Saturday, August 11, 2018

Political Shut Down of Social Media Underway (And Guess Which Side is Being Silenced)

Venezuelanalysis: Official Statement on Facebook's Removal of Our Page

by The VA Collective

August 9, 2018

VA's Facebook page was arbitrarily removed by the social media tech-giant on Thursday morning.


On Thursday morning our Facebook page was arbitrarily "unpublished" by Facebook with no warning or explanation, apart from a standard message informing us that we had allegedly violated the company's terms and conditions.

The timing of such a move is concerning for several reasons.

Firstly, there is the international context, in which Facebook appears to be targeting independent or leftwing sites in the wake of Russiagate.

However, in terms of our own coverage, in the days leading up to our removal, we had published important pieces which challenge the corporate mainstream media narrative on Venezuela.

Specifically, we published an article giving details on the assassination attempt against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, as well as a very popular analysis criticising the mainstream media's coverage of the attack.

In addition, Venezuelanalysis has also been covering the growing international campaign to End US and Canadian Sanctions against Venezuela which are unilateral, coercive economic measures that are illegal under the Organization of American States as well as United Nations charters.

The campaign recently released a Call to Action for individual and organizational sign-ons condemning this act of economic strangulation, and has organised International Days of Action on August 14th 2018 to mark the one year anniversary when the Trump administration heightened economic sanctions and referenced military intervention as a possibility in Venezuela. 

Venezuelanalysis is the only independent English language website covering news and analysis on Venezuela from a progressive perspective, & which platforms leftist grassroots voices from within Venezuela. It is run by committed journalists, authors and academics, & praised by renowned journalists and intellectuals such as Noam Chomsky, John Pilger, Marta Harnecker, Oliver Stone, and so on.

We cannot help but feel that the removal of our page is related to an attempt to stifle the alternative and progressive perspectives that we feature on Venezuela.

Though our page was suddenly reinstated on Thursday evening, following our official appeal, as well as people expressing their support for us on Twitter, media interviews and an article on the issue in Sputnik International, Facebook has still not responded with any explanation for what happened, nor to inform us which terms and conditions we allegedly violated.

The whole thing is extremely mysterious, to say the least.

The VA Collective

This work is licensed under a Attribution Non-commercial 
No Derivatives Creative Commons license

"Health and Safety" Measures Cited in Tent City Removals

Homelessness is a health and safety risk: Why we need a public health approach in tent cities

by The Undersigned

August 11, 2018

Close to 500 residents of Discontent City in Nanaimo, Anita Place in Maple Ridge, and Camp Namegans in Saanich, BC are facing the threat of displacement largely on the basis of health and safety concerns, often focused on fire safety to the exclusion of other health and safety risks.

Persistent homelessness, visible in the presence of tent cities throughout Canada and particularly in BC, highlights the failure of society to ensure basic human rights and access to the basic determinants of health such as food, water, housing, social supports, self-determination, and freedom from violence and discrimination enshrined in international agreements including the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. [1]

Yet, residents of these tent cities have repeatedly claimed that living in tent cities, in the absence of other acceptable options, improves psychological and physical health including community belonging, autonomy and self-determination. We call on all governments to shift from using public health as a rationale to displace tent cities to adopting a public health approach that treats fire safety as one factor amongst others to reduce public health and safety concerns associated with homelessness.

Overemphasizing fire safety can obscure and exacerbate other harms

A frequent and reoccurring issue related to tent cities is that of safety with often increasing concerns related to fire safety, public order and public health hazards. In BC, in summer, fire hazards are elevated across the province. For people who are homeless, the risk of fire is added to other risks of being homeless such as violence, assault, lack of stable housing, food and food storage as well as resultant health issues.

The risk of fire exists whether people live in unsheltered settings alone or in tent cities. The “solutions” to these fire risks in tent cities across the province has been legal actions and fire orders often with conditions that can exacerbate the harms of homelessness.

For instance, in Discontent City, the fire order includes a “no tarp” condition which increases exposure to heat for tent city residents. A temperature reading of a tent with and without a tarp recently showed a 5-degree difference, the latter making the tent 40 degrees Celsius. While it is in the interests of everyone to manage fire risks, banning tarps is something we would never dream of doing in a BC Parks campsite.

Homelessness is not a consequence of bad choices but a consequence of bad policies including withdrawal of funding from social housing, privatization of the housing market, erosion of the social safety net, and colonization that has stripped Indigenous people of opportunities, land and resources. As well, there are systemic gaps when people exit corrections, health care, and foster care and gaps between health and social systems.

The risks of fire and public disorder are often powerful narratives that fail to recognize the reality of the situation in which tent cities emerge and the conditions in which people live and the lack of access to safe, acceptable and affordable housing and inadequate incomes needed for a decent standard of living. The public health hazards are a lack of adequate shelter, safe drinking water, sanitation, food, and food storage as well as adequate structures to protect people from the elements and environmental hazards. All of which threaten the health of camp residents.

The Ottawa Charter: Five Principles of a Public Health Approach

International rights to housing and health including the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights [1] uphold access to adequate physical structures with safe drinking water, heating and lighting, sanitation, food storage, site drainage, energy for cooking and access to emergency services, security of tenure, affordability, and habitability (livable in terms of protection from weather and potential threats to well-being, accommodate special physical needs with accessibility to services and built with respect to cultural identity and diversity). In addition to this, the International Covenant on Political and Civil Rights [2] lays out the importance of self-determination and being able to obtain an adequate standard of living without discrimination.

Public health aims to improve conditions in which people can be healthy through health promotion, health protection, and disease and illness prevention. Canada is a world leader in population health and public health. The Ottawa Charter [3] is an internationally recognized public health framework consisting of five principles meant to guide action to promote the population’s health and well-being. In the absence of affordable and appropriate housing, we, the undersigned, call on the provincial government to adopt a public health approach to tent cities in BC by adopting the following five principles:

Build Healthy Public Policy - Healthy public policy means ensuring that all citizens have access to decent housing that is acceptable, culturally appropriate and at a cost that they can afford given minimum wage earnings and/or social assistance rates. In the absence of implementing evidence-based responses to homelessness, municipal governments should not construct bylaws that unfairly restrict the ability of homeless people, including those living in tent cities, to erect permanent shelter to protect themselves from the elements and provide a measure of safety and stability.

Create environments which support healthy living

Recognizing that people who are homeless do not have access to the basic determinants of health, environments should be organized in a way that does not create or contribute to poor health, and instead, improves it. Health protection measures include ensuring access to a safe quality and quantity of water, waste removal, food (including food storage, cooking areas, and refrigeration), hygiene, prevention of communicable disease, pest control, and measures to protect against exposure to cold and heat, electricity, and fire prevention- in other words, just what we all want and need. Health promotion measures include immediate housing placement offered with options, income and disability assistance as needed, and employment assistance if requested. Governments and all organizations should be working with and assisting all homeless people, including maximizing the opportunities for increased health protections possible in tent cities as well as working towards permanent solutions.

Strengthen community action on health - Communities themselves must determine what their needs are and how best to meet them. We must ensure that tent city residents maintain autonomy and self-determination over their homes and lives while also gaining access to health, social and public safety services. Governments and all organizations should work with tent city residents to meet their health and safety needs as well as to develop long-term solutions.

