Archive | June 1st, 2018

A Disrupted Climate Means Deadlier Cyclones in the Middle East


On May 26, Cyclone Mekunu, the most powerful storm ever to strike Salalah, Oman, made landfall, killing at least 13 people.

Cyclones are uncommon in the Arabian Sea and off the Eastern African Coast, but that is changing, thanks to human-caused climate disruption. Their frequency and strength is increasing dramatically with each passing decade as the atmosphere continues to warm due to human fossil fuel emissions.

Cyclone Mekunu deluged Salalah, Oman’s third-largest city, with more than two years’ worth of rainfall in 24 hours. Salalah normally gets five inches of rain per year.

The storm, which packed gusts of up to 124 miles per hour (mph), tore apart buildings, downed street lights and turned normally bone-dry creek beds into raging rivers. Scenes of the devastation are apocalyptic.

Unfortunately, science shows us that this region must prepare for more of this to come, as climate disruption continues to shift planetary weather patterns in increasingly dramatic ways.

The Science

Over the last two decades, the intensity of storms across the Arabian Sea has increased notably. As the already very warm waters of that area are warmed further (this year they are 2 degrees Celsius above normal), the amount of evaporation increases, which lends larger downpours and increasing strength to the cyclones.

While no single weather event can ever solely be attributed to human-caused climate disruption, science shows that higher ocean heat provides more energy for storms. Given that oceans have absorbed nearly all of the heat humans have generated in the atmosphere, the impact is obvious.

And this has been made clear in just the last few years. In 2015, Hurricane Patricia in the North Atlantic set a record (at that time) for the strongest winds at sea at 215 mph. The very next year, Winston became the strongest storm ever recorded in the Southern Hemisphere.

Hurricanes and cyclones function as a sort of relief valve of energy as they remove heat from tropical oceans in the form of moisture being drawn into the atmosphere where it is radiated back out into space. This keeps the oceans cooler, and no other phenomenon plays this role as hurricanes do.

Experts with the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration believe human-caused climate disruption will cause stronger storms.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has long since shown that there has been an increase in hurricane activity across the North Atlantic since the 1970s. While other areas of the globe may not necessarily see more hurricanes and cyclones, the strength of storms everywhere is highly likely to increase.

For example, storms with precipitation levels like Hurricane Harvey that deluged the Houston area in 2017 with record-breaking rainfall are expected to increase in strength, and also in frequency. That type of storm has already evolved to be expected once every 16 years instead of once every century.

IPCC research also already shows that there has been an increase in hurricane activity over the last four decades.

Hence, while overall around the globe the number of storms is not dramatically increasing, the strength of storms clearly is, given the fact that the oceans have absorbed nearly all of the increase in the planet’s energy between 1971 and 2010.

Higher winds, higher storm surges, and dramatically increased downpours with hurricanes and cyclones around the world are now becoming the new normal, and these trends will all increase with time as human-caused climate disruption continues unchecked.




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Trump’s Plan for Migrants Fleeing Violence: Blame Democrats and Expand Family Detention


Facing heavy criticism for a new “zero-tolerance” policy that is separating migrant children from their parents on the southern US border, the Trump administration is asking Congress to undo protections for migrant children and allow for more families to be held in immigration jails — all while blaming Democrats for the migrant “crisis” ahead of the midterm elections.

In a call with reporters on Tuesday, senior administration officials said Democrats’ refusal to close “loopholes” in immigration law and spend more money on border security and immigrant detention has created incentives for growing numbers of migrants fleeing Latin American countries to enter the United States illegally.

“Senate Democrats have been fighting tooth and nail against every solitary effort to close these loopholes and get adequate detention space, ICE officers, you name it,” said Stephen Miller, a far-right activist who now serves as a senior policy adviser to President Trump.

Miller’s comments come as controversy swirls around the Trump administration’s new “zero-tolerance” policy for prosecuting undocumented immigrants.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently announced that all adults attempting to enter the country illegally would be arrested and prosecuted, even as human rights groups argue that many migrants caught in the criminal dragnet are fleeing violence and repression and should be considered asylum seekers.

Currently, children are not allowed to be held in adult immigration jails as their parents wait for a judge to rule on their case, so hundreds of children have been forcibly separated from their parents by federal officers in recent months, according to reports.

Last week, the United Nations’ refugee agency reported a “significant” increase in the number of people fleeing violence and persecution in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras and seeking refuge in other countries, including the United States. The UN says many migrants are vulnerable women and children, but the White House says migrants and smugglers use children to exploit protections in immigration law and gain access to the country.

The Trump administration has responded by ramping up arrests and deportations at the border as the Republican Party prepares to rally hardline anti-immigration voters to the midterm polls. Administration officials are now calling on Congress to undo protections for migrant children and expand the government’s ability to hold families in immigration detention centers that advocates say are no different from jails.

The debate over Trump’s immigration crackdown flared up over the past week after reports suggested that federal authorities “lost track” of nearly 1,500 children who arrived at the border unaccompanied by an adult and were left with relatives or other sponsors. As officials explained to reporters, those children did not disappear. Instead, their sponsors did not respond to follow-up phone calls from Health and Human Services representatives — a sign that Trump’s crackdown is driving a wedge between immigrant families and the government.

“While children are being dragged from the arms of their parents and held in detention camps under inhumane conditions, deportation agents are hunting down the rest of our immigrant community to drag even more people to the same camps,” said Cristina Jiménez, executive director of the immigrant rights group United We Dream, in a statement.

Amid the media backlash, Trump fired off an inaccurate tweet blaming Democrats for “bad laws” that have led immigration authorities to break up families at the border. (No such law exists; Trump’s own policies are causing families to be separated, according to fact checkers at The Associated Press.)

“The Trump Administration stated that family separation is required by law which is blatantly false,” said Michelle Brané, director of Migrant Rights and Justice at the Women’s Refugee Commission, in a statement. “Moreover, separating families is both inhumane and bad public policy. Not only does it exacerbate a mounting human rights crisis, it also puts an enormous strain on our already overburdened system.”

Miller clarified the White House’s position on Tuesday, claiming that the migrant “crisis” on the southern US border should be blamed on so-called “catch-and-release” loopholes in immigration law created by protections for migrants and their children, along with Democratic lawmakers who refuse to support the president’s agenda.

The White House is particularly concerned with a 1997 consent decree that prevents law enforcement from detaining migrant children arriving with family members for longer than 20 days before handing them over to the Health and Human Services Office of Refugee Resettlement. In the past, authorities would sometimes choose not to detain undocumented immigrants arriving with children in order to keep families together.

Now that every adult accused of crossing the border illegally is being detained and prosecuted, all such families are being separated. Miller said Congress should solve this problem by terminating the agreement preventing children from being detained for longer than 20 days so families can be held in immigration jails together. He also asked lawmakers to allocate funding to expand detention facilities because many are already full of immigrants.

