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[l] at 11/14/19 8:48am

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It’s an open secret.  The deep state is working hand in hand with Silicon Valley social media giants like Twitter, Facebook and Google to control the flow of information. That includes suppressing, censoring and sometimes outright purging dissenting voices – all under the guise of fighting fake news and Russian propaganda. 

Most recently, it was revealed that Twitter’s senior editorial executive for Europe, the Middle East and Africa is an active officer in the British Army’s 77th Brigade, a unit dedicated to online warfare and psychological operations. 

In other words: he specializes in disseminating propaganda.

The news left many wondering how a member of the British Armed Forces secured such an influential job in the media.

The bombshell that one of the world’s most influential social networks is controlled in part by an active psychological warfare officer was not covered at all in the New York Times , CNN , CNBC , MSNBC or Fox News , who appear to have found the news unremarkable. 

But for those paying attention and for those who have been following ’ MintPress News’ extensive coverage of social media censorship, this revelation was merely another example of the increasing closeness between the deep state and the fourth estate.

Amazon owner, and world’s richest man, Jeff Bezos was paid $600 million by the CIA to develop software and media for the agency, that’s more than twice as much as Bezos bought the Washington Post for, and a move media critics warn spells the end of journalistic independence for the Post.

Meanwhile, Google has a very close relationship with the State Department, its former CEO Eric Schmidt’s book on technological imperialism was heartily endorsed by deep state warmongers like Henry Kissinger, Hillary Clinton and Tony Blair. 

In their book titled, The New Digital Age: Reshaping the Future of People, Nations and Business, Eric Schmidt and fellow Google executive Jared Cohen wrote

What Lockheed Martin was to the twentieth century…technology and cyber-security companies [like Google] will be to the twenty-first.”

Another social media giant partnering with the military-industrial complex is Facebook. The California-based company announced last year it was working closely with the neoconservative think tank, The Atlantic Council, which is largely funded by Saudi Arabia, Israel and weapons manufacturers to supposedly fight foreign “fake news.”

The Atlantic Council is a NATO offshoot and its board of directors reads like a rogue’s gallery of warmongers, including the notorious Henry Kissinger, Bush-era hawks like Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, James Baker, the former head of the Department of Homeland Security and author of the PATRIOT Act, Michael Chertoff, a number of former Army Generals including David Petraeus and Wesley Clark and former heads of the CIA Michael Hayden, Leon Panetta and Michael Morell.

39 percent of Americans, and similar numbers of people in other countries, get their news from Facebook, so when an organization like the Atlantic Council is controlling what the world sees in their Facebook news feeds, it can only be described as state censorship on a global level.

After working with the council, Facebook immediately began banning and removing accounts linked to media in official enemy states like Iran, Russia and Venezuela, ensuring the world would not be exposed to competing ideas and purging dissident voices under the guise of fighting “fake news” and “Russian bots.”

Meanwhile, the social media platform has been partnering with the U.S. and Israeli governments to silence Palestinian voices that show the reality of life under Israeli apartheid and occupation. The Israeli Justice Minister proudly revealed that Facebook complied with 95 percent of Israeli government requests to delete Palestinian pages. At the same time, Google deleted dozens of YouTube and blog accounts supposedly connected to the government of Iran.

In the last week alone, Twitter has purged several Palestinian news pages, including Quds News Network — without warning or explanation. 

Electronic Intifada co-founder Ali Abunimah wrote, 

This alarming act of censorship is another indication of the complicity of major social media firms in Israel’s efforts to suppress news and information about its abuses of Palestinian rights.”

 

Alternative voices not welcome

The vast online purge of alternative voices has also been directed at internal “enemies.” 

Publishers like Julian Assange and whistleblowers like Chelsea Manning are still being held in solitary confinement in conditions that international bodies and human rights groups call torture , for their crime of revealing the extent of the global surveillance network and the control over the media that Western governments have built. 

As attempts to re-tighten the state and corporate grip over our means of communication increases, high-quality alternative media are being hit the hardest, as algorithm changes from the media monoliths have deranked, demoted, deleted and disincentivized outlets that question official narratives, leading to huge falls in traffic and revenue. 

The message from social media giants is clear: independent and alternative voices are not welcome.

One causality in this propaganda war is Daniel McAdams, Executive Director of the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity, a public advocacy group that argues that a non-interventionist foreign policy is crucial to securing a prosperous society at home. McAdams served as Senator Paul’s foreign affairs advisor between 2001 and 2012. Before that, he was a journalist and editor for the Budapest Sun and a human rights monitor across Eastern Europe. 

McAdams, who spent much of his time on Twitter calling out the war machine supported by both parties, was recently permanently banned from the platform for so-called “hateful conduct.” His crime? Challenging Fox News anchor Sean Hannity over his hour-long segment claiming to be against the “deep state,” while simultaneously wearing a CIA lapel pin. In the exchange, McAdams called Hannity “ retarded ,” claiming he was becoming stupider every time he watched him.

Yes, despite that word and its derivatives having been used on Twitter over ten times in the previous minute, and often much more aggressively than McAdams used it – only McAdams fell victim to Twitter’s ban hammer. Something didn’t make sense about this ban. One only needs to read the replies under any of President Trump’s tweets to see far more hateful speech than what McAdams displayed to suspect foul play.

I spoke with McAdams about the ban and began by asking him if he accepts the premise of the ban, or if he believes something else was afoot.

Feature photo | Spirit Boom Cat | Shutterstock

Mnar Muhawesh 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.

The post Social Media Censorship Reaches New Heights as Twitter Permanently Bans Dissent appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Behind The Headline, Daily Digest, National, Censorship, Daniel McAdams, Facebook, Google, Media, Twitter, Twitter Ban] [Link to media]

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[l] at 11/13/19 12:27pm

The release on November 6 of two Jordanian nationals, Heba al-Labadi and Abdul Rahman Mi’ri from Israeli prisons was a bittersweet moment. The pair were finally reunited with their families after harrowing experiences in Israel. Sadly, thousands of Palestinian prisoners are still denied their freedom, still subjected to all sorts of hardships at the hands of their Israeli jailers. 

Despite the jubilant return of the two prisoners, celebrated in Jordan, Palestine and throughout the Arab world, several compelling questions remain unanswered: why were they held in the first place? Why were they released and what can their experience teach Palestinians under Israeli occupation? 

Throughout the whole ordeal, Israel failed to produce any evidence to indict Labadi and Mi’ri for any wrongdoing. In fact, it was this lack of evidence that made Israel hold the two Jordanian nationals in Administrative Detention , without any judicial process whatsoever. 

Oddly, days before the release of the two Jordanians, an official Israeli government statement praised the special relationship between Amman and Tel Aviv, describing it as “a cornerstone of stability in the Middle East.”

The reality is that the relationship between the two countries has hit rock bottom in recent years, especially following U.S. President Donald Trump’s advent to the White House and the subsequent, systematic dismantling of the “peace process” by Trump and the Israeli government.

Not only did Washington and Tel Aviv demolish the region’s political status quo, one in which Jordan featured as a key player, top U.S. diplomats also tried to barter with King Abdullah II so that Jordan would settle millions of Palestinian refugees in the country in exchange for large sums of money. 

Jordan vehemently rejected U.S. offers and attempts at isolating the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah. 

On October 21, 2018, Jordan went even further, by rejecting an Israeli offer to renew a 25-year lease on two enclaves in the Jordan Valley, Al-Baqura and Al-Ghamar. The government’s decision was a response to protests by Jordanians and elected parliamentarians, who insist on Jordan’s complete sovereignty over all of its territories.

This particular issue goes back years. Jordan and Israel signed a peace treaty in 1994. An additional annex in the treaty allowed Israel to lease part of the Jordan Valley for 25 years. A quarter of a century later, the Jordan-Israel Peace Treaty failed to achieve any degree of meaningful normalization between both countries, especially as neighboring Palestine remains under Israeli occupation. The stumbling block of that coveted normalization was – and remains – the Jordanian people, who strongly rejected a renewed Israeli lease over Jordanian territories.

Israeli negotiators must have been surprised by Jordan’s refusal to accommodate Israeli interests. With the U.S. removing itself, at least publicly, from the brewing conflict, Israel resorted to its typical bullying, by holding two Jordanians hostage, hoping to force the government to reconsider its decision regarding the Jordan Valley. 

Jordanian prisoners Israel

Heba al-Labadi reacts after arriving at the King Hussein Bridge border crossing, Jordan, on Nov. 6, 2019. Raad Adayleh | AP

The Israeli strategy backfired. The arrest of Labadi – who started a hunger strike that lasted for over 40 days –  and Mi’ri, a cancer survivor , was a major PR disaster for Israel. Not only did the tactic fail to deliver any results, it further galvanized the Jordanian people and government regarding the decision to reclaim Al-Baqura and al-Ghamar.

Labadi and Mi’ri were released on November 6. The following day, the Jordanian government informed Israel that its farmers will be banned from entering Al-Baqura area. This way, Jordan retrieved its citizens and its territories within the course of 24 hours. 

Three main reasons allowed Jordan to prevail in its confrontation with Israel. First, the steadfastness of the prisoners themselves; second, the unity and mobilization of the Jordanian street, civil society organizations and elected legislators; and third, the Jordanian government responding positively to the unified voice of the street.

This compels the question: what is the Palestinian strategy regarding the nearly 5,000 Palestinian prisoners held unlawfully in Israel? 

 

A lesson for Palestinian leadership

While the prisoners themselves continue to serve as a model of unity and courage, the other factors fundamental to any meaningful strategy aimed at releasing all Palestinian prisoners remain absent. 

Although factionalism continues to undermine the Palestinian fight for freedom, prisoners are fighting the same common enemy. The famed “ National Conciliation Document , ” composed by the unified leadership of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails in 2006, is considered the most articulate vision for Palestinian unity and liberation. 

For ordinary Palestinians, the prisoners remain an emotive subject, but political disunity is making it nearly impossible for the energies of the Palestinian street to be harnessed in a politically meaningful way. Despite much lip service paid to freeing the prisoners, efforts aimed at achieving this goal are hopelessly splintered and agonizingly factionalized.

As for the Palestinian leadership, the strategy championed by Palestinian Authority leader, Mahmoud Abbas, is more focused on propping up Abbas’ own image than alleviating the suffering of the prisoners and their families. Brazenly, Abbas exploits the emotional aspect of the prisoners’ tragedy to gain political capital, while punishing the families of Palestinian prisoners in order to pursue his own self-serving political agenda. 

“Even if I had only one penny, I would’ve given it to the families of the martyrs, prisoners and heroes,” Abbas said in a theatrical way during his United Nations General Assembly speech last September. 

Abbas, of course, has more than one penny. In fact, he has withheld badly needed funds from the families of the “martyrs, prisoners and heroes.” On April 2018, Abbas cut the salaries of government employees in Gaza, along with the money received by the families of Gaza prisoners held inside Israeli jails. 

Heba al-Labadi and Abdul Rahman Mi’ri were released because of their own resolve, coupled with strong solidarity exhibited by ordinary Jordanians. These two factors allowed the Jordanian government to publicly challenge Israel, leading to the unconditional release of the two Jordanian prisoners. 

Meanwhile, thousands of Palestinian prisoners, including 500 administrative detainees continue to languish in Israeli prisons. Without united and sustained popular, non-factional mobilization, along with the full backing of the Palestinian leadership, the prisoners are likely to carry on with their fight, alone and unaided. 

Feature photo | Released Jordanian detainee Abdul Rahman Miri arrives at the King Hussein Bridge border crossing, Jordan, on Nov. 6, 2019. Raad Adayleh | AP

Dr. Ramzy Baroud is a widely published and translated author, an internationally syndicated columnist and editor of PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is The Last Earth: A Palestinian Story (Pluto Press, 2018). He earned a Ph.D. in Palestine Studies from the University of Exeter (2015), and was a Non-Resident Scholar at Orfalea Center for Global and International Studies, UCSB. Visit his website at  www.ramzybaroud.net.

The post The Real Reasons Behind Israel’s Arrest of Two Jordanian Nationals appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Daily Digest, Foreign Affairs, Insights, Abdul Rahman Mi’ri, Heba al-Labadi, Israel, Jordan, Prisoners]

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[l] at 11/13/19 9:47am

Turkey recently threatened to send 1,200 ISIS terrorists back to their countries of origin in the EU, the U.S., and the UK. Turkey’s Interior Minister, Suleyman Solyu, claimed that extradition would begin on Monday, November 11, ironically on Armistice Day. Ankara claimed it would even send back those whose citizenships have been revoked. How Turkey plans to follow through with this threat is another matter. Turkey’s history of both incubating terrorist groups and blackmailing the European Union is well known. 

Peter Ford, former UK Ambassador to Syria and Bahrain, had this to say about the Turkish ISIS deadline: 

Turkey has manipulated the ISIS phenomenon from its very beginning, just as Pakistani military intelligence facilitated and manipulated the Taliban and Al Qaida. Just as Bin Laden was found under the noses of Pakistani security forces in Pakistan, so Al Baghdadi was found a couple of miles from the Turkish border in an area (Idlib) crawling with Turkish and pro-Turkish militias.”

Given the complexity of the situation, it is important to examine the reasons behind Ankara’s posturing and Turkey’s support for ISIS fighters when they serve Turkish economic and military interests at home and in Syria. Turkey’s interests may or may not overlap with those of the United States at any given moment, but there is a  synergy concerning oil interests and Syrian territory-annexation or occupation. Coincidentally, U.S. President Donald Trump also threatened to “drop jihadists” at Europe’s borders if the UK, France, and Germany refused to repatriate ISIS nationals. As Peter Ford told me: 

Turkey’s threat to send ISIS prisoners to Europe is simple blackmail: stop whinging about Turkey’s behavior in Syria or we open the floodgates. In reality, Turkey has better uses planned for its ISIS foot soldiers and camp followers.”

No other country neighboring Syria has been so heavily invested in harboring terrorist groups on their territory and providing the porous borders required for the passage of these groups, arms, and equipment into externally-created conflict zones inside of Syria since the war against that country began in earnest in 2011. As Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad said recently, in an interview with Syrian TV and the al-Ikhbarya channel:

…we are in one arena, the whole Syrian arena is one – a single theatre of operations.  From the furthest point in the south to the furthest point in the north Turkey is the American proxy in this war, and everywhere we have fought we have been fighting this proxy.”

On November 11, President Assad was interviewed by RT Going Underground , during the interview he pointed out: 

Since ISIS started smuggling Syrian oil and looting Syrian Oil in 2014, they had two partners: Erdogan and his coterie, and the Americans, whether the CIA or others. ”

 

A prison break opportunity for ISIS fighters

October 9, 2019. Turkey launches “Operation Peace Spring,” ostensibly to push Kurdish separatist forces back from its borders with Syria. The move effectively allowed Turkey to take control of two cities, Ras Al Ain and Tel Abyad, where clashes are ongoing between Turkish proxy forces, made up of an assortment of extremist fighters that had previously occupied Idlib and other areas of Syria, and the Syrian Arab Army supported partially by the SDF Kurdish forces previously allied with the U.S. and supported by Israel

A major beneficiary of this unlawful push into Syrian territory has been ISIS brides along with that followers and fighters that were imprisoned in the notorious Al Hol camp and other ISIS holding camps in the region. These dangerous ideologues see the Turkish incursion as an opportunity to escape their Kurdish captors and for the so-called ISIS brides to reunite with their husbands who are already in Turkey, according to their own testimony. One Russian ISIS bride told Kurdistan 24 , a Kurdish media outlet: 

We want Turkey to attack here. If the Turkish army comes to this area, I will be able to flee and meet my husband, who I know well is in Turkey.” 

Turkey Syria ISIS

Turkish police escort buses from Syria carrying ISIS members and their families at the border town of Akcakale, Turkey, Oct. 18, 2019. Emrah Gurel | AP

In the same interview, a French ISIS bride expressed hope that Ankara would invade the camp and enable their flight to Turkey. Under cover of one particular Turkish airstrike, an alleged 800 ISIS-affiliated individuals managed to escape the Ain Al Issa camp according to the same Kurdish media report. 

Perhaps in an effort to justify his perceived abandonment of the Kurds, President Trump tweeted that the Kurds were deliberately releasing ISIS prisoners to draw the U.S. back into the conflict, a claim echoed by Turkish officials who claimed that the Kurds were taking money for releasing ISIS fighters or their families. 

….Kurds may be releasing some to get us involved. Easily recaptured by Turkey or European Nations from where many came, but they should move quickly. Big sanctions on Turkey coming! Do people really think we should go to war with NATO Member Turkey? Never ending wars will end!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 14, 2019

When Trump previously floated the idea of withdrawal from Syria in December 2018, the Kurdish contras threatened to release 3,200 ISIS fighters. While Kurdish leaders denied that this had ever been considered, the threat was enough to cause Trump to reel back from withdrawing from Syria. 

A recent report from the New York Times claims that Al Hol camp contains some of the most violent and steadfast ISIS supporters, 10,000 women and children from 50 countries, two-thirds of the children under the age of 12. In the report, a woman interviewed in the piece stated that she was committed to bringing back the “caliphate” and that her children were on “God’s path” towards violent extremism. 

A report in the Spanish language El Pais , describes a “radical matriarchy” set up to facilitate escape for ISIS followers and overseen by a tyrannical female Emir. According to the report, these female extremists pay upwards of $ 9,000 to “ISIS traffickers” to bribe their SDF guards. El Pais describes the camp as a radicalization and indoctrination center where women and minors are being converted into extremist military cadres willing to persecute those who do not comply with the religious extremism being forced upon the camp’s inhabitants. 

Shortly after Ankara’s military operation began, a senior Iraqi security expert, Hafez Al-Basharah , claimed that Washington was attempting to transfer 3,000 ISIS terrorists from Syria to Iraq where they would be transferred to a “safe area.” The U.S. would use the Turkish occupied zones inside Syria as a holding base for the ISIS fighters until their transfer to the three chosen bases inside Iraq. 

Various Arabic language media outlets have reported that the United States is planning to produce a Super ISIS – an even more radical, violent version of the group’s previous incarnation. Hessam Sho’aib, a Syrian military expert on terrorist organizations, announced to Sputnik Arabic that various reports from U.S. “think tanks” indicate the heralding in of an ISIS renaissance in Syria and Iraq. The reports, according to Sho’aib, also allude to U.S. intelligence involvement in the birth of ISIS, its apparent demise , as well as its rebirth. A rebirth that would ensure the sustained recycling of terrorism and the perpetual destabilization of the region. 

