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‘Operation Iris’ & more: New documents tie Integrity Initiative to spin of Skripal affair

RT | January 4, 2019

Hackers who leaked documents from the Integrity Initiative, a shadowy outfit funded by the UK government, claim they show its connections to the March 2018 alleged poisoning attack in Salisbury and proposed actions against Russia.

The Integrity Initiative (II) was set up in 2015 by the equally shadowy “Institute for Statecraft,” according to the documents published online in November by hackers calling themselves a part of the Anonymous collective. While Anonymous has denied the group was behind the leak, the Institute confirmed the authenticity of the first batch of documents.

The hackers posted a fresh batch of documents purportedly from the Initiative and the Institute on Friday, hinting that both outfits had connections with Western media coverage of the March 2018 alleged poisoning of former Russian spy Sergey Skripal, and the actions against Russia taken subsequently by the UK government and its allies.

One of the documents is the confidential report by Harod Associates, a company hired by the Initiative to conduct “mainstream & social media analysis” of the Skripal scandal coverage. The entire undertaking was dubbed “Operation Iris.”

Among those who found themselves named “Russian trolls” and Kremlin agents in the report were Ukrainian-born pianist Valentina Lisitsa and a gentleman from Kent who goes by Ian56 on Twitter.

Another document, dated March 11, 2018, contains a “Narrative” of the Skripal incident, blaming Russia and President Vladimir Putin personally and containing a number of recommended actions, such as boycotting the 2018 World Cup, starting campaigns to boycott the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia to Germany and block Russian access to SWIFT international banking system, but also to “ban RT TV and Sputnik from operating in the UK.”

Other suggestions include propaganda directed at British Muslims “to publicise what has been happening with their Muslim brethren in Crimea since the Russian invasion” (sic) and getting members of Parliament to publicize the “threat Russia poses.”

The document dump also contains the April 14, 2018 email from Andy Pryce, whom the hackers describe as “chief propaganda man” at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, containing the official government narrative of the Skripal affair and the alleged chemical attack in Douma, Syria. Pryce ends the email by recommending “good sources of further information” on alleged Russian propaganda, including the Atlantic Council’s DFR Lab, Bellingcat and Stopfake.

Documents obtained and published by the hackers also show connections between Skripal’s recruiter and neighbor Pablo Miller, the Institute for Statecraft, and the so-called rescue group White Helmets, created in militant-held areas of Syria by a former British official in 2013.

There are also several invoices from Dan Kaszeta of the Institute for Statecraft, for articles he wrote as supposedly a chemical weapons expert advancing the Institute’s narrative on both the Skripals and Syria.

The most intriguing, however, is a document from 2015, in which Victor Madeira of the Institute for Statecraft proposes a series of measures targeting Russia, including mass expulsion of diplomats along the lines of 1971’s Operation Foot. One of the actions by the UK, US and several other NATO countries in the wake of claims that Russia used a nerve agent against Skripal was a mass expulsion of Russian diplomats.

Former MP George Galloway noted that the documents written long before the Salisbury events call for arrests of RT and Sputnik contributors (such as himself), adding, “Makes you think…”

Previously published documents have revealed the Initiative and the Institute as being involved in widespread propaganda operations targeting not only foreign countries and media outlets – as one might expect from someone doing the bidding of the Foreign Office – but also domestic political figures, such as Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn.

January 4, 2019 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance, Russophobia | , | Leave a comment

Who Runs Our World?

Netanyahu addresses US Congress | Photo from Al Jazeera
By Richard Hugus | January 4, 2019

Our world is run by oligarchs, the holders of vast wealth from monopolies in banking, resource extraction, manufacturing, and technology. Oligarchs have such power that most of the world doesn’t even know of their influence over our lives. Their overall agenda is global power — a world government, run by them — to be achieved through planned steps of social engineering. The oligarchs remain in the background and have heads of state and entire governments acting in their service. Presidents and prime ministers are their puppets. Bureaucrats and politicians are their factotums.

Who are politicians? Politicians are people who work for the powerful while pretending to represent the people who voted for them. This double-dealing involves a lot of lying, so successful politicians must be good at it. It’s not an easy job to make the insane agenda of the powerful seem reasonable. Politicians can’t reveal this agenda because it almost always goes against the interests of their constituents, so they become adept at sophistry, mystification, and the appearance of authority. For example, wars for Israel have been part of the agenda of the powerful for years. Since 2001, wars for Israel have been sold as “the war on terror” and lots of lies had to be made up as to why the war on terror was a real thing. The visible faces promoting the war on terror were neoconservatives in the US, almost all of whom were advocates for Israel, or Zionists. Zionists are not the only members of the oligarchy, but they seem to be its lead actors.

With this perspective we may judge all kinds of world events, such as the many false flag terror attacks which have been perpetrated in one country after another to bring about political objectives. False flag attacks range from Operation Gladio to demonize leftists, 9-11 to demonize Arabs and Muslims, and the shooting down of the MH-17 airliner to demonize Russia. Under an atmosphere of terror, with citizens clamoring for revenge, all kinds of political goals can be achieved.

Propaganda is also vital. Control of information through a likewise controlled media has facilitated mass brainwashing. To control the narrative, whistle blowers and truth tellers must be isolated and destroyed, preferably in the open, so as to warn others away. This is what is happening with Julian Assange.

