Saturday, June 15, 2019

Former Iceland Interior Minister on FBI Stitch-Up Effort for Julian Assange

Ex-Icelandic Interior Minister: US Tried to FRAME Julian Assange in Iceland!

by Going Underground - RT

June 15, 2019

We speak to former Minister of the Interior of Iceland Ögmundur Jónasson on how he kicked out a team of FBI investigators from Iceland who were trying to frame Wikileaks Founder Julian Assange. 

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Friday, June 14, 2019

Gormless Gulf Analysis Prelude to Another American War in Middle East?

Where Are the Skeptics as the Drums Roll for War with Iran? 


June 14, 2019

Vijay Prashad challenges the media reality that Iran attacked the oil tankers, calling for a real investigation to uncover the truth.

Media Burial of Venezuelan Sanctions Death Toll

Study Linking US Sanctions to Venezuelan Deaths Buried by Reuters for Over a Month 

by Joe Emersberger - FAIR

June 14, 2019

I emailed Stephanie Nebehay of Reuters on May 22 about her article, “Venezuela Turns to Russia, Cuba, China in Health Crisis” (5/22/19).

Her article depicted the impact of US sanctions as an allegation that Venezuelan government officials are alone in making.

I asked why the piece made no mention of a study (CEPR, 4/25/19) released a month earlier by economists Mark Weisbrot and Jeffrey Sachs, which directly linked US sanctions to 40,000 deaths in Venezuela since August of 2017.

Featured image: Reuters depiction (6/7/19) of
Venezuelan refugees. photo: Pilar Olivares/Reuters

The article stated:

The opposition blames [medical shortages] on economic incompetence and corruption by the leftist movement in power for two decades, but [President Nicolás] Maduro says US economic sanctions are the cause.

Her reply to me on May 23 was quite telling:

I was not aware of that study, but am now and will bear in mind.

Reuters (5/22/19) attributes the idea that US sanctions are causing a health crisis in Venezuela to Venezuelan Health Minister Carlos Alvarado.

It would indeed have been impossible for a Reuters reporter to be aware of the study if they depended only on Reuters articles to keep informed.

The news agency hadn’t mentioned the study since it was released, never mind written an article about it.

I asked a contact I have at Reuters about this, and he was also surprised that Reuters hadn’t even mentioned the study. He suggested I query some of Reuters’ Venezuela-based reporters, which I did a few days later.

In my email to them, I passed along a list of news articles since August 2017, when Trump first dramatically intensified economic sanctions, that described worsening economic conditions. I also noted that though the Sachs/Weisbrot study was ignored by Reuters, it had been intensely debated in public by Venezuelan opposition economists (i.e., the kind of people Reuters and other Western media actually pay attention to on Venezuela).

The Brookings Institution published a few rebuttals to the study (here and here), which I also pointed out to Reuters. The objections Brookings made were essentially already addressed by Weisbrot and Sachs in response to other critics.

CEPR compared oil production in Venezuela and neighboring Colombia to illustrate the impact of US sanctions. 

On June 9, Reuters finally mentioned the study, at the end of an article by Nebehay, who is based in Geneva:

One study in April, co-authored by US economists Jeffrey Sachs and Mark Weisbrot, blamed sanctions for causing more deaths and disproportionately hitting the most vulnerable.

“We find that the sanctions have inflicted, and increasingly inflict, very serious harm to human life and health, including an estimated more than 40,000 deaths from 2017–2018,” they said, arguing they were illegal under international law.

Nevertheless, since the day Nebehay replied to me, Reuters has continued to portray the severe impact of US sanctions as an allegation that only Maduro and other Venezuelan officials have made. It was even done by Reuters in an article published June 10, the day after the wire service finally mentioned the study:

The government of President Nicolás Maduro says Venezuela’s economic problems are caused by US sanctions that have crippled the OPEC member’s export earnings and blocked it from borrowing from abroad.

Reuters (6/1/19) treats the idea that US sanctions are responsible for deaths in Venezuela as an allegation made by Maduro–placing it after the statement, 
“The opposition has blamed their deaths on President Nicolás Maduro, whose socialist administration has presided over the collapse of the once-wealthy nation’s economy and severe reductions in healthcare spending.”
Other instances of Reuters representing the idea that US sanctions work as they are intended to do—in other words, that they hurt the Venezuelan economy—as an allegation made by Maduro or his government:

  • “He [President Maduro] says the country’s economic problems are the result of an ‘economic war’ led by his political adversaries with the help of Washington.” (5/23/19)
  • “Maduro, who maintains control over state institutions, calls Guaidó a puppet of Washington and blames US sanctions for a hyperinflationary economic meltdown and humanitarian crisis.” (5/26/19; repeated almost verbatim, 5/28/19)
  • “Maduro’s government, however, says US-imposed sanctions were responsible for the children’s deaths, by freezing funds allocated to buy medicine and send the children to Italy for treatment under the 2010 agreement.” (6/1/19)
  • “Maduro blames the situation on an ‘economic war’ waged by his political adversaries as well as US sanctions that have hobbled the oil industry and prevented his government from borrowing abroad.” (6/7/19)
  • “Maduro says Venezuela is victim of an ‘economic war’ led by the opposition with the help of Washington, which has levied several rounds of sanctions against his government.” (6/7/19)

Two recent articles by Reuters, however, stated the obvious about the most recent US sanctions that were implemented in 2019:

  • “Venezuela is in the midst of a years-long economic and humanitarian crisis that has deepened since the United States imposed sanctions on the country’s oil industry in January as part of an effort to oust Socialist President Nicolás Maduro in favor of opposition leader Juan Guaidó.” (6/7/19)
  • “Venezuela’s oil exports dropped 17 percent in May because of the sanctions.” (6/6/19)

But the study Reuters belatedly mentioned shows that US sanctions have been devastating to Venezuela’s economy, and seriously aggravating the humanitarian crisis, since August 2017.

Apologists for Trump always rush to say that Venezuela’s depression began years before Trump’s sanctions—as if that made it acceptable to deliberately worsen a humanitarian crisis. To tweak an analogy Caitlin Johnstone used, think of a defense attorney saying,

“Your Honor, I will show that the victim was already in intensive care when my client began to assault him.”

Moreover, as Steve Ellner recently discussed, US support for an insurrectionist opposition in Venezuela goes back over a decade before the crisis, and was a factor in causing it. Economic sanctions Obama introduced in 2015 were also harmful—Weisbrot (The Hill, 11/6/16) in 2016 called them “ugly and belligerent enough to keep many investors from investing in Venezuela and to raise the country’s cost of borrowing”—even before Trump’s dramatic escalation of economic warfare that they paved the way for.

Putting aside a study by prominent US economists, the “Maduro says” formulation is also inexcusable because US Sen. Marco Rubio, who has been widely reported as a major influence on Trump’s Venezuela policy, gleefully tweeted on May 16 that Maduro “can’t access funds to rebuild electric grid.”

