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Oswald and Atta: Erratic, Protected, and Seeking Attention

By Kevin Ryan | Dig Within | December 21, 2014

Graeme MacQueen’s new book, The 2001 Anthrax Deception, reveals stunning links between the 9/11 attacks and the anthrax attacks that immediately followed. The book also reviews some of the interesting actions taken by alleged hijacker leader, Mohamed Atta, in the years preceding 9/11. These actions suggest that Atta was trying to leave the people he encountered with memories that would support the official myth. In the few years before JFK’s assassination, Lee Harvey Oswald engaged in similar attention-seeking actions. Considering this leads to the discovery that Oswald and Atta had a lot in common.

The legend of Mohamed Atta describes a man who seemed to be everywhere at once. In just the two years before 9/11, Atta reportedly lived and/or plotted in Germany, The Netherlands, The Philippines, Czechoslovakia, Afghanistan (via Turkey and Pakistan), Oklahoma, Las Vegas, Spain, and numerous locations in Florida. Oswald also traveled extensively in the years before the JFK assassination—back and forth from California to Japan, to New Orleans, Dallas, and Fort Worth, to Mexico City, and to Minsk and Moscow.

Atta was involved in many notable events in a short period before 9/11. Among other things, he annoyed airport employees, was bitten by a dog, consumed alcohol and cocaine, lived with an exotic dancer, and killed a cat and her litter of kittens. He got pulled over for driving without a license, got drunk and swore at a waiter, and abandoned a plane on the runway. In some of these cases Atta interacted with police and the risk for police interactions was there in almost every case.

Some of Atta’s reported actions suggest that he was trying to leave clues. One such incident, occurring around April of 2000, involved his attempt to seek a U.S. government loan to help him purchase and modify a crop dusting plane for large-scale chemical use. In his one-hour encounter with Johnell Bryant, a federal employee from whom he was seeking the loan, Atta talked about security at the World Trade Center and buildings in Washington. He went on to talk about his connection to Al Qaeda and his admiration for Osama bin Laden. The most vivid memory Bryant had of Atta was his extremely dilated pupils—a symptom of drug abuse.

In his interaction with Bryant, Atta made a big deal about a picture of Washington D.C. in her office. Bryant said that Atta acted like he wanted that picture very badly. Johnell said that Atta’s “emotions kept going up and down, up and down” and he became agitated when she would not sell him the picture or give him the $650,000 loan to buy the plane and equip it with the large chemical tank. To emphasize his displeasure and heighten the experience, Atta suggested that he might cut her throat. Those are certainly not the actions of someone trying to keep a highly secret terrorist plot from being discovered.

Atta’s antics continued until the day before 9/11, when he made an inexplicable last-minute trip to Portland, Maine, leaving with only 75 minutes to catch the flight that he allegedly had carefully planned to hijack in Boston. He conveniently left the most incriminating evidence possible in his luggage.

Like Atta, Lee Harvey Oswald was busy making himself visible before he allegedly assassinated the President of the United States. His activities in that regard are described well in James Douglass’ book, JFK and the Unspeakable. In fact, reports about Oswald suggest that, like Atta, he was too busy to have been only one person. Whoever it was, the person posing as Oswald made a number of attempts to draw attention his way.

Oswald’s strange behavior in the summer of 1963 provided evidence that he was trying to be noticed. In New Orleans, he engaged in pro-Castro activities by pretending to be the head of the local chapter of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee—but he was its only member. This appears to have been a superficial attempt to support what would become the official line that communists were behind the JFK assassination.

Oswald went to Mexico City in the fall of 1963. During this visit he allegedly made phone calls and visits to both the Cuban and Soviet embassies. He is also reported to have written a letter to a known KGB agent who specialized in assassinations. The CIA monitored such communications closely and it is interesting to consider that 9/11 investigation leader Porter Goss was a CIA operative in Mexico City that same year. In any case, whether true or not, Oswald’s reported actions there indicate that he was working to provide a more recent history for himself as a communist operative or supporter.

Another such incident occurred in the last week of September 1963, when strangers visited Silvia Odio, a 26-year-old Cuban immigrant, in her Dallas apartment. They told Silvia that they were members of an anti-Castro group that her parents were involved in. Sylvia was suspicious, but the visitors said they had come to introduce her to an American named Leon Oswald, who accompanied them. A couple of days later, Sylvia got a phone call from one of them who asked, “What do you think of the American? He’s great but kinda nuts. He told us we don’t have any guts, you Cubans, because President Kennedy should have been assassinated right after the Bay of Pigs.”

Sylvia was disturbed by the visit and the call, and she wrote to her father in prison who wrote back that he knew none of the visitors. When Sylvia heard of President Kennedy’s assassination on the radio—before any mention of Oswald had been made—she was convinced that “Leon Oswald” did it and she reported it to authorities. The FBI interviewed Sylvia in December 1963. Although her testimony was not included in the Warren Report, the incident was clearly meant to connect Oswald to the assassination plot.

Apart from their world travels and attempts to be noticed, Atta and Oswald had other important things in common. For one, both of them appeared to be above the law. That is, they both committed crimes and yet they were not held accountable.

There are reasons to believe that Oswald might have been subjected to CIA mind-control experiments using LSD in the late 1950s. In any case, in 1959 he defected to the Soviet Union. At the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, he reportedly told officials that he planned to give radar secrets to the Soviets. That, of course, would have been treason. Oswald lived in the Soviet Union for three years and married a young Russian woman. In June 1962, he was not only allowed to return to the United States, the U.S. government loaned him money to return, never prosecuted him, and claimed to have never even debriefed him.

Although Mohamed Atta ‘s pre-9/11 crimes were not so dramatic, he enjoyed the same unbelievable luck with regard to lack of prosecution or interrogation. In 1995, Atta was investigated by German authorities for drug-related offenses yet was never charged. There is evidence that Atta continued to use drugs, as was suspected of Oswald. Atta’s stripper girlfriend, Amanda Keller, said that he “had massive supplies of cocaine” which he restocked whenever needed at one of the flight schools he frequented in Florida.  Keller said that during the time she dated him, she saw Atta do cocaine on multiple occasions.

Atta should have also been wanted for abandoning a stalled aircraft on a busy runway at Miami International Airport, in December 2000. Although the Federal Aviation Administration threatened to investigate the matter and hold him accountable, the whole thing was mysteriously dropped.

Three months before 9/11, a warrant was issued for Atta’s arrest in Florida. Having been stopped earlier by Florida police and cited for not having a driver’s license, the warrant was issued because Atta failed to show up at court for the hearing. Yet not only was he not arrested, Atta spent the next few months flying all over the U.S. using his real name without being stopped or questioned. He was pulled over again in July—this time for speeding—in Delray Beach, Florida. Instead of being arrested on the outstanding warrant (supposedly still not entered in the computer system more than a month later,) Atta was simply given a warning.

If the Delray Beach police had checked his immigration status, they would have found that Atta’s visa had expired—another crime. A month after that, Atta’s rental car was queried by police in Broward County, Florida. The existing arrest warrant still did not generate interest, despite the fact that Atta had rented the car in his own name. When Atta bought his flight ticket for 9/11, the outstanding arrest warrant was still in effect and his visa had been expired for over two months. It turned out that violating visa regulations was common for many of the alleged hijackers, yet it never caused them problems.

