Archive | March 20th, 2018

D’un Type Développé par des Menteurs

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By Craig Murray

Those who have so kindly followed my analysis of the Skripal case so far will not have been surprised by this formulation appearing yet again in today’s European Union statement:

The European Union strongly condemns the attack that took place against Sergei and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury, UK on 4 March 2018, that also left a police officer seriously ill. The lives of many citizens were threatened by this reckless and illegal act. The European Union takes extremely seriously the UK government’s assessment that it is highly likely that the Russian Federation is responsible.
The European Union is shocked at the offensive use of any military-grade nerve agent, of a type developed by Russia, for the first time on European soil in over 70 years. The use of chemical weapons by anyone under any circumstances is completely unacceptable and constitutes a security threat to us all. Any such use is a clear violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention, a breach of international law and undermines the rules-based international order. The EU welcomes the commitment of the UK to work closely with the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in supporting the investigation into the attack. The union calls on Russia to address urgently the questions raised by the UK and the international community and to provide immediate, full and complete disclosure of its novichok programme to the OPCW.
The European Union expresses its unqualified solidarity with the UK and its support, including for the UK’s efforts to bring those responsible for this crime to justice.
The EU will remain closely focussed on this issue and its implications.

While Boris Johnson may spout off the cuff lies while giving TV interviews, when it comes to any formal document or statement – in parliament, the Security Council, NATO and now the EU – the British government always reverts to this precise formulation “of a type developed by Russia” which attempts to disguise the fact that they have no evidence the material is made in Russia. Many laboratories can produce “novichoks”.

The EU statement very obviously eschews the British government line that Russia is evidently to blame. “The European Union takes extremely seriously the UK government’s assessment” is a double edged statement. Of course such a profound accusation must be taken seriously – whether the accusation redounds eventually to the discredit of the accused and accuser is a different question. There is something patronising about the “takes extremely seriously” line.

As in “we take the views of our customers extremely seriously. Unfortunately none of our agents is available right now, please continue to hold…” followed by thirty minutes of jingle then cuts off. I am told the French text sounds still more disdainful.

Apparently the BBC’s Eddie Mair on the PM programme on BBC Radio 4 today did take up the subject of the peculiar wording “of a type developed by Russia”, though without reaching any conclusion. He mentioned me by name. Now both the UK’s main political radio programmes – PM and Today – have mentioned me by name and discussed my ideas, but neither has given me a chance to reply. Mair is interesting – he first interviewed me on Radio Tay in 1984. He was then a brilliant young school-leaver who looked 12 years old, and came from the Whitfield housing scheme in Dundee, then one of the most deprived and toughest estates in the entire UK. It is a shame that his talent and energy have been wasted in the BBC, but his background does perhaps lead him to go outside the Establishment consensus sometimes.

As it is, here I am on some “fringe” media outlets today, which there are increasing calls from MPs of all major parties to close down, so that non-Establishment views can be completely suppressed.

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US War Plans: Kurdish land bridge to Israel?

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US War Plans: Kurdish land bridge to Israel?
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By Petri Krohn | The Duran 

Russia, Turkey and the United States have come to a tacit agreement that the final settlement of the Syrian civil war will include population transfers, where isolated problem populations are “ethnically cleansed” and moved to larger, economically and logistically more viable larger enclaves.

The relationship of these “cantons” to each other and to the Syrian state will be a matter for the political peace negotiations.

The United States did not protest the ethnic cleansing of Afrin of its almost exclusively Kurdish population. These Kurds are needed to strengthen the US occupation zone east of the Euphrates. America nor Israel has any use for Afrin, especially since dreams of a Kurdish or ISIS corridor to the Mediterranean have permanently been curtailed.

On the other hand, the US has shown its willingness to massacre hundreds of Syrians and Russians to demonstrate its ownership of some key points of Syrian geography. The locations of these points of contention might reveal a grand geopolitical scheme of the US and its allies.

The points:

  • Everything east of the Euphrates, including the eastern bank of Deir ez-Zor.
  • The oilfields east of Deir ez-Zor.
  • Al Tanf border crossing and surrounding area on the main road from Damascus to Baghdad.
  • The Daraa border crossing, just south of Daraa.

Several key places are held by ISIS, possibly with the tacit support of US.

It is claimed that the reason the U.S. needs to occupy the Al Tanf border crossing is to block the land corridor between Iran and Lebanon and thus prevent Iran from supplying Hezbollah. The real reason may be different. If pro-U.S. and pro-Israel forces managed to take control of the Syrian side of the Jordan–Syria and the Iraq–Syria borders then it would enable Israel to supply a Kurdish protectorate in eastern Syria.

The area from the rebel enclave around Daraa to Abu Kemal on the Euphrates is mainly desert. If pipelines could be built on this strip of land then Israel could steal oil from “Kurdish” oilfields and even water from the Euphrates.

The United States may be about to start a land invasion of Syria. The offensive would start from the US base at the Al Tanf border crossing and extendthrough Abu Kemal to the American and Kurdish-held areas on the eastern bank of the Euphrates. The troops would be supplied through Jordan. It is possible that Britain would also take part in this operation.

The 2,400 man strong U.S. 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit arrived in Haifa in Israel on March 14, 2018 aboard the three US Navy ships of the Iwo Jima amphibious ready group. The Marines may be on their way to the Al Tanf base through Jordan. Another 200 U.S. troops are said to have arrived in Al Tanf the previous week. Unconfirmed rumors claim that an additional 2,300 British troops also arrived at the base along with Challenger tanks and Cobra and Black Hawk helicopters.

The attack would start with with a massive cruise missile launch on Damascus from NATO warships. The ships are said to be assembling in the eastern Mediterranean, the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea. Russia has promised to retaliate against any ships launching missiles at Syria.

This warning was first stated by the Russian General Staff on March 13 and again on March 17. The missile attack would however be only the first part of a NATO attack. It would be quickly followed by a land invasion from Al Tanf. As I am writing this, I hear talk of even larger attack plans.

Attacks by the U.S. and U.S. proxies have the tendency to coincide with ISIS attacks in the same area. ISIS has recently launched massive attacks along the Euphrates river and more may be planned.

Any Western aggression on Syria would have to be preceded by a false-flag provocation by Syrian opposition forces. Britain pays lip service to international law and it could not launch a war of aggression without an effective propaganda campaign. Russia claims to have information that a staged chemical weapons attack is being prepared. The March 17th warning specifically says that the preparations are happening in southern Syria near the Jordanian border under U.S. supervision.

It now seems evident that to real reason for the poisoning of Sergei Skripal‎ was to drum up British support for a war against Syria and Russia. One must must thus ask who would most gains from such a war. If the above analysis is correct, then the answer would be Israel.

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Who Are These Mysterious ‘Activists’ Calling for Boycott of World Cup in Russia?

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A campaign encouraging the boycott of the upcoming FIFA World Cup 2018 in Russia is gaining steam. Avaaz, a US-based ‘cyber-activist’ civic organization is behind it. However, as Sputnik has discovered, the group has not-so-open links to financial speculator George Soros and his Open Society Foundations.

Last week, using the hashtag #CupOfShame, Avaaz launched a campaign aimed at governments and players around the world to boycott the World Cup in Russia, unless it immediately halts its anti-terrorism campaign in Syria.

Accusing the Syrian president of the “extermination of his own people,” the group’s petition claims that Russian support is the “one reason why Assad’s been able to continue with this destruction.” Arguing that the World Cup may be the only thing Moscow cares about more than Syria, Avaaz urges users to join its pressure campaign. As of this writing, close to 790,000 people have already signed.

Commenting on the campaign, Sputnik Mundo journalist David Armas Paz wrote that it was “curious that a group calling themselves ‘citizens from around the world’ has its headquarters in the US, which, following its defeat in a game with Trinidad & Tobago, didn’t qualify for this year’s World Cup. The absence of its team and, subsequently of American fans, seems to have left them free to call on the global community to share in their absence.”

But more seriously, and possible sour grapes aside, the journalist noted that it was worth investigating the kinds of manipulation used by Avaaz and whose interests the group truly represents.

Good Intentions

Avaaz, meaning ‘voice’ in several languages, describes itself as a movement with a “simple democratic mission” aimed at “organiz[ing] citizens of all nations to close the gap between the world we have and the world most people everywhere want.” Making use of new information technology and social media, the group’s initiatives include ostensibly noble causes, including protection of the environment, the fight against poverty and the defense of human rights.

However, not all the group’s efforts have proved so noble; in 2011, for example, at the start of the Libyan civil war, the group campaigned in favor of a NATO no-fly zone over the country, encouraging the citizens of Western countries to support alliance intervention. In the end, NATO intervened, overthrew Libya’s government and turned the country into a collection of militia-controlled statelets serving as a source of instability and of hundreds of thousands of illegal migrants to southern Europe.

Another not-so-humane campaign included a 2016 effort to collect donations for the White Helmets, a group characterized by independent journalist Vanessa Beeley as ‘al-Qaeda Civil Defense’ in Syria for its documented ties with Islamist militants, and its propensity to create fake footage of government crimes.

Post-Truth

Commenting on the phenomenon represented by groups like Avaaz, Paz explains that “in an era of ‘post-truth’ and media wars, the techniques of mass manipulation take on a level never before seen. It’s no longer just about fake news or tendentious Hollywood films designed to create a specific image of the ‘good guy’, who can be forgiven anything, and ‘the bad guy’, who must be punished at every turn. Now, this game has been joined by NGOs like Avaaz, whose self-declared purpose is to ‘fight for everything good against everything bad’, but always in a very selective way.”

The journalist noted, for example, that among Avaaz’s array of projects, one will not find a campaign to condemn events like the US bombing of a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Afghanistan, or a campaign to stop torture at the Guantanamo Bay naval base.

Furthermore, some causes, including the latest anti-Russian/anti-Syrian #CupOfShame campaign, are simple cases of manipulation, Paz pointed out.

“In four paragraphs of text, Avaaz makes use of a stream of allegations and claims which are easy to dismantle, at least for a critical and well-informed mind.” Instead, seeking to evoke human empathy, the NGO makes use of the suffering of children, which everyone universally agrees has no place in the world.

Avaaz openly accuses Russia of “dropping bombs on children,” and charges the Syrian government with “surgical” crimes against its people. Meanwhile, the group remains silent about the ‘peaceful armed rebels’ holding these same civilians hostage and using them as human shields. Nor does it mention the Syrian and Russian-led distribution of aid to the civilian population, the provision of medical care, or the humanitarian corridors created to allow people to flee the fighting.

Furthermore, the Sputnik Mundo journalist wrote, “you will not see a campaign on Avaaz’s website against the embargo on the delivery of medicine to Syria instituted by the US and its allies, which has been strongly condemned by the World Health Organization.”With these facts in mind, it becomes clear that Avaaz’s primary goal is to push people into thinking through emotions, rather than using arguments and evidence. And this all leads to questions: Who is behind this campaign and, more importantly, whose interests they are promoting?

Man Behind the Curtain

According to its About Us and FAQ pages, Avaaz was launched in 2007. The site was co-founded by Res Publica, a global lobbying group based in New York, and MoveOn.org, a US-based policy advocacy group and political action committee.

