Category Archives: Propaganda

Nicaragua: The War of 2018

Nearly all US regime-change wars (Venezuela, Syria, Honduras, Ukraine, Libya, Yugoslavia, etc.) are wars of deception, fabrication, propaganda, coups and false flags. Sometimes there is a direct US military assault, more often not. These wars are waged by proxies, media puppets, hired hit-men, torturers, rapists, vandals, saboteurs, death squads and criminal gangs, through mock or pretextual social protest movements, denunciations by “human rights” organizations, and by internal and external economic assaults on the country’s people, transportation, commerce and communications. These were the methods of the 2018 war against Nicaragua, for which the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) alone, a well-known US regime-change shop, has spent 4.1 million USD on Nicaraguan NGOs since 2014.

There is little mystery why the US would take pains to overthrow the government of little Nicaragua (population 6 million). In addition to Nicaragua’s current and historical geo-strategic importance, President Daniel Ortega’s administration greatly improved people’s lives, presenting what is often called “the threat of a good example.”

Prior to the war and during the Ortega administration, poverty and extreme poverty were halved. Basic healthcare and education were free. Illiteracy fell from one-third of the population to nearly zero. Access to electricity went from a little over half the population to 90%. Through state subsidy programs, small and medium agricultural producers had achieved near-complete food sovereignty for the country. In defiance of the dictates of the US and the global neoliberal order, Nicaragua failed to privatize essential public services, and kept friendly relations with Cuba, Venezuela, Russia, China and Iran.

Also notable, in light of the events of 2018, Nicaragua built a national police force recognized by the UN for its humane, community policing, headed until mid-2018 by Aminta Granera Sacasa, former nun, mother of three and Sandinista revolutionary, who during her tenure was among the most popular politicians in the country.

In the eyes of the US, these achievements are capital crimes.

Pretextual student protests covered the launch of the war on April 18, 2018. The protests came following announced changes to the country’s social security programs, falsely presented by the media as austerity measures. In fact, the changes avoided the austerity plan sought by the Nicaraguan business lobby (COSEP) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). COSEP called for student protests, which were led by relatively well-to-do students from the private universities but directed toward the Polytechnic University (UPOLI) campus, one of the two main public universities that serve poor and working class students.

The police killing of a student protestor was mis-reported on the first day of protests (the student later turned up alive and unharmed). The next day, three more killings at the UPOLI were wrongly attributed to the police.

The UPOLI was taken over by armed opposition forces (not UPOLI students) demanding the government resign. The daycare center, reproductive health center and women’s dormitories were vandalized. The leader of the UPOLI student union, Leonel Morales, publicly denounced the armed opposition, and was tortured and nearly killed.

Directing operations at the universities and elsewhere was Felix Madriaga, US raised and Harvard trained, and funded by the NED. Madriaga’s role was revealed by gang leader “Viper,” whose criminal organization was enlisted by the opposition.

By April 22nd the government withdrew the announced social security changes, but opposition forces continued widespread destruction and assaults, now concealed under pretextual protests against police repression.

Opposition tactics included 100s of roadblocks across the country meant to wreak havoc on the country’s transportation systems and economy. These roadblocks, called tranques, became opposition paramilitary bases, terrorizing the population with killings, beatings, torture, rape and extortion. A 10-year-old girl was kidnapped and raped at the tranque in Las Maderas, and the opposition attacked and set fire to public buildings as well as homes of Sandinista loyalists.

The Catholic Church hierarchy, ostensibly mediating between the government and the opposition, played a leading role in organizing the tranques, something Bishop Silvio Baez was caught on tape bragging about, as well as calling for President Ortega to be put before a firing squad.

Yet the government agreed to opposition demands to withdraw the police from the streets. For nearly two months the police were confined to barracks while the war continued. This controversial, pacifist move may have saved lives by avoiding police confrontations with opposition forces while they were fresh and well-supplied with money, food, hand-held mortar-launchers, guns and other weaponry. Meanwhile, organized civilian self-defense forces mitigated the violence of opposition forces, even managing to remove many tranques. Eventually the police returned to the streets, and after three months of war, relative calm had returned to Nicaragua, although opposition killings of police continued.

Over 250 people were killed and many more injured. More than 250 buildings were burned down or ransacked, with public sector property losses of over $230 million USD. GDP fell nearly 4%, a loss to the economy of nearly 1.5 billion USD, with job losses of up to 300,000.

Not conceding defeat, both houses of the US legislature unanimously approved presidential authority for sanctions barring Nicaragua from receiving aid from international financial institutions, a virtual economic embargo, illegal under the UN Charter.

From the very first day of the war, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the media spun a relentless and knowingly false “human rights” narrative of police repression by a dictatorial state, uniformly attributing to police the injuries and deaths inflicted by the opposition or from accidents. Aiding this propaganda effort were a tiny political party and grouplets of former prominent Sandinistas, who claim left status but lack popular support and have long been part of the US-backed rightist-led opposition.

Yet Nicaraguans have waged an heroic struggle against the most powerful empire in history. The peoples of the world owe them an incalculable debt of gratitude.

Venezuelan Communes Protect the State

Direct democracy works like a charm. Check out Venezuela’s Communes….

Venezuela’s ubiquitous Communes are proof that direct democracy works. And, interestingly enough, those same Communes are powerful buffers to attempted coups, protecting the sanctity of direct democracy in their country.

In all likelihood, John Bolton and Trump and Pence and Pompeo and Rubio were shocked beyond recognition by the failed coup attempt they helped orchestrate to overpower a democratically elected government south of the border, colloquially known as extending the concept of Manifest Destiny to its fullest extent.

To Bolton’s/Rubio’s dismay, opposition leader Juan Guaidó proved to be a clown dressed up as a proponent of democratic spirits, a motivator, a savior. Well, he’s been tossed into the dustbin as a miserable failure, an international pariah who has been shamed into seclusion. His American co-conspirators look like big fat dupes.

Interestingly enough, the citizens of Venezuela did not answer Juan Guaidó’s official call to assemble, to revolt, and eliminate Maduro, overthrowing the dictator. Those were the instructions to a public that remained dead silent and in place. Nobody showed up for the well-advertised great event, as Juan Guaidó wanted to “Make Venezuela Great Again.”

Only in the U.S. do people fall for such claptrap. Venezuela’s politically astute citizens know hollow sloganeering when they hear it. After all, they have direct democracy that works like a charm. Why change anything?

Localized political orders, Communes in Venezuela, have proven to be a safety net for families and their communities. It’s direct democracy at work, and it works remarkably well under the toughest of circumstances, as tough as it gets, which goes to demonstrate the mettle of direct democracy.

As for proof of the effectiveness and importance and steadfastness of Venezuela’s Communes, the Indio Caricuao Commune in southwest Caracas was one of the first targets of Juan Guaidó’s supporters. They looted the Commune and set fire to its headquarters. Local residents used the building for meetings, and it housed a Commune-operated textile mill, which funded projects for the local community.

It’s instructive that Guaidó’s supporters selected a prominent Commune as their first line of attack and not Maduro. Of course, the logical upshot to that tactical move is that they recognized the power of Communes superseding the power of Maduro, which, in fact, is the case throughout the country of Venezuela. Maduro is more figurehead than manipulator of the political strings. The people control those strings via direct democracy, by and large, throughout all of Venezuela.

Under the tutelage of former president Hugo Chavez, Communes were established. He viewed the Communes as “fundamental building blocks of a new communal state” based upon self-management by local democracy, by local communities.

Nowadays, according to Venezuela’s Ministry of Communes, the country has nearly 47,000 registered communal councils throughout the country and close to 3,000 Communes. The Communes have been consolidating their networks now for over a decade and represent a powerful force in the country, arguably, more powerful than President Maduro.

According to Commune leaders like Gsus Garcia of the Altos de Lidice Socialist Commune, they acknowledge that Chavistas (Chavez supporters) were at the heart of creation of Communes, but the Communes include residents that oppose Maduro and some that favor him. Their focus is on their local community, not on Maduro.1

A prime example is the Panal 2021 Commune, consisting of 3,600 families. The Commune initially funded itself by holding raffles and received state funds, but now it is self-financing and self-managed. Panal 2012 has (1) its own bakeries, (2) a textile mill, (3) a sugar packaging plant and (4) an expansive food storage and distribution centre to make sure no families go hungry.

Proceeds from communally operated businesses are deposited in a communal bank with citizen’s assemblies deciding how to redistribute funds for community projects. It is direct democracy at work.

Similarly, all across the land, Communes generate their own revenue and take care of their local communities. No state funds needed. Not only do Communes take care of local communities, but the Communes have also resorted to feeding urban centers that are not organized, as Panal 2021 linked up with other Communes in the countryside to bring food to the cities and sell it at much cheaper prices than private supermarkets. Thus, Venezuelans are fed via direct democracy at work.

According to sources in Venezuela:

Regardless of what happens next in Venezuela… the strong level of community organization built up over the past two decades will not go away easily. There’s still a lot of strength, a high level of organization. Wherever you look, you will find a commune, a cooperative, and some kind of committee or organization… If [the government] was to fall, that organization will still be here; this huge spirit of participation will still exist, and it will be a problem for any government that tries to dismantle it.2

It is likely that international media sources have mischaracterized the status of Venezuela with a feeding frenzy of falsehoods that simply fed on its own story lines. But, then again, that’s the new normal.

Meanwhile, in spite of extreme dire circumstances, and including some cases of people suffering, by and large, Venezuela is beholden to Communes that take care of their own communities, feed them, clothe them, doctor them, and protect them, families working together to determine their own destiny.

It’s called direct democracy. It works!

Postscript: On Contact with Chris Hedges interviewed reporter Ben Norton, who spent one month in Venezuela. That video can be viewed here:

  1. Frederico Fuentes, Venezuela’s Crisis: A View From The Communes, Countercurrents, May 12, 2019.
  2. Ibid.

Venezuela: A Risk to Dollar Hegemony

After the new coup attempt – or propaganda coup – Venezuela lives in a state of foreign imposed insecurity. The failed coup was executed on 30 April by Juan Guaidó, the self-proclaimed and Washington-trained and endorsed “interim President”, and the opposition leader, Leopoldo López, who was hurriedly freed from house arrest by Guaidó with a couple of dozens of armed-to-the-teeth defecting military, who apparently didn’t quite know what they were up to. Because, when all was over after a few hours, most of them asked to be re-integrated into their military units – and, as far as I know, they were readmitted.

These are Washington’s puppets and “coup-makers”. When one sees that the so-called coup was defeated in a mere few hours, without any Venezuelan military interference, one wonders whether this was really planned as a coup, or merely as a “public relations” coup, for the media to ‘recharge’ their narrative of Maduro dictatorship, of a suffering people, of famine, of lack of medication and medical supplies all due to the Maduro government’s mismanagement of Venezuela’s natural riches, the lie-slander we have been used to for the last several years.

For sure, the Venezuelan people are suffering. According to a CEPR report sanctions have killed some 40,000 Venezuelans. And this, not because of President Maduro’s squandering of Venezuelan resources, but because of a brutal, merciless outside interference, principally from the United States and to a lesser degree from Washington’s European vassals. If you listen to the ceaseless drumbeat for war against Venezuela and her democratically elected President Nicolas Maduro, by Pompeo, Bolton, Pence and Trump, you can only wonder and shake your head.  What pathological and schizophrenic world are we living in? And are we all sick to the bone, that we tolerate it, that nobody of and in power – other than Russia and China – say ‘Halt’ to this deadly fiasco?

