As Twitter Purges Real Iranians, US-Backed MEK Cult Revealed to Run Anti-Iran Troll Farm – By Elliot Gabriel – MINT PRESS

Iran Social Media Bans
#YouAreBots

 

While “actual” Iranians face social media bans, countless bots and anti-government accounts belonging to the US-backed former terror group, MEK, have been permitted to run rampant across Twitter and other platforms.

TIRANA, ALBANIA – Iran is once again being subject to double standards as part of an ongoing effort to deprive it of access to media platforms where it can influence audiences overseas – in this case, on Twitter.

The effort has seen hundreds of Iranian accounts allegedly tied to Iranian pro-government “propaganda” efforts subject to a massive cull across platforms owned by Twitter Inc., Facebook Inc., and Google parent company Alphabet Inc.

Those purged from the platforms include profiles, channels, and accounts belonging to Iranian nationals who have been accused of involvement in alleged “coordinated manipulation” of information related to Middle Eastern events and ”divisive social commentary.”

 

On YouTube, this has included accounts belonging to media entities owned by Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting, the state media corporation that operates such channels as the English-language PressTV and Spanish-language HispanTV.

Watch | Al Jazeera on Albania’s Iranian Regime Change Bot Factory

https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/g-D5s_yCTQM?rel=0&showinfo=0&start=834

Yet while “actual” Iranians face bans from social media, countless bots and anti-government accounts belonging to U.S.-backed opposition groups posturing as the “Iranian people resistance” have been permitted to run rampant across the web.

 

#YouAreBots

Last month, nearly 800 accounts based in Iran were suspended by Twitter for allegedly violating the network’s policies, per an investigation alongside “industry peers” that allowed the social media giants a better “understanding of these [Iranian] networks.” Twitter hasn’t been forthcoming about the methods it used to investigate the networks tied to such alleged “Iranian interference,” but users including patriotic university student SeyedMousavi7 and Press TV journalist Waqar Rizvi were among those suspended.

On Sunday, Foreign Minister Zarif directly addressed Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey in a tweet aiming to highlight the contradiction:

Hello @Jack. Twitter has shuttered accounts of real Iranians, incl TV presenters & students, for supposedly being part of an ‘influence op’. How about looking at actual bots in Tirana used to prop up ‘regime change’ propaganda spewed out of DC? #YouAreBots”

Another tweet by Iranian legislator Amirhossein Ghazizadeh Hashemi addressed to the Twitter chief said:

You suspended my official account as MP of Iran for my violation of not determined twitter rules, but why you have not blocked bots of MEK in Tirana, a group that killed 17000 Iranian people, used to prop up ‘regime change’ propaganda? #YouAreBots”

The tweet followed a report by Al Jazeera English which detailed how monitors and researchers were able to pinpoint a sharp uptick in a trend of actual social media manipulation.

 

The Wizard Behind the “Resistance” Curtain – Maryam Rajavi and the MEK Cult

The report connected the growing phenomenon to the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK) or People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI), a cultish group of Iranian exiles that was listed as a terrorist organization by the U.S. until 2012 and have been based in a camp outside the Albanian capital, Tirana, since the U.S. began openly backing it in 2013.

The group has long enjoyed the backing of the Iranian government’s enemies, ranging from toppled dictator Saddam Hussein to Israel and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Hiding behind various front groups like the France-based “parliament-in-exile,” The National Council of Resistance of Iran, the MEK has sought to depict itself as a representative, democratic coalition that speaks for all of Iran’s religious, ethnic, and political groups proportionately” and is committed to a secular, pro-market, and free Iran.

MEK Maryam Rajavi and Rudy Giuliani

The group has paid a number of top Trump administration officials to speak at its functions and echo its calls to enact a “regime change” in Tehran, including former New York City Mayor and top White House lawyer Rudy Giuliani, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, and National Security Advisor John Bolton, among a long list of U.S. lawmakers and officials.

Yet the group, which have also been described as “skilled manipulators of public opinion,” are said by ex-members to tolerate little internal dissent and are seen by many as little more than a well-funded, mafia-style cult commanded by self-styled “Iranian President-in-Exile” Maryam Rajavi and backed by her friends across Western and Gulf capitals.

Some who escaped the MEK and remain stranded in Tirana spoke to Al Jazeera and described the manner in which the cult orchestrated what appeared to be a trending wave of support for the group and its anti-regime message toward the end of last year, when Iranians took to the streets to protest adverse economic conditions largely caused by a mixture of domestic legislation and intense pressure by Washington.

Much of this trend was clearly fueled by bots – accounts that are often fraudulent and behave in an automated fashion, amplifying messages through swarm-like behavior such as retweeting, liking, and republishing videos and articles posted alongside hashtags such as #FreeIran and #IranRegimeChange.

In many cases these trends – which sought to focus, variously, on the plight of Iran’s national or religious minority groups ranging from Kurds to Christians, women’s rights groups, and dissidents –grew as a direct result of work by MEK members toiling away in an Albanian troll farm to boost their group’s online propaganda.

Former MEK militant Hassan Heyrani told the outlet:

Overall I would say that several thousand accounts are managed by about 1,000-1,500 MEK members … It was all very well organized and there were clear instructions about what needed to be done.”

Another former “keyboard warrior,” Hassan Shahbaz, added:

Our orders would tell us the hashtags to use in our tweets in order to make them more active … It was our job to provide coverage of these protests by seeking out, tweeting and re-tweeting videos while adding our own comments.”

 

Useful Tools in the Age of Trump

Journalist, writer and scholar Azadeh Moaveni told Al Jazeera that the 2016 election of former real estate mogul Donald Trump, who surrounded himself during his campaign with a range of zealous anti-Iran and pro-Israel hawks, was a turning point in such anti-IRI media operations.

“Once it became clear that there would be heightened hostility with Iran, there was a profusion of new accounts, anonymous accounts who were single-mindedly and purposefully going after people who wrote about, talked about Iran with nuance,” she noted.

Whether the report, or Iran’s demands, will have any impact on the continued backing of MEK by Iran’s opponents remains yet to be seen. In the last year alone, a bevy of U.S. figures including late Senator John McCain, former FBI Director Louis J. Freeh, and various senators have visited the Rajavi cult’s compound in Albania as U.S. rhetoric against Iran’s “regime” has escalated and the U.S. has unilaterally withdrawn from the six-party Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or nuclear accord.

In the meantime, social media networks like Twitter and Facebook have squirmed as the same U.S. lawmakers have sought to crack down on alleged Russian and Iranian “interference” online.

Without a doubt, the troll farms of the MEK will remain an important weapon in the arsenal of those seeking to manufacture the illusion of widespread anti-government fervor in an Iran under the gun of economic sanctions, media terrorism, and the low-intensity warfare of sustained “regime change” efforts.

Top Photo | Iranians surf the Internet at a cafe in Tehran, Iran, Sept, 17, 2013. Ebrahim Noroozi | AP

Elliott Gabriel is a former staff writer for teleSUR English and a MintPress News contributor based in Quito, Ecuador. He has taken extensive part in advocacy and organizing in the pro-labor, migrant justice and police accountability movements of Southern California and the state’s Central Coast.

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STUNNING DOUBLE AMBUSH BY AF INTEL IN HOMS REVEALS AMERICAN CRIMINAL CONDUCT; ATTACK ON LATAKIA STILL MUDDLED – By Ziad Fadel

HOMS:

If you want proof of American criminal conduct in Syria, look no further than the events of yesterday when a group of ISIS grubs set off from American-occupied Al-Tanf on motorcycles in the direction of the Western Plantations with their goal being to reinforce ISIS positions near Al-Raqqa (via the Abyadh Al-Tuwaynaan Valley) where the other pro-American SDF is located.  Talk about playing two sides against the other!  The ambush was sprung about 30 kms west of Palmyra (Tadmur) by elements of Air Force Intelligence-Special Operations Units.  The terrorist rodents were especially vulnerable on their motorcycles as expertly positioned commandos opened light arms fire at them killing two instantly and forcing another two to wipe out on the road.  The two taken into custody started warbling like nightingales explaining their relationship with American officers at Al-Tanf.

http://wikimapia.org/#lang=en&lat=33.437888&lon=38.835554&z=14&m=w&search=al-tanf

The second ambush took place in the area of Al-Furoo’ east of Palmyra by about 70 kms.  There, the terrorists were not so interested in confrontation.  They surrendered to the Security Services commando units and gave up 10 motorcycles, weapons and ammo, 146 rolls of hashish, 14 bags of Captagon which amounted to 10,000+ tablets.  I guess they were going to cater a party. They are now warbling like starlings.

Now that a new prime minister in Iraq is in office, we are hoping the Baghdad government stops affording the U.S. privileged status permitting it to supply and occupy the Al-Tanf base.  The Hashemites in Jordan are a lost cause, but, Iraq is not yet that far gone.  There is still hope that Muqtadaa Al-Sadr and his allies will re-assume their mantles as Iraq’s only truly populist movement.  The U.S. has been truly injured by the fall of Al-‘Abbaadi’s government after so many lobbying efforts – efforts to intervene in Iraqi elections.

___________________________________________

LATAKIA:

The night before yesterday, somebody fired some rockets at a military research-and-development center in Latakia.  Syrian radar picked up the approaching missiles and fired Pantsir anti-missile rockets at them, bringing most down, according to sources in Latakia.  Yet, the atmosphere is still somewhat murky.

That evening, amidst the melee, an Ilyushin aircraft carrying 14 crew members and enlisted men was downed in the Mediterranean near the coast of Syria.  A search and rescue operation is now in progress.

This is what happened.  Nobody was expecting any attack by the Zionist Settler State.  There were no weapons being transferred to HZB from any research center in Latakia City.  The Humaymeem AB was on alert, as usual, but, as I wrote, there were no causes for concern.  A French missile boat was in the international waters outside Syria’s coastline and there was no expectation it would fire at any target, especially where there was a danger of striking Russia’s military.

Russia detects missile launches from French frigate off Syria’s coast in Mediterranean

(Photo:  French Navy)

The French ship was the Auvergne, an Aquitaine Class ship.  If any of you remember your history, it was at Aquitaine (then northwards to Poitier and Tours) where Charles Martel blunted the Umayyad Caliphate’s effort to conquer Europe from Andalusia in 732 AD. Well, anyways, there is a lot of history behind that name.

Zionist military planners noted that the Il-20 aircraft was scheduled to depart Humaymeem at around 5 p.m.  It would be the perfect cover.  The attack on the research center was approved by Prime Minister Mileikowski (a/k/a Netanyhu).  When the Il-20 was in the air, so were 3 F-16s.  The idea was to shadow the transport aircraft and fire at the base.  But, what happened became a nightmare.

