All posts by Paul Larudee

The Movement to Suppress and Impoverish Critics of Israel is Racist

Marc Lamont Hill, Tim Anderson, Steven Salaita, Rabab Abdulhadi, Hatem Bazian, Ahlam Muhtasib, Norman Finkelstein and other academics have all been targets of the movement to silence their criticisms of Israel and their defense of Palestinians. This includes threats and legal actions to try to deny them employment, in violation of their free speech rights, one of the most hallowed and ancient principles of academia. Salaita and Finkelstein were, in fact, denied employment, to the great detriment of their entire career. Hill and Anderson are currently defending themselves from this threat.

It is central to our understanding of these threats that the accusers are invariably Zionist or pro-Zionist individuals and institutions. Their backers include the Israeli government, which co-ordinates the movement through its Ministry of Strategic Affairs, the Israel lobbies in the US, UK, France, Australia and other countries, and the major Jewish Zionist billionaire funders, such as Sheldon Adelson, Haim Saban, Bernard Marcus and others. They emphatically do not include non-Zionist or anti-Zionist Jews, but almost always include non-Jewish Zionists.

This is already enough to conclude that there is a fundamental difference between Jews and Zionists and that many are one without being the other, including some ultra-orthodox Jews, like the Neturei Karta. The relevance of this is that the accusations against the critics of Israel are always that they are racist anti-Jews; i.e., “anti-Semitic”. The evidence consists of testimony from Jewish students and Jewish organizations that the criticisms make them feel “unsafe” or that they find them offensive.

But is any of the testimony from non-Zionist Jews? Or is it only from Zionists? Why don’t non-Zionist Jews feel offended? If none of them feel offended and only Zionists (both Jewish and non-Jewish), how can the charge of anti-Semitism be supported? This is highly relevant to the defense of such cases. If someone is offended at skin piercings or tattoos or dark skin or light skin or atheism or other types of appearance and speech, is that a reason to banish them from the campus (or elsewhere)? It is part of a free society and respect for rights that anyone so offended will simply have to live with such feelings or go elsewhere.

In a tolerant society, it is permitted to voice both Zionist and anti-Zionist views. In fact, it is permitted to voice racist views, although it is not required to provide funding or resources for such views unless they are de jure available to all members of a society, (e.g. a speaker’s platform in a public park or a meeting room in a public library).

Is Zionism or anti-Zionism racist? Anti-Zionism is not, because it’s plainly not anti-Semitism. But Zionism advocates a Jewish state and supports the ethnic cleansing of another people, the Palestinians, in order to realize and maintain such a state. It enforces draconian laws and practices against Palestinian citizens of Israel, and even stronger measures, including the deliberate shooting of unarmed civilians, against Palestinians in territories that it controls. From the beginning, it has sought to expel or eliminate as many Palestinians as possible.

On the other hand, the Palestinian movements – even Hamas – have always argued that a person’s religion or race is irrelevant to their rights in the lands that they wish to liberate from Zionism. All of the academics that the Zionist movement has targeted for persecution, silencing and dismissal support this ideal. We must therefore ask ourselves, who are the racists?

An Offer from Palestine, Ms. Ocasio-Cortez

Following is the text of an invitation from Amal Wahdan, on behalf of herself and the rest of the Steering Committee of the Free Palestine Movement, for congressional candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to visit Palestine.

Ms. Ocasio-Cortes won the Democratic primary election for New York State’s 14th congressional district on June 26, 2018. Two things were surprising and encouraging about her victory.  First, she won against the heavily favored incumbent, the Chair of the New York Democratic Caucus, Joseph Crowley.

Second, she called the actions of the state of Israel “a massacre” for its shooting of more than 3000 unarmed Palestinians in Gaza during the nonviolent demonstrations that were happening during her campaign. It is exceptionally unusual for a congressional candidate to win even a primary election after criticizing Israel in this way.

Following her victory, The Israel Lobby went to work, most visibly in a letter from Rabbi Andy Bachman, an admitted Zionist, inviting Ocasio-Cortez to come to Israel with him.

Historically, the Lobby has dominated this issue in Congress, with a relatively weak response from Palestinians and their supporters. This time, however, the Free Palestine Movement (FPM), a small, tax-exempt nonprofit in California, decided that the candidate deserved an invitation from the Palestinian side.

The result is the letter below, which is being hand delivered to Ms. Ocasio-Cortez by one of the FPM Steering Committee members. The FPM advocates a state that is neither Jewish nor any other religion or race, but which welcomes them all. They oppose any state defined by a particular race or religion, especially when it requires expulsion and marginalization of one population in order to replace it with another.

The FPM recognizes the realities of political life in the US but hopes to contribute to changing those realities in creative and meaningful ways, as do many other groups working for justice in Palestine.

*****

July 10, 2018

Dear Ms. Ocasio-Cortez,

Congratulations on your victory that has inspired so many throughout the US and the world and which encourages us to believe that people and communities can come together to stand for justice and dignity for all, and achieve victory through movement-building. 

I write to you as a Palestinian and an American seeking a US policy based on those principles, not on continued support for intervention, occupation and aggression. You have made statements that give us hope for justice, and we want to work with you to build a new U.S. foreign policy that puts an end to the denial of Palestinian rights and the support for a state that expelled more than half the Palestinian population during the past 70 years. Today, there are more than 5 million Palestinian refugees. Israel is still denying them their right to return to their homes and unify their families.

We ask the US only to support our rights under international law, and to recover what has been taken from us. Although the Zionists came as invaders and oppressors, we do not ask that they leave, only that they end the oppression, so that we all may live with dignity, justice and equality rather than as conqueror and conquered.  This is the only way to stop the bloodshed and achieve peace and security in this part of the world.

We have already seen the attacks on you for speaking out in support of Palestinian human rights and attempts to pressure you into changing your opinion or accepting sponsored tours of the Israeli state and its military-industrial complex. On the other hand, I would like to invite you to a people’s tour of Palestine, including what many consider to be Israel. You will meet with community leaders representing a wide spectrum of the population and many different points of view, from various faith traditions and social sectors, including Muslims, Christians and Jews who are community organizers, workers, farmers, teachers, university professors, labor activists and human rights defenders.

