Archive | March 24th, 2017

US Imposed Syria Sanctions Hit Children’s Cancer Treatment at Damascus Children’s Hospital

Six years of conflict have brought the Syrian health service, once one of the best in the Middle East, close to collapse
syrian children cancer

Damascus: In the cancer ward at Damascus Children’s Hospital, doctors are struggling with a critical shortage of specialist drugs to treat their young patients — and it’s not just due to the general chaos of the Syrian civil war.

Local and World Health Organisation (WHO) officials also blame Western sanctions for severely restricting pharmaceutical imports, even though medical supplies are largely exempt from measures imposed by the United States and European Union.

Six years of conflict have brought the Syrian health service, once one of the best in the Middle East, close to collapse. Fewer than half of the country’s hospitals are fully functioning and numbers of doctors have dived.

The result is tumbling life expectancy — even after accounting for the hundreds of thousands directly killed in the fighting — and soaring deaths in pregnancy and childbirth.

On top of this, cuts in health spending by the government that is fighting a hugely expensive war, a drastic fall in the Syrian currency and indirect effects of the sanctions are all deepening the misery of patients who need foreign-made drugs.

Copy of 2017-03-16T180355Z_1713427651_RC1BBD31B430_RTRMADP_3_MIDEAST-CRISIS-SYRIA-SANCTIONS

Children suffering from cancer at Damascus Children’s Hospital. Image credit: Reuters

For families with sick children, the situation is dire.

At the children’s hospital in government-held Damascus, the waiting room outside the cancer ward was crowded with relatives, many of whom had brought clothes, mattresses and blankets in case they had to spend long periods far from their homes outside the city.

One of them was Naim Der Moussa, 55, who has been living in Damascus for a year to secure regular treatment for his 10-year-old daughter Wa’ad. They left his wife and six other children behind in the eastern city of Deir Al Zor, where government forces are besieged by Daesh.

“My daughter was first diagnosed with kidney cancer and treated,” he said. “Now cancer has been found also in her lungs.”

Before the conflict, Syria produced 90 per cent of the medicines it needed but anti-cancer drugs were among those where it traditionally relied on imports.

Elizabeth Hoff, the WHO representative in Syria, said medicine imports have been hit by significant cuts in the government’s health budget since the war began in 2011 plus a 90 per cent drop in the value of the Syrian pound, which has made some pharmaceuticals prohibitively expensive.

However, a lack of cash is not the only reason why supplies of cancer drugs are falling far short of increasing demand.

“The impact of economic sanctions imposed on Syria heavily affected the procurement of some specific medicine including anti-cancer medicines,” said Hoff. The sanctions were preventing many international pharmaceutical companies from dealing with the Syrian authorities as well as hindering foreign banks in handling payments for imported drugs, she added.

The United States and EU have imposed a range of measures targeted both at the government and some of the many armed groups operating in the country.

Washington has banned the export or sale of goods and services to Syria from the United States or by US citizens.

The EU has imposed travel bans, asset freezes and an arms embargo, with sanctions also targeting financial ties with Syrian institutions, buying oil and gas from the country or investing in its energy industry.

President Bashar Al Assad has partly blamed the sanctions for turning many Syrians into refugees, often heading to Europe.

Both the US and EU regimes include exemptions for medicines and other humanitarian supplies. However, by clamping down on financial transactions and barring much business with the Syrian government, the sanctions are indirectly affecting trade in pharmaceuticals.

Many drugs companies have erred on the side of caution, avoiding any business with Syria for fear of inadvertently falling foul of the sanctions.

The US State Department said the Treasury had authorised services in support of humanitarian activities in Syria, adding that there were legal ways to bring medicine into the country.

The EU also rejected criticism of its sanctions.

“Such measures are not aimed at the civilian population,” an EU spokeswoman said. “EU sanctions do not apply to key sectors of the Syrian economy such as food and medicine.”

She acknowledged firms had increasingly pulled out of business with Syria but said this was also due to other reasons, including “security, reputation, commercial motivation, anti-money laundering measures” and the presence of militant groups.

The WHO brings essential medicines and medical supplies into Syria, procuring generic drugs from approved sources in Europe, North Africa and Asia. Branded US products cannot be imported due to the sanctions situation, Hoff said.

With funds from Kuwait, the WHO has delivered life-saving medicine to more than 16,000 cancer patients, of whom thousands are children with leukaemia.


Syrian girl Rahma sits on a bed as she receives treatment for cancer at Damascus Children’s Hospital. Image Credit:Reuters

But this does not meet demand. Besides cancer medication, there are critical shortages of insulin, anaesthetics, specific antibiotics needed for intensive care, serums, intravenous fluids and other blood products and vaccines, Hoff said.

The overall collapse in Syrian health care has contributed to a drop in life expectancy to 60 years for men and 70 for women in 2014, from 72 and 75 respectively in 2009. Only 44 per cent of hospitals are now fully functioning and more than a quarter aren’t working at all, the WHO said.

By 2014, the number of doctors in Syria had dropped to 1.3 per 1,000 people, less than half the level in neighbouring Jordan and Lebanon.

Against this deterioration, Damascus Children’s Hospital has also come under increasing pressure. Cancer units in the provincial cities of Aleppo and Latakia were both put out of service in fighting earlier in the war.

Now about 200 children visit the Damascus hospital every week, with more than 70 per cent from outside the capital, according to its head, Maher Haddad.

The weight of demand has delayed treatment for dozens of sick children by 15-20 days, affecting their prospects, overall health and response to medication, he added.

Haddad also singled out the sanctions. Pharmex, the state-owned company that buys drugs for government-funded hospitals across Syria, was able to provide only 5-10 per cent of the cancer medication that is required, he told Reuters.

“Most of the cancer medicines are imported. Pharmex used to import the stock of medicines that public hospitals need. But it has not been able to do so largely because of the economic sanctions, I believe,” he said.

His hospital has only 36 free beds, with 17 of those allocated to children with cancer.

In the waiting room, a woman who identified herself only by her first name Nawal, said she travels from the Qalamoun area north of Damascus every fortnight with her 14-year-old daughter who requires chemotherapy treatment for leukaemia.

“We don’t have hospitals or charities in Qalamoun. Free treatment is offered only at the Children’s Hospital in Damascus,” Nawal said.

One private charity, Basma, is trying to help out by funding cancer drugs for poor families. The proportion of patients who need assistance has risen from about 30 per cent to nearly 80 per cent since the war began, executive manager Rima Salem said.

Salem finds the delays in treatment worrying.

“A child with cancer might die waiting for his turn to get treatment,” she said.

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The Killers


“The essential American soul is hard, isolate, stoic, and a killer. It has never yet melted.” D. H. Lawrence, Studies in Classic American Literature

Individual U.S. Presidents come and go, but the Oval Office is reserved for the Killer-in-Chief. If, as these war-mongers like to say, “the buck stops here,” then our latest incarnation of a “leader,” Donald Trump, has in a few months accumulated enough guilt to last endless lifetimes. There are no excuses. While the headlines scream distractions from the bloodbath, Trump and his “team” are slaughtering innocents in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and countless other places off the American public’s radar.

That’s the way the story goes. That’s the way it always has gone. That’s the way the public and the killers want it to go. Pure innocents, killers at heart. The victims out of sight.

Let me retract that statement about guilt. Our chieftains feel no guilt; they seek the job because they lack a sense of guilt.  They relish killing, but always wash their hands and deny responsibility.  Or say “we didn’t mean it.”  They lie.

