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[l] at 3/1/24 6:07am
Amid an ongoing onslaught against the Gaza Strip by apartheid Israel, the Palestinian national football team was a Cinderella story at this year’s AFC Asian Cup, reaching the knockout stages, eventually falling only to hosts and eventual winners hosted in Qatar. But while the challenge on the football field was hard enough, the Palestinian football team has to deal with a unique challenge that no other national squad faces: that of an unrelenting attack on it from Israel. This attack has included jailing, torturing, shooting and killing top players, bombing Palestinian infrastructure, and restricting the movement of players in and out of the country. This has led to a growing global movement calling for Israel to be banned from international sporting competitions as part of a wider campaign to implement Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS). South Africa-based group Red Card Israel, for example, told MintPress that: The action of suspending Israel from international sport creates a symbolic support against the unlawful occupation of Israel in the Palestinian territories and shows solidarity for the Palestinian people living under the apartheid regime.”   Cutting Down the Tallest Flowers Palestine started with one simple goal in the Asian Cup: to put a smile on people’s faces back home, giving them hope by representing them on an international stage. In that, they succeeded, becoming the toast of the tournament, playing attractive, positive football, including a 3-0 win over Hong Kong, China. Yet they did so despite generations of players shot, killed or permanently disabled by Israeli warplanes and snipers. For example, in January 2014, cousins Jawhar Nasser Jawhar, 19, and Adam Abd al-Raouf Halabiya, 17 – young stars about to be called to the national team – were traveling home from a training session near Ramallah. They were ambushed by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), who shot al-Raouf in the legs. Jawhar rushed to his aid, only to be peppered with bullets himself, including seven in his left foot, three in his right, and one in the hand. An attack dog was unleashed on them, and soldiers subsequently broke al-Raouf’s leg for good measure, suggesting they knew who the pair were. Their careers were over in a flash, and their destiny was stripped away. Now 29 and 27, respectively, Jawhar and al-Raouf would have been in their prime for the 2024 tournament. While the pair survived partly thanks to medical treatment in Jordan, many of their peers were less fortunate. Tarek al-Quto, a promising midfielder, was killed by the IDF in 2004. Five years later, during Operation Cast Lead, Israel killed three more top players: Ayman Alkurd, Shadi Sbakhe and Wajeh Moshtaha. Also in 2009, 18-year-old phenomenon Saji Darwish was struck down by an Israeli sniper near Ramallah. Palestinian amputees, many deliberately shot in the legs by Israeli troops, play a soccer match while using their crutches in Gaza, Aug. 16, 2023. Adel Hana | AP “Arrests, torture and killings of Palestinian footballers became a regular headline in Palestine,” noted Palestinian writer Ramzy Baroud. One of the most infamous examples of this was Mahmoud Sarsak, who was arrested and held for three years without trial or visits from his family. Protesting his treatment, Sarsak – a Palestinian international star – went on a hunger strike for three months. In the process, he almost died and lost nearly half his usual body weight. His case became a cause célèbre around the footballing world, with supporter clubs and even footballing legends like Eric Cantona, Michel Platini and Lilian Thuram calling for his release. The international pressure caused Israel to relent and free Sarsak, but the permanent health issues he suffered meant his career was over. Sarsak’s case is far from the most extreme, however. Zakaria Issa, one of the country’s top strikers, was sentenced to 16 years in prison in 2003. After being diagnosed with terminal cancer in 2011, he was released but died four months later. Sameh Maraaba, meanwhile, has enjoyed a fruitful career, playing 40 times for Palestine in international competitions. He would no doubt have achieved more, however, if he had not been arrested at a border crossing between Jordan and the West Bank and accused by Israel of being an associate of Hamas. Maraaba was detained for seven months, during which he missed many crucial qualifying games for the 215 AFC Asian Cup and the 2014 Asian Games. And on the same day in 2012, Israeli forces arrested Muhammad Nimr – a promising 23-year-old forward from the Amari refugee camp who had managed to forge a career in Europe – and Omar Abu Roïs, the goalkeeper for the Palestinian national football team. Their arrests spurred more calls for Israel to be barred from international sporting competitions. Speaking with MintPress News, a spokesperson for Red Card Israel explained that suspending Israel from sporting events would illustrate that “the violation of human rights results in exclusions on an international level and that it cannot continue to blatantly disregard international law while still enjoying the privilege of international participation in sport.” But even if they have not spent time in prison, the occupation has touched every footballer negatively. Palestinian athletes have to live, train and perform under immense psychological pressure. Mahmoud Wadi, for instance, revealed that he had to live with the constant threat of death during Israeli occupation. “I would go to bed at night and stare at the ceiling expecting it to come crashing down on my head at any moment,” he said of living through Operation Protective Edge. “Many players that I played against or with while in Gaza have died,” he added. Wadi’s woes did not stop there. A day before Palestine’s first Asian Cup game against Iran in January, he was informed that his cousin had been killed in the Israeli attack.   Blocking Palestine From Competing Wadi is one of the few Gazans to play for Palestine in recent years. The Israeli government has imposed a medieval-style siege on the densely populated strip. It strictly controls the amount of food and basic goods entering and exiting, making elite sport extremely difficult. Gazan football has suffered, with many top players (including Wadi) leaving for Egypt. But life for a footballer in the West Bank can also be fraught with difficulties. Israel, which controls so much about life in Palestine, regularly denies exit visas to all domestically-based Palestinian footballers, leading to the country having to forfeit games and drop out of tournaments. Palestine was scheduled to play a crucial World Cup 2010 qualifying match against Singapore, but Israeli officials blocked the team from leaving the country. Despite protests, the footballing authorities elected not to reschedule the match but penalize Palestine, leading to their exit from the tournament. In May 2008, the team was barred from leaving the country to play at the AFC Challenge Cup. Three years later, two national team players were refused reentry into the West Bank after a match against Thailand. It is, in part, these sorts of arbitrary travel restrictions that have led selectors to look to the diaspora Palestinian population for players. The constant Israeli military attacks have also taken a toll on the footballing infrastructure. In 2009, Israel destroyed the Rafah National Stadium in Gaza. And no football is being played at Yarmouk Stadium in Gaza City because Israel has turned the structure into an open-air prison camp. Images showing dozens of Palestinians – some as young as nine years old – stripped and paraded around at gunpoint went viral on social media in December, sparking global outrage. All of this has meant that Palestine regularly has to play its “home” games in other countries. The team had to pull out of the Merdeka Tournament in Malaysia due to the Israeli onslaught, and Palestine is scheduled to play all of its upcoming home matches for the 2026 World Cup qualification tournament in Kuwait.   Should Israel Be Banned? In contrast, aside from some vocal opposition from opposing fans at games, Israel and its national football team have faced almost no negative repercussions. This is partially due to the position of the sport’s governing body, FIFA, which has consistently refused to act upon requests to hold Israel to account. In January, the Palestinian Football Association released a formal request calling on FIFA to ban Israel from sporting competitions over blatant human rights violations like the ones cataloged here. It is not as if FIFA has not taken action before. In the 1990s, it banned Yugoslavia from competing at the 1994 World Cup amid a war in the Balkans. And in 2022, the organization indefinitely suspended Russia from international competitions because it invaded Ukraine. Yet these states were carrying out actions that Western powers – above all, the U.S. – opposed. In contrast, aggressive actions or human rights violations by Western powers never result in FIFA bans – a fact suggesting where the real power in the organization lies. Indeed, it appears that opposing Israeli attacks is more likely to result in negative consequences than carrying them out. A number of professional footballers in Europe have been fired for making public comments criticizing Israel or supporting Palestine. Indonesia, slated to host the FIFA 2023 Under-20 World Cup, was stripped of that honor after uncertainty over whether it would allow the Israeli team to compete. (Indonesia does not maintain diplomatic relations with Israel). As such, in football, as with politics, any actor proposing or carrying out a principled, non-violent boycott of Israel is likely to face consequences from authorities. Thirty-seven U.S. states currently have anti-BDS laws on their books, despite the fact that nearly three-quarters of Americans oppose such legislation. Seen in South Africa. Photo | Red Card Israel Despite the opposition from football’s governing body, a growing grassroots global movement is emerging, demanding sporting authorities take action to oppose genocide. That this is being led by South Africa is significant. That so much of the Palestine solidarity movement emanates from South Africa is significant. Until the 1990s, South Africa was dominated by a human rights-abusing apartheid regime. But mounting international pressure turned the country into a pariah state and forced South Africa to change its ways. Throughout the period, though, the white supremacist government maintained support from both the Israeli and American governments. Today, South Africa is leading a team at the International Court of Justice charging Israel with the crime of genocide. Red Card Israel explained that they see the victory in South Africa as a blueprint to follow, telling MintPress that: The intention behind the boycott of Israel in football (and other sports) is to further the intention of gaining equality for Palestinians on all international and political fronts. South Africa is best placed to bear testament to how sports, academic and cultural boycotts add pressure on illegitimate governments to crumble under the weight of unjust systemic oppression. It worked for South Africa, so there’s no reason why it won’t work in the case of Israel.” As we have just seen at the Asian Cup, sport has the potential to unite people, both nationally and internationally. Football fans around the world have shown their solidarity with Palestine, and many are now organizing to make the dream of an end to apartheid a reality. It is clear, however, that football’s authorities will not welcome this movement. So, to achieve victory, organizers must show as much courage and determination as the Palestinian team did on the pitch this January. Feature photo | Palestinian soccer supporters watch a match between the Palestinian team and Thailand in the West Bank town of Al-Ram, near Ramallah. Bernat Armangue | AP Alan MacLeod is Senior Staff Writer for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent, as well as a number of academic articles. He has also contributed to FAIR.org, The Guardian, Salon, The Grayzone, Jacobin Magazine, and Common Dreams. The post Goalposts and Gunfire: Israels Deliberate Attacks on Palestinian Football and Its Players appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Foreign Affairs, Investigations, Top Story, Alan MacLeod, apartheid, football, Israel, Palestinian Football, Palestinian national football, Red Card Israel, soccer]

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[l] at 2/29/24 9:49am
In November 2023, NATO’s “Centre of Excellence for Countering Hybrid Threats” published a disturbing ‘working paper,’ “Humour in online information warfare: Case study on Russia’s war on Ukraine.” It received no mainstream attention. Yet, the contents offer unprecedented insight into the military alliance’s insidious weaponization of social media to distort public perceptions and manufacture consent for war. They also raise grave questions about online “trolling” of dissident voices over the past decade and beyond. The working paper ostensibly “considers instances of humour put to effective use to counter disinformation and propaganda in online spaces, using Russia’s war on Ukraine.” It concludes, “humour-based responses…in the information space and in the physical domain have been found to deliver multiple clear benefits” for Ukraine and NATO. Avowedly a “practical review seeking to identify examples of best practice from both government and civil society” for wider future application, the paper recommends Western states, militaries, and security and intelligence services master the art of online ridicule under the aegis of “counter-disinformation.” It contends, “humour…reaches the parts that other countermeasures like fact-checking or media user education cannot.” Mass deployment of memes, moreover, “has the advantage of exploiting social media platform algorithms” and addressing “audiences that are not inclined to consume ‘boring’ products.” As we shall see, the true value in weaponizing “humour” for NATO is distorting the battlefield reality in Ukraine and future theaters of Western proxy conflict for public consumption. Meanwhile, any social media user deviating from NATO-endorsed narratives can be subjected to intensive harassment, discrediting them and their message “among a wide sector of online audiences,” if not scaring them away from digital information spaces entirely. The working paper advocates the creation of an army of “private citizens” for the purpose.   ‘Incredibly Serious’ The paper begins by noting that “state-backed parody and mockery of the enemy in conflict are nothing new,” citing satirical newspaper Wipers Times, distributed to British soldiers fighting in Western Front trenches during the First World War, and the BBC German Service, which “fought Hitler with humour.” Today though, “social media has democratised access and audience,” therefore “[opening] the playing field to self-motivated private individuals” while “[facilitating] their joining forces in informal collectives for greater effect.” Multiple footnotes indicate weaponizing mockery is a longstanding NATO objective. A report published by the military alliance in 2017, “StratCom Laughs: in search of an analytical framework,” is cited, while an academic study, “Building a meme war machine: A comparative analysis of memetic insurgencies in cyberspace,” is said to be “forthcoming.” The former caused a mainstream stir upon release. It was, in turn, inspired by a NATO-sponsored paper authored two years earlier by Jeff Giesea, tech guru and Peter Thiel associate, which declared: Trolling…is the social media equivalent of guerrilla warfare, and memes are its currency of propaganda. Daesh is conducting memetic warfare. The Kremlin is doing it. It’s inexpensive. The capabilities exist. Why aren’t we trying it?” “StratCom Laughs” was highly influential. In May 2021, the Ukrainian government’s Centre for Strategic Communication and Information Security wholeheartedly endorsed its findings while listing the benefits of “propagandistic humor.” These included; “[making] perception less critical; [using] common contexts to convey messages with which the audience agrees; [simplifying] everything to the ‘obvious’; [creating] clear groups: strong and intelligent ‘we’ and clumsy and stupid ‘they.’ Of course, the audience associates itself with the former and begins to despise the latter”: Simplified managed understanding is easily disseminated by the audience and creates the necessary social context for propagandists.” The cover page of European Centre of Excellence for Countering Hybrid Threats case study, authored by Keir Giles It’s a highly serendipitous coincidence that the North Atlantic Fella Organization (NAFO) was formed following Russia’s February 2022 invasion of Ukraine. The vast, supposedly grassroots Twitter troll collective, identifiable by “doge” profile photos, inexorably blitzes “vatniks” Russian officials and anyone failing to toe NATO’s line on the Ukraine proxy war with a vicious blend of absurdity, ad hominem, memes, and ridicule, while raising money for Kiev’s war effort. The group embodies the pronouncements of “Stratcom Laughs” to a T. NAFO features prominently in the working paper, with some activists quoted at length. It notes that the collective “grew from a fundraising initiative” for the Georgian Legion, a brutal paramilitary faction active in the proxy war. Unmentioned is that independent financing efforts are necessary because formal Western government backing for the group is politically and legally unfeasible. Its members openly boast of committing hideous war crimes, in particular, executing unarmed, bound Russian prisoners of war in cold blood. NAFO founder Kamil Dyszewski is a Hitler-admiring antisemite who has heroized white supremacist mass murderers. The NATO paper quotes him saying, “all [Russians] see themselves as incredibly serious and important,” so they “struggle with being made fun of.” This perspective tallies perfectly with the military alliance’s perspective on online psychological warfare. The working paper repeatedly argues, “Russian and pro-Russian individuals and entities are intensely sensitive to mockery and show an inability to cope with being the object of derision.”   ‘Courage and Resourcefulness’ The working paper judges NAFO to be an “ideal structure and format” for “countering disinformation, largely through the application of humour and mockery.” The group’s efforts were moreover found to “provide the base material for memes in the form of first-hand images and videos of Russian failures or Ukrainian determination.” This capability augmented “the responsiveness and impact” of Kiev’s “information campaigns,” which were, for example, “instrumental” in securing “US-made F-16 combat aircraft” in August 2023. These excerpts are striking, for throughout the first 18 months of the proxy conflict, “Russian failures” and “Ukrainian determination” absolutely dominated Western media coverage of the war. The narrative that the invasion was an unmitigated disaster and huge embarrassment for Moscow in every way, and Kiev could pull off a spirited underdog victory and repel the invaders, if not ultimately march upon the Kremlin, as long as sufficient Western Wunderwaffe arrived, was universal and indomitable. In reality, while there were undoubtedly “Russian failures” and “Ukrainian determination” aplenty from the start, Kiev was economically and militarily crippled within weeks. The “Special Military Operation” was concerned not with conquering every inch of the country but with compelling Volodymyr Zelensky’s government to implement the Minsk Accords and declare neutrality. This was almost achieved in April 2022 via Turkey-brokered peace talks. But then-Prime Minister of the UK Boris Johnson flew to Kiev, offering the Ukrainians the blankest of blank cheques to keep fighting. The scale of Ukraine’s losses, the dire situation for the country from day one of Russia’s invasion, and British and American intelligence connivances that produced the conflict, concealed from Western audiences by their governments and media, meant siding with and arming Kiev appeared to be the objectively sensible, reasonable, moral position. After all, they were fighting an enemy that embodied absolute evil and incompetence. Helpfully, NAFO was always on hand to relentlessly remind the public of both qualities particularly the latter. “Stratcom Laughs” had triumphed. Public perceptions were rendered “less critical.” Serious, complex questions were simplified to “the obvious.” “Clear groups” were created “strong and intelligent ‘we’ and clumsy and stupid ‘they.’” And Western audiences, “of course,” associated themselves with the former while “despising” the latter. Fast forward to today, and mainstream polls indicate that just one in ten Europeans believe Ukraine can win, with most believing a “compromise settlement” is the only way to end the conflict. In June 2023, Ukraine launched a “counteroffensive.” Originally intended to start months earlier, it was much delayed due to adverse weather conditions and late weapon deliveries. Officials in Kiev, many Western journalists and pundits, and NAFO all heavily hyped the effort in advance. The group published many memes some promoted a beach party for “fellas” in Crimea that Summer and others depicted “orcs” fleeing from swarms of leopards. The latter played on a trope that Ukrainian political and military chiefs and the Western media were extremely keen to perpetuate that Moscow’s soldiers, terrified of German Leopard 2 tanks, would abandon their positions as the armored vehicles advanced. Instead, they were easily blown to smithereens by extensive minefields created by Russian forces while they waited for the counteroffensive to commence and low-cost lancet drones. Within just a month, Ukraine had lost 20% of the vehicles and armor supplied by the West, with nothing to show for it. This remained the case when the counteroffensive fizzled out at the end of 2023, with just 0.25% of the territory occupied by Russia in the initial phase of the invasion regained. Meanwhile, casualties may have exceeded 100,000. This can only be considered an absolutely horrendous catastrophe from every angle. The Washington Post published an extensive post-mortem on the counteroffensive in December of that year. It is clear that among other failures, a fatal error in planning for the effort overseen by the Pentagon was the assumption that the Russians would flee in many areas. No alternative scenarios were considered. The Wall Street Journal has also highlighted other egregious strategic shortcomings, which made the counteroffensive’s calamity inevitable: Western military officials knew Kyiv didn’t have all the training or weapons from shells to warplanes that it needed to dislodge Russian forces. But they hoped Ukrainian courage and resourcefulness would carry the day.” It seems Ukrainians were dispatched on a suicide mission because Western military apparatchiks bought into the simplistic, misleading propaganda narrative of “Russian failures” versus “Ukrainian determination.” Courage and resourcefulness are admirable qualities that Ukrainians have consistently exhibited since February 2022. But they are no match let alone substitute for landmines, tanks, fighter jets, artillery shells, and other weapons of war. That confirming this self-evident fact came at the cost of so many lives is a criminal tragedy. Nobody has all the details but one thing is clear: this counteroffensive will rewrite military history.#Ukraine has stuff in the pipeline the Russians will never see coming. And much of what they do see coming, they won’t be able to stop anyway. #SpringIsComing — Jessica Berlin (@berlin_bridge) May 6, 2023   ‘Punching Upwards’ Throughout the working paper, axiomatic reference is made to how weaponizing humor “imposes costs” on “adversaries” and “aggressors.” Contradictorily, though, it is conceded that “the direct impact on Russia itself is hard to measure.” Indeed, it seems implausible that Kremlin officials and Russian soldiers on the frontline suffer any “costs” whatsoever from the mockery of anonymous Western social media users. This begs the obvious questions of why this approach is considered effective and who the true “adversaries” in NATO’s comedic crosshairs are. A clue is offered by a passage celebrating how “the overall effect of a community built around humour has been to turn the tables on social media platforms.” As a result, “the agents of influence and other servants of authoritarian regimes, who for so long held the advantage, are turned into the targets rather than the deliverers of mockery and abuse”: This causes both Russian officials and their extended network of influencers, enablers and trolls to realise that if they choose to serve a criminal regime, they expose themselves to mass ridicule and mockery.” For “influencers, enablers and trolls,” read: anti-war, anti-NATO, anti-Empire journalists, researchers, activists, and private citizens who dare express the “wrong” opinions or expose inconvenient truths online that challenge NATO-endorsed narratives. This is certainly the case in my regard. The working paper cites me curtly, responding to puerile abuse from a detractor on Twitter as an example of how “those who oppose Russia, China or other hostile regimes publicly face consequences by the hostile regime itself or by its agents and sympathisers.” Elsewhere, the paper endorses harassment, stalking, doxxing, and creating parody accounts of such “influencers, enablers and trolls” while also warning these are “potential hazards” faced by “individuals taking on authoritarian propaganda structures.” A NAFO activist is quoted as saying, “I’ve seen people get doxxed and harassed, and it doesn’t look fun. I want my family to be safe.” This sentiment is no doubt shared by NAFO’s many targets but as they “serve a criminal regime,” they’re fair game from NATO’s perspective. British Ministry of Defence apparatchik Keir Giles authored the working paper. It reveals he “briefly tried to earn a living as a stand-up comedian,” so “knows what it feels like when a joke falls flat.” An apologia he recently authored for Baltic state Nazi collaborators implicated in the Holocaust, in which he claimed they are misunderstood, was certainly not received with much humor. He has promoted the output of a dedicated parody account of none other than myself for some time. Ironically enough, I would’ve found the account’s posts amusing if they were actually funny. Instead, it has mocked the victims of sexual abuse and also dabbled in antisemitism. In late January, the parody account published a post mocking me for being tormented as a child over my name. Little did I know these lame attempts at ridicule were a dedicated NATO psychological warfare operation. The latter post gained little traction, and in response, many Twitter users expressed shock and revulsion at such playground bullying behavior. This highlights another shortcoming of NAFO’s approach the group’s visceral, unabashed, genocidal hatred of Russia and all Russians is so extreme that they frequently repulse audiences to the extent of making them ask if they’re supporting the wrong side by backing Ukraine. Moreover, as Aleksei Navalny ally Leonid Volkov has observed, this output actively assists the Kremlin’s propaganda strategies. Left-wing alternative comedy legend Stewart Lee has written about the paucity of right-wing standup comedians. He attributes this deficit to right-wing politics being overwhelmingly concerned with punching downward, which is simply unfunny bullying when performative comedy is “a heroic little struggle,” which “should always be punching upwards”: Who could be on a stage, crowing about their victory and ridiculing those less fortunate than them without any sense of irony, shame or self-knowledge? That’s not a stand-up comedian. That’s just a c***.” This may well explain why Keir Giles failed in his quest to become a standup comedian and why his “jokes” continue to fall flat to this day. But for all those who oppose war, his working paper is no laughing matter. It is advocacy for the military alliance to create a permanent online harassment battalion to inflict psychological, emotional, personal and professional damage on them while convincing decent people to hate the oppressed and cheer the oppressors. Keir Giles was repeatedly approached for comment by MintPress News for comment, but did not respond prior to publication. Feature photo | Keir Giles is pictured with NAFO meme mascot, the NAFO doge | Illustration by MintPress News Kit Klarenberg is an investigative journalist and MintPress News contributor exploring the role of intelligence services in shaping politics and perceptions. His work has previously appeared in The Cradle, Declassified UK, and Grayzone. Follow him on Twitter @KitKlarenberg. The post From Memes to Doxxing: Unmasking NATOs Information Warfare Strategy appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Foreign Affairs, Investigations, News, Top Story, cyberbullying, doxxing, Humour in online information warfare, information-warfare, Keir Giles, Kit Klarenberg, memes, NAFO, NAFO memes, NATO, Russia, Ukraine]

