Archive | July 15th, 2020

‘Israeli’ duplicity about 2014 invasion ‘Operation Brothers Keeper’

IF AMERICANS KNEW

Israeli duplicity about 2014 invasion ‘Operation Brothers Keeper’

Operation Brothers Keeper, an Israeli initiative supposedly launched to rescue three Jewish Israeli teenagers who had been kidnapped.

“Operation Brothers Keeper” has a nice ring to it, but the name represents months of duplicity by Israeli leaders, not only toward their own people, but toward the world, in order to perpetrate injustices on the people of Palestine.

by Kathryn Shihadah

The summer of 2014, when Operation Brothers Keeper emerged, was an exceptionally violent season in a decades-long stretch of violence in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories – a conflict defined by the Palestinian struggle for self-determination and against confiscation of their land; a conflict that has consistently seen many times more Palestinian casualties than Israelis.

Palestinians took to the streets that summer for much the same reason they always had: to struggle against oppression. The Israeli military came out to defend Israel’s status as oppressors.

Some context

Operation Brothers Keeper (OBK) was an invasion of the Palestinian West Bank, launched after the kidnapping of three Jewish Israeli teenagers. (This presaged its massive July invasion of Gaza, “Operation Protective Edge.”)

Perhaps, in the Israeli consciousness, the West Bank invasion was an isolated event – but for Palestinians, OBK was another in a long line of oppressive tactics within a framework of illegal occupation and injustice.

Maps showing Palestinian loss of land from Israel’s creation in 1948 through the present.

In the early 20th century, massive Jewish immigration had caused concern among the indigenous Palestinians in the land; by 1948, 750,000 Palestinians were forced from their homes and land, most to never return as it became part of a new Jewish state. 1967 saw the occupation of all remaining Palestinian territories; 2008-9 had witnessed Israel’s devastating invasion of Gaza that killed 1,400 Palestinians (and 9 Israelis). In between these events, Israel had kept the Palestinian people under constant oppression – and the Palestinian people had resisted.

In late 2012, Israel had invaded the Palestinian Gaza Strip in a conflict that lasted 8 days before a ceasefire was put in place.

At that time, Israel promised to end its attacks on Gaza by land, sea, and air, stop assassinations of Gazan officials, and lift its blockade of Gaza, then in its 5th year; Hamas leaders in Gaza vowed to end rocket fire toward Israel (rockets that had killed 21 Israelis in 12 years).

Gaza held up its end of the deal: throughout 2013, rockets from Gaza were few and far between, and just one Israeli was killed in the vicinity. (5 more Israelis were killed elsewhere.)

Israel did not keep its promises: its military invaded Gaza and shot at Palestinian farmers and fishermen; the blockade remained in place, keeping food, medicine, and other staples out of the hands of those who needed them desperately.  (Read here about the “period of calm” during the first 3 months after the 2012 ceasefire, during which Israelis experienced calm, but Palestinians were attacked on a daily basis.)

Nine Gazans were killed in 2013, over 30 other Palestinians were killed elsewhere. In the first 5 months of 2014 – before the Israeli teens were kidnapped – dozens of Palestinians, some of them teens, and 2 Israelis, were killed.

The Israeli blockade of Gaza remained in place (it is still in place today).

Kidnapping

On June 12th, the three Israelis, aged 16 – 19, were kidnapped while hitchhiking.

All three were yeshiva (Jewish religious school) students, and would have almost certainly become soldiers in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). Israel practices universal conscription of both males and females at age 18 – although it is possible to delay or even avoid military service by continuing religious education after high school, as was likely the case with the older kidnapping victim. (Go here to read about religious extremism in some Israeli yeshivot.)

One of the teens called an emergency number for help. Along with his voice, the call also recorded shouting in Arabic and several gunshots.

Several hours later, parents of one of the boys reported him missing, at which point the police began to make the connection with the emergency call, which they originally believed to be a prank.

PM Netanyahu at press conference with Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon at Yehuda territorial brigade, during Operation Brothers Keeper
PM Netanyahu at press conference with Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon at Yehuda territorial brigade, during Operation Brothers Keeper. (AFP)

Deception and brutality

The Forward reports that the Israeli government “had known almost from the beginning that the boys were dead. It maintained the fiction that it hoped to find them alive as a pretext to dismantle Hamas’ West Bank operations.”

The prime suspects, Palestinians, were identified within hours of the incident, and known to be rogue, with “a reputation for attacking Israeli civilian targets” and regularly acting “counter to the policies being advocated by [Hamas].” Their family disclosed within a day of the kidnapping that the men had disappeared.

Instead of broadcasting photos of the suspects and preparing the country for the inevitable locating of bodies rather than hostages, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu immediately imposed a gag order on the media.

Even the parents of the kidnapped teens were led to believe that the boys were still alive.

Publicly, Netanyahu consistently claimed that he knew “for a fact” that Hamas was behind the kidnapping – in fact, at no point did any evidence point to Hamas’ participation in the incident; its leaders consistently denied involvement.

Meanwhile, ironically, the Israeli police cautioned the public against “spreading rumors on social media.”

On June 15th, Netanyahu launched Operation Brothers Keeper, characterizing it as a “hostage rescue operation.” Behind the scenes, however, he commissioned 2,500 Israeli soldiers, plus special forces, on a rampage through the West Bank in search not of hostages, but of Hamas members. According to The Nation:

Israel arrested approximately 800 Palestinians without charge or trial, killed nine civilians and raided nearly 1,300 residential, commercial and public buildings.

