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Revelations in the Maidan Massacre trial in Ukraine go unreported in the west

By Ivan Katchanovski, on Facebook, July 22, 2015

A delayed trial of two Berkut police members in the Maidan Massacre case [1] have produced striking new revelations providing further confirmations of major findings of my Maidan “snipers’ massacre” study about Maidan snipers killing both police and protesters and subsequent cover up and falsification of the official investigation.[2] But these striking revelations have not been reported by the Ukrainian and Western media, even though the trial proceedings were open to the media, were streamed live over the Internet and their recordings were posted on YouTube.

Trial of two former Ukrainian 'Berkut' police in Kyiv in July 2015 (photo on Censor.net)On July 15, 2015, the prosecution made public in court for the first time its charges alleging that two arrested members of the Berkut special company massacred 39 out of 49 killed protesters on February 20, 2014.

However, the prosecution’s case unraveled on July 17 when the brother of one of the victims stated during his questioning by the prosecutors that Andrii Saienko was killed not from Berkut positions but from a top floor of the Maidan-controlled Hotel Ukraina. He made this conclusion on the basis of his brother’s position as shown in a video at the moment of his killing and an entry wound location in upper right chest area and a steep wound channel to the backbone. The prosecutors and relatives of some of the victims reported during the trial that technical expert reports in the investigative file established that Saienko and at least 9 other protesters were killed from the same exact 7.62mm caliber weapon.

Trial of two former Ukrainian 'Berkut' police in Kyiv in July 2015 (photo on Censor.net)This revelation alone means that a significant proportion of the protesters were shot from this Maidan-controlled hotel, since this caliber bullets were extracted from bodies of 16 protesters. But the prosecution charged two Berkut members with their killings, even though Saienko’s brother and his lawyer officially handed to investigators the aforementioned video file in October 2014.

His brother identified the moment when Saienko was killed on Instytutska Street, at 9:08:34am in the video, which was initially filmed from the Hotel Ukraina by Radio Svoboda and then synchronized and time-stamped: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-IQkB0jZ39k. This video also shows the moment when Bohdan Solchanyk was killed at 9:08:16am, less than 20 seconds before Saienko in the same area, reportedly with a 7.62mm bullet. His apparent position, the blood on the right side of the neck, and louder and different sounds of several shots in rapid succession, compared to the AKMS shots fired by Berkut at the same time, indicate that Solchanyk was most likely shot dead from the Hotel Ukraina. At that time, the Berkut policemen were in front and somewhat to the left from Solchanyk and the other protesters; and a specific shot, which was presented in the video synchronization, made by his acquaintance, as the evidence of his killing by Berkut, was from a 12mm caliber Fort pump rifle.

In the same video, Ihor Zastavnyi is seen in a yellow helmet falling nearby several seconds after Solchanyk was killed. Zastavnyi said in various interviews that he fell to the ground after he was wounded there third time and his leg was severed. He stated that the prosecution informed him earlier this year that they lost a bullet extracted from his body: http://hromadskeradio.org/…/slidchi-prokuraturi-zagubili-ku….

The analysis of the content of the same video and photo compilation indicates that Maksym Shymko was killed in the same area at about the same time, since he was last seen alive at 9:07:15am and by 9:07:46am he was shot and his stick was on the pavement near a wooden shield. Although the exact moment of his killing is missing from the video, his mother in her court testimony confirmed this location and indicated that the investigation found that he was killed from the same weapon as 9 other protesters, including Saienko.

Another bullet, which was stuck in Shymko’s neck and which was publicized as evidence of government snipers, was not of 7.62mm caliber. His mother supported the prosecution charges that Berkut killed her son, but she stated that he was wounded in his neck with an exit wound below his shoulder blade. This indicates a sharp angle, which is consistent with the similar location of the Saienko’s killer and an announcement from the Maidan stage at 9:10am about two or three “snipers” on the pendulum floor of the Hotel Ukraina. This announcement relayed reports of Maidan protesters concerning the killings of Shymko, Solchanyk, and Saienko, since they were a part of the first group of the protesters that came under deadly live ammunition fire. One of the charged Berkut members indicated during the trial that the investigative file contained testimonies of protesters about Maidan “snipers” at the Hotel Ukraina.

The list of the 39 protesters whose killing the prosecution attributed to Berkut was only released nearly one and a half years after the massacre. The killings of the other 10 protesters were simply omitted from the charges, even though 8 of them were shot dead at the same time and place as these 39 protesters. The special Council of Europe investigative panel reported that the Ukrainian investigation had evidence that ten protesters were killed by “snipers” from top of the buildings, but that investigation did not found any evidence that these were snipers from the Security Service of Ukraine Alf unit and other government units. [See here for an April 2015 news report. And here is the 188-page report of the panel, dated March 31, 2015.]

The omitted list confirmed information that the investigation omitted the killings of Oleh Unshnevych, Evhen Kotliar, Ustym Holodniuk and Oleksander Kharchenko because of clear evidence they were killed from the Maidan-controlled locations, such as Hotel Ukraina. In addition, the prosecution charges also omitted the killings of Vasyl Aksenyn, Vladyslav Zubenko, Volodymyr Chaplynsky and Volodymyr Melnychuk. My study presents various evidence that these protesters were also killed from the Maidan-controlled buildings, mostly Hotel Ukraina, starting from about 9:18am till almost 5pm. For instance, the much publicized Zelenyi Front video shows at 10:26am (32:13) that Chaplynsky was shot dead when he was running away from the massacre area: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tdFHNE8WxOA. A Spline TV recording of its live broadcast, which is now removed from a list of its videos on the Internet, shows sparks flying from the Hotel Ukraina when a loud gunshot killed this protestor. Zubenko was killed in the same area at 9:49am, reportedly with a 5.45 caliber bullet.

The prosecution charges confirmed earlier reports that the investigation did not find specific evidence linking specific Berkut members to specific killed protesters. But these charges also revealed that the prosecution did not specify the exact time of killing of specific protesters and policemen, although such information can be determined from live broadcasts and synchronized and time-stamped videos, and it is presented in my study. These charges deliberately omitted various evidence, including videos, interviews, and public admissions, of Maidan “shooters” of the police.

The prosecution case for the first time de facto admitted an absence of a specific top government order to massacre the protesters on February 20. The prosecution stated that after an unspecified escalation of the conflict around 8am on February 20, the Berkut commander himself ordered the commander of the special Berkut company to disperse the protesters on the Maidan and block them from advancing to the parliament and presidential administration. It would have been irrational for the Berkut commander to issue such an order on his own and use only about two dozen members of a special company. The prosecution itself stated that then-president Viktor Yanukovych and the Minister of Internal Affairs ordered to disperse the protesters on the Maidan by force close to midnight on February 18. The attempt to storm the parliament on February 18 was presented by the prosecution as a peaceful rally, and subsequent clashes, the killing of some 30 policemen and protesters and a computer technician at the office of the Party of Regions were omitted.

The charges stated that following the Berkut commander order, the Berkut special company commander ordered the use of AKMs and Fort 500 pump guns with lead pellets, although no evidence was presented as to why this elite police unit would start using hunting ammunition. Contrary to the prosecutor charges account, various evidence cited in my study and later confirmed by BBC and other sources show that the Maidan protesters forced Berkut and Internal troop units, which did not have then live ammunition, to flee from the Maidan around 8:50am by killing and wounding about 20 of them, specifically with pellets and 7.62mm bullets, from the Music Conservatory and Trade Union buildings. The Berkut special company was first filmed being deployed and shooting with live ammunition on Instytutska street at 9:05am and then briefly moving to Zhovtnevyi Palace to allow remaining policemen there to flee.

The prosecution claimed that around 9am on February 20, 2014, unidentified persons of unknown allegiance started to shoot at the police and that they killed from an unknown weapon one member of the Berkut special company and wounded another. In response to this, the accused from the Berkut company and unidentified members of this company and other law enforcement units became hostile to protesters and started to shoot in the direction of the unarmed protesters with AKMS and Fort 500 with lead pellets in order to kill them. This timeline is also deliberately misleading, because recordings of live broadcasts, time-stamped and synchronized videos, cited in my study, show that at least five protesters were killed starting at exactly 9:00 am before the member of the special Berkut company was shot dead with pellets at 9:16am: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZYjEp1C4hzI.