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[l] at 2/29/24 6:18am
The Palestinian city of Rafah is not just older than Israel; it is as old as civilization itself. It has existed for thousands of years. The Canaanites referred to it as Rafia, and Rafia has been almost always there, guarding the southern frontiers of Palestine, ancient and modern. As the gateway between two continents and two worlds, Rafah has been at the forefront of many wars and foreign invasions, from ancient Egyptians to the Romans to Napoleon and his eventually vanquished army. Now, it is Benjamin Netanyahus turn. The Israeli Prime Minister has made Rafah the jewel of his crown of shame, the battle that would determine the fate of his genocidal war in Gaza in fact, the very future of his country. Those who want to prevent us from operating in Rafah are essentially telling us: Lose the war,' he said at a press conference on February 17. There are around 1.3 to 1.5 million people in Rafah, an area that, before the war started, had a population of merely 200 thousand people. Even before the start of this genocidal war, Rafah was still considered crowded. We can only imagine what the situation is right now, where hundreds of thousands of people are scattered in muddy refugee camps, subsisting in makeshift tents that are unable to withstand the elements of a harsh winter. The Mayor of Rafah says that only 10 percent of the needed food and water is reaching the population in the camps, where the people are suffering from extreme hunger, if not outright starvation. These families are beyond traumatized as they have lost loved ones and homes and have no access to any medical care. They are trapped between high walls, the sea and a murderous military. An Israeli invasion of Rafah will not alter the battlefield in favor of the Israeli army, but it will be horrific for the displaced Palestinians. The slaughter will go beyond everything we have seen so far anywhere in Gaza. A child wounded in an Israeli bombing is brought to Al Najjar hospital in Rafah, Feb. 24, 2024. Fatima Shbair | AP Where will up to 1.5 million people go when the Israeli tanks arrive? The closest so-called safe area is al-Mawasi, which is already overcrowded and too small to begin with. The displaced refugees there are also experiencing starvation due to Israels prevention of aid and constant bombing of convoys. Then, there is northern Gaza, which is mostly in ruins; it has no food to the extent that, in some areas, even animal feed, which humans are now consuming, is no longer accessible. Suppose the international community does not finally develop the will to stop Israel. In that case, this horrific crime will, by far, prove worse than all the crimes that have already been committed, resulting in the death and wounding of over 100,000 people. Even with the invasion of Rafah, Israel would achieve no military or strategic victory. Netanyahu wants to satisfy the calls for blood emanating from throughout Israel. After all of this, they are still seeking revenge. I am personally proud of the ruins of Gaza, Israels Minister of Social Equality, May Golan, said at a Knesset session on February 21. But, still, there will be no victory in Rafah, either. At the start of the war, Israel said Hamas was primarily concentrated in the north. The north was duly destroyed, though the Resistance carried on unabated. Then they claimed that the Resistance headquarters was under Shifa Hospital, which was bombed, raided and destroyed. Then they claimed Bureij, Maghazi and central Gaza were the main prize of the war. Then, Khan Younis was declared the capital of Hamas. And on and on Aside from the mass destruction and the killing of hundreds of civilians daily, Israel has won nothing; the Resistance has not been defeated, and the alleged Hamas capital has conveniently shifted from one city to another, even from one neighborhood to another. Now, the same ridiculous claims and unsubstantiated allegations are being made and leveled against Rafah, where most of Gazas population ran to, in total despair, to survive the onslaught. Children desperately clamor for food in Rafah, Feb. 23, 2024. Fatima Shbair | AP Israel had initially hoped that Gazans would rush in their hundreds of thousands to the Sinai Desert. They did not. Then Israeli leaders, like far-right Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, began speaking of voluntary migration as the right humanitarian solution. Still, the Palestinians stayed. Now, they have all agreed on the invasion of Rafah, a last-ditch effort to orchestrate another Palestinian Nakba. But another Nakba will not happen. Palestinians will not allow it to happen. Ultimately, Netanyahus and Israels political madness must come to an end. The world cannot persist in this cowardly inaction. The lives of millions of Palestinians are dependent on our collective push to bring this genocide to an immediate end. Feature photo | A man stands on top of a mosque destroyed in an Israeli airstrike in Rafah, Gaza Strip, Feb. 22, 2024. Mohammed Dahman | AP Dr. Ramzy Baroud is a journalist, author and the Editor of The Palestine Chronicle. He is the author of six books. His latest book, co-edited with Ilan Pappé, is Our Vision for Liberation: Engaged Palestinian Leaders and Intellectuals Speak Out. His other books include My Father Was a Freedom Fighter and The Last Earth. Baroud is a Non-resident Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA). His website is www.ramzybaroud.net The post Rafahs Dire Plight: Netanyahus Last Grasp for Victory appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Foreign Affairs, Opinion & Analysis, Benjamin Netanyahu, famine, Gaza, invasion of rafah, Israel, Rafah, Ramzy Baroud]

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[l] at 2/28/24 10:52am
Residents of Yemens capital city of Sanaa endured another harrowing night last Saturday as American and British aircraft dropped bombs on an insecticide manufacturer in a dense residential neighborhood. In the wake of the airstrikes, MintPress News reporter Ahmed AbdulKareem went to the Al-Nahda neighborhood in the center of the city, where a fire rising dozens of meters into the air illuminated nearby homes. There, he found a chaotic scene eerily reminiscent of those now regularly seen in Gaza in the wake of Israeli raids. Rubble, broken windows, scattered and burned furniture, and women and children fleeing their homes to no particular place. Bomb us more we still wont let any Israeli ship cross, an angry resident shouted as the press descended upon the scene. That same night in the western cities of Haifan and Shami, at least one civilian was killed, and six members of a single family were wounded in a separate spate of American airstrikes. Scenes like this are repeated on a near-daily basis in the war-torn country, yet Yemenis seem to be more committed than ever to the Palestinian cause. As the genocide in Gaza continues to unfold and Western airstrikes targeting the Yemeni mainland increase, a new phase of escalation in the Red Sea has begun. In unprecedented numbers, Yemeni citizens took to the streets in 120 governorates last Friday to demand an escalation of attacks against the United States, the UK and Israel. Chants of We demand escalation echoed in unison throughout the massive crowds. Abdul Wahab Al-Khair, a well-known Yemeni legal expert and activist based in Sanaa, told MintPress that decision-makers need to respond preemptively to public opinion to stop the U.S. attacks and the genocide in Gaza alike, telling MintPress, Crowds numbering in the millions take to the streets weekly. I took the streets myself to call upon the Yemeni revolutionary, political and military leadership to hit Israel and impose a complete blockade on it by preventing Israeli ships or those heading to Israel from crossing the Bab al-Mandab, the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. We also call upon the Yemeni armed forces to hit U.S. and British forces in the Red Sea as well. We are ready for a direct ground confrontation. Only Americans bear responsibility. Al-Khair argues that Yemenis see action taken in support of Gaza as the legitimate will of the people supported by Yemens democratically elected parliament, which approved a law prohibiting the recognition of, and normalization with, Israel on December 5, 2023. A separate bill that was recently passed classifies certain countries, entities, and persons as hostile to the Republic of Yemen. The law aims to identify and seek legal and military recourse against actors that threaten the sovereignty of the Republic of Yemen. Perhaps not surprisingly, the United States, Britain, and Israel have been classified as hostile actors under the law. Al-Khair sees the issue as a legal one, telling MintPress, Yemen, as a country bordering the Bab al-Mandab Strait, has the right to exercise its sovereignty and jurisdiction over the waterway and it has the right to impose laws and regulations regarding which foreign ships can cross. Yemen has the right to prevent ships of war or those used for the military purposes of a state or entity hostile to Yemen. It is not permissible to demand the release of a ship detained within the jurisdiction of Yemen that was taken to port to be investigated by authorities. Al-Khair argues that Yemens de facto blockade of Israeli interests in the Red Sea is entirely consistent with international and humanitarian law, conventions and treaties regarding the right to self-defense. Furthermore, he argues, joint defense between Yemen and other Arab countries, including Palestine, is enshrined in the Treaty of Joint Arab Defense and Economic Cooperation, signed in 1950 by members of the Arab League. Indeed, it seems as though the cries of Yemeni protesters have been heard by decision-makers in Sanaa. Ansar Allah leader Abdul-Malik al-Houthi announced in a televised speech last Thursday that Yemen would escalate the severity and scope of its operations against Israel and the United States in the Red Sea to a level not seen since hostilities began after October 7, 2023, when Israels war on Gaza began.   Yemens Missiles: a Formidable Challenge In a move that could expose American and British forces stationed miles from Yemeni territorial waters to dangerous new weapons, Abdul-Malik al-Houthi revealed that Yemeni Armed Forces have developed missiles in their arsenal to the point they will soon become too advanced for U.S. forces to intercept. Al-Houthi was likely referring to unmanned underwater vessels (UUV) and unmanned surface vessels (USV). On February 18, US Central Command confirmed in a press release that underwater drones had been deployed against the US Navy by Yemeni forces. Between the hours of 3:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. (Sanaa time), February 17, CENTCOM successfully conducted five self-defense strikes against three mobile anti-ship cruise missiles, one unmanned underwater vessel (UUV), and one unmanned surface vessel (USV) in Iranian-backed Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen. This is the first observed Houthi employment of a UUV since attacks began in October 23. CENTCOM identified the anti-ship cruise missiles, unmanned underwater vessel, and the unmanned surface vessel in Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen and determined they presented an imminent threat to U.S. Navy ships and merchant vessels in the region. These actions will protect freedom of navigation and make international waters safer and more secure for U.S. Navy and merchant vessels. According to Marc Miguez, commander of US Carrier Strike Group Two, to have a bomb-laden, unmanned surface vessel that can go at pretty fast speeds poses a serious threat to U.S. military assets in the Red Sea. Rear Adm. Miguez told the Associated Press that the U.S. does not have enough intelligence to cope with Yemens underwater drones, making them highly lethal in some circumstances. If youre not immediately on scene, it can get ugly extremely quick, he added. The Marlin Luanda on fire after an attack in the Gulf of Aden by Ansar Allah. Photo | AP Abdulaziz Abu Talib, Executive Director of the Yemeni Center for Political and Strategic Studies (YCPSS), a Yemeni think tank that advises the countrys leadership on policy issues told MintPress that the future of navigation in the Red Sea hinges on Washington and Londons will to escalate hostilities and the extent of their success in forming alliances to militarize the Red Sea. Yemen is benefiting from its experience fighting U.S.-backed Saudi forces for the past 15 years, Abu Talib told MintPress. Accordingly, the safety of American warships and interests is not guaranteed, and American and British forces will not be able to defend them easily. In his speech, Abdul-Malik al-Houthi revealed that Ansar Allah has already carried out 183 operations against targets in the occupied Palestinian territories and 48 in the Red Sea and Arabian Seas. This past week alone has seen Ansar Allah carry out over 13 operations, including the sinking of a British ship and downing a US military drone.   Fury in the Red Sea Brigadier Yahya Saree, the spokesperson of the Yemeni Armed Forces, said in a statement following the declaration of escalation that Yemen would confront the American-British escalation with more qualitative military operations against all hostile targets in the Red and Arab Seas in defense of our country, our people and our nation. Sarees statement was paired with an announcement that naval forces of the Yemeni Armed Forces carried out a specific military operation targeting the American ship Torm Thor in the Gulf of Aden, with a number of appropriate naval missiles. Sarees announcement came on the heels of a proclamation revealing new qualitative military operations targeting Israels southern city of Eilat with several ballistic missiles and drones, an operation in the Gulf of Aden in which a British ship was set ablaze after being struck by several naval missiles and a third which saw an American destroyer targeted with a number of drones. On February 19, Yemeni forces targeted the British ship, the Rubymar, in the Gulf of Aden, sinking it. Dramatic videos of the Rubymar sinking soon made their way to social media sites. The Yemeni Armed Forces emphasized that as part of the operation, they ensured the safe evacuation of the ships crew, underscoring that all personnel had reached safety. Cargo ship “Rubymar” sinks after being struck by Yemen’s Houthis. Source: AFP pic.twitter.com/k6cnNOAPfc — Roya News English (@RoyaNewsEnglish) February 27, 2024 That same day, Yemeni Air Defenses downed a US intelligence asset used to identify ground targets, the MQ9 Reaper UAV, a multirole top-of-the-line aerial vehicle equipped with state-of-the-art surveillance systems. Later, military media footage showed the moment the American drone was targeted and shot down. In the footage, members of the Armed Forces can be seen collecting the debris of the Reaper after it plunged toward al-Hodeidahs coastline in the early morning hours. According to a military expert close to decision-makers in the Yemeni army, Ansar Allah has made significant developments in missile capabilities, including producing missiles that can fly outside of the atmosphere. Last December, media outlets reported the first battle in the history of space after Israels Arrow defense system intercepted a Yemeni ballistic missile outside the atmosphere. Brigadier General of the Yemeni Armed Forces Mujib Shamsan told MintPress that current events have pushed Yemen to develop ballistic missiles that keep up with modern technology, which has created a dilemma for U.S. Naval forces. In the wake of the sinking of the British Rubymar in the Gulf of Aden, Abdul-Malik al-Houthi sent a clear warning to European countries mulling involvement in the Red Sea, saying, For Europeans, do not play with fire. Take a lesson from Britain. You do not need the support of the American devil to protect the occupying entity to practice the extermination of the sons of Gaza without disturbance. International navigation is safe. Your presence increases the militarization of the sea, targets international shipping, and affects the food supply chains of your countries stores. Abu Talib, who heads a research team at the Yemeni Center for Political and Strategic Studies, told MintPress that Yemeni operations have not only revealed Israeli weakness, [often] concealed under a media aura, they have encouraged other parties to carry out operations in support of the Palestinian people, which has doubled the pressure on Israel and reflects the [goals] of the naval blockade. Operations have prompted Israel to seek alternative land routes, rely on expensive sea lines and impose economic losses on Israels economy as seen in the decline of its credit rating from Moodys International. Abu Talib told MintPress that Yemeni authorities are sending messages of reassurance to all countries benefiting from navigation in the Red Sea or bordering it that they will not be targeted. Moreover, he said, Yemeni forces possess the intelligence capability to distinguish Israeli ships and target them accurately and with a mechanism that does not affect international navigation. From the beginning of the Yemeni operations, the objectives of these operations and identity of the targets were announced, which are Israeli ships and those heading to [it], while the rest of the worlds ships were not targeted as long as they identified themselves and their destination, which is exactly what has happened. Therefore, it can be confirmed that the impact has been only on Israels navigation; even American and British ships passed without objection until they launched their aggression against Yemen, Abu Talib added.   Threat of a US Ground Invasion Its not yet clear whether the U.S. anticipated such an audacious response by Ansar Allah, but statements by the Biden administration and U.S. military leadership suggest the U.S. was likely caught off guard. The subsequent tit-for-tat has some concerned that the U.S. may respond with one of the few tools left in its arsenal to stem the effectiveness of Ansar Allahs blockade of Israeli interests in the Red Sea, a full-scale ground invasion of Yemen. For their part, Ansar Allah is anticipating the possibility. Abdul-Malik al-Houthi recently revealed that at least 230,000 fighters were being equipped and trained in various military sciences, including guerrilla warfare, while professional training and qualification are underway for tens of thousands of others. In addition, 566 military maneuvers have been held since the start of the war on Gaza, along with over 359 military marches, where soldiers walk on foot, sometimes for hundreds of kilometers, to ready them for war in Yemens harsh desert conditions. Newly recruited fighters attend a march in Sanaa, Yemen, Feb. 21, 2024. Osamah Abdulrahman | AP Abu Talib noted that Yemen is known for its historical rejection of invasion. It resisted the Ottoman invasion, which claimed the Islamic Caliphate, expelled the British occupation in the south of the country, and faced the Saudi-Emirati invasion for eight years, he told Mintpress, adding, Any attempt to invade will be met with resistance that exceeds the resistance to the Saudi-Emirati invasion of [2015]. New segments of the population will join the Yemeni armed forces that were not involved in confronting Saudi Arabia because the nature of the invading forces is seen as more foreign and hostile to Muslims. Abu Talib doesnt think that Saudi and UAE-backed militias in Yemen will stand in the way of Ansar Allahs resistance to a potential U.S. invasion. We do not believe that factions affiliated with Saudi Arabia and the Emirates will be on the side of the invading forces. They may have accepted subordination to Saudi Arabia and the Emirates, two Arab powers, but will not likely agree to work with American and British forces. Yemeni fighters are characterized by an ideological motive against American hegemony and the Zionist project, he added. It will pose a difficulty for the invading forces if they attempt an invasion or even carry out major hostile operations.   Sabotaging Peace Some Yemenis fear that Washington is not content with bombing the Yemeni mainland but risks torpedoing the fragile peace that has taken hold over the past few years. Several ISIS members were killed in a preemptive police raid in Al-Bayda Governorate in central Yemen as they were preparing to carry out suicide bombings against targets in Sanaa and other provinces, according to a police statement, which added that high-ranking officials of Ansar Allah were among the intended targets of the ISIS operations. Abu Talib noted that the U.S. will likely try to leverage simmering hostilities in the region to undermine the ongoing efforts to broker long-term peace in Yemen between warring parties. Given the connection between the U.S., Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, it is expected that Washington will obstruct the peace process in Yemen as a form of punishment. This is expected, and it is widely believed that the recent stagnation in negotiations between Yemen and Saudi Arabia is due to pressure from the White House, Abu Talib told MintPress. Ansar Allahs second-in-command, Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, revealed in a recent interview that the group had received indirect messages and threats from the United States, including threatening to stir up civil unrest, sidelining ongoing peace talks and even stopping foreign aid from reaching Yemen, because of the countrys position on Gaza.   Hidden Motives In Yemen, the American presence in the Red Sea is not only seen as a defense of Israel but hides other geopolitical motives as well. Washington, and the West in general, seek to control the Red Sea and the Bab al-Mandab Strait based on old maritime strategic theories that assume that whoever controls this region can control the world, Abu Talib said, adding, Even before this latest deployment, Washington and its allies established naval forces in the Red Sea under the pretext of preventing piracy. There is an international dimension related to this, the desire to dominate the international system in the face of growing Chinese and Russian power. This explains the presence of a large number of foreign bases in Djibouti, including Chinas only foreign military base. The American and British presence in the Red Sea does not only represent a danger to the countries bordering it. It is being carried out for the sake of Israels ambitions in the Red Sea. Officials in Tel Aviv have spoken of what they called the conflict between the north and the south, referring to the northern and southern Red Sea, Abu Talib added, referring to long-standing Israeli efforts to internationalize control over the area following the Yom Kippur War, when Israeli maritime traffic was prevented from using it. Whatever the motivations, Ansar Allah has made it clear that they dont plan on abandoning their support for the Palestinian cause in the face of mounting pressure. In a recent announcement, Mohammed Ali al-Houthi declared that If the reason for that food and aid are not being delivered into Gaza is Egypts fear of being bombed, then we are ready to send drivers who are experienced in delivering supplies to fronts under bombardment to lead the aid carriers. Feature photo | Supporters of Ansar Allah hold a mock drone drone during a rally against the U.S.-led strikes on Yemen and Israels war in Gaza Strip, in Sanaa, Yemen, Feb. 23, 2024. Osamah Abdulrahman | AP Ahmed AbdulKareem is a Yemeni journalist based in Sanaa. He covers the war in Yemen for MintPress News as well as local Yemeni media. The post Strategic Escalation: Yemens Military Operations Signal a New Phase in the Red Sea appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Foreign Affairs, Investigations, Top Story, Yemen Coverage, Ansar Allah, Gaza, Houthis, Red Sea, Yemen]