This article by Eric Zuesse, including leaked documents from Pentagon’s southern command, SOUTHCOM, will give the non-believers plenty of reasons to change their minds.

Western humanity has reached an abject state of mental disease. We allow the slaughter of tens of millions of people by the United States and its NATO allies in US-provoked wars and conflicts around the world, indiscriminate killing for resources and monetary dominion. But we follow the same killer nation in accusing a quiet, peace-loving, fully democratic country, like Venezuela, to be utterly trampled on and punished with the most horrific monetary and economic sanctions – all illegal, by any standards of law – and our western “leaders” know it all.

These western heads of state and their chosen minions do not have the guts or political courage to say ‘STOP’. They could, if they had any conscience left. These so-called leaders (sic) of vassal states, they have it all in their sovereign power. They could together decide that enough is enough, separate themselves from the Washington horrors and form a real European Union, a union to say no to the tyrant, a union that is capable of calling its own sovereign shots, decide its own destiny, a destiny of alliance with peaceful countries like Venezuela, Cuba, Russia, China, Iran and more, basically all those that have decided not to bend to the dictate of Washington.

Why don’t they? Have they been bought, or received death threats if they dare to deviate? All is possible, even likely, because it is unfathomable that the leaders, the political heads of all those 28 EU countries are hell-bent to believe the lies being propagated day-in and day-out, drip-by-miserable drip. It is not possible.

Back to Venezuela.

The western public at large must never be too long without devastating smear-news about a regime the empire wants to “change”. It is clear that the nefarious pair in Venezuela, Guaidó-López, followed strict Washington instructions. Guaidó would never dare do anything without prior approval and directives from his masters in Washington.

Despite threats after pompous threats and false accusations and failed coup attempts, President Maduro holds on to a solid backing of six million voters who supported him, more than two thirds of those who went to the ballots, on 20 May 2018. He also has the solid support of the military, who have a revolutionary integrity and conscience unknown to the west. And not least, he has the support of Venezuela’s solid allies, Russia and China.

Nevertheless, the United States will not let go. Why do they risk everything – even a devastating war?

Well, there are several reasons. First you may think, “It’s the Oil, stupid!”, and second, the turbo-capitalist, neoliberal turning-to-neofascist US will not tolerate a socialist state in what they still consider their ‘backyard’.  Well, all of this is true. Venezuela has indeed the world’s largest hydrocarbon reserves, and it is conveniently close to The US’s Texas refineries.

However, the key reason for Washington forcing ‘regime change’ is that Venezuela has stopped selling her hydrocarbon in US dollars, and, may therefore become a risk for the US-dollar hegemony around the globe. That is a punishable violation for the empire. At least two heads of state were assassinated because they dared abandoning the unwritten and unlawful, but nevertheless US-imposed rule to sell their oil and gas in US-dollars, Saddam Hussein of Iraq and Muammar Gaddafi. Both had started trading their oil in other than US-dollar currencies and were strong advocates for others to do likewise.

Some three years ago, Venezuela started selling her oil and gas in other currencies than the US-dollar, a cardinal sin.

Global dollar hegemony, meaning the full control of economies throughout the globe – a control that is rapidly fading – can only be maintained by a world flooded by dollars and with a monetary system that is entirely controlled by the FED and its associated American banks, by an international transfer system, SWIFT, that channels every dollar to be moved between countries, whether it is the US or any other country – through a US bank, in either New York or London. That still being the case, the US dollar remains the key reserve currency in the world, though rapidly fading. And second, through the obligatory trading of a commodities – like hydrocarbon energy – ONLY in US-dollars. The latter also allows the empire to print as many dollars as it needs to keep the world economy under control – and punish those that do not want to bend to Washington’s rule, with sanctions and confiscation of assets abroad, because — all transactions are controlled by the US banking system.

First, the dollar as a reserve currency, is fading rapidly, as ever fewer countries entrust their reserves to a largely recognized ‘fake’, fiat and debt-based currency, the US-dollar. They convert their dollar reserve holdings gradually into other assets; i.e. gold, or the Chinese Yuan which has become high in demand over the last few years. Logically, because China is already known as the undisputable strongest economy in the world, hence, the Chinese currency has a special reserve standing. However, the mainstream media do not report on this.

Second, with a growing number of countries that do no longer respect the Washington imposed US-dollar rule for hydrocarbon trading – the demand for dollars decreases rapidly – a direct confrontation to the United States’ dollar hegemony over the world. Russia and China have years ago stopped trading in US dollars, not only hydrocarbons, but everything. India and Iran have started doing the same. Other countries will follow – and Venezuela, one of the vanguards with the world’s largest oil reserves – should, therefore, not be allowed to become a model for other nations. The Trump Administration and its Wall Street masters will do what it takes to stop Venezuela from abandoning the dollar.

Hence, regime change and taking over the vast oil assets is of the order – with war, if necessary – “all options are on the table” – all under the blatantly fakest pretexts of “humanitarian intervention” and bringing back democracy – when the world knows that anywhere the US intervenes, democracy is abolished. In fact, what the US has managed – and wantonly so – is kill any democracy that ever existed.

Under these circumstances, Venezuela’s transgression in shedding the dollar for oil trading – and for trading in general – amounts to a serious threat to the dollar hegemony and must be suffocated. That’s what these coup attempts are all about. If they succeed, the dollar-currency collapse could be postponed for a bit, and taking possession of the oil reserves would be the icing on the cake.

What’s left after the dollar dominance over the world is gone, once the key tool, economic sanctions, for manipulating nations into doing the bidding of the emperor is no longer effective?  A broken US economy, one that already today depends heavily on the war and weapons industry – in fact, for over 50% of US GDP, when all associated manufacturing and services are counted. What’s left is the overwhelming firepower of that belligerent warmongering and war-dependent nation, with which the US and NATO could pull the rest of the world into oblivion.

That’s what’s at stake with any nation that wants to kick the petro-dollar. Also, Iran, of course. But both Iran and Venezuela have strong protection from Russia and China – two countries that freed themselves from the fangs of the dollar system years ago. And they are offering a bright future with viable Eastern monetary alternatives, mostly based on the Chinese Yuan and other currencies linked to SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization) members.

Venezuela – Venceremos!

The Two Narratives of Palestine: The People Are United, the Factions Are Not

The International Conference on Palestine held in Istanbul between April 27-29 brought together many speakers and hundreds of academics, journalists, activists and students from Turkey and all over the world.

The Conference was a rare opportunity aimed at articulating a discourse of international solidarity that is both inclusive and forward thinking.

There was near consensus that the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement must be supported, that Donald Trump’s so-called ‘Deal of the Century’ must be defeated and that normalization must be shunned.

When it came to articulating the objectives of the Palestinian struggle, however, the narrative became indecisive and unclear. Although none of the speakers made a case for a two-state solution, our call for a one democratic state from Istanbul – or any other place outside Palestine – seemed partially irrelevant. For the one state solution to become the overriding objective of the pro-Palestine movement worldwide, the call has to come from a Palestinian leadership that reflects the true aspirations of the Palestinian people.

One speaker after the other called for Palestinian unity, imploring Palestinians for guidance and for articulating a national discourse. Many in the audience concurred with that assessment as well. One audience member even blurted out the cliched question: “Where is the Palestinian Mandela?” Luckily, the grandson of Nelson Mandela, Zwelivelile “Mandla” Mandela, was himself a speaker. He answered forcefully that Mandela was only the face of the movement, which encompassed millions of ordinary men and women, whose struggles and sacrifices ultimately defeated apartheid.

Following my speech at the Conference, I met with several freed Palestinian prisoners as part of my research for my forthcoming book on the subject.

Some of the freed prisoners identified as Hamas and others as Fatah. Their narrative seemed largely free from the disgraced factional language we are bombarded with in the media, but also liberated from the dry and detached narratives of politics and academia.

“When Israel placed Gaza under siege and denied us family visitations, our Fatah brothers always came to our help,” a freed Hamas prisoner told me. “And whenever Israeli prison authorities mistreated any of our brothers from any factions, including Fatah, we all resisted together.”

A freed Fatah prisoner told me that when Hamas and Fatah fought in Gaza in the summer of 2007, the prisoners suffered most. “We suffered because we felt that the people who should be fighting for our freedom, were fighting each other. We felt betrayed by everyone.”

To effectuate disunity, Israeli authorities relocated Hamas and Fatah prisoners into separate wards and prisons. They wanted to sever any communication between the prisoners’ leadership and to block any attempts at finding common ground for national unity.

The Israeli decision was not random. A year earlier, in May 2006, the leadership of the prisoners met in a prison cell to discuss the conflict between Hamas, which had won the legislative elections in the Occupied Territories, and the PA’s main party, Fatah.

These leaders included Marwan Barghouthi of Fatah, Abdel Khaleq al-Natshe from Hamas and representatives from other major Palestinian groups. The outcome was the National Conciliation Document, arguably the most important Palestinian initiative in decades.

What became known as the Prisoner’s Document was significant because it was not some self-serving political compromise achieved in a luxurious hotel in some Arab capital, but a genuine articulation of national Palestinian priorities, presented by the most respected and honored sector in Palestinian society.

Israel immediately denounced the document.

Instead of engaging all factions in a national dialogue around the document, PA President, Mahmoud Abbas, gave rival factions an ultimatum to either accept or reject the document in full. The spirit of the unity in the prisoners’ initiative was betrayed by Abbas and the warring factions. Eventually, Fatah and Hamas fought their own tragic war in Gaza the following year.

On speaking to the prisoners after listening to the discourse of academics, politicians and activists, I was able to decipher a disconnection between the Palestinian narrative on the ground and our own perception of this narrative from outside.

The prisoners display unity in their narrative, a clear sense of purpose, and determination to carry on with their resistance. While it is true that they all identified as members in one political group or another, I am yet to interview a single prisoner who placed factional interests above national interest. This should not come as a surprise. Indeed, these men and women have been detained, tortured and have endured many years in prison for being Palestinian resisters, regardless of their ideological and factional leanings.

The myth of the disunited and dysfunctional Palestinian is very much an Israeli invention that precedes the inception of Hamas, and even Fatah. This Zionist notion, which has been embraced by the current Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, argues that ‘Israel has no peace partner‘. Despite the hemorrhaging concessions by the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah, this claim has remained a fixture in Israeli politics to this day.

Political unity aside, the Palestinian people perceive ‘unity’ in a whole different political context than that of Israel and, frankly, many of us outside Palestine.

‘Al-Wihda al-Wataniya’ or national unity is a generational quest around a set of principles, including resistance, as a strategy for the liberation of Palestine, Right of Return for refugees, and self-determination for the Palestinian people as the ultimate goals. It is around this idea of unity that the leadership of Palestinian prisoners drafted their document in 2006, in the hope of averting a factional clash and keeping the struggle centered on resistance against Israeli occupation.