The prosecution charged two Berkut members with being a part of an organized group that killed 39 protesters with 7.62mm caliber AKMS during the assault of the Maidan and from two barricades on Instytutska Street from 9am till 1pm. During the testimonies and cross-examination of relatives of six killed protesters, only one single direct witness of the killing of one of these protesters (Eduard Hrynevych) was identified. This witness now happens to serve in a paramilitary unit of the Right Sector, which was involved in the massacre. My study cited videos of protesters referring at 10:25am to the killing of Hrynevych by a shot to his head several meters from them and referring to “snipers” on the pendulum floor of the Hotel Ukraina: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-yUingq7eyI. This and other videos show many protesters and journalists witnessing and recording shooting of these protesters.

Remarkably, a recently posted video, which shows “snipers” on the top floors of the Hotel Ukraina shooting at the Maidan protesters was referred to during the trial as evidence of the killing of Ihor Kostenko by Berkut. This video shows Kostenko seconds before and after (0:59) when he was shot at 9:29am: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=akVXLbkJsX0. At least seven other protesters were killed within less than three minutes in the same area.

My study presents various evidence, such as videos and eyewitness testimonies, indicating that these and almost all other 39 protesters were also killed from the Hotel Ukraina and other Maidan-controlled buildings, and that the Right Sector, Svoboda, and Fatherland parties were involved in the “snipers” massacre. There are a few protesters whose location and time of the killing are still publicly undisclosed.

A Google News search shows that none of these revelations during the Maidan Massacre trial have been reported by the media in Ukraine and the West. In contrast, there were numerous reports in the Ukrainian media about each of these protesters. Similarly, The New York Times, The Telegraph, and Associated Press previously published articles, respectively, about the killings of Solchanyk and Saienko and wounding of Zastavnyi. The ‘Maidan’ documentary film by Sergei Loznitsa, shown at the Cannes Film Festival this year, included the above-mentioned excerpts of the Radio Svoboda live Internet video stream showing the killings of Shymko, Solchanyk, and Saienko. In media reports and in this documentary, these and other killings of the protesters were typically directly or indirectly attributed to Berkut or government snipers.

In contrast, the Maidan stage announcements concerning the “snipers” at the Hotel Ukraina and other various evidence of the concealed Maidan shooters there and in other Maidan-controlled areas were omitted. The failure to report the striking new revelations from the ongoing trial suggests that the misrepresentation in Ukraine and the West of the Maidan mass killing is driven not by lack of information but by politics.

Notes:
[1] The two Berkut policemen currently on trial were arrested last year. Three other policemen were arrested on similar charges this year but their trial has not yet started.
[2] See: The “Snipers’ Massacre” on the Maidan in Ukraine (revised and updated version), by Ivan Katchanovski, Ph.D, published on Academia.edu, Feb. 20, 2015.

Read also:
Investigation of Snipers Massacre on Maidan Square: Interview in Danish newspaper with Ivan Katchanovski, June 19, 2015

View:
BBC reports on neo-Nazi rally in Kyiv on July 21. Its reporter fails to mention their role in the Sniper Massacre in Kyiv on February 20, 2014 and the Odessa Massacre (May 2, 2014). BBC News, ten minute video, July 22, 2015

July 23, 2015 Posted by | Deception, War Crimes | | 1 Comment

‘In the US, joking about war has become acceptable’

RT | July 23, 2015

Attempts at humor over bombing huge numbers of people, and inflicting death is increasingly considered acceptable and this has a subtle effect on the population, says David Swanson, blogger and activist, author of ‘War Is A Lie’.

US President Barack Obama made an appearance on America’s Daily Show hosted by Jon Stewart taking the chance for a bit of light-hearted foreign policy banter.

RT: The situation in Yemen and Iraq is no laughing matter. Is it acceptable for the President to be laughing about these subjects?

David Swanson: It really isn’t. Jon Stewart jokes “We still get to bomb people, right?” and there is no stern rebuke from the President as there is when he is accused of allowing Americans to be held hostage in Iran and not caring about them and so forth, there is no offense taken, it’s all for laughs. Who are we bombing? President Obama has no idea specifically who he’s bombing not even with drone strikes and the tangled mess that Jon Stewart points to is far beyond what he listed. Making peace with Iran in order to fight a war with Iran, going to war in Syria on the opposite side in 2014 as you were told, as you head into 2013, US weapons in the hands of Islamic State, US allies funding IS – it’s an incredible mess and Jon Stewart, although it’s his last chance, last interview with the president, makes jokes instead of asking questions. He makes a joke about trying diplomacy for once after bombs, proxies and arming and so forth, but it’s a joke, Obama doesn’t answer. Jon Stewart could have said “Why, if diplomacy is an option in one case do you not use it in all these other cases?” He didn’t ask the question.

RT: How do jokes about foreign policy influence the public?

DS: A certain segment of the public including myself is not laughing about war and doesn’t think it’s a laughing matter, but I think it influences the public very subtly that jokes about war are acceptable. I heard a weapon’s contractor on national public radio in the US joke about wanting a big new invasion and occupation when another one might be ending – ha-ha. When jokes about things like sexual abuse or racism or all kinds of cruelty, anti-morality are absolutely not acceptable, absolutely excluded from public discussion in US media, but jokes about war, about bombing huge numbers of people to death, injury and trauma are acceptable and that does have an impact.

RT: Obama had previously joked about predator drones. Does that make the matter more mundane, perhaps more acceptable? Politically, how intentional are such jokes?

DS: It points to this huge contrast in the US between the immorality of war and any other kind of immorality. President Obama this week said that jokes about rape in US prisons are absolutely offensive and unacceptable; it’s not something that should ever be joked about. The US, I believe, is the first society in the history of the world where the majority of rape victims are male and it’s in prison and it’s an epidemic. He is absolutely right, don’t you joke about it. But when it comes to war, to murder with weapons of war, spying, massive surveillance and the whole package of militarism, jokes seem to be totally acceptable – even for the President speaking to the journalists and reporters who are actually supposed to know the horror and suffering of war.

July 23, 2015 Posted by | Militarism, Progressive Hypocrite, War Crimes | , , , , | Leave a comment

Deputy Lied About Drugs to Illegally Obtain Warrant Leading to Raid that Blew Apart Baby’s Face

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By Matt Agorist | The Free Thought Project | July 22, 2015

Habersham County, GA — In May of last year, Bounkham “Baby Bou Bou” Phonesavanh, 19-months-old, was asleep in his crib. At 3:00 am militarized police barged into his family’s home because the sheriff’s department claimed that an informant had purchased $50 worth of meth from someone who once lived there. During the raid, a flash-bang grenade was thrown into the sleeping baby’s crib, exploding in his face.

Baby Bou sustained severe injuries and may have possible brain damage.

Prior to obtaining the warrant, Nikki Autry, a Habersham County sheriff’s deputy and a special agent with the Mountain Judicial Circuit Narcotics Criminal Investigation and Suppression Team, claimed a confidential informant “was able to purchase a quantity of methamphetamine from Wanis Thonetheva at Thonetheva’s residence,” which she identified as the house where the Phonesavanhs were staying.

Autry claimed that she “confirmed that there are several individuals outside of the residence standing ‘guard.’”

However, it has come to light that these were lies. The informant never purchased meth at the residence, and there were never armed guards out front.

In a press release on Wednesday, the US Attorney’s Office stated that Autry has been indicted for her insidious role in the horrifying raid.

According to the report, Autry has been indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of providing false information in a search warrant affidavit and providing the same false information to obtain an arrest warrant. Providing false evidence to a judge to obtain a warrant is a federal civil rights violation.

“Our criminal justice system depends upon our police officers’ sworn duty to present facts truthfully and accurately—there is no arrest that is worth selling out the integrity of our law enforcement officers,” said Acting U.S. Attorney John Horn.

“In this case, Autry is charged with making false statements to a judge in order to obtain search and arrest warrants. Without her false statements, there was no probable cause to search the premises for drugs or to make the arrest. And in this case, the consequences of the unlawful search were tragic,” Horn continued.

According to the report:

The federal indictment alleges that Autry knew the NCIS informant had not purchased any methamphetamine from anyone at the residence and the NCIS informant had not proven himself to be reliable in the past. Additionally, the indictment alleges that Autry had not confirmed that there was heavy traffic in and out of the residence. Based on this false information, the magistrate judge issued a “no-knock” search warrant for the residence and an arrest warrant for W. T., who allegedly sold the methamphetamine. The warrant obtained by Autry was executed approximately two hours later, during the early morning hours of May 28, 2014.