Help people develop their skills – so that they can have more control over their health. Governments and all organizations should work with people in tent cities to comply with various safety requirements including safety orders as well as encouraging and supporting the development of peer workers in the provision of health and other services.

Reorient health systems - to promote a better balance between health promotion and curative services. Governments and all organizations should ensure that health services for tent cities focus on promotion, prevention and restorative services and include an emphasis on the inclusion of peer workers. Basic health services available to camp residents should include primary care (management of acute and chronic health conditions, wound management, immunizations, screening and assessments); mental health and harm reduction training and support (overdose management and prevention; sterile supplies); and first aid training.

A public health approach means working with residents to implement evidence-based approaches to ending homelessness rather than legal proceedings which are not evidence based, diverting resources and energy from public health solutions and even increasing harms.


Bernie Pauly, Nursing, University of Victoria

Marilou Gagnon, Nursing, University of Victoria

Chrissy Brett, Nuxalk Nation, Founder of Camp Namegans

James Frankish, Population and Public Health. University of British Columbia

Ashley Mollison, Institute on Aging & Lifelong Health, University of Victoria

Shannon Turner, Executive Director, Public Health Association of BC

Heather Ouellette,Co-Chair, Policy Research and Advocacy committee, Public Health Association of BC

Stephen Portman, Together Against Poverty Society

Donald MacPherson,Director, Canadian Drug Policy Coalition, Centre for Applied Research in Mental Health and Addictions, Simon Fraser University

Jordan Westfall, President, Canadian Association of People who use Drugs

Sana Shahram, Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research, University of Victoria

Dakota Inglis, Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research, University of Victoria

Karena Shaw, Law, University of Victoria

Gerrit Clements, Law, University of Victoria.

Karen Urbanoski, Public Health and Social Policy, University of Victoria.

Meaghan Brown, Nursing, University of Victoria

Ryan McNeil, Medicine, University of British Columbia and BC Centre on Substance Use

Sally Thorne, Nursing, University of British Columbia

Jade Boyd, Medicine, University of BC and BC Centre on Substance Use

Adrienne Montani, Provincial Coordinator, First Call: BC Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition.

Alissa Greer, University of British Columbia and Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research

Budd Hall, Community Development, University of Victoria

Sally A. Kimpson, Centre for Research on Work disability Policy, Simon Fraser University

Piotr Burek, Chair of the Vancouver Island Persons Living with HIV/AIDS Society

Astrid Brousselle, Public Administration, University of Victoria

Rod Knight, Medicine, University of British Columbia, and BC Centre on Substance Use

Eric Roth, Anthropology, University of Victoria

Debra Sheets, Nursing, University of Victoria

Damien Contandriopoulos, Nursing, University of Victoria

Karen Evers Fahey, Nursing, University of Victoria

Marjorie MacDonald, Nursing, University of Victoria

Sonya Jakubec, Nursing, Mount Royal University

Kelli Stajduhar, Nursing, University of Victoria

Trudy Norman, Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research

Jan Storch, Nursing, University of Victoria

Lynn Young, Nursing, University of Victoria

Vera Caine, Nursing, University of Alberta

Margo Matwychuk, Anthropology and Social Justice Studies, University of Victoria

Flora Pagan, Social Work, University of Victoria

Bruce Wallace, Social Work, University of Victoria

Nathan Lachowsky, Public health and Social Policy, University of Victoria

Lynn Marks, History, University of Victoria

Franco Carnevale, Nursing, McGill

Shane Calder, Coordinator, Clinical Education

Kate Vallance, Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research

John Millar, Population and Public Health, UBC

Amber Prince, Atira Women’s Resource Society

James Rowe, Environmental Studies, University of Victoria

Anna Cooper, Staff Lawyer, Pivot Legal Society

DJ Larkin, Interim Co-Executive Director, Pivot Legal Society

Kendra Milne, Social justice lawyer, Vancouver BC

Sarah Wilson, Vancouver Island Persons Living with HIV/AIDS Society

Erin E. Donald, Nursing, University of Victoria

Jean Daniel Jacob, Nursing, University of Ottawa

F Beryl Pilkington, Global Health York University

Deborah Curran, Law and School of Environmental Studies, Environmental Law Centre, University of Victoria

Natalie Drolet, Staff Lawyer/Executive Director, Migrant Workers Centre

Josephine Etowa, Chair Public Health Nursing University of Ottawa

Elizabeth McGibbon, Nursing, St. Francis Xavier University

Meenakshi Mannoe, University of British Columbia

Heather Hobbs, AIDS Vancouver Island

Kim Daly, Nursing, University of Victoria

Simon Carroll, Sociology, University of Victoria

Dan Reist, Assistant Director, Knowledge Exchange, Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research, University of Victoria

Karen MacKinnon, Nursing, University Of Victoria

Carren Dujela, Institute on Aging & Lifelong Health, University of Victoria

Kim Speers, Public Administration, University of Victoria

Amélie Perron,Nursing, University of Ottawa

Gillian Kolla, Public Health, University of Toronto

Michelle Lalonde, Nursing, University of Ottawa

Adrian Guta, Social Work, University of Windsor

Stuart J. Murray, Canada Research Chair in Rhetoric and Ethics, Carleton University

Marie-Eve Sylvestre, Civil Law Section, University of Ottawa

Sarah Flicker, Environmental Studies, York University

Geoff Bardwell, Medicine, University of British Columbia and BC Centre on Substance Use

Vicky Bungay, Canada Research Chair, Nursing, University of British Columbia

Alexandra Collins, Health Sciences, Simon Fraser University, BC Centre on Substance Use

Dave Holmes, Nursing, University of Ottawa

Cheryl van Daalen-Smith, Nursing, York University

Naomi Moses, Lawyer, Rosenberg Kosakoski LLB

Lindsay Victoria Shaw, Canadian Institute of Substance Use Research

David K Wright, Nursing Professor, University of Ottawa

Kiffer G. Card, Public Health & Social Policy, University of Victoria

Leonora Marcellus, NursingUniversity of Victoria

Justin Sorge, Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research

Timothy Richards, Law, University of Victoria

Clea F. Parfitt", Lawyer

Jessica Hannon, Executive Director, Megaphone

Kendra Milne, “Canadian Mental Health Association – BC Division”

Karyn Fulcher, School of Public Health & Social Policy, University of Victoria

Ben Isitt, Victoria City Councillor and Capital Regional District Director."

Tom Sandborn, Vancouver, journalist

Erin Pritchard, Lawyer, Vancouver.

Amy Lubik, Public Health Association of BC

Kelsey Evan Rounds, Nursing, University of Victoria

Sarah Sheridan, Research Associate, BC Centre for Substance Use

Caitlin Hickman, Public Health and Social Policy, University of Victoria

Board of Directors, Lake Country Health Planning Society

Jason Nickerson, Clinical Investigator, Bruyère Research Institute

Nick Falvo, Research Associate, Carleton University Centre for Community Innovation

Helene Demers, Honourary Research Associate, Anthropology, Vancouver Island University


1. United Nations, International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. 1966.

2. United Nations, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. 1966,

3. World Health Organization, The Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion. 1986, Canadian Public Health Association and World Health Organization: Ottawa.…/conferences/previous/…/en/



Ceci est la page d'accueil de la Collection des traités des Nations Unies.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Complicity: Not Just Saudis Killing Yemen

U.S. Is Complicit in Child Slaughter in Yemen

by Kathy Kelly - The Progressive

August 10, 2018

On August 9, a U.S.-supported Saudi airstrike bombed a bus carrying schoolchildren in Sa’ada, a city in northern Yemen.