Forget the “deep state” for the moment, forget Obama’s and Bush’s and Clinton’s blood-stained hands, forget Obamacare and Trump’s ultimatums to Republicans, forget Neil Gorsuch, forget March Madness, and forget your forgetting.

Remember this: In the past few day in Mosul, Iraq, the U.S. Commander-in-Chief, Donald Trump, slaughtered 200-300 civilians, mostly women and children, through airstrikes. Read this article by Jason Ditz. This technological terror included a single strike against a large building that killed more than 130 civilians: This massacre is just one of many in recent weeks across the region in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and Afghanistan. Read further in this article by Bethan McKernan.

American exceptionalism has always justified the killers – yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Trump has ably succeeded his predecessors in this divine right to kill. The recent dead in Mosul just add to the total waged against Iraq since this criminal war was launched by George W. Bush on March 19, 2003.

Focus on Trump’s tweets or his hair or his face all you want, but if you look at his hands you will see they are covered in blood. He is an able Killer-in-Chief.

Tolstoy once said that the difference between state violence and rebel violence is the difference between bullshit and horseshit. He was right. The same can be said of our glorious leaders.

Bob Dylan first sang in 1963: “For you don’t count the dead/When God’s on your side.”

But some of us are counting, Mr. Trump.

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Turkey is in A Dead End in Syria

Turkey is in A Dead End in Syria: The U.S. Move On Tabqa Will Complicate The Political Situation in Syria
US president Donald Trump and Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu

Turkey is at a dead end in Syria.

Erdogan‘s dream of going on to Raqqa and Deir Ezzor or even Aleppo city has been blocked by an agreement between the U.S. and Russia. His proxy forces are stuck north-east of Aleppo city and have no way to go further south, east or west. They conquered a piece of rural land that gives Erdogan no negotiation leverage but potentially a lot of headaches. A small Russian contingent has moved into the Kurdish enclave in north-west Syria around Afrin blocking any serious Turkish move against that area.

Turkey and its paymasters in Qatar, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia have lost the fight over Syria. Still tacitly backed by the U.S. they are currently trying a Hail-Mary pass to again achieve some negotiation power for the next round of Geneva talks. This is likely to again fail. Their proxy forces in the north west, including al-Qaeda, moved from the north towards the city of Hama (see map, red=Syrian government). Over the last days they captured 11 small villages which were only lightly defended. The Russian and Syrian airforce are now devastating them and a counter-attack by the Syrian army is prepared and will soon throw them back.

Source: Islamic World News – See bigger picture here

Coordinated with the Hama attack was an attempt to capture ground on the eastern periphery of Damascus and in the south around Deraa. The Damascus attack has run its cause. No ground was taken and held by the Takfiris and the counterattack against them is advancing. The attack in Deraa failed to break the Syrian army defense lines.

The head of the “White Helmet” propaganda gang in south Deraa was killed in an IED attack by al-Qaeda aligned forces. He was no Samaritan. He also commanded the 18 March Division, part of the foreign paid insurgency against the Syrian state.

The large Syrian army move on Idleb governate to liberate it from the Takfiris is still in preparation. No date has been set for its launch.

East of Aleppo city the Syrian army had blocked all Turkish proxy advances. It continued south to retake the country side from the Islamic State and is making good progress. The biggest city in the area, Deir Hafar, was nearly surrounded today by the Syrian army when the Islamic State fighters suddenly moved out. It is now back in government hands. [The sources were wrong on this. Deir Hafar is effectively surrounded but not yet in government hands. – Mar 23 1110 pm] The Syrian army in the area will continue to move south and south-east towards Raqqa and Deir Ezzor.

The U.S. proxy force in north-east Syria, the Kurdish anarcho-marxists of the PKK/YPK, have advanced on Raqqa. Raqqa lies slightly north of the Euphrates. The only way south and west from Raqqa that was left open was across the Tabqa dam that dams up the Euphrates and creates the Assad lake.

Source: Syrian Generation – See bigger picture here

Yesterday the U.S. and its proxy forces started a surprise attack to take the dam (map). Helicopters transported YPG fighters to the south of the Euphrates and improvised ferries (vid) carried their heavy equipment across the lake. Apache helicopters and heavy U.S. artillery covered the move. They blocked the road between Raqqa towards Aleppo in the west and they are now moving towards Tabqa city directly south of the dam. At the same time a YPG/PPK force is moving from the north towards the dam. There is some fear that Islamic State fighters could blow up the dam but the first to drown in the following flood would be all Isis fighters and their families in Raqqa and beyond.

In areas further south and east there is some fighting between the Syrian army and ISIS groups around Palmyra and in Deir Ezzor. The situations there seem mostly stable with slight advances by the Syrian government forces.

Israel recently made some splash by bombing Syrian government forces near Palmyra. This was against certain parameters the Russian and Israeli governments had agreed upon. While Russia will not hinder Israeli attacks on Hizbullah weapon transports going to Lebanon it will interdict should Israel (again) hit any forces in Syria fighting ISIS or other Jihadis. Israel was warned off by a Syrian anti-air missile launch. Loud noise was made thereafter by the Netanyahu government in Tel Aviv. But that is mere domestic grandstanding. Netanyahu is under criminal investigation and is fighting for his political life.

It is still unclear how the Trump administration plans to proceed on Syria.

The move south of the Euphrates may block the Syrian government forces from moving further east towards the enclave in Deir Ezzor which is still under siege by ISIS. But the Euphrates crossing may also be a purely military move without a political intent to simply to enable the taking of the Tabqa dam. As a military move it makes completely sense. If this is a political move it will complicate the already confusing situation.

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Is the US Ambassador to I$raHell A Citizen of Israel?

Is the US Ambassador to Israel A Citizen of Israel?
Image result for David Friedman CARTOON

Is the US represented in Israel by a de facto citizen of Israel, supportive of Jewish settlements in the occupied territories, committed to repealing Israeli citizenship to Palestinian Israelis? Not according to official documents and statements. 

According to Mat Staver, President of Christians in Defense of Israel:   “Friedman loves Israel and he loves America. He is a citizen of both and intimately understands both nations…. ” 

“While some who oppose him argue that he has divided loyalties because of his Israel and U.S. citizenship, his dual citizenship is actually a plus.” 

While the reports of his Israeli citizenship are unconfirmed, Ambassador Friedman is in conflict of interest.  According to Jonathan Cook, Friedman has “a long history of support not only for the Israeli right but for some of the most extreme elements in Israel’s settler movement.”

Is this not a contradiction? A de facto Israeli national aligned with the Zionist regime representing Washington. Does it not go against the rules of international diplomacy?

This matter seems to have been overlooked during the US congressional hearings. No questions asked regarding “de facto citizenship”. Imagine what would have happened if Trump had appointed a Russian citizen to head the US embassy in Moscow.

According to Zionists of America (ZOA) President Morton Klein,

 “This is a great day for America, Israel, the Jewish people and Amb. David Friedman. He will be the most pro-Israel pro-America Ambassador to Israel in history….”

It is worth noting that Israel’s current ambassador to the US Ron Dermer is a US citizen born in Miami Beach, educated in the US, who then decided to move to Israel. The Israeli government, however, required that he give up his US citizenship upon his first appointment to Israel’s embassy in Washington.

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The Gig Economy: Which Side Are You On?


The tall good looking New Yorker, about 25, stands out in the crowd around me. His black curly hair shines, his head raised expectantly, his smile so unlike the people around us peering anxiously into their handheld devices.

