Mint Press News

The Secret Reason the US Is Still in Syria

Syria has drifted from the headlines, but the U.S. is still stealing their oil, occupying large swaths of their land, and economically obliterating them.

This month, UN special rapporteur Alena Douhan came back from Syria and demanded an end to all sanctions imposed by US and its allies.

In her statement, Douhan said, “The economy is hostage to a protracted economic crisis with growing inflation and frequent devaluation of the national currency” – Basically, most Syrians can do nothing but hope to survive.

These are not fighters, these are not terrorists hurling grenades at Americans. These are completely regular people who spend every day trying not to die from American sanctions. 

And you might say, “Well, that’s the Syrian government’s fault. Why don’t they just give the people what they need?”

But the Syrian government can’t help their people because the U.S. and our allies have made sure they can’t help their people. Washington has cut most Syrians off from the food, medicine and raw materials they need to live.

It’s tough to overstate how bad things are in Syria. According to Douhan, “90 percent of all Syrians today are forced to live below the poverty line with around 12 million grappling with severe food insecurity.”

We have proof that sanctions kill thousands, if not millions. They even cause immense death and suffering when done internally. When economic war is waged against a country’s own citizens, it has a different name. It’s called “austerity.”

A landmark study in 2017 found the conservative U.K. government committed “economic murder.” The study linked the country’s austerity programs to 120,000 deaths in just a few years. If that many people are murdered by cuts to welfare and healthcare, just imagine the number of deaths of innocent people caused by not even having clean water in Syria.

Similarly, a former UN rapporteur on human rights said in 2020 that American sanctions on Venezuela had killed 100,000 people.

Last year, the UN human rights council demanded an end to all unilateral sanctions. They said, “Punishment of ‘innocent civilians’ through government sanctions must end.”

The UN statement continues, “The experts underscored that people in targeted countries like Venezuela, Cuba, Syria and Iran, sink into poverty because they cannot get essential services like electricity, housing, water, gas and fuel, let alone medicine and food.”

Watch the full report above to find out what the US actually wants in Syria.

Lee Camp is an American stand-up comedian, writer, actor and activist. Camp is the host of Behind The Headlines’ new series: The Most Censored News With Lee Camp. He is a former comedy writer for the Onion and the Huffington Post and has been a touring stand-up comic for 20 years.

The post The Secret Reason the US Is Still in Syria appeared first on MintPress News.

UN Resolution 181: 75 Years of Myth Making and False Israeli Legitimacy

Seventy-Five years after the United Nations’ fatal decision to partition Palestine, the carnage and oppression of Palestinians by those who would claim they represent the Jewish people continues – and it promises to get much worse.

Some claim that Zionism came to save the Jewish people from another Holocaust, that they speak for defenseless Jews so that they will never again have to endure a genocide the likes of the Nazi genocide of the Jews in Europe. But these assertions are merely excuses to allow the Zionist regime to exercise its cruelty and brutality without interruption.

The United Nations Partition Resolution or Resolution 181 of November 1947 brought about the first attacks against Palestinians and opened the door to the brutality of forced exile. Terrorist attacks and massacres that lasted well into the 1950s forced close to one million Palestinians to leave their country or die. Yet the world stood silent and allowed this unforgivable tragedy to unfold.

 

Legitimacy

What makes it possible for the Zionist anti-Palestinian campaign to continue to this day is the fact that Zionist terrorism was in fact hailed as heroism. The myth that the Zionist killers were heroes who freed their country and liberated their people after two thousand years was perpetuated even though it was well-known that it was a lie.

The international community legitimized the conquest and consequent destruction of Palestine and the establishment of a violent, racist anti-Palestinian, Anti-Arab apartheid regime called Israel. The State of Israel, which stole the land and its riches, was now welcomed by the international community as a legitimate actor in the global arena.

An estimated 12,000 persons sit in Madison Square Garden to attend an “emergency rally for Israel” on Feb. 25, 1957 to protest sanctions against Israel proposed by the UN. Matty Zimmerman | AP

Once the first wave of ethnic cleansing of Palestine came to a pause in the early 1950s, the newly established state began planning its next war against Egypt. Fearing peace as one might fear the plague, Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion was busy building a coalition to attack Egypt. Although it took him a few years to build a coalition that would go along with his plan, he succeeded in launching an unwarranted attack against Egypt.

As the 1960s rolled in, the State of Israel was again planning for war. This time, they coveted the Syrian Golan Heights. Again, though it took several years, Israel was able to engage in a war that left the Golan Heights in its hands.

 

Never enough

While the Zionists celebrated UN resolution 181 and rightfully saw it as a diplomatic victory, it was not enough. The Zionists wanted more. And indeed, by 1949, they had almost 80% of Palestine in their hands, with the vast majority of Palestinians out. But that was not enough. As early as the 1950s, my father who was then a young Lieutenant Colonel, said in a speech in front of American Jewish leaders and the Prime Minister of Israel, “The IDF is waiting for the order to push the eastern boundary of Israel to its natural location, the Jordan River.”

In 1967 my father was among the generals who demanded this order be given and then lead the war to make it happen. By 1967 the Zionists had all of historic Palestine in their hands and the single state was the reality in Palestine: it was the State of Israel.

Throughout this time, control of the land was insufficient. Israel needed to deepen its claims to the land, and so all signs of Palestinian history and heritage had to go. Israel went on a campaign to destroy Palestinian historical monuments and cemeteries and anything that might remind people of their rich history. Instead, Israel developed the Zionist myth of a direct link between modern Israel and the ancient tribe of the Hebrews, who lived in Palestine thousands of years ago.

Furthermore, Palestinian existence was seen as a threat to Israel, particularly to its legitimacy. Since its establishment, Israel passed laws that made Palestinian existence all but illegal and impossible. By enacting racist laws and policies, Israel created limits on where Palestinians can live, work, and study, where they may travel, how much water they may receive and what lands they may cultivate.

 

Amnesia

The world – and particularly Europe – must have suffered from amnesia, because for centuries they were conducting trade with Palestine. Yet somehow after Israel was established, Palestine was forgotten and forsaken, and everyone bought into the Zionist mythology. The legitimacy of Israel and the adherence to Israeli mythology became like a second religion, and no one dared to stray from it for fear of the Zionist wrath.

The ruins of a building in Nablus which the British blew up, alleging it was used by Arab snipers on Jan. 12, 1937. Photo | AP

Anyone who does stray from the Zionist line is immediately attacked with accusations of anti-Semitism and banished, but this is only possible because rather than fight back and resist the Zionist bullying, people bow their heads and let themselves be bullied.

 

Seventy-Five Years later

Now, 75 years after that fateful decision by the United Nations, the killing and destruction continue. Israel promotes itself as a “miracle” and a “success story,” but in reality it is a tale of theft and dispossession. Israel claims to be a story of a nation reborn, but it is in fact a nation destroyed. It claims to have made the desert bloom when, in fact, it stole a blossoming country. Israel asserts it has created a safe haven. But, in reality, it has developed a ruthless apartheid regime that has outdone others in its cruelty and its efficiency.

As we look back at the last 75 years it is clear that the United Nations (and especially countries such as Britain, Germany and the United States) are culpable, and must be held accountable for the terrible crimes they supported – and continue to fully support – against the Palestinian people.

We need to look at the history of Palestine in order to appreciate its potential future. Commerce, learning, culture, religion, philosophy, architecture, were all part of the legacy of this land and its people, as was tolerance. The current chapter of Palestine is marked by pain, suffering and racism, and hopefully, it will end soon. With any luck, when Palestine is liberated and its people are free to enjoy its wonders and live free, the chapter known as “Israel” will be remembered as a short, sad chapter.

Feature photo | David Ben Gurion, left, signs a document in Tel Aviv, Palestine, proclaiming the new Jewish State of Israel in Tel Aviv at midnight on May 14, 1948. Photo | AP

Miko Peled is MintPress News contributing writer, published author and human rights activist born in Jerusalem. His latest books are”The General’s Son. Journey of an Israeli in Palestine,” and “Injustice, the Story of the Holy Land Foundation Five.”

The post UN Resolution 181: 75 Years of Myth Making and False Israeli Legitimacy appeared first on MintPress News.

Deliberate Ambiguity: Israel’s Nukes Are the Greatest Threat to the Middle East

As western countries are floating the theory that Russia could escalate its conflict with Ukraine to a nuclear war, many western governments continue to turn a blind eye to Israel’s own nuclear weapons capabilities. Luckily, many countries around the world do not subscribe to this endemic western hypocrisy.

‘The Conference on the Establishment of a Middle East Zone Free of Nuclear Weapons and Other Weapons of Mass Destruction’ was held between November 14-18, with the sole purpose of creating new standards of accountability that, as should have always been the case, be applied equally to all Middle Eastern countries.

The debate regarding nuclear weapons in the Middle East could not possibly be any more pertinent or urgent. International observers rightly note that the period following the Russia-Ukraine war is likely to accelerate the quest for nuclear weapons throughout the world. Considering the seemingly perpetual state of conflict in the Middle East, the region is likely to witness nuclear rivalry as well.

For years, Arab and other countries attempted to raise the issue that accountability regarding the development and acquisition of nuclear weapons cannot be confined to states that are perceived to be enemies of Israel and the West.

The latest of these efforts was a United Nations resolution that called on Israel to dispose of its nuclear weapons, and to place its nuclear facilities under the monitoring of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Resolution number A/C.1/77/L.2, which was drafted by Egypt with the support of other Arab countries, passed with an initial vote of 152-5. Unsurprisingly, among the five countries that voted against the draft were the United States, Canada and, of course, Israel itself.

US and Canadian blind support of Tel Aviv notwithstanding, what compels Washington and Ottawa to vote against a draft entitled: “The risk of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East”? Keeping in mind the successive right-wing extremist governments that have ruled over Israel for many years, Washington must understand that the risk of using nuclear weapons under the guise of fending off an ‘existential threat’ is a real possibility.

Since its inception, Israel has resorted to, and utilized the phrase ‘existential threat’ countless times. Various Arab governments, later Iran and even individual Palestinian resistance movements were accused of endangering Israel’s very existence. Even the non-violent Palestinian civil society-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Movement was accused by then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in 2015 of being an existential threat to Israel. Netanyahu claimed that the boycott movement was “not connected to our actions; it is connected to our very existence.”



This should worry everyone, not just in the Middle East, but the whole world. A country with such hyped sensitivity about imagined ‘existential threats’ should not be allowed to acquire the kind of weapons that could destroy the entire Middle East, several times over.

Some may argue that Israel’s nuclear arsenal was intrinsically linked to real fears resulting from its historical conflict with the Arabs. However, this is not the case. As soon as Israel finalized its ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from their historic homeland, and long before any serious Arab or Palestinian resistance was carried out in response, Israel was already on the lookout for nuclear weapons.

As early as 1949, the Israeli army had found uranium deposits in the Negev Desert, leading to the establishment, in 1952, of the very secretive Israel Atomic Energy Commission (IAEC).

In 1955, the US government sold Israel a nuclear research reactor.  But that was not enough. Eager to become a full nuclear power, Tel Aviv resorted to Paris in 1957. The latter became a major partner in Israel’s sinister nuclear activities when it helped the Israeli government construct a clandestine nuclear reactor near Dimona in the Negev Desert.

The father of the Israeli nuclear program at the time was none other than Shimon Peres who, ironically, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994. The Dimona Nuclear Reactor is now named ‘Shimon Peres Nuclear Research Center-Negev’.

With no international monitoring whatsoever, thus with zero legal accountability, Israel’s nuclear quest continues until this day. In 1963, Israel purchased 100 tons of uranium ore from Argentina, and it is strongly believed that during the October 1973 Israel-Arab war, Israel “came close to making a nuclear preemptive strike”, according to Richard Sale, writing in United Press International (UPI).

Currently, Israel is believed to have “enough fissionable material to fabricate 60-300 nuclear weapons,” according to former US Army Officer Edwin S. Cochran.

Estimates vary, but the facts about Israel’s weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) are hardly contested. Israel itself practices what is known as ‘deliberate ambiguity’, as to send a message to its enemies of its lethal power, without revealing anything that may hold it accountable to international inspection.

What we know about Israel’s nuclear weapons has been made possible partly because of the bravery of a former Israeli nuclear technician Mordechai Vanunu, a whistleblower who was held in solitary confinement for a decade due to his courage in exposing Israel’s darkest secrets.

Still, Israel refuses to sign the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), endorsed by 191 countries.

Israeli leaders adhere to what is known as the ‘Begin Doctrine’, in reference to Menachem Begin, the rightwing Israeli prime minister who invaded Lebanon in 1982, resulting in the killing of thousands. The doctrine is formulated around the idea that, while Israel gives itself the right to own nuclear weapons, its enemies in the Middle East must not. This belief continues to direct Israeli actions to this day.

The US support for Israel is not confined to ensuring the latter has ‘military edge’ over its neighbors in terms of traditional weapons, but to also ensure Israel remains the region’s only superpower, even if that entails escaping international accountability for the development of WMDs.

The collective efforts by Arab and other countries at the UNGA to create a Middle East Zone Free of Nuclear Weapons are welcomed initiatives. It behooves everyone, Washington included, to join the rest of the world in finally forcing Israel to join the Non-Proliferation Treaty, a first but critical step towards long-delayed accountability.

Feature photo | This Sept. 29, 1971, spy satellite photograph later declassified by the U.S. government, shows what now is known as the Shimon Peres Negev Nuclear Research Center near the city of Dimona, Israel. Photo | U.S. Center for Earth Resources Observation and Science via AP | Editing by MintPress News

Dr. Ramzy Baroud is a journalist, author and the Editor of The Palestine Chronicle. He is the author of six books. His latest book, co-edited with Ilan Pappé, is ‘Our Vision for Liberation: Engaged Palestinian Leaders and Intellectuals Speak out’. His other books include ‘My Father was a Freedom Fighter’ and ‘The Last Earth’. Baroud is a Non-resident Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA). His website is www.ramzybaroud.net

The post Deliberate Ambiguity: Israel’s Nukes Are the Greatest Threat to the Middle East appeared first on MintPress News.

Itamar Ben-Gvir’s Appointment as Minister for National Security is Bad News For Palestinians, Humanity.

The racist thug Itamar Ben-Gvir has not yet set foot in his new office as Minister of National Security, but the effects of his rise to power have already been felt throughout Palestine. As I write these words, Palestinian human rights activist Issa Amro was arrested by the Israeli Army. He recently published a video showing an IDF soldier attacking and beating an Israeli activist in the city of Al-Khalil (also known as Hebron). The actions of the soldier and the sudden unwarranted arrest of Issa are signs of things to come.

From Al-Khalil, Issa runs Youth Against Settlements, one of the most important and effective grassroots organizations in Palestine. His life has been threatened many times by soldiers and by Israeli settlers, and now the pressure on him is worse than ever before. He is not alone, as has been said many times recently, the safety and security of Palestinians is in grave danger, more than ever before.

One has to wonder how many more warnings will it take before the world intervenes to protect Palestinians. Israeli sources confirm that Itamar Ben-Gvir, a student of hate-mongering, anti-Arab racist Meir Kahane – a man who has publicly stated his admiration for the mass murderer Baruch Goldstein who massacred Palestinian worshipers at the Ibrahimi Mosque in Al-Khalil – will be Israel’s minister of national security. Benny Gantz, the outgoing Israeli minister of defense, described the situation as, “Netanyahu allowing Ben-Gvir to create his own army in the West Bank.”

The position of Minister of National Security is a new post created specifically for Ben-Gvir. It is an appointment that will give him unprecedented power; he will have control over the lives of Palestinian citizens of Israel, as well as those living in Jerusalem and the West Bank. This position includes control over the Border Police, who deal primarily with Palestinians. He will have control of the so-called “Green Brigade,” and the “Green Police,” two agencies that directly deal with Palestinian “environmental” violations, a code word used to describe actions taken by Palestinian citizens of Israel, Palestinians who hold a Jerusalem ID or Palestinian residents of the districts Israel designates as “Area C”.

The Border Police have several brigades that operate in the West Bank, with an estimated personnel of 2,000. An additional 4,000-5,000 are in reserves. Currently, they are funded by and under the command of the IDF. The reason Ben-Gvir wants this enormous force under his control is because part of their mandate is the evacuation of the settler outposts. These outposts are in fact settlements that are yet to be officially recognized or authorized by the government, and from time to time the army actually needs to evaluate them.

The Border Police are particularly violent. And while no one cares when they apply their violence towards Palestinians, there have been cases where even Israeli have settlers complained of excessive use of force. These settlers are Ben-Givr’s foot-soldiers. Therefore, he wants to control the Border Police who enforce the law when they break it.

 

Ben Gvir will fix everything

Issa Amro recently published video of an encounter he had with a soldier at an Al-Khalil checkpoint. “That’s it, you are fucked, you and your activities, the whorehouse you are operating here are now finished,” the soldier says. “What activities?” Issa asked, “Am I breaking any laws?” “Yes you are. You are breaking all the laws, I make the laws here,” this twenty-year-old corporal said, adding, “Now get away from here.”

One has to be deeply concerned by the fact that approximately 30% of soldiers voted for Ben-Gvir’s racist anti-Arab party.

As this video was making its way through social media, another video showed a soldier in Al-Khalil beating an Israeli activist. This soldier, who I had confronted in the past, threw an Israeli activist on the ground and punched him in the face. All this was in front of the cameras and as other activists and soldiers were watching. The Israeli papers all carried the story and posted the video.

 

Death to Arabs

Although Ben-Gvir himself is careful not to allow this chant when he is present, his followers show no such restraint. Ben-Gvir insists they chant “Death to terrorists” instead, but, in his circles, “terrorist” is often a code word for “Arabs”.

A march in the Old City of Jerusalem from earlier this month makes this clear. Video show young settlers marching through Muslim-majority neighborhoods chanting “Death to Arabs, death to enemies” and “No Arabs, no terrorism.”

A short list of worrying events that have taken place since the Israeli elections includes the following:

• Issa Amro’s settler neighbors in the old city of Al-Khalil terrorize him by throwing rocks at his house and at the Youth Against Settlements offices. This is not new, but incidents such as these have been on the rise.

• Palestinians who left their house for a few hours to attend a funeral had settlers take over their home and move in.

• Hamdallah Badir, a Palestinian doctor in the Israeli town of Kiryat Malachi, was attacked for being an Arab.