People have often wondered if Oswald was a CIA employee. Whether or not that was true, or can be proven, several of Oswald’s associates were CIA employees. For example, Oswald’s “best friend” in Dallas, George DeMohrenschild, admitted that he was connected to the Dallas office of the CIA. Another close friend of Oswald and his wife was Ruth Paine, in whose house much of the incriminating evidence was found. Paine’s sister worked for the CIA and Oswald’s wife later said that Paine was sympathizing (or associated) with the CIA.

Similarly, Mohamed Atta had associations with people linked to the CIA. For example, Luai Sakra, an informant for the CIA, was reportedly in contact with Atta before 9/11. Sakra’s lawyer later said that his client admitted to helping the alleged hijackers. Moreover, it is known that the CIA made efforts to recruit another of Atta’s friends. This was Mamoun Darkazanli, who along with Atta was a member of the Hamburg Al-Qaeda cell.

By early 2000, Atta was under CIA surveillance. At the time, he began contacting flight schools in the United States. This included communicating with and visiting airports in Oklahoma. Those activities led Atta to the same locations as persons of 9/11 interest such as University of Oklahoma president David Boren and Stratesec CEO Wirt D. Walker, whose company provided security for facilities related to 9/11.

The man who trained Zacarias Moussaoui, the sole person convicted of crimes related to 9/11, now occupies the same airport hangar as Walker’s companies did in the years before and after 9/11. Coincidentally, while Atta and Marwan Alshehhi were learning to fly at Huffmann Aviation in Venice, Florida, “A CIA front company called Air Caribe was also operating out of the very same hangar at Venice airport.” The southwest Florida area near Venice, where Atta and the alleged hijackers spent so much time, was home to a long history of CIA and drug trafficking operations.

Lee Harvey Oswald and Mohamed Atta had much in common. They both traveled extensively in the time leading up to their respective crimes and both sought attention in ways that would implicate them in those crimes. They were both suspected of using illicit drugs. They both seemed to be protected by authorities when they might have been prosecuted before accomplishing their tasks, and they were both associated with CIA-linked entities. Officially the biggest difference between them is that one was part of a conspiracy and one was not, but the evidence indicates that they were both operating within wider deceptions controlled by powerful people.

December 22, 2014 Posted by | Deception, False Flag Terrorism, Timeless or most popular | , , | 1 Comment

Sisi seeks closer economic ties with China

Mada Masr | December 21, 2014

Economic ties appear to be at the top of the agenda, as Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi prepares for a state visit to China this week.

At a December 18 press briefing for Chinese official media, Sisi announced, “we are looking forward to developing our strategic relations with our friends in China,” reported Xinhua news agency.

“Cooperation between Egypt and China is not new, and the purpose of the visit is to confirm and develop this cooperation and discuss Chinese investment chances in Egypt,” the president reportedly added.

During the visit, which is scheduled to run from December 22 to 25, officials expect to sign 25 bilateral agreements, mostly concerning economic and investment plans, according to Egypt’s State Information Service.

The president’s visit is preceded by a delegation including the ministers of trade and industry, transport and international cooperation. The delegation set off for Beijing on December 19, and is scheduled to meet with Chinese companies interested in investing in Egypt. They are also set to discuss ways of boosting trade, investment and cooperation in industry and transport.

Trade between Egypt and China was worth around US$10 billion in 2013, a figure officials expect to exceed $11 billion in 2014. However, the balance of trade is overwhelmingly in favor of China. Egypt’s exports to China have historically made up around 10 percent of the total trade volume.

China’s investments in Egypt amount to $8.4 billion, according to The China Global Investment Tracker, a project of the US based Heritage Foundation. These investments include the North West Suez Special Economic Zone, a joint Egyptian-Chinese venture near Ain Sokhna. The project is part of a 2006 plan by China to internationalize its economy by developing 50 such zones in strategic locations around the world.

Sisi is hoping to increase investment and boost exports to China during his visit, which comes ahead of a March summit for international investors in Egypt. As a sign of the state’s hopes for Chinese involvement in the summit, one potential date was nixed due to a conflict with the Chinese New Year holiday.

During his meeting with the Chinese press, Sisi mentioned the Suez Canal Development Project as a potential area for Chinese investment, as well as plans to redevelop Egypt’s road network.

Sisi’s predecessor, Mohamed Morsi, made a similar state visit to China in 2012. For his first state visit outside of the MENA region, Morsi traveled to Beijing, along with a delegation of seven ministers and 80 businessmen. Whilst he was there, China agreed to grant Egypt US$69 million in development assistance, and to facilitate access to a multi-billion dollar credit line for development projects in Africa. Private companies claimed to have secured billions of dollars worth of deals.

At the time, Morsi’s decision to visit China was viewed as an assertion of independence from the United States and other Western powers.

Despite its hostility to the regime it ousted from power, the Sisi administration appears to be continuing this policy, courting aid from foreign powers like Russia and China, as well as from the United States and its allies in the Arab Gulf.

Sisi has praised China, in particular, for separating economic aid from political issues. “China has balanced policies and does not interfere in other countries’ domestic affairs, which is one of the reasons for China’s success,” Xinhua quotes Sisi as saying.

By contrast, Western powers like the United States and the European Union are more likely to tie aid money to human rights and other political concerns. The United States has suspended hundreds of millions of dollars in aid until Egypt can meet democracy and human rights benchmarks, although earlier this month it allowed an exemption in the case of national security interests.

December 22, 2014 Posted by | Economics | , | Leave a comment

Neoliberal Reforms Passed in Ukraine

teleSUR | December 22, 2014

Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk justified his country’s recently passed neoliberal reforms Monday, referring to them as essential for Ukraine’s incorporation into the European Union.

In an interview with German media outlet Der Spiegel, Yatsenyuk assured that the measures taken represent “the greatest triumph in this process as Ukrainian youth want to go to Europe.”

Regarding international support, the Ukrainian official indicated that assistance from the United States and the EU has been invaluable since the coup on Feb. 22 that ousted former President Viktor Yanukovich.

“The West does what it can in this situation, because the operational space is limited in relation to Putin,” said Yatseniuk.

The reforms include cost increases in public services, the dismissal of additional public officials, the elimination of free medicine, and the sale of certain state enterprises.

Minister of Economic Development Aivaras Abramovicius said that Ukraine “is bankrupt.”

Ukrainian official statistics show an increase of 20 percent in prices since 2014, while industrial production has decreased by nine percentage points, reports Slavic media outlet Segodnia.

Another economic indicator that is rapidly growing is Ukraine’s external debt, which is expected to rise this year above 41 percent, according to the International Monetary Fund. The debt currently stands at $US42 billion. Foreign investment has also decreased from 15.7 percent to 8.2 percent.

Last week, the United States signed new sanctions against Russia under the Ukraine Freedom Support Act of 2014. The latest sanctions target Russia’s defense industry and allows the United States to provide military aid to Ukraine.

December 22, 2014 Posted by | Economics | , , | 1 Comment

Climate Policy Risk: Who’s In Denial?

By Marlo Lewis | Cooler Heads | December 19, 2014

Earlier this week, economist Roger Bezdek gave a presentation at the Ronald Reagan Building titled “Carbon Dioxide: Social Cost or Social Benefit?” Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank covered the event and published a short review titled “The new climate denialism: More carbon dioxide is a good thing.”

Granted, it’s hard to develop an argument about a complex, technical subject in a 760-word column, but Milbank doesn’t even try. He takes cheap shots and spouts off without knowing whereof he speaks.