The New York Times reported that the students were on a recreational trip.

According to the Sa’ada health department, the attack killed at least forty-three people.

According to the International Committee of the Red Cross, at least twenty-nine of those killed were children under the age of fifteen, and forty-eight people were wounded, including thirty children.

CNN aired horrifying, heartbreaking footage of children who survived the attack being treated in an emergency room. One of the children, carrying his UNICEF issued blue backpack, is covered with blood and badly burned.

Commenting on the tragedy, CNN’s senior correspondent Nima Elbagir emphasized that she had seen unaired video which was even worse than what the CNN segment showed. She then noted that conditions could worsen because Yemen’s vital port of Hodeidah, the only port currently functioning in Yemen, has been under attack for weeks of protracted Saudi coalition-led airstrikes.

Ms. Elbagir described the port of Hodeidah as “the only lifeline to bring in supplies to Yemen.”

“This conflict is backed by the U.S. and the U.K.,” Elbagir said, concluding her report with,
“They are in full support of the Saudi-led activities in Yemen today.”

U.S. companies such as Raytheon, General Dynamics, Boeing, and Lockheed Martin have sold billions of dollars’ worth of weapons to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and other countries in the Saudi-Emirati-led coalition which is attacking Yemen.

The U.S. military refuels Saudi and Emirati warplanes through midair exercises. And, the United States helps the Saudi coalition warmakers choose their targets.

Isa Blumi, an associate professor at Stockholm University and author of the book Destroying Yemen, has said the United States is “front and center responsible” for the Saudi coalition attacks.

Looking for a helpful way to describe U.S. support for the Saudi-Emirati operation in Yemen, journalist Samuel Oakford recently offered this comparison:

“If an airstrike was a drive-by and killed someone, the U.S. provided the car, the wheels, the servicing and repair, the gun, the bullets, help with maintenance of those—and the gas.”

The August 9 attack against children and other civilians follows a tragic and sordid list of Saudi-Emirati attacks causing carnage and extreme affliction in Yemen. On June 12, Doctors Without Borders reported an airstrike which destroyed its newly constructed facility for treatment of cholera, in the town of Abs, built in anticipation of a third epidemic outbreak of cholera in Yemen.

Scores of people were killed and wounded in an August 3 attack near the entrance to the port of Hodeidah’s Al Thawra hospital. Analysts examining the munitions used in the attack believe the killing and destruction was caused when United Arab Emirates forces situated near the Hodeidah airport fired mortars into the area.

Why have the Saudis and Emiratis led a coalition attacking Yemen, the poorest country in the Arab peninsula, since March of 2015?

Professor Isa Blumi believes the goal is to bludgeon Yemenis into complete submission and exert control over “a gold mine” of resources, including oil reserves, natural gas, minerals, and a strategic location. Blumi notes that the war against Yemen costs the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia 200 million dollars per day, yet Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who commented that a prolonged war is in the interests of Saudi Arabia, seems to believe the cost is worth it, considering potential future gains.

Business profits seem to also motivate U.S. weapon companies that continue benefiting from weapon sales to the Saudi-Emirati led coalition.

The United States is deeply implicated in the appalling carnage in Yemen. It is our responsibility as citizens to do what we can to demand an end to this complicity.

Kathy Kelly ( co-coordinates Voices for Creative Nonviolence (
This article first appeared on the website of The Progressive magazine.

Framing Anti-Semitism: The Media Necklacing of Jeremy Corbyn

Labour’s Crisis is Over Israel, Not Anti-semitism

by Jonathan Cook

August 8, 2018

If there is indeed an anti-semitism problem in the UK’s Labour party, it is not in the places where the British corporate media have been directing our attention. What can be said with even more certainty is that there is rampant hatred expressed towards Jews in the same British media that is currently decrying the supposed anti-semitism of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Here is a piece of what I hope is wisdom, earnt the hard way as a reporter in Israel over nearly two decades. I offer it in case it helps to resolve the confusion felt by some still pondering the endless reports of Labour’s supposed anti-semitism “crisis”.

Racism towards Palestinians

Nazareth - In the first year after my arrival in Israel in late 2001, during the most violent phase of Israel’s suppression of the Palestinians’ second intifada, I desperately tried to make sense of the events raging around me. Like most new reporters, I searched for experts – at that time, mostly leftwing Israeli analysts and academics. But the more I listened, the less I understood. I felt like a ball in a pinball machine, bounced from one hair-trigger to the next.

My problem was exacerbated by the fact that, unlike my colleagues, I had chosen to locate myself in Nazareth, the largest Palestinian city in Israel, rather than in a Jewish area or in the occupied territories. The conflict between Israelis and Palestinians seemed much more complex when viewed through the prism of Palestinian “citizens” living inside a self-declared Jewish state.

The Israeli experts I contacted deplored the brutality of the occupation unequivocally and in ways it was difficult not to admire, given the morass of anti-Palestinian sentiment and self-righteousness into which the rest of Israeli society was rapidly sinking. But each time I latched on to such an Israeli in the hope of deepening my own understanding, something they said would knock me sideways.

As readily as they condemned the occupation, they would laud the self-evidently bogus liberal democratic credentials of a Jewish state, one that I could see from my location in Nazareth was structurally organised to deny equal rights to its Palestinian citizens. Or the experts would echo the Israeli government’s inciteful claims that this largely quiescent Palestinian minority in Israel – a fifth of the population – was at best a demographic threat to the Jewish majority, and at worst a Trojan horse secretly working to destroy the Jewish state from within.

The very racism towards Palestinians in the occupied territories these experts eschewed, they readily flaunted when discussing Palestinians inside Israel. Were they really leftists or covert ethnic chauvinists?

Appearances can be deceptive

It was many months before I could make sense of this puzzle. An answer was only possible when I factored in the Israeli state’s official ideology: Zionism.

Israeli leftists who were also avowed Zionists – the vast majority of them – saw the conflict exclusively through the colonial prism of their own ethnic privilege. They didn’t much care for Palestinians or their rights. Their opposition to the occupation was barely related to the tangible harm it did to the Palestinian population.

Rather, they wanted an end to the occupation because they believed it brutalised and corrupted Israeli Jewish society, seeping into its pores like a toxin. Or they wanted the occupation to end because the combined populations of Palestinians in “Greater Israel” – in the occupied territories and inside Israel – would soon outnumber Jews, leading, they feared, to comparisons with apartheid South Africa. They wanted Israel out of all or most of the occupied territories, cutting off these areas like a gangrenous limb threatening the rest of the body’s health.

Only later, when I started to meet anti-Zionist Jews, did I find an opposition to the occupation rooted in a respect for the rights and dignity of the Palestinians in the territories. And because their position was an ethical, rights-based one, rather than motivated by opportunism and self-interest, these anti-Zionist Jews also cared about ending discrimination against the one in five Israeli citizens who were Palestinian. Unlike my experts, they were morally consistent.

