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New York professors join BDS movement

MEMO | April 11, 2015

Around 120 professors at New York University have joined the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement in calling for the institution to divest from companies linked to the Israeli occupation of Palestine, Al-Risalah newspaper has reported. The BDS movement has had some success in other parts of the US, notably in California.

According to Al-Risalah, the academics criticised the NYU policy of not disclosing the identity of the companies it is dealing with. This, they say, makes it harder to know whether they deal with the Israeli occupation or not. Students at NYU are pushing their professors to call for transparency in the university’s investments, and for divestment if and when links to the occupation are discovered.

“I support ‘NYU Out of Occupied Palestine’ because I am opposed to apartheid,” said Professor of English Elaine Freedgood in a press statement. “The international boycott of apartheid in South Africa was a significant factor in its demise.”

Other professors who signed the petition include Iraqi novelist Sinan Antoon, historians Greg Grandin and Zachary Lockman, and Ella Shohat, a well-known cultural studies scholar.

April 11, 2015 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Solidarity and Activism | , | 2 Comments

Israel refuses to probe bombing of civilians in Gaza

MEMO | April 10, 2015

Chief Military Advocate General Danny Efroni said he refuses to probe the bombing of civilians in the Gaza Strip during last summer’s war, but will probe potential acts of looting and robbery committed by Israeli soldiers.

Efroni said: “You will never hear me say, ‘The IDF is the most moral army in the world’.”

Nearly 2,200 Palestinians were killed during the air, naval and ground strikes on Gaza, the overwhelming majority of whom were civilians. A quarter of the victims were children.

In an interview with Haaretz newspaper, published yesterday, Efroni said: “We will not put soldiers on trial only in order to satisfy the media, which is disturbed by the large number of civilians killed in the war. I am not investigating in order to satisfy anyone. I will not file indictments in order to arrange the statistics of B’Tselem,” which criticised the small number of indictments in the past.

An indication of Efroni and the army’s general approach is the fact that despite the passing of over eight months since the end of the war, no decision has been made regarding whether or not a military probe into the incident in Rafah that has become known as “Black Friday” on 1 August, when the IDF implemented the Hannibal Directive after the abduction of Second Lt. Hadar Goldin.

This criminal and brutal operation involved the launching of very heavy artillery fire and intensive air, ground and naval strikes, resulting in the death of dozens of Palestinian civilians. Some estimates indicate that 150 Palestinians were killed in the attack, the vast majority of whom were civilians. The Israeli army has admitted that it did not warn the civilians in the Rafah area to leave their homes before they launched the intense strike.

Despite this, Efroni said that a Military Police probe is not an insurance policy for the IDF protecting them from being prosecuted at The Hague. “If the probe is a whitewash and not a true investigation, nothing will stop the ICC,” he added.

Israeli human rights organisations B’Tselem and Yesh Din claimed that the investigation system in the IDF is “a failure” and that Israel “is not interested and not capable of investigating violations of Palestinians’ human rights by the security forces.”

B’Tselem also claimed that the IDF investigations do not arrive at the truth, noting that of the 52 Military Police probes opened after Operation Cast Lead, carried out in late 2008 and early 2009, only three resulted in the filing of indictments – and the harshest punishment was for a soldier who stole a credit card.

April 11, 2015 Posted by | Deception, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, War Crimes | , , , , | 1 Comment

US approves sale of missiles to Egypt as it launches first air strikes in Yemen

MEMO | April 10, 2015

The US State Department has approved the sale of 356 AGM-114K/R3 Hellfire II Missiles to Egypt, the Defence Security Cooperation Agency announced on 8 April. The sale of the missiles, which were requested by Egypt, is estimated to cost $57 million.

It is the first military sale by the US to Egypt since the Obama administration announced on 31 March that it would lift the hold on the delivery of military equipment including F-16 aircraft, Harpoon missiles, and M1A1 tanks. The ban had been in place since the overthrow of democratically elected president Mohamed Morsi in October 2013.

The move comes as the Obama administration hopes to strengthen ties with the Egyptian regime and promote shared objectives in the region. In a White House statement, Obama spoke of “shared challenges to US and Egyptian interests in an unstable region”, quoted from a phone call with Al-Sisi on 31 March.