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[l] at 2/27/24 6:57am
A new MintPress News study of media coverage of the deaths of American journalist and commentator Gonzalo Lira and Russian political leader Alexey Navalny has found that the establishment U.S. press overwhelmingly ignored the former and focussed on the latter. The New York Times, Washington Post, ABC News, Fox News and CNN collectively ran 731 segments on Navalny between February 16 and February 22, compared to just one on Lira since his death on January 12, perhaps because one was a Western-backed figure who died at the hands of an official enemy state, while the other was a pro-Russian voice who met their end at the hands of the Ukrainian government.   Round-the-Clock Coverage vs Radio Silence MintPress conducted a quantitative analysis of the media coverage of two political figures who recently died in prison: Alexey Navalny and Gonzalo Lira. Both were controversial characters and critics of the governments that imprisoned them. Both died under suspicious circumstances (their families both maintain they were effectively murdered). And both died in the past six weeks, Navalny in February and Lira in January. A crucial difference in their stories, however, is that Navalny perished in an Arctic penal colony after being arrested in Russia (an enemy state), while Lira’s life ended in a Ukrainian prison, abandoned by the pro-Kiev government in Washington, D.C. The study compared the coverage of Navalny and Lira’s death in five leading outlets: the New York Times, the Washington Post, ABC News, Fox News, and CNN. These outlets were chosen for their reach and influence and, together, could be said to reasonably represent the corporate media spectrum as a whole. The data was compiled using the Dow Jones Factiva news database and searches on the websites of the news organizations. This study takes no position on the matter of Navalny, Lira, or the Russia-Ukraine war. In total, the five outlets collectively ran 731 articles or segments that discussed or mentioned Navalny’s death, including 151 from the Times, 75 from the Post, 177 from ABC, 215 from Fox, and 113 from CNN. This means that each organization studied ran more than one piece per hour. This media storm stands in stark contrast to the Lira case, where the entire corporate media coverage of his death boiled down to a single Fox News article. Moreover, the article in question described him as “spreading pro-Russian propaganda” in its headline, did not inform readers that there was anything suspicious about his death, and appeared to be doing its best to justify his treatment in the body of the article. Aside from that, there was radio silence. It is perhaps understandable that Navalny’s death was covered in much greater detail than Lira’s. Navalny was a political leader known across Russia and the world who died just weeks before the country’s presidential elections. Yet Lira was far from unknown. News anchor Tucker Carlson, for example, devoted an entire show to his imprisonment, while high-profile figures like Twitter owner Elon Musk took up his cause. State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller has been repeatedly asked about Lira’s case and has failed to offer concrete answers. As an American living in Ukraine who took a pro-Russian line on the invasion, Lira built up a following of hundreds of thousands of people across his social media platforms. As an American citizen who died while in the custody of a government that the U.S. has provided with tens of billions of dollars in aid, it could be argued that Lira’s case is particularly noteworthy for an American audience and should be given special attention. Moreover, Lira died more than one month before Navalny, meaning that the study compares more than 40 days of Lira coverage to just six days of coverage of Navalny’s death, making the disparity all the more glaring.   A Tale of Two Deaths Alexey Navalny was a lawyer, activist and the leader of the opposition Russia of the Future Party. A fierce critic of President Vladimir Putin, for many, especially in the West, he became a symbol of the struggle for human rights and democracy in Russia. In 2021, he released a documentary film alleging that Putin was building an enormous $1 billion palace on the Black Sea for himself. Navalny made many enemies and was allegedly poisoned in 2020. Although most in the West believe the Kremlin was behind the incident, this is not a commonly held view in Russia. After returning from Germany for medical treatment in January 2021, he was incarcerated. On. February 16, 2024, he died at the notorious Polar Wolf penal camp in Russia’s far north. “Vladimir Putin killed my husband,” Navalny’s wife, Yulia, said in a statement, adding, “The most important thing we can do for Alexey and for ourselves is to keep fighting more desperately and more fiercely than before.” Western leaders are largely of the same opinion. President Joe Biden said that, while the details are still unclear, “there is no doubt that the death of Navalny was a consequence of something Putin and his thugs did.” Latvian President Edgars Rinkēvičs said that he was “brutally murdered by the Kremlin.” That’s a fact, and that is something one should know about the true nature of Russia’s current regime,” he added. Other politicians were more cautious. “Why this hurry to accuse someone?” Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (Lula) asked. “If the death is under suspicion, we must first carry out an investigation to find out why this person died,” he said. Despite Lula’s warning, Western nations are already taking action against Russia. Both the U.S. and the U.K. have announced new rounds of “major sanctions” against Moscow, although it is far from clear to what extent previous sanctions actually hurt Russia. Although he enjoyed a good reputation in the West, in his homeland, Navalny was a controversial character. Earlier in his political career, he was a prominent leader in xenophobic, far-right marches. He also appeared in a political video where he described the Muslim people of the Northern Caucasus as an “infestation of cockroaches.” While bugs can be killed with a slipper, in the case of human infestations, “I recommend a pistol,” he said before mimicking shooting one. According to a 2023 poll, just 9% of Russians held a positive view of him, compared to 57% who disapproved of his activities. Bystanders walk by a makeshift tribute to Navalny emblazoned with an American magazine cover which reads The Man Putin Fears in Barcelona, February 23, 2024. Photo | Europa Press via AP Lira, meanwhile, found success as an author and filmmaker earlier in life. He gained international notoriety, however, because of the 2022 Russian invasion. As an American living in Ukraine at the time, his thoughts and perspectives traveled widely. He was far from a shrinking violet, often taking a strongly pro-Russian stance on the war, labeling Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky a “cokehead,” and praising Putin’s move as “one of the most brilliant invasions in military history.” It was this sort of content that angered both the Ukrainian government and many in the United States. The Daily Beast, for instance, attacked him, describing him as a “pro-Putin shill,” and went so far as to contact the Ukrainian government to make them aware of Lira’s work. Lira confirmed that, after the Daily Beast’s article, he was arrested by the Ukrainian secret police. He was rearrested in May 2023 and would never see freedom again. Like with Navalny, Lira’s relatives claim he was badly mistreated in prison, and they blame the government for his death. “I cannot accept the way my son has died. He was tortured, extorted, [held] incommunicado for 8 months and 11 days, and the U.S. Embassy did nothing to help my son,” Lira’s father wrote. “The responsibility of this tragedy is [with] the dictator Zelensky [and] with the concurrence of a senile American President, Joe Biden… My pain is unbearable. The world must know what is going on in Ukraine with that inhuman dictator Zelensky,” he added. While Lira was undoubtedly far from neutral, neither was the Western press, which has largely taken a pro-Ukraine, anti-Russia stance. Like Navalny, Lira also had a controversial past. Under the name “Coach Red Pill,” he made dating and relationship advice videos for the misogynistic manosphere community, where he reportedly offered sexist advice to men such as “never date a woman in her thirties.”   A Tireless Visionary vs. Human Trash Not only was the coverage of Navalny’s death extensive, but it also portrayed the deceased political activist in a highly positive light and gave ample space to figures claiming he was effectively assassinated by the Russian government. The New York Times, for example, published an op-ed by Nadya Tolokonnikova of the anti-Putin punk band Pussy Riot, in which she said Navalny gave “hope and inspiration to people around the world.” “For many of us in Russia, Alexey was like an older brother or a father figure,” she said, adding: He helped me and millions of Russians realize that our country doesn’t have to belong to K.G.B. agents and the Kremlin’s henchmen. He gave us something else, too: a vision he called the ‘beautiful Russia of the future.’ This vision is immortal, unlike us humans. President Vladimir Putin may have silenced Alexey, who died last week. But no matter how hard he tries, Mr. Putin won’t be able to kill Alexey’s beautiful dream.” In contrast, the sparse coverage Lira’s death received in any outlet resembling a mainstream one was overwhelmingly negative. The Daily Beast, for example, ran with the headline “U.S. Finally Confirms American Dating Coach-Turned-Kremlin Shill Died in Ukraine.” Its subheadline read, “Gonzalo Lira, a blogger who pushed Kremlin propaganda in Ukraine, died after apparently coming down with pneumonia,” meaning that there was no mention of his arrest or jailing in either title or subtitle. Most media consumers (who do little more than browse headlines) would assume from that description that an awful person met a natural death. The article went on to tear down his credentials as a journalist (which the Daily Beast used only in “scare quotes” when discussing him) and accused him of making “hysterical” pronouncements about how the Ukrainian government was after him – even though he had just died in a Ukrainian prison. This “good riddance to bad rubbish” framing encapsulated what little coverage of Lira’s death there was in the corporate press.   Worthy and Unworthy Victims How to explain such an overwhelming disparity in coverage? That American media have so steadfastly ignored the death of Gonzalo Lira – an American citizen – cannot be boiled down to its lack of newsworthiness. Instead, Lira is a victim of the phenomenon that media scholars call worthy and unworthy victims. In 1988, academics Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky developed the theory of worthy vs. unworthy victims in their book “Manufacturing Consent.” Together, they compared the media coverage of various violent actions around the world in order to ascertain why certain atrocities are ignored and why others become front-page news. To Herman and Chomsky, whether the media would be interested in a violent story came down largely to two factors: who is the perpetrator, and who is the victim? If the perpetrator is an enemy state or hostile actor, then media interest will be exponentially higher. However, if the United States or its allies are at fault, then the media is likely to ignore the story. Likewise, if the victim is the U.S. or an ally, they will receive a great deal of attention. However, the media have little interest in presenting enemy actors or states as victims, so those cases will be overlooked. That is why Herman and Chomsky found, for example, that the coverage of one single murdered priest in an enemy nation (Communist Poland) drew more air time and column inches than the assassinations of over 100 churchmen in massacres committed by U.S.-backed groups in Latin America. In short, your death will only be covered extensively if there is political capital to be made out of it – if the incident allows media to present enemy parties as barbarous and the U.S. or friendly parties as virtuous or worthy of sympathy. Navalny was a Western-backed political figure attempting to unseat Putin from power. His death, therefore, checks both boxes of the Worthy Victims checklist, hence the 24-hour coverage across the press. Lira, on the other hand, was a pro-Russian journalist and commentator who relentlessly critiqued and attacked the Ukrainian government. He is neither a sympathetic character in the corporate media’s eyes, nor does it make any political sense to present the Zelensky administration (whom the U.S. is steadfastly supporting) as responsible for killing an American citizen. Hence, his story is dropped and does not pass through the filters to make it onto our screens and into public consciousness. This study is certainly not arguing that Navalny’s death is not a newsworthy event, nor that Lira deserves equal or more coverage. Nor does it take any stance on Navalny or Lira as individuals or on the wider geopolitical tussle between the United States, Russia and Ukraine. It merely uses these stories as case studies to show that what makes it as “news” in establishment media is not random but the result of an intensely politicized process. In other words, when it comes to deaths, murders or assassinations, the media will likely only cover yours if there is something to be gained from it. Feature photo | Illustration by MintPress News Alan MacLeod is Senior Staff Writer for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent, as well as a number of academic articles. He has also contributed to FAIR.org, The Guardian, Salon, The Grayzone, Jacobin Magazine, and Common Dreams. The post Worthy vs. Unworthy Victims: Study Reveals Medias Selective Coverage of Navalny and Lira appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Investigations, National, Top Story, Alexey Navalny, Gonzalo Lira, Media Bias, Russia, study, Ukraine, US media, worthy vs unworthy victims]

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[l] at 2/27/24 5:25am
To fully understand the genocide taking place in the Gaza Strip, we need to look at how Israel has strategically distanced itself from any responsibility for the fate of the Palestinian refugees. Israel has consistently used lies and fabrications to lay the blame for the Palestinian refugees on others. Initially, it was the fault of the “Arabs” for promising the Palestinians they could leave while the Arab armies kicked the Jews out of Palestine, after which they would be able to return. The Palestinians fell for this, so the Zionist story goes, and now it is too bad for them they cannot return. Even if this was true, it does not explain why, from the end of 1947, the Zionist terror groups were violently displacing Palestinians, nor does it explain why the refugees were not permitted to return. Following the creation of the State of Israel, the Gaza Strip, parts of the West Bank and large areas within the countries that border Palestine became homes to refugee camps. From that point on, Israel claimed that it was the responsibility of the host countries to solve the refugee crisis by integrating Palestinians. In other words, it was not the responsibility of the party that committed the crime of ethnic cleansing but of the countries that were forced to host them. Because Israel occupied Gaza, it is faced with a problem it cannot solve. Doing the only thing that makes sense and allowing the refugees to return to their land and their homes is out of the question because Israel is a genocidal racist regime. Leaving Gaza as it is isn’t working either, so killing as many Palestinians in Gaza as possible and blaming it on them has been the policy for decades, and it has been successful. Since the early 1950s, when the Gaza Strip was created, Israeli forces have been committing massacres there and then blaming it on the Palestinians, claiming they present an existential threat. This strategy of killing has been so successful that even now, in 2024, the world is willing to allow Israel to commit acts of genocide uninterrupted. Furthermore, as these acts of genocide take place, Israel has succeeded in accomplishing yet another facet of its strategy to undermine the rights of the Palestinian refugees. It managed to get the world to reduce its support of UNRWA. The resources that were once available to UNRWA were barely enough to provide the services that its mandate demands. Now, the need is greater than ever, and many of the resources have dried up thanks to Israels undermining of the organization. Last but not least, Israel and its allies are accusing Egypt and even Jordan of not “taking” any of the survivors of the genocide in Gaza. It is these countries, say the Zionists, who should take the Palestinians and save them. Once again, the responsibility is shifted from the perpetrators of the crimes to parties that have nothing to do with it, while Israel enjoys diplomatic cover and material support that allows it to continue the genocide in Gaza and the brutal oppression throughout all parts of Palestine. Miko Peled is a MintPress News contributing writer, published author and human rights activist born in Jerusalem. His latest books areThe Generals Son. Journey of an Israeli in Palestine and Injustice, the Story of the Holy Land Foundation Five. The post Miko Peled: The Predicament Of Palestinian Refugees Amid Genocide appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Behind The Headlines, Foreign Affairs, Top Story, Egypt, Gaza, genocide, Human Rights, Israel, Israeli Peace Activist, Jordan, Miko Peled, refugees, UNRWA]

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[l] at 2/22/24 8:41am
On February 13, the U.S. House of Representatives deliberated on Resolution 3202, the Assad Regime Anti-Normalization Act of 2023. The following day, the House passed the bill with a 389 to 32 bipartisan majority. Now, the bill moves on to the Senate, where it will most likely pass with similar bipartisan support and a ringing endorsement from President Biden once it reaches his desk. The bill was pushed with a veneer of Syrian support represented by the advocacy of the Syrian Emergency Task Force (SETF) and the Syrian American Council (SAC) – Syrian opposition groups in the U.S. While its aims seem, at face value, to focus on humanitarian issues and a quest for accountability, the reality is much more complicated.   The Bills Stated Aims The bill was presented to the public as a tool for accountability purely targeting the Assad-led government of Syria and any of its in-country partners. The bill purports to achieve this by Prohibiting any U.S. official action to normalize relations with any Syrian government led by Bashar al-Assad, Strengthening the human rights sanctions levied on Syria, and Examining the Assad governments manipulation of the United Nations. In keeping with the polite presentation of the bill, Moaz Moustafa, SETF Executive Director, said: We are proud to see legislation that holds the Assad regime and those normalizing with war criminals accountable as a response to the passage of the bill. Similarly, on the House floor, House Foreign Relations Committee chairman Mike McCaul announced that Congress is sending a message that it remains committed to justice for the Syrian people.   The Bills True Aims While the stated aims seem to be focused on accountability and human rights, the real thrust of the bill was conveniently left unmentioned in the SETF and house representatives celebratory posts on X (formerly Twitter). One line, deep within the 22-page bill, reads: Section 7438 of the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act of 2019 is amended by striking the date that is 5 years after the date of the enactment of this Act and inserting December 31, 2032.' This hidden line, left out of all the explainer content dished out by SETF and SAC, extends the Caesar Act, set to expire in 2024, for eight more years. The perversely named Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act of 2019 has immiserated the more than 12 million Syrian people living under the government of Syria. Since the enactment of the Act, the percentage of the Syrian population below the poverty line has reached 90%, 600,000 Syrian childrens growth was stunted, and cases of anemia in pregnant and breastfeeding women saw a 60% rise. Described as unprecedented, as one of the strictest and most complex collective regimes in recent history, and as the most complicated and far-reaching sanctions regimes ever imposed, the Syrian groups pushing for Caesars eight-year extension understandably shied away from mentioning the most crucial part of this new bill, even though they helped provide Syrian cover for its passing. None of the four articles written by the SETF mention the extension of the Caesar Sanctions to 2032 As for normalization, although the bill purports to impose only a U.S. policy of wholesale rejection of normalization with the Syrian government, in reality, the bill lists several measures that would threaten a whole list of other countries wishing to restore diplomatic relations with Syria. The bill calls on the Secretary of State to submit an annual report to Congress detailing a strategy to describe and counter actions taken or planned by foreign governments to normalize, engage with, or upgrade political, diplomatic, or economic ties with the regime led by Bashar al-Assad in Syria. This annual report must also include a full list of diplomatic meetings at the Ambassador level or above, between the Syrian regime and any representative of the Governments mentioned. The report must also include a list of any transaction of $500,000 or more between any foreign person located in Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Oman, Bahrain, Kuwait, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Libya, or Lebanon and any recipient in any area of Syria held by the Assad regime.   Sanctioning Syria: A Washington Tradition H.R. 3202 is not the first, nor will it be the last, sanctions bill to target Syria. The economic war that the United States has been waging against Syria started long before a Tunisian banana salesman self-immolated, launching what would come to be known as the Arab Spring. In 1973, as the October War was waging, Henry Kissinger was perfecting his shuttle diplomacy in hopes of breaking the thorn that was former Syrian President Hafez Al Assad. Kissinger tried everything in his arsenal to get the then-Syrian president to abandon the military struggle and resistance of alliances he was waging against the U.S. presence in the Middle East, particularly Israel. Upon failing to sway Assads Syria from supporting Hezbollah, Palestinian Jihad, Hamas, and other resistance groups, and once Syrias position was weakened by the Egyptian signing of the 1978 Camp David Accords, the ire of the U.S. State Department and Treasury, fell upon the Arab Republic. Syrias name was written atop the inaugural State Sponsors of Terrorism (SST) list in 1979, along with Iraq, Libya, and South Yemen. Today, Syria remains the only inaugural member still on the list, sharing the limelight with newly added countries: Cuba, Iran, and North Korea. A timeline showing the membership of the US State Departments State Sponsors of Terrorism list. Source | Wikipedia For the past 45 years since Syria made it on the SST list, the sanctions have never stopped. Below is a summarized list of all the sanctions that have been progressively levied upon the country of Syria and its people: In 1979, the Export Administration Act added Syria to the SST and thus restricted Syria from receiving foreign assistance funds from the United States. The Act added that the Secretary of State must notify Congress before licensing the export of goods or technology worth more than $7 million to Syria. In 1985, the threshold for notifying Congress before licensing the export of goods or technology to Syria was lowered from $7 million to $1 million. In 1986, the Omnibus Diplomatic Security and Antiterrorism Act of 1986 and Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1986 respectively banned U.S. military sales to Syria and denied foreign tax credits on income or war profits from Syria with both of these laws citing alleged Syrian government support for terrorism. In 1989, the threshold for notifying Congress before licensing the export of goods or technology to Syria was lowered from $1 million to any value. In 1994, an amendment to the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 mandated that the United States withhold a proportionate share of funding and contributions to international organizations for programs that benefit Syria. In 1996, under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, the U.S. President was required to withhold aid to third countries that provided assistance or lethal military equipment to Syria. In 2003, the Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act (SALSRA) imposed broad sanctions based on alleged WMDs accusations against Syria and Syrias support of Hezbollah, Hamas, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command. In 2004, Bush announced an executive order expanding upon the SALSRA. The expansion cited Syria as being an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States in its undermining of […] stabilization and reconstruction of Iraq. In 2008, three years before the Arab Spring, the Bush administration imposed further blocks on assets related to public corruption in Syria. Once the uprisings of the Arab Spring reached Syria, the trickle of sanctions became a flood, and a bevy of bills and executive orders levied an array of sanctions on multitudes of industries in Syria, all culminating in the 2019 Caesar Civilian Protection Act. Today, Syria is the most heavily sanctioned country per capita in the world. Falling third behind only Russia (after the Ukraine war) and Iran. Syria, however, is much smaller than the valedictorian and salutatorian of U.S. sanctions and orders of magnitude worse off economically, therefore desperately tethered to the international export-import economy for its survival and more vulnerable to the damage of sanctions.   Whos Responsible for the Tradition of Sanctions? Although H.R. 3202 is not the first bill sanctioning Syria, it shares a crucial element with all its predecessor bills that have targeted Syria for the past half-century: the Israel Lobby. The 1979 bill that introduced Syria to the cruel reality of sanctions was a direct response to Syrias role in the October War of liberation waged against Israel and for Syrias unwavering support of the Palestinian resistance. The SALSRA Act of 2003 and the Caesar Civilian Protection Act of 2019 – the second and first most robust sanctions bills imposed upon Syria, respectively – were both written by Eliot Engels, a former Democratic congressman from the Bronx. Engels, a New York Democrat accused of tax fraud, is one of the top recipients of the American Israel Political Action Committee (AIPAC) money in Congress, with a total of $1,847,342 raised from the Zionist PAC. OpenSecrets profile of former Congressman Eliot Engels campaign fundraising sources As a member of the Arab-Israeli Peace Accord Monitoring Group, Congressional Hellenic-Israeli Alliance, and the Israel Allies Caucus, Engels is perhaps the foremost supporter of Israel amongst his Democrat peers. One of the first bills he introduced was to recognize Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel. He also wrote a resolution condemning a United Nations Security Council Resolution that condemned illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank and was one of the few Democrats who broke rank and voted with their Republican peers to kill a bill that would have banned the sale of U.S. made-cluster bombs to Saudi Arabia – cluster bombs that would later be dropped on Yemeni civilians by the monarchy. Eliot Engel, center, greets Saudi King Salman bin Abdul Aziz, left, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Jan. 27, 2015. Carolyn Kaster | AP Following in Engels footsteps, Joe Wilson, the author of H.R. 3202, also receives AIPAC money, albeit much less than the man whose work he extended by eight years. OpenSecrets profile of South Carolina Congressman Joe Wilsons campaign fundraising sources Wilson, a South Carolina Republican who cut his teeth as a young aide working for civil rights opponent Strom Thurmond and later defended his legacy, has also been one of the most ardent supporters of Israel in Congress throughout his service. Grateful for the opportunity to join my colleagues in a bicameral, bipartisan support of Israel. Thousands gathered on the National Mall to hear the collective sounds of solidarity in the ‘March for Israel. March to Free Hostages. March Against Antisemitism.’ #StandWithIsrael pic.twitter.com/IKjRr50qnK — Joe Wilson (@RepJoeWilson) November 14, 2023 In an interview with AIPAC, Wilson, who also serves as the chair of the Middle East and North Africa subcommittee, Global Counter Terrorism Committee member, and House Committee on Foreign Affairs member, raised the alarm about threats posed by Iran and the Houthis towards Israel and the United States. He added that he is grateful for the military service and what America has provided for the world. So extensive is Wilsons dedication to the cause of Israel that he once bragged that a Jewish person described him as a real mensch, Yiddish nomenclature meaning a person of honor.   Syrian Window Dressing Even the facade of faux grassroots Syrian support that was put forth for H.R. 3202 has shady links to account for its advocacy of regime change and rampant sanctions. The Syrian Emergency Task Force has been widely documented to have direct funding links to the U.S. State Department and extensive ties to the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP) and AIPAC. The group was condemned for its incessant push to get the Obama Administration to launch a Libya, or even Iraq-style invasion of Syria in order to force a regime change. Mouaz Moustafa (left) stands with Mike Pompeo, second right, and Joe Wilson, right, at an event condemning the Syrian government. Source | Twitter As journalist Max Blumenthal documented for Mondoweiss magazine, SETF has publicly celebrated a donation of $1 million from Cuba regime change organizations in a post on their website that has since been removed. As for the neocon-aligned 501 (c) Syrian American Council (SAC), a more bloodthirsty front organization for regime change war could not be found. In 2018, as a response to the now debunked Douma chemical attacks, the SAC urged President Trump to follow through on his tweets Sunday morning, and to take immediate action against this tyrannical regime…by grounding Assads air force. In 2017, the SAC publicly lamented Trumps refusal to continue the Obama administration CIA funding program of Jihadist terrorists in Syria, claiming that the $1 billion a year program was always too weak to tip the scales.   Syrian Civilians: Not an American Priority After the death toll of Palestinian children in Gaza reached a staggering 12,000, skepticism arises when observing the Permanent U.S. Ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas, vetoing a fourth U.N. Security Resolution calling for a ceasefire in Gaza. It becomes evident that the U.S. establishments concern for the lives of the Syrian people, let alone non-Israelis in the Middle East, is dubious at best. US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield raises her hand in opposition to a resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, February 20, 2024. Photo | Yomiuri Shimbun via AP Likewise, anyone listening to U.S. special envoy for Syria, James Jeffrey, characterize the suffering of the Syrian people as part of a geostrategic policy to transform Syria into a quagmire for the Russians, akin to the U.S. experience in Vietnam can comprehend the true motivations behind H.R. 3202 and preceding bills imposed on Syria. Lastly, observers noting the statements of Dana Stroul – Democratic co-chair of the bipartisan Syria Study Group (2018-2020), former deputy assistant secretary of defense for the Middle East (2021-2023), and current researcher at WINEP – discussing the rubble that the U.S. intends to keep Syria in and the leverage it plans to maintain over Syria, grasp that the policy of sanctioning Syria and obstructing reconstruction has long been endorsed by the bipartisan consensus in Washington. The driving force behind these detrimental policies has consistently been neoconservative regime change proponents and individuals affiliated with pro-Zionist think tanks. Biden official Dana Stroul in 2019: via military occupation, US owns Syria’s resource-rich economic powerhouse region. And via sanctions, it can preventing reconstruction aid and technical expertise from going back, leaving Syria in rubble. pic.twitter.com/WmZSfvXrKR — Aaron Maté (@aaronjmate) June 13, 2021 In an interview with Joshua Landis, one of the few Independent U.S. experts on Syria, Landis shared his opinion on the crass and transparent language used by the likes of Jeffrey and Stroul, telling MintPress, They’re saying that even if we dont succeed in getting rid of Assad.. At least we lock [Syria] into a stalemate… A stalemate that denies Iran and Russia a strategic Victory.” In describing the U.S. long-term goals in Syria to MintPress, Landis evokes the Arabic word for swamp or mustankaa. The long-term goal of America is to deny Syria as a strategic asset thats got some money, and that can help [Russia and Iran], and so keep it as poor as possible and make it mustankaa, Landis concluded.   Long Term Damage The Anti-Assad Regime Normalization Bill is the latest in a series of measures that the U.S. has taken against the Syrian people for the crime of winning a regime-change war imposed upon them. The U.S. hypocrisy on the global stage is now clearly evident to all who wish to see it. While the U.S. condemns and sanctions Venezuela for barring an opposition leader convicted of treason from running in the upcoming election, it supports and even provides IMF loans for Pakistan even after the latter ousted its democratically elected leader who chose neutrality in the Ukraine war. The U.S. system of rules-based order that has prevailed since 1945 with the establishment of the Bretton Woods Institutions is slowly unraveling. The dollars strength is waning, and the bite of U.S. unilateral sanctions has become duller over the years, as evidenced by the failure of the Russian sanctions regime. While the U.S. will undoubtedly succeed in causing another generation of Syrian kidss growth to be stunted, and while it will succeed in bringing more Syrian families below the poverty line during the coming eight years of Caesar Sanctions, it is all the while wrecking any semblance of credibility it might still have on the global stage, and – most unfortunate as Joshua Landis surmised while sharing his thoughts on the new bill – losing its identity along the way. Through much of American history, America believed that a stronger middle class made democracy and contributed stability in the world. But with this promiscuous use of sanctions, America is betraying its own values to lift people into the middle class. And now by trying to drive them into poverty, and using sanctions as a central instrument of its foreign policy, its creating deeper anger, and impoverished people who are less educated, and less capable of competing in the modern world. In theory, all this is to promote democracy or Justice … but of course its not going to do that. Its just going to make people more desperate, more Islamist, and more available to radical ideologies.” Feature photo | Illustration by MintPress News Hekmat Aboukhater is a Syrian American investigative journalist reporting from France, the U.S., and Syria. Hekmat hosts the WhatTheHekmat Podcast and the Conversations With Dissidents show. He has written for The Grayzone and Al Mayadeen. Follow him on X @WhatTheHekmat. The post Deconstructing H.R. 3202: The Israel Lobbys Persistent Role in Sanctioning Syria appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Foreign Affairs, Investigations, News, Top Story, Assad Regime Anti-Normalization Act of 2023, Bashar al-Assad, Eliot Engel, H.R. 3202, Israel Lobby, Sanctions, Syria, Syrian American Council, Syrian Emergency Task Force]

