Category Archives: United Kingdom

System Fail #2: An Airborne Virus Called Freedom

A look at the social and economic devastation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, with a specific focus on the incompetent state responses of the UK, Brazil and the United States.

Featuring an interview with anarchist writer Peter Gelderloos, author of Diagnostic of the Future: Between the Crisis of Capitalism and the Crisis of Democracy.

Yemen: A Torrent of Suffering in a Time of Siege

When evil-doing comes like falling rain, nobody calls out “stop!”  When crimes begin to pile up they become invisible. When sufferings become unendurable, the cries are no longer heard. The cries, too, fall like rain in summer.

— Bertolt Brecht, “When evil-doing comes like falling rain” [Wenn die Untat kommt, wie der Regen fällt] (1935), trans. John Willett in Poems, 1913-1956, p. 247

 In war-torn Yemen, the crimes pile up. Children who bear no responsibility for governance or warfare endure the punishment. In 2018, UNICEF said the war made Yemen a living hell for children. By the year’s end, Save the Children reported 85,000 children under age five had already died from starvation since the war escalated in 2015. By the end of 2020, it is expected that 23,500 children with severe acute malnutrition will be at immediate risk of death.

Cataclysmic conditions afflict Yemen as people try to cope with rampant diseases, the spread of COVID-19, flooding, literal swarms of locusts, rising displacement, destroyed infrastructure and a collapsed economy. Yet war rages, bombs continue to fall, and desperation fuels more crimes.

The highest-paying jobs available to many Yemeni men and boys require a willingness to kill and maim one another, by joining militias or armed groups which seemingly never run out of weapons. Nor does the Saudi-Led Coalition  which kills and maims civilians; instead, it deters relief shipments and destroys crucial infrastructure with weapons it imports from Western countries.

The aerial attacks displace traumatized survivors into swelling, often lethal, refugee camps. Amid the wreckage of factories, fisheries, roads, sewage and sanitation facilities, schools and hospitals, Yemenis search in vain for employment and, increasingly, for food and water. The Saudi-Led-Coalition’s blockade, also enabled by Western training and weapons, makes it impossible for Yemenis to restore a functioning economy.

Even foreign aid can become punitive. In March, 2020, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) decided to suspend most aid for Yemenis living in areas controlled by the Houthis.

Scott Paul, who leads Oxfam America’s humanitarian policy advocacy, strongly criticized this callous decision to compound the misery imposed on vulnerable people in Yemen. “In future years,” he wrote, “scholars will study USAID’s suspension as a paradigmatic example of a donor’s exploitation and misuse of humanitarian principles.”

As the evil-doing in Yemen comes “like falling rain,” so do the cries of “Stop!” from millions of people all over the world. Here’s some of what’s been happening:

  • U.S. legislators in both the House of Representatives and the Senate voted to block the sale of billions of dollars in weapons and maintenance to Saudi Arabia and its allies. But President Trump vetoed the bill in 2019.
  • Canada’s legislators declared a moratorium on weapon sales to the Saudis. But the Canadian government has resumed selling weapons to the Saudis, claiming the moratorium only pertained to the creation of new contracts, not existing ones.
  • The United Kingdom suspended military sales to Saudi Arabia because of human rights violations, but the UK’s international trade secretary nevertheless resumed weapon sales saying the 516 charges of Saudi human rights violations are all isolated incidents and don’t present a pattern of abuse.
  • French NGOs and human rights advocates urged their government to scale back on weapon sales to the Saudi-Led coalition, but reports on 2019 weapon sales revealed the French government sold 1.4 billion Euros worth of weapons to Saudi Arabia.
  • British campaigners opposing weapon transfers to the Saudi-Led Coalition have exposed how the British Navy gave the Saudi Navy training in tactics essential to the devastating Yemen blockade.
  • In Canada, Spain, France and Italy, laborers opposed to the ongoing war refused to load weapons onto ships sailing to Saudi Arabia. Rights groups track the passage of trains and ships carrying these weapons.

On top of all this, reports produced by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Oxfam, the Norwegian Refugee Council, and the International Commission of the Red Cross repeatedly expose the Saudi-Led Coalition’s human rights violations.

Yet this international outcry clamoring for an end to the war is still being drowned out by the voices of military contractors with well-paid lobbyists plying powerful elites in Western governments. Their concern is simply for the profits to be reaped and the competitive sales to be scored.

In 2019 Lockheed Martin’s total sales reached nearly 60 billion dollars, the best year on record for the world’s largest “defense” contractor. Before stepping down as CEO, Marillyn Hewson predicted demand from the Pentagon and U.S. allies would generate an uptake between $6.2 billion and $6.4 billion in net earnings for the company in 2020 sales.

Hewson’s words, spoken calmly, drown out the cries of Yemeni children whose bodies were torn apart by just one of Lockheed Martin’s bombs.

In August of 2018, bombs manufactured by Raytheon, Boeing, General Dynamics and Lockheed Martin fell on Yemen like summer rain. On August 9, 2018, a missile blasted a school bus in Yemen, killing forty children and injuring many others.

Photos showed badly injured children still carrying UNICEF blue backpacks, given to them that morning as gifts. Other photos showed surviving children helping prepare graves for their schoolmates. One  photo showed a piece of the bomb protruding from the wreckage with the number MK82 clearly stamped on it. That number on the shrapnel helped identify Lockheed Martin as the manufacturer.

The psychological damage being inflicted on these children is incalculable. “My son is really hurt from the inside,” said a parent whose child was severely wounded by the bombing. “We try to talk to him to feel better and we can’t stop ourselves from crying.”

The cries against war in Yemen also fall like rain and whatever thunder accompanies the rain is distant, summer thunder. Yet, if we cooperate with war-making elites, the most horrible storms will be unleashed. We must learn — and quickly — to make a torrent of our mingled cries and, as the prophet Amos demanded, ‘let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

Some of the 40 blue backpacks worn in a protest in New York city against the war in Yemen. Each backpack was accompanied by a sign with the name and age of a child killed on a school bus in Dahyan, northern Yemen, on August 9, 2018, in a Saudi/UAE airstrike. (Photo: CODEPINK)

A version of this article first appeared in The Progressive Magazine.

UK Labour Party teeters on Brink of Civil War Over Antisemitism

Jeremy Corbyn, the former left-wing leader of Britain’s Labour party, is once again making headlines over an “antisemitism problem” he supposedly oversaw during his five years at the head of the party.

This time, however, the assault on his reputation is being led not by the usual suspects – pro-Israel lobbyists and a billionaire-owned media – but by Keir Starmer, the man who succeeded him.

Since becoming Labour leader in April, Starmer has helped to bolster the evidence-free narrative of a party plagued by antisemitism under Corbyn. That has included Starmer’s refusal to exploit two major opportunities to challenge that narrative.

Had those chances been grasped, Labour might have been able to demonstrate that Corbyn was the victim of an underhanded campaign to prevent him from reaching power.

Starmer, had he chosen to, could have shown that Corbyn’s long history as an anti-racism campaigner was twisted to discredit him. His decades of vocal support for Palestinian rights were publicly recast as a supposed irrational hatred of Israel based on an antipathy to Jews.

But instead Starmer chose to sacrifice his predecessor rather than risk being tarred with the same brush.

As a result, Labour now appears to be on the brink of open war. Competing rumors suggest Corbyn may be preparing to battle former staff through the courts, while Starmer may exile his predecessor from the party.

Rocketing membership

Corbyn’s troubles were inevitable the moment the mass membership elected him Labour leader in 2015 in defiance of the party bureaucracy and most Labour MPs. Corbyn was determined to revive the party as a vehicle for democratic socialism and end Britain’s role meddling overseas as a junior partner to the global hegemon of the United States.

That required breaking with Labour’s capture decades earlier, under Tony Blair, as a party of neoliberal orthodoxy at home and neoconservative orthodoxy abroad.

Until Corbyn arrived on the scene, Labour had become effectively a second party of capital alongside Britain’s ruling Conservative party, replicating the situation in the US with the Democratic and Republican parties.

His attempts to push the party back towards democratic socialism attracted hundreds of thousands of new members, quickly making Labour the largest party in Europe. But it also ensured a wide-ranging alliance of establishment interests was arrayed against him, including the British military, the corporate media, and the pro-Israel lobby.

Politicized investigation

Unlike Corbyn, Starmer has not previously shown any inclination to take on the might of the establishment. In fact, he had previously proven himself its willing servant.

As head of Britain’s prosecution service in 2013, for example, his department issued thinly veiled threats to Sweden to continue its legal pursuit of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who had sought political asylum in London’s Ecuadorian embassy, even as Swedish interest in the case waned.

With his background in realpolitik, Starmer appears to have grasped quickly the danger of being seen to share any common ground with Corbyn – not only should he pursue significant elements of his predecessor’s program, but by challenging the carefully crafted establishment narrative around Corbyn.

For this reason, he has refused to seize either of the two chances presented to him to demonstrate that Labour had no more of an antisemitism problem than the relatively marginal one that exists more generally in British society.

That failure is likely to prove all the more significant given that in a matter of weeks Labour is expected to face the findings of an investigation by the UK’s Equality and Human Rights Commission.

The highly politicized watchdog body, which took on the probe into Labour while refusing to investigate plentiful evidence of an Islamophobia problem in the Conservative party, is expected to shore up the Corbyn-antisemitism narrative.

Labour has said it will readily accept the Commission’s findings, whatever they are. The watchdog body is likely to echo the prevailing narrative that Corbyn attracted left-wingers to the party who were ideologically tainted with antisemitism masquerading as anti-Zionism. As a result, or so the argument goes, Jew hatred flourished on his watch.

Starmer has already declared “zero tolerance” of antisemitism, but he has appeared willing – in line with pro-Israel lobbyists in his party – to conflate Jew hatred with trenchant criticism of Israel.

The barely veiled intention is to drive Corbynite members out of Labour – either actively through suspensions or passively as their growing disillusionment leads to a mass exodus.

By distancing himself from his predecessor, Starmer knows no dirt will stick to him even as the Equality Commission drags Corbyn’s name through the mud.

Sabotaged from within

Starmer rejected the first chance to salvage the reputations of Corbyn and the wider Labour membership days after he became leader.

In mid-April, an 850-page internal party report was leaked, stuffed with the text of lengthy email exchanges and WhatsApp chats by senior party staff. They showed that, as had long been suspected, Corbyn’s own officials worked hard to sabotage his leadership from within.

Staff at headquarters still loyal to the Blair vision of the party even went so far as to actively throw the 2017 general election, when Labour was a hair’s-breadth away from ousting the Conservatives from government. These officials hoped a crushing defeat would lead to Corbyn’s removal from office.

The report described a “hyper-factional atmosphere”, with officials, including then-deputy leader Tom Watson, regularly referring to Corbyn and his supporters as “Trots” – a reference to Leon Trotsky, one of the leaders of a violent Communist revolution in Russia more than a century ago.

Corbynites were thrown out of the party on the flimsiest pretexts, such as describing those like Blair who led the 2003 attack on Iraq as “warmongers”.

But one early, favored tactic by staff in the disciplinary unit was to publicize antisemitism cases and then drag out their resolution to create the impression that the party under Corbyn was not taking the issue seriously.

These officials also loosened the definition of antisemitism to pursue cases against Corbyn’s supporters who, like him, were vocal in defending Palestinian rights or critical of Israeli policies.

This led to the preposterous situation where Labour was suspending and expelling anti-Zionist Jews who supported Corbyn on the grounds that they were supposedly antisemites, while action was delayed on dealing with a Holocaust denier.

