Aletho News


What would a Palestinian state look like?

By Motasem A Dalloul | MEMO | January 7, 2019

Israel and its Western and Arab allies have for decades been claiming that, one day, the Palestinians will have a state of their own. The premise is based on Israel withdrawing from the land it has occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, which would be the capital of the proposed state. What would such a “State of Palestine” actually look like?

When the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), dominated by the secular Fatah movement, recognised Israel’s “right to exist” on 78 per cent of historic Palestine, the resulting Oslo Accords established the Palestinian Authority to have nominal control of the remainder of the land ahead of the creation of the State of Palestine. There is major opposition among Palestinians to such a deal, not least due to doubt about whether it would meet the internationally-recognised elements needed for a sovereign state to exist.

The first element required for an independent state is a population over which the state governs. The territory “allocated” by the international community for the future Palestinian state includes not only Palestinians but also more than 600,000 Jewish settlers in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem. Israel insists that it is never going to evacuate the settlers — whose presence is illegal under international law — but how can a state exist with a huge number of alien residents living in major settlement blocs which destroy the contiguity of its territory?

The presence of the settlers doesn’t just create a demographic problem, but also a massive environmental issue. Every settlement bloc disposes of its rubbish and sewage on the farmland of the neighbouring Palestinian population; no plans have been prepared for how the proposed Palestinian state will deal with this. What’s more, the settlers carry out numerous crimes against the local Palestinian population and they are not accountable to the Palestinian Authority at the moment, so what will happen with the government of a state?

Just last week, Jewish settlers attacked the convoy of the PA Prime Minister, wounding his wife and two bodyguards. Rami Hamdallah could not even announce that these settlers had attacked him. Two months ago, the PA governor was obliged by Israeli troops, who are tasked with protecting the settlers, to change the tyre of their jeep. He did it. Four years ago, the Prime Minister’s bodyguards could not protect him from a settler attack and he was obliged to seek the help of Israeli soldiers. That is the situation now; what will it be like with a sovereign state of Palestine? Does anyone really expect lawless settlers to respect its sovereignty and institutions?

The territory of an independent state has to be defined by clear borders, and it must have full sovereignty over its land, persons, organisations, associations, institutions and places therein. “Territory” includes territorial waters and airspace as well as land. The proposed Palestinian state has no definite borders, not least because the occupation state of Israel has never declared where its border is. The “State of Palestine” would have a lot of non-contiguous land, with large swathes encircled by Israel’s Apartheid Wall. None of the deals or “peace” talks have ever identified the borders of the proposed state, precisely because Israel continues to colonise ever more Palestinian land on a daily basis. Unless and until it declares where its borders are, we shall never know what is left — if anything — for the State of Palestine.

Furthermore, the proposed state will not have full control of its land. The Oslo Peace Accords signed between Israel and the PLO in 1993 divided Palestinian territory into three parts, with 61 per cent under full Israeli military and administrative control, 22 per cent under Israeli military control and Palestinian administrative control and 17 per cent under Palestinian security and administrative control. Unless that changes, which is unlikely given Israel’s ongoing belligerence, the supposedly independent state will have another state controlling most of its territory.

Israel’s “security” concerns have been the priority for all “peace negotiations” to-date, and no doubt will continue to do so. Hence, it will continue to control Palestinian territorial waters and airspace. There are massive natural gas fields off the Gaza coast, but the Palestinians are unable to exploit them, even though the Gaza Strip has serious power shortages and has done for more than a decade.

The only airport available for Palestinians and thus, presumably, the “State of Palestine” lies in ruins in Gaza; it was opened in 1998 and destroyed by Israel in 2000 having never really been used to its full capacity. Israel, therefore, can control the movement of all Palestinians and, it is assumed, for “security” reasons, will continue to do so by opening and closing border posts and military checkpoints at will. In this it is supported by the government in Egypt, which opens or closes the Rafah Border Crossing according to what Israel wants. Several Palestinians who have left the Gaza Strip through Egypt have reported that they were approached to give information to the Israeli authorities. Israel continues to maintain a naval blockade of the Gaza Strip, which would be the only territory of the proposed State of Palestine with direct access to the sea. Plans to develop the port of Gaza gather dust in an office somewhere.

