Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Israel Killing Syrians for ISIS

Israel Kills 52 Syrian/Iraqi Anti-ISIS Fighters, as US Takes Aim at Iran 


June 20, 2018

An air attack in eastern Syria killed 52 Syrian and Iraqi government-backed forces who were fighting ISIS. They blamed the US, but it said Israel is responsible.

Max Blumenthal says this is part of a larger campaign to destabilize and fragment Syria and weaken its ally Iran.

Hungering for Nuclear Disarmament

Hungering for Nuclear Disarmament

by Kathy Kelly -

June 20, 2018

In the state of Georgia’s Glynn County Detention Center, four activists await trial stemming from their nonviolent action, on April 4, 2018, at the Naval Submarine Base, Kings Bay. In all, seven Catholic plowshares activists acted that day, aiming to make real the prophet Isaiah’s command to “beat swords into plowshares.” The Kings Bay is home port to six nuclear armed Trident ballistic missile submarines with the combined explosive power of over 9000 Hiroshima bombs.

This week, five people have gathered for a fast and vigil, near the Naval Base, calling it “Hunger for Nuclear Disarmament.”

Kindly hosts in Brunswick, GA turned over their Air B and B to us.

The accommodation is a remodeled garage, - were we not fasting we might find the kitchen a bit crowded, but for us, this week, the accommodations are ideal. Egrets, ospreys and vultures glide overhead. Huge live oaks surround us, looming and beautiful, draped in Spanish moss.

Tannins released from the oak trees seep into the nearby river, historically a source of fresh water because the tannins killed the bugs. Centuries ago, colonizers would fill huge containers with “brown” water from the river, water in which the bugs couldn’t survive, and use that water for their drinking needs throughout their voyages back to Europe.

When we travel along the roads, vast stretches of wetlands extend as far as the eye can see. Recent laws mandate conservation of these marshy grounds.

Our small community here longs to preserve all life, to end potential omnicide.

During vigils at the Naval Base, in front of the detention center and at the District Court House, we hold banners, one of which says “Disarm Trident, Love One Another. Steve Baggarly, one of the fasters, carries copies of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, negotiated in July 2017, by 122 nations.

 “Most of the world is tired of being held hostage by omnicidal weapons and wants nuclear disarmament,” said Steve.
“The U.S. and the 8 other nuclear powers who boycotted the Treaty negotiations are the outliers.” Baggarly added that, “Our true national security lies in achieving the long overdue objective of nuclear disarmament.”

The Kings Bay action was the latest of 100 similar actions taken around the world since 1980 and the first plowshares action to take place since the global treaty banning nuclear weapons was signed.

This afternoon, when we ended our vigil, we visited a small park, opposite an entrance to the base, which marks the site of a sugar factory owned by John Houstoun MacIntosh. The memorial plaque in front of the factory ruins makes it sound as though MacIntosh built the factory and mansion. Hardly the case! In 1825, slaves assuredly constructed the buildings and cultivated the sugar cane, risking their lives in the dangerous process.

Eventually, small groups of abolitionists working to end the slave trade gained momentum. Disarmament activists today draw inspiration from their struggles.

“Nuclear weapons are a theft from the poor,” said fast participant Beth Brockman. 
 “People here in Georgia and across the South are in desperate need of the resources squandered on the war economy.”

Two highlights of the day were conversations with Mark Colville and later Steve Kelly, both of whom called us from the Detention Center. Each had begun the day reading the same reflection we had earlier shared, which included a passage from the Sermon on the Mount.

Choosing to “go the extra mile,” our friends who face trial bring to life the spirit of early abolitionists and the ancient call to choose life that you and your descendants might live.
Kathy Kelly, (, a participant in the Hunger for Nuclear Disarmament fast, co-coordinates Voices for Creative Nonviolence.

Call for the NDP to Withdraw from the Canada-Israel Interparliamentary Group

A call for the NDP to withdraw from the Canada-Israel Interparliamentary Group

by The Undersigned

June 20, 2018

More than 200 well-known musicians, academics, trade unionists and New Democratic Party members, declaring themselves to be “appalled by the recent deaths in Gaza,” are calling on the party’s MPs to leave the Canada-Israel Interparliamentary Group.

The statement’s signers include the English musician Roger Waters; prominent U.S. academics Noam Chomsky and Richard Falk; Maher Arar, a Time Magazine most influential person; Amir Khadir, a member of the Quebec National Assembly; Jim Manly, the former NDP member of parliament; journalist and author Linda McQuaig; and Mike Palecek, President of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers.

The Interparliamentary Group promotes “greater friendship” between Canadian MPs and members of the Israeli Knesset.

NDP justice critic Murray Rankin and NDP defence critic Randall Garrison are on its executive committee. NDP MPs Peter Julian and Gord Johns also belong.

“We are concerned that members of parliament would seek to strengthen relations with a country systematically violating Palestinian rights,” the statement reads.

“It is wholly inconsistent with the avowed principles of the NDP for the party to be working for ‘greater friendship’ with a country that is killing and maiming thousands of overwhelmingly non-violent protestors, many of them children, while systematically violating international law and human rights standards with regard to all Palestinians.”

The statement calls on NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, MPs Garrison, Rankin, Julian, and Johns, and the parliamentary caucus to immediately disassociate from the Canada-Israel Interparliamentary Group.

Full text of the statement and list of signers:

The undersigned are appalled by the recent deaths in Gaza. At least 110 Palestinians have been killed and thousands injured by sniper fire and noxious gas used by the Israeli military.

The recent violence takes place alongside ongoing land theft, destruction of olive groves, construction of Jewish-only roads, imprisonment without due process and a blockade of Gaza.

During its 70-year history Israel has been as unjust towards Palestinians as the white-ruled apartheid state was to Black South Africans.

We are concerned that members of parliament would seek to strengthen relations with a country systematically violating Palestinian rights.

In particular, we are dismayed that NDP justice critic Murray Rankin and NDP defence critic Randall Garrison serve as executive members of the Canada-Israel Interparliamentary Group. NDP MPs Peter Julian and Gord Johns are also members of that organization.

The Canada-Israel Interparliamentary Group promotes “greater friendship” between Canadian MPs and members of the Israeli Knesset and has organized events with other pro-Israel lobby organizations.

It is wholly inconsistent with the avowed principles of the NDP for the party to be working for “greater friendship” with a country that is killing and maiming thousands of overwhelmingly non-violent protestors, many of them children, as well as journalists and doctors, while systematically violating international law and human rights standards with regard to all Palestinians.

Accordingly, we call on NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, MPs Garrison, Rankin, Julian, and Johns, and the parliamentary caucus to immediately disassociate themselves from the Canada-Israel Interparliamentary Group.