What made this woman lie about drugs being at this residence is unknown. What kind of vile person would make up fake information to send officers barging into a family’s home in the middle of the night?

Despite the fact that Habersham county jurors in the local case found the warrant to have been obtained in a “hurried and sloppy” manner, lawyers for the sheriff and the other officers denied that “false and misleading information was used in the search warrant application.” This is also in spite of the fact that no drugs were found during the raid.

No one was charged by the local grand jury, but, fortunately, federal prosecutors launched their own investigation in October.

It is bad enough that a baby had his face blown apart by cops attempting to stop someone from selling an arbitrary substance to willing customers. However, seeing that a federal grand jury indicted one of the deputies for falsely obtaining the warrant in the first place, makes the raid nothing more than an armed home invasion, in which thugs in militarized attire terrorized a family and attacked a baby.

July 23, 2015 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception | , | 1 Comment

Sandra Bland is Everyman

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By Adam Dick | Ron Paul Institute | July 23, 2015

Waller County District Attorney Elton Mathis is characterizing Sandra Bland — who died last week in a jail in the Texas county — as being “very combative” and “not a model person” during the traffic stop that led to her arrest and incarceration. His disparaging assessment appears to be far from the truth.

Recently released dashboard camera video of Bland’s arrest shows that throughout her ordeal on a Texas roadway Bland behaved appropriately and much as would many other ordinary people in a similar situation. Bland’s response may even have been more muted than average considering the infuriating nonsense she had to deal with — an out-of-control cop pulling her over for changing lanes without using a turn signal and then proceeding, for no good reason, to force her out of her car, throw her to the ground, handcuff her, and send her off to jail.

Bland’s response to the police harassment and brutality is commendable. Unless you accept the police-state mindset that Mathis’ comments suggest, you can’t help but admire Bland boldly standing up to a cop who literally had the power of life and death in his hands on that Texas roadway.

In the video we see and hear Bland being brutally attacked and arrested for expressing her opinion (after the arresting cop asked her for it), refusing to put out the cigarette she was smoking in her own car, or resisting arrest (let the nonsense of that excuse for an arrest settle in). After Bland is in handcuffs and other cops are present, you can even hear the cop who arrested her trying to work out, while on the phone with someone, a story to excuse his abuse of Bland.

As the cop escalated his physical attack, Bland yelled. Bland cursed. Bland insulted the policeman. She asked him repeatedly to give a logical justification, which never came, for his physical aggression against her.

If Bland continued to be upset and strongly communicated her anger during her confinement the next three days, how would that be anything but a normal, justified reaction? Why shouldn’t she scream about the abuse of her rights and the pain inflicted on her? Why shouldn’t she challenge the illogic and injustice of her captors’ actions? Such is natural and to be expected in reaction to extreme harassment and physical abuse.

Bland is now dead, apparently from hanging in a jail cell after being forcibly confined for three days. She was a victim of an out-of-control police, prison, and prosecution system that allowed a cop to harass, attack, and arrest her illegitimately and then proceeded to keep her in jail. Did Bland kill herself, or was she murdered? Some of Bland’s friends and family members dispute the suicide allegation. But, either way — suicide or murder — it is all but certain that the unjust system that created so much needless anguish for Bland in her final days, and individuals who carried out tasks to advance the injustice, are culpable for Bland’s death.

July 23, 2015 Posted by | Civil Liberties | , | 2 Comments

Obama regime moves to block release of Guantanamo force feeding tapes

Reprieve | July 23, 2015

The Obama administration last night asked a federal judge to reconsider her order to release the Guantánamo force-feeding tapes.

In the ongoing First Amendment battle by 16 press organizations seeking to publish the video tapes of former detainee Abu Wa’el Dhiab being force-fed, Judge Gladys Kessler issued an order on July 10th that the government complete key redactions and prepare the tapes for release by September 30th.

Last night, however, the Obama administration filed a motion for reconsideration of that order with Judge Kessler. Justice Department lawyers claim in their filing that releasing the footage will aid extremist groups and say the press have no First Amendment right to the evidence.

The tapes were first filed to court as classified evidence in a legal challenge to prison conditions at Guantanamo Bay, Dhiab v Obama. 16 press organizations, including Associated Press, the Washington Post and the New York Times, intervened seeking the videos’ release to the public on press freedom grounds. Judge Kessler ordered them to be released; the Obama administration then appealed in what Judge Kessler called “as frivolous an appeal as I’ve seen.’

Meanwhile, the military nurse who objected to brutal force-feeding at Gitmo is today being presented with the Year of Ethics award by the American Nurses Association (ANA). The nurse, who has chosen to remain anonymous, previously faced dismissal from the military after he refused to force-feed detainees because of the suffering it was causing men held without charge or trial at the prison.

Commenting, Reprieve director and attorney for Abu Wa’el Dhiab, Cori Crider, said: “Judge Kessler said the Obama administration’s initial appeal was as ‘frivolous’ as she’d ever seen – well, the government decided to top that with another frivolous request for a do-over. Yet it has put no fresh evidence before the Court that would justify censoring the force-feeding tapes. Once again, the government’s argument boils down to the same old tripe: if people see the truth about Gitmo today, the ‘terrorists’ will win. We don’t deny the footage is upsetting stuff – some of it deeply so – but that’s precisely why it should be released. Americans deserve to see what is being done in their name. Releasing crucial parts of this footage will provide yet more reason the President should fulfil his promise to shut Gitmo down.”

July 23, 2015 Posted by | Deception, Subjugation - Torture | , | 1 Comment

Man Shot Dead By Israeli Army in His Home While Trying To Rescue His Wounded Son

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By Saed Bannoura | IMEMC News | July 23, 2015

On Thursday at dawn Israeli soldiers shot and killed a Palestinian man who was in his own home, in Beit Ummar town, north of the southern West Bank city of Hebron, as he tried to help his son who was shot and injured by army fire, also in his family home.

Falah Hamdi Abu Mariya, 53 years of age, was shot dead in his home, while two of his sons, Mohammad and Ahmad, were injured by Israeli army fire, after dozens of soldiers surrounded their home, and stormed it.

The family said soldiers fired two live rounds at Mohammad, one of Abu Mariya’s sons, wounding him in the pelvis. The father then rushed to help his wounded son, before the soldiers fired two more rounds, striking Abu Mariya in the chest.

Mohammad Ayyad Awad, spokesperson of the Popular Committee against the Wall and Settlements in Beit Ummar, reported that a group of Israeli soldiers, including an undercover unit, stormed Abu Mariya’s home, and fired at Mohammad, 22 years of age, wounding him with two live rounds in the pelvis.

He added that the distraught father tried to help his wounded son, but the soldiers fired three more rounds directly at him, seriously wounding him in the chest; he was moved to the al-Ahli Hospital in Hebron, where he died of his serious injuries.

Medical sources also stated that Falah’s son, Ahmad, 25 years of age, was hit by bullet shrapnel in the chest, and was also moved to the al-Ahli Hospital suffering minor injuries.

During the invasion, the soldiers also kidnapped a former political prisoner, identified as Hammad Ahmad Abu Mariya, 23 years of age, and took him to an unknown destination.

On Wednesday at dawn, Israeli soldiers shot and killed a young Palestinian man in Burqin village, west of the northern West Bank city of Jenin.

July 23, 2015 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture | , , | Leave a comment

Wrong on the Facts, Wrong on the Law: Israeli’s False Claims of “Self-Defense” in Gaza War

By James Marc Leas | CounterPunch | July 23, 2015

Although the facts, the law, and admissions by Israeli government officials all pointed otherwise, during the July-August 2014 Israeli assault on Gaza, the Israeli government was successful in promoting its self-defense claim with western news media and in persuading certain U.S. politicians that Israel was implementing its right to defend itself.

Claims of “self-defense” against Hamas rocket fire were invoked by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, U.S. President Barack Obama, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, and the United States Senate, and not only as justification for the Israeli assault. “Self-defense” against the rockets also served to deflect allegations that Israeli forces committed war crimes by targeting civilians and civilian property in Gaza.

