Aletho News


Did North Korea Really Hack Sony?

By James DiEugenio | Consortium News | February 3, 2015

One of the major problems with modern American democracy is the fact that the U.S. government has a serious credibility problem. This is not new of course. In its contemporary strain, it goes back at least to 1964 when two events focused and magnified the problem. The first was the Gulf of Tonkin incident, which was used to launch the Vietnam War. The second was the issuance of the Warren Report, the widely doubted official account of John F. Kennedy’s assassination.

As Kevin Phillips demonstrated with polling results in his book Arrogant Capital, that year marked the beginning of a long decline in the public’s trust in the government’s ability to do what is right most of the time. Prior to that year, the number hovered in the mid-70 percentile. After that, the figure began to drop steeply. It bottomed out at 19 percent in 1992. (This was clearly a large factor in boosting the presidential candidacy of Ross Perot that year.) It has failed to recover in any significant way since.

Historically speaking, it’s easy to name some of the causes for this headlong slide into skepticism and disbelief: the escalation in Vietnam, the assassinations of key leaders during the 1960s, Watergate, the Iran/Contra affair, the exposure of CIA drug-running during wars in Southeast Asia and Central America.

As Nicolas JS Davies has pointed out, some more recent examples would be the false reasons for the invasion of Iraq, the dubious attribution of imminent nuclear weaponry for Iran, the attempt to accuse President Bashar al-Assad of Syria of using sarin gas against civilians, and the attempt to blame Russia for the shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17.

As the reader can see, many of these instances involve the effort of certain reactionary members of the Executive Branch in Washington and their allies in the media to use the American military abroad. One would have thought that after the disastrous results of the Tonkin Gulf Resolution, the major media would investigate more carefully what now seems to be a recurrent pattern of ersatz attribution to provoke American intervention. But, by and large, the doubts about these events have been expressed only in the alternative media.

The final incident Davies (briefly) mentioned was last year’s computer hacking of Sony/Columbia studios, which the FBI blamed on North Korea. The ostensible reason for this cyber-attack was the upcoming release of the comedy film, The Interview, which depicted an interview by a fictional American TV personality with Kim Jong-un, the actual leader of North Korea.

This interview becomes a pretext for an assassination attempt that goes awry. But, as the movie unfolds, the interview does happen and Kim does not come off well in it. This causes him to try to kill the Americans responsible. It backfires and he is killed instead.

Perhaps no film since Oliver Stone’s JFK generated as much pre-release controversy as The Interview. But unlike Stone’s picture, which created a sensation over its contrary-to-the-Establishment view of President Kennedy’s assassination, this particular brouhaha is largely based upon the alleged cyber-attack by North Korea.

When the FBI pointed the finger at Pyongyang, Sony/Columbia decided not to release the film, citing security concerns. Both people in the film colony and in the media met that decision with much derision. Therefore, Columbia reconsidered and did a limited theatrical run for the film, combined with a large online release. Due to the massive coverage of the controversy, the latter has been a big success. In fact, it has set records in that category.

‘The Interview’ as a Movie

The movie was co-directed by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, who also had a hand in writing the story. Along with James Franco, Rogen also stars in the film. Rogen and Goldberg have been friends since childhood in Vancouver, Canada. Rogen’s career took off after he moved to Los Angeles and met writer-director Judd Apatow, who produced Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy and directed The 40 Year Old Virgin.

After first using Rogen in a TV series called Freaks and Geeks, Rogen starred in Apatow’s 2007 film Knocked Up. Apatow then produced two films written by Rogen and Goldberg, Pineapple Express and Superbad. Franco was also in Freaks and Geeks, and Pineapple Express with Rogen. Rogen and Goldberg then scripted The Green Hornet in 2011; they wrote and co-directed This Is the End in 2013.

Reportedly, Rogen once advised Apatow to make his work more “outrageously dirty.” [Los Angeles Times, May 13, 2007] And Apatow once said he wanted to include a penis in each of his films. [The Guardian. Aug. 26, 2008]

Well, we get those kinds of jokes in The Interview. The premise of the film revolves around Franco as a TV personality named Dave Skylark, the host of a rather lowbrow interview show titled Skylark Tonight. Rogen plays the producer-director of the program and has ambitions of doing something more socially and politically significant, a la 60 Minutes.

In one of the several unfathomable plot twists in the film, Kim likes Skylark Tonight so much that he wants to be a guest on the show and to arrange the guest spot through Rogen. But, in another hard to buy plot twist, Kim wants to arrange the interview in some sparsely populated rural area in China. (I think this segment was designed to generate laughs — which it does not.)

The visit to North Korea is now set up with a female military representative of Kim’s. Upon Rogen’s return, he and Franco celebrate and they announce the upcoming event on the air.

Now, another rather hard to believe strophe occurs. The CIA visits the two men and asks them to assassinate Kim. No specific reason is given as to why (though Kim is widely viewed in the West as a clownish and unstable dictator), or why they chose these two utter amateurs for such a daring, high-risk scheme.

The CIA wants them to kill Kim with a toxic poison attached to the palm of their hands. This strip is hidden in a pack of gum. But when they arrive in North Korea, one of their military guards takes out the pack and chews the strip. He spits it out, and in a rather unfunny follow-up, we later watch him die from the poison at a dinner.

Franco now meets Kim. The North Korean is on his best behavior and the two hit it off for a couple of days playing basketball and partying with some scantily clad girls.

Twisting the Plot

But now, another rather weird plot twist occurs. Franco wanders out of the presidential palace, going to what he thought was a grocery store nearby. He goes inside and discovers that the store is really a Potemkin village. That is, things like fruit and vegetables are really painted props.

Obviously, this scene is intended to highlight the shortage of food supplies in North Korea, but why the North Koreans would plant the store so close to the palace, why they would leave it unattended, and why they could not import real goods to stock it at this crucial time, these kinds of questions make this episode another head-scratcher. But the plot device explains why Franco turns on his new friend, Kim Jong-un.

In the meantime, Rogen has fallen for the female military attaché. It turns out she secretly hates Kim and now allies herself with the Americans. She says they cannot just kill him; they must humiliate him on TV so the Korean people will see him as a pretentious buffoon and charlatan.

So, Franco/Skylark decides to structure the interview to expose Kim. But the station technicians cut the feed. Rogen and his girlfriend then pull out firearms, touching off a bloody fight in the control room also involving Korean troops. Somehow, the amateur Americans kill all the Koreans. Franco is shot at, but he survives because he had a bulletproof vest on.

The trio manages to escape in a tank (no, I won’t explain how that happened) and are pursued by Kim and some soldiers in a helicopter. Kim orders preparations for a nuclear launch. But the tank fires a heat-seeking missile that takes out the chopper. Some CIA double agents then help Rogen and Franco escape the country.

At the end, we see Franco at a book reading about the whole affair as Rogen talks to his North Korean girlfriend via Skype. She stayed behind to democratize the country.

As the reader can see, the story is pretty much escapist, goofball fiction with a plot focused on murdering a real-life leader. But as bad as the script is, the direction by Rogen and Goldberg is even worse.

The Decline of Comedy

In 1965, before he retired from the field, illustrious film critic Dwight MacDonald wrote an essay entitled “Whatever Happened to Hollywood Comedy?” There, he lamented how low the genre had fallen from the Alpine peaks attained by the likes of Keaton, Chaplin, Lloyd and Langdon. Or even from the hills of Preston Sturges, Billy Wilder, Ernst Lubitsch and Howard Hawks.

MacDonald outlined three rules that comic films he was reviewing broke almost systematically. First, he wrote that most of the films had no appealing comic protagonists, which he felt was necessary in the genre. Second, he said they were overproduced and too Rube Goldberg-like in their construction and depiction. (Rogen and Goldberg shoot the helicopter exploding at the end in super-slow-motion.)

Finally, according to MacDonald, the sadism inherent in comedy could not be shown realistically, i.e., if the comic actually broke his back while slipping on a banana peel, that would not be funny.

Well, in the fight in the control room in The Interview, we watch as not one, but two fingers get bitten off. Apparently, no one on the set said to Rogen, “Uh Seth, is that really funny?” Rogen is an even worse director than he is an actor. And the man can’t act.

If MacDonald felt gloomy about the state of film comedy in 1965, one can imagine what he would have written in later years, which leads us to the first question about the hacking mystery: Unless the North Koreans are as imbecilic as the people depicted in the film, could they really have thought that such a frivolous production somehow imperiled the security or image of their country – and to such an extent that they went ahead and risked retaliation by hacking into a private company’s computer system?