We are known for our hospitality and promise an unforgettable experience worth a lifetime of memories.  Please call and let’s talk about it.

With best wishes for your continued success in the November election and beyond,

Amal Wahdan, for the Free Palestine Movement

How I became an anti-Semite without hating Jews

“Because you’re an anti-Semite!” said Kei in a room full of Palestine supporters, looking me straight in the face.

Kei was a member of Students for Justice in Palestine at George Washington University in Washington, DC. He had just finished delivering a talk on the Nakba – “catastrophe” in Arabic – to a meeting of the Party for Socialism and Liberation. It was a good presentation, and clearly he and the other presenter had spent significant time putting it together.

To all appearances, Kei and I saw eye to eye on the issue of Palestine, and should have been on the same side. And that is how we first became acquainted. I was the logistical member of a team bringing two Palestinian women from the refugee camps in Lebanon to speak to students and other groups in North America. Kei’s SJP group at GWU had invited the women to speak at their campus, and Kei was my contact for working out the details.

But then, all of a sudden, he and his group disappeared and we had no response from them. They had decided not to communicate with us anymore, not even to let us know that they had cancelled the invitation. And then there was Kei at the PSL meeting, where I had come at the suggestion of a friend. Having never met him in person, I didn’t realize who he was until he was in the middle of his presentation.

So I asked for an explanation of the GWU incident, and he responded, “Because you’re an anti-Semite.”

“Really!” I replied. “Is it because I hate Jews or have made anti-Semitic statements?”

“It’s because you defend Alison Weir.”

I was astonished.  The definition of anti-Semitism had apparently been growing exponentially when I wasn’t watching.  It is, of course, true that Israel and its supporters had been expanding the definition to include criticism of Israel and support for BDS (the movement to boycott, divest from and sanction Israel for its violations of international law).

“But how is that anti-Semitic?” I asked.

“Because she’s an anti-Semite.” He replied.

“OK, then how is she an anti-Semite?”

“Because she appeared on an anti-Semitic white supremacist show”.

“I’ve known Alison a long time and I’ve never known her to say anything racist towards Jews or anyone else. What did she say or do?”

“She appeared on a racist show.”

“OK, so you’re saying that even if she’s never said anything hateful toward Jews, she’s anti-Semitic because she appeared on a racist show, and I’m an anti-Semite because I defend her. Is that right? And anyone who defends her or me will be anti-Semitic? And anyone who defends them? That’s going to be a lot of anti-Semites!”

That’s pretty much where the discussion ended. But it’s clear that my defense of Alison Weir was not the reason Kei considered me an anti-Semite. There are thousands who defend her that are not being called anti-Semites. And Alison and I are both proud to count many anti-Zionist Jews among our friends and supporters. (I also count Zionist Jews among my friends, but we just can’t talk about Israel.)

In fact, Kei’s talk that day was in support of the Al-Awda Palestine Right to Return Coalition, which staunchly supports Alison. And following Kei on the podium was Abbas Hamideh, who is staunchly supportive of Alison. Is Al-Awda anti-Semitic? Is Abbas Hamideh?

No, the reason for labeling me, Alison and others as anti-Semitic has more to do with the arbiters of who gets invited; i.e., the use of power and ostracism as tools for sowing division.

Kei was not tempted to change his view toward me, but had he been, he would almost certainly have found himself ostracized by his own group at George Washington University. That’s a very powerful weapon for those able to wield it.

It doesn’t take much. A couple of rumors and slanderous postings on line, aimed against the targets and backed by a few community leaders, are often enough to create a rift in the movement. Those who want to be accepted and who might aspire to future leadership roles will quickly toss a few corpses along the way as sacrificial offerings to prove their sincerity. Such motivations are typically much stronger than principles.

What can we learn from this experience?  That support for those who have been ostracized is not a recommended course of conduct, unless you are motivated more by integrity than legitimacy, in which case you too may become an anti-Semite without hating Jews.

The Israeli Government Role in Promoting Islamophobia Internationally

Much of the study of Islamophobia is directed at the social and political causes and manifestations, including religious and political dimensions and racist characteristics.  However, Islamophobia is also used as a strategic tool or weapon; i.e., in pursuit of national agenda.

Many of us are familiar with Islamophobic movements within the Buddhist majority in Myanmar (against the Rohingya minority), and within Hindu nationalist parties in India. It is important to note, however, that it is characteristic of these movements that they direct their Islamophobia against particular groups of Muslims within their own societies, and are less concerned with creating an international movement against Islam.

This is what makes the case of Israel unique.  Although Israel, like Myanmar and India, seeks to marginalize and ultimately eliminate a specific population of Muslims – in this case the mostly Muslim Palestinians – part of its strategy for doing so includes encouraging and fostering Islamophobia internationally.  Thus, for example, Israel has successfully pursued strong military and diplomatic ties with the governments of Myanmar and India, and especially the Islamophobic movements within those countries.

It is clear, therefore, that Islamophobia within Israel is not only a matter of organized bigotry and social hatred, which one finds in other societies, but also of instrumentalizing or weaponizing Islamophobia as a strategic tool to legitimize and justify the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in the territories under Israel’s control, as well as to support Israeli aggression towards other mostly Muslim countries in the region. Promoting and fostering Islamophobia internationally helps to increase and solidify international support for the Zionist genocidal project.  It is therefore treated as an important tool of Israeli and Zionist international influence.

My attention was first brought to this fact in casual but unusual circumstances. In early 1993 my family and I were on vacation at a Club Med in France where there were also Israeli intelligence officers and their families.  I got into a discussion with one in particular, who said that with the fall of the Soviet Union, Islam would replace communism as the new enemy.  It sounded a bit far-fetched, but in retrospect he knew what he was talking about, and more important, he was in a position to help make it happen, which of course it did.

The groundwork was laid much earlier.  As Deepa Kumar at Rutgers University reports, the effort to tie Islam to terrorism started at a Zionist funded neoconservative conference on international terrorism in 1979. Then, after a second such conference in 1984, “both US neocons and Zionists worked together to convince Western policy makers that ‘Islamic terrorism’ would replace communism as the West’s next great threat. By tying Islam to terrorism, neocons would gain political cover for their imperialistic ambitions in the Middle East, and Zionists would benefit from garnering Western sympathies for their struggle against Palestinian ‘terrorism.’”