The approval for the Hellfire missiles also comes as Egypt began its first airstrikes against the Houthi targets in Yemen on 9 April, according to Al Jazeera.

The US has also expressed support to the Saudi-led coalition for carrying out airstrikes against the Houthis in Yemen.

April 11, 2015 Posted by | Militarism, War Crimes | , | Leave a comment

Pentagon: US bunker busting bombs ‘ready’ for war against Iran

Press TV – April 11, 2015

US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter has threatened Tehran with war, saying his country’s bunker-busting bombs are ready to destroy Iran’s nuclear facilities if necessary.

“We continue to improve it and upgrade over time so that there is this alternative,” Carter told CNN on Friday.

“My job as secretary of Defense is to, among other things, make sure that the so-called military option is on the table,” he added.

The bunker busting bomb or the Massive Ordinance Penetrator can explode 200 feet underground.

The threats come amid efforts by Iran and world powers to reach a final nuclear agreement following the framework deal reached in Switzerland last week.

The Pentagon chief also noted that the US military has the capability to “shut down, set back and destroy the Iranian nuclear program.”

Carter also said any nuclear deal with Iran must include inspection of Iran’s military sites.

“It depends on what you mean by military sites, but yes. Absolutely,” he said.

Deputy Chief of Staff of Iran’s Armed Forces Brigadier General Masoud Jazayeri has already hit back at Carter’s comments, saying Tehran would not allow any inspection of its military facilities as part of a possible nuclear deal.

“During the previous negotiations, the Iranian officials… have explicitly and unequivocally expressed the prohibition of any inspection of [Iran’s] military and defense centers and facilities,” Jazayeri said on Friday.

A landmark framework agreement was reached between Iran and the P5+1 group – the US, Britain, France, China, Russia and Germany – in Switzerland on April 2.

The two sides will work to draw up a final accord by the end of June.

April 11, 2015 Posted by | Militarism, War Crimes | , | 1 Comment

Seven Steps of Highly Effective Manipulators

White Helmets, Avaaz, Nicholas Kristof and Syria No Fly Zone

By Rick Sterling | Dissident Voice | April 9, 2015

You might think that after seeing the consequences of their campaign for “freedom and democracy” in Libya, journalists like Nicholas Kristof and “humanitarian campaigners” like Avaaz would have some qualms.

Unfortunately they have learned nothing. They have generally not been held to account, with a few nice exceptions such as this Greenwald/Hussain article. And now they are at it again. Many well-intentioned but naive members of the U.S. and international public are again being duped into signing an Avaaz petition based on fraud and misinformation. If the campaign succeeds in leading to a No Fly Zone in Syria, it will result in vastly increased war, mayhem and bloodshed.

The following illustration shows the sequence and trail of deceit leading to Avaaz’s call for a No Fly Zone in Syria.

unnamedFollowing is a brief description documenting the flow of misinformation and deceit, beginning at the Source and ending with Avaaz’s campaign for NATO/US attack on Syria.

Source

The “Source” is unknown at this time. It might be some US agency with or without the approval of the Obama administration. Or it might be another foreign government which seeks, in plain violation of international law, the overthrow the Syrian government. In addition to the U.S., Turkey, Saudi Arabia, France, Britain and Qatar have each spent hundreds of millions and even billions in heavy weaponry plus 3,000 tons of weapons via Croatia plus arming, training, supplying and paying the salaries of thousands of domestic and international mercenaries sowing mayhem and destruction in Syria.

At this point we do not know but there is a REWARD:  $100 finders fee to the first person who can provide credible evidence identifying the SOURCE.

PURPOSE Inc.

This is an international PR firm. CEO is Jeremy Heimans, a co-founder of Avaaz.

President is Kevin Steinberg, previous CEO of World Economic Forum USA (antithesis of World Social Forum). Their website describes their goal:

“Purpose builds and accelerates movements to tackle the world’s biggest problems.”

In this case the “problem” is reluctance to take over Syrian skies and land.

