Archive | June, 2018




John Judge interviews Col. Fletcher Prouty about the hidden history of the US during and after World War II.

The surprising origins of the Korean and Vietnam War, the JFK assassination, Lee Harvey Oswald’s affiliation with the CIA, the US’s own Murder Inc. etc.

Why was Kennedy killed?


He opposed the plans to escalate the US war there.


Risks Posed by Competing Claims to Eastern Mediterranean Oil and Gas Resources


(L-r) Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu shake hands following a Jan. 28, 2016 press conference at the Presidential Palace in Nicosia. The three had met to discuss plans for the EastMed pipeline. (IAKOVOS HATZISTAVROU/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, June/July 2018, pp. 34-35

Special Report

By Jonathan Gorvett

WHEN ISRAELI PRIME Minister Binyamin Netanyahu spoke in Nicosia in May of “building a great alliance” between his nation, Cyprus and Greece, he was also quick to praise the “unrivaled network of common interests” that exists among the three states.

And if advocates of a giant new project have their way, that network may be about to get a lot more physically tangible.

For Netanyahu was in Nicosia to solidify support for the proposed EastMed Pipeline, a 1,350-mile natural gas connector that aims to bring Israeli and Cypriot gas to energy-hungry European markets. If ever constructed, the pipeline would form a specialized steel and concrete tie among the three nations, stretching far across the deep of the (sometimes unstable) Eastern Mediterranean floor.

The $7 billion project would also likely provide considerable economic benefits to them all, helping solve both energy and financial deficits.

Yet the project would also bypass a much cheaper and shorter route to market—one via Turkey.

And there, of course, lies a major clue as to why these three nations ended up expressing such warmth for each other in May.

Relations between Athens and Ankara are at a recent low, while those between Cyprus and Turkey do not even officially exist. Israel, too, has been the object of increasing criticism from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in recent times, especially as Turkey moves toward crucial parliamentary and presidential elections on June 24.

The back-slapping thus represents a geopolitical coinciding of interests, while also highlighting the growing gulf among many states of the Levantine littoral.

In this, not only Israel, Greece, Cyprus and Turkey are involved, but also the internationally unrecognized “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus” (TRNC), Egypt and Lebanon. The European Union also has a stake, along with the U.S., with a range of international oil and gas companies—from Italy’s ENI to ExxonMobil—all having investments in the mix.

All these parties are currently eying the potentially vast offshore oil and gas resources of the region, with the EastMed Pipeline just one of a series of competing methods of getting those assets to market.

Yet, despite the potential rewards of successfully exploiting these resources, a series of overlapping and contradictory claims and unresolved disputes, on land as much as at sea, is also propelling the same parties into increasing conflict.

“There was a lot of talk about how gas could be a driver of reconciliation in the region,” says Charlotte Brandsma, program officer with the German Marshall Fund’s Mediterranean Policy Program. “But rather than being a stabilizing force, it has only aggravated existing problems.”

This was put in stark relief last February, when an oil and gas drill ship commissioned by ENI found its path blocked by Turkish warships off the coast of Cyprus. Fearing it would be rammed, the Siapem 12000 eventually turned around and headed off.

The near collision occurred because Turkey has major disputes with the Republic of Cyprus (ROC) over maritime boundaries, and over Nicosia’s decision to award exploration tenders to a number of offshore blocks in areas that Ankara claims as its own.

Further complications here are that the TRNC also now has a claim to Cyprus’ offshore areas, with Turkey recognizing the legitimacy of these, even if no other country does. Nor is Turkey a signatory to U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which could otherwise provide a framework for arbitration.

U.N.-supported talks aimed at reuniting Cyprus—which would have gone a long way to resolving these disputes—collapsed last summer. In the resulting stalemate, the TRNC has called on Turkey to begin its own exploration and drilling in TRNC waters.

This leaves great uncertainty over what will happen when the ENI drill ship returns—as the oil company has said it will—and what might happen when other companies, such as Total and ExxonMobil, also begin drilling later this year.

Disputes and Ambiguities

This is by no means the only dispute clogging up oil and gas development in the region, either.

To the southeast, there is a longstanding dispute between Lebanon and Israel over their maritime boundaries.

This has started to heat up again recently, too, with February seeing Beirut award exploration concessions to ENI, France’s Total and Russia’s Novatek in the disputed waters. Some Israeli politicians have seen this as a justification for war.

Tel Aviv is also not a signatory to UNCLOS, although Beirut is. Moreover, both Israel and Lebanon have signed contradictory maritime border agreements with Cyprus, and while the Lebanese parliament has never ratified its version, this has added further ambiguity to the issue.

In addition, moving southwest, while Cyprus and Israel do have a boundary agreement, they do not have a deal—known as a unitization agreement—dividing up the gas underneath the adjacent Leviathan and Aphrodite gas fields. As both are likely part of the same underground reservoir, it is customary to have such a deal in place before beginning extraction.

Further west, Egypt demarcated its maritime boundary with Cyprus back in 2003, but still has no signed and sealed agreement with Israel. This may be on the way, however, as Israeli-Egyptian relations have warmed, with Egypt a major potential market for Israeli gas—a $15 billion deal to export Israeli gas to Egypt was signed back in February.

Egypt itself now has huge gas reserves, however, raising the question of why it would want such an arrangement. One possible answer is that Egypt possesses several gas liquefaction plants on its coast, which can turn natural gas into LNG. This could then be shipped to third countries without the need for an expensive pipeline like East Med.

Cyprus, too, has been eying Egypt for similar reasons, and has been pursuing its own gas supply deal, which the Cypriot energy minister claimed was close to inking in early May.

Thus, countries such as Israel and Cyprus have been pursuing a number of potential schemes for their future energy exports. These plans may be quite contradictory, unless a major new amount of gas is actually found. Thus, the pressure to find more is building, and there are likely to be even more drill ships at work in the region in the months ahead—even if they are in disputed waters.

The response of some to this will be “entirely predictable,” according to Brandsma. More near collisions thus look likely, as the Eastern Mediterranean summer heats up.


Posted in ZIO-NAZI, CyprusComments Off on Risks Posed by Competing Claims to Eastern Mediterranean Oil and Gas Resources

More Americans Evacuated From China Over Mysterious Ailments

Americans employed at the United States Consulate in Guangzhou, China, have reported mysterious symptoms similar to those experienced by diplomats in Cuba.CreditLam Yik Fei for The New York Times

BEIJING — The State Department has evacuated at least 11 Americans from China after abnormal sounds or sensations were reported by government employees at the United States Consulate in the southern city of Guangzhou, officials said, deepening a mystery that has so far confounded investigators.

At least eight Americans associated with the consulate in Guangzhou have now been evacuated, according to one official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.

In addition, one employee from the consulate in Shanghai and two from the embassy in Beijing were sent to the United States for further medical tests after undergoing examinations that the department encouraged when the first report of illnesses in Guangzhou surfaced in April, the official said.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo raised the issue with his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, in a telephone call that otherwise focused on the diplomacy surrounding North Korea’s nuclear program, according to a statement released Friday morning in Beijing.

The cases in Guangzhou — and now possibly Shanghai and Beijing — are similar to a wave of illnesses that struck Americans working at the embassy in Havana, Cuba, beginning in fall 2016. Another American there was reported last week to have symptoms, bringing the total number of those afflicted by what have been described as “sonic attacks” to 25.

It remains unclear whether the cases in Shanghai and Beijing — which have not been previously reported — were related to what officials described as “subtle and vague, but abnormal, sensations of sound and pressure” experienced at an apartment tower in Guangzhou where a number of consulate employees live.

The sounds and sensations in Cuba, and now China, have been variously attributed to sophisticated electronic eavesdropping efforts or a form of aural harassment, with some pointing fingers at Russia or China. Other experts have raised the possibility of environmental factors or even mass hysteria.

American officials in China declined to comment or did not respond to inquiries. But in a written response on Saturday, the State Department said that “several staff and family members” had been sent to the United States for further evaluation. The statement suggested that some might have been evacuated for “other unrelated issues.”

The statement said that only one of those evacuated so far had been diagnosed with mild traumatic brain injury: the first employee who was evacuated in April after complaining of health issues caused by the sounds and sensations.

Some of those evacuated have been sent to the Center for Brain Injury and Repair at the University of Pennsylvania, where researchers examined the cases from Cuba. State Department spokesmen would not elaborate.

After the injuries appeared in Cuba, the Trump administration expelled 15 Cuban diplomats, saying Cuban officials had failed to adequately protect American diplomats. But the government there denied any involvement.

So have the Chinese. The department’s statement on Friday referred to “ongoing cooperation” with the Chinese in investigating “the health-related incident” in Guangzhou.

After the cases surfaced there, senior officials from the department flew to China to investigate, while Mr. Pompeo appointed a committee to review “unexplained health incidents” affecting American diplomats and employees abroad. The deputy secretary of state, John J. Sullivan, is leading the review, assisted by representatives from the Department of Health and Human Services and the Justice Department, but officials have said they remain flummoxed.

Posted in USA, ChinaComments Off on More Americans Evacuated From China Over Mysterious Ailments

The shocking story of Israel’s disappeared babies


New information has come to light about thousands of mostly Yemeni children believed to have been abducted in the 1950s.

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

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

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

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

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

And so had government officials.

