All posts by Jonathan Cook

In the name of humanitarianism, Covid is crushing local as well as global solidarity

There seems to be a glaring illogic to official arguments about the need to vaccinate British children against Covid that no one in the corporate media wishes to highlight.

Days ago the British government’s experts on vaccinations, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, withstood strong political pressure and decided not to recommend vaccinating children aged between 12 and 15. That was because the JCVI concluded that vaccination could not be justified in the case of children on health grounds.

The implication was that the known health risks associated with vaccination for children – primarily from heart inflammation – outweighed the health benefits. The JCVI also indicated that there might be unknown, longer-term health risks too, given the lack of follow-up among young people and children who have already been vaccinated.

But while the JCVI defied the government, they did not entirely ignore the political demands of them. They offered the government’s four chief medical officers a get-out clause that could be exploited to rationalise the approval of child vaccinations: they conceded that vaccinations might offer other, non-health benefits.

Utilitarian arguments

Predictably, this utilitarian justification for child vaccinations has been seized on by the British government. Here is the Guardian uncritically regurgitating the official position:

There have also been concerns about the indirect effects of the virus on children. The biggest has been the disruption to schools, which had a severe impact on their mental and physical health, as well as their education.

That, essentially, is why the four CMOs have said children aged between 12 and 15 should be eligible for the jab.

They believe that being vaccinated will reduce the risk of disruption to school and extracurricular activities and the effect of this on their mental health and wellbeing.

Let’s unpack that argument.

Covid poses no serious threat to the overwhelming majority of children, the JCVI and the chief medical officers are agreed. (Those few children who are at risk can be vaccinated under existing rules.)

But, according to the government, Covid has inflicted physical, mental and educational suffering on children because classrooms had to be shut for prolonged periods to protect vulnerable adults in the period before the adult population could be vaccinated.

Now most adults, and almost all vulnerable adults, are vaccinated against Covid, offering them a significant degree of protection.

But still children need to be injected with a vaccine that may, on balance, do more harm to their health than good.

If this is the official argument, we should all be asking: Why?

Two scenarios

There are two potential scenarios for assessing this argument.

The first:

The vaccine works against transmission and severe illness in adults. Schools therefore no longer need to be shut down to protect the adult population. Adults are now largely safe – unless they have decided not to get vaccinated. And that, in turn, means that “indirect” harm to children’s mental and physical wellbeing caused by school closures should no longer be a consideration.

If this is the case, then there are no grounds – either health ones or indirect, non-health ones – to justify vaccinating children.

The second:

The vaccine doesn’t stop transmission and severe illness, but it reduces some transmission and mitigates the worst effects of Covid. This is what the evidence increasingly suggests.

If this is the case, then vaccinating children will not only fail to stop a proportion of them catching and transmitting Covid but it will also fail in its stated purpose: preventing the future closure of schools and the associated, indirect harms to children.

Worse, at the same time vaccination may increase children’s risk of damage to their health from the vaccine itself, as the JCVI’s original conclusion implies.

Just to be clear, as the “follow the science” crowd prepare yet again to be outraged, these are not my arguments. They are implicit in the official reasoning of the experts assessing whether to vaccinate children. They have been ignored on political grounds, because the government would prefer to look like it is actively getting us “back to normal”, and because it has chosen to put all its eggs in the easy (and profitable) vaccine basket.

If vaccines are all that is needed to solve the pandemic, then there is no need to look at other things, such as the gradual dismantling of the National Health Service by successive governments, very much including the current one; our over-consumption economies; nutrient-poor diets promoted by the farming and food industries; and much else besides.

Unadulterated racism

There are, in fact, much more obvious, unequivocal reasons to oppose vaccinating children – aside from the matter that vaccination subordinates children’s health to the adult population’s wellbeing on the flimsiest of pretexts.

First, vaccination doses wasted on British children could be put to far better use vaccinating vulnerable populations in the Global South. There are good self-interested reasons for us to back this position, especially given the fact that the fight is against a global pandemic in a modern world that is highly interconnected.

But more altruistic – and ethical – concerns should also be at the forefront of discussions too. Our lives aren’t more important than those of Africans or Asians. To think otherwise – to imagine that we deserve a third or fourth booster shot or need to vaccinate children to reduce the risk of Covid deaths in the west to near-zero – is pure, unadulterated racism.

And second, a growing body of medical reseach indicates that natural immunity confers stronger, longer-lasting protection against Covid.

Given that the virus poses little medical threat to children, the evidence so far suggests they would be better off catching Covid, as apparently half of them already have.

That is both because it serves their own interests by developing in them better immunity against future, nastier variants; and because it serves the interests of the adults around them – assuming (and admittedly it’s a big assumption) that the goal here is not to have adults dependent on endless booster shots to prevent waning immunity and enrich Pfizer.

Worst of both worlds

By contrast, the approach the British government is pursuing – and most of the corporate media is cheerleading – is the worst of both worlds.

British officials want to treat Covid as a continuing menace to public health, one that apparently can never be eradicated. A state of permanent emergency means the government can accrue to itself ever increasing powers, including for surveillance, on the pretext that we are in an endless war against the virus.

But at the same time the government’s implicit “zero tolerance” approach to Covid – in this case, a futile ambition to prevent any hospitalisations or deaths from the virus in the UK – means that the interests of British children, and populations in foreign countries we helped to impoverish through our colonial history, can be sacrificed for the good of adults in rich western countries.

The combined effect of these two approaches is to foster a political climate in which western governments and the corporate media are better placed to replicate the colonial policy priorities they have traditionally pursued abroad but this time apply them to the home front.

The supposed war against the virus – a war that children apparently must be recruited to fight on our behalf – rather neatly echoes the earlier, now discredited and unravelling “war on terror”.

Both can be presented as threats to our civilisation. Both require the state to redirect vast resources to corporate elites (the “defence” industries and now Big Pharma). Both have led to widespread fear among the populace, making it more compliant. Both require a permanent state of emergency and the sacrifice of our liberties. Both have been promoted in terms of a bogus humanitarianism. And neither war can be won.

Dog eat dog

Recognising these parallels is not the same as denial, though the government and media have every interest to cultivate this as an assumption. There were and are terrorists, even if the term readily gets mangled to serve political agendas. And there is a dangerous virus that vulnerable populations need protection from.

But just as the “terror” threat arose in response to – and to mask – our arrogant, colonial control over, and plundering of, other people’s resources, so this pandemic threat appears to have arisen, in large part, from our arrogant invasion of every last habitat on the planet, and our ever less healthy, consumption-driven lifestyles.

At the beginning of the pandemic, I wrote an article that went viral called “A lesson coronavirus is about to teach the world“. In it, I argued that our capitalist societies, with their dog-eat-dog ideologies, were the least suited to deal with a health crisis that required solidarity, both local and global.

I noted that Donald Tump, then the US president, was trying to secure an early, exclusive deal for a “silver bullet” – a vaccine – whose first doses he planned to reserve for Americans as a vote-winner at home and then use as leverage over other states to reward those who complied with his, or possibly US, interests. The planet could be divided into friends and foes – those who received the vaccine and those who were denied it.

It was a typically Trumpian vanity project that he did not realise. But in many ways, it has come to pass in a different fashion and in ways that have the potential to be more dangerous than I could foresee.

Divide and rule

The vaccine has indeed been sold as a silver bullet, a panacea that lifts from our shoulders not just the burden of lockdowns and masks but the need for any reflection on what “normal life” means and whether we should want to return to it.

And just as Trump wanted to use vaccine distribution as a tool of divide-and-rule, the vaccination process itself has come to serve a similar end. With the quick roll-out of vaccines, our societies have almost immediately divided between those who demand vaccine passports and mandates as the price for inclusion and those who demand the protection of basic liberties and cultivation of social solidarity without conditions.

In popular discourse, of course, this is being spun as a fight between responsible vaxxers and irresponsible anti-vaxxers. That is more divide-and-rule nonsense. Those in favour of vaccination, and those who have been vaccinated, can be just as concerned about the direction we are heading in as the “anti-vaxxers”.

Fear has driven our division: between those who primarily fear the virus and those who primarily fear western elites whose authoritarian instincts are coming to the fore as they confront imminent economic and environmental crises they have no answers for.

Increasingly, where we stand on issues surrounding the pandemic has little to do with “the science” and relates chiefly to where each of us stands on that spectrum of fear.

Hoarding impulse

The vaccination of children highlights this most especially, which is why I have chosen to focus on it. We want children vaccinated not,, because the research suggests they need it or society benefits from it, but because knowing they are vaccinated will still our fear of the virus a little more.

Similarly, we want foreigners denied the vaccine – and that is the choice we make when we prioritise our children being vaccinated and demand booster shots for ourselves – because that too will allay our fears.

We hoard the vaccinations, just as we once did toilet paper. We try to fortify our borders against the virus, just as we do against “immigrants”, even though the rational part of our brain knows that the virus will lap up on our shores, in new variants, unless poorer nations are in a position to vaccinate their populations too.

Our fears, the politicians’ power complexes and the corporations’ profit motives combine to fuel this madness. And in the process we intensify the dog-eat-dog ideology we call western civilisation.

We turn on each other, we prioritise ourselves over the foreigner, we set parent against child, we pit the vaccinated against the unvaccinated – all in the name of a bogus humanitarianism and solidarity.

The post In the name of humanitarianism, Covid is crushing local as well as global solidarity first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Despite its exit, the US will continue to wage war on Afghanistan

The United States has always been a bad loser. Whether it has viewed itself as an imperial power, a military superpower or, in today’s preferred terminology, the “world’s policeman”, the assumption is that everyone else must submit to its will.

All of which is the context for judging the outcry in western capitals over the US army’s hurried exit last month from Kabul, its final hold-out in Afghanistan.

There are lots of voices on both sides of the Atlantic lamenting that messy evacuation. And it is hard not to hear in them – even after a catastrophic and entirely futile two-decade military occupation of Afghanistan – a longing for some kind of re-engagement.

Politicians are describing the pull-out as a “defeat” and bewailing it as evidence that the US is a declining power. Others are warning that Afghanistan will become a sanctuary for Islamic extremism, leading to a rise in global terrorism.

Liberals, meanwhile, are anxious about a renewed assault on women’s rights under the Taliban, or they are demanding that more Afghans be helped to flee.

The subtext is that western powers need to meddle a little – or maybe a lot – more and longer in Afghanistan. The situation, it is implied, can still be fixed, or at the very least the Taliban can be punished as a warning to others not to follow in its footsteps.

All of this ignores the fact that the so-called “war for Afghanistan” was lost long ago. “Defeat” did not occur at Kabul airport. The evacuation was a very belated recognition that the US military had no reason, not even the purported one, to be in Afghanistan after Osama bin Laden evaded capture.

In fact, as experts on the region have pointed out, the US defeated itself. Once al-Qaeda had fled Afghanistan, and the Taliban’s chastened fighters had slunk back to their villages with no appetite to take on the US Robocop, each local warlord or tribal leader seized the moment. They settled scores with enemies by informing on them, identifying to the US their rivals as  “terrorists” or Taliban.

US commanders blew ever bigger holes through the new Pax Americana as their indiscriminate drone strikes killed friend and foe alike. Soon most Afghans outside the corrupt Kabul elite had good reason to hate the US and want it gone. It was the Pentagon that brought the Taliban back from the dead.

Deceitful spin

But it was not just the Afghan elite that was corrupt. The country became a bottomless pit, with Kabul at its centre, into which US and British taxpayers poured endless money that enriched the war industries, from defence officials and arms manufacturers to mercenaries and private contractors.

Those 20 years produced a vigorous, powerful Afghanistan lobby in the heart of Washington that had every incentive to perpetuate the bogus narrative of a “winnable war”.

The lobby understood that their enrichment was best sold under the pretence – once again – of humanitarianism: that the caring West was obligated to bring democracy to Afghanistan.

That deceitful spin, currently being given full throat by politicians, is not just there to rationalise the past. It will shape the future, too, in yet more disastrous ways for Afghanistan.

With American boots no longer officially on the ground, pressure is already building for war by other means.

It should not be a difficult sell. After all, that was the faulty lesson learned by the Washington foreign policy elite after US troops found themselves greeted in Iraq, not by rice and rose petals, but by roadside bombs.

In subsequent Middle East wars, in Libya, Syria and Yemen, the US has preferred to fight more covertly, from a greater distance or through proxies. The advantage is no American body bags and no democratic oversight. Everything happens in the shadows.

