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

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

Atia Darwish APA images

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Court sides with state – again

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No imminent threat

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mohammed Zaanoun ActiveStills

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

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

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

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

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

Preliminary examination by ICC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Map of Syria and Iran

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: Zero Hedge

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

See Also:

Trump Scraps North Korea Summit to Save Face – What Comes Next? – By Elliott Gabriel (MINT PRESS)

WASHINGTON — United States President Donald Trump’s cancellation of next month’s summit with the Supreme Leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), Kim Jong-un, came as a bit of a surprise and a jarring break from developments such as the release of three U.S. hostages by Pyongyang and the country’s apparent follow-through on a pledge to demolish its nuclear test facility.

In many ways, Trump’s letter cancelling the summit – which was due to begin on June 12 in Singapore – was a defensive reaction to the DPRK’ reminding the White House that it’s not a pushover and that its limited patience was being exhausted by the unceasingly hostile moves, confused stance, and belligerent rhetoric emanating from Washington.

Pyongyang had been crystal-clear that it wouldn’t swallow its pride, unilaterally surrender its nukes, or tolerate the Trump Administration’s cavalier and thoughtless shifting of goal-posts beyond acceptable lines.

The DPRK government has also keenly followed Washington’s moves not only in the Korean peninsula, but also in Libya, Iran, and any “independent [countries] against imperialism like Cuba and Venezuela or those countries disobedient to it.”

According to reports, Trump’s letter canceling talks — allegedly dictated word-for-word — was a largely impulsive move intended to pre-empt an expected withdrawal from the summit by Pyongyang. Multiple White House sources claim Pyongyang’s barbed reactions to administration talking points convinced the U.S. leader — with National Security Advisor John “Strike First” Bolton at his shoulder — to unexpectedly scrap talks and avoid the appearance of losing the initiative in the unfolding U.S.-DPRK diplomatic process.

A senior administration official also told reporters that Pyongyang had “simply stood [the White House] up” when it failed to send diplomats to meet Trump’s deputy chief of staff to Singapore for a meeting ahead of the summit. The move also came on the tail of recent tit-for-tat barbed statements and U.S. demands in recent weeks,

Trump’s pullout was roughly equivalent to the sentiment, “you can’t fire me – I quit!” However, he did importantly leave the door ajar for the eventual continuation of U.S.-DPRK diplomacy.

 

“We won’t beg; we never invited you to begin with”

Pyongyang’s cognizance of Washington’s continued hostility was made clear when DPRK Minister of Foreign Affairs Choe Son-hui issued a statement Wednesday excoriating the “unbridled and impudent remarks” of U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, who once again – defying all common wisdom – compared the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula to the disarming of Gaddafi-era Libya.

The late Libyan leader gave up his unfinished nuclear program only to be butchered later by NATO-backed fighters. Previous invocations of the precedent by Bolton had infuriated North Korean officials, who described such comments as deliberate provocations that would dampen talks and reverse progress “back to square one.”

Likewise, Pyongyang surely drew conclusions from the fate of the six-party nuclear deal the U.S. had signed with Iran in 2015. Following the signing of the deal, which stipulated the lifting of sanctions on Tehran in exchange for major restrictions on its civilian nuclear program, Washington repeatedly violated the spirit and letter of the accord before scrapping it altogether on spurious grounds.

Choe noted:

I cannot suppress my surprise at such ignorant and stupid remarks gushing out from the mouth of the U.S. vice-president … it will be proper for him to know even a little bit about the current state of global affairs and to sense to a certain degree the trends in dialogue and the climate of détente.”

Stressing that the DPRK has paid a heavy price — including crippling sanctions, international isolation, and major financial costs — to achieve its “powerful and reliable strength” in the form of its deterrent arsenal, Choe added that the nuclear-equipped state is hardly comparable to a Libya “that had simply installed a few items of equipment and fiddled around with them” prior to surrendering its program and meeting “a tragic fate.” She concluded:

It is to be underlined, however, that in order not to follow in Libya’s footstep, we paid a heavy price to build up our powerful and reliable strength that can defend ourselves and safeguard peace and security in the Korean peninsula and the region.

