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Indictment in case of US citizen beaten by Israeli soldiers an anomaly

By Jessica Purkiss | MEMO | September 16, 2014

Last Wednesday Israeli Police filed an indictment against an officer who was filmed beating Tariq Abu Khdeir, a 15 year old Palestinian-American teenager from Florida. He was beaten and arrested during a demonstration to protest the brutal murder of his cousin Mohammed Abu Khdeir. On 2nd July 16 year old Mohammed was abducted and burned alive by Israeli extremists in supposed revenge for the killing of three Israeli teenagers.

Tariq’s bruised face caused outrage in the United States and the State Department called for a “speedy, transparent and credible investigation and full accountability for any excessive use of force” used against the American teen. As a result of mounting pressure from the US, Tariq was released and able to fly home just under two weeks after the ordeal.

Speaking at a press conference following the news of the charges filed, Abu Khdeir and his mother called it “groundbreaking.” Suha Abu Khdeir, the boy’s mother, said it was “a shame that in order for [Israeli authorities] to take action it had to be an American citizen that this happened to.” They believe that the charges were only filed because the incident was recorded and because Tariq is a citizen of the United States.

In sharp contrast, at the time US pressure was mounting for the soldiers behind Tariq’s beating to be held accountable, Israeli General Danny Efrni, closed the investigation into the killing of Yousef Sami Shawamreh.

In March, Yousef and his two friends had gone to pick the thistle like plant gundelia which farmers from his village in the South of Hebron harvest at the same time every year, when he was fatally shot in the hip by an Israeli soldier.

According to the army, three Palestinians approached the fence and started cutting it. The guards performed the standard procedure for stopping a suspect, shooting first in the air and then toward the Palestinian. According to local residents, the separation wall annexed some of the villages land, including the land of Shawamreh family, and so the boys had crossed over to harvest the crop on the other side of it, a routine that the soldiers were aware of.

The two boys who were with Yousef claim they heard three shots, causing them to get down on the floor. Yousef then reportedly got up to cross back over into the village, when another shot was fired causing him to fall. One of the boys, Muntaser, attempted to carry him to safety, but was told by 6 soldiers who arrived at the scene to put Yousef down, threatening to shoot him if he did not obey.

The prosecution, however, found that, “the force prepared for the operation professionally and acted in line with rules for opening fire”- concluding there was no suspicion of a criminal act on their part.

Yousef’s case joins the hundreds of cases that fail to end in an indictment. An Amnesty International report found that 41 Palestinians had been killed by live ammunition in the West Bank between 2011 and 2013 alone. The same report found that between September 2000 and June 2013, only 16 investigations ended in indictment of Israeli soldiers.

According to statistics released last week rights group Yesh Din, in 2013, out of the 239 notifications submitted to the Military Police Criminal Investigations Division (MPCID), the body which deals with complaints regarding offenses committed by Israeli Defence Force (IDF) soldiers, only six resulted in indictments.

Neta Patrick, Executive Director of Yesh Din said: “Every year, we caution against the sorry state of the investigation system. However, it appears that Israel refuses to deal with these structural failings or take minimal steps to correct them, despite harsh criticism voiced by public commissions and by civil society organizations.”

She added: “The inescapable conclusion is that the Government of Israel is not willing to investigate harm caused to Palestinians.”

September 17, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , | 2 Comments

Forget Pinkwashing; Israel Has a Lavender Scare

By Corey Robin | September 17, 2014

Speaking of McCarthyism, 43 veterans of an elite Israeli intelligence unit have not only come out against Israel’s treatment of Palestinians but declared that they will no longer “take part in the state’s actions against Palestinians.” The intelligence on Palestinians that they gathered, they claim, “is used for political persecution,” which “does not allow for people to lead normal lives, and fuels more violence, further distancing us from the end of the conflict.” According to the Times:

In the testimony and in interviews, though, the Unit 8200 veterans described exploitative activities focused on innocents whom Israel hoped to enlist as collaborators. They said information about medical conditions and sexual orientation were among the tidbits collected. They said that Palestinians lacked legal protections from harassment, extortion and injury.

One of the hallmarks of a repressive state, particularly in the twentieth century, is the use of blackmail against gays and lesbians in order to get them to collaborate and inform on their friends, colleagues, acquaintances, and other potential or actual dissidents. The Stasi was notorious for turning gays and lesbians into collaborators (see pp. 567ff); one of the key figures in Timothy Garton Ash’s The File—Schuldt—is just such an informant. So pervasive was the use of this type of blackmail during the Cold War that it also figured prominently on the US side: one of the main justifications proffered for drumming out gays and lesbians from the federal government during the McCarthy era was that they were susceptible to being blackmailed by the Soviets. Though no one ever found a single instance of that.