Family detention facilities — particularly those run by private prison companies — came under fire during the Obama administration for poor conditions and neglect. If the Trump administration has its way, more families would be held in such facilities as their cases wind through a system already experiencing serious backlogs, before eventually being sent back to countries ravaged by violence.

“Let’s be clear, we are talking about parents doing what any parent would do and that’s protecting their children,” Brané said.





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Speech Is Never Free in a World of Racist Surveillance and Repression


Words always matter, but they often matter more when the odds are already against you. The freedom to express oneself is supposed to be protectively enshrined in the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. However, for some people this ideal has always been slippery. The freedom to speak our minds can easily transform into the freedom to be pursued by the authorities, surveilled and detained. Depending on who the speaker is, our society dictates what speech is and isn’t acceptable. No matter where you look on the political spectrum, you’ll find people claiming to cherish freedom of speech and also claiming to be persecuted for their right to express it. Through time, we have seen how this ideal has been strategically levied against certain people in this society.

Recently, a Guardian exclusive on Rakem Balogun detailed how the Black activist is likely the first person targeted by federal authorities under the new designation of “Black Identity Extremist.” Balogun was interviewed by the Guardian after being released from prison. He was imprisoned for five months and denied bail while US attorneys attempted to prosecute him for being a threat to the police as well as an illegal gun owner. Balogun’s case was tried in part based on social media posts in which he criticized police. The Guardian noted, “When he was arrested, police confiscated his .38-caliber handgun and an unloaded AK-style assault rifle — and also, he said, took his book Negroes with Guns by the civil rights leader Robert F Williams.”

The power of words seemingly shows up in two instances here. Balogun’s willingness to challenge state power and undermine the police made him a target. The confiscation of Robert F. Williams’s book from his possession, too, shows how the power of our words can transcend time and place. The authorities know this, and these cases are not making headlines out of pure chance. Examples are made of those who don’t act accordingly, and history substantiates the claim that Black activists are doubly at risk because the judicial system is already working against them.

In the United States, the concept of “free speech” and the “right to bear arms” are thrown around very loosely. Despite their go-to nature as a defensive mechanism for people decrying the unfairness of the US government, race has everything to do with public perception.

The 2014 standoff between Cliven Bundy and federal law enforcement illustrates a distressing picture of just how blunt the difference can be. When a decades-long conflict between Cliven Bundy, his family and supporters grabbed national headlines, it was a deeply romanticized affair. Bundy became an inspiration for right-wing militias who anticipate having to prove themselves to the federal government. Bundy’s standoff escalated to the point that in 2016, armed men led by Ammon and Ryan Bundy seized control of the headquarters at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge near Burns, Oregon. Their occupation lasted for over 40 days and the media looked on patiently, compassionately and forgivingly.

Cliven Bundy is no stranger to bigoted, white supremacist views. He once stated that Black Americans, who he referred to as “negroes,” were possibly “better off as slaves.” Still, many found favor and reason with his cause because anti-Blackness is normally defended under the auspices of free speech. The Bundy family and their supporters were regularly made into heroes, reminiscent of Western settler expansion, a normally cherished form of violence in US popular culture like movies and video games. When PBS’s Frontline covered the fiasco, the documentary episode was titled, “American Patriot.” The New York Times went so far as to fondly announce recently, “Newly Freed, Cliven Bundy Gets a Hero’s Welcome in the Rugged West.” The list goes on, but a deviation away from empathy in the white mainstream consciousness for the likes of Bundy falls short.

The story has been very different for Black activists historically. Many of the most well-known movement leaders were surveilled and persecuted for daring to challenge state-sponsored white supremacy in the form of anti-Black governance. Historically, the monitoring of Black dissidents within the US extends well over the last century. Infamous programs like the FBI’s COINTELPRO — which surveilled, brutalized and repressed Black activists — aren’t necessarily things of the past when we look at the current state of surveillance and repression. Black activists who have advocated for their right to free speech and claimed the right to bear arms have been especially vulnerable to state violence. There seems to be a dangerous threat in the realization that not only can one fight with weapons, but one can also fight with words.

During the tumultuous Trump rallies leading up to his election, there were Black people targeted for protesting at his election events. So, it’s no surprise that the likes of “Black identity extremism” has been exposed as a concern of this administration. In practice, even before Donald Trump was elected, violence against Black protesters at his rallies was never surprising. One person who was attacked for expressing his free speech and right to bear arms is Mercutio Southall. reported Southall “suffered a concussion after the Nov. 21 incident at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex,” where he went to protest a Trump rally. Southall was both physically and verbally attacked by attendees and then-candidate Trump, who said at the time, “Maybe he should have been roughed up because it was absolutely disgusting what he was doing.” What could be described as freedom of speech and the right to protest was instead framed as an offense punishable by white mob violence.

Truthout attempted to contact Southall but was unable to make contact. However, Southall’s lawyer, Richard A. Rice, offered comment. When asked about why Black activists seem to take higher priority when it comes to suppression of free speech, Rice told Truthout, “It’s a continuation of COINTELPRO and some of the other things that we’ve seen out of the FBI and the CIA to basically suppress any type of Black political organizing and/or any type of protest.” Rice added that moments like the present are moments of transformation and encouraged activists to “think about it in a strategic way” because it can be a “catapult to move us forward.”

Lawyer David Gespass, former president of the National Lawyers Guild, also spoke with Truthout regarding the issues of persecuted free speech. In 2010, Gespass defended US Army Spec. Marc Hall who was facing an imminent court-martial for challenging the US military’s stop-loss policy in a rap song. Hall was jailed in 2009 for making a song about the frustration of being forced to remain in the military beyond his designated contract by the stop-loss policy. His case made headlines because it became an issue of free speech. Almost 10 years after that case, Gespass noted how repetitive it all is.

“The FBI has this long history of being an instrument of political repression … a lot of that is still in the DNA of the agency,” he told Truthout. He also mentioned that the Justice Department headed by Jeff Sessions would fully reflect the racism of Sessions himself. “It’s just there,” he said, explaining that the Justice Department holds the “ideology that those who threaten the established order need to be watched and controlled.”

When asked about what activists should do to be cautious about being surveilled for repressive reasons, Gespass said, “First of all be very, very careful of social media. While it’s very useful for organizing … what you say on social media can be twisted.” He went on “Never ever talk to law enforcement … certainly not without consulting with a lawyer first. You just never talk to them. Do not let them into your home unless they have a warrant. Innocence does not protect you.”

With the recent Cambridge Analytica revelations about how social media can be manipulated to influence elections, it’s known that state forces are manipulating our networks just the same. The monitoring of social media has even led to what we could argue is entrapment at the behest of officials seeking to detain those in whom they take interest. The frustration of the political moment makes activists especially susceptible to being targeted because emotion can easily get the best of any of us. However, a brief lapse in judgment or a careless outburst can turn into a lengthy sentence of regret when the state sees an opportunity and takes it.