It is the U.S. who has asked for dialogue, but now it is misleading the public opinion as if we have invited them to sit with us. I only wonder what is the ulterior motive behind its move and what is it the U.S. has calculated to gain from that.

We will neither beg the U.S. for dialogue nor take the trouble to persuade them if they do not want to sit together with us … In case the U.S. offends against our goodwill and clings to unlawful and outrageous acts, I will put forward a suggestion to our supreme leadership for reconsidering the DPRK-U.S. summit.”

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo — a regular visitor to Pyongyang in recent months — surely has gained some sympathy for his fired predecessor Rex Tillerson, who was often prevented from doing his job by his unpredictable commander-in-chief. In this case, his own hope to move forward and hold talks was frustrated by Bolton and Pence, who were reading from a “Libya” script that jarred with the motives of the Department of State.

The Deputy Director of North Korea's Nuclear Weapons Institute briefs reporters about the dismantling of North Korea's nuclear test site, in Punggye-ri, May 24, 2018. APTN via AP

Following the receipt of Trump’s letter, the DPRK leadership conveyed its desire to proceed with talks and credited the U.S. leader’s openness to holding them in the first place.

“We have inwardly highly appreciated President Trump for having made the bold decision, which any other US presidents dared not, and made efforts for such a crucial event as the summit,” Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye-gwan said in a Friday statement published by Pyongyang’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

We remain unchanged in our goal and will to do everything we could for peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula and humankind, and we, broadminded and open all the time, have the willingness to offer the US side time and opportunity.”

Trump’s response was also amiable, acknowledging the clearly tough path that will likely follow:

 

Cracks appear in the Seoul-Washington alliance

The cancellation may renew fears of a return to conflict on the Korean peninsula, as Trump ominously noted in his comment echoing last year’s “fire and fury” threats:

You talk about your nuclear capabilities, but ours are so massive and powerful that I pray to God that they will never have to be used.”

South Korea’s presidential Blue House hadn’t been notified in advance of Trump’s announcement and expressed shock to reporters over the cancellation. An official told Reuters that Seoul was “trying to figure out what President Trump exactly meant.”

On Tuesday, South Korean President Moon Jae-in had met with Trump at the White House to urge that Trump persist in the pursuit of peace and not squander such a precious opportunity to engage with Pyongyang.

According to a report in South Korean daily Hankyoreh, published shortly before Trump’s letter went public, Moon had left with the impression that Washington shared Seoul’s desire to ensure that the summit would proceed as planned.

A senior Blue House official told the paper:

President Trump was completely on the same page about trying to arrange a successful summit with North Korea. There was no discussion about whether or not the summit needs to be held.”

Following the letter’s release, Moon called an emergency night-time meeting.

By early Friday, Seoul released a statement noting that Moon’s Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha and Pompeo had spoken and agreed to “devote effort to save the dialogue opportunity.”

 

China and DPRK draw closer, enraging Trump

While the talks have been placed on the back burner for now, the DPRK can point to a crucial strategic gain since Kim delivered a New Year’s address unexpectedly announcing an end to nuclear weapons tests and welcoming peace between the North and the South: the renewal of an alliance with neighboring China.

On Tuesday, during a meeting between Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-in, the U.S. leader blasted Chinese President Xi Jinping for allegedly sowing discord between Pyongyang and Washington during the second meeting between Kim and Xi earlier this month.

North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, second right, meets with Chinese Foreign MinisterWang Yi at the Mansudae Assembly Hall in Pyongyang, North Korea, May 2, 2018. (AP/Jon Chol Jin)

“I will say I’m a little disappointed, because when Kim Jong-un had the meeting with President Xi, in China, the second meeting—the first meeting we knew about—the second meeting—I think there was a little change in attitude from Kim Jong-un,” the former reality-television star said. “So I don’t like that. I don’t like that.”