The narrative against Corbyn being crafted by his own officials was eagerly picked up and amplified by the strong contingent of Blairites among Labour legislators in the parliament, as well as by the corporate media and by Israel lobbyists both inside and outside Labour.

Effort to bury report

The parties responsible for leaking the report in April did so because Labour, now led by Starmer, had no intention of publicizing it.

In fact, the report had been originally compiled as part of Labour’s submission to the Equality and Human Rights Commission, effectively giving Corbyn’s side of the story against his opponents.

But once Corbyn stepped down, the party bureaucracy under Starmer preferred to shelve it. That decision meant there would be no case for the defense, and Corbyn’s opponents’ claims would go unchallenged.

Once leaked, Starmer stuck to his position. Rather than use the report as an opportunity to expose the ugly campaign against Corbyn and thereby question the antisemitism narrative, Starmer did his level best to bury it from sight.

He vowed to investigate “the circumstances in which the report was put into the public domain”. That sounded ominously like a threat to hound those who had tried to bring to light the party’s betrayal of its previous leader.

Rather than accept the evidence presented in the leaked report of internal corruption and the misuse of party funds, Starmer set up an inquiry under QC Martin Forde to investigate the earlier investigation.

The Forde inquiry looked like Starmer’s effort to kick the damaging revelations into the long grass.

The British media gave the leaked report – despite its earth-shattering revelations of Labour officials sabotaging an election campaign – little more than perfunctory coverage.

Labour ‘whistleblowers’

A second, related chance to challenge the Corbyn-antisemitism narrative reached its conclusion last week. And again, Starmer threw in Labour’s hand.

In July last year – long before the report had been leaked – the BBC’s prestige news investigation show Panorama set out to answer a question it posed in the episode’s title: “Is Labour Antisemitic?

John Ware, a reporter openly hostile to Corbyn and well-known for supporting Israel and his antipathy towards Muslims, was chosen to front the investigation.

The program presented eight former staff as “whistleblowers”, their testimonies supposedly exposing Corbyn’s indulgence of antisemitism. They included those who would soon be revealed in the leaked report as intractable ideological enemies of the Corbyn project and others who oversaw the dysfunctional complaints process that dragged its heels on resolving antisemitism cases.

The Panorama program was dismal even by the low standards of political reporting set by the BBC in the Corbyn era.

The show made much of the testimony of pro-Israel lobbyists inside the Labour party belonging to a group called the Jewish Labour Movement. They were not identified – either by name or by affiliation – despite being given the freedom to make anecdotal and unspecified claims of antisemitism against Corbyn and his supporters.

The BBC’s decision not to name these participants had nothing to do with protecting their identities, even though that was doubtless the impression conveyed to the audience.

Most were already known as Israel partisans because they had been exposed in a 2017 four-part al-Jazeera undercover documentary called The Lobby. They were filmed colluding with an Israeli embassy official, Shai Masot, to bring down Corbyn. The BBC did not identify these pro-Israel activists presumably because they had zero credibility as witnesses.

One-sided coverage

Nonetheless, a seemingly stronger case – at least, at the time – was made by the eight former Labour staff. Their testimonies to the BBC suggested they had been hampered and bullied by Corbyn’s team as they tried to stamp out antisemitism.

Panorama allowed these claims to go unchallenged, even though with a little digging it could have tapped sources inside Labour who were already compiling what would become the leaked report, presenting a very different view of these self-styled “whistleblowers”.

The BBC also failed to talk to Jewish Voice for Labour, a group of Labour party members supportive of Corbyn who challenged the way the Jewish Labour Movement had manipulated the definition of antisemitism in the party to harm Palestinian solidarity activists.

And the BBC did not call as counter-witnesses any of the anti-Zionist Jews who were among the earliest victims of the purge of supposed antisemites by Labour’s apparent “whistleblowers”.

Instead, it selectively quoted from an email by Seumas Milne, Corbyn’s chief adviser, to suggest that he had interfered in the disciplinary process to help antisemites avoid suspension.

Proper context from the BBC would have revealed that Milne had simply expressed concern at how the rule book was being interpreted when several Jews had been suspended for antisemitism – and that he had proffered his view only because a staff member now claiming to be a whistleblower had asked for it.

This section of the Panorama show looked suspiciously like entrapment of Milne by Labour staff, followed by collusion from the BBC in promoting their false narrative.

Flawed reporting

Despite these and many other serious flaws in the Panorama episode, it set the tone for subsequent discussion of the “antisemitism problem” in Labour.

The program aired a few months before a general election, last December, that Corbyn lost to Boris Johnson and the ruling Conservative party.

One of the key damaging, “gotcha” moments of the campaign was an interview with the veteran BBC interviewer Andrew Neil in which he repeatedly asked Corbyn to apologize for antisemitism in the party, as had been supposedly exposed by Panorama. Corbyn’s refusal to respond directly to the question left him looking evasive and guilty.

With the rest of the media amplifying the Panorama claims rather than testing them, it has become the accepted benchmark for judging the Corbyn era. The show has even been nominated for a Bafta award, the British equivalent to an Oscar.

Shortly after the program aired, Corbyn’s team disputed the Panorama narrative, saying it had contained “deliberate and malicious misrepresentations designed to mislead the public”. They also described the “whistleblowers” as disaffected former staff with “political axes to grind”.

Ware and seven of the former staff members who appeared in the program launched a defamation action against the Labour party.

After the internal report was leaked in April, the legal scales tipped decisively in Labour’s favor. Starmer was reportedly advised by lawyers that the party would be well-positioned to defeat the legal action and clear Corbyn and the party’s name.

But again Starmer preferred to fold. Before the case could be tested in court, Starmer issued an apology last week to the ex-staff members and Ware, and paid them a six-figure sum in damages.

Admitting that “antisemitism has been a stain on the Labour Party in recent years”, the statement accepted the claims of the ex-staff to be “whistleblowers”, even capitalizing the word to aggrandize their status.

It said: “We acknowledge the many years of dedicated and committed service that the Whistleblowers have given to the Labour Party … We unreservedly withdraw all allegations of bad faith, malice and lying.”

Threat of bankruptcy

With typical understatement, Corbyn said he was “disappointed” at the settlement, calling it a “political decision, not a legal one”. He added that it “risks giving credibility to misleading and inaccurate allegations about action taken to tackle antisemitism in the Labour party in recent years.”

Starmer’s decision also preempted – and effectively nullified – the Forde inquiry, which was due to submit its own findings on antisemitism in Labour later in the year.

Many in the party were infuriated that their membership dues had been used to pay off a group of ex-staff who, according to the leaked report, had undermined the party’s elected leader and helped to throw a general election.

But in what looked disturbingly like a move to silence Corbyn, Ware said he was consulting lawyers once again about launching a legal battle, personally against the former Labour leader, over his criticism of the settlement.

Mark Lewis, the solicitor acting for Ware and the whistleblowers, has said he is also preparing an action for damages against Labour on behalf of 32 individuals named in the leaked report. Among them is Lord Iain McNichol, who served as the party’s general secretary at the time.

Lewis reportedly intends to focus on staff privacy breaches under the Data Protection Act, disclosure of private information and alleged violations of employment law.

Conversely, Mark Howell, a Labour party member, has initiated an action against Labour and McNichol seeking damages for “breach of contract”. He demands that those named in the leaked report be expelled from the party.

He is also reported to be considering referring named staff members to the Crown Prosecution Service under the 2006 Fraud Act for their failure to uphold the interests of party members who paid staff salaries.

This spate of cases threatens to hemorrhage money from the party. There have been warnings that financial settlements, as well as members deserting the party in droves, could ultimately bankrupt Labour.

Corbyn to be expelled?

Within days of the apology, a crowdfunding campaign raised more than £280,000 for Corbyn to clear his name in any future legal actions.

Given his own self-serving strategy, Starmer would doubtless be embarrassed by such a move. There are already rumors that he is considering withdrawing the party whip from Corbyn – a form of exile from the party.

Pressure on him to do so is mounting. At the weekend it was reported that ex-staff might drop the threatened case over the embarrassing revelations contained in the leaked report should Starmer expel Corbyn.

Quoting someone it described as a “well-placed source”, the Mail on Sunday newspaper set out the new stakes. “Labour says they have zero tolerance to anti-Semitism. Zero tolerance means no Corbyn and no Corbynistas,” the source said.

There are already reports of what amounts to a purge of left-wing members from Labour.

Starmer has committed to upholding “10 Pledges” produced by the Board of Deputies – a conservative Jewish leadership organization hostile to Corbyn and the left – that places it and the pro-Israel lobbyists of the Jewish Labour Movement in charge of deciding what constitutes antisemitism in the party.

Selective concern

Starmer’s decision about who can serve in his shadow cabinet is a reminder that the storm over Corbyn was never about real antisemitism – the kind that targets Jews for being Jews. It was a pretext to be rid of the Corbyn project and democratic socialism.

Starmer quickly pushed out the last two prominent Corbynites in his shadow cabinet – both on matters related to criticism of Israel.

By contrast, he has happily indulged the kind of antisemitism that harms Jews as long as it comes from members of his shadow cabinet who are not associated with Corbyn.

Starmer picked Rachel Reeves for his team, even though earlier this year she tweeted a tribute to Nancy Astor, a supporter of Hitler and notorious antisemite. Reeves has refused to delete the tweet.

And Steve Reed is still the shadow communities secretary, even though this month he referred to a Jewish newspaper tycoon, Richard Desmond, as a “puppet master” – the very definition of an antisemitic trope.

Starmer’s “zero tolerance” appears to be highly selective – more concerned about harsh criticism of a state, Israel, than the othering of Jews. Tellingly, Starmer has been under no serious pressure from the Jewish Labour Movement, or from the media or from Jewish leadership organizations such as the Board of Deputies to take any action against either Reeves or Reed.

He has moved swiftly against leftists in his party who criticize Israel but has shrugged his shoulders at supposed “moderates” who, it could be argued, have encouraged or glorified hatred and suspicion of Jews.

But then the antisemitism furor was never about safeguarding Jews. It was about creating a cover story as the establishment protected itself from democratic socialism.

Julian Assange’s Political Indictment: Old Wine in Older Bottles

The book of hours on Julian Assange is now being written.  But the scribes are far from original.  Repeated rituals of administrative hearings that have no common purpose other than to string things out before the axe are being enacted.  Of late, the man most commonly associated with WikiLeaks’ publication project cannot participate in any meaningful way, largely because of his frail health and the dangers posed to him by the coronavirus.  Having already made an effort to attend court proceedings in person, Assange has come across as judicial exotica, freak show fodder for Judge Vanessa Baraitser’s harsh version of Judge Judy.  He was refused an application to escape his glass commode when he could still attend in person, as permitting him to descend and consult his defence team in a court room would constitute a bail application of some risk.  This reading by the judicial head was so innovative it even puzzled the prosecutors.

What we know to date is that restrictions and shackles on Assange’s case are the order of the day.  Restricted processes that do nothing to enable him to see counsel and enable a good brief to be exercised are typical.  Most of all, the ceremonial circus that we have come to expect of British justice in the menacing shadow of US intimidation has become gloomily extensive. On July 27, that circus was given yet another act, another limping performance.  As before, the venue was the Westminster Magistrates’ Court in London.

During the proceeding, Assange did appear via video link from Belmarsh Prison, albeit it an hour late, and only at the insistence of his legal team.  The Guardian report on his presence reads like an account of a sporting engagement.  “Wearing a beige sweater and a pink shirt, Assange eventually appeared from Belmarsh prison after an earlier attempt was aborted.”

