Category Archives: Hypocrisy

If This Happened in Alabama There Would Be Uproar: In Israel, it’s the Norm

How would you describe a white town in a southern state in the United States that froze the tender for plots of land in a new neighbourhood because it risked allowing blacks to move in? As racist?

What would you think of the town’s mayor for claiming the decision was taken in the interests of preserving the “white character” of his community? That he was a bigot?

And how would you characterise the policy of the state in which this town was located if it enforced almost complete segregation between whites and blacks, ghettoising the black population? As apartheid, or maybe Jim Crow?

And yet, replace the word “white” with “Jewish” and this describes what has just happened in Kfar Vradim, a small town of 6,000 residents in the Galilee, in Israel’s north. More disturbing still, Vradim’s policy cannot be judged in isolation. It is a reflection of how Israeli society has been intentionally structured for decades.

Segregation as the norm

Residential segregation between Jewish and non-Jewish citizens is the norm in Israel. In fact, it is such an established fact of life that it is barely ever commented on. There are many hundreds of rural communities controlling almost all of Israel’s land that are exclusively Jewish and have been so since Israel was created 70 years ago.

So one could almost commiserate with Vradim’s mayor, Sivan Yechiel, after he provoked condemnation last week for his decision to freeze construction of a new neighbourhood of more than 2,000 homes, intended to double the size of his town. It emerged that in the first round of tenders, more than half the highest bids for plots of land were placed by Palestinian citizens, not Jews.

Israel’s Palestinian minority, a fifth of its population, are the remnants of the Palestinian people who were mostly expelled in 1948 from their homeland during what Palestinians call the Nakba, the Arabic word for “catastrophe”.

According to Israel and its supporters, Palestinian citizens enjoy full and equal rights with Jewish citizens, unlike Palestinians in the occupied territories, who live under military rule. But the reality – one carefully concealed from outsiders – is very different.

Vradim’s decision briefly illuminates the ugly reality of what a Jewish state means. It provides the context for understanding Land Day, whose anniversary falls this week, marking the day in 1976 when Israeli security forces killed six unarmed Palestinian citizens as the minority held a general strike to protest against the continuing confiscation of their lands.

Vradim and dozens of other Jewish communities were created in response to Land Day – explicitly to “Judaise the Galilee”. The tradition of racism that inspired Vradim’s establishment is simply being honoured and preserved today by Yechiel.

That is why Adalah, a legal group for Israel’s Palestinian minority, accused the mayor of being “motivated by racism”. And why Jamal Zahalka, a Palestinian member of Israel’s parliament, lamented Vradim’s “apartheid” policy.

Liberal and ‘racist’

That said, Vradim is far from the illiberal, intolerant community one might imagine from these criticisms. Three-quarters of its residents voted for left and centre-left parties in Israel’s last election. It has decisively bucked the ultra-nationalist trend that has kept Benjamin Netanyahu and the far-right in power for nearly a decade.

Nonetheless, in a Facebook debate among Vradim residents about the tender, many expressed concern. A local real estate broker, Nati Sheinfeld, warned that it was time to “wake up” to the threat of Palestinians taking over the community.

Yechiel defended the decision to freeze the new neighbourhood on the grounds that he was entrusted to keep Vradim “Zionist and Jewish”. In a further clarification, he said he would lobby the government to provide his community with housing solutions that did not disturb its current “demographic balances” – in other words, solutions that would keep out Palestinian citizens.

No Arabs as neighbours

In fact, Vradim mayor’s response was entirely typical. There have a spate of similar stories in recent years. Towns close by in the Galilee like Nazareth Ilit, Karmiel, Afula, Nofit, Tzfat and Nahariya have all been battling to bar entry to Palestinian citizens with varying degrees of success.

In recent surveys, half of Israeli Jews confess that they do not want “Arabs” as neighbours. The reality, as Vradim illustrates, is that far more feel this way in practice. As Haaretz commentator David Rosenberg observed, almost certainly many respondents “were too embarrassed to tell the pollster what they really think”.

Opposition to having Palestinians as neighbours is not founded on security or economic concerns. Palestinian citizens have proved to be a largely peaceable, if highly marginalised, minority. And those able to afford to move into Jewish communities – especially Vradim, one of the wealthiest in the country – are the most successful among the Palestinian minority. They are business people and professionals like doctors, lawyers, engineers and architects.

Rooted in Zionism

So why is Vradim dead-set against allowing them in? The answer requires a historical analysis of how Israel has structured and organised itself as a Jewish state. In fact, Vradim’s policy is deeply rooted in an ideology, Zionism, whose values are unquestioned by almost all Israeli Jews.

The founders of Israel, men like David Ben Gurion, were East Europeans who viewed themselves as communists or socialists. Before Israel’s creation, under British patronage, they established pioneer farming collectives like the kibbutz and moshav.

But in the spirit of Zionism, they made sure these communities were all exclusively Jewish. They were there to “Judaise” the land through “Hebrew labour”. Zionism’s leaders firmly believed that, through physical toil, Jews could transform both the land, “making the desert bloom”, and themselves, becoming a strong, self-reliant “Volk” or people.

But there was an important corollary. Judaisation would strip the native Palestinian people of the land they depended on as farmers, while Hebrew labour would deny them alternative employment in what would become an exclusively Jewish economy. It was a form of aggressive settler-colonialism.

Land nationalised for Jews

After the Nakba and the expulsion of most of the Palestinian population, the new state of Israel did not abandon these policies and adopt an inclusive, civic notion of citizenship, the basis of liberal democracy. Instead, it expanded and intensified the Judaisation project.

Foreign observers were often charmed by the idea of the socialist kibbutz and the progressive and transformative type of politics it supposedly embodied. They overlooked the fact that all of this was being built on the racist exclusion of native Palestinians.

The lands of the Palestinian refugees were expropriated, as was most of the land belonging to the minority of Palestinians who managed to remain in Israel and eventually received citizenship – the trigger for the Land Day events being commemorated this week.

Israel then “nationalised” almost all of its territory – 93 per cent – holding it collectively in trust for the Jewish people around the world, not Israeli citizens.

As a result, Palestinian citizens were hemmed into some 120 Palestinian communities, on little more than 2 per cent of Israeli territory. These Palestinian communities languish at the very bottom of Israel’s socio-economic tables.

Trapped in ghettoes

In recent decades, Palestinian communities have become massively overcrowded because Israel has refused to free up land for their expansion and has not created a single new Palestinian community since 1948.

Many thousands of Palestinian families have been forced to build homes illegally as a result, and now live with the permanent threat of demolition hanging over their heads.

This is not just about neglect. Israeli officials had a methodology and a goal in mind, little different from the those being applied close by in the occupied territories.

The aim was to make the Palestinian minority poor and internally divided: like children playing a game of musical chairs, they would have to fight over ever-diminishing resources.

In desperation, some would opt to collaborate or turn informer, in return for partial relief from their distress. A weak, dependent society like this would be incapable of organisation to demand its rights. And ultimately, Israeli officials hoped, Palestinian citizens would grow hopeless and emigrate.

Vetting committees

But there was a danger too that wealthier, more successful Palestinians might flee their ghettoes not by leaving Israel but by seeking homes in Jewish communities and trying to integrate. That violated the deepest impulses of a Zionist-Jewish state.

It was not hard to slam shut the door of most communities. The hundreds of rural villages controlling most of Israel’s “national lands” established admissions committees. Their job was to vet applicants and keep out Palestinian citizens. That was integral to their “Judaisation” mission.

To this day, hundreds of collective communities bar access, arguing that Palestinian citizens are “socially unsuitable”. The flimsy logic – echoed now by the mayor of Vradim – has been that it is vital for these communities to preserve a Jewish, Zionist character.

But it was trickier to use such legal chicanery to exclude Palestinian citizens from towns and cities.

A few cities in Israel are misleadingly termed “mixed”, where small numbers of Palestinian families survived the ethnic cleansing of 1948. They usually live in separate neighbourhoods, marginalised from the main Jewish city. Segregation in these areas has taken a different form.