Syrian air defense units were not told about the Russian airplane.  When Zionist aircraft appeared on their screens, they perfunctorily fired at the targets.  It is evident from the swift Zionist retreat that there was realization that Syrian air defense missiles could hit the Russian aircraft.  And they did, causing the Ilyushin to crash into the Mediterranean.

Initial Russian reaction was to blame the French who were accused of firing cruise missiles at Latakia even though the “false flag” CW event had not taken place.  This could mean that the CW event was scheduled to take place on Monday, but, that the Turkish-Russian agreement at Socchi aborted that.  It is possible and it is an indication of just how incompetent the French really are.

It is also obvious now that the Kremlin is fuming over this.  Mileikowski constantly crows about how much coordination exists between Russian and Zionist forces in Syria.  This was an example of how treacherous these Zionists really are.

Defense chief vows response to Israel’s actions that caused fatal crash of Il-20 aircraft – By TASS

September 18, 17:06 UTC+3

The Russian defense minister says Israeli F-16s delivered strikes on Syria using the Russian Il-20 recon plane as cover

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© Maxim Kuzovkov/TASS

MOSCOW, September 18. /TASS/. Russia will respond to actions on behalf of the Israeli Air Force that led to a fatal crash of Russia’s Il-20 aircraft on Monday late night in Syria, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Tuesday.

“We have informed today our Israeli colleagues, and I have also informed personally the Israeli Defense Minister [Avigdor Lieberman], that such actions will not be left unanswered by us,” Shoigu said.

The Russian Il-20 that was shot down by Syrian air defense systems had been conducting reconnaissance activity in the Idlib de-escalation zone before the crash, he said. 

“Our reconnaissance airplane Il-20 with 15 crew members on board – that had been conducting reconnaissance tasks over the Idlib de-escalation zone to find places of storage and collection of unmanned aerial vehicles which fly from this zone and strike various Syrian regions – was in the strike zone, strictly speaking between Israel’s aircraft – four F-16 planes – and Syrian territory,” he said.

Israeli F-16 jets delivered strikes on Syria using the Russian Ilyushin-20 reconnaissance plane as cover, since the Israelis believed that Syria’s air defenses would not counteract against that trajectory, Shoigu said. “It’s clear to any specialist the strike was delivered using our Ilyushin-20 as cover, because they [the Israelis] thought the Syrian air defense systems would not act in that direction,” he stated.

Shoigu indicated that the Israeli Air Force had conducted the attacks without notification. 

“The Israeli side didn’t issue a notification or, to be more precise, they warned us a minute before conducting the strike,” he said. “They told us they were about to attack facilities on the Syrian territory, and they did it.”

“As a result of countermeasures to the Israeli attack, the Syrian air defense troops brought down the Ilyushin-20,” Shoigu indicated.

According to the Russian Defense Ministry, on September 17 at about 23:00 Moscow time (GMT + 3) contact was lost with the crew of a Russian Il-20 plane that was returning to the Hmeymim airbase above the Mediterranean Sea, 35 km off the Syrian coast. The ministry specified that the Il-20 disappeared from the air traffic control radars during the attack of four Israeli F-16 planes on Syrian facilities in the Latakia Governorate.

The Russian Defense Ministry later reported that the plane had been downed by the Syrian air defense systems. According to the ministry, the Israeli pilots used the IL-20 as a shield, putting it under the attack of the S-200 missile system. It was said that the Israeli flight control devices and the F-16 pilots “could not but see the Russian plane as it was coming in for a landing at an altitude of 5 km.” That said, they intentionally carried out this provocation, said Russian Defense Ministry Spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov, noting that Russia regarded Israel’s actions as hostile.

More:
http://tass.com/defense/1022123

After Peace Talks Fail, Saudi Coalition Reverts to Scorched-Earth Campaign Against Civilians in Yemen – by Ahmed Abdulkareem – MINT PRESS

The Forgotten War

Yemen Hodeida

After UN-brokered peace talks between Yemen and the Saudi coalition in Geneva failed last week, the Saudi-led coalition renewed its offensive to capture Yemen’s strategic port of Hodeida, leaving scores of dead civilians in its wake.

HODEIDA, YEMEN — Not long after UN-brokered peace talks between Yemen and the Saudi coalition in Geneva failed last week, the Saudi-led coalition renewed its offensive to capture Yemen’s strategic port of Hodeida. The attacks targeted internally displaced persons, vital facilities and infrastructure– continuing a scorched earth campaign that has left scores of dead civilians in its wake.

“Please doctor, save my mother, she will die!” begged nine-year-old Mohammed as he and his brother Amran stared at their dead mother, who died from injuries sustained when a Saudi airstrike hit their family car Friday on the highway between Hodeida and Sana’a in the Kilo 16 district on the outskirts of Hodeida. The family was attempting to flee to Sana’a.

Lying in blood-stained clothing on a bed in Hodeida Hospital’s emergency room, Mohammed, who hung on to his mother’s purse despite the shrapnel in his hand, recounted the events which led him there:

 

We were moving furniture from our home in Kilo 16 to the truck. When a bomb suddenly hit us. My mother was killed and I, my brother and sister were wounded.”

At least 10 civilians, including women and children, were killed and dozens injured by Saudi-led coalition airstrikes in Hodeida and Sadaa on Friday. Just two days prior, coalition aircraft bombed Hodeida’s Kilo 16 district, killing 15 civilians and injuring dozens more, most of whom were hit when they were forced to flee down the only road that links Sana’a and Hodeida.

The deadly attacks come after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo defended the Saudi coalition following international pressure after the coalition targeted a school bus full of children.

In a written memo, Pompeo ‘certified’  that the Gulf monarchies waging the war in Yemen were taking “sufficient steps to protect civilians.”

The governments of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are undertaking demonstrable actions to reduce the risk of harm to civilians and civilian infrastructure resulting from military operations of these governments.”


Read | Pompeo’s unclassified memo on US Military aid to the Saudi coalition


Despite Pompeo’s statements, attacks on civilians show little sign of abatement.

In another fresh attack by the U.S.-backed coalition, ten civilians including women and children were killed when Saudi airstrikes targeted their family home in the village of Hwara in the Ganiyah district on Monday. Three journalists and a guard were also killed when Saudi airstrikes targeted the Hodeida Radio building Sunday, and two were people were killed and one severely injured after a fishing boat off the island of Al-Sawaba was targeted on Saturday.

 

The worst may be yet to come

Five hundred meters south of Kilo 16, where Mohammed family was hit, local mercenaries employed by the Saudi coalition shelled a United Nations World Food Program (WFP) food silo inside the Yemen Company for Flour Mills and Silos (YCFMS).

The UN food storage facility held large quantities of wheat for the WFP and was responsible for milling about a quarter of the wheat flour the agency distributes to some of the hungriest people in the country, according to the UN.

Speaking to reporters in Geneva on Friday, WFP spokesman Herve Verhoosel said:

Humanitarian workers, infrastructure and food supplies have been targeted in recent days, as clashes are still ongoing near the Red Sea Mills silos, a critical facility for WFP operations. A mortar shell launched by an unidentified armed group also hit a WFP warehouse in Hodeida city, holding enough food to assist 19,200 people, wounding a guard at the warehouse. The fighting could impact WFP’s ability to supply up to 3.5 million people in dire need in northern and central Yemen for a month.”

Earlier, the chairman of Ansar Allah`s (Houthi’s) Supreme Revolutionary Committee, Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, warned in a Twitter post that Riyadh had plans to attack food storage facilities and silos across Hodeida under the false pretext that they were being used to store weapons.

The Ministry of Public Health and Population, based in Sana’a, also warned in a statement that the Saudi-led coalition wanted to target UNICEF food stores and World Food Program grain silos in Hodeida, to “push Yemenis to starvation by various means.”

This comes amidst a worsening famine in Yemen which has left thousands of families in many provinces, including Hodeida, with nothing to eat, leaving some to resort to eating the leaves off of trees in an attempt to stave off starvation.

 

Fleeing becomes almost impossible

Like hundreds of families, Mohammed lost his mother when they were driving the Kilo 16 thoroughfare linking the port city of Hodeida to the capital, Sana’a. Serving as the only major road to Sana’a, the thoroughfare has left civilians exposed to deadly coalition attacks as they attempt to flee the fighting in Hodeida.

Houthi Yemen Kilo 16

The road has been difficult to traverse since June 13, when forces from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates launched a wide-ranging operation to capture Hodeida’s strategic seaport. With airports closed thanks to a coalition blockade, there are no humanitarian corridors to allow civilians to flee or ambulance crews to transport the wounded to Sana’a. The coalition has also blocked internet access across most of Hodeida, making it almost impossible for residents to contact the outside world.

The coalition claims its attacks on the Kilo 16 thoroughfare are intended to cut off the Houthis’ main supply route but have provided no evidence to back their claim. The Houthis likely do not rely on the asphalt road where they could easily be spotted and targeted by coalition aircraft.

The fighting for Hodeida has effectively shut down the main artery linking the port city to the rest of the country, Save the Children charity said Thursday.

Tamer Kirolos of Save the Children said “it’s quite literally a matter of life and death” for the main road linking Hodeida to the capital Sana’a to remain open adding”

This year alone we expect some 400,000 children under five to suffer from severe acute malnutrition … Unless supply routes remain open this figure could increase dramatically, putting the lives of thousands of children at risk from entirely preventable causes.”

For its part, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) has called for the port of Hodeida and the arteries that lead to and from it to remain open. NRC spokesman Jan Engelan said:

Hodeida is not a trophy and its citizens are not toys … A single act of force to disrupt the flow of supplies from Hodeida would be a deadly blow for millions.”

Aid agencies in Yemen have identified close to 500,000 people who had fled their homes in Hodeida between June and August, the NRC said. So far in September, 55,000 people have been displaced across Hodeida, it added, but a large number of civilians are still trapped in their homes.

 

In Hodeida, No guarantee of safety 

UN humanitarian coordinator, Lise Grande, said in a statement on Thursday:

The situation has deteriorated dramatically in the past few days. Families are absolutely terrified by the bombardment, shelling and airstrikes, as the lives of 300,000 inhabitants hang in the balance in the port city.”

“People are struggling to survive,” said Grande. “More than 25 percent of children are malnourished; 900,000 people in the governorate are desperate for food; and 90,000 pregnant women are at enormous risk.”

Indeed, a family who refused to flee Hodeida were targeted by a Saudi coalition airstrike on Friday, leaving one family member dead and many others wounded. The family, who resided in Hodeida’s al-Zurah district, didn’t have the means to escape the fighting and feared airstrikes targeting the roads leaving Hodeida.

International human rights groups say Saudi Arabia has committed war crimes by using unconventional weapons, conducting hundreds of airstrikes on residential areas, and hitting civilian targets across Yemen.

