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Saudi writer critical of UAE’s regional policies sentenced to 5 years in prison

Press TV – Aug 18, 2018

Saudi authorities have handed down prison sentence to a writer in the conservative oil-rich kingdom as part of a widening crackdown led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman against Muslim preachers, members of the press and intellectuals.

The rights group Prisoners of Conscience, which is an independent non-governmental organization advocating human rights in Saudi Arabia, announced in a post on its official Twitter page that Mohammed al-Hudhaif was sentenced to five years in jail after being found guilty of “ insulting a friendly country.”

The post added that Saudi officials passed the ruling against Hudhaif at the end of a “secret trial” in late May.

The writer had reportedly published posts on his Twitter page, warning about the threats the neighboring United Arab Emirates poses to the Riyadh regime, and the fiendish plans that Emirati officials have for the Middle East region.

The report came only a few days after human rights activists said prominent Saudi Muslim preacher and political dissident Salman al-Odah, who has been in prison since September 2016, has been transferred from Dhahban Central Prison in the Red Sea port city of Jeddah to al-Ha’ir Prison in the capital Riyadh, and is about to stand a secret trial.

Earlier this week, Prisoners of Consciousness also reported that political dissident and Muslim preacher Sheikh Suleiman al-Doweesh had lost his life due to severe torture he was subjected to during criminal investigations.

Saudi Arabia has recently stepped up politically-motivated arrests, prosecution and conviction of peaceful dissident writers and human rights campaigners.

Saudi officials have also intensified security measures in the Shia-populated and oil-rich Eastern Province.

Eastern Province has been the scene of peaceful demonstrations since February 2011. Protesters have been demanding reforms, freedom of expression, release of political prisoners, and an end to economic and religious discrimination against the oil-rich region.

The protests have been met with a heavy-handed crackdown by the regime, with regime forces increasing security measures across the province.

Over the past years, Riyadh has also redefined its anti-terrorism laws to target activism.

In January 2016, Saudi authorities executed Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr, an outspoken critic of the policies of the Riyadh regime. Nimr had been arrested in Qatif in 2012.

August 18, 2018 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , | Leave a comment

ISIS given ‘breathing space’ in parts of Syria under US-backed forces’ control

© Aboud Hamam / Reuters
RT | August 18, 2018

Islamic State managed to regain access to Syrian oil fields and make profits from selling oil, a new UN report reveals. While the UN did not point fingers, the IS reemergence seems to occur in areas held by the US-backed forces.

“Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant [IS, formerly ISIL/ISIS], having been defeated militarily in Iraq and most of the Syrian Arab Republic during 2017, rallied in early 2018. This was the result of a loss of momentum by forces fighting it in the east of the Syrian Arab Republic,” the recent report from the UN Security Council’s Sanctions Monitoring Team reads. The document is dated July 27, but was only released to the public this week.

The slow-down gave IS “breathing space to prepare for the next phase of its evolution into a global covert network.” As of June 2018, the terrorist group has been controlling “small pockets of territory in the Syrian Arab Republic on the Iraqi border,” effectively carrying on with its quasi-state ways.

“[IS] was able to extract and sell some oil, and to mount attacks, including across the border into Iraq,” the reports stated, adding that the terrorist group regained “access to some oil fields in northeastern” Syria.

While the report did not specify which forces exactly were having troubles with “momentum,” northeastern Syria is located on the left bank of the Euphrates river, controlled by the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) militia backed by the US-led coalition.

Regaining control of the oil fields allowed IS to yet again make oil profits a significant source of revenue. The report also vaguely stated that IS continues to impose “taxes” on civilians “in areas it controls, as well as in contested areas,” as well as to kidnap local businessmen for ransom.

Apart from strengthening of IS-held “pockets” in northeastern Syria, the report also listed a number of hotspots in Syria, which might be sources of further IS reemergence. Among them, the UN named the Rukban refugee camp, located near the Al-Tanf US military base. Other IS-infested places listed in the report include unspecified locations in the Aleppo province and an area controlled by an IS-affiliated group in the Deraa province. The latter, however, was already eradicated late in July during the Syrian Army offensive in the south-west of the country.