Now here comes news that the Israeli state is doing the same thing among Palestinians. It will be interesting to see how the people who were so rightly appalled by the Stasi’s recruitment of gays and lesbians to a repressive state apparatus—including Israel defenders like James Kirchick—and who routinely hold up Israel’s record on gays and lesbians as a measure of its freedom and democracy (critics of Israel call that “pinkwashing”) will rationalize this away.

September 17, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture | , , , | Leave a comment

Occupy group abolishes nearly $4 million in student loan debt

RT | September 17, 2014

On the third anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement, an offshoot group announced that it has erased $3.8 million worth of private student loan debt.

The group, Strike Debt, said in a press release issued on Wednesday this week that its Rolling Jubilee initiative has purchased nearly $4 million in private student debt owed by former attendees of Everest College — an institution run by the massive for-profit education company Corinthian Colleges — in turn freeing those former students from a huge chunk of the burdensome loan bills.

“Jubilant Greetings!” the group wrote to 2,700 former Everest students. “We are writing to you with good news: We just got rid of some of your Everest College debt!”

“Everest College is committing widespread fraud,” the letter continues. “It targets lower-income students and students of color, offers low quality education and — with the help of the federal government — buries students under a lifetime of crushing debt, all to profit the one percent. No one should be forced to mortgage their future for an education.”

“You no longer owe the balance of this particular debt. It is gone, a gift with no strings attached. You are no longer under any obligation to settle this account with the original creditor, the bill collector or anyone else.”

This week’s announcement is only the latest from the non-profit organization to tout the results of a two-year-old initiative spawned from the Occupy movement that has previously erased more than $15 million in emergency room bills by purchasing debt from the companies tasked with collecting from debtors, then erasing it entirely using donated funds and never forcing the original debtor to pay them back.

“We buy debt for pennies on the dollar, but instead of collecting it, we abolish it,” Strike Debt explains Rolling Jubilee on the group’s website. “We cannot buy specific individuals’ debt — instead, we help liberate debtors at random through a campaign of mutual support, good will and collective refusal. All proceeds go directly to buying and canceling people’s debt.”

“This isn’t just a stunt or a spectacle,” Rolling Jubilee member Astra Taylor told NBC News this week. “This isn’t a long-term plan, either. The point is to touch people where they are, and try to create a political awareness out of that.”

Now in the heels of successful other campaigns waged in the three years since the Occupy movement took hold in Lower Manhattan and spread across the United States, Strike Debt says former students of Everest College are the latest to luck out through the Rolling Jubilee initiative, and with reason: in this week’s statement, the group says that students at Everest were “conned” and that Everest and other Corinthian schools “are now being closed or sold off to other predatory companies, leaving students with no good options.”

“Despite Corinthian’s dire financial straits, checkered past, and history of lying to and misleading vulnerable students, tens of thousands of people may still be liable for the loans they have incurred while playing by the rules and trying to get an education,” one Strike Debt member told CNN.

In the US, student loan debt now totals roughly $1.2 trillion — surpassing the amount owed through credit card debt — with the average graduate owing $26,600, according to the Institute for College Access and Success.

September 17, 2014 Posted by | Economics, Solidarity and Activism | , , | Leave a comment

Reported US-Syrian Accord on Air Strikes

By Robert Parry | Consortium News | September 17, 2014

The Obama administration, working through the Russian government, has secured an agreement from the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad to permit U.S. airstrikes against Islamic State targets in parts of Syria, according to a source briefed on the secret arrangements.

The reported agreement would clear away one of the chief obstacles to President Barack Obama’s plan to authorize U.S. warplanes to cross into Syria to attack Islamic State forces – the concern that entering Syrian territory might prompt anti-aircraft fire from the Syrian government’s missile batteries.

The usual protocol for the U.S. military – when operating in territory without a government’s permission – is to destroy the air defenses prior to conducting airstrikes so as to protect American pilots and aircraft, as was done with Libya in 2011. However, in other cases, U.S. intelligence agencies have arranged for secret permission from governments for such attacks, creating a public ambiguity usually for the benefit of the foreign leaders while gaining the necessary U.S. military assurances.

In essence, that appears to be what is happening behind the scenes in Syria despite the hostility between the Obama administration and the Assad government. Obama has called for the removal of Assad but the two leaders find themselves on the same side in the fight against the Islamic State terrorists who have battled Assad’s forces while also attacking the U.S.-supported Iraqi government and beheading two American journalists.

