Monday, 31 October 2016

'Like a Trojan Horse, Western countries delivered radical groups to Syria'

Western governments will try to avoid a probe into human rights abuses committed by rebel groups as they attack western Aleppo, Jim Jatras, former US diplomat, told RT. Dr. Said Sadiq, professor of political sociology, also joins the conversation.
The UN special envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura said he is “shocked and appalled by the high number of rockets indiscriminately launched by armed opposition groups on civilian areas of western Aleppo in the last 48 hours.”
“Those who argue that this is meant to relieve the siege of eastern Aleppo should be reminded that nothing justifies the use of disproportionate, indiscriminate including heavy weapons on civilian areas,” Staffan de Mistura said.
The actions "could amount to war crimes," he warned.
Government-held West Aleppo has been under constant fire from the rebel-controlled East for several weeks now with many civilians, including children, falling victim to the attacks.
RT: Do you think there will be, at some point, an official investigation into human rights violations committed by rebel groups as they continue with their attacks on western Aleppo?
Jim Jatras: Well, there certainly should be and the question whether they will be is very difficult to answer because, remember, these are groups supported by the US and other Western countries and by our allies in the region - Saudi Arabia, Qatar and so forth. Despite the fact that these are terrorist groups, that they are Al-Qaeda and their various allies, and they are very reluctant to put a spotlight on the kind of people that we’re supporting in this region. Let’s remember, a couple of months ago the Al-Zinki group was alleged of using chlorine gas. And the State Department spokesman was asked, ‘if we were shown [that] they used chlorine gas, would we drop our support for them?’ And he refused to answer. So I’m afraid we’re going to see a roadblock put in by Western governments to avoid that kind of investigation.
RT: If they continue to commit what may amount to war crimes, could the rebels lose Western support? In terms of public opinion, is there any chance we'll start seeing a shift in attitude toward armed opposition groups in Syria?
JJ: It is certainly out of the bag for people who watch RT and who tune into alternative media. But as far as the American mainstream media goes, it is not out of the bag at all. You would not know from the US mainstream media that we’re supporting terrorists in East Aleppo, that it was Al-Qaeda and other groups. I would be very interested to see in the very next couple of days, will the American and other Western European mainstream media report this and pin the blame where it belongs - on these terrorists and on the governments that are supporting them.
RT: Are the attacks and potential war crimes receiving sufficient coverage to sway public opinion?
JJ: Absolutely not. These attacks are not new, these attacks against West Aleppo have been going on continuously and they receive zero reporting in the Western media. I monitor the American media pretty closely, and look at the double standards on how they report on say the offensive against Mosul versus the offensive against East Aleppo. They are night and day difference and I have not heard any reports of terrorist attacks on West Aleppo in the American media.
RT: In their latest assault, it appears the rebels used chlorine gas. Where are they likely to have acquired such weapons or the materials required for their assembly?
JJ: We’ve had a couple of instances with sarin, for example. There have been allegations in the past that this has been done inside Turkey. I am not in a position to verify that, but given that that’s the main route of the supply for the terrorists, that would be a reasonable speculation to start with.

'Western Trojan Horse'

Moderate radical groups are like a Trojan Horse that Western countries and the Gulf States put inside Syria, says Dr. Said Sadiq, professor of political sociology at the American University of Cairo.
RT: Staffan de Mistura has condemned the rebel’s actions in Aleppo. Will Western politicians and media now shift their attention to the atrocities the rebels are committing?
Dr. Said Sadiq: Despite the fact that not Mistura alone but also the UN Secretary General also condemned what is happening, but all Western media attention is going now to the battle of Mosul in Iraq and what is happening in Aleppo is being sidestepped and played down in international media…
RT: Today there was a chemical gas attack in western Aleppo. Will the West reassess its support for these so called moderate groups if it is confirmed the rebels conducted it?
SS: We have to understand that for six years, the Western countries and the Gulf States invested in those moderate radical groups and so they cannot abandon them. They are like the Trojan Horse that they had put inside the Syrian domestic situation. They cannot pull out now and say: “Okay, we discovered that we were wrong, let’s get out and leave them.” They have invested in them and they will still use them in bargaining in the future of Syria. So, if there are any future negotiations on the fate of Syria, those people, these cards of radicals and moderates will be used on the negotiating table. I don’t think that they will get rid of them soon.
Secondly, how did they get all those chemical weapons? The Gulf States provide weapons but they don’t have chemicals. So, most likely the chemical weapons had come from a NATO country. Because these are the only countries that have such kind of weapons. How did these chemical weapons come to the Syrian rebels? You will have the usual suspect –Turkey.
You would not know from the US mainstream media that we’re supporting terrorists in East Aleppo, that it was Al-Qaeda and other groups. 
RT: The UK plans to launch a new program to train rebels and supply them with weapons. Last year a similar program was a complete failure and ended up with the rebels fighting alongside ISIS and Al-Nusra. Will the same happen again?
SS: Six years of wasted resources and money to destroy Syria and they failed. The objective that was declared: “We will topple the Assad regime.” Six years and nothing happened. Do you think that one more year or more investment will tip the iceberg and change what we have seen? I doubt it. I think it was wasted money and they had one strategic aim: They don’t want the gas coming from Qatar to cross Syria to Europe and also to destroy the Syrian society, not the Syrian regime, Syrian society, the Syrian army, Syrian territorial integrity.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

Noam Chomsky: Why It's a Big Danger to Dismiss the Anger of Trump Voters

"Why are we failing to organize these people?"

