Israel’s high court blesses killing and maiming of Gaza protesters – By Maureen Clare-Murphy Rights and Accountability (Electronic Intifada)

The backs of two standing youth are seen in foreground of photo with Israeli military installation behind barbed wire and fencing in background
Israeli forces aim towards Palestinian protesters east of Gaza City on 25 May.

Atia Darwish APA images

Israel’s high court rejected two petitions from human rights groups challenging the military’s open-fire regulations this week as several more Palestinians died from wounds sustained during Gaza’s ongoing Great March of Return protests.

It was the second ruling made by the court on Thursday rubber-stamping war crimes.

The high court ruling may be viewed by the International Criminal Court as an indication that Israel’s judicial authorities are unwilling to carry out genuine proceedings concerning crimes against Palestinian civilians.

Between 19 and 25 May, Gaza’s health ministry announced the deaths of seven Palestinians from injuries inflicted during protests along the eastern perimeter of the territory beginning 30 March.

The deceased were identified as Hussein Salem Abu Oweida, 41, Ahmad al-Abed Abu Samra, 21, Muhammad Mazen Alayan, 20, Muin Abd al-Hamid al-Saee, 58, Muhannad Abu Tahoun, 21, Ahmad Qatoush, 23 and Yasir Sami Saad al-Din Habib, 24.

Also this week a 15-year-old in the occupied West Bank, Oday Akram Abu Khalil, died from wounds sustained when he was shot in the stomach by Israeli forces during protests on 15 May, the annual commemoration of the 1948 Nakba or catastrophe.

More than 115 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces in the Gaza Strip since 30 March, the vast majority of them during Great March of Return protests – including 14 children, two journalists and a paramedic.

Some 3,600 people were injured by live fire during the protests.

A lightly wounded soldier was the only reported Israeli casualty resulting from the protests in Gaza.

Court sides with state – again

The Israeli high court ruled in favor of the state’s argument that protesters constituted a danger to Israeli soldiers and civilians, thus justifying the use of lethal force.

The judges sided with the government’s contention that the protests take place in the context of a long-running armed conflict between Israel and Hamas. The state argues that the legal framework that regulates the use of fire during the protests is international humanitarian law, or the laws of war.

Human rights groups say that irrespective of the political affiliation of any of the organizers or participants, the demonstrations along Gaza’s eastern perimeter are a civilian matter of law enforcement governed by the framework of international human rights law, which allows for the use of deadly force only to stop an imminent lethal threat.

“Some of the rioters have tried to trample or break through the border fence, creating a clear and present danger that terrorists will penetrate into the state’s territory, and this is happening in areas near towns on the Israeli side,” wrote Hanan Melcer, one of the three judges who reviewed the petitions.

“Among the rioters were some who threw rocks and fire bombs at Israeli troops. Therefore, it seems that gunfire was employed to achieve a legal purpose – defending citizens of the state and Israeli soldiers,” Melcer added.

The court ruling gives the military “a green light to its continued use of snipers and live fire against Palestinian protesters in the Gaza Strip,” stated Al Mezan and Adalah, two of the groups that had petitioned the court.

The two groups stated that the court had “refused to watch video clips documenting Israeli shootings of demonstrators and, rather than actually examining the case, fully accepted the claims presented to it by the state.”

Al Mezan and Adalah published a video montage of such clips:

“The extreme nature of the ruling is also highlighted by the striking absence of any mention of the casualty figures that had been presented to the court,” the human rights groups added.

The Israeli high court said it could not move forward with an inquiry into the military’s rules of engagement because petitioning organizations rejected a request by the state to present the judges secret intelligence without the petitioners being allowed to review it.

“We have no concrete information about the identity of the key activists and inciters, the nature of their acts, their organizational affiliation, their involvement in terrorist activity or other forbidden hostile activity, or whether and in what manner they constituted a clear and present danger,” Melcer stated.

The justices accepted the state’s description of the Gaza protests as “violent disturbances” which were “organized, coordinated and directed by Hamas, which is a terrorist organization in a state of armed conflict with Israel.”

No imminent threat

Adalah and Al Mezan stated that the court ruling “contradicts the conclusions and preliminary results of international human rights organizations and United Nations bodies documenting and evaluating the events in Gaza.”

During a special session of the UN Human Rights Council concerning the events in Gaza last week, the body’s High Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein stated:

“Although some of the demonstrators threw Molotov cocktails, used slingshots to throw stones, flew burning kites into Israel, and attempted to use wire-cutters against the two fences between Gaza and Israel, these actions alone do not appear to constitute the imminent threat to life or deadly injury which could justify the use of lethal force.”

The Human Rights Council voted to establish a commission of inquiry into mass civilian casualties during the demonstrations with a final report due next March.

Tania Hary, executive director of Gisha, an Israeli human rights group which challenged the open-fire regulations, said she was “disappointed but not surprised to see the court again sanction Israel’s grave violations of human rights and international law in Gaza.”

Young man with a metal splint on his legs lies across a bench as two other youths look on
A Palestinian injured during Great March of Return protests rests outside Gaza City’s al-Shifa hospital after being discharged, 19 May.

Mohammed Zaanoun ActiveStills

Israel’s high court has long championed policies towards Palestinians that violate international law.

Gisha has previously faulted Israel’s judiciary, and principally the high court, for accepting “the state’s legal positions almost unquestioningly” regarding the 11-year blockade of Gaza.

Palestinian human rights groups have urged the International Criminal Court to investigate the unprecedented closure of Gaza as a crime of persecution.

The Palestinian Authority’s foreign minister made a referral to the International Criminal Court on Tuesday, calling for an immediate investigation into Israeli crimes.

In 2015, the court launched a preliminary examination into potential war crimes in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Preliminary examination by ICC

A preliminary examination is the first step in the court’s process to determine whether to open a formal investigation, which can then lead to indictments and trials.

But while a preliminary examination is carried out whenever a referral is made, it is open-ended and can carry on for years, at the discretion of the chief prosecutor.

In 2006, the prosecutor began a preliminary examination of alleged crimes committed in Afghanistan from 2002.

Eleven years after the examination was opened, and up to 15 years after the commission of the first alleged crimes, the prosecutor concluded that there was enough evidence to proceed with a formal investigation into alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity by the Taliban, the Afghan government and the United States.

A preliminary examination into alleged crimes against humanity and war crimes in Colombia, opened in 2004, is still pending, according to the Coalition for the International Criminal Court.

In her response to the Palestinian complaint, chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda signaled that she does not intend to expedite the process, stating that the “preliminary examination has seen important progress and will continue to follow its normal course.”

Israel’s foreign ministry lashed out against the Palestinian move, calling it an effort “to politicize the court and to derail it from its mandate.”

Over the past several weeks Bensouda’s office has expressed “grave concern” over the situation in Gaza and warned Israeli leaders that they may face prosecution for the killing of unarmed Palestinian protesters.

Earlier this month the press freedom watchdog Reporters Without Borders formally requested that the International Criminal Court prosecutor investigate the targeting of journalists in Gaza as war crimes.

The Palestinian rights groups Al-Haq, Al Mezan and the Palestinian Center for Human Rights stated this week that they “have submitted five comprehensive communications to the prosecutor” as part of the court’s preliminary examination.

“These communications have related to the 2014 offensive against the Gaza Strip, the Israeli-imposed Gaza closure, the use of the Hannibal Directive in Rafah, and crimes committed in the West Bank including Jerusalem,” the groups stated, adding that they “have also provided information on the lack of domestic investigations and prosecutions.”

The prosecutor “has sufficient evidence” to open a full investigation, according to the rights groups.

“The ICC acting as a court of last resort must provide redress to Palestinian victims,” they added.


‘Our path’: Iran announces plan to stay in Syria as Pompeo issues unprecedented threats – By Tyler Durden Russia Insider (SOTT)

Map of Syria and Iran

It’s not up to Uncle Sam but up to Syria and Iran alone

After last Thursday’s relatively brief meeting in Sochi between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Syria’s Bashar al-Assad wherein Putin stressed that it is necessary for all “foreign forces” to withdraw from Syria, there’s been much speculation over what Putin actually meant.

Many were quick to point out that Assad had agreed that “illegal foreign forces” should exit Syria – meaning those uninvited occupying forces in the north and northeast, namely, US troops, Turkish troops and their proxies, and all foreign jihadists – while most mainstream Western outlets, CNN and the Washington Post among them, hailed Putin’s request to see Iran withdraw from Syria.

Whatever non-Syrian entity Putin intended to include by his words, both Syria and Iran gave their unambiguous response on Monday: Iran announced it would stay in Syria at the request of the Assad government.

“Should the Syrians want us, we will continue to be there,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi declared from Tehran, cited by Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency. “Nobody can force Iran to do anything; Iran has its own independent policies,” Qasemi said, in response to a question referencing the widespread reports that Russia desires Iran to withdraw forces from Syria.

“Those who entered Syria without the permission of the Syrian government are the ones that must leave the country,” he said further in a clear reference to the some 2000 US troops currently occupying Syrian-Kurdish areas in the northeast and eastern parts of the country.