Others were alarmed.  During his call-over hearing, noted Martin Silk of the Australian Associated Press, “neither the Australian, nor his guards, were wearing face masks.  I don’t understand the reason for that given we have to wear them inside shops.”  This point was also made by Assange’s partner, Stella Moris: “Belmarsh hasn’t provided Julian with a face mask throughout this #covid crisis.  The prison guards he interacts with don’t wear them either.”  WikiLeaks supporter Juan Passarelli also felt that Assange “was having trouble following the proceedings due to the Judge and lawyers not speaking loud enough and into the microphones.”

Arrangements for the hearing for observers proved characteristically sloppy.  Freelance journalist Stefania Maurizi was unimpressed by being on the phone for two hours during which she “couldn’t understand more than 20 percent of what has been discussed.”  She was adamant that “UK authorities don’t care at all about international reporters covering” the Assange proceedings. “Dial in system is, as usual,” agreed Passarelli, “a shambles!”

The topic of discussion during this administrative hearing was what was announced by the US Department of Justice on June 24, namely the second superseding indictment.  That document proved to be a naked exercise of political overreach, adding no further charges to the already heavy complement of eighteen, seventeen of which centre on the US Espionage Act.  The scope of interest, however, was widened, notably on the issue of “hacking” and conferencing.  Assange is painted as devilish recruiter and saboteur of the international secret order, a man of the conference circuit keen to open up clandestine governments and make various reasons for doing so.  “According to the charging document, Assange and others at WikiLeaks recruited and agreed with hackers to commit computer intrusions to benefit WikiLeaks.”

Edward Fitzgerald QC, in representing Assange, fulfilled his norm, submitting that the recently revised document did little to inspire confidence in the nature of clarified justice.  “We are concerned about a fresh request being made at this stage with the potential consequences of derailing proceedings and that the US attorney-general is doing this for political reasons.” Fitzgerald reminded the court that US President Donald Trump had “described the defence case as a plot by the Democrats.”

This should have been obvious, but Baraitser’s court would have none of it.  To admit at this point that Assange is wanted for political reasons would make it that much harder to extradite him to the United States, given that bar noted in the US-UK Extradition Treaty. Whilst it was good of Fitzgerald to make this point, he should know by now that his audience is resolutely constipated and indifferent to such prodding.  Assange is to be given the sharpest, rather than the most balanced, of hearings.  Accordingly, Baraitser insisted that Fitzgerald “reserve his comments” – she, in the true tradition of such processes, had not been supplied, as yet, with the US indictment.  This made the entire presence of all the parties at the Westminster Magistrates’ not merely meaningless but decidedly absurd.

Assange’s defence team could draw some cold comfort from Baraitser’s comments that July 27 was the deadline for any further evidence to be adduced by the prosecution before the September extradition hearing.  One exception was permitted: psychiatric reports.

The current chief publisher of WikiLeaks Kristinn Hrafnsson had a few choice words for the prosecutors of Wikileaks.  “All the alleged events have been known to the prosecution for years.  It contains no new charges. What’s really happening here is that despite its decade start the prosecution are still unable to build a coherent case.”  The scrapping of the previous indictments suggested that they were “flagrantly disregarding proper process.”

Assange is facing one of the most disturbing confections put together by any state that claims itself to be free.  Should this stratagem work, the publisher will find himself facing the legal proceedings of a country that boasts of having a free press amendment but is keen on excluding him from it.  What is even more troubling is the desire to expand the tent of culpability, one that will include press outlets and those who disseminate classified information.

To the next circus instalment we go: a final call-over hearing in Westminster Magistrates’ Court on August 14, then the September 7 extradition hearing, to be held at the Central Criminal Court most of us know as the Old Bailey.  Will justice prove blind, or merely blinded?

Post-Brexit Agrochemical Apocalypse for the UK?

The British government, regulators and global agrochemical corporations are colluding with each other and are thus engaging in criminal behaviour. That’s the message put forward in a new report written by environmentalist Dr Rosemary Mason and sent to the UK Environment Agency. It follows her January 2019 open letter to Werner Baumann, CEO of Bayer CropScience, where she made it clear to him that she considers Bayer CropScience and Monsanto criminal corporations.

Her letter to Baumann outlined a cocktail of corporate duplicity, cover-ups and criminality which the public and the environment are paying the price for, not least in terms of the effects of glyphosate. Later in 2019, Mason wrote to Bayer Crop Science shareholders, appealing to them to put human health and nature ahead of profit and to stop funding Bayer.

Mason outlined with supporting evidence how the gradual onset of the global extinction of many species is largely the result of chemical-intensive industrial agriculture. She argued that Monsanto’s (now Bayer) glyphosate-based Roundup herbicide and Bayer’s clothianidin are largely responsible for the destruction of the Great Barrier Reef and that the use of glyphosate and neonicotinoid insecticides are wiping out wildlife species across the globe.

In February 2020, Mason wrote the report ‘Bayer Crop Science rules Britain after Brexit – the public and the press are being poisoned by pesticides’. She noted that PM Boris Johnson plans to do a trade deal with the US that could see the gutting of food and environment standards. In a speech setting out his goals for trade after Brexit, Johnson talked up the prospect of an agreement with Washington and downplayed the need for one with Brussels – if the EU insists the UK must stick to its regulatory regime. In other words, he wants to ditch EU regulations.

Mason pondered just who could be pulling Johnson’s strings. A big clue came in February 2019 at a Brexit meeting on the UK chemicals sector where UK regulators and senior officials from government departments listened to the priorities of Bayer Crop Science. During the meeting (Westminster Energy, Environment & Transport Forum Keynote Seminar: Priorities for UK chemicals sector – challenges, opportunities and the future for regulation post-Brexit), Janet Williams, head of regulatory science at Bayer Crop Science Division, made the priorities for agricultural chemical manufacturers known.

Dave Bench was also a speaker. Bench is a senior scientist at the UK Chemicals, Health and Safety Executive and director of the agency’s EU exit plan and has previously stated that the regulatory system for pesticides is robust and balances the risks of pesticides against the benefits to society.

In an open letter to Bench, Mason responded:

That statement is rubbish. It is for the benefit of the agrochemical industry. The industry (for it is the industry that does the testing, on behalf of regulators) only tests one pesticide at a time, whereas farmers spray a cocktail of pesticides, including over children and babies, without warning.

It seems that post-Brexit the UK could authorise the continued use of glyphosate. Of course, with a US trade deal in the pipeline, there are major concerns about glyphosate-resistant GMOs and the lowering of food standards across the board.

Mason says that glyphosate causes epigenetic changes in humans and animals: diseases skip a generation. Washington State University researchers found a variety of diseases and other health problems in the second- and third-generation offspring of rats exposed to glyphosate. In the first study of its kind, the researchers saw descendants of exposed rats developing prostate, kidney and ovarian diseases, obesity and birth abnormalities.

Glyphosate has been the subject of numerous studies about its health effects. Robert F Kennedy Jr, one of the attorney’s fighting Bayer (which has bought Monsanto) in the US courts, has explained that for four decades Monsanto manoeuvred to conceal Roundup’s carcinogenicity by capturing regulatory agencies, corrupting public officials, bribing scientists and engaging in scientific fraud to delay its day of reckoning.

Kennedy says there is also cascading scientific evidence linking glyphosate to a constellation of other injuries that have become prevalent since its introduction, including obesity, depression, Alzheimer’s, ADHD, autism, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, kidney disease, inflammatory bowel disease, brain, breast and prostate cancer, miscarriage, birth defects and declining sperm counts.

In her new document sent to the UK Environment Agency, Mason argues there is criminal collusion between the Department for Environment and Rural Affairs (Defra), the Chemicals Regulation Division and Bayer over Brexit. She also claims the National Farmers Union has been lying about how much pesticides farmers use and have ignored the side effects of chlorpyrifos, chlorothalonil, glyphosate and neonicotinoids. The NFU says farmers couldn’t do without these inputs, even though they destroy human health and the environment.

Of course, farmers can and do go without using these chemicals. And the shift away from chemical-intensive agriculture is perfectly feasible. In a recent article on the AgWeb site, for instance, US farmer Adam Chappell describes how he made the shift on his 8,000-acre farm. Chappell was not some dyed-in-the-wool organic evangelist. He made the shift for financial and practical reasons and is glad he did. The article states:

He was on the brink of bankruptcy and facing a go broke or go green proposition. Drowning in a whirlpool of input costs, Chappell cut bait from conventional agriculture and dove headfirst into a bootstrap version of innovative farming. Roughly 10 years later, his operation is transformed, and the 41-year-old grower doesn’t mince words: It was all about the money.

Surely there is a lesson there for UK farmers who in 2016 used glyphosate on 2,634,573 ha of cropland. It is not just their bottom line that could improve but the health of the nation. Mason says that five peer-reviewed animal studies from the US and Argentina released in July 2020 have focused minds on the infertility crisis being caused by glyphosate-based herbicides. Researchers at The National University of Litoral in Sante Fe, Argentina, have published three concerning peer-reviewed papers including two studies on ewes and rats and one review. In one study, researchers concluded that glyphosate and glyphosate-based herbicides are endocrine disruptors. They also stated that glyphosate-based herbicides alter reproductive outcomes in females.

But such is the British government’s willingness to protect pesticide companies that it is handing agrochemical giants BASF and Bayer enormous pay-outs of Covid-19 support cash. The announcement came just weeks after Bayer shareholders voted to pay £2.75 billion in dividends. The fact that Bayer then went on to receive £600 million from the government speaks volumes of where the government’s priorities lie.

According to Mason, the new Agriculture Bill provides a real opportunity for the UK to adopt a paradigm shift which embraces non-chemical farming policy. However, Defra has stated that after Brexit Roundup Ready GA21 glyphosate tolerant crops could be introduced.

It is also concerning that a post-Brexit funding gap could further undermine the impartiality of university research. Mason refers to Greenpeace, which notes that Bayer and Syngenta, both sell neonicotinoid insecticides linked to harmful effects on bees, gave a combined total of £16.1m to 70 British universities over five years to fund a range of research. Such private funding could create a conflict of interest for academics and after Brexit a potential shortage of public money for science could force universities to seek more finance from the private sector.

Neonicotinoids were once thought to have little or no negative effects on the environment because they are used in low doses and as a seed coating, rather than being sprayed. But evidence has been mounting that the chemicals harm bees – important pollinators of food crops. As a result, neonicotinoids have been banned by the EU, although they can still be used under license.

According to Bayer’s website, academics who reviewed 15 years of research found “no adverse effects to bee colonies were ever observed in field studies”. Between 2011 and 2016, the figures obtained from the 70 universities – about half the total in the UK – show Bayer gave £9m to fund research, including more than £345,000 on plant sciences. Syngenta spent nearly £7.1m, including just under £2.3m on plant sciences and stated that many years of independent monitoring prove that when used properly neonicotinoids do not damage the health of bee populations.

However, in 2016, Ben Stewart of Greenpeace UK’s Brexit response team, said that the decline in bee populations is a major environmental and food security concern – it’s causes need to be properly investigated.

He added:

But for this research to command public confidence, it needs to be independent and impartial, which is why public funding is so crucial. You wouldn’t want lung cancer studies to be heavily reliant on funds from tobacco firms, nor research on pesticides to be dependent on the companies making them.

Stewart concluded:

As Brexit threatens to cut off vital public funds for this scientific field, our universities need a cast-iron guarantee from our government that EU money will not be replaced by corporate cash.

