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Are Covert Ops Compatible With Democracy?

By Bill Blunden | CounterPunch | October 14, 2014

It’s part of the public record that the NSA has engaged in an industry-wide campaign to weaken cryptographic protocols and insert back doors into hi-tech products sold by U.S. companies. We also know that NSA officials have privately congratulated each other in successfully undermining privacy and security across the Internet. Hence it’s only logical to assume that the NSA’s numerous subversion programs extend into foreign “commercial entities”. Thanks to documents recently disclosed by the Intercept we have unambiguous confirmation.

Hi-tech subversion underscores the fact that the whole tired debate regarding cryptographic keys held in escrow for so-called lawful interception (what the Washington Post called “secret golden keys”) only serves to distract the public from programs aimed at wielding covert back doors. In other words, by reviving the zombie idea of an explicit back door the editorial board at the Washington Post is conveniently ignoring all of the clandestine techniques that already exist to sidestep encryption. In a nutshell: zero-day bugs and malware often trump strong crypto.

On an aside it’s interesting to observe the citadel of free thinkers at the Electronic Frontier Foundation continue to promote cryptographic tools as a privacy tonic with a faith that’s almost religious while conspicuously neglecting other important aspects of operational security. The EFF cheerfully provides a litany of alleged success stories. Never mind all of the instances in which the users of said cryptographic tools were compromised, even users who specialized in computer security.

Infiltrating the Media

The NSA’s campaign to undermine software and hardware is mirrored by parallel efforts in other domains. Specifically, the Church Committee and Pike Committee investigations of the 1970s unearthed secret programs like Operation Mockingbird which were conducted to infiltrate the media and develop an apparatus, a Mighty Wurlitzer of sorts, that allowed government spies to quietly influence public perception. The findings of congressional investigators have been substantiated by writers like Deborah Davis and Carl Bernstein.

Though much of the documented evidence is decades old the CIA continues to maintain its long-standing relationship with the press. For example in March of 2010 WikiLeaks published a classified CIA analysis which described a propaganda recipe for the “targeted manipulation of public opinion” in Germany and France to bolster support for NATO military action in Afghanistan. Also, here in the United States New York Times editor Bill Keller admitted to delaying the story on Bush-era warrantless wiretapping in direct service to the powers that be.

So don’t think for a minute that the CIA didn’t have a hand in the media’s assault on journalist Gary Webb after Webb exposed the CIA’s connections to the international drug trade. Gary caught U.S. intelligence with its pants down and spymasters had their operatives in the press destroy him.

More recently, the former editor of Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung revealed that he worked for the CIA. In a televised interview Udo Ulfkotte described Germany as an American client state, noting the role of the CIA in the origins of German intelligence. He warned that powerful interests in the United States were pushing for war with Russia and that American spies have widespread links to foreign news outlets:

“Is this only the case with German journalists? No, I think it is especially the case with British journalists, because they have a much closer relationship. It is especially the case with Israeli journalists. Of course with French journalists. … It is the case for Australians, [with] journalists from New Zealand, from Taiwan, well, there is many countries, … like Jordan for example. …”

A Question for Ed Snowden

While media subversion enables political manipulation through indirect means, U.S. intelligence has been known to employ more direct means to impose its agenda in places like Angola, Chile, Guatemala, Iran, Nicaragua, and Ukraine. In fact, stepping back to view the big picture, one might be tempted to posit that U.S. intelligence has established clandestine footholds globally in any institution seen as vital to the interests of the corporate factions that drive the American Deep State.