Milbank starts with a snarky putdown, asserting that “though Bezdek is an economist, not a scientist, he played one on Monday.” How so? Some of Bezdek’s slides show the fertilization effects of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions on crop yields and plant growth. For example:

big marlo

That is not playing scientist, it is citing scientific research.

Another slide shows that, over the past 250 years, CO2 emissions closely correlate with population growth, life expectancy, and per capita GDP.

big marlo 2

Milbank retorts that “correlation is not the same as causation.” Deep! But does he really think unprecedented improvements in the human condition — a greater than doubling of average human life expectancy, an eight-fold increase in the sheer abundance of human life, and an eleven-fold increase in global per capita GDP — would have occurred without fossil fuels?

Milbank repeatedly misfires, as the excerpts below (indented in blue) and my comments (standard width in black) show.

For years, the fossil-fuel industries have been telling us that global warming is a hoax based on junk science.

Name a single CEO of any major energy company or trade association who says that! If there are any, they are outliers. Skeptics argue that predictions of catastrophic global warming are based on speculative interpretations of selective evidence and models projections that increasingly diverge from observations. That’s a different thesis — and much harder to refute. Milbank inveighs against a straw man.

But now these industries are floating an intriguing new argument: They’re admitting that human use of coal, oil and gas is causing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to rise — but they’re saying this is a good thing.

New argument? The Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change has emphasized the ecological and health benefits of atmospheric CO2 enrichment since its inception in 1998. Founder Sherwood Idso’s first peer-reviewed paper on the subject was published in 1991.

I pointed out to Bezdek that increasing energy use fueled the economic growth, and CO2 was just a byproduct. So wouldn’t it make more sense to use cleaner energy?

CO2 does not dirty the air, so reducing/capturing CO2 emissions does not make energy cleaner. CO2 is not “just” a byproduct; it is the inescapable byproduct. Thus, UN emission reduction targets endanger both existing economic, health, and welfare benefits and progress towards a wealthier, healthier world.

He [Bezdek] went on to point out that “35,000 people every year in the United States die in automobile accidents, but the solution is not to ban automobiles. You try to make them safer.” And the solution to climate change is not to ban energy but to make it cleaner.

Making energy “cleaner” in the present context means banning (rapidly phasing out) the carbon-based fuels that currently supply 82% of U.S. and world energy consumption, and are projected — absent additional market-rigging interventions — to supply 80% of U.S. energy in 2040.

The presentation began as a standard recitation of the climate-change denial position, that “there’s been no global warming for almost two decades” and that forecasts are “based on flawed science.”

Milbank provides no evidence that the “standard recitation” is incorrect – very likely because he can’t.

Christy Models vs Observations 1979 - 2014 highlighting U.S. Model Average

So instead, he resorts to name calling and labels Bezdek a ‘denialist.’

Enough back and forth. What matters is the big picture. Some 1.3 billion people in developing countries have no access to electricity and 2.3 billion people face chronic electricity shortages.


Source: International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis

Even in Europe and the United States, millions of low-income households struggle with high energy costs. Many must choose between heating and eating.


Source: EU Fuel Poverty Network

Bedzek Potential Health Impacts of High Energy Prices

Source: Bezdek (2014)

Forcing an energy-starved planet to abandon fossil fuels before cheaper substitutes are available is bound to have profound social costs. That is Bezdek’s thesis, and it is spot on. Milbank is in denial.

December 22, 2014 Posted by | Deception, Economics, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Malthusian Ideology, Phony Scarcity, Science and Pseudo-Science | | Leave a comment

Who Was Alan Gross Working For?

By CARMELO RUIZ-MARRERO | CounterPunch | December 22, 2014

Alan P. Gross, an American arrested in Cuba in 2009 for smuggling broadband satellite communications equipment, made world headlines on December 2014 when he was released the same day that US president Obama ordered the release of three Cubans who were in American prisons serving sentences for espionage. Press reports mentioned that Gross was in the Caribbean island in his capacity as a subcontractor for USAID, a US government agency that administers aid programs abroad. Throughout its history this agency has been accused of being an arm of US foreign policy and at worst a mere front for intelligence operations rather than the neutral and apolitical provider of aid to poor countries that it pretends to be. In 2014 USAID was caught red-handed in bizarre schemes to destabilize Cuba through Twitter and by funding hip hop artists.

A lesser known fact is that Gross was in Cuba working for a USAID contractor called Development Alternatives Inc. (DAI), a company that supervises and executes economic development projects all over the world. In 2010 it was USAID’s fifth biggest contractor, raking in almost $382.5 million in contracts just in that year.

DAI has also worked for the US State Department, the Pentagon, the World Bank, the United Nations, the European Commission, and private sector giants like Monsanto, Wal-Mart, Hewlett Packard, Sun Microsystems, Exxon Mobil, Daimler Chrysler, Unilever and The Gap.

“We tackle fundamental social and economic development problems caused by inefficient markets, ineffective governance, and instability”, says DAI about its work. “Since 1970, we have worked in more than 150 countries—delivering results across the spectrum of international development contexts, from stable societies and high-growth economies to challenging environments racked by political or military conflict.”

The company’s services include: corporate social responsibility, public-private partnerships, business strategy, exploration and analysis of market opportunities, integration of small businesses and small farmers into global value chains, food security and agribusiness promotion, financial services, drafting laws to make competitive economies, innovation and entrepreneurship, gender issues, climate change adaptation, carbon markets, water resources management, market environmentalism, legislative reform, citizen participation, public safety, health care, information and communications technology, and more. In short, if you want to set up a country from scratch, just call DAI.

According to Sourcewatch, a sort of Wikipedia of the left:

“DAI acted as a conduit for USAID (through the Office of Transition Initiatives) and National Endowment for Democracy (NED) funds to the Venezuelan opposition to president Hugo Chavez. Furthermore, it was instrumental along with NED affiliated organizations for financing black propaganda on Venezuelan private network TV during the general strike in 2002. Documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request show that DAI was required to keep certain personnel in Venezuela and had to consult with USAID about staff changes. Philip Agee, a former CIA officer, suggests that this is merely a cover for what passed for CIA operations in the past.”

The company’s own web site informs that it has played an important role in the United States’ geopolitical and military strategy in the Middle East:

“Following the 9/11 attacks of 2001 and the subsequent U.S. military actions, DAI was called on to lead a variety of challenging development projects in the midst of the counterinsurgency in Afghanistan, a country where we worked as early as 1977. Similarly, after the United States toppled the Iraqi regime in 2003, DAI won a project to help provide legitimate governance in the country. Other assignments in Iraq covered agriculture.”

It is most interesting that DAI would be in Afghanistan in 1977, way before the Soviet invasion, just when the CIA was arming and training an Islamic fundamentalist insurgent force to destabilize the country.

According to a 2011 article in The Guardian by Jonathan Steele:

“Western backing for these (Afghan) rebels had begun before Soviet troops arrived. It served western propaganda to say the Russians had no justification for entering Afghanistan in what the west called an aggressive land grab. In fact, US officials saw an advantage in the mujahedin rebellion which grew after a pro-Moscow government toppled (Prime Minister) Daoud in April 1978. In his memoirs, Robert Gates, then a CIA official and later defence secretary under Presidents Bush and Obama, recounts a staff meeting in March 1979 where CIA officials asked whether they should keep the mujahedin going, thereby “sucking the Soviets into a Vietnamese quagmire”. The meeting agreed to fund them to buy weapons.”