Alexandra Rosenmann is an AlterNet associate editor. Follow her @alexpreditor.

In the past 15 months, Noam Chomsky has weighed in on the U.S. presidential race often. 
"There are differences in the parties," he said in February, when asked if he'd even consider a Republican over Hillary Clinton. "Small differences [coupled with] great power can have enormous consequences."
Chomsky initally favored Sanders over Clinton, but insisted Democrats must win at all costs. Because according to Chomsky, if Trump wins "the human species is in very deep trouble." 
But as for Trump's supporters, Chomsky's not counting them out just yet. 
"I'm basically judging by what I see and read about them listening to talk radio and so on," Chomsky admitted of the protests on the right. "But my strong impression is that these [right-wing protesters] are people with very real grievances."
"They give the impression of being a hard-working serious people who think they've been doing everything right. They've been doing what they're 'supposed' to do [as] god-fearing hard-working, gun-carrying, you know patriotic, Americans,"  Chomsky continued. 
"What are they doing wrong and how come their lives are so crummy?" Chomsky asked. 
It's a question that has plagued the election. 
"They're not getting answers," Chomsky insisted. "The answers they are getting are not only crazy, but extremely dangerous, so the right response is to ask ourselves, why are we failing to organize these people?
There's nothing partisan about losing money to Wall Street or lacking health insurance; issues at the forefront of protests from both sides for nearly a decade. 
"We have not succeeded in unifying people," Chomsky noted. "It's our fault."