As we noted in the aftermath of Israel’s May 10 massive attack on multiple locations inside Syria which marked the biggest military escalations between the two countries in decades, Russia has appeared content to stay on the sidelines while Syria and Israel test confrontational limits; however, Russia is carefully balancing its interests in Syria, eager to avoid an uncontrolled escalation leading to a direct great power confrontation.

But increasingly Israel’s patience appears to be wearing thin after Prime Minister Netanyahu’s oft-repeated “Iranian red line” warning has gone unheeded. In multiple summits with Putin going back to 2015 (the two have met over 6 times since then), Netanyahu has repeatedly stressed he would not tolerate an Iranian presence in Syria and further signaled willingness to go to war in Syria to curtail Iranian influence.

“Iran is already well on its way to controlling Iraq, Yemen and to a large extent is already in practice in control of Lebanon,” Netanyahu told Putin in one especially tense meeting in August 2017, and added further that, “We cannot forget for a single minute that Iran threatens every day to annihilate Israel. Israel opposes Iran’s continued entrenchment in Syria. We will be sure to defend ourselves with all means against this and any threat.”

Israel’s uptick in military strikes on Syria attacks on sites purported to be Iranian bases housing Iranian assets have intensified exponentially over the past half-year, nearly leading to an unprecedented breakout of region wide war during the May 10 exchange of fire, wherein Israel claimed to have been attacked by Iranian rocket fire.

The fact that both Iran and Syria can so openly and confidently announce Iran’s intent to stay in Syria means Damascus sees itself in new position of strength after both shooting down multiple Israeli missiles and simultaneously firing rockets into Israeli occupied Golan territory a response perhaps very unexpected by Israel’s leadership which had grown accustomed to attacking the Syrian army and its allies with impunity.

Meanwhile, Damascus announced Monday that all suburbs around the capital have been fully liberated from al-Qaeda and ISIS terrorists, marking the end of a years long insurgency in and around the capital. As Al-Masdar News noted, “The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) is in full control of Damascus city and its countryside for the first time since the advent of this conflict.”

Yet the pattern which has emerged over the past few years has been that every time the Syrian Army emerges victorious or carries overwhelming military momentum, Israel or the US launches an attack.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani rejected Pompeo’s bombastic demands and vowed to continue “our path,” insisting that the US could not “decide for the world.”

Rouhani’s words, as quoted by ILNA news agency, were as follows: “Who are you to decide for Iran and the world? The world today does not accept America to decide for the world, as countries are independent … that era is over… We will continue our path with the support of our nation.” This continuing escalation of rhetoric will likely only ensure Iran becomes even more entrenched in Syria, but it will be interesting to see how Russia responds diplomatically.

We’ve already seen Israel’s “diplomacy” in the form of repeat missile attacks, but how much will Russia and Iran sit back and take before enforcing their own red lines against Israel and the West?

Source: Zero Hedge

Comment: See also: ‘Who are you to decide for Iran and the world?’ Rouhani rejects Pompeo’s Iran demands

See Also:

Trump Set to Recognize Israel’s Claim to Occupied Golan Heights and Its Sizable Oil Reserves – By Whitney Webb (MINT PRESS)

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, center, talks with Israeli soldiers at a military outpost during a visit at Mount Hermon in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights overlooking the Israel-Syria border on, Feb. 4, 2015. Baz Ratner | AP

Exporting Golan oil is problematic under international law but, were the U.S. to unilaterally recognize the Golan as Israel’s, that oil could potentially be exported to the U.S. Major U.S. oil investors and lobbyists are therefore pushing hard for Trump to make that move.

TEL AVIV, ISRAEL – While President Trump has reneged on many of his campaign promises — namely, those more populist and non-interventionist in nature — he has undeniably fulfilled those that appealed to his pro-Israel, Zionist supporters. First, Trump announced late last year that his administration would officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. This move was then followed by his more recent decision to unilaterally remove the U.S. from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), better known as the Iran nuclear deal, which has long been criticized by Israel.

Both moves were highly controversial and poorly received by many U.S. allies, particularly European nations. They were also both orchestrated and promoted by Trump’s top donor, Zionist billionaire and casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, who donated $30 million to the Republican Party following Trump’s fulfillment of his two major pro-Israel promises. Adelson was also responsible for the removal of H.R. McMaster as National Security Adviser and his replacement with pro-Israel hawk and Adelson confidant John Bolton.

However, recent statements made by Israeli government officials suggest that Trump’s work on behalf of pro-Israel hard-liners is only just beginning. According to an exclusive report published in Reuters, the Israeli government is now pushing the Trump administration to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, a portion of Southern Syria that Israel has occupied since 1967 and annexed in 1981.

International law still refuses to recognize the area as part of Israel, even though Israel has sent over 20,000 Jewish settlers to live in the area in order to permanently change the area’s ethnic-demographic composition, turning the native Druze population into a minority. Many of the Druze living in the occupied Golan have long complained of being routinely discriminated against under Israeli rule, and continue to support the Syrian government. In addition, the UN has accused Israel of “forcing citizenship” onto the group in a bid to increase its claim to sovereignty over the region. Israel hopes to add an additional 100,000 Jewish settlers to the area by 2020 in order to strengthen this claim.

Israel’s Intelligence Minister, Israel Katz, told Reuters that Washington’s endorsement of Israel’s control of the Golan Heights was now “topping the agenda” in bilateral diplomatic talks between the two countries, and that such a move would likely come within a matter of months. Katz stated that U.S. recognition of the Golan was being peddled to the Trump administration as a way to further counter Iran, which has now become the guiding force behind the U.S.’ Middle East policy.

Katz asserted:

This is the perfect time to make such a move. The most painful response you can give the Iranians is to recognize Israel’s Golan sovereignty — with an American statement, a presidential proclamation, enshrined [in law].”

Apparently, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has been pressing Trump on the issue since February of last year, when Netanyahu first met Trump at the White House. Now, Katz has claimed that those discussions have vastly expanded to involve various levels of the U.S. administration as well as several Congressmen.

“I reckon there is great ripeness and a high probability this will happen […] give or take a few months,” Katz opined.


In the Golan Heights, Oil and Water mix perfectly

An old Israeli tank sits in a position in the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights near the border with Syria,Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2015.

Katz may indeed have reason to be confident in an upcoming U.S. move that would recognize the occupied Golan Heights as Israeli territory. Yet, while Katz has claimed that the motivation for such a move would benefit the U.S.’ new and aggressive Iran policy, it is more likely to benefit an Israeli resource grab, as well as powerful Israeli and American oil interests.

A major factor behind Israel’s initial seizure and continued occupation of the Golan are its fresh water resources. Indeed, the occupied Golan is one of three sources of fresh water to the Israeli state — and is the largest in size and most plentiful, as it comprises the mountain streams that feed Lake Kinneret (the Sea of Galilee) and the headwaters of the Jordan river. This water is of major importance to Israel, now in its fourth year of a drought so massive that a NASA study called it the worst drought in the region in nearly 900 years.

Yet, the Golan’s importance to Israel grew immensely after massive oil reserves in the area were discovered in 2015. Following that discovery, the Netanyahu-led government granted exclusive drilling rights to Afek, an Israeli subsidiary of New Jersey-based energy company Genie Energy, Ltd.

As MintPress has previously reported, Genie Energy is backed by powerful interests in the U.S., such as former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers, former Vice President and Halliburton executive Dick Cheney, and former CIA Director James Woolsey. Powerful Zionist billionaires, such as Australian-born media mogul Rupert Murdoch and England’s Jacob Rothschild, are also connected to the company.

Afek, Genie Energy’s subsidiary in the Golan, is run by a close friend of Netanyahu and former Knesset member Efraim “Effie” Eitam. Eitam, who also previously served as minister of National Infrastructure as well as Housing and Construction, has repeatedly called to expel all Arabs from Israel, stating in 2006 that “we cannot be with all these Arabs and we cannot give up the land […] we will have to make another decision, to remove the Israeli Arabs from the political system.” Eitam currently lives in Israel’s largest illegal settlement in the occupied Golan.

Genie Energy’s investments in the Golan are likely the strongest factor pushing the U.S. towards the recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the occupied territory. Indeed, without a U.S. move recognizing Israel’s control over the region, Genie’s Israeli subsidiary will be unable to sell any oil it extracts from the occupied territory on the international oil market.

However, were the U.S. to unilaterally recognize the Golan as Israel’s, that oil could potentially be exported to the U.S. Given that Genie’s contract to conduct exploratory drilling in the Golan Heights expires this year, its investors are in urgent need of a way to extract and sell the region’s oil – and a U.S. decision on Israel’s claim to the Golan Heights could be just the answer to the company’s problems.

Top Photo | Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, center, talks with Israeli soldiers at a military outpost during a visit at Mount Hermon in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights overlooking the Israel-Syria border on, Feb. 4, 2015. Baz Ratner | AP

Whitney Webb is a staff writer for MintPress News and a contributor to Ben Swann’s Truth in Media. Her work has appeared on Global Research, the Ron Paul Institute and 21st Century Wire, among others. She has also made radio and TV appearances on RT and Sputnik. She currently lives with her family in southern Chile.