In a national address last week, Obama vowed to order U.S. air attacks across Syria’s border without any coordination with the Syrian government, a proposition that Damascus denounced as a violation of its sovereignty. So, in this case, Syria’s behind-the-scenes acquiescence also might provide some politically useful ambiguity for Obama as well as Assad.

Yet, this secret collaboration may go even further and include Syrian government assistance in the targeting of the U.S. attacks, according to the source who spoke on condition of anonymity. That is another feature of U.S. military protocol in conducting air strikes – to have some on-the-ground help in pinpointing the attacks.

As part of its public pronouncements about the future Syrian attacks, the Obama administration sought $500 million to train “vetted” Syrian rebels to handle the targeting tasks inside Syria as well as to carry out military ground attacks. But that approach – while popular on Capitol Hill – could delay any U.S. airstrikes into Syria for months and could possibly negate Assad’s quiet acceptance of the U.S. attacks, since the U.S.-backed rebels share one key goal of the Islamic State, the overthrow of Assad’s relatively secular regime.

Just last month, Obama himself termed the strategy of arming supposedly “moderate” Syrian rebels “a fantasy.” He told the New York Times’ Thomas L. Friedman: “This idea that we could provide some light arms or even more sophisticated arms to what was essentially an opposition made up of former doctors, farmers, pharmacists and so forth, and that they were going to be able to battle not only a well-armed state but also a well-armed state backed by Russia, backed by Iran, a battle-hardened Hezbollah, that was never in the cards.”

Obama’s point would seem to apply at least as much to having the “moderate” rebels face down the ruthless Islamic State jihadists who engage in suicide bombings and slaughter their captives without mercy. But this “fantasy” of the “moderate” rebels has a big following in Congress and on the major U.S. op-ed pages, so Obama has included the $500 million in his war plan despite the risk it poses to Assad’s acquiescence to American air attacks.

Neocon Wish List

Without Assad’s consent, the U.S. airstrikes might require a much wider U.S. bombing campaign to first target Syrian government defenses, a development long sought by Official Washington’s influential neoconservatives who have kept “regime change” in Syria near the top of their international wish list.

For the past several years, the Israeli government also has sought the overthrow of Assad, even at the risk of Islamic extremists gaining power. The Israeli thinking had been that Assad, as an ally of Iran, represented a greater threat to Israel because his government was at the center of the so-called Shiite crescent reaching from Tehran through Damascus to Beirut and southern Lebanon, the base for Hezbollah.

The thinking was that if Assad’s government could be pulled down, Iran and Hezbollah – two of Israel’s principal “enemies” – would be badly damaged. A year ago, then-Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren articulated this geopolitical position in an interview with the Jerusalem Post.

“The greatest danger to Israel is by the strategic arc that extends from Tehran, to Damascus to Beirut. And we saw the Assad regime as the keystone in that arc,” Oren said. “We always wanted Bashar Assad to go, we always preferred the bad guys who weren’t backed by Iran to the bad guys who were backed by Iran.” He said this was the case even if the other “bad guys” were affiliated with al-Qaeda.

More recently, however, with the al-Qaeda-connected Nusra Front having seized Syrian territory adjacent to the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights – forcing the withdrawal of UN peacekeepers – the balance of Israeli interests may be tipping in favor of preferring Assad to having Islamic extremists possibly penetrating directly into Israeli territory.

Direct attacks on Israel would be a temptation to al-Nusra Front, which is competing for the allegiance of young jihadists with the Islamic State. While the Islamic State, known by the acronyms ISIS or ISIL, has captured the imaginations of many youthful extremists by declaring the creation of a “caliphate” with the goal of driving Western interests from the Middle East, al-Nusra could trump that appeal by actually going on the offensive against one of the jihadists’ principal targets, Israel.

Yet, despite Israel’s apparent rethinking of its priorities, America’s neocons appear focused still on their long-held strategy of using violent “regime change” in the Middle East to eliminate governments that have been major supporters of Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Palestine’s Hamas, i.e. Syria and Iran.

One reason why Obama may have opted for a secretive overture to the Assad regime, using intelligence channels with the Russians as the middlemen, is that otherwise the U.S. neocons and their “liberal interventionist” allies would have howled in protest.

The Russian Hand

Besides the tactical significance of U.S. intelligence agencies arranging Assad’s tacit acceptance of U.S. airstrikes over Syrian territory, the reported arrangement is also significant because of the role of Russian intelligence serving as the intermediary.

