Category Archives: UK Hypocrisy

Assange, Judge Arbuthnot and the Arrest Warrant

Justice is an elastic concept.  Like other terms in law, it has room to expand and contract.  But one weakness burdens legal strictures that supposedly have an objective reality to them: power.  Power brutish, power as a spectral force, and power arbitrarily exercised.

Any reading of Julian Assange’s case must be, to that end, understood as a dynamic less of law than power.  Having challenged its operations in the international system, he was bound to be its recipient.  In assessing his conditions of detention on the Ecuadorean embassy in London, black letter lawyers prefer an interpretation without the influence of power, clean and clear.  Focus is had on individual volition and purpose: up stakes, Assange, and face the legal music!  That music remains the score sheet of a warrant for his arrest.

Such reasoning is woefully inadequate given the feathers the man has rustled.  A number of states, the United States most preeminent amongst them, has demanded his pound of flesh.  Mike Pompeo of the Central Intelligence Agency has admitted with refreshing candour how US authorities are considering avenues on prosecuting Assange and those associated with WikiLeaks.

Having soiled many a stable with the work of WikiLeaks and disclosures of classified information, treating Assange as a minor offender, one merely deserving of a parking ticket, is entirely erroneous.  But it is a view that persists, even after the collapse of the Swedish case against him.

Chief Magistrate Emma Arbuthnot, taking a view shared by many members of her profession, proved inelastic in assessing Assange’s appeal against the arrest warrant.  She did not, for instance, feel that the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention had much truck in its 2016 decision favourable to him.

Assange, she was more or less surmising, was an unconscionable brat, a person who believed laws insufficient to bind him.  “I find arrest is a proportionate response even though Mr Assange has restricted his own freedom for a number of years.”  The arch manipulator had to come clean and descend from his Olympus.

“The impression I have, and this may well be dispelled if and when Mr Assange finally appears in court, is that he is a man who wants to impose his terms on the course of justice.  He appears to consider himself above the normal rules of law and wants justice only if it goes in his favour.”

Some observers were not immune to the sense that the judge had gotten personal.  Rather than focusing on the finer points of the ruling, a moral assessment was in order. “At times,” went ABC correspondent Lisa Millar, “it felt like a character assessment that went beyond what was needed for this ruling.”

The only way Judge Arbuthnot could understand Assange’s case was like any other defendant, an understanding both flawed and naïve.  “Defendants on bail up and down the country and requested persons facing extradition, come to court to face the consequences of their own choices.  He should have the courage to do so.”

The problem with this reasoning is that the “choices” in question have been shown to be thinly manipulated grounds, notably those centred on a prosecutor’s brief from Sweden that was pursued till it expired with time.  At no point was Assange ever charged for sexual offences, a niggling point that the righteous followers of positive law forget.

When concessions were finally made to interview him in the Ecuadorean embassy on his Swedish sojourn, nothing of substance emerged. What did, however, lurk with sinister force was the role played by British authorities to prolong the matter.

It is beside the point that Assange may leave his confines at any time.  But removing a police presence before a minefield doesn’t remove the mines.  He may well walk out and face the heralds of law.  But the issue of skipping bail is not a stand-alone matter of legal delinquency. The grounds for extraditing him to Sweden have evaporated, making the issue academic. What remains is the prospect of surrender to the United States, a point that is far from negligible.

None of this matters to the judge, who decided she knew geopolitical malice, or issues of trust, better than most. “I do not accept that Sweden would have rendered Mr Assange to the United States.”

A good dose of speculation followed.  “If that had happened there would have been a diplomatic crisis between the UK, Sweden and the US, which would have affected international relationships and extradition proceedings between states.”

Not in the least.  What all three states have demonstrated are strong ties in terms of extradition, common grounds when it comes to dealing with international trouble makers.  The Lauri Love decision does, admittedly, offer some room for hackers and those of Assange’s ilk to avoid the fate of ending up in the US prison system.

Far from precipitating a crisis, rendering Assange or extraditing him would have been seen as the ridding of a problem, removing a chaos maker, as it were, from the already troubled soup of international relations.  Charmingly for such judicial officials as Judge Arbuthnot, the rule of law remains immune from political influence, despite scant evidence of its practice.

The Coward’s Way: Make War on the Young

The Israeli occupation authorities arrested a 14 year-old epileptic Palestinian girl for begging. As punishment they dumped her in the Gaza Strip where she knew no-one and was cut off from her parents.

Israeli newspaper Haaretz reports how the girl was arrested as an “illegal alien” in East Jerusalem (Palestinian territory as everyone knows), her cellular telephone confiscated and a lawyer from the Public Defender’s Office appointed to represent her. She was released on bail and taken to the Gaza Strip because it was listed in Israeli records as her father’s place of residence. She told officials at Erez checkpoint on the Gaza border that she didn’t live in Gaza but in the West Bank.

The Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court ordered her release on bail after her uncle paid 1,500 shekels. The authorities checked with records and found she was registered as a Gaza resident although her mother is registered as a West Bank resident. Her father, on the other hand, is registered as a Gaza resident and is classified as an illegal alien in the West Bank because he didn’t receive an exit permit from the Strip, which he left in 2000. This administrative muddle, which is deliberate and widespread, hardly makes for happy family life in the illegally occupied territories.

Representatives of HaMoked Center for the Defense of the Individual, who assisted the girl’s family, said she had never been to Gaza. Nonetheless Civil Administration officers instructed the Co-ordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) to pack the girl off to Gaza despite her protests. Only after being deposited in Gaza did she get her phone back.

A HaMoked lawyer said: “With obtuseness that cannot be justified, nobody bothered to tell the minor where she was or made sure the family knew of her release, as is required in view of her age.”

The Guardian reports that, according to HaMoked, twenty-seven Palestinians living in the Israeli-occupied West Bank were forcibly sent to Gaza last year…. condemned to be shredded, incinerated or at least deeply traumatised the next time Israel ‘war-tests’ its weaponry on this tight packed open-air prison where the inhabitants have nowhere to run. It was the first time they had heard of someone as young as 14 being sent there.

Despicable

There’s nothing new about the Israelis’ urge to hurt the most vulnerable. If there’s one thing they are good at it’s making war on women and children. The self-styled “most moral army in the world” especially loves targeting Palestinian university students. Back in 2009 I wrote about Merna, an honours student in her final year majoring in English. Israeli soldiers frequently rampaged through her Bethlehem refugee camp in the middle of the night, ransacking homes and arbitrarily arresting residents. They took away her family one by one. First her 14-year-old cousin and best friend was shot dead by an Israeli sniper while she sat outside her family home during a curfew.

Next the Israelis arrested her eldest brother, a 22 year-old artist, and imprisoned him for 4 years. Then they came back for Merna’s 18-year-old brother. Not content with that the military came again, this time to take her youngest brother – the ‘baby’ of the family – just 16. These were the circumstances under which Merna had to study.

Israeli military law treats Palestinians as adults as soon as they reach 16, a flagrant violation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Israeli youngsters by comparison are regarded as children until 18. Palestinians are dealt with by Israeli military courts, even when it’s a civil matter. These courts ignore international laws and conventions, so there’s no legal protection for individuals under Israeli military occupation.

As detention is based on secret information, which neither the detainees nor their lawyers are allowed to see, it is impossible to mount a proper defence. Besides, the Security Service always finds a phony excuse to keep detainees locked up “in the greater interest of the security of Israel”. Although detainees have the right to review and appeal, they are unable to challenge the evidence and check facts as all information presented to the court is classified.

Despite the horrendous mental stress of it all, Merna determined to carry on with her studies. The most moral army in the world may have robbed her brothers of an education, but she would still fight for hers.

Cruel beyond belief

Dumping students in Gaza to disrupt their studies is nothing new either. Five years earlier the Israelis forcibly removed four Birzeit University students from their studies in the West Bank and illegally sent them back to the Gaza Strip. All four were due to graduate by the end of that academic year. There was an outcry from around the world and the Israeli Army Legal Advisor was bombarded with faxes and letters demanding the students be allowed to return to their studies.

The world’s most moral army agreed that the students might be allowed to return to Birzeit if they signed a guarantee to permanently return to the Gaza Strip after completing their studies. This effectively exposed Israel’s plan to impose a final separation between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, even though the two are internationally recognized as one integral territory. Under international law everyone has the right to freely choose their place of residence within a single territory, but Israel doesn’t give a damn about international law. The racist regime makes it virtually impossible for Gaza students to reach the eight Palestinian universities in the West Bank. In 1999 some 350 Gaza students were studying at Birzeit. By 2009 there were almost none.

To get to Bethlehem University, or any other, many students have to run the gauntlet of Israeli checkpoints. “Sometimes they take our ID cards and they spend ages writing down all the details, just to make us late,” said one. Students are often made to remove shoes, belt and bags. “It’s like an airport. Many times we are kept waiting outside for up to an hour, rain or shine, they don’t care.” The soldiers attempt to forcibly remove students’ clothes or they swear and shout sexual slurs at female students.

Some tell how they are sexually harassed on their way to university and spend the rest of the day worrying what the Israelis will do to them on their way home. This constant humiliation, of course, undermines student motivation and concentration.

It was no surprise, then, to hear from Bethlehem University at around that time (2009) that Berlanty Azzam, a 4th year Business Administration student was being held by the Israeli military authorities with the intention of deporting her to Gaza “for trying to complete her studies at Bethlehem University.”

Berlanty, a Christian girl, was originally from Gaza but had lived in the West Bank since 2005 after receiving a travel permit from the military to cross from Gaza to the West Bank. She was detained at the Container checkpoint between Bethlehem and Ramallah after attending a job interview in Ramallah. She too was robbed of her degree at the last minute.