Res Publica’s key figures included Ricken Patel, a British national now serving as Avaaz’s executive director. Advisors also included Anthony Barnett, co-founder of openDemocracy, a UK-based website receiving funding from George Soros’ Open Society Initiative for Europe.

MoveOn.org is open about its links to the Democratic Party, and was created in 1998 to defend then-President Bill Clinton during the effort to impeach him. That group’s key figures included former Congressman Tom Perriello, who went on to become one of Avaaz’s cofounders. Like openDemocracy, Perriello and MoveOn.org have also received money from Soros’ foundations.

Leaked internal Open Society Foundations documents published in 2016 have shed light on the true objectives of Soros’ ‘investments’ – including the formation of global public opinion favorable to the US and unfavorable attitudes towards its adversaries, along with interference in political processes around the globe.

With these facts in mind, Paz stressed that knowingly or unknowingly, Avaaz’s supporters and contributors are just another instrument in this game — a tool for transforming genuine and honest human impulses for positive change in the world and channeling them in favor of the interests of the powers that be.

READ MORE:
EXCLUSIVE: The Violent Reality of ‘Western Propaganda Construct’ White Helmets

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Scramble for Syria opens up disturbing scenarios

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By M K Bhadrakumar | Indian Punchline 

The US State Department issued a strong statement on March 19 following the fall of Afrin, the Kurdish city in northwestern Syria to the Turkish forces. The statement is highly critical of Turkey’s military operation in Afrin. It expresses concern over the humanitarian situation and of looting in Afrin by the occupation forces. Importantly, it alleges once again that the Turkish operation “has distracted from the ‘Defeat ISIS’ campaign and provided opportunity for ISIS to begin reconstituting in some areas. This is a serious and growing concern.”

The statement can be seen as an expression of sympathy toward the Kurds who suffered a crushing defeat in Afrin. This is the least that Washington could do to salvage its reputation among the Kurds. The US claims that it “does not operate in the area of northwest Syria, where Afrin is located. We remain committed to our NATO ally Turkey, to include their legitimate security concerns.” But Turkish President Recep Erdogan has contradicted the US stance of non-involvement in Afrin. He now alleges that the US tried to “deceive” Turkey. Erdogan said today in Ankara at a meeting of the ruling party,

  • “If we are strategic partners, you (US) will have to respect us and move along with us. You tried to deceive us. You sent 5,000 trucks of weapons there. You sent more than 2,000 trucks of ammunition there. We wanted weapons from you to buy with our money, but you did not give any to us. What kind of a strategic partnership or solidarity is this?”
  • “The U.S. spokesperson makes a comment and says, ‘We are concerned about the situation in Afrin.’ Where were you when we transmitted our concerns to you? Where were you when we said ‘let’s clean the terrorist organization from there?”

It is apparent that Washington is indulging in doublespeak. At any rate, Washington’s priority at the moment will be to pile pressure on Turkey over the chaotic situation in Afrin (which was captured by Turkish forces on March 18) and, in reality, to somehow dissuade Erdogan from extending the military operation to the northeastern region (east of Afrin), which are under the control of the Kurdish militia and the US forces.

Erdogan is keeping the Americans on tenterhooks as regards his next move. He asserted on Monday that Turkish troops would indeed press eastward, targeting territory where US forces are stationed, all the way into Iraq’s Sinjar Mountains. There is no reason to disbelieve him. The point is, there is massive popular support in Turkey for Erdogan’s muscular policy towards the Kurds – and for standing up to the US. In political terms, Erdogan can hope to exploit the wave of nationalism sweeping Turkey. The parliamentary and presidential elections are due next year in Turkey.

Unsurprisingly, Moscow and Tehran have kept quiet and left the field to Turkey and the US to throw brickbats at each other. They have reason to be pleased that the US is unable to protect the Kurdish militia, its key ally in Syria, from the Turkish assault. Besides, they are able to press ahead with their own operations against the extremist forces (that used to be previously aligned with the US and Turkey) in Ghouta in eastern Damascus and Idlib province in the extreme northwest.

Evidently, from the Russian and Iranian perspective, Erdogan is doing a magnificent job by undermining the US strategy in Syria to maintain an open-ended military presence. The Kurdish militia who are having an existential fight on their hands with the Turkish military are not going to be in a position to be the US’ proxies for very long.

On the other hand, Russia and Iran also remain wary of Turkey’s intentions, especially a Turkish attempt to create a ‘buffer zone’ in northern Syria. As it is, the US has carved out a huge swathe of land in northern Syria east of Euphrates, which comprises some of Syria’s best agricultural lands and water resources and over half of Syria’s entire oil and gas fields. (A trilateral Turkish-Russian-Iranian presidential summit is due to take place in Istanbul on April 4.)

Another complicating factor is that Russia has its own interests to pursue vis-à-vis Turkey and the Kurds. Then, there is also the overarching US-Russia competition to placate Turkey. All in all, the Syrian war is not ending as many observers had earlier envisaged, but is actually mutating into new forms. Read an insightful interview, here, with a leading expert on Syria, Professor Joshua Landis, Director of the Centre for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma.

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US & South Korea to start massive joint military drills on April 1

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Following a months-long pause in military drills and despite a thaw in relations between Seoul and Pyongyang, South Korea and the US will resume joint military exercises on April 1, the Ministry of National Defense announced.

“The practice is slated to begin April 1, and it will be conducted on a similar size in previous years,” the Ministry of National Defense said, according to Yonhap.

The Pentagon confirmed the planned resumption of joint US-South Korean drills, noting that the exercises are expected to conclude toward the end of May.

“Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis and the Republic of Korea Minister of National Defense Song Young-moo have agreed to resume the annual combined exercises including Foal Eagle and Key Resolve which were de-conflicted with the schedule of the Olympic Games. The exercises are expected to resume April 1, 2018, at a scale similar to that of the previous years,” Pentagon spokesman Colonel Rob Manning said in a statement.

Furthermore, the US military noted that the North Koreans were notified about the drills by the United Nations Command. The Pentagon spokesman further added that the maneuvers have been long planned and are not a response to any specific North Korean action.

“Our combined exercises are defense-oriented and there is no reason for North Korea to view them as a provocation,” Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Logan, a Pentagon spokesman, said in a statement.

After North Korea stated its desire to seek rapprochement with its neighbor, Seoul managed to convince Washington to hold off the annual Key Resolve and Foal Eagle drills until after the Olympic and Paralympic Games in South Korea.

However, despite Pyongyang’s pledge to temporarily halt its missile testing, pending upcoming US-North Korean talks, the US has never made concessions to freeze its military drills with South Korea. On Monday, Logan clarified that the military exercise would involve about 23,700 US troops and 300,000 members of the South Korean military.

Following the latest round of negotiations with a high-level delegation from Seoul earlier this month in Pyongyang, Kim Jong-un sent Trump an invitation to discuss the prospects of improving bilateral ties face to face. After months of saber-rattling between the two leaders, Trump agreed to meet the North Korean leader “sometime” in May.

The US president’s readiness to hold discussions with the North came following reassurances by Seoul that Kim is “committed to denuclearization” of the Korean peninsula, which Washington has persisted on. To make negotiations possible Kim even “pledged” to refrain from any further nuclear or missile tests until talks with Trump take place. Surprisingly, the North Korean leader also allegedly showed understanding towards the US-South Korean drills, which have greatly contributed to the ongoing tensions in the region. The US, in return, offered no concessions or promises, insisting that harsh sanctions will remain until a verifiable agreement is reached.

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Russiagate Comes to England

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Who poisoned the Russian spy?

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By Philip Giraldi • Unz Review 

I don’t know what happened in Salisbury England on March 4th, but it appears that the British government doesn’t know either. Prime Minister Theresa May’s speech before Parliament last Monday was essentially political, reflecting demands that she should “do something” in response to the mounting hysteria over the poisoning of former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia. After May’s presentation there were demands from Parliamentarians for harsh measures against Russia, reminiscent of the calls for action emanating from the U.S. Congress over the allegations relating to what has been called Russiagate.

This demand to take action led to a second Parliamentary address by May on Wednesday in which she detailed the British response to the incident, which included cutting off all high-level contacts between Moscow and London and the “persona non grata” (PNG) expulsion of 23 “spies” and intelligence officers working out of the Russian Federation Embassy. The expulsions will no doubt produce a tit-for-tat PNG from Moscow, ironically crippling or even eliminating the MI-6 presence and considerably reducing Britain’s own ability to understand what it going on in the Kremlin.

May, who referred to a “Russian mafia state,” has blamed Moscow for the attack even though she made plain in her first speech that the investigation was still underway. In both her presentations, she addressed the issue of motive by citing her belief that the attempted assassination conforms with an established pattern of Russian behavior. She did not consider that Vladimir Putin’s government would have no good reason to carry out an assassination that surely would be attributed to it, particularly as it was on the verge of national elections and also, more important, because it will be hosting the World Cup later this year and will be highly sensitive to threats of boycott. And it must be observed that Skripal posed no active threat to the Russian government. He has been living quietly in Britain for eight years, leading to wild tabloid press speculation that the Kremlin’s motive must have been to warn potential traitors that there are always consequences, even years later and in a far-off land.

To provide additional buttressing of what is a questionable thesis, the case of the assassination of Alexander Litvinenko in London in 2006 has been repeatedly cited by the media on both sides of the Atlantic as evidence of Russian turpitude, but the backstory is not the same. Litvinenko was an FSB officer who fled to the United Kingdom to avoid prosecution in Russia. In Britain, he became a whistleblower and author, exposing numerous alleged Russian government misdeeds. Would the Kremlin have been motivated to kill him? He was seen as a traitor and a continuing threat through his books and speeches, so it is certainly possible. The story of Skripal was, however, completely different. He was a double agent working for Britain who was arrested and imprisoned in 2006. He was released and traveled to the UK after a 2010 spy swap was arranged by Washington and his daughter has been able to travel freely from Moscow to visit him. If the Russian government had wanted to kill him, they could have easily done so while he was in prison, or they could have punished him by taking steps against his daughter.

There are a number of problems with the accepted narrative as presented by May and the media. Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a nerve agent as “usually odorless organophosphate (such as sarin, tabun, or VX) that disrupts the transmission of nerve impulses by inhibiting cholinesterase and especially acetylcholinesterase and is used as a chemical weapon in gaseous or liquid form,” while Wikipedia explains that it is “a class of organic chemicals that disrupt the mechanisms by which nerves transfer messages to organs.” A little more research online reveals that most so-called nerve agents are chemically related. So when Theresa May says that the alleged agent used against the Skripals as being “of a type” associated with a reported Russian-developed chemical weapon called Novichok that was produced in the 1970s and 1980s, she is actually conceding that her own chemical weapons laboratories at Porton Down are, to a certain, extent, guessing at the provenance and characteristics of the actual agent that might or might not have been used in Salisbury.