The attack on Gilad Atzmon is an other example. Atzmon has been a major critic of the role of Jewish political power in our world — not just in Palestine, but all over the western world. When he says “we are all Palestinians” he is making the observation that Europe and North America are being Israelified. For example, some police in the US go for training in Israel, where they learn to view the US public, particularly African Americans, the way the Israeli military views Palestinians — as enemies to be shot in the streets and abusively treated. In the US, people are not allowed to question or discuss Jewish power, when it is evident that AIPAC, the lobby for Israel, completely controls both houses of the US Congress. We recall the members of Congress giving Benjamin Netanyahu 29 standing ovations during his denunciation of Iran in 2011. In Britain, mass insanity has taken hold, at least in the media, in the demonization of Russia via the Skripal affair and Luke Harding’s MI6 journalism in The Guardian. This is taking place solely because of Russia’s thwarting of Israel in its attempt to destroy Syria. For the neocons, the agenda is always war — the stick to bring recalcitrant states in line with the New World Order. This behavior is so dangerous that it would be crazy if we did not speak about who is doing this, and why.

In December 2018 Atzmon was banned from playing a jazz gig in Islington, north of London, because a powerful entity — the Zionist Herut Likud UK — initiated a character assassination and attack on his livelihood through Richard Watts, leader of the Islington Town Council. The Council created the lie that in banning Atzmon it was protecting the citizens of Islington from “antisemitism.” In fact, it is only protecting organized Zionists — supporters of the racist state of Israel — from one of their most effective critics.

Two paid staff for the Council — Ian Adams and Martin Bevis — were assigned to carry out the bureaucratic part of the job. They defended the assassination in the name of political correctness. They responded to Atzmon’s appeal of the Council ruling by citing almost entirely Zionist and Israeli sources to back up the claim that Atzmon is an “antisemite.” These sources include the Anti-Defamation League, the Jewish Chronicle, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Haaretz, the Times of Israel, and The Forward. When Atzmon countered these sources with a list of well-known academics who have supported his work — Richard Falk, John Mearschimer, Ramzy Baroud, Paul Craig Roberts, Cynthia McKinney, James Petras, Francis Boyle, among others — Ian Adams responded by saying, “I have found that the majority of them would appear to have also been subject to significant controversy or allegations of being anti-Semitic themselves.” To Adams, representing a town in Britain, the only valid authorities are in the media run out of Israel, with its blatant record of discrimination and genocide against Palestinians, which all those media support.

Power likes to cover up its crude manipulations with a veneer of reason and legality. Islington based its original decision on Atzmon’s banning on a clause in the town’s books having to do with events at the Islington Assembly Hall. The clause states:

“You must not, in connection with any Live Event, use, provide or display any material, whether written or spoken, or allow behaviour that constitutes direct or indirect discrimination or harassment, victimisation of, villification of, any person or group of persons on grounds of race, nationality, gender, sexual orientation, disability, religion or age.”

In their letters, Adams and Bevis provide no response to the fact that Atzmon was to appear at the December 21, 2018 event as a saxophone player with a jazz group called The Blockheads. There was no logical way to assume that his saxophone playing would discriminate against, harass, victimize, or vilify anyone at this event. The banning was therefore not backed up by law; it was illegal in itself, as it discriminated against Atzmon.

The only thing one can say about the bureaucrats’ defense of Islington’s decision is that they and the town officials, and indeed much of Britain’s political class, seem to be unaware that Zionism is the water in which their boat is floating. When the entire mainstream narrative is dictated by Jewish identity politics, of course all criticism of those politics must be heresy. Britain was once a sovereign nation, not a colony of Israel — much like the US. Much like Canada, Germany, France, and so on. These countries were not invaded by tanks and infantry; they were invaded by dogma. Political dogma, political “correctness,” and the totalitarian policing of our thoughts and words, are the things which Gilad Atzmon has pointed to in western culture and held up for us to examine. Zionists have made criticism of Israel “antisemitic” by definition. There is no way to win the argument. The word no longer has any meaning. This is aside from the fact that ‘semitic’ refers to a language group which includes Arabic, Aramaic, and Hebrew and that the majority of the settlers claiming rights to the Holy Land did not come from areas, like Palestine, where semitic languages were spoken.

Atzmon has asked the most basic questions: Israel defines itself as “the Jewish state” — what then is the Jewish state? What are Jewish identity politics? And why are we not allowed open discussion and debate on these questions? This is the reason for the attempt to denounce him. The bureaucrats and politicians of Islington say they’re fighting bigotry, but because they are part of a system which bigotry built, they’re actually speaking on behalf of it. Once again, the oligarchs have put through a dirty scheme under cover of benevolence and human rights.

January 4, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, False Flag Terrorism, Full Spectrum Dominance, Russophobia, Wars for Israel | , , , | 9 Comments

Israel’s plan to ‘worsen conditions’ for Palestinian prisoners is an opportunity for unity

By Ramona Wadi | MEMO | January 4, 2019

Depriving Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli jails of their basic rights is a “moral duty”, according to Israeli Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan. News reports have confirmed that the Israeli cabinet has approved plans to “worsen conditions”, after Erdan set up a committee specifically tasked with devising “harsher” conditions for Palestinian prisoners involved in resistance activities.

Rationing water, eliminating cooking rights and visits to Palestinian prisoners, as well as halting the process of separating prisoners pertaining to different Palestinian political factions will be implemented in the coming weeks.

To put it briefly, Israel is aiming to enact the same violations that Palestinians experience outside prison. The only difference is the absence of community support for Palestinian prisoners.

According to Erdan: “We must make conditions worse [for prisoners] to fulfil our moral duty to terror victims and their families.”

