Category Archives: Media Censorship

An electronic umbilical cord

The lifeblood of alternative radio is sometimes the celebrity that they create among themselves. And on Monday, October 7, Lincoln County’s KYAQ radio station will welcome one of the biggest stars from the bottom of the dial as David Barsamian visits Newport, Oregon on his Rise Up and Resist tour.

Barsamian grew up in New York, the son of Armenian refugees who fled the genocide unleashed in Turkey by the Ottoman government from 1915 to 1917. More than 1.5 million people were murdered.

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The 74 year old will be at Oregon Coast Community College talking to the Central Coast as part of his contribution to an evening of “inspiration.”

I will be drawing on not only my experiences, but those historical examples of people fighting back with sometimes dangerous and deadly consequences.

Barsamian and I talked via phone while he finished his regular bike ride and settled into one of his favorite Boulder, Colorado, coffee shops, Beleza, which in Portuguese means beautiful.

From growing up in the neighborhoods of New York, where he tells me he ditched school and barely graduated from high school, Barsamian enrolled in San Francisco State before dropping out after a year and then signing up to crew a Norwegian freighter out of San Francisco. He ended up in East and Southeast Asia for two years and then three years in India.

He learned the sitar, and embedded himself in the cultural cornucopia of India.  “I was surrounded by some of that country’s greatest musicians and poets”, he said. “I learned so much, including Urdu, Hindi and Bengali. It was like getting a graduate education in South Asian Studies.”

He got back to the US in 1970, finding work in Pakistani and Indian restaurants playing sitar, as well as teaching English to private students first in Rockefeller Center and later in the World Trade Center.

While David Barsamian is not a household name, his Alternative Radio out of KGNU-Boulder is syndicated to more than 250 stations in the country. He has interviewed heavy hitters of the intellectual, writer, scholarly variety, again, many not household names.

Barsamian is a touchstone for most supporters of alternative radio — sort of like IF Stone for some, or Studs Terkel for others, and really more like a cross between Edward R. Murrow and Gore Vidal.

Mile High With a Sitar and Eastern Sensibility

We are talking 1978, when he ended up in Boulder just after the radio station opened. Barsamian volunteered at the public station, making a living teaching ESL, Hindi and performing music. His first show was a music program, “Ganges to the Nile.” His sitar playing and knowledge of India and Eastern music helped.

Alas, when I ask Barsamian if there was a moment in his life when he realized he would be following a path less traveled in the US, he tells me there isn’t.

I’ve been a rebel since I can remember. I’ve always questioned authority, beginning with my parents. With the shadow of genocide hanging over our family, I wanted to learn more.

That included reading books at a young age, and listening to talk shows on the radio coming from his hometown, New York City.

Radio back then was quite a sober affair. Nothing like what we have now with all this shouting and screaming.

He has stated many times that founding Alternative Radio was his personal attempt to meet the goals of public broadcasting:

To serve as a forum for controversy and debate. To provide a voice for groups that may otherwise be unheard.

As an activist myself, I am always challenged with bringing voices like Barsamian’s to my communities – homeless veterans, just-released prisoners, students in military compounds, adults in night school at the many community colleges where I have taught.

In a kind of parallel universe, David Barsamian states the same rational I have used to bring great voices and minds – many times very alternative, outside the box – to my clients and students as he too purports his battle is against mainstream media oversimplifying debate and shutting out so many important voices. “It was unacceptable that many of this country’s greatest and most articulate radical voices had no forum on public radio”, Barsamian said. “Alternative Radio was created to be the vehicle for progressive perspectives that are otherwise ignored or given short shrift.”

Radio Waves on the Pacific

For Franki Trujillo-Dalbey, board president of KYAQ-91.7 FM and sponsor of Barsamian’s trip to Newport, there are not enough alternative voices out there giving listeners a sense of other countries’ perspectives and the unfiltered history of our own country.

Trujillo-Dalbey proudly states this is the third trip to the Central Coast for this radio personality who also has more than 20 books and a few documentary credits to his name.

A regular contributor to Sun Magazine, Barsamian just finished an interview of Bill McKibben, author of the 1989 book, The End of Nature, and one of the co-founders of 350.org.

Drawing from that October Sun Magazine interview of McKibben on the heels of the release of this environmentalist’s new book, Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out? Barsamian poses a rhetorical point sure to be broached liberally at his October 7 talk in Newport:

In your new book, Falter, you talk about how scientists at both Exxon and NASA confirmed that climate change was occurring back in the 1980s.

The radio personality declares he has limited time for a telephone interview, as he is working on an essay by an Iranian writer for a new book of essays ReTargeting Iran — interviews with Ervand Abrahamian, Christopher de Bellaigue, Noam Chomsky, Nader Hashemi, Trita Parsi and Laura Secor. “At the Newport event I hope to be drawing on the energy and strength from voices like these and others questioning authority and the status quo”, he said.

An electronic umbilical cord

I had just listened to Vijay Prashad, director of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research and chief editor of LeftWord Books, on Democracy Now, aired daily on KYAQ. His latest article for Salon is headlined, “World leaders gather at the UN in the face of war, climate catastrophe & global worker exploitation.”

That was a 10-minute interview. David Barsamian just completed a two-hour interview with Prashad, talking about Kashmir, the eco-crisis, neoliberalism’s attack on all sectors of the world, “and a whole range of international issues.”

We talk about Vijay being one of the amazing contemporary voices with deep intellectual acumen and knowledge of a vast range of issues.

“Vijay is in the same mold as Tariq Ali and Edward Said.” Tariq is a British political activist, writer, journalist, historian, filmmaker and public intellectual. He is a member of the editorial committee of the New Left Review and Sin Permiso. Said (1935-2003) was a professor of literature at Columbia University, a public intellectual, and a founder of the academic field of postcolonial studies. A Palestinian American born in Palestine, he was a citizen of the US by way of his father, a US Army veteran.

There is no mincing words when one broaches the Donald Trump presidency and chaos to Barsamian:  “Trump is taking up too much oxygen in the room,” he said. “I am more concerned with Christian radical Mike Pence (Vice President) waiting in the wings.

For several decades, 90-year-old Noam Chomsky — author of more than a hundred books, MIT linguistics scholar and considered the left’s go-to public intellectual – has been featured on Barsamian’s shows and in the related books of collected Chomsky-Barsamian interviews.

I was just with him in Tucson, and Noam didn’t miss a beat. He was razor sharp in 80 minutes.

The Chomsky-Barsamian radio relationship started more than 33 years ago, with Barsamian’s show, “Hemispheres,” a political program. It was a two-and-a-half-hour program with Noam Chomsky which Barsamian uplinked to the public radio satellite. Back then, most radio stations preferred half-hour or one-hour segments, although a few stations picked up the program. It was that long conversation with Chomsky that birthed Alternative Radio.

For many followers of Barsamian, they know he has accolades for Bernie Sanders, presidential candidate and senator from Vermont. “I interviewed him when he was first elected to the House of Representatives, when he was still mayor of Burlington.” Barsaminan, however, doesn’t spend much time interviewing politicians because, in his words, they already have a platform and bully pulpit.

Country Roads, He Calls Home

Boulder, Colorado, has been more than a radio station location for Barsamian. He calls it home, and is seeing more locals developing socialist collectives, community supported agriculture and farmers markets, co-housing, or collective housing.

For Barsamian, it may be two steps forward and three steps backward for progressives. However, he sees righteousness in the struggle. He quoted American statesman Daniel Webster:

Justice, sir, is the great interest of man on Earth. It is the ligament which holds civilized beings and civilized nations together.

The list of people on Barsamian’s radio show is impressive – Vandana Shiva, Arundhati Roy, Ralph Nader, Edward Said and so many others. Interviewing his mother, Araxie, and other witnesses of the Armenian Genocide was a pivotal moment.

The genocide trauma his mother expressed was what Barsamian calls the most difficult interview of his life. However, that discomfort helped him heal and his mother deal with difficult personal and political history.

From that day forward, Barsamian dedicated his life to listening to unheard voices. While those voices are definitely important to true democracy, as Howard Zinn wrote in the Peoples’ History of the United States and Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz writes in  An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States, this retelling gives the narrator holistic healing through the very conduit of communication. “I have been lucky to have connected with a whole galaxy of social activists and authors”, Barsamian tells me. “It is a kind of a gift of an electronic umbilical cord.”

For anyone interested in a deeper look at the construction and deconstruction of American democracy, David Barsamian has had a front row seat with history makers. He has been one of the clearer voices critiquing American media, also known as the press:

Corporate media are largely weapons of mass distraction. Language is manipulated to manufacture consent and to limit the bounds of permissible thought. A golden Rolodex of so-called experts produces a mono-chromatic one-note samba of drivel. That’s one reason I started Alternative Radio out of my house many years ago. You can’t simply whine and complain. You need to come up with positive alternatives that give people hope.

Note: For anyone willing to take a ride on the alternative side, and push aside American exceptionalist mythology, curb blind patriotism and listen to someone who has been with history’s great minds, coming out to the Newport, Oregon, event, 7 p.m. on Monday, October 7, at Oregon Coast Community College, 400 SE College Way, will be well worth the suggested $10 donation at the door.

Stockholm Syndrome: Julian Assange And The Limits Of Guardian Dissent

Nothing happened on September 2 in central London. Roger Waters, co-founder of Pink Floyd, did not initiate a protest outside the Home Office. He did not sing and play the Floyd classic ‘Wish You Were Here’, or say:

Julian Assange, we are with you. Free Julian Assange!

The renowned journalist and film-maker John Pilger did not say:

The behaviour of the British government towards Julian Assange is a disgrace – a profanity on the very notion of human rights.

It’s no exaggeration to say that the persecution of Julian Assange is the way dictatorships treat a political prisoner.

None of this happened for any major UK or US newspaper, which made no mention of these events at all. Readers of Prensa Latina, Havana, were more fortunate with two articles before and after the event, as were readers of Asian News International in New Delhi. Coverage was also provided by Ireland’s Irish Examiner (circulation 25,419) in Cork, which published a Press Association piece that was available to the innumerable other outlets that all chose to ignore it.

Four months after he was dragged from the Ecuadorian embassy, Assange is still locked up in solitary confinement for 21 hours a day or more. He is still being denied the basic tools to prepare his case against a demand for extradition to the United States where he faces incarceration and torture. He is not allowed to call his US lawyers, is not allowed access to vital documents, or even a computer. He is confined to a single cell in the hospital wing, where he is isolated from other people. Pilger commented at the protest:

There is one reason for this. Julian and WikiLeaks have performed an historic public service by giving millions of people facts on why and how their governments deceive them, secretly and often illegally: why they invade countries, why they spy on us.

Julian is singled out for special treatment for one reason only: he is a truth-teller. His case is meant to send a warning to every journalist and every publisher, the kind of warning that has no place in a democracy.

On the Sydney Criminal Lawyers website, journalist Paul Gregoire discussed Assange’s declining health with his father, John Shipton, who said:

His health is not good. He’s lost about 15 kilos in weight now – five since I last saw him. And he’s in solitary confinement for 22 hours a day, in the hospital ward of the gaol.

Gregoire responded:

‘As you’ve just explained, Julian is being held in quite extreme conditions. He’s isolated from other inmates. And as well, his visits are restricted and so are his communications with his legal representation. Yet, he’s only being held for breach of bail, which is a rather minor charge.’

‘Yes, very minor.’

‘How are the UK authorities justifying the restrictions around his imprisonment seeing he’s being incarcerated on such a minor offence?’

‘I don’t know if they feel the necessity to justify these decisions. Their decisions are arbitrary.’

‘So, they’re giving no explanation as to his treatment.’

‘No.’

It does seem extraordinary, in fact, medieval, for such brutal treatment to be meted out to someone for merely breaching bail, with almost zero ‘mainstream’ political or media protest. This is only one reason, of course, why the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Nils Melzer, penned an article titled, ‘Demasking the Torture of Julian Assange’. Melzer commented:

What may look like mere mudslinging in public debate, quickly becomes “mobbing” when used against the defenseless, and even “persecution” once the State is involved. Now just add purposefulness and severe suffering, and what you get is full-fledged psychological torture.

