Category Archives: Lebanon

Debunking the Rumors about Russia Caving in to Israel

• Author’s Note:  This analysis was written for the Unz Review

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This Spring saw a sudden increase in the volume of articles in the so-called “alternative media and blogosphere” about Putin “selling out” Syria or Iran to the Israelis and their US patrons, or both. What was particularly interesting about this campaign is that it was not triggered by any kind of event or statement by Putin or any other senior Russian decision-makers. True, Israeli politicians made numerous trips to Russia, but each time they walked away without anything tangible to show for their efforts. As for their Russian counterparts, they limited themselves to vague and well-intentioned statements. Nonetheless, the “Putin sold out to Netanyahu” campaign did not stop. Every meeting was systematically interpreted as The Clear Proof that the Zionists control the Kremlin and that Putin was doing Netanyahu’s bidding. The fact that this campaign began ex nihilo did not seem to bother most observers. Soon I started getting steady streams of emails asking me to react to these articles. My reply was always the same one: let’s do the opposite of what these supposed “specialists” are doing and wait for the facts to come out and only then form an opinion.

Truth be told, I had already tackled that canard in my article “Why is Putin “allowing” Israel to bomb Syria.” I also had tried to debunk some of the most persistent and toxic falsehoods about Russia and Israel in my article “Putin and Israel: A Complex and Multi-Layered Relationship.” I also wrote an article entitled “Is Putin Really Ready to “Ditch” Iran?” trying to debunk that stupid theory. Finally, I even tried to compare and contrast the Russian approach towards Israel (which I qualified as “self-interest”) with the attitude of the “collective West” (which I qualified as “prostitution”) in an article entitled “Russia, Israel and the Values of “Western Civilization” – Where Is the Truth?”.

I was naïve to think that any of my arguments would elicit any doubts amongst the “Putin is a traitor” crowd. After all, if being wrong for years could not convince them otherwise, no rational argument would.

Then, news agencies began to report that General Nikolai Patrushev, the Director of the Russian Federal Security Service and the Secretary of the Security Council of Russia, would travel to Israel to meet with John Bolton and Bibi Netanyahu. At this point, the steady stream of concerned emails suddenly turned into a deluge! After all, why would such a high-ranking (and rather secretive) Russian official travel to Israel to meet two of the worst and most evil politicians of the Anglo-Zionist Empire? Surely, he had something important to say, no? The consensus (of sorts) was that Patrushev would sell out Iran and Syria in exchange for some (entirely theoretical, quite unlikely and inevitably vague) “concessions” on the Ukraine, Crimea or sanctions.

My reply remained the same. Let’s wait until these folks actually meet and let’s see if their meeting brings about something significant (as a rule, I find getting facts an essential first step before engaging in any analysis; apparently, my detractors feel otherwise).

So, again, I decided to wait.

Then something weird happened: the meeting took place, it was even reported (albeit mostly in general terms), the participants issued their statements and… …nothing. The outcome of the “Jerusalem summit” was greeted by a deafening silence and a few vapid commentaries. My first hunch was that, as the Russian saying goes, the “mountain had given birth to a mouse” and that nothing of importance came out of the summit. Boy, was I ever wrong!

The official Russian position on Iran

The summit *did* indeed produce something of vital significance, but for some reason, the most senior-official statement on Iran that any Russian decision-maker ever made received very little attention. Unless you happened to be a Saker blog reader, you would never find out about it.

See for yourself and click here for both the video and the transcript.

To my knowledge, this is the only full-length English language transcript of Patrushev’s statement. (Ruptly posted a video dubbed in English, but it was hardly noticed. As for the transcript, to my knowledge it was never reposted in full).

Which is too bad, since the following words have now been spoken by one of the most authorized and high-ranking Russian officials to date: (emphasis added)

“We have emphasized an importance of easing of the tensions for the country (Syria) between Israel and Iran, by the way of implementation the mutual approaching steps. We have made an emphasis that Syria must not be turned into an arena for geopolitical confrontation. We have also highlighted the need for the international community to help Syria to rebuild its national economy. Among other things, Syria should be free of illegal trade restrictions, unilateral sanctions, as well as sanctions on economic operators that help Syria to rebuild. They also have to be free from all sanctions.

We also turned everyone’s attention to the relations of Syria and other Arab states that should be normalized again. Syria is once again should be a full-fledged member of the Arab League. Also, we pointed out an importance of establishing the contacts of Syrian government with its Kurdish ethnic minority. We stated of importance to unite the efforts to eliminate all remaining in Syria terrorists. We called for immediate disruption of all channels through which terrorists might be able to obtain weapon grade chemical materials and their precursors.

Russia, the United States and Israel should join their efforts to help peace to return to Syria.

In the context of the statements made by our partners with regard to a major regional power, namely Iran, I would like to say the following: Iran has always been and remains our ally and partner, with which we are consistently developing relations both on bilateral basis and within multilateral formats,

This is why we believe that it is inadmissible to describe Iran as the major threat to the regional security and, moreover, to put it on par with the Islamic State or any other terrorist organization, Especially, since Iran contributes substantial efforts to bring peace to Syria and to stabilize the situation in Syria.

We have called on our partners to show restraint and readiness for reciprocal steps, which must serve as the basis for the consistent advancement towards the easing of tensions in the Israeli-Iranian relations”

To my knowledge, this is the very first time that Russia has officially declared Iran not only as a partner but as an ally! A few days later, President Putin confirmed that this was an official position which had his imprimatur when he stated in his interview to the FT that:

We have established sufficiently good business-like relations with all regional countries, and our positions in the Middle East region have become more stable. Indeed, we have established very good, business-like, partner-like and largely allied relations with many regional countries, including Iran, Turkey and other countries.

This is absolutely huge, especially considering that, unlike Eltsin’s “democratic” Russia or western politicians, Putin does not abandon his allies (if anything, he sometimes defends them for too long even when they have been found guilty of dishonorable actions). Let me repeat this:

Russia has declared that Iran is her *ally*.

The official Russian position on Syria

Next, let’s parse the Patrushev statement once again for some specifics about Syria:

  1. Israel does not get to impose its will upon Syria. (“Syria must not be turned into an arena for geopolitical confrontation “).
  2. All sanctions against Syria must be lifted. (“Syria should be free of illegal trade restrictions, unilateral sanctions, as well as sanctions on economic operators that help Syria to rebuild. They also have to be free from all sanctions“).
  3. The Arab League must fully reinstate Syria. (“Syria once again should be a fully-fledged member of the Arab League”).
  4. All the remaining terrorists in Syria must be eliminated. (“unite the efforts to eliminate all remaining terrorists in Syria”).

It sure looks to me that Russia’s commitment to Syria’s integrity and freedom is as strong as ever.

Does that look to you like Russia and Israel are working hand-in-hand in Syria?