All of this subversion raises a question: are covert programs compatible with democracy? Can the public allow secrecy, propaganda, and infiltration to blossom while simultaneously expecting to be immune from their effects? Former CIA officers who went public, intrepid whistleblowers like Philip Agee and John Stockwell, answered this question with a resounding “no.” As would millions of people in third-world countries who suffered through the bloody proxy battles of the Cold War. For instance, Philip Agee stated in his book CIA Diary:

“When the Watergate trials end and the whole episode begins to fade, there will be a movement for national renewal, for reform of electoral practices, and perhaps even for reform of the FBI and the CIA. But the return to our cozy self-righteous traditions should lure no one into believing that the problem has been removed. Reforms attack symptoms rather than the disease”

Hence it’s unsettling to hear Edward Snowden, despite his commendable admonishments for an open debate on mass surveillance, maintain the underlying legitimacy of government subterfuge:

“We can have secret programs. You know, the American people don’t have to know the name of every individual that’s under investigation. We don’t need to know the technical details of absolutely every program in the intelligence community. But we do have to know the bare and broad outlines of the powers our government is claiming … and how they affect us and how they affect our relationships overseas.”

You’re witnessing the power of framing the narrative. Society has been encouraged to discuss the legitimacy of what spies do and how they do it. But the problem with this well-intentioned dialogue is that “we the people” are led away from the more fundamental question of whether society needs spies and their covert ops to begin with.

Author’s Note: In the past I’ve posed a question to Glenn Greenwald and was met with silence. Exceptional behavior for someone who is famous for responding vocally. Now we’ll see how Mr. Snowden replies.

Bill Blunden is an independent investigator whose current areas of inquiry include information security, anti-forensics, and institutional analysis. He is the author of several books, including The Rootkit Arsenal , and Behold a Pale Farce: Cyberwar, Threat Inflation, and the Malware-Industrial Complex. Bill is the lead investigator at Below Gotham Labs.

October 14, 2014 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Corruption, Deception, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Syrian Kurds Refuse To Fight Assad Army: Kurdish Leader

RIA Novosti | October 13, 2014

ANKARA – Kurds are not going to fight alongside Turkey against Syrian President Bashar Assad in Syria, Syrian Kurds leader Salih Muslim said in an interview with the Hurriyet newspaper Monday.

“Do you want us to fight against them in Damascus and be a soldier there instead of you? We will not do that. We have stopped being soldiers for others, which Kurds have done throughout history,” he said as quoted by Hurriyet.

Salih Muslim also commented on the situation in the Syrian border town of Kobani, which has been under attack by Islamic State (IS) militants for weeks now. Kurds living in the city have repeatedly asked Turkey for help, however Ankara has refused to intervene in the conflict.

“They [Turkish authorities] do not need to give anything else but anti-tank weapons if they really want to help our people in the region,” he stated.

The Kurdish leader added that he will see a single-sided establishment of buffer zones in northern Syria proposed by Turkey as an occupation. However, he stated that if the zone is established in accordance with international agreements, then he would not raise any objections.

For the past several weeks, the IS militants have besieged Kobani, one of the largest towns in the Kurdish region of Syria bordering Turkey. More than 400 people have died in clashes between the IS and Kurdish fighters in Kobani, according to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Some 200,000 refugees have crossed into Turkey to flee the IS threat.

The Islamic State is a Sunni jihadist group that has been fighting the Syrian government since 2012. In June 2014, it launched an offensive in Iraq, seizing vast areas in both countries and announcing the establishment of an Islamic caliphate on the territories under its control.

October 14, 2014 Posted by | Illegal Occupation | , | Leave a comment

Mark Duggan Lawful Killing Appeal Rejected

Amina Taylor | Press TV | October 14, 2014

The family of Mark Duggan –the man whose death sparked the UK riots in 2011 – have lost their bid to have the inquest verdict that ruled his death ‘lawful’ overturned. Lawyers acting for the Duggan family had argued that the coroner had blundered in his summing up and lead the jury to conclude that Duggan was unarmed at the time but the police’s shooting of him was still lawful. Amina Taylor has more from London.

It was a killing that was the spark for one of the worst periods of civil unrest seen in the UK for a generation. The inquest into the death 29-year old of Mark Duggan at the hands of a Metropolitan Police marksman in August 2011, was ruled ‘lawful’.

The Duggan family disagreed but on Tuesday lost their appeal to have the inquest verdict set aside. The family was not in court to hear the decision of Lord Justice Levenson and two other high court judges.