The cases we see now and the cases of the past are connected. The agenda that we know works in the interest of protecting the establishment happens nonstop. It’s discriminatory and violent for the purposes of maintaining state power. This observation tells us to watch our words for the sake of ourselves and our communities. The inadvertent risk of believing that the law is equally applied puts us in a precarious position. Until we exist in a society where there’s some sort of equality to rely on, all of our words are potentially fighting words; we have to make sure that we’re prepared for the battles that come with that.

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Ukraine’s story of thwarting journalist’s murder starts to fall apart

Ukraine’s story of thwarting journalist’s murder starts to fall apart
It didn’t take long for the story of a brave operation to prevent a Russian assassination in Kiev by faking a journalist’s death to start unravelling and revealing a crude publicity stunt.

On Wednesday, Ukraine’s national security service SBU shocked the world by revealing that it had staged the murder of Russian journalist Arkady Babchenko. The service claimed it was necessary to foil a real large-scale plot targeting Ukraine and masterminded by the Kremlin. By Thursday the shock effect wore off, and commenters started to tear apart the story they were fed.

According to the Ukrainian law enforcement, the biggest immediate win for the SBU in the case was the arrest of a Ukrainian businessman identified as “G”. He is accused of serving as an organizer of the hit on Babchenko on behalf of the Russian intelligence. He did hire a man, who was actually an SBU informant, and paid him $30,000 to kill Babchenko, the story goes. The SBU published footage of the arrest as well as a video taken by a hidden camera, which showed the money changing hands.

File photo of Russian journalist Arkady Babchenko. Vitaliy Nosach

The official narrative claims that the assassination was meant as a dry run for a larger plot, which would target some 30 prominent public figures in Ukraine. “G” was supposed to purchase 300 Kalashnikov assault rifles and ammunition and organize several weapon caches in central Ukraine, the SBU claimed.

The suspect was later identified by a Ukrainian court as Boris German. According to his public profile, he is 50, has some military background and is interested in firearms. He is also the son of a prominent Ukrainian businessman Lev German and owns several companies in the country.

There is little official information about the case. But some Ukrainian media turned to their sources and dug up some interesting, if yet unconfirmed, details.

According to, German was offered a deal by the investigators, who offered him leniency in exchange of testifying against a person who was not named by the officials. The source said he rejected the offer and also said the businessman works with arms procurement for the Ukrainian army. said its source confirmed that German had connections in the arms business. It also added that he was apparently framed by the Ukrainian law enforcement, which offered him to take part in a sting operation.

“It was a clear set up, a provocation. Now the man, who came to him with the suggestion, has disappeared and the SBU claims he was working for the Russian intelligence, but they don’t have any clear evidence to prove it,” the source is cited as saying.

Kiev-based lawyer Andrey Smirnov said the apparent agent provocateur was working for SBU’s counterintelligence department.

Read more

Protesters demand investigation of the death of Pavel Sheremet on an anniversary of the crime. © Valentyn Ogirenko

All these reports are far from disproving the story, of course, but they are quite telling. Especially considering that the story itself is full of inconsistencies and outright sloppiness from the start. Babchenko’s  body soaked in pig blood on the photo released after his ‘assassination’ contradicted reports that he died in ambulance on the way to the hospital.

The “special operation” to stage the death was touted as highly secretive. The journalist even publicly apologized to his family for the grief he had caused by agreeing to take part in it. But Vasil Gritsak, the head of the SBU, said the family was warned beforehand. And Anton Gerashchenko confirmed in an interview he knew Babchenko was alive and well when he posted his self-righteous accusations of Russia for killing the man.

Another small detail. The footage released by the SBU makes it clear that G paid all the entire sum of $30,000 to the fake killer before he made his “attempt” to kill Babchenko. What was the purpose of the highly-public spectacle about his presumed murder then if not to get a record of the “killer” reporting his success to G and getting the final settlement for the hit?

The answer may be quite simple: the entire operation was conducted for the sake of bad publicity for Russia and good publicity for the SBU. Babchenko said his staged death was supposed to be timed with the final game of UEFA Champions League, which was held in Kiev last Saturday.

“In fact there were other, probably more large-scale and serious terrorist attacks, which were being arrange in earnest,” he explained. “This is why a week ago they said in Russia that some ISIS terrorists in Kiev were planning attacks before the Champions League. I suppose that was supposed to be me.”

Yep, “they” did say that. Except “they” were The Sun and the Daily Star. Oh, those Russians, how nefarious they apparently are!

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Trump confirms meeting with Kim after seeing top Pyongyang aide at Oval Office

A meeting between leaders of the US and North Korea will take place in Singapore on June 12, US President Donald Trump confirmed after receiving a senior official from Pyongyang at the White House.

Kim Yong-chol is among the most senior officials in North Korea, a rank for which he was previously blacklisted by the US. He arrived in the US to deliver a letter from Kim Jong-un to Trump.

After the meeting in the Oval Office, Trump walked Kim and his delegation to their car, an honor usually reserved for a select few foreign dignitaries. He confirmed that the scheduled meeting, which had earlier appeared to be in jeopardy, will take place.


“We’ll be meeting on June 12 in Singapore,” Trump said, adding that the talks with Pyongyang will take time. “I think it’ll be a process. I never said it goes in one meeting. It’s going to be a process, but the relationships are building… I think we’re going to have a positive result in the end.”

When asked about the content of the letter he received, Trump joked, asking how much money was offered for the information. He described the letter as “very nice… interesting” and refused to disclose its content. But eventually the president confessed that he hasn’t opened the envelope yet. “I may be in for a big surprise, folks,”he told the journalists.

He said the meeting with the senior North Korean official “went really well. It’s really ‘get to know you’ kind of a situation.” Trump praised the current level of relations between Washington and Pyongyang, saying that “I don’t even want to use the term maximum pressure anymore because we’re getting along.”

The fate of the much-anticipated summit on the Korean nuclear crisis seemed sealed a week ago, after Trump stunned the international community by saying that he’d cancelled the talks with Kim, due to some “tremendous anger and open hostility” in Pyongyang’s statements. The announcement came despite North Korea dismantling its Punggye-ri nuclear test site as an act of good will earlier that same day.

READ MORE: Pompeo wines and dines North Korean negotiator in New York (PHOTOS)

However, less than 24 hours later, the US leader hinted that the meeting may still take place, citing “very productive talks” with North Korea and its commitment to finding a diplomatic solution to the nuclear issue. Shortly afterwards, American officials met with their counterparts from Pyongyang on the border between South and North Korea, in an attempt to resume preparations for the Trump-Kim summit.

The US sanctions on North Korea were among the issues discussed during the two-hour conversation, with the president saying: “I look forward to the day when I can take the sanctions off on North Korea.”

