Archive | July 7th, 2017

Egypt hikes electricity prices by more than 40% as demanded by IMF

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Egypt has decided to raise electricity prices by more than 40 percent as demanded by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in order to receive a $12 billion bailout loan.

Electricity Minister Mohamed Shaker said on Thursday the new charges would apply as of July, which are likely to further deepen the economic woes of most Egyptians.

He said households would now be paying between 18 and 42 percent more on their bills depending on the category and level of their consumption but some of the subsidies would remain in place.

Under the IMF-devised austerity plan, Cairo is obliged to cut subsidies as a condition to receive installments of the three-year loan.

“We were supposed to have been completely done with the (electricity) subsidy in the current and next fiscal years,” Shaker said.

“But considering the special situation related to the large increase in the exchange rate, we extended this period to an additional three years,” he added.

Since November, Egyptian authorities have floated the country’s currency, slashed fuel subsidies twice, and adopted a value added tax as part of the program, which has led to soaring consumer prices.

The value of the Egyptian pound has since plummeted. One US dollar which was worth 8.8 pounds at the official exchange rate in November sells for more than 17 pounds now. Annual inflation reached 30.9 percent in May.

Egypt’s economy has hugely suffered since long-time dictator Hosni Mubarak was ousted from power in 2011, and the country’s first democratically-elected president, Mohamed Morsi, was toppled in 2013.

The current president and former head of the armed forces, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, came to power following a military coup.

The country has seen a rise in violence under Sisi and the once-booming tourism sector of Egypt has suffered greatly due to a hike in terrorism.

People also blame Sisi for wasting billions of dollars on mega-projects such as the controversial expansion of the Suez Canal.

The cash-strapped Sisi administration has tried to persuade the public that painful austerity measures would be to the benefit of the country.

However, frustration is high among Egypt’s 90 million population, especially in the wake of a controversial agreement to transfer the sovereignty of two islands in the Red Sea to Saudi Arabia.

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US rejects Russo-Chinese proposal to suspend drills in South Korea

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The US rejects a proposal by Russia and China to suspend joint drills with South Korea in exchange for North Korea freezing its nuclear weapons programs, the State Department said, adding that Washington does not see the activities as equivalent.

US drills with South Korea are not the same as North Korea’s missile and nuclear tests, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters Thursday.

“These are all things that have taken place since the 1950s. So that wouldn’t change,” Nauert said, describing the drills as lawful and longstanding.

“We do these kinds of exercises and have relationships like this all over the globe. If China and Russia decide to come out against that, that is not going to change our position,” she added.

Moscow and Beijing have called on Washington and Seoul to freeze large-scale military exercises in an attempt to calm tensions on the Korean peninsula after Pyongyang test-fired a missile it said could reach the US mainland.

The US diplomatic offensive to pressure and isolate North Korea is still in its early stages, according to the State Department spokeswoman.

“We continue to believe that China can do a whole lot more to try to bring additional pressure to North Korea,” Nauert said, adding that China has “unique leverage” with Pyongyang because of the “strong trade relationship” between two countries.

One of the measures the US has proposed to other countries is to drastically scale back the number of North Korean guest-workers, Nauert said.

She also referenced last week’s decision by the US Treasury Department to sanction a Chinese bank that did business with Pyongyang, although she declined to say whether more such sanctions were in the works.

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MSM, Still Living in Propaganda-ville

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By Robert Parry | Consortium news | 

As much as the U.S. mainstream media wants people to believe that it is the Guardian of Truth, it is actually lost in a wilderness of propaganda and falsehoods, a dangerous land of delusion that is putting the future of humankind at risk as tensions escalate with nuclear-armed Russia.

This media problem has grown over recent decades as lucrative careerism has replaced responsible professionalism. Pack journalism has always been a threat to quality reporting but now it has evolved into a self-sustaining media lifestyle in which the old motto, “there’s safety in numbers,” is borne out by the fact that being horrendously wrong, such as on Iraq’s WMD, leads to almost no accountability because so many important colleagues were wrong as well.

Similarly, there has been no accountability after many mainstream journalists and commentators falsely stated as flat-fact that “all 17 U.S. intelligence agencies” concurred that Russia did “meddle” in last November’s U.S. election.

For months, this claim has been the go-to put-down whenever anyone questions the groupthink of Russian venality perverting American democracy. Even the esteemed “Politifact” deemed the assertion “true.” But it was never true.

It was at best a needled distortion of a claim by President Obama’s Director of National Intelligence James Clapper when he issued a statement last Oct. 7 alleging Russian meddling. Because Clapper was the chief of the U.S. Intelligence Community, his opinion morphed into a claim that it represented the consensus of all 17 intelligence agencies, a dishonest twist that Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton began touting.