In Tottenham where Mark Duggan used to live, among his friends, family and wider support network there will be an overwhelming sense of disappointment at the court’s decision because so many of those who protested against the way in which Mark was killed by Metropolitan polices marksman they’ve argued that for so long that his death was tantamount to ‘state-sanctioned murder’

Those involved in the Mark Duggan justice campaign say they believe the coroner and the jury were mislead and that police corruption may be involved.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission is continuing its investigation into the shooting.

October 14, 2014 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Subjugation - Torture, Video | , | 1 Comment

US sanctions against Russia is economic terrorism – Morales to RT

RT | October 14, 2014

US sanctions against Russia can be considered as economic terrorism, said acting Bolivian President Evo Morales in an interview to RT. He also revealed his secret job aspiration.

“This [US sanctions against Russia] is genuine economic terrorism. The country that thinks it can dominate the world is making a mistake,” says Morales.

“I think that US President Barack Obama doesn’t’ know what is going on in other countries and continents.”

According to Morales, a single country “cannot rule in this multipolar world,” as all the issues should be “settled in cooperation among the states; that’s what the UN is for.”

“Thus I condemn and reject these kind of actions [US sanctions against Russia],” said the president, adding that Bolivia shares “the struggle of the Russian people.”

“I express my solidarity with Russian people and their President [Vladimir Putin],” he added.

Morales recently coasted to victory in the country’s presidential elections. He won the third term, securing 60.5 percent of the vote according to a count released by local TV channel ATB.

“This win is a triumph for anti-imperialists and anti-colonialists,” Morales announced from the balcony of his palace to thousands of supporters. He dedicated his victory to Cuba’s ex-President Fidel Castro and the late Venezuelan president, Hugo Chavez.

Morales took office in 2006, and after the latest victory will remain the state leader until January 2020.

Under Morales’ term the number of Bolivians living in extreme poverty reduced and he delivered economic growth of more than 5 percent a year.

In an interview with RT, he noted that one of the main political purposes for Bolivia will be fighting poverty.

“I hope that nobody will have the childhood I had: without electricity, telecommunications, drinking water,” said Morales, adding that he often drank water from a pond when he was a child.

According to the Bolivian president, the country has achieved in just nine years what it hitherto couldn’t achieve in 180.

“I want to speak of my experience. How important it was to start from the bottom: poverty. That’s why I always say that my nation is my family. Homeland is my soul. Bolivia is my life.” … Full article

October 14, 2014 Posted by | Economics | , | Leave a comment

Cognitive Dissonance about the FBI and NSA at 60 Minutes

By Trevor Timm | Freedom of the Press Foundation | October 13, 2014

60 Minutes, which has been harshly criticized for running puff pieces for the NSA and FBI recently, is at it again. Last night, they ran two unrelated yet completely conflicting segments—one focusing on FBI Director Jim Comey, and the other on New York Times reporter James Risen—and the cognitive dissonance displayed in the back-to-back interviews was remarkable.

First up was 60 Minutes correspondent Scott Pelley’s interview with FBI Director Jim Comey. 60 Minutes aired the first part of the interview last week, which ran 14 minutes and did not contain a single adversarial question. This time, Scott Pelley asked him at least asked a couple softballs about civil liberties, although the primary one Comey just refused to answer.

The main focus of the piece, however, was Comey supposed commitment to “the rule of law.” “That’s a principle over which James Comey is willing to sacrifice his career,” Pelley explains to the audience. He then proceeded to re-tell the infamous “hospital bed” scene from 2004 during the Bush administration, where Comey, then deputy attorney general, threatened to resign unless Bush altered the original NSA warrantless surveillance program. Bush relented a bit and so Comey stayed on as deputy attorney general for more than a year afterwards.

Comey is portrayed as the hero, who stopped illegal surveillance from going forward. What Comey did was certainly admirable, but this episode happened in March 2004 and only pertained to a small portion of the NSA’s illegal activities. The NSA’s illegal warrantless wiretapping program (as the public knew it) was first exposed more than eighteen months later in December 2005.

60 Minutes explains this in the very next segment but couldn’t apparently put two and two together: Jim Comey was presumably also responsible for signing off on the illegal program the New York Times exposed after his hospital bed protest.