There is already a clamour in the Pentagon, in think tanks, among arms manufacturers and defence contractors, and in the US media, too, to do exactly the same now in Afghanistan.

Nothing could be more foolhardy.

Brink of collapse

Indeed, the US has already begun waging war on the Taliban and – because the group is now Afghanistan’s effective government – on an entire country under Taliban rule. The war is being conducted through global financial institutions, and may soon be given a formal makeover as a “sanctions regime”.

The US did exactly the same to Vietnam for 20 years following its defeat there in 1975. And more recently Washington has used that same blueprint on states that refuse to live under its thumb, from Iran to Venezuela.

Washington has frozen at least $9.5bn of Afghanistan’s assets in what amounts to an act of international piracy. Donors from the World Bank and International Monetary Fund to the European Union, Britain and the US are withholding development funds and assistance. Most Afghan banks are shuttered. Money is in very short supply.

Afghanistan is already in the grip of drought, and existing food shortages are likely to intensify during the winter into famine. Last week a UN report warned that, without urgent financial help, 97 percent of Afghans could soon be plunged into poverty.

All of this compounds Afghanistan’s troubles under the US occupation, when the number of Afghans in poverty doubled and child malnutrition became rampant. According to Ashok Swain, Unesco’s chair on international water cooperation, “more than one-third of Afghans have no food, half no drinking water, two-thirds no electricity”.

That is an indictment of US misrule over the past two decades when, it might have been assumed, at least some of the $2tn spent on Afghanistan had gone towards Washington’s much-vaunted “nation-building” project rather than guns and gunships.

Now Afghans’ dire plight can be used as a launchpad for the US to cripple the Taliban as it struggles to rebuild a hollowed-out country.

The real aspiration of sanctions will be to engineer Afghanistan’s economic collapse – as an exemplar to others of US power and reach, and vindictiveness, and in the hope that the Afghan people can be starved to the point at which they rise up against their leaders.

Deepen existing splits

All of this can easily be framed in humanitarian terms, as it has been elsewhere. Late last month, the US drove through the United Nations Security Council a resolution calling for free travel through Kabul airport, guarantees on human rights, and assurances that the country will not become a shelter for terrorism.

Any of those demands can be turned into a pretext to extend sanctions to the Afghan government itself. Governments, including Britain’s, are already reported to be struggling to find ways to approve charities directing aid to Afghanistan.

But it is the sanctions themselves that will cause humanitarian suffering. Unpaid teachers mean no school for children, especially girls. No funds for rural clinics will result in more women dying in childbirth and higher infant mortality rates. Closed banks end in those with guns – men – terrorising everyone else over limited resources.

Isolating the Taliban with sanctions will have two entirely predictable outcomes.

First, it will push the country into the arms of China, which will be well-positioned to assist Afghanistan in return for access to its mineral wealth. Beijing has already announced plans to do business with the Taliban that include reopening the Mes Aynak copper mine.

As US President Joe Biden’s administration is already well-advanced in crafting China as the new global menace, trying to curtail its influence on neighbours, any alliance between the Taliban and China could easily provide further grounds for the US intensifying sanctions.

Secondly, sanctions are also certain to deepen existing splits within the Taliban, between the hardliners in the north and east opposed to engagement with the West, and those in the south keen to win over the international community in a bid to legitimise Taliban rule.

At the moment, the Taliban doves are probably in the ascendant, ready to help the US root out internal enemies such as the ISKP, Islamic State group’s offshoot in Afghanistan. But that could quickly change if Washington reverts to type.

A combination of sanctions, clumsy covert operations and Washington overplaying its hand could quickly drive the hardliners into power, or into an alliance with the local IS faction.

That scenario may have already been given a boost by a US drone strike on Kabul in late August, in retaliation for an ISKP attack on the airport that killed 13 US soldiers. New witness testimonies suggest the strike killed 10 Afghan civilians, including seven children, not Islamic militants.

Familiar game plan

If that weren’t bad enough, Washington hawks are calling for the Taliban to be officially designated a “foreign terrorist organisation“, and the new Afghan government a state sponsor of terrorism, which would make it all but impossible for the Biden administration to engage with it. Others such as Lindsey Graham, an influential US politician, are trying to pile on the pressure by calling for troops to return.

How readily this mindset could become the Washington consensus is highlighted by US media reports of plans by the CIA to operate covertly within Afghanistan. As if nothing has been learned, the agency appears to be hoping to cultivate opponents of the Taliban, including once again the warlords whose lawlessness brought the Taliban to power more than two decades ago.

This is a game plan the US and Britain know well from their training and arming of the mujahideen to oust the Soviet army from Afghanistan in the 1980s and overthrow a few years later Afghanistan’s secular communist government.

Biden will have an added incentive to keep meddling in Afghanistan to prevent any attacks originating from there that could be exploited by his political opponents and blamed on his pulling out troops.

According to the New York Times, the CIA believes it must be ready to “counter threats” likely to emerge from a “chaos” the Taliban will supposedly unleash.

But Afghanistan will be far less chaotic if the Taliban are strong, not if – as is being proposed – the US undermines Taliban cohesion by operating spies in its midst, subverts the Taliban’s authority by launching drone strikes from neighbouring countries, and recruits warlords or sponsors rival Islamic groups to keep the Taliban under pressure.

William J Burns, the CIA’s director, has said the agency is ready to run operations “over the horizon“, – at arm’s length. The New York Times has reported that US officials predict “Afghan opponents of the Taliban will most likely emerge who will want to help and provide information to the United States”.

This strategy will lead to a failed state, one immiserated by US sanctions and divided between warlords feuding over the few resources left. That is precisely the soil in which the worst kind of Islamic extremism will flourish.

Destabilising Afghanistan is what got the US into this mess in the first place. Washington seems only too ready to begin that process all over again.

• First published in Middle East Eye

The post Despite its exit, the US will continue to wage war on Afghanistan first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Israel has every reason to fear this bold Palestinian prison break

It would be impossible for Palestinians not to revel in six prisoners carrying out a daring escape from one of Israel’s most secure and modern jails. Israel may be working overtime to demonise the six men as “terrorists“, but for Palestinians, they are among its finest and bravest foot soldiers.

They are prisoners of war, most of whom were serving long sentences after they tried to liberate their homeland by killing Israeli soldiers or settlers – those seen to be implementing and enforcing Israel’s decades-old occupation.

All Palestinians can identify with the plight of these men. Imprisonment is a rite of passage for much of the male Palestinian population; estimates are that many hundreds of thousands have passed through Israel’s jails over the past five decades.

Many are in jail awaiting trial, as were two of the six escapees. Others are in administrative detention – jailed without trial or even being told what charges are levelled against them. Inmates’ rights are serially abused. They are kept in overcrowded cells, have little contact with their families, and are often beaten or tortured.

In the summer, footage emerged – redolent of the abuses committed by the US army at Abu Ghraib in Iraq – of mass beatings of Palestinian inmates at Ketziot prison in Israel’s south in 2019. No action was taken even after the video leaked, presumably because this kind of thing – if rarely seen – is entirely routine. It confirms what Palestinian prisoners have long been saying.

And most Palestinian political prisoners are held in jails inside Israel, outside the occupied territories – the six fugitives broke out of Gilboa prison, in northern Israel – in flagrant violation of the Geneva Conventions and Israel’s obligations under the laws of war. As a result, family visits are often difficult, if not impossible.

Humiliation for Israel

Every Palestinian will glory in Israel’s humiliation. Guards failed to spot the prisoners gradually widening a hole in the drainage system in their cell over many months. The six men moved undetected past a sleeping guard, and they planned a sophisticated getaway – seemingly assisted – that foiled a police manhunt hot on their tail.

But the celebrations in Palestinian communities across the region, and far beyond, relate not just to the jailbreak. Every day the prisoners remain free – and four were still at large on Friday, after two were reportedly caught in Nazareth – is another hammer blow against the occupation. That is not just the way Palestinians see it. It is how Israel’s officials and much of the public understand it too.

The six did not just escape from an Israeli maximum-security prison. They jumped out of the frying pan into the fire. They broke out of the small prison that is Gilboa into the much larger prison for Palestinians that is their homeland under occupation.

Every minute the men remain at large, Israel’s occupation is defied. Every minute they can’t be found, Israel’s system of control is defeated. Palestinians are reminded that freedom may ultimately be possible; that the occupation is not invincible.

Islamic Jihad, the Palestinian militant faction to which five of the men belonged, has urged Palestinians not to speak of this as an escape but as an “act of liberation”. This is precisely why Israel is determined that, as soon as possible, the men are returned behind visible bars – or maybe killed in a shootout, a fate that often befalls those who defy Israel. The point of its occupation is to crush any hope, any sense that freedom can be attained.

Hierarchy of confinement

In fact, like Dante’s circles of hell, Israel has created a hierarchy of confinement for Palestinians. The more they resist the fate intended for them by Israel – to be dispossessed and erased from their homeland – the more harshly Israel constrains them.

Prison is the ultimate punishment. But as is so often pointed out, Gaza is also a giant detention camp, the largest open-air prison in the world. The coastal strip, run by Hamas, is surrounded by an electronic perimeter fence, and besieged by the army and navy on all sides.

Over in the land-locked West Bank, Mahmoud Abbas, formally the Palestinian president but in practice the unelected head of a few cantons in its midst, has won minor privileges for his own population through good behaviour.

By serving as Israel’s security sub-contractor – remember his infamous words saying “security coordination” with Israel was “sacred” – Abbas has managed to slightly loosen the chains of confinement. There are fewer Israeli checkpoints, and less of an Israeli army presence, in the small areas of the West Bank not being plundered by settlers.

But Israel’s furious reaction to the jailbreak, as well as the fugitives’ limited options in the face of this backlash, were a reminder of deeper realities. The occupied West Bank was put under immediate military closure – the cell door slammed shut – in a familiar move of Israeli collective punishment.

The six men are from Jenin and its immediate environs. The small Palestinian city in the northern West Bank is only a stone’s throw from Gilboa prison. They could have expected to be hidden there, if they could have reached it. In another act of collective punishment – a war crime – Israel arrested several of their relatives.

Given Abbas’s “security coordination” with Israel, however, the fugitives may prefer to stay out of the West Bank. Abbas has noticeably avoided expressing any support himself for the men. He recently met Israel’s defence minister, Benny Gantz, in a bid to revive a long-stalled “peace process” that served in the past only to perpetuate, and provide cover for, the occupation.

Israel’s intelligence agencies are constantly eavesdropping on Palestinian communications, and they operate an extensive network of collaborators in the occupied West Bank. Or as the Haaretz military affairs correspondent Amos Harel put it with revealing frankness: “With the possible exception of a number of totalitarian regimes, the West Bank is subject to as comprehensive and intensive intelligence coverage as anyplace on earth.”

Escape route

The fugitives’ best hope of remaining out of Israel’s clutches may be leaving their homeland and crossing the border into Jordan. Amman would find it hard to return them, given their status as heroes and Jordan’s concerns about inflaming passions among its own large Palestinian refugee population.

But making such an escape would be no mean feat. Israel already has tight security along the Jordan Valley.

Underscoring the paradoxes of the occupation, Israel seems most concerned that the fugitives may try to break into Gaza. It has reportedly beefed up patrols around the perimeter. The coastal enclave may be an open-air prison, and has been under 15 years of Israeli blockade, but it is one where, uniquely, the Palestinian inmates have some degree of control inside the walls of their massively overcrowded, resource-poor, polluted cell.

Israel’s sanctions are mostly at arm’s length. It keeps the inmates on a near-starvation diet, and intermittently – when they start to riot – it sends in missiles or soldiers as the equivalent of punishment beatings.

The final option for the men is to stay inside Israel. Already, the Israeli media is hinting to its readers that the fugitives were aided, and sheltered, by Israel’s Palestinian minority, a fifth of the population who have very degraded citizenship. These Palestinians are the remnants of the native population who were otherwise expelled from their lands during the new state of Israel’s ethnic cleansing operations in 1948.

Some of Gilboa’s guards have been interrogated on the assumption that the prisoners received inside help. That is one way of seeking to diminish their achievement in escaping from an Israeli maximum-security jail. But it is also a finger of accusation pointing at Israel’s 1.8 million Palestinian citizens.

The Druze are a very small sect among the Palestinian minority whose young men are, uniquely for the minority, conscripted into the Israeli army. Afterwards, most end up with few opportunities apart from working in low-paying security jobs, often as prison guards.

Israeli authorities have every interest to shift the blame onto one or more of these guards for the jailbreak, if it means their own incompetence or complacency can be taken out of the spotlight.