However, for people who understand how the U.S. Intelligence Community works, the claim of a 17-agencies consensus has a specific meaning, some form of a National Intelligence Estimate (or NIE) that seeks out judgments and dissents from the various agencies.

But there was no NIE regarding alleged Russian meddling and there apparently wasn’t even a formal assessment from a subset of the agencies at the time of Clapper’s statement. President Obama did not order a publishable assessment until December – after the election – and it was not completed until Jan. 6, when a report from Clapper’s office presented the opinions of analysts from the Central Intelligence Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National Security Agency – three agencies (or four if you count the DNI’s office), not 17.

Lacking Hard Evidence

The report also contained no hard evidence of a Russian “hack” and amounted to a one-sided circumstantial case at best. However, by then, the U.S. mainstream media had embraced the “all-17-intelligence-agencies” refrain and anyone who disagreed, including President Trump, was treated as delusional. The argument went: “How can anyone question what all 17 intelligence agencies have confirmed as true?”

It wasn’t until May 8 when then-former DNI Clapper belatedly set the record straight in sworn congressional testimony in which he explained that there were only three “contributing agencies” from which analysts were “hand-picked.”

The reference to “hand-picked” analysts pricked the ears of some former U.S. intelligence analysts who had suffered through earlier periods of “politicized” intelligence when malleable analysts were chosen to deliver what their political bosses wanted to hear.

On May 23, also in congressional testimony, former CIA Director John Brennan confirmed Clapper’s description, saying only four of the 17 U.S. intelligence agencies took part in the assessment.

Brennan said the Jan. 6 report “followed the general model of how you want to do something like this with some notable exceptions. It only involved the FBI, NSA and CIA as well as the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. It wasn’t a full inter-agency community assessment that was coordinated among the 17 agencies.”

After this testimony, some of the major news organizations, which had been waving around the “17-intelligence-agencies” meme, subtly changed their phrasing to either depict Russian “meddling” as an established fact no longer requiring attribution or referred to the “unanimous judgment” of the Intelligence Community without citing a specific number.

This “unanimous judgment” formulation was deceptive, too, because it suggested that all 17 agencies were in accord albeit without exactly saying that. For a regular reader of The New York Times or a frequent viewer of CNN, the distinction would almost assuredly not be detected.

For more than a month after the Clapper-Brennan testimonies, there was no formal correction.

A Belated Correction

Finally, on June 25, the Times’ hand was forced when White House correspondent Maggie Haberman reverted to the old formulation, mocking Trump for “still refus[ing] to acknowledge a basic fact agreed upon by 17 American intelligence agencies that he now oversees: Russia orchestrated the attacks, and did it to help get him elected.”

When this falsehood was called to the Times’ attention, it had little choice but to append a correction to the article, noting that the intelligence “assessment was made by four intelligence agencies — the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the Central Intelligence Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National Security Agency. The assessment was not approved by all 17 organizations in the American intelligence community.”

The Associated Press ran a similar “clarification” applied to some of its fallacious reporting repeating the “17-intelligence-agencies” meme.

So, you might have thought that the mainstream media was finally adjusting its reporting to conform to reality. But that would mean that one of the pillars of the Russia-gate “scandal” had crumbled, the certainty that Russia and Putin did “meddle” in the election.

The story would have to go back to square one and the major news organizations would have to begin reporting on whether or not there ever was solid evidence to support what had become a “certainty” – and there appeared to be no stomach for such soul-searching. Since pretty much all the important media figures had made the same error, it would be much easier to simply move on as if nothing had changed.

That would mean that skepticism would still be unwelcome and curious leads would not be followed. For instance, there was a head-turning reference in an otherwise typical Washington Post take-out on June 25 accusing Russia of committing “the crime of the century.”

A reference, stuck deep inside the five-page opus, said, “Some of the most critical technical intelligence on Russia came from another country, officials said. Because of the source of the material, the NSA was reluctant to view it with high confidence.”

Though the Post did not identify the country, this reference suggests that more than one key element of the case for Russian culpability was based not on direct investigations by the U.S. intelligence agencies, but on the work of external organizations.

Earlier, the Democratic National Committee denied the FBI access to its supposedly hacked computers, forcing the investigators to rely on a DNC contractor called CrowdStrike, which has a checkered record of getting this sort of analytics right and whose chief technology officer, Dmitri Alperovitch, is an anti-Putin Russian émigré with ties to the anti-Russian think tank, Atlantic Council.

Relying on Outsiders

You might be wondering why something as important as this “crime of the century,” which has pushed the world closer to nuclear annihilation, is dependent on dubious entities outside the U.S. government with possible conflicts of interest.

If the U.S. government really took this issue seriously, which it should, why didn’t the FBI seize the DNC’s computers and insist that impartial government experts lead the investigation? And why – given the extraordinary expertise of the NSA in computer hacking – is “some of the most critical technical intelligence on Russia [coming] from another country,” one that doesn’t inspire the NSA’s confidence?