During the next segment segment, 60 Minutes interviewed James Risen about the Obama administration’s war on leaks and described the scoop he is most famous for: his Pulitzer Prize-winning story exposing that same warrantless wiretapping program.

Risen explains to 60 Minutes correspondent Lesley Stahl that the NSA was not only gathering metadata without a warrant on Americans in 2005, but the content of phone conversations as well. And as Stahl herself points out—and as former NSA chief Michael Hayden basically admits in the segment—this was in direct violation of the 1978 law the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which required court orders to conduct such spying.

Critically, Risen’s first story in December 2005 makes it clear the warrantless wiretapping of Americans was ongoing at the time. And we learned just last year as part of the Snowden revelations that Comey’s hospital protest was over Internet metadata, not illegal eavesdropping on phone calls.

So to sum up: the government was breaking the law in December 2005. This is the program that Comey had presumably signed off on after the much-talked-about incident and while he was still deputy attorney general. Yet Comey is still uncontroversially portrayed as a man dedicated to “the rule of law.”

This information was readily available to 60 Minutes, as it’s in the most well-known recounting of the hospital bed scene done by reporter Barton Gellman for the Washington Post and in his book The Angler in 2007. As Barton Gellman reported in 2007, Comey forced some changes with his potential resignation in 2004, but “much of the operation remained in place.”

“Imagine you’re doing ten things one day, and the next day you’re only doing eight of them,” an unnamed official told Gellman in The Angler. “That’s basically what happened here.”

October 14, 2014 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance, Timeless or most popular | , | Leave a comment

Inside El Salvador’s Military Blacklist

By EVELYN GALINDO-DOUCETTE | CounterPunch | October 14, 2014

The Yellow Book (Libro amarillo) is a 270 page document from 1987 that the National Security Archive in Washington DC made public on September 28th, 2014.  The Yellow Book includes 1,975 photographs that the Salvadoran Armed Forces and the State Department of Intelligence of El Salvador used to catalogue people as “terrorists” and “enemies” of the state.  The Yellow Book is the only military document that has been made public to this day.

At first glance the document seems to reiterate many of the cases that were made public through the work of the Truth Commission in El Salvador in the early 1990s.  However, upon closer inspection, important clues begin to emerge about the nature of military surveillance of Salvadoran citizens and how disappearances and deaths were covered up.  For example, in the document, names are encoded with letters and the codes matched with photographs that strip citizens of the very identities that stitched them into Salvadoran society.  In the first few pages the book lays out a system for referencing “terrorist delinquents” so that names would not be spoken by radio or telephone.  In effect, this code facilitated the process of making detainees disappear without a trace.  The pictures themselves provide further clues about state surveillance; some photographs look as though they were part of the state ID card photographs and yet other photographs show individuals in much more haggard condition.  Were these photographs taken during a given moment of detainment?  Yet other photographs look as though they were taken during moments shared between friends or families.  Were these photographs stolen from people’s homes during raids?  There are other photographs that seem to have been taken without the person knowing that they were being photographed.  These types of photographs suggest the work of a secret police that was trailing marked individuals.  Additionally, the fact that the book was a photo-album to be photocopied means that it was likely a work in progress.  As photographs were obtained they were added and information could shift and change without displacing the logic of the entire text.

The code also reveals the nature of state surveillance of Salvadoran citizens in the 1980s.  The document identifies Salvadorans as leaders of militant groups, militants, and union organizers and specifies which particular group or political party the person is associated with.  Salvadoran state authorities also recorded additional information about individuals such as pseudonyms and noted any trips abroad to Nicaragua, Cuba, Russia or China.  Dozens of individuals are marked as “collaborators,” which leads the viewer to wonder about the torture mechanisms that broke the will of militants.  The fact that there were so many collaborators muddies the public memory of a clearly divided left and right. What was the nature of the collaboration?  Does “collaboration” mean naming people during torture sessions or does it imply a much deeper involvement as in the Chilean cases of Luz Arce and Alejandra Merino?  Does the title of “collaborator” mean that the individual survived their involvement with the Salvadoran Armed Forces?  Other individuals are listed as “pardoned” and this category of individuals also leaves many questions.

