Archive | February 11th, 2018

In Libya, ISIS Is Using Human Trafficking to Finance Its Activities

A UN report, which was delivered to a UN Security Council committee, highlighted ISIS’ involvement in human trafficking networks.

A new UN report has warned of potential collusion between human traffickers and state institutions in Libya, amidst further concerns that groups such as ISIS are exploiting these processes.

The 150-page report, which was collated by UN officials, was sent to a 15-member UN Security Council committee on Wednesday and documented how state security institutions might be working with smugglers to engage in illegal trafficking activities.

For several years, these smugglers have worked with complete impunity as they transferred thousands of people across the Mediterranean. Many of the people who undertook these dangerous journeys died as they attempted to made the perilous journey towards Europe.

In the report, Eritrean migrants told the UN officials that they had been arrested by the Special Deterrence Force (SDF) and then handed over to various smuggling networks. The SDF, which is an armed group affiliated with the Ministry of Interior of the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA), has thus far denied these allegations.

While questions of complicity between state officials and traffickers remain, fears are also growing that the so-called Islamic State are inserting themselves into these smuggling processes.

This comes as the group attempts to regain a foothold in Libya after its losses in 2016 and 2017. In mid-2016, the group was defeated in their onetime stronghold of Sirte by troops affiliated to the GNA and in late 2017, militants were finally defeated in the city of Benghazi by troops affiliated to the rival Libyan National Army (LNA), led by the General Khalifa Haftar.

While some see this as an opportunity for ISIS to gain prominence in Libya, others see it as a ploy by ‘gangs’ to exploit the current political and security instability to make money.

“Unfortunately, this exists. These gangs rob people and seek to make money illegally and criminally,” said Salah al-Din al-Jamali, the Arab League Envoy to Libya. “Therefore, the issue of trafficking in human beings must be viewed objectively and the security capabilities of the countries concerned – Libya and the Sahel countries – including Algeria, should be strengthened.”

Despite the prevalence of human trafficking, the Italian Interior Ministry announced that 3,500 people crossed from Libya to Italy this year, which marks a 60% reduction compared to this time last year.

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Media Ignoring Puerto Rico’s ‘Shock Doctrine’ Makeover


Nearly five months after Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico, more than a hundred thousand US citizens there still lack clean drinking water, and almost one-third of the island has no reliable electric power. As initial life-sustaining recovery efforts still grind toward completion, Puerto Rico’s Gov. Ricardo Rosselló (image below) has wasted no time using his territory’s recovery as an opportunity to push a number of policy proposals right out of the “disaster capitalism” playbook: from privatizing the island’s power utility to converting nearly all of its public schools to charters.

And while the mainstream US press has been mainly focused on the Trump administration’s woeful institutional response to the storm, it has barely noticed this much more radical political transformation of Puerto Rico, and the potentially disastrous long-term consequences for the citizens who live there.

Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosello

Ever since Maria made landfall on September 20, the corporate press has been neglecting  the island in its coverage. Despite ranking second behind 2005’s Hurricane Katrina for property damage and lives lost, Maria has drawn markedly less media attention than the two major hurricanes that preceded it last summer. For example, according to a survey by the Tyndall Report, broadcast network evening news reports in 2017 devoted 30 percent less coverage to the aftermath of Maria than to Houston’s recovery from Hurricane Harvey. Likewise, Maria drew 12 percent less evening news coverage than Hurricane Irma’s devastation of Florida and the US Virgin Islands.

To be sure, major US news outlets have produced some notable pieces of accountability journalism about the storm’s aftermath. Intrepid reporting by the Daily Beast (10/24/17) uncovered how a tiny Montana energy contractor won an exorbitant $300 million no-bid contract to help restore the island’s power grid, a story that ultimately cost the head of the island’s power utility his job. A New York Times story this week (2/6/18) found similar incompetence and recklessness in Trump’s FEMA, which hired a one-woman company to provide 30 million meals to needy Puerto Ricans, only 50,000 of which were ever delivered.

NYT: FEMA Contract Called for 30 Million Meals for Puerto Ricans. 50,000 Were Delivered.

New York Times (2/6/18)

However powerful, the focus of these breakout stories is mainly anecdotal, and the outrage they engender tends to fade from headlines and cable news talk shows after a few days. In her seminal report on “disaster capitalism” (The Nation,  4/14/05), author and activist Naomi Klein noted how these stories can also have the perverse effect of distracting from much larger, systemic transgressions happening out in the open:

If anything, the stories of corruption and incompetence serve to mask this deeper scandal: the rise of a predatory form of disaster capitalism that uses the desperation and fear created by catastrophe to engage in radical social and economic engineering. And on this front, the reconstruction industry works so quickly and efficiently that the privatizations and land grabs are usually locked in before the local population knows what hit them.

Nowhere was this “shock doctrine,” as Klein christened it, more evident than in New Orleans in the aftermath of Katrina. Mere weeks after the storm hit—with many victims still missing or their bodies unrecovered—Republicans were already planning an onslaught of right-wing policy changes for the ravaged city, but few in the mainstream press took notice.

One example was an email list of policies sent from Congress’s Republican Study Committee, at the time chaired by then-Indiana Rep. Mike Pence. The memo proposed dozens of “pro–free market” ideas for the Bush administration to consider for the still-suffering city, which were little more than a wish list for corporations and private enterprise.

Similarly, Rep. Richard Baker, a Republican from New Orleans, offered this famously macabre comment on the storm’s devastating impact: “We finally cleaned up public housing in New Orleans. We couldn’t do it, but God did.” He got his wish, and accompanying the subsequent massive makeover of the New Orleans public housing was a rapid, wholesale restructuring of the city’s troubled school system.

2 weeks after announcing the privatization of the electricity system, Puerto Rico’s governor just declared the school system will be privatized (charters, vouchers), just like post-Katrina New Orleans. Don’t let anyone tell you it was a success: 

Klein’s 2007 book, Shock Doctrine, zeroes in on the bifurcated response post-Katrina and its impact on the schools:

In sharp contrast to the glacial pace with which the levees were repaired and the electricity grid was brought back online, the auctioning off of New Orleans’ school system took place with military speed and precision. Within 19 months, with most of the city’s poor resident still in exile, New Orleans’ public school system had been almost completely replaced by privately run charter schools. Before Hurricane Katrina, the school board had run 123 public schools; now it ran just four. Before that storm, there had been seven charter schools in the city; now there were 31. New Orleans teachers used to be represented by a strong union; now the union’s contract had been shredded, and its 4,700 members had all been fired. Some of the younger teachers were rehired by the charters, at reduced salaries; most were not.

More than a decade later, Klein’s book sounds eerily prophetic of Puerto Rico Governor Roselló’s post-Maria plans. Under his education reform proposal, announced just this week, the island would closely follow the roadmap of New Orleans, creating a voucher system and converting more than 800 public schools to charters that would be run by non-profits or corporations. If implemented—the plan would require approval of the Puerto Rican legislature, but many in the majority party have already come out in support of it—the move would represent a seismic shift for the island’s struggling school system, and a major milestone for US education policy.

But mainstream US news organizations mostly shrugged at the news. Many, like the Washington PostCBS NewsCNN and MSNBC, didn’t even bother to cover it. For its part, the New York Times didn’t bother to write its own story. Instead, it just ran the same syndicated Associated Press article (2/5/18) that NBC News (2/5/18), ABC News (2/5/18) and Fox News (2/6/18) did.

El Nuevo Dia: Ricardo Rosselló announces his education reform plan

El Nuevo Dia (2/6/18)

Tellingly, none of the national news coverage saw fit to mention New Orleans’ post-Katrina experience with charter schools, even though it closely resembles what Rosselló is proposing. Local news outlet El Nuevo Dia (2/6/18) did, however, giving its readers key context that the New York Times and Associated Press left out. It painted a much different picture than Rosselló’s rosy outlook:

In Louisiana, which is one of the models the Island tries to follow, all public schools in the city of New Orleans were converted into charters after Hurricane Katrina, but did not reach the expected academic achievement.

On the contrary, education and civic organizations have denounced segregation in the education system and that the poorest or most vulnerable did not have the same access to high-quality educational opportunities.

In fact, a three-month investigation of New Orleans charter schools in 2015 by In These Times (8/28/15) found even more systemic failures. Formerly tight-knit communities were disrupted by the voucher system, teachers unions were gutted in favor of younger, cheaper and less experienced staff, and many students were left out or left behind because they were considered too difficult to teach, and thus threatened the charter schools’ standardized test scores track record. And a New Orleans Times-Picayune analysis (4/20/16) found that dozens of the city’s charter school executives ended up earning well over six-figure salaries, while teachers’ pay averaged closer to $50,000.