The 21 year-old was due to graduate before Christmas. The most moral army in the world blindfolded and handcuffed her, loaded her into a jeep and drove her from Bethlehem to Gaza, despite assurances by the Israeli Military Legal Advisor’s office that she would not be deported before an attorney from Gisha (an Israeli NGO working to protect Palestinians’ freedom of movement) had the opportunity to petition the Israeli court for her return to classes in Bethlehem.

When they’d crossed the border the world’s most moral army dumped Berlanty late at night and simply told her: “You are in Gaza.”

Berlanty had informed Gisha on her mobile phone before the soldiers confiscated it: “Since 2005, I refrained from visiting my family in Gaza for fear that I would not be permitted to return to my studies in the West Bank.” Now, just two months before graduation, she was arrested and taken to Gaza, with no way to finish her degree.

Bethlehem University was trying to mobilize people from around the world to protest. I contacted the Palestinian ambassador in London, who happens to be a former vice-president of that excellent seat of learning. “Have you contacted the Israeli ambassador for an explanation of this outrage?” I emailed him.

Next day, having heard nothing, I emailed again: “Update… She has been removed to Gaza blindfolded and handcuffed! What is the Embassy doing about this please?” Another 24 hours went by and no response. It wasn’t unusual for the Palestinian embassy to be fast asleep or out to lunch for days on end and no-one covering.

I had simultaneously emailed the Israeli ambassador asking him, please, to make enquiries. “On the face of it, this seems a senseless outrage. The student concerned has, I believe, just started her final year. I wonder what Mr Prosor or Mr Netanyahu would say if the education of their sons and daughters or grandchildren was disrupted in this manner.” Next day, having heard nothing, I sent the same update about Berlanty’s removal to Gaza blindfolded and handcuffed. Another 24 hours… still nothing, not even the courtesy of an acknowledgement from Israel’s press office, which usually responds like lightning to anything with news value.

If this had been a Jewish girl deprived of her university degree and life chances the Israeli embassy would be having hysterics and hurling accusations of religious hatred and anti-semitism. But this was the Jewish state screwing up the young life of a Christian, so that was all right then.

Administrative ‘laws’ designed to foul up every aspect of Palestinian life

Eventually, the Israeli embassy explained that Ms Azzam held a permit to stay in the West Bank back in 2005 and since the permit had expired she’d been living there illegally. “Every Gaza resident who stays in the West Bank requires a permit, failing to do so is a breach of the law. As Ms Azzam has failed to provide a valid permit she was deported back to Gaza.”

The embassy added that if Ms Azzam wished to complete her studies at Bethlehem she should apply for a permit to the relevant authorities (COGAT) in Gaza. But Bethlehem University’s senior management weren’t impressed. According to them 12 students from Gaza had applied to COGAT to attend the University in the previous year and NOT ONE received permission. Did they all pose a security threat to the democratic state of Israel? The Israeli reply simply raised more questions.

To give them their due, the Israelis eventually provided a detailed explanation attempting to unravel the complexities of the ever-changing permit rules and admitting procedural mistakes, but insisted these were not sufficient to justify a different decision.

It was a classic example of how Israel’s administrative ‘laws’ are framed to interfere to the nth degree in Palestinian lives and ride rough-shod over citizens’ rights enshrined in international law, and to disregard its own obligations entirely.

For example, there was no recognition in the Israeli court’s decision that the West Bank and the Gaza Strip are one integral territory and under international law everyone has the right to freely choose their place of residence within it. Nor was there the slightest acknowledgement by Israel’s judiciary of the state’s responsibility under the Oslo Agreements to “respect and preserve without obstacles, normal and smooth movement of people, vehicles and goods within the West Bank, and between the West Bank and Gaza Strip”.

While Israel announced its ruling on Berlanty’s fate, its ambassador here was whining about the arrest warrant issued in London against ex-foreign minister Tzipi Livni for alleged war crimes. Livni had overseen Israel’s murderous assault on Gaza in December/January 2008-9, which killed 1400, including a large number of women and children, maimed thousands more and left countless families homeless. Israeli top brass, including Ehud Barak, Livni and retired general Doron Almog, had to cancel engagements in London for fear of being arrested.

Israeli prime minister Netanyahu’s office issued this arrogant statement: “We will not agree to a situation in which [former prime minister] Ehud Olmert, [Defense Minister] Ehud Barak and [opposition leader and former foreign minister] Tzipi Livni will be summoned to the bench. We utterly reject the absurdity that is happening in Britain.”

What’s absurd? If Berlanty, who had committed no crime at all, wasn’t allowed to come and go as she pleased in her own country, Palestine, what made Netanyahu and Israel’s ambassador think that the blood-soaked Livni, and others like her, could come and go as they please in the UK?

The following year the incoming Conservative government, said to comprise 80% pimps for Israel, changed UK laws relating to ‘universal jurisdiction’ to prevent such arrest warrants being issued in future. Under universal jurisdiction all states that are party to the Geneva Conventions are under a binding obligation to seek out those suspected of having committed grave breaches of the Conventions and bring them, regardless of nationality, to justice. There should be no hiding place for those suspected of crimes against humanity and war crimes.

But the British government, to its everlasting shame, has turned the UK into a safe haven for Israeli psychopaths. As a result we have to endure obscene spectacles like the red carpet love-in between Theresa May and Netanyahu at the Balfour centenary celebrations in London before Christmas.

The UK’s Hidden Role in Assange’s Detention

It now emerges that the last four years of Julian Assange’s effective imprisonment in the Ecuadorean embassy in London have been entirely unnecessary. In fact, they depended on a legal charade.

Behind the scenes, Sweden wanted to drop the extradition case against Assange back in 2013. Why was this not made public? Because Britain persuaded Sweden to pretend that they still wished to pursue the case.

In other words, for more than four years Assange has been holed up in a tiny room, policed at great cost to British taxpayers, not because of any allegations in Sweden but because the British authorities wanted him to remain there. On what possible grounds could that be, one has to wonder? Might it have something to do with his work as the head of Wikileaks, publishing information from whistleblowers that has severely embarrassed the United States and the UK?

In fact, Assange should have walked free years ago if this was really about an investigation – a sham one at that – into an alleged sexual assault in Sweden. Instead, as Assange has long warned, there is a very different agenda at work: efforts to extradite him onwards to the US, where he could be locked away for good. That was why UN experts argued two years ago that he was being “arbitrarily detained” – for political crimes – not unlike the situation of dissidents we support in other parts of the world.

According to a new release of emails between officials, the Swedish director of public prosecutions, Marianne Ny, wrote to Britain’s Crown Prosecution Service on 18 October 2013, warning that Swedish law would not allow the case to be continued. This was, remember, after Sweden had repeatedly failed to take up an offer from Assange to interview him at the embassy in London, as had happened in 44 other cases between Sweden and Britain.

Ny wrote to the CPS: “We have found us to be obliged to lift the detention order … and to withdraw the European arrest warrant. If so this should be done in a couple of weeks. This would affect not only us but you too in a significant way.”

Three days later, suggesting that legal concerns were far from anyone’s mind, she emailed the CPS again: “I am sorry this came as a [bad] surprise… I hope I didn’t ruin your weekend.”

In a similar vein, proving that this was about politics, not the law, the chief CPS lawyer handling the case in the UK, had earlier written to the Swedish prosecutors: “Don’t you dare get cold feet!!!”

In December 2013, the unnamed CPS lawyer wrote to Ny: “I do not consider costs are a relevant factor in this matter.” This was at a time when it had been revealed that the policing of Assange’s detention in the embassy had cost Britain at that point £3.8 million. In another email from the CPS, it was noted: “Please do not think this case is being dealt with as just another extradition.”

These are only fragments of the email correspondence, after most of it was destroyed by the CPS against its own protocols. The deletions appear to have been carried out to avoid releasing the electronic files to a tribunal hearing a freedom of information request.

Other surviving emails, according to a Guardian report last year, have shown that the CPS “advised the Swedes in 2010 or 2011 not to visit London to interview Assange. An interview at that time could have prevented the long-running embassy standoff.”

Assange is still holed up in the embassy, at great risk to his physical and mental health, even though last year Sweden formally dropped an investigation that in reality it had not actually been pursuing for more than four years.

Now the UK (read US) authorities have a new, even less credible pretext for continuing to hold Assange: because he “skipped bail”. Apparently the price he should pay for this relatively minor infraction is more than five years of confinement.

London magistrates are due to consider on Tuesday the arguments of Assange’s lawyers that he should be freed and that after so many years the continuing enforcement of the arrest warrant is disproportionate. Given the blurring of legal and political considerations in this case, don’t hold your breath that Assange will finally get a fair hearing.

Remember too that, according to the UK Foreign Office, Ecuador recently notified it that Assange had received diplomatic status following his successful application for Ecuadorean citizenship.

As former British ambassador Craig Murray has explained, the UK has no choice but to accept Assange’s diplomatic immunity. The most it can do is insist that he leave the country – something that Assange and Ecuador presumably each desire. And yet the UK continues to ignore its obligation to allow Assange his freedom to leave. So far there has been zero debate in the British corporate media about this fundamental violation of his rights.

One has to wonder at what point will most people realise that this is – and always was – political persecution masquerading as law enforcement.

A Liberal Pillar Of The Establishment

As Noam Chomsky has often remarked: ‘liberal bias is extremely important in a sophisticated system of propaganda.’ One major news outlet that Chomsky had in mind was the New York Times, but the same applies in the UK. As a senior British intelligence official noted of the 2001 US-led invasion of Afghanistan:

It is always helpful for governments who want to get the Guardian readers of the world on board to have a humanitarian logic.