On the cover page just above the title of the book, a penned note serves as a prologue: “That this may be used.  Make photocopies of the photographs and print them in bulletins, so that their enemies will be known.” This is part of a secondary “code” at work in the document in which some photographs are starred in pen and other names are crossed out.  The stars mark names that are well known today including El Salvador’s current President Salvador Sánchez Cerén.

Recently, organizations such as the Human Rights Institute of the Central American University (IDHUCA) and the Asociación Pro-Búsqueda presented a legal challenge to the Supreme Court to revisit the legality of the general amnesty passed in 1993.  The publication of the Yellow Book may become a cornerstone in the case against impunity in El Salvador.

Evelyn Galindo-Doucette is a Kohler Fellow at the University of Wisconsin.

October 14, 2014 Posted by | Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular | , | Leave a comment

The British Parliament Vote to Recognize Palestine

By JONATHAN WOODROW MARTIN | CounterPunch | October 14, 2014

Members of the British House of Commons voted last night to recognise Palestine as a state.  This non-binding resolution, tabled by Labour MP Grahame Morris, will not change this current government’s stance on the issue but has laid the groundwork for a change when this government is voted out of office.  Unfortunately an amendment was tabled alongside the original motion due to internal (and external) Labour Party friction and fear which urged the recognition of Palestine within a “negotiated two-state solution“.  This returned to the model of giving Israel an overwhelming position on whether Palestine is a state or not. Caroline Lucas, the Green Party MP, opposed the amendment stating;

I oppose an amendment that seeks to make British recognition of Palestine dependent on the conclusion of successful peace negotiations between the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority.

Neither Israel nor Palestine’s right to exist should be subject to veto or any kind of conditions and we must actively challenge any refusal by either side to deny the other’s right to exist.

Members of all sides of the house stood up and gave their views. Many remarked on the thousands of e-mails and letters they had received from their constituents urging them to vote to recognise Palestine.  Some of what the members said was either inaccurate or misleading but was at least based on a clear and passionate support of the Palestinian people.  For example there was much support for the strategy of Mahmoud Abbas and his presidency.  Despite the fact that many Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip see his role as a collaborator with the occupation, members of the house rose to argue that this vote would support the moderates in Palestine such as Abbas and his government.  They failed to acknowledge that this way of moderation had achieved nothing in the West Bank apart from a huge expansion of illegal settlements, thousands of arrests and hundreds of deaths. Not that Hamas has achieved much for the people it represents, yet each time Palestinians violently resist at least the international community wakes up during these periods and calls for a just solution.  When negotiations take place between the unequals, everyone seems to look the other way and pray that the Israeli leadership will show some magnanimity. Keep praying.

There was even the occasional Israel-firster, who stood and spoke to make the debate livelier. Robert Halfon, a Conservative MP, made the extraordinary decades-old and much widely ridiculed claim that there is already a Palestinian state, Jordan. Halfon went on to say that if a Palestinian state was recognised;

There would be three Palestinian states, one that already exists in Jordan and two statelets, run by Hamas and by Fatah.”

A member of his own party intervened with;

Surely the member is not suggesting that because hundreds of thousands of Palestinans fled and were forced across the border into Jordan that they should accept this as their state?

Halfton failed to respond to this remark. Indeed according to him Palestinians who stayed in the West Bank were happy under the rule of King Abdullah of Jordan up until the 1967 war;

Abdullah even called himself the King of Jordan and Palestine as his country controlled the West Bank.

Well that’s fine then, as long as the dictator was happy to accept his own legitimacy?! This is the same old rubbish that has been spouted for decades by both those in Israel and their supporters in an attempt to delegitimise the Palestinians as a people, as a people who belong to and have existed on the land of Palestine as a people for centuries.