The Israeli Trumpess


What will Donald Trump do if he loses the elections in a week and a half from now, as most polls indicate?
He has already declared that he will recognize the results – but only if he wins.
That sounds like a joke. But it is far from being a joke.
Trump has already announced that the election is rigged. The dead are voting (and all the dead vote for Hillary Clinton). The polling station committees are corrupt. The polling machines forge the results.
No, that is not a joke. Not at all.
This is not a joke, because Trump represents tens of millions of Americans, who belong to the lower strata of the white population, which the white elite used to call “white trash”. In more polite language they are called “blue collar workers”, meaning manual workers, unlike the “white collar workers” who occupy the offices.
If the tens of millions of blue-collar voters refuse to recognize the election results, American democracy will be in danger. The United States may become a banana republic, like some of its southern neighbors, which have never enjoyed a stable democracy.
This problem exists in all modern nation-states with a sizable national minority. The lowest strata of the ruling people hates the minority. Members of the minority push them out of the lower jobs. And more importantly: the lower strata of the ruling majority have nothing to be proud of except for their belonging to the ruling people.
The German unemployed voted for Adolf Hitler, who promoted them to the “Herrenvolk” (master people) and the Aryan race. They gave him power, and Germany was razed to the ground.
The one and only Winston Churchill famously said that democracy is a bad system, but that all the other systems tried were worse.
As far as democracy is concerned, the United States was a model for the world. Already in its early days it attracted freedom-lovers everywhere. Almost 200 years ago, the French thinker, Alexis de Tocqueville, wrote a glowing report about the “Democratie en Amerique”.
My generation grew up in admiration of American democracy. We saw European democracy breaking down and sinking into the morass of fascism. We admired this young America, which saved Europe in two world wars, out of sheer idealism. The democratic America vanquished German Nazism and Japanese militarism, and later Soviet Bolshevism.
Our childish attitude gave way to a more mature view. We learned about the genocide of the native Americans and about slavery. We saw how America is seized from time to time by an attack of craziness, such as the witch hunt of Salem and the era of Joe McCarthy, who discovered a Communist under every bed.
But we also saw Martin Luther King, we saw the first black President, and now we are probably about to see the first female President. All because of this miracle: American democracy.
And here come this man, Donald Trump, and tries to rip apart the delicate ties that bind American society together. He incites men against women, whites against blacks and hispanics, the rich against the destitute. He sows mutual hatred everywhere.
Perhaps the American people will get rid of this plague and send Trump back where he came from – television. Perhaps Trump will disappear like a bad dream, as did McCarthy and his spiritual forefathers.
Let’s hope. But there is also the opposite possibility: that Trump will cause a disaster never seen before: the downfall of democracy, the destruction of national cohesion, the breaking up into a thousand splinters.
Can this happen in Israel? Do we have an Israel a phenomenon that can be compared to the ascent of the American Trump? Is there an Israeli Trump?
Indeed, there is. But the Israeli Trump is a Trumpess.
She is called Miri Regev.
She resembles the original Trump in many ways. She challenges the Tel Aviv “old elites” as Trump incites against Washington. She incites Jewish citizens against Arab citizens. Orientals of eastern descent against Ashkenazis of European descent. The uncultured against the cultured. The poor against all others. She tears apart the delicate ties of Israeli society.
She is not the only one of her kind, of course. But she overshadows all the others.
After the elections for the 20th Knesset, in March 2015, and the setting-up of the new government, Israel was overrun by a band of far-right politicians, like a pack of hungry wolves. Men and women without charm, without dignity, possessed by a ravenous hunger for power, for conspicuousness at any price, people out for their own personal interest and for nothing else. They compete with each other in the hunt for headlines and provocative actions.
At the starting line they were all equal – ambitious, unlikable, uninhibited. But gradually, Miri Regev overtakes all the others. All they can do, she can do better. For every headline grabbed by another, she can grab five. For every condemnation of another in the media, she gets ten.
Benyamin Netanyahu is a dwarf, but compared to this bunch he is a giant. In order to remain so, he appointed each of them to the job he or she is most unsuited for. Miri Regev, a rude, vulgar, primitive person became Minister of Culture and Sports.
Regev, 51, is a good-looking woman, daughter of immigrants from Morocco. She was born as Miri Siboni in Kiryat-Gat, a place for which I have deep feelings, because it was there that I was wounded in 1948. Then it was still an Arab village called Irak-al-Nabshiyeh, and my life was saved by four soldiers, one of whom was called Siboni (no connection).
For many years, Regev served in the army as a public relations officer, rising to the rank of Colonel. Seems that one day she decided to do public relations for herself, rather than for others.
Since her first day as Minister of Culture, she has supplied the media with a steady stream of scandals and provocations. Thus she gradually overtakes all her competitors in the Likud leadership. They just cannot compete with her energy and inventiveness.
She declared proudly that she sees her job as the elimination of all anti-Likud people from the cultural arena – after all, “that’s what the Likud was elected for.”
All over the world, governments subsidize cultural institutions and creative people, convinced that culture is a vital national asset. When Charles de Gaulle was the President of France, he was once approached by his police chiefs with the request to issue an arrest warrant for the philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre, because of his support for the Algerian freedom fighters. De Gaulle refused and said: “Sartre too is France!”
Well, Regev is no de Gaulle. She threatens to withdraw government subsidies from any institution that publicly opposes the policy of the right-wing government. She demanded the cancelation of the program of an Arab rapper who read from the works of Mahmoud Darwish, the adored national poet of the Arab citizens and of the entire Arab world. She demanded that all theaters and orchestras perform in the settlements in the occupied territories, if they want to keep their subsidies.
This week she won a resounding victory when Habima, the “national theater”, agreed to perform in Kiryat-Arba, a nest of the most fanatical fascist settlers. Indeed, no day passes without news of some new exploit by Regev. Her colleagues explode with jealousy.
The basis of Israeli Trumpism and of Miri Regev’s career is the deep resentment of the Oriental – or Mizrahi – community. It is directed against the Ashkenazim, the Israelis of European descent. They are accused of treating the Orientals with disdain, calling them “the second Israel”.
Since those recruits of Moroccan descent saved my life near the birthplace of Miri Regev, I have written many words about the tragedy of Mizrahi immigration, a tragedy of which I was an eye-witness from the first moment. Many injustices were committed by the established Jewish population against the new immigrants, mostly without bad intentions. But the greatest sin of all is rarely mentioned.
Every community need a sense of pride, based on its past achievements. The pride was taken away from the Mizrahim, who arrived in the country after the 1948 war. They were treated as people devoid of culture, without a past, “cave-dwellers from the Atlas mountains”.
This attitude was a part of the contempt for Arab culture, a contempt deeply embedded in the Zionist movement. Vladimir (Ze’ev) Jabotinsky, the right-wing Zionist leader and forefather of the Likud party, wrote in his time an article entitled “The East”, in which he expressed his disdain for Oriental culture, Jewish and Arab alike, because of its religiosity and inability to separate between state and religion – a barrier to any human progress, according to him. This article is rarely mentioned nowadays.
The Oriental immigrants came to a country that was predominantly “secular”, non-religious and Western. It was also very anti-Arab and anti-Muslim. The new immigrants understood quickly that, in order to be accepted in Israeli society, they must get rid of their traditional-religious culture. They learned to distance themselves from everything Arab, such as their accent and their songs. Otherwise it would be difficult to become part of the country’s new society.
Before the birth of Zionism – a very European movement – there was no enmity between Jews and Muslims. Quite the contrary. When the Jews were expeled from Catholic Spain, many centuries ago, only a minority immigrated to anti-Semitic, Christian Europe. The vast majority went to Muslim lands and was received with open arms all over the Ottoman Empire.
Before that, in Muslim Spain, the Jews achieved their crowning glory, the “Golden Age”. They were integrated in all spheres of society and government and spoke Arabic. Many of their men of letters wrote Arabic and were admired by Muslims as well as Jews. Maimonides, perhaps the greatest of Sephardic Jews, wrote Arabic and was the personal physician of Saladin, the Muslim warrior who vanquished the Crusaders. The ancestors of these Crusaders had slaughtered Jew and Muslim alike when they conquered Jerusalem. Another great Mizrahi Jew, Saadia Gaon, translated the Torah into Arabic. And so on.
It would have been natural for Oriental Jews to take pride in this glorious past, as German Jews take pride in Heinrich Heine and French Jews in Marcel Proust. But the cultural climate in Israel compelled them to give up their heritage and pretend to admire solely the culture of the West. (Eastern singers were an exception – first as wedding performers and now as media stars. They became popular as “Mediterranean singers”.)
If Miri Regev were a cultured person, and not merely a Minister of Culture, she would have devoted her considerable energy to the revitalization of this culture and giving back pride to her community. But this does not really interest her. And there is another reason.
This Mizrahi culture is totally bound up with the Arab-Muslim culture. It cannot be mentioned without noticing the close relationship between the two for many centuries, during which Muslims and Jews worked together for the advancement of mankind, long before the world heard of Shakespeare or Goethe.
I have always believed that restoring pride was the duty of a new generation of peace-lovers that will arise from among the Mizrahi society. Lately, men and women from this community have reached key positions in the peace camp. I have high hopes.
They will have to fight the present culture minister – a minister who has nothing in common with culture, and a Mizrahi woman who has no Mizrahi roots.
I hope for a Jewish-Mizrahi revival in this country because it can advance Israeli-Arab peace and because it can strengthen again the loosened ties between the different communities in our state.
As a non-religious person I prefer the Mizrahi religiosity, which has always been moderate and tolerant, to the fanatical Zionist-religious camp that is predominantly Ashkenazi. I have always preferred Rabbi Ovadia Josef to the Rabbis Kook, father and son. I prefer Arie Der’I to Naftali Bennett.
I detest Donald Trump and Trumpism. I dislike Miri Regev and her culture.