Beyond that, a military strength nerve agent is, by definition, a highly concentrated and easily dispersed form of a chemical weapon. It is intended to kill or incapacitate hundreds or even thousands of soldiers. If it truly had been used in Salisbury, even in a small dose, it would have killed Skripal and his daughter as well as others nearby. First responders who showed up without protective clothing, clearly seen in the initial videos and photos taken near the site, would also be dead. After her first speech, May summoned the Russian Ambassador and demanded that he address the allegations, but Moscow reasonably enough demanded a sample of the alleged nerve agent for testing by relevant international bodies like the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons before it could even respond to the British accusations. It was a valid point even supported in Parliament questioning by opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, but May and her government decided to act anyway.

May’s language also conveys uncertainty. She used “it appears” and also said it was “highly likely” that Moscow was behind the poisoning of Skripal but provided no actual evidence that that was the case, presumably only assuming that it had to be Russia. And her government has told the public that there is “little risk” remaining over the incident and that those who were possibly exposed merely have to wash themselves and their clothes, hardly likely if it were a military grade toxin, which gains its lethality from being persistent on and around a target. She made clear her lack of corroboration for her claim by offering an “either-or” analysis: either Russia’s government did it or it had “lost control” of its nerve agent.

As noted above, May’s argument is, to a certain extent, based on character assassination of Russians – she even offered up the alleged “annexation” of Crimea as corroboration of her view that Moscow is not inclined to play by the rules that others observe. It is a narrative that is based on the presumption that “this is the sort of thing the Russian government headed by Vladimir Putin does.” The British media has responded enthusiastically, running stories about numerous assassinations and poisonings that ought to be attributed to Russia, while ignoring the fact that the world leaders in political assassinations are actually the United States and Israel.

There are a number of other considerations that the May government has ignored in its rush to expand the crisis. She mentioned that Russia might be somewhat exonerated if it has lost control of its chemical weapons, but did not fully explain what that might mean. It could be plausible to consider that states hostile to Russia like Ukraine and Georgia that were once part of the Soviet Union could have had, and might still retain, stocks of the Novichok nerve agent. That in turn suggests a false flag, with someone having an interest in promoting a crisis between Russia and Britain. If that someone were a country having a sophisticated arms industry possessing its own chemical weapons capability, like the United States or Israel, it would be quite easy to copy the characteristics of the Russian nerve agent, particularly as its formula has been known since it was published in 1992. The agent could then be used to create an incident that would inevitably be blamed on Moscow. Why would Israel and the United States want to do that? To put pressure on Russia to embarrass it and put it on the defensive so I would be forced eventually to abandon its support for President Bashar al-Assad in Syria. Removing al-Assad is the often-expressed agenda of the Israeli and American governments, both of which have pledged to take “independent action” in Syria no matter what the United Nations or any other international body says. The redoubtable Nikki Haley is already using the incident to fearmonger over Moscow’s intentions at the U.N., warning that a Russian chemical attack on New York City could be coming.

And to throw out a really wild possibility, one might observe that no one in Britain had a stronger motive to generate a major confrontation with a well-defined enemy than Theresa May, who has been under fire by the media and pressured to resign by many in her own Conservative Party. Once upon a time suggesting that a democratically elected government might assassinate someone for political reasons would have been unthinkable, but the 2016 election in the United States has demonstrated that nothing is impossible, particularly if one is considering the possibility that a secret intelligence service might be collaborating with a government to help it stay in power. An incident in which no one was actually killed that can be used to spark an international crisis mandating “strong leadership” would be just the ticket.

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US Planning a Terrorist False Flag Chemical Attack to Justify Bombing Syria

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US Planning a Terrorist False Flag Chemical Attack to Justify Bombing Syria: Russia Says It Will Respond
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By Federico PIERACCINI | Strategic Culture Foundation

Events in Syria increasingly resemble a direct confrontation between major powers rather than a proxy war. Lavrov’s words, delivered a few days ago, reveal the critical phase of international relations the world is going through, with a potentially devastating conflict ready to ignite in the Middle East region.

An alarming warning by Sergei Lavrov and Chief of the Russian General Staff, Valery Gerasimov, was announced via the RT broadcaster and several Russian media. The content is explosive and deserving of the widest possible dissemination. Gerasimov claimed that Moscow had “reliable information that fighters are preparing to stage the use by government troops of chemical weapons against the civilian population.” He alleged that the US intends to accuse Assad’s troops of using chemical weapons against civilians, and then “carry out a bombing attack” on Damascus. Gerasimov warned that Russia would “take retaliatory measures” if the US targeted areas where its military are located in the Syrian capital. “Russian military advisers, representatives of the Center for Reconciliation and members of military police” are currently in the Syrian capital, Gerasimov said, adding that in the event that the lives of Russian military personnel are placed in danger, the Russian Armed Forces will respond with certain measure to both “missiles” and their “launchers”. A few hours earlier, Lavrov responded, “criticizing the remarks by the US envoy to the UN, Nikki Haley, about Washington’s readiness to “bomb Damascus and even the presidential palace of Bashar Assad, regardless [of the] presence of the Russian representatives there.” “It is an absolutely irresponsible statement,” the Russian top diplomat added.

The words of Gerasimov are even more dire, since he explains how the United States and its allies are preparing the ground to justify an attack on Syria. According to reports, terrorists stationed in Al-Tanf (an illegal US military base in Syria) received 20 tons of chlorine gas and detonators, disguised as cigarette packs, in order to attack in an area under the control of the terrorists that is densely inhabited by civilians. What would then happen is already obvious, with the White Helmets (AKA Al-Qaeda) and mainstream media ready to broadcast the images of the victims of the attack, tugging at the heartstrings of Western viewers otherwise unaware of the conspiracy being played out. Efforts to frame Russia have already reached the highest alert levels, with the false-flag poisoning of the Russian spy in the United Kingdom. It seems that there is a significant effort by the United States, the United Kingdom, France and Germany to provoke a military confrontation with Moscow. How else are we able to interpret threats from Macron to strike Damascus, together with his ominous advice to foreign journalists not to go to Damascus in the coming days and, for those already there, to leave the capital immediately? There has even been chatter within diplomatic circles that suggest that UN personnel are leaving Damascus. This could be psychological warfare, or it could be a prelude to war. With the stakes so high, we cannot afford to ignore any detail, even if it may be disinformation. The American attack seems imminent, with mounting signs of movements of American and Russian warships in the Mediterranean in attack formation.

Russian military representatives have reiterated that in the event of an attack, they will respond by hitting both the missiles launched as well as the ships from which the missiles were launched. Things are getting pretty dicey, and the risk of a direct confrontation between the United States and the Russian Federation are rising with every passing hour. The transfer of numerous US aircraft from Incirlik, Turkey, to Al-Azrak, Jordan, is another indication of preparations for an attack, since the forces moved to Jordan are close to the Al-Tanf base. The proposed strategy could involve an assault on the city of Daraa, for the purposes of securing the borders between Syria and Jordan and Syria and Israel.

The warnings raised by Lavrov and Gerasimov appear unprecedented, given that they detail a plan already set in course, evidently approved at the highest levels and aimed at provoking and justifying an attack on Syria; and attack that would encompass the Russian forces in Syria. Tensions continue to grow, following Russia’s shooting down of a drone by two surface-to-air missiles launched from its Hmeimim Air Base. Moscow has even deployed to the Mediterranean the Admiral Grigorovich-class frigate Admiral Essen and the Krivak II-class anti-submarine frigate Pytivyy. Both are prepared for anti-ship and anti-submarine operations. Sources claim that this deployment was planned some time ago and is part of a routine deployment of the Russian navy. But during such a delicate moment, it pays to focus on every detail. Without resorting to excessive alarmism, if Lavrov said that “the movements of the warships of the United States and its allies in the Mediterranean seem compatible with the strategy of using this chemical attack to justify an attack on the Syrian Arab army and government installations”, then it is reasonable to speculate on whether the Russian ships are moving in to the area to counter any provocations.

There are two fundamental flaws in the reasoning of US policy-makers and the US military establishment. They are convinced that an American demonstration of strength (involving a large number of cruise missile launched against Syria through a significant involvement of aircraft carriers as well as bombers) would stun Russia into passivity. Furthermore, US military generals are convinced that Syria and Russia do not have the ability to defend themselves for an extended period of time. They seem to be fooling themselves with their own propaganda. As their Israeli colleagues have already learned, such an assumption is mistaken. While the idea that a high level of firepower would meet with some kind of success, the possibility of a response from Syrian and Russian forces remains. And this possibility seems not to have been given sufficient weight by the US and her allies.

How would the American military and the Trump presidency react to a US warship being sunk by anti-ship missiles? It would only serve to demonstrate how vulnerable American naval forces are when confronted with such advanced weapons. It would represent a tremendous shock for the US military, possibly the biggest shock since the end of WWII. What would Trump and the generals in charge do? They would respond with further bombardment of Russian forces, leaving themselves open to a devastating Russian response. The conflict could escalate within the space of a few minutes, leading to a situation where there could be no possible winners.

The normal reasoning I employ when considering total annihilation is placed to one side when US special forces deliver 20 tons of chlorine gas to Al Qaeda terrorists in Syria order to execute a false flag for the purposes of blaming Damascus and Moscow. If we connect this event to what is currently happening in the United Kingdom, and the hysteria in the United States surrounding alleged Russian hacking during the American elections, we can understand just how much international relations have deteriorated. This situation is reminiscent of Ukraine in 2015. Ukrainian forces suffered repeated defeats at the hands of the Donbass resistance, being contained in the thousands in different “cauldrons. Within NATO headquarters in Brussels during that time, there was open discussion over sending a contingent to support Ukrainian troops. The plan, however, was never realized, given the possibility of direct confrontation in Ukraine between the Russian Federation and NATO.

In recent months, the possibility of a war on the Korean Peninsula has also been evoked and perhaps simultaneously averted by the unpredictable consequences for both Seoul and the American forces in the region.

In Syria, the approach of Washington and its diplomatic and military emissaries seems more reckless and less tied to a chain of command where the buck stops at the American president. It seems that the US deep state in Syria has a greater and more hidden control over American forces, sabotaging every agreement made between Moscow and Washington. We saw this during the Obama presidency, where the US Air Force bombed government troops in Deir ez-Zor only a few hours after a ceasefire had been reached between Lavrov and Secretary of State Kerry.

The grave circumstances about which we write seem to be without precedent, seeming as they do to lead towards a direct confrontation between nuclear-armed powers. Alas, in such circumstances, we can only hope for the best but prepare for the worst; we can only wait to read on the mainstream media notifications of the latest chemical attack in Syria. We can only hope that there is someone in Washington retaining enough sense to factor in the devastating consequences of an attack on Damascus and the Russian forces in the region.

Never before has the region been on the verge of such an explosion as in the next few hours — as a result of the typically reckless actions of the United States.

Posted in USA, SyriaComments Off on US Planning a Terrorist False Flag Chemical Attack to Justify Bombing Syria

Apartheid I$raHell

NOVANEWS

Image result for Apartheid Israel CARTOON

Apartheid Israel
By Jonathon Cook | AMEU 

North from Nazareth’s city limits, a mile or so as the crow flies, is an agricultural community by the name of Tzipori – Hebrew for “bird.” It is a place I visit regularly, often alongside groups of    activists wanting to learn more about the political situation of the Palestinian minority living in Israel.

Tzipori helps to shed light on the core historic, legal and administrative principles underpinning a Jewish state, ones that reveal it to be firmly in a tradition of non-democratic political systems that can best be described as apartheid in nature.