To me, the risk simply does not equate with whatever reward was to be had. But there are other indications that the case against North Korea is not nearly as conclusive as the FBI wants us to think. President Barack Obama may have compounded the problem by announcing retaliatory sanctions on Jan. 2. Further, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest implied there would be more of this because he called it “the U.S. government’s first action…”

The Facts of the Case

The controversy actually began to take shape last June when the North Korean ambassador to the United Nations — without seeing the movie in all of its silliness — condemned the film and urged the United States to cancel its distribution. Clearly, making light of assassinating a nation’s leader is problematic, whatever one may think of the leader, and the North Koreans made their disgust clear.

Then, on Nov. 24, 2014, Columbia discovered that its computers had been hacked. Their employees were locked out and an ugly caricature of a bright red skeleton popped up on their screens that morning. A message appeared which said, “Hacked by #GOP.” Later, personal information, e-mails and unreleased films were leaked online. The films included Still Alice, Annie and To Write Love on Her Arms.

In this context, GOP does not refer to the Republican Party but to a hacking group that calls themselves the Guardians of Peace. It’s interesting to note that although North Korea denies the attack, Guardians of Peace takes credit for it. In fact, the Guardians actually called the FBI a bunch of idiots because of the stupidity of their investigation.

As Kim Zetter pointed out in Wired, nation-states usually don’t announce themselves with images of blazing skeletons or criticize their victims for having poor cyber security, nor do they post stolen data to Pastebin, which is sort of the unofficial warehouse for heisted files on the cloud.

As Zetter writes, “These are all hallmarks of hacktivists — groups like Anonymous and LulzSec, who thrive on targeting large corporations for ideological reasons … or by hackers sympathetic to a political cause” (Wired, Dec. 17, 2014)

Cyber-security expert Marc Rogers agreed that the operation did not look like it was from a nation-state, and he criticized the FBI’s case on specific grounds, noting that because the malware was written in Korean means little, since programs exist to translate that code.

Rogers also said that whoever wrote the malware had extensive knowledge of hard-coded paths and passwords. This would suggest that whoever did the attack was somehow watching Sony/Columbia’s computer architecture for a long time or was a company insider because not only did the hackers know where certain files were located but they knew the access codes on them.

Third, Rogers wrote that when a hacker simply dumps this amount of material onto a public site, that has the earmarks of a hack job from some ideologically motivated group. There was much information North Korea could have garnered from the huge access they allegedly had. And this could have served them well in their intelligence files. Why make it public? (See Roger’s blog, “Marc’s Security Ramblings” entry dated Dec. 18, 2014)

More Skepticism

Rogers is backed up on his first point by Kurt Stammberger, senior vice-president of Norse, a company that provides computer intelligence systems and technology to both private corporations and the government.

Stammberger has been in possession of the specific malware used in the Sony hack as far back as last July, which can be secured by interested parties on the black market. His sample of the program is totally in English, not a trace of Korean.

The executive noted that specific Sony credentials, server address and digital codes and certificates were then written into the malware. As another authority in the field noted, certain malware behaves erratically. It just dives into a system, shuffles around the computer and spirals around looking for things to link to randomly. The Sony hack was more like a cruise missile.

“This stuff was incredibly targeted. That is a very strong signal that an insider was involved,” said Stammberger. (New York Post, Dec. 30, 2014) Thus, he concluded that “It’s virtually impossible to get that information unless you are an insider, were an insider, or have been working with an insider. That’s why we and so many other security professionals are convinced an insider played an important role.”

Furthering this belief is the fact that, last spring, Sony issued layoff notices to hundreds of employees. A private Facebook group made up of former Sony employees voted by a large majority that the hack was an inside job. An ex-employee said what makes this even more possible is that Sony’s security was not very tight or sophisticated, a point that was echoed by Rogers. (Dana Liebelson, Huffington Post, Jan. 6, 2015)

In fact, Norse, Stammberger’s computer-intelligence company, went even further. They named a former employee as a suspect, along with five accomplices. They did this by going through hacked personnel files and then locating a disgruntled employee online. (The Security Ledger Dec. 18, 2014)

In one message, for instance, one of Stammberger’s suspects identified as “lena” wrote :“Sony doesn’t lock their doors, physically, so we worked with other staff with similar interests to get in. I’m sorry I can’t say more, safety for our team is important.” (The Wrap, Dec. 30, 2014)

From this and other evidence, Stammberger deduces that the conspiracy was a collaboration between an employee or employees terminated early last summer and a hacking group involved in distributing pirated movies online, a group that has been pursued by Sony.

The FBI visited Norse to hear this presentation and seemed suitably impressed. But Stammberger said the FBI didn’t reveal anything from its inquiry to Norse.

Chronology Problems

What makes the whole operation even more puzzling is the fact that an e-mail was sent to Sony executives three days before the hack became public, on Nov. 21, 2014, addressed to top executives such as CEO Michael Lynton and Chairperson Amy Pascal (among others). It reads:

“Monetary compensation we want. Pay the damages, or Sony Pictures will be bombarded as a whole. You know us very well. We never wait long. You’d better behave wisely.”

Clearly, the fact that this was sent in advance indicates that whoever sent it knew what was about to happen. But the warning contains no mention, not even a hint, about censoring an about-to-be-released movie. The message appears to be pure and simple extortion, as is clearly denoted in the first sentence about money.

But what makes this piece of evidence ultimately confusing is that it was signed by “God’sApstls,” a rubric that also was in one of the malicious files used in the cyber attack. (ibid)

As Wired’s Zetter points out, it was only on Dec. 8, a week after a logjam of media stories appeared linking the attack to North Korea, that the attackers made a reference to the film in one of their announcements. And after this, the hackers made oblique terrorist threats against the film’s premiere in New York on Christmas Day.

In other words, it was after the finger-waving at North Korea had begun that “the GOP” began to explicitly link the film to the crime. To top that, as Sam Biddle noted in The Gawker on Dec. 22, the self-declared attackers — “the GOP” — then released a message declaring that Sony/Columbia had their permission to release The Interview anyway, which certainly implies that whoever did the hacking was simply bluffing about any terrorist attacks if the film were shown.

Lessons Not Learned

This points out another interesting aspect of the case, which Peter Singer, another security expert, expounded on at Motherboard. In an interview, he said: “This is not just now a case study in how not to react to cyber threats and a case study in how not to defend your networks; it’s now also a case study in how not to respond to terrorism threats.

“We have just communicated to any would-be attacker that we will do whatever they want. It’s mind-boggling to me, particularly when you compare it to real things that have actually happened. Someone killed 12 people and shot another 70 people at the opening night of Batman: The Dark Knight Rises. They kept that movie in the theater. You issue an anonymous cyber threat that you do not have the capability to carry out: We pulled a movie from 18,000 theaters.” (Sic, that number is exaggerated.)

Singer said whoever conducted the attack understood the American psyche and culture to the point of knowing that politicians like John McCain and Newt Gingrich would call it an attack of “cyber terrorism” and demand retaliation and that no one would ask: Why?

Would North Korea really commit its scarce resources and take this geopolitical risk over a witless, very bad comedy and think that a fitting retaliation would be to publicize how much money Sony executives make or that producer Scott Rudin thinks Angelina Jolie is only marginally talented?

Gauging by the U.S. overreaction, one is reminded of what Orson Welles did with a radio microphone, four actors, and some mood music in 1938 with his broadcast of H. G. Wells’ War of the Worlds.

Singer added that this image of Sony/Columbia as a frightened and intimidated victim benefits the company because it conceals the fact that it has been hacked before, going back to 2005, and more than once.

Yet, their whole computer architecture has been relatively unchanged, even though the previous hacks were not labeled as attacks from a nation-state. It’s fairly clear that Sony did not take the attacks seriously enough to do a major upgrade on their security system or to change passwords and pass codes every few months.  Obviously, they could afford the financial outlay to do such things.

Obama’s Hypocrisy

On the day the FBI announced North Korea as the culprit, President Obama criticized Sony’s initial decision to pull the film from theaters. Echoing what Singer said, the President commented: “We cannot have a society in which some dictator in some place can start imposing censorship here in the USA. If somebody can intimidate folks out of releasing a satirical comedy, imagine what they’ll do when they see a documentary or political film they don’t like.”

He continued in this vein, “That’s not what we are, that’s not what America is about. I’m sympathetic that some private company was worried about liabilities. I wish they’d spoken to me first. Do not get into a pattern in which we’re intimidated by these kinds of criminal attacks.”

Obama did not seem aware of the irony, either in regards to his own participation in actual assassinations, i.e., “targeted killings” via drone attacks, or his administration’s aggressive effort to silence U.S. government whistleblowers through criminal prosecutions, examples of real censorship.

