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Bagram: Still a Black Hole for Foreign Prisoners

By Andy Worthington | FFF | July 19, 2012

In March 2009, three foreign prisoners seized in other countries and rendered to the main U.S. prison in Afghanistan, at Bagram airbase, where they had been held for up to seven years, secured a legal victory in the District Court in Washington, D.C., when Judge John D. Bates ruled that they had habeas corpus rights. In other words, they had the right to challenge the basis of their imprisonment under the “Great Writ” that prevents arbitrary detention.

The men — among dozens of foreigners held in Afghanistan — secured their legal victory because Judge Bates recognized that their circumstances were essentially the same as the prisoners at Guantánamo, who had been granted habeas corpus rights by the Supreme Court in June 2008.

Unfortunately, the Obama administration appealed Judge Bates’s careful and logical ruling, and the judges of D.C. Circuit Court agreed, overturning the ruling in May 2010, and returned the three men to their legal black hole.

In April 2011, the Associated Press reported that the three men — Redha al-Najar, a Tunisian seized in Karachi, Pakistan, in May 2002; Amin al-Bakri, a Yemeni gemstone dealer seized in Bangkok, Thailand, in late 2002; and Fadi al-Maqaleh, a Yemeni seized in 2004 and sent to Abu Ghraib before Bagram — had all been cleared for release by review boards at Bagram, or, as it is now known, the Parwan Detention Facility.

That same month, Daphne Eviatar of Human Rights First visited Parwan and discovered that 41 foreign prisoners were still being held, even though “more than a dozen” had been recommended for release. She added that the foreign prisoners were “from Pakistan, Tunisia, Kuwait, Yemen, and even Germany,” but could not find any explanation for why, even when cleared, they were still being held. She noted that “one soldier complained about how frustrating it is to be unable to tell innocent prisoners when they’ll be going home, or what’s causing the holdup,” and that U.S. officials in Afghanistan had been able to state only that the problem was “somewhere in Washington.”

One story told to Eviatar concerned Hamidullah Khan, a Pakistani who was just 16 years old when he was seized in the summer of 2008. When he was allowed to communicate with his family in 2010, he explained that his case had been reviewed, and he had been recommended for release, but he was still being held. Khan was one of seven Pakistanis who, in 2010, began the process of suing the Pakistani government “either for its alleged role in their capture or for failing to secure their release.” Two others — Yunus Rahmatullah and Amanatullah Ali — had been seized in Iraq by British Special Forces in 2004 and subsequently had been handed over to U.S. forces who rendered them to Bagram.

The case of Yunus Rahmatullah — also cleared for release by a review board at Bagram in 2010, but still held — has been used to exert pressure on the United States by lawyers in the UK, who succeeded in convincing the Court of Appeal to grant him a writ of habeas corpus last December, and to order the British government to take custody of him, even though, in February this year, the court conceded that it had no power to order his release. As the senior judge, Lord Neuberger, the Master of the Rolls, explained, “When the U.K. defense forces handed over [Rahmatullah] to the U.S. authorities in questionable circumstances in 2004 they most unfortunately appear to have sold the pass with regard to their ability to protect him in the future.”

The case is now before Britain’s Supreme Court, and it undoubtedly continues to send ripples of dissatisfaction across the Atlantic, even though, as with all the prisoners mentioned in this article, there appears to be no particular trigger to force the release of any of them.

As for Redha al-Najar, Amin al-Bakri, and Fadi al-Maqaleh, nothing more was heard about them — or the other foreign prisoners still held at Bagram — until January this year At that time the Washington Post noted that, with discussions taking place regarding the transfer of Parwan to Afghan control as part of the planned withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan, U.S. officials had begun to think about what to do with the foreign prisoners — now numbering “close to 50,” including “up to two dozen Arabs of various nationalities, according to administration and foreign officials.”

U.S. officials told the Post that they believed the Afghan authorities would be “unlikely to have any interest in either continuing to hold the foreigners or in putting them on trial.” They failed to mention that some of them had been cleared for release and that letting them go should not, therefore, pose a problem.

The only mention of any specific obstruction came in an analysis of the particular problems facing Yemeni prisoners and “complicating their possible repatriation.” That “complication” stems from a moratorium on releasing any Yemenis from U.S. custody, “because of concerns about the security situation in Yemen,” which Barack Obama issued in response to the failed airline bomb plot in December 2009 by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a Nigerian man recruited in Yemen. That moratorium stands to this day.

In March, a memorandum of understanding between the United States and Afghanistan formally agreed on the transfer of prisoners at Bagram to Afghan control by September, although foreign prisoners were not included.

Four months later, it appears that all of the foreign prisoners at Bagram are still being held. This past Monday lawyers for Redha al-Najar, Amin al-Bakri, and Fadi al-Maqaleh returned to the U.S. courts to try to secure their release, arguing that “they were brought to Bagram for the purpose of keeping them out of the courts,” as Tina Foster, the executive director of the International Justice Network, and one of the lawyers for the men, explained to Aram Roston of Newsweek .