The government of the state will be the current PA in another form. It is currently unable to collect its own taxes and relies on Israel to carry out this important function of a sovereign state. Israel can and does withhold payment of the taxes to the PA as a means to ensure that it toes the line for the benefit of the occupation state.

The current Palestinian government is punishing the Palestinian people. In the West Bank, it deprives them of their basic rights, including the right to protest or participate in demonstrations, while in Gaza, it is punishing the people for not standing up to Hamas, which has controlled the coastal enclave since winning the last free general elections in the occupied Palestinian territories in 2006. Such punitive measures by the PA include the withholding of medicine and food for patients in Gaza’s hospitals and the withdrawal of security officers from the Rafah Crossing as part of a tightening of the 12-year-old siege imposed by Israel and carried out in coordination with the Palestinian government, Egypt and other countries.

A little-reported aspect of the PA’s mismanagement of its affairs is the overlapping of the legislature, judiciary and executive. Instead of the PA executive being at the disposal of the legislature and judiciary to govern in the interests of the population, it is the body which uses the other two to serve its own factional interests. The legislature and judiciary have their work disrupted if they refuse to work for the interests of the PA. There are no guarantees that this will not continue in a nominally independent state government which will, in fact, depend on the same international sponsors as the current PA who turn a blind eye to its corruption.

Sovereignty is arguably the key element of any state, without which it cannot stand alone. The state must have full internal and external freedom and this can only be achieved if it has an army for its defence and to protect essential freedoms. At Israel’s insistence, the promised Palestinian state must have no army.

All things considered, therefore, it is hard to see how the proposed “State of Palestine” will, under current circumstances, ever have the notional requirements for a sovereign state. It will have no armed forces, no freedoms, no land, no borders, no contiguous territory, no water, no resources and, quite possibly, no actual existence. What, we are entitled to ask, will this state promised by the “peace negotiations”, or even Donald Trump’s “deal of the century”, actually look like? I suspect that it will be a state in name only, and that the occupation status quo will become even further entrenched. Whatever happens, we can be certain of one thing: it will be for the benefit of the State of Israel, not the fictional State of Palestine.

January 7, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular | , , , | Leave a comment

Why Isn’t Radio Marti Shut Down During the Shutdown?

By Jacob G. Hornberger | FFF | January 7, 2019

I don’t get it. If President Trump’s “shutdown” of the federal government is supposed to shut down the “nonessential” functions of the federal government, then why is Radio Marti, the federal government’s Cold War-era propaganda radio station, still broadcasting? When it comes to nonessential federal programs, Radio Marti has to rank near the top of the list.

How do I know that Radio Marti continues to operate during the shutdown? Because I subscribe to Sirius-XM. As I pointed out in my September 2018 Future of Freedom article “U.S. Anti-Communist Propaganda at Sirius-XM,” Radio Marti uses Channel 153 on Sirius XM to broadcast its official anti-communist propaganda. During the past three weeks of Trump’s shutdown, Radio Marti has continued propagandizing listeners of Channel 153 on SiriusXM.

The larger question, of course, is why Radio Marti wasn’t shut down permanently a long time ago. Established during the conservative reign of President Ronald Reagan in 1983, the mission of Radio Marti has always been to meddle in the internal affairs of Cuba by targeting the Cuban people with pro-U.S., anti-communist propaganda. Even though the U.S. Constitution does not authorize the federal government to own and operate a propaganda radio station, U.S. officials felt that the Cold War they were waging against the communist world justified violating the Constitution.

Needless to say, Radio Marti’s propaganda has had the same effect on the Cuban communist regime as the decades-old U.S. economic embargo has had, which is none. One reason for that is that the communist government has always done its best to block Radio Marti’s broadcasts and also made it a criminal offense for Cubans to listen to it.