The operation kept 300,000 Palestinians under curfew; movement was restricted for another 600,000 – a form of illegal collective punishment.

A Palestinian woman cries in her home after a raid by Israeli troops as part of Operation Brothers Keeper, Sunday, June 22,2014.
A Palestinian woman cries in her home after a raid by Israeli troops as part of Operation Brothers Keeper, Sunday, June 22,2014. (AP Photo/Nasser Ishtayeh)

As far as Israeli citizens knew, the killers could be anyone, anywhere; the vast majority were therefore supportive of whatever measures their leaders chose to take. All over Israel, and in Jewish communities around the world, rallies and prayer meetings sought – in vain – the boys’ safe return – even while the Israeli government knew they were already dead.

In Gaza – where Hamas is the duly elected governing party – Hamas leaders watched as Israel used them as an alibi for the spate of arrests. Hamas had restrained itself and other resistance factions since the end of the 2012 conflict, waiting for Israel to fulfill its promise to end the blockade. But now, Israel was blaming Hamas for the kidnappings, re-arresting Hamas prisoners who had been freed, and maintaining the blockade. Hamas began allowing rockets to fly out of Gaza again.

United Nations

On June 17th, the Israeli Ambassador to the UN, Ron Prosor, spoke to the Security Council. In his speech, he blamed Hamas for the kidnapping (without proof) and demanded international pressure on Hamas to release the boys. Prosor displayed the hashtag that Israel and its partisans all over the world were using to draw attention to the fabricated crisis: #BringBackOurBoys.

On June 21st, Netanyahu repeated his canard to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon: “the information in Israel’s hands unequivocally indicates that Hamas is responsible for the abduction of the youths”; Netanyahu went on to falsely link the Palestinian resistance with ISIS when he said “we are witnessing the unrestrained brutality of Islamic terrorism, both in Israel and around us.”

On June 23rd, the U.N. Security Council attempted unsuccessfully to pass a resolution condemning the kidnapping of the Israeli teens: some countries wanted to add strong language condemning Israel’s violent security sweep; the US insisted that it would not sign any statement that included a reference to Israeli actions.

On June 24th, the mother of one of the kidnapped boys addressed the U.N. Human Rights Council (UNHRC), pleading for international assistance in bringing the boys back. (Her trip was paid for by UN Watch, a group that monitors what it calls “the continuing discriminatory treatment of Israel in the UN system” and pushes for “the removal of UN personnel who are considered critical of Israel.”)

In the same UNHRC session, many delegates and representatives from human rights organizations criticized Israel’s human rights record, especially its recent crackdown.

Then IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz (L) (now Alternate Prime Minister of Israel and Minister of Defense) visits IDF soldiers as they take part in an operation to locate three Israeli teens kidnapped near the West Bank city of Hebron on June 24, 2014.
Then IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz (L) (now Alternate Prime Minister of Israel and Minister of Defense) visits IDF soldiers as they take part in Operation Brothers Keeper to locate three kidnapped Israeli teens, June 24, 2014. (IDF Spokesperson/Flash90)

Kidnapped boys’ bodies found

On June 30th, 15 days after the Israeli leadership started its deceptive “campaign” to bring the boys back alive, the bodies were located ten minutes away from where they had last been seen.

The discovery was made not by the thousands of Israeli military or police – they were as much as 130 miles away, still ransacking Palestinian homes and arresting Palestinians – but by a volunteer search party.

The shallow grave was on the property of one of the suspects, whose identity had also been known for weeks, and whose property should have been considered suspect.

Within hours, Israeli forces demolished the family homes of the two suspects, an illegal but common practice in Israel.

The next day, July 1st, a funeral was held for the three teens. PM Netanyahu eulogized,

A deep and wide moral abyss separates us from our enemies. They sanctify death while we sanctify life. They sanctify cruelty while we sanctify compassion. This is the secret of our strength; it is the foundation of our unity.

This fraudulent profession of Israeli innocence flew in the face of facts that Mr. Netanyahu surely knew: the Israeli army had killed 19 Palestinians in the first quarter of 2014, and more in May and June. (Before the deaths of the three teens, two Israelis had been killed in 2014.)

Netanyahu’s eulogy also ignored the fact that Palestinians – specifically, Hamas – had been relatively subdued since 2012. As The Forward stated in “How Politics and Lies Triggered an Unintended War,” “The staged agony of the kidnap search created, probably unintentionally, what amounts to a mass, worldwide attack of post-traumatic stress flashback.”

Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) reported that late on July 1st, after the bodies were found, several Palestinians were killed. Israeli settlers also started constructing  two new illegal outposts. Some settlers (and politicians) believe “the settlement enterprise is the most appropriate response to Palestinian terror…Our enemies will incite and we will establish” – not making the connection that building on stolen Palestinian land is incitement itself.

Incitement

From the moment the bodies of the missing teens were discovered, Israeli leaders incited their people to revenge, as described by Electronic Intifada:

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu led the pack, calling the killers of the youths “human animals” and stating “Hamas is responsible. Hamas will pay.”

Former Israeli lawmaker Michael Ben-Ari posted a video and a statement…”We are living in a “jungle,” Ben-Ari said, calling Palestinian children “little terrorists”…

(Elsewhere, Ben-Ari called on Israel to “kill terrorists in public hangings.”)

Housing minister Uri Ariel called for the extrajudicial executions of leaders of Hamas and for Israel to “start a wave of construction in the settlements in response to the murder of the abductees”…

Tzipi Hotovely, another Likud lawmaker and deputy minister, wrote that “Israel must declare a war of annihilation of Hamas, which is responsible for the murder, and return to the assassination policy.”