But in ordinary as well as mixed cities, Israel could not easily argue that admissions committees were needed to stop integration and protect the special Jewish character of the city’s life. Doing so risked looking a little too obviously like apartheid South Africa.

Liberation from land shortages

For most of Israel’s history, segregation and exclusion were maintained in the towns and cities, nonetheless. Free-market economics and careful planning was enough to keep Palestinians at bay.

The vast majority of Israeli Jews are raised as ardent Zionists, and hold “Judaisation” – making territory Jewish – as a supreme value. There were no signs saying “No Arabs”, but few were willing to sell their homes to Palestinian citizens, especially when they could find a Jewish buyer.

And few Palestinian citizens could afford homes in Jewish towns anyway. In addition, there were no schools teaching in Arabic for their children, jobs were scarce, and prejudice rife. It was a prospect few Palestinian citizens contemplated. Until recently.

The land shortages in Israel’s Palestinian communities have only intensified since the events of Land Day, as have the overcrowding, the lack of services and infrastructure, the absence of green spaces, and the poor quality of government schools for the Palestinian minority.

Meanwhile, in an increasingly globalised world, Palestinian citizens are much less willing to continue living in their segregated communities. They have aspirations for a better quality of life for their children, and are increasingly “westernised” – they value personal independence over the protection offered by living close to the extended family.

All of these factors have combined to drive those with good jobs and high salaries to liberate themselves from their Palestinian ghettoes and seek housing solutions in Jewish communities.

On the front line

The front line of this battle for housing rights is the Galilee, where Palestinian citizens comprise half the population. For this reason, in the state’s early years Ben Gurion prioritised an official campaign to “Judaise the Galilee”, building Jewish communities on lands confiscated from Palestinians to contain them and deprive them of room for future expansion.

Vradim itself was established in 1984 on part of the lands of the neighbouring Palestinian town of Tarshiha. As in other Jewish communities, many of its residents believe – in line with Ben Gurion’s philosophy – that they are the main bulwark against an “Arab takeover” of the Galilee.

But Vradim has found itself defenceless against a first wave of Palestinian professionals expecting to live the dream they see their Jewish neighbours enjoying at their expense. Already a handful of Palestinian families have managed to move in. Yechiel and other residents are worried that this could soon turn into a flood as it seeks to expand.

Vradim lacks an admissions committee that would have solved its problem. And recent rulings from the Israeli courts have further tied its hands: in most cases, towns and cities are required to include all citizens in the tendering process for new housing projects.

Stopping an Arab influx

At the moment the numbers of Palestinian families that can afford and want to move into Jewish towns is small. But it is growing, and even these small numbers are too many for most Jewish communities.

Yechiel may balk at the solutions adopted by some neighbouring Jewish towns.

For example, Nazareth Ilit, which was built on the lands of Nazareth, the largest Palestinian city in Israel, has tried to halt the influx of Palestinians by planning a large Jewish ultra-Orthodox neighbourhood.

The courts have made an exception that allows for restrictive tenders in the case of religious Jews so that they can live in self-contained communities. Nazareth Ilit’s leaders appear to be hoping that, with high birth rates and intolerant attitudes, a strong ultra-Orthodox presence may dissuade more Palestinians from moving in.

But this approach is likely to be considered a step too far for Vradim’s very secular and wealthy residents.

Yechiel may hope instead that he can rely on a legal remedy. In 2016 a district court ruled in favour of the municipality of Afula after it blocked 48 Palestinian families who had won housing tenders. Palestinian legislators called the court decision “shameful” and “racist”.

Hunt for permanent solutions

But Vradim’s mayor is also appealing to the government to help devise a more permanent solution. He may not be disappointed.

The World Zionist Organisation, an international organisation that enjoys quasi-governmental status in Israel, announced last summer it was reviving Ben Gurion’s Judaisation campaign. It is preparing to establish several new, exclusively Jewish communities.

And this month an Israeli parliamentary committee approved the final draft of new legislation – the Basic Law: Israel as the Nation-State of the Jewish people. It will give constitutional backing to the creation of communities “composed of people of the same faith or nationality to maintain an exclusive community”. In practice, this measure is designed only to help the Jewish faith and nationality.

These moves come as Israel prepares to demolish next month Umm al-Hiran, a Bedouin village in the Negev, so it can be replaced with an exclusively Jewish community, Hiran. The bylaws of Hiran entitle it to admit as residents only those “who observe the Torah and commandments according to Orthodox Jewish values”.

Vradim’s wealthy, liberal residents are no aberration in wanting to keep out their Palestinian fellow citizens. They are the authentic inheritors of a Zionist tradition that has entrenched an apartheid system of rule in Israel over 70 years.

Ben Gurion and Israel’s founders would be proud indeed of Kfar Vradim.

• First published in Middle East Eye

Israel has accelerated its Annexation of the West Bank from a Slow Creep to a Run

Seemingly unrelated events all point to a tectonic shift in which Israel has begun preparing the ground to annex the occupied Palestinian territories.

Last week, during an address to students in New York, Israel’s education minister Naftali Bennett publicly disavowed even the notion of a Palestinian state. “We are done with that,” he said. “They have a Palestinian state in Gaza.”

Later in Washington, Mr Bennett, who heads Israel’s settler movement, said Israel would manage the fallout from annexing the West Bank, just as it had with its annexation of the Syrian Golan in 1980.

International opposition would dissipate, he said. “After two months it fades away and 20 years later and 40 years later, [the territory is] still ours.”

Back home, Israel has proven such words are not hollow.

The parliament passed a law last month that brings three academic institutions, including Ariel University, all located in illegal West Bank settlements, under the authority of Israel’s Higher Education Council. Until now, they were overseen by a military body.

The move marks a symbolic and legal sea change. Israel has effectively expanded its civilian sovereignty into the West Bank. It is a covert but tangible first step towards annexation.

In a sign of how the idea of annexation is now entirely mainstream, Israeli university heads mutely accepted the change, even though it exposes them both to intensified action from the growing international boycott (BDS) movement and potentially to European sanctions on scientific co-operation.

Additional bills extending Israeli law to the settlements are in the pipeline. In fact, far-right justice minister Ayelet Shaked has insisted that those drafting new legislation indicate how it can also be applied in the West Bank.

According to Peace Now, she and Israeli law chiefs are devising new pretexts to seize Palestinian territory. She has called the separation between Israel and the occupied territories required by international law “an injustice that has lasted 50 years”.

After the higher education law passed, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his party Israel would “act intelligently” to extend unnoticed its sovereignty into the West Bank. “This is a process with historic consequences,” he said.

That accords with a vote by his Likud party’s central committee in December that unanimously backed annexation.

The government is already working on legislation to bring some West Bank settlements under Jerusalem municipal control – annexation via the back door. This month officials gave themselves additional powers to expel Palestinians from Jerusalem for “disloyalty”.

Yousef Jabareen, a Palestinian member of the Israeli parliament, warned that Israel had accelerated its annexation programme from “creeping to running”.

Notably, Mr Netanyahu has said the government’s plans are being co-ordinated with the Trump administration. It was a statement he later retracted under pressure.

But all evidence suggests that Washington is fully on board, so long as annexation is done by stealth.

The US ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, a long-time donor to the settlements, told Israel’s Channel 10 TV recently: “The settlers aren’t going anywhere”. Settler leader Yaakov Katz, meanwhile, thanked Donald Trump for a dramatic surge in settlement growth over the past year. Figures show one in 10 Israeli Jews is now a settler. He called the White House team “people who really like us, love us”, adding that the settlers were “changing the map”.

The US is preparing to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in May, not only pre-empting a final-status issue but tearing out the beating heart from a Palestinian state.

The thrust of US strategy is so well-known to Palestinian leaders – and in lockstep with Israel – that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is said to have refused to even look at the peace plan recently submitted to him.

Reports suggest it will award Israel all of Jerusalem as its capital. The Palestinians will be forced to accept outlying villages as their own capital, as well as a land “corridor” to let them pray at Al Aqsa and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

As the stronger side, Israel will be left to determine the fate of the settlements and its borders – a recipe for it to carry on with slow-motion annexation.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat has warned that Mr Trump’s “ultimate deal” will limit a Palestinian state to Gaza and scraps of the West Bank – much as Mr Bennett prophesied in New York.