I’ll learn before my trip ends that this warm faced lad’s name is Dijon.

Our fleeting association begins there on the platform waiting for the uptown #6 train. Initially his smile attracts me; then my gaze rises beyond his face to a shimmering red and silver flag; it’s actually a balloon waving above us, and I know this belongs to Dijon. Seeing “Happy Anniversary” scrolled clearly on the shimmering surface, I think ‘He’s returning from an office party celebrating his marriage’. That would explain his smile too.

I’m distracted by a growl from the mouth of the tunnel, a welcome noise to commuters at the end of their workday. Here comes the #6 train. The platform, dense with thick-coated bodies, begins to stir, prepared to press into the cars. Forget about a seat; I may not even find standing room. At 4:30 p.m., the rush of workers heading uptown to their homes—one room, maybe two, three at the most, somewhere in the Upper East Side, Spanish Harlem or the Bronx– has begun.

I am unconcerned how Dijon, with his unwieldy balloon and the large carton cradled in his arms, manages to maneuver himself into the train as thirty other commuters lurch through that single door. Then, doors safely closed behind us, I see that same balloon. And, there beside me, our backs similarly pressed against the door, stands its bearer with the same quiet smile.

As this isn’t my regular route, I must check on where I should disembark and, of course, I look up towards the anniversary flag:

“Does the #6 stop at 84th street?”

His voice is soft and reassuring:

“We stop at 86th— good for you. But you know you could have taken the #5 express across the platform; you’d reach in just two strops by the five.”

Never mind; with this friendly opener I proceed with my inevitable interview, probing my travel companion’s agenda and introducing me to another New York lifestyle experience.

“Your anniversary?” I inquire. “How many years?”

“Oh no”, Dijon quickly rejoins, glancing at the balloon above us: “I’m delivering this: Edible Arrangements. We’re a party service (I’ll Google it later.)”

Nodding to the package in his arms now, he explains this service for family celebrations;

“They get the balloon and our fruit package — chunks of fresh pineapple, melon, apple, stuff like that– arranged on sticks all poking out of a big orange. It’s really pretty, done up like a bouquet.”

And do you sing as you present this gift?

“No, no”, and pausing, adds  “But I could sing”.

It occurs to me that Dijon may in fact be a talented vocalist– a singer, an actor, a performer of some kind. He’s probably one of the tens of thousands of gifted young people drawn to the city in search of gigs on stage, hunting for an agent, waiting to be discovered. Yes, that explains his bearing. I miss that cue, and instead ask about his ‘edible’ services; it’s a lifestyle service, the pampering of well-to-dos and trend-obsessed young people who socialize with indulgences, like hand delivered balloons and fruit baskets.

“For say $50?”, I guess.

“Hmm”, replies Dijon; “$50 and up.”

I think: what could he earn for one delivery (remembering he has to travel by subway)? Maybe $10. I can’t ask him directly, but I manage

“And tips? Do your happy anniversaries tip well?” Another “Hmmm” from Dijon.

“No tips: not usually.”

(No point inquiring about health insurance or workman’s compensation.)

These delivery gigs today employ battalions of young and energetic do-anything-to-live-in-New Yorkers. Would-be actors, comedians and musicians traditionally wait tables and serve drinks in the city’s many bars. But those jobs are now augmented by these delivery services which employ jobless graduates and anyone else willing to serve those who can pay, however indulging and frivolous the service. What’s offered are sometimes routine and tedious (house-cleaning, dog walking), at other times exotic and terribly fashionable (you can’t imagine).

Subway advertisements abound with invitations to do something special for yourself, or a loved one—all by phone apps, and like Uber– delivered personally by a young man or woman at your door.,, taskrabbit,,,, are just a few examples of what’s available.

It’s the gig economy; on one hand it’s emerging from excessive  joblessness, a serious condition finally receiving attention from workers rights advocates t5. On the other hand it’s created by people with abundant disposable incomes. It’s based on both desperation and trendyness. Servitude is a growth industry in American cities. Edible and are New York chic.

The fashion crowd—i.e. those with monthly salaries, health insurance, social security savings and a company pension fund— chat in the bar or at office break about these trendy services, similar, one imagines, to how white ladies chatted about their domestic ‘help’.

The Sunday Lifestyle section of your newspaper features the merits of fashion. Meanwhile less noticed reviews expose the inbuilt exploitation and the hardships lived by these young workers.

Doubtless some of the tens of thousands of wishful, handsome jobless graduates, come away from their glimpses inside those wealthy apartments to whom they delivered massages and fruit bouquets, gather after hours to invent their own startup service. Maybe they themselves can launch the next trend.

No one is thinking about workers rights. In fact a new adjunct trend is umbrella recruitment companies. They locate, vet and sign up individuals who they then farm out for hour and day jobs. In the UK this service extends to school teachers—all to save someone else money.

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“Fake Scholarship” and the Future of America’s University

"Class and Conflict" at  the "Neoliberal" University

Harvard University has established a modern version of the Catholic Church’s Index Librorum Prohibitorum, a list of prohibited online publications which are tagged as “fake” and “false”, broadly following the politically tainted “List” of censored independent and alternative media. As we recall the Catholic Church’s Index was a list of books “deemed heretical, anti-clerical or lascivious”.1 

Ex Cathedra, Harvard has decided in one fell swoop that virtually the entire US based “Alternative Media” pertaining to tens of thousands of authors would be categorized not only as fake news, but fake science, knowledge and analysis.

The Harvard Index however goes far beyond the Catholic Church’s Index which selectively banned books after careful reading, review and evaluation within the Church’s hierarchy. This frivolous decision by Harvard constitutes a violation of the most fundamental principles of  university education which are debate, discussion, critique and analysis.

The Harvard Index acts as a Lynchpin. It establishes a “new normal”, a guideline to colleges and universities across the land, regarding what we can or cannot read, what we can or cannot write. 

Is it a conspiracy? Yes it is.  Harvard’s Index broadly undermines the foundation of University education. It instates academic mediocrity.

In turn, the targeted websites– including Global Research-  are the object of a “wiki-smear” campaign, which has become embedded in online search engines. The latter tend to be increasingly skewed against alternative media content.

The “alternative media” sites are thereby casually tagged as promoting “fake news” and “conspiracy theories”.

Harvard Library lists the “authoritative” “Fact-Checking” sites and Plugins required by both students and professors to detect ‘Fake news”.

The “universus” is the totality of  analysis and conceptualization: debate, discussion, observation, critique, interaction. The University as an institution encompasses the development of knowledge, learning and research in the sciences, humanities, philosophy, history, social sciences, applied sciences, medicine, the study of law and justice, engineering, environmental analysis, policy analysis, management as well as all creative endeavors in the fine arts and music.

The various interrelated disciplines constitute the “universus”, the totality of knowledge, the learning process which characterizes humanity. Collegiality is what unites teachers, researchers (colleagues) within an academic environment in which independence of thought and mutual respect prevail.

Of course there are dominant schools of thought particularly in establishment academic institutions, certainly in the fields of economics and political science; there are vested interests which pervade academia, there is ideology and “politically correct” perspectives which pervade teaching and research.  But there is also plurality of thought and freedom of expression. Students are not discouraged or prevented from reading from an Index of prohibited books and publications.

The university is the place where universal values are debated. The advance of knowledge is humanity’s guiding force.

Harvard established their list without reading or even consulting the contents of the alleged fake online publications.