URI AVNERY is an Israeli writer and peace activist with Gush Shalom. He is a contributor to CounterPunch’s book The Politics of Anti-Semitism.

Israel: 1984 Everlasting


For decades, Israel has held itself out as being the lone “democracy” in the Middle East; a state where the rights of individuals could not and would not be held hostage to the autocratic whims of royalty, but rather a full partner to a free and robust electoral process that guarantees not just meaningful input from the governed but the ability to challenge state policies as the winds of change blow from “the river to the sea.”
Once again, recent events have proven this to be just so much a perverse myth… empty rhetoric… second only to the brazen unfounded Israeli boast of having the “most humane army in the world,” even as the body count of Palestinian children grows in cemeteries and prisons that have become very much its own unique brand of 21st century youth hostel.
Recently, Hagai El-Ad, an Israeli and Jew, who serves as executive director of B’Tselem (The Israel Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories), spoke before the UN Security Council urging it to take immediate action against Israel’s illegal settlements.
Demagoguery and Inhumanity Exposed
Not quite 1400 words in its entirety, one paragraph in particular of El-Ad’s testimony sums up life for millions of those captured by a democracy that sees day as night… pain as pleasure. Crushing, despite its brevity, the power and pain of these words could easily be part of an opening statement by a war crimes prosecutor at a tribunal called to hold Israel accountable for crimes unseen since the Nuremburgtribunals some 70 years ago.
“What does it mean, in practical terms, to spend 49 years, a lifetime, under military rule? When violence breaks out, or when particular incidents attract global attention, you get a glimpse into certain aspects of life under occupation. But what about the rest of the time? What about the many “ordinary” days of a 17,898-day-long occupation, which is still going strong? Living under military rule mostly means invisible, bureaucratic, daily, violence. It means living under an endless permit regime, which controls Palestinian life from cradle to grave: Israel controls the population registry; Israel controls work permits; Israel controls who can travel abroad – and who cannot; Israel controls who can visit from abroad – and who cannot; in some villages, Israel maintains lists of who can visit the village, or who is allowed to farm which fields. Permits can sometimes be denied; permits must always be renewed. Thus with every breath they take, Palestinians breathe in occupation. Make a wrong move, and you can lose your freedom of movement, your livelihood, or even the opportunity to marry and build a family with your beloved.”

