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Coup in Venezuela: What Next?

By Marco Teruggi – Pagina 12 – January 25, 2019

Caracas ‐ The dice have been thrown and the game is on in Venezuela. This week has seen the country enter into new uncertain and dangerous terrain, although with some predictable elements. We have witnessed different variables develop, and now wait for new elements that may catalyse or justify an outcome.

The current chain of events seems to have been planned out step-by-step: the attempted theft of weapons by a group of members of the Bolivarian National Guard on the morning of January 21, followed by incidents of violence concentrated in the west of Caracas; US Vice-President Mike Pence’s video supporting Juan Guaidó and calling for demonstrations on January 23; the swearing-in of Guaidó; US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Guaidó a few minutes later; ongoing incidents of violence; the convening of a meeting of the Organization of American States (OAS) to seek recognition of the parallel government; the US$20 million announced by Pence for “humanitarian aid”; and yet more programmed violence.

Not everything went as planned. For now, there are two main variables at play: the international front and the violence.

International front

Regarding the international front, the attempt to get the OAS to recognise Guaidó as president failed, with only 16 votes out of 34. This is not a new failure: the Lima Group (formed in 2017 by right-wing Latin American governments), now weakened by the Mexican government’s anti-interventionist stance, emerged out of a similar situation.

Moreover, the European Union did not formally recognise Guaidó and agreed – an unstable agreement opposed by governments like France – on the need to have new elections in Venezuela.

The axis of the current situation originates and rests in the US, which has called a meeting of the United Nations Security Council for January 26. What kind of debate and agreement will they seek there in terms of the parallel government? The strategy is reminiscent of the way in which the operation to oust the Libyan government was conducted in 2011.

On the second front, a program of violence is underway. The incidents of violence have moved through different poor areas of Caracas: west, south and the outer edges of the east, namely Petare, one of the most populated barrios [poor neighbourhoods].

There, particularly in the latter, armed groups have been activated and funded to generate violent actions, seeking to create a big impact in the media. These incidents are scheduled to start at night and are carried out in such a way to enable them to be promoted on social media.

Human rights organisation Surgentes has stated that, “at least 38% of demonstrations were violent, and in 28.5% of them there were confrontations with security forces, with firearms and other substantial elements”.

A Bolivarian National Guard sergeant was murdered, and two members of that institution were beaten up in an attempted lynching carried out in broad daylight, in a zone dominated by the opposition.

In this context, there has been a rising number of deaths of youths in poor areas mobilised by the right. This is a well-known situation: the same method was used in 2017, which at critical points saw Chavista youths burnt alive on the street and attacks on military bases.

This is all part of the escalation of events unfolding in Caracas and other parts of the country, with situations of violence in areas that are not part of the right’s social base combined with demonstrations such as the one on January 23.

This coup strategy integrates different variables: international pressure for recognition of the parallel government and chaos and deaths inside the country. This is the current situation.

What next? One of the planned steps is to activate the parallel government, whose power lies on the international front, though it has no power or impact inside the country.

This could mean economic actions, like attempts to freeze state assets or a takeover of CITGO, the US branch of Venezuelan state oil company PDSVA. These attacks would increase economic hardship and push the economy towards collapse, something that has been sought since the blockades and sabotage began.

Additionally, the opposition is expected to start an operation to bring in the “humanitarian aid” that Pence promised at the OAS meeting. Will this be a Trojan horse?

This set of steps, designed and promoted from outside the country, does not seem to indicate how they expect to oust Maduro — who was democratically elected — from the government.

Violence

When Guaidó has been asked, he has replied that military intervention is “an element of force that is on the table”. Regarding the possibility of a coup by the Bolivarian National Armed Forced (FANB), he said, “it is an element that is always worth considering”.

Guaidó’s strategy, which is part of a larger plan devised from abroad, cannot be carried out without a component of violence. What directions this violence will take remains to be seen.

We know about previous attempts in 2014 and 2017, of what is already at play, and of what they need to achieve their goal. Overwhelmed by his role and his own will for success, Guaidó has extended to Maduro the same offer of amnesty he has said he will give to civilians and the military.

The gap between the announcement of this coup against Maduro and its materialisation is still large. The army stated that they “will never accept a president imposed in the shadow of dark interests and self-proclaimed outside the law”.

Defence minister Vladimir Padrino López also stated that they will “avoid a confrontation between Venezuelans; it’s not a civil war, but dialogue that will solve Venezuela’s problems”. This last sentence should be taken with complete seriousness: one of the violent strategies of the coup plan relies on generating clashes between civilians.

The right has repeated that it will neither dialogue nor negotiate. Maduro has stated his willingness to do so, following the declarations of the governments of Mexico and Uruguay.

What then, if there is no dialogue? Venezuela faces a point of no return: that of accelerating attacks on many fronts to oust the elected government by force, and the start of a mass revenge.

Those leading this push reside in the US and, once again, are doing so in the name of freedom.

