Archive | July 25th, 2018

Russian and Nazi Officials Meet in Jerusalem, Spark New Round of Corporate Media Rumors

Russian and Israeli Officials Meet in Jerusalem, Spark New Round of Corporate Media Rumors

The meeting was reportedly held after a short notice visit, ordered by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

russia and israel

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An Open Letter to the Guardian on Its Wildly Inaccurate Coverage of Nicaragua


The Guardian’s editor-in-chief received the following letter but has refused to publish it, even in shorter form.

A masked protester walks along a main avenue, littered with debris, in Managua, Nicaragua, Friday, April 20, 2018. Three consecutive days of protests in Nicaragua after the announcement of controversial Social Security reforms added a fifth death and dozens of injured Friday. International organizations have shown concern and have called on the government of Daniel Ortega to respect the voice of the people. (AP Photo/Alfredo Zuniga)

A masked protester walks along a main avenue, littered with debris, in Managua, Nicaragua, April 20, 2018. AP | Alfredo Zuniga

Posted in Media, Nicaragua, UKComments Off on An Open Letter to the Guardian on Its Wildly Inaccurate Coverage of Nicaragua

Saudis and UAE Paid Extras to Protest Qatar in Attempt to Spoil Emir’s UK Visit


According to emails sent to prospective members of the “rent-a-mob” by a company called Extra People, participants would be paid $25 to protest from 11:00 am to 12:30 pm outside the gates of Downing Street during a meeting between the Arab ruler and U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May.

An Anti Qatar protest in London as Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani arrives in the UK, July 23, 2018. Photo | Twitter

An anti-Qatar protest in London as Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani arrives in the UK, July 23, 2018. Photo | Twitter

Posted in Qatar, Saudi Arabia, UKComments Off on Saudis and UAE Paid Extras to Protest Qatar in Attempt to Spoil Emir’s UK Visit

Putin’s New Rules for the Golan Heights

Image result for Golan Heights CARTOON

At his joint press conference with U.S. President Donald Trump following the summit in Helsinki last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin made a revealing comment about his intentions towards Israel’s future on the Golan Heights.

“The south of Syria should be brought to the full compliance with the treaty of 1974 about the separation of forces of Israel and Syria,” Putin said.

The Russian leader then expounded further: “This will bring peace to Golan Heights. And bring a more peaceful relationship between Syria and Israel and also provide security to the state of Israel … we will make a step toward creating a lasting peace in compliance with the respective resolutions of Security Council, for instance the [UNSC] Resolution 338.”

What do these references to 1974 and 338 portend? Over the past month, Iranian-led militias and Assad regime units, backed by Russian air power, have launched an offensive to recapture southern Syria all the way to the borders with Israel and Jordan. In addition to its red lines about the Iranian presence in Syria, the Separation of Forces agreement has been a principal talking point for Israeli officials in recent weeks, and has been at the heart of their talks with the Russians. Israel has made it clear to Moscow that any attempt by the regime camp to enter the Area of Separation will be met with force. Now that the opposition factions in these areas have agreed to return their villages to regime authority, the Russian military police reportedly will enter the area, so as to ensure compliance with the 1974 agreement.

Following Putin’s comments in Helsinki, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked the Russian president, singling out his “clear position” on the Separation of Forces agreement. But the 1974 agreement aside, Putin also made clear his own likely posture towards both the Israeli and Iranian positions in Syria through his reference to UNSCR 338, which speaks of starting negotiations “between the parties concerned under appropriate auspices aimed at establishing a just and durable peace in the Middle East.”

Since the start of the offensive in southern Syria last month, there have been all kinds of optimistic takes on how Russia will agree to rein in the Iranians in Syria. But what Putin actually wants to do, his language suggests, is to establish Russia as the central interlocutor for everyone in the region. To that end, what could be better than the tried and true path of hosting talks between Israel and its adversaries in Syria?

Of course, the notion that Israel would restart talks about the Golan when the Iranians are entrenching themselves in Syria is laughable in the extreme—and the Russians clearly know this. Instead, they might start with technical talks, say, about how best to implement the Separation of Forces agreement, or about the modalities of the return of the Assad regime to the area. That, as Putin said, would be the first step.

Talks in relation to the Syrian regime would themselves only be a gateway to the broader conversation Putin hopes to orchestrate with Iran. The Russians have been making clear that the notion of them pressuring the Iranians in Syria, let alone pushing them to withdraw from the country, which is Israel’s position, is something in which they haven’t the slightest interest. Instead, in keeping with the objective to position itself in the middle, Russia wants Israel and Iran to hash it out, at its table. As Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov explained earlier this month, “there is no other way” but for Iran and its regional adversaries to “sit down at the negotiating table, state their concerns and start talking on how they can remove them on a mutually acceptable basis.”

