Archive | December 24th, 2017

Deep Pockets, Deep Cover: The UAE Is Paying Ex-CIA Officers to Build a Spy Empire in the Gulf

NOVANEWS
They hired Americans to professionalize their intelligence service. But how far can former U.S. spies go?
ILLUSTRATION BY TAYLOR CALLERY

Not far from the northeastern Zayed Port in Abu Dhabi, in a typical modern Gulf villa framed on one side by an elegant swimming pool, Westerners are teaching Emiratis the tools of modern spycraft.

The day starts with the basics: a 10 a.m. seminar on Sunday morning is titled “What is intelligence?” On Thursday, the recruits learn how to operate in four- to six-man surveillance teams. Over the course of the first week, they embark on scavenger hunts intended to hone their problem-solving skills. The following weeks get more advanced — students are schooled on creating cover identities to use when attending galas with diplomats, they are taught how to groom intelligence assets, and they watch skits about recruiting Libyan sources.

The Emirati recruits also train at another site about 30 minutes outside downtown Abu Dhabi called “The Academy” — complete with gun ranges, barracks, and driving courses — reminiscent of the CIA’s “Farm” at Camp Peary, a training facility located in southeastern Virginia.

The details of the training are contained in an official course schedule reviewed by Foreign Policy and were described by former U.S. intelligence officials who have been involved in the effort. The facilities and courses are part of the United Arab Emirates’ nascent efforts to create a professional intelligence cadre modeled after the West’s.

Former CIA and government officials were drawn to the Gulf nation by the promise of interesting work and, perhaps even more importantly, lucrative careers.

Former CIA and government officials were drawn to the Gulf nation by the promise of interesting work and, perhaps even more importantly, lucrative careers.

“The money was fantastic,” one former employee told FP. “It was $1,000 a day — you could live in a villa or in a five-star hotel in Abu Dhabi.”The key figure behind this growing intelligence training operation, according to multiple sources, is Larry Sanchez, a former intelligence officer who helped kickstart a controversial partnership between the CIA and the New York Police Department that tried to pre-empt the radicalization of potential terrorists by tracking people — many of them Muslims — in mosques, bookstores, and other places around New York. Sanchez, a veteran of the CIA clandestine services, has been working for the crown prince of Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates for the past six years to build large pieces of its intelligence services from the ground up, six sources with knowledge of the matter tell FP.

But Sanchez is just one of many former Western security professionals who has made his way to the Gulf nation to provide security training. Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater, famously moved to the UAE to create a battalion of foreign troops serving the crown prince, details of which were first revealed by the New York Times in 2011. And Richard Clarke, the former White House counterterrorism czar, is also a longtime top advisor to the crown prince of Abu Dhabi as the CEO of Good Harbor Security Risk Management.

The UAE’s reliance on foreigners to build its security institutions is not new, but the Gulf state has usually tried to keep the details of that help out of public view, and when it comes to training its nascent intelligence operations, details have been kept particularly quiet. However, the use of former U.S. intelligence employees to build up foreign nations’ spying capabilities is still treading into new territory.

Sanchez’s role in providing a blueprint for the UAE’s intelligence operation, making it from whole cloth, shows just how far private contractors have gone in selling skills acquired from decades spent working for the U.S. military and intelligence community. That sort of work is also now raising legal questions as the U.S. government struggles to decide how laws govern highly trained intelligence officials hawking their skills abroad.

Sanchez declined to comment on an extensive list of questions sent to him by FP.

Six former intelligence officials and contractors described the training operation to FP, but they requested anonymity to discuss sensitive intelligence operations, to shield friends and associates still working in the UAE, and to protect their future employability.

Two of those interviewed expressed concerns about whether the company had the proper export licenses for the advanced training, especially as other international instructors arrived on the scene.

Even more concerning for employees was that the government-affiliated UAE company now involved in managing the contract, DarkMatter, is currently under investigation by the FBI.

Even more concerning for employees was that the government-affiliated UAE company now involved in managing the contract, DarkMatter, is currently under investigation by the FBI.

The FBI told FP it does not comment on ongoing investigations.

While former employees had a range of views on whether the training was effective, legal, and in the U.S. interests, they all agreed that having private contractors create a foreign intelligence service was likely unprecedented.

“The dream” one source explained, was to help the UAE create its own CIA.

Then assistant New York City police Commissioner Larry Sanchez, left, testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington on Oct. 30, 2007. (Dennis Cook/AP)

Larry Sanchez’s road from CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, to Abu Dhabi went by way of New York. During much of his career at the CIA, Sanchez worked as an undercover operative working under roles in other agencies or organizations. But in 2002, shortly after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, George Tenet, then the director of central intelligence, sent Sanchez to work in New York with David Cohen, the deputy commissioner of intelligence at the NYPD.

There was already an informal link between the CIA and NYPD: Cohen was also the former deputy director of operations at the agency. In New York, Sanchez provided law enforcement with real-time intelligence about al Qaeda. The NYPD, in turn, sent officers to infiltrate mosques and Muslim communities, as well as any other potentially “radicalizing” places pointed out by tipsters. The goal was to prevent another 9/11-type attack.

While Sanchez was at the NYPD, the department also had an expanding — and unusual — relationship with the UAE. In 2008, the NYPD and the UAE’s government struck an intelligence-sharing deal, and New York police set up a satellite office in Abu Dhabi. The UAE also gave the New York City Police Foundation a million dollars for its intelligence division in 2012, providing funds to enable “the NYPD to station detectives throughout the world to work with local law enforcement on terrorism related incidents,” per a public tax filing.

During his tenure at NYPD, Sanchez developed “an ongoing relationship” with high-level Emirati officials, including Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the ruler of Abu Dhabi, according to a former law enforcement source.

During his tenure at NYPD, Sanchez developed “an ongoing relationship” with high-level Emirati officials, including Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the ruler of Abu Dhabi, according to a former law enforcement source.

The Emiratis were unfamiliar with “the world of intelligence,” the source explained, and Sanchez went to them and said, “‘Listen, I’m not going to be like some of these other U.S. entities who fly in and then leave, I will be here for you all the time. Call me at 3 a.m., I’m here.’ … He won them over by his commitment to them.”Even as Sanchez built up his relationship with the UAE, his work at home was gaining scrutiny. A 2011 CIA inspector general investigation into its officers embedded in the NYPD did not find specific violations of the law, but concluded that the perception of coziness between the nation’s top foreign spy agency and a local domestic police department was eroding public trust.

The revelation led to major public outcry from civil liberties organizations tracking privacy after 9/11. The CIA argued its support did not constitute spying on Americans, but civil rights advocates disagreed.

“The CIA is not permitted to engage in domestic surveillance,” Ginger McCall, then the director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center’s Open Government Project, told the Times.

By the time the dust had settled and the CIA decided to end its program at the NYPD, Sanchez had already made his way to the Middle East.

Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan attends the 2017 Dubai Airshow on Nov. 12, 2017. (Mahmoud Khaled/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

When the Twin Towers fell in New York in 2001, the UAE found itself caught up in concerns about international terrorism. The Gulf nation had unknowingly served as a transit hub for the terrorists, and two of the hijackers were Emiratis. The attacks were a turning point for the UAE, said Jon Alterman, the director of the Middle East Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“That prompted them to do a number of things involving religious organizations within the UAE, but also on the broad national security front,” he told FP. “There was always a concern with national security, but I think a lot of it was really exacerbated by 9/11.”

The UAE wanted to build up its intelligence infrastructure, and for assistance it turned to the West. Emirati officials have historically aimed to replicate the West’s security structures as closely as possible. When formulating their defense strategy, the UAE examined Australia, the United Kingdom, the United States, and other Western nations.

The downside of that approach, however, is that the UAE has purchased strategies, putting them together like ill-fitting puzzle pieces and often lacking a central vision and plan, according to those familiar with their work.

During Sanchez’s time in the UAE, a significant Western presence involved in intelligence training was growing. Both Australian and British military intelligence vets worked there, too. But

Sanchez benefited from his personal relationship with the ruling family forged during his years working on counterterrorism in New York City.

Sanchez benefited from his personal relationship with the ruling family forged during his years working on counterterrorism in New York City.

The U.S. government has also at times assisted directly. In 2010 and 2011, as the Iranians built up their cyberattack capabilities, U.S. government officials and defense contractors traveled to the UAE and help train Emiratis in digital security and offensive cyber operations. While the U.S. government generally embraced the efforts of Gulf nations to build up their own cadre with help from the United States, senior officials drew the line at allowing American citizens to participate in offensive cyber operations, i.e., launching attacks.

In late 2011, U.S. government advisors and contractors helped set up the UAE’s equivalent to the National Security Agency in the United States, whose name changed to the National Electronic Security Authority, and now the Signals Intelligence Agency. The United States was involved in everything from helping select a safe site with access to power and fiber connectivity to determining which buildings would be public and which classified, according to documents and slides shared with FP by a former intelligence official.

Around this same time, Sanchez and his team arrived and began teaching techniques for domestic surveillance. As president of the low-profile intelligence contractor CAGN Global Ltd., based in Baltimore, Sanchez began manning a team of mostly former law enforcement officers, retired Western intelligence officials, and ex-soldiers to train the Emiratis on how to be spies and paramilitary operators.

The training program, which started as a simple mentorship with the leadership of the Emirates, grew faster than anyone involved could have anticipated. They began to rely heavily on Sanchez, to the point that they wanted him to construct all its major intelligence agencies.

The courses, some modeled on the CIA’s training, are broken up into different segments, including a “basic intelligence pipeline” involving straightforward boot camp along with report writing, debriefing, and note taking, the foreign intelligence “external” program, an FBI/law enforcement course, and a paramilitary course, among others.

The training schedule obtained by FP includes “rabbit runs,” where the instructor takes students on a surveillance mission.

The students are trained not to draw the attention of another instructor, who is trying to evade them. They’re also taught “the art of observation” and how to spot potential targets.

The students are trained not to draw the attention of another instructor, who is trying to evade them. They’re also taught “the art of observation” and how to spot potential targets.