Economy minister Naftali Bennett, leader of the ultra-anti-Palestinian Jewish Home party, declared “Murderers of children and those who direct them cannot be forgiven. Now is a time for actions, not words.”

With this highly visible incitement, it came as no surprise that after the funeral, crowds of Israelis – including young children – chanted “Death to the Arabs.” Mobs marched through the streets, attacking Palestinians as they went.

Mohammad Abukhdeir was killed by Jewish Israelis on July 2, 2014.
Mohammad Abukhdeir was killed by Jewish Israelis on July 2, 2014. (Facebook)

Revenge killing

On July 2nd, a Palestinian teenager named Mohammad Abukhdeir was kidnapped and burned alive near Jerusalem.

At first, Israel’s leaders imposed another gag order; meanwhile, Israeli police started rumors that Abukhdeir had been killed by his own family for being gay.

It wasn’t long before the truth had to come out: the torture/murder had been committed by three Jewish Israelis – two of them teenagers themselves. They eventually faced trial and in 2016 received sentences from 21 years to life. Their family homes were not demolished.

PM Netanyahu’s condolences to the Abukhdeir family condemned the murder and promised justice; then he went on to address his constituents, again claiming Israeli innocence:

I know that in our society, the society of Israel, there is no place for such murderers. And that’s the difference between us and our neighbors. They consider murderers to be heroes. They name public squares after them. We don’t. [editor’s note: this is false.] We condemn them and we put them on trial and we’ll put them in prison.

Al Jazeera reminded its readers that Abukhdeir’s abduction was not an isolated incident: “for Palestinians, the detention of their children, running into thousands, is experienced as kidnapping at an Israeli-state level.” The vast majority of these events – which frequently include torture – go unpunished.

In 2014, Israel’s military kidnapped 6,059 Palestinians. A spokesman for the Palestinian Commission of Detainees and Ex-Detainees stated on December 29th, 2014,

“There hasn’t been a single day that did not witness the abduction of Palestinians. On average, the army has kidnapped 505 Palestinians each month; approximately 17 a day.”

Since 1967, Israel has detained more than 50,000 Palestinian children; the Palestinian government has never detained an Israeli child. Additionally, a total of over 2,400 Palestinian children and 139 Israeli children have been killed since 2000.

Israeli teens’ killers tracked down

On August 5th, one suspect in the kidnapping and killing of the Israeli teens was arrested.

On September 23rd, the primary suspects were surrounded by Israeli military forces in a building in Hebron. An IDF spokesperson later stated, “We opened fire, they returned fire and they were killed in the exchange.”

At that point, Operation Brothers Keeper was officially closed.

Stay tuned for “war”

On July 8th, the Israel launched an incursion into Gaza, which in 50 days would bring about the deaths of 73 Israelis (9% civilians) and 2,250 Palestinians (65% civilians, 501 children). This travesty will be discussed in an upcoming post.


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Blinken reveals how Obama & Biden helped Israel’s 2014 Gaza massacre

Israel arrests child with one-third of his skull missing, then lies about it

Remembering Mohammad Abukhdeir, 6 years on

The Staggering Cost of Israel to Americans: The Facts

Israeli airstrikes vs Palestinian rockets: Facts & Stats on air attacks

Trump-Kushner “Peace” Plan ignores elephants in the room: Israel created this mess

Posted in Palestine Affairs, ZIO-NAZI, Human RightsComments Off on ‘Israeli’ duplicity about 2014 invasion ‘Operation Brothers Keeper’

Leaked ADL Memo: Figuring out how to defend ‘Israeli’ apartheid

Leaked ADL Memo: Figuring out how to defend Israeli apartheid

Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO and National Director of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), speaking at the ADL National Leadership Summit in Washington, DC on June 4th, 2019. Photo: Michael Brochstein/Sipa USA via AP

The ADL appears to recognize that annexation would violate Palestinians’ basic human rights, enforcing a codified regime of nationality-based discrimination subjugation—and that, as a group ostensibly concerned with civil rights, this is in tension with its stated values…

Memo says ADL needs to find a way to defend Israel from criticism without alienating other civil rights organizations, elected officials of color, and Black Lives Matter activists…

‘Israel will be painted as akin to an ethno-nationalist country which continues to oppress and subjugate Palestinians’

Hopes to avoid appearing openly hostile to public criticism of annexation while working to block anti-Israel legislation

By Joshua Leifer, reposted from Jewish Currents
As the Israeli government prepares to annex parts of the West Bank, Jewish establishment organizations are strategizing how best to shield Israel from political consequences.

In the same week that Jason Isaacson, the American Jewish Committee’s chief policy and political affairs officer, published an op-ed titled “We’ll defend annexation if needed—but here’s the thing,” the ADL appears to be formulating its own response.

A leaked ADL strategy memo obtained by Jewish Currents sheds light on how the nominal civil rights organization is preparing to address annexation’s critics.

The “stakeholders analysis memo,” which was issued by the ADL’s Government Relations, Advocacy, and Community Engagement department and marked as a draft, warns that the group will need to find a way to defend Israel from criticism without alienating other civil rights organizations, elected officials of color, and Black Lives Matter activists and supporters.

The memo suggests that the group hopes to avoid appearing openly hostile to public criticism of annexation while it works to block legislation that harshly censures Israel or leads to material consequences, such as conditioning United States military support. The ADL did not respond to requests for comment on the memo by press time.