For some this vote was all about being anti-Israel because literally none of the members who voted for the motion had anything better to do than stand with, for this briefest of moments and with conditions, the Palestinian people who have suffered for over half a century at the whim of successive Israeli governments. Whether this motion does anything to advance the cause of the Palestinian people in their search for justice or actually enforces the status quo is moot.  The vote passed and the recognition within the British body politic that the British people will no longer put up with British support and silence in the face of Israeli crimes against the Palestinians also passed.

Israelis should not despair but be optimistic about the continuing plummet of international citizenry and government support for their government’s policies against the Palestinians.  One day this growing pressure from outside may force those within Israel to re-evaluate what they are told by their government and military and lead to a demand for a real and just peace with the Palestinians.  When this day comes, the sky is the limit for both Palestinians and Israelis.

Jonathan Woodrow Martin, can be reached at jwoodrowm@gmail.com and runs a blog, The View From The Little Man

October 14, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , | 1 Comment

Israeli Professor Calls for Palestinian Genocide

By Richard Silverstein | Tikun Olam | October 14, 2014

There are all sorts of varieties of insane extremists among the settlers. By “insane” I don’t mean that they’re aberrations from the Israeli norm. Just that in polite western society (not Israel, of course) these people would be viewed as nutcases and ignored. Only in Israel (and perhaps this happens in other religious extremist societies as well) are such people turned into prophets, prime ministers, and even esteemed academics.

Such a one is Prof. Hillel Weiss, who teaches not Hebrew literature, mind you, a term he banned from his department–but rather the literature of the Jewish people.  You see Hebrew is the language and literature of the Jewish people. There is no other. Yiddish? Feh, jargon. Jewish literature in English? Derivative, degenerate and a mark of the bankruptcy of galut.

Professor Weiss teaches, where else, at Bar Ilan University. That’s also the home of such other wunder-mensches as Mordechai Kedar, who advocates raping Palestinian women as a deterrent to terrorism; and Gerald Steinberg, that convicted libelist who runs the fraudulent NGO known as NGO Monitor.

Here is what Weiss posted on his Facebook page:

Listen, Abu Mazen: you aren’t a people and therefore there can be no genocide [against Palestinians].  To exterminate you like a simple rabble is a mitzvah and it will be fulfilled finally despite the fact that the government of Israel still doesn’t accept its responsibility for raising mendacious international recognition of you [Palestine].  [This process] started with Begin ended with Gal-On.  It contributed to the deception of the entire world and [increased] the popularity of these monsters [Palestinians] who rose up due to our weakness and lack of faith.

The quicker you [Abu Mazen] can concede that you are not a people and that your place is nowhere within the borders of the land of Israel, the better off you will be… as long as you evacuate the country of your own volition.

Weiss concludes his scholarly lecture with a reference to Deuteronomy 32:21, 43, which originally was meant as a curse against the pagan peoples who surrounded the ancient Israelites. But in the context in which Weiss invokes the verse, it’s deeply Islamophobic, essentially calling Islam a pagan, “villanous” religion.  This is eliminationism of the purest sort:

They have roused Me to jealousy with a no-god; they have provoked Me with their vanities; and I will rouse them to jealousy with a no-people; I will provoke them with a villanous nation…

Nations, celebrate His people; for He avenges the blood of His servants, and returns vengeance upon His enemies, and atones for the land of His people.

Prof. Weiss is also one of those blessed Judeans who’s planning to revive the Sanhedrin, so we can return to stoning Sodomites and adulterers like in the old days. He can also count himself among the Chosen who hope to raze the Dome of the Rock and replace it with the Third Temple, “God willing.”

I swear if anyone tries to claim that this guy is a fruitcake who represents no more than a fringe of a fringe, I may be sick. You know that his views are embraced by almost the entire ruling coalition and that they’re being implemented by the government in every way it can. Hillel Weiss is the beating heart of both Israeli settlerism and Israel itself. What the good professor shouts from the mountain top and on Facebook is beating inside Bibi’s heart. They are one.

By the way, we should give credit where it’s due to Arab-American oil man, Jamal Daniel and the folks at Al Monitor, who see fit to publish the similarly inchoate messianic ramblings of Yuval Avivi, who regularly covers this garbage in its pages. That a publication funded by an Arab-American would present such inflammatory drivel is mystifying to me.