• In the small towns of Abu Ghosh and Ein Nakuba, two towns on the outskirts of Jerusalem that are heavily frequented by Israelis who come to dine at their restaurants and shop at their stores, there were arson attacks and graffiti calling for the expulsion of Arabs.

 

Will Israelis act?

Former IDF chief General Dan Halutz warned in a recent interview that the appointment of Ben-Gvir to minister of national security would lead to civil war among Israelis. This is not a likely scenario for two reasons: The first is that too many Israelis actually agree with Ben-Gvir, even if they did not vote for him directly. The second reason is that the Israelis who do not agree with him do not possess the conviction it takes to fight a man like him.

General Halutz also mentioned that, “Ben Gvir, who the IDF declined to draft due to his far-right activities even as a teenager, has experienced a surge in popularity.”  When Benjamin Netanyahu was opposition leader, he said Ben Gvir could be in his coalition but that he was “not fit” for ministerial office. Now it is confirmed that he will be minister of national security, a post created especially for him.

It did not take long for Palestinians to feel the repercussions of the election results. How many more will be terrorized, detained, tortured, and killed no one knows. How many more will lose their homes and property and how wild will Israeli youth and soldiers become now that they are empowered, no one knows. What is certain is that Palestinians will pay the price, and thus far no one has stepped up to protect them.

Feature photo | Leader of the ultranationalist party Otzma Yehudity ( Jewish Strength ) Itamar Ben-Gvir speaks to supporters in Jerusalem after hearing the results of the exit polls giving his party 14 seats in the parliament. Eyal Warshavsky | Sipa via AP Images

Miko Peled is MintPress News contributing writer, published author and human rights activist born in Jerusalem. His latest books are”The General’s Son. Journey of an Israeli in Palestine,” and “Injustice, the Story of the Holy Land Foundation Five.”

The post Itamar Ben-Gvir’s Appointment as Minister for National Security is Bad News For Palestinians, Humanity. appeared first on MintPress News.

​​Symbolic but Significant: Why the Decision to Investigate Abu Akleh’s Murder is Unprecedented

The recent decision by the United States Department of Justice to open an investigation into the killing, last May, of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh is not a game-changer, but important and worthy of reflection, nonetheless.

Based on the long trajectory of US military and political support of Israel, and Washington’s constant shielding of Tel Aviv from any accountability for its illegal occupation of Palestine, one can confidently conclude that there will not be any actual investigation.

A real investigation into the killing of Abu Akleh could open up a Pandora’s box of other findings pertaining to Israel’s many other illegal practices and violations of international – and even US – law. For example, the US investigators would have to look into the Israeli use of US-supplied weapons and munitions, which are used daily to suppress Palestinian protests, confiscate Palestinian land, impose military sieges on civilian areas and so on. The US Leahy Law specifically prohibits “the US Government from using funds for assistance to units of foreign security forces where there is credible information implicating that unit in the commission of gross violations of human rights.”

Moreover, an investigation would also mean accountability, if it concludes that Abu Akleh, a US citizen, was deliberately killed by an Israeli soldier, as several human rights groups have already concluded.

That, too, is implausible. In fact, one of the main pillars that define US-Israeli relationship is that the former serves the role of the protector of the latter at the international stage. Every Palestinian, Arab or international attempt at investigating Israeli crimes has decisively failed simply because Washington systematically blocked every potential investigation under the pretense that Israel is capable of investigating itself, alleging at times that any attempt to hold Israel accountable is a witch hunt that is tantamount to antisemitism.

According to Axios, this was the gist of the official Israeli response to the US decision to open an investigation into the murder of the Palestinian journalist. “Our soldiers will not be investigated by the FBI or by any other foreign country or entity,” outgoing Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid said, adding: “We will not abandon our soldiers to foreign investigations.”

Though Lapid’s is the typical Israeli response, it is quite interesting – if not shocking – to see it used in a context involving an American investigation. Historically, such language was reserved for investigations by the United Nations Human Rights Council, and by international law judges, the likes of Richard Falk, Richard Goldstone and Michael Lynk. Time and again, such investigations were conducted or blocked without any Israeli cooperation and under intense American pressure.

In 2003, the scope of Israeli intransigence and US blind support of Israel reached the point of pressuring the Belgian government to rewrite its own domestic laws to dismiss a war crimes case against late Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon.

Moreover, despite relentless efforts by many US-based rights groups to investigate the murder of an American activist, Rachel Corrie, the US refused to even consider the case, relying instead on Israel’s own courts, which exonerated the Israeli soldier who drove a bulldozer over the body of 23-year-old Corrie in 2003, for simply urging him not to demolish a Palestinian home in Gaza.

Worse still, in 2020, the US government went as far as sanctioning International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda and other senior prosecution officials who were involved in the investigation of alleged US and Israeli war crimes in Afghanistan and Palestine.

All of this in mind, one must then ask questions regarding the timing and the motives of the US investigation.

Axios revealed that the decision to investigate the killing of Abu Akleh was “made before the November 1 elections in Israel, but the Justice Department officially notified the Israeli government three days after the elections.” In fact, the news was only revealed to the media on November 14, following both Israel and US elections on November 1 and 8, respectively.

Officials in Washington were keen on communicating the point that the decision was not political, and neither was it linked to avoiding angering the pro-Israeli lobby in Washington days before the US elections nor to influencing the outcomes of Israel’s own elections. If that is the case, then why did the US wait until November 14 to leak the news? The delay suggests serious backdoor politics and massive Israeli pressure to dissuade the US from making the announcement public, thus making it impossible to reverse the decision.

Knowing that a serious investigation will most likely not take place, the US decision must have been reasoned in advance to be a merely political one. Maybe symbolic and ultimately inconsequential, the unprecedented and determined US decision was predicated on solid reasoning:

First, US President Joe Biden had a difficult experience managing the political shenanigans of then-Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during his time as vice president in the Obama Administration (2009-2017). Now that Netanyahu is poised to return to the helm of Israeli politics, the Biden Administration is in urgent need of political leverage over Tel Aviv, with the hope of controlling the extremist tendencies of the Israeli leader and his government.

Second, the failure of the Republican so-called ‘Red Wave’ from marginalizing Democrats as a sizable political and legislative force in the US Congress has further emboldened the Biden Administration to finally reveal the news about the investigation – that is if we are to believe that the decision was indeed made in advance.

Third, the strong showing of Palestinian and pro-Palestinian candidates in the US Mid-term Elections – in both national and state legislative elections  –  further bolsters the progressive agenda within the Democratic Party. Even a symbolic decision to investigate the killing of a US citizen represents a watershed moment in the relationship between the Democratic Party establishment and its more progressive grassroots constituencies. In fact, re-elected Palestinian Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib was very quick to respond to the news of the investigation, describing it as “the first step towards real accountability”.

Though the US investigation of Abu Akleh’s murder is unlikely to result in any kind of justice, it is a very important moment in US-Israeli and US-Palestinian relationships. It simply means that, despite the entrenched and blind US support for Israel, there are margins in US policy that can still be exploited, if not to reverse US backing of Israel, at least to weaken the supposedly ‘unbreakable bond’ between the two countries.

Feature photo | An Arab citizen of Israel passes by a poster of slain Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh , who was killed while covering an Israeli military raid in Jenin in May. Photo | Ilia Yefimovich | Dpa via AP

Ramzy Baroud is a journalist and the Editor of The Palestine Chronicle. He is the author of five books. His latest is “These Chains Will Be Broken: Palestinian Stories of Struggle and Defiance in Israeli Prisons” (Clarity Press, Atlanta). Dr. Baroud is a Non-resident Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA), Istanbul Zaim University (IZU). His website is www.ramzybaroud.net

The post ​​Symbolic but Significant: Why the Decision to Investigate Abu Akleh’s Murder is Unprecedented appeared first on MintPress News.

Xi vs Trudeau: How China is Rewriting History with the Colonial West

Though brief, the exchange between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Indonesia on November 16 has become a social media sensation. Xi, assertive if not domineering, lectured the visibly apprehensive Trudeau about the etiquette of diplomacy. This exchange can be considered another watershed moment in China’s relationship with the West.

“If there was sincerity on your part,” the Chinese President told Trudeau, “then we shall conduct our discussion with an attitude of mutual respect, otherwise there might be unpredictable consequences.”

At the end of the awkward conversation, Xi was the first to walk away, leaving Trudeau uncomfortably making his way out of the room.

For the significance of this moment to be truly appreciated, it has to be viewed through a historical prism.

When western colonial powers began the process of exploiting China in earnest – early to mid-19th century – the total size of the Chinese economy was estimated to be one-third of the world’s entire economic output. In 1949, when Chinese nationalists managed to win their independence following hundreds of years of colonialism, political meddling and economic exploitation, China’s total GDP merely accounted for 4 percent of the world’s total economy.

In the period between the first Opium War in 1839 and China’s independence, over a hundred years later, tens of millions of Chinese perished as a result of direct wars, subsequent rebellions and famines. The so-called Boxer Rebellion (1899-1901) was one of the many desperate attempts by the Chinese people to reclaim a degree of independence and assert nominal sovereignty over their land. The outcome, however, was devastating, as the rebels, along with the Chinese military, were crushed by the mostly Western alliance, which involved the United States, Austria-Hungary, Britain, France and others.

The death toll was catastrophic, with moderate estimations putting it at over 100,000. And subsequently, once more, China was forced to toe the line as it has done in the two Opium Wars and many other occasions in the past.

China’s independence in 1949 did not automatically signal the return of China to its past grandeur as a global, or even an Asian power. The process of rebuilding was long, costly and sometimes even devastating: Trials and errors, internal conflicts, cultural revolutions, periods of ‘great leaps forward’ but sometimes, also great stagnation.

Seven decades later, China is back at the center of global affairs. Good news for some. Terrible news for others.

The 2022 US National Security Strategy document released on October 22, describes China as “the only competitor with both the intent to reshape the international order and, increasingly, the economic, diplomatic, military and technological power to do it.”

The US position is not at all surprising, because the West continues to define its relationship with Beijing based on a colonial inheritance, a legacy that spans hundreds of years.

For the West, the re-rise of China is problematic, not because of its human rights record but because of its growing share of the global economy which, in 2021, accounted for 18.56%. This economic power, coupled with growing military prowess, practically means that Beijing will soon be able to dictate political outcomes in its growing sphere of influence in the Pacific region, and also worldwide.

The irony in all of this is that, once upon a time, it was China, along with most of Asia and the Global South that were divided into spheres of influence. Seeing Beijing creating its own equivalence to the West’s geopolitical dominance must be quite unsettling for Western governments.

For many years, Western powers have used the pretense of China’s human rights record to provide a moral foundation for meddling. Purporting to defend human rights and champion democracy have historically been convenient Western tools that provided a nominal ethical foundation for interventions. Indeed, in the Chinese context, the Eight-Nations Alliance, which crushed the Boxer Rebellion, was predicated on similar principles.

The charade continues until this day, with the defense of Taiwan and the rights of the Uyghurs and other minorities being placed on top of the US and Western agendas respectively.

Of course, human rights have very little to do with the US-Western attitude towards China. As much as  ‘human rights’ and ‘democracy’ were hardly the motivator behind the US-Western invasion of Iraq in 2003. The difference between Iraq, an isolated and weakened Arab country at the height of American military dominance in the Middle East, and China today is massive. The latter represents the backbone of the global economy. Its military power and growing geopolitical import will prove difficult – if at all possible – to curtail.

In fact, language emanating from Washington indicates that the US is taking the first steps in acknowledging China’s inevitable rise as a global competitor. Prior to his meeting with President Xi in Indonesia on November 15, Biden had finally, although subtly acknowledged the uncontested new reality when he said that “We’re going to compete vigorously but I’m not looking for conflict. I’m looking to manage this competition responsibly.”

Xi’s attitude towards Trudeau at the G20 summit may be read as another episode of China’s so-called ‘Wolf Diplomacy’. However, the dramatic event – the words, the body language and the subtle nuances – indicate that China does not only see itself as deserving of global importance and respect, but also as a superpower.

Feature photo | MintPress News

Dr. Ramzy Baroud is a journalist, author and the Editor of The Palestine Chronicle. He is the author of six books. His latest book, co-edited with Ilan Pappé, is ‘Our Vision for Liberation: Engaged Palestinian Leaders and Intellectuals Speak out’. His other books include ‘My Father was a Freedom Fighter’ and ‘The Last Earth’. Baroud is a Non-resident Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA). His website is www.ramzybaroud.net

The post Xi vs Trudeau: How China is Rewriting History with the Colonial West appeared first on MintPress News.

Settler Pogroms Against Palestinians Will Become the Norm Under New Israeli Government

Saturday, November 19, 2022, was according to Jewish tradition Shabat Chayei Sarah – the Shabbos, or Saturday commemorating the death and burial of the biblical matriarch Sarah. In the biblical story, her husband Abraham purchased her burial plot in the ancient city of Al-Khalil. According to Rabbi Yaakov Shapiro, the “commemoration” events that Al-Khalil has been subjected to over the last few decades have nothing to do with Jewish tradition, only, “Zionist Embellishments.”

Al-Khalil, or Hebron in Hebrew, is the largest city in the West Bank, with close to a quarter of a million residents. The Old City part of Al-Khalil, also known as H-2, is a beautiful place, with narrow alleyways and architecture that bears witness to the centuries of grandeur it enjoys, the fourth-holiest city in Islamic tradition. Around 25,000 Palestinians and close to 800 Jewish settlers live in the old city. The settlers are vile, racist and violent to a point where 800 of them are able to terrorize thousands of their Palestinian neighbors.

Besides that, there is a massive military presence in the Old City of Al-Khalil. This military presence includes at least one full combat brigade which monitors the more than five hundred checkpoints and movement barriers that exist within one square kilometer or approximately 0.4 square miles of the city. The military is there to assist the settlers, not protect the Palestinian civilians who they are constantly terrorizing.

 

Thirty Thousand settlers

The “settler” community is a deeply racist, anti-Palestinian movement that had appeared on the scene after the Israeli attack on its neighbors of 1967, and the consequent occupation of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem. This conquest was marketed as an act of the almighty, and a movement of thousands of religious Zionist zealots began invading the West Bank. Al-Khalil was one of their first targets, and they were successful in establishing a city for themselves on the lands of Al-Khalil called Kiryat Arba.

Today, this settler movement mobilizes its people to wherever they want in order to terrorize Palestinians. In May 2021, they sent hundreds of their members to the occupied city of El-Lyd where they rioted and terrorized Palestinian residents of the city. During the attack, they murdered Musa Hassuna, a 31-year-old truck driver, whose family I met. They also rioted and attacked Palestinians in Bi’r Saba in the Naqab and tried to invade local Palestinian Bedouin communities, but were pushed back.

Last weekend, 30,000 settlers converged on the city of Al-Khalil where they, along with the Israeli military, proceeded to terrorize local Palestinians. Even as they invaded Palestinian homes, destroyed shops and attacked people in the streets, the Israeli army was ordering Palestinians to close their shops and leave the area, thus permitting the Israeli setters to riot without interruption.

Anyone who has been to Al-Kalil and particularly to H-2 knows how small and crowded it is. To imagine thirty thousand racist thugs with a license to destroy anything in their path is a terrifying image. And yet there they were.

 

The first of many

The Israeli media described what happened in Al-Khalil as a pogrom. Pogroms were known as murderous riots perpetrated against Jews throughout Eastern Europe and usually resulted with entire communities destroyed and countless dead. This riot in Al-Khalil was by no means the first riot by the settler movement. It was, however, the first open riot since the Israeli elections. The election results gave the leaders of the settler movement unprecedented power, and it is expected that they will now be given influential cabinet and sub-cabinet positions, as well as control over important parliamentary committees and appropriation of government funds. This means more money and more licenses than ever before to build and to displace Palestinians.

One portfolio they are demanding is a new government office titled, “The Negev, Galilee and the Periphery.” If they do receive this, it will mean control over areas within 1948 Palestine, where there are still large Palestinian communities.

Their new-found power is also a sign for their base to continue and escalate their vigilantism on the ground, killing, destroying property and generally terrorizing Palestinians everywhere. Other areas where we see members of this movement rioting freely is in the northern West Bank around Za’atara Junction which leads to the cities of Nablus and Jenin.

In that area surrounding Za’atara Junction are towns like the tiny and incredibly beautiful village of Yanoun and the larger town of Akraba, with close to twenty thousand people. All Palestinian communities in that area have seen settler violence and rioting, and they can expect to see a great deal more violence now that the elections have given them a boost. Similarly, the cities of Lyd, Ramle and Yafa as well as the Naqab are all in grave danger.

 

No security provided for Palestinians

The main point to be taken from the results of the Israeli elections is that the lives of Palestinian have never been in more danger than they are now. If one could assume that the reality for Palestinians will continue to be as it has, as one Israeli historian called it, a slow genocide, now it is clear this is not going to be the case. The Israeli politicians who are expected to be in the coalition – people like Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich – want the Palestinians out or dead. They will act with greater authority to accomplish the full ethnic cleansing of Palestine, as well as the destruction of Al-Aqsa Mosque and the erection of a so-called Jewish temple in its place.

They demand full control of the budgets and policymaking regarding Palestinians throughout the country. They want an easing of the rules of engagement vis-à-vis the Palestinians and the death penalty for all Palestinian political prisoners. They also call for what they term “stronger governance” over the Palestinian population – a code word for tighter control, more expulsions, home demolitions, arrests, torture and killing.

Palestinians are provided no security, no safety and no protection by anyone. The Israeli authorities are certainly not going to provide security or protection for Palestinians who are terrorized by the army or by groups of Israeli Jewish vigilante gangs. The international community is unwilling to intervene, and the United Nations has no means of enforcing its resolutions regarding Israel.

So who may Palestinians turn to as the violence against them increases? One particularly disturbing video posted on Twitter during the riots in Al-Khalil shows a young Palestinian man, Yousef Azza from Tel-Rumeida, in the Old city of Hebron running to get help. Settlers invaded his home and attacked his mother and sisters. He tried to approach the soldiers, and his fury and fear are evident as he fails to find help.

Just as Yousef Azza tried in vain, so do Palestinians everywhere try in vain to seek help from Israeli authorities, the Israeli public, the international community and the various non-governmental organizations that operate in Palestine. However, there is no entity that is willing to step in to save Palestinians as they continue to be terrorized by Zionist gangs.