The memo lists “eight top political and community engagement implications” annexation could have, among them: “complicate ADL’s relationship with the Tri-Caucus (the Congressional Black Caucus, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus) and the Progressive caucus”; “pit ADL on the wrong side of the black lives matter movement”; “be used to label Israel as an occupier, racist and apartheid state”; and “challenge relationships between ADL and many civil rights organizations and coalitions.”

Of particular concern to the ADL, according to the memo, is that the group will have to find a way to credibly defend Israel from accusations that it has formalized a system of discrimination and subjugation on the basis of ethnonational identity. “

The reference to apartheid or ‘separate but equal’ systems to describe Israel will be a major political flashpoint,” the memo states. “As an organization, how ADL responds to these attacks will be critical.”

The memo proposes as “next steps” that the ADL’s communications team and executive office “game out how to respond to accusations of Israel being racist and an apartheid system and when to respond in public and when to respond in private.”

The memo suggests that the ADL hopes to avoid the kinds of public controversies that have flared over the last year and a half, such as those involving Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, and Rashida Tlaib.

ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt has repeatedly subjected these Congressional representatives to harsh denunciations due to their willingness to criticize Israeli government policies; this, in turn, has led to accusations that Greenblatt singled out the female leaders of color for criticism. In the event of annexation, the memo cautions, “complications with minority caucuses and electeds will be likely exacerbated if our response to critics of Israel is inconsistent, seen as targeting leaders of color, or deemed disproportionate.”

The ADL seems especially concerned that, as the memo states, “annexation could further deteriorate the relationship with the Congressional Black Caucus,” whose chair, Rep. Karen Bass, strongly condemned Israel’s decision to bar entry to Reps. Omar and Tlaib last year.

In a sign of the growing significance of the ongoing nationwide Black-led uprising, the memo repeatedly stresses that similarities between Israel’s techniques of occupation and institutionalized racism in the US will lead to intensified criticism of Israel.

“At this moment in our country, when we are collectively going through a moment of racial reckoning, Israel will be painted as akin to an ethno-nationalist country which continues to oppress and subjugate Palestinians,” the memo states. “If violence erupts, the Middle East will be looked at from the prism of the George Floyd domestic movement.”

The memo makes clear that the ADL does not want to be seen publicly as defending annexation, even as it hopes to mollify annexation’s critics. “ADL must provide a space for local and national leaders to express their criticism of Israel’s decision,” the memo advises. “Do not give the impression that ADL is an ally of PM Netanyahu and a supporter of annexation.”

The final page of the memo lists elected officials that ADL CEO Greenblatt should call ahead of annexation “to proactively anticipate flashpoints.” These officials include Sens. Chuck Schumer, Chris Van Hollen, Chris Murphy, and Brian Schatz, as well as Reps. Pramila Jayapal, Hakeem Jeffries, Mario Diaz Balart, Steny Hoyer, Karen Bass, Jamie Raskin, and Ted Deutch.

If the memo is any indication, the ADL’s goal, in responding to criticisms of annexation, is to superficially allow rhetorical rebukes while working to neutralize what it calls “anti-Israel legislative proposals, e.g. condemning and singling out its human rights record and conditioning its military aid.”

As an example of strategies that the ADL should support, the memo cites a “measured, appropriate, and unifying” letter on annexation circulated by Reps. Jan Schakowsky, Ted Deutsch, and others that includes moderate criticism of Israel, which the ADL hopes will “discourage the far left from signing something more extreme on the annexation issue.”

While the memo states the ADL plans to seek out “engagement with progressive groups” such as J Street, Bend the Arc, and the NY Jewish Agenda, it states that it will “coordinate ADL’s policy response” with AIPAC, which has publicly announced that annexation will not alter its approach to “the US-Israel strategic relationship.”

The leaked ADL memo illustrates the position in which some establishment Jewish groups now find themselves. The ADL appears to recognize that annexation would violate Palestinians’ basic human rights, enforcing a codified regime of nationality-based discrimination subjugation—and that, as a group ostensibly concerned with civil rights, this is in tension with its stated values.

Yet despite the seeming contradiction, the ADL has long devoted substantial time and energy to chilling criticism of Israeli policies and shielding the Israeli government from consequences. Annexation, it seems, won’t change that.

A previous version of this article said that the AJC’s Jason Isaacson “explicitly stated” that the AJC would defend annexation. Isaacson claims he did not choose the headline for the article, in which he lists the arguments the AJC will use to defend annexation.



RELATED READING:

Netanyahu, Anti-Defamation League (ADL) display racist views

Jacobin: Israel Is an Extremist Enterprise

Israel: democracy or apartheid state?

Israel’s New Nation-State Law: Codifying Apartheid – Podcast interview with Alison Weir

Posted in USA, ZIO-NAZI, CampaignsComments Off on Leaked ADL Memo: Figuring out how to defend ‘Israeli’ apartheid

Valley of Unrest

[Letter from Kashmir]

By Sonia Faleiro

India’s unending occupation of Kashmir

One winter’s night in the Kashmir Valley, the power went out. A bone-piercing cold swept through my hotel room in Srinagar. The next morning, the radiator, the water heater, and all the light switches were useless things. I knew that I would feel isolated in the Valley, given that India had imposed a communications blockade three months earlier, snapping internet, cellular, and landline connections for seven million people. Nevertheless, I was unprepared for the feeling of total solitude that the absence of connectivity—and now power—provoked in me, mere hours after arriving. I was unmoored, like I belonged to nothing.