More than a decade ago, former U.S. president Jimmy Carter      incurred the wrath of Israel’s partisans in America by suggesting that Israeli rule over Palestinians in the occupied territories was comparable to apartheid. While his bestseller book “Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid” broke a taboo, in many ways it added to the confusion surrounding discussions of Israel. Since then, others, including John Kerry, when U.S. secretary of state, and former Israeli prime ministers Ehud Olmert and Ehud Barak, have warned that Israeli rule in the occupied territories is in danger of metamorphosing into “apartheid” – though the moment of transformation, in their eyes, never quite seems to arrive.

It has been left to knowledgeable observers, such as South Africa’s Archbishop Desmond Tutu, to point out that the situation for Palestinians under occupation is, in fact, worse than that suffered by blacks in the former South Africa. In Tutu’s view, Palestinians under occupation suffer from something more extreme than apartheid – what we might term “apartheid-plus.”

There is a notable difference between the two cases that hints at the nature of that “plus.” Even at the height of apartheid, South Africa’s white population understood that it needed, and depended on, the labor of the black majority population. Israel, on the other hand, has a far more antagonistic relationship to Palestinians in the occupied territories. They are viewed as an unwelcome, surplus population that serves as a demographic obstacle to the political realization of a Greater Israel. The severe economic and military pressures Israel imposes on these Palestinians are designed to engineer their incremental displacement, a slow-motion ethnic cleansing.

Not surprisingly, Israel’s supporters have been keen to restrict the use of the term “apartheid” to South Africa, as though a political system allocating key resources on a strictly racial or ethnic basis has only ever occurred in one place and at one time. It is often forgotten that the crime of apartheid is defined in international law, as part of the 2002 Rome Statute that created the International Criminal Court at The Hague. An apartheid system, the statute says, is “an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime.” In short, apartheid is a political system, or structure, that assigns rights and privileges based on racial criteria.

This definition, it will be argued in this essay, describes the political regime not only in the occupied territories – where things are actually even worse – but in Israel itself, where Jewish citizens enjoy institutional privileges over the 1.8 million Palestinians who have formal Israeli citizenship. These Palestinians are the remnants of the Palestinian people who were mostly dispersed by the 1948 war that established a Jewish state on the ruins of their homeland. These Palestinian citizens comprise about a fifth of Israel’s population.

Although it is generally understood that they suffer discrimination, the assumption even of many scholars is that their treatment in no way undermines Israel’s status as a western-style liberal democracy. Most minorities in the west – for example, blacks and Hispanics in the U.S., Asians in the U.K., Turks in Germany, and Africans in France – face widespread prejudice and discrimination. Israel’s treatment of its Palestinian minority, it is claimed, is no different.

This is to profoundly misunderstand the kind of state Israel is, and how it relates to all Palestinians, whether they are under occupation or Israeli citizens. The discrimination faced by Palestinians in Israel is not illegal, informal, unofficial, or improvised. It is systematic, institutional, structural and extensively codified, satisfying very precisely the definition of apartheid in international law and echoing the key features of South African apartheid.

It was for this reason that the United Nations’ Economic Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) published a report in 2017 concluding that Israel had “established an apartheid regime that dominates the Palestinian people as a whole,” including its Palestinian citizens. Under severe pressure from Israel and the U.S. , however, that report was quickly retracted, but the reality of apartheid in Israeli law and practice persists.

This argument is far more controversial than the one made by President Carter. His position suggests that Israel developed a discrete system of apartheid after the occupation began in 1967 – a kind of “add-on” apartheid to democratic Israel. On this view, were Israel to end the occupation, the apartheid regime in the territories could be amputated like a gangrenous limb. But if Israel’s treatment of its own Palestinian citizens fits the definition of apartheid, then it implies something far more problematic. It suggests that Jewish privilege is inherent in the Israeli polity established by the Zionist movement in 1948, that a Jewish state is apartheid-like by its nature, and that dismantling the occupation would do nothing to end Israel’s status as an apartheid state.

Citizenship Inequality

Tzipori was founded by Romanian and Bulgarian Jews in 1949 as a moshav, a socialist agricultural collective similar to the kibbutz. It specialized in dairy production, though most of its 1,000 inhabitants long ago abandoned socialism, as well as farming; today they work in offices in nearby cities such as Haifa, Tiberias and Afula.

Tzipori’s Hebrew name alludes to a much older Roman city called Sephoris, the remains of which are included in a national park that abuts the moshav. Separating the moshav from ancient Sephoris is a large pine forest, concealing yet more rubble, in some places barely distinguishable from the archeological debris of the national park. But these ruins are much more recent. They are the remnants of a Palestinian community of some 5,000 souls known as Saffuriya. The village was wiped out in 1948 during the Nakba, the Arabic word for “catastrophe” – how Palestinians describe the loss of their homeland and its replacement with a Jewish state.

The Palestinians of Saffuriya – an Arabized version of “Sephoris” – were expelled by Israel and their homes razed. The destruction of Saffuriya was far from an isolated incident. More than 500 Palestinian villages were ethnically cleansed in a similar fashion during the Nakba, and the ruins of the homes invariably covered with trees. Today, all Saffuriya’s former residents live in exile – most outside Israel’s borders, in camps in Lebanon. But a proportion live close by in Nazareth, the only Palestinian city in what became Israel to survive the Nakba. In fact, according to some estimates, as much as 40 percent of Nazareth’s current population is descended from Saffuriya’s refugees, living in its own neighborhood of Nazareth called Safafri.

Nowadays, when observers refer to Palestinians, they usually think of those living in the territories Israel occupied in 1967: the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem.  Increasingly, observers (and peace processes) overlook two other significant groups.  The first are the Palestinian refugees who ended up beyond the borders of partitioned Palestine; the second are the 20 percent of Palestinians, some 150,000, who managed to remain on their land.  This figure was far higher than intended by Israel’s founders.

It included 30,000 in Nazareth – both the original inhabitants and refugees like those from Saffuriya who sought sanctuary in the city during the Nakba – who avoided being expelled. They did so only because of a mistake. The commander who led the attack on Nazareth, a Canadian Jew called Ben Dunkelman, disobeyed an order to empty the city of its inhabitants. One can guess why: given the high profile of Nazareth as a center of Christianity, and coming in the immediate wake of the war crimes trials of Nazis at Nuremberg, Dunkelman presumably feared that one day he might end up in the dock too.

There were other, unforeseen reasons why Palestinians either remained inside or were brought into the new state of Israel. Under pressure from the Vatican, a significant number of Palestinian Christians – maybe 10,000 – were allowed to return after the fighting finished. A further 35,000 Palestinians were administratively moved into Israel in 1949, after the Nakba had ended, when Israel struck a deal with Jordan to redraw the ceasefire lines – to Israel’s territorial, but not demographic, advantage. And finally, in a far less technologically sophisticated age, many refugees who had been expelled outside Israel’s borders managed to slip back hoping to return to villages like Saffuriya. When they found their homes destroyed, they “blended” into surviving Palestinian communities like Nazareth, effectively disappearing from the Israeli authorities’ view.

In fact, it was this last trend that initiated a process that belatedly led to citizenship for the Palestinians still in Israel. The priority for Israeli officials was to prevent any return for the 750,000 Palestinians they had ethnically cleansed so successfully. That was the only way to ensure the preservation of a permanent and incontrovertible Jewish majority. And to that end, Palestinians in surviving communities like Nazareth needed to be marked out – “branded,” to use a cattle-ranching metaphor. That way, any “infiltrators,” as Israel termed refugees who tried to return home, could be immediately identified and expelled again. This “branding” exercise began with the issuing of residency permits to Palestinians in communities like Nazareth. But as Israel sought greater international legitimacy, it belatedly agreed to convert this residency into citizenship.

It did so through the Citizenship Law of 1952, four years after Israel’s creation. Citizenship for Palestinians in Israel was a concession made extremely reluctantly and only because it served Israel’s larger demographic purposes. Certainly, it was not proof, as is often assumed, of Israel’s democratic credentials. The Citizenship Law is better understood as an anti-citizenship law: its primary goal was to strip any Palestinians outside the new borders – the vast majority after the ethnic cleansing of 1948 – of a right ever to return to their homeland.

Two years before the Citizenship Law, Israel passed the more famous Law of Return.  This law effectively opened the door to all Jews around the world to immigrate to Israel, automatically entitling them to citizenship.

Anyone familiar with modern U.S. history will have heard of the Supreme Court decision of 1954 in the famous civil rights case Brown v. Board of Education. The judges ruled that the creation of separate public schools for white and black pupils was unconstitutional, on the grounds that “separate is inherently unequal.” It was an important legal principle that would strike a decisive blow against Jim Crow, the Deep South’s version of apartheid.

If separate is inherently unequal, Israel’s segregated structure of citizenship is the most profound form of inequality imaginable. Citizenship is sometimes referred to as the “foundational right” offered by states because so many other basic rights typically depend on it: from suffrage to residency and welfare. By separating citizenship rights on an ethnic basis, creating Jewish citizens with one law and Palestinian citizens with another, Israel institutionalized legal apartheid at the bedrock level. Adalah, a legal rights group for Palestinians in Israel, has compiled an online database listing Israeli laws that explicitly discriminate based on ethnicity. The Law of Return and the Citizenship Law are the most significant, but there are nearly 70 more of them.

Marriage Inequality

Ben Gurion was prepared to award the remnants of the Palestinians in Israel this degraded version of citizenship because he assumed this population would pose no threat to his new Jewish state. He expected these Palestinian citizens – or what Israel prefers to term generically “Israeli Arabs” – to be swamped by the arrival of waves of Jewish immigrants like those that settled Tzipori. Ben Gurion badly miscalculated. The far higher birth rate of Palestinian citizens meant they continue to comprise a fifth of Israel’s population.

Palestinian citizens have maintained this numerical proportion, despite Israel’s strenuous efforts to gerrymander its population. The Law of Return encourages – with free flights, financial gifts, interest-free loans and grants – any Jew in the world to come to Israel and instantly receive citizenship. More than three million Jews have taken up the offer.

The Citizenship Law, on the other hand, effectively closed the door after 1952 on the ability of Palestinians to gain citizenship. In fact, since then there has been only one way for a non-Jew to naturalize and that is by marrying an Israeli citizen, either a Jew or Palestinian. This exception is allowed only because a few dozen non-Jews qualify each year, posing no threat to Israel’s Jewish majority.

In practice, Palestinians outside Israel have always been disqualified from using this route to citizenship, even if they marry a Palestinian citizen of Israel, as became increasingly common after Israel occupied the rest of historic Palestine in 1967. During the Oslo years, when Palestinians in Israel launched a legal challenge to force Israel to uphold the naturalization of their spouses from the occupied territories, the government hurriedly responded by passing in 2003 the Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law. It denied Palestinians the right to qualify for Israeli residency or citizenship under the marriage provision. In effect, it banned marriage across the Green Line formally separating Palestinians in Israel from Palestinians under occupation. The measure revealed that Israel was prepared to violate yet another fundamental right – to fall in love and marry the person of one’s choice – to preserve its Jewishness.