Rubio didn’t pretend he was referring to an imaginary electric grid used exclusively by Maduro. Reuters (5/30/19) has itself referred to Rubio as the “leading voice in the crafting of President Donald Trump’s Venezuela policy,” in a lengthy piece about US sanctions that said absolutely nothing about their impact on the general population, implying throughout that sanctions only impacted Maduro and other officials. (“Being blacklisted also crimps the lifestyle of Venezuelan officials’ families,” Reuters reported.)

My fellow FAIR contributor, Alan MacLeod, interviewed many Venezuela-based journalists for his book Bad News From Venezuela. He wrote last year (, 5/24/18):

“Media copy and paste from news organizations like Reuters and Associated Press, which themselves employ many cheaper local journalists.

In Venezuela, these journalists are not neutral actors, but come from the highly partisan local media, affiliated with the opposition, leading to a situation where Western newsrooms see themselves as an ideological spearhead against Maduro, “the resistance” to the government.

Even worse than being the “resistance” to Maduro is that Reuters has often made itself the “assistance” to politicians like Rubio, who are vicious enough to celebrate the economic strangulation of millions of people.

Reuters may carry on as if it had never reported the study by Weisbrot and Sachs. Western media outlets are perfectly willing to ignore their own reporting when it suits powerful interests (Extra! Update, 10/02). It is therefore up to all of us to not be passive consumers of news, and continually bear in mind that the news we are getting about official enemies may be less than half the story.

You can send a message to Reuters here (or via Twitter: @Reuters). Please remember that respectful communication is the most effective.



by John Helmer - Dances with Bears

June 14, 2019

Moscow - Following police raids last week on a reporter for the Murdoch press in Canberra and the Sydney office of the state Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), journalists in Australia have appealed for international solidarity on press freedom — a cause which they themselves have failed to defend when others were under the gun. Do they deserve it?

In money terms, journalism is an undeserving, unprofitable business everywhere. Newspapers in most of the English-language world are cutting journalist jobs – in the US at a rate of 45% over the past decade; about the same in the UK and Canada; worse in Australia. For those who want to keep their jobs, police raids and prosecutions are reminders when self-censorship isn’t enough to prevent their investigating abuses of the law, war crimes, fraud and corruption.

The first home truth is that truth is loss-making for an enterprise; pauperizing for its reporter. The second home truth is that in wartime – that’s now – truth-telling may be a criminal offence which will get the reporter time in jail.

In the case of Julian Assange (lead image, extreme right), the first hearing on the US indictment and application for his extradition will commence in an English magistrate’s court on Friday morning. Although it’s a first procedural step in a process likely to take three years, the identification of which judge will preside is important. Not all English judges want to be responsible for rulings on whether Assange is facing political persecution and whether the US judicial system can try a national security case fairly. For background on the legal issues now at stake, read this and this.

Left: Home Secretary Sajid Javid authorized US extradition application 
and sent his decision for the courts to review. Currently one of the contenders for 
election as Conservative Party leader and prime minister, Javid said: “[Assange] is 
rightly behind bars…It is a decision ultimately for the courts, but there is a very
important part of it for the home secretary and I want to see justice done at all times
and we’ve got a legitimate extradition request, so I’ve signed it, but the final
decision is now with the courts.” 
Right: Chief Magistrate Emma Arbuthnot is likely to preside in the case, according to 
Bar sources; for her record for refusing extradition in cases involving the Russian courts, 
read these reports. Behind the scenes, Sajid and the Lord Chancellor, the senior judicial 
officer in the UK, can influence the selection of the judge who will conduct the Assange case.

In the case of Ivan Golunov (lead image, centre), the Russian reporter was targeted by businessmen engaged in a funeral business he was investigating. They tried warning him off. When he refused, they and their allies in the Moscow police, the federal Interior Ministry and the security services, arranged Golunov’s arrest and jailing on June 6 on fabricated drugs evidence. A Moscow court released him to house arrest on June 8, then dismissed the charges on Monday. On Wednesday the senior officials in charge of Moscow’s western district were dismissed.

Left: Ivan Golunov in his first Moscow court appearance on June 6. Right, in an 
unprecedented show of solidarity, three Moscow business papers – Kommersant, 
Vedomosti and RBK – published front-page headlines proclaiming “I/We are Ivan Golunov”.

In Australia, the Australian Federal Police (AFP) raided the home of a Murdoch newspaper reporter in Canberra on June 6, and the ABC headquarters in Sydney on the following day. The police claimed they were acting on search and seizure warrants approved by the federal Defence and Home Affairs ministries, though the Defence Minister claims she was not consulted in advance. The AFP has also changed its public statement of the legal purpose and statutory authority for the warrants.

The cases the government is running relate to publications in July 2017 of Australian war crimes in Afghanistan; and in April 2018 of proposed state surveillance of citizens without warrants.

Left: Rupert Murdoch, whose News Ltd controls about half Australia’s press. 
His company issued a statement saying: “This raid demonstrates a dangerous act of 
intimidation towards those committed to telling uncomfortable truths. The raid was 
outrageous and heavy handed. News Corp Australia has expressed the most serious 
concerns about the willingness of governments to undermine the Australian public’s right 
to know about important decisions Governments are making that can and will impact 
ordinary Australian citizens.” 
Right: David McBride, former Australian Army lawyer, leaked documents on 
which the ABC based report of war crimes by Australian soldiers in Afghanistan. 
A Canberra court hearing is scheduled June 13. McBride’s defence is that
government officials legally obliged to report wrongdoing. “I’m seeking to have the case
look purely at whether the government broke the law and whether it was my duty as
a lawyer to report that fact,” McBride has said.

For details of the war crime case, read this; and for background on the second case, click. Listen to the discussion with Chris Cook, broadcast on Thursday morning, Canadian Pacific time, running from the 2nd minute to the 26th. Open the link here.

Gorilla Radio is broadcast every Thursday 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 and on the blog. For Chris Cook’s broadcast archive, click to open.


Thursday, June 13, 2019

Ghosts of Grenfell June 13, 2017

Ghosts of Grenfell

by Lowkey ft. Mai Khalil

June 13, 2019

Official Music Video // Lowkey ft. Mai Khalil – Ghosts of Grenfell. 
Credits: Music/ Lowkey featuring vocals of Mai Khalil and Asheber. 
Produced by Quincy Tones and Jo Caleb. 
Mixed by Guy Buss. Film/ Executive 
Producers: Lowkey, Fahim Alam and Tariq Chow. 
Director: Fahim Alam. Director of Photography: Jeffrey Celis. Colourist: Joseph Bicknell Studio: Film Pill 

Keep up to date with Lowkey's work here

What Extradition to US Could Mean for WikiLeaks Publisher, Julian Assange

What Could WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange Face If Extradited to the US on 18 Counts of Espionage

by Sputnik

June 13, 2019

Assange’s criminal case poses a potential blow to press freedom and the first amendment, according to journalists and activists. Sputnik revisits the charges levied upon the investigative journalist.


Following Home secretary Sajid Javid’s formal request on Thursday to extradite Wikileaks founder Julian Assange to the US, the whisleblower could faces eighteen counts of espionage charges from the US Department of Justice (US DoJ) in a Virginia district court over his 2010 leaks of hundreds of thousands of classified documents on US military war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as human rights abuses in Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp in Cuba.