A similar scenario played out at the end of January, when Rosselló announced plans to privatize PREPA, Puerto Rico’s antiquated, bankrupt public utility. Again, news organizations like ABC News (1/29/18), the New York Times (1/29/18), the Washington Post (1/29/18) and Fox News (1/29/18) all relied on one or two of the same news briefs from the AP for their coverage. However, few of these news organizations chose to include critical, historical detail from the AP, buried deep in one of its stories (1/23/18):

Puerto Rico once privatized its water and sewer company only to have the government take it back in the early 2000s after problems with service, billing and quality requirements set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

How would Rosselló’s plan avoid these same past mistakes? You won’t find any answers.

CNN (1/22/18) and NBC News (1/22/18) wrote their own short articles on privatizing PREPA, but front-loaded Rosselló’s claims, with only cursory skepticism over selling off such a critical public asset. With no other alternative sources or plans presented, their coverage made privatization seem like a fait accompli.

Left unmentioned were some of the reasons for PREPA’s dreadful state. To appease bondholders of Puerto Rico’s skyrocketing debt, the island instituted austerity measures in 2014, prompting hundreds of experienced PREPA employees to retire early to claim their pensions before the cuts kicked in (Economist10/19/17). They were never replaced, leaving maintenance and upgrades languishing. Similarly, Rosselló recently began stacking PREPA’s board with political cronies that had little to no experience in running a public utility.

Wall Street Journal article (1/22/1) on PREPA’s possible privatization waited until the final paragraph of the story to point out this detail, as well as the fact that Roselló intentionally undermined a regulatory appointee charged with oversight of the agency—something particularly relevant to how well a future privatized Puerto Rican power company might respond to public needs.

Exacerbating nearly all of the many crises facing Puerto Rico is the territory’s broader fiscal situation—it currently suffers from $70 billion in debt—and federal oversight more focused on Wall Street bondholders than American citizens living in Puerto Rico. Again, only the Associated Press (1/17/18) seems to have paid much attention to the fact that, last month, the Trump administration withheld an already-approved billion-dollar emergency disaster loan, claiming Puerto Rico had too much cash on hand. This follows a little-reported announcement in late 2016 that the federal control board overseeing the territory’s finances rejected legislation creating a $100 million emergency fund for municipalities struggling in Maria’s aftermath—no matter that most of the island’s power, water and sewer systems have little to no funds left for operations.

A rare Washington Post story (1/23/18) on the territory’s fiscal problems noted that Republicans in Congress are still intent on forcing it to honor its crushing financial burden, despite projections that the island’s economy will be devastated by a massive diaspora of nearly 500,000 people by 2020, according to one Hunter College study. As the Post story noted, House Natural Resources Committee chair Rob Bishop (R.-Utah) said the goal of the federal oversight legislation was “to return Puerto Rico to fiscal accountability and the capital markets, and this can only occur if the fiscal plans respect the lawful priorities and liens of debt holders.” Servicing a monumental debt in the midst of the island’s 11-plus-year recession while trying to rebuild from one of worst natural disasters in US history is tantamount to fiscal harakiri. But it does provide a handy excuse for Puerto Rican officials looking to tear down or sell off whatever is left of the public commons for pennies on the dollar.

WSJ: Puerto Rico Doesn't Want Reform

Wall Street Journal (11/24/17)

When not ignoring the the pillaging of Puerto Rico, some in the corporate press were not so subtly trying to make it worse. In late November, a Wall Street Journal op-ed by “Americas” columnist Mary Anastasia O’Grady (11/24/17)—headlined “Puerto Rico Doesn’t Want Reform”—criticized the territory’s unwillingness to extend its own post-Maria misery when it dared to reject a predatory funding offer from PREPA bondholders.

Puerto Rico rejected the offer. “The bondholders’ proposal is not viable and would severely hamper and limit PREPA’s capacity to successfully manage its recovery,” Puerto Rico’s Fiscal Agency and Financial Advisory Authority said at the time. It added that the offer had the “appearance” of “being made for the purpose of favorably impacting the trading price of existing debt.” Heaven forbid.

The arch condescension in that “heaven forbid” sums up the disaster capitalism mindset. It also speaks to a broader failure of the press to cover more radical solutions to Puerto Rico’s formidable struggles. One such proposed solution, co-authored by Nobel Prize–winning economist Joseph Stiglitz back in September, has been all but blacked out of corporate media’s post-Maria coverage of the territory, although Bloomberg (1/16/18) did mention it when the territory’s new fiscal plan was rolled out early this year. Coincidentally, this plan rejects the conventional wisdom that the island should further retrench into austerity while stripping down its assets and selling it off for parts. Instead, Stiglitz calls for more borrowing and expansion, coupled with massive write-offs of Puerto Rico’s debt—as much as 80 to 90 percent—and canceling interest payments on the remaining debt for at least five years.

Ironically, none other than President Trump endorsed the idea of radical debt forgiveness during his post-Maria visit to the island in October. “They owe a lot of money to your friends on Wall Street, and we’re going to have to wipe that out,” he said about Puerto Rico in the Washington Post (10/3/17). “You’re going to say goodbye to that. I don’t know if it’s Goldman Sachs, but whoever it is, you can wave goodbye to that.”

This off-the-cuff comment, from someone whose White House is chock full of Goldman Sachs alums, clearly caught his staff off guard. A day later, it fell to his budget director, Mick Mulvaney, to do damage control, reassuring bondholders that they could safely ignore the president’s comments. In statements to the press, Mulvaney made it clear that a Puerto Rican debt jubilee, like so many of this president’s populist-sounding promises, would not be happening (New York Times, 10/4/17).

But just because the White House wants to memory hole the inconvenient truth about Puerto Rico’s indentured servitude at the hands of Wall Street doesn’t mean the press should willingly oblige. Nor should journalists continue to ignore the long-term impacts of the privatization schemes its governor is intent on pushing through, or how the federal government enables them—not merely through its woeful emergency response, but in its failure to fund a full recovery.

Though last week’s government shutdown budget deal did allocate more money for the island, the new disaster relief package—for Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, as well as California wildfires—only totaled $89 billion, whereas Puerto Rican officials have estimated more than $94 billion would be needed for the island’s recovery alone. And good luck seeing any news coverage point out that this shortfall could have easily been made up by taking some of the extra $165 billion that Congress happily added to the military budget. But then, under the “shock doctrine,” disasters are to be exploited, not mitigated—and the main role of the corporate press is not to notice.

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Downed Russian Warplane Illustrates Enduring Danger of US-Backed Terrorism


A Russian ground-attack aircraft – a Sukhoi-25 – was shot down using an anti-aircraft missile over the northern Syrian province of Idlib by Al Qaeda affiliates. The pilot was reportedly killed by militants according to the Russian Ministry of Defense.

The BBC in its article, “Russian jet shot down in Syria’s Idlib province,” would report:

Hayat Tahrir al-Sham – formerly linked to al-Qaeda – said it had shot down the plane.

In a statement released on social media, the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham group claimed it had shot down the plane using a shoulder-launched surface-to-air missile.

The BBC and other Western media organizations have worked ceaselessly to aid groups like “Hayat Tahrir al-Sham” in their efforts to re-brand themselves and obfuscate public awareness over their status as terrorist organizations, thus making it easier for either the US and its European allies to aid and arm such groups, or for Western allies in the Middle East to aid and arm them.

That “Tahrir al-Sham” possesses anti-aircraft missiles indicates they are the recipients of state-sponsored arms deliveries. The fact that they murdered the downed pilot – a war crime – reaffirms their status as a terrorist organization.

Al Qaeda affiliates possessing anti-aircraft weapon systems should come as no surprise. The US had literally handed hundreds of anti-aircraft missiles to militants in Afghanistan during the 1980’s which included Arab volunteers assisted by Al Qaeda. With these missiles, militants likewise downed Russia warplanes and helicopters.

Arming Al Qaeda in Syria was ‘Plan A’ Before the Arab Spring “Sprung”

The Washington Post in its article, “Russia strikes back as Syrian rebels take credit for shooting down fighter jet, killing pilot,” regarding allegations that that the United States was responsible for Al Qaeda possessing anti-aircraft weapons used to down Russian aircraft would report:

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said any allegation that the United States has provided MANPAD missiles in Syria was untrue, and she denied that U.S. equipment was used in shooting down the Russian plane.