But one thing is certain: the Cold War ostensibly ended in 1989. Therefore, why wasn’t Radio Marti shut down 30 years ago?

Equally important, if not more so, why is Radio Marti broadcasting its propaganda on Sirius XM, a privately owned U.S. company whose customer base consists primarily of American citizens? I thought that the position of the United States has always been that it’s wrong for governments to propagandize their own citizens? Didn’t U.S. officials rail against the Nazi regime’s use of propaganda to mold the minds of the German people? Don’t they also rail against the Cuban communist regime’s use of propaganda to mold the minds of the Cuban people?

Then why in the world is the U.S. government using Radio Marti to propagandize the American listeners of SiriusXM? And why is SiriusXM permitting Radio Marti to use SiriusXM to broadcast its propaganda?

Here’s another problem, at least from the standpoint of the First Amendment. Every Sunday morning at 7 a.m., Radio Marti broadcasts a Catholic mass on SiriusXM. What business does the federal government have targeting people with religious propaganda, whether its target is Cuban citizens or American citizens? Why should American taxpayers, many whom aren’t even Catholic, be forced to underwrite that sort of religious propaganda? What business does a private company like SiriusXM have in participating in such a scheme?

Let’s also keep in mind that Radio Marti is a government-run and government-operated radio station. Why should the U.S. government be owning and operating a socialist radio station, especially given that its purpose is to oppose the socialist system in Cuba? Wouldn’t it be better to oppose socialism with freedom and private property rather than with socialism?

Finally, let’s keep in mind that the federal government continues to spend far more than it receives in taxes and that it has now accumulated more than $22 trillion in debt, which the American people, as taxpayers, are responsible for paying. If Trump and the members of Congress are unwilling to shut down an anachronistic socialist program like Radio Marti, then what hope is there for reining in the federal government’s out-of-control spending and debt before it sends the nation into bankruptcy.

The time has come to shut down Radio Marti, not just during Trump’s shutdown but forever.

January 7, 2019 Posted by | Timeless or most popular | , , , | Leave a comment

US Withdrawal from Syria: Postponing the Inevitable

Tim Hayward Blog | January 7, 2019

Peter Ford, former British Ambassador to Bahrain (1999–2003) and Syria (2003–2006), offers the following assessment:

At the start of the year the horizon seems to be dominated by the issue of the possible withdrawal of US troops. In reality however the more important action is elsewhere.

US withdrawal: on or not?

Every day that passes seems to bring fresh evidence that Trump’s decision is being walked back. But appearances can be misleading.

Trump’s ultra-hawkish National Security Adviser, John Bolton, is touring the Middle East apparently setting new conditions for the withdrawal with every stop he makes. We are currently told that the troops will not leave until the remnants of ISIS are mopped up, until there is certainty they cannot remerge, until Erdogan promises not to slaughter the Kurds, and until Israel’s security is absolutely assured.

It is certainly true that crushing those ISIS remnants could take some time, and as for ensuring that ISIS can never re-form that is a recipe for a never-ending US presence. The US allies, the Kurdish-dominated SDF, are currently retreating from parts of Eastern Deir Ez Zor because they are meeting hostility from Arab villagers, who resent the abduction of their young men and even children into the ranks of the SDF. While the departure of the sprinkling of 2000 US troops will hardly leave a vacuum as far as the fight against ISIS is concerned the departure of the SDF from certain areas certainly will. Only the government’s Syrian Arab Army (SAA) could enter these Arab areas, and that is precisely what some clan leaders are calling for (calls ignored of course by our media).

Extracting assurances from Erdogan is also likely to prove difficult, especially if (like Bolton, no doubt) you will perhaps not strain every sinew to extract them. Erdogan however has already said that he will have no need to invade if the Syrian Army interposes itself in a 40 mile deep buffer zone. To guard against this possibility of receiving yes for an answer Ambassador James Jeffrey, presidential envoy for Syria, is being dispatched to talk to the Kurds and deter them from pacting with Assad and the Russians.