The Role of the 1917 Espionage Act in Suppressing Whistleblowers

According to the US Department of Justice superseding indictment, Mr Assange has been charged on 18 counts related to the US 1917 Espionage Act; a law defining wartime espionage that was passed in Congress under then US president Woodrow Wilson after declaring war against the Germans during WWI.

The 1917 Espionage act first allowed US postal offices power to ban publications from mails and prosecute those attempting to obstruct conscription with $10,000 USD and up to 20 years in prison.

To date, the law has been used against former NSA contractor Edward Snowden and whisleblower Chelsea Manning, whom have both made contributions to Wikileaks.

Most of Assange’s charges fall under Section 793794 of the 1917 Espionage Act which was left intact under Title 18, Part 1, Chapter 37.

List of Charges Against Julian Assange under the 1917 Espionage Act 

Counts 1: Conspiracy to Obtain, Receive and Disclose National Defence Information

Alleges that Mr Assange had “knowingly and unlawfully” conspired with Ms Manning to obtain and communicate documents related to detainees at Guantanamo Bay, as well as Iraq rules of engagement files and “individuals in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere around the world” which were “classified up to the SECRET level”, violating Title 18, United States Code, Section 793.

Counts 2 – 6: Unauthorised Obtaining of National Defence Information

(Two counts of accessing Detainee Assessment Briefs, one count for State Department Cables, and one on Iraq Rules of Engagement Files)

Charges Mr Assange with offences “outside the jurisdiction” of the US with “unlawfully” obtaining documents, writing, and notes on national defence on Guantanamo Bay detainees, US military rules of engagement in Iraq (which Wikileaks documented as war crimes) and correspondences with the State Department. The DoJ alleges that the information was to be used “to the injury of the US” or “advantage” of foreign nations.

Count 5 charges Assange with attempting to obtain information. 

Count 7: Unauthorised Obtaining of National Defence Information, State Department Cables

Charges Mr Assange with accessing information stored on the US Secret Internet Protocol Network classified “up to the SECRET level" in violation of Chapter 37 of Title 18 of the US Code.

Counts 8 - 14: Unauthorised Obtaining of National Defence Information

(Three counts of accessing Detainee Assessment Briefs, two for State Department Cables, and two for Iraq Rules of Engagement Files)

Charges Mr Assange with offences “outside the jurisdiction” of the US with “unlawfully” obtaining documents, writing, and notes on national defence on Guantanamo Bay detainees, US military rules of engagement in Iraq (which Wikileaks documented as war crimes) and correspondences with the State Department. The DoJ alleges that the information was to be used “to the injury of the US” or “advantage” of foreign nations.

Counts 15 - 17: Unauthorised Disclosure of National Defence Information (three counts)

Charges Mr Assange with offences committed around July 2010 up to the superseding indictment related to possessing, accessing and controlling documents related to US national defence who “willfully and unlawfully” attempted to communicate, deliver and transmit information classified “up to the SECRET” level, based on US wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Count 18: Conspiracy to Commit Computer Intrusion

Charges Mr Assange with accessing computers without authorisation to gain information that “could be used to the injury of the United States” and “advantage” of foreign nations, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 641, 793(c), and 793(e)

What Happens to Assange if Extradited to the US?

According to a 23 May press release from the US DoJ, Mr Assange could face a maximum sentence of ten years in prison for each count except for conspiracy to commit computer intrusion, which carries a “maximum penalty of five years in prison”, totalling nearly 175 years.

Whilst the DoJ says that the Wikileaks founder is “presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt” and that sentences for federal crimes “are typically less than the maximum penalties”, with a federal district court judge determining his sentencing.

READ MORE: WikiLeaks Chief Editor Reveals Details of Assange's Medical Examination in Prison

But Mr Javid’s request to extradite Mr Assange to the US contradicts Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which condemns the extradition of fugitives “where substantial grounds have been shown” that the persons would face a “real risk of being subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment in the requesting country”.

But others, including former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, voiced his support for Assange, stating that Wikileak's intention was to expose war crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq committed by US military officials and a "potential Espionage Act" prosecution "would threaten countless reporters" across major US media outlets, adding that "core First Amendment principles will be at stake".

© Sputnik / Demond Cureton

Assange's supporters chant slogans in his support before the courthouse in London

Assange's defence lawyer, Jennifer Robinson, has asserted that the case was "not about hacking", but rather a "a journalist and a publisher who had conversations with a source about accessing material, encouraged that source to provide material and spoke to that source about how to protect their identity.

"This is protected activity that journalists engage in all the time,” she said in a 2 May statement outside Westminster Magistrate's Court in London, adding that the court case had been launched under former US president Barack Obama and pursued by the Trump Administration.

Nils Melzer, UN special rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment condemned the "relentless and unrestrained campaign of public mobbing, intimidation and defamation" against Mr Assange in the US, UK, Sweden and Ecuador, adding that the whistleblower had endured "oppressive isolation, harassment and surveillance" at the Ecuadorian embassy to threats of "violence and even repeated calls for his assassination".

Mr Meltzer said in a 31 May statement:

“In 20 years of work with victims of war, violence and political persecution I have never seen a group of democratic States ganging up to deliberately isolate, demonise and abuse a single individual for such a long time and with so little regard for human dignity and the rule of law."

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

The Vulture Comes Home to Roost: Paul Singer and Outsourcing US Tech Jobs

How NeoCon Billionaire Paul Singer Is Driving the Outsourcing of US Tech Jobs to Israel

by Whitney Webb - MintPress News

June 11, 2019

Several U.S. tech giants including Google, Microsoft and Intel Corporation have filled top positions with former members of Israeli military intelligence and are heavily investing in their Israeli branches while laying off thousands of American employees, all while receiving millions of dollars in U.S. government subsidies funded by American taxpayers.

WASHINGTON With nearly 6 million Americans unemployed and regular bouts of layoffs in the U.S. tech industry, major American tech companies like Google, Microsoft and Intel Corporation are nonetheless moving key operations, billions in investments, and thousands of jobs to Israel — a trend that has largely escaped media attention or concern from even “America first” politicians.

The fact that this massive transfer of investment and jobs has been so overlooked is particularly striking given that it is largely the work of a single leading neoconservative Republican donor who has given millions of dollars to President Donald Trump.

To make matters worse, many of these top tech companies shifting investment and jobs to Israel at record rates continue to collect sizable U.S. government subsidies for their operations while they move critical aspects of their business abroad, continue to layoff thousands of American workers, and struggle to house their growing company branches in Israel.

This is particularly troubling in light of the importance of the tech sector to the overall U.S. economy, as it accounts for 7.1 percent of total GDP and 11.6 percent of total private-sector payroll.

Furthermore, many of these companies are hiring members of controversial Israeli companies — known to have spied on Americans, American companies, and U.S. federal agencies — as well as numerous members of Israeli military intelligence as top managers and executives.

This massive transfer of the American tech industry has largely been the work of one leading Republican donor — billionaire hedge fund manager Paul Singer, (pictured above) who also funds the neoconservative think tank American Enterprise Institute (AEI), the Islamophobic and hawkish think tank Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC), and also funded the now-defunct Foreign Policy Initiative (FPI).