The issue of the Rukban refugee camp has been repeatedly raised by Moscow and Damascus, who repeatedly urged the US to cooperate. Earlier in August, Colonel General Sergey Rudskoy, the head of operations of the Russian General Staff, described Rukban as place where “people are living in harsh conditions and where terrorists find shelter.”

“Our American partners should provide humanitarian access to Rukban as soon as possible, provide passage for the refugees to their home areas and withdraw the base from Al-Tanf,” Rudskoy stated.

August 18, 2018 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, War Crimes | , , , , | 2 Comments

Syria Lashes out at Riyadh “Compliance with Washington at Expense of Saudi People”

Al-Manar | August 18, 2018

Syria on Friday denounced Saudi financial support to the US-led international coalition’s role in northern Syria, stressing that such move indicates Riyadh’s compliance with the US administration at the expense of the Saudi people.

Syrian foreign ministry slammed Saudi authorities as “plotters against the interests of the Arab nation,” stressing that the Saudi support is in defiance of the UN Security Council resolutions related to the crisis in Syria.

US State Department announced earlier on Thursday, that Riyadh was offering a $100 million contribution “for ongoing, Coalition-supported stabilization efforts in areas liberated from ISIS in Syria,” referring to the Takfiri ISIL group.

SANA news agency quoted an official at the Syrian foreign ministry as saying: “This flawed Saudi decision comes within the framework of the Saudi authorities’ full compliance with the US administration at the expense of Saudi people who is suffering from poverty and dire economic recession.”

“The US-led coalition has killed thousands of Syrian children and women and attacked positions of the Syrian Arab Army dozens of times to prevent it from fighting Daesh (ISIS) terrorist organization east of Syria and elsewhere, as it destroyed Syrian infrastructure which has cost the Syrian people hundreds of billions of dollars in a direct US support for terrorist organizations,” the Syrian source said.

“The criminal coalition does not deserve this support from any country in the world because its main goal is to fragment the region and impose Zionist hegemony on all its countries.”

Meanwhile, the source stressed that the Saudi support “is morally unacceptable as it comes to prevent the Syrian Arab Army from achieving further victories over terrorism in northern Syria in an exposed attempt to prolong the crisis and support the forces that threaten Syria’s unity and territorial integrity.”

The source concluded by saying: “Syria condemns these despicable policies of the Saudi authorities and demands them to stop these terrible and dangerous policies, adding that “Syria reiterates its call on all the Coalition’s member states to withdraw from it without delay because it serves only terrorists and murderers and threatens security and peace in the region and the world,” according to SANA.

August 18, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, War Crimes | , , , | 1 Comment

Jews, Logic and Corbyn

By Gilad Atzmomn | August 18, 2018

According to the Transitive Axiom if A=B and B=C then A = C (If any two items are equal to the same third item then the two are equal to each other).

I mention the Transitive Axiom because it is a straightforward way to understand that if Corbyn (A) = existential threat to Jews (B) and Hitler (C) = existential threat to Jews (B) then Corbyn (A) = Hitler (C).

Every day British Jewish community leaders tell us that it will pose an “existential threat” to British Jews if Corbyn ends up in 10 Downing Street. It seems some British Jewish leaders are either delusional or stupid enough to believe that Corbyn and Hitler are one and the same. A few weeks ago, the three main British Jewish papers joined forces to deliver this humorous message in a single voice: ‘Corbyn poses an existential threat to our community.’

Today, Jonathan Goldstein, head of the Jewish Leadership Council repeated the same message in an interview with the Times of Israel. “We are nervous about this man (Corbyn) becoming prime minister. We see the possibility of a Labour government led by this group as an existential threat to our community. These are unprecedented times.”