A day prior, Trump had issued a tweet deriding Chinese authorities for allegedly failing to honor U.N. sanctions imposed on the DPRK.

Trump tweeted:

Beijing’s position is that it desires the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, which includes the withdrawal of U.S. nuclear weapons and the outsized U.S. military presence in South Korea.

China also seeks the relaxation of sanctions on the besieged nation, allowing Chinese companies the ability to assist in the development of the DPRK’s stifled economy.

On Friday, China’s Foreign Ministry said it hoped the two parties maintained patience, a willingness to hear one another out and the shared goal of advancing denuclearization. Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said:

The Chinese government’s position on this issue is consistent and clear. We think, as the two directly involved parties, North Korea and the US holding a summit plays a key role in promoting denuclearization on the peninsula,”

During a meeting earlier this month between Kim and Xi, the Chinese leader hailed

Pyongyang’s “strategic shift towards economic development” and stressed Beijing’s support for “North Korea’s upholding of denuclearization on the peninsula, and … resolving the peninsula issue through dialogue and consultation.”

China’s Xinhua news agency noted that Kim said:

So long as relevant parties eliminate hostile policies and security threats toward North Korea, North Korea has no need for nuclear (capacity), and denuclearization can be realized.”

 

The DPRK wasn’t born last night; it won’t be subdued easily

As the week’s tug-of-war over talks shows, Trump’s idiosyncratic talent lies in his ability to wield bluster, insults and threats to his advantage – at one point ridiculing “Little Rocket Man” Kim and, at another, complimenting the “Honorable” supreme leader.

Such a style keeps the U.S. president’s counterparts constantly on their toes, unaware of what will come next and how they should respond. But such a game has its limits, especially when figures in his own administration try to apply the same methods and confusion results.  

Either way, the incessant demands from the United States and tit-for-tat verbal sparring between Pyongyang and Washington had clearly rendered toxic the mood leading up to the June 12 Trump-Kim summit.

By canceling the summit despite DPRK measures to build goodwill, the U.S. leader hoped to save face while upping the pressure on Pyongyang. The DPRK’s affirmation of a continued desire for dialogue showed that Trump may have played his card well, despite his own officials’ culpability in derailing talks through their constant Libya references.

The talks will likely proceed following a cooling-off period and a bit of time apart from each other. Washington is no doubt aware of the inherent flaws in its uncompromising approach, while Pyongyang has made clear that it’s not a matter of if, but of when and how the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula takes place. Kim has never tired of pointing out how such weapons are key to ensuring the security of the DPRK’s leadership and people.

Yet while Washington may think that it’s justified in its suspicion toward Pyongyang, it will have to go a lot further in ensuring that it should actually be taken seriously as a partner in peace rather than an erratic and belligerent adversary. In short, Trump has to get his own house in order.

After months of public outreach by Pyongyang and various gestures aiming to convince its neighbors of its peaceful intentions, the DPRK has made vast strides in undermining the U.S. case for war.

Regardless of how talks with the U.S. proceed, Pyongyang’s well-earned diplomatic capital may yield high dividends in the form of better relations with Seoul, Beijing, and the rest of the international community.

Top Photo | President Donald Trump speaks during a signing ceremony, on Thursday canceled next month’s summit with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, citing the “tremendous anger and open hostility” in a recent statement by the North. Evan Vucci | 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.

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

 

 

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

May 25, 13:00 UTC+3

Top stories in the Russian press on Friday

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© AP Photo/Evan Vucci

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

Izvestia: EAEU to get its own cryptocurrency by 2020

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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NEW AIR DEFENSE SYSTEM INSTALLED IN HOMS LEADING TO FAILED ZIONIST ROCKET ATTACK – By Ziad Fadel

الدفاعات الجوية تتصدى لعدوان صاروخي على مطار الضبعة بريف حمص

http://wikimapia.org/#lang=en&lat=34.554710&lon=36.781626&z=15&m=b

HOMS: On May 25, 2018 at approximately 7:00 p.m., Syrian Army radar detected several missiles fired from Zionist aircraft flying over the Mediterranean near the Lebanese coastline.  The Syrian and Iranian militaries have been boosting their air defense capabilities substantially since pre-emptive attacks by the Zionist Settler State targeted various positions in which Iranian-backed militias have purportedly been setting up bases. This morning was no exception.