Which explains why last week the White House hosted a meeting of European and Arab states to discuss the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

US officials have warned the Palestinian leadership, who stayed away, that a final deal will be settled over their heads if necessary. This time the US peace plan is not up for negotiation; it is primed for implementation.

With a Palestinian “state” effectively restricted to Gaza, the humanitarian catastrophe there – one the United Nations has warned will make the enclave uninhabitable in a few years – needs to be urgently addressed.

But the White House summit also sidelined the UN refugee agency UNRWA, which deals with Gaza’s humanitarian situation. The Israeli right hates UNRWA because its presence complicates annexation of the West Bank. And with Fatah and Hamas still at loggerheads, it alone serves to unify the West Bank and Gaza.

That is why the Trump administration recently cut US funding to UNRWA – the bulk of its budget. The White House’s implicit goal is to find a new means to manage Gaza’s misery.

What is needed now is someone to arm-twist the Palestinians. Mike Pompeo’s move from the CIA to State Department, Mr Trump may hope, will produce the strongman needed to bulldoze the Palestinians into submission.

• First published in the National

Why the West cannot stomach Russians

When it comes to Russia or the Soviet Union, reports and historical accounts do get blurry; in the West they do, and consequently in all of its ‘client states’.

Fairy tales get intermingled with reality, while fabrications are masterfully injected into the subconsciousness of billions of people worldwide. Russia is an enormous country, in fact, the largest country on Earth in terms of territory. It is scarcely inhabited. It is deep, and as a classic once wrote: “It is impossible to understand Russia with one’s brain. One could only believe in it.”

The Western mind generally doesn’t like things unknown, spiritual and complex. Since the ‘old days’, especially since the crusades and monstrous colonialist expeditions to all corners of the world, the Westerners were told fables about their own “noble deeds” performed in the plundered lands. Everything had to be clear and simple: “Virtuous Europeans were civilizing savages and spreading Christianity, therefore, in fact, saving those dark poor primitive souls.”

Of course, tens of millions were dying in the process, while further tens of millions were shackled and brought to the “New Worlds” as slaves. Gold, silver, and other loot, as well as slave labor had been (and still are) paying for all those European palaces, railroads, universities and theatres, but that did not matter, as the bloodshed was most of the time something abstract and far away from those over-sensitive eyes of the Western public.

Westerners like simplicity, particularly when it comes to moral definitions of “good and evil”. It matters nothing if the truth gets systematically ‘massaged’, or even if the reality is fully fabricated. What matters is that there is no deep guilt and no soul-searching. Western rulers and their opinion makers know their people – their ‘subjects’ – perfectly well, and most of the time, they give them what they are asking for. The rulers and the reigned are generally living in symbiosis. They keep bitching about each other, but mostly they have similar goals: to live well, to live extremely well, as long as the others are forced to pay for it; with their riches, with their labor and often with their blood.

Culturally, most of the citizens of Europe and North America hate to pay the bill for their high life; they even detest to admit that their life is extremely ‘high’. They like to feel like victims. They like to feel that they are ‘used’. They like to imagine that they are sacrificing themselves for the rest of the world.

And, above all, they hate real victims: those they have been murdering, raping, plundering and insulting, for decades and centuries.

Recent ‘refugee crises’ showed the spite Europeans feel for their prey. People who made them rich and who lost everything in the process are humiliated, despised and insulted. Be they Afghans or Africans, the Middle Easterners or South Asians. Or Russians, although Russians are falling to its own, unique category.

*****

Many Russians look white. Most of them eat with knife and fork, they drink alcohol, excel at Western classical music, poetry, literature, science and philosophy.

To Western eyes they look ‘normal’, but actually, they are not.

Russians always want ‘something else’; they refuse to play by Western rules.

They are stubbornly demanding to remain different, and to be left alone.

When confronted, when attacked, they fight.

They rarely strike first, almost never invade.

But when threatened, when assaulted, they fight with tremendous determination and force, and they never lose. Villages and cities get converted into invader’s graves. Millions die while defending their Motherland, but the country survives. And it happens again and again and again, as the Western hordes have been, for centuries, assaulting and burning Russian lands, never learning the lesson and never giving up on their sinister dream of conquering and controlling that proud and determined colossus.

In the West, they don’t like those who defend themselves, who fight against them, and especially those who win.

*****

It gets much worse than that.

Russia has this terrible habit… not only does it defend itself and its people, but it also fights for the others, protecting colonized and pillaged nations, as well as those that are unjustly assaulted.

It saved the world from Nazism. It did it at a horrific price of 25 million men, women and children, but it did it; courageously, proudly and altruistically. The West never forgave the Soviet Union for this epic victory either, because all that is unselfish and self-sacrificing, is always in direct conflict with its own principles, and therefore ‘extremely dangerous’.

The Russian people had risen; had fought and won in the 1917 Revolution; an event which terrified the West more than anything else in history, as it had attempted to create a fully egalitarian, classless and racially color-blind society. It also gave birth to Internationalism, an occurrence that I recently described in my book The Great October Socialist Revolution: Impact on the World and the Birth of Internationalism.

Soviet Internationalism, right after the victory in WWII, helped greatly, directly and indirectly, dozens of countries on all continents, to stand up and to confront the European colonialism and the North American imperialism. The West, and especially Europe, never forgave the Soviet people in general and Russians in particular, for helping to liberate its slaves.

That is when the greatest wave of propaganda in human history really began to roll. From London to New York, from Paris to Toronto, an elaborate web of anti-Soviet and covertly anti-Russian hysteria was unleashed with monstrously destructive force. Tens of thousands of ‘journalists’, intelligence officers, psychologists, historians, as well as academics, were employed. Nothing Soviet, nothing Russian (except those glorified and often ‘manufactured’ Russian dissidents) was spared.

The excesses of the Great October Socialist Revolution and the pre-WWII era were systematically fabricated, exaggerated, and then engraved into the Western history textbooks and mass media narrative. In those tales, there was nothing about the vicious invasions and attacks coming from the West, aimed at destroying the young Bolshevik state. Naturally, there was no space for mentioning the British, French, U.S., Czech, Polish, Japanese, German and others’ monstrous cruelties.

Soviet and Russian views were hardly ever allowed to penetrate the monolithic and one-sided Western propaganda narrative.

Like obedient sheep, the Western public accepted the disinformation it was fed with. Eventually, many people living in the Western colonies and ‘client states’, did the same. A great number of colonized people were taught how to blame themselves for their misery.

The most absurd but somehow logical occurrence then took place: many men, women and even children living in the USSR, succumbed to Western propaganda. Instead of trying to reform their imperfect but still greatly progressive country, they gave up, became cynical, aggressively ‘disillusioned’, corrupt and naively but staunchly pro-Western.

*****

It was the first and most likely the last time in the history, Russia got defeated by the West. It happened through deceit, through shameless lies, through Western propaganda.

What followed could be easily described as genocide.

The Soviet Union was first lulled into Afghanistan, then it was mortally injured by the war there, by an arms race with the United States, and by the final stage of propaganda that was literally flowing like lava from various hostile Western state-sponsored radio stations. Of course, local ‘dissidents’ also played an important role.

Under Gorbachev, a ‘useful idiot’ of the West, things got extremely bizarre. I don’t believe that he was paid to ruin his own country, but he did almost everything to run it into the ground; precisely what Washington wanted him to do. Then, in front of the entire world, a mighty and proud Union of the Soviet Socialist Republics suddenly shook in agony, then uttered a loud cry, and collapsed; died painfully but swiftly.

A new turbo-capitalist, bandit, pro-oligarch and confusedly pro-Western Russia was born. Russia which was governed by an alcoholic Boris Yeltsin; a man loved and supported by Washington, London and other Western centers of power.

It was a totally unnatural, sick Russia – cynical and compassionless, built with someone else’s ideas – Russia of Radio Liberty and Voice of America, of the BBC, of black marketers, of oligarchs and multi-national corporations.