AL JAZEERA WORLD: Israel’s Great Divide

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IN PICTURES: Nakba – ‘Palestinians will return to their stolen lands’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WATCH: Israel’s Great Divide (46:51)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The child soldiers of Yemen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Heiman as a child [Courtesy of Amram]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Israeli colonisation is at the root of the violence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gil Grunbaum, adopted as a baby

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gaza: Human Shields

Posted in ZIO-NAZIComments Off on The shocking story of Israel’s disappeared babies

Nazi Organ Trafficking and Theft: From Moldova to Palestine


Israeli Organ Trafficking and Theft: From Moldova to Palestine

By Alison Weir

In August Sweden’s largest daily newspaper published an article containing grisly evidence suggesting that Israel had been taking Palestinian internal organs. The article, by veteran photojournalist Donald Bostrom, called for an international investigation to discover the facts.1


In this photograph taken March 22, 2007, Vasile Dimineti holds a picture of his 24-year-old son, who died a year after selling his kidney. The family lives in the impoverished Moldovan village of Mingir, where about 40 of its 7,000 residents are thought to have sold a kidney. AFP photo/Daniel Mihailescu/Files

Israel immediately accused Bostrom and the newspaper of “anti-Semitism,” and charged that suggesting Israelis could be involved in the illicit removal of body parts constituted a modern “blood libel” (medieval stories of Jews killing people for their blood).2

Numerous Israeli partisans repeated these accusations, including Commentary’s Jonathan Tobin, who asserted that the story was “merely the tip of the iceberg in terms of European funded and promoted anti-Israel hate.”3 Others suggested that the newspaper was “irresponsible” for running such an article.4

The fact is, however, that Israeli organ harvesting—sometimes with Israeli governmental funding and the participation of high Israeli officials, prominent Israeli physicians, and Israeli ministries—has been documented for many years. Among the victims have been Palestinians.

Nancy Scheper-Hughes is Chancellor’s Professor of Medical Anthropology at the University of California Berkeley, the founder of Organ Watch, and the author of scholarly books and articles on organ trafficking. She is the pundit mainstream media call upon when they need expert commentary on the topic.5

While Scheper-Hughes emphasizes that traffickers and procurers come from numerous nations and ethnicities, including Americans and Arabs, she is unflinchingly honest in speaking about the Israeli connection:

“Israel is at the top,” she states. “It has tentacles reaching out worldwide.”6

In a lecture last year sponsored by New York’s PBS 13 Forum, Scheper-Hughes explained that Israeli organ traffickers, “had and still have a pyramid system at work that’s awesome…they have brokers everywhere, bank accounts everywhere; they’ve got recruiters, they’ve got translators, they’ve got travel agents who set up the visas.”

Lest this sound simply like a successful international concern, it’s important to understand the nature of such a business.

As Scheper-Hughes describes it, organ trafficking consists of “paying the poor and the hungry to slowly dismantle their bodies.”

Organ traffickers prey on the world’s poorest, most desperate citizens—slum dwellers, inhabitants of dying villages, people without means or hope. Traffickers promise them what seem like astronomical sums of money (from $1,000 to $10,000)—which they frequently don’t even deliver—in return for vital internal organs.

For traffickers, human body parts are commodities, to be cut out of the bodies of the poor and sold to the rich. The organ “donors” receive no follow-up care and end up worse off on many levels—physically, financially, psychologically, socially—than even their original tragic situation. Sometimes they are coerced into such “donations.”

Organ sales have been illegal in most countries for years. The United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, which covers prevention, enforcement and sanctions in trafficking of humans, includes in its definition of human exploitation the extraction of organs for profit.7 Israel finally passed legislation against organ trafficking in 2008.8, 9

In her Forum 13 lecture Scheper-Hughes discussed the two motivations of Israeli traffickers. One was greed, she said. The other was somewhat chilling: “Revenge, restitution—reparation for the Holocaust.”

She described speaking with Israeli brokers who told her “it’s kind of ”˜an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. We’re going to get every single kidney and liver and heart that we can. The world owes it to us.’”

Scheper-Hughes says that she “even heard doctors saying that.”

For many years Israelis in need of an internal organ have gone on what experts call “transplant tourism”—traveling to other nations to obtain internal organs. Sometimes body parts are obtained from those freshly dead; more often from the desperately needy. While affluent people from numerous countries and ethnicities engage in this practice, Israel is unique in several significant ways.

First, Israelis engage in this at an extraordinarily high rate. According to a 2001 BBC report, Israelis buy more kidneys per capita than any other population.

Second, Israelis have the lowest donor rate in the world—one-fifth that of Europe, according to BBC. This is in part because there has been a widespread impression that Jewish religious law prohibits transplants as a “desecration of the body.”10 The Israeli news service Ynet reports, “the percentage of organs donated among Jews is the lowest of all the ethnic groups.”11

Third, the Israeli government has enabled the practice. For many years the Israeli health system subsidized its citizens’ “transplant holidays,” reimbursing Israelis $80,000 for medical operations abroad. Much of the remaining costs could often be obtained from government-subsidized12 Israeli insurance plans.13 In addition, Israel’s Ministry of Defense was directly involved.

Scheper-Hughes discussed Israeli organ trafficking in detail in 2001 in published testimony to the Subcommittee on International Relations and Human Rights of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.14 In her extensive testimony, Scheper-Hughes stated that although Israel had become a pariah for its organ policies, Israeli officials exhibited “amazing tolerance…toward outlawed ”transplant tourism.’”

She described an international syndicate which was “organized through a local business corporation in conjunction with a leading transplant surgeon, operating out of a major medical center not far from Tel Aviv,” and which had forged links with transplant surgeons in Turkey, Russia, Moldavia, Estonia, Georgia, Romania, and New York City.

The Israeli Ministry of Defense was directly involved in what Scheper-Hughes called Israel’s “”illicit [in other nations] national ”˜program’ of transplant tourism…Members of the Ministry of Defense or those closely related to them” accompanied transplant junkets.

In her Forum 13 lecture, Scheper-Hughes said that investigating Israeli organ trafficking over the past decade had taken her “from country to country to country to country.”

One of these is Moldova, the poorest country in Europe—and homeland of Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman—where 90 percent of the people earn less than $2 a day. A 2001 BBC report on organ trafficking described the situation: “Hundreds of Israelis have created a production line that starts in the villages of Moldova, where men today are walking around with one kidney.15

Another is Brazil, where a legislative commission found that 30 [it may actually have been as high as 60] Brazilians from impoverished neighborhoods had sold their kidneys to a trafficking ring headed by Israelis, with Israeli citizens receiving almost all of the organs, and the Israeli government providing most of the funding.16

The ring had also begun inquiring about buying other vital organs from poor residents, including lungs, livers and corneas.17

An Inter Press Service (IPS) news story from the time reported that Scheper-Hughes testified to the commission that international trafficking of human organs had begun some 12 years earlier, promoted by Zaki Shapira, head of kidney transplant services at Bellinson Medical Center, near Tel Aviv.

Scheper-Hughes reported that Shapira had performed more than 300 kidney transplants, sometimes accompanying his patients to other countries such as Turkey. The recipients were very wealthy or had very good health insurance, and the “donors” very poor people from Eastern Europe, the Philippines and other developing countries.

The chairman of the Brazilian commission, physician Raimundo Pimentel, was outraged at Israeli policies, pointing out that trafficking can only take place on a large scale if there is a major source of financing, such as the Israeli health system. Pimentel charged that the resources provided by the Israeli health system “were a determining factor” in enabling a network that preyed on society’s poorest populations.

In 2004 there were reports that Israeli traffickers had added China to their target donor populations.18 In one recent case an Israeli paid an organ broker $100,000 for a kidney transplant in China from an 18-year-old Chinese girl. She received $5,000 and died following surgery.19

New York Times reporter Larry Rohter pointed out that allowing brokers to operate with few restrictions benefited Israel “by exporting Israel’s organ shortage overseas.” Rohter cites a kidney specialist at Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem who explained that patients who go abroad “”save the country a lot of money; not only in terms of what doesn’t have to be spent on dialysis, but also by opening places for other people who are on the list.’”20

Many people find governmental complicity in organ trafficking deeply troubling on moral and philosophical grounds.

As Scheper-Hughes testified: “The sale of human organs and tissues requires that certain disadvantaged individuals, populations, and even nations have been reduced to the role of ”suppliers.’

“It is a scenario in which only certain bodies are broken, dismembered, fragmented, transported, processed, and sold in the interests of a more socially advantaged population…of receivers.” She believes that the risks and benefits of organ transplant surgery should be more equally distributed among nations, ethnic groups, and social classes.

Organ theft

It is difficult to know how often Israeli trafficking involves outright theft of vital organs from living human beings.

It is not rare for the “donor” to receive little or none of the compensation promised. For example, in 2007 Israel’s Haaretz newspaper reported that two Israelis had confessed to persuading Palestinians “from the Galilee and central Israel who were developmentally challenged or mentally ill to agree to have a kidney removed for payment.” According to the Haaretz report, after the organ had been taken the traffickers refused to pay for them.

On occasion, people are coerced into giving up their organs. For example, Levy Izhak Rosenbaum, the alleged Brooklyn trafficker recently arrested in an FBI sweep in New Jersey, reportedly carried a gun. When a potential organ seller would try to back out, Rosenbaum would use his finger to simulate firing a gun at the person’s head.

The Rosenbaum case, reportedly part of a ring centered in Israel, is the first case of trafficking to be prosecuted in the US. His arrest and the substantial evidence against him may have surprised State Department Countermisinformation Director Todd Leventhal, who had characterized organ trafficking as an “urban legend,” stating, “It would be impossible to successfully conceal a clandestine organ-trafficking ring.” Leventhal called such reports “irresponsible and totally unsubstantiated.”

More often organ theft involves dead bodies—or those alleged to be dead.