But Mason notes that the government long ago showed its true colours by refusing to legislate on the EU Directive (2009/128/EC) on the Sustainable Use of Pesticides. The government merely stated that current statutory and voluntary controls related to pesticides and the protection of water, if followed, afford a high degree of protection and it would primarily seek to work with the pesticides industry to enhance voluntary measures.

Mason first questioned the government on this in January 2011. In an open letter to the Chemical Regulation Directorate. The government claimed that no compelling evidence was provided to justify further extending existing regulations and voluntary controls.

Lord Henley, the Under-Secretary of State for Defra, expanded further:

By making a small number of changes to our existing approach we can continue to help feed a growing global population with high-quality food that’s affordable – while minimising the risks of using pesticides.

In her numerous reports and open letters to officials, Mason has shown that far from having ‘high-quality food’, there is an ongoing public health crisis due to the pesticides being used.

She responded to Henley by stating:

… instead of strengthening the legislation, the responses of the UK government and the CRD have considerably weakened it. In the case of aerial spraying, you have opted for derogation.

Mason says that, recently, the day that Monsanto lost its appeal against Dewayne Lee Johnson the sprayers came around the Marina in Cardiff breaking all the rules that the EU had set for Roundup.

We can only wonder what could lie in store for the British public if a trade deal is done with the US. Despite the Conservative government pledging that it would not compromise on the UK’s food and environment standards, it now proposes that chlorine-washed chicken, beef treated with growth hormones, pork from animals treated with ractopamine and many other toxic foods produced in the US will be allowed into the UK. All for the bottom line of US agribusiness corporations. It is also worth mentioning at this point that there are around 2,000 untested chemicals in packaged foods in the US.

Ultimately, the situation comes down to a concentration of power played out within an interlocking directorate of state-corporate interests – in this case, global agrochemical conglomerates and the British government – and above the heads of ordinary people. It is clear that these institutions value the health of powerful corporations at the expense of the health of the population and the state of the environment.

Readers can access Mason’s new paper ‘Criminal collusion between Defra, the Chemicals Regulation Division and Bayer over Brexit Agenda’ via academia.edu website (which cites relevant sources), where all her other documents can also be found.

Muslims in the English Premier League

If he’s good enough for you,
He’s good enough for me!
If he scores another few,
Then I’ll be Muslim, too!

—  Sung by Liverpool supporters at Anfield, their home stadium

You must be saying to yourself, what is THAT? It doesn’t sound like anti-Muslim sentiment, but why are English Premier League football (soccer) fans singing about converting to Islam? The “he” they are referring to is Mohamed Salah, a winger for the Liverpool Reds, who over the past 3 seasons has scored 94 goals in all competitions. Salah won the Golden Boot Award in consecutive seasons, 2017-18 and 2018-19, given to the player who scored the most goals in the Premier League. An Egyptian, Salah is one of four Muslims on Liverpool, the others being winger Sadio Mane (another prolific scorer) of Senegal, midfielder Xerdan Shaqiri of Switzerland and Naby Keita of Guinea. In all, there are over 45 Muslims currently playing in the Premier League, which features arguably the best players in the world.

But 28 years ago, there was only one: Mohammed Ali Amar – known as Nayim – was the first player who professed Islam to play in the Premier League. Although Nayim, a Spaniard, had a relatively undistinguished career with Tottenham, it was still a breakthrough. For the 2019-20 season, of the 20 teams in the League, 18 had at least one Muslim player.

And while anti-Muslim abuse has been relatively rare – racist incidents, unsurprisingly, involving Black players are much more frequent – in February of 2019, Salah was the target of an Islamophobic verbal attack during a game against West Ham United in East London. A West Ham supporter was recorded showering Salah with insults about his religion. Fortunately, football clubs are now much more aggressive in identifying these thugs and banning them from all future matches.

Because of the increasing presence of Muslim players, clubs have become more sensitive to their religious requirements. A number of teams provide prayer rooms (Muslims are expected to pray at five set times every day) and a few stadiums have made prayer rooms available to fans as well. The League now employs a Muslim chaplain who travels to game sites throughout England and Wales, in addition to giving spiritual advice to players.

Helping Muslims to remain true to their faith during the month of Ramadan has become a priority for all League teams. During Ramadan, Muslims are to fast (no food or liquids) from sunrise to sunset. This presents a number of difficulties for both clubs and players. Teams want their Muslim players to be able to practice and play in games without players breaking their fast and still be competitive on the field. Some like Salah have broken their fasts on game days, which is permitted as long as they make up the missing time. Others have attempted to both fast and play with varying success. Teams have tried to accommodate players by moving training times to the evening and by helping players to change their training regimen to avoid dehydration.

In another mark of respect to Muslim players, an award after each game for the “Man of  the Match” – which had previously been a bottle of champagne – was changed to a small trophy. Muslims are forbidden to drink alcohol.

For many, if not all, Muslim players, their faith is extremely important to them. Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba – named to the League’s Team of the Year in 2019 – is a practicing Muslim and has made two pilgrimages to Mecca (each Muslim is obligated to make a pilgrimage to Mecca at least once if at all possible). He spoke out forcefully after the Manchester Arena terrorist attack in 2017: “This is not Islam and everyone knows that.” Pogba’s actions reflect his faith: in 2016, he contributed to a donation of 100,000 euros from UEFA (Union of European Football Associations) to the International Committee of the Red Cross to help landmine victims in Afghanistan. Pogba also donated a substantial amount of money at a charity auction so that Samuel, an 11-year old United fan with cerebral palsy, could become the team mascot for the next season and lead the team into the field. A member of the 2018 World Cup Champion French team, Pogba donated his boots (playing shoes) to a charity auction where they were expected to bring in 50,000 euros ($56,500). His religious motivation for all of these donations is “zakat” – giving money to the poor and needy – which is one of the Five Pillars of Islam and is required of all Muslims.

Spectators at Premier League matches wouldn’t know if a player was a Muslim, unless that player scored a goal. When Mohamed Salah scores for Liverpool, right after celebrating with teammates, he knees on the ground and presses his face against the grass for a few moments (Mane and Shaqiri do this as well). He is performing sujood, which in Arabic means “prostration to God,” and he faces in the direction of Mecca as it is the holiest city in Islam. Sujood is considered a very special act of worship in Islam, as it is symbolic of the humility a Muslim feels before Allah and is considered to be the nearest a believer can be to Him. A British television analyst made a comment in 2012 that it looked like a player was “eating grass” when he was performing sujood. He was roundly criticized for this and apologized, saying that he didn’t understand the religious significance of the act. There is no reason to not take him at his word as ignorance of the practices of Islam permeates the non-Muslim world. Fortunately, television broadcasters have become more knowledgeable about Islam and there hasn’t been a recurrence of that behavior.

Not everyone sees the Salah chant as a good-natured gesture of greater acceptance of Muslims. A University of Manchester professor, Asif Majid, has argued that while the Liverpool chant may appear to be a positive in Muslim/non-Muslim relations, it really isn’t. It is, he believes, predicated on Salah’s continued success in scoring goals for the Reds. “Being praised by non-Muslim Liverpool supporters as ‘good’ is positive, of course. But it is conditional. The chant makes clear that it is only ‘if’ Salah continues to score goals that his displays of Muslimness will be accepted. It is only ‘if’ he remains good that he will continue to be worshipped by them. It is only ‘if’ he furthers professional excellence that opinions about Islam may shift.” Professor Majid may be right, but I doubt it. Context is important here. The chant is certainly a celebration of Salah’s prowess as a prolific goal scorer. But the inclusion of a reference to his faith – obviously done in a tongue-in-cheek manner – as only worthy of respect if he continues to be a star for Liverpool misses the nuance of the chant. The idea that Liverpool supporters would actually consider converting to Islam is patently absurd – and that is part of the joke. Salah himself was not offended by the chant; he saw the humor in it and even translated it into Arabic.

Anti-Muslim sentiment is obviously still strong in the United Kingdom – Brexit is evidence of that. But there has been a discernible evolution in the attitude of many English football fans toward Muslim footballers. Certainly there is still a long way to go – but one hopes that it is indicative of a shift in how Muslims are viewed in English society as a whole. I’m sure there are Liverpool supporters who don’t want a Muslim family to live next door, but are more than happy to cheer for a Muslim on the football field. For them, at least it’s a start. The legacy of Jackie Robinson is proof of that.

U.K. and Hong Kong:  Mutually Reinforced Ignorance

Three years ago, I visited Old Supreme Court Building in Hong Kong, also known as The Court of Final Appeal, together with my friend, an Afghan-British lawyer, who was on a personal mission of ‘re-discovering Asia.’

Coming from a prominent, highly educated family in Afghanistan, my friend was extremely well aware that both the United States and the United Kingdom thoroughly destroyed her country during the recent occupation. In fact, under the NATO boots, Afghanistan became the poorest country in Asia, with the lowest life expectancy.

But after the long journey through Asia, somehow, she became nostalgically attached to Hong Kong. It looked familiar. As she studied and practiced law in the U.K., The Court of Final Appeal Building looked familiar and reassuring to her.

As it happened to be a working day, she found people to talk to and cracked conversations with the clerks. Immediately, they all managed to find a common language. Of different races and different backgrounds, they were clearly ‘on the same page,’ united by the British way of thinking, doing things as well as analyzing and judging the world.

‘Britishness’ was uniting them. Both my friend and the employees inside the old courthouse in Hong Kong were from the countries that used to be or still were brutally occupied, ransacked, and tortured by the West in general and by the U.K. in particular. But common experience and shared ‘cultural elements’ made them understand each other, and to be able to communicate flawlessly.

*****

In 2019 and 2020, I have been covering ‘events’ in SAR, in-depth, and passionately. It is because what has been taking place there is extremely important and symbolic, to the world and to me, too, personally. To some extent, young people conditioned by the Western propaganda were reminding me of my own childhood and youth, when I used to be growing up in Eastern Europe. We were also conditioned by Western propaganda. And we, too, betrayed.

In Hong Kong, the ideological combat has been that of the epic proportions. The battle has been over the most populous country on Earth – China. And not only China the country, but also its system, political, economic, and social, which I have been studying for decades, and which I greatly admire. On many occasions, I wrote, passionately, what I believe: if the socialism with the Chinese characteristics would be destroyed, our human race could lose all hopes for surviving, or at least for a better future.

Understanding ‘where they are coming from,’ comprehending what had been done to them, I grasp how the young rioters think and feel. I want to shake them, shout at them to stop. I want to share with them all that I learned in some 160 countries of the world that I have covered. At times, I am tremendously outraged by their behavior. But I also know that they are not only some ninja-style vandals, they are also the victims of the circumstances, particularly of Western brainwashing.

*****

Same as my Afghan friend, same as those clerks working in a courthouse in Hong Kong, rioters are part of that ‘common sphere’ of the British influence.

If you go to an average English pub, not in central London, but a suburb, or in a provincial city, you will quickly realize that even the British citizens themselves are ‘victims’ of their own British propaganda. At least in the old Soviet Union, people were challenging the official story, which, actually, looking ‘from a distance,’ was often quite a correct story (as the official stories coming from the PRC are). In an English pup, most of the people are trusting the official line of their government and the mass media. At least when it comes to foreign affairs, and their Empire’s history.

Now (or at least before the COVID-19 travel restrictions), British tourists, as well as British journalists, were coming to Hong Kong, bringing their ignorance with them. They met their Hong Kong counterparts, people who are often educated, or should we say, conditioned, on the same outdated, racist (against themselves) British curriculum. And they all gathered, they talked and exchanged ‘ideas,’ which were based on the same roots. Those roots did not grow spontaneously; they were planted and groomed by the British imperialist regime, in order to justify, to both the British citizens and to the colonized nations, all those horrors, injustices, and crimes committed in virtually all corners of the world.

