Category Archives: United Nations

Sealed Off and Forgotten: What You Should Know about Israel’s ‘Firing Zones’ in the West Bank

A seemingly ordinary news story, published in the Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, on January 7, shed light on a long-forgotten, yet crucial, subject: Israel’s so-called “firing zones” in the West Bank.

“Israel has impounded the only vehicle available to a medical team that provides assistance to 1,500 Palestinians living inside an Israeli military firing zone in the West Bank,” according to Haaretz.

The Palestinian community that was denied its only access to medical services is Masafer Yatta, a tiny Palestinian village located in the South Hebron hills.

Masafer Yatta, which exists in complete and utter isolation from the rest of the occupied West Bank, is located in ‘Area C’, which constitutes the larger territorial chunk, about 60%, of the West Bank. This means that the village, along with many Palestinian towns, villages and small, isolated communities, is under total Israeli military control.

Do not let the confusing logic of the Oslo Accords fool you; all Palestinians, in all parts of the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem and the besieged Gaza Strip, are under Israeli military control as well.

Unfortunately for Masafer Yatta, and those living in ‘Area C’, however, the degree of control is so suffocating that every aspect of Palestinian life – freedom of movement, education, access to clean water, and so on – is controlled by a complex system of Israeli military ordinances that have no regard whatsoever for the well-being of the beleaguered communities.

It is no surprise, then, that Masafer Yatta’s only vehicle, a desperate attempt at fashioning a mobile clinic, was confiscated in the past as well, and was only retrieved after the impoverished residents were forced to pay a fine to Israeli soldiers.

There is no military logic in the world that could rationally justify the barring of medical access to an isolated community, especially when an Occupying Power like Israel is legally obligated under the Fourth Geneva Convention to ensure medical access to civilians living in an Occupied Territory.

It is only natural that Masafer Yatta, like all Palestinians in ‘Area C’ and the larger West Bank, feel neglected – and outright betrayed – by the international community as well as their own quisling leadership.

But there is more that makes Masafer Yatta even more unique, qualifying it for the unfortunate designation of being a Bantustan within a Bantustan, as it subsists in a far more complex system of control, compared to the one imposed on black South Africa during the Apartheid regime era.

Soon after Israel occupied the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza, it devised a long-term stratagem aimed at the permanent control of the newly-occupied territories. While it designated some areas for the future relocation of its own citizens – who now make up the extremist illegal Jewish settler population in the West Bank – it also set aside large swathes of the Occupied Territories as security and buffer zones.

What is far less known is that, throughout the 1970s, the Israeli military declared roughly 18% of the West Bank as “firing zones”.

These “firing zones” were supposedly meant as training grounds for the Israeli occupation army soldiers – although Palestinians trapped in these regions often report that little or no military training takes place within “firing zones”.

According to the Office for the UN Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Palestine, there are around 5,000 Palestinians, divided among 38 communities that still live, under most dire circumstances, within the so-called “firing zones”.

The 1967 occupation led to a massive wave of ethnic cleansing that saw the forced removal of approximately 300,000 Palestinians from the newly-conquered territory. Many of the vulnerable communities that were ethnically cleansed included Palestinian Bedouins, who continue to pay the price for Israel’s colonial designs in the Jordan Valley, the South Hebron Hills and other parts of occupied Palestine.

This vulnerability is compounded by the fact that the Palestinian Authority (PA) acts with little regards to Palestinians living in ‘Area C’, who are left to withstand and resist Israeli pressures alone, often resorting to Israel’s own unfair judicial system, to win back some of their basic rights.

The Oslo Accords, signed in 1993 between the Palestinian leadership and the Israeli government, divided the West Bank into three regions: ‘Area A’, theoretically under autonomous Palestinian control and consisting of 17.7% of the overall size of the West Bank; ‘Area B’, 21%, and under shared Israeli-PA control and ‘Area C’, the remainder of the West Bank, and under total Israeli control.

This arrangement was meant to be temporary, set to conclude in 1999 once the “final status negotiations” were concluded and a comprehensive peace accord was signed. Instead, it became the status quo ante.

As unfortunate as the Palestinians living in ‘Area C’ are, those living in the “firing zone” within ‘Area C’ are enduring the most hardship. According to the United Nations, their hardship includes “the confiscation of property, settler violence, harassment by soldiers, access and movement restrictions and/or water scarcity.”

Expectedly, many illegal Jewish settlements sprang up in these “firing zones” over the years, a clear indication that these areas have no military purpose whatsoever, but were meant to provide an Israeli legal justification to confiscate nearly a fifth of the West Bank for future colonial expansion.

Throughout the years, Israel ethnically cleansed all remaining Palestinians in these “firing zones”, leaving behind merely 5,000, who are likely to suffer the same fate should the Israeli occupation continue on the same violent trajectory.

This makes the story of Masafer Yatta a microcosm of the tragic and larger story of all Palestinians. It is also a reflection of the sinister nature of Israeli colonialism and military occupation, where occupied Palestinians lose their land, their water, their freedom of movement and eventually, even the most basic medical care.

These harsh “conditions contribute to a coercive environment that creates pressure on Palestinian communities to leave these areas,” according to the United Nations. In other words, ethnic cleansing, which has been Israel’s strategic goal all along.

The World Must End The US’ Illegal Economic War

The United States is relying more heavily on illegal unilateral coercive measures (also known as economic sanctions) in place of war or as part of its build-up to war. In fact, economic sanctions are an act of war that kills tens of thousands of people each year through financial strangulation. An economic blockade places a country under siege.

A recent example is the increase in economic measures being imposed against Iran, which many viewed as more acceptable than a military attack. In response to Iran retaliating for the assassination of General Qassem Soleimani and seven other people, Iran used ballistic missiles to strike two bases in Iraq that house US troops. President Trump responded by saying he would impose more sanctions on Iran. Then he ended his comments by urging peace negotiations with Iran. The United States needs to understand there will be no negotiations with Iran until the US lifts sanctions that seek to destroy the Iranian economy and turn the people against their government.

The sanctions on Iran have been in place since the 1979 Iranian Revolution, which made that country independent of the United States. Iran is not the only country being sanctioned by the United States. Samuel Moncada, the Venezuelan ambassador to the United Nations, speaking to the summit of the Non-Aligned Movement of 120 nations on October 26, 2019, denounced the imposition of sanctions by the US, as “economic terrorism which affects a third of humanity with more than 8,000 measures in 39 countries.”

It is time to end US economic warfare and repeal these unilateral coercive measures, which violate international law.

Take Action: Join the International Days of Action Against  Sanctions
and Economic WarMarch 13 – 15, 2020

 

Sanctions are war (From havaar.org.)

Sanctions Are A Weapon of War

The United States uses sanctions against countries that resist the US’ agenda. US sanctions are designed to kill by destroying an economy through denial of access to finance, causing hyperinflation and shortages and blocking basic necessities such as food and medicine. For example, sanctions are expected to cause the death of tens of thousands of Iranians by creating a severe shortage of critical medicines and medical equipment everywhere in Iran.

Muhammad Sahimi writes that in a “letter published by The Lancet, the prestigious medical journal, three doctors working in Tehran’s MAHAK Pediatric Cancer Treatment and Research Center warned that, ‘Re-establishment of sanctions, scarcity of drugs due to the reluctance of pharmaceutical companies to deal with Iran, and a tremendous increase in oncology drug prices [due to the plummeting value of the Iranian rial by 50–70%], will inevitably lead to a decrease in survival of children with cancer.’”

Diabetes, multiple sclerosis, HIV/AIDS, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and asthma affect over ten million Iranians who will find essential medicines impossible to get or available only at high prices. The US claims that food and medicines are excluded from sanctions but in practice, they are not because pharmaceutical companies fear sanctions being applied to them over some technical violation and Iran cannot pay for essentials when banks can’t do business with it. European nations failed to persuade the Trump administration to ensure that essential medicine and food were available to Iranians.

In Venezuela, due to the sanctions, 180,000 medical operations have been canceled and 823,000 chronically ill patients are awaiting medicines. The Center for Economic and Policy Research found sanctions have deprived Venezuela of “billions of dollars of foreign exchange needed to pay for essential and life-saving imports,” contributing to 40,000 total deaths in 2017 and 2018. More than 300,000 Venezuelans are at risk due to a lack of access to medicine or treatment. Economists warn US sanctions could cause famine in Venezuela. Sanctions also cause shortages of parts and equipment needed for electricity generation, water systems, and transportation as well as preventing participation in the global financial market. Sanctions, which are illegal under the UN, OAS and US law, have caused mass protests in Venezuela against the US.

Sanctions against Iran and Venezuela could be a prelude to military attack; i.e., the US weakening a nation economically before attacking it. This is what happened in Iraq. Under pressure from the United States, on August 2, 1990, the UN Security Council passed sanctions that required countries to stop trading or carrying out financial transactions with Iraq. President George H.W. Bush said the UN sanctions would not be lifted “as long as Saddam Hussein is in power.” The US continued to pressure the increasingly skeptical Security Council members into compliance even though hundreds of thousands of children were dying. In 1996, then-U.S. Ambassador to the UN Madeleine Albright was asked about the death of as many as 500,000 children due to lack of medicine and malnutrition exacerbated by the sanctions, and she brutally replied, “[The] price is worth it.” Sanctions were also used against Libya and Syria before the US attacked them.