Feature photo | A Jewish settler carries a weapon by the main entrance to the Palestinian city of Nablus in the northern West Bank, October 04, 2022. Ilia Yefimovich | DPA via AP Images

Miko Peled is MintPress News contributing writer, published author and human rights activist born in Jerusalem. His latest books are”The General’s Son. Journey of an Israeli in Palestine,” and “Injustice, the Story of the Holy Land Foundation Five.”

The post Settler Pogroms Against Palestinians Will Become the Norm Under New Israeli Government appeared first on MintPress News.

Liberating Africa from Poverty Requires Changing Power Relations with the West 

Soon after arriving in Oslo, my taxi zigzagged through the city’s well-organized streets and state-of-the-art infrastructure. Large billboards advertised the world’s leading brands in fashion, cars, and perfumes. Yet, amid all the expressions of wealth and plenty, an electronic sign by a bus stop flashed the images of poor-looking African children needing help.

Over the years, Norway has served as a relatively good model of meaningful humanitarian and medical aid. This is especially true compared to other self-serving western countries, where aid is often linked to direct political and military interests. Still, the public humiliation of poor, hungry and diseased Africa is still disquieting.

The same images and TV ads are omnipresent everywhere in the West. The actual tangible value of such charity aside, campaigns to help poor Africa do more than perpetuate a stereotype; they also mask the actual responsibility of why natural resource-rich Africa remains poor and why the supposed generosity of the West over the decades has done little to achieve a paradigm shift in terms of the Continent’s economic health and prosperity.

News from Africa is almost always grim. A recent ‘Save the Children’ report sums up Africa’s woes in alarming numbers: 150 million children in East and Southern Africa face the double threat of grinding poverty and the disastrous impact of climate change. The greatest harm affects the children population in South Sudan, with 87 percent, followed by Mozambique (80 percent), then Madagascar (73 percent).

The bad news from Africa, illustrated in the Save the Children report, was released soon after another report, this time by the World Bank, indicating that the international community’s hope to end extreme poverty by 2030 will not be met.

Consequently, by 2030, around 574 million people, estimated at 7 percent of the world’s total population, will continue to live in extreme poverty, relying on about two dollars a day.

Sub-Saharan Africa currently serves as the epicenter of extreme global poverty. The rate of extreme poverty in that region is about 35 percent, representing 60 percent of all extreme poverty anywhere in the world.

The World Bank suggests that the COVID-19 pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine war are the main catalysts behind the grim estimates.

Growing global inflation and the slow growth of large economies in Asia are also culprits.

But what these reports don’t tell us, and what images of starving African children don’t convey, is that much of Africa’s poverty is linked to the ongoing exploitation of the continent by its former – or current – colonial masters.

This is not to suggest that African nations have no agency of their own in contributing to their worsening situation or in challenging intervention and exploitation. However, without a united front and major change in geopolitical global balances, pushing back against neocolonialism is not an easy feat.

The Russia-Ukraine war and the global rivalry between Russia and China, on the one hand, and western countries, on the other, have encouraged some African leaders to speak out against the exploitation of Africa and the use of Africa as political fodder for global conflicts. The food crisis has been at the center of this fight.

In the late October Dakar International Forum on Peace and Security, some African leaders resisted pressure from western diplomats to toe the West’s line on the war in Ukraine.

Ironically, French minister of state Chrysoula Zacharopoulou sought “solidarity from Africa”, alleging that Russia poses an “existential threat” to Europe.

Though France continues to effectively control the currencies, thus economies of 14 different African countries – mostly in West Africa – Zacharopoulou declared that “Russia is solely responsible for this economic, energy and food crisis.”

President of Senegal Macky Sall was one of several African leaders and top diplomats who challenged the duplicitous and polarizing language.

“This is 2022. This is no longer the colonial period… so countries, even if they are poor, have equal dignity. Their problems have to be handled with respect,” he said.

It is this coveted ‘respect’ by the West that Africa lacks. The US and Europe simply expect African nations to abandon their neutral approach to global conflicts and join the West’s continued campaign for global dominance.

But why should Africa, one of the richest and most exploited continents, obey the West’s diktats?

The West’s insincerity is glaring. Its double standard didn’t escape African leaders, including Nigeria’s former president Mahamadou Issoufou. “It’s shocking for Africans to see the billions that have rained down on Ukraine while attention has been diverted from the situation in the Sahel (region),” he said in Dakar.

Following the elevated political discourse emanating from African leaders and intellectuals gives one hope that the supposedly ‘poor’ Continent is plotting an escape from the grip of western domination, though many variables would have to work in their favor to make this happen.

Africa’s existent wealth alone can fuel global growth for many years to come. But the beneficiaries of this wealth should be Africa’s sons and daughters, not the deep pockets of the West’s wealthy classes. Indeed, the time has come that Africa’s children are not paraded as charity cases in Europe, a notion that only feeds into the long-distorted power relations between Africa and the West.

Feature photo | Ethiopians protest against interference by outsiders in the country’s internal affairs and against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) at a rally organized by the city administration in the capital Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Oct. 22, 2022. Photo | AP

Dr. Ramzy Baroud is a journalist, author and the Editor of The Palestine Chronicle. He is the author of six books. His latest book, co-edited with Ilan Pappé, is ‘Our Vision for Liberation: Engaged Palestinian Leaders and Intellectuals Speak out’. His other books include ‘My Father was a Freedom Fighter’ and ‘The Last Earth’. Baroud is a Non-resident Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA). His website is www.ramzybaroud.net

The post Liberating Africa from Poverty Requires Changing Power Relations with the West  appeared first on MintPress News.

Call of Duty is a Government Psyop: These Documents Prove It

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II has been available for less than three weeks, but it is already making waves. Breaking records, within ten days, the first-person military shooter video game earned more than $1 billion in revenue. Yet it has also been shrouded in controversy, not least because missions include assassinating an Iranian general clearly based on Qassem Soleimani, a statesman and military leader slain by the Trump administration in 2020, and a level where players must shoot “drug traffickers” attempting to cross the U.S./Mexico border.

The Call of Duty franchise is an entertainment juggernaut, having sold close to half a billion games since it was launched in 2003. Its publisher, Activision Blizzard, is a giant in the industry, behind titles games as the Guitar Hero, Warcraft, Starcraft, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, Crash Bandicoot and Candy Crush Saga series.

Yet a closer inspection of Activision Blizzard’s key staff and their connections to state power, as well as details gleaned from documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, reveal that Call of Duty is not a neutral first-person shooter, but a carefully constructed piece of military propaganda, designed to advance the interests of the U.S. national security state.

 

Military-Entertainment Complex

It has long been a matter of public record that American spies have targeted and penetrated Activision Blizzard games. Documents released by Edward Snowden revealed that the NSA, CIA, FBI and Department of Defense infiltrated the vast online realms such as World of Warcraft, creating make-believe characters to monitor potential illegal activity and recruit informers. Indeed, at one point, there were so many U.S. spies in one video game that they had to create a “deconfliction” group as they were wasting time unwittingly surveilling each other. Virtual games, the NSA wrote, were an “opportunity” and a “target-rich communication network”.

However, documents obtained legally under the Freedom of Information Act by journalist and researcher Tom Secker and shared with MintPress News show that the connections between the national security state and the video game industry go far beyond this, and into active collaboration.

In September 2018, for example, the United States Air Force flew a group of entertainment executives – including Call of Duty/Activision Blizzard producer Coco Francini – to their headquarters at Hurlburt Field, Florida. The explicit reason for doing so, they wrote, was to “showcase” their hardware and to make the entertainment industry more “credible advocates” for the U.S. war machine.

“We’ve got a bunch of people working on future blockbusters (think Marvel, Call of Duty, etc.) stoked about this trip!” wrote one Air Force officer. Another email notes that the point of the visit was to provide “heavy-hitter” producers with “AFSOC [Air Force Special Operations Command] immersion focused on Special Tactics Airmen and air-to-ground capabilities.”

“This is a great opportunity to educate this community and make them more credible advocates for us in the production of any future movies/television productions on the Air Force and our Special Tactics community,” wrote the AFSOC community relations chief.

Francini and others were shown CV-22 helicopters and AC-130 planes in action, both of which feature heavily in Call of Duty games.

Yet Call of Duty collaboration with the military goes back much further. The documents show that the United States Marine Corps (USMC) was involved in the production of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 and Call of Duty 5. The games’ producers approached the USMC at the 2010 E3 entertainment convention in Los Angeles, requesting access to hovercrafts (vehicles which later appeared in the game). Call of Duty 5 executives also asked for use of a hovercraft, a tank and a C-130 aircraft.

This collaboration continued in 2012 with the release of Modern Warfare 4, where producers requested access to all manner of air and ground vehicles.

Secker told MintPress that, by collaborating with the gaming industry, the military ensures a positive portrayal that can help it reach recruitment targets, stating that,

For certain demographics of gamers it’s a recruitment portal, some first-person shooters have embedded adverts within the games themselves…Even without this sort of explicit recruitment effort, games like Call of Duty make warfare seem fun, exciting, an escape from the drudgery of their normal lives.”

Secker’s documentary, “Theaters of War: How the Pentagon and CIA Took Hollywood” was released earlier this year.

.
The military clearly held considerable influence over the direction of Call of Duty games. In 2010, its producers approached the Department of Defense (DoD) for help on a game set in 2075. However, the DoD liaison “expressed concern that [the] scenario being considered involves future war with China.” As a result, Activision Blizzard began “looking at other possible conflicts to design the game around.” In the end, due in part to military objections, the game was permanently abandoned.

 

From War on Terror to first-person shooters

Not only does Activision Blizzard work with the U.S. military to shape its products, but its leadership board is also full of former high state officials. Chief amongst these is Frances Townsend, Activision Blizzard’s senior counsel, and, until September, its chief compliance officer and executive vice president for corporate affairs.

Prior to joining Activision Blizzard, Townsend spent her life working her way up the rungs of the national security state. Previously serving as head of intelligence for the Coast Guard and as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s counterterrorism deputy, in 2004, President Bush appointed her to his Intelligence Advisory Board.

As the White House’s most senior advisor on terrorism and homeland security, Townsend worked closely with Bush and Rice, and became one of the faces of the administration’s War on Terror. One of her principal achievements was to whip the American public into a constant state of fear about the supposed threat of more Al-Qaeda attacks (which never came).

Before she joined Activision Blizzard, Frances Townsend worked in Homeland Security and Counterterrorism for the Bush White House. Ron Edmonds | AP

As part of her job, Townsend helped popularize the term “enhanced interrogation techniques” – a Bush-era euphemism for torturing detainees. Worse still, Lt. Col. Steven L. Jordan, the officer in charge of the notorious Abu Ghraib prison, alleged that Townsend put pressure on him to ramp up the torture program, reminding him “many, many times” that he needed to improve the intelligence output from the Iraqi jail.

Townsend has denied these allegations. She also later condemned the “handcuff[ing]” and “humiliation” surrounding Abu Ghraib. She was not referring to the prisoners, however. In an interview with CNN, she lamented that “these career professionals” – CIA torturers – had been subject to “humiliation and opprobrium” after details of their actions were made public, meaning that future administrations would be “handcuffed” by the fear of bad publicity, while the intelligence community would become more “risk-averse”.

During the Trump administration, Townsend was hotly tipped to become the Director of National Intelligence or the Secretary of Homeland Security. President Trump also approached her for the role of director of the FBI. Instead, however, Townsend took a seemingly incongruous career detour to become an executive at a video games company.

 

Enter the War planners

In addition to this role, Townsend is a director of the NATO offshoot, the Atlantic Council, a director at the Council on Foreign Relations, and a trustee of the hawkish think tank, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a group MintPress News has previously covered in detail.

Funded by weapons companies, NATO and the U.S. government, the Atlantic Council serves as the military alliance’s brain trust, devising strategies on how best to manage the world. Also on its board of directors are high statespersons like Henry Kissinger and Conzoleezza Rice, virtually every retired U.S. general of note, and no fewer than seven former directors of the CIA. As such, the Atlantic Council represents the collective opinion of the national security state.

Two more key Call of Duty staff also work for the Atlantic Council. Chance Glasco, a co-founder of Infinity Ward developers who oversaw the game franchise’s rapid rise, is the council’s nonresident senior fellow, advising top generals and political leaders on the latest developments in tech.

Game designer and producer Dave Anthony, crucial to Call of Duty’s success, is also an Atlantic Council employee, joining the group in 2014. There, he advises them on what the future of warfare will look like, and devises strategies for NATO to fight in upcoming conflicts.

Anthony has made no secret that he collaborated with the U.S. national security state while making the Call of Duty franchise. “My greatest honor was to consult with Lieut. Col. Oliver North on the story of Black Ops 2,” he stated publicly, adding, There are so many small details we could never have known about if it wasn’t for his involvement.”

Oliver North is a high government official gained worldwide infamy after being convicted for his role in the Iran-Contra Affair, whereby his team secretly sold weapons to the government of Iran, using the money to arm and train fascist death squads in Central America – groups who attempted to overthrow the government of Nicaragua and carried out waves of massacres and ethnic cleansing in the process.

 

Republicans for hire

Another eyebrow-raising hire is Activision Blizzard’s chief administration officer, Brian Bulatao. A former Army captain and consultant for McKinsey & Company, until 2018, he was chief operating officer for the CIA, placing him third in command of the agency. When CIA Director Mike Pompeo moved over to the State Department, becoming Trump’s Secretary of State, Bulatao went with him, and was appointed Under Secretary of State for Management.

There, by some accounts, he served as Pompeo’s personal “attack dog,” with former colleagues describing him as a “bully” who brought a “cloud of intimidation” over the workplace, repeatedly pressing them to ignore potential illegalities happening at the department. Thus, it is unclear if Bulatao is the man to improve Activision Blizzard’s notoriously “toxic” workplace environment that caused dozens of employees to walk out en masse last summer.

After the Trump administration’s electoral defeat, Bulatao went straight from the State Department into the highest echelons of Activision Blizzard, despite no experience in the entertainment industry.

Trump stands with then-CIA Chief Operations Officer Brian Bulatao at CIA Headquarters, May 21, 2018, in Langley, Va. Evan Vucci | AP

The third senior Republican official Activision Blizzard has recruited to its upper ranks is Grant Dixton. Between 2003 and 2006, Dixton served as associate counsel to President Bush, advising him on many of his administration’s most controversial legal activities (such as torture and the rapid expansion of the surveillance state). A lawyer by trade, he later went on to work for weapons manufacturer Boeing, rising to become its senior vice president, general counsel and corporate secretary. In June 2021, he left Boeing to join Activision Blizzard as its chief legal officer.

Other Activision Blizzard executives with backgrounds in national security include senior vice president and chief information security officer Brett Wahlin, who was a U.S. Army counterintelligence agent, and chief of staff, Angela Alvarez, who, until 2016, was an Army chemical operations specialist.

That the same government that was infiltrating games 10-15 years ago now has so many former officials controlling the very game companies raises serious questions around privacy and state control over media, and mirrors the national security state penetration of social media that has occurred over the same timeframe.

 

War games

These deep connections to the U.S. national security state can perhaps help partly explain why, for years, many have complained about the blatant pro-U.S. propaganda apparent throughout the games.

The latest installment, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II, is no exception. In the game’s first mission, players must carry out a drone strike against a character named

The latest installment, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II, is no exception. In the game’s first mission, players must carry out a drone strike against a character named General Ghorbrani. The mission is obviously a recreation of the Trump administration’s illegal 2020 drone strike against Iranian General Qassem Soleimani – the in game general even bears a striking resemblance to Soleimani.

The latest Call of Duty game has players assassinate a General Ghorbrani, a nebulous reference to Iranian General Qassem Solemani, pictured right

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II ludicrously presents the general as under Russia’s thumb and claims that Ghorbrani is “supplying terrorists” with aid. In reality, Soleimani was the key force in defeating ISIS terror across the Middle East – actions for which even Western media declared him a “hero”. U.S.-run polls found that Soleimani was perhaps the most popular leader in the Middle East, with over 80% of Iranians holding a positive opinion of him.

Straight after the assassination, Pompeo’s State Department floated the falsehood that the reason they killed Soleimani was that he was on the verge of carrying out a terror attack against Americans. In reality, Soleimani was in Baghdad, Iraq, for peace talks with Saudi Arabia.

These negotiations could have led to peace between the two nations, something that the U.S. government is dead against. Then-Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi revealed that he had personally asked President Trump for permission to invite Soleimani. Trump agreed, then used the opportunity to carry out the killing.

Therefore,, just as Activision Blizzard is recruiting top State Department officials to its upper ranks, its games are celebrating the same State Department’s most controversial assassinations.

This is far from the first time Call of Duty has instructed impressionable young gamers to kill foreign leaders, however. In Call of Duty Black Ops (2010), players must complete a mission to murder Cuban leader Fidel Castro. If they manage to shoot him in the head, they are rewarded with an extra gory slow motion scene and obtain a bronze “Death to Dictators” trophy. Thus, players are forced to carry out digitally what Washington failed to do on over 600 occasions.

A mission from “Call of Duty: Black Ops” has players assassinate a hostage-taking Fidel Castro

Likewise, Call of Duty: Ghosts is set in Venezuela, where players fight against General Almagro, a socialist military leader clearly modelled on former president Hugo Chavez. Like Chavez, Almagro wears a red beret and uses Venezuela’s oil wealth to forge an alliance of independent Latin American nations against the U.S. Washington attempted to overthrow Chavez and his successor, Nicolás Maduro, multiple times. During the sixth mission of the game, players must shoot and kill Almagro from close range.

The anti-Russian propaganda is also turned up to 11 in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (2019). One mission recreates the infamous Highway of Death incident. During the First Iraq War, U.S.-led forces trapped fleeing Iraqi troops on Highway 80. What followed was what then-Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Colin Powell described as “wanton killing” and “slaughter for slaughter’s sake” as U.S. troops and their allies pummeled the Iraqi convoy for hours, killing hundreds and destroying thousands of vehicles. U.S. forces also reportedly shot hundreds of Iraqi civilians and surrendered soldiers in their care.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare recreates this scene for dramatic effect. However, in their version, it is not the U.S.-led forces doing the killing, but Russia, thereby whitewashing a war crime by pinning the blame on official enemies.