Investigative journalist Peter Oborne courageously challenged conventional wisdom on Assange this month in a British Journalism Review piece titled, ‘He is a hero, not a villain’. Oborne described how, in July, the Mail on Sunday had published a front-page story revealing the contents of diplomatic telegrams – ‘DipTels’ – sent to London by the British ambassador to the US. The memos described President Trump’s administration as ‘inept’ and Trump himself as ‘uniquely dysfunctional’.

All hell broke loose. The May government announced an official leak inquiry. The Metropolitan Police launched a criminal investigation. The intelligence services got involved.

The Metropolitan Police assistant commissioner Neil Basu warned the press not to publish any further documents as this could “constitute a criminal offence”. The Mail on Sunday paid no attention. It published further leaks and other papers came to its support. So did politicians. Tory leadership candidates Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt were among those who criticised Basu’s comments.

Hunt, who was then foreign secretary, said: “I defend to the hilt the right of the press to publish those leaks if they receive them and judge them to be in the public interest…

Meanwhile, that leaker-in-chief Julian Assange continued to languish in Belmarsh prison, where he is serving 50 weeks for skipping bail…

Julian Assange is a controversial figure, to be sure. Many of those who have dealt with him have found him difficult. But I find myself wondering what exactly the difference is between his alleged crime of publishing leaked US diplomatic cables and the Mail on Sunday’s offence of publishing leaked Foreign Office cables.

Why is Assange treated by the bulk of the British media as a pariah? And the Mail on Sunday as a doughty defender of press freedom? After all, Julian Assange is responsible for breaking more stories than all the rest of us put together.

Oborne commented:

This looks to me like a monstrous case of double standards, even by the ocean-going standards of Britain’s media/political class.

Focusing on Other Issues

Assange was offered rare ‘mainstream’ support on September 12 when Guardian columnist George Monbiot tweeted:

Never forget: #JulianAssange is still in Belmarsh prison, facing the prospect of extradition and life imprisonment in the US, for the “crime” of releasing information that governments have withheld from us. This is not justice.

Tweeter jaraparilla was quick to spot what happened next:

George Monbiot just posted this tweet supporting Julian Assange then deleted it within minutes (before I could respond).

We asked Monbiot what had happened. He replied:

I realised that the US extradition issue was tangled up with the Swedish one, and that I don’t yet know enough about Assange’s legal situation, exactly what he is awaiting and why. I will read up and return to the issue.

In response, we recommended Melzer’s superb work in challenging the establishment smear campaign. Monbiot replied:

Thank you. Has he written a paper on the subject? I find it much easier to absorb information in writing.

We answered:

Amazed you need to ask, have you really not been following his interviews and written pieces? Mind you, according to ProQuest, @NilsMelzer has been mentioned twice in the Guardian this year – so maybe it’s not so strange. See here, for example

Monbiot tweeted: No, I’ve been focusing on other issues.

We commented again:

True enough. According to the ProQuest newspaper database, you’ve never mentioned Assange in your Guardian column. Is that right?

Monbiot confirmed: Yes, that is correct.

It was curious that Monbiot felt the need to ‘read up and return to the issue’. After all, as jaraparilla noted, Monbiot has tweeted about Assange and WikiLeaks dozens of times. Many of these comments make for grim reading. For example:

Moral line on #Assange is crystal clear: we shld support qu-ning on rape charges & oppose any extrad attempt by US. #wikileaks

In his latest piece on Assange, Oborne discussed this egregious error:

His critics attach special weight to rape charges laid against Assange in Sweden. But it’s important to remember there have never been any “charges” in Sweden.

This is a myth reported literally hundreds of times. There has only ever been a “preliminary investigation” in Sweden looking into allegations of rape.

In 2011, Monbiot tweeted:

To me Assange looks unaccountable, paranoid, controlling and prone to blame others for his mistakes. #wikileaks

As we now know, Assange’s ‘paranoia’ was actually astute awareness that ‘they’ really were out to get him.

And: ‘Why does Assange still have so much uncritical support? Seems to me he’s acting like a tinpot dictator.’

And: ‘#JulianAssange takes Kremlin’s dollar, reversing all he claimed to stand for: bit.ly/wT4PoO Love #wikileaks, not Assange’

To his credit, Monbiot subsequently tweeted the deleted tweet defending Assange a second time.

In April 2019, Monbiot won huge applause for using harsh language and calling for the overthrow of capitalism. He insisted that, to save the planet, we need to forget ‘pathetic, micro-consumerist bollocks’:

We have to overthrow this system which is eating the planet with perpetual growth…. We can’t do it by just pissing around at the margins of the problem; we’ve got to go straight to the heart of capitalism and overthrow it.

And yet, as Oborne noted, Assange is ‘responsible for breaking more stories than all the rest of us put together’, ‘each and every one in the public interest’, ‘which any self-respecting reporter would sell his or her grandmother to obtain’. One could hardly think of a more powerful example of someone not ‘pissing around at the margins of the problem’.

Monbiot is hardly alone in ‘focusing on other issues’, year after year, while Assange rots. Fellow Guardian great white leftist hope, Owen Jones, last mentioned Assange in his Guardian column in 2014. In fact, this was his only ever mention in the paper, a single comment in passing focused on then Respect MP George Galloway:

his past praise for dictators and appalling comments about rape following allegations against Julian Assange have left him largely isolated.

Like Monbiot, Paul Mason – a former BBC and Channel 4 broadcaster who has somehow reinvented himself as a war-supporting, NATO-loving, Trident-renewing ‘man of the people’ (with 618,000 followers on Twitter) – has never mentioned Assange in the Guardian.

It seems likely that Guardian columnists have felt under increasing pressure to back off from supporting Assange over the last five years. As Matt Kennard and Mark Curtis reported this month:

The Guardian has lost many of its top investigative reporters who had covered national security issues… The few journalists who were replaced were succeeded by less experienced reporters with apparently less commitment to exposing the security state. The current defence and security editor, Dan Sabbagh, started at The Guardian as head of media and technology and has no history of covering national security.

‘It seems they’ve got rid of everyone who seemed to cover the security services and military in an adversarial way,” one current Guardian journalist told us.

Kennard and Curtis concluded:

The Guardian had gone in six short years from being the natural outlet to place stories exposing wrongdoing by the security state to a platform trusted by the security state to amplify its information operations. A once relatively independent media platform has been largely neutralised by UK security services fearful of being exposed further.

Venezuela, Gaza and Yemen

This pattern of sparse, or non-existent commentary extends to other issues. In 2018, Monbiot tweeted of the Venezuelan President, Nicolas Maduro:

Just because Maduro claims to be on the left does not mean we should support him. There are far better ways of breaking the power of the old elites. #Venezuela

Monbiot thus simply wrote off the democratically elected President of Venezuela who had won entirely credible elections after the death of Hugo Chavez. Because Monbiot is respected by many readers as an honest, principled progressive, this will have looked to many like the final nail in the coffin of Maduro’s credibility. Many doubtless assumed that Monbiot knows and cares a great deal about Venezuela, that he has strongly supported the Bolivarian revolution. And in 2015, Monbiot did write this in the Guardian:

Between 1989 and 1991 I worked with movements representing landless rural workers in Brazil. As they sought to reclaim their land, thousands were arrested; many were tortured; some were killed…

In Bolivia, Argentina, Ecuador, Venezuela, Uruguay and Chile, similar movements transformed political life. They have evicted governments opposed to their interests and held to account those who claim to represent them. Syriza in Greece and Podemos in Spain have been inspired, directly or indirectly, by the Latin American experience.

Many readers will have hailed these comments as evidence that Monbiot is an outspoken leftist. After all, in 2003 he had written in the Guardian:

While younger activists are eager to absorb the experience of people like Noam Chomsky, Tariq Ali, Lula, Victor Chavez, Michael Albert and Arundhati Roy, all of whom are speaking in Porto Alegre [the World Social Forum], our movement is, as yet, more eager than wise, fired by passions we have yet to master. (Our emphasis)

But according to the ProQuest media database, the single sentence from 2015 contains Monbiot’s only mention of Venezuela in his Guardian column in the last ten years. Monbiot has mentioned Hugo Chavez’s name exactly twice, in passing, in two articles. He has mentioned Maduro – who is facing relentless internal and external state-corporate attempts at regime change, not least by means of US sanctions – once, in passing, in July 2019. Monbiot has said not a word to challenge the military, economic and propaganda campaign to overthrow Maduro.

According to ProQuest, Owen Jones has never mentioned the Venezuelan President in his Guardian column. Paul Mason’s only mention of Maduro in the Guardian damned Maduro’s use of the ‘repertoire of autocratic rule’ in his supposed ‘crackdown’, being ‘clearly engaged in a rapid, purposive and common project to hollow out democracy’.

Ironically, corporate dissidents like Monbiot, Jones and Mason benefit enormously from the fact that they are published by tyrannical, monopolistic, unaccountable, power-friendly media that filter ‘all the news fit to print’. How so?

It is precisely because these systems of power function as such forensic, long-armed Thought Police that even tiny crumbs of compromised dissent – a single sentence on ‘landless rural workers’ here, a four-letter word on the need for revolution there – elicit pitiful shrieks of delight and admiration from corporately incarcerated consumers who need to believe that ‘mainstream’ media are not that bad, not that destructive. In other words, public awareness is heavily skewed by a version of ‘Stockholm syndrome’.

Consider Gaza as a further example. Again, we can find this dissenting comment from Monbiot in the Guardian in 2006:

I agree that Hizbullah fired the first shots. But out of the blue? Israel’s earlier occupation of southern Lebanon; its continued occupation of the Golan Heights; its occupation and partial settlement of the West Bank and gradual clearance of Jerusalem; its shelling of civilians, power plants, bridges and pipelines in Gaza; its beating and shooting of children; its imprisonment or assassination of Palestinian political leaders; its bulldozing of homes; its humiliating and often lethal checkpoints: all these are, in Bush’s mind, either fictional or carry no political consequences.

Again, leftists will have lapped up this rare supportive comment in a major UK newspaper. A search for further comments finds this sentence from Monbiot in November 2007:

In February 2001, according to the BBC, it [Israel] used chemical weapons in Gaza: 180 people were admitted to hospital with severe convulsions.

And a sentence from September 2013, when Monbiot wrote in passing of how Israel ‘refuses to ratify the Chemical Weapons Convention’ having ‘used white phosphorus as a weapon in Gaza’. A further sentence appeared in September 2014:

In Gaza this year, 2,100 Palestinians were massacred: including people taking shelter in schools and hospitals.

Monbiot wrote again one month later:

Israeli military commanders described the massacre of 2,100 Palestinians, most of whom were civilians (including 500 children), in Gaza this summer as “mowing the lawn”.

But, remarkably, these are the only substantive comments Monbiot has made about one of the great crimes and tragedies of our time. The last quote above, his most recent, was published nearly five years ago, in October 2014.

While other progressives like Noam Chomsky, John Pilger, Norman Finkelstein, Jonathan Cook and others have written whole books, made whole films, and written reams of articles about the catastrophe being inflicted on the people of Gaza, Monbiot has said virtually nothing.

According to ProQuest, Owen Jones’ sole, substantive article devoted to Israel’s assault on Gaza came in July 2014. Even this was a philosophical piece on the ‘moral corruption that comes with any occupation’, with few details about the suffering in Gaza. Stockholm syndrome ensured that the title alone, ‘How the occupation of Gaza corrupts the occupier’, persuaded many readers that here was a stellar example of a principled journalist who really cared about Gaza, who was shouting the truth from the rooftops. Jones’ last mention of Gaza in the Guardian was also five years ago, a mention in passing in August 2014.

Paul Mason’s last substantive mention of Gaza was, again, five years ago, in November 2014, an emotive reference to a harrowing report he made from Gaza while working for Channel 4 News, with little detail on conditions. Mason referenced the same Channel 4 coverage in August 2014.