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[l] at 2/21/24 8:25am
On January 9, MintPress News probed a newly unsealed tranche of documentation on official police investigations into and civil lawsuits leveled against Jeffrey Epstein specifically, papers mentioning Alan Dershowitz. At that time, the veteran Zionist legal activist had been mooted as Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu’s top pick to defend Tel Aviv at the International Court of Justice in a case brought by South Africa over the Gaza genocide before almost immediately being dumped due to wide-ranging public backlash. That Netanyahu considered Dershowitz a viable candidate for the role at all spoke volumes. Both about Tel Aviv’s total lack of self-awareness and qualms over negative publicity, but also Dershowitz’s intimate connections to Israel’s darkest recesses. His role in defending notorious serial rapist Harvey Weinstein in court, and negotiating Epstein’s extraordinary 2008 Non-Prosecution Agreement, are well-known. Yet, obvious questions about whether and how these activities centrally placed him in a web of intelligence-connected blackmail intrigue have never been asked. When the fresh batch of Epstein files dropped last month, Dershowitz about whom allegations of pedophilia have abounded for many years was quick to boast of how his name appeared 137 times in the material while claiming the contents fully exonerated him of any wrongdoing. Even if true and, as MintPress News’ previous investigation outlined, that is far from certain certain documents could point to Dershowitz’s complicity in and knowledge of a very different sexual criminality.   ‘Leave It Alone’ The origins of Dershowitz’s longrunning friendship with Epstein or the version he “likes” to tell are revealed in a July 2019 New Yorker longread. Per Dershowitz, he was introduced to Epstein by his close associate, Lady Rothschild, Lynn Forester. In 1996, she suggested he meet an “interesting autodidact.” As an individual with “an enduring fascination with fame, society, and wealth,” he eagerly accepted the invitation. Epstein flew to Martha’s Vineyard and visited Dershowitz, bringing a bottle of champagne. “The two men found common interests,” The New Yorker recorded, talking about “science…academia…Harvard.” They became close friends, and in September of that year, Epstein introduced Dershowitz to his “mentor,” billionaire Leslie Wexner. Details of Epstein’s purported wealth management business remain sketchy today, to the point some question if it existed in the first place and how, given the distinct lack of a typical paper trail. Wexner was his only named “client.” Epstein and Dershowitz traveled to Wexner’s 300-acre estate in Ohio to celebrate their host’s fifty-ninth birthday. Other guests included astronaut turned senator John Glenn and former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres. Dershowitz’s assessment was that he served as Epstein’s “intellectual gift” to Wexner. Epstein was ever-keen to patronize and be perceived as a patron to academia, particularly Harvard, where Dershowitz taught law from 1964 to 2013. He, sometimes with Wexner, funded new buildings and research programs at the University while serving on assorted advisory boards there. Accordingly, many eminent figures in academia, science and technology have been linked to Epstein, rousing suspicions they were among his VIP “clients,” for whom he arranged sexual encounters with underage victims. In explaining why the billionaire was treated so leniently in 2008, then-Florida District Attorney Alexander Acosta, who oversaw the prosecution, claims he was told Epstein “belonged to intelligence” and thus was above his pay grade. State authorities were instructed to “leave it alone” as a result. Intensive investigations into Epstein and his personal and professional networks by MintPress contributor Whitney Webb amply suggest that the “intelligence” to which he “belonged” was Israel’s Mossad. In her landmark, two-part work One Nation Under Blackmail, she concludes Epstein sexually compromised luminaries within U.S. politics, technology, science, and finance, with Mossad and the Zionist cause the “most likely beneficiaries of his blackmail schemes.” This connivance went some way to furthering Tel Aviv’s domestic and foreign policy goals. Speaking to MintPress, Webb says Dershowitz “maintains never having known of Epstein’s deviant sexual behavior and crimes, and apparently overlooked his obvious affiliations with intelligence and organized crime, possibly because they shared a devotion to Zionism.” She adds that Dershowitz avowedly didn’t investigate “any red flags around Epstein,” as they were introduced by Lady Rothschild, a member of the family’s influential banking dynasty via marriage: Dershowitz’s account of his introduction to Epstein suggests he deferred to Rothschilds power and influence, over his own judgment. Some have observed how Dershowitzs perspective is affected by issues about which he is very emotional, like Zionism. He has shown vindictiveness toward those who have publicly challenged his Zionist leanings, such as Norman Finkelstein, and even taken quotes of an Epstein victim far out of context in an attempt to brand them as anti-Semitic.”   ‘Credibility Enhanced’ In this context, Dershowitz’s dealings with Virginia Guiffre (nee Roberts), who accused him and Epstein of sickening offenses, take on an acutely sinister character. Meanwhile, his already dubious denials of knowing about “Epstein’s deviant sexual behavior and crimes” before and during their extended time as close confidantes are rendered all the more dubious. In December 2014, Giuffre sued Dershowitz, claiming Epstein arranged for him to rape her at least six times, starting from when she was just 16. The legal action dragged on until November 2022, when Giuffre abruptly dropped the suit, contending she may have mistakenly misidentified her rapist. In the intervening time, parallel suits Giuffre brought against Epstein’s “madam” Ghislaine Maxwell and British Royal Prince Andrew, who also allegedly assaulted her, were settled in her favor to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Several files released in January pertain to Giuffre’s jettisoned legal action, and a case her lawyers brought against Dershowitz after the Harvard law professor tried to have them both disbarred for their pro bono support of her while launching a “massive public media assault on [their] reputation and character.” In September 2015, the unsealed records show that Dershowitz argued in court submissions that, in suing him for defamation, Giuffre’s lawyers “somehow waived” attorney-client privilege with Giuffre. Dershowitz resultantly filed a motion to compel them “to produce documents” and any material in their possession related to their client. In other words, he was determined to get his hands on sensitive, private information and communications involving his accuser, typically protected from legal disclosure. The presiding judge ultimately rejected these demands, condemning Dershowitz’s cynical effort to overturn one of the “oldest recognized privileges” in U.S. law for his own benefit. Undeterred, Dershowitz subpoenaed Giuffre to provide a sworn deposition, as the defamation action against him was ongoing. On the stand, she was relentlessly blitzed with queries concerned with compelling her to reveal information protected by attorney-client privilege and repeatedly invited her to waive those rights. In every instance, she declined. Giuffre’s lawyers’ action was eventually settled for an undisclosed sum in April 2016. One might conclude Dershowitz was guilty as sin, desperately flailing to ascertain any dirt his accuser and her attorneys might have on him before defending serious accusations in court. This reading may well be accurate although an alternative or even complementary interpretation could be that the Zionist legal apparatchik sought to identify what Giuffre knew more generally about Epstein’s pedophilic conspiracy in order to warn his friend and client. And perhaps Mossad, their clandestine sponsor. This suspicion is somewhat reinforced by a glaring, never hitherto acknowledged contradiction. Throughout January 2015, while being sued by Giuffre for sexual abuse, Dershowitz repeatedly took to mainstream U.S. TV news networks, including ABC, daring her to reiterate her allegations against him publicly on the same channels so that he could sue her for defamation. When she failed to appear, the Harvard legal professor charged Giuffre’s silence greatly undermined her credibility, demonstrating her allegations were libelous and untrue. Yet, in late 2019, a recording of an ABC News anchor leaked, in which she openly discussed how a planned 2015 interview with Giuffre didn’t go ahead due to direct pressure from her superiors and none other than Dershowitz himself. He subsequently acknowledged the veracity of that account several times, contemporaneously telling NPR he “did not want to see [Giuffre’s] credibility enhanced by ABC.” Again, this is extremely sinister behavior. Was Dershowitz simply attempting to protect himself, or Epstein and the wider blackmail intrigue?   ‘Frequent Guest’ As Whitney Webb tells Mintpress, Epstein was not the only “powerful Zionist accused of sexual misdeeds” in Dershowitz’s professional and social milieu. Harvey Weinstein, a veteran Hollywood film producer, was in October 2017 accused of industrial-scale rape, assault, harassment, and other non-consensual sexual conduct spanning a 30-year period. By the time of his arrest in May the next year, more than 80 women in the film industry had accused him of heinous acts. In the intervening time, it was revealed that Weinstein had availed himself of the services of Black Cube, a private intelligence company founded by former Mossad operatives, to surveil, influence, and intimidate his litany of accusers and journalists investigating his shocking history of sex abuse, in order to suppress the scandal. A veritable army of “ex” Israeli spies and chaos agents, often using false identities, collected a wealth of sensitive information on dozens of individuals, including their personal sexual histories. For example, one Black Cube operative, working undercover as a women’s rights supporter, approached film star Rose MacGowan, who was assaulted by Weinstein in a hotel room at the 1997 Sundance Film Festival, claiming they were interested in hiring her for a formal dinner speech. Their conversations were secretly recorded and then shared with Weinstein. And perhaps Dershowitz, who represented the serial rapist in his February 2020 trial, which landed the disgraced mogul in jail for 23 years. Webb adds that Weinstein was connected to Black Cube by another powerful Zionist and Epstein associate former Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak. Barak has since denied having any connection whatsoever with the company or its associates. Yet, he has a private intelligence firm staffed by “ex”-Mossad operatives all of his own Toka. In late 2022, it was announced that the company had innovated tech capable of hacking into and altering both recorded and live CCTV footage. Then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak poses with Alan Dershowitz at a 2014 pro-Israel event at Mar-a-Lago It is deeply disturbing that Toka has mastered this abstruse art, and one can only wonder why. In the Occupied Territories, CCTV footage has frequently been used to save falsely accused Palestinians from jail. Even more sinister answers may lie in Barak’s extremely close and long-running friendship with Epstein. It has been reported that the former Israeli premier was a “frequent guest, almost a fixture” at the billionaire pedophile’s expansive New York mansion before his mysterious death, reportedly by suicide, in 2019. Immediately before that fateful day, Barak approached Steve Bannon, former White House chief strategist and senior counselor to Donald Trump, asking them to assist in a PR blitz to exonerate Epstein. He may well have had more cynical, self-interested motivations, too. He is said to have once joked to his friend that the pair had “nothing to worry about” and they were “safe” from repercussions. In what context they reportedly made those remarks isn’t certain, although Giuffre claims Barak raped her. She has also accused wealthy Victoria’s Secret owner Leslie Wexner, whose Foundation paid Barak hundreds of thousands of dollars from 2004 to 2006 for just two research papers, one of which wasn’t completed. In January 2021, Israel’s High Court rejected a petition to investigate these payments formally. Whether this financing had another, darker purpose entirely is an open and obvious question. Multiple witnesses and victims alike have claimed Epstein’s many lavish residences were equipped with hidden cameras and microphones, used to record sexual assaults and rapes by politicians and high-profile figures he courted. At least one source contends this footage, along with other incriminating material, was collated in personalized dossiers on Epstein’s clients for the purposes of blackmail. The billionaire’s eventual capture and the risk his powerful paymasters could, in turn, be exposed to means that Mossad would likely be wary about funding such a real-life operation again. The CIA is known to have concocted numerous plots to forge sex tapes implicating foreign leaders. Toka’s tech would provide an alternative means of achieving this same Mephistophelian end, with enhanced layers of plausible deniability and little risk of public exposure. And if that were to happen, Alan Dershowitz would almost inevitably be on hand to secure Barak and his underlings sweetheart sentences. Feature photo | Illustration by MintPress News Kit Klarenberg is an investigative journalist and MintPress News contributor exploring the role of intelligence services in shaping politics and perceptions. His work has previously appeared in The Cradle, Declassified UK, and Grayzone. Follow him on Twitter @KitKlarenberg. The post From Courtroom to Conspiracy: Alan Dershowitzs Ties to Epsteins Blackmail Network appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Investigations, National, Top Story, alan dershowitz, blackmail, Ehud Barak, Giuffre, honeypot, Israeli Intellegence, Jeffrey Epstein, Kit Klarenberg, Mossad]

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[l] at 2/21/24 7:14am
Editor’s Note: Dear Readers, MintPress News’ YouTube channel was recently demonetized, and many of our videos made age-restricted. We would greatly appreciate your support by becoming a member of our Patreon page so that we can continue to bring you important stories like this one. Much of the work that we do is supported by viewers like you. There are few people on Earth richer or more influential than Bill Gates. For many years, the former Microsoft CEO was the planet’s most wealthy individual and used his power to corner and monopolize as much of the tech industry as he could. From there, Gates has moved to become perhaps the most powerful man in global health, agriculture and education. And yet, for all of his power and prestige, Gates is rarely scrutinized in our media. The Seattle native has been careful to cultivate an image of a well-meaning nerd who uses his wealth for good. Our guest today on the “MintCast” is an exception to that rule, being one of the few investigative journalists to critically examine Gates’ power and influence. Tim Schwab is an award-winning investigative journalist based in Washington, D.C. His reporting has been published in outlets such as The Nation, The Columbia Journalism Review, The Baffler and Jacobin magazine. His latest book, “The Bill Gates Problem: Reckoning with the Myth of the Good Billionaire,” was published in November. Today, Schwab joins “MintCast” co-host Alan MacLeod to discuss Gates’ origin story, how he uses his enormous wealth to negatively influence public health and education policy, his connections to disgraced child trafficker Jeffrey Epstein, and to ponder whether there is ever such a thing as a good billionaire. Gates’ influence on health policy became evident during the COVID-19 pandemic, when he used his funding connections to Oxford University to pressure the institution into their groundbreaking vaccine, telling them that only by partnering with a private corporation could they achieve their goals. Almost as soon as Oxford partnered with AstraZeneca, the latter announced that they would fall dramatically short of the vaccine production figures they had promised, leading to a massive dearth of vaccines for people worldwide, causing untold suffering. Schwab also told MacLeod today about the extraordinary influence that Gates’ billions had over the World Health Organization (WHO). As he wrote: One reason that the WHO didn’t have the expertise or capacity to manage the pandemic is that its authority had been eroded by the rise of the Gates Foundation. Gates has far more money than the WHO and has taken over key functions of its work. The foundation had also become the second-largest funder of the WHO, which allowed it to shape what the organization worked on and what it didn’t.” Few know about Gates’ negative influence on global health, however, partially because the media rarely report on it. This is down in no small part to the hundreds of millions of dollars he and his foundation have lavished upon newsrooms across the United States and around the world. Gates is a major funder of many of the most well-known and influential outlets globally, including The New York Times, CNN, NBC, The Atlantic, NPR, PBS, the BBC, Al-Jazeera, El País and Le Monde. MintPress, however, will continue to hold the powerful to account, even if corporate media refuse to do their job. Listen to or watch the full interview exclusively with MintPress News, and don’t forget to subscribe. MintPress News is a fiercely independent media company. You can support us by becoming a member on Patreon, bookmarking and whitelisting us, and subscribing to our social media channels, including YouTube, Twitter and Instagram. Subscribe to MintCast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and SoundCloud. Also, check out rapper Lowkey’s video interview/podcast series, The Watchdog. Alan MacLeod is Senior Staff Writer for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent, as well as a number of academic articles. He has also contributed to FAIR.org, The Guardian, Salon, The Grayzone, Jacobin Magazine, and Common Dreams. The post Unraveling Bill Gates’ Global Web of Influence, with Tim Schwab appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Behind The Headlines, National, Top Story, AstraZeneca, Bill Gates, COVID-19, Gates Foundation, global influence, Oxford University, Privatization, The Bill Gates Problem: Reckoning with the Myth of the Good Billionaire, Tim Schwab, Vaccine, World Health Organization]

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[l] at 2/20/24 8:30am
Even as Israel pounds Gaza into rubble, carrying out what has been described as a genocide in the process, many of its supporters are attempting to change the subject, instead decrying a supposedly new wave of dangerous antisemitism across American universities. Their evidence for this is a new report from the Network Contagion Research Institute (NCRI). Entitled “The Corruption of the American Mind,” the study alleges that Middle Eastern funding of U.S. universities has helped unleash a torrent of anti-Jewish hatred. Yet, as we shall see, not only does the report contain numerous methodological issues, but the NCRI itself is deeply connected to the Israel lobby, as well as the U.S. national security state, and regularly publishes thinly sourced reports in service of Israeli interests and U.S. imperialism.   Campus Propaganda Wars The NCRI report claims that American universities have accepted billions of dollars from authoritarian countries and that those institutions that accepted Middle Eastern cash saw 300% more antisemitic incidents than those that did not. U.S. universities, they conclude, are hotbeds of Jew-hatred. The report bemoans a: [M]assive influx of foreign, concealed donations to American institutions of higher learning, much of it from authoritarian regimes with notable support from Middle Eastern sources, reflects or supports heightened levels of intolerance towards Jews, open inquiry and free expression.” The study was widely cited in the media, particularly by pro-Israel partisans eager to change the subject from Israel’s bombing of Gaza. Bari Weiss, for example, wrote that “the explosion of antisemitic hate” on campuses had been “fueled by Middle Eastern money.” As she explained: [F]or several decades a toxic worldview—morally relativist, anti-Israel, and anti-American—has been incubating in ‘area studies’ departments and social theory programs at elite universities. Whole narratives have been constructed to dehumanize Israelis and brand Israel as a ‘white, colonial project’ to be ‘resisted.’” The clear implication in both the NCRI study and Weiss’ report is that domestic opposition to Israeli (or other Western nations’) actions cannot be organic. Instead, it must be funded by nefarious foreign actors – a notion that, as we shall see – is a central recurring theme in the NCRI’s work.   Shady Connections The Network Contagion Research Institute describes itself as “the world’s foremost expert in identifying and forecasting the threat and spread of misinformation and disinformation across social media platforms.” Yet its connections to a wide range of controversial organizations raises questions about its neutrality. For one, the primary funder of its $1.7 million budget is the Israel on Campus Coalition, a group that describes its mission as to: [U]nite the many pro-Israel organizations that operate on campuses across the United States by coordinating strategies, providing educational resources, sharing in-depth research, and increasing collaboration.” “We envision the American college campus as a place where…the anti-Israel movement is marginalized, and where the entire campus community appreciates Israel’s contributions to the world,” the Israel on Campus Coalition writes on the “about us” section of its website. If it were not apparent enough that this is a nakedly pro-Israel propaganda group fighting a war on America’s college campuses, the Israel on Campus Coalition is, in turn, bankrolled by the Jewish National Fund, a group that works hand-in-hand with the Israeli Defense Forces and builds illegal Jewish settlements on Palestinian land. The NCRI has also partnered with (i.e., was financed by) the Charles Koch Foundation and the Open Society Foundation – groups that have been involved in funding regime change operations abroad. It has also collaborated with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). The ADL is a group in the United States that, under the guise of fighting anti-Jewish racism, has long acted as a semi-official spying agency for Israel. Throughout its long history, it has infiltrated or surveilled virtually every progressive American organization, including Greenpeace, the NAACP, the United Farm Workers, the AFL-CIO, the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP), and a host of leftist Arab- and Jewish-American organizations. It even spied on figures such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Nelson Mandela and was known to be passing much of the information on to the Israeli government. An internal FBI memo noted that the ADL was very likely breaking the Foreign Agents Registration Act by acting as an arm of the Israeli state. Indeed, the memo alleged that the group was almost certainly secretly funded by Tel Aviv. In 2019, the ADL announced it was partnering with the NCRI to “produce a series of reports that take an in-depth look into how extremism and hate spread on social media – and provide recommendations on how to combat both.” The ties to the ADL go even deeper. NCRI co-founder Joel Finkelstein started the organization while holding down a job as a research fellow at the ADL and continued to work at both organizations simultaneously for nearly two years, further blurring the line between the two. Meanwhile, NCRI lead intelligence analyst Alex Goldenberg is a former fellow at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the primary and most influential Israel lobbying group in the United States. Richard Benson, the NCRI’s director of European operations, was formerly chief executive of Community Security Trust (CST), a British Israel lobby group with deep ties to the Israeli state. The CST compiled a secret list of “extreme” (i.e., anti-Zionist) Jewish groups and sent it to the U.K. government and successfully lobbied to block Palestinian activists from being allowed to enter Great Britain. Many key figures of the NCRI’s leadership team also have close links to the U.S. national security state. This includes its CEO, Adam Sohn, who served as Florida Governor Jeb Bush’s communications director before becoming vice president of the Koch Foundation. Paul Goldenberg, meanwhile, was a senior figure in the Department of Homeland Security and led its attempts to counter extremism and radicalism at home. He was appointed by President Obama and reappointed by President Trump as a senior advisor to the DHS. Today, he is a strategic advisor to the NCRI. The NCRI’s strategic advisory council also includes two senior military figures: Loree Sutton, a former brigadier general in the U.S. Army, and (formerly) John Allen, a retired four-star Marine Corps general who was commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan. Other contributors to NCRI reports include Kelli Holden, a 28-year CIA veteran who rose to become chief of counterintelligence operations at the agency, and Brian Harrell, whose previous roles included Assistant Secretary for Infrastructure Protection, Department of Homeland Security and Assistant Director for Infrastructure Security, U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.   Flawed Methodology In short, then, the NCRI has deep connections to both the Israel lobby and the U.S. national security state, making its pronouncements on the issue of Israel’s war on Gaza and the rise of pro-Palestine solidarity particularly questionable. However, the methodology the group used in their report is equally questionable. Firstly, the group derived its numbers on antisemitic incidents by amalgamating hard-to-compare data from multiple organizations, including the ADL. But, as MintPress documented in November, the ADL’s figures on antisemitic incidents are deeply flawed, as the organization counts pro-Palestine rallies calling for ceasefires as instances of anti-Jewish hatred. Virtually any opposition to the state of Israel’s policies is treated as problematic, as the ADL does not only consider anti-Zionism to be antisemitism but, as its CEO Johnathan Greenblatt said: “anti-Zionism is genocide.” “Every Jewish person is a Zionist…it is fundamental to our existence,” Greenblatt brazenly added. The NCRI report highlights what it sees as the nefarious influence of money from foreign dictatorships but does not consider whether opposition to Israel could be organic and a natural response to the Israeli government. Moreover, while the headlines concentrate on Middle Eastern money, among the top sources for foreign cash in universities are the United Kingdom, Japan, Germany, Switzerland, Bermuda and Canada – hardly the destinations many would consider when reading the key findings. In addition, the lead author of the report is a senior research fellow at the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle East and African Studies at Tel Aviv University, an institution that grew out of a proposal from the first director of the Israeli intelligence service, Mossad. Even pro-Israel sources have panned the NCRI report. As the conservative Jewish News Syndicate noted, the study “mix[ed] incompatible data,” “[did] not present a single example of how undocumented money was spent in a way to impact antisemitism,” and concluded that “the impact on campus is ‘complex and multiply determined,’ which is shorthand for ‘we couldn’t prove our case.’”   Targeting Alternative Media In another attack on pro-Palestine voices, the Network Contagion Research Institute was also the prime source for a recent Washington Post investigation claiming that conspiracy theories about Hamas’ October 7 attack are gaining momentum online. As the Post wrote: Oct. 7 denial is spreading. A small but growing group denies the basic facts of the attacks, pushing a spectrum of falsehoods and misleading narratives that minimize the violence or dispute its origins.” Yet the article did not attempt to distinguish between wild and untrue assertions and factual reporting from independent media outlets like The Electronic Intifada and The Grayzone, which has shown that much about the Israeli narrative, including the infamous “40 beheaded babies” hoax, was demonstrably untrue. By doing so, the article lumps Electronic Intifada and The Grayzone in with far-right Holocaust deniers. This is particularly egregious since the article’s writer, Elizabeth Dwoskin, is a Nakba denier who claimed that before 1948, there was no Palestine and that the area merely consisted of a few “desert bedouins without a sense of national identity.” Despite the Post’s dubious claims and lack of hard evidence, Electronic Intifada has already been attacked by groups using the article to limit its reach online. Newsguard – a news rating site and browser plug-in – recently contacted Electronic Intifada and appears to be pushing for the site to be de-ranked and demoted in search results, labeling it an untrustworthy news source, thereby limiting its impact online. Newsguard purports to be a private and independent company. But it is, in fact, even more connected to the U.S. national security state than the NCRI. On its board of advisors sits the former Secretary of Homeland Security, Tom Ridge, former Secretary General of NATO, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, and ex-CIA Director, Michael Hayden. MintPress News has documented Newsguard’s ties to the national security state and has also been targeted by the organization. Ali Abuminah, the co-founder and executive director of the Electronic Intifada, spelled out the point of these hit pieces and why groups like the NCRI would collaborate with them. “Articles like this in establishment or semi-official outlets like the Washington Post will be used by lobby groups to pressure social media companies to censor us or limit our reach,” he said, adding: There is a whole censorship-industrial-complex, in which governments, think tanks funded by governments and arms manufacturers and big tech companies aim to control what we all say and see online, under the banner of fighting supposed disinformation. They label anything that challenges official narratives to be ‘disinformation.’ And when you start to break through and challenge their hold on the official narrative (as we have clearly been doing) they come for you.”   Disinformation About Disinformation The Network Contagion Research Institute claims that it has “no political agenda.” Yet, studying their reports, it becomes clear that they are most interested in investigating the deeds of enemy states. One analysis, for example, published in the wake of October 7 claimed that Iranian state actors were carrying out a disinformation campaign around Israel’s bombardment of Gaza, amplifying antisemitic tropes and slogans. This was far from the only Israel interference the NCRI has run. Another from last year claimed that the vast majority of tweets opposing Zionism were antisemitic, sharing “identical hateful tropes,” and that Israel was accused of human rights abuses online far more than any other country in the world – a claim the researchers felt was unfair. A third contended that Instagram is flooded with pro-Palestine bots. A chief piece of evidence, they claimed, was that messages such as “Free Palestine” were often the top comment underneath posts that had little or nothing to do with the war. The NCRI has also pointed the finger at Washington’s chief political enemies. In a report titled “A Tik-Tok-ing Timebomb: How TikTok’s Global Platform Anomalies Align with the Chinese Communist Party’s Geostrategic Objectives,” they claimed that “TikTok systematically promotes or demotes content based on whether it is aligned with or opposed to the interests of the Chinese Government.” Meanwhile, they have also alleged that Russia was creating a “disinformation ecosystem” to pin the blame for global food insecurity on the West. It is telling that the NCRI consistently echoes the Washington line on these issues and appears far less interested in studying hateful content that Israelis or Americans put out against their enemies nor government-backed disinformation networks emanating from those countries. One would only have to look at official statements put out by both endorsing genocide. Furthermore, both countries employ huge troll armies to influence online debate. In the U.S. case, the Department of Defense alone has at least 60,000 workers attempting to police narratives and influence online discussions. But the network of Western fact-checkers and disinformation experts that has sprung up in the past few years never seems particularly interested in investigating, perhaps because they belong to the same broad team. The NCRI proclaims that its mission is: “to track, expose, and combat misinformation, deception, manipulation, and hate across social media channels.” However, when studying the group’s funding, key figures and its history of attacking alternative media and defending the state of Israel, it often seems like that is exactly what it is producing itself. If the NCRI wanted to catalog disinformation being spread online, they could start by looking closer to home. Feature photo | Illustration by MintPress News Alan MacLeod is Senior Staff Writer for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent, as well as a number of academic articles. He has also contributed to FAIR.org, The Guardian, Salon, The Grayzone, Jacobin Magazine, and Common Dreams. The post NCRI Exposed: Israel Lobby-Linked Group Tied to Illegal Settlements and Campus Censorship appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Foreign Affairs, Investigations, Top Story, ADL, antisemitism, Campus Censorship, Israel Lobby, NCRI, Network Contagion Research Institute]