Ramzi Kassem, an associate law professor at City University of New York, who also represents the Bagram prisoners, made a similar claim to the Miami Herald, telling Carol Rosenberg, “Our clients are being kept at Bagram to circumvent [a court’s] jurisdiction.”

In court, the government maintained its position, with Justice Department attorney Jean Lin arguing that, although “the United States does not intend to hold anyone longer than necessary,” the administration also wants to “prevent enemy fighters from returning to the battlefield.” Lin also said that “nothing has changed to alter” the D.C. Circuit Court’s ruling in May 2010.

Judge Bates clearly struggled with this, asking, during the two-hour hearing, “How can I possibly make a decision that goes in a different direction from the D.C. Circuit?” However, as the Miami Herald noted, he also took on board the defense attorneys’ complaints, suggesting that “there might be evidence that U.S. officials had shipped prisoners to Bagram specifically to avoid judicial oversight,” and he “pressed the Justice Department hard on whether changing circumstances, including a slowdown in fighting and the coming withdrawal of most U.S. forces from Afghanistan, might warrant a second look.”

In seeking further information, Roston spoke by phone to Amin al-Bakri’s brother Khaled, who runs a furniture shop in Medina, Saudi Arabia. “We don’t know why he is being held,” Khaled al-Bakri said, noting that his brother, who has three children, “wasn’t a religious fanatic pursuing jihad but a businessman.” He acknowledged that in the 1980s, his brother had traveled to Afghanistan to fight the Soviet Union, but he also stated that “his Islam is very moderate.” He added, “My brother is multilingual, he’s open-minded to others, and he’s tolerant. We just don’t think he was involved” in any wrongdoing.

That, of course, makes sense, given that al-Bakri has been cleared for release, so the question that remains is whether continuing to hold foreigners in Bagram who have been cleared for release has to do solely with overwrought security concerns, or is a sign of something more sinister. Lt. Col. Todd Breasseale, a Pentagon spokesman, told Roston that “Bagram happens to be a legitimate and established military detention facility. That’s what works for now.” He added that America’s “short-term goal” was “to maintain custody of third-country nationals,” even while the Afghan government takes over control of the Afghan prisoners.

Responding to a question about what Roston described as “one of the central conundrums of the ongoing fight against Al-Qaeda — where to put potential detainees,” Colonel Breasseale acknowledged that “[sending] a detainee to Guantánamo Bay is not an option” being considered by the Obama administration. The result, as Andrea Prasow of Human Rights Watch explained, is, “As the U.S. prepares to withdraw its troops and wind down the war in Afghanistan, what possible rationale is there for continuing to detain these people there unless its purpose is that it is supposed to be the U.S. global jail?”

That is a very good question, and one that, despite years of bluster in and out of courtrooms, the Obama administration seems unwilling to answer.

Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press). Visit his website at

July 20, 2012 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Progressive Hypocrite, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Bagram: Still a Black Hole for Foreign Prisoners

Brazil arrests 18 over high profile execution of Indian leader

Survival International | July 19, 2012

Brazilian authorities have arrested 18 people in connection with the high profile killing of an indigenous leader by masked gunmen.

Religious leader Nísio Gomes was murdered in front of his Guarani community in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul last November. His body has never been found.

The list of suspects includes the owner of a notorious security firm which hires out gunmen to patrol areas of land occupied by ranchers.

Lawyers acting on behalf of Gaspem Segurança’s owner, Aurelino Arce, have so far failed to secure his release.

Brazil’s federal police have also linked other prominent suspects to Gomes’s murder, including six ranchers, a lawyer and a civil servant.

The charges brought against those arrested include: planning the attack, supplying arms, corrupting witnesses and fraud.

Brazil’s Guarani are repeatedly thrown off their land by cattle ranchers and forced to live in dangerous conditions by the roadside or in overcrowded reserves. Assassinations of Guarani leaders by gunmen are also commonplace, in an effort to stop communities returning to their land.

July 20, 2012 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , , | Comments Off on Brazil arrests 18 over high profile execution of Indian leader

Does It Matter What Israelis Do?

Where’s the Netanyahu Scandal in the New York Times?

By SAUL LANDAU | CounterPunch | July 20, 2012

Western leaders met in Paris last week to discuss possible intervention in Syria where almost 10,000 people have died over the last year of internal conflict. The West has never even considered holding such a meeting on Israel’s murderous behavior, however, despite a July 5 UN report that claimed that over the last five years Israeli forces have killed nearly 2,300 Palestinians and injured 7,700 in Gaza (statement from UNOCHA, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.)

The UN agency said that 27 percent of the fatalities in Gaza were women and children in a report highlighting the effects of Israel’s blockade.

Six years ago Israel imposed its sea and air blockade of Gaza. Under the blockade, Gaza exports have dropped to less than 3 percent of 2006 levels.

UNOCHA said, “The continued ban on the transfer of goods from Gaza to its traditional markets in the West Bank and Israel, along with the severe restrictions on access to agricultural land and fishing waters, prevents sustainable growth and perpetuates the high levels of unemployment, food insecurity and aid dependency.”

Israel’s naval blockade has also undermined the livelihood of 35,000 fishermen, and Gaza farmers have lost around 75,000 tons of produce each year due to Israeli restrictions along Gaza’s land border, the UNOCHA report said.