Heroes three times

What happens next will be difficult for Israel, whatever the outcome. The six escapees are now heroes to the Palestinian public three times over. They originally made personal sacrifices to join the military resistance to the occupation and risk their lives. They carried out a bold and rare prison escape under the very noses of Israeli authorities. And now they are on the run, and most have so far evaded capture, despite Israel using every one of the many means at its disposal.

They have rapidly become symbols of the plight of every Palestinian – and what every Palestinian aspires to achieve through defiance.

Inspired by the six men’s actions, Israeli political prisoners have already rioted to stop efforts by Israel to collectively punish them over the prison break and move them to different jails. They are also threatening a mass hunger strike next week over new forms of collective punishment in response to the jailbreak, including cancelling already limited family visits. Hamas could fire rockets into Israel if matters escalate.

Support among the Palestinian public is likely to be rock-solid, and discontent – both against Israel and against Abbas as Israel’s security contractor – could easily explode across the region, in the occupied West Bank and Gaza and among Palestinian citizens in Israel. Some Palestinians responded to a Hamas call for a “day of rage” in support of the prisoners on Friday, and there were warnings that an uprising could be imminent.

On the other hand, the new right-wing government of Naftali Bennett, after more than a decade of rule by Benjamin Netanyahu, is vulnerable to claims by his rival that both the jailbreak and the failed manhunt are evidence of dangerous incompetence on his watch.

For many of Bennett’s own supporters, the preferred outcome would doubtless be the fugitives’ execution while on the run. Alon Eviatar, a former Israeli intelligence officer, spoke bluntly of either catching or killing them. The latter outcome would be seen by much of the Israeli public as reasserting “deterrence” and as fitting “justice” for men widely reviled.

Most Israelis want a forceful message sent to Palestinians: that resisting their imprisonment – whether in a small jail such as Gilboa or in the bigger jail of the occupation – is futile.

For a while longer, however, Palestinians will be able to exult in the idea that resistance might actually achieve something after all.

• First published in Middle East Eye

The post Israel has every reason to fear this bold Palestinian prison break first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Jewish Chronicle’s libel payouts were a small price to pay for smearing Corbyn and the left

The Jewish Chronicle, a weekly newspaper that was saved from liquidation last year by a consortium led by a former senior adviser to Theresa May, has been exposed as having a quite astonishing record of journalistic failings.

Over the past three years, the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO), the misnamed and feeble “press regulator” created by the billionaire-owned corporate media, has found the paper to have breached its code of practice on at least 28 occasions. The weekly has also lost, or been forced to settle, at least four libel cases over the same period.

According to Brian Cathcart, a professor of journalism at Kingston University in London, that means one in every four or five editions of the Chronicle has broken either the law or the IPSO code. He describes that, rather generously, as a “collapse of journalistic standards” at the paper.

IPSO, led by Lord Edward Faulks, a former Conservative minister, has repeatedly failed to launch any kind of formal investigation into this long-term pattern of rule and law-breaking by the Jewish Chronicle. He has also dragged his feet in responding to calls from a group of nine individuals maligned by the paper that IPSO urgently needs to carry out an inquiry into the paper’s editorial standards.

Consequently, IPSO has left itself in no position to take action against the paper, even assuming it wished to. The “press regulator” has not fined the Chronicle – one of its powers – or imposed any other kind of sanction. It has not insisted on special training to end the Chronicle’s systematic editorial failings. And the paper’s editor, Stephen Pollard, has remained in place.

And here one needs to ask why.

Holding the line

Cathcart’s main explanation is that IPSO, as the creature of the billionaire press, is there to “handle” complaints – in the sense of making them go away – rather than seriously hold the media to account or punish its transgressions.

IPSO has never fined or sanctioned any of its member publications since it was created seven years ago by the owners of the corporate media to avoid the establishment of a proper regulatory body in the wake of the Levenson public inquiry into media abuses such as the phone hacking scandal.

The bar for launching an investigation by IPSO was intentionally set so high – failings must be shown to be “serious and systematic” – that the “press regulator” and its corporate media backers assumed they would plausibly be able to argue that no paper ever reached it.

The Chronicle has put even this sham form of regulation to the severest test.

Cathcart argues that IPSO’s job has been to hold the line. If it tackled the Jewish Chronicle for its serial deceptions and character assassinations, it would risk paving the way to similar sanctions being imposed on Rupert Murdoch’s titles.

Attack dog

But there is an additional reason why IPSO is so loath to crack down on the Chronicle’s systematic editorial failings. And that is because, from the point of view of the British establishment, those failings were necessary and encouraged.

It is important to highlight the context for the Chronicle’s egregious transgressions of the editors’ code of practice and libel laws. Those fabrications and deceptions were needed because they lay at the heart of the establishment’s campaign to be rid of former Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn.

The Jewish Chronicle served as the chief attack dog on Corbyn and the Labour left, in service of an establishment represented by the Conservative party and the long-dominant right wing of the Labour party.

Whereas the rest of the corporate media tried to discredit Corbyn and the Labour left with a range of early, lamentable claims – that he was scruffy, unpatriotic, sexist, a national security threat, a former Soviet spy – the Jewish Chronicle’s task was more complicated but far more effective.

The paper’s role was to breathe life into the claim that Corbyn and his supporters were anti-semites, and the paper managed it by maliciously conflating antisemitism and the left’s criticisms of Israel as a racist, apartheid state that oppresses Palestinians.

Confess or you’re guilty

The Chronicle’s job was to initiate the antisemitism libels and lies against Corbyn and his followers that served to feed and rationalise the fears of prominent sections of the Jewish community. Those fears could then be cited by the rest of the corporate media as evidence that Labour was riding roughshod over the Jewish community’s “sensitivities”. And in turn the Labour left’s supposed indifference to Jewish sensitivities could be attributed to its rampant antisemitism.

It culminated in the McCarthyite claim – now being enforced by Corbyn’s successor as Labour leader, Keir Starmer – that to deny Labour has some especial antisemitism problem, separate from that found more generally in British society, is itself proof of antisemitism. Once accused of antisemitism, as the Labour left endlessly is, one is guilty by definition – the choice is either to confess to antisemitism or be proven an antisemite by denying the accusation.

Like a victim caught in quicksand, the more vigorously the Labour left has rejected claims that the party is riddled with antisemitism the more it has sunk into the mire created by the Jewish Chronicle and others.

It is therefore hardly surprising that so many victims of the Chronicle’s libels and code violations are Corbyn supporters targeted in the antisemitism witch-hunt. Without these deceptions, the antisemitism claims against the Labour party would have looked even more preposterous than they did to anyone familiar with the evidence.

False accusations

For those interested, here are those four recent libel cases that went against the Chronicle:

September 2019: “The Jewish Chronicle has paid out £50,000 in libel damages to a UK charity [Interpal] that provides aid to Palestinians after wrongly linking it to terrorism.”

February 2020: “The libel settlement comes after a UK press regulator in December ruled that the paper’s four articles about [Labour activist Audrey] White had been ‘significantly misleading’ and that the paper had engaged in ‘unacceptable’ obstruction of their investigation.”

October 2020: “Nada al Sanjari, a school teacher and Labour councillor, was the subject of a number of articles published by the newspaper in 2019 that claimed she was one of several Momentum activists responsible for inviting another activist who the Jewish Chronicle characterised as anti-Semitic to a Labour Party event.”

July 2021: “The publication falsely accused [Marc] Wadsworth, in an article on its website in March, of being part of a group of current and ex-Labour members targeting Jewish activists in the party.”

It is not hard to spot the theme of all these smears, and many others, which suggest that those in solidarity with Palestinians under Israeli oppression, including Jews, are antisemites or guilty of supporting terrorism.

Saved from liquidation

Remember, the 28 IPSO code violations – media euphemism for fabrications and deceptions – are only the tip of the iceberg. It is almost certain that many of those maligned by the Chronicle did not have the time, energy or resources to pursue the weekly paper either through the pointless IPSO “regulation” process or through extremely costly law courts.

And remember too that IPSO found against the Chronicle for breaching its code at least 28 times, even though that code was designed to give IPSO’s member publications every possible benefit of the doubt. IPSO has no incentive to highlight its members’ failings, especially when it was set up to provide the government with a pretext for not creating a truly independent regulatory body.

The reality is that the 180-year-old Jewish Chronicle, or JC as it has remodelled itself, would have gone out of business some time ago had it not been twice saved from liquidation by powerful, establishment figures.

It avoided closure in 2019 after it was bailed out by “community-minded individuals, families and charitable trusts” following massive losses. The identities of those donors were not disclosed.

At the time Stephen Pollard highlighted his paper’s crucial role: “There’s certainly been a huge need for the journalism that the JC does in especially looking at the anti-Semitism in the Labour party and elsewhere.”

Consortium of investors

Then only a year later the Chronicle had to be rescued again, this time by a shadowy consortium of investors who promised to pump in millions to keep the paper afloat and reimburse those who had donated the previous year.

Why these financiers appear so committed to a paper with proven systematic editorial failings, and which continues to be headed by the same editor who has overseen those serious failings for years, was underscored at the time by Alan Jacobs, the paper’s departing chairman.

He observed that the donors who bailed out the paper in 2019 “can be proud that their combined generosity allowed the JC to survive long enough to help to see off Jeremy Corbyn and friends, one of the greatest threats to face British Jewry in the JC’s existence.”

Corbyn had lost the general election to a Conservative party led by Boris Johnson later that same year.

The public face of last year’s consortium was Sir Robbie Gibb, a former BBC executive and a longtime ally of figures on the Conservative right. He served as Theresa May’s spin doctor when she was prime minister. He was also an early adviser to GB News, a recent attempt to replicate the overtly right wing Fox News channel in the UK.

Other visible consortium members are associated with the antisemitism campaign against Corbyn. They include former right wing Labour MP John Woodcock, who cited antisemitism as his reason for quitting the party after it had begun investigating him for sending inappropriate messages to a female staff member.

Another is Jonathan Sacerdoti, a regular “analyst” on the BBC, ITV and Ch4 who previously served as a spokesperson for the Campaign Against Antisemitism, a lobby group set up back in 2014 specifically to discredit critics of Israel as antisemites.

And then there is John Ware, a former Sun journalist turned BBC reporter who fronted probably the single most damaging programme on Corbyn. An hour-long Panorama “special” accusing Labour of antisemitism was deeply flawed, misleading and failed to acknowledge that several unnamed figures it interviewed were also pro-Israel lobbyists.

It would probably be unwise for me to say more about Ware or his publicly stated views on Muslims, shared by the Jewish Chronicle, because he has recently become litigious. He apparently has deep pockets, helping to fund both the rescue of the Chronicle and law suits against critics.

Exceptional indulgence

But the exceptional indulgence of the Jewish Chronicle, both by IPSO and prominent figures in broadcasting, and the paper’s continuing credibility as a source of news for the wider corporate media, indicates how the antisemitism narrative about Labour served, and continues to serve, the British establishment.

Represented politically by the Conservative party and the Labour right, that establishment was able to reassert its cosy parliamentary duopoly by ousting any meaningful challenge from the Labour left. With Corbyn gone, the threat of real politics has disappeared. We are back to one-party, corporate rule under the guise of two parties.

Which is why IPSO cannot take any meaningful action against the Jewish Chronicle. To do so would pull the rug from under the antisemitism narrative that destroyed Corbyn and is now being used by his successor, Starmer, to purge Labour of the remnants of the left and to distance the party as far as possible from any lingering signs of Palestinian solidarity.

Exposure of the Jewish Chronicle as an editorial wrecking ball aimed at the left would show just how much the paper and the antisemitism narrative it bolstered were key to the Conservative party’s successful smearing of Corbyn that helped to keep him out of Number 10. It would highlight the enduring collusion between the corporate media and the political elite.

And it would indicate that corporate media is not really an exercise in capitalist, free-market economics, where profitable outlets drive out those that are unpopular. Rather loss-making corporate media such as the Jewish Chronicle are a price the establishment is only too happy to bear as long as those publications fulfil a more important purpose: ensuring that the political and economic climate remains favourable to the ruling class.

The Jewish Chronicle has played its part in destroying Corbyn and the left. Now it will continue that role by policing the public discourse and ensuring that no one like Corbyn ever gets near power again. Those libel payouts were a small price to pay.

The post Jewish Chronicle’s libel payouts were a small price to pay for smearing Corbyn and the left first appeared on Dissident Voice.