Since then, researchers like Sarah Marusek, David Miller and others have cataloged international Zionist networks that sponsor Islamophobic propaganda and policies.  The work of Pamela Geller and the so-called American Freedom Defense Initiative is one of the well-known examples.  Geller’s anti-Islam billboards and bus advertisements are familiar to many, as well her so-called “Muhammed Art Exhibit and Contest” in Garland, Texas in 2015, resulting in the police killing of two armed men.

Geller is hardly alone, however.  According to the Center for American Progress, the US has six major organizations that manipulate Islamophobia in order to further US support for Israel. These are the Center for Security Policy, the Society of Americans for National Existence, the Middle East Forum, Jihad Watch, Stop Islamization of America, and the Investigative Project on Terrorism.  Sarah Marusek includes even more groups in her paper entitled “The Transatlantic Network: Funding Islamophobia and Israeli Settlements”, published in the anthology, What is Islamophobia?

These organizations constitute a network, as Marusek says, but the complete network is much wider and more diverse than the assets concerned with promoting Islamophobia.  They are known as the sayanim, the Hebrew word for helpers or assistants, and are composed of Zionists who have achieved important and useful positions in societies from which they can exercise powerful initiatives, especially when they operate in concert. Thus, for example, friendly journalists can work with lobbyists and others to quickly and massively spread influence, information, analysis and disinformation that are useful to Israel.

Such initiatives require coordination, intelligence, strategic planning, covert action, technical assistance, and other expertise.  For many years, the sayanim were coordinated by the Mossad. However, following a 2010 report from the influential Reut Institute (a prestigious strategic think tank in Israel), organizational changes were made that moved such responsibility to the Ministry of International Relations, Intelligence and Strategic Affairs – better known as the Ministry of Strategic Affairs.  The report also notes that there are as many as 4000 sayanim in each of the major centers of power and influence, such as London and New York. A concentration of sayanim in important sectors of society that inform the public, such as film, entertainment, journalism, education and social media permits them to help shape public opinion.

In line with Reut Institute recommendations, the Strategic Affairs Ministry has grown in size and secrecy over the last decade.  Reut projected that Israel’s main strategic threat would no longer be to its military security but rather to its image and influence in other countries, especially the US and Europe.  According to this view, BDS was to be regarded as a serious threat, as well as the human rights NGOs, Palestine solidarity groups and the critical alternative press.  The Ministry of Strategic Affairs was therefore selected to coordinate a major new effort to combat this perceived threat.

The Strategic Affairs Ministry has informally been called the Hasbara Ministry, using the Hebrew word for explanation or propaganda. It certainly is that, but also much more.  The reorganization of the Strategic Affairs Ministry can be compared in scope to that of the Homeland Security Department.  A lot of security and intelligence functions were transferred from or shared with Mossad.  The Ministry became responsible for propaganda, influence and manipulation in other countries.  Coordination of the sayanim became part of its purview, as did thousands of students who were paid or received scholarships in return for haunting social media and the comments sections of websites.  The purpose was to dominate the media, insofar as possible, in countries vital to Israel’s plans and intentions, and to sway public opinion toward outcomes determined by Israel’s strategic goals.

Many readers are familiar with the “Brand Israel” campaign. Its function, suggested by the Reut Institute, is to mold Israel’s image in the media of the US and other countries.  Its tactics are PR on steroids, such as, for example, slipping subliminal questions into the Jeopardy quiz program and idyllic holy land vacations into Wheel of Fortune, but permeating nearly everything we see, hear and read in film, entertainment, journalism, education and social media for the purpose of molding public opinion.  With enough effort of this kind, we will presumably think of Israel as Disneyland.

Another example is Facebook and the personal collaboration between Mark Zuckerberg and Benjamin Netanyahu. After a meeting with Netanyahu, Zuckerberg hired a former employee at the Israeli embassy in Washington to be in charge of censoring so-called “fake news” on Facebook.  Only Facebook has the actual figures of who gets censored, but anecdotal evidence seems to indicate that a lot more anti-Zionists than Zionists are affected.  Similarly, Islamophobic postings and Tweets seem to be at least somewhat resistant to censorship compared to ones that are labeled anti-Semitic (which are often merely critical of Israel).

But it’s not just about making Israel look like the good guys. Demonizing and dehumanizing Muslims also helps to justify Israel’s genocide of the Palestinians, as well as its belligerent policies toward its mainly Muslim neighboring countries. A successful program of Islamophobia helps to support Israel’s pogroms of Palestinians in Gaza, its settlements in and economic strangulation of the West Bank, its invasions of Lebanon, its attacks against Syria, and its promotion of US wars against Afghanistan, Somalia, Iraq, Libya and Syria.  Making the US military a proxy for Israel greatly multiplies Israel’s capability, which is why Israel and its US lobby are working hard to create a new international war against Iran.

In order to provide the Strategic Affairs Ministry with all possible means of making such operations possible and successful, it has been assigned some important intelligence functions, including black ops and psy-ops capabilities, which used to be the exclusive purview of the Mossad.  This gives the ministry greater capability to engage in digging up or inventing dirt about people it wants to harm or discredit, especially in the BDS movement and other pro-Palestinian groups.

The hand of the Strategic Affairs Ministry is not always obvious, and it takes care to shun the light.  But occasionally its actions become known, as with the Aljazeera exposé of Israeli operative Shai Masot, working from the Israeli embassy in London and coordinating the actions of British citizens working with Israel. He coached them on how to demonize and “take down” members of parliament, including the Foreign Office Minister, Alan Duncan, who was considered insufficiently supportive of the effort to suppress BDS.