Human rights weren’t on the agenda, but Trump said that “we talked about ending the war” between North and South Korea; the countries still haven’t signed a peace treaty after the 1950-53 conflict. “That’s something that could come out … of the meeting” on June 12, he said.

READ MORE: ‘Trump probably setting up Kim for talks destined to fail’ – analyst

Trump also spoke less critically than on Thursday about Russian diplomatic efforts with North Korea and the visit of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to Pyongyang. “I didn’t like it. But it could be very positive too… If it’s a positive meeting I love it – if it’s a negative meeting I’m not happy,” he said.

Independent political analyst Dan Glazebrook told RT that Trump may not actually be interested in seeking a diplomatic resolution, but is only looking for an excuse to employ tough measures. “It’s hard to envision a scenario, in which Kim Jong-un would be satisfied with any security guarantees that the US might offer in exchange for giving up nuclear weapons,” he said. Kim is likely to receive a proposal that he would have to refuse on June 12, which would prompt a reaction from Washington, Glazebrook added.





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Gaza: How many Nazi bombs?

How many bombs has Israel dropped on Gaza?
Palestinians look at an unexploded Israeli missile, which witnesses said was fired by an Israeli aircraft on a street in Khuzaa, east of Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip, 3 August. Ramadan El-AghaAPA images

A few days before he was killed trying to disarm an unexploded Israeli missile, Hazem Abu Murad, the head of Gaza’s bomb squad, estimated that Israel had dropped between eighteen to twenty thousand tons of explosives on Gaza since 7 July.

As I write, Israel has resumed its heavy bombardment after a nine-day truce ended without a long-term ceasefire agreement.

If Abu Murad’s estimate is right, then the explosive power Israel has fired on Gaza by land, sea and air so far is roughly equivalent to one of the atomic bombs the United States dropped on Japan in August 1945.

The bomb dropped on Hiroshima was rated at 13 kilotons – the equivalent of thirteen thousand tons of high-explosive TNT – while the bomb dropped on Nagasaki was rated at 21 kilotons.

Abu Murad, who died along with five other people on 13 August, estimated that about one thousand tons of unexploded munitions remained. There are more than 1,900 people killed in the ongoing Israeli assault – that is more than one out of every thousand of Gaza’s nearly 1.8 million residents.

Israel constantly publishes claims about how many mortar shells or rockets have been fired from Gaza – it claims for instance that 3,360 rockets were fired from Gaza between 8 July and 6 August.

It is well known that the rockets have caused minimal damage and casualties, and most fall in so-called “open areas.”

But even the number, which is supposed to sound impressive and justify the attack on Gaza, is actually minuscule compared with the volume of ordnance Israel fires into Gaza.

Estimates based on partial information from Israeli sources indicate that Israel has fired tens of thousands of artillery shells into Gaza and dropped a bare minimum of six thousand tons of bombs from the air. Abu Murad’s on-the-ground estimate is certainly plausible.

And the evidence suggests that contrary to Israeli official propaganda about the care taken to protect civilians, the vast majority of Israeli munitions are inaccurate and indiscriminate in the context of densely-populated areas where they have been widely used in Gaza.

This probably explains why Israel is so coy about publicizing the number of missiles, bombs and shells it fires at Gaza.

Massive damage

What is not in doubt – given the vast scale of killing and destruction inflicted in Gaza, as documented in UN satellite images – is that it is indeed an enormous number.

Detail from UN satellite imagery showing total destruction of buildings in Khuzaa, Gaza Strip. (UNOSAT)

In one of the most severely hit areas, Khuzaa and al-Qarara in the southeastern Gaza Strip, the UN counted 2,493 destroyed structures, 1,243 severely damaged structures and 2,014 impact craters.

The Israeli military itself states that between 8 July and 5 August, “aerial, naval and ground forces struck 4,762 terror sites across the Gaza Strip.”

Of course we know that Israel defines everything it bombs as a “terror site,” so this number includes thousands of civilian homes, mosques, businesses and other civilian objects and infrastructure.

We also know that Israeli munitions factories were “working in shifts, 24 hours a day” to provide enough ammunition and shells to forces attacking Gaza.

During the attack, the Obama administration also replenished Israeli stocks from a one billion dollar weapons stockpile the US keeps in Israel. This included 120 mm mortar rounds and 40 mm grenades.

A Palestinian boy surveys the destruction caused by Israeli airstrikes in Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip, 12 August. Mohammed AsadAPA images

Israeli sources provide some information that allows us to generate a more accurate picture of the quantity of explosives Israel fired, and why their impact was so lethal and indiscriminate.

Indiscriminate artillery fire

The easiest type of munition to estimate is artillery shells. On 14 August, Haaretz published the following information, sourced to a “senior official of the general staff” of the Israeli army (emphasis added):

The estimated cost of the total ammunition used in Gaza fighting is estimated at about 1.3 billion shekels [$370 million]. According to the army’s figures, 39,000 tank shells, 34,000 artillery shells, and 4.8 million bullets were supplied during the fighting. Senior military figures estimate that land forces alone used at least 60 percent of the 5,000 tons of ammunition given to them, but the IDF [Israeli army] cannot yet evaluate it accurately.

According to the same senior staff officer, most of the ammunition came from Israeli production lines. Some of the ammunition was purchased from the US during hostilities, within the “advance placement” program. Additional ammunition and fighting equipment, along with medical equipment, were also ordered during hostilities, using an expedited procedure via the Defense Ministry.

Israel expert Dena Shunra notes that the concern here is cost – this is a move in budget negotiations in which the army seeks more money – and that is the context in which the numbers are revealed.

If, as reported, 60 percent of the stores were used, that would mean 23,400 tank shells, 20,400 artillery shells and 2.9 million bullets. That is almost two bullets for every man, woman and child in Gaza.

Palestinians gather on 15 August in Nuseirat refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip near the rubble of a mosque that was destroyed by an Israeli air strike. In the foreground are disarmed unexploded Israeli artillery shells.Ramadan El-AghaAPA images

But, by at least one account, this is a woeful underestimate. According to the website Israel Defense, citing military sources, the Israeli army fired “not fewer than 40,000 155 mm artillery shells” into Gaza.

The most common artillery munition Israel employs is the 155 mm M107 high-explosive shell, according to a 2007 Human Rights Watch report titled “Indiscriminate Fire”:

M107 shells are extremely deadly weapons. The expected lethal radius for a 155 mm high explosive projectile is reportedly between 50 and 150 meters and the expected casualty radius is between 100 and 300 meters. IDF [Israeli army] officials have said that the error radius for a 155 mm shell is usually 25 meters. Therefore, if shells are lobbed as close as 100 meters to populated areas, as allowed under an IDF policy … or even closer, as sometimes happened, it greatly increases the likelihood of civilian casualties.