The idea of a new status quo in which Iran entrenches itself in Syria while Russia positions itself as an “honest broker” to adjudicate territorial claims in the Golan should be a strategic nightmare for Israeli planners, starting with the absence of the United States from the region. Although President Trump spoke positively in Helsinki of Russia working with Israel, the U.S. should seek to preserve its own equities in the region by recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan. This would effectively make up for the American exit from the region by taking the Golan off the table and backing America’s own ally as Russia aligns with Iran and positions itself as the new regional arbiter.

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The Ukrainian-Jewish past

Historical narratives are built around artifacts—preserved and frail relics from past epochs. Mythology erupts in the absence of such relics, and it is the sort of absence that doesn’t let one alone. Celebrating its first centennial this year, the Jewish Archive at the Vernadsky Library in Kiev is, perhaps, one of the oddest crossroads of history and mythology: It is filled with incredible artifacts of the Eastern European Jewish past, and yet, it hangs suspended within a cognitive void, in the absence of the community that engendered these artifacts. Growing up in Ukraine, the notion that there may exist a Jewish archive never once crossed my mind, for I simply knew nothing about the material culture such an archive might contain.

The original filing system of the archive, containing records and descriptions of its holdings, was demolished by the KGB, and its demise, in a way, mirrored the demise of access to knowledge of Judaism for people like me. Even today, there are only a limited number of scholars privy to the collection’s riches. The library has thus become a Borgesian establishment, the sort that engenders, or even necessitates, myth.

I set out to visit the library to learn more about its musical archive—a huge set of Jewish vocal and instrumental recordings from the early decades of the 20th century. It is mind-boggling that long before any serious recording technology was invented, without much funding or publicity, groups of ambitious scholars set out on ethnographic expeditions into the heartland of the Ukrainian shtetl world, aiming to capture the community’s folklore, and amassed a treasure trove of material. In recent years, these fragile, virtually unknown recordings were digitized and released in CD format. There are currently nine volumes of music out, with the three latest volumes released just within the past year. These most recent discs included the 1930s recordings of “Jewish Agricultural Colonies of the Southern Ukraine” and, oddly, a 1913 collection of fieldwork conducted in the Jewish communities of Palestine.

Kiev changed a great deal since my last visit, over a decade ago. One can feel the weight of the bloody civil unrest that still continues in the East. There are new monuments and banners, including the ubiquitous: “Ukraine is Europe!” And indeed, clean streets, fancy department stores, flashing advertising signs, cute coffee shops teeming with chattering, colorful crowds seem far more Western than anything I have ever seen in Ukraine.

Dr. Iryna Sergieieva holding a wax cylinder once used in recording. (Photo: Jake Marmer)

The Vernadsky Library, however, is something of a throwback. Dr. Iryna Sergieieva, head of the Judaica Department within the National Library’s Manuscript Institute, and one of the scholars involved in the production of the digitized audio materials, warmly greeted me on the library’s steps. As I went through lengthy loops of paperwork that would allow me to cross the library’s threshold, Sergieieva ironically referred to the establishment as a konvserva: a witty play on words, which at once implies a conservatively-administered place, but also means canned fish—a wonderful way to describe an archive. Stout and dour female guards, who would do well in a dramatization of anything written by Kafka, sized me up as I produced documentation and solicited help in filling out the forms.

The library was built just before World War I. Smirking, Sergieieva explained that if there ever were renovations done to the building, they probably occurred around the time of the Soviet Revolution. Certainly, not much by way of upkeep has occurred since. The building breathes out a certain decaying chic, familiar to every dweller of the large, older cities across the former Soviet Union: gorgeous architectural detail, tall ceilings, intricate statuettes at the top of the staircase—and at the same time, peeling walls and cracked flooring. The mind goes in three directions at once: imagining the lost world that produced the beauty; taking in the accumulation of squalor; admiring the people, like Sergieieva, who, despite it all, keep the place going.

As I walked upward and proceeded through a series of musty hallways, dark despite the afternoon sun outside, something clicked in my mind. The audio recordings, released by the archive, are oddly similar to this very building: They are magnificent, but to experience that magnificence the mind needs to leap past the façade, past the crackling noise of poor recording technology, filling the gaps with one’s own imagination. “Knowing is nothing at all,” wrote Anatole France, “but imagining is everything.”

For someone spoiled by immaculate 21st-century audio recordings, listening to century-old fieldwork is no easy feat. These recordings are not entertaining: You can’t put them on as a backdrop while you cook dinner, or drive to the beach with friends. Instead, one needs a bit of solitude and a pair of noise-cancelling headphones. Also, a little light—just enough to follow the meticulous liner notes, culled from the original manuscripts of scholars, who collected the material. These notes indicate the year and location of the recording, name of the performer, performer’s vocation, and even, at times, the music’s source—whether it was learned from a music teacher, or a rabbi, or a relative.