“The United States has never provided MANPAD missiles to any group in Syria, and we are deeply concerned that such weapons are being used,” she said.

Yet an examination of the Syrian conflict’s true inception reveals just how dubious this denial by the US State Department really is.

The Syrian conflict was conceived years before the first protesters took to the streets during the 2011 so-called “Arab Spring.”

US policymakers had been preparing since as early as 2007 to wage proxy war on Syria and Iran. To do so they built upon a history of collaboration with Saudi Arabia and other notorious state-sponsors of terrorism – which includes the joint US-Saudi-Pakistani support provided to militants including Al Qaeda in the mountains of Afghanistan during the 1980s to expel Soviet forces. This support included shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles.

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh in his 2007 article, “The Redirection: Is the Administration’s new policy benefitting our enemies in the war on terrorism?” provided a prophetic warning of the dangerous expansion of this state-sponsored terrorism. Hersh warned (emphasis added):

To undermine Iran, which is predominantly Shiite, the Bush Administration has decided, in effect, to reconfigure its priorities in the Middle East. In Lebanon, the Administration has coöperated with Saudi Arabia’s government, which is Sunni, in clandestine operations that are intended to weaken Hezbollah, the Shiite organization that is backed by Iran. The U.S. has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria. A by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda.

Hersh revealed that even then the US was using its Saudi allies to launder money and material support to opposition fronts:

Some of the core tactics of the redirection are not public, however. The clandestine operations have been kept secret, in some cases, by leaving the execution or the funding to the Saudis, or by finding other ways to work around the normal congressional appropriations process, current and former officials close to the Administration said.

In addition to the US State Department organizing political agitators that would flood the streets of nations like Tunisia, Libya, Syria, Egypt, and Yemen at the onset of the “Arab Spring,” the US government and its regional allies began staging weapons and training and mobilizing militants, aimed at preparing armed groups to quickly leverage street mobs to expand and exploit the engineered conflicts.

The US Transformed Al Qaeda from a Terrorist Organization into a Standing Army 

By 2013, headlines in newspapers like the New York Times in its article, “Arms Airlift to Syria Rebels Expands, With Aid From C.I.A.,” exposed the full-scale proxy war – warned of by journalists like Hersh – the US was now waging on the Syrian state. The NYT would report (emphasis added):

With help from the C.I.A., Arab governments and Turkey have sharply increased their military aid to Syria’s opposition fighters in recent months, expanding a secret airlift of arms and equipment for the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad, according to air traffic data, interviews with officials in several countries and the accounts of rebel commanders. 

The airlift, which began on a small scale in early 2012 and continued intermittently through last fall, expanded into a steady and much heavier flow late last year, the data shows. It has grown to include more than 160 military cargo flights by Jordanian, Saudi and Qatari military-style cargo planes landing at Esenboga Airport near Ankara, and, to a lesser degree, at other Turkish and Jordanian airports.

While the NYT and other Western media organizations attempted to claim US involvement in the weapon deliveries sought to prevent Arab donors from sending weapons like anti-aircraft missiles – the US used the CIA to covertly facilitate the weapon deliveries precisely because Washington’s Arab allies could send weapons the US openly could not, to groups the US could not afford to be seen directly supporting.

In other words, the CIA aided Arab allies in arming terrorists with a wide array of weapons, including anti-aircraft missiles, specifically because the US could not directly do so itself.

And while the US attempts to revise recent history, claiming that Al Qaeda and its affiliates have only just now come to prominence after “moderate rebels” were eliminated from the battlefield over the course of the now seven year conflict, in 2012 Western media already admitted the prominent role Al Qaeda’s “Al Nusra Front” played in leading the opposition.

The 2012 NYT article, “Syrian Rebels Tied to Al Qaeda Play Key Role in War,” admitted (emphasis added):

The lone Syrian rebel group with an explicit stamp of approval from Al Qaeda has become one of the uprising’s most effective fighting forces, posing a stark challenge to the United States and other countries that want to support the rebels but not Islamic extremists. 

Money flows to the group, the Nusra Front, from like-minded donors abroad. Its fighters, a small minority of the rebels, have the boldness and skill to storm fortified positions and lead other battalions to capture military bases and oil fields. As their successes mount, they gather more weapons and attract more fighters.

Those “like-minded donors abroad” include the very Arab allies the CIA aided in delivering weapons to militants in Syria – namely Al Qaeda and its affiliates.

It is neither without precedent nor plausibility then that the US is the prime suspect in arming – either directly or indirectly – the terrorists who recently downed a Russian warplane admittedly operating in and attacking territory held by Al Qaeda in Syria.

The US has already in recent history admittedly armed militants with anti-aircraft missiles to down Russia aircraft in Afghanistan in the 1980s. It was a point of US policy since 2007 to not only aid and arm Al Qaeda and its affiliates in Washington’s proxy war with Iran and its Syrian allies, but to do so through intermediaries like Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Jordan, and Israel – as revealed by Hersh in his 2007 New Yorker article.

And it is demonstrated daily on the battlefields of Syria, despite claims that the billions the US has invested in “moderate rebels,” no such “moderates” exist. Claims that they were “displaced” by Al Qaeda begs the question – if the US invested billions in “moderate rebels,” who invested billions more in Al Qaeda giving them the operational edge to displace the “moderate rebels” from the battlefield?  The answer is simple – there were never any “moderate rebels.”

The US – as it did in Afghanistan – simply armed whatever militants were willing to fight – including, and now especially Al Qaeda and its affiliates. Al Qaeda’s possession of anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles, as well as armored vehicles and even tanks illustrates how the US in its supposed “War on Terror” managed to transform a decentralized terrorist organization into a standing army now possessing entire cities and even provinces only Damascus and its Russian and Iranian allies appear interested in fighting and eliminating.

US-backed terrorism has recently claimed a Russian pilot, amid a war that has cost tens of thousands their lives over the course of several years and threatened the stability of an entire region. But long after the war ends, whenever it ends, this threat as a result of America’s state-sponsorship of terrorism will endure for many more years to come, manifesting itself not only on battlefields but also in cities and towns, targeting soldiers and civilians alike – not just in Syria but around the planet.

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Nazi regime Escalates Aggression on Syria

Israel Escalates Aggression on Syria


In cahoots with Washington, Israel wants Syria’s government toppled, pro-Western puppet rule replacing it – tyranny instead of Assad, ignoring his overwhelming popular support.

In response to Syria’s air defense downing an Israeli F-16 attacking targets in its territory from its airspace, the IDF escalated aggression against multiple Syrian sites.

A same-day article discussed the pre-dawn Saturday incident, beginning when Israel downed what it called an Iranian drone, most likely a Syrian one called Iranian.

No Iranian or Syrian drone entered Israeli territory pre-dawn Saturday, as Israel claimed. The downed UAV was in Syrian airspace. Israel lied claiming otherwise.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi blasted its Big Lie, saying

“(r)eports of downing an Iranian drone flying over Israel and also Iran’s involvement in attacking an Israeli jet are so ridiculous…Iran only provides military advice to Syria,” adding:

“The government and army of Syria as an independent country have a legitimate right to defend (their) territorial integrity and counter any type of foreign aggression.”

A Lebanese Foreign Ministry statement denounced Israeli “aggression,” saying Damascus has a “legitimate right” to defend its territory.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry disturbingly issued a weak-kneed statement instead of a strong one condemning Israeli aggression, saying:

“Moscow is deeply concerned with the latest developments and attacks on Syria. The danger of the escalation of tensions within and around the de-escalation zones, which have become an important factor in reducing violence in Syria, is of particular concern” – not disturbing enough for Moscow to threaten retaliation if US and Israeli aggression continue.

Saying Syrian forces “are complying with the existing arrangements to provide the consistent functioning of the de-escalation zone in the southwest of the country” isn’t good enough.

Nor is “urg(ing) compl(iance) with the existing arrangements to provide the consistent functioning of the de-escalation zone in the southwest of the country.”

Russia’s failure to counter US and Israeli aggression encourages both countries to escalate it, making conflict resolution unattainable.

Syrian media said Israeli “aggression” was launched against one of its army bases.

Israel’s follow-up Saturday aggression involved eight IDF warplanes striking 12 Syrian targets, according to a military spokesperson.

Later on Saturday, Netanyahu, defense minister Lieberman, IDF chief of staff General Gady Eisenkotand other officials met to discuss the day’s events – likely plotting further aggression, perhaps expanding it to Lebanon and Gaza.

Israel remains unaccountable for high crimes of war and against humanity since its forces raped Palestine in 1948, displacing and massacring its people, stealing a nation to illegally create one of its own.