When the shells explode they can spread about 2,000 fragments in all directions. Sometimes they fail to explode and “become potentially explosive duds,” according to Human Rights Watch.

“Israel Military Industries, a state-owned arms producer and exporter, produces the M107 shell, although Israel has also imported 155 mm shells from the United States,” Human Rights Watch says.

What this means in practice is that Israeli shelling is indiscriminate because an “error radius” of 25 meters in a densely populated Gaza neighborhood like Shujaiya is as good as firing randomly into people’s houses.

Four times as many shells as during “Cast Lead”

And this is corroborated from Israeli sources, in particular a 15 August article in Haaretz by Gili Gohen, which explains that “artillery shells are considered ‘statistical shooting,’ which does not enable hitting targets accurately.”

Cohen adds: “155 mm shells are generally shot toward an area 50 by 50 meters; hitting anywhere within this area is considered by professionals hitting the target. In densely constructed areas like the Gaza Strip, such an area could include more than five buildings.”

Cohen also confirms the unprecedented amount of firepower Israel directed at Gaza (emphasis added):

The IDF employed an exceptional amount of firepower during combat in the Gaza Strip, including in densely built areas. According to partial data provided by the army on 29 July, after three weeks of combat (of which 12 days were in the course of ground operation) approximately 30,000 shells had been shot by that time. The ground operation continued for more than one additional week, so we can estimate that the final number of shells shot is significantly higher.

By comparison, during the 2009 Cast Lead operation, the IDF shot about 8,000 artillery shells. Of that number, some half (4,000) were smoke shells. About one thousand shells were illuminating shells and the remainder, some 3,000, were explosive shells. During that operation the forces had been instructed to refrain from shooting into constructed areas, excluding exceptional cases, where firepower was needed to rescue forces. Most of the shooting at that time was done into open spaces, or the margins around the constructed area. An estimate can be made that the total number of artillery shells shot during Protective Edge is more than four times as high as during Cast Lead.

Cohen explains that on 20 July alone, “some 600 explosive artillery shells were shot within one hour” into the eastern Gaza City neighborhood of Shujaiya.

Such a barrage of indiscriminate fire can only have the effect it did: massive destruction and dozens of dead civilians.

When such immense and inaccurate firepower is used as part of the “Hannibal Directive” – a procedure meant to ostensibly thwart the capture of soldiers – there can only be one real intent: to kill the soldier and everyone else in his vicinity.

In this video, Israeli soldiers and mystics can be seen dancing and singing to bless M107 artillery shells before they are fired into Gaza:

Tank shells designed to kill over wide area

Tank guns are just another form of “statistical shooting,” so it can be expected that many of the estimated 23,400 tank shells fired at Gaza are also responsible for large numbers of civilian deaths, injuries and destruction even where Israel claims it was not specifically targeting homes, schools, hospitals and mosques.

But Israel has gone to great lengths to make its tank shells even more indiscriminate and lethal.

We know from Haaretz that the Israeli army was using Kalanit and Hatzav type tank shells in the attack on Gaza. Both were “used on a massive scale for the first time in Operation Protective Edge” – the name Israel has given its current assault on Gaza.

The Kalanit, manufactured by Israel Military Industries, “can explode in midair over terrorists hiding behind cover or alternatively breach concrete walls and explode inside buildings,” The Jerusalem Post reported in 2011.

For “terrorists” one can, of course, simply substitute the word “humans,” and for “cover” one can substitute words like “house,” “school,” or “mosque.”

Israel is so proud of this shell that it won “Israel’s prestigious Defense Prize for 2011,” the Post says.

One of the features of the Kalanit tank shell is precisely that it kills people over a very wide area, as the Israeli army’s “Lt.-Col. M.” told the Post: “Until now, a tank would fire traditional shells at cells which would have to be extremely accurate, but now due to the dispersion, it can hit cells even if the shell does not detonate exactly over where they are.”

Danny Peretz, the head of the team that developed the shell, “explained that the need for the Kalanit came up because of the change in the type of warfare Israel faced on the modern battlefield, particularly asymmetric conflicts.”

“We are no longer speaking about just tanks against tanks, but you need to be able to hit people inside buildings and people outside where they are approximately hiding,” he told the Post. “The Kalanit can do both of these missions with the same shell.”

The Hatzav is another type of tank shell that “penetrates the target, such as a building, to explode inside.”

Mortar shells

It is unclear if the number of mortar shells Israel fired is included in the overall estimate for artillery – I was unable to find a separate estimate for mortars. A mortar is a type of artillery.

It is typically much shorter range than, say, a tank gun or a 155 mm artillery piece, and the explosive shell is lobbed on a high trajectory. It is definitely another form of “statistical shooting” but generally far less accurate than other weapons.

Yet this lethal and indiscriminate weapon was used on a huge scale. This video, originally broadcast on Israeli television, in a report on female gunners, shows one artillery unit made up of four vehicle-mounted large caliber mortars firing shells towards Gaza at a regular rhythm of four shells every two minutes.

At first the soldiers are firing smoke shells but then they are asked to use explosives, sending “rescuing fire” towards “two targets near a built up area.”

The female gunners can be seen scrawling birthday greetings to friends and such messages as “To Adi, Good luck with the new job!” on the mortar shells before blasting them into Gaza.

In between volleys, the gunners take breaks to eat meals of sushi.

Bombs dropped from the air

Israeli military sources have been less forthcoming about the number of bombs dropped from the air, but there have been some important clues.

On 10 July, the fourth day of Israel’s current assault on Gaza, The Jerusalem Post reported, citing a “senior military source”:

Around 800 tons of explosives have been fired by air force jets on targets this week, the source said. The IAF’s [Israel Air Force] current rate of fire is double that of Operation Pillar of Defense, launched in 2012 to stop Hamas rocket fire from Gaza. “We’ll see this trend increasing, as part of our firepower policy,” he said.

At that rate – not accounting for the promised increase – the tonnage of bombs could easily exceed six thousand tons over the course of a month.

And there was almost certainly an increase. On 20 July in Shujaiya, for example, according to Haaretz, Israeli warplanes carried out “a broad aerial attack that included about 100 one-ton bombs.” That was only in one location; Israeli warplanes were bombing all over Gaza as well.

Gaza residents and journalists consistently reported that the bombing got heavier as Israel’s campaign progressed.

Israel uses a broad range of air-dropped munitions, many, if not most, US-made.

It would take major on-the-ground research to identify them all, although Hazem Abu Murad and his team identified some of the types: the one-ton MK84 bombs that have a destructive radius of 300 meters and GBU laser-guided bombs, which have been photographed just before they struck buildings in Gaza.

Journalist Max Blumenthal, currently in Gaza, photographed this tail fin of a US-made MK82 500-pound bomb.


These details of Israel’s ongoing bombardment of Gaza are important: if human rights researchers can collect the evidence of the weapons and equipment used in Israeli war crimes and crimes against humanity, it can help to make accountable not just those who ordered the weapons fired but also those who supplied them.