Israel’s very first successful heart transplant, in fact, used a stolen heart.

In 1968 Avraham Sadegat unexpectedly died two days after being hospitalized in Beilinson Hospital in Israel’s Petah Tikva for a stroke. When his family finally was able to retrieve his body (the hospital initially refused to release it) they found his chest covered with bandages; odd, they thought, for a stroke victim. Upon removing these they discovered that the chest cavity was stuffed with bandages and the heart was missing.21

During this time, the Israeli press was heralding the historic heart transplant, performed by a team of surgeons who were to become some of Israel’s most celebrated physicians, among them Dr. Morris Levy, Dr. Bernardo Vidne, and Dr Jack Solomon, who harvested the heart.22

When the family began to ask questions, the hospital denied any connection. After the man’s wife and brother had raised a media furor, petitioned three cabinet ministers—and agreed to sign a document that they would not sue—the hospital finally admitted it was Sadegat’s heart that had been used.

Haaretz quoted Sadegat’s tearful wife: “They treated him like an alley cat. From the moment he entered the hospital, they apparently saw him only as a potential source of organs and not as a man in need of treatment. They only thought about how to do the deed without us knowing.”

Sadegat’s medical condition before his heart was removed has not been made public. It is possible—perhaps probable—that up until his heart was removed it was still beating; according to an Israeli media report, “once a heart stops beating, it is no longer fit for transplantation.”23

Even if he was what is now termed “brain dead,” the general view is that family members should at least be a party to decisions regarding the patient: first, whether to “pull the plug,” and, second, whether to donate an organ. At the time, however, Israeli law allowed organs to be harvested without the family’s consent.

Forty years later the hospital held an anniversary celebration of the transplant, despite the fact that, according to Haaretz, the heart had been obtained “through deceit and trickery.” The festivities, which honored surviving members of the transplant team, featured balloons and a red, heart-shaped cake.

In this incident of organ theft (and from a possibly living body), the family was Israeli. Had the wife and brother been Palestinians from the West Bank or Gaza, they would not have possessed the power to force a confession from the hospital, and it is likely that those individuals today calling the Swedish article a “blood libel” or “irresponsible journalism” would have applied the same epithets to journalists reporting questions concerning the historic Israeli heart transplant—if any reporters even bothered or dared to do so.

Yehuda Hiss, keeper of the morgue

Perhaps one of the most long-term and high-level cases of organ theft—and one that involves Palestinian as well as Israeli organs—concerns an extraordinarily high official: Dr. Yehuda Hiss, Israel’s chief pathologist and, from 1988 through 2004, director of Israel’s state morgue, the L. Greenberg Institute of Forensic Medicine at Abu Kabir.

An early indication of malfeasance came to light in 1998 and concerned a Scottish man named Alisdair Sinclair, who had died under questionable circumstances after being taken into custody at Israel’s Ben-Gurion Airport.

The Israeli story, as reported by the Israeli news magazine Jerusalem Report, is that Sinclair had confessed to transporting drugs, even though none were found, although he was in possession of 9,000 German marks ($5,000). He then, the police claim, hanged himself by looping his shoelaces and T-shirt around a towel bar about a meter off the ground and slipped the improvised noose around his neck. From a squatting position, the police story goes, he repeatedly threw his bodyweight downward, choking himself.

Sinclair did not die, however, and medics were able to restore a heartbeat. He was transferred to a hospital where, according to the magazine report, the hospital’s associate director, Dr. Yigal Halperin, said that Sinclair “had suffered irreversible brain damage, and there was little doctors could do for him. Left in a corner of the emergency room, he died at 7 p.m. [It’s unknown whether he had been put on life support.] His corpse was transferred to the Institute for Forensic Medicine at Abu Kabir for an autopsy.”

Afterwards, Israeli authorities located Sinclair’s family and gave them three weeks to dispose of the body. They suggested that he be buried in a Christian cemetery in Israel, pointing out that this would be one-third the cost of shipping the body back to Scotland. However, the grieving family scraped up the money to bring him home.

They had a second autopsy performed by Glasgow University, only to discover that Sinclair’s heart and a small bone in his throat called the hyoid were missing. The British Embassy filed a complaint with Israel, and a heart was sent to Scotland. According to the Jerusalem Report, the family “wanted the Forensic Institute to pay for a DNA test to confirm that this heart was indeed their brother’s, but the Institute’s director, Prof. Jehuda Hiss, refused, citing the prohibitive cost.”

Despite a protest from the British government, Israel refused to supply Hiss’s pathology findings or the police report. According to the British government and a report in the Israeli media, around the time of Sinclair’s death a doctor at Tel Aviv’s Ichilov Hospital put in a request for a hyoid bone for research purposes—and eventually received a bill for shipping costs.24 Israel retained Sinclair’s $5,000.

Through the years Hiss and the Abu Kabir Institute of Forensic medicine continued to be accused of organ theft. In 2000 the Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahronot published an investigative report alleging that Hiss had been extracting organs without permission and then packing the bodies with broomsticks and cotton wool to fill in cavities before burial. The report charged that under Hiss the institute had been involved in organ sales of body parts—“legs, thighs, ovaries, breasts and testicles,” allegedly to medical institutions.

In 2001 a district judge found the Institute had performed hundreds of autopsies and had removed body parts without the families’ permission—and sometimes in direct opposition to their expressed wishes.25 One report described a “museum of skulls” at the institute.

Little was done, however, and complaints continued—often by the parents of dead Israeli soldiers horrified to discover that body parts had been taken from their sons. Finally, in 2004 Israel’s health minister transferred directorship of the morgue itself away from Hiss. Hiss, however, retained his position as Israel’s chief pathologist, a post it appears he holds to this day.26, 27

Hiss had also been connected with two previous national scandals, both of which may have involved powerful people in Israel, which may account for his longevity in Israel’s medical establishment despite years of proven wrongdoing.

The first controversy concerned the “Yemenite Children’s Affair”—a situation, largely from the early 1950s, in which a thousand babies and small children of recent immigrants to Israel had “disappeared.”

When the immigrants had arrived as part of Israel’s “ingathering of the exiles,” babies were immediately taken from their mothers and placed in children’s houses. Many were hospitalized for a variety of ills, and hundreds died, their deaths coming in such large numbers that they were announced over loudspeakers.

The distraught parents often never saw the body or received a death certificate, and there were growing suspicions that not all had died—some, it was believed, had been “given” to Ashkenazi parents. One author writes: “It was a well-known fact within the Jewish community in the United States that if a family wanted a child they could go to [baby brokers, both rabbis] and simply pay the necessary fee.”28

Some Israeli investigators have found considerable evidence for these charges, and indications of complicity at multiple levels of the power structure. In fact, one researcher charges: “People in positions of power at the time that the State of Israel was established profited from the abduction and sale of children from poor immigrant families.”29

Hiss’ connection comes in 1997, when Israel finally had formed a committee to investigate the disappearance of Yemenite and other Jewish children in the years 1948-1954. Among those testifying before this committee was a California woman who had come to Israel searching for her biological mother—and, according to DNA testing by a geneticist at Hebrew University, had found her.

The committee demanded that another DNA test be conducted at the Abu Kabir forensic institute. As at least one observer predicted ahead of time, Hiss’s test came up negative, and the government was allegedly exonerated, despite the fact that the geneticist who had conducted the first tests stood by his results.30

Hiss also plays a role in some conspiracy theories regarding the 1995 assassination of Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin, who had begun a peace process with Palestinians. In March 1999 a group of academics presented findings alleging that Hiss had submitted false evidence to the commission that investigated the killing.31

Palestinian Victims

Israelis have also targeted Palestinians, a particularly vulnerable population on numerous levels.

In her congressional subcommittee testimony, Scheper-Hughes reported that before he moved overseas, Israeli hospital transplant head Zaki Shapira had located kidney sellers “amongst strapped Palestinian workers in Gaza and the West Bank.” She said that his “hand was slapped by an ethics board,” and he moved his practice overseas.

For decades numerous Palestinians and others have charged Israel with taking body parts from Palestinians they had wounded or killed.

In her subcommittee testimony, Scheper-Hughes testified that toward the end of the apartheid period in South Africa, “human rights groups in the West Bank complained to me of tissue and organs stealing of slain Palestinians by Israeli pathologists at the national Israeli legal medical institute in Tel Aviv.”

Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, for Middle East Affairs article by Mary Barrett (see “Autopsies and Executions,” April 1990 Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, p. 21) reported “widespread anxiety over organ thefts which has gripped Gaza and the West Bank since the intifada began in December of 1987.”

Barrett quotes a forensic physician: “There are indications that for one reason or another, organs, especially eyes and kidneys, were removed from the bodies during the first year or year and a half. There were just too many reports by credible people for there to be nothing happening. If someone is shot in the head and comes home in a plastic bag without internal organs, what will people assume?”

A 2002 news story from IRNA reported that three Palestinian boys aged 14-15 had been killed by Israeli forces on Dec. 30, their bodies finally being returned for burial on Jan. 6. According to the report: “shortly before burial, Palestinian medical authorities examined the bodies and found out that the main vital organs were missing from the bodies.” In an interview on Al Jazeera, President Yasser Arafat held up photos of the boys, saying, “They murder our kids and use their organs as spare parts.”

Journalist Khalid Amayreh, recently investigating this topic further, found that “several other Palestinians gave a similar narrative, recounting how they received the bodies of their murdered relatives, mostly men in their early twenties, with vital organs taken away by the Israeli authorities.”

Israel has consistently characterized such accusations as “anti-Semitic,” and numerous other journalists have discounted them as exaggerations.