Its forces frequently launch cross-border attacks, naked aggression against sovereign Syrian territory, accountability never forthcoming.

The US/NATO/Israeli axis of evil represents the greatest threat to world peace, stability and security. Their imperial agenda threatens humanity’s survival.

Posted in ZIO-NAZI, Syria0 Comments

Don’t be Cynical about an Olympics Detente with North Korea

Both sides are sending subtle signals that more than the games may be opening today.

Featured image: The torch of the 2018 Olympic Games. (Source: Ververididis Vasilis/Shutterstock)

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has left open the possibility of Vice President Mike Pence meeting with North Korean officials during his trip to the Winter Olympic games in Seoul, whose opening ceremonies are on Friday. If that happens, Pence would be the highest ranking American official ever to huddle with a delegation from Pyongyang.

At the same time, North Korea is planning to send its highest ranking official ever to the South—Kim Yong-nam, the North’s ceremonial head of state and president of the Supreme People’s Assembly. In addition, Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un’s influential sister, Kim Yo-jongwill also be joining the delegation, the first time an immediate Kim family member will have set foot in the South.

Is this the long shot diplomatic opening we’ve been waiting for?

It’s easy to be cynical, but I look at this from a unique position. I’ve stared down the barrel of a gun held by a fanatical North Korean spy and watched her blink. It’s why, watching the run-up to the Olympics, amidst levels of cooperation and kinship unseen for years between the two Koreas, I find myself allowing optimism to peek in between the shades.

The details must remain a bit sketchy but at one point during my years working for the State Department at the American Embassy in Seoul, I found myself inside a cell of a foreign intelligence organization alone with a North Korean spy. I’ll call her Miss Park, though I have no idea if even her “real” name was real (other identity details have been altered below). She’d been arrested for espionage. She was on a hunger strike.

I was there because Miss Park may have acquired American citizenship along her complex life journey and one of my jobs at the embassy was to look after the welfare of incarcerated American citizens. Miss Park was trying to starve herself to death to avoid cooperating and it was my task to provide her the same assistance as I would to any other American in jail: to convince her not to die.

Over a handful of visits with a nurse employed by the embassy, I watched Miss Park deny herself food. She was trained to do so. She took small sips of water, she explained, to keep her higher brain functions active enough to allow her to push back against the survival instinct. She was unshakable in her loyalty to her cause. She told me she would begin to give up secrets if she lived long enough, and everything she’d devoted her life to said she should kill herself to prevent that from happening.

Miss Park came not to trust me, but at least to understand that my role was not to pry information from her. So we spoke of family, mine at first to fill the air, then eventually hers. Her son liked the elites’ amusement park he’d once had access to. There was a day when Miss Park bought him shaved ice, some sweet flavor that reminded her of the fruits she’d eaten in the West but which her son had never tasted in real life. As the embassy nurse whispered to me that the prisoner’s vital signs were reaching a critical point and that we should schedule a second visit that afternoon “in case,” I saw Miss Park stare down the angel of death. Then she asked for rice.

Ms. Park is just one person, but she is exactly the kind of person you would least expect to change. She is one of the reasons I continue to believe there is a path that will not lead to war on the Korean Peninsula.

The essence of North Korea is written into its national philosophy of juche, which above all emphasizes survival. The Kim family has been remarkably good at that since 1948. They’ve endured total war, the collapse of their patron the Soviet Union, famine, natural disasters, and decades of sanctions. North Korea exists under a survivalist philosophy, not an apocalyptic one. A senior Central Intelligence Agency official has confirmed that Kim Jong-un’s actions are those of a “rational actor” motivated to ensure regime survival.

“Waking up one morning and deciding he wants to nuke Los Angeles is not something Kim is likely to do,” the official said. “He wants to rule for a long time and die peacefully in his own bed.”

The path to some form of peaceful co-existence on the Korean Peninsula lies in understanding survival, and that means North Korea can never denuclearize, a precondition the United States has insisted on before negotiations can move forward. If denuclearization was ever possible, perhaps through some form of security guarantee, the chances were reduced in March 2003 when Saddam Hussein, who had lost his weapons of mass destruction, found his country invaded by the United States. And the possibility evaporated completely when, after Moammar Gaddafi agreed to eliminate Libya’s nuclear weapons program, he was driven out of power by American bombs in 2011.

One Korea University professor has argued that Pyongyang’s leaders felt “deeply satisfied with themselves” after Gaddafi’s fall. In North Korea’s view, the Libyans “took the economic bait, foolishly disarmed themselves, and once they were defenseless, were mercilessly punished by the West.” Only a national leader bent on suicide would negotiate away his nukes after that.

The last serious attempt at finding a path forward with North Korea was in October 2000, when then-secretary of state Madeline Albright went to Pyongyang without preconditions. A flurry of quiet diplomatic activity followed (I was at the embassy in Seoul and saw it first-hand) as both sides began building the connective tissue, the working-level personal and bureaucratic ties essential to getting down to business. One outcome was a series of extraordinary family reunions between North and South, among relatives who had not seen each other since the 1950s. Those reunions were major media events in the South.

Enthusiasm from the American side dipped sharply after the election of George W. Bush, and the process collapsed completely in 2002 after Bush chucked North Korea into his “Axis of Evil” alongside Iraq and Iran. The last attempt to restart talks took place in February 2012, soon after Kim Jong-ilpassed away and Kim Jong-un, his son, took over. Washington and Pyongyang held limited discussions resulting in a moratorium on long-range missile launches, nuclear tests, and other activities. The agreement fell apart following a (failed) North Korean satellite launch, and a later successful nuclear test in February 2013. Diplomacy has otherwise not been tried much over the last five years.

Why might there be hope now? Since 2013, North Korea’s ability to deliver more powerful weapons via more accurate missiles has grown. Through one lens, that increases the threat to the United States. (Seoul, within range of overwhelming numbers of conventional weapons, is none the worse; their destruction was assured even prior to the North going nuclear.) Looking at it from Pyongyang’s perspective, however, offers a different picture: the more powerful weapons create a more realistic deterrent. To a regime that values survival at its core, that means a very different starting point for negotiations than in 2000.

The second factor is a long shot: Trump. The president seems unworried about maintaining a consistent policy position. He favors showmanship, the Big Play. His conservative flank is covered. One can imagine him being convinced his legacy could be that of Nixon opening China, the tarnished president who nonetheless is remembered for changing history.

The key lies in removing the precondition that any talks be aimed at denuclearization, and in understanding that diplomacy is never going to be a straight line. That setbacks will occur cannot be a predetermined definition of failure. Among other complications, Kim Jong-un will need to work any progress with America past the hardliners in his government.

Image result for warmbier + pence in 2018 olympics

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence(L) and Fred Warmbier(C), the father of Otto warmbier who was imprisoned in North Korea (Source:

Kim Jong-un is indeed North Korea’s supreme ruler, but to imagine he rules without consultation from, at minimum, his generals, is simplistic. Sending the 90-year-old Kim Yong-nam as his representative to the Olympics is a significant choice: Kim has been a Communist Party member since the pre-World War II Japanese occupation of the Korean Peninsula, has served all three North Korean rulers, was formerly minister of foreign affairs, has extensive overseas experience, and as a veteran of the 1950 war, has unimpeachable credibility inside the government. The U.S. has also carefully and quietly kept Kim Yong-nam off any sanctions list, ostensibly because he is not directly involved in nuclear development.

Despite that level of bureaucratic protection, Kim Jong-un will still need to balance conciliatory steps forward with bellicose gestures directed at a limited but important domestic hardline audience. Perhaps that’s not unlike Trump, who may be covering his own hand by sending Fred Warmbier, the father of student Otto Warmbier who died after being incarcerated by Pyongyang and returning to the U.S. in a coma, to attend the Olympics alongside Pence.

North Korea is a nuclear state. That is the starting point to any deconfliction on the Korean Peninsula, not the end goal. Finding peace under those conditions is a long shot, but sometimes taking a risk pays off.

Posted in North Korea, South Korea0 Comments

Nazi Attacks Air Defences, Iranian Targets in Syria After Its F-16 Is Downed


Israel Attacks Air Defences, Iranian Targets in Syria After Its F-16 Is Downed

Israel says Iran and Syria are ‘playing with fire’ but that it is not seeking escalation

Featured image: The remains of the F-16 jet that crashed in northern Israel (Source: RTE)

Israel said it launched multiple air strikes against air defences and Iranian targets in Syria on Saturday after the Syrian army shot down an Israeli F-16 that crashed in northern Israel in a major escalation of tensions.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Israel sought peace but would continue to defend itself against Iran.