Needless to say, this type of work can be pretty hazardous. In December 2009 five DAI employees were killed by an explosion in the USAID headquarters in Gardez, Afghanistan. From that facility DAI was running a Local Governance and Community Development project. According to DAI:

“Our mission on behalf of (USAID) was crucial: encourage communities in the most volatile parts of the country to turn away from the insurgency and toward the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. We set out to do this in large part by facilitating 2,635 community projects that addressed local grievances, fostered stability, facilitated dialogue, and engendered trust in district and provincial leaders.”

The most notorious death of a DAI employee in a war zone was that of Linda Norgrove, who was abducted by the Taliban in eastern Afghanistan on September 2010. The US sent a Navy elite force to rescue her but the Rambo-style operation did not go well. Norgrove was killed, not by her captors but by a grenade thrown by one of her would-be rescuers, according to an official joint US-UK investigation of her death.

According to DAI CEO Jim Boomgard, Gross was in Cuba running a US government program called “Cuba Democracy and Contingency Planning Program”. In an August 2008 meeting, officials from this program told DAI representatives that “USAID is not telling Cubans how or why they need a democratic transition, but rather, the Agency wants to provide the technology and means for communicating the spark which could benefit the population.” The program, the officials said, intended to “provide a base from which Cubans can ‘develop alternative visions of the future.’”

In 2012 Gross and his wife sued USAID and DAI for allegedly not informing him adequately of the risk that his mission entailed – the case was settled out of court in 2013. If what Gross claimed in his lawsuit is true, then the man was an unwitting dupe in a US intelligence operation. It remains to be seen how many American aid workers who sincerely believed they were engaging in harmless, uncontroversial activity helping people abroad were actually being used by the CIA or other agencies as pawns in high risk games of political chess.

Carmello Ruiz-Marrero is a Puerto Rican journalist. Web site: Twitter: @carmeloruiz

December 22, 2014 Posted by | Corruption, Deception | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

America’s Cuba

US Hostility Toward the Island was Never Really About the Cold War

By Chris Lewis | CounterPunch | December 22, 2014

President Barack Obama announced on December 17th that the United States would begin normalizing relations with Cuba. Both governments agreed to a prisoner swap: Cuba released imprisoned USAID contractor Alan Gross and a US intelligence operative, while the United States released three Cuban intelligence agents arrested in the 1990s while spying on militant Cuban exile groups. The countries will begin talks with the goal of opening embassies, Obama will ease travel and financial restrictions for American citizens, and Cuba will release a group of detainees that the US has designated political prisoners. The US trade embargo remains in place, and requires Congressional action to repeal.

“U.S. to Restore Full Relations With Cuba, Erasing a Last Trace of Cold War Hostility,” the New York Times proclaimed. The notion that the US embargo is a Cold War relic that has outlived its usefulness has long been a common assertion among American critics of Cuba policy. Democratic Senators, the editor of The Nation, progressive NGOs, and even Forbes columnists and the Cato Institute have framed the conflict in these terms.

US-Cuban relations have undoubtedly been shaped by the Cold War, but the narrative of Cold War conflict between the two countries is a historically dubious rendering, obfuscating a long record of US intervention in Cuba and the rest of Latin America.

The United States immediately recognized Fidel Castro’s revolutionary government when it took power in January 1959. We all know that the amity didn’t last long, but US telling often misconstrues how the United States and Cuba became enemies.

In May 1959, Castro unveiled the revolution’s land reform program, which called for breaking up holdings larger than 1,000 acres and distributing them to small farmers. It also specified that only Cubans would be allowed to own land, and promised compensation for confiscated territory.

In an era of worldwide land reform this was hardly radical, but US officials perceived the move as a threat to the vast property owned by American companies in Cuba. According to historian Richard Gott, a June 1959 meeting of the National Security Council concluded that Castro couldn’t be allowed to stay in power. By October, the CIA had drafted a program that “authorized us to support elements in Cuba opposed to the Castro government, while making Castro’s downfall seem to be the result of his own mistakes.” The Eisenhower administration began plotting with Cuban exiles in Florida.

Cuba had no diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union at this point, and wouldn’t until May 1960. In July 1960, hoping to deal an economic blow to the Cuban Revolution, Eisenhower declined to purchase 700,000 tons of Cuban sugar. The Soviet Union offered to buy it. In August, Cuba nationalized all American property on the island; the US embargo began in November.

US-Cuban relations declined further, to put it mildly, when US-trained Cuban exiles invaded the Bay of Pigs in 1961. In 1962, Castro asked the USSR for support that would guarantee that any US attack “would mean a war not only with Cuba.” According to Gott’s telling, he envisioned a military defense pact; the Soviets suggested nuclear missiles. The decision was made that summer, and the world narrowly avoided nuclear war in October.

In the United States, events like the Bay of Pigs invasion are typically portrayed as reactions to Cuban instigation, but the chronology belies this framing. In fact, the causality runs in almost exactly the opposite direction: US hostility wasn’t a response to Cuba’s Communist ties; Cuba’s Communist ties were a response to US hostility.

That hostility didn’t start in 1959, either. In his book “Cuba in the American Imagination,” historian Louis A. Pérez Jr. argues that from the early years of US history, American leaders saw themselves as the rightful stewards of Cuban territory, and their understandings of Cuba formed an ethos that has shaped policy toward the island ever since. Pérez quotes US Secretary of State John Quincy Adams, who in 1823 called Cuba a “natural appendage” of the United States. Adams went on to claim:

There are laws of political as well as of physical gravitation; and if an apple, severed by the tempest from its native tree, cannot choose but fall to the ground, Cuba, forcibly disjoined from its own unnatural connexion with Spain, and incapable of self-support, can gravitate only towards the North American Union, which, by the same law of nature, cannot cast her off from its bosom.

The US saw its chance to bring that apple to its bosom during the war for Cuban independence in 1898, when Cuban rebels were beginning to gain the upper hand against Spanish troops. The United States declared war on Spain and quickly crushed the fading colonial power. The emerging superpower then claimed Cuba for itself, forcing the infamous Platt Amendment into Cuba’s new constitution. The law gave the US the right to intervene militarily in Cuban affairs, control the nation’s finances, and approve or veto its treaties with other countries.

In 1906, the Chicago Tribune wrote, “The possession of Cuba has been the dream of American statesmen ever since our government was organized. […] We have as righteous a claim to it as the people who are now occupying it.” Leonard Wood, the general who governed the island under US occupation, said that the United States “must always control the destinies of Cuba.”

And for a while, it did. By 1923, American troops had been dispatched on three separate occasions to quell rebellions. Havana became a haven for American mob bosses and a Vegas-like den of sin for American tourists. A former ambassador to Cuba told Congress in 1960 that “The United States, until the advent of Castro, was so overwhelmingly influential in Cuba that … the American Ambassador was the second most important man in Cuba; sometimes even more important than the President.”

Castro and his revolutionaries considered themselves responsible for ending the humiliation of such a hollow independence. The land reform that so riled the United States seemed a fitting way to start making Cuban sovereignty real. According to Pérez, as Castro began to introduce other redistributive policies, American officials were mystified, incapable of understanding the Cuban leader’s public grievances about US neocolonialism. How could they have understood? Pérez writes:

Americans rarely engaged the Cuban reality on its own terms or as a condition possessed of an internal logic, or Cubans as a people possessed of an interior history or as a nation possessed of an inner-directed destiny. It has always been thus between the United States and Cuba.