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[l] at 2/16/24 11:37am
In the courtyard of Yemens famous Al Shaeb Mosque, guards of honor stood at attention accompanied by the melody of military music as the funeral ceremony of Yemeni marines killed in the latest round of U.S. and UK strikes commenced. The mourners, many of whom traveled from the countryside to attend, walked alongside a long convoy carrying the bodies of 17 victims as it made its way through the streets of Sanaa. Mourners held aloft photos of the deceased or thrust their rifles into the air while chanting slogans condemning the United States. Several banners peppered the crowd, emblazoned with the label given to those who gave their lives in what many view as a struggle in defense of Palestine: Martyrs on the road to al-Quds (Jerusalem). Seventeen pickup trucks ensconced in green drapes bore the bodies. They were escorted by family members alongside thousands of mourners leaving Sanaa for the hometowns of the victims who hailed from various regions of Yemen. The scene unfolded last Sunday when thousands of angry Yemenis took to the streets of Sanaa and other cities to hold a funeral for those killed by the attacks. Retribution against American soldiers We will not abandon our revenge, some mourners proclaimed. In Bani Matar, 70 kilometers west of Sanaa towards the Hodeida Road, the mothers of Ziad Ajlan and Hashem Al-Sawari watched the convoy from a rooftop as it carried along the bodies of their sons. Ziad and Hashem were not involved in the fighting; they were among a number of civilians killed in attacks launched by the U.S. Navy on the Yemeni mainland one week ago. My son was martyred on the road to al-Quds, Ziads mother said proudly. We will not be broken, and we will not abandon Gaza. U.S. and British officials maintain that their attacks target Houthi military positions ammunition stores and missile launch sites, but the reality of the ground tells a different story. Yemeni civilians say they are blind and indiscriminate and often leave civilians maimed or killed. Assuming the U.S. and UK are acting in good faith, it is clear that their intelligence information is lacking. A truck belonging to a farmer carrying plastic pipes was targeted in an airstrike outside the city of Saada last week. It is believed that the pipes were mistaken for missiles. This story has repeated itself ad nauseam throughout Yemen since the end of December when the multinational Operation Prosperity Guardian (OIR) was launched in a thus-far failed attempt to protect ships linked with Israel from Ansar Allah. This week alone, as many as 40 strikes were launched by the U.S. and the UK, most targeting the coastal city of Hodeida. Coffins of Asnar Allah fighters killed in the U.S.-led strikes on Yemen are transported during a mass funeral in Sanaa, Yemen, Feb. 10, 2024. Osamah Abdulrahman | AP   The Fog of War The danger of Washingtons attacks on Yemens mainland lies not only in exposing civilians to danger but has the potential to spark retaliatory measures taken by Ansar Allah should pressure from the public and family members of victims continue to mount. On December 29, when U.S. forces killed 10 Yemeni sailors aboard three ships in the Red Sea, Ansar Allah refrained from retaliating. But when American and British bombs peppered mainland Yemen the next month, striking major cities with over 100 precision-guided missiles, leaving civilians dead and maimed, Ansar Allah reacted, carrying out a barrage of retaliatory attacks. Some Yemeni officials have even hinted that two U.S. Navy Seals that the U.S. government claims drowned while boarding a boat smuggling weapons into Yemen were actually killed in combat. It is not known whether the soldiers were killed in attacks by Ansar Allah ballistic missiles or drones or during a failed commando operation as the U.S. claims, but what is clear is that the U.S. is covering its losses and information about the deaths of the Seals has been highly politicized. In fact, many of the details surrounding hostilities between the U.S. and Ansar Allah have been cast in a heavy fog of war, and it will likely be years before the truth is revealed. What is certain is that Ansar Allah has caused direct material damage to U.S. military vessels, targeting numerous times with advanced missiles and drones launched. In the wake of every such attack, a statement was issued, reaffirming Ansar Allahs right to take revenge for those killed in American and British bombing raids. On January 31, the Ansar Allah announced that the American destroyer, the USS Gravely, was hit by several anti-ship missiles. In the wake of the attack, US Central Command (CENTCOM)  announced that the Gravely had shot down an advanced anti-ship cruise missile. Later, reports emerged that the destroyer in question and other Western military assets in the area had failed to intercept the missile until it got within 4 seconds from hitting the U.S. warship. On January 25, Ansar Allah said that it had clashed with American destroyers in the Gulf of Aden and Bab al-Mandab for two hours. One U.S. Navy vessel was directly hit after a failed interception attempt, according to Ansar Allah, who have been improving their capabilities since 2014, after a failed Saudi-led and U.S.-backed bombing campaign left the country in tatters. This undated photograph released by CENTCOM shows the vessel that was being boarded by US Navy Seals near Yemen in a raid that saw two commandos go missing   Manufacturing Consent Although President Joe Biden has repeatedly claimed that the United States does not seek to expand the war in the Middle East, the actions of the US military are undoubtedly making the situation in the Red Sea more tense. In the wake of American airstrikes targeting Hodeida on Thursday for the ninth time that day alone, Ansar Allah Armed Forces spokesperson Brigadier Yahya Saree revealed that the group would take further measures within its legitimate right to self-defense in response to the repeated U.S.-UK aggression. In the same statement, Saree announced that the Barbados-flagged British Bulk Carrier ship, the LYCAVITOS, was targeted by naval missiles while sailing in the Gulf of Aden, raising questions about the actual deterrence factor of Americas escalatory approach. Prior to that, the leader of Ansar Allah, Abdul-Malik al-Houthi, the leader of the revolution that the U.S.-backed Yemeni government in 2014, confirmed that any escalation on Ansar Allahs part would be against Israel and to confront American and British aggression and would not target the interests of ordinary Westerners. The comment came in response to claims circulated in the media that Ansar Allah could sabotage a network of underwater internet cables that run through the Red Sea. We do not plan to target submarine cables, and we have no intention of doing so, and what is reported in the media is a lie aimed at distorting our humanitarian position on the war on Gaza, he said. Many Western media outlets promoted the claim, raising fears over the safety of infrastructure critical to the functioning of the Western Internet and the transmission of financial data. Yemen is strategically located, as internet lines connecting entire continents pass near it. Airstrikes and claims that internet access may be cut off may be the tip of the escalatory iceberg, according to the government of Sanaa. The Minister of Information, Daifallah al-Shami, held a press conference on Thursday announcing that they have information that the UAE is seeking to recruit agents from multiple foreign nationalities in cooperation with Al-Qaeda and ISIS to target ships in the Red Sea and the Arabian Sea in order to confuse and distort operations carried out by Ansar Allah in support of Gaza. According to al-Shami, the move is supported by the U.S.   we will not abandon Gaza Contrary to what is being promoted in much of the Western media, which has taken the line that Ansar Allahs Red Sea blockade has nothing to do with the ongoing genocide in Gaza, a review of the targets of Ansar Allahs attacks makes their motivations clear. On October 19, Ansar Allah fired drones and missiles at Israels southern Eliat Port. In mid-November, the naval forces seized an Israeli ship headed towards occupied Palestine. Shortly after, Ansar Allah publically announced that the Israeli-linked ship would not be allowed to pass through the Baba al-Mandab Strait. Later, they announced that the ban on shipping would extend to all vessels attempting to reach Eliat Port. All of these measures were in support of a single, repeatedly declared goal, which was to pressure Israel to stop its war on Gaza and allow food and water to enter the besieged strip. With visible sadness and anger, Abdul-Malik al-Houthi enumerated in a televised speech on Tuesday the reasons that motivate Yemen to continue operations to prevent international navigation supporting Israel in the Red Sea the continued mass killing of the Gazans, renewed American support for Israel, including with lethal weapons and the use of internationally banned weapons against civilians in Gaza, including white phosphorus. Al-Houthi said that the Yemeni militarys retaliatory strikes in the Red Sea had proven to be effective as it led to the almost complete closure of the port of Umm al-Rashrash (the name of Eliat before Israel annexed it), and all food supply chains to Israel that were passing through the Red Sea and Bab al-Mandab stopped by 70%, and prices in the Israeli market rose by 30-50% after ships were forced to divert course through the Cape of Good Hope. Israel, he noted, was one of the largest beneficiaries of maritime trade, with imports in 2022 reaching to $133 billion thanks to the Red Sea. Responding to those who question the feasibility of Ansar Allahs position, Al-Houthi said that Yemeni operations have caused repercussions for ship insurance, noting that insurers are now refusing to insure ships heading towards the ports of occupied Palestine. Not only that, he added, but insurance companies require Israeli and American ships to pay additional amounts of up to 50%. Our operations at sea led to a decline in Israels total imports of products by 25% during the past months, Al-Houthi said, The Israeli Ministry of Economy and Industry admitted that the Red Sea operations harmed its trade relations with 14 countries. Amid threats of escalation and even whispers of a Western-led ground invasion of Yemen, Ansar Allah has reiterated its commitment to its mission. Mobilization, military training, demonstrations, and other activities will be continued as long as the aggression against Gaza continues, it has reaffirmed, saying that operations at sea will continue until Israel allows food and medical supplies and the delivery of basic needs into Gaza. The U.S. and UK will not achieve their goals through aggression against our country, and the only solution is to stop the aggression and deliver food and medicine to the people of Gaza, Al-Houthi vowed. Feature photo | In this image provided by the Ministry of Defence, an RAF Typhoon aircraft takes off to conduct further strikes against Ansar Allah targets in Yemen from RAF Akrotiri, Cyprus, Feb. 3, 2024. Jake Green | Ministry of Defence | AP Ahmed AbdulKareem is a Yemeni journalist based in Sanaa. He covers the war in Yemen for MintPress News as well as local Yemeni media. The post The Threat of All Out War: Yemen Nears the Tipping Point As US Airstrikes Intensify appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Foreign Affairs, News, Top Story, Yemen Coverage, Ansar Allah, Attacks on ships, Eliat Port, Houthis, Israel, US airstrikes, Yemen]

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[l] at 2/16/24 8:46am
Palestine’s Arab neighbors seem to have taken a bold stance on Israel’s genocide of Gaza in a public show of solidarity with Palestinians. But behind those strong words, states like Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the UAE are quietly assisting Israel. These four nations are working together to circumvent the actions of one of the few regional actors who are challenging Israel concretely: Yemen’s Ansar Allah. In a bid to alleviate pressure on Israel from the Ansar Allah (a.k.a the Houthi) blockade of the Red Sea, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Jordan have established land corridors, ensuring cargo destined for the apartheid state arrives safely in Israeli hands. According to Hebrew Channel 13, Israeli-linked cargo ships arrive in the UAE to unload goods. Trucks then transport these goods through UAE and Saudi highways to Jordan. They eventually reach Israel via the Jordan River Crossing. German shipping company Hapag-Lloyd announced that it was working with Saudi Arabia and the UAE to create a land route “bypassing the Houthis,” which connects ports in the UAE and the Saudi port of Jeddah facilitating cargo movement to Israel through the Suez Canal. Egypt has also joined the effort, operating container ships from its ports to the Israeli port of Ashdod, further supporting the land bridge initiative and assuring Israeli commerce is not interrupted amid its genocidal campaign in Gaza. But that is just the start of their complicity. Take Turkey, for example. Around 40% of Israel’s energy needs are met by an oil pipeline running through Turkey. President Erdoğan could simply shut the flow of oil off to Israel, which would shut down the economy and the military assault in days. But he continues not to do so, despite offering strong condemnation of Israel in words.  Morocco, meanwhile, is building a military intelligence base for Israel near its border with Algeria. The site will be utilized for collaboration for military training, intelligence and security. Israeli arms manufacturer Elbit Systems also recently announced the establishment of two weapons factories in Morocco, helping to diversify Israel’s weapons production capabilities, as activists in other countries shut the factories down. In 2021, Morocco also signed the Abraham Accords a normalization treaty with Israel that Bahrain and the UAE had already agreed to. The Emirates has long been a hub for Israeli intelligence, and it is now well established that the two nations aid each other on intelligence matters. Moreover, last year, Edge Group, a UAE state-owned corporation, invested $14 million in Israeli drone manufacturer Highlander Aviation. So the Israeli police employ their airspace management system, which was tested by the Israeli Air Force. The relationship between the UAE and Israel has grown now that Elbit Systems established an entire subsidiary organization – Elbit Systems Emirates – in order to establish what it called “long term cooperation” with the UAE military. Meanwhile, despite its rhetoric, Saudi Arabia has been quietly collaborating with Israel for some time. The Saudi-backed group Affinity Partners owns a stake in the Israeli company Shlomo Group. During the conflict in Gaza, the Shlomo Group contributed trucks and military equipment to the Israeli militarys Shaldag and Maglan units, as well as food packages to the IDF. Saudi Arabia is well-known to be one of the Israeli intelligence industry’s best customers. Saudi security forces have used Israeli tech provided by NSO Group and Cellebrite to spy on people and hack their phones, including for the infamous murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. These states could do so much besides empty rhetoric to help the people of Palestine and blunt the Israeli attack on Gaza, including arms embargoes, sanctions on trade and travel, and halting the military and intelligence collaborations. The people of the Arab world are dead against the genocide in Gaza and collaborating in it. They have come out in mass across their countries protesting Israel’s war and have even vowed to march through their borders to Gaza to defend their Palestinian brethren. But it is clear, for these leaders – their actions speak louder than their words. Mnar Adley is an award-winning journalist and editor and is the founder and director of MintPress News. She is also president and director of the non-profit media organization Behind the Headlines. Adley also co-hosts the MintCast podcast and is a producer and host of the video series Behind The Headlines. Contact Mnar at mnar@mintpressnews.com or follow her on Twitter at @mnarmuh. The post How Arab States Are Helping Israel Commit Genocide appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Behind The Headlines, Foreign Affairs, News, Top Story, Arab States, Egypt, genocide, Human Rights, Israel, Jordan, Mnar Adley, Saudi Arabia, UAE]

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[l] at 2/16/24 6:18am
Israels latest refusal to accept the Palestinian offer for a cease-fire and prisoner exchange demonstrates again that it only wants to continue the killing. Furthermore, the latest cold-blooded assault on Palestinians in Rafah most of whom are displaced, having had to escape their homes in other parts of the Gaza Strip, presents an urgent need for the international community to intervene. The purpose of the intervention is to force Israel to comply with terms that will make it impossible for it to continue the killing. An absolute guarantee for the safety and security of Palestinians must be put in place and monitored by the international community. All the negotiations so far began with the assumption that the Palestinians had to disarm and release hostages. However, it is time to change the equation. Since Israel is the aggressor, the source of the violence and has shown an insatiable appetite for killing Palestinians, the demand must be for Israel to disarm and release the thousands of Palestinians held in its prisons. Furthermore, Israel must immediately lift the siege on Gaza and allocate billions of dollars necessary to rebuild and rehabilitate the Gaza Strip and its people. While the main focus since October 7, 2023, has been on Gaza, Israels crimes against humanity continue throughout all of Palestine. In the Naqab, in Hebron, and throughout the West Bank, in Jerusalem, in Lyd, Yafa and Ramle, and all the way to Northern Galilee, Palestinians are living in a state of terror. Afraid for their lives, not daring to leave their homes, fearful for their childrens lives and unable to communicate their fears because the Israel intelligence services are listening. Therefore, any agreement must include demands that will improve conditions for Palestinians throughout all of Palestine. Israel must remove barriers and checkpoints that inhibit free movement for Palestinians. Settlers must be disarmed, and the authority of the Israeli military, police, and intelligence service to arrest, torture, and kill Palestinians must be curtailed. Israel must be forced to accept these conditions; it cannot be left to the Israeli governments will. Until such time that Israel demonstrates that these conditions are met, there should be sanctions against the Zionist State. An arms embargo must be placed, and any party, state or otherwise, breaking the embargo must be penalized. There must be a no-fly zone declared over the Gaza Strip so that Israel can no longer endanger the lives of the Palestinians living within it. Israeli diplomatic missions must be closed down, and representatives of Israel in other countries must all be sent back home. If the world is serious about ending the killing of Palestinians and allowing those who survive to rehabilitate and live free, then severe measures must be taken. Israel must be forced to comply with these conditions or be punished. Israel must pay for its crimes, and the heavier the cost, the more chances there are of compliance. Miko Peled is a MintPress News contributing writer, published author and human rights activist born in Jerusalem. His latest books areThe Generals Son. Journey of an Israeli in Palestine, and Injustice, the Story of the Holy Land Foundation Five. The post Israeli Peace Activist Calls For Sanctions, No-Fly Zone On Israel appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Behind The Headlines, Foreign Affairs, Gaza, genocide, Human Rights, International Court of Justice, Israel, Israeli Peace Activist, Miko Peled, no-fly zone, Sanctions, War Crimes]

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[l] at 2/14/24 8:31am
Amid the fast-paced action that saw the Kansas City Chiefs win their third championship in five years, Americans tuning in to watch the Super Bowl were met with a barrage of unusual propaganda. Nestled between the typical ads for cars and beer were two bizarre messages: one from the Foundation to Combat anti-Semitism (FCAS) and the other from the State of Israel itself. Both were intimately related to the ongoing slaughter in Gaza and trying to draw attention away from Israeli war crimes.   Targeting Black Americans The FCAS commercial features Clarence B. Jones, the former advisor to Martin Luther King, who drafted his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. The message is that there is a growing tidal wave of racist intolerance in America and that we must all come together to oppose anti-Semitism — the commercial ends by telling people to visit the website StandUpToJewishHate.com. Super Bowl ads do not come cheap, and its $7 million for 30-second air time price tag was footed by the billionaire owner of the New England Patriots NFL franchise, Robert Kraft. Kraft (net worth: $11 billion) made his fortune in the paper and packaging business and has deep ties to the state of Israel, including donating hundreds of millions of dollars to pro-Israel groups and funding pro-Israel candidates in U.S. elections. He even enjoys a close relationship with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. We are asking all Americans to stand up to hate and not be silent. Millions of people saw our ad during the Super Bowl and we have one question: how will you stand up? #StandUpToJewishHate # pic.twitter.com/uA6cRi5aaL — Stand Up to Jewish Hate # (@StandUp2JewHate) February 12, 2024 Kraft married his wife in Israel in 1962 and has reportedly made over 100 visits to the country, including leading dozens of PR missions there, bringing celebrities and sports stars with him. He also maintains a network of charities across Israel. In December, he pledged a gigantic $100 million to the FCAS. This was, Forbes reported, to “educate the public about the rise in antisemitic incidents and further develop the relationship between the Black and Jewish communities.” Considering its content and invocation of Dr. King, it seems clear that the Super Bowl ad was part of Kraft’s plan to target the Black community. Black Americans are far more progressive on Palestine than the rest of the population. Many Black leaders, as well as movements such as Black Lives Matter, have allied themselves with the Palestinian cause, seeing parallels and connections between the oppression of Palestinians abroad and the treatment of Black Americans at home. A December poll by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace found that 28% of the Black population favored an immediate ceasefire, as opposed to 20% of white Americans. Only 5% of African Americans wanted the U.S. government to show “unwavering support” to Israel, versus 23% of the white population.   Funding anti-anti-Semitism In Kraft’s view, therefore, the Black population’s outlook is a problem. The billionaire sports owner founded the FCAS in 2019 amid growing domestic and international opposition to the state of Israel’s apartheid policies in Palestine. He announced the move at a lavish ceremony in Jerusalem, where he was presented with the Genesis Prize – an Israeli government-backed award given to individuals who most aid the Jewish state. After the ceremony, he had lunch with his friend, Prime Minister Netanyahu. Kraft had previously supported Netanyahu by attending his speech to Congress in 2015. “Israel does not have a more loyal friend than Robert Kraft,” Netanyahu said. Kraft was awarded the $1 million Genesis Prize for his efforts in philanthropy and “combating anti-Semitism.” Yet his views on what does and does not constitute anti-Semitism are contentious, to say the least. Benjamin Netanyahu and the New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft pose for a photo in Jerusalem, June 20, 2019. Sebastian Scheiner | AP In the wake of the historic wave of protests across the U.S. calling for a ceasefire in the Middle East, he appeared on MSNBC to denounce those taking part as supporters of terrorism. “It’s horrible to me that a group like Hamas can be respected and people in the United States of America can be carrying flags or supporting them,” he said, clearly equating supporting Palestinian rights with terrorism. “Hamas is preaching the eradication of all Jewish people from the Earth,” he added. Thus, while the FCAS claims to be standing against lies and racism, its founder continues to spread his own disinformation in service of the Israeli project. Perhaps unsurprisingly, he also opposes the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement – a grassroots campaign to peacefully bring economic pressure on the state of Israel to stop its oppression and occupation of its neighbors. Kraft sees BDS as a form of anti-Jewish racism, lumping it in with attacks on synagogues or the growing threat from the far-right. “My vision is to work to end the violence against Jewish communities. To counter the normalization of anti-Semitic narratives that question Israel’s right to exist, disguised as part of legitimate debate on campuses and in the media,” he said, thereby hinting that the FCAS will attempt to insert themselves into college campuses nationwide and pressure the media to take (even) more pro-Israel stances.   The Israel Lobby’s Financier Kraft is one of the Israel lobby’s chief benefactors, donating millions of dollars to various groups throughout his life. In 2022, for example, he gave $1 million to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s (AIPAC) super PAC. AIPAC works to push pro-Israel policies across the U.S. and insert pro-Israel language into as many pieces of legislation as possible. He also funds the Friends of the Israeli Defense Forces – a group that raises money to help Israeli soldiers, even as they carry out war crimes in Palestine, Syria and beyond. Other pro-Israel groups, he has given sizeable donations to include: American Friends of the Israel Museum American Friends of the Yitzhak Rabin Center The Anti-Defamation League The Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting and Analysis The Jewish Agency for Israel The Jewish National Fund StandWithUs The Israel Project Through his organization, Touchdown in Israel, Kraft regularly organizes propaganda trips to Israel for former NFL players, no doubt hoping they will become advocates of the Jewish state. Arguably the most influential way in which Kraft influences American public life, however, is his consistent funding of right-wing Democrats standing against progressives and advocates for justice in Palestine. In 2021, for example, he donated $5,800 to Congresswoman Shontel Brown in her contentious face-off against progressive Nina Turner and another $2,900 to her reelection. Brown was a little-known but strongly pro-Israel candidate standing against a democratic socialist, national co-chair of Bernie Sanders’ 2020 election campaign, and an outspoken critic of Israel’s policies. Vast amounts of pro-Israel money flowed into Brown’s campaign, helping her to defeat Turner. In her acceptance speech, Brown praised Israel and later thanked the Jewish community for “help[ing] me get over the finish line.” Kraft has also given money to pro-Israel Democrats, including David Cicilline; Juan Vargas; Ted Deutch; Jake Auchincloss and Ritchie Torres. His actions, donations and public pronouncements have drawn condemnation from some who have followed them. Sports journalist Dave Zirin, for example, recently wrote that: He appears to think that any criticism of Israel is inherently antisemitic. For Kraft, it is Jews like myself, rabbis, and Holocaust survivors calling for a ceasefire and a free Palestine that are part of the problem. And Kraft seems to think that opposition to Israel, the IDF, and the AIPAC agenda is antisemitism.”   Israel on TV Super Bowl viewers were subjected to another pro-Israel ad in between the action, this one directly funded by and representing the Israeli government. “To all the dads,” the voiceover says, as images of wholesome fatherhood activities play on the screen, “The funny ones, the silly ones, the strong ones, the adventurous ones. To all the dads held in captivity by Hamas for over 120 days, we vow to bring you home.” On the surface of the ad, the Israeli government was sending a message to Israeli fathers still in Hamas custody. That message was that they were working to bring them home (by spending millions of dollars to air the message on American TV during the Super Bowl.) The reality, however, is that this was an attempt to sway the American public into identifying with Israel, suggesting that this could happen to any of their fathers’ too. Israel ran an ad during the Super Bowl vowing to "bring all their dads home" in reference to the Israeli captives being held in Gaza. But what about the dads in Gaza who have suffered the worst grief imaginable at the hands of Israels genocidal campaign? pic.twitter.com/JerxiRHkKy — The Cradle (@TheCradleMedia) February 13, 2024 Many viewers felt that what they saw amounted to little more than expensive disinformation. “I’m sorry, is Israel seriously airing a SOB STORY PROPAGANDA AD during the SUPER BOWL while SIMULTANEOUSLY BOMBING THE REFUGEES AT RAFAH???????” wrote one viewer on Twitter. Nevertheless, the Super Bowl was the most-watched American telecast ever, reaching over 123 million viewers. Some say you cannot put a price on that sort of publicity, but apparently, you can, and that price is $7 million. Propaganda it might be, but in America, money talks. And both Robert Kraft and the government of Israel certainly have a lot of it to spend. Feature photo | Israels Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu holds the NFL Super Bowl trophy during a meeting with New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft in Jerusalem, June 20, 2019. Sebastian Scheiner | AP Alan MacLeod is Senior Staff Writer for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent, as well as a number of academic articles. He has also contributed to FAIR.org, The Guardian, Salon, The Grayzone, Jacobin Magazine, and Common Dreams. The post Super Bowl Propaganda: Patriots’ Robert Kraft’s Ties to Israel Explained appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Foreign Affairs, Investigations, Top Story, Alan MacLeod, anti-semitism, black americans, Foundation to Combat anti-Semitism, Gaza, Israel, Propaganda, Public Opinion, Robert Kraft, Stand Up to Jewish Hate, super bowl]