Translated from Pagina 12 by Pedro Alvarez.
Source: Green Left Weekly

January 29, 2019 Posted by | Economics | , | Leave a comment

The Failure of Guaido’s Constitutional Claim to the Presidency of Venezuela

By William Walter Kay | Global Research | January 29, 2019

The three constitutional articles invoked by Juan Guaido to legitimise his presidency are: 233, 333, and 350. The latter two are broad affirmations of democracy and constitutionality, silent on Presidential lines of succession. Guaido’s claim rests entirely on 233; presented here in full:

The President of the Republic shall become permanently unavailable to serve by reason of any of the following events: death; resignation; removal from office by decision of the Supreme Tribunal of Justice; permanent physical or mental disability certified by a medical board designated by Supreme Tribunal of Justice with the approval of the National Assembly; abandonment of his position, duly declared by the National Assembly; and recall by popular vote.

When an elected President becomes permanently unavailable to serve prior to his inauguration, a new election by universal suffrage and direct ballot shall be held within 30 consecutive days. Pending election and inauguration of the new President, the President of the National Assembly shall take charge of the Presidency of the Republic.

When the President of the Republic becomes permanently unavailable to serve during the first four years of this constitutional term of office, a new election by universal suffrage and direct ballot shall be held within 30 consecutive days. Pending election and inauguration of the new President, the Executive Vice-President shall take charge of the Presidency of the Republic.

In the cases describes above, the new President shall complete the constitutional term of office.

If the President becomes permanently unavailable to serve during the last two years of his constitutional term of office, the Executive Vice-President shall over the Presidency of the Republic until such term is completed.

The opening paragraph envisions six scenarios whereby a President might no longer serve. The next paragraph sets out protocols to be followed should a President-elect become unavailable to serve pre-inauguration. The third paragraph contemplates presidential vacancies during the first four years of office. The last paragraph deals with presidential vacancies in the final two years of office.

Of the six scenarios envisioned (death, resignation etc.) Guaido relies on “abandonment of his position.” This clearly never happened. Maduro isn’t gone. He’s still there. “Abandonment” conjures images of a President fleeing on a plane freighted with bullion. Maduro, however, currently occupies presidential offices and residences. There has been no abandonment.

“Abandonment” is spun to mean “usurpation.” When did this occur? Are they suggesting that at no time since April 19, 2013 has Maduro ever been President? If Maduro was President, then he must have farcically usurped himself. “Usurp” typically means take power away from someone. There has been no usurpation.

If a President becomes unavailable to serve in the first four years of his term, then the Vice-President takes over and calls an election. If the calamity occurs in the last two years of the presidential term then the VP serves out the fallen President’s term.

Guaido, as head of the National Assembly, only becomes involved when the vacancy occurs in the twilight zone between election and inauguration. This definitely did not happen here. Moreover, by citing Article 233 Guaido implies there was a recent (lawful) election. Finally, Guaido’s January 23 self-anointment occurred 13 days after Maduro’s January 10 inauguration. He missed the boat.

Pursuant to 233, if the head of the National Assembly becomes Acting President he must immediately call an election; and serve only until the winner of that election is inaugurated. The Western media (and Wiki) butcher 233’s second paragraph, leaving only opening and closing clauses; discarding any mention of “election.” Guaido should have, at the moment of self-anointment, announced an election for February 22. For the head of the National Assembly to assume Presidential powers, and then fail to call an election so as to keep those powers, would be flagrantly unconstitutional.

This thread becomes rejoicefully rich considering the EU’s position. They are demanding Maduro call an election; …or else they will recognise Guaido. Can Maduro call an election if he is not President? By demanding Maduro hold an election they are recognising Maduro as President. If Maduro is President he has no obligation to call snap elections to satisfy foreign governments. Alternatively, if Guaido became President he would have an explicit, unavoidable constitutional obligation to call an immediate election.

Guaido is the figure-head of a coup attempt orchestrated by foreign powers without a constitutional leg to stand on.

January 29, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | , , | Leave a comment

Three Reasons Macron is a Hypocrite when it Comes to Venezuela

By Jim Carey | Geopolitics Alert | January 29, 2019

Paris – French President Emmanuel Macron recently voiced support for protesters in Venezuela as his own country has been ground to a halt by protests every weekend.

There is an overused saying that “people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.” While these few words may be cliche there is definitely one man that they can be applied to after this weekend: Emmanuel Macron.

Even though the French President is into the third month of protests against his government, he has decided to weigh in on the legitimacy of another country’s government and his latest outrageous statements just highlight the hypocrisy of Macron and Western leaders in general.

Macron: Maduro is ‘illegitimate’

Emmanuel Macron is a very unpopular man. Yet, if the French President is to be believed, there is a man who is more unpopular than him that needs to be removed from office immediately. This man is, of course, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro whose approval rating is estimated somewhere around twenty percent by Western media outlets (many with no journalists or pollsters in Venezuela).

