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[l] at 6/19/24 6:11am
Award-winning Hollywood director Quentin Tarantino was filmed posing with Israeli soldiers at a military base in southern occupied Palestine, sparking outrage online and drawing protests against him during a trip to New York. This incident highlights the disconnect between Hollywood and the general population in the U.S. World-renowned director Quentin Tarantino, known for films like Kill Bill, Pulp Fiction, and Django Unchained, now faces accusations from former fans of endorsing an ongoing genocide. The backlash follows the emergence of videos and photos showing him posing with Israeli soldiers at military facilities. On October 15, during a tour of southern Israeli kibbutzim and towns, Tarantino visited the Naqab (Negev) region to support local Israeli businesses. He was filmed enjoying a magnificent feast and praised the hospitality of southern Israeli communities. After it was revealed that he was visiting Israeli military bases, Tarantinos actions received widespread attention. He had participated in an organized tour allegedly designed to boost the morale of the Israeli armed forces as they prepared to launch a ground offensive in Gaza. Tarantino’s affinity for Israel dates back much further than the recent conflict in Gaza that began on October 7. He first officially visited Israel in 2009 to launch the premiere of his movie Inglourious Basterds, set in an alternate reality where leading Nazi officials are hunted down. During this visit, he met Daniella Pick, an Israeli model and the daughter of Svika Pick, known as Israels king of pop, who would later become his wife. In 2018, Tarantino married Daniella Pick in a Reform Jewish wedding ceremony in the United States. The couple has since had two children, both born at Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv. For the past five years, they have lived between Tel Aviv and Hollywood, with Tarantino establishing connections throughout the Israeli film industry. Tarantinos actions have recently drawn widespread attention after he was confronted by protesters during a dinner in New York. The demonstrators heckled him, accusing him of being a Zionist and supporting a genocidal military campaign. His endorsement of the Israeli military highlights a broader trend within the Hollywood elite of a disconnect from the general population, particularly on moral issues. #QuentinTarantino was spotted in a restaurant in New York and was called out for his support of the #IsraeliOccupation by a protestor pic.twitter.com/DN6h9X99Gl — Roya News English (@RoyaNewsEnglish) June 16, 2024 While Quentin Tarantino’s critics have often questioned the use of racist language in his films, typically spoken by white characters against Black people, this has often been dismissed as artistic expression without racial undertones. However, in a 2003 interview with Howard Stern, Tarantino stirred controversy by defending film producer Roman Polanski after allegations emerged that Polanski raped a 13-year-old girl. Tarantino remarked: He didn’t rape a 13-year-old. It was statutory rape … he had sex with a minor. That’s not rape. To me, when you use the word rape, you’re talking about violent, throwing them down — it’s like one of the most violent crimes in the world. You can’t throw the word rape around. It’s like throwing the word ‘racist’ around. It doesn’t apply to everything people use it for.” Quentin Tarantino also came under fire for his friendship with serial sexual offender Harvey Weinstein, admitting, I knew he did a couple of these things. Weinstein’s connections to Israel are well known; the Hollywood mogul paid $1.3 million to an Israeli intelligence firm, Black Cube, to suppress sexual abuse accusations against him. Harvey Weinstein was allegedly connected to the intelligence firm by former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak. Tarantino operates in a Hollywood environment widely criticized for its anti-Arab and anti-Muslim portrayals, often casting Israelis in a positive light and Palestinians as terrorists. Hollywood has significantly aided the U.S. government in presenting propagandistic portrayals of foreign countries and people of color, largely seen as justifying regime change efforts around the globe. Feature photo | Quentin Tarantino poses with IDF soldiers in southern Israel on October. 15, 2023. Photo | Twitter Robert Inlakesh is a political analyst, journalist and documentary filmmaker currently based in London, UK. He has reported from and lived in the occupied Palestinian territories and hosts the show ‘Palestine Files’. Director of ‘Steal of the Century: Trump’s Palestine-Israel Catastrophe’. Follow him on Twitter @falasteen47 The post Quentin Tarantino Under Fire for Posing with Israeli Soldiers appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: National, celebrity endorsement, Gaza conflict, Hollywood controversy, Israeli military bases, israeli soldiers, Israeli-Palestinian conflict, moral disconnect in Hollywood, Quentin Tarantino, Tarantino protests, US foreign policy]

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[l] at 6/17/24 7:10am
Tragic stories of civilian deaths due to false or misleading intelligence, often obtained by poorly paid local collaborators, are not just relics of the past. These incidents, once common in Afghan and Iraqi cities during their respective U.S. occupations, are now leaving their mark in war-torn Yemen. On the evening of May 31, Radio Hodeidah was broadcasting the tragic news from Gaza when a violent explosion silenced its signal. The strike, carried out by U.S. aircraft, destroyed the radio building. Several commercial ships and a Coast Guard facility were also struck in the operation, killing at least 16 people and injuring 41 others. According to an informants confession, the strike was carried out based on coordinates provided by Yemeni informants to a shadowy US-Israeli intelligence unit operating in Yemen called Force 400. After failing to stop Yemeni army operations in the Red Sea, Arabian Sea, and the Pacific Ocean, the U.S. and Britain have begun recruiting impoverished locals as informants and spies, offering financial rewards to those willing to trade local intelligence for cash. One of the most significant of these operations is Force 400, a joint intelligence operation spearheaded by Washington and Tel Aviv. Recently, Yemeni security services, with the help of local residents, arrested several informants working for the network. MintPress News interviewed several of these informants to get a glimpse into America’s shadow war in Yemen. A war that often results in civilian casualties and political unrest. These operations aim not to serve American interests but to protect Israel as it wages its genocidal campaign in Gaza.   Inside Force 400 Force 400 is based in Mokha, in southwestern Yemen. Ammar Mohammed Abdullah Saleh al-Ahmar, a former National Security Agency agent, leads the unit managed by American, Israeli, and Emirati officers. His mission is to recruit locals to monitor missile and drone launch sites and gather information on Yemeni armed forces, enabling the U.S. and U.K. to attack. ISA, who asked that only his initials be used due to the dangerous nature of his work, is from a poor family in Hodeidah. He was recruited by Force 400 along with a handful of other spies. In January and February, he sold crucial information to U.S. and Israeli intelligence that resulted in targeted attacks that took the lives of nine civilians. ISA was tasked with monitoring naval movements, missile launch sites, and military reinforcements and passing that information on to Force 400 handlers. Crew members work in the combat information center of the guided missile destroyer USS Laboon off of Yemens western coast on June 12, 2024. Bernat Armangue | AP “I photographed sites belonging to the Yemeni Navy while it was preparing for operations against Isreal ships in the Red Sea. I also provided American intelligence with coordinates for operations rooms, two military boats in the Al-Jah area, and farms from which ballistic missiles were being launched,” ISA told MintPress. We were trained to monitor coordinates via Google and Android Maps and send them to Anbar through WhatsApp.” ISA worked under the command of Ahmed Abourah, an intelligence staffer in the Seventh Brigade Republican Guards and an officer in Force 400. According to ISA, Abourah’s mission was primarily to recruit more spies for the cause. We received orders from Anbar in Mokha city from Ammar Saleh, who went by the nickname al-Faris. The orders were relayed through Ahmed Abourah, who attended meetings in Anbar with foreigners. I participated in several of these meetings. We were also trained in the Abu Musa camp in Al-Khawkha, which al-Faris runs.” AAS, another Force 400 asset who requested his name not be used, told MintPress that Force 400s operations room, which the informants called “Anbar,” is highly secure. Four separate gates are required to gain entry. The first is called the Yemeni gate, where the initial inspection occurs, followed by Yafa, the second gate. Sudanese soldiers guard the third gate, which leads to the fourth gate, administered and staffed by the Emiratis. There is a prison near Anbar that is used to house detainees and sometimes to torture them. According to AAS, “orders to hold, release or torture detainees are given by either al-Faris or the Emiratis. It became clear to me that the information I was providing to American and Israeli intelligence was valuable because as soon as the information reached al-Faris, U.S. planes and battleships immediately targeted [that location]. I saw the destruction in these places before I was arrested.” MHM, from a tribal family in Al-Tuhaytah, detailed the use of code names and encryption to communicate. Terms like bee for missiles, planes, and drones, along with “cow” for tank and sheep for army, were used to disguise their activities. MHM and other agents monitored missile launch sites and military movements, providing crucial intelligence for U.S. and Israeli attacks. YMK, who comes from a conservative family in Hodeidah’s al-Hawk District, was assigned the task of monitoring mining operations, missile launch sites and other sensitive military intelligence. After AnsarAllah launched missiles toward American and Israeli battleships from ad-Durayhimi, Ahmed Balous Ateeq, a member of Force 400, contacted me. He asked me to monitor places and farms from which missiles were being launched towards Israeli ships. He asked me for information about the equipment used in ad-Durayhimi, such as the locations of snipers, tanks, and places where soldiers were gathering.” A Yemeni man stands guard on the Israeli Galaxy ship, seized by Ansar Allah, in the port of Saleef, near Hodeidah, Yemen, May. 12, 2024. Osamah Abdulrahman | AP “I was also assigned to study the extent to which the local population supported operations carried out by Ansar Allah. In the end, I was able to monitor a number of places from which missiles and drones were launched, a number of weapons stores, trenches and islands, all of which were later targeted by American aircraft and battleships.” YMK told MintPress, adding, “And I feel guilty about it.” While YMK and ISA strictly sold information, other informants went further. AAS and other Force 400 assets who spoke to MintPress for this story were tasked with standard intelligence-gathering activities like identifying launch sites and reporting reinforcements. But they also conducted sabotage missions disguised as customs workers, such as burning military vehicles for payment, a task meant to spark civil unrest that earned them a handsome $800 per mission. “We burned several military tankers. We also set fire to cars belonging to citizens in Beit al-Faqih and the Husseiniya area.” Two informants turned saboteurs, OAK and AIJ, told MintPress. In order to ensure the success of their operations, the informants were trained to take advantage of Yemen’s conservative cultural norms, including the taboo on male military and police officials searching women. SMA, a local Force 400 asset, detailed the process. In one of the operations, I disguised myself in a women’s robe given to me by a Force 400 operative named Omar Mahlouf. Then, I went out to an area where a citizen’s car, a Toyota Hilux, was parked and was able to set it on fire. We sent a video documenting the burning to our contact at Force 400.”   Joint Operations and Local Militias Israels success in gaining a foothold in southwestern Yemen by leveraging its alliance with the UAE is an open secret. Before the onset of Ansar Allah’s blockade of Israeli ships, normalization between Israel and the UAE ostensibly began in August 2020. Both countries established military and intelligence centers on Yemen’s island of Socotra, located about 240 kilometers east of Somalias coast and 380 kilometers south of the Arabian Peninsula. They also built joint military facilities on Mayon Island, situated at the southern end of Bab al-Mandab Strait, a crucial location for monitoring ship movements. According to official Ansar Allah sources, Israel’s Mossad and the UAE have been running joint operations rooms on the western coast of Yemen for years, particularly in the Al-Mukha District, the city of Aden, and Socotra Island. These operations are backed by local militias that have been fighting Ansar Allah for power in Western Yemen for over a decade, such as the notorious forces of Tariq Afash and the UAE-backed Southern Transitional Council. The Southern Transitional Council was the same militia that recently announced its readiness to join an international coalition to protect Israeli ships crossing the Red and Arabian Seas. It also expressed interest in cooperating with Israel to combat Ansar Allah directly with Israeli support, suggesting Israel may be backing certain groups in Yemen against their traditional foes, putting years of fragile peace on shaky ground and risking plunging Yemen into another deadly civil war. The Southern Transitional Council has long been suspected of working with Israel to quell the popular rise of Ansar Allah, and recent comments made by General Tareq Saleh, Vice President of the council, do little to alleviate those concerns. Presidential Leadership Council In a conservative society like Yemen, spying for foreign powers is viewed as a serious transgression and a blatant violation of not only national but also tribal and religious values. Consequently, foreign intelligence efforts often yield opposite results. While operators aim to weaken Ansar Allah and dismantle the social fabric of Yemen, these efforts have inadvertently increased support for Ansar Allah among tribal and liberal forces alike, particularly in the south, which is controlled by Washingtons allies. Force 400 operators may have imagined that recruiting locals to report ballistic missiles and drone sites would force Ansar Allah to halt its operations in support of Gaza. However, this strategy seems to have backfired for all intents and purposes. Instead of reducing attacks, military operations against Israel have increased, extending not only into the Red Sea and the Arabian Sea but also reaching the Mediterranean Sea and targeting not only Israeli-linked ships but also U.S. and British ships working in concert with Israel. Yemeni provinces continue to hold mass demonstrations in support of Gaza, with weekly protests under the banner Steadfast with Gaza, resisting all conspiracies. Ansar Allahs leader recently confirmed the intent to continue military operations, reporting that 145 ships linked to Israel, the U.S., and Britain had been targeted so far and insisting that the escalation is part of a broader strategy to pressure Israel into ending its siege on Gaza. Feature photo | Illustration by MintPress News 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 Inside Force 400: Spies and Sabotage in Americas Covert War on Yemen appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Foreign Affairs, Investigations, News, Top Story, Ansar Allah, Force 400, Israel, Israeli Spies, Israeli spies in Yemen, Mossad, Mossad in Yemen, Red Sea, U.S. airstrikes Yemen, United States Navy]

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[l] at 6/13/24 12:33pm
Melanie Ward, CEO of the Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) charity, faces major backlash from volunteers and workers after deciding to run as a Labour Party candidate in Scotland. Some 2,250 healthcare workers, medical volunteers, supporters, and donors signed a letter expressing concern. On June 5, a protest letter was filed by workers and volunteers at MAP, expressing their dismay to the board over Wards candidacy with the UK Labour Party. To run for the position of MP in Scotland’s Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath constituency, Ward has taken a leave of absence but has not stepped down from her position. Despite Ward’s pledge to make real progress for the Palestinian people if elected to Parliament, MAP is currently without an acting CEO during a healthcare collapse in Gaza. Some fear her actions could jeopardize the aid organization’s efforts on the ground, leading to threats of referring MAP to the Charity Commission. Ward’s candidacy, announced in May, came at an opportune time for the Labour Party. The candidate she replaced, Wilma Brown, was suspended after liking a series of racist tweets, including one calling former Scottish First Minister Humza Yousaf the “first minister of Gaza.” Ward, perceived as a pro-Palestinian voice, provided Labour with a counterbalance to the pro-Israeli shift under Keir Starmer’s leadership. At the same time, MAP was calling on Israel to stop targeting healthcare workers and hospitals in Gaza, while Starmer was advocating for a pause and had ordered his party not to endorse a ceasefire last November. Starmer is facing a pending investigation for allegedly “aiding, abetting, or otherwise assisting” Israeli war crimes and has supported Israel’s “right” to cut off water and power to Gaza. Ward has a history of affiliations with pro-Israel lobby groups, starting with her first trip to Palestine, organized by the Israeli Embassy-funded Union of Jewish Students (UJS). She blogged about meeting Israeli politicians and visiting settlements but shifted her perspective after a second visit to the West Bank. However, her relationship with UJS continued, including participating in a 2017 UJS panel called “Bridges Not Boycotts,” opposing boycotts of Israel. In 2017, Ward publicly congratulated Israel lobbyist Danny Stone on receiving a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) award for his work combating antisemitism, which she praised as “excellent.” Ward also supported the anti-Semitism witch hunt during Jeremy Corbyns leadership, which purged much of Labour’s pro-Palestinian base, including many Jewish anti-Zionists. She tweeted, “Farewell to Jeremy Corbyn, who really was a truly terrible Labour Party Leader. He will be missed not one little bit by those of us who want to see Labour in government again.” In 2016, she signed a letter calling for Corbyn’s resignation, shared an article urging the public not to vote for him and tweeted the former Labour leader in 2015, “Corbyn unable to think of situation where hed commit Forces to military action. Should think a bit harder if he wants to be PM,” in response to his anti-war stance. Since Keir Starmer took over from Corbyn, there has been a greater purge of leftist and pro-Palestinian elements from the party. The current stances of the party have reportedly isolated minority groups, especially potential Muslim voters. Feature photo | Mayor of London Sadiq Khan in discussion with Melanie Ward, Chief Executive Officer, during a visit to Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP), a Palestinian aid charity in London, October 13, 2023. Photo | AP Images Robert Inlakesh is a political analyst, journalist and documentary filmmaker currently based in London, UK. He has reported from and lived in the occupied Palestinian territories and hosts the show ‘Palestine Files’. Director of ‘Steal of the Century: Trump’s Palestine-Israel Catastrophe’. Follow him on Twitter @falasteen47 The post Gaza Aid Leader Faces Backlash Over Labour Party Run appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Foreign Affairs, Gaza aid collapse, Gaza healthcare crisis, Gaza humanitarian aid, keir starmer, Labour Party candidate scandal, MAP CEO backlash, MAP charity controversy, Medical Aid for Palestinians CEO, Melanie Ward, Melanie Ward Labour Party, Melanie Ward political bid, Palestinian healthcare crisis]