The first 10 or 15 minutes of every listening period felt very bumpy, but once I plowed through, something started to shift. It didn’t matter that I don’t understand Yiddish, and that my Ukrainian has gotten rusty. These voices offered a portal into the immensity of a vanished world, which suddenly became real to me. As I listened further, it started to gnaw at me, to descend on me with heaviness and emotion. It was a world, vastly different from ours—technologically, spiritually, socially—and yet, somehow very recognizable and familiar. It is a world of voices—cheerful and mournful, pious and indignant, skillful and amateurish—that belonged to Ashkenazi Jews who, as they sang, were headed toward the decades of pogroms, Stalin’s repressions, war and extermination, followed by more repression, and finally by the absence of nearly everything that came before.


The Jewish Archive was started back in 1918, and in those early days, Sergieieva told me, many of the early “acquisitions” that came in were the konfiskat—i.e., items confiscated from the wealthy, along with other private property that changed hands in the course of the post-Revolutionary activity. And then there were also the “library babushkas”: older folks who watched out for abandoned private libraries of those escaping the Soviet regime, or for the closing down of synagogues and study houses. They would quickly drag the items over to the library to prevent looting—at times, endangering themselves in the process.

The archive’s holdings expanded dramatically in the 1930s, when it received a large shipment from Saint Petersburg’s Jewish Museum—a shipment that includes materials assembled by the legendary writer-anthropologist, S. Ansky, most famous as the author of The Dybbuk, perhaps the most successful Yiddish play ever produced. Written during an expedition into Ukrainian shtetls, the play incorporates a wild diversity of forms from within the Jewish discourse—references to the Bible, Talmud, and Hasidic lore; songs and niggunim; jokes and tall tales. At the center of the play is a love story gone wrong, and a supernatural tale of possession of the female protagonist by the disembodied spirit (the dybbuk) of her beloved, who died before his time.

Ansky, like other anthropologists of the early 20th century, used wax cylinders for the recording. The cylinders work in a manner similar to vinyl discs, with a needle moving in a groove to produce sound. The recorder was an unthinkably sophisticated piece of machinery in those days. The image of the dybbuk is wrought with symbolism—the haunting disembodied voice is also the voice of the past, of history and testimony, of anger and injustice. One can’t help but wonder if the inspiration for the play’s central motif came from Ansky’s experience of being surrounded by the disembodied voices of his newly made recordings.

These recorded voices are all the more haunting today. After hearing, in the privacy of one’s own headphones, someone from 100 years ago—enthusiasm, resignation, fervor—it is hard not to mythologize the whole person the voice belonged to. And if you do that, don’t you somehow allow that person, that lost memory into your psyche? It is utterly unlike listening to any other sort of music: Hearing the singers’ voices I felt that I owe them something—though I have a hard time articulating just what that something might be.

After listening to a few of the discs, I found myself coming back to one particular niggun, a wordless chant, sung by Meir Wiener, described in the liner notes as a “literary critic, 40 years old.” The notes also indicated that Meir, who lived in Kiev at the time of the recording, “adopted this song from his older uncle in Krakow.” It is a beautiful, dark and slow niggun, sung in a deep, pleasant baritone.

Undoubtedly, my interest in the track had something to do with the fact that I myself also happen to be a 40-year-old Eastern European-born literary critic. But it is also true that Meir could carry a tune better than any literary critic I know. For a while, I tried to picture this character in my mind—this literary scholar, who also enjoyed mystical chanting. What sorts of aesthetics did he lean toward? What made him leave Krakow? Did the mystical chanting impact his readings of literary texts?

On a whim, I googled the name. To my surprise, I learned that Meir Wiener left a substantial body of work that goes beyond this single recording. YIVO Archive has a dedicated page for him, and he is also the subject of a whole scholarly edition, From Kabbalah to Class Struggle: Expressionism, Marxism, and Yiddish Literature in the Life and Work of Meir Wiener. I also learned that Wiener perished in battle in 1941, not long after he enlisted as part of the Moscow Writers Battalion.

Wiener’s niggun is one of many tracks collected by the musicologist Moyshe Beregovsky in the 1920s and ’30s. His recordings are the gem of the collection, offering stunning democratic diversity—you get to hear voices of the elderly and children, intelligentsia and street beggars, teachers in the deep provinces, and imprisoned criminals in an Odessa jail. Beregovsky’s careful annotations are also incredible in their level of detail and precision.

Among over 150,000 items in Kiev’s Jewish Archive, there is a total of 1,017 audio cylinders. And there probably would have been a great deal more—but the archive was shut down by the KGB in the early 1950s as part of the attempt to get rid of “rootless cosmopolitans” through a thinly veiled government-sponsored anti-Semitic initiative aimed at erasing any trace of Jewish ethnocultural or political particularity.

I innocently asked Sergieieva why the KGB went after the Jews and their archive. She retorted with familiar sarcasm: “Because Jews were bad! Whose fault is it—always and for everything?” It was then that the KGB destroyed the filing system that contained the descriptions of the archive’s holdings. The holdings themselves, however, were saved—even the books, which were decreed destruction-worthy. Sergieieva told me that by pure chance (or was it guile?) Jewish books were stored along with unwanted backlist publications of Communist propaganda, which functioned perhaps as a kind of camouflage.