A mission in “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare” has players recreate the infamous highway of death

Call of Duty, in particular, has been flagged up for recreating real events as game missions and manipulating them for geopolitical purposes,” Secker told MintPress, referring to the Highway of Death, adding,

In a culture where most people’s exposure to games (and films, TV shows and so on) is far greater than their knowledge of historical and current events, these manipulations help frame the gamers’ emotional, intellectual and political reactions. This helps them turn into more general advocates for militarism, even if they don’t sign up in any formal way.”

Secker’s latest book, “Superheroes, Movies and the State: How the U.S. Government Shapes Cinematic Universes,” was published earlier this year.

 

Game Over

In today’s digitized era, the worlds of war and video games increasingly resemble one another. Many have commented on the similarities between piloting drones in real life and in games such as Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. Prince Harry, who was a helicopter gunner in Afghanistan, described his “joy” at firing missiles at enemies. “I’m one of those people who loves playing PlayStation and Xbox, so with my thumbs I like to think I’m probably quite useful,” he said. “If there’s people trying to do bad stuff to our guys, then we’ll take them out of the game,” he added, explicitly comparing the two activities. U.S. forces even control drones with Xbox controllers, blurring the lines between war games and war games even further.

The military has also directly produced video games as promotional and recruitment tools. One is a U.S. Air Force game called Airman Challenge. Featuring 16 missions to complete, interspersed with facts and recruitment information about how to become a drone operator yourself. In its latest attempts to market active service to young people, players move through missions escorting U.S. vehicles through countries like Iraq and Afghanistan, serving up death from above to all those designated “insurgents” by the game.

Players earn medals and achievements for most effectively destroying moving targets. All the while, there is a prominent “apply now” button on screen if players feel like enlisting and conducting real drone strikes on the Middle East.

U.S. Armed Forces use the popularity of video games to recruit heavily among young people, sponsoring gaming tournaments, fielding their own U.S. Army Esports team, and directly trying to recruit teens on streaming sites such as Twitch. The Amazon-owned platform eventually had to clamp down on the practice after the military used fake prize giveaways that lured impressionable young viewers onto recruitment websites.

Video games are a massive business and a huge center of soft power and ideology. The medium makes for particularly persuasive propaganda because children and adolescents consume them, often for weeks or months on end, and because they are light entertainment. Because of this, users do not have their guards up like if they were listening to a politician speaking. Their power is often overlooked by scholars and journalists because of the supposed frivolity of the medium. But it is the very notion that these are unimportant sources of fun that makes their message all the more potent.

The Call of Duty franchise is particularly egregious, not only in its messaging, but because who the messengers are. Increasingly, the games appear to be little more than American propaganda masquerading as fun first-person shooters. For gamers, the point is to enjoy its fast-paced entertainment. But for those involved in their production, the goal is not just making money; it is about serving the imperial war machine.

Feature photo | Illustration by MintPress News

Alan MacLeod is Senior Staff Writer for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent, as well as a number of academic articles. He has also contributed to FAIR.orgThe GuardianSalonThe GrayzoneJacobin Magazine, and Common Dreams.

The post Call of Duty is a Government Psyop: These Documents Prove It appeared first on MintPress News.

Palestinians are Native Americans: It’s Time to Correct the Language of History

At a recent Istanbul conference that brought many Palestinian scholars and activists together to discuss the search for a common narrative on Palestine, a Palestinian member of the audience declared at the end of a brief, but fiery intervention, ‘we are not red Indians’.

The reference was a relatively old one. It was attributed to former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat during an interview in his office in Ramallah where he was forcefully confined and surrounded, two years earlier, by the Israeli military that had re-invaded the populous Palestinian city. In the interview, the head of the PLO and president of the Palestinian Authority (PA) said that, despite Israel’s attempt at eradicating the Palestinian people, they remain steadfast. Israel had “failed to wipe us out,” Arafat said, adding, “we are not red Indians.”

Though Arafat’s intention was not to degrade or insult Native American communities, the statement, often taken out of context, hardly reflects the deep solidarity between Palestinians and national liberation struggles, including indigenous struggles around the world. Ironically, Arafat, more than any Palestinian leader, has forged ties with numerous communities in the Global South and in fact all over the world. A generation of activists had linked Arafat to their initial awareness, then involvement in Palestine solidarity movements.

What surprised me is that the comment on Palestinians not being ‘red Indians’ in Istanbul was quoted repeatedly and, occasionally, solicited applause from the audience, which only stopped when the convener of the conference, a well-regarded Palestinian professor, declared frustratingly, “they are neither ‘red’ nor Indian.” Indeed, they are not. Actually, they are the natural allies of the Palestinian people, like numerous indigenous communities, who have actively supported the Palestinian struggle for freedom.

The seemingly simple incident or poor choice of words, however, represents a much greater challenge facing Palestinians as they attempt to reanimate a new discourse on Palestinian liberation that is no longer hostage to the self-serving language of the PA elites in Ramallah.

For several years, a new generation of Palestinians has been fighting on two different fronts: against Israel’s military occupation and apartheid, on the one hand, and PA repression on the other. For this generation to succeed in reclaiming the struggle for justice, they must also reclaim a unifying discourse, not only to reconnect their own fragmented communities throughout historic Palestine, but also re-establish solidarity lines of communication across the globe.

I say ‘re-establish’, because Palestine was a common denominator among many national and indigenous struggles in the Global South. This was not a random outcome. Throughout the 1950s, 60s and 70s, fierce wars of liberation were fought across continents, leading in most cases to the defeat of traditional colonial powers and, in some cases like Cuba, Vietnam and Algeria, to true decolonization. With Palestine being a compounded case of western imperialism and Zionist settler colonialism, the Palestinian cause was embraced by numerous national struggles. It was, and remains, a most raw example of western supported ethnic cleansing, genocide, apartheid, hypocrisy but also inspiring indigenous resistance.

PLO factions, intellectuals and activists were known and respected worldwide as ambassadors to the Palestinian cause. Three years following his assassination by the Israeli Mossad in a Beirut car bombing, Palestinian novelist Ghassan Kanafani was awarded posthumously the Annual Lotus Prize for Literature by the Union of Asian and African Writers as a delineation of the common struggle between peoples of both continents. Not only has Palestine served as a physical connection between Asia and Africa, it has also served as an intellectual and solidarity connection.

Arab countries, which also fought their own painful but heroic national liberation wars, played a major role in the centrality of Palestine in the political discourses of African and Asian countries. Many non-Arab countries supported collective Arab causes, especially Palestine, at the United Nations, pushed for the isolation of Israel, backed Arab boycotts and even hosted PLO offices and fighters. When Arab governments began changing their political priorities, these nations, sadly but unsurprisingly, followed suit.

The massive geopolitical changes after the Cold War, in favor of the US-led Western camp, profoundly and negatively impacted Palestine’s relations with the Arab and the rest of the world. It also divided the Palestinians, localizing the Palestinian struggle in a process that seemed to be determined mostly by Israel alone. Gaza was placed under a permanent siege, the West Bank was splintered by numerous illegal Jewish settlements and military checkpoints, Jerusalem was swallowed whole and Palestinians in Israel became victims of a police state that defined itself primarily on racial grounds.

Abandoned by the world and their own leadership, oppressed by Israel and bewildered by remarkable events beyond their control, some Palestinians turned against one another. This was the age of factionalism. However, Palestinian factionalism is bigger than Fatah and Hamas, Ramallah and Gaza. Equally dangerous to the self-serving politics are the numerous provisional discourses that it espoused, neither governed by any collective strategy or an inclusive national narrative.

When the PLO was ousted from Lebanon following the Israeli invasion and deadly war, the nature of the Palestinian struggle transformed. Headquartered in Tunisia, the PLO was no longer able to present itself as a leader of a liberation movement in any practical sense. The Oslo Accords of 1993 resulted from this political exile and subsequent marginalization. It also accentuated an existing trend where an actual war of liberation turned into a corporate form of liberation, hunger for funds, false status and, worse, a negotiated surrender.

This much is now familiar and acknowledged by many Palestinians. Less discussed, however, is that nearly forty years of this process left Palestinians with a different political discourse than that which existed for decades prior to Oslo.

Undoubtedly, Palestinians are aware of the need for a new liberated language. This is not an easy task, nor is it a randomly generated process. The indoctrination that resulted from the Oslo culture, the factional language, the provincial political discourse of various Palestinian communities, left Palestinians with limited tools through which to express the priorities of the new era. Unity is not a political document. Neither is international solidarity. It is a process that is shaped by a language which should be spoken collectively, relentlessly and boldly. In this new language, Palestinians are Native Americans, not in their supposed propensity to be ‘wiped out’, but in their pride, resilience and continued quest for equality and justice.

Feature photo | Palestinian farmers work pick citrus fruits from trees during the citrus harvest season in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip, on November 7, 2022. Majdi Fathi | NurPhoto via AP

Dr. Ramzy Baroud is a journalist, author and the Editor of The Palestine Chronicle. He is the author of six books. His latest book, co-edited with Ilan Pappé, is ‘Our Vision for Liberation: Engaged Palestinian Leaders and Intellectuals Speak out’. His other books include ‘My Father was a Freedom Fighter’ and ‘The Last Earth’. Baroud is a Non-resident Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA). His website is www.ramzybaroud.net

The post Palestinians are Native Americans: It’s Time to Correct the Language of History appeared first on MintPress News.

FTX Partnership With Ukraine Is Latest Chapter in Shady Western Aid Saga

KIEV, UKRAINE (THE GRAYZONE) The demise of FTX, the fifth-biggest cryptocurrency exchange by trade volume in 2022, and the second-largest by holdings, has sent a wave of chaos through global financial markets.

As the turbulence grows, the government of Ukraine is conducting an ongoing cleanup and whitewashing operation to rid any and all references to a high-level cryptocurrency fundraising arrangement it struck with FTX from the web. Eerily, it seems to have commenced just days before the scandal erupted.

Online records unearthed by The Grayzone claim tens of millions were raised by FTX for the Ukrainian government, and put to a variety of belligerent uses. But with the company now exposed as a Potemkin village lacking underlying assets, and major question marks hanging over whether its operations were from day one fraudulent top to bottom, where does that leave the supposedly successful donation scheme? Were those sums truly raised, and if so, to what purposes were they actually put?

FTX’s destruction resulted from a mass sell-off of the company’s native bitcoin token, FTT, by the rival exchange, Binance. Its value plummeted, prompting a three-day “run” on billions of dollars worth of cryptocurrency, which in turn created – or exposed – a “liquidity crisis” within FTX, as it did not have the available assets required to redeem client withdrawals. FTX filed for bankruptcy on November 11th.

FTX founder and top Democrat Party donor Sam Bankman-Fried now faces criminal investigations in the Bahamas, where the exchange was headquartered, and calls for official investigations into the largely unregulated cryptocurrency industry are reverberating across the globe.

The sudden death of FTX has been compared to the 2008 disintegration of Lehman Brothers that precipitated the financial crisis.

Massive customer holdings have apparently gone missing thanks to a secret “back door” in the FTX bookkeeping system that allowed Bankman-Fried to make changes to the company’s financial records without any accountability. This connivance may have been used to hide at least $10 billion in client funds Bankman-Fried transferred from exchange to another company he founded, digital asset trader Alameda Research.

While mainstream media pores over the details of Bankman-Fried’s gargantuan crypto scam, not one single major outlet has investigated or even acknowledged FTX’s relationship with the government of Ukraine.

Were client holdings unaccountably and illegally funneled into the West’s proxy war? Or did the supposed aid FTX sent to Kiev find its way into the hands of Ukrainian scammers, corrupt warlords and illicit actors?

The corporate media’s failure to explore these questions appears all the more perverse given Bankman-Fried’s flamboyant promotion of his intimate financial relationship with the government of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

FTX pledges to “turn bitcoin into bullets, bandages and other war materiel” for Ukraine

The partnership between FTX and the Ukrainian government was first publicized on March 14th when the leading cryptocurrency website CoinDesk announced Kiev had launched a dedicated webpage for cryptocurrency donations dubbed Aid for Ukraine.

Under its auspices, FTX pledged to “convert crypto contributions to Ukraine’s war effort into fiat for deposit” at the National Bank of Kiev, allowing the embattled government to “turn bitcoin into bullets, bandages and other war materiel.” CoinDesk stated the initiative “deepens an unprecedented tie-up between public and private sector forces in crypto.”

Oleksandr Bornyakov, an official at Ukraine’s Ministry of Digital Transformation, hinted to CoinDesk about an “upcoming NFT collection” auction to “give the next boost to the crypto fundraising process.”

(Bornyakov’s Ministry of Digital Transformation played a key role in the successful, Zelensky-led campaign to cancel The Grayzone’s Max Blumenthal and Aaron Mate’s appearance at Web Summit, a major international gathering of the tech industry in Lisbon, Portugal).

In a press release accompanying the announcement of the FTX partnership with Ukraine, Bankman-Fried explained that, “at the onset of the conflict in Ukraine, FTX felt the need to provide assistance in any way it could.” He promised that the arrangement provided “the ability to deliver aid and resources to the people who need it most.”

 

Kiev disappears Aid for Ukraine site days before FTX scandal goes public

The Aid for Ukraine webpage has now been deleted, but can still be accessed via the Internet Archive. Until very recently, it encouraged visitors to “help Ukraine with crypto” and pleaded, “don’t leave us alone with the enemy.”

The site featured promotional quotes from an assortment of Ukrainian government officials and bitcoin bros – among them, FTX’s founder.

Mykhailo Fedorov, Ukraine’s deputy Prime Minister, and Minister of Digital Transformation of Ukraine, thanked “the crypto community” for funding the purchase of helmets, bulletproof vests, and night vision devices. For his part, Bankman-Fried declared himself “incredibly excited and humbled” to “support crypto donations to Ukraine.”

The last available Internet Archive capture of Aid for Ukraine” took place on the afternoon of October 26th. Throughout the webpage’s existence, the Internet Archive captured multiple snapshots of it weekly. This clearly indicates the page was purged by Kiev in late October, several days before the FTX crisis initially broke out.

Once it was deleted, the Ukrainian government created a standalone website on November 1st to promote the endeavor. The page was identical, and quotes from Bankman-Fried, and references to FTX’s involvement and its logo, remained in place until the morning of November 15th.

Was the original webpage’s dumping and erasure, and the shift to a totally new interface, at that time merely a spooky coincidence, or were the Ukrainians warned of what was coming? What did Kiev know, and when did it know it?

 

Bankman-Fried channeled millions to Biden through “stealth” PAC

Though FTX has been accused of serving as a money laundering vehicle for the US Democratic Party, concrete evidence supporting this claim has yet to materialize. But given Bankman-Fried’s background as one of the most prolific donors to the Democrats, and the role he played as a nexus between party power-brokers and the cryptocurrency sphere, the allegations are understandable.

Bankman-Fried is the son of Stanford law professor Barbara Friedman, founder of a shadowy Super PAC called Mind the Gap which quietly channeled millions to Democratic party candidates, primarily from nameless Silicon Valley investors.

The organization has no website or social media footprint, and its founders do not advertise their involvement publicly. Chosen through complex data analysis, beneficiaries of the Super PAC often have no idea themselves who or what has donated to their campaigns.

“The raison d’être is stealth,” an individual “with ties to the organization” told Vox back in 2020.

Bankman-Fried establishment of FTX in April 2019 – the same month Joe Biden announced his 2020 Presidential run – has added to the intrigue surrounding the scandal. Once vast sums started flowing into and through the FTX exchange, its founder channeled profits into Biden’s campaign coffers. Oddly, Bankman-Fried had no prior history of political giving.

Throughout the 2020 campaign, Bankman-Fried gifted over $5 million to Biden and groups supporting him. This reportedly helped fuel a potentially decisive “nine-figure, eleventh-hour blitz of TV advertising” targeting swing states, and made the crypto bro the second-largest donor to the president, right behind Michael Bloomberg.

Bankman-Fried claimed this wellspring of generosity was “motivated less by specific issues than by the Biden team’s ‘generic stability and decision-making process.’” Such an apparent lack of enthusiasm for the President stands at odds with the staggering sums he has pumped into Democratic party coffers ever since.

In 2022 alone, Bankman-Fried lavished almost $40 million on Democratic candidates, campaigns, and PACs. The giving spree made him the second-largest individual donor to Democratic causes, behind liberal venture capitalist George Soros.

More recently, Bankman-Fried pledged to donate a staggering $1 billion between this year and 2024 to ensure a Democratic victory in the next presidential vote. On October 14th, however, he completely backtracked, branding the investment a “dumb” move. Something scandalous was brewing behind the scenes.

One week later, the Texas State Securities Board announced it was investigating FTX on suspicion of selling unregistered securities. The development went largely unnoticed by the media. To the extent it generated any interest at all, it was framed as just one of several examples of financial authorities scrutinizing crypto players.

 

What happened to the $60 million raised by Aid for Ukraine?

If FTX was indeed laundering funds for the proxy war in Ukraine, the slightest indication that regulators were investigating its operations would have triggered alarm bells throughout Washington – and by extension, Kiev. This may be why the Ukrainian government switched the Aid for Ukraine webpage with a dedicated website, and scrubbed the original entirely from the internet just days after the announcement.

Also curious are the Internet Archive captures of the Aid for Ukraine website that show records of funds purportedly flowing to Kiev via Bitcoin had not been updated since July. At the time, the webpage reported that over $60 million had been raised by the “community.” This figure is reflected on the updated standalone Aid for Ukraine fundraising site.

A breakdown of spending on the new Aid for Ukraine website states Kiev had spent a total of $54,573,622 in cryptocurrency donations by July 7th on a wide variety of equipment, vehicles, drones, “lethal equipment” and other resources. One of the biggest single expenditures was $5,250,519 on a “worldwide anti-war media campaign,” the details of which would only “be published after our victory” due to “security reasons.”

Ukrainian government officials and private sector actors involved in the operation of Aid for Ukraine have scoffed at suggestions of impropriety regarding its use, but have only raised further questions with their denials.

Oleksandr Bornyakov of Ukraine’s Ministry of Digital Transformation declared that Aid for Ukraine simply used FTX to “convert donations into fiat in March.” The CEO of Everstake, the “validator” company that in theory guaranteed crypto funds donated via Aid for Ukraine reached Kiev’s Ministry of Defense, also thanked “every crypto holder for donating…in those early day [sic], when every cent and every minute was crucial.”