The “Cold War” rhetoric obscures this long history of domination and frustrated independence. (It also underhandedly implies that the pain inflicted upon the Cuban people—by US invasion, support for counterrevolutionary insurgents, and the continuing trade embargo—was permissible in a Cold War context.)

More importantly, the Cold War framing ignores the fact that we’ve never needed the Cold War to justify overthrowing governments, in Cuba or elsewhere. We’re doing fine without it: Our government has at least tacitly supported coups in Venezuela in 2002, Haiti in 2004, and Honduras in 2009.

It remains to be seen exactly how Obama’s announcement this week will impact the long fight between US and Cuba. Is Obama conceding defeat in the long effort to dismantle the Cuban Revolution though, or merely searching for more effective means? One Cuba expert on Democracy Now! on Thursday speculated whether the President is “buying into the idea if we flood more money into Cuba, maybe we’ll be able to subvert the fundamental values of the revolution.” US officials have also said that USAID “democracy promotion” efforts to undermine the Cuban government will continue. But even as the two nations remain rivals, Obama’s normalization of relations might finally be an acknowledgement of that “inner-directed destiny” that we have denied Cubans for so long.

Chris Lewis is a freelance journalist based in Michigan. He studied at the University of Havana as an exchange student.

December 22, 2014 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Persistent U.S. Opposition To Self-Determination

By Matt Peppe | Just the Facts | December 21, 2014

There is no principle in international law more fundamental than the right of all peoples to self-determination. This is universally accepted by the entire world, yet nearly 70 years after the signing of the UN Charter, the United States continues to fight tooth and nail against this most basic human right.

On December 18, the U.S. was one of only seven countries to vote against a UN General Assembly resolution that passed with 180 votes affirming the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination.

Earlier this year, the U.S. also found themselves on the wrong side of the international consensus when the UN Special Committee on Decolonization approved a statement to “reaffirm the inalienable right of the people of Puerto Rico to self-determination.”

Self-determination “denotes the legal right of people to decide their own destiny in the international order,” according to the Legal Information Institute.

This right was enshrined in international law with its inclusion in the UN Charter in 1945. Article 1 of the Charter states that one of the purposes of the United Nations is: “to develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples.”

In the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, this was made even more explicit: “All peoples have the right of self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.”

For people deprived of equal rights and political participation, self-determination could take many forms: independence, assimilation, sovereign association, or another form they choose for themselves. But no one has a right to self-determination at the expense of someone else.

“It is well known that any attempt to deny a human group its self-determination only intensifies its demand for sovereignty and enhances its collective identity,” writes Shlomo Sand in The Invention of the Jewish People. “This does not, of course, give a particular group that sees itself as a people the right to dispossess another group of its land in order to achieve its self-determination. But that is precisely what happened in Mandatory Palestine in the first half of the twentieth century.”

Some people justify Israel’s right to exist by claiming that Jewish people deserve self-determination just like all other peoples. But European Zionists seeking self-determination did not have a right to conquer the indigenous population of an already-populated land to establish a state which did not include Palestinians. In 1947, Jews represented no more than 33% of the population and owned no more than 10% of the land in Mandatory Palestine. There is no justification for ethnically cleansing people, stealing their land, and preventing the return of refugees for seven decades in order to manipulate the demographics of the state and engineer an artificial ruling majority.

The United States has never respected self-determination as a concept or a right. As independence movements from Asia to Africa to the Middle East fought wars of liberation following World War II, the United States fought on the side of colonial domination and subjugation.

Self-determination is not just a utopian ideal. It is a legal right. The contents of the UN Charter and the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights – as well as all treaties ratified by the U.S. government – are the “supreme law of the land,” per Article 6 of the U.S. Constitution. Therefore, prevention of self-determination is a legally enforceable human rights violation.

The “traditional American conception” of self-determination, writes Noam Chomsky in The Fateful Triangle: The United States, Israel, and the Palestinians, is that “we will determine, since we are plainly the authentic representatives of the Palestinians – as of the Filipinos, the Nicaraguans, the Greeks, the Vietnamese, the Chileans, the Salvadorans, and many others who have been privileged to enjoy our beneficient attentions.”

When France decided to abandon a failed war to maintain colonial rule over Vietnam, the United States stepped in and escalated the war, carrying out wholesale slaughter of people seeking their liberation. U.S. military forces killed between 2.5  and 5 million Vietnamese, most of them civilians, in an attempt to prevent them from choosing their socioeconomic system on their own.

When the Portuguese dictatorship fell in 1974, clearing the way for independence for former colonies like Angola, the United States encouraged South Africa to invade that country the next year to install a puppet government friendly to the apartheid regime. The racist South Africans would have succeeded if it weren’t for a massive military intervention by Cuba on behalf of the populist Angolan government that crushed the invading forces and sent them back to Pretoria with their tail between their legs.

In 1898, American ships landed at Guánica. One hundred sixteen years later, Puerto Rico is still a colonial possession of the United States. In 1946, Puerto Rico was placed on the United Nations List of Non-Self Governing-Territories. The United States was forced to report regularly on the island’s political status with the goal of decolonization. Not willing to give up ownership of their tropical cash cow, the U.S. backed a new Puerto Rican Constitution that disguised the colonial status of the island. It was given the euphemistic status of a “Commonwealth,” in which the U.S. maintained sovereignty over Puerto Rico. Only the U.S. Congress – which Puerto Ricans cannot elect representatives to or participate in – is empowered to relinquish sovereignty over the island.

The United States has partnered with Israel in keeping Palestinians stateless since the creation of the Israeli state in 1948. In Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which Israel has occupied since 1967, Palestinians do not have citizenship in any state and do not enjoy sovereignty over the territory the entire world has recognized as their own.

Israel has for decades demonstrated that it intends to maintain the nearly half-century occupation indefinitely and prevent any Palestinian state. Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party charter states: “The Jordan river will be the permanent eastern border of the State of Israel,” and “The government will flatly reject Palestinian proposals to divide Jerusalem.” As the majority party in the Knesset, they have been carrying this out in practice.

There is an name for ruling over people while preventing them from being part of the political process that governs their lives. It’s called colonialism, In international law, it is a crime against humanity.

Israel’s plan is to simply continue the status quo under the guise of a “peace process.” While Israel, with the help of the United States, uses the farcical cover of negotiations, they continue to steal Palestinian land and water while transferring in hundreds of thousands of Jewish Israelis onto stolen land and evicting residents of East Jerusalem to clear the way for more Jews.

It is what historian Illan Pappe and others have called “slow-motion genocide.” They create the conditions intended to drive as many Palestinians as possible from their land – to Jordan, Syria, or anywhere outside Greater Israel. They hope that as more 1948 refugees grow older and die their ancestors will lose their claim to the land they were systematically driven away from before the formation of the state of Israel. In this way, the Jewish state hopes to establish its permanence from the Jordan river to the Sea.

All this is only possible because the Israeli state denies Palestinians sovereignty to govern themselves or participate in a binational arrangement to share governance in Greater Israel. People who can’t vote and have no voice in these policies obviously cannot change them. Which is why it is so important to Israel to continue to deny Palestinians self-determination. Preserving their colonial domination over territory and people they have conquered is much more important to Israel than having a legitimate claim to being a democratic state that values human rights.

The rest of the world showed in voting for the UN resolution affirming the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination how isolated the U.S. and Israel are as they cling to a morally and legally indefensible position. Only Canada and four American client states (all tiny Pacific Island nations) joined them in voting against the measure.