We’re talking about an extensive archive of hundreds of thousand of articles and authors including award winning scientists, prominent journalists, university professors, Nobel laureates, artists, actors, movie directors, distinguished politicians including  members of the US Congress as well as young and committed authors and bloggers, not to mention university, college and high school students. Ironically, within this extensive archive are numerous university professors, prominent researchers, many of whom coincidentally are graduates of America’s “best” universities (including Harvard).

What are the implications? Is Harvard’s Censorship initiative, as a “leading” Ivy League institution intent upon triggering  a process whereby universities in the US, Canada  and Western Europe establish what is true and what is false, without analysis, dialogue or critique, thereby banning the truth and upholding the lie?

America’s global military agenda, not to mention extensive war crimes is supported by a vast propaganda apparatus which now”officially” includes Harvard University.

What is the endgame?

The filtering out and the eventual closing down of the alternative online media?

The systematic smearing of critical thought?

The transformation of the university into a de facto instrument of indoctrination, where science and knowledge are used to justify police state surveillance and America’s hegemonic wars?

Within America’s universities, the learning process is to be revamped. Alternative views are to be discarded. Critical debate on the geopolitics of war are to be foreclosed.  The criminalization of US politics is not an object of debate within the nation’s colleges and universities.

How is this carried out.

Students –who unduly refer or quote independent or dissident scholars and scientist–  will not be allowed to graduate.

In turn, the universities will not recruit professors and researchers who do not conform to establishment scholarship.

Critical debate and plurality are gradually phased out. It’s a reproductive process which consists in eliminating dissident views within academia.

The American Inquisition

An inquisitorial system is unfolding in some regards similar to the Spanish inquisition. A consensus building process is established within the nation’s institutions of higher learning.  It requires social subordination in areas of analysis and scientific research.

The political consensus cannot be questioned. In its contemporary version, the inquisition requires and demands submission to the notion that war is a means to spreading Western values and democracy. And the university is part of a consensus building process, whereby concepts and realities are turned upside down.

War is peace. The ‘big lie’ becomes the truth … and the real truth becomes a ‘conspiracy theory’.

And a witch hunt against the independent media is launched.

Those who are committed to the Truth are categorized as “Terrorists”. War is upheld as a peace-making endeavor. When war becomes peace, the Lie becomes the truth. There is no turning backwards.

When war is upheld as a humanitarian endeavor,  the judicial system is criminalized, the entire international legal system is turned upside down: pacifism and the antiwar movement are criminalized.

Has Harvard joined the bandwagon, with precise guidelines to its professors and students? Has academia joined the corporate media in obfuscating the unspoken truth, namely that America’s hegemonic wars destroy humanity?

The compliance of intellectuals within “leading”universities and research institutions is crucial to sustaining the “Big Lie”. Opposing the war is taboo within colleges and universities.

The Lie prevails. A world of fantasy permeates the mainstream media. The Universus is fractured and destroyed. Concepts are turned upside down.  Political insanity prevails.

We are at a dangerous crossroads in our history. No more scientific analysis, no more critique: Tactical nuclear weapons (B61-11) “are harmless to the surrounding civilian population because the explosion is underground” (according to co-opted “scientists” on contract the Pentagon). Those who decide on waging nuclear war believe their own propaganda. They are totally ignorant as to the broader consequences of using nuclear weapons.

The danger of a third world war is obfuscated by both the media and academia. University scholarship conforms.

When Propaganda becomes knowledge

Analysis and debate on the impacts of global warfare and the future humanity are foreclosed.  The University now tells us: you have a responsibility to support “humanitarian wars”.

The Big Lie must be exposed for what it is and what it does.

It sanctions the indiscriminate killing of men, women and children.

It destroys families and people. It destroys the commitment of people towards their fellow human beings.

It prevents people from expressing their solidarity for those who suffer. It upholds war and the police state as the sole avenue.

It destroys both nationalism and internationalism.

When the lie becomes the truth there is no turning backwards. (Michel Chossudovsky, When the Lie Becomes the Truth


Break the propaganda and media disinformation nexus.

Rebuild the anti-war movement,

Initiate a broad movement in colleges, universities against “Fake Scholarship”.


1. See Grendler, Paul F. “Printing and censorship” in The Cambridge History of Renaissance PhilosophyCharles B. Schmitt, ed, Cambridge University Press, 1988, pp. 45–46. Quoted by Wikipedia.

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The UN’s moral failure on Nazi apartheid


The UN’s moral failure on Israeli apartheid

Apartheid - wrong for South Africans and wrong for Palestinians

By Lawrence Davidson

Moral failure

On 15 March 2017 the United Nations’ Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) published a report on Israeli practices and policies toward the Palestinians. Using international law as its comparative criterion, the report came to a “definitive conclusion” that “Israel is guilty of apartheid practices.” The term apartheid was not used in the report merely in a “pejorative” way. It was used as a descriptor of fact based on the evidence and the accepted legal meaning of the term.

Such was the immediate uproar from the United States and Israel that UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, in a moment of moral failure, ordered the report’s withdrawal. The head of ESCWA, the Jordanian diplomat Rima Khalaf, decided that she could not, in good conscience, do so and so tendered her resigation.


The initial New York Times (NYT) coverage of the incident paid little attention to the accuracy of the report, an approach which, if pursued, would have at least educated the newspaper’s readers as to the real conditions of Palestinians under Israeli domination. Instead, it called the report, and those involved in producing it, into question. For instance, the NYT told us that “the report provoked outrage from Israel and the United States”. The US ambassador to the UN, Nikki R. Haley, was quoted as declaring that, “when someone issues a false and defamatory report in the name of the UN it is appropriate that the person resign”. At no point in the NYT story was it noted that Ms Haley’s charge that the report was false, was itself false. Other coverage by the NYT improved only slightly.

The NYT did pay attention to the fact that, among the authors of the report, was former UN human rights investigator Richard Falk. Falk served six years as UN spacial rapporteur for the occupied territories. According to the NYT, his presence had to “gall[ed] many Israeli supporters who regard him as an anti-Semite”. There is something troubling about a newspaper that claims to represent the epitome of professional journalism reporting such slurs without properly evaluating them. Richard Falk, who is Jewish, has an impeccable record of both academic achievement and public service. His reputation for honesty and dedication to the cause of human rights exemplifies the best practice of Jewish values. Thus, he has every right to say that “I have been smeared in this effort to discredit the report” – a study which “tries its best to look at the evidence and analyse the applicable law in a professional manner”.

Israel’s behaviour

An objective consideration of Israel’s behaviour makes it hard to escape the brutal reality of its officially condoned practices.

On 17 March 2017, at the same time as the forced withdrawal of the ESCWA report, the US State Department released a report on grave violations against Palestinian children living under Israeli military occupation”. This was part of the department’s annual “country reports on human rights practices”. Among the problems cited were Israel’s practice of unlawful detention, coerced confessions and excessive use of force, including torture and killings.

Usually these annual human rights reports are made public by the secretary of state. This year Rex Tillerson, who presently holds the office, was nowhere in sight. And, of course, President Trump failed to issue any of his characteristic tweets in reference to the Israel’s barbaric behaviour.

Earlier, on 8 February 2017, it was reported that Israel has banned anesthesia gas from entering the Gaza Strip.” There is a current backlog of some 200 patients in Gaza requiring surgical care, and some will die due to Israel’s ban.