I raise this, because the lesson I eventually learnt was this: you should never assume that, because someone has adopted a moral position you share, their view is based on the moral principles that led you to adopt that position. The motives of those you stand alongside can be very different from your own. People can express a morally sound view for morally dubious, or even outright immoral, reasons. If you ally yourself with such people, you will invariably be disappointed or betrayed.

There was another, more particular lesson. Ostensible support for Palestinians may in fact be cover for other ways of oppressing them.

And so it has been with most of those warning of an anti-semitism “crisis” in Labour. Anti-semitism, like all racisms, is to be denounced. But not all denunciations of it are what they seem. And not all professions of support for Palestinians should be taken at face value.

The vilification of Corbyn

Most reasonable observers, especially if they are not Jewish, instinctively recoil from criticising a Jew who is highlighting anti-semitism. It is that insulation from criticism, that protective shield, that encouraged Labour MP Margaret Hodge recently to publicly launch a verbal assault on Corbyn, vilifying him, against all evidence, as an “anti-semite and racist”.

It was that same protective shield that led to Labour officials dropping an investigation of Hodge, even though it is surely beyond doubt that her actions brought the party “into disrepute” – in this case, in a flagrant manner hard to imagine being equalled. This is the same party, remember, that recently expelled Marc Wadsworth, a prominent black anti-racism activist, on precisely those grounds after he accused Jewish Labour MP Ruth Smeeth of colluding with rightwing newspapers to undermine Corbyn.

The Labour party is so hamstrung by fears about anti-semitism, it seems, that it decided that an activist (Wadsworth) denigrating a Labour MP (Smeeth) was more damaging to the party’s reputation than a Labour MP (Hodge) vilifying the party’s leader (Corbyn). In this twisted set of priorities, a suspicion of possible racism towards a Jewish MP served to justify actual racism against a black party activist.

But the perversion of Labour party values goes much further. Recent events have proven that party officials have decisively prioritised the rights of diehard supporters of Israel among British Jewry to defend Israel at all costs over the right of others, including Jews, to speak out about the continuing brutalisation of Palestinians by Israel’s occupation regime.

Hodge and the other Labour MPs trumpeting anti-semitism might be entitled to the benefit of the doubt – that they truly fear anti-semitism is on the rise in the Labour party – had they not repeatedly indulged in the kind of anti-semitism they themselves have deplored.

What do I mean?

When they speak of an anti-semitism “crisis” in the party, these Labour MPs – and the fervently pro-Israel lobby groups behind them like the Jewish Labour Movement – intentionally gloss over the fact that many of the prominent activists who have been investigated, suspended or expelled for anti-semitism in recent months – fuelling the claim of a “crisis” – are in fact Jewish.

Why are the “Jewish” sensitivities of Margaret Hodge, Ruth Smeeth or Louise Ellman more important than those of Moshe Machover, Tony Greenstein, Cyril Chilson, Jackie Walker or Glyn Secker – all Labour activists who have found their sensitivities, as Jews opposing the abuse of Palestinians, count for little or nothing among Labour officials? Why must we tiptoe around Hodge because she is Jewish, ignoring her bullygirl tactics to promote her political agenda in defence of Israel, but crack down on Greenstein and Chilson, even though they are Jewish, to silence their voices in defence of the rights of Palestinians?

‘Wrong kind of Jews’

The problem runs deeper still. Labour MPs like Hodge, Smeeth, Ellman and John Mann have stoked the anti-semitic predilections of the British media, which has been only too ready to indict “bad Jews” while extolling “good Jews”.

That was only too evident earlier this year when Corbyn tried to put out the fire that such Labour MPs had intentionally fuelled. He joined Jewdas, a satirical leftwing Jewish group that is critical of Israel, for a Passover meal. He was roundly condemned for the move.

Jewdas were declared by rightwing Jewish establishment organisations like the Board of Deputies and by the British corporate media as the “wrong kind of Jews”, or even as not “real” Jews. In the view of the Board and the media, Corbyn was tainted by his association with them.

How are Jewdas the “wrong kind of Jews”? Because they do not reflexively kneel before Israel. Ignore Corbyn for a moment. Did Labour MPs Hodge, Ellman or Smeeth speak out in the defence of fellow Jews under attack over their Jewishness? No, they did not.

If Greenstein and Chilson are being excommunicated as (Jewish) “anti-semites” for their full-throated condemnations of Israel’s institutional racism, why are Hodge and Ellman not equally anti-semites for their collusion in the vilification of supposedly “bad” or “phoney” Jews like Jewdas, Greenstein and Chilson.

It should be clear that this anti-semitism “crisis” is not chiefly about respecting Jewish sensitivities or even about Jewish identity. It is about protecting the sensitivities of some Jews on Israel, a state oppressing and dispossessing the Palestinian people.

Policing debates on Israel

When the Guardian’s senior columnist Jonathan Freedland insists that his Jewish identity is intimately tied to Israel, and that to attack Israel is to attack him personally, he is demanding the exclusive right to police the parameters of discussions about Israel. He is asserting his right, over the rights of other Jews – and, of course, Palestinians – to determine what the boundaries of political discourse on Israel are, and where the red lines denoting anti-semitism are drawn.

This is why Labour MPs like Hodge and journalists like Freedland are at the centre of another confected anti-semitism row in the Labour party: over the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of anti-semitism and an associated set of examples. They want all the IHRA’s examples adopted by Labour, not just most of them.

There are very clear, existing definitions of anti-semitism. They are variations of the simple formulation: “Anti-semitism is the hatred of Jews for being Jews.” But the IHRA takes this clear definition and muddies it to the point that all sorts of political debates can be viewed as potentially anti-semitic, as leading jurists have warned (see here and here).

That is only underscored by the fact that a majority of the IHRA’s examples of anti-semitism relate to Israel – a nuclear-armed state now constitutionally designed to privilege Jews over non-Jews inside its recognised borders and engaged in a half-century of brutal military occupation of the Palestinian people outside its borders.

To be fair to the drafters of the IHRA guidelines, these examples were supposed only to be treated as potentially anti-semitic, depending on the context. That is the express view of the definition’s drafter, Kenneth Stern, a Jewish lawyer, who has warned that the guidelines are being perverted to silence criticism of Israel and stifle free speech.

And who are leading precisely the moves that Stern has warned against? People like Jonathan Freedland and Margaret Hodge, cheered on by large swaths of Labour MPs, who have strongly implied that Corbyn and his allies in the party are anti-semitic for sharing Stern’s concerns.

Hodge and Freedland are desperate to strong-arm the Labour party into setting the IHRA guidelines in stone, as the unchallengeable, definitive new definition of anti-semitism. That will relieve them of the arduous task of policing those discourse boundaries on the basis of evidence and of context. They will have a ready-made, one-size-fits-all definition to foreclose almost all serious debate about Israel.

Want to suggest that Israel’s new Nation-State Law, giving Jewish citizens constitutionally guaranteed rights denied to non-Jewish citizens, is proof of the institutional racism on which political Zionism is premised and that was enshrined in the founding principles of the state of Israel? Well, you just violated one of the IHRA guidelines by arguing that Israel is a “racist endeavour”. If Freedland and Hodge get their way, you would be certain to be declared an anti-semite and expelled from the Labour party.