The irony here is that it is the very presence of the US (and UK) forces which prevents the US conditions for withdrawal being met. While the US refuses to cooperate with the Syrian Army and Russia in fighting ISIS the holy warriors will always have somewhere to hide. And while the US keeps promising protection to the Kurds, and the Kurds believe them, then the YPG will go on infuriating the Turks and the Turkish threat will not go away.

But will the Kurds believe Jeffrey? Will they put their entire existence at the mercy of Trump’s whims and a frayed US tripwire? It seems not, at least to judge by reports that Kurdish negotiations with Damascus and the Russians are well advanced.

In this game for the prize of Kurdish affections Damascus holds most of the cards. To begin with the Kurds have never fought or wanted to fight the SAA and never wanted independence. They do want a measure of autonomy which they would like to see guaranteed in a new federal constitution. Damascus will have difficulty swallowing that, not least because other restive areas like the South might also want autonomy. Assad will probably reckon that he can clinch a deal with a few concessions rather than a federal constitution: use of Kurdish language in schools, incorporation of the peshmerga into the SAA. He can afford to sit on his hands indefinitely: the small US presence in the remote Syrian Far East is no existential strategic threat to him, while the endless lingering will be a constant embarrassment to Trump. Most crucially of all, the Kurds know now, if they hadn’t realised it before, that one day the US tripwire will indeed be removed and they will get no deal at all from Damascus if they do not strike one now.

We can expect to see bluster, smoke screens, reversals and and posturing on all sides in the coming days but ultimately it must be considered likely that at some point the Kurds, when they judge that no more concessions can be extracted from Assad, could ask the US to leave. Ah! That would upend everything. Actually they won’t even need to ask. All they have to do is conclude a deal. Then it will be game, set and match to Assad and the Russians. The real issue may soon become how to save American face and here we can expect to see some adroit Russian diplomacy. There is already talk of drafting UAE and Egyptian forces into Manbij, the key town under Turkish threat.

Before we reach that point however we must address two loose ends. Firstly Trump’s statement, when he was under fire and needed an excuse, that the Turks were going to deal with ISIS. This idea is a total nonsense but Bolton on the Turkey leg of his tour must go through the motions of exploring it with Erdogan. He will be told that for Turkish troops to cross over a hundred miles of hostile Kurdish territory to deal with ISIS in Deir Ez Zor Turkey would need the support of more US resources than are in the area already. Turkish generals are horrified at the idea. It will be quietly dropped. Anyway the preferred plan is for the US forces with the SDF to use all this new time at their disposal to do the necessary (except that, as mentioned, the SDF is something of a broken reed).

Secondly, and this is even more absurd, Bolton says the US is not going to withdraw its ‘a couple hundred’ troops from the ‘key’ Al Tanf enclave which straddles the Syrian/Jordanian/Iraqi borders, because of its strategic position blocking completion of the fabled ‘land bridge’ which we are told links Iran with Syria and Lebanon. It is quite simply grotesque that anyone with pretentions to being a strategist can appear seriously to believe this and that the media dutifully regurgitate the US talking points on it without question. While it is true that Al Tanf has been an important crossing point, all we are talking about here is bit of inconvenience. There are other crossing points a few miles to the North East. Anyway Iran airlifts most of its supplies to Damascus and Beirut and wouldn’t dream of ferrying sensitive equipment through Iraqi territory, pullulating with US troops and agents. Don’t they have maps in the Pentagon? It can perhaps be most charitably assumed that the Al Tanf gambit is part of the face-saving which has to be done, this time to be able to claim that the US has ensured that Iran will not become more ‘entrenched’ (what does this much bandied about word mean? They never tell us) and Israel’s concerns are not being overlooked.

Assad will not care less if the US wants to stay on in Al Tanf. The only settlement is the Ar Rukban encampment housing about 60,000 displaced persons, many of them ISIS and their families who fled from Raqqa. The US troops do not dare enter this encampment. Assad will be perfectly happy for the US to keep holding this tar baby and can lambast the US for blatant breach of international law, because after ISIS is gone the last vestige of any legal excuse for the US presence will also be gone. (Bolton tells us that the US constitution is basis enough, so now we know.)