In a free democratic society these comments, while perhaps controversial, would certainly not constitute sedition. In an open, healthy State these words would surely give reason to pause and reflect… but never serve as a rational trip-wire to strip their speaker of his birthright as an unbound citizen empowered to support his government for policies he finds just but condemn it for those that bear the star of tyranny. It is a distinction that Israel has failed to adopt or learn over the course of its 50 year subjugation of millions whose only crime is to be born Palestinian in occupied land with sign-posts everywhere that simply say “ Jews only.”
Beating of Chests
Not long after El-Ad’s powerful speech before a world body entrusted with securing fundamental rights and liberty for all of its citizenry, the hue and cry could be heard among Israeli political elite to silence such subversive talk. Thus, Coalition Chairman MK David Bitan of the Likud Party undertook the first steps of reprisal by announcing he was considering submitting a bill to the Knesset that could remove the citizenship of Israelis who act against their country in international organizations. According to Bitan, “El-Ad’s actions at the Security Council are a blatant violation of the trust citizens must have for their country, so he should go find another country where he could be a citizen.”
Alarming, one might ask; no, not at all… merely another in an endless daily stream of steps by a government second to none when it comes to autocratic, indeed dictatorial, control of every fiber of its citizens freedoms, particularly their ability to access and exchange information without fear of retribution.
Much is known and largely ignored about the thousands of Palestinian civilians that have been targeted and slaughtered by the Israeli military machine in occupied Palestine, whether in Gaza or the West Bank. Indeed, the killing fields of Gaza or execution alleys of back street Jerusalem no longer acquire more than a passing fancy or footnote in the evening news spread across a world now busy with outrages of more recent vintage. After 70 years of slaughter, it’s just so much business as usual.
So, too, we have seemingly become numbed to the reality that thousands of Palestinian political prisoners languish in isolation, many sitting year after year, some for decades, in administrative detention cells of political prisons… uncharged, undefended and untried, tortured in ways that leave the spirits of those still roaming the now empty cellblocks of South Africa’s notorious Robben Islandrelieved their misery was ended quickly through state sanctioned executions by “suicide.”
The Mighty Censor’s Sword
Closures of Palestinian news rooms and television stations are commonplace… yet no more remarkable than assaults by Israel upon Palestinian journalists that long ago moved into triple digits and show no sign of abating. The Palestinian Centre for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA) has documented a pattern of such attacks by Israel running, for some time now, at almost 400 per year. Although the exact number of Palestinian journalists killed or injured by Israel over just the last decade may never be known, it has been documented that seventeen lost their lives in Gaza, alone, during the months of bombings which it endured in 2014.
Dozens of Palestinian journalists and private bloggers have been arrested by Israel and held for violating vague administrative codes that typically come down to the application of entirely undefined prohibitions such as “incitement.” Dareen Tatour, a 35-year-old poet and Arab-Palestinian citizen of Israel, was arrested and placed under administrative detention on charges of inciting violence via her poetry which she posted on Facebook and which merely praises those who fight against Israeli domination. Also arrested and charged with criminal incitement was 19-year-old Anas Khateeb, on the basis of her Facebook posts which included such alarming statements as “Jerusalem is Arab,” and “Long live the Intifada.”
Recently, Palestinian journalist, Samah Dweik, was released from prison having served almost six months for an alleged incitement charge which resulted from comments about the occupation she posted on her private Facebook account. For most of her sentence, her family was banned from visiting or having any contact with her. She was but one of over 20 Palestinian journalists recently imprisoned by Israel for allegations of incitement, along with hundreds of other Palestinian activists or bloggers who have been targeted for arrest and prosecution for nothing more than postings of political opinions about the Israeli occupation and Palestinian resistance on social media. Dweik’s release came not long after Israel and Facebook entered into an agreement to “work together” to monitor Palestinian posts.
The Sword Cuts Deeper
Increasingly, Palestinians are not the sole victims of an Israeli policy to silence “dissent” or to dramatically curb the nature and extent of information made available to its citizens… Jews and Arabs alike. For example, not long ago, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liebermanconfronted the military station director after Army Radio broadcast a documentary on the life of the leading Palestinian national poet, Mahmoud Darwish, saying that material like Darwish’s shouldn’t darken Israeli airwaves.
In what can only be described as a systematic effort to control both journalists and citizens in their ability to read and write, to access and exchange information, and to reach informed opinions essential to a public and democratic dialogue about current and future Israeli policies, its machinery of censorship has become the linchpin of the State’s view of what is appropriate knowledge and speech and what is not.
Thus, of late, Israel has begun to demand of social media giants such as Facebook and Twitter that they have input, if not control, over what posts ultimately find their way into the stream of ideas and debate within the Israeli public at large. According to Quds Press, Facebook and Twitter recently deleted thousands of posts, pages and accounts as a result of demands made by the Israeli Ministry of Justice based upon little more than amorphous claims that the information posed a threat to the safety of Israel.
On an even more ominous note, the Knesset has begun to formulate legislation that would require foreign entities to actively monitor social media sites for information deemed to be offensive to Israel. Under the legislation, content based liability could be found for material published by foreign nationals, addressed to foreign nationals and posted on foreign websites thereby reducing the concept of free speech in Israel to one that is cast by the prevailing political winds of the day and little else.
Recently the chief Israeli censor notified dozens of Israeli bloggers and social media activists that any material they might wish to publish in their personal blogs or social media accounts, when dealing with a wide range of what was described as “security” related subject matters, must be vetted. Although provided a generic and ambiguous catalog of those areas to be submitted for clearance, the targets, themselves, were not permitted to disclose the makeup of the list under penalty of law. If history can be counted upon to be the guidepost of what subject matters must be prescreened before publication, in the past the list has included such security “sensitive” subject matters as:
+ Cooperation agreements with foreign militaries;
+ Letters to the editor on military or security matters;
+ Contacts with foreign countries;
+ Anything connected to the nuclear industry;
+ Information about official delegations abroad;
+ Any material which constitutes a “danger” to people’s lives;
+ Immigration policies from “endangered” nations;
+ Use of foreign sources or material that touch upon any of these areas;
+ Detention of those suspected of security offenses;
+ Any information about military industries;
+ Appointments, resignations, firings, rumors about IDF activities or commanders
Finally, in a readily transparent effort to maintain a democratic illusion of a free and uncensored flow of information in the market place of ideas, pursuant to the censorship regulations there are complete prohibitions against leaving any blank spaces or other potential indicators in one’s writing or posts that might suggest or lead one to conclude that material has been deleted.
For those disturbed over this censorship procedure, it must be remembered that we are, after all, talking about a state that recently placed 101st out of 179 countries in the press Freedom index worldwide. Indeed, this appalling placement for the Middle East’s sole democracy is significantly better than Israel has scored in the Freedom index for quite a number of years.
For those wondering just how widespread, indeed systemic, Israel’s censorship procedures are, it is a country with a military censor procedure that has banned, outright, publication of, soon to be, some 2000 articles and redacted various information from 15,000 others in recent history. That is thousands of articles professional journalists and editors decided were of public interest but which never saw the light of day. Imagine how many more events of public interest went uninvestigated, or articles which were not written, issues debated, or challenges brought to bear for the Israeli body politic to consider because of self-censorship by journalists or editors too tired or principled to seek preapproval of their body of work by government censors. Stories simply swallowed up and disappeared by an industry of censorship.
Human Rights… Israel Wrongs
Although not yet law, in what can only be described as an all-out onslaught against core democratic rights and values, over the last several days consideration of a bill has begun in the Knesset that would empower the Defense Minister to detain a citizen without trial; to deny one the right to pursue or obtain employment in a field of interest; to limit access to various public places; and “to impose any other order or restriction necessitated by considerations of national security or public safety”.
Earlier in January 2011, the Knesset endorsed a right-wing proposal to investigate some of Israel’s best-known human rights organizations for “delegitimizing” its military. Among others was B’Tselem. The proposed investigations would entail inquiries into the funding of several human rights groups that have a history of criticizing Israeli policies. At the time, the Association for Civil Rights in Israeldescribed the proposal as a “severe blow” to Israeli democracy and critics labeled the policy as “McCarthyist.
Recently a variation on that bill became law in Israel compelling non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that receive more than half of their funding from foreign state entities to declare so publicly. Ultimately, the legislative criteria were tailored specifically to silence criticism of government policies by some 27 NGO’s… 25 of which, including B’Tselem, are considered to be left-wing… while the other two are non-affiliated. As intended, the bill will have absolutely no impact upon right-wing and pro-settlement NGOs which are funded almost entirely by private donations from powerful Zionists and Zionist entities from outside of Israel.
One can only imagine that upon returning home to the firestorm awaiting him, following his speech before the UN, Hagai El-Ad surely felt what it must have been like to be an activist leftist Jew in the United States during the dark days of McCarthy.
On the other hand, perhaps El-Ad should consider himself very fortunate indeed. On his twitter account, Arab-Palestinian MK Ahmad Tibi mocked MK David Bitan’s call for El-Ad’s de-citizenship saying: “Why stop at removing citizenship? Why not destroy the home of the B’Tselem director-general? Why not bar his entire family from entering the country, remove his land, submit them to administrative detention, and put checkpoints and closures in his neighborhood?”
Stanley L. Cohen is lawyer and activist in New York City.