Singer’s project to bolster Israel’s tech economy at the U.S.’ expense is known as Start-Up Nation Central, which he founded in response to the global Boycott, Divest and Sanctions (BDS) movement that seeks to use nonviolent means to pressure Israel to comply with international law in relation to its treatment of Palestinians.

This project is directly linked to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who in recent years has publicly mentioned that it has been his “deliberate policy” to have former members of Israel’s “military and intelligence units … merge into companies with local partners and foreign partners” in order to make it all but impossible for major corporations and foreign governments to boycott Israel.

In this report, MintPress identifies dozens of former members of an elite Israeli military intelligence unit who now hold top positions at Microsoft, Google and Facebook.

Singer’s nonprofit organization has acted as the vehicle through which Netanyahu’s policy has been realized, via the group’s close connections to the Israeli PM and Singer’s long-time support for Netanyahu and the Likud Party. With deep ties to Netanyahu, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), and controversial tech companies — like Amdocs — that spied on the American government, this Singer-funded organization has formed a nexus of connections between the public and private sectors of both the American and Israeli economies with the single goal of making Israel the new technology superpower, largely at the expense of the American economy and government, which currently gives $3.2 billion in aid to Israel annually.

Researched and developed in Israel

In recent years, the top U.S. tech companies have been shifting many of their most critical operations, particularly research and development, to one country: Israel. A 2016 report in Business Insider noted that Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Amazon and Apple had all opened up research and development (R&D) centers in recent years, with some of them having as many as three such centers in Israel, a country roughly the size of New Jersey. Other major tech companies that have also opened key operation and research centers in Israel include Sandisk, Nvidia, PayPal, Palantir and Dell. Forbes noted last year that the world’s top 10 tech companies were now “doing mission-critical work in Israel that’s core to their businesses back at HQ.”

Yet, some of these tech giants, particularly those based in the U.S., are heavily investing in their Israeli branches while laying off thousands of American employees, all while receiving millions of dollars in U.S. government subsidies funded by American taxpayers.

For example, Intel Corporation, which is the world’s second largest manufacturer of semiconductor computer chips and is headquartered in California, has long been a major employer in Israel, with over 10,000 employees in the Jewish state. However, earlier this year, Intel announced that it would be investing $11 billion in a new factory in Israel and would receive around $1 billion in an Israeli government grant for that investment. Just a matter of months after Intel announced its major new investment in Israel, it announced a new round of layoffs in the United States.

Yet this is just one recent example of what has become a trend for Intel. In 2018, Intel made public its plan to invest $5 billion in one of its Israeli factories and had invested an additional $15 billion in Israeli-created autonomous driving technology a year prior, creating thousands of Intel jobs in Israel. Notably, over that same time frame, Intel has cut nearly 12,000 jobs in the United States. While this great transfer of investment and jobs was undermining the U.S. economy and hurting American workers, particularly in the tech sector, Intel received over $25 million dollars in subsidies from the U.S. federal government.

A similar phenomenon has been occurring at another U.S.-based tech giant, Microsoft. Beginning in 2014 and continuing into 2018, Microsoft has laid off well over 20,000 employees, most of them Americans, in several different rounds of staff cuts. Over that same time period, Microsoft has been on a hiring spree in Israel, building new campuses and investing billions of dollars annually in its Israel-based research and development center and in other Israeli start-up companies, creating thousands of jobs abroad. In addition, Microsoft has been pumping millions of dollars into technology programs at Israeli universities and institutes, such as the Technion Institute. Over this same time frame, Microsoft has received nearly $197 million in subsidies from the state governments of Washington, Iowa and Virginia.

Though Israeli politicians and tech company executives have praised this dramatic shift as the result of Israel’s tech prowess and growing reputation as a technological innovation hub, much of this dramatic shift has been the work of the Netanyahu-tied Singer’s effort to counter a global movement aimed at boycotting Israel and to make Israel a global “cyber power.”

Start-Up Nation Central and the Neocons 

In 2009, a book titled Start Up Nation: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle, written by American neoconservative Dan Senor and Jerusalem Post journalist Saul Singer (unrelated to Paul), quickly rose to the New York Times bestseller list for its depiction of Israel as the tech start-up capital of the world. The book — published by the Council on Foreign Relations, where Senor was then serving as Adjunct Senior Fellow — asserts that Israel’s success in producing so many start-up companies resulted from the combination of its liberal immigration laws and its “leverage of the business talents of young people with military experience.”

“The West needs innovation; Israel’s got it,” wrote Senor and Singer. In a post-publication interview with the blog Freakonomics, Senor asserted that service in the Israeli military was crucial to Israel’s tech sector success, stating that:

“Certain units have become technology boot camps, where 18- to 22-year-olds get thrown projects and missions that would make the heads spin of their counterparts in universities or the private sector anywhere else in the world. The Israelis come out of the military not just with hands-on exposure to next-gen technology, but with training in teamwork, mission orientation, leadership, and a desire to continue serving their country by contributing to its tech sector — a source of pride for just about every Israeli.”

The book, in addition to the many accolades it received from the mainstream press, left a lasting impact on top Republican donor Paul Singer, known for funding the most influential neoconservative think tanks in America, as noted above. Paul Singer was so inspired by Senor and Singer’s book that he decided to spend $20 million to fund and create an organization with a similar name. He created the Start-Up Nation Central (SUNC) just three years after the book’s release in 2012.

To achieve his vision, Singer – who is also a top donor to the Republican Party and Trump – tapped Israeli economist Eugene Kandel, who served as Netanyahu’s national economic adviser and chaired the Israeli National Economic Council from 2009 to 2015.

Senor was likely directly involved in the creation of SUNC, as he was then employed by Paul Singer and, with neoconservatives Bill Kristol and Robert Kagan, co-founded the FPI, which Singer had long funded before it closed in 2017. In addition, Dan Senor’s sister, Wendy Singer (unrelated to either Paul or Saul), long-time director of Israel’s AIPAC office, became the organization’s executive director.

SUNC’s management team, in addition to Eugene Kandel and Wendy Singer, includes Guy Hilton as the organization’s general manager. Hilton is a long-time marketing executive at Israeli telecommunications company Amdocs, where he “transformed” the company’s marketing organization. Amdocs was once highly controversial in the United States after it was revealed by a 2001 Fox News investigation that numerous federal agencies had investigated the company, which then had contracts with the 25 largest telephone companies in the country, for its alleged role in an aggressive espionage operation that targeted the U.S. government. Hilton worked at Microsoft prior to joining Amdocs.

Beyond the management team, SUNC’s board of directors includes Paul Singer, Dan Senor and Terry Kassel — who work for Singer at his hedge fund, Elliott Management — and Rapheal Ouzan. Ouzan was an officer in the elite foreign military intelligence unit of Israel, Unit 8200, who co-founded BillGuard the day after he left that unit, which is often compared to the U.S.’ National Security Agency (NSA). Within five months of its founding, BillGuard was backed by funding from PayPal founder Peter Thiel and former CEO of Google, Eric Schmidt. Ouzan is also connected to U.S. tech companies that have greatly expanded their Israeli branches since SUNC’s founding — such as Microsoft, Google, PayPal and Intel, all of which support Ouzan’s non-profit Israel Tech Challenge.