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[l] at 2/12/24 5:49am
Editor’s Note: Dear Readers, MintPress News’ YouTube channel was recently demonetized, and many of our videos made age-restricted. We would greatly appreciate your support by becoming a member of our Patreon page so that we can continue to bring you important stories like this one. Much of the work that we do is supported by viewers like you. The MintPress podcast, “The Watchdog,” hosted by British-Iraqi hip hop artist Lowkey, closely examines organizations about which it is in the public interest to know – including intelligence, lobby and special interest groups influencing policies that infringe on free speech and target dissent. “The Watchdog” goes against the grain by casting a light on stories largely ignored by the mainstream, corporate media. Even after more than 100 days of genocidal attacks on Gaza, the Israeli assault continues to rage. The onslaught itself is very well documented by courageous Palestinian journalists who risk their lives daily. However, the role of Western governments in all this is not nearly as widely reported. One outlet that has tried to buck this trend is Declassified UK, which has constantly shone a light on the activities of Great Britain and the United States in enabling the genocidal attack. Joining “The Watchdog” today to talk about this issue is returning guest Matt Kennard, a writer and investigative journalist for Declassified UK. Kennard has broken several stories about secret British collaboration and support for Israeli actions, which he will discuss today. Previously, he worked as a reporter for The Financial Times and was a fellow and a director of the Center For Investigative Journalism in London. His latest book is “Silent Coup: How Corporations Overthrew Democracy.” Even with the war in Iraq, Kennard noted, the Bush and Blair administrations spoke the language of freedom and democracy. But the Israeli government constantly announces its intent in plain language to ethnically cleanse Gaza of more than two million Palestinians. “And yet still, our governments don’t say a word of criticism against it,” he said, adding: And not only our governments but the oppositions in both the U.S. and the U.K… So there is no mainstream anti-genocide party. And that’s a wake-up call for all of us. We need to change the system from top to bottom. This is a red line. If we don’t make it a red line, we lose our humanity.” On October 13, the U.K. government announced it was deploying a wide range of military assets to the Eastern Mediterranean area, including spy planes and 1,000 troops. From its military bases in Cyprus, the British military has been flying large numbers of supply flights to Israel, helping sustain the Israeli attack. As Kennard noted, in December 2020, the U.K. government signed a secret military agreement with Israel that likely commits it to “defending” the apartheid state if it comes under attack. Britain’s military hub in the region is RAF Akrotiri, a vast, sprawling military compound in southern Cyprus. It is not only the center of British imperialism in the Mediterranean but is also home to more than 120 U.S. airmen and hosts of spies from the N.S.A. From there, both countries project their power across the Middle East, Europe, and North Africa. But even as the British government supports Israel, the Israeli state is attempting to penetrate and interfere in U.K. politics. In 2019, Alan Duncan revealed that he was blocked from becoming Middle East Minister in Theresa May’s cabinet at the behest of the Israelis because of his mildly pro-Palestine positions. The Conservative Friends of Israel – which acts as a front group for the Israeli state – wields enormous power within the party, including the ability to make and break political careers. The Labour Party is also deeply connected to Israel, to the point where Israeli lobbyists have funded 40% of Keir Starmer’s shadow cabinet. This kind of “entrenched espionage” eats away at and makes a mockery of the idea of British democracy, Kennard told Lowkey today. Lowkey is a British-Iraqi hip-hop artist, academic and political campaigner. As a musician, he has collaborated with the Arctic Monkeys, Wretch 32, Immortal Technique and Akala. He is a patron of Stop The War Coalition, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, the Racial Justice Network and The Peace and Justice Project, founded by Jeremy Corbyn. He has spoken and performed on platforms from the Oxford Union to the Royal Albert Hall and Glastonbury. His latest album, Soundtrack To The Struggle 2, featured Noam Chomsky and Frankie Boyle and has been streamed millions of times. The post How Britain is Helping Israel to Bomb Gaza, with Matt Kennard appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Behind The Headlines, Foreign Affairs, Podcasts, Top Story, Britain, Cyprus, DeclassifiedUK, Gaza, genocide, Human Rights, Israel, Lowkey, Matt Kennard, secret military agreement]

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[l] at 2/10/24 4:49am
TikTok is once again under public scrutiny. The video-sharing platform is the subject of a Senate hearing into child safety online. Republican Senators were quick to paint it as a nefarious Chinese plot to take down America. But apart from some blatantly racist questions, Senator Tom Cotton asked its Singaporean CEO Shou Zi Chew. A much bigger issue with TikTok is being swept under the rug that MintPress has previously investigated: that it is increasingly controlled by the US national security state. Since 2020, TikTok has spent more than $1.5 billion moving its data and security operations to Texas, where it has partnered with CIA-cutout company Oracle. It has also hired dozens, if not hundreds, of US national security state officials to control and oversee its trust and safety, security, and content moderation departments, giving these former spooks and spies extensive control over how the platform functions and what the world sees in our feeds. Take, for example, TikTok’s head of European data public policy, Jade Nester. Before being recruited to TikTok, Nester was a high official in Washington, serving as the Director of Internet Policy for the State Department. Or what about Ryan Walsh, the company’s escalations management lead for trust and safety? Until 2020, Walsh was the State Department’s senior advisor for Digital Strategy. Part of his job, according to his own resume, included “advanc[ing] supportive narratives” for the U.S. and NATO online. Since MintPress reported on that, Walsh has wiped that piece of information from his Linkedin, and we just so happened to get banned from TikTok.  Coincidence? Perhaps If that’s not spooky enough for you, let’s take Greg Andersen. Before he became Feature Policy Manager at TikTok, he worked on “psychological operations” for NATO itself. Just like Walsh, Andersen removed that information from his resumé after we broke the story. There are also a number of “ex-”CIA agents working for TikTok. Among them is Beau Patteson, who advises the company on threats from extremists. But until 2020, Patteson was a targeting analyst at the CIA, helping to choose who would be killed in CIA drone strikes around the world. Now he just decides who will be removed from the platform. Far from its stereotype as an anti-American platform, TikTok works closely with the US government to ensure Washington’s narratives are heard throughout the world. In 2022, for example, it announced it was deleting more than 320,000 accounts spreading pro-Russian messaging and was placing warning labels on Russian state-controlled media. Western state-run media did not get the same treatment. And so, while senators and corporate media pundits alike complain about Chinese-controlled media, remember that, under the surface, something very different is happening. The US government is trying to take control over TikTok, further blurring the line between big tech and Big Brother. Mnar Adley is an award-winning journalist and editor and is the founder and director of MintPress News. She is also president and director of the non-profit media organization Behind the Headlines. Adley also co-hosts the MintCast podcast and is a producer and host of the video series Behind The Headlines. Contact Mnar at mnar@mintpressnews.com or follow her on Twitter at @mnarmuh. The post TikTok Chinese Trojan Horse Run By Former CIA appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Behind The Headlines, Foreign Affairs, Top Story, China, CIA, Greg Andersen, Jade Nester, Oracle, Ryan Walsh, Shou Zi Chew, TikTok, Tom Cotton, US government]

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[l] at 2/9/24 3:07pm
When confronted with international appeals for humanitarian aid due to the ongoing crises in Gaza and Yemen, the United States and the United Kingdom have chosen instead to turn Yemens Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden into a combat zone, initiating an ariel bombing campaign against the war-torn country already suffering immensely from nine years of deadly conflict spearheaded by Saudi Arabia and backed by the U.S. For weeks, U.S. and British naval vessels have been perched on the outskirts of Yemens territorial waters in the Red Sea, not only to protect ships carrying goods to Israel but to launch a series of airstrikes against Yemen, the poorest country in the world. In recent weeks, at least 320 airstrikes have been launched by warplanes that seem never to leave the skies over Yemens major cities. The latest strikes hit Friday morning, targeting Al-Jabana, Al-Taif, and Al-Kathib and followed renewed calls by U.S. officials for regional actors not to escalate conflict in the Middle East. According to Yemeni citizens who spoke to MintPress, the U.S. bombing campaign, which has struck targets in crowded residential neighborhoods, is the last thing that Yemenis expected. Twenty-seven-year-odl Ibrahim al-Nahari lives with his family near Hodeida International Airport, which was targeted by US airstrikes on Monday afternoon. He said of the bombings: I never expected we would be attacked because of our solidarity with hungry people in Gaza. Are these Americas morals? Last Monday, U.S. airstrikes targeted Yemens Al-Katnaib Coast Park, frequented by hundreds of visitors daily, and not only caused damage to nearby homes, hotels and shops but spread panic and fear among civilians. We need food and medicine, not the ugly American bombs that we have tasted for nine years, Al-Nahari told MintPress, waving a Palestinian flag at a massive demonstration in support of Gaza on Friday in central Hodeida. Al-Nahari was among tens of thousands who took to the streets of Hodeida on Friday to condemn U.S.-British attacks on their country and renew their support for the Palestinian people. Massive protests featuring hundreds such as these have become a hallmark in Yemens northern provinces and beyond since Israel launched its attack on Gaza following Hamas surprise attack on October 7, 2023. In Al-Sabeen Square, south of the capital, Sanaa, officials estimate that an area of 100,000 square meters was packed with demonstrators standing shoulder to shoulder to express their outrage. We came here to prove that Palestine is the cause of the Yemeni people, and the world must know this, Malik Almadani, a prominent writer and human rights activist, told MintPress. We will not stop the demonstrations, and we will continue weekly. It is our sacred duty, rooted and deep in our souls, he added. Almadani sees Palestine as a cause dear to Yemens people, not something that any authority in the country has the authority to negotiate on their behalf. He warned Western powers that any ground invasion of Yemen due to its support for Gaza would be a war against all of Yemens people, not against an institution, state, or party.   Red Sea Tensions Escalate U.S. and British leaders have repeatedly stated that their bombing campaign in Yemen is intended to end Ansar Allahs (known in the West as the Houthis) attacks on international shipping and naval vessels. They claim the strikes are necessary to limit the Houthis ability to launch further attacks. Yet, there is little to suggest the attacks are having their intended effect. Ansar Allah has maintained that U.S. and UK strikes have not achieved their military objectives and have done little more than incite terror in the hearts of Yemeni civilians. Indeed, nearly every bombing campaign has been met with renewed attacks by Ansar Allah against Israeli, British and U.S. interests in the region, often more extensive and brazen than the last. This tit-for-tat is escalating too. This week alone saw at least 86 airstrikes against targets in Yemen, with populated regions of Hodeida hit particularly hard, including Al-Katheib, Ras Issa, Al-Zaidiyah, Al-Hawk, Al-Salif, and Al-Lahiya, which saw 28 separate strikes. Sanaa was targeted with 13 strikes, Taiz with 11, Al-Bayda with 7, Hajjah with seven raids, and Saad with over twenty. Despite the scale of the attacks, Yemeni officials maintain theyve had little effect on the military capabilities of Ansar Allah. There have been casualties from U.S. and UK raids, and there is varying damage to some sites and camps. However, most of the military sites were already evacuated before the airstrikes began. Some of them had already been subjected to bombings in previous years, Deputy Head of Moral Guidance for the Yemeni Army, Brigadier General Abdullah Bin Amer, told MintPress. We can deal appropriately with these developments, benefiting from past experiences that began in 2015. By all accounts, the U.S.-led aerial campaign in Yemen is a violation of the tenets of just war, which dictates that nations must not only have a just cause for going to war but also resort to military force only after all other options have been exhausted. Despite White House claims to the contrary, the intervention in Yemen is clearly not a case of self-defense. The notion that Yemen, the poorest country in the Middle East, represents a military threat to International trade is absurd, especially as Ansar Allah officials have made it clear through both rhetoric and action that any nations not directly involved in supporting Israels genocide in Gaza have been able to pass through the Red Sea unmolested. The US-owned Genco Picardy after it came under attack from drone launched by Ansar Allah in the Gulf of Aden, Jan.18, 2024. Photo | AP   An Ineffectual Campaign Despite the U.S. feckless bombing campaign and its specious justification, the leader of Ansar Allah, Abdul-Malik al-Houthi, has confirmed that operations in the Red Sea and the Bab al-Mandab Strait against Israel-linked ships will continue. In a televised speech on Tuesday, he said, Our actions will escalate as long as the Israeli aggression and siege on the Palestinians continues. The correct solution is to bring food and medicine into Gaza, and continuing airstrikes will not benefit America, Britain, or Israel in any way. Al-Houthi blamed the actions of the White House for forcing Ansar Allah to target U.S. and British Naval ships near Yemen, saying, The U.S. and UKs involvement in Yemen will not protect Israeli ships, and for the first time since World War II, the Americans are exposing their battleships to being targeted. The continued U.S. and UK aggression constitutes a violation of the sovereignty of an independent state, Muhammed AbdulSalam, the official spokesman for Ansar Allah, added, confirming that attacks will not prevent the Yemeni armed forces from continuing their support mission to Gaza, nor will the aggression be able to provide security for Israeli ships or those heading to the ports of occupied Palestine. It is this American-British aggression that threatens international navigation in the Red and Arabian Seas and the Gulf of Aden, he added.   Origins of a blockade In a campaign they maintain is aimed at forcing Israel to allow food and medicine to be allowed into the besieged Gaza Strip, Ansar Allahs forces have continued to target Israeli-owned, flagged or operated ships in the Red Sea and Arabian Seas, or those destined for Israeli ports. The latest such attack came last Tuesday when the Ansar Allahs Naval Forces carried out two military operations in the Red Sea, the first against the American ship Star Nasia and another targeting the British ship the Morning Tide, according to the official spokesman for the Yemeni army, Yahya Saree. Since November 19, when Ansar Allahs maritime campaign began, the group has conducted at least 20 naval operations. More than 20 ships have been targeted, including three that were Israeli-owned, eight belonging to the U.S., four belonging to Britain, and ten that were en route to Israeli ports. Israel itself was not exempt; at least 200 drones and 50 ballistic and winged missiles have been launched against Israel from Yemen. These include sophisticated long-range ballistic missiles and drones such as the Toofan, a recently unveiled variant of the Zolfaghar mid-range ballistic missile, the Quds cruise missile, and the Samad drone. While relatively inexpensive to manufacture, these projectiles have challenged Western forces, who spend millions on sophisticated missiles to shoot them down, threatening to exhaust their stocks and incur a high financial cost in defense of Israeli interests. Its worth noting that Yemeni operations against American and British ships began in earnest only after Western forces started bombing Yemen. In its initial days, Ansar Allahs campaign strictly targeted Israeli interests in support of Gaza, with Ansar Allahs arsenal pointed at Israels Eliat Port. Washington responded by sending a massive naval flotilla to the Red Sea and with a slew of fiery statements by American officials. In the wake of this failed strategy of intimidation, the U.S. and Britain began launching missiles against Yemeni targets. It was only then that Ansar Allah began actively targeting U.S. and British naval assets. Ansar Allah officials have reiterated their unwavering stance that the Red Sea is off-limits only to Israeli ships until Israel ensures the unfettered delivery of essential aid to Gaza. It remains open to international maritime shipping for countries not involved in supporting what the International Court of Justice has ruled in genocide in Gaza. Ansar Allah has also stated that operations will stop immediately as soon as medicine and food enter Gaza. Until this humanitarian goal is achieved, Ansar Allah officials maintain, the armed air, sea, and land forces will not only continue to target Israeli, American, and British ships but also escalate, even if it ultimately leads to a ground invasion of Yemen.   The cemetery of invaders Asked about a possible U.S.-led ground invasion of Yemen, Brigadier General Bin Amer, who is also the author of the book Yemen is the Cemetery of Invaders, currently the most widely circulated book in Yemen, said, The decision to invade a country like Yemen is certainly a difficult decision for any power. There are many factors and reasons that make those powers hesitate to make such a decision. Yemens terrain is the most rugged in the Middle East, posing a significant challenge to foreign invading forces. The countrys topography is characterized by steep mountains, deep valleys, and arid plateaus, creating a complex and challenging environment for foreigners, which complicates military operations and hinders the establishment of military infrastructure. Throughout history, Yemen has been the target of the ambitions of invaders, but the Yemeni people fiercely resisted all invasion campaigns and were able to defeat them and triumph over them in the end. The invaders on this land suffered great losses, and thus Yemen was nicknamed the cemetery of invaders. General Bin Amer added. According to Bin Amer, the Yemeni people do not accept occupation. They have a deep-rooted culture of independence. In addition, their battle today is a battle of principles and values ​​that have religious, moral, and humanitarian considerations, adding, There is a popular consensus on this battle, and the Yemeni people, in addition to being natural fighters and an armed people, have an additional factor, which is leadership that expresses this. [This factor] certainly has its importance regarding organization and management under such exceptional circumstances. Both in the streets and among the highest echelons of Ansar Allahs leaders, there is a feeling in Yemen that its military actions in support of Gaza have been validated by the International Court of Justices ruling ordering Israel to permit the entry of humanitarian assistance to address the adverse conditions of life faced by Palestinians in Gaza. But the likelihood of a Western-led ground invasion is still being taken seriously. Ansar Allah has undertaken an unprecedented military mobilization on a massive scale, including holding military courses, conducting maneuvers, and bolstering stocks of military equipment. Volunteer fighters march during a rally of support for Palestinians in Gaza Strip and against the US strikes on Yemen outside Sanaa, Jan. 22, 2024. Photo | AP   A Doctrine of Resistance Although Yemen has garnered headlines in recent months for its defiant stance towards Israel, its support for Palestinians long predates October 7. MintPress spoke to Yemeni historical researcher Dr. Hammoud Al-Ahnoumi about the nature of Yemeni support for Palestine In the wake of the second Palestinian intifada and the events of September 11 following the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq, an indigenous Yemeni tribal group in the northern country began openly voicing its opposition to what it saw as the unjust colonial ambitions of  Israel and the United States in the region. The group traces its roots to the Arab Hamdani tribe residing in northern Yemen and is a subdivision of the larger Banu Hamdan tribe. Over the years, many northern Yemenis joined the group known now as Ansar Allah. It wasnt until Ansar Allahs power began to gain momentum that it was given the moniker Houthis by the West and dismissed as an Iranian proxy in a bid to demoralize the movement and alienate it from the local population. Yet Ansar Allahs on the Palestinian issue cannot be understood without understanding its history and political formation. The political doctrine of Ansar Allah has its roots in the eighth century, particularly in Imam Zayd (695–740 CE), the son of Ali ibn al-Hussain ibn Ali ibn Abi Talib. Imam Zayd initiated a revolution against the repressive Umayyad Caliphate that became a symbol of resistance to oppression that permeates Yemeni culture to this day. Over the years, Yemenis internalized and embraced these ideals to such a degree that they became a central tenant in what would become known as the Shia Islamic sect of Zaydis. According to Zaydis, Imam Zayd became the second Imam (leader) after his grandfather, Imam Hussain ibn Ali, who was also killed in a struggle against an oppressive government in Karbala, southern Iraq, on the tenth of Muharram in 680 CE. Loyalty, resistance to oppression and solidarity with the oppressed have become the main principle of their faith and how they see their duty to God, according to Dr. Al-Ahnoumi. For them, he explained to MintPress, standing in support of Palestine is compliance with their doctrine, which calls for resistance against oppressors and supporting the oppressed. Though they may coincide with Iranian Revolutionary ideals of resistance against tyrants and oppressors, and oppose [what they view as] American and Israeli arrogance and tyranny, Ansar Allah act entirely independently, Dr. Al-Ahnoumi insisted.   A Tinderbox The fact that Ansar Allahs operation in the Red Sea has been reduced by Western power to a binary question of freedom of navigation and framed in an Iran-centric geopolitical context bodes poorly for the chances of a peaceful resolution to the conflict. To avoid another disastrous war in Yemen and a U.S. quagmire in the Middle East, western political leaders and media alike must come to terms with the reality that is the tinderbox in Yemen. Zaid Al-Gharsi, Head of the Media Department at the Presidency of the Republic of Yemen, blames Western leaders and media for distorting Yemens position. He urged media outlets and activists on social media, particularly in Western countries, not to take the White Houses narrative, which frames its bombing campaign as self-defense and protection of global navigation, at face value. The reality, he told MintPress, is that America is an aggressor and an occupier that came from across the oceans to dominate, plunder, and destroy. Feature photo | A man stands on the rubble at the site of a Saudi-led air strike in Sanaa, Yemen. Hani Al-Ansi | AP Ahmed AbdulKareem is a Yemeni journalist based in Sanaa. He covers the war in Yemen for MintPress News as well as local Yemeni media. The post Yemens Unending Nightmare: The Hidden Consequences of US and UK Airstrikes appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Foreign Affairs, Investigations, Top Story, Ansar Allah, Bab al-Mandab, Gaza, ground invasion of Yemen, Houthis, Israel, Red Sea, US bombing, US-Yemen War, Yemen]