Nationality Inequality

Most citizens of the United States correctly assume that their citizenship and nationality are synonymous: “American” or “U.S.”

But the same is not true for Israelis.  Israel classifies its citizens as holding different “nationalities.”  This requires rejecting a common Israeli nationality and instead separating citizens into supposed ethnic or religious categories. Israel has recognized more than 130 nationalities to deal with anomalous cases, myself included. After I married my wife from Nazareth, I entered a lengthy, complex and hostile naturalization process. I am now an Israeli citizen, but my nationality is identified as “British.” The vast majority of Israeli citizens, on the other hand, hold one of two official nationalities: Jewish or Arab. The Israeli Supreme Court has twice upheld the idea that these nationalities are separate from – and superior to – citizenship.

This complex system of separate nationalities is not some arcane, eccentric practice: it is central to Israel’s version of apartheid. It is the means by which Israel can both institutionalize a separation in rights and obscure this state-sanctioned segregation from the view of outsiders. It allows Israel to offer different rights to different citizens depending on whether they are Jews or Palestinians, but in a way that avoids too obvious a comparison with apartheid South Africa. Here is how.

All citizens, whatever their ethnicity, enjoy “citizenship rights.” In this regard, Israel looks – at least superficially – much like a western liberal democracy. Examples of citizenship rights include health care, welfare payments, the domestic allocation of water, and education – although, as we shall see, the picture is usually far more complex than it first appears. In reality, Israel has managed covertly to subvert even these citizenship rights.

Consider medical care. Although all citizens are entitled to equal health provision, hospitals and major medical services are almost always located in Jewish communities, and difficult for Palestinian citizens to access given the lack of transport connections between Palestinian and Jewish communities. Palestinian citizens in remote communities  are denied access to basic medical services. And recently it emerged that Israeli hospitals were secretly segregating Jewish and Palestinian women in maternity clinics. Dr. Hatim Kanaaneh, a Palestinian physician in Israel, documents these and many other problems with health care in his book “A Doctor in Galilee.”

More significantly, Israel also recognizes “national rights,” and reserves them almost exclusively for the Jewish population. National rights are treated as superior to citizenship rights. So if there is a conflict between a Jew’s national right and a Palestinian’s individual citizenship right, the national right must be given priority by officials and the courts. In this context, Israel’s rightwing justice minister, Ayelet Shaked, observed in February 2018 that Israel should ensure “equal rights to all citizens but not equal national rights.” She added: “Israel is a Jewish state. It isn’t a state of all its nations.”

The simplest illustration of how this hierarchy of rights works can be found in Israel’s citizenship laws. The Law of Return establishes a national right for all Jews to gain instant citizenship – as well as the many other rights that derive from citizenship. The Citizenship Law, on the other hand, creates only an individual citizenship right for non-Jews, not a national one. Palestinian citizens can pass their citizenship “downwards” to their offspring but cannot extend it “outwards,” as a Jew can, to members of their extended family – in their case, Palestinians who were made refugees in 1948. My wife has relatives who were exiled by the Nakba in Jordan. But with only an individual right to citizenship, she cannot bring any of them back to their homes now in Israel.

This distinction is equally vital in understanding how Israel allocates key material resources, such as water and land.  Let us consider land.  Israel has “nationalized” almost all of its territory – 93 percent. Palestinian communities in Israel have been able to hold on to less than 3 percent of their land – mostly the built-up areas of their towns and villages – after waves of confiscation by the state stripped them of at least 70 percent of their holdings.

It is not unprecedented in western democracies for the state to be a major land owner, even if Israel’s total holdings are far more extensive than other states. But Israel has successfully masked what this “nationalization” of land actually means. Given that there is no recognized Israeli nationality, Israel does not hold the land on behalf of its citizens – as would be the case elsewhere. It does not even manage the land on behalf of Jewish citizens of Israel. Instead the land is held in trust for the Jewish people around the globe, whether they are citizens or not, and whether they want to be part of Israel or not.

In practice, Jews who buy homes in Israel effectively get long-term leases on their property from a government body known as the Israel Lands Authority. The state regards them as protecting or guarding the land on behalf of Jews collectively around the world. Who are they guarding it from? From the original owners. Most of these lands, like those in Tzipori, have been either seized from Palestinian refugees or confiscated from Palestinian citizens.

Legal Inequality

The political geographer Oren Yiftachel is among the growing number of Israeli scholars who reject the classification of Israel as a liberal democracy, or in fact any kind of democracy. He describes Israel as an “ethnocracy,” a hybrid state that creates a democratic façade, especially for the dominant ethnic group, to conceal its essential, non-democratic structure. In describing Israel’s ethnocracy, Yiftachel provides a complex hierarchy of citizenship in which non-Jews are at the very bottom.

It is notable that Israel lacks a constitution, instead creating 11 Basic Laws that approximate a constitution. The most liberal component of this legislation, passed in 1992 and titled Freedom and Human Dignity, is sometimes referred to as Israel’s Bill of Rights. However, it explicitly fails to enshrine in law a principle of equality. Instead, the law emphasizes Israel’s existence as a “Jewish and democratic state” – an oxymoron that is rarely examined by Israelis.

A former Supreme Court judge, Meir Shamgar, famously claimed that Israel – as the nation-state of the Jewish people – was no less democratic than France, as the nation-state of the French people. And yet, while it is clear how one might naturalize to become French, the only route to becoming Jewish is religious conversion. “Jewish” and “French” are clearly not similar conceptions of citizenship.

Netanyahu’s government has been trying to draft a 12th Basic Law. Its title is revealing: it declares Israel as “the Nation-State of the Jewish People.”  Not the state of Israeli citizens, or even of Israeli Jews, but of all Jews around the world, including those Jews who are not Israeli citizens and have no interest in becoming citizens. This is a reminder of the very peculiar nature of a Jewish state, one that breaks with the conception of a civic citizenship on which liberal democracies are premised. Israel’s ethnic idea of nationality  is closely derived from the ugly ethnic or racial ideas of citizenship that dominated Europe a century ago. Those exclusive, aggressive conceptions of peoplehood led to two devastating world wars, as well as providing the ideological justification for a wave of anti-semitism that swept Europe and culminated in the Holocaust.

Further, if all Jewish “nationals” in the world are treated as citizens of Israel – real or potential ones – what does that make Israel’s large minority of Palestinian citizens, including my wife and two children? It seems that Israel regards them effectively as guest workers or resident aliens, tolerated so long as their presence does not threaten the state’s Jewishness.  Ayelet Shaked, Israel’s justice minister, implicitly acknowledged this problem during a debate on the proposed Nation-State Basic Law in February. She said Israel could not afford to respect universal human rights: “There is a place to maintain a Jewish majority even at the price of violation of rights.”

The hierarchy of citizenship Yiftachel notes is helpful because it allows us to understand that Israeli citizenship is the exact opposite of the level playing field of formal rights one would expect to find in a liberal democracy.  Another key piece of legislation, the Absentee Property Law of 1950, stripped all Palestinian refugees from the 1948 war of their right to any property they had owned before the Nakba. Everything was seized – land, crops, buildings, vehicles, farm implements, bank accounts – and became the property of Israel, passed on to Jewish institutions or Jewish citizens in violation of international law.

The Absentee Property Law applied equally to Palestinian citizens, such as those from Saffuriya who ended up in Nazareth, as it did to Palestinian refugees outside Israel’s recognized borders. In fact, as many as one in four Palestinian citizens are reckoned to have been internally displaced by the 1948 war. In the Orwellian terminology of the Absentee Property Law, these refugees are classified as “present absentees” – present in Israel, but absent from their former homes. Despite their citizenship, such Palestinians have no more rights to return home, or reclaim other property, than refugees in camps in Lebanon, Syria and Jordan.

Residential Segregation

Although Tzipori was built on land confiscated from Palestinians – some of them Israeli citizens living close by in Nazareth – not one of its 300 or so homes, or its dozen farms, is owned by a Palestinian citizen. In fact, no Palestinian citizen of Israel has ever been allowed to live or even rent a home in Tzipori, seven decades after Israel’s creation.

Tzipori is far from unique. There are some 700 similar rural communities, known in Israel as cooperative communities. Each is, and is intended to be, exclusively Jewish, denying Palestinian citizens of Israel the right to live in them. These rural communities control much of the 93 percent of land that has been “nationalized,” effectively ensuring it remains off-limits to the fifth of Israel’s population that is non-Jewish.

How is this system of ethnic residential segregation enforced? Most cooperative communities like Tzipori administer a vetting procedure through an “admissions committee,” comprising officials from quasi-governmental entities such as the Jewish Agency, the Jewish National Fund and the World Zionist Organization, which are there to represent the interests of world Jewry, not Israeli citizens. These organizations, effectively interest groups that enjoy a special, protected status as agents of the Israeli state, are themselves a gross violation of the principles of a liberal democracy. The state, for example, has awarded the Jewish National Fund, whose charter obligates it to discriminate in favor of Jews, ownership of 13 percent of Israeli territory. A Jew from Brooklyn has more rights to land in Israel than a Palestinian citizen.

For most of Israel’s history, there was little need to conceal what the admissions committees were doing. No one noticed. If a Palestinian from Nazareth had applied to live in Tzipori, the admissions committee would simply have rejected the applicant on the grounds that they were an “Arab.”  But this very effective mechanism for keeping Palestinian citizens off most of their historic homeland hit a crisis two decades ago when the case of the Kaadan family began working its way through Israel’s court system.

Adel Kaadan lived in a very poor Palestinian community called Baqa al-Ghabiyya, south of Nazareth and quite literally a stone’s throw from the West Bank. Kaadan had a good job as a senior nurse in nearby Hadera hospital, where he regularly treated Jewish patients and had on occasion, he told me when I interviewed him in the early 2000s, helped to save Israeli soldiers’ lives. He assumed this should entitle him to live in a Jewish community. Kaadan struck me as stubborn as he was naïve – a combination of personality traits that had got him this far and ended up causing Israel a great deal of legal and reputational trouble.

Determined to give his three young daughters the best opportunities he could manage, Kaadan had built the family an impressive villa in Baqa al-Ghabiyya. While I sat having coffee with him, one of his daughters played the piano with a proficiency that suggested she had a private tutor. But Kaadan was deeply dissatisfied with his lot. His home was grand and beautiful, but Baqa was not. As soon as the family stepped outside their home, they had to wade into the reality of Palestinian life in Israel. Kaadan was proof that it was possible for some Palestinian citizens, if they were determined and lucky enough to surmount the many obstacles placed in their way, to enjoy personal success, but they could not so easily escape the collective poverty of their surroundings.

Like many other Palestinian citizens, Kaadan was trapped by yet another piece of legislation: the Planning and Building Law of 1965. It advanced a core aim of Zionism: “Judaizing” as much land as possible. It achieved this in two main ways. First, communities in Israel were only recognized by the state if they were listed in the Planning Law. Although nearly 200 Palestinian communities had survived the Nakba, the law recognized just 120 or them.