If so, please read the following for a quick reality check (excerpt from this article):

The initial AngloZionist plan was to overthrow Assad and replace him with the Takfiri crazies (Daesh, al-Qaeda, al-Nusra, ISIS – call them whatever you want). Doing this would achieve the following goals:

  1. Bring down a strong secular Arab state along with its political structure, armed forces, and security services.
  2. Create total chaos and horror in Syria justifying the creation of a “security zone” by Israel not only in the Golan but further north.
  3. Trigger a civil war in Lebanon by unleashing the Takfiri crazies against Hezbollah.
  4. Let the Takfiris and Hezbollah bleed each other to death, then create a “security zone,” but this time in Lebanon.
  5. Prevent the creation of a Shia axis Iran-Iraq-Syria-Lebanon.
  6. Break up Syria along ethnic and religious lines.
  7. Create a Kurdistan which could then be used against Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Iran.
  8. Make it possible for Israel to become the uncontested power broker in the Middle-East and force the KSA, Qatar, Oman, Kuwait, and all others to have to go to Israel for any gas or oil pipeline project.
  9. Gradually isolate, threaten, subvert, and eventually attack Iran with a broad regional coalition of forces.
  10. Eliminate all center of Shia power in the Middle-East.

That was an ambitious plan, but the Israelis felt pretty confident that their US vassal-state would provide the resources needed to achieve it. Now this entire plan has collapsed due to the very high effectiveness of an informal but yet formidable alliance between Russia, Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah. To say that the Israelis are seething with rage and in a state of total panic would be an understatement. Do you think I am exaggerating? Then look at it from the Israeli point of view:

  1. The Syrian state has survived, and its armed and security forces are now far more capable than they were before the war started (remember how they *almost* lost the war initially? The Syrians bounced back while learning some very hard lessons. By all reports, they improved tremendously, while at critical moments Iran and Hezbollah were literally “plugging holes” in the Syrian frontlines and “extinguishing fires” on local flashpoints. Now the Syrians are doing a very good job of liberating large chunks of their country, including every single city in Syria).
  2. Not only is Syria stronger, but the Iranians and Hezbollah are all over the country now, which is driving the Israelis into a state of panic and rage.
  3. Lebanon is rock solid; even the latest Saudi attempt to kidnap Hariri is backfiring.
  4. Syria will remain unitary, and Kurdistan is not happening. Millions of displaced refugees are returning home.
  5. Israel and the US look like total idiots and, even worse, as losers with no credibility left.

The simple truth is that Russia foiled *ALL* the Israeli plans for Syria. All of them!

This is an extremely important statement. It is also a somewhat ambiguous one since “ally” means different things to different people. The Allied Powers during WWII included the Anglo nations and the Soviet Union, which did not prevent the western powers to plot and conspire to attack and destroy their putative “ally” (who happened to have destroyed about 80% of the Nazi war machine).

[Sidebar: for those who need a reminder of how the West treats its allies, here is a small memento with three examples of how the West planned to “solve the Russian problem”:

  • Plan Totality (1945): earmarked 20 Soviet cities for obliteration in a first strike: Moscow, Gorki, Kuybyshev, Sverdlovsk, Novosibirsk, Omsk, Saratov, Kazan, Leningrad, Baku, Tashkent, Chelyabinsk, Nizhny Tagil, Magnitogorsk, Molotov, Tbilisi, Stalinsk, Grozny, Irkutsk, and Yaroslavl.
  • Operation Unthinkable (1945) assumed a surprise attack by up to 47 British and American divisions in the area of Dresden, in the middle of Soviet lines. This represented almost a half of roughly 100 divisions (ca. 2.5 million men) available to the British, American and Canadian headquarters at that time. The majority of any offensive operation would have been undertaken by American and British forces, as well as Polish forces and up to 100,000 German Wehrmacht soldiers.
  • Operation Dropshot (1949): included mission profiles that would have used 300 nuclear bombs and 29,000 high-explosive bombs on 200 targets in 100 cities and towns to wipe out 85% of the Soviet Union’s industrial potential at a single stroke. Between 75 and 100 of the 300 nuclear weapons were targeted to destroy Soviet combat aircraft on the ground.

I could also list all the so-called “allies” the West has ditched, betrayed and even murdered since WWII, but that would take too many pages]

So what does Russia mean exactly when she says that Iran is her “ally”?

Patrushev uses the words партнер (partner) and союзник (ally). Just as in English, the word “partner” evokes some community of interests and collaboration but is generally value-neutral. This is why Russian politicians sometimes even speak of countries hostile to Russia as “partners.” Not only are they sarcastic, but “partner” does not invoke any particular feeling or moral obligation on anybody’s part. Partner is just a polite word, nothing more.

The word “ally,” however, is a much stronger one which implies not only common interests but also a real, sincere friendship and a common stance against a common enemy. Unless it is used sarcastically, the term “soiuznik” strongly implies a mutual moral obligation.

It remains unclear what that really means in the case of Iran and Russia. Theoretically, having a common enemy attack one of the members of an alliance (“soiuz”) could mean that Russia would intervene and offer military support or even directly intervene herself. I doubt that Patrushev (or anyone else in the Kremlin) has this kind of intervention in mind, if only for one reason which is that there would be very little, if any, popular support for a war against the USA for the sake of Iran. A much more realistic interpretation of Patrushev’s words would be that:

  1. Russia will not “sell-out” Iran to anybody in any way, shape or form.
  2. If Iran is attacked, Russia will offer her total support short of any direct military intervention.

Total support short of any direct military intervention is what the USSR offered the DPRK and, even more so, to Vietnam, and in both cases, the West was eventually defeated. Also, “short of any direct military intervention” does not mean “no military aid”: sending military equipment and instructors, is also below the threshold of “direct military intervention,” as would be the case with political and economic support. Furthermore, Russia has formidable intelligence and reconnaissance capabilities which could play a crucial role in helping Iran resist an AngloZionist attack (look at what Russian radars, electronic warfare, and battle management systems have done to the effectiveness of US and Israeli attacks against Syria!).

Let’s also remember the nature of the Iranian theater of military operations: Iran is a huge country with a very large population (80M+). What this means is that Iran cannot be taken over in a ground invasion. That, in turn, means that the resistance of the Iranian people will never be crushed. And that, in turn, means that there is no need for Russia to prevent a military takeover of Iran. All Russia needs to do is to give Iran the means to effectively resist and the rest will happen naturally (just like Hezbollah did in 2006 against Israel when Iran did not intervene directly and militarily, but simply gave Hezbollah the means to beat back the “only Jewish democracy in the Middle-East”).

Besides, Iranians are fiercely patriotic, and they would probably not welcome any visible Russian military intervention in their country anyway (they won’t say “no” to covert aid, especially not the IRGC). This is a wise approach, especially when compared to cowardly little statelets which always want one occupier to boot out a previous occupier (think Poland, the Baltic statelets or the Nazi-occupied Ukraine nowadays).

Finally, Russia is not acting by herself or in a vacuum: the Chinese have made numerous statements (see here, here or here) showing that Iran also has their backing, which resulted in a state of consternated shock amongst MAGA fanboys. The fact that the US’s “European allies” seemed to be getting cold feet about this entire project (attacking Iran on behalf of Israel, blowing-up the entire Middle-East while bringing down the world economy) only adds to their distress.

[Sidebar: the USN should rent out a few transport/amphibious assault ships, fill them up with Polaks, Balts, Ukies, and Georgians and send them to fight for “the USA” (i.e., for Israel, of course). After all, these folks are locked in a desperate competition to see who of them can brown-nose the Empire the deepest, so why not give them a way to prove their unfailing loyalty to “western values” and the rest of the propaganda nonsense the legacy corporate Ziomedia feeds us (and them!) on a daily basis]

Will any of the above affect the “Putin is a traitor” or “Putin works for Bibi” crowd?