That suggests that despite the U.S.-Russian estrangement over the Ukraine crisis, the cooperation between President Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin has not been extinguished; it has instead just gone further underground.

Last year, this growing behind-the-scenes collaboration between Obama and Putin represented a potential tectonic geopolitical shift in the Middle East. In the short term, their teamwork produced agreements that averted a U.S. military strike against Syria last September (by getting Assad to surrender his chemical weapons arsenal) and struck a tentative deal with Iran to constrain but not eliminate its nuclear program.

In the longer term, by working together to create political solutions to various Mideast crises, the Obama-Putin cooperation threatened to destroy the neocons’ preferred strategy of escalating U.S. military involvement in the region. There was the prospect, too, that the U.S.-Russian tag team might strong-arm Israel into a peace agreement with the Palestinians.

So, starting last September – almost immediately after Putin helped avert a U.S. air war against Syria – key neocons began taking aim at Ukraine as a potential sore point for Putin. A leading neocon, Carl Gershman, president of the U.S.-government-funded National Endowment for Democracy, took to the op-ed pages of the neocon Washington Post to identify Ukraine as “the biggest prize” and explaining how its targeting could undermine Putin’s political standing inside Russia.

“Ukraine’s choice to join Europe will accelerate the demise of the ideology of Russian imperialism that Putin represents,” Gershman wrote. “Russians, too, face a choice, and Putin may find himself on the losing end not just in the near abroad but within Russia itself.” At the time, Gershman’s NED was funding scores of political and media projects inside Ukraine.

By early 2014, American neocons and their “liberal interventionist” pals were conspiring “to midwife” a coup to overthrow Ukraine’s elected President Viktor Yanukovych, according to a phrase used by U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt in an intercepted phone conversation with Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland, who was busy handpicking leaders to replace Yanukovych.

A neocon holdover from George W. Bush’s administration, Nuland had been a top aide to Vice President Dick Cheney and is married to prominent neocon Robert Kagan, a co-founder of the Project for a New American Century which prepared the blueprint for the neocon strategy of “regime change” starting with the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

The U.S.-backed coup ousted Yanukovych on Feb. 22 and sparked a bloody civil war, leaving thousands dead, mostly ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine. But the Gershman-Nuland strategy also drove a deep wedge between Obama and Putin, seeming to destroy the possibility that their peace-seeking collaboration would continue in the Middle East. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Neocons’ Ukraine-Syria-Iran Gambit.”]

New Hope for ‘Regime Change’

The surprise success of Islamic State terrorists in striking deep inside Iraq during the summer revived neocon hopes that their “regime change” strategy in Syria might also be resurrected. By baiting Obama to react with military force not only in Iraq but across the border in Syria, neocons like Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham put the ouster of Assad back in play.

In a New York Times op-ed on Aug. 29, McCain and Graham used vague language about resolving the Syrian civil war, but clearly implied that Assad must go. They wrote that thwarting ISIS “requires an end to the [civil] conflict in Syria, and a political transition there, because the regime of President Bashar al-Assad will never be a reliable partner against ISIS; in fact, it has abetted the rise of ISIS, just as it facilitated the terrorism of ISIS’ predecessor, Al Qaeda in Iraq.”

Though the McCain-Graham depiction of Assad’s relationship to ISIS and al-Qaeda was a distortion at best – in fact, Assad’s army has been the most effective force in pushing back against the Sunni terrorist groups that have come to dominate the Western-backed rebel movement – the op-ed’s underlying point is obvious: a necessary step in the U.S. military operation against ISIS must be “regime change” in Damascus.

That would get the neocons back on their original track of forcing “regime change” in countries seen as hostile to Israel. The first target was Iraq with Syria and Iran always meant to follow. The idea was to deprive Israel’s close-in enemies, Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Palestine’s Hamas, of crucial support. But the neocon vision got knocked off track when Bush’s Iraq War derailed and the American people balked at extending the conflict to Syria and Iran.

Still, the neocons retained their vision even after Bush and Cheney departed. They also remained influential by holding onto key positions inside Official Washington – at think tanks, within major news outlets and even inside the Obama administration. They also built a crucial alliance with “liberal interventionists” who had Obama’s ear. [See Consortiumnews.com’sThe Dangerous Neocon-R2P Alliance.”]

The neocons’ new hope arrived with the public outrage over ISIS’s atrocities. Yet, while pushing to get this new war going, the neocons have downplayed their “regime change” agenda, getting Obama to agree only to extend his anti-ISIS bombing campaign from Iraq into Syria. But it was hard to envision expanding the war into Syria without ousting Assad.