Or consider Yemen – how much have Monbiot, Jones and Mason written about the blood-drenched, UK-backed Saudi Arabian war that began in 2015? Monbiot wrote in June 2017 of then Prime Minister Theresa May:

She won’t confront Saudi Arabia over terrorism or Yemen or anything else.

Ironic words, given that, according to ProQuest, this is Monbiot’s only meaningful comment on the Yemen war (in April 2019, he noted in passing that climate change ‘has contributed to civil war’ in Yemen). In the Morning Star, Ian Sinclair reported that the editor of the Interventions Watch website had conducted a search of Monbiot’s Twitter timeline in December 2017:

He found Monbiot had mentioned “Syria” in 91 tweets and “Yemen” in just three tweets.

To his credit, Owen Jones has written several substantial pieces focused on the war in Yemen here, here and here. In June 2017, Paul Mason wrote one substantial paragraph on the conflict:

Saudi Arabia is meanwhile prosecuting a war on Iranian-backed rebels in Yemen, using more than £3bn worth of British kit sold to it since the bombing campaign began. In return, it has lavished gifts on Theresa May’s ministers: Philip Hammond got a watch worth £1,950 when he visited in 2015. In turn, Tory advisers are picking up lucrative consultancy work with the Saudi government.

Again, we can celebrate an example of superficial dissent, or reflect on the fact that this is Mason’s only comment on the Yemen war in the Guardian.

It is important to remember that the most popular and revered British dissidents – including radical comedians like Russell Brand, Frankie Boyle and Eddie Izzard – were made famous by corporate media. The difference between a ‘cult’ following and national fame is often the difference between popular and ‘mainstream’ support. People willing to compromise from the start, to jump through the required corporate hoops to achieve fame, are (often unwittingly) stooges of a system that must allow glimpses of dissent, a semblance of free and open discussion.

The system needs an occasional honest paragraph on Gaza from a Monbiot, a comment on Yemen from a Mason, if it is to retain credibility. Nobody is fooled by total silence, by a complete lie – a half-lie is far more potent. We are complicit in this charade when we make dissident mountains out of molehills, loaves out of corporate crumbs, and keep buying the product.

We Are Not Fooled By The Hong Kong Protests

Agnes Chow and Nathan Law accept the 2018 Lantos Human Rights Prize on behalf of Joshua Wong in Washington, DC. (Facebook)

Update: Protests continued in Hong Kong this weekend. The protesters returned to the use of violence and the police responded. The South China Morning Post reported:

In a now familiar pattern, the protesters threw bricks, petrol bombs, corrosive liquid and other projectiles at the police, who responded with tear gas, pepper balls and sponge grenades. Twenty-eight people were arrested, including an organiser of an approved protest march. At least 10 people were hospitalised, including two men in serious condition.

Some people in the United States are confused about the protests going on in Hong Kong. Whenever the corporate media and politicians, especially people like Marco Rubio, applaud a social movement, it is a red flag that the protests are not a progressive people’s movement, but serve other purposes.  Is this really a democracy movement? Are workers protesting the deep inequality and exploitation there? If not, what are these protests really about?

Fortunately, a more complete narrative of what is happening in Hong Kong and how it relates to the geopolitical conflict between the United States and China is developing among independent and movement media. The following is a description of what has been learned recently.

Hong Kong Protests: Not a Democracy Movement, but an Anti-China Tool

What is happening in Hong Kong is not actually a people’s uprising for democracy, but a tool for anti-China rhetoric and “Great Power Conflict.” Many Hong Kong protesters are pro-capitalist and racist in nature, referring to mainland Chinese as locusts, and are calling for the United States to intervene. Many of the same tactics employed by Venezuelan, Nicaraguan, and Ukrainian regime change operations are re-appearing in Hong Kong. For example, demonstrators have used violence as a tactic to entice police to respond with violence in order to put out a false narrative of state repression against them.

Fight Back News describes the problem:

There’s a tendency among progressives in the United States to support big crowds of people protesting in other countries. No doubt, the corporate media assists in this process by labeling certain movements ‘pro-democracy’ or ‘freedom fighters.’

Just because there are people in the street does not make protests progressive, worker-based or for the people’s interests. Fight Back News reports how Hong Kong has been used by China as a way to attract foreign investment, but also as a way to make the Renminbi (RMB) a more powerful currency as well as to advance China’s Belt & Road initiative. These are major threats to US dominance.

Controversial American political activist Joey Gibson, founder of the group Patriot Prayer, holds up an American flag while attending an anti-extradition rally in Hong Kong on July 7, 2019. Facebook Live screengrab

Dan Cohen of the Grayzone mentions the ties between the protest movement and right-wing racist groups in the US. This is an issue requiring further reporting as it is strange that pro-Trump, racist groups are supporting the protests and the protesters are using US racist symbols.

Cohen’s major focus is the capitalist ties of the Hong Kong protesters. He describes the Rubert Murdoch of Hong Kong, Jimmy Lai, the self-described “head of opposition media,” who has been spending a lot of money, millions, to build the movement and giving a lot of media time to the anti-China rhetoric. And, he shows the connections between these capitalists and the Trump administration; i.e., he has had meetings with Bolton, Pence, and Pompeo as well as with neocons in the Senate, Marco Rubio, and Tom Cotton.

The goal of the Hong Kong protests is only unclear because they are trying to hide their true purpose. The real goal is preventing the full integration of Hong Kong into China in 2047 when the transition agreement between China and the United Kingdom is finished. The United States, the United Kingdom, and billionaires in Hong Kong want it to be integrated into the western capitalist economy and fear China’s state-planned economy. If they succeed, Hong Kong will become a base of economic, military and political operations for the US at the Chinese border, a critical position for the West’s ‘Great Power Conflict’ with Russia and China.

The US is investing in an anti-China movement to make integration of Hong Kong into China difficult. China is already hedging its bets by building Shenzhen across the bay, a state-planned, market-based economy, which will become an alternative to Hong Kong and shrink Hong Kong’s importance. The people of Hong Kong will be the losers if this occurs.

The Hong Kong Protest Is Not A Working-Class Revolt

Even though there are good reasons for workers in Hong Kong to revolt, these protests are not focused on the issues of economic insecurity; i.e., high levels of poverty, the exorbitant cost of housing, low wages, and long hours. As Sara Flounders writes:

For the last 10 years wages have been stagnant in Hong Kong while rents have increased 300 percent; it is the most expensive city in the world.

But, as Fight Back News explains: “The Hong Kong protests are absolutely not driven by or in the interests of the working class, whether in Hong Kong or mainland China.” In fact, the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions is not backing the demonstrations and called on its members to reject the call for a strike on August 5 put out by the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions, which is backed by the US National Endowment for Democracy (NED).

If the protesters were focused on workers rights, they would be demanding an end to, or at least reform of, the neoliberal capitalism of Hong Kong that is dominated by big financial interests and corruption. In fact, half of the seats in the legislature are set aside for business interests who vote to protect their profits and not basic needs such as housing, but there is no criticism of this by the protesters.

In Popular Resistance, we wrote: “Hong Kong has the world’s highest rents, a widening wealth gap and a poverty rate of 20 percent.” These are crisis-level problems for the vast majority of people in Hong Kong, but they were not the focus of the protests.

Fight Back News writes: “In actuality, the protests in Hong Kong serve the interests of finance capital, both in the city itself and around the world,” and makes the important point that “Hong Kong’s working class has nothing to gain from worse relations with mainland China, much less from ‘independence.’ They suffered greatly under British colonial rule – no minimum wage laws; no labor protections; barbaric legal punishments like flogging and more.”

The Role of the United States is Evident to Anyone Who Looks

The NED has spent millions of dollars to build this anti-China movement over the years in a place with a population of 7.3 million people, over a million fewer people than New York City. The first to report on NED involvement in the current protest was Alexander Rubinstein of Mintpress News, who wrote: “the coalition cited by Hong Kong media, including the South China Morning Post and the Hong Kong Free Press, as organizers of the anti-extradition law demonstrations is called the Civil Human Rights Front. That organization’s website lists the NED-funded HKHRM [Human Rights Monitor], Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions, the Hong Kong Journalists Association, the Civic Party, the Labour Party, and the Democratic Party as members of the coalition.” HKHRM alone received more than $1.9 million in funds from the NED between 1995 and 2013.

The Viable Opposition blogger, in “How Washington is Meddling In the Affairs of Hong Kong“, describes NED’s history as a regime change agent for the United States and the recent NED funding in Hong Kong, pointing to a total of $1,357,974 on grants to organizations described as promoting freedom, democracy and human rights in Hong Kong over the period from 2015 to 2018.

This is not short-term funding but a long-term commitment by the United States. NED has been doing mass funding in Hong Kong since 1996. In 2012, NED invested $460,000 through its National Democratic Institute, to build the anti-China movement (aka pro-democracy movement), particularly among university students. Two years later, the mass protests of Occupy Central occurred.

Sara Flounders points out US funding goes beyond NED, writing: “Funding from the NED, the Ford, Rockefeller, Soros and numerous other corporate foundations, Christian churches of every denomination, and generous British funding, is behind this hostile, subversive network orchestrating the Hong Kong protests.” The US-funding of NGO’s confuses political activists, media and commentators because they fund a myriad of NGO’s in Hong Kong. As a result, there are human rights, democracy, youth and other Hong Kong spokespersons whose NED funding is not disclosed when they talk in the media.

 

Martin Lee, Benny Tai, and Joshua Wong speak at Freedom House, 2015

Hong Kong protesters are not always secret about their ties to the US. In 2014, Mintpress News exposed US involvement in Occupy Central. They pointed out that Martin Lee, a Hong Kong protest figure, was in bed with NED. They gave him an award and had his bio on their website. He came to Washington, DC in 2014 along with Anson Chan, another protest figure, and met with  Vice President Joe Biden and Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).  Lee took part in a NED talk hosted specifically for him. In 2015, Lee and others were applauded for their leadership by Freedom House, which, as the now-deceased Robert Parry described in 2017, works hand in hand with the NED.

In this Popular Resistance story, we point out that during the current protests, participants were meeting with Julie Eadeh, of the US Consulate at a hotel. And, when Nathan Law and Agnes Chow visited the US they met with the China-hawk Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Rep. Eliot Engel. They also met with Vice President Pence, Secretary of State Pompeo, National Security Adviser John Bolton, and Senator Marco Rubio.

Protesters carry US and UK flags, and sing the Stars and Stripes Forever and the US national anthem, displaying their connection to western nations. In one of the most iconic moments, demonstrating how these protests are really a microcosm of the conflict between the US and China, a protester used a US flag to beat a Chinese reporter, Fu Guohao of Global Times, who was tied up and assaulted at the Hong Kong airport.

Some believe the protests are too big for the US to control and point to the amount of money being spent by the NED. If the populations of Hong Kong and the US are compared, $1 million in funding for the movement in Hong Kong is equivalent to $60 million in the US. Additional funds are also being provided by billionaires. That level of resources is gigantic for popular movements that typically run on shoestring budgets.

The only way not to see US involvement in the Hong Kong protests is to close your eyes, ears, and mind and pretend it does not exist.

Challenging the Dominant Western Narrative

Although Western backing and political ambitions are the reality, it is a challenge to get this narrative out more widely. Too many in the US are confused by the messaging coming from the Hong Kong billionaires, NED-funded NGO’s, bi-partisan politicians in DC and the military-intelligence establishment, all made larger by the corporate mass media.

Corporate powers are banning social media accounts and YouTube Channels from China to suppress social media activism that tells a different narrative. For example, an article in the China Daily documents US involvement in detail with photographs of meetings between US officials and Hong Kong opposition, as well as the role of NED and Voice of America.

Independent media outlets, such as the ones cited above, are exposing who is behind the protests and their pro-capitalist, imperialist agenda. They are starting to change the dominant western narrative. This is critical because it is easy for activists to be drawn into supporting movements that are counter to our goals for social and economic justice as well as peace.