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Press review: Trump cancels North Korean summit and how Gazprom’s anti-trust battle ended – By TASS

May 25, 13:00 UTC+3

Top stories in the Russian press on Friday

© AP Photo/Evan Vucci


Kommersant: Trump cancels meeting with North Korean leader, but door may re-open

US President Donald Trump on Thursday announced his decision to cancel the much-talked-about meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un scheduled for June 12 in Singapore. Trump cited the “tremendous anger and open hostility” in Kim’s latest statements, which convinced him that holding the meeting at this point in time was inadvisable.

Kommersant writes that despite the meeting’s cancellation, Trump signaled that dialogue may be held in the future. This means that after exchanging accusations Washington and Pyongyang may return to pragmatic bargaining on the North Korean nuclear issue.

Experts interviewed by Kommersant note that the real reason behind Trump’s decision was that Pyongyang was not ready to fulfill some of Washington’s conditions rather than Kim’s latest statements. It is noteworthy that the North Korean leader has not made any statements regarding the US over the past weeks – the official position was voiced by North Korea’s Foreign Ministry.


“We faced a situation, when there is a big gap between the Trump team’s expectations and what North Korea may really offer. The US demand that the summit in Singapore should result in North Korea’s commitment to eliminating its nuclear program by 2020 doomed the idea of this meeting to failure from the very beginning,” Vasily Kashin, senior research fellow at the Institute for Far Eastern Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, told Kommersant.

Complete denuclearization may be achieved only through years-long step-by-step talks that build up mutual measures of trust and US readiness to make serious concessions to North Korea, the expert noted.

Alexey Arbatov, a member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, said: “During the preparations for the meeting Donald Trump achieved no serious concessions, besides Pyongyang’s pledge to halt nuclear tests, which may be resumed at any moment.”


Kommersant: Gazprom’s anti-trust battle with EU ends with no penalty

Russia’s state-controlled gas monopoly Gazprom has settled its six-year antitrust case with the European Commission. In the end, Brussels did not impose any fine in exchange for Gazprom’s vow to comply with the European Commission’s terms, Kommersant writes. This may result in gas price cuts for Eastern European markets and also brings Brussels closer to fulfilling its dream on creating a single EU gas market. The case won’t be a disaster for Gazprom, which has successfully adapted to a changing market over the past several years, the paper says.

Market sources said it is difficult to assess the energy giant’s losses because it depends on the oil prices and the gas demand in a particular country. However, these losses are incomparable with the 10 bln euro fine, which Gazprom had faced.

This is a very good outcome for Gazprom because the antitrust investigation had been hanging over its head for several years, Maria Belova from Vygon Consulting told the paper.

Meanwhile, market sources expect that Poland will challenge the European Commission’s decision with a lawsuit. However, a source in a major European gas company believes that Warsaw’s chances for success are slim. So far, Poland’s attempts to challenge the European Commission’s decisions in cases related to Gazprom have failed.


Izvestia: EAEU to get its own cryptocurrency by 2020

By 2020, the Eurasian Economic Union’s (EAEU) member-states will have their own cryptocurrency. The Eurasian Economic Commission is working on its creation now, a source close to the executive body told Izvestia. Another source close to the Central Bank, two bankers familiar with the situation and President of the Russian Association of Cryptocurrencies and Blockchain Yuri Pripachkin also confirmed this plan. According to the experts, a digital currency will simplify the settlement of accounts between the countries and will make it possible to skirt sanctions.

A name for the single cryptocurrency has not been chosen yet, but a working title has been put forward – the cryptoaltyn (altyn is a historical Russian currency first mentioned in 1375). “The EAEU may get its own cryptocurrency earlier than its single currency,” Pripachkin said.

Forex Club analyst Ivan Marchena said the idea of creating its own currency is vital for the Eurasian Economic Union. Obviously, digital money is capturing the market, he noted. “The first steps on legitimizing cryptocurrencies have been made,” Marchena noted. “Belarus has subsequently recognized them, and Russia is drafting legislation on this matter.”

The EAEU’s cryptocurrency may be considered an international unit of account to carry out cross-border financial transfers across the Eurasian space, head of the rating service of the National Rating Agency Tatyana Kovaleva said. “Its introduction will make it possible to ease up and accelerate settling accounts and reducing most transaction expenses,” she said.

Many countries have announced plans to create national cryptocurrencies, including Sweden, Japan, the United Arab Emirates, India, the United Kingdom and China. However, the world’s first national cryptocurrency, El Petro, was introduced by Venezuela and is pegged to the price of one barrel of oil. The country sought to bypass sanctions and hoped to attract Russian, Chinese and Middle Eastern financing.


RBC: Can Macron’s visit to Russia improve ties with Moscow?

On Thursday, French President Emmanuel Macron began his first two-day visit to Russia with France’s head of state holding talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin. During Macron’s first year in office, Paris has been building up relations with Russia on the cultural and economic fronts, though ties in other areas have come to a standstill. However, France shows interest in resetting dialogue, experts told RBC.

RBC has analyzed the progress in fulfilling major programs, which the Russian and French presidents announced a year ago.

The Trianon Dialogue, aimed at intensifying contacts between the Russian and French civil society, was put together in December 2017 and held its first session on urban development at the Gaidar Forum in Moscow in January. Now, a plan for further endeavors has been outlined for 2018 and partly for 2019, Alexander Orlov, Russia’s former Ambassador to France and the Executive Secretary of the Trianon Dialogue, said. The Trianon Dialogue’s official opening will take place when the two presidents meet at SPIEF. Among the many proposals is one to lift visa requirements for young Russian and French citizens under 18. The initiative is a major one, if not the only breakthrough in bilateral ties over the past year, said Arnaud Dubien, Director of the Observo French-Russian analytical center.

According to Dubien, nothing has been done on the key issues of foreign policy between Moscow and Paris, particularly on Ukraine and Syria. However, other countries, rather than Russia and France, should be blamed for the lack of progress, he noted. It is not ruled out that the meeting between the two leaders in St. Petersburg may bring about some progress in dialogue, Dubien said.

The minimum goal is to put the brakes on the deterioration in relations, and the maximum goal is to create a framework for renewing dialogue, the expert said. “There won’t be full normalization and a return to the previous relationship, as many things have happened. But it is important to demonstrate this aspiration given the new challenges,” he stressed.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Iran demands Europe’s carte blanche for missile program

On Friday, Vienna will hold a meeting between senior officials from those states, which still remain parties to the Iranian nuclear deal. Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes that the conference will be held without Washington’s participation. Now Iran demands that its European partners fulfill a number of conditions to salvage the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Tehran expects some EU states will not only keep their investments in its economy, but also won’t criticize its foreign policy and its missile program.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei castigated France, Germany and the UK for silencing the US failure to meet its commitments under the JCPOA. Europe should compensate for Iran’s losses arising from the new US sanctions, he wrote on Twitter. Europe should provide guarantees that it won’t question Iran’s missile program and its regional affairs, he said. The EU states should also guarantee that Iranian oil will be fully sold.

Meanwhile, experts interviewed by Nezavisimaya Gazeta believe that Tehran’s conditions will be difficult to meet.

“I think that the guarantees of European banks on economic deals are the most difficult issue,” said Stefan Meister, who heads a program for Eastern Europe and Central Asia in the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP). “They [European banks] are very frightened by the US sanctions and are afraid of losing access to the US market. Several other demands are also not easy, especially the refusal to review the missile program.”

The expert’s assessment that some European companies will follow the US course was confirmed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s statement made during her two-day visit to China.

Khamenei’s push will hardly encourage international mediators of the nuclear deal from the EU, Yuliya Sveshnikova, Research Associate at the Higher School of Economics, told the paper. According to her, this rhetoric is aimed more at domestic rather than foreign audiences. “The Europeans’ accord, their principal position on the JCPOA is one issue, and the practical possibility to give Tehran guarantees that Iran will get the advantages from the JCPOA even without the US participation, is another issue,” she said.

It is impossible to exert pressure on the businesses, who weigh all pros and cons, while the dependence on the US financial system and the supplies of components for production is very high, the expert explained.


TASS is not responsible for the material quoted in the press review


Only Russia can save Ukraine, Kadyrov tells Poroshenko – By RT

Only Russia can save Ukraine, Kadyrov tells Poroshenko
Soon after facing new sanctions from Kiev, Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov stated that this would not alter his brotherly attitude to the Ukrainian people, who can always expect help from Chechens and Russians in times of trouble.

[Ukrainian President Petro] Poroshenko is slapping sanctions on me, while our ancestors saved thousands of Ukrainians who were forced into the North Caucasus by famine from certain death. Chechens provided shelter, food, clothes, and footwear to countless women, children, and elderly people,” Kadyrov wrote on Telegram Friday.

Not a single refugee was left without shelter or hungry, their descendants live in Chechnya to this day. This is not some remand or claim, this is a reminder to Poroshenko that only the people of the Russian Federation will help Ukrainians when disaster strikes, not Americans and their satellites,” the Chechen leader wrote.