The ongoing Great March of Return in Gaza is another daily example of the kind of unity the Palestinian people are striving for. Despite heavy losses, thousands of protesters insist on their unity while demanding their freedom, Right of Return and an end to the Israeli siege.

For us to claim that Palestinians are not united because Fatah and Hamas cannot find common ground is simply unjustified. National unity and political unity between factions are two different issues.

It is important that we do not make the mistake of confusing the Palestinian people with factions, national unity around resistance and rights with political arrangements between political groups.

As far as vision and strategy are concerned, perhaps it is time to read the prisoners’ National Conciliation Document’. It was written by the Nelson Mandelas of Palestine, thousands of whom remain in Israeli prisons to this day.

US Government, Corporate Media Join Forces in Neoliberal War Against Venezuela

Graffiti opposing US imperialism in Venezuela. Photo credit: Aljazeera.com

President Donald Trump and the likes of the New York Times might seem like strange bedfellows but they have found common cause in seeking regime change in Venezuela, a country that poses no threat to the United States but sits on the world’s largest proven oil reserves. Trump administration sanctions have already killed tens of thousands of Venezuelans while U.S. media outlets drum up support for a possible military intervention to replace the socialists in Caracas with free market ideologues eager to privatize the oil industry.

On Sunday, the latest round of U.S. economic sanctions took effect that are designed to completely shut down Venezuela’s oil trade, which accounts for more than 95 percent of the country’s export earnings. The roughly $31 billion in annual oil revenue also makes up a significant proportion of Venezuela’s real GDP, which fell almost 18 percent last year from a level of just over $370 billion.

The United States intensified sanctions against Venezuela in late January after U.S.-endorsed opposition leader Juan Guaido illegally attempted to declare himself the interim president while calling on the legitimate democratically-elected leader, President Nicolas Maduro, to step down. Washington immediately seized about $7 billion in Venezuelan oil assets and basically helped Guaido take control of Citgo, the PDVSA’s U.S.-based refining unit.

Maduro, for his part, accused Washington of trying to orchestrate a coup to install Guaido as a puppet and control Venezuela’s oil resources. Based on U.S. statements and actions before and since, the Venezuelan president’s characterization of the situation is 100 percent accurate.

In fact, ever since they began tightening sanctions in August of 2017, Trump administration officials have hardly tried to conceal their objectives – they have publicly stated that the U.S. intends to privatize Venezuela’s oil industry while eradicating the scourge of socialism.

Guaido, predictably, has openly expressed his desire to free up Venezuela’s oil fields for U.S. corporations to feast on after years of nationalization.

Regardless of the motives, U.S. measures have already had devastating consequences. A UN special rapporteur along with several human rights attorneys have said that the U.S. economic sanctions in Venezuela rise to the level of crimes against humanity and violate several international treaties including the Geneva Conventions and Nuremberg Charter.

The Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) in a study co-authored by world renowned economist Jeffrey Sachs concluded that U.S. sanctions against Venezuela are responsible for at least 40,000 deaths from 2017-2018.

The sanctions have led to reductions in imports of life-saving goods such as food, medicine, and medical equipment and have exacerbated an ongoing electricity crisis, according to the report released last week. The CEPR economists warned that the newer sanctions unveiled in 2019 – including the ones that took effect on Sunday – will have even more destructive ramifications, which means the death toll will grow significantly.

While the Trump administration has been transparently imperialistic, playing a more insidious role is the New York Times which has collaborated with members of Guaido’s fake government to push false narratives to win public support for overthrowing Maduro.

The New York Times’ campaign to oust Maduro is truly a case study in manufacturing consent. The Times has executed an impressive “communications strategy” from the editorial board right down to reporters in the field to place the blame squarely on Maduro and his socialist policies.

The campaign was launched on January 24 when the New York Times editorial board decided to publicly endorse Guaido as a “fresh young leader” and, in the same article, urged the international community to pressure Maduro into fleeing abroad.

Less than a week later, the Times allowed the pretender to write an op-ed in which he tried to blackmail Venezuela’s military leaders by offering amnesty in exchange for overthrowing Maduro.

Since then, NYT reporters have filed biased reports from the field including one that appeared on March 8 that portrayed Maduro as AWOL while the people of Venezuela suffered through an electricity crisis. However, Mark Weisbrot, who happens to be the other co-author of the CEPR study, exposed the NYT’s duplicity.

“This is amazing: buried deep in this NYT article is a sentence indicating the Trump economic sanctions are a major cause of the deadly blackout in Venezuela, contradicting the rest of the article. No one has noticed; this should have been the main story,” Weisbrot said in a tweet on March 10.

A month later an even more disturbing leg of the propaganda campaign was exposed. The New York Times produced, posted and tweeted a 5-minute anti-Maduro video narrated by contributor Joanna Hausmann. The clip, viewed by nearly 800,000 users, demonizes figures such as Noam Chomsky and Senator Bernie Sanders for daring to oppose military intervention in Venezuela.

Grayzoneproject journalist Anya Parampil uncovered the most galling aspect of the entire episode: The New York Times failed to disclose that Joanna Hausmann’s father, Ricardo Hausmann, is an economic adviser to Guaido and former planning minister who helped run Venezuela’s central bank in the pre-Chavez era.

“NYT fails to disclose that @joannahausmann is the daughter of Guaidó advisor @ricardo_hausmann, who was instrumental in neoliberalizing & destroying VZLA’s economy in the 90s & wants to do it again. Weak journalism!” Parampil tweeted on April 1 with a link to Hausmann’s video clip.

According to research conducted by Parampil, Ricardo Hausmann emerged from the Caracas-based Instituto de Estudios Superiores de Administración (IESA). The group became known as “the IESA Boys,” in reference to “the Chicago Boys” – Milton Friedman’s clique from the University of Chicago who during the 1970s advised Chilean dictator Pinochet to implement neoliberal policies after the CIA helped overthrow Allende’s socialist government.

Moreover, Mr. Hausmann apparently does not believe sanctions will be enough. In a piece for Project Syndicate published last January he even proposed a “D-Day” type strategy for Venezuela.

“A negotiated political transition remains the preferred option, but military intervention by a coalition of regional forces may be the only way to end a man-made famine threatening millions of lives,” Hausmann wrote in an article entitled “D Day Venezuela.”

Guaido, who is also an IESA Boy, wants to usher in the same “shock therapy” policies that ruined Venezuela’s economy, sparked a national revolt and paved the way for the rise of Hugo Chavez in 1998. Chavez, then, implemented “evil” socialistic policies that resulted in lower unemployment, reduction in poverty, eradication of illiteracy, improved housing, and increased accessibility to healthcare. But that is a story for another day.

Debunking Myths of ‘Red-Brown’ Alliances

Recently, a certain political concept has been resurrected that warrants interrogation. The notion of a ‘red-brown’ alliance has been thrown around so ubiquitously as a form of political slander that any substantive meaning to the term has been evacuated. Rather than accurately designating any associations that may exist between the left and far right, the idea of a ‘red-brown’ coalition, or ‘querfront’ (cross-front in German), is a generic abstraction cited to mischaracterize a perceived convergence of political opposites. In many respects, it is a stand-in for a similar hypothesis used by liberals — that of ‘horseshoe theory’, or the impression that the far left and far right intersect at both ends of the ideological spectrum — so as to be permitted diction for self-identified leftists. The application of the ‘red-brown’ smear produces the same result in that it situates politics from a centrist vantage point and likens the actual left to fascism. It disappears the anti-fascism of the left and anti-communism of the right while leaving the moderate center at a comfortable distance from the right-wing of which it is the more frequent collaborator.

The ‘red-brown’ character assassinations make analogies about the present day based on a counterfeit history of World War II. No analysis of the mythos would be complete without the inclusion of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, one of the most misunderstood and historically falsified events of the war. During the 1930s, the USSR tried to maintain its autonomy during a period of rapid industrialization that accomplished in a decade what the British needed a century to achieve. In self defense, Moscow was forced to exploit the contradictions between the ‘democratic’ imperial nations and the authoritarian Axis powers when it came under dual threat. If war could not be avoided, the USSR certainly did not wish to take on the Wehrmacht alone. Stalin made diplomatic attempts in the lead up to the war at aligning with Britain and France, who were as keen on the idea of putting an end to the Soviet Union as Germany, which were rebuffed. In reply, the British and the French did everything within their power to try to push the Hitlerites into a war with the Soviets by signing the Munich Agreement with Germany and Italy in 1938.

More than an appeasement, the Munich Betrayal essentially handed over Czechoslovakia to Hitler as a deposit to try to persuade Germany to begin his ‘Master Plan for the East’ where the West would be in a position to play peacemaker. Meanwhile, Poland, Turkey and the Baltic states all signed treaties with Hitler as well, but for obvious reasons history only chooses to remember the Nazi-Soviet non-aggression agreement which followed a year later. Stalin knew Germany would eventually ‘drive to the East’ but needed time if the USSR was to withstand a Wehrmacht invasion and the agreement thwarted the West’s plans of using Hitler to weaken Moscow. After the treaty was signed in 1939, The New York Times declared that “Hitler is brown communism, Stalinism is red fascism” and to this day the cult followers of Trotsky are repeating this lie.

If it isn’t the distortion of the Hitler-Stalin pact, the infamous 1934 Night of the Long Knives in Germany is adduced to illustrate the historical instance of a supposed red-brown coalescence and its inevitable results, when the so-called ‘left wing’ of the Nazi Party led by Gregor Strasser and his supporters were murdered in Hitler’s Röhm purge. While the Strasserites may have self-identified as ‘socialists’, they were just as steeped in anti-semitism and were anything but left — much less ‘red.’ Strasser made his brand of pseudo-socialism discernibly anti-Marxist when he distinguished it as free of a “soulless Jewish-materialist outlook” while addressing the Reichstag in 1925. Once Hitler was finished using the Strasserites in his cynical and cunning scheme, they were liquidated in order to appease his real backers in big business and the German ruling class. Hitler did the bidding of monopoly capital while directing the machinery of government to repress any of his supporters who had been credulous enough to anticipate anti-capitalist policies from the Third Reich. No, the Nazis were not socialist despite their unabbreviated name, nor does chocolate milk come from brown cows.

History has been tampered with to blame the Communist Party of Germany (KPD) for the rise of the Nazis and those weaponizing the red-brown mythology are perpetuating this falsehood. Germany’s economic depression destabilized the country while various political tendencies vied for power against the Weimar government and while the Nazis ultimately emerged on top, there was no ‘collaboration’ between what were mortal enemies. Furthermore, it is assumed that if not for the KPD’s policy towards the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) as ‘social fascists’, things would have turned out different. To the contrary, in 1932 it was the Social Democrats who rebuffed Ernst Thälmann and the KPD’s repeated pleas to form a coalition once the German Reich’s other conservative parties joined forces with Hitler and his seizure of power appeared imminent. To be sure, the Nazis benefited from the left’s infighting due to this repudiation. After the SPD refused to form a popular front or organize a general strike, President Paul von Hindenburg appointed Hitler as Chancellor of Germany and the rest was history. It was the rejections of the appeals for a united front by the anti-revolutionary Social Democrats, not the KPD, which ensured the power grab. There is a reason it was the communists who became the most heavily persecuted political group following the consolidation of power after the Nazi-engineered Reichstag fire ‘false flag’ operation was blamed on them.