Half of Gaza’s youth is unemployed and 44 percent of its people are food insecure.

Mark Regev, spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said Thursday that because Gaza’s ruling party Hamas is a “terrorist organization, the blockade was necessary.”

“All cargo going into Gaza must be checked because Gaza is controlled by Hamas, an internationally recognized terrorist organization,” Regev told Reuters in response to a petition by 50 aid groups, including six UN agencies, calling on Israel to lift the blockade.

The West abhors the Syrian – disobedient – government, allied to Iran, and adores Israel, no matter what it does to the Palestinians. The media does little to dramatize the obvious double standard criteria used to measure the worthiness of the two neighboring governments. Iran, the West’s post Cold War bad guy, found a friend in Syria and that alone has condemned the Syrian government. The fact that Saudi Arabia has armed and financed rebels entering Syria in the name of “democracy” should cause at least some news absorbers to feel a bit skeptical over the anti-Syria campaign.

It doesn’t seem to matter what Israelis do. For example, Arutz Sheva, the nationalist Israeli press, reported that “declassified FBI documents from a 1985-2002 investigation implicate Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in an initiative to illegally purchase United States nuclear technology for Israel’s nuclear program.

“Netanyahu was allegedly helped by Arnon Milchan, a Hollywood producer with ties to Israeli prime ministers and U.S. presidents.”

Grant Smith had reported that “Netanyahu worked inside a nuclear smuggling ring.” Here’s an example of what is found in the report:

“On June 27, 2012, the FBI partially declassified and released seven additional pages from a 1985–2002 investigation into how a network of front companies connected to the Israeli Ministry of Defense illegally smuggled nuclear triggers out of the U.S. The newly released FBI files detail how Richard Kelly Smyth – who was convicted of running a U.S. front company – met with Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel during the smuggling operation. At that time, Netanyahu worked at the Israeli node of the smuggling network, Heli Trading Company. Netanyahu, who currently serves as Israel’s prime minister, recently issued a gag order that the smuggling network’s unindicted ringleader refrain from discussing ‘Project Pinto’.”

The Hebrew paper Ma’ariv continued the report on this incident.

“According to FBI documents released by the United States, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, was involved in smuggling in the 70s from the U.S. components of Israeli nuclear program, and assisted by the businessman Arnon Milchan, who according to previous publications was a former Mossad agent.

“The documents describe the findings of the investigation… performed between the years 1985 to 2002 on about how a network of front companies a U.S. security firm illegally smuggled equipment used for weapons seeds out of the U.S.”

We live in the Golden Age of Empire Judaism, says Prof. Marc Ellis. “Greater Israel” means Jewish settler expansion in a denial of Palestinians and their rights. It also means perpetual conflict, maybe war, in the region. Is this why our Congress pledges eternal love to Israel? Is this why the Israeli lobby pays and threatens our Congress?

When will Western powers meet to decide what to do about Israel so as to lessen the damage she causes to Palestinians, her neighbors and the region? Israel has baffled the U.S. political apparatus. It gets away with imposing apartheid against Palestinians, stealing their land and stirring up wars against its neighbors. One negative word from a U.S. pol on Israel brings heavy pressure, intimidation and money for opposing candidates – along with charges of anti-Semitism.

How pathetic that a small group of right-wing Jews allied to right-wing Israeli parties, has buffaloed U.S. politicians and media. One former Congressman described the Israeli lobby as the equivalent of a pit bull that bites the Congressman’s leg in the morning and holds on during lunch and the afternoon. The Congressman sleeps with the bull’s teeth in his leg and wakes with it the next morning. No wonder Members don’t want to antagonize this angry dog!

I don’t suggest Palestinians form an equivalent lobby, but rather that the media develop a little courage and report accurately on events in Israel and Palestine. Just spread reviews of the new film “5 Broken Camera,” in which a Palestinian West Bank farmer documents the encroachment by army-backed settlers that bulldozed his village’s olive trees to  make room for Israeli apartment houses. Israel’s treatment of West Bank Palestinians is no better than its behavior toward residents of Gaza.

Saul Landau’s WILL THE REAL TERRORIST PLEASE STAND UP screens at Washington DC’s Avalon Theater, 5612 Connecticut Ave 8 pm, august 14 and at the San Jose Peace an Justice Center on Aug 3, 7 PM 48 South 7th St., San Jose CA.

July 20, 2012 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

How leftist “anti-Zionists” are allied with Israel against Syria

By Mimi Al Laham (aka “Syrian Girl”) and Lizzie Phelan | July 19, 2012

The Myth

There has been a ridiculous notion amongst numerous left groups and those opposed to the Syrian government, that the Israeli regime does not want to see Assad fall. As self-professed “anti-zionists”, many in these groups are content to delude themselves into believing that both their enemies are on the same side. In the case of several socialist groups, they believe that this forcing of the Syrian crisis into their blanket “anti-authoritarian” narrative (regardless of the state in which they are applying that narrative to) enables them to maintain a façade of anti-imperialism.