Lebanese Shia movement Hezbollah hailed Syria’s air defences after they downed the Israeli jet, saying it marked the start of a “new strategic era”.

“This is the beginning of a new strategic era which puts an end to the violation of Syrian airspace and territory,” Hezbollah said in a statement published by Lebanon’s ANI news agency.

Earlier in the day, a Syrian missile downed the Israeli warplane returning from a bombing raid on Iran-backed positions in Syria in the most serious confrontations yet between Israel and Iranian-backed forces based across the border.

Netanyahu said he had spoken with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“I reiterated to him our obligation and right to defend ourselves against attacks from Syrian territory. We agreed coordination between our armies would continue,” Netanyahu said in a televised statement.

Putin told Netanyahu there was a need to avoid any steps that would lead to a new confrontation in the region, Interfax reported.

US Pentagon spokesman Adrian Rankine-Galloway said:

“Israel is our closest security partner in the region and we fully support Israel’s inherent right to defend itself against threats to its territory and its people.”

Israel said it had sent its jets into Syria after shooting down an Iranian drone flying over Israeli territory earlier on Saturday.

Still, both Israel and Syria signalled they were not seeking wider conflict, even as Netanyahu rushed to military headquarters in Tel Aviv for consultations and the pro-Assad alliance pledged a strong response to any Israeli “terrorist action”.

Russia’s foreign ministry said on Saturday that Moscow, whose forces began intervening on behalf of Assad in 2015, was seriously concerned by the latest developments in Syria. It urged both sides to exercise restraint and avoid escalation.

“My impression is that it seems to be contained at this point,” said a Western diplomat in the region. “I don’t think anybody wants to escalate further.”

“Twelve targets, including three aerial defense batteries and four Iranian targets that are part of Iran’s military establishment in Syria were attacked,” the Israeli military said in a statement.

“During the attack, anti-aircraft missiles were fired towards Israel, triggering alarms that were heard in Northern Israel,” the military said.

Israeli military spokesman Jonathan Conricus told journalists in a phone conference the Syrians and Iranians were “playing with fire” but Israel was “not looking to escalate the situation”.

“This is the most blatant and severe Iranian violation of Israeli sovereignty in the last years,” Conricus said, referring to what he described as an Iranian drone entering Israeli airspace from Syria.

“That’s why our response is as severe as it is.”

IDF has targeted the Iranian control systems in Syria that sent the into Israeli airspace. Massive Syrian Anti-Air fire, one F16 crashed in Israel, pilots safe. is responsible for this severe violation of Israeli sovereignty. Event ongoing, more to follow.

The military alliance fighting in support of Assad said on Saturday that Israel will witness a “severe and serious” response to its “terrorism” from now on.

In a statement, the alliance said Israeli claims that a drone entered Israeli airspace were a “lie”.

The statement said Israel attacked a drone base in central Syria. The alliance added that drones had left the T4 air base in the morning to conduct routine operations against Islamic State in the Syrian desert.

“When the base was targeted our aircraft were still flying over the town of Sokhna, towards the desert,” the statement said. Sokhna is a town northeast of the city of Palmyra in central Syria.

“Reports of downing an Iranian drone flying over Israel and also Iran’s involvement in attacking an Israeli jet are so ridiculous … Iran only provides military advice to Syria,” Iranian state TV quoted Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi as saying.

Syrian state media reported two separate Israeli attacks.

In the first one, a military source said Syrian air defences had opened fire in response to an Israeli act of “aggression” against a military base, hitting “more than one plane”.

Later, Syrian state media said air defences were responding to a new Israeli assault and air defences had thwarted attacks on military positions in southern Syria.

Iran’s expanding clout during Syria’s nearly seven-year-long war, including deployments of Iran-backed forces near the Golan frontier, has raised alarm in Israel, which has said it would act against any threat from its regional arch-enemy Tehran.

The clashes marked a dangerous new confrontation between the international powers caught up in Syria’s seven-year-old war.

Iranian and Iran-backed Shia forces, including Lebanon’s Hezbollah, have deployed widely in support of Assad.

“Iran believes Syria has the right to legitimate self-defence. To cover their crimes in the region, Israeli officials are resorting to lies against other countries,” foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi told AFP on Saturday.

“The allegations regarding surveillance by an Iranian drone are too ridiculous for words.”

‘Massive’ anti-fire

Israel said one of its attack helicopters shot down an Iranian drone at around 4.30am (0230 GMT) that had come from Syrian into Israel.

“In response, the IDF [Israel Defence Forces] targeted Iranian targets in Syria,” the military said.

Conricus said a “substantial” number of Israeli warplanes on the mission had come under “massive Syrian anti-air fire” and only one Israeli jet was harmed.

The F-16 came down in a field near the northern Israeli village of Harduf, television footage showed, and one of the pilots was injured as they ejected, the military said.

David Ivry, a former Israeli Air Force chief, told Reuters he believed it was the first time an Israeli F-16 had been brought down since Israel began using the jets in the 1980s.

“We don’t know if the pilots ejected because of the [Syrian] fire,” Conricus said. It was also unclear at what stage of the mission they ejected, he said, “but it is of extreme concern to us if they were shot down”.

Flights temporarily suspended

Tensions have also spiked across the frontier between Israel and Lebanon over Israeli plans for border wall, and Lebanese plans to exploit an offshore energy block which is partly located in disputed waters.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Israel had targeted areas in the countryside southwest of Damascus, near the Syrian-Lebanon border west of Damascus and in the eastern countryside of Homs province for several hours since dawn.

One set of raids hit positions belonging to the Syrian government and its allies in central Syria around the T4 airbase and in the Homs desert, the Britain-based Observatory said.

It said another set of raids hit southwest of Damascus, and another hit around the Damascus-Beirut highway near the border with Lebanon.

In Israel, uniformed military personnel could be seen gathered around the burnt and tangled metal in Harduf by mid-morning, with what appeared to be white foam on the surrounding grass. Others knelt in the grass, inspecting pieces of the jet.

Rocket alert sirens sounded in the Israeli-held Golan Heights and in northern Israel and there were no reports of casualties.

Flights in to Israel’s main airport near Tel Aviv were suspended for about 15 minutes and take-offs were held for about 20 minutes on Saturday morning.

“Ben Gurion Airport is now operating as usual,” Israeli Airport Authority spokesman Ofer Lefler said.

The airport’s online live flight schedule showed flights were departing and landing.

Posted in ZIO-NAZI, Syria0 Comments

The shocking story of Zionist disappeared babies


The shocking story of Israel’s disappeared babies

The shocking story of Israel's disappeared babies
‘No one wanted me to know the truth,’ said Gil Grunbaum, pictured in the late 1950s with his adoptive parents [Courtesy of Gil Grunbaum]

Tel Aviv – For nearly 40 years, everything about Gil Grunbaum’s life was a lie, including his name.

He was not, as he had always assumed, the only son of wealthy Holocaust survivors who owned a baby garments factory near Tel Aviv. Grunbaum had been stolen from his mother by doctors at a hospital in northern Israel in 1956, moments after she gave birth.

His biological parents – recent immigrants to Israel from Tunisia – were told their child had died during delivery. They were sent home without a death certificate and denied the chance to see their baby’s body or a grave.

Despite his darker looks, it never occurred to Grunbaum that the parents who raised him were not biologically related to him. Now aged 60, he says the discovery was “the most shocking moment imaginable. Everyone I loved – my parents, aunts, uncles and cousins – had been deceiving me for decades.”

And so had government officials.

“Even when I discovered by chance that I was adopted, the welfare services did everything they could to try to stop me finding my biological family,” Grunbaum told Al Jazeera. “No one wanted me to know the truth.”

After a three-year search in the late 1990s, he finally learned his family’s name – Maimon – and tracked down his birth mother to the suburbs of Haifa in northern Israel. Some 41 years after they were separated, the two met for the first time, in an emotional reunion.

Grunbaum’s story would be deeply disturbing if it was unique. But growing evidence suggests that there could be thousands of other children who were abducted in Israel’s first decade.

Despite his darker looks, it never occurred to Grunbaum that the parents who raised him were not biologically related to him [Courtesy of Gil Grunbaum]

Last weekend, Tzachi Hanegbi, a government minister tasked with studying the disappearances, conceded that at least “hundreds” of children had been taken without their parents’ consent. It is the first time a government official has ever made such a public admission.