Facts? No! Who needs facts?

No, most probably not. What they will do is just ignore Patrushev’s very official statement just like they have ignored all the facts since they began predicting a “Grand Russian Betrayal” for no less than 5 years now, even if proved wrong every time: remember their whining about Syria “losing” its (utterly useless, dangerous and expensive to destroy) chemical weapons? What about their whining about Russia not doing enough for Novorussia? Or their whining about the Russians being “soft” on Israel after the Israelis caused the loss of a Russian recon aircraft? All these folks who present to us the “proof” that Putin, Bolton, and Netanyahu are “in cahoots”, and have predicted that Patrushev would “sell out” are now very busy looking somewhere else for evidence of Russia’s subservience to Israel.

At the time of writing (July 2nd), the Israelis have yet again conducted an airstrike on Syria, killing four people including a baby. The MI6 sponsored “The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights” reported that “at least ten targets were hit in Damascus while a scientific research center and a military airbase were attacked in Homs.” Sounds quite impressive, no?

Actually, no.

For one thing, to evaluate the effectiveness of an airstrike, you don’t list targets, you make a bomb damage assessment (BDA) to ascertain what in reality sustained a hit, and how severely. Now, the Zionist propaganda always issues triumphant reports about how the invincible Israeli air force can make minced meat out of any Russian (or other) air defense system. Some, for example, have already concluded that the Israelis have “neutralized” the S-300 system while others go even further and claim that Russia either “approved” the Israeli attack or even “coordinated” it!

The Russian military has a saying “гражданский – это диагноз” which can be roughly translated as “civilian – that is a diagnosis.” In the case of these ignorant and even silly articles about the Russian air defenses in Syria (“the S-300 don’t work!!!”), that is precisely the case: these are civilians who have no understanding whatsoever of military matters in general, and even less so of air defense topics.

In my article “S-300 in Syria – a Preliminary Assessment,” I explained that:

Sooner or later, however, we can be pretty confident that both the Israelis and the US will have to try to strike Syria again, if only for PR purposes. In fact, this should not be too difficult for them, here is why: First, and contrary to what is often claimed, there are not enough S-300/S-400’s in Syria to indeed “lock” all of the Syrian airspace. Yes, the Russians did create a de-facto no-fly zone over Syria, but not one which could withstand a large and determined attack. What the combined Russian and Syrian forces have done so far is to deny some specific segments of the airspace above and around Syria to the AngloZionist aggressors. This means that they can protect some specific, high-value targets. However, as soon as the US/Israelis get a feel for what has been deployed and where, and how this entire integrated air defense network works, they will be able to plan strikes which, while not terribly effective, will be presented by the propaganda machine as a major success for the AngloZionists. (…) So, all the AngloZionists really need to do is to be very careful in their choice of paths of approach and choice of targets, use low-RCS aircraft and missiles under the cover of a robust EW engagement and then use a large enough number of missiles to give the appearance that the Empire has defeated the Russian and Syrian air defenses.

This is *exactly* what we are witnessing now. How do we know that? After all, we don’t have access to classified BDAs. True. What we can do is use Christ’s wise words and “judge a tree by its fruits” and notice that no amount of Israeli airstrikes in Syria have made any difference. Not only that, but we also know the kind of sustained air campaign which would be needed to meaningfully impact the Syrian armed forces, Hezbollah, the Iranians or the Russians. It sure ain’t what we have seen since the Russians beefed up their air defenses in Syria.

By the way, the SOHR article mentioned above also makes a mistake saying that a “scientific research center” was attacked. Why does this matter? Well, since we know that Syria has no nuclear, chemical or bacteriological research program or weapons, we can immediately conclude that whatever the “scientific research center” was doing (assuming this was not some empty building in the first place) was not something relevant to the Syrian war effort. In other words, this “scientific research center” was chosen as a symbolic target which, for all we know, might not even have been protected in the first place. However, “Israel destroys secret Syrian research center” sounds oh-so-triumphant and presents that it was well worth attacking that target. Heck, the SOHR article even mentions destroyed *orchards* (I kid you not!). I am sure that Hezbollah and the IRGC were both very impressed by the Israeli military prowess and totally heartbroken to have been deprived of their precious orchards :-)

My question to the “Putin is a Zioagent” folks is: why in the world would you expect the Syrians or the Russians to defend empty buildings or orchards from Israeli airstrikes anyways?

Conclusion 1: Putin, the traitor? Hardly!

My regular readers will know that my support for the Kremlin is a sincere one, but also a critical one. Not only do I not believe in flag-waving (called “hat tossing” in Russian), but I do also believe that there is a very dangerous and toxic 5th column inside the Russian elites working to subordinate Russia to the Empire. So while I sometimes like to call myself a “Putin fanboy” or “Putin groupie,” I do that only in a tongue-in-cheek manner. In reality, I believe that Russia in general, and Putin specifically, actually need the criticism of those who want to see Russia truly become a sovereign nation again. So I am all for being critical of Putin and Russia. However, not all criticisms are equal or offered in a sincere spirit.

I have concluded that the folks at Langley (and elsewhere) have figured out that accusing Putin of being a journalist-murdering dictator or a nationalist freak who wants to restore the Russian Empire have entirely failed (especially inside Russia). So they switched strategies and have embarked on a major strategic PSYOP we could call “Putin the traitor”: instead of moaning about Putin being too much of a Russian patriot, they have now decided to paint him as a “not sincerely patriotic” and, truth be told, that new strategy has proven much more effective, especially against the background of the Medvedev government continuing to champion socially reactionary policies.

In fact, I suspect that Patrushev’s statement was, at least in part, designed to debunk the canard about Russia ditching either Iran or Syria. Not only that, but since the Director of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) and Secretary of the Security Council of Russia has made the Russian support for Iran crystal clear, this will now force the 5th columnists to either shut up or face sanction.

Will the putatively pro-Russian “useful idiots” who spent so much energy trying to convince everybody that Putin was Netanyahu’s puppet learn their lesson? I doubt it. In fact, I don’t think that they will ever admit being wrong: they will explain-away Patrushev’s statement as “empty talk” or something similar and resume their mantras (which is the only thing which gives them “click-visibility” anyway).

Let’s sum up what we all could observe: Russia remains the single biggest “resistance nation” on the planet (the other contender for the top position would, obviously, be Iran). The “Putin betrayed” folks have been denouncing a Russian betrayal for at least five years. The fact that no such betrayal ever materialized has had no impact on those who are little more than useful tools for the Empire. Expect more “Putin the traitor” and “IDF defeats S-300s” articles in the future (the only way to stop them would be to stop clicking on their bait-titles which would force them to find a new source of revenue; I am not holding my breath on this one).

Conclusion 2: back to reality

In the real world the most interesting questions now are 1) how viable the current partnership between Russian and Turkey will prove over time and 2) how strong the Russian-Iranian alliance will become. It is also unclear what role the SCO will play or whether the SCO will grow more impressive military “teeth” (so far, at least as far as I know, no SCO member state has offered military help to Russia). And finally there is the big question of what China will do.