Syria comes in from the cold

Meanwhile Syria’s rapprochement with much of the Arab world has proceeded apace. The President of Sudan visited. The UAE reopened its embassy. Bahrain says it will follow. Flights to Tunisia have resumed. It seems likely that Assad will be invited to the Arab Summit in March in Beirut and Syria will be readmitted to the Arab League. Italy is said to be close to reopening its embassy. The British Foreign Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, has sourly accepted that Assad is going to remain President ‘for a while’. Although reports that the British Embassy are being refurbished may turn out to be a false dawn, the day can surely not be far off when the UK informs Damascus that it proposes to reopen. However the issue will not be what concessions Syria must make to receive this favour but rather what concessions the UK must make if it is not to be even more totally excluded from the diplomacy around the Syrian question than it is already. The Syrians would be remiss not to require a lifting of sanctions as a minimum.

The economic war

The most important aspect of these rapprochements is the economic one. Syria’s immense battle ahead is economic recovery. The gains on the battlefield may be eroded if the government fails to get the country on its feet again. The problems seem never ending. One small example: 84,000 children are fatherless, the offspring resulting from rapes and forced temporary marriages by jihadis.

The Western media gleefully reckons that Syria needs $400 billion for reconstruction. The Western powers currently set their faces against contributing anything to this and indeed seek to push Syria deeper into the mire with punitive sanctions. A surer way of creating the conditions for a resurgence of ISIS could hardly be imagined.

Hence the importance of rapprochement with the Gulf countries. While Trump’s claim that Saudi would pay for recovery was probably another of Trump’s mis-statements, it is not fanciful to imagine the big Gulf development funds – the Saudi, Kuwaiti and Arab Development Funds, and some of the UAE funds – providing enough to make a good start. Syria in any case could not absorb huge amounts to begin with. Not least it would generate massive inflation.


The Idlib issue, presently on hold, gets worse rather than better. Hayat Tahrir Ash Sham (HTS), the group everyone (except Qatar) considers terrorists, have fought and displaced other armed groups from a string of towns, some in the buffer zone which the Turks were supposed to have cleansed of the most radical groups. The groups in Idlib mount regular forays or artillery attacks into government-controlled areas, attracting air raids in retaliation.

Lest we forget

Within two days of each other John Bolton and Jeremy Hunt publicly reminded Syria that it must not run away with the idea that it could get away with more chemical attacks now that it seems to be in the ascendant. This seems to be the last lingering hope of all those who can never have too much Western military intervention in Syria, that an incident can be manufactured to justify heavy bombing. Unfortunately for them, the Syrians and Russians appear to be a step ahead: only the Russians seem to be doing any bombing. While a compliant media would dutifully echo possible Pentagon claims that any planes or helicopters were Syrian rather than Russian, or that black is white, this tactic does make that a tad more difficult.

January 7, 2019 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism | , | 1 Comment

There is broad international support for US withdrawal from Syria – but will Washington listen?

21st Century Wire | January 7, 2019

Forward by Daniel McAdams, Executive Director of the Ron Paul Institute:

The mainstream press coverage of President Trump’s announcement that he would be removing US troops from Syria has been unanimously apocalyptic. Journos who until a few days ago couldn’t care less about the Kurds (certainly not when US president after US president has used them as a cat’s paw and then abandoned them to their fate), were all of a sudden up in arms warning about an impending slaughter with the blood dripping squarely onto Trump’s hands.

In fact, US weapons, training, and backing had carved out a de facto super-sized Kurd-controlled section of northern Syria which it does not take a geopolitical expert to understand would incense NATO ally Turkey. Why prop up the Kurds and in the process infuriate Erdogan? The US-led regime-change program simply did not have many other boots on the ground to turn to. After years of arming jihadists whose masks slipped quickly thereafter to reveal al-Qaeda or ISIS markings, the game was up for the “Assad must go” crowd and the only move left was to pretend that a proxy Kurd militia was something called the “Syrian Democratic Forces.” When in fact it was nothing of the sort. It was simply the Kurds, rented by Washington.