 

Death from above & everywhere else

Back in Hodeida Hospital’s emergency room, doctors struggle to save Mohammed and Amran after their family car was targeted in a coalition airstrike while trying to flee Hodeida via the Kilo 16 thoroughfare. The boys, both in a great deal of pain owing to serious injuries to their heads, hands and back, risk death from the chronic shortage of medical supplies in Yemen owing to a complete Saudi coalition blockade of the countries airports, seaports and roads.  The blockade has been in effect since the coalition campaign began in 2015.

To make matter worse, over 1,250 days of near-constant airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition have reduced Yemen`s hospitals and clinics to rubble and short-circuited its electricity service, while the ruinous blockade has depleted the country’s supply of food and life-saving medicine.

Yemen Famine

Hopes of a UN-brokered agreement to lift the blockade were crushed last week when peace talks between Yemen and the coalition fell through after the UN refused to facilitate the transfer of wounded patients to hospitals outside of Yemen for treatment and to guarantee the safety of a Houthi delegation attending the talks slated to take place in Geneva.

“If the Sana’a negotiating delegation had been allowed to travel to Geneva, I could have saved my father,” said Ahmed Abdul Qadeer. His father, who required a kidney transplant not available in Yemen, was one of several patients scheduled to travel with the Sana’a delegation on September 5.

The United Nations said on Saturday that the situation of children in Yemen is getting worse, not better. Globally, Yemen ranks first in the number of children in need of humanitarian aid. Over 11 million children — 80 percent of the country’s children — are in desperate need of assistance. Social services are barely functioning as the country is on the verge of collapse.

The U.S.-backed military campaign has not only affected children. Civilians across Yemen have suffered immensely from the campaign, which has left thousands of civilians dead, destroyed the country’s infrastructure, and created the conditions for the world’s worst cholera epidemic.

 

Yemen’s resistance shows no sign of surrender

Despite Saudi-led coalition claims of complete control over the Kilo 16 district, including to the main road, Mohammad al-Bukhaiti, a top figure in the Houthi Supreme Political Council, appeared on video Thursday on the Kilo 16 thoroughfare denying that claim.

In June, coalition forces tried to overrun Hodeida but were blocked by fierce resistance put up by Houthi fighters as well as local residents, who took up arms against coalition incursion.

Although the coalition has received substantial intelligence, logistical aid and advanced weaponry from United State, it has continued to plow ahead blindly. More than three years and hundreds of thousands dead and injured later, the coalition is no closer to achieving its goals than it was when it began its bloody campaign.

For their part, the Houthis, who comprise a major component of Yemen’s resistance movement Ansarullah, show no sign of surrender and still control Sana’a and most other major cities, thwarting Saudi Arabia’s efforts to dislodge them in favor of a government more amenable to Saudi policy.

In light of the stalemate and the horrific destruction and loss of life, the Geneva peace talks between should be rekindled. “At least, let Mohammed along with millions of children live in safety as America’s children do, and save what can be saved,” Mohammed and Amran’s father told MintPress.

Top Photo | A girl and her family stand in a school where she and her family were evacuated amid fighting in Hodeida, Yemen. Abdul Jabbar Zeyad | Reuters

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Forget Putin, Trump is Acting in Every Way Like Netanyahu’s Manchurian Candidate – By MIKO PELED – MINT PRESS

Donald Trump, Benjamin Netanyahu, Melania Trump, Sara Netanyahu
Foreign Meddling

Moving the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem; pulling out of the Iran agreement; defunding UNRWA, and closing the PLO mission in D.C.: every Trump administration move satisfies the objectives of the Israeli government while not benefiting the United States in the least.

WASHINGTON — (Analysis) In the months leading up to the 25th anniversary of the Oslo Accords, the U.S. has colluded with Israel in a string of policies and decisions that completely undermine the legitimacy of the agreement, not to mention Palestinian claims to justice, freedom and ultimately peace. As these policies unfold, one cannot help recalling the words of the great Palestinian writer Ghassan Kanafani, who said that talking with the Israelis is “a conversation between the sword and the neck.”

There is a clear common thread that binds several of the U.S. policies enacted by President Donald Trump since last December. Moving the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem; pulling out of the Iran agreement; defunding UNRWA, and closing the PLO mission in D.C. all satisfy the objectives of the Israeli government while not benefiting the United States in the least. One might imagine that the United States is executing Israel’s policy, reading as it were from a menu that was provided by Benjamin Netanyahu. In fact, the Trump administration is every Israeli prime minister’s dream.

 

 

Jerusalem

Moving the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem was reckless, dangerous and absurd. The occupation and annexation of Jerusalem by Israel was in violation of UN resolution 181 from November 1947, which states in “Part III, City of Jerusalem” that:

The City of Jerusalem shall be established as a corpus separatum under a special international regime and shall be administered by the United Nations. The Trusteeship Council shall be designated to discharge the responsibilities of the Administering Authority on behalf of the United Nations.”

Resolution 194 from December 1948 — in other words, more than a year after Resolution 181 was passed and the eastern half of Jerusalem was occupied and subjected to a total full ethnic cleansing, where not one Palestinian was permitted to remain — reiterates this:

8 | Resolves that, in view of its association with three world religions, the Jerusalem area, including the present municipality of Jerusalem plus the surrounding villages and towns, the most eastern of which shall be Abu Dis; the most southern, Bethlehem; the most western, Ein Karim (including also the built-up area of Motsa); and the most northern, Shu’fat, should be accorded special and separate treatment from the rest of Palestine and should be placed under effective United Nations control …

For this reason all diplomatic missions to Israel are situated in Tel Aviv and not Jerusalem. The diplomatic missions in Jerusalem mostly pre-date the establishment of the State of Israel and are considered sovereign and independent of their countries’ embassies in Tel Aviv. Even the U.S. consulate until recently reported directly to Washington, and the consul general was in fact an ambassador. This was not unlike placing the U.S. embassy to France in Berlin and — according to sources I spoke to at the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem — now that the ambassador’s office was moved to Jerusalem, the place is in a state of confusion and it is not at all clear who is responsible for what.

In addition to all of the above, the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital city of Israel legitimizes the crime of ethnic cleansing and destruction which Israel has perpetrated in Jerusalem since 1948. This move did not benefit the U.S. in any way but it boosted Benjamin Netanyahu’s political power, and can be viewed as nothing less than a personal political gift from the president of the United States to Netanyahu.

US President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu embrace at the Israel museum in Jerusalem, May 23, 2017. (AP/Sebastian Scheiner)

 

Iran Deal

Israel, and Netanyahu, in particular, have been against the nuclear deal with Iran from the very beginning. Needing a diversion from its own war crimes and violations of international law, Israel has for many years pointed to Iran as a threat to itself and the rest of the world. This was a point of serious disagreement between the Obama administration and Israel and then Donald Trump put the disagreement to rest and the U.S. withdrew from the agreement.

According to a piece in Rand.com, Trump withdrew the U.S. from the agreement “despite a lack of evidence that Iran is violating the agreement. To the contrary, the International Atomic Energy Agency has verified Iran’s compliance numerous times.” The article continues by saying, “the implications of this decision could be disastrous for the Middle East under any conceivable scenario.”

Trump Netanyahu Iran Deal Mintpressnews

A piece in the British Independent bluntly claims that:

The president’s foreign policy has so far been marked by a significant ratcheting of tensions with Iran, driven by his administration’s noted friendliness towards Israel, which opposes the [Iran nuclear] deal.”

According to a report from August 2018 by the IAEA, the International Atomic Energy Agency:

“Since Implementation Day, the Agency has been verifying and monitoring the implementation by Iran of its nuclear-related commitments under the JCPOA.” The report states that among other things:

Since 16 January, 2016 [JCPOA Implementation Day], the Agency has verified and monitored Iran’s implementation of its nuclear-related commitments in accordance with the modalities set out in the JCPOA.”

The report states clearly that Iran was and continues to be compliant in all areas of the agreement. All the other countries that are signatories to the agreement remain committed to it, and they all insisted that a U.S. withdrawal was a mistake. Only one person insisted the U.S. must withdraw, and that is Benjamin Netanyahu, and he is the one person whose claims President Trump decided to accept. Once again, the United States had nothing to gain and everything to lose from the withdrawal and once again Netanyahu personally gained political strength as the sole voice to which the president of the United States listens.

 

UNRWA

The United States can see no benefit whatsoever in denying UNRWA funding; yet this is what the Trump administration decided to do. The very agency responsible for providing relief, albeit inadequate, to the refugees of Palestine was receiving $300 million per year, which is a drop in the bucket in terms of relief and of course in terms of the U.S. government’s total budget. In an open letter to Palestine refugees and UNRWA staff, dated September 1, 2018, Pierre Krähenbühl, UNRWA Commissioner-General, writes,

The need for humanitarian action … in the case of Palestine refugees, was caused by forced displacement, dispossession, loss of homes and livelihoods, as well as by statelessness and occupation. … [T]he undeniable fact remains that they have rights under international law and represent a community of 5.4 million men, women and children who cannot simply be wished away.”

“The attempt to make UNRWA somehow responsible for perpetuating the crisis is disingenuous at best,” the commissioner said, responding to claims made by Netanyahu that “UNRWA is an organization that perpetuates the problem of the Palestinian refugees.” Netanyahu also stated that UNRWA “perpetuates the narrative of the so-called ‘right of return,’” which the state of Israel fears — and therefore, according to Netanyahu, “UNRWA must disappear.”

According to The New York Times, this move was pushed hard by Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, “as part of a plan to compel Palestinian politicians to drop demands for many of those refugees to return.”  The right of the refugees to return is enshrined in UN Resolution 194, and one wonders why the U.S. should object to Palestinian demand for return of the refugees to their homes? Once again this is a gift to Netanyahu, who wants to see the refugee issue disappear.

Trump Kushner Netanyahu

 

PLO Mission

A product of the Oslo Accords, the PLO mission in Washington is the de-facto embassy of Palestine, the face and the voice of the Palestinian Authority in the U.S. Now, almost exactly on the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Accords, the Trump administration announces the closing of the mission. It could have come as no surprise when Netanyahu, who fiercely opposed the Accords, applauded the U.S. administration decision. This was yet one more insignificant step for the U.S., and one giant gift to Benjamin Netanyahu.

Top Photo | President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara Netanyahu at the White House, March 5, 2018. Evan Vucci | AP

Miko Peled is an author and human rights activist born in Jerusalem. He is the author of “The General’s Son. Journey of an Israeli in Palestine,” and “Injustice, the Story of the Holy Land Foundation Five.”

Republish our stories! MintPress News is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 International License.

Target Syria Will a new war be the October Surprise? – By Philip Giraldi – THE UNZ REPORT

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Syrian Army

It’s official. The Syrian Army assisted by Russian air support is closing in on the last major pocket of terrorists remaining in the country in the province of Idlib near Aleppo. The United States, which has trained and armed some of the trapped gunmen and even as recently as a year ago described the province as “al-Qaeda’s largest safe haven since 9/11,” has perhaps predictably warned Syria off. The White House initially threatened a harsh reaction if the Bashar al-Assad government were to employ any chemical weapons in its final attack, setting the stage for the terrorists themselves to carry out a false flag operation blamed on Damascus that would bring with it a brutal response against the regime and its armed forces by the U.S., Britain and France.