This is consistent with the US ‘way of war’ described by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz in “An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States,” which describes frontier counterinsurgency premised on annihilation including the destruction of food, housing, and resources as well as ruthless militarism. The US has waged a long-term economic war against Cuba (sanctions in place since 1960), North Korea (first sanctions in the 1950s, tightened in the 1980s), Zimbabwe (2003) and Iran (1979)

Sanctions hurt civilians, especially the most vulnerable – babies, children, the elderly and chronically ill – not governments. Their intent is to shrink the economy and cause chronic shortages and hyperinflation while ensuring a lack of access to finance to pay for essentials. The US then blames the targeted government claiming that corruption or socialism is the problem in an effort to turn the people against their government. This often backfires as people instead rally around the government, quiet their calls for democracy and work to develop a resistance economy.

Stop Sanctions destroying lives from BrightonAndHoveNews.org.

The Movement to End Sanctions

In recent years, a movement has been building to end the use of illegal economic coercive measures. The movement includes governments coming together in forums like the Non-Aligned Movement, made up of countries that represent 55 percent of the global population, as well as UN member-states calling for international law and the UN Charter to be upheld and social movements organizing to educate about the impact of sanctions and demand an end to their use. This June, the Non-Aligned Movement called for the end of sanctions against Venezuela.

Popular Resistance is working with groups around the world on the Global Appeal for Peace, an initiative to create a worldwide network of people and organizations that will work together to oppose the lawless actions of the United States, and any country that acts similarly. A high priority is opposing the imposition of unilateral coercive economic measures that violate the charter of the United Nations. The UN and its International Court of Justice have been ineffective in holding the US accountable for its actions. No one country or one movement has the power alone to hold the United States accountable, but together we can make a difference. Join this campaign here.

With 39 countries targeted with sanctions, and other countries impacted because they cannot trade with those countries, nations are challenging the US’ dollar domination. Countries are seeking to conduct trade without the dollar and are no longer treating the US dollar as the world’s reserve currency while also avoiding Wall Street. The de-dollarization of the global economy is a boomerang effect that is hastening due to the abuse of sanctions and will seriously weaken the US economy.

Foreign Minister Zarif, who describes sanctions as “economic terrorism,” warned that “the excessive use of economic power by the United States, and the excessive use of the dollar as a weapon in US economic terrorism against other countries, will backfire.”  As the blowback continues to grow, the negative impact on the US economy may force the US to stop using sanctions. The end of dollar domination will add to the demise of the failing US empire.

Take Action: Join the International Days of Action Against  Sanctions
and Economic War
March 13 – 15, 2020

End the Deadly Sanctions banner on the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington, DC. (From the Embassy Defense Collective.)

Time to End the Use of Illegal Economic Sanctions

The combination of countries acting against US sanctions, and people’s movements pressuring the US government has the potential to end the abuse of sanctions. The EU has moved to blunt the impact of the sanctions against Iran by creating an alternative to the US-controlled SWIFT system for trade. This is spurring the end of the dollar as the reserve currency. Some officials in the EU have called for retaliatory sanctions against the US.

Trump left a small opening for potential diplomacy with Iran that could lead to the end of sanctions against that country. Trump bragged about the US being the number one oil and gas producer, taking credit for an Obama climate crime, and therefore no longer needing to spend hundreds of millions a year to have troops in the Middle East. He concluded with a message to the “people and leaders of Iran” that the US was “ready to have peace with all those who seek it.” He said the US wanted Iran to have a “great and prosperous future with other countries of the world.”

That future is only possible if the US moves to end the sanctions against Iran. Iranians have learned the US cannot be trusted. Iran lived up to the requirements of the Iran nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, but Trump did not when he withdrew from it and re-instated draconian sanctions lifted by Obama. Trump added even move sanctions. This also angered European allies who had negotiated the agreement and were put in the position of being subservient to the US or going against it. To regain Iran’s trust, the US needs to make a good-faith gesture of ending punitive economic measures.

North Korea, which has been sanctioned by the US longer than any other country, had a similar experience after they reached an agreement with the United States in 1994 under the Clinton administration.  The George W. Bush administration wanted to put in place a national missile defense system but the agreement with North Korea blocked that. John Bolton and Dick Cheney falsely accused North Korea of violating the agreement, increased sanctions against it and claimed it was part of the Axis of Evil, along with Iran, and Iraq. North Korea, like Iran, learned they cannot trust the United States. Sanctions are causing thousands of deaths in North Korea. Now, China and Russia are allied with North Korea and are urging relief from the US sanctions. Russia and China have also ignored US sanctions against Venezuela and continue to do business with it.

On December 17, the Senate passed a Sanctions Bill that put in place sanctions against corporations working with Russia to develop gas pipelines to Europe. The action is naked US imperialism seeking to prevent Russia from being the main natural gas exporter to the EU market and to replace it with more expensive US-produced gas, a move to save the financially-underwater US fracking industry. Russia, Germany, and others have defiantly told Washington its weaponizing of economic sanctions will not halt the gas pipeline construction.

The indiscriminate, illegal and immoral use of sanctions is an act of war. Unless they are authorized by the United Nations, unilateral coercive measures are illegal. A critical objective of the peace and justice movement in the United States, working with allies around the world, must be to end this terrorist economic warfare. The US economy currently depends on financial hegemony and war. The slow, steady collapse of the dollarized economy means the 2020s will be the decade US domination comes to an end. The US must learn to be a cooperative member of the global community or risk this isolation and retaliation.

Syria: the War, the Loss, and the Silence

Child from Eastern Aleppo receiving food in the Jibrin reception camp, December 14, 2016

On December 12, 2012, on the day, 4 years earlier, Western countries and allies – perversely calling themselves Friends of Syria – carried through a regime change by statement and set up a Syrian National Council of people never elected by anyone in Syria and told the world that it was, from now on, the only ‘legitimate representative of the Syrian people!’

During the 4 years, Western, Saudi, Turkish and the Gulf States supported innumerable illegal, destructive and mainly foreign terrorist groups with the goal to undermine the legitimate Syrian government and destabilise the country – as had been recommended by US ambassador William Roebuck1 in Damascus as far back as in 2006 (WikiLeaks documentation here).

December 12, 2016, marked a fundamental turning point.

Aleppo did not “fall to the dictator/butcher/mass murderer” aka President Bashar al-Assad2 – no, it was liberated and the occupation by terrorist groups such as ISIS and al-Nusra during 4,5 years ended.

NATO member Turkey had been singularly active in pillaging everything of value in Aleppo and its huge industrial zone, bring it over to Turkey and convert the money to weapons and training facilities for terror groups – a quite peculiar way to contribute to the US Global War on Terror: Like the US itself, Turkey did its utmost to support terrorism in Syria.

Also, Assad’s predicted genocide on his own people there and then – well, just didn’t happen.

I documented this historic moment of change and liberation of Syrians from occupation because I was there, one of the extremely few Westerners, and the only one from Scandinavia. Six series with strong text and documentary photography – now seen by over 170,000 views on the Internet – and lots of articles on The Transnational.

Jibrin reception camp

Regrettably, not one Western media wanted, or dared, publish any of it.

Aleppo was said to fall by the Western press. But what fell in Aleppo in December 2016 was:

a) the regime change policy;
b) the inter-national war on Syria which is still, mostly and falsely, called a basically civil/domestic war, and
c) the constructed Western mainstream media narrative filled with fiction, fake and – not the least, omission – omitted facts, history, complexities and perspectives including that of international law, voices, experts and argument.

That narrative was created on the basis of millions upon millions of dollars of marketing, shocking videos, staged events, etc. and the peculiar phenomenon called the Syrian Civil Defence or White Helmets (who had stolen its first name from Syria’s Civil Defence (about this actor in the conflict, see here and here) which got millions of dollars, particularly from NATO countries), moral support, media coverage (brilliantly staged photos, Hollywood style), Nobel peace prize nominations, documentary film prizes and, well, only God know what more.

Eastern Aleppo, once an amazingly beautiful city on the Silk Road and on UNESCO’s list

I’ve reported and documented in details how Western media – Scandinavian as well as, e.g. The Nation – wanted to frame my texts and photos (which, for a truly free press, would have been a free-of-charge scoop) and ended up declining, across the board, to publish any of it.

Thank God, there is the Internet where broader perspectives, different angles and interpretations can still be posted – and there are genuinely independent think tanks without government and corporate funding like The Transnational Foundation that I am the co-founder and director of.

*****

Every war is two wars: the one on the ground and the one in the media. By now, both have fallen apart for the NATO countries and their regional allies.

And the price for this nice little NATO-Western adventure? For this adventure which shall be added to the sufferings and deaths wrought on, say, Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya?

Here is World Vision’s data:

Millions scattered, creating the largest refugee and displacement crisis of our time. About 6.7 million Syrians are now refugees, and another 6.2 million people are displaced within Syria. Half of the people affected are children

… Oct. 17, 2019 update: Since military operations increased in northeast Syria early in October, more than 130 civilians have been killed and more than 160,000 have fled, including at least 70,000 children, according to the U.N. refugee agency.

Eastern Aleppo, December 2016

And how many dead in Syria since 2011?

Well, of course, it is not easy to answer with reliable statistics but here are different sources and the answer seems to be between 370,000 and 570,000.

We are talking about around half a million people killed in a war on a sovereign state’s territory mainly financed and staffed by NATO governments and their friends in the Middle East, i.e., outside it – and with no UN Security Council mandate.

You begin to understand why Western media, politicians and experts have virtually avoided every mention of international law – according to which everything done by the NATO countries and their regional friends, such as Saudi Arabia, was illegal, an act of aggression on sovereign Syria and never had even the faintest mandate of the UN.

Dear reader, you may now argue that – well, but… Assad was a butcher, a nasty dictator. What else could be done with such a devil?