How the Taliban surge exposed Pentagon’s lies

A month ago, as the US army prepared to end the 20-year occupation of Afghanistan and hand over responsibility to local security forces it had armed and trained, maps showed small, relatively isolated pockets of Taliban control.

At the weekend, the Islamist fighters marched unchallenged into Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, bringing almost the entire country under their thumb. US intelligence assessments that it would take the Taliban up to three months to capture Afghanistan’s capital proved wildly inaccurate.

It took a few days.

Foreign nationals were left scrambling to Kabul’s airport while American officials were hurriedly evacuated by helicopter, echoing the fall of Saigon in 1975, when US embassy staff were chased out of South Vietnam after years of a similarly failed war.

On Sunday Afghan President Ashraf Ghani issued a statement that he had fled the country – reportedly in a helicopter stuffed with cash – to “avoid bloodshed“. But all the evidence indicates his corrupt security forces were never in a position to offer serious resistance to a Taliban takeover.

Jumping ship

The speed with which the Taliban have re-established their hold on a country that was supposedly being reconstructed as some kind of western-style liberal democracy is astonishing. Or, at least, it is to those who believed that US and British military commanders, western politicians and the mainstream media were being straight all this time.

The real explanation for the Taliban’s “surprise” success is that western publics were being duped all along. The United States’ longest war was doomed from the start. The corrupt, entirely unrepresentative members of the Kabul elite were always going to jump ship as soon as Washington stopped pumping in troops and treasure.

According to Forbes magazine, as much as $2 trillion was poured into Afghanistan over the past 20 years – or $300m a day. The truth is that western politicians and the media intentionally colluded in a fiction, selling yet another imperial “war” in a far-off land as a humanitarian intervention welcomed by the local population.

As Daniel Davis, a former US army lieutenant colonel and critic of the war, observed at the weekend: “Since early 2002, the war in Afghanistan never had a chance of succeeding.”

Nonetheless, many politicians and commentators are still sounding the same, tired tune, castigating the Biden administration for ‘betraying‘ Afghanistan, as if the US had any right to be there in the first place – or as if more years of US meddling could turn things around.

Colonial chessboard

No one should have been shocked by the almost-instant collapse of an Afghan government and its security services that had been foisted on the country by the US. But it seems some are still credulous enough – even after the catastrophic lies that justified “interventions” in Iraq, Libya and Syria – to believe western foreign policy is driven by the desire to assist poor countries rather than use them as pawns on a global, colonial chessboard.

Afghans are no different from the rest of us. They don’t like outsiders ruling over them. They don’t like having political priorities imposed on them. And they don’t like dying in someone else’s power game.

If the fall of Kabul proves anything, it is that the US never had any allies in Afghanistan outside of a tiny elite that saw the chance to enrich itself, protected by US and British firepower and given an alibi by western liberals who assumed their own simplistic discourse about identity politics was ripe for export.

Yes, the Taliban will be bad news for Afghan women and girls – as well as men – who are concerned chiefly with maintaining personal freedom. But a tough conclusion western audiences may have to draw is that there are competing priorities for many Afghans who have suffered under decades of invasions and colonial interference.

Just as in Iraq, large segments of the population appear to be ready to forgo freedom in return for a guarantee of communal stability and personal safety. That was something a US client regime, looking to divert aid into its own pockets, was never going to guarantee. While the US was in charge, many tens of thousands of Afghans were killed. We will never know the true figure because their lives were considered cheap. Millions more Afghans were forced into exile.

Spoils of war

Nothing about western intervention in Afghanistan has been as it was portrayed. Those deceptions long predate the invasion by the US and UK in 2001, supposedly to hunt down Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda fighters following the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Centre.

Seen now, the attack on Afghanistan looks more like scene-setting, and a rationalisation, for the illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq that soon followed. Both served the neoconservative agenda of increasing the US footprint in the Middle East and upping the pressure on Iran.

The West has long pursued geostrategic interests in Afghanistan – given the country’s value as a trade route and its role as a buffer against enemies gaining access to the Arabian Gulf. In the 19th century, the British and Russian empires used Afghanistan as the central arena for their manoeuvring in the so-called  “Great Game“.

Similar intrigues drove US-led efforts to expel the Soviet army after it invaded and occupied Afghanistan through the 1980s. Washington and Britain helped to finance, arm and train Islamist fighters, the mujahideen, that forced out the Red Army in 1989. The mujahideen went on to oust the country’s secular, communist government.

After their victory against the Soviet army, the mujahideen leadership split, with some becoming little more than regional warlords. The country was plunged into a bloody civil war in which the mujahideen and warlords looted their way through the areas they conquered, often treating women and girls as the spoils of war.

Despite Washington officials’ constant trumpeting of their concern at Taliban violations of women’s rights – in what became an additional pretext for continuing the occupation – the US had shown no desire to tackle such abuses when they were committed by its own mujahideen allies.

Rule of the warlords

The Taliban emerged in the 1990s from religious schools in neighbouring Pakistan as civil war raged in Afghanistan. They vowed to end the corruption and insecurity felt by Afghans under the rule of the warlords and mujahideen, and unify the country under Islamic law.

They found support, especially in poor, rural areas that had suffered most from the bloodletting.

The subsequent “liberation” of Afghanistan by US and British forces returned the country, outside a fortified Kabul, to an even more complex havoc. Afghans were variously exposed to violence from warlords, the Taliban, the US military and its local proxies.

To much of the population, Hamid Karzai, a former mujahideen leader who became the first Afghan president installed by the US occupation regime, was just another plundering warlord – the strongest only because he was backed by US guns and warplanes.

It was telling that five weeks ago, asked about the prospects of the Taliban returning to power, Biden stated that “the likelihood there’s going to be one unified government in Afghanistan controlling the whole country is highly unlikely.” Not only was he wrong, but his remarks suggested that Washington ultimately preferred to keep Afghanistan weak and divided between feuding strongmen.

That was precisely the reason most Afghans wanted the US gone.

Washington poured at least $88bn into training and arming a 300,000-strong Afghan army and police force that evaporated in Kabul – the government’s supposed stronghold – at the first sight of the Taliban. American taxpayers will be right to ask why such phenomenal sums were wasted on pointless military theatre rather than invested back home.

The US military, private security contractors, and arms manufacturers fed at what became a bottomless trough – and in the process were ever more deeply invested in maintaining the fiction of a winnable war. An endless, futile occupation with no clear objective swelled their budgets and ensured the military-industrial complex grew ever richer and more powerful.

Every indication is that the same war-industry juggernaut will simply change course now, playing up threats from China, Iran and Russia, to justify the continuation of budget increases that would otherwise be under threat.

Missing in action

The motive for US officials and corporations to conspire in the grand deception is clear. But what about the mainstream media, the self-declared “fourth estate” and the public’s supposed watchdog on abuses of state power? Why were they missing in action all this time?

It is not as though they did not have the information needed to expose the Pentagon’s lies in Afghanistan, had they cared to. The clues were there, and even reported occasionally. But the media failed to sustain attention.

As far back as 2009, as the US was preparing a pointless surge of troops to tackle the Taliban, Karl Eikenberry, then ambassador to Afghanistan, sent a cable to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that was leaked to the New York Times. He wrote that additional US forces would only “delay the day when Afghans will take over”. A decade later, the Washington Post published secret documents it called the Afghan Papers that highlighted the Pentagon’s systematic deceptions and lying. The subtitle was “At war with the truth”.

Bob Crowley, an army colonel who had advised US military commanders in Afghanistan, observed: “Every data point was altered to present the best picture possible.” The Post concluded that the US government had made every effort to “deliberately mislead the public”.

John Sopko, the special inspector general for Afghan reconstruction appointed by Congress in 2012, had long detailed the waste and corruption in Afghanistan and the dismal state of the Afghan forces. But these reports were ignored or quickly disappeared without trace, leaving the Pentagon free to peddle yet more lies.

Cheerleading, not scrutinising

In the summer, as he issued yet another report, Sopko made scathing comments about claims that lessons would be learnt: “Don’t believe what you’re told by the generals or the ambassadors or people in the administration saying we’re never going to do this again. That’s exactly what we said after Vietnam … Lo and behold, we did Iraq. And we did Afghanistan. We will do this again.”

A good part of the reason the Pentagon can keep recycling its lies is because neither Congress or the media is holding it to account.

The US media have performed no better. In fact, they have had their own incentives to cheerlead rather than scrutinise recent wars. Not least, they benefit from the drama of war, as more viewers tune in, allowing them to hike their advertising rates.

The handful of companies that run the biggest TV channels, newspapers and websites in the US are also part of a network of transnational corporations whose relentless economic growth has been spurred on by the “war on terror” and the channelling of trillions of dollars from the public purse into corporate hands.

The cosy ties between the US media and the military are evident too in the endless parade of former Pentagon officials and retired generals who sit in TV studios commenting as “independent experts” and analysts on US wars. Their failures in Iraq, Libya and Syria have not apparently dented their credibility.

That rotten system was proudly on display again this week as the media uncritically shared the assessments of David Petraeus, the former US commander in Afghanistan. Although Petraeus shares an outsize chunk of responsibility for the past two decades of military failure and Pentagon deception, he called for the “might of the US military” to be restored for a final push against the Taliban.

Were it still possible to hold US officials to account, the Taliban’s surge over the past few days would have silenced Petraeus and brought Washington’s huge war scam crashing down.

Instead, the war industry will not even need to take a pause and regroup. They will carry on regardless, growing and prospering as though their defeat at the hands of the Taliban signifies nothing at all.

• First published at Middle East Eye

The post How the Taliban surge exposed Pentagon’s lies first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Israel: Racist, violent policing is at the heart of apartheid

Police made sweeping arrests of Israel’s large minority of Palestinian citizens after protests rocked the country in May during Israel’s 11-day attack on Gaza. Officers were documented beating demonstrators, and in some cases torturing them while in detention. Police also failed to protect the Palestinian minority from planned, vigilante-style attacks by far-right Jewish extremists.

This was the damning verdict of an Amnesty International report published last week. The findings indicate that Israeli police view the country’s Palestinian minority, a fifth of the population, as an enemy rather than as citizens with a right to protest.

The report echoes what Palestinian leaders in Israel and local human rights groups have long said: that the default policing of the Palestinian community in Israel is racist and violent. It reflects the same values of Jewish supremacism seen in the Israeli army’s brutal treatment of Palestinians under occupation.

The contrast between how police responded to protests by Palestinian citizens and supportive statements from their leaders, on the one hand, and to incitement from Israeli Jewish leaders and a violent backlash from the Jewish extreme right, on the other, is stark indeed.

More than 2,150 arrests were made following May’s inter-communal violence. But according to reports cited by Amnesty, more than 90 percent of those detained were Palestinian – either citizens of Israel or residents of occupied East Jerusalem.

Most face charges unrelated to attacks on people or property, despite how their demonstrations were widely portrayed by police and the Israeli media. Rather, Palestinian protesters were indicted on charges such as “insulting or assaulting a police officer” or “taking part in an illegal gathering” – matters related to the repressive policing faced by the Palestinian minority.

‘Torture room’

Amnesty cites repeated examples of unprovoked police assaults on peaceful protesters in cities such as Nazareth and Haifa. That contrasts with the continuing indulgence by police of provocations by the Jewish far-right, such as their march through Palestinian neighbourhoods of occupied East Jerusalem on 15 June, during which participants chanted: “Death to Arabs” and “May your village burn.”

Amnesty also documents testimony that Israeli police beat bound detainees in Nazareth’s police station – setting up what the local legal rights group Adalah has described as an improvised “torture room”.

In addition, a protester in Haifa appears to have been tied to a chair and deprived of sleep for nine days, using torture techniques familiar to Palestinians in the occupied territories.

In contrast, Israeli police were alerted in real time to messages from Jewish far-right groups about precise plans to smash up “Arab” shops and assault Palestinian citizens on the street. And yet, police either ignored those warnings or were slow to respond. An investigation by Haaretz has further suggested that police subsequently failed to use film footage to identify these Jewish vigilantes and, as a result, made few arrests.

This picture of police turning a blind eye to planned Jewish violence echoes scenes from the time of the protests. Footage showed police officers allowing armed Jewish thugs – many bused in from settlements – to wander freely around Palestinian neighbourhoods during a curfew on the city of Lod. There was even footage of police and Jewish far-right extremists conducting what looked like joint “operations”, with police throwing stun grenades as Jewish extremists threw stones.

Jewish politicians who incited against the Palestinian minority – from Israel’s former president, Reuven Rivlin, and Lod’s mayor, Yair Revivo, to far-right legislator Itamar Ben-Gvir – have faced no consequences.