Indeed Israel does have a moral obligation towards its settler population – dismantling the settler colonial state would eliminate the need for Palestinian anti-colonial resistance which is a right under international law. Instead of facing its responsibilities for creating a colonial entity on stolen territory and replacing the indigenous population with an assortment of complicit settlers, it has instead renewed its efforts to criminalise Palestinian resistance and invent premises upon which it seeks to extend its violation of Palestinian rights.

Meanwhile, Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails are already in a precarious situation. Revered as the epitomes of Palestinian resistance, yet their remembrance outside family circles often occurs at times when Israel announces additional oppressive measures. Not to mention the fact that some prisoners, or their fates, attract more publicity than others when it comes to raising awareness.

Erdan’s measures shift this focus which, in part, can be attributed to Israel and its singling out of individual prisoners to make the case for its alleged security concerns. Till now, the visibility of some Palestinian political prisoners has eclipsed the fate of the rest. Unfortunately, even well-intentioned activism has become ensnared in this façade. But the Palestinian struggle is a collective endeavour.

Differentiating between prisoners in terms of visibility has fractured Palestinian unity even further. As Israel moves to implement additional violations against all Palestinian political prisoners, the focus should be on supporting the Palestinian collective struggle.

Ironically, Erdan is also provoking a sense of unity among Palestinians. As the fine line between Israel’s human rights violations outside and behind bars blurs further, the distinction between Palestinian prisoners and the Palestinian people undergoes the same process. Israel is bringing the theft of water – this time by depriving prisoners of a basic right – to a space which is inhabited by Palestinians dedicated to resistance.

The response to these violations, therefore, cannot be limited to the usual perfunctory statements about Israel respecting and applying international law. Israel acts with impunity and the international community has already sealed the deal with tacit approval. Such violations call for a strategy which goes beyond a retaliatory response. The only way to do this is for Palestinian institutions to step down from their pedestals and acknowledge the people’s political power. For all intents and purposes, international law must come secondary to Palestinian demands.

See also:

Israel arrested 175 Palestinian women, girls in 2018

January 4, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , | 4 Comments

Elizabeth Warren Pierces Through Rhetoric on Economy, Muddles on Foreign Policy

By Sam Husseini | January 4, 2019

In her New Years Eve announcement forming an exploratory committee for the presidency, Sen. Elizabeth Warren made a great point: “Right now, Washington works great for the wealthy and the well-connected. It’s just not working for anyone else.”

In case you missed that, she pointedly did not say “the economy isn’t working well” or such, as we’ve all heard numerous politicos say countless times.

She rather said the opposite of that — repeatedly: “The way I see it right now, Washington works great for giant drug companies, but just not for people who are trying to get a prescription filled. Washington works great for for-profit colleges and student loan outfits, but not for young people who are getting crushed by student loan debt. And you could keep going through the list. The problem we have got right now in Washington is that it works great for those who’ve got money to buy influence.”

And in case anyone at all missed the point, she said it yet again: “We want a government that works not just for the rich and the powerful. We want a government that works for everyone.”

It’s laudatory that Warren is using her perch and analytical skills to avoid a common rhetorical trap and is articulating the truism that the political establishment largely does the bidding of the wealthy and connected when it comes to the economy.

The problem is that she doesn’t articulate that in the same manner when it comes to bloody wars. Quite the contrary. That is, she says that she goes down a list — drug companies, for-profit colleges and student loan outfits — but that list doesn’t seem to include those who have an interest in continuing horrific wars.

When asked on Wednesday night by Rachel Maddow about Trump’s recent announcement on Syria, Warren said the U.S.’s wars are “not working”.

She didn’t say: “The wars are working great for military contractors, just not for regular people in the U.S. or Syria or anywhere else.”

Warren — who is on the Senate Armed Services Committee — did not say: “The wars are are great for the wealthy profiting off of them, they’re just terrible for the people getting killed in them.”

Instead, Warren actually swallowed some of the rhetoric about U.S. wars having as their alleged goals stability or humanitarianism or security. The profits of military contractors or geopolitical elites are thus not examined.

She said it was “right” to pull U.S. troops out of Syria and Afghanistan, an arguably positive position, but added: “It is not working and pretending that somehow, in the future, it is going to work…it’s a form of fantasy that we simply can’t afford to continue to engage in.”

But part of the fantasy is ignoring that the wars are indeed working great for some. Indeed, if Warren heard someone else say that “it is not working” about the economy, she’d likely correct them.

Warren did at least raise the question of what “success” in the perpetual wars might be, which is certainly better than most of official Washington: the advocates of perpetual war “need to explain what they think winning in those wars look like and where the metrics are.”

But, like most of the U.S. political establishment, Warren doesn’t actually scrutinize the underlying motives: “When you withdraw, you got to withdraw as part of a plan, you got to know what you’re trying to accomplish throughout the Middle East and the pieces need to be coordinated,” Warren said, adding, “this is why we need allies.”

What allies? France, Britain and Turkey — the traditional colonial power in the region? Or the ever aggressive, oppressive Israel? Or the tyrannical Saudi Arabia?

And that’s rather the point — U.S. foreign policy appears as a muddle, without clearly stating what is supposed to be accomplished, because its stated goals obscure actual goals.

The idea that the U.S. establishment gets the country into wars for ulterior financial or geopolitical reasons should be regarded as banal. Instead, it’s barely articulated at all.

Most obviously, the military contractors benefit from wars.