The most problematic communities, from Israel’s point of view, were the dispersed Bedouin villages located among the remote, dusty hills of the semi-desert Negev, or Naqab, in Israel’s south. The Negev was Israel’s biggest land reserve, comprising 60 percent of the country’s territory. Its vast, inaccessible spaces had made it the preferred location for secretive military bases and Israel’s nuclear program. Israel wanted the Bedouin off their historic lands, and the Planning Law was the ideal way to evict them – by de-recognizing their villages.

Today the inhabitants of dozens of “unrecognized villages” – home to nearly a tenth of the Palestinian population in Israel – are invisible to the state, except when it comes to the enforcement of planning regulations. The villagers live without state-provided electricity, water, roads and communications. Any homes they build instantly receive demolition orders, forcing many to live in tents or tin shacks. Israel’s aim is to force the Bedouin to abandon their pastoral way of life and traditions, and relocate to overcrowded, state-built townships, which are the poorest communities in Israel by some margin.

In addition to creating the unrecognized villages, the Planning and Building Law of 1965  ensures ghetto-like conditions for recognized Palestinian communities too. It creates residential segregation by confining the vast majority of Palestinian citizens to the 120 Palestinian communities in Israel that are officially listed for them, and then tightly limits their room for growth and development. Even in the case of Palestinian citizens living in a handful of so-called “mixed cities” – Palestinian cities that were largely “Judaized” after the Nakba – they have been forced into their own discrete neighborhoods, on the margins of urban life.

The Planning Law also drew a series of blue lines around all the communities in Israel, determining their expansion area. Jewish communities were awarded significant land reserves, while the blue lines around Palestinian communities were invariably drawn close to the built-up area half a century ago. Although Israel’s Palestinian population has grown seven or eight-fold since, its expansion space has barely changed, leading to massive overcrowding. This problem is exacerbated by Israel’s failure to build a single new Palestinian community since 1948.

Like the other 120 surviving Palestinian communities in Israel, Baqa had been starved of resources: land, infrastructure and services. There were no parks or green areas where the Kaadan children could play. Outside their villa, there were no sidewalks, and during heavy rains untreated sewage rose out of the inadequate drains to wash over their shoes. Israel had confiscated all Baqa’s land for future development, so houses were crowded around them on all sides, often built without planning permits, which were in any case impossible to obtain. Illegal hook-ups for electricity blotted the view even further. With poor refuse collection services, the families often burnt their rubbish in nearby dumpsters.

Adel Kaadan had set his eyes on living somewhere better – and that meant moving to a Jewish community. When Israel began selling building plots in Katzir, a small Jewish cooperative community located on part on Baqa’s confiscated land, Kaadan submitted his application. When it was rejected because he was an “Arab,” he turned to the courts.

In 2000, the Kaadans’ case arrived at the highest court in the land, the Supreme Court. Aharon Barak, the court’s president who heard the petition, was the most liberal and respected judge in Israel’s history. But the Kaadans’ case was undoubtedly the most unwelcome he ever adjudicated. It placed an ardent Zionist like him in an impossible situation.

On one hand, there was no practice in Israel more clearly apartheid-like than the ethnic-based residential exclusion enforced by the admissions committees. It was simply not something Barak could afford to be seen upholding. After all, he was a regular lecturer at Yale and Harvard law schools, where he was feted, and had often been cited by liberal counterparts on the U.S. Supreme Court as a major influence on their judicial activism.

But while he could not be seen ruling in favor of  Katzir, at the same time he dared not rule in the Kaadans’ favor either. Such a decision would undermine the core rationale of a Zionist Jewish state: the Judaization of as much territory as possible. It would create a legal precedent that would throw open the doors to other Palestinian citizens, allowing them also to move into these hundreds of Jewish-only communities.

Barak understood that much else hung on the principle of residential separation. Primary and secondary education are also  segregated – and largely justified on the basis of residential separation. Jewish children go to Hebrew-language schools in Jewish areas; Palestinian children in Israel go to Arabic-language schools in Palestinian communities. (There are only a handful of private bilingual schools in Israel.)

This separation ensures that educational resources are prioritized for Jewish citizens. Arab schools are massively underfunded and their curriculum tightly controlled by the authorities, as exemplified by the 2011 Nakba Law.  It threatens public funding for any school or institution that teaches about the key moment in modern Palestinian history. Additionally, teaching posts in Arab schools have historically been dictated by the Shin Bet, Israel’s secret police, to create spies in classrooms and common-rooms.

A side-benefit for Israel of separation in residency and education is that Palestinian and Jewish citizens have almost no chances to meet until they reach adulthood, when their characters have been formed. It is easy to fear the Other when you have no experience of him. The success of this segregation may be measured in intermarriages between Jewish and Palestinian citizens. In the year 2011, when the Israeli authorities last issued statistics, there were only 19 such marriages, or 0.03 percent. Israeli Jews openly oppose such marriages as “miscegenation.”

In fact, Israel is so opposed to intermarriages, that it prohibits such marriages from being conducted inside Israel.  Mixed couples are forced to travel abroad and marry there — typically in Cyprus — and apply for the marriage to be recognized on their return.  Notably, the 1973 United Nations Convention on Apartheid lists measures prohibiting mixed marriages as a crime of apartheid.

Residential separation has also allowed Israel to ensure Jewish communities are far wealthier and better provided with services than Palestinian ones. Although all citizens are taxed on their income, public-subsidized building programs are overwhelmingly directed at providing homes for Jewish families in Jewish areas. Over seven decades, hundreds of Jewish communities have been built by the state, with ready-made roads, sidewalks and public parks, with homes automatically connected to water, electricity and sewage grids. All these communities are built on “state land” – in most cases, lands taken from Palestinian refugees and Palestinian citizens.

By contrast, not one new Arab community has been established in that time. And the 120 recognized Palestinian communities have been largely left to sink or swim on their own. After waves of confiscation by the state, they are on the remnants of private Palestinian land. Having helped to subsidize housing and building programs for millions of Jewish immigrants, Palestinian communities have mostly had to raise their own money to install basic infrastructure, including water and sewage systems.

Meanwhile, segregated zoning areas and separate planning committees allow Israel to enforce much tougher regulations on Palestinian communities, to deny building permits and to carry out demolition orders. Some 30,000 homes are reported to be illegally built in the Galilee, almost all of them in Palestinian communities.

Similarly, most of the state’s budget for local authorities, as well as business investment, is channeled towards Jewish communities rather than Palestinian ones. This is where industrial areas and factories are built, to ensure greater employment opportunities for Jewish citizens and to top up Jewish communities’ municipal coffers with business rates.

Meanwhile, a central government “balancing grant” – intended to help the poorest local authorities by redistributing income tax in their favor – is skewed too. Even though Palestinian communities are uniformly the poorest in Israel, they typically receive a third of the balancing grant received by Jewish communities.

Residential segregation has also allowed Israel to create hundreds of “national priority areas” (NPAs), which receive preferential government budgets, including extra funding to allow for long school days. Israeli officials have refused to divulge even to the courts what criteria are used to establish these priority areas, but it is clearly not based on socio-economic considerations. Of 557 NPAs receiving extra school funding, only four tiny Palestinian communities were among their number. The assumption is that they were included only to avoid accusations that the NPAs were designed solely to help Jews.

Israel has similarly used residential segregation to ensure that priority zoning for tourism chiefly benefits Jewish communities. That has required careful engineering, given that much of the tourism to Israel is Christian pilgrimage. In the north, the main pilgrimage destination is Nazareth and its Basilica of the Annunciation, where the Angel Gabriel reputedly told Mary she was carrying the son of God. But Israel avoided making the city a center for tourism, fearing it would be doubly harmful: the income from the influx of pilgrims would make Nazareth financially independent; and a prolonged stay by tourists in the city would risk exposing them to the Palestinian narrative.

Instead the north’s tourism priority zone was established in nearby Tiberias, on the Sea of Galilee, a once-Palestinian city that was ethnically cleansed during the Nakba and is now a Jewish city. For decades investors have been encouraged to build hotels and tourist facilities in Tiberias, ensuring that most coachloads of pilgrims only pass through Nazareth, making a brief hour-long stop to visit the Basilica.

Although Nazareth was very belatedly awarded tourism priority status in the late 1990s – in time for the Pope’s visit for the millennium – little has changed in practice. The city is so starved of land that there is almost no room for hotels. Those that have been built are mostly located in the city’s outer limits, where pilgrims are unlikely to be exposed to Palestinian residents.

Public transport links have also privileged Jewish communities over Palestinian ones. The national bus company Egged – the main provider of public transport in Israel – has established an elaborate network of bus connections between Jewish areas, ensuring that Jewish citizens are integrated into the economy. They can easily and cheaply reach the main cities, factories and industrial zones. Egged buses, however, rarely enter Palestinian communities, depriving their residents of employment opportunities. This, combined with the lack of daycare services for young children, explains why Palestinian women in Israel have long had one of the lowest employment rates in the Arab world, at below 20 percent.

Palestinian communities have felt discrimination in the provision of security and protection too. Last November the government admitted there was woefully inadequate provision of public shelters in Palestinian communities, even in schools, against missile attacks and earthquakes. Officials have apparently balked at the large expense of providing shelters, and the problem of freeing up land in Palestinian communities to establish them. Similarly, Israel has been loath to establish police stations in Palestinian communities, leading to an explosion of crime there. In December Palestinian legislator Yousef Jabareen pointed out that there had been 381 shootings in his hometown of Umm al-Fahm in 2017, but only one indictment. He said the town’s inhabitants had become “hostages in the hands of a small group of criminals.”

In all these different ways, Israel has ensured Palestinian communities remain substantially poorer than Jewish communities. A study in December 2017 found that the richest communities in Israel – all Jewish ones – received nearly four times more welfare spending from the government than the poorest communities – Palestinian ones. A month earlier, the Bank of Israel reported that Palestinian citizens had only 2 percent of all mortgages, in a sign of how difficult it is for them to secure loans, and they had to pay higher interest charges on the loans.

Among the 35 member states of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Israel has the highest poverty rate. This is largely because of poverty rates among Palestinian citizens, augmented by the self-inflicted poverty of Israel’s ultra-Orthodox community, most of whose men refuse to work, preferring religious studies. In evidence of how Israel has skewed welfare spending to benefit poor Jews like the ultra-Orthodox, rather than Palestinian citizens, only a fifth of Jewish children live below the poverty line compared to two-thirds of Palestinian children in Israel.

Back at the Supreme Court, Aharon Barak was still grappling with the conflicting burden of Zionist history and the expectations of American law schools.  The judge  understood he needed to fudge a ruling.  He had to appear to be siding with the Kaadan family without actually ruling in their favor and thereby creating a legal precedent that would let other Palestinian families follow in their path. So he ordered Katzir to rethink its decision.

The Jewish community did so, but not in a way that helped Barak.  Katzir responded that they were no longer rejecting the Kaadans because they were Arab, but because they were “socially unsuitable.”  Barak knew that would not wash at Yale or Harvard – it too obviously sounded like code for “Arab.”  He ordered Katzir to come back with a different decision regarding the Kaadans.

The case and a few others like it dragged on over the next several years, with the court reluctant to make a precedent-setting decision. Quietly, behind the scenes, Adel Kaadan finally received a plot of land from Katzir. Unnerved, cooperative communities across the Galilee started to pass local bylaws – insisting on a “social suitability” criterion for applicants – to pre-empt any decision by the Supreme Court in favor of the Palestinian families banging at their doors.

