Mint Press News

Talking “Peace” US Arms Saudis for Latest Attack on Yemen’s People: Operation Golden Bow

HODEIDAH, YEMEN — Inside the ruins of a modest Yemeni home where human and animal remains were strewn together, local rescuers struggled to evacuate a pregnant mother and other potential survivors from the rubble as warplanes circled above. There, they found the body of a toddler covered in ashes beside the remains of a humble dining table. The chaotic cries of rescuers covered in blood filled the scene as they examined his remains, exposing what appeared to be an umbilical cord. Near the boy, they found his young mother covered in rubble, barely groaning in a muffled voice of pain.

Just two days after World Children’s Day and three days shy of International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, an unborn baby died when he was torn from his mother’s womb by an American-made bomb that was dropped by Saudi warplanes on the home of Abdullah Sherian in Yemen’s al-Mariri village in the Heis district of Hodeidah. The bomb hit as the Sherian family was gathering for lunch, killing Abdullah, his toddler, and most of the family’s cattle and sheep. The massive blast brought massive devastation, darkness, and chaos to the neighborhood as if were in the midst of the fiercest of battlefronts. “They claim to save us, but they kill us and destroy our property,” a volunteer rescuer in his fifties told a local news crew. Inside the hospital where victims of the blast were being treated, an angry bystander made clear who he blamed for the carnage, declaring: “America is behind these crimes against innocent people.”

A day after the attack, Samirah Sherian woke up in an intensive care room at the al-Hodeidah Hospital and tried hard to recount her story. “It was lunchtime and we were too hungry. We thought the warplanes left after the buzzing disappeared. When we gathered around the dining table, the bomb hit us suddenly,” she said. Samirah was evacuated to the hospital after the attack but lost her unborn baby in the blast and says her husband Abdullah died while looking at his unborn son. “I was waiting for my baby. I needed a hospital to beget him, not an American bomb to smash him and kill my husband,” Samirah concluded, in tears. In the next room, a boy from the same village was being treated for serious injuries after Saudi-backed militants targeted his house with a mortar shell.

 

Golden Bow’s black rain of death

According to Saudi officials, the attacks are a part of a new operation dubbed “Golden Bow,” which is being carried out in conjunction with the UAE and a number of Saudi Coalition-backed militant groups, including the notorious Giant’s Brigade and Tariq Saleh Forces.

Dozens of civilians, including women and children, have been killed and injured since the operation began on November 19. Saudi officials say their objective is to “destroy military objectives like air defense systems,” insisting that they attack only “legitimate” targets and ask civilians not to gather around or approach potential targets before they strafe the areas — though those targets are never announced in advance.

Warplanes, artillery, and shelling from warships stationed off of Yemen’s Red Sea shores have turned parts of Hodeidah into veritable hellscapes, including strategic directorates in the southern province, just weeks after the Saudi Coalition announced it would be withdrawing military forces from the area. Instead, dozens of warplanes fly over Hodeidah’s Heis, al-Tuheita, al-Khokhah, al-Dreihemi, and al-Jarahi districts on a daily basis, bombing farms and destroying infrastructure.

On the first day of Operation Golden Bow, at least 33 warplanes were recorded flying over the districts of al-Fazah, al-Jabaliyah, Heis, al-Jah and al-Tahita, and 39 spy planes over the airspace of al-Jah, al-Fazah, Heis, and al-Jabaliyah. So far, 300 airstrikes have been launched against some of Yemen’s most densely-populated cities, including Hodeidah, the fourth-largest city in the country. In Sana’a, civilian homes, schools, wells, farms, roads, and hospitals have been targeted and destroyed, and a factory that produced plastic baskets was destroyed by Saudi airstrikes ostensibly targeting a nearby hospital. In the Dhale province, 10 students were injured when a Saudi drone targeted the Zaid Al-Sharji school.

Saudi airstrikes also targeted populated areas and infrastructure in provinces outside of Hodeidah, including in IBB, Taiz, Haradh, and Harf Sufian, as well as al-Jawf and oil-rich Marib.

 

Staggering, cold numbers

The death toll from the Saudi-led war in Yemen will reach an estimated 377,000 by the end of 2021, according to a new report from the UN’s Development Programme. However, the raids and bombing are not the only tools to claim the lives of Yemeni children. More than 3,825 children have been killed as a result of the Saudi kingdom’s blockade on the country, according to a recent report by the Yemen-based Entesaf Organization for Women and Children Rights.

New data from the United Nations, including a projection for the decade, shows the sheer devastation that the Saudi-led war has left and will leave on Yemen. Source | UNDP

Entesaf issued its report just days after World Children’s Day, reporting that more than 3 million children suffer from blockade-inflicted malnutrition while 300 Yemeni children die every day from malnutrition attributable to the blockade. The organization also says that over 3,000 children suffer from congenital abnormalities and over 3,000 others need open-heart surgery outside the impoverished country. The UNDP also revealed that the number of Yemeni children with various disabilities caused by the ongoing war has reached 5,559 cases and recorded 71,000 cases of tumors developed among children since the beginning of the war.

 

Biden’s fine words

In response to Operation Golden Bow, thousands of Yemenis took to the streets in major cities across the country to condemn the United States for its ongoing support of Saudi Arabia. The main squares in Hodeidah, Sana’a, and Sadaa were filled with thousands of demonstrators. Protestors gathered under the banners that read “The US supports the military and economic escalation and the continuation of aggression and siege,” and chanted slogans blaming the U.S. not only for the new Saudi escalation but for the humanitarian crisis in the country, and accusing the Biden administration of giving the Saudis a green light to attack Yemen. Activists and families of the victims also resorted to a Twitter campaign, posting thousands of photos of victims of the war.

Indeed, Operation Golden Bow comes in the wake of a new U.S. arms deal with Riyadh. On November 4, the Biden administration approved a $650 million missile sale to the Saudis, including 596 LAU-128 Missile Rail Launchers, containers, support equipment, spare and repair parts, and logistical support services. The move is a tacit approval by the United States of Saudi Arabia’s continuation of war and exacerbation of an already dire humanitarian crisis. It also rewards the oil-rich kingdom for killing children and women, according to Yemeni families present at the demonstration who lost children in Saudi attacks.

Referring to U.S. President Joe Biden’s announcement that the U.S. was ending its support for the war, Yemen’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement:

The statements and positions by many American officials are based on ‘double standards,’ as they pretend to be calling for an end to the war, while actually pursuing their hostile and oppressive policies against Yemen. The U.S. hype is merely a cover for the country’s crimes and systematic terrorism against Yemen. The phony hype and false claims of the United States about its efforts to achieve peace in Yemen are merely a desperate attempt to deceive the public opinion in the U.S. and other countries.”

Referring to the arms deal, Ansar Allah said that recent U.S. support to Saudi Arabia enables its “aggression and horrendous crimes against the people of Yemen.” Speaking at an anti-war demonstration, Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, a senior member of Yemen’s Supreme Political Council, told protestors:  “It was Washington that withdrew its ambassador at the outset of the Yemen conflict and called on other countries to pull their diplomats out of Sana’a.”

Feature photo | Mourners bury the bodies of Houthi fighters killed fighting Saudi forces during their funeral in Sanaa, Yemen, Nov. 24, 2021. Hani Mohammed | AP

Ahmed AbdulKareem is a Yemeni journalist based in Sana’a. He covers the war in Yemen for MintPress News as well as local Yemeni media.

The post Talking “Peace” US Arms Saudis for Latest Attack on Yemen’s People: Operation Golden Bow appeared first on MintPress News.

Israeli “Visitors” to Al-Aqsa Part of Plan for Third Jewish Temple

OCCUPIED EAST JERUSALEM — Accompanied by police, 150 Israeli settlers stormed the Al-Aqsa compound during the Jewish festival of Chanukah this past week. Scores of Jews now force their way into Al-Aqsa regularly, in what many Palestinian Muslims fear signals the imminent destruction of the Al-Aqsa Mosque to make way for a Third Jewish Temple.

The head of the Likud faction and a member of the Israeli Knesset light candles for the Jewish Hanukkah festival in the nearest place to the Al-Aqsa Mosque near the Mughrabi Gate. The so-called Temple groups boast about 900 settlers storming Al-Aqsa . #Act4Palestine pic.twitter.com/9ipyutcJRV

— Memo Hamada (@MemoHamada16) December 3, 2021

Dozens of Israeli settlers backed by police broke into the courtyards of the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied #Jerusalem on the pretext of celebrating the Jewish Hanukkah holiday, today. pic.twitter.com/Wpa4mnC7fh

— Quds News Network (@QudsNen) December 2, 2021

In October, an Israeli Magistrate Court ruled to allow “silent” Jewish prayer at the Al-Aqsa complex, reversing the status quo of Al-Aqsa being strictly reserved for Muslim worship. The decision came after Rabbi Aryeh Lippo requested the court remove a temporary ban imposed on him by Israeli police when he was caught praying at the Al-Aqsa compound. Israel does not have a law prohibiting Jewish prayer at the holy site but, in order to curtail conflict, authorities have enforced a ban on Jewish prayer there since 1967.

The court ruling was overturned and Lippo’s ban upheld but Palestinian concerns surrounding a potential Israeli takeover of the holy site remain. The justifications for those concerns will be the subject of this article.

“This is an Israeli policy to vacate Al-Aqsa Mosque from the Muslims in order to start a new period for the Jews by rebuilding that temple inside this area,” the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) Deputy Governor of Jerusalem Abdullah Siam told MintPress News. “This is the final aim of Israel in the Old City.” MintPress News was unable to speak to Governor Adnan Ghaith because Israel has placed him under house arrest.

 

Israeli violations of Al-Aqsa

After Israel annexed East Jerusalem following the 1967 Six-Day War, control over the Al-Aqsa compound was given to Jordan through a religious trust called the Jerusalem Islamic Waqf. Non-Muslims are allowed to visit, but prayer is forbidden.

According to the PA’s Jerusalem Governorate, Jewish settler tours of the Al-Aqsa compound occur twice daily – in the morning and again in the afternoon. Nearly 3,900 Jewish settlers entered Al-Aqsa complex in November. Israel’s parliamentary Education Committee also approved educational tours of Al-Aqsa compound for Jewish students.

The Al-Aqsa complex is surrounded by Israeli construction. Settler organization Elad is building a metal structure overlooking Al-Aqsa Mosque atop land belonging to a Palestinian family in Silwan. The Jerusalem Municipality has bulldozed graves in the Bab al-Asbat Cemetery along the eastern walls of the Al-Aqsa compound to make room for a national park. Israeli authorities have desecrated graves in Bab al-Rahma Cemetery, which is also located along the eastern walls of the Al-Aqsa compound. And in 2020, Israel’s National Infrastructure Committee announced plans to build an underground railway tunnel along the edge of Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Israeli bulldozers and Jewish prayers aren’t the only activities violating the sanctity of Al-Aqsa. Muslims are frequently prevented from worshiping at the holy site.

On the first day of the holy month of Ramadan this year, Israel banned thousands of Muslims from entering Al-Aqsa on the grounds that they hadn’t received COVID-19 vaccination yet (this as Israel was refusing to provide equitable distribution of the vaccine to Palestinians).

Mr. Siam emphasized that bans on Muslim worship aren’t just reserved for holidays, but occur year-round. “Every morning in Al-Aqsa, [Israel] has started to ask the Palestinian who would come inside, ‘Why you are coming? From where are you coming?’ And if they are youths, they keep their IDs and say, ‘When you get out, you can take your ID,’” Siam said.

Worshipeers take cover as Israeli forces fire tear gas into the al-Aqsa Mosque, May 10, 2021. Mahmoud Illean | AP

The governorate’s office also mentioned how many Palestinians will not only have their IDs confiscated, but may also be called in for interrogation and banned from Al-Aqsa for months or even a full year. “And also in the morning, many police with their uniforms, with their guns, start to walk around inside Al-Aqsa,” Siam continued. “By this way, they want to make the Muslims afraid and move them away from the place that the settlers will go through inside Al-Aqsa. So, the Israeli Police are sharing with the settlers in these attacks of Al-Aqsa.”

In regard to permitting Jews entry to the Al-Aqsa compound, the Israel Police told MintPress:

[T]he police act in accordance with the guidelines that are designated to enable protecting public order, welfare and security, and these are transmitted at the entrance of visitors to the Mount area. We will continue to permit visits to the Temple Mount [what Israel calls Al-Aqsa compound] in accordance with the customary guidelines for visits at the site.”

While a ban on Jewish prayer is purportedly in place, visitors to the Al-Aqsa complex say the police seldom enforce it. Miko Peled, an Israeli-American activist who stumbled upon a Jewish tour of the religious site in May, stated:

The police repeated several times, ‘No praying aloud, no religious symbols allowed.’ But as soon as we walked in, the prayers began, and the police just let them, and stood there and guarded them as they were going through this.”

My reflections on joining a militarized Israeli settler tour of the temple mount of #AlAqsa in #Jerusalem. pic.twitter.com/j8bKVOds7o

— Miko Peled (@mikopeled) May 26, 2021

 

American charities behind the Temple Mount movement

The Jerusalem Governorate, which monitors Israeli violations of Al-Aqsa, said settler incursions have increased in frequency and size recently. The movement’s booming popularity can largely be attributed to the Temple Institute, the Temple Mount Heritage Foundation, and The Open Gate – the main groups promoting Jewish ascension onto the Al-Aqsa compound and the rebuilding of a Third Jewish Temple there.

Orthodox Judaism believes that the rebuilding of the temple – destroyed by the Romans in 70 C.E. – can happen only after the arrival of the Messiah, although not all factions support this idea.

The Temple Mount movement network receives funding from the Israeli government, but they are also supported by tax-exempt donations from American charities and foundations.

P.E.F. Israel Endowments Fund, a non-profit based in New York, and Texas-based non-profit Biblical Faith accept donations for the Temple Institute. American charities Israel Independence Fund (IIF) and the Central Fund of Israel (CFI) support the Temple Mount Heritage Foundation. And New York charity One Israel Fund supports The Open Gate. These charities also receive sizable donations from foundations run by some of America’s wealthiest individuals, including recently deceased billionaires Sheldon Adelson and Irving Moskowitz.

According to the most recent Internal Revenue Service tax returns analyzed by MintPress, P.E.F. Israel Endowments Fund received funding from the Benjamin and Susan Shapell Foundation, Mindel Foundation, Dennis Berman Family Foundation, and Ben and Esther Rosenbloom Foundation. The Ben and Esther Rosenbloom Foundation gave the most, contributing $60,000 to the charity in 2019.

The One Israel Fund received donations from the Benjamin and Susan Shapell Foundation, Dennis Berman Family Foundation, and the Cherna Moskowitz Foundation – which contributed the most, at $230,000 in 2019.

And CFI is financed by the Cherna Moskowitz Foundation, C Funding, Carl & Sylvia Family Freyer Foundation, Abraham and Esther Hersh Foundation, Ner Tzion Foundation, Ben and Esther Rosenbloom Foundation, Mindel Foundation, Irving I Moskowitz Foundation, and the Adelson Family Foundation. The Irving I Moskowitz Foundation contributed the most, giving $1,047,000 to CFI in 2019.

Of the organizations cited above, those whose contact information was publicly available were contacted, but only the Temple Mount Heritage Foundation responded to a MintPress inquiry. Tom Nisani – director of Beyadenu, or the Temple Mount Heritage Foundation – said the organization’s goal is the Jewish right to enter the Al-Aqsa complex and Israeli sovereignty of the site.

Revealed: The American Money Entwined with Israel’s Jewish Terrorist Groups

While activists within the Temple Mount movement paint the issue as one relating to religious freedom, Dr. Yousef Nathseh, who retired from the Jerusalem Islamic Waqf in August as the Tourism and Archaeology department’s director, explained the subtext behind these tours is what is so worrisome for Muslims.

“It is not an innocent visit. It is a visit that would like to deliver a political message,” Dr. Nathseh said. “They are not coming here to enjoy the architecture or even to feel associated with the past. No, they are looking to the future.”

Peled, who grew up in Palestine, elaborated that, contrary to mainstream belief, these Temple Mount activists are not on the fringes of Israeli society. Rather, this ideology is fully cemented into the state’s narrative. He recounted:

I remember as a kid that there were a lot of non-religious songs about how building the new temple is part of our national goal. So this is much deeper than most people think. Most people think it’s a bunch of religious fanatics, but it’s not. It’s part of the Zionist national project.”

 

Tensions brewing

On the first night of Chanukah, Israeli President Isaac Herzog sparked controversy when he lit the candles at Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron in the Occupied West Bank. The site is sacred to both Muslims and Jews, but Herzog’s act was seen as fanning the flames in a historically contentious city.

In 1994, Jewish settler Baruch Goldstein killed 29 Muslim worshippers at Ibrahimi Mosque. Following the massacre, the religous site was split between Muslim and Jewish worship, with Muslim access cut to 40%.

Deputy Governor Siam fears what happened to Ibrahimi Mosque may become Al-Aqsa’s fate. “The settler organizations demarcated [Ibrahimi Mosque]. And this has become a normal thing now in Hebron,” Siam said. “They want to do the same in Al-Aqsa.”

For Peled as well, concerns surrounding Al-Aqsa’s destruction are legitimate, especially when considering today’s discourse in Israeli politics. Goldstein was a disciple of Israeli-American extremist Meir Kahane, and now Itamar Ben-Gvir, a fellow Kahanist, is part of the Knesset (Israeli parliament). On Sunday, Ben-Gvir led a group of Israeli settlers into the Al-Aqsa compound to perform Jewish rituals. This is not the first time he’s entered the compound.

“We are very, very close to this actually happening. We are absolutely very close because [Israel is] destroying everything else,” Peled said. He continued:

They’re destroying all the other monuments that nobody pays attention to, which have any kind of significance to Palestinian history. Al-Aqsa is a little more high-profile, so they’re taking their time with that. But there’s no question that is part of the objective – destroying Al-Aqsa and building a temple.

Feature photo | Islam’s holy Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem’s Old City is seen through a door decorated with a Jewish Star of David. Oded Balilty | 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 “Visitors” to Al-Aqsa Part of Plan for Third Jewish Temple appeared first on MintPress News.

“Unregulated Capitalism is a Suicide Pact”: Noam Chomsky Talks Climate, China, and More with Lowkey



“Unregulated capitalism is a suicide pact” – Noam Chomsky did not hold back today when discussing the worldwide economic system and the world’s acceleration towards climate collapse. Chomsky made the comments in the context of the recent COP26 climate-change conference in Glasgow, where global leaders gathered to discuss global environmental threats, but little of any note was achieved.

The renowned linguist and political scientist also trained his ire on the European Union and its treatment of refugees fleeing from NATO’s wars in the Middle East and North Africa, calling it “one of the worst crimes of the modern age,” and claiming it made “what Trump did to refugees look mild” by comparison.

“[There are] thousands of people dying in the Mediterranean, trying to flee from Africa, where Europe has a certain history — it destroyed Africa for centuries. People are trying to flee from the wreckage and the Europeans are saying ‘go drown in the Mediterranean,’” he explained, noting that Europe had also set up military bases in Niger (one of the poorest countries in Africa) in a bid to stop migrants from even making it to the Mediterranean.

“The message is ‘don’t come anywhere near us. We destroy you for a couple of hundred years, we enslave your population, we prevent you from developing, we murder and slaughter you, but don’t come anywhere near our shores,’” he told Lowkey; “I don’t think there are words to describe this; …it is a hideous crime.”

While widely hailed as the father of modern linguistics, Noam Chomsky has, for well over half a century, also been one of the sharpest and most committed voices critiquing the crimes of the United States government. Having written well over 100 books on a range of subjects – from politics to media to science and history – Chomsky was at ease discussing many of the biggest questions facing humanity today.

Among those questions is the increasing American hostility towards China and the possibility of a terminal nuclear war. While the 92-year-old University of Arizona professor was critical of Chinese actions in the South China Sea, he reserved most of his criticism for the U.S. government, which he claimed sees the world in much the same way as the head of an organized crime syndicate views a turf war. “The ‘threat’ of China is China’s existence; it exists as a major power that the United States cannot push around, cannot intimidate, and does not follow U.S. orders. That is intolerable. Any mafia don can explain that,” he told Lowkey.

The real hysteria over China and Xi Jinping, he argued, is based on the fact that Beijing refuses to blindly follow U.S. dictates as most of the rest of the world does:

Not China, We can’t intimidate them. That’s unacceptable. So we have to destroy them, to prevent them from developing, to try to undermine their economy and send nuclear submarines to threaten them. You cannot tolerate defiance. That’s a major principle of international affairs… That’s imperial power.

In this wide ranging conversation, Lowkey and Chomsky also discuss U.S. war crimes, the rise of conservative academic star Jordan Peterson (and what that says about academia), and the concocted antisemitism crisis in British public life.

The new MintPress podcast “The Watchdog,” hosted by British-Iraqi hip-hop artist Lowkey, closely examines organizations about which it is in the public interest to know — including intelligence, lobby and special-interest groups influencing policies that infringe on free speech and target dissent. The Watchdog goes against the grain by casting a light on stories largely ignored by the mainstream, corporate media.

MintPress News is a fiercely independent, reader-supported outlet, with no billionaire owners or backers. You can support us by becoming a member on Patreon, bookmarking and whitelisting us, and by subscribing to our social media channels, including Twitch, YouTube, Twitter and Instagram.

Also, be sure to check out the new Behind the Headlines channel on YouTube.

The post “Unregulated Capitalism is a Suicide Pact”: Noam Chomsky Talks Climate, China, and More with Lowkey appeared first on MintPress News.

Chris Hedges: The Ghislaine Maxwell Trial Is an American Satyricon

PRINCETON, NEW JERSEY (Scheerpost) —  The trial of Ghislaine Maxwell which began this week in Manhattan will not hold to account the powerful and wealthy men who are also complicit in the sexual assaults of girls as young as twelve Maxwell allegedly procured for billionaire Jeffrey Epstein.

Donald Trump, Bill Clinton, Bill Gates, hedge-fund billionaire Glenn Dubin, former New Mexico Bill Richardson, former Secretary of the Treasury and former president of Harvard Larry Summers, Stephen Pinker, Prince Andrew, Alan Dershowitz, billionaire Victoria’s Secret CEO Les Wexner, the, J.P Morgan banker Jes Staley, former Israeli prime minister Ehud Barack, real estate mogul Mort Zuckerman, former Maine senator George Mitchell, Harvey Weinstein and many others who were at least present and most likely participated in Epstein’s perpetual Bacchanalia, are not in court. The law firms and high-priced attorneys, federal and state prosecutors, private investigators, personal assistants, publicists, servants, drivers and numerous other procurers, sometimes women, who made Epstein’s crimes possible are not being investigated. Those in the media, the political arena and the entertainment industry who aggressively and often viciously shut down and discredited the few voices, including those of a handful of intrepid reporters, who sought to shine a light on the crimes committed by Epstein and his circle of accomplices are not on trial. The videos that Epstein apparently collected of his guests engaged in their sexual escapades with teenage and underage girls from the cameras he had installed in his opulent residences and on his private island have mysteriously disappeared, most probably into the black hole of the FBI, along with other crucial evidence. Epstein’s death in a New York jail cell, while officially ruled a suicide, is in the eyes of many credible investigators a murder. With Epstein dead, and Maxwell sacrificed, the ruling oligarchs will once again escape justice.