The Third Reich was a reaction of the ruling class to the rising militancy of German workers and their increasing revolutionary readiness amidst the Weimar Republic’s collapse, not any strategic failure on the part of the heroes who were murdered by the Hitlerite regime. To propagate this fable is to spit on the graves of those who perished. Nazi authoritarianism became the weapon of choice once the duplicitous arm of Social Democracy became ineffective in deflecting workers away from revolution, as it had done following the end of WWI to put down the Spartacist uprising. The KPD had no choice but to regard the Social Democrats as ‘fascism’s twin brother’ considering the SPD leadership had sided with Kaiser Wilhelm, who killed as many Namibians as Hitler killed Jews in the Herero genocide, against the revolutionaries. Ten years later during the 1929 May Day demonstrations, Social Democratic Interior Minister Carl Severing oversaw the Blutmai massacre where many workers and communists were gunned down by Berlin police. Nothing had changed between the failed 1919 German Revolution put down by the Freikorps which took the life of Rosa Luxemburg and the Bloody May Day in 1929.

Underlying the ‘red-brown’ concept is essentially a false equivalency between the Soviet Union and fascism. One of the other primary sources of this big lie pertains to the doctored history of the Spanish Civil War, a conflict that ended exactly 80 years ago last month. Like Hitler in Germany, General Francisco Franco became the Caudillo of Spain while there was a schism on its political left and since history is written by the winners, decades of anti-Soviet propaganda have placed the blame on those who tried to save the Spanish Republic in 1939 for his rise to power. In reality, the loyalists were defeated not just because of extrinsic reinforcement by Germany and Italy but the debilitation of the Republican forces by the Trotskyite POUM who have since been championed as heroes by those suffering from ultra-left misapprehensions.

During the 1930s while fascism was ascendant, Spain was in a deep political crisis with a monarchist right-wing government. In reaction, the Spanish left mobilized and formed a Popular Front coalition of communists, anarchists and socialists in 1936 to win the Spanish elections. When Franco and his alliance began their insurrection and military coup, the Republican government was refused assistance by the Western imperial nations and the Soviet Union stepped in to provide the anti-fascist resistance political and military aid. They also received reinforcements from Mexico as well as militias from the International Brigades which included the Abraham Lincoln Battalion consisting of American volunteers, the inspiration for Ernest Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls. Meanwhile, Franco became the recipient of external support from the strongest military power in the world at the time in Nazi Germany.

The Luftwaffe began its intervention with the aerial bombardment of the Republican-held Basque town of Guernica, inspiring one of Pablo Picasso’s most famous paintings. Seeing as this was no time for games with the very real danger of ultra-nationalism taking power, the Spanish communists mustered together a resistance army that was repeatedly sabotaged by the POUM’s lack of discipline and intrigue. As a result, their unworldly tactics and opposition to any practical alliance with a broader left ultimately led to their expulsion from the Republican government and the Popular Front. Following their banishment, the POUM quislings continued their factionalist disruption and along with the CNT anarchists attempted to overthrow the Republican government, on the basis that a ‘Stalinist regime’ was as undesirable an outcome as fascism. Although the putsch failed, ultimately Franco benefited from this strife which weakened the Comintern-backed forces and the military strongman would advance to become dictator of Spain for the next four decades following the Republican defeat.

Much of the disinformation pulled from this period stems from George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia, which is unfortunately the sole account most people will ever read of the Spanish Civil War. Its reliability is even doubted by Western historians in its demonization of the loyalist cause and Orwell himself admitted its many inaccuracies while regretting the passages that appeared to actually welcome a Franco victory over the Republicans. The avowed “democratic socialist” based the work on his own experiences as a volunteer for the Republican cause fighting alongside the POUM before fleeing the country in 1937. Like his other writings, Homage to Catalonia became weaponized during the Cold War by the political establishment in order to push the anti-communist Western left toward liberal democracy and away from Soviet sympathies. The great Michael Parenti wrote of Orwell and his descendants in Blackshirts and Reds:

A prototypic Red-basher who pretended to be on the Left was George Orwell. In the middle of World War II, as the Soviet Union was fighting for its life against the Nazi invaders at Stalingrad, Orwell announced that a “willingness to criticize Russia and Stalin is the test of intellectual honesty. It is the only thing that from a literary intellectual’s point of view is really dangerous.” Safely ensconced within a virulently anticommunist society, Orwell (with Orwellian doublethink) characterized the condemnation of communism as a lonely courageous act of defiance. Today, his ideological progeny are still at it, offering themselves as intrepid left critics of the Left, waging a valiant struggle against imaginary Marxist-Leninist-Stalinist hordes.

Parenti isn’t exaggerating in his representation. Although little known by his casual admirers, one year before his death in 1950 at the dawn of the Cold War, Orwell secretly provided the British Foreign Office’s anti-Soviet propaganda branch known as the Information Research Department a list of people he believed to be “crypto-communists, fellow-travellers or inclined that way and should not be trusted as propagandists” for MI6’s information warfare. Orwell’s role as an informant for the British secret services and the existence of the list, which included everyone from Charlie Chaplin to foreign correspondents for major newspapers, was not revealed until 1996 and only became public in 2002. He based the list on a longer, unofficial version contained in a personal notebook which even slandered legendary black actor, singer and activist Paul Robeson as a “very anti-white Henry Wallace supporter.” Unlike Hollywood filmmaker Elia Kazan’s shameful testimony before the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) in 1952, Orwell’s blacklist was provided voluntarily to the assistant of anti-Soviet historian Robert Conquest, then working for the UK Foreign Office, after she asked him to lend a hand picking out communist sympathizers.

Orwell’s disillusion with the Spanish communists backed by the Comintern and allegiance to the POUM and CNT anarchists was solidified during the 1937 Barcelona May Days where the opposing factions clashed and the Republican government ultimately regained control. In Homage to Catalonia, Orwell heavily criticized a journalist working under the pen name Frank Pitcairn of The Daily Worker, official newspaper of the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) and now known as The Morning Star, and challenged his coverage of the events. It turns out that ‘Frank Pitcairn’ was the pseudonym of none other than Claud Cockburn, father of legendary journalist Alexander Cockburn who co-founded Counterpunch newsletter in the mid-90s. The younger Cockburn ruthlessly denounced Orwell when “St. George’s List” became public knowledge, no doubt feeling vindication for the defamation of his father’s work by the English essayist.

For many years, the formerly prestigious Counterpunch edited by Alexander Cockburn until his death in 2012 was a sanctuary of high quality left-wing journalism and commentary. Under his successors, however, the website has gradually declined in its caliber, especially after it became mired in controversy following the 2016 U.S. presidential election when it was included in an investigation in The Washington Post for having publishing articles of a pseudonymous writer working under the false name ‘Alice Donovan’ supposedly on behalf of the Russian government that was tracked by the FBI. The website was then listed among a host of other anti-war pages as promoting a ‘pro-Russian and anti-Clinton’ agenda to influence the outcome of the election on the neo-McCarthyist PropOrNot blacklist. Evidently, Cockburn’s substitutes were too embarrassed to speculate as to whether or not Donovan’s stories could have been submitted by the FBI itself as a pretext for the subsequent widespread censorship of alternative media by big tech giants under the phony banner of stopping the spread of “fake news.” It was only after an in-house investigation by the editors themselves that Donovan was also discovered to be a serial plagiarist, a significant detail that went unnoticed in The Washington Post story. What if the mystery literary thief was a g-man?

Rather than digging in their heels and standing by what they published, Counterpunch has since embarked on an embarrassing quest for bourgeois respectability with the purging of popular contributors while smearing them as part of an imaginary “Sputnik left.” Shortly after the Alice Donovan affair, several of the remaining core authors for Counterpunch published hit pieces condemning progressive journalist Caitlin Johnstone for advocating a ‘cross ideological collaboration’ in the name of an essential policy based anti-war movement transcending the left-right paradigm. While Johnstone’s suggestion gave an admittedly poor and naive example in far right social media personality Mike Cernovich for cooperation — hardly the type of conservative to be taken seriously compared to committed anti-militarist libertarians — her recommendation was well-intentioned and harmless. Nevertheless, they seized the opportunity and pounced on her, but not for the stated reason of stopping an attempt to forge a ‘red-brown fascist alliance.’ Johnstone’s real crime was possessing the rare ability to disseminate subversive ideas to a wide range of people, a serious threat to the livelihood of the professional gatekeepers at Counterpunch.

Yet Johnstone’s opinions were hardly inconsistent with the newsletter’s own history as a longtime host of far-reaching anti-establishment views, nor with Alexander Cockburn himself. In a 2000 article entitled “25 Years After Vietnam: Beyond Left and Right“, Cockburn wrote of exactly such a scenario after receiving criticism for speaking at an anti-war conference that included conservatives Ron Paul and Pat Buchanan:

I got an invitation to speak a couple of months ago from an outfit called antiwar.com, which is run by a young fellow called Justin Raimundo. “Antiwar.com is having its second annual national conference March 24 & 25, and we’d like you to be the luncheon speaker,” Raimundo wrote. “The conference will be held at the Villa Hotel, in San Mateo (near the airport). The theme of the conference is ‘Beyond Left & Right: The New Face of the Antiwar Movement.’ We have invited a number of speakers spanning the political spectrum. Confirmed so far: Patrick J. Buchanan, Tom Fleming (of Chronicles magazine), Justin Raimondo (Antiwar.com), Kathy Kelly (Iraq Aid), Alan Bock (Orange County Register), Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), representatives of the Serbian Unity Congress, and a host of others.”

Raimundo seasoned his invite with a burnt offering, in the form of flattery, always pleasing to the nostrils: “All of us here at Antiwar.com are big fans of your writing: we met, once, at a meeting during the Kosovo war where you bravely took up the fight for the united front left-right alliance against imperialist war. We can promise you a small honorarium, a lunch, free admission to all conference events — and a good time.” As a seasoned analyst of such communications, my eye of course fell sadly upon the words “small honorarium” ? a phrase that in my case usually means somewhere between $l50 and $350. I’d already noted that even though our task was to transcend the tired categories of left and right, I was the only leftist mentioned, with the possible exception of Kathy Kelly, from that splendid organization, Voices in the Wilderness, which campaigns to lift the UN sanctions on Iraq.

Being a libertarian Justin had boldly added the prospect of a “good time”. Leftist invitations rarely admit this possibility in formal political communications, even in the distant days when the left supposedly had a lock on drugs and sex. I said I’d be happy to join in such an enterprise, and in due course got some angry e-mails from lefties who seem to feel that any contiguity with Buchanan is a crime, even if the subject was gardening and Dutch tulipomania in the seventeenth century.

Cockburn received similar flack in the mid-90s for commending a right-wing Patriot rally opposing gun control in Michigan in a column for The Nation similarly titled “Who’s Left? Who’s Right?” So it’s one thing for the inner circle at CP to attack others with the red-brown libel, but entirely another to rewrite history and speak on behalf of the deceased Cockburn to claim their sectarian attacks on leftist colleagues who are in spirit with his vision. Worst of all, the Counterpunch contingent has maligned the recently kidnapped Wikileaks founder Julian Assange as a ‘crypto-fascist’ while continuing to use his endorsement of the magazine in advertising to raise money for its annual fund drive as he languishes in prison.