Is the West now daring to say that Russians are ‘interfering’ in something in Washington? Are they out of their minds?

Washington and other Western capitals did not only ‘interfere’, they openly broke the Soviet Union into pieces and then they began kicking Russia which was at that point half-alive. Is it all forgotten, or is Western public again fully ‘unaware’ of what took place during those dark days?

The West kept spitting at the impoverished and injured country, refused to honor international agreements and treaties. It offered no help. Multi-nationals were unleashed, and began ‘privatizing’ Russian state companies, basically stealing what was built by the sweat and blood of Soviet workers, during long decades.

Interference? Let me repeat: it was direct intervention, invasion, a grab of resources, shameless theft! I want to read and write about it, but we don’t hear much about it, anymore, do we?

Now we are told that Russia is paranoid, that its President is paranoid! With straight face, the West is lying; pretending that it has not been trying to murder Russia.

Those years… Those pro-Western years when Russia became a semi-client state of the West, or call it a semi-colony! There was no mercy, no compassion coming from abroad. Many of those idiots – kitchen intellectuals from Moscow and provinces – suddenly woke up but it was too late. Many of them had suddenly nothing to eat. They got what they were told to ask for: their Western ‘freedom and democracy’, and Western-style capitalism or in summary: total collapse.

I remember well how it was ‘then’. I began returning to Russia, horrified, working in Moscow, Tomsk, Novosibirsk, Leningrad. Academics from Akadem Gorodok outside Novosibirsk were selling their libraries in the bitter cold, in dark metro underpasses of Novosibirsk… Runs on the banks… Old retired people dying from hunger and cold behind massive doors of concrete blocks… unpaid salaries and starving miners, teachers…

Russia under the deadly embrace of the West, for the first and hopefully last time! Russia whose life expectancy suddenly dropped to African Sub-Saharan levels. Russia humiliated, wild, in terrible pain.

*****

But that nightmare did not last long.

And what happened – those short but horrible years under both Gorbachev and Yeltsin, but above all under the Western diktat – will never be forgotten, not forgiven.

Russians know perfectly well what they do not want, anymore!

Russia stood up again. Huge, indignant and determined to live its own life, its own way. From an impoverished, humiliated and robbed nation, subservient to the West, the country evolved and within a few years, the free and independent Russia once again joined ranks of the most developed and powerful countries on Earth.

And as before Gorbachev, Russia is once again able to help those nations which are under unjust and vicious attacks of the Western empire.

A man who is leading this renaissance, President Vladimir Putin, is tough, but Russia is under great threat and so is the world – this is no time for weaklings.

President Putin is not perfect (who is, really?), but he is a true patriot, and I dare say, an internationalist.

Now the West, once again, hates both Russia and its leader. No wonder; undefeated, strong and free Russia is the worst imaginable foe of Washington and its lieutenants.

That’s how the West feels, not Russia. Despite all that was done to it, despite tens of millions of lost and ruined lives, Russia has always been ready to compromise, even to forgive, if not forget.

*****

There is something deeply pathological in the psyche of the West. It cannot accept anything less than full and unconditional submission. It has to control, to be in charge, and on top of everything; it has to feel exceptional. Even when it murders and ruins the entire Planet, it insists on feeling superior to the rest of the world.

This faith in exceptionalism is the true Western religion, much more than even Christianity, which for decades has not really played any important role there. Exceptionalism is fanatical, it is fundamentalist and unquestionable.

It also insists that its narrative is the only one available anywhere in the World. That the West is seen as a moral leader, as a beacon of progress, as the only competent judge and guru.

Lies are piling on top of lies. As in all religions, the more absurd the pseudo-reality is, the more brutal and extreme are the methods used to uphold it. The more laughable the fabrications are, the more powerful the techniques used to suppress the truth are.

Today, hundreds of thousands of ‘academics’, teachers, journalists, artists, psychologists and other highly paid professionals, in all parts of the world, are employed by the Empire, for two goals only – to glorify the Western narrative and to discredit all that is standing in its way; daring to challenge it.

Russia is the most hated adversary of the West, with China, Russia’s close ally being near second.

The propaganda war unleashed by the West is so insane, so intense, that even some of the European and North American citizens are beginning to question tales coming from Washington, London and elsewhere.

Wherever one turns, there is a tremendous medley of lies, of semi-lies, half-truths; a complex and unnavigable swamp of conspiracy theories. Russia is being attacked for interfering in U.S. domestic affairs, for defending Syria, for standing by defenseless and intimidated nations, for having its own powerful media, for doping its athletes, for still being Communist, for not being socialist anymore; in brief: for everything imaginable and unimaginable.

Criticism of the country is so thorough and ludicrous, that one begins to ask very legitimate questions: “what about the past? What about the Western narrative regarding the Soviet past, particularly the post-Revolutionary period, and the period between two world wars?”

The more I analyze this present-day Western anti-Russian and anti-Chinese propaganda, the more determined I am to study and write about the Western narrative regarding Soviet history. I’m definitely planning to investigate these matters in the future, together with my friends – Russian and Ukrainian historians.

*****

In the eyes of the West, Russians are ‘traitors’.

Instead of joining the looters, they have been standing by the ‘wretched of the world’, in the past, as well as now. They refused to sell their Motherland, and to enslave their own people. Their government is doing all it can to make Russia self-sufficient, fully independent, prosperous, proud and free.

Remember that ‘freedom’, ‘democracy’ and many other terms, mean totally different things in distinctive parts of the world. What is happening in the West could never be described as ‘freedom’ in Russia or in China, and vice versa.

Frustrated, collapsing, atomized and egotistic societies of Europe and North America do not inspire even their own people anymore. They are escaping by millions annually, to Asia, Latin America, and even to Africa. Escaping from emptiness, meaninglessness and emotional cold. But it is not Russia’s or China’s business to tell them how to live or not to live!

In the meantime, great cultures like Russia and China do not need, and do not want, to be told by the Westerners, what freedom is, and what democracy is.

They do not attack the West, and expect the same in return.

It is truly embarrassing that the countries responsible for hundreds of genocides, for hundreds of millions of murdered people on all continents, still dare to lecture others.

Many victims are too scared to speak.

Russia is not.

It is composed, gracious, but fully determined to defend itself if necessary; itself as well as many other human beings living on this beautiful but deeply scarred Planet.

Russian culture is enormous: from poetry and literature, to music, ballet, philosophy… Russian hearts are soft, they easily melt when approached with love and kindness. But when millions of lives of innocent people are threatened, both the hearts and muscles of Russians quickly turn to stone and steel. During such moments, when only victory could save the world, Russian fists are hard, and the same is true about the Russian armor.

There is no match to Russian courage in the sadistic but cowardly West.

Irreversibly, both hope and future are moving towards the east.

And that is why Russia is desperately hated by the West.

• First published in New Eastern Outlook

Netanyahu’s Corruption: How Israeli Journalists Project Israel’s Crimes on to Palestinians

In an article published in Al-Monitor without a single verifiable citation, Israeli journalist, Shlomi Eldar, went to unprecedented lengths to divert attention from the corruption in his country.

He spoke of Palestinian journalists – all speaking on condition of anonymity – who ‘applauded’ and ‘admired’ Israeli media coverage of corruption scandals surrounding the country’s rightwing Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.

Eldar’s approach is underhanded and journalistically unsound.

The Israeli media, which has largely supported Netanyahu’s devastating wars on Gaza, continues to relentlessly defend the illegal occupation of Palestine and to serve as a shield for Israel’s stained reputation on the international stage. It is hardly praiseworthy, even if it arguably provides decent coverage for the Netanyahu investigations.

For an Israeli journalist to handpick a few Palestinians who, allegedly, praised the war crimes-apologist Israeli media is a remarkable event that surely cannot be satisfactorily addressed in anonymity.

But Eldar’s journalism aside, one would think that seeking Palestinian admiration for Israeli media should be the least urgent question to address at this time. Others are far more pressing. For example:

Is corruption among Israel’s political elite symptomatic of greater moral and other forms of corruption that have afflicted the entire society?