Certainly the U.S. faux withdrawal, the invasion of Turkish extremist proxies, the retreat of SDF prison guards as well as the apparent corruption of the remaining SDF factions in charge of the camps, have all contributed to the latter-day ISIS “ Operation Breaking the Walls ” which appears to be allowing followers and fighters to regroup, expand and reinforce their military capability on the borders with Syria. At the same time, the ISIS prison break gives Turkey the opportunity to blackmail other NATO member states into ignoring the atrocities and war crimes being committed by the assortment of extremist groups under Ankara’s command inside Syria. 

 

Turkey plays both ends against the middle

The Turkish repatriation of foreign ISIS fighters has already begun, according to a report in Middle East Monitor . One American fighter has already been deported and travel plans are in place for seven German nationals affiliated with the terrorist group. It appears that Turkey’s threat was not idle and that the U.S.-led alliance in Syria may be about to reap what it has sown for the past nine years.

Turkey Syria ISIS

Turkish-backed Syrian fighters deploy near the town of Ras al-Ayn, Syria, Oct. 19, 2019. Photo | AP

Waseem Ramli, a short-lived Syrian honorary consul representative in Montreal before the multiple neoconservative interests in Trudeau’s government campaigned to have him removed on the pretext of being loyal to the elected and internationally recognized Syrian government, referred to Ankara’s betrayal of their own NATO allies thusly:

For the past years we have been warning the western governments of what may happen if they continue supporting the continuation of the war in Syria but they never expected to be backstabbed by one of their own NATO allies!

Guess we will be seeing these governments scrambling to figure out how to deal with this situation  while they continue to refuse to acknowledge that their best option is opening a line of communication with the Syrian government.”

President Assad alluded to Ankara’s strategy in his interview with RT Going Underground:

Actually, the relation between Erdogan and the EU is two ways: they hate him but they want him. They hate him, they know that he is fanatic Islamist, they know this, and they know that he’s going to send them those extremists or maybe terrorists.”

Turkey is essentially playing both ends against the middle. ISIS was first allowed into Syria from Turkey. The Caliphate’s economy was able to flourish, enriched by millions of dollars of oil smuggled into Turkey and sold to Israel. ISIS was the perfect invention to fulfill Erdogan’s neo-Ottoman aspirations of toppling the Syrian government, annexing more Syrian territory, plundering resources, pillaging industry and finally eliminating the PKK Kurdish factions. Former Ambassador Ford asserts that U.S. Coalition policy makers were effectively acting in accordance with Turkey’s Syria policy:

The U.S. knew all this and turned a blind eye. As long as ISIS was advancing towards Damascus, what was not to like? Turkey got a free pass to support a terror group which curiously never mounted a significant attack against the U.S. beyond a few provocative beheadings but which gave the U.S. Coalition a pretext to put forces in Syria.”

Ford also pointed out that ISIS periodically commits atrocities on Turkish soil, conveniently, Ford says, “whenever Turkish assistance and subsidies were reduced for some reason. It appears, as Ford concluded, that “ ISIS was in the mafia protection business after all.”

Indeed, Turkey apparently used the thousands of conveniently collected ISIS prisoners held in Syria as additional manpower to reinforce the ranks of the swiftly rebranded “Syrian National Army,” a cynical attempt to portray former extremists and terrorist groups as a pseudo-nationalist “legitimate liberating force” under Ankara’s command. Ford says that many of the captured ISIS fighters were caught on their way to bolster the ranks of the pro-Turkish FSA and other extremist groups occupying Idlib. 

It is no accident that many of the fighters who were caught in the end of days for the Caliphate were on their way to Idlib, to be recycled as pro-Turkish FSA. Or HTS (Hayat Tahrir Ash Sham), the Al Qaeda affiliate, tolerated when not actively assisted by Turkey. So Turkish help in freeing ISIS prisoners is no fanciful conspiracy theory .” (emphasis added)

The move would not be without precedent either, as Turkey allegedly recruited and retrained ISIS fighters to participate in Ankara’s Afrin land grab in February of 2018. 

 

The latest bogeyman in the global terror portfolio

The U.S. Coalition has effectively given Turkey free rein to maneuver and recycle terrorist and extremist factions with impunity in order to achieve its political ambitions in Syria. That campaign has failed miserably, western journalists fleeing the north-east of Syria during the start of the Turkish operation came face to face with the monsters unleashed upon the Syrian people for nine years, by their governments in the West and their allies in the Gulf States and Israel. 

Having described these extremist, sectarian gangs as “moderate rebels” for nearly a decade, the media was suddenly confronted by their bloodcurdling brutality and were tripping over their own narratives in their haste to condemn the Turkish proxies for their unbridled aggression against the U.S. and Israeli-backed Kurdish contras, media darlings for the anti-anti-war left in the West and Israel’s partitioning instrument to secure Syrian territory east of the Euphrates.

Israel Kurds Syria

Israelis hold signs during a protest against Turkey’s military action in Syria, outside the Turkish embassy in Tel Aviv, Israel, Oct. 15, 2019. Ariel Schalit | AP

The irony of the situation is not lost on Waseem Ramli, or indeed upon Peter Ford, who concluded: 

Whatever the case, the irony is that Western governments would rather tie themselves in knots than accept the obvious solution which would be adopted automatically if these countries were serious about the ‘international rules-based system’ they preach at others: hand over the jihadis to face Syrian justice. Their crimes were committed on Syrian soil, overwhelmingly against Syrian victims. If a Syrian jihadi committed a crime on British soil, would we not absolutely demand they faced British justice? Instead, we behave like a tinpot dictatorship ourselves, autocratically stripping British citizens of their nationality.” 

ISIS is the latest bogeyman in the global terror brand portfolio, serving a neoconservative agenda in the Middle East. Turkey has been the midwife and the curator of this and other terrorist groups on behalf of its NATO allies who are intent upon ushering in a new government in Syria and fomenting regional unrest. In 2017, Dr. Bouthaina Shaaban, the political and media advisor to President Assad, predicted that Erdogan would turn on his former allies. Two years later that prophecy is being fulfilled.

I hope that Europeans will discover who he is before it becomes too late. I mean it. Because two years ago when Merkel came to him to discuss the issue of refugees I said she is coming to the source of the problem. He is the origin of the problem.”

Feature photo | Turkish-backed Syrian fighters on a pick up truck, drive past a graffiti of modern Turkey’s founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk as they cross the border between Turkey and Syria, in Akcakale, Sanliurfa province, southeastern Turkey, Oct. 17, 2019. Emrah Gurel | AP

Vanessa Beeley is an independent journalist and photographer who has worked extensively in the Middle East – on the ground in Syria, Egypt, Iraq and Palestine, while also covering the conflict in Yemen since 2015. Please support her work at her Patreon Page.

The post ISIS Captives Offer a Convenient Pawn in Turkey’s Syria Chess Game appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Foreign Affairs, Insights, Top Story, ISIS, Syria, terrorism, Turkey, United States]

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[l] at 11/12/19 1:19pm

Anti-Semitism is on the rise again in the United States. NBC News reported that the number of anti-Semitic incidents recorded by the Anti-Defamation League is nearing an all-time high. American Jews have reason to feel unsafe; in October last year a far-right anti-immigrant gunman carried out a mass shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, PA, killing 11. Another shocking event occurred in April during Passover, when a Hitler-idolizing fascist opened fire at the Poway Synagogue, near San Diego, CA. Meanwhile, in a show of strength in Charlottesville, VA, large numbers of far-right activists held a torchlight rally chanting white nationalist slogans like “blood and soil” and “Jews will not replace us.”

President Trump described the marchers as “very fine people” and has openly appointed anti-Semitic racists like Steve Bannon to key positions on his team. Meanwhile, his former aide Sebastian Gorka wore regalia linked to Hungarian Nazi groups who perpetrated the Holocaust. And one has only to look at his official subreddit, The_Donald , to view all manner of casual anti-Jewish bigotry being shared by his supporters.

Yet much of the public debate on the issue focuses on the anti-Semitism coming from the left. A case in point is the recent remarks by Minnesota Congresswoman Ilhan Omar. In response to a CNBC article reporting that Leon Cooperman said he would “support his fellow billionaire Mike Bloomberg for President” Omar tweeted “I wonder why?”

I wonder why? </div></dd>
<dt id=Bolivia Is the Latest Successful US-Backed Coup in Latin America

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[l] at 11/12/19 8:36am

Bolivian President Evo Morales “resigned” at gunpoint Sunday, after army generals publicly demanded his resignation, despite convincingly winning re-election just three weeks ago.

The preceding 21 days were filled with fractious demonstrations and counter-protests from Morales’ supporters and opponents. On October 20, Morales had secured enough votes to win the election outright in the first round without the need for a run-off against his closest challenger, Carlos Mesa. However, Mesa cried fraud, citing supposed irregularities in the vote-counting procedure, claiming Morales did not receive the requisite vote share to ensure his victory. The Organization of American States (OAS) and the U.S. government repeated this claim, although neither group provided evidence of fraud. Morales invited the OAS to audit the election as he was confident of its veracity. Indeed, a report by the Washington-based Center for Economic Policy Research found that the vote totals were “consistent” with those announced, finding no irregularities whatsoever. Despite this, the local U.S.-backed opposition went on the attack.

 

Right-Wing Rampage

On Saturday, veteran political scientists Noam Chomsky and Vijay Prashad warned that “a coup is brewing against the elected government” of Bolivia, expressing their concern at the “fascistic” violence percolating throughout the country. In Santa Cruz, a stronghold of the wealthy white elite who oppose Morales, the office of the electoral authority was burned down . Meanwhile, in Vinto, opposition groups kidnapped local mayor Patricia Arce, cut her hair off and painted her body red, publicly dragging her through the streets and abusing her, forcing her to commit to leaving office.

#Bolivia | Mayor #PatriciaArce was forced to walk barefoot for several kilometers while listening to sexist and racist comments.#HumanRights #HumanRightsViolation pic.twitter.com/s98E1KyaCD

— teleSUR English (@telesurenglish) November 7, 2019

Victor Borda, President of Bolivia’s Chamber of Deputies, was also forced to resign after coup forces attacked his house and kidnapped his brother.

The squalid US-backed fanatics of the Bolivian right ransack the house of the country’s elected president, Evo Morales. And the havoc is just beginning. Let no one call them “pro-democracy.” pic.twitter.com/rwwvOSAEaA

— Max Blumenthal (@MaxBlumenthal) November 11, 2019

As soon as Morales stepped down, the police, who had refused to serve his government, ordered his arrest and vandals ransacked his house . Meanwhile, the conservative opposition joyously burned the flag of Bolivia’s indigenous people (a majority of the country’s population), in the clear hopes that the coup would mark a return to rule by the white elite who had been in power since the time of the Conquistadors.

La whipala es símbolo de resistencia de los pueblos indígenas del Abya Yala. Esta imagen resume una de las razones del golpe contra @evoespueblo. pic.twitter.com/uN0Nulu5Gv

— Patricia Villegas Marin (@pvillegas_tlSUR) November 11, 2019

 

The United States Applauds the Coup 

The Trump administration released an official communication Monday, not just endorsing the coup, but all but stating “we did it.” “The resignation yesterday of Bolivian President Evo Morales is a significant moment for democracy in the Western Hemisphere,” it read, claiming the events constituted the “preservation of democracy.” It also sent a clear threat that more regime change operations were to come, and they already knew who the targets were:

  These events send a strong signal to the illegitimate regimes in Venezuela and Nicaragua that democracy and the will of the people will always prevail.  We are now one step closer to a completely democratic, prosperous, and free Western Hemisphere.”

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also welcomed the events, claiming that Bolivia could now be “ensured free and fair elections.” Michael McFaul, Professor of Political Science at Stanford University and former U.S. Ambassador to Russia, was even more pleased. “Morales has fled. Excellent!” he exclaimed on Twitter. The U.S. government has long opposed Morales and his Movement for Socialism party’s agenda of nationalizing Bolivia’s resources to help its people. However, it inadvertently helped him get elected in the first place. Shortly before the 2006 election, the U.S. embassy in La Paz put out a public statement saying it could, under no circumstances, accept a Morales presidency. This enormous election meddling backfired, however, as his polling numbers surged as a result.

While the Trump administration intimates that this will not be the last, the Bolivia case is merely the latest in a long line of U.S.-backed coups in the region. Historian and former State Department employee William Blum calculated that the U.S. has overthrown over 50 governments since 1945, many of them in the region it considers its “backyard.” For example, in 2009, the U.S. supported a coup against the leftist government of Manuel Zelaya, blocking any regional or international response. Hillary Clinton later boasted that , in her role as Secretary of State, she had “rendered the question of Zelaya moot.” Since 2009 the country has been ruled by a right-wing military dictatorship that brutalizes its population , leading to a mass exodus of refugees northward, one of the principal ( but unspoken ) drivers of the so-called refugee caravan crisis on the U.S./Mexico border. In 2002, the U.S. sponsored and took part in a briefly successful coup against Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, only for it to be reversed by a massive display of collective solidarity from Venezuela’s people who refused to accept the situation and inspired loyal units to retake the presidential palace and rescue Chavez. Haiti was not so lucky. President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, leader of a grassroots people’s movement, was overthrown in U.S.-backed coups in 1991 and 2004 , leaving the nation with a corrupt puppet government that turned the country into the huge, impoverished sweatshop for Western corporations it is today.

This continual interference gave rise to the wry comment in Latin America that the safest place in the world is the U.S. because it is the only nation without an American embassy.

In 13 years in office, the Movement for Socialism has revolutionized Bolivia, nationalizing the country’s key resources and putting the proceeds towards social programs tackling the population’s most pressing concerns. Poverty was reduced by 42%, and extreme poverty by 60%, with unemployment halving. School enrollment and the provision of electricity has greatly increased , and the government has built over 150,000 social houses and has instituted a free state pension for all those over 60 years old.

However, Morales courted controversy when he lost a national referendum that proposed to end term limits. Despite the result, the Supreme Court ruled that he could stand anyway. He had also drawn criticism from environmentalists for continuing Bolivia’s extractive economic model.

 

Corporate Media Obscuring Reality

There is a perfect word in the English language for when army generals appear on television demanding the resignation of an elected head of state while their allies detain and torture government officials. Yet corporate media are steadfastly refusing to frame events as a coup, instead uniformly describing Morales as “resigning.” Many did not even mention the actions of the army generals. CBS News , for example, claimed that Morales was “resigning” due to “election fraud and protests.” The New York Times asserted he “stepped down” amid “weeks of mass protests by an infuriated population that accused him of undermining democracy.” It expressed relief that his “grip on power” had finally been weakened, giving space to one commenter to claim that this marked “the end of tyranny.” Thus, the media presented the military overthrow of a democratically-elected leader as the welcome demise of a “ full-blown dictatorship ” and the “ restoration of democracy ,” rather than just the opposite, highlighting their remarkable skill with language.

 

Denunciations of the Coup 

On the other hand, there has been a forthright rejection of the events from much of the Western left. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), for example, who recently expressed her pride in endorsing Bernie Sanders, who, she said , promises to fight Western imperialism, stated via Twitter:

There’s a word for the President of a country being pushed out by the military. It’s called a coup.

We must unequivocally oppose political violence in Bolivia. Bolivians deserve free and fair elections.

— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) November 11, 2019

Sanders himself was “ very concerned ” about the coup against the leader who he met at the Vatican and who had praised him deeply . UK Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn was more forthright, claiming he was “appalled” by what happened:

To see @evoespueblo who, along with a powerful movement, has brought so much social progress forced from office by the military is appalling.

I condemn this coup against the Bolivian people and stand with them for democracy, social justice and independence. #ElMundoConEvo

— Jeremy Corbyn (@jeremycorbyn) November 10, 2019

Noam Chomsky and Vijay Prashad described what they saw as another U.S.-backed Latin American coup.

The coup is driven by the Bolivian oligarchy, who are angered by the fourth election loss by their parties to the Movement for Socialism. The oligarchy is fully supported by the United States government, which has long been eager to remove Morales and his movement from power. For over a decade, the US embassy’s Center of Operations in La Paz has articulated the fact that it has two plans – Plan A, the coup; Plan B, assassination of Morales. This is a serious breach of the UN Charter and of all international obligations. We stand against the coup, and with the Bolivian people.

 

The Future 

Morales has been offered asylum by the Mexican government. It is far from clear whether the Bolivian people will accept the new events, but what is clear is that the Trump administration is pursuing a much more aggressive line than Obama with regards to regime change. Those who follow Latin America will hope this is not a return to the days of the dark days of dirty wars and coups d’etat.

Feature photo | Bolivia’s President Evo Morales waves a flag before supporters as he celebrates his reelection in El Alto, Bolivia, Oct. 28, 2019. Juan Karita | AP

Alan MacLeod is a MintPress contributor as well as an academic and writer for Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting. His book, Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting was published in April.

The post Bolivia Is the Latest Successful US-Backed Coup in Latin America appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Foreign Affairs, News, Top Story, Bolivia, coup, Evo Morales, Latin America, United States]

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[l] at 11/11/19 11:33am

The United States is currently backing a military coup against Bolivia’s first indigenous president, Evo Morales, who recently won re-election. Bolivia has enjoyed relative calm during the length of Morales’ presidency which began in January 2006. In 2008, Morales expelled the U.S. ambassador and counter-narcotics agents. The two countries have not had an ambassadorial relationship since 2009.

Despite what the mainstream media headlines would have you believe, a military coup is underway in Bolivia. Morales was forced to step down in an attempt to avert further violence and destruction at the ends of the violent right-wing opposition.

Sunday night’s headlines read:

Bolivian Leader Evo Morales Steps Down

Bolivian President Evo Morales steps down following accusations of election fraud

President of Bolivia steps down amid allegations of election rigging

Bolivia’s Morales resigns amid scathing election report, rising protests

Bolivian President Evo Morales resigns amid fraud poll protests

Nowhere in these headlines do we see the word “coup” or any mention of the history or the violence at the hands of the opposition that includes the burning of a governor’s home, the dragging of a mayor through the streets after her hair was cut off and her body painted red, and most recently the destruction of Evo Morales’ home.
Here’s what you need to know:
 

1. Evo Morales won re-election on October 20th

A Bolivian court gave Morales the “green light” to run for a fourth term as president after opponents said doing so would be unconstitutional. Bolivians went to the polls on October 20, only weeks ago, to select their president. When all was said and done, Morales walked away with 47.1 percent of the vote while his main opponent, who came in second place, had 36.5 percent of the vote. Because Morales secured more than 40 percent and had higher than a 10-point margin over the runner up, in accordance with the rules, a first-round win was declared with no need for a runoff.
 