London based socialist newspaper The Socialist Review writes: “Israel, although hostile to Syria, could depend on the Baathist regime to keep the frontier quiet. Thus criticism of Bashar is more muted in Tel Aviv.”

And Simon Assaf of the SocialistWorker writes:

The notion that ordinary Syrians struggling to change their country are the pawns of a ‘Western plot’ is absurd… In fact the Arab League is attempting to throw the regime a lifeline.

This view is also pervasive amongst the Islamic opposition to the Syrian government. Rafiq A. Tschannen of the The Muslims Times writes:

Israel believes that it would be safer under Assad regime than the new government whose credentials are unknown or the new Islamic extremist regime that would open a new war front with the Jewish state.

Israeli state media has actively fuelled this manipulation, as it has been beneficial to the Israeli state to both discredit the Syrian government in the eyes of Syrians and Arabs amongst whom cooperation with Israel has historically been a red line. Therefore the goal of these reports has been to create the false perception that Israel is uninvolved in the insurgency against the Syrian government. Similarly to how the NATO powers were keen to portray the Libyan insurgency as a “home-grown revolution”.

In this early 2011 Haaretz article entitled Israel’s favourite dictator, great lengths are taken to paint the Syrian president as a weak stooge of the Israeli state. The article regurgitates common Syrian criticisms and sources of frustration about the Syrian government’s failure to take back the Golan Heights. It even goes as far as to chastise Assad for not attacking Israel.  The irony that an Israeli paper would be critical of a president’s failure to attack Israel is apparently lost on many. All the more incredible that these anti-Zionist groups have chosen to believe the spin of Israeli state media.

The Turkish based Syrian opposition, the Syrian National Council (SNC), also jumped on this bandwagon. The now deposed leader of the SNC, Burghan Ghallion told the Israeli paper Ynetnews “We are convinced that the Syrian regime’s strongest ally is Israel”.

Debunking the Myth

However the following facts expose all of the above as merely a part of the psychological warfare machinery directed from Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Israel and the NATO countries, which is an essential part of the overall aggression against Syria, and that such leftists have willingly become a part of:

Israel’s most important ally, the US, has been amongst its other allies repeatedly calling for regime change in Syria

Israel’s strongest ally the United States has been pushing for regime change in Syria since before the first signs of insurrection began. Most famously in 2007, General Wesley Clarke, who served as NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander between 1997 and 2000 said he had received a memo from the US Secretary of Defense’s Office which read that the Syrian Government would be one of the seven governments the US would destroy in the subsequent five years.

The Guardian’s recent headline “Saudi Arabia plans to fund Syria rebel army” is in the typical style of the liberal media based in the NATO countries, a malignant manipulation. The text of that article is specifically about plans by the US’ and by extension Israel’s most important regional allies, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, to pay the salaries of insurgents. But, buried further down, the very same article also reports that such support began months before. A less misleading headline therefore would replace “plans to fund” with “increases support for”, however a truthful headline would suggest external control over Syria’s insurgency has existed since its onset.

Indeed both Qatar and Saudi Arabia have a long history of hostility to the Syrian Ba’ath Party and Syrian foreign policy, a fact which is reflected in both of their leading medias (Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya respectively) severely distorted coverage of events in Syria from the outset.

But to highlight this context would give too much weight to the Syrian government’s consistent analysis that the crisis within its borders is externally created. A fact which leftist groups also fall over themselves trying to downplay or dismiss with the result of boosting the opposing narrative which imperialism has made dominant through its media machinery.

Why did that same Guardian article, and western leftists who claim that Assad is good for Israel, fail to mention that for example in early April, the US openly pledged to double its assistance to the insurgents to the tune of an additional $12 million, under the cover of “humanitarian aid”? Or the recent US admission that it is actively arming the insurgency using Qatar as a proxy? Or that in February, solid Israeli ally British Foreign Minister William Hague pledged more equipment to the insurgents, insisting there was “no limit on what resources” Britain would provide?

It shouldn’t have to be explained to anti-Zionists that US and Israeli foreign policy is one and the same.

Axis of Resistance

Syria is a member of the Axis of Resistance, which is the only effective military resistance to Israel left. It is made up of Syria, Iran and the resistance inside Lebanon with Hizbullah at the helm. Far from being a ‘safe’ option for Israel, as Al Akhbar writer Amal Saad-Ghorayeb sets out in her three part critique of the third-way position that has seized much of the western left, Syria has consistently put itself on the front line, risking its own survival, and has been involved in every Arab-Israeli conflict since they took power. Syria has been the strongest supporter of the Lebanese resistance movements against Israeli occupation; Hizbullah has repeatedly unequivocally attributed its ability to effectively win the 2006 war against Israeli invasion of Lebanon to its support from Syria and Iran.

A year since the beginning of the insurrection in Syria, the ridiculous notion that Israel was not pursuing regime change in Syria began to crumble. Israeli Intelligence Minister, Dan Meridor was quoted on Israeli radio, pointing out what was obvious all along: Regime change in Syria would break the Iran-Syria mutual defence pact thereby isolating Iran and cutting the supply of arms to Hezbollah. Finally, Israel’s greatest adversary, Syria, would be crippled.