My answer is that even if Assad and the Syrian regime were as cruel and evil as we have been told – even if they were the single reason for everything bad in Syria – that can not excuse or legitimize what the West has done because of its deliberate politico-military attempts to carry out a regime change in that country and thereby cause the (for foreigners unimaginable) human suffering on innocent Syrians as well as the material and cultural costs.

The US and other Western countries had an agenda in Syria. When the violence broke out in spring 2011, these countries could have chosen other policies and strategies if their aim had been to contribute to peace.

Instead – and because of that agenda – they deliberately did everything you shall never do if it is peace and stability and security you want – for the other and for yourself.

… even if Assad and the Syrian regime were as cruel and evil as we have been told – even if they were the single reason for everything bad in Syria – that does not excuse or legitimize what the West has done in terms of politico-military attempts to carry out a regime change in that country and the human and other costs it has incurred on the innocent Syrians.
The US and other Western countries had an agenda in Syria. When the violence broke out in spring 2011, these countries could have chosen other policies and strategies if their aim had been to contribute to peace.3

While the Syrian government, its military forces, president, security services are surely responsible for a proportion of that mass-killing, that has to be seen in relation to at least these three dimensions:

  1. Syria’s right to self-defence against foreign presence on its territory, in accordance with the UN Charter’s Article 51. (And it’s right to invite Iran and Russia to help in that self-defence).
  2. An – admittedly contra-factual and heuristic – consideration: What would have happened if no single NATO and allied countries had poured in money, weapons, trainers, special forces, etc. to support each and every anti-Assad man and woman they could find?
    How much longer did the “civil war” take because these forces were supported from the outside – and how many lives would have been saved and how many fewer refugees would there be today if genuine mediation attempts, such as Kofi Annan’s, had not been systematically undercut by Western/NATO states?
  3. And how much more suffering has the Syrian people had to endure thanks to a media narrative that consistently blamed everything on the Syrian ‘regime’ and Bashar al-Assad, thereby gave legitimacy to every step of the broader deeper foreign interventionism and never-ever asked questions about even the tiniest complicity of the West in this catastrophic war on a people, a country and on a part of humanity’s civilisational cradle?

Even if it is believed that the Syrian president, government, military forces etc. were the most brutal of all – including in the torture prisons – does the West really have not a single reason to reflect on how it decided to deal with Syria long before the way and with the Syrian crisis from 2011 and onwards?

Does no Western/NATO country have a reason to reflect on its own aggression and co-responsibility for half a million dead Syrians? Or how it treated Syrians when they came to Europe as asylum seekers?

Do the Western countries not have a single reason to evaluate whether its “diagnosis” of the Syria conflict formation, its history, culture and modes of operation was correct? Or why it chose to completely ignore even very interesting and precise – but complex – American conflict analyses such as Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s and William Polk’s?

Is the silence on Syria since 2016 not, rather, an indicator of a peculiar inability of the West – which gladly, permanently and under US leadership criticizes everybody else around the world – to exercise just a bit of self-criticism and, therefore, a sign of weakness?

Or to quote Matthew 7:3 with some relevance to Western Christian values: “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?”

These are, admittedly, rhetorical questions. My answers to them are Yes, of course!

And when these issues have not been taken up even now three years after the Aleppo turning point, Western intellectual and moral capacity is evidently too weak to ever do so.

No lessons will be learned – because no lessons shall be learned. And no lessons can be learned. People – and countries – who see themselves as Number One don’t learn, they always teach.

Is the silence on Syria since 2016 not, rather, an indicator of a peculiar inability of the West – which gladly, permanently and under US leadership criticizes everybody else around the world – to exercise just a bit of self-criticism and, therefore, a sign of weakness?

And, thus, the silence on such a thing as the West’s intervention and warfare in and on Syria – it’s society, people and culture – is an indication of the West’s own decline, moral and otherwise.

It’s kind-of not enough that President Trump tells us that the US so bravely and successfully has defeated ISIS. Which by the way is a lie. And that it will stay in Syria to protect the oil sources – which is not a lie: It was about gas and oil in the sense Kennedy and WikiLeaks tell those who bother to read longer, more complex conflict analyses (which fewer and fewer seem to do in our tendentially post-literate society).

Eastern Aleppo, December 2016. All the destruction was done from the air by Syrian and Russian planes, right?

Truth comes in bits and pieces and the jigsaw puzzle changes into an entirely different picture

And now, late autumn 2019, comes the revelations about the documented changes in the OPCW (Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons) report about Douma event in 2018 and we are still waiting for the media – that knew so surely and so exactly what happened back then – to write about these reports and post an apology.

TFF has published about it here with a series of notes and links. TFF Associates Hans von Sponeck and Richard Falk have participated in conveying the important messages about this from OPCW whistleblowers.

And there is Tareq Haddad, the Newsweek man on Syria, who chose to resign because of internal censorship and go public about it. He is the new truthteller whose name you better take note of – and another courageous whistleblower that freedom-loving democracies should be proud of.

But how much have you read in the mainstream Western press about him – or about Max Blumenthal for that matter?

And then there is the interesting “Pentagon Papers” of our generation – the Washington Post’s recent publication of the “Afghanistan Papers” entitled “A secret history of the war. In a cache of previously unpublished interviews and memos, key insiders reveal what went wrong during the longest armed conflict in U.S. history.”

[Inadvertently, that very good publication raises the question why the Washington Post itself has conveyed a militarist perspective so consistently over many years].

Well, the Soviet – under the moral leadership of Gorbachev – had the common sense to get out of that quagmire after 7 years; the U.S. is still there 18 years later. Lessons never to be learned…

So, to cover up its own deep complicity and crimes of warfare, death and destruction, the West has to control and censor – old Pravda style – the media and blame everybody else for whatever happens and for using censorship and propaganda – e.g. Russia’s trolls and Russia Today, China’s “dictatorship” surveillance, etc.

In other words, you destroy what you were once proud of – what was once an essential, defining characteristic of your identity. Such as: Freedom of the press, diversity and decent professional fact-based journalism carried out by knowledgeable and experienced people who check sources, look for more perspectives and power-critical facts, report all conflicting parties’ views and arguments, pose critical questions to power and invite a broad variety of experts comment on and interpret what happens in the world – including independent civilian expertise that does not wear a political, military or intellectual uniform of pro-war political correctness.

War and other violence is a boomerang.

The silence on Syria offers roaring evidence of Western moral decay, media deception and political decline.

You cannot repeatedly do evil things – radical evil things – to countries, peoples, cultures and nature – without, over time, harming and undermining yourself, your own strength, identity and core values.

There were lessons to have been learned since Vietnam. But when you are Number One in a system, you do not learn, you teach. And that, paradoxically, will teach you a lesson or two as time goes by: the pupils have left the lecture hall and Titanic left at dawn…

  • All photos © Jan Oberg
    1. Interestingly, the Wikipedia entry on Roebuck makes no mention of his past in Syria but reports on his continuing, harmful presence in and influence on Syria.
    2. Should you be interested in seeing and hearing how Bashar al-Assad looks upon domestic and international dimensions – something seldom given a fair hearing in Western media, this one was done on December 9, 2019, by an Italian TV channel RAI 24 News:

    And here Bashar al-Assad speaks at length with Charlie Rose. The year was 2006, the year when the US ambassador in Damascus advocated to Washington that the US policy should be to systematically de-stabilize Syria (in English and with a full transcript).

    Here a recent interview by Rafshin Attansi, RT

    Here, finally, NBC’s Bill Neely speaks with President Bashar Al-Assad – a few months before Aleppo was liberated.

  • See my “If you want peace, don’t focus on the violence and the evil guy.”
  • From a Blessing to a Curse: How UN Resolution 2334 Accelerated Israel’s Colonization in the West Bank   

    Three years ago, the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 2334. With fourteen members voting in favor and one abstention, the Resolution was the equivalent of a political earthquake. Indeed, it was the first time in many years that Israel was roundly condemned by the international body for its illegal settlement policies in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Unlike previous attempts at holding Israel accountable, this time the Americans did nothing to protect its closest ally.

    What has happened since then, however, has been a testimony to the failure of the UN to furnish meaningful mechanisms that would force violators of international law, like Israel, to respect international consensus. In some way, 2334, although externally supportive of Palestinian rights, turned out to be one of the most costly decisions ever made by the international institution.

    Immediately after the adoption of 2334 on December 23, 2016, Israel thumbed its nose at the whole world by announcing, twice in the following January, plans to construct thousands of new homes in illegal Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank.

    At the time, Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and his then-Defense Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, rationalized the provocative moves as a “response to the housing needs” within the settlements. Nothing could have been further from the truth, as the subsequent three years demonstrated.

    Now, it has become clear that the settlement expansion was part of a much larger strategy aimed at killing any chance of establishing a contiguous and viable Palestinian State and parting ways with the so-called “land for peace formula”, itself molded through years of American mediation and “peace process”.

    The Israeli strategy was a complete success. Thanks to the blank cheque issued by the Trump administration to Israel’s right-wing government coalition, Israeli politicians are now openly plotting what was once nearly unthinkable: the unilateral annexation of major Jewish settlement blocks in the West Bank along with large swathes of the Jordan Valley.

    Throughout the last three years, Washington has turned a blind eye to Israel’s sinister designs. Worse, it has fully embraced and validated the Israeli political discourse, while taking every necessary measure to provide a cover for Israeli actions. The declaration by US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, on November 18 that Jewish settlements “are not inconsistent with international law” is but one of many such positions adopted by Washington to pave the road for Israel’s insolence and violation of international law.

    Retrospectively, President Obama had the chance to do more than merely abstaining from voting against a UN Resolution – which lacked any enforcement mechanism, anyway – by using the generous US financial aid to Israel as a bargaining chip. That way, he could have potentially forced Netanyahu to freeze settlement expansion altogether. Alas, Obama did the exact opposite – as he bankrolled the Israeli military and financed every Israeli war on Gaza. Instead, his belated move opened the stage for the Trump administration to unleash a cruel war on Palestinians and on international law, as well.