A week later, on 14 February 2017, it was reported that Israeli officials were blackmailing Palestinian patients seeking permission to enter Israel for necessary medical treatment. A 17-year-old Gazan boy who suffered from congenital heart disease and needed a heart valve replacement “was explicitly told that in order to [leave the Gaza Strip and] have his operation, he would have to cooperate with the security forces and spy for Israel”. He refused and subsequently died. This is not a new or unusual tactic for the Israelis.

Blackmail all around

The moral failure at the UN, represented by the withdrawal of the ESCWA report, is the result of Secretary-General Guterres’s decision to acquiesce in a denial of reality – the reality of Israel’s practice of apartheid.

On the other hand, it probably also stems from Guterres’s acceptance of the reality of US financial leverage along with the apparent threat to bankrupt the UN. This is, of course, a form of blackmail. Significantly, US use of its financial clout at the UN mimics the same practice by the Zionist lobby in the halls of Congress.

Obviously, the UN, to say nothing of US politicians, needs alternate sources of income. My wife Janet once suggested that the UN be awarded the right to exploit and profit from all undersea resources. Not a bad idea. Likewise, US politicians should agree to, or be forced to rely upon, government-based campaign funding rather than be pressed into putting themselves up for sale.

However, such changes do not appear imminent. As it stands now, reality in Palestine is what the Americans and Israelis say it is because politicians and international leaders literally can’t afford to challenge their corrupted views.

Posted in ZIO-NAZIComments Off on The UN’s moral failure on Nazi apartheid

The Bulgarian Paradox – How To Stay with Russia and EU in the Same Bed

Adelina Marini

There is something rotten in the European Union and you can feel it for some time now. This feeling led to a desire in some member states to break free from the handbrake that others are pulling on their development. The rottenness is felt the strongest in those countries, which are not quite sure what they are doing in the EU. Such a state is Bulgaria. In many respects it can be defined as pro-European, but that would be a rather simplistic definition. Bulgaria is among the countries where support for EU membership is among the highest, but it does not say enough about what really matters, so that the Union can move in harmony in one direction. It says nothing about values, geopolitical orientation, the rule of law. In recent years, Bulgaria has become one of the member states where the pro-Russian wing started to become more and more vociferous and form an opinion.

One consequence of this (and not only) was the election of Rumen Radev for president last autumn. He enjoyed the support of the Bulgarian Socialist Party, whose leader Kornelia Ninova immediately after her election to the post lay flowers at the monument to the communist dictator Todor Zhivkov, and in the campaign for the snap parliamentary elections on March 26 she even said that “democracy has taken away a lot from us”. She has contradictory rhetoric – once demonstrating moderate Euroscepticism in combination with pro-Russian slogans, and other times confirms Bulgaria’s European path. In this sense, it will not be an exaggeration to say that Sunday’s vote will show whether Bulgaria will go in the way of Poland and Hungary, or will remain on its current path, which can be described as pro-European, but with many caveats.

The paradox the country is in reminds a lot of the one in Serbia, where the forces who want to be with Russia and Europe simultaneously prevail. Indicative of the internal rupture was the behaviour of President Rumen Radev at the spring summit of the European Union in Brussels on 9 and 10 March, when he tried to fight the contradictions of the EU through his own contradictions.

I will fight for CETA, but this battle is lost

Following the summit, the president held a monologue with the media which lasted over 10 minutes, during which time he managed to clash several theses. At first, he reacted strongly to reports in Bulgarian media that he had supported the conclusions about the trade agreement with Canada (CETA). He categorically rejected the idea that he welcomed CETA. Word is about the conclusions of the summit in which leaders of the 28 member states welcome the results of the vote on the agreement in the European Parliament, which it was approved by. The conclusions call for a swift adoption of the necessary proposals, which would lead to implementing of the Agreement.

Where is the problem? The text has been approved by all member states, but does not have the legally binding power of conclusions of the European Council due to a ridiculous turn of events. Poland refused to sign in protest against the reelection of former Polish prime minister Donald Tusk (EPP) to the post of president of the European Council. Although Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydło has no problem with the contents of the text, she refused to sign it. So the document was legally downgraded to conclusions by the president of the European Council. This in fact saved the Bulgarian head of state from falling in the uncomfortable position of having to explain to the party that supports him why he signed something, which the party and he himself has denounced.

According to available information, there was no leader against the text. It did not become clear from the president’s monologue whether he was going to vote against, was it not for Poland’s protest. Even with that information missing, however, the president was contradicting himself. At first he said that the question about CETA at the European level had already been decided. “It was decided by giving authority to the Bulgarian parliament and the Bulgarian government. At a meeting the government decides to sign CETA, CETA is being signed here, in October of last year the Bulgarian prime minister has voted for CETA in the European Council, CETA has been approved by the European Parliament”, he said. At the same time, however, he announced that he will refer to the Constitutional Court, because the agreement requires amendments to the Constitution

Unity means compromise

A little later, the president announced that in the name of EU unity compromises need to be made. “What I shared is that by supporting, now in the past, the decision on CETA Bulgaria is making a compromise because, in my opinion and according to analysts, CETA is a huge advantage to strong and sustainable economies. To weak and fragile economies CETA is a threat. And here the Bulgarian people and the Bulgarian state make their sacrifices in the name of solidarity and EU principles”, he said in front of Bulgarian journalists in Brussels, who had no opportunity to ask any questions.

A multi-speed Europe is our own fault

The president dedicated a large portion of his monologue to the process of drafting the declaration of Rome, which will be signed on March 25 in Rome on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Treaties of Rome which laid the foundation of the EU of today, but he fell into contradiction on this subject as well. He announced he is against a multi-speed Europe because “there is no way to have a single body in two speeds”. He believes that the draft text is full of controversy. “On the one hand we have words and phrases like ‘a consolidated union’, ‘a social union’, ‘a prospering union’, ‘a strong union at the global scene’. On the other hand we have terms like ‘some of us’, ‘different speeds when needed, when possible’, ‘the enhanced cooperation remains open for’, in other words this is the controversy”. He announced that he had requested the removal of all texts that contradict the principles of unity and solidarity and that he has requested a mandatory inclusion of a text about the continuation of cohesion policy.

At the same time, he urged Bulgaria not to look at the EU as a cow to be milked and admitted that despite the fact that over the last 10 years European funds amounted to 40% of all public investment, it never brought any social cohesion. “The effect on Bulgarians’ living standard is mere 0.8%”, he said and stuck a finger in the wound:  “A determined fight against corruption, the scamming of European funds is necessary, clear rules need to be set, work for all law enforcement and judicial authorities, serious reforms in the judiciary as well, education, healthcare, the economic sphere. If we do not do this, nobody will wait for us. Formally or informally leading states will go at their own speed”, were the words of Mr Radev. 

Then again, if there is no rule of law…

The president tried to lay the blame for the state of Bulgaria on another front as well. He criticised the investment plan of the European Commission, known as the Juncker plan, saying that it favours stronger economies and businesses in developed countries, but Bulgaria still supported it. “So we still have made our compromises.” He further stated that “Investments are wonderful – those which come to us – but the cost of labour is much lower for the same levels of effort and intelligence that our workers, engineers, etc. put in. So we pay for solidarity not with words, but with real compromises, with real actions”.

According to the report of the European Commission on the implementation of the plan from January of this year, Bulgaria is a bit below the middle on the list of countries which have benefited from this plan. By January a single infrastructure project has been approved at designated value of 150 million euro, which is expected to unlock 408 million euros in investments. Up until now ten agreements for the financing of small and mid-size enterprises have been signed to a total value of 54 million euro, which are expected to trigger investments worth of 563 million euro. 4960 small companies or start-ups are expected to benefit from this aid.