And the bloodbath the media and neocons warned would come about should Trump dare reconsider another US forever war? More lies and bluster. The Kurds are re-considering their foolish refusal to partner more closely with the Syrian government against foreign-sponsored insurgencies. Just last week, they began negotiations with Damascus to reconcile and forestall a massive Turk incursion.

But the Kurds acting in their own best interest is a big problem for the neocons. Sen. Lindsey Graham, who has given himself credit for slowing Trump’s announced withdrawal from Syria, has gone on record claiming  it would be a “major disaster” if the Kurds in Syria aligned themselves with the Syrian (aka their own) government. To Graham and his neocon cohort, the US can never leave any war. Undeclared wars are just fine with them, but declared peace is a “major disaster.”

Which brings us back to public opinion. With the neocons clogging up the airwaves with predictions of gloom and doom if the US ends its illegal occupation of Syria and with the mainstream media in its continuing Pravda-esque lock-step when it comes to the US global military empire, something quite remarkable has happened: the American people are happy that Trump plans to bring the troops home. According to a recent poll, more than half of Americans surveyed support the removal of US troops from Syria and Afghanistan.

Overseas, support for President Trump’s moves is also significant. The Baroness Caroline Cox of the UK House of Lords, has sent President Trump a letter, with former UK Ambassador to Syria Peter Ford, and on behalf of a network of “concerned parliamentarians, senior clerics, former ambassadors and academics,” congratulating the president on his announced pull-out.

The Baroness writes:

Your courage in doing the right thing, in the face of conflicting advice and an onslaught from ill-informed politicians, a blinkered media and brittle allies, commands respect. We salute you.

The letter continues with a call for the end of US sanctions on Syria, which, she writes “only hobble its economy, hamper refugee return, cause mass unemployment, hinder recovery and create conditions for a re-emergence of ISIS.”

She warns Trump that there’s nothing his critics (like Lindsey Graham) would like more than a resurgence of ISIS in the areas left by US troops so as to make Trump look wrong in withdrawing. An end of sanctions would help strengthen the Syrian government and better enable it to fight against ISIS.

Let’s hope President Trump heeds the wise counsel of very engaged experts like Baroness Cox. Perhaps next time Sen. Graham demands a meeting to harangue Trump on a troop pull-out he can beg off. Let Graham and Bolton stew in their own juices in some West Wing broom closet. Better yet…maybe Trump should consider some additional personnel changes.

This OpEd was originally published at the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity. Below is the full text of the letter to President Trump…


The Honorable Donald John Trump,
President of the United States of America
White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington DC 20500
United States of America.

December 31st 2018

Dear Mr President,

Please allow us to thank you for your bold decision to bring American forces home from Syria, mission accomplished.

Our Network of concerned parliamentarians, senior clerics, former ambassadors and academics has campaigned for just such an essential step on the way to bringing peace and stability back to Syria.

Your courage in doing the right thing, in the face of conflicting advice and an onslaught from ill-informed politicians, a blinkered media and brittle allies, commands respect. We salute you.

We urge you now to carry on as you have started by lifting sanctions on Syria. Keeping sanctions on Syria to keep it weak can only hobble its economy, hamper refugee return, cause mass unemployment, hinder recovery and create conditions for a re-emergence of ISIS. This will be a gift to your enemies, who long to see you proven wrong on the defeat of ISIS.

Continuing sanctions will also prevent American firms from benefitting from the multi-billion dollar recovery projects which will be funded by rich Arabs and otherwise benefit the Chinese and the Russians.

Congratulations, Mr President, on taking a momentous step which shows true statesmanship. We pray that you continue on this wise path and take the follow up steps essential so that your actions are not undermined.

Yours sincerely,

The Baroness Cox, Independent Member of the House of Lords, London
Peter Ford, British Ambassador to Syria, 2003-6


A copy of the original letter can be found here: Open Letter to President Tr… on Scribd

January 7, 2019 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism | , | 1 Comment