But such pesky questions are not likely to be asked or answered by a mainstream U.S. media that displays deep-seated bias toward both Putin and Trump.

Mostly, major news outlets continue to brush aside the clarifications and return to various formulations that continue to embrace the “17-intelligence-agencies” canard, albeit in slightly different forms, such as references to the collective Intelligence Community without the specific number. Anyone who questions this established conventional wisdom is still crazy and out of step.

For instance, James Holmes of Esquire was stunned on Thursday when Trump at a news conference in Poland reminded the traveling press corps about the inaccurate reporting regarding the 17 intelligence agencies and said he still wasn’t entirely sure about Russia’s guilt.

“In public, he’s still casting doubt on the intelligence community’s finding that Russia interfered in the 2016 election nearly nine months after the fact,” Holmes sputtered before describing Trump’s comment as a “rant.”

So, if you thought that a chastened mainstream media might stop in the wake of the “17-intelligence-agencies” falsehood and rethink the whole Russia-gate business, you would have been sadly mistaken.

But the problem is not just the question of whether Russia hacked into Democratic emails and slipped them to WikiLeaks for publication (something that both Russia and WikiLeaks deny). Perhaps the larger danger is how the major U.S. news outlets have adopted a consistently propagandistic approach toward everything relating to Russia.

Hating Putin

This pattern traces back to the earliest days of Vladimir Putin’s presidency in 2000 when he began to rein in the U.S.-prescribed “shock therapy,” which had sold off Russia’s assets to well-connected insiders, making billions of dollars for the West-favored “oligarchs,” even as the process threw millions of average Russian into poverty.

But the U.S. mainstream media’s contempt for Putin reached new heights after he helped President Obama head off neoconservative (and liberal interventionist) demands for a full-scale U.S. military assault on Syria in August 2013 and helped bring Iran into a restrictive nuclear agreement when the neocons wanted to bomb-bomb-bomb Iran.

The neocons delivered their payback to Putin in early 2014 by supporting a violent coup in Ukraine, overthrowing elected President Viktor Yanukovych and installing a fiercely anti-Russian regime. The U.S. operation was spearheaded by neocon National Endowment for Democracy President Carl Gershman and neocon Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland, with enthusiastic support from neocon Sen. John McCain.

Nuland was heard in an intercepted pre-coup phone call with U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt discussing who should become the new leaders and pondering how to “glue” or “midwife this thing.”

Despite the clear evidence of U.S. interference in Ukrainian politics, the U.S. government and the mainstream media embraced the coup and accused Putin of “aggression” when ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine, called the Donbas, resisted the coup regime.

When ethnic Russians and other citizens in Crimea voted overwhelmingly in a referendum to reject the coup regime and rejoin Russia – a move protected by some of the 20,000 Russian troops inside Crimea as part of a basing agreement – that became a Russian “invasion.” But it was the most peculiar “invasion,” since there were no images of tanks crashing across borders or amphibious landing craft on Crimean beaches, because no such “invasion” had occurred.

However, in virtually every instance, the U.S. mainstream media insisted on the most extreme anti-Russian propaganda line and accused people who questioned this Official Narrative of disseminating Russian “propaganda – or being a “Moscow stooge” or acting as a “useful fool.” There was no tolerance for skepticism about whatever the State Department or the Washington think tanks were saying.

Trump Meets Putin

So, as Trump prepares for his first meeting with Putin at the G-20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, the U.S. mainstream media has been in a frenzy, linking up its groupthinks about the Ukraine “invasion” with its groupthinks about Russian “hacking” the election.

In a July 3 editorialThe Washington Post declared, “Mr. Trump simply cannot fail to admonish Mr. Putin for Russia’s attempts to meddle in the 2016 presidential election. He must make clear the United States will not tolerate it, period. Naturally, this is a difficult issue for Mr. Trump, who reaped the benefit of Russia’s intervention and now faces a special counsel’s investigation, but nonetheless, in his first session with Mr. Putin, the president must not hesitate to be blunt. …

“On Ukraine, Mr. Trump must also display determination. Russia fomented an armed uprising and seized Crimea in violation of international norms, and it continues to instigate violence in the Donbas. Mr. Trump ought to make it unmistakably clear to Mr.Putin that the United States will not retreat from the sanctions imposed over Ukraine until the conditions of peace agreements are met.”

Along the same lines, even while suggesting the value of some collaboration with Russia toward ending the war in Syria, Post columnist David Ignatius wrote in a July 5 column, “Russian-American cooperation on Syria faces a huge obstacle right now. It would legitimize a Russian regime that invaded Ukraine and meddled in U.S. and European elections, in addition to its intervention in Syria.”

Note the smug certainty of Ignatius and the Post editors. There is no doubt that Russia “invaded” Ukraine; “seized” Crimea; “meddled” in U.S. and European elections. Yet all these groupthinks should be subjected to skepticism, not simply treated as undeniable truths.