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[l] at 6/13/24 6:05am
A UN-mandated Independent International Commission of Inquiry has uncovered evidence of egregious sexual violence committed against Palestinian men and women in the Gaza Strip. This adds to a mounting series of reports indicating the issue is widespread and systematic. The United Nations report, released on June 12 under a Human Rights Council resolution, revealed that Israeli forces “systematically targeted and subjected Palestinians to SGBV [Sexual and Gender-Based Violence] online and in person since October 7, including through forced public nudity, forced public stripping, sexualized torture and abuse, and sexual humiliation and harassment.” The report noted specific types of sexual violence perpetrated by Israeli soldiers targeting men and boys during ground operations and arrests. Soldiers took videos and photos of Palestinians after stripping them partially or fully naked. The captives were also “coerced to do physical movements while naked.” Families of men and boys taken captive were made to watch as they were paraded in the street, either fully naked or in their underwear while being subjected to sexual harassment. The commission concluded that the gender-based violence “directed at Palestinian women was intended to humiliate and degrade the Palestinian population as a whole.” The report asserted that “forced public stripping and nudity and other types of abuse by Israeli military personnel were either ordered or condoned.” “Sexual violence has been perpetrated throughout the OPT [Occupied Palestinian Territories] during evacuation processes, before or during arrest, at civilian homes and at a shelter for women and girls,” the report stated. Sexual acts were carried out by force, including under threats, intimidation and other forms of duress, in inherently coercive circumstances due to the armed conflict and the presence of armed Israeli soldiers.” In February, a UN panel of experts stated there was “credible evidence” of sexual violence against Palestinian women in both Gaza and the West Bank. This followed a UN report noting two cases of rape and various other cases of sexual abuse against Palestinian women. We might not know for a long time what the actual number of victims are, said Reem Alsalem, the UN’s special rapporteur on violence against women and girls. A recently released UNRWA report included testimony from a 34-year-old Palestinian woman detained in the Sde Teiman detention center, a makeshift interrogation facility for detainees seized from Gaza: They asked the soldiers to spit on me, saying ‘she is a b****, she is from Gaza.’ They were beating us as we moved and saying they would put pepper on our sensitive parts [genitals]. They pulled us, beat us, they took us in the bus to the Damon prison after five days. A male soldier took off our hijabs and they pinched us and touched our bodies, including our breasts. We were blindfolded and we were feeling them touching us, pushing our heads to the bus. We started to squeeze together to try to protect ourselves from the touching. They said ‘b****, b****.’ They told the soldiers to take off their shoes and slap our faces with them.” The testimonies in the UNRWA report correlate with those collected by The New York Times in their recent expose on the Sde Teiman facility, which included allegations of rape, including with metal rods, and one male detainee dying after experiencing anal rape as a form of sexual torture. Various other accusations of rape have been recorded, including those from Canadian physicians working in Gaza, with one claiming a woman was “raped for two days until she lost her ability to speak.” There has been no extensive investigation into the mountains of evidence and allegations of rape of Palestinians. In contrast, unsubstantiated Israeli government claims of a mass rape campaign on October 7 have received significant international attention. The newly issued UN report allocated roughly 3,400 words to its section on the singular day of October 7 and approximately the same amount to its segment on crimes committed by Israeli Security Forces until December 31, 2023, in their Advanced Unedited version of the report. The section on crimes committed since October 7 is roughly the same in length but contains 65 footnotes, while the section on crimes committed on October 7 has only 24. The report drew strong conclusions about both Hamas and Israel. Feature photo | A Palestinian girl checks a UN school that was bombed by Israel in Nuseirat, in the central Gaza Strip, on June 6, 2024. NurPhoto | AP Robert Inlakesh is a political analyst, journalist and documentary filmmaker currently based in London, UK. He has reported from and lived in the occupied Palestinian territories and hosts the show ‘Palestine Files’. Director of ‘Steal of the Century: Trump’s Palestine-Israel Catastrophe’. Follow him on Twitter @falasteen47 The post Gaza Horror: UN Finds Israeli Forces Guilty of Sexual Abuse and Torture appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Foreign Affairs, Gaza Strip human rights abuses, Human Rights Council Gaza, Israeli forces sexual violence, Palestinian men and women abuse, Reem Alsalem UN, Sde Teiman facility abuse, sexualized torture in Gaza, UN report sexual violence, UN-mandated inquiry Gaza, UNRWA report testimonies]

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[l] at 6/12/24 10:54am
In a historic first, Chiquita Brands International has been ordered to pay the families of murdered Colombians after a court found the U.S.-based banana giant had privately financed death squads. After a lengthy legal battle spanning 17 years, a Florida court ordered Chiquita to pay $38 million to the families of death squad victims. This landmark case is the first in which an American corporation has been found liable for human rights abuses committed overseas, encouraging more victims to seek legal restitution. In 2007, Chiquita pled guilty to “one count of engaging in transactions with a specially-designated global terrorist” group, the Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (AUC). The company admitted to financing the infamous Colombian death squad with over 100 transactions between 1997 and 2004, amounting to $1.7 million. In 2018, in a case settled outside court, the families of six killed Americans claimed that Chiquita had financed the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), who had fought the AUC, with a total of $220,000. Also in 2018, Colombian prosecutors charged 13 Chiquita employees with aiding the AUC death squads at the turn of the century, to which the corporation gave no official response. The AUC right-wing death squads were descendants of the ‘Death to Kidnappers’ (MAS) group, an alliance formed in the 1980s between the Colombian military, police, and Middle Magdalena businessmen and ranchers. They were involved in countless civilian massacres from early on in their existence, as documented by Human Rights Watch. A U.S. court holding Chiquita liable is seen as a step in the right direction for the families of some of the AUC’s victims in Colombia. “This verdict sends a powerful message to corporations everywhere: profiting from human rights abuses will not go unpunished. These families, victimized by armed groups and corporations, asserted their power and prevailed in the judicial process,” said Marco Simons of EarthRights International, one of the legal representatives for the victims families. However, this case only involved the families of a small portion of AUC victims, which included many of Chiquita’s enemies who were farmers, indigenous people, and trade unionists fighting for better wages and working conditions. During the six decades of conflict that caused around 450,000 fatalities and displaced millions, the AUC death squads were concluded to have killed the highest percentage of civilians compared to other armed groups. Dating back to 1928, the predecessor to Chiquita, the United Fruit Company, experienced a workers revolt that U.S. officials in Colombia and United Fruit portrayed as Communist. This culminated in the Colombian authorities sending in the army and massacring around 2,000 people. In 1954, the United Fruit Company used its influence to help overthrow the democratically elected Guatemalan President, Jacobo Arbenz. It disseminated propaganda and convinced the U.S. government that Arbenz was a communist threat, leading to a CIA-backed coup. This came after President Arbenz sought to purchase land from the United Fruit Company, which had been exploiting local workers with low wages and harsh conditions. Chiquita’s predecessor also gave birth to the era of ‘Banana Republics’ in Central America, where U.S.-backed dictators were installed to protect the American-based banana giant. Feature photo | A man on a bicycle rides by a banana trailer in La Lima, Honduras. Esteban Felix | AP Robert Inlakesh is a political analyst, journalist and documentary filmmaker currently based in London, UK. He has reported from and lived in the occupied Palestinian territories and hosts the show ‘Palestine Files’. Director of ‘Steal of the Century: Trump’s Palestine-Israel Catastrophe’. Follow him on Twitter @falasteen47 The post Chiquita Ordered to Pay $38 Million for Funding Colombian Death Squads appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: National, News, Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia, banana giant controversy, Chiquita Brands International, Chiquita lawsuit, Colombian death squads, corporate accountability, Florida court ruling, human rights abuses, landmark human rights case, U.S. corporation liability]

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[l] at 6/11/24 8:45am
Officials in Washington praised Israels military operation that freed four Israeli captives from the Gaza Strip but refrained from commenting on the approximately 274 Palestinians killed during the mission, which involved U.S. collaboration. While Israelis celebrated the extraction of the captives from Gazas Nuseirat, Palestinian refugees in the area were left to collect the remains of their loved ones. An eyewitness described seeing mangled bodies of men, women, and children strewn around a marketplace and a mosque, while a paramedic likened the scene to a horror movie. A headline in The Washington Post read, For Israel, a rare day of joy amid bloodshed as 4 hostages are rescued alive, referring to the event that resulted in the deaths of 274 Palestinians and hundreds of others wounded. Meanwhile, U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan praised the operation as daring, and President Joe Biden expressed his joy over the rescue without addressing what was one of the largest civilian massacres in Gaza since October. During the Israeli military operation, which successfully extracted four captives, three others were reportedly killed, including a U.S. citizen, according to a statement from Hamas. Shortly after, information surfaced that the U.S. had played a significant role in the operation, which was hailed as a great success. A New York Times article reported that a team of American hostage recovery officials stationed in Israel assisted the Israeli military’s effort to rescue the four captives by providing intelligence and other logistical support. Another report from Axios cited an unnamed U.S. official claiming that a U.S. hostage cell in Israel supported the effort to rescue the four hostages but did not provide details on the support provided. Compounding issues for the American government, a video seemingly filmed by Israeli soldiers was widely shared on social media, showing a helicopter taking off next to the U.S.-built temporary pier meant to facilitate the transfer of much-needed aid to Gaza. The aircraft was used in Israel’s military operation to transport the four freed captives. The Israeli captives were evacuated from Gaza using the US humanitarian pier. pic.twitter.com/tkY7X1dfDh — The Palestine Chronicle (@PalestineChron) June 8, 2024 U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) quickly released a statement on the issue, claiming: The humanitarian pier facility, including its equipment, personnel, and assets, was not used in the operation to rescue hostages today in Gaza. An area south of the facility was used by the Israelis to safely return the hostages to Israel. Any such claim to the contrary is false. However, contrary to the spirit of CENTCOMs statement, the video of the helicopter used to evacuate the Israeli captives shows it clearly next to the pier. The vehicles used to transfer the four released detainees likely used the nearby causeway attached to the pier. Following further denial from the U.S. government that its forces were directly involved, the Pentagon released a statement describing the area used by the helicopter as near the pier. This contradicts reports from the New York Times, Axios, and CBS, which cited American officials claiming that U.S. and UK intelligence information was used by Israel to conduct the military operation. Additional reports indicated that U.S.-operated drones were used for surveillance to support the operation. While there are no allegations that U.S. forces were on the ground or participated in armed action, they were clearly involved in other ways. Despite Washington’s insistence of innocence, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) remained unconvinced that the close proximity of the Israeli-operated aircraft did not imply the pier’s use in the military operation. WFP Executive Director Cindy McCain announced the organization had paused its planned distribution of aid from the pier due to security concerns for its staff. This decision came after two of its sites were attacked during the Nuseirat massacre. The U.S.-built temporary pier was initially estimated to cost American taxpayers $320 million. Contributions from the United Kingdom and lower rates for contractors allegedly lowered that figure to $230 million. However, the pier suffered damage after U.S. forces failed to account for sea conditions, adding another $22 million in damages to the bill. The U.S. only managed to reconnect the floating pier to Gaza on June 7, less than a day before the Israeli military operation. This has sparked speculation about the true intended nature of the pier, as it is only operable in conditions with waves smaller than 1.25 meters and has delivered minimal aid for such a costly project. Feature photo | Bodies of Palestinians, killed during simultaneous Israeli attacks on Nuseirat brought to Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in Deir al-Balah, Gaza Strip, Palestine, on June 8, 2024. Ramez Habboub | AP Robert Inlakesh is a political analyst, journalist and documentary filmmaker currently based in London, UK. He has reported from and lived in the occupied Palestinian territories and hosts the show ‘Palestine Files’. Director of ‘Steal of the Century: Trump’s Palestine-Israel Catastrophe’. Follow him on Twitter @falasteen47 The post US Had Direct Involvement In Israeli Massacre of 274 Palestinians appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Foreign Affairs, CENTCOM statement, Gaza crisis, Gaza massacre, Israeli military operation, Nuseirat, Nuseirat massacre, Palestinian casualties, U.S. involvement, UN World Food Programme, Washington Post]