The Epstein case is important because, however much is being covered up, it is a window into the scourge of male violence that explodes in decayed cultures, fueled by widening income disparities, the collapse of the social contract and the grotesque entitlement that comes with celebrity, political power, and wealth. When a ruling elite perverts all institutions, including the courts, into instruments that serve the exclusive interests of the entitled, when it willfully neglects and abandons larger and larger segments of the population, girls and women always suffer disproportionally. The struggle for equal pay, equal distribution of wealth and resources, access to welfare, legal aid that offers adequate protection under the law, social services, job training, healthcare, and education services, have been so degraded they barely exist for the poor, especially poor girls and women.

Women, traditionally burdened with the care of children, the elderly and the sick, stripped of control over their own bodies in states that seek to deny reproductive rights, are cornered, unable to make a living and secure legal protection. This is always the goal of patriarchy. And in this degraded world girls and women are easy prey for pimps, pedophiles, and rapists such as Epstein and his accomplices. These men look at their victims not as children or young women in distress but as human trash, no more worthy of consideration than a slave, which in fact many of these girls and women become.

A licentious, money-drenched, morally bankrupt and intellectually vacuous ruling class, accountable to no one and free to plunder and prey on the weak like human vultures, rise to power in societies in terminal decline. This class of parasites was savagely parodied in the first-century satirical novel “Satyricon” by Gaius Petronius, written during the reign of Nero. Epstein and his cohorts for years engaged in sexual perversions of Petronian proportions, as Miami Herald investigative reporter Julie Brown, whose dogged reporting was largely responsible for reopening the federal investigation in Epstein and Maxwell, documents in her book “Perversion of Justice: The Jeffrey Epstein Story.”

CoJiT: The “Anti-Extremism” Think Tank Started by Sons of Israeli Superspy Robert Maxwell

As Brown writes, in 2016 an anonymous woman, using the pseudonym “Kate Johnson,” filed a civil complaint in federal court in California alleging she was raped by Trump and Epstein when she was thirteen over a four-month period from June to September 1994. “I loudly pleaded with Trump to stop,” she said in the lawsuit about being raped by Trump. “Trump responded to my pleas by violently striking me in the face with his open hand and screaming that he could do whatever he wanted.” Brown writes:

Johnson said that Epstein invited her to a series of “underage sex parties” at his New York mansion where she met Trump. Enticed by promises of money and modeling opportunities, Johnson said she was forced to have sex with Trump several times, including once with another girl, twelve years old, whom she labeled “Marie Doe.”

Trump demanded oral sex, the lawsuit said, and afterward he “pushed both minors away while angrily berating them for the ‘poor’ quality of the sexual performance,” according to the lawsuit, filed April 26 in U.S. District Court in Central California.

Afterward, when Epstein learned that Trump had taken Johnson’s virginity, Epstein allegedly “attempted to strike her about the head with his closed fists,” angry he had not been the one to take her virginity. Johnson claimed that both men threatened to harm her, and her family if she ever revealed what had happened.

The lawsuit states that Trump did not take part in Epstein’s orgies but liked to watch, often while the thirteen-year-old “Kate Johnson” gave him a hand job. It appears Trump was able to quash the lawsuit by buying her silence. She has since disappeared.

These mediocrities, drunk with their own self-importance, equate celebrity, power and wealth with wisdom. Petronius’ Trimalchio, the archetypal self-made millionaire whose vulgarity and stupidity make him one of great comic buffoons of literature, was more than matched by Epstein who organized pretentious dinners for those in his secret billionaires club, which included Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Salar Kamangar and Jeff Bezos. Epstein and his guests, as in Petronius’s chapter “Dinner with Trimalchio,” dreamed up bizarre schemes of social engineering, including Epstein’s plan to seed the human species with his own DNA by creating a baby compound at his sprawling estate in New Mexico. “Epstein was also obsessed with cryonics, the transhumanist philosophy whose followers believe that people can be replicated or brought back to life after they are frozen,” Brown writes. “Epstein apparently told some of the members of his scientific circle that he wanted to inseminate women with his sperm for them to give birth to his babies, and that he wanted his head and his penis frozen.”

Epstein, who regularly entertained and funded the work of Harvard faculty, was made a visiting fellow in Harvard’s Department of Psychology, although he had no academic qualifications that made him eligible for the position. He was given a key card and pass code, as well as an office, in the building that housed Harvard’s Program for Evolutionary Dynamics. He referred to himself in his press releases as “Science Philanthropist Jeffrey Epstein,” “Education activist Jeffrey Epstein,” “Evolutionary Jeffrey Epstein,” “Science patron Jeffrey Epstein” and “Maverick hedge funder Jeffrey Epstein.”

The judicial system, for years, worked to protect Epstein. The legal anomalies, including the disappearance of massive amounts of evidence incriminating Epstein, saw Epstein avoid federal sex-trafficking charges in 2007 when his attorneys negotiated a secret deal with Alex Acosta in the U.S. attorney’s office in Miami to plead guilty to lesser state charges of soliciting a minor for prostitution.

The prominent men accused of also engaging in Epstein’s carnival of pedophilia, including the attorney and former Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, brazenly lie and threaten anyone daring to call them out. Dershowitz, for example, claims that an investigation, which he has refused to make public, by the former FBI director Louis Freeh proves he had never had sex with one of Epstein’s victims, Virginia Giuffre. He has sent repeated threats to Brown and her editors at the Miami Herald. Brown continues:

[Dershowitz] kept referring to information that was contained in sealed documents. He accused the newspaper of not reporting “facts” that he said were in those sealed documents. The truth is, I tried to explain, newspapers just can’t write about things because Alan Dershowitz says they exist. We need to see them. We need to verify them. Then, because I said “show me the material,” he publicly accused me of committing a criminal act by asking him to produce documents that were under court seal.

This is the way Dershowitz operates.

What disturbs me the most about Dershowitz is the way that the media, with few exceptions, fails to critically challenge him. Journalists fact-checked Donald Trump and others in his administration almost every day, yet, for the most part, the media seems to give Dershowitz a pass on the Epstein story.

In 2015, when Giuffre’s allegations first became public, Dershowitz went on every television program imaginable swearing, among other things, that Epstein’s plane logs would exonerate him. “How do you know that?” he was asked.

He replied that he was never on Epstein’s plane during the time that Virginia was involved with Epstein.

But if the media had checked, they could have learned that he was indeed a passenger on the plane during that time period, according to the logs.

Then he testified, in a sworn deposition, that he never went on any plane trips without his wife. But he was listed on those passage manifests as traveling multiple times without his wife. During at least one trip, he was on the plane with a model named Tatiana.

The ability of the powerful to ignore the law raises important and different questions for girls and women about the role of government, police and the law. Defunding the police is not a solution. Demilitarizing the police is. Women need legal protection and need police that function as police, as a sanction with severe consequences against male violence. They need social support. They need robust institutions, including the courts, which prevent them from being blackmailed, bullied, and abused. To challenge sexual violence, to challenge objectification, to challenge the cultural hypersexualization of women, is to be subject to vicious character assassination, threatened, including the threat of rape, and at times killed. To stand up to protect water, to assist a truth-teller, if you are a woman, is to face potential economic destitution. To stand up and name your abuser, as many of the courageous women who have come forward in the Epstein case have done, is to have high-priced teams of attorneys and private investigators pursue every avenue to demonize, discredit and destroy you financially and psychologically. The resources available to the powerful, and the dearth of resources available to the powerless, skews this fight in favor of the predators. This is by design.

The struggle for liberation and justice by women is central to the struggle for liberation and justice for everyone. We will not resist the radical evil before us without women, if we are denied access to the ideas and leadership of women, and in particular women of color. So, while we must decry violence and exploitation against all of the oppressed, we must also recognize that male violence against women – including prostitution and its promoter, pornography – is an especially insidious form of violence. It is a tool of corporate domination and capitalism. It is engrained in the racism and exploitation of imperialism and colonialism. But it also exists outside the structures of capitalism, imperialism, and colonialism. More women have been killed by their domestic partners since 2001 than all the Americans killed on September 11, and in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Predatory male power infects the left as well as the right, the anti-capitalists as well as the capitalists, the anti-imperialists as well as the imperialists and the anti-racists as well as the racists. It is its own evil. And if it is not defeated there will be no justice for women or for anyone else.

Former Israeli Intel Official Claims Jeffrey Epstein, Ghislaine Maxwell Worked for Israel

The predators know that desperation forces girls and women, with no alternatives left, to trade sex for the most basic staples of life, including food and shelter. In every conflict I covered as a war correspondent there was an explosion of prostituted girls and women. And as we are burdened with greater and greater numbers of environmental migrants — over a billion by 2050, by one prediction — fleeing droughts, rising sea levels, flooding, wildfires and declining crop yields these exchanges of sex for the most basic elements need to survive will become more common. The scourge of male violence is growing, not decreasing.

George Bernard Shaw got it right. Poverty is:

“[T]he worst of crimes. All the other crimes are virtues beside it; all the other dishonors are chivalry itself by comparison. Poverty blights whole cities, spreads horrible pestilences, strikes dead the very souls of all who come within sight, sound, or smell of it. What you call crime is nothing: a murder here and a theft there, a blow now and a curse then. What do they matter? They are only the accidents and illnesses of life; there are not fifty genuine professional criminals in London. But there are millions of poor people, abject people, dirty people, ill-fed, ill-clothed people. They poison us morally and physically; they kill the happiness of society; they force us to do away with our own liberties and to organize unnatural cruelties for fear they should rise against us and drag us down into their abyss. Only fools fear crime; we all fear poverty.”

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel said of society that “some are guilty, but all are responsible.” The crime of poverty is a communal crime. Our failure, as the richest nation on earth, to provide safe and healthy communities, ones where all children have enough to eat and a future, is a communal crime. Our failure to provide everyone, and especially the poor, with a good education and housing is a communal crime. Our failure to make health care a human right, forcing parents, burdened with astronomical medical bills, to bankrupt themselves to save their sick sons or daughters, is a communal crime. Our failure to provide meaningful work — in short, the possibility of hope — is a communal crime. Our decision to militarize police forces and build prisons, rather than invest in people, is a communal crime. Our failure to protect girls and women is a communal crime. The misguided belief in charity and philanthropy rather than justice is a communal crime. “You Christians have a vested interest in unjust structures which produce victims to whom you then can pour out your hearts in charity,” Karl Marx said, chastising a group of church leaders.

If we do not work to eliminate the causes of poverty, the greatest of all crimes, the institutional structures that keep the poor poor, then we are responsible. There are issues of personal morality, and they are important, but they mean nothing without a commitment to social morality. Only those who have been there truly understand. Only those with integrity and courage speak the truth. And at the forefront of this fight are women.

Sexual sadism is fed by the entitlement of the powerful and a pornography industry that eroticizes images of girls and women being physically abused. It is not accidental that many of the Abu Ghraib images resemble stills from porn films. There is a shot of a naked man kneeling in front of another man as if performing oral sex. There is a photo of a naked man on a leash held by a female American soldier. There are photos of naked men in chains. There are photos of naked men stacked one on top of the other in a pile on the floor. And there are hundreds more classified photos that purportedly show forced masturbation by Iraqi prisoners and the rape of prisoners, including young boys, by U.S. soldiers, many of whom were schooled in these torture techniques in our vast system of mass incarceration.

The list of suspected abusers around Epstein was not segregated by the left or the right. It included Republicans, like Trump, and Democrats such as Clinton. It included philanthropists such as Gates, the former prime minister of Israel, and Harvard academics. It included celebrities, such as David Copperfield, and the titans of finance and business. The common denominator was not politics or ideology, but that they were powerful and wealthy men.

The feminist Andrea Dworkin understood. She excoriated the left, who railed against the excesses of capitalism, while ignoring the capitalist exploitation of girls and women. She wrote:

Capitalism is not wicked or cruel when the commodity is the whore; profit is not wicked or cruel when the alienated worker is a female piece of meat; corporate bloodsucking is not wicked or cruel when the corporations in question, organized crime syndicates, sell cunt; racism is not wicked or cruel when the black cunt or yellow cunt or red cunt or Hispanic cunt or Jewish cunt has her legs splayed for any man’s pleasure; poverty is not wicked or cruel when it is the poverty of dispossessed women who have only themselves to sell; violence by the powerful against the powerless is not wicked or cruel when it is called sex; slavery is not wicked or cruel when it is sexual slavery; torture is not wicked or cruel when the tormented are women, whores, cunts. The new pornography is left-wing; and the new pornography is a vast graveyard where the Left has gone to die. The Left cannot have its whores and its politics too.

The Earth, and all forms of life on this planet, must be revered, and protected if we are to endure as a species. This means inculcating a different vision of human society. It means building a world where domination and ceaseless exploitation, in all its forms, are condemned, where empathy, especially for the weak and for the vulnerable is held up as the highest virtue. It means recovering the capacity for awe and reverence for the sacred sources that sustain life. It means that girls and women must be empowered to control their own fates. Once we stand up for this ethic of life, once we include all people, including girls and women, as an integral part of this ethic, we can build a successful resistance movement that can challenge the radical evil before us. But we can’t do it unless half of the human population, girls and women, are at our side. Their fight is our fight. Their justice is our justice. Once they are free, we can all be free.

Feature photo | Original illustration by Mr. Fish

Chris Hedges is a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist who was a foreign correspondent for fifteen years for The New York Times, where he served as the Middle East Bureau Chief and Balkan Bureau Chief for the paper. He previously worked overseas for The Dallas Morning News, The Christian Science Monitor, and NPR. He is the host of the Emmy Award-nominated RT America show On Contact.

The post Chris Hedges: The Ghislaine Maxwell Trial Is an American Satyricon appeared first on MintPress News.

OTF – The “Independent” Internet Freedom Organization That Makes All Your Favorite Privacy Apps – is Staffed Full of Spies

WASHINGTON – The Open Technology Fund (OTF) is one of the most influential and celebrated organizations in the hacking and internet freedom communities. Well over two billion people globally use OTF-produced software, including communications app Signal and web browser Tor, services that are specifically marketed to privacy-conscious consumers looking to circumvent government censorship and surveillance. Yet its close links to the U.S. national security state raise many worrying questions about whether the world is making a mistake by trusting the organization and its products.

Through its research and sponsorship, the OTF is responsible for apps and services that can boast a massive reach. It is estimated that more than two-thirds of all smartphones are equipped with OTF offerings, apps that brand themselves as the obvious choice for privacy-minded users.

The OTF describes itself as “an independent non-profit organization committed to advancing global Internet freedom,” adding that it “supports projects focused on counteracting repressive censorship and surveillance, enabling citizens worldwide to exercise their fundamental human rights online.”

There is strong evidence, however, to suggest that the Open Technology Fund is not what it claims to be: that it is neither independent nor truly committed to online freedom and privacy. First, while technically a private company, it is directly funded and controlled by the United States Agency for Global Media (USAGM), a government body responsible for overseeing U.S.-funded state media outlets overseas, including Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Voice of America and Radio and Televisión Martí. The OTF derives essentially all of its funding from USAGM, which, in turn, receives money from Congress through the Department of State, Foreign Operations and Related programs ($808 million in 2019).

Secondly, until 2019, the OTF was officially a government project managed by the infamous Radio Free Asia. Together, The New York Times described these outlets as a “worldwide propaganda network built by the CIA.” Even a brief look at their content suggests that this is essentially an accurate description, with USAGM brought into existence to manage CIA-created media outlets.

This alone would be enough to raise questions. However, the OTF’s definition of freedom should sound even more alarm bells. In its most recently published annual report, it describes its mission as:

…Advanc[ing] internet freedom in repressive environments by supporting the research, development, implementation, and maintenance of technologies that provide secure and uncensored access to USAGM content as well as the broader internet. This critical support helps to counter attempts by authoritarian governments to restrict freedom online.

Internet freedom, according to the OTF, is explicitly defined in relation to access to U.S. state propaganda arms. If individuals in a country have access to Voice of America and Radio Free Asia, then their internet is free. If not, they live in a totalitarian state. Internet freedom boils down to the freedom of the U.S. government to reach you. Any other understanding of the concept is, at best, an afterthought.

The report also states that the OTF exists primarily for two purposes: (1) to “[p]rovide unrestricted access to the internet to individuals living in information-restrictive countries to help ensure they are able to safely access USAGM content,” and (2) to [p]rotect journalists, sources, and audiences from repressive surveillance and digital attacks to help ensure they are able to safely create and engage with USAGM content.” This is unlikely to be the idea of freedom that many privacy-conscious users of Signal and Tor have in mind.

That this operation is pointed specifically at U.S. enemies is made clear on the fund’s website, which states that “leading censors like China and Russia” are “exporting their censorship and surveillance tactics to like-minded regimes abroad,” and that the OTF must “capitalize on its unique capability within the U.S. government to support internet freedom efforts,” thereby positioning Washington as the unquestioned defender of liberty around the world.

Of course, China and Russia do indeed have very serious censorship concerns, but they are hardly alone in that regard. Thus, while the fund speaks in the language of privacy and social justice, its targets are overwhelmingly U.S. enemy states. Meanwhile American allies with equally poor or worse free speech environments (such as Saudi Arabia or Qatar) are quietly overlooked.

 

A board of state functionaries

Not only was the Open Technology Foundation created by the national security state, it continues to employ high government officials in key positions. Its five-person board consists entirely of important state functionaries:

  • Karen Kornbluh was formerly U.S. ambassador to the OECD, Barack Obama’s policy director, deputy chief of staff at the Treasury Department, and a senior figure at the FCC during the Clinton administration.
  • Ben Scott was previously policy adviser for innovation at the Department of State, where, in the OTF’s words, he crafted the government’s 21st Century Statecraft agenda.
  • Top Democratic fundraiser Michael Kemper served as the DNC’s deputy finance chairman as well as deputy finance coordinator for President Obama. He also held a position on the White House Council for Community Solutions from 2010 to 2012.
  • William Schneider is a Republican who was Ronald Reagan’s under secretary of state for Security Assistance, Science and Technology. He is also a member of the notorious neoconservative group, the Project for a New American Century. In 1998, he signed a letter to President Bill Clinton, urging him to attack Iraq. A science expert, he has consistently argued that the U.S. should use nuclear weapons as a standard part of its warfare.
  • Even more central to the post-9/11 wars, however, is the fifth member of the board, Ryan Crocker. Crocker was United States ambassador to both Iraq (2007-2009) and Afghanistan (2011-2012). So important was he to the occupations that General David Petraeus, supreme commander of the occupation forces, said that he was merely Crocker’s “military wingman.” George W. Bush described him as “America’s Lawrence of Arabia.”

Then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton smiles at Ryan Crocker at the event at tU.S. Embassy in Kabul in 2012. Brendan Smialowski | AP

For such a group of individuals, who have spent their lives dedicated to enhancing U.S. state power, it appears unlikely that freedom from state surveillance would be high on their list of priorities. Underlining that the Open Technology Fund’s concern with privacy and freedom of speech goes only so far is its choice of CEOs, who have included the former director of programming for Voice of America, the former president of Radio Free Asia, and an ex-State Department and National Endowment for Democracy official.

Thus the OTF – a “private” company that was created by government agencies and was a government body itself until 2019 – is staffed by top U.S. officials who have been chosen by the USAGM. The veneer of independence actually serves two important purposes: it provides the U.S. government a modicum of plausible deniability if any misdeeds are exposed and ensures that the organization is not subject to Freedom of Information Act requests, making the OTF far harder to scrutinize.

This semi-privatization technique is a new trend in U.S. statecraft. In recent years, the government has farmed out much of its most controversial clandestine work to NGOs and shadowy “private” companies that rely largely or solely on federal contracts. For example, NGOs like Creative Associates International have been employed to organize regime-change ops in Cuba or act as a front group for the CIA in Pakistan. Last year, a private American security firm was also responsible for a failed coup attempt in Venezuela.

Creative Associates International (CAI): It’s Not Exactly the CIA, But Close Enough

 

OTF genesis

Radio Free Asia — the Open Technology Fund’s former parent organization — was established by the CIA in 1951, in the wake of the American retreat from China. Between 1945 and 1949, the United States occupied mainland China in an attempt to support the nationalist Kuomintang forces and prevent Communist forces under Mao Zedong from coming to power. In this, they failed, and the Kuomintang fled to the island of Taiwan, just off China’s coast. The powerful U.S. Navy prevented the Communists from pursuing them, allowing the Kuomintang to establish a one-party state on the island. This remains the basis of the current U.S.-China-Taiwan dispute.

During the 1950s, Radio Free Asia bombarded the mainland with anti-Communist propaganda in an attempt to weaken and, ultimately, unseat the Communist Party. However, results were poor and the project was put on ice, returning only in the 1990s after the fall of the Soviet Union, when U.S. planners began to believe a total eradication of communist states was possible.

Yasha Levine, an investigative journalist and author of “Surveillance Valley: The Secret Military History of the Internet,” explained to MintPress that Beijing began blocking Radio Free Asia’s website almost as soon as it was launched in 1996. Consequently, its bosses began searching for a way of circumventing the Great Firewall of China. It was out of this project that the Open Technology Fund was born.

 

OTF’s role in US-backed “pro-democracy” protests

The OTF has played a key role in U.S.-backed protest movements around the world. During the 2019-2020 Hong Kong protests, it was quietly channeling millions of dollars to protest leaders in an attempt to keep them going. It was also carrying out large-scale data-gathering operations on Chinese social media platforms Weibo and Wechat. CIA cutout organization the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) was engaged in similar activities.

For months, the Hong Kong protests dominated Western news media, with wall-to-wall positive coverage of the events. Yet locals themselves appeared to be far more split on the action. A poll conducted by Reuters showed that, by August 2020, only 44% of Hong Kongers supported the protest movement.

The Open Technology Fund has also been crucial to Washington’s activities in Cuba. There, it sponsored the development of Psiphon, an open-source tool that allows users to hide their identity and bypass government restrictions.

The NED had, for years, been spending big to build and train a network of activists across the island. When the time came, they were ready. “During the protest in July, Psiphon enabled over 2.8 million users to connect to the uncensored internet, allowing them to share their stories on social media and messaging apps,” boasted the company’s CEO, Michael Hull. “Giving [Cubans] those tools so they can talk to each other is the most important thing that we can do,” a senior Biden administration official told McClatchy’s D.C. Bureau. “We’re looking to further expand our support for the Open Technology Fund and those sorts of [operations],” they added. As with Hong Kong, worldwide media coverage of the Cuban protests was intense. Yet the demonstrations fell apart even quicker, as few Cubans had an appetite for regime change.

A map from a 2018 OTF report shows regions where so-called “Internet freedom communities” have applied for OTF assistance

The OTF is also known to have supported similar recent actions in Belarus, Iran and Venezuela. In Belarus, it trained the opposition to President Alexander Lukashenko, its agents carrying out ten separate tours of the country, holding meetings with representatives of what it deemed “independent mass media, human rights defenders and civil activists.” In total, it conducted at least 225 consultations with Belarussian groups in 16 months during 2017 and 2018 alone. They also provided training sessions for these activists. Sure enough, widespread demonstrations followed, with the goal of removing Lukashenko. The leaders of the movement were “installed and maintained” by the OTF, according to The Guardian.