For a hefty fee, “Purpose” will dupe the public and break down that reluctance.

Toward that end, Purpose created “The Syria Campaign”.

The Syria Campaign 

The Syria Campaign began in spring 2014. One of their first efforts was to work to prevent publicity and information about the Syrian Presidential Election of June 2014. Accordingly, “The Syria Campaign” pressured Facebook to remove advertisements or publicity about the Syrian election. Since then Syria Campaign has engineered huge media exposure and mythology about their baby, the “White Helmets” using all sorts of social and traditional media. The campaigns are largely fact free. For example, the Syrian election was dismissed out of hand by them and John Kerry but taken seriously by many millions of Syrians.

The Syria Campaign is managed by Anna Nolan, who grew up in northern Ireland and has very likely never been to Syria. In addition to promoting the White Helmets,  Syria Campaign promotes a new social media campaign called “Planet Syria”. It features emotional pleas for the world to take notice of Syria in another thinly veiled effort pushing for foreign intervention and war.

According to their website, The Syria Campaign received start-up funding from the foundation of Ayman Asfari, a billionaire who made his money in the oil and gas services industry.

White Helmets

White Helmets is the newly minted name for “Syrian Civil Defence”. Despite the name, Syria Civil Defence was not created by Syrians nor does it serve Syria. Rather it was created by the UK and USA in 2013. Civilians from rebel controlled territory were paid to go to Turkey to receive some training in rescue operations. The program was managed by James Le Mesurier, a former British soldier and private contractor whose company is based in Dubai.

The trainees are said to be ‘nonpartisan’ but only work in rebel-controlled areas of Idlib (now controlled by Nusra/Al Queda) and Aleppo. There are widely divergent claims regarding the number of people trained by the White Helmets and the number of people rescued.  The numbers are probably highly exaggerated especially since rebel-controlled territories have few civilians. A doctor who recently served in a rebel-controlled area of Aleppo described it as a ghost town. The White Helmets work primarily with the rebel group Jabat al Nusra (Al Queda in Syria). Video of the recent alleged chlorine gas attacks starts with the White Helmet logo and continues with the logo of Nusra. In reality, White Helmets is a small rescue team for Nusra/Al Queda.

But White Helmets primary function is propaganda. White Helmets demonizes the Assad government and encourages direct foreign intervention. A White Helmet leader wrote a recent Washington Post editorial. White Helmets are also very active on social media with presence on Twitter, Facebook etc. According to their website, to contact White Helmets email The Syria Campaign which underscores the relationship.

Nicholas Kristof/New York Times

The “White Helmets” campaign has been highly successful because of uncritical media promotion. Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times was an advocate of the NATO/US attack on Libya. According to him, villagers who had been shot, injured and their homes destroyed were not bitter, they were thankful! “Hugs from Libyans” is how he viewed it. It was, of course, nonsense, helping to pave the way in the invasion and destruction of the country.

Now Kristof is uncritically promoting the White Helmets, aiding and abetting their political and propaganda message seeking foreign intervention in Syria.

Avaaz

Avaaz is an online lobby organization founded in 2007 by Jeremy Heimans (now CEO of Purpose) and others. Start-up funding was provided by George Soros’ foundation.  While Avaaz has promoted some worthy causes, they have been prominent in promoting neoliberal foreign policies in keeping with the U.S. State Department. Accordingly, they had a major disinformation campaign against Venezuela last year.

Avaaz very actively promoted a No Fly Zone in Libya. They are now very actively promoting the same for Syria.

In-depth research and exposure of Avaaz can be found here. The titles give some indication: “Faking It: Charity Communications in the Firing Line”, “Syria: Avaaz, Purpose & the Art of Selling Hate for Empire”, “Avaaz: Imperialist Pimps for Militarism”.

Avaaz justifies its call for No Fly Zone in part on White Helmets. Given the close interconnections between Avaaz and Purpose, they are surely aware that White Helmets is a media creation. This calls into question their sincerity.

Conclusion

The manipulators rely on emotional images and messages, not facts. They depend on willing partners in the mainstream media who amplify the easy and glib characterizations of who and what is good and bad. The manipulators depend on their audience not asking questions or investigating on their own. In these times of rapid spread of visual and text information via social media, the potential for deceit is huge.