Occasionally, another fervent KGB commission would decide to destroy the archive’s books. And then, Sergieieva tells me, “these library babushkas—they were not necessarily Jewish, even—simply library folk, would block the way and threaten to report to higher authorities. They simply wouldn’t allow a book to be destroyed, not for anything. They would tell the KGB: ‘Are you trying to destroy the works of Marx, stashed here?’ And KGB would go away.”

When Ukraine became an independent nation in the 1990s, the archive was finally reopened. As a historian, Sergieieva was interested in reconstructing not only the archive itself, but also the list of individuals, who were involved with it—but she couldn’t locate any relevant records. She told me: “I went through everything, all of the documents, but there was not a single last name there. And then, among a random stack of papers, a little scrap … and a wondrous find. It said: ‘The list of employees of the Department of Jewish Literature … who received soap.’ That’s how I found it. God bless the soap, and its absence in the Soviet times.”

If there is a definition of ultimate cosmic irony, it probably has something to do with signing on to receive the government’s allotment of soap, and being remembered, in history, through this one act.

In 1997, Leonid Kuchma, Ukraine’s president of the time, was planning a visit to Israel—the first such official visit of a Ukrainian leader. The government asked the newly reopened archive to help provide a thoughtful gift. It was then that the first batch of cylinders was digitized, with the help of complex technology, invented from scratch just for this occasion. Since then, CDs have been released at a steady pace.

The very latest disc published by the archive is an outlier: It was recorded in Palestine, rather than in Ukraine. And although the disc is labeled “Hasidic Songs and Cantilations Recorded by Isaac Luria in Palestine (1913),” it most certainly is not a collection of Hasidic Songs—instead they are religious melodies of Sephardi immigrants from Yemen, Syria, Iran, and Iraq, among others. It strikes a particularly wonderful contrast with the two preceding discs of Beregovsky’s recordings of fiery 1930s Communist songs from the “Jewish agricultural colonies of Southern Ukraine.”

In the past decades, a number of musicologists and contemporary klezmer musicians mined the archives for inspiration. Michael Alpert, who recently received the NEA lifetime achievement award for his massive contribution to the worldwide renaissance of klezmer, wrote to me in an email: “Working with those remarkable materials has formed a major part of my artistic and scholarly life. For all of us researching and performing Yiddish traditional music, the Vernadsky collections are a time capsule, a window into Yiddish folk musical creativity as a living heritage in pre-WWII Eastern Europe.”

Not all of the contemporary klezmer players are quite as effusive as Alpert, though. Once digitized, the cylinders are no longer played, and when it comes to lending the materials to the outside public, the rules are strict. Joshua Horowitz, klezmer virtuoso, and one of the co-founders of a superb neoklezmer outfit Veretski Pass, was teaching in Kiev back in the early 2000s. In an email to me, he recalled “feeling excited at finally being able to hear some of the rare cylinder recordings made by the leading light of Ukrainian Jewish musicology under Stalin, Moyshe Beregovsky. But after I entered the archive, my excitement soon turned to frustration at not being able to hear anything that hadn’t already been digitized on the one CD that they had issued at the time.” Apparently, Horowitz was invited to view the handwritten transcriptions, but was barred from accessing the actual sound recordings—which, to a performing musician would be far more relevant than note sheets. As he put it, “The feeling of pride by the archivists at being the stewards of such valuable cultural treasures was tempered by their bashfulness in being forced to admit that they couldn’t offer more due to a policy over which they had no control. It wasn’t their fault. The sound recordings were housed in a different location, carefully sheltered from nonemployee human beings. We all understood the irony of an institution calling itself a library when it vehemently insulates its property from human perusal, but were still asking, ‘Nu, so who is it for, then?’”

It should be no surprise that after the decades-long weight of bureaucracy and secrecy, the archive has a ways to go in becoming an all-welcoming, full-access establishment. One can remain enthusiastic, knowing that terrific scholars continue to oversee the materials, and as it is, the release of the audio recordings in the digitized format feels somewhat miraculous. And yet that question—who is it all for?—is one that I continue to ponder.

I would like to say that these recordings exist for those mythic dybbuks, whose voices are captured on the recordings.

May their memory be a blessing.

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Forward Together With the Poor People’s Campaign


People living in poverty across the United States — from California to Kentucky to Michigan to West Virginia — told us their stories

Reverend William J. Barber II and Elizabeth Warren. (Screengrab)

Reverend William J. Barber II and Elizabeth Warren. (Screengrab)

On June 12th, 2018, Reverend William J. Barber II hosted a discussion on poverty for members of Congress. People living in poverty across the United States — from California to Kentucky to Michigan to West Virginia — told us their stories. We heard from a victim of a predatory loan who lives in a trailer home infested with mold. We heard from an undocumented immigrant who struggles to afford rent in Los Angeles. We heard from a retired coal miner who is still fighting for fair benefits from greedy corporations.