Indeed, the power of the euphemistically called “defense sector” would seem to be substantially larger than the drug companies Warren focuses on. According to OpenSecrets.org, the top five military contractors — Northrop Grumman, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics and Raytheon — more than doubled the top five companies in the pharmaceutical manufacturing sector ($14.4 million vs. $7.7 million) in their outlays to politicos. For more, see the writings of William Hartung, such as “Corporate Patriots or War Profiteers?

Even more critically, the U.S. establishment’s geopolitical aims frequently thrive on war. Dahlia Wasfi argued in 2015 in “Battling ISIS: Iran-Iraq war redux” that “Obama’s unofficial strategy to fight ISIS may be that of Reagan’s for Iran and Iraq in the 1980s: a long, drawn-out war to strengthen U.S.-Israeli hegemony in the region.” Also, see Robert Naiman’s “WikiLeaks Reveals How the U.S. Aggressively Pursued Regime Change in Syria, Igniting a Bloodbath” and my own “Is U.S. Policy to Prolong the Syrian War?

In 2015, Sen. Bernie Sanders was actually calling for more Saudi intervention in the Mideast. Said Sanders: The Saudis have “got to get their hands dirty.” He was criticized for this by Margaret Kimberley, David Swanson and myself.

Now, Sanders has taken the lead in Congress in criticizing the Saudi war in Yemen, opening the door to some alleviation of massive suffering. I wish he would be much better still on foreign policy, but this may be serious progress, though the ACLU has criticized the congressional resolution.

It’s imperative to criticize presumable progressive politicians and parse their words carefully. It might open the door to actual improvements in policy, as in the case of Sanders. And in the case of Elizabeth Warren, it’s simply asking her to cease obscuring war as she clarifies economic issues.

January 4, 2019 Posted by | Economics, Militarism | | 1 Comment

Bashir: I was advised normalising relations with Israel will stabilise Sudan

MEMO | January 4, 2019

Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir was advised to begin normalising relations with Israel in order to ensure stability in his country, Haaretz reported him saying yesterday.

Speaking during a meeting with religious leaders in the capital Khartoum yesterday, Al-Bashir did not specify who gave him the advice adding only that “sustenance is in the hand of God”.

Sudan is witnessing widespread protests triggered by a government decision to triple bread prices from one Sudanese pound ($0.02) to three Sudanese pounds ($0.063). Food prices have soared since the start of this year after the government stopped state-funded imports of wheat.

Sudan has been facing heightened economic uncertainty in recent years with an acute shortage of foreign currency resulting in the Sudanese pound plunging against the dollar. Despite the lifting of US economic sanctions last year, international banks have continued to be wary of doing business with financial institutions in the country.

In November reports surfaced that Israeli and Sudanese representatives held a secret meeting in Istanbul, Turkey, in 2017 to discuss diplomatic relations in exchange for Israeli aid to Sudan.

According to a source, the parties discussed “the warming of relations between the countries and possible Israeli aid to Sudan in the fields of medicine, agriculture and the economy,” the Times of Israel reported.

The revelation came in the wake of rumours that Sudan and Israel were considering opening diplomatic relations. The senior leader of Sudan’s ruling National Congress Party, Abdel Sakhi Abbas, was forced to deny claims that Netanyahu is due to visit Sudanese capital Khartoum. Abbas stressed: “It is impossible that Netanyahu visits Sudan. There is nothing to deal with such an official visit,” lambasting the rumours as “completely false”.

January 4, 2019 Posted by | Economics, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , | Leave a comment

Canada charity used donations to fund Israel army bases

MEMO | January 4, 2019

A Canadian charity has been investigated for using its donations to fund infrastructure projects on Israeli army and naval bases.

The Jewish National Fund of Canada – an affiliate of parent organisation Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael or the Jewish National Fund (KKL-JNF) – used its donations to fund infrastructure projects on Israeli army, air and naval bases, in contravention of Canadian law.

The revelation came as JNF Canada was subjected to an audit by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), a federal agency that administers tax laws for the Canadian government, after a Canadian researcher filed a complaint about the charity’s spending. According to local news site CBC :

While no law bars a Canadian citizen from writing a cheque directly to Israel’s Ministry of Defence, rules do ban tax-exempt charities from issuing tax receipts for such donations, and also ban donors from claiming tax deductions for them.

CBC further explains that: “In its guide for Canadian registered charities carrying out activities outside Canada, the CRA states plainly that ‘increasing the effectiveness and efficiency of Canada’s armed forces is charitable, but supporting the armed forces of another country is not’.”

Though JNF Canada claims it stopped funding such projects in 2016, CBC points out that this would not stop the Canada Revenue Agency from taking action against the charity for funding projects in contravention of these clearly-stated guidelines.

Prior to 2016, JNF Canada’s contributions to projects associated with the Israeli military appear to have been expansive. One example indicates that JNF Canada provided funding for “a fitness area for the regular army staff at the Gadna base in Sde Boker,” a kibbutz (agricultural community) south of Beer Sheba in southern Israel. The charity describes Israel’s Gadna programme as “a special programme for young people in Israel that prepares them for their service in the [Israeli army]”.

The charity also funded other military infrastructure projects, including: “helping the development of the Bat Galim training base complex area” at Israel’s naval base in Haifa; upgrading the canteen for Israel’s 124th Helicopter Squadron at Palmachim Air Force Base, north of Ashdod; and developing a canteen at Nevatim Air Force Base, east of Beer Sheba.