In support of the claims relating to chemical weapons use, the Trump Administration, which is itself illegally occupying part of Syria, is as usual creating a bogus casus belli. U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley said in a news conference that “This is a tragic situation, and if they [Russia and Iran] want to continue to go the route of taking over Syria, they can do that. But they cannot do it with chemical weapons. They can’t do it assaulting their people and we’re not going to fall for it. If there are chemical weapons that are used, we know exactly who’s going to use them.” As with all Haley commentary, the appropriate response should be expressing wonderment at her ability to predict who will do something before it occurs followed by “Not quite Nikki.” She should familiarize herself with her own State Department’s travel warning on Syria which states explicitly that “tactics of ISIS, [al-Qaeda affiliate in Idlib] Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, and other violent extremist groups include the use of…chemical weapons.”

Setting the stage for a false flag provoked attack on a country that does not threaten the United States was bad enough, but now Washington has apparently hardened its line, indicating that any use of the Syrian Army to clear the province of rebels will “…not be tolerated. Period.” Haley again spoke out at the United Nations, saying “…an offensive against Idlib would be a reckless escalation. The regime and its backers must stop their military campaign in all its forms.” In support of its inflexible stance, the White House has been citing the presence of a large civilian population also trapped in the pocket even though there is no evidence whatsoever that anyone in Washington actually cares about Syrian civilian casualties.

And there is always Iran just waiting to get kicked around, when all else fails. Haley, always blissfully ignorant but never quiet, commented while preparing to take over the presidency of the U.N. Security Council last Friday, that Russia and Syria “want to bomb schools, hospitals, and homes” before launching into a tirade about Iran, saying that “President Trump is very adamant that we have to start making sure that Iran is falling in line with international order. If you continue to look at the spread Iran has had in supporting terrorism, if you continue to look at the ballistic missile testing that they are doing, if you continue to look at the sales of weapons we see with the Huthis in Yemen — these are all violations of security council resolution. These are all threats to the region, and these are all things that the international community needs to talk about.”

And there is the usual hypocrisy over long term objectives. President Donald Trump said in April that “it’s time” to bring American troops home from Syria -once the jihadists of Islamic State have been definitively defeated. But now that that objective is in sight, there has to be some question about who is actually determining the policies that come out of the White House, which is reported to be in more than usual disarray due to the appearance last week of the New York Times anonymous op-ed describing a “resistance” movement within the West Wing that has been deliberately undermining and sometimes ignoring the president to further Establishment/Deep State friendly policies. The op-ed, perhaps by no coincidence whatsoever, appeared one week before the release of the new book by Bob Woodward Fear: Trump in the White House, which has a similar tale to tell and came out on Amazon today.

The book and op-ed mesh nicely in describing how Donald Trump is a walking disaster who is deliberately circumvented by his staff. One section of the op-ed is particularly telling and suggestive of neocon foreign policy, describing how the White House staff has succeeded in “[calling out] countries like Russia…for meddling and [having them] punished accordingly” in spite of the president’s desire for détente. It then goes on to elaborate on Russia and Trump, describing how “…the president was reluctant to expel so many of Mr. Putin’s spies as punishment for the poisoning of a former Russian spy in Britain. He complained for weeks about senior staff members letting him get boxed into further confrontation with Russia, and he expressed frustration that the United States continued to impose sanctions on the country for its malign behavior. But the national security team knew better – such actions had to be taken to hold Moscow accountable.”

If the op-ed and Woodward book are in any way accurate, one has to ask “Whose policy? An elected president or a cabal of disgruntled staffers who might well identify as neoconservatives?” Be that as it may, the White House is desperately pushing back while at the same time searching for the traitor, which suggests to many in Washington that it will right the sinking ship prior to November elections by the time honored and approved method used by politicians worldwide, which means starting a war to rally the nation behind the government.

As North Korea is nuclear armed, the obvious targets for a new or upgraded war would be Iran and Syria. As Iran might actually fight back effectively and the Pentagon always prefers an enemy that is easy to defeat, one suspects that some kind of expansion of the current effort in Syria would be preferable. It would be desirable, one presumes, to avoid an open conflict with Russia, which would be unpredictable, but an attack on Syrian government forces that would produce a quick result which could plausibly be described as a victory would certainly be worth considering.

By all appearances, the preparation of the public for an attack on Syria is already well underway. The mainstream media has been deluged with descriptions of tyrant Bashar al-Assad, who allegedly has killed hundreds of thousands of his own people. The rhetoric coming out of the usual government sources is remarkable for its truculence, particularly when one considers that Damascus is trying to regain control over what is indisputably its own sovereign territory from groups that everyone agrees are at least in large part terrorists.

Last week, the Trump White House approved the new U.S. plan for Syria, which, unlike the old plan of withdrawal, envisions something like a permanent presence in the country. It includes a continued occupation of the country’s northeast, which is the Kurdish region; forcing Iran plus its proxies including Hezbollah to leave the country completely; and continued pressure on Damascus to bring about regime change.

Washington has also shifted its perception of who is trapped in Idlib, with newly appointed U.S. Special Representative for Syria James Jeffrey arguing that “. . . they’re not terrorists, but people fighting a civil war against a brutal dictator.” Jeffrey, it should be noted, was pulled out of retirement where he was a fellow with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), an American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) spin off. On his recent trip to the Middle East he stopped off in Israel nine days ago to meet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The change in policy, which is totally in line with Israeli demands, would suggest that Jeffrey received his instructions during the visit.

Israel is indeed upping its involvement in Syria. It has bombed the country 200 times in the past 18 months and is now threatening to extend the war by attacking Iranians in neighboring Iraq. It has also been providing arms to the terrorist groups operating inside Syria.

And Netanyahu also appears to be preparing his followers for a bit of bloodshed. In a recent ceremony, he boasted that “the weak are slaughtered” while “the strong” survive — “for good or ill.” Commentators in Israel noted that the words were very close to those used by Adolf Hitler in Mein Kampf in a chapter describing the historical inevitability of domination by the Aryan race. They also observed that Netanyahu, like Trump, also needs a war to free himself from his legal problems.

Taking the president, the U.N. Ambassador, the Israeli Prime Minister and the U.S. Special Representative for Syria at their words, it would appear that the Washington Establishment and its Israeli manipulators have narrowed the options for dealing with Syria and its regional supporter Iran to either war or war. Add to that the closing time window for doing something to ameliorate the Trump Administration’s panic over the impending midterm election, and it would seem that there is a certain inevitability regarding the process whereby the United States military will again be on the march in the Middle East.

Philip M. Giraldi, Ph.D., is Executive Director of the Council for the National Interest, a 501(c)3 tax deductible educational foundation that seeks a more interests-based U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. Website is www.councilforthenationalinterest.org, address is P.O. Box 2157, Purcellville VA 20134 and its email is inform@cnionline.org.

 

The Deal that Lurks Behind the Calm: US, Israel Seek to Exploit Palestinian Divisions and Create More of Them – By Hisham H. Ahmed, Ph.D – MINT PRESS

Trump Kushner Netanyahu
“Deal of the Century”

Trump’s “deal of the century,” which lurks behind the calm, is a deal with and for everybody except the Palestinian people themselves, who are most directly affected and concerned.

OCCUPIED PALESTINE — (Analysis) This article is not written to support one Palestinian group and/or to criticize another. The writer does not condone Palestinian partisanship and factionalism. The writer strongly believes that this is the time for true open-mindedness and objectivity. The problem at hand is bigger and greater than all Palestinian groups when dealt with separately: the new calm agreement under discussion impacts the Palestinian problem and threatens the Palestinian people in their entirety.

It is no exaggeration to say that concepts such as calm, reconciliation and division have become very burdensome for the Palestinian psyche and that they have started to cause tremendous anxiety and fear. This is because these words carry so much significance for Palestinian life and destiny.

It is also no exaggeration to say that the Palestinian people have become fed up with the repeated back-and-forth discussions about reconciliation and division between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority. For the Palestinian people, it seems that priorities other than the Palestinian national interest and the public good have risen to the surface in the past few years, despite the fact that ending the seemingly chronic state of division has been the main demand by the Palestinian people of their leaders all along.

 

With time, this demand has become a dream. However, now it seems to have been turned into a fantasy, as the credibility of Palestinian factions to end the state of division and arrive at reconciliation has been crushed.

Most Palestinias feel that even in the most difficult times for them, there was always hope for liberation and independence. With the split among Palestinians at the present stage, this goal seems almost impossible, as no real fundamental transformation can be brought about.

Division — be it caused by internal, external, or a mix of reasons — cannot but bring about more Israeli control of, and hegemony over, the Palestinian people. Although it is difficult to speak of rigid fixed rules for how the world of politics operates, one of the absolute basics is that a house united is always stronger, more immune, and a lot more resistant in the face of the many challenges and storms. At the same time, a leaky house does not protect even those who hide in one corner or another.

As every Palestinian continued to be hopeful that the state of division would end and that reconciliation would be achieved, even in the midst of the darkest moments and the most difficult circumstances, the Palestinian problem faces today something more detrimental than even division and the absence of reconciliation: this lies in the legitimization of the state of division and the burial of the idea of reconciliation, once and for all. This may be caused by the looming, deadly, supposed calm on the horizon between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

 

Renewed Oslo

There is near consensus that the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip is quite catastrophic. All bases for human survival — water, food, fresh air and electricity — have reached record low levels. The United Nations and a number of non-governmental organizations have reported that the current humanitarian situation may cause untold consequences, as it is neither livable nor sustainable.

The whole Gaza Strip has been turned into the largest human prison on earth. This has made the process of teaching and learning, work, acquiring health care, and travel unattainable. It is no exaggeration to say that all human rights in the Gaza Strip have been violated. Friends and foes alike of the Palestinian people recognize that the current state of affairs cannot endure under any circumstances. There is a widespread perception in the world that the Gaza Strip stands at a critical threshold: either all bases for human life collapse completely; or alternatively, the world pretends that it is doing something to ameliorate the humanitarian situation, albeit by using deceptive, twisted political and economic tools that could in fact lead to a worse humanitarian situation in the Strip than the one that exists today.

Enemies of the Palestinian people calculate that the cost of maintaining the current situation seems to exceed, by far, the benefits they might reap by pretending to end the misery. The proposed humanitarian solutions to rescue the Strip from its dilemma are meant to lead the Palestinian people, particularly those who might participate in crafting an agreement in this regard, into a vicious circle.