October 14, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , | 1 Comment

Western trade to Israel is on the rise, is BDS really working?

By Alastair Sloan | MEMO | October 13, 2014

There is good news and bad news of late for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. On the one hand, companies such as Veolia, willing partners in the occupation, are losing out on mega-contracts. Despite plans to withdraw from Israel, the French company just lost a $750 million contract to provide waste management services to Kuwait City. Pleasing for BDS was the explicit reference to Veolia’s association with Israel and a head nod to their campaigning efforts. It comes on top of nearly $24 billion in lost contracts, seemingly over support for Israel.

Likewise G4S are suffering setbacks. Earlier this year, Bill Gates announced a massive divestment, while a report over the summer (by the Financial Times) suggested they would soon end their activities in Israel. Campaigners are rightly cautious – the company have gone back on their word in the past.

Companies like G4S and Veolia are the traditional bogeymen of leftist, progressive, anti-war or anti-globalisation movements. They are big targets, household names, transnational corporations that everyone can relate to – and when I say everyone, I mean the general public, not activists.

I can go down to my local train station and see a G4S security van parked outside. I see a Veolia truck pass my house once a week to collect my rubbish. Companies like Hewlett Packard advertise on television.

With such high profile and controversial brands, in some ways – isn’t this the easier end of the campaign?

After all – how many households would sign a petition against Serco? Quite a few, most people have heard of them.

But what then? There are thousands of British companies trading with Israel. Their names, headquarters and management are constantly changing – the past 12 months alone saw 37 acquisitions, mergers and IPOs of those companies. There are hundreds of thousands more trading from other countries. A tiny proportion are household names.

Raising awareness of each of these companies requires disproportionate effort by a small number of time poor activists.

The BDS movement has put itself into a massive fight. And though there are some successes, figures released this week show that UK-Israel trade actually grew by 28 per cent year-on-year in the first half of 2014, now amounting to £2.5 billion. There may be successes here and there, but the machine of modern commerce is an extremely hard one to slow.

And despite the popular narrative of “well, it worked in South Africa”, the uncomfortable truth is that many economists and historians disagree.

“Perversely, South African businesses reaped at least $5 billion to $10 billion in windfalls as Western firms disinvested at fire sale prices between 1984 and 1989,” noted Thomas W. Hazlett, now at George Mason University. The political effect of the sanctions movement saw the white power elite retrench. Apartheid policies worsened – the police and military cracked down even harder.

In truth, the collapse of Soviet Communism, populist black movements in South Africa, white supremacists working with blacks rather than oppressing them, just to keep their families fed – led to the fall of apartheid. It’s nice to think the West played the lead role, but in truth, South Africa did a lot of it itself. Its role is, somewhat patronisingly, rarely acknowledged.

As the BDS movement has grown stronger – the domestic politics of Israel is tipping to the hard right. Attacks on Gaza are becoming more frequent. Knesset hard-liners have advocated genocide against Palestinian mothers, or published detailed plans on their Facebook pages about how the entire population of Gaza should be deported. Attacks on journalists, artists and pro-war activists by far right extremists are on the increase. The Israeli media propagates an us-and-them attitude to not only the Arab world, but also their detractors in the West. Are we already seeing what really happened in South Africa play out? Are the worst parts of Israeli society becoming stronger?

The campaign has some positives with regards solidarity, it contributes to educating the public – but ultimately, we don’t know whether it will make things worse and, as a pro-sanctions or boycott movement, it doesn’t yet have a successful precedent or contemporary model for success – just look at North Korea, Iran, Russia or indeed the porous Arab boycott against Israel.

But aside from the uncertain and potentially dangerous side-effects of BDS, we are ignoring the bigger problem. The crux of bringing the Israeli hawks to heel isn’t so much about corporate investments – it’s about political money, dripping from the campaign coffers of Western politicians bribed and briefed by Jerusalem cronies.

The funding is mysterious, ambiguous and seemingly unimpeachable, protected by anti-Semitism laws which forbid honest discussion of it, or by hasbara attack dogs who discredit any journalist or academic who speaks out.