Victims and victimizers talk. They understand each other. They even sympathize with each other. That is how the system was designed. No serious issues are addressed. While the U.K. is, once again, involved in the project of destroying China, this is never pronounced.

As long as the mutual ignorance is upheld, there is no ‘danger’ that the young rioters and their foreign backers would ever change the course of their actions.

But are foreigners who are creating chaos in Hong Kong really so ‘naïve’? Are they truly so ignorant about the evilness which they are spreading?

Yes and no. In a way, their ‘ignorance’ resembles a religious indoctrination. In fact, it is almost a fundamentalist belief: in the superiority of the Western culture, in the preeminence of the Western political system.

Many in Hong Kong adopted this frame of mind. Or, using religious vocabulary: they were converted.

All this, while the Mainland China, one of the oldest civilizations on earth, is observing, with shock, how many people in SAR are jerking their bodies and souls in some insane ritual dances choreographed by the former colonizers.

*****

All this may soon end, now that the statues of former slave owners and conquerors are being thrown into the rivers all over the U.S and U.K.

With the anti-racist uprisings in both the United States and Europe, new winds are blowing, and soon they may reach Asia.

Maybe these events could finally awaken most of the Hong Kong youth.

Then, perhaps, they will understand that they have been fooled, that they are fighting for the system and culture, which even many Westerners do not desire anymore.

And maybe, just maybe, the mutual ignorance could end. And with them, the riots.  And unnecessary pain.

If this would happen, if more and more British citizens will manage to wake up from slumber, young English rebels could come and teach young Hong Kong rioters about the crimes which the British Empire committed in China. It would be, paradoxically, the same story that Beijing was telling them for decades.

This way, mutual ignorance could be converted into mutual awakening.

• First published by China Daily Hong Kong

• Photo by Andre Vltchek

Israel’s New UK Ambassador will Expose Delusions of Britain’s Jewish Leaders

After years of successfully drawing attention away from Israel’s intensifying crimes against the Palestinian people by citing a supposedly growing “antisemitism crisisin Britain’s Labour Party, Jewish community leaders in the UK are exasperated to find themselves unexpectedly on the defensive.

Last month, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pulled the rug out from under leading British Jewish organisations by appointing Tzipi Hotovely as Israel’s next ambassador to the UK. She is expected to take up her position in the summer.

Recently made Israel’s first settlements minister, Hotovely does not appear to have a diplomatic bone in her body. She is a rising star in Netanyahu’s Likud Party – and at the heart of the Israeli far-right’s ascendancy over the past decade.

‘This land is ours’

She is openly Islamophobic, denying the history of the Palestinian people. She supports hardline racial purity groups, such as Lehava, that try to stop relationships between Jews and non-Jews. And she flaunts a religious Jewish supremacism that claims title to all of historic Palestine.

In a 2015 speech on her appointment as deputy foreign minister, she rejected a two-state solution, saying: “This land is ours. All of it is ours. We did not come here to apologise for that.”

She was given responsibility as settlements minister for overseeing what is widely feared will be the imminent annexation of up to a third of the West Bank promised by Netanyahu, destroying any last hope of a Palestinian state.

But she goes further. She favours full West Bank annexation, implying support either for Israel’s explicit and direct apartheid rule over millions of Palestinians or renewed mass ethnic cleansing operations to remove Palestinians from their homes.

Hotovely also supports Israel’s takeover of the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem, one of the most important Islamic sites in the world. Such a move could set the Middle East on fire.

Embassy interference

Hotovely is an undoubted rupture from recent ambassadors.

From 2007 until 2016, the post was held successively by career diplomats Ron Prosor and Daniel Taub. They followed the traditional embassy playbook: rhetorical efforts to take the spotlight off Israel and its systematic oppression of Palestinians.

They focused instead on a two-state solution that no one in the Israeli government was actually interested in, and blamed the lack of progress on supposed Palestinian intransigence and Hamas “terrorism”.

In early 2016, another diplomat, Mark Regev, was appointed, though in a more politicised capacity. He had previously served as Netanyahu’s most trusted spokesman.

Regev’s arrival coincided with a much more aggressive – if covert – role for the London embassy in interfering directly in British politics. He had to deal with the recently elected leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, who was seen as a major threat to Israel because of his outspoken support for Palestinians.

An undercover investigation aired by Al Jazeera in early 2017 revealed that an Israeli embassy official was secretly coordinating with Jewish organisations to undermine Corbyn. One such group, the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM), had been recently revived inside the Labour Party to oppose Corbyn.

Evidence emerged to suggest that the embassy’s efforts to damage Corbyn were being directed from Israel, by the strategic affairs ministry. The ministry’s main mission has been to discredit overseas solidarity with Palestinians, especially the growing boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement targeting Israel.

Zionism and antisemitism

As the documentary underscored, one of the main weapons in Israel’s arsenal has been to tar Palestinian solidarity activists as antisemites.

This has been achieved by muddying the differences between antisemitism and opposition to Zionism, an extreme political ideology that – even in its secular varieties – assumes that Jews have a biblically inspired right to dispossess the native Palestinian population.

Corbyn found himself increasingly under attack from the JLM and the UK’s main Jewish leadership organisation, the Board of Deputies, for supposedly unleashing a “plague” of antisemitism in Labour. While antisemitism in the UK has been rising overall in recent years, statistics revealed this accusation against the Labour Party in particular to be entirely groundless.

Eventually, the party was forced to accept a new definition of antisemitism – devised by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance – that classified serious criticism of Israel, as well as support for Palestinian rights, as racist.

Keir Starmer, Corbyn’s successor as Labour leader, gives every impression of having learned from Corbyn’s devastating run-in with the Israel lobby. He has declared himself a Zionist and signed up to “10 Pledges” from the Board of Deputies that take meaningful criticism of Israel off the table.

Late last month he sacked Rebecca Long-Bailey from the shadow cabinet for supposedly indulging an antisemitic “conspiracy theory” after she retweeted an article that criticised Israel’s well-documented involvement in training US police forces.

Empty threats

Netanyahu now appears confident that the political threat to Israel from the UK has been neutralised, and that neither of Britain’s two main parties will pay more than lip service to Palestinian rights.

That has been underscored by the fact that Hotovely’s appointment coincides with the expected move by Netanyahu to annex swaths of the West Bank over the coming weeks under licence from US President Donald Trump’s recent “peace” plan.

Last month, some 50 United Nations human rights experts described Israel’s proposed annexation as the harbinger of “21st century apartheid”.

Boris Johnson, the British prime minister, has voiced opposition to annexation, as has Starmer. But neither has indicated that he would take any meaningful retaliatory action.

The fact that Hotovely, a champion of maximalist annexation, will represent Israeli government policy in the UK suggests that Netanyahu understands that British party leaders will offer no more than empty threats.

Palestinians erased

But while Netanyahu may be happy to have Hotovely selling West Bank annexation to the British public and defending Israel’s ever-greater abuses of Palestinians, prominent Jewish figures in the UK are up in arms.

They have spent the past five years changing the optics in the UK. Zionism – Israel’s settler-colonial ideology – has been repackaged as innocuous, even wholesome: a benevolent political movement that simply empowers Jews, liberating them from antisemitism.

But this illusion has depended on erasing Palestinians – and their oppression – from view.

So successful has the campaign been that those who try to remind Britons of the circumstances of Israel’s establishment and its subsequent history have been decried as antisemites.

The creation of Israel, sponsored by British governments starting more than a century ago, depended on the ethnic cleansing of some 80 percent of Palestinians from their homes in 1948 and the continuing exclusion of millions of their descendants. Israel still subjects millions more to a belligerent occupation.

Hotovely threatens to disrupt all of these achievements, and expose the pro-Israel lobby – as well as some of the biggest names in Britain’s Jewish community – as charlatans.

Passionate about Israel

Jewish leaders in the UK were already panicking over Netanyahu’s promises to annex parts of the West Bank. That would bring into sharp focus a decades-long Zionist programme of Palestinian dispossession they have quietly supported.

Early last month, before Hotovely’s appointment had been announced, around 40 of Britain’s most prominent Jews, including historians Simon Schama and Simon Sebag Montefiore, philanthropist Vivien Duffield and former Conservative cabinet minister Malcolm Rifkind, wrote to Regev urging the Israeli government to rethink annexation.

They observed that, as “committed Zionists and passionately outspoken friends of Israel”, they had worked hard to “nurture a more sympathetic environment for Israel” in the UK. But annexation, they warned, would tear apart the country’s Jewish community and “pose an existential threat to the traditions of Zionism in Britain”.

It was notable that key figures in the campaign to oust Corbyn over his support for Palestinian rights signed the letter, including former Labour MP Luciana Berger; Trevor Chinn, a major donor to Starmer’s campaign; Daniel Finkelstein, associate editor at the Times newspaper; Julia Neuberger, a prominent rabbi; and Anthony Julius, a celebrated lawyer.

Annexation is not new

But annexation is not a new policy, as these Jewish notables suggest. Israel formally annexed East Jerusalem in 1980, in violation of international law, condemning more than 370,000 Palestinian residents to permanent Israeli apartheid rule. Israel did the same to the Syrian Golan Heights a year later.

And is annexation really worse than the mass ethnic cleansing operations Israel carried out not only in 1948, but again in 1967? Ever since, Israel has pursued a policy of ethnic cleansing by stealth in the occupied territories – the flip 0side of its “creeping annexation” policy – as it has taken over more Palestinian land to settle it with Jews.

Did these war crimes not lead Jewish community leaders in Britain to rethink their “passionate commitment” to Israel?

And why is it only this latest phase of annexation that makes them question “Israel’s status as a liberal democracy” – not the legal structures codified in dozens of laws that privilege the citizenship rights of Jews over Israel’s 1.8 million-strong Palestinian minority, a fifth of its population?

Formal annexation is simply the logical conclusion of more than a century of Zionist colonisation of Palestine, one that was always premised on the replacement of the native population with Jews. Getting the jitters at this late stage in Israel’s settler-colonial mission, as though some imaginary red line has suddenly been crossed, is self-delusion of the highest order.

Sparing allies’ blushes

But if annexation poses a severe blow to the image these “passionate Zionists” have of themselves as fair-minded, sensitive liberals, Hotovely’s appointment as ambassador may yet sound the death knell.

Earlier Israeli governments were aware of the need to put a rhetorical gloss on their oppression of Palestinians to spare the blushes of supporters in western states. That was one of the tasks of Israel’s foreign ministry and its diplomatic corps. It was also the aim of the Israeli hasbara industry – state propaganda masquerading as neutral “information”.

Successive Netanyahu governments have found propping up such deceptions increasingly untenable in an era in which Palestinians have phone cameras that can document their abuse. The resulting videos are all over YouTube.

Many British Jews have averted their eyes, claiming instead that strenuous criticism of Israel is demonisation motivated by antisemitism. But the self-deceptions so beloved by many in overseas Jewish communities are increasingly unpalatable to the Israeli right’s Jewish supremacist instincts. Hotovely is simply the latest choice of envoy who cares little for indulging the cognitive dissonance of local Jewish allies.

Back in 2015, before the ultra-nationalist Jair Bolsonaro became Brazil’s president, Netanyahu tried to foist a settler leader, Dani Dayan, on Brasilia. Notably, Hotovely, who was then Israel’s deputy foreign minister, was outspokenin defending Dayan’s appointment, even threatening to downgrade relations with Brazil.