Public relations campaigns based on self-defense have been critical to Israeli officials avoiding accountability after each of the six major assaults on Gaza since Israel withdrew its settlers from Gaza in 2005. Notwithstanding the reports of war crimes committed by Israeli forces, the remarkable success of those self-defense based public relations campaigns continued to provide Israeli officials with impunity: the freedom to strike militarily again.

That impunity may come to an end if the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) decides to open an investigation into the situation in Palestine and prosecutions follow. However, immediately after the Prosecutor announced that she was launching a “preliminary examination” on January 16, 2015, Netanyahu launched a multi-pronged “public diplomacy campaign to discredit the legitimacy of the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) recent decision to start an inquiry into what the Palestinians call Israeli ‘war crimes’ in the disputed territories.” The public diplomacy campaign is based entirely on Israel’s claim that it acted in self-defense. The Israeli campaign also included a threat to disregard the decision of the court, a threat to the funding of the court, and the announcement that Israel was freezing transfer of more than $100 million a month in taxes Israel collects for the Palestinian Authority in retaliation for the State of Palestine joining the ICC and requesting the ICC inquiry.

A new 63 page report, “Neither facts nor law support Israel’s self-defense claim regarding its 2014 assault on Gaza,” submitted to the ICC Prosecutor on behalf of the Palestine Subcommittee of the National Lawyers Guild (“the ICC submission”), uses both authoritative contemporaneous Israeli and Palestinian reports and newly released reports and documents to demonstrate that Israeli claims of “self-defense” for its 2014 attack on Gaza are unsupported in both fact and law. The ICC submission notes that the unusual strategy implemented by Israeli officials to publically discredit the court inquiry demonstrated a distinct departure from the traditional method of respectfully presenting evidence and persuasive arguments to the court.

The facts don’t fit Israel’s self-defense claim

Among the material considered in the ICC submission is the 277 page Israeli government report, “The 2014 Gaza Conflict: Factual and Legal Aspects” that was released by the Israeli government on June 14, 2015. Although the Israeli government report builds its case around self-defense, to its credit, the Israeli government report openly acknowledges that Israeli military forces (a) had been striking Gaza during 2013 and early 2014, (b) had launched a massive attack on the West Bank in mid-June 2014, and (c) had launched an aerial strike on a tunnel in Gaza on July 5, 2014. However, the Israeli government report omits mention that all these dates were before the night of July 7, 2014, the date a contemporaneous report from an authoritative Israeli source said “For the first time since Operation Pillar of Defense [November 21, 2012], Hamas participated in and claimed responsibility for rocket fire” (emphasis in the original). The contemporaneous report was issued by the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center (ITIC), a private Israeli think tank that the Washington Post says “has close ties with the country’s military leadership.”

While the Israeli government report acknowledged the aerial strike on the tunnel in Gaza, it omitted mention of the extent of Israeli attacks on Gaza during the night before Hamas participated and claimed responsibility for its first rocket fire since 2012: The contemporaneous ITIC July 2 – July 8, 2014 weekly report states that on July 7 “approximately 50 terrorist targets in the Gaza Strip were struck,” by Israeli forces, including strikes that killed six Hamas members in the tunnel.

The Israeli government report states:

On July 7, 2014, after more than 60 rockets and mortars were fired into Israel from the Gaza Strip on a single day, the Government of Israel was left with no choice but to initiate a concerted aerial operation against Hamas and other terrorist organisations in order adequately to defend Israel’s civilian population.

Thus, the Israeli government report claims that the government was acting to defend Israel’s civilian population notwithstanding the fact that it had just admitted to an Israeli government attack that preceded the Hamas rocket fire on July 7. The attack on the tunnel that the ITIC reported killed the six Hamas members.

In a minute by minute timeline of events that day, the Israeli daily newspaper Ha’aretz reported the Israeli attacks that began during the night of July 6 and continued in the early morning hours of July 7 that showed that the Israeli attack on the tunnel preceded the Hamas rockets:

at 2:24 a.m. on July 7:

Hamas reports an additional four militants died in a second Israeli air strike in Gaza, bringing Sunday night’s death total to six. This is the biggest single Israeli hit against Hamas since 2012’s Operation Pillar of Defense.

at 9:37 p.m. on July 7 Ha’aretz reported:

Hamas claims responsibility for the rockets fired at Ashdod, Ofakim, Ashkelon and Netivot. Some 20 rockets exploded in open areas in the last hour.

Thus, an authoritative contemporaneous Israeli report acknowledged the fact that Hamas started firing its rockets some 20 hours after Israeli forces launched the attack on Gaza and killed the six Hamas members.

The Israeli government report couches the more than 60 rockets launched at Israel on the night of July 7 as giving the government of Israel no choice but to escalate aerial operations. But the report fails to mention that Israel actually had a choice as to whether or not to launch its prior lethal attack on the night of July 6 and the early morning hours of July 7. By omitting mention of the timing and the lethal effects of its attack on the tunnel, the Israeli government report avoids recognizing that its killing of the six Hamas members provoked the Hamas rocket fire.

While the Israeli government report mentions strikes on Gaza during 2013 and 2014, it omits mention of the number of Palestinians killed by Israeli attacks during 2013 and the increased rate of such killing during the first three months of 2014.

According to a report issued by the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, “PCHR Annual Report 2013:”

The number of Palestinians who were killed by Israeli forces was 46 victims in circumstances where no threats were posed to the lives of Israeli soldiers. Five of these victims died of wounds they had sustained in previous years. Of the total number of victims, there were 41 civilians, 33 of whom were in the West Bank and eight in the Gaza Strip, including six children, two women; and five non-civilians, including one in the West Bank and the other four in the Gaza Strip. In 2013, 496 Palestinians sustained various wounds, 430 of them in the West Bank and 66 in the Gaza Strip, including 142 children and 10 women.

An escalation of Israeli violence against Palestinians in early 2014 compared to the rate for the entire year 2013 is evident from PCHR’s “Report on the Human Rights Situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, 1st Quarter of 2014.”Among the violations presented in the report, 20 Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces during the first three months of 2014, including 11 civilians of whom two were children; 259 were wounded, of whom 255 were civilians, including 53 children. “The majority of these Palestinians, 198, were wounded during peaceful protests and clashes with Israeli forces.”

Nor does the Israeli government report mention any of the lethal Israeli government attacks on the West Bank and Gaza in the days and weeks before three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped and killed on the West Bank on June 12, 2014:

Israeli forces shot 9 teenagers demonstrating on the West Bank on May 15, killing two.

Israeli forces wounded nine Palestinian civilians, including a child during the week of June 5 to June 11.

Israeli forces launched an extrajudicial execution on June 11 in Gaza that killed one and wounded three.

Nor does the Israeli government report describe the extent of casualties inflicted by the June 13 to June 30 military offensive on the West Bank, Operation Brothers Keeper, in which Israeli forces killed 11 Palestinians and wounded 51, according to the contemporaneous weekly reports issued by the Palestinian Center for Human Rights.

In addition, the Israeli government’s 277 page report omits mention of admissions by Prime Minister Netanyahu of other military and political purposes for its assault on the West Bank, described in a contemporaneous report in the Israeli daily newspaper Yediot Aharonot, on June 15, 2014: to capture Hamas members (some of whom the Israeli government had previously released in a prisoner exchange and some of whom were Parliamentarians in the new Palestinian unity government), create “severe repercussions,” and punish the Palestinian Authority and Hamas for forming a unity government. Importantly, although he accused “Hamas people” of carrying out the kidnapping of the three Israeli teenagers, Netanyahu made no mention of stopping rocket fire. The non-mention of rocket fire by Netanyahu is consistent with the ITIC report of no rocket fire at that time.

Similarly, after describing the Israeli operations that caused Hamas to pay a “heavy price” on the West Bank, as shown in a video of his speech at the US Ambassador’s residence in Tel Aviv on July 4, Netanyahu acknowledged that “in Gaza we hit dozens of Hamas activists and destroyed outposts and facilities that served Hamas terrorists.” Thus Netanyahu himself acknowledged major Israeli military operations in Gaza preceding the launching of Hamas rockets on July 7.