In response to Obama’s expressed disappointed that Sony had not come to him for help, Sony CEO Michael Lynton contradicted this observation the same day it was made on Dec. 19. In a statement made on CNN, the executive said, “We definitely spoke to a senior advisor in the White House … about the situation. The White House was certainly aware of the situation.”

Lynton added that Sony consulted with the State Department before the hacking to anticipate any political controversy the film could provoke. But Lynton went even further, saying Sony went to think tanks, foreign policy authorities, and the State Department “to get an understanding of whether or not there was a problem” with the film. The CEO said he was told by all that there was no problem, so they proceeded with the advertising rollout of the film.

Lynton said it really was not Sony that pulled the film from theatrical release but rather too many major exhibitors refused to show the film for fear of possible terrorist attacks. He concluded that he “had no alternative but to not proceed with the theatrical release on the 25th of December.” (Deadline, Dec. 19, 2014)

Weighing the Evidence

Of course, it is possible that these accusations against North Korea are correct. However, as of today, there is a large body of expert opinion that says the evidence so far is lacking. In fact, another expert, Robert Graham of Errata Security, was even more unimpressed than Rogers, calling the FBI’s evidence “nonsense.” (New York Post, Dec. 30, 2014)

If that is so, then the Sony hack may end up joining the long line of instances in which the U.S. government either jumped to misguided conclusions or intentionally misled the American people. Meanwhile, the real culprits escape and the real facts become harder to ascertain since the U.S. government hates to admit mistakes especially when the falsely accused have been thoroughly demonized and have few defenders.

If the truth is discovered many years down the line, the major news media usually ignores it or, in the rare case that the truth is acknowledged and accepted, it is way past the time for avoiding dangerous actions rationalized by the false allegations.

It took Professor Edwin Moise three decades to produce the definitive book on the Tonkin Gulf incident, showing that just about everything President Lyndon Johnson said about what happened there was wrong. By then, millions of Vietnamese and 58,000 Americans were dead.


James DiEugenio is a researcher and writer on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and other mysteries of that era. His most recent book is Reclaiming Parkland.

February 3, 2015 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Progressive Hypocrite | , , | 1 Comment

The Rise of Yemen’s Houthis

By Michael Horton | CounterPunch | February 3, 2015

‘They move like ghosts through these canyons and caves. One minute we think we have their position on a hill side and moments later they’re firing on us from the opposite direction.’ This is how a senior Yemeni Army officer described what it was like to fight the Houthis when I visited the northwestern governorate of Hajjah in 2009, which was then the scene of a brutal war between the Houthis and the Yemeni government. By 2010 the Houthis had largely defeated both the Yemeni Armed Forces and elements of the Saudi Armed Forces that were sent across the Yemeni border. They showed themselves to be tenacious masters of guerrilla warfare. Since 2011, the Houthis have proved themselves to be just as adept at navigating Yemen’s labyrinthine politics.

The Houthis coalesced as a movement in the early 1990’s and were initially dedicated to reviving and defending the Zaidi sect of Shi’a Islam to which roughly thirty-percent of Yemenis belong. By 2004, the Houthis were at war with the Yemeni government, a conflict which would persist until 2011 when popular anti-government protests began. From their spiritual, martial, and political heartland in the governorate of Sa’da, the once fringe movement has determinedly and methodically expanded its power base and its territory. The capstone of the Houthis’ expansionist campaign was their largely uncontested seizure of Yemen’s capital, Sana’a, in September of 2014. Fast forward to 2015 and the Houthis are responsible for the resignation of Yemen’s president and his government. The Houthis are now first among Yemen’s power brokers.

How did a fringe movement come to control a significant percentage of northern Yemen and neuter the Yemeni government? In short, the answer is by applying what they learned during their prolonged war with the Yemeni government. First and foremost, the Houthis are a well-organized and capable fighting force, one that now has access to an abundance of heavy weaponry thanks to the effective dissolution of the Yemeni Army in late 2014. The Houthi leadership understands that the key to political success in Yemen, or at least in northern Yemen, is to make sure that you have the biggest stick. They have shown that the key to maintaining power and influence is to use the stick as carefully and as little as possible, something that former president Saleh forgot. To this end, the Houthi leadership has worked assiduously to build relationships with the leadership of many of Yemen’s northern based tribes.

The Houthis have also demonstrated that they can provide a measure of security and stability in the areas that they control. Houthi controlled governorates like Sa’da and al-Jawf, once the most restive governorate in Yemen, enjoy relative security. In the case of al-Jawf, the Houthis have largely eradicated al-Qaeda and are working to diffuse the blood feuds that were one of the primary sources of instability in the governorate. Via a growing and relatively sophisticated media network, the Houthis routinely highlight these successes.

However, the Houthis’ may benefit most from the sheer desperation of many Yemenis who have endured years of insecurity and declining standards of living. ‘The Yemeni people are exhausted. The economy is a disaster. More people than ever go hungry. With conditions like these, even some of those opposed to the Houthis are ready to give them a chance,’ says a Yemeni MP. ‘What choice do we have? There is no government and there is no army. Who’s going to stop the Houthis?’

In his speeches, Houthi leader Abdul Malik al-Houthi has emphasized that the Houthis do not want to rule Yemen. Given the moves on the ground this may be somewhat disingenuous, but Abdul Malik al-Houthi is an astute strategist who realizes that officially taking up the reins of power in Sana’a could well be ruinous for the Houthis. While the Houthis have broadened their power base to include many Sunni tribal leaders and politicians, both in the north and the south, they are still viewed by most Yemenis as a Shi’a organization. A Houthi led government would be viewed as a return to the Zaidi dominated imamate that ruled north Yemen up until the 1962 revolution, and, as such, it would be deeply unpopular with the majority of Yemeni who are Sunni. While senior Houthi leadership undoubtedly recognizes the dangers of officially leading some kind of future government, Hadi’s resignation and the power vacuum in the nation’s capital may leave the Houthis with no choice.

So what would a Houthi led government look like? It might be surprisingly diverse. The Houthi leadership has cultivated relations with segments of Yemen’s southern leadership, with youth groups, and of course with those power blocs associated with the Saleh regime. While the Houthis have never clearly articulated their political agenda, the leadership does back the strong federalization of Yemen. The federalization of Yemen has been demanded by southerners for nearly twenty years and is likely the only viable solution for keeping south and north Yemen together. One of the Houthis’ demands issued to the government of President Hadi was for the government to include more representatives from the south as well as more Houthi representation.

The Houthis’ journey from a poorly equipped and at times desperate band of guerrilla fighters to a group that now governs large swaths of north Yemen, has produced a leadership that is cautious and methodical. It would be a mistake to underestimate the Houthis’ political and martial acumen. It would also be a mistake to assume that the Houthis will only add to the chaos that threatens to engulf Yemen. Regardless, the international community and the West in particular will have to engage with what, for now at least, is the best organized and most cohesive power bloc in Yemen.

Michael Horton is a Yemen analyst with a decade of experience. I have written extensively on Yemen for numerous publications including: Jane’s Intelligence Review, The Economist, Intelligence Digest, and the Christian Science Monitor.

February 3, 2015 Posted by | Aletho News | | Leave a comment

Demolitions in Qusra

International Solidarity Movement | February 3, 2015

Qusra, Occupied Palestine – In the early morning of February 2nd, 2015, Israeli forces demolished a two-room structure, a water well, and damaged a stone wall in Qusra, Occupied West Bank. All of the destroyed property was on land belonging to brothers Anwar and Akram Tayseer.

Israeli forces, at approximately 5:00am, destroyed the property with bulldozers. When farmers went out into their fields at 5:00am, five Israeli military jeeps were still present at the site, loitering around the recently destroyed infrastructure. The occupying forces refused to speak with anyone. The water well and small concrete structure were built with money donated by the French Consulate, to facilitate agricultural development in the vulnerable region. Located in Area C, Qusra is subject to common attacks from nearby illegal Israeli settlements, mainly the Esh Kodesh outpost. Settlers living in the illegal outpost Esh Kodesh have been implicated in various ´price tag´ attacks throughout the West Bank (acts of violence against Palestinians by settlers). Settlers come after every time local Palestinians work their land, in day or night, sometimes armed with iron bars; families often wake up to destroyed trees, structures, or crops. Israeli soldiers are often present at these incidents, intervening only to protect settlers. An Israeli military watchtower was constructed on the hill overlooking the agricultural lands around ten months ago. In the past, village residents have received Israeli orders to stop building on their land, which they have always respected (despite their illegality). However, it is not uncommon, according to locals, for farmers to have their agricultural structures demolished shortly after receiving these orders, despite the lack of further development.