Most of those targeted like Johnstone are anti-war leftists willing to defend Russia and Syria beyond merely protesting U.S. military aggression but challenging the propaganda narratives villainizing such countries used to justify it. The war in Syria has even been compared to the Spanish Civil War where the chasm between those defending the Syrian government against Western-backed jihadists is seen as a repeat of the discord in the 1930s, with presumably the ‘libertarian socialist’ Kurds playing the role of the POUM. It is actually not such a bad analogy, considering the YPG are as objectively a U.S. proxy army as the POUM were Franco’s fifth columnists.

Russophobes on the left use a different line of reasoning to push the same agenda as the Washington war duopoly while Moscow is in the gun-sights of U.S. imperialism. The ‘brown’ component is said to be the reactionary philosopher Alexander Dugin whose alleged Svengali-like influence on the Kremlin is inflated, as is the prevalent misconception that he is the founder of Putin’s ‘Eurasianism.’ As a matter of fact, the initial author of a Eurasian union was the anti-Soviet liberal human rights dissident Andrei Sakharov back in the 1980s during perestroika who was beloved in the Western sphere. Meanwhile, the actual threat of right-wing extremism in Russia emanating from the U.S.-backed opposition figure Alexei Navalny, who seeks the secession of the Caucasus while comparing its Muslim inhabitants to cockroaches and insects, is of little concern to those making Putin out to be the enemy. In fact, it is the instigator against Moscow in NATO that has for decades incubated fascism, from Operation Gladio’s stay-behind networks of right-wing paramilitaries carrying out ‘false flag’ operations in NATO member states to Ukraine’s 2014 Banderite junta. Furthermore, the anti-Russia hysteria is a successful diversion from the actual source of foreign influence nurturing the current tide of nationalism that is traceable to Jerusalem, not the Kremlin.

The red-brown aspersion isn’t relegated to the periphery of leftist newsletters or historical debates about WWII but has even manifested in more mainstream discourse, from the smear campaign against journalist Angela Nagle for her brilliant “The Left Case Against Open Borders” article exploring the complexities of the immigration issue to Bernie Sanders’ willingness to do a town hall hosted by Fox News. Journalists such as Glenn Greenwald, Max Blumenthal, Michael Tracey, and Nagle herself have all been denigrated as ‘red-brown collaborators’ for their willingness to make appearances on Tucker Carlson’s weeknight talk show. There is even an incomprehensible multi-axis political compass making the rounds on social media said to visually represent the red-brown or neo-“Strasserite” phenomena.

Carlson, like Ann Coulter, is a right-wing media figure who made his name as a neo-con during the Bush years who has successfully rebranded himself in the Trump era as an ‘anti-establishment’ conservative, even espousing anti-interventionism on occasion. Of course, the entire point of engaging the millions of viewers who watch such a cartoon propaganda outlet is missed by those who insist that to do so is to legitimate the channel or Carlson’s views. Would not solely attending the likes of so-called ‘respectable’ media like CNN or MSNBC, which sell U.S. wars every bit as much as Rupert Murdoch’s network, be an endorsement of their self-proclamations to be arbiters of truth?

Last month, the International Socialist Organization (ISO) in the U.S. voted to dissolve itself after a period of a factionalism and infighting. The ISO was the American branch of the UK-based Socialist Workers Party (SWP) founded by Tony Cliff, which once included Orwell admirer and Trot-turned-neocon author Christopher Hitchens in its ranks during his youth. This was welcome news to anyone rightly disgusted by such an objectively pro-interventionist group that was one of the biggest mudslingers against those who have defended Russia and Syria from imperialism as ‘red-brown fascists’ during the past decade. Unsurprisingly, it was revealed that the ISO received a significant amount of its subsidies from the Soros-funded Tides Foundation and other Democratic Party-affiliated philanthropies. Hopefully its dissolution is a sign that the tide is turning against such groups that smuggle pro-imperial positions to be planted into a left that should unconditionally oppose them.

BRI Forum in Shanghai and how Western “Reports” are Smearing China

The second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation is about to open in Beijing. It will take place from 25th to 27th April, 2019. The Chinese President Xi Jinping is expected to deliver the keynote address.

It is expected to be an event of tremendous proportions and importance: leaders from 37 countries will participate, including Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and President Duterte of the Philippines. Beijing will host 5,000 guests from 150 countries, as well as 90 international organizations.

Africa – BRI: New China built highway

The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has already been reshaping the world, fundamentally. Previously at the mercy of the Western imperialist powers, their armies, propaganda apparatuses and brutal financial institutions; Africa, the Middle East, Central and Southeast Asia have suddenly discovered that they have alternatives and choices. For various parts of the world, decades and centuries of stagnation and humiliation under colonialist and post-colonialist regimes have begun to come to an end. Entire nations have been freeing themselves, realizing their great hidden potential.

All this because of BRI; because of China as well as its close ally, Russia.

Entire huge railroad projects in East Africa as well as in the once devastated Laos (devastated by the insanely brutal Western carpet-bombing campaigns, which are still called a “Secret War”) are now connecting continents. Along the railway lines, schools are growing, and so are medical facilities, community learning centers and cultural institutions.

BRI Project:  China building high speed train

The BRI is not only about the economy, not only about infrastructure and development, it is also about the well-being of the people, about the culture, health and knowledge. It is aiming at connecting people of different races, life philosophies, and beliefs.

And the rulers in the West are horrified. Nothing outrages them more than the prospect of losing absolute control over the world. For them, it is not (and never was) about improving the lives of hundreds of millions of impoverished people. They had centuries of absolute power over the planet, and all they did was to enrich themselves, murdering and robbing in all corners of the globe. For them, it is about ‘winning or losing’, about maintaining its colonies and ‘client’ states; by all means, even by the most brutal ones.

For China, (through BRI), it is all about spreading wealth everywhere. The firm belief in Beijing was and is: If the world is doing well, China will prosper, too.

*****

And so, in Washington and London, and in so many other centers of Western might, thousands of ‘professionals’ are now employed and busy smearing China and its most ambitious international (and internationalist) projects. Smearing and spreading nihilism is an extremely well-paid job, and for as long as China is rising and the West declining, it appears to be a permanent one. There will be no deficit when it comes to funding all those anti-Chinese ‘academic reports’, fake analyses and articles. The more of them, the better; the more ridiculous they get, the better remunerated they are.

Take this one, for instance: “Grading China’s Belt and Road”.

With all those footnotes and ‘references’, it looks professional and academic. It can impress millions of China-phobes and China-bashers in Europe and North America. Suffering from complexes of superiority and “Yellow-Peril mentality”, they are searching for, and then welcoming all vicious attacks against Beijing and its initiatives.

Look closer, and it is ‘reports’ like this that are clearly nothing more than thinly disguised propaganda work ordered by those who are aiming at discrediting China and its internationalist efforts.

In its Executive Summary, the report states:

Since its launch in 2013, what China calls “One Belt, One Road” has emerged as the corner- stone of Beijing’s economic statecraft. Under the umbrella of the Belt and Road, Beijing seeks to promote a more connected world brought together by a web of Chinese-funded physical and digital infrastructure. The infrastructure needs in Asia and beyond are significant, but the Belt and Road is more than just an economic initiative; it is a central tool for advancing China’s geo-political ambitions. Through the economic activities bundled under the Belt and Road, Beijing is pursuing a vision of the 21st century defined by great power spheres of influence, state-directed economic interactions, and creeping authoritarianism.1

As Beijing prepares to host the second Belt and Road Forum in late April 2019, countries that once welcomed Chinese investment have become increasingly vocal about the downsides. This report is intended to serve as a resource for governments, corporations, journalists, and civil society groups now re-evaluating the costs and benefits of Belt and Road projects…

In brief, it is propaganda; anti-Chinese propaganda, anti-Communist (or call it ‘anti-central-planning- propaganda).

It is also a tool for all those who are ready to criticize China, defining its marvelous efforts as a ‘debt trap’, among various other derogatory terms.

A leading academic at the University of the Philippines (U.P.), Roland G. Simbulan, agreed to analyze the origin of the CNAS report for this essay:

The April 2019 Report “Grading China’s Belt and Road” by the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) seems to be one of the latest findings and studies of American conservative think tanks which are in fact aimed at discrediting China’s economic thrusts through China-financed infrastructure, land and sea transport, investments, etc. These are China’s answer to the U.S.’ global military build-up and encirclement of its fast rising rival superpower. China is trying to avoid the mistakes of the Western powers including the U.S. and the former USSR by not engaging in a tit for tat arms race. Instead, it is answering back with its Belt Road Initiative as well as other economic and market initiatives aimed at reinforcing China’s strengths while avoiding a direct attack on where the U.S. is strongest and has more advantage: the U.S. global military forces.

It is obvious from the backgrounds of the CNAS fellows who are authors of the report that they are all connected with the U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. National Security Council. The American Enterprise Institute is a quasi-U.S. federal government think tank composed of recycled officials of the U.S. Department of Defense and U.S. Department of State. It is also obvious that they have consolidated the economic and political reports of all the U.S. intelligence community which are coordinated by the U.S. National Security Adviser.

And obviously, CNAS is not hiding where it stands, ideologically. It quotes such right-wing warriors as the French President, Emmanuel Macron, the International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde, the Minister of Energy in the defunct and discredited Ecuadorian government, Carlos Perez, and other unsavory figures.

Roland G. Simbulan continues:

While the CNAS Report may indeed have identified some of China’s vulnerabilities in the management of its China-funded projects which can easily merit criticism, i.e., sovereignty eroding, non-transparent, unsustainable financial burdens, locally disengaged, geopolitically risky, environmentally unsustainable, and corruption-prone), let us remember that China’s BRI was only launched in 2013. The U.S. and its Western Allies, including the multilateral institutions that they have created to assure U.S. neoliberal control of national economies since 1945 have engaged in practicing these “challenges” and dangers that it accuses China of initiating through BRI projects “for China’s geopolitical ambitions.

These may be valid as in the case of the 10 case studies identified by the CNAS Report. But it is too soon to make conclusions in such a short time from 2013-2018. For these are also practices that have long been inflicted by the U.S. Empire and its allies since the end of World War 2 to assure economic, political and military hegemony. Unintentionally, the seven (7) challenges or dangers of China’s BRI identified by the CNAS are really challenges that are continually being inflicted by the U.S. Empire and its Western allies on weaker and smaller countries. Precisely, many countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America are turning towards alternative international institutions such as ALBA in Latin America and BRI BECAUSE of the onslaught that they have long experienced with the PAX AMERICANA i.e. the U.S. and its allies.

Can the CNAS show that their sponsors and patrons are doing better, or can do better? The best way for the U.S. to counter the Belt Road Initiative (BRI) is to show AND prove that they can offer a better deal with developing countries in need of assistance for their infrastructure and development projects.”