But seeing only one side to a story is where the U.S. mainstream media is at this point in history. Yes, it is possible that Russia was responsible for the Democratic hacks and did funnel the material to WikiLeaks, but evidence has so far been lacking. And, instead of presenting both sides fairly, the major media acts as if only one side deserves any respect and dissenting views must be ridiculed and condemned.

In this perverted process, collectively approved versions of complex situations congeal into conventional wisdom, which simply cannot be significantly reconsidered regardless of future revelations.

As offensive as this rejection of true truth-seeking may be, it also represents an extraordinary danger when mixed with the existential risk of nuclear conflagration.

With the stakes this high, the demand for hard evidence – and the avoidance of soft-minded groupthink – should go without question. Journalists and commentators should hold themselves to professional precision, not slide into sloppy careerism, lost in “propaganda-ville.”

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Nazi regime plans to install Zionist Dahlan instead of Ab-A$$

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A leading Zionist writer revealed yesterday an ‘Israel’-Egypt-UAE plan to install Mohamed Dahlan as the leader of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip instead of Mahmoud Ab-A$$.

In an opinion piece in Haaretz, Zvi Bar’el said that while Hamas would remain in control of security and not be demilitarised, at least “Israel would have a partner in Gaza who supports reconciliation” with the Zionist state.

Zionist Dahlan, he pointed out, is the Palestinian president’s “political rival” and if the plan succeeds it is expected that Ab-A$$ would be “pushed into a dark corner”, leaving the former Fatah official free to move against him. The endgame could see Zionist Dahlan installed as Ab-A$$ successor at the top of the Palestinian Authority, Fatah and the PLO.

According to Bar’el, Egypt will ease the siege of Gaza by opening the Rafah Border Crossing for people and goods. The UAE, meanwhile, will fund a power station on the Egyptian side of the border near Rafah; a port is also a possibility. Dahlan is very close to the governments in Cairo and Abu Dhabi.

“It’s still too early to assess whether this plan will be fully implemented,” he wrote, “and if Hamas will agree to place Dahlan at the head of the Gaza government, a step that could all but sever Gaza from the West Bank, especially given the long feud between Abbas and Dahlan.” On the other hand, the writer pointed out, if the plan does come to fruition, it could make an Israeli-Egyptian dream come true. A “state of Gaza” could become a reality with Dahlan at its head, something that, for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, is “the plan’s key”.

If the plan succeeds, said Bar’el, it would “neutralise” the role of Qatar and Turkey in Gaza. He described Israel’s policy of “what’s good for Hamas is bad for Israel, and what helps Gazans strengthens Hamas” as a “failed concept”. Instead, he clearly believes that this “new strategy” which places the people of Gaza first should be given serious consideration.

Observers point out that it is significant that Bar’el refers to “Gazans” and “people of Gaza” rather than Palestinians in Gaza. “This,” said one, “tries to convince the world that ‘Gazans’ are somehow not Palestinians and all actually belong in the Gaza Strip. The reality is that most of the residents of Gaza do not originate there; they come from places inside what is now Israel and are refugees by design, not choice.”

“The Gaza Strip” is a relatively recent term, he added. “It’s only been used since the Nakba of 1948, prior to which the land was simply part of historic Palestine.”

Read also:

Hamas delegation reaches ‘understandings’ with Egypt and meets Dahlan reps

Dahlan behind differences between Egypt and Fatah

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The Scofield Bible—The Book That Made Zionists of America’s Evangelical Christians

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“For a nation to commit the sin of anti-Semitism brings inevitable judgement.” —The New Scofield Study Bible
By Maidhc Ó Cathail 

Since it was first published in 1909, the Scofield Reference Bible has made uncompromising Zionists out of tens of millions of Americans. When John Hagee, the founder of Christians United for Israel (CUFI), said that “50 million evangelical bible-believing Christians unite with five million American Jews standing together on behalf of Israel,” it was the Scofield Bible that he was talking about.

Although the Scofield Reference Bible contains the text of the King James Authorized Version, it is not the traditional Protestant bible but Cyrus I. Scofield’s annotated commentary that is problematic. More than any other factor, it is Scofield’s notes that have induced generations of American evangelicals to believe that God demands their uncritical support for the modern State of Israel.

Blessing Israel, Cursing Its Critics

Central to Christian Zionist belief is Scofield’s commentary (italicized below) on Genesis 12:3: “‘I will bless them that bless thee.’ In fulfillment closely related to the next clause, ‘And curse him that curseth thee.’ Wonderfully fulfilled in the history of the dispersion. It has invariably fared ill with the people who have persecuted the Jew—well with those who have protected him. The future will still more remarkably prove this principle.”