By 2011, it looked as if the Supreme Court was running out of options and would have to rule on the legality of the admissions committees. At that point, the government of Benjamin Netanyahu stepped in to help out the court. There was no statutory basis for the admissions committees; they were simply an administrative practice observed by all these hundreds of Jewish-only cooperative communities.  The Netanyahu government, therefore, pushed through an Admissions Committee Law that year. It finally put the committees on a statutory footing, but also made them embarrassingly visible for the first time.

As the parliament backed the legislation, reports in the western media labeled it an “apartheid law” – conveniently ignoring the fact that this had been standard practice in Israel for more than six decades.

A petition from the legal group Adalah against the new law reached the Supreme Court in 2014. Barak had by this time retired. But in line with his aversion to issuing a ruling that might challenge the racist underpinnings of Israel as a Jewish state, the judges continued not to make a decision. They argued that the law was too new for the court to determine what effect the admissions committees would have in practice – or in the language of the judges, they declined to act because the law was not yet “ripe” for adjudication. The ripeness argument was hard to swallow given that the effect of the admissions committees in enforcing residential apartheid after so many decades was only too apparent.

Even so, the legal challenge launched by the Kaadans left many in the Israeli leadership worried. In February 2018, referring to the case, the justice minister Ayelet Shaked averred that in “the argument over whether it’s all right for a Jewish community to, by definition, be only Jewish, I want the answer to be, ‘Yes, it’s all right’.”

Two Modes of Apartheid

It is time to address more specifically the nature of the apartheid regime Israel has created – and how it mirrors the essence of South Africa’s apartheid without precisely replicating it.

Close to the forest planted over the ruins of the Palestinian homes of Saffuriya is a two-storey stone structure, an Israeli flag fluttering atop its roof. It is the only Palestinian home not razed in 1948. Later, it was inhabited by Jewish immigrants, and today serves as a small guest house known as Tzipori Village. Its main customers are Israeli Jews from the crowded, urban center of the country looking for a weekend break in the countryside.

Scholars have distinguished between two modes of South African apartheid. The first was what they term “trivial” or “petty” apartheid, though “visible” apartheid conveys more precisely the kind of segregation in question. This was the sort of segregation that was noticed by any visitor: separate park benches, buses, restaurants, toilets, and so on. Israel has been careful to avoid in so far as it can this visible kind of segregation, aware that this is what most people think of as “apartheid.”  It has done so, even though, as we have seen, life in Israel is highly segregated for Jewish and Palestinian citizens. Residence is almost always segregated, as is primary and secondary education and much of the economy. But shopping malls, restaurants and toilets are not separate for Jewish and Palestinian citizens.

The same scholars refer to “grand” or “resource” apartheid, which they consider to have been far more integral to apartheid South Africa’s political project. This is segregation in relation to the state’s key material resources, such as land, water and mineral wealth. Israel has been similarly careful to segregate the main material resources to preserve them for the Jewish majority alone. It does this through the establishment of hundreds of exclusively Jewish communities like Tzipori. As noted previously, almost all of Israel’s territory has been locked up in these cooperative communities. And in line with its Zionist sloganeering about making the desert bloom, Israel has also restricted the commercial exploitation of water to agricultural communities like the kibbutz and moshav. It has provided subsidized water to these Jewish-only communities – and denied it to Palestinian communities – by treating the commercial use of water as a national right for Jews alone.

A thought experiment using Tzipori Village guest house neatly illustrates how Israel practices apartheid but in a way that only marginally differs from the South African variety. Had this bed and breakfast been located in a white community in South Africa, no black citizen would have been allowed to stay in it even for a night, and even if the owner himself had not been racist. South African law would have forbidden it. But in Israel any citizen can stay in Tzipori Village, Jew and Palestinian alike. Although the owner may be racist and reject Palestinian citizens, nothing in the law allows him to do so.

But – and this is crucial – Tzipori’s admissions committee would never allow a Palestinian citizen to buy the guest house or any home in the moshav, or even rent a home there. The right a Palestinian citizen has to spend a night in Tzipori Village is “trivial” or “petty” when compared to Israel’s sweeping exclusion of all Palestinian citizens from almost all the country’s territory. That is the point the scholars of South African apartheid highlight in distinguishing between the two modes of apartheid. In this sense, Israel’s apartheid may not be identical to South Africa’s, but it is a close relative or cousin.

This difference is also apparent in Israel’s treatment of suffrage. The fact that all Israeli citizens – Jews and Palestinians – have the vote and elect their own representatives is often cited by Israel’s supporters as proof both that Israel is a normal democratic country and cannot therefore be an apartheid state. There are, however, obvious problems with this claim.

We can make sense of the difference by again examining South Africa. The reason South African apartheid took the form it did was because a white minority determined to preserve its privileges faced off against a large black majority. It could not afford to give them the vote because any semblance of democracy would have turned power over to the black population and ended apartheid.

Israel, on the other hand, managed to radically alter its demographic fortunes by expelling the vast majority of Palestinians in 1948. This was the equivalent of gerrymandering the electoral constituency of the new Jewish state on a vast, national scale. The exclusion of most Palestinians from their homeland through the Citizenship Law, and the open door for Jews to come to Israel provided by the Law of Return, ensured Israel could tailor-make a “Jewish ethnocracy” in perpetuity.

The Israeli-Palestinian political scientist Asad Ghanem has described the Palestinian vote as “purely symbolic” – and one can understand why by considering Israel’s first two decades, when Palestinian citizens were living under a military government. Then, they faced greater restrictions on their movement than Palestinians in the West Bank  today. It would be impossible even for Israel’s keenest supporters to describe Israel as a democracy for its Palestinian citizens during this period, when they were under martial law. And yet Palestinians in Israel were awarded the vote in time for Israel’s first general election in 1949 and voted throughout the military government period. In other words, the vote may be a necessary condition for a democratic system but it is far from a sufficient one.

In fact, in Israel’s highly tribal political system, Jews are encouraged to believe they must vote only for Jewish Zionist parties, ones that uphold the apartheid system we have just analyzed. That has left Palestinian citizens with no choice but to vote for contending Palestinian parties. The one major Jewish-Arab party, the Communists, was in Israel’s earliest years a significant political force among Israeli Jews. Today, they comprise a tiny fraction of its supporters, with Palestinian citizens dominating the party.

With politics so tribal, it has been easy to prevent Palestinians from gaining even the most limited access to power. Israel’s highly proportional electoral system has led to myriad small parties in the Israeli parliament, the Knesset. All the Jewish parties have at various times participated in government in what are effectively rainbow coalitions. But the Palestinian parties have never been invited into an Israeli government, or had any significant impact on the legislative process. Israel’s political system may allow Palestinian citizens to vote, but they have zero political influence. This is why Israel can afford the generosity of allowing them to vote, knowing it will never disturb a tyrannical Jewish-majority rule.

Palestinian parliament member Ahmed Tibi has expressed it this way: “Israel is a democratic state for Jewish citizens, and a Jewish state for Arab citizens.”

‘Subversive’ Call for Equality

But increasingly any Palestinian presence in the Knesset is seen as too much by Israel’s Jewish parties. When the Oslo process was initiated in the late 1990s, the Israeli and Palestinian leaderships agreed that Israel’s Palestinian citizens should remain part of Israel in any future two-state arrangement. In response, Palestinian citizens began to take their Israeli citizenship seriously for the first time. A new party, Balad, was established by a philosophy professor, Azmi Bishara, who campaigned on a platform that Israel must stop being a Jewish state and become a “state of all its citizens” – a liberal democracy where all citizens would enjoy equal rights.

This campaign was soon picked up by all the Palestinian political parties, and led to a series of documents – including the most important, the Future Vision of the Palestinian Arabs in Israel – demanding major reforms that would turn Israel into either “a state of its citizens” or a “consensual democracy.”

The Israeli leadership was so discomfited by these campaigns that in 2006 the prime minister, Ehud Olmert, held a meeting with the Shin Bet. Unlike usual meetings of the secret police, this discussion was widely publicized. The Israeli media reported that Shin Bet regarded the so-called Future Vision documents as “subversion” and warned that they would use any means, including non-democratic ones, to defeat any campaign for equal rights.

A year later, when Bishara – the figurehead of this movement – was out of the country on a lecture tour, it was announced that he would be put on trial for treason should he return. It was alleged that he had helped Hizbullah during Israel’s 2006 war with Lebanon – a claim even the Israeli newspaper Haaretzdismissed as preposterous. Bishara stayed away. Effectively, the government and Shin Bet had declared war on demands to democratize Israel. As a result, most Palestinian politicians turned the volume down on their demands for political reform.

However, their continuing presence in the Knesset – especially as a succession of governments under Netanyahu has grown ever-more rightwing – has enraged more and more Jewish legislators. For years, the main Jewish parties have used their control of the Central Elections Committee to try to prevent leading Palestinian politicians from standing in parliamentary elections. However, the Supreme Court has – by ever-narrower margins – repeatedly overturned the CEC’s decisions.

Avigdor Lieberman, the Soviet-born Israeli defense minister who has been leading the attack on Palestinian legislators, managed to push through a Threshold Law in 2014 that raised the electoral threshold to a level that would be impossible for any of the three major Palestinian parties to surmount. But in a major surprise, these very different parties – representing Communist, Islamic and democratic-nationalist streams – put aside their differences to create a Joint List. In a prime example of unintended consequences, the 2015 election resulted in the Joint List becoming the third largest party in the Knesset.

For a brief while, and to great consternation in Israel, it looked as if the List might become the official opposition, entitling Palestinian legislators both to gain access to security briefings and to head sensitive Knesset committees.

The pressure to get rid of the Palestinian parties has continued to intensify. In 2016 the Knesset passed another law – initially called the Zoabi Law, and later renamed the Expulsion Law – that allows a three-quarters parliamentary majority to expel any legislator, not because they committed a crime or  misdeed but because the other legislators do not like their political views. The law’s original name indicated that the prime target for expulsion was Haneen Zoabi, who is now the most prominent member of Bishara’s Balad party.

According to commentators, it will be impossible to raise the three-quarters majority needed to approve such an expulsion. But in a time of war, or during one of the intermittent major attacks on Gaza, it seems probable that such a majority can be marshaled against outspoken critics of Israel – and supporters of a state of all its citizens – like Zoabi.

In fact, it only requires the expulsion of one member of the Joint List and the other members will be placed in an untenable position with their voters. They will be in the Knesset only because the Jewish Zionist legislators have chosen not to expel them – yet. This is why the Haaretz newspaper referred to the Expulsion Law as the first step in the “ethnic cleansing of the Knesset.”

As Israeli officials seem increasingly determined to abolish even the last formal elements of democracy in Israel, the country’s Palestinian leaders are finding themselves with limited options. Their only hope is to bring wider attention to the substantial democratic deficit in the Israeli polity.

In February, responding to the government’s moves to legislate a Basic Law on “Israel as the Nation-State of the Jewish People,” Knesset member Yousef Jabareen submitted an alternative Basic Law. It was titled “Israel, a Democratic, Egalitarian, and Multi-cultural State.” In any western state, such a law would be axiomatic and redundant. In Israel, the measure stood no chance of gaining support in the Knesset except from Palestinian legislators.