As Americans struggle to pay their bills, the Trump Administration continues to spit in the face of poor people. Donald Trump has nominated Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court — a judge who poses a real threat to historically disadvantaged communities, including people of color, LGBTQ Americans, workers and the poor. The president has also crammed his administration with officials who care more about making money for themselves than protecting our environment, keeping our workers safe, and advocating for the rights of unions and consumers. Poor people are under attack from those in power, and the Poor People’s Campaign is on the forefront of this fight.

“This is not a liberal or a conservative movement. It is a deeply moral movement. The people who are hurting the most have linked up to say, ‘We won’t be silent anymore.’”Reverend Barber launched the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival to pick up where Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. left off 50 years ago.

“I think it’s really easy for us as human beings to punish people or dismiss people because we don’t love them. And we can’t love them, we say, if we don’t know them.” Amy Jo Hutchinson told us about people living in poverty in West Virginia — and the governor’s immoral proposal to add work requirements to SNAP benefits.

Pamela Rush is a mother of two from Alabama. Her family lives in a mobile home that’s falling apart. But as a victim of a predatory loan, she has no money for repairs. Her 10-year-old daughter has breathing problems because of the mold in the trailer. She joined the Poor People’s campaign because she wants to fight back.

“There seems to be a lack of compassion and humility — or at the very least a turning of a blind eye — to problem areas in our society.” Christopher Olive is a U.S. Air Force veteran. He suffered from opioid addiction and homelessness after his discharge. He’s now fighting for affordable housing, rental assistance, and treatment facilities in his community, Grays Harbor County in Washington state.

Vanessa Nosie represents the San Carlos Apache tribe, from the Apache stronghold. She told us about the Elem Indian Colony in Clearlake, California. Cancer rates are increasingly high in the area after miners stripped mercury from the land, leaking heavy metal into the water. She’s fighting to preserve the sacred land of indigenous people from corporate greed and environmental devastation.

“As long as we’re divided, they can conquer.” Nick Smith is the son of a coal miner’s daughter. He’s seen poverty grow worse and worse in Appalachia as coal mining jobs disappear and unions are weakened. Nick is fighting against corporate greed, anti-union legislation, and voter suppression.

“Unfortunately, today most immigrants are afraid. But we’re not just afraid of getting deported, we’re now afraid of having our children ripped from our arms while we’re crossing borders.” Kenia Alcocer is fighting for basic human rights for immigrants. She told us about her life in Los Angeles, and how she fears displacement because of high rents and stagnant wages. “This is not about a paper, this is not about citizenship, this is about human rights.

“We have an administration right now in place that’s doing everything they can to set us back as much as they can.” Stanley Sturgill told us about the devastation of “right-to-work” anti-union laws in Kentucky. After working 41 years in the coal mines, he continues to fight for the health care and pension rights of coal miners.

“Venus is supposed to be alive.” Callie Greer’s daughter, Venus Colley-Mims, died because she didn’t have access to health care. While fighting for her life, she battled insurance companies who refused to pay for the medical care she needed. While waiting for the insurance company to approve a CAT scan and breathing equipment, she lapsed into a coma and died. Callie is fighting for every single person’s right to health care.

Ariana spoke about the water crisis in Flint, Michigan. Her family and her community are still suffering without clean water and she demands to know why the government has still not adequately addressed this crisis.

“Everyone needs health care.” Margie from North Carolina, told the story of her late brother-in-law, who died from kidney cancer because he did not have access to health care. She is advocating for Medicare for All because health care is a basic human right.

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Action Alert: It’s Been Over a Year Since MSNBC Has Mentioned US War in Yemen


Why is the No. 1 outlet of alleged anti-Trump #resistance completely ignoring his most devastating war?

“MSNBC chat show/Starbucks commercial Morning Joe did run one segment that vaguely mentioned the war on Yemen, but failed to note the U.S.’s role in it at all, much less that Washington is arming and backing the conflict’s primary aggressor,” Johnson writes. (Photo: VOA/Screengrab)

As FAIR has noted before (1/8/18, 3/20/18), to MSNBC, the carnage and destruction the US and its Gulf Monarchy allies are leveling against the poorest country in the Arab world is simply a non-issue.

On July 2, a year had passed since the cable network’s last segment mentioning US participation in the war on Yemen, which has killed in excess of 15,000 people and resulted in over a million cases of cholera. The US is backing a Saudi-led bombing campaign with intelligence, refueling, political cover, military hardware and, as of March, ground troops. None of this matters at all to what Adweek (4/3/18) calls “the network of the Resistance,” which has since its last mention of the US’s role in the destruction of Yemen found time to run over a dozen segments highlighting war crimes committed by the Syrian and Russian governments in Syria.

By way of contrast, as MSNBC was marking a year without mentioning the US role in Yemen, the PBS NewsHour was running a three-part series on the war, with the second part (7/3/18) headlined, “American-Made Bombs in Yemen Are Killing Civilians, Destroying Infrastructure and Fueling Anger at the US.” The NewsHour’s Jane Ferguson reported:

The aerial bombing campaign has not managed to dislodge the rebels, but has hit weddings, hospitals and homes. The US military supports the Saudi coalition with logistics and intelligence. The United States it also sells the Saudis and coalition partners many of the bombs they drop on Yemen.