Snapshots

unnamedAvaaz Petition for Libya No Fly Zone — 2011

unnamedAvaaz Petition for Syria No Fly Zone — 2015 (Syria Campaign Posting)

unnamedKristoff/New York Times/2011

unnamedKristoff/New York Times/2015

unnamedunnamed

unnamedThe Real White Helmet Purpose:  Propaganda

Rick Sterling is active with the Syria Solidarity Movement and Mt Diablo Peace and Justice Center. He can be emailed at: rsterling1@gmail.com

April 11, 2015 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , | Leave a comment

Locals Protest, Sabotage U.S. Navy Base Construction in Desert in Sicily

World Beyond War

There’s a popular movement in Sicily called No MUOS. MUOS means Mobile User Objective System. It’s a satellite communications system created by the U.S. Navy. The primary contractor and profiteer building the satellite equipment at the U.S. Navy base in the desert in Sicily is Lockheed Martin Space Systems. This is one of four ground stations, each intended to include three swivelling very-high-frequency satellite dishes with a diameter of 18.4 meters and two Ultra High Frequency (UHF) helical antennas.

Protests have been growing in the nearby town of Niscemi since 2012. In October 2012, construction was suspended for a few weeks. In early 2013 the President of the Region of Sicily revoked the authorization for the MUOS construction. The Italian government conducted a dubious study of health impacts and concluded the project was safe. Work recommenced. The town of Niscemi appealed, and in April 2014 the Regional Administrative Tribunal requested a new study. Construction goes on, as does resistance.

I spoke with Fabio D’Alessandro, a juornalist and law school graduate living in Niscemi. “I’m part of the No MUOS movement,” he told me, “a movement that works to prevent the installation of the U.S. satellite system called MUOS. To be specific, I’m part of the No MUOS committee of Niscemi, which is part of the coalition of No MUOS committees, a network of committees spread around Sicily and in the major Italian cities.”

“It is very sad,” said D’Alessandro,”to realize that in the United States people know little about MUOS. MUOS is a system for high-frequency and narrowband satellite communications, composed of five satellites and four stations on earth, one of which is planned for Niscemi. MUOS was developed by the U.S. Department of Defense. The purpose of the program is the creation of a global communications network that allows communication in real time with any soldier in any part of the world. In addition it will be possible to send encrypted messages. One of the principal functions of MUOS, apart from the speed of communications, is the ability to remotely pilot drones. Recent tests have demonstrated how MUOS can be used at the North Pole. In short, MUOS will serve to support any U.S. conflict in the Mediterranean or the Middle East or Asia. It’s all part of the effort to automate war, entrusting the choice of targets to machines.”

“There are many reasons to oppose MUOS,” D’Alessandro told me, “first of all the local community has not been advised of the installation. The MUOS satellite dishes and antennas are built within a non-NATO U.S. military base that has existed in Niscemi since 1991. The base was constructed within a nature preserve, destroying thousands of cork oaks and devestating the landscape by means of bulldozers that leveled a hill. The base is larger than the town of Niscemi itself. The presence of the satellite dishes and antennas puts at serious risk a fragile habitat including flora and fauna that exist only in this place. And no study has been conducted of the dangers of the electromagnetic waves emitted, neither for the animal population nor for the human inhabitants and the civilian flights from the Comiso Airport approximately 20 kilometers away.

“Within the base there are already present 46 satellite dishes, surpassing the limit set by Italian law. Moreover, as determined anti-militarists, we oppose further militarizing this area, which already has the base at Sigonella and other U.S. bases in Sicily. We don’t want to be complicit in the next wars. And we don’t want to become a target for whoever attempts to attack the U.S. military.”

What have you done thus far, I asked.

“We’ve engaged in lots of different actions against the base: more than once we’ve cut through the fences; three times we’ve invaded the base en masse; twice we’ve entered the base with thousands demonstrating. We’ve blocked the roads to prevent access for the workers and the American military personnel. There has been sabotage of the optical communication wires, and many other actions.”