The Zionist attack aimed at new air defense and early warning radar equipment at a base near the village of Al-Dhab’ah (the female hyena-See map) While I do not know how many missiles were fired by the Zionist aircraft, almost all were intercepted and destroyed by a variety of weapons systems including Shilkas.  The missiles which were not destroyed, luckily, fell harmlessly into the desert.

The new air defense equipment came from Iran and will become operational within the next few hours.  This will be a great relief to the brave soldiers and militiamen who had to withstand desperate attacks by crazed Zionist warmongers in a doomed effort to forestall the arrival of the armies which will help the SAA to rid all Palestine of the stench of Zionism.

Some of you might have heard talk recently about Zionist politicians trying to get the U.S. to recognize Zionist ownership of the Golan Heights.  I don’t have to tell you that such recognition would be flat-out violation of international law.

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Watch the full episode:

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

ISUPPORTPALESTINE.jpg

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

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

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

They also chanted “free Palestine.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I grew up with that more than a specific issue.

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

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

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

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

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

Q. Did it cause a reaction?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Look what they did in South Africa and India.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q. Maybe they were right.

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

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

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

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

About Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.

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

Iran currency

Squeezing Iran’s economy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are their suggested changes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Corey Schink

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

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The Story of Eli Cohen, the Israeli Superspy Who Almost Became Syria’s President – By SPUTNIK

 Eli Cohen at the Suez Canal, 1956.
© Photo : Public Domain
Buenos Aires, Argentina, file photo.

Cohen’s mission was to infiltrate the Arab diaspora in Buenos Aires. With this goal in mind, he became a regular guest at various functions hosted by the community. To draw attention to himself, Cohen made a reputation for himself as someone who wore expensive clothes and spent his cash lavishly.

According to Steiner, Eli’s efforts proved a resounding success, allowing him to get quite close to the Argentinian Syrian diaspora’s elite, and through them, to important contacts in Syria.

“Introducing himself as a major merchant…he was able to meet people who in turn introduced him to important figures from political and military circles in Syria; as a result he was invited to attend various events with the involvement of prominent figures from the Arab community. This sort of infiltration was possible thanks to his safe cover story,” the journalist noted.

In his article on Cohen, Steiner noted that the success of his mission was based on his “charisma and generous wallet,” as well as an extensive network of contacts, including the head of Mundo Arabe, a widely read and respected newspaper among Latin America’s Arab community.The latter acquaintance gave Cohen access to receptions by the Syrian Embassy in Buenos Aires, and it was here that he would meet General Amin Hafiz, Syria’s military attaché to Argentina and the future president of the Syrian Republic.

In one of his discussions with the director of Mundo Arabe, Cohen ”confessed” that he would like to return to Syria to support the development of his home country.

Road to Damascus

Preparing for his ”homecoming,” Cohen secretly went back to Israel via Zurich, meeting up with his family and studying up on Syria.

“He returned to Israel for three weeks because of our father’s death,” Albert said. “After a period of mourning, he left Israel and headed to Italy, where he traveled by boat to Alexandria. From there, he continued by ship to Beirut, Lebanon.”

According to Cohen’s brother, Eli was accompanied to Syria by a local agent who, after Cohen’s arrival in Lebanon, traveled with him to the Syrian border, where they bribed a border guard and entered the country.”As it turned out, crossing the border did not prove very difficult, since it was not so heavily guarded,” Albert noted, recalling his brother’s story. “And so, after finding themselves on Syrian territory, they set off for Damascus.”

Eli settled in the Syrian capital in 1962, where the contacts gained in Argentina came to good use.