Hong Kongers have also been manipulated pawns in the US Great Power Conflict with China. They are advocating against their own interests by seeking what will essentially be re-colonization by the West. If the US is successful, it will not be good for the people of Hong Kong, Asia or the world.

PBS: Keeper of Official State Myths

A prime function of the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) is the reinforcement and perpetuation of the state’s explanations of events, however absurd and discredited. While cultural offerings on PBS are excellent and appreciated, divergence from official governmental narratives is not permitted. PBS is a foremost informational gatekeeper, a role enhanced by its insistence that it represents the best of investigative journalism.

American Experience:  “Oklahoma City”

The official stories of the Murrah office building and 9/11 are now enshrined in memorials, the purpose of which is to make a lie the truth.

— Paul Craig Roberts, “The Oklahoma City Bombing After 22 Years”, Global Research, April 20, 2017

Once ‘terrorism’ had been established as the enemy for society to fear, it was to become extended from a force thought of as foreign to one also to be found in the American “Homeland”. A horrifying and convincing example of “domestic terrorism”, the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City on April 19,1995, was the event that would solidify this in the public mind and serve to justify increased police powers.

There is considerable evidence that the bombing of the Murrah Building was not as reported and likely involved elements of the government itself. The air force’s explosive’s expert, Brigadier General Benton Partin has presented “irrefutable” proof that the primary damage to the building came from powerful multiple charges positioned at key points on the third floor, not from Timothy McVeigh’s truck bomb of ammonium nitrate fertilizer, a relatively weak explosive. Partin’s letter to a U.S. Senator puts this in summary.

Other explosives experts agree that the building was blown up from inside, and that there was evidence of official coverup. Nevertheless, the 2017 film “Oklahoma City” focuses on the history of neo-Nazi wrath over governmental clashes at Ruby Ridge, Idaho and Waco, Texas, where U.S. citizens were killed. The film is tailored to convince viewers that right wing domestic terrorism was behind the Murrah bombing, period. But if explosives experts are correct, this must be false, as such militants would lack both technical skill and access to the building for such a sophisticated wiring job.

There are also myriad associated questions that have never been dealt with: e.g., the police officer convinced of governmental coverup who died under mysterious circumstances; indication the FBI knew of the plan well in advance; McVeigh’s claim to have been working with an FBI agent; surveillance tapes “lost” by the FBI reportedly showing a man with McVeigh exiting the truck just before the bombing; CIA involvement which would indicate foreign implication; the fact that engineers whose analysis of the Murrah bombing was to become official were also selected to analyze the 9/11/2001 destruction of the World Trade Center, and whose report was to become the basis for Nova’s 2002 “Why The Towers Fell”.

Decision makers at PBS chose to ignore all evidence not in conformity with the government’s preferred version of events and, two decades after the bombing, to solidify the apparently false history.

NOVA: “Why the Towers Fell” 

All the proffered evidence that America was attacked by Muslims on 9/11, when subjected to critical scrutiny, appears to have been fabricated.

— David Ray Griffin, “Was America Attacked by Muslims on 9/11?“, September 10, 2008

If, on 9/11/2001, journalists Dan Rather and Peter Jennings, reporting live, could discern the similarity of the collapses of the Twin Towers to intentional demolitions, one assumes the tens of thousands of engineers watching would also be having hunches. Still, there was apparently no concerted statement of the sort from that professional community in the months following. Indeed, it was from the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) that a team of 22 was chosen by FEMA to explain to a shocked Nation, hungry for answers, why the Towers, as well as WTC7, fell as no steel-framed buildings had ever fallen. The resulting NOVA production, “Why The Towers Fell“, covered the team’s Building Performance Study and aired on PBS on April 30, 2002, just seven months after the attack.

The team was led by Gene Corley who, it happens, had also led the investigation of the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah building in Oklahoma City, although his team’s finding there was not in accord with that of General Partin, the Air Force’s explosives expert (see above). In any event, “building performance” was the focus of both studies, without any consideration of the possibility that the buildings had been previously prepared for demolition, although there was evidence that such was the case.

While “Why The Towers Fell” can still be seen at dailymotion, only a transcript is available at the PBS website, this for good reason. Since its airing in 2002, a veritable army of engineers and researchers has rendered it more than merely inaccurate. One does not wish to disparage engineers in the video, for certainly pressure was intense to find a politically acceptable explanation for an anxious public. But evidence of the buildings having been prepared for demolition prior to 9/11 is by now overwhelming. Details of why this is so is not the point here, but good sources of information, for those interested, are Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth and virtually any of the books on the subject by David Ray Griffin.

What is glaring is the absolute silence of PBS to the accumulated mountain of evidence that the World Trade Center buildings had been carefully prepared for 9/11. In 2015, PBS showcased three Frontline presentations, all in accord with the official story, with this introduction: “Fifteen years ago, Al Qaeda operatives carried out the deadliest domestic terror attack in American history by hijacking four passenger airplanes and crashing two into the World Trade Center, one into the Pentagon and another into a Pennsylvania field”. With a single concise sentence, and a decade and a half after the event, PBS is affirming what is most certainly a false account.

American Experience:  Roads to Memphis”

William Pepper, confidante of Martin Luther King, Jr. and King Family attorney, spent decades uncovering the truth about the assassination of King. In 2010, when PBS first aired Roads To Memphis, a fictional account about designated patsy James Earl Ray, Pepper had already published two books (1995 and 2003) revealing the plot to assassinate the good Reverend, a plot involving a complex of governmental, military and underworld players. It would be hard to find a more blatant example of official state television eclipsing truth than the multiple airings by PBS of Roads To Memphis.

Even the most superficial scan of the King assassination record quickly leads to Pepper’s publications and references to them. It is not possible to have missed them. The creators and disseminators of Roads To Memphis were therefore faced with two radically opposing narratives: Pepper’s detailed expose’ on the one hand, which they chose to disregard altogether, and on the other hand the Government’s story line, which Pepper had annihilated. A side-by-side comparison of the two accounts of the assassination leaves one in a state of shock. See here Pepper’s words from the introduction of the The Plot To Kill King, the last of his trilogy:

For me, this is a story rife with sadness, replete with massive accounts of personal and public deception and betrayal. Its revelations and experiences have produced in the writer a depression stemming from an unavoidable confrontation with the depths to which human beings, even those subject to professional codes of ethics, have fallen; ….. Far from being elated that the truth is now with us face-to-face, I feel consumed by a sadness that will be a lifelong emotional presence. One significant factor is facing the reality that one has misjudged the integrity and even the basic decency of individuals, some of whom have been friends or respected comrades over many years. It is a traumatic realization that the use of political assassinations has all too often been successful at removing uncontrollable leaders whose commitment to substantive change of their societies had threatened the ruling forces, and thereby become so intolerable that physical removal remained the only option.

Despite Pepper’s The Plot To Kill King having been published in 2016, PBS was still airing Roads To Memphis a year later.

FRONTLINE: “Putin’s Revenge”

The American propaganda campaign being waged against the Russian Federation and its president Vladimir Putin has reached a stage of perverse perfection…… ‘Putin’s Revenge’ feature[s] so-called experts who outdo one another in stoking anti-Russian flames. PBS can never seem to find any expert who can make counter arguments.

— Margaret Kimberley, “Putin, Trump and Manafort“, OpEd News, November 3, 2017

Following World War 2, the U.S. was relatively unscathed, her manufacturing base for war materials was humming, stakeholders were intent on maintaining it, and a perceived enemy would justify its continuance. Russia; i.e., the Soviet Union (USSR), recently an ally, had an economic system antithetical to capitalism. The Red Scare was born, nurtured and perpetuated throughout a Cold War that was to last until 1989. But Russia had suffered Nazi invasion, and with a death toll of perhaps 20,000,000, had neither ability nor reason to threaten the U.S. in 1945. Looking back, it is unpleasant to contemplate the extent to which the Cold War was U.S. driven.

With media reinforcing the ‘Russia=Enemy!’ meme, transition into the “new” Cold War has gone smoothly, but Frontline’s “Putin’s Revenge” is a remarkable 2-hour distortion of the “Russiagate” fiasco. Centered on a claimed Russian “hacking” of 60,000 emails of the Democratic National Committee, allegedly to assist the Trump presidential campaign, it begins with the CIA’s John Brennan calling the hacking “tantamount to war”, and it never departs that focus.

As the commanding voice of narrator Will Lyman details Putin’s “lifetime of grievances” against American humiliations, the Russian’s face is shown in still shots chosen for sinister innuendo. Putin, viewers are told, “weaponized” information and sent hacked DNC emails to Wikileaks to expose Clinton’s undermining of the Sanders Campaign, thereby disuniting Democrats and aiding Trump. Along the way, there is deceptive reporting of a Russian “invasion” of Crimea, and suggestion of collusion between Putin and Trump. Commentary from governmental figures is reinforced by mainstream journalists from the NY Times, New Yorker, Washington Post, Bloomberg News, and Politico.

The two hours of “Putin’s Revenge” aired on October 25 and November 1, 2017 despite an organization of intelligence professionals having already disputed hacking claims in late 2016 and published their technical assessment by July, 2017 that the DNC emails, rather than hacked, had been downloaded; i.e., “leaked”, from within the DNC itself. It strains believability that Frontline’s researchers could have missed these. Moreover, Julian Assange had long insisted that neither Russia nor any other state party was Wikileak’s source of the DNC emails, as Frontline had to have known. Records indicate that the Clinton Campaign, aware that incriminating emails were about to be made public, conspired with the DNC and media to divert attention onto a fabricated “Russian hack”, for which there was never evidence.

Ever since the U.S. promised the Soviets in 1990 that NATO would not move “one inch to the east” of Germany, NATO military activity has expanded along Russia’s western border from the Baltic to the Black Sea, the expanse over which Napoleon and Hitler carried out their respective invasions. That is the geographic equivalent of Russian bases being placed along a U.S. border. Crimea is the site of Russia’s naval base on the Black Sea, where U.S. warships have been cruising in recent years, and the northeast quadrant of which is Russian coastline. Base and coastline had to be protected without delay. In response to NATO-driven regime-change in western Ukraine, a referendum for union with Russia (not covered in the Frontline piece) was held in Crimea. Russian blood and culture dominate in Crimea, and the referendum passed by a reported 95%, hence Russia’s annexation. Frontline’s depiction of an “invasion” is beyond merely simplistic and is illustrative of why Americans are so ignorant of world affairs.

American mainstream journalism is now a tapestry of lies of omission. PBS, however, is a standout in this area, because its prominent, “in depth” productions on Nova, American Experience and Frontline are considered widely to represent the best investigative journalism available. It is this reputation that places PBS above the networks in the public mind. As PBS has willfully avoided specific areas for exploration, and has excluded truths that a governmental power structure does not want aired, it has made itself a powerful tool in the rewriting of history.

The Ongoing Dread in Gaza: So Many Names, So Many Lives

I felt shaky and uneasy all day, preparing for this talk.

— Jehad Abusalim, a Palestinian from the territory of Gaza

Jehad Abusalim, a Palestinian now living in the United States, grew up Gaza. In Chicago last week, addressing activists committed to breaking the siege of Gaza,  he held up a stack of 31 papers. On each page were names of 1,254 Palestinians living in Gaza who had been killed in just one month of Israel’s “Operation Protective Edge” attacks five years ago.

“I felt shaky and uneasy all day preparing for this talk,” he told the group. He described his dismay when, looking through the list of names, he recognized one of a young man from his small town.

“He was always friendly to me,” Abusalim said. “I remember how he would greet me on the way to the mosque. His family and friends loved him, respected him.”

Abusalim recalled the intensity of losing loved ones and homes; of seeing livelihoods and infrastructure destroyed by aerial attacks; of being unable to protect the most vulnerable. He said it often takes ten years or more before Palestinian families traumatized by Israeli attacks can begin talking about what happened. Noting Israel’s major aerial attacks in 2009, 2013, and 2014, along with more recent attacks killing participants in the “Great March of Return,” he spoke of ongoing dread about what might befall Gaza’s children the next time an attack happens.