While these operations are couched in the language of promoting democracy, it is clear at whom the OTF aims its tools. In its latest published yearly report, for example, the words “China” or “Chinese” appear 81 times, “Russia” or “Russian” 27 times, “Iran” 24 times and “Venezuela” 13 times. Yet Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Qatar — three U.S. allies with particularly egregious media freedom records — are mentioned only once, in passing.

US Writes Belarus into Its Familiar Regime-Change Script

 

“An anarchist Lockheed Martin”

This long and sordid history certainly raises questions about the legitimacy and safety of the OTF’s two most popular products, Signal and Tor. Between 2013 and 2016, the OTF channeled more than $3 million to Signal, while it gave twice that amount — more than $6 million — to Tor between 2012 and 2020. (Tor continues to be sponsored by a number of U.S. government agencies).

Certainly, all parties involved keep this information quiet. There is no mention of the OTF on Signal’s website. Meanwhile, reading the three organizations’ Wikipedia pages would barely clue an individual in on their connections. This is not a coincidence. Emails Levine obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show that Tor Project director and co-founder Roger Dingledine (who once interned at the NSA) was acutely aware of how bad the optics were.

“We also need to think about a strategy for how to spin this move in terms of Tor’s overall direction. I would guess that we don’t want to loudly declare war on China, since this only harms our goals?” he wrote to the director of OTF parent company USAGM. “But we also don’t want to hide the existence of funding from [USAGM], since ‘they’re getting paid off by the feds and they didn’t tell anyone’ sounds like a bad Slashdot title for a security project. Is it sufficient just to always talk about Iran, or is that not subtle enough?”

The wording of this email suggests Dingledine views Tor as a U.S. government weapon aimed at its enemies, and not as a neutral and independent privacy project, but was searching for a way to present it as such. The director of USAGM reassured him, responding that his organization would, “do any spin you want to do to help preserve the independence of Tor.”

Levine was highly critical of Tor’s role in society. “Tor is a military contractor that makes software for the U.S. government. They’re an anarchist Lockheed Martin; they give the U.S. government offensive capability on the internet. Of course, they are not making missiles, but they are making cyber weapons for Washington,” he told MintPress.

American agents use the browser to communicate. Ironically, the influx of new users actually helps them disappear into the crowd. Without the hackers, drug dealers, cyberpunks, crypto-enthusiasts, political activists and privacy-minded individuals using it, the identities and locations of U.S. agents would become obvious to foreign states monitoring online activities. In other words, when you use Tor, you’re helping the CIA.

Does Tor or Signal’s proximity to American intelligence mean that their products are fundamentally compromised? Enthusiasts point to their checkable, open source code as proof that they are secure. Even Levine does not challenge this. However, the enormous complexity of the operating systems they run on is a serious cause for concern. While many have checked Tor and Signal’s source code, few except state actors pore over the countless billions of lines of code of the software on our phones or computers — and they are doing it to find ways to exploit or attack the millions of holes and backdoors in the operating systems. Big governments can ultimately find a way to get to the data before it is encrypted, Levine argued, meaning that:

Signal and Tor offer a false sense of security. It depends who you are trying to hide from. If it is your local police department and you are using Signal, it is probably good enough. But if you are engaged in some kind of political protest building, organizing and challenging state power on some level, I would not be dependent on Signal to do it.”

Since at least 2014, the FBI has been closely monitoring Tor, assessing users’ exit nodes (the false IP address that a server sees). Independent tests conducted by Columbia University found that researchers were able to identify over 81% of Tor users in real-world tests.

Ultimately, then, Signal and Tor could be compared to an expensive home security system. The product might be high quality and secure enough to stop petty thieves or even committed professional burglars. But if the FBI wants to enter your house, they will simply ram the door down. “On a fundamental level, I don’t think that privacy exists,” Levine said. “To think that, as a regular consumer, you can take on the state with some app that you download for free… It’s just ridiculous. It’s a joke.”

 

A dubious endorsement

Unfortunately, both Signal and Tor have developed large and devoted followings, being used the world over and endorsed by groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and high profile privacy advocates. “The problem with Signal is not the technology, it is the marketing behind it. It has this cachet of being radical anarchist software that is backed by people like Edward Snowden. It has cultural capital,” Levine told MintPress; “They have created a cult of security around this app that does not exist. Not just for Signal, but for any other app.”

Edward Snowden participates in an EFF event at the 2014 Personal Democracy Forum in New York. Richard Drew | AP

Perhaps more worryingly, the Electronic Frontier Foundation has also heartily endorsed the OTF, stating that the organization has “earned trust over the years through its open source ethos, transparency, and a commitment to independence from its funder, USAGAM.” “OTF’s funding is focused on tools to help individuals living under repressive governments,” EFF adds.

Unfortunately, the EFF is fundamentally intertwined with the national security state itself, with several of its staff serving on the OTF advisory council. In the 1990s, the EFF collaborated with the FBI to pass the so-called “Let’s Just Wiretap Everyone Bill,” rewriting the bureau’s draft legislation to make it sound more palatable to the public. That bill became the basis for a great deal of the FBI’s continuing invasive online surveillance. The OTF has also sponsored a number of EFF projects. MintPress contacted the EFF for comment, but did not receive a reply.

 

A concealed weapon in the global cyberwar

While at face value Tor and Signal may be robust, the fact that significant parts of the internet freedom and anti-surveillance movement are intertwined with the U.S. national security state does seem an absurd contradiction. The NSA lied for years, even under oath, that it was not spying on Americans. In reality, it was collecting reams of data on just about everyone. The U.S. was even intimately surveilling its closest international allies, such as German chancellor Angela Merkel. Given such a history, what could possibly be done to assuage fears that a similar operation is not currently being executed?

While the OTF presents itself as independent internet freedom activists, their funding, staff, history and choice of targets all point to the conclusion that they are a digital weapon being used against Washington’s enemies.

Thus, their talk of “freedom of information” is reminiscent of discussions about “free markets.” Freedom of information is currently being championed by the government that dominates and controls the internet and is in a position to use that leverage to carry out its international ambitions. And while the U.S. talks piously about freedom of information, whenever foreign-owned communications companies begin to succeed — such as Chinese-owned Huawei or TikTok — there is a meltdown, followed by an all-out attack from Washington, which fears they will be weaponized in similar ways Washington has weaponized Silicon Valley.

A silent war is being waged for control of cyberspace. And in war, truth is always the first casualty.

Feature photo | People raise their mobile phone lights as they form a human chain on New Year’s eve in Hong Kong, Dec. 31, 2019.Lee Jin-man | AP

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 OTF – The “Independent” Internet Freedom Organization That Makes All Your Favorite Privacy Apps – is Staffed Full of Spies appeared first on MintPress News.

With Symbolic Hebron Chanukah Visit, Israeli President Greenlights Al-Aqsa Destruction

HEBRON, PALESTINE – “Should the Al-Aqsa Mosque be destroyed, the match will be lit by a fanatic settler, but it is decades of Zionist indoctrination and Israeli policies that will be responsible for the destruction.” I wrote these words in a piece in this publication in August of 2021. In December of this year the Israeli establishment has taken a huge step in this direction: the president of Israel, Yitzhak (Isaac) Herzog, decided to light the first candle of Chanukah at the Ibrahimi Mosque in the Palestinian city of Al-Khalil – Hebron.

Zionism’s Anthem: The Danger Lurking in “Jerusalem of Gold”

This visit represents a “go ahead” by the so-called moderate Israeli establishment to the fanatic religious-Zionists to continue their unchecked, unhinged violent attacks against Palestinians in general and their pursuit of the destruction of the Al-Aqsa Mosque in particular.

 

The Ibrahimi Mosque

It is said that the Jerusalem geographer Muqqadasi, writing in 985 CE, described the town of Hebron as follows:

In Hebron is a public guest house continuously open, with a cook, a baker and servants in regular attendance. These offer a dish of lentils and olive oil to every poor person who arrives, and it is set before the rich, too, should they wish to partake. Most men express the opinion this is a continuation of the guest house of Abraham […] At present time I do not know in all the realm of al-Islam any house of hospitality and charity more excellent than this one.”

A UNESCO report declared the city of Hebron and the Ibrahimi Mosque that lies within it as Palestine Heritage sites. The report states, “The main monument of the town is the centrally sited Al Haram Al-Ibrahimi Mosque/The Tomb of the Patriarchs.” The mosque sits on what is believed to be the burial site of the biblical patriarch Abraham, his wife Sara, their son Isaac and his son Jacob, as well as Rebecca and Leah. This belief is based on a story from the Book of Genesis 23:1–20 that tells about the patriarch Abraham purchasing a cave in order to bury his wife.

 

An endangered shrine

Another UNESCO report regarding the city of Al-Khalil, now known as Hebron, states that it and the mosque are “endangered sites.”

According to the report, “The nominated property is considered […] of Outstanding Universal Value as a cultural property” for the following reasons:

The Al-Khalil/Hebron old town “is an outstanding, exceptionally complete and well preserved example of unique urban and architectural characteristics inspired by the human values of Hebron/Al-Khalil community” and “[r]eflects continuous fabric which dates back to the Mamluk and Ottoman Periods.” The report goes on to state that the old town “[w]as shaped by the Al-Ibrahimi Mosque/The Tomb of Patriarchs, an outstanding example of building that illustrates significant stages in human history,” which “[b]enefited from its location on the main commercial routes in the region.”

Israeli police occupy Shuhada before the arrival of Herzog to the Ibrahimi mosque in occupied Hebron, November 28, 2021. Photo | Activestills

Writing about Israel’s continuous threats to the sites, UNESCO reports:

What is clear is that threats and violations are systematic and long-standing. They have a significant impact on the lives of ordinary citizens, resulting in the gradual depopulation of the old town […] and also interfere with the conservation of cultural heritage assets.

The site of the mosque and the Old City of Hebron are under threat because of Israeli attempts to de-Arabize the old city, build Jewish-only settlements, rename the streets, and cover up the rich history of the city and the mosque, a history that spans thousands of years.

 

Isaac Herzog

Isaac Herzog, Israel’s president, is described in a piece in The Guardian as a “softly spoken veteran of centre-left.” When Herzog was an attorney, he represented large corporations like Coca-Cola Israel. A prominent Palestinian who knows Herzog and dealt with him when Herzog was a lawyer once said to me, “I don’t know what he was thinking, what would make him do such a thing.”

This “thing” that this Palestinian was referring to was the dangerous accommodation of the militant right-wing Religious-Zionists and legitimization of their desecration of an ancient and revered Muslim site – the Ibrahimi Mosque — with Herzog’s visits to the site.

However, as we look at the history of the State of Israel, we see that the so-called moderate Zionist establishment has always accommodated the radical right and legitimized the achievements the Zionist state has enjoyed through the brutality and violence perpetrated by Zionist fanatics.

From the earliest days of the Zionist colonization of Palestine, the radical violent elements pushed forward while the so-called moderates, while initially distancing themselves from the actions of “extremists,” gradually legitimized their actions.

Revealed: The American Money Entwined with Israel’s Jewish Terrorist Groups

This was true in the pre-1948 actions of Zionist terror squads that included the bombing of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem; the assassination of the United Nations mediator, the Swedish diplomat Folke Bernadot; and the brutal massacre of the people of Deir Yasin on the outskirts of Jerusalem.

In fact, the war of 1967 also was a push by Zionist radicals – who by that time were generals in army uniform and had a well-equipped and well-trained army at their disposal – to do what was left undone in 1948. While the more “moderate” Israeli politicians were hesitant, the generals demanded to start a war and take parts of Palestine that were left outside the state of Israel.

 

Post-1967

In post-1967 Israel, the face of the fundamentalist radical Zionists had slightly changed but the tactics remained the same. The 1967 occupation gave rise to a new form of radical Zionism called Religious Zionism. These were Zionists who had been indoctrinated in the hate-filled, violence-infused yeshiva, Yeshivat Mercaz Harav. Named “The Mother of Zionistic Yeshivot,” it was the very first Zionist yeshiva and the ‘flagship’ for the National Religious movement.

Originally the Labour-Left establishment, to which President Isaac Herzog belonged, had looked down on and even distanced itself from the National Religious movement. However, as early as 1968, when that movement initiated Jewish-only settlements in the heart of the West Bank, the army and the Labor-Left establishment supported them wholeheartedly. Today, Religious Zionists are credited with establishing a Jewish-Zionist presence throughout the entire West Bank.

What used to be the Zionist Labor-Left establishment is all but gone, and only a few relics like Herzog remain. Today the Israeli establishment consists of two factions of ultra-right fanatic blocks, fighting each other for power. Politically they are identical and their hate-filled anti-Palestinian rhetoric is equally appalling.

Hertzog’s visit to the Ibrahimi Mosque should be seen as nothing less than an invitation by the Zionist establishment to the Zionist radical elements to go ahead and burn the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Feature photo | Israeli President Isaac Herzog lights candles during the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah in Hebron’s holiest site, known to Jews as the Tomb of the Patriarchs and to Muslims as the Ibrahimi Mosque in the Israeli occupied part of the West Bank city of Hebron, Nov. 28, 2021, Nov. 28, 2021. Photo | Activestills

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 With Symbolic Hebron Chanukah Visit, Israeli President Greenlights Al-Aqsa Destruction appeared first on MintPress News.

What’s Left? How Greenwald, Covid and Rittenhouse Exposed a Plague Among Progressives

Caitlin Johnstone asserts that “[t]he most significant political moment in the U.S. since 9/11 and its aftermath was when liberal institutions decided that Trump’s 2016 election wasn’t a failure of status quo politics but a failure of information control.” Since Trump’s election, information control contributes to why those critical of Democrats are called Trump sympathizers. Journalist Paul Street epitomizes this tendency, seeming to speak for many who equate any criticism of Democrats with support for Trump and his policies.  To the extent that this attitude serves to obstruct political dialogue and struggle, it does not serve us well — especially in these dark times,  when we must pull our forces together to overcome the challenges we face.

Street’s CounterPunch article, “Glenn Greenwald is Not Your Misunderstood Left Comrade,” obstructs political dialogue and struggle. He gives no substantive rebuttal to a Greenwald article that declares “grotesque” the sight of “masked servants and unmasked elite at the New York Met Gala.” In a classic ad hominem attack, since Street couldn’t summon up an intelligent response, he just hurled insults. Sadly, this is what currently passes for political debate.

Compasses, nautical and political, are known to stop working in the vicinity of a strong electro-magnet. WhatWhere has happened to our political compass? Street declares, “Glenn Greenwald is not a man of ‘the Left’ (or whatever’s left of ‘the Left’).” What does “Left” mean, post-Trump? The once-reliable compass seems now to be spinning wildly, as the political magnetic field does a headstand.

Street asserts that “Greenwald broke on through to the wrong side during the Trump years, so clouded by his understandable contempt for liberal and Democratic hypocrisy, corporatism, and imperialism as to become a willing accomplice of the white nationalist right.” Greenwald’s tireless and meticulous debunking of Russiagate has cast him as a Trump sympathizer to people like Street. Remarkably, many on “the Left,” still believe Russia did it, though the recent indictment of Hilary Clinton’s lawyer and arrest of the principal source of the bogus Steele dossier should put any such notion to rest.

Street snidely discounts Greenwald’s stated reason for leaving The Intercept — that “The Intercept’s editors, in violation of my contractual right of editorial freedom, censored an article I wrote this week, refusing to publish it unless I remove all sections critical of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, the candidate vehemently supported by all New York-based [Intercept] editors involved in this effort at suppression.” Instead he claims that Greenwald, having submitted “a piece that tried to advance Trump campaign propaganda against Joe Biden on the eve of the 2020 presidential election,” regarded himself as “too good to be edited.” He lambasts Greenwald for being, as he put it, “all over the Hunter Biden-New York Post-deep state laptop story, even after CNN published an article titled “New Proof Emerges of the Biden Family Emails: a Definitive Account of the CIA/Media/BigTech Fraud.” Yet, even CNN recognized the bombshell.

The Knives Come Out as Greenwald Splits From the Intercept Citing Censorship

 

Smelling (and finding) the rat

The World Socialist Website, in sync with Street’s “analysis,” calls Greenwald a “sly fascism-denier” who, Street says, “has creepily thrown in with the white nationalist right.” Why? Because in his impeccably documented piece, “FBI Using the Same Fear Tactic From the First War on Terror: Orchestrating its Own Terrorism Plots,” Greenwald discussed the plot to kidnap Michigan Governor Whitmer. He concludes:

There was no way to avoid suspicions about the FBI’s crucial role in a plot like this absent extreme ignorance about the bureau’s behavior over the last two decades, or an intentional desire to sow fear about right-wing extremists attacking Democratic Party officials one month before the 2020 presidential election.

Greenwald was one of the few who smelled a rat in the Michigan kidnapping story and, after serious investigative journalism, he found the rat.

In sum, the FBI devised this plot, was the primary organizer of it, funded it, purposely directed their targets to pose for incriminating pictures that they then released to the press, and then heaped praise on themselves for stopping what they themselves had created. The Wall Street Journal’s headline declares “In Michigan Plot to Kidnap Governor, Informants Were Key,” yet Jan 6 is declared an attempted coup.

In spite of such headlines from the Wall Street Journal, Street says Greenwald “downplays the seriousness of the fascist-putschist Capitol Riot of January 6, 2021.” This doesn’t sound like downplaying to me: “Of course the FBI was infiltrating the groups they claim were behind these attacks,” Greenwald reported, concluding, “yet the suggestion that FBI informants may have played some role in the planning of the January 6 riot was instantly depicted as something akin to, say, 9/11 truth theories or questions about the CIA’s role in JFK’s assassination.”

Street claims Greenwald has a “curious alignment with the white-nationalist neofascist Donald Trump and the January 6 marauders in their purported struggle with ‘the deep state.’” Marauders or the FBI? Does Street not believe that a “Deep State” exists? Greenwald’s article “Questions About the FBI’s Role in 1/6 Are Mocked Because the FBI Shapes Liberal Corporate Media” is subtitled “The FBI has been manufacturing and directing terror plots and criminal rings for decades. But now, reverence for security state agencies reigns.”

In a widely praised TED Talk, Trevor Aaronson states: “There’s an organization responsible for more terrorism plots in the United States than al-Qaeda, al-Shabaab and ISIS combined: The FBI.” So why are Street, the World Socialist Website, Counterpunch, and many others well-versed in COINTELPRO tactics, now swallowing FBI words whole and calling people Trump fascists for raising the issue of possible FBI involvement in the January 6 riot?

Street claims that Greenwald “defends Trump and other Amerikaner neofascists against the ‘censorship’ of their supposed free speech right to spew sexist, nativist, and white power hatred on Twitter and Facebook.” An article I wrote about the new reality police revealed that Media Alliance, a San Francisco organization founded in 1976 to be mainstream media watchdogs, circulated a petition after Jan. 6 that says: “Facebook should create a circuit breaker to help prevent dangerous disinformation and incitements to violence from ever reaching a mass audience…”

That good minds sincerely believe Silicon Valley executives should be the gods of truth in today’s world makes Orwell look cheerily optimistic. Yet shockingly, many people agree with the unprecedented censorship of a former president. Nixon, even after his impeachment and resignation, was never gagged as Trump is. As a former constitutional lawyer, Greenwald addressed concerns of Silicon Valley censorship in his article “Congress Escalates Pressure on Tech Giants to Censor More, Threatening the First Amendment.” Greenwald believes House Democrats are getting closer to the constitutional line, if they have not already crossed it.

 

Visceral hatred and rational discourse

Greenwald recently wrote several pieces on COVID as well, one announcing that he was eagerly vaccinated. However, his questions about the cost-benefit analysis missing from the COVID debate and his support of the position taken by NBA star Jonathan Isaac have Street condemning him for “failing to mention the horrific, anti-science, COVID-fueling and pandemo-fascist anti-masking and anti-vax practices, policies, and politics of the Amerikaner Party of Trump (the Republicans).”

An article titled “Forced Vaccination Was Always the End Game” — from the non-profit National Vaccine Information Center, which advocates for informed consent protections in medical policies and public health laws — reports that breakthrough COVID infections, hospitalizations, and deaths in fully vaccinated people are on the rise; individuals who have recovered from the infection have stronger natural immunity than those who have been vaccinated; and officials at the World Health Organization now say that the SARS-COV-2 virus is mutating like influenza and is likely to become prevalent in every county, no matter how high the vaccination rate. Yet, in spite of such growing perspective, Greenwald’s piece supporting the NBA’s Isaac is subtitled, “It is virtually a religious belief in the dominant liberal culture that people who do not want the COVID vaccine are stupid, ignorant, immoral and dangerous.”

In a separate article, titled “The ACLU, Prior to COVID, Denounced Mandates and Coercive Measures to Fight Pandemics,” Greenwald writes that the “ACLU prior to its Trump-era transformation” had one primary purpose: to denounce as dangerous and unnecessary attempts by the state to mandate, coerce, and control in the name of protecting the public from pandemics. The ACLU report cites important lessons from American history:

…vivid reminders that grafting the values of law enforcement and national security onto public health is both ineffective and dangerous. Too often, fears aroused by disease and epidemics have justified abuses of state power. Highly discriminatory and forcible vaccination and quarantine measures adopted in response to outbreaks of the plague and smallpox over the past century have consistently accelerated, rather than slowed, the spread of disease, while fomenting public distrust and, in some cases, riots.

Greenwald legitimately questioned the ACLU’s about-face from the pre-Trump era to its current position, pointing out how the ACLU tweeted that “[f]ar from compromising them, vaccine mandates actually further civil liberties.” Yet Street lauds the ACLU’s current position.

Far from compromising them, vaccine mandates actually further civil liberties. They protect the most vulnerable, people with disabilities and fragile immune systems, children too young to be vaccinated, and communities of color hit hard by the disease. https://t.co/UYfQY2EEqj

— ACLU (@ACLU) September 2, 2021

Many ask, as one article puts it, “Why Does Glenn Greenwald Keep Appearing on Tucker Carlson’s Show?” The question I keep asking, but get no answer to, is why Greenwald, Tulsi Gabbard, Aaron Maté, Matt Taibbi, Max Blumenthal, and Jimmy Dore can appear only on Fox. Why are they not invited onto “liberal” MSNBC or CNN, let alone Democracy Now? The apparent answer is that the dominant, ubiquitous paradigm, which cannot be challenged, is “don’t go after the Democrats.”

Much like Julian Assange, Greenwald began to be condemned by liberals only post-Trump. The liberal visceral hatred of Donald Trump has trumped rational discourse. If there were true rational discourse, Julian Assange would not be suffering in Belmarsh Prison as a consequence of his cardinal sin — publishing emails harmful to Democrats.

 

Facts and the distorting ideological lens

Following the Kyle Rittenhouse verdict, Greenwald again went out on a limb in what a revolutionary comrade called a “rant,” but Greenwald’s message was essentially the same as that conveyed by Caitlin Johnstone:

If your opinion about a legal case would be different if the political ideologies of those involved were reversed and all other facts and evidence remained the same, then it’s probably best not to pretend your position on the case has anything to do with facts or evidence.