*****

Mr. Sidqy LP Suyitno, an Indonesian high government official and former State Finance and Monetary Analysis Director of the Ministry of National Development Planning, is also puzzled by some of the wording in the report. When asked about the BRI project to build the bullet train from the Indonesian capital Jakarta to its city of Bandung, he contradicted the report:

Geopolitically Risky? It seems NOT to be. It seems more like making bilateral relations with Japan uncomfortable. The Japanese have been enjoying the benefits when it comes to relations with Indonesia, ever since Suharto’s dictatorship: the automotive industry is more like an oligopoly for Japanese cars in Indonesia. And what do we get back? We still don’t have our own car industry, our national car or our own national motorcycles production. Even though we have a very large “captive market”; in 2018, 1.1 million cars & 6.5 million motorcycles were sold in Indonesia.

Apparently, what he is referring to, is that while the Japanese car industry flooded Indonesia with its cars and badly polluting scooters, there were no benefits to the state or to the people of Indonesia. I can go much further and point out that according to my investigation, the Japanese car industry corrupted the government officials in most of the Southeast Asian countries, “convincing them” not to build public transportation, instead choking both cities and the countryside with outdated models of private motor vehicles, consequently bankrupting citizens in the process.

In brief: Japan has managed to ruin Southeast Asian cities, preventing them from developing public transportation. And now should it be trusted in such places like Indonesia to develop a high-speed rail system? Indonesia, Laos and Thailand do not think they should trust Japan too much. They trust China much more. And the same goes for the Philippines. Malaysian Prime Minister, Mahathir Mohamad, when re-elected last year, stopped several high-profile projects with China, but now, it seems, has been discovering an appetite for cooperation with Beijing.

But the report speaks (using unacademic language, suddenly) about how China poached the high speed train project from the Japanese.

Kenya – BRI: New modern train terminal in Nairobi

Professor Mira Lubis, from Tanjungpura University in Pontianak, West Kalimantan, Indonesia, stated for this essay, her hope that BRI could improve life and environment on her devastated island:

From what I know about BRI, I believe that its efforts would be mutually beneficial for both Indonesia and PRC. In Southeast Asia, the focus of BRI will be what could be described as the Maritime Silk Road. Indonesia is an archipelago with over 17,000 islands. Since 2014, our government is aiming at transforming Indonesia into what it calls the ‘Global Maritime Axis’. It means, developing ports and shipping lanes among other vital projects. This would be in synergy with BRI; BRI could strengthen Indonesia as a maritime power.

My island, Borneo, is ecologically damaged. I hope that it could directly benefit from the cooperation with China and its BRI. China is at the forefront of the struggle for ecological civilization, and I believe in its wisdom. I’m optimistic that BRI might help to bring sustainable development to Borneo.

*****

The CNAS report is ‘all over the place’, selectively attacking BRI and China for its involvement in Africa, South and Southeast Asia, the Middle East and South Pacific (Oceania).

In his essay “China’s road to a win-win ahead of BRI forum” published by the Asia Times, renowned Brazilian analyst Pepe Escobar wrote:

Relentless reports that the New Silk Roads, or the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), are a perfidious neo-imperial debt trap set up by Yellow Peril 2.0 are vastly exaggerated.

Beijing clinched a proverbial showering of BRI deals with 17 Arab nations, including Egypt, Lebanon and Oman. Not by accident, the forum this year was called Build the Belt and Road, Share Development and Prosperity. Up to 2018, 21 Arab nations had signed BRI memoranda of understanding

These nations are not only BRI partners, but 12 of them also went for strategic partnerships with China…

Little wonder why!

Say China or BRI in Africa, just pronounce those names, and most of the people will show great enthusiasm. Every — even the Western surveys — clearly indicate that all over the continent, people harbor extremely positive feelings forwards China.

In Kenya (where I used to live), I repeatedly heard those who were working on countless Chinese projects, repeat:

This is the first time we are treated by the foreigners like human beings.

Kenya – BRI new government building in Nairobi

People in Europe and North America love to adopt ‘politically correct speech’, but words somehow do not translate into deeds. Chinese workers may sometimes be rough, but they treat Africans like brothers and sisters. They also try to compensate them as if they would be their own.

But the CNAS report only criticizes China’s involvement in Africa, while African voices are rarely allowed to penetrate the uniform and dogmatic Western mainstream media.

An influential Ugandan analyst and opposition figure, Arthur Tewungwa, wrote for this essay:

The basic assumption of Africans is that they are stupid and ignorant of history, politics, and the global financial arrangement of the world. The scaremongering of Chinese global domination does not really wash on a continent that is still under a sustained attack from the very forces that led us into slavery, colonialism and its manifestation, neo-colonialism. Using the Ugandan opposition’s criticisms of the government’s (a staunch ally of the US and its regional sheriff) misuse and theft of Chinese aid while ignoring the fact that the same has been going on for the last 30 years with IMF and World Bank funds which the opposition has been criticizing, confirms that assumption.

Ugandans don’t view China as a dangerous hegemon; they are still too busy trying to extract themselves from the current relationship with hegemon that has had its boot on the country’s neck for the last 300 years. The opposition criticism was aimed at the conduct of America’s principal, not the misrepresented intentions of China. The IMF and World Bank have not covered themselves in glory in Africa and ignoring that fact just plays more into China’s hands.

*****

In the South Pacific (Oceania) where I also spent several years of my life (writing a book about the plight of Melanesia, Polynesia and Micronesia), CNAS dishonestly criticizes the BRI project in Vanuatu.

Let me be brutally frank here: The West has almost ruined the entire Oceania by its unbridled consumption, by neo-colonialist policies; from the Solomon Islands to the Marshall Islands. Global warming has caused the near disappearance of such wonderful countries like Kiribati, Marshall Island and Tuvalu.

What has the West done to save them? Nothing! Just dumping junk food on Samoa and Tonga, on the Federated States of Micronesia, or on the Marshall Islands (RMI).

China has patiently and full-heartedly been trying to help: by planting mangroves, building anti-tsunami walls, elevating government offices, schools and medical posts up on stilts. It has built stadiums in order to improve the health of the desperately obese local population (on some islands, around 90% of the population are suffering from diabetes).

And what has the West done, after observing the great success of China? It went to Taiwan, and as the former Minister of Foreign Affairs of the RMI, Tony de Brum explained to me, began ‘encouraging Taipei’ to bribe local governments, so they would recognize Taiwan as an independent country; something that even the West has not done. As a result, predictably, Beijing was forced to break diplomatic relations and to withdrow its help. The result: Taiwan has done nothing for Oceania. Only the ordinary people in South Pacific have become the victims.

Laos – BRI. Bridge over Mekong River for high-speed train

Those South Pacific countries that ‘stayed with China’ are doing incomparably better. Why don’t we hear about all this from the West-sponsored reports? Why do we only read dirt, as well as nihilist speculation? Why not facts? Why not the truth, that it is the West that is destroying the world, and has been for decades and centuries?

*****

BRI is not perfect, yet, but on the global scale, it is the best that humanity has right now. And it has been improving, month after month.

Ugandans had 300 years of horrors of ‘Western democracy’ and ‘freedom’. Latin Americans have been beaten into submission for over 500 years.

In Washington, London and Paris, they love to say: “we are all the same”. Such ‘logic’ washes out their crimes. It means: “everyone is as greedy and brutal as we are”. But, no, we are not the same! Cultures are different, on all corners of the globe. Some countries are expansionist, aggressive and obsessed with self-righteousness as well as complexes of superiority. Some are not. China is not. It never was. It never will be. If attacked or antagonized, it defends itself; and if threatened in the future, it will defend itself again. But it does not build its wealth on plunder, and on the corpses of the others, as the West has been doing for long centuries.

BRI is the exact contrast to the Western colonialism and imperialism. I say it not because I am defending some theory on these pages, but because I have seen the Chinese ‘New Silk Road’ in action, in places where I have lived and worked: Asia, the Middle East, Oceania, Latin America and Africa. In places where almost no one dares or cares to go: except for those few tough and ‘insane’ individuals like myself, and for the Chinese internationalists! I know such places intimately. Places where local people are almost never given an opportunity to speak; they never appear on the pages of the Western mass media, or on television screens, or in reports such as the one published by CNAS.

Until recently, their voices and lives mattered nothing. Now they do. They matter a lot.

These people exist; these people are alive; they want to breath, to live and to dream. I swear they do. And for them, especially for them, now exists the BRI!

• All photos by Andre Vltchek

War Versus Peace: Israel Has Decided and So Should We

So, what have we learned from the Israeli legislative elections on April 9?

A whole lot.

To start with, don’t let such references as the “tight race” between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and his main rival, Benny Gantz, fool you.

Yes, Israelis are divided on some issues that are particular to their social and economic makeup. But they are also resolutely unified around the issue that should concern us most: the continued subjugation of the Palestinian people.

Indeed, ‘tight race’, or not, Israel has voted to cement Apartheid, support the ongoing annexation of the Occupied West Bank, and carry on with the Gaza siege.

In the aftermath of the elections, Netanyahu emerged even more powerful; his Likud party has won the elections with 36 seats, followed by Gantz’s Kahol Lavan (Blue and White) with 35 seats.

Gantz, the rising star in Israeli politics was branded throughout the campaign as a centrist politician, a designation that tossed a lifeline to the vanquished Israeli ‘left’ – of which not much is left anyway.

This branding helped sustain a short-lived illusion that there is an Israeli alternative to Netanyahu’s extremist right-wing camp.

But there was never any evidence to suggest that Gantz would have been any better as far as ending the Israeli occupation, dismantling the Apartheid regime and parting ways with the country’s predominantly racist discourse.

In fact, the opposite is true.

Gantz has repeatedly criticized Netanyahu for supposedly being too soft on Gaza, promising to rain yet more death and destruction on an a region that, according to the United Nations, will be unlivable by 2020.

A series of videos, dubbed “Only the Strong Survives”, were issued by the Gantz campaign in the run up to the elections. In the footage, Gantz was portrayed as the national savior, who had killed many Palestinians while serving as the army’s chief of staff between 2011 and 2015.

Gantz is particularly proud of being partly responsible for bombing Gaza “back to the stone age.”

It apparently mattered little to Israeli centrists and the remnants of the left that in the 2014 Israeli war on Gaza, dubbed Operation “Protective Edge”, over 2,200 Palestinians were killed and over 11,000 were injured. In that most tragic war, over 500 Palestinian children were killed, and much of Gaza’s already ailing infrastructure was destroyed.

But then again, why vote for Gantz when Netanyahu and his right-wing extremist camp are getting the job done?

Sadly, Netanyahu’s future coalition is likely to be even more extreme than the previous one.

Moreover, thanks to new possible alliances, Netanyahu will most likely free himself of burdensome allies, the likes of former Israeli Defense Minister, Avigdor Lieberman.

One significant change in the likely makeup of the Israeli right is the absence of such domineering figures, who, aside from Lieberman also include former Education Minister, Naftali Bennett and former Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked.

All the grandstanding from Bennett and Shaked, who had recently established a new party called “The New Right”, didn’t even garner them enough votes to reach the threshold required to win a single seat in the Israeli Parliament, the Knesset. They needed 3.25 percent of the vote, but only achieved 3.22 percent. They are both out.

The defeat of the infamous duo is quite revealing: the symbols of Israel’s extreme right no longer meet the expectations of Israel’s extremist constituencies.

Now the stage is wide open for the ultra-orthodox parties, Shas, which now has eight seats, and United Torah Judaism, with seven seats to help define the new normal in Israel.