List of individuals and groups endorsing statement:

Yves Engler, author, NDP member
Roger Waters, co-founder Pink Floyd
Chris Cook, Managing Editor/Broadcaster - Pacific Free Press/Gorilla Radio
Noam Chomsky, professor
Linda McQuaig, author, NDP candidate
Maher Arar, 2007 Time Magazine 100 most influential people in the world
Amir Khadir, Québec Solidaire, member National Assembly of Quebec
Sid Ryan, former president of the Ontario Federation of Labour, NDP member since 1981
Mike Palecek, President Canadian Union of Postal Workers
Chris Hedges, author
Steve Ashton, long-serving NDP member of the Manitoba legislature and cabinet minister
Monia Mazigh, academic, author and former NDP candidate
Jim Manly, former NDP MP 1980-88
Richard Falk, Professor of International Law, Emeritus, Princeton University
Norman Finkelstein, author
Antonia Zerbisias, CBC-TV and Toronto Star veteran journalist, NDP member
Medea Benjamin, co-founder CodePink
El Jones, activist, educator, journalist and poet
Gordon Laxer, Professor Emeritus University of Alberta, NDP member since 1963
Jean Swanson, author, Vancouver housing and poverty activist, NDP member
Murray Dobbin, journalist, broadcaster and author
Azeezah Kanji, (JD, LLM) legal analyst and writer
Stephen von Sychowski, President, Vancouver & District Labour Council
Mike Bocking, former Unifor Local 2000 president and federal NDP candidate in 2004, 2006 and 2008
Sheelah McLean, Co-founder of Idle No More, NDP member
Alain Deneault, author, Directeur de programme, Collège international de philosophie
Ramzy Baroud, editor Palestine Chronicle, author My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza's Untold Story
Sana Hassainia, former NDP MP
Will Prosper, filmmaker and civil rights activist
Charles Demers, writer/comedian, NDP member
Rob Lyons, Former NDP Member of Saskatchewan Legislature (Regina Rosemont)
Saron Gebresellassi, Human Rights Lawyer and Activist
Clayton Thomas-Müller Stop-it-at-the-Source Campaigner -, NDP member Manitoba
Leon Rosselson, Songwriter & children’s author
Cy Gonick, former Manitoba NDP MLA and founding editor of Canadian Dimension
Propagandhi: Jord Samolesky, Chris Hannah, Todd Kowalski and Sulynn Hago
Andrea Harden, climate justice organizer and NDP member
Sam Gindin, Retired, Unifor Research Director and Retired, Packer Chair in Social Justice, York
Trevor Herriot, author and naturalist
Harsha Walia, activist and writer
Sandy Hudson, activist and writer
Ellen Woodsworth, writer, organizer and former Vancouver City councillor
Judi Rever, author
Candace Savage, author of two-dozen books, NDP member
Aziz Fall, president Centre Internationaliste Ryerson Fondation Aubin
Corey Balsam, National Coordinator, Independent Jewish Voices Canada
Gary Porter, FCPA, FCGA, CA, executive member Saanich Gulf Islands, NDP EDA
Sibel Epi Ataoğul, Labour and human rights lawyer and lecturer at the University of Montreal, founding member of the Association des juristes progressistes, former NDP member
Terry Engler, President I.L.W.U. Local 400
Hossein Fazeli, writter and film director, winner of 37 awards
Martin Duckworth, documentary film-maker, winner of le Prix du Québec 2015
Dara Culhane, Professor of Anthropology at Simon Fraser University, winner 2018 Weaver Tremblay award of the Canadian Association of Anthropology
Gary Kinsman, gay liberation and social justice activist, co-author of The Canadian War on Queers
Ernest Tate, former vice-president of CUPE, Local One
Jess MacKenzie, long time NDP activist
Herman Rosenfeld, retired Canadian Auto Workers national staff person, former NDP member
Mohammad Fadel, Associate Professor of Law University of Toronto Faculty of Law
Chris Huxley, Professor Emeritus, Trent University, long-time NDP member
Charlene Gannage, Associate Professor Emerita, University of Windsor, long-time NDP member
Samir Gandesha, Associate Prof and Director of the Institute for the Humanities, SFU
Reem Bahdi, Associate Professor of Law
Faisal Kutty, Lawyer and Professor of Law
Natalie Zemon Davis, Professor of History
Tyler Shipley, Professor of Culture, Society and Commerce, Humber College
Joseph G. Debanné, former Chair of the Middle East Discussion Group
Yavar Hameed, Human Rights Lawyer, Former NDP Member
Robert Massoud, Beit Zatoun
Faisal Bhabha, Associate Professor Osgoode Hall Law School, York University, NDP Member
Emily Carasco, Professor Emeritus
Martin Lukacs, writer
Jason Woods, Vice-President I.L.W.U. Local 400
Leslie Miller, retired Sociology professor at the University of Calgary, NDP supporter
Suzanne Weiss, Palestinian rights activist and Holocaust survivor
John Riddell, author and editor, NDP member
John Orrett, President Thornhill NDP Federal Riding Association
Richard Fidler, writer, translator, Ontario Bar
Maria Páez Victor Chair, Canadian, Latin American and Caribbean Policy Centre
Marion Pollack, retired Canadian Union of Postal Workers representative, NDP donor
Marv Gandall, former journalist and trade unionist
Art Young, Palestine solidarity activist, Canadian political prisoner, Quebec 1970
Andrea Glickman, NDP member, Vancouver
Nick Fillmore, news editor and producer with the CBC for more than 20 years
Conrad Alexandrowicz, theatre artist, scholar, instructor at University of Victoria, NDP member
Nadia Abu-Zahra, Associate Professor, University of Ottawa, NDP donor and long-time member
David Rifat, Professor Emeritus, University of Toronto
Tim McCaskell, author, Queer Progress
Larry Hannant, writer, historian and NDP donor
Richard Sanders, researcher, writer, antiwar activist
Cara-Lee Malange, peace activist
Larry Wartels, born Jewish, NDP Member Victoria BC
Randy Janzen, College Instructor: Peace and Justice Studies
Fred Jones, former president Dawson Teachers’ Union, NDP member
Ali Mallah, Federal NDP Candidate Election 2000, Former Vice President Ontario NDP
Grahame Russell, director Rights Action
Peter Eglin, Professor Emeritus of Sociology, Wilfrid Laurier University, long-time NDP member
Michael A. Lebowitz, Professor Emeritus of Economics, Simon Fraser University
Hassan Husseini, labour negotiator and activist, Member of Unifor and Labour for Palestine
John Price, Professor of History, University of Victoria, longtime NDP supporter
Greg AlboDepartment of Politics, York University, Centre for Social Justice
William S. Geimer, Professor of Law Emeritus, member of Vancouver Island Peace and Disarmament Network
Anthony Fenton, researcher PhD Candidate at York U
Arnold August, author
Steve Heeren, Professor, Convener, Palestine Study Group
Katherine Nastovski, Associate - Institute on Globalization and the Human Condition, McMaster University and Labour for Palestine
Evert Hoogers, Labour researcher, retired CUPW National Union Representative
David Bernans, union leader, NDP candidate and current NDP member
Eva Manly, retired filmmaker, activist, lifelong NDP, now Green
Robert Mahood, Family Physician, member of NDP Socialist Caucus
Kevin Neish, Mavi Marmara massacre survivor
Sid Shniad, Research Director, Telecommunications Workers Union (retired), Member, national steering committee, Independent Jewish Voices Canada
Ken Hiebert, Palestine solidarity activist and retired trade unionist
Howard Breen, Executive Director Urgent Climate and Ocean Rapid Response, Unifor 433
Tareq Ismael, professor
Kimball Cariou, editor of People's Voice newspaper
Debbie Hubbard, Member of Amnesty International Kelowna, Palestine Study Group Vernon, NDP member
Mark Golden, professor emeritus of Classics, University of Winnipeg, longtime NDP donor and campaign worker
Kevin Skerrett, trade union researcher
Randy Caravaggio, Sculptor
Al Engler, retired trade unionist and long-time NDP member
Tsiporah Grignon, awakened citizen, Gabriola Island, BC
Mazin Qumsiyeh, director of the Palestine Museum of Natural History at the Palestine Institute of Biodiversity and Sustainability at Bethlehem University
Lia Tarachansky, Israeli-Canadian journalist and documentary filmmaker
Charlotte Kates, International Coordinator, Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network
Walid Chahal, Continuing Lecturer, Lakehead University; co-chair Diversity Thunder Bay, former NDP member
Phil Little, retired teacher from Ontario Ladysmith, B.C.
Taina Maki Chahal, Contract Lecturer, Lakehead University, former NDP member
Karen Rodman, Reverend, NDP member
Morgan McGuigan, ESL Teacher
Jean Rands, retired trade unionist and long-time NDP member
Joan Russow, Global Compliance Research Project
Laura Westra, Professor Emerita (Philosophy)
Jason Kunin, Toronto teacher and writer
Henry Evans-Tenbrinke, Human Rights, Labour and Pro Palestine activist
Julius Arscott Executive Board Member of OPSEU and member of NDP Socialist Caucus
Ken Stone, Hamilton Mountain NDP member for 35 years
Ian Angus, editor Climate & Capitalism
Erika Shaker, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives director of the Education Project, NDP member
Amy Miller, documentary filmmaker, NDP member
Alroy Fonseca, Federal NDP member
Bob Chandler, COPE 343 member, Toronto Danforth NDP member
Paul Tetrault, Cupe Staff Lawyer (retired), longtime NDP member
Eva Bartlett, activist and independent journalist who lived three years in Gaza
DimitriLascaris,lawyer, journalist and activist, NDP member
Kevin MacKay, author, professor at Mohawk College of Applied Arts and Technology, labour and co-op activist
Reuben Roth, Associate Professor, Labour Studies Program Laurentian University, NDP activist in Oshawa riding since 1984
Aminah Sheikh, union organizer, worked on numerous NDP campaigns
Eric Martin, professor of philosophy, Edouard-Montpetit CEGEP
Byron Rempel-Burkholder, member of Mennonite Church Manitoba working group on Palestine and Israel
Krishna Lalbiharie, Member Canada-Palestine Support Network, President St. Johns NDP Constituency (Manitoba)
Michael J. Carpenter, Postdoctoral fellow, University of Victoria
Mark Etkin, MD FRCPC
Ed Lehman, NDP member, Cupar, Saskatchewan
Bianca Mugyenyi, activist and author
Rana Bose, Engineer, author and playwright, NDP member NDG borough
Norman Nawrocki, Author, musician, actor, part-time faculty Concordia
Rachel Engler-Stringer, Associate Professor, Community Health and Epidemiology, University of Saskatchewan, NDP member
Joe Emersberger, Unifor member, writer
David Weller, retired teacher and IJV member
Eric Shragge, retired professor
Gary Engler retired union officer with Unifor Local 2000 in Vancouver, NDP member
Monira kitmitto, Canadian Palestinian activist and NDP member
David Kattenburg, science educator, web publisher and social activist
Stephen Ellis, lawyer and activist
Barry Weisleder, Chairperson NDP Socialist Caucus, delegate to most NDP federal and provincial conventions since 1971
David Heap,Associate Professor, UWO, human rights & peace advocate, NDP member
Avrum Rosner, Retired union president, son of Holocaust survivors, joined Manitoba NDP in 1969
Diane Field, PhD Candidate at University of Calgary
David Lethbridge, professor of psychology, retired
Ray Zimmermann mariner captain
Sharon Hazelwood: political musician, long-time NDP activist
Chris Black, lawyer, former NDP member
Hani A. Faris, Ph.D. Professor of Political science
Freda Knott, Raging Granny, NDP member, Independent Jewish Voices Victoria
Cory Greenlees, Victoria Peace Coalition
SL Rifat, Neuroepidemiologist
Geneviève Nevin, organizer Independent Jewish Voices Canada-Victoria, NDP activist and member
Gavin Fridell, Canada Research Chair in International Development, NDP member
Justin Podur, Associate Professor, York University
Rana Abdulla, CPA Palestinian Activist and fights for what's right Human Rights Award Recipient 2014
Georgina Kirkman, member of Independent Jewish Voicesand Amnesty International, Victoria
Mostafa Henaway,organizer at Immigrant Workers Centre
Bruce Katz, organizer Palestinian and Jewish Unity, former NDP member
Malcolm Guy, filmmaker, Montréal
Jooneed Khan, writer, journalist, Human rights activist, former NDP member
Annette Lengyel, Human rights and social justice advocate, NDP member Calgary Nose Hill
Theresa Wolfwood, Barnard-Boecker Centre Foundation
Dan Freeman-Maloy, postdoctoral fellow, Université du Québec à Montréal
Sheryl Nestel, PhD, NDP member
Alan Sears, Professor, Ryerson University
David Camfield, labour activist and educator
Freda Guttman, Artist/Activist, member of Tadamon
Virginia Daniel, Victoria Raging Granny, CAIA member, NDP member
Judith Deutsch, psychoanalyst
Ron Dart, Department of Political Science/Philosophy/Religious Studies University of the Fraser Valley
Susan Clarke, non-partisan peace activist, Sooke BC
Kevin MacKay, former Campaigns Officer at Ontario Public Service Employees Union
Dru Oja Jay, co-founder of the Media Co-op, Friends of Public Services and Courage
Edwin E. Daniel, WWII veteran, scientist and peace activist
Antonio Artuso, activist, translator and interpreter - Communist Reconstruction Canada
Derrick O'Keefe, Vancouver-based organizer and editor with Ricochet Media
Henry Veltmeyer, professor Emeritus of Development Studies at Saint Mary's University
Jerome Klassen, UMASS Boston, author of several books on Canadian foreign policy
Suha Jarrar, Policy Researcher at Al-Haq human rights organization in Ramallah, Palestine
Ismail Zayid M.D. President, Canada Palestine Association
William K. Carroll, Professor and Co-director of the Corporate Mapping Project Sociology Department University of Victoria
Mohammad Ali, the Socialist Vocalist, Artist
Yazan Khader, former member of Nova Scotia NDP Provincial Council
Andrew Mitrovica, writer and former executive assistant to NDP MPs Pauline Jewett and Simon de Jong