2. Reports of election fraud are unfounded

Even before the election was concluded, Mesa declared that he would not accept the results if Morales were declared the winner.

#Urgente| No vamos a permitir que se manipule un resultado que obviamente nos lleva a segunda vuelta. pic.twitter.com/mAWa4JlTud

— Carlos D. Mesa Gisbert (@carlosdmesag) October 21, 2019

The following day, after much outrage from the opposition, the Organization of American States (OAS) released a statement. While the statement did say that the elections took place in a “peaceful and orderly manner,” the OAS expressed “its deep concern and surprise at the drastic and hard-to-explain change in the trend of the preliminary results revealed after the closing of the polls.”

The statement failed to include any actual evidence or data.

Prior to that statement, Senator Marco Rubio tweeted the following false information:

In #Bolivia all credible indications are Evo Morales failed to secure necessary margin to avoid second round in Presidential election. However some concern he will tamper with the results or process to avoid this. Both @OAS_official & @EU_Commission have observers in the country.

— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) October 21, 2019

The main criticism of the OAS is the significant increase in votes for Morales that came in near the end of the count. While this can sometimes be a red flag, simply looking at the voting records shows that it is a result of the geography of Bolivia. Morales has more support in poor and rural areas, areas whose votes often come in later.

The Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) said in a statement on Friday:

Statistical analysis of election returns and tally sheets from Bolivia’s October 20 elections shows no evidence that irregularities or fraud affected the official result that gave President Evo Morales a first-round victory.”

It should be noted that the OAS was created by a U.S. official and anti-communist leaders from South America in 1948 with the sole purpose of disputing democratic elections in which a communist or socialist candidate wins. In effect, the OAS is an agent of regime change, often driven by US imperialism.

In 2000, the OAS flip-flopped on Haiti’s national election, first declaring it “a great success” before changing their position, paving the way for Washington’s regime change efforts of 2000-04 that resulted in the murder of thousands of people. The OAS then interfered in Haiti’s 2010 election by literally reversing the results.

Secretary General of the OAS, Luis Almagro, recognized the U.S.-backed opposition leader and self declared “interim president” of Venezuela in January, just prior to the failed coup attempt.
 

3. Carlos Mesa has a cozy relationship with the U.S.

Morales’ main opponent, Carlos Mesa, served as president of Bolivia from 2003-2005. U.S. hostilities against Bolivia have increased steadily since Mesa left office and he is Washington’s preferred candidate.

Government cables released by WikiLeaks reveal communications between Mesa and U.S. officials.

US government cables released by WikiLeaks show that Bolivia's opposition presidential candidate Carlos Mesa, who lost to Evo Morales in the election, was regularly in correspondence with US officials

For years the US was using him to try to undermine Evohttps://t.co/V2swoJy6e8 pic.twitter.com/YvQAflvQfb

— Ben Norton (@BenjaminNorton) November 10, 2019


 

4. 50-70% of the world’s lithium supply is found in Bolivia

Some have called Bolivia the “Saudi Arabia of lithium.” The global demand for the alkali metal has steadily increased as technology such as cell phones, laptops, and hybrid cars have become woven into the fabric of our everyday lives. And the demand for it isn’t expected to slow anytime soon.

Bolivia has invested significantly in lithium mining in the country with Morales having once said:

With the exploitation of lithium in a 400 sq km area, we’ll have enough to maintain ourselves for a century.”

But those same salt flats are also a major nature reserve that includes flamingos, cacti, geysers, and hot springs. Thousands of tourists visit the area each year to enjoy the hot springs.

Foreign companies have repeatedly expressed interest in Bolivia’s mining operations, but Morales has been understandably wary of foreign intervention. Bolivia has been left one of the poorest countries in Latin America despite possessing large reserves of oil and gas as well as the world’s largest silver mine.

As the world attempts to transition to greener fuels, it should come as no surprise that eyes are on Bolivia and its massive lithium supply.
 

5. Evo Morales opposes U.S. imperialism in Latin America

p data-selectable-paragraph=””>And most importantly, Evo Morales has been in direct opposition of U.S. imperialism throughout his entire presidency. In 2016, Morales opened an “anti-imperialist” military academy in direct opposition to U.S. policies and military involvement throughout Latin America, to counter the influence of the School of the Americas. Morales said:

If the empire teaches domination of the world from its military schools, we will learn from this school to free ourselves from imperial oppression.

We want to build anti-colonial and anti-capitalist thinking with this school that binds the armed forces to social movements and counteracts the influence of the School of the Americas that always saw the indigenous as internal enemies.”

At a United Nations Security Council meeting, he explained:

I would like to say to you, frankly and openly here, that in no way is the United States interested in upholding democracy. If such were the case it would not have financed coups d’etat and supported dictators. It would not have threatened with military intervention democratically elected governments as it has done with Venezuela. The United States could not care less about human rights or justice. If this were the case, it would have signed the international conventions and treaties that have protected human rights.It would not have threatened the investigation mechanism of the International Criminal Court, nor would it promote the use of torture, nor would it have walked away from the Human Rights Council. And nor would it have separated migrant children from their families, nor put them in cages.”

Morales went on to say, “Each time that the United States invades nations, launches missiles, or finances regime change, it does so behind a propaganda campaign which incessantly repeats the message that it is acting in the course of justice, freedom and democracy, in the cause of human rights or for humanitarian reasons.”

And in 2017, Morales declared that Bolivia had “total independence” from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank.

Estos organismos dictaron el destino económico de Bolivia y del mundo. Hoy podemos decir que tenemos total independencia de ellos.

— Evo Morales Ayma (@evoespueblo) July 22, 2017

Such a move automatically makes a country a potential target for regime change efforts.

Many leaders from around the world have described the situation in Bolivia as a military coup.

To see @evoespueblo who, along with a powerful movement, has brought so much social progress forced from office by the military is appalling.

I condemn this coup against the Bolivian people and stand with them for democracy, social justice and independence. #ElMundoConEvo

— Jeremy Corbyn (@jeremycorbyn) November 10, 2019

There's a word for the President of a country being pushed out by the military. It’s called a coup.

We must unequivocally oppose political violence in Bolivia. Bolivians deserve free and fair elections.

— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) November 11, 2019

En Bolivia se ha consumado un golpe de Estado producto del accionar conjunto de civiles violentos, el personal policial autoacuartelado y la pasividad del ejército. Es un golpe perpetrado contra el presidente @evoespueblo, que había convocado a un nuevo proceso electoral.

— Alberto Fernández (@alferdez) November 10, 2019

BREAKING: Mexico's foreign minister rejects the 'military operation' taking place in Bolivia

— The Spectator Index (@spectatorindex) November 10, 2019

La derecha con violento y cobarde golpe de estado atenta contra la democracia en #Bolivia. Nuestra enérgica condena al golpe de estado y nuestra solidaridad con el hermano Pdte @evoespueblo. El mundo se debe movilizar por la vida y la libertad de Evo. #EvoNoEstasSolo #SomosCuba pic.twitter.com/dPvZ8zQqJA

— Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez (@DiazCanelB) November 10, 2019

We categorically condemn the coup d'état against the brother president @evoespueblo. We, the social and political movements of the world, declare ourselves in mobilization to demand the preservation of the life of the Bolivian native […] https://t.co/KpD2x1HCCy

— Nicolás Maduro (@maduro_en) November 11, 2019

Acabo de saber que houve um golpe de estado na Bolívia e que o companheiro @evoespueblo foi obrigado a renunciar. É lamentável que a América Latina tenha uma elite econômica que não saiba conviver com a democracia e com a inclusão social dos mais pobres.

— Lula (@LulaOficial) November 10, 2019

Yesterday Noam Chomsky wrote a letter warning that there was about to be a US-backed coup against Morales in Bolivia. Today it appears to have happened. https://t.co/9DKKeybg6q

— Jason Hickel (@jasonhickel) November 10, 2019

If it looks like a coup and it smells like a coup… it’s probably a coup. So what can we do about it?

There are many ways to challenge the mainstream narrative and they’re all important. Be sure to share independent media articles like this one, read the news coming from both sides of the conflict and verify their sources, talk to your friends and family about what’s happening, and learn more about the history of U.S. imperialism in Latin America.

As news of the violent military coup spreads, supporters of Evo Morales, the people of Bolivia, and democracy are standing up to say #HandsOffBolivia. Attend an emergency protest planned in one of the following cities:

Washington DC | 11/11 at 12 PM – 1:30 PM

New York City | 11/11 at 4 PM

San Francisco | 11/11 at 5:30 PM – 6:30PM

Philadelphia | 11/11 at 4 PM – 6PM

Los Angeles | 11/11 at 4:30PM – 6:30PM

Baltimore | 11/11 at 5 PM – 6 PM

Miami | 11/11 at 4 PM – 6 PM

Albuquerque | 11/11 at 4 PM – 6 PM

London | 11/14 at 6:30 PM – 8 PMh

Las Vegas | 11/16 at 10 AM

Attending a protest and spreading the truth is one way to help resist the coup in Bolivia. If enough of us stand up to challenge the mainstream narrative, the damage can still be undone.

Feature photo | A broken portrait of former Bolivia’s President Evo Morales is on the floor of his private home in Cochabamba, Bolivia, after hooded opponents broke into the residence on, Nov. 10, 2019. Photo | AP

Source | TheMindUnleashed.com

The post 5 Fast Facts About the Military Coup in Bolivia and What You Can Do appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Daily Digest, Foreign Affairs, Insights, Bolivia, coup, Evo Morales, Protests, United States]

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[l] at 11/11/19 10:29am

SANA’A, YEMEN — As the war in Yemen nears the end of its fifth year, the situation in the country seems to be escalating. There are strong indications that Israel is planning to launch airstrikes against the country under the pretext of preventing an Iranian military presence from taking hold, a move that is likely to open the door for further escalation.

On Saturday, Ansar Allah, the political wing of Yemen’s Houthis, announced that Yemeni forces would not hesitate to “deal a stinging blow” to Israel in the case Tel Aviv decides to launch attacks in Yemen. The Houthis reaffirmed that their anti-Israel position is based on a principled, humanitarian, moral, and religious commitment. Historically, neither the Yemeni Army nor the Houthis themselves, have ever targeted Israel directly.

The threat from Israel is not without precedent. Israel has used claims of alleged Iranian military attachments in countries like Syria and Iraq as justification for airstrikes and bombings against those nations. Now, Israel appears to be using Iran’s alleged presence in Yemen, an allegation that both Tehran and the Houthis deny, as a pretext for military action in the country despite no evidence indicating that there any Iranian forces present there.

Ansar Allah leader Abdulmalik al-Houthi said in televised speech marking the anniversary of the Prophet Muhammad, “Our people will not hesitate to declare jihad (holy war) against the Israeli enemy, and to launch the most severe strikes against sensitive targets in the occupied territories if the enemy engages in any folly against our people.” The occasion marks the largest festival held by the Houthis during which they reveal their domestic and foreign policies for the coming year.

The Houthis also called on the Saudi regime to stop the war and siege on Yemen, warning that there would be risks and consequences for the Kingdom should they continue their attacks. Al-Houthi also confirmed that Yemenis will continue to develop their military capability, adding that, “Anyone who uses the war and siege to control us and subjugate us is seeking the impossible, and the consequence is failure.”

Al-Houthi also pointed to the ongoing mass protest movements in Lebanon and Iraq, advising nations in the Middle East to resolve their issues vigilantly. He asked those nations to exercise vigilance in the face of what he called Israeli plots to gain a political, military, and cultural foothold in their respective countries.

On Saturday, massive demonstrations took place across Yemen’s major cities to commemorate the Prophet Mohammed’s birth, an occasion known to Muslims as Maulud Nabi. While the occasion is a religious one, it is a public holiday in Yemen and is marked with the singing of the national anthem and the waving of green flags. Many protesters told MintPress News that any attack by Israeli would not cause the Yemeni people any more suffering than they have already endured, but would push them to join a “holy war” against Israel.

Yemen Houthi

Houthi supporters attend the Moulid al-Nabi celebrations in Sanaa, Yemen, Nov. 9, 2019. Hani Mohammed | AP

According to three government officials in Sana’a that spoke to MintPress on the condition of anonymity, the Houthi’s warnings are both serious and well-placed. Those officials said that the government in Sana’a has already confirmed information that Israel is preparing to launch airstrikes on both military sites and civil targets in Yemen, especially on the country’s west coast and along the Saudi-Yemen border in coordination with the Saudi-led Coalition. 

Ansar Allah’s announcement also comes in the wake of a number of recent statements made by a number of Israeli officials claiming that Yemen has become a threat to Israel . Speaking during a visit by U.S. Secretary of Treasury Steven Mnuchin and White House aid Jared Kushner, Netanyahu claimed that Iran has supplied missiles to the Houthis that could hit Israel. The Houthis regard these statements as a justification and prelude to strikes on the country, similar to those that Israel unilaterally carried out against sites in Syria and Iraq.

In August, Kuwaiti newspaper al-Jarida released a report saying that Israel is planning on striking sensitive positions on the Bab al-Mandab strait which links the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, to target “Houthis” in the area. The newspaper, which cited an anonymous informed source, said Israeli intelligence agency Mossad has been monitoring activities in the Yemeni strait.

Israel’s entry into the Yemen war could indeed open the door for further escalation, a prospect made more likely by both the increased strength of Ansar Allah forces and by Israel’s increasingly cozy relationship with the Gulf Arab countries of the coalition. The fact that Saudi Arabia and the UAE recently sought negotiations with Houthis after they were unable to win the war militarily , despite their superior firepower and funding, only increases the likelihood of Israel’s entry into Yemen.

In fact, Israel is alleged to have already participated in the war against Yemen on behalf of the Saudi-led coalition as a part of a series of covert interventions involving mercenary forces, the reported launching of dozens of airstrikes in the country and even the dropping of a neutron bomb on Nuqm Mountain in the middle the capital Sana’a in May of 2015.

 

Kicking the hornet’s nest

Like Saudi Arabia and the UAE, there is a problem with the Israeli assessment of the situation in Yemen, as the Houthis have never threatened to hit an Israeli target and Houthi attacks on Saudi-led Coalition countries have always been retaliatory, not preemptive. There are no vital targets to be bombed in Yemen as the Saudi-led coalition has already nearly destroyed nearly every potential target, including civilian infrastructure. Moreover, any attack by Israel against Yemen will gain the Houthis even more popular support both inside of Yemen and across the Islamic and Arab world.

Furthermore, there is no evidence that Iran has any military sites or experts in Yemen, and Yemen’s Army, loyal to Ansar Allah, are not the “Iran proxy fighters” that international media so often claims them to be. Indeed, the U.S. State Department even admitted in leaked cables that the Houthis were not an Iran proxy and that they received neither funding nor weapons from Iran.

There are a convergence of interests between the Houthis and Iran, including opposition to Israel’s internationally-recognized theft of Palestinian land,  but if Israel involves itself directly in the conflict in Yemen, it is likely that the Houthi alliance with Iran will grow and may actually spur Tehran into providing precise and sophisticated weapons to Ansar Allah, turning the fears of Israel into a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Meanwhile, many Israeli activists and media pundits are expressing concerns over what they consider serious threats from Yemen, pointing out that these threats “should not be underestimated by the Israelis.” The Israeli security parliament said that Israeli intelligence must strictly monitor Yemen and take necessary steps to secure Israeli ships sailing in the Bab Al-Mandab area, describing the statements made by Abdulmalik al-Houthi as serious.

 

A well-stocked arsenal

Indeed the threats of Ansar Allah, a group known to strike sensitive targets without hesitation, are not without precedent. On September 14, Ansar Allah hit two of Saudi Arabia’s oil facilities in Abqaiq and Khurais, an attack that led to a suspension of about 50 percent of the Arab Kingdom’s crude and gas production. 

Prior to that, they targeted vital facilities deep inside of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, including the Barakah Nuclear Power Station in Abu Dhab i , the capital of the UAE, as well as the King Khalid International Airport near Riyadh, more than 800 km from Yemen’s northern border. Now, they have developed their arsenal of ballistic missiles and drones even further and experts say are likely capable of hitting vital targets inside of Israel. Yemen’s Army is ready to launch those missiles if Ansar Allah’s leader asks it to do, one high-ranking military officer told MintPress .

Yemen’s Army, loyal to the Houthis, is equipped with the Quds 1 winged missile which was used in an attack on the Barakah Nuclear Power Station in Abu Dhabi in December of 2017. This year, several generations of the Quds 1 were reworked to provide the “ability to hit its targets and to bypass enemy interceptor systems,” according to Ansar Allah.

Saudi Houthi attack

A cameraman films damage to a Saudi Aramco’s oil processing facility damaged during a Sept. 14 attack in Abqaiq in the Kingdom’s Eastern Province, Sept. 20, 2019. Amr Nabil | AP

The Borkan 3 (Volcano 3), whose predecessors were used by the Houthis to strike targets inside of Saudi Arabia and the UAE,  is capable of traveling even further than the Borkan 1 and 2. The Borkan is a modified Scud missile and was used in a strike on the King Khalid International Airport near Riyadh, more than 800 km from Yemen’s northern border. The missile was able to evade U.S. Patriot missile air-defense systems.

Yemen’s Army also posses the Samad 3 reconnaissance drone and the Qasef 2K drone. Both were used in strikes against the Abu Dhabi and Dubai airports. The Samad 3 has an estimated range of 1,500 to 1,700 km. Moreover, the Yemen Army recently unveiled a new drone with a range exceeding 1,700 km and equipped with advanced technology that would render it difficult for air defense systems to detect.  

One Ansar Allah military source told MintPress that mines would also be deployed against Israeli battleships and watercraft in the Red Sea if Israel decides to launch attacks against Yemen. Indeed, Yemen’s military recently revealed its domestically-manufactured marine mines dubbed the “Mersad,” and is reportedly “actively developing its naval forces and naval anti-ship missiles.”

Despite the well-established precedent, many still doubt that the Houthis are capable of carrying out attacks on the scale and range of the attack that struck an Aramco facility in Saudi Arabia earlier this year — instead, accusing Iran of orchestrating the attacks. Yet repeatedly underestimating the Houthis was one of the major mistakes made by the Saudi-led coalition, who has failed to defeat the group after nearly five years of fierce battles against them, despite being equipped with the latest U.S.-supplied weaponry — everything from M1A2 Abrams tanks and M2 Bradley fighting vehicles to AH-64D Apache helicopters, as well as having an air force equipped with a high-tech arsenal.