Kyle Rittenhouse Is Not the Enemy. He’s the Latest Product of the Outrage Industry

Yet Greenwald, once again, has found himself in the crosshairs of “progressives.”

I agree with Street that he and Greenwald are not “on the same side.” If Street, and countless others like him, engaged in true political debate and struggle rather than calling people “facetious,” “stupid,” and “snotty,” we might be closer to the revolution that Street claims to hunger for.

Feature photo | Protesters, framed by a peace symbol, stand outside the Kenosha County Courthouse, Nov. 18, 2021 in Kenosha, Wis., during the Kyle Rittenhouse murder trial. Paul Sancya | AP

Riva Enteen, former Program Director of the San Francisco National Lawyers Guild, is a lifelong peace and justice activist, retired social worker, lawyer, and editor of “Follow the Money,” a collection of Pacifica Radio’s Flashpoints interviews. She can be reached at rivaenteen@gmail.com

The post What’s Left? How Greenwald, Covid and Rittenhouse Exposed a Plague Among Progressives appeared first on MintPress News.

Diego Sequera Discusses the Underpinnings of Venezuelan Election and Huge Maduro/Socialist Victory



The United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) is celebrating as, with almost all votes counted, they appear to have won 20 out of the country’s 23 states in Sunday’s regional “mega elections.” More than 70,000 candidates stood for one of 3,082 public positions, including local mayorships, councillors, regional legislators and state governors — the vast majority of candidates affiliated with opposition parties.

The landslide victory was watched over by international observers from 55 countries, including a delegation from the European Union, who praised the organizational capacity of the National Electoral Council, effectively endorsing the proceedings.

This will no doubt anger many in Washington, including those in the White House. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken described the vote as a “grossly skewed” contest controlled by a dictatorship that carries out, “arbitrary arrests and harassment of political and civil society actors, criminalization of opposition parties’ activities, bans on candidates across the political spectrum, manipulation of voter registration rolls, persistent media censorship, and other authoritarian tactics.”

If this is indeed the case — that the Maduro administration is autocratic and repressive —  why did so many people still come out to support and vote for Maduro and the PSUV? Joining Lowkey to discuss this is Diego Sequera, a columnist for investigative journalism outlet Mision Verdad. One of the sharpest and most cogent thinkers on radical politics, Sequera is also a member of the Samuel Robinson Institute, a think tank based in Caracas.

While President Nicolás Maduro has undoubtedly presided over a period of serious economic dislocation, it is important to remember it was not always this way. The socialist movement first came to power in 1999 under Hugo Chavez who, in just a few short years, radically transformed the country.

Under Chavez, school enrollment went from 45% to 90% nationwide. The number of people in primary education rose from only 500,000 in 1998 to 2.8 million by the time of his death in 2013 — a 460% rise. Sequera described this as “the biggest literacy campaign in history.” “In a very few years, illiteracy, which was pretty high here, was eradicated completely… Here you had people 80 years old finishing their high school and then starting university,” he told Lowkey. This would have been unthinkable before the Bolivarian revolution.

Chavez also oversaw the creation of a socialized national healthcare system and a massive expansion in the pension program, whereby all elderly people were entitled to financial help. The number of people receiving pensions rose from 370,000 to 3.2 million in only a few years.

“What we are talking about is going from a state that spent about 39% of its national income on social investments to becoming a state that spent 74% of its total income on social investments,” Lowkey noted.

However, the biggest change was undoubtedly psychological. Venezuela, which had been a highly racialized oligarchy where a small white elite ruled over a poor and downtrodden black, mestizo and indigenous population, suddenly became a multiracial democracy where the ideas of poor and working class people were treated with at least as much importance as those of the white elite. To this day, many in the country talk of the era as one in which they were awakened for the first time and encouraged to see themselves as worthy.

“Once you took people out of hell, out of exclusion, out of desperation, you’re now able to discuss the country; what kind of country do you want to be? How do you want to relate yourself to your neighbors? What can you do for your brothers and sisters in neighboring countries?” Sequera said, going on to explain some of how Venezuela began to take the lead in world affairs, setting up regional and continental organizations based on solidarity rather than exploitation.

Thus, there remains a great deal of good will towards the PSUV. Sunday’s result underscores the notion that the Venezuelan people blame the U.S. sanctions for their suffering, rather than purely pointing the finger at the government.

The relatively high turnout of 42%, despite the demands from Washington to boycott the process, can only be interpreted as a rejection of U.S. imperialism and a victory bolstering the legitimacy of the government.

The new MintPress podcast “The Watchdog,” hosted by British-Iraqi hip-hop artist Lowkey, closely examines organizations about which it is in the public interest to know — including intelligence, lobby and special-interest groups influencing policies that infringe on free speech and target dissent. The Watchdog goes against the grain by casting a light on stories largely ignored by the mainstream, corporate media.

MintPress News is a fiercely independent, reader-supported outlet, with no billionaire owners or backers. You can support us by becoming a member on Patreon, bookmarking and whitelisting us, and by subscribing to our social media channels, including Twitch, YouTube, Twitter and Instagram.

Also, be sure to check out the new Behind the Headlines channel on YouTube.

The post Diego Sequera Discusses the Underpinnings of Venezuelan Election and Huge Maduro/Socialist Victory appeared first on MintPress News.

Camila Saab Speaks Out: Wife of Venezuelan Diplomat “Kidnapped” by US Gov’t Talks to MintPress

On Wednesday, November 24, MintPress News Editor in Chief Mnar Adley sat down to speak with Camila Saab, the wife of imprisoned Venezuelan diplomat Alex Saab.

Saab was on a diplomatic mission to Iran in June 2020, where he was tasked with securing deals for food, medicine and personal protective equipment. His plane stopped off in Cabo Verde — a group of islands off the west coast of Africa — for a routine refueling.

He would never finish his journey, as, on orders from the United States government, local authorities stormed the vehicle, forcing him off the plane — an event that would begin his 18-month detention. “I never imagined that Cabo Verde was going to kidnap a diplomat,” said the Italian-born former model and mother of two.

American prosecutors have accused Saab of defrauding the Venezuelan government out of hundreds of millions of dollars meant for a social housing project, claiming he sent the money to U.S. banks. While most of the charges against him have already been dropped, the most important one remains, and he faces 20 years in federal prison if convicted. Whether or not the allegations are true, it is surprising indeed that the U.S. government suddenly cares about financial crimes hurting the Maduro administration. Washington has frozen assets belonging to the Venezuela-owned CITGO service station group and has previously seized and sold Iranian oil bound for Venezuela — an act some have labeled a flagrant case of international piracy.

Jorge Arreaza on Venezuela Recovering from Sanctions In New Post-Petro Economic Plan 

Saab is currently being held in Miami, where, according to Camila, he is not receiving any medical care. Saab is a cancer survivor, but is not receiving his medication. His wife is worried for his health but remains focused. “Alex is a fighter and he will never give up… He is a very resilient person and he is very strong,” she said.

While much of the Western media has downplayed the affair, Saab’s case has become a cause celebre inside Venezuela, with walls everywhere festooned with posters and graffiti demanding the U.S. “Free Alex Saab.”

“I really cannot express the gratitude of my family for the incredible support that the Venezuelan people and the government is showing to us. Alex is very grateful for all the support; it is amazing to see how the people are supporting me,” Camila Saab told MintPress.

“No Mas!” Nicaragua Quits OAS as EU Tries to Undermine Venezuela Elections

Saab’s case is another example of the U.S. government’s attempts to destabilize Venezuela. Quite apart from financing opposition political parties and supporting self-declared “Interim President” Juan Guaidó, the Biden administration also refused to recognize the legitimacy of last Sunday’s regional “mega elections” that saw President Nicolás Maduro’s United Socialist Party of Venezuela sweep to victory, winning 20 of the country’s 23 state governorships plus the Caracas capital district.

With a turnout of 42%, a figure higher than equivalent midterm elections in the U.S., the result is certainly not one that people in Washington were hoping for, leaving the socialists in a position of power and Guaidó more isolated than ever. However, while Washington cannot choose the president of Venezuela, it can make life impossible for officials, such as Alex Saab, who attempt to defy its sanctions regime.

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.

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.

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“A Lot of Mistakes”: The Guardian and Julian Assange 

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND — In 1921, the Manchester Guardian’s editor, Charles Prestwich Scott, marked the newspaper’s centenary with an essay entitled “A Hundred Years.” In it, Scott declared that a newspaper’s “primary office is the gathering of news. …Comment is free, but facts are sacred.”

One hundred years on from Scott’s famous essay, and on the three-year anniversary of the Guardian’s Julian Assange/Paul Manafort story, we question whether the Guardian’s coverage of Julian Assange has honored the newspaper’s stated commitment to the truth.

Based on private communications between a Guardian correspondent and their source inside a security company at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, as well as two exclusive interviews, we trace the events behind two of the Guardian’s most explosive stories this decade.

 

“Russia’s secret plan to help Julian Assange escape from UK”

On September 21, 2018, the Guardian published a bombshell report entitled “Revealed: Russia’s secret plan to help Julian Assange escape from UK.” The story detailed an alleged conspiracy between Russian diplomats and WikiLeaks to illicitly smuggle Assange out of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London.

During the months before publication, Guardian correspondent Stephanie Kirchgaessner seemed eager to connect Assange to a Russian plot to escape the embassy.

On July 12, 2018, Kirchgaessner wrote to a source at UC Global, the private security company hired by the Ecuadorian government to protect Assange and its embassy in London: “We heard that the Russians wanted to help Assange and maybe get him a diplomatic visa. This was last year. But then the plan was rejected. By the Russians or by Assange? Why? Can you help? Do you know?”

On August 30, 2018, three weeks before publication, Kirchgaessner wrote again: “Hello. I am trying you again. I want to write a story about the discussions last year to get JA out of the embassy. The talks that happened with the Russians. Can I send you some questions?”

When the article was eventually published, the authors — Kirchgaessner, Dan Collyns, and Luke Harding — claimed that “Russian diplomats held secret talks in London … with people close to Julian Assange to assess whether they could help him flee the UK” in late 2017.

Though it was acknowledged that “details of the Assange escape plan are sketchy,” the authors used two unnamed sources to assert that Fidel Narváez, the former consul at the Ecuadorian Embassy, “served as a point of contact with Moscow.”

The story appeared to add weight to the “Russiagate” narrative – the belief that the Donald Trump campaign colluded with Russia to subvert the 2016 U.S. presidential election, with help from WikiLeaks. The authors noted that the alleged escape plan “raises new questions about Assange’s ties to the Kremlin.”

The Guardian pulled out all the stops in its September 2018 report attempting to link Assange to Russia

Two individuals with first-hand knowledge of events reject the Guardian’s story, however, and provide details about what really happened in late 2017 when Assange tried to leave the embassy.

In an exclusive interview, Aitor Martinez, a lawyer who oversaw Ecuador’s effort to grant Assange diplomatic protection, explained that plans were drawn up to appoint Assange as an Ecuadorian diplomat and transport him to a third country. That way, Assange could legally leave the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where he was subject to arbitrary detention and where his health was declining.

Martinez drew up a list of countries that Ecuador should approach: China, Serbia, Greece, Bolivia, Venezuela or Cuba, noting:

Of course, they were the countries that don’t have good relations with the U.S. and could accept the appointment. Russia was never, ever on that list. There was a huge conspiracy theory in the U.S. with Russiagate; it didn’t make sense. So those were the countries.”

Martinez continued:

It took two or three weeks and we didn’t get any answer from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. And suddenly the Ministry said that they had appointed him to Russia.”

Foreign Minister María Fernanda Espinosa’s cousin worked at the Ecuadorian Embassy in Moscow and, through this cousin, she concocted a plan to appoint Assange to the one country that was the subject of mass-media hysteria.

“Julian and all of us at the legal team refused this appointment,” Martinez explained. “We said, ‘that’s crazy, what are you talking about?’ We refused.”

After Assange’s legal team refused, a second passport was issued to replace the diplomatic passport appointed to Russia, and Martinez personally brought the second passport to Assange at the embassy.

On December 21, Rommy Vallejo — the head of the Ecuadorian intelligence agency, Senain — visited Assange at the embassy to discuss the logistics for his transfer to a third country. Martinez said:

As soon as Vallejo arrived, he left his mobile phone at the entrance. And UC Global opened the mobile and took the IMEI code and also the sim card, as usual. Take into account that Senain was the entity that hired UC Global and this was the chief of Senain, and they spied on him.”

Martinez continued, referring to open court documents:

According to the UC Global chat, they were listening through the door and everything. They knew everything about the operation and we didn’t know they were spying on us, and reporting everything to the Americans, according to the witness declarations before the Spanish court.”

Martinez can reveal how, over the following days, the U.S. learned of Assange’s plans to leave the embassy. The Minister of Foreign Affairs called Martinez and asked:

What the hell happened? This is crazy, this operation plan was secret, was handled just by five or six people, and suddenly the U.S. ambassador in Quito came to my office and told me: ‘We know that Julian Assange is about to leave the embassy using a diplomatic passport, and we will never allow it.’”

Martinez explained that, at the time, Assange’s legal team couldn’t figure out how the Americans learned about this operation. “Now we can assume that it was because UC Global sent information about the plan. So, she [the foreign minister] said we have to stop everything because the Americans know,” he said.

At this time, the U.S. intelligence agencies were pressuring UC Global to link Assange with Russia. Martinez said:

UC Global drafted exaggerated and faked reports for the Americans. The protected [UC Global] witness claimed before a court that they had drafted exaggerated reports just to feed the Americans with information and to show that UC Global is very important for them at the embassy. If you check UC Global reports, it’s very funny; they make up everything.”

A recent Yahoo! News article suggests that these reports were taken seriously.

As well as listening through the wall, UC Global staff secretly recorded video and audio footage of Assange and Vallejo’s meeting. “They even created a Dropbox link to send it – they took the data, cut the conversation and sent it to Morales,” said Martinez. This footage was then presumably sent to Morales’s handlers in the U.S.

Surveillance footage shows Assange meeting with a confidant at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. Screenshot | El Pais

On November 12, 2018, Kirchgaessner contacted a source within UC Global requesting access to the transcript of Assange’s meeting with Vallejo.

Kirchgaessner wrote: “Hola. The transcript?”

Her source responded: “In this moment its [sic] difficult I think tomorrow I can”

Kirchgaessner was thankful: “Really? That would be amazing. You know which one I mean?”

Kirchgaessner never received the transcript. Nonetheless, it is noteworthy that the Guardian knew that a security company hired to protect Assange was in fact compiling transcripts on the next day, Kirchgaessner messaged again: “Hello. I mean the one with Rommy Vallejo.” His private meetings long before this became public knowledge, and this wasn’t treated as the story. Instead, the Guardian promoted a narrative that Assange’s team was conspiring with Russia to illicitly flee the embassy.

To the contrary, Martinez emphasised that Ecuador had tried to help Assange leave the embassy through legal diplomatic channels, before the U.S. caught wind of the plan through a corrupt security firm that was clandestinely spying on Assange.

 

 

“A lot of mistakes”

Fidel Narváez, former consul at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, categorically denies holding secret discussions with Russian diplomats. Narváez said:

I challenged the Guardian and I said this is false information – there was no Russian escape plan. To start with there was not an escape plan – escape, which means something clandestine, illicit, something not legal. That, there was not ever. Let alone something devised or orchestrated by a third country.”

Narváez lodged a formal complaint against the Guardian, attesting that “the Guardian has not, and cannot, substantiate with solid evidence its […] false assertions” that “Russian diplomats held secret talks in London last year;” and that “a tentative plan was devised that would have seen the WikiLeaks founder smuggled out of Ecuador’s London Embassy.”

On advice from its internal regulator, the Guardian amended the article to emphasize that “the plan in relation to Mr. Assange’s ability to be able to leave the Ecuadorian Embassy was not devised or instigated by Russia,” and that “there was nothing illicit about the ‘plan’ as described in the Article.”

Guardian admits its reporters L. Harding, S. Kirchgaessner, and D. Collyns gave a “misleading impression to readers” and breached paper’s code in one of infamous series of fake news stories about Assange from 2018 which helped put him in Belmarsh.

There will be no repercussions. pic.twitter.com/VbDE2WNPlX

— Matt Kennard (@kennardmatt) December 23, 2019

The Guardian’s climbdown from its original assertions suggests a loss of confidence in the information provided by its unnamed sources. Indeed, Kirchgaessner was warned by a source inside UC Global that the Guardian was being fed with false information from questionable sources months before the article was published.

On May 16, 2018, following the Guardian’s reporting on Operation Hotel (Ecuador’s multi-million-dollar operation to support Assange’s embassy stay), Kirchgaessner was told by a UC Global source:

I’ve read part of your article and [Ecuadorian news agency] plan V; there are a lot of mistakes and things that are confused or mixed; there are people who have provided that information so you do not know why they have given that …”

Perhaps more concerningly, Kirchgaessner appeared to know about the relationship between UC Global’s activities at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London and the security company’s proximity to Trump megadonor Sheldon Adelson almost a year before it became public knowledge.

UC Global’s loyalties had shifted in 2016, when its CEO David Morales attended a security fair in Las Vegas and won a contract to guard Queen Miri, a multi-million-dollar yacht owned by Adelson. “Given that Adelson already had a substantial security team assigned to guard him and his family at all times,” wrote Max Blumenthal, “the contract between UC Global and Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands was clearly the cover for a devious espionage campaign apparently overseen by the CIA.” Blumenthal continued:

Throughout the black operations campaign, U.S. intelligence appears to have worked through Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands, a company that had previously served as an alleged front for a CIA blackmail operation several years earlier. The operations formally began once Adelson’s hand-picked presidential candidate, Donald Trump, entered the White House in January 2017.

The relationship between Adelson and UC Global’s operations at the Ecuadorian Embassy was first reported in El País in September 2019. Yet on October 12, 2018, Kirchgaessner emailed her source within UC Global: “Also the [Las Vegas] Sands and Sheldon Adelson – did he pay for the embassy to move?”

If Kirchgaessner knew about the relationship between Adelson and UC Global’s activities at the Ecuadorian Embassy, why was it not reported at the time? Indeed, evidence of an elaborate spying operation on Assange, with links to the Republican Party and the Trump administration, would seem to disrupt the narrative of a secret Assange-Trump-Russia plot to subvert American politics – a narrative that the Guardian would not abandon easily.

 

“Manafort held secret talks with Assange in Ecuadorian Embassy”

On November 27, 2018, while Narváez’s formal complaint to the Guardian about its Assange coverage was still being processed, the newspaper published another blockbuster story claiming that Paul Manafort, Donald Trump’s campaign manager and key aide during the 2016 U.S. presidential election, had “held secret talks with Julian Assange inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London” in 2013, 2015, and Spring 2016.

The story was immediately picked up by the world’s largest news outlets, including CNN, MSNBC, the Daily Mail, and the Los Angeles Times. “If it’s right,” commented a U.S. national security reporter, “it might be the biggest get this year.”

Indeed, the article appeared to provide additional evidence of “collusion” between WikiLeaks, Trump, and Russia in the lead-up to the 2016 U.S. election, during which time WikiLeaks released thousands of Democratic National Committee emails.

As the article’s authors, Luke Harding and Dan Collyns, claimed, the last alleged meeting between Assange and Manafort in Spring 2016 “is likely to come under scrutiny and could interest Robert Mueller, the special prosecutor who is investigating alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.”

The Guardian’s Manafort scoop began to unravel almost as soon as it was published.

Remember this day when the Guardian permitted a serial fabricator to totally destroy the paper's reputation. @WikiLeaks is willing to bet the Guardian a million dollars and its editor's head that Manafort never met Assange. https://t.co/R2Qn6rLQjn

— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) November 27, 2018

The WikiLeaks Twitter account responded: “Remember this day when the Guardian permitted a serial fabricator to totally destroy the paper’s reputation. @WikiLeaks is willing to bet the Guardian a million dollars and its editor’s head that Manafort never met Assange.” Both Manafort and Assange denied that any of the visits took place.

Indeed, even the Guardian didn’t seem sure.

Though the Guardian’s sources were able to offer precise details about Manafort’s appearance (“casually dressed when he exited the embassy, wearing sandy-coloured chinos, a cardigan and a light-coloured shirt”) as well as the meeting’s duration (it “lasted about 40 minutes”), the authors were unable to establish exactly when Manafort allegedly visited.

Within a request for comment sent to WikiLeaks shortly before the article was published, Harding was not even able to specify during which month Manafort’s 2016 visit supposedly occurred. The meeting “took place,” Harding wrote, “in or around March 2016, around the time Manafort joined Donald Trump’s presidential campaign,” a detail that remained vague within the published article.

In the time since, the Guardian appears to have lost even more confidence in its own report.

Within hours of publication, the Guardian modified its headline to add “sources say” to the original claim that “Manafort held secret talks with Assange in Ecuadorian embassy.” The print edition, issued one day after online publication, added inverted commas: “Manafort ‘held secret talks with Assange’.”

Ninety minutes after publication the Guardian modifies its "Manafort held secret talks with Assange" headline to add ", sources say". pic.twitter.com/zcg8cQcYGq

— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) November 27, 2018

The main body of the report was also modified. Whereas the original claimed that “It is unclear why Manafort wanted to see Assange and what was discussed,” an updated version read that “It is unclear why Manafort would have wanted to see Assange and what was discussed.” [emphasis added]

Harding’s 2020 book, Shadow State: Murder, Mayhem, and Russia’s Remaking of the West, moreover, makes no mention of Manafort’s alleged meetings with Assange, even though the subject matter’s clear focus is malign Russian involvement in Western politics. Mueller did not mention the alleged meeting in his report on Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Despite watering down the article’s key claims, the Guardian has yet to add any correction notes or provide a retraction.

 

Visitor’s log

In paragraph 14 of the Guardian’s Manafort story, the authors note that: “Visitors normally register with embassy security guards and show their passports. Sources in Ecuador, however, say Manafort was not logged.”

It is curious that the Guardian glided over this crucial point. Narváez, who was in charge of the day-to-day functioning of the embassy, asserted that nobody could enter the building without being logged. Visitors required written approval from the ambassador, before registering their visit with security personnel and leaving a copy of their identification, which would be added to the visitor’s log.

Private UC Global discussions raise even more questions.

On November 22, 2018, five days before the Guardian published its Manafort story, an email was sent from UC Global CEO David Morales, asking: “Do we have a record that Paul Manafort during 2013, 2015, and 2016 visited the embassy?” UC Global staff discussed the matter:

Staff A: Hello… send me the name to search for

Staff B: Paul Manafort

Staff A: Ok, I’ll look and let you know

Any date?

I can’t find anything

Staff B: So there’s nothing?

Staff A: I can only find two Pauls… Stafford and Nigel

It seems that the Guardian’s request for information on visits to the embassy was flushed through Ecuadorian intelligence to UC Global and came back negative. Why did the Guardian glide over crucial evidence that contradicted its key claim, without offering any attempt at explaining why Manafort was not in the visitor’s log?