Kadyrov also said he would always treat Ukrainians as brothers and sisters who remain close and dear to Russia in spite of the problems that have arisen in recent years.

His comments come after Ukraine imposed sanctions on 1,750 Russian citizens, including Ramzan Kadyrov, on Thursday.

In late 2017, Kadyrov was put on the US sanctions list for alleged involvement in human rights violations. The Chechen leader said at the time that the situation only made him proud and that the US should search for real human rights abusers at home, “in the White House and the Pentagon.”

Kadyrov insisted he was sanctioned, not because of alleged human rights abuses, but rather due to his relentless, lifelong fight against terrorists, many of whom were “fosterlings of the American special services.”

He also jokingly noted that Washington has no reason to worry because he had not received orders to step on US soil yet.

US hysteria over Chinese military ‘expansion’ shows ‘corporate coup d’état is complete’ – Lee Camp – By RT

US hysteria over Chinese military ‘expansion’ shows ‘corporate coup d’état is complete’ – Lee Camp
Watching Congress clutch their pearls over China’s new – and only – overseas military base is the only proof you need that America’s elected officials are bought and paid for by corporations and arms dealers, says RT’s Lee Camp.

In the latest installment of ‘Redacted Tonight,’ host Camp tore into a recent US House Intelligence Committee hearing on “China’s worldwide military expansion,” which bravely exposed the “growing threat” of China’s ability to project power abroad.

The hours-long hand-wringing was an “open hearing,” or as Camp explained: When “our super shady, super bought-off Congress opens their doors to pretend as if they are open and transparent to the nation.”

Camp was particularly unimpressed by Rep. Adam Schiff’s performance. The California Democrat pointed to China’s new (and only) overseas military base – in Djibouti, Africa – as an example of the growing worldwide Chinese menace.

“We fear for our dwindling military and economic empire in a world that is growing beyond it, so we have to build up the scary specter of China, with their one military base around the world. Sure it’s only one base, but it’s around the world!” Camp commented.

Noting that US defense spending is still five times larger than China’s, and that the US military has hundreds of overseas bases, Camp concluded: “The corporate coup d’état is complete – these stooges in this video that I just showed you, they’re just a show. They’re just a little performance. And they’re not even a very fascinating one, either. Put on a f*cking top hat or something, Adam Schiff.”

Watch the full episode:

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Grenfell Tower fire: BBC Panorama reveals corporate criminality – By Paul Bond (WSWS)

Grenfell Tower fire (wider view).jpg
By Paul Bond
24 May 2018

As the official Grenfell Tower Inquiry opened, Panorama special Grenfell: Who Is To Blame, with reporting by Richard Bilton of the BBC, offers a devastating indictment of the corporate forces responsible for the June 14, 2017 inferno that claimed 72 lives.

Grenfell Tower was covered in flammable cladding and insulation materials that had never been tested together. Bilton’s investigation draws out how companies were denying their responsibility for testing, jeopardising the safety of many thousands living in social and privately-owned housing tower blocks.

Bilton accuses manufacturer Celotex of having “knowingly misled buyers” about the safety and testing history of the insulation material. The formula for the Celotex product that received the safety certificate was different and safer than the product used at Grenfell Tower.

Bilton was at the scene shortly after the fire and has returned regularly to speak to survivors, including Mahad Egal, Luca Branislav and Maria Rahman. Of the three survivors interviewed, Mahad is still in temporary accommodation with his family. Luca, who rescued a woman from the blaze, is shown in distressing scenes having to move back again into temporary hotel accommodation following a fire next door to his new flat. Maria, whose brother Hesham perished, is traumatised, tearfully saying she only wants justice for all those who died.

Bilton’s starting point is the 2014 refurbishment—which covered Grenfell Tower in highly flammable material—as he seeks to identify those responsible. Architect Andrzej Kuszell’s design had created the gaps that allowed the fire to spread. Even given the relaxation of building regulations, says Bilton, it was Kuszell’s job to make his plans safe and he failed.

Lead construction company Rydon was paid £8.7 million to refurbish Grenfell Tower between 2014 and 2016, winning the contract by undercutting rival bids. Central to this was cutting costs by using cheaper materials. They failed to fill the gaps at the side of the windows, allowing the fire to spread.

Bilton states that it was Rydon’s suggestion to swap non-combustible materials for cheaper, flammable, substitutes. Fire expert Arnold Tarling, describing the fire as “totally avoidable,” said the company had opted to use a “highly flammable material that is also highly toxic when burned.” This was “utterly wicked,” he said.

As the building was to use a new combination of cladding and insulation materials, says Bilton, Rydon were legally responsible for conducting safety tests, and “we don’t think they did.”

Bilton has to doorstep his corporate targets, as none answered his questions via emails or responded to telephone calls requesting interviews. In person, most refused to make any comment. Rydon’s chief executive and largest shareholder Robert Bond, thought to have been paid a salary of £424,000 in 2016, is the exception. Asked whether it was not his company’s job to make Grenfell Tower safe, he protests, “We did.”

Bond denies that Rydon had been required to conduct safety tests, saying the cladding was specified by the council and approved by Building Control and by the architect.

The complacency was breathtaking: testing was not required, he said, because the materials were “deemed to comply.”

Rydon simply worked to the existing “regulatory framework,” which explains why they decided not to set aside money for potential losses or expenses related to the fire. Their September 2017 accounts stated bluntly, “[N]o provision has been made in the accounts for any matters arising from these tragic events.”

Bilton states that there was no question that the materials used on Grenfell Tower should have been tested, and said, “We think it’s illegal that it wasn’t.”

The cladding and insulation materials had never been tested together. The makers of both products knew they were being combined at Grenfell Tower, but did not warn of risks.

Panorama tested both the cladding and the insulation. When the cladding gets hot its plastic centre melts and burns, immediately igniting the highly flammable insulation. Bilton sums it up, “The more you look at what was on Grenfell Tower, the more horrifying it becomes.”

When the programme showed footage of fire tests being conducted on the insulation material used at Grenfell, Bilton has to explain that this was the actual rate of fire spread: “It’s not sped up.” Later we see footage of Grenfell shot by firefighters and their shock at the rapid spread of the fire.

Professor Richard Hull, Professor of Chemistry and Fire Science at the University of Central Lancashire, notes that the fire began on the fourth floor and spread up 24 floors in just 15 minutes.

Hull, an expert in the behaviour and suitability of fire retardants for plastics, explained that there was so much flammable material on Grenfell Tower that it was the equivalent of four large petrol tankers burning at the same time.

The rate of fire spread was compounded by the toxic smoke released. This contained hydrogen cyanide, which is 20 times more toxic than carbon monoxide.

All this raises questions about what safety tests Celotex’s product had passed. Bilton said insulation had passed safety tests for use in specific conditions, but Celotex “knowingly misled buyers” about its suitability, claiming it was appropriate for refurbishing buildings taller than 18 metres when it was not. The company also claimed it was suitable for use with a range of cladding panels when it was not.

Celotex had been warned that their marketing was misleading, but continued with it.

The insulation used on Grenfell Tower had never been tested for use on tower blocks. When the safety certificate was issued, Celotex had been using a different formula, containing extra fire retardant. Bilton spells it out: “We think a more flammable version was then sold for public use,” adding, “We have been advised that the company’s behaviour could amount to corporate manslaughter.”

Bilton attempted to get answers out of Robert Black, CEO of the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO) at the time of the fire. KCTMO had overseen cost-cutting measures and ignored warnings from residents and Grenfell Action Group about the potentially “catastrophic” implications.

As with Robert Bond, Black said KCTMO were just operating within existing frameworks. KCTMO were managing Grenfell Tower for The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea council, he said, and relied on the advice of experts.

Black had signed the planning application.

Walking down the street with him in an attempt to get answers, Bilton asked Black whether this was a planning application on the cheap, saying the survivors of Grenfell wanted to know the answer. Black refused to answer, stating that he would appear at the public inquiry.

Everything Bilton revealed confirms the characterisation of Grenfell Tower as an act of social murder perpetrated by the corporate and political elite. The gutting of building and safety regulations, cost-cutting and profiteering came at the cost of many lives.

The documentary states that corporate manslaughter charges may be brought forward to deal with such criminality. However, corporations only end up with a slap on the wrist while individuals responsible evade justice.

The programme powerfully documents the determination by the working-class community to establish justice. Early on, we see a large placard put up immediately after the fire, asking, “Why do we the working class have to suffer again?” As Hesham Rahman’s sister, Maria, pledges, “Not years. I will not wait years.”

The documentary, reflecting the anger among the victims and bereaved and millions of workers and youth, ends with Bilton stating that on Monday, “the Public Inquiry finally heard evidence for the first time, but the government still hasn’t banned flammable cladding and insulation. No change. No arrests. No peace for Grenfell’s victims.”

The programme is available in the UK for the next 11 months.

Video: “Nikki Haley, the blood is on your hands!” – By Ali Abunimah/ Activism and BDS Beat (Electronic Intifada)


Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the United Nations, barely uttered a few words of her lecture at the University of Houston on Tuesday before students interrupted her with protests against her complicity in Israel’s recent massacres in Gaza.