And, why is it that, while Netanyahu is being indicted for bribery, no Israeli official is ever indicted for war crimes against Palestinians?

In fact, well before Netanyahu’s corruption scandals included more serious charges – for instance, quid pro quo deals in which his advisors tried to manipulate media coverage in his favor and offering high political positions in exchange for favors – it included bribes pertaining to fancy cigars and expensive drinks.

What Israelis are trying to tell us is that, despite all of its problems, Israel is a good, transparent, law-abiding and democratic society.

This is precisely why Eldar wrote his article. The outcome was a familiar act of intellectual hubris that we have grown familiar with.

Eldar even cites a supposedly former Palestinian prisoner who told Al-Monitor that, while in prison, “we learned how the democratic election process works in Israel. The prisoners adopted the system in order to elect their leadership in a totally democratic fashion, while ensuring freedom of choice.”

Others cited their favorite Israeli journalist, some of whom have served and continue to serve as mouthpieces for official Israeli hasbara (propaganda).

Many of Israel’s friends in western governments and corporate media have also contributed to this opportunistic style of journalism; they come to the rescue when times are hard, to find ways to praise Israel and to chastise Palestinians and Arabs, even if the latter are not relevant to the discussion, whatsoever.

Who could ever forget US Senator John McCain’s criticism of his country’s torture of prisoners at the height of the so-called ‘war on terror’? His rationale was that such a war can be won without torture, because Israel ‘doesn’t torture’ and yet it is capable of combating ‘Palestinian terrorism’.

Thousands of Palestinians have been tortured, and hundreds were killed under duress in Israeli prisons, the last of whom was Yaseen Omar on the day when this article was written. Moreover, according to the Palestinians Prisoners’ Club, 60% of Palestinian children arrested by Israel are also tortured.

If Israeli media was truly honest in its depiction of Netanyahu’s corruption, it would have made a point of highlighting the extent to which corruption goes well beyond the prime minister, his wife and a few close confidantes, but this would pierce through the entire legal, political and business establishment rendering the system itself as rotten and corrupt.

Instead, the heart of the discussion is relocated somewhere else entirely. In Eldar’s article, for example, he quotes the anonymous Palestinian who speaks about how Palestinians prisoners “rejected the political systems of Arab states and opted for the one they had absorbed from the ‘Israeli enemy’.”

This Israeli obsession of diverting from the discussion is an old tactic. Whenever Israel is in the dock for whatever problem it has invited upon others or itself, it immediately fashions an Arab enemy to beat down, chastise and blame.

In the final analysis, somehow Israel maintains the upper hand and self-granted moral ascendency.

This is also why Israelis refer to their country as “the only democracy in the Middle East”. It is a defense mechanism to divert from the fact that apartheid, racially-structured political systems are inherently undemocratic. So, Israel resorts to belittling its neighbors to confirm its own self-worth.

When Israel facilitated and helped carry out the Sabra and Shatila Massacre in Lebanon in September 1982, it used the same logic to defend itself against media outrage.

The then Israeli Prime Minister, Menachem Begin, was quoted as saying “the goyim kill goyim, and they blame the Jews.” By ‘they’ he meant the media.

The bottom line is always this: Israel is blameless no matter the hideousness of the act; it is superior and more civilized, and, according to Eldar’s selective reporting, even Palestinians know it.

But where is the outrage by Eldar and his Israeli media champions as thousands of black men and women are being caged in by Israeli police, ready for deportation, for committing the mortal sin of daring to escape war in their countries and seeking refuge in Israel?

How about the millions of besieged and subjugated Palestinians living a bitter existence under an inhumane military occupation?

Should not the Israeli media be targeting the very legal and political structures in their country that makes it okay to imprison a whole nation in defiance of international and human rights law?

In some strange way, corruption is one of few things that is truly normal about Israel, for it is a shared quality with every single country in the world.

What is not normal, and should never be normalized, is that Israel is the only country in the world that continues to practice Apartheid, many years after it was disbanded in South Africa.

Israeli media would rather delay that discussion indefinitely, a cowardly act that is neither admirable nor praiseworthy.

Drones and Jets: The “Brazenness” Belongs to Israel

“Iran brazenly violated Israel’s sovereignty,” stated Netanyahu on 10 February. “They dispatched an Iranian drone from Syrian territory into Israel.”

In response to this alleged reconnaissance drone, which the Israeli military characterized as a “serious Iranian attack on Israeli territory,” Israel promptly bombed twelve Syrian and Iranian targets in Syria.

A vagueness persists about the alleged drone. Iran stated the claim was “baseless” and “ridiculous.” The US called the drone “provocative.” Israel noted that it waited for the drone to enter its territory and “chose where to bring it down,” just ninety seconds later. Some sources indicate it was over Beit Shean, some say over the Golan. While the drone caused no damage, Israeli airstrikes killed six people.

At the Munich Security Conference a week later, Netanyahu underscored his indignation: “[Iran’s] brazenness reached new heights, literally new heights. It sent a drone into Israeli territory, violating Israel’s sovereignty, threatening our security. We destroyed that drone and the control center that operated it from Syria.” He then portrayed Israel as the innocent victim under threat, characterising the alleged drone as an “act of aggression.”

Talk about brazen.

Let us recall that in August 2014 it was Israel’s drone that was shot down in Iranian territory. While Israeli media reported that the “device looks like a kind of UAV used by the Israeli military,” all sources agree with Reuters’ observation: “Israel has always declined comment on such accusations.” ­Did the Netanyahu-labelled “tyrants of Tehran” respond as Israel has just done? Did Iran retaliate by sending fighter jets into Israel? Absolutely not. Instead, Iran did what it was meant to do as a cooperative member of the international community. It verbally condemned the affront; it reported it to the IAEA (INFCIRC/867) and to the UN Security Council (S/2014/641). The IAEA merely circulated the complaint to member states, and the world ignored the brazenness of Israel.

Let us recall that in August 2011 it was a US drone that was shot down in Iranian territory. Somehow this was not “provocative,” but was rather, as then-current and former officials said, “part of an increasingly aggressive intelligence collection program aimed at Iran,” encouraged by “public debate in Israel.” This 2011 drone is even flaunted in current Israeli media, noting the US “initially denied the incident but eventually acknowledged the loss.” A bit brazen, wouldn’t you say?

Let us recall Israel’s unconscionable use of air power, including drones, over Occupied Palestine. Seen as “near continual surveillance and intermittent death raining down from the sky,” its decades-long aerial persecution of the Palestinians epitomises brazenness.

Lastly, let us recall Lebanon. Since the 1960s, Israel has routinely occupied Lebanese skies. This flagrant defiance of international law is a matter of record. Lebanon has issued numerous formal complaints with the UN—to no avail. Lebanese skies are violated virtually daily by a combination of helicopters, reconnaissance aircraft, and two, four or eight Israeli warplanes. They fly through all regions of Lebanon, including over UNIFIL territory, over Beirut, and over the Ba‘abda Presidential Palace. The Israeli overflights might just spy, or they might create sonic booms, or they might fire flares, or they might fly round-the-clock shifts so that there are always one or two Israeli aircraft in the skies of Lebanon. Or they might fly through Lebanese airspace to bomb Syria.

A recent UN Security Council Report states:

“Israel continued to violate Lebanese airspace on a daily basis, in violation of resolution 1701 (2006) and Lebanese sovereignty. From 1 July to 30 October [2017], UNIFIL recorded 758 air violations, totalling 3,188 overflight hours, an increase of 80 per cent compared with the same period in 2016.”

This was, of course, despite the Security Council’s previously reiterated call for “Israel to cease immediately its overflights of Lebanese airspace.” But, then again, that call has been reiterated by the UN for decades. Extraordinary brazenness.