I lay in bed, wearing two sweaters, a hat, and gloves. The hotel room was spacious and carpeted, with ornate wooden furniture in the Kashmiri way. I decided to walk over to the window. Perhaps I thought that seeing another person would root me to the place. I was taken aback by the sight that greeted me. Everything was white—the lawn, the garden umbrella, the chairs, the flower beds, the chimney pots of nearby homes. The chinar trees that just yesterday had been aflame with golden leaves were flexing and bending under the weight of the snow that had fallen overnight. I watched a gardener in a thin raincoat tenderly scrape the ice from some roses. Then a waiter knocked on my door to say that the kitchen had canceled breakfast. I was the hotel’s only remaining guest.

Few people had been able to visit the Valley since the blockade was imposed last August. Foreign journalists were explicitly barred, and national reporters were closely monitored. Even Indian politicians were prevented from coming in to survey the situation. Still, the government kept promising that everything was “normal.” At a summit of business leaders in November, the home minister, Amit Shah, made light of the situation. “Why don’t you go see for yourself?” he said with a smile. “You’ll see peace up and down the Valley.” I decided to take him up on his suggestion. I knew Kashmir wasn’t “normal.” India and Pakistan had fought three wars there over the second half of the twentieth century, and a Pakistan-supported insurgency had been advancing and receding since the Eighties, resulting in the deaths of more than seventy thousand people. Now India had amended its constitution in order to annex the section of Kashmir it controlled, and had imposed a stringent curfew to prevent resistance. Life in the Valley hadn’t been normal for decades. What I wanted to see was exactly how abnormal it had become.

With no phone service, it was impossible to confirm my interviews for that morning, but I decided I would venture out anyway. I got into the back seat of a hotel car, and we crawled across one of the eight bridges that span the Jhelum River, a tributary of the Indus. Over the next few days, the river would freeze to form a broad sheet of white ice, but for now the green ribbon of water still flowed, gently rocking the houseboats. I was calmed by the sight until I remembered that a seventeen-year-old boy had drowned here in August, becoming the first civilian casualty of the siege. Chased by security forces for violating the curfew, he had leaped into the river, even though he couldn’t swim.

Above us, dead power lines dangled like loose threads. The snow was falling hard, in what seemed to me to be an outpouring of feeling. The driver was worried we’d skid. We had already seen a man fly over the handlebars of his motorcycle.

At first glance, the weather was just one more burden for the Kashmiris to bear, but it also presented an unexpected gift. The sudden cold drove security forces into their bunkers. Left alone, ordinary Kashmiris nipped out with shovels to clear the tall drifts of snow. Women holding umbrellas hurried in search of milk and bread. Children threw snowballs. Watching all this, in the shadow of the snowcapped mountains that ring the Valley, it was possible to imagine what peace might look like in Kashmir.

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The 1 Percent Are Cheating Us Out of a Quarter-Trillion Dollars in Taxes Every Year

BY: DAVID SIROTA

As the social safety net is shredded, new data show that billionaires and corporations are refusing to pay hundreds of billions of dollars of owed taxes every single year. It really puts all the hand-wringing about “looting” into perspective.

The Internal Revenue Service building in Washington, DC. David Boeke / flickr

Our new issue – looking at what the Bernie campaigns accomplished and the work left to do – is out next month. 

The next time you hear conservative politicians insist they want “law and order,” hate “looting,” and believe America can’t afford new government programs, show them two landmark reports that emerged in the last twenty-four hours. The data in those analyses tell the story of conservative politicians letting billionaires and corporations brazenly evade laws and effectively loot hundreds of billions of dollars from the public treasury — all while those same politicians plead poverty to justify cutting the social safety net during a lethal pandemic.

The first report came from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO), which found that between 2011 and 2013, $381 billion in taxes went unpaid every single year. Couple that data with recent Harvard University research showing that the top 1 percent of income earners are responsible for 70 percent of the tax gap, and you see the full picture: The wealthiest sliver of the population is depriving the American public of about $266 billion of owed tax revenue every year.

That tax gap didn’t just magically happen — it is the result of conservatives’ huge cuts to the Internal Revenue Service’s enforcement budget, which resulted in a particularly precipitous decline in audit rates for the superrich. In fact, the $266 billion figure could be an understatement, because the congressional budget analysts were estimating the tax gap that existed before those IRS budget cuts.

IRS audits of taxpayers reporting more than $1 million in income.

“With the money that these tax cheats owe, this year alone, we could fund tuition-free college for all, eliminate child hunger, ensure clean drinking water for every American household, build half a million affordable housing units, provide masks to all, produce the protective gear and medical supplies our health workers need to combat this pandemic, and fully fund the U.S. Postal Service,” said Senator Bernie Sanders, who requested the CBO study. “That is an absolute outrage, and this report should make us take a long, hard look at what our national priorities are all about.”

“Shifting Over $1 Trillion in Profits Every Year to Corporate Tax Havens”

Just after the congressional report was released, the Tax Justice Network released a separate study showing that newly released international data prove “that instead of declaring profits in the countries where they were generated, multinational firms operating around the world are shifting over $1 trillion in profits every year to corporate tax havens” — moves that deprive governments of $330 billion in tax revenue that is owed but that is not being paid.

The study noted that just four small countries — the UK, Netherlands, Switzerland, and Luxembourg — “are together responsible for half of the world’s corporate tax avoidance.”

The United States alone is losing about $60 billion of revenue a year because of these corporate tax evasion schemes, according to Reed College economist Kimberly Clausing.

Tax havens impost major costs on other countries.

In case you thought the tax haven shenanigans were just limited to corporations, jog your memory and recall the Panama Papers and Credit Suisse scandals that spotlighted how wealthy individuals have gotten in on the offshore schemes.