This is not the first time the Tayseer´s family land has been attacked by settlers. On one occasion two years ago, Akram Tayseer was taken by the settlers, and severely beaten. He sustained injuries which put him in the hospital for  two months, in his head, face, and arm. He was unable to leave his home for one year. Since this incident, residents recount that they have not seen him smile, and perceive that he is broken inside. The family has documents indicating their ownership of the land and the property which once stood on it.

The cost of agricultural structure demolished is approximately 5000 NIS (~$1275USD). The water well served as a collection site, and an important reservoir to nourish the fields. Enclosing the plots of land, around 500 meters of a traditional Palestinian stone wall was dismantled. The fields are the main source of income for the family.

According to OCHA (United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs), 82 Palestinian homes and agricultural structures have been demolished by Israel since the beginning of 2015. Under the Fourth Geneva Convention, it is illegal for occupying powers to destroy property; Article 53 states: “Any destruction by the Occupying Power of real or personal property belonging individually or collectively to private persons…is prohibited.” Since 1967, Israel has demolished over 27,000 Palestinian structures in the Occupied West Bank.

February 3, 2015 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation | , , , | 1 Comment

Distorting the story of Syria’s Heritage destruction

The takfiris’ destruction of Syria’s heritage—indeed of all humanity’s—is extremely serious. The world’s including the UN’s turning a blind eye to this horrendous crime against humanity is shocking.

By Eva Bartlett | Crescent International | February 3, 2015

Much has been written about the destruction and looting of Syria’s heritage sites. Syria’s Directorate-General of Antiquities & Museums (DGAM), as well as UNESCO have documented the vast damage and looting as extensively as possible in this time of proxy-war-manufactured crisis. In July 2014, the DGAM issued a statement and plea regarding the critical situation of Syria’s heritage under attack.

“A year has passed since we last sent an international call out to all those concerned with defending Syria’s heritage. At the time, we warned against a possible cultural disaster that might be inflicted on an invaluable part of the human heritage existing in Syria,” the DGAM statement read. It noted, “Much of what we had feared happened… vast regions extending along the geography of Syria are now classified as ‘distressed cultural areas’ due to the exacerbation of the clandestine excavation crimes and deliberate damage to our historic monuments and cultural landmarks in those regions…”

distorting-the-story-of-syrias-heritage-destruction-4815-articles.htmlAs for UNESCO, it noted, “Syria’s exceptional archaeological, urban and architectural heritage has been considerably damaged during the conflict, and has affected all six World Heritage Sites in Syria and eleven sites inscribed on UNESCO’s Tentative List.”

The six UNESCO-recognized sites are: The Ancient City of Damascus; Palmyra; The Ancient City of Aleppo; Crac des Chevaliers and Qal‘at Salah al-Din; and The Ancient villages of Northern Syria, many of which have suffered intense digging and looting, as well as various acts of intentional destruction.

Yet, in spite of DGAM warnings and UNESCO confirmations, as we near the start of year five of the war on sovereign Syria, the Axis-of-Interventionalists continue to arm terrorists within Syria, and train and funnel still more terrorists into Syria — terrorists who are not only murdering Syrians and Palestinians, but destroying Syria’s heritage, as they have been doing since the beginning.

The “moderate” heritage-wreckers

Over the years, many corporate news pieces either outright blame the Syrian government and Syrian Army (SAA), or pin the blame almost solely on Da‘ish (ISIS/ISIL/IS), obfuscating and/or justifying the crimes of the other militia factions who have plundered and destroyed Syrian heritage for the last four years.

Reports noting the thieving of the so-called “moderates” often follow with claims that it is out of desperate want of funding that they pillage. One such piece, a September 2012 Time Magazine article, both inserts the standard MSM talking points about an “uprising,” a “civil war,” etc. and also notably promotes the line of cash-strapped “rebels” giving in to necessity and looting the country to fund a “revolution” against a “dictator.” Time Magazine inserts a sectarian flourish at the end, “Still, says the Sunni Muslim, who has committed to helping his co-religionists across the border, ‘sometimes you have to make a sacrifice. How else will we overthrow Bashar?’”

As with numerous other reports, conveniently overlooked is the amply-documented role of the NATO-Gulf-Zionist-Turkey alliance arming (and training and enabling the transit of) terrorists, from the so-called “FSA” to the Nusra Front to the Islamic Front to Da‘ish themselves, including by air-dropping weapons on more than one occasion.

Rick Sterling’s “U.S. Alliance with FSA and ISIL in Six Photographs” notes the US alliance with Da‘ish. In just six photos, the link between so-called “moderate rebel” leader ‘Abd al-Jabbar al-Okaidi and Da‘ish and US politicians, is clear. The fourth photo, a still from a November 2013 video interview with al-Okaidi, quotes the “moderate” terrorist saying, “My relationship with the brothers of ISIL is good.” The US politicians include Former US Ambassador to Syria and Coordinator of the “Friends of Syria”, Robert Ford — shown in May 2013 with al-Okaidi — and US Congress members—including the repeatedly-illegally-sneaking-into-Syria, John McCain — shown meeting with al-Okaidi. [see also “Who is Ambassador Robert Stephen Ford? The Architect of US Sponsored Terrorism in Syria” and “Washington Admits: FSA Equals Fictitious Syrian Army” and “FSA Leader Defects to ISIL and Exposes FSA as a Saudi-Israeli Run Project”].

Maram Susli’s (the “Syrian Girl”) December 27, 2014 article in the New Eastern Outlook, “US Armed Rebels Gave TOW missiles to al-Qaeda,” notes, “US supplied TOW anti-tank missiles have ended up in the hands of Jabhat al-Nusra, Syria’s branch of al-Qaeda. The US provided the missiles to CIA-vetted Syrian rebel faction Harakat al-Hazm in May. A video posted by al-Nusra shows the weapons being used to take over Syrian military bases, Wadi Deif and Hamidiyeh in Idlib province… Currently Harakat al-Hazm is united with Jabhat al-Nusra, in Handarat Aleppo, and are jointly fighting the Syrian Army. The militant employing the TOW missile in the video, shows clear proficiency in its use, indicating that he has directly or indirectly benefited from US training. In spite of this revelation, there is evidence to suggest the US is still arming the FSA with TOW missiles.”

The article goes on to explain these new revelations are only the latest in years of documented alliances between Western-sponsored “moderates” and Da‘ish. “In 2012 the Free Syrian Army (FSA), referred to as the ‘moderate rebels’ by the US State Department, fought alongside ‘Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham’ (ISIS) in Aleppo against the Syrian military for control over Menagh Airbase. The FSA head of Aleppo Military Council ‘Abd al-Jabbar al-Oqaidi, who has met with US Ambassador Robert Ford, was filmed with ISIS Amir Abu Jandal praising ISIS for helping take the base using a suicide car bomb. As late as September 2014, FSA commander Bassel Idriss said that they had joined forces with ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra in Qalamoun Mountain.”

Anthony Cartalucci’s November 28, 2014 artilce, “Germany’s DW Reports ISIS Supply Lines Originate in NATO’s Turkey,” further exposes Turkey’s blatant role in supplying arms to terrorists in Syria. “Germany’s international broadcaster Deutsche Welle (DW) published a video report of immense implications — possibly the first national broadcaster in the West to admit that the so-called “Islamic State” (ISIS) is supplied not by “black market oil” or “hostage ransoms” but billions of dollars worth of supplies carried into Syria across NATO member Turkey’s borders via hundreds of trucks a day. The report titled, “‘IS’ supply channels through Turkey,” confirms what has been reported by geopolitical analysts since at least as early as 2011: that NATO member Turkey has allowed a torrent in supplies, fighters, and weapons to cross its borders unopposed to resupply ISIS positions inside of Syria.”

Before she was killed in a highly-suspect car crash (days after stating the Turkish intelligence had threatened her), journalist Serena Shim had reported on World Food Organization trucks ferrying Da‘ish terrorists via Turkey into Syria. With the clearly-documented ties between the US (and its Axis-of-Destruction allies) and the numerous terrorist groups destroying Syria, the hollow concern that US figures and media sometimes voice is blatantly hypocritical.

In September 2014, the US Department of State urged “all parties in Iraq, Syria, and the international community to respect and protect archaeological, historic, religious, and cultural sites, including museums and archives. All those who destroy important cultural property must be held accountable.” American Secretary of State John Kerry topped this hypocrisy with his statement at a white-washing event in New York City, “Threats to Cultural Heritage in Iraq and Syria,” in September, 2014 that, “… no one group has done more to put our shared cultural heritage in the gun sights than ISIL. How shocking and historically shameful it would be if we did nothing while the forces of chaos rob the very cradle of our civilization. We are determined instead to help Iraqis and Syrians protect and preserve their heritage in peace.”