Eighty people gathered to hear Abusalim and Retired Colonel Ann Wright, of US Boat to Gaza, as they helped launch the “Free Gaza Chicago River Flotilla,” three days of action culminating on July 20 with a spirited demonstration by “kayactivists” and boaters, along with onshore protesters, calling for an end to the siege of Gaza. Wright resigned from her post as a U.S. diplomat when the United States launched the 2003 Shock and Awe bombing of Iraq. Having participated in four previous internationals flotillas aiming to defy Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza’s shoreline, Wright is devoting her energies preparing for a fifth in 2020.

Another organizer and member of US Boat to Gaza, Elizabeth Murray, who like Wright formerly worked for the U.S. government, recalled being in a seminar sponsored by a prestigious think tank in Washington, D.C., when a panel member compared Israeli attacks against Palestinians with routine efforts to “mow the lawn.” She recounted hearing a light tittering as the D.C. audience members expressed amusement. But, Murray said, “Not a single person objected to the panelist’s remark.” This was in 2010, following Israel’s 2009 Operation Cast Lead, which killed 1,383 Palestinians, 333 of whom were children.

Abusalim’s colleague at the American Friends Service Committee, Jennifer Bing, had cautioned Chicago flotilla planners to carefully consider the tone of their actions. A colorful and lively event during a busy weekend morning along Chicago’s popular riverfront could be exciting and, yes, fun.

But Palestinians in Gaza cope with constant tension, she noted. Denied freedom of movement, they live in the world’s largest open-air prison, under conditions the United Nations has predicted will render their land uninhabitable by 2020. Households get four to six hours of electricity per day. According to UNICEF, “sewage treatment plants can’t operate fully and the equivalent of forty-three Olympic-sized swimming pools of raw or partly treated sewage is pumped into the sea every day.”

Facing cruel human rights violations on a daily basis, the organizers urge solidarity in the form of boycotts, divestment, and sanctions. U.S. residents bear particular responsibility for Israel’s military attacks against civilians, they note, as the United States has supplied Israel with billions of dollars for military buildup.

U.S. companies profit hugely from selling weapons to Israel. For example, Boeing, with headquarters in Chicago, sells Israel Apache helicopters, Hellfire and Harpoon missiles, JDAM guiding systems and Small Diameter Bombs that deliver Dense Inert Metal Explosive munitions. All of these weapons have been used repeatedly in Israeli attacks on densely populated civilian areas.

During the 2009 Operation Cast Lead, I was in Rafah, Gaza, listening to children explaining the difference between explosions caused by F-16 fighter jets dropping 500-pound bombs and Apache helicopters firing Hellfire missiles.

Israel continues using those weapons, and Israeli purchases fatten Boeing’s financial portfolios.

At Boeing Company, Names of people killed in Israel’s Operation Protective Edge are read aloud; Elizabeth Murray sounds a gong after each name.  (Photo credit: Barbara Briggs Letson)

On July 19, young Palestinians outside of the Israeli consulate read aloud the names of people who had, five years ago, been killed in Gaza. We listened solemnly and then proceeded to Boeing’s Chicago headquarters, again listening as youngsters read more names, punctuated by a solemn gong after each victim was remembered. Ultimately, 2,104 Palestinians, more than two-thirds of whom were civilians, including 495 children, were killed during the seven-week attack on the Gaza Strip in 2014.

Banner dropping over a bridge crossing the Chicago River: Israel, Stop Killing Palestinians (Photo Credit: Barbara Briggs Letson)

During the Free Gaza Chicago River flotilla on July 20, Husam Marajda, from the Arab American Action Network, sat in a small boat next to his grandfather, who was visiting from Palestine. His chant, “From Palestine to Mexico, all the walls have got to go!” echoed from the water to the shore. Banners were dropped from bridges above, the largest reading, “Israel, Stop Killing Palestinians.”

Kayakers on the Chicago River display Free Gaza sign (Photo Credit: Barbara Briggs Letson)

Kayakers wore red T-shirts announcing the “Gaza Unlocked” campaign and managed to display flags, connected by string, spelling out “Free Gaza.” Passengers on other boats flashed encouraging peace signs and thumbs up signals. Those processing along the shore line, carrying banners and signs, walked the entirety of our planned route before a sergeant from the Chicago Police Department arrived to say we needed a permit.

We can’t permit ourselves to remain silent. Following the energetic flotilla activity, I sat with several friends in a quiet spot. “So many names,” said one friend, thinking of the list Abusalim had held up. “So many lives,” said another.

• A version of this article was published July 23rd, 2019 at The Progressive

Twitter Restores Assange Activism Account In Response To Backlash

After a week of vocal protests from online supporters of Julian Assange, Twitter has reversed its unjust removal of the prominent pro-Assange activism account @Unity4J.

After the account was suspended without any explanation being presented to its operators, Assange supporters drew a clear line in the sand against internet censorship and began making a big noise that couldn’t be ignored. The account’s suspension drew condemnations from high-profile Assange supporters like Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters, World Socialist Website, RT and Lee Camp, as well as a sustained social media campaign by grassroots supporters which included artwork, memes, and, of course, relentless “tagging” of Twitter Support and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey.

Political dissidents in general, and Assange supporters in particular, can take this as a very positive sign. It cannot be denied that there is pressure being applied to new media platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Youtube to forcibly marginalize all perspectives which fall outside the ever-shrinking Overton window of approved political discourse, but it also cannot be denied that speaking out works. If enough people push back against internet censorship to make it too conspicuous and obvious, it can’t happen.

We know that @twitter can and does reinstate accounts after suspension in the wake of a public outcry: @caitoz was suspended only to be reinstated after multiple journalists spoke out against it. @twittersupport @jack reinstate @Unity4J, an account that never broke Twitter rules. https://t.co/ltyGEfedcz

— Elizabeth Lea Vos (@ElizabethleaVos) July 12, 2019

Unity4J co-founder Elizabeth Lea Vos called this from the early hours of the account’s suspension, tweeting, “We know that Twitter can and does reinstate accounts after suspension in the wake of a public outcry: @caitoz was suspended only to be reinstated after multiple journalists spoke out against it.”

“@caitoz” is my account, which was indeed reinstated after I was suspended from Twitter for expressing political wrongthink last year. A bunch of high-profile journalists and activists helped voice objection to my unjust removal from the platform, not necessarily because they liked my work but because they understood that the direction the platform was headed posed a grave threat to all politically dissident speech.

So we see a pattern here where censorship can only happen in the unseen margins. In a society where our rulers must maintain their nice guy image of free speech and democracy, censorship only works when it’s invisible. The social engineers cannot operate in an overtly totalitarian way without shattering the free democracy image and thus losing the ability to effectively propagandize the masses, without which they cannot rule. We can use this weakness of theirs to our advantage by continually ringing alarm bells and shining a spotlight on any overtly totalitarian behavior yelling “What’s this? Why are you doing that? Hey everyone, come look at this weird thing they’re doing!” Internet censorship in its current form can’t operate under such conditions.

Though Twitter’s opaque and unaccountable moderation process makes it impossible to ever know exactly what happened behind the scenes, from my own experience it’s probably safe to assume that @Unity4J was conducting itself in the same way thousands of other Twitter accounts behave every single day without issue, but it got singled out (possibly via establishment-friendly mass reporting) due to its dissident political speech. Some admin ruled that if you squint at the account’s behavior and the Twitter rules in just the right way, removing the account was warranted. Then a bunch of loud complaints began coming in, prompting an investigation which found that by golly, it turns out that we don’t have to squint at the facts of the matter in that weird way after all. After which the account was restored.

#Unity4J Announcement

The @Unity4J Twitter Team would like to announce that we have been officially restored!

Thank you to @jack and @TwitterSupport, along with our many, many supporters around the globe for taking action to get this account restored. #FreeAssange pic.twitter.com/i6zUdQ9upA

— #Unity4J (@Unity4J) July 18, 2019

Whenever there’s a spate of iron-fisted censorship from a large online platform, I see many dissidents talking about vacating that platform in favor of fringe sites with a more tolerant attitude toward dissident speech. Please do not do this. If you want to spend time on a much smaller platform like Mastodon or Minds then by all means go ahead and do so, but please remain active on large, mainstream sites as well.

Remember, the goal of all political dissent is to get dissident ideas into mainstream consciousness. If we all vacate the areas where the mainstream public are spending their time, we’re doing the social engineers’ job for them by quarantining ourselves to some isolated fringe sector of the internet. That’s exactly what they want us to do. They want us to remove ourselves so we can’t infect the mainstream herd with wrongthink.

So don’t do it for them. If they’re going to keep clamping down on dissident speech online, force them to do it out in the open where everyone can see. As we’ve just witnessed, they have a much, much harder time conducting censorship while under the light of public scrutiny.

Our job here is very simple: if we can get the mainstream public to start paying attention to the actual mechanisms of empire, oligarchy and oppression, we win. If we can’t, we lose. Everything that doesn’t help us toward this end is a frivolous distraction. The social engineers understand all of this quite clearly. We need to understand it too.

Stand in the center of the public stage, and keep infecting the herd.

Top Assange Defense Account Deleted By Twitter

One of the biggest Twitter accounts dedicated to circulating information and advocacy for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, @Unity4J, has been completely removed from the site. The operators of the account report that they have been given no reason for its removal by Twitter staff, and have received no response to their appeals.

Any Assange supporter active on Twitter will be familiar with the Unity4J account, which originated to help boost the wildly successful Unity4J online vigils in which well-known Assange defenders would appear to speak out against his persecution. As of this writing, the account has been gone for a day and a half.

“About 8:45am CST on Thursday July 11, one of our Unity4J Twitter team members went to retweet on the account and noticed that the account was no longer accessible,” reports pro-Assange activist Christy Dopf, one of the operators of the account. “When each of us also attempted to access the account we all received the same message ‘Account Suspended’. Twitter did not send us a reason or violation for the suspension. So an appeal was submitted. We did receive correspondence that Twitter got our request and the case is currently open. Unfortunately we do not have a timeline on how long this could take.”

I’m back on Twitter after the outage but @unity4J is still suspended – we did not receive an email or a reason for the suspension. Appeal process started. #FreeAssange #Unity4J pic.twitter.com/a14DqZaoGt

⏳ Christy Dopf ⏳ ✨🌓✨ (@ChristyMKD84) July 11, 2019

Speaking for myself as a vocal Assange supporter on Twitter, I can say that I’ve been following the @Unity4J account closely since its earliest days and I’ve never once seen it post anything other than highly professional-looking advocacy for Julian Assange. I’ve certainly never seen it post anything that could be construed as abusive, misleading, or otherwise in violation of any of Twitter’s posted rules.

This account’s deletion is just the latest in a long string of apparently biased actions against WikiLeaks and Assange by the immensely influential social media platform. That bias was made abundantly clear with Twitter’s ridiculous refusal to verify Assange while he was posting from his own account despite his undeniably being a significant public figure, and despite the fact that Twitter was well aware that the account was authentic. The platform has been receiving consistent complaints among Assange supporters of using shadow bans to marginalize their voices, as well as unfair posting locks and restrictions.

“It seems that Assange supporters have been targeted for suspension over the last few days and weeks, including the suspension of individuals (Yon Solitary, Monique Jolie) as well as accounts like Unity4J,” Unity4J co-founder Elizabeth Lea Vos told me today. “All of these suspensions are unacceptable, but I find the Unity4J suspension especially egregious because it was an amplifier of events across the board, not only actions run by Unity4J. It never broke the twitter rules and it was an activist account supporting a journalist who’s been silenced or ‘disappeared,’ so this suspension is an extension of that suppression. Assange asked us to become his voice, and platforms like Twitter appear to be actively working against the possibility of that effort.”