We Know How to Fix Things, But Our Political System Is Rigged

At a time when the social safety net is being shredded in the name of budget austerity, the ruling class refusing to pay owed taxes is a grotesque form of looting. So what is Washington doing in response to all this?

On the domestic front, Donald Trump began his presidency proposing more IRS budget cuts, but this year, the White House is pushing for an increase. At the same time, though, Trump’s Justice Department is prosecuting far fewer criminal cases referred by the IRS: over the last 5 years, such prosecutions have dropped by more than 66 percent, according to data compiled by Syracuse University researchers.

On the international front, Trump’s 2017 tax cut bill included several provisions that “encourage American-based corporations to shift profits offshore,” according to the Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy. The administration has also recently moved to roll back rules designed to crack down on so-called corporate inversions, whereby companies incorporate offshore in order to avoid tax liabilities. And thanks to Trump’s coronavirus legislation, firms that already pulled the inversion maneuver could now be rewarded with Federal Reserve bailouts, according to Bloomberg News.

The problem here isn’t that we lack the knowledge to fix things — the problem is our political system.

The lawmakers with the power to truly beef up enforcement and crack down on profit shifting operate inside a machine that runs on legalized bribery. Some of them are trying to do the right thing, but most of them are bankrolled, in part, by big donors and corporate interests that are enriched by lax tax enforcement and offshore tax evasion. Those bought-and-paid-for lawmakers will publicly insist they want “law and order” and oppose looting, but they’ll allow widespread looting and tax lawlessness to continue, while they pretend there’s no money to pay for anything.

Meanwhile, because advocacy groups, voting blocs, and political leaders tend to be organized around specific programs and issues (say, Medicare or public education), there remains no large mobilized constituency organized around the general goal of cracking down on tax cheating — even though such a crackdown could provide new resources for key programs and issues.

Maybe all of this can change. Maybe the rise of grassroots-funded elected officials can break the link between corruption and policies that encourage tax theft. And maybe one day we will see more explicit organizing, movement building, and public education around the tax issue — it has started to happen in the UK, where some celebrities have made tax fairness their cause, so maybe it can happen here.

But if it doesn’t happen, millions will continue fighting over a few budget crumbs while the 1 percent keeps taking bigger and bigger bites of the revenue pie.

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US Military’s Frequent Close-Up Air Recons on China’s Coastal Area ‘Dangerous’

China Spying Sets New FBI Record With 1,000 Open Espionage Cases

US military aircraft reportedly conducted close-up reconnaissance operations on China’s southern coast for three consecutive days, which is a dangerous sign, as the moves could let the US grasp the technical parameters, locations and movements of the Chinese military’s weapons and equipment over the South China Sea and Taiwan island, Chinese military experts warned on Wednesday.

A US EP-3E signals reconnaissance aircraft on Wednesday morning flew through the Bashi Channel, edged near the “middle line” of the Taiwan Straits from the south, then turned southwest and approached the coastal areas of South China’s Guangdong Province. At one point, it came only 51.68 nautical miles from Guangdong, Taiwan media reported Wednesday.

This is the third consecutive day the US has conducted similar operations. On Monday an RC-135 reconnaissance aircraft and on Tuesday an EP-3E also approached the Guangdong coast, only 60.89 and 60.94 nautical miles away respectively, according to the South China Sea Strategic Situation Probing Initiative (SCSPI), a think tank at Peking University.

Song Zhongping, a Chinese military expert and TV commentator, told the Global Times on Wednesday that unlike the recent exercises by US dual aircraft carriers in the South China Sea, the reconnaissance aircraft’s operations are not just a show, as they were conducting reconnaissance missions in preparation for potential military conflict.

Both the EP-3E and RC-135 can capture electromagnetic signals including communication signals, after which they can analyze them and obtain valuable information like the current status of China’s weapons and equipment and the latest movements of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), Song said, noting that for instance, an RC-135 could detect ballistic missiles, including the location of their bases and transporter erector launchers.

The US is also interested in the movements of Chinese submarines and surface vessels, for which it would also use P-3C and P-8A aircraft, Song said.

According to publicly available information, many warships of the PLA South China Sea Fleet are homeported at a naval base in Guangdong’s Zhanjiang, and the PLA Southern Theater Command, which has the 74th and 75th Group Army, is also headquartered in Guangdong’s Guangzhou.

One of the most important missions of the PLA Southern Theater Command and South China Sea Fleet is to safeguard China’s interests in the South China Sea, and they would also support the Eastern Theater Command in a potential reunification-by-force operation on the island of Taiwan, observers said.

In the past month, the US has also frequently sent military aircraft near the island of Taiwan, which were also frequently met with PLA warplane sorties that were widely interpreted as PLA countermeasures, according to media reports.

To defend against the US’ provocative close-up reconnaissance, the PLA must have sent warplanes to approach, intercept, disrupt and repel US warplanes, so they would not be able to gather any intelligence. Or the PLA could temporarily suspend military activities when they approach, which would lower the risk of signals being intercepted, Song said.

The PLA sortied a variety of advanced fighter jets including J-10, J-11 and Su-30 in missions near Taiwan when US military aircraft approached. Y-8 special mission aircraft for electronic warfare can also be deployed to jam US warplanes, analysts said.

Chinese military experts also warned that frequent close-up reconnaissance operations by the US could also result in misjudgment and lead to accidents.

In 2001, a PLA J-8II fighter jet collided with a US EP-3E when the latter conducted close-in reconnaissance near South China’s Hainan Province. The US aircraft was forced to make an emergency landing in Hainan, and the Chinese J-8II pilot died after the aircraft crashed.