According to reports from the time published in Haaretz and Bloomberg, SUNC was explicitly founded to serve as “a foreign ministry for Israel’s tech industry” and “to strength Israel’s economy” while also aiming to counter the Boycott, Divest and Sanctions (BDS) movement that seeks to use a nonviolent boycott to end the illegal military occupation of the West Bank and Israeli apartheid, as well as the growth of illegal Jewish-only settlements in occupied Palestinian territory.

Since its founding, SUNC has sought to transfer tech jobs from foreign companies to Israel by developing connections and influence with foreign governments and companies so that they “deepen their relationship with Israel’s tech industry.” Though SUNC has since expanded to include other sectors of the Israeli “start-up” economy, its focus has long remained on Israel’s tech, specifically its cybersecurity industry. Foreign investment in this single Israeli industry has grown from $227 million in 2014 to $815 million in 2018.

In addition to its own activities, SUNC appears to be closely linked to a similar organization, sponsored by Coca Cola and Daimler Mercedes Benz, called The Bridge, which also seeks to connect Israeli start-up companies with large international corporations. Indeed, SUNC, according to its website, was actually responsible for Daimler Mercedes Benz’s decision to join The Bridge, thanks to a delegation from the company that SUNC hosted in Israel and the connections made during that visit.

Teaming up with Israel’s Unit 8200

Notably, SUNC has deep ties to Israel’s military intelligence unit known as Unit 8200 and, true to Start Up Nation’s praise of IDF service as key to Israel’s success, has been instrumental in connecting Unit 8200 alumni with key roles in foreign companies, particularly American tech companies. For instance, Maty Zwaig, a former lieutenant colonel in Unit 8200, is SUNC’s current director of human capital programs, and SUNC’s current manager of strategic programs, Tamar Weiss, is also a former member of the unit.

One particularly glaring connection between SUNC and Unit 8200 can be seen in Inbal Arieli, who served as SUNC’s Vice President of Strategic Partnerships from 2014 to 2017 and continues to serve as a senior adviser to the organization. Arieli, a former lieutenant in Unit 8200, is the founder and head of the 8200 Entrepreneurship and Innovation Support Program (EISP), which was the first start-up accelerator in Israel aimed at harnessing “the vast network and entrepreneurial DNA of [Unit] 8200 alumni” and is currently one of the top company accelerators in Israel. Arieli was the top executive at 8200 EISP while working at SUNC.

Another key connection between SUNC and Unit 8200 is SUNC’s promotion of Team8, a company-creation platform whose CEO and co-founder is Nadav Zafrir, former commander of Unit 8200. In addition to prominently featuring Team8 and Zafrir on the cybersecurity section of its website, SUNC also sponsored a talk by Zafrir and an Israeli government economist at the World Economic Forum, often referred to as “Davos,” that was attended personally by Paul Singer.

Team8’s investors include Google’s Eric Schmidt, Microsoft, and Walmart — and it recently hired former head of the NSA and U.S. Cyber Command, retired Admiral Mike Rogers. Team8 described the decision to hire Rogers as being “instrumental in helping strategize” Team8’s expansion in the United States. However, Jake Williams, a veteran of NSA’s Tailored Access Operations hacking unit, told CyberScoop:

“Rogers is not being brought into this role because of his technical experience. …It’s purely because of his knowledge of classified operations and his ability to influence many in the U.S. government and private-sector contractors.”

In addition to connections to Unit 8200-linked groups like Team8 and 8200 EISP, SUNC also directly collaborates with the IDF in an initiative aimed at preparing young Israeli women to serve in Unit 8200. That initiative, called the CyberGirlz Club, is jointly funded by Israel’s Defense Ministry, SUNC and the Rashi Foundation, the philanthropic organization set up by the Leven family of Perrier-brand water, which has close ties to the Israeli government and IDF.

“Our aim is to bring the girls to this process already skilled, with the knowledge needed to pass the exams for Unit 8200 and serve in the military as programmers,” Zwaig told Israel National News.

Seeding American tech

The connections between SUNC and Unit 8200 are troubling for more than a few reasons, one of which being that Unit 8200, often likened to the U.S.’ NSA, closely coordinates with Israel’s intelligence agency, the Mossad, and is responsible for 90 percent of the intelligence material obtained by the Israeli government, according to its former commander Yair Cohen. Cohen told Forbes in 2016, that “there isn’t a major operation, from the Mossad or any intelligence security agency, that 8200 is not involved in.” For obvious reasons, the fact that an organization founded by an American billionaire is actively promoting the presence of former military intelligence officers in foreign companies, specifically American companies, while also promoting the transfer of jobs and investment to that same country, is very troubling indeed.

Particularly troubling is the fact that, since SUNC’s founding, the number of former Unit 8200 members in top positions in American tech companies has skyrocketed. Based on a non-exhaustive analysis conducted by Mintpress of over 200 LinkedIn accounts of former Israeli military intelligence and intelligence officers in three major tech companies, numerous former Unit 8200 alumni were found to currently hold top managerial or executive positions in Microsoft, Google and Facebook.

At Microsoft, managers for at least 15 of the company’s products and programs — including Microsoft’s lead managers for engineering, product strategy, threat analytics and cloud business intelligence — publicly listed their affiliation with Unit 8200 on their LinkedIn accounts. In addition, the general manager of Microsoft’s Israeli Research and Development Center is also a former member of Unit 8200. In total, of the 200 accounts analyzed, 50 of them currently worked for Microsoft.

Similarly, at Google, 28 former Unit 8200 members at the company were identified from their LinkedIn accounts. Among them are Google’s Engineering Director, its strategic partner manager, two growth marketing leads, its lead technical manager, and six product and program managers, including Google’s manager for trust and safety search.

Facebook also has several Unit 8200 members in prominent positions, though fewer than Google and Microsoft. MintPress identified at least 13 Unit 8200 alumni working for Facebook, including its director of engineering, lead manager for express wi-fi, and technical program manager. Notably, Facebook has spent the last several years collaborating with Israel’s government to censor Israel’s critics.

Of course, there is likely much more influence of Unit 8200 on these companies than this non-exhaustive analysis revealed, given that many of these companies acquired several Israeli start-ups run by and staffed by many Unit 8200 alumni who subsequently went on to found new companies and start-ups a few years or shortly after acquisition. Furthermore, due to the limitations of LinkedIn’s set-up, MintPress was not able to access the complete list of Unit 8200 alumni at these three tech companies, meaning that the eye-opening numbers found were generated by a relatively small sample.

This jump in Unit 8200 members in top positions in tech companies of global importance is actually a policy long promoted by Netanyahu, whose long-time economic adviser is the chief executive at SUNC. During an interview with Fox News last year, Netanyahu was asked by Fox News host Mark Levin if the large growth seen in recent years in Israel’s technology sector was part of Netanyahu’s plan. Netanyahu responded, “That’s very much my plan … It’s a very deliberate policy.” He later added that “Israel had technology because the military, especially military intelligence, produced a lot of capabilities. These incredibly gifted young men and women who come out of the military or the Mossad, they want to start their start-ups.”