The vote is a “strong affirmation of the international support for the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people, led by their right to self-determination and liberation,” said Riyad Mansour, Permanent Palestinian Observer at the UN.

When the Palestinians finally are able to achieve their basic human right of self-determination, it will be in spite of decades of U.S. interference and complicity in Israeli repression. As they were in Vietnam and Southern Africa, and as they continue to be in Puerto Rico, the United States will shamefully be on the wrong side of history.

December 22, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Know Your Rights: Police Checkpoints

The Free Thought Project

Not only is the question, “am I being detained” very important, but so is remaining silent and making sure not to answer any of their questions.

Many INNOCENT individuals have been imprisoned, or otherwise harmed, merely because they chose to answer questions asked by some Law Enforcement Officer or government official, agent, representative, tribunal, or employee.

It is very important to understand that the 5th Amendment protects the innocent more than the guilty.

Knowing how to assert your rights is not only a good idea to prevent from being unlawfully kidnapped or caged, but it is also a successful catalyst for change when applied on a large enough scale.

In the video below, activist Kenny Suitter, shows how to properly remain silent during police interactions. It is as simple as stating, “I do not answer questions.”

Because of the SCOTUS ruling in Salinas v. Texas, you are now expected to know that you have a right against self-incrimination, and unless you specifically and clearly invoke this right, anything you say or do not say, including your mannerisms at the time you stop talking, can be used against you. You actually have to say, “I do not answer questions.”

Don’t concern yourself with what kind of interrogation you’re in. Don’t worry about whether Salinas applies in your particular situation. Just invoke your 5th Amendment right immediately, verbally, and clearly.

Just like this:

Being stopped by police can be a particularly stressful experience. An innocent individual can easily get tricked into self-incriminating themselves as the police officer badgers and pries for information.

Memorizing laws and and statutes can go a long way, however, having a business card handy, that states your rights for you, is much more convenient, especially when under the stress of a police stop.

Here is a good example of what that business card should look like:

Side 1:

“I hereby invoke and refuse to waive all of the following rights and privileges afforded to me by the United States Constitution. I invoke and refuse to waive my 5th Amendment right to Remain Silent. I invoke and refuse to waive my 6th Amendment right to an attorney of my choice. I invoke and refuse to waive my 4th Amendment right to  be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. If I am not presently under arrest, or under investigatory detention, please allow me to leave.”

Side 2:

“Officer, I Assert My Fifth Amendment Rights As Stated On This Card”Pursuant to the law, as established by the United States Supreme Court, my lawyer has advised me not to talk to anyone and not to answer questions about any pending criminal case or any other civil, administrative, judicial, investigatory or adjudicatory matter.  Following his advice, I do not wish to talk to anyone about any criminal, civil, administrative, judicial, investigatory or adjudicatory matter, without my lawyer present.  I waive no legal rights, nor give any consents, nor submit to any tests or other procedures, without my lawyer present.  I ask that no one question or talk to me, without my lawyer here to advise me.

If you’d like a downloadable version of this card you can get it at this link.

Below is a video which shows the effectiveness of these business cards.

December 22, 2014 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Video | , | 4 Comments

Houston P.D. Orders All Officers Turn Off Body Cameras During Protest

TheAntiMedia | December 20, 2014

Remington Alessi was arrested on Saturday December 13 in Houston, Texas. He was arrested while engaging in a nonviolent protest against police brutality. He gives us his account of what he learned in the back of a squad car.

“We’re going to go ahead and turn off the personal video devices going forward, so be sure all officers have them turned off when engaging the protesters.” The words cut through me and chilled my spine as I sat, helplessly handcuffed in the back of a Houston Police cruiser after being arrested in the midst of a protest.

As an activist who has been around the block a few times, I knew that little would endanger a crowd more than a crowd of officers who had just received an order from higher up to disable their own personal accountability.

Barely into the pilot program, the Houston Police Department’s commanding officers managed to brazenly display how easily the personal video devices can be misused. Per an earlier interview, “Capt. Mike Skillern, who heads HPD’s gang unit and is involved in testing the cameras, said his fellow officers act “a little more professionally” when wearing the devices.” But how do they act when they switch the devices off? If officers had their way, no one would know.

The biggest fault here lies in the physical design of the cameras themselves. The VIEVU LE3 model camera is employed by HPD and is worn by over four thousand police agencies, according to the company’s website. The camera’s most conspicuous feature is an easily operated off switch, which can functionally slide over the lens of the camera at any time an officer feels the need to remove any potential accountability. Hyperbole fails in describing how much of a problem it is for police to control when video is being recorded.

Allowing police to control the video stream will create a situation in which footage will appear only when it benefits the officer, while footage of police beating unarmed suspects, throwing incendiary devices at toddlers, and erasing civilians’ video records of police brutality will never appear, due to conveniently located off switches designed by VIEVU to make the devices popular among police.

When the order came across the radio to disable the cameras, I held my breath, hoping against hope that even a single officer would object to the directive that specifically commanded officers to stop recording their activities. My heart sunk as I was met with silence. Not even the friendly Lieutenant Troy Finner, who only an hour prior had waxed poetic about being concerned about protesters’ safety had a word to say about the order. Instead, he, like every other police officer assigned to ‘protect’ the nonviolent protesters, agreed to endanger them the moment a commanding officer gave the order.

The thin blue line will be maintained, cameras or not.

December 22, 2014 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , | 2 Comments

India opposition pressures Modi to clarify stance on forced conversions

Press TV – December 22, 2014

Indian opposition lawmakers have demanded that Prime Minister Narendra Modi clarify his position on the alleged ongoing forced conversion of Muslims and Christians to Hinduism.

Enraged lawmakers in the Indian parliament’s upper house on Monday demanded that Premier Modi address reports that groups linked to his ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) coerced poor Muslims and Christians into converting to the Hindu religion.

The opposition lawmakers pointed out that Modi’s silence was damaging the religious freedom guaranteed by the Indian Constitution.

Political experts say the issue is stoking a sensitive debate that has stalled the parliament and threatened the prime minister’s economic reform agenda.

The developments came after right-wing Hindu groups allied to the ruling BJP held a series of ceremonies to convert Christians and Muslims to Hinduism.

The groups have allegedly bribed some 50 poor Muslim families into converting to Hinduism in the Taj Mahal in the city of Agra. Converts say the families were promised financial incentives and ration cards if they went ahead with the conversions.

The Muslims have been wary of Modi’s Hindu nationalist BJP Party, which won a huge majority in general elections in May. Back then, the BJP won 274 seats in the 543-seat lower house of parliament, the Lok Sabha.

However, the BJP lacks a majority in the upper house, where Congress and regional lawmakers routinely protest a range of issues.

December 22, 2014 Posted by | Civil Liberties | , , , | 1 Comment

Rabbis plan to build temple on Al-Aqsa ruins

[undated photo from Haaretz]

Undated photo from Haaretz
MEMO | December 22, 2014

In the clearest indication of the growing dangers threatening Al-Aqsa Mosque, in an opinion piece published on Saturday, Haaretz discussed a group of rabbis who met to discuss the scheme for the establishment of the Third Temple on the ruins of the mosque. The newspaper published a photograph of a number of rabbis and engineers studying a map of Al-Aqsa Mosque.In a piece written by Professor Ronnie Ellenblum entitled “Bells are ringing for the ultra-Orthodox and Secular” [hebrew], the paper discussed the future of Al-Aqsa Mosque which Jews refer to as the Temple Mount.