The staggering amount of weapons Israel has used to inflict so much indiscriminate harm underscores the urgency of calls for an arms embargo on Israel. It also highlights that Israel, an undeclared possessor of nuclear weapons, must urgently be brought under international control and monitoring.

But it is important not to lose sight of the big picture: no claim of “self-defense” could ever justify dropping this much explosives so indiscriminately and so deliberately on a captive civilian population.

Those who justify it as “self-defense” are complicit in mass murder.

It is also a mistake to look for a “military” explanation for Israel’s actions.

This massacre, this dropping of what plausibly approximates to a “small” atomic bomb on Gaza, can only be explained in political terms. As I have argued previously, it is the price of maintaining a “Jewish state” in Palestine.

With thanks to Dena Shunra for assistance with research and translation.

Posted in Palestine Affairs, ZIO-NAZI, GazaComments Off on Gaza: How many Nazi bombs?

Syrian civilians from ground zero expose chemical hoax

By: Eva Bartlett
Syrian civilians from ground zero expose chemical hoax
Western media keeps referring to an alleged chemical attack on Douma, Syria, as an established fact, but have yet to produce one iota of evidence from the town that, until recently, was controlled by Jaysh al-Islam.

Unverified videos, emanating from the Western-funded propaganda construct the White Helmets, do not constitute evidence, nor do testimonies taken in Turkey or Idlib, Syria, which is under terrorist rule.

On the other hand, there are many testimonies that contradict the accusations, including those of 17 Syrians from Douma (among them doctors and medical staff), who, on April 26, spoke at the headquarters of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in the Hague, stating that there was no chemical attack.

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Syria Civil Defence - The White Helmets

The leaderships of the US, UK, France and their lapdog media, unsurprisingly, dismissed the Syrian testimonies as “obscene” and a “masquerade”. It should be noted that the same media took as utterly credible the words attributed to a then-seven year-old girl named Bana al-Abed, living in eastern Aleppo, before it was liberated. Corporate media and Western leaders had no issues with the credibility of Bana, who was living surrounded by twenty-five terrorist cells in her district alone. But the testimonies of Syrians from Douma are “obscene.”

There are other statements by civilians that contradict the accusations, given to journalists who bothered to go to Douma and listen to them, like Robert Fisk, Germany’s ZDF, One American News, and Vanessa Beeley.

In fact, it was the Syrian and Russian governments who called for the OPCW to investigate, and it was the US, UK, and France which illegally bombed Syria with 103 missiles, including 76 missiles on Damascus itself, before the OPCW inspectors could investigate.

None of the accusations have been “proven” and, when the OPCW does eventually issue its report, it is worth recalling that their report in the previous year, on the allegations of a chemical attack in Khan Sheikhoun, Idlib, contained “irregularities,” to put it mildly. The most glaring irregularity (mentioned in the annex section of their report) was the admission of 57 “victims” to hospital before any alleged attack even could have occurred. Another unexplained irregularity was sarin showing up in urine but not in blood tests from the same sample.

Douma residents expose lies of chemical accusations

In late April, I traveled by taxi to Douma, with a translator only, where I spent a few hours in the town, talking to civilians so traumatized by the rule of the terrorist group Jaysh al-Islam that they mostly wanted to talk about how hellish their lives had been. But first I went to the hospital in question.

Passing through Martyr’s Square, one of the sites allegedly targeted by a chemical attack but now busy with pedestrians and traffic, the underground hospital was just some hundred metres beyond. Inside, I recorded an interview with a medical student who was at the hospital on April 7, the day of the alleged attacks.

© Michael Kooren

According to Marwan Jaber, patients who came in were being treated for normal shelling injuries, as well as for breathing difficulties, due to the combination of dust and their having taken refuge for extended periods in basements.

Jaber told me that, while staff were treating normal bombing injuries and breathing cases, “strangers” entered screaming about a chemical attack and started hosing people with water. Hospital staff calmed the situation down and went back to treating the patients as ‘normal’ shelling victims, as they had not exhibited any indications of having been exposed to a chemical agent.

Patients’ symptoms were “not in line with the symptoms of a chemical attack. There wasn’t pupil constriction or Broncho-constrictions leading to death,” Jaber recalled. “The symptoms we received were all symptoms of choking, patients affected by the smoke and regular war injuries. They came here, we treated them, and dispatched them home,” Jaber said, noting that none, not one, had died.

Nor were any of the hospital staff affected, as one might expect they would be had a chemical agent been used. The staff, as seen in the video produced by the White Helmets, wore no protective clothing, as would have been necessary when dealing with a toxic chemical.

In Marwan Jaber’s opinion, the unfamiliar men who barged into the hospital screaming weren’t trained in medicine. He went so far as to doubt whether they’d finished high school.

Below the hospital, a network of extensive, reinforced tunnels, large enough for vehicles, enabled Jaysh al-Islam to move freely while they held Douma residents hostage.

Ghouta residents on alleged chemical attacks, 2018 and 2013

As I walked around Douma, I asked residents about life there and especially about whether they believed there was a chemical attack in their town. Some replied they had no idea about an attack. But most replied decisively no, there hadn’t been any.

A man is washed following alleged chemical weapons attack, Douma, April 8, 2018 © Reuters

At a stand selling vegetables and fruits, Tawfeeq Zahran replied that he believed Jaysh al-Islam had spoken of a chemical attack to frighten them, to make them fear the Syrian army and government. Men around him nodded their agreement. They spoke more about their starvation under Jaysh al-Islam and about the public executions by sword that the terror group had routinely carried out.

A group of young men selling baked goods waved me over, handing me one. They also replied that they knew nothing of an attack. They were more concerned about the fact that, under Jaysh al-Islam, they couldn’t get the flour needed for their baked goods, much less food to live. This was a constant among every civilian I met: Their hunger and terror under Jaysh al-Islam’s rule.

In 2013, the West and its media had accused the Syria government of a chemical attack in eastern Ghouta (oddly at the very time when OPCW inspectors were in the country to investigate a previous allegation). These accusations were shot down by reports from investigative journalists, particularly Seymour Hersh, who concluded that terrorists possessed sarin and the workshops to manufacture rockets. Indeed, I saw one of these mortar and rocket workshops when in Saqba, eastern Ghouta. Massive amounts of missiles of varying sizes lay, as-yet unused, inside the workshop.

Two days after allegations of a chemical attack in April 2018, the Saudi ambassador to the US, Khalid bin Salman, tweeted a condemnation of the Syrian government’s “barbaric” act. The irony, aside from Saudi’s support to the barbaric Jaysh al-Islam, lies in the fact that, according to Mint Press News, Saudi Arabia also gave chemical weapons to terrorists in Ghouta for the 2013 attack.