Al Jazeera has produced a similar exposé on the workings of Israel and its US lobby, but the release has been indefinitely delayed, which may be an indication of Israel’s power and influence and the effectiveness of the operations coordinated by the Strategic Affairs Ministry.  Nevertheless, a glimpse of such operations can be seen in the 2004 espionage indictments against AIPAC lobbyists Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman.  The indictments were ultimately dropped, partly because sensitive information would have to be revealed in order to successfully prosecute the cases (or perhaps that was just the excuse used to cover the fact that Tel Aviv gets to decide who gets prosecuted, not Washington).

France can be considered an extreme case.  People have been arrested there for wearing a Free Palestine T-shirt.  PayPal and several large banks in France recently closed the accounts of all organizations that support BDS, which has been ruled anti-Semitic.  Anti-Semitism is broadly defined, as you can see, and it is illegal in France.  You can be fined or jailed for practicing it.

But not for Islamophobia.  Islamophobia is free speech but anti-Semitism is racism. In fact, the French equivalent of AIPAC, known as CRIF, has publically declared that “Islamophobia is not a form of racism.  We have long drawn attention to the danger of conflating Islamophobia and anti-Semitism.  To do so would impede all criticism of Islam, such that the fundamental rights of [other] religions could not be respected. The CRIF will therefore block all resolutions against Islamophobia”.

The writings of Jacob Cohen are instructive in this regard. He has published a remarkable and very comprehensive exposé on the promotion of Islamophobia in France, including the actions of Israeli operatives and French Zionist organizations.  But there’s a catch.  In order to publish it in France without being arrested or sued, he has to disguise it as very thinly veiled fiction, in this case O.P.A. Kabbalistique sur les Nouveaux Indigènes. It is available only in French, but even in that language you have to know the persons and groups to which he refers with pseudonyms, and few outsiders know the French scene well enough to recognize more than a handful of them.

So what can we conclude from all this information about the involvement of Israel and the Zionist movement in sponsoring Islamophobia?  The point is that some sources of Islamophobia are not attitudes or social structures. We have to face the fact that there is a very potent, resourceful, well organized and well funded international movement that sees Islamophobia as a strategic tool in pursuit of its national interest. For this reason, it is largely impervious to education or negotiation or legal considerations.

In fact, Israel is also pursuing an apparently contradictory effort to encourage interfaith cooperation between Jews, Muslims and Christians, but with the same goal in mind.  That goal is to blunt criticism of Israel, whether by getting people to hate Muslims and thereby endorse Israel’s belligerence and ethnic cleansing, or by pressuring Muslims not to criticize Israel out of concern for potentially offending their Jewish brothers and sisters.  Since the two strategies are aimed at different populations, I suppose that they might be able to work simultaneously.  This is often how PR campaigns work.

The point is that in all the efforts at fostering tolerance and understanding we are faced with an adversary that is working quite diligently in the opposite direction for reasons that have nothing to do with how they view Islam as a religion or Muslims.  This is therefore a different type of challenge in trying to overcome Islamophobia.

• This article is a revised version of a paper read at the 9th Annual Islamophobia Conference in Berkeley, California, April 29, 2018.

Dear Salafist Wahhabist Apologists

Your head chopper heros are apparently not what Syrians have in mind when they think of democratic revolution.

Mehdi Hasan (MH) can hardly be blamed for the ignorance that he displays in his Intercept article, “Dear Bashar al-Assad Apologists: Your Hero Is a War Criminal Even If He Didn’t Gas Syrians.”  He has apparently never been to Syria, doesn’t often do research on Syria, and gets his information from proponents of a single point of view, representing a bunch of idealists that want to usher in their idea of a liberal democracy in Syria, without benefit of electoral niceties until their power is already ironclad.  What’s wrong with this picture?

But I’m getting ahead of myself.  Let’s start by deconstructing the absurdities and the language in the MH article.

Thankfully, MH has spared us the need to deconstruct the absurd accusation that the Syrian armed forces have used chemical weapons.  He apparently accepts that they don’t need to, that there is no benefit in using them, so why would they? OK, then who did? Cui bono? Easy answer.  The motive of the promoters of destruction in Syria is to create a pretext for the US and its partners to bomb, invade and establish a no-fly zone; i.e., to directly take on the Syrian government and its allies.  These war criminals include the neoconservative cabal in the US, the Zionist and Israeli proponents of using the US to fight Israel’s perceived enemies, and the Saudi and Qatari adventurists backing the Project for a New Salafist Paradise.  These are the same players who brought us Iraq I and II, Libya, Afghanistan forever, Somalia and Yemen.  What more could we wish for?

So let us move on to the MH complaint about barrel bombs. What is the complaint, exactly?  Are they more horrible than other types of bombs? Is it OK to use bombs manufactured in western munitions factories for delivery by jet airplanes but not ones manufactured in Syria and delivered by helicopter?  Never mind.  It’s a great opportunity for MH to use the hyped term “BARREL BOMB” in order to enrage and terrify an undiscerning readership.

But what about all the civilian casualties, and isn’t the Syrian army to blame?  Well, no, ISIS and the pseudonymous al-Qaeda affiliates are quite happy to post videos of their stonings, beheadings, crucifixions and immolations, so we know the army can’t be the only ones.  In fact, given the summary executions of non-Muslims in territories “liberated” from the government, is there any reason to think that the forces fighting the Syrian government are responsible for fewer civilian deaths? I myself met refugees who had fled up to 70 km over the mountains in the dead of winter to Latakia in March, 2013 with no more than the clothes on their back.  No one knows how many children and old people died.

Aircraft? The anti-government fighters don’t have them, do they? No, but they seem to be quite resourceful in eliminating innocent human lives nonetheless.  An example is the at least 10,000 civilians that have lost their lives in Damascus due to mortars and “hell cannons” (which also use “barrel bombs”) since the start of the hostilities.  Other examples include the withering four-year siege of the Shiite towns of Foua and Kafraya near Idlib and the unrelenting bombardment via “hell cannon” of the city of Aleppo from the enclave of East Aleppo until it was finally recovered by government forces in late 2016.

On the other hand, for those (unlike MH and the mainstream media), who consider evidence to be relevant, there is a plethora available to show that the Syrian army has been unusually respectful of civilian life. The claim is that Syria and its Russian allies have obliterated entire neighborhoods, raining bombs on the civilian population.  The facts are somewhat at odds with this description.