Charged with ‘terror acts’

Instead, police arranged what amounted to a provocative, entirely unnecessary assault by special forces on the home of a Palestinian community leader, Kamal al-Khatib, to arrest him. The deputy head of the northern Islamic Movement was charged with supporting terrorism after he expressed pride at what he called the minority’s solidarity with the people of Gaza and occupied East Jerusalem.

And last week, apparently too late for inclusion in the Amnesty report, Israel’s racist policing moved in new directions.

Small numbers of Palestinian citizens suspected of attacking Jews were charged with “terror acts”, in some cases without any physical or DNA evidence tying them to the crime. In several cases, the defendants were indicted based on confessions made after prolonged interrogation by Israel’s secret police, the Shin Bet.

Israel’s legal system is treating inter-communal violence as an act of terror when Palestinian citizens are involved, and as an ordinary law-and-order issue – assuming it is dealt with at all – when Israeli Jews are involved.

Underlining this distinction is the decision to place Palestinian citizens of Israel under administrative detention, jailing them without charge and not allowing lawyers to see the supposed evidence against their clients. This draconian move – with one such order approved last week by Defence Minister Benny Gantz – is usually reserved for Palestinians under occupation, not Israeli citizens.

Settling scores

In its report, Amnesty pointed to public statements from Israeli police commanders indicating that the current harsh crackdown is really about “settling scores”. And in part, that is true.

Nearly two decades ago, a judicial-led public inquiry concluded that Israeli police treated Palestinian citizens as “the enemy”. Nothing has changed since. Police regard it as their primary job to protect the privileges of the Jewish majority by keeping the Palestinian minority crushed and obedient, as a subordinate community inside a self-declared Jewish state.

The eruption of protests in May, which caught police off-guard, was implicitly a sign that they had failed in that role. Police interpreted the demonstrations as a public humiliation for which “deterrence” needed to be urgently restored.

Israeli politicians, including the then-police minister, Amir Ohana, as well as the Jewish far-right, viewed the protests in much the same light. They argued at the time that police were being held back by legal niceties, and that it was the job of Jewish citizens to back police by taking the law into their own hands.

Yet, the “settling of scores” with the Palestinian minority relates to a separate matter. External observers, such as Amnesty, tend to notice Israel’s racist policing only when direct violence is used against Palestinian citizens. But the Palestinian minority’s experience of discrimination from police is much broader.

For years, the minority has been taking to the streets in large numbers to protest against not only the violent policing of dissent, but a complementary near-absence of policing towards Palestinian communities in Israel when it comes to tackling crime.

The harsh repression seen in recent weeks contrasts strongly with police inaction as a crime wave has swept Palestinian communities, with each year bringing a record number of violent deaths. Both Palestinian and Jewish criminal gangs have exploited the policing void in Palestinian towns and villages, knowing that they are free to act as long as the violence is “Arab-on-Arab”.

Even during the Covid-19 lockdowns, Palestinian community leaders kept up the pressure, leading go-slow convoys of dozens of cars along Israel’s busiest roads to draw attention to Israel’s racist policing priorities.

These presented a different kind of humiliation for police. Unusually, commanders were forced onto the back foot, swallowing unrelenting criticism and condemnation for failing to deal with crime in Palestinian communities. It even became one of the top issues for Palestinian parties in Israel’s string of recent elections.

Now, police are having their moment of revenge. “You want more active policing? We’ll give you more active policing. See how you like this!” seems to be the new message of the mass round-ups.

Jewish supremacism

The reality is that both kinds of policing towards Palestinian citizens – the violent policing of dissent, and the lack of policing of crime – are rooted in the same, ugly ideology of Jewish supremacism.

This is the same supremacism highlighted in a report early this year by the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem. It broke new ground in the human rights community by explicitly identifying Israel as an apartheid state, one that treats Palestinians as inferior, whether in the occupied territories or inside Israel, and Jews as superior, whether in Israel or in the illegal settlements.

The new Amnesty report is the latest snapshot of a society where everything follows that apartheid logic, including policing. That should surprise no one, because apartheid is, by definition, systematic.

Most Jewish Israelis, whether they identify with the left or right, have shown little interest in the lethal crime wave that for years has washed over Palestinian communities near their own, despite the regular protest campaigns by the Palestinian minority.

And now – through their silence – most ordinary Jewish Israelis and their politicians have demonstrated that they support, or are at least indifferent to, the current crackdown by police on the Palestinian minority. The deeper causes of May’s protests, and the violent backlash from the far right, appear to have provoked little self-reflection.

The Israeli Jewish public seems equally unconcerned by the fact that Jewish far-right thugs have chanted “death to Arabs” on their streets, that videos show police cooperating with those thugs, or that police have been making mass arrests of Palestinian citizens for weeks on end, while failing to search for the Jews who were filmed attacking Palestinians.

Belligerent occupation

The truth is that Israeli police get away with racist, violent policing because wider Israeli Jewish society approves. Police regard themselves as defenders of a Jewish supremacism that many ordinary Jewish citizens see as their birthright.

The Palestinian minority hoped that it had opened a tentative conversation with Israeli Jews both about the responsibilities of police in a state claiming to be a democracy, and about the right of Israel’s 1.8 million Palestinian citizens to personal security.

There was much fanfare at Mansour Abbas’s United Arab List becoming last month the first party representing Palestinian citizens to enter an Israeli government coalition, ousting former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from power. Like other Palestinian parties, Abbas put changes to the racist police culture in Israel at the top of his platform.

But any signs of progress have been all too readily snuffed out by a reassertion of Jewish supremacism by police and their Jewish far-right allies, and by the silent complicity of wider Israeli Jewish society.

Israel had a chance to address its racist policing policies, but that would have required the difficult work of examining the much wider apartheid structures that underpin them. Instead, most Israeli Jews are happy to reassert the status quo – oppressing all Palestinians under Jewish rule, whether they are subjects of a belligerent occupation or third-class citizens of a Jewish state.

• First published in Middle East Eye

The post Israel: Racist, violent policing is at the heart of apartheid first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Israel’s night raids on Palestinian families aren’t over, whatever the courts say

The videos are all over YouTube. Masked Israeli soldiers storm a Palestinian family’s home in the middle of the night. Parents, dressed in nightwear, are suddenly surrounded by heavily armed men in balaclavas.

Young children are forced awake. With a mix of bleary-eyed confusion and fear, they are made to answer questions posed to them in broken Arabic by these faceless, armed strangers. They are lined up in one room while the soldiers take photographs of them holding their identity cards. And then, just as suddenly as they arrived, the masked men disappear into the night.

There are no questions beyond identifying the people in the house. No one is “arrested”. There’s no obvious purpose; just a family’s sense of security permanently wrecked.

To most people watching these startling videos, such scenes look like an Orwellian nightmare. And sure enough, Israel has given this procedure an Orwellian name: “intel mapping”.

Last week, under pressure from the courts, the Israeli army announced that it had ended the practice of “mapping”, unless – and this will be a loophole easily exploited – there are “exceptional circumstances”.

Given that the families whose homes, privacy and dignity are invaded are not suspected of any offence, it is difficult to imagine what “exceptional circumstances” could ever justify these degrading and terrifying raids.

Masked intruders

In announcing its decision, the Israeli army said that in the digital age, there were other tools it could use to gain intelligence on Palestinians, beyond randomly invading their homes with guns in the middle of the night. A statement added that it was a humanitarian gesture aimed at “mitigating the disruption of citizens’ everyday life”.

Except, of course, Palestinians are not Israeli “citizens”; they are subjects without rights living under a belligerent military occupation. And this is not about “disruption” – Palestinians aren’t facing an unexpected train delay – but a form of collective punishment, and therefore a war crime.

As a report by three Israeli human rights organisations published last November observed, “it is highly doubtful that any instance of mapping could be considered legal under international law”. Nonetheless, these home invasions are commonplace. They are integral to the Israeli army’s policy of surveilling, controlling and persecuting Palestinians.

According to figures compiled by the United Nations, the Israeli army carried out around 6,400 “search or arrest operations” in 2017 and 2018 alone – with each operation potentially including more than one home. Research by Yesh Din, an Israeli human rights group, shows that the vast majority of such operations start between midnight and 5am.

In a quarter of cases, soldiers break down the door to enter, and in a third of cases, a family member is physically assaulted. Two-thirds of families have experienced these invasions more than once.

“Intel mapping” operations have been particularly difficult for the army to justify on any kind of security grounds. That led earlier this year to unwelcome scrutiny from Israel’s top court, which gave the army until August to divulge the wording of its “mapping” protocol. The army’s cancellation of the practice last week means that the rationale for traumatising thousands of Palestinian families over many years will continue to be a secret.

Habitual war crimes

The reality is that “mapping” was never really about building up a more accurate picture of Palestinian society. It has many other, far more sinister aims.

In practical terms, it is used to train young Israeli soldiers, familiarising them with the techniques of invading Palestinian homes and intimidating Palestinians – all in a safe environment for the soldiers. The army knows that Palestinian parents will be primarily concerned with protecting their children from the terrifying presence of armed intruders in what should be the family’s safest space.

In testimony to Breaking the Silence, an organisation for whistle-blowing Israeli soldiers, one soldier observed: “There’s rarely an operational motivation for it. Often, the motivation is practice, meaning we got a breaching tool [for forcing open doors] for the first time; no one knows how to use it, so it is decided that we break into a house now.”

But there are other, even darker purposes behind these random “mapping” raids. They are part of the gradual process by which the army acculturates its young soldiers into a life of committing habitual war crimes. It breaks down their sense of morality and any remnants of compassion after years of exposure in Israel’s school system to anti-Palestinian racism.

It turns Palestinians into nothing more than objects of suspicion and fear for the soldiers. Or as one Palestinian woman told Yesh Din: “The way they banged and came into the house was like entering somewhere with animals, not people.”

Terrorising Palestinians, even children, quickly becomes part of the humdrum routine of military “duties”.

Psychological warfare

But most important of all, home invasions traumatise Palestinians in ways designed to entrench the occupation and make it more permanent. They are a form of psychological warfare – a campaign of terror – against both the families and the communities they live in. They reinforce the message that the Israeli army is everywhere, controlling the smallest details of Palestinians’ lives.

Several soldiers told Breaking the Silence that the goal was to make Palestinians feel persecuted. One noted: “The bigger mission was to instill a sense of persecution in the Palestinian population. That’s not my phrase, it’s a phrase that actually appeared in [military] presentations and briefings.”

The soldiers take this guidance to heart. One said he understood the purpose of hiding his face “was to be more intimidating, scarier, and then maybe you get less resistance”.

“Mapping” raids are designed to make Palestinians believe that any kind of opposition to the occupation is futile, or counterproductive. Home invasions leave permanent scars, as women often describe feeling violated and losing a sense of pride in their home, while men suffer from the trauma associated with being unable to protect their wives and children. Children are left with anxiety and sleep disorders, and they struggle at school.

There is a further goal to these “mapping” operations when Jewish settlements have been built close to the Palestinian families being targeted. Home invasions take place on a regular basis for these families, serving as a form of pressure to encourage them to abandon their homes so the settlers can replace them.

A 2019 UN survey of an area of Hebron coveted by settlers found that over a three-year period, 75 percent of Palestinian homes in the neighbourhood had been “mapped”. One resident whose home was raided more than 20 times toldYesh Din researchers: “I think the entry [by soldiers] is just harassment, to drive us out of the house.”

Spying on Palestinians

Even some former soldiers understand that the intelligence-gathering rationales for these invasions are bogus. Several told the human rights groups that the intelligence supposedly gained from these operations was never put to later use. None could identify a database where the information was being stored.

Even if the mapping raids were primarily about collecting information, the army has far more effective means to spy on and control the Palestinian population in the occupied territories of the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

The job of Unit 8200, one of the Israeli military’s many intelligence-gathering arms, includes listening in on Palestinian communications to find secrets that can be used to blackmail and extort Palestinians to collaborate with occupation authorities.

A so-called cyber unit in Israel’s justice ministry is tasked with spying on Palestinians’ internet and social media communications. And Israel has endless other sources of intelligence on Palestinians: collaborators, the Palestinian population registry that it controls, biometric identity documents, face-recognition technology, questioning at checkpoints, the use of drones, and the seizure of Palestinians for interrogation.

Court complicity

More importantly, the army knows that it can continue as before with these home invasions by using other pretexts. It will subsume “mapping” operations within even more violent categories of night raids – such as the search for weapons, interrogations of children about stone-throwing, or arrests.