Palestinian Gaza power cut

Sure, those on the frontline need, and certainly deserve, some rest. However, the timing, place for, and the circumstances surrounding any desired rest are of prime importance. Under the current conditions and circumstances — and in light of regional and international pressures, as work on implementing Donald Trump’s “deal of the century” intensifies, even without any formal declaration — a Palestinian-Israeli Agreement for “calm” does not amount to providing the necessary rest, but rather, to falling in the trap of an attempt at marginalizing all forms of resistance to the occupation.

Using the worsening humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip as grounds to justify the arrival at a new calm cannot be separated from the overall context of diabolically trying to put the “deal of the century” into effect. This is no different from using the awful humanitarian situation in the occupied territories as a justification for signing the Oslo Agreement in 1993.

Many Palestinians feel that the regurgitation of a bad experience is worse than trying it again from the start. Failure to learn the lessons of the wasteful and aimless Palestinian-Israeli negotiations that have hurt the Palestinian cause is not just a mistake: rather, it is sinful. The Palestinian problem, in its entirety, is targeted now by some of the most senseless minds. Therefore, caution and precision, in dealing with any political bait in the form of proposed solutions, are in order and required. Caution and precision are national necessities for Palestinians that, if eschewed, can only result in catastrophic consequences exceeding in their magnitude the humanitarian catastrophe in the Gaza Strip today.

Critics of an Israeli-Palestinian agreement for calm that might be arrived unilaterally by Hamas remind everyone of the seriously impending dangers surrounding the Palestinian problem on the eve of signing the Oslo agreement. Various different details notwithstanding, the situation then for all Palestinians was not better than the one that exists in Gaza today. The nights and days of Israeli imposed curfews in the occupied Palestinian territories in 1967 still live in Palestinian memory. No Palestinian can forget the impact of the continued clashes with the Israeli occupation army during the Intifada (uprising) of the Stones, as it is called, in 1987.

The suffering of hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees in the diaspora due to siege, bombardment and isolation cannot be overlooked. Many Palestinian refugees, especially in Lebanon, were reduced to eating dogs, cats and rats in order to stay alive. Scenes of the waves of hundreds of thousands of Palestinian employees working in the Gulf being expelled with their families following the Gulf Crisis of 1990-91 cannot be erased. This is on top of all the massacres Palestinians have been subjected to since the conflict with the Israeli occupation started.

Critics further argue that if the Oslo agreement had brought the Palestinian people calamity, the new looming agreement for calm on the horizon can be even more dangerous, causing more harm to the steadfast Palestinian people.

Palestinian refugee Lebanon

The new proposed calm seems to be no more than a renewed Oslo. With renewal, it is expected that the producer will pay more attention to earlier flaws in order to perfect control and oppression of the Palestinian people. The Gaza Strip, which was to come first in the Oslo accords, had witnessed a relative relaxation of tensions in the first couple of years of Oslo: it had a small airport and work was to begin for establishing a port for people to travel in and out of the Strip.

This means that it is not entirely strange for the Israeli occupation to make a promise of lifting the siege off the Strip, allow reconstruction, establish a sea pathway between Gaza and Cyprus, and even to turn Gaza into Singapore of the Arabs today, and then break its promises tomorrow, depending on how Israeli institutions interpret their national interest at a given point in time. There is no deterrent power to prevent the Israeli occupation from breaking its promises. The occupation aims at getting rid of the Palestinians who live in Gaza: the former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin once said unequivocally that his wish was to wake up one morning and find Gaza sunk in the sea.

Those who embrace the new calm may say that they will retaliate by withdrawing from any new agreement if the Israelis break their promises or violate the agreement. However, this is not convincing for most Palestinians, as they consider such a retaliation, if it were to take place, a reactive rather than a proactive measure. The effectiveness of any given action is often measured by its timing. Israelis might find it beneficial to make promises at this stage and to break them at another. It all depends on what their plans are at any given time.

For example, Oslo was an Israeli need at one point, while its abrogation seems to be a necessity now. Israelis needed Oslo to buy more time to help them confiscate more Palestinian land and build more Israeli settlements under the cover of the erroneous peace. In other words, what might seem to be useful today might be harmful tomorrow. Critics warn that no Palestinians should deceive themselves that they can withdraw from the calm whenever they like and when the Israelis decide to sidetrack it. Palestinians have been engulfed in the Oslo swamp for many years and unable to get out of its grip until now.

 

Why is Israel gasping behind the calm now?

Those who follow the Israeli media closely have no doubt noticed that a number of outlets have tirelessly tried to release some information that made it look like an agreement for calm has been practically reached with Hamas. About two weeks ago some outlets even confirmed that the agreement had become effective. Although there had been no confirmation from the other side, it seems that the Israeli media was interested in preparing Israeli public opinion for what might be coming, in fulfillment of the desires of Israeli leaders, especially in the mini-security cabinet. Never mind all the talk about tense discussions within the mini-security cabinet regarding the viability, utility and content of the calm agreement.

Over the past few months, especially since the start of the weekly Great Marches of Return in the Gaza Strip, one cannot help but detect serious anxiety within Israeli institutions, as they have been trying to repeatedly demonstrate Israeli strength through some airstrikes on Gaza, on the one hand, and to enter into a number of ceasefire understandings, on the other. The bombing in Gaza and entry into ceasefire agreements have been pursued almost in parallel. One could go to sleep with the news of airstrikes on Gaza, and wake up with an announcement for a ceasefire.

This signifies that the Israelis seem to be more interested in arriving at an agreement for calm with Gaza at this stage, rather than in a military confrontation. Assuming this hypothesis is valid, why then would Israel pant for an agreement for calm in the Gaza Strip, specifically at this stage? Ten reasons seem to stand behind Israeli thinking:

 

1 | Using the suggested agreement for calm as a natural prelude for Trump’s “deal of the century.”

Here, the objective is to use humanitarian and economic considerations to achieve political and legal ends. More specifically, the plan is to promise Palestinians in Gaza some humanitarian relief in exchange for some political concessions. As the saying goes, there is no free lunch.

The Trump administration has blessed the ongoing talks in Cairo between Hamas and Egyptian officials, as well as other Palestinian factions, to broker some deal. The Trump administration is convinced that an agreement for calm is consistent with, and supports its scheme to deal with the Palestinian problem in fragments. It further believes — as has been expressed in statements by Jared Kushner, Trump’s advisor to the president on the Middle East — that some humanitarian cover will have to be used, ostensibly to end the conversation around the future of Palestine by removing all viable options for a future Palestinian state through the deal of the century.

Observers can easily detect the profound paradox in recent U.S. moves: on the one hand, the Trump administration has cut its annual financial contributions to UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, a clearly humanitarian organization; and on the other, the administration has declared that it supports efforts that could lead to the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip.

Cutting support to UNRWA has been most detrimental, as it led this UN organization to freeze a good number of its projects, and in the process terminate the employment of hundreds very needy Palestinian workers and staff in the Gaza Strip. As such, imagining a separation between an agreement for calm and the deal of the century is an exercise in daydreaming. All aspects are suspicious: he parallel timing, the content, and the dynamics.

UNRWA school in Beirut

 

2 | To serve Benjamin Netanyahu personally.

Some might wonder why Netanyahu has succeeded in becoming the longest-serving Israeli prime minister. It is attributable neither to the fact that Netanyahu is a pathological liar nor to any advantage in intelligence compared to others who were in his position before. Certainly, his hostility towards the peace process from the start has boosted his position among radical Israeli rightists. However, it is doubtful that this would be the determining factor that enabled Netanyahu to last so long in office and manage to stand in the way of a viable contender against him, despite the fact that he has been bombarded with allegations of financial and political corruption.

The secret behind Netanyahu’s success, compared to his political foes, can be primarily found in his ability to provide Israelis with more security relative to that provided by other prime ministers, especially since the signing of the Oslo Agreement. In a society where security is paramount, the Israeli voter does not seem to be able to find a more effective leader than Netanyahu, in spite of all his shortcomings.

Accordingly, an agreement for calm in the Gaza Strip very directly serves Netanyahu’s secret of success. It sends a strong message to Israeli society, especially to radical rightist groups. At a time when Netanyahu is quite self-centered on his political and personal ambitions, elevating them over other considerations, and is quite concerned that a military confrontation with the Gaza Strip might have some negative ramifications for his political future, he tries to sound and act tough, while deep inside he wishes for calm. No one would believe that Netanyahu might embark on an agreement for calm out of a good heart towards Palestinians. Certainly, an improved humanitarian life for Palestinians in Gaza is not high on his agenda. Nevertheless, pursuing an agreement for calm with Hamas seems to be his choice at this stage.

 

3 | Improving Israel’s image in the world.

It is worth remembering here that one of Israel’s main goals for entangling the PLO, and subsequently the Palestinian Authority, in the dark alleys of Oslo was exactly to brighten Israel’s worsening image in the world — especially in the West, where it has many friends — an image deteriorating particularly as a result of Israel’s gruesome crimes against unarmed Palestinian children, men and women during the 1987 Intifada of the Stones.

Scenes of heavily armed Israeli soldiers brutally beating unarmed Palestinians, and breaking their bones had immensely affected the image of the Israeli army as the most disciplined in the world. Mounting official criticism and increasing public protests against Israeli brutality and oppression of the Palestinian people around the world had compelled Israeli occupation institutions to search for an effective, extensive and organized public-relations campaign to show that Israel was peace-loving, and not aggressive or hostile.

In this context, Israel continued to market itself as a power searching for peace and negotiations through Oslo, while at the same time, it continued unabated confiscation of more Palestinian land; building more settlements; and, in every way possible, strengthening the occupation regime throughout all the occupied Palestinian territories.

What mattered to Israel was that it appeared as a power involved in negotiations and peace talks with the Palestinians, so as to alter world public opinion. Of course, most experts know that this marketed picture of Israel was quite deceptive because the negotiations were used only to further solidify the occupation regime. However, Israel succeeded in ending a great deal of the isolation it was experiencing as a result of its practices: once it entered into the Oslo talks, a number of countries in the region and in the world renewed their relations with Tel Aviv.

The timing could not be better now for another, more intensified public-relations campaign to revitalize Israel’s tarnished world image, and most specifically after BDS — boycott, divestment and sanctions — efforts have taken their toll on Israeli products and reputation. Even in countries where Israel has strong friends, BDS has been quite effective. There have been increasing expressions and moves of solidarity with the besieged Gaza Strip over the past few years. Israel has found itself with a dire need to undo its negative image, especially in Western societies.

Some of Tel Aviv’s diplomatic relations have been affected. Israel has also suffered serious economic losses from Palestinian use of fiery paper kites and incendiary balloons against settlements around the Gaza Strip. Netanyahu wants to revive Israeli settler confidence in him as an effective provider of security, especially around the Gaza Strip. Israel’s improving relations with some Arab countries have not compensated for its worsening image in and relations with friendly Western countries.