First, there are the civilian casualties themselves.  The UN stopped keeping casualty statistics in early 2016, but even the anti-government Syrian Observatory for Human Rights concedes that less that 1/3 of all casualties are civilians.  No other war on record has had such a low ratio. By comparison, 2/3 were civilian casualties in Vietnam, WWII and most other wars.

Second, the Syrian army liberation of Homs, Aleppo and other areas has followed a typical progression that is quite the opposite of “just kill them all”.  First, the army surrounds the area and lays siege. At this point, if the army wants to flatten the area and bring an end to the resistance there, it has the perfect means to do so.  But it does not.  Instead, it positions relief supplies at the perimeter and makes them available without prejudice to the inhabitants.  It also offers sanctuary to all who wish to leave.  Amazingly, this includes even the fighters.  Syrian fighters willing to lay down their arms are offered amnesty.  But many are not initially willing to accept amnesty, and many are not Syrian.  To these, the government offers safe passage to other parts of Syria under opposition control, even permitting the fighters to keep their small arms.

If they refuse, the siege and the fighting continue, often for more than a year, and bombing is often a part of the campaign, especially toward the end, after multiple unilateral ceasefires from the government side, to try to conclude a peaceful end, as in Aleppo.  The bombing is typically in the least inhabited areas, in order to remove cover for fighters, so that the army will incur fewer casualties when it goes in.  The strategy doesn’t always work, but the low ratio of civilian casualties is a testimony to its relative success.

Why does the Syrian government do this?  Wouldn’t it be easier to just level the entire area, civilians and all, and be rid of the fighters once and for all?

Not really.  The government is aware that families are split, with some fighting on one side and some on another. One of the reasons so many Syrians remain loyal to the government is that it is seeking to protect all Syrians on all sides, with the intention of regaining their allegiance.  The government also recognizes that many of the opposition fighters are, in effect, mercenaries, for whom fighting is a way to put food on the table when there are no other sources of income.  Such fighters are not really enemies, just desperate people.  Given an opportunity, they will easily return to the government side.

Then there are the hyped bombing casualty statistics. As I pointed out in 2015, even if we accept the statistics of the highly biased anti-government Human Rights Watch, the number of casualties per bomb is only two, including combatants.  If we apply the ratio of civilian deaths, that is less than one civilian casualty per bomb, a clear indication that the Syrian air force is being far more respectful of civilians than the US was, for example, in its bombing of Raqqah, where twice as many civilians as fighters were killed.

But MH is slamming a position that nobody holds. The number of “leftists” that consider Bashar al-Assad a hero infinitesimal. There may be many Syrians who do, but that is not who MH is referring to.  MH is misinterpreting the actions of some journalists (including “leftists”) to correct distortions and false information as defense of Assad.  Perhaps the distinction is too subtle for him, but an aversion to disinformation and lynch mob mentality is not the same as being pro-Assad.  It’s not very helpful to say, on the one hand, that you oppose intervention in Syria, and then take all your (false) information from pro-intervention sources.  In that case the interventionists will applaud your non-intervention stance.

Those of us whom MH accuses of being pro-Assad are nothing of the sort.  We believe that Syrian sovereignty and territory should be fully respected (as MH also claims to believe), but we think it is important to counter the fake news and propaganda that are being used to justify the invasion of Syria.  MH is in love with fake news.  He prefers not to mention the killing of police in the uprisings that he describes as “peaceful demonstrations”. He prefers to cherry-pick the opinions of Syrian refugees in Germany rather than the views of the vast majority of refugees (displaced persons) who evacuated to government areas without leaving Syria.  He produces the Human Rights Watch report on 50,000 morgue photos but not the deconstruction by investigator Rick Sterling. And he repeats the al-Qaeda claim and false film footage that Madaya was starving and in need when it was, in fact, sitting on a mountain of aid supplies being denied by the fighters themselves to the population.

If MH can’t see the difference between being pro-Assad and not falling for interventionist propaganda, that’s his problem.  What’s astonishing is the number of “leftists” that rail against interventionism but base their views on the drivel purveyed by the interventionists themselves in the mainstream media, and that originates from propaganda mills like the White Helmets, the Aleppo/Ghouta Media Center and other lavishly funded set designers for warmongers. If MH is not an interventionist, he’s nevertheless making their case for them.

Demography, Hypocrisy and Absurdity

According to the Israeli army, Jews are now a minority in Israeli-controlled territory.  Palestinians outnumber them. This is despite all the creative measures Israel has used to minimize the number of Palestinians and boost the number of Jews.

These measures include killing, starving and preventing adequate medical treatment for Palestinians (especially in Gaza but also in the West Bank), seizing and destroying their homes and property, separating families, outright expulsion (from Jerusalem, for example), capturing and terrorizing children, and making economic activity all but impossible.  The purpose is to get Palestinians to leave, reproduce in smaller numbers or simply die more quickly.  Despite some success with each of these, the goal continues to elude its pursuers.

Part of the reason is that the number of Jews is not keeping pace. More than a million are estimated to have emigrated from Israel in the last decade, even though they continue to be counted as Israeli Jews.  Israel has found “Jews” among Peruvian Indians, Ethiopian tribes and minority groups from India.  American Jews who opt to be buried in Israel are considered “immigrants” and given Israeli citizenship. Nevertheless, it appears to be a losing battle, according to army statistics.

Now the Diaspora Ministry is coming to the rescue. It recommends admitting as “Jews” populations that have an “affinity to Israel and Judaism.  These include communities that declare themselves to be Jewish but are not recognized as such, as well as communities (like the marranos in Spain), that have a historical Jewish connection, in some cases more than half a millennium old.  In these cases, the immigrants would have to “convert” to Orthodox Judaism, as was done with the Ethiopians, Peruvians and Indians.

Although this proposal is controversial, it holds potential for a more creative (but possibly more justified) solution to the demographic “bomb” that the other measures are attempting to address.  Ancestry has always been the eligibility criterion for becoming an Israeli citizen.  Currently, proving a Jewish grandparent is sufficient.  The Diaspora Ministry proposal would extend the definition to include those descended from a historically Jewish population.