Netanyahu further outlined this policy at the 2019 Cybertech conference in Tel Aviv, where he stated that Israel’s emergence as one of the top five “cyber powers” had “required allowing this combination of military intelligence, academia and industry to converge in one place” and that this further required allowing “our graduates of our military and intelligence units to merge into companies with local partners and foreign partners.” The direct tie-ins of SUNC to Netanyahu and the fact that Paul Singer has also been a long-time political donor and backer of Netanyahu suggest that SUNC is a key part of Netanyahu’s policy of placing former military intelligence and intelligence operatives in strategic positions in major technology companies.

Notably, just as SUNC was founded to counter the BDS movement, Netanyahu has asserted that this policy of ensuring Israel’s role as a “cyber power” is aimed at increasing its diplomatic power and specifically undermining BDS as well as the United Nations, which has repeatedly condemned Israel’s government for war crimes and violations of international law in relation to the Palestinians.

Building the bi-national surveillance state

Top U.S. tech companies have filled top positions with former members of Israeli military intelligence and moved strategic and critical operations to Israel, boosting Israel’s economy at the expense of America’s, and SUNC’s role in this marked shift merits scrutiny.

A powerful American billionaire has built an influential organization with deep connections to the U.S.-Israel lobby (AIPAC), an Israeli company that has been repeatedly investigated for spying on the U.S. government (Amdocs), and the elite Israeli military intelligence unit (Unit 8200) that has used its influential connections to the U.S. government and the U.S. private sector to dramatically shift the operations and make-up of major companies in a critical sector of the U.S. economy.

Further consider that U.S. government documents leaked by Edward Snowden have flagged Israel as “leading threat” to the infrastructure of U.S. financial and banking institutions, which use much of the software produced by these top tech companies, and have also flagged Israel as a top espionage threat. One U.S. government document cited Israel as the third most aggressive intelligence service against the U.S. behind Russia and China. Thus, Paul Singer’s pet project in Start-Up Nation Central has undermined not only the U.S. economy but arguably U.S. national security as well.

This concern is further exacerbated by the deep ties connecting top tech companies like Microsoft and Google to the U.S. military. Microsoft and Google are both key military contractors — Microsoft in particular, given that it is set to win a lucrative contract for the Pentagon’s cloud management and has partnered with the Department of Defense to produce a “secure” election system known as ElectionGuard that is set to be implemented in some U.S. states for the 2020 general election.

Whitney Webb is a MintPress News journalist based in Chile. She has contributed to several independent media outlets including Global Research, EcoWatch, the Ron Paul Institute and 21st Century Wire, among others. She has made several radio and television appearances and is the 2019 winner of the Serena Shim Award for Uncompromised Integrity in Journalism. 

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The Persecution of Julian Assange: A State/Media Production

‘Mirthless Laugh’ - The Persecution And Torture Of Julian Assange

by Media Lens

June 11, 2019

For anyone persuaded by the state-corporate campaign of sneers and smears depicting Julian Assange as a shit-smearing narcissist and rapist, the comments made by Nils Melzer, the UN's special rapporteur on torture, must be deeply shocking. The BBC headline:

'Julian Assange subjected to psychological torture, UN expert says'

Melzer is Professor of International Law at the University of Glasgow. He also holds the Human Rights Chair at the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights in Switzerland, where he has been teaching since 2009, including as the Swiss Chair of International Humanitarian Law (2011–2013). Melzer previously worked for 12 years with the International Committee of the Red Cross as Deputy Head of Delegation and Legal Adviser in various zones of conflict and violence. He commented:

'I've worked in many areas of war in my life, in situations of violence, and I've talked to victims of persecution around the world and I've seen very serious atrocities.

'But [what] I have never seen is that a single person has been deliberately isolated and, I would say, persecuted - not prosecuted, but persecuted - by several democratic states in a concerted effort to eventually break his will.'

Melzer added that, because of his treatment, Assange's health was at serious risk:

'We could see that Assange showed all the symptoms that are typical for prolonged exposure to psychological torture.'

Assange, he said, needs access to a psychiatrist who is 'not part of the prison service - someone he can fully trust' - to avoid his health deteriorating further.

In an interview with The Canary, Melzer described exactly how and by whom Assange has been 'persecuted':

'The evidence made available to me strongly suggests that the primary responsibility for the sustained and concerted abuse inflicted on Mr Assange falls on the governments of the United Kingdom, Sweden, the United States and, more recently, also Ecuador...

'The consistent and repeated failure of all involved states to protect Mr Assange's fundamental right to fair judicial proceedings and due process makes the hypothesis of mere coincidence extremely unrealistic and gives a strong impression of bias and arbitrary manipulation. This starts with the secretive grand jury indictment in the United States, continues with the abusive manner in which Swedish prosecutors disseminated, re-cycled and perpetuated their "preliminary investigation" into alleged sexual offences, exacerbates with the termination by Ecuador of Mr Assange's asylum status and citizenship without any form of due process, and culminates in overt bias against Mr Assange being shown by British judges since his arrest.

'The only realistic explanation for this sustained systemic failure of the judiciary is that the United States, and probably also the other involved states, are trying to make an example of Mr Assange before the eyes of the world, not as much as a punishment for whatever real or perceived harm he is alleged to have caused, but as a measure of deterrence for others who might be tempted to imitate Wikileaks and Mr Assange in the future. In these circumstances, Mr Assange has absolutely no chance to get a fair judicial proceeding in any of these jurisdictions.'

With admirable candour, Melzer explained to Democracy Now! how he had himself been influenced by the smear campaign:

'[I] had been affected by the prejudice that I had absorbed through... public... narratives spread in the media over the years. And only when I scratched the surface a little bit, I saw how little foundation there was to back this up and how much fabrication and manipulation there is in this case.'

He made the same point on Twitter:

'For the record: I never said I considered #JulianAssange "a bad actor" but that, initially, I had been affected by the same misguided smear campaign as everybody else, and only saw the real facts once I investigated in detail'

This comment instantly recalled the 'mainstream' commentators who have seemed so certain in their damning view of Assange. We thought, for example, of Guardian commentator Suzanne Moore, who said of Assange on Twitter in 2012:

'He really is the most massive turd.'

Tragicomically, Moore then commented to a colleague:

'I never met him. Did you?'

We tweeted Melzer's thoughtful tweet to Moore and two other leading lights of the Guardian's smear campaign below this message:

'If one tweet might give Guardianistas like @MarinaHyde @HadleyFreeman and @suzanne_moore pause for thought, perhaps it's this one from the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture.'

Marina Hyde responded:

'What a privilege for us ladies to be lectured on our incorrect response to a rape accusation by the men who have famously only read one book (Manufacturing Consent, and they didn't even understand aspects of that)'

Hyde was bluffing about her supposed insight into our misreading of 'Manufacturing Consent'. The late Edward Herman, the book's lead author, told us repeatedly, 'Media Lens is doing an outstanding job', often emailed us in support and regularly sent donations.