However, according to the pro-Israel Forward magazine, the truth of these charges was, in fact, confirmed by an Israeli governmental investigation a number of years ago.

In a recent story critical of the Swedish article, the Forward actually confirmed its main point, that Israel had been taking the body parts of slain Palestinians. The Forward article reported that one of the governmental investigations into Hiss had revealed that “he seemed to view every body that ended up in his morgue, whether Israeli or Palestinian, as fair game for organ harvesting.”32

Over the years, a great many Palestinian bodies have “ended up” in the Israeli morgue. In numerous cases Israeli occupation forces have taken custody of wounded or dead Palestinians. Sometimes their bodies are never returned to their grieving families—Palestinian NGOs say there are at least 250 such cases.

In other cases the bodies have been returned to the families days later, with crudely stitched naval-to-chin incisions. On many occasions Israeli soldiers have delivered the bodies late at night and required the bereaved families to bury their children, husbands, and brothers immediately, under Israeli military guard, sometimes with the electricity shut off.

In 2005 an Israeli soldier33 described a military doctor who gave “medics lessons in anatomy” using the bodies of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces. Haaretz reports: “The soldier said that the Palestinian’s body had been riddled with bullets and that some of his internal organs had spilled out. The doctor pronounced the man dead and then ”˜took out a knife and began to cut off parts of the body,’ the soldier said.

“”He explained the various parts to us—the membrane that covers the lungs, the layers of the skin, the liver, stuff like that,’ the soldier continued. ”I didn’t say anything because I was still new in the army. Two of the medics moved away, and one of them threw up. It was all done very brutally. It was simply contempt for the body.’”34

While most Israeli investigations into organ theft have largely ignored the Palestinian component, a number of significant facts are known:

  • Palestinian organs were harvested during years of an astonishingly lax system in which the body parts even of Jewish Israelis were extracted illicitly at the national morgue by the chief pathologist and exchanged for money.
  • Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza are largely a captive population. Numerous reports by highly reputable Israeli and international organizations have documented a situation in which Palestinians have few if any real rights; Israeli forces have killed civilians with impunity, imprisoned massive numbers of people without benefit of trials, and routinely abused prisoners.
  • Israeli authorities have conducted numerous autopsies of Palestinians without permission of their families, without even a semblance of public transparency, and without, it appears, accompanying reports. For example, the families of those who were taken while still alive are not provided with a medical report stating time and cause of death.
  • A very small but significant minority of Israelis, including military officers and governmental ministers, hold extremist supremacist views relevant to organ extraction. In 1996, Jewish Week reported that Rabbi Yitzhak Ginsburgh, a leader of the Lubavitch sect of Judaism and the dean of a religious Jewish school in a West Bank settlement, stated: “If a Jew needs a liver, can you take the liver of an innocent non-Jew passing by to save him? The Torah would probably permit that.” Ginzburgh elaborated: “Jewish life has infinite value. There is something infinitely more holy and unique about Jewish life than non-Jewish life.” [The Jewish Week, April 26, 1996, pp. 12, 31]

While most Israelis strenuously repudiate such beliefs, Rabbi Moshe Greenberg, an Israeli scholar on Jewish scriptural views on racism and ethnic chauvinism, has said, “The sad thing is, these statements are in our books.” Greenberg, who was a professor at Hebrew University, pointed out that such Talmudic texts were “purely theoretical” at the time of their writing, because Jews did not have the power to carry them out. Now, he pointed out, “they’re carried over into circumstances where Jews have a state and are empowered.”

While it is impossible to know whether any Israelis have ever acted on such religious permission to kill a non-Jew in order to provide body parts to Jews, some observers have considered this a possibility.

Dr. A. Clare Brandabur, a distinguished American scholar who has lived and traveled extensively in Palestine, writes that the information published in the Swedish article “resonates with reports from Palestinians in Gaza which I heard during the first intifada.”

She comments, “When I interviewed Dr. Haidar Abdul Shafi, head of the Red Crescent in Gaza, I mentioned to him reports of shootings of Palestinian children at times when there were no ”clashes’ going on—a solitary 6-year-old entering his schoolyard in the morning with his bookbag on his back. The soldiers abducted the wounded child at gunpoint, then his body would be returned a few days later having undergone an ”autopsy at Abu Kabir Hospital.’”

She says: “I asked Dr. Shafi if he had considered the possibility that these killings were being done for organ transplant, since (as Israel Shahak notes in Jewish History, Jewish Religion), it is not allowed to take Jewish organs to save a Jewish life, but it is allowed to take the organs of non-Jews to save Jewish lives. Dr. Shafi said he had suspected such things but since they had no access to the records of Abu Kabir Hospital, there was no way to verify these suspicions.”

Scheper-Hughes, in her congressional testimony, describes the danger of “organs got by any means possible including (I was told by one guilt-ridden practitioner) chemically inducing the signs of brain death in dying patients of no means and with access to minimal social support or family surveillance.”

Whether or not there have ever been organ-inspired murders in Israel as it appears there have elsewhere, numerous groups around the world are urging an international investigation into Israel’s handling of Palestinian bodies in its custody.

However, the Israeli government and its powerful advocates abroad, who regularly block investigations into Israeli actions, are doing their utmost to prevent this one.35, 36 Several lawsuits have been filed against the Swedish newspaper, the largest by Israeli lawyer and IDF officer Guy Ophir, who filed a $7.5 million lawsuit in New York against the newspaper and Bostrom. Ophir declared that Israel must “silence the reporter and the newspaper.”37

International investigations, of course, have two results: the innocent are absolved, the guilty discovered.

It is clear which category Israel believes it falls into.

Alison Weir is executive director of If Americans Knew and is on the board of the Council for the National Interest.


An Internet petition calling for an investigation can be viewed by clicking here.



1 Bostrom, Donald, “Our sons plundered for their organs,” Aftonbladet, Aug. 17, 2009 , translated by Tlaxcala.

(Original Swedish version)

2Israel Insider, “Netanyahu to press Sweden to condemn blood libel,” Aug. 23, 2009

3 Tobin, Jonathan, “Swedish Anti-Semites Dig Up a Blood Libel,”, Aug. 20, 2009

4 Cassel, Matthew, “Baseless organ theft accusations will not bring Israel to justice,” The Electronic Intifada, Aug. 24, 2009

5Scheper-Hughes, Nancy, “The Organ of Last Resort,” UNESCO,, July, 2001

University of California Berkeley Anthropology Faculty CV: Nancy Scheper-Hughes, Chancellor’s Professor in Medical Anthropology, Head, Doctoral Program in Medical Anthropology, Critical Studies in Medicine, Science and the Body, Director, Organs Watch

6 Griffin, Drew and David Fitzpatrick, “Donor says he got thousands for his kidney,” CNN Special Investigations Unit, CNN, Sept. 2, 2009

7Osava, Mario, “BRAZIL: Poor Sell Organs to Trans-Atlantic Trafficking Ring,” Inter Press Service (IPS), Feb. 23, 2004

8 Yeshiva World News, “CNN: Israel a Leader in Organ Trafficking,” Sept. 3, 2009

9Chabin, Michele, “Organ Donation: Legal, But Still Controversial,” Jewish Week, April 9, 2008

10Rohter, Larry, “Tracking the Sale of a Kidney on a Path of Poverty and Hope,” The New York Times, May 23, 2004

11Shapira-Rosenberg, Efrat, “A mitzvah called organ donation,” Ynet News, June 10, 2007

12Rohter, Larry, op. cit.


14 “Organs for Sale: China’s Growing Trade and Ultimate Violation of Prisoners’ Rights,” Hearing Before the Subcommittee on International Operations and Human Rights of the Committee on International Relations, House of Representatives, 107th Congress, First Session, June 27, 2001, Serial No. 107”“29

15Lloyd-Roberts, Sue, “Europe’s poorest country supplying organs to its neighbours,” BBC Newsnight, 9/7/01

16 “BRAZIL: Poor Sell Organs to Trans-Atlantic Trafficking Ring,” Mario Osava, IPS, Feb. 23, 2004

17New York Times

18 “Israeli organ traffickers shift operations to China,” BioEdge, June 4, 2004

19 “CNN: Israel a Leader in Organ Trafficking,” Yeshiva World News, Sept. 3, 2009

20Tracking the Sale of a Kidney on a Path of Poverty and Hope,” New York Times, Larry Rohter, May 23, 2004

21 “40 years after Israel’s first transplant, donor’s family says his heart was stolen,” Dana Weiler-Polak, Haaretz, Dec., 14, 2008

22 40 years on, medical staffers from Israel’s first human heart transplant reminisce about the feat,” Judy Siegel, Jerusalem Post, Dec. 7, 2008

23Shas swing vote pushes through organ donor law,” Shahar Ilan, Haaretz, March 25, 2008

With top rabbis’ blessing, Knesset approves organ donation law,” Shahar Ilan, Haaretz,Aug. 7, 2008

24 “Scottish Tourist’s Family Rejects Out-of-Court Settlement,” Netty C. Gross, The Jerusalem Report, Jan. 29, 2001

25“Attorney-General lodges complaint against Abu Kabir coroner,” Dan Izenbert, Jerusalem Post,Dec. 11, 2003

26 “Hiss fired for repeated body-part scandals,” Judy Siegel, Jerusalem Post, May 11, 2004

27 “Infamous Chief Pathologist to Once Again Evade Punishment,” Ezra HaLevi, Arutz Sheva Israel National News, Sept. 26, 2005