The sting of these hypocritical words is that Syrian patriots are trying to protect their heritage (in many cases giving their lives while doing so), and that Da‘ish’s recruiters, trainers, and enablers continue to supply weapons and open borders while crying crocodile tears over Syria’s destroyed and pillaged heritage. Had the Western-Zionist-Gulf alliance not cooked up this plan to attempt to destroy Syria, Syria’s heritage would not be in peril — period (see Seymour Hersh’s 2007 investigative report, “The Redirection” in The New Yorker ).

In January, 2015, the US Defense Department said that “as many as 1,000 American troops and trainers would be sent to Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar to assist in the training of Syrian opposition groups,” Sputnik News reported. According to the same report, crocodile-tears Kerry stated that in addition to so-called “moderate” Syrian rebels, “other nationals will also undergo special training to join the coalition in their fight against IS militants.” You can bet the newest batch of terrorists will be just as respectful of Syria’s heritage as all the terrorists before them.

Gleefully destroying the cradle of civilization

When terrorists — no, not Da‘ish, but al-Nusra and the so-called “FSA” — terrorized the ancient village of Ma‘loula for eight months, they meted out considerable destruction and damage on this heritage site, as well as looted and burned the town’s monasteries and historic buildings. They burned the shrine containing the remains of St. Thekla, stole her bones. They vandalized icons and frescoes in the church in the Convent of St. Thekla, and burned parts of the church itself. They shelled and looted icons from the Monastery of Sts. Sergius and Bacchus (see video report, “Syrian historical treasures and archeological artifacts destroyed or stolen by terrorist gangs”).

In Homs, it was likewise not Da‘ish but al-Nusra and the so-called “FSA” who not only stole the food and valuables of residents in the Old City, but also vandalized, blew up, and set afire historic buildings, like the torched Church of Um al-Zenar (St. Mary’s Church), “built upon an ancient crypt cave with signs of Christian worship dating back to 59ce.”

In both cases, it was the SAA, local volunteers in the National Defense Forces (NDF) and empowered residents who struggled to preserve and minimize damage to their heritage sites. And in both cases, once under control of the SAA and government, plans for restorations were immediately started.

Damascus, which UNESCO describes as “founded in the 3rd millennium BCE, … one of the oldest cities in the Middle East,” has also suffered damage to its heritage sites. Terrorists’ car bombs and mortars, which have terrorized residents of the city, have also hit historic places. The 11th-century Citadel, the 8th-century Umayyad Masjid, the 13th-century Great Madrasah, al-Adliya, the Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch in Bab Touma, and the Armenian Orthodox Church in Bab Sharqi, have all suffered, according to UNESCO’s report. But some of the worst destruction and damage to cultural heritage thus far documented is in Aleppo, which UNESCO describes as “one of the (if not the) oldest, continuously occupied cities in the world with some 7,000 years of known settlement history.”

The Aleppo section of UNESCO’s latest “Damage Assessment Overview” is lengthy. Some of the assessment includes:

• “At least 121 historical buildings have been damaged or destroyed — equal to 30–40% of the World Heritage property area — in addition to the destruction of more than 1,500 shops of the Suq.

• “The 11th century Minaret, the prayer hall, and the main gate of the Omayyad Masjid have been destroyed. The masjid’s courtyard and all of its decorative elements have also suffered severe damage, as did the surrounding neighbourhood.

• “The wooden minbar has been dismantled and transferred to an unknown location.

• “Damage to the gates of the city wall has occurred…

to some of the most important Islamic architecture buildings… and to most historic houses of the Jdeideh quarter…

• “The Waqifiyya Library has been damaged due to a fire.”

YouTube videos and online images showed terrorists from the Islamic Front (Robert Ford’s “moderates”) gleefully exploding the 150-year-old Carlton Citadel Hotel in Aleppo’s Old City in May 2014, the destruction and damage extending to the 13th-century Citadel facing the hotel. A report in the Independent cited the Islamic Front’s Twitter account as claiming responsibility for destroying the Carlton. A video posted online shows the takfiris in a tunnel beneath the Old City, repeatedly stating their intent to blow up the hotel. Clearly, with over 23 tons of explosives, these Western-sponsored terrorists knew the detonation would mean extensive destruction to Aleppo’s historic sites surrounding the hotel.

Yet, the corporate media noted the destruction with little-to-no condemnation. The Los Angeles Times reported blithely, “The explosion ripped through the Carlton Citadel Hotel, near the landmark medieval Citadel and Aleppo’s walled Old City, both deemed United Nations World Heritage sites,” carefully choosing their words to abstain from condemnation of the terrorist act. The Los Angeles Times additionally took the opportunity to plug the so-called “revolution,” “‘The attack came as a way to raise the morale of the people after the deal that happened yesterday,’ said the pro-opposition activist…” Other headlines justified, rather than condemned, the calculated destruction. Reuters reported, “Syrian rebels blow up Aleppo hotel used by army.” The Guardian said, “Syria rebels blow up Aleppo hotel used as barracks by government forces.”

Conversely, the DGAM stated, “This criminal act is part of a series of similar acts targeting historic and unique buildings and landmarks in Aleppo, such as the incidents of the Police Headquarters and the Justice Court… This targeting has resulted in great loss in the components of Syria’s archaeological heritage, which can be added to a long list of painful losses that cannot be replaced.”

In early December, Islamic Front militants bombed a historic masjid in Aleppo’s Old City. Al-Masdar News noted, “The militants from the Islamic Front (Jabhat al-Islamiyah) bombarded multiple historical sites in the Old City of Aleppo this weekend, destroying residential buildings and the 900-year old al-Sultaniyah Masjid. According to a military source in Aleppo, the Islamic Front has destroyed numerous sites in the Old City, including the outer walls of the Aleppo Citadel.”  Video footage shows terrorists bombing the Citadel area at the end of November.

On December 30, the DGAM reported further tunnel explosions in the Old City near the Citadel. “The Armed groups have detonated bombs in tunnels under the Aleppo old city, the bombs were reportedly placed in two tunnels running under historic parts of the city. The explosions caused severe damage to the market and the historical buildings in the area…” Other examples of the terrorists’ deliberate destruction of Syrian heritage include:

March, 2013: al-Nusra terrorists destroyed a Muslim shrine in Raqqa. PressTV reported, “Videos posted online show foreign-backed militants blew up the tomb of ‘Ammar ibn Yasir, who was one of the companions of Islam’s Prophet Mohammad (pbuh)… Anti-government militants have attacked and destroyed several holy sites, including Shia mosques, since the beginning of unrest in Syria.”

May 2, 2013: Syria News reported, “[Terrorists] destroyed one more grave in Syria, the Prophet’s (pbuh) companion Hijr ibn ‘Adi al-Kindi in Adra, Damascus Countryside. They took out his dead body, he died some 1,400 years ago and buried it in an unmarked place…”

November, 2014: The Independent reported that al-Nusra blew up an Armenian church in Deir al-Zor dating to 1846. “All of the church archives, dating back to 1841 and containing thousands of documents on the Armenian Holocaust, were burned to ashes, while the bones of hundreds of genocide victims, packed into the church’s crypt in memory of the mass killings 99 years ago, were thrown into the street beside the ruins,” the report noted.

January 8, 2015: Business Insider reported that al-Nusra blew up a 13th-century tomb near the Jordanian border.

January 17, 2015: DGAM reported that terrorists destroyed “the shrine of Shaykh Muhammad Nabhan in The Kiltawiye Masjid at Bab al-Hadid, the historical gates of the Ancient City of Aleppo, despite the appeals from residents and dignitaries of the region.”

Brother, can you spare a relic?

The talking-point that the pillaging of militants in Syria is due solely for want of financing and weapons is a lie and a diversion from the truth. It is true that some terrorists are selling relics for money to purchase weapons, but the terrorists’ looting of Syria’s relics stems more from opportunism than from being the main source of funds for their war on Syria. Turkey’s role in allowing terrorists’ transit with stolen relics must be noted. Turkey has, additionally, already plundered factories in Syria.

According to UNESCO, in the Aleppo region, “The site of Tell Qaramel is at the centre of what can only be qualified as looting on an industrial level, as heavy machinery has been deployed to accelerate the excavation of the site.”

In Deir al-Zor, the heritage site Mari (Tell Hariri) has been “extensively looted causing irreparable damage to some of the temples and part of the Royal Palace.” The list goes on:

• Daraa region: “The sites in Yarmouk valley, notably Tell al-Ash‘ari, have been plundered by hundreds of people hired by gangs, intent on trafficking Syrian cultural property.”