This was not reported in Israeli mass media, which ensured that the lid was kept on the obvious, clearly in the knowledge that it would make the position of the insurgent’s self-professed anti-Zionist cheerleaders in the west and Arab world more untenable. Yet those cheerleaders who maintain that Assad is good for Israel have been unable to reconcile then why Israel relentlessly beats the war drums against one of Syria’s most important allies, Iran.

Aside from wanting to get rid of Assad to secure military hegemony of the region, Israel also has an economic interest in scuppering the Syria, Iran, Iraq oil pipeline which would rival both Israel’s BTC pipeline and the eternally fledgling plans for Europe’s Nabucco pipeline.

Pro-Israel Opposition

With increasing momentum, the already tenuous facade of being pro-Assad in the Israeli media began to crumble and increasingly, voices within the Syrian opposition have been crossing the red line of sounding friendly towards Israel.

MK Yitzhak Herzog, who has previously held ministerial posts in the Israeli parliament, said that Syrian opposition leaders have told him they want peace with Israel after Syrian President Bashar al Assad falls.

Indeed, SNC member Bassma Kodmani attended the 2012 Bilderberg conference where regime change in Syria was on the agenda. Kodmani has previously called for friendly relations between Syria and Israel on a French talk show, going as far as to say: ‘We need Israel in the region’.

Another SNC member, Ammar Abdulhamid  declared his support for friendly relations between Israel and Syria in an interview with Israeli news paper Ynetnews.

Earlier this year a telephone conversation between the SNC’s Radwan Ziyade and Mouhammad Abdallah emerged where they begged Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barack for more support.

Outside the SNC the children of former leadership figures now in opposition have joined the pro-Israel rat race. Ribal al-Assad, the son of Bashar Assad’s uncle and exiled former vice-president Rifaat al-Asaad welcomed the possibility of Syria making peace with Israel. And son of former Syrian prime minister Nofal Al-Dawalibi, said in an interview on Israeli radio that the Syrian people want peace with Israel. Dawalibi formed the “Free Syrian Transitional National Government”, another external opposition group rivaling the SNC for power in a situation where the Syrian government falls. The sectarian infighting and disunity, that is a mirror of post-Gaddafi Libya, is now threatening to plague Syria.

Lower down the opposition hierarchy, pro-Israel voices are still to be found.

Syrian Danny Abdul-Dayem, the almost one-hit-wonder unofficial spokesman for the FSA, appeared on CNN begging Israel to Attack Syria.

And in an interview with Israel’s Channel 2, Sheikh Abdullah Tamimi, an exiled Imam from the Syrian city of Homs, said that the Syrian Opposition does not have any enmity towards Israel. Tamimi proceeded to request monetary and military support for Sunnis in Syria and Lebanon.

Anti-Assad Zionists and Israeli Leaders

Socialists have chosen to be blind to the fact that prominent Zionists have been backing the Syrian insurgency since its inception.

US Senator John McCain and Joe Lieberman, both well known to be close friends of the Zionist entity, met with the SNC and Syrian insurgents on the Turkish border, then called for the US to arm them. In fact Joe Lieberman has been calling for war against Syria since 2011.

Another well known Zionist Bernard Henri-Levy, who spear-headed the destruction of Libya by NATO aerial bombardment, has also called for an attack on Syria.

More recently voices within the Israeli government have been more vocal and demanding in their desire to see the Syrian government’s replacement with a more friendly puppet regime.

Israeli President Shimon Peres, upon receiving the ‘Medal of Freedom’ from US President Barack Obama, said that the world had to get rid of Assad. That he was receiving such a medal requires its own article dedicated to psychoanalyzing such an event, but that he could also claim, while being part of a system that is responsible for some of the gravest abuses to humankind in history, that from a “human” point of view Assad must go, should really get so-called anti-Zionists thinking.

Other members of the Israeli government, such as Israeli Vice Prime Minister, Shaul Mofaz, urged world powers to mount a Libya style regime change in Syria.

And Israeli defense minister Ehud Barack called for the ‘world to act’ to remove Assad.

Finally, Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon accused the ‘world’ of wrong doing for failing to act against the Syrian government and then offered Israeli ‘assistance’ for Syrian ‘refugees’.  Thin euphemism for arming insurgents on the border.


In spite of the overt desire of the US government for regime change in Syria, which they have made clear time and time again, Israel has obvious economic and military interests for pursuing regime change in Syria, most notably the the break up of the Axis of Resistance and the destruction of plans for rival oil pipelines. Despite numerous public statements by Syrian opposition members that they are pro-Israel and the multitude of Israeli government officials calling for the fall of the Syrian government as well as Zionist lobbyists and key Zionist figures like Bernard Henri-Levy backing the insurgency, so called ‘anti-Zionist’ socialists and Islamic groups persist in their claim that Israel has no stake in regime change in Syria and that the insurgency inside Syria is from the grass roots. Though all information contrary to this delusion is in clear sight, it seems that the socialist and Islamic groups are willfully blind.