Drawing on Scofield’s rather tendentious interpretation, Hagee claims, “The man or nation that lifts a voice or hand against Israel invites the wrath of God.”

But as Stephen Sizer points out in his definitive critique, Christian Zionism: Road-map to Armageddon? (available from AET’s Middle East Books and More): “The promise, when referring to Abraham’s descendants, speaks of God blessing them, not of entire nations ‘blessing’ the Hebrew nation, still less the contemporary and secular State of Israel.”

Notwithstanding this more orthodox reading, The New Scofield Study Bible, published by Oxford University Press in 1984, intensified Scofield’s interpretation by adding, “For a nation to commit the sin of anti-Semitism brings inevitable judgement.”

“Sustained by a dubious exegesis of selective biblical texts,” Sizer concludes, “Christian Zionism’s particular reading of history and contemporary events… sets Israel and the Jewish people apart from other peoples in the Middle East… it justifies the endemic racism intrinsic to Zionism, exacerbates tensions between Jews and Palestinians and undermines attempts to find a peaceful resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, all because ‘the Bible tells them so.’”

The Incredible Scofield

In his 2008 book, The Rise of Israel: A History of a Revolutionary State, Jonathan R. Adelman describes the crucial support Israel receives from Christian fundamentalists as “totally fortuitous.” That assertion is belied, however, by the incredible career of the man who wrote “the Bible of Fundamentalism.”

Two years after Scofield’s reported conversion to Christianity in 1879, the Atchison Patriot was less than impressed. Describing the former Atchison resident as the “late lawyer, politician and shyster generally,” the article went on to recount a few of Scofield’s “many malicious acts.” These included a series of forgeries in St. Louis, for which he was sentenced to six months in jail.

Being a “born again” preacher did not preclude Scofield from becoming a member of an exclusive New York men’s club in 1901, either. In his devastating biography, The Incredible Scofield and His Book, Joseph M. Canfield suggests, “The admission of Scofield to the Lotus Club, which could not have been sought by Scofield, strengthens the suspicion that has cropped up before, that someone was directing the career of C.I. Scofield.”

That someone, Canfield suspects, was associated with one of the club’s committee members, the Wall Street lawyer Samuel Untermeyer. As Canfield intimates, Scofield’s theology was “most helpful in getting Fundamentalist Christians to back the international interest in one of Untermeyer’s pet projects—the Zionist Movement.”

Others have been even more explicit about the nature of Scofield’s service to the Zionist agenda. In “Unjust War Theory: Christian Zionism and the Road to Jerusalem,” Prof. David W. Lutz writes, “Untermeyer used Scofield, a Kansas City lawyer with no formal training in theology, to inject Zionist ideas into American Protestantism. Untermeyer and other wealthy and influential Zionists whom he introduced to Scofield promoted and funded the latter’s career, including travel in Europe.”

On one of these European trips, Oxford University Press publisher Henry Frowde “expressed immediate interest” in Scofield’s project. According to a biography of Frowde, although the OUP publisher was “[n]ot demonstrative in his religious views, all his Christian life he was associated with brethren known as ‘Exclusive.’” The “Exclusive Brethren” refers to the group of Christian evangelicals that, in an 1848 split in the Plymouth Brethren, followed John Nelson Darby, the Anglo-Irish missionary generally considered to have been the most influential figure in the development of Christian Zionism, and a major influence on Scofield.

Scofield’s Legacy

Had the Scofield Bible never been published, American presidents influenced by Christian Zionism such as Truman, Johnson, Reagan and George W. Bush might have been less sympathetic to Israeli demands, and consequently more attentive to U.S. interests. Moreover, the American people could have been spared the pseudo-Christian rants of John Hagee, Pat Robertson and the late Jerry Falwell, not to mention the lucrative End Times Rapture “prophecy” peddled by Hal Lindsey and Tim LaHaye.

But it is the people of the Middle East who have been most affected by an expansionist Israel emboldened by the unswerving allegiance of Christian Zionists led to believe that Scofield’s words are God’s will. Not least among the many victims of the Scofield Bible are 5 million Palestinian refugees whose right to return is fervently opposed by America’s Zionized Christians. Thanks to their indoctrination by Scofield’s unholy book, they believe that Palestine belongs not to the Palestinians—many of whom are fellow Christians—but exclusively to “God’s chosen people.”

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Nazi attorney general okays controversial 1967 settlement order

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A newly released report says Nazi attorney general Avichai Mendelblit approved last year the use of a controversial 1967 order to legalize Nazi Jewish illegal settler units built on private Palestinian land.

During a meeting attended by several Nazi judicial officials, Mendelblit said the “Order Concerning Government Property,” which was issued in July 1967, could be invoked to expropriate Palestinian land, Zionist newspaper Haaretz reported on Sunday.

Clause 5 of the order states that “any transaction concluded in good faith between the authorities and another person … will not be struck down and is valid, even if it is proven that the asset was not government property at the time of its purchase.”