After weeks of re-examining evidence presented to a commission of inquiry in the late 1990s, Hanegbi told Israeli TV: “They took the children and gave them away. I don’t know where.”

The Kedmi inquiry, which had issued its findings in 2001, found that as many as 5,000 children may have disappeared in the state’s first six years alone, although it examined only 1,000 of those cases. Jacob Kedmi, a former Supreme Court judge who died last month, concluded that in most cases, the children had died and been hurriedly buried.

Hanegbi’s admission appears to confirm allegations long made by the families – and supported by scholars and journalists – that the inquiry was little more than a whitewash by the Israeli establishment. Kedmi placed the hundreds of thousands of documents relating to testimonies and evidence under lock for 70 years. They will not be made publicly available until 2071.

This was a crime perpetrated against thousands of parents, who still don’t know the truth about their children’s fate.

Shoshana Madmoni-Gerber, author of Israeli Media and the Framing of Internal Conflict: The Yemenite Babies Affair

The first consequence is likely to be mounting pressure on the government to open the state’s adoption files so that the true extent of the disappearances can be gauged and families reunited.

But Hanegbi’s otherwise evasive comments will do little to end suspicions that officials are still actively trying to avoid confronting the most contentious questions: Why were the infants taken from their families? Did hospitals and welfare organisations traffic children in Israel’s early years? And were state bodies complicit in the mass abductions?

When asked by Israeli TV programme Meet the Press whether government officials were involved, Hanegbi would say only: “We may never know.”

His reluctance to be more forthcoming may be understandable. Shoshana Madmoni-Gerber, an Israel academic who has written a book on the disappearances titled Israeli Media and the Framing of Internal Conflict: The Yemenite Babies Affair, noted that the “forcible transfer” of children from one ethnic group to another satisfied the United Nations definition of “genocide”. The 1951 convention includes the crime of “complicity”.

“Ultimately, I don’t think it matters whether government officials actively planned what happened or they simply looked the other way while others carried out the kidnappings,” she told Al Jazeera. “Either way, this was a crime perpetrated against thousands of parents who still don’t know the truth about their children’s fate.”

Almost all of the missing children were from Jewish families that had arrived from Arab countries shortly after Israel’s creation during the Nakba of 1948, when hundreds of thousands of native Palestinians were expelled from their homes.

Nakba – ‘Palestinians will return to their stolen lands’

The mystery has been dubbed the Yemenite Children Affair, because most of the children who disappeared were from Yemen. But there were also significant numbers from Iraq, Morocco, Tunisia and the Balkans.

Grunbaum learned of his own place in this scandalous affair in 1994, the year before the Kedmi inquiry was launched. His wife had become suspicious that there were no photos of his birth or a birth certificate, and that he was much darker than his parents.

When she phoned state childcare services, a clerk broke Israel’s strict privacy laws by mistakenly revealing to her that Grunbaum had indeed been adopted. The couple was then hastily called to a meeting at the Tel Aviv office, where they were briefly allowed to view two pages from his file. No details of his biological family were provided.

Grunbaum said his wife became suspicious that there were no photos of his birth or a birth certificate [Courtesy of Gil Grunbaum]

“Even in my confused state, I could see there was something fishy. There was no signature on the adoption papers, either from my biological mother or from a judge,” Grunbaum said.

“I was in a state of shock for a long time afterwards. I stared at the TV all day long for four months, running my life through my head, looking for the clues I should have seen. I resigned from my job. I couldn’t concentrate on anything else.”

Although childcare services had details of his biological family, they refused to help. It took three years of intensive searching – initiated by the recollections of neighbours of his parents at the time of his adoption – before he was sure he had identified the family.

“I went straight to the head of child services and told her their surname. I asked her if I was right – I didn’t need a reply,” Grunbaum said, noting the colour drained from the woman’s face as she realised he had found his biological family.

Grunbaum’s biological father had died a few years earlier, but he met his biological mother in a supervised visit in Haifa. It had taken her a month to recover sufficiently from hearing the news that her son was alive to agree to a meeting.

“She hugged me and we cried. I gave her an album of photos of my three children. She said with surprise, ‘I have a blond grandson!'”

Grunbaum then started a double life, visiting his biological mother and his five siblings while hiding the truth from his adoptive parents until their deaths a few years later. “I was afraid to confront them. They were elderly and in poor health. I think it would have destroyed them to realise I knew the truth.”

The irregularities in the adoption papers indicate that his parents were likely to have known their adopted child was procured without the biological mother’s consent. Grunbaum admits he was filled with confusion and anger at his parents for a long time. Shortly after he found out about the circumstances of his adoption, his parents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary.

Grunbaum found himself living a double life, visiting his biological mother and his five siblings while hiding the truth from his adoptive parents [Oren Ziv/Al Jazeera]

“They asked me to make a speech at the party, but I couldn’t. I was too frightened of what might come out of my mouth,” he said.

Pressure on the Israeli government to provide answers in cases like Grunbaum’s has intensified in recent years, as social media has helped the affected families to understand how widespread the disappearances were.

In late June, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded by announcing a fresh examination of the evidence. In a video posted to his Facebook page, he promised to get to the bottom of the affair: “The subject of the Yemenite children is an open wound that continues to bleed for many families who don’t know what happened to the infants, to the children who disappeared.”

He appointed Hanegbi to re-examine the documents from three previous inquiries.

Grunbaum holds a picture of an advertisement featuring him as an infant to promote his parents’ baby clothes business [Jonathan Cook/Al Jazeera]

Yael Tzadok, an Israeli journalist who has spent 20 years investigating cases of children who disappeared, told Al Jazeera: “This is Israel’s darkest secret. Jews kidnapped other Jews, Jews who were coming to a state that had been created as a refuge in the immediate wake of the Holocaust. Bringing the truth into the daylight risks causing an earthquake.”

The families and their supporters believe the majority of the children are still alive, but only a minuscule number, like Grunbaum, know that they were stolen from their parents.

Even among those few, said Madmoni-Gerber, most are reluctant to go public, fearing that the truth will tear apart their families, who may have conspired in their abduction.

Israeli Jews who originate from Arab countries are known in Israel as Mizrahim, in contrast to those of European heritage, who are called Ashkenazim. Tzadok said the evidence suggested that most of the missing children – from Mizrahi families – were taken by hospital staff and sold or given away to European Jews, both in Israel and abroad.

WATCH: Israel’s Great Divide (46:51)

“The evidence from that time, the 1950s, clearly shows government officials, judges, lawmakers and hospital staff speaking openly about the fact that the children were being abducted. The public may not have known, but the authorities certainly did,” Tzadok said.

Tzadok, who is active with Achim Vekayamim, a forum for the families of missing children, said deep prejudices among European Jews against the Mizrahim – and especially the Yemenites – had made the kidnappings possible.

“Mizrahi parents were seen as bad, primitive people who were a lost cause. The dominant view then was that, by placing the children with Ashkenazi families, they could be saved – unlike their parents. They would be re-educated and made into suitable material for the new Zionist state,” Tzadok said.

“The hospital staff and officials probably didn’t think they were doing something wrong. They thought it was their patriotic duty.”

Israeli media coverage shows Tzila Levine being reunited with her biological mother, Margalit Umaysi, in 1997 [Courtesy of Amram]

Racism among European Jews towards Jews from Arab countries reached the very top of the government. Ben Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister, described the Mizrahim as “rabble” and a “generation of the desert”, concluding that they lacked “a trace of Jewish or human education”.

In the early 1950s, he warned: “We do not want the Israelis to become Arabs. It is incumbent upon us to struggle against the spirit of the Levant, which corrupts individuals and societies.”

Recently unearthed documents also show vigorous debates within the Israeli army in the early 1950s about whether Mizrahi conscripts were mentally retarded, making them a hopeless cause, or simply primitive, a condition that could be changed.

In his book The Idea of Israel, historian Ilan Pappe observed that Israel’s Ashkenazi elite worked strenuously at “de-Arabising … Jews upon arrival” in Israel.

The establishment’s open disdain for the Mizrahim eventually led to political backlash, noted Pappe. In the late 1970s, after decades in opposition, the right-wing Likud party won power from Ben Gurion’s Labour party. Today, Likud is led by Netanyahu.

Grunbaum said Israel’s European elite were also sympathetic to the plight of Holocaust survivors, like his adoptive parents, who had lost most or all of their family and struggled to have children of their own.

The nurse said, ‘You have lots of children, why not let us take one of them?’ My grandmother refused. A couple of days later, the nurse told her her baby girl had died. She did not receive a death certificate and was not shown a grave.