Now, however, if the source’s account is correct regarding Assad’s quiet assent to U.S. airstrikes, Obama may have devised a way around the need to bomb Assad’s military, an maneuver that might again frustrate the neocons’ beloved goal of “regime change.”

~

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his new book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).

September 17, 2014 Posted by | Wars for Israel | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Who’s Your Daddy, ISIS?

By Glen Ford | Black Agenda Radio | September 17, 2014

Let us be clear, if that is possible, about President Obama’s plan to deal with ISIS, the boogeyman of America’s own making. The president last week swore that he would “degrade and destroy” the Islamic State, after having spent three years providing weapons and money to jihadists fighters, including ISIS, in hopes that they would “degrade and ultimately destroy” the Syrian state of president Bashar Assad. So, the Americans set out to destroy one state, in Syria, whose government had never presented any danger to the U.S., and wind up creating another state, a caliphate astride the borders of Syria and Iraq, that openly declares its intention to do battle with the U.S.

Obama assures us that he is assembling a new coalition of the willing to join him in smashing ISIS. It turns out that every prospective member of the coalition was a co-conspirator with the United States in giving birth to ISIS – Britain and France and other Europeans, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates…ISIS has many, many fathers, all of whom now deny patrimony.

Obama appears to be leaving the natural gas-rich nation of Qatar out of his coalition, which doesn’t seem fair, since Qatar was a loyal ally of the United States and NATO just three years ago, when Obama was busy trying to degrade and destroy another state, Libya, which also posed no threat to the U.S. The emir of Qatar worked his gaseous little butt off for Obama, sending money and guns and mercenaries to help the Libyan jihadists that the U.S. wanted to install as the new government.

Once regime change had been accomplished in Libya, Qatar helped the Americans send hundreds of Libyan jihadists to Syria, to put that regime out of business. But, Libya never did get a new state, to replace the one that was destroyed in 2011. Instead, the country is wracked by civil war, that is also a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and its friends and Qatar.

Wars Within Wars Within Regime Changes

It seems that Qatar backed the wrong side – the Muslim Brotherhood – after the regime change in Egypt in 2011. The Saudi Arabian royal family hates the Muslim Brotherhood, because the Brotherhood advocate elections, and kings don’t do elections. So, the Saudis bankrolled another regime change in Egypt, putting the military back in charge, and are now fighting a proxy war with Qatar in Libya. Which is why the Saudis blackballed Qatar from participating in Obama’s coalition of the willing against ISIS. (You do understand all this, right?)

Turkey, which is part of NATO, has been a wonderful father to ISIS, allowing the caliphate’s fighters free use of its long border with Syria and Iraq. In return, Turkey gets to buy the cheap oil from the fields that ISIS seized from Syria and Iraq, which makes the Turks somewhat reluctant to try to kill little baby ISIS.

It’s starting to look like Obama might have to take out the caliphate on his own, which is why the president’s top military advisor is talking about putting serious U.S. boots on the ground in Iraq, and maybe in Syria. Meanwhile, Obama is putting together a new army of rebels to continue the job of degrading and destroying the Syrian state – unless, of course, these new fighters just take the money and guns and join ISIS, too.

Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.

September 17, 2014 Posted by | Progressive Hypocrite | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Obama’s Ebola military operation raises concern in Africa

Press TV – September 17, 2014

The decision by US President Barack Obama to dispatch 3,000 troops to West Africa to fight the Ebola epidemic has sparked reactions in Liberia.

“We don’t need guns to protect us for now. What we need now is drugs. We need vaccine to curtail the spread of this virus. So it is unfortunate to hear that America is sending over 3,000 troops,” one Liberian citizen said.

“If it is an armed troop then I will start to question myself whether this virus can be fought by guns or so,” said another Liberian.

On Tuesday, Obama described the Ebola epidemic in West Africa as a threat to the entire world.

In an address from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention headquarters in Atlanta, Obama called the US effort to fight the virus being part of “the largest international response in the history of the CDC”

“This is an epidemic that is not just a threat to regional security. It’s a potential threat to global security, if these countries break down, if their economies break down, if people panic,” he said.

“That has profound effects on all of us, even if we are not directly contracting the disease,” he added. This outbreak is already “spiraling out of control.”

Earlier, the World Health Organization said the number of Ebola cases in West Africa could start doubling every three weeks and the crisis could end up costing nearly $1 billion to contain.

Ebola has claimed over 2,400 lives so far and nearly 5,000 people have been infected.

September 17, 2014 Posted by | Progressive Hypocrite | , | 2 Comments