Jewish religion and culture are saturated with purported ‘existential threats.’ Jews are advised to “remember Amalek” the archetypical Biblical existential threat. Purim, the most joyous Jewish holiday, is a celebration of the Jewish victory over Haman, who was another existential threat. The holiday commemorates the killing  of Haman as well as the massacre of 75,000 of his associates. Even Jesus is perceived by some rabbinical sects as not only an arch enemy but an existential threat as well. Yeshu, the Hebrew name used for Christ , is an acronym for the formula Y’mach Sh’mo V’Zichro meaning ‘may his name and memory be obliterated’– a term reserved for the bitterest enemies of the Jews (Hitler, Amalek, etc.). A few years back, yours truly was an existential threat in the eyes of the delusional Alan Dershowitz.

I hope that the Zionist campaign against Corbyn is not going to mature into a jubilant Jewish holiday or, God forbid, a Purim spirited lethal attack on his many supporters. I point at the absurdity of the Zionist zeal because judging by the language used by British Jewish community leaders, they see Corbyn as up there with Amalek, Haman and Hitler.

This is probably the right time to remind ourselves and British Jewish leaders of another fundamental mathematical axiom, namely the Symmetric one — If a = b then b = a.

If Corbyn = Hitler then we can assume that Hitler = Corbyn. This could be a dangerous path for British Jews, especially considering the fact that despite the relentless Zionist campaign against him, Corbyn is still leading in the polls. In other words, if Hitler = Corbyn and Corbyn is supported by a majority of Brits who see him as an anti-racist and a humanist, some Brits may begin to  entertain the possibility that maybe Hitler was only just as bad as Corbyn. I guess that this is what many Jews regard a ‘holocaust denial.’ But, as things stand, they have only themselves to blame — it is the British Jewish leadership that introduced this absurd equation and has foolishly continued to push it on a daily basis.

August 18, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , | 4 Comments

Corbyn’s Labour Party is Being Made to Fail: by Design

By Jonathan Cook | Dissident Voice | August 17, 2018

The Labour party, relentlessly battered by an organised campaign of smears of its leader, Jeremy Corbyn – first for being anti-semitic, and now for honouring Palestinian terrorists – is reportedly about to adopt the four additional working “examples” of anti-semitism drafted by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA).

Labour initially rejected these examples – stoking yet more condemnation from Israel’s lobbyists and the British corporate media – because it justifiably feared, as have prominent legal experts, that accepting them would severely curb the freedom to criticise Israel.

The media’s ever-more outlandish slurs against Corbyn and the Labour party’s imminent capitulation on the IHRA’s full definition of anti-semitism are not unrelated events. The former was designed to bring about the latter.

According to a report in the Guardian this week, senior party figures are agitating for the rapid adoption of the full IHRA definition, ideally before the party conference next month, and say Corbyn has effectively surrendered to the pressure. An MP who supports Corbyn told the paper Corbyn would “just have to take one for the team”.

In a strong indication of the way the wind is now blowing, the Guardian added:

“The party said it would consult the main [Jewish] communal bodies as well as experts and academics, but groups such as the pro-Corbyn Jewish Voice for Labour have not been asked to give their views.”

No stomach for battle

The full adoption of the IHRA definition of anti-semitism will be a major victory both for Israel and its apologists in Britain, who who have been seeking to silence all meaningful criticism of Israel, and for the British corporate media, which would dearly love to see the back of an old-school socialist Labour leader whose programme threatens to loosen the 40-year stranglehold of neoliberalism on British society.

Besieged for four years, Corbyn’s allies in the Labour leadership have largely lost the stomach for battle, one that was never about substance or policy but about character assassination. As the stakes have been constantly upped by the media and the Blairite holdouts in the party bureaucracy, the inevitable has happened. Corbyn has been abandoned. Few respected politicians with career ambitions or a public profile want to risk being cast out into the wilderness, like Ken Livingstone, as an anti-semite.

This is why the supposed anti-semitism “crisis” in a Corbyn-led Labour party has been so much more effective than berating him for his clothes or his patriotism. Natural selection – survival of the smear fittest for the job – meant that a weaponised anti-semitism would eventually identify Corbyn as its prime target and not just his supporters – especially after his unexpectedly strong showing at the polls in last year’s election.

