J. Patrice McSherry, “Death squads as parallel forces: Uruguay, Operation Condor, and the United States”

Journal of Third World Studies. 24.1 (Spring 2007): 23

[iii] Useful sites:

http://www.workers.org/2016/10/28/free-ana-belen-montes-now/#.WSFpxevyvIU
https://thesaker.is/tag/ana-belen-montes
http://www.cuba-solidarity.org.uk/news/article/3336/ana-belen-montes-will-spend-her-60th-birthday-in-us-jail-with-another-10-years-to-serve
http://www.communistpartyofireland.ie/sv2016-09/08-ana.html

 

Posted in USA, CUBAComments Off on The Most Dangerous Spy You’ve Never Heard Of: Ana Belén Montes

US attack kills 7 in central Yemen

NOVANEWS

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Press TV 

At least seven people have lost their lives in a US ground and aerial operation in Yemen’s central province of Ma’rib, the Pentagon says.

Centcom, the US military command in the Middle East, said in a statement that the Tuesday raid had been carried out with the support of the former Yemeni government and had targeted a compound belonging to the al-Qaeda militant group.

“During this operation, US forces killed seven AQAP (Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula) militants through a combination of small arms fire and precision airstrikes,” the statement read.

It said that such assaults “provide insight into AQAP’s disposition, capabilities and intentions,” apparently referring to intelligence that may be obtained as a result of the raids.

On January 29, a similar US attack was conducted in Yakla Village in Bayda Province, the first authorized by President Donald Trump. A $75-million US aircraft was destroyed while dozens of Yemeni civilians and a US Navy SEAL were killed in the ill-prepared commando raid.

The Pentagon claimed that the attack had produced intelligence about al-Qaeda. However, senior US officials rejected the claim, saying that they were not aware of any actionable intelligence.

Yemen has been under regular US drone strikes, with Washington claiming to be targeting al-Qaeda elements while local sources say civilians have been the main victims.

Yemen has also been under military strikes in a prolonged war by Saudi Arabia and a number of its client states since late March 2015. The US has been providing assistance to that war, too.

UN envoy seeks to prevent any attack on crucial port city

On Monday, the United Nations’ Special Envoy for Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed traveled to Yemen, where he said he wanted to prevent any attack on the western port city of Hudaydah, which is a major lifeline for imports into Yemen.

Saudi Arabia has threatened to attack the port city and retake it from the Houthi Ansarullah movement, a popular movement that has teamed up with the Yemeni army to defend the country against the Saudi-led war.

Cheikh Ahmed also stressed that Yemen’s central bank “must remain independent and must belong to all the Yemeni people.”

He further voiced concern about the dire humanitarian situation, saying, “You all know that the cholera epidemic has increased, reaching more than 25,000 cases and there have been many deaths in less than two weeks.”

The UN envoy’s visit to Yemen was met with protests as some 200 people marched from the UN headquarters in Sana’a to the city’s airport.

The demonstrators pelted Ahmed’s motorcade with rocks, shoes, and eggs as the Mauritanian diplomat was leaving the Sana’a Airport. His bodyguards fired into the air to disperse the crowd.

The Yemeni protesters carried banners, reading “Lift the blockade of Sana’a Airport.” The airport has been closed to commercial flights since August 2016, after the Riyadh regime imposed an air embargo on it.

Posted in USA, YemenComments Off on US attack kills 7 in central Yemen

Iran asks US to stop arming ‘main terror sponsors’

NOVANEWS
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Iran has urged the US to stop supplying arms to “main sponsors of terrorism” after President Donald Trump clinched a massive military deal with Saudi Arabia on his first visit to the Middle East.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi called on Washington on Monday to abandon its “policy of warmongering, meddling, Iranophobia and sales of dangerous and useless weapons to the main sponsors of terrorism.”

“Unfortunately, under the hostile and aggressive policies of the American statesmen, we are witnessing a renewed strengthening of terrorist groups in the region and miscalculation of the dictatorships which support these groups,” he said.

Qassemi hit out at Trump’s accusations that Iran was funding, arming and training “terrorists, militias and other extremist groups that spread destruction and chaos across the region.”

“Once again, by his meddling, repetitive and baseless claims about Iran, the American president tried to encourage the countries of the region to purchase more arms by spreading Iranophobia,” the spokesman said.

“It is surprising that Iran is being accused of destabilizing the region by a country which has been an accomplice to the Zionist regime’s crackdown on the oppressed Palestinian nation through all-out arms, financial and intelligence support for decades,” Qassemi said.

In recent years, the US “has been complicit in the massacre of the defenseless Yemeni people through arming certain Arab regimes in the Persian Gulf,” he added.

The official touched on US role in “creating and cultivating Takfiri-terrorist currents, including Daesh” and strongly criticized “deceitful stances, meddlesome statements, and destructive measures” of the new US administration.

Such measures, he said, are aimed at “confronting people’s rule on their destiny in the regional countries and consolidating the position and superiority of the Zionist regime.”

“US support and that of its regional allies for terrorists is so obvious that their escape forward and accusations of terrorism support against others have no buyers,” Qassemi said.