The Mint Press article cited anti-government fighters who said they’d been given chemical weapons which they didn’t know how to use, naming Saudi Prince Bandar as the source.

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White Helmets member pictured in Eastern Ghouta © Abdulmonam Eassa / AFP

The co-authors of that Mint Press article came under intense pressure to retract the article. According to a statement from Mint’s executive director and editor, Mnar Muhawesh, the authors suspected the pressure was from the then-head of Saudi Intelligence, Prince Bandar, one author saying “that the Saudi embassy contacted him and threatened to end his career,” if he continued investigating the attack.

So, in early May, I went to Kafr Batna where, in August 2013, hundreds of people had allegedly been treated at the Tuberculosis Hospital.

Mohammed al-Aghawani, administrator of the hospital, told me:

“There was no chemical attack. I wasn’t at the hospital that night, but my staff told me what happened. Around 2am, there was suddenly noise, shouting, cars arriving at the hospital, bringing civilians. Some people, armed men, said there was a chemical attack. Some of them had foreign accents. They took people’s clothes off and started pouring water on them. They kept bringing people in till around 7am. Around 1,000 people, mostly children, alive, from nearby villages like Ein Terma, Hezze, Zamalka. Many people later said their children never came back.”

Upon closer analysis, footage from that night shows that some of the victims appeared to have had their throats slit, peculiar indeed if they had “died from a nerve agent.”

In an ice cream shop in Kafr Batna’s main square, I asked employee Abdallah Darbou whether he knew anything about the alleged 2013 attacks.

“Yes, we heard about it, but that didn’t happen. They claimed that the Syrian regime had carried a chemical attack on us. No, they didn’t. I was living in Jisreen, close by, I have been living the real story for seven years. They didn’t attack us.”

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© Reuters TV

Other residents I spoke with had no idea about the alleged attacks.

I took a taxi to the Horjilleh centre for displaced persons, just southeast of Damascus, where I met Marwan Qreisheh, from Kafr Batna. Regarding the 2013 incident, he recalled the fighting between Jaysh al-Islam and Faylaq al-Rahman, saying, “500 were killed, from both sides. They spread them on the ground, released something like tear gas, and started to film, saying the ‘regime’ bombed the area with a chemical weapon.”

Also at the Horjilleh centre, Mahmoud Souliman Khaled, a younger man from Douma, spoke of his young niece. “My sister from Beit Sawa decided to bring her children to our house. While they were on the street, there was a big explosion and a strange smell. Her daughter fell to the ground. They took her to the nearest hospital and they found out that she suffocated and died instantly. Her mouth was open and she had blue lips, it was obvious that she had suffocated.”

Khaled spoke of the aftermath, how terrorists exploited the toddler’s death: “They took photos of her and they started using them on social media and on websites. They said that she was killed in a chemical attack from the government. But she died from the chemicals that they produce. They killed her.”

Another hoax

After speaking with many civilians in Douma, Kafr Batna and Horjilleh, not only about whether the Syrian government had bombed them with chemicals or nerve agents but also on the truly horrific conditions they’d endured under Jaysh al-Islam, it is my opinion that the videos alleging a chemical attack in Douma were a hoax. There are enough testimonies to the contrary of the accusations, there is a dearth of any evidence to support the claims, and there is every reason to believe that terrorists and the West’s propaganda group, the White Helmets, would stage videos and fake accusations in order to incriminate Syria and Russia.

Syria and Russia are the two parties with zero interest in perpetrating a chemical attack against Syrian civilians, for moral reasons and for the obviously pragmatic one of not wanting to be militarily attacked as a consequence. FUKUS (France, UK & US), the Gulf states and Israel are parties with every reason to want a chemical attack scenario in Syria, to prolong their dirty war on Syria.

The media was right to use the words “obscene” and “masquerade”, but only in regards to the official story of events in Douma, the corporate media’s lapping up of another dodgy White Helmets video and that same media’s obfuscation of the cruelty and barbarism of the terrorists who ruled in Douma and all of eastern Ghouta.

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Nazi deliberate war crime: Palestinians decry murder of 21yo female paramedic at Gaza border

‘Deliberate war crime’: Palestinians decry murder of 21yo female paramedic at Gaza border
The killing of a 21-year-old female medical worker during the Great March of Return at the Gaza border is nothing short of a war crime, Palestinian officials said, calling on the international community to hold Israel responsible.

The murder of 21-year-old medical volunteer, Razan Al-Najar, is a direct violation of all “international treaties and conventions” that ensure the protection of the medical staff in the conflict zones, Palestinian Minister of Health, Jawad Awwad, said late Friday, noting that the shooting of the paramedic must have been “deliberate” and amounted to a “war crime.”

The volunteer was shot in the chest by the Nazi army on Friday near the border fence east of Khan Younes, in the southern Gaza Strip, while she was helping wounded Palestinians.

Photo dated May 25, 2018 of Palestinian demonstrators on the Israel-Gaza border during Great March of Return protests. © Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

While the Nazi military has yet to comment on Najar’s death, an anonymous witness told Reuters that, at the time of the tragedy, the medical worker wore a white uniform, which clearly distinguished her from the rest of the Palestinian crowd taking part in the 10th weekly Great March of Return protests.

Furthermore, the medical volunteer “raised her hands high in a clear way, but Israeli soldiers fired and she was hit in the chest,” the witness told Reuters.

Najar became the latest victim of the Nazi regime crackdown on protesting Palestinians at the Gazan border. More than 100 protesters were injured by Nazi fire, including 40 by live bullets, directed at them by the Nazi army during the 10th Great March of Return rally. Another four paramedics were among those wounded while helping the injured.

The shooting of a medical worker is a “heinous crime committed by the occupation forces,” the Palestinian Minister of Justice, Ali Abu Diak, said in a statement, calling on the International Criminal Court to document Nazi brutality and to “try leaders, officials, officers, soldiers” and all those who committed “crimes against humanity.”

© Shannon Stapleton

International humanitarian law affords special protection to medical personnel whose mission is to save lives in conflicts, under four Geneva Conventions of 1949. Article 24 was especially adopted to protect “medical personnel exclusively engaged in the search for, or the collection, transport or treatment of the wounded or sick.”

The West Bank’s ruling Fatah party also condemned the murder of the 21-year-old medic. “This crime…reflects a terrorist fascist mentality that deliberately kills, destroys and persecutes [Palestinians],” spokesman Osama al-Qawasmi said in a statement.

Fatah also condemned Washington’s move on Friday to veto an Arab-backed UN draft resolution which called calling for protective measures for the Palestinians. Qawasmi stressed that the “veto”used by the United States encourages the Jewish State to continue its crimes against the Palestinians.

Over 120 Palestinians have so far been killed since the beginning of the Great March of Return, mainly by live Nazi fire amid the raging protests at the Gaza border, which began on March 30.