Sadly, the Israeli courts have always shown a willingness to collude with the army in precisely these kinds of face-saving deceptions and cynical manipulations of language. There is no reason to believe that the Israeli legal system will do anything in practice to ensure that home invasions, whether for “mapping” or any other purpose, come to an end.

The record of Israeli courts has been consistently dismal in protecting Palestinians from Israeli army abuses. Even when the courts do belatedly rule against army protocols that flagrantly violate international law, the army invariably finds ways to undercut the ruling – usually with the court’s complicity. For years, the army has continued to use Palestinians as human shields, dragging out legal proceedings by recharacterising the practice as a so-called “neighbour procedure” or “prior warning”.

It is not hard to imagine that “intel mapping” could be given a similar linguistic makeover. And there is an additional reason to be sceptical: more than 20 years ago, Israel’s top court banned the torture of Palestinian detainees – yet, it continued almost unabated because the court created a loophole for cases defined as “ticking bombs”, when interrogators supposedly faced a race against time to extract information to save lives.

After the ruling, it seemed that every Palestinian seized by the army became a “ticking bomb”. Finally, in 2017, the court reversed its 1999 ruling when it permitted torture as long as interrogators did not cross a threshold of pain that it declined to determine in advance.

The reality is that when Israel treats its occupation as permanent, then preserving the occupation’s infrastructure – for surveillance, control, intimidation and humiliation – becomes an absolute necessity. When the occupier additionally seeks to drive out Palestinians to replace them with its own settler population, the rot runs deeper still. Palestinian men, women and children are reduced to nothing more than pieces to be swept off a chessboard.

For that reason, home invasions – the terrorising of families in the middle of the night by masked soldiers – will continue, whatever euphemism is used to justify it.

• First published in Middle East Eye

The post Israel’s night raids on Palestinian families aren’t over, whatever the courts say first appeared on Dissident Voice.

What happened to Glenn Greenwald? Trump happened and put the left’s priorities to the test

There’s been a new public fracturing of the intellectual left, typified by an essay last week from Nathan J Robinson, editor of the small, independent, socialist magazine Current Affairs, accusing Glenn Greenwald and Matt Taibbi of bolstering the right’s arguments. He is the more reasonable face of what seems to be a new industry arguing that Greenwald is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, setting the right’s agenda for it.

Under the title “How to end up serving the right”, Robinson claims that Greenwald and Taibbi, once his intellectual heroes, are – inadvertently or otherwise – shoring up the right’s positions and weakening the left. He accuses them of reckless indifference to the consequences of criticising a “liberal” establishment and making common cause with the right’s similar agenda. Both writers, argues Robinson, have ignored the fact that the right wields the greatest power in our societies.

This appears to be a continuation of a fight Robinson picked last year with Krystal Ball, the leftwing, former co-host of a popular online politics show called The Rising. Robinson attacked her for sharing her platform with the conservative pundit Saagar Enjeti. Ball and Enjeti have since struck out on their own, recently launching a show called Breaking Points.

Notably, Greenwald invited Robinson on to his own YouTube channel to discuss these criticisms of Ball when Robinson first made them. In my opinion, Robinson emerged from that exchange looking more than a little bruised.

As with his clash with Ball, there are problems with Robinson’s fuzzy political definitions.

Somewhat ludicrously in his earlier tussle, he lumped together Enjeti, a thoughtful right wing populist, with figures like Donald Trump and Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro, both of them narcissists and authoritarians (of varying degrees of competence) that have donned the garb of populism, as authoritarians tend to do.

Similarly, Robinson’s current disagreements with Greenwald and Taibbi stem in part from a vague formulation – one he seems partially to concede – of what constitutes the “left”. Greenwald has always struck me more as a progressive libertarian than a clearcut socialist like Robinson. Differences of political emphasis and priorities are inevitable. They are also healthy.

And much of Robinson’s essay is dedicated to cherrypicking a handful of tweets from Greenwald and Taibbi to make his case. Greenwald, in particular, is a prolific tweeter. And given the combative and polarising arena of Twitter, it would be quite astonishing had he not occasionally advanced his arguments without the nuance demanded by Robinson.

Overall, Robinson’s case against both Greenwald and Taibbi is far less persuasive than he appears to imagine.

Stifling coverage

But the reason I think it worth examining his essay is because it demonstrates a more fundamental split on what – for the sake of convenience – I shall treat as a broader intellectual left that includes Robinson, Greenwald and Taibbi.

Robinson tries to prop up his argument that Greenwald, in particular, is betraying the left and legitimising the right with an argument from authority, citing some of the left’s biggest icons.

Two, Naomi Klein and Jeremy Scahill, are former journalist colleagues of Greenwald’s at the Intercept, the billionaire-financed online news publication that he co-founded and eventually split from after it broke an editorial promise not to censor his articles.

Greenwald fell out with the editors in spectacularly public fashion late last year after they stifled his attempts to write about the way Silicon Valley and liberal corporate media outlets – not unlike the Intercept – were colluding to stifle negative coverage of Joe Biden in the run-up to the presidential election, in a desperate bid to ensure he beat Trump.

Greenwald’s public statements about his reasons for leaving the Intercept exposed what were effectively institutional failings there – and implicated those like Scahill and Klein who had actively or passively colluded in the editorial censorship of its co-founder. Klein and Scahill are hardly dispassionate commentators on Greenwald when they accuse him of “losing the plot” and “promoting smears”. They have skin in the game.

But Robinson may think his trump (sic) card is an even bigger left icon, Noam Chomsky, who is quoted saying of Greenwald: “He’s a friend, has done wonderful things, I don’t understand what is happening now… I hope it will pass.”

The problem with this way of presenting Greenwald is that the tables can be easily turned. Over the past few years, my feeds – and I am sure others’ – have been filled with followers asking versions of “What happened to Chomsky?” or “What happened to Amy Goodman and Democracy Now?”

The answer to these very reductive questions – what happened to Greenwald and what happened to Chomsky – is the same. Trump happened. And their different responses are illustrative of the way the left polarised during the Trump presidency and how it continues to divide in the post-Trump era.

Authoritarian thinking

Robinson treats the Trump factor – what we might term Post-Traumatic Trump Disorder – as though it is irrelevant to his analysis of Greenwald and Taibbi. And yet it lies at the heart of the current tensions on the left. In its simplest terms, the split boils down to the question of how dangerous Trump really was and is, and what that means for the left in terms of its political responses.

Unlike Robinson, I don’t think it is helpful to personalise this. Instead, we should try to understand what has happened to left politics more generally in the Trump and post-Trump era.

Parts of the left joined liberals in becoming fixated on Trump as a uniquely evil and dangerous presence in US politics. Robinson notes that Trump posed an especial and immediate threat to our species’ survival through his denial of climate change, and on these grounds alone every effort had to be made to remove him.

Others on the left recoil from this approach. They warn that, by fixating on Trump, elements of the left have drifted into worryingly authoritarian ways of thinking – sometimes openly, more often implicitly – as a bulwark against the return of Trump or anyone like him.

The apotheosis of such tendencies was the obsession, shared alike by liberals and some on the left, with Russiagate. This supposed scandal highlighted in stark fashion the extreme dangers of focusing on a single figure, in Trump, rather than addressing the wider, corrupt political structures that produced him.

It was not just the massive waste of time and energy that went into trying to prove the unprovable claims of Trump’s collusion with the Kremlin – resources that would have been far better invested in addressing Trump’s real crimes, which were being committed out in the open.

It was that the politically tribal Trump-Russia narrative engulfed and subverted a meaningful politics of resistance. It snared those like Wikileaks founder Julian Assange who had been trying to break open the black box of western politics. It fortified the US security services after they had been exposed by Edward Snowden’s revelations as secretly and illegally conducting mass spying on the public’s communications. It breathed a dangerous credibility into the corrupt Democratic party machine after its embarrassment over engineering Hillary Clinton’s presidential candidacy. And it revived the fortunes of an increasingly discredited liberal media that quickly won large ratings by promoting fabulists like Rachel Maddow.

Those on the left who tried to challenge Russiagate in order to focus on real political issues were stigmatised as Putin’s puppets, their arguments were labelled “fake news”, and they were gradually algorithmed into social media purdah.

Under the Russiagate banner, parts of the left were soon rallying, however reluctantly, behind corporate champions of the planet-destroying status quo.

But it was even worse than that. The fixation on the obviously hollow Russiagate narrative by the Democratic Party, the corporate media, Silicon Valley, and the US intelligence agencies served to prove to wide swaths of conservative America that Trump was right when he berated a “liberal” establishment for being invested only in its own self-preservation and not caring about ordinary Americans.

Russiagate did not just divide the left, it dramatically strengthened the right.

Free speech dangers

Robinson knows all this, at least intellectually, but perhaps because Trump looms so large in his thinking he does not weigh the significance in the same terms as Greenwald and Taibbi.

The problem with characterising Trump as a supremely evil figure is that all sorts of authoritarian political conclusions flow from that characterisation – precisely the political conclusions we have seen parts of the left adopting. Robinson may not expressly share these conclusions but, unlike Greenwald and Taibbi, he has largely ignored or downplayed the threat they present.

If Trump poses a unique danger to democracy, then to avoid any recurrence:

  • We are obligated to rally uncritically, or at least very much less critically, behind whoever was selected to be his opponent. Following Trump’s defeat, we are dutybound to restrain our criticisms of the winner, Joe Biden, however poor his performance, in case it opens the door to Trump, or someone like Trump, standing for the presidency in four years’ time.
  • We must curb free speech and limit the free-for-all of social media in case it contributed to the original surge of support for Trump, or created the more febrile political environment in which Trump flourished.
  • We must eradicate all signs of populism, whether on the right or the left, because we cannot be sure that in a battle of populisms the left will defeat the right, or that left wing populism cannot be easily flipped into right wing populism.
  • And most importantly, we must learn to distrust “the masses” – those who elected Trump – because they have demonstrated that they are too easily swayed by emotion, prejudice and charisma. Instead, we must think in more traditional liberal terms, of rule by technocrats and “experts” who can be trusted to run our societies largely in secret but provide a stability that should keep any Trumps out of power.

Greenwald and Taibbi have been focusing precisely on this kind of political fallout from the Trump presidency. And it looks suspiciously like this, as much as anything else, is what is antagonising Robinson and others.

Greenwald’s own experiences at the Intercept underline his concerns. It was not just that Greenwald was forced out over his efforts late last year to talk about the documents found on Hunter Biden’s laptop and the questions they raised about his father, the man who was about to become US president. It was that the Intercept stopped Greenwald from talking about how the entire liberal corporate media and all of Silicon Valley were actively conspiring to crush any attempt to talk about those documents and their significance – and not on the basis of whether they were genuine or not.

Greenwald walked away from what amounted to a very well-paid sinecure at the Intercept to highlight this all-out assault on democratic discourse and the election process – an assault whose purpose was not the search for truth but to prevent any danger of Trump being re-elected. By contrast, in a tweet thread that has not aged well, Robinson along with many others quibbled about the specifics of Greenwald’s case and whether it amounted to censorship, very much ignoring the wood for the trees.

Greenwald and Taibbi talk so much about the role of the traditional media and Silicon Valley because they understand that the media’s professed liberalism – claims to be protecting the rights of women, ethnic minorities and the trans community – is a very effective way of prettifying corporate authoritarianism, an authoritarianism the left claims to be fighting but has readily endorsed once it has been given a liberal makeover.

It is not that the “liberal” establishment – the corporate media, Silicon Valley, the intelligence services – is actually liberal. It is that liberals have come increasingly to identify with that establishment as sharing their values.

For this reason, Robinson obscures the real nature of the divide on the left when he discusses the power of the Supreme Court. He criticises Greenwald and Taibbi for ignoring the fact that the right exercises absolute power through its packing of the court with rightwing judges. He accuses them of instead unfairly emphasising the power exercised by this “liberal” establishment.

But despite Robinson’s claims, the Supreme Court very obviously doesn’t wield “all the power”, even with its veto over legislation and actions of the administration. Because an even greater power is invested in those institutions that can control the public’s ability to access and interpret information; to find out what is being done in the shadows; and to make choices based on that information, including about who should represent them.

Information control and narrative management are the deepest forms of power because they shape our ability to think critically, to resist propaganda, to engage in dialogue and to forge alliances that might turn the tide against a profoundly corrupt establishment that includes both the Supreme Court and Silicon Valley. Robinson ignores this point in his essay, even though it is fundamental to assessing “What happened to Greenwald and Taibbi?”. A commitment to keeping channels of information open and ensuring dialogue continues, even in the post-Trump era, is what happened to them.