28 “Were the Children Sold?” Yechiel A. Mann,

29 “The Missing Children,” Yechiel A. Mann,

30 “Infamous Chief Pathologist to Once Again Evade Punishment,” Ezra HaLevi, Arutz Sheva Israel National News, Sept. 26, 2005

31Infamous Chief Pathologist to Once Again Evade Punishment,” Ezra HaLevi, Arutz Sheva Israel National News, Sept. 26, 2005

32Illicit Body-Part Sales Present Widespread Problem,”

By Rebecca Dube, Forward, Published Aug. 26, 2009, issue of Sept. 4, 2009

33Palestinian corpse used for IDF anatomy lesson,” Amos Harel, Haaretz, Jan. 28, 2005

34 “The Swedish canard—not only smoke, but also fire,” Shraga Elam, Aug. 25, 2009 (posted Sept. 4, 2009)

(Hebrew version)

35 “Israeli lawyer sues Swedish paper,” JTA, Aug. 27, 2009

36 “Israeli lawyer sues ”˜Aftonbladet’ in NY Court,” E.B. Solomont, Jerusalem Post, Aug. 26, 2009

37 Israeli Reservists To Sue Swedish Newspaper,” David Bedein, The Bulletin, August 30, 2009


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Forces in the current power struggle in Nigeria

oblong media

Although participation in “bourgeois politics”—as we used to call electoral politics—has never been absent from the Nigerian Left’s general programme, it has also not been made a “categorical imperative”. I am, however, now persuaded that it has become generally accepted in the ranks of contemporary Nigerian Leftists that intervention and participation in the country’s electoral struggle—for office or for power, as an organised political force and in alliance or acting separately—have become …read more


The political terrain in Nigeria, today has two colossal parties—PDP and APC—vying for power at the national level. However, it appears to be merely déjà vu as the binary trend has had similar appearances in Nigeria’s chequered history and experiment with democratic politics. Indeed, they have all been alignments and realignments of Nigeria’s ruling elite classes.


Nigeria’s Fourth Republic, which is currently running, was born on 29 May 1999—with Olusegun Obasanjo as inaugural executive president. A year later, on 29 May 2000, the president proclaimed 29 May of every year Nigeria’s “Democracy Day”. The day was also added to the list of the country’s national public holidays. It was a unilateral executive decision—by which I mean that neither the proclamation of “Democracy Day” nor the declaration of public holiday was endorsed, before the acts, by the …read more

Premium Times Nigeria

I would like to preface this piece with the following four declarations: One: My dominant interest in Election 2019 is the strengthening of the Nigerian Left in the country’s electoral and non-electoral politics. That is the only real change that can take place and that Nigerian masses deserve. Two: By the Left I mean the aggregate of socialism and popular democracy. This historical-ideological-political tendency is both anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist in orientation and logic. Three: Ni…read more


This piece is a memo to the Nigerian Left. In an ideal situation, on account of the importance I attach to the subject, the document would have appeared, first, as an internal memo to an appropriate organ of the movement. For the same reason of importance, it would not have stopped at the organ or leadership level. The memo would have passed to the movement as a whole and, thereafter, to the public.

freedom online

One major problem limiting the national effectiveness and impact of the Nigerian Left in the country’s politics—at least since the end of the (1967-1970) Civil War—has been the contradictions (or “disconnect”) between organisation and programme. Put more concretely: The inability of the organisations of the Left to fully and satisfactorily accomplish the tasks they assign themselves through the employment of the structures, means and methods fashioned by them—and therefore available to them—h…read more

The Guardian Nigeria

The aim here is to summarise my current position on the question of geopolitical restructuring of Nigeria. I say “current” because as far as I can remember, I started thinking seriously—and then debating and writing—about restructuring from 1986 as a member of the Political Bureau. Today, 32 years later, I am still thinking and writing on the subject. The present piece is implicitly a draft memo on this important political subject to the Nigerian Left. And, for the avoidance of doubt, the cat…read more

E247 Magazine

The author, recalling his life experience as a young activist of the Left, calls on the Nigeria political Left to unite and prepare for the 2019 presidential in Nigeria.

One of the propositions of Leftists’ theory of history is that human beings are the makers of their own history. A corollary to this – that human beings do not make this history simply as they wish, but that they make it with materials and circumstances fashioned and transmitted by and from the past – is as important as the main thesis.


Edwin Madunagu argues that Nigeria needs a people’s manifesto that would borrow from the political left’s thinking and be a representative of the people’s really demands.

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Unpacking expropriation without compensation in South Africa

Nombuso Mathibela
After years of supporting a market-led land reform programme and not heeding criticisms of this policy, the African National Congress (ANC) leadership has adopted a radical policy of land expropriation without compensation, which would make it legal and within the constitutional bounds for the state to expropriate land in the public interest without compensation.
This radical thesis was adopted in the ANC’s 54th National Conference in December 2017 and subsequently most vehemently motioned in the National Assembly by the opposition party, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF). The motion was passed with 241 parliamentarians in favour and 83 against the motion. Slight amendments were made by the ANC mainly that it should be the task of Parliament’s Constitutional Review Committee to review the property clause under Section 25 of the constitution and this committee would have until 30 August 2018 to complete this work.
Moreover, the ruling party has reiterated that the government would pursue the expropriation of land without compensation without endangering or destabilising agricultural production, ensuring food security is not compromised, and financial services, which hold nearly 70 percent of commercial farmers’ debts, are not negatively impacted. The motion does not immediately lead to expropriation without compensation, but appoints a committee that will review the constitution in line with the proposition for land expropriation without compensation.
Unfortunately, the motion in itself is indefinable, unclear on a way forward and in the absence of details opportunism has captured the debate reducing it to popular slogans that tug at the hearts of people who have been struggling for space to reproduce life and those who have eyed land reform as key site for historical justice. 
The story of land dispossession in South Africa, as argued by Hendricks, Ntsebeza and Helliker can neither be understood nor resolved without addressing race, in so far as blackness still coincides and socially denotes poverty and is linked to an identity of landlessness and dispossession as opposed to an identity of property and wealth held by whites. The history of land dispossession itself dates back to the expansion of the Dutch colonial settlement in the Cape in 1652 through the Dutch East India Company with Jan Van Riebeeck at its helm. The imposition of early settler colonial rule was marked by Dutch land occupation and fierce resistance waged by the indigenous inhabitants of the Cape area, the Khoi San.
The 19th century is characterised by accelerated land dispossession and intense resistance waged by African people in response to their loss of land, livestock and political power. This period is also marked by the expansion of land dispossession and conquest to other parts of South Africa by the Dutch and British settlers. The “discovery” of minerals in parts of the country added to the rapid acceleration of land dispossession with the intention to force African people to become cheap labourers in newly established mines.
The archives show that by the turn of the 20th century, most of the land that African people fought to maintain had been conquered through violent means and the later decades merely describe the consolidation of colonial rule through draconian legislation intended to bar all Africans from owning vast tracts of land in South Africa and thus delineating them to limited territorial space. An important legislative consolidation and structural turning point in the dispossession of land is the 1913 the Natives Land Act, which limited African land ownership to seven percent, though this would be subsequently increased to 13 percent. The Act took away from masses of African people an independent means of subsistence and consolidated the eventual conquering of African people’s ability to access independent means of subsistence. As a result, many were left with little choice but to sell their labour in mining reserves. Thereafter, South Africa was inundated with laws that would solidify the forcible removal of people from their homes and the distortion of political, cultural and family life.
Professor Lungisile Ntsebeza notes that active strategies and tactics were employed to discourage the rise of the class of Black farmers that had been emerging in the 19th century and intensive support was extended to white farmers to bolster and cement their dominance in commercial agricultural production. Through the Afrikaaner nationalist government’s provision of state subsidiaries, favourable credit facilities, grants, transport concessions, tax relief, disaster management and the availability of cheap black labour, perpetuated skewed racial patterns of land ownership in line with one of the government’s thesis of economic accumulation and domination.
Activist scholars in South Africa have argued that it may be useful to understand the current outcries around land reform from this historical perspective, notwithstanding the limitations of a constitution and state borne out of a political compromise.  It may be useful to employ this context despite failures of the ruling party in properly executing its own land reform policy and their striking inability and refusal to resolve the control that traditional authorities have over communal land in rural areas, often to the detriment of women trying to acquire land.
Tshintsha Amakhaya [a civil society organisation that supports local struggles for land rights and agrarian change] co-ordinator and activist Sithandiwe Yeni writes “people want land reform that will enable equitable access to productive land and necessary post-settlement support that takes into consideration different scales and forms of agriculture while ensuring security of tenure – not a mere transfer of land to the politically connected people.” Anchoring the outcries for equitable access to land is the claim for historical justice, mainly rooted in the political expressions of Black people who feel and believe that the 1994 democratic transition ushered in political emancipation at the expense of economic liberation and therefore favouring elites.
Some proponents of this view’s entry point move from the premise that the constitution, as a by-product of a negotiated settlement, exists as a political instrument for people to use in order to wage socio-economic struggles. Put differently, the burden of asserting rights that affirm one’s humanity is placed on the oppressed and marginalised. South Africa’s jurisprudence around property rights and the constitution’s framework is understood as leaning towards a market friendly approach as evidenced by its entrenchment of the right to private property, which favours existing property owners who are historically white elites. Therefore, under the political legal framing any struggle advocating for a radical shift in property rights as a pathway to economic emancipation and historical justice have to contest against the grain of a constitutional order configured towards the protection of private ownership of contested spatial realities.  
Land reform has triggered and anchored many contestations about growing gaps of inequality between the rich and poor and continued racially skewed patterns of land ownership and agricultural production. The demand for land to be returned to those who were dispossessed through colonial violence, has meant giving back to people their country so they might begin to resemble their material, symbolic and spiritual relationship to land and practice basic independent substance.
The support for the motion of expropriation without compensation has been argued from both legal and political perspectives, although it would be farcical to conceive of these separately. Activist scholars argue that the constitution’s property clause read together with the limitations of rights clause makes expropriation an extremely burdensome and litigious option. Essentially, the constitution is understood to entitle existing landowners to defend their private property against government. In line with EFF leader Julius Malema’s parliament address in favour for the motion “the time for reconciliation is over. It is now time for justice. We don’t seek revenge. We don’t wish for their suffering. We are saying let us close this once and for all. Pay no one for land acquired illegally.” On the contrary, many others argue that the current framing of the constitution has not been fully exhausted and the possibilities for expropriation within the context of law have not been fully reckoned with.
Nonetheless, the motion has been captured by populist rhetoric of the political elites, mainly instigated by the EFF who are waging for a stronger electoral outcome in the 2019 national elections and most strikingly a moment for the ANC to consolidate its electoral base that has weakened considerably under Jacob Zuma’s era. Opposing views have been bought forward by Democratic Alliance opposition party’s member of parliament Ken Robertson and others who argue that the motion will inevitably undermine property rights enshrined in the constitution. The political terrain has also been inflamed by statements from mostly right-wing representatives of the white minority bloc who have seized this moment, as an opportunity to cease power and instil racial fear. Amongst those against the motion are people who perceive this political move as signalling economic instability and the ousting of white people from South Africa.
Echoing Sithandiwe Yeni’s position any justiciable and democratic resolution to this historical question must involve farmworkers, working class and rural South Africa who have been waging struggles through social movements, co-operatives and other organisational formations for land rights. At this current juncture, they have not been consulted on a way forward and if land reform is genuinely understood as a mechanism for restorative and historical justice, the resolutions must come from those people who have borne the brunt of the rainbow nation and whose outcries and demands have been met with disinterest, neglect, intimating and violence.
The key question of concern is whether the motion will entrench existing inequalities in land or whether it opens up possibilities for this to be dealt with. Our current situation demonstrates how the legal and the political [dimensions] are intertwined and also reveals the limits of a purely legalistic emphasis and approach to reform. Ultimately, the balance of political forces, specifically mass democratic grassroots movements with an orientation that understands struggles around education, water, sanitation and housing as issues linked to land reform and historical justice are our best bet towards a more just interpretation, resolution of this motion and way forward.
At this current juncture, those who have borne the brunt of inequitable access to land and those who have had to fight for space in cities are more discerning and less prepared to yet again be the sacrificial lambs at the hands of the political elites who are looking to make strides at the 2019 national electoral ballot.