This suggests that respected liberal media like the New York Times and Guardian are key battlegrounds in the relentless elite efforts to control public opinion.

On January 15, the Guardian was relaunched as a tabloid with a ‘new look’. Katharine Viner, the paper’s editor, proclaimed in all seriousness:

We have a special relationship with our readers. This relationship is not just about the news; it’s about a shared sense of purpose and a commitment to understand and illuminate our times. We feel a deep sense of duty and responsibility to our readers to honour the trust you place in us.

Those words – ‘shared sense of purpose and commitment’, ‘duty’, ‘responsibility’, ‘honour’, ‘trust’ – imply an openness to readers’ comments, even to criticism; an important point to which we return below.

Viner continued:

We have grounded our new editions in the qualities readers value most in Guardian journalism: clarity, in a world where facts should be sacred but are too often overlooked; imagination, in an age in which people yearn for new ideas and fresh alternatives to the way things are.

The grand declaration to honour the yearning of its readers ‘for new ideas and fresh alternatives to the way things are’ rings hollow. This, after all, is a paper that fought tooth-and-nail against Jeremy Corbyn. As Rob Newton pointed out via Twitter, linking to a lengthy series of screenshots featuring negative Guardian coverage:

The “left liberal” Guardian’s campaign against @JeremyCorbyn was as relentless as the right-wing Daily Mail & The Sun. Here’s the proof

Vacuous phrases continued to pour forth from the editor on the ‘new look’ paper:

Guardian journalism itself will remain what it has always been: thoughtful, progressive, fiercely independent and challenging; and also witty, stylish and fun.

‘Fiercely independent and challenging’? When the Guardian Media Group is owned by The Scott Trust Limited, a ‘profit-seeking enterprise’? (In other words, it is not a non-profit trust, with many readers still mistakenly holding a romantic vision of benign ownership.) When the paper is thus owned and run by an elite group of individuals with links to banking, insurance, advertising, multinational consumer goods, telecommunications, information technology, venture investment, corporate media, marketing services and other sectors of the establishment? When the paper remains dependent on advertising revenue from corporate interests, despite the boast that ‘we now receive more income from our readers than we do from advertisers’. When the paper has actually ditched journalists who have been ‘fiercely independent and challenging’?

However, it is certainly true that the Guardian ‘will remain what it has always been’: a liberal pillar of the establishment; a gatekeeper of ‘acceptable’ news and comment. ‘Thus far, and no further’, to use Chomsky’s phrase. But, as mentioned, the Guardian will not go even as far in the political spectrum as Corbyn: a traditional left Labour figure, rather than a radical socialist proclaiming ‘Revolution!’ or an anarchist itching to bring down global capitalism.

Meanwhile, readers can expect the ‘new look’ Guardian to continue its attacks on Julian Assange and WikiLeaks, such as the recent smear piece by ex-Guardian journalist James Ball that began scurrilously:

According to Debrett’s, the arbiters of etiquette since 1769: “Visitors, like fish, stink in three days.” Given this, it’s difficult to imagine what Ecuador’s London embassy smells like, more than five-and-a-half years after Julian Assange moved himself into the confines of the small flat in Knightsbridge, just across the road from Harrods.

Ball went on, dripping more poison:

Today, most of those who still support Assange are hard-right nationalists – with many seeing him as a supporter of the style of politics of both Trump and Vladimir Putin.

When we challenged Ball via Twitter for evidence of these foolish claims, he was unable to provide any. His facile response was:

The WikiLeaks twitter feed is a pretty good start tbh [to be honest]

That Katharine Viner’s Guardian would happily publish such crude propaganda in an ostensibly ‘serious’ column speaks volumes about the paper’s tumbling credibility as well as conformity to power.

No doubt, too, this liberal ‘newspaper’ will continue to boost Tony Blair, the war criminal whose hands are indelibly stained with the blood of over one million people in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere. But, for the Guardian, he will forever be a flawed hero, someone they have worked hard to rehabilitate in recent years, constantly seeking out his views and pushing him as a respectable elder statesman whose voice the public still needs to hear.

The essence of the Guardian was summed up by satirical comedian reporter Jonathan Pie on the day of the relaunch:

‘New design. Same old virtue signalling, identity politics obsessed, champagne socialism (minus the socialism), barely concealed contempt for the working classes bullshit I presume though.

The Empty Rhetoric Of Seeking ‘Uncomfortable’ Views

One of the Guardian stalwarts helping to project an illusion of consistent challenge to authority is long-time columnist George Monbiot. We were once admirers of Monbiot, and we still respect his environmentalist writing, particularly on the imminent dangers of climate disruption…up to a point (for instance, he never properly addresses the key issue of the corporate media, including the role of his own paper).

But well over a decade ago, we first started challenging Monbiot on his serious blind spots and establishment-friendly ignorance when it came to foreign policy. In more recent years, we have even been smeared by him, in a pitiful manner akin to that of Oliver Kamm of Murdoch’s Times, an inveterate supporter of Western ‘interventions’, on whom Monbiot often seems to rely for his slurs.

A recent piece by Jonathan Cook, once a Middle East Guardian reporter, is a skillful skewering of Monbiot’s stance. Monbiot has repeatedly attacked those who dare question Washington-approved narratives on Syria, Rwanda and the Balkan Wars. Anyone who challenges Western government propaganda claims about Syria, for example, is condemned as an Assadist or conspiracy theorist. His targets have included Noam Chomsky, Edward Herman, John Pilger, university professors Tim Hayward and Piers Robinson, and Media Lens.

On Twitter last month, Monbiot alleged that Hayward and Robinson ‘have disgraced themselves over Syria’. But when has Monbiot ever excoriated Guardian columnists Jonathan Freedland and Natalie Nougayrède, Nick Cohen of the Observer, David Aaronovitch of The Times and John Rentoul of the Independent, all of whom have ‘disgraced themselves’ over US-UK wars of aggression?

And why is Monbiot’s focus so skewed to ‘their’ war crimes rather than ‘our’ war crimes? The editor of the Interventions Watch blog searched Monbiot’s Twitter timeline in December 2017 and found he had mentioned ‘Syria’ in 91 tweets and ‘Yemen’ in just three tweets. With rare exceptions, virtually the entire UK political and media system has disgraced itself over Yemen – currently the world’s greatest humanitarian catastrophe. This should be a key central concern for any honest dissident commentator today.

Cook writes of Monbiot:

Turning a blind eye to his behaviour, or worse excusing it, as too often happens, has only encouraged him to intensify his attacks on dissident writers, those who – whether right or wrong on any specific issue – are slowly helping us all to develop more critical perspectives on western foreign policy goals than has been possible ever before.

He adds that the many leftists:

who defend Monbiot, or turn a blind eye to his hypocrisy, largely do so because of his record on the environment. But in practice they are enabling not only his increasingly overt incitement against critical thinkers, but also undermining the very cause his supporters believe he champions.

Cook sums up:

All indications are that Monbiot lacks the experience, knowledge and skills to unravel the deceptions being perpetrated in the west’s proxy and not-so-proxy wars overseas. That is fair enough. What is not reasonable is that he should use his platforms to smear precisely those who can speak with a degree of authority and independence – and then conspire in denying them a platform to respond. That is the behaviour not only of a hypocrite, but of a bully too.

We will return later to that point of dissidents being denied a platform to reply. Meanwhile, Monbiot has not responded to Cook, as far as we are aware.

Ironically, of course, the Guardian sells itself as a fearless supporter of ‘open’ journalism, delivering ‘the independent journalism the world needs’. But, once again, there are always safe limits. Tim Hayward, mentioned above, is Professor of Environmental Political Theory at Edinburgh University. He recently recounted what happened after the Guardian published a long piece by Olivia Solon, a senior technology reporter for Guardian US in San Francisco. Solon argued that critical discussion of the White Helmets in Syria had been ‘propagated online by a network of anti-imperialist activists, conspiracy theorists and trolls with the support of the Russian government’.

After publishing this hit piece, the Guardian essentially shut down all discussion, refusing even to grant a right of reply to those who had been maligned, including independent journalists. Hayward described what happened after publication:

‘What the Guardian did next:
• quickly closed its comments section;
• did not allow a right of reply to those journalists singled out for denigration in the piece;
• did not allow publication of the considered response from a group of concerned academics;
• did not respond to the group’s subsequent letter, or a follow up email to it;
• prevaricated in response to telephone inquiries as to whether a decision against publishing either communication from the group had or had not been taken;
• failed to respond to a message to its Readers’ Editor from Vanessa Beeley, one of the journalists criticised in the article.’

George Monbiot played his part too, says Hayward:

tweeting smears against critics and suggesting they read up about “the Russian-backed disinformation campaign against Syria’s heroic rescue workers”.

This was disreputable behaviour from a ‘progressive’ journalist who claims that:

I believe that a healthy media organisation, like a healthy university, should admit a diversity of opinion.

The Guardian journalist added that newspapers, including his own, ‘should also seek opposing views and publish them too, however uncomfortable this might be.’ Monbiot’s own behaviour exposes these words as empty rhetoric.

Guardian Looks Beyond Corbyn To The Next ‘Centrist’ Candidate

Meanwhile, the Guardian is looking beyond the time when Corbyn is Labour leader. A recent article by Ian Sinclair in the Morning Star argues that the Guardian is putting its weight behind Emily Thornberry, Corbyn’s shadow foreign secretary. A Guardian interview with her was, unusually, advertised well over a week in advance of publication. It was a major feature in which she was described as ‘a key architect of Labour’s comeback, and widely tipped to be the party’s next leader’. But there was very little in the piece about the policies she espouses, not least foreign policy issues.