Although the paper did not identify the rabbis who appeared in the picture, one of them has been identified as Rabbi Yisrael Ariel, president of the Temple Institute, a religious authority that is considered the most enthusiastic about destroying Al-Aqsa Mosque and establishing a temple on its ruins.

The research also involved Rabbi Yehuda Etzion, who was responsible for implementing the Hebron University massacre which left 15 students dead or wounded, and was also responsible for implementing three assassination attempts against elected mayors in the West Bank, one of which injured the then Mayor of Nablus Bassam Shakaa, leaving him permanently disabled.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had pledged to the king of Jordan not to take any steps that would change the status quo at Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Miri Regev, MK for the Likud party led by Netanyahu, announced that she will not allow the continuation of the status quo Al-Aqsa, stressing that the next Knesset will issue a number of laws that will promote Jewish sovereignty over it.

Israeli Channel 10 quoted Regev saying on Thursday that the consecration of Jewish sovereignty in Al-Aqsa Mosque is the most important embodiment of the political, religious and cultural sovereignty of “the Jewish people on their land”.

The channel noted that this view is supported by the ministers of economy and housing, Naftali Bennett and Uri Ariel, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee Ze’ev Elkin, the head of the coalition bloc in parliament, Danny Levin.

December 22, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Timeless or most popular | , , , | 2 Comments

The Customs Union and Israel’s No-State Solution


By Amal Ahmad | Al-Shabaka | November 29, 2014

Trade regimes between nation states are either autonomous, implying that nation X has no trade obligations towards nation Y, or preferential, establishing low barriers between X and Y and binding them with reciprocal obligations and benefits.

Customs unions are a form of preferential trade, although they take it one step further by establishing uniform barriers against the rest of the world, thereby harmonizing the external trade policy of the union’s member states. Israel and the Palestinian territory have been bound by a customs union de facto since 1967 and de jure since 1994.

Theoretically, a customs union carries mutual benefits to the member states. However, as the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development noted in a 1988 report, between 1967 and 1988 the customs union between Israel and the OPT treated the two economies as dualisms that entrenched the status quo, which, at that time, had established the OPT as a reservoir of cheap labor and Israel as a production and export powerhouse.

Importantly, the arrangement allowed for the unrestricted flow of Israeli goods into the Palestinian economy. Since then, the state of the Palestinian economy has only worsened, and its dependence on imports from Israel has deepened.

The economy is marked by industrial stagnation and the decline of other productive sectors, particularly agriculture, as well as growing trade deficits and a weak export base. The customs union has been key to this process of stagnation, keeping the Palestinian economy industrially weak, underdeveloped, and dependent on imports.

Such skewed results are to be expected given the vast asymmetry of productive capacity between Israel and the OPT. The harm to the Palestinian economy has been further magnified by Israel’s ability to impose at will, as the occupying military power, a one-sided and inconsistent implementation of the union.

Israel’s use of duty-free import quotas is a particularly egregious example of how Israeli actions have magnified the skewedness of the customs union (see the recent analysis by the Palestine Economic Policy Research Institute, MAS). As part of its free trade agreements with other countries, Israel is able to export a certain amount of its goods to country Z, duty free or at a discounted customs rate, while pledging to import a certain amount of goods from country Z at a similarly discounted rate. The goods Israel pledges to import from its partners are often agricultural commodities and food products, which otherwise enjoy a high level of commercial protection in Israel.

Since signing the Paris Protocol in 1994, Israel has given the Palestinian Authority 20 percent of its import quotas. So, if Israel pledges to import 2,000 tons of milk from country Z duty-free, Palestinian retailers can apply for a license (given by Israel) to import up to 400 tons of that product duty-free. Obviously, this is advantageous for the Palestinian retailers who reap a profit margin by buying the imported milk for less while selling it at the same price.

However, the problem is greater than meets the eye. Israel gives Palestinians 20 percent of the import quota but none of the corresponding export quota. For example, if country Z pledges to buy 2,000 tons of tomatoes from Israel in exchange, 100 percent of these tomatoes come from Israeli producers.

Effectively, then, Israel is using the Palestinian economy to divert pressure off its own market by reducing the penetration of cheap imports by 20 percent, while reserving the full benefits of export deals to itself. This example underscores Israel’s ingenious protectionist strategy and its use of the Palestinian economy simply as an appendage when convenient.

Any benefit to Palestinians in the process is purely ad hoc and actually comes at the expense of productive industry.

No Way Out

Many analysts have, over the years, argued that if the implementation of the customs union were “better” or more in line with theory, then it would be optimal for the OPT’s trade and development. However, such calls to “rescue” or “modify” the union obfuscate the real problems facing the OPT, including the vicious cycle and vast asymmetry with its largest and most “free” trading partner, Israel.

In theory, two alternatives exist. The first alternative would involve a relatively closed (non-preferential) arrangement or an asymmetric free trade agreement.

Such arrangements would restrict the access of Israeli imports to the Palestinian market by instating barriers (tariffs) against these imports, temporarily protecting Palestinian producers and encouraging industrial development. However, such arrangements, including a standard free trade agreement, involve rules of origin to distinguish which goods came from where and therefore require the presence of a hard border between the partners.

In other words, such an arrangement could only be implemented in a post-conflict two-state solution scenario.

The second alternative would be to keep trade open but under the auspices of a future single bi-national state that would be responsible for the well-being of both Israeli and Palestinian producers. Such a state would manage a common fiscal platform with targeted support for the backward areas, implying protection of Palestinian producers via fiscal transfer instead of external tariffs. Clearly, this option, too, could only be implemented in a post-conflict one-state solution scenario.

In practice, however, no alternatives exist. As shown above, all alternative arrangements, regardless of their economic merits, presuppose either the delineation of internal borders or their elimination, translating into either a sovereign Palestinian state or an integrated bi-national state.

However, this policy brief argues that both these political scenarios undermine Israel’s strategic interests. All other trade arrangements, therefore, are off the table, regardless of economics, except for the one that requires neither borders nor integration: a customs union.

Indeed, the major benefit of the customs union to its Israeli architects has been the postponement of the border issue and keeping borders interim. Penetration into the Palestinian market is of minor importance to the Israeli economy and could have been achieved via other regimes such as a free trade area.

The union, then, is a choice made out of political necessity rather than economic desirability. It illustrates that the only “solution” for Israel is a no-state solution where the Palestinians are neither sovereign nor integrated, but perennially contained, with repercussions across the political and economic spheres.

The Importance of Borders — or Lack Thereof

In the rest of the world, politics reflect underlying economic interests. However, in the OPT, economic arrangements reflect political interests, and to a perverse degree. Israeli interests are imposed through military power, which is why the Israeli military was the “economic” administrator of the OPT from 1967-1988 and remains the main Israeli point of liaison with today’s Palestinian administrators.

Indeed, the political border considerations of Oslo dictated the economic trade arrangements of the Paris Protocol: Given Israel’s insistence on precluding final status border arrangements, the customs union was the only viable option.

Rather than an economically desirable choice, it was an outcome of political necessity for Israel, and there is substantial evidence that the Palestinian side was blackmailed into accepting the union after Israel threatened to stop Palestinian labor flow, as seen in the documents produced by the Ben-Shahar Committee and the Israeli government at the time. Furthermore, documents by the Bruno Committee as far back as 1967 attest to the far-reaching history of border considerations dictating “impure” trade integration of the OPT with Israel.