Posted in USA, ChinaComments Off on US Military’s Frequent Close-Up Air Recons on China’s Coastal Area ‘Dangerous’

US Approves Sale Of 105 F-35 Stealth Fighter Jets To Japan

Lockheed Martin Delivers 500th F-35 Fighter Jet, Surpasses 250K Flight Hours

The United States announced Thursday that it has approved the sale of 105 F-35 stealth fighter aircraft to Japan for an estimated $23.11 billion.

Japan had asked to buy 63 F-35A, the traditional version of the electronics-laden fighter aircraft, and 42 F-35B, the short-takeoff and vertical-landing version for aircraft carriers, the State Department said in a statement.

Washington gave its green light to the transaction, which will improve “the security of a major ally” in the Asia-Pacific region, the statement noted.

“It is vital to US national interest to assist Japan in developing and maintaining a strong and effective self-defense capability,” the State Department added.

Japan’s 2020/2021 defense budget is a record $50.3 billion, aimed at funding purchases of fighter jets and missile defense as the country eyes the threat from North Korea and China.

In response to the rapid modernization of the Chinese military, Japan has decided to acquire a total of 105 F-35A aircraft over the next decade, in addition to 42 F-35B aircraft.

At the end of 2018, the Japanese government approved a five-year defense plan that includes the entry of two aircraft carriers into its arsenal — a first since the end of World War II.

Posted in USA, JapanComments Off on US Approves Sale Of 105 F-35 Stealth Fighter Jets To Japan

World Entering New Military ‘Drone Age’

Elbit Introduces a UAS-Based Long-Range Maritime Rescue Capability

The world is entering a military “second drone age” with uncontrolled proliferation and no standards governing their use, a United Nations expert told the UN Human Rights Council on Thursday.

Agnes Callamard, the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, said the global community needed to take stock of how armed drones have evolved, and examine the challenges they posed to compliance with international law.

“There are no robust standards governing drones’ development, proliferation, export, or capability for use of force. No transparency. No effective oversight. No accountability,” she said.

“Drone strikes, it seems, are favoured by decision-makers and military alike for their relative efficiency, effectiveness, adaptability, acceptability, deniability, and political gain.”

The independent rights expert does not speak for the United Nations but reports her findings to it.

Callamard presented a report into targeted killings through armed drones, in light of the proliferation in drone use and their expanding capability over the last five years.

The report made recommendations designed to regulate their use and enhance accountability.

“The world has entered a ‘second drone age’ in which a vast array of state and non-state actors are deploying ever-more advanced drone technologies,” Callamard said, adding that many countries wanted to join the “drone power club”.

She said at least 102 countries had an active military drone inventory, while around 40 possess, or were procuring, armed drones.

“Since 2015, at least 11 countries allegedly have deployed armed drones, including for the purpose of use of force, such as targeted killings,” said Callamard.

Her report identified the 11 countries as Britain, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and the United States.

She said 35 countries were thought to have the largest and deadliest class of drones.

The expert called on countries to establish a transparent process “for the development of robust standards and accountability mechanisms for the use and export of armed drones”.

She said the UN secretary-general should set up international inquiries or fact-finding missions to investigate targeted killings by drones.

Callamard also called for the UN high commissioner for human rights to produce a yearly report tracking drone strikes and casualties for discussion by the Human Rights Council.

Callamard’s report concluded that the US drone strike outside Baghdad airport in January that killed Iran’s top general Qasem Soleimani was “unlawful” and an “arbitrary killing” that violated the UN charter.

The United States on Wednesday blasted her findings.

“It takes a special kind of intellectual dishonesty to issue a report condemning the United States for acting in self-defence while whitewashing General Soleimani’s notorious past as one of the world’s deadliest terrorists,” State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said.

Responding Thursday to Callamard’s report, Esmaeil Baghaei Hamaneh, Iran’s ambassador to the UN in Geneva, told the Human Rights Council that the killing was “viciously immoral and recklessly dangerous”, calling Soleimani “a true defender of human rights and dignity”.

“He is now an inspiring legend and will remain a living nightmare for his killers. You cannot dry up a deeply-earthed pure tree by cutting its branches,” the ambassador insisted.

Posted in Politics, UNComments Off on World Entering New Military ‘Drone Age’

Kim’s sister says ‘no need’ for another US-N. Korea summit

North Korea to make Munich Security Conference debut in 2020

The powerful sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said Friday there was “no need” for another summit with the United States unless Washington offered a “decisive change” in approach.

Kim and US President Donald Trump first met in Singapore two years ago but talks over Pyongyang’s nuclear arsenal have been stalled since their Hanoi summit collapsed in early 2019 over what the North would be willing to give up in exchange for sanctions relief.

Trump said this week he would “certainly” meet with Kim again “if I thought it was going to be helpful”, after speculation that he might pursue another summit if it could help his re-election chances in November.

But in a statement carried by the official Korean Central News Agency, Kim Yo Jong — who has emerged as one of her brother’s closest advisers — said: “There is no need for us to sit across with the US right now.”

If a summit was held, she said, “it is too obvious that it will only be used as boring boasting coming from someone’s pride”.

Denuclearisation, she added, was “not possible at this point”, and could only happen alongside parallel “irreversible simultaneous major steps” by the other side — which she emphasised did not refer to sanctions lifting.

She did not go into specifics, but Washington stations 28,500 troops in the South to defend it against its neighbour, and has a range of military assets in Japan and the wider Pacific region.