First and foremost, this involved communication with General Amin Hafiz, who rose to the presidency in a coup in 1963 and saw in Cohen, or ‘Kamel Amin Thaabet’ as he knew him, a well-educated person, a patriot, a good host, and a successful businessman willing to invest in Syria.

Eli Cohen with the entourage of Syrian President Amin Hafiz (1963-1966)
Albert Abraham Cohen
Eli Cohen with the entourage of Syrian President Amin Hafiz (1963-1966)

“Anyone who wants to be a good liar must have an excellent memory,” Albert said. “Eli had a phenomenal memory, and it was this that allowed him to deceive his enemies and carry out a charade which saw him fooling Syria’s top leadership.”

The spy’s brother showed Sputnik the protocol of his brother’s testimony in court following his capture, and said that it showed just how deeply the Israeli agent was able to infiltrate into the highest circles of Syrian politics.”I managed to infiltrate several ministries and other government agencies. Among them were the ministry of defense, the economy ministry, the ministry of information, the ministry of municipal affairs, the central bank, and others,” Eli’s testimony to a Syrian tribunal read.

With the help of trusting sources freely willing to provide information to him, Cohen transmitted invaluable details about the political, economic and military situation in Syria in the early 1960s.

Particularly valuable was the information he obtained about Syria’s military cooperation with Iraq, secret information about Soviet arms supplies to Damascus, as well as the dislocation of the Syrian Armed Forces, including its artillery and fortifications in the Golan Heights.

Eli Cohen at his residence in Damascus
Eli Cohen at his residence in Damascus

Cohen was also able to expose Syria’s plans to divert the flow of the Jordan River to deprive Israel of one of its main sources of freshwater.

In addition to this data, the spy regularly sent images, military maps and other documents of enormous strategic importance to Tel Aviv.

Levi Eshkol, who served as Israel’s prime minister between 1963 to 1969, offered heavy praise for Cohen, saying that the spy’s efforts “saved the lives of many Israel soldiers, while the information he provided proved priceless and helped the country win an overwhelming victory in the Six-Day War.”

Taking place between June 5 and June 10 1967, the Six Day War began when Israel launched airstrikes against Egypt, wiping out the Egyptian air force and pitting the two countries against one another, with Syria, Jordan, Iraq and Lebanon joining the war in the days to follow, only to be beaten by an Israeli military enjoying superior leadership, training and intelligence. The war ended with Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, the Golan Heights and the entire Sinai Peninsula, which Egypt would win back in the 1973 Yom Kippur War.

A platoon of Israeli armoured cars is seen moving through the southern Sinai, Egypt, during Israel's invasion of the Sinai in the six day war of Israel, June 7, 1967
© AP Photo /
A platoon of Israeli armoured cars is seen moving through the southern Sinai, Egypt, during Israel’s invasion of the Sinai in the six day war of Israel, June 7, 1967

In Israeli and Western historiography, it is often said that Cohen had a chance at becoming Syria’s deputy defense minister, and that his name was even considered for the presidency. However, Syrian political expert and Israel watcher Tahsin Halabi denies that this was the case. Speaking to Sputnik, the observer said that the spy’s successes have been overstated.

“The reports that Eli Cohen almost became the president or the defense minister is a repetition of a myth which Israeli intelligence has spread about itself, creating an image of an omnipotent structure able to control any political or military system on the planet,” Halabi explained.

Exposure and Execution

Cohen was detained by Syrian intelligence in his apartment in January 1965. A month later the spy was tried and sentenced to death. He was hanged on May 18, 1965 in a square in Damascus, his body left to hang for six hours.

Yakov Kedmi, an Israeli political commentator and former head of the Nativ security service, spoke to Sputnik about the details of the spy’s detention and execution.

“The issue of his exposure and demise has been repeatedly and deeply analyzed by Mossad and the Israeli intelligence community as a whole. However, the Soviet role in this operation is quite interesting, and involves the delivery of special devices to intercept radio waves,” Kedmi said.