As CBC points out, JNF Canada has a long history of supporting controversial projects, in 1984 raising funds for Canada Park which is built on the ruins of several villages near Latrun, east of Ramle. The park sits beyond the 1949 Armistice Line – often known as the Green Line – and as such is considered occupied Palestinian territory, though Israel has since cut the park off from the rest of the West Bank with its Separation Wall. JNF Canada has nonetheless continued to fund the maintenance of the park.

International donations to the Israeli army were thrust into the spotlight in November when Hollywood celebrities raised $60 million at the Friends of the Israel Defence Forces (FIDF) annual gala. Held in Beverly Hills, California USA, the gala was attended by more than 1,200 supporters of Israel, including prominent actors and singers like Ashton Kutcher, Pharrell Williams, Gerard Butler and Katharine McPhee. An internet campaign was quickly launched to criticise the celebrities’ involvement, starting the #HollywoodFundsTerror hashtag on Twitter.

Just a few weeks earlier, another FIDF gala held in New York raised $32 million for the Israeli army and was attended by key Israeli establishment figures, including Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon and Israel’s Consul General in New York Dani Dayan. Two US-Jewish organisations – Or Lachayal, which works to strengthen the Jewish identity of the Israeli army, and Nefesh B’Nefesh, which promotes Jewish immigration to Israel – were among the biggest donors at the gala.

 

January 4, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation | , , , | 4 Comments

AIPAC Takes Newly Elected Congress Members, CNN’s Setmayer on Propaganda Trips to Israel

By Alison Weir | Information Clearing House | January 3, 2019

Newly elected Congressional Reps David Trone, Dan Crenshaw, Elaine Goodman Luria, Tim Burchett, Denver Riggleman, and Susie Lee on a December 2018 AIPAC trip to Israel. AIPAC’s educational arm spends about $10,000 a piece on these trips. By using a nonprofit entity, the Israel lobby gets around a U.S. law intended to prohibit Congressional junkets funded by lobbying groups.

The Israel lobby has been busy taking a wide variety of government officials and opinion makers on fully expense paid trips to Israel this month. The trips cost in the range of $10,000 per person.

Six newly elected House members are on a 5-day visit to Israel, a delegation of northern California “progressive leaders” are on a week-long trip, media commentator Tara Setmayer has just returned from such a trip, and a delegation of southern California progressive leaders returned from their trip earlier this month.

The House participants include liberals and conservatives, Jewish representatives and Christian fundamentalists, Trump supporters and Trump opponents: Tim Burchett (R-TN), Dan Crenshaw (R-TX), Susie Lee (D-NV), Elaine Goodman Luria (D-VA), Denver Riggleman (R-VA) and David Trone (D-MD).

The California participants are County Supervisors John Gioia and Joe Simian, California Democratic Party Executive Committee Member Andrea Beth Damsky, and unknown others. The delegations are named “Northern Pacific Progressive Leaders” and “Southern Pacific Progressive Leaders,” but no one will divulge the rosters.

The AIPAC loophole

The trips are organized and funded by the American Israel Education Foundation (AIEF), the nonprofit arm of the powerful Israel lobbying group AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee). AIEF was founded in 1989 “to advance the purposes of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.”

AIPAC is widely believed to be the most powerful organization in the US lobbying Congress on behalf of a foreign country. An outgrowth of the 1939 organization “American Zionist Emergency Council,” AIPAC’s annual convention is attended by ambitious politicians from across the political spectrum (see this example; for more on AZEC, read my book on the history of the Israel lobby).

The goal of AIPAC – and of its trips – is to promote American support for Israel despite Israel’s violations of human rights, international law, U.S. law, and discrimination against Christians and others.

In particular, AIPAC is working to keep the over $10 million per day of American tax money going to Israel. While most Americans feel Israel already gets too much money, Congress is about to pass legislation that will increase the gift even further. This will be the largest military aid package in US history; it works out to about $23,000 for each Jewish Israeli family of four, or $7,230 per minute.

While an individual has recently been charged with acting as a foreign agent over her activities with Russia and the NRA, the Israel lobby has worked to influence U.S. policies on behalf of a foreign country for many years, with very few legal consequences. Even when top AIPAC officials were found to have handed over classified documents, the case was dropped (a Pentagon analyst was jailed for 12 years).

The trips to Israel used to be organized by AIPAC itself until Congress enacted legislation in 2007 intended to stop lobbying organizations from taking government officials on fully paid tours. However, the legislation contains a loophole (some call it the “AIPAC loophole“) that allows nonprofit groups to organize such trips, and AIEF officially took over the tours.

An $85 million operation, AIEF takes a wide array of American officials and opinion makers on the all the expense paid trips. It pays for their international flights, hotel accommodations, tourist excursions, meals, drinks, etc. In the past decade it has reportedly spent $12.9 million on bipartisan Congressional trips to Israel.

While some of the more savvy participants may be skeptical of an advocacy organization claiming to give them an unbiased, “educational” look at the region, they seem willing to go along. The Israel lobby is widely known to make or break careers.

Carefully Tailored Trips

The trips by AIEF and similar organizations are carefully tailored for each group. There are trips for military veterans, business leaders of all races and ethnicities, educators, athletes, students, individuals of every sexual and religious persuasion, and politicians at every level of office, from local to national.

The pro-Israel groups treat participants to a lavish tour replete with visits to historic sites, exciting night life, beaches, religious sites, official offices, border areas; whatever will appeal to the group members. LGBTQ advocates meet with gays, fundamentalist Christians are taken on carefully guided trips to Christian sites, military veterans meet with Israeli soldiers.