“If financial, arms and intelligence resources of Daesh, Nusra Front and other terrorist groups are cut, they will be finished easily. They resist because these countries’ support for the terrorists continues,” he added.

His remarks came a day after Trump ended his visit to Saudi Arabia where arms deals worth $110 billion were signed.

Qassemi said, “Regional countries, instead of spending billions of dollars from their people’s assets on an illusory American support, had better think about the real stability, welfare, tranquility and peace of their people and spend these exorbitant sums on development and constructive regional cooperation.”

Qassemi deplored that “certain regional countries, instead of depending on the power of their people and regional cooperation capacities, have set heart on the support of big powers.”

Those countries, he said, “are paving the way for vital infrastructures of the regional countries to weaken and collapse, a case in point being the deplorable situation of Yemen and destruction of Syrian infrastructures by Takfiri terrorists.”

Trump’s accusations against Tehran came shortly after Hassan Rouhani was re-elected president.

Qassemi said the US and its allies “should know that Iran, as a democratic, stable and powerful country enjoying popular support, is a harbinger of peace, tranquility and good neighborliness in the region and a front-runner in the global fight against violence and extremism,” and that Tehran would not go off this course with the hostile rhetoric of those countries.

Posted in USA, IranComments Off on Iran asks US to stop arming ‘main terror sponsors’

Hunger Striking for Palestinian Rights

NOVANEWS
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Salt

By Philip Giraldi • Unz Review • May 23, 2017

Marwan Barghouti has stopped drinking water. He started his hunger strike thirty-six days ago, together with 1,500 other Palestinians who are being held in Israeli prisons. Each day the strikers have been drinking water mixed with salt, the salt needed to keep their electrolytes functioning to stay alive, but their health has reached a critical phase in which they are experiencing vomiting, fainting and loss of vision. Barghouti, who has been in Israeli prisons for 15 years, is wagering with his own life in a bid to obtain better conditions for the 6,500 Palestinians in Israeli detention, most of whom have been imprisoned on faux terrorism related charges by military tribunals that have a 90% conviction rate. Nearly 500 children are among the prisoners, some of whom are only 12 years old, and there are also an estimated 500 Palestinians held in administrative detention, which permits the Israeli authorities to confine them indefinitely without any charges or any trial.

The Israeli authorities describe the hunger strike as a “violation of prison rules.” In the past, they have responded to such protests by bringing in doctors to help restrain and supervise force feeding of the strikers, but the practice proved very controversial among members of the medical profession and has been suspended, though there have been suggestions that “foreign” doctors might be brought in to do the dirty work. So it is to be presumed that the strike will continue until the protesters either win, begin to die or choose to cease and desist.

I have had the pleasure of speaking recently with Marwan’s youngest son Arab, a graduate of St. Mary’s College of California with a master’s degree in financial analysis, who has begun a campaign to publicize his father’s resistance against the Israeli prison authorities. He has been asking supporters to themselves drink salt water as a sign of solidarity with the hunger strikers. Many prominent Palestinians have done so publicly and the practice has become widespread both in Gaza and on the West Bank as well as among activists in Europe and the United States. It is also gaining strength on the social media, most particularly on Facebook, with videos of supporters of the Salt Water Challenge Salt Water Challenge inviting their friends to join the movement. Hunger striking is the ultimate personal statement, a peaceful form of protest that can only be effective if it helps to mobilize other forces to bring about change. With that in mind, the account of the suffering of Marwan Barghouti and his comrades in prison deserves the widest possible dissemination worldwide.

Marwan Barghouti is, not surprisingly, a controversial figure. His resistance to the Israeli occupation of his homeland began early at age 15 when he joined Fatah and eventually went on to co-found the organization’s youth movement. He later assumed leadership of its paramilitary wing Tanzim, though he eventually distanced himself from Fatah due to its corruption and for a short time headed his own reform party. He subsequently rejoined Fatah in 2006 and is now a member of the Palestinian Parliament. He is widely regarded as the most popular of Palestinian leaders even though he is in prison, or perhaps in part because of that.

Barghouti’s biography reads like a work of fiction. One of seven children, his father was a migrant worker. He completed high school while in an Israeli prison, where he learned Hebrew, and then went on to complete a BA in history and political science followed by an MA in international relations, both at the Palestinian Birzeit University. It required 15 years to complete his degrees because he was exiled to Jordan by the Israelis from 1987 to 1994 for his involvement in the First Intifada after being charged with “incitement,” a favorite catch-all phrase frequently used by Israel to indict anyone who is perceived as an opponent or critic when no actual charges can be plausibly supported by evidence.

Marwan Barghouti was indeed prominent in both the First and Second Intifadas due to his undoubtedly correct belief that a powerful Israel had no interest in any peaceful accommodation with the beleaguered Palestinians. He supported sometimes violent resistance and provocations directed at Israeli soldiers and settlers on the West Bank, though he did not consider Israeli citizens inside Israel legitimate targets. In 2002, he was arrested in Ramallah by the Israelis during the Second Intifada and eventually convicted of five counts of murder plus additional charges. He was given the maximum sentence of five cumulative life sentences for the alleged murders plus forty additional years for attempted murder and membership in an illegal organization.