However, it would be difficult for the Yemeni Army to prevent aerial attacks by Israel. Yemeni airspace has been open to the coalition and to American drones since the war broke out in 2015. Any attack by the Yemen army would likely come in retaliation to an Israeli attack and would hit Israeli military bases in Eritrea, Israeli ships in the Red Sea as well as hit vital targets deep inside of Israel, according to Yemeni military sources.

 

An already dire situation

The war, which began in March 2015, has led to the world’s worst humanitarian crisis resulting from the bombing and a blockade which has led to mass starvation and history’s largest cholera outbreak, among other dire consequences.

The coalition, backed by the United States, has killed tens of thousands of Yemeni civilians since the war began. Moreover, the coalition’s blockade of food and medicine has plagued the country with an unprecedented famine and has triggered a deadly outbreak of preventable diseases that have cost thousands of people their lives.

Last week, the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project revealed that Yemen’s death toll rose to a shocking 100,000 since 2015. The database shows approximately 20,000 people have been killed this year, already making 2019 the second-deadliest year on record after 2018, with 30,800 dead. Those numbers do not include those who have died in the humanitarian disasters caused by the war, particularly starvation.

Given the nature of  Israel’s recent wars against Gaza and Lebanon, it is unlikely that Israel would feel constrained by any moral dilemma should they chose to launch airstrikes against civilians in Yemen.

Feature Photo | A Houthi fighter holds a weapon during a gathering aimed at mobilizing more fighters for the Houthi movement, in Sana’a, Yemen, Aug. 1, 2019. Hani Mohammed | AP

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

The post The Houthis Are Preparing for a Planned Israeli Attack on Yemen appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Foreign Affairs, Top Story, Yemen Coverage, Ansar Allah, Houthis, Iran, Israel, Yemen]

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[l] at 11/7/19 9:05am

Most of us are now aware that we constantly receive micro-targeted advertisements in our social media feeds based on our interests, location or habits. Those in the vegan community are no exception. However, an increasing number of promoted posts targeted at vegans on apps like Facebook or Twitter are clearly Israeli Defense Force (IDF) propaganda. Most of these are videos discussing, in English, how accommodating to the plant-based lifestyle the IDF is and how easy it is to be a vegan soldier.

Israel, its government tells us, is a vegan paradise of tolerance and open-mindedness, where its soldiers can serve their country according to their ethical principles, eating vegan food and wearing clothes free from leather, wool, or other animal products. There are now around 10,000 vegan soldiers in the IDF, and that figure is quickly rising. Meanwhile, Tel Aviv markets itself to foreigners as the “vegan capital of the world”.

The perfect place to be vegan doesn’t exi- pic.twitter.com/TxPRExAz4M

— Israel Defense Forces (@IDF) November 1, 2019


But while Israeli society is open to many progressive ideas like veganism and LGBT acceptance, that tolerance does not extend to the Palestinian population inside the country, nor to the 5.5 million refugee descendants of those it forced from the land in 1948. In fact, the United Nations describes Israel as imposing an “ apartheid regime ” on those Palestinians still living inside its border, who are forced to use inferior roads, schools, deprived of their homes and denied all manner of basic civil and human rights. So while the IDF’s uniforms may be cruelty-free, the injustice they perpetuate certainly is not. Incidentally, the Israeli population is overwhelmingly supportive of such measures, and around 50% advocate for the immediate and complete ethnic cleansing of the remaining Palestinian population, according to a 2016 poll conducted by the Pew Research Center.

Apartheid Isn’t Vegan

There is a fundamental contradiction between veganism and apartheid. Veganism at its core is an ideology of radical compassion for and non-violence towards all sentient beings. As vegan website Live Kindly explains , it means “to live in a way which shows appreciation to our humanity, our home and those who share it with us.” It should go without saying that this is completely incompatible with successive Israeli governments going back to 1948 and Israel’s commitment to being a Jewish supremacist state. Thus, in Israel, a country that cares about animals more than its indigenous human population, you can be vegan, but you can’t support Palestinian rights.

Nevertheless, Israel continues to use the fact that thousands of its soldiers abscond from animal products as proof that it is a forward-thinking, progressive nation. Mainstream and corporate media have, unsurprisingly, parroted this assertion. The BBC , for instance, tells the story of an IDF soldier, Daniella Yoeli, so moral that “had the army not been able to provide conditions that had harmed no living creatures, she might not have enlisted in a combat unit where she would not have been able to provide her own food.” Unexplored in the article was whether or not Palestinian humans qualified as human beings to her.

More alarming, however, is how many vegetarian and vegan outlets have swallowed the bait as well. Veg News reports how Israeli soldiers march to war in leather-free boots and have plentiful plant-based ration options . Live Kindly noted how the IDF’s deputy chief of staff is a vegetarian and how it recently appointed its first vegan officer . Meanwhile, PETA went so far as to advise the Swiss Army to “take a leaf out of the Israel Defense Forces’ book”. But especially troubling is that none of the articles even mentioned any criticism of the IDF, the government, or their actions, effectively amplifying Israeli propaganda worldwide.

Israel Vegans

Both mainstream and vegan websites have given uncritical coverage to the IDF

With a host of celebrity advocates, including Tobey Maguire, Emily Deschanel and Zac Efron, veganism is growing exponentially across the West . Noting that a quarter of 25-34 year old Americans are vegetarian or stricter, The Economist labeled 2019 the “year of the vegan.” Yet uncritical regurgitation of IDF press releases subtly presents the Middle East region as liberal, forward-thinking Israelis vs. backward, close-minded Arab Muslims.

This framing is particularly misleading for a number of reasons. Firstly, much of the most commonly celebrated Israeli vegan food (falafel, hummus, baba ghanoush, stuffed vine leaves) is simply the appropriated cuisine of the local peoples Israel displaced during its creation. Secondly, the great irony is that the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development statistics show that Israelis actually consume the most poultry per capita in the world, with 80% of the population eating it every day . As a whole, Israelis eat over 200 pounds of meat every year, more than even the famously carnivorous Americans.

OECD Chart: Meat consumption, Poultry meat, Kilograms/capita, Annual, 2018

Furthermore, as the Palestinian Animal League notes , while 3% of Israeli Jews are vegan, the number of their Palestinian Israeli counterparts is twice as high. Therefore, the narrative begins to disintegrate upon even modest inspection.

 

From Vegan Washing to Pink Washing

 In a similar fashion, Israel presents itself as a haven of acceptance for the LGBT community in a region of intolerance. After winning the event in 2018, the country received the right to host the Eurovision Song Contest, a continent-wide celebration of flamboyantly gay music and culture (despite not being a European nation).  

The Israeli government saw the country’s victory as a huge diplomatic triumph , with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declaring winning performer Netta Barzilai as its “ best ambassador .” Barzilai flew back home to perform at a government-sponsored victory celebration. The same day the IDF slaughtered at least 58 Palestinians . There was a considerable amount of pushback to the idea of Israel hosting the competition this year, with some acts refusing to perform. Nevertheless, the show went ahead as planned in Tel Aviv, another coup for the government.

While Israel is indeed a land that is both comparatively tolerant of LGBT people and accommodating to vegans, the general progressiveness that implies does not extend to the realm of politics, where the country continues to lurch ever more rightward to the point where even its former Prime Minister, Ehud Barak, has warned that the country is “infected” with fascism and the government must be stopped . Thus, in the Jewish-only state, female bulldozer drivers can destroy Palestinian villages, vegan tank commanders can run over wheelchair-bound children, and transgender pilots can bomb wedding receptions. The trick the IDF is trying to play is to get as much of the world to concentrate on its (limited) liberal inclusivity and ignore its near-genocidal military policy. And it appears to be working.

Feature photo | An Israeli soldier kisses a watermelon before eating it near a Jewish settlement outside the Gaza Strip, May 22, 2008. Dan Balilty | AP

Alan MacLeod is a MintPress contributor as well as an academic and writer for Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting. His book, Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting was published in April.

The post Vegan Washing: How Israel Uses Veganism to Gloss Over Palestinian Oppression appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Foreign Affairs, Top Story, Israel, Israeli Defense Force, Palestanians, Pink Washing, Vegan]

[*] [-] [-] [x] [A+] [a-]  
[l] at 11/7/19 8:03am

The cat is out of the bag. The UK is potentially complicit in a war crime. With typical insouciance the U.S. military dropped this bombshell by tweet and apparently without realizing the implications for U.S. partners:

We are repositioning @CJTFOIR forces to Deir ez Zor #Syria to continue partnering w/ #SDF to defeat ISIS remnants, protect critical infrastructure, & deny ISIS access to revenue sources. Mechanized forces provide infantry, maneuver, and firepower.

— OIR Spokesman Col. Myles B. Caggins III (@OIRSpox) October 31, 2019

OIR is Operation Inherent Resolve, which is the name behind which the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS cloaks its military activities. (Think NATO wearing a thobe.) CJTFOIR is the Combined Joint Task Force for Operation Inherent Resolve. 

If, as per the spokesman’s statement, the forces being redeployed to Syria’s oil-producing areas are Inherent Resolve forces, it follows that those troops are doing so in the name and under the aegis of the Coalition. Simple. Ah yes, but awkward for the British government to admit – awkward for practical, political and legal reasons. 

In practice, if this is a Joint Task Force Operation as we are told by the U.S. spokesman, it would be next to impossible for the deployment in Deir Ez Zor province to be taking place without some input from the senior UK officers embedded with the U.S. military in the Coalition Joint Task Force headquarters (the Deputy Commander is a British general) and active in carrying out Operation Inherent Resolve. 

Politically this matters because hitherto all the opprobrium leveled at President Trump for allegedly ‘looting’ Syria’s oil has spared other participants in Inherent Resolve, including the UK, France, and Germany. How awkward it might be for Boris Johnson, facing an election, to find himself tarred with yet another Trump brush to put alongside Trump’s alleged grab for the UK National Health Service. 

Legally this matters because if Trump puts into practice his promise to seize Syrian oil production, that will constitute, according to authoritative legal experts, a violation of international law against ‘pillaging’ enshrined in the Fourth Geneva Convention and thus constitute a war crime. Any party complicit in pillaging, and that would surely include other parties in the Joint Task Force, even if only headquarters staff and not boots on the ground, could also be culpable. The British government might find itself challenged in a UK court even if no international court could be found willing to act. 

 

A nightmare for British government lawyers

This is the stuff of nightmares for British government lawyers. 

Parliament is already alerted. The independent peer Baroness Cox prompted the following exchange with a government minister by putting down a tricky parliamentary question. 

UK Parliament Syria inquiry

We can take that as an embarrassed ‘yes’. 

Lord Ahmed, an FCO Minister, gave a similarly evasive answer to another question a sked by  Baroness Cox:

UK Parliament Syria inquiry 2

You can picture Lord Ahmed squirming. 

It gets worse. 

The British government may soon find itself complicit in harboring and funding terrorists because of Inherent Resolve’s involvement in pillaging Syria’s oil. 

The U.S. says it will work with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to ‘safeguard vital infrastructure’ and will route proceeds of oil sales to the SDF to pay for its role, described as being anti-ISIS. What this overlooks is that the oilfields are not in Kurdish areas, which are mainly in the north, near the Turkish border, but in southern Deir Ez Zor province, which is dominated by Sunni Arabs who formed a core constituency for ISIS. This area is not far from Raqqa. The nominally SDF forces in the area, with which the U.S. will have to work, are mainly Arab and notoriously marbled with ISIS fighters. This part of the SDF has been described as ‘SDF by day, ISIS by night’. Not that they will not make excellent guards. These fighters, far from attacking the U.S., will likely be delighted to find the U.S. not only creating a safe haven for them but funding them as well. 

Aiding terrorism, committing war crimes: a prospect to make any UK politician gulp. No wonder the parliamentary answers were evasive, even more so than usual with the grand yet nebulous ‘Global Coalition’. (In answer to another awkward question asking how many ISIS the Coalition had killed or detained in Syria in the last two years the FCO claimed implausibly that the government ‘does not hold this information’, no doubt to avoid having to acknowledge that the number is tiny and that the main purpose of the Coalition is to deny territory to Assad.) 

With the UK Parliament already on alert, how long will it be before Congress wakes up to this scandal-in-the-making?

Feature photo | American military convoy stops near the town of Tel Tamr, north Syria, Oct. 20, 2019. Baderkhan Ahmad | AP

Peter Ford is a former British Ambassador to Syria and Bahrain, he also served as a UN expert on refugees.

The post Former British Ambassador to Syria: UK Complicit in Trump’s Syria Oil Grab appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Daily Digest, Foreign Affairs, Insights, Oil, Operation Inherent Resolve, Peter Ford, Syria, United Kingdom, United States]

[*] [+] [-] [x] [A+] [a-]  
[l] at 11/7/19 8:03am

The cat is out of the bag. The UK is potentially complicit in a war crime. With typical insouciance the U.S. military dropped this bombshell by tweet and apparently without realizing the implications for U.S. partners:

We are repositioning @CJTFOIR forces to Deir ez Zor #Syria to continue partnering w/ #SDF to defeat ISIS remnants, protect critical infrastructure, & deny ISIS access to revenue sources. Mechanized forces provide infantry, maneuver, and firepower.

— OIR Spokesman Col. Myles B. Caggins III (@OIRSpox) October 31, 2019

OIR is Operation Inherent Resolve, which is the name behind which the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS cloaks its military activities. (Think NATO wearing a thobe.) CJTFOIR is the Combined Joint Task Force for Operation Inherent Resolve. 

If, as per the spokesman’s statement, the forces being redeployed to Syria’s oil-producing areas are Inherent Resolve forces, it follows that those troops are doing so in the name and under the aegis of the Coalition. Simple. Ah yes, but awkward for the British government to admit – awkward for practical, political and legal reasons. 

In practice, if this is a Joint Task Force Operation as we are told by the U.S. spokesman, it would be next to impossible for the deployment in Deir Ez Zor province to be taking place without some input from the senior UK officers embedded with the U.S. military in the Coalition Joint Task Force headquarters (the Deputy Commander is a British general) and active in carrying out Operation Inherent Resolve. 

Politically this matters because hitherto all the opprobrium leveled at President Trump for allegedly ‘looting’ Syria’s oil has spared other participants in Inherent Resolve, including the UK, France, and Germany. How awkward it might be for Boris Johnson, facing an election, to find himself tarred with yet another Trump brush to put alongside Trump’s alleged grab for the UK National Health Service. 

Legally this matters because if Trump puts into practice his promise to seize Syrian oil production, that will constitute, according to authoritative legal experts, a violation of international law against ‘pillaging’ enshrined in the Fourth Geneva Convention and thus constitute a war crime. Any party complicit in pillaging, and that would surely include other parties in the Joint Task Force, even if only headquarters staff and not boots on the ground, could also be culpable. The British government might find itself challenged in a UK court even if no international court could be found willing to act. 

 

A nightmare for British government lawyers

This is the stuff of nightmares for British government lawyers. 

Parliament is already alerted. The independent peer Baroness Cox prompted the following exchange with a government minister by putting down a tricky parliamentary question. 

UK Parliament Syria inquiry

We can take that as an embarrassed ‘yes’. 

Lord Ahmed, an FCO Minister, gave a similarly evasive answer to another question a sked by  Baroness Cox:

UK Parliament Syria inquiry 2

You can picture Lord Ahmed squirming. 

It gets worse. 

The British government may soon find itself complicit in harboring and funding terrorists because of Inherent Resolve’s involvement in pillaging Syria’s oil. 

The U.S. says it will work with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to ‘safeguard vital infrastructure’ and will route proceeds of oil sales to the SDF to pay for its role, described as being anti-ISIS. What this overlooks is that the oilfields are not in Kurdish areas, which are mainly in the north, near the Turkish border, but in southern Deir Ez Zor province, which is dominated by Sunni Arabs who formed a core constituency for ISIS. This area is not far from Raqqa. The nominally SDF forces in the area, with which the U.S. will have to work, are mainly Arab and notoriously marbled with ISIS fighters. This part of the SDF has been described as ‘SDF by day, ISIS by night’. Not that they will not make excellent guards. These fighters, far from attacking the U.S., will likely be delighted to find the U.S. not only creating a safe haven for them but funding them as well. 

Aiding terrorism, committing war crimes: a prospect to make any UK politician gulp. No wonder the parliamentary answers were evasive, even more so than usual with the grand yet nebulous ‘Global Coalition’. (In answer to another awkward question asking how many ISIS the Coalition had killed or detained in Syria in the last two years the FCO claimed implausibly that the government ‘does not hold this information’, no doubt to avoid having to acknowledge that the number is tiny and that the main purpose of the Coalition is to deny territory to Assad.) 

With the UK Parliament already on alert, how long will it be before Congress wakes up to this scandal-in-the-making?

Feature photo | American military convoy stops near the town of Tel Tamr, north Syria, Oct. 20, 2019. Baderkhan Ahmad | AP

Peter Ford is a former British Ambassador to Syria and Bahrain, he also served as a UN expert on refugees.

The post Former British Ambassador to Syria: UK complicit in Trump’s Syria Oil Grab appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Daily Digest, Foreign Affairs, Insights, Oil, Operation Inherent Resolve, Peter Ford, Syria, United Kingdom, United States]

[*] [+] [-] [x] [A+] [a-]  
[l] at 11/6/19 10:58am

Speaking at a roundtable of reporters and editors at business network Bloomberg November 1, Speaker Nancy Pelosi had a strong message for Bernie Sanders and other Presidential nomination hopefuls who endorse Medicare for All: “What are you thinking?!” The 79-year-old Californian characterized the idea as virtual political suicide, claiming that it may poll well in liberal circles but will fall flat in battleground states crucial to securing a 2020 victory against the incumbent Donald Trump. “As a left-wing San Francisco liberal,” she warned, “what works in San Francisco does not necessarily work in Michigan,” adding that many Americans would be sorry to lose their private health insurance plans.

 
There are fair grounds to treat this advice with suspicion. Two late 2018 polls from Reuters and Harris found that at least 70% of Americans supported universal healthcare (including a majority of Republican voters). Thus, Medicare for All could become a huge vote winner, attracting both non-voters and many in Trump’s base. 

Gauging the lack of health coverage in the United States is not a simple task, but a recent Gallup poll suggests about one-seventh of the adult population has no health insurance whatsoever. Regardless, America spends around twice as much on health per capita as comparable countries, with inferior results . Medicare for All has been forced into public consciousness by the campaign of Bernie Sanders, although it has been embraced, with varying degrees of enthusiasm and authenticity by other candidates, including Tulsi Gabbard, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, and Andrew Yang. The plan would create a system not unlike those existing in most of the countries in Europe and the developed world. 