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[l] at 6/11/24 7:16am
Despite calls across college campuses demanding divestment from Israel, one sector of the Israeli economy appears to be booming. Israeli startups raised over $1 billion in funding for the second straight month in May. A number of these successful startups have participated in Israel’s ongoing war on the besieged Gaza Strip, suggesting genocide is a lucrative marketing tool for business. Products like suicide drones, smart guns, and robot dogs have all been deployed on the battlefield since October 2023, with some startups even exploiting the war to their advantage and touting their technologies’ use in the war as an advertising boost. Israel’s government-owned and private companies alike have long promoted their weapons as “battle-tested,” with the occupation of Gaza and the West Bank serving as Israel’s homegrown weapons-testing laboratory. “It’s just one example, and there are so many more, of Israel not wanting to ‘waste’ the opportunity in Gaza to show off its military hardware to an excited global market,” Antony Loewenstein, author of The Palestine Laboratory, a book on Israeli weapons exports around the world, wrote in the April 3, 2024 edition of his newsletter. Hamas’ October 7, 2023 attack exposed Israel’s once-renowned cyber tech capabilities. Whereas such a massive oversight would presumably collapse any other industry, the opposite appears to be happening as Israel’s genocide overshadows the October attack. “Despite this colossal failure of the intelligence agencies, the wholesale destruction of Gaza and the kinds of weapons Israels using will only increase the sales,” Neve Gordon, human rights and international law professor at the Queen Mary University of London, told MintPress News.   The Dark Side of Innovation Israel is rapidly becoming a pariah state on the world stage, as its assault on Gaza has killed more than 36,000 Palestinians thus far and created a manufactured famine. Yet while the International Criminal Court issues arrest warrants for Israeli leaders and countries pulling their ambassadors from Israel, defense industries are eyeing the same Israeli weapons that have wreaked such unfathomable destruction and death. “This industry is in the business of killing,” Gordon said. “So what we find appalling, they find exciting.” These weapons have been used to carry out egregious violations of international law, including war crimes, crimes against humanity, and even genocide, and buyers are saying, ‘Thats wonderful. These things work. This is what spurs sales.” Genocides are good for the start-up nation: pic.twitter.com/XcaSvmNvES — Laleh Khalili (@LalehKhalili) May 9, 2024 Israel touts its “battle-tested” technology and the revolving door relationship of its military, tech, and education sectors. Roughly 80% of Israeli cyber tech firms were founded by graduates of Shin Bet’s (Israeli security agency) Unit 8200, an intelligence corps infamous for its clandestine spying operations against Palestinians. Israeli universities work with the Ministry of Defense to conduct research activities and cater programs like the Academic Reserves (Atuda), Talpiot programs, and Havatzalot Program to the Israeli military. Tech giants like IBM also strategically set up cyber research centers near military bases as part of the Defense Ministry’s initiative to funnel veterans into the high-tech industry. Nicknamed the “startup nation,” Israel has one of the highest numbers of startups per capita worldwide — primarily bolstered by the government’s substantial investment in startups and technology. Startups are the backbone of Israel’s economy, so when they flourish, so does the state. “All these companies are more or less under the radar,” Jeff Halper, author of “War Against the People,” a book on Israels arms and surveillance technology industries, told MintPress News, noting the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement should be targeting Israeli defense tech startups. There is some hesitation to invest now in Israeli startups, but its not a fatal blow mainly because this is fairly secret stuff, and its not exposed very much in the public.” Listed below are the startups whose products are being used in Israel’s war on Gaza.   Xtend Xtend secured $40 billion in funding after touting its success in the war against Gaza, where its drones have dropped grenades, surveyed tunnels, and attacked Palestinians. The Israeli military is using its signature Wolverine combat drone in Gaza to gather intelligence on buildings. Equated to operating a video game, the drone is equipped with a robotic arm and virtual reality goggles. According to monitoring groups, Statewatch and Informationsstelle Militarisierung, Xtend received a multi-billion research and innovation grant from the European Union to study the optimizing capabilities of its Skylord Xtender drone system and find suitable partners for producing and commercializing the technology. In its latest financing round, investors include Tel-Aviv-based investment firm Claltech, a large unnamed Japanese financing corporation, and previous investors like the Chartered Group, a Japanese-Singapore investment company headed by Israeli businessman Eyal Agmoni. The company’s customers include the United States Department of Defense, BP, and Hyundai (which use drones to monitor their pipelines for potential issues), and it has partnered with the Canadian and United Kingdom defense ministries. Its investors include TAU Ventures, Tel Aviv University’s venture capital firm.   SmartShooter Known for developing an AI-powered gun installed at a checkpoint in the West Bank city of al-Khalil (Hebron), SmartShooter has now developed the Smash system in Gaza, which utilizes “smart sight” to precisely track moving targets. In November, an Israeli special forces unit used the system to target homes near a school in the Shati refugee camp in Gaza. SmartShooter equipment is also used by the British, German, and U.S. militaries.   infiniDome This Israeli startup produces GPS protection and navigation systems for drones patrolling the Gaza border. With investment from U.S.-based Honeywell Aerospace Technologies, the company will soon be able to support the U.S. Department of Defense and South Korean and Indian armies. It also recently established a U.S. subsidiary to serve the U.S. defense industry.   D-Fend Solutions To disrupt drones sent by Hamas and Hezbollah, the Israeli military is using the Israeli firm’s D-Fend Solutions counter-drone technology. Their products are also used by the U.S. Departments of Defense, Justice, and Homeland Security and the United Arab Emirates security agencies.   Spear UAV This Israeli startup developed a Viper suicide drone that can be launched from a portable capsule by a soldier or armored vehicle and is intended to locate, track, and attack targets by crashing into them and self-destructing. Since the war, the company says it has accelerated development to meet the demands of the Israeli military. An Israeli Defense company Spear UAV( (@SpearUav) has manufactured small-sized folding UAV-quadcopter "Ninox 40" fired and launched from a 40-mm grenade launcher.This UAV can also be fired from MBT, underwater platforms and IFVs. pic.twitter.com/iOI4J72ppW — Nand Kumar (@Nandji_108) October 9, 2022   Axon Vision As international headlines have noted, artificial intelligence is fully immersed in Israel’s war on Gaza. While the Israeli military develops some, other AI tools originate in the Israeli startup hub, like Axon Vision, whose products are being used in Israel’s ground invasion of Gaza. Edge360, Axon Vision’s AI camper system, is installed in armored vehicles in Gaza to assist soldiers in detecting threats and making decisions on the ground. One of the advantages we have here in Israel with the Israeli army is that we have close relationship, CEO Roy Riftin boasted of the company’s tight-knit collaboration with the Israeli military in an interview with Nikkei. We get feedback all the time. Riftin added his company is currently conducting market research with the hope of exporting the technology.   Steadicopter The Steadicopter Black Eagle, an unmanned robot helicopter, is being used for intelligence gathering in Gaza. The Israel startup has been around for decades, working with companies in Africa, the UAE and pitching to the U.S. Army. Senegal boosts its unmanned capabilities with Israeli Steadicopter Black Eagle 50H hybrid VTOL UAShttps://t.co/r6Bgnbjc6s pic.twitter.com/dzNhza3VSb — Hammer Of War (@HammerOfWar5) January 30, 2024   NextVision This Israeli startup manufactures cameras for weapons systems, specifically on drones made by Israel’s top arms companies like Elbit Systems, Israel Aerospace Industries, and Rafael Advanced Defense Systems — all used in Israel’s assault on Gaza. The Israeli military also uses its cameras. With NextVision’s CEO stating, “Wars are good for business,” the startup has experienced an increase in sales since the war on Gaza began in 2023. In the war’s first month, NextVision’s sales rate doubled. NextVision operates worldwide, with customers in Asia, Europe, the UK, Canada, the U.S., Mexico, and South America. Europe is its largest market.   Asio Technologies Soldiers are using Asio Technologies’s AI navigation systems in Gaza. The Orion platform, developed by Asio, uses augmented reality and three-dimensional viewing to identify potential threats. The AeroGuardian NOCTA optical navigation system, another Asio invention, is a vision-based navigation tool for drones. News reports say the company will improve its technology based on lessons learned from the war and hopes to export it abroad. Without disclosing the country, Asio Technologies’ CEO David Harel said an Asian country expressed interest in Orion. The company also works with militaries in North America and Asia and unnamed U.S. defense customers.   Robotican Animal-like robots are being deployed in the war on Gaza. The Rooster, jointly developed by Israeli startup Robotican and the Israeli Defense Ministry, is a drone inside a wheeled cage. The Rooster drones are attached to Vision 60 robot dogs made by the Philadelphia-based Ghost Robotics. The Israeli reserves organization Brother in Arms donated the first three devices to the Israeli military. Not in any way friendly, the robodogs are equipped to shoot and are primarily used to surveil buildings and tunnels inside Gaza. Robotican is also developing the “Angry Birds” drone, which is meant to take down other drones, specifically for use in populated areas where neutralizing them may not be an option. In addition to Ghost Robotics, Robotican has partnered with international arms distributors for police and military forces like Guardian Defense & Homeland Security in Spain, Messer Waffenhandel in Germany, Viking in the UK, and FLYMOTION in the U.S.  It has also expanded its market to Scandinavia with its collaboration with Northcom, a communication solutions company operating in Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and Finland, to promote its Rooster Drone in Nordic countries. Robotican also presented its Rooster drone to New York City Mayor Eric Adams in 2023, writing, “We believe that the Rooster is a vital product and tool for the public safety and first responders of New York City.”   Corsight Jointly owned by Israeli company Cortica and Canadian venture capital firm Awz Ventures, Corsight uses AI facial recognition technology to collect information about Palestinians in Gaza. According to the New York Times, Israeli soldiers have set up checkpoints along routes where Palestinians have fled Israeli bombing and combat operations and scan Palestinians passing through using cameras equipped with Corsight’s facial recognition application. Meant to identify members of Hamas — specifically those who participated in the October 7 attacks — the program has created a database of Palestinians without their knowledge or consent. In several instances, the Corsight application mistakenly identified a person as a Hamas member, like Palestinian poet Mosab Abu Toha, who was taken from a Gaza checkpoint and detained, beaten, and interrogated by Israeli officers for two days before being returned to Gaza. Corsight’s technology is being used at airports and law enforcement authorities worldwide, such as the police forces in Thailand, Mexico, Brazil, Colombia, and the EU. Australian and UK police forces are piloting its product. Gold producer Sibanye Stillwater in South Africa also uses it. Israel’s genocidal assault in Gaza couldn’t reach the degree it has without the advanced weaponry it’s creating. On the one hand, Israel’s economic dependence on defense technology stagnates peace efforts and damages its international relationships when its technologies aid Israel’s human rights abuses. Yet, on the other, Israel’s economy thrives on war and occupation. “Israel tends to be kind of immune from sanctions or from people not wanting to buy their products because of Gaza because the technologies are so useful for governments, especially repressive governments,” Halper said. So, while diplomatically, Israel may be shunned in staterooms around the world, it’s only becoming more and more attractive to decision-makers in war rooms and military brass on the battlefield. 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 Devastation Into Dollars: Israeli Startups Are Making a Killing in Gaza appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Foreign Affairs, Investigations, News, Top Story, battle-tested weapons, Defense Industry, divestment from Israel, Gaza conflict, Gaza War, Israeli economy, Israeli startups, military tech, Palestine suffering, war profiteering, war technology]

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[l] at 6/7/24 9:44am
In an interview with Israel’s Haaretz, a former Israeli soldier who was held captive in the Gaza Strip said his biggest fear of being killed was from Israeli airstrikes, not Palestinian fighters. In the interview, 70-year-old Louis Har, an Israeli who was held captive in the Gaza Strip, recounted his biggest fear was the IDF planes and the fear that they would bomb the building we were in. It is clear that this is war, and the IDF is working. I was a soldier myself. But the feeling that it could be our bombs, our planes—that is what will make us die—is very scary and very stressful. The exclusive interview, published in Hebrew and not yet released on Haaretzs English-language website, offers a glimpse into the reality of Israelis held as prisoners of war in Gaza.  Har also states in the interview that he was not fearful that Gazan fighters would kill him, as he realized he was a valuable bargaining chip in any potential prisoner swaps. Har was extracted from Gaza as part of the only hostage rescue operation conducted by the Israeli military since October 7. Israeli media produced a dramatic story depicting a daring and violent collaborative interagency mission involving Shin Bet and special forces to retrieve Har and his fellow captive, Fernando Marman. #Palestine #Israel: Helmet camera footage from the Israeli hostage rescue operation in Gaza’s Rafah area on Monday morning has been published. The footage shows operatives from the Yamam counterterrorism unit breaching a building where they soon after discovered hostages… pic.twitter.com/Z9svz6g4lT — Popular Front (@PopularFront_) February 14, 2024 However, discrepancies in the narratives led to questions about the role of the alleged Palestinian fighters guarding them. These were clarified when al-Mayadeen News reported that a civilian family had been holding the two Israelis captive and had attempted to negotiate their release. The Haaretz interview with Har highlights the fear Israeli captives in Gaza experience when hearing Israeli fighter jets overhead. This sentiment is commonly expressed by Israelis taken captive by Palestinian fighters throughout the war. Despite strict censorship in Israeli media on these matters, many former captives have spoken about the reality of their detention since the war began. An example of this fear was highlighted in the testimony of Yasmin Porat, a survivor of the October 7 Hamas-led offensive on Kibbutz Be’eri. During an interview on an Israeli radio show hosted by the Kan state broadcaster, she shared that Israeli forces “eliminated everyone, including the hostages.” She described “very, very heavy crossfire” and noted hearing tank shelling. An Al-Jazeera investigation into the events of that day also revealed that indiscriminate airstrikes and tank fire from the Israeli military killed fellow Israelis being held by Hamas. In January, Hamas armed wing, the al-Qassam Brigades, published a video showing captured Israeli Yarden Bibas, discussing the apparent killing of his wife and two children in an airstrike. Hamas had previously claimed in a communique that an Israeli missile attack had killed them. Will I live to attend their funeral? Or will I be buried with them? Bibas is filmed asking. According to Hamas, more than 50 Israeli captives held in Gaza have allegedly been killed by Israel’s own indiscriminate bombing attacks, placing tremendous pressure on Tel Aviv to conclude a prisoner exchange. Feature photo | A picture of rescued hostage Louis Har and a sign that reads a deal now hangs on a wall in Tel Aviv, Feb. 12, 2024. Ariel Schalit | AP Robert Inlakesh is a political analyst, journalist and documentary filmmaker currently based in London, UK. He has reported from and lived in the occupied Palestinian territories and hosts the show ‘Palestine Files’. Director of ‘Steal of the Century: Trump’s Palestine-Israel Catastrophe.’ Follow him on Twitter @falasteen47 The post Former Israeli Captive Held In Gaza Says Biggest Fear Was Israeli Airstrikes appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Foreign Affairs, Gaza hostage rescue, Gaza war reality captives, Haaretz interview Israeli captive, Hamas hostage situation, Hamas prisoner exchange negotiations, IDF airstrikes Gaza fear, Israeli captive fear airstrikes, Israeli media censorship captives, Israeli prisoner swap pressure, Palestinian fighters Israeli captives]

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[l] at 6/7/24 8:25am
President Joe Biden’s long-overdue demand for both sides to accept a Gaza ceasefire proposal appears to be faltering under Israeli refusal to comply, an escalation of Israel’s offensive in Rafah, and contradictions between the proposal and the presidents speech. On May 31, President Joe Biden issued what many considered a long-overdue call for both Israel and Hamas to accept an Israeli ceasefire proposal to end the war in the Gaza Strip. In the speech, he briefly outlined the phases of the proposal, stating it would be a road map to an enduring ceasefire and the release of all hostages. According to unnamed officials in the Biden administration, the timing and manner of the presidents announcement were designed to pressure Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to accept it. Shortly afterward, however, Benjamin Netanyahu publicly stated that his regimes ceasefire was aimed at the destruction of Hamas. He affirmed his intention to continue the war in Gaza until victory is achieved against the Palestinian resistance movement. This directly contradicted the spirit of President Bidens speech, implying that despite the ceasefire agreement with Hamas, it would still enable the dismantling of the group. The confusion resulting from these conflicting narratives triggered an adverse reaction from ministers within the Israeli premiers ruling coalition, including members of Netanyahu’s Likud Party. Israeli Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir announced that his Jewish Power Party would suspend its role in the ruling coalition until the terms of the ceasefire proposal were made available to him. According to polling data released in March, around 50% of Israelis support the idea of Israel taking control of the Gaza Strip in a post-war situation. Only 10% approved of the Palestinian Authority running Gaza, and none of the respondents favored Hamas remaining in power. While most Israeli Jews do not believe that Benjamin Netanyahu is winning the war in Gaza, the polling data suggests that the majority of Israelis want the war to continue and feel that Israel has either used enough or not enough force in Gaza. On the other hand, Hamas officials heavily criticized President Biden’s portrayal of the group as obstructing the deal. They pointed to what they labeled as blatant Israeli intransigence and highlighted contradictions between the actual proposal and how the U.S. president represented it. Majed Al-Ansari, Qatar’s foreign ministry spokesperson, said, “We are waiting for a clear Israeli position that represents the entire government in response to the U.S.s Gaza proposal. Hamas initially received the Biden administrations initiative positively but maintains that any viable ceasefire proposal must lead to the complete withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza and the end of the war. Meanwhile, Israel has ramped up its offensive actions in the Gaza Strip, advancing with its invasion of Rafah despite the International Court of Justices ruling ordering Tel Aviv to halt its offensive there. Not only has Israel continued its military actions in the Rafah area, but it has also launched new incursions into the central region of the besieged coastal enclave as the daily death toll continues to climb. On Thursday, an Israeli airstrike targeted a UN school in the Nuseirat Refugee Camp, killing around 45 civilians, half of whom were women and children. A recent leak of the details of the ceasefire proposal, as reported by The Economist, appears to contradict President Biden’s presentation of the Israeli deal being offered. The article noted that the proposal would be much more difficult to conclude in phases two and three than the president had suggested. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Biden’s representation of the ceasefire proposal “inaccurate.” As the Israeli military continues to increase its operations in the Gaza Strip and the Palestinian civilian death toll rises, hope appears to be faltering. On May 6, Hamas accepted a ceasefire proposal. However, the Israeli government responded by immediately launching its Rafah offensive and seizing the Rafah Crossing between Gaza and Egypt. This move violated Israels 1979 Camp David normalization agreement with Egypt and led to the breakdown of ceasefire talks. Feature photo | Displaced Palestinians inspect their tents destroyed by Israeli bombing next to a United Nations facility near Rafah city, Gaza Strip, May 28, 2024. Jehad Alshrafi | AP Robert Inlakesh is a political analyst, journalist and documentary filmmaker currently based in London, UK. He has reported from and lived in the occupied Palestinian territories and hosts the show ‘Palestine Files’. Director of ‘Steal of the Century: Trump’s Palestine-Israel Catastrophe’. Follow him on Twitter @falasteen47 The post Bidens Call For Gaza Ceasefire Collapses Amid Israels Rafah Offensive appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Foreign Affairs, Biden Israel conflict, Biden Netanyahu disagreement, Gaza ceasefire, Gaza civilian casualties, Gaza war escalation, Hamas ceasefire acceptance, Hamas demands Gaza ceasefire., Israeli offensive in Rafah, Israeli-Palestinian conflict, US-Israel relations]