Mendelblit’s office said in a document that the clause had rarely been used in almost five decades, but “the need to make use of it has arisen now.”

It further set out a number of conditions for invoking the clause, such as purchase in good faith, the existence of a contract and payment having been made for the land.

“The use of Clause 5 should be limited as a rule to the built residential boundaries of the community, and to actual construction done before the parties to the transaction became aware that this was in fact not government property,” the document added.

Back in February, Nazi parliament, known as the Knesset, passed a law on the expropriation of privately-owned Palestinian land in the West Bank, where Israeli settlements or outposts have been constructed.

However, Palestinians filed petitions to the Nazi High Court against the law.

Mendelblit proposed that the Nazi parliament suspend the land garb law until the court rules on the petitions and the Knesset accepted the bid.

Dror Etkes, anti-settlement activist, said the document by Mendelblit’s office seems to be “a parallel path being prepared … for the day after the High Court tosses the [expropriation] law into the garbage.”

“The purpose of this legal construction, rotten from the foundation, is to raise the claim of ‘good faith’ wherever Israel has stolen private Palestinian land and given it to settlers,” he said. “This is a situation in which lies, denial, violence and manipulation prevail – that is, everything except good faith.”

About 600,000 Nazi live in over 230 settlements built illegally since the 1967 occupation of the Palestinian territories.

The continued expansion of Nazi Jewish settlements is one of the major obstacles to the establishment of peace in the Middle East.

In recent months, Tel Aviv has stepped up its settlement construction activities in the occupied Palestinian territories in a blatant violation of international law and in defiance of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334.

The resolution, which was passed last December, states that Nazi establishment of settlements in the occupied territories, including East Jerusalem al-Quds, “had no legal validity” and urges the regime to immediately and completely cease all its settlement activities.

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Apartheid illustrated: Nazi soldier shoots another soldier in Hebron

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On Tuesday, 4th July 2017, Nazi forces were conducting a ‘military training’ in a civilian Palestinian neighborhood near Gilbert checkpoint in Tel Rumeida in occupied al-Khalil (Hebron). The result of this ‘military training’ was a fatal shot by one Nazi soldier to the other. The injured commander was immediately evacuated to hospital by an Nazi ambulance, and was later confirmed dead. The Israeli forces immediately closed the whole area to Palestinians by closing all the checkpoints, collectively punishing the civilian Palestinian population. The army, after the incident, announced that these ‘military trainings’ will be suspended in al-Khalil.

The whole incident, though, needs to be contextualized: an occupying army conducted a ‘military training’ near a Nazi checkpoint installed for the control and humiliation of the occupied population, in a civilian residential neighborhood. Immediate medical assistance to the injured occupying soldier, with an ambulance that, without any problems, was granted immediate access to the injured.

Military trainings, under international humanitarian law, are prohibited in civilian areas. Nazi occupying army in al-Khalil, and all over the occupied territories, though, conducts trainings in civilian areas. This serves two functions: for one, it is more ‘real’, a training in the area where the perceived ‘enemy population’ is living, and second, the intimidation of the population. Nazi forces in al-Khalil are sometimes seen ‘practicing’ the ‘neutralization’, as it is called in Nazi rhetoric, of Palestinians at checkpoints. In those cases, a Palestinian that allegedly carries a knife is seen as a threat to the life of the heavily armed and armored occupation forces – and thus has to be shot and, as documented in so many cases, left to bleed to death on the ground without any medical assistance. The idea is always to shoot to kill.

Whereas Nazi soldier or settler from the illegal settlements would immediately receive medical assistance, as Nazi ambulances are free to pass, Palestinian ambulances, and actually any Palestinian vehicles (often including donkeys and bicycles) are not allowed to drive on one of the (primary artery) roads in al-Khalil – which conveniently connects the settlements in down-town al-Khalil with the Kiryat Arba settlement on the outskirts of the city. Palestinian ambulances, as they are not allowed on this street, instead, are often detained by Nazi forces at the checkpoints, denied to pass and thus denied access to give first aid.

Immediately after the incident, the Nazi forces closed all the checkpoints in the area, effectively putting the area under curfew – for Palestinian residents. Any Palestinian civilian inside the area, thus, was prevented from leaving, and anyone outside trying to reach their homes, was prevented from coming back home. This is clearly collective punishment of the Palestinian civilians, who are not involved in the incident at all – other than living in an area that the Nazi forces are trying hard to rid of any Palestinian presence. Whereas Palestinian movement was completely restricted and Palestinians trying to film the incident and it’s aftermath were stopped and harassed by soldiers. Nazi Jewish Settlers, however, from the illegal settlements, were allowed to move around freely. In a separate incident, a settler beat up a Palestinian young man, causing his face to be unrecognizable as it was covered in blood. Nazi Jewish settler though, can be sure that he’ll enjoy full impunity under the protection of the Nazi forces.