Boycott Israel France

Therefore, Israel believes that pretending that it is trying hard for calm with the Gaza Strip might lessen the extent of sharp criticism it is facing from the world community, although it is widely known that Israeli leaders do not usually give much weight to protests against them in the world. They do consider themselves to be above international law. For them — whether the calm is arrived at or not, whether it succeeds or not, and regardless of how long it may last — what matters is that Israel appears as its initiator, supporter and keeper, even though it might in reality assault every semblance of human life in the Gaza Strip, as it has always done since the start of the conflict. Israel adheres to agreements only when violating them become more costly — politically, militarily, diplomatically, economically, and, above all, in terms of security.

While Palestinians in the Gaza Strip might be facing a dire humanitarian situation today due to the prolonged siege and continued bombardment, Israelis, especially in settlements around the Gaza Strip, are not reaping the fruit of security, particularly after the start of the Great Marches for return and the launching of kites and balloons.

 

4 | Subjecting Palestinians to more divisions and splits.

Colonial powers have not stopped using the traditional tactic for control, which is based on the idea of “divide and conquer.” One of the most detrimental aspects of the Oslo Agreement has been its fragmentation of Palestinians in a number of ways, politically, demographically and geographically: between returnees and insiders; West Bankers, Gazans, Jerusalemites; 1948 Palestinians and those in the diaspora; those in areas A, B and C; and those focused on varying issues subject respectively to transitional phase negotiations and permanent resolution. All these layers of division seem to have helped the Israeli occupation tighten its noose around the neck of the Palestinian people and plant more seeds of fragmentation.

Segregated Palestine Map

The calm under discussion is not the culmination of a full-fledged military confrontation: its timing and place of execution is consistent with the terms of the deal of the century that have come to the surface thus far. It is doubtful that it will bring about any real meaningful change in Palestinian life that goes beyond the symbolic and short-lived; and — because it does not have the support of most Palestinian political forces, factions and partie — it becomes then a dense recipe for more Palestinian divisions. Such a state of affairs will inevitably help the Israeli occupation regime boost its power and control, and contribute to saving its institutions at a most critical moment.

At a time when the Palestinian Authority has rejected the deal of the century, as have all other Palestinian factions, going along with one of the deals most dubious components — giving it a humanitarian face and claiming that it will bring about development, reconstruction and modernization for the Gaza Strip — is quite risky and dangerous. Among other things, this will further fragment the already divided Palestinian society. Equally true, paying lip service to the recently resurfacing confederacy option between the West and East Bank of the Jordan River is meant to disguise the assault on the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their historic homeland, Palestine, and thus threatens the Palestinian national interest.

The Trump administration, which seems to live in the past when proposing this option, hastens to unmask the true objective of its policy by attempting to liquidate the Palestinian refugee question, once and for all, by completely cutting off the U.S.’ annual financial contributions to UNRWA.

 

5 | Legitimizing and boosting the split and, as a result, declaring the death and burial of reconciliation.

Division among Palestinians has already happened. Political, geographic and social division has become a part of Palestinian life. It is no secret that all attempts at ending it have failed thus far. The last thing Palestinians need is another cause to make that existing division deeper.

Each time an attempt at reconciliation fails, trust and credibility between the parties in dispute are further shattered. To be sure, no Palestinian side has come out to publicly announce that it is not concerned with ending the division and achieving reconciliation. All sides compete with each other to assert their adherence to reconciliation efforts and terms, and each works diligently to blame the other for the impending failures. Despite the fact that most statements and expressions of progress towards reconciliation have not been able to put an end to the state of division, still hope has not completely dissipated. Palestinians remain hopeful that the clouds of split overshadowing the Palestinian people will eventually pass and that the sun of reconciliation will rise again.

However, for one party to embrace the calm alone, in the midst of the most complicated regional and international circumstances surrounding the Palestinian problem, becomes a situation that legitimizes Palestinian division in all of its aspects, even if the embracing party does not accept and/or recognize this fact.

It is certainly true that the Gaza Strip has been suffering immensely under one of the most unfair sieges human history has ever recorded. It is also true that the Strip has been subjected to enormous, unprecedented bombardment in the course of three wars between 2008 and 2014. It is even more valid to suggest that the Strip has been left practically alone since the start of the siege. But it is also sound to maintain that wisdom is most needed not during times of comfort and relaxation but rather during times of crises and hardships.

Reacting to the worsening situation in Gaza because of the siege, without consensus among Palestinians and in the midst of deepening divisions, does sustain the split and makes it chronic. In effect, this could totally destroy any semblance for reconciliation thereafter, at least for an extended period of time. In addition to the already-existing reasons for the split, a single Palestinian faction unilaterally entering into an agreement for calm will add insult to injury, and thus make the potential for a true solution almost nonexistent. One major danger lies in the possibility of managing the split by Palestinians themselves, rather than in ending it. Regional and international financial tools can be used to further pull Palestinians away from each other. After all, there are a number of powerful forces of disintegration that have not wished the Palestinians well over the years.

 

6 | Provoking the Palestinian Authority, which has hitherto rejected the deal of the century, to search for a role for itself to play in dealing with new developments.

It is no secret that enemies of the Palestinian people always try to set one side against another. They always attempt to trigger unhealthy, rather destructive competition over limited opportunities and narrow benefits. Promise of the so-called peace dividends to various competing parties is a way to achieve this goal. The prevalence of relative deprivation in a society like that of the Palestinians enhances the likelihood of embracing and furthering individual and small group interests and benefits at the expense of the public good and/or the national interest. It is no surprise that Palestinian society already suffers from the widespread focus on the “I” more than the ”we.” Acceptance of the other becomes rare, especially as the primacy of the faction, family, and/or the small locality takes over.

Israeli and American planners apparently believe that by making Hamas think that some positive change will take place in Palestinian life if they enter in an agreement for calm with Israel that the Palestinian Authority might be sufficiently provoked, and hence led to follow suit. The belief even goes further to assume that the Authority might want to intensely compete with Hamas, so as to become the power In charge of any possible deal. Such planners calculate that only by further dividing Palestinian society they can get Hamas and the Palestinian Authority to become more competitive. This is the most timely moment to instill more division, so as to pave the way for the implementation of the deal of the century.

Indeed, there are some striking implications and ironies in some relevant political moves. If one reviews the record of political statements by Netanyahu and other Israeli officials before talk about the deal of the century started, one would certainly see that one of the recurring conditions for Israel to resume the political process was for the Palestinian Authority to terminate its ties with Hamas. In almost every talk or statement he gave, Netanyahu would demand of the President of the Authority, Mahmud Abbas, to choose between peace and Hamas. However, all of a sudden after the Authority declared its rejection of the deal of the century, Netanyahu finds it appropriate to work on striking a deal for calm with Hamas in the Gaza Strip, even in the absence of the Authority.

It is also interesting to note in this regard that the UN special envoy to the Middle East, Nickolay Mladenov, stated that he would be content with dealing with Hamas alone regarding life in Gaza, in the event the Authority does not catch up with the move towards the calm. We can surmise that Mladenov would not have made his statements without prior coordination with the United States, which has given its approval for efforts to arrive at an agreement. Such statements can only serve one purpose: to pressure and provoke the Authority to accept its role before it is too late to do so.

Even more important was what one of Israel’s foremost strategists — former head of the Israeli National Security Council, Reserve General Giora Eiland — said. In an article he wrote in Yedioth Ahronoth on August 19, Eiland was direct and quite unequivocal, as he called upon Netanyahu to drop the Palestinian Authority and its president, and to continue working on striking a long-term agreement for calm with Hamas. Again, in a dramatic shift of direction, Eiland reconstructs the discourse in a manner that serves his perspective, as he justifies his call by saying that Hamas was democratically elected in 2006. So Israel brands Hamas as a terrorist organization when such charges serve its interests, then embraces the same group as democratic and opens avenues of negotiations with it when this path seems to promise more benefits.

In any case, no one would believe that Mladenov’s statements and Eiland’s perspective aim to brighten Hamas’s picture and/or to lend legitimacy to Hamas in the world. Rather, they are meant to foment more factional discord in Palestinian society, and to exert pressure on the Palestinian Authority to eventually accept the deal of the century. In so doing, Israel wants to keep Palestinian factions preoccupied with each other, so as to divert attention from the ongoing and intensifying oppressive measures by the occupation against Palestinians, particularly in Jerusalem, and more specifically in the Aqsa Mosque. Apparently this is, in part, what John Bolton, Director of the National Security Council in the U.S., wanted to achieve during his latest visit to Israel in late August.

 

7 | Extracting a Palestinian approval to abrogate the ceasefire understanding between Israel and Hamas that followed the 2014 agression on the Gaza Strip.

This understanding was not the first that Israel signed, nor will it be the last. As usual, it should have come as no surprise that Israel has repeatedly violated the terms of that understanding. However, Israeli planners often resort to legitimizing their violations of a given agreement by arriving at a new agreement. By definition, a new agreement supersedes any prior agreements on related issues. By signing a new agreement for calm, Israeli planners believe that the world will no longer view Israel as the violator of the 2014 ceasefire understanding.

 

8 | Instilling divisions within the axis of resistance — made up of some Palestinian resistance groups, like Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Hezbollah in Lebanon, Syria and Iran — by neutralizing Hamas in preparation for a new upcoming great war.

The possibility for a U.S.-supported and/or -led big war in the Middle East is greater than any time in the recent past. Notwithstanding the fact that the U.S. and Israel have failed in a number of wars they waged in the region, lessons of earlier experiences do not seem to be heeded. The fact that such a war has not been waged yet does not mean doing away with the idea, but rather, engaging in more preparations while buying more time.

Especially at a time when the U.S. lives one of its most difficult moments domestically because of the ongoing investigations surrounding Trump’s violations and possible collusion with Russia during the last presidential elections, the possibility of resorting to exporting the crisis externally by creating the conditions for war is not to be underestimated. Certainly, Netanyahu would not object to this kind of development: for a long time, he has been trying to drag the U.S. into a calamitous war against Iran and its allies in the region. Measured by the extraordinarily close relation between the two of them, Trump will certainly be ready to act at the right moment.

Therefore, splitting the axis of resistance from within is high on the agenda of the Israelis and the United States. Israel continues to worry about the formation of a united front by all members in the axis of resistance against it in the event of a war. Hence, fragmentation of the axis of resistance is not a matter of luxury, but rather a matter of strategic necessity.

Hamas Palestine Gaza

Israel and the U.S. did not succeed in achieving this goal through the steadfast Hezbollah: the Lebanese group was given a number of offers by the United States to attract it to drop Iran — as the Secretary-General of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, confirmed in one of his speeches — but to no avail. Hamas is believed to be a more amenable target to fall for this ploy: through promises of reconstruction and prosperity projects for the Gaza Strip, it is believed that Hamas will go along with an extended agreement for calm, and hence with staying away from the axis of resistance. Israeli planners believe they can capitalize on a precedent in this regard: the stand Hamas took at the beginning of the Syrian Crisis in opposition to the Syrian government and in support of some armed opposition groups, in a manner that stood in total contradiction to and conflict with that taken by Hezbollah and Iran.