• Palmyra (“the monumental ruins of a great city that was one of the most important cultural centres of the ancient world”): “The Necropolis has been attacked by looters who broke into a tomb and stole 22 funeral busts and the headstone of a child; illegal excavations are occurring in the Valley of the Tombs, in the Camp of Diocletian, some undertaken by heavy machinery.”

• Dura-Europos, Ebla, Raqqa: a December 2014 report by AAAS notes, “have been heavily looted and damaged,” based on satellite imagery.

Syrian patriots protecting heritage

In a June 2014 interview with Dr. Maamoun Abdulkarim, General Director of the DGAM, he told me of the efforts Syrian civilians and the government are making to protect and preserve Syria’s heritage. Early on, the DGAM made the decision to move artifacts from Syria’s 34 museums.

“After the US invasion of Iraq, you know what happened in Baghdad museums, they lost about 70,000 pieces… The majority of the artifacts in the museums were evacuated and put in a safe place.” According to Abdulkarim, the DGAM employs 2,500. “In each region we have DGAM employees responsible for the area’s antiquities. The people that work there are local, not from Damascus. This is good because they, being local, can mediate.”

Additionally, according to UNESCO, Syria launched a national campaign, “Save Syria’s History,” to inform and educate Syrians about looting, in hopes of preventing such acts, and increasing security at heritage sites, where possible. The DGAM has been digitally archiving information on Syria’s heritage sites and relics, and coordinating with international organizations concerned with heritage preservation, as well as with INTERPOL.

Following the May 2014 exploding of the Carlton Citadel Hotel, the Syria Times reported that Syria’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates sent letters to the UN Secretary General and President of the UNSC calling for “the inclusion of the so-called ‘Islamic Front’ on the terrorism list, as the methodology of this terrorist operation complies with terrorist tactics espoused by al-Qaeda terrorist organization.” It also called for the UNSC to “take immediate action against states sponsoring these terrorist groups to stop providing them with financial and logistical support.”

Further, the DGAM and Syrian government have called on neighboring countries to be vigilant in preventing Syrian artifacts from being smuggled and sold, and returning smuggled relics to Syria. In areas which the Syrian government has under control, rebuilding and restoration efforts of destroyed or damaged heritage sites are either underway or have been planned. Homs is one such example. Also, Ma‘loula, Krak des Chevaliers, and damage to the Umayyad Masjid in Damascus, are among others.

However, some sites and relics are lost forever at the hands of NATO’s terrorists. Would the corporate media fairly report on the proxy war on Syria, and the true culprits of Syria’s heritage loss, and would the Axis-of-Destruction stop funding, training and enabling terrorists’ entry into Syria, the question of Syria’s heritage under attack would cease to be a question. As DGAM’s Dr. Abdulkarim said in June, “The destruction of antiquities is a problem for all 23 million Syrians. If we are Syrian, we need to work together to protect our history.”

February 3, 2015 Posted by | Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Israel freezes another $100m in Palestinian tax revenues

MEMO | February 3, 2015

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has frozen an additional 400 million shekels ($100 million) from Palestinian tax revenues, Israel Today revealed yesterday.

The funds were from January’s tax revenues, the newspaper said, and will be added to the 500 million shekels ($128 million) that Israel froze in December, making the amount of Palestinian tax revenues frozen about $228 million.

Sources close to Netanyahu told the newspaper that he promised continuous tax freezes as a punishment for the Palestinian leadership’s application to join the International Criminal Court.

Such revenues constitute 70 per cent of the Palestinian Authority’s source of income which finance the bulk of salaries and public services in the West Bank such as hospitals and schools.

It is worth mentioning that the money freeze last month faced critical reactions from the UN, US and many EU countries, but none of them put any pressure on Israel to recede its decision.

The Israeli newspaper reported that sources say the situation in the West Bank is expected to explode because of the hard economic circumstances resulting from the lack of funds.

February 3, 2015 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , , | 2 Comments

The Great Israeli Theft of Iraqi Jewish Heritage

Extreme right-wing Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman (C) holding the Torah stolen from Iraq on January 22, 2015
By Alaa al-Lami | Al-Akhbar | February 3, 2015

Recently, Israel stole one of the symbols of Iraqi Jewish heritage, a rare ancient copy of the Torah. The incident went smoothly and quietly, with blatant collusion between Israel, the United States, the Kurdish Regional Government in Iraq, and the Jordanian authorities, amid suspicious silence from the Iraqi federal authorities and the Iraqi cultural scene, save for a few objections.

The Torah manuscript in question, known as the Iraqi Old Testament Scroll, was written using concentrated pomegranate juice on deer-skin parchments. The manuscript was seized by US forces, among other Iraqi antiquities, which survived the systematic destruction by the illegal Anglo-American invasion and occupation.At the time, it was said that many Iraqi archaeological treasures and large amounts of documents from the Iraqi state’s secret archives were transferred to Israel, ostensibly for restoration and preservation. In truth, however, this was the deliberate looting of Iraqi heritage.

At a ceremony held at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Israeli authorities publicly displayed that major Iraqi artifact, thus admitting that they had pirated part of Iraq’s heritage. The Israeli Foreign Minister explicitly admitted that the manuscript had been obtained from Kurdistan via Baghdad and Amman, and that it is now being used in daily prayer in the Foreign Ministry synagogue.

According to The Times of Israel, “After it was repaired and prepared for ritual use by a Jerusalem-based scribe, the scroll was placed in a case from Aleppo, Syria and brought over to the ministry.” Avigdor Lieberman, the extremist foreign minister of Israel, did not let the occasion go without repeating old Zionist cliches, saying that “the scroll’s journey from Kurdistan to Baghdad to Amman to Jerusalem was reminiscent of the destiny of the Jewish nation.”

Some like Iraqi writer Akil al-Azraki, one of the rare voices who commented on the affair, believe that the Israeli announcement exposed the lies of the Iraqi government. The Iraqi government had claimed the manuscript was sent along with other Iraqi artifacts to the United States for restoration.

Azraqi, citing information revealed by The Times of Israel, said, “The claim about the Torah scroll having been sent to the United States for restoration is a lie. The scroll was revealed not to have travelled to the United States, but to the Israeli embassy in Amman from that time until 2011. After the attack by Egyptian protesters on the Israeli embassy in Cairo, the manuscript was sent to Israel.”

After the Israelis celebrated their successful piracy, official Iraqi authorities were oddly silent. There was no immediate response to the reports, even in the Iraqi media and cultural scene, save for a few voices.

Recall here that the Minister of Tourism and Antiquities in Iraq Adel Shershab had said on January 19, 2015, “The Jewish archive should have been returned to Iraq since 2005, after it was removed on the grounds of restoring it,” stressing that this was part of Iraqi heritage and that his government would continue efforts to retrieve it.

However, the minister did not say anything in response to the Israeli theft. In turn, the Iraqi Ministry of Culture fell completely silent following the incident, although it had announced on May 13, 2010, that an agreement was conducted between Iraq and the United States, whereby the Iraqi Jewish archive and millions of documents that the US army removed from Baghdad following the US-led invasion in 2003 would be returned to Iraq. These include the archive of the dissolved Baath Party and many Iraqi historical artifacts.

A few days after the report on the Israeli theft, the media published remarks by a member of the Culture Committee in the Iraqi parliament calling on the Iraqi Foreign Ministry to issue a complaint to Washington over the matter.

The news agency that first published the remarks, which is owned by Fakhri Karim, a businessman and senior adviser to former Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, tried to promote another account of what happened.

The news agency said the way the manuscript reached Israel was a “mystery,” describing what happened as “the loss of parts of the manuscript,” even though the Israeli foreign ministry had said in its ceremony that the scroll had come from Baghdad via Kurdistan, Jordan, and then Tel Aviv. Fakhri Karim, however, is known for his pro-Israel attitudes. Karim visited the headquarters of the pro-Israel lobby AIPAC in Washington, as reported by renowned Iraqi poet Saadi Youssef, in a story Al-Akhbar reported in August 2013 (in Arabic).

On the day Al-Mada reported the story, one of its most famous staff writers, Sarmad al-Tai, wrote a strongly-worded criticism of those who protested the theft of the Iraqi Torah scroll, accusing them of folly. He suggested that the Jews who were expelled by the Iraqis from their country in various ways had only retrieved their Torah.
Tai’s article is often quoted by the Israeli media, though some Iraqi Jews who live in Israel and beyond dispute such analysis. Refer, for example, to what Sasson Somekh wrote in his books, and novels by Jewish Iraqi writer Samir Naqqash, who wrote all his novels in Arabic and refused to write anything in Hebrew, considering himself an Iraqi until the last day of his cruel life in Israel. The article received strong responses, though they were few in number, on social media.