In his trial Barghouti denied everything but refused to defend himself, claiming that the court had no jurisdiction and that he was legitimately resisting the Israeli occupation of his home. No one was able to demonstrate that he had actually killed anyone but the prosecution insisted that he had given the orders to do so. It should be noted that it was a political rather than a criminal event and completely illegal as he was a Palestinian living in Ramallah who was being tried in an Israeli court and sentenced to prison in Israel. The Inter-Parliamentary union subsequently reviewed the case and found that it had violated the accused’s rights and that numerous international legal agreements and norms were contravened.

Since 2002, there have been growing demands for Marwan Barghouti’s release, including from some Israeli politicians and peace groups, based on his relative moderation and desire to see a peaceful transition into a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine. He has sometimes been likened to Nelson Mandela as someone who could potentially bring order and justice to an apparently intractable situation. Barghouti is undeniably more popular than either Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah or Ismail Haniya of Hamas. If he were free and an election were held today, he would undoubtedly be elected Palestinian president.

It is important to understand the context of the plight of the Palestinian prisoners to appreciate where Barghouti’s struggle for Palestinian rights derives from. Israel shoots to kill Arab demonstrators, including children, who throw stones. It engages in illegal mass, arbitrary arrests of Palestinians who do not reside in Israel but are nevertheless subject to control by the Israeli military authorities who have a relatively free hand on the West Bank. Once convicted by a military court, which is almost always the case, the prisoners are then held in Israel, a violation of international law, while their homes back in the Palestinian territories are frequently demolished to collectively punish the families. The trip through Israeli security barriers from the West Bank to the prisons requires 20 hours travel each way, leading to a 45 minute visit with a barrier in between so no one can actually see anyone else. A one visit per year limit for anyone over 16 is part of a process intended to further punish the families. Prisoners are routinely tortured by Israel, including the “Palestinian Chair, an excruciating procedure which was developed by the Israel Defense Force’s interrogators and later taught to Americans and used at Abu Ghraib. Hundreds of Arabs have also been killed while in custody and reports of organ harvesting have surfaced in the international media.

Over the past fifty years, an estimated 800,000 Palestinians have been imprisoned by Israel at one time or another, fully 40% of the adult male population. Meanwhile, Israeli settlers run amok on the West Bank, protected by the police and army as they attack Palestinians at random and systematically destroy their livelihoods. They are rarely arrested and, if they are, they are tried in Israeli civil courts where they are nearly always acquitted. It is a situation that would be unimaginable nearly anywhere else in the world but Israel gets away with it due to a sympathetic Jewish dominated media in the U.S. and lickspittle politicians worldwide who can easily be bought or coerced.

Numerous international laws and the Geneva Conventions have been violated in the horrific treatment of the Palestinians but Israel continues to act with impunity. Israel’s colonial occupation and theft of Palestinian land are illegal and have been frequently condemned by world bodies like the United Nations. The United States agrees that the settlements are illegal, though it avoids the word, but it balks at calling out the brutal Israeli military occupation for what it is. The U.S. has also served as Israel’s protector in the U.N. and elsewhere, meaning that there is no pushback against Israeli actions that is in any way commensurate to the crimes that its government commits.

The current American Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley is a virtual echo chamber for Israel’s Foreign Ministry. She sells out U.S. interests to pander to the powerful domestic Israel Lobby which uses its money and political access to corrupt American politicians as well as judicial processes worldwide, as Alison Weir has recently demonstrated with her brilliant analysis of how any criticism of Israel is now being conflated with anti-Semitism and increasingly regarded as a universal “hate crime.”

Israeli apologists like to frame the Palestinian “problem” as a group of unredeemable terrorists who have to be dealt with harshly, a narrative that portrays all Arabs as a threat. But the reality is that Israel has overwhelming power and exercises brutal control over the Palestinian population, which is treated as if it were subhuman. Indeed, many Israelis believe that Arabs are subhuman and deserve to be “ethnically cleansed.” But a people under occupation, even if relatively powerless, has a right to resist under international law, to include the use of violence, which is what the two Intifadas were all about.

One has to hope that Marwan Barghouti succeeds in his resistance and that his son Arab will be able to reach the widest possible audience to publicize what exactly is going on in Israel’s prisons and by extension in its cruel occupation and settlement of what remains of Palestine. And we should not forget other prisoners of conscience like Israeli nuclear whistleblower Moredechai Vanunu, who has yet again had his liberty restricted by the country’s Supreme Court. Israel is an essentially racist police state in spite of its frequent boasts about its alleged democracy but the important message for us Americans is that we have unfortunately served as Benjamin Netanyahu’s enablers. The Palestinians deserve a state of their own and the time has come for the United States to demand that Israel free all political prisoners like Marwan Barghouti and allow that to happen.

Posted in Palestine Affairs, ZIO-NAZI, Human RightsComments Off on Hunger Striking for Palestinian Rights


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