The president further stated that he will insist on a guarantee that the cohesion policy will find its place in the next multiannual EU budget as well. Such a commitment is made in the text of the draft declaration for Rome of March 20th, but there is no explicit mention of the budget, which will still be the subject of serious discussions, starting next year when Bulgaria is to take over the rotating presidency of the Council. Despite criticism towards the EU and the compromises that Bulgaria was forced to make to be a member, the president periodically bounced the ball back into the Bulgarian field, calling for structural reforms, increasing investment in the development of human capital, education, competitiveness of the small and medium-sized enterprises. “And something very important – there needs to be rule of law. It needs to be strengthened.”

Translated by Stanimir Stoev

Posted in BulgariaComments Off on The Bulgarian Paradox – How To Stay with Russia and EU in the Same Bed

EU Is Trying To Restart the European Integration of the Western Balkans

Adelina Marini, Zagreb

There is some good news and some bad news for the Western Balkans in the past few weeks. The good news is that the European Union has finally come to realise that there is something rotten in the Balkans and has matured to a change in the narrative. The bad news is this is too late and too little. For months the region has been shaking in instability and so far just verbal conflicts, which are raising the tension to the levels of prior to the bloody disintegration of former Yugoslavia. Macedonia is imploding into a severe political crisis, which has the potential of becoming an inter-ethnic conflict, the tension between Croats, Serbs, and Bosniaks in Bosnia and Herzegovina has risen dangerously together with inflammatory rhetoric, unilateral provocative actions, and claims that Dayton is dead; Serbia is in a constant election campaign with the price constantly on the rise, thus emitting signals that inflame old wounds across the region. In addition, the campaign has a heavy geopolitical twist as well.

Montenegro is desperately trying to reach the NATO shores, but the long arm of Russia is trying to pull it back into the Russian sphere of influence through brutal interference in its domestic policy. Kosovo is a victim of its relationship with Serbia and the inability of its politicians to work in their nation’s best interest. Albanian politicians have finally realised what they need to do in order to walk out of the blockade that they themselves pushed the country in, but they got carried downstream by the geopolitical current. So, for the first time in the newest history of EU enlargement the European Council closed the year with no conclusions about candidate states. The overall global sense of insecurity is being felt much sharper in a region, which bears the label “powder keg” by no coincidence.

The Balkans can easily turn into a chess board

Tension in the region has first been noticed by the European Parliament, where Slovenian MEP Ivo Vajgl (ALDE) requested that a special debate were held in the foreign affairs committee, but it was conducted without the participation of key players. The wind of change came with the tour of the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini (Italy, Socialists and Democrats) through the six Balkan states in the beginning of March. Federica Mogherini’s goal was sending a few otherwise very important messages to the six countries, but her trip turned out to be a clash with reality and sobering up to the true problems these countries face. In Montenegro, her invitation to a debate was disregarded by the opposition, led by the Democratic Front, which has Russia’s support.

In Macedonia, her conversation with President Georgi Ivanov was long and hard, for she had to explain simple facts about what is democracy and convey a message by NATO boss Jens Stoltenberg in a similar spirit; in Serbia, on the other hand, her speech in the Skupština was accompanied by incessant shouts by Šešelj’s radicals in support of Russia and against the EU. The shouts did not cease for a full twenty minutes. The former Italian foreign minister dealt with it well undermining the performance by reminding that having been a member of the Italian parliament she is quite used to such scenes. Moreover, she said, such things are normal in other EU member states as well. “Maybe some of my interlocutors today in parliament were not ready to face the fact that I was ready to manage political relations in a complicated environment”, she said later at a joint press conference with Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučić, who was apologising profusely on behalf of Serbia.

Following her return from the Balkans tour Federica Mogherini admitted that for the first time she had realised the extent to which this region is exposed to various challenges and tension. “The Balkans can easily become one of the chess boards where big power game can be played”, she said following her report on the trip’s outcome to the EU foreign ministers. She also said that she is concerned about developments there, but at the same time expressed hope that a favourable outcome is still possible. “Yes, I came back from the Balkans worried in some cases but also full of optimism and hope because whenever you meet students, the citizens, civil society but also so many political and social forces in all the region you see the enormous support and trust in the EU”.

A sizable count of ministers also expressed concern about developments in the Balkans and even admitted that over the last few years the EU had practically pulled out of the region and the vacuum is being filled by other powers. Croatian Foreign Minister Davor Ivo Stier stated that the EU needs to get more committed to the Western Balkans. He was fully concentrated on explaining to his colleagues how serious the situation in BiH is and how important it is that leaders in the country be encouraged to commit to amendments to the election code by June. “The situation in the Western Balkans is such that it requires a much more pronounced commitment by the EU. There was also talk about having states outside the EU increase their presence over the last few years. It is important that the South-Eastern Europe region is not a territory of conflict, but of cooperation”, were the words of the Croatian minister, who avoided naming Russia, despite a journalist’s concrete question.

His French colleague Jean-Marc Ayrault expressed his concern about developments in the region, especially after last year’s regular meeting with the six countries in Paris in the framework of the Berlin process, which, in his words, was very constructive. He believes there is a possible risk of escalation, keeping in mind, however, that the region is in an election period. He urged for being moderate and constructive. The most critical was Slovakian Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajčák, who is a former EU representative for BiH. “Everyone pointed out the fact that recently the EU has abandoned the region and the result we see is a weakening of pro-European forces in those states and opening up space for other players, which is not normal”, he said following the foreign ministers’ meeting in Brussels on March 6.

Lajčák  added that the ministers agreed it is necessary to bring back trust in the enlargement process. “I do believe that this will have a clear effect on the region through our political presence, through having the process be less technical and more political, through us ceasing to pretend we are offering a European perspective and the states pretending they are seriously committed to reforms. And we start being serious with each other”, urged Slovakia’s top diplomat.

Ministers hailed the change in rhetoric which Federica Mogherini suggested. In the capital cities of the six Balkan states she explained that she does not like the term “enlargement”, but prefers the term “reuniting”. Another message she sent out was that the EU is what it is now because member states have chosen cooperation after World War Two, instead of confrontation. Her third and very important message was that her visit right after the presentation of the White paper on Europe’s future by Jean-Claude Juncker (Luxembourg, EPP) represents a wish for including the Western Balkans in this debate. Something euinside has called for in many articles.

A conclusion can be drawn from her visit that in a way she has given up on Balkan politicians, so she was focused on getting her messages through to the young people and civil society. In her speeches in front of university students she sent out an appeal to the young generation and the civil society to cease being patient and tell leaders what they want. “No, I am not calling for demonstrations, not at all”, she said, but reminded during her lecture in the University of Tirana that young people are not only the future, but the present as well.

She sent out similar messages in the rest of the countries. Federica Mogherini reminded that often the feeling is created that the process of European integration is being driven from the outside, by Brussels, by the institutions, but in fact it is a mutual choice. Brussels does have things to change, but countries of the Western Balkans too have a lot to do in order to become a society, to build institutions, independent judiciaries, to introduce the rule of law. “And it is a path that we walk together. It is about shared decision and a shared journey we do together”, she said.

The EU foreign ministers have approved the change in approach and narrative. In its conclusions, the Foreign Affairs Council placed an accent on the need for a more serious approach to the region’s population through public diplomacy, a better clarification of the benefits of the European way, namely the rule of law and transforming societies in an economic and social sense.