The external surveillance courses are nearly an exact replica of the CIA’s farm training. “It’s exactly what they teach at the farm … it’s the same material,” one former employee of Sanchez’s firm told FP. According to a second source familiar with the company, the trainers’ use of materials modeled after CIA training actually drew CIA scrutiny and fury, prompting a review of the program that ultimately concluded in Sanchez’s favor.

In one course, for example, former Delta Force operators teach paramilitary skills, such as driving and shooting. “Usually they’ll go to that course before or after being deployed to a place like Yemen,” one of the former instructors explained.

Though the skills being taught to Emiratis are similar to those taught by the CIA, one former instructor argued the courses were simpler — the kind of skills you’d see on an episode of The Americans. “The U.S. is running NASCAR drivers, but we’re teaching driver’s ed,” the source said.

All those interviewed about their experience agreed, however, that while the material taught ranged in complexity, the students themselves were green. “It’s all incredibly new to them,” one of the former instructors said.

A view of Abu Dhabi in August. (Alexander Shcherbak/TASS via Getty Images)

As Sanchez and other former U.S. intelligence contractors expanded their training in the UAE, one of the nagging questions for many trainers was over whether what they were doing was completely legal. Americans face restrictions on the kind of military and intelligence training they’re allowed to provide abroad, because the U.S. International Traffic in Arms Regulations, a complex set of rules, classifies such training as “exports.”

Americans who run afoul of those regulations risk prosecution.

Sanchez’s firm, CAGN Global, obtained an export license from the State Department to conduct basic security and intelligence training when it started. But it came under review last year by several government agencies, including the State Department and the CIA. Some instructors were concerned the review had to do with the course expanding beyond its remit, though one source said it had more to do with a missed payment to the State Department and CIA frustration over use of training materials similar to its own. The review appears to have been resolved.

The State Department declined to comment on the record.

Sanchez’s work expanded from domestic intelligence courses focused on internal surveillance and threats like al-Islah, a UAE Islamist group affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood. In the last six months or so, Sanchez and his team have looked outward in the aims of molding a new foreign intelligence service through an “external” course, focused on threats beyond the Gulf nation’s borders in countries including Yemen, Iran, Syria, Qatar, Eritrea, and Libya.

The Emiratis “live in a bad neighborhood,” one of the sources noted. They see Yemen as a “failed state,” regularly confront al Qaeda leaders, and fear uncertainty in Somalia and Oman. Their conflict with Iran is “so deep it’s always going to be there,” the source continued.

The Emiratis are friends of the United States, but they’re wary the West will abandon them someday, the source explained. They thought, “We need to start protecting ourselves.”

The Emiratis are friends of the United States, but they’re wary the West will abandon them someday, the source explained. They thought, “We need to start protecting ourselves.”

Even as the UAE produces newly minted spies, deploying them overseas isn’t assured, two sources familiar with the training program noted. The UAE isn’t consistently funding embassies in those countries, so there isn’t the kind of necessary physical support to completely get the program off the ground, especially in larger, more security-conscious nations like Iran.

While dreaming up a surveillance panopticon in an autocratic country might seem like a strange retirement plan for a former CIA operative, Sanchez shared similar security concerns as the UAE government. Potential enemies, whether Iran, the Muslim Brotherhood, or al Qaeda, were high on the UAE’s list of potential threats. Similarly, Sanchez “always had a level of concern about the Brotherhood and the Iranians,” said the former law enforcement source. “He felt he was doing good.”

He was also doing well. Sanchez owns a luxury fishing boat gifted to him by the crown prince, four sources told FP.

And it’s not just Sanchez and the UAE leadership that shares these concerns; top D.C. policymakers are focused on similar threats. “Most of our targets are compatible,” one of the former trainers and a former intelligence official told FP.

Sanchez’s work in the UAE is not without concerns, however. From the start, one of the questions among some in the intelligence community was whether the UAE regime brandishes legitimate critics as terrorists or foreign agents. “The UAE claims anyone against the regime is Iranian or Persian-influenced … either that or the Muslim Brotherhood,” the former intelligence official with knowledge of the region told FP.

Even as it builds institutions modeled after the West, the UAE also has a reputation for crushing political dissent. Human rights groups have documented cases of arbitrary detention and torture of activists and dissidents. Most notably, the government has used some of its imported surveillance tools to target Ahmed Mansoor, a prominent activist who has been detained since March.

But intelligence officials and former trainers interviewed by FP said the training course is focused on foreign threats, not political opponents, and on building intelligence skills, not planning operations. “I never saw them apply the capabilities they’re still developing to … protect the regime,” one source said.

“Their human rights record is a problem, but civil liberties aren’t defined the way they are here,” said Mark Lowenthal, the owner of the Intelligence and Security Academy, an intelligence consulting company that advises companies and governments around the world.

Lowenthal served as the assistant director for analysis and production at the CIA in the early 2000s, and he directed the staff of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. “The idea of other companies or countries coming to us for help is not new … this has been going on for a very long time,” he said. “Intelligence services cooperate.”

Intelligence cooperation may not be new, but the use of private contractors to provide that intelligence training is still a relatively new phenomenon, and not one that everyone is comfortable with.

U.S. intelligence employees working in the UAE tended to avoid direct contact with Sanchez or his company, the former law enforcement source noted.

U.S. intelligence employees working in the UAE tended to avoid direct contact with Sanchez or his company, the former law enforcement source noted.

They want to avoid the appearance of “impropriety” by working with him, despite the fact that CIA and State are directly involved in approving export licenses.Even if CIA employees don’t have direct contact with Sanchez, the agency also doesn’t appear to have a problem with his work. According to three sources, the CIA station chief in Abu Dhabi was well aware of Sanchez’s mission — in fact, the station chief’s wife worked for Sanchez for a time.

The CIA declined to comment.

The UAE Embassy in Washington did not respond to multiple requests for comment on any of the issues relating to American intelligence contractors. An email sent to a press office for the UAE government went unanswered.

But they might not need to worry about Sanchez in the UAE anymore, as he may soon retire or draw back the time he spends there after internal disputes, multiple sources noted — depending on the resolution.

There’s been high turnover in recent months over leadership squabbles; the program is bleeding instructors. “There are a lot of big egos out there and bad management,” one former employee said. While Sanchez drew a lot of high-level former officials, some former CIA chiefs of station included, many of those people did not stay long.

One of the biggest reasons for the high turnover, sources told FP, was a another former U.S. intelligence official Sanchez hired in charge of operations. According to two sources, the official has regularly fired instructors and created a toxic work environment. That official did not respond to request for comment.

The company paying the bills and providing leadership for the intelligence training contract has since changed twice, according to two former employees and one source with knowledge of the region.

An Emirati company called LUAA LLC, manned by a former British Special Air Service official, took over last spring. A third Emirati firm, a subsidiary of a company called DarkMatter, which works for the UAE government on cybersecurity and intelligence, is now heavily involved.

LUAA’s ownership made some trainers uncomfortable. Since LUAA was an Emirati company, American employees were unsure if it might complicate their ability to maintain a security clearance.

In the meantime, the intelligence training program continues to morph. According to two sources, CAGN Global and Sanchez are both on the outs after a falling out with Emirati officials, and DarkMatter, which is under FBI investigation, is in charge now. DarkMatter declined to comment on its ongoing operations but explained that nations and businesses seeking “a professional cyber security and intelligence capability” are a “good business opportunity” for the company.

As for the Americans who helped build the UAE’s intelligence operations, there’s always the next program. Two sources noted that there’s been a stalled yearslong effort to bring a similar intelligence training program to Saudi Arabia.

Posted in Middle East, C.I.A, UAEComments Off on Deep Pockets, Deep Cover: The UAE Is Paying Ex-CIA Officers to Build a Spy Empire in the Gulf

Net Neutrality Repeal Undermines Black Efforts to Combat Racial Bias in the Media, Activists Say

NOVANEWS

By Mike Ludwig

An activist displays a sign during a Black Lives Matter protest in Seattle, Washington, on December 6, 2014. (Photo: Scott Lum)An activist displays a sign during a Black Lives Matter protest in Seattle, Washington, on December 6, 2014. (Photo: Scott Lum).

During a recent review of how Black families are portrayed by various corporate media outlets, media scholar Travis Dixon observed that Fox News portrayed Black families as poor or in need of welfare assistance eight times more often than white families. On hit shows like “Hannity” and “The Kelly File,” Black fathers were portrayed as unavailable to their children several times, but absentee white dads never came up.

Laura Ingraham even mentioned “the fatherless issue” during a 2015 episode of “The Kelly File” while discussing a racially charged videotape, reinforcing an old, harmful media myth that persists despite evidence showing that Black fathers are actually often more involved in parenting than white fathers.

Fox News is known for its conservative bias, but the misrepresentations span the political spectrum, according to a report Dixon authored for the online digital rights group Color of Change. The New York Times ranked second to Breitbart among print and digital news outlets that represented Black families as poor far more often than white families.

Overall, Dixon found that the media overrepresented Black families in depictions of poverty and crime compared to actual rates of poverty and crime among Blacks, while white families were underrepresented. This reinforces racist stereotypes of Black people, particularly when the structural roots of Black poverty stretching back to segregation and slavery are not examined.

Activists working for racial justice and Black liberation rely on a neutral internet to challenge media stereotypes, combat cultural racism and organize movements.

This media bias is nothing new. Scholars have spent decades documenting racial stereotypes in the media and how they shape public perceptions of social groups. Ronald Reagan’s mythical “welfare queen” and its persistence in the mainstream media is a classic example such racism at work. However, Dixon’s stark reminder comes as the Trump administration is paving the way for a new wave of media consolidation and kills regulations designed to keep the internet free and open to voices that can challenge dominant — and racist — narratives.

Over the past year, the Republican-controlled Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has methodically rolled back protections that civil and digital rights groups fought hard to establish under the Obama administration. The deregulatory bonanza climaxed last week when the FCC adopted Chairman Ajit Pai’s proposal to repeal popular net neutrality rules that prevented internet service providers from playing favorites with online content. Many activists working for racial justice and Black liberation rely on a neutral internet to challenge media stereotypes, combat cultural racism and organize movements like Black Lives Matter.