Shlomi Hatuka, who helped found Amram, an organisation campaigning on behalf of the families

“My father had been in Auschwitz and my mother in Dachau. The survivors suffered from psychological and physical traumas that meant it was difficult or impossible for them to have children,” he said. “The view at that time was that the Yemenites had large families and could afford to lose one or two.”

The Kedmi inquiry heard such views expressed by medical staff who worked in hospitals suspected of abducting children. Sonia Milshtein, a former senior nurse, testified that Yemenite parents “were not interested in their children” and that they should have been happy that their “child got a good education”.

Sarah Pearl, head nurse at the Women’s International Zionist Organisation (WIZO), a charity that ran care homes from which children are alleged to have disappeared, told Israeli media that when she asked why the children’s parents never visited, she was told by the head administrator that they “have lots of kids, and lots of problems, so they don’t want their children”.

Like many of those who have been campaigning for greater transparency, Madmoni-Gerber, an Israeli professor of communications now based in the United States, said her own family had been scarred by the Yemenite Children Affair.

Her father and aunt were among 50,000 Yemenite Jews airlifted to Israel in 1949 and 1950 in a series of secret US and British flights known as Operation Magic Carpet. Like many other Mizrahim, they were temporarily sheltered in one of dozens of “absorption camps” across Israel.

Madmoni-Gerber’s aunt gave birth in an Israeli hospital in 1949. “When it was time to go home, staff on the delivery ward asked her to leave her baby behind with them. She refused. When she arrived back at the camp, the child was snatched [by staff] out of her hands. She never saw her baby again.”

Hanegbi’s admission is certain to rock an Ashkenazi establishment that has long been in denial about the Yemenite Children Affair.

For instance, Yaron London, one of Israel’s best-known commentators, has called suggestions of kidnappings aconspiracy theory“.

And Dov Levitan, a professor at Bar Ilan University, near Tel Aviv, who is a leading expert on Yemenite immigration to Israel, recently stated: “I can’t put even one finger on a case in which I can say that there was an act of abduction or a criminal act.”

The child soldiers of Yemen

Shlomi Hatuka, a 38-year-old Yemenite poet and teacher who three years ago helped found Amram, an organisation campaigning on behalf of the families, said that continuing racism towards the Mizrahim had made possible a “conspiracy of silence” lasting more than six decades.

His activism began after his grandmother revealed to him 22 years ago that she had been asked by a nurse in the early 1950s to give up for adoption one of the twins she had just given birth to.

“The nurse said, ‘You have lots of children, why not let us take one of them?'” Hatuka told Al Jazeera. “My grandmother refused. A couple of days later, the nurse told her her baby girl had died. She did not receive a death certificate and was not shown a grave.

“My mother told me my grandmother talked about her kidnapped child until the day she died,” he added. “She never got over it. At the time, none of us could really grasp what had happened to [the baby]. It was just too strange. It was impossible to believe.”

‘We have used social media and new technology to help bring more attention to the kidnappings,’ said Shlomi Hatuka [Jonathan Cook/Al Jazeera]

Hatuka said the official re-examination of the files had been prompted by growing pressure from the Mizrahi community: “We are the third generation, and we are better able to organise. We have used social media and new technology to help bring more attention to the kidnappings.”

Amram is demanding that the Israeli authorities open up adoption papers so that the children who were abducted can try to find their parents. “If Netanyahu really wants to help clarify what happened, this would be the easiest and quickest way to do it,” Hatuka said.

Currently, a 1960 Adoption Law makes it a criminal offence for an adopted child or their adoptive parents to publicly reveal that an adoption took place. Officials have claimed the restriction is needed to protect privacy, but there is mounting pressure to scrap it.

Amram has also established a database of missing children on its website. Hundreds more families have come forward with information of children who disappeared, including cases that have never been investigated. Hatuka believes that the total number of children who are missing could be as high as 8,000.

Even based on the official figures, one in eight Yemenite infants under the age of four may have disappeared in the state’s first six years. Boaz Sangero, a law professor at a college near Tel Aviv, wrote in the Haaretz newspaper this month that the figure was “astonishing”, and demanded an urgent re-examination of the evidence.

The extent of the problem was further underscored last month when four legislators in the 120-seat Israeli parliament came forward to reveal that their own relatives had disappeared in the 1950s. Two were from Netanyahu’s Likud party.

Nurit Koren, whose cousin went missing, told The Jerusalem Post newspaper: “Everybody is coming and telling me it happened in their families too. The phone doesn’t stop ringing.”

Nava Boker said that her sister and brother were taken. “I am afraid that the same people who planned and executed these crimes of ripping babies away from their mothers’ arms ensured their own safety and hid the documents.” Boker and other activists have been infuriated by the Kedmi inquiry’s decision to place under lock hundreds of thousands of documents relating to its investigations until 2071.

There has also been widespread criticism of the way the inquiry was conducted. Tzadok called the panel’s report “shameful”, and accused it of ignoring the evidence of wrongdoing it unearthed.

Sangero noted that the commission employed only two investigators to look into the case files of some 1,000 missing children. In 69 cases, it said it could not determine the children’s fate.

Tziona Heiman, shown with her biological mother, was taken from a Jerusalem hospital as a baby [Courtesy of Amram]

The panel avoided using its subpoena powers, thereby allowing officials to refuse to testify, or agreed to let them give evidence behind closed doors. The inquiry also did not carry out DNA tests.

On many occasions, birth and burial records requested by the Kedmi inquiry either disappeared or were reported to have been destroyed by fires or floods. The inquiry, Sangero observed, did not investigate how so many files could have been lost.

The panel was equally trusting of a 1960 census that listed many of the supposedly dead children as having “left the country”. In addition, the inquiry failed to examine why many of the biological parents received military draft notices for their children on what would have been their 18th birthdays.

Heiman as a child [Courtesy of Amram]

Tzadok noted that, in one of the most disturbing oversights, the inquiry failed to probe the disappearance of 40 infants after they were supposedly sent from an absorption camp to Jerusalem for immunisations.

On its website, Amram has compiled damning testimonies presented to the three inquiries that suggest abductions of Mizrahi children were widespread and systematic, and might have amounted to trafficking. Such evidence appears to have swayed Hanegbi too. He told Meet the Press: “I’m reading testimony of nurses, social workers and people who admitted the children to hospitals and a variety of people, each of whom saw a small piece of the puzzle.”

Ahuva Goldfarb, national supervisor of social services at that time, admitted to the Kedmi inquiry that children had been “unregistered” when sent out of the absorption camps, away from their parents.

He added: “It was systematic as could be.” The parents were told their child was “no longer alive”.

In a letter dated April 1950, a senior health ministry official, Dr M Lichtig, expressed concern to state hospitals that children were not being returned to their parents.

“There have been instances in which children were released from hospital and did not return to their parents. Apparently, they were found by people seeking to adopt,” he wrote in the letter. “The bereaved parents searched for their children … We must make every effort to ensure that such incidents do not repeat themselves.” 

Hanna Gibori, head of adoption services in the country’s north at that time, testified: “Hospital physicians handed over babies for adoption straight out of the hospital, without the official adoption agencies being involved.”

As late as 1959, a Knesset member, Ben-Zion Harel, said a significant number of children were being placed for adoption at Israeli hospitals in “unacceptable ways”, bordering on “trafficking”.

All of this appears to have occurred with minimal or non-existent judicial oversight. In 1955, a high court judge, Shneur Cheshin, wrote in a decision: “To our embarrassment, fictitious adoption orders and custodial orders are issued weekly, indeed daily.”

Hospitals and government officials were able to take advantage of the absence throughout the 1950s of any adoption laws. Oversight was only tightened up in 1960, with the passage of the Adoption Law.

A nurse who had once worked at the Batar hospital in Haifa, where Grunbaum was born in 1956, admitted on an Israeli TV show that prospective parents would “place an order for children with the hospital. Batar closed in 1976, but requests by the Kedmi inquiry to see its archives were met with claims that the documents were either lost or destroyed by fire.

Israeli colonisation is at the root of the violence

Grunbaum’s story, though rare, is not unique. Investigations over the past two decades have unearthed a handful of similar cases.

After Amram launched its website, a friend of the family revealed to Hatuka that she had been in an institution where she believed Yemenite children like herself were trafficked.

Hatuka has been able to piece together the early life of the woman, who agreed to be identified by the pseudonym Shoshana. She and her twin brother were taken from their mother at birth and placed in a care home in Jerusalem run by WIZO.