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[l] at 2/6/24 7:11am
A MintPress study of major U.S. media outlets’ coverage of the Yemeni Red Sea blockade has found an overwhelming bias in the press, which presented the event as an aggressive, hostile act of terrorism by Ansar Allah (a.k.a. the Houthis), who were presented as pawns of the Iranian government. While constantly putting forward pro-war talking points, the U.S. was portrayed as a good faith, neutral actor being “dragged” into another Middle Eastern conflict against its will. Since November, Ansar Allah has been conducting a blockade of Israeli ships entering the Red Sea in an attempt to force Israel to stop its attack on the people of Gaza. The U.S. government, which has refused to act to stop a genocide, sprang into action to prevent damage to private property, leading an international coalition to bomb targets in Yemen. The effect of the blockade has been substantial. With hundreds of vessels taking the detour around Africa, big businesses like Tesla and Volvo have announced they have suspended European production. Ikea has warned that it is running low on supplies, and the price of a standard shipping container between China and Europe has more than doubled. Ansar Allah, evidently, has been able to target a weak spot of global capitalism. Western airstrikes on Yemen, however, according to Ansar Allah spokesperson Mohammed al-Bukhaiti, at least, said that they have had only a “very limited” impact so far. Al-Bukhaiti made these comments in a recent interview with MintPress News.   Biased Reporting MintPress conducted a study of four leading American outlets: The New York Times, CNN, Fox News and NBC News. Together, these outlets often set the agenda for the rest of the media system and could be said to be a reasonable representation of the corporate media spectrum as a whole. Using the search term “Yemen” in the Dow Jones Factiva global news database, the fifteen most recent relevant articles from each outlet were read and studied, giving a total sample of 60 articles. All articles were published in January 2024 or December 2023. For full information and coding, see the attached viewable spreadsheet. The study found the media wildly distorted reality, presenting a skewed picture that aided U.S. imperial ambitions. For one, every article in the study (60 out of 60) used the word “Houthis” rather than “Ansar Allah” to describe the movement which took part in the Yemeni Revolution of 2011 and rose up against the government in 2014, taking control of the capital Sanaa, becoming the new de facto government. Many in Yemen consider the term “Houthi” to be a derogatory term for an umbrella movement of people. As Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, Head of Yemens Supreme Revolutionary Committee, told MintPress: ‘Houthis’ is not a name we apply to ourselves. We refuse to be called Houthis. It is not from us. It is a name given to us by our enemies in an attempt to frame the broad masses in Yemeni society that belong to our project.” Yet only two articles even mentioned the name “Ansar Allah” at all. Since 2014, Ansar Allah has been in control of the vast majority of Yemen, despite a U.S.-backed Saudi coalition attempting to beat them back and restore the previous administration. Many of the articles studied, however (22 of the 60 in total), did not present Ansar Allah as a governmental force but rather as a “tribal group” (the New York Times), a “ragtag but effective” rebel organization (CNN), or a “large clan” of “extremists” (NBC News). Fourteen articles went further, using the word “terrorist” in reference to Ansar Allah, usually in the context of the U.S. government or American officials calling them such. Some, however, used it as a supposedly uncontroversial descriptor. One Fox article, for example, read: “For weeks, the Yemeni terrorist groups actions have been disrupting maritime traffic, while the U.S. military has been responding with strikes.” And a CNN caption noted that U.S. forces “conducted strikes on 8 Houthi targets in Iranian-backed Houthi terrorist-controlled areas of Yemen on January 22.” Ansar Allah is responding to an Israeli onslaught that has killed tens of thousands of civilians and displaced around 1.9 million Gazans. Yet Israel and its actions were almost never described as “terrorism,” despite arguably fitting the definition far better than the Yemeni movement. The sole exception to this was a comment from al-Houthi, whom CNN quoted as calling Israel a “terrorist state.” Neither the United States nor its actions were ever described using such language.   Eyes on Iran Although the perpetrator of the attacks on shipping is unquestionably Ansar Allah, corporate media had another culprit in mind: Iran. Fifty-nine of the 60 articles studied reminded readers that the Yemeni group is supported by the Islamic Republic, thereby directly pointing the finger at Tehran. It is indeed true that Iran supports Ansar Allah politically and militarily. When directly asked by MintPress if Tehran supplies it with weapons, al-Bukhaiti dodged the question, calling it a “marginal issue.” Why this facet of the story needed to be repeated literally hundreds of times is unclear. Often, the media studied would repeat it ad nauseam, to the point where a reader would be forgiven for thinking Ansar Allah’s official name was the “Iran-backed Houthis.” One CNN round-up used the phrase (or similar) seven times, a Fox News article six times, and an NBC News report five times. Not only was the “Iran-backed” factoid used constantly, but it was also made a prominent part of how the issue was framed to the American public. The title of one Fox News report, for instance, read (emphasis added throughout): “U.S.-U.K. coalition strike Iran-backed Houthi targets in Yemen after spate of ship attacks in Red Sea,” its subheadline stated that: “Yemens Iranian-backed Houthi militants have stepped up attacks on commercial vessels in the Red Sea in recent weeks,” and its first sentence read: “The United States and Britain carried out a series of airstrikes on military locations belonging to Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen early Friday in response to the militant groups ongoing attacks on vessels traveling through the Red Sea.” From a stylistic point of view, repeating the same phrase continuously is very poor form. It does, however, drive the point home, suggesting perhaps that this was an inorganic directive from above. This is far from an unlikely event. We know, for example, that in October, new CNN CEO Mark Thompson sent out a memo to staff instructing them to always use the moniker “Hamas-controlled” when discussing the Gazan Health Ministry and their figures for deaths from Israeli bombardment. This was done with the clear intent to undermine the Palestinian side of the story. Not only did the four outlets studied constantly remind readers that Ansar Allah is supported by Iran, but they also regularly framed the violence as orchestrated by Tehran and that Ansar Allah is little more than a group of mindless, unthinking pawns of Ayatollah Khamenei. As the New York Times wrote: Investing in proxy forces fellow Shiites in Lebanon, Iraq and Yemen, and the Sunni Hamas in the Gaza Strip allows Iran to cause trouble for its enemies, and to raise the prospect of causing more if attacked…The Houthi movement in Yemen launched an insurgency against the government two decades ago. What was once a ragtag rebel force gained power thanks at least in part to covert military aid from Iran, according to American and Middle Eastern officials and analysts.” This “Iran is masterfully pulling all the strings” framing was present in 21 of the 60 articles. The fearmongering about Iran did not stop there, however, with some outlets suggesting Tehran is building an international terror network or constructing an atomic bomb. The New York Times quoted one analyst who said: Iran is really pushing it…Its another reason they dont want a war now: They want their centrifuges to run peacefully. The Iranians do not have a nuclear weapon but could enrich enough uranium to weapons-grade in a few weeks, from the current 60 percent enrichment to 90 percent, he said. Theyve done 95 percent of the work.’” The point of all this was to demonize Ansar Allah and ramp up tensions with Iran, leading to the inevitable calls for war. “The U.S. needs to strike Iran, and make it smart,” ran the (since changed) title of a Washington Post editorial. “The West may now have no option but to attack Iran,” wrote neoconservative Iran hawk John Bolton in the pages of The Daily Telegraph. Bolton, of course, is part of a group called United Against Nuclear Iran that, since its inception, has been attempting to convince the U.S. to bomb Iran. Earlier this year, MintPress News profiled the shady think tank. While the media in the sample reminded us literally hundreds of times that Ansar Allah is Iran-backed, similar phrases such as “U.S.-backed Saudi Arabia” or “America-backed Israel” were never used, despite the fact that Washington props both those countries up, with diplomatic, military and economic support. The Biden administration has rushed more than $14 billion in military aid to Israel since October 7, sent a fleet of warships to the region, and blocked diplomatic efforts to stop Israel’s attack on Gaza. Meanwhile, it is doubtful whether Saudi Arabia would exist in its current form without U.S. support. Militarily alone, the U.S. has sold tens of billions of dollars worth of weaponry to Riyadh, helping the petro-state to convert its oil profits into security. From 2014 to 2023, Saudi Arabia led a U.S.-backed coalition force attempting to remove Ansar Allah from power. This consisted primarily of a massive bombing campaign against civilian targets in Yemen, including farms, hospitals and sanitation infrastructure. The violence turned Yemen into what the United Nations regularly called the “world’s worst humanitarian crisis,” with around 400,000 people dying and tens of millions going hungry and lacking even basic healthcare. The U.S. backed Saudi Arabia the whole way, selling the government at least $28.4 billion worth of arms, according to a MintPress study. In 2021, the Biden administration announced it would only sell the kingdom “defensive” technology. However, this has included shipments of cruise missiles, attack helicopters, and support for gunships. Both Saudi Arabia and Israel featured prominently in the articles studied. But only five of the 60 mentioned U.S. support for Saudi Arabia, and none at all for Israel. This context is extremely important for American audiences to know. Without their government’s political, military, economic and diplomatic support, none of this would be possible, and the current situation would be radically different. Only six articles mentioned U.S. support for the Saudi onslaught against Yemen – and none featured the fact prominently as they did with Iranian support for Ansar Allah. Only one article in the sample suggested that Ansar Allah might not simply be an Iranian cat’s paw. The New York Times wrote that: “The Houthis are an important arm of Irans so-called ‘axis of resistance,’ which includes armed groups across the Middle East. But Yemeni analysts say they view the militia as a complex Yemeni group, rather than just an Iranian proxy.” This was the sum total of information given suggesting Ansar Allah is an independent actor.   A Humanitarian Blockade? Yemen considers its actions in blocking Israeli traffic from the Red Sea as a humanitarian gesture, similar to the “right to protect” concept the U.S. frequently invokes to justify what it sees as humanitarian interventions across the world. As al-Houthi told MintPress: First, our position is religious and humanitarian, and we see a tremendous injustice. We know the size and severity of these massacres committed against the people of Gaza. We have suffered from American-Saudi-Emirati terrorism in a coalition that has launched a war and imposed a blockade against us that is still ongoing. Therefore, we move from this standpoint and do not want the same crime to be repeated.” Al-Bukhati said that Ansar Allah did not intend to kill anyone with their actions and that they would stop if Israel ceased its attack on Gaza, telling MintCast host Mnar Adley that: We affirm to everyone that we only target ships associated with the Zionist entity [Israel], not with the intention of sinking or seizing them, but rather to divert them from their course in order to increase the economic cost on the Zionist entity [Israel] as a pressure tactic to stop the crimes of genocide in Gaza.” However, this “humanitarian” framing of Yemen’s actions was not prominently used and was only introduced by identifying it as a Houthi claim. Many articles only alluded to the position of Ansar Allah. CNN wrote that “The Iran-backed Houthis have said they won’t stop their attacks on commercial shipping in the Red Sea until the war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza ends.” Meanwhile, NBC News and Fox News frequently presented Ansar Allah’s actions as purely in support of their ally, Hamas, as the following two examples illustrate: “The Iran-backed militants, who say their actions are aimed at supporting Hamas, vowed retaliation and said the attacks had killed at least 5 fighters at multiple rebel-held sites” (NBC News). “Houthi forces have taken credit for continued attacks on merchant vessels and threatened to expand their targets to include U.S. and British vessels — all in a campaign to support Hamas in its war against Israel” (Fox News). Therefore, humanitarian action was refashioned into support for terrorism. Other articles also suggested a wide range of reasons for the blockade, including to “expand a regional war” and “distract the [Yemeni] public” from their “failing…governance” (New York Times), to “attempt to gain legitimacy at home,” (CNN), and “revenge against the U.S. for supporting Saudi Arabia,” (NBC News). Many offered no explanation for the blockade whatsoever.   A War “Nobody Wants” As al-Bukhaiti’s comments suggest, there would be a very easy way to end the blockade: get Israel to end its operations in Gaza. But only twice in 60 articles was this reality even mentioned; one noting that Omani and Qatari officials advised that “reaching a cease-fire in Gaza would remove the Houthis stated impetus for the attacks,” and once in the final sentence of an NBC News article quoting al-Bukhaiti himself saying exactly as much. However, due to the placement of the information and the fact that it came from an organization regularly described as an Iran-backed extremist terrorist group, that idea likely held little weight with readers. Instead, military solutions (i.e., bombing Yemen) were the overwhelming response offered by the corporate press in their reporting. Despite this, the media consistently presented the United States as a neutral and honest actor in the Middle East, on the verge of being “sucked” into another war against its will. As the New York Times wrote, “President Biden and his aides have struggled to keep the war contained, fearful that a regional escalation could quickly draw in American forces.” There was a profound “reluctance,” the Times told readers, from Biden to strike Yemen, but he had been left with “no real choice” but to do so. This framing follows the classic trope of the bumbling empire “stumbling” into war that media watchdog Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting has documented, where the United States is always “responding” to crises and is never the aggressor. “How America Could Stumble Into War With Iran,” wrote The Atlantic; “Trump could easily get us sucked into Afghanistan again,” Slate worried; “What It Would Take to Pull the US Into a War in Asia,” Quartz told readers. None of the journalists writing about the U.S.’ frequent misfortune with war ever seem to contemplate why China, Brazil, Indonesia, or any other similarly large country do not get pulled into wars of their own volition as the United States does. The four media outlets studied regularly presented the U.S. bombing one of the world’s poorest countries as a method of defending itself. CNN wrote that “Administration officials have repeatedly said that they see these actions as defensive rather than escalatory,” without comment. And Fox News ran with the extraordinary headline, “U.S. carries out self-defense strike in Yemen against Iran-backed Houthi missiles” – a framing which could surely only fly in a deeply propagandized nation. In reality, the United States’ military meddling in Yemen did not start this winter. Biden is the fourth successive U.S. president to bomb the country. In December, the White House confirmed that there are already American troops in Yemen, though what their precise focus is remains unclear.   How Propaganda Works This sort of wildly skewed coverage does not happen by accident. Rather, it is the outcome of structural and ideological factors inherent within corporate media. The New York Times is committed to Zionism as an ideology, and its writers on the Middle East are not neutral actors but protagonists in the ongoing displacement of Palestinians. The newspaper owns property in West Jerusalem that was seized from the family of writer Ghada Kharmi during the 1948 ethnic cleansing. And while many Times writers are openly supportive of the Israeli project and have family members serving in the Israeli Defense Forces, staff who speak out against the ongoing genocide are promptly shown the door. Fox News is no less complicit in the Israeli project. Its owner, Rupert Murdoch, is a major owner in Genie Energy, a company profiting from oil drilling in the illegally occupied Golan Heights region. Murdoch is famously hands-on as a boss and makes sure all of his media outlets follow his line on major issues. And on Israel, the Australian billionaire is explicit: “Israel is the greatest ally of democracy in a region beset with turmoil and radicalism,” he said in 2013. The network’s massive Evangelical Christian viewership would expect little else than strong support for the U.S.-Israeli position, either. CNN, meanwhile, operates a strict, censorious, top-down approach to its Middle East coverage, with everything the outlet prints having to go through its notoriously pro-Israel Jerusalem bureau before publishing. Senior executives send out directives instructing staff to make sure that Hamas (not Israel) is always presented as responsible for the current violence while, at the same time, barring any reporting of Hamas’ viewpoint, which its senior director of news standards and practices told staff was “not newsworthy” and amounted to “inflammatory rhetoric and propaganda.” Therefore, the results of this study, while shocking, should not be surprising, given this context. Through examining the coverage of Yemen in four leading U.S. outlets, it is clear that corporate media are failing to inform the public of many of the basic realities of who Ansar Allah is, why they are carrying out their campaign, and what it would take to end the hostilities, they are perpetuating this war, and therefore are every bit as responsible as the politicians and military commanders who keep the bloodshed going. Feature photo | Illustration by MintPress News Alan MacLeod is Senior Staff Writer for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent, as well as a number of academic articles. He has also contributed to FAIR.org, The Guardian, Salon, The Grayzone, Jacobin Magazine, and Common Dreams. The post Study Finds Media Giants New York Times, CNN, and Fox News Pushing for US War in Yemen appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Foreign Affairs, Investigations, Top Story, Ansar Allah, Biased Reporting, CNN, FOX News, Houthis, Media Bias, NBC News, New York Times, study, United States, war with Yemen]

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[l] at 2/5/24 9:36am
A week after Hamas launched its surprise attack on Israel, the social media page Facts For Peace was created with the message, “Get the facts on Hamas, Israel, and peace in the region.” A few days later, the page began advertising its content. “Here is Hamas Founding Charter in Their Own Words,” one sponsored post reads alongside video clips of Hamas leaders speaking and snapshots of the document. The page has spent more than $945,000 on Facebook ads since the war began nearly four months ago, and according to POLITICO, was the single largest pro-Israel advertiser between November 2 and December 1, spending over $450,000 on Meta ads. The ads have mainly reached male-identifying Facebook users under the age of 35 in California, Texas, New York, and Florida. Labeled as a media/news company on Facebook, now Meta, the page’s posts and its supporters appear less concerned with accurate reporting and more involved in shaping public opinion. In November, news website Semafor reported real-estate billionaire Barry Sternlicht launched Facts For Peace and sought $1 million in donations each from some of the world’s wealthiest individuals. “This is just one of several behind-the-scenes efforts by business tycoons — many, though not all of them Jewish — to support Israel since the attack by Hamas,” Samafor reported. “Public opinion will surely shift as scenes, real or fabricated by Hamas, of civilian Palestinian suffering will surely erode [Israel’s] current empathy in the world community,” Sternlicht wrote in an email, seen by Semafor, soliciting contributions from Wall Street, Hollywood, and tech moguls. “We must get ahead of the narrative.” The main objective of the Facts for Peace media campaign is to blame Palestinian deaths & suffering on Hamas instead of on their occupier, Apartheid Israel. pic.twitter.com/TaEy7ZNcGJ — MintPress News (@MintPressNews) November 13, 2023 Sternlicht wrote that he’s aiming to raise $50 million from the recipients and secure a matching donation from an unnamed Jewish charity. With the funds, Facts For Peace seeks to “define Hamas to the American people as a terrorist organization” and “not just the enemy of Israel but of the United States.” According to Bloomberg and Forbes data, the recipients have a combined net worth of almost $500 billion and include media tycoon David Geffen, former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, Apollo CEO Marc Rowan, investors Michael Milke, Nelson Peltz, and Bill Ackman, and tech tycoons Eric Schmidt and Michael Dell. Facts For Peace did not respond to MintPress News inquiries about its campaign objectives.   Paying for Propaganda Following its debut ad on the Hamas charter, Facts For Peace has gone on to publish hundreds of sponsored posts, with some conflating support for Palestine with support for Hamas or calling for the destruction of Israel. Only one ad was taken down since Facts For Peace’s launch for violating the platform’s advertising standards by not adding a paid for by disclaimer. One ad, which hasn’t been active since Jan. 22, 2024, depicts a pro-Palestine march with participants chanting, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.” “Does this sound like peace and freedom? No,” the ad reads, followed by stating the protest ballad is a call for “genocide.” The ad then tells the viewer this slogan is sung at nearly every pro-Palestine rally and immediately jumps into saying, “Hamas wants to destroy and take over the entire area where Israelis and Palestinians live.” The ad then ends with, “Anyone who says these words…is calling for a world without Israel.” In another advertised video, a man approaches pedestrians in New York City, asking them to sign “a quick petition to help Hamas free Palestine.” He then reads off the petition’s“terms and conditions,” which include, “You agree that every Jew, Christian, and non-Muslim in the world must be slaughtered,” “You believe Iran should use Palestinians as puppets to spread radical jihad and destroy the west,” and “You want a terrorist group that beheads babies and rapes girls to replace the only democracy in the Middle East.” A similar video shows a man approaching pedestrians in Washington, D.C., asking them to sign the same petition. In this video, the “terms and conditions” outlined include agreeing “Hamas should keep enforcing anti-West values like murdering gay Palestinians,” and “You want Hamas to win the war so they can spread their death cult to the U.S. and massacre all non-Muslims.” As a reminder, those demonstrating in support of Palestine are generally not siding with Hamas, and using the slogan, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” isn’t genocidal but rather expressing freedom from oppression across the historical land of Palestine. While pro-Palestine activists have been condemned for this phrase, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not receive similar backlash when he called to take over the “area from the river to the sea.” “Every area that we evacuate, we receive terrible terror against us. It happened in South Lebanon, in Gaza, and also in Judea and Samaria [the occupied West Bank], which we did it,” Netanyahu said earlier this month. “And therefore, I clarify that in any other arrangement, in the future, the state of Israel has to control the entire area from the river to the sea.” Another now-inactive ad encourages viewers to take a quiz to determine “Who do you really support in the Middle East Conflict?” The ad then directs to a Facts For Peace online quiz asking questions related to democracy, human rights, and equality. If you answer positively, your results say, “your views are more in line with Israel’s.” It seems that Facts for Peace is another transparent effort to wrap up genocide propaganda in lies and push the public conversation in counterproductive directions,” rapper and activist Lowkey said. Currently, the page is running two ads on Instagram. On January 28, Facts For Peace launched an ad with the caption, “The International Court of Justice [ICJ]  just confirmed Israel’s right to self-defense.” In this video, Facts For Peace said because the ICJ didn’t call for an immediate ceasefire “establishes Israel’s military actions are a defensive response to the Oct 7 attacks.” The page is also running an ad featuring a video interview with Abbey Onn, an American-Israeli who had five members of her family kidnapped by Hamas on October 7. The video was produced by Middle East Intel, yet the only record of this organization is a black-and-white webpage containing only its name in large font. Another website, Israel Palestine Chronicles, features the same design as Middle East Intel but links to accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube as well as noting that it is paid for by Facts For Peace LLC. These websites mirror Facts For Peace’s own website, which also dons a black-and-white theme and links to its social media pages. Facts For Peace’s mission falls in line with the United States’ vast Israel lobby. American journalist and executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy, Norman Solomon, explained the lobby’s current tactics since Israel’s war began. “The Israel lobby extends far beyond literal lobbyists on Capitol Hill,” Solomon told MintPress. Israel-can-do-no-wrong defenders have been in ongoing damage-control mode since October, and part of that effort is focused on smearing principled supporters of human rights like Congresswomen Rashida Tlaib and Cori Bush.” Facts For Peace appears part of these damage-control efforts with its own media blitz. “The lobby’s influence is inclusive of, and perhaps mainly composed of, ferocious media offensives – now denying that Israel is engaged in the mass murder of civilians in Gaza and slandering the movement that demands an immediate and permanent ceasefire,” Solomon said. Despite Facts For Peace’s continuous ad expenditure, Solomon doubts, however, that the campaign can make a real impact on public opinion, telling MintPress: Its website is rudimentary and appears to be going through the motions. Not major players in the manipulative game of smearing people who advocate for human rights of Palestinian people.”   Who is behind Facts for Peace? Facts For Peace’s website offers little transparency beyond giving a contact email address and social media links and stating its paid for by Facts For Peace LLC. Yet who manages the campaign isn’t listed. Facts For Peace was incorporated in New York on September 15, 2022, and was originally called Fulfill the Promise LLC. It changed its name to Change the Narrative Coalition LLC on October 13 before finally landing on Facts For Peace on October 16. According to Semafor, Facts For Peace hired Josh Vlasto, a former aide to U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer and ex-New York governor Andrew Cuomo, to advise it. The number listed on Facts For Peace’s Meta Ad Library account is the same one for Vlasto’s public relations firm, Bamberger & Vlasto. The firm is run by Vlasto and Richard Bamberger, both former Cuomo aides who reportedly assisted Cuomo in his smear attempts against former aide Lindsey Boylan, who accused Cuomo of sexual harassment. MintPress could not reach Vlasto’s firm for comment. However, Vlasto has already shared Facts For Peace’s content on his X profile. According to The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, Facts for Peace, Israel Palestine Chronicles, and Bamberger & Vlasto, websites all share the same IP addresses, suggesting they are hosted on the same server. Semafor also reported that Sternlicht discussed Facts For Peace with CNN owner David Zaslav and that Endeavor CEO Ari Emanuel agreed to coordinate the endeavor. However, neither Saslav nor Emanuel responded to MintPress inquiries on their involvement. Facts For Peace’s known head, Sternlicht, has previously funded Birthright, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), and the American Jewish Committee (AJC) through his foundation and according to the foundation’s 2022 tax filing, available on ProPublic’s Nonprofit Explorer database, it gave $20,000 to the American Jewish Committee’s “to support [its] pro-Israel media campaign.” Barry Sternlicht, the individual heading Israels $50 million propaganda campaign, Facts for Peace, has previously funded Birthright, the ADL, and one of Israels national institutions, the UJIA. — Lowkey (@Lowkey0nline) November 13, 2023 Lowkey stressed Sternlicht’s funding ventures should be cause for concern, telling MintPress that: Sternlicht has a history of funding projects aimed at radicalizing young people and converting them to settler-colonists. Birthright offers free trips to occupied Palestine and the occupied Syrian Golan Heights to young Jews around the world.” The ADL notoriously spied on thousands of Arab students and pro-Palestine and anti-apartheid activists, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and even sold that information to South African intelligence agents in the 1980s. Another notable person linked to Facts For Peace is ex-Google CEO Schmidt, who co-founded the Israeli tech company Team8 in 2015 with Nadav Zafrir, former head of Israeli military intelligence Unit 8200, which is infamous for surveilling Palestinians. Schmidt has met with Netanyahu over the years, and during their last meeting in Sept. 2023, Schmidt agreed to join Netanyahu’s advisory forum on artificial intelligence. Project Nimbus is the final phase of Googles integration into the Israeli military. Ten years ago, Google head Eric Schmidt held an intimate press conference with Israeli PM Netanyahu; not long after, Schmidt founded a tech hub with the former head of Israeli intelligence. pic.twitter.com/byLghBcBt0 — MintPress News (@MintPressNews) November 8, 2022 According to a MintPress investigation, at least 99 former agents of Unit 8200 are currently employed in significant roles at Google, including as Head of Strategy. Other Facts For Peace’s email recipients have also expressed support for Israel as of late. Wall Street executives Ackman and Rowan criticized universities’ handling of pro-Palestinian demonstrations — calling to withhold their donations. Facts For Peace’s ads are often stuffed with prominent voices like comedian Mikey Greenblatt, actors Nathaniel Buzolic and Zach Sage Fox, and Mosab Hassan Yousef, a Palestinian who worked undercover for the Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security service and has strongly opposed calls for a ceasefire. Despite this Rolodex of high-profile support, netizens have questioned the campaign and its agenda in a Reddit forum. One user responded: answer: It’s a Zionist propaganda group manufactured to try and counter, belittle, and discredit the organic anti Zionist sentiments on social media. Edit: their increased presence is fueled by monetary investments by pro Zionist individuals and groups that dislike the fact that younger individuals are anti Zionist. Jewish ≠ Zionist Jewish ≠ Israeli Anti Zionist ≠ Anti Semitic Public opinion polls indicate that support for Israel is waning, with a November 2023 Reuters/Ipsos survey noting that around 68% of respondents in the U.S. agreed with the statement that Israel should call a ceasefire and try to negotiate. And with Israel charging forward with its unrelenting war on Gaza — killing more than 26,000 Palestinians so far in the assault — amid growing international pressure, sponsored social media ads may not be enough to return Israeli favor in the world’s eyes. Feature photo | Illustration by MintPress News Jessica Buxbaum is a Jerusalem-based journalist for MintPress News covering Palestine, Israel, and Syria. Her work has been featured in Middle East Eye, The New Arab and Gulf News. The post Facts For Peace: The Billionaire-Backed Campaign Attacking the Palestinian Cause appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Foreign Affairs, Investigations, Top Story, Barry Sternlicht, David Geffen, Facebook, FACTS For PEACE, Israel, Meta, Palestine, Propaganda, Social Media, Twitter, X]