The meetings even include a few hand-picked “Palestinian representatives” and Druze Israelis, allowing the tours to be pitched as “educational” trips where participants allegedly see “all sides.” They are given inaccurate histories of the region and filtered information about the current situation. Not surprisingly, participants come back spouting the Israeli talking points they’ve been fed. (See some schedules and itineraries here.)

Whether or not they are taken in by the tour, it is likely that politicians understand the political calculus of allying with one of the most powerful lobbies in the U.S.

Most politicians and many others are acutely aware that this is a group that has the money and power to further their careers – or to impede them. As these extravagant trips exemplify, AIPAC and related groups possess hundreds of millions of dollars to devote to cultivating Congressional representatives and others.

Pro-Israel billionaires like Sheldon Adelson, Haim Saban, and Paul Singer donate massive quantities of money to promote Israel in the US. They and others fund numerous projects to inculcate pro-Israel beliefs in Americans. These trips are one of the ways they do it.

The new Congressional representatives and Setmayer have occasionally been tweeting about the trips. Below are a few examples:

Walking on a road where Jesus actually walked. Just incredible. #AIEF pic.twitter.com/2bDR72udOo

— Tim Burchett (@timburchett) December 12, 2018

 

We were invited to survey the Israeli border areas including the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Then they took us to a military base to inspect the terror tunnels. Our return trip took us over Jerusalem, where we saw the security wall between the West Bank and Israel. #VA05 pic.twitter.com/DkZaOXejWr

— Denver Riggleman (@Denver4VA) December 12, 2018

 

One of the most intense experiences of my life was standing inside a bombed out former Syrian Army HQ, now on the Israeli side of the Golan Heights, just 150 yards from the Syrian border.That happened today. pic.twitter.com/9oSRW5VLqZ

— Tara Setmayer (@TaraSetmayer) December 7, 2018

 

CNN’s Setmayer & Marc Lamont Hill

Setmayer has also published a podcast about the trip that mentions her Jewish ancestry and repeats a number of Israel’s nonfactual talking points. In the podcast she shows little awareness of the situation in Gaza or the history of the region, despite – or perhaps because of – her “educational trip.”

Given that CNN commentator Marc Lamont Hill, a tenured professor, was just fired by CNN for a UN speech in which he supported full Palestinian rights, it is perhaps not surprising that Setmayer sings Israel’s praises.

Numerous other pro-Israel groups also take Americans on guided tours to Israel, including the American Jewish Committee’s Project Interchange (a 2012 trip brought university presidents), Passages Israel, (backed by hedge fund billionaire Paul Singer), the Jewish Public Affairs Committee of Northern California (JPAC)Birthright Israel, which targets Jewish students, and the American-Israel Friendship League, which has been operating since 1971 and largely targets young people. (Last year AIFL gave a special award to potential presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg. A fundraising video featured former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, New York Times columnist Bret Stephens, Elie Wiesel, and others.)

Meanwhile, U.S. media regularly provide Israeli-centric reporting to Americans. For example, almost no news organizations have told Americans about the current legislation before Congress to give Israel a minimum of $38 billion over the next 10 years, currently being held up by Republican Senator Rand Paul.

Alternative trip to the region

Perhaps for the first time ever, a Congressional representative is openly challenging AIPAC over these trips. Newly elected Democrat Rashida Tlaib has announced that she will be organizing an alternative trip to the region.

A Palestinian American citizen of Detroit, Tlaib explained: “I don’t think AIPAC provides a real, fair lens into this issue. It’s one-sided. … [They] have these lavish trips to Israel, but they don’t show the side that I know is real, which is what’s happening to my grandmother and what’s happening to my family there.”

While most Americans desire fairness and would likely believe it reasonable for their representatives to either go on no lobby-funded trips, or go on trips by both sides, it is unclear how many politicians will be willing to do so. As Republican Congressman Paul Findley recorded in 1985, and many politicians from both parties have learned since, defying the Israel lobby can be political suicide.

But as increasing numbers of Americans learn the facts on Israel-Palestine, a few politicians now are taking on the Israel lobby, and winning. One of them, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), has already announced that she will not be joining the annual AIPAC trip for freshman Congressional reps.

Videos about Israel lobby trips

The videos below give a feel for these pro-Israel funded trips:

Passages is backed by hedge fund billionaire and Israel advocate Paul Singer. (More information about Singer is here.)

Alison Weir is executive director of If Americans Knew and author of Against Our Better Judgment: The Hidden History of How the U.S. Was Used to Create Israel.

January 4, 2019 Posted by | Corruption, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular, Video | , , , , | 1 Comment

US wants Iranians to ‘have better lives’ with sanctions: Pompeo

Press TV – January 4, 2019

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says Washington’s tough sanctions against the Islamic Republic are aimed at giving the Iranian people a chance to have better lives.

“The sanctions on Iran have this ultimate goal: creating an outcome where the Iranian people can have better lives than they have today,” Pompeo told Newsmax TV on Thursday.

The administration of US President Donald Trump announced on November 5 the reimposition of the “toughest” sanctions ever against Iran’s banking and energy sectors with the aim of cutting off its oil sales and crucial exports. The bans had been lifted under the 2015 nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

While the US claims the bans do not target civilians and ordinary people, they are actually hampering the import of food and medicine to the country, endangering the lives of millions of patients in Iran.

Pompeo earlier told BBC Persian that Iranian officials must listen to Washington “if they want their people to eat.”

He also said since the re-introduction of the sanctions, there was no sign yet that Iranian officials would return to the negotiating table.