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President Paul Biya and Cameroon’s Anglophone Crisis


President Paul Biya of Cameroon has been silent for long in relation to the on-going unrest in the country’s English speaking region. His silence has made matters worse and it is time he took decisive measure to resolve that crisis if he wants history to remember him after his nearly 40 years in power.

Over half a century ago, the Kerner Commission Report on the state of race relations in the US concluded that America was “Moving Toward Two Societies, One Black, One White—Separate and Unequal [[i]]”. Given the on-going crisis in Cameroon, and to paraphrase that study in another context it is possible to conclude that currently Cameroon “is moving towards two societies, one Francophone, one Anglophone—separate, hostile, and unequal.”

During the last two years, Cameroon has been engulfed in a brutal conflict. Known as the Anglophone Crisis, a peaceful strike began by teachers and lawyers quickly turned into a revolt against the marginalisation of the English-speaking regions of the country. In typical fashion, the government’s response included intimidation, arrests, jail, and torture [[ii]]. As a result, voices that called for complete secession of the Anglophone regions from the La République du Cameroun gained momentum, restored Gorji Dinka’s Ambazonia Republic idea, created an interim government in exile, and engaged in guerrilla war tactics. They formed a military wing, Ambazonia Defence Force, and have used it to hit back at government forces and fortifications [[iii]].

They have barricaded highways, destroyed property, kidnapped government officials, and dared the military to follow them into their hide-outs. Through protest activities such as “ghost town,” they have disrupted economic and social services in the Anglophone regions of the country. Massive casualties have been reported by both sides.  Nationwide, the Anglophone Crisis has become a major topic of discussion, and despite the continuous presence of government forces in the region it remains unclear how the crisis will end.  In fact, history could hardly have devised a more frustrating problem for Cameroon’s, and Africa’s longest ruling “strongman.”

It was for this reason, and against the advice of friends, colleagues, and family, that I went to Cameroon to more fully understand the on-going crisis, to contextualise the struggle, to learn and listen to ordinary voices. Why did things deteriorate so quickly, and what does the government need to do to turn the tide?

Conversations in Cameroon’s economic and political capitals

During my first few days in Douala, the economic capital of the nation, everything seemed normal. I purposely stayed at the Akwa Palace Hotel and Hotel Saffana because both had a reputation of large numbers of people moving in and out. “Ambazonia has cost us business,” employees repeatedly told me. Because of general insecurity resulting from the struggle, movement from one region to the other was restricted. I met and discussed with many people including officials from privately owned television stations such as Canal 2, whose “Tough Talk,” programme on the Anglophone Crisis challenged the government to examine its “soul”[[iv]]. Henry Kejang, a co-creator of the programme noted that audiences were fed-up with “injustice.”

It was a way of life for those at the top. For too long politicians took the Anglophone region for granted and finally something snapped. The Anglophone Crisis resulted from decades of “neglect, abuse, and exploitation,” Kejang noted. Others confirmed. In responses to my questionnaires many stated that after almost four decades in power, it was time for Biya to step aside. “He started off well,” a friend of Beti ethnic origin stated, but later “poured sand in his pot of soup.”  “Biya cannot even eat the soup he prepared,” he continued. It was striking to hear intense criticisms from people who hailed from the Beti/Bulu region, Biya’s ethnic group. A recurring theme was that Biya had failed the aspirations of the Cameroonian people, and the problems were compounded because he was using antiquated and obsolete ideas to solve today’s problems.

In the capital city of Yaoundé, I visited the University of Yaoundé II at Soa, International Relations Institute of Cameroon, University of Yaoundé I, The Catholic University of Central Africa, and several other places. There, I had more conversations about the crisis. Rarely had an issue gripped the national dialogue as this one did. In a discussion with both Francophones and Anglophones at the Restaurant du bois Sainte Anastasie in the centre of town, opinions were blunt.   “Yaoundé has changed…there is no money,” one person noted. “If they [Anglophones] want to separate, let them go,” another stated. “Bamenda people are the source of all the problems…even though they are the chief beneficiaries of new appointments,” one person said, adding “they will never be satisfied with what has been given to them.” All present lamented at the loss of innocent lives. When I informed the group that I heard similar stories in the Southwest Region especially in Kumba, many were surprised. “Are you serious that you went to Kumba,” one asked. Given the nature of the protest in Kumba, the question was right on target.

Kumba: “Ground – zero” of the Anglophone protest

Located in Meme Division, Kumba is the largest city in the Southwest Region. It is a business centre and serves as a gateway for businesses from the Littoral Region and Manyu Division. The city’s reputation for style, friendliness, and nightlife is well-known and preceded it especially after the hit song “Competition for Kumba,” came out in the 1970s [[v]].

From a distance, Kumba looks like a shanty town but up close it is home to tens of thousands who always return there. It was home for me. I grew up there, knew the ins and outs of the city, and have been back annually for over two decades. But during this visit the town was different.

The Douala – Kumba highway went through several towns including Tiko, Mutengene, Muea, Ekona, Muyuka, Malende, and closer to Kumba were the communities of Bakundu Banga, Ediki, Mbalangi, and so on. From Bakundu Banga, roughly 30 miles (48 kilometres) from Kumba, it was clear that something was wrong. The communities looked deserted. Driving through Mbalangi was painful. Mbalangi is normally packed with people selling food items by the roadside.  On the Sunday evening when we drove through the community we saw a few goats and chickens but not a single human being. Doors of homes were bolted. Mbalangi and the other communities had heaps of ashes of burnt buildings and bikes.

The tactic of stoking fear through burning communities has been commonly used by government forces during this crisis. Villages in Meme, Manyu and Lebialem divisions have been hit many times. A visit to communities such as Kwakwa, Kake I, Kake II, Ediki, Foe Bakumbu, Kembong, Ekombe, and many more was revealing [[vi]]. Huge sections of some the communities had been turned into ashes prompting someone to ask if such tactics qualify as “crimes against humanity.” Few acts infuriated the people more than the destruction of communities. A friend informed me that her family home in Ekombe, which had lasted for generations was burned down.  Others shared similar stories. People were shuddered at the destruction of ancestral homes and property. While some left the community for other regions, others rushed to join the ranks of the Ambazonia Defence Force.

Located in the outskirts of urban centres, these communities had become the frontline in a deadly embrace between Cameroon government troops and the Ambazonia Defence Force. It was indeed the loss of innocence of a people, and many of them were now likened to what the US General Norman Schwarzkopf once referred to as “collateral damage” when he discussed the large number of civilian casualties in the US-Iraq War. What we saw in those communities were no longer images or photos posted on the Internet.  What we saw was real, and chills ran down my spine. Often, we stopped, slowed down, looked around, and the silence among us spoke volumes.  But we hurried to arrive in Kumba before it turned dark because gunshots often began at night.