One such issue is the Middle East, which was wholly absent from the Guardian interview. Last November, Sinclair observes, Thornberry proclaimed that Israel ‘stands out as a beacon of freedom, equality and democracy’. And, in a December speech to Labour Friends of Israel, she described former Israeli prime minister Shimon Peres as ‘a hero of the left, of the state of Israel and of the cause of peace.’

Sinclair points out:

In contrast, in 2005, US dissident Noam Chomsky called Peres “an iconic mass murderer,” presumably for his role in the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians that led to the creation of Israel and for being head of government when Israel shelled a United Nations compound in Lebanon in 1996, killing over 100 civilians.

Thornberry’s comments on Israel, says Sinclair, ‘are a cause for concern for those who want to see an anti-imperialist, humane attitude towards international affairs’. He continues:

Thornberry is the perfect candidate for Guardian “centrist” types who would like to neuter Corbynism — someone who can gain the backing of significant numbers of Corbyn supporters while at the same time diluting the movement’s relative radicalism by returning the Labour Party to safer, Establishment-friendly ground.

The indications are that the ‘new look’ Guardian will be happy to promote a potential Labour leader who soft-pedals Israel’s crimes. This is part of a bigger picture of the paper offering little more than token criticism of elite Western power. We should not be surprised. No amount of redesign can gloss over the structural issues that ensure the Guardian remains very firmly a liberal pillar of the establishment and essentially a guardian of the power-friendly status quo.

The Persecution of Julian Assange

We need a political intervention to make this situation end. He (Assange) is the only political prisoner in Western Europe.

Juan Branco

The persecution of Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks, is now seven years old. Ecuador has protected Assange for the past half decade from being turned over to Washington by the corrupt Swedish and British for torture and prosecution as a spy by giving Assange political asylum inside the Ecuadoran Embassy in London. Ecuador has now given citizenship to Assange and attempted to provide his safe transit out of England by giving him diplomatic status, but the British government continued in its assigned role of jailer by rejecting Ecuador’s request for diplomatic status for Assange, just as the most servile of Washington’s puppet states rejected the order by the UN Committee on Arbitrary Detention to immediate release Assange from his arbitrary detention.

Assange got into trouble with Washington, because his news organization, Wikileaks, published files released by Bradley Manning. The files were a tremendous embarrassment to Washington, because they showed how Washington conspires against governments and betrays its allies, and the files contained an audio/video film of US military forces murdering innocent people walking down a street and then murdering a father and his two young children who stopped to give aid to the civilians the American soldiers had shot. The film revealed the heartlessness and criminal cruelty of the US troops, who were enjoying playing a real live video game with real people as their victims.

It was Manning who suffered, not the troops who committed murder. Manning was held for two years in conditions that experts said constituted torture while a case was framed against him. Some believe the harsh conditions affected his mind. Manning was convicted by a kangaroo court and sentenced to 35 years in prison, but Obama in an act of humanity unusual for Washington pardoned Manning.

Washington wanted Assange as well, and the chance came when two Swedish women who, attracted to Assange by his celebrity status, seduced him. The two women had not secured the cooperation they wanted from Assange in the use of condoms and, brainwashd by HIV fears, wanted Assange to join them in being tested.

Assange, misreading the extent of their fears, was too slow to comply, and the women went to the police to see if he could be required to be tested. According to the women, the police made up the charge of rape. The women themselves disavow the charge.

The charges were investigated, and the chief Swedish prosecutor Eva Finne dismissed the charges, saying “there is no suspicion of any crime whatsoever.”

Mysteriously, the case was reopened by another prosecutor, Marianne Ny, who many suspect was operating at the behest of Washington. On November 30, two days after Assange began publishing the Cablegate materials leaked by Bradley Manning, Ny issured an Interpol “red alert” arrest warrant for Assange. This was an unusual request as no charges were outstanding against Assange, and hitherto extradiction from one country to another on an arrest warrant required actual charges, whereas Ny said she wanted Assange for questioning. Most everyone in the know understood that Washington had ordered Sweden to get its hands on Assange and to turn him over to Washington.

Assange challenged the legality of the arrest warrant in British courts, but the British court, many believe following Washington’s orders, ruled against the law and in favor of Washington. Assange assented to the arrest and presented himself to a British police station. He was placed in solitary confinement at Wandsworth prison. If memory serves, the daughter of Sir James Goldsmith paid his bond and he was placed under house arrest. When it became clear that the Swedish prosecutor wanted Assange for Washington, not for any charges against him in Sweden, Ecuador give him asylum, and he fled to the embassy in London.

Where he has been ever since.

Sweden has closed the case a second time, and Assange is no longer wanted for questioning in Sweden. Therefore, there is no longer any reason for the British to hold him for Sweden. But the British government never were holding Assange for Sweden. The British were holding him for Washington. And they still are. Even thought Sweden has closed a case based on a false report by police and have no basis for any charges against Assange, the British government says it will grab him the minute he steps outside the embassy.

The British are so desperate to serve their Washington master that once they even declared that they were going to violate diplomatic immunity and invade the Ecuadoran Embassy and seize Assange.

The British excuse for a once proud government’s continuing servitude to Washington as Assange’s jailer is that by taking asylum in the embassy Assange jumped bail and therefore the British have to arrest him for not surrendering a second time to the police for an investigation that has been closed.

Stefania Maurizi, an Italian investigative journalist for La Repubblica, smelling the stench of fraud that covers the entire case, has been trying for two years to get her hands on the correspondence between the UK, US, and Swedish governments pertaining to the case in order to pull back the shroud of the Washington-orchestrated propaganda that colors the case. A British tribunal refused to release any documents on the grounds that it had to protect the British Prosecution Service’s relationship with foreign authorities.

That tells you all you need to know. Julian Assange has lost seven years of his life because stinking dirty Washington wanted revenge on Assange for exercising the US Constitution-protected right of a free press, and the stinking dirty governments of Sweden and Britain did Washington’s dirty work. What we know for certain is that Assange is totally innocent and that there is no honor and no integrity in the US, Swedish, and British governments. Law means nothing to the scum that misrule these countries.

In the US and probably throughout Europe, politicians and feminists, with the exception of Katrin Axelsson and Lisa Longstaff, used the presstitute media to paint Assange as a rapist and as a spy. The feminists cared nothing about any truth; they just wanted a man to demonize. Truth was the last thing on politicians’ minds. They just wanted to divert attention from Washington’s crimes and betrayals of allies by portraying Assange as a threat and traitor to America. They were unconcerned that Assange could not be a traitor to America as he is not an American citizen. In actual fact, there is no basis in law for any US claim against Assange. Yet because of Washington and its servile British puppet state, Assange remains interred in the Embassy of Ecuador in London. Clearly, honor and respect for law reside in Ecuador, not in the US, UK, or Sweden.

But facts, along with law and civil liberty, have ceased to mean anything in the Western world. The corrupt US Attorney General Jeff Sessions said that the arrest of Assange is a “priority.” The British police, mere lackeys of Washington, said that they would still arrest Assange, despite the case being dropped, if he left the embassy.

For the British, serving Washington is a higher calling than the honor of their country.

What do you call somebody who supports Israel?

If opposing Israel is anti-semitism then what do you call supporting a state that has been engaged in brutal ethnic cleansing for seven decades. What does that make you?

It’s a question posed by Miko Peled, an Israeli Jew and son of an Israeli general, former Israeli soldier and now a leading voice in the struggle for Palestinian freedom. You couldn’t find a more authentic insider.

What else has Peled been saying about Israel?

The name of the game: erasing Palestine, getting rid of the people and de-Arabizing the country…

As for talk about Israel giving up the West Bank for a Palestinian state:

If it wasn’t so sad it would be funny. It shows a complete misunderstanding of the objective of Zionism and the Zionist state…. By 1993 the Israelis had achieved their mission to make the conquest of the West Bank irreversible.

Peled also describes the Israeli army, in which he served, as:

one of the best trained and best equipped and best fed terrorist organisations in the world.

So let’s repeat Peled’s question. What does supporting Israel make you when Israel has been busy ethnically cleansing the native Palestinians for seven decades? What should we call people who defend the indefensible?… who admire the despicable?… who applaud the expulsion at gunpoint of peaceable civilians and the confiscation of their homes and land?

Give them a name, one that will stick.

The claim by Conservative Friends of Israel that 80 percent of the party’s MPs and MEPs are members is alarming and reveals how lacking in integrity we are at the heart of government. It puts us almost on a par with US Congress which is almost totally controlled by the Israel lobby through AIPAC.

Being a Friend of Israel, of course, means embracing the whole rotten kit and caboodle, including the terror and racism on which the state of Israel was built. It means embracing the dispossession and oppression of innocent Palestinians. It means embracing the discriminatory laws against those who remain n their homeland. It means embracing the jackboot thuggery that abducts civilians — including children — and imprisons and tortures them without trial. It means embracing the theft and annexation of Palestinian land and water resources, the imposition of hundreds of military checkpoints, severe restrictions on the movement of people and goods, and maximum interference with Palestinian life at every level.

It means approving the bloodbaths inflicted by Israel on Gaza and feeling comfortable with blowing hundreds of children to smithereens, maiming thousands more, trashing vital infrastructure such as hospitals, schools, power plants and clean water supplies, and causing $6bn of devastation that will take 20 years to rebuild. And, by the way, where is the money coming from?

It means embracing the strangulation of the West Bank’s economy and the vicious ten-year blockade on Gaza. It means embracing the denial of Palestinians’ right to self-determination and return to their homes. It means embracing the religious war that humiliates Muslims and Christians and prevents them from visiting their holy places. It means endorsing a situation in which hard-pressed American and British taxpayers are having to subsidise Israel’s illegal occupation of the Holy Land.