The main Twitter account defending Julian Assange, and therefore press freedom & freedom of speech, has been suspended.@Unity4J – suspended for defending a hero.#Unity4J

— Lee Camp [Redacted] (@LeeCamp) July 12, 2019

Pro-Assange activists have been speaking out against @Unity4J’s removal.

“The main Twitter account defending Julian Assange, and therefore press freedom and freedom of speech, has been suspended,” tweeted comedian and Redacted Tonight host Lee Camp. “@Unity4J – suspended for defending a hero.”

“HELP!! Twitter suspended @Unity4J The global #FreeAssange supporters account!” tweeted Assange’s mother Christine Assange. “Its a central point for updates, interviews and actions re my son politically persecuted journalist JULIAN ASSANGE! Please demand @TwitterSupport and @Jack re-instate it. Many thanks #Unity4J”

“I have no doubt that @Unity4J’s twitter account was suspended because it was a hub of useful information on solidarity events and actions in support of Assange, WikiLeaks, Chelsea Manning and more. Horrendous censorship to suspend the account, @TwitterSupport,” tweeted Elizabeth Lea Vos.

“If @Unity4J is not restored, it is proof that Twitter would have sided against the Free Mandela movement, and every other mass liberation movement of a ‘terrorist’ turned Nobel nominee,” tweeted Unity4J co-founder Suzie Dawson.

Many other Assange supporters have been flagging the attention of the Twitter Support account and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey objecting to the unjust silencing of a perfectly legitimate activist account, to no avail thus far.

HELP!! @Twitter suspended @Unity4J

The global #FreeAssange supporters account!

Its a central point for updates, interviews & actions re my son politically persecuted journalist JULIAN ASSANGE!

Please demand @TwitterSupport & @Jack re-instate it.

Many thanks #Unity4J

— Mrs Christine Assange (@AssangeMrs) July 11, 2019

The censorship of political speech on online media platforms is a large and growing problem. Twitter has been better about this than the far more sycophantic Facebook and Google, but the discrimination against anti-establishment political speech is undeniable at this point. I myself was removed from the platform last year just for saying the world would be better off without warmongering US Senator John McCain in it, and was only restored after protests from high-profile Twitter users.

In a corporatist system of government, in which there is no meaningful separation of corporate power and state power, corporate censorship is state censorship. With giant Silicon Valley corporations aligning themselves with shady state-funded propagandistic think tanks like the Atlantic Council, being admonished on the Senate floor that they must help quash political rebellion, and being targeted for narrative control influence by the US military, there’s vanishingly little difference between what’s happening more and more to political speech with these tech giants and what happens in overtly totalitarian governments. The only difference is the stories people choose to tell themselves about it.

The time to speak up about this silencing is now. Your voice is next.

Guilt of anti-semitism now needs no evidence

A deadly serious tweet at the weekend from Armando Iannucci, the comedy writer responsible for the hugely popular Westminster TV satire show The Thick of It, reveals something significant about the problem of resolving the so-called Labour anti-semitism “crisis”. In response to a tweet by a follower discussing my recent blog post entitled “The plot to keep Corbyn out of power”, Iannucci observed: “Fresh insight on the Labour antisemitism story. It’s all a lie stoked up by Jews.”

It is very unlikely that Iannucci had actually read my post beyond the headline. If he did, it would suggest he has significant problems with basic comprehension. More likely he was simply demonstrating his own misunderstanding of what those of us who challenge the narrative of a Labour anti-semitism “crisis” are actually saying.

There is much nonsense written about how we all now live in our own echo chambers. That may still be largely true if your opinions fit neatly inside the so-called Overton window, which in the UK spans the short leap from Blairism to Conservatism. Stick within this narrow manufactured consensus of supposedly rational policy – neoliberal orthodoxy at home, and neoconservative warmongering abroad – and you will rarely be exposed in depth to any other ideas unless you consciously seek them out.

Cocooned from real debate

But those of us whose politics are considered “radical” or “dissident” are confronted with the ideas of these consensus-enforcers almost every waking moment. There is no escape from the BBC, or the topical TV shows recycling the issues dominating the pages of the billionaire-owned press, or the policy agendas of a political class owned by the global corporations that now run our societies, or the conversations of friends and family shaped by these upholders of the status quo.

Unlike those in the political centre who are reassured each day by the consensus telling them that they are sensible, responsible, sane people, those on the supposedly “radical fringes” of politics must listen to a public discourse that characterises them as deluded and dangerous, as prey to wild conspiracy theories and populism, and now – after Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has threatened to break one side of the Overton window’s frame by rejecting neoliberalism and endless foreign wars – as unconscionable anti-semites.

Those in the centre may have spent a lifetime cocooned from real political debate but in recent years they have faced two massive disruptions to their peace of mind: the entry of a “radical”, in the form of Corbyn, into mainstream politics; and the partial democratisation of public debate with the growth of social media. Both developments have proved most unwelcome to the centrists.

They are now horrified to hear other kinds or voices saying things that once would never have been allowed near a newspaper or micophone. When they are exposed to critical voices on new media platforms, they react by characterising them as “offensive”, “populism”, “fake news” or “demonisation”. Their instinct is to impugn their critics’ credibility and motives rather than engage with their arguments, and to shut down or limit the platforms where these alternative opinions can be aired.

Shouting into the wind

Although they have been brought superficially into contact with these ideas, like most people used to the comforts of privilege they can afford not to listen. They understand enough to know that we disagree with them, but they do not care to make sense of why. They hear our noise, they fear it even, but they do not stay quiet long enough to learn anything about what we have to say.

And for that reason we are shouting into the wind, our words carried far off where they can do no harm. When we fall silent, all we hear is a caricature of the arguments we have articulated clearly.

This could not be more evident than in the case of Chis Williamson, a political ally of Corbyn’s who like so many others has found himself consumed by the evidence-free consensus that, when Corbyn was elected party leader four years ago, Labour became “institutionally anti-semitic” overnight.

Corbyn’s commitment to tackling all kinds of racism, of course, risks smashing the consensus on Israel, a country that has been indulged by European and US leaders for decades. Israel has long been firmly in the west’s privileged fold – provided with diplomatic, financial and military assistance – even though, under Netanyahu, it no longer tries to conceal its ever more repressive policies towards the Palestinians.

Incredibly, Israel’s easily documented policies of ethnic cleansing and apartheid are not only still unpunished but it has become ever harder to talk about them. Month by month, more western states move towards outlawing the world’s first major solidarity movement with the Palestinians – an entirely non-violent one – which calls for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it concedes the same rights to Palestinians as it does to Jews in the region.

Not daring to listen

The consensual public narrative about Williamson is that he made an anti-semitic remark to Labour party members. All wings of the UK media, including supposedly liberal outlets like the Guardian, have reported that Williamson was caught saying Labour had been “too apologetic” about anti-semitism. The fact that a video recording of his statement is all over social media, showing that he didn’t say anything of the sort, is of no significance to them. The centrists aren’t interested in the evidence. They are determined to keep the privilege of their echo chamber.

The problem for the so-called “radical” is that the unwillingness of the centrists to listen is compounded by a deeper problem – that like Iannucci, they dare not listen. The mischaracterisation of Williamson’s statement can help us understand why.

What Williamson said was not that Labour had been “too apologetic” about anti-semitism, but that Labour had been “too apologetic” in the face of smears that party members were anti-semitic. He wasn’t minimising anti-semitism, he was defending the membership from a campaign of demonisation that portrays them as anti-semites – something you might think delicate centrists, so ready to take offence, might have understood.

But the centrists aren’t listening to what Williamson actually said. They hear only what they need him to have said for their worldview to continue making sense.

Trapped in an echo chamber

Here is what Iannucci, Billy Bragg, Owen Jones, Tom Watson and Margaret Hodge apparently believe Williamson said:

We in Labour are not interested in the fact that Jews experience racism from our party. We are determined to ignore the problem of anti-semitism they have identified. Instead of taking responsibility for our racism, we are going to blame Jews for the problem. When we say anti-semitism has been weaponised, what we mean is that Jews are plotting against our party. We are writing a new Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

Seen like this, Williamson and most of the Labour membership are anti-semites. But only someone trapped in their own echo chamber could really believe this is a view anyone in Labour has actually endorsed. Williamson and the members who support him aren’t saying Jews are behind the smearing of Labour. They are saying the dominant forces of our society are.

And this is where the real chasm between the centrists and the radicals opens up. The issue of anti-semitism has become a shadow play for centrists, offering them a supposed moral high ground, as they try to hold the fort against the ideological barbarians at the gate.

Two views of social conflict

There are two ways of understanding conflict in our societies.

The centrists have adopted as their own an understanding of the world cultivated for them by a lifetime of listening to, and trusting in, the state-corporate media. It presents conflict as a battle between personalities, individual and collective: between Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt; between Republicans and Democrats; between Trump and Antifa; between Julian Assange and two Swedish women; between Apple Mac and Windows; between men from Mars and women from Venus; between social conservatives and the LGBT movement; between blacks and whites; between Brexiteers and Remainers; between Jews and anti-semites.

This understanding of the world – as a battle between personalities, and the ideas and values they embody – is the one we are encouraged to focus on by the political and media class. That is for three reasons. First, presenting politics as exclusively a battle between people and ideas keeps most of us divided and feuding rather in solidarity with each other. Second, it has been relatively easy to determine the winners of this kind of conflict when the narrative can be controlled through the state-corporate media. And third, the focus on personalities stops us thinking about a much more profound and meaningful way of viewing conflict – as a class-based, economic struggle.

This way of understanding conflict sees it as structural, as a battle between those with money and power and those without. On this view, society is structured by the powerful to maintain and expand their power. This theory of conflict regards the corporate media not as a neutral platform for debating ideas and values, but as a weapon, one designed to cultivate only those ideas and values that preserve the power of the existing elite. This is what Noam Chomsky and others have called “brainwashing under freedom” by the western media.

The brutal logic of power

The structural nature of power should be obvious, if we hadn’t been so brainwashed to think otherwise by our media. To gain some perspective, consider a different historical time such as the feudal period. It would sound preposterous to offer an analysis that society then was shaped chiefly by whether the king and his barons were nice people or bad. There weren’t dramatic, structural changes every time a new prince ascended to the throne. There was a great deal of continuity and consistency over many centuries because each king and his courtiers had the same economic motive to justify a system preserving their wealth and privilege. A king could tinker with the system in ways suited to his personality, but the ruthless, brutal core of the system had to be maintained. Any king who lacked these steely qualities would be toppled by someone who didn’t.

The same applies today to the heads of major corporations. So long as it proves profitable, Exxon is not going to stop despoiling the planet to extract hydrocarbons, whoever is appointed CEO. Exxon could never appoint a “nice” CEO in the sense of someone prepared to forgo profit and shareholder value – not so long as the current neoliberal economic model dominates. Even were a ruthless CEO to have a Damascene conversion in the job, suddenly becoming a serious  environmentalist, he or she would be removed before they could take any decisions that might jeopardise the corporation’s profits.

That is why genuine radical leftists are much less interested in who becomes the figurehead of a corrupt and corrupting political system than they are in finding ways to challenge the system and thereby highlight how power operates in our society. The goal is fundamental change, now of a kind that is needed to save us as a species, rather than continuing image management.

Corbyn’s rise is so important because he threatens to lift the veil on the power structure, either because he is forced into a clash with it as he tries to implement his policies or because he is crushed by it before he can pursue those policies. Corbyn offers a unique opportunity to hold up a mirror to British society, stripping away the beautified mask to see the ugly skeleton-face below. He risks making the carefully concealed structure of power visible. And this is precisely why he is so dangerous to the status-quo-supporting centrists.

No single Jewish view

But still, aren’t Williamson and Labour members suggesting that “Jews” are the ones behind this, as Iannucci infers? When we speak of plots by the powerful, global corporations, the banks and capitalists, aren’t we really using coded language for “Jews”? And if we aren’t, how do we explain the fact that Jews are so certain that Labour is mired in “institutional anti-semitism”?