Jabareen admitted in an interview that the bill would be unlikely to secure backing even from the five members of Meretz, by far the most leftwing Jewish party in the parliament. Optimistically, he observed: “I want to hope that Meretz will be among them [supporters]. I have shared with Meretz a draft of the bill, but I have not asked them at this stage to join, in order to give them time to mull things over.”

There could hardly be a more ringing indictment of Israeli society than the almost certain futility of seeking a Jewish legislator in the Knesset willing to support legislation for tolerance and equality.

Posted in Palestine Affairs, ZIO-NAZIComments Off on Apartheid I$raHell

Who wants to kill Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah?

NOVANEWS
Image result for Rami Hamdallah CARTOON
By Ramzy Baroud | MEMO 

On March 13, while on his way to the besieged Gaza Strip, two 33-pounds bombs targeted the convoy of Palestinian Authority Prime Minister, Rami Hamdallah.

Hamdallah was visiting Gaza, through the Israeli border checkpoint, Erez, to open a large sewage treatment plant that, if allowed to operate regularly, will make life easier for hundreds of thousands of Gazans, who have endured a perpetual Israeli siege since 2006.

The Prime Minister’s visit was also seen as another important step in the reconciliation efforts between the two main Palestinian factions, Fatah – led by PA President, Mahmoud Abbas, in the Occupied West Bank – and Hamas, led by former Prime Minister, Ismael Haniyeh, in Gaza.

Although reconciliation efforts have, for years, been half-hearted at best, the latest round of talks between both groups led to a breakthrough in Cairo last October. This time, Palestinians were told that the two factions are keen on establishing unity, ending the siege on Gaza and revamping the largely dormant Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) institutions.

Hamas and the Islamic Jihad were to join the PLO at some point in the future, leading to the formulation of a unified Palestinian political program.

And, perhaps, this keenness at ending the rift has led to the attempt on Hamdallah’s life.

But who is Rami Hamdallah?

Hamdallah, 60, was chosen by Abbas to serve in the current post in June 2013, despite the fact that he was not a member of Fatah. He took over from Salaam Fayyad who served for six years, focusing mostly on state-building in a region that is still militarily occupied by a foreign power.

Hamdallah, though not a particularity controversial figure, has been a follower of Abbas and committed to his agenda. He is a political moderate by Palestinian standards, and it was through his strong ties with powerful Fatah figures like Tayeb Abdul Rahim and Tawfik Tirawi – who served under late PA leader, Yasser Arafat, and Abbas respectively – that allowed him to claim the post and keep it for nearly five years.

Last October, Hamdallah led a delegation of Fatah PA officials to Gaza to “end the painful impacts of divisions and to rebuild Gaza brick by brick.”

Since Israel destroyed much of Gaza’s infrastructure and thousands of homes in the summer of 2014, Gaza – already reeling under a hermetic siege and the impact of previous wars – has been in ruins. Hamdallah’s visit rekindled hope among Gazans, and all Palestinians, that respite is on the way.

Hamas’ insistent attempts to break from its isolation seemed to be finally bearing fruit.

Abbas’ party, too, moved forward with the unity arrangements, although for its own reasons. Fatah has been dysfunctional for years, and the imminent exit of Abbas, 83, has opened up intense rivalry among those who want to succeed the aging leader.

Supporters of Mohammed Dahlan, who was shunned by Abbas years ago and is currently based abroad, would like to see him back in a position of power.

The United States and Israel are following these developments closely. They, too, have favorites and are vested in the future of Fatah to sustain the current status quo as long as possible.

Those who want Hamdallah dead are likely not targeting the Prime Minister for his own ideas or policies per se, but for what he represents, as the moderate leader capable of achieving a long term understanding with Hamas.

Killing Hamdallah also means ending or, at least, obstructing the unity efforts, discrediting Hamas, and denying Abbas and his leadership the necessary political capital to secure his legacy.

Hamas’ main enemy in Gaza are the Salafi Jihadist groups who are unhappy with Hamas’ politics and what they see as a too moderate style of Islamic governance.

Of course, there are those in Fatah, including Abbas’ own office, who accused Hamas of trying to kill Hamdallah. Hamas did more than deny the accusations, but, within one day of the apparent assassination attempt, announced that it had apprehended suspects behind the explosion.

It would make no sense for Hamas to kill Hamdallah. The group has worked tirelessly to engage the PA, as life in Gaza has become truly unlivable.  Their leadership and reputation has suffered as a result of the failed efforts to end the siege.

Moreover, as Amira Hass noted, Hamas “could not have any interest in attacking senior Palestinian Authority officials on their way to inaugurate a sewage treatment plant that residents of the Gaza Strip have long awaited.”

Hamas, in turn, accused the Israel intelligence of the assassination attempt. The group’s spokesman, Fawzi Barhoum, claimed that “same hands” that gunned down Mazen Fakha in March 2017 and Tawfiq Abu Naim in October are behind the attempt on Hamdallah’s life. He was referring to Israel, of course.

The timing of the bombing of Hamdallah’s convoy was quite interesting as well, as it came barely a few hours after a meeting at the White House regarding Gaza. The meeting, chaired by leading pro-Israel officials in Washington, including Jared Kushner, was dubbed as a “brainstorming session” on how to solve the Gaza crisis.

“The Palestinian Authority, furious over the Trump administration’s actions in recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, moving its embassy there from Tel Aviv, and cutting aid for Palestinian refugees, refused to attend,” reported the New York Times.

One, however, should not underestimate the seriousness of the remaining disagreements between Hamas and Fatah.

Perhaps the main point of conflict is over Hamas’ fighting force. Hamas refuses to compromise on the issue of armed resistance, and Abbas insists on the dismantling of Hamas’ armed group, Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades.

But these disagreements are hardly strong enough reason to kill Hamdallah, the last hope for an end to the rift and easing the blockade on Gaza.

Although Hamdallah survived, the bombing achieved some of its objectives. A senior PA official told AFP that “Abbas decided no members of Hamdallah’s government would travel to Gaza in the short term ‘due to the security problems.’”

While this might not be the end of reconciliation, it could possibly be the beginning of the end.

See also:

Hamas calls on Fatah to wait for findings on Hamdallah incident

Posted in Palestine AffairsComments Off on Who wants to kill Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah?

Nazi regime has accelerated its annexation of the West Bank

NOVANEWS
Israel has accelerated its annexation of the West Bank from a slow creep to a run
Image result for Nazi regime CARTOON
By Jonathon Cook | The National 

Seemingly unrelated events all point to a tectonic shift in which Israel has begun preparing the ground to annex the occupied Palestinian territories.

Last week, during an address to students in New York, Israel’s education minister Naftali Bennett publicly disavowed even the notion of a Palestinian state. “We are done with that,” he said. “They have a Palestinian state in Gaza.”

Later in Washington, Mr Bennett, who heads Israel’s settler movement, said Israel would manage the fallout from annexing the West Bank, just as it had with its annexation of the Syrian Golan in 1980.

International opposition would dissipate, he said. “After two months it fades away and 20 years later and 40 years later, [the territory is] still ours.”

Back home, Israel has proven such words are not hollow.

The parliament passed a law last month that brings three academic institutions, including Ariel University, all located in illegal West Bank settlements, under the authority of Israel’s Higher Education Council. Until now, they were overseen by a military body.

The move marks a symbolic and legal sea change. Israel has effectively expanded its civilian sovereignty into the West Bank. It is a covert but tangible first step towards annexation.

In a sign of how the idea of annexation is now entirely mainstream, Israeli university heads mutely accepted the change, even though it exposes them both to intensified action from the growing international boycott (BDS) movement and potentially to European sanctions on scientific co-operation.

Additional bills extending Israeli law to the settlements are in the pipeline. In fact, far-right justice minister Ayelet Shaked has insisted that those drafting new legislation indicate how it can also be applied in the West Bank.

According to Peace Now, she and Israeli law chiefs are devising new pretexts to seize Palestinian territory. She has called the separation between Israel and the occupied territories required by international law “an injustice that has lasted 50 years”.

After the higher education law passed, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his party Israel would “act intelligently” to extend unnoticed its sovereignty into the West Bank. “This is a process with historic consequences,” he said.

That accords with a vote by his Likud party’s central committee in December that unanimously backed annexation.

The government is already working on legislation to bring some West Bank settlements under Jerusalem municipal control – annexation via the back door. This month officials gave themselves additional powers to expel Palestinians from Jerusalem for “disloyalty”.

Yousef Jabareen, a Palestinian member of the Israeli parliament, warned that Israel had accelerated its annexation programme from “creeping to running”.

Notably, Mr Netanyahu has said the government’s plans are being co-ordinated with the Trump administration. It was a statement he later retracted under pressure.

But all evidence suggests that Washington is fully on board, so long as annexation is done by stealth.

The US ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, a long-time donor to the settlements, told Israel’s Channel 10 TV recently: “The settlers aren’t going anywhere”. Settler leader Yaakov Katz, meanwhile, thanked Donald Trump for a dramatic surge in settlement growth over the past year. Figures show one in 10 Israeli Jews is now a settler. He called the White House team “people who really like us, love us”, adding that the settlers were “changing the map”.

The US is preparing to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in May, not only pre-empting a final-status issue but tearing out the beating heart from a Palestinian state.

The thrust of US strategy is so well-known to Palestinian leaders – and in lockstep with Israel – that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is said to have refused to even look at the peace plan recently submitted to him.

Reports suggest it will award Israel all of Jerusalem as its capital. The Palestinians will be forced to accept outlying villages as their own capital, as well as a land “corridor” to let them pray at Al Aqsa and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

As the stronger side, Israel will be left to determine the fate of the settlements and its borders – a recipe for it to carry on with slow-motion annexation.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat has warned that Mr Trump’s “ultimate deal” will limit a Palestinian state to Gaza and scraps of the West Bank – much as Mr Bennett prophesied in New York.

Which explains why last week the White House hosted a meeting of European and Arab states to discuss the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

US officials have warned the Palestinian leadership, who stayed away, that a final deal will be settled over their heads if necessary. This time the US peace plan is not up for negotiation; it is primed for implementation.

With a Palestinian “state” effectively restricted to Gaza, the humanitarian catastrophe there – one the United Nations has warned will make the enclave uninhabitable in a few years – needs to be urgently addressed.

But the White House summit also sidelined the UN refugee agency UNRWA, which deals with Gaza’s humanitarian situation. The Israeli right hates UNRWA because its presence complicates annexation of the West Bank. And with Fatah and Hamas still at loggerheads, it alone serves to unify the West Bank and Gaza.

That is why the Trump administration recently cut US funding to UNRWA – the bulk of its budget. The White House’s implicit goal is to find a new means to manage Gaza’s misery.

What is needed now is someone to arm-twist the Palestinians. Mike Pompeo’s move from the CIA to State Department, Mr Trump may hope, will produce the strongman needed to bulldoze the Palestinians into submission.

Posted in Palestine Affairs, ZIO-NAZIComments Off on Nazi regime has accelerated its annexation of the West Bank

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