Indeed, the Guardian had relied on the visitor’s log for a separate story, and had privileged access to it.

On May 6, 2018, Kirchgaessner contacted a source within UC Global, saying:

I am interested in Nigel Farage because he went to see [Assange] once in 2017 and said it was the only time he went to see him. But other people think he went more and I am interested in knowing if that is true. Farage pushed for Brexit and he was also close to the Trump campaign.”

On May 18, 2018, Kirchgaessner emailed once more: “Have you seen what we published this week in the Guardian? We didn’t include the name of the company [UC Global]. […] Could you send me the list of visitors for the first week [sic] of 2016 (January – June 2016)?”

It is also curious that no video or photo evidence of Manafort’s alleged visit was provided, especially given that the Guardian had lines to access the embassy’s CCTV records.

On May 14, 2018, Kirchgaessner emailed a source at UC Global, asking: “Can you bring the video again of him [Assange] outside when you come [to a meeting] tomorrow?” Four days later, Kirchgaessner emailed again: “We are very interested in the video of JA [Julian Assange] outside. Do you think that you could get the film in a few weeks?”

If the Guardian could access CCTV footage at the embassy, why was it not able to provide material evidence of Manafort’s alleged visit? Did the Guardian even ask?

 

Concealed author

To this day, the online version of the Guardian’s Manafort story presents only two authors: Luke Harding and Dan Collyns.

In early December 2018, however, WikiLeaks wrote that the Guardian had “mysteriously hid[den the] third author of fabricated front page story” – Ecuadorian political activist and journalist Fernando Villavicencio.

In 2014, the Ecuadorian government pointed the finger at Villavicencio for providing the Guardian with allegedly forged documents relating to a secret $1billion “deal with a Chinese bank to drill for oil under the Yasuni national park in the Amazon.”

Even before the Guardian’s Manafort story was published, Villavicencio had promoted doubtful claims about Assange’s visitors at the Ecuadorian Embassy. On May 16, 2018, Villavicencio and Cristina Solórzano correctly wrote in La Fuente that “[Nigel] Farage visited Assange in March of last year, stayed for roughly 40 minutes and when asked about why he visited, responded ‘I don’t remember’.”

However, they added that, according to their source, “Farage returned to the embassy the next month, entering 28 April 2018 at 17:10 and leaving at 19:40.”

The allegation was almost certainly false. In late March 2018, the Ecuadorian authorities had removed Assange’s access to the outside world, including a ban on visitors. These rights were only partially restored in October 2018, meaning Farage had supposedly visited while Assange could not accept visitors.

 

Questions

A number of crucial questions remain unanswered by the Guardian:

  • What did Kirchgaessner know about the relationship between UC Global, Sheldon Adelson, and the Ecuadorian Embassy security operation in 2018, before this was public knowledge? Why was this not reported on at the time?
  • Why did the Guardian not report on the fact that Assange’s private conversations were being transcribed by a security company that was supposed to be protecting him?
  • Did the Guardian continue to use sources in Ecuador’s intelligence service after it was warned that they were spreading disinformation?
  • Given that the Guardian had lines to access CCTV footage at the Ecuadorian Embassy, did it try to attain material evidence of Manafort’s alleged visit? If not, why?
  • Why has the Guardian not added any correction notes or provided a retraction to its Manafort story?
  • Why is the third author of the Manafort story, Fernando Villavicencio, still not listed on the Guardian’s website? Why was he seen as a reputable journalist to cover Assange?

Until these questions are answered, the newspaper cannot credibly defend itself against the charge that it has committed serious journalistic malpractice in its coverage of Julian Assange.

Feature photo | A poster of Julian Assange is seen inside a handbag of a protestor as supporters stage a demonstration outside the High Court in London, Oct. 27, 2021. Frank Augstein | AP

John McEvoy is an investigative journalist. He has written about recent British intervention in Chile, Brazil, and Colombia in the International History Review and the Contemporary British History Journal. He has also contributed to Declassified UK, the CanaryTribuneJacobinBrasil WireRevista Forum, and FAIR, and reported from Venezuela, Colombia, and France. Follow him on Twitter @jmcevoy_2

Pablo Navarrete is a journalist and documentary filmmaker.

The post “A Lot of Mistakes”: The Guardian and Julian Assange  appeared first on MintPress News.

From Anti-War Progressive to Pro-Drone Militarist: Tulsi Gabbard’s Odd Political Trajectory

WASHINGTON — While many on the American left have denounced the acquittal of Kenosha shooter Kyle Rittenhouse as handing a get-out-of-jail-free card to racist militias, former Hawaii Representative Tulsi Gabbard openly celebrated the verdict. “The jury got it right — finding Rittenhouse not guilty on all charges,” said the 40-year-old lieutenant colonel, adding that the prosecution was so obviously politically motivated and his innocence so obvious that bringing charges against him should be considered “criminal” in itself.

The Rittenhouse trial was clearly flawed from the start. Among other decisions, Judge Bruce Schroeder refused to allow into evidence either video showing Rittenhouse fantasizing about killing Black Lives Matter protesters just days before the Kenosha shooting or images of him partying with the far-right group Proud Boys, flashing white nationalist hand gestures. Schroeder, who has a long history of questionable rulings, also ruled that those killed by Rittenhouse must not be referred to as “victims” in court, preferring the terms “looters” and “arsonists.”

To Gabbard, however, those questioning the verdict had merely had their minds poisoned by “pro-Antifa” mainstream media, a phrase she has repeatedly used over the past week. She tweeted:

With no evidence, mainstream media and antifa-loving politicians immediately labeled Rittenhouse a white supremacist terrorist. It’s obvious now that he was just a foolish kid who felt he needed to protect people and the community from rioters and arsonists because the government failed to do so.”

“Anyone who disagrees with pro-antifa mainstream media bias on [the] Rittenhouse trial is smeared as a white supremacist terrorist. Disgusting,” she added.

Doubling down on her stance, on Tuesday she released a video condemning those trying to view the shooting through the prism of race and racial justice. “We are all connected. We are all children of God, no matter our race, religion, or where we come from. So, please let us stop the RACIALIZATION of everyone and everything. This is what our country and world need most right now,” she wrote.

We are all connected. We are all children of God, no matter our race, religion, or where we come from. So, please let us stop the RACIALIZATION of everyone and everything. This is what our country and world need most right now. pic.twitter.com/oDChWad848

— Tulsi Gabbard (@TulsiGabbard) November 23, 2021

The former congresswoman’s words did not convince everyone. “Tulsi going all in on All Lives Matter,” remarked California-based media analyst Steve Patt. “I have never seen any politician move right as fast as Gabbard,” he added.

Today, Gabbard posted a clip of her on Tucker Carlson Tonight condemning the handling of the Waukesha murder case — an incident where an SUV drove into a crowd of spectators at a Christmas parade, killing six people. Gabbard argued that the incident showed that leftists are endangering America. Linking defunding the police to the release on bail of the suspect charged with multiple murders, she said:

We have politicians, we have activist judges and prosecutors who are not enforcing the law, people trying to defund the police, people who have really screwed up priorities who seem to be more interested about protecting criminals than protecting our community. “

“They are let out on to our streets, continuing their terror sprees,” she added.

 

Fox News star

These positions might surprise many who remember Gabbard from the 2016 and 2020 election cycles as a “rising star” on the progressive left. However, in recent weeks, she has pivoted hard to the right, appearing on Fox News virtually daily, espousing traditionally conservative talking points. In the past month alone, she has appeared on Fox shows Tucker Carlson Tonight, Hannity, Gutfeld!, Neil Cavuto Live, Fox News Primetime, The Next Revolution with Steve Hilton, and Watters World. Over the same timeframe, she has not appeared on MSNBC, CNN, CNBC, CBS or ABC.

She has spent most of her time on the network chastising the Democratic Party, despite once being DNC vice-chair. In a Fox News Prime Time segment last week titled “Dems Target their Political Enemies,” she presented her own colleagues as perhaps the greatest threat to liberty in America, warning:

You’re either with them – agreeing with them, supporting them, carrying the water for them — or you’re not. You’re either part of their team or you’re not. And if you’re not (and this is what we’re seeing happening now. It is what I’ve experienced), then they will target you, censor you, demonize you and call you a domestic terrorist and sick the attorney general on you.”

This built on a previous interview with Steve Hilton titled “Dems have become the party of hate and division,” where she warned against the ominous “darkness” of the “far-left” party, and a Tucker Carlson segment where she claimed her party was pursuing “an intentional strategy to tear us apart based on the color of our skin.”

The problem is that we have leaders who are intentionally trying to tear us apart based on the color of our skin for their political or financial gain, and they don't care about the destruction they leave in their wake. pic.twitter.com/IGFnHIEjnW

— Tulsi Gabbard (@TulsiGabbard) November 18, 2021

Gabbard also openly celebrated the Republican victory in the Virginia gubernatorial election earlier this month, which saw Glenn Youngkin defeat Democrat Terry McAuliffe, telling Carlson that “McAuliffe’s loss is a victory for all Americans.” “This is where I find hope for the future,” she added.

She also condemned leftists who complain about Republicans using racial dog whistles, claiming that they were comparing the American public to dogs. “Please let us stop the racialization of everyone and everything. Racialism. We are all children of God and are therefore family in the truest sense, no matter our race or ethnicity,” she said, adding, “Please, let us not allow ourselves to be led down this dark and divisive path of racialism and hate.” Choosing to do this on Fox News — a network whose entire business model is dedicated to spreading animosity and riling up their overwhelmingly elderly, white base against minorities and liberals — is a particularly noteworthy decision.

President Joe Biden himself has also been a key target of Gabbard’s ire. In September, at the height of the Haitian migrant scandal, where Border Patrol Agents were filmed whipping black people trying to cross into the United States, Gabbard attacked Biden from the right, claiming that his “open border policy” was hurting America and helping gang members and sex traffickers enter the country. Going further, she presented Trump as a sensible leader, praising him for his efforts to shore up the southern frontier with Mexico (In reality, “open borders” Biden has deported nearly 1.3 million people in less than a year in office — nearly three times the figure Trump achieved in four years).

This was not the only recent shot Gabbard has aimed at the 46th president. Earlier this month, she directly accused him of “undermining the fundamental principles of our country” and “tearing our country apart.” Four days later, she warned Fox viewers that his Build Back Better bill will allow “unelected bureaucrats” to “stick their noses into every aspect of our lives, furthering this cradle-to-grave mentality of government dependence that makes us lose even more of our autonomy.” “Government is already too big and powerful as it is. The Build Back Better bill will only make it worse,” she concluded, using classic conservative rhetoric.

 

From anti-war hero to drone queen

Perhaps the most surprising shift in her metamorphosis into boilerplate conservative is her seemingly shifting stance on war. Appearing on Fox News just after the Biden administration was forced to admit that a drone strike it ordered on “terrorists” in Kabul actually targeted ten civilians, she vehemently defended the policy. Clearly not expecting such an answer (the segment was titled “Afghan Disaster: Who Is Getting Fired?”), host Tucker Carlson looked surprised as Gabbard launched into a spirited defense of both drones and the endless war on terror.

“I think it’s important for the American people to understand that Islamist jihadists are continuing to wage war against us,” she said. Then, barely acknowledging that the slain Afghan children were not terrorists, she added:

We have to work to defeat them militarily and ideologically. And militarily, we have two choices in how we do that. Number One: We can continue to invade and occupy in nation-building [sic] countries around the world — just as we did in Afghanistan at great cost. Number Two: We can take a targeted approach using airstrikes, using our special forces to go in and go after these terror cells.”

“We’ve seen a near-180 from Tulsi Gabbard this year. Her opinions on many subjects are now indecipherable from Fox News — which is why they’ve been inviting her on regularly,” Lee Camp, a political comedian who has followed Gabbard’s career trajectory closely, told MintPress, adding:

Many of her tweets seem to pretend race is not an issue in America — a country with overwhelmingly white-supremacist foreign and domestic policy. Much of her ire and concern has shifted from those without healthcare to those refugees coming through our “open borders.” Tulsi now feeds into the toxic nationalism and xenophobia that has allowed the American empire to abuse other peoples and cultures for generations (ironically including white America’s annexation of her home state of Hawaii).”

Gabbard’s heel turn accelerated in the fall after she returned from active deployment on what she called a “Special Operations mission to go after al-Qaeda affiliated jihadists,” in the Horn of Africa. Many congratulated her on her promotion to lieutenant colonel, but others were surprised to hear that the U.S. military was at war in Africa at all.

All this seems a far cry from the woman who resigned from the DNC in 2016 in order to stand with Bernie Sanders. Gabbard consistently shared anti-war opinions on potential conflicts with Russia or Syria, to the point where she was constantly accused of being an agent of both governments. She also gained plaudits and followers after condemning the Saudi war on Yemen and attacking establishment figures like Hillary Clinton and Kamala Harris when few others would.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., holds hands with Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, during a town hall at Gettysburg College, April 22, 2016, in Gettysburg, Pa. Evan Vucci | AP

On race, too, she has taken an even more abrupt rightward shift. In 2017, she demanded that America must “dismantle the systemic racism that causes Black men to disproportionately receive harsher sentences compared to other races and ethnicities for the same types of crime.” Yet when a movement emerged raising these same points, she attacked it, siding with Rittenhouse.

Likewise, on immigration, only last year she condemned Trump for the policies she now says were correct. During the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination debates, she said:

Our hearts break when we see children at these detention facilities who’ve been separated from their parents, when we see human beings crowded into cages in abhorrent, inhumane conditions. We can have both secure borders as well as humane immigration policies. We have to stop separating children from their parents, make it easier for people to seek asylum, make sure that we are securing our borders and [sic] by reforming those laws.”

While it is certainly possible to hold left-wing economic views without subscribing to liberal social values (many Americans do just that), claiming that Biden’s border policy, which is demonstrably far more authoritarian than Trump’s, constitutes an “open border” is harder to understand, as is scaremongering about the perils of big government.

The grift in pursuit of power by this Lieutenant Colonel is unmatched. Started as bigot anti-gay official; became generic mainstream Dem to get into Congress; then an “attack Obama from the right” Dem; to “Bernie progressive” bandwagon; to a Bernie-Lite candidate; now full MAGA https://t.co/PI1Ae00LRM

— FREE PALESTINE (@MikePrysner) November 26, 2021

 

A big fan of Modi, Sisi, Apartheid

While many have been surprised by Gabbard’s rightward shift, there were a number of warning signs in her past that suggested her progressive, anti-war bona fides were not as rock solid as they might appear. Tulsi is the daughter of Republican-turned-Democratic State Senator Mike Gabbard, who came to prominence nationally as a leader in the anti-LGBT movement. In the 1990s, he was president of the group “Stop Promoting Homosexuality America” and host of the radio show “Let’s Talk Straight Hawaii.”

Tulsi took after her father in many respects. One of her first political gigs was working for an anti-gay group that promoted conversion therapy. “As Democrats we should be representing the views of the people, not a small number of homosexual extremists,” she said. To be fair to her, her public pronouncements on the subject have greatly changed since then. In 2013, she joined the LGBT Equality Caucus and consistently voted for increased rights for sexual and gender minorities.

This is a video with Tulsi Gabbard’s father, Mike Gabbard. He was the founder of “Stop Promoting Homosexuality America” and she is the daughter in this video.

Tonight she is skipping the LGBTQ town hall.

I wonder why. pic.twitter.com/j8xu0q2W56

— Rachel R. Gonzalez (@RachelRGonzalez) October 10, 2019

Perhaps even more alarming are her links to far-right Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) paramilitary movement. Modi, a Hindu nationalist, first came to worldwide attention while he was chief minister of Gujarat state during the massive wave of anti-Muslim pogroms in 2002 that saw over 2,000 killed and 200,000 Muslims driven from their homes thanks to RSS handiwork.

As prime minister, Modi has led drives to strip millions of Indian Muslims of their citizenship and overseen other anti-Muslim violence. Members of Modi’s cabinet have floated the idea of genocide against India’s Muslim population (thought to be nearly 200 million).

Gabbard, a practicing Hindu, gifted Modi her childhood copy of the sacred text “The Bhagavad Gita,” condemned the U.S.’ 2014 decision to block his entry into the country owing to his history of inciting religious violence, and voted against a House resolution condemning his attacks on Muslims. Senior members of the RSS — an organization often compared to the Ku Klux Klan or Hitler’s brownshirtsattended Gabbard’s Hawaii wedding.

Hindu extremist and BJP spokesperson Ram Madhav at Gabbard’s wedding. Source | Pieter Friedrich

Whether Modi has influenced Gabbard’s views on Islam is unclear. However, what is evident is that her beliefs about the religion drive much of her domestic and foreign policy positions. In the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attacks in 2015, she fumed that President Barack Obama was not nearly tough enough on Islamic extremism, telling Fox News that “radical Islamic ideology” had to be defeated militarily, not just ideologically. She also constantly attacked Obama on his deal with Iran, calling the Islamic Republic “the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism.” On U.S. ally Saudi Arabia, however, her position was completely the opposite, saying that it was “understandable” if they developed atomic weaponry.

Another Middle Eastern dictatorship she supported was Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s Egypt. In 2015, she traveled to Egypt to meet Sisi, who has already suggested he might rule for life. There, she offered a glowing endorsement of his autocratic rule. “President el-Sisi has shown great courage and leadership in taking on this extreme Islamist ideology, while also fighting against ISIS militarily to keep them from gaining a foothold in Egypt,” she said, urging the U.S. to recognize him and “stand with him in this fight against Islamic extremists.”

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard meets with #Egypt President el-Sisi and other leaders in Cairo. https://t.co/ndadcSiRnz pic.twitter.com/sHB4U6CXX5

— Former Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (@TulsiPress) November 24, 2015

This rhetoric is a far cry from the image of a sober, war-skeptical outsider many of her champions presented her as. While she does challenge many U.S. policies, it does not come from a position of being against war (she is, after all, a high ranking member of the U.S. military). “When it comes to counterproductive wars of regime change, I’m a dove… When it comes to the war against terrorists, I’m a hawk,” she explained, while failing to recognize that the war on terror is inextricably linked to regime-change wars and that one begets the other. Iraq, of course, supposedly started because of Saddam Hussein’s involvement in 9/11 and terrorism, but quickly morphed into a regime-change war lasting two decades, destabilizing an entire region and turning it into a breeding ground for radical Islamic terror.

On Israel, Gabbard has also been a loyal ally and was even chosen to speak at Christians United for Israel, a far-right pro-occupation organization. There, she shared a stage with Benjamin Netanyahu, Ted Cruz, Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee. So forthright was her support for the Apartheid State that the next year she received the Champion of Freedom award from the controversial Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, an acolyte of mega-donor Sheldon Adelson. Nevertheless, she still managed to cultivate an image of being against war and empire.

with philanthropist Miriam Adelson and Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii at our Gala Dinner on 5 May pic.twitter.com/GhUXVWolXA

— Rabbi Shmuley (@RabbiShmuley) May 17, 2016

 

Playing both sides

Gabbard has been courted by the right-wing for a long time, so her recent shift should perhaps not have come as such a surprise. A favorite of individuals such as Mike Cernovich, Richard Spencer and David Duke, she even went to Washington to interview for a position in the Trump administration. This was reportedly presidential advisor Steve Bannon’s idea. “He loves Tulsi Gabbard. Loves her…[he] wants to work with her on everything,” a source close to Bannon told The Hill.

Last year, she also sided with notorious right-wing organization Project Veritas to promote the idea that Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) had cheated her way to election victory, stuffing ballot boxes with votes. In this light, then, her decision not to vote to impeach Donald Trump (an action that infuriated her own party), might seem less like a principled stand and more like a long-term strategic move.

American politics is often compared to the charade of pro wrestling, with participants secretly working together to put on a show for the public. Gabbard’s latest heel turn is merely the latest in a long line of metamorphoses from conservative anti-LGBT campaigner to progressive anti-war activist to boilerplate Republican. Her latest actions might disappoint some on the anti-war left. However, a closer look at her past suggested her opposition to militarism was always limited in scope. Unfortunately, the United States is so starved of genuine anti-imperialist leaders that many are willing to compromise to an incredible degree.

“Gabbard has switched from championing the oppressed to championing the oppressors. It’s tough to say whether she ever truly believes anything she says or merely points her trajectory towards the greatest number of clicks and attention,” Camp told MintPress, adding:

Rather than stick to her (supposed) beliefs, she has now recalibrated to the Fox News audience. Most of our ruling elite in both parties are sociopaths who don’t actually have empathy for others. Perhaps Gabbard has always been just more of the same.”

Feature photo | Tulsi Gabbard speaks to U.S. Army Soldiers on April 8, 2021, at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. Photo | James Sheehan | U.S. Army

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 From Anti-War Progressive to Pro-Drone Militarist: Tulsi Gabbard’s Odd Political Trajectory appeared first on MintPress News.

A Chink in My Privilege: When Being White and Jewish Isn’t Enough

JERUSALEM — “I need a cell for a Jew,” the Israeli cops driving the jeep called into the jail. I was the Jew they were referring to and the jail was the infamous “Muskobia,” in the heart of West Jerusalem. This was the end of a long and tiring day that began with a protest in the village of Nabi Saleh in Palestine. I was covered in sweat, tear gas, dust, and quite a bit of the disgusting skunk liquid that the Israeli army sprays on protestors.

It was a hot day and my arms were full of bruises, my elbow and wrists sprained from the soldiers twisting them during the arrest. But regardless of the fact that I was protesting with Palestinians, I was still a Jew and when I was sent to jail for the night the authorities needed to make sure I was in a cell for Jews.

White privilege it seems, like skin color, doesn’t go away even in situations like that. Not that the cell for Jews was a room at the Marriott — far from it. There were eight or ten other guys, it was so full of cigarette smoke that I could hardly see from one end of the cell to the other, and when one of the inmates called for help because he was sick the guards showed no concern whatsoever.

However, I knew that my visit in the cell was limited to 24-48 hours at the very most. I knew that I would see a judge by the end of the first 24 hours and that a lawyer was on my case before I even reached the police station. It goes without saying that my interrogation was in a police station in the local settlement, not in a Shabak, or secret-police dungeon.

My rights were read to me and I was offered coffee and even a sandwich. I was not blindfolded, I was not beaten, I wasn’t shackled, and it took a while for the soldiers who brought me in to realize that they had forgotten to take away my cell phone, which of course I used to inform my family and friends where I was during several visits to the restroom.

All this took place several years ago. What I had learned from years of crossing the line from the privileged side to the side of the wall where privilege is not available, is that no amount of activism and no amount of crossing this line can take away the white privilege.

It wasn’t until recently that a chink was made in the armor of white privilege. Just a chink, and barely noticeable to the naked eye.

A “Fringe Member” of the Jewish Community: How Hasbara Trolls Reacted to My Campus Appearance

 

Secondary security screening

Landing in Washington, Dulles Airport after a recent visit to Palestine, I hurried, as I always do, to the Global Pass line. Global Pass is a privilege one can utilize that allows for a quick and easy entry back to the U.S. To receive it you must complete an extensive form, pay, and go through an interview at a local Homeland Security office. I have had this wonderful privilege for many years and it makes life a lot easier when I travel.