The Israeli left – if it was ever deserving of the name – received a final blow; the once prominent Labor Party, won merely six seats.

On the other hand, Arab parties that ran in the 2015 elections under the united banner of the “Joint List”, fragmented once more, to collectively achieve only 10 seats.

Their loss of three seats, compared to the previous elections, can be partly blamed on factional and personal agendas. But, that is hardly enough to explain the massive drop in Arab voter participation in the elections: 48 percent compared to 68 percent in 2015.

This record low participation can only be explained through the racist ‘Nation State Law”, which was passed by the right wing-dominated Knesset on July 19, 2018. The new Basic Law, declared Israel as the “nation state of the Jewish people” everywhere, relegating the rights of the Palestinian people, their history, culture and language, while elevating everything Jewish, making self-determination in the state an exclusive right for Jews only.

This trend is likely to continue, as Israel’s political institutions no longer offer even a symbolic margin for true democracy and fair representation.

But perhaps the most important lesson that we can learn in the aftermath of these elections is that in today’s Israel, military occupation and apartheid have been internalized and normalized as uncontested realities, unworthy of national debate. This in particular should summon our immediate attention.

During election campaigns, no major party spoke about peace, let alone provided a comprehensive vision for achieving it. No leading politician called for the dismantling of the illegal Jewish settlements that have been erected on Palestinian land in violation of international law.

More importantly and tellingly, no one spoke of a two-state solution.

As far as Israelis are concerned, the two-state solution is dead. While this is also true for many Palestinians, the Israeli alternative is hardly co-existence in one democratic secular state. The Israeli alternative is Apartheid.

Netanyahu and his future government coalition of like-minded extremists are now armed with an unmistakably popular mandate to fulfill all of their electoral promises, including the annexation of the West Bank.

Moreover, with an emboldened and empowered right-wing coalition, we are also likely to witness a major escalation in violence against Gaza this coming summer.

Considering all of this, we must understand that Israel’s illegal policies in Palestine cannot and will not be challenged from within Israeli society.

Challenging and ending the Israeli occupation and dismantling Apartheid can only happen through internal Palestinian resistance and external pressure that is centered around the strategy of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS).

It is now incumbent on the international community to break this vicious Israeli cycle and support the Palestinian people in their ongoing struggle against Israeli occupation, racism and apartheid.

Netanyahu Reigns Supreme, and all Opposition has been Crushed

Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party emerged from Tuesday’s Israeli election tied with the Blue and White party, led by Benny Gantz and other high-powered generals. Although each party has 35 seats in the 120-seat parliament, Netanyahu is now firmly in the driving seat.

The small far-right and religious extremist parties that are needed to make up a parliamentary majority lost no time in declaring their support for Netanyahu. That will allow him to establish his fourth consecutive government.

Netanyahu now enjoys the luxury of choosing between a narrow government of these far-right parties, and a right-wing national unity government embracing Gantz. The latter option would potentially command four-fifths of the seats in the Israeli Knesset.

Whatever his decision, Netanyahu is now set this summer to become Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, beating the record set by Israel’s founding father, David Ben Gurion.

Demand for “immunity” law

The only obstacle on the horizon – a set of corruption indictments against Netanyahu, announced by the attorney-general during the campaign – is certain to be swept away once Netanyahu has been formally installed as head of the next government by Israeli President Reuven Rivlin.

Netanyahu’s coalition partners are already insisting on the passing of special “immunity” legislation – which would make it impossible to indict a sitting prime minister – as a condition for their support.

Bezalel Smotrich, of the far-right Union of Rightwing Parties, said such a law would “build trust among coalition members that the next government can rule for a full term”.

They understand that Netanyahu, given his track record, is their best meal ticket to a long-term place in government.

And Netanyahu’s own voters have demonstrated that they care not a whit whether he is corrupt, as long as he continues to promote a Jewish supremacist agenda.

Extolling Gaza rampage

Gantz’s success in matching Netanyahu’s tally of seats is impressive, given that he presided over a brand new party whose only policy seemed to be: “It’s time to get rid of Netanyahu.”

That showed there is a significant section of Israeli society fatigued by a decade of Netanyahu rule and the political and personal corruption he embodies.

But it also emphasised the continuing veneration by Israeli Jews of the army and their desire to find exclusively military solutions to political problems – not least, how to reach an accommodation with Palestinians and their claim to statehood.

It certainly does not, as some observers have claimed, signify an appetite among Israeli Jews for left-wing politics. Gantz and his fellow generals are not doves of any kind.

After all, the Blue and White party’s main selling point was Gantz’s pulverisation of Gaza in 2014, when he was army chief of staff overseeing a military operation that killed more than 500 Palestinian children.

Collapse of opposition

Netanyahu’s victory is underscored by the two most dramatic trends of the election. Those relate to the collapse of the opposition to the right – both among the Jewish electorate, and among voters belonging to the Palestinian minority, a fifth of Israel’s population.

In many ways, the most shocking result is the diminishment of the Labor Party, which founded Israel and ruled it for decades, to just six seats. That turns it into a marginal, special-interest party.

Combined with the four seats of the dovish Meretz party, that reduces what is commonly referred to in Israel as the “centre-left” to just 10 seats. According to a recent poll by the Israel Democracy Institute, only about 12 percent of Israeli Jews are still prepared to describe themselves as left-wing.

It is hard to see Labor ever recovering. If the trend continues, Labor and Meretz may need to merge in future elections to ensure they pass the polling threshold.

The ‘leftwing threat’

The mistaken description of Labor as belonging to the left is a legacy of its early connections to European socialist parties and its development of a centrally planned economy in Israel’s first decades.

Labor’s emphasis on ethnic politics and communal segregation – the idea that Jewish and Palestinian citizens should live and learn apart – would have earned it a classification as an ultra-nationalist party anywhere but Israel.

Nonetheless, Labor has in the past signalled that it wants to separate from parts of the occupied Palestinian territories, chiefly as a way to ensure that an expanded Israel – one that includes some of the larger, illegal settlements – remains overwhelmingly Jewish. Its policies have also been constrained, relative to the right, by concerns about Israel’s image abroad.

By shifting the political centre of gravity ever further rightwards, however, Netanyahu has clearly established the idea in most Israeli voters’ minds that Labor is an extremist left-wing party that threatens to bring about the end of a Jewish state.

‘Eliminating the Israeli state’

That was highlighted in the previous election, when Netanyahu not only fearmongered among Jewish voters that Palestinian citizens were coming out to vote “in droves”, but falsely blamed the left for “bussing” them to polling stations.

This process reached new levels of absurdity – and danger – in the current election campaign.

Netanyahu repeatedly warned that Gantz’s party – dominated by generals and extolling its security record in crushing Palestinians – was part of the centre-left.

Netanyahu argued that a vote for Gantz would result in Israeli-Palestinian parties acting as kingmakers in the next government and thereby help to “eliminate” the state of Israel.

Historic low turnout

The four Palestinian parties in the election race, running this time on two slates rather than as a single Joint List, have also struggled. They looked set to scrape through with between six and 10 seats, down from 13 in the last Knesset.

That is because turnout among Israel’s Palestinian citizens hit a historic low in this election, hovering around the  50 percent mark. This was the most lacklustre campaign ever seen in Palestinian communities in Israel.

The polling figures contrast sharply with voting rates among the minority of close to 90 percent back in the 1960s, and of 75 percent just two decades ago, as well as a turnout of 85 percent in local authority elections just a few months back.

The collapse of the vote marks the minority’s near-complete disillusionment with Israeli national politics, and their conclusion that a fundamental and irreversible rift has taken place with the Jewish majority.

Hidden cameras spy on voters

That was made clear last summer, when Israel passed the nation-state law, which made explicit that Israel was a state belonging exclusively to Jews, rather than to all Israeli citizens – thereby cementing the minority’s status as unwelcome spectators in a “Jewish democracy”.

As one Palestinian analyst noted to the daily Haaretz newspaper, Israeli politics is now like a perverse football game, in which there are two Jewish teams and Palestinian citizens serve as the ball. “Everybody’s kicking us and neither team wants us,” he said.

Netanyahu underscored that point on election day itself, when he pulled another of his incitement stunts against the Palestinian minority. He sent more than 1,000 activists armed with hidden video cameras to monitor polling stations in Palestinian communities.

It was a gross violation of Israel’s election laws. But publicity over the cameras’ confiscation by police was another coup for Netanyahu’s fear-based politics. He defended the move as ensuring the election’s conduct was “kosher”, the term used to denote food that accords with strict Jewish dietary laws.

Like his earlier “droves” comment, it sent a clear message that the very presence of Palestinian voters subverts a democratic process intended for Jews only, and that the extreme right he represents is uniquely prepared to take the necessary action to defend a Jewish state.

Palestinian parties ostracised

Netanyahu, however, cannot be solely blamed for this state of affairs. Previously the Labor Party, and now Gantz’s party of generals, actively conspired in Netanyahu’s carefully crafted narrative, presenting Palestinian citizens as a fifth column.

Gantz repeatedly distanced himself from the Palestinian parties in response to Netanyahu’s incitement, vowing to sit only with “Jewish and Zionist” parties.

Effectively, with that promise, he not only shot the Palestinian minority in the head, but himself in the foot. It meant he never stood a hope of having enough seats to provide an alternative government to Netanyahu.

Now, it seems, Israel’s 1.8 million Palestinian citizens have fully absorbed the lesson: that all the Jewish parties, bar the four-seat Meretz party, have stripped them of a legitimate claim to political rights inside a Jewish state.

Haggling over annexation

There are a few other significant take-homes from the results.

Religious extremist parties are now the kingmakers on the right. Between them, they won more than a sixth of the parliament. Netanyahu will almost certainly need them in the government, and they will demand socially influential ministries, further accelerating the shift to religious fundamentalism in Israel.

In the run-up to the coalition-building negotiations, one such party representing religious settlers has already demanded that it be given the education and justice ministries.

Netanyahu is also in a weak position to resist – assuming he wished to – the demands of the far-right parties to begin the process of formally annexing significant parts of the West Bank.

Media reports are already suggesting that post-election haggling will focus on demands from these far-right parties for some form of annexation, in return for their agreeing to pass immunity legislation to shield Netanyahu from corruption indictments.

That explains his comments in the last days of the campaign, in which he promised to annex swaths of the West Bank where the settlements are located.

As Netanyahu’s hold on power became clear on Tuesday, he made a speech encapsulating his style of speaking with a forked tongue. He told the crowds: “I intend to be the prime minister of all the citizens of Israel, right and left, Jews and non-Jews.”

To outsiders, it may have sounded conciliatory. To those in Israel who know Netanyahu, it sounded more like a threat from a man who understands that there is no one in Israel – right or left, Jew or non-Jew – in a position to resist his dictates.

• First published in Middle East Eye

Trump’s “Collusion” and Corbyn as “Dangerous Hero”

According to corporate journalism, a tidal wave of ‘fake news’ has long been threatening to swamp their wonderful work reporting real news. The ProQuest media database finds fully 805,669 hits for newspaper articles mentioning the term ‘fake news’. The key sources of such fakery are said to be social media, and above all, of course, Russia.