Grovelling apology

Revealing how cynical this manoeuvring by Hodge, Freedland and others is, one only has to inspect the faux-outrage over the latest “anti-semitism crisis” involving Corbyn. He has been forced to make a grovelling apology – one that deeply discredits him – for hosting an anti-racism conference in 2010 at which a speaker made a comparison between Israel’s treatment of Palestinians and the Nazis’ treatment of Jews.

That violated another of the IHRA examples.

But again, what none of these anti-semitism warriors has wanted to highlight is that the speaker given a platform at the conference was the late Hajo Meyer, a Jewish Holocaust survivor who dedicated his later years to supporting Palestinian rights.

Who, if not Meyer, deserved the right to make such a comparison? And to imply that he was an anti-semite because he prioritised Palestinian rights over the preservation of Israel’s privileges for Jews is truly contemptible.

In fact, it is more than that. It is far closer to anti-semitism than the behaviour of Jewish critics of Israel like Greenstein and Chilson, who have been expelled from the Labour party. To intentionally exploit and vilify a Holocaust survivor for cheap, short-term political advantage – in an attempt to damage Corbyn – is malevolence of the worst kind.

Having stoked fears of an anti-semitism crisis, Hodge, Freedland and others have actively sought to obscure the wider context in which it must be judged – as, in large part, a painful debate raging inside the Jewish community. It is a debate between fervently pro-Israel Jewish establishment groups and a growing body of marginalised anti-Zionist Jewish activists who wish to show solidarity with the Palestinians. Labour is not suffering from an “anti-semitism crisis”; it is mired in an “Israel crisis”.

‘Repulsive’ campaign

In their silence about the abuses of Meyer, Jewdas, Greenstein, Chilson and many others, Freedland and Hodge have shown that they do not really care about the safety or sensitivities of Jews. What they chiefly care about is protecting their chosen cause of Israel, and crippling the chances of a committed supporter of Palestinian rights from ever reaching power. They are prepared to sacrifice other Jews, even victims of the Holocaust, as well as the Labour party itself, for that kind of political gain.

Hodge and Freedland are behaving as though they are decent Jews, the only ones who have the right to a voice and to sensitivities. They are wrong.

They are like the experts I first met in Israel who concealed their racism towards Palestinians by flaunting their self-serving anti-occupation credentials. Under the cover of concerns about anti-semitism, Freedland and Hodge have helped stoke hatred – either explicitly or through their silence – towards the “wrong kind of Jews”, towards Jews whose critical views of Israel they fear.

It does not have to be this way. Rather than foreclose it, they could allow a debate to flourish within Britain’s Jewish community and within the Labour party. They could admit that not only is there no evidence that Corbyn is racist, but that he has clearly been committed to fighting racism all his life.

Don’t want to take my word for it? You don’t have to. Listen instead to Stephen Oryszczuk, foreign editor of the Corbyn-hating Jewish News. His newspaper was one of three Jewish weeklies that recently published the same front-page editorial claiming that Corbyn was an “existential threat” to British Jews.

Oryszczuk, even if no friend to the Labour leader, deplored the behaviour of his own newspaper. In an interview, he observed of this campaign to vilify Corbyn:

“It’s repulsive. This is a dedicated anti-racist we’re trashing. I just don’t buy into it at all.”

He added of Corbyn:
“I don’t believe he’s antisemitic, nor do most reasonable people. He’s anti-Israel and that’s not the same.”

Oryszczuk conceded that some people were weaponising anti-semitism and that these individuals were “certainly out to get him [Corbyn]”. Unlike Freedland and Hodge, he was also prepared to admit that some voices in the Jewish community were being actively silenced:

“It’s partly our fault, in the mainstream Jewish media. We could – and arguably should – have done a better job at giving a voice to Jews who think differently, for which I personally feel a little ashamed. … On Israel today, what you hear publicly tends to be very uniform.”

And that is exactly how Hodge and Freedland would like to keep it – in the Labour party, in the Jewish community, and in wider British society.

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Thursday, August 09, 2018

Western Media's Imaginarium in Full Gear for "Alleged" Venezuelan President Assassination Attempt

Venezuela Assassination Attempt: Maduro Survives but Journalism Doesn’t

by Ricardo Vaz - Venezuela Analysis

August 7, 2018

Political analyst Ricardo Vaz looks at the mass media's bias with regard to the recent attack and in its long‐term Venezuela coverage.

Venezuela was rocked this past Saturday by an attempted assassination of President Nicolas Maduro, during a public event, using drones armed with explosives.

But as more details started to become available, the coverage of the mainstream media actually moved in the opposite direction: one after the other they have looked to sow doubt on the events, using words such as “apparent” or “alleged”, focusing instead on the government using this “alleged” event to step up repression.

In the end, it is hard to tell apart the media coverage from the statements of John Bolton, one of the more hawkish advisers to the US president.

Although there are plenty of examples to choose from, we are going to focus on our personal champion of dishonest Venezuelan coverage – The Guardian.

A quick search of Guardian headlines with “assassination attempt” shows that a qualifier such as “alleged” is never used. Be it Jacques Chirac, Guinea’s president, or even Saddam Hussein’s deputy, nobody had their assassination attempts questioned as a hoax to be used as a pretext to stamp out dissent. Such is the dishonesty of the media coverage of Venezuela. (1)

Yet this is the Guardian’s opening paragraph:

“Venezuela’s opposition has warned that President Nicolas Maduro may launch a political crackdown after he accused adversaries of attempting to assassinate him with drones loaded with explosives on Saturday.”

Remarkably, it is the Venezuelan opposition takes precedence in an article describing an assassination attempt against Maduro. This would be akin to a report on 9/11 opening with “Al-Qaeda warns of increased US involvement in the Middle East.” Then there is the usual trick of encapsulating the events under “Maduro said”, so that all the previous work smearing Maduro can be used to discredit this version.

Several videos and testimonies, some even mentioned by the Guardian piece, corroborate the Venezuelan government’s version of events. Two drones armed with explosives targeted the stage where Maduro was giving a speech on the 81st anniversary of the National Guard. One of them, because of signal jammers, crashed in front of a nearby building. Residents testified to this, and some of them captured the events, thus demolishing the nonsensical thesis that the explosion had been due to a gas leak.

The second drone detonated closer to the stage, resulting in seven injured officers while bodyguards quickly moved to shield Maduro. Despite all this evidence The Guardian insists that “exactly what happened still remained unclear on Sunday”. Perhaps Maduro, his wife and everyone around them looked at the sky at the same time and soldiers in formation scattered as part of some devious coordinated plan to ramp up repression.

We are before the Caribbean version of 9/11 Truthers

The Venezuelan opposition, in their newly-minted Frente Amplio coalition, which is sure to have its fingerprints all over this, can count on The Guardian as a megaphone to accuse the government of “making “irresponsible” accusations without any proof” and preemptively denounce upcoming repression. Nevermind the fact that opposition leaders have repeatedly been involved in violent attempts to overthrow the government. Also, just a few tweets later, one of the parties in the Frente Amplio, Primero Justicia, threatened Maduro with actions “like this one or worse”.