UN Slams Aleppo Rebels Amid Accused Poison Gas Attacks

Rebels Continue Offensive Against Western Aleppo

by Jason Ditz,

A coalition of rebels including al-Qaeda’s-Nusra Front and the Free Syrian Army are continuing their offensive against the government-held western half of Aleppo. The UN harshly criticized them for their use of “indiscriminate” weapons, warning it could amount to war crimes.
Perhaps the biggest issue, though as-yet-unproven, is reports that the rebels have begun to use chlorine-filled shells in their attacks. Syrian media reported 35 civilians were suffering from effects of the toxic gas, though the rebels denied using them.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported at least 21 people killed over the weekend, amid heavy fighting around western Aleppo. The offensive began Friday, with the Nusra-led rebels trying to end a siege of their eastern half of the city.
This has been a recurring situation in Aleppo since it boiled down to just the military and this rebel faction, with both sides having repeatedly launched offensives and counter-offensives over the last several months,  trading sieges and strikes against one anothers’ neighborhoods.
This has resulted in heavy casualties for the civilians stuck in the city, facing regular sieges that they are rarely as able to survive as the combatants, and taking the brunt of the rockets, airstrikes, and artillery attacks. The addition of chemical weapons, even primitive ones, threaten to make the matter far worse.

Saudi Warplanes Repeatedly Bomb Yemen Prison, Killing 60

Officials Say Attack In Keeping With Targeting Procedures

by Jason Ditz,

Mostly destroyed and no longer usable, the prison in the Yemeni city of Hodeidah held 84 inmates until Saturday, when Saudi Arabian warplanes repeatedly bombed it, killing at least 60 of the people within and wounding dozens of others.
The exact number of prisoners killed compared to guards is unknown, though prisoners are said to be the vast majority. The prison was leveled in the attack, according to witnesses, and rescue workers are still looking through the rubble, with others believed trapped within.
Three airstrikes were targeted against the prison, with the first hitting it directly, bringing down the roof, and the follow-up attacks targeting the gates and the administration buildings. The Saudi coalition insisted the attacks were in keeping with targeting procedures, noting the prison was known to have Houthi security forces within.
It is unclear who the prisoners generally were at the prison, but deliberately attacking a prison will doubtless add to concerns about Saudi Arabia’s standards for airstrikes against Yemen, which have killed massive numbers of civilians over the past 19 months.