Posted in Palestine Affairs, Gaza, UKComments Off on Nazi deliberate war crime: Palestinians decry murder of 21yo female paramedic at Gaza border

‘Why does Israel get impunity?’ UNSC call for protection of Palestinians vetoed by US

‘Why does Israel get impunity?’ UNSC call for protection of Palestinians vetoed by US
The United States has vetoed a Kuwaiti proposal to the United Nation Security Council (UNSC), which sought to offer “international protection” to Palestinian civilians in the wake of more than 120 of deaths in the Gaza strip.

In a speech to the council, US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley criticized the proposal, describing it as a “grossly one-sided view”. Haley accused Hamas of inciting violent acts at the border between Gaza and Israel, purposefully infiltrating the ‘Great March of Return’ mass protests with its “terrorist fighters” and deliberately using civilians as human shields.

“The terrorist group Hamas bears primary responsibility for the awful living conditions in Gaza,” she said, before the UNSC vote.

Live: UNSC holds vote on Kuwait’s draft resolution on Palestine 

The US was the only council member to vote against the proposal. There were 10 votes in favor and four abstentions (Poland, the UK, Netherlands and Ethiopia). A resolution needs nine votes in favor and no vetoes by the US, Russia, China, France or the UK in order to be adopted.

“The message given by the council today, as it votes against this, is that the occupying power enjoys an exception,” the Kuwaiti representative said, after the proposal was vetoed.

Photo dated May 25, 2018 of Palestinian demonstrators on the Israel-Gaza border during Great March of Return protests. © Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

“Why do Palestinians continue to suffer? Why does the international community fail to act? Why does Israel enjoy impunity? Why are all these lives lost and all this blood is shed?” he asked.

The vote came after a week which saw dozens of mortar shells fired into Israel from Palestine and air strikes carried out on Palestine by the Israeli military. Recent months have seen a major escalation of violence in Gaza, with more than 120 Palestinians killed by Israeli fire since the end of March, when the Great March of Return demonstrations began.

Despite numerous deliberations, the council has yet to respond to the violence, even as UN envoy Nickolay Mladenov warned this week that Gaza was “close to the brink of war.”

It was the second time that Haley has blocked a UN measure on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. She previously vetoed a draft resolution that rejected President Donald Trump’s decision to move the US embassy to Jerusalem, after all 14 other council members supported it.

Posted in Palestine AffairsComments Off on ‘Why does Israel get impunity?’ UNSC call for protection of Palestinians vetoed by US

Yongusil 93: Socialism’s Influence on Syngman Rhee and the Founding of the Republic



A new working paper for the Wilson Center’s Cold War International History Project explores and influence and meaning of socialism on Syngman Rhee and the founding of the Republic of Korea.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in caused a stir this spring when he stated that he was opposed to homosexuality in a televised debate while campaigning to replace impeached President Park Geun-hye. Moon’s statements especially drew attention because he was the candidate for the Democratic Party of Korea — Korea’s leading “liberal” party. In response, seasoned Korean observers began explaining both how Korean liberals are both further to the left and further to the right than foreign observers might expect. In fact, both views are correct. The left-right paradigm, popular in the Americas and Europe does not map well onto the Republic of Korea (ROK). The litmus tests that determine a left-right classification in these places — the role of government in society and cultural conservatism — simply are not all that relevant in the ROK. The ROK has a universal, single-payer healthcare system, but abortion is illegal (though widely available). Korean views of homosexuality are fairly conservative, but their views on gun ownership are what Americans would call “liberal” — private gun ownership is basically illegal in Korea.

As I argue in a recent working paper published by the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars,1) this confusion over the meaning of right and left in Korea has been going on since the 1940s. Even before he was elected as the first president of the ROK, Syngman Rhee was labeled an “extreme rightist” by the American military government, which occupied Korea from 1945-48. They labeled him as such not because he was conservative — he had spent seven years in prison as a young man for his radicalism in the opinion of the Chosun Court — but rather because he was virulently opposed to the American and Soviet policy of trusteeship for Korea. Ironically even as the Americans themselves were coming to question the wisdom of trusteeship, they desperately wanted to avoid the blame for its failure and so tried to marginalize those Korean leaders that opposed it as “extreme rightists.”

Circumstances would eventually force American policymakers to both abandon trusteeship and support Rhee, but the label of “extreme rightist” stuck, and Rhee would be henceforth associated with rightwing politics. In many ways, the label did fit him. His reputation as a violent anti-communist was well earned. He was directly or indirectly responsible for the massacre of countless communists and suspected communists during the Korean War. Rhee repeatedly stated: “Communism is cholera and you cannot compromise with cholera.”

But his anti-communism was more pragmatic than doctrinaire. Judging by his associates and his, admittedly scanty, political writings he had a leftist political orientation by American standards during his long exile in the United States from 1905–1945. In the 1920s, he praised communism’s commitment to a more equal society even as he criticized their attacks on nationalism and religion — two institutions he was deeply devoted to. In 1933 he made an abortive trip to the Soviet Union seeking aid for Korean independence. Rhee had no ideological tests when seeking support for Korea’s liberation.2)

He maintained this pragmatic approach when he returned to Korea in 1945. He told the New York Times shortly after returning that there were two types of communists, those who wanted a communist (read Soviet) government and those who believed in some of the economic principles of communism.3) He claimed that he himself believed in some of the latter and would work to enact them as a Korean leader. As the first president of the ROK he would sign and execute a sweeping land reform law that would end centuries of land tenancy in Korea. He presided over a largely nationalized economy and ruled under a constitution that American experts agreed essentially created South Korea as a socialist state. In many ways Rhee fits just as well on the left side of the political spectrum as on the right.

That is not to say the ROK under Rhee became a worker’s paradise. It did not. Division, inflation, war devastation, maladministration, and Rhee’s own authoritarianism meant that many Koreans did not have access to the rights enshrined in their constitution. But understanding Rhee’s political orientation is critical to understanding post-liberation Korea and the Korean War. For too long historians and pundits have pinned the problems of post-liberation Korea on the American decision to impose an “extreme rightist” leader on a Korean society that was already listing to the left. In fact, the situation was far more complex. Although my paper is titled “Syngman Rhee: Socialist” I do not believe that Rhee was in fact a socialist. Rather, I hope to convince readers of the limitations of viewing Korea’s history—or its present—through a left-right paradigm.

1. David P. Fields, “Syngman Rhee: Socialist,” Wilson Center Cold War International History Project (CWIHP) Working Paper #82, June 2017.
2. More nuanced views of Communism appear in Rhee’s early writing. See, for instance: Syngman Rhee, “공산당의 당부당 (當不當) [Communism: Right and Wrong],” 태평양잡지 [The Pacific Magazine], March 1923.
3. Richard J. H. Johnston, “Korean Red Group Assailed by Rhee,” New York Times, November 22, 1945.

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