And if, after all that, you are still Israel’s special friend, where is your self-respect?

It is ludicrous that a foreign military power which has no regard for international law and rejects weapons conventions and safeguards can exert such influence on foreign policy in the US and UK. Pandering to Israel has been immensely costly in blood and treasure and stupidly damaging to our reputation.

Everyone outside the Westminster/Washington bubble knows perfectly well that there can be no peace in the Holy Land without justice. In other words no peace until the occupation ends. Everyone knows that international law and countless UN resolutions still wait to be enforced. Everyone knows that Israel won’t comply unless sanctions are imposed. Everyone knows that the siege on Gaza won’t be lifted until warships are sent.

What’s more, everyone now knows that the US is not an honest broker, Israel wants to keep the pot boiling and justice won’t come from more sham ‘negotiations’. Nor will peace. Everyone knows who is the real cause of turmoil in the Middle East. And everyone knows that Her Majesty’s Government’s hand-wringing and empty words serve no purpose except to prolong the daily misery for Palestinians and buy time for Israel to complete its criminal scheme to make the occupation permanent.

Churchgoing British prime minister Theresa May praises Israel for being “a thriving democracy, a beacon of tolerance” when it is obviously neither. It’s an obnoxious ethnocracy. She says our two countries share “common values” when we obviously don’t — although her rotten party probably does.

Given the Israeli regime’s endless crimes against humanity and cruelty to the rightful inhabitants of the Holy Land her remarks are insulting to anyone who lives by Christian values. She even claims that Israel is a country where people of all religions “are free and equal in the eyes of the law” and “Israel guarantees the rights of people of all religions, races and sexualities, and it wants to enable everyone to flourish”. Her ignorance in these matters rivals Trump’s.

And May would do well to call off her efforts to criminalise the successful BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) campaign, which is a grass-roots civil society based resistance movement. She warns that her government will “have no truck with those who subscribe to it”.  But Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights bestows on everyone “the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers”. So she boobs even on that.

In an interview with Jonas Alexis, Miko Peled sounds upbeat about BDS. As long as Israel has a blank check [cheque] from the US and the UK and is undefeatable militarily and diplomatically, BDS “is possibly the only positive change one can point to at this time.”

Many of us have urged beefing up BDS, extending its reach and orchestrating its efforts globally. There seems no other way to force the spineless international community to finally impose the sanctions they should have slapped on Israel decades ago.

It has got to the point where I wouldn’t mind seeing individuals among the political élites targeted by BDS if they deserve it. And many of them surely do.

Panic of Boris Johnson in Moscow: Agony of a Rotting Empire

It has been all very ugly, aggressive and often distinctly vulgar: the way the British Foreign Secretary has behaved before and during his official visit to Moscow.

Mr. Johnson described Russia as “closed, nasty, militaristic and anti-democratic” concluding that it could not be “business as usual”.

He did not define what the UK has become, and the Russian hosts were too polite to explain.

The “business as usual” it was not.

During the last few weeks, the behavior patterns of both the UK and US have began increasingly to resemble those of the badly brought up leadership of the provincial Italian mafia: “You do as we tell you, or we’ll poke out your eyes… or break your leg… or perhaps we’ll kidnap your daughter”.

It appears that there is absolutely no shame left in Washington, in London, and in several other ‘provincial capitals’ of the Empire. Insults are piling on insults and then shot to all corners of the globe. Lies are being spread barefacedly, and bizarre deceptions and fabrications have been manufactured with impressive speed.

It is clear that the Empire is now missing its composure, its nerve; that it is scared of losing its control over the world and its monopoly on deciding what should be universally accepted as the truth.

The more the world realizes that it has been controlled and brutalized by shameless neo-colonialist gangsters, the more the Empire says, indirectly but sometimes even straight into the faces of the international community: “Our interests are what really matter! You will behave and obey, or we will smash you to pieces, starve you to death, invade you and bathe your land in blood”.

It is nothing new, of course: the West has been doing all this for many decades and centuries. Hundreds of millions of Asians, Africans, South Americans, Middle Easterners and Russians lost their lives in the process. All non-white continents were occupied, plundered and enslaved; all, without a single exception. But it was always done “for the good of the victims”, or “in order to protect them” (most likely from themselves).

The Brits were at the forefront of the art of manipulating the brains of their ‘subjects’. Their propaganda used to be refined, effective, some would even say ‘brilliant’. For decades after the end of the Second World War, they used to teach its offspring in North America and Australia, how to lie elegantly and how to convince even those nations that were being barbarically raped, that they were actually being rescued, pampered and made love to, gently and respectfully.

Now the masks have fallen off, and the ugly, gangrenous face of imperialism has been clearly exposed. Britain is simply not in the mood for refinements. It is brutal. It was always brutal. Now it is also, finally, honest.

It is all absolutely frightening, but it is also good, truly significant, that the West is suddenly behaving with such clarity.

*****

 

What is it that Mr. Johnson is accusing Russia of? Of liberating Syria from those Western, Saudi, and Qatari backed terrorist groups? What else could be expected from the Foreign Secretary of the country that had been, for long centuries, the mightiest, ruthless and the most deceptive colonialist empire in the history of the mankind? Mr. Johnson is definitely not going to thank the liberator of the oppressed people, is it?

In his open letter to Boris Johnson, the British writer and journalist Neil Clark wrote:

In April you canceled your planned visit to Moscow and traveled to the G7 talks instead, where you urged other countries to consider fresh sanctions against Russia (and Syria), saying that Vladimir Putin was “toxifying his image” by backing Assad.

But if Russia hadn’t supported the Syrian government, ISIS/Al-Qaeda affiliates would probably have taken control of the whole country. Is that what you wanted?

Of course it was! More chaos, the better!

The UK has been playing appalling, truly Machiavellian games all over the Middle East, and it has been doing it for centuries – in Palestine, in what is now Iraq and Kuwait, and in many other areas. To borrow from the colorful lexicon of the Prime Minister Lloyd George, it was reserving rights “to bomb those niggers”, to bomb them and to fry them alive, to rob them of everything, even of the land itself. The UK, together with their close friends and allies such as Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab, managed to manufacture the most conservative branch of Islam, just in order to keep the local population in fear and submission to its commercial and colonialist interests.

The country responsible for hundreds of millions of dead, for tens of millions of human beings who have been hunted down like animals and shipped to America as slaves, has been reserving the right to judge the world, to decide what is ‘free’ and what is not, what is ‘democratic’ and what is dictatorial, what is true and what is false or even ‘fake’.

‘Fake news’ – the latest invention of the crumbling, paranoid Western regime!

Now the Empire is hunting down almost all ‘alternative media’ outlets, including the highly successful and informative RT (Russia Today) international television channel. It is important to remember and to understand: only the official Western channels and press agencies are allowed to spread indoctrination all over the world. To broadcast or to print ‘counter-propaganda’ (or call it an intellectual detox) is considered an arch crime, and punished as such. The RT is now portrayed as a hive of ‘agents’, at least in both Washington and London.

*****

As the Syrian city of Aleppo was celebrating its first anniversary of liberation, grateful citizens were carrying, in reverent silence, portraits of Russian soldiers who spilled their blood for the liberation of their nation.

The Syrian people know, they clearly understand, who ignited the war, and who came to their rescue.

Boris Johnson can insult Russia as much as he desires, but one thing he cannot deny: there are no men, women and children carrying portraits of British soldiers, be it in Iraq or Afghanistan, in Syria, Libya or Yemen.

In Yemen, the UK talks peace but manufactures bombs that are enriching the already deadly Saudi arsenal of weapons, used to terrorize, and to murder thousands of defenseless Yemeni civilians.

Russian Foreign Secretary Sergei Lavrov said nothing about the crimes against humanity that are being committed by British troops in several parts of the world. I believe that he should have said something, that he should have said a lot, but Mr. Lavrov is a seasoned diplomat, and he knows perfectly well what is appropriate, what is effective and what is counter-productive.

*****

Yes, the Empire is evidently in panic.

It is scared of everything: of public opinion all over the world, of the great Chinese new Silk Road initiative which is gaining great popularity all over the Asian continent, of the Sino-Russian alliance, of the silent rebellion in the ranks of its former allies, particularly in Asia, of the undeniably increasing economic might of its adversaries, of the new ‘alternative media’, and even of its own tail lost somewhere in the darkness.

For many years, one effective way for the Empire to control the world was to spread dark cynicism and nihilism, in order to ‘pacify’, to immobilize its colonies and even its own people living in Europe and North America. Now this strategy is backfiring: British and North American citizens are not only passive and unwilling to fight for the internationalist and left wing ideals, they are also unimpressed, even disgusted with their own rulers and regime. Yes, most of them are cynical about such countries like Russia, China or Venezuela, but they are also cynical about the corporatism, capitalism, as well as Western domestic and foreign policy. They are not willing to commit to anything. They trust nothing. They believe in very few things.

For the Empire, people like Boris Johnson are extremely useful buffoons: they offer cheap entertainment to the masses, and they deliver it with impeccable upper-class English accents (the BBC-style). They play it dirty, trying to smear, to humiliate their opponents. They try to bring back pride to their imperialist and white supremacist regime, by humiliating the victims, who are now finally standing on their feet and ready to fight for the right to be different.

People like Mr. Johnson turn reality upside down, and it is all done ‘spontaneously’, with a boyish, almost innocent grin. Except that there is actually absolutely nothing innocent in this entire charade. It is all perfectly choreographed, all extremely professional.

*****

The Empire is rotting and it is in agony. It panics. It fights for its life.

Peace is dangerous. If the world is at peace, it is indisputable that the Western Empire would lose, in no time. It would be defeated on social, moral, creative and even economic fronts.