This is the key that enables a creative solution. Since Israelites were the original Jewish population, who better to recruit than their descendants, some of whom may have converted to other religions since that time? The most likely candidates are those still living in the region where the Israelites lived.  There is strong historical evidence that many of them were among the first to convert to Christianity and later Islam.  Many of them can trace branches of their family back hundreds of years or even more than a millennium in the same location.

While it is true that much of this population might be uninterested in converting, there are many Israeli “Jews” that are already Buddhist, Baha’i, Christian (Russian Orthodox), and atheist.  Religion need not be an obstacle; just consider them Jews and give them Israeli citizenship, as has been done with so many others without asking for conversion.  This has the advantage of eliminating the non-Jewish Palestinian population (by considering them Jewish) while doubling the Jewish population (by the same means) of Israel and all the territories that it controls.

Giving Palestinians Jewish status is obviously much more than a demographic solution, because it holds the potential to solve a host of other problems – perhaps most of the outstanding issues – with the Palestinians.  Considering them Jews would make them legally indistinguishable from other Israeli citizens (not the “second-class” status of Palestinian citizens of Israel) and therefore endow them with truly equal rights.

Of course, this proposal is unlikely to be considered seriously, no matter how well it fits the twisted logic of who qualifies as a Jew and is eligible to become an Israeli citizen.  This is because of an insurmountable obstacle that trumps all others – racism.  Whatever other considerations might be relevant, Palestinians are for Israel and the Zionist leadership, “the Enemy”.  Israel defines itself and its Jewish population in opposition to Palestinians, who are to be kept out of sight and functionally disenfranchised if their existence has to be conceded at all.  In fact, the objective is to make them disappear altogether, as more than a century of Zionist vision and planning has made clear.

There is little point in trying to find logical and acceptable solutions of this kind.  Israel is not seeking peace, accommodation, compromise, or tolerance.  From the point of the Zionist leadership, there is no benefit to it.  The Israeli economy, culture and social structure depend entirely upon a hostile relationship with Palestinians and Israel’s neighbors.  The only currently acceptable solution for Israel is complete capitulation; i.e., for Palestinians to give up all claims to their land and existence as a nation.  Even that is doubtful, because Israel could potentially collapse if it doesn’t find new enemies.  But there is no danger of that.

“The Agreement of the Century”

According to a report circulating unofficially in Arabic, the latest in a sixty-nine year history of proposals to resolve the western Zionist invasion of Palestine (AKA the Israeli-Palestinian “conflict”) is about to see the light of day. It claims Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu originated the proposal and that secret deliberations have been underway for more than five months.

Netanyahu has now presented the proposal to the US, which made some changes and agreed to promote it. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will carry the plan, called “the Agreement of the Century” to Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait for review and discussion.

The provisions

The proposal has 21 points, but the main provisions are that the West Bank will be federated (or re-federated) with Jordan, and the Gaza Strip with Egypt. Together, they will be known as the Palestinian Confederation, ostensibly converting the Palestinian “Authority” into a national government, although it is already widely recognized as such and although it will not have any of the authority or sovereignty that nation states are deemed to have under international law.

Israel will govern Jewish settlements directly and Jerusalem is excluded from the proposal, for resolution at a later time. The primary function of Jordan, Egypt and the Palestinian Authority, therefore, will be to take over the security functions currently administered by the Israeli armed forces; i.e., to protect Israel and repress Palestinians. As they say in Israel, “When you have a dirty job, give it to an Arab.”

Other provisions concern development of infrastructure, international guarantees, and conversion of Hamas into a purely political party while integrating its military wing into the Palestinian security forces. The borders will be based on the armistice lines as of June 4th, 1967, with some territorial swaps. Refugees will be permitted to “return” to the West Bank and Gaza, even if it is not the home from which they were displaced. This is not going to be accepted by expatriate refugees in Lebanon, Syria and other countries, but they have always been disenfranchised in all proposals, and this one is no exception.

Unanswered questions

The biggest unanswered question is the status of Jerusalem. Will the Arab leaders accept an agreement that has no assurances at all with respect to Jerusalem? This is hard to imagine, and it was, in fact, the major stumbling block to an agreement at the Camp David Summit in 2000.

Another major unknown is what happens to the West Bank areas designated A, B and C in the Oslo agreement. Area A is the only one of the three where Oslo grants full administrative and security control to the Palestinian Authority, and it comprises less than 15% of the total area of the West Bank, itself only 18% of historic Palestine. Israel is unlikely to hand B and C over to Palestinian authority and limit the settlements to their current footprints, without prospect of outward expansion or new settlements. More likely, they will insist upon continuing the current arrangement, allowing Israel to continue expanding the settlements indefinitely. This is also unlikely to be acceptable to the Arabs and to the Palestinian people.

Analysis

What do the parties to the agreement expect to gain from it?

Israel wants to rid itself of the Palestinians. It wants the land but not the people. It also wants to stop being considered an occupier of someone else’s land. In 1948 it achieved this by massive ethnic cleansing and genocide. In 1967 it used the same methods but was somewhat less successful except on the Golan Heights, where it expelled 94% of the population. Since then, expulsions have been gradual and slower, except for the 2006 expulsion of a million people in south Lebanon, which was subsequently reversed by the victory of the Hezbollah resistance.

If the above assumptions about areas A, B and C are correct, a signed agreement means that Israel concedes nothing at all and will be able to continue with its territorial ambitions. However, it will rid itself of the Palestinians by farming out the occupation to Jordan, Egypt and the Palestinian Authority. The agreement also removes the teeth (such as they are) of Hamas, and makes Israel appear to be a “peacemaker” with a “generous proposal”.

Mahmoud Abbas’s interest is to become the president of a “real” (though not sovereign) country, recognized universally, even by Israel. He also gets Gaza in the bargain, as well as some handsome development funds that will improve the economy, at least in the short run. The recently announced “unity government” between Hamas and Fatah can be seen as a prelude to such an agreement, and a means of strengthening Abbas’s hand in the negotiations (which is why Israel is not very happy about it).