Media collaboration

Facilitating the Israeli and U.S. government campaign to pin responsibility on Hamas and support an Israeli self-defense claim, certain western news media, including the New York Times, published an incorrect timeline. The timeline published by the New York Times dated the start of the war to July 8, the first full day of Hamas rocket barrages, and more than a day after Israeli forces had escalated their aerial attack on Gaza killing the six Hamas members. The Times timeline simply omits mention of the lethal Israeli attacks on the night of July 6 and early morning hours on July 7 that Ha’aretz said preceded the Hamas barrage of rockets on the night of July 7. The New York Times timeline also omits mention of the 24 days of “Operation Bring Back Our Brothers,” that began on June 13, the June 11 extra-judicial execution of a Hamas member in Gaza, the June 13 attack on the “terrorist facility and a weapons storehouse in the southern Gaza Strip,” and the killing of the two Palestinian teenagers and wounding of seven other Palestinians who were demonstrating on May 15. The New York Times timeline also omits mention of the lethal Israeli attacks in 2013 and the escalation of those attacks in early 2014 that the Israeli government report admitted under the euphemism “targeted efforts to prevent future attacks.” 

The law doesn’t fit Israel’s self-defense claim

Not just facts and admissions stand in the way of Israel’s self-defense claim. In a 2004 decision rejecting Israel’s self-defense claim for the wall, a relatively passive structure crossing occupied Palestinian territory, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) held that, under the UN Charter, self-defense under Article 51 of the UN Charter is inapplicable to measures taken by an occupying power within occupied territory. While the ICJ recognized Israel’s right and its duty to protect its citizens, it said “The measures taken are bound nonetheless to remain in conformity with applicable international law.” While the Israeli government report includes mention of a law review article that relies on an ICJ holding favorable to an Israeli position on another issue, the Israeli government report omits mention of the directly on point ICJ case regarding applicability of self-defense to Israel as occupying power in Gaza.

But even if Israel could overcome the facts showing that Israeli forces initiated the combat, and even if Israel was not the occupying power in Gaza and did not have to address the law regarding self-defense for an occupying power presented in the ICJ decision, Israel’s claim to self-defense would still be invalidated if its assault extended beyond what was necessary and proportionate to deal with an armed attack it was purportedly facing, as more fully described in the ICC submission.

Necessity was contradicted by the data provided by the ITIC showing that Israel had been wildly successful at stopping and/or preventing rocket fire by agreeing to and at least partially observing a ceasefire, while Israel consistently dialed up rocket fire with each of its major assaults on Gaza since 2006. By contrast, as shown in the ICC submission, hundreds of times more rockets were falling on Israel during each day of each of the major assaults on Gaza than were falling in the periods before Israeli forces attacked or after the assault ended with a new ceasefire.

Necessity was also contradicted by an article in the May 2013 Jerusalem Post, “IDF source: Hamas working to stop Gaza rockets,” quoting the IDF General who commands the army’s Gaza Division who said that Hamas had been policing other groups in Gaza “to thwart rocket attacks from the strip.” The Hamas observance of the ceasefire and its policing of other groups to prevent rocket fire demonstrated an effective alternative to an Israeli assault. The Israeli attacks on the West Bank and Gaza during the period between June 13 and the early morning hours of July 7, 2014 put that ceasefire and that Hamas policing of other groups at risk. Israel could have more effectively protected its citizens from rocket fire by continuing to at least partially observe the successful cease-fire in place before Israel escalated its assaults on the West Bank and Gaza. So the necessity for the escalation on June 13 and the further escalation on July 7 to protect Israeli citizens from rocket fire has not been shown.

The necessity and proportionality requirements for a self-defense claim were also contradicted by evidence that actions by Israeli forces during the assault on Gaza went outside the laws of war by directly targeting Palestinian civilians and Palestinian civilian property. The proportionality requirement was further contradicted by evidence of widespread Israeli attacks that harmed civilians or civilian property disproportionate to the military advantage Israeli forces received from the attacks. The evidence for such war crimes cited in the ICC submission comes from reports of investigations conducted by the UN Human Rights Council Commission of Inquiry (June 22, 2015); the Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, Lawyers for Palestinian for Human Rights (LPHR), and Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) (June 26, 2015); the UN Human Rights Council (December 26, 2014); Defense for Children International Palestine (April 2015); Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHR-Israel) (January 20, 2015); Al-Haq (August 19, 2014); the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) (September 4, 2014); Breaking the Silence (May 3, 2015); The Guardian (May 4, 2015); The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) (March 27, 2015), and contemporaneous and periodic reports issued by the Palestinian Center for Human Rights.

Along with support from top U.S. officials, the enormously successful public relations campaigns based on claimed self-defense that Israeli officials mounted during and after each of the Israeli assaults on Gaza allowed Israel to avoid accountability, maintain impunity, and launch subsequent attacks. In view of that successful record, the effectiveness of Israel’s “public diplomacy campaign to discredit the ICC inquiry” based on the same self-defense claims should not be underestimated. Widespread recognition that Israel’s self-defense claim is deeply flawed is needed to counter the intense pressure Israeli officials and their allies are exerting on the ICC so the court may resist that pressure and base its decisions strictly on the facts and law.

James Marc Leas is a patent attorney and a past co-chair of the National Lawyers Guild Palestine Subcommittee. He collected evidence in Gaza immediately after Operation Pillar of Defense in November 2012 as part of a 20 member delegation from the U.S. and Europe and authored or co-authored four articles for Counterpunch describing findings, including Why the Self-Defense Doctrine Doesn’t Legitimize Israel’s Assault on Gaza. He also participated in the February 2009 National Lawyers Guild delegation to Gaza immediately after Operation Cast Lead and contributed to its report, “Onslaught: Israel’s Attack on Gaza and the Rule of Law.”

July 23, 2015 Posted by | Deception, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , | Leave a comment

No “Compensation” to Israel for Iran Deal

By Sheldon Richman | Free Association | July 22, 2015

In The Joys of Yiddish, Leo Rosten defined chutzpah as “that quality enshrined in a man who, having killed his mother and father, throws himself on the mercy of the court because he is an orphan.” Today we have a new paradigm for chutzpah: the Israeli government’s demand for “compensation” from the American taxpayers for the Iran nuclear agreement.

Israel’s Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon told the Times of Israel that during U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s visit the Israeli government would discuss “the compensation that Israel deserves in order to maintain its qualitative [military] edge” over Iran. The Obama administration of course is amenable.

Why does Israel deserve compensation (in addition to its $3 billion in U.S. aid every year)? If anything, Israel should compensate American taxpayers!

Iran is not — and was not going to become — a nuclear threat. American and Israeli intelligence have said so repeatedly.

But even if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were right about Iran’s intentions, he should be rejoicing at the agreement, under which Iran will get rid of nearly all of its enriched uranium and two-thirds of its centrifuges. Its nuclear facilities will be open to even more intrusive inspections than they have been under the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Even its non-nuclear military sites will be subject to inspection, an intrusion no other government — particularly the United States — would accept. And that is just the beginning. Uranium-enrichment research will be restricted, and construction of a heavy-water reactor, which would yield plutonium, will be scrapped.

The term for these various restrictions begin at 10 years and lengthen from there, but this does not mean that Iran will later be free to do what it wants. As an NPT party (unlike nuclear monopolist Israel), it will always be subject to inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency, which certifies that Iran has not diverted uranium to military purposes.

What did Iran get in return for those concessions? Iranian money frozen since the 1979 Islamic revolution will be released and the economic warfare perpetrated by the United States and the rest of the world — euphemistically called “sanctions” — will eventually be ended.

In other words, Iran can rejoin the world economy — its people relieved of cruel economic warfare — if it gives up a weapons program it never had, never wanted, and did not plan to pursue. Those crafty Iranians! They acquired thousands of centrifuges as bargaining chips to be traded away for peaceful commercial relations with the world.

Israel’s rulers, like their American supporters, say they have another reason to hate the agreement. (For my own far different reservation, see this.) “Giving” Iran all that cash (it belongs to Iranians) will let the Islamic Republic pursue its aggressive aims in the Middle East, which include helping Israel’s enemies, Hamas and Hezbollah.

Balderdash. Iran is not pursuing an aggressive policy in the Middle East, and it is sheer projection for an American or Israeli to make that charge. George W. Bush handed Shia-majority Iraq to Iran when he overthrew Iran’s nemesis, Saddam Hussein. Barack Obama is siding with Iran against the Islamic State in Iraq. Iran’s ally, Bashar al-Assad of Syria, is under assault by ISIS, al-Qaeda, and the United States. And the Houthis in Yemen, who get some Iranian help and are fighting al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, have long struggled against the central government for self-rule, in response to which U.S.-backed Saudi Arabia is waging a bloody war of aggression.