    In fact, it seems that the two-year term of US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Hailey, was dedicated largely to rectify the supposed “betrayal” of the Obama administration of Israel. In the name of defending Israel against imaginary global “anti-Semitism”, the US severed its ties with several UN organizations, eventually isolating Washington itself from the rest of the world.

    With the UN being designated as the common enemy by both Washington and Tel Aviv, international law was rendered irrelevant. Gradually, the US government fortified its protective shield around Israel, thus rendering 2334 and many other UN resolutions meaningless. In other words, the US managed to turn international consensus regarding the illegality of the Israeli occupation of Palestine into an opportunity for Tel Aviv to disown any commitment, not only to the UN, but to the so-called two-state solution, and the “peace process”, as well.

    While Israel accelerated its settlement projects unhindered, the US ensured that the Palestinian leadership is denied the opportunity to fight back, even if symbolically, through the various international institutions and any available political and legal platform. This was engineered through a systematic economic warfare, which saw the cutting of all aid to the Palestinian Authority in August 2018, followed, a week later, by stopping all funds to the UN organization responsible for the welfare of Palestinian refugees, UNRWA.

    US-Israeli war on Palestinians was staged on two fronts. One front focused on the seizure of more Palestinian land, the building of new and the expansion of existing settlements, as a precursor to the imminent steps of annexing most of the West Bank. The other front witnessed the relentless US administration’s pressure on Palestinians through political and financial means.

    Three years after 2334, a new status quo is upon us. Gone are the days of traditional American “peace-making” and its adjoining elaborate discourse centered on a two-state and other make-believe solutions. Now, Israel is single-handedly formulating its own “vision” for a future that is designed to meet the expectations of the country’s unhinged and ever-growing right-wing constituency. As for the US, its role has been relegated to the cheerleader, unfazed by such seemingly trivial matters as that of international law, human rights, justice, peace or even regional stability.

    Shortly after being appointed as Israel’s new Defense Minister on November 9, Naftali Bennett has taken the dangerous and consequential decision of building a new Jewish settlement in the occupied Palestinian city of Al-Khalil (Hebron). Naturally, Jewish settlers rejoiced as they will finally see the destruction of the old Hebron market, which is older than Israel itself, and the potential for further settlement expansion and more annexation in the city.

    At the same time, Palestinians are cringing, for a move against Hebron is the final proof that Israel is now operating in Palestine without the slightest fear of political or legal repercussions. Not only did UN Resolution 2334 fail to hold Israel accountable, it, in some way, facilitated further Israeli expansion in the West Bank, paving the road for the annexation that will surely follow.

    How Britain dresses up Crimes in Israel as “Charitable Acts”

    When is a war crime not a war crime? When, according to British officials, that war crime has been given a makeover as a “charitable act”.

    The British state is being asked to account for its financial and moral support for a UK organisation accused of complicity in the ethnic cleansing of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their homeland. So far, it appears determined to evade answering those questions.

    The target of the campaign is the Jewish National Fund UK (JNF UK), which describes itself as “Britain’s oldest Israel charity”. Noting its role in “building Israel for over a century”, the organisation boasts: “Every penny raised by JNF UK is sent to a project in Israel.”

    In fact, donations to JNF UK were used to buy some of the 250 million trees planted across Israel since 1948, the year when 750,000 Palestinians were forced out at gunpoint from their homes by the new Israeli army. Those expulsions were an event Palestinians call their Nakba, or “catastrophe”.

    Afterwards, the Israeli army laid waste to many hundreds of Palestinian villages, turning them into rubble. Forests planted over the villages were then promoted as efforts to “make the desert bloom”.

    Subsidised by taxpayers

    In fact, the trees were intended primarily to block Palestinian refugees from ever being able to return to their villages and rebuild their homes. As a result, millions of Palestinians today languish in refugee camps across the Middle East, evicted from their homeland with the help of the forests.

    JNF UK raised the funds for a parent organisation in Israel, the Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael Jewish National Fund (KKL-JNF), which enforced the expulsions by using the donations to plant the forests. The Israeli state’s ethnic cleansing of the native Palestinian population was effectively disguised as a form of environmentalism.

    Britain and other Western states appear to have accepted that barely concealed deception. They have long treated their local JNF fundraising arms as charities. JNF UK received charitable status in 1939, nearly a decade before Israel was created as a Jewish state on the ruins of Palestinians’ homeland.

    The forests are still managed with money raised through tax-deductible donations in Britain and elsewhere. Since 1990, donations to JNF UK have been eligible for Gift Aid, meaning that the British government tops up donations by adding its own 25 percent contribution.

    In effect, the ethnic cleansing of Palestinian villages has been subsidised by the British public.

    Backing from MPs

    Britain’s continuing sanction of these crimes – and others – is being belatedly given scrutiny by human rights activists in Britain.

    A campaign launched in 2010 called Stop the JNF – backed by various Palestinian solidarity organisations – has aimed to shame British officials into ending JNF UK’s charitable status.

    The campaign gained parliamentary support a year later, when 68 MPs signed an early-day motion condemning the JNF’s activities and calling for its charitable status to be revoked. The motion was sponsored by Jeremy Corbyn, then a backbencher but now leader of the Labour Party, and attracted cross-party support, though no Conservative MPs backed it.

    Nonetheless, the campaign has faced institutional resistance every step of the way. Over the past six years, appeals to the Charity Commission, a department of the British government, to intervene and remove JNF UK from its list of registered charities have been repeatedly rebuffed.

    Rather than seeking explanations from JNF UK, British officials have largely ignored the evidence they have been presented with.

    Trees ‘a weapon of war’

    The campaign has highlighted one specific and egregious example of the JNF UK’s work. The organisation raised donations to create a large recreation area west of Jerusalem called British Park, which includes forests, over three Palestinian villages that were destroyed by the Israeli army after 1948. A sign at the entrance reads: “Gift of the Jewish National Fund in Great Britain.”

    Many of those who donated to the project, often British Jews encouraged to drop pennies into the JNF’s iconic fundraising “blue boxes”, had no idea how their money was being used.

    The Stop the JNF campaign included testimony from Kholoud al-Ajarma, whose family was expelled from the village of Ajjur during the Nakba. Today, the family lives in the overcrowded Aida refugee camp, next to Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank.

    KKL-JNF planted trees at British Park on land to which Ajarma’s family, and many others, still have the title deeds. In doing so, the group violated the protected status of such lands in international law.

    In her submission, Ajarma wrote: “It was British pounds that helped destroy my village. The Jewish National Fund is not merely planting trees. These trees have been used as a weapon of war, a weapon of colonisation.”

    Israeli scholar Uri Davis has observed that the establishment of British Park “ought to be classified as an act, and as a policy, of complicity with war crimes”.

    4,000 protest letters

    The Charity Commission’s barrister, Iain Steele, conceded in a submission that it was possible the JNF had violated the Ajarma family’s rights by creating British Park on their land.

    Nonetheless, the Charity Commission has on two occasions refused to consider revoking JNF UK’s charitable status. Rather than addressing the merits of Stop the JNF’s arguments, the Charity Commission has evasively claimed that the campaigners, even the Ajarma family, are not affected by whether the JNF is registered as a charity.

    In June, a commission official even wrote to the campaign with an astounding defence that appears to strip the term “charitable” of all meaning. He wrote: “In simple terms the test for charitable status is a test of what an organisation was set up to do, not what it does in practice.”

    The commission’s apparent reasoning is that, so long as the JNF includes fine-sounding words in its mission statement, what it does in practice as a “charity” does not matter.

    In April, Stop the JNF appealed the commission’s decision not to revoke JNF UK’s charitable status to the First-tier Tribunal. The judge, however, told them that neither Ajarma nor the campaign itself had a legal right to be heard. He concluded instead that only the attorney-general could overrule the Charity Commission’s decision. In October, the attorney-general rejected the campaigners’ claims without investigating them.

    In an attempt to revive the case, Stop the JNF has submitted more than 4,000 letters of protest to the attorney-general, calling on him to reassess the organisation’s continuing charitable status.

    A parallel call was made to the advocate-general of Scotland, which has a separate legal system.

    ‘Intense political controversy’

    The JNF did not respond to questions sent by Middle East Eye about its role in planting the forests, its charitable status and other criticisms of its involvement with Israel.

    The establishment’s apparent unwillingness to confront JNF UK’s historical record is perhaps not surprising. The JNF was one of the key organisations that helped to realise a British government promise made in the 1917 Balfour Declaration to help create a “Jewish home” in what was then Palestine.

    Two years later, Lord Balfour declared that the colonisation of Palestine by Zionist Jews from Europe was “of far profounder import than the desires and prejudices of the 700,000 [Palestinian] Arabs who now inhabit that ancient land”. Little, it seems, has changed in official British attitudes since.

    Steele, the Charity Commission’s barrister, successfully urged the First-tier Tribunal not to get involved, arguing that it would be “drawn into matters of intense political controversy, for no obvious benefit to anyone”.

    Surely, Ajarma and many millions more Palestinians would strenuously dispute that assessment. They would have much to gain should Britain finally demonstrate a willingness to confront its continuing role in aiding and comforting groups such as the JNF, accused of complicity in crimes against international law in historic Palestine.

    As Stop the JNF organisers wrote in their own letter to the attorney-general: “These people [Palestinian refugees such as the Ajarma family] are not defined by the JNF as recipients of their charity, but they have human and legal rights which the actions of this charity unacceptably violate.”