 

Wealth tax unnecessary says one of America’s richest people

During the interview, Pelosi also refused to endorse a wealth tax like that proposed by Sanders and Warren, instead, calling for a “bipartisan” solution to the issue. Given the Republicans’ record, this may essentially amount to calling for a tax cut. Pelosi may have her own reasons to oppose leftist policies like tax increases for the super-wealthy. She receives a yearly salary of over $223,000 for her position as Speaker of the House of Representatives, making her the third highest-paid elected official in the U.S., behind only the President and Vice-President. But this is dwarfed by the $120 million net worth of her and her business tycoon husband Paul, who owns enormous real estate ventures across California and large stakes in Facebook, Apple, Comcast, and Disney. Paul Pelosi is also a regular attendee of the shadowy, elitist Bohemian Grove Club, the subject of many lurid conspiracy theories.

Despite this, she continues to present herself as a left-winger concerned that certain Democrats are being too radical by proposing a system like Medicare for All. “Protect the Affordable Care Act — I think that’s the path to health care for all Americans. Medicare For All has its complications,” she said , claiming, “the Affordable Care Act is a better benefit than Medicare.” This, “I’m a liberal but” is a common trope in bad-mouthing left-wing proposals, with Pelosi expertly combining it with the “this is how Trump will win” tactic as well, where conservatives offer leftists supposedly good-faith advice on how to prevent another Trump victory. A tactic that always seems to include embracing conservative politics. Fox News particularly likes the “I’m a liberal but” trope when it comes to healthcare, allowing self-styled liberals to warn readers that Medicare for All is “ not the answer ” but a “ pie-in-the-sky idea ” and claim that it would “put the government in charge of making decisions about your health” and your body. 

Likewise, the conservative Washington Examiner warns the “left-wing elites” that their lurch towards socialism is alienating the vast majority of Americans. They must, therefore, do the only “pragmatic” thing to beat Trump and choose Joe Biden. This tactic is so ubiquitous that even Donald Trump Jr. offered supposedly good-faith advice to those trying to beat his father. Writing in The Hill , he advised that the “radical left” “extremists” must not be allowed to undermine the “moderates” like Pelosi. Otherwise, he would be extending his stay in the White House.

While Pelosi’s attitude towards Medicare for All does not reflect that of the party’s membership or base ( 90% of those who offered a response in 2018 supported it), Bloomberg does accurately note (emphasis added) “The speaker’s concerns reflect those of many Democratic leaders and donors .” And that is precisely the issue. There is very much a battle raging for the soul of the Democratic Party, with a host of outsiders and new challengers taking on the entrenched elite, represented by the likes of Pelosi. She has been embroiled in a very public battle with members of “the Squad”, including Ilhan Omar and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC), who represent a more left faction in the party. The feud took a back seat only after Donald Trump began personally attacking Omar in front of cheering crowds chanting “send her back.”

 

A battle for the Democratic Party’s soul

Yet the battle between the establishment Democrats and the new challengers may be a longer and more bitter struggle, involving a decision over what the future of the party will look like. Will they continue to accept corporate donations? Will Medicare for All be considered a political litmus test for office? For many in the movements that propelled the Squad into office, the 17-term Pelosi represents the corrupt old wing of the Democrats who did so much to prevent Sanders from achieving the nomination in 2016. And now, in 2019, it continues to undermine his bid at every turn.

Pelosi is being primaried in her congressional district by 45-year-old civil rights lawyer and self-described Democratic Socialist Shahid Buttar, who is putting progressive legislation like Medicare for All and the Green New deal at the forefront of his campaign. Buttar’s attempt to unseat Pelosi was sparked by his disgust at her support for Trump’s ICE crackdown on immigrants and an increase in funding for border patrol agents. Over the strong objections of the party’s new left wing, the Democrats essentially rubber stamped Trump’s plans.

Yet corporate media are not presenting the situation as a battle between left and right wings of the party, but as a battle between the left and the default position, assigning an ideology to AOC, Omar and Sanders, but not to Pelosi, as if she was above bias and driven only by logic and reason, consistently referring to her beliefs and positions as “ pragmatic .” And while Pelosi continues to pour cold water on universal healthcare, media continue to attack the idea with a relentless torrent of negative articles. The New York Times tells us “don’t get too excited for Medicare for All.” The Wall Street Journal described it as a “false promise.” The Hill warned it would be “wildly expensive,” while the Washington Examiner claims it would be “cruel and dysfunctional.” Other outlets have described it as “ politically impractical ”, a “ populist bromide ”, a “ preposterous proposal ”, a “ trap for businesses and employees ”, “ fool’s gold ” and a “ singularly bad idea ”. USA Today summed up the message: Medicare for All is “all wrong for America.”

Ultimately, Pelosi’s objections to progressive legislation, like a wealth tax or Medicare for All, are based less on the pragmatic concerns about losing votes (quite the opposite appears to be true) and have more to do with her position as one of America’s richest people, and the fact that she has pocketed millions from healthcare and pharmaceutical corporations in the form of contributions. If Medicare for All really is as popular as it seems, and if the left can continue to gain support, she may not be in power much longer; her primary is on March 3. 

Feature photo | House Speaker Nancy Pelosi gestures while speaking during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Oct. 31, 2019. Pablo Martinez Monsivais | AP

Alan MacLeod is a MintPress contributor as well as an academic and writer for Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting. His book, Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting was published in April.

The post Multi-Millionaire Nancy Pelosi warns “Fellow Leftists”: Medicare for All is a Very Bad Idea appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Daily Digest, National, News, Affordable Care Act, Bernie Sanders, Medicare for All, nancy pelosi, Wealth Tax]

[*] [+] [-] [x] [A+] [a-]  
[l] at 11/6/19 10:10am

The act of Palestinian activists covering their faces during anti-Israeli occupation rallies is an old practice that spans decades. The masking of the face, often by Kufyias – traditional Palestinian scarves that grew to symbolize Palestinian resistance – is far from being a fashion statement. Instead, it is a survival technique, without it, activists are likely to be arrested in subsequent nightly raids; at times, even assassinated.

In the past, Israel used basic technologies to identify Palestinians who take part in protests and mobilize the people in various popular activities. TV news footage or newspaper photos were thoroughly deciphered, often with the help of Israel’s collaborators in the Occupied Territories, and the ‘culprits’ would be identified, summoned to meet Shin Bet intelligence officers or arrested from their homes. 

That old technique was eventually replaced by more advanced technology, countless images transmitted directly through Israeli drones – the flagship of Israel’s “security industry”. Thousands of Palestinians were detained and hundreds were assassinated in recent years as a result of drones data, analyzed through Israel’s burgeoning facial recognition software. 

If in the past Palestinian activists were keen on keeping their identity hidden, they now have much more compelling reasons to ensure the complete secrecy of their work. Considering the information sharing between the Israeli army and illegal Jewish settlers and their armed militias in the occupied West Bank, Palestinians face the double threat of being targeted by armed settlers as well as by Israeli soldiers.  

True, when it comes to Israel, such a grim reality is hardly surprising. But what is truly disturbing is the direct involvement of international corporate giants, the likes of Microsoft, in facilitating the work of the Israeli military, whose sole aim is to crush any form of dissent among Palestinians. 

Microsoft prides itself on being a leader in corporate social responsibility (CSR), emphasizing that “privacy (is) a fundamental human right.”

The Washington-State based software giant dedicates much attention, at least on paper, to the subject of human rights. “Microsoft is committed to respecting human rights,” Microsoft Global Human Rights Statement asserts . “We do this by harnessing the beneficial power of technology to help realize and sustain human rights everywhere.”

In practice, however, Microsoft’s words are hardly in line with its action, at least not when its human rights maxims are applied to occupied and besieged Palestinians. 

Writing in the American news network NBC News on October 27, Olivia Solon reported on Microsoft funding of the Israeli firm, AnyVision, which uses facial recognition “to secretly watch West Bank Palestinians”. 

Through its venture capital arm M12, Microsoft has reportedly invested $78 million in the Israeli startup company that “uses facial recognition to surveil Palestinians throughout the West Bank, in spite of the tech giant’s public pledge to avoid using the technology if it encroaches on democratic freedoms”.

AnyVision had developed an “advanced tactical surveillance” software system, dubbed “Better Tomorrow” that, according to a joint NBC News-Haaretz investigation, “lets customers identify individuals and objects in any live camera feed, such as a security camera or smartphone, and then track targets as they move between different feeds.” 

As disquieting as “Better Tomorrow’s” mission sounds, it takes on a truly sinister objective in Palestine. “According to five sources familiar with the matter,” wrote Solon, “AnyVision’s technology powers a secret military surveillance project throughout the West Bank.”

“One source said the project is nicknamed ‘Google Ayosh,’ where ‘Ayosh’ means occupied Palestinian territories and ‘Google’ denotes the technology’s ability to search for people.”

Headquartered in Israel, AnyVision has several offices around the world, including the US, the UK and Singapore. Considering the nature of AnyVision’s work, and the intrinsic link between Israel’s technology sector and the country’s military, it should have been assumed that the company’s software is likely used to track down Palestinian dissidents. 

In July, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz pointed out that “AnyVision is taking part in two special projects in assisting the Israeli army in the West Bank. One involves a system that it has installed at army checkpoints that thousands of Palestinians pass through each day on their way to work from the West Bank.” 

Former AnyVision employees spoke to NBC News about their experiences with the company, one even asserting that he/she “saw no evidence that ethical considerations drove any business decisions” at the firm.  

The alarming reports invited strong protests by human rights organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).  

Alas, Microsoft carried on with supporting AnyVision’s work unhindered. 

This is not the first time that Microsoft is caught red-handed in its support of the Israeli military or criticized for other unethical practices. 

Unlike Facebook, Google and others, who are constantly, albeit deservingly being chastised for violating privacy rules or allowing politics to influence their editorial agenda, Microsoft has been left largely outside the brewing controversies. But, like the rest, Microsoft should be held to account. 

In its ‘Human Rights Statement’, Microsoft declared its respect for human rights based on international conventions, starting with the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. 

In occupying and oppressing Palestinians, Israel violates every article of that declaration, starting with Article 1, which states that “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights,” and including Article 3: “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.”

It will take Microsoft more than hyperlinking to a UN document to show true and sincere respect for human rights. 

Indeed, for a company that enjoys great popularity throughout the Middle East and in Palestine itself, an inevitable first step towards respecting human rights is to immediately divest from AnyVision, coupled with an apology for all of those who have already paid the price for that ominous Israeli technology. 

Feature photo | A Palestinian man uses a biometric gate at the Qalandia checkpoint in Jerusalem on July 11, 2019. Sebastian Scheiner | AP

Dr. Ramzy Baroud is a journalist, author and editor of The Palestine Chronicle. His last book is The Last Earth: A Palestinian Story (Pluto Press, London) and his forthcoming book is These Chains Will Be Broken: Palestinian Stories of Struggle and Defiance in Israeli Prisons (Clarity Press, Atlanta). Baroud is a Non-resident Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA), Istanbul Zaim University (IZU). His website is www.ramzybaroud.net.

The post Microsoft Should Stop Funding Israeli Spying on Palestinians appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Daily Digest, Foreign Affairs, Insights, AnyVision, Facial Recognition, Israel, M12, Microsoft, Palestinians]

[*] [+] [-] [x] [A+] [a-]  
[l] at 11/5/19 11:25am

Bernie Sanders has certainly ruffled many feathers during his presidential campaign run. The Vermont Senator is very much still an outsider in Democratic politics, but he has managed to build a huge groundswell of support around key ideas like Medicare for All, a Green New Deal, a federal jobs guarantee and free public colleges for America.

Sanders formally declared his candidacy in February 2019, raising a record $6 million in 24 hours from nearly a quarter-million donors. His supporters tend to come from backgrounds that do not traditionally involve themselves in politics; among the most common professions that donated to his campaign are teachers, nurses, drivers and servers. Starbucks, Amazon and Wal-Mart are the most common employers of his backers, and the average donation to his campaign is only around $27 .

This is in complete contrast to many other top candidates. Joe Biden, for instance, began his campaign with an event with 100 or so extremely wealthy donors in Manhattan claiming that billionaires like them were being unfairly “demonized” and promising “nothing would fundamentally change” under his presidency. “I am not Bernie Sanders”, he emphasized to the elite audience, “I need you very badly.”

 

Media Malpractice

Even in 2016, Sanders’ campaign was treated by the mainstream press as an unwelcome incursion into the cozy world of elite politics where Hillary Clinton was considered the rightful president-in-waiting. The Washington Post , for example, ran 16 anti-Bernie stories in a 16-hour stretch in March, while major cable networks, including CNN , MSNBC and Fox News cut away from Sanders’ speech discussing issues affecting ordinary Americans to show an empty Trump podium.

But the media’s generalized hostility towards the progressive wave threatening to sweep over the Democratic Party has reached new heights in 2019. An unusually frank example of this was when MSNBC analyst Mimi Roach declared Sanders “ made her skin crawl ”, claiming he is not a “pro-women candidate”. This despite the fact that Sanders draws the support of a higher proportion of women than any other Presidential hopeful.

 

 

Fact-Checking as a Weapon 

Media have also been more subtle in their attacks on Sanders. One method has been to attempt to fact-check him into oblivion, constantly challenging his every pronouncement. However, they have been unable to catch him out on much, often resulting in bizarre, self-contradicting nitpicking. The Washington Post insinuated that he was misrepresenting a booming economy claiming his comment that “millions of Americans are forced to work two or three jobs” was “misleading” because, despite agreeing that 8 million Americans do work multiple jobs, some were only “part time” – as if Sanders were claiming that millions of people have 120-hour workweeks – and that 8 million only amounts to 5% of the workforce. To be a remotely accurate factcheck, one has to believe that 8 million does not count as “millions,” and part-time jobs are not real jobs.

The Post also gave Bernie’s statement that six people (one of whom is its owner, Jeff Bezos) have as much wealth as the bottom half of the world’s population three Pinocchios, the classification just below the most blatant lie. Despite finding that it was completely true, it argued that most of the wealth of the world’s richest was tied up in stocks, which are likely to fluctuate. How this was meant to disprove Sanders’ statement was not explained.

It also attacked the idea that the Vermont Senator was supported by an army of mass donations from ordinary people. The title, headline, “Bernie Sanders Keeps Saying His Average Donation is $27, but His Own Numbers Contradict That,” calculated that the average donation was actually $27.89. What a contradiction! However, the majority of people do not read past the headline, meaning most of those who saw the well-shared article would have no idea how weak the charge was.

CNN has also tried to use fact-checking as a weapon against Sanders, excoriating him for making “the same false claim about health spending for ten years.” It used his quote that said that the U.S. spends twice as much on healthcare as any other country, noting that there were a handful of European states that spent (slightly) more than half of what the U.S. spends (it did not note that those states have vastly better health outcomes ). After an outcry on social media, CNN amended the story, conceding that it is indeed accurate to say that the U.S. spends over twice as much as other economically advanced countries, thus walking back their “factcheck” to a minor technicality.

Worse still, earlier this year CNN itself ran a news piece titled “US Spends Twice as Much on Healthcare as Its Peers,” which accurately described the U.S. as an “outlier,” spending vastly more than others due to the higher cost of drugs, more expensive treatment and exorbitant administration fees. Thus, in its attempts to go after Bernie, it accidentally undermined its own reporting.

 

Visual Tricks 

Meanwhile, the Democrat-aligned network MSNBC has developed a bad habit of forgetting how numbers work – when it comes to Sanders, that is. In July, its graphics team decided Sanders’ 49% support was lower than Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren’s 48%, placing him fourth in a list of Presidential hopefuls. This is far from an isolated incident: one week later it did almost exactly the same thing . It also reported that Sanders’ support had dropped 5 points when, in fact, it had risen the same amount. And when polls show Sanders to be in the lead, media has simply awarded extra support to others to overtake him, or switch Sanders’ numbers with another candidate, ensuring the same outcome on screen. CNN was only slightly less deceitful when it accurately showed Bernie leading Warren by 3 points, but their headline read that there was “no clear leader” and Sanders and Warren were “neck and neck.”

Viewers at home – u need a laugh track –
Don’t turn it off during commercials – cause pharma insurence /Wall Street companies they are shilling for are paying for them @Inc02 @CNN “No Clear Leader” Danger headline #bernieblackout @BernieSanders pic.twitter.com/IZpVaAUy2Z

— John Cusack (@johncusack) November 5, 2019

The media has also made a great deal of Sanders’ health problems, constantly emphasizing his age and fragility. It was in that context that CNN stands accused of fiddling with their color scale to present his face as a ludicrously dark shade of red-purple (suggesting serious ill-health) when he was discussing his surgery. This “Beetroot Bernie” shade jars with other images and videos from the event, including from the Associated Press .

This photo on the left is from the AP and ran in a @guardian piece. The image on the right is how @CNN color corrected Sanders. Notice a difference? h/t @QueenInYeIIow @greg06897 pic.twitter.com/lcbgA2GMR2

— Katie Halper (@kthalps) October 9, 2019

 

From Bernie Baiting to Bernie Blackout 

In recent weeks, corporate media seem to have moved from anger to denial, appearing to collectively decide Sanders does not exist. The Hill , for example, published the results of an Emerson College survey with the headline “Trump beats Warren, Biden in Iowa Matchups.” But, as many pointed out, the most important news from the poll (buried in the report) was that Sanders was leading Trump in that state. There was no mention of Bernie in a recent New York Times article on the frontrunners. Likewise, the coverage of his enormous New York rally, where he was formally endorsed by rising Democratic star Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other members of “The Squad” was sparse, to say the least .

The #BernieBlackout is in full effect. Not A WORD on any of the front pages of 4 major papers about #Bernie2020 or the #BernieSquad endorsement. @AOC's was the most sought-after endorsement of the primary. And yet…? If she'd endorsed Warren, different story. cc @krystalball pic.twitter.com/I5Teyhiyoz

— Vert DuFerk✌</div></dd>
<dt id=Media Backs Billionaire President as Chileans Protest Privatization

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[l] at 11/4/19 9:35am

 
Chile’s right-wing President Sebastian Piñera recently declared war. He wasn’t referring to a foreign government, but to his own people. He even ordered tanks and the military to the streets.

An estimated 20 protesters have been killed and over 500 injured.

Since October 14th, millions of Chileans have taken to the streets, rocking what is normally one of Latin America’s most stable countries.

Chileans are in an uproar over rising taxes on public transportation, growing income inequality, and a broken pension system.

Many are demanding Piñera’s resignation, even after he has tried to appease the protesters.

Chile has become ground zero for the neoliberal economic model where the powerful billionaire class gets tax breaks while the working class pays government debts.