Taken in tandem, these comments suggest Aid for Ukraine was set up purely to receive donations in the initial stages of the war, and the $60 million figure represents sums received and converted in the weeks immediately following the launch of the initiative. This interpretation is reinforced by an Everstake staffer’s presentation at a cryptocurrency conference at Web Summit on November 1st, on the subject of “raising [over] $60m in crypto for Ukraine.”


But an Internet Archive capture of Aid for Ukraine on April 1st adds to the confusion, showing that two-and-a-half-weeks after the initiative launched, the webpage was updated to claim “over $70 million” had been raised from crypto donors. This was revised down to “over $60 million” five days later.

More strangely, Aid for Ukraine records show that from the time of the initiative’s launch to April 14th, a total of $45,103,538 was spent. This means just $9,470,084 was spent between April 14 and July 7th, a period in which the war developed into a “bloody war of attrition” according to The Guardian.

This leaves a gap of at least $5.5 million in the money Aid for Ukraine claimed to have raised in its initial weeks, and the funds it says it distributed in Ukraine.

The disparity was confirmed in a tweet by the official Aid for Ukraine Twitter account, posted on the evening of November 15th, which stated that “out of $60 million received, $54 million have already been spent on Ukraine’s humanitarian and military needs.”

This implies that no further funds of any size were received after early April, and the total has remained static ever since, despite the resource being open for donations. Which would be highly unusual.

The government of Ukraine, FTX, and Everstake all now have serious questions to answer. Namely, why the funds purportedly raised appear to have decreased in a span of a few days, why no donations have been received since then on the Aid for Ukraine webpage or its new website, how much has been donated since the alleged initial influx, and where did the rest of the money go?

 

Ukraine: a black hole for Western aid

Stories of potential financial impropriety by Ukrainian officials and the country’s military are invariably ignored or outright buried by the Western media. An August exposé by the Kyiv Independent documented wide-ranging abuses by the leadership of a wing of the International Legion, including sexual harassment, looting, threatening soldiers at gunpoint and sending them unprepared on reckless missions. Though the Kyiv Independent often influences Western media’s coverage of the Ukraine conflict, this story was completely ignored in mainstream quarters.

That same month, CBS broadcast an investigative feature revealing that only 30 percent of Western arm shipments to Ukraine ever reach the frontline. Due to intense backlash from the Pentagon and other powerful sources, CBS temporarily pulled its own documentary and an accompanying promotional trailer and article from the web. The feature has since been “updated” to claim that “the situation has significantly improved” since filming, and “a much larger quantity now gets where it’s supposed to go.”

When it comes to Ukraine, Democrats at the highest levels are also immensely skilled at burying embarrassing stories. In December 2015, Joe Biden coerced Kiev’s then-leader Petro Poroshenko into firing prosecutor general Viktor Shokin as a condition for the US underwriting a $1 billion IMF loan to Ukraine.

“I’m going to be leaving here in six hours. If [Shokin] is not fired, you’re not getting the money,” Biden threatened.

With Shokin’s firing, the experienced lawyer’s ongoing probe into the energy giant Burisma ended as well. Which meant that Burisma’s most famous board member, Hunter Biden, the son of then-US Vice President’s son, eluded official scrutiny.

Now, a politically connected crypto-billionaire who used a secret financial “back door” to fleece customers of ungodly sums of money has become the latest character in the saga of shady US aid to Ukraine. And though the collapse of his FTX firm is front page news, mainstream outlets are studiously avoiding the Ukraine angle.

Feature photo | The Grayzone

Kit Klarenberg is an investigative journalist and MintPresss News contributor exploring the role of intelligence services in shaping politics and perceptions. His work has previously appeared in The Cradle, Declassified UK, and Grayzone. Follow him on Twitter @KitKlarenberg.

The post FTX Partnership With Ukraine Is Latest Chapter in Shady Western Aid Saga appeared first on MintPress News.

Israeli Drone Sales Are Fueling Military Occupations Around The World

For nearly two decades, Israeli military censors prevented publication of the country’s use of armed drones. In July, the gag order was lifted, allowing Israeli drone warfare to become public knowledge.

“Today I can speak of this openly,” Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) Brigadier-General Neri Horowitz said during the annual UVID DroneTech conference hosted by Israel Defense magazine in Tel Aviv last week. The senior officer discussed how Israel has used combat drones around the world since 2012, including in operations in Gaza and Syria.

With one of its worst-kept secrets confirmed, Israel is now taking the opportunity to boast about its drone technology to international audiences, touting the equipment’s capabilities as a less savage and more efficient solution to conflict.

 

Complicit in occupations around the globe

Israel has been using drones in its warfare as early as 1968, when the IDF’s intelligence directorate, Shabtai Brill, secured cameras to remote-controlled aircraft in order to surveil the Egyptian border. During the 1982 Lebanon War, Israel used drones to annihilate military positions in the Lebanon Valley. By 1986, it was revealed in a declassified CIA report that Israel had exported drones to the U.S. Navy, Switzerland, and Singapore.

Drones capable of deploying munitions were not invented until the 1990s, but by the near end of the 2000s, armed drones became Israeli military industries’ most lucrative export item. Combat drones increased the volume of military export transactions from $4.8 billion in 2007 to an annual total of approximately $7 billion beginning in 2008. Last year, drones made up 9% of Israel’s $11.3 billion in arms exports, contributing to about $1 billion in sales.

Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) and Elbit Systems are the primary Israeli manufacturers of armed unmanned aerial vehicles, commonly referred to as drones. These companies did not respond to MintPress News inquiries on who they have sold armed drones to and whether they will begin advertising combat drones given the censor’s removal.

Similar to using armed drones in its own occupation (specifically targeted assassinations in the besieged Gaza Strip), Israel assists other states in their occupations as well with its armed unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) sales.

Azerbaijan purchased IAI Harop drones, a “loitering munition” or kamikaze unit which destroys itself after attacking a target. It also bought Elbit Hermes 900 armed drones in arms deals with Israel over the years.

These drones have been used against Armenia throughout the two nations fight over the Nagorno-Karabakh territory. The Israel Defense Ministry did not respond to press inquiries on where else Israeli armed drones are used.

Cartoon by Carlos Latuff | MintPress news

While Israel has remained relatively quiet on its arms sales, Azerbaijan has bragged about using Israeli weapons in the fighting — fully displaying armed and kamikaze drones made by Elbit, Aeronautics, and IAI during a military parade in 2020.

Although only publicly normalizing relations in 2020, Israel and Morocco have long collaborated in a military capacity. Morocco acquired IAI’s Heron unarmed UAVs in 2013, and the equipment has reportedly been seen at bases in the Western Sahara, a region occupied by Morocco.

In September, Morocco purchased 150 military drones from Israeli BlueBird Aero Systems. The unmanned equipment is reportedly for reconnaissance, surveillance, air defense, and emergency missions.

India and Germany have also brokered military drone deals with Israel. In April, Germany acquired 140 IAI Heron armed drones over concerns Russia could strike German infrastructure amid the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war. India has also purchased Heron drones, with the country hoping to weaponize the vehicles locally.

According to defense think tank, the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), the Israeli military and Israel’s UAV industry are closely connected. “Part of the reason for this is the very high proportion of senior personnel in the UAV industry who are either retired or still active duty reserves,” RUSI wrote. “This helps to ensure that there is a deep commonality of understanding of operational priorities and requirements between UAV developers and the IDF.”

Seven of Elbit’s executive officers either served in the Israeli military or are in the reserves, including the company’s president and CEO, Bezhalel Machlis. Nine Of IAI’s executives were part of the Israeli military, including the company’s president and CEO, Boaz Levy. At Aeronautics, three executives are known to have been involved with the Israeli military, including the firm’s president and CEO, Moshe Elazar.

 

Using the Gaza model in the West Bank

In addition to selling armed drones, widespread reports have indicated Israel has long used the armed unmanned aircraft in carrying out strikes against personnel and weapons cargo targets in Gaza, Lebanon, Egypt, Syria, and Sudan.

The low buzzing of Israeli drones in Gaza has become so enmeshed in daily life that Palestinians refer to them as “zanana” or “buzz” in Arabic. That same incessant hum can be heard in the occupied West Bank. While often used as a surveillance tool on the other side of Palestine, the Israeli Army Chief of Staff, Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi, approved the use of armed drones in targeted killings in the West Bank in September — thereby greenlighting death to rain from above.

According to Israeli media, the military is already preparing units to operate armed drones during raids. Army incursions into the occupied territory have surpassed 2,000 this year and turned Palestinian cities such as Nablus and Jenin into battlefields. So far, Israeli forces have killed more than 100 Palestinians this year in the West Bank, largely due to military raids, including a 15-year-old girl who was shot dead earlier this week.

In recent years, Israel has transformed its military occupation of Palestine into a digital experiment in which an assault can be executed with the mere push of a button. Showering tear gas via drones, firing sponge-tipped bullets with a remote control, and surveilling Palestinians with a touch of a screen.

And while Israel touts these technological advancements as a less bloody and gruesome approach to its state violence, in reality, the digital barrier and perceived distance between an Israeli soldier and a Palestinian is likely to make pulling the trigger that much easier.

Feature photo | Israeli regime forces prepare to launch a drone near the border with Gaza Strip, Aug. 21, 2020. Tsafrir Abayov | AP

Jessica Buxbaum is a Jerusalem-based journalist for MintPress News covering Palestine, Israel, and Syria. Her work has been featured in Middle East Eye, The New Arab and Gulf News.

The post Israeli Drone Sales Are Fueling Military Occupations Around The World appeared first on MintPress News.

The Real Reason the US Is Against the Entire World on Cuba

‘The Most Censored News’ hosted by comedian & writer Lee Camp is a twice-weekly look at the most censored stories on the new video platform Behind the Headlines – a MintPress video project that is 100% viewer supported. Camp brings to light stories that are ignored by the corporate media and digs deeper when the mainstream media fails to. Having been a professional stand-up comic for 20 years and the host/head writer of the hit TV show ‘Redacted Tonight,’ Camp is uniquely suited to bring humor to these topics.

The entire world just voted to end the 60-year blockade against Cuba…except for two countries. Can you guess which ones? (Luxembourg was neither of them.)

I take you back to September 1961. The U.S. was a younger, naive nation. We drove around with children in our laps because the seatbelt law was still years away. And the top song of the day was Barry Mann’s “Who put the bomp into bomp bah bomp bah bomp?” (Turns out it was Henry Kissinger. He was a childlike 73 years old back then, and he was actually into “bomping” before he was into bombing.)

In 1961 the United States began a massive embargo against the island country of Cuba. This was just a few months after the Bay of Pigs invasion, in which the U.S. tried to retake Cuba from the communist revolutionaries who had wrested it away from the American-backed capitalist oligarchs. President Kennedy was told by the Joint Chiefs and the CIA that sending a small group of poorly armed men into Cuba would bring down the entire country, no problem.

But it became clear that the pathetic Bay of Pigs plan was actually cooked up by our military intelligence community to force JFK to invade Cuba once the invaders were captured.

However, JFK didn’t take the bait, refused to invade, and afterwards famously said he wanted to, “splinter the CIA into a thousand pieces and scatter it into the winds.” And we saw how that ended for him. Which is why I, on the other hand, am a huge fan of the CIA. I have their posters, their action figures, all their greatest hits (Salvador Allende, Patrice Lumumba, Olof Palme, Sonny Bono).

Anyway, the economic war went into effect in Cuba in the 1960s and at the same time, our CIA was trying to kill the leader of that country – Fidel Castro. In fact, he survived 638 assassination attempts, including poisoned scuba suits and exploding cigars. The CIA was watching way too much Wile E. Coyote. (Thank god they weren’t watching Pepe Le Pew, or they would’ve been sexually assaulting Castro. Although maybe then they would’ve successfully whacked him off.)

Point being, how do you think we, the United States, would’ve responded if another country tried to murder our president over 600 times? I think we all know the U.S. government would’ve made drug cartel hit jobs look like a meditation retreat where they sing songs and only eat sunshine. Yet Cuba has kept their cool. Their people have gone about their lives and created a successful country. And still, to this day, the U.S. empire continues eagerly attempting to crush them.

JFK is gone, the Soviet Union is gone, Fidel Castro is gone – the CIA took him out a few years ago with natural causes – and yet, the battle against Cuba continues. Just this month, there was another vote at the United Nations about ending the economic war. And the entire world voted 185 to 2 against the blockade of Cuba – the US and Israel were the only two bitter, irrational, belligerent countries voting against ending it. (Bolsonaro’s Brazil and Zelensky’s Ukraine abstained from the vote.)

This begs the question, what is the point of the embargo on Cuba? What are we hoping to achieve? To punish a dead Fidel Castro for his sins? Maybe to punish a dead Che Guevara for his sins? Perhaps punish Cuban cigar makers for being so damned good? (I had an American cigar last week – tasted like sucking the tailpipe of a burned-out Chevy Impala filled with dead squirrels.)

Actually, the U.S. government once admitted what our real goals are. As covered in Multipolarista, an internal memo from the State Department in 1960 said the Cuba embargo was meant “…to bring about hunger, desperation, and overthrow the government.” So our stated goal was to bring about hunger and desperation in the innocent Cuban people. And in fact, that is still the U.S. government’s intended goal with economic sanctions around the world. Just a few years ago, then Secretary of State Rex Tillerson admitted it onstage at an event when talking about our sanctions on North Korea. He said, “They have had over 100 North Korean fishing boats that have drifted into Japanese waters. Two-thirds of the people on those boats have died. …They’re being sent out in the winter time to fish because there’s food shortages. And they’re being sent out to fish with inadequate fuel to get back. So we’re getting a lot of evidence that these sanctions are really starting to hurt.”

He proudly said we’re winning against North Korea because the U.S. is starving poor fishermen to death. What kind of a psychopath would say such a – you know what, don’t answer that.

So who does our economic war on Cuba impact the most? The International Labor Organization told the U.N., “The direct and indirect effects of the embargo on the Cuban economy and people affect not only the enterprises, but even more their workers and the population in general. The International Labor Organization is particularly concerned about the impacts on children, workers and the elderly.”

Children and the elderly – you know, the people I view as the real enemies. Those damn Cuban three year-olds. (If I had a nickel for every time one of them attacked me in a car park, or hurled dirty, filthy lies at my grandma, I’d be a rich man.)

So while the U.S. is busy shipping death, disease, and starvation around the world – some in Afghanistan, some in Venezuela, some in North Korea – Cuba has been busy exporting their OWN horrible products around the world, like… doctors.

Yes, as reported by Aljazeera, “Cuba has a history of sending medical teams to nations in crisis. …According to the Pan American Health Organization, between 2005 and 2017, the unit helped 3.5 million people in 21 countries affected by disasters, such as floods, earthquakes, hurricanes and epidemics, including the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa. … Over the past 50 years, it is estimated that between 135,000 and 400,000 Cuban doctors have been sent abroad.”

So while the U.S. empire’s biggest exports are oil (which is killing our future) and weapons (which are killing our present), Cuba’s biggest export is free medical care. Hm, who do you think is on the right side of this? The people giving out drone bombs and starvation, or the people givin’ out monoclonal antibodies used to treat Ebola?

Keep in mind the number of sanctions against Jeffrey Epstein’s island when he was alive? Zero. Number of U.S. sanctions against Saudi Arabia after they committed a genocide in Yemen and murdered a Washington Post journalist? Zero. But we are still trying to crush Cuba after 60 years.

The truth is the real reason the U.S. despises Cuba is because of what Noam Chomsky called “the threat of the good example.” They are a socialist country that, despite our economic assault for six decades, has done quite well. According to the World Bank and others, Cuba has the highest literacy rate in the world – at 100%. Comparatively, the U.S. rate is 79%.

Cuba has one doctor for every 150 patients, which is the best ratio of any developed country. By comparison, for every 1000 patients in the U.K., there are 2.8 doctors. As the LA Times reported, “…the Cuban people receive free healthcare, education, housing and pensions — along with employment security. Cuba has virtually no drug trafficking, homelessness, illiteracy or malnutrition.”

This is not to say that everything in Cuba is perfect; it’s not. But the good aspects are scary to the American capitalist ruling class. For those of you who are American, imagine living a life where you never for one minute fear you’ll end up homeless or unable to pay for healthcare or drowning in student loan debt or sitting next to Andrea Mitchell on a long flight. Such a utopia is tough to even dream about. (Delta puts Andrea Mitchell next to you if you don’t pay for the upgrade.)

Plus, Cubans have a lower infant mortality rate and longer life expectancy than Americans. All of these are the real reasons that Washington has kept its boot on Cuba’s throat for 60 years.

A UN commission reported, “…the numerous United States sanctions constitute the most severe and prolonged system of unilateral coercive measures ever applied against any country…”

To watch the video version of this article, click here

Lee Camp is an American stand-up comedian, writer, actor and activist. Camp is the host of Behind The Headlines’ new series: The Most Censored News With Lee Camp. He is a former comedy writer for the Onion and the Huffington Post and has been a touring stand-up comic for 20 years.

The post The Real Reason the US Is Against the Entire World on Cuba appeared first on MintPress News.

Kahanist Extremists To Take Power in New Israeli Government

During his previous terms in office, Benjamin Netanyahu oversaw some of the most brutal attacks on Gaza, attacks that caused thousands of civilian casualties. He was also indicted on corruption charges, and yet enough Israelis found him suitable to return to the post of Prime Minister, and he was elected with a comfortable majority.

In the United States, Netanyahu is respected in spite of his 2002 appearance in the U.S. House of Representatives saying that, “If you take out Saddam’s regime, I guarantee you that it will have enormous positive reverberations on the region.” The Iraq War cost countless lives and billions of dollars and caused disastrous reverberations in the region.

 

Kahane disciples in power

What is most disturbing is that Netanyahu owes his return to power to the students of the racist, Arab-hating thug Meir Kahane. Kahane founded the Jewish Defense League, which the FBI designated a terrorist organization. Kahane preached for the forced transfer of most of the Arabs from Palestine and the creation of Jewish only beaches, schools and towns. Much of what he preached is already reality in the state of Israel, but the brashness of his discourse was too much, even for Israelis.