Worse, Corbyn himself has conceded too much ground on anti-semitism. As a lifelong anti-racism campaigner, the accusations of anti-semitism have clearly pained him. He has tried to placate rather than defy the smearers. He has tried to maintain unity with people who have no interest in finding common ground with him.

And as he has lost all sense of how to respond in good faith to allegations made in bad faith, he has begun committing the cardinal sin of sounding and looking evasive – just as those who deployed the anti-semitism charge hoped. It was his honesty, plain-speaking and compassion that won him the leadership and the love of ordinary members. Unless he can regain the political and spiritual confidence that underpinned those qualities, he risks haemorrhaging support.

Critical juncture

But beyond Corbyn’s personal fate, the Labour party has now reached a critical juncture in its response to the smear campaign. In adopting the full IHRA definition, the party will jettison the principle of free speech and curtail critical debate about an entire country, Israel – as well as a key foreign policy issue for those concerned about the direction the Middle East is taking.

Discussion of what kind of state Israel is, what its policy goals are, and whether they are compatible with a peace process are about to be taken off the table by Britain’s largest, supposedly progressive party.

That thought spurred me to cast an eye over my back-catalogue of journalism. I have been based in Nazareth, in Israel’s Galilee, since 2001. In that time I have written – according to my website – more than 900 articles (plus another few hundred blog posts) on Israel, as well as three peer-reviewed books and a clutch of chapters in edited collections. That’s a lot of writing. Many more than a million words about Israel over nearly two decades.

What shocked me, however, as I started to pore over these articles was that almost all of them – except for a handful dealing with internal Palestinian politics – would fall foul of at least one of these four additional IHRA examples Labour is about to adopt.

After 17 years of writing about Israel, after winning a respected journalism prize for being “one of the reliable truth-tellers in the Middle East”, the Labour party is about to declare that I, and many others like me, are irredeemable anti-semites.

Not that I am unused to such slurs. I am intimately familiar with a community of online stalkers who happily throw around the insults “Nazi” and “anti-semite” at anyone who doesn’t cheerlead the settlements of the Greater Israel project. But far more troubling is that this will be my designation not by bullying Israel partisans but by the official party of the British left.

Of course, I will not be alone. Much of my journalism has been about documenting and reporting the careful work of scholars, human rights groups, lawyers and civil society organisations – Palestinian, Israeli and international alike – that have charted the structural racism in Israel’s legal and administrative system, explaining often in exasperating detail its ethnocractic character and its apartheid policies. All of us are going to be effectively cast out, denied any chance to inform or contribute to the debates and policies of Britain’s only leftwing party with a credible shot at power.

That is a shocking realisation. The Labour party is about to slam the door shut in the faces of the Palestinian people, as well as progressive Jews and others who stand in solidarity with them.

Betrayal of Palestinians

The article in the Guardian, the newspaper that has done more to damage Corbyn than any other (by undermining him from within his own camp), described the incorporation of the full IHRA anti-semitism definition into Labour’s code of conduct as a “compromise”, as though the betrayal of an oppressed people was something over which middle ground could be found.

Remember that the man who drafted the IHRA definition and its associated examples, American Jewish lawyer Kenneth Stern, has publicly regretted their impact, saying that in practice they have severely curbed freedom of speech about Israel.

How these new examples will be misused by Corbyn’s opponents should already be clear. He made his most egregious mistake in the handling of the party’s supposed anti-semitism “crisis” precisely to avoid getting caught up in a violation of one of the IHRA examples Labour is about to adopt: comparing Israel to Nazi Germany.

He apologised for attending an anti-racism event and distanced himself from a friend, the late Hajo Meyer, a Holocaust survivor and defender of Palestinian rights, who used his speech to compare Israel’s current treatment of Palestinians to early Nazi laws that vilified and oppressed Jews.