On average, a Chilean worker earns around $9,000 per year.

Chile’s President Piñera is worth 2.4 billion dollars.

Piñera is taking lessons from Chile’s former US-backed dictator Augusto Pinochet to hold onto his authority.

The state is behaving like a security force for the country’s privatized industries.  Unarmed protesters are being met with brute military force. Soldiers and police are shooting at protests at point-blank range.

In addition to those killed or injured, over 5,000 have been detained.

Several detainees have formally reported being tortured by security forces.

American corporate media have described the protests as “riots” and “violent” .

And have referred to protesters as a “headache” for President Piñera, blaming the deaths and chaos on the people instead of security forces.

Security forces trained by the US and Israeli militaries for decades. Some rioting and looting has taken place, but most of the protests are nonviolent.

With millions gathering in Santiago and whole families marching together for a better future, why is the media only showing one side of the story?

Feature photo | A woman places her hands, covered in red paint to symbolize blood, on a Chilean flag to honor those who have died amid days of protests calling for better pay, pensions, schools, housing and medical care, among many other demands, during an anti-government music concert in Santiago, Chile, Oct. 27, 2019. Esteban Felix | AP

Mnar Muhawesh 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.

The post Media Backs Billionaire President as Chileans Protest Privatization appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Behind The Headline, Daily Digest, Foreign Affairs, Chile, Media, Privatization, Protests, Sebastian Pinera]

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[l] at 11/1/19 9:10am

Max Blumenthal, the editor of independent media outlet The Grayzone , was secretly arrested on October 25 in a “ SWAT-style ” morning raid on his Washington D.C. home. He was held in D.C. Central Detention Facility for two days incommunicado, without the ability to communicate to the outside world, having been refused a phone call. He claims to have been shackled by his hands and ankles for some time and kept in a series of cages and cells. Blumenthal was arrested on a five-month-old assault charge stemming from an incident that took place during the D.C. Venezuelan Embassy siege.

A Venezuelan opposition supporter, Naylet Pacheco, claims that Blumenthal kicked her in the stomach several times during a conflict between the embassy protectors and supporters of opposition leader Juan Guaído, who proclaimed himself President of Venezuela in January. At the time of the incident, The Grayzone was publishing a series of investigative reports and news updates that contradicted the Trump administration’s narrative, noting how much of the supposedly grassroots uprising, was, in fact, funded by Washington and exposing the corruption and violent tactics of opposition members. The warrant for the charge had initially been rejected. It was, however, revived later without Blumenthal’s knowledge.

“If the government had at least told me I had a warrant I could have voluntarily surrendered and appeared at my own arrangement. I have nothing to fear because I’m completely innocent of this bogus charge,” he said . “Instead, the federal government essentially enlisted the DC police to SWAT me, ensuring that I would be subjected to an early morning raid and then languish in prison for days without even the ability to call an attorney.” 

 

A War on Dissent

When asked for comment, political comedian and TV show host Lee Camp told MintPress News that this was the latest example of the government trying to silence dissenting opinion and controlling the media:

“This is the continued descent into a fascist state. When the US government is arresting journalists in dramatic fashion clearly because their reporting is threatening to the power elite, then what else can one call it?”

Corporate media largely applauded U.S.-backed regime change efforts in Venezuela, refusing to even call them a “coup” and instead preferring to frame them as a people’s “uprising,” taking the same line as the Trump administration that they claim to “resist.” Many of those same media outlets have also begun to partner with the government in a stated effort to fight fake news. The primary consequence of which has been to undermine and reduce the reach of alternative media, a vital counterweight to the corporate message. In response to a call to arms in the Washington Post , algorithm changes to Facebook, Google, YouTube, Bing, and others have led to independent news sites being de-ranked, disincentivized, and sometimes, deleted .

Despite his ordeal, Blumenthal has still been treated better than others who ran afoul of the U.S. government. Chelsea Manning is still held in prison, Edward Snowden is in exile, while Julian Assange, whose condition in solitary confinement is deteriorating , faces a highly uncertain future. On Assange, mainstream media largely applauded his April arrest, describing it as a “long overdue” ( Washington Post ) and “satisfying” ( Saturday Night Live ) detention of an “anti-American” ( National Review ) “narcissistic” ( Washington Post ) “Internet Troll” with an “outsized view of his own importance” (the Times ) leaving his “voluntary confinement” (the Daily Beast ) to finally “face justice” ( Daily Mail ) for his “indisputable crime” ( New York Times ). 

 

The Embassy Siege

The Trump administration refused to recognize the results of the January 2019 elections that awarded Nicolás Maduro another term in office. Instead, it announced its support for self-appointed President Juan Guaído as the rightful head of Venezuela. This, despite the fact that Guaído has never stood for the office and that over 80 percent of the country didn’t even know who he was. Following Guaído’s self-declaration of his presidency, the Trump administration demanded that all Venezuelan diplomats leave the United States, so those in Venezuela’s Washington D.C. embassy formally invited peace activists to enter and protect the integrity of the building.

Just as Guaído attempted to take the presidential palace in a coup attempt in April, supporters of the far-right anti-President tried to storm the Venezuelan embassy in D.C., an event closely covered by The Grayzone , and by MintPress News’ Alex Rubenstein , who was amongst those invited to protect the building. Rubenstein detailed how the attackers attempted siege and intimidation tactics to the embassy protectors out and enjoyed the tacit support of the local security services, who refused to protect the embassy’s territorial integrity, a serious diplomatic violation.

 

Radio silence from Corporate Media 

The dramatic story of a SWAT team bursting into a dissident journalist’s home, bundling him into a car and holding him incommunicado for days appears not to have interested either corporate media or professional press freedom groups like Reporters Without Borders or the Committee to Protect Journalists. When pushed for comment, the US Press Freedom Tracker excluded this case on a technicality, stating :

We are aware of Blumenthal's arrest and based on the information available it does not meet the threshold for categorization on our site because he was not in the course of reporting when it happened.

— U.S. Press Freedom Tracker (@uspresstracker) October 31, 2019

There has been exactly zero mainstream coverage or commentary of the government’s arrest of a prominent critic, meaning that for those relying on corporate media to inform and shape their worldview, the event did not happen. This is all the more remarkable considering Blumenthal is an award-winning, New York Times bestselling author, comes from a well-connected family of elite former White House insiders (his father was a senior aide to President Clinton), and boasts a huge following on social media.

The silence from the mainstream press contrasts the considerable attention that the event has received in alternative media and the outpouring of support from independent journalists. His colleagues at The Grayzone immediately came to his defense; Aaron Maté stated :

.@MaxBlumenthal was just arrested on a ridiculous charge stemming from delivering food to besieged activists in Venezuela's DC embassy *FIVE* months ago. Max has done incredible work exposing US-backed coup in Venezuela & this is a bid to intimidate him. https://t.co/1YdK3SyiTl

— Aaron Maté (@aaronjmate) October 28, 2019

Meanwhile, Anya Parmpil (another embassy protector) noted that she was assaulted in broad daylight by Guaído supporters and in front of the secret services, who did nothing to protect her.

Meanwhile right-wing Venezuelans grabbed my body, pulled my hair, & threw water on me when I tried to question their leader @carlosvecchio

Cops looked on as putschists attacked me in broad daylight. No one involved was ever charged w assault </div></dd>
<dt id=Five Years On, Saudi Attacks on Yemen’s Farmers Are Pushing the Whole Country into Famine

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[l] at 11/1/19 7:35am

HODEIDA, YEMEN — The country of Yemen, known in the medieval period as “Green Yemen,” is one of the most extensively terraced areas of the world. There, Yemeni farmers transformed rugged mountain slopes into terraces and built dams like the Great Marib, a structure whose history spans long enough that it was mentioned in the Quran. During the medieval period, Yemen had one of the widest ranges of agricultural crops in all of the Middle East. 

Farhan Mohammed is one of the richest farmers in Qama’el, a rural village in the region of Baqim in northwestern Yemen. He owns 50 hectares of land which he uses to cultivate corn, pomegranates, and apples. Now, Farhan is struggling to keep his farm afloat after Saudi airstrikes targeted his fields, burning his crops and rendering the soil so toxic that it’s no longer able to sustain life. Saudi Arabia’s now nearly five-year-old project in Yemen has decimated the incomes of Farhan and most other Yemeni farmers. Fuel is hard to come by thanks to a Saudi-led coalition blockade and the fuel that is available has become prohibitively expensive. Airstrikes targeting farm fields and orchards have rendered large swaths of Yemen’s arable land too toxic to use.

Almost immediately after March 2015, when the war began, the Saudi-led Coalition began targeting Yemen’s rural livelihood, bombing farms, food systems, markets, water treatment facilities, transportation infrastructure, and even agricultural extension offices. In urban areas, fishing boats and food processing and storage facilities were targeted. 

Before the war began, over 70 percent of Yemen’s population lived in villages dispersed in the mountains and small towns with irregular, and at times torrential, summer rainfall. These rural residents relied on agriculture and animal husbandry and grew fruits and vegetables to feed their own families and to sell to markets. Yet that way of life has all but disappeared since the Saudi attacks began, undermining rural livelihoods, disrupting local food production, and forcing rural residents to flee to the city.

Now, Yemen’s nationwide level of household food insecurity hovers at over 70 percent. 50 percent of rural households and 20 percent of urban households are now food insecure . Almost one-third of Yemenis do not have enough food to satisfy basic nutritional needs. Underweight and stunted children have become a regular sight, especially amongst the holdouts in rural areas. Families that have fled to cities are often forced to beg or to pick through the trash for food scraps.  

According to a recent report by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), poverty in Yemen has jumped from 47 percent of the population in 2014 to a projected 75 percent by the end of 2019 because of the war. The report warned, “If fighting continues through 2022, Yemen will rank the poorest country in the world, with 79 percent of the population living under the poverty line and 65 percent classified as extremely poor.” 

 

The intentional targeting of agriculture 

The targeting of the Yemeni agriculture sector and rural livelihoods is not merely accidental collateral damage incurred while targeting military sites. Data from the country’s Ministry of Agriculture shows that in the period between March 2015 and March 2019, the Saudi-led Coalition launched at least 10,000 airstrikes that struck farms, 800 that struck local food markets, and about 450 airstrikes that hit silos and other food storage facilities in the country.

A man looks at cows killed by a Saudi airstrike on a dairy farm in Bajil in Yemen's western province January 2, 2016. Abduljabbar Zeyad | Reuters

A man looks at cows killed in a Saudi airstrike on a dairy farm in Bajil, Yemen, January 2, 2016. Abduljabbar Zeyad | Reuters

According to the Ministry, crop-area cultivation declined an average of 40 percent and crop yields by 45 percent in rural areas. Many farmers in these areas reported that they could no longer produce yields at pre-war levels due to the extensive damage to infrastructure, the high cost of diesel fuel and other agricultural inputs, a collapse in markets and the destruction of roads and storage facilities.

According to a field survey carried out by the Ministry of Agriculture in the period between March 2015 and March 2018, Saudi attacks completely destroyed 270 agricultural buildings and facilities, 43 agricultural associations, 9,017 traditional irrigation canals, 54 agricultural markets, and 45 export centers.

High precision U.S. bombs dropped by Saudi-led coalition warplanes destroyed at least 1,834 irrigation pumps, 109 artesian and surface wells, 1,170 modern irrigation networks, 33 solar irrigation units, 12 diggers, 750 pieces of agricultural equipment, 940,400 farms, 7,531 agricultural reserves, 30 productive nurseries, 182 poultry farms, and 359,944 beehives. 

Yemen has no major rivers like the Euphrates in Iraq and Syria or the Nile River, which supplies water to farmers in a number of African countries. This leaves farmers reliant on irrigation canals that channel rain and floodwaters into weirs and bunds built by local communities that are vulnerable to Saudi attacks. Attacks that have already completely destroyed at least 45 water installations (dams, barriers, reservoirs) and partially destroyed at least 488, including the ancient Marib Dam.

Yemen’s fishing sector has not been spared either. By the end of May 2019, every fish off-loading port in Yemen had been targeted by Saudi attacks. At least 220 fishing boats have been destroyed, 222 fishermen have been killed and 40,000 fishermen lost their only source of income. According to Yemen’s Ministry of Fishing Wealth, this has affected the lives of more than two million people living in coastal cities and villages.

Data shows that Saudi Coalition forces have stopped at least 4,586 fishing boats from leaving port in the directorates of Midi, Hajjah, Dabab, Bab al-Mandab, and in the Mukha districts in the Taiz governorate. Thirty fishing industry companies have left the country and about fifty fish factories have closed, causing catastrophic damage to Yemen’s fishing industry. Even before the war, Yemen’s fishermen were amongst the poorest segments of society.

As the war nears its fifth year, the Saudi-led coalition has continued to target the livelihoods of Yemen’s food producers. The coalition has expanded its military offensive to include large areas of agricultural lands and valleys in the K16, Durahami, Al-Jah, A-Tahita, Al-Faza, Jabaliya, Al-Mughrous, Al-Khokha and Hays countrysides.

 

Yemen’s breadbasket withers

With family in tow, Haddi Ibrahim Koba fled his family home in Al-Shaab in northwestern Tihama months ago after Saudi airstrikes destroyed his farm. The Koba family now struggles to eke out an existence 60 km away in the populous Hajjah province. Once proudly self-sufficient, relying on animal husbandry and farming for their livelihood, they now depend on handouts from humanitarian organizations, the meager bodies of their children already show signs of malnutrition. 

Yemen Famine

13-year-old Fatima Haddi Ibrahim Koba is pictured in a Hajjah hospital, October, 28, 2019. Riadh al Hussam | MintPress News

According to a study by the Sana’a University-based Water & Environment Centre (WEC) in collaboration with the Flood-Based Livelihoods Network issued in November 2017 to assess the impact of the current war on food security in Yemen, the war is already drastically aggravating Yemenis’ ability to earn a livelihood, rapidly deteriorating the availability of food and elevating the complexity of an already dire humanitarian crisis in the country.  

The study, The War Impact on Food Security in the Tihama , (Tihama is a region of Yemen traditionally known to be the country’s breadbasket) showed how agriculture in Tihama, which sustains most of the country’s population, has been seriously disrupted by the war. This, the study’s authors say, is undermining the productivity and investment capacity of the entire country.

Wadi Zabid is one of Tihama’s main valleys located in the Houthi stronghold of Hodeida, the second-largest governorate in Yemen. It is the second-largest valley in Tihama, with an area of 4,639 square kilometers. Before the war, Wadi Zabid was a model of sustainable agriculture and food security, but as of June 2017, when the WEC study was released, 43 percent of the valley’s residents were going hungry every night. Land cultivation has decreased by 51 percent and crop yields per hectare have declined between up to 61 percent. The production of fruits and vegetables has been wiped out as has the livestock population. Today, conditions for farmers in Tihama are likely even more dire than they were when the study was released. 

Tihama’s woes are not due to climate change or local mismanagement. Instead, they are a direct result of the destruction of irrigation and water infrastructure resulting from Saudi attacks on the valley’s diversion dams and irrigation systems. Water in the irrigation canals in the downstream villages of both of Tihama’s main valley’s has decreased by about 60 percent since the war began, according to the study.

That damage has also created a massive impact on upstream areas that rely heavily on floodwater irrigation and has damaged irrigation systems and diversion dams affecting up to 75 percent of Tihama’s households. 

 

Creating a toxic legacy

The Saudi-led coalition’s blockade on Yemen’s ports, airports and borders has only exacerbated the suffering of the country’s farmers and rural residents. The coalition has prevented the export of their products, especially to wealthy Gulf countries which imported thousands of tons of pomegranates and vegetables from Yemen before the war began. Importing pesticides, agricultural fertilizers and fuel has also become difficult due to the frequent seizure of seafaring vessels by the coalition. 

For 77 days, the coalition, led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, has continued to hold ships loaded with oil derivatives at sea, preventing them from entering the port of Hodeida.  The four ships that were allowed in carried transport fuel, not the fuel needed to power generators on which farmers rely.

Like in Tahamah, the blockade and attacks on agricultural targets across Yemen have not only destroyed machinery and infrastructure, it has had acute ecological impacts that may take decades to reverse. The accumulation of sediment in flood channels due to damaged gates and automatic barriers has caused trees to begin to reclaim now-dormant stream beds and flood plains, hampering the arrival of much-needed floodwaters to agricultural fields. 

Yemen Farmers

A Yemeni farmer tries to chase locusts off of his fields. Photo | UNFAO

Fertile soil, especially in the border areas in Saada and Hajjah, has become environmentally polluted due to the number of weapons dropped in more than half a million airstrikes. That pollution has not only affected the soil, experts fear it could genetically alter the pomegranates, grapes and coffee that were once staple crops in Yemen. Farmers and their families are at constant risk from unexploded ordnances, especially cluster bombs like the one that killed a young boy on his family farm in Hodeida last Thursday.

Agricultural and environmental experts that spoke to MintPress said that the effects of the Saudi coalition’s targeting of the agricultural sector will likely last for decades. The Director of Agricultural Extension in Yemen, Salah al-Mashreqi, said that more catastrophic effects will appear in the medium and long term, including genetic changes to pomegranates, for which Yemen is famous. 

The deliberate targeting of food is prohibited by article 54 of the Geneva Conventions and the May 24, 2018, UN Security Council resolution 2417 on the protection of civilians in wartime, specifically reiterates this principle. Article 14 of the 1977 Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions clearly states that starvation as a means of combat is not allowed: ‘’It is prohibited to attack, destroy, remove, or render useless objects indispensable for the survival of the civilian population.” Yet the international community has done little to curb the Saudi-led coalitions use of starvation as a tactic of war in Yemen.

This, in large part, according to many Yemenis and legal scholars alike, is because Saudi Arabia enjoys the near-total diplomatic protection of the United States. Without that support, Saudi Arabia’s airstrikes, which rely on American contractors, targeting software, training, weapons, and technicians to target farmers that are concerned with little more than feeding themselves and their country, would not be possible.

Feature photo | 13-year-old Fatima Haddi Ibrahim Koba is pictured in a Hajjah hospital. The Koba family had to flee their farm in Tihama after it was attacked by the Saudi-led coalition, October 28, 2019. Riadh al Hussam | MintPress News

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

The post Five Years On, Saudi Attacks on Yemen’s Farmers Are Pushing the Whole Country into Famine appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Foreign Affairs, News, Top Story, Yemen Coverage, famine, farmers, food security, Saudi Arabia, Saudi-led Coalition, Yemen]

[*] [+] [-] [x] [A+] [a-]  
[l] at 10/30/19 10:54am

My father, the late IDF general Matti Peled, called for a two-state solution in 1967, and as is stated in my book, The General’s Son, Journey of an Israeli in Palestine , he continued to campaign for this “solution”  until the day he died. It may have been a revolutionary idea then, especially coming from a retired IDF general. Some would even call it progressive, though I personally would not go that far. It presented a path for Israel to gain legitimacy for its 1948 conquest of Palestine while placating the Palestinian people by giving them a small, powerless state that would allow them to exercise their right to self-determination. 