“Nikki Haley, the blood is on your hands, you continue to sign off on the genocide of a native people,” one student called out, kicking off the protest.

The video above, which circulated widely online, shows students holding up Palestinian flags and chanting, “Nikki, Nikki can’t you see? You are on a killing spree.”

They also chanted “free Palestine.”

According to The Houston Chronicle, several dozen protesters took part. After a few minutes, police “escorted” the protesters out, “while Haley waited, quiet, at the podium,” the newspaper reported.

Another camera angle shows Haley’s face as the students chant:

Haley’s visit to the University of Houston was sponsored by its administration. “We are privileged to have her visit our university,” President Renu Khator, stated.

Khator’s attitude highlights the vast gulf that typically exists between the corporate and government-aligned elites that run US universities, who generally abhor dissent that challenges the status quo, and students who take seriously calls for equal rights and global justice.

Prior to Haley’s speech, more than a dozen organizations, including Students for Justice in Palestine, the Muslim Student Association and Students for a Democratic Society, had condemned the university’s invitation to Haley, citing her unconditional defense of Israel’s slaughter in Gaza.

Following Israel’s massacre of dozens of protesters in a single day on 14 May, Haley told the UN Security Council that “no country in this chamber would act with more restraint than Israel has.”

She then walked out as the Palestinian Authority representative was about to speak.

The groups also noted Haley’s history of opposing free speech by advocates for Palestinian rights.

“Nikki Haley’s longtime commitment to silencing the voices of those who have spoken out against Israel’s atrocious acts against Palestinians traces back to her tenure as state governor of South Carolina,” the groups said. “Haley spearheaded the unconstitutional anti-BDS (boycott, divestment, and sanctions) movement, making South Carolina the second state in the nation to sign into law a bill that prevents businesses from engaging in their First Amendment right to boycott.”

Campus newspaper The Cougar spoke to students who took part in the protest against Haley:

Omar Barghouti, a human rights defender and co-founder of the BDS movement, welcomed the students’ action.

“Israel’s regime of settler-colonialism and apartheid may think that just because it is in bed with the xenophobic right-wing Trump administration its massacre of Palestinians in Gaza will go unpunished,” Barghouti told The Electronic Intifada.

Barghouti added that “effective measures of accountability” being adopted around the world, including mass protests, waves of new support for BDS and calls for an arms embargo on Israel, were giving “tremendous hope to the tens of thousands of protesters in Gaza who are peacefully demanding their right to return to their homes.”

“The brilliant protest of student activists in Houston against empire and its extremely pernicious symbols is part of this hope,” Barghouti stated.

Tuesday’s protest against Haley recalls similar actions against Israeli and American officials involved in war crimes who have been given platforms by university administrations.


Documenting Palestinian invisibility for 40 years — an interview with James Zogby – By Philip Weiss (MONDOWEISS)

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Mondoweiss is excited to announce that we have partnered with the Arab American Institute to republish Jim Zogby’s important book Palestinians: The Invisible VictimsThe book is a critical examination of the ideology and practice of the movement of Political Zionism and its patron, British imperialism, that together were responsible for the denial of Palestinian rights and the subsequent campaigns of disinformation and repression against the Palestinian people.

Palestinians: The Invisible Victims was first published in 1975 as a paper for the Association of Arab-American University Graduates, and then published as a book in 1981. Since then Jim Zogby co-founded the Arab American Institute, of which he is president, published several other books, and took a leadership role inside the Democratic Party. On the 70th anniversary of the Nabka, Palestinians: The Invisible Victims is just as timely now as when it was first published over 40 years ago.

Palestinians: The Invisible Victims will be available on June 1, but you can pre-order it now here

In conjunction with our publication, I interviewed Zogby by phone on May 8, to learn about how this book came into being. 

Q. You were in your late 20s when you were a grad student and undertook the research that became this book on Palestinian invisibility. Why was it important to you, and who were you in 1975?

I have to give you a long answer. I grew up in the antiwar and civil rights movements in the 60’s and 70’s, and I remember in ‘67 when the war [in the Middle East] happened being not fully aware of the issues but instinctively questioning the arguments that were being made at the UN by the US ambassador. It just didn’t compute when I put it up against Vietnam. I said there is something that we are not being told about this.

I had done some reading, of course. I mean I wasn’t totally unaware of the Palestinian issue, but at that time what I found most troubling was the role of the US in the region.

What compounded my concern was something that occurred in the antiwar group that I was part of in Syracuse, NY. The kids who were my age who were Jewish stopped coming to meetings at the time of the war. And I thought, Wait a minute, I’m opposed to all war and they are opposed to only this war [Vietnam]. That bothered me.

I remember that after the ’67 war, Life magazine had a cover of shoes they said had been left by fleeing Egyptian troops in the desert. I was so horrified by the glorification of all of that, I found it troubling.

Then I went to graduate school, and my first day at Temple University in 1967 I saw a sheet hanging out the window of one of the fraternities, that said, Go Israel, Beat Arabs. This is not going to be fun, I thought. I got involved with the civil rights and antiwar stuff on campus, but almost by reflex, I became “The Arab”. I remember I was speaking at a rally and someone said, “Why are they letting the Arab guy talk?” I thought, “Who is the Arab guy?” I was of Arab descent. To me, Arabs were people over there. I was an Arab American. No one had ever done that to me before. Having grown up in an ethnic environment, I’d never had anyone single me out for that or experienced that type of discrimination.

A few years later, I was studying comparative religions. I was doing my dissertation, preparing for my masters comprehensive and my wife was reading Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee [An Indian History of the American West, by Dee Brown] and was just infuriated by what she was reading. And the next book she picked up for some reason was, George Antonius’s, The Arab Awakening. She said, you should know more about this. This is about your people, and it’s exactly like Bury my Heart at Wounded Knee. It’s about broken treaties, broken promises, people being dispossessed of their land.

So I read Antonius’s The Arab Awakening, and the parallels between that and the Native American experience were striking.

I was at the religion department at Temple, and then went over to the University of Pennsylvania for a year in their anthropology program, and started preparing a dissertation proposal thinking I would work on revitalization movements in African American religion – on how stress or societal pressures impact religious ideas and religious consciousness. I was intending to work either with Black Muslims or with the Father Divine movement, a powerful social movement that erupted in the 20’s and 30’s – how the social dislocation of that period between the two wars and the Depression impacted African American consciousness, from the Back to Africa movement of Marcus Garvey, to the Father Divine movement, to the Moorish Institute and the Nation of Islam.

The professor I had said to me, Everyone’s working on that stuff. Do something that no one is working on. He suggested, you should do something on Palestinians. This was Anthony Wallace, at the University of Pennsylvania.

I thought that would be fascinating. These are people who went through social dislocation, political dislocation, deprivation of all sorts, and obviously there were social movements among them too. I got a grant to spend the summer in Lebanon, and I spent time in a camp, collecting everyone’s stories. I still have my notebooks from it. I was taking stories down faithfully. At one point, I met with a Palestinian novelist who was also helping advise me and he said, “You are actually wasting your time in the camps. The people who are going through the biggest transformation are not in the camps, it is the Palestinian people in Israel. The refugees are freezing their traditional identity. The ones among whom it is being transformed are the Palestinians in Israel.” He introduced me to Mahmoud Darwish and Tawfiq Zayad, and I actually focused my dissertation on them.

Through that experience, I got to know Felicia Langer, who was the civil rights attorney in Israel, and she sent me some cases of people whose rights were being violated. I went to Amnesty International, and they said, we don’t take these cases here in America. If we do, we’re afraid of losing support and there will be pressure on us.

I went to other folks and I couldn’t get them to do it either. So a group of us decided we would do it on our own. I was in the Association of Arab American University Graduates at the time. They authorized me to start a human rights campaign. We started adopting Palestinian house demolitions, prisoners, victims of torture. By ‘76 we actually branched out on our own and started the Palestine Human Rights Campaign as an independent organization.  That’s how I came into it.

It came out of the civil rights and antiwar experience, but it gravitated toward the Palestinians as an extension of both sets of values and concerns that I had been applying in the broader sense of American policy, domestic and foreign, where I saw the same civil rights concern and also the antiwar concerns at play.

When I was doing my dissertation. I called it Arabs in the Promised Land: The emergence of a national consciousness among the Arabs in Israel. Through Felicia Langer, I got to know so many other victims of torture, and I had gone to interview them when they were released from prison, and dealt with a whole range of other cases.  So it became somewhat personal to me: I knew the people, I knew the victims. I knew this incredible woman who was defending them. And I knew Israel Shahak, a guy I worked very closely with in that period. So that’s how I came to this.

Q. Your family came from Lebanon. But were you raised with an understanding of the Nakba and Zionism?

No not completely. I grew up with a mother who was deeply passionate about issues of justice and women’s rights. I remember at one point coming downstairs and my mom was sitting at the table heartbroken. I could see her really saddened by something and I said what is it? And she told me it was the Rosenbergs. She said, “They just killed these two people. They had children as old as you and your brother.” I asked “Why did they kill them mom?” She responded, “Well they say they did some very wrong things, but I think they killed them because they were Jews.”