It was a Judas-like act for which it is not necessary to berate Corbyn. He is doubtless already torturing himself over what he did. But that is the point: the adoption of the full IHRA definition will demand the constant vilification and rooting out of progressive and humane voices like Meyer’s. It will turn the Labour party into the modern equivalent of Senator Joe McCarthy’s House of Un-American Activities Committee. Labour activists will find themselves, like Corbyn, either outed or required to out others as supposed anti-semites. They will have to denounce reasonable criticisms of Israel and dissociate themselves from supporters of the Palestinian cause, even Holocaust survivors.

The patent absurdity of Labour including this new anti-semitism “example” should be obvious the moment we consider that it will recast not only Meyer and other Holocaust survivors as anti-semites but leading Jewish intellectuals and scholars – even Israeli army generals.

Two years ago Yair Golan, the deputy chief of staff of the Israeli military, went public with such a comparison. Addressing an audience in Israel on Holocaust Day, he spoke of where Israel was heading:

“If there’s something that frightens me about Holocaust remembrance it’s the recognition of the revolting processes that occurred in Europe in general, and particularly in Germany, back then – 70, 80 and 90 years ago – and finding signs of them here among us today in 2016.”

Is it not a paradox that, were Golan a member of the Labour party, that statement – a rare moment of self-reflection by a senior Israeli figure – will soon justify his being vilified and hounded out of the Labour party?

Evidence of Israeli apartheid

Looking at my own work, it is clear that almost all of it falls foul of two further “examples” of anti-semitism cited in the full IHRA definition that Labour is preparing to adopt:

“Applying double standards by requiring of [Israel] a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.”

and:

“Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.”

One hardly needs to point out how preposterous it is that the Labour party is about to outlaw from internal discussion or review any research, scholarship or journalism that violates these two “examples” weeks after Israel passed its Nation-State Basic Law. That law, which has constitutional weight, makes explicit what was always implicit in Israel as a Jewish state:

  1. that Israel privileges the rights and status of Jews around the world, including those who have never even visited Israel, above the rights of the fifth of the country’s citizens who are non-Jews (the remnants of the native Palestinian population who survived the ethnic cleansing campaign of 1948).
  2. that Israel, as defined in the Basic Law, is not a state bounded by internationally recognised borders but rather the “Land of Israel” – a Biblical conception of Israel whose borders encompass the occupied Palestinian territories and parts of many neighbouring states.

How, one might reasonably wonder, is such a state – defined this way in the Basic Law – a normal “democratic” state? How is it not structurally racist and inherently acquisitive of other people’s territory?

Contrary to the demands of these two extra IHRA “examples”, the Basic Law alone shows that Israel is a “racist endeavour” and that we cannot judge it by the same standards we would a normal western-style democracy. Not least, it has a double “border” problem: it forces Jews everywhere to be included in its self-definition of the “nation”, whether they want to be or not; and it lays claim to the title deeds of other territories without any intention to confer on their non-Jewish inhabitants the rights it accords Jews.

Demanding that we treat Israel as a normal western-style liberal democracy – as the IHRA full definition requires – makes as much sense as having demanded the same for apartheid South Africa back in the 1980s.

Unaccountable politics

The Labour party has become the largest in Europe as Corbyn has attracted huge numbers of newcomers into the membership, inspired by a new kind of politics. That is a terrifying development for the old politics, which preferred tiny political cliques accountable chiefly to corporate donors, leaving a slightly wider circle of activists largely powerless.

That is why the Blairite holdouts in the party bureaucracy are quite content to use any pretext not only to root out genuine progressive activists drawn to a Corbyn-led party, including anti-Zionist Jewish activists, but to alienate tens of thousands more members that had begun to transform Labour into a grassroots movement.

A party endlessly obsessing about anti-semitism, a party that has abandoned the Palestinians, a party that has begun throwing out key progressive principles, a party that has renounced free speech, and a party that no longer puts the interests of the poor and vulnerable at the centre of its concerns is a party that will fail.

That is where the anti-semitism “crisis” is leading Labour – precisely as it was designed to do.

August 18, 2018 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , | 2 Comments