However, upon this recent return, something had changed. After placing my passport in the machine, I received a piece of paper telling me to see an agent. The agent took my passport, placed it in a sealed box, and told me to take it to another room. “Follow the red tape on the floor,” he said.

The line led me to another agent at the entrance to a large hall. He took my passport and sent me to sit and wait in a particular part of the hall. That is when it occurred to me that I was actually going through secondary security screening. This trip was not an ordinary one. It was May of 2021, my first trip to Palestine since COVID, and it was prompted by the unusual uprising that had taken place in Palestine.

Miko Peled, left, with Palestinian activist Issa Amro in Tel-Rumeida, Hebron. Photo | Miko Peled

No flights were landing in Tel-Aviv because the airlines were afraid of the Qassam rockets being shot from the Gaza Strip. So even though my ticket was to Tel-Aviv, I was rerouted and flew to Istanbul; then to Amman, Jordan; and from there I proceeded overland to cross into Palestine — a process that is neither pleasant nor convenient and consumes an entire day. My return to the United States was the same. I had to travel overland to Amman, Jordan, and from there to fly via Istanbul to Washington.

As I was sitting in the secondary-screening hall I was pondering all of this and wondered if that was the reason for the ordeal. In front of me were tables where passengers placed their luggage for inspection. On one of them, a Black woman had her suitcase and handbag and an officer was going through each and every item. When he finished inspecting the most intimate parts of her private possessions he looked at her. The woman was obviously pregnant and the officer asked, “Is the father your husband or your boyfriend?”

 

What town in Jerusalem are you from?

I have been questioned enough times to know that things are not going well when the officer looks at your passport and asks you questions for which the answers are written in the passport itself. “Where were you born?” “What countries did you visit?” This is why there is a passport to begin with, so that an officer can see the answers to those questions at a glance.

“I was born in Jerusalem,” I said, as it is stated in my passport.

“Yes, but what town or city in Jerusalem?” he asked.

“Jerusalem is a city.”

“Oh ok, well I am not familiar with the region.

“What countries have you visited in the last few years?”

The list was long but the one that he found most interesting was Iran. He asked a few questions about what I did and where I went, and what I spoke about during my lectures.

“Peace, love, and reconciliation,” I replied.

After the questioning came the inspection of my belongings, every item and every piece of paper was examined and had to be explained.

The entire affair took a couple of hours. It wasn’t pleasant, but it was not the end of the world. What did seem to me to be the end of the world was the email I received the following day, notifying me that my Global Pass was revoked as well as my TSA Pre-Check.

So now, with a chink in my privilege, each time I fly I must wait in line with everyone else, pull out my laptop and, what is worst of all, take off my shoes.

Feature photo | This undated screenshot taken from a video shows the arrest of Miko Peled by Israeli forces during a protest in occupied Palestine.

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 A Chink in My Privilege: When Being White and Jewish Isn’t Enough appeared first on MintPress News.

Jorge Arreaza on Venezuela Recovering from Sanctions In New Post-Petro Economic Plan 

UN Special Rapporteurs estimate that 100,000 people have died in Venezuela in the last decade because of the lack of medicine brought on by U.S. sanctions. Nearly 60% of those deaths took place under the Trump administration after Washington escalated its economic warfare on the Bolivarian state. During the Trump era, Jorge Arreaza served as Venezuela’s foreign minister and spent years building diplomatic ties with other nations amid Washington’s aggressive hybrid war.

“After 22 years of revolution, we have had to deal with President Clinton, President Bush, President Obama, President Trump, and President Biden. And there are no major differences between them because it is not a matter of who is in the Oval Office; it is a matter of who really controls the decisions in the United States,” Arreaza told MintPress. He continued:

The pressure is less with Biden because, while he hasn’t lifted any sanctions (they are in place, they are harming the people and causing a lot of damage against our economy and our society), he [also] hasn’t put new sanctions in place. In the Trump era, this was almost on a daily basis… As long as the elite that rules the U.S. doesn’t accept and recognize that there are free people in Latin America and that we are independent nations and not their backyard, that they have to respect us — if that doesn’t happen, we are always going to have tensions.”

While Donald Trump escalated sanctions against Caracas, it was indeed the Obama administration that built the framework of the United States sanctions regime to appease hawks in his administration. Alex Main, International Policy Director for the Center for Economic and Policy Research, told MintPress:

Through an executive order, Obama created the framework of the sanctions regime against Venezuela, declaring Venezuela an unusual and extraordinary threat; which is what he had to do to use the International Economic Emergency Powers Act, which allows U.S. presidents to unilaterally impose sanctions on foreign entities without having to get congressional approval.”

“No Mas!” Nicaragua Quits OAS as EU Tries to Undermine Venezuela Elections

Main explained that Trump built on Obama’s framework, allowing Marco Rubio to choose regime-change hawks to appoint into high places, where they carried out a crusade against the South American nation. He continued:

In August 2017, while golfing, Trump threatened Venezuela with military intervention for the first time. Within the same month, the U.S. president announced sweeping financial sanctions that were designed to asphyxiate the Venezuelan government and, by extension, the country. This led to a rapid decrease in the production of oil, due to the lack of financing available to maintain the oil fields. The Trump administration continued to escalate it’s economic war, which led to depleted foreign exchange in which to buy imports, including medicine and food.”

Earlier this year, Arreaza left his position as foreign minister and was appointed as the new minister of basic industries, helping to oversee and develop a plan to revive Venezuela’s industries most affected by sanctions: oil and minerals. The goal is to allow Venezuela to become less reliant on imports and become self-sufficient in the face of sanctions. Venezuela is home to not just the largest oil reserves in Latin America, but also the largest mineral reserves in the region — including iron ore, aluminum, gold, and other precious metals that Western corporations have had their eyes on to fuel the tech boom. While the oil industry suffered because of lack of financing, the mineral extraction industry was unable to develop and flourish because sanctions prevented Venezuela from importing parts to repair the mining machines.

Arreaza is very confident that the oil industry will bounce back stronger than ever, thanks to the ingenuity of the rank-and-file workforce at the state-owned oil company PDVSA, revealing that it has already recovered almost to the level it was at before American sanctions. He elaborated:

We did things that the U.S. did not even imagine that we could do to recover our oil industry. And we, of course, trusted in the working class of PDVSA. They have done this by themselves. We, as the government, brought all the spare parts and chemical components that were needed. I can’t tell you how, because if I tell you, then they would try to stop this from happening. But it was the working class; the workers from PDVSA, who really made this miracle happen. So I think our oil industry is going to grow and be maybe even more important than it was before, because now we know how to do many things by ourselves that we thought that we couldn’t. And the sanctions helped us in that sense.”

Arreaza also noted that the government has plans to use oil revenues to develop society and create jobs across Venezuela. “We need to diversify our economy. And the oil will be the most important tool that we have to invest in other sectors of our economy,” he said. If his assertions prove correct, Venezuela may have weathered the storm and there could be sunnier days ahead for the country, much to Washington’s dismay.

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

The post Jorge Arreaza on Venezuela Recovering from Sanctions In New Post-Petro Economic Plan  appeared first on MintPress News.

The Acquittal of Kyle Rittenhouse: A Judicial Travesty

KENOSHA, WISCONSON (World Socialist Website) — On Friday, after four days of deliberations, a Kenosha jury returned a verdict of “not guilty on all counts” against Kyle Rittenhouse. Rittenhouse had been charged with wrongfully killing two people, wounding a third, and nearly striking a fourth with an AR-15 rifle during protests against police brutality in Kenosha, Wisconsin, on August 25 last year.

Rittenhouse, 17 at the time of the shootings, had traveled to Kenosha from Illinois to join a far-right “patriot” vigilante militia calling itself the “Kenosha Guard,” which had been mobilized to “defend property” and assist the police with crushing the protests that had erupted two days earlier following the police shooting of Jacob Blake. Blake was shot seven times in the back at point-blank range in front of his children, leaving him paralyzed.

The Kenosha shootings occurred in the midst of the reverberations of the largest demonstrations in American history, during which an estimated 15 to 26 million people took to the streets following the murder of George Floyd to protest the epidemic of police killings and official cover-ups.

During these protests, armed far-right vigilante militias, which had been mobilized months earlier in opposition to measures to stop the spread of COVID-19, were brought forward to assist the police in the brutal nationwide crackdown orchestrated by the Trump administration. The Kenosha shootings, which occurred on the eve of the Republican National Convention, were embraced by Trump and the Republicans in the period leading up to the violent coup attempt on January 6, during which the Proud Boys and other paramilitary groups constituted the shock troops for the assault on the Capitol.

The Rittenhouse verdict will embolden these violent paramilitary forces that have been cultivated in the orbit of Trump and the Republican Party.

The acquittal of Rittenhouse follows a travesty of a trial in which a right-wing judge systematically undermined the prosecution by excluding all of the evidence that would have rebutted Rittenhouse’s claim that he was acting in “self-defense.”

Kenosha County Circuit Court Judge Bruce Schroeder did not permit the jury to hear that after Rittenhouse posted bail, he celebrated the killings at a pub with top Proud Boys members, where he flashed “white power” signs, belted out the Proud Boys anthem and grinned for selfies with other Proud Boys members.

Nor did the judge permit the jury to hear that before the shooting, Rittenhouse was recorded saying that he wanted to shoot people he thought were shoplifting. “Bro, I wish I had my f—ing AR,” he said. “I’d start shooting rounds at them.”

The judge ordered that prosecutors would not be allowed to refer to the men shot by Rittenhouse as “victims” or even “alleged victims.” At the same time, Rittenhouse’s defense attorneys were given free rein to refer to the victims as “arsonists,” “looters” and “rioters.”

This double-standard was on full display during closing arguments earlier this week. While the prosecutors were admonished not to make the case “political,” Rittenhouse’s attorney was permitted to deliver a full-throated fascistic diatribe.

Midway through his closing arguments, Rittenhouse’s attorney Mark Richards effectively dispensed with the fiction of “self-defense” and suggested that Rittenhouse’s victims had it coming because “they were rioters.”

While prosecutors could not mention that Rittenhouse was affiliated with the Proud Boys, Richards specifically emphasized that Gaige Grosskreutz, a volunteer medic Rittenhouse shot in the arm, was affiliated with “People’s Revolution.”

Richards made every effort to dehumanize the people whom Rittenhouse killed. “I’m glad he shot him,” Richards declared, referring to Joseph Rosenbaum, who was mentally ill, as “a crazy person.”

The trial was a right-wing spectacle from beginning to end. At one point the judge, wearing an American flag tie, led the jury in a round of applause for one of Rittenhouse’s experts on the grounds that he was a “veteran” who “served our country.” At another point the judge’s cellphone rang with a Trump rally ring tone. At the end of the trial, he let Rittenhouse pick the jurors’ names out of a tumbler like it was a circus raffle.

The argument that Rittenhouse was acting in “self-defense” turns reality upside-down. If anyone had a right to self-defense, it was the protesters who collectively confronted a right-wing vigilante who appeared at their protest pointing a loaded military-style rifle at them.

When Rittenhouse opened fire, Gaige Grosskreutz and other protesters believed that he was an “active shooter.” Like a soldier who jumps on a grenade to save his comrades, Anthony Huber pushed his girlfriend out of the way and charged Rittenhouse, armed only with a skateboard in an effort to protect the other protesters. Rittenhouse shot him dead.

“We are heartbroken and angry,” Huber’s parents wrote in a statement after the verdict. “Today’s verdict means there is no accountability for the person who murdered our son. It sends the unacceptable message that armed civilians can show up in any town, incite violence, and then use the danger they have created to justify shooting people in the street.”

The “self-defense” framework within which Rittenhouse’s actions were presented was a mechanism for airbrushing all of the political content and context out of the picture. It was a way of dissolving all of the broader political and historical questions involved into the sole question of the propriety of Rittenhouse’s conduct as an individual in the split-second during which he allegedly decided to pull the trigger.

Even on its own terms, the “self-defense” argument was illegitimate, since it was Rittenhouse who recklessly provoked the confrontation by carrying his rifle into a hostile protest as a member of a far-right vigilante militia.

Where the law was clearly against Rittenhouse, the judge simply moved the goal posts. While countless left-wing protesters were subjected to violent attacks and the threat of arrests by police for violating the curfew in Kenosha, the judge threw out the curfew charge against Rittenhouse on a flimsy evidentiary technicality. While Wisconsin law prohibits juveniles from carrying firearms, the judge threw out the underage firearms charge on the basis of laws that permit juveniles to go hunting.

After the verdict was announced, Trump immediately issued a statement congratulating Rittenhouse. The violent and fascistic elements around him joined the chorus. “Today is a great day for the Second Amendment and the right to self-defense,” tweeted Republican representative and January 6 conspirator Lauren Boebert. “Glory to God!”

Biden, meanwhile, set the tone for the Democrats’ response by solemnly declaring that “the jury system works”—a remarkable statement given the legal travesty that had just unfolded in broad daylight on live television.

Joining the open fascists in their celebrations of the verdict are a collection of pseudo-left and libertarian figures like Glenn Greenwald and Jimmy Dore, who worked throughout the trial to present Rittenhouse as a sympathetic figure.

In contrast to those seeking to blind the population to the political issues involved, the World Socialist Web Site warned that the campaign around Rittenhouse is an effort to normalize and legitimize far-right vigilante terror.

The aim of this campaign is to create conditions where Proud Boys and other far-right vigilante groups can march into future left-wing demonstrations and brandish loaded guns. Unchecked and undeterred, they will come to strikes, to lectures at universities and to socialist political meetings. They will wave guns in the faces of journalists and school board officials. And if anyone tries to disarm or evict them, they will open fire and yell “self-defense,” knowing that there are cops and judges who will bend and twist the law to shield them.

The Proud Boys and other violent far-right militias are being brought forward not because American capitalism is in a position of strength but because it is in a position of weakness.

These forces are being elevated under specific conditions: In the midst of a pandemic in which millions of people have died as a result of policies that have prioritized profits over human life and amid a social, economic and political crisis to which capitalism has no solution except war and repression.

While the US political establishment is moving ever further to the right, embracing mass death in the COVID-19 pandemic and legitimizing fascist violence, the great mass of the population is moving to the left, amid a major upsurge of working-class struggle.

In that context, the acquittal of Rittenhouse will only serve to further discredit the whole American political system in the eyes of millions of people.

The post The Acquittal of Kyle Rittenhouse: A Judicial Travesty appeared first on MintPress News.

Kyle Rittenhouse Is Not the Enemy. He’s the Latest Product of the Outrage Industry

The Kyle Rittenhouse furor is a fascinating illustration of how US politics has become mired in self-consuming tribalism. It shows how non-conversations, non-thinking now posture as serious political and social engagement. And it demonstrates once again the success of a practice beloved of elites the world over: offer bread and circuses to keep the masses from seeing the big picture and rising up.

Let me preface this post by pointing out that I have very little interest in what is being treated as the substance of the Rittenhouse story. It seems glaringly obvious that 17-year-olds – or anyone else, for that matter – should not be wandering around with big guns, or small ones, whether in moments of calm or during highly charged confrontations. That is simply insanity.

But that is not, apparently, the consensus in the United States, where for historical reasons guns are invested with a strange moral and legal sanctity for much of the population.

The descendants of the armed settler colonists who went to the Americas to steal the resources of the native people feel compelled to continue the tradition of bearing arms, long after the surviving natives were locked away in reservations.

The descendants of the new “Americans” who rebelled against their mother country, shaking off the yoke of British imperialism through force of arms, cherish their weapons in case they are needed once more to face down the tyranny of an elected government or their fellow citizens.

And the descendants of the white founders of the country, many of them slave owners who needed arms to keep their black chattel enslaved, demand the right to continue carrying guns to avert any threat from the descendants of those slaves.

This is America’s version of sanity. This is America the brave.

 

American madness

So why are so many exercised – either for or against – by Rittenhouse’s acquittal last week of charges relating to the shooting dead of two men and the wounding of a third during a night of unrest in Kenosha, Wisconsin on August 25?

Why are so many focused on the fact that Rittenhouse was carrying a semi-automatic rifle during protests and looting in a small city where part of his family lived? Was Rittenhouse the only one who was not supposed to be armed that night – and if so, was that because being angry and armed is a right that should be restricted to those aged 18 and over?

And why is the issue of colour so clearly the context for judging Rittenhouse when all those involved – Rittenhouse and the three men he shot – were white? He was not involved in the lethal shooting two days earlier of a black man, Jacob Blake, by a white police officer that served as the trigger for the unrest in Kenosha.

Rittenhouse claimed self-defence – and the jury found in his favour. That was because the videos they saw, taken from all sorts of angles, show that, in a night of mayhem and a special kind of American madness, Rittenhouse did indeed give every appearance of defending himself. They show that, had he not had a gun that night, one of the three men he shot might well have ended up in the dock accused of murdering him.

But none of that is apparently relevant in the rage-filled polemicising about Rittenhouse – polemics that already miss the bigger picture of what is going on in the US.

 

Tribal divide

For each tribe, Rittenhouse is guilty or not, irrespective of the evidence. The legal matter the jury needed to resolve was whether he genuinely feared for his life each time he pulled the trigger. And the video evidence suggests he did. He was repeatedly chased. By a man with mental health problems shouting out that he would cut out Rittenhouse’s heart, backed by the sound of gunfire, who lunged at him to take his rifle. As Rittenhouse fled that shooting, he was knocked down and hit across the shoulder by a man with a skateboard who also tried to seize his rifle. And finally, he was leapt on by someone pointing a handgun at him. However we look at it, the jury had more than enough reasonable doubt to work with.



So why the continuing furore at his acquittal?

Because the Rittenhouse case has nothing to do with the law or the facts. Like so much else in the US nowadays, it was and is about emotion. It is about history. It is about identity. It is about a widening tribal divide.

It is, in other words, a continuation of the spring and summer of unrest, of riots, of Black Lives Matter protests – but relocated from the street into a courtroom. The unfocused, unresolved political tensions in the US in the wake of those protests have been invested in the prosecution of a 17-year-old. One who owned a big rifle.

Even in writing this piece, because it does not simply denounce Rittenhouse, I find myself trapped inside this manufactured tribal divide, forced to take a side when each side is spouting empty slogans meant only to further alienate and antagonise the other side.

Rittenhouse’s crime – or his triumph, depending on which tribe you belong to – was not shooting three white men that night. It was the crime of being seen to be a Trump supporter. It was the crime of being seen to be on the wrong side of the Black Lives Matter protests. It was the crime of being acquitted in a law enforcement system that systematically discriminates against people of colour.

Rittenhouse has been made into a symbol of white supremacy. He is a hero or a punching bag – depending on whether you are with the Jets or the Sharks. And you must be a Jet or a Shark. There is no opting out.

 

Wreaking vengeance

It may be true that, had Rittenhouse been black, he would not have hurried towards police lines, seeking protection. And had he chosen to approach those lines, it is also true that, were he black, he might well have been shot by police officers. And it is possible too that, had he made it out of Kenosha alive, his trial would not have led to an acquittal, especially if a black Rittenhouse had shot three white men. The video evidence might well have been ignored in favour of a narrative of that night that tapped in to white fears of the entitled, armed black man.

All that is true. But it has nothing to do with the real human being – not the abstraction – called Kyle Rittenhouse. He is not personally to blame for the political, social, economic and moral mire that is the modern United States, even if he is suspected of being a Trump supporter.

Our expectation should not be that Rittenhouse is treated by the police and the legal system the same way as a black man. It is that black men, and women, should be treated like a white Rittenhouse; that police forces should treat the black and white population alike; that legal facts should count whatever your skin colour.

If we call for vengeance against Rittenhouse – of the physical or verbal variety – then the truth is we are no better than the person we presume Rittenhouse to be. He is not the problem. And to think he is is to make ourselves the problem.

When we marched in Ferguson, white supremacists would hide behind a hill near where Michael Brown Jr. was murdered and shoot at us.

They never faced consequences.

If Kyle Rittenhouse gets acquitted, it tells them that even 7 years later they still can get away with it.

— Cori Bush (@CoriBush) November 15, 2021

 

Profit from outrage

The intensifying tribalism that has beset the US – that the polarised reactions to the Rittenhouse case exemplify – is not accidental. It is deeply tied to the turbo-charged system of capitalism that seeks to extract profit from every last seam of our internal and external worlds. Just like an oil industry desperate to squeeze tar out of sand or frack oil out of rocks, the corporate media needs to suck our attention ever more keenly into conflict, into hatred, into blaming and shaming.

In our soundbite-driven, attention-deficit present – one where the stop-motion, clay creatures of Ray Harryhausen’s imagination in the 1960s have been replaced by the immersive CGI effects of technicians employed by mammoth corporations – our appetite for greater drama, greater sensation, greater pay-offs knows no bounds. We are too busy, too consumed, too triggered to pause, to stand back, to doubt, to think.

Matt Taibbi wrote a book, Hate Inc, on how the modern corporate media has monetised hatred, growing addicted to the profits the outrage industry generates. [https://www.orbooks.com/catalog/hate-inc/ ] Trump was the ultimate product of that trend, elevated by a modern, corporate media that mostly despised him. He was the president the bulk of the media loved to hate, and needed us to do the same, so we kept tuning in, we kept watching, we kept resisting or we kept cheerleading.

That hatred meant more eyeballing by viewers and more money from advertisers. The drama of the unpredictable provided endless work for pundits and analysts as they tried to make sense of the madness. The confrontation meant heightened emotion and greater personal investment in the news. The pro-Trump media and the anti-Trump media were not on our side. They were both on the side of milking profit from our rage.

 

Fires of hatred

But the power-elite does more than simply make money from our hate. It gains in important, ideological ways. Because the more we hate, the less able we are to discriminate, to think clearly, to strategise, to see who are our real enemies.

And this is where the Rittenhouses prove useful.

Trump is gone, for the time being at least, but the fires of tribalism and hatred still need to be stoked to keep the population divided, distracted and demoralised. There are reliable external enemies like China and Russia, but when you are a lone, global superpower like the US – outspending all your enemies combined many times over – there is only so much external fear you can credibly marshal.

A majority of Americans support going to war with Russia over Ukraine, and to war with China over Taiwan. Church attendance may be down sharply, but millenarian dreams are stronger than ever here. And who can blame us? Shit jobs, shit lives—who wants to go on living like this? pic.twitter.com/OszuFZd0Sw

— Mark Ames (@MarkAmesExiled) November 22, 2021

Enemies within – supposedly working hand in glove with those external enemies – are a much more plausible bogeyman. You don’t need evidence that Russia is planning to invade the US mainland when it is running the president, or infiltrating social media and poisoning our children’s minds, or rigging the elections, or destabilising democracy. And China doesn’t need to invade either, when it owns the US economy and seeks to control its communications systems.

The maintenance of that heightened paranoia by the corporate media is good both for business and for fomenting division. It is not Russia and China destabilising the US. It is the fabulously wealthy US power-elites – and their media – destabilising the US public to keep everyone feuding over the latest domestic outrage, the latest Rittenhouse.