Iran has supported Hamas, although the Palestinian group (like Israel) opposes Assad. But Hamas exists to resist Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands. Likewise, Hezbollah arose to resist Israeli occupation of and periodic attacks on southern Lebanon. While some of Hamas’s and Hezbollah’s tactics have indeed been atrocious, their raison d’être is opposition to Israeli aggression — not terrorism.

There is no Iranian imperialism.

Nuclear Israel faces no threat. In the current turmoil it sides with Sunni Arabs, including al-Qaeda affiliates, against Iran, because turmoil serves Israel’s interests and Iran is a ready-made bête noire. Why does Israel need a manufactured threat? Because if Americans knew the truth, they might focus on the Palestinians’ plight. Israel and its Lobby cannot have that.

July 23, 2015 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Militarism | , , , , | Leave a comment

Pro-Israel supporters rally in New York City against Iran nuclear agreement

Press TV – July 23, 2015

A group of pro-Israel protesters have held a rally in New York City against the recent nuclear conclusion between Iran and the P5+1 group of countries.

The pro-Zionist protesters gathered in Times Square on Wednesday to demand that Congress veto the proposed agreement with Iran.

The organizers of the rally had advertised heavily in recent weeks and had hoped for a much larger turnout. The New York metropolitan area is home to the largest Jewish population in the world outside Israel.

The demonstrators said the nuclear deal is a threat to Israel and global security, but even the staunchest allies of Israel in the West see it as a step toward a more secure and peaceful world.

Iran and the P5+1 group — the United States, Britain, France, China, Russia and Germany – reached a conclusion on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on July 14 in the Austrian capital of Vienna following days of intensive talks over Tehran’s nuclear program.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has fiercely opposed any nuclear agreement.

Israel pressed lawmakers on Wednesday to block the deal, with Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer meeting privately with a group of about 40 Republican lawmakers in the House of Representatives.

The nuclear accord does not need Congressional approval to take effect, but Republicans are expected to try and add provision with legislation that would block President Barack Obama from removing anti-Iran sanctions imposed by Congress.

The nuclear conclusion reached last week has been praised by world leaders, leaving Tel Aviv isolated.

July 23, 2015 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Wars for Israel | , , , | 1 Comment

Gays who swallow unverified anti-Iran propaganda will be partly responsible if Iran is turned into another Iraq

Uprooted Palestinians | July 23, 2015

Gay hanging in Iran: Atrocities and impersonations

By Scot Long

Everybody on earth knows that last week a deal on Iran’s nuclear program was announced.  Everybody also knows that this apparent step toward peace launched a new stage in an old war: of propaganda. Proponents praise the possibility of a historic opening. Opponents — who include Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the Republican Party — warn of disaster.  Both sides want to expand their constituencies. In Western countries, gay communities — small but politically influential — are more and more the target for just this courtship and recruitment.

The right-wing pundit Amir Taheri greeted the nuclear deal with a storm of tweets and screeds condemning it. One 140-character charge drew special attention.Taheri tweetAnyone’s first reaction would be some version of “My God.” It sounded horrible.  I wrote to Taheri asking for more information — and so, judging from Twitter, did at least three other people.

But the story quickly began to show cracks. Taheri didn’t reply to me, or anybody. I sat down that night with a Farsi-speaking friend and began searching for the story in the Iranian press: under the youth’s name, under various other key words. It didn’t turn up anywhere. I wrote to the Toronto-based Iranian Queer Organization (IRQO), a diaspora-based group of LGBT Iranian activists with which I’ve worked closely over the years. They searched the media as well and found no sign of it. They also reached out to contacts in Isfahan. On Friday morning, they told me no one there had heard of the story, either.

maxresdefault

Amir Taheri lies a lot. Eight years ago, Jonathan Schwartz called him “one of the strangest ingredients in America’s media soup,” adding, “There may not be anyone else who simply makes things up as regularly as he does, with so few consequences.” An arch-conservative protege of the Pahlavis, an editor of the Tehran daily Kayhan under the Shah, he repeatedly fabricates stories about Iran to please right-wingers in his adoptive West. Most famously, in 2006 he claimed in Canada’s National Post that a new dress-code law in Iran would impose special clothes on religious minorities, including yellow badges for Jews. Many conservatives swallowed the story; even the Canadian Prime Minister repeated it. But it was a complete falsehood, and after a huge furor the National Post retracted it and apologized: “It is now clear the story is not true. … We apologize for the mistake and for the consternation it has caused.” (The Post also noted that Taheri went “unreachable” after his fiction was exposed, rather as he did on Twitter.) Undeterred, in 2008 Taheri concocted a quote from Ayatollah Khomeini, complete with a fake citation of an invented source; American neoconservative luminaries duly repeated it. In 2002, Taheri claimed that “Osama bin Laden is dead …. the fugitive died in December and was buried in the mountains of southeast Afghanistan.” The list of his duplicities goes on and on. In 1989, an academic reviewing one of Taheri’s books

detailed case after case in which Taheri cited nonexistent sources, concocted nonexistent substance in cases where the sources existed and distorted the substance beyond recognition when it was present. … [The reviewer] concluded that Nest of Spies was “the sort of book that gives contemporary history a bad name.”

Larry Cohler-Esses condemns Taheri as a “journalistic felon,” part of a “media machine intent on priming the public for war with Iran.”

There are ample grounds for skepticism about stories Taheri spreads.

But skepticism doesn’t make headlines. Propaganda’s best friend is the ambition of the press. On Thursday, a reporter for the UK-based Gay Star News also tweeted to Taheri.

Morgan to Taheri tweet

Taheri didn’t answer him, either. I know this because the reporter didn’t wait for a source. About 25 minutes later, his story — “GAY TEEN, 14, ‘HANGED FROM TREE’” — topped the website of  Gay Star News, and it said Taheri hadn’t told them anything. In other words, their entire account was based on one single tweet with no evidence behind it. This tweet was special, though. The topic of gay killings in Iran has shown its passionate drawing power over a decade, its ability to keep queers clicking. GSN wanted the clicks for itself.

The reporter clearly never asked Iranian LGBT activists or groups for their take. It was more important to get the headline out there. I wrote to Tris Reid-Smith, GSN’s editor, and asked “Is this standard practice — to run a story based on a single, unsourced, unconfirmed tweet from someone who declines to answer follow-up questions?” Tris rather cannily refused to reply in writing; he wanted to talk by phone. My phone in Cairo is tapped; I declined. I wanted this on the record, but not State Security’s record. If Tris still wants to answer my question, he is welcome to do so here. GSN has since added a few sentences to its story, saying:

we should note Iranian LGBTI networks have not confirmed the story. Some critics have questioned Taheri’s reliability. … UPDATE: For clarity, GSN has noted from the outset this report has not been independently verified. Taheri is yet to reply to our questions seeking to substantiate his claims. We urge caution but feel it is in the public interest to report the claims, given they are gaining traction on social media.

Let that final sentence revolve in your mind. What defines news these days isn’t truth. It’s traffic. (I’ve saved a screenshot of GSN’s original article, prior to the caution-urging, here.)

And of course the story spread. Neoconservative propagandist Ben Weinthal tweeted it manifold times:

Screen shot 2015-07-20 at 11.35.30 AMWeinthal is a lobbyist for the right-wing, pro-Israel Foundation for Defense of Democracies. One of his jobs is to drum up support in gay communities for hardline policies against Iran. I’ve detailed some of his many misrepresentations here. His desperate drive to ensure Taheri’s tweet gets coverage suggests what the motives at work are.

I love Big Brother: Ben Weinthal appears on paranoiac Glenn Beck's TV show, February 16, 2015. Photo from Beck's website, The Blaze

No one should ever minimize the real, documented, and terrible human rights abuses in Iran. But credulity for suspicious stories devalues the true ones. Given Taheri’s record, and the tangled political context, there is no reason to credit this tale without corroboration.

And here’s the thing: we’ve been through this before, and learned nothing. Look at the photo GSN attached to its article.

Screen shot 2015-07-20 at 2.57.35 PMThat famous image, exactly ten years old, reverberates with misery and horror. And cynics and opportunists know it as proven clickbait. In fact, the two youths were not executed simply for “being gay.” They were convicted of the rape, at knifepoint, of a 13-year-old boy. Claims that they were gay lovers circulated widely among Western activists; but no clear evidence materialized to confirm them.