The highway between Kumba and Muea was among the most dangerous roads in the country. Possibilities of kidnaps, barricades, and gunshots were high. Owners of private vehicles resorted to using public vehicles for fear of attacks. Between Kumba and Buea, a journey of less than sixty miles (less than 100 kilometres), there were at least five military check-points. When our vehicle was checked everyone descended and walked across the barrier in a single file and as you showed your documents you were let through to the other side. It was as if one was crossing from one country to another. In addition, a recurring concern was no one knew when members of the Ambazonia Defence Force would show up. As drivers drove pass colleagues coming from the opposite direction they frequently asked: “that boys them dey road [are those boys by the road?].”

There was an eerie feeling and it continued into Kumba.  Kumba was and remains heavily militarised. Military officers, many in their twenties, walked around with guns drawn-out in ready- to-shoot position, and their faces covered with black cloth. Some of the guns had red ribbons wrapped at the top. At a department store, the owner welcomed me with a hug and quickly whispered that behind me was one of the Ambazonia fighters who had come to collect money the group requested. Based on stories, the practice seemed routine. People told me they had been asked to donate money to support to cause. They were terrified; noting that failure to do so may result in something terrible happening on their well-being. Extortion is rampant.  A local businessman informed me that he avoided answering his phone because he was asked to contribute 200,000 francs (US $400). “I don’t have it…so they have to just do what they have to do,” he said.

Rumours were rampant.  The stories were endless. Some dismissed them as lies coming from what is typically referred to as “radio half-battery.” I heard numerous stories about the magical abilities of the Ambazonia fighters. They could appear and disappear at any moment, many said. Even very informed and educated people subscribed to the notion that those fighters had supernatural powers. They had ghosts fighting for them, and will win, I was repeatedly told. Even government soldiers bought into the façade. They wrapped red ribbons around their guns to dispel any spirits, I was told. At times I was gripped by fear, and that made my visit more important. Context matters. Occasionally, if I could be frightened by those stories, then it is understandable why ordinary people not well-schooled in the rules of evidence would have believed them.

Conversations about the Crisis took place regularly and often in private. In the living room of a family I visited, I asked why everyone was whispering? The response was that, on the topic, no one knew who to trust anymore. Once one person began to whisper, it quickly became contagious. Repeatedly, I was warned by friends and family to be careful.  Almost everyone in the community knew someone who had either been displaced or killed. There were stories of mass graves. People seemed to have given up. Young people talked about violence and techniques of torture in a manner, which was foreign.  Kumba had entered a different, and an unfortunate space. To understand, to see, and to feel it, one had to be there. People looked aged and the faces of many were now riddled with wrinkles. It is indeed true that peace and stability can never be taken for granted. Increasingly, there was the argument that to solve the problems Biya must release those he captured and put in jail including Sisiku Ayuk Tabe, the interim leader of the Ambazonia Republic.

Others stated that Biya “doesn’t care.” “Is he even in the country?” some asked. “When was the last time he was seen in public?” another asked. Biya was frequently absent from public view. In his nearly 40 years in power, he has visited the Southwest Region less than six times. People are angry, scared, and worried about their community, future, and well-being. Each day, gunshots were heard in the outskirts of the town. Each day truckloads of military officers were driven through the city. Each day, there were new stories. Many were hopeful but believed that things may get a lot worse before the tide is turned.

The Kumba market, typically a major meeting point, was operational but lacked the usual crowd and ambiance.  The protest had taken its tool. People talked about the crisis at length, how they initially supported it but now wanted their lives back, and most importantly felt trapped between the Ambazonia and government forces. The crisis produced the type of brutality, which was only found in novels or foreign action films, and now it was a reality in Cameroon. A friend talked about a military officer he knew who was captured and killed in a community outside of Kumba.  He was decapitated, and the rest of the body split into two Disc parts.

Despite the atrocities, there was little new about the complaints, which gave rise to the Anglophone Crisis. Those grievances have been heard before. But this time something was different.  Years ago, I had written in an analysis of another anti-Biya protest that: “Youth activism, social media, improvement in communication and transportation, the resilience of African people, and their determination to demand change irrespective of consequences present new challenges to strongman rule” in Africa. The Anglophone Crisis and government response reflected that conclusion. Social media especially WhatsApp, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and other .com media outlets changed everything. Photos depicting government atrocities were posted instantly. Images of burnt buildings, corpses, police brutality, and other forms of atrocities were readily posted on social media. Those postings hardened the resolve of pro-Ambazonians and served as a recruiting tool for more fighters for the group. While the context was not always clear, those images garnered sympathy for secession. Biya’s long silence in the face of mounting violence gave pro-Amazonians control of the narrative. Cameroon Radio Television, the government television station, failed to make the case against secession acting as if the Anglophone Crisis was just a little headache that would eventually take care of itself.

“The fierce urgency of now”

For all the difficulties, Biya alone has the key to the solution of the problems. First, he must accept and realise the changing times. Youth culture in the age of WhatsApp and so on is different from what it was during the first “ghost town” activities almost 30 years ago. Attempting to use the lessons from them to address the current crisis translates into misusing the lessons of history.  The bulk of those who make up the “engine room” of today’s crisis came of age after those early protest activities. They are impatient, and rightfully so. They have gone to school, done the right things but seem to see no bright future. They live in a society of plenty but continue to swim in an ocean of poverty. They see on social media the lifestyle of politicians and wonder how they can get away with such magnitude of fraud and corruption.

Biya must approach this group directly and make the case as to why he is still relevant as the president. He must be up front, resist the invisibility, which has characterised his style of politics. Decades ago, a confidential US Central Intelligence Agency assessment concluded that Biya was a “savvy” politician but questioned his judgment when he remains silent for long periods during a crisis, because that “caused unnecessary uncertainty and questioning about who was in-charge”[[vii]]. Though written many years ago, that assessment remains relevant today. In fact, Biya is still to make a major policy speech addressing the Anglophone Crisis. It is no surprise why people continue to wonder whether he has been properly briefed about the seriousness of the crisis.

Biya wrote in Communal Liberalism that a government had to be accountable to the people [[viii]].  He   is being summoned to act on those words he eloquently wrote in his book. Given the complexity of the problems and the unprecedented nature of the crisis, Biya’s actions must be equally unprecedented. He should create an economic package like the US Marshall Plan, which will infuse massive economic assistance to the development of local communities. The Marshall Plan was crucial in the rebuilding of Western Europe after World War II. The programme will show Cameroonians that the president genuinely cares.

Because of decades of exclusion of Anglophones from key positions in the nation, the government must establish an “affirmative action” type of programme designed to correct past wrongs. For too long Anglophones were kept away from the vital centre of authority and resource allocation. Measures must be taken to bring them into the system and to dismantle institutional barriers, which prevent Anglophones and others from rising beyond certain levels.  The practice of restricting them to only certain cabinet and management positions must stop.  These measures will go a long way to begin to reform the system.

Early in his tenure, Biya labelled his domestic policy as the New Deal, modelled after Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal policy. Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal was guided by boldness and persistent experimentation [[ix]].

If a policy failed, he went to the next one. Biya must do likewise because problems such as the Anglophone Crisis are complex and deeply rooted in the nation’s history.

There are talented people in Cameroon who can bring fresh ideas to the table. The president should therefore put together a “brain trust” and charge it with the responsibility to suggest solutions to move the nation beyond its current stage of development. Cameroon is endowed with tremendous human and natural resources, and as such can be a greater nation. Programmes must be instituted to garner the attention and energy of youth towards national development. Other nations have done so successfully. Biya must bring into his circle or advising team people who are progressive, forward-looking, and knowledgeable about current global trends and youth culture. The world and especially the Cameroonian society is very different from what it was a few decades ago.

Finally, Biya “cannot escape history” but can work to “heal it.” Failure to address the Anglophone problem is not an option. After two years, there must be a realisation that so far, the military solution has been unsuccessful, and any plans to intensify it after the presidential election will be futile. Rather than squandering time and energy on new commissions and their reports, Biya can solve the Anglophone problem with a stroke of the president’s pen. If there was ever a time when ruling by decree is helpful, now is the moment. How Biya addresses the Anglophone Crisis may turn out to be the single most important measurement on how history will judge his presidency.

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“Bring the War Home”: A Timely Investigation of the White Power Movement


Kathleen Belew’s Bring the War Home: The White Power Movement and Paramilitary America is an unquestionably powerful, well-researched and must-read addition to the post-2016 upsurge in analysis and investigation of the foundations of modern fascism. Anyone seeking to understand the origins of the modern far right in the US should include this work at the top of their reading list.

The backbone of Belew’s argument is that the roots of the modern white power movement, as it is understood today, can be found in a myth that emerged in the US right in the aftermath of the Vietnam War. This story claims the US lost the war because of betrayal at home by incompetent, unpatriotic politicians, as well as the “traitorous” antiwar movement which was widely claimed to be riddled with communist agents. This narrative eerily parallels the claims made by German fascists to explain defeat in the First World War, which adherents to this myth used to scapegoat Jews and leftist Germans, and recruit disaffected veterans to their cause. This argument is not new, having been previously suggested in Alexander Reid Ross’s Against the Fascist Creep and other anti-fascist works.

But what sets Belew’s work apart from previous discussions of this theory is how she marshals impressive evidence for how central this myth was for the far right during the 1970s and 1980s. She goes beyond drawing parallels between the embittered veterans and militia participants with post-World War I German Freikorps soldiers by showing how the experiences of white power Vietnam veterans defined the movement they built.