Hard drives smashed

The crux of Robinson’s argument is that Greenwald and Taibbi have made a pact with the devil, gradually chaining their more progressive credentials to a Trumpian rightwing populism to defeat the “liberal” establishment. That, Robinson suggests, will only strengthen and embolden the right, and ensure the return of a Trump.

The evidence Robinson and others adduce for Greenwald’s betrayal, in particular, are his now regular appearances on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show, where Greenwald and Carlson often find common ground against the authoritarian excesses of that same “liberal” establishment.

That should not surprise us. Carlson and the right have an interest in the break-up of Silicon Valley’s tech monopolies that favour a Democratic Party authoritarianism over their own Republican Party authoritarianism. Greenwald has an interest in the break-up of Silicon Valley’s tech monopolies too but for a very different reason: because he is against monopolies designed to keep the public propagandised and manipulated.

Opposing them both is an authoritarian “liberal” establishment – the Democratic Party, traditional corporate media, Silicon Valley, the intelligence services – that have every interest in perpetuating their control over the tech monopolies.

Robinson contrasts Greenwald’s behaviour to his own clean hands as the editor of the small socialist magazine, Current Affairs.

But we should note that Robinson has compromised himself far more than he cares to admit. For several years he used the liberal corporate outlet of the Guardian as a platform from which to present a watered-down version of his own socialist politics. To do so, he had to ignore the paper’s appalling record of warmongering abroad and of subverting socialists like Jeremy Corbyn at home.

Robinson finally came unstuck when a Guardian editor effectively fired him for writing a satirical tweet about the huge sums of aid given by the US to Israel each year to kill and maim Palestinians under occupation and destroy their infrastructure.

One can debate whether it is wise for the left to use essentially hostile corporate platforms – liberal or conservative – to advance its arguments. But that is not the debate Robinson is trying to provoke. And for obvious reasons: because in piggybacking on the Guardian, Robinson did what Greenwald has done in piggybacking on Tucker Carlson. Both have used the reach of a larger corporate outlet to build their audience and expand the number of people exposed to their more progressive ideas.

There is an apparent difference, though. In Robinson’s case, he has admitted with impressive frankness that he would have been willing to self-censor on Israel had he been told by the Guardian beforehand that speaking out was likely to cost him his job. That sets his own position apart from Greenwald, who decided to walk from the Intercept rather than allow his work to be censored.

Nonetheless, it is far from clear, as Robinson assumes, that liberal corporate outlets are a safer bet for the left to ally with than rightwing corporate outlets.

Greenwald, remember, was eased out of the “liberal” Guardian many years before Robinson’s sacking after he brought the paper the glory associated with the Snowden revelations while also incurring the intelligence services’ wrath. Those revelations exposed the dark underbelly of the US national security state under the “liberal” presidency of Barack Obama, not Trump. And years later, Greenwald was again pushed out, this time from the supposedly even more “liberal” Intercept as part of its efforts to protect Biden, Obama’s Democratic party successor.

Greenwald wasn’t dispatched from these publications for being too righ-twing. Tensions escalated at the Guardian over the security service backlash to Greenwald’s unwavering commitment to free speech and transparency – just as the Guardian earlier fell out with Assange faced with the security services’ retaliation for Wikileaks’ exposure of western war crimes.

The Guardian’s own commitment to transparency was surrendered with its agreement to carry out the UK security services’ demand that it smash hard drives packed with Snowden’s secrets. The destruction of those files may have been largely symbolic (there were copies in the possession of the New York Times) but the message it sent to the left and to the UK intelligence agencies was clear enough: from now on, the Guardian was resolutely going to be a team player.

What these experiences with the Guardian and the Intercept doubtless demonstrated to Greenwald was that his most fundamental political principles were essentially incompatible with those of the “liberal” media – and all the more so in the Trump era. The priority for liberal publications was not truth-telling or hosting all sides of the debate but frantically shoring up the authority of a “moderate” technocratic elite, one that would ensure a stable neoliberal environment in which it could continue its wealth extraction and accumulation.

Robinson implies that Greenwald has been embittered by these experiences, and is petulantly hitting back against the “liberal” establishment without regard to the consequences. But a fairer reading would be that Greenwald is fighting against kneejerk, authoritarian instincts wherever they are found in our societies – on the right, the centre and the left.

The irony is that he appears to be getting a better hearing on Tucker Carlson than he does at the Guardian or the Intercept. Contrary to Robinson’s claim, that says more about the Guardian and the so-called liberal media than it does about Greenwald.

Captured by wokeness

Robinson also misrepresents what Greenwald and Taibbi are trying to do when they appear on rightwing media.

First, he gives every impression of arguing that, by appearing on the Tucker Carlson show, Greenwald naively hopes to persuade Carlson to switch allegiance from a right wing to left wing populism. But Greenwald doesn’t go on the Tucker Carlson show to turn its host into a leftist. He appears on the show to reach and influence Carlson’s millions of viewers, who do not have the same investment in neoliberalism’s continuing success as the multi-millionaire Carlson does.

Is Greenwald’s calculation any more unreasonable than Robinson’s belief while writing for the Guardian that he might succeed in turning the Guardian’s liberal readers into socialists? Is Robinson right to assume that liberals are any less committed to their selfish political worldview than the right? Or that – when their side is losing – liberal readers of the Guardian are any less susceptible to authoritarianism than rightwing viewers of Fox News?

Robinson also wrongly accuses Greenwald and Taibbi of suggesting that the CIA and major corporations have, in Robinson’s words, “become captured by culturally left ‘woke’ ideology”. But neither writer appears to believe that Black Lives Matter or #MeToo is dictating policy to the establishment. The pair are arguing instead that the CIA and the corporations are exploiting and manipulating “woke” ideology to advance their own authoritarian agendas.

Their point is not that the establishment is liberal but rather that it can more credibly market itself as liberal or progressive when a Trump is in power or when it is feared that a Trump might return to power. And that perception weakens truly progressive politics. By donning the garb of liberalism, elites are able to twist the values and objectives of social movements in ways designed to damage them and foster greater social divisions.

A feminism that celebrates women taking all the top jobs at the big arms manufacturers – the corporations whose business is the murder of men, women and children – is not really feminism. It is a perversion of feminism. Similarly, establishment claims to “wokeness” provide cover as western elites internally divide their own societies and dominate or destroy foreign ones.

“Woke authoritarianism”, as Robinson mockingly terms it, is not an attribute of wokeness. It is a description of one specific incarnation of authoritarianism that is currently favoured by an establishment that, in the post-Trump era, has managed more successfully to cast itself as liberal.

Mask turn-off

The central issue here – the one Robinson raises but avoids discussing – is what political conditions are most likely to foster authoritarianism in the US and other western states, and what can be done to reverse those conditions.

For Robinson, the answer is reassuringly straightforward. Trump and his rightwing populism pose the biggest threat, and the Democratic party – however dismal its leaders – is the only available vehicle for countering that menace. Therefore, left journalists have a duty to steer clear of arguments or associations that might confer legitimacy on the right.

For Greenwald and Taibbi, the picture looks far more complicated, treacherous and potentially bleak.

Trump fundamentally divided the US. For a significant section of the public, he answered their deep-seated and intensifying disenchantment with a political system that appears to be rigged against their interests after its wholesale takeover by corporate elites decades ago. He offered hope, however false.

For others, Trump threatened to topple the liberal facade the corporate elites had erected to sanctify their rule. He dispensed with the liberal pieties that had so effectively served to conceal US imperialism abroad and to maintain the fiction of democracy at home. His election tore the mask off everything that was already deeply ugly about the US political system.

Did that glimpse into the abyss fuel the sense of urgency among liberals and parts of the left to be rid of Trump at all costs – and the current desperation to prevent him or someone like him from returning to the Oval Office, even if it means further trashing free speech and transparency?

In essence, the dilemma the left now faces is this:

To work with the Democrats, with liberals, who are desperate to put the mask back on the system, to shore up its deceptions, so that political stability can be restored – a stability that is waging war around the globe, that is escalating the threat of super-power tensions and nuclear annihilation, and that is destroying the planet.

Or to keep the mask off, and work with those elements of the populist left and right that share a commitment to free speech and transparency, in the hope that through open debate we can expose the current rule by an unaccountable, authoritarian technocratic class and its corporate patrons masquerading as “liberals”.

The truth is we may be caught between a rock and hard place. Even as the warning signs mount, liberals may stick with the comfort blanket of rule by self-professed experts to the bitter end, to the point of economic and ecological collapse. And conservatives may, at the end of the day, prove that their commitment to free speech and disdain for corporate elites is far weaker than their susceptibility to narcissist strongmen.

Robinson no more has a crystal ball to see the future than Greenwald. Both are making decisions in the dark. For that reason, Robinson and his allies on the left would be better advised to stop claiming they hold the moral high ground.

The post What happened to Glenn Greenwald? Trump happened and put the left’s priorities to the test first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Thomas Friedman’s last gasp

Thomas Friedman’s recent column in the New York Times reflecting on Israel’s 11-day destruction of Gaza is a showcase for the delusions of liberal Zionism: a constellation of thought that has never looked so threadbare. It seems that every liberal newspaper needs a Thomas Friedman – the UK’s Guardian has Jonathan Freedland – whose role is to keep readers from considering realistic strategies for Israel-Palestine, however often and catastrophically the established ones have failed. In this case, Friedman’s plea for Joe Biden to preserve the ‘potential of a two-state solution’ barely conceals his real goal: resuscitating the discourse of an illusory ‘peace process’ from which everyone except liberal Zionists has moved on. His fear is that the debate is quietly shifting outside this framework – towards the recognition that Israel is a belligerent apartheid regime, and the conclusion that one democratic state for Palestinians and Jews is now the only viable solution.

For more than five decades, the two-state solution – of a large, ultra-militarized state for Israel, and a much smaller, demilitarized one for Palestinians – has been the sole paradigm of the Western political and media class. During these years, a Palestinian state failed to materialize despite (or more likely because of) various US-backed ‘peace processes’. While Americans and Europeans have consoled themselves with such fantasies, Israel has only paid them lip-service, enforcing a de facto one-state solution premised on Jewish supremacy over Palestinians, and consolidating its control over the entire territory.

But in recent years, Israel’s naked settler-colonial actions have imperiled that Western paradigm. It has become increasingly evident that Israel is incapable of making peace with the Palestinians because its state ideology – Zionism – is based on their removal or eradication. What history has taught us is that the only just and lasting way to end a ‘conflict’ between a native population and a settler-colonial movement is decolonization, plus the establishment of a single, shared, democratic state. Otherwise, the settlers continue to pursue their replacement strategies – which invariably include ethnic cleansing, communal segregation and genocide. These were precisely the tactics adopted by European colonists in the Americas, Africa, Australia and New Zealand. Friedman’s function in the Western media – conscious or not – is to obfuscate these historical lessons, tapping into a long legacy of unthinking colonial racism.

One of the central pillars of that legacy is an abiding fear of the native and his supposedly natural savagery. This has always been the unspoken assumption behind the interminable two-state ‘peace process’. A civilized and civilizing West tries to broker a ‘peace deal’ to protect Israel from the Palestinian hordes next door. But the Palestinians continuously ‘reject’ these peace overtures because of their savage nature – which is in turn presented as the reason why Israel must ethnically cleanse them and herd them into reservations, or Bantustans, away from Jewish settlers. Occasionally, Israel is forced to ‘retaliate’ – or defend itself from this savagery – in what becomes an endless ‘cycle of violence’. The West supports Israel with military aid and preferential trade, while watching with exasperation as the Palestinian leadership fails to discipline its people.

Friedman is an expert at exploiting this colonial mentality. He often avoids taking direct responsibility for his racist assumptions, attributing them to ‘centrist Democrats’ or other right-minded observers. Coded language is his stock in trade, serving to heighten the unease felt by western audiences as the natives try to regain a measure of control over their future. In some cases the prejudicial framing is overt, as with his concern about the threat of an ascendant Hamas to women’s and LGBTQ rights, couched in an identity politics he knows will resonate with NYT readers. But more often his framing is insidious, with terms like ‘decimate’ and ‘blow up’ deployed to cast Palestinians’ desire for self-determination as violent and menacing.