The book's co-author, Noam Chomsky, has said: 'Am really impressed with what you are doing' (Chomsky, email to Media Lens, September 14, 2005) and commented on our latest book, 'Propaganda Blitz' (Pluto Press, 2018): 'A great book. I've been recommending it.' In response to earlier dismissive remarks on Twitter in 2015, former Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald commented to us, copying to Hyde:

'Mocking you as conspiracists is how UK journalists demonstrate their in-group coolness to one another: adolescent herd behavior' (Greenwald, Twitter, 25 August 2015)

Hyde was similarly bluffing in accusing us of lecturing (in effect, 'mansplaining') – we were simply highlighting credible, new expert testimony. And she was also bluffing in making an issue of our gender: obviously, Melzer's comments stand or fall on their own merits, regardless of the gender of people recommending them. If Hyde imagines the opinion of the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture is skewed by sexist bias, then she should feel free to supply the evidence.

Sometimes, of course, gender does matter, and it is why we selected just these three Guardian commentators for inclusion in our tweet. As anyone who has been following the smear campaign knows, female journalists have been used by the Guardian and other media to lead attacks on a male political dissident facing accusations of rape; their gender helping to empower and protect the smears.

Hyde's tweet provided an excellent example - male critics can be instantly dismissed as 'lecturing' 'mansplainers', 'misogynists' and 'rape apologists'. As Chomsky has pointed out, there is very little one can do to defend against these personal attacks:

'There's no way to respond. Slinging mud always works.'

'Poisoned Junk Food' - Smirks, Giggles And Laughter

In 2013, Hyde responded to Assange's plight inside the Ecuadorian embassy with a question:

'who in all seriousness can continue to suppress the odd smirk at the thought of Assange, holed up with his sunbed and his computer and his radioactive self-regard...?'


'Many natural allies will recall the various moments at which they first realised they would have to work incredibly hard not to giggle at the WikiLeaks founder.'

Why would one of the most important, courageous and effective truth-tellers of our time merit this kind of vicious mockery? Hyde speculated that the Ecuadorian ambassador might have insisted that Assange be allowed to leave for medical treatment, because 'she had the terminal ministrations of an NHS geriatric ward in mind'. In other words, perhaps the ambassador wanted him out and even dead.

Bitter comments indeed, now that Assange really has been moved to a prison hospital. His defence lawyer, Per Samuelson, said recently that Assange's state of health was such 'that it was not possible to conduct a normal conversation with him'.

Samuelson's comments have been supported by testimony, as well as shocking photos and video, from a fellow inmate inside Belmarsh, London's highest security prison. The photos were taken of Assange before he fell ill and was moved to the prison's hospital wing last month. Nevertheless, he looks thin and much older than his actual age:

'The photos reveal a thin blue mattress within a scarce and very small cell.

'The photos of Assange himself reveal considerable weight loss since I last visited him in the Ecuadorian embassy in March.'

Over many years, the abuse has poured from Hyde's keyboard:

'Assange... the very name seems a sledgehammer hybrid of ass and angel.'


'Assange seems quite insufferable, certainly in any sort of long term.'

Hyde never tires of smirking, giggling and laughing at Assange's horrendous situation:

'If one subscribes to the view that only an ultimately insufferable narcissist could have had the balls to do what he did, then it was always going to come to this. But when so very few come out of a story well, from star to supporters, perhaps a mirthless laugh is the only option left.'

In 2016, Hyde wrote:

'for my money he looks more and more like just another guy failing to face up to a rape allegation'.

Now that the US is openly seeking Assange's extradition, having charged him with violating the Espionage Act and computer hacking, it is clear that Hyde was just plain wrong - Assange was not motivated to avoid the Swedish allegations, he was genuinely and rightly acting in fear of US extradition. Melzer commented that he believes Assange 'has a very strong case, and a very reasonable fear, that if he gets extradited to the Unites States he has no chance to get a fair trial with the level of public and official prejudice that exists there for him'.

Also in 2016, Hyde referred to the 'latest flare-up of Knightsbridge's Assange condition', as if Assange was a disease.

Her gender has not protected the actress Pamela Anderson, a high-profile supporter of Assange, from Hyde's poison pen. As part of her effort to present Assange as a ridiculous, sleazy figure, Hyde has repeatedly highlighted Anderson's background in TV. She wrote in February 2017:

'The Baywatch star and the Wikileaks founder are being coy about their closeness, stoked by vegan snacks in the confines of the Ecuadorian embassy'

In June 2017, Hyde commented:

'The former Baywatch star is in amorous mode online as she extols the virtues of her WikiLeaks hunk'

And again in May 2018:

'The ballad of Pammy and Julian Assange - her poor, mournful sea lion - The WikiLeaks emperor has been wrongly accused of so many things, says the former Baywatch star. But can their relationship survive now that the Ecuadorian embassy has cut his internet?'

We asked John Pilger for comment. He replied:

'I have known Julian Assange since he first landed in the UK. My respect for him as a journalist and free thinker and human being has grown with every landmark of his remarkable achievements and personal struggle. The arrival of WikiLeaks - as publisher and protector of whistleblowers - has revolutionised journalism while shaming those self-endowed with a divine prerogative to guard the boundaries of public knowledge; they include the lazy, the echoes, the agents of power, the over-paid poseurs.

'The authenticity and accuracy of WikiLeaks' disclosures have no equal and achieve what real journalists should aspire to, but rarely do any more. They tell the public what governments and their rapacious vested interests conceal from us. This makes the witch-hunting of Julian beyond contempt. I remember one of his media smearers, speaking to an audience of students, mocking the very idea that Julian could end up in an American Guantanamo. Today, Julian is within the grasp of a vengeful and largely lawless US system, his life at risk. Watch now how the faux-journalists have fallen silent or are writing their tweets and editorials that betray a fear that they may be next for Trump's wild west justice.

'When I visited Julian in Belmarsh prison I was astonished by his courage and resilience but I worried about his vulnerability. He is ill; there is only so much the man can take. Shame on his craven assassins. Let civilised people give him the support he deserves and to which he has every right. What he and Chelsea Manning are enduring is just the beginning of a subversion not only of journalism but of dissent and democracy itself, if we allow it.' (Email to Media Lens, 10 June 2019)

The Canary asked Melzer about the media's role in the persecution of Assange. He discussed the immense influence of the corporate media:

'This enormous power comes with an equally enormous ethical responsibility. Many media outlets and individual journalists have shown a remarkable lack of critical independence and have contributed significantly to spreading abusive and deliberately distorted narratives about Mr Assange.

'When the media find it more appropriate to spread humiliating jokes about Mr Assange's cat, his skateboard and his faeces, than to challenge governments consistently refusing to hold their officials accountable for wars of aggression, corruption and serious international crimes, they demonstrate a deplorable lack of responsibility, decency and respect not only towards Mr Assange, but also towards their own readers, hearers and viewers, whom they are supposed to inform and empower. It is a bit like being served poisoned junk food at a restaurant – a betrayal of trust with potentially serious consequences.