“We have provided, we have accommodated the Iranian people with our sanctions, and it’s now the Iranian government’s responsibility to make sure that they do the right thing…It’s their job to do the right thing for their people,” he noted.

In reaction to his comments, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Pompeo’s open threat to starve the Iranian nation was “a crime against humanity” and “a desperate attempt to impose US whims on Iran.”

“Like his predecessors, he’ll also learn that—in spite of US efforts—Iran will not just survive but advance w/out sacrificing its sovereignty,” Zarif said.

US has ‘lots of things’ to work on with Turkey

In his interview with Newsmax TV, Pompeo also referred to Washington’s ties with Ankara, saying the US has “lots of things to work on with the Turks” and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

“There are places where they are very supportive of the things that Americans care about, which keep Americans safe,” Pompeo said.

“There are other places where we have real concerns,” the secretary added. “We still have Americans who are being held there. The conversation with the Turks continues.”

Pompeo also announced that National Security Adviser John Bolton and Jim Jeffrey, special representative for Syrian engagement, will meet with Turkish officials next week “to talk about Syria.”

“There are lots of places where we need to work with President Erdogan and the Turkish leadership to get good outcomes for the United States.”

The comments came as the US is reportedly evacuating its military bases in Syria after President Trump pledged to pull American forces out of the war-torn Arab country.

America’s military presence in northern parts of Syria, where US troops are working closely with Kurdish groups, have drawn fire from Turkey.

Ankara has launched its own military incursion into Syria, with a declared goal of destroying Kurdish groups causing unrest in Turkish territories.

Upon announcing his decision to leave Syria, Trump said Turkey would be taking on the US military responsibilities in the country.

January 4, 2019 Posted by | Subjugation - Torture, War Crimes | , , , | 3 Comments

The Mediterranean Pipeline Wars Are Heating Up

By Viktor Katona | Oilprice.com | December 28, 2018

Things have been quite active in the Eastern Mediterranean lately, with Israel, Cyprus and Greece pushing forward for the realization of the EastMed pipeline, a new gas conduit destined to diversify Europe’s natural gas sources and find a long-term reliable market outlet for all the recent Mediterranean gas discoveries. The three sides have reached an agreement in late November (roughly a year after signing the MoU) to lay the pipeline, the estimated cost of which hovers around $7 billion (roughly the same as rival TurkStream’s construction cost). Yet behind the brave facade, it is still very early to talk about EastMed as a viable and profitable project as it faces an uphill battle with traditionally difficult Levantine geopolitics, as well as field geology.

The EastMed gas pipeline is expected to start some 170 kilometers off the southern coast of Cyprus and reach Otranto on the Puglian coast of Italy via the island of Crete and the Greek mainland. Since most of its subsea section is projected to be laid at depths of 3-3.5 kilometer, in case it is built it would become the deepest subsea gas pipeline, most probably the longest, too, with an estimated length of 1900km. The countries involved proceed from the premise that the pipeline’s throughput capacity would be 20 BCM per year (706 BCf), although previous estimates were within the 12-16 BCm per year interval. According to Yuval Steinitz, the Israeli Energy Minister, the stakeholders would need a year to iron out all the remaining administrative issues and 4-5 years to build the pipeline, meaning it could come onstream not before 2025.

The idea of EastMed was first flaunted around 2009-2010 as the first more or less substantial gas discovery in the Eastern Mediterranean, the Tamar gas field in Israel’s offshore zone, paved the way for speculations about an impending gas boom. Then came the 535 BCm (18.9 TCf) Leviathan in 2010 and the 850 BCm (30 TCf) Zohr discovery in offshore Egypt five years later and suddenly it seemed that an Eastern Mediterranean gas expansion is inevitable. Yet over the years, the operators of Leviathan have already allocated part of their total gas volumes to domestic power generating companies and most notably NEPCO, the Jordanian electric power company (1.6-2BCm per year). Egypt has been concentrating on meeting domestic needs and getting rid of LNG imports, moreover once it bounces back to gas exporter status in 2019, it will only use its own 2 LNG terminals in Damietta and Idku. Related: Has Oil Hit Rock Bottom?

Thus, a pertinent question arises – whose gas would be used to fill the EastMed pipeline? If the pipeline starts in offshore Cyprus, then it would be logical to expect that Cyprus’ gas bounty would be somehow utilized. Yet Cyprus has been lagging behind Egypt and Israel in its offshore endeavors and so far lacks a clear-cut giant field to base its supply future on. The two discoveries appraised heretofore, the 6-8 TCf Calypso operated by ENI and the 4.5 TCf Aphrodite operated by Noble Energy, are not enough to support the construction of a relatively expensive gas pipeline – all the more so as Noble has signed a provisional deal to send Aphrodite gas to Egypt’s Idku LNG terminal, most likely by means of a subsea gas pipeline. If we are to judge the viability of the EastMed on the current situation, there is only Calypso and Israel to fill the pipeline, as Greece’s gas export plans are close to zero on the probability scale.