Following that we are told that “No one has claimed responsibility for the alleged assassination attempt”, although the group Soldados de Franelas, whose members are unknown, claimed this attempt as a victory, and later published a statement on a so-called Operation Fenix, read by notorious anti-government journalist Patricia Poleo in Miami (2). The statement affirms that it is the duty of the armed forces to remove the current government which, among other things, is guilty of indoctrinating children with communism!

The Guardian then continues to find other victims, since they are not sure the assassination attempt took place, and mentions six people arrested, two of them having previously taken part in “street protests”. According to interior minister Nestor Reverol, one of those detained had been involved in the 2014 guarimbas, which were a little more than “street protests”. They involved violent barricades, shooting at bystanders, beheading motorcyclists, and a great deal more. He had been released by the government in a (clearly futile) gesture of goodwill. The second one was sought after an attack on the Paramacay barracks last year, and we can all agree that calling this a “street protest” is a bit of a stretch, even for The Guardian.

Then we are treated to two paragraphs replete with distortions. There is a mention of the economic crisis, which is fair enough but referring to an IMF prediction which is utter nonsense. Next we read that Maduro “replaced” Chavez (he was elected), that he repressed anti-government demonstrations left 100 dead (opposition violence was responsible for a large part of the casualties), and that he sidelined the opposition-led congress (they are in contempt of court) by installing (there were elections, 8M+ voted) a body stacked with loyalists (again, there were elections and 6.120 candidates ran for 545 seats).

To top it all off, there is a mention of last year’s terrorist attack by Oscar Perez, who hijacked a helicopter and went on to throw grenades and open fire on public buildings full of people . It is priceless that The Guardian should bring this up, because back then it also ran with ludicrous theories that it might have been all a government stunt, and then had a great deal of fun looking at Perez’s Instagram page and his past acting activities. Pérez’s repeated calls for a coup and his appearance in an anti-government protest days later were not enough for The Guardian to clarify that he actually was an anti-government terrorist. (3)

The icing on this cake of dishonesty is that Perez was “hunted down and killed”, when even the Guardian hyperlink has the word “shootout”. Perez and his group were surrounded by security forces, and there were videos showing him urging the soldiers to join his rebellion, while the commanding officer tried to get him to surrender. After Perez allegedly refused, a shootout ensued in which two policemen of the FAES special forces were killed, which is not exactly the picture suggested by “hunted down and killed”.

All in all, it seems like the US Empire, its allies and the stenographers in the mainstream media are trying to play a game in which they never lose. They constantly call for a coup, even report on foiled attempts, (4) but when something actually takes place, the reaction is along the lines of “the US/Colombia/Venezuelan opposition had nothing to do with this coup/assassination attempt which maybe did not even happen”.

Had it succeeded, as the 2002 coup did briefly, they would be celebrating “a victory for freedom”. Since it failed, it was all in the dictator’s imagination! But the crackdown is certain, which will then justify people wanting to kill Maduro or attempt a coup, and the cycle starts again.

The reactionary plotting against the Bolivarian Revolution by the Venezuelan bourgeoisie, their northern masters and the latter’s regional puppets, only now and then materialises into actual operations or terrorist attacks. But there is a constant set of background assumptions being created to endorse and provide cover for these actions, and this is achieved through the western media’s systematically dishonest coverage of Venezuela.


(1) This is in stark contrast to two recent episodes. An anti-Assad filmmaker and an anti-Putin journalist faked an assassination attempt and their own death, respectively. Both were immediately reported as absolute certainties, even though the details were fishy, only to be revealed within hours to be publicity stunts.

(2) Patricia Poleo has been formally accused of being involved in the assassination of Danilo Anderson in 2004. Like Posada Carriles and plenty of other terrorists, she found safe haven in Miami.

(3) Pérez was aboard the loony train that claims that the Cubans are running the show in Venezuela. Patricia Poleo’s statement also hinted at this, and opposition leaders have also run with this time and again. Yet this gets filtered out because these characters need to remain credible.

(4) Donald Trump has gone so far as to raise the possibility of a US invasion, repeatedly, in public.

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US Media Mum on Saudi/al Qaeda Alliance in Yemen

Why the US Silence over Saudi-Al Qaeda Alliance in Yemen?


August 8, 2018

The Associated Press has revealed that the US-backed Saudi-led coalition in Yemen has made secret deals with the local Al Qaida affiliate, AQAP, even recruiting its militants to fight Houthi rebels.

Saudi analyst Ali Al-Ahmed says that the US is not just looking the other way — it’s involved.

Wednesday, August 08, 2018

Something to Fear and Plenty of Loathing on the Perpetual Campaign Trail

Fear and Loathing In and Of the USA

by NEO

August 8, 2018 

As I write this news came of the attempt on President Maduro’s life, additional “sanctions” against Iran, North Korea, Syria and Russia, a ramping up of the economic warfare against China through the use of trade tariffs, threats of war against all of those nations and dangerous alarms from within the USA that the upcoming midterm elections for Congress are being threatened by Russia. 

The western media have spun the failed attempt on Maduro as a staged event so he can “clampdown on democracy” and so act as co-conspirators in the plot. If the attempt had succeeded they would have been jubilant that it worked but they are so corrupt we could not put it past them to claim that his murder would be justified. But what strikes me about all these circumstances is the connection between the domestic situation in the USA and its external aggression.

The defeat of the US and its NATO and Middle Eastern allies in Syria dealt them a major strategic blow. They had hoped to be able to take over the land and air space of Syria and ISIS controlled Iraq to build up forces so they could attack Iran. Now that is only possible by air attack and they know as we all know that despite the destruction they can wreak air bombardment alone does not win wars. So the US reneged on the Iran nuclear deal in order to have its pretext to impose crippling economic warfare on Iran, which has had the effect of devaluing its currency and making life difficult.

Already some unrest has been provoked because of this and the actions of western agents in Iran. The Americans hope to cause enough unrest to bring down the Iranian government and impose their own puppets or direct western colonial rule but they do not understand either the will to resist nor the Persian culture and people. Nor did they expect to be frustrated by Iran’s friends who refuse to obey US diktats to reduce Iranian oil sales to zero. India, China, Russia, Turkey and some EU countries that need it will continue to by Iranian oil.

The Syria defeat, along with their defeat in Iraq and their inability to fully control Afghanistan has enraged the US ruling elite who want revenge and of course the big targets, all allies of Syria are Russia, Iran, North Korea and China. So “sanctions” orders are being issued in a steady stream. Just last week sanctions were slapped on a NATO ally Turkey because it refused to hand over one of their evangelical ministers, a Mr. Brunson, who claimed to be in Turkey for years proselytising for his dominionist church and yet after many years of being there only had 24 members in his flock. Not much of a success and certainly not enough to give him an income and so one has to ask where he gets his money from and why he would stay there with such dismal results unless of course he is exactly what Turkey claims he is, a US agent acting against the interests of Turkey.

The very loud hue and cry in the US against Erdogan for refusing to release Brunson and threats from Vice president Pence that “Erdogan will pay for this” all indicate that Mr. Brunson is more than just a small time preacher. Countries do not impose sanctions on allies to save private citizens from being prosecuted for crimes in foreign countries. Turkey, which only recently lifted its emergency laws after the failed US backed coup in 2016 has defiantly responded by imposing some counter sanctions which infuriates the Americans even more, seemingly at a loss as to why nations around the world are no longer obeying them.