That is why the Empire is spreading chaos, fear, war, perpetual conflicts and antagonism everywhere, all over the world: in Syria and Afghanistan, Libya, in all corners of Africa and parts of Southeast Asia, in Iran, Central and South America, even in the tiniest countries of Oceania.

It is challenging, provoking North Korea, it is insulting countries that have already suffered more than enough from Western terror and barbarism; countries like Russia, China and Iran.

It threatens those nations (and even some international organizations like UNESCO) that are supporting Palestine.

It essentially bullies all those who want to live their own lives, their own cultures, and their own economic and social systems. It punishes those countries that are refusing to plunder their own people and resources in order to support the high-life of the Western nations. It overthrows governments, and murders individuals.

*****

In Moscow, the British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson made a fool of himself. He did! With his unmistakable spineless jellyfish style, he tried but failed to humiliate the nation, which, for several centuries fought determinedly against Western imperialism and colonialism, and, on numerous occasions has already managed to save the world.

Mr. Johnson applied an old and rather disgusting approach: he came to Russia with spite and superiority complex, ready to preach, to insult, to scold those white-looking but essentially Asian people – to ‘show them their place’.

But this is 2017 now, not 1990. London is not the center of the universe, anymore, just the capital of a confused and rather aggressive and increasingly badly behaved nation.

The British bulldog came to Moscow. Frankly, it did not even look like a bulldog, anymore – it looked totally… weird: stoned and mentally unbalanced. It barked and barked, while the Russian bear was calm, maintaining its composure. It was clear who of the two has the upper hand, and who is provoking and who is refusing to fight. It was also obvious who of the two is really scared.

And, it was so apparent to whom belongs the past and to whom belongs the future!

• First published in New Eastern Outlook (NEO)

Trump Administration ends 2017 on a Sour Note

As if Trump’s crass announcement moving the US embassy to Jerusalem wasn’t enough, his minions on Monday vetoed a UN Security Council draft resolution calling on the President to withdraw US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Even his hand-in-hand friend Theresa May, another pimp for Israel, is against him in this. “On Jerusalem, I made it clear that we disagree with the United States’ decision to move its embassy and recognise Jerusalem as the Israeli capital before a final status agreement,” she declared. “Like our EU partners, we will not be following suit, but it is vital that we continue to work with the United States to encourage it to bring forward proposals that will re-energise the peace process. That must be based around support for a two-state solution and an acknowledgement that the final status of Jerusalem must be subject to negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians.”

What exactly would final status and a two-state solution look like? Nobody is saying. Possibly because they all know that the idea has been filed in the too-difficult tray for at least 20 years. There was nothing wrong with the original UN plan to make Jerusalem an international city under separate control. Why not revive that? And if the international community really wanted two states why did they spend decades giving Israel endless opportunities to establish irreversible ‘facts on the ground’ designed to make the occupation permanent? Nothing will now change without the use of force or extreme sanctions. And there’s no sign of that happening.
So please do everyone a favour, US, UK and EU. Spare us that tired old mantra.

Trump’s interference in Jerusalem’s status “null and void”

The draft resolution vetoed by the US was supported by all 14 other members of the Security Council. It called on the US President to withdraw recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and said “any decisions and actions which purport to have altered the character, status or demographic composition of the Holy City of Jerusalem have no legal effect, are null and void, and must be rescinded in compliance with relevant resolutions of the Security Council.” It required all countries not to establish diplomatic missions in Jerusalem.

America’s ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, stretched credibility far beyond breaking point by saying that the veto was “in defense of American sovereignty and in defense of America’s role in the Middle East peace process…. The United States will not be told by any country where we can put our embassy.

“Today” she said, “for the simple act of deciding where to put its embassy, the United States was forced to defend its sovereignty… Today, for acknowledging the basic truth that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, we are accused of harming peace. The record will reflect that we reject that outrageous claim.”

When did Israel’s claim to Jerusalem become a “basic truth”?

Haley boasted that the US had done more than any other country to assist the Palestinian people, providing them with more than $5 billion in assistance since 1994 and funding 30% of the UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency) budget. In reality these mighty sums subsidise Israel’s ongoing illegal military occupation. Had Palestinians been left in peace they would be making their own way in the world at no cost to others.

Haley also seized the chance to slam UN Security Council Resolution 2334 adopted a year earlier. Obama, who was President then, opted to abstain rather than veto the measure, allowing it to pass.

2334 reaffirms that the establishment by Israel of settlements in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, has no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law and a major obstacle to the achievement of the two-state solution and a just, lasting and comprehensive peace;

It reiterates its demand that Israel immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, and that it fully respects all of its legal obligations in this regard;

It underlines that it will not recognize any changes to the 4 June 1967 lines, including with regard to Jerusalem, other than those agreed by the parties through negotiations;

And it stresses that the cessation of all Israeli settlement activities is essential for salvaging the two-state solution, and calls for affirmative steps to be taken immediately to reverse the negative trends on the ground that are imperiling the two-sate solution.

What is there not to like or understand about that? Nevertheless, “Given the chance to vote again on Resolution 2334,” Haley said, “I can say with complete confidence that the US would vote ‘no’; we would exercise our veto power.”

Netanyahu’s reaction to UNSC Resolution 2334 had been entirely predictable: “Peace will come not through UN resolutions, but only through direct negotiations between the parties.” He would say that, wouldn’t he, with his military jackboot on the neck of the Palestinian people. His style of negotiation, as always, is holding a gun to the head of the other party. As everyone, especially America, knows, peace doesn’t suit Israel’s purpose although the pretense of seeking peace does.

What sensible peace proposals have there been?

Haley insisted that while Resolution 2334 described Israeli settlements as impediments to peace, it was the resolution itself that was an impediment. “Misplacing the blame for the failure of the peace efforts squarely on Israeli settlements, the resolution gave a pass to Palestinian leaders who for many years rejected one peace proposal after another,” she said.

Have there been any credible peace proposals? By now, surely, everyone realises that the Israeli regime has never wanted peace. They’ve said so loud and clear. Land-grabbing and ethnic cleansing is what they do, so the jackboot of Israeli occupation must remain firmly on the Palestinians’ neck.

And as far as I’m aware, no-one has actually told us what the two-state solution they keep banging on about would look like. No-one, that is, since Ehud Barak and his “generous offer” to the Palestinians in the summer of 2000. Zio enthusiasts like Haley, to this day, heap blame on the Palestinians for turning down Barak’s bizarre plan and others like it.

So what did this amazing deal amount to? The West Bank and the Gaza Strip, seized by Israel in 1967 and occupied ever since, comprise just 22% of pre-partition Palestine. When the Palestinians signed the Oslo Agreement in 1993 they agreed to accept the 22% and recognise Israel within the internationally recognised ‘Green Line’ borders (i.e. the 1949 Armistice Line established after the Arab-Israeli War). Conceding 78% of the land that was originally theirs was an extraordinary gesture on the Palestinians’ part.

But it wasn’t enough for greedy Israel. Barak’s oh-so-generous peace offer demanded the inclusion of 69 Israeli settlements within that 22% Palestinian remnant. It was obvious on the map that those settlement blocs created impossible borders and already severely disrupted Palestinian life in the West Bank. Barak also demanded the Palestinian territories be placed under “Temporary Israeli Control”, meaning Israeli military and administrative control indefinitely. The offer also gave Israel control over all the border crossings of the new Palestinian State. What nation in the world would accept that? Of course, it was rejected. But the ludicrous reality of Barak’s two-state solution was cleverly hidden from the rest of the world by elaborate propaganda spin.

Later, at the Taba talks, Barak produced a revised map but withdrew it after his election defeat. The ugly facts of the matter are well documented and explained by organisations such as Israel’s own Gush Shalom, yet Israel lobby stooges continue to peddle the lie that Israel offered the Palestinians a deal they couldn’t refuse. Is Barak’s crazed vision of two states the one the US, UK and EU still have in mind when they prattle on about a peace process?

Crude blackmail

In response to America’s veto an emergency meeting of the UN General Assembly (where vetoes are not permitted) was called on Thursday to consider a resolution, co-sponsored by Turkey and Yemen, calling Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel “null and void” and reaffirming 10 security council resolutions on Jerusalem, dating back to 1967, including the requirement that the city’s final status must be decided in direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

It also demanded that “all states comply with security council resolutions regarding the holy city of Jerusalem, and not recognise any actions or measures contrary to those resolutions”.

Trump had threatened to withhold $billions of US aid from countries that voted in favour. Ambassador Haley wrote to about 180 of 193 member states warning she would be “taking names” of countries that voted for the resolution.

The Guardian reports Trump as saying: “Let them vote against us. We’ll save a lot. We don’t care. But this isn’t like it used to be where they could vote against you and then you pay them hundreds of millions of dollars,” he said. “We’re not going to be taken advantage of any longer.”

His remarks appeared to be directed at UN member states in Africa, Asia and Latin America who are vulnerable to US pressure, including Egypt which drafted the UNSC resolution vetoed by the US and which received $1.2bn in US aid last year. Trump’s threat could also affect the UK which hopes to negotiate a favourable post-Brexit trade deal with Washington.

But his gutter tactics backfired spectacularly. 128 member countries including, I’m glad to say, the UK voted in favour of the resolution supporting the longstanding international consensus. Only nine states – including the United States and Israel – voted against; the rest either abstained or stayed away. A stinging rebuke, then, for Trump and his delinquent diplomacy.

Iran vilified as usual

Earlier, we saw a Saban Forum interview with Jared Kushner, Trump’s son in law and senior adviser on Middle East peace. Questioned about why his ‘team’ had no experts, Kushner replied: “It’s not a conventional team, but it’s a perfectly qualified team. When we were thinking how to put a team together, the President and I focused on who are the most qualified people, who had the right qualification and whom we both trusted.”