This position has become increasingly untenable however, most recently in light of the murder of Syria’s Deputy Defence Minister Asef Shawkat, which along with the simultaneous murder of Defence Minister Raoud Dajiha and Assistant to the Vice President Hassan Turkomani, which the Syrian government laid the responsibility for squarely at the doors of Israel, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, as new information has come to light as revealed by Al Akhbar editor-in-chief Ibrahim al-Amin.

In an article published today, Amin writes of Shawkat, that in spite of the incessant attempts by the US, Israel et al to demonise him, he in fact,

played a major role in resisting Israeli occupation in and around Palestine. Right to the end, he took practical charge of meeting the needs of the resistance forces in Palestine and Lebanon, and of their members and cadres in Syria. He oversaw everything from their accommodation and transportation, to their training camps and provisions, and arranging for cadres from inside Palestine to come to the country secretly for training.

For the resistance in Lebanon, Shawkat was a true partner, providing whatever assistance was needed without needing orders or approval from the leadership. He was a central player in the June 2006 war. He spent the entire time in the central operations room that was set up in line with a directive by Assad to supply the resistance with whatever weapons it wanted, notably missiles, from Syrian army stocks. Shawkat and other officers and men of the Syrian army – including Muhammad Suleiman who was assassinated by the Mossad on the Syrian coast in 2008 – spent weeks coordinating the supply operation which helped the resistance achieve the successes that led to the defeat of Israel.

Despite the accusations levelled against Asef Shawkat regarding security, political or other matters, for Imad Mughniyeh, the assassinated military leader of Hezbollah, he was just another comrade, a modest man who would bow when shaking hands with Hassan Nasrallah, and liked to hear the news from Palestine last thing at night.

However anti-Zionist one proclaims to be, there are few in this world that can claim to have done as much as the above for the Palestinian resistance to the Zionist entity. But having proven to willfully ignore all of the facts and history of Syria’s long history of resistance to Israel, it is a great tragedy that those who cling to the argument dealt with in this essay, would only perhaps be able to let go of it should Syria fall and then the reality of Palestine’s total military abandonment would be all too devastatingly clear to see.

Update by Aletho News:

The Ziocons promoting wars for Israel have been abetted by these self described “intellectuals” on 8 April 2013:

We, the undersigned, stand in solidarity with the millions of Syrians who have been struggling for dignity and freedom since March 2011. We call on people of the world to pressure the Syrian regime to end its oppression of and war on the Syrian people. We demand that Bashar al-Asad leave immediately without excuses so that Syria can begin a speedy recovery towards a democratic future.

Tikun Olam MongersSince March 2011, Asad’s regime has steadily escalated its violence against the Syrian people, launching Scud missiles, using weapons banned by the Geneva Convention such as cluster bombs and incendiary munitions, and using aerial bombardment. The regime has detained and tortured tens of thousands of people and committed untold massacres. It has refused political settlements that do not include Asad in power, and it has polarized the society through strategic acts of violence and by sowing seeds of division. The regime has also, since the early days of the uprising, sought to internationalize the crisis in order to place it within geopolitical battles that would only strengthen the regime. Staying true to the logics of an authoritarian regime, Asad could never accept the legitimate demands of the Syrian people for freedom and dignity. Thus, there is no hope for a free, unified, and independent Syria so long as his regime remains in power. … Full text

Frederic Jameson (Duke University, United States)

Tariq Ali (British Pakistani writer, journalist, and filmmaker, United Kingdom/ Pakistan)

Ilan Pappe (University of Exeter, United Kingdom)

Etienne Balibar (Columbia University, United States/ France)

Nigel Gibson (Emerson college, United States/ Britain)

Norman Finkelstein (American researcher and writer, United Sates)

John Holloway (Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla, United States/ Mexico)

Vijay Prashad (Trinity College, United States/ India)

Salameh Kaileh (Intellectual, Syria/Palestine)

Bill Ayers (University of Illinois at Chicago, United States)

Bernardine Dohrn (Northwestern University, United States)

Rashid Khalidi (Columbia University, United States/Palestine)

Lieven de Cuater (Philosopher, Belgium)

Jihane Sfeir (l’Université Libre de Bruxelles, Lebanon/ Belgium)

Jean-Pierre Filiu (Institut d’études politiques de Paris, France)

Farouk Mardam Bey (Intellectual, Syria)

Faraj Bayrakdar (Poet, Syria)

Ziad Majed (American University of Paris, Lebanon/ France)

Kamal Bandara (Intellectual, Tunisia)

Francois Burgat (CNRS, France)

Adam Shapiro (Activist, United States)

Razan Ghazzawi, (Activist, Syria)

Yassin el-Haj Saleh (Intellectual, Syria)

Thierry Boissière (Institut français du Proche-Orient, France)

Olivier Le Cour Grandmaison (universitaire, France)

Jens Hanssen (University of Tornoto, Canada/ Germany)

Ghassan Hage (The University of Melbourne, Australia/ Lebanon)

Hani al-Sayed (American University of Cairo, Syria/ Egypt)

Hazem al-Azmeh (Intellectual, Syria)

Sadri Khiari (Intellectual, Tunisia)

Oussama Mohamad (Film maker, Syria/ France)

Jihad Yazigi (Journalist, Syria)

Saad Hajo (Cartoonist, Syria)

Wendy Brown (UC Berkeley, United States)

R. Radhakrishnan (UC Irvine, United States/ India)

Ann Ferguson (Philosopher, United States)

Samir Aita (Le Monde Diplomatique editions arabes, Cercle des Economistes Arabes)

Santiago de Rico Alba (Philosopher, Spain)

Asef Bayat (University of Illinois, USA)

Chela Sandoval (University of California, Santa Barbara)

July 20, 2012 Posted by | Deception, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , , | 1 Comment

What a university in Ariel means for Arabs in Israel

Ma’an – 20/07/2012

In August 2010 Israel’s Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz and Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar announced a special 500 million shekel budget to improve higher education access for Arab and Haredi communities.