For the time being we see the Empire spewing a lot of hot air and making threats to an almost endless list of countries, while the Israelis engage in what I would call “murder psychotherapy” (which is all that IDF strikes really are) to keep their racist delusions afloat. And while the AngloZionists maniacally pursue these (pretend-)strategies, the rest of the world is building an alternative to the AngloZionist Hegemony. Will the leaders of the Empire prefer a massive war to a quiet (and rather pathetic) self-destruction of the Empire? Looking at the faces of Trump, Pompeo or Bolton, I can’t say that I feel very reassured. Yet I remain hopeful that I will see the day come when the USA, Russia and Palestine are all liberated from their oppressors and recover their full sovereignty.

Quebec Movement for Peace disrupts a Speech by Irwin Cotler on “Canada as a Human Rights Leader”

Last week members of Quebec Movement for Peace disrupted a speech by Irwin Cotler on “Canada as a Human Rights leader” (at the last-minute ‘deputy’ foreign minister, Rob Oliphant, canceled his participation). With “Free Palestine” signs in hand, filmmaker Malcolm Guy and I took the stage to denounce Cotler’s anti-Palestinian positions and support for intervention in Venezuela and Iran. After we were ushered off the stage lawyer Dimitri Lascaris rose to interrogate the supposed human rights activist for refusing to criticize injustices inflicted upon Palestinians. Part of the way through Lascaris’ grilling a handful of us at the back of the room began chanting “Cotler, Cotler, you will see Palestine will be free”, as one can hear in this video viewed over 10,000 times.

The Electronic Intifada, Media Coop, Algemeiner and Canadian Jewish News (twice) reported on the intervention (CPAC was purportedly live streaming the event). Prominent anti-Palestinian activists such as Gerald Steinberg, Hillel Neuer, Avi Benlolo and Bernie Farber decried our challenge of their hero. Head of the Canada Israel Interparliamentary Group (CIIG), Michael Levitt created the Twitter hashtag StandWithCotler and called on other MPs to support it, which was duly followed by his CIIG colleagues, including disgraceful NDP MP Randall Garrison. In the House of Commons CIIG Vice-Chair David Sweet asked the government to condemn our disruption of Cotler. The Conservative MP noted, “on Monday he was disrupted and berated during a speech at Concordia University in an attempt by protesters to shut him down.” (After 10 minutes we voluntarily left the room and Cotler spoke extensively.) Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs Oliphant, who was scheduled to speak alongside Cotler, expressed the government’s solidarity with the former Liberal party justice minister.

Cotler is a vicious anti-Palestinian who aggressively criticizes “enemy” states while largely ignoring rights violations committed by Canada and the US. In “Canadian apologist for Israeli war crimes nominated for Peace Prize” I detail Cotler’s long-standing devotion to Israeli violence and recent promotion of war on Iran and regime change in Venezuela. But, since that story was published in March more details have emerged about Cotler’s ethno-centrism and promotion of violence. In recent days Cotler has been widely quoted criticizing the use of the term “genocide” in the Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

According to an Israel National News story, Cotler supports relocating Canada’s embassy to Jerusalem. During “Keep Jerusalem” leader Chaim Silberstein’s visit to Canada last month, Cotler reportedly “expressed enthusiasm” for moving the Canadian embassy and “promised to help promote” the idea within the Liberal party.

In response to our action activist Ron Saba shared a photo of Cotler at last year’s Jewish National Fund fundraiser in Toronto. The explicitly racist JNF excludes the 20-25% of non-Jewish Israelis from its vast landholdings mostly stolen from Palestinians in 1948. In 2017 the Canada Revenue Agency initiated an (ongoing) audit of the JNF for supporting the Israeli military in contravention of Canadian charitable law.

For his part, Masud Sheikh responded to our action by uploading a video — apparently scrubbed from the Internet after previously reaching a Canadian audience — of the Nobel Peace Prize nominee advising Israel on planning a war. Just after Israel killed 1,200 Lebanese in the summer of 2006 Cotler spoke to a conference of top Israeli military officials on the importance of managing the message in modern war.

He did something similar after an earlier Israeli invasion of its northern neighbour. In an April article retired Guelph professor Michael Keefer wrote: “In the wake of Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon, in the course of which some 15,000 civilians were killed and several thousand Palestinians massacred in the refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila, Cotler participated in a 1984 Jerusalem conference on Hasbara: Israel’s Public Image. Alluding to two of the lesser PR disasters of the war—the IDF’s violation of the Canadian ambassador to Lebanon’s diplomatic immunity, and a Canadian Red Cross doctor’s allegations of Israeli atrocities—Cotler recommended, not that Israel change its behaviour, but rather that it ‘make Hasbara a priority’ and enhance its capacity to offer ‘an authoritative rebuttal’ to such stories.”

In that article Keefer points out that Antony Lerman, founding editor of Antisemitism World Report, called Cotler “one of the key figures” promoting the idea of a “new antisemitism”. Since the 1970s he’s been arguing that criticism of Israel is the “new antisemitism”.

In a remarkable 2002 essay titled “Human Rights and the New Anti-Jewishness” Cotler lays out his thinking, suggesting a confrontation between the “secular religion” of human rights and Jewish “civil religion” of Zionism. He argues that criticizing Israeli human rights violations is “the contemporary analogue to the medieval indictment of the Jew as the ‘poisoner of the wells.’ In other words, in a world in which human rights has emerged as the new secular religion of our time, the portrayal of Israel as the metaphor for a human rights violator is an indictment of Israel as the ‘new anti-Christ’ — as the ‘poisoner of the international wells’ encompassing all the ‘teaching of contempt’ for the ‘Jew among the Nations,’ this new antisemitism implies.”

Cotler further argues that antisemitism has retained its consistent essence as “an assault upon whatever is the core of Jewish self-definition at any moment in time—be it the Jewish religion at the time of classical antisemitism, or the State of Israel as the ‘civil religion’ of the Jewish people under this new anti-Jewishness.” So, because most Jews identify with Israel criticizing that country’s violence or dispossession of Palestinians is anti-Semitic.

Challenging Cotler is important. All high-profile anti-Palestinians should be asked tough questions and hopefully our intervention inspires others to take similar actions. But, it’s also about de-mystifying an individual who retains a progressive gloss. Last month NDP MP Hélène Laverdière and Green Party leader Elizabeth May attended a press conference organized by Cotler calling on Canada to impose sanctions on Iranian officials and list the country’s Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization. New NDP foreign critic Guy Caron participated in a subsequent event on Iran and NDP MP Murray Rankin and May regularly attend events led by Cotler. May and Rankin are also part of the Cotler-led Raoul Wallenberg All-Party Parliamentary Caucus for Human Rights.

The Cotler ‘brand’ should be toxic on the Left. Politicians need to know that many Canadians — as Lascaris put it in his concluding statement to Cotler — consider him “a fraud when it comes to human rights.”

The Western Media is Key to Syria Deception

By any reckoning, the claim made this week by al-Qaeda-linked fighters that they were targeted with chemical weapons by the Syrian government in Idlib province – their final holdout in Syria – should have been treated by the western media with a high degree of scepticism.

That the US and other western governments enthusiastically picked up those claims should not have made them any more credible.

Scepticism was all the more warranted from the media given that no physical evidence has yet been produced to corroborate the jihadists’ claims. And the media should have been warier still given that the Syrian government was already poised to defeat these al-Qaeda groups without resort to chemical weapons – and without provoking the predictable ire (yet again) of the west.