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[l] at 6/6/24 1:03pm
Despite Israel constantly stepping over his “red lines” on Gaza, President Biden continues to support a genocidal onslaught against Gaza wholeheartedly. The Biden administration has recently approved a further $1 billion in arms sales to Israel, further underlining that it will do nothing to stop the bloodshed. Taking matters into their own hands, a flotilla of ships was destined to sail from Turkey to break the Gaza blockade and deliver much-needed aid. The ships were full of hundreds of peace activists and notable figures from around the world willing to risk their lives. But at the last minute, Israel managed to pull strings behind the scenes to prevent the flotilla sailing. One of the people destined to crew the ships was Coleen Rowley, an FBI whistleblower who came to the nation’s attention in 2002 after she testified to Congress about 9/11 and the intelligence failures that allowed it to happen. Later that year, she was named Time Magazine’s Person of the Year. Since leaving the FBI, Rowley has become a peace activist, campaigning to end forever wars, drawing attention to intelligence misdeeds and supporting the actions of other whistleblowers. On today’s show, she sat down with MintPress News director Mnar Adley to discuss Gaza, the U.S. empire, the decaying two-party system and America’s forever wars. When asked why she joined the international flotilla, Rowley said she was inspired by a larger cause and hoped to ignite widespread social change in the U.S. If you can break Israel’s siege of Gaza – it’s been attempted, and it has been unsuccessful [in the past] – but if you could do that, it could be the tipping point where a lot of things could change.” President Biden is currently trailing Donald Trump in the polls, in no small part because of his Gaza policy, which has angered millions of voters. A majority of Democrat supporters consider Israel’s actions to constitute genocide. And Biden is enabling it. Trump, meanwhile, has said he would support Israel more forcefully than Biden, including crushing any and all domestic protests against it. For Rowley, supporting the incumbent is unconscionable. As she told MintPress News, Who is the lesser evil?” “I could never figure out between the two parties at this point who is the lesser evil. The greatest evil right now, in terms of a crime, is genocide. And, to be honest, I don’t know how anyone is going to be able to vote for a person who authorized a genocide and allowed it to happen.” This does not equate to an endorsement of Trump, however. “The choice between the Democrat and the Republican is the choice between syphilis and cholera,” she added. Thus, whether Biden manages to hang on for another term is largely irrelevant to the people of Palestine, who will see the same policies enacted regardless of whether Team Red or Team Blue are in the White House. From there, the pair discussed the long, steady decline of the U.S. empire, its addiction to endless wars, and the sustained war on American whistleblowers. Watch the full interview here, exclusively at MintPress News. 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. The post FBI Whistleblower Exposes Israels Chokehold on American Politics appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Behind The Headlines, National, Top Story, American forever wars, Biden Gaza Policy, Biden Trump polls, Coleen Rowley FBI whistleblower, Gaza blockade, Gaza flotilla activists, Israel Gaza conflict, MintPress News interview, U.S. arms sales to Israel, U.S. foreign policy]

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[l] at 6/6/24 11:45am
Facing financial ruin from ongoing legal battles, former President Donald Trump is poised to sell out American foreign policy for campaign cash, with pro-Israel billionaire Miriam Adelson offering to bankroll his bid—if he lets Israel annex the West Bank. According to a report in the Israeli daily Haaretz, pro-Israel billionaire Miriam Adelson seeks to bankroll Donald Trumps campaign on the condition that he support the annexation of the West Bank. Adelson, the sixth wealthiest woman in the United States, inherited her fortune from the late Sheldon Adelson, a prominent Republican Party mega-donor. In 2017, Sheldon Adelson famously said, “I’m a one-issue person. That issue is Israel.” As president, Trump was labeled the most pro-Israel leader in American history and frequently boasted about his support for Tel Aviv. In November 2017, the Trump administration announced its recognition of occupied Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, breaking from the international consensus and dealing a blow to the so-called two-state solution. The inauguration of the new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem in May 2018 coincided with a massacre of around 60 unarmed Palestinian protesters in the Gaza Strip during the mass non-violent Great Return March demonstrations. Trump supported the idea of Jerusalem becoming the undivided capital of Israel despite East Jerusalem being illegally annexed in 1980, a move rejected by the United Nations. Additionally, he recognized the illegally occupied Syrian Golan Heights, annexed by Israel in 1981, as officially part of the Jewish state. He also appointed David Friedman as his ambassador to Israel. Friedman refused to refer to Palestinian-occupied territories as such, instead calling it an alleged occupation. In addition to approving what he labeled the Deal of the Century, Trump supported a plan to resolve the Palestine-Israel conflict by attempting to implement an agreement that would deprive Palestinians of genuine autonomy and trade occupied East Jerusalem for Abu Dis as the planned Capital of Palestine. The deal was put together by Trumps son-in-law, Jared Kushner, whose family foundation had financed illegal West Bank settlements and extremist Zionist yeshivas. It was later revealed that in exchange for Trump moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to occupied Jerusalem, his campaign received substantial financing from Sheldon Adelson. Adelson gave $20 million to a super PAC working to elect him with the understanding that the one-issue person was seeking pro-Israel stances and policies in return. At one point during Trump’s presidency, his appointed ambassador to Israel and former bankruptcy lawyer, David Friedman, was allowed to go rogue and falsely informed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the Trump administration would support annexing areas of the West Bank, according to Jared Kushner in his 2022 book, “Breaking History.” As the former American president scrambles for financial contributions amidst four major legal battles, concerns have been raised about the possibility of Trump recognizing Israeli annexation of the West Bank if the Israeli-born Miriam Adelson becomes his top campaign financier. In 2019, Netanyahu announced his intention to annex the Jordan Valley area of the occupied West Bank, receiving substantial support from the settler movement and his right-wing base. He later reneged on his pledge to annex the territory, citing the Trump administration’s Abraham Accords normalization agreements, which led to the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain establishing ties with Israel. Subsequently, Sudan and Morocco joined these agreements. If Israel is to establish de jure control over the West Bank, it is unlikely the entire territory would be annexed. Instead, the area known as Area C, which constitutes about 60% of the occupied West Bank, would be integrated into what is called Israel proper. This is because the majority of Israeli settlements and settler outposts are established in that area, where Israel already maintains complete military control. In West Bank Areas A and B, where the majority of the 3.3 million Palestinians live, the Palestinian Authority maintains partial control and operates its own security forces. Feature photo | U.S. President Donald Trump touches the Western Wall, Judaisms holiest prayer site, in Jerusalems Old City, May 22, 2017. Ronen Zvulun | AP Robert Inlakesh is a political analyst, journalist and documentary filmmaker currently based in London, UK. He has reported from and lived in the occupied Palestinian territories and hosts the show ‘Palestine Files’. Director of ‘Steal of the Century: Trump’s Palestine-Israel Catastrophe’. Follow him on Twitter @falasteen47 The post Sold to the Highest Bidder: Trump to Greenlight Israeli Annexation for Campaign Funds appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Daily Digest, National, Top Story, Donald Trump campaign financing, Israel West Bank annexation, Miriam Adelson Trump, pro-Israel billionaires, Trump Abraham Accords, Trump campaign donors, Trump Israel relations, Trump legal battles, U.S. foreign policy Israel, West Bank occupied territories]

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[l] at 6/6/24 7:16am
If one were to argue that a top Spanish government official would someday declare that from the river to the sea, Palestine would be free, the suggestion would have seemed ludicrous. But this is precisely how Yolanda Diaz, Spains Deputy Prime Minister, concluded a statement on May 23, a few days before Spain officially recognized Palestine as a state. The Spanish, Norwegian, and Irish recognition of Palestine is the most important. Western Europe is finally catching up with the rest of the world regarding the significance of a solid international position in support of the Palestinian people and rejection of Israels genocidal practices in occupied Palestine. But equally important is the changing political discourse regarding both Palestine and Israel in Europe and all over the world. Almost immediately after the start of the Israeli war on Gaza, some European countries imposed restrictions on pro-Palestinian protests, some even banning the Palestinian flag, which was perceived, through some twisted logic, as an antisemitic symbol. With time, the unprecedented solidarity with Israel at the start of the war, however, turned into an outright political, legal and moral liability to the pro-Israel Western governments. Thus, a slow shift began, leading to a near-complete transformation in some governments positions and a partial though clear change of the political discourse, among others. The early ban on pro-Palestinian protests was impossible to maintain in the face of millions of angry European citizens who called on their governments to end their blind support for Tel Aviv. On May 30, the mere fact that French private broadcaster TF1 hosted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu led to significant, though spontaneous, protests by French citizens, who called on their media to deny accused war criminals the chance to address the public. Failing to push back against the pro-Palestine narrative, the French government has, on May 31, decided to disinvite Israeli military firms from participating in one of the worlds largest military expos, Eurosatory, scheduled for June 17-21. Even countries like Canada and Germany, which supported the Israeli genocide against Palestinians until the later stages of the mass killings, began changing their language as well. The change of language is also happening in Israel itself and among pro-Israeli intellectuals and journalists in mainstream media. In a widely read column, New York Times writer Thomas Friedman attacked Netanyahu late last March, accusing him of being the worst leader in Jewish history, not just in Israeli history. Unpacking Friedmans statement requires another column, for such language continues to feed on the persisting illusion, at least in the mind of Friedman, that Israel serves as a representation, not of its own citizens, but of Jewish people, past and present. As for the language in Israel, it is merging into two major and competing discourses: one irrationally ruthless, represented by far-right Ministers Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich, in fact, by Netanyahu himself, and another, though equally militant and anti-Palestinian, which is more pragmatic. While the first group would like to see Palestinians slaughtered in large numbers or wiped out through a nuclear bomb, the other realizes that a military option, at least for now, is no longer viable. The Israeli army does not have the ability to win this war against Hamas, and certainly not against Hezbollah, Israeli Army Reserve Major General Yitzhak Brik said in an interview with the Israeli newspaper Maariv on May 30. Brik, one of Israels most respected military men, is but one of many such individuals who are now essentially repeating the same wisdom. Strangely, when Israels Minister of Heritage Amihai Eliyahu suggested the option of dropping a nuclear bomb on the Strip, his words reeked of desperation, not confidence. Before the war, the Israeli political discourse regarding Gaza revolved around a specific set of terminology: deterrence, represented in the occasional one-sided war, often referred to as mowing the lawn and security, among others. Billions of dollars have been generated throughout the years by war profiteers in Israel, the US and other European countries, all in the name of keeping Gaza besieged and subdued. Now, this language has been relegated in favor of a grand discourse concerned with existential wars, the future of the Jewish people, and the possible end of Israel, if not Zionism itself. While it is true that Netanyahu fears an end to the war will be a terrible conclusion to his supposedly triumphant legacy as the protector of Israel, there is more to the story. Suppose the war ends without Israel restoring its so-called deterrence and security. In that case, it will be forced to contend with the fact that the Palestinian people cannot be relegated and that their rights cannot be overlooked. For Israel, such a realization would be an end to its settler-colonial project, which began nearly a hundred years ago. Additionally, the perception and language about Palestine and Israel are changing among ordinary people across the world. The misconception of the Palestinian terrorist is being quickly replaced by the accurate depiction of the Israeli war criminal. This categorization is now consistent with the views of the worlds largest international legal institutions. Israel now stands in near-complete isolation, due, in part, to its genocide in Gaza but also to the courage and steadfastness of the Palestinian people and the global solidarity with the Palestinian cause. Feature photo | Irish citizens hold an emergency protest for Rafah outside Leinster House, on May 8, 2024, in Dublin, Ireland. Artur Widak | 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 European Recognition of Palestine Signals Major Shift in Global Discourse appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Foreign Affairs, Opinion & Analysis, Changing political discourse Palestine Israel, European recognition of Palestine, International solidarity with Palestine, Israeli war on Gaza, Netanyahu Gaza conflict, Palestine state recognition, Pro-Palestinian protests Europe, Spain recognizes Palestine, Western Europe Palestine support, Yolanda Diaz Palestine statement]