That was the kind of awareness she taught me of injustice. I think there’s a general consensus these days that the Rosenbergs probably were guilty. But I never forgot that story. She was a woman who cared about issues of injustice. She couldn’t deal with the parents of two boys being executed.

So one of my proudest moments in the Bernie Sanders campaign was leading the platform debate on ending the death penalty which is  one of the few issues that we actually won.

I grew up with that more than a specific issue.

My mother’s brother wrote a letter that she was proud of because it was in the Lebanese American Journal. He organized a petition among Lebanese Americans in 1948 to the UN calling on Palestine to be independent and free and not to be partitioned. He also advised in that letter that the Palestinians should have formed a government before the partition in order to circumvent that. So it was an issue that we knew about. But I would not say that I was steeped in that history.

Q. There’s a lot in this paper that anticipates later discussion of this question. It’s ahead of its time. The awareness of settler colonialism. The understanding that Palestinian citizens are third class citizens. The racialist trends in Zionism, that make it clear it’s exclusivist. And finally this is all about human rights, regardless of the national state structure. How much clairvoyance did you have? And how much resistance was there to it? From the ideological opponents?

Look, I wasn’t clairvoyant, there were people saying and writing about this. Certainly Israel Shahak understood that. I used to distribute what we called the Shahak Papers, back then, his translations from the Hebrew press. So I think his sense of the way that political Zionism as opposed to Buber’s Zionism or Ahad Ha’am’s and others like that obviously had an impact on me. I also think that the work I had done in civil rights had an impact on me, and the South Africa parallel and the Native American parallel were part of my own personal experience and upbringing in the movements that I’d been involved with.

There were Palestinian intellectuals who had written about the parallels between South Africa and Rhodesia. When you’re reading that history and the name Cecil Rhodes pops up, you say “Oh wait”, then you think there’s something here. It’s strange to me that people don’t make that connection more often. When you read Arthur Balfour– not the declaration itself, but his comments saying that the attitudes of the indigenous people mean nothing to him. That classic colonial mindset is something that should make anybody take pause and say, “wait, this just isn’t right”.

So I don’t think it’s clairvoyance, but it’s there to behold if you have the eyes to see it and if you have the sensitivity to feel it, and if you don’t then I really question how you deal with information, period!

Q. Did it cause a reaction?

Yes, it did. I know I got a lot of negative feedback from people. There was a dean who I studied with at Temple University who called me a neo-Nazi. Actually, he called me a “neo-Bolshevik neo-Nazi”. I wasn’t quite sure how the two went together!

I heard “antisemite” a lot, but it wasn’t me who was imposing this ideology on Jewish people and putting them at risk. It was that movement that did that. And so I was just pointing it out.

Now in recent years I’ve started seeing articles appearing in the Hebrew press saying pretty much what I was saying back then and maybe a little more. But, I have to ask, “How could you write an article in Haaretz on the clearing of the Mughrabi quarter, clearing it for the Western Wall plaza in 1967 – and not feel compelled to do something about it?”  It’s one thing to write that story, and it’s another thing to say, “holy god, a grave injustice was done to 1000 people and there should be some compensation for that”. I know that they’re writing about that stuff today, but without a sense of a connection to the grievance that leads us to where we are and the justice that is due to the people who paid the price for those actions.

Q. You took a fundamental stance as a young man. What became of this work personally to you, how did it affect your career, politically?

There were little things—invitations to do interviews that were cancelled, invitations to speak at a university that were challenged. Organized efforts when you got on campus to shout you down, or people handing out brochures. I made the ADL and the AIPAC hitlist. I find it interesting that they have sort of farmed this defaming work out to Campus Watch and Canary Mission and the like, but this is what they did themselves, the main organizations. The ADL, the AJC, and AIPAC all did it. I have all of their books and memos that were sent out to defame us. When you get written up as the propagandist for the Palestinian or a PLO propagandist, which I’m not, but when you get written up that way, you save the stuff. I have the evidence.

Did it have an impact? Of course it did. It locked me into a career track. Do I regret it? No I don’t. I didn’t want to ever be a podiatrist or a dentist and I never had an aspiration to run for office. I’ve always wanted to pursue the line of work I’m in. I wanted to be an advocate and an activist, and this made sure that’s what I’d be.

I got to nominate Jesse Jackson for President of the United States and I got to lead the platform debate in 1988 on Palestine. Each time in my career they say, “You’re not going to go anywhere in politics”. Well, I’ve been on the Democratic National Committee for 26 years and on the executive committee for 12 and was a platform drafter for Bernie Sanders. So I think that more is made of the other side’s ability to block us than is true. You can be for Palestinian rights and be for justice and you can still do pretty well. I’m very thankful that I’ve had lots of opportunities to do good things and I’ve never had to forsake my principles to do them.

Q. But the central theme of your paper is Invisibility. It’s not a conspiracy, but it’s an ideological commitment that pervades our political culture. And this won’t change till people get to know Palestinians. That invisibility hasn’t gone away. That’s a big problem, even if you have had a special career, and you have high likeability personally.

Here’s the thing. Look at what Bernie did in 2016. He came to an issue that he had not ever addressed before, he embraced it, he doubled down on it, went to the platform and fought for it, and the numbers among millennials and among Democrats and among minority communities continue to rise. And so I think that yeah, the pressure that comes from the other side is still determinative, it’s still decisive. The string of people who cover this issue from Israel and the occupied territories is still a really problematic crowd– the journalists who get that assignment have not been good. They help shape the issue. We still have not cracked the industry that creates popular culture from film and television programming etc. And the fear that is so pervasive among politicians in Washington, they don’t even want to know the issue, don’t want to talk about it, and when they do talk about it they want to roll their eyes back up in their heads and just embrace what they feel is the most comfortable position– we have not changed that. But I have to believe that change is coming, that we’re going to make a break.

What is helping to create the space for this and give me some confidence is what’s happening on the Jewish side.

When I started the Palestine Human Rights Campaign, there was a group in the Jewish community called Breira. They were demolished by incredible pressure that came down on them. The New Jewish Agenda went through the same experience.

Now look at what exists today and AIPAC and company has no ability to stop them. And I think that’s quite significant. There is now an open rebellion within the ranks and an awareness of what is right and just. People are acting on it and that’s creating opportunities for people in my community as well, to now come forward and speak out, in ways that we could not before.

Change is afoot. Back when Breira were operating they literally were alone. I mean there were a handful of people in Israel. Sure, the Labor party was strong. They were the dominant group. But they were the group that was imposing an incredibly brutal occupation on the West Bank. Back in the 70’s, if you made a Palestinian flag you were in jail. You got expelled for membership in an illegal organization, you were tortured to confess that you were a member of Fatah. And entire communities were placed under curfew for long periods of time.  Men were corralled into the center of town and forced to stay in the hot sun and then in the cold of night separated from their families while searches went on. The occupation today and the checkpoints today are humiliating and god-awful, but the sheer naked brutality of it back then, run by a Labor government, was quite a different story.

And the extensive use of torture, and the forms of torture that were used– I have way too much documentation including from American consular officials who collected it and wrote it all down for me, I still have that stuff. Sure Labor could win, but the so called left back then began the practice of the brutal and dehumanizing occupation. And they had the veneer of being the social democratic party, so it almost made the invisibility worse. They’d say “How can you attack Golda Meir?! She’s a remarkable woman”. But this woman said some of the most outrageous and dehumanizing things about Palestinians and defended policies that were grotesque.

When Likud took over, the settlements began to be built in the interior, and the confrontations got worse.  But the expulsions– they rounded up mayors and university professors– there were 1000 leaders expelled during the Labor period. Expulsions stopped in the late 70’s. Felicia Langer and Israel Shahak were part of a very small group of people – Uri Avnery and Uri Davis and very few others actually had the wisdom and had the courage to speak out. There was no B’Tselem back then. All of the things that exist today didn’t exist then.

Q. Some will say, You are privileging Jews. Or you are assigning a special place in terms of unlocking progress in America to Jews. I agree with you, but I would like you to justify that discrimination or selection.

Look, everything that we have today we had back then. Back in the 70’s Jack O’Dell was a former aide of Martin Luther King and a former aide of Reverend Jackson, and he and I wrote a book together called Afro-Americans Stand Up for Middle East Peace.

Back in the late 70’s during the Andy Young affair at the UN, we got tremendous support from African Americans.

When I started the human rights campaign– look at our founding board, it was every civil rights leader who had been with Martin Luther King who was still living. All the anti-war leaders, Don Luce, David Dellinger, Pete Seeger. Major Protestant church leaders. Etc.

What was missing was a forthright and courageous stance from American Jews who were going to speak out on this issue. There were a few individuals but there was no organized force in the Jewish community.