Independent Jewish Voices Canada     
Canada Palestine Support Network (CanPalNet)
Victoria Peace Coalition
NDP Socialist Caucus
Canadian BDS Coalition
Palestinian and Jewish Unity
Toronto BDS Action
United for Palestine Toronto/GTA
People For Peace London, Ontario
Socialist Action / Ligue pour l'Action socialiste
Palestine Solidarity Network - Edmonton
Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid Victoria
Mid-Islanders for Justice and Peace in the Middle East
Barnard-Boecker Centre Foundation
Canada Palestine Association
Canadian Peace Congress

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

US/Israel Military Coalition Bombs/Kills Syrians, Army Says

Israeli Strike on Syrian Troops May be Harbinger of US Bid to Seize Crucial Border Crossing 

by Whitney Webb - MintPress News

It appears the U.S. – with Israeli help – is again ‘locked and loaded’ to challenge the Syrian government’s hold on its territory in order to manifest Washington’s long-standing efforts to partition the country and gain control over the majority of its resources.

In a troubling sign that the Syrian conflict is set to deepen, local Syrian media reported on Sunday that the U.S.-led coalition bombed Syrian Arab Army installments, killing several service members and injuring several more. Members of the Iraqi military were also killed in the attack.

The U.S. has officially denied responsibility for the attack, with Pentagon spokesman Adrian Rankine-Galloway asserting that the bombing was “not a U.S. or coalition strike.”

However, Syrian military sources reported that the strike was conducted by an unmanned attack drone that came from U.S.-occupied territory in northeastern Syria.

Thus, the only possibilities are that the U.S.-led coalition conducted the attack but has publicly denied responsibility, or that Israel was responsible for the attack and “independently” launched the strike from territory occupied by the U.S.-led coalition.

The latter scenario seems to be the case, considering Iranian forces are near the area that was attacked and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged on Sunday – the same day as the strike – to attack Iranian forces anywhere they were present within Syria. However, no members of the Iranian military were present at the site of the bombing. If Israel were responsible for the attack, as has been alleged by an anonymous U.S. official who spoke to CNN, it would mark the first time that it had bombed the Deir Ez-Zor governorate.

Yet if Israel was responsible for the attack, as alleged, it attack was likely accomplished with U.S. complicity as it came from U.S. occupied territory nearby. Given that a drone would likely be unable to travel from Israel’s border to near the Syrian-Iraqi border due to the large distance, Israeli responsibility for the attack would likely mean that the drone was launched from the portion of Syria occupied by the United States.