Their strategy to make America “great” again, meaning the dominant power in the world, therefore requires the weakening of the powers that oppose them and so the sudden trade war on China, the continual pressure on Russia, and threats of war against Iran and North Korea, despite their stated willingness to talk. Iran has kept its honour and refused to talk to these gangsters under the threat of a gun and North Korea has expressed its deep frustration that its overtures to denuclearise the Korean Peninsula have gone nowhere and resulted only in more diktats from the US to completely disarm or else.

The cruel economic war being conducted against North Korea, imposed on them illegally and without any justification by the Security Council, has even backfired on Russia which inexplicably supported the “sanctions” even though it knows that North Korea is not in violation of any international law in having a nuclear weapons defence nor in violation of any valid UN resolutions and only has nuclear weapons for the same reasons Russia does, to defend itself against the American Godzilla. Just on the 3rd of August the US imposed further sanctions on Russia for allegedly violating the sanctions imposed on North Korea, and how can Russia complain when they voted for the sanctions in the first place. They are hoist on their own petard.

But, while the northern hemisphere cooks under the extreme heat caused by a rapidly warming climate that will not stabilise at a “new normal” but, left unchecked will keep accelerating exponentially, and while people die in fires, from heat stress, and crops are damaged, threatening the world food supply, the leaders of the western world squabble about dominance and money and how to save their own skins.

The NATO axis refuses President Putin’s continual offers to resolve differences amicably, they sabotage President Xi’s win-win trade and foreign policies. They refuse any possibility of peace and continue their preparations for war. Not only are they increasing their forces on Russia’s borders, they are now shifting more forces to regions around China and are again supporting the renegade Chinese province of Taiwan. They are increasing the number of US Marines in Australia to engage in sea patrols, ready to cut the Straights of Malacca through which the bulk of Chinese trade flows going west and through which China receives most of its oil. At the same time the US increases its presence in Africa to threaten China’s supply of resources. The whole world has become a tinderbox ready to blow. But it is the situation inside the US that is alarming many.

The canard put out by the US intelligence services in service of the Democratic Party that the Russians somehow, and for reasons no one can explain, “influenced” the vote in the US presidential election is now amplified by the new claims that the Russians are intent on “influencing” the vote in the US midterm elections for Congress this summer. The television networks are working nonstop to foster this myth from the self-styled “progressive” media such as PBS and National Public Radio to the lunatic CNN whose only reason for being these days to is pump this anti-Russian propaganda out 24 hours a day.

Many believe it.

But the danger the American republic faces is not from Russian interference in its sorry excuse for a democracy, its two party system which the American writer, Gore Vidal, rightly described as a one party system, run by the business party that has two factions. The danger is from the forces behind the propaganda about Russian influence. They are now claiming that votes for the Republican Party, Trump’s party, will be illegitimate, gained through Russian tricks whereas votes for the Democrats will be considered legitimate. They are in reality setting up the conditions for one party rule, for a dictatorship.

Hillary Clinton began to arrange the stage set when, in the presidential campaign she labelled all the Trump supporters the “deplorables” at one and the same time devaluing their votes and opinions as less than worthless, and feeding into the idea that they can be ignored in determining national policies. Millions of people have been reduced, in this propaganda paradigm to subhumans who do not deserve to have their opinions considered. It seems to me this was a carefully considered word and not chosen by her. It was the opening curtain in the drama unfolding in which the forces in and behind the Democratic Party now claim that only they have the legitimacy to rule.

That Mr. Trump seems to go along with this charade and this attack on what is left of American democracy is puzzling. He is constantly under attack as “soft on Russia” and “Putin’s agent” yet no coup has been mounted, no impeachment proceedings begun and he carries on the Obama, Bush, Clinton policies of beggaring the people while attacking the world. One can think that he is a knowing foil in this plot and dutifully plays his role to provide the set-up for a move towards one party rule. Why the economic powers in the US that control the government want to harass a man who is acting in their favour by encouraging the use of oil, by allowing more oil drilling in banned areas, by imposing trade wars on everyone in the world to force them to buy American products, and by threatening every country that poses a threat to US markets and resources, is a bit of a mystery. Capital should be happy with him.

So, what is going on? It seems to this writer that everything in this scenario is geared towards world war.

The campaign against Trump is a campaign against Russia. American capital thought it had control of Russian capital and resources when the US backed Russian capitalist took power. They lost it when Russian nationalists took back that control for themselves and the Americans will not be happy until they take it back again or destroy their competitor.

The “Russia influenced the elections propaganda” is a device to generate so much fear and hatred against Russia that the people will tolerate and support a major war against Russia.

The anti-Russian campaign is a precursor to a major war and its own logic demands a continual escalation of that propaganda.

So, following their logic we can expect serious trouble inside the US around the elections, and a disruption of them by these forces to justify even more fear and hatred, and, if I am correct, to essentially establish one party rule to make it easier to engage in war without political opposition.

For that is the road down which they are headed and to adopt a phrase the great American social critic and writer, Hunter S. Thompson, used for the title of his book on the American election that brought Nixon to power, we can only sit back in fear and loathing of these people who, to increase their power, threaten to destroy democracy in America and all of us along with it.

Christopher Black is an international criminal lawyer based in Toronto. He is known for a number of high-profile war crimes cases and recently published his novel “Beneath the Clouds. He writes essays on international law, politics and world events, especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”

Dr. Swee Ang on sailing with the Freedom Flotilla

Dr. Swee Ang on sailing with the Freedom Flotilla

by Going Underground - RT

August 8, 2018

In this episode, we speak to the General Secretary of United Voices of the World who are today striking for more pay in one of the richest areas in Europe. Dr. Swee Ang, who has just returned to safety after sailing with the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, tells us about her fight for justice in Palestine. Plus, we review this week’s news with Lembit Opik.

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Oily Truth Beneath Saudi's "Thin-Skinned" Canada Flip-Out

Is Oily Econo-Politics Behind Saudis’ Crude Canadian Diplomacy?

by Whitney Webb - MintPress News

August 8th, 2018

For such an ugly and bizarre international fistfight to spring full-blown from a single critical tweet strains credulity. Underlying the Saudis hostile anti-Canadian actions may be a desire to signal the world to stay blind to the kingdom’s internal repressions. Or it may be an economic play with Canadian oil.

In a near repeat of Saudi Arabia’s feud with Qatar last year, the diplomatic spat between the Saudis and the Canadian government seems to have spiraled out of control after it began last Friday.

Apparently beginning as a result of the Canadian Foreign Ministry’s decision to criticize via Twitter the Saudi government’s arrest of the sister of detained Saudi activist Raif Badawi, the days since have seen the Saudis expel the Canadian ambassador, suspend flights to Canada, recall around 15,000 Saudi students studying abroad, and freeze new trade and investment in Canada, among other measures.

The most disturbing exchange between the two countries took place on Monday when a Saudi state-sponsored Twitter account tweeted a graphic appearing to show an Air Canada airliner heading toward the Toronto skyline in a way similar to the September 11th attacks, in a gesture that seemed to imply that the Saudis would target Canada for its “interference” in the kingdom’s internal affairs.