After a diplomatic row, Dayan was eventually reassigned as Israel’s consul general in New York.

Losing friends

Some in the UK’s Jewish community appear to believe they can enjoy similar success. Many hundreds of British Jews have signed a petition launched by an anti-occupation group, Na’amod, urging the UK to reject Hotovely as ambassador. Others appear to be contemplating a boycott if she is accredited.

Liberal Jewish community leaders have joined them in opposition. Labour peer Lord Beecham told the Jewish Chronicle that Hotovely’s appointment would “do nothing to win friends in the UK – or indeed any other reasonable country”.

Laura Janner-Klausner, the senior rabbi of the Reform Movement, echoed him: “[Hotovely’s] political views on Palestinians, annexation and religious pluralism clash with our core values.”

Except that all the recent evidence suggests Janner-Klausner is wrong. Yes, Hotovely’s unadorned “values” are ugly and openly racist. She does not veil her Jewish supremacist worldview; she wears it proudly.

But her policies in support of Jewish settlement on Palestinian land have been the bedrock policy of every Israeli government since 1967, when the occupation began. And the logical endpoint of the ever-expanding settlements was always annexation, either by legal fiat or by creating a mass of facts on the ground.

The majority of Britain’s Jewish community, as its leaders keep reminding us, are fervent Zionists. Jewish publications described Na’amod, which launched the petition against Hotovely, as a “fringe” group because it “campaigns against the occupation and [is] in favour of Palestinian rights”.

Living a lie

For many years, some in the British Jewish community have served as cheerleaders for the settlements. One such group, the Jewish National Fund UK, welcomed Hotovely’s appointment, noting what they called her “many positive attributes and achievements”.

Others have cynically turned a blind eye to developments in the occupied territories over more than half a century. The Board of Deputies – the nearest the UK’s Jewish community has to an establishment – has said it will work with Hotovely. Concerning annexation, it has said: “We don’t take sides in Israeli politics.”

Others have paid lip service to opposition to the settlements, while living a lie they concealed even from themselves. The more Israel moved to the right and the more it expanded settlements to displace Palestinians, the more these “liberals” entrenched their support for Israel, and the more they refused to countenance dissent.

Blind support for Israel became a measure of whether they would back a political party, as Ed Miliband, himself Jewish and Corbyn’s predecessor as Labour leader, found to his cost.

An ultra-nationalist id

The Labour Party was lost to the majority of Britain’s Jewish community long ago – long before Corbyn. Anything but uncritical support for Israel – even as Israel moved ever further into an ultra-nationalism bordering on what Israeli experts have described as fascism – was denounced as proof of left-wing “antisemitism”.

“Antisemitism” became a way to avoid thinking about Israel and what it stood for. It became a way to reject Israel’s critics without addressing their arguments. It served as a comfort blanket, reassuring many British Jews that their politics were defensive, rather than ideologically extreme and offensive.

Now, Hotovely will serve as the Israeli ultra-nationalist id to their liberal egos. With Corbyn the bogeyman gone, liberal British Jews will finally have to face truths about Israel they have deeply buried.

It is a moment of reckoning – and one long overdue.

• First published in Middle East Eye

The JNF’s Sordid History: Tower and Stockades, Forests and Jim Crow Vetting Committees

The Jewish National Fund (JNF) rightly presents itself as the most venerable of the Zionist institutions:

  • It stands at the heart of a state-building project launched more than a century ago;
  • It is an organisation that is today deeply embedded in the structures of the Israeli state;
  • It is the guardian of the Israel’s most precious resource – land;
  • And it is the bridge connecting Jews abroad to Israel, allowing them to become practically and emotionally involved in its continuing national mission of colonisation.

Created in 1901, the JNF was the earliest of the major institutions established by the international Zionist movement to build a state in Palestine. The Jewish Agency, the Zionist movement’s government-in-waiting and migration service, and the Haganah, its embryonic military force, would have to wait another two and three decades to make a proper appearance.

New ambassador

No institution stands at the heart of the Zionist mission more squarely than the JNF. And for that reason, if no other, it is not only the most pre-eminent but also the most zealous of those organisations.

If that seems unfair, notice a recent statement by the JNF-UK that hints at the organisation’s extremism even by the standards set by a Jewish community leadership in Britain that has grown increasingly fanatical in its support of Israel and actively hostile to Palestinian rights.

The statement was issued last month, as it was confirmed that Tzipi Hotovely, a rising star in Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, had been appointed Israel’s new ambassador to the UK. Hotovely makes the Israeli prime minister seem moderate by comparison.

She is a proud Jewish supremacist and Islamophobe. She supports Israel’s annexation of the entire West Bank and the takeover of Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem. She is happy to lift the veil from Israel’s apartheid rule over Palestinians in the occupied territories.

That fact has made her appointment a deeply unappealing prospect for most of Britain’s Jewish community. It has prompted many hundreds to sign a petition calling on the UK government to block her apppointment. Prominent liberal Jews and Jewish organisations have either quietly lamented the decision or remained publicly silent. They are fearful that her outspoken views will tear the mask from ugly Israeli policies they have long supported.

But the JNF-UK broke ranks with this consensus. In a statement it insisted:

The British Jewish community will gladly and respectfully endorse Mrs Hotovely as the new Israeli Ambassador to the UK. She is a leader with many positive attributes and achievements, and we wish her the best of luck in her new position.

Tower and stockade

We can trace the JNF’s current zealotry, as well as its indifference to those who have paid the price for its colonisation project, to its earliest years. Its aims were twofold.

First, it sought to impose residential segregation as a way to expand the resources available to Jews and to diminish those available to the native population. This was what we might term its apartheid-enforcing role.

And second, it hoped to remove the natives from their homeland by depriving them of the resources they needed to subsist. What we might term its ethnic cleansing role.

These twin prongs of what soon came to be called “Judaisation” were Zionism’s particular expression of settler colonialism.

Theodor Herzl, the father of Zionism, foreshadowed the JNF’s transformative mission back in 1895, six years before the organisation had been created:

We must expropriate gently the private property on the estates assigned to us. We shall try to spirit the penniless [local] population across the border by procuring employment for it in the transit countries, while denying it employment in our country.

To clarify how this model worked, I want to take a moment to step back and examine the first significant tool of land dispossession developed by the JNF in the pre-state years, in the 1930s. This was when Zionism began to develop its incremental – or creeping – ethnic cleansing model.

A half-hour drive from my home in Nazareth is a replica of a tower and stockade, next to Kibbutz Beit Alpha in the Beit She’an Valley. It was only the second tower and stockade built in Palestine, in 1936. Soon there would be dozens of them marching across the landscape.

The tower and stockades were simple structures. They were wooden enclosures, fortresses with a tall watchtower at their centre. (Imagine, if you will, one of those cavalry outposts you may remember from old Westerns featuring John Wayne as he bravely battled the marauding “Red Indians”.)

Hebrew labour

In its land-buying role, the JNF secured the lands around Beit Alpha in the early 1930s from an absentee landlord in Lebanon. In line with Herzl’s proposal, each kibbutz not only took charge of the lands of local Palestinian sharecroppers but then refused to let them work the land or to employ them. There was a strict policy of “Hebrew labour” to deprive the native population of the ability to subsist and “spirit them across the border”.

Such land purchases – as well as the expulsion of Palestinian tenants from lands they had farmed for generations – began to awaken ordinary Palestinians to Zionism’s colonial nature. In 1936 the Palestinians launched an uprising, known by the British as the Arab Revolt. It lasted three years.

The Zionist movement, however, did not simply rely on British force to quell the Revolt. It took matters into its own hands. Its policy of “gentle” ethnic cleansing turned much more aggressive. It began building dozens of tower and stockades – each the nucleus of a future kibbutz – to forcibly drive the natives off the lands they depended on for their livelihoods.

Ethnic cleansing

Beit Alpha’s tower and stockade, named Tel Amal, was assigned a militia. Its members would take turns in the tower to keep watch over their comrades working the fields that until recently had been farmed by Palestinians. (Beit Alpha would later forge close ties to the apartheid regime in South Africa, selling anti-riot vehicles for Pretoria to use against black protesters in the townships.)

From the tower, the colonists would be able to shoot at any Palestinian who tried to return to his fields. Unable to harvest their crops, these Palestinian farmers faced a choice between starvation and moving further down the valley to find new land. But the Zionist colonisers were always close behind.

Once the lands around Tel Amal had been secured, a new kibbutz was built around it called Nir David. Its inhabitants then built a new outpost further down the valley with its own tower and stockade. And the process of dispossessing the Palestinians would begin all over again. It was relentless, incremental ethnic cleansing.

At the time, Moshe Sharrett, who would become one of Israel’s first prime ministers, explained the purpose of the tower and stockade in zero-sum terms. The stockades, he argued, would “make it as difficult as possible to solve the problems of this land by means of division or cantonisation”. In other words, the Zionist leadership intended to “solve the problems of this land” through force of arms and expulsion.

Yosef Weitz, the director of the JNF’s settlements division, was a similarly outspoken, early proponent of expulsion. In 1940, in the immediate aftermath of the so-called Arab Revolt, he wrote in his diary: “There is no other way but to transfer the Arabs from here to the neighbouring countries. To transfer all of them. Not one village, not one tribe should be left.”

In April 1948, in the midst of the Nakba, he observed: “I have drawn up a list of Arab villages which in my opinion must be cleared out in order to complete Jewish regions.”

That list was the blueprint for the ethnic cleansing carried out by the Zionist movement through 1948. During the Nakba, David Ben Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister, appointed Weitz to a secretive Transfer Committee to direct the ethnic cleansing operations.

Outposts and trees

The JNF’s tower and stockade mentality never went away – very obviously in the case of the occupied territories. It is represented today in the militarised architecture of the West Bank’s main settlements – fortified houses, circled like wagons, on hillsides overlooking Palestinian farming villages in the valleys below.

It is even more evident in the dozens of so-called “illegal outposts” in the West Bank. There settler militias, armed by the state, live in caravans atop yet more hills. They target key resources – the wells and the olive groves – of Palestinian farmers, terrifying them off their farmland so they depart for the relative safety of the Palestinian cities, freeing up the land for Jewish settlement.

But the legacy of the tower and stockade also resides more subtly in the architecture of citizenship and residency inside Israel – despite Israel’s claims to being a democratic, western-style state.

Weitz, the JNF official who had helped mastermind the ethnic cleansing of the Nakba, was appointed to head the JNF’s Forestry Department. Ben Gurion wanted a billion trees planted in a decade. The JNF fell short – it managed only 250 million.

Forestry was at the heart of the new Judaisation programme in Israel after statehood. Israel did not have enough immigrants to crowd out the Palestinians with Jewish bodies, so it used “Jewish” trees instead – especially the fast-growing pine.

The most pressing goal was to smother the lands of the recently expelled Palestinian refugees with forests. Their villages that had just been destroyed by Israel – more than 500 of them – would be covered with Judaisation trees.

The forests made it impossible to realise a Palestinian right of return that had recently been enshrined in international law. The trees were a physical obstacle to rebuilding the refugees’ destroyed homes or replanting the crops they subsisted on. Each tree was a weapon of war, a bayonet enforcing the ethnic cleansing of 1948.

But forestry also provided a cover for Israel’s malign intentions towards the Palestinians. The planting of trees was presented to the outside world as environmentalism, as the introduction of European order and civilisation, as Biblical redemption, as the Zionist realisation of its mission to make the desert bloom.