Hamas gains the least of any of the parties, but Israel’s decade-long siege on Gaza is now so debilitating that they are possibly loathe to dash the hopes of their people for relieving their isolation. They are under tremendous pressure to improve the intolerable living conditions, and may not wish to be seen as spoilers.

The Arab monarchies and Egypt want to be rid of the problem and to get on with other concerns, chiefly their rivalry and potential conflict with Iran. In this case they would like to be able to collaborate and ally themselves more openly with a powerful Israel, which the agreement will legitimate. Iraq and Syria, who are friendly to Iran, are not currently on Abbas’s itinerary, which underscores that their views are not likely to be given consideration.

The US also gets a Middle East peace agreement that has eluded eleven administrations since 1948, and which Trump desperately needs to bolster his flagging image on the domestic front. The agreement would also strengthen the hand of both the US and Israel to undertake aggressive action against Iran and destroy it as a regional power, which is an ambition of both countries and the conservative Arab regimes.

All of this assumes that the agreement will be approved. That is still a very big “if”. But Israel is also prepared for failure, which also works to their advantage. In that case Israel will do what it has always done: blame the Palestinians for refusing to be complicit in their own demise. They will then give their military a free hand to commit another pogrom, known in Israel as “mowing the grass”.

In fact, Israel may pull another plan off the shelf, one using a more direct means of ridding themselves of the Palestinians. They learned in Lebanon that they could create a million refugees in ten days, and thereby clear the land of its inhabitants. Instead of “mowing the grass”, this would be more akin to “scorching the earth”, which is also a definition of the term “holocaust”.

The Zionist Exception to the March for Racial Justice

The March for Racial Justice is committed to standing for racial justice with allies from across all races, ethnicities, and communities.

— Statement of the March for Racial Justice regarding Yom Kippur

The March for Racial Justice correctly acknowledged its oversight in scheduling the march on Yom Kippur.  It is an important oversight and an equally important apology, reaffirming the principles of the march.

But how serious are the organizers about those principles? Are they truly ready to denounce all racism everywhere?  How do they feel about racists participating in the march, supposedly in solidarity, but actually forcing the march to compromise its principles and confer false legitimacy upon some forms of racism?

“I am a white Zionist” declared white supremacist Richard Spencer to Dany Kushmaro of Israel’s Channel 2 television station. “As an Israeli citizen, as someone who understands your identity, who has a sense of nationhood and peoplehood, and history and the experience of the Jewish people, you should respect someone like me, who has analogous feelings about whites.”

Suddenly the emperor has no clothes.  The Zionist myth is that it was never intended to harm anyone, while, in fact, it intended to rid Palestine of its population, culture and even its name.  It was intended to expel the indigenous non-Jews (Palestinians) in order to achieve an overwhelming majority possessing a Jewish pedigree, and then to continue expelling and marginalizing the remainder.

If this isn’t racism, what is?  In Israel even the right to be there is founded upon being a Jew.  The Palestinians who are citizens only because they have been “grandfathered” into the state are required to demonstrate loyalty to the “Jewish” character of the state and can now lose their citizenship.

Is the March for Racial Justice going to be consistent in its anti-racism and tell Zionists that they belong on the other side of the barrier with the white supremacists?  Or are we going to once again witness the hypocrisy of this “anti-racist” movement that will compromise its anti-racism because it’s really only about certain forms of racism?

The National Geographic Hell on Earth Syria Hoax

On April 5, 2017, National Geographic released a preview of its film, Hell on Earth: The Fall Of Syria And The Rise of ISIS, by filmmaker Sebastian Junger and producing partner Nick Quested:

The film itself debuted on April 26, 2017, at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York and on the National Geographic channel on June 11.  Junger and Quested persuaded NG to release the preview early, following the suspected chemical attacks in Syria on April 4.

There are, unfortunately, several problems with the footage in both the preview and the film, as well as with the claims made by the filmmakers and National Geographic.  The most glaring of these is that the opening scene of the trailer is a total fraud.

The scene shows a missile destroying a residential building with a thunderous explosion.  Imposed over the footage are the words, ALEPPO, SYRIA.  The clear implication is that the missile is part of a Russian or Syrian Air Force attack in the battle for Aleppo.

But how would the videographer have known where to position the camera in preparation for such an attack?  Surprisingly, there is a logical answer to this question, because there are, in fact, circumstances where victims are told in advance the location and time of a missile strike.

Such a location is Gaza, and the time is when Israeli soldiers call the inhabitants of a house by phone and tell them to get out in 15 minutes or be blown up. That is enough time for a neighbor to film the event, and, in fact, it has been done on multiple occasions in Gaza, such as here, here, here, here, here and here.

But in Aleppo, Syria? Who would call in advance? In this case, the explanation is rather different; i.e., that the footage is not from Aleppo at all, but, in fact, from Gaza and only labeled as Aleppo.  The original source footage comes from 2014, and is from the Israeli operation that took more than 2,200 Palestinian lives that summer, long before the Russians started providing air support for the Syrian army:

The use of this footage in the National Geographic preview, falsely labeling the location as Aleppo and implicating the Syrian or Russian Air Force in the destruction, is therefore a shameless and utter fraud.

The second discrepancy is that, according to the filmmakers, the footage in the preview is from the feature film.  That may have been true on April 5, when the public had not yet seen the full film, but at some point, someone must have brought the fraudulent footage to the attention of National Geographic, so that they could replace it with a new opening footage.  When did this happen?  Was it before the debut on April 26, or later?  It would be good to know.

But the reaction of the filmmakers is disappointing in the extreme.  When faced with proof positive that their film contained a blatant fraud, did no one question the extent to which the entire film might be filled with fraud? Anyone who would so obviously falsify would hardly limit it to a single segment.  The footage was clearly chosen for its effect, not its accuracy, and its quiet removal is more a cover-up than a correction.

To what extent, for example, are the rescue portions of the preview and film, featuring the White Helmets, also fraud?  Respected US Marine intelligence officer and UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter is convinced that the White Helmets are incompetent in rescue operations, and that their videos are fabrications.  Recognized documentary filmmaker John Pilger has called them a “complete propaganda construct”.  On occasion, the White Helmets have even been forced to admit the same.