Pyongyang insists that it needs its nuclear arsenal to deter against a possible US invasion.

Kim Yo Jong’s statement was only her personal view, she said, but the lengthy declaration appeared intended to send multiple messages.

She said she had watched the July 4 Independence Day celebrations in the US on television and had been given permission by her brother to “personally obtain, for sure, the DVD of the celebrations… in the future”.

Her brother had “entrusted me with conveying his wishes to President Trump that he would certainly achieve great successes in his work”, she added.

Kim Jong Un declared in December an end to moratoriums on nuclear and ballistic missile tests, and Pyongyang has repeatedly said it has no intention to continue talks unless Washington drops what it describes as “hostile” policies towards the North.

Posted in USA, North KoreaComments Off on Kim’s sister says ‘no need’ for another US-N. Korea summit

China Delivers Armed Drones, Missiles to Serbia, First Deal to Europe

China Delivers Armed Drones, Missiles to Serbia, First Deal to Europe

Serbia has reportedly taken delivery of a batch of CH-92A armed reconnaissance drones plus missiles recently, the first time China has exported military-use aviation equipment to a European country and a milestone for Chinese arms firms in the European market, analysts said on Monday.

The drones are expected to become some of the most advanced weapons in the Serbian arsenal, as the cost-efficient unmanned aircraft can conduct tactical reconnaissance, precision targeting, ground attack and patrol missions, experts said.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic inspected the drones on Saturday local time, according to Serbia’s Ministry of Defense.

A total of nine CH-92A drones plus 18 FT-8C air-to-ground missiles were included in the delivery. Fifteen more drones are expected in future procurement, reports said.

Developed by the state-owned China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), the CH-92A drone has a combat radius of more than 250 kilometers, a ceiling of 5,000 meters, and a maximum speed of 200 kilometers an hour, and it can carry two missiles, including the FT-8C air-to-ground missile that can reach targets 9 kilometers away, according to publicly available information.

Beijing-based military expert Wei Dongxu told the Global Times on Monday that the CH-92A is the best option for Serbia because of its high cost-efficiency. At a relatively low price, this type of medium-sized drone can offer precise tactical reconnaissance, hit ground targets including high-value targets and bunkers, guide artillery fire, and conduct patrol missions in sensitive areas such as border and conflict regions.

Chinese military observers pointed out that while the monetary worth of the deal is not high, this is the first time China has exported military-use aviation equipment to a European country, which will have great significance in Chinese arms firms’ position in the European market.

Wei said that other European countries that run on a tight military budget can now take a closer look at Chinese drones, such as the CH series and Wing Loong series.

Chinese arms firms have been active providers of military-use drones in the international market, as CH series and Wing Loong series drones can often be seen in the Middle East and Africa. As of December 2018, 100 Wing Loong drones had been delivered to foreign clients.

Chinese weapons and equipment are well known on the international market not only because of their high efficiency and low cost, but also good after-sales services and logistics support, observers said, noting that China does not attach political conditions to arms sales, unlike some countries such as the US.

Posted in China, SerbiaComments Off on China Delivers Armed Drones, Missiles to Serbia, First Deal to Europe

UK set to resume Saudi arms sales

UK set to resume Saudi arms sales despite Yemen concerns

Britain said on Tuesday it would resume arms sales to Saudi Zio-Wahhabi, halted last year after a UK court ruling over the Gulf kingdom’s bombing campaign in neighbouring Yemen.

Weapons exports were stopped in June 2019 after the Court of Appeal ordered the government to clarify how it assesses whether their use in Yemen’s civil war breaches international humanitarian law (IHL).

The conflict has claimed tens of thousands of lives and triggered what the United Nations has described as the world’s worst existing humanitarian crisis.

However, the British government has concluded Saudi Zio-Wahhabi regime “has a genuine intent and the capacity to comply with IHL”, according to International Trade Secretary Liz Truss, allowing for export licence reviews to restart.

“I have assessed that there is not a clear risk that the export of arms and military equipment to Saudi Arabia might be used in the commission of a serious violation of IHL,” she said in a written statement to parliament

“The government will now begin the process of clearing the backlog of licence applications for Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners that has built up since 20 June last year.”

She said it could take “some months” to complete.

The announcement came just a day after Britain slapped sanctions on 20 Saudis for their suspected roles in the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

‘Morally bankrupt’
The weapons decision drew immediate criticism from arms control activists, with the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) saying it was considering further legal steps.

“This is a disgraceful and morally bankrupt decision,” said Andrew Smith of CAAT.

“The Saudi-led bombardment of Yemen has created the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, and the government itself admits that UK-made arms have played a central role on the bombing.

“We will be considering this new decision with our lawyers, and will be exploring all options available to challenge it.”

Government figures analysed by CAAT show that Britain had licensed nearly �5 billion ($6.4 billion) in weapons to the kingdom since its Yemen campaign began in 2015.

In its 2019 ruling, England’s Court of Appeal said the government had broken the law by failing to assess properly whether the arms it sells to Riyadh violated its commitments to human rights.

The court ordered the UK to “reconsider the matter” and weigh up future risks.

Truss said it had now “developed a revised methodology” to assess allegations of violations by Saudi Zio-Wahhabi forces, and determined past incidents were “isolated”.

She said applications would be “carefully assessed” against the Consolidated European Union and National Arms Export Licensing Criteria.

“A licence would not be granted if to do so would be a breach of the Criteria,” Truss said.

Posted in ZIO-NAZI, Human Rights, Saudi Arabia, Yemen1 Comment


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