    Reminiscent of dark regimes

    The campaign has not only focused on JNF UK’s historic role in dispossessing Palestinians. It points out that the JNF is still actively contributing to Israel’s own grossly discriminatory and racist policies – another reason it should be barred from being considered a charity.

    JNF UK’s accounts from 2016 show that it has funded the OR Movement, an Israeli organisation that assists in the development of Jewish-only communities in Israel and the occupied territories.

    One such Jewish community, Hiran, is being established on the ruins of homes that belonged to Bedouin families. They were recently forced out of their village of Umm al-Hiran – a move the legal rights group Adalah has described as “reminiscent of the darkest of regimes such as apartheid-era South Africa”.

    On its website, JNF-KKL congratulates “Friends of JNF UK” for supporting the establishment of nearby Hiran Forest. The JNF claims the forest will “help mitigate climate change” – once again disguising ethnic cleansing of Palestinians as a form of environmentalism.

    Funding the Israeli army

    JNF UK’s annual accounts in 2015 also revealed that it contributed money to the Israeli army under the title “Tzuk Eitan 9 Gaza war effort” – a reference to Israel’s attack on Gaza in late 2014, whose death toll included some 550 Palestinian children.

    A United Nations commission of inquiry found evidence that Israel had committed war crimes by indiscriminately targeting civilians – a conclusion confirmed by the testimonies of Israeli soldiers to Breaking the Silence, an Israeli whistle-blowing group.

    Equally troubling, an investigation last month by Haaretz reported that, under Israeli government pressure, the KKL-JNF has been secretly directing vast sums of money into buying and developing land in the occupied West Bank to aid Jewish settlers, again in violation of international law.

    The funds were allegedly channeled to Himnuta Jerusalem, effectively the JNF’s subsidiary in the occupied territories, disguised as funds for projects in Jerusalem.

    Veteran Israeli journalist Raviv Drucker observed that KKL-JNF was rapidly converting itself into a banking fund for the settlers. He added that its “coffers are bursting with billions of shekels [and] the settlers’ appetite for land is at a peak”.

    Given the lack of transparency in KKL-JNF’s accounts, it is difficult to know precisely where the funds have come from. But as more than $70m has been spent by KKL-JNF over the past two years in the occupied West Bank, according to Haaretz, the funds likely include money raised by JNF UK.

    In any case, research by Stop the JNF suggests JNF UK has no objections to making “charitable” donations to settlements in the West Bank. Its accounts record contributions to Sansana, a community of religious settlers close to Hebron.

    Settlements are considered a war crime under the Fourth Geneva Convention.

    No ‘duty’ towards equality

    As the JNF UK states on its website, every penny raised in Britain is “sent to a project in Israel” – much of it via the JNF in Israel.

    KKL-JNF is a major landowner in Israel. Under a special arrangement with the Israeli government, it owns 13 percent of Israel’s territory – often lands seized from Palestinian refugees. The arrangement includes a provision from 1961 that the primary aim of the JNF in Israel is to acquire property “for the purpose of settling Jews on such lands and properties”.

    In 2004, KKL-JNF explained its role. It was “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.”

    In marketing and allocating lands only to Jews, the legal group Adalah has noted, the JNF in Israel intentionally rides roughshod over the rights of a fifth of the country’s population who are Palestinian by heritage.

    In other words, the JNF is integral to an Israeli system that enforces an apartheid-style regime that prevents Israel’s Palestinian minority from accessing and benefiting from a substantial part of Israel’s territory.

    Violating British law

    This institutionalised discrimination has been made even more explicit since Israel last year passed the Nation-State Law, which declares: “The State views the development of Jewish settlement as a national value, and shall act to encourage and promote its establishment and strengthening.”

    As the Stop the JNF campaign notes, British charities should abide by legal responsibilities enshrined in UK legislation, such as the 2010 Equality Act, which makes it illegal to discriminate based on “colour, nationality, ethnic or national origin”.

    The JNF UK is clearly failing to abide by this core legal principle. It is operating in a foreign state where it has helped, over many decades, to fund activities that grossly violate both British law and international law. The evidence compiled by Stop the JNF indicates that JNF UK has itself been complicit in aiding the commission of war crimes, both in Israel and the occupied territories.

    It has also given financial and moral succour to its parent organisation, which has crafted a system of apartheid that confers superior land rights on Jews over Israel’s Palestinian minority.

    British taxpayers should not be subsidising institutionalised discrimination and crimes abroad – even more so when they are being dressed up as “charitable acts”.

    • A version of this article first appeared in Middle East Eye

    Don’t Look, Don’t See: Time for Honest Media Reporting on Impacts of Pesticides

    The UK-based Independent online newspaper recently published an article about a potential link between air pollution from vehicles and glaucoma. It stated that according to a new study air pollution is linked to the eye condition that causes blindness.

    The report explained that researchers had looked at vision tests carried out on more than 111,000 people across Britain between 2006 and 2010 and cross-referenced results against levels of air pollution in their neighbourhoods. Those living in areas with higher amounts of fine particulate matter were at least 6% more likely to have glaucoma than those in the least polluted areas.

    Glaucoma affects half a million people in the UK and can cause blindness if left untreated. However, the study cited by The Independent, published in Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science, was unable to prove that air pollution was a trigger.

    Following the article, environmentalist Dr Rosemary Mason put together a 20-page report on glyphosate and has sent it out to key public health officials and media outlets, including The Independent’s editor. In her report, she states that the European Chemicals Agency classifies glyphosate as a substance that causes serious eye damage and is toxic to aquatic life with long lasting effects. But she claims that the media still remains silent on the matter. Even in UK towns and cities, glyphosate-based Roundup herbicide is still being sprayed on weeds and super-weeds which have become Roundup-resistant.

    Mason implores The Independent and other mainstream media outlets to write with honesty about the use and harmful effects of glyphosate-based weedicides and other agrochemicals. She quotes the UN expert on Toxics, Baskut Tuncak, who in 2017 urged the EU to put children’s health before pesticides. Children form the most vulnerable part of the population as pesticides can adversely affect their development.

    Offering insight into the incidence of cataracts in England, Mason notes that annual rates of admission for cataract surgery rose 10‐fold from 1968 to 2004: from 62 episodes per 100,000 population to 637. A 2016 study by the WHO also confirmed that the incidence of cataracts had greatly increased: in ‘A global assessment of the burden of disease from environmental risks’ it says that cataracts are the leading cause of blindness worldwide. Globally, cataracts are responsible for 51% of blindness. An estimated 20 million individuals suffer from this degenerative eye disease.

    Mason discusses long waiting lists for cataracts in England. Because the NHS cannot cope with the pressure, private companies are cashing in. The growing demand for cataract operations is forcing the NHS to send increasing numbers of patients to be treated privately.

    In Wales, where Mason resides, 35,000 patients are at risk of going blind from macular degeneration and glaucoma while on the NHS waiting list. All the municipal councils in Wales use glyphosate-based herbicides. Glyphosate now accounts for about 50% of all herbicide use in the US. About 75% of glyphosate use has occurred since 2006, with the global glyphosate market projected to reach $11.74 billion by 2023.

    Figures for the use of glyphosate in the UK show a similar trend, which Mason has documented in her many reports. And let us not forget at this point that the current Conservative government regards Brexit as an ideal opportunity to usher in crops that have been genetically engineered to withstand the application of glyphosate or similar chemicals. The agrochemicals sector stands in the wings salivating at the prospect. This has nothing to do with boosting yields or ‘feeding the world’ as Boris Johnson asserts (claims which fail to stand up to scrutiny) but has everything to do with facilitating industry ambitions.

    Never in history has a chemical been used so pervasively. Glyphosate is in our air, water, plants, animals, grains, vegetables and meats. It’s in beer and wine, children’s breakfast cereal and snack bars and mother’s breast milk. It’s even in our vaccines.

    Of course, the power of the pesticides companies has been well noted. In 2017, global agrochemical corporations were severely criticised by UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Hilal Elver. A report presented to the UN human rights council accused them of the “systematic denial of harms”, “aggressive, unethical marketing tactics” and heavy lobbying of governments which has “obstructed reforms and paralysed global pesticide restrictions.”

    The report authored by Hilal Elver and Baskut Tuncak says pesticides have “catastrophic impacts on the environment, human health and society as a whole”, including an estimated 200,000 deaths a year from acute poisoning. Its authors said: “It is time to create a global process to transition toward safer and healthier food and agricultural production.”

    Hilal Elver says:

    Using more pesticides is nothing to do with getting rid of hunger.  According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), we are able to feed nine billion people today. Production is definitely increasing, but the problem is poverty, inequality and distribution.

    Elver said many of the pesticides are used on commodity crops, such as palm oil and soy, not the food needed by the world’s hungry people:

    The corporations are not dealing with world hunger; they are dealing with more agricultural activity on large scales.

    Mason notes that chronic exposure to pesticides has been linked to a range of diseases and conditions and that certain pesticides can persist in the environment for decades and pose a threat to the entire ecological system on which food production depends. The excessive use of pesticides contaminates soil and water sources, causing loss of biodiversity and destroying the natural enemies of pests. The impact of such overuse also imposes staggering costs on national economies. Moreover, the use of neonicotinoid pesticides is particularly worrying because they are linked to a systematic collapse in the number of bees around the world. Some 71% of crop species are bee pollinated.

    Mason goes on to describe the various lawsuits in the US against Bayer (which bought Monsanto) and the tactics used by Monsanto to conceal glyphosate-based Roundup’s carcinogenicity, including capturing regulatory agencies, corrupting public officials, bribing scientists and engaging in scientific fraud to delay its day of reckoning.