That’s the change that has occurred. Acknowledging it and giving recognition and tribute to it is important. I’m not privileging it. I could say, “Gee, it took you guys time. Thank you for joining this.” I don’t want to say it that way, because it sounds chiding; and I know how difficult it is to make a break within your own community. When people talk to me about a Jewish state, why can’t you support a Jewish state? I say, I’m a Maronite Christian from Lebanon who opposed a Christian state in Lebanon. I oppose a Muslim state, anywhere. Why am I now going to support a Jewish state? Especially in a complex environment you don’t want to support one religion over another, because then the religion becomes doctrinaire dogma and the state tends toward becoming an absolutist regime and an authoritarian regime that uses god language to justify its behavior. I can’t support it for any religions.  But I know how hard it is when I say that in the Christian community, how they react, so I can understand how hard it is for Jews to do that in their own community especially when the experience of the Holocaust is so there and such a decisive factor in shaping people’s opinions. When you get people willing to stand up and to speak out and develop a different approach– that’s why I was so impressed by Breira.  For a generation people said, “There is no alternative” – that was the justification for political Zionism. Breira meant [in Hebrew], there is an alternative. For them to march with us and to work with us, and then to be brutalized as they were– by the establishment. It takes a lot.

We actually got invited to speak at Hillel and Briera couldn’t get invited to Hillel. The Hillel would be told that they could not invite the Breira people. The Breira people would say to me, we can’t go but you can. Be sure you say this. I’d say Sure. The same with New Jewish Agenda. They were the principal target of attack, we were secondary. The focus of the Jewish community establishment was to snuff out any alternative information in the Jewish community. They can’t do that anymore. That’s big, that’s new and that’s important.

Q. You write that Americans don’t know Palestinians as people. That’s so important. It took me meeting Palestinians to remove my fear of them. They were other. Where are we in that American process?

I think more has been done clearly in that regard. And the Palestinian community in several parts of the country have helped make that happen. And I think that needs to be recognized. But the story is actually larger than that. I say that when most Americans think of the Arab Israel conflict, they think of it as an equation. It’s Israeli people versus the Palestinian problem. One is a people, the other is an abstraction. When given a choice between people and an abstraction, they take the people.

Go back to the negative stereotyping, which actually began in the 60’s. It didn’t begin before that. Edward Said showed they were portrayed as exotic, and sometimes as a danger. But never in the one-dimensional way as just pure evil, as they were in the 60’s and 70’s. A lot of that had to do with the Arab Israeli conflict.  And the movie Exodus has never been given the credit for distorting all of this that it richly deserves. It was funded and made as a piece of hasbara, and it did its job. It was a cowboys and Indians story transposed to the Middle East. So it became the pioneers trying to carve out a place for freedom in the wilderness and being confronted by the angry savages who were denying them the right to live as a free people. That stereotype stuck in people’s minds. When Americans hear, “Israelis” they could see faces. Their stories were in the newspaper. There is the disparity of when an Israeli child is killed, there’s an interview with the parents, and when a Palestinian child is killed, there is a mention in 13 lines just noting that a Palestinian child was killed. No name, no sense of tragedy, no interview with the parents. But even before that, you had the stories in the paper about the Israeli doctors doing the great thing, and the Israelis in the Galilee raising Arab horses and saving them from extinction, and the Israelis botanists– they are human people who are very complex and have a whole array of qualities, which we understood and respected.

Palestinians on the other hand, the American press doesn’t give you their stories or anything to relate to. They remain an abstraction. And that comes from this ideological approach that Zionism and British imperialism adopted. The Arab indigenous people mean nothing to us. They’re trees on the frontier that we have to chop down to make progress. Like the Native Americans. That was what I was looking to explain in the book: “How did this happen?”

Sure it was politics and power, and the ability to manipulate images and have an effective propaganda program. But what was the grounding for that? It was the ideology of political Zionism saying, “We’re important, they’re not. We count, they don’t. And British imperialism had the same mindset.

Look what they did in South Africa and India.

In 1971 my wife and I stopped in Britain for about a week on our way to Lebanon. It was the first time I’d ever been out of the country. That was an eventful summer, and while I was there, Northern Ireland was flaring, there was an uprising in Nigeria, something going on between India and Pakistan, something in South Africa, and something happening in Sudan. Reading the British commentary on it was in effect, “These savages were this, that and whatever.” At one point, my wife and I looked at each other and said, “Wait a minute, These bastards created every one of these problems.” I mean it was the British hand that divided and colonized South Africa, pitted the indigenous people against the settlers, created the problem with India Pakistan. They were the ones that colonized Nigeria and pitted one group against another. The same thing with settler colonialism in Ireland. Now they were saying, “Look at the savages, they can’t get along.” I saw that playing out in Palestine. The west created the problem and sided with the group that they identified as the human side. And the inhuman side was cast aside and forgotten as a matter of secondary importance.

Q. Oslo is dead, you write, but isn’t it still a requirement, that to be in the Washington establishment, you say, I’m for the two state solution.

What I find intriguing is that the support for the two state solution has now become accepted wisdom at the very point in time that it’s no longer possible to implement because politicians are unwilling to consider the steps that would have to be taken to implement it.

So if they say, “You have to be for the two state solution,” I say, “Are you willing to do what it takes to get there?” They say what’s that, and I tell them. They say, “Oh no we can’t do that.”

I say all you’re doing is using it as a touchstone, using it to absolve you from having to deal with anything more complex. I actually do think a two state solution would be a desirable end. I’d rather have that than condemn the Palestinian people to decades more of brutal occupation and dehumanization. No one in their right mind would want to wish that on people, to meet some ideologically pure end of one state with equal rights for everyone. The reality is that it’s not going to happen any time soon. It’s going to be a long bloody struggle, and I would not wish that on people.

But I also know that as much as Israelis and Americans want to impose a civil war on Palestinians to get them in a position to accept two states, they’re unwilling to impose the same pressure on Israelis to get to a two state outcome. How are you going to get 100’s of 1000’s of settlers out of the West Bank? And if you don’t, how do you construct a two state solution that is anything other a protectorate or a Bantustan?  How are you going to change the politics of the Israeli government any time soon to get a government that will surrender the Jordan Valley;  that will not insist of total security control over the entire territory. If they have security control, then there are no two states. It’s a reservation. Does anyone consider Native American reservations as separate states in America. Palestinians aren’t willing to accept it.

And to those who say, there’s no solution to the refugee problem, they’re going to have to stay there– What you’re doing is transferring the problem from Israel to Lebanon and Jordan. What right does Israel or the west have to impose that solution on Lebanon and Jordan when they are not equipped to deal with it? The issue here is let’s deal with what’s real. Politicians are unwilling at this point to accept reality. They’ve found a convenient way out by calling for two states. They don’t know what that is. There still is a willed ignorance about this. It’s not that they’re dumb people, but they don’t want to know. They would prefer to say, “Give me a short little answer that will get me out of having to dealing with this issue”.

That’s why I thought Bernie was so impressive, because he intuited that the shorthand wasn’t going to work. And he needed to know more. He didn’t know much a lot about it when he started, but he certainly has made a lot of headway now and is being quite challenging.

Q. Is this issue going to divide the Democratic base?

I think it’s not so much dividing the base as it is dividing the base from elected officials. Because elected officials still have this mindset  – ”I’m nervous how this is going to affect my reelection”. They still operate with that myth that AIPAC can beat anybody they want, even though that’s simply proven not to be true in case after case after case. And so I think that the problem is the base is moving in the right direction, it’s the elected officials who are stuck. I happen to believe that, we’re going to have a break on that at some point, just as we did on Vietnam and just as we did on gay rights.

There’s going to be a point where someone beyond Bernie is going to say “Guess what, this doesn’t play anymore.  They can raise all the money they want to beat me. There are too many people in my district who don’t agree with this.” That’s where, again it’s not privileging or segregating out the Jewish voice, but that’s where it becomes important that there is no longer a monolithic presence.

I can tell you the stories of politicians who would say to me back in the 80’s, “Zogby you know I’m really with you, but you know the Jews don’t take anything other than absolute obedience to their position, you know what the Jews are like, Zogby.” I remember saying back when, “Gee, there’s an antisemite in the room and it’s not me.” I called those politicians, Anti-Semites for Israel. They’d speak about the Jewish vote and the Jewish voice and the Jewish money and the Jewish this– and it was insulting to hear them.

Q. Maybe they were right.

No, they weren’t.  Because the issue was that, AIPAC never did control this. They controlled it with fear. Paul Findley raised more money than Dick Durbin in the Illinois congressional race [in 1982]. What happened was that the district got redistricted from a  Republican to a Democratic district, that’s why he lost. And yet it became convenient for AIPAC to say, we beat him. Chuck Percy raised more money than Paul Simon [in 1984]. I was with Percy a month after the election, and someone asked him, Senator Percy, why did you lose? He pointed across the table at me and said, “Because his friends didn’t support me.” Meaning that he lost the black vote. Harold Washington was mayor by then, and what happened was the whole time that Daley was in office, Daley would pick a conservative Democrat to run, figuring he needed that for down state, and the black vote would end up supporting the liberal Republican instead of a conservative Democrat. In that election Harold Washington asked Paul Simon the liberal Democrat to run, and the black community for one of the first times endorsed the Democrat in the statewide race and Percy lost. That was a month later that he pointed that out. But it was a couple months later that he figured out, that it would work for him to say it was the Jewish money that beat me. And that became a mantra for him. And actually Rudy Boschwitz [MN senator] used it with senators during the AWACS vote. He said If you don’t want the fate of Chuck Percy to be yours, you’ll get in line.