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[l] at 2/2/24 1:55pm
The death and destruction caused in Gaza is almost beyond comprehension. Over 25,000 people have died at the hands of the Israeli air and ground assault, and virtually the entire population of the densely populated strip has been forced to flee their homes. Few governments have been willing to put up meaningful resistance to Israeli aggression. One exception is Yemen, whose de-facto government Ansar Allah (often referred to as the Houthis) has engaged in a blockade of the Red Sea in an attempt to halt the onslaught. In response, the U.S. is leading a Western alliance of nations to break the blockade and support the genocide. Yet joining the “MintCast” today is a guest who claims that, for all the destruction, Israel’s war in Gaza is failing. Greg Stoker is a former U.S. Army Special Operations member who left the military and became a committed anti-imperialist. Greg produces content analyzing Western imperialism and the current wars in the Middle East, and his videos explaining the situation regularly go viral, attracting an audience of millions of people. Today, he sat down with “MintCast” host Mnar Adley to discuss Israel, Yemen and the U.S. role in the chaos. He explained how the IDF is losing the ground war based upon a number of factors, errors and assumptions it made, including an overreliance on air superiority and bombing, the assumption that collective punishment would be an effective deterrent, a shocking lack of training for Israeli ground forces, perilously little infantry cover for Israeli armor making their tanks sitting ducks, and an inability to set realistic goals and targets in the war. While the Israelis might have all the technology, money and Western backing, they are fighting a close-quarters ground war with a guerilla foe – a sort of war they are woefully unsuited for. With no aircraft or even vehicles of any note, Hamas’ focus is hand-to-hand fighting and hit-and-run skirmishes. Once they hit the Israelis, they can immediately disappear into a myriad of tunnels or bombed-out ruins, making them extremely difficult to pin down. The IDF has been unable to deal Hamas a serious blow despite confidently predicting that it would destroy the group altogether by the end of the fighting. Meanwhile, the United States continues to escalate its attacks against Yemen. President Biden is the fourth consecutive president to bomb the country. It remains to be seen whether the U.S. will make the same mistakes the IDF has been making, but the threat of a new global conflict is on the horizon, even though the White House refuses to describe what it is currently doing as a “war.” Join us for this special edition of the “MintCast.” You won’t want to miss it. “MintPress News” is a fiercely independent media company. You can support us by becoming a member on Patreon, bookmarking and whitelisting us, and subscribing to our social media channels, including YouTube, Twitter and Instagram. Subscribe to MintCast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and SoundCloud. Also, check out rapper Lowkey’s video interview/podcast series, The Watchdog. Mnar Adley is an award-winning journalist and editor and is the founder and director of MintPress News. She is also president and director of the non-profit media organization Behind the Headlines. Adley also co-hosts the MintCast podcast and is a producer and host of the video series Behind The Headlines. Contact Mnar at mnar@mintpressnews.com or follow her on Twitter at @mnarmuh. Alan MacLeod is Senior Staff Writer for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent, as well as a number of academic articles. He has also contributed to FAIR.org, The Guardian, Salon, The Grayzone, Jacobin Magazine, and Common Dreams. The post The IDFs Failing Gaza War, with ex-U.S. Special Forces Greg Stoker appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Behind The Headlines, Foreign Affairs, Top Story, Alan MacLeod, Gaza, Greg Stoker, Israel, Mnar Adley, Palestine, special forces, U.S. Army, United States, Yemen]

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[l] at 2/2/24 12:29pm
Following Israels war and siege against Gaza, which began in earnest on October 7 of last year and has resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of Palestinians, the Yemeni Army led by Ansar Allah declared a military operation against Israel. Its aim: to compel Tel Aviv to cease its destructive war on Gaza. No stranger to famine, genocide, and the displacement of civilians thanks to a decade-long war waged against its people led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates and backed by the United States, Ansar Allah has led arguably the most consequential resistance to Israel’s bloody campaign in the Gaza Strip, taking the bold and unprecedented step of targeting Israeli-owned, flagged, or operated ships in the Red Sea and Arabian Sea. Ansar Allah, known colloquially in the West as the Houthis, declared the actions a response to the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza and pledged to cease targeting Israeli-connected ships as soon as Israel’s aggression ceases. This mantra has been repeated by Ansar Allah leaders since the onset of its campaign and was confirmed to MintPress by Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, head of Yemens Houthi supreme revolutionary committee, a prominent member of the Ansar Allah movement and a key decision-maker in Yemen’s Sana’a based government. In response to Ansar Allah’s campaign against Israel, Western powers, particularly the United States, deployed a large flotilla of warships under the pretext of protecting international freedom of navigation in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden. Dismissed in much of the Western media as little more than pirates or an Iranian-backed militia. Western audiences rarely have the opportunity to hear the unfiltered perspective of Ansar Allah’s own leaders. For this reason, MintPress News correspondent Ahmed Abdul-Kareem sat down with Ansar Allah’s second-in-command, Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, to discuss recent events in Yemen, Gaza and the Middle East.   MintPress News: What is Ansar Allah’s position on the killing of three American soldiers and the wounding of more than thirty soldiers in the attack that targeted Tower 22? And before that, two U.S. Navy Seals that the U.S. claims died while drowning? What is Ansar Allahs official position about their deaths? Mohammed Ali al-Houthi: The attacks which we consider a natural reaction to the hostile actions carried out by the United States- are a clear message about the great extent of discontent in the Arab world towards the Americans due to their wrong policies, including the adoption of genocide in Gaza and the aggression on Yemen that puts their soldiers and interests in danger. The Americans must understand that whoever attacks others will receive a response. As the Arab proverb says: “Whoever knocks on the door will find an answer.” Regarding the two soldiers you mentioned in the other half of the question, that version of the incident is an American one. We do not trust what America announces.  But if the American account is true, there is perhaps a major crime that the Americans are trying to conceal. They revealed the news of their soldiers in order to hide something worse. It is unreasonable for a fully prepared military force not to know where their colleagues have gone. The event is ambiguous. It must be investigated to expose what America is hiding. MintPress News: You are suffering in Yemen from the repercussions of a war that has lasted for more than eight years, and despite that, you have taken an advanced military and political position in solidarity with Gaza. Why take this position, and how what is your reaction to U.S. and British government statements claiming that your position has nothing to do with Gaza? Mohammed Ali al-Houthi: First, our position is religious and humanitarian, and we see a tremendous injustice. We know the size and severity of these massacres committed against the people of Gaza. We have suffered from American-Saudi-Emirati terrorism in a coalition that has launched a war and imposed a blockade against us that is still ongoing. Therefore, we move from this standpoint and do not want the same crime to be repeated.  We respond to the demand of our people, who take to the streets every Friday in millions to demonstrate. We also respond to masses in Arab and Islamic nations and to all free people who ask us to defend their Palestinian brothers. We cannot see the tragic humanitarian situation in Gaza, which has even been recognized by the International Court of Justice as a genocide, and do nothing. Therefore, our move is in this direction: to confront the arrogant ones who confront the oppressed. The oppressed are in a dire situation and endure horrific human suffering because of Israel and the United States, to such a point that they suspended their support for UNRWA [United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees], when instead they should have increased support for it so that it could continue to provide loaves of bread to Palestinians. MintPress News: Western media represents the blockade of the Red Sea as threatening freedom of navigation for all ships traveling through it. Is this accurate? If not, what countries are allowed to use the Bab al-Mandab Strait without problems, and how does Ansar Allah determine which ships can pass and which are stopped?  Mohammed Ali al-Houthi:  There is no blockade of the Red Sea, and what is being promoted in the Western media that we are targeting international navigation in the Red Sea and endangering international trade is not true. Navigation through the Red Sea is safe for all ships except those linked to Israel. Until recently, 4,874 ships have safely crossed since we announced our operations. Approximately 70 ships pass through Bab al-Mandab [Strait] daily without harm. We have constantly confirmed that the ships being targeted are only ships linked to Israel, whether by heading to the occupied ports or those [ships] owned by Israelis or ships entering the port of Umm al-Rashash [Eilat port]. The Yemeni Armed Forces repeatedly confirms that all ships with no connection to Israel will not be harmed. This is what the official spokesman of the Army repeatedly confirms in all issued statements about the naval operations of the Yemeni Armed Forces. We do not want Bab al-Mandab to be closed, nor for the Red Sea to be closed. This is evidenced by the fact that we have limited ourselves to targeting Israeli ships and ships heading to the occupied Palestinian territories. If we had wanted to close Bab al-Mandab, there would have been other measures, some of which were easier than launching missiles. In fact, what is being promoted in the Western media is the result of American deception, which is keen to spread false narratives about the events so that they become dominant in the international media. The United States demonizes us through the media by pumping out its incorrect narratives, even though they, and the British, are the devils who refuse to stop the genocide in Gaza and lift the siege on its people. They are militarizing the Red Sea and are continuing the escalation and aggression against Yemen. As for how ships heading to Israel are identified, this is based on accurate information from the Yemeni Ministry of Defense. If the ship is linked to Israel, it is warned that it must not pass through the Red Sea and the Bab al-Mandab Strait. If it rejects the warning after announcing, clarifying and giving signals for it to stop and return it will be targeted. No ship that was not heading to Israeli ports has been targeted, according to the military data that we trust. And neither the Americans nor the British have been able to prove otherwise. MintPress News: Are there communication channels that ships can use to avoid danger while passing through Bab al-Mandab, the Red Sea in general, the Arabian Sea, and the Gulf of Aden? Mohammed Ali al-Houthi: The Navy confirms this and always repeats it in its [public] statements that there is channel Number 16 through which communication can take place. We tell shipping companies (we talked to them directly) that there is a simple solution they can use, where they can write the phrase, “We have no relation to Israel,” and pass safely. We also encourage them to use Digital Selective Calling [Digital Selective Calling is a technology used in marine communication for sending distress signals. It functions like a digital call button on maritime radios]. MintPress News: Western countries say that its operations in the Red Sea are to maintain the security and safety of international navigation. What is your reaction to this? Mohammed Ali al-Houthi: It is America that is endangering international navigation by establishing what it calls the “Prosperity Alliance” to protect Israeli ships, even though a more appropriate name for it would be the “Alliance of Destruction, Militarization of the Red Sea, and Expansion of Conflict.” Its warnings, its repeated media terrorism, and its delivery of messages and calls to ships are the actions that harm global navigation and trade, in addition to its military attacks on our country. The White House tries to mislead the world by spreading the rumor that passing through Bab al-Mandab is unsafe. It puts pressure on international shipping companies that have no link to Israel not to pass through the Red Sea. This is done to fuel discontent against Yemenis and serve the criminal [Benjamin] Netanyahu. We call on them to stop these acts and to turn to the best solution, which is to stop the aggression and lift the siege on the people of Gaza. The Yemeni Armed Forces did not target American and British ships except in response to their aggression and attacks on our country. Prior to that, the leader of the revolution [Ansar Allah leader, Abdul-Malik al-Houthi] warned them not to get involved in Yemen. MintPress News: What is the true nature of U.S./UK airstrikes against Ansar Allah? Are they really causing damage, and what are they actually targeting? Have any Yemeni civilians died in these attacks? Mohammed Ali al-Houthi: Firstly, the American-British aggression against Yemen is not anything new. These two countries have been practicing aggression against the Republic of Yemen since 2015. These are the same actions. We are not afraid of the U.S.’s escalation. If the two countries decide to invade by land, they will face harsh lessons even worse than those they faced in Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq. The Yemeni people love freedom, are warriors and are well-armed. The army is well-prepared, and Yemenis have many options to inflict a strategic defeat on Americans in the region. The American-British raids targeted populated cities, including Sana’a, Saada, Hodeidah, Hajjah, and Dhamar. Before that, they targeted our patrols in the Red Sea, and a number of naval forces were martyred. The strikes had no effect, and what is said about their influence is a baseless illusion and a failure, thanks to Allah Almighty. Through their aggression at sea and their strikes, the Americans and British are defending criminals in the continuation of genocide in Palestine and the killing of civilians by the Israeli enemy without disturbance. On the other hand, our position in the Republic of Yemen defends humanity. Our operation is carried out to stop the genocide and to stop the killing. Our choice is humanitys choice, and it is the right choice for which we make sacrifices. The Americans must take the warnings of the leader [Ansar Allah leader, Abdul-Malik al-Houthi] seriously. MintPress News: There is talk in U.S. and UK political circles about escalating the war on Yemen, possibly even talk of a ground invasion of the country. What is Ansar Allahs reaction to this, and how does Asnar Allah plan to expand military operations if the US and UK escalate? Mohammed Ali al-Houthi: A ground war is what the Yemeni people wish for because they will be confronted with those who have caused their suffering for more than nine years. It will be a chance for revenge. As the leader of the revolution [Ansar Allah leader, Abdul-Malik al-Houthi] said, “To be known to America, if they send their soldiers to Yemen, they will face something harsher than what they faced in Afghanistan and what they had suffered in Vietnam. We have the strength to confront the enemy and remain steadfast; our people have withstood nine years in the face of the massive aggression.” MintPress News: What is your position on the Biden administration’s decision to classify Ansar Allah as a terrorist organization? Does this decision have repercussions for you? Mohammed Ali al-Houthi: Designating us as terrorists because we support Gaza is an honor and pride. It is also political, immoral, and has no justification. The U.S. move does not affect us. We do not enter U.S. territory. We also do not have companies or bank balances abroad. They know the designation will not affect our humanitarian or ethical processes or decisions.The solution lies in stopping the aggression against Gaza and allowing food and medicine to enter. MintPress News: Western countries refer to Ansar Allah as the Houthis. Why do you believe they do this, and what are the fundamental differences between Houthi and Ansar Allah? Mohammed Ali al-Houthi: Ansar Allah, as defined by the leader, is not an organization, political party, or group, as some people promote. They are not framed or structured. Even when the leader of martyrs, Sayyid Hussein Badreddin al-Houthi [the founder of Ansar Allah], began to form the organization, he did not form a unit according to internationally known procedures (such as registration centers or granting membership cards), like most organizations, groups, and parties do. Rather, he presented a project in which the masses of various political orientations, affiliations, and societal segments moved within the framework of the positions included in this project. So you could say we are a widespread popular movement. Our name, Ansar Allah, comes from a Quranic title that expresses a practical response to the directives of Almighty Allah according to the methodology of the Holy Quran. We always strive to be ِAnsar Allah by bearing the nations issues that must be supported for the sake of Allah. The name Houthis is not a name we apply to ourselves. We refuse to be called Houthis. It is not from us. It is a name given to us by our enemies in an attempt to frame the broad masses in Yemeni society that belong to our project. Indeed, these attempts have failed. Our people were not affected by this designation or other negative propaganda. The leader referred to this in one of his last speeches. MintPress News: Western countries accuse Ansar Allah of being a tool of Iran. Western media reported recently that the U.S. asked China to pressure Iran to stop Ansar Allah from their blockade of the Red Sea. What is the truth behind this matter, and what is Ansar Allahs relationship with Iran? Mohammed Ali al-Houthi: In his speech last Thursday, [Ansar Allah leader, Abdul-Malik al-Houthi] confirmed that U.S. and British strikes are failures and have no impact [on us] and will not limit our military capabilities. He considered that Americas attempt to request assistance from China to persuade us to stop our operations in support of Palestine is one of the signs of its failure. He also pointed out that “The Chinese will not involve themselves in serving America because they realize that it is in their interest not to follow America. China knows America’s hostile policies against it. It knows very well the extent of the American conspiracy through the Taiwan dilemma.” Although it is the accusers who are required to prove what they say, we confirm the American allegations as illusions. Our decision is in our own hands, and the Americans and Israelis know that. If they have any accusation against Iran, that is their business. Iran is a sovereign state. We do not like to bother responding to enemies. We do not care about the enemys words as long as we take the right position. MintPress News: There has been a truce between Ansar Allah and the Saudi-led coalition in conjunction with negotiations currently taking place through Omani mediators. Had peace in Yemen been used as a point of pressure to stop your operations in the Red Sea? Who is obstructing the peace process and an agreement between Yemeni parties? Mohammed Ali al-Houthi: First, there is no truce but de-escalation. We hope political work will continue to achieve lasting peace for the Republic of Yemen and lift the siege. Secondly, we have received many indirect messages and threats from the United States, including opening internal combat fronts, moving fronts, obstructing peace, stopping aid, etc., because of the position of the Yemeni people who refuse to allow for the extermination of the people of Gaza. We are peace lovers. We want to build the Republic of Yemen. We’d like there to be peace. So, our operations in the Red Sea are within the framework of the search for peace for our brothers in Palestine. But who has prevented peace in Yemen for nine years? Wasnt it America that threatened to obstruct it? Yes, it was, as previously explained. We presented a vision for a comprehensive solution [in Yemen], which was published in the media and delivered to the United Nations. Recently, a paper [was published] whose points were agreed upon [by all parties], and the ones who obstructed it were the Americans. Just as Washington has done in previous rounds [of negotiations], it is obstructing peace right now. Notice that, although they [the United States] talk about peace in Palestine, they use their veto power to prevent an end to the war. In Yemen, they talk about peace while at the same time launching [military] operations against the people of the Republic of Yemen. MintPress News: Are there direct negotiation channels between Ansar Allah and the Americans? How can future negotiations be conducted to reduce the escalation in the region? Mohammed Ali al-Houthi: We have not yet negotiated with the Americans directly. Although we have been asked to have direct negotiations, we have refused. We do not believe that we can engage in dialogue with the Americans because we see them as terrorist criminals who do everything to continue crimes and massacres. If the Americans hope to communicate [with us], it must be through our brothers in the Sultanate of Oman with our negotiating team there. This is the only way in which dialogue can take place. MintPress News: Ansar Allah has stated many times that the reason for their blockade is to stand in solidarity and help the people of Gaza. What must Israel do for Ansar Allah to halt any blockade or attacks against Israeli interests? Mohammed Ali al-Houthi: You must know that we have never resorted to carrying out operations in the Red Sea before, even though we were subjected to a major war supported mainly by the United States, but we do so now to stop the genocide in Gaza. Our operations will stop immediately as soon as medicine and food enter Gaza and the aggression is stopped. Until this noble humanitarian goal is achieved, the armed air, sea, and land forces will continue to target Israeli, American, and British ships. You see, the equation and solution is simple: let food and medicine reach the people of Gaza, and the aggression will be stopped. MintPress News: Both the United States and Britain have repeatedly stated that what they are doing in the Red Sea is self-defense and to protect international navigation. What is your reaction to these statements? Mohammed Ali al-Houthi: The truth is that Washington and London are bombing people thousands of miles away from their lands. They are carrying out aggression against an independent country that is a member of the United Nations without justification, legitimacy, or legal reference for what they are doing. They are carrying out aggression against Yemen only to protect the Israeli enemy. It is certain and clearly visible that they are not in a state of defense. They could have said that if their ships were being attacked off the coast of Florida or London. In addition, their aggression has no moral or humanitarian justification, as they came to defend criminals so that Israel can continue committing more genocide in Palestine and killing civilians. The American and British [people] should know that the administrations in the United States and Britain do not care about the safety of international navigation in the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden, and the Arabian Sea. They only care about [Benjamin] Netanyahu, encouraging him to continue the genocide of the people of Gaza, even if at the expense of their peoples interests and the lives of their soldiers. So we say to them: You are the ones who came to ignite the region, you are the ones working to threaten navigation, and you are the ones bringing danger and terrorism to the Red Sea, the Arabian Sea, or the Gulf of Aden. You must stop these practices and return to where you came from. The Red Sea belongs to neither the United States nor the British. It is clear to us that Americas policies are hostile. It has ambitions in the China Sea, it has ambitions in the Red Sea, and it also competes with Russia in the Arctic. Ahmed AbdulKareem is a Yemeni journalist based in Sanaa. He covers the war in Yemen for MintPress News as well as local Yemeni media. The post We Are Peace Lovers: Mohammed Ali al-Houthi of Ansar Allah Discusses the Prospects of Escalation, Yemens Blockade, and Beyond appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Foreign Affairs, Top Story, Ansar Allah, Bab al Madab, blockade, Gaza, Guld of Adem, Houthis, interview, Israel, Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, Mohammed Ali al-Houthi interview, Red Sea, the Arabian Sea, Yemen]

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