    Following the court decision to award in favour of Dewayne Johnson, attorney Robert Kennedy Jr said the following at the post-trial press conference:

    … you not only see many people injured, but you also see a subversion of democracy. You see the corruption of public officials, the capture of agencies that are supposed to protect us all from pollution. The agencies become captured by the industries they are supposed to regulate. The corruption of science, the falsification of science, and we saw all those things happen here. This is a company (Monsanto) that used all of the plays in the playbook developed over 60 years by the tobacco industry to escape the consequences of killing one of every five of its customers… Monsanto… has used those strategies…

    There is now also a good deal of scientific evidence linking glyphosate to obesity, depression, Alzheimer’s, ADHD, autism, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, kidney disease, inflammatory bowel disease and brain, breast and prostate cancer, miscarriage, birth defects and declining sperm counts. Strong science suggests glyphosate is the culprit in the exploding epidemics of celiac disease, colitis, gluten sensitivities, diabetes and non-alcoholic liver cancer which, for the first time, is attacking children as young as 10. Researchers also peg glyphosate as a potent endocrine disruptor, which interferes with sexual development in children.

    The compound is also a chelator that removes important minerals from the body, including iron, magnesium, zinc, selenium and molybdenum. Roundup disrupts the microbiome destroying beneficial bacteria in the human gut and triggering brain inflammation and other ill effects.

    Neurotransmitter changes in the brain have been detected due to exposure to glyphosate. This is why, according to Mason, there are so many mental health and psychiatric disorders, depression, suicides, anxiety and violence among children and adults. It is even found in popular breakfast cereals marketed for UK children.

    And this says nothing about the cocktail of pesticides sprayed on crops. The Soil Association and PAN UK have indicated that exposure to mixtures of pesticides commonly found in UK food, water and soil may be harming the health of both humans and wildlife. A quarter of all food and over a third of fruit and vegetables consumed in the UK contain pesticide cocktails, with some items containing traces of up to 14 different pesticides.

    The UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Environment has identified the rights threatened by environmental harm, including the rights to life, health, food and water and has mapped obligations to protect against such harm from private actors. In effect, where pesticides are concerned, the public are being denied the right to a healthy environment.

    But it’s not just the powerful pesticides lobby that is to blame here. Rosemary Mason says the British public (and indeed people across the world) have a right to information. However, she concludes that the public have been denied this because mainstream media outlets have on the whole for too long opted to remain silent on the pesticides issue.

    This article touches on just a few of the points in Rosemary Mason’s report. Readers can access the full text of ‘Glyphosatecauses serious eye damage’ on the academia.edu site.

    On State Contravention of the Genocide Convention

    I’d like to note two articles by Professor Michel Chossudovsky published this November in Global Research: they help explain the current denigration of the Convention on Genocide. When we grow accustomed to our system’s atrocities we lessen our humanity.

    In an article of November 13th, 20191 Chossudovsky outlines the history of George H.W. Bush’s father, Prescott Bush, supplying the Axis with oil through Standard Oil Company during WWII. This was allowed by the U.S. government. It is “news” in 2019 because this mechanism of cooperating with the enemy was hidden from the U.S. people. About 25 years ago Webster Tarpley and Anton Chaitkin2 wrote of Prescott Bush’s service to and partnership with the Harrimans’ Union Banking Corporation which in turn served Fritz Thyssen, a financer of Adolph Hitler. Under the Trading with the Enemy Act this Bush-Harriman Nazi front was impounded by the U.S. government in 1942. What is remarkable about Prof. Chossudovsky’s article isn’t so much the financial involvement of the Bush family with Nazi interests, but the logic of motivation and why the U.S. would allow oil resources under its control to be shipped to the enemy during a war. Answer: it was hoped Nazi Germany would stop the Soviet state; ie., ‘to stop Communism.’ Over twenty million Russians died. Prescott Bush went on to become a wealthy Republican Senator from Connecticut. With the Third Reich’s defeat the war against communism became the Cold War.

    This should interest genocide scholars because it reveals a genocidal intent in U.S. policy. Article II of the U.N. Convention on Genocide includes in its definition of genocide, … acts committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group as such…. The Soviet Union was a national group. It committed no aggression against the United States.

    In the article of November 13th and a subsequent article of November 22nd3 Prof. Chossudovsky relies on declassified material which reveals that the U.S. was prepared to bomb the Soviet Union with nuclear weapons wiping out 66 major cities, both during the war itself and following Truman’s bombing of Hiroshima. The U.S.S.R. didn’t have nuclear weapons until 1948 so the plans were predicated on a nuclear first strike. The absolute destruction of a national group whose people had chosen to live under Communism (nuclear production gradually grew to include cities of other Communist national groups) would have constituted genocide. The military policy under consideration was in direct opposition to human decency, the Geneva Conventions, the U.S.-British-U.S.S.R. military alliance of WWII, the Nuremberg Trials of 1945-6, and the Convention on Genocide signed by the U.S. in 1948 which became effective in 1951. While the early plans to bomb 66 Soviet cities weren’t put into action the manufacture of nuclear weapons increased to fulfill the goal of enough bombs to obliterate all of the Soviet Union’s cities.

    It may be for this reason that genocide prevention organizations of the U.S. and Canada, if not throughout NATO, were and are strongly controlled if not regulated, and are often directly funded by the government. Despite the Convention, the basis of U.S. and NATO policy was genocide and the total eradication of the Soviet Union by nuclear weapons would be a crime with no statute of limitations. The military edge of anti-Communism came to mean the possible obliteration of entire peoples. A military mindset allowing national obliteration helps explain U.S. lack of restraint in conventional bombing of Iraq’s civilian infrastructure during the First Gulf War.

    By 2019 the plans to obliterate Russia, no longer a Communist state, have possibly been transferred or expanded to include the People’s Republic of China. In either case extermination of a national group, an entire country, an entire people, is a violation of the Genocide Convention and would require presentation of the bombing as an act of self defense, while the ethic of the Convention would have to be ignored or bent by the West’s media so that rulers permitting a genocide could continue to rule. I think it’s for this reason that the Convention on Genocide was out of print at the United Nations in 1989 when our kitchen table press published it.4 Kurt Waldheim, a former Nazi officer under Germany’s Third Reich was Secretary General at the U.N.; the U.S. had with relative silence ratified the Convention on Genocide after a forty year hiatus in 1988, yet the Convention was out of print at the U.N. and not easily available to the public. Was there something the people weren’t supposed to know? The U.S. had added at its ratification of the Convention treaty, qualifications, caveats which would allow it not be bound by the Convention while giving the appearance of commitment. Also, the United States and NATO forces Coalition were about to bomb Iraq “into the stone age,” invade and take over its resources. I included in the edition5 the U.S. “Reservations and Declarations” added at the U.S. 1988 ratification of the Convention. We sent free copies (publication expenses came out of our food budget) to the U.S. Congress. In my “Foreword” to the Canadian edition in 1996, I could point out that the U.S. qualifications of its commitment to genocide prevention were telegraphing an intention to apply the tactic of genocide in instances it considered necessary, directly contravening the Convention. The U.S. alone of all nations, claims the right to judge for itself whether or not it has committed an act of genocide. This awareness isn’t shared by North America’s corporate, academic, highly funded and government-allied organizations intended to prevent genocides.

    Accountability for the crime of genocide remains within the domain of the powerful. Apparently the powerful are concerned that if the ongoing mechanisms of genocide are overturned in one region they may be overturned in another and the entire fabric of profit and controls will unravel. Signatory major powers have not brought Israel before International Court on charges of Israel’s alleged genocide of Palestinians. The U.S. and Coalition destruction of Iraq was not permitted testing as the crime of genocide at any court with the power to apply the law, domestically or internationally.6. The tragedy of genocide against Myanmar’s Rohingya should have been addressed in 2012. The genocide trials of Guatemala should have been supported by the nations who signed the Genocide Convention. There are examples in every country subservient to foreign powers of a blindness to what the takeover of a peoples and their cultures mean. Current policies against native peoples by Canada, the U.S. or fascist governments in the Americas, remain unaddressed. The effect of this is that genocide becomes a non-issue. This encourages impunity. France, Italy, Hungary, in particular, openly commenced an ethnic cleansing of Roma people domestically, and throughout the European Union the Roma continue to be persecuted as if they are not intended to survive as a racial or ethnic group.

    Accustomed to the crime of genocide the first world bathes in comparative luxury while its rulers inch closer and closer to the first strikes or threat of first strike, to rid the world of opposing ideologies and the people who support them. Poor people will either be drawn to ideologies which oppose their oppressors, or enslaved. Publishers and news media do not represent markets for liberation. It becomes difficult to write about the crime of genocide, or note warnings except those warnings comfortable with government policy. From inception the crimes are perception-managed so that the victims may be aware but the general populations of the aggressor countries are not. These crimes and their lack of prosecution enforce a mind control that moves the crime of genocide toward being awful but… acceptable. It is not acceptable. We are living amid monstrous crimes which we know are crimes, yet our governments and media are accepting these as normal. This “normal” will not let humanity survive.