These kinds of military trainings in the aftermath were declared ‘suspended’ in the city of al-Khalil. However, only because a soldier was killed, not because of their illegal nature in civilian areas or a possible threat to the occupied population.

This incident illustrates the apartheid system installed by the Nazi occupying forces in al-Khalil, and all over the occupied Palestinian territories. An apartheid-strategy that aims to displace the Palestinian population from their homeland in favor of illegal settlements.

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China warns against escalation of tensions over North Korea

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China has warned against any rhetoric and action that could further escalate tensions on the Korean Peninsula, two days after Pyongyang test-fired its first ever intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).

“We also call on relevant parties to stay calm, exercise restraint, refrain from words and deeds that may heighten tensions, and jointly make effort for the easing of tensions,” said China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang in a press conference on Thursday.

North Korea announced on Tuesday that it had successfully tested the ICBM, with the North’s leader Kim Jong-un calling it a gift to the United States on July 4, America’s Independence Day.

Shuang’s comments came after US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson strongly condemned the launch and described it as a new escalation of the “threat” to Washington, its allies, the region, and the whole world.

On Wednesday, US Ambassador to the United Nations (UN) Nikki Haley also told the UN Security Council that her country was prepared to exert force if needed to deal with the perceived threat posed by North Korea and singled out China as key to any diplomatic solution.

Meanwhile, Russia accused the US of attempting to negatively affect Moscow’s relations with Pyongyang by leveling false allegations about the purported abuse of North Korean migrant workers in the Russian Federation.

“These allegations are unfounded. They fabricate and publish this nonsense… and then we stand and feel like justifying ourselves after this fake news,” said Maria Zakharova, a spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, in a press conference in the Russian capital.

She added that North Korean migrant laborers work in Russia according to an entirely legal 2007 intergovernmental agreement. She also said that the agreement was not in violation of any UN Security Council resolutions regarding Pyongyang.

Unsettled by North Korean missile and nuclear programs, the US has adopted a war-like posture against Pyongyang. The US recently deployed an advanced missile system on South Korean soil to counter potential threats from the North, angering Pyongyang.

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Military Action Should Be Excluded as Response to N. Korea

NOVANEWS

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Military action should not be an option considered in possible responses to North Korea’s recent launch of an ICBM and its continued work on a nuclear program, Russia’s Deputy Envoy to the United Nations Vladimir Safronkov said during a UN Security Council meeting on Wednesday.

“The possibility of taking military measures to resolve the problems of the Korean peninsula should be excluded,” Safronkov stated.

He also said any attempt to economically strangle North Korea in response to its missile test would be unacceptable.

“Attempts to economically strangle North Korea are equally unacceptable, as millions of people are in humanitarian need,” Safronkov said, after warning the Security Council countries against pursuing any military option.

Instead, the situation around the recent missile launch by North Korea requires close examination, he argued.

“The situation requires a thorough investigation and clarification,” Safronkov said.

He acknowledged that Pyongyang’s most recent missile launch is unacceptable and violated the relevant UN Security Council resolutions.

“We find this action from the DPRK to be inadmissible and to be running counter to relevant Security Council resolutions,” Safronkov said. “Russia and China have urged the DPRK to firmly comply with the provisions of set resolutions. We share the concern regarding the evolving situation in the Korean peninsula and escalation of military and political tensions on the peninsula.”

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Dodgy Prophecy and American Foreign Policy

NOVANEWS
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By Steve Cooper | CounterPunch 

Aside from the profound irony of a US spokesperson accusing another country of not being capable of good-faith negotiations, Nikki Haley’s recent comparison of Iran to the scorpion in the frog-and-scorpion fable is the latest example of overt racism being used to channel public support in favour of a war of aggression.

Full of righteous fervour for God and country (Ms. Haley is a Sikh who converted to Christianity, and a first generation immigrant from India), she appears to believe that Iran is evil, and that it is America’s responsibility to punish it regardless of 1) the consequences for Iranian civilian populations or 2) the hypocrisy of the US accusing Iran of supporting terrorism when US use of terrorists as proxies in the Middle East is a long-standing matter of record (there’s something about this rhetorical judo of accusing your opponent of what you are most guilty that seems to have massive appeal for a certain type of smug jackass).