Nothing can change without solidarity. The unsustainable, planet-destroying, donor-captured and corrupted system we call US democracy survives because the vast majority are too busy hyperventilating over whoever is deemed to be today’s Rittenhouse. Should he be jailed because he is white? Should he walk free because he is a patriot? Facts be damned either way.

Rittenhouse is a mirage, a manufactured repository for our outrage, our self-righteousness, our fear and our guilt. He is a phantasm conjured up by the corporate media to feed its bottom line and feed our egos. While we play along with this charade, compassion withers a little more, the planet expires a little quicker, and our species moves a little closer to the cliff edge.

Time to let the phantasmal Rittenhouse go. Think of the real 17-year-old, remember that he too is as much a product of a corrupt and corrupting system of power as you and me. We cannot defeat it without him. And time is not on our side.

Feature photo | Kyle Rittenhouse enters the courtroom to hear the verdicts in his trial at the Kenosha County Courthouse in Kenosha, Wis., on, Nov. 19, 2021. Sean Krajacic | The Kenosha News via AP

Jonathan Cook is a MintPress contributor. Cook won the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East (Pluto Press) and Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair (Zed Books). His website is www.jonathan-cook.net.

The post Kyle Rittenhouse Is Not the Enemy. He’s the Latest Product of the Outrage Industry appeared first on MintPress News.

Five Reasons the Left Won in Venezuela

For the first time in four years, every major opposition party in Venezuela participated in elections. For the fifth time in four years, the left won in a landslide. Voters elected 23 governors, 335 mayors, 253 state legislators, and 2,471 municipal councilors. The governing United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) won at least 19 of 23 governorships (one race remains too close to call) and the Caracas mayoralty in the November 21 “mega-elections.” Of the 335 mayoral races, the vote count has been completed in 322 of them, with PSUV and its coalition taking 205, opposition coalitions 96, and other parties 21. Over 70,000 candidates ran for these 3,082 offices, and 90% of the vote was counted and verified within hours of polls closing. Turnout was 42.2%, eleven points higher than last year’s parliamentary elections.

Here’s why chavismo, the movement behind Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution, won:

1. Good governance in health, housing and food. Venezuela’s health policies in response to Covid-19 have been exemplary. The expectation in the U.S. was that the coronavirus would overwhelm Venezuela’s healthcare system, which has been devastated by years of sanctions. And yet, per million population, Venezuela registered 15,000 cases and 180 deaths. For the sake of comparison, the figures in the U.S. are 146,000 cases/million and 2,378 deaths/million, Brazil’s are 103,000 and 2854, and Colombia’s are 98,000 and 2,481. Unlike images we saw in Ecuador or Bolivia, there were no bodies of victims left on the streets, nor were there overflowing morgues like in New York.

In terms of housing, the Venezuelan government has built 3.7 million homes for working-class families over the past ten years, the majority of which were built and delivered by the Maduro administration while under sanctions.

As deadly as the sanctions have been, things would be significantly worse were it not for Venezuela’s most important social program in the past five years: the CLAPs. These consist of boxes of food and other necessities, some of which are produced locally, which are packaged and distributed by communities themselves. Seven million Venezuelan families receive CLAP boxes every month, out of a country of 30 million people. Not only has this program been instrumental in keeping people fed, but it has also invigorated the base of chavismo and reconnected the government with grassroots after the PSUV’s defeat in the 2015 legislative elections.

2. The economic situation is improving. According to an August 2021 survey by opposition pollster Datanálisis, 50% of Venezuelans consider that their lives have improved compared to the previous year or two. Despite sanctions that have caused a 99% drop in government income, the Venezuelan economy is stabilizing. Inflation is down to single digits for the first time in four years. Credit Suisse projected 5.5% growth in 2021 and 4.5% growth in 2022. Oil production hit an 18-month high in October, helped by a trade deal with Iran.

“No Mas!” Nicaragua Quits OAS as EU Tries to Undermine Venezuela Elections

3. The left is united (mostly). The PSUV didn’t win the elections alone, they were united with 8 other left parties in a coalition known as the GPP (Great Patriotic Pole). The PSUV itself held internal primaries in August, the only party to do so. Over half the GPP candidates were women, 52%, while another 43% were youth. Overall, 90% of the candidates hadn’t held office before, suggesting a renewal of the party from the grassroots. However, this marked the second election in a row in which the left wasn’t completely united. A coalition that included Venezuela’s Communist Party ran its own ticket. These parties got less than 3% of the vote in the 2020 parliamentary elections and their decision to run separately appears to have had no impact on the gubernatorial races.

4. The opposition is divided. Never known for their unity, the Venezuelan opposition suffered a major split as a result of some parties opting for boycotting elections and attempting to overthrow the government, while others preferred a democratic path. Despite all the major parties participating in these elections, the opposition was split into two main coalitions, the MUD (Democratic Unity Roundtable) and the Democratic Alliance. The vast majority of the 70,000 candidates are in the opposition and they were running candidates against each other in almost every race. Of the 23 gubernatorial races, six were won by PSUV candidates with less than 50% of the vote and by less than six points – more unity between the MUD and Democratic Alliance could have made the difference.

A count of the votes in the gubernatorial and Caracas mayoral races shows the PSUV coalition taking 46% of the total vote, with the rest split between the various oppositions. A united opposition could win in Venezuela, but “united opposition” is an oxymoron.

5. The opposition is deeply unpopular. While much is made about the alleged lack of support for President Maduro (the millions of votes his party got will never be acknowledged by the U.S.), it’s less known that the opposition is deeply unpopular. Here are the disapproval ratings for some of the opposition’s key figures: Juan Guaidó, 83% disapproval; Julio Borges (Guaidó’s “Foreign Minister), 81%; Leopoldo López (Guaidó’s mentor and mastermind of coup attempts), 80%; Henry Ramos Allup (longtime opposition leader), 79%; Henrique Capriles (2012 & 2013 presidential election loser), 77%; and Henri Falcón (2018 presidential election loser), 66%. All of these but Falcón are part of the MUD.

The MUD coalition spent years claiming they represented a majority, a claim which couldn’t be verified by their strategy of electoral boycotts. However, their return to the electoral process only marked a ten-point increase in voter turnout compared to 2020. Moreover, the MUD placed below other opposition parties in 9 of 23 states and in Caracas. The MUD only won one of the three governorships taken by the opposition. This might be due in part to the widespread rejection of U.S. sanctions. The MUD has repeatedly endorsed deadly sanctions despite the fact that 76% of Venezuelans reject them.

The MUD enjoys the political, financial and logistical support of the United States and the EU, while members of other opposition parties have been denounced and sanctioned by the U.S. for negotiating with the Maduro administration. These elections should put the Biden administration on notice that continuing to support the MUD, and in particular, the fiction of Guaidó as “interim president”, is a failed policy.

Feature photo | A man casts his vote during regional elections, at a polling station in Caracas, Venezuela, Nov. 21, 2021. Ariana Cubillos | AP

Leonardo Flores is a Latin American policy analyst and campaigner with CODEPINK.

The post Five Reasons the Left Won in Venezuela appeared first on MintPress News.

Masar Badil: The New Palestinian Movement that Has Both Israel and the PA on Edge

OCCUPIED PALESTINE — “We are building a campaign against the Palestinian Authority” and will “mobilize our people in the refugee camps” from Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan, to all corners of the globe, says a newly launched Palestinian revolutionary movement that supports all forms of resistance against Israel in order to liberate Palestine “from the river to the sea.”

On November 2, a revolutionary Palestinian movement called ‘Masar Badil’ (The Palestinian Alternative Revolutionary Path) officially announced its launch following conferences convened in Madrid, Sao Paulo, and Beirut. The movement vows to build on the cause of Palestine’s national liberation within the Palestinian diaspora and to provide an alternative to the Palestinian Authority (PA), which currently operates out of Ramallah in the West Bank. A major component of their work will be to unite Palestinians in the refugee camps of Lebanon, Jordan and Syria, seeking to build the strength of these communities.

In late August, Palestinians in the occupied West Bank began taking to the streets, calling for the fall of the Palestinian Authority, which has ruled over them for decades, after the brutal murder of popular PA critic Nizar Banat. The demonstrations frightened the PA as well as its Israeli allies, threatening to pose serious problems for Israel’s relatively stable security situation in the occupied West Bank.

The Palestinian Authority, a representative body which was created as a result of the Oslo Accords — signed between the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and Israel — currently rules over the most heavily populated cities in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Per the agreements made between the two sides, Oslo had established that three areas would be designated for different levels of control in the occupied Palestinian territories: Area A, where the PA would have both civil and security control; Area B, where Israel controls security and the PA has civil control; and Area C, where Israel has full control. Area C currently covers approximately 63% of the territory. However, this plan was supposed to last only five years, before control was gradually ceded to the PA and eventually a Palestinian State inaugurated on roughly a quarter of historic Palestine.

Israel, however, continues to ignore its obligations under Oslo and Tel Aviv now rejects the notion of a Palestinian State. While many Palestinians expected the PA, led by President Mahmoud Abbas, to fight for their rights, most now see it as doing the very opposite. All elections since 2006, when Hamas beat the ruling Fatah Party in a landslide, have been canceled by Abbas. The PA — which is funded by the UK, EU, and the U.S. — also uses its security forces to collaborate with Israel in the oppression of the Palestinians. Strategically, the Oslo areas gave Israel control in most of the agricultural and open lands, which is where all their illegal settlements are located; and, in turn, the PA forces would rule over the major population centers, such as Ramallah, Nablus and Al-Khalil, among others.

After facing the PA’s perpetual postponement of democratic processes; its refusal to protect Palestinians from Israeli forces; and instead its jailing, torturing, and handing over of its citizens who take action against Israel, through what is called ‘Security Coordination,’ the Palestinian people have come to a position of overwhelming rejection of the Palestinian Authority’s rule and have long sought an alternative. Masar Badil claims to be the movement finally to provide the solution.

Demonstrators march in support of Masar Badil on November 1, in central Madrid. Photo | Robert Inlakesh

 

A Palestinian revolutionary alternative to Oslo futility

Notable international representatives who appeared for the launch of the Palestinian Alternative Revolutionary Path (PARP) Movement in Madrid included: Bolivia’s Nardi Suxo, Venezuela’s Mauricio Rodriguez, and Eumelio Caballero Rodríguez of Cuba, who all attended the PARP Movement’s cultural event. They were joined by representatives from grassroots groups across Europe and from the United States who pledged to work with the PARP.

The attendees of the conference also met with representatives from a range of resistance movements across the world at the headquarters of the Spanish Communist Party, discussing various projects and resulting in the formation of a Boycott Committee, Return Committee and Youth Committee. Additionally, in a letter of support, the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) pledged its support for the PARP. Luis Jalandoni, the chief international representative of the NDFP, stated the following:

Let us join hands as we struggle to liberate ourselves from the clutches of U.S. imperialism, overthrow the oppressive and exploitative ruling system, and carry forward with determination our struggle for national and social liberation.”

“We are working to build a Palestinian revolutionary alternative to the Oslo process and the futile so-called peace process,” says Khaled Barakat, the Coordinator of the Preparatory Committee of the PARP Movement. Barakat says that the PARP will begin to “organize with our communities in the refugee camps in Lebanon, in Jordan, in Syria, and across the globe.” He continued:

One of the positions that came out of our conference is to immediately set up a campaign against the Palestinian Authority and the self-rule government in the West Bank, in order to bring this government down and form revolutionary councils and committees in Palestine.”

When I asked Barakat about some of the aspects that make the Masar Badil different as an alternative revolutionary movement, he responded:

Ninety percent, so the vast majority, of the three committees that convened — in Beirut, Madrid and Sao Paulo — were youths and they are assuming their responsibilities, the younger generations participating is very important for us. We also value, whether it be in leadership or other roles, the participation of Palestinian women and put an emphasis on their playing a central role in decision-making, and we believe that this will push our movement into becoming much stronger.

PARP Movement demonstration in central Madrid, November 1, 2021. Photo | Robert Inlakesh

“We do not recognize the PA as a legitimate entity; it doesn’t have any constitutional legitimacy, it doesn’t have revolutionary legitimacy, nor does it have any legal legitimacy,” says the PARP.

 

Putting the Palestinian Authority on edge

To find out more about the positions of Masar Badil on the PA, I also spoke to a founding member of the PARP Movement, Mohammed Khatib, who participated in the group’s launch and is additionally the European Coordinator for Palestinian Prisoners Solidarity Network, Samidoun. Khatib says, “I do believe that any step, any work, against the Oslo Agreements and against the Madrid Conference, is against the Palestinian Authority and against the Zionist Entity.” Khatib further states that one of the major missions of the PARP Movement is to “focus on the Palestinian diaspora, on reorganizing our people in the diaspora and re-establishing our institutions in the diaspora and re-establishing our national liberation movement in the diaspora,” which he believes means taking down the PA. Khatib continued:

Sixty percent of the Palestinian people live in the diaspora, as migrants and refugees, so we are the ones with the interest to go back to Palestine and to dismantle this Zionist Entity and also everyone who is cooperating with the Zionist Entity inside of Palestine — especially the PA, who are doing security coordination with the occupation [by Israel] against our people.”

He also says that opposition to the PA comes from the attacks carried out against Palestinians by the forces of PA President Abbas, including “giving up on our political prisoners, shutting off funds and salaries of the families of our martyrs.” He continued:

What the Palestinian Authority is doing today is besieging the resistance, not only inside the West Bank; they are also participating, with the Zionist Entity and the Egyptian Regime, in the siege placed against the Gaza Strip.”

Khatib stresses that all the work that the Masar Badil is doing is to create an alternative to the Palestinian Authority, not to the Palestinian National Liberation Movement:

We are an essential part of the Palestinian National Liberation Movement. All the organizations and associations that are part of the Masar Badil, are part of the National Liberation Movement, so we are not an alternative to anyone who is participating in or practicing resistance against the Zionist Entity. Instead, what we are trying to do is to create a mass movement, a popular movement, that can help to create a supportive environment around the Palestinian resistance.”

The PARP Movement, Khatib told me,

…calls on all the resistance and Palestinian political Parties — Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the PFLP and everyone who participates and practices armed resistance, especially in Gaza and elsewhere inside Palestine — to work on creating a national democratic Palestinian front where all the resistance will work together to achieve the one program, which is the liberation of all Palestine from the river to the sea and to drop the two-state solution.

Our one and only aim is liberating all of Palestine, so we believe that all of our actions against the Zionist Entity and the Arab Reactionary Regimes are de-facto an effort against the Palestinian Authority. The PA does not represent anyone in our land today; they are there only because they take funds from the EU, U.S., and the Zionist Entity. How can the PA take money from Israel to protect our people? Of course, this is not the case; instead, the PA is a hand of the Zionist Occupation.”

As one of the first journalists to cover the movement’s first public press conference on November 2, I asked Barakat what the PA thinks about the launch of the PARP movement, to which he replied:

We know that the Palestinian Authority is nervous, particularly Fateh. They are nervous because of the establishment of the Masar Badil… last night they [the PA] forged a statement in Spanish and Arabic and they signed three [Palestinian] factions onto it; the statement was a fabrication designed to make it look like Palestinian Parties are rejecting Masar Badil and we believe it to be the work of the PA’s intelligence agents. In fact, one hour ago the PFLP, who were falsely connected to the statement, issued their own statement stating that they had nothing to do with this statement and it was a forgery by the PA.”

Barakat says that the Palestinian Authority’s intelligence network has been consistently attempting to distort the image of the Masar Badil and has caused many problems, including in Beirut, for the PARP’s conference there. He told me:

The PA is nervous because they know what they have done and what they are doing now; …they are attacking our people not just physically, but also our student movements in Palestine and our intellectuals. Critics of theirs, like Nizar Banat, were killed at the hands of the Palestinian security forces.”

I was also informed that Palestinian Authority representatives in Beirut had allegedly been making problems for the Masar Badil, spreading misinformation about the group and its intentions prior to the conference in the Lebanese capital. In response to threats put out, through back channels, the conference required the presence of a security detail for fear of violence being carried out against them and it was believed that the PA had something to do with this, but I was informed that there was no way we could know whether or not it was their doing.

Masar Badil demonstrators hold up banners demanding the freedom of Ahmed Sa’adat and George Abdullah, November 1, 2021. Photo | Robert Inlakesh

After convening three separate conferences, from October 30 to November 2, Masar Badil announced its official declaration and list of 10 key positions, agreed upon by consensus of “The General Preparatory Committee” during the conference’s Plenary Session.

 

A movement to take on the PA “is finally here”

As one of its first actions, the PARP Movement has received the signatures of at least 91 Palestinian and international musicians, including that of Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters, to a statement urging artists to boycott Israel’s annual Oud Festival. The statement reads:

The oud, as the quintessential stringed instrument of Palestinian and Arab world music culture, is being appropriated by a Zionist state whose history is based on the erasure and theft of indigenous livelihoods. As the Israeli ‘Jerusalem Municipality’ re-launches its musical PR projects with the easing of certain coronavirus restrictions, Palestinians in Jerusalem are fighting tooth and nail against the accelerating land-grab of Sheikh Jarrah and swathes of the land east of their city. Palestinian performing artists are attacked or imprisoned, while broader communities of the displaced face the terror of aerial destruction of their cultural centers and systematic underdevelopment of their means of production.”

The movement to boycott the festival falls in line with the overall stance of the PARP movement, which rejects any form of normalization with Israel.

As an attendee of the conference myself, I was able to read through all documents outlining the movement’s long-term visions and goals — including creating a Palestinian students network, labor union network, and networks for everything from Palestinian youth institutions and movements to popular committees and Palestinian Cultural Centers. This in addition to founding an institution that sponsors sports clubs; providing support financially for fishermen and farmers in the Gaza Strip; and establishing a foundation that deals with art, cinema, theater, and the fields of creativity and the arts. Even child care and kindergartens, as well as institutions for research and strategic studies, were mentioned. This is important to note, as it demonstrates the long-term scope that the movement has.

As a result of the discussions at the conference, Barakat says,

…we made a decision to establish two youth centers, one in Berlin and another in Athens; the reason we made that decision is that this is where the majority of newly arrived Palestinians in Europe are residing. In Athens in particular, the Palestinian youth in the thousands now are living in poverty, so we seek to organize our youths, our women, and our students; that’s our goal and we have a five-year plan to do this.”

I then asked what the relations between the Palestinian resistance parties were with the PARP movement, to which Khaled responded:

As far as the forces of the resistance — like Hamas, the PFLP, Islamic Jihad — the relationship is good and we hope that we can strengthen this relationship with the Palestinian resistance movement, because we consider ourselves an integral part of the resistance movement, not just on the Palestinian level but on the Arab level.”

The Masar Badil movement also states its intention to fight all imperialist forces, in addition to the reactionary Arab regimes and Israel — with members mentioning the Islamic Republic of Iran as being targeted by imperialist powers, and condemning the sanctions against the people of Iran, which they say comes regardless of any potential reservations from within the group regarding some Iranian policies. The movement sees itself as part of a camp that is confronting imperialism, Zionism and reactionary regimes in the Global South, and hence works with international groups, organizations, and movements in Africa, Europe, the Middle East, the Philippines, South America, and elsewhere.

The first demonstration that the group staged took place through the streets of Madrid and featured chants against the Palestinian Authority and in solidarity with Palestinian political prisoners, national liberation, and the likes of Ahmed Sa’adat, George Abdullah, and Ghassan Kanafani.

Although the movement has just begun, the momentum is building and their revolutionary visions to build the strength of the Palestinian diaspora, mobilizing it once again in the struggle against Israel, could make a huge impact on the course of the national liberation movement. If the Palestinians of Lebanon, Jordan, and Syria become a strong force, it could pose real problems for Israel. At the very least, a movement designed with its founding intention being to take on the Palestinian Authority is finally here — and that is big news.

Feature photo | Demonstration supporting the launch of the Palestinian Alternative Revolutionary Path (PARP) Movement. November 1, 2021. Photo | Robert Inlakesh

Robert Inlakesh is a political analyst, journalist and documentary filmmaker currently based in London, UK. He has reported from and lived in the occupied Palestinian territories and hosts the show ‘Palestine Files’. Director of ‘Steal of the Century: Trump’s Palestine-Israel Catastrophe’. Follow him on Twitter @falasteen47

The post Masar Badil: The New Palestinian Movement that Has Both Israel and the PA on Edge appeared first on MintPress News.

Olympolitik: Fake Peng Shuai Scandal Fuels US Effort to Boycott Beijing Olympics

BEIJING — The New York Times reported on November 3 that Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai had published allegations of sexual assault against former Vice Premier of the People’s Republic of China Zhang Gaoli on the social media platform Weibo. Peng’s post was deleted within 24 hours. This led to a firestorm of speculation in U.S. corporate media about Shuai’s “safety” and whether the tennis star had gone missing. The hashtag #WhereisPengShuai went viral 10 days later after the CEO of the World Tennis Association (WTA), Steve Simon, called on Chinese authorities to investigate the situation. Prominent celebrities and tennis players such as Serena Williams also went public with their concern for Peng.

I am devastated and shocked to hear about the news of my peer, Peng Shuai. I hope she is safe and found as soon as possible. This must be investigated and we must not stay silent. Sending love to her and her family during this incredibly difficult time. #whereispengshuai pic.twitter.com/GZG3zLTSC6

— Serena Williams (@serenawilliams) November 18, 2021

However, ample evidence suggests that the scandal surrounding Peng Shuai is nothing more than fake news. First, let’s review the since-deleted Weibo post, which was translated and shared in Moon of Alabama. Nowhere in the post does Peng allege sexual assault. Instead, she recounts her emotional experience of having a consensual affair with Zhang Gaoli that abruptly ended after he was promoted to the Politburo Standing Committee. After Zhang retired, he contacted Peng and the affair resumed. This appears to be the passage that was misinterpreted as “sexual assault:”

After dinner, I was still not willing to have sex. You said you hated me. You said in those seven years, you never forgot about me, and you will treat me well etc…. I was terrified and anxious. Taking into consideration the affection I had for you seven years ago, I agreed… yes, we had sex. Romantic attraction is such a complicated thing [to] explain it clearly. From that day on, I renewed my love for you.”

Again, the translation of the deleted post does not provide any evidence of sexual assault; yet the “woke” liberal class and corporate media ran with the headline that Peng represented China’s “#Metoo” movement.

Even more egregious are the accusations that Peng went missing following the deletion of the post. On November 17, CGTN Europe released the text of an email Peng sent to WTA CEO Simon stating that she was neither unsafe nor missing and that any further news about her should not be published without prior consent. The WTA and U.S. corporate media dismissed the email as fake. Global Times editor Hu Xijin was similarly dismissed when he published a video of Peng attending a teenage tennis match final in Beijing. Photos have since emerged from Peng’s WeChat moments this past weekend (November 21) that further call into question claims that the tennis star had ever gone missing.

Peng Shuai’s WeChat moments just posted three latest photos and said “Happy weekend”.
Her friend shared the three photos and the screenshot of Peng’s WeChat moments. pic.twitter.com/tut8CEH6gu

— Shen Shiwei沈诗伟 (@shen_shiwei) November 19, 2021

 

Olympolitik

The U.S. and its Western allies often refer to a “post-truth” society as being the byproduct of the growth of right-wing politics. Yet the fake Peng Shuai scandal is indicative of how the entirety of the U.S. establishment and its allies have laid the material foundation for a “post-truth” era in the area of journalism. Not a single U.S. or Western-based corporate media source questioned the dubious claims surrounding Peng’s situation. The WTA and the corporate media simply ran with a sensationalist story without any verifiable evidence.