“The vote to repeal net neutrality is easily the most unpopular decision the FCC has ever made,” said Malkia Cyril, a civil rights activist and director of the Center for Media Justice, in an email to Truthout. “The level of corruption and outright disdain for democracy shown by the Republican members of the FCC has been atrocious.”

The FCC has also loosened broadcast ownership rules and is considering raising the cap on how many local television stations a single company can own. This move would directly benefit Sinclair Broadcasting Group, a right-leaning media conglomerate that is waiting for Republicans to clear regulations standing in the way of its proposed merger with Tribune Media. That merger would give Sinclair access to 72 percent of households nationwide.

Brandi Collins, a senior campaign director at Color of Change, said one reason Black people are so misrepresented in the media is that 90 percent of outlets are owned by only seven corporations, and Sinclair’s proposed merger would further consolidate ownership in the hands of conservative white men. Sinclair stations regularly pump out the same harmful narratives about Black people identified in Dixon’s report, but the company does not have the same conservative reputation as Fox News, so viewers may absorb racist messaging without an assumption of bias.

“This endangers our lives in a number of ways … whether its policymaking, the medical treatment we receive or whether we are more likely to be gunned down by police without any questions asked,” Collins told Truthout in an interview.

Net neutrality is popular even among Republican voters, but it remains to be seen whether GOP lawmakers are willing to buck Pai and Trump.

Just as politicians used the “welfare queen” myth to promote and justify their attack on social safety nets in the 1990s, control of media messaging translates to control of policymaking, Color of Change Executive Director Rashad Robinson points out in a foreword to Dixon’s report. Right-wing forces across various media outlets, he writes, have exploited the “unwritten rules of media reporting and coverage” to “change the rules of written policy.” It is no accident that media outlets portray Black families as a “drain on the system” while failing to cover stories that would demonstrate their resiliency “in the face of unjust tides they are swimming against.”

“Widening the lens would show that [Black families] are floundering mostly because corporate and conservative decision makers put them in harm’s way, using them as leverage for profit and politics,” Robinson writes.

This explains why so many activists of color and civil rights organizers, along with progressives everywhere, have their sights set on the FCC. People of color, and particularly women of color, are vastly underrepresented in the media ownership class. Social media and the internet have allowed marginalized people to bypass traditional gatekeepers and get their message out despite a lack of Black and Brown broadcast station owners, but Pai’s net neutrality repeal has handed control of the internet over to big business.

“As a part of the civil rights community, I’ve worked for many years to educate our community about the importance of legally viable net neutrality rules … to equal voice and opportunity in America,” Cyril said. “As a result, organizations like BYP 100 representing Black youth, United We Dream representing migrant communities, and even the NAACP, among others, have come out strongly in support of those rules.”

Like a number of digital rights groups and several Democratic state attorneys general, the Center for Media Justice has vowed to sue the FCC over the repeal. Cyril said details of the challenge are forthcoming, but noted that net neutrality had “solid legal grounding,” and advocates challenging the repeal are likely to win in court. Members of Congress are also drafting legislation to replace the FCC’s rules, but critics say at least one proposal has been watered down to appease big telecom companies that spend millions of dollars on lobbying and campaign contributions every year.

“I am also certain big ISPs [internet service providers] like Verizon, Comcast and AT&T will use the bully pulpit just handed to them by President Trump to try to intimidate civil rights organizations and unions into accepting a weaker legislative solution,” Cyril said. “We can’t accept anything less than full equality, online and offline.”

Democrats in Congress have already proposed reversing Pai’s sweeping net neutrality repeal under the Congressional Review Act, a tool typically used by Republicans to undo regulations. The law must be invoked within 60 days, giving Democrats a limited amount of time to find enough Republican defectors to put together a majority. Net neutrality is popular even among Republican voters, but it remains to be seen whether GOP lawmakers are willing to buck Pai and President Trump. Meanwhile, Cyril said protests would continue as legal challenges wind through the courts.

“We saw in Alabama that Black voters can make a real difference in elections,” Cyril said. “I think it’s time for the Democratic Party to stop trying to woo Black and Brown voters and start working to better represent us. The midterm election is coming. I wouldn’t underestimate how important free speech is to Black voters. Not now, not ever.”

Posted in USA, MediaComments Off on Net Neutrality Repeal Undermines Black Efforts to Combat Racial Bias in the Media, Activists Say

Jill Stein Says Senate Request for Documents on Russia Probe Is “New McCarthyism”

NOVANEWS

Image result for Jill Stein CARTOON

The Senate Intelligence Committee has asked Dr. Jill Stein, the 2016 Green Party presidential candidate, for documents as part of its probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election. Committee Chair Richard Burr of North Carolina said on Monday that they are looking for potential “collusion with the Russians.” Among the actions that reportedly drew their attention was Stein’s attendance at a 2015 dinner in Moscow sponsored by Russian state-run TV network RT, where she sat at the same table as Russian President Vladimir Putin. Also at that table was Michael Flynn, who went on to become President Trump’s national security adviser and has since entered into a plea agreement with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian election interference. Flynn pleaded guilty to a single felony count of lying to the FBI about his conversations with Russia’s US ambassador. We speak with Dr. Jill Stein, the 2016 presidential nominee for the Green Party.

TRANSCRIPT

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: We begin today’s show with the expansion of the Senate intelligence investigation into the Trump campaign’s suspected Russia ties to include another 2016 presidential candidate: the Green Party’s Jill Stein. The Senate Intelligence Committee has asked Stein for documents as part of its probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election. Committee Chairman Republican Richard Burr of North Carolina said Monday they are looking for potential, quote, “collusion with the Russians.”

AMY GOODMAN: Among the actions that reportedly drew the attention of the Senate intelligence investigators is Dr. Stein’s attendance at a 2015 dinner in Moscow that was sponsored by Russian state-run television network RT, celebrating its 10th anniversary. A photo, that was later widely shared, shows Stein sitting at a table across from Russian President Vladimir Putin. Seated next to Putin is another American, General Michael Flynn, who went on to become President Trump’s national security adviser and has since entered into a plea agreement with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian election interference, pleading guilty to a single felony count of lying to the FBI about his conversations with Russia’s U.S. ambassador.

Well, to respond to these new developments, Dr. Jill Stein joins us now from Boston.

Jill Stein, welcome back to Democracy Now! Can you tell us exactly what the Senate Intelligence Committee is demanding of you and your 2016 presidential campaign?

DR. JILL STEIN: Great to be with you this morning, Amy and Juan.

The Senate Intelligence Committee contacted us and basically sent a letter requesting documents that we might have that would shed light on potential Russian interference in the election. And they were very clear in their letter that they were not targeting us. They were not blaming us. There was no suspicion of collusion. And this was also clarified in their dialogue with our legal team. And then, suddenly, when it hit the press two days ago, suddenly, the Senate Intelligence Committee changed its story, and now, suddenly, we were being investigated for collusion. So, this has been kind of a surprise.

We are cooperating with the study — with the investigation. Our campaign takes very seriously the issue of interference in our elections. That’s why we, ourselves, launched an inquiry into potential interference in the actual vote, in the voting machines and the software, a so-called recount campaign. But it’s more than recounting. It’s essentially an effort to examine the actual technology of the vote and to answer the question, for once and for all, whether or not our votes were tampered with. And unbeknownst to the public, the voting machines and the software has never undergone a forensic examination. So when they use the term “there’s no evidence of interference,” they actually mean, in fact, there’s no physical evidence. It has never been examined, at least to the knowledge of our computer expert advisers, who have also been testifying before Congress. So, just to make the point that we take very seriously the issue of interference and, in fact, would not restrict interference to simply the question of interference by one particular foreign government. We think any interference — foreign, domestic, by governments, by gangster networks, by corporations that control voting software — none of that is acceptable. Likewise, interference with the right to vote, with the passage of voter ID laws, with corporate media that only covers certain candidates and not others, when the public is clamoring for more information — to my mind, all of that is interference, which is not good.

Nonetheless, we support this limited inquiry into interference, targeting, in particular, Russian interference. And transparency is very important. So we have agreed, from the beginning, to cooperate with the legitimate and important aims of the committee and its mission. On the other hand, I think we’re in a perilous moment for democracy, and it’s very important that this inquiry not be a launching pad for political intimidation and for the effort to silence political opposition. That’s a very dangerous proposition.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And so, Jill Stein, have you already begun handing over documents, or are you seeking clarification of the difference between the public statements versus what the letter to you from the Intelligence Committee said?

DR. JILL STEIN: So, from what I understand, our legal team is discussing with the committee exactly what the focus of the search will be. So, we’re in the process of determining that and hope to be able to begin doing that search and turning over documents within the next couple of weeks, certainly as fast as we possibly can.

AMY GOODMAN: Prize-winning journalist Glenn Greenwald tweeted Tuesday, “Click on ‘Jill Stein’ that’s trending & you’ll see countless leading Dems–with large platforms–strongly implying if not outright stating she’s a Kremlin agent: all because of a Congressional inquiry. They couldn’t better replicate McCarthyism if they tried.” Glenn Greenwald made a similar point last August on Democracy Now!

GLENN GREENWALD: To me, this is one of the more remarkable things of this campaign, which is that any of us who grew up in politics or came of age as an American in the ’60s or the ’70s or the ’80s, or even the ’90s, knows that central to American political discourse has always been trying to tie your political opponents to Russia, to demonizing the Kremlin as the ultimate evil and then trying to insinuate that your political adversaries are somehow secretly sympathetic to or even controlled by Russian leaders and Kremlin operatives and Russian intelligence agencies. And this was not just the McCarthyism, which was sort of the peak of that, but even long after. This was typically a Republican tactic used against Democrats. So, if Democrats advocated greater detente with the Russians, arms deals or other negotiations with Russia to decrease tensions or decrease conflict, Republicans would immediately accuse those liberals and Democrats of advocating that, of being — either having allegiance to the Kremlin or being useful idiots or stooges of Russian leaders.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: That was Glenn Greenwald speaking to Democracy Now! in August. But on Tuesday, ThinkProgress ran a story headlined, quote, “The pro-Kremlin talking points of Jill Stein: Trump wasn’t the only one promoting pro-Kremlin talking points last year.” In it, Casey Michel writes, quote, “Stein’s willingness to praise Russian propaganda outlets and push Kremlin talking points didn’t end in Moscow. Indeed, she challenged — and arguably surpassed — Trump in crafting the most Moscow-friendly campaign of 2016.” And it also claims, quote, you “seemed more than willing to spout Kremlin talking points at every turn — and all, it appears, for free.” Your response to the ThinkProgress statements?