But most of all scepticism was required because these latest claims arrive just as we have learnt that the last supposed major chemical attack – which took place in April 2018 and was, as ever, blamed by all western sources on Syria’s president, Bashar Assad – was very possibly staged, a false-flag operation by those very al-Qaeda groups now claiming the Syrian government has attacked them once again.

Addicted to incompetence

Most astounding in this week’s coverage of the claims made by al-Qaeda groups is the fact that the western media continues to refuse to learn any lessons, develop any critical distance from the sources it relies on, even as those sources are shown to have repeatedly deceived it.

This was true after the failure to find WMD in Iraq, and it is now even more true after the the international community’s monitoring body on chemical weapons, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), was exposed this month as deeply dishonest.

It is bad enough that our governments and our expert institutions deceive and lie to us. But it is even worse that we have a corporate media addicted – at the most charitable interpretation – to its own incompetence. The evidence demonstrating that grows stronger by the day.

Unprovoked attack

In March the OPCW produced a report into a chemical weapons attack the Syrian government allegedly carried out in Douma in April last year. Several dozen civilians, many of them children, died apparently as a result of that attack.

The OPCW report concluded that there were “reasonable grounds” for believing a toxic form of chlorine had been used as a chemical weapon in Douma, and that the most likely method of delivery were two cylinders dropped from the air.

This as good as confirmed claims made by al-Qaeda groups, backed by western states, that the cylinders had been dropped by the Syrian military. Using dry technical language, the OPCW joined the US and Europe in pointing the finger squarely at Assad.

It was vitally important that the OPCW reached that conclusion not only because of the west’s overarching regime-change ambitions in Syria.

In response to the alleged Douma attack a year ago, the US fired a volley of Cruise missiles at Syrian army and government positions before there had been any investigation of who was responsible.

Those missiles were already a war crime – an unprovoked attack on another sovereign country. But without the OPCW’s implicit blessing, the US would have been deprived of even its flimsy, humanitarian pretext for launching the missiles.

Leaked document

Undoubtedly the OPCW was under huge political pressure to arrive at the “right” conclusion. But as a scientific body carrying out a forensic investigation surely it would not simply doctor the data.

Nonetheless, it seems that may well be precisely what it did. This month the Working Group on Syria, Propaganda and Media – a group of academics who have grown increasingly sceptical of the western narratives told about Syria – published an internal, leaked OPCW document.

A few days later the OPCW reluctantly confirmed that the document was genuine, and that it would identify and deal with those responsible for the leak.

The document was an assessment overseen by Ian Henderson, a senior OPCW expert, of the engineering data gathered by the OPCW’s fact-finding mission that attended the scene of the Douma attack. Its findings fly in the face of the OPCW’s published report.

Erased from the record

The leaked document is deeply troubling for two reasons.

First, the assessment, based on the available technical data, contradicts the conclusion of the final OPCW report that the two chemical cylinders were dropped from the air and crashed through building roofs. It argues instead that the cylinders were more likely placed at the locations they were found.

If that is right, the most probable explanation is that the cylinders were put there by al-Qaeda groups – presumably in a last desperate effort to persuade the west to intervene and to prevent the jihadists being driven out of Douma.

But even more shocking is the fact that the expert assessment based on the data collected by the OPCW team is entirely unaddressed in the OPCW’s final report.

It is not that the final report discounts or rebuts the findings of its own experts. It simply ignores those findings; it pretends they don’t exist. The report blacks them out, erases them from the official record. In short, it perpetrates a massive deception.

Experts ignored

All of this would be headline news if we had a responsible media that cared about the truth and about keeping its readers informed.

We now know both that the US attacked Syria on entirely bogus grounds, and that the OPCW – one of the international community’s most respected and authoritative bodies – has been caught redhanded in an outrageous deception with grave geopolitical implications. (In fact, it is not the first time the OPCW has been caught doing this, as I have previously explained here.)

The fact that the OPCW ignored its own expert and its own team’s technical findings when they proved politically indigestible casts a dark shadow over all the OPCW’s work in Syria, and beyond. If it was prepared to perpetrate a deception on this occasion, why should we assume it did not do so on other occasions when it proved politically expedient?

Active combatants

The OPCW’s reports into other possible chemical attacks – assisting western efforts to implicate Assad – are now equally tainted. That is especially so given that in those other cases the OPCW violated its own procedures by drawing prejudicial conclusions without its experts being on the ground, at the site of the alleged attacks. Instead it received samples and photos via al-Qaeda groups, who could easily have tampered with the evidence.

And yet there has been not a peep from the corporate media about this exposure of the OPCW’s dishonesty, apart from commentary pieces from the only two maverick mainstream journalists in the UK – Peter Hitchens, a conservative but independent-minded columnist for the Mail on Sunday, and veteran war correspondent Robert Fisk, of the little-read Independent newspaper (more on his special involvement in Douma in a moment).

Just as the OPCW blanked the findings of its technical experts to avoid political discomfort, the media have chosen to stay silent on this new, politically sensitive information.

They have preferred to prop up the discredited narrative that our governments have been acting to protect the human rights of ordinary Syrians rather than the reality that they have been active combatants in the war, helping to destabilise a country in ways that have caused huge suffering and death in Syria.

Systematic failure

This isn’t a one-off failure. It’s part of a series of failures by the corporate media in its coverage of Douma.

They ignored very obvious grounds for caution at the time of the alleged attack. Award-winning reporter Robert Fisk was among the first journalists to enter Douma shortly after those events. He and a few independent reporters communicated eye-witness testimony that flatly contradicted the joint narrative promoted by al-Qaeda groups and western governments that Assad had bombed Douma with chemical weapons.

The corporate media also mocked a subsequent press conference at which many of the supposed victims of that alleged chemical attack made appearances to show that they were unharmed and spoke of how they had been coerced into play-acting their roles.

And now the western media has compounded that failure – revealing its systematic nature – by ignoring the leaked OPCW document too.

But it gets worse, far worse.

Al-Qaeda propaganda

This week the same al-Qaeda groups that were present in Douma – and may have staged that lethal attack – claimed that the Syrian government had again launched chemical weapons against them, this time on their final holdout in Idlib.

A responsible media, a media interested in the facts, in evidence, in truth-telling, in holding the powerful to account, would be duty bound to frame this latest, unsubstantiated claim in the context of the new doubts raised about the OPCW report into last year’s chemical attack blamed on Assad.

Given that the technical data suggest that al-Qaeda groups, and the White Helmets who work closely with them, were responsible for staging the attack – even possibly of murdering civilians to make the attack look more persuasive – the corporate media had a professional and moral obligation to raise the matter of the leaked document.

It is vital context as anyone tries to weigh up whether the latest al-Qaeda claims are likely to be true. To deprive readers of this information, this essential context would be to take a side, to propagandise on behalf not only of western governments but of al-Qaeda too.

And that is exactly what the corporate media have just done. All of them.

Media worthy of Stalin

It is clear how grave their dereliction of the most basic journalistic duty is if we consider the Guardian’s uncritical coverage of jihadist claims about the latest alleged chemical attack.

Like most other media, the Guardian article included two strange allusions – one by France, the other by the US – to the deception perpetrated by the OPCW in its recent Douma report. The Guardian reported these allusions even though it has never before uttered a word anywhere in its pages about that deception.