The article’s absurd and sinister logic is meant to exonerate the occupation and its allies in the Iraqi federal government, the KRG, and Israel, for the crime of stealing important Iraqi artifacts, produced in Iraq hundreds of years before the creation of the Zionist entity.

Extrapolated further, the same skewed skewed logic can be used to justify an artificial entity, built on injustice, aggression, and warmongering, which has killed, maimed, and displaced people by the millions amid global silence.

The official Iraqi position was not stated publicly until days after the incident. The Iraqi minister of tourism released a statement calling on Washington to return the manuscript to Iraq, and said what happened was unlawful confiscation of a part of Iraqi heritage.

However, the minister repeated previous claims purporting the manuscript had been in Washington. These claims were invalidated by remarks made by Israeli Labor MP Mordechai Ben-Porat, who has Iraqi Jewish ancestry. Ben-Porat said that it was Iraqi government officials who gifted Israel a number of precious historical manuscripts.

Ben-Porat’s account cannot be completely dismissed. It is indeed possible that insiders colluded with this theft and piracy. Recall that Lieberman said that the manuscript was moved from Baghdad to Kurdistan, Jordan, then Tel Aviv.

The theft of Iraqi antiquities is not unprecedented. Many Western powers, led by France, Britain, Germany, and the United States, have its looted artifacts in the last century and before.

Dr Mahmoud al-Saied al-Doghim, Research Associate, Centre of Islamic Studies at the University of London, wrote a paper titled, “One Hundred and Ten Years of US Theft of Iraqi Heritage.” The paper says that entire wings of the Louvre Museum, the Berlin Museum, and the British Museum would have to close down entirely, if they returned all the artifacts stolen from Iraq (and elsewhere).

Doghim estimates the number of stolen artifacts at more than one million. A single US university, the University of Pennsylvania, as he wrote, “Acquired more than 50,000 palettes and other artifacts shedding light on the history of Mesopotamia, and discrediting many of the biblical claims promoted by the Zionists.”

The American occupation forces hit the mother-lode following the invasion of 2003. The US forces seized a large part of the contents of Iraq’s 33 museums.

In effect, the astounding rich history of Iraq and its wealth of ancient historical artifacts is not the subject of dispute. However, it might be very surprising when one examines the numbers.

According to a statement made in March 2003 by former head of Iraqi antiquities Jaber Khalil Ibrahim, archaeologists believe that there are 500,000 archaeological sites in Iraq that remain undiscovered and unstudied, along with ten thousand registered and discovered sites. The sites include at least 25,000 highly important ones.

Only 15 percent of the sites in Iraq have been excavated, most of them located between the Euphrates and the Tigris. This area is considered the cradle of humanity, and from six thousand years ago, it was home to civilizations like the Sumerians, Akkadians, Assyrians, Babylonians, all the way to the Abbasids.

The US occupation of Iraq was a disaster for the country’s material heritage.

February 3, 2015 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Netanyahu: UN Gaza probe should be ‘shelved’

MEMO | February 3, 2015

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday said that a probe by the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) into last year’s Israeli offensive against the Gaza Strip should be shelved in light of the recent resignation of inquiry commission head William Schabas.

“After the resignation of the committee chairman, who was biased against Israel, the report that was written at the behest of the UNHRC… needs to be shelved,” Netanyahu said in a statement.

The Israeli premier went so far as to slam the rights council as “an anti-Israel body, the decisions of which prove it has nothing to do with human rights.”

“This is the same council that in 2014 made more decisions against Israel than against Iran, Syria and North Korea combined,” Netanyahu asserted.

“It is Hamas, the other terrorist organizations and the terrorist regimes around us that need to be investigated, not Israel,” he added.

The Israeli government has already said it would not cooperate with the UNHRC committee formed to investigate violations committed during Israel’s onslaught on the Gaza Strip last July and August.

Israel had said that the UN council would not be objective.

The Israeli offensive left more than 2,160 Palestinians dead and some 11,000 injured – the vast majority of them civilians – while partially or completely destroying thousands of residential structures across the territory.

The onslaught, which was launched with the stated aim of ending rocket fire from the coastal enclave, finally ended with the announcement last August of an open-ended cease-fire between Israel and Palestinian resistance factions.

On Monday, Schabas, a Canadian professor of international law, reportedly resigned from his post as head of the investigation committee due to Israeli allegations of bias.

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, for his part, hailed Schabas’ resignation, saying it was a “victory” for the self-proclaimed Jewish state.

“It is an Israeli diplomatic victory. However, it will not change the probe’s conclusions,” he said.

He added that the appointment of Schabas to investigate last year’s war against Gaza was like “appointing Cain to investigate who killed Abel.”

February 3, 2015 Posted by | Deception, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, War Crimes | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Head of UN War Crimes Inquiry Resigns After Israeli Accusations of Pro-Gaza Bias

IMEMC News & Agencies | February 3, 2015

The head of a UN inquiry into last summer’s Israeli military offensive in Gaza has said he will resign after Israeli allegations of bias, due to consultancy work he did for the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO).

William Schabas, a Canadian academic, was appointed last August by the head of the UN Human Rights Council to lead a three-member group looking into war crimes during the offensive.

Al Ray reports that, according to the Guardian and in a letter to the commission, a copy of which was seen by Reuters, Schabas said he would step down immediately to prevent the issue from overshadowing the preparation of the report and its findings, which are due to be published in March.

Schabas’ departure highlights the sensitivity of the UN investigation just weeks after prosecutors at the international criminal court in The Hague said they had started a preliminary inquiry into atrocities committed in the Palestinian territories.

In the letter, Schabas said that a legal opinion he authored for the PLO in 2012, and for which he was paid some $1,300 (£900), was not different from advice he had given to many other governments and organizations.

“My views on Israel and Palestine as well as on many other issues were well known and very public,” he wrote. “This work in defence of human rights appears to have made me a huge target for malicious attacks.”

Israel has long criticized Schabas’ appointment, citing his record as a strong critic of “the Jewish state” and its current political leadership. Schabas said his work for the PLO had prompted the Human Rights Council’s executive to seek legal advice about his position from UN headquarters on Monday.

“I believe that it is difficult for the work to continue while a procedure is underway to consider whether the chair of the commission should be removed,” he wrote, adding that the commission had largely finished gathering evidence and had begun writing the report.

The appointment of Schabas, who lives in Britain and teaches international law at Middlesex University, was welcomed at the time by Hamas but was harshly criticized by Jewish groups in the US.

Schabas, at the time, had said that he was determined to put aside any views about “things that have gone on in the past”.

The commission is looking into the behavior of both the Israelis and of Hamas.

February 3, 2015 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, War Crimes | , , , , | 1 Comment

US Slaps Venezuelans with New Sanctions

teleSUR | February 3, 2015

The United States officially imposed new sanctions on Venezuela Monday, amid accusations from President Nicolas Maduro that Washington is trying to destabilize his country.

The new sanctions expand the number of Venezuelan government officials barred from entering the United States.

“These restrictions will also affect the immediate family members of a number of those individuals subject to visa restrictions for believed involvement in human rights abuses or for acts of public corruption,” said State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki.

Psaki continued by stating, “We will not publicly identify these individuals because of U.S. visa confidentiality laws, but we are sending a clear message that human rights abusers, those who profit from public corruption, and their families are not welcome in the United States.”

Maduro hit back at the announcement by accusing the U.S. government of hypocrisy.

“They kill black youth in the street with impunity, they persecute and have concentration camps of Central American kids. They have abducted dozens of citizens of the world under no known legal system, submitting them to torture, isolation,” he said during a speech.

Maduro has previously accused U.S. officials of plotting to topple his government.

He asked, “What human rights are they talking about?”

The new U.S. sanctions are in response to a wave of unrest that hit Venezuela in early 2014. Around 43 people died as anti-government groups took to the streets with weapons ranging from firearms to molotov cocktails and home-made bazookas to demand Maduro step down. According to an analysis of the death toll by independent media collective Venezuelanalysis, around half the casualties were government supporters, state security personnel or ordinary members of the public likely killed by anti-government groups. Venezuelan authorities have arrested opposition figures it claims masterminded the violence including Leopoldo Lopez, while also pressing charges against security personnel accused of misconduct.

However, Psaki described the opposition violence as “peaceful protests.”