MSNBC chat show/Starbucks commercial Morning Joe did run one segment (4/25/18) that vaguely mentioned the war on Yemen, but failed to note the US’s role in it at all, much less that Washington is arming and backing the conflict’s primary aggressor. Instead, they did the perverse inversion––previously mastered by Washington Post’s Jackson Diehl (FAIR.org6/27/17)—of not only ignoring the US’s major role in killing thousands, but painting the US as a noble haven for refugees. The schlocky segment, an interview with writer Mohammed Al Samawi, was a shallow mixture of “interfaith” pablum, poverty porn and self-congratulations to the US for taking in refugees (without, of course, acknowledging that they’re seeking refuge from a crisis the US has created).

For a bit more context, in the time period of July 3, 2017, to July 3, 2018, MSNBCdedicated zero segments to the US’s war in Yemen, but 455 segments to Stormy Daniels. This isn’t to suggest the Stormy Daniels matter isn’t newsworthy—presidential corruption is per se important. But one has to wonder if this particular thread of venality is 455 stories more important than Trump aggressively supporting a war that’s killing hundreds of people a month, injuring thousands, and subjecting millions to famine and cholera. Did MSNBC editors, poring over the latest academic foreign policy literature, really come to the conclusion Trump’s war in Yemen isn’t important? Or is MSNBC simply fueled by partisan Russia dot-connecting and stories that allow them to say “porn star” as much as possible?

What seems most likely is MSNBC has found that attacking Russia form the right on matters of foreign policy is the most elegant way to preserve its “progressive” image while still serving traditional centers of power—namely, the Democratic Party establishment, corporate sponsors, and their own revolving door of ex-spook and military contractor-funded talking heads (3/26/18). After all, Obama backed the war on Yemen—though not nearly as aggressively as Trump has—and it’s difficult to make a coherent left-wing, anti-war criticism when the current Republican in office is simply carrying out your guy’s policy, but on steroids.

In any event, it’s not like any Yemenis are going to pull ads, turn down appearances, or phone Comcast higher-ups complaining. So, who cares? To be poor and brown—to say nothing of not serving the immediate partisan interests of the Democratic party—is evidently to not matter much in the eyes of MSNBC producers and on-air talent.


Please tell MSNBC to pay serious attention to the US role in the ongoing humanitarian disaster in Yemen.

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‘God Only Knows’: The Tortured, Killed, or Forcibly Disappeared People of Yemen


US citizens bear responsibility for the US government’s support of these crimes

"To date, the US continues selling weapons to the UAE and to its coalition partner, Saudi Arabia, despite several Congressional debates and a few increasingly close votes demanding a full or partial end to US weapons sales considering the terrible practices being carried out as part of the Yemen war."(Photo: Mohammed Hamoud/Getty Images)

“To date, the US continues selling weapons to the UAE and to its coalition partner, Saudi Arabia, despite several Congressional debates and a few increasingly close votes demanding a full or partial end to US weapons sales considering the terrible practices being carried out as part of the Yemen war.”(Photo: Mohammed Hamoud/Getty Images)

“If they would just confirm to us that my brother is alive, if they would just let us see him, that’s all we want. But we can’t get anyone to give us any confirmation. My mother dies a hundred times every day. They don’t know what that is like.”

In July of 2018, an Amnesty International report entitled “God Knows If He’s Alive,”documented the plight of dozens of families in southern Yemen whose loved ones have been tortured, killed, or forcibly disappeared by Yemeni security forces reporting to the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The UAE is part of the Saudi-led coalition that, with vital US support, has been bombarding and blockading famine and disease-ravaged Yemen for three brutal years. The disappearances, and torture, can sadly be laid at the doorstep of the United States.

The UAE is part of the Saudi-led coalition that, with vital US support, has been bombarding and blockading famine and disease-ravaged Yemen for three brutal years. The disappearances, and torture, can sadly be laid at the doorstep of the United States.

One testimonial after another echoes the sentiments of a woman whose husband has been held incommunicado for more than two years. “Shouldn’t they be given a trial?” she asked. “Why else are there courts? They shouldn’t be disappeared this way – not only are we unable to visit them, we don’t even know if they are dead or alive.”

The report describes bureaucratic farces in which families beg for information about their loved ones’ whereabouts from Yemeni prosecutors and prison officials, but the families’ pleas for information are routinely met with silence or intimidation.

The families are appealing to an unelected Yemeni exile government whose president, Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, (when “elected” president in 2012, he was the only candidate) generally resides in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The UAE has, so far, supported Hadi’s claim to govern Yemen. However, the Prosecutor General of Hadi’s government, as well as other officials, told Amnesty International the government of Yemen has no control over operations “spearheaded by the UAE and implemented by the Yemeni forces it backs.”