So they opted for a real estate lawyer and a bankruptcy lawyer. They have nobody truly qualified in Middle East affairs.

Talking about the Palestinians and Israelis Kushner insisted that “both sides really trust the President, and that’s very important”.

He observed: “Many countries in the region see Israel as a much more likely ally than it was 20 years ago because of Iran, because of ISIS.” He spoke of issues of great concern: “You have Iran and their nuclear ambitions and their expansive regional mischief…”

No mention, of course, of Israel’s nuclear domination and expansive regional mischief.

And he simply couldn’t stop himself demonising Iran. “A lot of countries felt Iran was being emboldened and there was no check on their aggression,” he added. “The president has been very clear about his intentions on this issue, and going to Saudi Arabia and laying out a priority of fighting Iran’s aggression was significant.” Kushner said that unifying everyone against Iran’s aggression is a “world problem”.

He should read the history of US (and UK) aggression against Iran before opening his mouth again of this subject.

There was no mention of international law in the interview, just getting deals done. Peace and strengthening US-Israel relationship is central, according to Kushner. Which, of course, disqualifies the US as a broker.

The Saban Forum interview is touted by some as a humiliation for Kushner. I don’t agree. Jared Kushner came across as an intelligent and even likable specimen of Zionism, thoughtful and with none of the usual arrogance. But he was shown up as naive, out of his depth and unfit to serve in that position. His performance also emphasised the lunacy of allowing the commander-in-chief of a so-called democracy to bring in his family members and business cronies to meddle in the affairs of state. There’s an unfortunate word for that: nepotism.

It is surely time for Trump, as a world leader, to decide whether to live up to his responsibility to respect and uphold international law and the norms of human conduct. Otherwise he should find other employment before he does any more damage.

The last word goes to the Palestinian ambassador in London, Prof Manuel Hassassian, who hits the nail smack on the head:

The US has dug itself into a position where it is set to find itself, alongside Israel, in a face-off with the majority of world nations – outlaws trying to dictate the law. We hope and trust the global community will not waiver in the face of such bullying tactics and do the right thing under international law and the right thing for Palestine and the Palestinians.

What Price Humanity?

Born in Sudan, Asima fled violent conflict in her homeland and sought asylum in Britain. Poorly educated, unemployed and vulnerable, she relies on state benefits, which are conditional and inadequate, to survive.

At the beginning of October her father had a stroke. Thanks to the kindness of a friend who paid her airfare, Asima visited him in Ethiopia. Upon returning to London, she discovered her rent payments had been stopped by the local authority because she’d been abroad longer than the 28-day limit. In fact she was away 30 days, two days over the regulated time.

The effect of this decision is that Asima will fall further into debt, may well be evicted for rent arrears and could be made homeless. The anxiety that enshrouds her will intensify, despair deepen; it is another blow in a life littered with pain and distress, reinforcing a view of systemic injustice. Whist the rich and privileged are legally allowed to stash millions away in off-shore accounts to avoid paying tax, a poor refugee is penalized if she strays over the narrow lines of control within which she is forced to live.

Slaves to the System

Asima’s story is a small example of the petty systemic injustice that impacts on virtually everyone and is destroying the lives of millions of people throughout the world.

Based on an outdated, corrupt ideology, the socio-economic systems that govern people’s lives are broken totally and need to be radically overhauled. Inherently unjust they punish the most vulnerable, reward the privileged and wealthy and promote divisive, unhealthy values that have penetrated into all areas of life. Throughout the world we see evidence that the old order is in a state of terminal decay, and yet corporate politicians, lacking vision and unable to respond to widespread cries for change, cling to the doctrine of the past.

The driving ethos behind the current systems of governance and business is commercialization; a poisonous market-led monster, which dictates government policy, determines how businesses operate, and fashions the rules that govern how organizations of all kinds engage with people and the natural environment. Human beings are regarded as little more than sources of revenue; their capacity to spend, to invest and consume determining how they are treated, respected and valued. Driving virtually every decision within the suffocating confines of the ideal is an addiction to profit, market share and short-term gain.

In such a world, if a human being – Asima, for example – makes a mistake, is unable to pay for whatever they need, or cannot understand the constraints of the system they are trapped in, she, or he, will be punished; beaten – metaphorically or actually – socially expelled, forced into destitution, their cries for compassion and justice ignored.

The omnipresent threat of penalties aids the creation of an atmosphere of fear, resulting in epidemic levels of anxiety and related mental health issues. This pervasive fear allows for the perpetuation of debilitating systems and policies, such as the housing regulations that Asima fell foul of. Fear of authority, fear of failure, fear of being punished, fear of more extreme poverty and increased social exclusion: all such forms of fear are cultivated. The motive is control; it is a great deal easier to manipulate a fearful populace than a fearless, contented, empowered one. The effect is to reduce life to a torturous ordeal in which simply surviving is the daily goal of existence.

Rights For Sale

As a world community we have established a variety of international agreements that enshrine principles of fairness. Chief among these is that triumph of brotherhood, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). Article 25 of the charter makes clear that every human being, irrespective of background or income, has a right to “a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services.” However, within the existing Paradigm of Misery these rights are reserved for those who can afford them. Like everything else in this monetized world, they are Rights for Sale.

In countries where some level of welfare support is provided, only the bare minimum is allowed: Second-rate accommodation, cheap, unhealthy food and, more often than not, poor education and inadequate health care. The limited support that is provided is conditional on strict regulations, as set down by National and local government, being adhered to: Violate the rules, for whatever reason, and that squalid room you and your children are living in could be taken away from you, the children potentially placed in care.

Administrators of policy are forced to make decisions within government imposed constrains that deny flexibility and crush compassion. A subtle process of dehumanization takes place within such environments: Allegiance to the system is paramount and overt expressions of kindness and understanding are discouraged; after all, if the rules were breached then the flood gates would swing open, abuse of the system would occur (abuse of individuals, of course, is permitted) and chaos would ensue, so we are told. Well, look around — north, south, east and west: Chaos Reigns.

Dehumanization, together with concentrations of power, creates an environment in which a range of abuse can take place. It begins in small ways, perhaps unnoticed to anyone other than the victim. Initially the disadvantaged and vulnerable are disrespected, disregarded and ignored, then verbally insulted and dismissed. From here it is a small step to being able to physically assault someone, a push becomes a slap, a slap turns into a punch, and so on, until ultimately the perpetrator has become so divorced from their own humanity that gratuitous violence and murder (including genocide) becomes possible.

Abuse and exploitation of the most vulnerable in society, whether in the form of inferior accommodation, education and health care, mundane poorly paid employment, domestic/slave labour and prostitution, or child labour and trafficking, flows from and is maintained by systemic social injustice.

We live in a time when inequality of wealth, income and influence is thought to be greater than at any time in history. Inequality strengthens social injustice and with it the existence of The Privileged and The Disadvantaged. Of those who have influence and feel they are entitled to everything, and those who expect little, receive even less but need most. Government policies are fashioned by The Privileged for their own benefit. The Disadvantaged, having little or no voice, are ignored, allowing the Cycle of Containment to be maintained, change to be suppressed and social divisions to deepen.

Sitting at the center of this socio-economic tragedy is an economic ideology that is not simply unjust, it is inhumane. Compassion and human empathy are pushed into the shadows in the Neo-Liberal paradigm, selfishness, division and exploitation encouraged. The system promotes short-term materialistic values and works against mankind’s natural inclination towards unity, social responsibility and cooperation, inherent qualities that are consistently made manifest in times of crisis, individual hardship and collective need.

Asima will appeal against the local authority’s decision, but has been informed by the bureaucrat in the Town Hall that the only acceptable reason for an extended stay abroad is the death of a family member — a stroke is apparently insufficient.

Survival? Symptoms Of Breakdown

If the human species survives long enough, future historians might well marvel at what passed for ‘mainstream‘ media and politics in the early 21st century.

They will see that a UK Defence Secretary had to resign because of serious allegations of sexual misconduct; or, as he put it euphemistically, because he had ‘fallen short‘. But he did not have to resign because of the immense misery he had helped to inflict upon Yemen. Nor was he made to resign when he told MPs to stop criticising Saudi Arabia because that would be ‘unhelpful‘ while the UK government was trying to sell the human rights-abusing extremist regime in Riyadh more fighter jets and weapons. After all, the amount sold in the first half of 2017 was a mere £1.1 billion. (See our recent media alert for more on this.) Right now, the UK is complicit in a Saudi blockade of Yemen’s ports and airspace, preventing the delivery of vital medicine and food aid. 7.3 million Yemenis are already on the brink of famine, and the World Food Programme has warned of the deaths of 150,000 malnourished children in the next few months.

Meanwhile, Robert Peston, ITV political editor, and Laura Kuenssberg, BBC News political editor, have seemingly never questioned the British Prime Minister Theresa May about the UK’s shameful role in arming and supporting Yemen’s cruel tormentor. Nor have they responded when challenged about their own silence.

Future historians will also note that British newspapers, notably The Times and the ‘left-leaning’ Guardian, published several sycophantic PR pieces for Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, ‘a risk-taker with a zeal for reform’. ‘Is he taking on too much too fast?’, asked a swooning Patrick Wintour, the Guardian‘s diplomatic editor. Martin Chulov, the paper’s Middle East correspondent, waxed lyrical about the Crown Prince’s ‘bold move’ in arresting senior royals, a prominent Saudi billionaire and scores of former ministers as part of a ‘corruption purge’. The dramatic action was designed to ‘consolidate power’ while bin Salman ‘attempts to reform [the] kingdom’s economy and society’. As Adam Johnson noted in a media analysis piece for Fairness in Accuracy And Reporting, the Guardian‘s coverage was akin to a ‘breathless press release.’ A follow-up article by Chulov, observed Johnson, ‘took flattering coverage to new extremes’. The ‘rush to reform’ was presented uncritically by the paper, painting the Crown Prince as a kind of populist hero; ‘a curious framing that reeks more of PR than journalism.’