“We emphasize the action we are announcing today is specific to individuals and not directed at the Venezuelan nation or its people,” she said.

However, Venezuelan foreign minister Delcy Rodriguez told private broadcaster Venevision that the U.S. and corporate media are trying to mislead the international community about Venezuela.

“All imperialist wars have been precipitated by media campaigns such as this one, giving false information that aims to provide the world with the justification for an intervention,” said Rodriguez.

February 3, 2015 Posted by | Deception | , , | 1 Comment

Sabino Romero’s Widow Testifies Amidst Threats

Sabino's widow, Lucia Martinez de Romero, testified at court today (Aporrea)

Sabino’s widow, Lucia Martinez de Romero, testified at court today (Aporrea)
By Lucas Koerner | Venezuelanalysis | February 2, 2015

Caracas – Dozens of activists gathered outside the Ministry of Justice in the capital today in solidarity with Lucia Martinez de Romero, the widow of assassinated indigenous Yukpa leader Sabino Romero.  Today she testified in the trial of Angel Antonio Romero Bracho, (aka “Manguera”) accused of murdering the indigenous chief or “cacique”.

Lucia herself also suffered multiple gunshot wounds the night of March 3, 2013 when her husband was shot and killed by hired assassins reportedly acting in the service of wealthy cattle ranchers.

Lusby Portillo, 66, Coordinator of the Zulia-based Homo Et Nature Society, explained what is at stake in today’s proceedings:

“Today there is a trial against the physical murderer, who shot and killed [Sabino] and wounded Lucia Martinez. Five police officers from Machiques have already been tried and given seven years of prison… They gave them seven years, because there was influence on the part of the cattle ranchers, who paid so that the court would decide a minimum sentence of seven years”.

Portillo is one of the principal activists to have followed the case over the past 23 months. He told Venezuelanalysis that many indigenous activists feared that a miscarriage of justice would take place unless supporters continued to draw attention to the case. One witness today also noted that the family of Manguera began to threaten Lucia before she was due to testify.

“If we let our guard down, if we don’t protest, if we don’t make movies, if we don’t write articles, if we don’t get the word out, these courts are going to give Manguera ten, eleven years, and then within two or three years he can go free with all of the benefits…So we are demanding thirty years of prison [for Manguera], and we’re also demanding that the trial against the five police officers be annulled, that there be a new trial, and that… the intellectual actors… the cattle ranchers who financed [the murder], who are millionaires, go to trial.”

Land Struggles

In the leadup to his assassination, Rabino spearheaded a series of occupations by Yukpa campesinos of the expansive rancher haciendas established on their ancestral land in Sierra de Perijá, which were returned to them by the current socialist government under the Constitution. According to Portillo, these lands were violently confiscated by the government of dictator Juan Vicente Gomez in 1930, driving the Yukpa people into the mountains. When they subsequently attempted to retake their lands, as Sabino would do over eighty years later, they were brutally massacred by the cattle ranchers.

For indigenous rights activist Tibisay Maldonado, 52, however, this struggle goes much further back than eighty years.

“We are active in the organization National Front for Land Struggle, because, even though we are from Caracas we are from the city, this problematic of the land, this plundering from 500 years ago. We are the inheritors of a dispossession, of an invasion 500 years ago, and the indigenous peoples remain in resistance, and we  must stand with them”.

Amid Trial, Impunity Continues for Murder of 8 other Yukpa Leaders

Portillo went on to criticize what he described as “impunity” for the hired killers of indigenous leaders and their intellectual and financial backers.

“Of the Yukpa [leaders] killed over the question of land, who are nine up until now, only the case of Sabino has been taken to the courts, but the [case of the] other eight murdered [leaders] has not been investigated nor brought to trial…Besides trial for [the case of] Sabino, there also needs be trials for the other eight Yukpa who were assassinated.”

Nonetheless, for Leonardo Dominguez, the problem goes well beyond these nine assassinated leaders, encompassing the issues of paramilitary violence in Venezuela writ large;

“This is something that is practiced in Colombia. These are new crimes in Venezuela. So I think the laws need to stipulate a decent punishment for this murderer to mark a precedent, because enough is enough. There have already been 359 campesinos assassinated at the hands of the hitmen, plus workers’ leaders, plus popular leaders. We want peace, but we believe peace is achieved through struggle. If you want peace, prepare for war,” he said.

A Test for the Revolution

For those present outside the Ministry of Justice, today’s trial represents a fundamental test of the Bolivarian government’s commitment to defending indigenous rights.

“Socialism has two paths,” warns Dominguez..”Either we’re with the indigenous people or we’re with the murderers.”

Despite the challenges faced by the Yupka people, including the relative inaction of the government, Jessy Rojas, 20, of Urbano Aborigen, is nevertheless hopeful. She stated that there had been a “fair amount of gains” for indigenous people under the Bolivarian Revolution, including the trial of Sabino’s murderer.

“In the past, there generally weren’t trials for indigenous cases. In the past, there wasn’t this openness to discussing indigenous issues in the capital”.

According to Jessy, these historic gains are propelling young activists to take the struggle evern further.

“This is the moment to demand,” she asserted.

The case has been adjourned until February 13th.

February 3, 2015 Posted by | Corruption, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism | , , , | Leave a comment

‘Game of Thrones’ statue stolen, pagans blame religious hate

RT | February 3, 2015

A still from a YouTube video by darrensutton sculptor.

A still from a YouTube video by sculptor Darren Sutton

The theft of a Celtic sea god sculpture from a mountainside in Northern Ireland must be labeled as a religious hate crime, a local pagan priest believes. The statue, made by a ‘Game of Thrones’ set creator, prompted a media stir after it was vandalized.

The six-foot statue of Manannán Mac Lir, a sea deity in Irish mythology, was stolen from Binevenagh Mountain near Limavady in County Derry in January and replaced with a crucifix bearing the words “you shall have no other gods before me.”

Now, pagan priest Patrick Carberry, the founder and sovereign of the Order of the Golden River, which is based out of Belfast, says the incident should be treated as a religious hate crime.

“If a pagan stole a statue from a Christian church and left a pagan one in its place it would make world news,” Carberry told the Londonderry Sentinel.

Police have not yet discarded considerations that there could be a religious element to the crime, according to local media reports.

The creator of the statue is John Sutton – the man behind the sets of the popular HBO series ‘Game of Thrones’. Sutton said he was “disturbed” by the “unreal” theft.

The $15,000 statue was made of stainless steel and fiberglass, which would make it very difficult to steal, according to Sutton. Several people would have needed to be part of the crime and it likely would have taken them several hours.

According to Carberry, Pagans represent a significant minority in Northern Ireland. “There is a large community in Belfast alone and there are large communities across Ireland…people are afraid to admit that they have these beliefs because they might lose their jobs.”

“Paganism is the original religion of this land. We worship many gods and goddesses. In Ireland we are associated with the Celtic gods. Manannán would fall into that category,” he added.

Meanwhile, many others have been outraged by the crime in the predominantly-Christian region, decrying the vandalism of what is considered to be both a work of art and a tourist attraction.

A local Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA), Claire Sugden, on Sunday told Coleraine Times she was “disgusted” by the theft.

“It seems the reason for removing this statue was in God’s name which is shameful and indeed more disrespectful than their reasoning. Certainly I think God would have something to say about those who stole something which brought a lot of happiness to a lot of people,” Sugden said.

The MLA said that the statue of Manannán was “entirely appropriate in its setting” as it “framed and celebrated the natural beauty” of the place.

February 3, 2015 Posted by | Full Spectrum Dominance | , | Leave a comment

Chile: Two Found Guilty in Horman Murder Case


Weekly News Update on the Americas | February 2, 2015

Retired Chilean army colonel Pedro Espinoza and former Chilean air force intelligence agent Rafael González Berdugo have been convicted in the murder of US journalist Charles Horman and US graduate student Frank Teruggi during the days after the Sept. 11, 1973 military coup that overthrew leftist president Salvador Allende Gossens [see Update #1226].

Judge Jorge Zepeda sentenced Espinoza–formerly an officer in the now-defunct National Intelligence Directorate (DINA) who has been described as the right-hand man of DINA head Manuel Contreras—to seven years in prison for the two murders.

González Berdugo was sentenced to two years of police surveillance as an accomplice in Harmon’s murder.

Judge Zepeda ruled in the case on January 9 but the decision wasn’t announced until January 28.

Last summer the judge officially ruled that “US military intelligence services played a fundamental role in the murders” by supplying information to the Chilean military. (El Ciudadano (Chile) 1/31/15)

February 3, 2015 Posted by | Full Spectrum Dominance, Subjugation - Torture | , , , | Leave a comment