The De Facto US/Al Qaeda Alliance

Exclusive: Buried deep inside Saturday’s New York Times was a grudging acknowledgement that the U.S.-armed “moderate” rebels in Syria are using their U.S. firepower to back an Al Qaeda offensive, reports Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

A curious aspect of the Syrian conflict – a rebellion sponsored largely by the United States and its Gulf state allies – is the disappearance in much of the American mainstream news media of references to the prominent role played by Al Qaeda in seeking to overthrow the secular Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad.

There’s much said in the U.S. press about ISIS, the former “Al Qaeda in Iraq” which splintered off several years ago, but Al Qaeda’s central role in commanding Syria’s “moderate” rebels in Aleppo and elsewhere is the almost unspoken reality of the Syrian war. Even in the U.S. presidential debates, the arguing between Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton has been almost exclusively about ISIS, not Al Qaeda.

Though Al Qaeda got the ball rolling on America’s revenge wars in the Middle East 15 years ago by killing several thousand Americans and others in the 9/11 attacks, the terrorist group has faded into the background of U.S. attention, most likely because it messes up the preferred “good guy/bad guy” narrative regarding the Syrian war.

For instance, the conflict in Aleppo between Syrian government forces and rebels operating primarily under Al Qaeda’s command is treated in the Western media as simply a case of the barbaric Assad and his evil Russian ally Vladimir Putin mercilessly bombing what is portrayed as the east Aleppo equivalent of Disney World, a place where innocent children and their families peacefully congregate until they are targeted for death by the Assad-Putin war-crime family.

The photos sent out to the world by skillful rebel propagandists are almost always of wounded children being cared for by the “White Helmet” rebel civil defense corps, which has come under growing criticism for serving as a public-relations arm of Al Qaeda and other insurgents. (There also are allegations that some of the most notable images have been staged, like a fake war scene from the 1997 dark comedy, “Wag the Dog.”)

Rare Glimpse of Truth
Yet, occasionally, the reality of Al Qaeda’s importance in the rebellion breaks through, even in the mainstream U.S. media, although usually downplayed and deep inside the news pages, such as the A9 article in Saturday’s New York Times by Hwaida Saad and Anne Barnard describing a rebel offensive in Aleppo. It acknowledges:
A fake war scene in the dark 1997 comedy "Wag the Dog," which showed a girl and her cat fleeing a bombardment in Albania.
A fake war scene in the dark 1997 comedy “Wag the Dog,” which showed a girl and her cat fleeing a bombardment in Albania.
“The new offensive was a strong sign that rebel groups vetted by the United States were continuing their tactical alliances with groups linked to Al Qaeda, rather than distancing themselves as Russia has demanded and the Americans have urged. … The rebels argue that they cannot afford to shun any potential allies while they are under fire, including well-armed and motivated jihadists, without more robust aid from their international backers.” (You might note how the article subtly blames the rebel dependence on Al Qaeda on the lack of “robust aid” from the Obama administration and other outside countries – even though such arms shipments violate international law.)

What the article also makes clear in a hazy kind of way is that Al Qaeda’s affiliate, the recently renamed Nusra Front, and its jihadist allies, such as Ahrar al-Sham, are waging the brunt of the fighting while the CIA-vetted “moderates” are serving in mostly support roles. The Times reported:

“The insurgents have a diverse range of objectives and backers, but they issued statements of unity on Friday. Those taking part in the offensive include the Levant Conquest Front, a militant group formerly known as the Nusra Front that grew out of Al Qaeda; another hard-line Islamist faction, Ahrar al-Sham; and other rebel factions fighting Mr. Assad that have been vetted by the United States and its allies.”

The article cites Charles Lister, a senior fellow and Syria specialist at the Middle East Institute in Washington, and other analysts noting that “the vast majority of the American-vetted rebel factions in Aleppo were fighting inside the city itself and conducting significant bombardments against Syrian government troops in support of the Qaeda-affiliated fighters carrying out the brunt of front-line fighting.”

Lister noted that 11 of the 20 or so rebel groups conducting the Aleppo “offensive have been vetted by the C.I.A. and have received arms from the agency, including anti-tank missiles.

“In addition to arms provided by the United States, much of the rebels’ weaponry comes from regional states, like Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, Mr. Lister said, including truck-borne multiple-rocket launcher systems and Czech-made Grad rockets with extended ranges.”

The U.S./Al Qaeda Alliance
In other words, the U.S. government and its allies have smuggled sophisticated weapons into Syria to arm rebels who are operating in support of Al Qaeda’s new military offensive against Syrian government forces in Aleppo. By any logical analysis, that makes the United States an ally of Al Qaeda.

A heart-rending propaganda image designed to justify a major U.S. military operation inside Syria against the Syrian military.
A heart-rending propaganda image designed to justify a major U.S. military operation inside Syria against the Syrian military.
The Times article also includes a quote from Genevieve Casagrande, a Syria research analyst from the Institute for the Study of War, a neoconservative “think tank” that has supported more aggressive U.S. military involvement in Syria and the Middle East.
“The unfortunate truth, however, is that these U.S.-backed groups remain somewhat dependent upon the Al Qaeda linked groups for organization and firepower in these operations,” Casagrande said.