In the almost two years since their announcement, the only academic college located in an Arab community – Nazareth Academic Institute – has seen none of those funds, nor any of the standard public funding awarded to other academic colleges in the region.

Over the past week, both Steinitz and Sa’ar have thrown their support behind Ariel College’s bid for university status, including a pledge of 50 million shekels in additional higher education funding to make the shift feasible, while NAI continues to wait. All of which begs the question: What does it say to Arab citizens of Israel that a settlement university will likely be approved and funded before any public investment in the only Arab college?

NAI has struggled for more than a decade to establish an institution of higher education in the Arab community, initially applying for accreditation as a branch campus of Tel Aviv University and later operating as a branch of the US-based University of Indianapolis. It finally opened as an independent, though unfunded, institution in 2010. The government has been mildly responsive, with officials from former Minister of Minority Affairs Avishay Braverman to Sa’ar himself giving lip service to the importance of Arab development, but not actually investing in it through NAI.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development issued a call for public investment in NAI through its 2011 Report on Higher Education in Regional and City Development for the Galilee. Continued disparities between Arab and Jewish community development are “a threat to the long-term sustainable development of Israel,” the report said, suggesting that increased educational investment in Arab communities would boost the regional economy as soon as the medium term.

However, the report argued that all prior attempts at higher education expansion for the Galilee had happened in predominantly Jewish areas and maintained majority Jewish enrollment, sometimes as high as 90 percent of the student body. “Considering the current under-representation of Arab population in tertiary education, steps should be taken to support NAI, which is the first comprehensive Arab higher education institution in Israel,” the report said.

The OECD report was published last year, yet no discernible action has been taken in the nearly eight months since. What does it say when the government ignores OECD recommendations for a region within Israel in favor of a massive investment in permanent infrastructure on occupied land?

Meanwhile, much of the recent debate on universal service legislation has focused on the rights versus obligations of Arab citizens, on an idea that all of Israel’s citizens should share in carrying the weight of the nation. Yet the Ariel decision suggests that no matter how long Arab citizens toil within the system, no matter how much money they pay in taxes and no matter what promises have been made to them around provision of resources, Jewish communities will always take precedence — even when they lie outside of the nation’s recognized borders.

The move by Israeli ministers to support Ariel favors subsidies for Jewish settlers in occupied territory over equitable support for Israel’s minority communities. It favors expansionist politics over a pragmatic investment in the state’s future. It is a move against both moral imperatives and practical judgment.

In short, it is a great shame.

But the move is not simply a blow to ethnic equality within Israel. It also sends a strong message about this government’s view of the prospects for peace. For the rebuff here is not simply against NAI as the only Arab college within Israel — though that would be bad enough. It is also against the only college jointly managed by Israel’s Arab and Jewish citizens in favor of one whose association with the settlement movement negates any sense of partnership. This government has chosen a college whose very existence relies on a continued military presence over the only college to require a core education in peace and multicultural studies.

The message I take from that is ominous indeed.

Susan Drinan is the chairman of Nazareth Academic Institute’s international board of trustees.

July 20, 2012 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation | , , , , | 2 Comments

Iran war would devastate US economy: Brzezinski

Press TV – July 20, 2012

Former US National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski has warned that a US military confrontation with Iran could be devastating for the American economy.

“A war in the Middle East, in the present context, may last for years,” Brzezinski said in an interview with Newsmax.TV published on Wednesday.

“And the economic consequences of it (the war) are going to be devastating for the average American; High inflation, instability, insecurity,” he added.

He warned the US administration not to rush into a war with Iran and said, the consequences of yet another military strike in the Middle East “will be certainly very costly for the United States.”

The four-decade politician said that a possible closure of the Strait of Hormuz by Iran even not for a very long time would prompt the costs of oil to skyrocket as the vital oil-shipping route would be a dangerous passage as a result of the military conflict.

“In effect, the American taxpayer should be ready to pay $5 to $10 a gallon for the pleasure of having a war in the Strait of Hormuz,” Brzezinski explained.

He described democracy as the “best weapon of choice” in the present circumstances, but warned that negotiations over Tehran’s nuclear energy program would fail to yield result if they are meant to corner Iran.

“If the negotiations are designed to humiliate Iran and to put it in some sort of separate box, confining it to a status totally different from all the other signatories of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, then we probably will not get an agreement.”