Then, early Wednesday, Saudi resolve to punish Canada for its criticism of the kingdom’s treatment of domestic dissenters and activists was again made clear after the Saudi central bank and state-managed pension funds ordered their foreign-based asset managers to liquidate their Canadian equities, bonds and cash holdings “no matter the cost.” Those funds were estimated by the Financial Times at around $100 billion.

That announcement was then followed by a statement from Saudi foreign minister Adel Al-Jubeir, who asserted that,

“What Canada did was unacceptable […] There is no need for mediation, Canada knows what it needs to do, it must change its policies, ways with The Kingdom.”

He then ominously warned that the “Saudis are still weighing other measures to take against Canada.” 

If Riyadh’s on-going squabble with Qatar is any indication, the Saudis are likely to continue to flexing their political and economic muscle in an effort to push the Canadian government to capitulate, even if it results in the Saudis pushing truly bizarre countermeasures.

Yet, while the Saudis themselves and much of the media coverage have painted the increasingly bizarre stand-off as a result of “human rights” concerns, it is unlikely that Saudi Arabia’s offense at a single tweet from the Canadian Foreign Ministry is to blame for the rapid decay in bilateral relations.

Indeed, some have speculated that the fierce response from the Saudis is intended to serve as a warning to any other government that would seek to criticize Saudi policy, particularly those policies ordered by the kingdom’s “reformer,” Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman (MBS). If this is the case, the high price Canada is paying for a single tweet critical of the Saudi government is a clear sign to other nations that the Saudi government will not tolerate dissent in any form, whether from its own people or from other nations.

Is oil lurking under the Saudis’ thin skin?

Another possible reason for the spat, however, is that the tweet from Canada’s Foreign Ministry offered MBS an opening to go after its top competitor in the U.S. oil market — one of the most important oil markets, given that the U.S. is the second largest importer of crude oil in the world and the U.S. military is the largest consumer of oil in the entire world.

Despite forging close ties with the Trump administration and their historical cooperation with the U.S. through the petrodollar system, the Saudis were displaced by the Canadians starting in the late 1990s as the top exporter of crude oil to the United States. Since then, the gulf has widened largely thanks to the fast growth of Canadian oil imports — which now account for more than half of all U.S. crude imports, while U.S. imports of Saudi crude have dropped to 8.5 percent of the total.

US crude imports by country in 2013. Source | EIA

This may explain why the Saudis have targeted the Canadian economy in particular as the current diplomatic crisis has worsened. Indeed, rejections of Canadian wheat exports by the Saudis is expected to cost the Canadian of region of Alberta alone over $132 million a year, weakening Alberta’s already struggling agricultural sector. Canada’s total exports to Saudi Arabia, now under threat, total on average $1.45 billion annually. Even the Saudi decision to remove 15,000 Saudi students from Canadian universities is expected to remove around $2 billion in investment from the Canadian economy.

Furthermore, restrictions on future investment and the removal of some $100 billion in Saudi money from Canada — in addition to impacting Canada’s economy directly — may also spook investors from Saudi-allied countries, particularly considering how Saudi has handled its dispute with Qatar. This may be a large concern giving the number of Middle Eastern and North African countries that have backed the Saudis in their current spat with Canada.

Thus, the already in-place measures the Saudis have levied against Canada are likely to destabilize the Canadian economy to some extent though the Saudi’s recent promises that more is to come may increase that effect in the days and weeks ahead.

Another consequence of the rift could target Canadian oil exports directly. If Canada responds to the rift with the Saudis by halting the relatively small amount of Saudi oil it currently imports, Canadian oil will be used to meet that demand. While such a move is of no great consequence for Canada, it would mean that an estimated 31 million barrels of crude would be used domestically and not exported to the United States or elsewhere on an annual basis, conveniently offering the Saudis an opportunity to replace that deficit by exporting more to the United States.

However, 31 million barrels of crude oil is not very significant in terms of Canada’s and the Saudi’s total oil exports. The more likely reason for a Saudi effort to hamper the Canadian economy and its oil exports has to do with the larger reshuffle in the oil economy resulting from the U.S. government’s efforts to stop Iranian oil exports.

Indeed, as the U.S. government’s main plan to offset the void that would be left by an end to international purchases of Iranian oil has been its push to force the Saudis to dramatically increase oil production to a record 11 million barrels a day in order to meet the existing demand.

Yet not all has gone as planned. First, some countries, like Turkey, announced that they would continue to import Iranian crude despite the threat of U.S. sanctions. Complicating matters further is the prospect that the U.S. would “soften” its demand that countries halt Iranian oil imports by the November 4th deadline.

Then, the most troubling news of all, from the Saudi perspective, came last Friday when the world’s largest oil importer, China, announced that it plans to continue importing Iranian oil, a major boon to Iran given that China accounts for 35 percent of Iranian oil purchases. Furthermore, China announced earlier this year in May that it would be severely reducing Saudi oil imports.

With the gap caused by reduced Iranian oil exports to fill likely smaller than it had thought, the Saudis need buyers for their increased oil production and, if all else fails, it is likely that they will expect the default buyer to be the United States, given that Washington pushed for the production increase in the first place. Yet, with U.S. oil purchases from Canada at an all-time high, there isn’t much room for an increase in the Saudi market-share — that is, unless Canadian oil currently being exported were to be redirected for domestic Canadian use, thus offering less of a challenge to Saudi oil exports.

Perhaps then it is no coincidence then that the Chinese announcement preceded the Saudi-Canadian spat by a matter of hours.

Saudi history of oil-spank and troubles on the horizon

If this is the case, it certainly wouldn’t be the first time that Saudi diplomatic attacks have been motivated by fossil-fuel markets. In fact, the Saudis’ ongoing dispute with Qatar was ultimately caused by Qatar’s lifting of a moratorium on developing the world’s largest natural gas field it shares with Iran and its related normalization of diplomatic ties with Iran’s government in light of their shared interests in the gas field.

Furthermore, Saudi Arabia has a history of using unconventional means to damage the economies of its oil rivals — though this has normally occurred through the Saudis’ manipulation of oil prices, enabled by their privileged position as a top oil producer. Past efforts to this effect have been successful in several cases, such as when the Saudi-led price war against Russia in the 1990s led Russia to default on its debt in 1998 and thus neutralized what the Saudis had perceived as a major threat to its oil supremacy at the time.

The Saudis, with prompting from the U.S., attempted a similar scheme to squeeze out higher-cost and smaller producers beginning in 2014, and largely succeeded in weakening smaller countries with oil-dependent economies, such as Venezuela and Ecuador.

With the oil market now facing several unknowns — from the effect of looming U.S.-backed Iran sanctions to the U.S.-China trade war — Saudi Arabia is likely looking for a way to maintain its market supremacy. While Canada may have offended Saudi leaders with a recent tweet, it seems very possible that the Saudis saw the tweet as an opening to justify economic attacks of increasing severity against a major oil-market rival.

Now, with Saudi foreign cash reserves still very low, reforms aimed at diversifying its economy moving at a snail’s pace, and warnings that the kingdom could face bankruptcy in less than two years, even small fluctuations in the oil market — along with growing domestic dissent — threaten to derail the kingdom or loosen the grip of the ruling family. It is most likely that Canada has reminded the Saudis of both of their weaknesses — economic and political — at a time when the Kingdom finds itself faces an uncomfortable and perhaps unforgiving future.

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

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