The subsea section from Cyprus’ offshore zone to the island of Crete lies in depths of 3km and is stretched across a seismically active zone. But there is even more – should Turkey claim rights on Cyprus’ offshore hydrocarbon deposits (in February 2018 it sent warships to scare away ENI’s drilling rig that was on its way to xxx), the project is all but dead. This is far from an implausible scenario as President Erdogan stated that Turkey would never allow for the extortion of natural resources in the East Mediterranean by means of excluding Ankara and Northern Cyprus. Cognizant of the risks inherent in an East Mediterranean gas pipeline, there has been no interest from oil and gas majors to participate in the project. This is worrying as the $7 billion are expected to be financed from private investors, of which there is a palpable dearth – despite the EU’s 35 million funding to promote what it sees as a Project of Common Interest. Related: Wall Street Sees Oil Price Recovery In 2019

Yet even for the European Union, the EastMed gas pipeline presents a bit of a headache as its commissioning would render the Southern Gas Corridor, comprising so far only of Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) with a 10 BCm per year throughput capacity, irrelevant by creating a sort-of competitor. The price of the natural gas to be supplied via the EastMed pipeline might become the biggest obstacle of them all – if the cost of producing offshore Mediterranean gas turns out to be $4-5/MMBtu as expected, the addition of further transportation costs to it all would place EastMed supplied at the bottom range of European gas supply options (Russian gas supply is alleged to be profitable with price levels as low as $4/MMbtu). All this might change if any of the East Mediterranean countries were to discover a giant gas field, altering the economics of production or possibly even liquefaction.

In fact, 2019 will witness several key wells being drilled across Cyprus, Egypt and possibly even Israel. ExxonMobil’s testing of Block 10 in offshore Cyprus would largely point to the overall attractiveness of Cyprus as an oil and gas producing country – the drilling has already started, with results expected in Q1 2019. The ENI-operated Noor offshore field in Egypt, adjacent to Zohr, is a much hotter prospect with BP buying into it lately – most likely it will outshine all the other drilling sites in the Eastern Mediterranean, however, if a big discovery is confirmed, it would be most likely used for Egyptian purposes which run counter to the EastMed gas pipeline. Thus, EastMed’s only hope is that Israel 2nd international licensing round, results to be announced in July 2019, will elicit a couple of Leviathan-like finds that would make pipeline construction profitable. Until then, the prospects are rather bleak.

January 4, 2019 Posted by | Economics | , , , , | Leave a comment

Mumia Abu-Jamal Wins Major Court Victory

By Jeff Mackler | CounterPunch | January 3, 2019

On December 27, Philadelphia Superior Court Judge Leon Tucker ruled in favor of Mumia Abu-Jamal, holding that the actions of former Pennsylvania Supreme Court Judge Ronald Castille demonstrated a “lack of impartiality” and “the appearance of bias.”

Tucker’s decision represents a major victory for Abu-Jamal that opens the door to a new trial–or dismissal of the murder charges against him–after an appeal to the Pennsylvania courts.

Incarcerated in 1981 in a racist frame-up murder trial of police officer Daniel Faulkner and on death row for most of the past 37 years, Mumia was a prize-winning journalist and today the author of 10 books on various aspects of the freedom struggle. His latest book, Murder Incorporated: Empire, Genocide, Manifest Destiny, 2017, co-authored by filmmaker Stephen Victoria (Long Distance Revolutionary, 2014) with a forward by Chris Hedges, is invaluable reading for revolutionary activists who seek the truth about capitalist imperialism’s centuries of horrors and the historic resistance against them.

Mumia’s freedom struggle has been supported by scores of trade unions across the U.S. and in Europe as well as by Amnesty International, the NAACP and numerous city council resolutions from San Francisco to Detroit.

Tucker’s 27-page ruling was in two parts. He held in Part Two that with regard to all of Mumia’s numerous denied Post Conviction Relief Act (PCRA) appeals between 1998 and 2014, Supreme Court Judge Ronald Castille’s actions in campaigning for the Pennsylvania governor to sign death penalty warrants for all “convicted cop killers” and other biased acts, violated Mumia’s fundamental constitutional rights.

Castille had participated in PA Supreme Court decisions that denied all of Mumia’s appeals, including a request from Mumia’s attorneys that he recuse himself from deciding the case he had helped to prosecute and another decision where the same Castille court refused to consider documented evidence submitted by court stenographer Terri Maurer Carter that Mumia’s trial judge Albert “the hanging judge” Sabo had stated in his antechambers before entering the courtroom to adjudicate Mumia’s case, “Yeah, I’m going to help ‘em fry the nigger.” Mumia’s decades long sojourn through the racist U.S. “criminal justice system” is replete with what has become infamously known as “the Mumia exception,” that is, contorted applications of the “law” aimed at denying its applicability to the facts in Mumia’s case. These include systematic exclusion of eyewitness testimony proving his innocence, intimidation of witnesses, falsification of exonerating ballistics findings, fabrication of testimony that Mumia admitted to the killing of police officer Daniel Faulkner and Mumia’s physical exclusion from a majority of his trial proceedings – to name a few of the legal atrocities attendant to his trial and subsequent proceedings.

Judge Tucker’s ruling opens the door for Mumia to appeal all of Castille’s decisions over a 17-years period. Tucker denied Part One of Mumia’s appeal that pertained to whether or not Castille had been significantly or personally involved in Mumia’s prosecution in order to qualify under the provisions of the 2016 Supreme Court William’s case. Mumia’s attorneys may appeal this decision in order to fight on both legal fronts.

While the present Philadelphia District Attorney, Larry Krasner may well appeal Tucker’s amazing and unexpected decision, the door is nevertheless wide open to a lengthy legal battle along with renewed national and international campaigns to win massive and united support in the streets to demand Mumia’s freedom.

Jeff Mackler is a staffwriter for Socialist Action. He can be reached at jmackler@lmi.net  socialist action.org

January 4, 2019 Posted by | Book Review, Full Spectrum Dominance, Solidarity and Activism, Subjugation - Torture | , | Leave a comment