Therefore, the least that can be achieved, Israel calculates, is to neutralize Hamas and free a whole front with the Gaza Strip in the event of a war with Hezbollah in Lebanon, or even with Iran. The Israeli thinking is that Hamas itself becomes interested in holding onto the state of calm once it sees the money pouring in for reconstructing the Gaza Strip.

 

9 | Planting seeds of conflict within the Gaza Strip between supporters and opponents of the calm.

It is an established fact now that there is no Palestinian consensus over an agreement for calm with Israel at this critical stage because of the tricky surrounding international and regional circumstances. Therefore, it is expected that the Gaza Strip will witness intense interaction between supporters and opponents. It is also no secret that those who count on Hamas’s failure cannot be overlooked. There are some who do not wish Hamas well, and as such, will do everything they can to topple any attempt towards calm. At the same time, Israel is not just sitting idly by watching what’s happening: as it has done numerous times in the past, Israel will do everything at its disposal, through its intelligence services, to heighten the level of tensions in the Gaza Strip. This would be one of the most effective ways to keep Hamas occupied with internal matters.

As Oslo created a fertile ground for lasting internal fueds and frictions among Palestinians, the calm under discussion is bound to trigger unavoidable confrontations within the Gaza Strip. At best, Hamas will inevitably find itself compelled to take harsh and necessary security measures against any disrupters of the calm. This may position Hamas to fight against other resistance groups in the Gaza Strip. Israel will surely not shed any tear over such possible developments.

 

10 | Tainting the image of Hamas as a movement for resistance in Palestinian society.

Many observers and analysts suggest that Hamas did not acquire its popularity and legitimacy in Palestinian society due to its political and ideological positions, as much as by virtue of its resistance against the Israeli occupation. In Palestinian society, the effectiveness of any movement, faction or party is usually measured by the extent to which it is involved in the national struggle and in resistance against the occupation. The popularity of political forces goes up or down depending on the size, magnitude and effect of their role in resistance efforts.

In this regard, aside from political positions, friends and foes of Hamas recognize that Hamas has played a pivotal role in resistance activities, not the least of which being its ability to withstand and remain steadfast in the face of three subsequent Israeli agressions in the last decade.

However, in spite of this recognition, many consider the timing and the context of the calm suspicious at this stage, and such considerations may alter this image of Hamas among many Palestinians. Palestinian critics argue that Gazans have been sacrificing, not so as to get a loaf of bread, so to speak, as important as it may be for human survival, but rather to achieve political and national objectives — i.e., freedom and independence. Critics also suggest that such a path has been tested before and failed: Israel does not abide by agreements it signs.

They say that the alternative is not for Hamas to go to war against Israel, but rather to cooperate with other Palestinian parties to capitalize on international solidarity with the Gaza Strip so as to end the state of siege, once and for all, without having to make detrimental political concessions.

In addition, there does not seem to be uniformity of opinion within Hamas itself regarding the calm. Some Hamas leaders, cadres, members and supporters oppose the calm under the current conditions and circumstances. Some have expressed profound disenchantment with the regurgitation of failing experiences. Arguments by the defenders of the calm from within Hamas have not been all that convincing for many rank and file members. Therefore, it is widely expected that pursuing the calm in the midst of internal disagreements can also lead to splits within Hamas itself.

 

The calm would bring anything but calm

Accordingly, the imminent dangers of the would-be calm for Palestinians are enormous, and may exceed by far the detrimental effects of the Oslo Agreement. Regional and international circumstances are less conducive for Palestinians, particularly with the burning desire of the Trump administration to put its deal of the century into effect. Even those Palestinians who have been heavily and staunchly involved in negotiations with the Israelis have come out sharply criticizing the timing and the context of the calm now.

Even in the event there is a symbolic temporary lifting of the siege off the Gaza Strip, the main beneficiary remains the Israeli occupation itself, as it controls the flow and prices of entering goods and commodities, and as it exercises total control over all entry points, from land, air and sea.

Palestinian police officers sit in a small boat as they pass near an Israeli naval vessel

It doesn’t seem to be the case that the calm under discussion will bring about much calm. Any unilateral agreement by one Palestinian party is bound to fail and take Palestinians into a more difficult situation than the one lived in the Gaza Strip today. The timing and overall context of an agreement for calm now are quite questionable, especially in light of the ongoing efforts by the Trump administration to liquidate the question of Palestine through its so-called deal of the century: it is a deal with and for everybody except the Palestinian people themselves, who are most directly affected and concerned.

The key to the way out does not lie in more partisanship and factional bickering: it is this deterioration in Palestinian cohesion that made it possible for Trump to gin up a solution for the Palestinian-Israeli conflict without the Palestinian people.

The solution lies in real unity among Palestinians, dictated by interest, necessity and circumstance. This can prove to be beneficial not only for Palestinians but, as surprising as this may sound, for all other players involved in this conflict, including the Israelis themselves.

While Israel and the United States may plan to instill more division and fragmentation among Palestinians to achieve short-term objectives, the state of chaos, and perhaps anarchy that may ensue can have far-reaching destabilizing effects for Israel. Geography is not on their side. Their schemes have not always succeeded in the past. Indeed they have been wrestling with one strategic failure after another. They should not be captivated by a sense of instantaneous gratification. The Palestinian people have persevered all along and, in spite of the impending heavy cost, they are expected to survive again, and emerge much stronger. No one can argue that the current state of affairs, or one that is worse, is sustainable.

The Palestinian people are the party that needs a genuine calm the most. The occupation has turned their life into total misery, day-in and day-out. All aspects of their life have been severely affected because the occupation is after them 24/7. At the same time, Palestinians have become quite wary of deceptive, misleading agreements for calm, which give the occupation more time to become more entrenched under the cover of peace.

The would-be agreement for calm does not promise to be any different. Actually, it more directly threatens Palestinian well-being and existence, as it is linked to the deal of the century, which aims to dissolve the question of Palestine.

What is needed is an agreement that ends the Israeli occupation of Palestine once and for all, and grants the Palestinian people their rights to real, full statehood, freedom, independence and self-determination, as dictated by international law. Any other way is bound to deepen and intensify the conflict. No one should be misled by fake cosmetic political moves here or there. Genuine calm requires genuine intentions, not a recycling of the occupation.

Top Photo | Left to right, US President Donald Trump , Jared Kushner, US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs | Flickr

Hisham H. Ahmed, Ph.D. was Chair of the Academic Senate and Chair of the Politics Department at Saint Mary’s College of California, he was a Fulbright scholar in Palestine, where he wrote his book: From Religious Salvation to political transformation: the rise of Hamas in Palestinian Society. Ahmed is the author of numerous studies dealing with the Middle East. Ahmed is frequently called upon by the local and international media for analyses of various political issues pertaining to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

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The families of Khan Al-Ahmar insist on their right to remain and defend their village Israel/Palestine By Jamal Jaheleen – MONDOWEISS

One night towards the end of 1986, with the harsh December cold hovering over the hills of Jerusalem, my mother decided, after nine long months of suffering, to bring me into the world. I was a rascal, she later told me, the moment I plopped into the nurses’ waiting hands I began my battle with life. If I had known that earlier, I would have chosen to remain calm in my mother’s womb.

The village of Khan Al-Ahmar, east of Jerusalem, was the first land my feet touched. I spent my childhood chasing after my mother as she walked two kilometers to the nearby spring to collect water, or staying at my grandmother’s house watching her weave cloths and tent coverings from lamb’s wool and goatskin. Sometimes, I would stay at our neighbor’s house when there was no one home to watch me.

My father was busy tending the herd with my grandfather. We only had a few heads of sheep and goats to provide our daily sustenance; my grandfather lost his crops and half his riches in the war of 1948 when he was displaced from Beersheba in the south of Palestine. He wasn’t the only one who had to leave everything behind; all of my family shared the same fate. Some of them settled in Khan Al-Ahmar and others fled to Jordan and resided there. My grandmother’s eyes would silently convey the struggles they faced and their yearning for Beersheba. Injustice and tyranny became our inheritance, like a 2000-year-old Roman statue that must be preserved and held onto.

After my grandfather suffered through displacement and the pain of occupation he died, leaving us to continue the struggle. Many of the Jahalin tribe lived in Khan Al-Ahmar for many years and continue to live there today without the most basic needs; no electricity, no water, without education or healthcare or services, without anything. The best way to describe it, is that Khan Al-Ahmar passed through the twenty-first century as if it were the last century BC. Yet, it remained steadfast and strong in the face of the occupation and the flocks of settlers, and it will remain, refusing to give up or to succumb to another nakba.

When I turned six, I joined the rest of my young family members in line at the side of the main street connecting Jerusalem to Jericho. There, we waited for transportation in order to attend a school in Jericho, 30 kilometers from Khan Al-Ahmar. I clearly remember the trucks, laden with oranges, rumbling by at six in the morning on their way from Gaza to Jordan, always stopping to take a passenger or two. I also remember the daily newspaper car, heading towards Jericho each day. Those were difficult times; winter was a heavy burden on students, and the summer heat was also a lure to leave school and think about taking a job that would contribute to the household expenses. Most students didn’t even complete elementary school because of these difficulties.

In 2009, the citizens of Khan Al-Ahmar decided to build a school aided by Italian and local organizations. Modestly built, with classrooms formed by car tires and planks of wood, it was hoped that the school would provide a safe, accessible, educational environment.

But when the school opened its doors, no sooner had the 200 students settled at their desks than the desert foxes and highwaymen issued orders to have the school demolished. As if that wasn’t enough, they also issued orders to demolish residential buildings, herd shelters, and young couples’ homes. They even issued orders to demolish the mosque that had been simply built with wooden planks covered with goatskin to block the sun.

In the nine years from the day the school was built in Khan Al-Ahmar until today, the village lived through a many forms of economic, social, and psychological harassment. The army blocked any type of building materials from entering into Khan Al-Ahmar. They forbade entry to energy sources such as solar panels and electric generators, as well as medical equipment. In summary, anything that would improve Khan Al-Ahmar’s chance of survival was forbidden. But that wasn’t all. Large sections of Khan Al-Ahmar’s desert were closed off to prevent grazing, water wells were destroyed and the desert was declared a military zone. They barricaded animals, people and land and I did not realize that it was all due to building a small school. I imagine if anyone asked me the reason for this blockade and I answered that it was due to building a school, they would shake their heads at me and move onto another subject telling themselves that I was surely lying, because what power in the world would destroy a school? They would think that we must be a threat to Israel’s national security or plotting to build a nuclear reactor. When in reality, our dreams have fallen by the wayside, our hopes have been lost in the orange trucks and our talents have been smashed on the rocks of siege and the gates of oppression.