Two decades later, when it was clear that Israel would never allow this to happen, my father called for the U.S. to halt its financial and military aid to Israel. By 1992, he called for sanctions against Israel. So when Bernie Sanders and other so-called progressives like J Street talk about a two-state solution and the possibility of using aid to pressure Israel, they are decades late and billions of dollars short. Without full support for the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement, BDS for short, no progress can be achieved for Palestinian rights.

 

A Safe Bet

Back in the late 1960s and early 1970s calling for the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip was dangerous because there was a real possibility that it could happen. Today, after five decades in which consecutive governments of Israel have worked tirelessly to integrate the West Bank with the rest of the state of Israel, a Palestinian state is no longer possible and calling for it is a safe political move. Bernie Sanders knows it, the folks at J Street know it, and all the other so-called progressives know it too.  A bold, progressive move would be to call for a democratic state with equal rights for all of Palestine, from the river to the sea.

However, we mustn’t get ahead of ourselves. One has to ask, where were these progressives when the possibility of a two-state solution was feasible? This is not to say it was a just or good solution, for it did legitimize the Zionist crimes of 1948 and earlier. Setting that aside for a moment, where were these so-called progressives when the possibility of an independent Palestine emerging in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip was a real possibility? They were nowhere to be found. 

While the official line of consecutive U.S. administrations was that UN Security Council resolutions 242 and 338 should be the basis of a peace agreement, neither the various administrations or other American politicians outside of the administration did a single thing to push this idea forward.

Now that is it too late, and it is clear that Israel never intended to allow the Palestinian right to self-determination to materialize, and now that we know that the “peace process” concocted by the Rabin-Peres duo was nothing more than a charade, the Bernie Sanders and J Street liberals decided to make a “bold” statement out of an old, outdated idea. But there is nothing bold about their support for Israel. There is nothing progressive about waiting five decades to support an idea that has no chance of becoming reality. 

 

A Step in the Right Direction

The last thing that can be said about this very slow learning curve is that it is a step in the right direction. Recognizing and declaring today that the Palestinian people have been subjected to genocide, ethnic cleansing and apartheid for over seven decades is still slow, but it would signal a real step in the right direction. However, neither Sanders nor his hosts at the J Street conference are willing to go that far. 

The farthest Sanders is willing to go is to say that he supports Israel and that Palestinians have been treated unfairly . Now, he is suggesting that some of the $3.8 Billion of aid money going to Israel should be diverted to resolve the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Gaza. How much? He didn’t say. So why not suggest halting aid to Israel altogether and sending those billions of dollars to the people who really need them in order to rebuild Gaza and provide medical care, water, and food.

The problem is that we have all become accustomed to believing that Palestinians should never ask for too much. Palestinians should be grateful for the scraps offered to them by white rich politicians in the United States and Israel. They should welcome the idea that Israel will “give” them a fraction of their homeland in which to build a mini-state. They should be grateful that a politician in the U.S. said publicly that they are treated unfairly. Palestinians should not be unreasonable and they should refrain from calling for anything that would bother Israel and its Zionist supporters around the world.

 

BDS

The call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions against Israel is a step too far for Sanders and J Street, the latter claiming that it is opposed to the call for a boycott and that “ The Movement is not a friend to Israel.”

I asked @SenSanders about Palestine, the BDS movement targeting Israel, and whether he supports a one state solution pic.twitter.com/xOQmxMelFp

— Dena Takruri (@Dena) May 3, 2017

Palestinians, apparently, are required to prove that they are friends of Israel before their demands can be heard, much less accepted and also to recognize the right of Israel to exist, another absurd demand regularly made of Palestinians.

The fundamental problem lies in statements such as this by J Street: “J Street believes that maintaining a strong, vibrant US-Israel relationship […] US support for Israel as a democracy and a national home for the Jewish people is an historic and crucial commitment.” 

As long as the U.S. relationship with Israel is viewed as more valuable than the human rights of the Palestinian people, justice for Palestinians will remain a distant dream. Without support for BDS and their declared demands, namely: ending Israel’s military occupation of Palestinian land, equal rights and the right of refugees to return to their homes and their land, no progress can be made.

 

Hold the Champagne 

Reading posts on Twitter while the J Street conference was taking place in Washington could give one the impression that justice for Palestinians is just around the corner. However, it is Israel that was the focus, not Palestinian human rights. The ongoing discussion of the two-state solution at the event acted as a fig leaf, shielding Israel from true criticism and allowing human rights violations in Palestine to continue unabated.

Statements like this one, made by Julian Castro, are indicative of a prevailing head in the sand, ostrich-like attitude: “ We need a government in Israel that will get back on the path of the two-state solution.” No one bothered to ask if Israel was really ever on that path. 

Julian Castro

Julian Castro speaks at the J Street National Conference, Oct. 28, 2019, in Washington. Jacquelyn Martin | AP

Bernie Sanders made a statement at the J Street conference that was also indicative of a desire to intentionally miss the target: “It is not anti-Semitism to say that the Netanyahu government has been racist – that’s a fact,” he said. Netanyahu is, without question, indeed a racist. Yet he is no different than any other Israeli prime minister. The issue is not a single prime minister, it is the entire Zionist settler-colonial project in Palestine which is the problem. 

 

How Much Longer?

More than five decades had passed since my late father, one of the exalted IDF generals of the 1967 war, called for a two-state solution. A solution that favors Israel and recognizes very limited rights for Palestinians and is a poor excuse for a peace plan. A solution that ignores the crimes which my father, among others, committed in 1948. A solution, which in fact legitimizes those crimes. It is a “solution” behind which politicians who want to seem progressive can hide because it offers no solution. It is a solution popular among those who pretend to care for justice and human rights but that do not want real change. One must ask how much longer this charade will be allowed to continue.

Feature photo | Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks at the J Street National Conference, Oct. 28, 2019, in Washington. Jacquelyn Martin | AP

Miko Peled is an author and human rights activist born in Jerusalem. He is the author of “The General’s Son. Journey of an Israeli in Palestine,” and “Injustice, the Story of the Holy Land Foundation Five.”

The post At This Year’s J Street Conference, “Progressive” Pols Bow to Israel While Preaching Peace appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Daily Digest, Foreign Affairs, Insights, News, J Street, Progressives, two state solution]

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[l] at 10/29/19 1:41pm

The world’s most ancient Christian community is moving elsewhere, and the reason for this is Israel. Christian leaders from Palestine and South Africa sounded the alarm at a conference in Johannesburg on October 15. Their gathering was titled: “The Holy Land: A Palestinian Christian Perspective.”

One major issue that highlighted itself at the meetings is the rapidly declining number of Palestinian Christians in Palestine. 

There are varied estimates on how many Palestinian Christians are still living in Palestine today, compared with the period before 1948 when the state of Israel was established atop Palestinian towns and villages. Regardless of the source of the various studies, there is a near consensus that the number of Christian inhabitants of Palestine has dropped by nearly ten-fold in the last 70 years. 

A population census carried out by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics in 2017 concluded that there are 47,000 Palestinian Christians living in Palestine – with reference to the Occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. 98 percent of Palestine’s Christians live in the West Bank – concentrated mostly in the cities of Ramallah, Bethlehem, and Jerusalem – while the remainder, a tiny Christian community of merely 1,100 people, lives in the besieged Gaza Strip. 

The demographic crisis that had afflicted the Christian community decades ago is now brewing. 

For example, 70 years ago, Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus Christ, was 86 percent Christian. The demographics of the city, however, have fundamentally shifted, especially after the Israeli occupation of the West Bank in June 1967, and the construction of the illegal Israeli apartheid wall, starting in 2002. Parts of the wall were meant to cut off Bethlehem from Jerusalem and to isolate the former from the rest of the West Bank.

“The Wall encircles Bethlehem by continuing south of East Jerusalem in both the east and west,” the ‘Open Bethlehem’ organization said, describing the devastating impact of the wall on the Palestinian city. “With the land isolated by the Wall, annexed for settlements, and closed under various pretexts, only 13% of the Bethlehem district is available for Palestinian use.”

Increasingly beleaguered, Palestinian Christians in Bethlehem have been driven out from their historic city in large numbers. According to the city’s mayor, Vera Baboun , as of 2016, the Christian population of Bethlehem has dropped to 12 percent, merely 11,000 people. 

The most optimistic estimates place the overall number of Palestinian Christians in the whole of Occupied Palestine at less than two percent. 

The correlation between the shrinking Christian population in Palestine, and the Israeli occupation and apartheid should be unmistakable, as it is obvious to Palestine’s Christian and Muslim population alike. 

Palestinian Christians Feature photo

Palestinian Christians protest Church land sales to Israel at the Jaffa gate in Jerusalem’s old city, Sept. 9, 2017. Mahmoud Illean | AP

A study conducted by Dar al-Kalima University in the West Bank town of Beit Jala and published in December 2017, interviewed nearly 1,000 Palestinians, half of them Christian and the other half Muslim. One of the main goals of the research was to understand the reason behind the depleting Christian population in Palestine. 

The study concluded that “the pressure of Israeli occupation, ongoing constraints, discriminatory policies, arbitrary arrests, confiscation of lands added to the general sense of hopelessness among Palestinian Christians,” who are finding themselves in “a despairing situation where they can no longer perceive a future for their offspring or for themselves”.

Unfounded claims that Palestinian Christians are leaving because of religious tensions between them and their Muslim brethren are, therefore, irrelevant. 

Gaza is another case in point. Only 2 percent of Palestine’s Christians live in the impoverished and besieged Gaza Strip. When Israel occupied Gaza along with the rest of historic Palestine in 1967, an estimated 2,300 Christians lived in the Strip. However, merely 1,100 Christians still live in Gaza today. Years of occupation, horrific wars and an unforgiving siege can do that to a community, whose historic roots date back to two millennia.

Like Gaza’s Muslims, these Christians are cut off from the rest of the world, including the holy sites in the West Bank. Every year, Gaza’s Christians apply for permits from the Israeli military to join Easter services in Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Last April, only 200 Christians were granted permits , but on the condition that they must be 55 years of age or older and that they are not allowed to visit Jerusalem. 

The Israeli rights group, Gisha, described the Israeli army decision as “a further violation of Palestinians’ fundamental rights to freedom of movement, religious freedom and family life”, and, rightly, accused Israel of attempting to “deepen the separation” between Gaza and the West Bank. 

In fact, Israel aims at doing more than that. Separating Palestinian Christians from one another, and from their holy sites (as is the case for Muslims, as well), the Israeli government hopes to weaken the socio-cultural and spiritual connections that give Palestinians their collective identity. 

Israel’s strategy is predicated on the idea that a combination of factors – immense economic hardships, permanent siege and apartheid, the severing of communal and spiritual bonds – will eventually drive all Christians out of their Palestinian homeland. 

Israel is keen to present the ‘conflict’ in Palestine as a religious one so that it could, in turn, brand itself as a beleaguered Jewish state in the midst of a massive Muslim population in the Middle East. The continued existence of Palestinian Christians does not factor nicely into this Israeli agenda. 

Sadly, however, Israel has succeeded in misrepresenting the struggle in Palestine – from that of political and human rights struggle against settler colonialism – into a religious one. Equally disturbing, Israel’s most ardent supporters in the United States and elsewhere are religious Christians. 

It must be understood that Palestinian Christians are neither aliens nor bystanders in Palestine. They have been victimized equally as their Muslim brethren, and have also played a major role in defining the modern Palestinian identity, through their resistance, spirituality, deep connection to the land, artistic contributions and burgeoning scholarship. 

Israel must not be allowed to ostracize the world’s most ancient Christian community from their ancestral land so that it may score a few points in its deeply disturbing drive for racial supremacy. 

Equally important, our understanding of the legendary Palestinian ‘ soumoud’ – steadfastness – and of solidarity cannot be complete without fully appreciating the centrality of Palestinian Christians to the modern Palestinian narrative and identity. 

Feature photo | Christians attend Good Friday procession in Jerusalem Friday, April 14, 2017. Dan Balilty | AP

Ramzy Baroud is a journalist, author and editor of The Palestine Chronicle. His last book is The Last Earth: A Palestinian Story (Pluto Press, London) and his forthcoming book is These Chains Will Be Broken: Palestinian Stories of Struggle and Defiance in Israeli Prisons (Clarity Press, Atlanta). Baroud has a Ph.D. in Palestine Studies from the University of Exeter. His website is www.ramzybaroud.net.

The post The Palestinian Christian Population Is Dwindling at an Alarming Rate appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Daily Digest, Foreign Affairs, Insights, Christians, ethnic cleansing, Israel, Palestine, Palestinian Christians]

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[l] at 10/29/19 11:10am

Douma, Syria, April 2018. Dozens of people die in a suspected chemical weapons attack in the eastern suburb of the capital Damascus. The United States and many European countries immediately identify President Bashar al-Assad as responsible for the attacks, and respond with deadly violence of their own, starting a bombing campaign against his forces. Yet new evidence leaked from whistleblowers suggests that not only is the Western story on shaky ground, but the report into the incident from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OCPW) deliberately suppressed evidence and testimony that contradicted the U.S. narrative.

 

The OPCW’s Fixed Report

Founded in 1997 to represent the collective position of its 193 member states, the OPCW oversees and verifies adherence to the strict rules that regulate the use of chemical weapons, which it hopes to eliminate.

After its fact-finding mission was complete, the OPCW issued a report on the alleged Douma attack. While far from conclusive or damning (it refused even to speculate on who was responsible for the attacks), it did suggest there was “likely” a chlorine attack carried out by dropping gas canisters from the air. This seems to contradict its interim findings that stated, “No organophosphorus nerve agents or their degradation products were detected, either in the environmental samples or in plasma samples from the alleged casualties.” Nevertheless, some insinuated that the new report implicated government forces, the only groups likely to possess both the chemicals and the helicopters necessary to carry out such an attack.

But others criticized the findings. Piers Robinson, Co-Director for the Organization for Propaganda Studies and formerly Chair in Politics, Society and Political Journalism at Sheffield University claimed the OPCW report contained “significant anomalies” and was “unpersuasive, to put it mildly”, noting contradictions on analysis of chemicals used, the method of delivery, and more.

 
Robinson’s fears appear to have been confirmed and on October 15 an OPCW whistleblower met in secret with a panel of international experts, including the first Director-General of the organization, Dr. Jose Bustani. After seeing the evidence provided by the whistleblower, the panel came to the conclusion that the OPCW had suppressed and distorted its data, analysis and conclusions, noting that “key information” about chemical analysis, toxicology, ballistics investigations and witness statements were suppressed, “ostensibly to favor a preordained conclusion.” The panel also expressed alarm at efforts to exclude certain inspectors from the investigation or from allowing them to express differing opinions and observations. Dissenting assessments that concluded that the gas canisters were probably placed in Douma, rather than dropped from aircraft – suggesting an altogether different scenario to the one the U.S. government was presenting – were suppressed .

On the new evidence provided, Dr. Bustani said it , “confirmed doubts and suspicions I already had” about the incoherent report, claiming that “the picture is clearer now, although very disturbing.” 

Who, if anyone, pressured the OPCW to do this? One possibility is the Trump administration, who recently awarded them a further $4.5 million for “further investigations” into Syria. This is particularly noteworthy, as the United States is infamously thrifty when it comes to paying international organizations. For decades it has refused to pay its dues to the UN, now owing billions, in retaliation for not fully complying with its wishes. It also cut funding to UNESCO in 2011 and left the organization in 2017 after it recognized Palestine– even though the U.S. is officially committed to a two-state solution in the Middle East. Many with experience in bidding for funds will know that if an organization gives you millions of dollars for research, you know what is expected of you. On the issue, Robinson said there is “certainly an element of incentivization…in order to encourage the OPCW to find and reach conclusions that are going to be compatible with what they want.”

The U.S. also previously forced Bustani from the OPCW in 2002 for contradicting their claims on Iraq and weapons of mass destruction. The Bush administration under Secretary of State John Bolton seemingly threatened to kill his family if he did not resign: “You have 24 hours to leave the organization, and if you don’t comply with this decision by Washington, we have ways to retaliate against you. We know where your kids live,” John Bolton told him .

 

The Media Demands War

The whistleblower’s testimony goes directly against the way in which corporate media presented the Douma attack. Unquestioningly accepting the Trump administration’s line, media claiming to be the custodians of truth and defenders of democracy, immediately began to clamor for a military response.

Even as the dust in Douma was still settling, the Washington Post ’s editorial board claimed that “President Trump will deal another blow to US global leadership if he does not follow through” on bombing the country. The New York Times ’ editorial team appeared to be trying to goad him into action, noting , “The president should know by now that tough talk without a coherent strategy or follow-through is dangerous.” In other words, “talk is cheap, it is time for action.” For the Guardian , considered at the left extreme of the mainstream spectrum, even waiting for a report to ascertain what truly happened was “irresponsible obfuscation”; its top foreign affairs commentator and former foreign and U.S. editor, Simon Tisdall insisting that , “After Douma, the West’s response to Syria’s regime must be military…there can be no more excuses.” He also condemned Obama’s hesitance to commit to more U.S. involvement in Syria as “a blot on his record.”

Media Syria attacks

Both The Guardian left, and The Atlantic, right, were quick to advocate a military attack on Syria

All this despite describing Trump before his election as a dangerous lunatic fascist who could not be trusted as commander-in-chief, another example of “resistance” media uniting behind Trump when he considers aggressive action and opposing him most forcefully when he moves in a more conciliatory or dovish direction.

The media got their way; on April 14 the U.S., France and the United Kingdom conducted a series of coordinated airstrikes against the Syrian government, although they seemed confused about who was responsible and how effective they were. The U.S.’ public stance was that it was “still assessing the evidence of the attack” and “did not know which chemical was used, or whether it was launched by the Syrian government or forces supporting the government.” Yet it was “mission accomplished” according to Trump, with an army spokesperson claiming they had “crippled” Assad’s chemical weapons producing capability, “setting him back years.” Yet that same spokesperson was later quoted as saying Assad still had the capability to launch attacks “throughout the country at a variety of sites.”