Blockaded by forests

The JNF’s forests were not just planted over the many hundreds of Palestinian villages Israel had destroyed.

They were also a vital weapon in the war against the minority of Palestinians who had managed to remain on their lands inside what was now Israel, despite the ethnic cleansing. They were eventually given a very degraded Israeli citizenship. Today these Palestinians comprise one-fifth of the Israeli population – what the historian Ilan Pappe calls the Forgotten Palestinians.

Many of the millions of trees planted by the JNF were in forests that pressed up tightly against the 120 or so Palestinian communities in Israel that survived the Nakba. These towns and villages were blockaded by forests, denied the chance to expand or use their lands for productive purposes, either housing or farming.

Palestinian communities in Israel, stripped of their historic lands by forests, would soon become overcrowded, de-developed spaces. Their working populations would be forced to abandon agricultural traditions and instead become casual labourers – a new precariat – in a larger Jewish economy.

The JNF’s forestation programmes are not just a relic of its early years. Trees are still being planted to this day to ethnically cleanse Israel’s Palestinian citizens. That is most obvious in Israel’s south, in the Negev (Naqab), where they are used to enforce the ethnic cleansing of Bedouin communities.

One such village, al-Araqib, is being wiped off the map by the JNF with the active complicity of the international community. The organisation is planting an Ambassadors Forest, in honour of the foreign diplomats stationed in Israel, to evict dozens of families from their ancestral lands.

Back in 2013, at the height of the campaign against al-Araqib and other Bedouin communities, Avigdor Lieberman, who was then foreign minister, made a telling comment. He said the fight to displace the Bedouin from their historic villages in the Negev proved that “nothing has changed since the tower and stockade days. We are fighting for the lands of the Jewish people and there are those [Palestinian citizens] who intentionally try to rob and seize them.”

Citizenship vs nationality

But the JNF’s tools of dispossession go far beyond the use of trees, into the very idea of what Israel is and who it belongs to.

The JNF was given a quasi-govermmental status that allowed it to function with the legal powers of a government agency but none of the legal restraints. Its role was formalised early on, in the Jewish National Fund Law of 1953.

Today, the state owns 93 percent of Israel’s recognised territory, serving as trustee. Defined as “national lands”, this territory is reserved not for Israel’s citizens, which would include Israel’s Palestinian minority, but for the Jewish people around the world.

Once again, the JNF has been principally responsible for advancing residential segregation with the aim of incremental ethnic cleansing. Judaisation, this time, takes place not through guns but through the law.

This goal has been achieved through a separation of the concepts of “citizenship” and “nationality”, which has provided a thin veneer of legality to segregation and institutionalised discrimination.

Israel has created two kinds of rights – “citizenship rights” and “national rights” – that accrue different privileges to Israeli citizens based on their ethnicity. Citizenship rights apply to all Israeli citizens equally – at least in theory – but national rights are based on each citizen’s national belonging, as either a “Jew” or as an “Arab”.

Importantly, national rights – for Jews – take precedence over citizenship rights for all Israelis. The JNF is one major mechanism by which superior rights in access to land can be guaranteed for “Jewish nationals” (including Jews who are not Israeli citizens) rather than Israel’s so-called “Arab nationals”. This distinction lies at the heart of Israel’s version of apartheid.

‘No equality’

In fact, this separation in Israel between citizenship rights and national rights is rooted in an idea central to the JNF’s charter, which promotes collective ownership of the “Land of Israel” by the Jewish people.

For this reason, many of the lands stolen from the Palestinian refugees in 1948 were hurriedly transferred by Israel to the JNF for a pittance, so they could never again be claimed by their original owners.

Today the JNF owns 13 percent of Israeli territory, some of Israel’s most prized lands, which it holds in trust for all Jews around the world. Only Jews can lease or mortgage its lands. As the JNF explained when it was challenged about its charter in 2004, it is

not a public body that works for the benefit of all citizens of the state. The loyalty of the JNF is given to the Jewish people – and only to them is the JNF obligated. The JNF, as the owner of the JNF land, does not have a duty to practice equality towards all citizens of the state.

But the JNF’s influence extends beyond the 13 percent of Israeli land it owns. Since 1960 it has played a decisive role – through the Israel Lands Authority, a government agency – in overseeing the further 80 percent of land owned by the Israeli state.

In fact, the JNF appoints 10 of the Israel Lands Authority’s 22 directors. Effectively, the JNF controls the Israeli state’s land policy in accordance with its own apartheid mission, making land available for Jews alone, including Jews who are not Israeli citizens.

Planning and Building Law

The JNF’s Judaisation model also underpins Israel’s planning system. Israel has created a web of planning bodies in which Palestinian citizens are almost never represented. That means that Palestinian communities struggle to get their master plans recognised, and as a result their residents are denied permits for new buildings.

Central to this planning system is a largely overlooked piece of legislation: the Planning and Building Law of 1965. It was legislated shortly before Israel’s Palestinian minority emerged from nearly two decades of harsh military rule.

The Planning Law determined whether Palestinian communities that survived the Nakba would be recognised by the state. The law retrospectively “unrecognised” dozens of small, largely Bedouin villages, many in the Negev (Naqab), such as al-Araqib, which is being subsumed by Ambassadors Forest. The law criminalised these villages overnight, and to this day denies them all services.

The law’s other important function was in fixing the expansion area of every Israeli community. Jewish communities were given generous allowances for future growth and natural expansion, whereas Palestinian communities – the 120 that were recognised – were confined tightly to their built-up area in 1965. The development area has rarely changed since, even though the Palestinian population in Israel has grown eightfold.

Palestinian communities have become overcrowded ghettos. Furthermore, tens of thousands of their homes have been built without permits and are therefore under threat of demolition. Families spend years paying large fines to the authorities to ward off destruction – effectively a form of extra taxation on Palestinian housing – and may still find their house eventually being demolished.

The Israeli authorities want Palestinian communities overcrowded. That is underlined by Israel’s refusal to build a single new Palestinian community since 1948. Planning rules are designed to intensify the pressure on Palestinian citizens to leave.

The kibbutz and moshav

These planning restrictions would not be so critical if Israel was not enforcing the same kind of residential segregation embodied in the tower and stockade, back in the 1930s.

Today, the tower and stockades are gone – except for a few reconstructions, like the one at Nir David, that are visited by schoolchildren learning about the glories of their forebears’ history.

The tower and stockade was succeeded by the kibbutz and moshav – originally collectivised agricultural communities. After the Nakba, many were built on the lands of Palestinian refugees. Hundreds of them exist today and are known as “cooperative associations”.

The kibbutzim and moshavim control about half of the 93 percent of the land the JNF oversees through the Israel Lands Authority. Most no longer rely on agriculture for their livelihood. They are now bedroom communities, with the residents travelling to jobs in larger towns. But they are still key enforcers of residential segregation and ethnic cleansing.

The function of the kibbutz and moshav is still to Judaise land: not only in a historic sense, by continuing to ensure that Palestinian refugees cannot return to reclaim their lands; but in a contemporary sense too, by preventing Palestinian citizens – a fifth of Israel’s population – from living on those lands.

Both literally and figuratively, these “cooperative associations” are gated communities – exclusive clubs, where you must be a member to belong. And Palestinian citizens are always denied membership.

Admissions committees

This is achieved primarily through the admissions committee, vetting bodies operating in some 900 communities across Israel. Each has the power to decide who will be allowed to live within their borders. These committees are guided by the JNF’s charter, and true to its spirit they always bar Palestinian citizens.

Years ago the admissions committees were explicit that no Palestinian citizens were welcome. It was Israel’s Jim Crow. But a legal challenge in the landmark Kaadan case reached the Israeli supreme court in 2000. Embarrassed by the bad publicity abroad, the admissions committees redefined the grounds for exclusion. This was formalised into the Admissions Committee Law in 2011.

Today Palestinian citizens are excluded because they are “not suitable for the social life of the community” or are found to be incompatible with the “social-cultural fabric.”

In short, Palestinian citizens are denied a place in these 900 communities because they are not Zionists, because they do not support Judaisation, and because they do not approve of their own exclusion, dispossession and ultimately expulsion from their homeland.

The JNF has been advancing its ugly, settler-colonial agenda on the ground for more than century. It is long past time that the JNF was held to account for its nefarious activities and that your campaign succeeds in stripping the JNF of its charitable status.

Were the Skripals Secretly Executed by Britain’s Government?

Where are Sergei and Yulia Skripal? Are they still alive? Their having been poisoned in England on 4 March 2018 didn’t kill them.

Sergei Skripal is (or was) the Russian and British double agent (Russian spy who defected to UK), who had become imprisoned for six years in Russia, and then became spy-swapped to, and resided in, UK.

Yulia is (or was) his daughter, who happened to be visiting with him from Russia on that fateful day, which almost ended her life but which definitely did end her freedom.

The last time that either Sergei or Yulia were seen or heard from in news-media, was on 23 May 2018, shortly after both of them had been released by a British hospital from their poisoning.

They had been poisoned by a nerve agent which the UK Government said came from Russia, but the UK’s laboratory at Porton Down that had actually investigated the matter declined to confirm publicly this allegation from their Government, though the lab was under considerable pressure from the Government to confirm it.

At this sole occasion of public presentation by either of them, on 23 May 2018, only Yulia appeared. She was shown in a pre-scripted one-minute and thirty-eight second video, in which she spoke only in Russian, and this video was accompanied by a similarly brief and puzzling 23 May 2018 news-report from Reuters: “Exclusive: Yulia Skripal – Attempted assassination turned my world upside down.”

It said that “Skripal was speaking from a secret location in London as she is under the protection of the British state.” (As will here be documented, she wasn’t actually in London at the time, and both she and her father were now actually prisoners of the UK and U.S. Governments, without any trial and on no charges, and probably until they both will be dead — but that’s the question here: are they now already dead?)

Also: “Skripal spoke in Russian and supplied a statement that she said she had written herself in both Russian and English. She signed both documents after making her statement. She declined to answer questions after speaking to camera.”

The Reuters report also included this:

Read Skripal’s handwritten statements:
http://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/mkt/7/1700/1671/SkripalScans.pdf

However, that’s a pdf of a photographic kind that cannot be scanned or searched and so it was specifically intended to discourage being quoted from, excerpted, or reported about, by other news-media. Unfortunately, no news-medium has taken the trouble to read it from that photograph and transcribe it by hand. Reuters has been successful at discouraging other media from reporting on this. Therefore, so as to make this complete transcript publicly available finally in an easily usable form, for the benefit of researchers and others, I’m doing that here, and this transcript will be Yulia’s complete statement, which was shown by Reuters in the form of a handwritten note only in English, though the video had her speaking only in Russian. No Russian transcript was supplied by Reuters, though their report alleges that a Russian original in her handwriting accompanied the English version. Here is this searchable transcript:

Good afternoon. My name is Yulia Skripal. I came to the UK on the 3rd of March to visit my father, something I have been doing regularly in the past. After 20 days in a coma, I woke to the news that we had both been poisoned. I still find it difficult to come to terms that both of us were attacked. We are so lucky to have both survived this attempted assassination. Our recovery has been slow and extremely painful. The fact that a nerve agent was used to do this is shocking. I don’t want to describe the details but the clinical treatment was invasive, painful and depressing.
I am grateful to all of the wonderful, kind staff at Salisbury hospital, a place I have become all too familiar with. I also think fondly of those who helped us on the street the day of the attack.
I was discharged from hospital on the 9th of April and continue to progress with treatment but my life has been turned upside down as I try to come to terms with the devastating changes thrust upon me both physically and emotionally. I take one day at a time and want to help care for my dad till his full recovery. In the longer term I hope to return to my country.
I wish to address a couple of issues directly and have chosen to interrupt my rehabilitation to make this short statement. I ask that everyone respects the privacy of me and my father. We need time to recover and come to terms with everything that has happened. I’m grateful for the offers of assistance from the Russian Embassy but at the moment I do not wish to avail myself of their services.
Also, I want to reiterate what I said in my earlier statement that no one speaks for me, or for my father, but ourselves.
Finally, I would like to again thank everyone involved in my continued care.
My focus remains on my recovery and my dad’s health.