DR. JILL STEIN: Well, you know, this is the Podesta organization speaking through ThinkProgress. They’re basically the mouthpiece for the Podesta organization, which is very closely tied to the Democratic Party — John Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager, funded by Saudi Arabia and large, nefarious corporate interests. So, you know, this is the kind of shameful journalistic standard that we’ve come to expect from the — what shall we say? You know, those who have a political ax to grind here and who have really been conducting a smear campaign against our campaign for the long haul here.

And this — you know, this Russia smear, essentially, emerged after the DNC emails, the Democratic Party emails, were exposed, showing the collusion on the part of the Democratic Party to sabotage Bernie Sanders, how that primary was rigged, which then, you know, attorneys for the Democratic Party testified in court that they had a right to essentially rig the election and determine the outcome as they pleased, and that the appearance of a democratic process was, you know, essentially a sham and a cover-up. So, you know, of course they were very alarmed by those emails. And that’s when the smear campaign began in earnest, you know.

And it’s not only ThinkProgress. The New York Times ran an article yesterday that began with a Democratic Party spokesperson essentially establishing the framework for the investigation, which is that Democrats are furious at my campaign for what they think was our audacity to vote on behalf of our agendas — against war, against offshoring of our jobs, against the attack on the climate, whether by fracking or by coal. They had — you know, they basically said that this was outrageous. Democrats are furious at me, whence this — you know, whence this investigation. And I think it speaks volumes about where this is coming from.

Not to say that this is only Democrats. The chair of the committee — the committee is run largely by Republicans. And as Glenn Greenwald himself pointed out, there is a bipartisan benefit here to smearing, intimidating and silencing third parties, in addition, while, for the Democrats, this validates their framing of Russia as sort of the prime mover and the major issue in our politics today. For the Republicans, it enables them to say that their — that the committee focused on someone else besides Trump. So there are all kinds of ulterior political motives here, which are — you know, are not a service to our democracy.

Our democracy is threatened by interference in our elections. Our democracy is also threatened by this climate in which our First Amendment rights, our rights to political independence, to free political speech, the right to protest — with the J20 trials that you have covered, which are so outrageous, in an effort to intimidate and frighten people out of our right to protest, with people who just happened to be standing on a street corner at the J20 inauguration protest. It you were in the wrong place at the wrong time, you got kettled and charged with a felony riot and threatened with up to 50 years or more in jail, for just being on a street corner, and essentially without evidence. So, there is a real assault going on right now. Not only the danger of fascism that we see out in the streets of Charlottesville and so on and, you know, other —

AMY GOODMAN: Jill Stein —

DR. JILL STEIN:  — many other cities. But —

AMY GOODMAN: We have to break. We have to break, but I want to — when we come back, we want to ask you about the dinner that you attended — we have actually spoken to you about this on Democracy Now! — back in 2015 in Moscow. And then, what does it mean? You haven’t been subpoenaed, but if you are, what does this mean? What kind of resources do you have to put into dealing with this? Dr. Jill Stein, 2016 presidential nominee for the Green Party, is now being asked to hand over documents by the Senate Intelligence Committee. Stay with us.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: “Pink White House” by Priests, here on Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, the Senate Intelligence Committee has asked 2016 Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein for documents as part of its probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election. Committee Chairman Republican Richard Burr of North Carolina said Monday they’re looking for potential, quote, “collusion with the Russians.”

AMY GOODMAN: Among the actions that reportedly drew the attention of investigators was Stein’s attendance at a 2015 dinner in Moscow that was sponsored by Russian state television network RT, celebrating its 10th anniversary. A photo, that was later widely shared, shows Stein sitting at the table of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Seated next to Putin, across the table, is another American, General Michael Flynn, who went on to become President Trump’s national security adviser, has since entered into a plea agreement with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian election interference and just recently pled guilty to a single felony count of lying to the FBI about his conversations with Russia’s U.S. ambassador.

So, Jill Stein, talk about why you were in Moscow and at the table of President Putin. And do you feel you should have to explain why you were at this table?

DR. JILL STEIN: So, let me just say, I’ve explained a thousand times why I was at the table. And we have been completely transparent all along here. We raised money in order to get there, because we were not going to accept money from a foreign government, even in the form of, you know, sponsoring our transportation or our hotel fees or food and so on. So, we entirely self-paid. We raised the money to get there. We were very public in our emails to our supporters, in our website, in press releases, about the fact that we were going, about the fact that I hoped to meet with Russian officials when I was there, in order to address our agenda, essentially, for peace and climate security and nuclear weapons abolition, which are critical issues that needed to be raised in our campaign here and need to be raised as matters of foreign policy. So, this information has been up on our website for all of two years. So, somehow, if the intelligence committees have failed to see it, you know, maybe they haven’t done their homework yet. But we’ve been completely transparent about everything that went on.

And at the dinner itself, you know, which we sent pictures of and reported on, at the dinner — you know, the dinner was really a non-event, because there were no translators at the table. Putin was only there briefly. He walked in with his entourage, which I thought were his bodyguards. I later learned that they were actually his chief of staff and head of communications. But no one was introduced to anyone. Putin was there briefly, before he gave a speech, in Russian. There were no translators at the table. I spent the entire dinner, actually, speaking to the person on my right. Person on my left did not speak English. The person on my right was Willy Wimmer, a German former diplomat. And we talked a little bit about international relations and international law. And other than that, there was nothing substantive at the dinner.

The New Yorker actually reported that Putin and Flynn exchanged one sentence, which went something to the effect, “How’s it going?” “OK.” And that was reported by the Czech diplomat, who was the one person at the table who spoke both English and Russian, that was sitting next to Flynn, as well. Flynn actually introduced himself to me just before we sat down at the dinner. I thought it was curious that there was a military person at this conference that largely seemed to be peace advocates. And I should mention, by the way, that Ray McGovern was there, Rocky Anderson, Jesse Ventura, Thom Hartmann, Max Blumenthal. It was really a who’s who of the peace community, that, regrettably, has to resort to a foreign TV network in order to be heard in this country, because —

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, Jill — Jill, I wanted to ask you —

DR. JILL STEIN:  — the issues of war and peace are not accepted by corporate media.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Jill Stein, I wanted to ask you — you mention a foreign TV network. Your response to the attempt to essentially ostracize RT TV in the United States, having them declared as — registering as a foreign agent. Your sense of what is happening in the campaign against RT TV?

DR. JILL STEIN: You know, it’s very interesting. I don’t watch RT myself, except there are some programs that I find very interesting and informative. There are several newscasters who were thrown out of U.S. corporate media because they opposed the war. Chris Hedges, who refused to accept the disinformation by the intelligence community in the run-up to the Iraq War, he has a program. Max Blumenthal is featured. Thom Hartmann. You know, so there are good programs on RT. Hillary Clinton herself is on record as praising RT, several years back, saying that when she’s out of the country, she actually watches RT and the programming is quite good. She recommended it.

So, you know, what’s going on here? If you actually read the intelligence community report, it criticizes RT for saying things like that our democracy is flawed, that our elections are problematic, that — for lifting up the voices of the anti-fracking community, for saying that Wall Street greed is a problem. You know, if that’s the basis for requiring RT to — you know, for ostracizing RT, then, you know, we’re lucky that Democracy Now! has not been ostracized yet, because many of those same issues, I daresay, are also prominent in Democracy Now!’s coverage. This is part of the effort to demonize, to vilify the social movements, who are likewise characterized as Russian assets, that Black Lives Matter, that the Standing Rock protests, that anti-fracking movements and so on are essentially Russian-instigated. So, if this isn’t an effort to explain away social movements and social unrest, I don’t know what is.

AMY GOODMAN: So, Jill Stein, just explain technically. You only have been requested documents now. What’s the difference between that request and a subpoena? And are your lawyers — do they know if you are going to be subpoenaed? And will you have to testify?

DR. JILL STEIN: We don’t know. We intend to cooperate, because there is now this presumption of guilt that’s been created by this ongoing smear campaign. There’s a presumption of guilt, and the air really needs to be cleared. We’re all for transparency. And as I say, our documents have been — you know, what we’ve been doing, who we’ve been talking to and what we’ve been talking about has been public, in real time, and continues to be public. So, no harm for us to gather up those documents and put them all in one place and make it possible for everyone finally to examine them. We’ve been trying to draw attention to the actual facts of the case ever since the smears began. So, I don’t think, you know, anything is really going to change here. There will be some administrative emails, our communications with RT about what time I’m going to show up and what studio I will be at. I don’t think they will have much content in them.

AMY GOODMAN: Finally, Jill Stein, I want to ask you an entirely different question. You were the 2016 presidential nominee for the Green Party. We only have a minute. But today, the Senate and House poised to finalize the tax bill, which some call a tax heist, which some call the largest transfer of wealth from the bottom to the top that we have seen in decades. As a presidential nominee, your comments on what’s happening today?

DR. JILL STEIN: This is a shameful commentary, not only on the Republican Party, but really, I would say, on all of Congress, on the bipartisan establishment, which has — you know, the public is profoundly opposed to this bill. It’s something like — you know, it’s got a support level that’s, you know, just down at the 30 percent level. It’s really pathetic that Congress is as unresponsive as it is and that the so-called opposition party, in the form of the Democrats, have been focusing on Russia and not focusing on the harm being done right here in our own country.