The other unfortunate truth is that the U.S.-supplied rebels have served, either directly or indirectly, as conduits to funnel U.S. military equipment and ordnance to Al Qaeda.

One might think that the editors of The New York Times – if they were operating with old-fashioned news judgment rather than with propagandistic blinders on – would have recast the article to highlight the tacit U.S. alliance with Al Qaeda and put that at the top of the front page.

Still, the admissions are significant, confirming what we have reported at for many months, including Gareth Porter’s article last February saying: “Information from a wide range of sources, including some of those the United States has been explicitly supporting, makes it clear that every armed anti-Assad organization unit in those provinces [of Idlib and Aleppo] is engaged in a military structure controlled by [Al Qaeda’s] Nusra militants. All of these rebel groups fight alongside the Nusra Front and coordinate their military activities with it. …
“At least since 2014 the Obama administration has armed a number of Syrian rebel groups even though it knew the groups were coordinating closely with the Nusra Front, which was simultaneously getting arms from Turkey and Qatar.”

Double Standards
The Times article on page A9 also deviated from the normal propaganda themes by allowing a statement by Syrian officials and the Russians regarding their suspension of airstrikes over the past week to permit the evacuation of civilians from east Aleppo and the rebels’ refusal to let people leave, even to the point of firing on the humanitarian corridors:
An Israeli strike caused a huge explosion in a residential area in Gaza during the Israeli assault on Gaza in 2008-2009. (Photo credit: Al Jazeera)
An Israeli strike caused a huge explosion in a residential area in Gaza during the Israeli assault on Gaza in 2008-2009. (Photo credit: Al Jazeera)
“The [Syrian] government and its [Russian] allies accused the rebels of forcing Aleppo residents to stay, and of using them as human shields.”

The “human shields” argument is one that is common when the United States or its allies are pummeling some city controlled by “enemy” forces whether Israel’s bombardment of Gaza or the U.S. Marines’ leveling of Fallujah in Iraq or the current campaign against ISIS in the Iraqi city of Mosul. In those cases, the horrific civilian bloodshed, including the killing of children by U.S. or allied forces, is blamed on Hamas or Sunni insurgents or ISIS but never on the people dropping the bombs.

An entirely opposite narrative is applied when U.S. adversaries, such as Syria or Russia, are trying to drive terrorists and insurgents out of an urban area. Then, there is usually no reference to “human shields” and all the carnage is blamed on “war crimes” by the U.S. adversaries. That propaganda imperative helps explain why Al Qaeda and its jihadist comrades have been largely whited out of the conflict in Aleppo.

Over the past few years, U.S. regional allies, such as Israel and Saudi Arabia, also have shifted their public attitudes toward Al Qaeda, seeing it as a blunt instrument to smash the so-called “Shiite crescent” reaching from Iran through Syria to Lebanon. For instance, in September 2013, Israel’s Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren, then a close adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, told the Jerusalem Post that Israel favored Syria’s Sunni extremists over President Assad.

“The greatest danger to Israel is by the strategic arc that extends from Tehran, to Damascus to Beirut. And we saw the Assad regime as the keystone in that arc,” Oren told the Jerusalem Post in an interview. “We always wanted Bashar Assad to go, we always preferred the bad guys who weren’t backed by Iran to the bad guys who were backed by Iran.” He said this was the case even if the “bad guys” were with Al Qaeda.

And, in June 2014, speaking as a former ambassador at an Aspen Institute conference, Oren expanded on his position, saying Israel would even prefer a victory by the brutal Islamic State over continuation of the Iranian-backed Assad in Syria. “From Israel’s perspective, if there’s got to be an evil that’s got to prevail, let the Sunni evil prevail,” Oren said.

Warming to Al Qaeda
As Israeli officials shifted toward viewing Al Qaeda and even ISIS as the lesser evils and built a behind-the-scenes alliance with Saudi Arabia and the Sunni states, American neoconservatives also began softening their tone regarding the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks.

Across the U.S. foreign policy establishment, pressure built for “regime change” in Damascus even if that risked handing Syria to Sunni jihadists. That strategy hit a road bump in 2014 when ISIS began chopping off the heads of Western hostages in Syria and capturing swathes of territory in Iraq, including Mosul.
That bloody development forced President Barack Obama to begin targeting ISIS militants in both Iraq and Syria, but the neocon-dominated Washington establishment still favored the Israeli-Saudi objective of “regime change” in Syria regardless of how that might help Al Qaeda.

Thus, Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front and its jihadist ally, Ahrar al-Sham, faded into the background under the fiction that the anti-Assad forces were primarily noble “moderates” trying to save the children from the bloodthirsty fiends, Assad and Putin.

Grudgingly, The New York Times, deep inside Saturday’s newspaper, acknowledged at least part of the troubling reality, that the U.S. government has, in effect, allied itself with Al Qaeda terrorists.

[For more background on this issue, see’s “New Group Think for War with Syria/Russia.”]

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and