Meanwhile, Richard Spencer, Middle East editor of The Times, wrote articles proclaiming, ‘Prince’s bold vision drives progress in Saudi Arabia’ and ‘It’s wrong to blame all terror on the Saudis’, featuring such propaganda bullet points as:

The Saudis are on our side, arresting militants and giving us vital intelligence.

In October 2017, The Times even ran a four-part series promoting a Saudi conference to attract investment in the head-chopping kingdom with the lure of ‘sweeping social and economic reforms’. As for any awkward questions about the brutality Saudi Arabia was inflicting on Yemen, well, they were swept away.

Historians examining media archives from this time will also observe that Gordon Brown, Chancellor of the Exchequer in Tony Blair’s government, opined that the UK had been ‘misled’ about Iraq’s supposed weapons of mass destruction:

Top-secret US intelligence casting serious doubt over [Saddam Hussein’s] destructive capabilities was not shared with Britain.

As a result, claimed Brown, Blair was ‘duped‘ into invading Iraq. And thus ‘duped’ into shared responsibility for the deaths of around one million Iraqis.

‘Mainstream’ news journalists blandly reported Brown’s miserable excuses without demur. They failed to mention that former UN chief weapons inspector Scott Ritter had comprehensively dismissed the propaganda notion of Saddam as a threat well before the US-led invasion of March 2003. Ritter’s team had concluded that Iraq had been ‘fundamentally disarmed‘, with anything that remained being simply ‘useless sludge’ because of the limited ‘shelf-lives’ of chemical and biological weapons. This crucial information was already available by October 2002, five months before the invasion, in a handy short book that somehow ‘escaped’ the attention of the British government, including Brown, and that of a compliant corporate media that broadcast endless Western propaganda.

Nevertheless, millions of people around the world marched against the Iraq war before it began, because they did not swallow the torrent of deceits emanating from Washington and London. Brown, however, had always backed Blair to the hilt, telling the Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq war in 2010 that Blair took ‘the right decision for the right reasons’ and insisting that ‘everything that Mr Blair did during this period, he did properly’.

Future historians will also study the media hysteria in 2017 over ‘Russiagate‘ that focused obsessively on outraged claims of supposed pivotal Russian interference in Trump’s election as US President. But, as US investigative reporter Glenn Greenwald noted:

Inflammatory claims about Russia get mindlessly hyped by media outlets, almost always based on nothing more than evidence-free claims from government officials, only to collapse under the slightest scrutiny, because they are entirely lacking in evidence.

Greenwald is not saying that there was definitely no Russian interference. But the ‘evidence’ for decisive intervention presented thus far is unconvincing, to say the least. The crucial point is that Western corporate media have only ever given minimal coverage to major longstanding US government efforts to intervene in other countries – from propaganda campaigns, meddling in foreign elections, and all the way up to assassinations, coups and full-blown invasions. A Time magazine cover story in 1996 even boasted that US interference helped Boris Yeltsin to be re-elected as president of Russia:

Exclusive: Yanks to the Rescue. The Secret Story of How American Advisers Helped Yeltsin Win.

The historical record will also reveal, in apparent blindness and deafness to this extensive record of US criminal behaviour, that BBC News journalists based there frequently end up gushing about the greatness of ‘America’. It is a rite of passage that demonstrates their bona fides as servants of power.

It will not surprise future historians that prestigious press and broadcasting awards were given to those who reported within the limits circumscribed by established power. Such rewards were few for those who dared to expose crimes by the West or ‘our’ allies.

One of these ‘allies’, arguably the most important in the Middle East, is Israel. Earlier this month, Priti Patel resigned as Britain’s minister for international aid after it had been revealed that she had had numerous secret meetings with Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, while on a ‘family holiday’. She had also visited an Israeli military field hospital that treats Al Qaedi-affiliated fighters. Following her trip, Patel had actually wanted to send UK aid to the powerful Israeli army, even while cutting Palestinian aid to vital projects in Gaza. The episode briefly opened ‘a small, opaque window on the UK’s powerful Israel lobby’, observed Jonathan Cook. But the topic of the Israel lobby is seemingly taboo in polite British society. Laura Kuenssberg quickly deleted a tweet she had sent out quoting an unnamed senior Tory MP complaining about the ‘corrupt’ relationship that has enabled Israel to ‘buy access’ in Westminster.

Perhaps, then, it was no surprise that when the UN Special Rapporteur on the Occupied Territories published a strongly-worded report in New York on October 26, 2017, the resulting media silence was deafening. Michael Lynk, a Canadian professor of law and a human rights expert, called on the world to hold Israel accountable for fundamental violations of international law during fifty years of occupation. This was especially timely with the 100-year anniversary of the Balfour Declaration that effectively stole Palestine from the Palestinians who were ‘ethnically cleansed‘ from the land that became the state of Israel.

Lynk encouraged the international community to take ‘unified actions on an escalating basis’ to declare the occupation illegal and to demand Israel’s withdrawal. Gaza, he said, was ‘in misery’, and Israel’s continued illegal occupation of the West Bank and east Jerusalem was a ‘darkening stain’. Despite the seriousness of these charges, and their authoritative UN source, we could not find a single mention in the UK press or on the BBC News website. Scholars in the future will marvel at this stunning media obedience to Western power, obtained without visible coercion.

‘An Existential Threat to our Civilisation’

Undoubtedly, what will appall future historians most is that the urgent calamitous risks of human-induced climate change were well known, but that nothing was done to stop the looming chaos. Worse than that: powerful private business, financial and economic elites, and the governments they had essentially co-opted, forged ahead with policies that accelerated the climate crisis.

The evidence has already been unequivocal for many years. In November 2017, a comprehensive review of climate science by thirteen US federal agencies concluded in a 477-page report that evidence of global warming was ‘stronger than ever’. They said that it was ‘extremely likely’ – meaning with 95 to 100% certainty – that global warming is human-induced, mostly from carbon dioxide emissions from the burning of coal, oil and natural gas.

One climate scientist said:

A lot of what we’ve been learning over the last four years suggests the possibility that things may have been more serious than we think.

The language was couched in typical scientific caution. But the horror at what was unfolding was surely not far from the surface of academics’ minds.

And yet, in a further sign of the short-term insanity that drives state and corporate policy, governments continued to channel huge sums of public money into planet-killing industries. European states, including the UK government, gave more than €112bn (£99bn) every year in subsidies to support fossil fuel production and consumption.

In 2016, gas companies spent €104m in intensive lobbying campaigns to try to encourage European policymakers to accept the myth that natural gas is a ‘clean fuel’ in an attempt to ‘lock in’ fossil fuels for decades to come. Moreover, fossil fuel companies lobbied hard behind the scenes of the Paris climate talks, as well as follow-up negotiations, to manipulate outcomes in their private favour. After all, cynical corporate madness has no boundaries when profits are the overriding concern. Absurdly, the text of the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change did not even include the words ‘fossil fuels‘. Scientists warned that fossil fuel burning is set to hit a record high in 2017.

Meanwhile, it has been reported that 2017 is set to be one of the top three hottest years on record, according to the World Meteorological Organization. The WMO also noted that atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide have ‘surged at unprecedented speed’ to the highest level in 800,000 years

The signs of ecological breakdown are all around us. Last month, a new study revealed that the abundance of flying insects has plunged by three-quarters over the past 25 years. The results had ‘shocked scientists’. This matters hugely because flying insects are, of course, a vital component of a healthy ecosystem upon which we are crucially dependent for food, water and oxygen. Robert Hunziker observes succinctly that this ecosystem, ‘the quintessential essence of life on our planet’, is breaking down. Our life support system is being destroyed.

One of the many symptoms of this breakdown that is likely to overwhelm human society is mass migration as a result of climate change. Tens of millions of people will be forced to move because of climate disruption in the next decade alone. This flood of human refugees will make the numbers of those who fled the Syrian conflict into Europe look like a trickle.

Sir David King, the former chief scientific adviser to the UK government, said:

What we are talking about here is an existential threat to our civilisation in the longer term. In the short term, it carries all sorts of risks as well and it requires a human response on a scale that has never been achieved before.

However, if governments really were motivated to protect the public, as they always claim when amplifying the threat of terrorism, they would have already announced a halt to fossil fuels and a massive conversion to renewable energy. A landmark study recently showed that global pollution kills nine million people a year and threatens the ‘survival of human societies’. If terrorism was killing nine million people every year, and the very survival of human society was threatened, the corporate media and politicians would be reacting very differently. But because it’s global pollution, merely an economic ‘externality’, private power can continue on its quest for dominance and profits.

The situation now is truly desperate. We are literally talking about the survival of the human species. There will be those who declare, either with black humour or a morally-suspect flippancy, that ‘the planet would be better off without us’. But we surely cannot so casually dismiss the lives and prospects of literally billions of people alive today and their descendants too.

Government policies are driven primarily by short-term political gain and corporate power, so there needs to be a massive public demand for control of the economy towards sustainability. The alternative is no human future. But just at a time when public resistance and radical action are most needed, social media networks owned and controlled by huge corporations are suppressing dissent. A major part of the struggle for human survival, then, will be to overcome the unaccountable media corporations and tech giants that are attempting to define what is deemed ‘acceptable’ news and commentary.