In other words, the corporate media are so committed to propagandising on behalf of the western powers that they have reported the denials of official wrongdoing even though they have never reported the actual wrongdoing. It is hard to imagine the Soviet media under Stalin behaving in such a craven and dishonest fashion.

The corporate media have given France and the US a platform to reject accusations against the OPCW that the media themselves have never publicly raised.

Doubts about OPCW

The following is a brief statement (unintelligible without the forgoing context) from France, reported by the Guardian in relation to the latest claim that Assad’s forces used chemical weapons this week: “We have full confidence in the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.”

But no one, except bloggers and academics ignored by the media and state authorities, has ever raised doubts about the OPCW. Why would the Guardian think these French comments worthy of reporting unless there were reasons to doubt the OPCW? And if there are such reasons for doubt, why has the Guardian not thought to make them public, to report them to its readers?

The US state department similarly came to the aid of the OPCW. In the same Guardian report, a US official was quoted saying that the OPCW was facing “a continuing disinformation campaign” from Syria and Russia, and that the campaign was designed “to create the false narrative that others [rather than Assad] are to blame for chemical weapons attacks”.

So Washington too was rejecting accusations against the OPCW that have never been reported by the state-corporate media.

Interestingly, in the case of US officials, they claim that Syria and Russia are behind the “disinformation campaign” against the OPCW, even though the OPCW has admitted that the leaked document discrediting its work is genuine and written by one of its experts.

The OPCW is discredited, of course, only because it sought to conceal evidence contained in the leaked document that might have exonerated Assad of last year’s chemical attack. It is hard to see how Syria or Russia can be blamed for this.

Colluding in deception

But more astounding still, while US and French officials have at least acknowledged that there are doubts about the OPCW’s role in Syria, even if they unjustifiably reject such doubts, the corporate media have simply ignored those doubts as though they don’t exist.

The continuing media blackout on the leaked OPCW document cannot be viewed as accidental. It has been systematic across the media.

That blackout has remained resolutely in place even after the OPCW admitted the leaked document discrediting it was genuine and even after western countries began alluding to the leaked document themselves.

The corporate media is actively colluding both in the original deception perpetrated by al-Qaeda groups and the western powers, and in the subsequent dishonesty of the OPCW. They have worked together to deceive western publics.

The question is, why are the media so obviously incompetent? Why are they so eager to keep themselves and their readers in the dark? Why are they so willing to advance credulous narratives on behalf of western governments that have been repeatedly shown to have lied to them?

Iran the real target

The reason is that the corporate media are not what they claim. They are not a watchdog on power, or a fourth estate.

The media are actually the public relations wing of a handful of giant corporations – and states – that are pursuing two key goals in the Middle East.

First, they want to control its oil. Helping al-Qaeda in Syria – including in its propaganda war – against the Assad government serves a broader western agenda. The US and NATO bloc are ultimately gunning for the leadership of Iran, the one major oil producer in the region not under the US imperial thumb.

Powerful Shia groups in the region – Assad in Syria, Hezbullah in Lebanon, and Iraqi leaders elevated by our invasion of that country in 2003 – are allies or potential allies of Iran. If they are in play, the US empire’s room for manoeuvre in taking on Iran is limited. Remove these smaller players and Iran stands isolated and vulnerable.

That is why Russia stepped in several years ago to save Assad, in a bid to stop the dominoes falling and the US engineering a third world war centred on the Middle East.

Second, with the Middle East awash with oil money, western corporations have a chance to sell more of the lucrative weapons that get used in overt and covert wars like the one raging in Syria for the past eight years.

What better profit-generator for these corporations than wasteful and pointless wars against manufactured bogeymen like Assad?

Like a death cult

From the outside, this looks and sounds like a conspiracy. But actually it is something worse – and far more difficult to overcome.

The corporations that run our media and our governments have simply conflated in their own minds – and ours – the idea that their narrow corporate interests are synonymous with “western interests”.

The false narratives they generate are there to serve a system of power, as I have explained in previous blogs. That system’s worldview and values are enforced by a charmed circle that includes politicians, military generals, scientists, journalists and others operating as if brainwashed by some kind of death cult. They see the world through a single prism: the system’s need to hold on to power. Everything else – truth, evidence, justice, human rights, love, compassion – must take a back seat.

It is this same system that paradoxically is determined to preserve itself even if it means destroying the planet, ravaging our economies, and starting and maintaining endlessly destructive wars. It is a system that will drag us all into the abyss, unless we stop it.

Is There a Plot to Depopulate Palestinian Refugee Camps in Lebanon?

An eerie video composed of a recorded audio prayer and a photo of one ‘Hajj Jamal Ghalaini’ occasionally pops up on Facebook. The voice is that of an alleged religious sheikh, praying for the well-being of the man in the photo for saving the Palestinian refugee youth of Lebanon, by facilitating their departure to Europe.

The video would have been just another odd social media post, were it not for the fact that Ghalaini is a real person, with his name recurring in the ongoing tragedy of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. Many have credited their successful ‘escape’ from Lebanon by citing this person, who, kindly, they say, has made the journey to Europe far cheaper than all other human smugglers.

We know little about Ghalaini, except that he seems to operate brazenly, without much legal repercussions from Lebanese authorities or the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), which is, supposedly, the caretaker of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon.

Something strange is going on.

Immediately after the US Administration of Donald Trump began to promote its ‘Deal of the Century’, Palestinian refugees – a fundamental issue in the Palestinian national struggle which has been relegated years ago – have, once more, taken center-stage.

Although Trump’s plan is yet to be fully revealed, early indications suggest it drives to sideline Jerusalem entirely from any future agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and Trump’s own assertion that ‘Jerusalem is off the table’ is enough to confirm this assumption.

Another component of Trump’s ‘deal’ is to resolve the issue of refugees without their repatriation and without respecting international law, especially United Nations Resolution 194, which calls for the Right of Return for Palestinian refugees and their descendants, who were driven out from their homes in historic Palestine in 1948.

Many news reports have been pointing to an elaborate American plot to downgrade the status of refugees, to argue against UN figures indicating their actual numbers and to choke off UNRWA, the UN organization responsible for refugees’ welfare, from badly needed funds.

Lebanon has been a major platform for the ongoing campaign targeting Palestinian refugees, particularly because the refugee population in that country is significant in terms of numbers and their plight most urgent in terms of its need for remedy.

There appears to be an active plan, involving several parties, to deprive Lebanon’s Palestinian population from their refugee status and to circumvent the ‘Right of Return’.

To some, this may seem like wishful thinking, since the ‘Right of Return’ is ‘inalienable’, thus non-negotiable.

Yet, obviously, without refugees collectively demanding such a right, the issue could move from being an urgent, tangible demand into a sentimental one that is impossible to achieve.

This is why the depopulation of Lebanon’s refugee camps, which is happening at an alarming speed, should worry Palestinians more than any other issue at the moment.

I spoke to Samaa Abu Sharar, a Palestinian activist in Lebanon and the director of the Majed Abu Sharar Media Foundation. She narrated that the nature of the conversation among refugees has changed in recent years. In the past, “almost everybody from young to old spoke about their wish of returning to Palestine one day; at present the majority, particularly the youth, only express one wish: to leave for any other country that would receive them.”