In addition, the attack occurred in a very strategic area of great interest to the U.S. military, close to the city of Abu Kamal, which lies in the Deir Ez-Zor governorate and is the main border crossing between Syria and Iraq. Abu Kamal is currently under Syrian government control but lies close to the area of Syria occupied by the United States, which accounts for 30 percent of Syria’s total land mass and includes the majority of the country’s oil, gas, fresh water, and agricultural resources.

Given the proximity of U.S. forces and the strategic nature of the area, Syrian state media (SANA) and independent analysts have speculated the recent attack may be a sign the U.S. is seeking to further expand the area of Syria it occupies, likely with help from Israel which has long pushed the U.S. to deepen its involvement in the conflict.

Indeed, recent reports indicated that the U.S. has been constructing military bases along the Euphrates river in proximity to Syrian military installments throughout the Deir Ez-Zor region. This would also place the new bases next to major Syrian oil fields under U.S. occupation, such as the Conoco gas plant and the al-Omar and al-Jafra oil fields. Regional reports have claimed that the U.S. military has transferred “a large volume of arms and equipment, including missiles, military vehicles and bridge equipment” to those areas in recent weeks.

U.S. motives suggest greater role in the attack

Despite official denial, the U.S. coalition was likely aware of the attack and involved in planning the alleged Israeli strike for several reasons.

First, Russia warned Syrian forces last month of a likely U.S. assault on their positions in Deir Ez-Zor in the near future, as news broke of new U.S. military installments between the border of U.S.-occupied territory and territory controlled by the Syrian government along the Euphrates River.

Second, the U.S. has recently been threatening to attack Syrian forces in the southeast, as the Syrian Arab Army prepares to launch an offensive to retake the Dara’a governorate in the country’s south from Daesh (ISIS), Al Qaeda, and their affiliates who control the region.

Despite the fact that the region is overrun by groups recognized as terrorist organizations by the United States, the U.S. State Department warned last Friday that any Syrian military offensive in the region that would target these extremist groups would be met with a “decisive response” including military action.

As MintPress reported over the weekend, the U.S. threat has been widely interpreted as a move aimed at protecting ISIS and Al Qaeda.

Interest in taking Abu Kamal from the Syrian government is another reason to believe the U.S. was more involved in the alleged Israeli strike than it has cared to publicly admit. Indeed, Abu Kamal is the only road connection between Syrian territory controlled by the Syrian government and Iraq. More importantly, it is the only border crossing that connects Syrian government-controlled territory with Iran, through Iraq.

A major U.S. goal in its occupation of Syria has been disrupting this land bridge, but continued Syrian government control of Abu Kamal makes this impossible. Were the U.S. to take control of Abu Kamal, it would control Syria’s most important border crossings, as it already controls the Syrian-Jordan border crossing at al-Tanf.

For that reason, the recent reappearance of Daesh (ISIS) in Abu Kamal is significant. Indeed, Daesh launched its largest military offensive in several months in Abu Kamal earlier this month, with 10 suicide bombers helping clear the way for Daesh militants to take over parts of the city. That offensive killed 25 Syrian soldiers and allied fighters, according to monitors. Daesh attacked from the U.S.-occupied zone of Syria, despite the fact that the U.S. has long justified its illegal presence in Syria by claiming that it is fighting the terror group.

However, as Moon of Alabama has noted, the U.S. has taken no action against the terror group from November of last year up until it announced it would “recommence” attacks on the terror group on June 4. The U.S. has not offered a public statement explaining that hiatus. Yet Daesh’s reappearance in Abu Kamal provides a convenient pretext for the U.S. to engage the area in and around the town militarily. The recent bombing of Syrian troops in the area again highlights U.S. interest in targeting the Syrian military presence in the area as opposed to Daesh.

That coincidence is not without historical precedent, however.

Indeed, on many of the past occasions in which the U.S. or one of its allies has bombed the Syrian military, ISIS has launched counterattacks immediately after the strikes – as was the case during the U.S.’ unilateral bombing of Syria this past April, as well as after the U.S. bombing of the Syrian military in September 2016.

The close timings of Daesh counter-attacks following U.S. coalition air strikes suggest close coordination between the groups, something that both the Russian and Syrian militaries as well as defectors from the U.S.-backed proxy in the region – the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) – have noted in recent years.

If Israel is indeed responsible for Sunday’s bombing, they would have executed the attack with these strategic implications in mind and with the U.S.’ blessing, as the U.S. has a major interest in wresting the city from Syrian control while Israel has no military presence in the area.

Indeed, U.S. interest in taking control of Abu Kamal from Syria is so obvious that it has been openly discussed by some influential American think tanks. For instance, Nicholas Heras, Middle East Security Fellow at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), recently tweeted about the possibility of the U.S. gaining control of Abu Kamal were the Syrian government to lose ground to Daesh, adding that such an event would cause the U.S.-occupied zone of Syria to “spread by osmosis.”

CNAS is a hawkish, D.C.-based think tank currently headed by regime-change aficionado Victoria Nuland and Richard Fontaine, former foreign policy advisor to war-loving Senator John McCain (R-AZ).

Harbingers of a major American campaign?

Sunday’s bombing of Syrian and Iraqi military forces, at the very least, suggests that the United States under President Trump is poised to deepen American military involvement in the Syrian conflict. As MintPress has reported many times, the U.S. has long sought to overthrow the Syrian government and is currently seeking to partition Syria through its occupation of the country’s northeast – a long-standing geopolitical goal of the United States and Israel that is vocally supported by prominent members of the Trump administration.

Concerns regarding an imminent escalation of U.S. military involvement in Syria have been complemented by warnings from the Russian and Syrian militaries that U.S.-funded groups, such as the White Helmets, are set to stage a “false flag” chemical weapons attack in the portion of the Deir ez-Zor governorate controlled by the U.S. — specifically near the al-Jafra oil field, in which a U.S. military base has been recently established. The deployment of a major U.S. carrier strike-group off the Syrian coast last week further suggests that U.S. military actions in Syria may again be imminent.

As U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley warned in April, it seems the U.S. is “locked and loaded” to challenge the Syrian government’s hold on its territory in order to manifest its long-standing efforts to partition the country and gain control over the majority of its resources.

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Gorilla Radio with Chris Cook, Velcrow Ripper, Nova Ami, Wendy Mendez, Janine Bandcroft June 21, 2018

This Week on GR

by C. L. Cook -

June 21, 2018

With due respect to Mr. Dylan, sometimes you do need a weatherman to see which way the wind blows; or at least a climatologist to confirm, it ain't you, babe, the climes they really are a-changin'.

And if climate change is a train, it's not coming slow or fast, but is already in the station!

'Metamorphosis' is the newly released documentary film by collaborators Velcrow Ripper and Nova Ami. Innovative and artistic, beautiful and terrifying, the film navigates the current of climate change as it ebbs and flows, creating new realities across the planet.

Listen. Hear.

Metamorphosis opens across Canada this month, and its Victoria debut is at UVic's Cinecenta theatre this Sunday and Monday, June 24th and 25th.

Nova Ami and Velcrow Ripper in the first half.

And; even as immigration policies create a political furore in the United States, nightly newscasts rarely explore the roots of the Central American refugee crisis. Whether in Honduras, El Salvador, or Guatemala, the situation is so dire people are willing to risk everything; their lives, and their children's lives, to escape.

Wendy Mendez is a human rights activist, educator, petitioner in Guatemala's Military Diary case, and co-founder of HIJOS Guatemala, Sons and Daughters of the Disappeared.

Wendy joins a special Cafe Simpatico evening next Wednesday, June 27th to screen filmmaker, Claudio Zulian's documentary, 'Sin Miedo'.