Picture dated 09 May 1965 shows Israeli spy Eli Cohen (L) and two other unidentified co-defendants, during their trial in Damascus, ten days before his executio
© AFP 2018 /
Picture dated 09 May 1965 shows Israeli spy Eli Cohen (L) and two other unidentified co-defendants, during their trial in Damascus, ten days before his executio

According to Kedmi, Israeli investigations have also made clear that Cohen committed certain errors, and that these, along with Soviet equipment, culminated in his downfall.

With the official story shrouded in mystery, even after half a century, Albert Cohen told Sputnik that there were three possible reasons for his brother’s unmasking.

According to the first, which was voiced by President Amin Hafiz after Cohen’s capture, the Indian embassy in Damascus had complained of interference in radio communications with New Delhi. This led to an investigation, which culminated in the use of the advanced Soviet radio equipment to pinpoint the source, and allowed the Syrian security services to catch Eli Cohen red-handed while he was transmitting information by radio from his apartment.

Egyptian intelligence, on the other hand, has claimed that Cohen was first noticed by its personnel in a photo of a meeting of the Syrian and Egyptian general staff in the Golan Heights, with the Egyptian side later identifying him as an Israeli spy.The third, and most detailed version, has been presented by Ahmad Suwaidani, the former head of Syrian intelligence. According to the spymaster, in the early 1960s, Syrian counterintelligence became aware of two Syrians believed to be working for the CIA and secretly planning to smuggle missiles which Damascus had received from the USSR to Cyprus. After seven months of observation, the special services noted that both suspects had been frequent guests at Cohen’s apartment.

These men were caught in late 1964, after which Cohen himself came under surveillance, and were tried for treason and executed in Damascus in February 1965.

According to Suwaidani’s version of events, the security forces did indeed break into Cohen’s apartment on January 18, 1965, but found him listening to the radio, not transferring information. During their search of the residence, investigators found a radio transmitter and other suspicious items.

Albert Cohen recalled that Syrian court records mentioned that Eli and a fellow conspirator had told a Syrian Navy officer that the Americans were willing to pay $50,000 for information about the Syrian Navy. This was used to accuse Eli of cooperating with US intelligence.

Cohen’s brother also pointed out that Syria announced Eli’s capture on January 22, 1965, just five days after his arrest. This, he said, leads him to conclude that the Syrians had suspected him for much longer.

Albert agrees with Suwaidani’s assessment that it was the arrest of the two Arabs working for the CIA which proved the beginning of the end for his brother.

Over fifty years on, the Syrian side has refused to send Cohen’s body home to his family in Israel.

Yakov Kedmi believes the Syrian government’s refusal is related to the fact that they don’t actually know his whereabouts anymore. “Israel has repeatedly tried to establish the location of his grave and has conducted negotiations, but the truth is Damascus simply doesn’t know where Eli Cohen’s body is. In a situation of civil war, it has proven impossible to find his body. If Syria’s refusal may have at first been political, today they are simply unable to find the grave,” Kedmi said.

Immortal Hero to Some, Eternal Enemy to Others

In Israel, Eli Cohen is seen as an iconic figure, a national hero and the most successful spy in the country’s history. Albert Cohen says his brother was fearless. “Eli Cohen was a brave fighter, an unknown soldier in the service of the Israeli state. He was a soldier without a uniform, and will forever remain a national hero in our collective memory.”

Eli Cohen with his family
Albert Abraham Cohen
Eli Cohen with his family

Tahsin Halabi, in turn, believes Cohen’s mission was to destroy Syria.

“Since 1949, the United States attempted several times to stage a coup in Syria, but all its attempts failed,” the Syrian political observer said. “The Americans were not satisfied with the Syrian government, which had established good relations with the Soviet Union. Amid its failure, the CIA delegated the task of the destruction of the Syrian state. It was for this reason that Eli Cohen was sent to Syria.”

Ex-Nativ chief Yakov Kedmi argues that ultimately, Cohen was successful. “Cohen is one of Israel’s most successful spies, and he paid for it with his life,” he said. “In any country, such a person would be considered a national hero, and the whole of Israel honors his memory.”

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