The thieving hunters’ eyes never stray from the prey, and yet we dream of finding justice one day.

However, despite nine years of legal battles to defend the right of our school’s existence, to protect our ancestors’ homes, our clansmen’s homes, the shelters of our herds and our goatskin-covered mosque. Despite our efforts to protect our children’s future, our Bedouin heritage and identity, the fabric of our society and our familial connections. In spite of our attempts to remain in the place where we were raised, among our childhood memories with ancestors and families. Despite all the resistance, all the patience and all the hard work, it was no use. In 2018, the judge’s gavel in the Israeli Supreme Court slammed down on the dreams of the rightful owners, shattering any trace of humanity, ruling in everything but justice. The Court issued a decision to demolish and vacate Khan Al-Ahmar, and I wondered to myself, “How can there be hope, for how can a grain of wheat complain about a chicken?” After the demolition order was issued, the occupation’s wolves hurried to carve roads between the houses and close all the pathways into the village. They announced that Khan Al-Ahmar was now a closed military area.

The very next day, bulldozers came into Khan Al-Ahmar to demolish the village and all that the citizens could do was to stand bare in the face of the criminal monsters and their heavy machinery. Youths, children and women were all attacked that day. Thirty people were injured and six arrested, including a 19-year-old girl who was assaulted by press cameras, her hijab ripped off, her dignity violated. After the battle, the criminal authorities ordered a curfew within the village and blocked anyone from entering or exiting, including the press corps and medical personnel. A suffocating siege ensued. After that cursed day and after another petition by the people of Khan Al-Ahmar to the ‘Chicken Supreme Court’, a temporary stay of demolition orders was granted – until the occupation could find another excuse to displace the residents. It is expected, that after many court sessions, after the people of Khan Al-Ahmar refuse all offers from the occupying forces, and insist on their right to remain and defend their village, the bulldozers will come to crush the lingering dream of survival, of preserving the heritage and the very fabric of their identity.

Translated by Lama Khouri

Editor’s Note: After a long and courageous struggle, the people of Khan Al-Ahmar lost their battle when the high court in Israel declared that the demolition can go ahead.

About Jamal Jaheleen

Jamal Jaheleen is a 30-year old Palestinian writer and poet. Jamal lives with his wife, Khawlah, in the village of Khan Al-Ahmar.

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Russia helping Syria modernize its air defense system, ambassador says – By TASS

September 07, 20:51 UTC+3

Much is yet to be done because everything was in utter devastation, but certain results can already be seen, Alexander Kinshchak said

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© AP Photo/Hassan Ammar

DAMASCUS, September 7. /TASS/. Russia is helping Syria restore and modernized its air defense system, Russia’s Ambassador to that country, Alexander Kinshchak, told TASS on Friday.

“We are helping our Syrian partners to restore, modernize and boost the efficiency of the integrated air defense system,” he said when asked how well Syria is protected against possible airstrikes by Western nations.

“Much is yet to be done because everything was in utter devastation, but certain results can already be seen,” he said.

In late April, chief of the main operations directorate of the Russian General Staff, Sergei Rudskoi, said that Syria would soon receive new air defense systems and promised that Russian specialists would help the Syrian military to master them. He refrained from details of the systems, saying only that the S-125, Osa and Kvadrat systems used by the Syrian army had been restored and modernized with Russia’s assistance.

In late August, the Russian Defense Ministry warned about a possible provocation plotted in the Syrian Idlib governorate by militants under supervision of British special services. Thus, according to the ministry, militants were planning to simulate the use of chemical weapons against civilians by Syrian government troops to furnish the United States, the United Kingdom and France with a pretext to deliver an airstrike on Syrian government and economic facilities.

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http://tass.com/defense/1020544

Insanity of Political Leaders: More Common Than Thought – By Wayne MADSEN – Strategic Culture Foundation

Insanity of Political Leaders: More Common Than Thought
Wayne MADSEN | 06.09.2018 | WORLD / Americas

Political scientists would argue that the rigors of running for political office coupled with the glaring microscope of press attention would normally weed out any candidate suffering from mental illness. Whether political leaders gain office democratically or from unconstitutional means, the degree of mental illness among the top leadership of nations around the world in recent history has been remarkably high.

For example, in 2014, when Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe paid a controversial visit to the Yasukuni shrine, where several convicted and executed war criminals from World War II are buried, it was over the strong objections of Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga and Prime Minister Executive Secretary Imai Takaya. The prime minister’s assistants warned him that Japan’s relations with China and South Korea would deteriorate even further over the shrine visit. Abe disregarded their advice.

Abe’s infuriation with Washington over the Barack Obama administration’s criticism over his Yasukuni visit plus his ignoring the advice of his closest aides led many senior governing Liberal Democratic Party politicians to wonder whether Abe was completely sane. In Japan, as in the United States, it is next to impossible to force a chief executive to submit to a mental examination.

The US Central Intelligence Agency has long psychologically profiled foreign leaders. In 1984, CIA deputy director for intelligence Robert Gates, who later became CIA director under George H. W. Bush, renamed the CIA’s Political Psychology Division the Political Psychology Center (PPC). Gates also gave the unit higher visibility within the Intelligence Community. Today, the PPC develops – based on intelligence sources and methods – psychological profiles on various world leaders. These include North Korea’ Kim Jong Un, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Worldwide intelligence agencies, likewise, maintain psychological profiles of US leaders. Recent revelations have revealed that President Donald Trump suffers from paranoia, emotional delusions, fits of rage, and compulsive lying. Trump’s psychological profiles maintained by intelligence agencies certainly dwarf those held on other world leaders. Trump provides a rich subject for intelligence agency psychiatrists, psychologists, and neuro-linguistic experts.

Trump is not the first US president to suffer from mental illness. On September 20, 2007, President George W. Bush suggested at a White House news conference that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein killed Nelson Mandela. Bush said, “I heard somebody say, ‘Now where’s Mandela?’ Well, Mandela is dead. Because Saddam Hussein killed all the Mandelas.” Mandela, at the time, was alive at the age of 89. In 2003, Mandela conducted his own psychoanalysis of Bush, stating that Bush is “a president who has no foresight, who cannot think properly.”

A 1977 CIA analysis of the personality traits of various world leaders concluded that Israel’s Shimon Peres as “arrogant.” British Prime Minister James Callaghan was deemed to be an “intellectual lightweight.” French President Valery Giscard d’Estaing’s psychological dossier was summed in two words: “aristocratic” and “cold.” West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt was described as “cocky,” Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau a “charmer” with a lot of personal problems with his marriage, Chinese leader Hua Kuo-feng, “shrewd” and not totally committed to Communist ideology, Syrian President Hafez al-Assad, “wily, skillful, and tactful,” and Ugandan dictator Idi Amin, “unpredictable” and a “potential mass murderer.”

Amin was, in fact, a mass murderer. The CIA also concluded that several leaders suffered from alcoholism. Others were pegged as gossip mongers. The CIA challenged the world’s perception of Costa Rican three-time president, Jose Figueres Ferrer, as a widely respected statesman. The CIA determined that Figueres and certain family members were nothing more than crooks.

Earlier CIA psychological profiles provided unusually honest assessments of certain leaders. For example, one agency profile described Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev as a “ham actor, who sometimes illustrates his points with the crudest sort of barnyard humor,” but also noting, “Khrushchev is endowed on occasion with considerable personal dignity.” Iraq’s Saddam Hussein was reported to be “not psychotic,” but having “a strong paranoid orientation.”

In 2009, after Honduran president Manuel Zelaya was ousted in a CIA-planned military coup, The Miami Herald, the paper-of-choice for Latin American oligarchs and despots, floated a poorly-sources story that Zelaya was “an anti-Semitic lunatic.” In Zelaya’s case, charges that he suffered from a mental illness were clearly contrived and disseminated by Israeli intelligence sources in Miami who were pushing back against Zelaya’s valid assertions of Israeli involvement in the Honduran coup. The Zelaya case shows that not all allegations that a leader suffers from mental impairment are true. Similar tactics were used falsely against former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The CIA has been known to lie about some leaders in its psychological profiling. Its report on former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide is a case in point. The CIA profile stated that Aristide “suffered from manic depression, had sought treatment at a Montreal hospital in the early ’80s, and was taking a powerful antipsychotic drug.” Louis-H. Lafontaine Hospital in Montreal responded, stating Aristide was never a patient. Aristide denied using any sort of anti-psychotic medications, including Lithium Oligosol.

Although it is a cheap shot to falsely accuse a political leader who is perfectly sane of being the opposite, there remains enough documentation from medical sources to question the mental capacities of some world leaders. In July 1998, a psychological analysis was commissioned on current Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte. The analysis was made during Duterte’s annulment of his marriage to Elizabeth Zimmerman, which took place during Duterte’s term as mayor of Davao City. Dr. Natividad Dayan diagnosed Duterte as suffering from “antisocial narcissistic personality disorder” marked by “gross indifference, insensitivity and self-centeredness,” as well as “grandiose sense of self-entitlement and manipulative behaviors.” Dayan’s report also said of Duterte that he had a “pervasive tendency to demean, humiliate others and violate their rights and feelings,” “was unable to reflect on the consequences of his actions,” had a “poor capacity for objective judgement,” and that he failed to “see things in the light of facts.” 

As far as Duterte’s marriage was concerned, Dayan concluded that Duterte was “psychologically incapacitated to handle essential marital obligations” because of his “inability for loyalty and commitment” and “lack of capacity for remorse and guilt.” Such a psychological profile could easily apply to another well-known world leader. In recent remarks delivered in Jerusalem, Duterte said that Trump is a “good friend” who “speaks my language.”

Former Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe’s sanity was also questioned toward the end of his presidency. Chris Mutsvangwa, a special adviser to current Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa, said in May 2017 remarks to the Harare Press Club that Mugabe was “mentally unstable.” In January 2018, Mnangagwa stated that former First Lady Grace Mugabe was “not mentally sound.”

There is nothing to suggest that leaders suffering from mental illness should be removed from office merely because of their conditions. It is when such illness results in destructive actions that removal is warranted. President Abraham Lincoln is said to have suffered from clinical depression. However, Lincoln’s actions as president are generally commended by historians for saving the United States. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s physician diagnosed his patient’s depression as arising from bipolar disorder. However, no one suggested that Churchill was incapable of carrying out both peacetime and wartime duties as prime minister. On the other hand, Adolf Hitler’s panoply of reported mental disorders, including schizophrenia and narcissistic personality, sadistic personality, and antisocial personality disorders, made him a legitimate target for removal by any means possible.

When the line is crossed between a benign leader suffering from mental depression to a malignant leader suffering from sociopathic desires to threaten death and destruction, it is a clear signal that such a menace should be removed from power forthwith and without rancorous political debate.