Wendy Mendez and the persistent struggle for justice in Guatemala in the second half.

And; Victoria-based activist and CFUV Radio broadcaster at-large, Janine Bandcroft will be here at the bottom of the hour with the Left Coast Events Bulletin of some of the good things to get up to in and around our town in the coming week.

But first, Velcrow Ripper and Nova Ami confronting a global Metamorphosis.

Chris Cook hosts Gorilla Radio, airing live every Thursday between 11-Noon Pacific Time. In Victoria at 101.9FM, and on the internet at:  He also serves as a contributing editor to the web news site, Check out the GR blog at:

Monday, June 18, 2018

Trudeau Trade Blow Back: Being Done As Doing To

by John Helmer - Dances with Bears

June 14, 2018

MOSCOW - Long before the Christians claimed credit for enunciating the Golden Rule, it was the ancient Greeks who started it off. By all reports, Jesus of Nazareth gave the Rule its positive spin – do unto others as you would have them do unto you. The Greek spin was negative – don’t do to others if you don’t want them to retaliate.

The Jewish versions of the Rule are a bit guarded. That’s because they distinguish between neighbours and brothers on the one hand; to them the Golden Rule applies. But enemies on the other hand – they get whatever is coming.

That’s also the Ukrainian version of the Rule. This explains why Chrystia Freeland, Ukrainian by blood, homeowner in Kiev, and Foreign Minister of Canada (lead image, centre), thinks the Golden Rule in its Christian version applies between Canada and the United States, but not between Canada and Russia, China, Iran, Venezuela, Syria, Libya, and when she thinks circumstances call for it, Japan and other members of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) — Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam.

Last weekend Freeland’s boss Justin Trudeau, the current Prime Minister of Canada, got what the US Government thinks he had coming. That was because the Americans say he was duplicitous and deceitful in negotiations. They say Trudeau agreed with President Donald Trump in private, but then when Trump’s back was turned, Trudeau announced to his Canadian electors that he won’t allow Trump to push him around. For details, read this.

The US Government attack was a coordinated move by the White House spokesmen for both the president and for the principal US cabinet departments.

One of Trump’s aides, trade advisor Peter Navarro, subsequently apologized for his words, not for his meaning. He said he meant to send Trudeau a “signal of strength”, but “the problem was that in conveying that message, I used language that was inappropriate. I own that. That was my mistake, those were my words. If you make a mistake, you should admit it, learn from it, don’t repeat it.”

Left: US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer. 
Right: Peter Navarro, White House advisor on trade.

Freeland hasn’t defended Trudeau. At first, in a Québec City press conference on Sunday, she attempted in halting French to tell reporters the US attack on Canadian steel, aluminium and automobiles is “illegal” and “absurd”. Two days later she repeated the claims after a closed-door meeting in Washington with a group of US senators. They are trying to pass new legislation to curb presidential national security powers; Freeland told the senators she is placing Canada on their side in the fierce constitutional battle still to be fought.

According to a Canadian source who advises the Liberal Party on foreign policy and security strategy,

“Freeland has been exceptionally effective in challenging the statements, performance, and persons of the US political NAFTA team, starting with [US Trade Representative Robert] Lighthizer, who is a condescending [expletive deleted] and who set himself up to be whacked by her on facts and on style.
It especially [expletive deleted] the US administration that Canada is lobbying effectively across the board in the US, state capitals, business associations, Congress, and doing very well.”

Freeland, US political analysts observe, is not against the application of US national security legislation to economic warfare campaigns against states Freeland believes are national security enemies of Canada. These include 25% penalty tariffs and outright bans on trade against enemy steel, aluminium, automobiles, and in the Russian case against production of oil and gas, as well as the entire Russian banking system.

Canadian political observers note Trudeau is refusing to defend himself from the American attacks. “On [Trump’s] comments,” Trudeau told the press on Tuesday, “I’m going to stay focused on defending jobs for Canadians and supporting Canadian interest.”

“We will continue to conduct our diplomacy the Canadian way,”announced Francois-Philippe Champagne, Canada’s trade minister, on Tuesday.
“That is, being positive and constructive and firm in defending the interests of our industries … in diplomacy it doesn’t really matter about personal feelings and personal comments.” 

Left to right: Champagne, Freeland and Trudeau negotiate with 
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and his delegation in 
Toronto, September 22, 2017. The official photograph 
reveals that Trudeau’s staff had placed the Ukrainian flag 
on the side of the table occupied by Freeland.

Last November Champagne and Freeland defended Trudeau for doing in trade negotiations with Canada’s Pacific region allies exactly what Trump has just attacked Trudeau of doing to the US. During the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit negotiations in Vietnam, Trudeau agreed to sign the “in-principle” version of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, but then refused to show up for the official signing.

“There were a lot of unhappy leaders left sitting there,”said an 
[Australian Government] official who was in the meeting. 
“Everyone was screwed,” he said.

Trudeau’s double-talking at the APEC summit was coordinated with President Trump, who also refused to sign. Champagne later announced: “Canada has always said that we would only agree to a deal that is in Canada’s best interests.”

For Freeland and her supporters in the Liberal Party to believe it is wise for Canada to side against the Trump Administration on the trade powers issue pits that policy against US polls revealing the attack on Canada was designed to boost Trump’s job approval ratings with American voters – and did.


In Moscow and Beijing Freeland’s continuing attacks on Russia, China and other enemies have been dismissed as flatly contradicting the “the rules-based international trading system…open, transparent, inclusive and WTO-consistent”, which the G7 communique endorsed (but which Trump refused to sign).

In Qingdao, following a summit meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), President Vladimir Putin was dismissive.

The SCO meeting of June 9-10 included India (left) and Pakistan (right) 
at the summit level for the first time. Iran and Mongolia also participated 
at the head of state level. For details of the SCO as a regional strategy 
alternative to the TPP and G7, read this.

“I do not actually think it is part of my job,” Putin said,
“to comment on everything that happens at the G7. As for those destabilising actions, just as with regard to some other events, everyone has shown solidarity with London over the Salisbury events, but yet again nothing specific was said….
As for Russia’s return to the G7, or G8 – we have never withdrawn from it. Our colleagues refused to come to Russia at some point for well-known reasons. We would be happy to see everyone in Moscow, they are welcome. That is first the first thing.
Second. As for the efficiency and volume of the economy, indeed, the purchasing power parity (this is IMF data) of the countries of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation is already higher than in the G7 countries. Yes, it is, the PPP is higher. True, the seven are still richer in per capita income, as they say, but the SCO economies are larger, and their population is much larger, too – half the world’s population.”

For details of Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) and Russian economic performance, click to start and then read this.

Whether the question is put in the language of the White House officials after the G7 summit, or in Putin’s words after the SCO summit, the question is the same – are Trudeau and Freeland fit to negotiate for Canada’s interest? For a discussion with Chris Cook, listen to today’s interview on Gorilla Radio from Victoria, British Columbia:

Gorilla Radio is broadcast every Thursday by Chris Cook on CFUV 101.9 FM from the University of Victoria. The radio station can be heard here. The Gorilla Radio transcripts are also published by the Pacific Free Press.
For Chris Cook’s broadcast archive, click to open.  

What's the Deal with Trump's Middle East Plan?

What’s in Trump’s “Deal of the Century”? The Answers are in Plain Sight

by Jonathan Cook - Dissident Voice

June 16th, 2018

The White House’s peace plan is said to be days away. Meanwhile, Israel is getting a US nod as it carries on seizing Palestinian land

There are mounting signals that Donald Trump’s much- delayed Middle East peace plan – billed as the “deal of the century” – is about to be unveiled.

Even though Trump’s officials have given away nothing publicly, the plan’s contours are already evident, according to analysts.

They note that Israel has already started implementing the deal – entrenching “apartheid” rule over Palestinians – while Washington has spent the past six months dragging its heels on publishing the document.