International tension shaped the context, then as now. In June 2005, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was elected President of Iran. The religious hardliner’s victory intensified foreign fears of Iran’s nuclear plans; Ahmadinejad moved quickly to quash negotiations with European powers and smear reformists as appeasers. Western conservatives stoked those fears, and rumors roiled. Immediately after the vote, a website affiliated with the Mujahedin e Khalq claimed Ahmadinejad had participated in the 1979 seizure of the US embassy in Tehran. The Mujahedin is a wealthy, cult-like Iranian exile group widely despised in the diaspora, but closely tied to many Western politicians. Amir Taheri leapt in; he alleged in print that that Javad Zarif — then Iran’s UN ambassador, now its foreign minister — had joined the hostage-taking. (Another fabrication: Zarif was studying in the US at the time.) That summer, a charged, familiar storm-cloud of fact, anxiety, and speculation swirled round the subject of Iran.

On July 19, 2005, the two teenagers were hanged in Mashhad. Reports in the local and national Iranian media said clearly they had been tried for tajavoz (rape) or lavat beh onf (“sodomy by force,” or male rape); the Quds newspaper in Mashhad quoted both the 13-year-old victim and his father. Another website of the Mujahedin e Khalq, however, published a piece on the execution aimed at Western audiences, and omitted the rape charge. Almost certainly the Mujahedin pointed out the story to lone-ranger UK activist Peter Tatchell — who had a record of publicity-seeking animosity to Iran and political Islam — and proposed the “gay” angle. On July 21, Tatchell’s OutRage website blared, “IRAN EXECUTES GAY TEENAGERS,” above the pictures taken from the Iranian press. Tatchell claimed, falsely, that Iranian media had not mentioned the rape, and that the pair were originally charged with consensual sex: setting in motion a stream of fictions that didn’t stop for months.

Mr. DeMille? Mr. DeMille? Q Television films Peter Tatchell at a demo over the Mashhad case, 2005. Photo by UK Gay News

With panic over Iran already in the air, the photos went vastly viral. If politics motivated some to promote the story, for others it was publicity.  (Doug Ireland, a gay US writer with no prior knowledge of Iran who nonetheless rode the story to a new journalistic job, told me his blog got 60,000 hits the first day he carried the pictures.) As more facts came out and the tale seemed less plausible, its proponents got aggressive: not only with doubters, but with the protagonists. Tatchell, for instance, belittled the alleged rape and suggested the victim wanted it: “It could be the 13-year-old was a willing participant.” Meanwhile, the story’s popularity led to a desperate search for sequels, for new “gay victims,” that stretched for years. Virtually any execution for rape reported in the Iranian media — even of male rapists of women — could be arrogated or mistranslated as a punishment for consensual gay sex. In a grim and grotesque irony, the quest helped produce the dead. In 2007, Tatchell intervened in the last-ditch appeal of an Iranian prisoner on death row, also for the rape of a 13-year-old. Makwan Mouloudzadeh had been framed in a village vendetta; there was no real evidence he’d had sexual relations with the child, much less any other male. Instead of maintaining Makwan’s innocence, though, Tatchell falsely alleged the child was Makwan’s “partner.” Allies of Tatchell started a letter-writing campaign to Ahmadeinjad pleading for the “young homosexual Makvan,” arguing explicitly that he was “‘guilty’ of having loved a peer when he was 13 and having sexual intercourse with him.” They incriminated the man they were trying to save. Makwan, neither homosexual nor a rapist, was hanged.

The Mashhad story survives, immune to its malign consequences. Taheri certainly knows it — he surely suspected a 14-year-old victim would make his tweet go viral. The youths’ images are memed and manipulated everywhere. Sometimes the uses are political:

CJ4bAijUYAElnNFSometimes they’re mythological figures, as if the kitsch of Shi’ite religious iconography melded with the preoccupations of San Francisco.

The Ultimate Penalty: painting by Miguel Tió

But they remain, always, “the sacred gay martyrs of Iran.”

An hour or two after the Gay Star News story appeared, Tatchell seized the opportunity, announcing a “vigil” to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the youth’s deaths.

Screen shot 2015-07-20 at 1.59.43 PM“On 19 July, we stand for life, liberty and love,” Tatchell said at the demo. But think what that rhetoric obliterates. If their 13-year-old victim’s story was true, what would he say about those words? Most human rights activists know that you can oppose grave abuses, like the appalling execution of children, without spinning narratives of absolute innocence or “love.” But to do that requires abjuring sentimentality, and acquiring maturity.

A deep narcissism lies pooled here. What does “never forget” them mean, when you never knew anything about them in the first place? No one has ever seriously sought to learn facts (rather than weave romances) about the youths’ lives; no one ever showed the least interest in the 13-year-old they allegedly brutalized; no one has ever tried to find their families, and hear what they think of their sons’ pictures being broadcast in this way, or inserted into a foreign story about “gayness.” The boys are silent. Their muteness is their appeal. They offer a clean field for Western political and erotic fantasies; they’ve withered to ventriloquist’s dolls for Western voices. The indignities they suffered before death have been succeeded by a further descent, the indignity of being erased in the imperial name of memory. What Tatchell wants remembered is not the murdered youths. It’s himself.

II.

Strangely, I took two different tacks with Amir Taheri. The day after I politely asked him for information, you could have found me on Twitter writing in quite a different tone:

Screen shot 2015-07-18 at 10.19.03 PMExcept that wasn’t me. It was an account someone set up under my name about a week ago, which has been firing off tweets to Egyptians and various right-wing Westerners ever since. It says I’m a pro-Iran Islamist. It uses an old picture of me, and the inevitable photo of the hanged Iranian youth. 

Screen shot 2015-07-18 at 10.03.03 PM

The account isn’t a “parody.” Not just that it isn’t funny: it’s trying to get me arrested. It makes out that I support banned insurgent movements and want the Egyptian government overthrown. These messages it forwards to Egyptian tweeters, including government accounts.

ScottLon July 18

That one tweet could easily lead to a few decades in prison here. And the person who put my name to it appears quite conscious of the fact.

Who’s behind this thing? I have no idea. But I know who likes it. Here are the account’s followers when I checked it on July 16: 

Screen shot 2015-07-16 at 4.58.30 AM followers

The third person who’d followed the account — out of seven at the time — was “All Equal.” That’s the Twitter of Pliny Soocoormanee, who happens to be the personal assistant of Peter Tatchell, director of the Peter Tatchell Foundation. How he found out about this obscure account when no one else knew of it, and why it interested him so much, is a fascinating question. I can’t imagine the answer.

The morning after I criticized the Taheri story on Twitter, the account exploded with vengeful drivel, directed at people inside and outside Egypt (the one at top went to the country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs):

ScottLon July 17-18But this BS is merely typical. Apparently I work for the Brotherhood, an illegal organization here:

ScottLon MB paidMy motives appear to be erotic as well as pecuniary.

ScottLon MBI’m also an informer.

ScottLon Morsi gays

But mostly the account just strives to identify me with vicious anti-Semitic ravings, marking the intrinsic fascism of its maker’s mind. (Fascism is the politics of a cynical, corrosive narcissism. The mark of fascism is that it imagines all other opinions are as fascist as itself.)

ScottLon antisemitism 2

The account is pretty much coeval with the nuclear deal with Iran. Its first three tweets:

His first 3 tweets

I wouldn’t pay attention to this crude fakery if it weren’t trying explicitly to incriminate me to Egypt’s government — which is arresting gay foreigners, and may not know the difference, or want to. I never cease to be surprised by the retributory malice of the Iran- and Islam-obsessed crowd, whether driven by ideology or the sheer love of headlines. They never stop.

Back in 2006, when Amir Taheri’s lies about Iran’s dress-code law were exposed, The Nation spoke to his PR agent. Accuracy on Iran is “a luxury,” she said. “As much as being accurate is important, in the end it’s important to side with what’s right. What’s wrong is siding with the terrorists.” You see? It’s us or them. Loyalty trumps truth. To expose useful lies is to take the terrorists’ side. And by that standard I am, of course, a terrorist.

Why does it matter? Because LGBT Iranians shouldn’t be exploited for propaganda. They lead lives seamed by danger, distinguished by courage; they deserve better than to be backgammon pieces, passive tokens stacked and shifted in a great-power political game. LGBT people should speak in their own voices, be masters and heroes of their own lives. That is what the liberation struggle is about.