WIZO, which still runs childcare services in Israel, is mentioned in several cases of missing children who were later found. In a statement to Al Jazeera, WIZO said that the process of admitting and releasing children from the institutions it ran was managed by authorised government authorities, noting: “WIZO’s sole responsibility was to care for the health and wellbeing of the children. Throughout the years, WIZO has provided authorities, upon request, with all of the records and materials relevant to the children in its institutions. WIZO fully supports any investigation that could shed light on issues subject to public debate.”

Yemenite Jews are shown en route from Aden to Israel during Operation Magic Carpet, circa 1950 [File photo]

At seven, Shoshana and her brother were moved to an ultra-Orthodox institution for parentless Yemenite children called Gur Aryeh, in Bnei Brak, near Tel Aviv. Shoshana told Hatuka that intermittently they would be gathered in a room and visitors, called “American aunts”, would inspect them. Children would regularly disappear.

During her stay in Gur Aryeh, Shoshana was told that her biological mother had died five years after giving birth to her.

In the late 1990s, when the Kedmi inquiry was under way, a few Israeli journalists intensified their search for such children.

In the most famous case, widely reported in 1997, Tzila Levine was reunited with her biological mother after a 20-year search. DNA testing confirmed her blood ties to Margalit Umaysi, an immigrant from Yemen.

It is time for the country to be more open about its past. We need to drag these issues into the sunlight and see what really happened.

Gil Grunbaum, adopted as a baby

A doctor in Haifa had taken Levine from Umaysi shortly after her birth in 1949 and handed her to adoptive parents using forged papers. The adoption was approved by Moshe Landau, a judge who went on to serve in Israel’s Supreme Court.

”I feel that I’ve won a war – a lifelong war,” Levine told reporters at the time.

The case of Tziona Heiman was exposed five years later by the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper. After she confronted her Ashkenazi parents with suspicions that she was adopted, they admitted that she had been selected from a Jerusalem hospital.

Their neighbour, Yigal Allon, a famous Israeli general, had – in their words – given them the girl as a “birthday present”. Heiman later found her biological parents.

Madmoni-Gerber also located an abducted child in 1994, when she was an Israeli journalist. Moshe Becher was taken from his Yemenite family in 1953 and placed in the care of WIZO. A Turkish couple were issued a forged birth certificate for him in 1956.

Like most, Becher was never shown his adoption file, and was unable to track down his biological parents. A letter from the welfare services stated simply: “We have no clue as to your mother’s identity or whereabouts.”

Hatuka said Amram was now working to create a private DNA database abroad. It would allow both those who suspected they were kidnapped – including those now living in Europe or the US – and the parents of missing children to submit their DNA to see if matches could be made.

Grunbaum said the families’ campaign was not a quest for revenge against those behind the kidnappings.

“It is time for the country to be more open about its past,” he said. “We need to drag these issues into the sunlight and see what really happened.”

Malaysia: Babies for Sale

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At Canada’s New Democratic Party Convention, Palestine Is Set to Be Major Flashpoint

Image result for Palestine CARTOON
By Yves Engler | Palestine Chronicle 

At next week’s New Democratic Party convention in Ottawa Palestinian rights are set to be a major flashpoint.

The NDP Socialist Caucus has submitted a resolution calling on the party to “actively campaign in support of the demand of Palestinian unions, civil society and unions across Canada and around the world which call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against the Israeli state until it dismantles the apartheid wall, allows refugees to return home, ends its demolition of Palestinian homes and olive groves, lifts the siege of Gaza, ends its occupation of Palestinian lands, and terminates its apartheid practices.”

A more moderate “Palestine Resolution: renewing the NDP’s commitment to peace and justice” has been endorsed by two dozen riding associations. The motion mostly restates official Canadian policy, except that it calls for “banning settlement products from Canadian markets, and using other forms of diplomatic and economic pressure to end the occupation.”

Already the Canadian Jewish News, Electronic Intifada, National Post, Ottawa Jewish Bulletin, Toronto Star, Le Devoir, Mondoweiss, Canada Talks Israel Palestine and Rabble have published stories regarding the resolutions. The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs has called on the party leader to “push backagainst marginal elements within the party” promoting Palestinian rights while the more explicitly antidemocratic Canadian Friends of Simon Wiesenthal has “Urged NDP to Disallow Anti-Israel Resolution at Upcoming Convention”.

Unfortunately, corporate-media-focused party operatives may heed the CIJA/Wiesenthal call. Party insiders will no doubt do everything in their power to avoid discussing the Socialist Caucus BDS resolution and will probably seek to block the Palestine Resolution from being debated publicly on the convention floor. If their backroom procedural shenanigans fail to stop the resolutions from a public airing expect a great deal of concern about associating with the international BDS movement.

For NDPers scared of BDS here is an alternative resolution that places no demands on Israel:

1. The NDP will refrain from excluding electoral candidates who speak up for Palestinian rights.

(During the 2015 federal election the NDP responded to Conservative party pressure by ousting as many as eight individuals from running or contesting nominations to be candidates because they defended Palestinian rights on social media.)

2. NDP MPs will refrain from participating in any Israel parliamentary group until the party is represented on a Nigerian, Algerian or Spanish parliamentary group.

(Vancouver Island MPs Randall Garrison and Murray Rankin are currently members of the Canada Israel Inter-parliamentary Group.)

3. The NDP foreign critic will refuse requests to participate in all expense paid trips to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s annual conference.

(Hélène Laverdière spoke at the 2016 AIPAC conference in Washington DC.)

4. NDP MPs will participate in all expense paid lobbying trips to Israel at no greater rate than Paraguay, which is of similar size and distance from Ottawa.

(A 2014 calculation found that 20 NDP MPs had been to Israel with a Zionist lobby organization and 13 months ago recently elected party leader Jagmeet Singh went on an organized trip to the country.)

5. NDP officials will abstain from attending events put on by explicitly racist organizations.

(In 2016 Hélène Laverdière participated in an event in Jerusalem organized by the openly racist Jewish National Fund while NDP MP Pat Martin spoke at a JNF event in Ottawa to “recognize and thank the people that have helped to make JNF Canada what it is today.” Owner of 13 per cent of Israel’s land – which was mostly taken from Palestinians forced from their homes by Zionist forces in 1947-48 – the JNF openly discriminates against the 20% of Israelis who are not Jewish. Its website notes that “a survey commissioned by KKL-JNF reveals that over 70% of the Jewish population in Israel opposes allocating KKL-JNF land to non-Jews, while over 80% prefer the definition of Israel as a Jewish state, rather than as the state of all its citizens.”)

My alternative resolution makes no demands of Israel so it’s hard to link it to the BDS bogeyman. Best of all, the party has the power to immediately implement this small gesture of support for the long-suffering Palestinians.

I will be speaking about “What’s Wrong with NDP Foreign Policy?” on the sidelines of the convention.

–  Yves Engler is the author of Canada and Israel: Building Apartheid and a number of other books.

Posted in Palestine Affairs, Canada0 Comments

Anti-North Korean propaganda ‘Video’


Image result for north korean leader photos

The Haircut (2017) – A North Korean Adventure

Boy Boy

The isolated, hermit kingdom of the DPRK is shrowded in secrecy, It’s nearly impossible to get any reliable information from behind the bamboo curtain. Nonetheless, every week, on T.V. and online, we are bombarded by the bizzare media-spectacle of North Korea. From nuclear apocalypse and prison camps to banned sarcasm and compulsory identical haircuts – any shred of information regarding North Korea becomes a viral media hit, regardless of how dubious the story is.

But that’s all about to change.

Two Aussie boys decided to take matters into their own hands and go to North Korea to find out the truth for themselves. Join us as we look past the clickbait and unpack the forces behind the way our media represents the “Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea”.

– Warning – Graphic Content

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Moscow Concerned With Escalation of Tensions as ‘Israel’ Attacks Syria


The Russian Foreign Ministry has called to respect Syria’s sovereignty and the territorial integrity of the countries in the Middle East following the aerial attacks of Nazi Occupation Forces against the targets in central Syria.

“Moscow is deeply concerned with the latest developments and attacks on Syria. The danger of the escalation of tensions within and around the de-escalation zones, which has become an important factor in reducing violence in Syria is of particular concern,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement posted on its website.

The statement reads that the Syrian government forces “are complying with the existing arrangements to provide the consistent functioning of the de-escalation zone in the south-west of the country.”

“We urge all the involved parties to exercise restraint and avoid any steps that could lead to aggravation of the situation. We consider it necessary to unconditionally respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria and other countries of the region.”

Posted in ZIO-NAZI, Russia, Syria0 Comments

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