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[l] at 6/5/24 2:23pm
MintPress News’ Lowkey, one of the United Kingdom’s most prominent and outspoken opponents of the Israeli onslaught against Gaza, has been under attack. In May, The Daily Telegraph, one of Britain’s largest newspapers, published a report claiming that Russia, China and Iran were boosting the rapper’s messaging on social media “in an effort to stoke division” and manipulate public opinion across the country. Central to the Telegraph’s claims is a report by tech firm Cyabra, which asserted that 11% of profiles engaging with him on Twitter were fake, implying that an organized bot network was artificially amplifying his messages. Yet what the Telegraph failed to inform readers was that Cyabra was not just “a tech firm specializing in countering disinformation online,” as it claimed, but an Israeli company founded by military intelligence officers, half of whose employees have left to rejoin the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) to fight in Gaza – and one that continues to openly work with Israeli military intelligence to this day. Instead, the Telegraph allowed Israeli government officials to assert unchallenged that the United Kingdom was under “threat” from pro-Hamas organisations that are operating all across Britain with a clear purpose to impose Sharia law and to make Britain a Muslim island” and to advise that authorities must be “far more aggressive” against these “enemies” that threaten British values and the British way of life. Unfortunately, Cyabra’s methodology was as shoddy as the Telegraph’s reporting. First, the study they published does not even mention Lowkey. Second, there is essentially zero evidence supplied in their reporting. Finally, there are no spreadsheets where readers can access the names of the supposedly fake accounts so that researchers can judge for themselves. The study failed to show whether these bot networks truly amplified messages from Lowkey or other pro-Palestine influencers in any meaningful way. In fact, beyond pointing to some extremely generic profiles with barely any followers and leaving boilerplate replies such as “Amazing! This is fantastic! How cool! Congratulations!” they show little to no evidence of any interference—foreign or otherwise. The clear implication is that 11% of profiles interacting with Lowkey being fake would be proof that the massive upsurge in pro-Palestine sentiment across the world is artificially manufactured from abroad. Yet what Cyabra leaves out of the report is the crucial context that a considerable proportion of social media accounts are fake and always have been. Estimates of the true number of fake accounts on Twitter run from anywhere between 5% to more than 80%, and Twitter owner Elon Musk suggested that one in five personas on his platform were false. Cyabra itself claims that 11% are fake and that celebrities and other public figures draw more bot accounts than average. Recent Cyabra studies have asserted that 13% of all Twitter accounts debating the upcoming U.S. presidential elections are bots, and 20% of those discussing disgraced human trafficker Jeffrey Epstein are inauthentic. Thus, Cyabra’s claim that 11% of profiles interacting with Lowkey are fake is hardly a smoking gun. In fact, it only reinforces that Lowkey and his views have widespread global support.   An Israeli Intelligence Arm “We are the watchdog for truth and trustworthiness on social media,” Cyabra CEO Dan Brahmy loftily claimed. The company possesses essentially no organic reach (at the time of writing, it had 221 subscribers on YouTube and 1,145 and 120 followers on Twitter and Instagram, respectively). Yet, it has risen to become an extremely influential organization. Its work, purporting to “uncover the good, bad and fake online,” has been referenced in outlets such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, Fox News, The Wall Street Journal and USA Today. However, none of these write-ups in prominent outlets detail the company’s extremely close connections to the Israeli government. Brahmy, for instance, was an IDF shooting and combat instructor before he founded Cyabra. Its two other co-founders were key members of Israeli intelligence. As Brahmy boasted in a recent interview: Luckily enough, I found the two people on the planet that have the audacity and the knowledge to be able to say that they were part of the commanders of information warfare within the Israeli Army. And after a really long military service, they felt that they had to do something about it [online information warfare].” Brahmy is referring to Ido Shraga and Yossef Daar. Shraga was formerly a cyber systems engineer in the Israeli Defense Forces before co-founding the company. Daar is a longtime veteran of the controversial military group Unit 8200. Unit 8200 is the centerpiece of Israel’s hi-tech surveillance apparatus and is the architect of the surveillance state imposed upon Palestinians. Unit 8200 has created a massive, worldwide digital dragnet to spy upon Palestinians, using their personal data as kompromat, blackmail and extortion. Its veterans are also behind the Pegasus software that was sold to the world’s worst human rights abusers to hack phones and surveil high-value targets. From 2004 to 2014, Daar was a leader at Unit 8200, rising to become its head of department. The close connections to Israeli military intelligence do not stop there, however. Cyabra likely actively recruits from Unit 8200 and other IDF groups. For example, Roni Fridfertig left her job as a Unit 8200 analyst to join Cyabra, where she is currently head of strategic insights. Working alongside Fridfertig is Lali Bar, a cyber intelligence analyst team leader at Unit 8200 until March, when she began working at Cyabra as a strategic data analyst. Daniel Elya was an aerial photograph decoder and technical product manager for Unit 8200 between 2017 and 2020. In 2022, he became a product manager and head of operations for Cyabra. Customer success team leader Tanya Barkatz was, until 2021, a master sergeant intelligence analyst at the Lahav 433, Israel’s equivalent to the FBI. Until 2019, Cyabra’s head of private sector sales, David Bar-Aharon, was an IDF field intelligence officer. These state intelligence connections are far from cherry-picking. Under Israeli law, revealing any affiliation to Unit 8200 is a criminal offense, meaning that the few who brazenly announced it on their public LinkedIn profiles are likely just the tip of the iceberg. In a recent interview, Brahmy revealed that half of his 40 employees have been called up for active military service and are currently involved in the occupation of Gaza and the displacement of millions of people from their homes. The other half are fighting on the digital battlefield for Israel, local outlet Israel 21c noted. Brahmy revealed that this includes closely liaising with their former colleagues in active military intelligence. We pass on information to security organizations inside Israel and beyond because they can apply pressure, help identify and feed back intelligence. Earlier this year, Cyabra also briefed the Israeli parliament, teaching the Knesset Committee for Artificial Intelligence and Advanced Technologies about tactics Hamas uses online. In short, Cyabra’s deep connections to the Israeli state – particularly Unit 8200 – make it difficult to ascertain where one ends and the other begins.   From Surveillance to Silicon Valley Unit 8200 is Israel’s most elite and perhaps infamous unit. Described as Israel’s Harvard, the brightest young minds in the country compete to be accepted, knowing the sort of training they will receive will set them up for lucrative tech careers. Arab Israelis are effectively barred from joining; indeed, they are among the unit’s principal targets. The Financial Times called Unit 8200 “Israel at its best and worst” – the centerpiece of both its booming high-tech industry and its repressive state apparatus. Unit 8200 veterans have gone on to produce many of the world’s most downloaded apps, including maps service Waze and communications platform Viber. In 2014, 43 reservists (including several officers) sent a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, informing him they would no longer serve in its ranks due to its zealous persecution of Palestinians. This consisted of using big data to compile dossiers on vast numbers of the indigenous domestic population, including their medical history, sex lives, and search histories, so that it could later be used for extortion. If a particular individual needed to travel across checkpoints for crucial medical treatment, permission could be suspended until they agreed to spy on others. Information, such as if a person was cheating on their spouse or was homosexual, is also used as bait for blackmail. One former Unit 8200 operative said that he was trained to memorize different Arabic words for “gay” so that he could listen out for them in monitored conversations. All Palestinians, the Unit 8200 veterans claim, were treated as enemies of the state. “There’s no distinction between Palestinians who are, and are not, involved in violence,” the letter read. More worryingly for an international audience is Unit 8200’s influence within the global tech platforms we trust with our data. A 2022 MintPress investigation found that hundreds of former Unit 8200 agents are working in Silicon Valley, achieving positions of influence at companies such as Google, Microsoft, Amazon and Meta. One example of this is Emi Palmor. Palmor sits on the oversight board for Meta (the parent company of Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram). This group effectively serves as the platforms’ supreme court, deciding which content should be promoted and which should be suppressed. Gavriel Goidel, meanwhile, is Google’s head of strategy and operations. However, until 2016, he was head of learning at Unit 8200, leading an intelligence team to surveil and counter the activities of what he called “hostile activists.” With people such as Palmor and Goidel holding such influential roles at social media giants, it is perhaps not surprising that content sympathetic to the Palestinian cause is so ruthlessly suppressed online.   “We Lied, We Cheated, We Stole” Cyabra certainly has ambitions to become a truly global company. Its opening of an office in New York City and the appointment of former Secretary of State and CIA Director Mike Pompeo to its board of directors are a measure of this goal. “We are thrilled to welcome Mike Pompeo,” Brahmy said. Throughout his distinguished career, Secretary Pompeo has demonstrated a deep understanding of the impact on national security posed by disinformation campaigns. His insights and guidance will be invaluable as Cyabra continues to develop innovative solutions to establish a digital immune system.” Throughout his career at the State Department and Central Intelligence Agency, Pompeo was the source of disinformation campaigns destabilizing other countries’ national security. “I was the CIA director. We lied, we cheated, we stole. We had entire training courses [on] it,” Pompeo once quipped. The CIA, of course, has been the source of countless fake news scandals, has promoted regime change around the world, and has set up a worldwide network of media outlets to push pro-U.S. narratives. Appointing a former CIA director to the board of a company that claims to offer a service distinguishing fact from fiction should immediately undermine that group’s credibility. But in today’s world, fact-checking is often directly sponsored by the U.S. government. At least five fact-checking groups Facebook relies upon to filter and judge news about Ukraine, for instance, are bankrolled by Washington. As Israel launched its assault on Gaza, Cyabra jumped to attention on the online battlefield, rushing out reports claiming that 25% of all accounts discussing the October 7 attack were fake and pushing pro-Hams narrative or claiming that Russia, China, Iran, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq were engaged in a massive online anti-Israel conspiracy to stoke visceral anger by sharing misleading or false content. One example Cyabra itself chose to illustrate this was Russian state TV channel RT en Español reporting that Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi called the attack on the Al-Ahli Hospital in Gaza an Israeli “war crime.” This was supposedly false because Israeli and Western sources insisted that Palestinians likely blew up their own hospital. Disinformation exists on all sides of the Gaza attack, and all states attempt to control narratives as best they can. As Cyabra CEO Brahmy stated: “Social media is often the destination for millions of people to follow the news and share their opinion. Consequently, it is also the venue of choice for malicious actors to manipulate the narrative.” Yet his company’s research implies that criticism of Israel is false or invalid, and its effect is to divert attention away from Israel’s actions. Israel, of course, is also carrying out a colossal propaganda effort online. Researchers such as Professor Marc Owen Jones have uncovered armies of pro-Israel sock-puppet accounts spreading anti-UNRWA disinformation and trying to undermine solidarity between black Americans and Palestinians. Yet Cyabra appears far less interested in scrutinizing pro-Israel campaigns – perhaps because they are a crucial part of them. Discovered hundreds of sock puppets promoting Israeli propaganda on X, Threads, FB & Insta. It also includes fake websites. Recently, it has been spreading anti-UNRWA #disinformation, & trying to undermine solidarity between Palestinians & Black people. #Gaza Analysis pic.twitter.com/5TRe3RCwrm — Marc Owen Jones (@marcowenjones) February 2, 2024   Propaganda Wars Israel has carried out a sustained and coordinated propaganda campaign that rivals the complexity of its military attack. In the two weeks following October 7, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs spent more than $7 million on advertisements on YouTube alone. These ads were overwhelmingly targeted at Western nations, with France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Belgium and the United States as the top targets. In just 14 days, one campaign on one platform from one Israeli government department reached one billion sets of eyes – numbers that make anything Cyabra has supposedly uncovered look insignificant by contrast. Many of these YouTube ads blatantly broke the platform’s terms of service, displaying graphic images of dead bodies and featuring false messaging, such as “Hamas=ISIS.” The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has also launched a covert campaign to harass and intimidate American students, establishing a “task force” to carry out psychological operations aimed at, in their own words, “inflicting economic and employment consequences” against pro-Palestine protestors. While Foreign Minister Eli Cohen heads the task force, it stresses that its actions “should not have the signature of the State of Israel on it.” Israeli propaganda campaigns, however, go back much further. Wikipedia has long been a target of Israeli infiltration. A project overseen by Naftali Bennett (who would later go on to become prime minister) deployed thousands of young Israelis to police the online encyclopedia, removing troublesome facts and framing articles more favorably to Israel. Those who made the most edits would receive rewards, including free hot air balloon rides.   Silencing Pro-Palestine Voices Palestinians – or those who are sympathetic to them – have historically had their voices suppressed online. However, since October 7, the digital throttling of pro-Palestine sentiment has been ramped up. Hundreds of prominent figures have claimed that social media platforms are artificially limiting their reach because of their position on Israel-Palestine. Instagram suspended the accounts of Eye on Palestine and Motaz Azaiza, two critical sources for on-the-ground reporting in Gaza. The platform also inexplicably added the word “terrorist” into the bios of hundreds of people identifying as Palestinian. It claimed later that this was a bug. However, the platform’s close connections to Unit 8200 suggest that this may have been less a bizarre mistake and more of an outcome of the company’s general milieu regarding Palestinian liberation. MintPress News itself is facing constant online suppression. There is not an employee (this author included) who has not had their social media accounts restricted, suspended or deleted – something which rarely, if ever, happens to pro-Israel news sources. Lowkey is no exception. Last week, Instagram locked him out of his account. Pro-Israel groups have successfully shut down his public events and have even attempted to have his music removed from the streaming service Spotify. Lowkey has, for many years, been a top target of the Israel lobby. A hip-hop artist widely recognized as one of the most gifted lyricists of his generation, he has used his talents to highlight the suffering of Palestinians, gaining him a worldwide fan base. Tracks such as “Long Live Palestine” have become anthems of resistance the world over and are frequently played at solidarity demonstrations. As far back as 2011, The Jewish Chronicle wrote that his mere existence was a “potential nightmare” for Israel. Cyabra purports to be a tech company helping individuals and organizations distinguish between fact and fiction online by promoting media literacy. Brahmy warns that every time you are online, “you can potentially become a target to a bad or fake actor that is trying to manipulate public opinion, that is trying to draw you into a contextualized trap.” Yet a deep dive into Cyabra’s history, its key figures, and its activities suggest that it is itself a bad actor attempting to manipulate public opinion for the benefit of the Israeli state. Real critical media literacy would start by highlighting state-connected fact-checking groups and teaching individuals to be highly skeptical of any big-money company that offers to do the thinking for them – especially those with former Israeli intelligence leaders and CIA directors on their board. 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 Cyabra: The Intelligence Cutout Waging Israels Online Propaganda War appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Foreign Affairs, Investigations, Top Story, Cyabra, Cyabra Social Media Bots, Daily Telegraph Lowkey Report, Israeli Government Disinformation, Israeli intelligence, israeli military intelligence, Israeli Military Intelligence Cyabra, Lowkey Cyabra, Pro-Palestine Sentiment Online, Unit 8200 Cyabra Connections]

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[l] at 6/5/24 1:10pm
While pressure mounts from the Biden administration over the need for a Gaza ceasefire agreement, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu threatens to expand the war to Lebanon under the pressure of his own population. Netanyahu declared that he was preparing an “extremely powerful” attack against Hezbollah on Wednesday while conducting a surprise visit to the Israeli settlement of Kiryat Shmona, which lies along the Lebanese border. This was later followed by a series of Hezbollah military operations, culminating in a deadly attack carried out against an Israeli military base in the Hurfeish area that inflicted around 20 Israeli casualties. According to an article written for the Israeli daily Haaretz, military officials in private security discussions advocated a heavy attack on Lebanese territory. This appeared to be in line with a public announcement on Tuesday from Israeli military chief Herl Halevi that Israel is approaching the point where a decision will have to be made.” The comment was prompted by domestic outrage that came in response to some 96 fires that erupted across the northern settlements following Hezbollah rocket fire from Lebanon. ISRAEL IS BURNING The situation is out of control, and the fires in Kiryat Shmona are expanding and entering the settlers homes. Settlements are turning to Hell on earth for Zionists.#AlleyesonRafah #FreePalestine #Gaza_Genocide‌ #Gaza_Holocaust… pic.twitter.com/lfszizlP5S — أحمد|Ahmed (@l_d70) June 4, 2024 Al-Akhbar, a Lebanese media outlet, also released a report on Tuesday in which it cited security sources about warnings sent to Beirut over an imminent Israeli attack on the country. The most explicit warning came from the British, who “set a date for the Israeli strike in mid-June, with advice on the necessity of carrying out the necessary supply measures for the war, the extent of its expansion nor its duration of time will not be known.” On October 9, one day after the beginning of the Hamas-led offensive operation against Israel, the Lebanese political party began launching attacks on Israeli military facilities in support of Gaza. Seyyed Hassan Nasrallah, the Secretary General of Hezbollah, declared in his first speech during the Gaza war that “Hamas will win,” establishing this as his only clearly defined red line. Since then, there have been thousands of missile, drone and rocket strikes against Israeli targets, while the Israeli military has killed around 400 people in Lebanon, roughly 300 of which were members of Hezbollah and the rest civilians. Hezbollah has slowly increased the scale of its attacks over the past months. This came in response to escalatory Israeli strikes on Lebanese territory, including the assassination of leading Hamas figures in Beirut, airstrikes on civilian areas in both southern and northern Lebanon and targeted killings of journalists and medical workers. In December, Benny Gantz, a member of Israel’s emergency war government, threatened that “if the world and the Lebanese government don’t act in order to prevent the firing on Israel’s northern residents and to distance Hezbollah from the border, the IDF [Israeli Defense Forces] will do it.” Israeli PM Netanyahu had also threatened to “devastate” the Lebanese capital in the event of war. Following U.S. President Joe Biden’s announcement that a new Israeli ceasefire had been drafted, urging both Hamas and Israel to accept it, pressure has been mounting to end the war amid widespread international condemnation, including a ruling by the International Court of Justice (ICJ), calling on Israel to halt its invasion of Gaza’s southernmost city of Rafah. It is expected that if war breaks out in Lebanon, it will greatly complicate efforts to reach a ceasefire in Gaza and could escalate into a larger regional conflagration. Feature photo | A Hezbollah flag is seen hung on the rubble of homes destroyed by  recent Israeli airstrikes in the Lebanese village of Naqura. Marwan Naamani | AP Robert Inlakesh is a political analyst, journalist and documentary filmmaker currently based in London, UK. He has reported from and lived in the occupied Palestinian territories and hosts the show ‘Palestine Files’. Director of ‘Steal of the Century: Trump’s Palestine-Israel Catastrophe.’ Follow him on Twitter @falasteen47 The post Netanyahu Threatens Imminent Attack on Lebanon as Tensions Boil Over appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Foreign Affairs, Top Story, Al-Akhbar Israeli warning, Biden Gaza ceasefire, Gaza Lebanon war, Haaretz military report, Hezbollah attacks Israel, Hezbollah rocket fire, Israel Lebanon tensions, Israeli military operations, Netanyahu Hezbollah attack, Netanyahu Lebanon threat]

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[l] at 6/5/24 8:41am
The New York Times has been awarded the prestigious Pulitzer Prize for its reporting on Gaza. This has shocked many who were paying attention to its coverage. After all, a leaked company memo from November revealed that management explicitly instructed its reporters not to use words like  “genocide,” “slaughter,” and “ethnic cleansing” when discussing Israel’s actions. Times’ staff cannot even use words like  “refugee camp,” “occupied territory,” or even “Palestine.” All of this is done to erase the fundamental reality of what is happening in Gaza and to make it impossible for reporters to cover the situation accurately. The Times does use emotive language like slaughter and massacre in reference to the conflict – but only when Israelis are killed. A study of the paper’s coverage showed that Israeli deaths were 22 times as likely to be described as such, despite the overwhelming disparity in deaths towards Palestinians. As MintPress News’ Alan MacLeod demonstrates in this video, the Times has been home to some of the most outrageous Gaza headlines, including one that described hundreds of thousands of people fleeing a genocide as merely “on the move.” Israel is carrying out a genocide, the New York Times calls hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fleeing as on the move pic.twitter.com/doCSpnEGvM — Alan MacLeod (@AlanRMacLeod) May 12, 2024 The newspaper is far from a neutral actor in this conflict. In fact, it purchased a Jerusalem property for its bureau chief that was stolen from a prominent Palestinian family, meaning that it is actively participating in the displacement of Palestinians from their homes. Many Times Middle East reporters have had close family members serving in the Israeli military, even as they cover Israel’s wars – a massive conflict of interest. It also published the now discredited “Screams Without Words” expose, which claimed that Hamas fighters systematically sexually violated Israelis, was written by a reporter with zero journalistic experience who also happened to be an ex-Israeli Air Force Intelligence officer. Times staff themselves revolted over the lack of evidence and fact-checking in the piece. The New York Times was an essential vehicle for the Bush administration to push forward with the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, and it has supported virtually every U.S.-backed coup around the world, as a MintPress News study cataloged. In short, then, the awarding of journalism’s Oscars to the New York Times for its Gaza reporting is a travesty and one that should not go unchecked. Watch the full video for more. 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 Despite Dishonest Reporting New York Times Nabs Pulitzer for Gaza Coverage appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Behind The Headlines, National, Top Story, Alan MacLeod, dishoenst reporting, examples of dishonest reporting, Gaza, Gaza reporting, Israel, New York Times, New York Times Gaza, Pulitzer]