“Netanyahu has simply got on with deepening his hold on the West Bank and East Jerusalem – and he knows the Americans aren’t going to stand in his way,” said Michel Warschawski, an Israeli analyst and head of the Alternative Information Centre in Jerusalem.

“He will be given free rein to do what he likes, whether they publish the plan or, in the end, it never sees the light of day,” he told Middle East Eye.

Eran Etzion, a former Israeli foreign ministry official, agreed: “Israel has a much freer hand than it did in the past. It feels confident enough to continue its existing policies, knowing Trump won’t stand in the way.”

Netanyahu ‘the winner’

According to the latest reports, the Americans may present their plan within days, soon after the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Yossi Alpher, a former aide to Ehud Barak during his premiership in the late 1990s, said it was clear Netanyahu was being “kept in the loop” by Trump officials. He told MEE:

“He is being apprised of what is coming. There won’t be any surprises for him.”

Analysts are agreed that Netanyahu will emerge the winner from any Trump initiative.

Yossi Beilin, a former Israeli politician who was a pivotal figure in the Oslo peace process of the early 1990s, said Netanyahu would cynically manipulate the plan to his advantage.

“He knows the Palestinians will not accept the terms they are being offered,” he told MEE.
“So he can appear reasonable and agree to it – even if there are things he is unhappy with – knowing that the Palestinians will reject it and then be blamed for its failure.”

Alpher agreed.

“If the plan is rejected, Trump will say he did his best, he offered the parties the greatest deal ever, and that they must now be left to settle the issues on their own.”

He added that the only obstacle to Washington presenting the plan were fears about Abbas’s waning health. Trump’s team might then prefer to shelve it.

Even then, he said, Netanyahu would profit.

“He can then continue with what he’s been doing for the past 10 years. He will expand the settlements, and suppress the rights of Israelis who oppose him. He will move Israel towards a situation of apartheid.”

Fragments of land

In an early effort to win Trump’s favour, reported by MEE a year ago, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas proposed a land swap ceding 6.5 percent of the occupied territories to Israel. That was more than three times what had been accepted by the Palestinians in previous peace talks.

But the Palestinians appear to have lost the battle and are now braced for the worst. Abbas has derided the plan as “the slap of the century”, and has said he will not commit “treason” by agreeing to it.

According to Palestinian officials, they are likely to be offered provisional borders over fragments of land comprising about half the occupied territories – or just 11 percent of what was recognised as Palestine under the British mandate.

The Palestinian areas would be demilitarised, and Israel would have control over the borders and airspace.

Israel and the Palestinians would then be left to “negotiate” over the status of Israel’s illegal settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, with Trump likely to back Netanyahu to the hilt, according to the analysts.

It is widely assumed that the Americans have rejected any principle of a right of return for Palestinian refugees, either to Israel or to the areas of the occupied territories that Israel wins US approval to seize.

Gaza and Golan windfalls

The US embassy’s move to Jerusalem last month appears to signal that the Trump administration will recognise all of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. That would deny Palestinians East Jerusalem, long assumed to be the capital of any future Palestinian state.

And separate reports this month suggest that the announcement of the peace plan may be timed to coincide with new measures for Gaza and the Golan Heights. There have been rumours for several years that Washington and Israel have been pressuring Cairo to let Palestinians in Gaza settle in Sinai.

According to Israeli reports, Washington may be close to unveiling a scheme that would weaken the border between Gaza and Egypt, and allow Palestinians to work and maybe live in northern Sinai.

The aim would be to gradually shift responsibility for the enclave away from Israel on to Egypt and further undermine prospects for a Palestinian state in historic Palestine.

And in a separate move that would complete Netanyahu’s windfall, an Israeli government minister claimed late last month that the Trump administration may be ready to recognise Israeli sovereignty over the Golan.

The Heights were seized by Israel from Syria during the 1967 war and annexed in violation of international law in 1981.

No longer ‘occupied’

A Jerusalem Post report last month suggested that the White House document would be unlikely to include a commitment to a “two-state solution”, reflecting previous comments from Trump.

That would free Israel’s hand to seize areas of the West Bank it has colonised with its ever-expanding settlements.

Noticeably, the latest annual report from the US State Department on the human rights situation by country, published in April, drops for the first time the term “occupied Palestinian territories”, implying that the Trump team no longer views much of the West Bank as under occupation.

Netanyahu told a recent meeting of his Likud faction: “Our successes are still to come. Our policies are not based on weakness. They are not based on concessions that will endanger us.”

So given Israel’s recent moves, what can we infer about the likely terms of Trump’s peace plan?

1. Gerrymandering Jerusalem

The most sensitive of the final-status issues is Jerusalem, which includes the incendiary Muslim holy site of al-Aqsa. Trump appears to have effectively recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital by relocating the US embassy there last month.

The embassy move is likely to be interpreted by Netanyahu as a retroactive seal of approval from the US for a series of Israeli measures over recent months designed to engineer a Greater Jewish Jerusalem.

The main thrust are two legislative proposals to gerrymander the city’s boundaries and its population to create an unassailable Jewish majority. Both have been put on hold by Netanyahu until the announcement of the peace plan.

The first – called the Greater Jerusalem Bill – is intended to annex several large Jewish settlements close by in the occupied West Bank to the Jerusalem municipality. Overnight that would transform some 150,000 West Bank settlers into Jerusalem residents, as well as effectively annexing their lands to Israel.

In a sign of the impatience of members of Netanyahu’s cabinet to press on with such a move, the bill is due to come up for consideration again on Sunday.

A separate bill would strip residency in the city from some 100,000 Palestinians who are on the “wrong side” of a wall Israel began building through Jerusalem 15 years ago. Those Palestinians will be all but barred from Jerusalem and assigned to a separate council.

In addition, Israel has intensified harsh measures against Palestinians still inside East Jerusalem, including night arrests, house demolitions, the closing down of businesses, the creation of “national parks” in Palestinian neighbourhoods, and the denial of basic services. The barely veiled aim is to encourage residents to relocate outside the wall.

Experts have noted too that Palestinian schools inside the wall are being pressured to adopt the Israeli curriculum to erode a Palestinian identity among pupils.

2. Abu Dis: a Palestinian capital?

With Jerusalem as Israel’s exclusive capital, Trump’s team is reported to be seeking a face-saving alternative location for a future Palestinian “capital” outside Jerusalem’s municipal borders.

According to rumours, they have selected the town of Abu Dis, 4km east of Jerusalem and cut off from the city by Israel’s wall more than a decade ago.

The Abu Dis plan is not new. At the end of the 1990s, the US administration of Bill Clinton proposed renaming Abu Dis “al-Quds” – Arabic for “the Holy”, the traditional name of Jerusalem because of its holy places. That was seen as a prelude to designating it the future capital of a Palestinian state.

Reports about the elevation of Abu Dis in the new peace plan have been circulating since late last year. In January, Abbas rejected the idea outright.

Only last month Yair Lapid, leader of Israel’s centre-right Yesh Atid party, highlighted reports about the imminent change of Abu Dis’s status in comments directed at Netanyahu.

Abu Dis is a densely populated village home to 13,000 Palestinians. In practice, it is all but impossible to imagine how it could function meaningfully as the capital of a Palestinian state – something that makes it an attractive proposition for most of Netanyahu’s coalition.

Currently, most of Abu Dis’s lands are under Israeli control, and it is hemmed in by the wall and Jewish settlements, including the 40,000 inhabitants of Maale Adumim.

Several government ministers have made Israel’s annexation of Maale Adumim a priority. Netanyahu has delayed such a move, again citing the need to wait for the announcement of the Trump peace plan.

Beilin said it was mistakenly believed that he and Abbas agreed on Abu Dis as a Palestinian capital back in the 1990s.