Juncker’s message was a mistake

The Western Balkans subject made it on the agenda of the EU spring summit, held on March 9. Leaders of the 28 member states discussed the issue over dinner. This is news by itself, only showing how deeply involved the EU is with developments in the Western Balkans region. In a way it also explains why the leaders’ message was a lot softer and more general. As weird as it may sound, the most engaged leader with this subject was British PM Theresa May, who stated prior to the dinner that she intended to share with her colleagues the extent of the danger of increasing instability in the region, which represents a risk to “our collective security”.

She also stated that she will call upon the international community to do more about fighting organised crime in the region. Theresa May paid special attention on Montenegro in the context of the failed coup d’etat attempt in October. “I will call for us to do more to counter the destabilising Russian disinformation campaigns and raise the visibility of the Western commitment to this region”, was the adamant stance of the prime minister of a country, which is expected any day now (March 29) to commence negotiations for leaving the Union. In this sense, there is one more message Federica Mogherini conveyed in the six states that needs noting. She assured that although Great Britain is about to leave, the EU will not stop at 27.

Theresa May backed her words with concrete actions by stating that the next summit, dedicated on the Western Balkans, will be held in Great Britain in 2018. This year the host will be Italy. According to European Council President Donald Tusk, the situation in the region is out of control, partly due to “unhealthy external influences, which have been destabilising several countries for some time”, he said prior to the start of the Western Balkans debate. Following their conversations, defined by many as being of high quality and constructive, leaders came up with a declaration, which is considerably below expectations. In a few sentences it says that the region is unstable, that it is important to continue on the road of reforms and good neighbourly relations and regional cooperation. At the end, it reaffirms the European perspective of the countries of the region.

European Parliament President Antonio Tajani (EPP, Italy) stated that the region needs more Europe and a stronger commitment to political and Economic cooperation. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in turn had to answer the uncomfortable journalist question about his 2014 statement that there will be no further enlargement within the duration of his term in office. “I don’t think this was a mistake, when I announced back in July 2014 that there will be no enlargement during the mandate of this Commission, because, as a matter of fact, no candidate country is ready to join. We didn’t stop enlargement negotiations. I have appointed a commissioner for enlargement negotiations, Mr Hahn, and he’s doing a good job”, was his reply.

Several days later during a debate in the European Parliament Mr Juncker did however admit that his 2014 statement did in fact cause confusion in the Balkans and that the region is the most complicated in Europe. He appealed for a restart of the European integration process. Most leaders, however, concentrated on the external influence on countries of the region. According to Angela Merkel, the European perspective of the Western Balkans is there, but it is not unconditional. Currently, Russia and Turkey are trying to take advantage of the situation in the region, but the EU needs to continue with its projects. “I think it is very important that we make it clear that we as member states of EU not only take an interest in this particular region but want to draw it ever closer into the European fold”, was the message of the German chancellor.

Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni also pointed out that there is no way to overlook the “fundamental interests of geopolitical factors” in the region. He believes the geopolitical risk and increase of other risks is absolutely plausible. “The problem is not when which country will join the EU. The problem is sending a clear message that the road to accession is open”, he said following the end of the summit on March 10.

What does European perspective mean?

Actually, despite statements, the European Council again is somewhat distanced in a situation that requires much more than a confirmation of the European perspective – a vocabulary, which had some meaning back in the distant year 2003, when it was used at the Thessalonнki summit. A lot has changed since then and the bets have risen considerably. It is a fact that most countries in the region are walking along the European path, but it is also true that instability has come back and with it the destabilising external factors. Geopolitical shifts in turn have reminded the European elite how strategically important they are for the continent.

The EU blueprint for European integration does not work well in a region with so many inherited and unsolved problems, the main one being the constant pushing off of democracy and fallbacks to the past. It is also difficult to implement under such geopolitical pressure. Ten years after the Thessalonнki summit, when a full support was stated for the European perspective of Balkan states, there already was a need for restarting the process. The European enlargement commissioner at the time, Štefan Füle (Czech Republic, Socialists and Democrats), attempted to breathe new life into enlargement, for the process was practically completely stopped. His attempt turned out not to be too successful, because it was not supported loud and clear at the highest level – by the European Council, where Greece’s veto on negotiations with Macedonia brought the former Yugoslav republic to a failed state condition.

During her visit to Skopje Federica Mogherini established that the political crisis in the country could grow into an inter-ethnic conflict. A thing we all thought was avoided during the disintegration of former Yugoslavia. And now, instead of Macedonia being on the threshold of membership, or even a member already (it was supposed to begin negotiations in 2005 together with Croatia), the country is in a precarious situation. This is a lesson that could cost the EU itself dearly as well, not just Macedonian people. The EU slept through developments in Serbia as well, believing its mediation in the dialogue between Belgrade and Priština is a totally sufficient condition for dealing with the situation. However, this is a dialogue that could go on endlessly if the final goal is not talked through – recognition of Kosovo or something else? If it is something else – what would it be? Such procrastination of making a decision on an issue that is constantly fuelling the fire and being used by irresponsible politicians for gaining electoral dividends will later be paid with interest on top.

In Montenegro, the EU found itself in the uncomfortable position of choosing between a democrature with a pro-European facade and Russia. And having Kosovo be the sole problem for the EU in Serbia, the Union slept through the ticking bomb in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In this sense, closest to a real assessment of the situation was the Slovak Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajčák, who stuck a finger in the wound – we are pretending to be integrating them and they are pretending of being integrated. As this website has reported on numerous occasions, the current accession blueprint just does not work in such a complicated and geopolitically loaded environment. The EU will have to do much more than agreeing on a declaration, reaffirming the European perspective of these countries, whose leaders are using this perspective only for electoral purposes.

First off, an end must be put once and for all to the power of veto of a single member being used as a tool for resolution of bilateral issues. A second step should be the increased presence of high-ranking European officials, who are to talk in detail about what the EU is already doing for citizens. Such an attempt was made by Federica Mogherini, when she explained in the Serbian parliament what the size of European investments in the country is. Later, the Serbian PM added to her statement by saying that Germany alone is providing jobs to 33 thousand people in Serbia, Italy – 23 thousand, and Austria – 20 thousand. The EU is the most secure market, further stated Mr Vučić. The decision of Mrs Mogherini to address predominantly the young and the civil society is a good idea, which needs to be continued, but this does not discard looking for an approach towards the political elite as well.

The EU also needs to consider investing in a medium, which would have its own profile and which would be working in the local languages, similar to already existing Al Jazeera Balkans and N1. The function of this medium needs to be fighting the disinformation and Russian propaganda by providing correct information about the EU, the enlargement process in detail, European investments in these countries, the movement of local citizens towards the EU, their educational opportunities in the EU etc. This is the best way of ensuring more visibility of the EU in this region.

The EU is about to enter a new phase of discussing its future. This debate has to be carried through at the highest level in the six Balkan states as well, so that opposition forces and the civil society can be drawn into it. Lastly, European parties and political leaders need to quit supporting failed politicians and parties. This never ends well. Last but not least, the situation in the Balkans needs to be monitored on a much more regular basis than it currently is and reports are to be made to foreign ministers and leaders in the European Council at each of their meetings.

The EP foreign affairs committee is inviting high-ranking representatives of some countries more and more often, but much more can and needs to be done – plenary hearings of these countries’ leaders, the opposition, and members of the civil society following what is being done regularly for Hungary or Poland. This would allow for hearing points of view, which are being silenced by the controlled media environment in these states.