Kahane was elected to the Knesset in 1984, but he was completely shunned, and even though there was a right wing government in place at the time, he had no chance whatsoever of getting a seat at the table. A government post for him could not have even been considered. Fast-forward to 2022 and the very disciples of Kahane – not only ideologically but actual disciples – are not running the tables. Itamar Ben-Gvir who studied at Kahane’s yeshiva in Jerusalem (yes, Kahane had a yeshiva in Jerusalem where he taught hate and violence to young Israeli Jews) is a racist thug who enjoys tremendous popularity among the country’s youth, is going to be a major part of the next Israeli government.

At a recent event commemorating Kahane, Ben-Gvir said, “It is thanks to him that I became a religious man.” The type of religion that Kahane taught was hate, racism and violence. And that is precisely what Ben-Gvir and his followers bring to the table. He is demanding and is likely to receive the post of Minister of Internal Security and a seat at the highly sensitive inner Security Cabinet. Other posts he and his partner Bezalel Smotrich are demanding include the defense portfolio and treasury. It is not clear yet what the final deal will look like, but they will be in major, powerful and sensitive positions.

 

Will it be worse?

It would be naive to claim that Ben-Gvir and Smotrich are any worse than what Israel had in any previous government. Benny Gantz and Netanyahu were responsible for the killing of so many Palestinians that it might take Ben-Gvir and Smotrich a lifetime to catch up. However, their placement in key, sensitive positions will undoubtedly make things worse for Palestinians. Their success gives license to a more cruel, violent and more openly racist discourse and policies. It is not unlikely that the Knesset will see an even bolder and more radical anti-Palestinian legislative agenda than it had in the past.

Another aspect of Ben-Gvir’s success that should raise grave concerns is the empowerment of the settler movement. This is a particularly lawless, racist and violent population that are already taking Palestine by storm and terrorizing Palestinians everywhere. They were hardly ever held accountable, but now they are empowered to a point where their anti-Arab violence could reach new levels.

So the answer to the question, “will it be worse”, is a definitive “yes”. It will be worse both from a policy-legislative perspective and from the violence that Palestinians will experience by the nationalist anti-Arab gangs.

 

American hypocrisy

Even though there were tensions between Netanyahu and the Obama administration, when Joe Biden visited the State of Israel he shook hands very warmly with Netanyahu, and we may expect that the Biden administration will receive him warmly. What is already clear is that the Biden administration is not as comfortable with Netanyahu’s coalition partners. The people holding the Defense and Internal Security portfolios in the Israel government maintain close ties with the American administration, and team Biden is not keen to work with Ben-Gvir and Smotrich, both of whom are on the short list for these posts.

Israeli newspapers report that the Biden administration has unofficially stated their displeasure at this possibility and their hopes that Netanyahu will join forces with the war criminal Benny Gantz, who they find less offensive. Even the Israeli president, who is legally bound to remain neutral, expressed his desire to see Gantz and current prime minister Yair Lapid form a government with Netanyahu, rather than Ben-Gvir.

 

Loyalty pays off

The various groups that make up the so-called “Netanyahu Block” are political parties that held fast and remained loyal to Netanyahu through and through. Now the time has come for them to reap their reward. They sat in opposition and waited patiently for the return of their benefactor, and now they will receive fat budget increases for their constituents, cabinet positions that will allow them to pursue their political and social agendas, and a seat at the table where decisions are made.

With his comfortable lead, Netanyahu does not need to include anyone but those who are the most loyal to him. He will sit in the prime minister’s office and they will rape and pillage Palestine to their hearts content.

 

Al-Aqsa

I have written and said on many occasions that the Al-Aqsa Mosque is in grave danger. Now, with the very people who want to see it burned down and replaced by a so-called Jewish temple in key positions, the danger is imminent. Last August, I joined a tour that was organized by the so-called “Temple Mount Movement” onto the Al-Aqsa compound. It was during the Jewish holiday of Tish’a Be’av when Jews commemorate the destruction of the temple, an event that took place two thousand years ago.

Having walked with these hate-filled, anti-Palestinian Jewish supremacists and having followed their activities and their statements, one cannot but see the imminent danger to the site of Al-Aqsa. This magnificent, fifteen hundred-year-old site that has been maintained and cared for by Palestinians and where countless Muslims come to pray, has been under threat for decades. Now, with the new Netanyahu government, that threat is more real than ever before.

Feature photo | Far-right Israeli lawmaker Itamar Ben-Gvir speaks to journalists outside of the Likud Party headquarters after meeting with Nov. 1 poll winner Benjamin Netanyahu about forming a government, in Tel Aviv, Israel, Monday, Nov. 7, 2022. Maya Alleruzzo | AP

Miko Peled is MintPress News contributing writer, published author and human rights activist born in Jerusalem. His latest books are”The General’s Son. Journey of an Israeli in Palestine,” and “Injustice, the Story of the Holy Land Foundation Five.”

The post Kahanist Extremists To Take Power in New Israeli Government appeared first on MintPress News.

How Lula’s Victory Can Be Opportunity for Palestine

Palestinians and their supporters are justified in celebrating the election victory of the leftist presidential candidate, Luis Inacio Lula da Silva, in Brazil’s runoff elections on October 30. But Lula’s victory is incomplete and could ultimately prove ineffectual if not followed by a concrete and centralized Palestinian strategy.

Lula has proven, throughout the years, to be a genuine friend of Palestine and Arab countries.

For example, in 2010, as a president, he spoke of his dream of seeing “an independent and free Palestine” during a visit to the occupied West Bank. He also refused to visit the grave of Theodor Herzl, the father of Israel’s Zionist ideology. Instead, he visited Yasser Arafat’s tomb in Ramallah.

Later that year, Lula’s government recognized Palestine as an independent state within the 1967 borders.

Lula’s rival, soon-to-be former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro is an ideologue who has repeatedly professed his love for Israel, and had pledged in November 2018 to follow the US government’s lead in relocating his country’s embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Unlike other pro-Israel world leaders, Bolsonaro’s affection is ideological and unconditional. In a 2018 interview with the Israeli newspaper ‘Israel Hayom’, he said: “Israel is a sovereign state … If you decide what your capital is, we will follow you. You decide on the capital of Israel, not other people”.

In a final and desperate move to win the support of Brazil’s Evangelical Christians, Bolsonaro’s wife, Michelle, donned a t-shirt carrying the Israeli flag. That gesture alone speaks volumes about Bolsonaro’s skewed agenda, which is symptomatic of many of Israel’s supporters around the world.

Lula’s victory and Bolsonaro’s defeat are, themselves, a testament to a changing world, where loyalty to Israel is no longer a guarantor of electoral victory. This has proven true in the case of Donald Trump in the US, Liz Truss in the UK, Scott Morrison in Australia and, now, Brazil.

Michelle Bolsonaro, the former first lady of Brazil, dons a shirt featuring the Israeli flag while casting her vote in Brazi’s recent presidential election.

The Israelis, too, seem to have accepted such a new, albeit unpleasant reality.

Interviewed by The Times of Israel, Brazilian scholar James Green explained that it behooves Israel to revise its view of Lula. Green said that the newly-elected president should not be seen “as a radical, because he’s not, and in this campaign, he needed to show his moderation on all levels”.

The willingness to engage with Lula, though begrudgingly, was also expressed by Claudio Lottenberg, president of the Brazilian Israelite Confederation, the country’s largest pro-Israel Jewish organization who, on October 31, issued a note, expressing the group’s “permanent readiness for constructive and democratic dialogue” with Lula.

Brazil’s political transformation is sure to benefit the Palestinians, even though Lula’s ideologically diverse coalition makes it more difficult for him to explore the same radical political spaces in which he ventured during his previous presidency between 2003 and 2011.

It is also worth noting that Bolsonaro was a relatively important player in the global conservative, far-right political camp that attempted to legitimize the Israeli occupation of Palestine. Following the recent reversal by the Australian government of a 2018 decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Bolsonaro’s defeat is another nail in the coffin in Trump’s ‘Deal of the Century’.

True, geopolitical changes are critical to the future of Palestine and the Palestinian struggle, but without a responsible Palestinian leadership that can navigate opportunities and face up and confront growing challenges, Lula’s victory can, at best, be seen as a symbolic one.

Palestinians are aware of the massive changes underway regionally and globally. That has been demonstrated through the repeated visits by Palestinian political groups to Moscow, and the meeting between Palestinian Authority’s President Mahmoud Abbas with Russian President Vladimir Putin on October 13, in Kazakhstan. The latter meeting has raised the ire of Washington, which is incapable of lashing out in any meaningful way so that it may not push the Palestinians entirely into the Russian camp.

Palestine is also becoming, once again, regionally relevant, if not central to Arab affairs, as indicated in the Arab League Summit in Algeria, November 1-2.

However, for all these dynamic changes to be translated into tangible political achievements, Palestinians cannot proceed as fragmented entities.

There are three major political trends that define Palestinian political action globally:

First, the Palestinian Authority, which has political legitimacy as the legal representative of the Palestinian people, but no actual legitimacy among Palestinians, nor a forward-thinking strategy.

Second, Palestinian political groups which are ideologically diverse and, arguably, more popular among Palestinians, but lack international recognition.

And, finally, the Palestinian-led international solidarity campaign, which has gained much ground as the voice of Palestinian civil society worldwide. While the latter has moral legitimacy, it is not legally representative of Palestinians. Additionally, without a unified political strategy, civil society achievements cannot be translated, at least not yet, into solid political gains.

So, while all Palestinians are celebrating Lula’s victory as a victory for Palestine, there is no single entity that can, alone, harness the political and geopolitical change underway in Brazil to a definite building block towards the collective struggle for justice and freedom in Palestine.

Until Palestinians revamp their problematic leadership or formulate a new kind of leadership through grassroots mobilization in Palestine itself, they should at least attempt to liberate their foreign policy agenda from factionalism, which is defined by a self-centered approach to politics.

A starting point might be the creation of a transitional, non-factional political body of professional Palestinians with an advisory role agreed upon by all political groups. This can take place via the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), which has been marginalized by the PA for decades. This entity’s main role can be confined to surveying the numerous opportunities under way on the global stage and to allow, however nominally, Palestinians to speak in one united voice.

For this to happen, of course, major Palestinian groups would need to have enough goodwill to put their differences aside for the greater good; though not an easy feat, it is, nonetheless, possible.

Feature photo | fepal_brasil | Instagram

Dr. Ramzy Baroud is a journalist, author and the Editor of The Palestine Chronicle. He is the author of six books. His latest book, co-edited with Ilan Pappé, is ‘Our Vision for Liberation: Engaged Palestinian Leaders and Intellectuals Speak out’. His other books include ‘My Father was a Freedom Fighter’ and ‘The Last Earth’. Baroud is a Non-resident Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA). His website is www.ramzybaroud.net

The post How Lula’s Victory Can Be Opportunity for Palestine appeared first on MintPress News.

Leaked Files Show DHS “Ministry of Truth” Lives On In Secret

On October 31, journalists Lee Fang and Ken Klippenstein released a trove of leaked documents exposing how, in recent years, the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) desire – and ability – to curb speech in both online and offline realms has ramped up significantly.

Along the way, a government department ostensibly founded to defend Americans from terrorist violence has become the single biggest threat to free speech in the U.S. What is more, the DHS is being actively abetted in this malign mission by major tech firms.

These papers show that officials at the highest levels of the Department are maneuvering to establish a decisive stranglehold over the flow of information in news outlets and on social media platforms, while covertly co-opting and infiltrating civil society groups as “clearing houses” for government propaganda, and consistently deceiving Americans as to their true intentions.

Furthermore, they are preparing to deploy invasive technology developed by Israeli special forces to spy on the opinions and utterances of everyday citizens – and may well already be doing so.

With the specter of “disinformation” being talked up almost daily as a dire threat to public health and safety, and definitions of the supposed phenomenon shifting constantly according to political need, there is no telling who could be branded an enemy of the state, and subject to surveillance, harassment, censorship, or worse, as a result of this dangerous shift.

The most explosive documents relate to the highly controversial DHS Disinformation Government Board’s (DGB) germination, and its continuation via other means following purported closure.

The Board’s launch in April this year was met with much mainstream hullabaloo. Corporate journalists, think tank pundits and government officials alike hailed the initiative as a groundbreaking innovation in the battle against domestic and foreign-borne “disinformation”, with fawning praise reserved for its chief Nina Jankowicz, a 33-year-old former Ukrainian government communications advisor.

However, clarity on the Board’s precise purpose, functions, budget and objectives was initially unforthcoming, greatly reinforcing already ample anxieties of individuals and organizations outside the media bubble. Substantive and vital concerns were raised by rights groups and dissident lawmakers about its constitutionality, and whether it would serve as a state censorship mechanism. Many comparisons were drawn with George Orwell’s nightmarish Ministry of Truth.

Jankowicz’s shameful history of defaming independent news outlets, such as The Grayzone, as “Russian disinformation”, crazed attacks on WikiLeaks and its jailed founder Julian Assange, eager advocacy of the fraudulent Trump-Russia dossier, and support for suppressing the New York Post’s fatual reporting on Hunter Biden’s emails, likewise handed critics abundant fodder.

Subsequent assurances from DHS officials that the Board would have no operational powers, but simply advise government departments on how to counter disinformation, did nothing to quell the disquiet. Such was the furor, the DGB was placed on indefinite “pause” by Department officials after just three weeks, then reportedly closed outright in August.

The leaked files make a mockery of the repeated insistence of DHS officials that the DGB wasn’t intended to actively dictate what’s true and false, or aggressively police the information citizens can and can’t be told, and by whom. And they strongly suggest the DGB’s public “shutdown” was pure subterfuge.

 

DHS joins FBI war on “subversive data”

Among the documents are minutes of a March 1 meeting of the DHS Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) Cybersecurity Advisory Committee, which has overall control of disinformation policy within the Department.

The Committee is composed of officials drawn from numerous government agencies and contractors – primarily in the tech sphere – as well as civil society actors. At the time, this included Twitter’s head of legal policy, trust and safety, Vijaya Gadde, University of Washington professor Kate Starbird, and a J.P. Morgan executive whose name has been redacted.

The Committee met to be briefed by FBI Foreign Influence Task Force chief Laura Dehmlow, “regarding the FBI’s roles and responsibilities in combating foreign influence,” in advance of the DGB’s formation eight weeks later. The minutes speak to a determination on the part of attendees to significantly expand the scale and influence of DHS counter-disinformation efforts, with almost every representative making an active contribution to discussions at some stage.

Dehmlow kicked off proceedings by explaining the work of her Task Force, which was established in 2016 to counteract “Russian influence” in that year’s Presidential election.

Leaked minutes of a March 1 DHS Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency

Rapidly, “based on mission scope,” the Task Force became an 80-person-strong dedicated component within the FBI’s counterintelligence division, and established a charter of “Foreign Malign Information,” which is defined as “subversive data utilized to drive a wedge between the populace and the government.” This is likely a euphemism for any information that could inspire distrust in the U.S. empire among its citizens at home.

Dehmlow added that her unit “does not perform narrative or content-based analysis,” prompting a participant – name redacted – to suggest CISA “might have a role based on the subcommittee helping to define the narrative so the whole of government approach could be leveraged.” Then followed a discussion between Committee members on “organizational information sharing between the public/private sector; how to collaborate across channels; driving resiliency building and education” about disinformation.

Ominously, “when asked to define a goal” for tackling disinformation, Dehmlow stated, “we need a media infrastructure that is held accountable.” While the senior Bureau operative acknowledged her Task Force “engages with policymakers on the Hill and appropriate partners for information exchange,” there was no mention of her existing, active role in holding major online platforms “accountable”.

Dehmlow is a named defendant in a May lawsuit brought against the Biden administration by the Attorney Generals of Louisiana and Missouri over allegations of government collusion with tech giants to censor inconvenient news reports. A recent court filing reveals she was “involved in communications between the FBI and Meta that led to Facebook’s suppression of the Hunter Biden laptop story.”

FBI Foreign Influence Task Force chief Laura Dehmlow, far right, speaks at a conference on “trends in cyber and foreign malign influence threats to US election.”

That connivance successfully – albeit temporarily – resulted in Facebook and Twitter banning the sharing of any and all links to online articles about or even referencing the laptop’s damning contents, in advance of the November 2020 Presidential election. This was justified on the fraudulent basis the story was a potential Russian information operation.

Other portions of the filing reference how Dehmlow was also intimately connected to ongoing efforts by her Task Force to compel “suppression of election-related speech” on other social networks, including LinkedIn, being “routinely included” in meetings related to “social media suppression” with company top brass.

In any event, at the meeting’s conclusion, attendees were asked for “additional comments with regards to the subcommittee’s way forward,” which led to a “series of questions”, the answers to which it was felt would help the DHS “move toward providing an approach or recommendation” for dealing with disinformation in conjunction with the FBI, being drawn up. Chief among them: “how do we get to push the envelope to obtain traction in this area?”

The answer to this bold, aspirational query was markedly unsophisticated. One participant – name redacted – suggested finding an organization that “has done appropriate social media monitoring for the government,” leading CISA’s Kim Wyman to cite a Stanford study recommending social media companies not promote disinformation peddlers, “in order to reduce the promulgation of information from these people.” Resultantly, Gadde ever so helpfully revealed that Twitter operated a “three strike system” to “de-amplify” such “bad actors.”

In sum, the subcommittee’s envelope-pushing, traction-obtaining grand vision was simply to identify social media users sharing the “wrong” things via a third party, then reporting offending accounts until they were eventually shadowbanned or permanently suspended.

Gadde was one of a great many Twitter staffers purged by the social network’s new owner, Elon Musk, after he took control in late October. It is unknown whether her enthusiastic collaboration with CISA played any role in her contract’s termination, or if she was simply victim of an indiscriminate mass defenestration of lavishly-remunerated executives.

Nonetheless, the leaked files show Gadde offered up a wealth of sensitive insider insight into how Twitter operates in respect of “disinformation”, illuminating several ways the DHS could weaponize the platform for its own ends, while pushing for the scope of the Department’s disinformation busting activities to be greatly increased.

 

Creating covert narrative “clearing houses”

Minutes of subsequent meetings show how CISA leaped on the DGB’s launch to broaden its own powers and purview, then replace the body after its ignominious collapse.

Initially, it was expected the Committee would act as the DGB’s operational wing, enforcing its directives and cracking down on the spread of particular stories and narratives via direct media and social media interventions.