“It wasn’t credible as an idea then, and the map looks very different now,” he said.
“The Palestinian capital has to be in East Jerusalem. Nothing else will work.”

3. Access to al-Aqsa

There has also been talk of a plan to create a narrow land corridor from Abu Dis to the al-Aqsa mosque, so Palestinians can reach it to pray.

However, Israel has been allowing ever larger numbers of settlers into al-Aqsa, which is reputedly built over two long-destroyed Jewish temples.

Meanwhile, Israel has been tightly restricting access to the site for most Palestinians. There have been long-standing Palestinian fears that Israel is seeking to engineer a situation where it can impose its sovereignty over the mosque.

David Friedman, Trump’s ambassador to Israel and a benefactor to the settlements, only heightened such fears last month when he was pictured apparently accepting a photo doctored by religious settlers that showed al-Aqsa mosque replaced by a new Jewish temple.

4. Jordan Valley

Under the Oslo accords, some 62 percent of the occupied West Bank was classified as Area C, under temporary Israeli control. It includes much of the Palestinians’ best agricultural land and would be the heartland of any future Palestinian state.

Israel never carried out the withdrawals from Area C intended in the Oslo process. Instead, it has been accelerating the expansion of illegal Jewish settlements there, and making life as hard as possible for Palestinians to force them into the confines of the more densely populated Areas A and B.

The Trump plan is reported to offer recognition of provisional Palestinian borders on about half of the West Bank – effectively awarding most of Area C to Israel. Much of that land will be in the Jordan Valley, the long spine of the West Bank that Israel has been colonising for decades.

Last December, as the Trump plan took shape, Israel announced a massive programme of settlement expansion in the Jordan Valley, designed to more than double the settler population there. Three new settlements will be the first to be built in the valley in nearly 30 years.

At the same time, Israel has lately been intensifying the harassment of the ever-shrinking Palestinian population in the Jordan Valley, as well as other parts of Area C.

In addition to denying Palestinians access to 85 percent of the Valley, Israel has declared military firing zones over nearly half of the area. That has justified the regular eviction of families on the pretext of ensuring their safety.

Israel has also been developing accelerated procedures to demolish Palestinian homes in the Jordan Valley.

5. The rest of Area C

Israel has been speeding up efforts to expand the settlements in other parts of Area C. On 30 May, it announced nearly 2,000 new homes, the great majority of them in isolated settlements that it was previously assumed would be dismantled in any peace deal.

Additionally, Israel has been quietly preparing to “legalise” what are termed “outposts” – settlements, usually built on private Palestinian land, that violate a “no new settlements” agreement with the US dating from the 1990s.

At the same time, Israel has been destroying Palestinian communities in Area C, especially those that stand in the way of efforts to create territorial continuity between large settlements in the West Bank and Jerusalem.

Late last month, France objected after Israel’s supreme court approved a plan to demolish the Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar, next to Maale Adumim. The families are supposed to be moved to a garbage dump in Abu Dis.

The French statement warned that Israeli actions were threatening “a zone of strategic importance to the two-state solution and the contiguity of a future Palestinian state”.

In its place, it was recently revealed, Israel is planning to build a new settlement neighbourhood called Nofei Bereishit.

In another sign of mounting international concern, some 70 Democratic members of the US Congress appealed last month to Netanyahu to stop the destruction of the Palestinian community of Sussiya, between the Gush Etzion settlements and Jerusalem.

US lawmakers expressed concern that the move was designed to “jeopardise the prospects for a two-state solution”.

6. Gaza and Sinai

It is becoming hard for the Trump administration and Israel to ignore the unfolding humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza – one Israel helped to engineer with an 11-year blockade and intermittent military attacks. The United Nations warned some time ago that Gaza would soon be “uninhabitable”.

Seeking a solution, the White House hosted 19 countries at a meeting in March to consider the situation in Gaza. The PA boycotted the meeting.

At the time, Arab media reported that the Trump peace plan might include a commitment from Egypt to free up northern Sinai for a future Palestinian state. According to a Hamas official, Cairo offered reassurances that it was opposed to “settling Palestinians in Sinai”.

But a report in Haaretz has revived concerns that the White House may try to achieve a similar end by other means, by launching a Gaza initiative to coincide with the peace plan.

The paper noted that the Trump team had picked up proposals from an Israeli general, Yoav Mordechai, who participated in the White House meeting in March.

A reported initial stage would see Palestinians from Gaza recruited to work on $1.5bn worth of long-term projects in northern Sinai, funded by the international community. The projects would include an industrial zone, a desalination plant and a power station.

Egyptian opposition to such an initiative is reported to be weakening, presumably in the face of strenuous pressure from Washington and Arab allies.

Palestinian protests

The Palestinians are doing their best to try to halt the peace plan in its tracks. They are currently boycotting the Trump administration to show their displeasure.

Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki called last month on Arab states to recall their ambassadors from the United States in protest.

And an emergency meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation has proposed that an international peacekeeping force, modelled on those used in Bosnia and Kosovo in the 1990s, be deployed to protect Palestinians.

In another sign of anger at the Trump initiative, the Palestinians defied the US by submitting a referral for the International Criminal Court at the Hague to investigate Israel for war crimes last month.

Etzion, the former Israeli foreign ministry official, however, warned that a turning point could be on the horizon.

“A Palestinian implosion is coming and that could change the situation in unexpected ways,” he told MEE.
“The question is which implosion comes first: the humanitarian catastrophe about to engulf Gaza, or the political vacuum created when Abbas leaves.”

Arab pressure

Nonetheless, the Palestinians are facing huge pressure to give in to the peace plan.

The Trump administration has already cut funding to the UN refugee agency, UNRWA, which cares for more than two million refugees in the occupied territories. It is also poised to pull more than $200m of funding to the Palestinian Authority this summer.

Trump has also sought to recruit the Arab states to lean on Abbas. According to reports, the Palestinian leader was presented with a 35-page document originating from the Americans when he visited Saudi Arabia last November, and told to accept it or resign.

In recent years the Saudis have increased their aid to the Palestinian Authority, giving them greater leverage over the Palestinian leader.

In exchange for the Arab states acceding to Trump’s plan, Washington appears to be rolling out a more draconian policy towards Iran to limit its influence in the region.

The Arab states understand that they need to first defuse the Palestinian issue before they can be seen to coordinate closely with Israel and the US in dealing with Tehran.

• First published in Middle East Eye

Jonathan Cook, based in Nazareth, Israel is a winner of the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East (Pluto Press) and Disappearing Palestine: Israel's Experiments in Human Despair (Zed Books).
Read other articles by Jonathan, or visit Jonathan's website.

Bringing Julian Home

Bring Julian Assange Home 

by John Pilger - CounterPunch

June 18, 2018  
The persecution of Julian Assange must end. Or it will end in tragedy.

The Australian government and prime minister Malcolm Turnbull have an historic opportunity to decide which it will be.

They can remain silent, for which history will be unforgiving. Or they can act in the interests of justice and humanity and bring this remarkable Australian citizen home.

Assange does not ask for special treatment. The government has clear diplomatic and moral obligations to protect Australian citizens abroad from gross injustice: in Julian’s case, from a gross miscarriage of justice and the extreme danger that await him should he walk out of the Ecuadorean embassy in London unprotected.

Photo: valerialaura | Public Domain

 We know from the Chelsea Manning case what he can expect if a US extradition warrant is successful — a United Nations Special Rapporteur called it torture.

I know Julian Assange well; I regard him as a close friend, a person of extraordinary resilience and courage. I have watched a tsunami of lies and smear engulf him, endlessly, vindictively, perfidiously; and I know why they smear him.

In 2008, a plan to destroy both WikiLeaks and Assange was laid out in a top secret document dated 8 March, 2008. The authors were the Cyber Counter-intelligence Assessments Branch of the US Defence Department. They described in detail how important it was to destroy the “feeling of trust” that is WikiLeaks’ “centre of gravity”.