    • First published in Nightslantern

    1. “Sleeping With The Third Reich: America’s Unspoken “Alliance” with Nazi Germany against the Soviet Union,” Prof. Michel Chossudovsky, November 13, 2019, Global Research.
    2. Webster Griffin Tarpley and Anton Chaitkin. George Bush: the Unauthorized Biography, Executive Intelligence Review, 1992.
    3. “Wipe the Soviet Union Off the Map”, 204 Atomic Bombs against 66 Major Cities, US Nuclear Attack against USSR Planned During World War II,” Prof. Michel Chossudovsky, November 22, 2019, Global Research.
    4. The Crime of Genocide & Bill of Human Rights, U.N. Texts, Moody Maine: J.B.Gerald & J. Maas, 1989.
    5. “Foreword,” Common Rights & Expectations: United Nations Texts of Primary Treaties Concerning Rights of People, ed. J.B.Gerald, Ottawa: Gerald & Maas, 1996.
    6. The legal case presented for consideration by the Spanish National Court: “Narration of Facts by the Ad Hoc Committee for Justice for Iraq,” Ad Hoc Committee for Justice for Iraq, October 6, 2009, http://usgenocide.org/the-legal-case/; and At Night’s Lantern

    Israel’s Next Move: The Real Danger in US Decision to Normalize Illegal Jewish Settlements  

    It is hardly shocking that the United States government has finally decreed that illegal Jewish settlements which have been built in defiance of international law, are, somehow, “consistent” with international law.

    US foreign policy has been edging closer towards this conclusion for some time. Since his advent to the White House in January 2017, President Donald Trump has unleashed a total and complete reversal of his country’s foreign policy regarding Palestine and Israel.

    Let us not have any illusion regarding the American approach to the so-called ‘Israeli-Palestinian conflict’ prior to Trump’s Presidency. The US has never, not even once, stood up for Palestinians or Arabs since the establishment of the State of Israel over the ruins of historic Palestine in 1948. Moreover, Washington has bankrolled the Israeli occupation of Palestine in every possible way, including the subsidizing of the illegal Jewish settlements.

    However, Pompeo’s statement at a State Department press conference on November 18 that, “the establishment of Israeli civilian settlements is not, per se, inconsistent with international law,” is still very dangerous and it does, in fact, constitute a political departure from previous US policies. How?

    Historically, the US has struggled in its understanding of international law, not because of its lack of legal savvy but because, quite often, US interests clashed with the will of the international community. A recurring case in point is the Israeli occupation of Palestine, where the US has vetoed or voted against numerous United Nations Security Council and General Assembly resolutions that either criticized Israel or supported the rights of the Palestinians.

    Only in 1978, did an American Administration dare describe Israeli settlements as “inconsistent with international law”. That declaration took place during Jimmy Carter’s Presidency, when Washington began earnestly fiddling with the “peace process” political model, which eventually led to the signing of the Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty, signed at Camp David in 1979.

    “Since then,” Joseph Hincks wrote in Time Magazine online, “Republican and Democratic Presidents have referred to settlements as ‘illegitimate’ but declined to call them illegal—a designation that would make them subject to international sanctions.”

    That said, it was Reagan himself – although objecting to the principle of illegality of the settlements – who deemed them to be an “obstacle to peace”, demanding a freeze on all settlement construction.

    Pompeo’s statement is, in fact, compatible with Washington’s self-contradictions regarding the construction of Israel’s illegal settlement in occupied Palestine.

    In December 2016, the Barack Obama administration declined to veto a UN Security Council resolution that described the settlements as a “flagrant violation” of international law, adding that they have “no legal validity”.

    Although Obama chose to abstain from the vote, that very decision was, itself, seen as a historical departure from traditional US foreign policy-making, further highlighting the US unconditional and, often, blind support for Israel.

    While, in some way, the Trump administration’s support for Israel is a continuation of the dismal trajectory of American bias, it is also particularly unique and disturbing.

    Previous US administrations attempted to maintain a degree of balance between their own interests and those of Israel. Trump, on the other hand, seems to have aligned his country’s foreign policy regarding Palestine and Israel entirely with that of Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and his right-wing camp.

    Indeed, for over two years, the State Department has been giving Israel political carte blanche, agreeing to all of Israel’s demands and expectations and asking for nothing in return. As a result, Washington has accepted Israel’s designation of Jerusalem, including occupied East Jerusalem, as Israel’s “eternal and undivided capital”; agreed to Israel’s sovereignty over the occupied Golan Heights; and actively plotted to dismiss the issue of Palestinian refugees altogether. The latest announcement by Pompeo was but one of many such steps.

    One theory regarding the ongoing surrender of US foreign policy to Israel is that Washington is slowly, but permanently, withdrawing from the Middle East, a process that began in the later years of George W. Bush’s presidency and continued unabated throughout the two terms of Obama administration as well. The current succumbing to Israel’s wishes is like America’s departing gift to its most faithful ally in the Middle East.

    Another explanation is concerned with the apparently defunct “deal of the century”, a vaguely defined political doctrine that seeks to normalize Israel, regionally and internationally, while keeping the status quo of occupation and Apartheid untouched.

    For that deal to be resurrected after months of inertia, Washington is keen to prolong Netanyahu’s premiership, especially as the long-serving Israeli Prime Minister is facing his greatest political challenge and even a possible jail time for various corruption charges.

    Currently, Israel is undergoing a political crisis – two general elections within six months, with the possibility of a third election, coupled with a historic socio-economic and political polarization among the people. To keep Netanyahu politically alive, his allies in Washington have thrown him some major lifelines, all in the hope of winning him more support among Israel’s dominant right-wing political camp.

    By rendering the illegal settlements “consistent” with international law, Washington is paving the road for Israel to annex all major settlement blocs in the occupied West Bank.

    Israel, which was never truly concerned with international law in the first place, urgently required this American nod to move forward with annexing at least 60% of the West Bank.

    With the hemorrhaging of US concessions to Israel, Netanyahu is eager for more. Desperate to strengthen his faltering grip on power, the Israeli leader agreed on November 20 to advance a bill that calls for the annexation of the Jordan Valley.

    The bill was drafted by a member of the Israeli Likud – Netanyahu’s party – Sharren Haskel, who tweeted following Netanyahu’s decision, that the US announcement was “an opportunity to promote my law for sovereignty in the [Jordan] Valley.”

    The US decision to defy international law on settlements is not dangerous because it violates international law, for the latter has hardly been a concern for Washington. The danger lies in the fact that the US foreign policy regarding the Israeli occupation has become a mere rubber stamp, that allows Israel’s extreme right-wing government to single-handedly determine the fate of the Palestinian people and sow the seed of instability and war in the Middle East for many years to come.

    The Lies about Julian Assange Must Stop Now

    Newspapers and other media in the United States and Britain have recently declared a passion for freedom of speech, especially the right to publish freely.  They are worried by the “Assange effect”.

    It is as if the struggle of truth-tellers like Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning is now a warning to them: that the thugs who dragged Assange out of the Ecuadorean embassy in April may one day come for them.

    A common refrain was echoed by the Guardian last week. The extradition of Assange, said the paper, “is not a question of how wise Mr. Assange is, still less how likable. It’s not about his character, nor his judgement. It’s a matter of press freedom and the public’s right to know.”

    What the Guardian is trying to do is separate Assange from his landmark achievements, which have both profited the Guardian and exposed its own vulnerability, along with its propensity to suck up to rapacious power and smear those who reveal its double standards.

    The poison that has fueled the persecution of Julian Assange is not as obvious in this editorial as it usually is; there is no fiction about Assange smearing faeces on embassy walls or being awful to his cat.

    Instead, the weasel references to “character” and “judgement” and “likeability” perpetuate an epic smear which is now almost a decade old.  Nils Melzer, the United Nations Rapporteur on Torture, used a more apt description. “There has been,” he wrote, “a relentless and unrestrained campaign of public mobbing.”  He explains “mobbing” as “an endless stream of humiliating, debasing and threatening statements in the press”. This “collective ridicule” amounts to torture and could lead to Assange’s death.

    Having witnessed much of what Melzer describes, I can vouch for the truth of his words. If Julian Assange were to succumb to the cruelties heaped upon him, week after week, month after month, year upon year, as doctors warn, newspapers like the Guardian will share the responsibility.

    A few days ago, the Sydney Morning Herald’s man in London, Nick Miller, wrote a lazy, specious piece headlined, “Assange has not been vindicated, he has merely outwaited justice.”  He was referring to Sweden’s abandonment of the so-called Assange investigation.

    Miller’s report is not untypical for its omissions and distortions while masquerading as a tribune of women’s rights. There is no original work, no real inquiry: just smear.

    There is nothing on the documented behaviour of a clutch of Swedish zealots who hi-jacked the “allegations” of sexual misconduct against Assange and made a mockery of Swedish law and that society’s vaunted decency.

    He makes no mention that in 2013, the Swedish prosecutor tried to abandon the case and emailed the Crown Prosecution Service in London to say it would no longer pursue a European Arrest Warrant, to which she received the reply: “Don’t you dare!!!” (Thanks to Stefania Maurizi of La Repubblica)

    Other emails show the CPS discouraging the Swedes from coming to London to interview Assange – which was common practice – thus blocking progress that might have set him free in 2011.

    There was never an indictment. There were never charges. There was never a serious attempt to put “allegations” to Assange and question him – behaviour that the Swedish Court of Appeal ruled to be negligent and the General Secretary of the Swedish Bar Association has since condemned.

    Both the women involved said there was no rape.  Critical written evidence of their text messages was wilfully withheld from Assange’s lawyers, clearly because it undermined the “allegations”.

    One of the women was so shocked that Assange was arrested, she accused the police of railroading her and changing her witness statement. The chief prosecutor, Eva Finne, dismissed the “suspicion of any crime.”

    The Sydney Morning Herald man omits how an ambitious and compromised politician, Claes Borgstrom, emerged from behind the liberal facade of Swedish politics and effectively seized and revived the case.

    Borgstrom enlisted a former political collaborator, Marianne Ny, as the new prosecutor. Ny refused to guarantee that Assange would not be sent on to the United States if he was extradited to Sweden, even though, as The Independent reported, “informal discussions have already taken place between the US and Swedish officials over the possibility of the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange being delivered into American custody, according to diplomatic sources.” This was an open secret in Stockholm. That libertarian Sweden had a dark, documented past of rendering people into the hands of the CIA was not news.