The No Dal Molin movement against the new base at Vicenza, Italy, has not stopped that base. Have you learned anything from their efforts? Are you in touch with them?

“We are in constant contact with No Dal Molin, and we know their history well. The company that is building MUOS, Gemmo SPA, is the same that did the work on Dal Molin and is currently under investigation subsequent to the seizure of the MUOS building site by the courts in Caltagirone. Anyone attempting to bring into doubt the legitimacy of U.S. military bases in Italy is obliged to work with political groups on the right and left that have always been pro-NATO. And in this case the first supporters of MUOS were the politicians just as happened at Dal Molin. We often meet with delegations of activists from Vicenza and three times have been their guests.”

I went with representatives of No Dal Molin to meet with Congress Members and Senators and their staffs in Washington, and they simply asked us where the base should go if not Vicenza. We replied “Nowhere.” Have you met with anyone in the U.S. government or communicated with them in any way?

“Many times the U.S. consuls have come to Niscemi but we have never been permitted to speak with them. We have never in any way communicated with U.S. senators/representatives, and none have ever asked to meet with us.”

Where are the other three MOUS sites? Are you in touch with resisters there? Or with the resistance to bases on Jeju Island or Okinawa or the Philippines or elsewhere around the world? The Chagossians seeking to return might make good allies, right? What about the groups studying the military damage to Sardinia? Environmental groups are concerned about Jeju and about Pagan Island Are they helpful in Sicily?

“We are in direct contact with the No Radar group in Sardinia. One of the planners of that struggle has worked (for free) for us. We know the other anti-U.S.-base movements around the world, and thanks to No Dal Molin and to David Vine, we have been able to hold some virtual meetings. Also thanks to the support of Bruce Gagnon of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space we are trying to get in touch with those in Hawaii and Okinawa.”

What would you most like people in the United States to know?

“The imperialism that the United States is imposing on the countries that lost the Second World War is shameful. We are tired of having to be slaves to a foreign politics that to us is crazy and that obliges us to make enormous sacrifices and that makes Sicily and Italy no longer lands of welcome and peace, but lands of war, deserts in use by the U.S. Navy.”

April 11, 2015 Posted by | Environmentalism, Illegal Occupation, Militarism, Solidarity and Activism | , , | Leave a comment

Canada to send troops to Ukraine ‘in non-combat role’ – report

RT | April 11, 2015

Canadian government has decided to send troops to Ukraine in a non-combat role, CTV News reported, citing official sources. The troops could arrive in the country in the coming weeks or months, but the details of the mission are still being worked out.

The Canadian soldiers are likely to be sent for a training mission and could cooperate with American soldiers, the report said.

“While the government is still working out the details, sources told CTV News a training mission is one of the options on the table. Canada is likely to work closely with American allies who are already in the region,” CTV News reporter Mercedes Stephenson said.

The Conservative government has been leaning towards a more significant Canadian involvement in the Ukrainian crisis for the past few months.

In February, Canada updated the list of its sanctions against Russia with travel bans slapped on 37 Russian and Ukrainian individuals. It also applied economic sanctions against 17 Russian and Ukrainian companies, which included Russian oil giant Rosneft.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Lukashevich labelled the new sanctions as an anti-Russian step that looks like “an awkward attempt to hinder the implementation of the conflict settlement agreements, reached in Minsk on February 12 with Russia’s active constructive role.”

In December, Canada signed an agreement to send its military police to Ukraine to “look into the possibilities of cooperation,” while it also looked to help the government in Kiev with security issues.

Meanwhile, Canada’s Toronto Symphony Orchestra (TSO) barred a Ukrainian-born pianist from playing in a scheduled program for expressing views on the situation in Ukraine via Twitter.

The orchestra dropped pianist Valentina Lisitsa who was due to play a concerto by Rachmaninoff. The hashtag #LetValentinaPlay surged in popularity on social media, and thousands of supporters spoke out for the artist, who was offered to be paid not to play.
Read more ‘Dangerous process’: Russia warns against US, NATO military instructors in Ukraine

April 11, 2015 Posted by | Full Spectrum Dominance, Militarism | , , , | Leave a comment