This is why, you know, to my mind, the crisis of our democracy now is a crisis of economic survival, of economic security, of our climate, of the endless war, which is also costing us more than half of our discretionary budget. It’s not working. This is why the public is in political revolt right now, which speaks volumes about why these committees are now turning to suppress political opposition. So I encourage people to go to our social media, DrJillStein — that’s D-R-no period-Jill Stein — and be a part of standing up at this critical time for our democracy.

AMY GOODMAN: Jill Stein, I want to thank you for being with us, 2016 presidential nominee for the Green Party. The Senate Intelligence Committee is now questioning the campaign and Dr. Jill Stein, asking for documents about her connection and involvement with anything to do with Russia. Jill Stein, thanks for joining us from Boston.

Posted in USAComments Off on Jill Stein Says Senate Request for Documents on Russia Probe Is “New McCarthyism”

Emotions Run High as Protests Continue in Gaza

(Photo: Ezz Al-Zanoon)

(Photo: Ezz Al-Zanoon)

In the 10 days since American president Donald Trump announced his decision to recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital, protests have continued to boil across the occupied Palestinian territories, including Gaza. At least five Palestinians were injured in Gaza Sunday, including one critically, during clashes that broke out along the border with Israel. The clashes, as well as the firing of two rockets into southern Israel, occurred the day after thousands attended the funeral for Ibrahim Abu Thuraya, 29, a quadriplegic fisherman who was shot to death on Friday in the bloodiest day of the protests. To date, six Palestinians from Gaza have been killed since the Trump announcement.

Palestinian factions have called for protests to be held every Friday in both the Gaza Strip and the West Bank to oppose the action of the United States. In response, the Israeli military has conducted more than a dozen air strikes in Gaza.

Friday demonstration. (Photo: Mohammad Arafat)Friday demonstration. (Photo: Mohammad Arafat)

Trump’s action defied international agreements, including the 1947 UN-approved partition plan that recognized Jerusalem as an international city. Following the fighting that ensued in the wake of that decision, the western part of the city was seized by the Israelis and the eastern segment was governed by Jordan. Although Israel took full control of Jerusalem after its 1967 invasion, Arabs of all stripes, as well as most international organizations, continued to consider East Jerusalem the capital of a future state of Palestine.

As they poured into the streets during the past week, Palestinians made it clear they would not accept Trump’s decision. In Gaza, they were as outspoken as those in the Old City: “We will not give up on our capital,” demonstrators yelled.

Mahmoud Qasim, one of the protestors at a march at the Square of the Unknown Soldier in Gaza City, said he is afraid Trump’s decision signals the end of Palestinians’ dream to have a state of their own.

“Today’s decision broke my heart! I can’t even comment on this. I just can say we’ve lost our soul. We lost Jerusalem,” he moaned.

Abbas Abu Zakareya echoed Qasim’s depression, saying US action is designed to render Palestinians meaningless in the eyes of other countries.

“Does Trump really think he owns Jerusalem and can give it to the Israelis?” he fumed.

Although there were few female protestors at this particular demonstration since it was at night, one elderly woman could be seen in tears. She said her dream to eventually return to her old home in Haifa had gone up in smoke.

“I am a refugee from Haifa, and I always hoped to return to my city,” she wept. “But after this decision, I am sure my dream is hopeless! I only wish to have a state with Jerusalem as my capital and to return to my city.”

An older, angry man interrupted: “Where are the world leaders? Why are they not doing more than talking? Jerusalem is our capital. We will never recognize it as the capital of the Israeli occupation. I will die for it. I will die for it.”

Although virtually all other politicians have condemned the American decision for aggravating an already explosive conflict, with Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas saying the US has withdrawn its right to broker peace negotiations, many people on the street are skeptical. Abu-Mo`taz, another protestor, bitterly dismissed Arab and other world leaders, saying they have been silent for years and he doesn’t expect anything new from them.

“I believe the Arab leaders will do nothing but bemoan the suffering of Palestinian Muslims and Christians,” he says. “They’ll just talk.”

Others believe this action might actually shock some leaders into standing up, and could signal the start of a more forceful and effective rebellion.

“I believe this decision will move the dead souls of the Arab leaders who had neglected our case and force them to finally do something,” said Mohammed Abu Ma`rouf.

Posted in Palestine Affairs, USA, ZIO-NAZI, Gaza, Human RightsComments Off on Emotions Run High as Protests Continue in Gaza

Colombia ‘Must Unite to Eradicate Child Labor’: Government

NOVANEWS
  • Labor Minister Griselda Janeth Restrepo Gallego says the state is starting a nationwide campaign to raise awareness of child labor.
    Labor Minister Griselda Janeth Restrepo Gallego says the state is starting a nationwide campaign to raise awareness of child labor. | Photo: MinTrabajo
Many families are still sending their offspring into dangerous environments, where those children are then used to smuggle illicit goods.

Child labor in Colombia fell from 13 percent in 2011 to 7.8 percent in 2016, but with more than 850,000 minors still working the streets, the government has acknowledged that the country must work together in order to eradicate the issue.

RELATED: 80% of Sexual Abuses in Colombia Affected Minors

“Although the rate of child labor has been reduced significantly in Colombia, there are still 869,000 children working in the country: this is a huge and monstrous figure that humiliates us as Colombians,” said Labor Minister Griselda Janeth Restrepo Gallego in San Victorino, Bogota.

“This is not a problem of the ICBF (Colombian Family Welfare Institute), the police or MinTrabajo; it is a situation that concerns all Colombians and we all have to fight.”

The minister explained that the state is starting a nationwide campaign to bring awareness to the country’s different regions, beginning in the larger cities.

Until recently, child labor was approved by the majority of Colombians. Their level of productivity was considered beneficial and labor was believed to instill a healthy dose of responsibility.

Many families are still sending their offspring into dangerous environments, where those children are then used to smuggle illicit goods.

Raising awareness in rural areas has proven problematic in recent years: poverty and desperation force many families to trade a child’s dependable salary for poor working conditions.

RELATED: Nearly 12 Million Brazilians ‘Unable to Read or Write’

“This Ministry of Labor campaign does not intend to target those parents who take their children to their jobs these days because they do not have anyone to leave them with on holiday,” said Restrepo.

“We want to reach those irresponsible adults who put children to work and, especially, those networks that often involve minors in forced labor and – what is worse – in the sale of drugs, drug trafficking and prostitution.”

Restrepo, accompanied by Deputy Minister of Labor Relations and Inspection Maria Eugenia Aparicio Soto, and Employment and Pension Minister Fredys Socarras Reales, said the ministry has so far received support from more than 32 private-sector companies. It has also invited the nation’s police departments to join the campaign.

“Bogota is sensitive to this scourge: citizens are willing to prefer boys and girls in education and recreation rather than working,” Restrepo said. “A child who works loses more than he earns.”

Posted in ColombiaComments Off on Colombia ‘Must Unite to Eradicate Child Labor’: Government

Nearly 12 Million Brazilians ‘Unable to Read or Write’

NOVANEWS
  • Data indicate that the number of people unable to read or write constitutes 9.9 percent of the majority non-white population.
    Data indicate that the number of people unable to read or write constitutes 9.9 percent of the majority non-white population. | Photo: Wikimedia Commons.
Data indicate the number of people unable to read or write constitutes 9.9 percent of the majority non-white population, five percentage points higher than the white population.

Brazil’s illiteracy rate reached a startling 7.2 percent – roughly 11.8 million people – in 2016, with just over half (51 percent) of its 210 million population only completing elementary school education.

RELATED: Brazil’s Temer Blames Minister as Slave Labor Decree Slammed

The numbers are from the latest National Household Sample Survey, PNAD, released by the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE).

The data indicate that the total number of people unable to read or write constitutes 9.9 percent of the country’s majority non-white population, 5 percentage points higher than the white population. Only 8.8 percent of people who identified as Black or mixed had attained a university degree.

Geography also paints sharp disparaties in educational opportunities. Brazil’s northeast region is home to more than 52 percent of people over 25 years old who have never completed elementary school, according to Rede Brasil Atual.

On average, the Brazilian population as a whole completes a total of only eight years’ formal schooling.

The data also indicate that 24.8 million people between the ages of 14 and 29 “had not attended school.” More than half of this group were men, with the majority saying they were unable to finish their studies because of work commitments.

This number is expected to rise as a direct result of labor reforms (‘deforms,’ to many) enacted by the administration of de-facto President Michel Temer. Changes in the code altered more than 100 clauses in the Consolidated Labor Law, which was first introduced in 1943.

Temer’s adminstration has also attempted to redefine slave labor, issuing a decree – temporarily suspended by the Supreme Court – that described the practice as being confined to “restrictions on the freedom of movement” of workers.

It also altered the terms by which people who are exploited under conditions analogous to slavery could benefit from legal proceedings.

Posted in South AmericaComments Off on Nearly 12 Million Brazilians ‘Unable to Read or Write’

Trump administration ends 2017 on a sour note

NOVANEWS

Posted by: John Phoenix

UN General Assembly voting result on Jerusalem

“Outlaws trying to dictate the law” used gutter tactics to threaten UN member states that dared “disrespect” America’s crazed foreign policy

By Stuart Littlewood

As if Trump’s crass announcement moving the US embassy to Jerusalem wasn’t enough, his minions on 18 December vetoed a UN Security Council draft resolution calling on the president to withdraw US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Even his hand-in-hand friend Theresa May, another pimp for Israel, is against him in this. “On Jerusalem, I made it clear that we disagree with the United States’ decision to move its embassy and recognise Jerusalem as the Israeli capital before a final status agreement,” she declared. “Like our EU partners, we will not be following suit, but it is vital that we continue to work with the United States to encourage it to bring forward proposals that will re-energise the peace process. That must be based around support for a two-state solution and an acknowledgement that the final status of Jerusalem must be subject to negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians.”