When months and years pass and families of people who are missing still have no news about their loved ones, some try to communicate unofficially with prison guards or with former detainees who have been released from various detention sites. They repeatedly hear stories about torture of detainees and rumors about prisoners who died in custody.

The Amnesty report implicates UAE-backed local forces in Yemen, as well as the UAE military, in the crimes of torture and other ill-treatment of detainees. Of seven former or current detainees interviewed by Amnesty, five said they were subjected to these abuses. “All seven witnessed other detainees being tortured,” the report adds, “including one who said he saw a detainee held in a cell next to him being carried away in a body bag after he had been repeatedly tortured.”

In June 2017, Human Rights Watch and the Associated Press exposed a network of clandestine prisons operated by the UAE in Yemen. Their reports described ghastly torture inflicted on prisoners and noted that senior US military leaders knew about torture allegations. Yet, a year later, there has been no investigation of these allegations by the Yemeni government, by the UAE, or by the UAE’s most powerful ally in the Yemen war, the United States.

“It is shocking, to say the least,” the Amnesty report states, “that one year after a network of secret prisons operated by the UAE and the Yemeni forces it backs was exposed, these facilities continue to operate and that there has not been a serious investigation undertaken into credibly documented violations, including systemic torture in custody.” The Amnesty report calls on the US to “facilitate independent oversight, including by the US Congress, over US military or intelligence cooperation with Yemeni and UAE forces involved in detention activities in Yemen.” It further calls for investigating any involvement of US military or intelligence personnel in detention-related abuses in Yemen.

To date, the US continues selling weapons to the UAE and to its coalition partner, Saudi Arabia, despite several Congressional debates and a few increasingly close votes demanding a full or partial end to US weapons sales considering the terrible practices being carried out as part of the Yemen war.

Since March of 2015, a coalition of nine countries led by Saudi Arabia and the UAE and relying on crucial U.S. logistical aid, has bombarded Yemen while blockading its major port, despite Yemen’s status as one of the poorest countries in the world. Targeting transportation, electrical plants, sewage and sanitation facilities, schools, mosques, weddings and funerals, the vicious bombing has led to starvation, displacement, and the spread of disease including cholera.

On the same day that the Amnesty report was released, Saudi Arabia’s King Salmanpardoned “all military men, who have taken part in the Operation Restoring Hope of their respective military and disciplinary penalties, in regard of some rules and disciplines.” It seems likely that the Amnesty report precipitated this royal decree.

Ending arms sales to the UAE and Saudi monarchies, supported by both sides of the aisle, will signal to the UAE and Saudi Arabia the US will no longer assist their efforts to prolong war and siege in Yemen.

Along with three countries in North Africa’s “Sahel” desert region, Yemen has been cited as part of the worst famine crisis in the 70-year history of the UN. In the past three years of aerial and naval attacks, Yemen’s key port of Hodeidah has remained partially or fully closed despite the country’s vital need for relief supplies. And, while Yemenis suffer the chaos and despair characteristic of war, the Saudis and UAE refer to the war as “Operation Restoring Hope.”

Many thousands of Yemenis, subjected to consistent bombing and threats of starvation and famine, have fled their homes. Many seek refuge out of Yemen. For instance, close to 500 Yemenis have traveled nearly 500 miles to reach a visa-free port on South Korea’s Jeju Island. On July 21, during an international phone call hosted by young friends in Afghanistan, listeners heard Kaia, a resident of Jeju Island, describe the “Hope School.” She explained how she and several other young people are trying to help welcome Yemenis now living in their village of Gangjeong. The young people are already committed to peacefully resisting U.S. and South Korean military destruction of their shoreline and ecosystem. Now, they have started an informal school so Yemeni and South Korean residents can learn from one another. Small groups gather for conversational exchanges translated from Arabic to English to Korean. Many South Koreans can recall, in their own familial history, that seven million Koreans fled Japanese occupation of their land. Their Korean forebears relied on hospitality from people in other lands. The Catholic Bishop of the Jeju diocese, Monsignor Kang Woo-il, called on Koreans to embrace Yemeni refugees, labeling it a crime against human morality to shut the door on refugees and migrants.

Kaia’s account of the newly launched school describes an effort that truthfully involves restoring hope. The cynical designation of Saudi and UAE led war in Yemen as “Operation Restoring Hope” creates an ugly smokescreen that distracts from the crucial need to investigate war crimes committed in Yemen today.

US citizens bear responsibility for the US government’s support of these crimes.

The Yemenis mean us no harm and have committed no crime against us. Congressional votes have come quite close, with bipartisan support, to ending US participation in and support for the Saudi and Emirati led Coalition war against Yemen. Ending arms sales to the UAE and Saudi monarchies, supported by both sides of the aisle, will signal to the UAE and Saudi Arabia the US will no longer assist their efforts to prolong war and siege in Yemen. On cue from the initiative and energy shown by young South Koreans, people in the US can and should organize campaigns to educate their communities, educational institutions, and media outlets about the plight of people in Yemen. Conscious of the nightmare faced by Yemenis whose husbands, brothers, fathers and sons have been disappeared or detained by shadowy military enforcers, US people can work toward implementing each recommendation in Amnesty’s devastating report.