It is common knowledge that Palestinian refugees in Lebanon are marginalized and mistreated most, when compared to other refugee populations in the Middle East. They are denied most basic human rights enjoyed by Lebanese or foreign groups in Lebanon, or even rights granted to refugees under international conventions. This includes the right to work, as they are denied access to 72 different professions.

Left hopeless, with a life of neglect and utter misery in 12 refugee camps and other ‘gatherings’ across Lebanon, Palestinian refugees have persisted for many years, driven by the hope of going back to their Palestinian homeland one day.

But the refugees and their Right of Return are no longer a priority for the Palestinian leadership. In fact, this has been the case for nearly two decades.

The situation has worsened. With the Syrian war, tens of thousands more refugees flooded the camps, which lacked most basic services. This misery was further accentuated when UNRWA, under intense US pressure, was forced to cancel or downgrade many of its essential services.

A suspiciously timed census, the first of its kind, by the Lebanese Central Administration of Statistics, conducted jointly with the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics last December, resolved that the number of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon stands at only 175,000.

The timing is interesting because the survey was conducted at a time that the US Administration has been keen to lower the number of Palestinian refugees, in anticipation of any future agreement between the PA and Israel.

According to UNRWA statistics, there are more than 450,000 Palestinian refugees who are registered with the UN.

There is no denial about an influx of Palestinian refugees wanting to leave Lebanon. Some have done so successfully, only to find themselves contending with the misery of yet a new refugee status in Europe. Expectedly, some have returned.

Clearly there are those who are keen to rid Lebanon of its Palestinian population, thus the disregard for Ghalaini and other such human trafficking networks.

“There is more than one organized network that facilitate the immigration of Palestinians at prices that have recently gone down to make it more accessible to a larger number of people,” Abu Sharar told me. The conclusion that many of these young men and women now draw is that “there is no future for them in Lebanon.”

This is not the happy, triumphant ending that generations of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon have hoped and fought for over the years.

Ignoring the misery of Palestinian refugees of Lebanon is now coming at a heavy price. Relegating their plight till ‘the final status negotiations’, a pipe dream that never actualized, is now leading to a two-fold crisis: the worsening suffering of hundreds of thousands of people and the systematic destruction of one of the main pillars of the Palestinian refugees ‘Right of Return.’

Where is the Hope?

Situated on a coastal location on the outskirts of Tripoli, with golden sands and an expansive view of the Mediterranean Sea, the Palestinian Refugee Camp of Nahr al-Bared could be a beautiful environment in which to raise a child… It isn’t.

Nahr al-Bared Beach location

The sense of despair is as dark as I have known it during these past three years of visiting and listening to camp residents. The US Government, under the Trump administration, has cut all UNWRA funding to Palestinian Refugee Camps. Palestinian refugees living in refugee camps in Lebanon are not allowed to work, own property or have Lebanese citizenship. It is only from being recognized as refugees and the international law of ‘right of return’ (resolution-194) that prevents them from being stateless. Although UNWRA funding keeps them trapped in a state of dependancy, it is also what keeps them alive. UNWRA heavily supports the funding required for medical, educational and social care. Without the contribution of the US, the over strained resources in the camps will reach breaking point. (We are already witnessing a slow, calculated genocide taking place in Gaza.) Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States have offered to pick up the short fall left by the loss of the US contribution, but there are conditions…. conditions that are impossible for Palestinians to accept.

Youngsters in the Nahr al-Bared Refugee Camp in Lebanon

Netanyahu is claiming that there are no longer any Palestinian refugees. It’s been stated by Israeli officials that only those Palestinians who were born and fled the 1948 NAKBA (Catastrophe) qualify as refugees. Under this edict the five generations of descendants born in dismal, impoverished refugee camps, would not, therefore, qualify as refugees. Trump, no doubt persuaded by deep state policy directives, would appear to agree.

‘Right of Return’ is enshrined in human rights law. This contrived political move to try to take the ’Right of Return’ away is not only a violation of international law, it makes a mockery of all that is decent and human. Although UNWRA is mandated to support refugees, without proper funding its services are calculated to collapse.

Nahr al-Bared Refugee Camp in Lebanon

Already medical services have been cut so that besides the limited availability of drugs and medical supplies, a single doctor is responsible for around 5,000 patients. In the UK the ratio is less than 400, and in other European countries the ratio is significantly lower. With poor nutrition and salty, undrinkable tap water the strain on doctors is likely to be even more demanding in Palestinian refugee camps.

As was stated by one of the Palestinian elders at Nahr al-Bared:

All this flies in the face of human rights. This is a fake deal made to bring about our destruction. They keep us busy just trying to survive so there is no time to plan around the crucial matters. Are we to become a non-people, who, by no fault of our own, are to be cast out of the human race without rights or the means to protect the lives of our children?

Rubble remaining from the 2007 attack by the terrorist group Fatah al Islam

UNWRA was never set up to be a permanent source of funding but with political intransigency with regard to the recognition of human rights law, Palestinians have been trapped in limbo for over seventy years. It’s only been the hope of returning to their homeland that has sustained them – (Awad Sumud – steadfastness). ‘Right of return’ is the corner stone of the Palestinian Struggle. The US in alliance with the UK and France, along with (Saudi Arabia aka Israel) and the Gulf States, are likely to herald any refusal on the part of Palestinians to give up ‘hope of return’ as a refusal to negotiate peace. The authors of this Machiavellian manoeuvre will know this to be a lie. With truth thrown into the  trash bin of fake news, the message of ‘the fault’ being placed on the Palestinians may ‘yet again’ be widely believed. The convenient label of Palestinian terrorists by subservient – cut and paste ‘mainstream’ journalism, allow those who actually do initiate terror to act with an impunity that defies credible belief. Any criticism by right thinking people that Israel is actually the aggressor here, is labelled as anti-semitic.

Palestinian leaders fear for the youth in the camp. Deprived of a future they are vulnerable to outside corruption or worse. “We are trapped by circumstances. We don’t want to be used to support anyone’s terrorism.”

Youngsters in Nahr al-Bared Refugee Camp

The elders’ fears are fully justified. In 2007 the terrorist group Fatah Al Islam fled into Nahr al-Bared after robbing a bank and were pursued by the Lebanese Army. The resulting conflict resulted in a number of deaths and forced Palestinians to flee the camp. Their homes and what little they did possess were bombed to rubble. The evidence of the widespread bombing is still present today. At the time Seymour Hersh reported that the funding for the group had originated from the US through Saudi Arabia and had Lebanese connections through Saad Hariri.

Rubble from the 2007 terrorist attack

However, other sources consider that funding came from groups in Syria or Al Qaeda. Why they chose to flee to Nahr al-Bared does raise interesting questions. Nahr al-Bared was the refugee camp where the PLO financial centre was located. Whether the camp being situated on prime real estate has any relevance, one can only speculate. Whatever the truth behind Fatah Al Islam, Palestinians remain anxious about such groups ever gaining any kind of foothold in the camps among their dispossessed youth.

Today the camp is slowly being re-built and around two-thirds of the population have been able to return. Compared to many of the other camps the roads are wide, the sky is visible and fresh air is able to enter. However it was pointed out that the roads are wide so that tanks can enter. Not withstanding the impact of visual space there is in reality little room for family expansion. Families are not permitted to built beyond four floors and moving out horizontally is also prohibited. Some of the bombed buildings of 2007 have yet to be cleared. With families moving into their fifth and sometimes the sixth generation, crowding is a serious problem. This has been compounded in part by a section of the camp being allocated to Palestinian refugees fleeing terror groups in Syria.