“Jews”, however, are not of one mind on this issue, except in the imagination of centrists pursuing the “Labour is institutionally anti-semitic” narrative. Certainly, there are lots of different views among British Jews about Labour. It’s just that only one strand of opinion is being given a platform by the political and media class – the one against Corbyn. That should hardly surprise us if, as I explained, the corporate media are not there to reflect different constituencies of opinion, but to enforce a consensus that serves the powerful.

The problem with Iannucci’s implicit argument that Jews should be left to decide whether Labour is anti-semitic – and that denying them that right is itself anti-semitic – is not only that it assumes Jews are of a single view. It makes two further dubious assumptions: that those who have been given a voice on the subject have actually experienced anti-semitism in Labour, and that they have no other identifiable motives for making such a claim. Neither assumption withstands scrutiny.

When the largely conservative leadership of the Board of Deputies is given centre-stage as spokesperson for British Jews on the issue of Labour and Corbyn, it can speak with no meaningful authority. Its previous leader, Jonathan Arkush, was not only an unabashed supporter of the Conservative Party, but openly welcomed its governing alliance with Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party, extreme Protestant loyalists, as “positive news” for Jews. His successor, Marie van der Zyl, argues that the Board exists “to promote a sympathetic understanding of Israel” – a position that necessarily drives her and the Board into a profound ideological clash with Corbyn and much of the Labour membership behind him.

Examples crumble on inspection

Those Jews inside Labour vociferously promoting claims of a supposed anti-semitism “crisis” in Labour, chiefly the Jewish Labour Movement and a handful of Labour MPs,  have been much less forthcoming with actual examples. There is no doubt, as we are often reminded, that former Labour MP Luciana Berger received death threats, but it is much less often noted that those threats did not come from Labour members, they came from the far right. Dossiers like the one submitted by MP Margaret Hodge have shown to be cluttered with cases of alleged anti-semitism that have nothing to do with the Labour party. And MP Ruth Smeeth’s infamous claims of an anti-semitic remark against her by black anti-racism activist Marc Wadsworth crumbled on closer inspection, as did her claim to have received 25,000 anti-semitic comments in a matter of days.

The motives of the leadership of the Jewish Labour Movement need questioning too, as an Al-Jazeera undercover investigation revealed two years ago. It exposed the fact that the JLM was working closely with Shai Masot, an agent inside the Israeli embassy whose job was to help mobilise opposition to Corbyn. Again unsurprisingly given that the media serves the interests of power, Al-Jazeera’s investigation received negligible coverage and made almost no impression outside pro-Palestinian circles despite its shocking findings.

As self-confessed Zionists, and hardline ones at that, the leaders of the JLM – representing only a few hundreds members, some of them not Jewish – regard Israel as a supremely important issue, and seem largely indifferent to what Israel is doing to the Palestinians. The JLM and its allies in Labour Friends of Israel have been central to efforts to force the Labour party to adopt a new definition of anti-semitism that conflates strong criticism of Israel with Jew hatred. Jewish supporters of Corbyn inside Labour, who have been highly critical the JLM and Labour Friends of Israel, such as Jewish Voice for Labour, have been mostly sidelined in media coverage or dismissed as the “wrong kind of Jews”.

In other words, when we hear from Jewish organisations, it is specifically the ones that have an agenda deeply at odds with Corbyn’s – either for his left wing politics or for his adamant opposition to Israeli oppression. Supposed “Jewish” opinion on Labour has simply become another echo chamber, one selected for amplification because its message is the one centrists want to hear: that Corbyn and his supporters are very bad people who must not be allowed near power.

Polls reveal ugly racism

But even if all that is true, polls suggest a significant number of ordinary Jews think there is a problem with anti-semitism in Labour. How can we dismiss or denigrate their views?

Well, if only one view of Labour and anti-semitism is being aired in the media, it is almost certain that a majority of Jews will end up believing the truth of a supposed “Corbyn threat”. Jews are no different from the rest of us. No smoke without fire, they’ll say. If the media keep telling them that Williamson said Labour was “too apologetic” about anti-semitism, even though it is documented that he didn’t, then most – those who listen to the BBC and read the papers rather than doing the hard work of their own research – will come to believe it must be true he said it. The evidence is irrelevant if a consensus has been manufactured in spite of the evidence.

Further, the fact that a majority believe something is true quite obviously doesn’t make it true – or right. And that applies to Jews just as much as any other group. If you doubt me, consider this. Polls of Israeli Jews consistently show them holding views that would appall most people in Britain, including British Jews. One survey published in December and conducted by Israeli Channel 10 TV showed that 52 per cent of Israeli Jews are prepared to admit that they think Jews are better than non-Jews, with only 20 per cent disagreeing with the statement. Some 88 per cent are disturbed at the idea of their son befriending a girl from the fifth of Israel’s population who are Arab. And three-quarters are worried by hearing a public conversation held in the mother tongue of this large, quiescent Arab minority.

So if Israeli Jews can be so obviously wrong in their beliefs and values, if the ugliest forms of racism are rife in their society after long exposure to simple-minded Arab hatred from their own political and media class, why should we expect more from British Jews – or from ourselves – after long exposure to a similar media-constructed consensus? To believe otherwise would be to assume that most of us are capable of building our own value systems from scratch, that we can develop a worldview in total isolation from the information and narratives we are bombarded with every day by the media and our politicians.

Whipping up fear

There is a plot against Corbyn to stop him getting anywhere near power. It is a very obvious one, as I documented in my last post. It has taken many forms over the past four years, but has settled on anti-semitism as the most effective smear because it is such a difficult accusation to deny if the actual evidence is not taken into account, as in Williamson’s case – and so many other examples – illustrate.

Is it not telling that the media, while going to such lengths to alert audiences to the Jewish identity of those offended by Labour anti-semitism, have so rarely mentioned that many of those supposedly doing the offending – including those suspended and expelled by Labour for anti-semitism – are Jewish themselves?The media and status-quo-enforcing politicians on both sides of the aisle have whipped up fear over anti-semitism among a portion of British Jews, just as their US equivalents did among a majority of Americans during the McCarthy witch hunts for Communists and during round-ups of Asians during World War Two.

They have done so because Corbyn poses a genuine threat, not to Jews but to a power structure the political and media establishment are deeply invested in – ideologically, financially and emotionally. This class is at war with ordinary people, Jews and non-Jews alike. And it will use any means necessary to prevent disrupting the continuing dominance of turbo-charged neoliberalism, an economic system that threatens all our futures on this planet.

One day, if we survive as a species, when neoliberalism looks as archaic and outmoded as feudalism does to us today, all of this will look much clearer. By then, we may finally understand that we were played for fools – all of us.

Abuses Show Assange Case was Never About Law

It is astonishing how often one still hears well-informed, otherwise reasonable people say about Julian Assange: “But he ran away from Swedish rape charges by hiding in Ecuador’s embassy in London.”

That short sentence includes at least three factual errors. In fact, to repeat it, as so many people do, you would need to have been hiding under a rock for the past decade – or, amounting to much the same thing, been relying on the corporate media for your information about Assange, including from supposedly liberal outlets such as the Guardian and the BBC.

At the weekend, a Guardian editorial – the paper’s official voice and probably the segment most scrutinised by senior staff – made just such a false claim:

Then there is the rape charge that Mr Assange faced in Sweden and which led him to seek refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in the first place.

The fact that the Guardian, supposedly the British media’s chief defender of liberal values, can make this error-strewn statement after nearly a decade of Assange-related coverage is simply astounding. And that it can make such a statement days after the US finally admitted that it wants to lock up Assange for 175 years on bogus “espionage” charges – a hand anyone who wasn’t being wilfully blind always knew the US was preparing to play – is still more shocking.

Assange faces no charges in Sweden yet, let alone “rape charges”. As former UK ambassador Craig Murray recently explained, the Guardian has been misleading readers by falsely claiming that an attempt by a Swedish prosecutor to extradite Assange – even though the move has not received the Swedish judiciary’s approval – is the same as his arrest on rape charges. It isn’t.

Also, Assange did not seek sanctuary in the embassay to evade the Swedish investigation. No state in the world gives a non-citizen political asylum to avoid a rape trial. The asylum was granted on political grounds. Ecuador rightly accepted Assange’s concerns that the US would seek his extradition and lock him out of sight for the rest of his life.

Assange, of course, has been proven – yet again – decisively right by recent developments.

Trapped in herd-think

The fact that so many ordinary people keep making these basic errors has a very obvious explanation. It is because the corporate media keep making these errors.

These are is not the kind of mistakes that can be explained away as an example of what one journalist has termed the problem of “churnalism”: the fact that journalists, chasing breaking news in offices depleted of staff by budget cuts, are too overworked to cover stories properly.

British journalists have had many years to get the facts straight. In an era of social media, journalists at the Guardian and the BBC have been bombarded by readers and activists with messages telling them how they are getting basic facts wrong in the Assange case. But the journalists keep doing it anyway. They are trapped in a herd-think entirely divorced from reality.

Rather than listen to experts, or common sense, these “journalists” keep regurgitating the talking points of the British security state, which are as good as identical to the talking points of the US security state.

What is so striking in the Assange coverage is the sheer number of legal anomalies in his case – and these have been accumulating relentlessly from the very start. Almost nothing in his case has gone according to the normal rules of legal procedure. And yet that very revealing fact is never noticed or commented on by the corporate media. You need to have a blind spot the size of Langley, Virginia, not to notice it.

If Assange wasn’t the head of Wikileaks, if he hadn’t embarrassed the most important western states and their leaders by divulging their secrets and crimes, if he hadn’t created a platform that allows whistleblowers to reveal the outrages committed by the western power establishment, if he hadn’t undermined that establishment’s control over information dissemination, none of the last 10 years would have followed the course it did.

If Assange had not provided us with an information revolution that undermines the narrative matrix created to serve the US security state, two Swedish women – unhappy with Assange’s sexual etiquette – would have gotten exactly what they said in their witness statements they wanted: pressure from the Swedish authorities to make him take an HIV test to give them peace of mind.

He would have been allowed back to the UK (as he, in fact, was allowed to do by the Swedish prosecutor) and would have gotten on with developing and refining the Wikileaks project. That would have helped all of us to become more critically aware of how we are being manipulated – not only by our security services but also by the corporate media that so often act as their mouthpiece.

Which is precisely why that did not happen and why Assange has been under some form of detention since 2010. Since then, his ability to perform his role as exposer of serial high-level state crimes has been ever more impeded – to the point now that he may never be able to oversee and direct Wikileaks ever again.

His current situation – locked up in Belmarsh high-security prison, in solitary confinement and deprived of access to a computer and all meaningful contact with the outside world – is so far based solely on the fact that he committed a minor infraction, breaching his police bail. Such a violation, committed by anyone else, almost never incurs prosecution, let alone a lengthy jail sentence.

So here is a far from complete list – aided by the research of John Pilger, Craig Murray and Caitlin Johnstone, and the original investigative work of Italian journalist Stefania Maurizi – of some of the most glaring anomalies in Assange’s legal troubles. There are 17 of them below. Each might conceivably have been possible in isolation. But taken together they are overwhelming evidence that this was never about enforcing the law. From the start, Assange faced political persecution.

No judicial authority

* In late summer 2010, neither of the two Swedish women alleged Assange had raped them when they made police statements. They went together to the police station after finding out that Assange had slept with them both only a matter of days apart and wanted him to be forced to take an HIV test. One of the women, SW, refused to sign the police statement when she understood the police were seeking an indictment for rape. The investigation relating to the second woman, AA, was for a sexual assault specific to Sweden. A condom produced by AA that she says Assange tore during sex was found to have neither her nor Assange’s DNA on it, undermining her credibility.

* Sweden’s strict laws protecting suspects during preliminary investigations were violated by the Swedish media to smear Assange as a rapist. In response, the Stockholm chief prosecutor, Eva Finne, took charge and quickly cancelled the investigation: “I don’t believe there is any reason to suspect that he has committed rape.” She later concluded: “There is no suspicion of any crime whatsoever.”