That’s the last time the public has heard from either Yulia or her father.

Subsequently, on 8 December 2019, the Australian and American independent investigative journalist John Helmer, who reports from Moscow, published an article that conclusively located where Yulia had been speaking from in that video. He headlined there “THE SKRIPALS UNDER US CONTROL, AT A USAF NUCLEAR BOMBER BASE IN FAIRFORD, GLOUCESTERSHIRE” and he provided solid documentation that that video was filmed at that location, which wasn’t “in London.” So, the handling of the Skripals is both a UK Government and a U.S. Government deception-operation.

As I reported on 17 April 2020, a one-minute-and-forty-seven-second rushed phone call had been made by Yulia on 5 April 2018 from the British hospital, in which call she used coded language to inform her cousin Victoria Skripal, who was in Russia, that she and her father were being prohibited by the UK’s Government to communicate with the outside world, and, on the same day as that rushed phone call, Helmer reported that “In Moscow, her cousin Victoria Skripal has told the Russian press she has repeatedly tried to telephone her cousin on the latter’s Russian mobile telephone, but that this device has been disconnected.” So, there are clear indications that UK’s Government doesn’t want either Yulia or Sergei to be able to communicate ever again with the outside world. Furthermore, as I also stated in that article:

The “Court of Protection … Date 22/03/2018” proceeding, which seems to have determined their legal fate, didn’t even consult any of their relatives, and, according to John Helmer’s terrific book just issued, Skripal in Prison, (p. 74), also “The Russian Government was not consulted or informed in advance” about the proceeding, and therefore was allowed no role whatsoever in deciding the outcomes regarding these two Russian citizens. The UK Court’s ruling, on 22 March [2018], stated that “Neither Mr Skripal nor Ms Skripal appear to have relatives in the UK although they appear to have some relatives in Russia. The SSHD [Secretary of State for Home Development] have not sought to make contact with them.” No explanation was provided on why. So, the Skripals are stranded.

That three-day court-hearing (it wasn’t a trial) occurred before either of the Skripals had awoken from their coma; so, they too had no role in it. They became prisoners of UK while under sedation. This is British ‘justice’ (or ‘Protection’). (Britain, of course, like the U.S., pontificates abroad about ‘human rights’ and invades foreign countries that it accuses of violating “human rights”; so, it’s bottom-of-the-barrel, not only rampantly violating human rights, but hypocritically pontificating about ‘human rights’.)

Their Russian relatives have been extremely concerned about all of this. On 11 April 2018, Britain’s Daily Mail showed a photo of “Yulia’s cousin, Viktoria Skripal, 45, protesting outside the British embassy in Moscow and demanding to be issued a visa to visit her stricken relatives in the UK”. It was futile.

No one outside can reach them, and they can’t reach anyone outside, except for a very few rushed phone-contacts that the UK allowed them until June this year to their Russian relatives, in order to keep those relatives as quiet as possible for as long as possible.

Furthermore, the last chapter of Helmer’s book opens:

“You kill traitors like you brush your teeth. It wasn’t a political matter, it was an operational matter,” a senior Whitehall official said of his Russian counterparts to Mark Urban, the BBC reporter whom MI6 assigned to write Sergei Skripal’s story a few months before it was somebody’s idea to finish it off; the book, if not Skripal.

The official and the reporter meant they had no doubt the Russian Government’s motive for attacking Skripal was a routine policy of killing. If that is as true as Urban and his Whitehall source intended for public consumption, Sergei and Yulia Skripal should be the first to say so.

That they are refusing is part of the case this book has compiled that the British Government’s narrative provides no evidence which the Whitehall man, his superiors and his underlings dare to submit in court, let alone allow for Freedom of Information Act release. The second part of the case is analysis of as much of the evidence as has been announced officially to demonstrate its improbability or prove its impossibility. When the first part is compared to the second, the third part of the case is the conclusion: the British Government’s case against Russia for attempted murder and chemical warfare is a lie.

That lie leaves Sergei Skripal free to brush his teeth. But he is in a prison which is far more solitary than the Russian ones in which he spent six years between 2004 and 2010. According to what Skripal told Urban in 2017, when Skripal still thought he was safe in Salisbury, he regularly received food packages and other comforts from his family during his Russian prison time. He also loved his family so much that – again according to Urban’s report – after he arrived in the UK he used to telephone his mother every two weeks over eight years. It is now clear he has not called home since June 26, 2019.

He’s either dying, or dead already, according to some Russian commentators.

Yulia Skripal has been cut off for almost a year longer – since July 24, 2018, the date of her grandmother’s 90th birthday. It is equally certain that neither Sergei nor Yulia are free to use a computer with internet access to communicate. Urban claims that after Yulia had come out of her coma and was still in Salisbury hospital, she “had already exchanged messages online” with her cousin Viktoria in Yaroslavl.

“What was to be done with him?” Urban ended his book in September 2018. “From the British government perspective it was better that he remain quietly out of view, even if a statement like Yulia’s might follow. In theory he was free to do or say anything, whether that be launching a blistering attack on the British government for failing to protect him from Putin’s assassins to pleading it had all been a terrible misunderstanding and could he go back to Russia now please.” Viktoria Skripal, though, “had shown them how, even starting with the best intentions, going public carried the risk of creating untold family pain as well as serving the Kremlin’s interests. Sergei and his daughter were so dependent on the British government at this time that there was every reason to follow the advice of those around them.”

According to Urban also, they don’t want to hide in the US. “There had been suggestions from Downing Street, while the Skripals were in hospital, that they might well end up in America or another English-speaking country, and be given new identities. Neither of them, I hear, particularly liked this idea.”

On 7 June 2020, the neoconservative (pro-imperialism) London Times headlined, “Salisbury novichok poisonings: Sergei and Yulia Skripal move to New Zealand”, and unquestioningly asserted as if they were unquestionable facts (as neocon ’news’-media, actually propaganda-media, almost invariably do) the allegations by the routinely lying UK Government (a provably unreliable source regarding anything concerning its international relations). In this particular case, those ‘facts’ concerned the poisonings by Russia of Yulia Skripal and Sergei Skripal.

If Yulia and Sergei have both been executed by Britain’s Government, then the Times’s publication of an undocumented allegation by UK’s Government, that they had instead both been sent to New Zealand and given new identities there, is a convenient way for UK’s Government to avoid ever needing to face the public after having continually lied to the public by blaming Russia’s Government for the poisonings that had happened to both the father and the daughter.

If the Skripals have been provided new identities and sent to live in New Zealand, will they be freed from Britain’s imprisonment of them? Will, for example, they finally be freed from the condition that “neither Sergei nor Yulia are free to use a computer with internet access to communicate,” and will they be free to, for example, read newspapers and other media that are accessible online? Or will they still be in the ‘Protective’ custody of the UK Government, or will it then be of the NZ Government? And will they be able, for example, to resume real living, and maybe (if they wish) to write and publish books about what they can recollect about what has happened to them after 4 March 2018? Will the UK’s Government want that to happen? Will the UK’s Government, which has lied about so much, be comfortable about returning the Skripals’ freedom? Or, will it, instead, continue ‘protecting’ them?

Yulia Skripal was a Russian citizen who only shortly before her airline flight to UK to visit with her father, had become engaged in Russia to marry a fellow Russian (and none of the couple’s parents approved of their intended marriage; this caused both Yulia and her fiancé great distress), when, on 4 March 2018, she and Sergei were somehow poisoned by a chemical that UK’s Porton Down intelligence laboratory soon thereafter identified as being a “nerve agent” which might have been novichok, but whose source and country of origin the Porton Down lab was unable to identify with any certainty. UK’s Foreign Minister, Boris Johnson, said that Porton Down had identified the chemical as having been made in Russia, but he was simply lying, as he routinely does. (He’s famous for it, actually, like Trump is.)

Yulia’s father, Sergei, had been a Russian citizen who had served in Britain as a spy for Russia, who then switched sides to become a spy for UK against Russia. At some time in December 2004, right after returning from UK to Russia, he was taken into custody to be tried for treason for his having sold out to the country that his own country had hired him to spy against. Honor in the intelligence services is far lower than is honor among thieves (like Mike Pompeo very unprofessionally bragged publicly about his time heading the CIA, “We lied, we cheated, we stole”), but lying ‘news’-media nonetheless cite their own country’s top intelligence officials as if those people had been hired to tell the truth to the public, instead of to deceive the public into believing whatever the Government’s top officials want their public to believe about foreign countries. Yet the public trust the allegations by them that are stenographically reported by the ‘news’-media. (Think of the invasion of Iraq, for example.) Public statements by intelligence officials are believed only by fools, but that unfortunately includes most of the public anywhere, which is one of the reasons why democracies tend to descend into dictatorships, which are the actual default condition for any government anywhere. Democracy is unnatural, though it’s far better than its natural default condition. Evil is natural, and good is not, but the propaganda lies about this fact, and pretends that good is natural and evil is not; so, it lies about what good and evil even are, and the public overwhelmingly believe the lies. The public have faith. (All else follows from that sad fact.)

On 9 August 2006, was reported, in Russia, that

the Moscow District Military Court sentenced former GRU colonel Sergei Skripal … [as having] worked for the British MI6 for nine years and exposed to UK the names of dozens of Russian intelligence officers who worked in Europe. For treason in the form of espionage, Sergei Skripal, who is compared with Oleg Penkovsky at the FSB, was assigned a 13-year term. At the same time, intelligence agencies threaten to expel diplomats with whom the spy allegedly collaborated.

Sergei, after having been in a Russian prison for six years on treason, was spy-swapped in 2010 back to UK.

Yulia Skripal is not as naive as the note that her captors required her to sign might suggest. If she or her father are still alive somewhere and not still being held captive by the UK regime or a regime that is allied with it, then one may expect that Yulia and/or Sergei will present a full account of what happened to them while they were in captivity by the UK regime and its allies such as the U.S. regime. Or else they might already have been killed — disappeared by UK, like Jamal Khashoggi was disappeared on 2 October 2018 by Saudi Arabia. Never to be heard from again. (And forgotten by that trusting, faithful, public.)

Had this poisoning been done actually by the UK Government in order to be able to create a pretext to expel Russian diplomats? As Wikipedia summarizes those consequences: “Later on 12 March, the British government accused Russia of attempted murder and announced a series of punitive measures against Russia, including the expulsion of diplomats, on the 14 March. The UK’s official assessment of the incident was supported by 28 other countries which responded similarly. Altogether, an unprecedented 153 Russian diplomats were expelled.[17]”

I don’t pretend to be an expert on the Skripals’ cases, but clearly the UK Government has been lying through its teeth about them, and about what happened, and why. What’s especially sad to me is that so many people swallow the lies as if those were food instead of poison. What hope is there for democracy, in such a world? If people have faith in serial-lying governments, then what hope can there really be? What encouragement will there ever be for such governments to tell the truth?