Friedman’s promotion of the two-state model offers a three-layered deception. First, he writes that the two-state solution would bring ‘peace’, without acknowledging that the condition for that peace is the Palestinians’ permanent ghettoization and subjugation. Second, he blames the Palestinians for rejecting just such ‘peace plans’, even though they have never been seriously offered by Israel. And finally, he has the chutzpah to imply that it was the Palestinians’ failure to negotiate a two-state solution that ‘decimated’ the Israeli ‘peace camp’.

Such arguments are not only based on Friedman’s dehumanizing view of Arabs. They are also tied to his domestic political concerns. He fears that if Joe Biden were to acknowledge the reality that Israel has sabotaged the two-state solution, then the President might disengage once and for all from the ‘peace process’. Of course, most Palestinians would welcome such an end to US interference: the billions of dollars funnelled annually to the Israeli military, the US diplomatic cover for Israel, and the arm-twisting of other states to silently accept its atrocities. But, Friedman argues, this withdrawal would carry a heavy price at home, setting off a civil war within Biden’s own party and within Jewish organizations across the US. God forbid, it might ‘even lead to bans on arms sales’ to Israel.

Friedman reminds us of Israeli businessman Gidi Grinstein’s warning that in the absence of a ‘potential’ two-state solution, US support for Israel could morph ‘from a bipartisan issue to a wedge issue’. The columnist writes that preserving the two-state ‘peace process’, however endless and hopeless, is ‘about our national security interests in the Middle East’. How does Friedman define these interests? They are reducible, he says, to ‘the political future of the centrist faction of the Democratic Party.’ A ‘peace process’ once designed to salve the consciences of Americans while enabling the dispossession of Palestinians has now been redefined as a vital US national security issue – because, for Friedman, its survival is necessary to preserve the dominance of foreign policy hawks in the Democratic machine. The argument echoes Biden’s extraordinarily frank admission made back in 1986 that ‘were there not an Israel the United States of America would have to invent an Israel to protect her interests in the region’.

Friedman then concludes his article with a set of proposals that unwittingly expose the true consequences of a two-state settlement. He insists that Biden build on his predecessor’s much ridiculed ‘peace plan’, which gave US blessing to Israel’s illegal settlements on vast swaths of the occupied West Bank, penning Palestinians into their Bantustans indefinitely. Trump’s plan also sought to entrench Israel’s control over occupied East Jerusalem, remake Gaza as a permanent battlefield on which rivalries between Fatah and Hamas would intensify, and turn the wealth of the theocratic Gulf states into a weapon, fully integrating Israel into the region’s economy while making the Palestinians even more dependent on foreign aid. Polite NYT opinionators now want Biden to sell these measures as a re-engagement with the ‘peace process’.

The US, writes Friedman, should follow Trump in stripping the Palestinians of a capital in East Jerusalem – the economic, religious and historic heart of Palestine. Arab states should reinforce this dispossession by moving their embassies from Tel Aviv to West Jerusalem. Neighbouring countries are encouraged to pressure the Palestinian Authority, via aid payments, to accede even more cravenly to Israel’s demands. (Of course, Friedman does not think it worth mentioning that Palestine is aid-dependent because Israel has either stolen or seized control of all its major resources.)

Once this subordinate position is guaranteed, divisions within the Palestinian national movement can be inflamed by making Hamas – plus the two million Palestinians in Gaza – dependent on the PA’s patronage. Friedman wants the Fatah-led PA to decide whether to send aid to the Gaza Strip or join Israel in besieging the enclave to weaken Hamas. For good measure, he also urges the Gulf states to cut off support to the United Nations aid agencies, like UNRWA, which have kept millions of Palestinian refugees fed and cared for since 1948. The international community’s already feeble commitment to the rights of Palestinian refugees will thus be broken, and the diaspora will be forcibly absorbed into their host countries.

Such proposals are the last gasp of a discredited liberal Zionism. Friedman visibly flounders as he tries to put the emperor’s clothes back on a two-state solution which stands before us in all its ugliness. The Western model of ‘peace-making’ was always about preserving Jewish supremacy. Now, at least, the illusions are gone.

• First published in New Left Review

The post Thomas Friedman’s last gasp first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Tech giants help Israel muzzle Palestinians

Israel’s caretaker prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, sought to shut down all use of the popular video-sharing app TikTok in Israel last month.

The attempt to censor TikTok, details of which emerged last weekend, is one of a number of reported attempts by Israel to control social media content during last month’s military assault on the Gaza Strip.

Netanyahu tried to impose the blackout as Israel faced an international social media outcry over its 11-day attack on Gaza, which killed more than 250 Palestinians, and the violent repression by Israeli police of Palestinian protests in occupied East Jerusalem and inside Israel.

Government law officers are understood to have resisted the move.

Benny Gantz, the defense minister, also lobbied senior officials at Facebook and TikTok to crack down on posts critical of Israel, labelling them incitement and support for terror.

The tech giants responded by agreeing to act “quickly and effectively,” according to a statement from Gantz’s office.

The revelations follow widespread reports last month that social media corporations regularly removed posts that referred to the Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, where Israel recently stepped up moves to force out Palestinian families and replace them with Jewish settlers.

Social media users and digital rights organizations also reported censorship of posts about the al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem.

Threats of expulsions in Sheikh Jarrah and an invasion by Israeli soldiers of al-Aqsa were the main triggers causing Hamas to fire rockets into Israel last month. Israel responded by destroying swaths of Gaza.

Shadowy cyber unit

Israel’s success in manipulating social media last month follows warnings from Israeli human rights groups about the longer-term threat of Israeli censorship faced by Palestinians.

Adalah, a legal rights group in Israel, said a shadowy Israeli government “cyber unit” – which works hand in hand with tech giants like Facebook and Twitter – had been given “a blank check” to police social media and muzzle online dissent.

Israel’s supreme court ruled in April that the cyber unit could continue its often secretive operations from inside the justice ministry, arguing that its work contributed to national security.

Since 2016, the cyber unit has removed many tens – and more likely hundreds – of thousands of Palestinian social media posts in collaboration with global tech corporations.

The posts are erased without any legal oversight and usually without notifying users, Adalah pointed out. In many cases, users’ accounts are suspended or removed entirely, or access to whole websites blocked.

The vast bulk of those being silenced are Palestinians – either those under a belligerent Israeli occupation or those who live inside Israel with degraded citizenship.

The cyber unit was established in late 2015, part of a raft of measures by Israel purportedly intended both to identify “terrorists” before they strike and to curb what Israel describes as “incitement”.

Given the opaque nature of the process, it is impossible to know what content is being taken down, Rabea Eghbariah, one of the Adalah lawyers who filed a petition against the unit to Israel’s high court, told The Electronic Intifada.

Examples in the Israeli media, however, suggest that Israel regularly targets posts critical of Israel’s belligerent occupation or express solidarity with Palestinians.

The court petition to end the cyber unit’s work was filed in November 2019 by Adalah, which represents 1.8 million Palestinian citizens, a fifth of Israel’s population.

According to Adalah, the unit’s methods violate “the constitutional rights of freedom of expression and due process”.

In approving those methods, Adalah observed, the courts had conferred on the Israeli state the “unchecked” power “to govern online speech” and had allowed private tech companies to usurp control of the judicial process.

Eghbariah said Palestinians could rarely challenge their silencing on social media. The tech companies do not reveal when Israel is behind the censorship or what “terms of service” have been violated.

In court, Israeli officials defended their sweeping suppression of online content by arguing that ultimately social media companies like Google and Facebook were free to decide whether to accede to its requests.

News sites shuttered

However, Israeli officials have previously boasted that the tech giants almost always agree to remove whatever content Israel demands. In 2016, the justice ministry reported that Facebook and Google were “complying with up to 95 percent of Israeli requests to delete content” – almost all of it Palestinian.

Eghbariah told The Electronic Intifada that some 80 percent of Israel’s referrals for removing content relate to Facebook and its other major platform, Instagram, both of which are heavily used by Palestinians.

The next most targeted site was YouTube, where Palestinians often post videos showing attacks by Jewish settlers illegally taking over Palestinian land or Israeli soldiers invading Palestinian communities.

The accounts of Palestinian news agencies and journalists have also been repeatedly shut down.

Eghbariah noted that submissions by Israel’s cyber unit to social media platforms had skyrocketed since it was set up. In 2019, the last year for which there are figures, some 19,600 requests to remove content were submitted – an eightfold increase on three years earlier.

He added that each referral to a tech company could relate to tens or hundreds of posts, and that the removal of a whole website typically counted as a single request.

“What’s noticeable is the increasing cooperation rate of the social media platforms,” he said. “In 2016, three quarters of Israeli requests were complied with. By 2019 that had risen to 90 per cent.”

Distinctions blurred

Human Rights Watch is among those who have criticized Israel for blurring the distinction between legitimate criticism made by Palestinians and incitement.

By contrast, the Palestinian digital rights group 7amleh has noted, Israel rarely takes action against Israeli Jews, even though they are responsible for posting racist or inciteful material roughly every minute.

And the politicized nature of Israel’s crackdown on social media is often hard to disguise.

In December 2017, Nariman Tamimi was detained for incitement.

She had streamed a video on Facebook of her then 16-year-old daughter, Ahed, confronting and slapping an Israeli soldier who was invading their home in the occupied West Bank moments after his unit shot her cousin.

Dareen Tatour, a poet from the town of Reine, next to Nazareth, spent years either in jail or under strict house arrest for supposedly glorifying violence in a poem.

Experts said the lines had been misunderstood by Israel’s security services.

Indeed, errors in translations from Arabic have been regularly evident. In a case in October 2017, a Palestinian laborer was arrested for supposedly threatening a terrorist attack on Facebook before it was discovered that the Arabic expression he used meant “good morning.”

In 2019, 7amleh reported that fears over this online crackdown had left two-thirds of Palestinians worried about expressing their political views on social media.

Normalizing censorship

Other governments may look to the Israeli court’s decision in April as further encouragement to adopt a more aggressive role in censoring online content.

Eghbariah said that the UK, France and the European Union already had their own cyber referral units, although unlike Israel’s those units were explicitly authorized by legislation.

In a sign that Israel’s politicized approach to crushing online dissent could become normalized worldwide, an architect of Israel’s cyber unit was appointed to Facebook’s new oversight board last year. Emi Palmor was the justice ministry’s director-general at the time the unit was established.

The board is supposed to oversee what content should be allowed on Facebook and Instagram.

The Israeli cyber unit’s increasing efforts to remove content from Palestinians, labelling it “terrorism,” “disinformation” or “incitement,” are the latest stage in more than a decade of moves by Israel to control and manipulate its image online as social media has become more central in most people’s lives.

Israel stepped up its digital activities after its large-scale attack on Gaza in late 2008 and early 2009, which killed large numbers of civilians, including children, and shocked much of the world.

During the attack, the Israeli army established its own Youtube channel, the first army to do so, offering a model that the US army quickly sought to emulate.

At the same time tech-savvy youngsters were recruited to pose as ordinary web-surfers as they secretly promoted foreign ministry talking-points.

Several “cyber warrior” teams established in the following years, including one that recruited former officers from Israel’s military spying unit 8200.

Erased from maps

Since then, Israel has expanded its digital operations, not only promoting hasbara (propaganda) online but intensifying its silencing of Palestinians.

At a conference in the West Bank city of Ramallah in 2018, local representatives for Google and Facebook conceded that the companies’ priority was to avoid upsetting powerful governments like Israel’s that could tighten regulation or constrain their commercial activities.

The tech giants are also unlikely to be neutral between the claims of the Israeli state and ordinary Palestinians when they are so reliant on Israel’s hi-tech sector. Technologies developed using the West Bank and Gaza as a testing-bed have been eagerly bought up by these global corporations.

Incensed by Facebook’s censorship, a Palestinian campaign of online protests was launched in 2018 under the hashtag #FBcensorsPalestine.

In Gaza, demonstrators have accused the company of being “another face of occupation.”

Google and Apple have also faced a wave of criticism for colluding in Israel’s policy seeking to erase Palestinians’ visible presence in their homeland. The tech companies have failed to identify many Palestinian villages in the West Bank on their online maps and GPS services while highlighting illegal Jewish settlements.

They have also refused to name the Palestinian territories as “Palestine,” in accordance with Palestine’s recognition by the United Nations, subordinating these areas under the title “Israel.”

Jerusalem is presented as Israel’s unified and undisputed capital, just as Israel claims – making the occupation of the Palestinian section of the city invisible.

• First published in Electronic Intifada

The post Tech giants help Israel muzzle Palestinians first appeared on Dissident Voice.