    The silence was broken in 2016 when the United Nations Working Party on Arbitrary Detention, a body that decides whether governments are meeting their human rights obligations, ruled that Julian Assange was unlawfully detained by Britain and called on the British government to set him free.

    Both the governments of Britain and Sweden had taken part in the UN’s investigation, and agreed to abide by its ruling, which carried the weight of international law. The British foreign secretary, Philip Hammond, stood up in Parliament and abused the UN panel.

    The Swedish case was a fraud from the moment the police secretly and illegally contacted a Stockholm tabloid and ignited the hysteria that was to consume Assange. WikiLeaks’ revelations of America’s war crimes had shamed the hand-maidens of power and its vested interests, who called themselves journalists; and for this, the unclubbable Assange would never be forgiven.

    It was now open season. Assange’s media tormenters cut and pasted each other’s lies and vituperative abuse. “He really is the most massive turd,” wrote the Guardian columnist Suzanne Moore. The received wisdom was that he had been charged, which was never true. In my career, reporting from places of extreme upheaval and suffering and criminality, I have never known anything like it.

    In Assange’s homeland, Australia, this “mobbing” reached an apogee. So eager was the Australian government to deliver its citizen to the United States that the prime minister in 2013, Julia Gillard, wanted to take away his passport and charge him with a crime – until it was pointed out to her that Assange had committed no crime and she had no right to take away his citizenship.

    Julia Gillard, according to the website Honest History, holds the record for the most sycophantic speech ever made to the US Congress. Australia, said she to applause, was America’s “great mate”. The great mate colluded with America in its hunt for an Australian whose crime was journalism. His right to protection and proper assistance was denied.

    When Assange’s lawyer, Gareth Peirce, and I met two Australian consular officials in London, we were shocked that all they knew about the case “is what we read in the papers”.

    This abandonment by Australia was a principal reason for the granting of political asylum by Ecuador. As an Australian, I found this especially shaming.

    When asked about Assange recently, the current Australian prime minister, Scott Morrison, said, “He should face the music”. This kind of thuggery, bereft of any respect for truth and rights and the principles and law, is why the mostly Murdoch controlled press in Australia is now worried about its own future, as the Guardian is worried, and The New York Times is worried. Their concern has a name: “the Assange precedent.”

    They know that what happens to Assange can happen to them. The basic rights and justice denied him can be denied to them. They have been warned. All of us have been warned.

    Whenever I see Julian in the grim, surreal world of Belmarsh prison, I am reminded of the responsibility of those of us who defend him. There are universal principles at stake in this case. He himself is fond of saying: “It’s not me. It’s far wider.”

    But at the heart of this remarkable struggle – and it is, above all, a struggle – is one human being whose character, I repeat character, has demonstrated the most astonishing courage. I salute him.

    • This is an edited version of an address given by John Pilger in London at the launch of In Defense of Julian Assange, an anthology published by Or Books, New York.

    The Lies about Julian Assange Must Stop Now

    Newspapers and other media in the United States and Britain have recently declared a passion for freedom of speech, especially the right to publish freely.  They are worried by the “Assange effect”.

    It is as if the struggle of truth-tellers like Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning is now a warning to them: that the thugs who dragged Assange out of the Ecuadorean embassy in April may one day come for them.

    A common refrain was echoed by the Guardian last week. The extradition of Assange, said the paper, “is not a question of how wise Mr. Assange is, still less how likable. It’s not about his character, nor his judgement. It’s a matter of press freedom and the public’s right to know.”

    What the Guardian is trying to do is separate Assange from his landmark achievements, which have both profited the Guardian and exposed its own vulnerability, along with its propensity to suck up to rapacious power and smear those who reveal its double standards.

    The poison that has fueled the persecution of Julian Assange is not as obvious in this editorial as it usually is; there is no fiction about Assange smearing faeces on embassy walls or being awful to his cat.

    Instead, the weasel references to “character” and “judgement” and “likeability” perpetuate an epic smear which is now almost a decade old.  Nils Melzer, the United Nations Rapporteur on Torture, used a more apt description. “There has been,” he wrote, “a relentless and unrestrained campaign of public mobbing.”  He explains “mobbing” as “an endless stream of humiliating, debasing and threatening statements in the press”. This “collective ridicule” amounts to torture and could lead to Assange’s death.

    Having witnessed much of what Melzer describes, I can vouch for the truth of his words. If Julian Assange were to succumb to the cruelties heaped upon him, week after week, month after month, year upon year, as doctors warn, newspapers like the Guardian will share the responsibility.

    A few days ago, the Sydney Morning Herald’s man in London, Nick Miller, wrote a lazy, specious piece headlined, “Assange has not been vindicated, he has merely outwaited justice.”  He was referring to Sweden’s abandonment of the so-called Assange investigation.

    Miller’s report is not untypical for its omissions and distortions while masquerading as a tribune of women’s rights. There is no original work, no real inquiry: just smear.

    There is nothing on the documented behaviour of a clutch of Swedish zealots who hi-jacked the “allegations” of sexual misconduct against Assange and made a mockery of Swedish law and that society’s vaunted decency.

    He makes no mention that in 2013, the Swedish prosecutor tried to abandon the case and emailed the Crown Prosecution Service in London to say it would no longer pursue a European Arrest Warrant, to which she received the reply: “Don’t you dare!!!” (Thanks to Stefania Maurizi of La Repubblica)

    Other emails show the CPS discouraging the Swedes from coming to London to interview Assange – which was common practice – thus blocking progress that might have set him free in 2011.

    There was never an indictment. There were never charges. There was never a serious attempt to put “allegations” to Assange and question him – behaviour that the Swedish Court of Appeal ruled to be negligent and the General Secretary of the Swedish Bar Association has since condemned.

    Both the women involved said there was no rape.  Critical written evidence of their text messages was wilfully withheld from Assange’s lawyers, clearly because it undermined the “allegations”.

    One of the women was so shocked that Assange was arrested, she accused the police of railroading her and changing her witness statement. The chief prosecutor, Eva Finne, dismissed the “suspicion of any crime.”

    The Sydney Morning Herald man omits how an ambitious and compromised politician, Claes Borgstrom, emerged from behind the liberal facade of Swedish politics and effectively seized and revived the case.

    Borgstrom enlisted a former political collaborator, Marianne Ny, as the new prosecutor. Ny refused to guarantee that Assange would not be sent on to the United States if he was extradited to Sweden, even though, as The Independent reported, “informal discussions have already taken place between the US and Swedish officials over the possibility of the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange being delivered into American custody, according to diplomatic sources.” This was an open secret in Stockholm. That libertarian Sweden had a dark, documented past of rendering people into the hands of the CIA was not news.

    The silence was broken in 2016 when the United Nations Working Party on Arbitrary Detention, a body that decides whether governments are meeting their human rights obligations, ruled that Julian Assange was unlawfully detained by Britain and called on the British government to set him free.

    Both the governments of Britain and Sweden had taken part in the UN’s investigation, and agreed to abide by its ruling, which carried the weight of international law. The British foreign secretary, Philip Hammond, stood up in Parliament and abused the UN panel.

    The Swedish case was a fraud from the moment the police secretly and illegally contacted a Stockholm tabloid and ignited the hysteria that was to consume Assange. WikiLeaks’ revelations of America’s war crimes had shamed the hand-maidens of power and its vested interests, who called themselves journalists; and for this, the unclubbable Assange would never be forgiven.

    It was now open season. Assange’s media tormenters cut and pasted each other’s lies and vituperative abuse. “He really is the most massive turd,” wrote the Guardian columnist Suzanne Moore. The received wisdom was that he had been charged, which was never true. In my career, reporting from places of extreme upheaval and suffering and criminality, I have never known anything like it.

    In Assange’s homeland, Australia, this “mobbing” reached an apogee. So eager was the Australian government to deliver its citizen to the United States that the prime minister in 2013, Julia Gillard, wanted to take away his passport and charge him with a crime – until it was pointed out to her that Assange had committed no crime and she had no right to take away his citizenship.

    Julia Gillard, according to the website Honest History, holds the record for the most sycophantic speech ever made to the US Congress. Australia, said she to applause, was America’s “great mate”. The great mate colluded with America in its hunt for an Australian whose crime was journalism. His right to protection and proper assistance was denied.

    When Assange’s lawyer, Gareth Peirce, and I met two Australian consular officials in London, we were shocked that all they knew about the case “is what we read in the papers”.

    This abandonment by Australia was a principal reason for the granting of political asylum by Ecuador. As an Australian, I found this especially shaming.

    When asked about Assange recently, the current Australian prime minister, Scott Morrison, said, “He should face the music”. This kind of thuggery, bereft of any respect for truth and rights and the principles and law, is why the mostly Murdoch controlled press in Australia is now worried about its own future, as the Guardian is worried, and The New York Times is worried. Their concern has a name: “the Assange precedent.”

    They know that what happens to Assange can happen to them. The basic rights and justice denied him can be denied to them. They have been warned. All of us have been warned.

    Whenever I see Julian in the grim, surreal world of Belmarsh prison, I am reminded of the responsibility of those of us who defend him. There are universal principles at stake in this case. He himself is fond of saying: “It’s not me. It’s far wider.”

    But at the heart of this remarkable struggle – and it is, above all, a struggle – is one human being whose character, I repeat character, has demonstrated the most astonishing courage. I salute him.

    • This is an edited version of an address given by John Pilger in London at the launch of In Defense of Julian Assange, an anthology published by Or Books, New York.