What is indisputable is that the corporate press was fully behind the West’s military escalation in Syria. A survey done by the media watchdog, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, found that of the top 100 American newspapers by circulation, not a single one issued an editorial opposed to the April strikes, with the vast majority of those offered supporting the Trump administration’s actions. The Washington Post was unequivocal : “Mr. Trump was right to order the strikes” and rather ominously noted he “properly left open the possibility of further action.” Other media were similarly joyous over more war; the Atlantic claiming bombing was “undoubtedly a good thing”. Meanwhile, the Guardian ’s chief political commentator insinuated that dishonest anti-war leftists like Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn were effectively responsible for the atrocities themselves, being “too busy looking in the mirror admiring their own halos to face the moral challenges posed by a situation like Syria.” Needless to say, the conservative end of the corporate media spectrum was no better. As media analyst Adam Johnson wrote , “On the issue of launching airstrikes against the Assad government, robust debate is nonexistent. Major publications take the bulk of the premises for war for granted—namely the US’ legal and moral right to wage it—and simply parse over the details.”

 

Radio Silence on the New Evidence

On the fudged OPCW report, veteran Middle East correspondent Robert Fisk wrote, “It is difficult to underestimate the seriousness of this manipulative act”, worrying that this will undermine the credibility of all trustworthy international organizations and give fuel to Assadist and Russian propaganda networks.

While state-funded Russian outlets have covered the story, the silence from the mainstream, corporate press has been deafening, with no interest whatsoever in the story (one reason why supporting independent, alternative media as a counterweight against corporate news is so important). Judging by the minimal impact of the news, there will likely be few consequences for those who suppressed information and misled the world, nor for those who called for war on the basis of it, their assertions proving, once again, disastrously wrong.

This is hardly the first, and surely not the last time that fake news is manufactured about Syria, where the fog of war and competing claims from many sides with their own agendas obscure the reality of the situation. In war, they say, truth is always the first casualty.

Feature photo | A journalist looks on during a media tour of a damaged house where OPCW inspectors are believed to have visited in Douma near Damascus, Syria April 23, 2018. Ali Hashisho | Reuters

Alan MacLeod is a MintPress contributor as well as an academic and writer for Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting. His book, Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting was published in April.

The post Media Silent as Nobel Prize Winning OPCW Found “Fixing” its Own Findings on Syria appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Daily Digest, Foreign Affairs, chemical weapons, Douma, OPCW, Syria, whistleblower]

[*] [+] [-] [x] [A+] [a-]  
[l] at 10/29/19 10:02am

Santiago, Chile — “We are at war with a powerful, relentless enemy that respects nothing nor anyone”   thundered Chilean President Sebastian Piñera during a speech to the nation, deliberately echoing the infamous catchphrase of fascist military dictator Augusto Pinochet. 

The “enemy” he was referencing were Chilean citizens, more than one million of them taking to the streets Friday afternoon in a revolt against the neoliberal system Piñera was implementing against their will, demanding his resignation.

The spark for the revolt that started October 14 was a 30-Peso increase to the subway fare in Santiago, the country’s capital and by far its largest and most important city. But demonstrations quickly escalated into a general protest against the decades of neoliberal economic policies carried out by successive governments that increased the cost of living and marginalized and disenfranchised the population, leading to greater social and economic inequality. As a popular slogan of the protest goes: “It’s not about 30 pesos; it’s about 30 years.”

The government’s response has been brutal. The President has declared a state of emergency across much of the country and ordered tanks through Santiago to break the movement in images that would be on endless repeat in our media if Piñera were not such a loyal ally of Washington. The death toll currently stands at 18 , with security forces arresting over 5,400 people in the first four days alone, well over double the number arrested in Hong Kong after six months of unrest. This is one reason why many in Chile see the threat to their country coming not from the people in the streets, but from the Piñera administration itself.

While most of the images we see emanating from Chile are from Santiago, the protests have spread across the country, including to the sleepy southern regions where MintPress News staff writer Whitney Webb lives and reports from. Speaking earlier today she emphasized the regional differences in the protests:

“In Valdivia there have been a lot of riots and looting recently but a couple hours to its north, in Temuco, protests lately have been peaceful with whole families participating (kids and babies included) in marches against austerity and the AFP system, among other hot button issues,” she said, referencing the hated privatized pension program. 

“I have lived in the Araucania region for five years and have never seen protests (peaceful or otherwise) on this scale ever. From what I’ve experienced here and from what I’ve seen of Santiago, I think people are by and large fed up, whether on the left or the right, with the crony capitalism and corruption that has enriched people just like Piñera and those that surround him.”

“Neoliberalism was born in Chile and will die in Chile” pic.twitter.com/Gaa90j8zdH

— UptownBerber (@HishamAidi) October 28, 2019

The protesters see themselves as fighting to end the neoliberal model imposed on them since 1973. 

“Neoliberalism was born in Chile and will die in Chile” has become a rallying cry for the movement. Yet few in the West are aware of the country’s tumultuous history as an experimental laboratory for free-market economics imposed on Chile by the United States. 

 

A Warning from History

 “I’m not at all surprised at what’s happening in Chile,” remarked Noam Chomsky. “They are the completely predictable consequence of the neoliberal assault on the population for forty years.”

After managing to overthrow the democratically-elected Marxist President Salvador Allende in a 1973 coup, the United States had an opportunity to construct a new society based on neoliberal principles, with the help of the new fascist dictator, Augusto Pinochet. The country became the “ empire’s workshop ,” where American economists had free rein to construct the perfect society along market principles.

The problem was that the population did not want everything privatized, sold off to foreign corporations, for workers’ rights to be removed and the social safety net to be destroyed. Therefore, the population had to be terrorized into submission first. At least 3,000 people were killed, and tens of thousands brutally tortured by the Pinochet dictatorship, which remained in power until 1990. Two hundred thousand managed to flee the country.

The economy immediately collapsed, as did living conditions for ordinary people. It continued to underperform and proved extraordinarily volatile throughout the 70s and 80s. However, the upper class prospered, and many foreign investors became incredibly rich, explaining perhaps why the Washington Post described the country as an “economic miracle” and a “model” for others to follow. Chile became one of the most unequal countries in the world; something that scholars of neoliberalism such as David Harvey , Gerard Duménil and Dominique Levy argue was precisely the point.

While the dictatorship is formally over, Pinochet negotiated a transition from a position of power, leaving many of his henchmen in high office and those handpicked and fast-tracked under the fascist dictatorship now in top positions in the police, army, courts and the media. Furthermore, the neoliberal economic system and Pinochet’s constitution remained, as did the people’s fear of the government and what it was capable of.

Two of those tortured in concentration camps were the parents of journalist and documentary maker Pablo Navarrete , founder and co-editor of Alborada Magazine . Pablo spoke to MintPress News about the protests threatening to upend the social order.

Chile Protests Feature photo

A protester mocks Chile’s President Sebastian Pinera during an anti-government protest in Santiago, Chile, Oct. 25, 2019. Rodrigo Abd | AP

“Chile is living through an incredible moment,” Navarrete said. 

The neoliberal model forced on Chilean society with such brutality under Pinochet from 1973 onwards and which served as a laboratory for the right in places such as the UK and US has been dealt a mortal blow.”

Despite the “vicious levels of repression” by security forces, Navarrete claimed that his country has reached a “tipping point” where “Chileans have lost their fear” of the state. What is the way forward now? Can the protesters topple a president, or will the replacement of a figurehead without meaningful structural change achieve anything?

“It’s now key that we support the Chilean people’s call for the creation of a Constituent Assembly, so they can create a new, democratic constitution, and discard the current one that was imposed under Pinochet,” he advised. 

It is an outrage that nearly 30 years since the end of the dictatorship, Chile should still have this Pinochet-era constitution in place.”

 

Media Distortion

Mainstream media, like CNN , NBC News and the Guardian , have shown far less interest in, or solidarity with, Chile than Hong Kong, framing the former not as protests, but as “riots,” a word never used to describe the Hong Kong protests.

Webb criticized the press for their warped coverage: “The media in the West and also in Chile has focused largely on the looting and rioting (that does occur) and is claiming that ALL the protests are this way, and this is completely false” she told Mint Press .

Navarrete agreed, recommending that, “Those wanting to keep abreast of events in Chile in the English-language will, as with most other issues, have to turn to independent media for balance, as there has been a relative absence of mainstream media coverage of the scale of the uprising and the ferocity of the government’s repression to it.”

There has been comparatively little coverage of the massive movement in Chile. And much of it obscures what the protests are for, and crucially, what they are. Neoliberalism is largely absent in mainstream reporting of the protests; there has been no mention of the word or its derivatives in any reporting on Chile from CNN , MSNBC or Fox News , for example. Meanwhile Slate amended the title of an article originally titled “Chile’s People Have Had Enough of Neoliberalism” so the headline read simply “Chile’s People Have Had Enough”, removing all mention of the word from their reporting

The real driver in all this, according to a Wall Street Journal opinion piece, was not crony capitalism, but the socialist governments of Cuba and Venezuela, who are “playing a key role” in directing the movement. Piñera, it explains, was “forced to declare a state of emergency” to “protect property and life” from the “left-wing terrorists savaging Santiago and cities around the country.” Only a fool would believe these protests are organic, it explains. After all, “market policies have been successful” in Chile, so why would anyone be unhappy? The United States, however, sees a Russian hand directing the protest. Trump-appointed Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs Michael Kozak claimed that the Kremlin has penetrated Chilean social networks and was circulating fake news in order to inflame tensions.

The US govt is blaming Russia for the protests in Chile, what a f–king joke.

It’s not the Russians fault that Chileans are tired of living in a US client state https://t.co/TMKGkxquxR

— Whitney Webb (@_whitneywebb) October 26, 2019

Meanwhile Human Rights Watch, always quick to condemn leftist Latin American governments like Bolivia, Venezuela or Nicaragua for their transgressions, called for the swift prosecution…of the protestors. Its Director of the Americas, José Miguel Vivanco, stating , “Prosecutors should also carry out prompt, thorough, and impartial investigations into serious crimes committed by demonstrators in recent days.” The full-scale crackdown and the suspension of the most basic civil liberties merely had Vivanco “ worried ” that “there has been an excess of force” from the government. 

 

The Future of Chile

Piñera has already gutted his cabinet in an attempt to placate the public. But Webb suspects the protesters will not be silenced so easily. 

“He is mistaken to think this will die down. I think at this point the only way he could quiet it would be to do something more drastic in terms of policy, like end the AFP program” she said. “I doubt he will though, since his brother was a key factor in putting that program in place and it would be a blow to the great neoliberal “experiment” that was foisted on Chile during the Pinochet era.”  

Despite the elite voices in the West working to undermine the emerging anti-austerity movement, Navarrete is hopeful:

  It’s clear that Chileans have had enough and are demanding profound democratic changes. Chile has awoken and I’m excited about the country’s future.”

Corporate media is unlikely to give the protestors a fair hearing, given what their demands are and what they are struggling against, but that should not surprise or disappoint them. Those who witnessed how Occupy Wall Street, the anti-war demonstrations, the Global Climate Strike or the Sanders campaign were treated by the press know how it works. After all, as the jazz poet Gil Scott Heron told us , “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.”

Feature photo | Susana Hidalgo | Twitter

Alan MacLeod is a MintPress contributor as well as an academic and writer for Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting. His book, Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting was published in April.

The post Chilean Protests: A Revolt against Neoliberalism the Media Refuses to Acknowledge appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Daily Digest, Foreign Affairs, News, Chile, Media, Neoloberalism, Protests, Sebastian Pinera]

[*] [+] [-] [x] [A+] [a-]  
[l] at 10/28/19 8:34am

 
In November 2018, I became aware of the case of Kirill Vyshinsky, a Ukrainian-Russian journalist and editor imprisoned in Ukraine without trial since May 2018, accused of high treason. 

Soon after, I interviewed Vyshinsky via email. He described his arrest and the accusations against him as politically-motivated, “an attempt by the Ukrainian authorities to bolster the declining popularity of [then] President [Petro] Poroshenko in this election year.” 

Vyshinsky noted that his arrest was advancing the incessant anti-Russian hysteria now prevalent among Ukrainian authorities, as he holds dual Ukrainian and Russian citizenship. He noted that the charges against him, which pertain to a number of articles he published in 2014 (none of them authored by Vyshinsky), became of interest to Ukrainian authorities and intelligence services four years after they were published. To Vyshinsky, this supports the notion that neither the articles nor their editor were a security threat to Ukraine, instead, he says, they were a political card to be played. 

In early 2019, I traveled to Kiev to interview Vyshinsky’s defense lawyer Andriy Domansky about the logistic obstacles of his client’s case. Domansky viewed the Vyshinsky case as politically motivated and expressed concern that he could himself become a target of Ukraine’s secret service for his role in defending his client, an innocent man. 

Domansky told me at the time,

The Vyshinsky case is key in demonstrating the presence of political persecution of journalists in Ukraine. As a legal expert, I believe justice is still possible in Ukraine and I will do everything possible to prove Kirill Vyshinsky’s innocence.”

To the surprise of those following the case against Vyshinsky, in late August 2019 he was released with little fanfare after serving more than 400 days in a Ukranian prison but still faces all of the charges brought against him by the Ukranian government and is “ obliged to appear in court or give testimony to investigators if they deemed it necessary.” 

By early September, Kirill Vyshinsky was on a plane to Moscow . Despite never being tried or officially convicted, he found himself the subject of a prisoner exchange between the Russian and Ukranian governments.

A banner reading “Freedom to Kirill Vyshinsky” is held at a June 16, 2019 rally in Moscow. Maxim Shemetov | Reuters

I interviewed Vyshinsky in Moscow in late September. He told me about his harrowing ordeal, the Ukrainian detention system, other persecuted journalists, and what lies ahead for him.

He also touched on the inhumane conditions he experienced in Ukrainian prisons. He noted that a pretrial detention center as we know it in Western nations is a very different entity in Ukraine and that Ukrainian prisons were so over-crowded that it was common for inmates to sleep in three shifts in order to allow enough standing room for inmates crammed into a cell.

 

Ukrainian prisons like a “concentration camp”

Aleksey Zhuravko, a Ukrainian deputy of the Verkhovna Rada of V and VI convocations recently published photos taken inside of an Odessa pretrial detention center showing utterly unsanitary and appalling conditions. Zhuravko noted, “I am shocked at what was seen. It is a concentration camp. It is a hotbed of diseases.”

Another Ukrainian journalist, Pavel Volkov, was subjected to the same types of accusations lobbed against Vyshinsky. Volkov spent over a year in the same pretrial detention center as Vyshinsky. He was arrested on September 27, 2017, after Ukranian authorities carried out searches of his wife and mother’s apartments without the presence of his lawyer and with what he says, was a false witness. 

Volkov spent more than a year in a pretrial detention center on charges of “infringing on territorial integrity with a group of people” and “miscellaneous accessory to terrorism.” On March 27, 2019, he was fully acquitted by a Ukranian court. 

Volkov shared his thoughts on the persecution of journalists in Ukraine, saying:

The leaders of the 2014 Euromaidan movement, who subsequently occupied the largest positions in the country’s leadership, repeatedly stated that collaborators from World War II who participated in the mass extermination of Jews, Russians, and Poles are true heroes in Ukraine, and that the Russian and Russian-speaking population of Ukraine are inferior people who need to be either forcibly re-educated or destroyed. 

They also believe that anyone who wants peace with the Russian Federation, and who believes that the Russian language (the native language for over sixty percent of Ukraine’s population) should be the second state language, is the enemy of Ukraine.

These notions formed the basis of the new criminal law, designed to persecute politicians, public figures, journalists, and ordinary citizens who disagree with the above.

Since 2014, security services have arrested hundreds of people on charges of state treason; infringing on the territorial integrity of Ukraine; and assisting terrorism for criticizing the current government in the streets or on the Internet. 

People have been in prison for years without a conviction. And these are not only the journalists included in the ‘Vyshinsky list’. 

Activists from Odessa, Sergey Dolzhenkov and Evgeny Mefedov, have spent more than five years in jail just for laying flowers at a memorial to the liberators of Nikolaev [Ukrainian city] from Nazi invaders. 

Sergeyev and Gorban, taxi drivers, have spent two and a half years in a pretrial detention center because they transported pensioners from Donetsk to Ukraine-controlled territory so that they could receive their legal pension.

The entrepreneur Andrey Tatarintsev has spent two years in prison for providing humanitarian assistance to a children’s hospital in the territory of the Lugansk region not controlled by Ukraine.

Farmer Nikolay Butrimenko received eight years of imprisonment for paying tax to the Donetsk People’s Republic for his land located in that territory.

The 85-year-old scientist and engineer Mekhti Logunov was given twelve years because he agreed to build a waste recycling plant with Russian investors. The list is endless. 

People often incriminate themselves while being tortured or under the threat of their relatives being punished, and such confessions are accepted by the courts, despite the fact that lawyers initiate criminal proceedings against the security services involved in the torture. These cases are not being investigated.

The only mitigation that has happened in this direction after the change of government was the abolition of the provision of the Criminal Procedure Code stating that no other measure of restraint other than detention can be applied to persons suspected of committing crimes against the state. 

This allowed some defendants to leave prison on bail, but not a single politically-motivated case has yet been closed. Moreover, arrests are ongoing. 

The only acquittal to date from the so-called journalistic cases on freedom of speech is mine. However, it is still being contested by the prosecutor’s office in the Supreme Court. 

Ninety-nine percent of the media continue to call all these people ‘terrorists’, ‘separatists’, and ‘enemies of the people’, even though almost none of them have yet received a verdict in court.”

Volkov’s words lay bare the true nature of the allegations made against Kirill Vyshinsky as well as the countless other journalists and citizens of Ukraine that have fallen victim to the heavy hand of Ukranian authorities.

Feature photo | Kirill Vyshinsky poses while covering Ukraine’s Maidan protests in 2014. Photo | Zenit-ka.ru

Eva Bartlett is a Canadian independent journalist and activist. She has spent years on the ground covering conflict zones in the Middle East, especially in Syria and occupied Palestine, where she lived for nearly four years. She is a recipient of the 2017 International Journalism Award for International Reporting, granted by the Mexican Journalists’ Press Club (founded in 1951), was the first recipient of the Serena Shim Award for Uncompromised Integrity in Journalism, and was short-listed in 2017 for the Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism. See her extended bio on her blog In Gaza.

The post Accused of Treason and Imprisoned Without Trial: Journalist Kirill Vyshinsky Recounts His Harrowing Time in a Ukrainian Prison appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Daily Digest, Foreign Affairs, News, interview, Kirill Vyshinsky, press freedom, Ukraine] [Link to media]

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