This would be achieved, they wrote, with threats of “exposure [and] criminal prosecution” and a unrelenting assault on reputation. The aim was to silence and criminalise WikiLeaks and its editor and publisher. It was as if they planned a war on a single human being and on the very principle of freedom of speech.

Their main weapon would be personal smear. Their shock troops would be enlisted in the media — those who are meant to keep the record straight and tell us the truth.

The irony is that no one told these journalists what to do. I call them Vichy journalists — after the Vichy government that served and enabled the German occupation of wartime France.

Last October, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation journalist Sarah Ferguson interviewed Hillary Clinton, over whom she fawned as “the icon for your generation”.

This was the same Clinton who threatened to “obliterate totally” Iran and, who, as US secretary of State in 2011, was one of the instigators of the invasion and destruction of Libya as a modern state, with the loss of 40,000 lives. Like the invasion of Iraq, it was based on lies.

When the Libyan President was murdered publicly and gruesomely with a knife, Clinton was filmed whooping and cheering. Thanks largely to her, Libya became a breeding ground for ISIS and other jihadists. Thanks largely to her, tens of thousands of refugees fled in peril across the Mediterranean, and many drowned.

Leaked emails published by WikiLeaks revealed that Hillary Clinton’s foundation – which she shares with her husband – received millions of dollars from Saudi Arabia and Qatar, the main backers of ISIS and terrorism across the Middle East.

As Secretary of State, Clinton approved the biggest arms sale ever — worth $80 billion — to Saudi Arabia, one of her foundation’s principal benefactors. Today, Saudi Arabia is using these weapons to crush starving and stricken people in a genocidal assault on Yemen.

Sarah Ferguson, a highly paid reporter, raised not a word of this with Hillary Clinton sitting in front of her.

Instead, she invited Clinton to describe the “damage” Julian Assange did “personally to you”. In response, Clinton defamed Assange, an Australian citizen, as “very clearly a tool of Russian intelligence” and “a nihilistic opportunist who does the bidding of a dictator”.

She offered no evidence — nor was asked for any — to back her grave allegations.

At no time was Assange offered the right of reply to this shocking interview, which Australia’s publicly-funded state broadcaster had a duty to give him.

As if that wasn’t enough, Ferguson’s executive producer, Sally Neighour, followed the interview with a vicious re-tweet:

“Assange is Putin’s bitch. We all know it!”

There are many other examples of Vichy journalism. The Guardian, reputedly once a great liberal newspaper, conducted a vendetta against Julian Assange. Like a spurned lover, the Guardian aimed its personal, petty, inhuman and craven attacks at a man whose work it once published and profited from.

The former editor of the Guardian, Alan Rusbridger, called the WikiLeaks disclosures, which his newspaper published in 2010, “one of the greatest journalistic scoops of the last 30 years”. Awards were lavished and celebrated as if Julian Assange did not exist.

WikiLeaks’ revelations became part of the Guardian’s marketing plan to raise the paper’s cover price. They made money, often big money, while WikiLeaks and Assange struggled to survive.

With not a penny going to WikiLeaks, a hyped Guardian book led to a lucrative Hollywood movie deal. The book’s authors, Luke Harding and David Leigh, gratuitously abused Assange as a “damaged personality” and “callous”.

They also revealed the secret password Julian had given the Guardian in confidence and which was designed to protect a digital file containing the US embassy cables.

With Assange now trapped in the Ecuadorean embassy, Harding, who had enriched himself on the backs of both Julian Assange and Edward Snowden, stood among the police outside the embassy and gloated on his blog that “Scotland Yard may get the last laugh”.

The question is why.

Julian Assange has committed no crime. He has never been charged with a crime. The Swedish episode was bogus and farcical and he has been vindicated.

Katrin Axelsson and Lisa Longstaff of Women Against Rape summed it up when they wrote, “The allegations against [Assange] are a smokescreen behind which a number of governments are trying to clamp down on WikiLeaks for having audaciously revealed to the public their secret planning of wars and occupations with their attendant rape, murder and destruction… The authorities care so little about violence against women that they manipulate rape allegations at will.”

This truth was lost or buried in a media witch-hunt that disgracefully associated Assange with rape and misogyny. The witch-hunt included voices who described themselves as on the left and as feminist. They willfully ignored the evidence of extreme danger should Assange be extradited to the United States.

According to a document released by Edward Snowden, Assange is on a “Manhunt target list”. One leaked official memo says:

“Assange is going to make a nice bride in prison. Screw the terrorist. He’ll be eating cat food forever.”

In Alexandra, Virginia – the suburban home of America’s war-making elite — a secret grand jury, a throwback to the middle ages — has spent seven years trying to concoct a crime for which Assange can be prosecuted.

This is not easy; the US Constitution protects publishers, journalists and whistleblowers. Assange’s crime is to have broken a silence.

No investigative journalism in my lifetime can equal the importance of what WikiLeaks has done in calling rapacious power to account. It is as if a one-way moral screen has been pushed back to expose the imperialism of liberal democracies: the commitment to endless warfare and the division and degradation of “unworthy” lives: from Grenfell Tower to Gaza.

When Harold Pinter accepted the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2005, he referred to “a vast tapestry of lies up on which we feed”. He asked why “the systematic brutality, the widespread atrocities, the ruthless suppression of independent thought” of the Soviet Union were well known in the West while America’s imperial crimes “never happened … even while [they] were happening, they never happened.”.

In its revelations of fraudulent wars (Afghanistan, Iraq) and the bald-faced lies of governments (the Chagos Islands), WikiLeaks has allowed us to glimpse how the imperial game is played in the 21st century. That is why Assange is in mortal danger.

Seven years ago, in Sydney, I arranged to meet a prominent Liberal Member of the Federal Parliament, Malcolm Turnbull.

I wanted to ask him to deliver a letter from Gareth Peirce, Assange’s lawyer, to the government. We talked about his famous victory — in the 1980s when, as a young barrister, he had fought the British Government’s attempts to suppress free speech and prevent the publication of the book Spycatcher — in its way, a WikiLeaks of the time, for it revealed the crimes of state power.

The prime minister of Australia was then Julia Gillard, a Labor Party politician who had declared WikiLeaks “illegal” and wanted to cancel Assange’s passport — until she was told she could not do this: that Assange had committed no crime: that WikiLeaks was a publisher, whose work was protected under Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to which Australia was one of the original signatories.

In abandoning Assange, an Australian citizen, and colluding in his persecution, Prime Minister Gillard’s outrageous behaviour forced the issue of his recognition, under international law, as a political refugee whose life was at risk. Ecuador invoked the 1951 Convention and granted Assange refuge in its embassy in London.

Gillard has recently been appearing in a gig with Hillary Clinton; they are billed as pioneering feminists.

If there is anything to remember Gillard by, it a warmongering, sycophantic, embarrassing speech she made to the US Congress soon after she demanded the illegal cancellation of Julian’s passport.

Malcolm Turnbull is now the Prime Minister of Australia. Julian Assange’s father has written to Turnbull. It is a moving letter, in which he has appealed to the prime minister to bring his son home. He refers to the real possibility of a tragedy.

I have watched Assange’s health deteriorate in his years of confinement without sunlight. He has had a relentless cough, but is not even allowed safe passage to and from a hospital for an X-ray .

Malcolm Turnbull can remain silent. Or he can seize this opportunity and use his government’s diplomatic influence to defend the life of an Australian citizen, whose courageous public service is recognised by countless people across the world. He can bring Julian Assange home.

This is an abridged version of an address by John Pilger to a rally in Sydney, Australia, to mark Julian Assange’s six years’ confinement in the Ecuadorean embassy in London.

John Pilger can be reached through his website:
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