What exactly would final status and a two-state solution look like? Nobody is saying. Possibly because they all know that the idea has been filed in the too-difficult tray a for at least 20 years. There was nothing wrong with the original UN plan to make Jerusalem an international city under separate control. Why not revive that? And if the international community really wanted two states why did it spend decades giving Israel endless opportunities to establish irreversible “facts on the ground” designed to make the occupation permanent? Nothing will now change without the use of force or extreme sanctions. And there’s no sign of that happening.

So please do everyone a favour, US, UK and EU. Spare us that tired old mantra.

Trump’s interference in Jerusalem’s status “null and void”

The draft resolution vetoed by the US was supported by all 14 other members of the Security Council. It called on the US president to withdraw recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and said “any decisions and actions which purport to have altered the character, status or demographic composition of the Holy City of Jerusalem have no legal effect, are null and void, and must be rescinded in compliance with relevant resolutions of the Security Council”. It required all countries not to establish diplomatic missions in Jerusalem.

America’s ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, stretched credibility far beyond breaking point by saying that the veto was “in defence of American sovereignty and in defence of America’s role in the Middle East peace process… The United States will not be told by any country where we can put our embassy.

“Today,” she said, “for the simple act of deciding where to put its embassy, the United States was forced to defend its sovereignty… Today, for acknowledging the basic truth that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, we are accused of harming peace. The record will reflect that we reject that outrageous claim.”

When did Israel’s claim to Jerusalem become a “basic truth”?

Haley boasted that the US had done more than any other country to assist the Palestinian people, providing them with more than $5 billion in assistance since 1994 and funding 30 per cent of the UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency) budget. In reality, these mighty sums subsidise Israel’s ongoing illegal military occupation. Had Palestinians been left in peace they would be making their own way in the world at no cost to others.

Haley also seized the chance to slam UN Security Council Resolution 2334 adopted a year earlier. Obama, who was president then, opted to abstain rather than veto the measure, allowing it to pass.

Resolution 2334 reaffirms that the establishment by Israel of settlements in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, has no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law and a major obstacle to the achievement of the two-state solution and a just, lasting and comprehensive peace.

It reiterates its demand that Israel immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, and that it fully respects all of its legal obligations in this regard.

It underlines that it will not recognise any changes to the 4 June 1967 lines, including with regard to Jerusalem, other than those agreed by the parties through negotiations.

And it stresses that the cessation of all Israeli settlement activities is essential for salvaging the two-state solution, and calls for affirmative steps to be taken immediately to reverse the negative trends on the ground that are imperilling the two-sate solution.

What is there not to like or understand about that? Nevertheless, “Given the chance to vote again on Resolution 2334,” Haley said, “I can say with complete confidence that the US would vote ‘no’; we would exercise our veto power.”

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s reaction to UNSC Resolution 2334 had been entirely predictable: “Peace will come not through UN resolutions, but only through direct negotiations between the parties.” He would say that, wouldn’t he, with his military jackboot on the neck of the Palestinian people. His style of negotiation, as always, is holding a gun to the head of the other party. As everyone, especially America, knows, peace doesn’t suit Israel’s purpose, although the pretence of seeking peace does.

What sensible peace proposals have there been?

Haley insisted that while Resolution 2334 described Israeli settlements as impediments to peace, it was the resolution itself that was an impediment. “Misplacing the blame for the failure of the peace efforts squarely on Israeli settlements, the resolution gave a pass to Palestinian leaders who for many years rejected one peace proposal after another,” she said.

Have there been any credible peace proposals? By now, surely, everyone realises that the Israeli regime have never wanted peace. They’ve said so loud and clear. Land-grabbing and ethnic cleansing is what they do, so the jackboot of Israeli occupation must remain firmly on the Palestinians’ neck.

And as far as I’m aware, no-one has actually told us what the two-state solution they keep banging on about would look like. No-one, that is, since Ehud Barak and his “generous offer” to the Palestinians in the summer of 2000. Zio-freaks like Haley, to this day, heap blame on the Palestinians for turning down Barak’s bizarre plan and others like it.

The ugly facts of the matter are well documented and explained by organisations such as Israel’s own Gush Shalom, yet Israel lobby stooges continue to peddle the lie that Israel offered the Palestinians a deal they couldn’t refuse.

So what did this amazing deal amount to? The West Bank and the Gaza Strip, seized by Israel in 1967 and occupied ever since, comprise just 22 per cent of pre-partition Palestine. When the Palestinians signed the Oslo Agreement in 1993 they agreed to accept the 22 per cent and recognise Israel within the internationally recognised “Green Line” borders (i.e. the 1949 Armistice Line established after the Arab-Israeli war). Conceding 78 per cent of the land that was originally theirs was an extraordinary gesture on the Palestinians’ part.

But it wasn’t enough for greedy Israel. Barak’s oh-so-generous peace offer demanded the inclusion of 69 Israeli settlements within that 22 per cent Palestinian remnant. It was obvious on the map that those settlement blocs created impossible borders and already severely disrupted Palestinian life in the West Bank. Barak also demanded the Palestinian territories be placed under “temporary Israeli control”, meaning Israeli military and administrative control indefinitely. The offer also gave Israel control over all the border crossings of the new Palestinian state. What nation in the world would accept that? Of course it was rejected. But the ludicrous reality of Barak’s two-state solution was cleverly hidden from the rest of the world by elaborate propaganda spin.

Later, at the Taba talks, Barak produced a revised map but withdrew it after his election defeat. The ugly facts of the matter are well documented and explained by organisations such as Israel’s own Gush Shalom, yet Israel lobby stooges continue to peddle the lie that Israel offered the Palestinians a deal they couldn’t refuse. Is Barak’s crazed vision of two states the one the US, UK and EU still have in mind when they prattle on about a peace process?

Crude blackmail

In response to America’s veto an emergency meeting of the UN General Assembly (where vetoes are not permitted) was called on 21 December to consider a resolution, co-sponsored by Turkey and Yemen, calling Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel “null and void” and reaffirming 10 security council resolutions on Jerusalem, dating back to 1967, including the requirement that the city’s final status must be decided in direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

It also demanded that “all states comply with Security Council resolutions regarding the holy city of Jerusalem, and not recognise any actions or measures contrary to those resolutions”.

Trump had threatened to withhold billions of dollars of US aid from countries that voted in favour. Ambassador Haley wrote to about 180 of 193 member states warning she would be “taking names” of countries that voted for the resolution.

The Guardian reports Trump as saying: “Let them vote against us. We’ll save a lot. We don’t care. But this isn’t like it used to be where they could vote against you and then you pay them hundreds of millions of dollars,” he said. “We’re not going to be taken advantage of any longer.”

His remarks appeared to be directed at UN member states in Africa, Asia and Latin America who are vulnerable to US pressure, including Egypt which drafted the UNSC resolution vetoed by the US and which received $1.2bn in US aid last year. Trump’s threat could also affect the UK which hopes to negotiate a favourable post-Brexit trade deal with Washington.

But his gutter tactics backfired spectacularly. A total of 128 member countries, including, I’m glad to say, the UK voted in favour of the resolution supporting the longstanding international consensus. Only nine states – including the United States and Israel – voted against; the rest either abstained or stayed away. A stinging rebuke, then, for Trump and his delinquent diplomacy.

Iran vilified as usual

Earlier, we saw a Saban Forum interview with Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser on Middle East peace. Questioned about why his “team” had no experts, Kushner replied: “It’s not a conventional team, but it’s a perfectly qualified team. When we were thinking how to put a team together, the president and I focused on who are the most qualified people, who had the right qualification and whom we both trusted.”

So they opted for a real estate lawyer and a bankruptcy lawyer. They have nobody truly qualified in Middle East affairs.

Talking about the Palestinians and Israelis, Kushner insisted that “both sides really trust the president, and that’s very important”.

The US has dug itself into a position where it is set to find itself, alongside Israel, in a face-off with the majority of world nations – outlaws trying to dictate the law. We hope and trust the global community will not waiver in the face of such bullying tactics and do the right thing under international law and the right thing for Palestine and the Palestinians. (Manuel Hassassian, Palestinian ambassadors to UK)

He observed: “Many countries in the region see Israel as a much more likely ally than it was 20 years ago because of Iran, because of ISIS.” He spoke of issues of great concern: “You have Iran and their nuclear ambitions and their expansive regional mischief…”

No mention, of course, of Israel’s nuclear domination and expansive regional mischief.

And he simply couldn’t stop himself demonising Iran. “A lot of countries felt Iran was being emboldened and there was no check on their aggression,” he added. “The president has been very clear about his intentions on this issue, and going to Saudi Arabia and laying out a priority of fighting Iran’s aggression was significant.” Kushner said that unifying everyone against Iran’s aggression is a “world problem”.

He should read the history of US (and UK) aggression against Iran before opening his mouth again on this subject.

There was no mention of international law in the interview, just getting deals done. Peace and strengthening US-Israel relationship is central, according to Kushner. Which of course disqualifies the US as a broker.

The Saban Forum interview is touted by some as a humiliation for Kushner. I don’t agree. Jared Kushner came across as an intelligent and even likeable specimen of Zionism, thoughtful and with none of the usual arrogance. But he was shown up as naive, out of his depth and unfit to serve in that position. His performance also emphasised the lunacy of allowing the commander-in-chief of a so-called democracy to bring in his family members and business cronies to meddle in the affairs of state. There’s an unfortunate word for that: nepotism.

It is surely time for Trump, as a world leader, to decide whether to live up to his responsibility to respect and uphold international law and the norms of human conduct. Otherwise he should find other employment before he does any more damage.

The last word goes to the Palestinian ambassador in London, Professor Manuel Hassassian, who hits the nail smack on the head: “The US has dug itself into a position where it is set to find itself, alongside Israel, in a face-off with the majority of world nations – outlaws trying to dictate the law. We hope and trust the global community will not waiver in the face of such bullying tactics and do the right thing under international law and the right thing for Palestine and the Palestinians.”