But the bottom line remains for Ms. Haley that America is good, and any country that crosses her is evil. We can recognise in this tribal identification a vestigial genetic survival mechanism which, for Haley, transcends any consideration of racism, morality, or good taste. In our modern, enlightened times we can also recognise the danger inherent in this atavistic ‘survival mechanism’ which is why we label it ‘fanaticism’. But when we look closely at recent American history we realise that Haley’s fanaticism fits in perfectly with a curious Biblical interpretation conflating patriotism and religion whose principle tenet is an ultimate battle between good and evil, in the form of Gog and Magog:

While the Bible was a source of morality for Jimmy Carter, for Ronald Reagan it was a source of prophecy. Israel’s redemption was a critical element of God’s divine plan as Reagan understood it, and this was intimately tied with his belief in Armageddon. In 1971, as governor of California, he spoke at a banquet:

“Biblical scholars have been saying for generations that Gog must be Russia. What other powerful nation is to the north of Israel? None. But it didn’t seem to make sense before the Russian Revolution when Russia was Christian. Now it does, now that Russia has become communistic and atheistic, now that Russia has set itself against God. Now it fits the description of Gog perfectly… Everything is falling into place. It can’t be long now.  Ezekiel says that fire and brimstone will be rained upon the enemies of God’s people.  That must mean they’ll be destroyed by nuclear weapons.” (Jeremy Salt, The Unmaking of the Middle East: A History of Western Disorder in Arab Lands)

Reagan’s reference to the Old Testament book of Ezekiel is significant since this book represents a Biblical foundation for American Christians’ unquestioning support for Israel.

In 1984, worry over President Reagan’s frequent suggestions that the end of the world may be coming soon caused a group of about 100 Christian and Jewish religious leaders to sign a statement of concern saying that Armageddon theology is a false reading of the Bible and that belief in it diminishes concern about the possibility of nuclear war. (NYT, Oct 21, 1984).

While Reagan agonised over the geopolitical manifestations of Biblical events and characters, his successor, George Bush Sr, decided to take matters in his own hands by assuming the nickname ‘Magog’ himself in his Skull and Bones boy’s club.  But it was his evangelical son, Bush Jr, who took things to the next level and actually waged war on a country based on this Armageddon theology. In 2003 when he was trying to sell the Iraq invasion to French President, Jacques Chirac; Bush told Chirac that when he looked at the Middle East, he saw “Gog and Magog at work” and the Biblical prophecies unfolding. This was his overriding argument for the invasion, and it was thankfully not enough to convince Chirac.

This is pretty hair-raising stuff if you don’t necessarily believe that the Bible provides a roadmap for the future that man is able to unerringly interpret. But worse yet, it’s only a partial picture of what the Bible has to say about Gog and Magog’s adventures. What about their appearance in the book of Revelation in the New Testament?

In many ways Ezekiel provides the foundational material for Revelation (see Sverre Bøe, Gog and Magog: Ezekiel 38-39 as Pre-text for Revelation 19,17-21 and 20,7-10). But rather than present Gog as the earthly personification of Israel’s enemies, Revelation portrays Gog and Magog as both being deceived by Satan into warring against each other:

“Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, and shall come forth to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to the war: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea. And they went up over the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down out of heaven, and devoured them”

In fact, for American Christians who follow Armageddon theology, Revelation presents several serious challenges to the idea of a final battle between good and evil where Americans are the good guys. Its author, John of Patmos, was a Jew who followed Jesus and was forced into exile by the war the Roman empire waged against the Jews. John began writing Revelation barely 20 years after the Romans had desecrated and burned the Great Temple and left the inner city of Jerusalem in ruins. So when Revelation is analysed, one should not be surprised at the pronounced anti-empire message running throughout it.

After providing advice to each of the seven early Christian churches, Revelation describes a future time where massive numbers of the faithful are being persecuted and killed because of their belief in God. The prayers of these faithful mount until God finally decides to react in one of the wildest and most bizarre flights of revenge fantasy known to literature. At one point, the one responsible for the martyrdoms – the whore Babylon, a city which represents for John the Roman empire and its culture – is consumed by fire. (see Elaine Pagels – Revelations: Visions, Prophecy & Politics in the Book of Revelation)

So if you’re a modern believer in Armageddon theology, like Ronald Reagan, trying to determine who are the good and bad guys today that Revelation was referring to, you may not like what you find. The good guys are the ones who have been the most persecuted and killed because of their faith in God. If we look around the world today, the people who most closely correspond to them are not the ones American Christians might have thought. And when we try to identify the corrupt empire responsible for all the persecution and killing, the most likely suspect might give today’s Christians reason for pause…

For those of us who regard Revelation as any other story, but with profound religious and historical resonance; this New Testament book teaches that resistance to earthly authority becomes our duty when it infringes on individuals’ beliefs. But for Americans like Reagan, Bush père et fils, and now Nikki Haley, who use appeals to to their country’s intrinsic ‘goodness’ to justify its actions around the world, interpreting Revelation in a modern context cannot be acceptable. These are the kinds of people who will use Ezekiel to explain unquestioning alliance with the state of Israel, but will tell us that it’s impossible to know what Revelation is really referring to.

Fanatics come in all shapes and sizes.  But the ones responsible for American foreign policy today might do us all a favour by giving Revelation a critical read and asking themselves where they and their country fit in.

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