It has been argued that Israel should not be bound by Resolution 1701 because Hezbollah has remained armed. Such an argument is simply making excuses for Israel’s belligerent conduct. It should be noted that:

  • UN Resolutions do not subscribe to the all-or-none approach; they specify obligations to each party separately.
  • Israeli overflights in Lebanese airspace are in direct violation of the 1949 Armistice, which forbids Israel to “enter into or pass through the air space” of Lebanon, clarifying specifically “for any purpose whatsoever.”
  • Prior to the formation of the Hezbollah Resistance there were already 28 Security Council Resolutions condemning Israel’s aggressions against Lebanon. Since at least 1972—a decade before Hezbollah—UNSC Resolution 316 called on Israel specifically “to desist forthwith from any violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Lebanon.”
  • Resolution 1701 states that prohibitions on weaponry “shall not apply to arms, related material, training or assistance authorized by the Government of Lebanon or by UNIFIL.”  This authorization is indeed expressed, as is custom, in the 2016 Ministerial Statement of the Government, which emphasises the right of Lebanese citizens to resist the Israeli occupation and to respond to its aggression. As President Aoun, a former Army General, explained: “Hizbullah’s arms do not contradict with the State and are an essential component of the means to defend Lebanon.”

With 552 violations of Lebanese airspace in 2016, Israel has exhibited extreme brazenness. With 805 violations in the ten months of 2017 that have been officially reported, Israel has surely forfeited the right to stand in judgment. Fifty years of consistent air violations in Lebanon and Palestine. And Netanyahu calls Iran “brazen” for ninety seconds?

New Atheists and Islam

Remember our public intellectuals from times past, who fearlessly challenged the social mores and public zeitgeist of their times?

Henry David Thoreau comes to mind, who famously opposed the Mexican-American War with a night in jail, as does Voltaire’s sharp critique of Enlightenment optimism. Well, now these public minds are far and few between.

Instead, in the past few decades, the ‘intellectuals’ among us have borne witness to the new atheists, Christopher Hitchens, Michael Shermer, Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins among them. With strut and stammer, they paint themselves as defiant, brave critics of religion and spirituality. And, indeed, they do critique all religions and new age creeds to varying degrees. However, their most scathing excoriations are reserved for Islam.

For example, Hitchens writes: “Islamic belief is…an extreme position to begin with,” in an article about defying the purported “fear” of offending Muslims.

According to Shermer, Islam is “dangerous,” citing a Global Terrorism database study, which found that “since 9/11, most terrorists are Islamic extremists [in the U.S.].” In this same article, he attributes the ‘danger’ posed by Islam to its supposedly never experiencing an Enlightenment as Jews and Christians have in the West.

Sam Harris, with his often-irrelevant analogies, insists that the problem isn’t religious fundamentalism but Islam itself, which is “not a religion of peace”.

Meanwhile, Richard Dawkins has claimed that Muslims would be happier without Islam, for then there would be no terrorism, hostility to science, homophobia, etc., etc.

These stalwart atheists claim that they’re simply advocating for a break of political correctness in denouncing Islam. However, riding the rising crest of racist Islamophobia in the West, they’re simply verifying the public’s ill-informed malice towards Muslims. Instead of offering social criticism against Westerners’ misguided beliefs about Muslims and against Islam, they offer their ‘intelligent’ and supposedly ‘moderate’ perspectives that uphold widely-held, specious stereotypes.

The new atheists’ anti-Islam arguments, masked in pseudo-philosophical dressing, are vapid, flimsy and impotent.

In his discussion with Sam Harris, the Young Turks’ Cent Uygur has accurately pointed out that Sam Harris (among other new atheists) all come from a Judeo-Christian background where extreme criticism of Islam, over and above other religions, comes natural to them.

Uygur goes on to highlight that in religious-related terrorism, such as Catholics in Northern Ireland, Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka and Muslims in Palestine, the question is primary political, and religion is merely a contributing factor. Similarly, Uygur suggests that global violence perpetrated by Muslims is principally geopolitical in nature, with Islam as only another part of the mix.

Concerning terrorist attacks in the U.S. since 9/11, statistics show that white men pose a greater threat than Muslims. If new atheists argue on a global scale, it is true that Islamic terrorism has been the most prevalent form of terrorism since 2001.

Many of these terrorist attacks are against other Muslims, some are directed towards U.S forces in Muslim countries and others towards Sufi and Shia sects, who are considered heretical by the more extreme Sunni fundamentalists. Some motivations can indeed be attributed to radical visions of Islam that harken back to a mythical and idealized time in Muslim history. However, the social context in which most global Islamic terrorism derives are societies in disarray, under military occupation or adversely affected by Western intervention.

And if we were to compare the violent deaths caused by U.S. military adventures, that United States feels free to undertake as unelected world leader, with Islamic terrorism – what would we find?

Since 9/11, the U.S. interventions into Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan have directly resulted in 370,000 deaths and indirectly in 870,000 deaths, totaling 1.24 million deaths and 10.1 million displaced persons. Meanwhile, from 2001-2016 (the last year with data), there have been 241,808 terrorism-related deaths resulting throughout the world. A significant number have come from non-Muslim countries, including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Colombia and the Ukraine. Estimating that a majority of 60% were caused by Islamic extremists (as ‘majority’ was suggested in this article) would put the total Islamic terrorism deaths at 101,559 from 2001-2016. U.S. state violence eclipses Islamic terrorism deaths at 1.24 million to 101,559.

It’s certainly telling that new atheists do not critique Americans’ religious-like worship of their military that are responsible for the overwhelming majority of unnatural, violent deaths in the post-9/11 era. More importantly, they offer little criticism of U.S. foreign policy that directs the military towards such action.

When states are shattered into anarchic specters of themselves and day-to-day security is lost, there is inevitable ‘blowback’. Islamic extremist blowback has led to roughly 8 percent of the global deaths in comparison with those caused by U.S. intervention and counter-terror policies.

New atheists can demonize Islam all they want, illuminating it as the most ‘dangerous’ of religions. But perhaps they should think twice as to whether they’re acting as intellectual mouthpieces for irrational government policy and public dislike of Muslims or breaking new ground with their ‘politically incorrect’ critiques. Perhaps they should realize there’s a stark difference between political correctness and being racist, anti-Islam advocates. And, too, their ‘courage’ should be called into question: this isn’t the age of Galileo, where atheists’ lives are endangered in the West. On the contrary, they have increased their celebrity status following spouting their anti-Muslim perspectives on CNN or Fox News. Their views are celebrated because they offer false verification of the rabble’s anti-Muslim racism and xenophobia.

And to Mr. Shermer: Islam did have an ‘Enlightenment’ period. It was called the Abbasid caliphate. During this time, ethnic groups in the caliphate were treated equally, Hellenistic philosophy and medical literature were translated into Arabic, and “Muslims made more scientific discoveries during this period than in any of the whole previously recorded history (p. 54-56).

Please step out of the rabble’s world schema and stop trumpeting mainstream backwardness, as though it were a fortitudinous virtue. Step into the bones of Nietzsche, Thoreau and Voltaire, who had the intellect and intrepidity to sharply criticize their own societies.

Why be a mouthpiece for fallacious, myopic beliefs that stigmatize a vast swath of everyday people, when your putative aim is to counter these same sort of notions in your much-vaunted criticism of religion?

Netanyahu’s Ruthless Instinct for Political Survival Remains Undimmed

The recommendation by police to charge Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu with two counts of bribery – there are more cases looming – marks a dangerous moment for Israel and the region.

For the past three decades, corruption scandals have swirled around a succession of Israeli leaders. Ehud Olmert, Mr Netanyahu’s predecessor, was forced to resign over suspicions he took cash in envelopes, and later ended up in jail. But Mr Netanyahu is the first to face the possibility of criminal corruption charges while in office.

This is new political terrain and Mr Netanyahu shows no signs of preparing to go quietly.

After 12 years at the head of various governments, Mr Netanyahu was on course to become the longest-serving prime minister in Israel’s history, beating even the record set by David Ben Gurion, the country’s founding father.

No one alive knows how to manipulate the levers of power in Israel better than Mr Netanyahu. And no one has a stronger and more ruthless instinct for political survival.

That has led to extreme arrogance. In late 2016, as his wife, Sara, was brought in for police questioning, the couple were still receiving from businessmen shipments of jewellery, luxury cigars and pink champagne whose value reached $280,000.