Several discussions across April centered around optimal means of “[amplifying] trusted information,” and seeding “counter-narratives” to “disinformation” across the media, to ensure journalists proactively sang from the same hymn sheet should information or perspectives emerge that the government wished to conceal or discredit.

All along, Gadde took a leading role, variously suggesting “keeping the aperture of recommendations broad regarding media,” rather than “limiting recommendations to just social media,” and considering carefully “how many counter-narratives an organization can issue” per incident, to avoid muddying the waters too much.

Printouts of Facebook and Instagram posts alleged by US intelligence to be linked to Russian disinformation campaigns. Jon Elswick | AP

She also disclosed that Twitter “evaluates the level of harm done in disinformation incidents,” although further elucidation – such as whether this is shared, or calculated, in conjunction with an external entity such as the DHS – was unforthcoming.

The solution, proposed by director of CISA’s Election Security Initiative Geoff Hale, was to outsource the work of battling disinformation to cutouts, using NGOs and nonprofits as a “clearing house” for “counter-narratives,” in order to “avoid the appearance of government propaganda.”

Another Committee member – name redacted – concurred that “designating multiple voices as the clearing house so there is not one trusted voice” was ideal, thereby creating the false illusion of unanimity across multiple ostensibly independent sources, when the ultimate origin of all these “counter-narrative” was the Department of Homeland Security.

Another core consideration was “pre-socializing” Committee’s work before and after launch, and “socializing” it after. This meant contacting rights groups and lawmakers to brief and acquaint them with the body’s activities in advance of it becoming public. Recommendations for conducting this PR offensive were distributed among the group in advance, with particular emphasis on how to answer difficult questions related to matters such as “surveillance and monitoring” of private citizens should they arise.

The DGB being placed on pause did nothing to halt these initiatives. In fact, lessons were learned from that debacle, with the list of entities to be brought onside with the Committee’s work, now it would be operating solo, extended to include rights groups such as the Electronic Freedom Foundation (EFF). The EFF prominently criticized the Board and demanded assurances from Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas that it not police speech, online or otherwise.

Other civil society organizations in the Committee’s crosshairs included the Brennan Center for Justice. Gadde added to the list, naming similar entities Twitter had partnered with in the past, “in the event the group would like to reach out to any additional individuals” – input offered despite angsting about her dual roles.

At one meeting, Gadde shared a “recent communication” she had sent to CISA director Jen Easterly “about her own involvement in the committee’s work given the fraught time, in advance of the election season.” She wasn’t alone; at the same summit, an unnamed participant similarly “expressed concern for the group’s efforts,” cautioning members “on how to communicate their ongoing work.”

Come June 22, the Committee had prepared a draft report for Easterly, on “protecting critical infrastructure from misinformation and disinformation.” It boldly called for CISA to approach these issues with “the entire information ecosystem in view, including social media platforms of all sizes, mainstream media, cable news, hyper partisan media, talk radio, and other online resources.”

“Where possible,” it added, CISA “should proactively provide informational resources – and assist partners in providing informational resources – to address anticipated threats,” while engaging in both “prebunking and debunking” of unwelcome narratives.

“Proactive work should also include identifying and supporting trusted, authoritative sources in specific communities,” the document advocated.

 

DHS partners with Israeli private intelligence firm

Clearly, then, the guarantees of DHS officials that the DGB wouldn’t play a role prowling the online sphere for individuals possessed of dangerous “wrongthink” and punishing them accordingly, were outright lies.

At the very least, while the Board itself may not have been designed to eventually exert “operational” powers, its CISA partner absolutely was from day one. That the Committee’s representatives are well-aware of how deeply disturbed the general public would be if their initiative’s true nature was openly advertised, and the urgent need to disguise this as a result, is starkly underlined in records of multiple meetings. Over and over again, for example, the topic of “social listening” – resources that track conversations online in real-time – is discussed.

While manifestly keen to adopt such strategies – which would result in direct state surveillance of citizens’ private and public communications, contrary to firm, repeated DHS assurances the DGB wouldn’t engage in such activities – Committee members felt it best to hold off on making any concrete “recommendations” in this regard. At one point, Gadde even “cautioned the group against pursuing any social listening recommendations” in formal, private discussions with CISA director Jen Easterly, regarding the group’s disinformation battling proposals.

At another meeting, a Committee member – name redacted – “stressed that this is the most sensitive recommendation and could overshadow other recommendations posed by the committee.” It was resolved instead to engage “a broader governing body such as Congress” before going further.

“Sensitive” the use of social listening tools by domestic intelligence agencies may be, but the DHS has access to and recently deployed far more intrusive technology. Earlier this month, Democratic Senator Ron Wyden released an internal DHS Office of Intelligence Analysis report that showed that, in 2020, the Department attempted to concoct a left-wing domestic terror threat, in order to help President Trump.

Following direct orders from the White House, acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf set DHS operatives on a quest to amass dossiers on residents of Portland, Oregon attending protests sparked by the police murder of George Floyd. Beyond mere spying, top officials were tasked with linking demonstrators to an imaginary terrorist plot, and fabricating evidence of financial ties between unconnected protesters in police custody.

As it was, the effort failed miserably, although hundreds if not thousands of private citizens were ensnared in the DHS dragnet. This included not just protesters, but their “friends and followers…as well as their interests,” up to and including “First Amendment speech activity.”

These dossiers were compiled using “social media aggregation tool” Tangles, which was created by Cobwebs, a company founded by former Israeli Occupation Force specialists that hawks big data, artificial intelligence and machine learning tools to foreign security and intelligence agencies. Widely used by U.S. law enforcement, its sales manager Johnmichael O’Hare was formerly Commander of the Hartford, Connecticut PD’s Vice, Intelligence, and Narcotics Division.

Johnmichael O’Hare, left, shows Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy the police department’s Real-Time Crime and Data Intelligence Center in Hartford, Conn. Dave Collins | AP

Evidently, the DHS has the power and capability to spy on – and criminalize – law-abiding citizens to a far greater extent than CISA is willing to overtly admit. As such, it is only reasonable to ask whether the DGB was intended to “socialize” publicly what its parent department has been doing clandestinely for some time.

Committee members were clearly thrilled by how the Board’s launch focused mainstream attention on the subject of “disinformation”, and the grave threat it purportedly poses to national and individual security. A May 10 meeting of the group began with CISA Senior Election Security Lead Kim Wyman hailing how “misinformation and disinformation are elevated to national awareness due to this Board.” The rest of the rendezvous was overwhelmingly concerned with ways to market the Committee accordingly.

It is uncertain the extent to which the blueprints for arm’s length state control of democratic spaces outlined in the June draft document have progressed since its publication, but the infrastructure underpinning that monstrous endeavor is unambiguously well-developed, and could be activated at any time. It may well be operating already, in the shadows.

As such, even if the damning disclosures of Fang and Klippenstein thwart the CISA anti-disinformation effort’s planned public rollout, it seems all but inevitable that it will simply be rebranded yet again, and its true nature better obscured via more effective “socializing” next time round.

Feature photo | Illustration by MintPress News

Kit Klarenberg is an investigative journalist and MintPresss News contributor exploring the role of intelligence services in shaping politics and perceptions. His work has previously appeared in The Cradle, Declassified UK, and Grayzone. Follow him on Twitter @KitKlarenberg.

The post Leaked Files Show DHS “Ministry of Truth” Lives On In Secret appeared first on MintPress News.

Peter Beinart Leads Charge to Cancel Palestinian American Journalist Mnar Adley 

The latest victim of cancel culture wave is MintPress News founder and editor-in-chief Mnar Adley. Adley had been booked to host and moderate an event discussing anti-Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) laws in the United States, and how Palestinians are under increasing pressure to silence themselves, when she was herself, ironically, removed from the panel at the behest of a shady advisor.

The event was hosted by Voices From the Holy Land, an organization that hosts documentary films and group discussions in order to give voice to those ignored by the mainstream press and to educate the public about the realities of living under the Israeli occupation.

It was scheduled for October 9th online and featured a screening of the documentary “Boycott”, followed by a discussion. Other panelists included editor-at-large of Jewish Currents magazine Peter Beinart; “Boycott” producer Suhad Babaa; and Texas speech therapist Bahia Amawi.

While Voices From The Holy Land coordinator Deepak Kenkeremath had expressed excitement to have her host the panel, just hours before the event, he informed Adley that Beinart and others had objected to sharing a stage with her. In fact, he shared with Adley that Beinart had been calling him daily, putting pressure on him to remove Mnar from the event.

Beinart had been contacted by a Mr. Stanley Heller, who insisted that Adley was anti-Semitic, and that MintPress News was a discredited pro-Putin, pro-Assad, pro-Iran outlet. As proof, Heller reportedly shared MintPress’ (heavily defaced) Wikipedia entry.

These charges are, of course, false. MintPress is an expressly anti-racist platform and does not support any government, let alone specifically those of Russia, Syria or Iran. Instead, MintPress focuses on exposing the permanent war state and those who benefit from it. For this, we have been targeted by NATO-funded think tanks, the Israel lobby, U.S. and U.K. intelligence outfits, foreign governments and lobbying groups. We have also had our Wikipedia page attacked, been demoted and deranked by algorithms, and had our financial accounts frozen.

Adley, who previously lived under Israeli occupation and apartheid, witnessed grave human rights abuses and crimes, has advocated for Palestinian human rights for decades. She has used her career as a journalist and antiwar activist to oppose U.S. weapons from reaching human rights abusers. For a Palestinian woman who defends the rights of Palestinians to resist occupation to be called anti-Semitic is another example of the tried-and-tested smear tactic used by the Israeli lobby to target and silence Palestinian dissent.

As part of his investigation, Kenkeremath spoke with his confidant, Israeli-American author and activist Miko Peled. Peled, who frequently contributes to MintPress, was adamant that Adley is an exemplary figure. “What I told Deepak is that it’s Peter Beinart who should be grateful that he gets to sit on a panel with Mnar, not the other way around!” he said, adding,

I’m absolutely appalled at the fact that somebody thinks they have the right to cancel Mnar. I am appalled, I’m disappointed, I’m angry. I think it is indicative of where we are today, politically – a privileged white guy who considers himself progressive can just feel comfortable enough to cancel a Palestinian woman from speaking about her country?”

MintPress contacted Beinart for comment, but received no response.

Kenkeremath came to a similar conclusion, telling MintPress,

Mnar was the right choice [to moderate the panel]. I think Mnar is great. As a committee, we like her. We would like to find a way or time to bring her to participate with us, a time when we wouldn’t be blackmailed or held hostage by somebody [Heller].”

Kenkeremath would have held the event with Adley moderating. But then others on the panel, who Heller had also contacted, demanded she be cancelled as well, citing the Wikipedia article. This put Kenkeremath in a situation he had never been in before, having already sold the tickets and been pressed into a corner, he apologetically disinvited Adley.

“We’ve been doing this for nine years, and we’ve had hundreds of events and many hundreds of panelists. This is the first time ever that we’ve had to change a panelist proactively. And we really regretted taking that action, but felt we really didn’t have a choice, given how close to the event this decision surfaced,” Kenkeremath told MintPress.

For Voices From the Holy Land, the problem was the time crunch they were put under and the consequences of cancelling such a high-profile event at the eleventh hour. As Kenkeremath explained,

This was our biggest event in our 9-year history. And we had, by the time we made the decision, over 1400 people already registered. And we had many, maybe on the order of about 15 or 16 other groups that were tied in with us that were promoting this event. So it was a choice of either cancelling the event or making this change to keep the panel together. The film that we screened – “Boycott” – is about First Amendment rights. It’s about freedom of speech. And for us to take this action is a little more than ironic.”

Beinart’s clout as one of the most high-profile individuals in highbrow American life likely weighed heavily on the organization’s decision. A liberal hawk who championed the Iraq Invasion and became a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, Beinart was also a passionate defender of the state of Israel. In 2020, however, after decades of support, he switched sides and advocated for a democratic bi-national state. His metamorphosis from apologist to critic of Israel shocked many, and is widely seen as a sign of how uncomfortable many liberal American Jews are with Israel. He has also publicly spoken out against Palestinian voices being suppressed and excluded from conversations on Israel/Palestine, making this incident all the more ironic.

Kenkeremath was more understanding of Beinart’s position, telling MintPress that,

I think Peter just felt uncomfortable in going forward with this… I’m pretty sure he had not heard of Stanley either, but just felt a little uncomfortable about a controversy that Heller had raised. And the feeling was, ‘we don’t have enough time to vet the situation, and we’re not sure that it makes sense at this time for us to be associated with the controversy.’”

Peled, on the other hand, was far more condemnatory, asserting that Voices of the Holy Land should have cancelled the event rather than disinviting a speaker on spurious grounds. “It was absolutely shameful…that should not have been allowed to happen. This on every possible level, human level, dignity level or respectful level, a political level, it was wrong,” he said.

 

Wiki Wars

To be fair to Beinart, Babaa, and the others, MintPress has been the subject of constant and unending attacks on Wikipedia, the entry describing us as in league with the Kremlin and as Assadist conspiracy theorists who routinely peddle fake news. Thus, anybody unfamiliar with the site and hearing this might justifiably feel uncomfortable with associating with its editor-in-chief.

Yet on many issues, Wikipedia is not an unbiased source of information, but the site of a bitter political struggle to discredit anti-war voices. Nowhere is this more apparent than with Israel/Palestine. For more than a decade, well-organized and well-funded Israeli groups have infiltrated Wikipedia and attempted to rewrite the dictionary to defend Israeli crimes and demonize voices who speak out against them.

One of the most well-known of these is the Yesha Council, which claimed to have 12,000 active members as far back as 2010. Yesha members painstakingly police Wikipedia, removing bothersome facts and framing articles in a manner more favorable to Israel.

Those Yesha considers the “Best Zionist Editors” receive rewards such as hot air balloon trips and other prizes. Between 2010 and 2012, this project was personally overseen and co-ordinated by future prime minister, Naftali Bennett.

Yesha and other pro-Israel groups have ceaselessly targeted MintPress’ Wikipedia page, filling it with demonstrable falsehoods and misinformation. (Another primary editor of our page is the infamous Philip Cross.) Wikipedia is aware of this problem, but has refused to address it adequately, perhaps in part because of its co-founder Jimmy Wales’ unabashedly pro-Israel partisanship.

Thus, yet another layer of irony to this story is that Heller, Beinart and co. are citing misinformation written in part by Israeli settlers and pro-Israel organizations, all in order to block a Palestinian speaking with them.

 

Heller the Gadfly

Why Beinart, Babaa and others paid attention to Heller is unclear. Stanley Heller is a Jewish American writer with a strong interest in Israel/Palestine. However, judging by his output, one of his primary passions is attacking left-wing or anti-war voices. In recent times, he has bitterly denounced Noam Chomsky for not being sufficiently anti-Russia, counter-protested an ANSWER Coalition peace demonstration, condemned Seymour Hersh and the U.S. Green Party for their stances on Syria, and labeled Rania Khalek a “liar”. Heller has also announced himself “repulsed” by much of the anti-war left and called on the “peace movement” to demand the U.S. impose a no-fly zone on Syria. In his haste to denounce anyone expressing doubts about the U.S. role in Syria, Heller has even presented intelligence front group Bellingcat as a reliable source.

Heller appears to be associated with Trotskyism, an obscure sect of Marxism that broke away in the 1930s after Russian leader Leon Trotsky was expelled from the Soviet Union. Following Trotsky’s line, his supporters bitterly denounced the U.S.S.R., and many left-wing movements since, often putting themselves in the same camp as the U.S. government in many of its wars and coups.

Describing them as puritanical trust fund kids and comparing them to Scientologists, Counterpunch editor Jeffrey St. Clair explained,

Their political thinking, such as it is, remains lodged like a fossil in the strata of the early 1930s. Humiliated by their own political impotence, the Trots have lashed out at nearly every popular uprising of the last 50 years for being doctrinally impure, from the Cuban Revolution to the Zapatistas, from the street protests at the WTO to the Bolivarian Revolution.”

St. Clair’s comments were in response to a Trotskyist group attempting to organize a boycott of Counterpunch magazine after a (female) author had used the word “tit” in an article about film star Angelina Jolie.

There is no evidence that Heller was involved in the campaign against Counterpunch. However, he certainly is a repeat offender in the cancellation business. In 2019, he attempted to pressure journalist and speaker Chris Hedges into refusing to platform Max Blumenthal of The Grayzone. Hedges curtly told Heller that he should mind his own business.

Kenkeremath originally ignored Heller’s email, dismissing him as a “gadfly you can’t take seriously.” Unfortunately, the other panelists did not come to the same conclusion, worrying about any potential negative consequences of appearing. “We are angered and frustrated that one person basically blackmailed an entire group into going his way,” Kenkeremath said, adding,

Over the years, this is the type of pressure moves we have seen by pro-Israeli groups in trying to silence pro-Palestinian voices. It is unfortunate to see that this came from a self-professed pro-Palestinian activist.”

Peled was particularly disappointed that these figures failed to do their own research, telling us,

Mnar is brilliant and progressive and not to their liking. And again, what is funny is that none of the people who wanted to cancel her spoke to her, had even heard of her, and did not know anything about her work..” “Before cancelling her, they didn’t even have the courtesy to call her. And we’re talking about people who are supposedly on the side of justice in Palestine! It is a very sad situation.”

Blumenthal was even more scathing on the whole situation, telling MintPress that, “Manipulating media figures into cancelling opponents of America’s regime change wars seems to be the only source of influence for a demented Trotskyist like Stanley Heller.”

 

Palestinians? No. Israeli officials? A-OK

The BDS panel took place on October 9th without Adley, with Babaa showing her documentary, “Boycott” and the panel later discussing it and answering questions. Disappointingly, Babaa refused to share a platform with Adley, despite only recently promoting her movie alongside former senior advisor to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, Daniel Levy.

Levy is also a founder of explicitly Zionist, explicitly anti-BDS organization J Street. As it notes on its website,

J Street very clearly opposes the global BDS movement and believes that actions that target the state of Israel or its people are incompatible with our vision of Israel and incompatible with a two-state resolution of the conflict.”

Thus, it is strange indeed that the producer of a film about boycotts would share a platform with advisors to Israeli war criminals, but not with a Palestinian journalist. MintPress asked Babaa for her views on the affair, but did not receive a response.