Then when Rudy Boschwitz ran, AIPAC tried to save him against Paul Wellstone [in 1990], they couldn’t. How many times did they try to beat Jim Moran [Virginia congressman] and couldn’t? There are so many people they tried to beat and couldn’t.  Betty McCollum [in Minnesota]. If you’re solid in your district, you’re safe. They can spend all the money they want. They make you spend more money, maybe. But they can’t beat you. The only ones who lose are like Cynthia McKinney who was losing it anyway [in 2002]. And look who replaced her, Hank Johnson, who is even better on the issue than she was. Earl Hilliard didn’t go back to his district to campaign [in 2002]. I remember talking to other members of the Black Caucus and they said he’s going to lose because he thinks he’s got this campaign won. AIPAC found a way to beat him.

More than anything, there is this myth of power that holds them in place, but that myth is now breaking down. J Street and I differ on some issues, but they have helped create space in this debate. That’s important. The more space that’s created, the greater the debate that will take place, and the greater the debate that will take place, the greater the opportunity that justice is going to win.

Palestinians: The Invisible Victims will be available on June 1, but you can pre-order it now here

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US And Israel Holding Global Economy Hostage in Showdown With Iran – By Corey Schink (

Iran currency

Squeezing Iran’s economy

For decades now the US and Israel have waged regime change across the Middle East and North Africa. In the chaos that ensued Iran underwent a transformation that naturally expanded its influence. Now, upset with the consequences of their actions, the US and Israel have a new plan: take the global economy hostage in order to force Iran to abandon that influence. As usual, Russia is doing its best to manage the West’s insanity while maintaining course for a more sane future.

On May 1, 2018, hours after Netanyahu issued his bizarre ‘Iran lied’ powerpoint presentation, and a week before Trump ditched the Iran deal, Netanyahu and Putin had a phone conversation. During this chat Putin stressed the deal’s importance for international stability, reiterating that it must be “strictly observed by all parties.” Not one who’s prone to taking ‘international stability’ into account, Netanyahu had other ideas.

A week later, Trump announced that the US was backing out of the Iran deal, which effectively meant increasing instead of decreasing its economic stranglehold on the country. Speaking to the Heritage Foundation, Secretary of State Pompeo stated that these will be the “strongest sanctions in history,” and that the US will “apply unprecedented financial pressure on the Iranian regime”. It is now clear why Merkel and Macron were so desperate to talk Trump out of this decision.

Prior to the (re)imposition of sanctions, the EU was Iran’s top trading partner. After Obama eased sanctions, European companies were chomping at the bit to renew business, and did so in earnest. From 2013 to 2017, the EU’s trade with Iran grew dramatically, with imports growing 89.7 percent, and exports nearly 20 percent, with last year’s trade volume reaching $23.5 billion.

Now several major companies – namely Peugeot, Boeing, Airbus, and Shell – are at risk of losing either billions in deals or, if they maintain business ties, the loss of a lifeblood of American credit and the imposition of onerous fines. EU officials are talking tough, but it seems their hands are tied both by the constitutional charter of the EU (which stipulates that they must follow NATO’s lead in foreign policy) and the practical effects of being cut off from American finance.

But that’s just Europe. As The Hill reports:

China’s trade with Iran was worth more than $37 billion in 2017 – it exported $18.59 billion worth of goods, a growth of 13 percent year-on-year. China accounted for about 21 percent of Iran’s exports; the United Arab Emirates, 14 percent (worth over $5 billion); Iraq, 14 percent (worth over $5 billion); South Korea, 9.5 percent (worth over $3.4 billion); and India, 6 percent from January to October 2017.

There is the possibility that certain companies may apply for ‘waivers’ that allow them to continue trade with Iran. However Trump remains mum about whether or not he’ll authorize them, and Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury Secretary, has stated that any licenses allowing Airbus or Boeing to sell to Iran will be revoked. To put it bluntly, the US and Israel have planted a bomb in the global economy and, though they intend it to take out Iran, there are many, many bystanders who stand to suffer significantly.

But if this is ‘Art of the Deal’ thinking, then what is it that they want? Trump might want higher oil prices for American oil companies and a better position for US companies dealing with Iran. The pressure on foreign businesses will no doubt provide leverage in other negotiations. But it was Pompeo who spelled out the heart of the maneuver: regime change. In his speech to the Heritage Foundation, Pompeo laid out the Deep State’s demands, stating that, “We are open to new steps with not only our allies and partners, but with Iran as well, but only if Iran is willing to make major changes.

Here are their suggested changes:

  1. Iran must declare to the IAEA a full account of the prior military dimensions of its nuclear program, and permanently and verifiably abandon such work in perpetuity.
  2. Iran must stop enrichment and never pursue plutonium reprocessing. This includes closing its heavy water reactor.
  3. Iran must also provide the IAEA with unqualified access to all sites throughout the entire country.
  4. Iran must end its proliferation of ballistic missiles and halt further launching or development of nuclear-capable missile systems.
  5. Iran must release all U.S. citizens, as well as citizens of our partners and allies, each of them detained on spurious charges.
  6. Iran must end support to Middle East terrorist groups, including Lebanese Hizballah, Hamas, and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
  7. Iran must respect the sovereignty of the Iraqi Government and permit the disarming, demobilization, and reintegration of Shia militias.
  8. Iran must also end its military support for the Houthi militia and work towards a peaceful political settlement in Yemen.
  9. Iran must withdraw all forces under Iranian command throughout the entirety of Syria.
  10. Iran, too, must end support for the Taliban and other terrorists in Afghanistan and the region, and cease harboring senior al-Qaida leaders.
  11. Iran, too, must end the IRG Quds Force’s support for terrorists and militant partners around the world.
  12. Iran must end its threatening behavior against its neighbors – many of whom are U.S. allies. This certainly includes its threats to destroy Israel, and its firing of missiles into Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. It also includes threats to international shipping and destructive – and destructive cyberattacks.

His list might sound, to the informed reader, like a series of Israeli hallucinations. But what it really boils down to is the complete and unequivocal curtailing of Iran’s influence in the region. How, then, to proceed?

Well on May 18th, Putin and Assad had a ‘surprise meeting’ to discuss a draw-down of foreign troops on Syrian soil. In discussing this, they each shared a significantly different view of the situation. In matters of geopolitical importance, one expects that words are chosen very carefully. With that in mind, the informative difference between Assad’s and Putin’s version of ‘drawing down foreign troops’ was revealed when Assad spoke of the removal of all ‘illegal foreign forces’ while Putin explicitly states that ‘all foreign forces’ need to evacuate the country – presumably including Iran:

“We affirm that with the achievement of the big victories and the remarkable successes by the Syrian Arab army in the fight against terrorism and with the activation of the political process, it is necessary for all foreign forces to withdraw from the Syrian Arab Republic territories.”

Iran responded in an unexpectedly hostile manner to Russia’s statement:

“No one can force Iran to do anything, Iran is an independent country that determines its own policies,” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi told reporters at a daily press conference Monday.

“The presence of Iran is at the invitation of the Syrian government to fight against terrorism and defend the territorial integrity of Syria, and will last as long as the Syrian government wants Iran to help it,” he added. “Those who have entered the country without the consent of the Syrian government must leave Syria.”

As was pointed out on Behind the Headlines recently, Russia does not want an expansionist Iran. Russia’s intentions have been made clear in word and in deed: they want to shore up Syrian and Iranian defenses in order to re-establish a balance of power in the region. As far as a nuclear-powered Israel goes, Putin made it abundantly clear that any use of nuclear weapons on a Russian ally would be met with an instantaneous response from Russia.

Naturally Iran is loathe to cede any strategic gains she has made to those who daily call for her annihilation. Instead she’s staking her strategy on continued economic relations with Europe in order to offset the effects of the sanctions. The European Commission has set in motion the legal and financial processes necessary to protect companies working in Iran, increasing overall economic partnership, and making it easier for the European Investment Bank to finance those projects.

We see in these developments, again, the ‘immovable object’ at loggerheads with the ‘unstoppable force’. The first round of US sanctions take effect in August, when the US will sanction Iran’s automotive sector, its metallurgical and steel industries, any significant transactions of Iranian rials, any US dollar banknotes purchased by Iran, and any facilitation of Iranian sovereign debt.

In November the US will up the ante and sanction all of Iran’s port operations, its petroleum transactions, energy sector, any insurance plans, any foreign financial transactions or messaging services with Iran’s Central Bank.

Is the US as powerful as ever? Can it actually enforce an economic siege of Iran? Who will get what they want: Trump’s ‘shiny, new Iran deal’; or the Deep State’s regime change?

On the way to answering those questions, some rather interesting events are likely in store.

Corey Schink

Corey Schink was born and raised in the Midwestern United States, where he worked on farms and as a welder, musician, and social worker. His interests in government, philosophy and history led to his writing for SOTT in 2012 and to becoming a SOTT editor and Truth Perspective co-host in 2014. He now resides in North Carolina, where he enjoys the magnificent views of the Appalachian Mountains.

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