The fact that nobody — not Tatchell, not Ben Weinthal, not Gay Star News — bothered to ask LGBT Iranian activists or groups what the truth was, or whether they wanted a demonstration, is appalling. But it’s typical. The story of Western engagement with LGBT rights in Iran has been one of occupation and ventriloquism, not freedom. It’s long past time for the sick game to stop.

Cartoon by Mana Neyestani, from Payvand.com

NOTE: The fake account seems to have been taken down not long after I posted this: I don’t know whether by its maker or by Twitter (of course I complained). But, in some form or another, they’ll be back.

July 23, 2015 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , | 1 Comment

Sirens of the Potomac: Think Tanks and Torture

By Emma Briant | CounterPunch | July 23, 2015

Recent findings of the independent report into the American Psychological Association ‘collusion’ in torture are not shocking. This is a symptom of a larger infestation that is eating away at the independence of social science. Think tanks played an important role in pulling senior academics into supportive relations with the defense establishment and must not be able to slink off into the shadows. The report indicates that Stephen Behnke, a DOD contractor and APA ethics director helped ensure the APA rules did not restrict psychologists from collaborating with interrogations and made changes to ‘curry favour with the DOD’.

But some think tanks also act as the pseudo-academic sirens of the DOD tasked with luring academic associations into increased cooperation. Think tanks played a key intermediary role after 9/11, reassuring academics who initially felt uncomfortable with military involvement. No strangers to ‘influence’, the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies are a think tank who were contracted in the propaganda effort to the Office of Strategic Influence, a propaganda office of the DOD in the early ‘War on Terror’. In interviews for my book Propaganda and Counter-terrorism: Strategies for Global Change Potomac Institute Director Dennis McBride complained to me about academics’ concern saying,

things’ve changed a little bit but there’s still this attitude that … we get from academic social science in particular that comes across as they’re above, they’re better than soldiers and … they’re not gonna participate in what we call here ‘baby-killing’. (Interview: 5th June 2009)

When I met McBride in 2009 he told me about a meeting he arranged ‘a few years ago’ to deepen military involvement luring in key figures from Social Science Discipline Associations including ‘the American Anthropological Association … Executive Director’ and Lee Herring who is now Director of Public Affairs at the American Sociological Association. McBride’s allegiances lie firmly with the US military but he got himself ‘deputised by the American Psychological Society to be in this meeting’ to enhance his credibility (Interview: 5th June 2009).

He described the pitch that he said pulled them in:

I basically said, look … the Pentagon’s … number 1 mission, is to prevent war, by being so damn strong, so smart, that no one would dare, mission number 2 is that if we fail that one, to get it over with, OK? I said, your communities have a role to play in mission number 1 … The Pentagon is engineering, it doesn’t understand other cultures … We’re not good at that. We wanna be good at it and we don’t know how, absent your help. And I went through this and they said, absolutely, you know what? We’re changing our minds, we’re gonna support this. (Interview: 5th June 2009)

The conditions of funding for academic research preference research governments deem ‘useful’, preferencing uncritical research and the think tank culture which fed the blurring of academic boundaries. There has been a proliferation of well-funded ‘yes-men’ factories. McBride described how heavily involved Potomac were in ‘War on Terror’ planning, work that went beyond propaganda – for example he disclosed that Dan Gallant ‘yet another Potomac person who was working for Rumsfeld’ came up with the idea for using Guantanamo Bay for detainees (Interview: 5th June 2009). Perhaps unsurprisingly then, McBride was dismissive of public distrust of the military on the topic of torture:

‘so-called torture … this is I think the most overblown thing I think I have experienced. People need to do their research and find out that enhanced interrogation techniques, as they are being called, are done as any coercion, or any interrogation is done, with the presence of the Inspector General. … no nation can stand next to the United States in terms of its torture rules and regulations. Do you honestly think in Somalia when one faction grabs another they don’t torture the hell out of ’em? I mean I’m not justifying it, I’m just saying … We’ve got a process of self-inspection that is, is er, so motivated and everything is on video … at Guantanamo and so the [laughs] I’ve talked to people a lot who do that and … the [chuckles] waterboarding … I’m sure you know what it is … and noone’s ever drowned, there’s never been any tissue damage but I guess it could scare the hell out of them … but I’m told that the mode number of dunks is one … ‘mmm, OK, whaddya wanna know!’ (original emphasis)

This flies in the face of independent evidence, and international legal judgements condemning torture practices. Of course, as a former military public servant, McBride was confident that ‘it’s not my job to evaluate that sort of thing’, but in his view it did mean that ‘it’s important the Strategic Communication thing here is very big’ – spinning an unpalatable story.

McBride calls himself a social scientist and yet dismissed the notion that anyone outside the institutions of government can make sound value judgements on torture, since those on the military’s ‘list’ are officially ethical, determined through ‘the fastidiousness of the five-sided building’ This McBride felt was a more scientific approach to torture ‘Whereas civilian reaction has been all about being judgemental as opposed to critical’. (Interview: 5th June 2009). An unquestioning faith in the Pentagon of course leaves little room for personal responsibility and critical judgement.

A primary responsibility of social science should be to critically evaluate the practices used by government and facilitate fuller debate of policy and practice. It is crucial that there is a dialogue between industry and academia, but this must be a dialogue that allows for criticism and is not solely aimed at recruiting academics to ‘enable’ already-determined strategies or unethical practises. The sacking of the APA’s leadership is welcome, but what needs to happen now is not just a redrawing of ethical boundaries at APA but a rethink of the government manufacture of supportive ‘expertise’. Rather than shackling research funding to pre-determined government objectives and reinforcing programmes of questionable worth, if independent academic work is to be ‘impactful’ or ‘relevant’ government needs simply to acknowledge its existing relevance and allow critical academic research to have impact on policy.

propagandacounterterrorDr Emma L Briant is a Lecturer in Journalism Studies from University of Sheffield in the UK. She completed her PhD in Sociology at University of Glasgow, Scotland in 2012 which examined Anglo-American counter-terrorism propaganda since 2001, which is now the subject of her new book. Her other recent published research includes analyses of media coverage of disability and also asylum in the UK with the Glasgow Media Group where she worked and studied prior to moving to Sheffield in 2013. She is the author of Propaganda and Counter-Terrorism: Strategies for Global Change (Manchester University Press) and co-author of Bad News for Refugees (Pluto Press).

July 23, 2015 Posted by | Deception, Militarism, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , | Leave a comment

US-loaned RAF personnel may be illegally striking Pakistan & Yemen, not just Syria

RT | July 23, 2015

Fresh controversy has emerged about RAF airmen embedded in an American drone unit, which is known to be carrying out airstrikes in Syria after the charity Reprieve gained access to a joint US-UK memo.

Responding to Reprieve’s request in November, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) said there were “currently” no RAF personnel embedded with the United States Air Force’s (USAF) 432nd unit based at Creech airbase in Nevada.

It now appears that the response was not given in good faith – while there may have been no personnel at Creech in November, RAF airmen have been embedded there since 2008 and are there presently.

The MoD confirmed on Wednesday there were indeed UK armed forces personnel currently at the base.

If UK personnel are involved in strikes in countries like Pakistan and Yemen, with whom the UK is not ‘legally’ at war, there may be legal issues.

Strikes on Syria would also be illegal given a 2013 parliamentary vote on bombing within the borders of the war-ravaged nation.

The memo concerns the embedding of UK personnel in US units in order to make up for manning shortfalls. It referred to them as “a gift of services to fulfill US air force operational requirements.”

The three-year postings for pilot and sensor operators for both Reaper and Predator drones are described as involving a role in “worldwide operations” and taking part in operations that determine and hit viable targets “in conjunction with the combined air operations center rules of engagement, but always adhering to the legal framework for the operation in question.”

Concerns over the activities of embedded personnel have been under the spotlight over the last two weeks since they emerged after a Freedom of Information (FoI) request, also by Reprieve, that UK pilots had been bombing targets in Syria despite the 2013 vote and resulting democratic ban on doing so.

It was later confirmed that each mission, reportedly carried out by Royal Navy pilots operating from US aircraft carriers in the Gulf, received specific parliamentary authorization.

Defence Secretary Michael Fallon has since defended the operations, saying that UK personnel embedded with allied forces were effectively “foreign troops.”

July 23, 2015 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism, War Crimes | , , , | 1 Comment