While fearmongering and sensationalism are key elements of the corporate media’s profit-driven news model, it would be a mistake to remove the Peng Shuai scandal from its proper geopolitical context. The United States is seeking to undermine China through an international campaign to boycott the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. U.S. President Joe Biden has stated that he is “considering” a diplomatic boycott of the Winter Olympics. While the form of the boycott has yet to be determined, some have suggested that the U.S. may withhold sending an official delegate to Beijing but still allow its athletes to participate in the games.

Police detain protesters displaying a Tibetan flag and disrupting the lighting of the Olympic flame in Greece, Oct. 18, 2021. Thanassis Stavrakis | AP

The Peng scandal comes amid a flurry of anti-China propaganda that has directly targeted the Winter Olympics. According to journalist Alex Rubenstein, the campaign to boycott the Olympics is led by a consortium of NGOs that have received millions of U.S. tax dollars from the National Endowment Democracy (NED), a regime-change arm of the U.S. government. These organizations include the International Tibet Network, Students for a Free Tibet, and the World Uyghur Congress. The World Uyghur Congress received nearly $1.3 million from the NED between the years of 2016 to 2019 alone. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), along with several Republicans in Congress, endorsed the boycott campaign.

Prior to the Peng scandal, boycott campaign activists with the NED-funded International Tibet Network and Students for a Free Tibet interrupted the traditional flame-lighting ceremony for the Beijing games in Greece. National Basketball Association (NBA) player Enes Kanter followed up this action by pledging support for a boycott of the 2022 Olympics and releasing a set of sneakers that directly target China for allegations of human rights abuses. As Alan MacLeod’s investigation for MintPressNews revealed, Kanter is not only linked to the CIA-backed Gulen movement but also to the Zionist and neoconservative establishment in Washington. Thus, the U.S. establishment’s concern for Peng Shuai has little to do about her and everything to do with the larger campaign to delegitimize Beijing in the lead-up to the Olympics.

Celtics or CIA? Gulenist Hoops Star Enes Kanter Rides Both Benches

 

The “North Korea-fication” of China

Sensationalist scandals and fake stories justify the U.S.’s aggressive imperialist foreign policy toward China. The United States has shifted more than half of its military assets to the Asia-Pacific in an effort to contain China’s rise. CIA Director William Burns announced in October that the agency would also be shifting focus onto China in order to counter “the most important geopolitical threat we face in the 21st century, an increasingly adversarial Chinese government.” While the U.S. under Joe Biden has held several talks on trade and climate change with Chinese officials, his administration has also escalated tensions over Taiwan and refused to withdraw Trump-era tariffs on the Chinese economy.

The Peng Shuai scandal closely emulates the U.S.’s orientalist coverage of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), known as North Korea in the West. U.S. corporate media regularly create out of thin air tall tales about the DPRK and its leadership. These stories are furnished to the establishment media by so-called defectors from the DPRK and are completely devoid of truth. The DPRK’s head of state Kim Jong-Un has been pronounced ill or missing on several occasions (see here, here, and here) since his tenure began in 2012. Kim’s aunt, Kim Kyong-Hui, resurfaced in 2020 after being pronounced disappeared by a so-called defector more than six years earlier.

Bizarre lies send a message to the U.S. and Western populace that the DPRK and its people are not worthy of existence. Fertile ground is therefore laid for the United States to continue its economic-sanctions regime against the DPRK and keep more than ten thousand troops stationed next door in South Korea. China has undergone a “North Korea-fication” of sorts over the past three-plus years. As hundreds of U.S. military bases mount on its doorstep, China has become the subject of equally bizarre claims of “genocide” of its Uyghur ethnic group and a host of so-called human-rights violations. The Cold War-like contrast of “authoritarian” China with the so-called “democratic” United States has become all the more important as American living standards decline and crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic expose the inherent defects of the American way of life.

The U.S. is particularly concerned about the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing because of what the games signify to the world. China will become the world’s largest economy within a decade. Not only this, but China spent 2020 successfully controlling the COVID-19 pandemic and achieving key societal markers such as the eradication of extreme poverty even while the world was mired in a global public health and economic crisis. China has also been the only major economy to address climate change seriously and the Winter Olympics are set up to demonstrate its leadership in renewable energy. The venues for the winter games will be completely powered by renewable sources, a feat that the U.S. or the West could not possibly emulate amid political conflicts over infrastructure spending.

The Peng Shuai scandal is nothing more than a propaganda false-flag meant to worsen U.S. and Western public opinion toward China. It is part and parcel of an information war that complements a larger geopolitical agenda. As the Winter Olympics approach, U.S. policymakers and propagandists will be itching to further bamboozle the public into supporting their aggressive anti-China posture. A conflict with China is akin to suicide for humanity. The possibility of peace, however, only becomes more remote the longer that warmongering propaganda is allowed to spread unchallenged.

Feature photo | Peng Shuai of China celebrates after winning the women’s singles match against Venus Williams of the United States in the China Open tennis tournament at the National Tennis Stadium in Beijing, , Oct. 3, 2016. Andy Wong | AP

Danny Haiphong is a US-based journalist and author of the book American Exceptionalism and American Innocence: A People’s History of Fake News from the Revolutionary War to the War on Terror. He can be reached at haiphongpress@protonmail.com.

The post Olympolitik: Fake Peng Shuai Scandal Fuels US Effort to Boycott Beijing Olympics appeared first on MintPress News.

The Ultimate Dog Whistle: World Misses Israel’s Hebrew-Language Incitement Against Palestinians

THE NAQAB — Zionist incitement against Palestinians is at an all-time high but you wouldn’t know it by reading the international press because it is all done in Hebrew. The violent, racist-supremacist discourse that takes place in the Israeli media and among Israeli politicians is also done in Hebrew and so it gets little or no attention. And so, as the world remains comfortably numb, the Zionist apartheid state is wiping Palestine — or what remains of it — off the face of the earth. The intent is to push Palestinians out of their homes, to take their land, to erase their history, and eventually, to come to the moment Israelis have all been waiting for: the final, glorious destruction of Al-Aqsa and the building of a so-called third Jewish temple in its place.

 

Wadi Ara

Wadi Ara is a valley in Northern Palestine that connects the coastal plain to Marj Ibn Amr. In 1948, heavy fighting took place in the area and it was eventually occupied and became part of the State of Israel. While there were villages that were destroyed and subjected to ethnic cleansing, many Palestinians did remain steadfast and, to this day, the area is home to Palestinian towns and villages with a combined population of close to 120,000. This reality is one that Zionists, in general, find troubling.

From the outset, Israel has been obsessed with demographics, and particularly what they refer to as the “demographic threat,” wherein Palestinians outnumber Israelis. There have been many open discussions about how to deal with the large Palestinian population that still resides in this very strategic area of northern Palestine. Talk of transferring the people — with or without the land — outside of the state of Israel is not uncommon, and the term “Judaizing the Galilee,” which means boosting Israeli presence in the area so as to create a “Jewish majority,” is not uncommon either.

Women protest against home demolitions on the road in Wadi Ara, April 5, 2008. Oren Ziv | Activestills

However, in a recent interview with the Israeli daily Ma’ariv, retiring Israeli Army General Yitzhak Turgeman took the incitement against the Palestinian citizens of Wadi Ara to a whole new level. He warned that in a future war, military convoys going north will have to avoid driving through Wadi Ara. This, he said, is one of the conclusions the Israeli top brass reached as a result of the Palestinian uprising that took place in May of 2021, in which all of Palestine resisted the Zionist oppression, the desecration of the Al-Aqsa mosque, and the brutal bombing of the Gaza Strip.

According to a piece in The Times of Israel, General Turgeman is quoted as saying,

What I’m really concerned about… is the impact of violent disturbances on internal security and movement of IDF’s transport convoys… It is a factor that I foresee as having significant potential to delay the ability to maneuver IDF troops.”

While it might seem encouraging to think that Palestinian citizens of Israel have the capacity to slow down the Israeli military, it is hard to believe that they possess such capabilities. Palestinian citizens of Israel — unarmed and suffering greatly under the brutality of the Israeli apartheid system — do not have the ability to slow down the movement of Israeli military convoys going towards Lebanon and Syria. The comments made in this interview are dangerous incitement, feeding into what Israelis already believe of the Palestinian citizens of Israel, even though there is no evidence to this claim: that the Palestinian citizens are, in fact, a fifth column and must be treated as such.

 

Jenin

A piece in the Hebrew news outlet Mako reports about an event that “raised serious concerns in Israeli military circles.” It was during the funeral of former Palestinian Minister for Prisoner Affairs Wasfi Qabha. According to the report, written in Hebrew, there was a large turnout of armed Hamas fighters during the procession. Qabha was a Hamas leader and, the report claims, this not only worried the Israeli military but also presented a serious problem for the Palestinian Authority.

“Armed members of Qassam Brigades were marching in the street during the procession,” the report states, and it continues, “This is not Gaza but Jenin,” which, the readers are reminded, is near the northern Israeli city of Afula. Jenin does in fact sit in the very northern boundary of the West Bank which means it is close to many Israeli settlements in 1948 Palestine.

‘Blood for Blood’: On Jenin and Israel’s Fear of an Armed Palestinian Rebellion

Not unlike the incitement against the Palestinians of Wadi Ara, this should be seen as a call for Israeli action against the people of Jenin. Also according to the report, the Palestinian Authority sees this as a problem because “Hamas is the PA’s greatest enemy.” While a strong showing of support for Hamas presents a problem for the Fateh-led Palestinian Authority, the notion that the biggest threat to Palestinians is anything but Israel is absurd.

 

The Naqab

Hardly a day goes by that Israeli politicians and the Israeli media do not incite against the Palestinian Bedouin of the Naqab. They are portrayed as violent, armed gangs who take over “Jewish-owned” land or “state-owned” land, and as a community that presents a threat to the law-abiding good Jewish citizens of the Naqab, and there is a constant demand that the state use harsher, more punitive measures to control them.

As it is, over the last several years more than 2,000 homes were demolished per year in the Naqab alone. Some of Israel’s most affluent communities and highest standards of living can be found among the Israeli settlements and cities in the Naqab, while the Palestinian Bedouin live in abject poverty as they see their lands being taken and cultivated by their occupiers.

The Hebrew news outlet Walla reports from the occupied city of Bir El-Saba, known as the capital of the Naqab, about a recent outbreak of violence between two Bedouin clans. The Zionist mayor of the city used every codeword in the Hebrew language to call on the government to come down hard on the Palestinian Bedouin community. While the State of Israel ignores and even encourages violent crime within the communities of its Palestinian citizens, Israeli politicians ignore the pleas of the community to disarm the gangs but never miss an opportunity to blame the violence on the community itself.

Israeli bulldozers demolish a house in a Bedouin village of Umm Al-Hiran, in the Naqab. Photo | Activestills

Mayor Ruvik Danilovitch said that, “the State has lost all control,” and that “the militias must be dismantled. He also referred to the Bedouin as terrorists, saying that, “the State needs to fight the internal terrorism.” He called on the government to make use of the Shabak, the Israeli secret police, which detains and tortures Palestinians regularly. It should be noted that Palestinians in the Naqab are already governed by a separate government agency over which they have no control and in which they have no say, while the Shabak regularly detains and tortures young activists from the Naqab.

Known as “The Israeli Agency for Bedouin Development,” the agency has its own policing unit called “Yoav,” which is a highly militarized, commando-like unit that is used primarily against the Bedouin community in the Naqab. The agency, and the Yoav units that are attached to it, are not the only ones working to make life impossible for the Palestinian community in the Naqab. The Israeli NGO Regavim conducts nationwide campaigns of smear and incitement against Palestinians in general and against the Palestinian Bedouin of the Naqab in particular.

The Israeli State-sponsored terrorism and incitement against the Palestinians are not new. The intensity that we currently see, particularly since the uprising of May 2021, is a serious cause for concern.

Feature photo | A reporter stands in front of a bulldozer digging up rocks during the building of Israel’s apartheid wall in Al-Walaja, West Bank near Bethlehem. Photo | Activestills

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 The Ultimate Dog Whistle: World Misses Israel’s Hebrew-Language Incitement Against Palestinians appeared first on MintPress News.

Raids, Arrests and Death Threats: Israel’s Strategy of Silencing Human Rights Defenders

On October 21, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz announced the issuance of a military order designating six prominent Palestinian human rights groups as ‘terrorist organizations’. Gantz claimed that they are secretly linked to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a socialist political group that Israel considers, along with most Palestinian political parties, ‘a terrorist organization.’

The Palestinian organizations included in the Israeli order are Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights, Al-Haq, the Bisan Center for Research and Development, Defense for Children Palestine, Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC) and the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees.

Considering the significance of these organizations in Palestine and their global networks among like-minded civil society organizations, the Israeli decision provoked a public outcry. One of the many statements of condemnation was a joint statement by rights groups, Amnesty International (AI) and Human Rights Watch (HRW), in which they called Gantz’s move an “appalling and unjust decision”, which represents “an attack by the Israeli government on the international human rights movement.”

 

Strong Words, but No Actions

AI and HRW, which have documented Israeli human rights violations of Palestinians for many years, fully understand that the ‘terrorist’ designation is consistent with a long trajectory of such unlawful moves:

“For decades, Israeli authorities have systematically sought to muzzle human rights monitoring and punish those who criticize its repressive rule over Palestinians. While staff members of our organizations have faced deportation and travel bans, Palestinian human rights defenders have always borne the brunt of the repression. This decision is an alarming escalation that threatens to shut down the work of Palestine’s most prominent civil society organizations.”

Equally important in the world’s leading rights groups’ statement is that it did not fail to highlight that the “decades-long failure of the international community to challenge grave Israeli human rights abuses and impose meaningful consequences for them has emboldened Israeli authorities to act in this brazen manner.”

True to form, the international community did react to Gantz’s decision, albeit it was the kind of ineffectual reaction, which persisted in the realm of rhetoric that is rarely followed by substantive action.

A joint statement by UN experts called the Israeli decision “a frontal attack on the Palestinian human rights movement, and on human rights everywhere”.

Michelle Bachelet, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, criticized the “arbitrary” decision by Israel and warned of the “far-reaching consequences as a result,” in terms of work, funding and support for the targeted organizations.

Many governments around the world also condemned the Israeli move and echoed the sentiment conveyed by UN experts. Even the US expressed its ‘concern’, though, using the same typically cautious and non-committal language.

US State Department spokesman, Ned Price, told reporters on October 23, in Washington, that his country “believe(s) respect for human rights, fundamental freedoms and a strong civil society are critically important to responsible and responsive governance.” Instead of an outright condemnation, however, Price said that the US will “be engaging our Israeli partners for more information regarding the basis for these designations.”

However, like other governments, and certainly unlike AI and HRW, Price made no link between the Israeli decision of October 21 and numerous other past practices targeting human rights and civil society groups in Palestine and, more recently, in Israel as well. Also worth noting is that the supposed link between such organizations and the socialist PFLP is not new.

The following are a few examples of how Israel has attempted to silence some of these organizations, which, eventually were declared to be ‘terrorist.’

 

Raids, Arrests and Death Threats

Addameer – In December 2012, the Israeli army raided the headquarters of Addamer in Ramallah, confiscating laptops and a video camera. The offices of the Union of Palestinian Women Committees were also raided by Israeli occupation forces on the same day. The organization is one of the six now designated by Israel as ‘terrorist.’

In September 2019, Addameer’s offices were raided, once again. The Israeli military raid at the time, however, did not generate as much attention or outrage, despite the accompanying violence, let alone the blatant violation of human rights. Then, Al-Haq – also one of the other six effectively banned Palestinian groups – issued a statement warning that “the private property of human rights organizations in occupied territory is especially protected under Article 46 of the Hague Regulations (1907).”

Expectedly, such legal constraints mattered little to Israel.

Al-Haq – Al-Haq’s staff have faced many restrictions throughout the years. Shawan Jabarin, the General Director of Al-Haq, has been banned from travel on various occasions, starting in 2006.

In March 2009, Jabarin was prevented by Israel from traveling to the Netherlands to receive an award on behalf of his organization. Again, in November 2011, this time, Jabarin was now allowed to travel to Denmark.

The Israeli obstacles began taking even more sinister turns when, in March 2016, Jabarin began receiving death threats over the phone. These anonymous calls began arriving “in the context of increasing harassment of Al-Haq and its members, amid their recent work at the International Criminal Court (ICC) seeking justice for human rights violations being committed in the Occupied Palestinian Territories,” the Front Line Defenders website reported.

Defense for Children International-Palestine – In July, and again August 2021, Israeli forces raided Defense for Children International – Palestine (DCIP) offices in Al-Bireh, in the occupied West Bank. They seized computers, hard drives and other material, alleging a link between the organization and the PFLP.

This allegation had already been advanced in 2018, when UK Lawyers for Israel (UKLFI) persuaded Citibank and the Arab Bank PLC to stop providing banking services to DCIP, providing what they defined as “evidence of the close ties” to the PFLP.

While it is true that the recent Israeli measures against Palestinian NGOs are a continuation of an old policy, there are fundamental differences between the growing perception of Israel, now, as an apartheid state and the misconstrued perception of the past, namely Israel as an oasis of democracy.

Even international entities and groups that are yet to brand Israel an apartheid state are becoming familiar with the Israeli government’s undemocratic nature.

 

A ‘Tectonic Shift’

In December 2019, and after years of haggling, the ICC resolved that “there is a reasonable basis to proceed with an investigation into the situation in Palestine, pursuant to Article 53(1) of the (Rome) Statute.” Despite intense Israeli and western pressure, the last hurdle in the way of the investigation was removed last February, as the ICC has finally approved the Prosecutor’s request to open legal proceedings regarding war crimes in the occupied Palestinian territories, including Gaza.

This legal milestone was cemented by major declarations, one made by Israel’s own rights group, B’tselem, in January, and another by HRW in April, both slamming Israeli policies in Palestine – not just the occupied territories – as ‘apartheid’.

This critical change in the international legal position regarding Israel’s new, unflattering status, was boosted by Israel’s own violent actions in East Jerusalem, Gaza and throughout Palestine in May. Unlike previous wars, the May events have shifted sympathy mostly towards Palestinians, who are fighting for their freedom, homes and other basic human rights.

The change was also notable within the US government itself, which is unprecedented by any account. An increasing number of US lawmakers are now openly critical of the State of Israel, due to a radical change in the US public opinion and, again, unprecedently, they are not paying a heavy price for it as was often the case in the past due to the great influence of the Zionist lobby in Washington.

“The shift is dramatic; it’s tectonic,” the BBC, on May 21, quoted US pollster, John Zogby, as saying. “In particular, younger generations are considerably more sympathetic to the Palestinians – and that age gap has been on full display with the Democratic Party,” the BBC noted.

Israel’s losses are not just sentimental or political, but economic as well. Last July, the international ice cream giant Ben & Jerry’s decided to stop selling its products in illegal Jewish settlements while pinpointedly condemning Israeli occupation, a move that was described by Amnesty as “legitimate and necessary”. A few months later, the sports clothing manufacturer, Nike, followed suit, announcing that it will end the sale of its products in Israeli stores starting May 2022, although it did not justify its decision based on political reasoning.

While Israel continues to lash out at its critics, it no longer seems to behave according to a centralized strategy.

Lacking a strong leadership after the dethroning of former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the formation of a diverse ‘unity government’, the new Israeli government does not seem capable of holding back international criticism of its conduct in occupied Palestine. The notion that everything that Israel does is justifiable as a form of ‘self-defense’ is simply no longer a strong selling point. The May war is the perfect example of this assertion.

In the case of the banned NGOs, for example, aside from sending a representative from the Israeli intelligence agency, Shin Bet, and another from the Israeli Foreign Ministry to Washington on October 25 with “relevant intelligence” to justify its decision, Tel Aviv continued to carry out the same policies that further exposes its apartheid in the eyes of the international community.

Indeed, on October 27, Israel announced the construction of thousands of new housing units in illegal Jewish settlements, in its first such move during the presidency of Joe Biden.

A perfect illustration of the frantic nature of the Israeli response came on October 29, when the Israeli envoy to the United Nations, Gilad Erdan, during his speech at the General Assembly, tore into pieces a report issued by the UN Human Rights Council illustrating Israeli ongoing violations of international law.

“The Human Rights Council attacked and condemned Israel in 95 resolutions compared to 142 resolutions against the rest of the world,” Erdan said. “This distorted and one-sided report’s place is in the dustbin of anti-Semitism,” he ranted.

 

Branding Israeli Apartheid

We may be at the cusp of a fundamental change in terms of Israel’s relationship with the international community. While Tel Aviv continues to heavily invest in its apartheid infrastructure, the international community is slowly, but clearly, becoming aware that Israel’s apartheid status is a permanent one. The successive statements by B’Tselem, HRW, the joint HRW-Amnesty statement condemning the de facto outlawing of the Palestinian NGOs and, again, the ICC investigation are all indicative of this growing awareness.

The question remains – will Israel be able to use its power, influence and leverage in Western societies to force the world to accept and co-exist with a full-fledged apartheid regime in Palestine? And if yes, then, for how long?

The South African apartheid example showed that, despite decades of apartheid and initial acceptance, if not support, by western societies of legalized racial separation in South Africa, the pendulum eventually turned. Even before the formal end of apartheid in that country in 1994, it was becoming clear that the days of the racist regime of Pretoria were numbered. That realization was possible because of the growing international awareness, especially at grassroot, civil society level, of the evil of apartheid.

A similar scenario seems to be evolving in the case of Israeli apartheid in Palestine as well. A critical mass of support for Palestinian rights is being constructed around the world, thanks to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement and hundreds of pro-Palestine civil society groups all around the globe.

For years, Israel seemed keen on countering the influence of Palestine’s solidarity around the world using a centralized strategy. Large sums of money were dedicated, or pledged, towards that end, and a partly government-controlled company was even established, in 2017, to guide the Israeli global campaign. Much of this has amounted to very little, however, as BDS continues to grow, and the conversation on Palestine and Israel is gradually changing from that of a political ‘conflict’ into recognition of Israeli racism, apartheid and utter disregard of international law.

Of course, it will take more time, more decided effort and, certainly, more sacrifices on the part of Palestinians and their supporters to expose Israeli apartheid to the rest of the world. Now that Israel seems to have accepted that there is little it can do to reverse this brand, it is accelerating its colonial efforts, while hunkering down for a long fight ahead.

The onus is now on the international community to force Israel into dismantling its apartheid regime. Though it is ultimately the people who liberate themselves, international solidarity is essential to the process of national liberation. This was the case in South Africa, and will surely be the case in Palestine, as well.

Feature photo | A woman takes part in the Palestinian Non-Governmental Organizations Network protest in front of the United Nations headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Nov. 10, 2021. Nasser Nasser | 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). Dr. 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 appeared 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.

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