To what extent is the featured family merely acting out the events portrayed and not actually living them?  To what extent is it all contrived?  These are questions that deserve investigation.  More important, how true is the reality that the film tries to portray, whether simulated or not (although if simulated, the filmmakers should say so for the sake of their own integrity, rather than pretending it is genuine)?

The fact is that although half the Syrian population has been displaced by war, the majority have never left Syria. When displaced, they have almost invariably left the areas taken over by “rebels” in order to seek refuge in government controlled areas.  Why?  Is it because the Syrian government; i.e., the “despised” Bashar al-Assad – despite the disastrous economy and in cooperation with Syrian civil organizations – is somehow housing, feeding, clothing, educating and providing health care to these Syrian citizens?  In fact, the United Nations High Commission on Refugees reports that, with the Syrian government reasserting its authority in recovered areas of the country, more than 440,000 displaced persons have returned to their homes.

The film also fails to mention that thousands of “rebel” fighters have laid down their arms, accepted Syrian government amnesty and been allowed to return to their homes.  It further omits that the US and its allies could have stopped ISIS by merely denying them funding and arms.  Russia was the one that largely put an end to the trafficking of stolen Syrian oil, by bombing the massive convoys of trucks across the Turkish border.  No mention of that in the film.  The US has avoided serious actions against ISIS and al-Qaeda, and treated them as useful hit men in order to destroy the Syrian military.  This made us enablers of the terrorists rather than their eliminators.

As for the filmmakers, the New Yorker reports that “[they] couldn’t get into Syria, so …[the film] was shot by Middle Eastern news outfits, and by activists, witnesses, and citizen journalists.” This is reflected in the credits, which include the Aleppo Media Center, Daryaa [sic] Media Center, Halab News Network and Sham News.  These are all affiliates of the White Helmets, which in turn is the front organization for the al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria, variously called Jabhat al-Nusra, Jabha Fateh al-Sham and Hayat Tahrir al-Sham.  Their lavish funding comes from France, the UK, the US, Qatar and other countries.  There is no evidence that any of the footage has been authenticated by the filmmakers themselves, and every reason to think that it has not.

It’s not that the film is totally inaccurate or that it does not do a service by revealing the suffering of refugees.  It does.  But it also perpetuates the worst western myths about the war, which are feeding a continuation of the suffering and the conflict.  The US and its allies are the prime cause of the conflict, not the solution.  US policy makers see the destruction of Syria as a positive thing, much as they do Iraq and Libya, and US efforts are directed toward destruction and control, not toward resolution and reconciliation.

If the filmmakers were honest, they would take the evidence of fraud as a sign that they need to review all the footage in the film that they have not authenticated and over which they have not exercised control.  Otherwise, they run the risk of being labeled as propagandists and permanently damaging or ruining their credibility as documentary filmmakers.

Time for Another False Flag Chemical Weapons Attack in Syria

The United States has identified potential preparations for another chemical weapons attack by the Assad regime.

— Sean Spicer, White House Press Secretary, June 26, 2017

Fool me once, shame on you.  Fool me, you can’t get fooled again.

— George  Bush, Sept. 17, 2002

The White House statement raises a number of questions. Who has identified the “potential preparations”? No reference is given, not even a source agency.  Does the information come from intelligence sources? Apparently the Pentagon had not even been informed. What is “potential information” and how does it compare with real information?

Of course, the White House has its own direct sources.  The Syrian opposition groups who met with John Kerry, Michael Ratney and Jon Finer at the UN in September, 2016 are tight with al-Nusra and other terrorist groups, and would be happy to provide a pretext for another US strike on Syria. No real evidence is required, but they would be happy to fabricate it nonetheless.

Can anyone cite a case of the use, or even the alleged use, of chemical weapons in Syria that has been to the strategic advantage of the Syrian government or its forces? The fact is that every incident has been to their disadvantage, and invariably a pretext for US intervention.  Why then, would they use it, especially when they hadn’t done so before Obama drew his famous “red line”?

To the contrary, when British intelligence analyzed traces of the gas, they found it to be inconsistent with samples of Syrian government stocks. Furthermore, Turkish sources have reported the delivery of chemical weapons to opposition fighters. Distinguished MIT researchers Lloyd and Postol demonstrated definitively that the 2013 CW attack in Ghouta could not have come from Syrian government forces.

Similarly, Postol demonstrated multiple inconsistencies in the reports of the April 4, 2017 Khan Sheikhoun attack.  More recently, investigative journalist Seymour Hersh uncovered the inside story on that attack, to the effect that US Defense Department sources knew that there were no chemical weapons used in the Syrian Air Force bombing attack on Khan Sheikhoun, and that to the extent that toxic gases caused casualties in that attack, it was the result of what the al-Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham fighters had stored at the site or had deployed as a false flag event, for the purpose of precipitating US intervention.

Postol warned at the time that without proper corroboration of Syrian government culpability, a US attack would motivate the terrorist constructors of the false flag to replicate more such incidents.  In this context, the White House statement, based solely on vague allegations, can be interpreted as the start to a manipulation of public perception, so that an upcoming false flag event can appear to be a corroboration of the initial suspicions.

Such are the workings of what military and security forces call “securocratic wars” and specifically “security-based framing”.  This is jargon for what used to be called propaganda, but which is now an integrated part of military and security planning for the control of public perception.1

There is plenty of reason for the White House to welcome such a pretext to attack Syria again.  The approval ratings for the Trump Administration have never been higher, nor the press more approving, than when US warships fired 59 Tomahawk missiles at Syria’s Shu’ayrat Air Field two days after the Khan Sheikhoun attack.  Given the unpopularity and failure of Trump’s domestic initiatives, it is easy to see how he might be tempted to employ similar death and destruction to boost his image again.

Of course, such actions risk a dangerous confrontation with Russia on the Syrian battlefield.  Russia has already threatened to target US aircraft and has suspended coordination of flights over the shooting down of a Syrian jet fighter. But Trump is not averse to risk.  We should therefore not be surprised to see another false flag killing of innocents blamed on the Syrian military in order to embroil the US further in an illegal war where we don’t belong.

  1. Halper, War Against the People, chapter 3.