Posted in Palestine Affairs, USA, ZIO-NAZIComments Off on Trump administration ends 2017 on a sour note

EU Starts Building a European Identity

NOVANEWS
Adelina Marini

The migration crisis as well as the sprouting like mushrooms problems with the rule of law and with the European values in various corners of the EU have finally convinced European leaders that it is high time to start building a European identity. The issue has been circulating for a long time in the European public domain, but rather as an intellectual exercise of passionate pro-Europeans and Eurofederalists. The present situation, however, fills this, until recently, purely philosophic concept with sense and content. 2017 will remain in the Union’s history as the year when several integrational taboos have been broken, and one of them is in the most conservative and often ideologically coloured areas of culture and education.

The Macron effect

This would have hardly been possible had Emmanuel Macron not appeared on EU stage with the ambition to shake the Union down to its foundations. He was first to raise the issue of European identity in his European speech in the Sorbonne in September. In his speech, he demanded, by 2024, every student to know at least two European languages, the establishment of European universities, and at least half of every age group of young Europeans to be able to spend at least 6 months in another member state. A month later, European Council President Donald Tusk (Poland, EPP) had something like a planning speech in which he outlined the three dimensions of the EU, one of which is a cultural community. Before the European Parliament he said that “we have the right and obligation to care for what distinguishes us from other cultures – not in order to be against someone, but to be ourselves“.

A little while after, in November, preparations began for the first social summit in 20 years in Gothenburg, which was dedicated not only on adopting the EU’s social pillar but also on culture and education. Two key documents were published ahead of the summit – by the European Commission and by European Council President Donald Tusk. However, both institutions focused on different things. The Commission, as usually, thinks about the bigger picture and more comprehensively, whereas Donald Tusk focused on what is politically feasible at a certain moment. For the Commission, the starting point should be a common identity at a time “when our European values and democracies are tested by awakening populist forces at home and abroad or by the spreading of ‘fake news’ and the manipulation of our information networks, it is the moment when European Leaders and the EU institutions must react“, is said in the introduction of the Commission document.

According to the Commission, the best way to enhance European identity is through education and culture. The Commission points to several very important developments: digitalisation, automatisation, artificial intelligence and the future needs of skills and competences; demographic trends and the need of integrating culturally different migrant population; new methods of communication, social media, fake news and the need to spread media literacy among all citizens; the rise of populism and xenophobia, the risk of violent radicalisation.

Part of the decision of these problems is to boost student mobility but this seems to be a very serious problem. Despite measures undertaken so far, like the Bologna process for instance, high education and high school diplomas are not readily recognised by the member states which practically deprives young people of opportunities to study or work in another member state. According to the Commission, this is “a lost opportunity in equipping young people with a good education and a hindrance to the flow of ideas, which impedes the work of universities, research and innovation“. This is also an obstacle before the integration of the labour market.

The Commission proposed to overcome these problems by establishing a European education area which includes mutual recognition of high education and high school diplomas. It also proposes expanding the Erasmus+ education programme to cover all categories of education. Creating a European student card by 2019, a network of European universities (Macron’s idea) and to cooperate unimpededly across borders, and to compete internationally.

The Commission not only has adopted the French president’s ideas but it is going further than that pointing out that attention should be paid to the education programmes in Europe themselves, which are, generally, of good quality but there are a lot of shortcomings as well. The number of low achievers in science has increased by 25% in the past years. According to the Commission, these young people will have very serious problems in the labour market. Twenty percent of the working age population in the EU has low literacy and low mathematical skills. A much larger number of people have a low digital competence in the digital age – 44%. The Commission’s assessment is that 90% of the jobs of the future will require some level of digital skills. Moreover, at present, 40% of European businesses have troubles recruiting ICT specialists.

Another very serious problem the EC highlights is offering equal opportunities. Weak-performing children generally come from low-income households or with low education. Very often education does not offer a real chance for social mobility, which means that those who are poor will remain poor. The other problem the French president focused on in his speech in the Sorbonne was multilingualism. Almost half of EU citizens speak or understand their mother tongue only. How can a European identity be build in a Union of 24 official languages, and a Union which often compares itself to the US at that?

In most member states, learning two foreign languages is compulsory for all pupils but in Belgium (the French community), Germany, Ireland, Spain, Croatia, Hungary and the UK this is optional. The Commission continues with the problems pointing out that too few pupils choose to study science, technology, engineering and mathematics, especially girls.

What does the Commission propose?

The Council has to commit to improving learning of languages in Europe by putting a benchmark by 2025 all Europeans graduating from high school to know well at least two foreign languages. The Council should also set ambitious targets low achievers and early-leavers to drop respectively from 15% to 10%, and from 10% to 5%, by 2025. Benchmarks should be also set for digital skills and entrepreneurship.

The Commission also insists freedom, democracy, equality, respect for the rule of law, human rights and dignity to be part of the European identity, and therefore asks the Council to adopt a recommendation in this direction. Because of fake news and alternative facts the Commission believes the EU should take a stronger position in support of media freedom, media pluralism and media transparency in Europe. The Commission is aware that the EU has no direct competences when it comes to media but it supports, including financially, the Euronews channel. Through the years, however, the European public broadcasters turned into minority shareholders in the channel whereas private broadcasters and investors from outside the EU increased their share.

The Commission is concerned that the channel does not always leave an impression that it is a European medium which always reflects pluralism of opinion in Europe and European values. Therefore, the Commission says, it is time to discuss this issue and decide what to do with Euronews. EU’s funding share in Euronews is 36% or 25 million euros annually.

Currently, the member states invest on average 5% of their gross domestic product in their education systems. However, there are significant divergences. Some countries, like Romania for instance, spend less (around 4%) and others up to 7% (Denmark). This has to change, the Commission says, and proposes this issue to be taken into account when discussing the next EU budget.

The dark side of European history and culture as the last Jedi

The note of the European Council president reveals much less ambitions for making the European society more cohesive as such. The ideas of the member states are reduced to creating a network of European universities from various member states, with integrated curricula and programmes which will allow students to study abroad and attend lectures in at least two languages. Another idea is to integrate education programmes which will allow student exchange. Multilingualism and the creation of a European student card are the other priorities in the note. The document proposes the launch of a reflection process on digital revolution and artificial intelligence. Donald Tusk proposes all opportunities envisaged in the Lisbon Treaty for educational and cultural integration to be explored. He specifically quotes three articles – 165, 166, 167. The three envisage much stronger cooperation in the area of education.

Education and culture are also part of Donald Tusk’s Leaders’ Agenda, and the first discussion took place at the EU summit in Gothenburg but there was no word at the summit of the European values, media and populism the European Commission talks about in its own document. Indicative of how weak integration is in education and culture is the fact that the relevant ministers meet only three times a year. Foreign and finance ministers, for instance, meet every month. Transport ministers also meet often, as well as the agriculture ministers. In November, the ministers of culture held a very deep and public debate on the role of culture for building cohesive societies but many of the participants took part only for the sake of appearances.

The discussion took place under the presidency of Estonian Culture Minster Indrek Saar who put it in the context of rising migration from outside the EU as well as the growing mobility within the EU which, in his words, has led to diverse societies where people with different cultural, social and religious identity live side by side. “As much as living in such a diverse community can be enriching it may also give rise to tensions and put social cohesion at risk“, he said and recalled that the economic and financial crisis of 2008 created fertile ground for populism, nationalism, radicalism and extremism. He believes, though, that culture can contribute to resolving these problems.

Finland asked for empirical evidence of how culture affects cohesion and how democracy can be supported. Finnish Minister of Culture Sampo Terho said the Council of Europe has the needed benchmarks which can be used for this purpose. Dario Franceschini, the minister of culture of Italy, said that culture has to be the driving force of European integration at a time when Europe is being tackled by fear, lack of governance, nationalist and populist trends. “We need courage“, he said and added that Europe has no alternative. Luxembourg shared that almost 50% of its population is not of the Luxembourgish ethnic background.

Lithuania admitted that it does not have problems with migrants yet but, nonetheless, concerns are not diminishing. Bulgaria Minister of Culture Boil Banov spoke of community centres as a successful integrating and cohesive form. “We believe that the achievements of community centres, in terms of cohesion of society, are unique, especially in small communities“, he said. The most meaningful statement was made by two German representatives. Germany was represented by its federal state secretary for culture and by a representative of the provinces. Georg Schuette, a state secretary, said the initiative was more important than ever mainly because of populist slogans.

He raised two issues – about the role of women in culture and media because in many areas they are “awfully underrepresented“, especially at leading positions. The second issue is cultural integration. “Our societies are increasingly being marked by immigration“, Mr Schuette added. The representative of provinces focused on the totalitarian past and the role of culture for remembering the crimes of totalitarian regimes. In his words, “our free societies in Europe are driven not least from the experience of the totalitarian regimes of the 20th century. That experience, however, is no longer directly accessible to younger generations. The same goes for migrants who now have to be integrated“. He said that Germany is doing its best to “make sure that the engagement with the darker side of history is continued“.

In Germany we have learned the importance of fundamental rights to analysing our own history. The crimes of regimes, like that of ex-DDR, are central to this, and cooperation with international partners is part of that“, the representative added. UK’s deputy permanent representative in the EU Katrina Williams gave the example of theatres as a place for engagement with refugees. She mentioned a project which the UK works on with partners from the Netherlands and Italy for integration through community theatre. “We should also remember that cultural and creative exports shape how we in Europe are viewed by the rest of the world“, she added.

Most statements, especially of representatives of the new member states, were highly disappointing, including that of Croatian Minister of Culture Nina Obuljen Korzinek of whom one would have expected sharing experience about the role of culture in overcoming the severe consequences of ethnic and separatist conflicts.

For the first time conclusions on education and culture

The December EU summit in Brussels last week will remain in history as the first which raised education and culture to such a high political level, and this at a time when the Union is suffering of serious division, thanks to the migration crisis which, from its part, revealed serious differences in terms of values. Although the solutions in the conclusions can hardly be termed bold, the final text of the document went through some cosmetic changes which, however, were quite telling. Leaders agree that social, educational and cultural dimension is important for the cohesion of Europe and for building a common future.