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[l] at 6/4/24 5:09am
On May 20, International Criminal Court prosecutor Karim Khan issued a statement outlining why he was seeking international arrest warrants for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Security Minister Yoav Gallant for “crimes against humanity” committed in Gaza since “at least” October 8, 2023. To anyone who has been spectating the Gaza genocide since that fateful day, the welter of horrendous charges leveled at the pair won’t have been a shock: Starvation of civilians as a method of warfare; willfully causing great suffering; willful killing; murder; intentionally directing attacks against a civilian population; extermination; persecution; inhumane acts.” The list went on and on. Khan declared that these “crimes against humanity” were “committed as part of a widespread and systematic attack against the Palestinian civilian population, pursuant to state policy.” Furthermore, these atrocities, in the “assessment” of ICC prosecutors, “continue to this day.” Khan’s statement went on to note his office had collected ample evidence, pointing to Israel having “intentionally and systematically deprived the civilian population in all parts of Gaza of objects indispensable to human survival.” What is shocking is that Netanyahu and Gallant were indicted in the first place. As a May 28 Guardian investigation exposed in stunning detail, Israel has since 2015 sought to systematically sabotage and undermine the ICC’s activities to insulate itself and its military and political chiefs from prosecution. This has included threats to prosecutors and their families, widespread surveillance and infiltration, designating Palestinian organizations “terrorists” for assisting the court, and outright blackmail of the Court’s staff. “I have a question: For every ICC prosecutor that has spoken out, how many are there that have kept silent? That accepted the deal and bent before the threats?” geopolitical analyst Firas Modad asks. He tells MintPress News the indictment in some ways “helps Netanyahu politically, allowing him to cast himself as the one politician standing up to external pressure, while his enemies, foreign and domestic, are trying to impose a defeat on Israel”: The problem Netanyahu is facing, however, is not a narrative one, but a real one. Namely, the Israeli military is not up to the job and is unable to achieve the objectives Netanyahu set for it. Hamas is nowhere near being dismantled; it can still rule Gaza the day after the war ends, and it is still holding on to its captives.” In a televised interview following Netanyahu’s indictment, Khan revealed that while the ICC built cases against Israeli officials, he was threatened by numerous Western sources including “elected leaders” to terminate his quest permanently. One “senior official” openly warned him that the Court was “built for Africa and thugs like Putin,” not the West and its allies. The veteran prosecutor countered that the ICC has universal jurisdiction: We don’t view it like that. This Court is the legacy of Nuremberg. This Court should be the triumph of law over power and brute force!” Western contempt for the ICC, and “international justice” in general, is well-established as it is brazen and contemptible. Having created a system that, for propaganda purposes, seeks to achieve “the triumph of law over power and brute force” explicitly and exclusively in the Global South while protecting the empire and its foreign proxies, puppets and pets from censure, this mission is now coming back to bite the very people who created it. It is just the latest indication we are living in a very different world today, and that is an irreversible trajectory.   ‘Just Convict Everyone’ In many ways, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) set a clear precedent for the modern system of “international justice,” in which the U.S. and its vassals and proxies are not only immune from prosecution for committing grave war crimes, but simultaneously act as judge, jury, and executioner when non-allied leaders, governments and militaries purportedly do so. Not coincidentally, the ICC is the ICTY’s formal successor. Many contemporary Court prosecutors, including Khan, cut their teeth in the institution. The UN established the Tribunal to prosecute political and military officials in the Balkans for atrocities committed during Yugoslavia’s tumultuous breakup. Theoretically, Bosniaks, Croats, and Serbs were all liable for indictment, but in practice, Serbs were overwhelmingly and disproportionately targeted. Meanwhile, not a single atrocity or war crime committed against Serb civilians was satisfactorily prosecuted. Bosniak and Croat military and political figures were either not indicted, acquitted, or received minimal sentences for heinous crimes. Some argue this disparity reflects how Serbs were the predominant aggressors and violators in the wars of the 1990s. However, anti-Serb bias and the necessity of whitewashing and ignoring the crimes of Washington’s Bosniak and Croat proxies was a core component and objective of the ICTY from day one. A February 1993 CIA memo proposed “establishing a war crimes tribunal” for the express purpose of “publicizing Serbian atrocities.” It further warned against “even treatment of Bosniak transgressions.” The ICTY was created three months later and fulfilled its founding mission over the next 24 years. Many Serbs were prosecuted for grave crimes, up to and including genocide. Frequently, they were jailed for lengthy periods, amounting to life imprisonment. In multiple high-profile cases, these officials were convicted despite a total lack of evidence they’d ordered, approved, or committed the crimes they were accused of. They were sent down via the highly controversial doctrine of “Joint Criminal Enterprise,” derisively known as “Just Convict Everyone.” Conversely, many Bosniak and Croat military and political figures who were indicted ultimately walked free or received an effective slap on the wrist despite overwhelming evidence directly implicating them in the planning and commission of horrendous crimes against humanity. For example, Bosniak military commander Naser Oric openly boasted to the media during the war of brutally torturing and murdering Serb soldiers and civilians, taking no prisoners. His crimes were widely reported at the time and well-documented. Yet, the Tribunal only convicted him for failing to prevent the inhumane treatment of prisoners. Witnesses who testified to his crimes in other separate trials were not called during his own, and their evidence was not cited. He received a two-year sentence but was released immediately due to time served. Similarly, no one has ever been held accountable for Operation Storm in August 1995, a savage NATO-backed strike at Serb-majority territory in Croatia, which displaced almost the entire civilian population. Dubbed “the most efficient ethnic cleansing we’ve seen in the Balkans” by Swedish premier Carl Bildt, hundreds of thousands of Serbs were forced to flee UN-protected areas, and thousands were killed. For weeks after, Croatian forces and police systematically looted and murdered their way across the territory, summarily executing Serbs including the elderly and infirm who hadn’t escaped, stealing their property, and burning villages to the ground. The Croatian government then passed legislation making it virtually impossible for the displaced to return. Records unearthed by the ICTY show the Western-sponsored Croatian leader Franjo Tudjman, an unabashed Holocaust denier and fascist venerator, explicitly planned “to inflict such blows that the Serbs will to all practical purposes disappear,” an unambiguous indicator of genocidal intent. While he was never prosecuted, three Croatian generals did land in the Tribunal’s dock. Unbelievably, the ICTY ruled Operation Storm wasn’t concerned with displacing the Serb civilian population, and not only didn’t amount to ethnic persecution, but wasn’t even a war crime.   ‘Useful Tool’ In light of the indictment of Netanyahu and Gallant, it is vital to bear in mind that ICTY judgments are held up today by Bosniak and Croat ethnonationalists as incontrovertible proof of their innocence and victimhood when they were co-belligerents in brutal civil wars, supported by the West financially, politically, and militarily. Were Israeli officials to be acquitted, the rulings would, of course, similarly be exploited to justify the Gaza genocide and undoubtedly encourage Israel to commit further, even greater, atrocities. Still, the fact that Netanyahu and Gallant have been indicted at all is a bitterly ironic boomerang. The U.S. and its allies have relentlessly promoted the ICC as a fundamental cornerstone of the “rules-based international order.” It was always intended as a hegemonic propaganda construct to frame Washington and its allies as unimpeachable bastions, guardians, and enforcers of “rights” internationally. Meanwhile, their “enemies” could be decisively maligned as manifestations of evil and criminality with the Court’s legitimizing stamp. At the start of May, 12 prominent Republican senators including notorious hawks Mitch McConnell, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio dispatched a strongly-worded letter to the ICC, expressing grave concerns about future indictments of Israeli officials for war crimes committed since October 7, 2023. They warned that should such warrants be forthcoming, “we will interpret this not only as a threat to Israel’s sovereignty but to the sovereignty of the U.S.” The dirty dozen added: The U.S. will not tolerate politicized attacks by the ICC on our allies. Target Israel and we will target you. If you move forward with the measures indicated in the report, we will move to end all American support for the ICC, sanction your employees and associates, and bar you and your families from the U.S. You have been warned.” These threats are a clear contravention of the Rome Statute. While U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken unabashedly declared that the White House is “committed” to punitive actions against the ICC over its “profoundly wrong-headed decision” to indict Netanyahu and Gallant, the Court has shown no indication of backing down yet. Moreover, the U.S. reaction greatly emphasizes the fundamentally prejudicial and discriminatory nature of Western-led international justice, in turn intensifying global clamor for the ICC to fulfill its stated objectives. Demonstrators raised bloody hands to greet Antony Blinken as he arrived to testify at a Senate hearing, May 21, 2024. Allison Bailey | AP It evidently never occurred to Western powers that they could ever be held to the standards they preach and seek to enforce upon the Global South or that the methods, concepts and structures they created to justify their imperialist aggression could be used against them. Throughout the Yugoslav wars, NATO committed many war crimes with total impunity, killing countless civilians. The March-May 1999 bombing of Yugoslavia was in itself completely illegal, as it lacked UN Security Council authorization. NATO member states were the ICTY’s key funders and facilitators. There was thus no question of the alliance being held accountable for any atrocities it committed against Serbs. “You’re more likely to see the UN building dismantled brick-by-brick and thrown into the Atlantic than to see NATO pilots go before a UN tribunal,” the US Senate International Relations Committee spokesperson boasted in May 1999. The total number of Yugoslavs killed by military alliance bombing that year will likely never be known. Declassified British Ministry of Defence files indicate that officials in London and MI6 identified symbolic civilian targets in Belgrade for the bombing, fully conscious this would incur civilian casualties. Nonetheless, this was judged to be “worth the cost.” No comparable smoking gun, black-and-white evidence linking Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic to any atrocity has ever emerged quite the reverse. Yet, in May 1999, while NATO’s criminal bombing was ongoing, the ICTY indicted him for crimes against humanity. As a State Department lawyer admitted in October of that year, “While the U.S. and Britain initially thought an indictment of Milosevic might interfere with the prospects of peace, it later became a useful tool in their efforts to demonize the Serbian leader and maintain public support for NATO’s bombing campaign against Serbia.” This more widely reflected how the ICTY was “widely perceived within the government as little more than a public relations device and as a potentially useful policy tool”: Indictments also would serve to isolate offending leaders diplomatically, strengthen the hand of their domestic rivals and fortify the international political will to employ economic sanctions or use force.” The bombing of Yugoslavia created a grisly international precedent, giving rise to the doctrine of “illegal but legitimate.” It has been used ever since by NATO to justify the destruction of troublesome countries the world over, from Iraq to Libya. In another bitter boomerang, though, Russia has cited the military intervention as justification for its invasion of Ukraine. As an essay by the EU’s European Consortium for Political Research lamented: The Kremlin justifies its actions by blaming ‘The West’ collectively, accusing Western nations of applying international norms in an arbitrary fashion. The Russian Federation leadership has frequently used the so-called Kosovo precedent to justify illegal military activity in neighbouring countries, including Ukraine. So, did the Kosovo precedent create conditions that allowed Russia to violate fundamental United Nations principles of sovereignty, and undermine the credibility of international law? The answer, in short, is yes.” Russian officials have also frequently declared since the proxy war began, “the era of impunity is over.” There is undoubtedly no greater testament to the integrity of those words than the ICC indictment of Netanyahu and Gallant. We live in a multipolar world, and there will be no return to “normal.” As such, systems of “international justice” can no longer function purely as propaganda constructs to penalize “Africa and thugs like Putin.” Israel’s ability to act unilaterally is over, too. Which may be an even more devastating barrier to its criminality against the Palestinians. As Firas Modad told MintPress: By contrast, Netanyahu can claim that his leading rivals Gantz and Lapid want the war to end in line with the wishes of external powers, leaving Israel in a situation where it has been embarrassed by Hamas and deterred by Hezbollah. Strategically, this guarantees that Israel will now always fight multi-front wars.” 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 Blowback: Historical US and Israeli Abuse of ICC Leads to Netanyahu Indictment appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Foreign Affairs, Investigations, Top Story, crimes against humanity Gaza, Gaza genocide charges, Gaza war crimes, ICC arrest warrants, ICC prosecutor Karim Khan, international justice Netanyahu, Israeli leaders indicted, Netanyahu and Gallant ICC, Netanyahu ICC indictment, US Israeli ICC interference]

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[l] at 5/30/24 8:38am
Even the most optimistic of political analysts did not expect that the International Criminal Courts Chief Prosecutor would be uttering these words: I have reasonable grounds to believe that Benjamin Netanyahu () and Yoav Gallant () bear criminal responsibility for () war crimes and crimes against humanity ” Aside from the two Israelis, Karim Khan has included three Palestinians in his application requesting arrest warrants from the ICCs Pre-Trial Chamber. That is important, but we must remember that, per Western thinking, Palestinians have always been the guilty party. Evidence of the above claim is that the West has long portrayed Israel as a country at war in self-defense. Consequently, Palestinians though occupied, dispossessed and disinherited are the aggressors. This bizarre logic is not strange if seen within the larger power paradigm that has defined the Wests relationship with Palestine and, by extension, the Global South. For example, out of 54 individuals indicted by the ICC since its inception in 2002, 47 are Africans. This fact has rightly agitated governments, civil societies and intellectuals throughout the Global South for many years. On Western duplicity, Aimé Césaire, a Martinican intellectual and politician, wrote, They tolerated (..) Nazism before it was inflicted on them, they absolved it, shut their eyes to it, legitimized it, because, until then, it had been applied only to non-European peoples. WWII inspired new thinking in the West. The International Court of Justice (ICJ) and the ICC, among others, were direct outcomes of that terrible Western war. They were the Wests way of trying to protect the new status quo established by the victors. The Global South joined in anyway. Africa had a particular interest in the establishment of the court since its peoples had been the victims of large-scale violations of human rights over the centuries, a representative of the Organization of African Unity said in 1998 in Rome, the birthplace of the Rome Statute. Predictably, however, the ICC turned into a platform where former colonial masters cast judgment on the non-European world. In that sense, justice was hardly served. As always, Palestine has and continues to serve as the litmus test of the international order. For over 15 years, Palestinians have been seeking to enlist the ICCs help to hold Israel accountable for its military occupation and various crimes in Palestine. The Palestinians have done so simply because any attempt at establishing a practical mechanism to end the Israeli occupation through the United Nations has been met with a cruel American veto. As the Israeli occupation turned into a permanent one and racial apartheid spread its tentacles to cover every inch of Palestine, US support of Israel has become a first line of defense against any international criticism, let alone action, aimed at reining in Israel. Even though the US has refused to join the ICC, it still has significant influence over the organization, either through sanctions or pressure imposed by its allies, who are members of the Court. Thus, the ICC procrastinated. Decisions that should have taken only months took years to be made. The institution, which was created to deliver swift justice, became a bureaucratic legal apparatus that did everything in its power to escape its responsibilities towards the Palestinians. The persistence of Palestinians and the massive solidarity they have obtained from countries throughout the Global South eventually paid off. In 2009, Palestinians filed their first application to join the ICC. Yet, it took over three years for then-Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo to reach his decision in 2012, denying Palestinians such urgent membership on account of their legal status as mere observers at the UN. The rest of the world rallied behind Palestine again, and later that year, the UN General Assembly granted Palestine its non-member observer state status. It took another three years for Palestine to officially join the ICC. Four years later, in 2019, then-Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda stated that the so-called statutory criteria needed to begin an investigation in Palestine were satisfied. But, instead of opening an investigation, Bensouda sent the matter back to the Pre-Trial Chamber for further confirmation. An official investigation was not opened until March 2021, but it was halted when Karim Khan replaced Bensouda as the chief prosecutor later that year. So what happened between March 2021 and May 20, 2024, that allowed the ever-reluctant Khan to go as far as requesting arrest warrants? First, the Israeli genocide in Gaza, where victims are measured in the tens of thousands. Second, the credibility of the Wests enshrined legal system, which has governed the world since WWII, was at stake. This explains the emphasis made by Khan in his May 20 statement: If we do not demonstrate our willingness to apply the law equally (), we will be creating the conditions for its collapse.” Third is the Global Souths solidarity, which has served as the backbone of all Palestinian efforts at international legal institutions. The pendulum is finally shifting after decades of a one-sided approach to global conflicts. Indeed, when we say that Gaza is changing the world, we mean it. Feature photo | Benjamin Netanyahu and Yoav Gallant | Illustration by MintPress News Dr. Ramzy Baroud is a journalist, author and the Editor of The Palestine Chronicle. He is the author of six books. His latest book, co-edited with Ilan Pappé, is Our Vision for Liberation: Engaged Palestinian Leaders and Intellectuals Speak Out. His other books include My Father Was a Freedom Fighter and The Last Earth. Baroud is a Non-resident Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA). His website is www.ramzybaroud.net The post Challenging Western Hypocrisy: ICC Targets Israeli Leaders for War Crimes appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Foreign Affairs, Opinion & Analysis, Global South solidarity, ICC arrest warrants Israel, ICC Netanyahu charges, international justice Palestine, Israel war crimes ICC, Netanyahu Gallant war crimes, Palestine ICC investigation, Palestinian justice ICC, Ramzy Baroud editorial, Western hypocrisy ICC.]