What puts the meat on Bring the War Home is Belew’s in-depth, original research. As she describes in the introductory chapter, her information was drawn from a wide variety of difficult-to-access and, at times, unreliable sources. She uses everything from the fragmented, scattered archives of white power groups to law enforcement records and press publications. Moreover, she freely admits that some of these sources, particularly those drawn from white power groups, are unreliable, and goes to great lengths to illustrate the flaws in their claims. It’s this combination of multiple perspectives that make Belew’s argument a thorough, persuasive analysis of an often poorly understood movement.

Belew organizes Bring the War Home into three main parts. These sections are arranged chronologically, while the chapters in each discuss specific themes, developments and changes in the white power movement.

“Part I: Formation” covers the Vietnam War origins of the modern white power movement’s leaders in the wake of the downfall of the civil rights era KKK [Ku Klux Klan]. Here, she clearly illustrates how the military experiences of reactionary veterans, both from Vietnam and mercenary work in Central America and Rhodesia, formed the core of their organizing and rhetoric. This is the period when The Turner Diaries, a work with enduring influence on the white power movement to the present day, was written and around which veteran-trained white power paramilitaries were organized on a platform of anti-communist action. The Turner Diaries is critical as it both is used as a tract for dispensing ideology and serving as a stealth how-to manual for waging race war. As Belew notes, it is one of the most popular texts for the American far right.

“Part II: The War Comes Home” is when Belew demonstrates a sharp break that has shaped the US far right to the present day. In this segment, which covers actions throughout the 1980s, she shows how the white power movement shifted from being agents of the conservative status quo to declaring war on the US government in the name of the white race. Belew shows how this period inspired influential KKK paramilitary organizer Louis Beam to develop his system of “leaderless resistance.” This approach was modelled on The Turner Diaries. Under leaderless resistance, above-ground groups engaged in open political work while below-ground cells of paramilitaries engaged in acts of terrorism. Organizers could freely incite hate crimes while retaining a degree of plausible deniability, allowing them to escape legal consequences and remain active. This model was meant to preserve the movement while carrying out their goals by other means. Belew also shows how white power advocates actively recruited soldiers, stole military equipment and worked to infiltrate the armed forces.

“Part III: Apocalypse” is the climax of the work, culminating in the Oklahoma City bombing of 1995. Here, Belew shows how the previous work of the white power movement led to this moment, along with how it began branching out into other elements of the US right through the militia movement and evangelical Christianity. She also shows how the shift to these subcultures was part of a strategy to remain relevant in a post-Cold War world, reinforcing the white power movement’s opportunism and their close ties to the broader US right. In Belew’s analysis, the shift from anti-communism to anti-government activity was made possible by the broader rhetoric of US conservatism.

Bring the War Home provides clear examples of how the far right has adapted and developed, and the relevance of the events of the ’70s and ’80s to understanding the present day “alt-right.” Belew shows the strategies of the white right of the ’70s and ’80s are at work in the present day. The combination of above-ground agitators and recruiters, referred to as “legals” in The Turner Diaries, and underground militants engaging in violent action remains true today. Current examples of above-ground agitators include Joey Gibson and Patriot PrayerCounter Currents PublishingGavin McInnesRichard Spencer and Augustus Invictus. Underground elements, ranging from lone actors like Dylann Roof to violent groups like the Atomwaffen Divisionthe Proud Boys and the Rise Above Movement, are increasingly active, focusing on implementing white power through bloody violence.

The white right also laid the groundwork for using “code-switching,” appropriating elements of conservative and left-wing discourse and developing dog-whistle tactics during this period. Belew points to examples during the ’80s and ’90s in which the white right actively infiltrated the militia movement and grassroots conservatism through co-opting the language of smaller government, anti-immigration, gun rights and defending “traditional values.” Similar inroads were also made to co-opt elements of the left, including the antiwar movement, environmentalism through overpopulation, globalization and weaving veiled anti-Semitic language into critiques of international capitalism. All of these acts of discursive infiltration were achieved using coded language which, on its surface, did not appear bigoted while opening space for white power politics.

All of these methods are widely used in the present day by the modern far right. Belew’s analysis further illustrates the need to confront deeper root causes, build radical alternatives to the status quo and confront elements of the US right that continue to enable the white power movement to thrive. Though Bring the War Home doesn’t engage in full-throated systemic critique, it provides more than enough concrete examples and evidence for those seeking to make such a case.

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EU’s Debt Deal Is “Kiss of Death” for Greece


After eight long and extremely painful years of austerity due to gigantic rescue packages that were accompanied by brutal neoliberal measures, in Athens, the “leftist” government of Alexis Tsipras has announced that the era of austerity is now over thanks to the conclusion of a debt agreement with European creditors.

In the early hours of June 22, a so-called “historic” deal on debt relief was reached at a meeting of Eurozone finance ministers after it was assessed that Greece had successfully completed its European Stability Mechanism program, and that there was no need for a follow-up program.

The idea that Greece’s bailout programs can be considered a success adds a new twist to the government’s Orwellian doublespeak, given the fact that the country has experienced the biggest economic crisis in postwar Europe, with its gross domestic product (GDP) having shrunk by about a quarter, and reporting the highest unemployment rate (currently standing at 20.1 percent) of all European Union (EU) states.

On top of that, the ratio of the country’s public debt to gross GDP has risen from 127 percent in 2009 to about 180 percent, a development which has essentially turned Greece into a debt colony, leading to pressing demands that all valuable public assets be sold — including airports, railways, ports, sewerage systems, and gas and energy resources. Indeed, since the start of the bailout programs, Greek governments have been trying hard to outdo one another on the privatization front in order to satisfy the demands of the official creditors, the EU and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Still, the current pseudo-leftist Syriza government has proven to be the most servile of Greek governments to creditors.

Arguments for privatization aside, the deadly combination of higher debt and declining GDP had most economists convinced quite early on that austerity was killing Greece’s economy, and that a debt write-off would be at some point absolutely necessary for medium- and long-term recovery. However, Germany and its northern European allies had diametrically opposed this idea, insisting on even stronger doses of austerity, while balking at the prospect of a debt write-off.

At the same time, the idea of Greece exiting the euro was also an anathema to Germany and the eurocrats in Brussels. Keeping Greece in the Eurozone — even while its economy and society were going to bleed to death as a result of harsh austerity measures — was deemed absolutely imperative for the very survival of the euro, and for ensuring that all previous debts to European banks were going to be repaid. Indeed, it was these concerns that led to the bailouts in the first place — not the duty or obligation of helping out a member of the European family bounce back from a financial crisis that had been caused, to a large extent, by the highly flawed nature of the architectural design of the European Monetary Union itself.

The idea of restructuring Greece’s huge debt pile, which kept on getting bigger with every passing year of austerity and neoliberal reforms, never went away, especially since the IMF never got tired of telling the Europeans that the country’s debt level was unsustainable. Indeed, the IMF refused to join the third bailout until debt relief was put on the table.

Afraid of going alone with its neoliberal experiment and neocolonial attitudes toward Greece, European officials kept hinting on various occasions that a time may come when debt relief for Greece could become a topic of negotiations. However, it seems that the last elections in Germany may have been a turning point in that direction, particularly with Wolfgang Schäuble having been forced to relinquish his role as Germany’s finance minister for that of speaker of the Bundestag.

In contrast to Tsipras’s outrageous claim that the debt deal represents a “historic” agreement, in that it allows Greece to become a “normal country” once again, the measures agreed on to make Greece’s debt sustainable will doom the country into becoming a permanent semi-peripheral debt colony of the EU. The deal simply pushes the debt into the very distant future, and locks society into a state of perpetual austerity by requiring that the government run exceedingly large primary budget surpluses. The deal is not a cause of celebration for Greece but, rather, a kiss of death.

First, it grants Greece a 10-year extension on some pressing loan maturities and provides extra funds to the government in the sum of 15 billion euros in order to boost its cash reserves. In other words, no debt write-off of any kind, with the total amount of debt remaining around 180 percent, but simply making the next generation responsible for the repayment of a sizeable chunk of debt. This decision is supposed to enhance Greece’s financial credibility and allow the country to return to private markets for its future borrowing needs.

The debt agreement also compels Greece to run primary budget surpluses of 3.5 percent until 2022, and then by about 2.2 percent until 2060. This means, then, that Greece will be in a state of severe austerity for the next 40 years. In fact, the demand that Greece runs a primary budget surplus of 3.5 percent until 2022 means that the doses of austerity will have to be increased substantially in the years ahead.  This is especially the case since there is interest involved on the repayment of the loans, which means that the actual fiscal surplus is even bigger.

Indeed, when we take into account interest payments on debt, even at the rate of 1 percent until 2022, the overall fiscal surplus demanded from Greece as part of the so-called “historic” debt deal jumps to around 5.3 percent of the GDP through 2022. But even after 2020, the annual fiscal surplus demanded from 2023-2060 (assuming that the interest rate remains at 1 percent, although it will probably be higher) will be a minimum of 4 percent of GDP. (I am obliged to the economist Robert Pollin at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst for pointing out this important detail regarding the impact of interest rates on the actual primary budget surplus.)

At this point, with primary budget surpluses running in the range of 5.3 percent (until 2022) and even 4 percent (from 2023-2060), “severe” is not the right word to describe the level of austerity that will need to be enforced on the Greek population. A more apt term is “brutal” austerity, and such large primary surpluses inevitably bring to mind the condition of Germany at the end of World War I, when the country was forced to run similarly large surpluses in order to finance the reparations demanded by The Treaty of Versailles in 1919. Of course, what happened afterward is now common knowledge — except, apparently, among the German political class and the eurocrats in Brussels.

The debt deal for Greece is indeed a turning point: It marks the death of any prospect or hope for economic recovery and a return to normalcy. Only more difficult times lie ahead.







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