The United States and Israel have repeatedly threatened that all ‘options’, including the military action, are on the table against Iran to force the Islamic Republic to halt its nuclear energy program, which Washington, Tel Aviv and some of their allies claim includes a military aspect.

Iran dismisses the allegations, arguing that as a committed signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency, it has the right to use the nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.

July 20, 2012 Posted by | Economics, Militarism, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Israel Sets the Narrative on Bulgaria Attack: Accuses Iran with No Evidence; Media Repeats Claim Dutifully

By Nima Shirazi | Wide Asleep in America | July 19, 2012

“It almost doesn’t matter what proof they have or don’t have, it’s really a matter of perception right now and Israeli officials are accusing Iran and its government of orchestrating these attacks.”

– Stephanie Gosk, MSNBC Correspondent, February 15, 2012

“A lie will go round the world while truth is pulling its boots on.”

– Reverend C.H. Spurgeon, April 1, 1855

The Israeli government wasted no time mourning, memorializing or reflecting on the loss of life after bombing of a bus of Israeli tourists at an airport on the Bulgarian coast.  It was too busy going into full-on warmongering mode, immediately laying the blame for the tragic terrorist act on the government of Iran, despite a complete lack of evidence.

But in this world of propaganda, Israeli officials were out-front, setting the narrative for the Western media before any facts emerged. Facts aren’t important, just perception.  Perception is reality.

Ha’aretz reporter Amos Harel wrote yesterday afternoon:

The government didn’t hesitate to point a finger on Wednesday. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, apparently supported by detailed intelligence, immediately blamed Iran for the terror attack on Israelis in Bulgaria that killed seven people.

Netanyahu warned of “an Iranian terror attack spreading throughout the world” and promised that “Israel will retaliate forcefully.” Remember that, whenever Iran has stated its intention to “respond” to attacks on its citizens on its own soil, it is accused of bellicosity and aggression.

Harel reported that the Israelis have “no doubt about who is behind the deadly attack in Bulgaria.”  Netanyahu insisted, with no supporting information, “All the indications are that Iran is behind this deadly attack.”

This claim, however, was not in line with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s own statements to the press.  Barak said the attack was “clearly… initiated probably by Hezbollah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad or another group under the terror auspices of either Iran or other radical Islamic groups.”

So, according to the top Defense official in Israel, the bombing was carried out by someone from some group somewhere that definitely is connected to Iran or someone else.  Absolutely.  Damning evidence, huh?

Israel’s Fascist Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman took the Netanyahu line as well: “I cannot get into all the operational details, but the identification is certain,” he said on Israel Radio. “From immediately after the attack, we worked hard and now the puzzle is put together, the identity and the responsibility are completely clear.”

Well that was fast.

Israeli President Shimon Peres jumped on the blame band wagon, saying, “We were witnesses to a deadly terror attack coming out of Iran… we know there were other attempts, and this time they succeeded.”  He vowed retribution, stating that Israel “has the means and the will to silence and paralyse terror organisations.”

In contrast with Israeli hysteria and acting like a mature adult, Nickolay Mladenov, the Bulgarian foreign minister, said, “We’re not pointing the finger in any direction until we know what happened and complete our investigation.”

Nevertheless, the Iran allegation shot around the world at warp speed and was repeated uncritically by every major news outlet.  Many commentators also noted that the attack came on the 18th anniversary of the AMIA Jewish Community Center in Buenos Aires, Argentina, a terrorist attack that many have long accused Iran of carrying out, despite the complete lack of any credible evidence to back up the claim.

And now, Bulgarian media is reporting that the suicide bomber responsible for the terror attack had no connection to Iran, but was former Guantanamo detainee Mehdi Ghezali, a Swedish citizen of Algerian and Finnish ancestry.  He was captured in 2002 in Pakistan and turned over to the United States on suspicion of being an al-Qaeda sympathizer.

The New York Times has an extensive report detailing Bulgarian suspicions, some evidence, and a torrent of statements made by Israeli officials.

As more details emerge, it will become more and more clear how despicable the immediate exploitation of this tragedy by Netanyahu and cohorts to blame Iran with no evidence whatsoever actually is.  But why grieve for those murdered and act like a responsible, somber leadership when you can warmonger and point fingers?



Immediately on the heels of reports that Swedish citizen Mehdi Ghezali is the lead suspect in the bombing, both Bulgarian and Swedish officials have denied such a development in the investigation.

Once again, in contrast to Netanyahu’s bloviating, Bulgarian Foreign Minister Nikolay Mladenov said, “it is wrong and a mistake to point fingers at this stage of the investigation at any country or organization.” Ha’aretz reports:

“We are only in the beginning of the investigation and it is wrong to jump to conclusions,” he added, saying that Bulgaria had “excellent cooperation with the Israeli security forces in matters pertaining to the investigation.”

Mladenov added that the countries “will investigate until we discover who is behind the attack. At this stage all we know about the identity of the culprit is his external appearance and a copy of a counterfeit Michigan driver’s license.”


July 20, 2012 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , | Comments Off on Israel Sets the Narrative on Bulgaria Attack: Accuses Iran with No Evidence; Media Repeats Claim Dutifully