* The case was revived by another prosecutor, Marianne Ny, although she never questioned Assange. He spent more than a month in Sweden waiting for developments in the case, but was then told by prosecutors he was free to leave for the UK, suggesting that suspicions against him were not considered serious enough to detain him in Sweden. Nonetheless, shortly afterwards, Interpol issued a Red Notice for Assange, usually reserved for terrorists and dangerous criminals.

* The UK supreme court approved an extradition to Sweden based on a European Arrest Warrant (EAW) in 2010, despite the fact that it was not signed by a “judicial authority”, only by the Swedish prosecutor. The terms of the EAW agreement were amended by the UK government shortly after the Assange ruling to make sure such an abuse of legal procedure never occurred again.

* The UK supreme court also approved Assange’s extradition even though Swedish authorities refused to offer an assurance that he would not be extradited onwards to the US, where a grand jury was already formulating draconian charges in secret against him under the Espionage Act. The US similarly refused to give an assurance they would not seek his extradition.

* In these circumstances, Assange fled to Ecuador’s embassy in London in summer 2012, seeking political asylum. That was after the Swedish prosecutor, Marianne Ny, blocked Assange’s chance to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.

* Australia not only refused Assange, a citizen, any help during his long ordeal, but prime minister Julia Gillard even threatened to strip Assange of his citizenship, until it was pointed out that it would be illegal for Australia to do so.

* Britain, meanwhile, not only surrounded the embassy with a large police force at great public expense, but William Hague, the foreign secretary, threatened to tear up the Vienna Convention, violating Ecuador’s diplomatic territory by sending UK police into the embassy to arrest Assange.

Six years of heel-dragging

* Although Assange was still formally under investigation, Ny refused to come to London to interview him, despite similar interviews having been conducted by Swedish prosecutors 44 times in the UK in the period Assange was denied that right.

* In 2016, international legal experts in the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, which adjudicates on whether governments have complied with human rights obligations, ruled that Assange was being detained unlawfully by Britain and Sweden. Although both countries participated in the UN investigation, and had given the tribunal vocal support when other countries were found guilty of human rights violations, they steadfastly ignored its ruling in favour of Assange. UK Foreign Secretary Phillip Hammond flat-out lied in claiming the UN panel was “made up of lay people and not lawyers”. The tribunal comprises leading experts in international law, as is clear from their CVs. Nonetheless, the lie became Britain’s official response to the UN ruling. The British media performed no better. A Guardian editorial dismissed the verdict as nothing more than a “publicity stunt”.

* Ny finally relented on Assange being interviewed in November 2016, with a Swedish prosecutor sent to London after six years of heel-dragging. However, Assange’s Swedish lawyer was barred from being present. Ny was due to be questioned about the interview by a Stockholm judge in May 2017 but closed the investigation against Assange the very same day.

* In fact, correspondence that was later revealed under a Freedom of Information request – pursued by Italian investigative journalist Stefania Maurizi – shows that the British prosecution service, the CPS, pressured the Swedish prosecutor not to come to the London to interview Assange through 2010 and 2011, thereby creating the embassy standoff.

* Also, the CPS destroyed most of the incriminating correspondence to circumvent the FoI requests. The emails that surfaced did so only because some copies were accidentally overlooked in the destruction spree. Those emails were bad enough. They show that in 2013 Sweden had wanted to drop the case against Assange but had come under strong British pressure to continue the pretence of seeking his extradition. There are emails from the CPS stating, “Don’t you dare” drop the case, and most revealing of all: “Please do not think this case is being dealt with as just another extradition.”

* It also emerged that Marianne Ny had deleted an email she received from the FBI.

* Despite his interview with a Swedish prosecutor taking place in late 2016, Assange was not subseqently charged in absentia – an option Sweden could have pursued if it had thought the evidence was strong enough.

* After Sweden dropped the investigation against Assange, his lawyers sought last year to get the British arrest warrant for his bail breach dropped. They had good grounds, both because the allegations over which he’d been bailed had been dropped by Sweden and because he had justifiable cause to seek asylum given the apparent US interest in extraditing him and locking him up for life for political crimes. His lawyers could also argue convincingly that the time he had spent in confinement, first under house arrest and then in the embassy, was more than equivalent to time, if any, that needed to be served for the bail infringement. However, the judge, Emma Arbuthnot, rejected the Assange team’s strong legal arguments. She was hardly a dispassionate observer. In fact, in a properly ordered world she should have recused herself, given that she is the wife of a government whip, who was also a business partner of a former head of MI6, Britain’s version of the CIA.

* Assange’s legal rights were again flagrantly violated last week, with the collusion of Ecuador and the UK, when US prosecutors were allowed to seize Assange’s personal items from the embassy while his lawyers and UN officials were denied the right to be present.

Information dark ages

Even now, as the US prepares its case to lock Assange away for the rest of his life, most are still refusing to join the dots. Chelsea Manning has been repeatedly jailed, and is now facing ruinous fines for every day she refuses to testify against Assange as the US desperately seeks to prop up its bogus espionage claims. In Medieval times, the authorities were more honest: they simply put people on the rack.

Back in 2017, when the rest of the media were still pretending this was all about Assange fleeing Swedish “justice”, John Pilger noted:

In 2008, a secret Pentagon document prepared by the “Cyber Counterintelligence Assessments Branch” foretold a detailed plan to discredit WikiLeaks and smear Assange personally. The “mission” was to destroy the “trust” that was WikiLeaks’ “centre of gravity”. This would be achieved with threats of “exposure [and] criminal prosecution”. Silencing and criminalising such an unpredictable source of truth-telling was the aim.” …

According to Australian diplomatic cables, Washington’s bid to get Assange is “unprecedented in scale and nature”. …

The US Justice Department has contrived charges of “espionage”, “conspiracy to commit espionage”, “conversion” (theft of government property), “computer fraud and abuse” (computer hacking) and general “conspiracy”. The favoured Espionage Act, which was meant to deter pacifists and conscientious objectors during World War One, has provisions for life imprisonment and the death penalty. …

In 2015, a federal court in Washington blocked the release of all information about the “national security” investigation against WikiLeaks, because it was “active and ongoing” and would harm the “pending prosecution” of Assange. The judge, Barbara J. Rothstein, said it was necessary to show “appropriate deference to the executive in matters of national security”. This is a kangaroo court.

All of this information was available to any journalist or newspaper  that cared to search it out and wished to publicise it. And yet not one corporate media outlet – apart from Stefania Maurizi – has done so over the past nine years. Instead they have shored up a series of preposterous US and UK state narratives designed to keep Assange behind bars and propel the rest of us back into the information dark ages.

Kushner as a Colonial Administrator

In a TV interview on June 2, on the news docuseries “Axios” on the HBO channel, Jared Kushner opened up regarding many issues, in which his ‘Deal of the Century’ was a prime focus.

The major revelation made by Kushner, President Donald Trump’s adviser and son-in-law, was least surprising. Kushner believes that Palestinians are not capable of governing themselves.

Not surprising, because Kushner thinks he is capable of arranging the future of the Palestinian people without the inclusion of the Palestinian leadership. He has been pushing his so-called ‘Deal of the Century’ relentlessly, while including in his various meets and conferences countries such as Poland, Brazil and Croatia, but not Palestine.

Indeed, this is what transpired at the Warsaw conference on ‘peace and security’ in the Middle East. The same charade, also led by Kushner, is expected to be rebooted in Bahrain on June 25.

Much has been said about the subtle racism in Kushner’s words, reeking with the stench of old colonial discourses where the natives were seen as lesser, incapable of rational thinking beings who needed the civilized ‘whites’ of the western hemisphere to help them cope with their backwardness and inherent incompetence.

Kushner, whose credentials are merely based on his familial connections to Trump and family friendship with Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, is now poised to be the colonial administrator of old, making and enforcing the law while the hapless natives have no other option but to either accommodate or receive their due punishment.

This is not an exaggeration. In fact, according to leaked information concerning Kushner’s ‘Deal of the Century,’ and published in the Israeli daily newspaper, Israel Hayom, if Palestinian groups refuse to accept the US-Israeli diktats, “the US will cancel all financial support to the Palestinians and ensure that no country transfers funds to them.”

In the HBO interview, Kushner offered the Palestinians a lifeline. They could be considered capable of governing themselves should they manage to achieve the following: “a fair judicial system … freedom of the press, freedom of expression, tolerance for all religions.”

The fact that Palestine is an occupied country, subject in every possible way to Israel’s military law, and that Israel has never been held accountable for its 52-year occupation seems to be of no relevance whatsoever, as far as Kushner is concerned.

On the contrary, the subtext in all of what Kushner has said in the interview is that Israel is the antithesis to the unquestionable Palestinian failure. Unlike Palestine, Israel needs to do little to demonstrate its ability to be a worthy peace partner.

While the term ‘US bias towards Israel’ is as old as the state of Israel itself, what is hardly discussed are the specifics of that bias, the decidedly condescending, patronizing and, often, racist view that US political classes have of Palestinians – and all Arabs and Muslims, for that matter; and the utter infatuation with Israel, which is often cited as a model for democracy, judicial transparency and successful ‘anti-terror’ tactics.

According to Kushner a ‘fair judicial system’ is a conditio sine qua non to determine a country’s ability to govern itself. But is the Israeli judicial system “fair” and “democratic”?

Israel does not have a single judicial system, but two. This duality has, in fact, defined Israeli courts from the very inception of Israel in 1948. This de facto apartheid system openly differentiates between Jews and Arabs, a fact that is true in both civil and criminal law.

“Criminal law is applied separately and unequally in the West Bank, based on nationality alone (Israeli versus Palestinian), inventively weaving its way around the contours of international law in order to preserve and develop its ‘(illegal Jewish) settlement enterprise’,” Israeli scholar, Emily Omer-Man, explained in her essay ‘Separate and Unequal’.

In practice, Palestinians and Israelis who commit the exact same crime will be judged according to two different systems, with two different procedures: “The settler will be processed according to the Israeli Penal Code (while) the Palestinian will be processed according to military order.”

This unfairness is constituent of a massively unjust judicial apparatus that has defined the Israeli legal system from the onset. Take the measure of administrative detention as an example. Palestinians can be held without trial and without any stated legal justification. Tens of thousands of Palestinians have been subjected to this undemocratic ‘law’ and hundreds of them are currently held in Israeli jails.

It is ironic that Kushner raised the issue of freedom of the press, in particular, as Israel is being derided for its dismal record in that regard. Israel has reportedly committed 811 violations against Palestinian journalists since the start of the ‘March of Return’ in Gaza in March 2018. Two journalists – Yaser Murtaja and Ahmed Abu Hussein – were killed and 155 were wounded by Israeli snipers.

Like the imbalanced Israeli judicial system, targeting the press is also a part of a protracted pattern. According to a press release issued by the Palestinian Journalists Union last May, Israel has killed 102 Palestinian journalists since 1972.

The fact that Palestinian intellectuals, poets and activists have been imprisoned for Facebook and other social media posts should tell us volumes about the limits of Israel’s freedom of press and expression.

It is also worth mentioning that in June 2018, the Israeli Knesset voted for a bill that prohibits the filming of Israeli soldiers as a way to mask their crimes and shelter them from any future legal accountability.

As for freedom of religion, despite its many shortcomings, the Palestinian Authority hardly discriminates against religious minorities. The same cannot be said about Israel.

Although discrimination against non-Jews in Israel has been the raison d’être of the very idea of Israel, the Nation-State Law of July 2018 further cemented the superiority of the Jews and inferior status of everyone else.

According to the new Basic Law, Israel is “the national home of the Jewish people” only and “the right to exercise national self-determination is unique to the Jewish people.”

Palestinians do not need to be lectured on how to meet Israeli and American expectations, nor should they ever aspire to imitate the undemocratic Israeli model. What they urgently need, instead, is international solidarity to help them win the fight against Israeli occupation, racism and apartheid.