Mr Netanyahu is accused of offering many favours in return, in particular to Hollywood mogul Arnon Milchan, a self-declared former Israeli spy and arms buyer. Those included efforts to change Israel’s tax laws, help Mr Milchan with TV interests and lobby on his behalf for a US residency visa.

Reportedly, the prime minister also tried to aid Mr Milchan and other investors by planning unsuccessfully a free-trade zone in the West Bank to build cheap cars and by participating in the murky dealings of a security firm.

In the second bribery case, Mr Netanyahu is on tape apparently offering Arnon Mozes, head of Israel’s most influential media group, legislation to damage a competitor in return for supportive coverage from his newspapers.

In another, as-yet unfinished investigation, Mr Netanyahu’s closest aides are suspected of receiving huge kickbacks from a deal with a German submarine manufacturer.

None of this has yet delivered a knockout blow, not least because members of the governing coalition fear moving against him.

These scandals have split Israeli society down the middle. While thousands have turned out to march against Mr Netanyahu, his core electorate is still behind him.

Rivals seen to be turning on the prime minister at this stage risk alienating the right-wing public, dooming their political future. Instead they are waiting to see whether Israel’s law chief, attorney general Avichai Mendelblit, agrees to put him on trial.

Mr Mendelblit is in no hurry. He is Mr Netanyahu’s appointee, and fears being seen toppling a popular government. He could take as long as a year to decide.

In the meantime, to bolster his position, Mr Netanyahu is already provoking a damaging confrontation at home and might yet engineer a regional crisis.

The first casualty is a further erosion of what is left of the threadbare rule of law in Israel. In a sign of desperation, Mr Netanyahu’s allies have attacked a former government minister, Yair Lapid – a potential centrist challenger – for testifying that the prime minister asked him to change the tax laws to help Mr Milchan.

They have publicly labelled him a “snitch”, as if senior politicians ought to lie to police investigators.

Meanwhile, rather than denying the findings, Mr Netanyahu has launched a frontal assault on the probity of the police and its commander, Roni Alsheikh, suggesting they are organising a politically motivated “coup”.

That is rich, given that Mr Alsheikh was parachuted into the post by Mr Netanyahu. And, as a former long-time resident of the Kiryat Arba, one of the most extreme settlements, Mr Alsheikh is firmly in the same ideological camp as Mr Netanyahu.

The latest attacks follow years of Mr Netanyahu’s coterie lashing out at every institution that threatens the right’s rule – from the media, courts and human rights organisations to the United Nations and Europe. All have been presented as “enemies of the people”.

But there are larger dangers. Mr Netanyahu’s legal troubles come as Israeli intelligence services have warned of potential crises on multiple fronts that need careful management.

In the south, the suffering in Gaza is pushing Palestinians there to the brink of endurance. Clashes escalated at the weekend, when Israel struck more than a dozen sites and left at least two Palestinians dead.

On the western flank, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas is running out of credibility and options as Israel and Donald Trump’s administration deprive him of any realistic prospect of achieving statehood.

With the Lebanese militia Hezbollah, Iran, Russia and jihadists drawn into the fray in southern Syria, on Israel’s northern border, tensions could explode at any moment. That was powerfully illustrated this month when an Israeli war plane flying over Syria was shot down. Addressing the incident on Sunday, Mr Netanyahu told a security conference in Munich that Israel was ready to act “against Iran itself”.

And Mr Netanyahu is assumed to be meddling already behind the scenes with Mr Trump to tear up the nuclear accord with Iran.

The man deciding how to handle each of these inherently incendiary matters has crowned himself “King Bibi”, his wife “the First Lady”, and had been grooming his eldest, Yair, as heir – until Yair self-sabotaged by posting anti-semitic memes online.

All signs suggest Mr Netanyahu has a massively inflated ego and an insatiable sense of entitlement. Where it might push him in a time of profound and prolonged personal crisis should worry us all.

• First published in the National

Netanyahu’s Ruthless Instinct for Political Survival Remains Undimmed

The recommendation by police to charge Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu with two counts of bribery – there are more cases looming – marks a dangerous moment for Israel and the region.

For the past three decades, corruption scandals have swirled around a succession of Israeli leaders. Ehud Olmert, Mr Netanyahu’s predecessor, was forced to resign over suspicions he took cash in envelopes, and later ended up in jail. But Mr Netanyahu is the first to face the possibility of criminal corruption charges while in office.

This is new political terrain and Mr Netanyahu shows no signs of preparing to go quietly.

After 12 years at the head of various governments, Mr Netanyahu was on course to become the longest-serving prime minister in Israel’s history, beating even the record set by David Ben Gurion, the country’s founding father.

No one alive knows how to manipulate the levers of power in Israel better than Mr Netanyahu. And no one has a stronger and more ruthless instinct for political survival.

That has led to extreme arrogance. In late 2016, as his wife, Sara, was brought in for police questioning, the couple were still receiving from businessmen shipments of jewellery, luxury cigars and pink champagne whose value reached $280,000.

Mr Netanyahu is accused of offering many favours in return, in particular to Hollywood mogul Arnon Milchan, a self-declared former Israeli spy and arms buyer. Those included efforts to change Israel’s tax laws, help Mr Milchan with TV interests and lobby on his behalf for a US residency visa.

Reportedly, the prime minister also tried to aid Mr Milchan and other investors by planning unsuccessfully a free-trade zone in the West Bank to build cheap cars and by participating in the murky dealings of a security firm.

In the second bribery case, Mr Netanyahu is on tape apparently offering Arnon Mozes, head of Israel’s most influential media group, legislation to damage a competitor in return for supportive coverage from his newspapers.

In another, as-yet unfinished investigation, Mr Netanyahu’s closest aides are suspected of receiving huge kickbacks from a deal with a German submarine manufacturer.

None of this has yet delivered a knockout blow, not least because members of the governing coalition fear moving against him.

These scandals have split Israeli society down the middle. While thousands have turned out to march against Mr Netanyahu, his core electorate is still behind him.

Rivals seen to be turning on the prime minister at this stage risk alienating the right-wing public, dooming their political future. Instead they are waiting to see whether Israel’s law chief, attorney general Avichai Mendelblit, agrees to put him on trial.

Mr Mendelblit is in no hurry. He is Mr Netanyahu’s appointee, and fears being seen toppling a popular government. He could take as long as a year to decide.

In the meantime, to bolster his position, Mr Netanyahu is already provoking a damaging confrontation at home and might yet engineer a regional crisis.

The first casualty is a further erosion of what is left of the threadbare rule of law in Israel. In a sign of desperation, Mr Netanyahu’s allies have attacked a former government minister, Yair Lapid – a potential centrist challenger – for testifying that the prime minister asked him to change the tax laws to help Mr Milchan.

They have publicly labelled him a “snitch”, as if senior politicians ought to lie to police investigators.

Meanwhile, rather than denying the findings, Mr Netanyahu has launched a frontal assault on the probity of the police and its commander, Roni Alsheikh, suggesting they are organising a politically motivated “coup”.

That is rich, given that Mr Alsheikh was parachuted into the post by Mr Netanyahu. And, as a former long-time resident of the Kiryat Arba, one of the most extreme settlements, Mr Alsheikh is firmly in the same ideological camp as Mr Netanyahu.

The latest attacks follow years of Mr Netanyahu’s coterie lashing out at every institution that threatens the right’s rule – from the media, courts and human rights organisations to the United Nations and Europe. All have been presented as “enemies of the people”.

But there are larger dangers. Mr Netanyahu’s legal troubles come as Israeli intelligence services have warned of potential crises on multiple fronts that need careful management.

In the south, the suffering in Gaza is pushing Palestinians there to the brink of endurance. Clashes escalated at the weekend, when Israel struck more than a dozen sites and left at least two Palestinians dead.

On the western flank, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas is running out of credibility and options as Israel and Donald Trump’s administration deprive him of any realistic prospect of achieving statehood.

With the Lebanese militia Hezbollah, Iran, Russia and jihadists drawn into the fray in southern Syria, on Israel’s northern border, tensions could explode at any moment. That was powerfully illustrated this month when an Israeli war plane flying over Syria was shot down. Addressing the incident on Sunday, Mr Netanyahu told a security conference in Munich that Israel was ready to act “against Iran itself”.