'First of all, we have to realize that we have all been deliberately misled about Mr Assange. The predominant image of the shady "hacker", "sex offender" and selfish "narcissist" has been carefully constructed, disseminated and recycled in order to divert attention from the extremely powerful truths he exposed, including serious crimes and corruption on the part of multiple governments and corporations.

'By making Mr Assange "unlikeable" and ridiculous in public opinion, an environment was created in which no one would feel empathy with him, very similar to the historic witch-hunts, or to modern situations of mobbing at the workplace or in school.' (Our emphasis)

According to the ProQuest media database, since Melzer reported on Assange's condition on May 31, the Guardian has mentioned his name in one article.

As Melzer says, corporate media have an astonishing power to influence what we think. We are all vulnerable to the impact of numerous, apparently independent and impartial journalists all insisting that Assange is a vile narcissist, that Jeremy Corbyn is a dangerous anti-semite, that Nicolas Maduro is a brutal dictator, that Gaddafi is planning a vast massacre, that Saddam Hussein has hidden weapons of mass destruction that pose a genuine threat to the West, that Iran is working on a 'nuclear trigger', and so on.

We are always invited to suspend disbelief – these claims could be accurate. But when a massively hyped state-corporate narrative is 'too good to be true' from the perspective of power, then we are all well-advised to suspect the consensus and look much deeper, exactly as Melzer did.


Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Auto-Pilate: The Man Who Would Be Palestine's Proconsul

Kushner as a Colonial Administrator: Let’s Talk About the ‘Israeli Model’

by Ramzy Baroud -

June 11, 2019

In a TV interview on June 2, on the news docuseries “Axios” on the HBO channel, Jared Kushner opened up regarding many issues, in which his ‘Deal of the Century’ was a prime focus.

The major revelation made by Kushner, President Donald Trump’s adviser and son-in-law, was least surprising. Kushner believes that Palestinians are not capable of governing themselves. Not surprising, because Kushner thinks he is capable of arranging the future of the Palestinian people without the inclusion of the Palestinian leadership. He has been pushing his so-called ‘Deal of the Century’ relentlessly, while including in his various meets and conferences countries such as Poland, Brazil and Croatia, but not Palestine.

Indeed, this is what transpired at the Warsaw conference on ‘peace and security’ in the Middle East. The same charade, also led by Kushner, is expected to be rebooted in Bahrain on June 25.

Much has been said about the subtle racism in Kushner’s words, reeking with the stench of old colonial discourses where the natives were seen as lesser, incapable of rational thinking beings who needed the civilized ‘whites’ of the western hemisphere to help them cope with their backwardness and inherent incompetence.

Kushner, whose credentials are merely based on his familial connections to Trump and family friendship with Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, is now poised to be the colonial administrator of old, making and enforcing the law while the hapless natives have no other option but to either accommodate or receive their due punishment.

This is not an exaggeration. In fact, according to leaked information concerning Kushner’s ‘Deal of the Century,’ and published in the Israeli daily newspaper, ‘Israel Hayom’, if Palestinian groups refuse to accept the US-Israeli diktats, “the US will cancel all financial support to the Palestinians and ensure that no country transfers funds to them.”

In the HBO interview, Kushner offered the Palestinians a lifeline. They could be considered capable of governing themselves should they manage to achieve the following: “a fair judicial system ... freedom of the press, freedom of expression, tolerance for all religions."

The fact that Palestine is an occupied country, subject in every possible way to Israel’s military law, and that Israel has never been held accountable for its 52-year occupation seems to be of no relevance whatsoever, as far as Kushner is concerned.

On the contrary, the subtext in all of what Kushner has said in the interview is that Israel is the antithesis to the unquestionable Palestinian failure. Unlike Palestine, Israel needs to do little to demonstrate its ability to be a worthy peace partner.

While the term ‘US bias towards Israel’ is as old as the state of Israel itself, what is hardly discussed is the specific of that bias, the decidedly condescending, patronizing and, often, racist view that US political classes have of Palestinians - and all Arabs and Muslims, for that matter; and the utter infatuation with Israel, which is often cited as a model for democracy, judicial transparency and successful ‘anti-terror’ tactics.

According to Kushner a ‘fair judicial system’ is a conditio sine qua non to determine a country’s ability to govern itself. But is Israeli judicial system “fair” and “democratic”?

Israel does not have a single judicial system, but two. This duality has, in fact, defined Israeli courts from the very inception of Israel in 1948. This de facto apartheid system openly differentiates between Jews and Arabs, a fact that is true in both civil and criminal law.

“Criminal law is applied separately and unequally in the West Bank, based on nationality alone (Israeli versus Palestinian), inventively weaving its way around the contours of international law in order to preserve and develop its ‘(illegal Jewish) settlement enterprise’,” Israeli scholar, Emily Omer-Man, explained in her essay ‘Separate and Unequal’.

In practice, Palestinians and Israelis who commit the exact same crime will be judged according to two different systems, with two different procedures: “The settler will be processed according to the Israeli Penal Code (while) the Palestinian will be processed according to military order.”

This unfairness is constituent of a massively unjust judicial apparatus that has defined the Israeli legal system from the onset. Take the measure of administrative detention as an example. Palestinians can be held without trial and without any stated legal justification. Tens of thousands of Palestinians have been subjected to this undemocratic ‘law’ and hundreds of them are currently held in Israeli jails.

It is ironic that Kushner raised the issue of freedom of the press, in particular, as Israel is being derided for its dismal record in that regard. Israel has reportedly committed 811 violations against Palestinian journalists since the start of the ‘March of Return’ in Gaza in March 2018. Two journalists - Yaser Murtaja and Ahmed Abu Hussein - were killed and 155 were wounded by Israeli snipers.

Like the imbalanced Israeli judicial system, targeting the press is also a part of a protracted pattern. According to a press release issued by the Palestinian Journalists Union last May, Israel has killed 102 Palestinian journalists since 1972.

The fact that Palestinian intellectuals, poets and activists have been imprisoned for Facebook and other social media posts should tell us volumes about the limits of Israel’s freedom of press and expression.

It is also worth mentioning that in June 2018, the Israeli Knesset voted for a bill that prohibits the filming of Israeli soldiers as a way to mask their crimes and shelter them from any future legal accountability.

As for freedom of religion, despite its many shortcomings, the Palestinian Authority hardly discriminates against religious minorities. The same cannot be said about Israel.

Although discrimination against non-Jews in Israel has been the raison d’être of the very idea of Israel, the Nation-State Law of July 2018 further cemented the superiority of the Jews and inferior status of everyone else.

According to the new Basic Law, Israel is “the national home of the Jewish people” only and “the right to exercise national self-determination is unique to the Jewish people.”

Palestinians do not need to be lectured on how to meet Israeli and American expectations, nor should they ever aspire to imitate the undemocratic Israeli model. What they urgently need, instead, is international solidarity to help them win the fight against Israeli occupation, racism and apartheid.

Ramzy Baroud is a journalist, author and editor of Palestine Chronicle. His latest book is The Last Earth: A Palestinian Story (Pluto Press, 2018). He earned a Ph.D. in Palestine Studies from the University of Exeter, and is a former Non-Resident Scholar at Orfalea Center for Global and International Studies, UCSB.