Instead of elaborating on the potential significance to Palestinian trade of this political trajectory, the literature on the customs union has managed to ignore it altogether, preferring to keep the analysis “politics-free” beyond vague references to the Israeli occupation while focusing on post-conflict frameworks.

In the case of the Palestinians, however, this should be the point of departure for analysis. Border considerations reflect strategic interests that offer the ultimate political economy context for the trade debate.

Not for nothing were the Oslo Accords, and, by extension, the Paris Protocol, incomplete and vague contracts that did not discuss many contingencies (the protocol is 35 pages compared to the 1,000+ page NAFTA) and were, most importantly, interim in nature. Several Palestinian economists, including Raja Khalidi as well as Adel Zagha and Husam Zomlot, point out that the economic problems in the OPT do not have an economic solution, and that the fundamental problem of the Paris Protocol is political.

What this policy brief argues is that the point of the protocol was not to give Israel the upper bargaining hand in final status, given that incomplete contracts favor the stronger party. The aim was to put off final status altogether in line with Israel’s policy since 1967. Further, this brief argues that the Zionist project lies at the heart of Israel’s desire for and design of an incomplete and interim contract with the OPT.

Zionism’s desire for a Jewish majority and for differential national rights for Jews within that majority has, as Mushtaq Khan has argued, dictated a political reality in which the Israeli state cannot delink from the OPT but also cannot swallow it into a single state.

A sovereign Palestinian state does not solve “the Palestinian problem” inside Israel, while one bi-national state defeats the Zionist national project outright. From a Zionist perspective, the best, or indeed only, solution to the Palestinian “problem” of demography and claim to rights, is a no-state solution, in which the Palestinians are contained manageably and in perpetuity. Israeli minister of economy Naftali Bennett recently explicitly expressed this as a “plan for peace.”

Thus, the customs union will persist so long as Israel’s interest in maintaining what could be termed “strategically absent” borders persists. This understanding helps to explain the historical endurance of an “economic” union that serves no rationale in theory and is full of contradictions in practice.

The relevance of this analysis to assessing developments in Israel-Palestine is illustrated by the recent controversy over customs stations. Customs stations are stations for collecting tariffs on imports. They are not supposed to exist in customs unions where trade between member states is supposed to be free. However, they are sometimes placed along an internal border to begin the transition to a free trade agreement or to more protectionist agreements.

Some economists have long advocated the establishment of customs stations between Israel and the OPT in the hope that the stations could pave the transition to a more economically desirable trade regime. Furthermore, this thinking goes, as a symbol of fiscal autonomy for the Palestinians, such stations might pave the way for political autonomy. However, this reflects a failure to comprehend the political containment context, which precludes the possibility of these stations ever translating into a functioning, sovereign border.

This reality became crystal clear when, after six months of secret negotiations, the Israeli government and the PA signed an agreement to “tighten cooperation” on tax and customs in July 2012. The agreement reevaluated the tax clearance mechanism and established new customs stations. The stated purpose was to reduce funds leakage from Israeli customs to the PA and to improve Palestinian customs capabilities.

The PA, no doubt, signed out of desperation given that even a marginal improvement in customs revenue, which constitutes 70 percent of the non-aid budget, would help. And they joined the Israeli signatories in lauding the deal as a step towards Palestinian fiscal and political sovereignty.

In fact, the deal did not foresee a better reality but rather reflected an extremely adverse one. Tweaking the union to secure incremental improvements certainly brought some small gains in terms of revenue but none at all for Palestinian productive capabilities since it left the majority of trade flows with Israel intact, maintaining the asymmetry.

The fact that the custom stations set out by the deal were and are being placed along Israel’s Separation Wall, the illegal and de facto structure that penetrates the West Bank, confirms Israel’s commitment to containment along interim lines that separate the populations while keeping borders strategically absent.

The customs stations issue highlights a crucial point: Analyses of trade and of the economy more broadly must be situated in the relevant context of Israel’s policy of containment as conflict management, including its pursuit of a no-state solution whereby borders are strategically absent and the Palestinians and their economy are contained manageably and in perpetuity.

Post-conflict frameworks, which assume a final status with defined borders and underpin the calls for the different trade scenarios described above, may appeal to a community within Israel and Palestine and internationally that is desperately looking for a two-state solution. However, they obfuscate the real issues facing the Palestinian economy and, in doing so, validate and help to sustain the adverse status quo.

Bringing Borders Back: Refocusing the Israel-Palestine Trade Debate

Israel’s strategic containment lies at the heart of the Palestinian economic challenge. In an economy as underdeveloped and severely deformed as the Palestinian economy, rigorous development policy is required to overcome the vicious cycles and initiate virtuous developmental ones.

The exact policies are highly context-specific and are often the result of trial and error learning processes. But the political economy requirements are clear: There must be a sovereign centralized power within defined borders that can navigate the fiscal platform for state taxation and spending policies. The fiscal platform is necessary not only for building local capacities and incentives, but also for mediating between the country’s stage of development and the competitive pressures of international markets, and for supporting nascent capitalists.

Here lies the full tragedy of the Palestinian economy. For trade to serve development goals, certain fiscal capacities like import substitution and export promotion are required especially in the initial stages. But since development more broadly requires a fiscal base that in turn presupposes a sovereign, then the current containment of the OPT and their preclusion from any sovereign is the worst possible scenario for any developing economy.

The absence of both fiscal transfer within a one-state Israel-Palestine and sovereign protection under a Palestinian state incapacitates the taxation capabilities at the heart of all development processes and prevents any strategy of supporting domestic capability. The contained economy will necessarily operate in an entirely ad hoc fashion that is catastrophic not only to long-term development but to short-term viability.

What can be done to redress the situation? First, development actors should eschew ex-post conflict frameworks, including state-building and final-border scenarios, as inappropriate to understanding, assessing, or planning the Palestinian economy.

Rather, their point of departure must be an understanding of not only the subjugation of the Palestinian economy to Israel’s mode of conflict management but also to its specific kind of conflict management, i.e., containment. Otherwise, it is impossible to grasp the real roots of the ongoing deterioration of the economy and the absence of development prospects

Second, if the international community truly wants to support Palestinian development, it must confront, expose, and challenge Israel’s containment of the OPT. This includes the rejection of the façade of a two-state solution or “peace process”” and an acknowledgement of the way that Israel is managing the Palestinian population and their economy in perpetuity, refusing to consider any arrangement that separates them into a sovereign state (see e.g., recent statements by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni) or to integrate them into a bi-national state.

In addition, it is past time for the international community to call out the racist vision, of differential rights for Jews and non-Jews within Israel as well as in the OPT that underpins this strategy. While such positions by the international community would not guarantee a “solution” one way or the other, they would certainly support the struggle against what might otherwise be perennial political containment and economic backwardness.

In short, there is a need to refocus debate, analysis, and action on Israel’s containment strategy — a de facto no-state solution for the OPT — and the repercussions of this strategy on the economic sphere. Until then, the underdevelopment of Palestinian trade and the economy more broadly will remain institutionally guaranteed.

Al-Shabaka is an independent non-profit organization whose mission is to educate and foster public debate on Palestinian human rights and self-determination within the framework of international law.

Amal Ahmad is a Palestinian economic researcher whose work focuses on fiscal and monetary relations between Israel and Palestine.


December 22, 2014 Posted by | Economics, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , | 2 Comments