It is a perfect irony, then, that ‘the Mueller report‘, conducted by the US Department of Justice Special Counsel’s Office, headed by former FBI Director Robert Mueller, ‘did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities’.

Jeremy Scahill of The Intercept explains the significance:

‘This has been an utterly colossal media failure and it reveals how little things have actually changed with the broader press since the Iraq War lies. The overall tone of much of the reporting on this Trump-Russia story has started from the position that the intelligence community was being truthful about Trump and Russia. The reporting then sought to further confirm those assertions. It was confirmation bias to the nth degree…

‘Also, the fact that Trump is a cartoonish buffoonish villain contributed to an atmosphere where the attitude was that anything Trump was accused of—no matter how insane it sounded—was totally plausible, if not likely, if not certain to have happened. Trump was not supposed to win. It was Hillary Clinton’s turn.’

As we will discuss below, this should ring loud bells with British readers subjected to a very similar smear campaign targeting Jeremy Corbyn, who was also ‘not supposed to win’ the Labour Party election leadership.

In 2017, a Guardian leading article commented on Trump and Russia:

‘The Guardian view of Trump’s Russia links: a lot to go at.’

Another leader in 2017 went much further:

‘Meanwhile the grenades he [Trump] lobs via Twitter or interview cloud the issue that still lies at the heart of his presidency: Russian meddling in the US election, and the possible collusion of his own campaign. All other iniquities pale beside this.’

Also in the Guardian in 2017, columnist Paul Mason highlighted ‘Kremlin involvement in the Trump campaign’ as the key reason ‘Trump could be out of office within a year’.

The Telegraph agreed that the ‘russiagate’ claim ‘is the cloud hanging over the entire presidency’.

The press has been filled with numerous similar examples.

Strongly echoing UK experience, Scahill adds:

‘We have been subjected to more than two years of nonstop, fact-free assertions and wild theories masquerading as fact, masquerading as insightful analysis.’

A tsunami of ‘fake news’, in other words, supplied by the very same media who have supplied that other tsunami of warnings on the threat of ‘fake news’.

The key word, and the title of Guardian journalist Luke Harding’s best-selling book: Collusion. The rest of the book title, unfortunately for Harding: How Russia Helped Trump Win the White House (Guardian Faber Publishing; Main, 2017).

Harding was also lead author of a fake, front-page Guardian claim in November 2018 that Paul Manafort, Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, had met Julian Assange three times in the Ecuadorian embassy in London. Both Harding and Guardian editor Kath Viner have refused to respond to challenges posed, for example, by former Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald. Needless to say, our questions were also ignored.
Tom Bower’s ‘Farrago of Falsehood and Insinuation’

As discussed, Scahill’s ‘years of nonstop, fact-free assertions and wild theories masquerading as fact’ also describes UK attacks on Corbyn. In an article for Middle East Eye, journalist Peter Oborne carefully examined a high-profile example supplied by investigative journalist Tom Bower’s book, Dangerous Hero – Corbyn’s Ruthless Plot For Power.

The title of Oborne’s piece:

‘Jeremy Corbyn and the truth about Tom Bower’s book – A biography about the Labour leader systematically distorts the truth, writes Peter Oborne.’

By contrast, the Amazon entry for Bower’s book features these impressive comments:

‘THE BOOK EVERY VOTER MUST READ’ Mail on Sunday

‘Meticulous and highly readable … Funny and devastating’ Daily Telegraph

‘The most compelling in-depth study so far’ Guardian

No surprise, then, that the book features in prominent, shop-front and multiple other in-store displays in bookshops like Waterstones and Foyles.

In the Independent, former editor Chris Blackhurst wrote:

‘Reading Tom Bower’s insightful new biography… I was reminded of his [Corbyn’s] isolation and single-mindedness.’

Blackhurst continued:

‘Reading Bower, you’re left in no doubt that Corbyn wants to turn the clock back, that his solution to those problematic examples and awkward developments that upset his path is merely to ignore them. This makes him very dangerous indeed, hard to reason with, oblivious to criticism and set in his ways. It’s a troubling account, one that should give every entrepreneur pause and anyone who works in business pause.’

Writing in the Telegraph, Tom Harris gave four out of five stars to Bower’s ‘devastating account of Corbyn’s rise to the top’. Harris wrote:

‘Bower’s meticulous and highly readable account must be absorbed from start to finish’ [and was] ‘Funny and devastating’.

In the Sunday Times, Dominic Sandbrook, praised ‘a forensically detailed portrait of a man with no inner life, a monomaniac suffused with an overwhelming sense of his own righteousness…’

ProQuest finds no less than 22 hits for articles mentioning Bower and his book in the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday. In the latter, historian Andrew Roberts welcomed the paper’s ‘serialisation of Tom Bower’s searing biography of Corbyn’. Roberts wrote:

‘Today’s extract from Bower’s book charts how anti-Zionism became a near-obsession for Corbyn since his early days as a trades union researcher, leading him to believe in what Bower describes as “the malign collective power of Jews”.’

The book ‘made clear’ that Corbyn ‘has adopted a Leninist blueprint for taking and controlling power at Westminster, while playing the “nice guy”.’

Oborne, on the other hand, took such a dim view of the book that he felt obliged to remind readers of the whole ethical basis of political journalism:

‘Those of us who report on politics are at liberty to express, within limits, whatever opinions we like. These limits include an obligation to observe standards. We should strive to be accurate. We can make strong arguments but ought not to distort the truth or suppress relevant information to make our point.

‘Writer Tom Bower fails catastrophically to meet these standards. It is not only that Dangerous Hero: Corbyn’s Ruthless Plot For Power, his new book on Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, contains numerous falsehoods. It systematically omits relevant facts in order to portray Corbyn as a ruthless Marxist and anti-semite hell-bent on destroying Western liberal values.’

Oborne continued:

‘The ugly truth is that Bower is not straight with his readers, let alone Corbyn.

‘Again and again he withholds relevant information, with the result that the Labour leader and his colleagues come over in the worst possible light.’

Oborne provided numerous examples in his long, careful analysis. For example:

‘Bower makes much of a confrontation between Labour activist Marc Wadsworth and Labour MP Ruth Smeeth at the launch for Shami Chakrabarti’s report on anti-semitism in June 2016. He writes that “Wadsworth snapped at her that not only was she ‘working hand-in-hand’ with the right-wing media by speaking to the journalist, but she was also a Jew”.

‘The brief incident is recorded on video. I have examined this video. Nowhere in the footage does Wadsworth say that Smeeth is Jewish. I spoke to two eyewitnesses to this event, both of whom confirmed to me that at no point did Wadsworth say that Smeeth was Jewish.’

Bower’s book contains a really extraordinary claim against Corbyn’s press officer, former Guardian comment editor Seumas Milne, describing his behaviour after the arrival of members of the Board of Deputies of British Jews in Corbyn’s office:

‘In the presence of Jews, his body language had visibly changed.’

Oborne noted that no evidence or source was provided to justify this accusation, which depicts Milne as an authentically Nazi-style Jew-hater. Oborne responded, to devastating effect, citing journalist David Hearst:

“‘I sat for a number of years opposite Seumas,’ he told me. ‘I am Jewish, as are a number of my former colleagues on The Guardian. At no time did any of us sense that Seumas’s body language changed in our presence.

“‘He was part of the team, held in high regard for his knowledge of the Middle East and often consulted on it, particularly by the person who sat next to him, fellow columnist Jonathan Freedland. That opinion of Seumas was shared by our editor at the time, Alan Rusbridger, who kept him as comment editor for six years.'”

Bower’s response to Oborne’s critique?

‘During the last 36 hours, I have made numerous attempts to make contact with Tom Bower in order to give him the chance to defend himself. I’ve contacted him by mobile phone, by text message and at his direct line at his London home. No answer. I also emailed a list of questions to Bower yesterday morning, both to his private email address and to his publicist at William Collins. He has not responded to me.’

Oborne has since told us that Bower never responded to his questions (Twitter, direct message, March 28). He continued:

‘Bower has made an astonishing number of factual errors – more than I have ever come across in a book from a mainstream publisher. While something has clearly gone horribly wrong with the editing process at William Collins, Bower is the author and must take full responsibility…

‘Time after time, Bower makes assertions that are not backed by any evidence. The problem is so bad that I resolved to carry out my own investigation into the truth of some of the assertions made in Bower’s book. This article is the result of my research. Again and again, I have been able to prove that his account of events is false, misleading and, in some cases, pure fabrication.’

Oborne added:

‘Bower’s book is not just intellectually dishonest, it is a farrago of falsehood and insinuation.

‘Yet it appears to have had no difficulty finding a mainstream publisher, while receiving a generous reception in the mainstream press. To their credit a handful of reviewers – above all Stephen Bush in the Observer – have exposed some of the errors in this book. But even the Bush review hardly touches on the extent of the collapse of journalistic standards in Bower’s account of Corbyn.’

To his credit, the Guardian‘s George Monbiot tweeted Oborne’s piece with high praise:

‘A brave and remarkable review’

A tweeter countered, noting that ‘similar nonsense comes from Guardian on a daily basis without regard to balance or fact’.

Monbiot replied:

‘Both the Guardian and the Observer slated the book.’

In fact, Guardian columnist and former political editor of the Observer, Gaby Hinsliff, concluded of Bower’s book in the Guardian:

‘This is the most compelling in-depth study so far of a man whose head is unusually difficult to get inside, given his suspicion of anyone who isn’t a fellow traveller. Just don’t expect it to change anyone’s mind.’

It is telling to compare Hinsliff’s most severe criticism with Oborne’s:

‘And that’s perhaps the biggest flaw in an otherwise damning book. Bower’s colours seem nailed to the mast…’

As Oborne says:

‘British journalists need to ask themselves a question. Is there something rotten in British media discourse which allows someone like Bower to get away with this?’

It is an important question. Celebrating ‘a farrago of falsehood’ titled Dangerous Hero can have dangerous consequences. Last month, Corbyn was punched in the head by a protestor holding an egg (dismissed as an ‘egging’ by journalists) who was subsequently jailed for 28 days for the attack. This week, we learned that soldiers of the 3rd Battalion of the British Paratroop Regiment filmed themselves shooting at a picture of Corbyn.

This recalls the revelation, in 2015, that a senior serving general had warned that a government led by Corbyn could face ‘a mutiny’ from the army. The unnamed general told the Sunday Times:

‘The Army just wouldn’t stand for it. The general staff would not allow a prime minister to jeopardise the security of this country and I think people would use whatever means possible, fair or foul to prevent that. You can’t put a maverick in charge of a country’s security.’

Political and press criticism of Corbyn has always far exceeded the usual fierce disagreement, presenting him as a treacherous threat to national security, an anti-semitic fool who is ‘unfit’ to lead the country. He has been relentlessly presented as fundamentally unacceptable. As this alert was being written, Conservative MP Caroline Johnson warned in parliament that mismanaging Brexit risked ‘letting down the country and ushering in a Marxist, anti-semite-led government’. It is, in fact, astonishing to see how, in less than four years, politicians and journalists have turned an honest, compassionate, decent politician into a hate figure.

If ‘acceptable’ political choices are ultimately determined by the media, the government, or even by the military, we are well on the way to fascism.