And Mr Netanyahu is assumed to be meddling already behind the scenes with Mr Trump to tear up the nuclear accord with Iran.

The man deciding how to handle each of these inherently incendiary matters has crowned himself “King Bibi”, his wife “the First Lady”, and had been grooming his eldest, Yair, as heir – until Yair self-sabotaged by posting anti-semitic memes online.

All signs suggest Mr Netanyahu has a massively inflated ego and an insatiable sense of entitlement. Where it might push him in a time of profound and prolonged personal crisis should worry us all.

• First published in the National

Academics Who Serve as Israel’s Useful Idiots

How is that highly schooled people, those who have risen to positions of authority and influence within the west’s higher education systems, so often behave as if the bit of their brain governing rational thought has turned to mush whenever the issue of Israel is raised?

Let’s take the case of Richard Carver, a senior lecturer in human rights and governance at Oxford Brookes University. He has just published a letter in the London Review of Books in which he seeks to discredit support for BDS – boycott, divestment and sanctions – as evidence of what he (like Israel’s supporters) terms “the new anti-semitism”.

In short, he presents the BDS campaign’s positive support for Palestinian rights as if it were intended to be a negative campaign to harm Jews. The illogic of that ought to be obvious to all.

But let’s dig deeper. Here’s Carver in the LRB:

I would be more inclined to respect the bona fides of the BDS movement if it were equally exercised about China, Morocco, Turkey or any other country engaged in long-term illegal occupations – or, for that matter, war in Syria, torture in Egypt or suppression of dissent in Iran. But the Jewish state is judged by a different standard, which is precisely the phenomenon described by the concept of the ‘new anti-Semitism’.

How derisively would we have treated an academic – an expert in human rights, no less – who argued back in the 1980s that those who supported a boycott of apartheid South Africa must have been secretly anti-white or anti-Christian because they did not equally prioritise a boycott of Israel?

Carver can get away with his intellectually risible logic – and get his letter published in the LRB – only because the combination of words “Israel” and “anti-semitism” make otherwise sensible people become gibbering idiots.

In fact, if we apply some proper logic to Carver’s position, we find that even my counter-proposition above is too kind to him.

Apartheid South Africa was, and Israel still is, a product of western political, diplomatic and economic patronage. Grassroots campaigns like boycott movements can make, and have made, a difference to the viability of these European-originated settler colonial regimes. South Africa was, and Israel is, vulnerable to sanctions from western allies.

Much harder to make the same case for western activism against China, Iran and Syria, for example, which are official “enemies” of the west.

After all, grassroots action in the west is designed to discomfit not just Israel, or before it apartheid South Africa, but the western elites who prop up these regimes. Activism in the west was/is targeted chiefly against the complicity of western elites in these colonial offshoots.

None of that is true of China, Syria or Iran. Western governments are only too ready to harm these states – and the civilians in them – if they think they can get away with it. They don’t need our encouragement. Any grassroots activism directed against Syria or Iran is, at best, doomed to be wasted energy and, at worst, likely to be exploited to justify intensifying the west’s hostile manoeuvres against official enemies.

Those are deductions a schoolchild could make. And yet, for some reason, they elude our esteemed professor of human rights.

“Whitewashing” Genocide in Myanmar

Although the genocide of the Rohingya minority in Myanmar has gathered greater media attention in recent months, there is no indication that the international community is prepared to act in any meaningful way, thus leaving hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees stranded in border camps between Myanmar and Bangladesh.

While top United Nations officials are now using the term ‘genocide‘ to describe the massive abuses experienced by the Rohingya minority at the hands of the Myanmar army, security forces and Buddhist militias, no plan of action to stem the genocide has been put in place.

In less than six months, beginning August 2017, an estimated 655,000 Rohingya refugees fled or were pushed out across the border between Myanmar and Bangladesh. Most of the ‘clearance operations’ – a term used by the Myanmar military to describe the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya – took place in Rakhine state.

In a recent report, Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) relayed the harrowing death toll of Rohingya during the first month of the genocidal campaign.

At least 9,000 Rohingya were killed between August 25 and September 24, according to MSF. This number includes 730 children under the age of five.

Eric Schwartz of Refugee International described these events in an interview with American National Public Radio (NPR) as “one of the greatest crimes in recent memory – massive abuses, forced relocations of hundreds of thousands of people in a matter of weeks.”

Coupled with numerous reports of gang rape, outright murder, and mass burning of villages, Rohingya are left defenseless in the face of unspeakable atrocities.

Worse still, a recent agreement between Myanmar and Bangladesh has been reached to repatriate many of these refugees, with absolutely no guarantees for their safety.

With no safeguards in place, and with the Rohingya having been stripped of their legal status as citizens or legal aliens in Myanmar, going back is as risky an endeavor as is fleeing.

The plan to repatriate Rohingya refugees without any protection, or the guaranteeing of their basic rights is part of a larger campaign to whitewash the crimes of the Myanmar government and to, once more, defer the protracted crisis of the Rohingya.

Although the cruelty experienced by the Rohingya goes back decades, a new ethnic cleansing campaign began in 2012, when 100,000 Rohingya were forced out of their villages and towns to live in prison-like makeshift refugee camps.

In 2013, more than 140,000 were also displaced, a trend that continued until last August, when the bouts of ethnic cleansing culminated into all-out genocide involving all security branches of the government, and defended by Myanmar officials, including Aung San Suu Kyi.

The latter was celebrated for decades by western media and government as a democracy icon and human rights heroine.

However, as soon as Suu Kyi was freed from her house arrest and became the leader of Myanmar in 2015, she served as an apologist for her former military foes. Not only did she refuse to condemn the violence against the Rohingya, she even refuses to use the term ‘Rohingya’ in reference to the historically persecuted minority.

Suu Kyi’s support for the military’s relentless violence has earned her much contempt and criticism, and rightly so. But too much emphasis has been placed on appealing to her moral sense of justice to the point that no strategy has been formed to confront the crimes of the Myanmar military and government, neither by Asian leaders nor by the international community.

Instead, an unimpressive ‘international advisory board’ was set up to carry out recommendations by another advisory council led by Kofi Annan, the former UN Secretary General.

Expectedly, the advisory board is proving to be nothing but an instrument used by the Myanmar government to whitewash the crimes of the military. In fact, this is the very assessment of former US cabinet member and top diplomat, Bill Richardson, who recently resigned from the board.

“The main reason I am resigning is that the advisory board is a whitewash,” he told Reuters, asserting that he did not want to be part of “a cheerleading squad for the government.”

He, too, accused Suu Kyi of lacking ‘moral leadership.”

But that designation no longer suffices. Suu Kyi should be held accountable for more than her moral failings but, considering her leadership position, she should be held directly responsible for crimes against humanity, together with her top security and army brass.

Phil Robertson of Human Rights Watch is one of the leading voices among rights groups who are calling for the UN Security Council to refer Myanmar to the International Court of Justice (ICC) in The Hague. Even though Myanmar is not a signatory of the Rome Treaty, such a referral is the only way to take a non-ratifying state to the ICC.

This step is both legally defensible and urgent, as the Myanmar government has showed no remorse whatsoever towards the horrible violence it has meted to the Rohingya.

Robertson also called for ‘targeted sanctions’, which will most certainly get the attention of the country’s rich and powerful elites that rule over the military and government.

In recent years, Myanmar, with the help of the US and other Western powers, was allowed to open up its economy to foreign investors. Billions of US dollars of foreign direct investments have already been channeled into Myanmar and six billion US dollars more are also expected to enter the country in 2018.

That, too, is a great act of moral failing on the part of many countries in Asia, the West and the rest of the world. Myanmar should not be rewarded with massive largesse of foreign investments, while whole communities are being killed, maimed or made into refugees.

Without sanctions that target the government and military – not the people – coupled with legal action to prosecute Myanmar’s leaders, including Suu Kyi, before the ICC, the genocide of the Rohingya will continue unabated.