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Oded Yinon Speaks Again

yinon 2018.jpg

Reported by Gilad Atzmon

Years after Israel Shahak translated Oded Yinon’s (1982) Plan into English, we have a chance to listen to contemporary Yinon. I was notified about this this youtube video by a FB friend.  Strangely enough, the video has as of today, a very small number of views. Yinon is an ultra Zionist. He is not shy about it and considering his ‘prophetic’  vision of the Middle East back in 1982 it is worth listening to his perception of Israel, World Jewry and the Middle East.

To learn about the Yinon Plan click here

In the interview Yinon insists that his strategic plan for the Middle East wasn’t really a plan and it has never matured into an Israeli policy. However, he admits that some of his 1982  ideas were adopted by the IDF intelligence (AMAN) at the time of the Civil War in Syria  (22.40).   The breaking of the Middle East into tribal wars has been postponed according to Yinon but the roots of such a battle are far from over, they are basically inherent to the region.

According to Yinon peace with the Palestinians is unlikely and Israel should invest in its ownbuilding. Yinon predicts that USA Jews have no future in America, “America was the biggest (best)  solution to the Jewish problem before Zionism, but today Zionism proves itself as the only solution.” He  argues that American Jews will find themselves detached from American politics, culture and society. The holocaust is long away faded from American consciousness and this is, according to him, bad news for the Jews. They will have to wander and their destination is clear. For those who fail to understand, this is hardly a promising news for the Palestinians and the region.

To understand Oded Yinon within the context of Jewish ID politics read

Being in Time – A Post Political Manifesto,

cover bit small.jpg , and  here (


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Zionist puppet White Helmet is Seeking Refuge


White Helmet is Seeking Refuge

white helmet.jpg

By Gilad Atzmon

Time Of Israel reports this morning that overnight Israel transported 800 White Helmet workers and their families from southwest Syria to Jordan. The IDF says it acted at the request of the United States and European countries.

The Jordanian government, which has in recent years consistently refused to accept Syrian refugees, said they had made an  exception in this case as the United Kingdom, Canada and Germany had agreed to take in the  White Helmet rescuers and their families.

Those amongst us who aren’t followers of the various Guardians of Judea outlets have been suspicious of the White Helmet’s humanitarian agenda for a while.

Whitney Webb wrote in July 2017  that “over the past two years, enlightening information has been revealed that thoroughly and unequivocally debunks the ‘humanitarianism’ of the White Helmets in Syria, sometimes referred to as the Syrian Civil Defense.”

The western media has offered enthusiastic support for the White Helmets  and the media has somehow failed to report on  “the group’s ties to terrorist groups like al-Qaeda, their doctoring of footage, their role in executing civilians and their use of children – both dead and alive – as props for producing pro-intervention propaganda. Also absent from the news is how the White Helmets have received over $123 million from 2013 to 2016 from the U.S. and UK governments, as well as Western NGOs and Gulf state monarchies.”

Webb also reported on the White Helmets’ “shady ties to known terrorist organizations like Syria’s al-Qaeda branch Al-Nusra Front.”

In recent months we have been asked to accept that the so-called ‘gas attack’ in Duoma was the ‘event’ that led to an orchestrated American, British and French missile assault on Syrian government facilities. Reports of the ‘gas attack’ were based on a video propagated by the White Helmets. But here is Dr Rahaibani’s account of the Douma incident, brought to us by Robert Fisk, probably one of the few reliable journalists left among the British press.

“I was with my family in the basement of my home three hundred metres from here on the night but all the doctors know what happened. There was a lot of shelling [by government forces] and aircraft were always over Douma at night – but on this night, there was wind and huge dust clouds began to come into the basements and cellars where people lived. People began to arrive here suffering from hypoxia, oxygen loss. Then someone at the door, a “White Helmet”, shouted “Gas!”, and a panic began. People started throwing water over each other. Yes, the video was filmed here, it is genuine, but what you see are people suffering from hypoxia – not gas poisoning.”


Today’s news from Israeli suggests that the West has supported the White Helmets all along, and so has given refuge to its interventionist allies.

Supporters of the Syrian government have accused the White Helmets of being politically affiliated with the rebel groups. Russia and the Syrian government have repeatedly accused them of staging chemical attacks in opposition areas for propaganda purposes as shown in the video above.

In its defence, the White Helmets, founded in 2013, regards itself as a genuine humanitarian body that rescues the wounded in the aftermath of air strikes, shelling or blasts in rebel-held territory. The White Helmets have rescued thousands of civilians trapped under rubble or caught up in the fighting in battered opposition-held zones in the various fronts of Syria’s conflict.

I have no doubt that many of the White Helmet workers are genuine humanitarians.  But if the White Helmets are solely rescue workers, I wonder why hundreds of them are seeking to escape Syria and why Israel, the USA and Britain are instrumental in providing refuge.

To support Gilad’s legal costs

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