Section of Nahr al-Bared where Palestinian refugees from Syria are housed

Security around entry into the camp is high. For foreigners, passports have to be submitted well in advance so that the intelligence services can check out anyone who wishes to enter. Does this make Palestinians safer? It’s debatable. While it might keep the likes of terror groups like ‘Fatah Al Islam’ out, it also keeps  Palestinians in a ‘prison camp’  like environment. One only has to remember how Israeli forces surrounded the entrances to Sabra and Shatilla in September 1982 and sanctioned the Christian Phalange massacre of over 3,000 undefended Palestinians to feel a chill at the thought of not being totally free to pass though the entrance unchecked

Nahr al-Bared Refugee Camp in Lebanon

Palestinians cannot achieve justice alone. It will require a huge awakening on the part of all people everywhere to recognize that injustice for one is injustice for all. To be silent is to be complicit.

• All photos by Heather Stroud

Where is the Hope?

Situated on a coastal location on the outskirts of Tripoli, with golden sands and an expansive view of the Mediterranean Sea, the Palestinian Refugee Camp of Nahr al-Bared could be a beautiful environment in which to raise a child… It isn’t.

Nahr al-Bared Beach location

The sense of despair is as dark as I have known it during these past three years of visiting and listening to camp residents. The US Government, under the Trump administration, has cut all UNWRA funding to Palestinian Refugee Camps. Palestinian refugees living in refugee camps in Lebanon are not allowed to work, own property or have Lebanese citizenship. It is only from being recognized as refugees and the international law of ‘right of return’ (resolution-194) that prevents them from being stateless. Although UNWRA funding keeps them trapped in a state of dependancy, it is also what keeps them alive. UNWRA heavily supports the funding required for medical, educational and social care. Without the contribution of the US, the over strained resources in the camps will reach breaking point. (We are already witnessing a slow, calculated genocide taking place in Gaza.) Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States have offered to pick up the short fall left by the loss of the US contribution, but there are conditions…. conditions that are impossible for Palestinians to accept.

Youngsters in the Nahr al-Bared Refugee Camp in Lebanon

Netanyahu is claiming that there are no longer any Palestinian refugees. It’s been stated by Israeli officials that only those Palestinians who were born and fled the 1948 NAKBA (Catastrophe) qualify as refugees. Under this edict the five generations of descendants born in dismal, impoverished refugee camps, would not, therefore, qualify as refugees. Trump, no doubt persuaded by deep state policy directives, would appear to agree.

‘Right of Return’ is enshrined in human rights law. This contrived political move to try to take the ’Right of Return’ away is not only a violation of international law, it makes a mockery of all that is decent and human. Although UNWRA is mandated to support refugees, without proper funding its services are calculated to collapse.

Nahr al-Bared Refugee Camp in Lebanon

Already medical services have been cut so that besides the limited availability of drugs and medical supplies, a single doctor is responsible for around 5,000 patients. In the UK the ratio is less than 400, and in other European countries the ratio is significantly lower. With poor nutrition and salty, undrinkable tap water the strain on doctors is likely to be even more demanding in Palestinian refugee camps.

As was stated by one of the Palestinian elders at Nahr al-Bared:

All this flies in the face of human rights. This is a fake deal made to bring about our destruction. They keep us busy just trying to survive so there is no time to plan around the crucial matters. Are we to become a non-people, who, by no fault of our own, are to be cast out of the human race without rights or the means to protect the lives of our children?

Rubble remaining from the 2007 attack by the terrorist group Fatah al Islam

UNWRA was never set up to be a permanent source of funding but with political intransigency with regard to the recognition of human rights law, Palestinians have been trapped in limbo for over seventy years. It’s only been the hope of returning to their homeland that has sustained them – (Awad Sumud – steadfastness). ‘Right of return’ is the corner stone of the Palestinian Struggle. The US in alliance with the UK and France, along with (Saudi Arabia aka Israel) and the Gulf States, are likely to herald any refusal on the part of Palestinians to give up ‘hope of return’ as a refusal to negotiate peace. The authors of this Machiavellian manoeuvre will know this to be a lie. With truth thrown into the  trash bin of fake news, the message of ‘the fault’ being placed on the Palestinians may ‘yet again’ be widely believed. The convenient label of Palestinian terrorists by subservient – cut and paste ‘mainstream’ journalism, allow those who actually do initiate terror to act with an impunity that defies credible belief. Any criticism by right thinking people that Israel is actually the aggressor here, is labelled as anti-semitic.

Palestinian leaders fear for the youth in the camp. Deprived of a future they are vulnerable to outside corruption or worse. “We are trapped by circumstances. We don’t want to be used to support anyone’s terrorism.”

Youngsters in Nahr al-Bared Refugee Camp

The elders’ fears are fully justified. In 2007 the terrorist group Fatah Al Islam fled into Nahr al-Bared after robbing a bank and were pursued by the Lebanese Army. The resulting conflict resulted in a number of deaths and forced Palestinians to flee the camp. Their homes and what little they did possess were bombed to rubble. The evidence of the widespread bombing is still present today. At the time Seymour Hersh reported that the funding for the group had originated from the US through Saudi Arabia and had Lebanese connections through Saad Hariri.

Rubble from the 2007 terrorist attack

However, other sources consider that funding came from groups in Syria or Al Qaeda. Why they chose to flee to Nahr al-Bared does raise interesting questions. Nahr al-Bared was the refugee camp where the PLO financial centre was located. Whether the camp being situated on prime real estate has any relevance, one can only speculate. Whatever the truth behind Fatah Al Islam, Palestinians remain anxious about such groups ever gaining any kind of foothold in the camps among their dispossessed youth.

Today the camp is slowly being re-built and around two-thirds of the population have been able to return. Compared to many of the other camps the roads are wide, the sky is visible and fresh air is able to enter. However it was pointed out that the roads are wide so that tanks can enter. Not withstanding the impact of visual space there is in reality little room for family expansion. Families are not permitted to built beyond four floors and moving out horizontally is also prohibited. Some of the bombed buildings of 2007 have yet to be cleared. With families moving into their fifth and sometimes the sixth generation, crowding is a serious problem. This has been compounded in part by a section of the camp being allocated to Palestinian refugees fleeing terror groups in Syria.

Section of Nahr al-Bared where Palestinian refugees from Syria are housed

Security around entry into the camp is high. For foreigners, passports have to be submitted well in advance so that the intelligence services can check out anyone who wishes to enter. Does this make Palestinians safer? It’s debatable. While it might keep the likes of terror groups like ‘Fatah Al Islam’ out, it also keeps  Palestinians in a ‘prison camp’  like environment. One only has to remember how Israeli forces surrounded the entrances to Sabra and Shatilla in September 1982 and sanctioned the Christian Phalange massacre of over 3,000 undefended Palestinians to feel a chill at the thought of not being totally free to pass though the entrance unchecked

Nahr al-Bared Refugee Camp in Lebanon

Palestinians cannot achieve justice alone. It will require a huge awakening on the part of all people everywhere to recognize that injustice for one is injustice for all. To be silent is to be complicit.

• All photos by Heather Stroud

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