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[l] at 5/29/24 9:47am
Senator Lindsay Graham was bursting with contempt for the International Criminal Court (ICC) when he grilled Secretary of State Blinken at a May 21 Congressional hearing. Wagging his finger, he warned that if the ICC gets away with issuing arrest warrants for Israels Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, we are next. The audience at the hearing, stacked with CODEPINK pro-Palestine supporters, burst out in applause at the notion of the U.S. being hauled before the worlds highest court. You can clap all you want, an angry Graham retorted, but they tried to come after our soldiers in Afghanistan. Graham was thankful that in the Afghan case, reason prevailed when the case was dropped, adding that the U.S. must level sanctions against the ICC not only to protect our friends in Israel but to protect ourselves. Graham was referring to the 2019 efforts of former ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda to hold both the Taliban and the U.S. accountable for war crimes in Afghanistan. When Graham said that reason prevailed, he really meant that U.S. thuggery prevailed because the Trump administration brazenly imposed sanctions against ICC officials, denying them visas to the U.S. and freezing their assets in U.S. banks. President Biden lifted the sanctions but did so with the tacit understanding that the court would not resume the probe of U.S. crimes in Afghanistan. The message from both Democratic and Republican presidents was clear: Do not dare hold the U.S. to the same standards you use for others. The International Criminal Court was founded in 1998 as the result of a lifetimes work by an American (and Jewish) international lawyer, Benjamin Ferencz, rooted in his experience as an investigator and chief prosecutor at the Nuremberg tribunals after the Second World War. Ben passed away in 2023 at the age of 103. Still, the universal jurisdiction that the court is exercising in this case is the fruition of his lifes work to hold war criminals accountable under international law, no matter what country they are from or who their victims are. Enter Israel. The ICC has been building a case against Israel for nearly a decade. A recent blockbuster investigation by the Guardian and two Israeli-based news outlets revealed a shocking, almost decade-long secret campaign against the court by Israeli intelligence agencies, who surveilled, hacked, pressured, smeared and threatened ICC officials to derail the courts inquiries. Despite the pressure, on May 20, ICC prosecutor Karim Khan made his request for Israeli and Hamas arrest warrants. Among the charges against the Israeli officials are extermination, using starvation as a method of warfare, willfully causing great suffering, and intentionally directing attacks against a civilian population. Prosecutor Karim Khans request has now gone to a panel of three judges who will determine whether the request is granted in the coming weeks. But pro-Israel forces in the U.S. are trying their best to throw sand in the wheels of justice with threats of new sanctions. One ultimatum already came from Senator Tom Cotton and 11 other Republican senators in a toxic April 24 letter. Target Israel and we will target you, the senators signaled to the ICC. If you move forward with the measures indicated in the report, we will move to end all American support for the ICC, sanction your employees and associates, and bar you and your families from the United States. The letter concluded with a hair-raising: You have been warned. The Biden administration has responded to the ICC by flip-flopping like a fish on dry land. On May 20, the White House put out a statement calling the ICC prosecutors application for arrest warrants against Israeli leaders outrageous, adding, Whatever this prosecutor might imply, there is no equivalence — none — between Israel and Hamas. We will always stand with Israel against threats to its security. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken called the request shameful. At a hearing on May 22, he told Senator Graham that he welcomed working with him on efforts to sanction the ICC. However, on May 28, National Security Council Communications Advisor John Kirby said at a White House press briefing, We dont believe that sanctions against the ICC is the right approach here. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, who spoke after Kirby, reiterated that message. She said that legislation against the ICC is not something the administration is going to support and that sanctions on the ICC are not an effective or appropriate tool to address U.S. concerns. This new position from the White House will make it easier for more Democrats to say no to the bills that will be introduced as soon as Congress returns from recess on June 3. Already, dueling statements are coming out from Congressional members. While Senate Majority Leader Schumer called the ICC appeal reprehensible and Democrat Joe Manchin joined with Republicans to call for visa bans for ICC officials and sanctions on the international body, Senator Bernie Sanders defended the court, saying, The ICC is doing its job. Its doing what it is supposed to do. We cannot only apply international law when it is convenient. On the House side, progressives voiced support for the ICC. Rep. Cori Bush said, Seeking arrest warrants for human rights abuses is an important step towards accountability. Its shameful for U.S. officials to threaten the ICC while continuing to send weapons that enable war crimes. Rep. Mark Pocan boldly responded, If Netanyahu comes to address Congress, I would be more than glad to show the ICC the way to the House floor to issue that warrant. While most Republicans and pro-Israel hawks in the Democratic Party will likely join hands to hammer the international court, President Biden may ultimately feel pressured to adopt the position best articulated by Senator Van Hollen. It is fine to express opposition to a possible judicial action, but it is absolutely wrong to interfere in a judicial matter by threatening judicial officers, their family members and their employees with retribution. This thuggery is something befitting the mafia, not U.S. senators. It is also not befitting the White House, especially one that has been such a willing partner in Israels war crimes. Feature photo | U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) speaks to journalists at the end of his visit to Israel, in Jerusalem, March 27, 2024. Maya Alleruzzo | AP Medea Benjamin, cofounder of the peace group CODEPINK, is coauthor, with David Swanson, of the forthcoming NATO: What You Need to Know. The post War Crimes and Whitewashing: Lindsey Graham’s Attack on the ICC appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Foreign Affairs, Opinion & Analysis, Benjamin Netanyahu ICC, CODEPINK ICC, ICC Israel war crimes, International Criminal Court, Israel Palestine ICC, Lindsey Graham ICC, Medea Benjamin editorial, U.S. Senate ICC threats, U.S. war crimes Afghanistan, Yoav Gallant ICC.]

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[l] at 5/28/24 8:51am
The Middle East – or what should more accurately be called West Asia – is a pivotal region of the globe. It is home to the primary source of the planet’s most important commodity: oil. Not coincidentally, it is also the epicenter of global conflicts. Since 9/11, the United States has launched a series of attacks on sovereign nations, from Afghanistan and Iraq to Libya, Syria and beyond. These wars have left the region beleaguered and broken. But recently, as American power wanes, a new set of forces has emerged. An axis led by Iran, Syria and Yemen has emerged to counter U.S.-Israeli dominance and global giants, such as China and Russia, are increasingly being drawn into the region. Could this lead to a new and even brighter future for West Asia? Tim Anderson joins the show to discuss all things West Asia. Tim is a writer, academic, and director of the Center for Counter Hegemonic Studies. His latest book, “West Asia After Washington: Dismantling the Colonized Middle East,” explores this topic. “It is quite obvious that the U.S.’ influence in this region [West Asia] is in decline,” Anderson told MintCast host Alan MacLeod, laying out several factors in said decline, including the embarrassing American withdrawal from Afghanistan, the unanimous demands from Iraq that the U.S. leave the country, the growing importance of Russia and China in the region the increasing importance of the BRICS economic bloc, the successful Russian operation to keep Assad in power in Syria; the Yemeni blockade of the Red Sea; the failure of the U.S. in Syria and the nosedive in global public opinion of the United States. “Things cannot go back to the way they were. Clearly, the region is in flux, and the influence of the U.S. is in decline,” Anderson concluded. Anderson joined the show from Damascus, Syria – something that would have been nearly impossible until recently. He noted the tremendous destruction that the civil war had wrought upon the country, much of which is still occupied by the United States, Israel, and other actors. Nevertheless, despite American unilateral coercive measures (i.e., sanctions), life in the major cities is approaching normality again. Anderson identifies Iran as a critical player in the formation of a counter-hegemonic axis. It has found allies in Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, and, crucially, China and Russia. This grand alliance of powers opposing U.S. policy in the region was something that American planners in the 1990s considered their greatest fear. Nevertheless, a wounded animal is a dangerous one, and the U.S. is far from a spent force. And so, while American power wanes, the people of West Asia should still be on high alert. The conversation today touches upon Syria and its civil war, Iran, Yemen, Israel’s assault on Palestine, Chinese investment in the region and the persecution of Christians in the Middle East. Watch the interview now, exclusively at MintPress News. MintPress News is a fiercely independent media company. You can support us by becoming a member of 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 America’s Decline in the Middle East and the Axis of Resistance, With Tim Anderson appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Behind The Headlines, Foreign Affairs, Top Story, Alan MacLeod, China and Russia in the Middle East, decline of U.S. influence, Iran Syria Yemen alliance, Middle East conflicts, oil in the Middle East, Tim Anderson, U.S. wars in the Middle East, U.S.-Israeli dominance., West Asia, West Asia geopolitics]

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[l] at 5/28/24 8:12am
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. A surprise general election has been called in the United Kingdom, and Labour Party leader Keir Starmer is the overwhelming favorite to become the next prime minister. But today’s guest is looking to upset that grim future. Andrew Feinstein is standing against Starmer for his Holborn and St. Pancras seat in central London. Feinstein is an expert in the arms trade, a former member of the South African parliament under Nelson Mandela, and a tireless activist, who Watchdog host Lowkey describes as someone who “campaigned for decades on important issues that really cut to the core of power and the way it functions in society.” Under Starmer’s leadership, the Labour Party has ruthlessly purged leftist, anti-establishment voices from its ranks, including former leader Jeremy Corbyn. Feinstein described Starmer as holding an “authoritarian, undemocratic approach to politics,” accusing him of weaponizing anti-Semitism to carry out a witch hunt against radical elements within the party. Starmer has given his full-throated endorsement to Israel, even as it carries out a genocidal onslaught against the people of Gaza, and strong-armed the Speaker of the House into shutting down a motion brought to parliament calling for a ceasefire. Meanwhile, he has expelled more Jews from the Labour Party than all other leaders combined, all under the guise of fighting anti-Jewish bigotry. “This would be like expelling Nelson Mandela from the African National Congress in order to combat racism! It is that insane. And he actually thinks people are going to believe this; that what he is doing is correct,” Feinstein told Lowkey. Feinstein is a white Jewish man who grew up in Apartheid South Africa. His mother is a survivor of Hitler’s genocidal ambitions, having hid for three years in a Viennese coal cellar to avoid detection by the Nazis. He became active in the anti-Apartheid struggle and became an elected official for the African National Congress during the country’s transition to democracy. He eventually resigned after being refused the right to investigate billions of dollars worth of arms deals signed by Mandela’s successor, Thabo Mbeki. He warns that Starmer’s approach to politics represents a threat to democracy in the United Kingdom, and wants his campaign to be completely different, the antithesis of Starmer. “I don’t believe in professional politicians,” he told Lowkey. “I think politics should be about ordinary people being represented by other ordinary people from their community,” he added. Feinstein stressed that local issues, such as hunger, unemployment, and a lack of housing, would be the key issues he would fight on. Nevertheless, he maintains an international perspective and is hopeful things are about to radically change across the globe. “This period of late neoliberal capitalism, which has bequeathed the world such injustice and such inequality, must be on its last legs. And that’s what gets me out of bed every morning,” he said. Watch the full interview here, where the pair discusses politics in the U.K. and the success of direct action against Israeli arms factories. Feinstein shares personal stories about Mandela from their time working together. Lowkey is a British-Iraqi hip-hop artist and 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 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 Election Bombshell: Keir Starmer Faces Unexpected Challenge from Veteran Activist Andrew Feinstein appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Behind The Headlines, Foreign Affairs, News, Podcasts, Top Story, ANC, Andrew Feinstein, anti-Apartheid struggle, anti-Jewish bigotry, Apartheid South Africa, Gaza Genocide, Holborn and St. Pancras, Israeli arms factories, Jeremy Corbyn, keir starmer, Labour Party, Labour Party purge, lobby groups, Lowkey, Nelson Mandela, neoliberal capitalism, South African parliament, special interest groups, Stop the War coalition, surprise general election, Thabo Mbeki, The Peace and Justice Project, The Watchdog, United Kingdom, weaponizing anti-Semitism]