But imagine the tabloid outcry if hundreds of millions in “Muslim” donations began pouring in to Western politics, Muslims with strong interests in the domestic or foreign policies of Pakistan, Saudi Arabia or Iran.

You don’t have to imagine – last month Qatar, the United Arab Emirates (and Norway) were caught funding influential foreign policy think tanks in Washington. And there was an outcry.

But many feel uncomfortable taking on the Israeli lobby – because it’s scary. It comes with great risk – people have lost their jobs, careers and reputations. Nobody likes to be labelled an anti-Semite, which is their preferred mode of attack.

Assuming for a moment that South African white supremacists had actually wanted to continue with apartheid, if they had had the financial resources and strategic nous to invest millions into Washington and Westminster, a boycott campaign would have stood almost no chance of success.

Campaigning against corporate involvement in morally dubious interests should not be stopped. I wouldn’t feel comfortable if Western corporations, pension funds, or governments invested in arms deals with dodgy regimes, or became complicit in mass human rights abuses, and nobody knew about it.

But we should recognise the limits of the BDS movement – both by recognising that the “low-hanging fruit” of corporate targets – international corporations who are already disliked by the public, may only be the warm-up, by better understanding what really happened in South Africa, and by asking – are we really attacking the root of the problem?

BDS, in some ways, detracts from directly dealing with the real problem: the foreign policy of the West has been seriously corrupted by Israeli influence, almost wherever you look.

Dismantling “the Israel lobby” is a tougher fight, but it’s a far more important one.

If we are over-awed by the challenge, or if indeed the BDS movement was itself a function of an inability to crack the lobby directly, there may still be cause for optimism. Removing big money from politics, in general, is an extremely populist movement.

There are very few Westerners who want the status quo to continue, for big corporations and foreign interests to hold such sway on our democracies – on any issue. You don’t have to be pro-Palestinian to recognise this.

A broader coalition of groups, from charities, to environmental campaigners, to trade unions, to newer organisations like Change.org and 38 Degrees could be the key. The influence of the Israel lobby isn’t a unique problem. Perhaps by looking to other marginalised groups who face similar challenges, the pro-Palestinian campaign can find yet more life.

October 14, 2014 Posted by | Economics, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Solidarity and Activism, Timeless or most popular | , , | 2 Comments

Zionist settlers torch mosque near Nablus

Ma’an – 14/10/2014

DataFiles-Cache-TempImgs-2014-2-images_News_2014_10_14_burnt_300_0NABLUS – Israeli settlers set fire to a mosque in the Nablus-area village of Aqraba overnight, locals said.

Ghassan Daghlas, a Palestinian official who monitors settlement activity, told Ma’an that a group of settlers broke the doors and windows of the Abu Baker al-Saddiq mosque and vandalized the interior with racist slogans.

The settlers then set fire to part of the mosque before being chased away by Palestinian villagers.

Locals managed to extinguish the fire and prevent it from burning down the whole mosque.

In Jan. 2014, settlers torched a mosque in Salfit and sprayed “Arabs out!” on the building.

Settlers in the occupied West Bank attack Palestinians and their property routinely yet rarely face prosecution by Israeli authorities.

October 14, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , | 1 Comment

Tear gas and stun grenades used against schoolchildren

20141013_124922_3-400x300International Solidarity Movement | October 13, 2014

Hebron, Occupied Palestine – Today at the Salaymeh checkpoint in al-Khalil (Hebron), Israeli soldiers fired four long-range tear gas canisters, and threw three stun grenades, all towards children leaving school to walk home.

One tear gas grenade was also thrown directly at ISM activists documenting the military violence.

Israeli soldiers were positioned very close to the school, due to the new position of the concrete blocks that designate the end of H2 (the area of Hebron under full Israeli military control).

Yesterday they were moved further away from Salaymeh checkpoint to further encroach upon Palestinian territory.

Two Israeli soldiers also occupied the top floor of a Palestinian apartment block and positioned themselves above the schoolchildren.

October 14, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , | Leave a comment