Translated by Stanimir Stoev

Posted in Europe, Bosnia, Croatia, SerbiaComments Off on EU Is Trying To Restart the European Integration of the Western Balkans

Trump’s Ambassador to I$raHell is Truly Terrifying


Trump’s Ambassador to Israel is Truly Terrifying


In keeping with the logic of the Trump era, Senate Republicans (along with two Democrats) have hired an arsonist to prevent a fire. David Friedman, whom the Senate confirmed today as U.S. ambassador to Israel, spent most of his confirmation hearing either apologizing for or attempting to walk back everything he has ever said about Israel, Judaism, and the conflict with Palestinians.

Friedman was Donald Trump’s bankruptcy lawyer during the president’s Atlantic City debacles. Apparently, in Trump’s mind, that qualified him to serve as campaign advisor on Israel and the Middle East. During the campaign, Friedman contributed commentary to Arutz Sheva, an extreme right-wing publication based in Israel. In an August 2016 post, he called for an “end to the two-state narrative,” which he described as the product of a U.S. State Department “with a hundred-year history of anti-Semitism.” Friedman will now be collecting a paycheck from that evil institution. He continued,

“At this juncture, a Palestinian state is the last thing the [Palestinian] middle class wants—they know better than anyone how corrupt and inept their people are at self-government.”

According to him, no Palestinians in the West Bank (he prefers to call them “Arabs of Judea and Samaria”) are “under any physical threat by the Israeli government.” This was news to me. I’ve traveled repeatedly to Hebron, where I’ve seen the barbed wire surrounding the Palestinian part of town and the watchtowers with heavily armed Israeli soldiers facing toward the Arabs inside.

Friedman has also contributed money to illegal settlements in the West Bank as well as to the Jerusalem Reclamation Project, which works to purchase property and settle Jews in the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City and Arab neighborhoods in East Jerusalem. The goal is obvious: push all non-Jews out of Jerusalem and “reclaim” the city.

A month before the election, Friedman matter-of-factly denied the existence of the explicitly anti-Semitic alt-right. Anti-Semitism, in Friedman’s view, is primarily a feature of the left.

“There is anti-Semitic sentiment among Clinton’s supporters,” he said.  “The danger in the U.S. is on the left, not on the right,” Friedman said. “I’m not saying that there aren’t neo-Nazis floating around in the United States, because I’m sure there are. But the movement we ought to be concerned about is on the left.”

But Friedman saved the bulk of his vitriol for liberal Jews. In one post, he equated being a Jewish liberal to a young Theodor Herzl (the forefather of Zionism) joining the German fraternity Burschenschaft, which became a breeding ground for pre-Hitler anti-Semites. Friedman appears to believe that liberal Jews are not simply misguided, but are actively seeking to destroy Israel while falsely proclaiming themselves to be pro-Israel.

There can be no other explanation, in his mind, for the liberal Israel lobby J Street’s public support of President Obama’s negotiations with Iran than intentionally undercutting the Jewish state and betraying true Jews. Liberal Jews, he wrote, are “worse than kapos,” the Jews who collaborated with the Nazis in the death camps. They are “just smug advocates of Israel’s destruction delivered from the comfort of their secure American sofas—it’s hard to imagine anyone worse.” Later confronted with his own words at a conference, Friedman doubled down, saying, “They’re not Jewish and they’re not pro-Israel.”

David Friedman

The difference between a mere religious bigot and a true fundamentalist is that a bigot mostly concerns himself with the Other—people outside his faith—while a fundamentalist concerns himself foremost with rival groups within his faith. Muslim fundamentalists, like the ones in ISIS, are more immediately concerned with cleansing their society of Muslims they deem insufficiently devout than with destroying Christendom or Judaism. Likewise, for people like Friedman, discussion of the inferiority of Arabs and Muslims and their coming subjugation is superfluous. The important thing is to marginalize the (so-called) Jews who don’t believe that the establishment of a Jewish theocracy over Greater Israel will bring redemption and God’s grace.

This is the man the Senate saw fit to entrust with America’s diplomatic mission in a place already suffering from a surplus of religious zealots. Despite his apologies, there is no reason to believe Friedman has suddenly abandoned his extremism, nor that he would be under the strict control of the president, who clearly has no real interest in or moral conviction on the conflict.

The potential impact of Ambassador Friedman would be tempered if not for the current makeup of the Israeli government. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is leader of the Likud Party, which in recent decades has moved ever further to the right on the traditional Israeli spectrum. But even Likud has been outflanked by the rise of the Home Party, which could be considered Israel’s version of the alt-right. The Home Party is now in a coalition government with Likud and has enough seats in parliament to unseat Netanyahu. The defining features of its platform is the dismantling of secular democratic laws and institutions, the full annexation of the West Bank (a one-state solution), and the imposition of Israeli law on Palestinians, who would be denied full citizenship and civil rights and forcibly segregated from Israelis. In a word, apartheid.

It’s with this party that Mr. Friedman most closely identifies, and his nomination has already further emboldened its members and sympathizers. A Likud Party minister publicly broke ranks with Netanyahu, declaring the two-state solution dead and proposing his own Home Party-esque idea for a one-state solution. Practically speaking, Netanyahu was never in favor of a two-state solution and has done everything in his power to nip any negotiations in the bud. But now we have an ambassador who will not hold Netanyahu to even a vague rhetorical commitment to a two-state possibility.

Friedman’s appointment further discredits the Trump administration’s supposed toughness on Israel regarding the annexation of the West Bank. At his joint press conference with Netanyahu last month, Trump faced Netanyahu and said, “I would like to see you hold off” on further settlements. (It was at this same conference that Trump ended America’s commitment to a two-state solution.) Israel Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said he received a direct message from the Trump administration warning that “imposing Israeli sovereignty [on the West Bank] would mean an immediate crisis with the new administration.”

It appears Lieberman himself did not consider this to be a credible threat. He met with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson last week and told him that West Bank settlements—which are, by definition, imposing Israeli sovereignty—are not an impediment to peace, and that the U.S. should leave the United Nations Human Rights Council and reconsider its support of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees. Friedman’s appointment further undermines Trump’s public stance. This incoherence on the part of the administration, combined with a weak State Department and a growing morass of self-inflicted crises, is an open invitation for the Israeli right wing to keep pushing ahead with the settlements, further narrowing the possibility of ever getting rid of them.

Perhaps the only positive outcome is that Friedman’s Senate confirmation vote almost entirely fell on party lines: only two Democrats, Robert Menendez of New Jersey and Joe Manchin of West Virginia, voted in favor. Israel is no longer an axiomatic bipartisan issue. This process was helped along by Netanyahu and the Republican Party during the Obama administration, especially when Netanyahu, at the invitation of GOP congressional leadership, addressed Congress and directly undermined the sitting president’s foreign policy—an unprecedented and disgraceful spectacle that Democrats are unlikely to forget. Perhaps the United States will become host to the debate about what kind of country Israel should be, a debate the Israeli government and its enablers are currently uninterested in having.

On a broader level, Friedman’s appointment further establishes the conditions for Israel to go down a potentially irreversible moral path. The current occupation and creeping land theft is already a crime in slow motion. But the combination of a radicalized militant government with a monopoly on the means for mass violence, a strident messianic movement in the West Bank, and the presence of enablers in the West Wing and the American embassy opens the possibility for even greater sins from which Israel and the Israeli soul may never recover.

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