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[l] at 5/22/24 10:51am
America’s universities are on fire. A protest movement against the violence in Gaza and U.S. colleges’ complicity in them has swept the nation, with encampments on college campuses in 45 of America’s 50 states. The crackdown has been swift; thousands of students have been arrested, charged, fined, lost their degrees, or even deported. Amid corporate media demanding a “Kent State 2.0”, riot police, armored vehicles and snipers have been deployed across the country to terrify those campaigning for justice into silence. Why have overwhelmingly peaceful demonstrations against a foreign power’s actions been met with such a heavy-handed response? A MintPress News investigation finds that those same elite institutions have deep financial and ideological ties to the state of Israel, are funded by pro-Israel billionaires who have demanded they take action to crush the student movement, are partially funded by the Israeli government, and exist in a climate where Washington has made it clear that the protests should not be tolerated.   Israel’s Billionaire Backers The movement began on April 17 at Columbia University, where a modest Gaza solidarity encampment was established. Protestors hardly expected to be welcomed by university authorities but were shocked as university president Minouche Shafik immediately called in the NYPD – the first time the university had allowed police to suppress dissent on campus since the famous 1968 demonstrations against the Vietnam War. Shafik’s decision was no doubt influenced by the enormous pressure put on her by the university’s top donors – many of whom have deep connections to the Israeli state and its military. Robert Kraft Billionaire businessman and sports executive Robert Kraft, for example, publicly announced he was cutting the university off from his lavish funding over its failure to suppress the protests effectively enough. “I am deeply saddened at the virulent hate that continues to grow on campus and throughout our country,” he said in a statement, claiming that Columbia was not protecting its Jewish students. The turning point, Kraft said, was watching a publicity stunt by Shai Davidai, an Israeli-American academic at Columbia, who claimed his access to campus was revoked. Davidai had previously called the student protestors “Nazis” and “terrorists” and called for the National Guard to be set upon the encampment, obliquely referencing the Kent State University Massacre while doing so. Kraft is one of Columbia’s most important donors, giving the institution millions of dollars, including $3 million to fund the Kraft Center for Jewish Student Life. He also has deep connections to Israel, having visited the country over 100 times, including to have private lunch with his friend, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who said, “Israel does not have a more loyal friend than Robert Kraft.” Netanyahu is correct. Kraft is one of the Israel lobby’s primary benefactors, donating millions to groups such as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), The Israel Project and StandWithUs. He pledged a gigantic $100 million to his own Foundation to Combat Antisemitism – a group that presents critics of Israeli policy with the charge of anti-Jewish racism. He has also funded a host of pro-Israel politicians in races against progressive, anti-war challengers. A recent MintPress News investigation took a closer look at how Kraft is a key actor in trying to launder Israel’s image in America. Leon Cooperman Another billionaire benefactor pulling his Columbia funding is Leon Cooperman. The hedge fund manager suspended his donations in October, citing student support for Palestine. “These kids are fucking crazy. They dont understand what theyre doing or what theyre talking about,” he fumed, adding that they “have to be controlled.” One person who does know what he is talking about on this issue is Columbia’s Professor of Modern Arab Politics and Intellectual History, Joseph Massad. Yet Cooperman demanded Massad be fired after the academic took positions on Palestine he objected to. Cooperman has enormous influence at Columbia precisely because he is one of its chief income sources. In 2012, for instance, he donated $25 million to support the construction of the university’s new Manhattanville campus. However, Columbia is far from the only organization that receives lavish Cooperman cash. He is also a regular donor to the Friends of the Israeli Defense Forces (FIDF), a group that collects money to purchase supplies, equipment and support for active-duty Israeli soldiers. In addition, he was the first person to provide an endowment to Birthright Israel, an organization that provides free propaganda trips to Israel for young Jews. Len Blavatnik A third billionaire backer using his financial clout to pressure Columbia is Soviet-born oligarch Len Blavatnik, who demanded that the university protestors be “held to account.” Leaked messages reveal that for Blavatnik,  this meant using the full weight of the law against protestors. Blavatnik was a member of a secret WhatsApp group created in October 2023 that included many prominent Americans, former Israeli prime ministers Naftali Bennett and Benny Gantz, and Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Michael Herzog. Its mission was, in its own words, to “change the narrative” in favor of Israel and “help win the war” for U.S. public opinion. This included donating to pro-Israel political candidates and trying to pressure black celebrities such as Alicia Keys, Jay-Z and LeBron James to publicly “condemn antisemitism” – i.e., attempting to conflate the protestors with racists. Blavatnik also bankrolls Birthright and the U.K. Friends of the Association for the Wellbeing of Israel’s Soldiers and has funded at least 120 scholarships for former IDF soldiers. Together, Kraft, Cooperman and Blavatnik are thought to have donated nearly $100 million to Columbia. Idan Ofer From Columbia, the protests quickly spread across America, including to many of the country’s most prestigious institutions, including Harvard. From the start, the university was actively hostile to the protest movement and suspended dozens of protestors, effectively stopping them from graduating. This hostility is no doubt in part due to the university’s big-money donors pulling out en masse since October 7. Chief among these is Israeli shipping magnate Idan Ofer, who cited what he called “the lack of clear evidence of support from the university’s leadership for the people of Israel” and expressed his dismay that the Massachusetts college would not condemn Hamas strongly enough. Ofer is a crucial player in Israeli intelligence. As a previous MintPress News investigation revealed, his family’s Zodiac Maritime cargo ships have regularly been used to secretly ferry Israeli commandos around the Middle East for assassination operations. This includes the killing of Hamas official Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai and Palestinian Liberation Organization leader Khalil al-Wazir in Tunisia. Leslie Wexner Another billionaire apparently “stunned and sickened” by Harvard’s pro-Hamas positions is former Victoria’s Secret CEO Leslie Wexner. Apart from Wexner’s exceptionally close and well-publicized connections to child sex traffickers and Israeli intelligence asset Jeffrey Epstein, Wexner is a major donor to Israeli causes. A 2007 list of potential political donors compiled by Benjamin Netanyahu includes Wexner prominently. (Also included were Ofer’s brother Eyal, Blavtnik, and Donald Trump). In 2023, Wexner donated a six-figure sum to AIPAC, the chief pro-Israel force in American politics. Marc Rowan Nowhere, however, has the elite backlash to student protests been as bitter as at the University of Pennsylvania. Leading the charge to suppress pro-Palestine sentiment on campus there has been Marc Rowan. The billionaire investor demanded that his side must “exact a price” on students who express solidarity with Palestine. “These kids who are marching, they don’t think about it because there’s been no price to pay,” he explained, suggesting that they should never be allowed to work again: “I would not hire you if you were anti-Black. I wouldn’t hire if you were anti-gay. I wouldn’t hire you if you were anti-anything. Why would I hire an antisemite?” he stated, effectively conflating antisemitism with criticism of the Israeli government. Rowan strongly opposed UPenn’s hosting of a Palestinian literature festival in 2023, demanding that college president Liz Magill and UPenn board chair Scott Bok be fired. After October 7, Rowan and his allies succeeded in forcing both from their jobs. Rowan has tremendous influence at his alma mater, primarily because of his extraordinarily deep pockets. In 2018, for instance, he donated $50 million to the Wharton School of Business at Pennsylvania. But like with Columbia and Harvard’s big-money benefactors, he is far from a neutral actor on the subject of Israel and Palestine. In fact, he has considerable business interests in Israel. He has described himself as someone who has a “building and overwhelming commitment” to the country and “looks to the IDF and to what Israel does” for guidance. Rowan and other oligarchs, Jonathon Jacobson and Ronald Lauder, helped organize a university funding strike until their demands were met. Jacobson, who claimed that the university refuses to stand for American values, is the chairman of the Institute for National Security Studies, an Israeli think tank whose current director is former IDF intelligence chief Amos Yadlin. Unsurprisingly, for a man of this background, he has a long history of making donations to pro-Israel groups in the U.S. Lauder, meanwhile, is even more ingratiated with the Israeli establishment than Jacobson. A close confidant and supporter of Netanyahu, he was appointed a negotiator for Israel with the government of Syria in 1998. His presence at a One Jerusalem rally in front of religious and nationalist extremists in 2001 led to a boycott of the Estée Lauder brand across the Muslim world.   Academic Collaboration In addition to pressure from donors, elite U.S. universities have close academic and business ties to Israel. For example, Columbia announced last year that it would open a “global center” in Tel Aviv, which would serve as a research hub for academics and graduate students. This would expand the university’s dealings in Israel, where students can already pursue a joint degree with Tel Aviv University or study abroad in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem. This development, however, will only benefit Israelis, as Palestinians from the West Bank, Gaza and elsewhere are generally barred from entering Israel. The plans for a new global center drew heavy criticism from Columbia faculty members, nearly 100 of whom signed a letter asking it to reconsider the decision, given Israel’s human rights record. Moreover, in recent years, many Columbia academics have been barred from entering Israel, likely because of their political views. These include Rashid Kalidi, the Edward Saïd Professor of Modern Arab Studies, and law professor Katherine M. Franke, who was detained and interrogated by Israeli authorities for 14 hours before being deported. Yet, when it comes to American educational institutions, Columbia’s Israeli collaboration is not unusual. In 2003, Cornell University and the U.S.-Israel Binational Agricultural Research and Development Fund established a program for joint agricultural research. In 2014, Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs announced a joint program with the Lauder School of Government, Diplomacy and Strategy at IDC Herzliya in Israel. (The Lauder School is named after its founder and benefactor, Ronald Lauder, a longtime advocate for the Zionist cause). The University of California signed a memorandum of understanding with Israel’s National Technological Innovation Authority to increase cooperation between the two organizations. Despite the growing movement calling for an academic boycott of Israeli institutions, intellectual collaboration between American and Israeli academics has grown. Between 2006 and 2015, there was a 45% increase in the number of articles in academic journals whose authors included researchers affiliated with both American and Israeli universities. This collaboration was primarily among elite institutions. Topping the list of schools was the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), which, between 2006 and 2015, had 1,835 joint publications with researchers from Israeli institutions. MIT was followed by the University of California, Berkeley, Columbia, Harvard and Stanford, respectively. The most common fields of research were medicine, physics and astronomy, biochemistry and biology. Tel Aviv University was the most prevalent Israeli collaborator. Police crack down on pro-Palestinian sutdent protests on the UCLA campus, in Los Angeles, May 2, 2024. Jae C. Hong | AP   Paid for by Israel However, more controversial than the academic collaboration is the Israeli governments direct funding of American educational institutions. MIT, for example, is awash in Israeli cash. Scientists Against Genocide, a group at MIT, report that, since 2015, the university has received over $11 million in authorized research funding from the Israeli Ministry of Defense. This cash has reached various departments, including Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Biological Engineering, Physics, Aeronautics and Astronautics, Materials Science and Engineering, and Civil and Environmental Engineering. MIT labs and centers receiving funding include The Laboratory for Information and Decision Systems, the Computer Science And Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and the Research Laboratory of Electronics. The money has paid for research that directly benefits the Israeli military and helps them in their campaigns against the civilian population of Palestine. For example, one MIT project funded by Israel since 2022 is titled “Autonomous Robotic Swarms: Distributed Coordination and Perception.” According to Scientists Against Genocide, the research has helped the IDF carry out aerial drone bombings, surveil protestors, and drop tear gas on Palestinians. Israel is known to be developing flocks of small autonomous drone aircraft guided by artificial intelligence to locate targets, direct airstrikes and aid military advances. Another project, “Planning and Sensing Algorithms for Underwater Persistent Monitoring,” has seen the Israeli Ministry of Defense give MIT $1.5 million to develop technology to help them police the Mediterranean Sea. Scientists Against Genocide have suggested that this has helped Israel enforce a naval blockade against Gaza, including targeting fishing ships to prevent Gazans from being able to feed themselves. Israel has long limited the amount of food entering Gaza, keeping residents on a “diet.” However, during its seven-month-long assault on the densely-populated strip, the food crisis has reached critical levels. The United Nations has warned that famine is imminent, and its high commissioner for human rights, Volker Türk, suggested Israel was carrying out a war crime by using starvation as a weapon.   Ties to the Military Industrial Complex It could be argued that MIT could reasonably be accused of directly abetting a genocide in Gaza. However, MIT and other elite institutions are under enormous governmental pressure from the other side. Its president, Sally Kornbluth, as well as Harvard president Claudine Gay and Pennsylvania’s Magill, were brought before Congress and grilled on their universities’ alleged support for Hamas and indifference to antisemitism. The case made national news and focused waves of pressure on universities nationwide. The U.S., of course, has an extremely close relationship with Israel, using it as an outpost of its power in the Middle East. Washington has vetoed successive bills at the United Nations that attempt to address the dire situation, including those calling for a ceasefire and full Palestinian statehood. The U.S. supplies Tel Aviv with nearly $4 billion worth of military aid each year, and in April, Congress voted to send $17 billion of additional U.S. taxpayer money. Critics have blasted the aid as pointless at best and supporting a genocide at worst. But President Biden maintains that every penny given to Israel is money well spent and has stated that if Israel did not exist, the United States would have to invent one. American support for Israel comes at more than just a monetary cost. The U.S.’s international reputation is sinking. A recent poll shows that a majority of people in Southeast Asia would now choose China over the U.S. if forced to choose, with Washington’s continued backing of Israel being a critical factor in this shift. A number of American officials have also publicly resigned from their positions in protest. Lily Greenberg Call, the first Jewish Biden appointee to publicly resign over Gaza, left her job as special assistant to the chief of staff at the Interior Department. Explaining her decision, Greenberg Call wrote: The President has the power to call for a lasting ceasefire, to stop sending weapons to Israel, and to condition aid. The United States has used nearly no leverage throughout the last eight months to hold Israel accountable; quite the opposite. We have enabled and legitimized Israel’s actions with vetoes of UN resolutions designed to hold Israel accountable. President Biden has the blood of innocent people on his hands.” The United States has long enabled Israeli war crimes and the status quo of apartheid and occupation. That status quo does not keep Israelis safe, nor Jews around the world.” Each campus protest is different. But they generally share the same goal: pressuring their universities into divesting their endowments from Israel and from companies linked to the ongoing Israeli occupation. Some have called for cutting academic ties with Israeli universities, while others, such as Cornell and Yale, have asked their schools to stop investing in weapons corporations that are making a killing from the bloodshed. These requests have precedent. After Russia invaded Ukraine in 2022, a host of American institutions cut off collaboration with Russia almost overnight. Going further back, student protests forced many U.S. universities to sever financial ties with Apartheid South Africa. But Israel and the military-industrial complex are so intertwined with the U.S. economy that an extensive boycott might prove difficult, especially considering elite American universities’ deep ties to the defense industry. MIT, for example, has entered into long-term partnerships with a host of top weapons manufacturers, including RTX (formerly Raytheon), Lockheed Martin and Boeing, who has leased 100,000 square feet of research and lab space at MIT’s new mixed-use building in Kendall Square in Cambridge, MA. While corporate media has demonized the students as out-of-touch supporters of terrorism, they enjoy widespread support among their peers. Students approved a resolution calling on MIT to cut all research and financial ties to the Israeli military, with 63.7% of undergraduates and 70.5% of graduates voting in favor of it. American adults aged between 18 and 44 support the nationwide protests by a ratio of 4:3. A protester is arrested at S. 34th St. near the University of Pennsylvania campus in Philadelphia, May 17, 2024. Steven M. Falk | AP   The Crackdown Authorities, however, have been in little mood to negotiate, and images of black-clad riot police beating up and dragging away students and faculty members have gone viral across the globe. MintPress spoke with Bryce Greene, a student organizer at the University of Indiana Bloomington, who told us how the administration collaborated with police to suppress the growing movement: The night before we put our encampment up, the administration changed the rules of the space we were using and used that rule change to launch a military-level police assault on peaceful demonstrators. The university sanctioned armored vehicles, riot troops, assault weapons, shotguns, grenade launchers, a chopper circling overhead, a surveillance drone, and even a sniper on the roof.” “On day one, militarized police swept into the camp and arrested dozens of people,” Greene said. Undaunted, protestors returned two days later and were met with similar levels of force. Greene was arrested and received a five-year ban from campus, something he attributes to his longtime student organizing. The story at Indiana is far from unique. At MIT, more than 200 armed riot police stormed the protest camp at 4 am on May 11, destroying the encampment and arresting peaceful protestors. Harvard suspended the university’s Undergraduate Palestine Solidarity Committee and has taken action against individual students. Many are now facing eviction from student housing and even deportation. Meanwhile, UPenn has blocked protest leaders from campus. Seniors believe this will affect their ability to graduate or receive their degrees. As of May 22, there have been well over 3,000 arrests nationwide.   Shredding the First Amendment After a surprise attack by Hamas, Israel began its campaign on violence in Gaza on October 7. Relentless bombing of the tightly-packed strip has caused tens of thousands of deaths and led to nearly 2 million people being displaced in what is the worst episode of genocidal violence in Palestine since the 1948 Nakba when three-quarters of a million Palestinians were forced from their homes at gunpoint to prepare the ground for a Jewish state. Multiple international bodies, including the United Nations, the International Criminal Court, and Amnesty International, have used the word “genocide” in discussing Israeli actions in Gaza. President Biden, however, rejected that interpretation and gave Israel his full support. This unconditional backing is seriously harming Biden’s polling numbers. A majority of Democrat voters consider Israel’s actions to constitute genocide, and young Americans are abandoning support for him in droves. Those groups, in particular, draw on alternative sources of news for Israel and Palestine. Polls show that young people who receive their news from TikTok and other social media (and not through the filter of corporate news) are most likely to hold a negative view of Israel’s actions. The Biden administration’s response has been to simply threaten the complete closure of TikTok in the United States. But it is far from clear whether this authoritarian measure will succeed in stemming the growing tide of Palestinian solidarity that has been building for years, partially down to the tireless work of activists on campuses across the nation. Despite the campus demonstrations being overwhelmingly peaceful, authorities have chosen to crack down harshly upon them, shredding the First Amendment in the process. Why have both universities and the government shown virtually zero tolerance towards those protesting against genocide? Firstly, because so many big-money university benefactors are themselves committed Zionists and have deep ties to the Israeli state. This raises the question of whether these so-called charitable donations are so charitable in the first place. For one, America’s super-wealthy often receive tax write-offs for their contributions. Secondly, it gives them excessive power to control the directions of the institutions they are funding. Should wealthy individuals be able to dictate university policy for tens of thousands of people? Many would suggest that this is profoundly anti-democratic. As we have seen, universities themselves also have deep academic and even financial connections to the state of Israel, making the students’ divestment demands particularly sensitive. This is all happening in a context where the government continues to pledge its full support to Israel and its war aims and has moved to crack down on anti-Israel speech, attempting to make it functionally illegal to openly oppose Israel’s expansionist policies. Israel has long been a political third rail in America. The thousands of students being arrested are learning that in real-time. 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 Follow the Money: How Israel-Linked Billionaires Silenced US Campus Protests appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Foreign Affairs, Investigations, Top Story, academic boycott Israel, academic freedom crisis, academic repression, billionaire influence in universities, campus protests, Columbia University protests, elite universities protest suppression., First Amendment violation, free speech suppression, Gaza protests, Gaza solidarity, Harvard student arrests, Idan Ofer Harvard, Israel influence in academia, Israel lobby in education, Israel-Palestine conflict protests, Israeli military funding in universities, Len Blavatnik protest suppression, Leon Cooperman Columbia, Leslie Wexner Israel ties, Marc Rowan UPenn protests, militarized police on campus, MIT Gaza protests, MIT Israeli research funding, Palestine genocide protests, Palestine solidarity movement, pro-Israel billionaires, protestors' arrests, riot police on campus, Robert Kraft Israel, student deportations, U.S. support for Israel, U.S. universities Israel funding, university crackdown, university donor influence]

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