In the same time, however, they do not agree the EU to have a coordinating role. The draft conclusions, adopted by the General Affairs Council before the 14-15 summit said that in Gothenburg was expressed readiness to make much more for education and culture in the context of building cohesive and inclusive societies. Those are areas where “the EU plays an important supplementing, supporting and coordinating role“. However, the coordinating role was removed from the adopted text, which means the leaders are still cautious in this area.

There are differences between the texts regarding learning of foreign languages. In the draft, it was said that young people speaking at least two European languages in addition to their mother tongue has to be an objective, whereas in the adopted document the word ‘objective’ is not mentioned at all. It is said that learning languages should be increased “so that more young people will speak at least two European languages in addition to their mother tongue“. On all other issues – creation of a network of some 20 European universities by 2024, creation of a European student card, and the mutual recognition of high school diplomas – there are no differences between the two texts.

French President Emmanuel Macron, for whom this was an important step because it was under his initiative that education and culture have been raised for the first time at such political level, said significant progress has been achieved in this area. He also said that preparation for this was in close cooperation with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar was one of the few leaders who mentioned the issue after the summit. He said that the Irish government had already published a statement outlining what actions will be undertaken in the coming week on this issue. The topic was mentioned by Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic but only as one of the points on the agenda without expressing any particular opinion on the issue.

The integration step in this area is insignificant but the fact that it has been for the first time raised at supranational and such a high political level shows that this will not be the last one. Building a European identity will be a hard and long process but it is all the more clear that it is inevitable if the Union wants to survive.

Posted in EuropeComments Off on EU Starts Building a European Identity

Nazi regime Is Paying for Anti-BDS Journalism

The Israeli Government Is Paying for Anti-BDS Journalism
  

Featured image: Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan and Chief of Police Roni Alsheikh attend a ceremony for Israeli police at the Police National College, Bet Shemesh, September 22, 2016. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

The Israeli ministry tasked with fighting the BDS Movement is spending millions of shekels to place propaganda that looks like news in Israel’s most prominent media outlets.

The Israeli government paid the Yedioth Group, publisher of Israel’s best-selling daily newspaper, hundreds of thousands of shekels to publish articles and interviews meant to influence readers to support a campaign Israel is waging against its critics. The Strategic Affairs Ministry, headed by Minister Gilad Erdan, purchased positive coverage and the distribution of that content on the Internet.

According to information provided to “The Seventh Eye” and “Hatzlacha,” as part of a freedom of information request, the Yedioth Ahronoth Group received NIS 350,000 ($100,000) to publish journalistic articles, which were then distributed by member organizations of the “Pro-Israel Network” in Israel and around the world. The articles, according to the information furnished, were meant to motivate or enlist Israelis into the struggle.

The paid-for articles were published starting in June 2017 in the news section of Yedioth Ahronoth‘s weekend magazine, and on its website, Ynet. Like other campaigns that included purchasing articles from the newspaper, this one also included promotions in the widely-distributed weekend edition.

Alongside the paid-for articles, Ynet also published promotional videos produced by the Ministry of Strategic Affairs, as well as three interviews with a ranking official at the ministry, Tzahi GabrieliTwo of those paid-for interviews were conducted by Ynet’s senior political correspondent, Attila Somfalvi, who asked soft-ball questions that allowed him to present his talking points.

In addition to the interviews with Gabrieli, Yedioth also interviewed a string of people from various Jewish organizations that do not have direct ties to the state. The role of those organizations in the government efforts against de-legitimization and their ties to the government are unclear.

Two of those organizations, the “World Jewish Congress” and “Stand With Us,” were sponsors of Yedioth’s anti-BDS conference last year, in which senior politicians and officials from the Strategic Affairs Ministry took part.

“Over the last year,” wrote journalist Reuven Weiss in one of the paid-for articles, “the boycott movement’s main base of operations in their campaign to delegitimize Israel has moved to social media, and new tools are required.”

The aim of at least some of those state-sponsored articles was to enlist the public to help some of those civil society organizations in spreading government messaging on the internet and to combat unflattering content. In other words, to get the public to execute the Ministry of Strategic Affairs’ strategy.

“Are you sick of hearing the lies about Israel spread in the international media and on social networks?” read an accompanying box in one of the Hebrew-language state-sponsored articles. Readers were then encouraged to Google the campaign’s name, “4il,” go to the site, and start sharing “videos, caricatures, and articles that expose the lies of BDS.” In addition, Yedioth suggested that readers download an app called Act.il, which enables them to take part in “daily missions” to advance pro-Israel messaging on social media.

As has become customary at Yedioth Ahronoth in recent years, readers are told only that the article they are reading was published “in cooperation with” an Israeli government ministry, without explaining that “in cooperation with” actually means “paid for by.” In recent months, the list of articles featuring that disclosure has grown to include articles written by the news organization’s diplomatic correspondent Itamar Eichner.

The relationship between the Ministry of Strategic Affairs and Yedioth Ahronoth is only part of a much broader, well-funded campaign: in June and July of 2017 the ministry spent nearly NIS 7 million ($2 million) on spreading its messaging to the public in Israel and abroad. That is larger than any of the other campaigns that have been exposed by The Seventh Eye in recent years. The second-largest such campaign documented previously was NIS 11 million, and that was over the course of more than a year.

In addition to the journalistic content that the Ministry of Strategic Affairs purchased in Yedioth, it also spent over half a million shekels on placing content on Israel’s highest-rated television news channel, Channel 2 and its website, Mako. And in addition to Hebrew-language articles, the ministry also purchased journalistic content targeting a more global audience, enlisting it in the fight against delegitimization.

The state-sponsored articles aimed overseas audiences were published in The Jerusalem Post, which was paid NIS 120,000 ($34,000); in the Times of Israel, which was paid NIS 95,000 ($27,000); and the J Media Group, an American publishing group, which was paid NIS 115,000 ($33,000). The J Media Group, which operates a television station called ILTV, also received money from the Strategic Affairs Ministry, along with Hebrew-language newspaper Makor Rishon. The ministry refused to release data on its relationship with Sheldon Adelson’s newspaper, Israel Hayom.

Israeli BDS activists take part in an anti-corruption demonstration in Tel Aviv's Habima Square, December 9th, 2017. (Hagar Shezaf)

Israeli BDS activists take part in an anti-corruption demonstration in Tel Aviv’s Habima Square, December 9th, 2017. (Hagar Shezaf)

According to the data that was released, the Ministry of Strategic Affairs’ biggest expenditure of the campaign — over NIS 2.6 million ($740,000) — was budgeted to promote content on social media and search engines, including Google, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Another large sum, around NIS 2 million ($570,000), was budgeted for building the Act.il website and producing multi-media content for it. Another roughly NIS 490,000 ($140,000) was budgeted for “strategy,” “creative,” and “branding.”

The funds the government is using to purchase state-sponsored journalistic articles come from the public, and therefore most government ministries have agreed to release information on those types of relationships. It will soon be far more difficult to obtain information about the purchase of journalistic content by Ministry of Strategic Affairs. The ministry has in recent months been advancing legislation that would exempt it from Israel’s Freedom of Information Law. According to the draft legislation, “successfully waging this battle requires keeping it as ambiguous as possible.”

The Strategic Affairs Ministry claimed that the law would not apply to the types of relationships like that with the Yedioth Ahronot Group, but the bill itself, which passed a preliminary vote over the summer and is now waiting for its second and final votes, is written in a way that will apply to all of the ministry’s activities. In response to past freedom of information requests by The Seventh Eye and Hatzlacha, the ministry claimed that some of the requested documents were “classified.” It redacted other documents, claiming that they were liable to harm Israel’s foreign relations, and even state security.

Attila Somfalvi declined to respond to interview requests. Ron Yaron, the editor of Yedioth Ahronoth, sent the following response:

We are proud of the broad and comprehensive coverage Yedioth Ahronoth has been leading against the boycott of Israel. When, in that framework, there has been cooperation with [government] officials or bodies in articles that were published, there have been prominent disclosures of it, similar to what is done in other media outlets when they cooperate with various bodies

Posted in Palestine Affairs, ZIO-NAZI, CampaignsComments Off on Nazi regime Is Paying for Anti-BDS Journalism

Syrian Government Forces Besiege Key Al Qaeda Strongpoint in Southern Idlib ‘Video’

NOVANEWS
  

On December 20, Syrian government forces liberated the villages of Musheirifat Abu Dali and Tall al-Maqta in southern Idlib from Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra, the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda).

Thus, troops of the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and the National Defense Forces (NDF) deployed within only 2km of the strategic village of Abu Dali. This village is one of the key strong points of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) in the area.

In southern Aleppo, HTS repelled an attack by the SAA and the NDF on the villages of Ramla and Sayyalah. According to the HTS-linked news agency Iba’a, the militants captured 7 SAA soldiers and an officer during the clashes.

On December 21, clashes between government troops and HTS continued in many points in southern Idlib and southern Aleppo. According to pro-government sources, the elite Tiger Forces, led by Gen. Suheil al-Hassan, should soon join the SAA battle against the militants.

A withdrawal deal between HTS and the government failed in Damascus’ Eastern Ghouta. According to pro-opposition sources, HTS members failed to execute their side of the agreement and to prepare for withdrawal to the province of Idlib because of the tensions between HTS and another militant group – Jaish al-Islam.

In the Beit Jinn pocket, the SAA and the NDF reached the eastern entrance to the HTS-held village of Maghar al-Mir and engaged militants in the nearby heights. Clashes are ongoing in the area. If Maghar al-Mir is liberated, it will be a major blow to the HTS defense in the pocket.

The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) announced that its fighters repelled an attack by ISIS on their positions in the villages of Hamam and Jaras Sharqi in the province of Deir Ezzor. According to reports, 3 SDF members and 7 ISIS members were killed in the clashes.

ISIS also attacked a SDF checkpoint in al-Shheell where the militants allegedly killed 7 civilians, a SDF member and destroyed a Humvee.

The SDF also announced that 242 new fighters finished their training and joined its ranks. The fighters will be a part of the new border force responsible for securing the SDF-held part of the border with Iraq.

Posted in SyriaComments Off on Syrian Government Forces Besiege Key Al Qaeda Strongpoint in Southern Idlib ‘Video’


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