“This is not the kind of thing that happens so much in Palestine; it is an American thing,” Peled noted, adding,

In Palestine, I know people who have a brother with Hamas, a brother with Fatah, another brother with whomever. And people talk, communicate and disagree. This [American] fear of cancellation, what are they afraid of? The fact that somebody’s going to say that you sat in the same room as somebody else?”

 

A long history of cancelled Palestinians

Unfortunately, for Palestinians or people who support the cause of a free Palestine, cancellation is a common occurrence. Last week, Shaima Dallali, the U.K. president of the National Union of Students, was forced out after a smear campaign from the Israel Lobby. In August, Palestinian-American athletic trainer Natalie Abulhawa was removed from her job at a girls’ school over years-old social media posts criticizing Israel. And in February, German state broadcaster Deutsche Welle (DW) fired seven Arab journalists – four of them Palestinian – because of their support for a Palestinian homeland. DW Journalists speaking anonymously said the message had been sent loud and clear: do not criticize Israel.

There has also been a crackdown on Palestine solidarity on campus. Quite apart from the BDS bans enacted in dozens of American states, academics such as Valentina Azarova, Norman Finkelstein and Steven Sailata have been fired or had employment offers rescinded because of their activism.

Meanwhile, child language specialist Bahia Amawi lost her job at a school in Texas after she refused to sign a state-mandated loyalty oath, pledging never to boycott Israel. Ironically, Amawi still spoke at the Voices From the Holy Land event, even after Adley was blacklisted.

Therefore, while Palestinians have come to expect negative consequences for holding their heads up high, it is disappointing to see explicitly pro-Palestine organizations succumb to cancel culture. That two white Jewish American men managed to stop a Palestinian woman from speaking about her country and BDS at a pro-Palestine event is especially ironic, and is, in many ways, a new low.

Feature photo | Illustration by MintPress News

Mnar Adley is founder, CEO and editor in chief of MintPress News, and is also a regular speaker on responsible journalism, sexism, neoconservativism within the media and journalism start-ups. She started her career as an independent multimedia journalist covering Midwest and national politics while focusing on civil liberties and social justice issues posting her reporting and exclusive interviews on her blog MintPress, which she later turned MintPress into the global news source it is today. In 2009, Adley also became the first American woman to wear the hijab to anchor/report the news in American media. Contact Mnar at mnar@mintpressnews.com. Follow Mnar on Twitter at @mnarmuh

Alan MacLeod is Senior Staff Writer for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent, as well as a number of academic articles. He has also contributed to FAIR.orgThe GuardianSalonThe GrayzoneJacobin Magazine, and Common Dreams.

The post Peter Beinart Leads Charge to Cancel Palestinian American Journalist Mnar Adley  appeared first on MintPress News.

The TSA Has Assaulted Us For 20 Years With Nothing To Show For It

In the U.S. where we are fighting invasions of privacy and the destruction of our First Amendment rights in about 900 different ways every day, most of us have stopped talking about how insane and offensive airport security still is.

To begin with, allow me to disabuse you of the notion that airport security stops terror attacks. As Darryl Campbell reports in The Verge, “the reality is that TSA has played next to no role in the biggest counterterrorism stories of the past two decades. According to the think tank RAND, intelligence and security services manage to foil nearly two-thirds of terrorist plots in the planning stages.”

Of course, U.S. law enforcement also helps create almost all of the “terror attacks” they thwart. Back in 2013, a review of planned terror attacks found,  “Only 1 percent of ‘terrorists’ caught by the FBI are real.” The vast majority – over 90% – are people either pushed by or helped by the FBI.

Sidenote: If the FBI are involved in over 90 percent of planned terror attacks, doesn’t that make them the most active terrorist group in America? Like no one else even comes close.

Not only is almost all terrorism planning stopped before it gets to an airport – and there’s not much to begin with – but on top of that, the main thing that stops another 9/11 from ever happening is strong, locked cockpit doors – not some underpaid TSA agent flicking you in the balls to make sure they’re real. Yet, we have spent billions and given away all our rights on this breathtakingly stupid system.

Campbell continues, “Actuaries measure the cost-effectiveness of an intervention with a metric called ‘cost per life saved.’ This calculation tries to capture the total societal net resources spent in order to save one year of life.”

For example, the nerds in the nerdery have found that seat belt laws have cost $138 per year-of-life saved, which is pretty good. I’m willing to pay that to save a life. On the other hand, “The most generous estimates of the cost-effectiveness of the TSA’s airport security screening put the cost per life saved at around $15 million.”

I am not willing to pay that. Sorry, I don’t know you.

But it gets worse. That $15 million number assumes airport security is 100 percent responsible for stopping all terror attacks, which we know is not true. So when you take that into account,  “Less optimistic assessments place the number at $667 million per life saved.”

That’s insane, especially considering that in the U.S., we don’t actually care about each other. We could save millions of lives by having universal healthcare, universal basic income, or simply banning Taco Bell’s “Taco Tango Pork & Mystery Meat Milkshake.” But we don’t do it! Because we don’t care!

To put it a little more bluntly, “Empirically, we know that the TSA does little to stop massive terror plots or even the occasional airport shooting.” They could save way more lives if they were screening for a lump instead of a gun while cupping your balls.

Watch the full report above.

Lee Camp is an American stand-up comedian, writer, actor and activist. Camp is the host of Behind The Headlines’ new series: The Most Censored News With Lee Camp. He is a former comedy writer for the Onion and the Huffington Post and has been a touring stand-up comic for 20 years.

The post The TSA Has Assaulted Us For 20 Years With Nothing To Show For It appeared first on MintPress News.

How Europe Is Destroying Its Own ‘Garden

The European Union’s Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell is not particularly perceived by the EU’s political elite or mainstream media as a rightwing ideologue or warmonger. But seen through a different, non-western prism, it is hard not to mistake him for one.

Borrell’s recent comments that “Europe is a garden” and that “the rest of the world is a jungle” were duly condemned as ‘racist’ by many politicians around the world, but mostly in the Global South. Borrell’s remarks, however, must also be viewed as an expression of superiority, not only of Borell personally, but of Europe’s ruling classes as a whole.

Particularly interesting about the EU top diplomat’s words are these inaccurate depictions of Europe and its relationship with the rest of the world: “We have built a garden”, “everything works” and “the jungle could invade the garden”.

Without delving too deep into what is obviously an entrenched superiority complex, Borell speaks as if an advocate of the so-called ‘Replacement Theory’, a racist notion advocated by the West’s – Europe especially – rightwing intellectuals, which sees refugees, migrants and non-Europeans as parasites aiming to destroy the continent’s supposedly perfect demographic, religious and social harmony.

If stretched further into a historical dimension, one also feels compelled to remind the EU leadership of the central role that European colonialism, economical exploitation, political meddling and outright military intervention have played in turning much of the world into a supposed ‘jungle’. Would Libya, for example, have been reduced to the status of a failed state if the West did not wage a major war starting in March 2011?

The imagined ‘jungle’ aside, Europe’s past and present reality strongly negates Borell’s ethnocentric view. Sadly, Europe is the birthplace of the most horrible pages of history, from colonialism and slavery to the nationalistic, fascist and nihilistic movements that defined most of the last three centuries.

Despite the desperate attempt to rewrite or ignore history in favor of a more amiable narrative focused on great splendors, technological advancement and civilizational triumph, Europe’s true nature continues to smolder underneath the ashes, ready to resurface whenever the geopolitical and socioeconomic factors take a wrong turn. The Syrian and Libyan refugee crisis, the Covid pandemic and, more recently, the Russia-Ukraine war are all examples of the proverbial wrong turn.

In fact, Borrell’s words, aimed to reassure Europe of its moral superiority are but a foolhardy effort meant to conceal one of the most dramatic crises that Europe has experienced in nearly a century. The impact of this crisis on every aspect of European life cannot be overstated.

In an editorial published last September on the European Environment Agency (EEA) website, Hans Bruyninckx described the “state of multiple crises” that characterizes the European continent at the moment. “It seems as if we have been living through one crisis after another — a pandemic, extreme heatwaves and drought due to climate change, inflation, war and an energy crisis,” he wrote.

Instead of taking responsibility for this impending catastrophe, Europe’s ruling elites choose a different, though predictable route: blame others, especially the inhabitants of the non-European ‘jungle’.

Naturally, ordinary people throughout Europe who are already experiencing this harrowing reality hardly feel reassured by Borrell’s proclamation that “everything works”.

The risk of the resurgence of the far-right movements in Europe is now a real possibility. This danger was relatively mitigated by the setback of the extremist ‘Alternative for Germany’ and the victory of the Social Democrats in last year’s elections. Germany, however, is not the exception, as the European far-right is now back, virtually everywhere, and with a vengeance.

In France, Marine Le Pen’s far-right party gained a record 41% of the total vote (over 13 million) in April. True, Emmanuel Macron managed to hold off the advance of Le Pen’s National Rally, but his coalition has lost its parliamentary majority, and his leadership has been significantly weakened. Currently, the country is rocked by massive rallies and strikes, all protesting the soaring prices and deepening inflation.

Sweden is another example of the determined rise of the far-right. A right-wing coalition, which won the general elections last September now dominates the country’s parliament. On October 17, it elected a new prime minister, Ulf Kristersson, whose government was made possible because of the support of the Sweden Democrats, a party with neo-Nazi roots and a harsh anti-immigration agenda. SD was crucial in determining the victory of the coalition and it is now suited to play the role of the kingmaker in critical decisions.

In Italy, too, the situation is dire. A future government is expected to bring together Giorgia Meloni – the leader of Fratelli d’Italia (Brothers of Italy) – former right-wing Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s party, Forza Italia, and the extremist Matteo Salvini’s La Lega. Meloni’s party is rooted in the post-fascist tradition of the Italian Social Movement, which was formed in the aftermath of World War II by fascist politicians after their party was officially outlawed by the country’s progressive 1948 Constitution.

The shifting political grounds in Germany, France, Italy and Sweden have little to do with the ‘jungle’, and everything with the illusory European ‘garden.’ Europe’s extremism is a by-product of exclusively European historical experiences, ideologies and class struggles. Blaming Asians, Arabs or Africans for Europe’s “state of multiple crises” is not only self-deluding, indeed spiritless, but also obstructive to any healthy process of change.

Europe cannot fix its problems by blaming others, and the European ‘garden’, if it ever existed, is actually being ravaged by Europe’s own ruling elites – rich, detached and utterly dishonest.

Feature photo | European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell waits for the start of a meeting of the EU-Israel Association Council at the EU Council building in Brussels, Oct. 3, 2022. Virginia Mayo | AP

Romana Rubeo, an Italian journalist, contributed to this article.

Dr. Ramzy Baroud is a journalist, author and the Editor of The Palestine Chronicle. He is the author of six books. His latest book, co-edited with Ilan Pappé, is ‘Our Vision for Liberation: Engaged Palestinian Leaders and Intellectuals Speak out’. His other books include ‘My Father was a Freedom Fighter’ and ‘The Last Earth’. Baroud is a Non-resident Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA). His website is www.ramzybaroud.net

The post How Europe Is Destroying Its Own ‘Garden appeared first on MintPress News.

The ‘Principal Threat’: Time to Talk about the Palestinian Class Struggle

On Monday, October 31, Palestinians in the town of Al-Eizariya, east of Occupied East Jerusalem, observed a general strike. The strike was declared to be part of the community’s mourning of 49-year-old Barakat Moussa Odeh, who was killed by Israeli forces in Jericho a day earlier.

This is not an isolated case. General strikes were observed throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territories in recent weeks as a form of civil disobedience, and protest of the Israeli attacks on the cities of Nablus, Jerusalem, Jenin, and Hebron, as well as to mourn Palestinian fighters who were killed, following shooting operations against Israeli soldiers of illegal Jewish settlers.

Historically, general strikes have been declared and observed by working-class Palestinians. This form of protest often represents the backbone of popular, grassroots resistance in Palestine, starting many years before the establishment of Israel on the ruins of the historic Palestinian homeland.

The return of the general strike tactics suggests that the new revolt in the West Bank is a direct outcome of working-class resistance. Indeed, many of the young Palestinian fighters hail from refugee camps or working-class population centers. Their revolt stems from the growing realization that the political tactics of the elites have resulted in nothing tangible, and that Palestinian freedom will certainly not be achieved through Mahmoud Abbas and his self-serving politics.

The budding revolt seems to also have many similarities between the Palestinian anti-colonial revolt in 1936-39, as well as the First Intifada, the popular uprising of 1987. Both of these historical events were shaped and sustained by working class Palestinians. While the interests of wealthy classes often negotiated political spaces that allowed them to exist alongside various ruling powers, working class Palestinians, the most disaffected from colonialism and military occupation, fought back as a collective.

Palestinian writer and historian, Ghassan Kanafani – himself assassinated by the Israeli intelligence, the Mossad, in July 1972 – analyzed the events leading to the 1930s Palestinian revolt in his essay ‘The 1936-39 Revolt in Palestine’, published shortly before his untimely death. Kanafani argued that there are three enemies that pose “principal threat” to the Palestinian national movement: “the local, reactionary leadership; the regimes in the Arab states surrounding Palestine and the imperialist-Zionist enemy”.

“The change from a semi-feudal society to capitalist society was accompanied by an increased concentration of economic power in the hands of the Zionist machine and, consequently, within the Jewish society in Palestine. (By the late 1930s, Palestinian) Arab proletariat had fallen victim to British colonialism and (Zionist) Jewish capital, the former bearing the primary responsibility.”

Expectedly, Palestinian workers are, again, at the front line of the struggle for liberation. They seem perfectly aware of the fact that Israeli settler colonialism is not only an agent of oppression, but also a class enemy.

Palestinians observe a one-day general strike to mourn the killing of Udai Tamimi in a fire exchange with Israeli forces at the entrance of the colonial settlement of Ma’ale Adumim, on October 20, 2022. Majdi Fathi | NurPhoto via AP

Settler colonialism is often defined as a form of colonialism that aims at settling the colonized land, exploiting its resources while simultaneously and methodically eliminating the native population. The work of historian, Patrick Wolfe, has been particularly illuminating in this regard. He argued in his seminal work ‘Settler Colonialism and the Elimination of the Native’ that “Settler colonialism is inherently eliminatory”. However, according to Wolfe, “The logic of elimination not only refers to the summary liquidation of Indigenous people, though it includes that.”

The longevity of settler-colonial societies is predicated on key factors that allow these societies to be sustainable over long periods of time. One of these factors is for settler-colonial projects to maintain complete hegemony over natural resources, including the systematic exploitation of the native population as a cheap workforce.

Sai Englert argues in ‘Settlers, Workers, and the Logic of Accumulation by Dispossession’, that, “in settler colonial societies, internal settler class struggle is fought not only over the distribution of wealth extracted from settler labor, but also over the distribution of the loot accumulated through the dispossession of the indigenous population.”

Englert’s logic applies to the Zionist settler-colonial model in Palestine, starting long before the establishment of the State of Israel over the Palestinian homeland in 1948. Englert highlights the Zionist dichotomy by citing the work of Gershon Shafir, who describes early Zionism as a “colonization movement which simultaneously had to secure land for its settlers and settlers for its land.”

However, since the settling of Jewish migrants – mostly from Europe – in Palestine was a long, protracted process, settler Zionism felt compelled to carry out its colonial project in stages. In the early stage, starting in the late 19th century till the 1930s, Zionist colonialism centered on the exploitation of indigenous Palestinian Arab labor and, eventually, on the exclusion of this very labor force in preparation for the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people altogether.

Early Zionists were fully aware of this process, that of the exploitation of Palestinian labor as a mere stage – as in ‘temporary exploitation’ – in the development of what Zionist leaders, David Ben-Gurion and Yitzhak Ben-Zvi, described as “avoda ivrit”, or ‘Hebrew labor’. “My hope is that, in due course, we (meaning ‘Hebrew labor’) will grasp the decisive place in the Palestine economy and in its collective and social life,” Ben-Zvi said.

“It is obvious who was to occupy the marginal role in the economy: the Palestinians who formed the vast majority of the population at the time,” Pappé elaborates.

“Yaakov Rabinowitz (one of the founders of Agudat Israel Orthodox party), saw no contradiction in heading a seemingly socialist movement, such Hapoel Hazair, and arguing for a segregated, colonialist labor market: ‘The Zionist establishment should defend the Jewish workers against the Arab one, as the French government protects the French colonialists in Algeria against the natives’.”

The legacy of those early Zionists continues to define the relationship between Palestinian labor and Israel to this day, a relationship that is based on racial segregation and exploitation.

The nature of Israel’s settler colonialism has not fundamentally changed since its inception in the early 20th century. It remains committed to the ethnic cleansing of Palestine and the usurping of Palestinian resources, including Palestinian labor. All attempts at circumventing this ongoing exploitation have largely failed because Palestinian workers remain equally vulnerable in other workspaces as well, whether in the limited, semi-autonomous economy operated by the Palestinian Authority or by the equally exploitative Arab regimes.

Despite all of this, Palestinian workers continue to resist their exploitation in many ways, including unionizing, striking, protesting, and resisting the Israeli occupation. It should come as no surprise that the various Palestinian uprisings throughout the years were fueled by working-class Palestinians.

Such reality compels us to rethink our understanding of the Palestinian struggle. It is not a mere ‘conflict’ of politics, geography, or narratives, but one that is predicated on several strata of class struggles within and without Palestine. And those struggles, as experiences have shown, have stood at the very core of the history of Palestinian Resistance, manifesting itself clearly in the Palestinian strike and rebellion of 1936-39, all the way to the present.

Feature photo | A Palestinian worker removes the rubble of destroyed homes after the Israeli attacks on the city of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip. Mahmoud Issa | SOPA Images via AP Images

Dr. Ramzy Baroud is a journalist and the Editor of The Palestine Chronicle. He is the author of six books. His latest book, co-edited with Ilan Pappé, is “Our Vision for Liberation: Engaged Palestinian Leaders and Intellectuals Speak out”. Baroud is a Non-resident Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA). His website is www.ramzybaroud.net

 Romana Rubeo is an Italian writer and the Managing Editor of The Palestine Chronicle. Her articles appear in many online newspapers and academic journals. She holds a master’s degree in Foreign Languages and Literature and specializes in audio-visual and journalism translation.

The post The ‘Principal Threat’: Time to Talk about the Palestinian Class Struggle appeared first on MintPress News.

Pages