The irony of Emmanuel Macron saying these approval ratings make a President “illegitimate” is that his own aren’t looking much better. Following the eleventh weekend of the ‘Gilets Jaunes’ protests, Macron has seen a slight bump in approval ratings (according to pro-Macron media) to a paltry thirty percent.

Thirty percent isn’t much better than 20 but there were also polls during the earlier stages of the Gilets Jaunes protests where just over seventy percent of French citizens polled did not have faith in Macron’s government. This means that at one point during the protests that are still sweeping through Paris every weekend, Macron was just as “illegitimate” as he claims Nicolas Maduro is.

Approval ratings aren’t the only thing Western powers use to paint Maduro as illegitimate. Another common tactic often deployed against the Venezuelan President is to claim that his latest electoral victory can’t be verified and this makes Maduro illegitimate.

One statistic cited to prove that the last Venezuelan election was “fraud” is the voter turnout. The voter turnout during last years presidential election in Venezuela was 46.1% but this statistic without context is misleading.

A key variable that has to be factored into the Venezuelan elections is that the now-“interim President” Juan Gauido’s own party called for a boycott. Apparently, most of the party got the message, listened to the leadership and just didn’t vote, meaning it’s impossible to tell if the re-election of Maduro would have gone differently.

One election that nobody was calling for a boycott of, is the French Presidential election in 2017 where only about 35% of the French electorate voted. This is the lowest turnout for any French election and modern history, and more than ten percentage points less than the turnout in Venezuela. If low turnout is the key to spotting a “rigged” election where the opposition is de facto barred from voting, perhaps international observers should examine the legitimacy of the French President.

Violence against protesters

Another major trope across western media used to try to characterize Nicolas Maduro as a tyrant is some of the responses of the Venezuelan security services to massive protests. At the same time, however, it seems strange for Emmanuel Macron to point to massive protests during “economic turmoil” as some kind of evidence a leader must step down.

As stated above, Macron is dealing with his own “pro-democracy” protests – or a bunch of Russian-manipulated fascists if western media is to believed – the Gilets Jaunes. While Macron has openly voiced his support for those protesters in the streets of Caracas, he has spent several weeks brutalizing and arresting protesters on the streets of Paris.

While networks all over the west love to point out the totals of dead or injured during riots in Venezuela, they usually fail to report when similar things happen in the west, and France is no different. Macron, much like what he says of Maduro, is also killing protesters and reached double-digit body count late last year.

Obviously, western media would like you to believe these two things are different, and obviously, they are in many ways. For instance, the Venezuelans protesting in Caracas work on behalf of western interests while those in Paris work against it.

There is also another key difference between the situations. In France, Macron has done nothing to hold any police accountable for the deaths of protesters in Paris. Unlike Macron, the Maduro government has actually prosecuted police found guilty of abuses against the opposition. Meanwhile, Macron’s police recently blinded a prominent Gilets Jaunes activist for life with their non-lethal weapons a day after the latest Venezuelan protests kicked off.

Counter-protesters

One thing you will not see in any western media coverage of Venezuela are those citizens of the country that do support President Nicolas Maduro. The western media has no problem repeatedly showing protests against the current government but almost no media covered the fact that thousands also mobilized in pro-Maduro protests to counter the opposition over the weekend.

While the media ignore these pro-PSUV protests over the weekend though, they did fall in love with another new group of “pro-order” protesters, the Foulards Rouge, or Red Scarves. Although this movement didn’t explicitly say they back Macron, they did support something mainstream media love even more, the “institutions” of liberal democracy.

Unlike the yellow vests, who the western media did their best to ignore for weeks, these red scarf protesters were blasted all over mainstream media. This coverage is despite the fact that the red scarves were estimated to have been around 10,000 strong whereas some yellow vest protests have drawn hundreds of thousands to Paris from around France.

These red scarf protests are being hailed as France’s silent majority, who may be unhappy with the state but still don’t wish for further instability. The same can likely be said about many of the pro-Maduro protesters who likely have some grievances but know much of this is caused by outside factors and anything besides the Bolivarian revolution will further destabilize Venezuela.

None of this matters to the western media or Emmanuel Macron who are still ramping up their anti-Maduro smear campaign at this very minute. Emmanuel Macron can “support” the protesters in Venezuela all he wants but he might want to worry about keeping his own house in order.

January 29, 2019 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , | 1 Comment

Fake News: ‘Hundreds Killed In Clashes Between Pro-Iranian, Pro-Russian Forces’

Syrian War Report – January 29, 2019

A fake-news story about large-scale clashes between pro-Russian and pro-Iranian factions in Syria is making jitters in English- and Russian-language mainstream media outlets. According to these reports citing anonymous sources and each other, “the pro-Russian Tiger Forces and 5th Assault Corps” clashed with “the pro-Iranian 4th Division” near the villages of “Shahta, Bredidg, Innab and Haydariye” in northern Hama.

Most of the reports claimed that there were casualties among the sides providing “precise” numbers varying from a dozen to 200 fighters from the both sides. No source was able to provide details into how clashes had started but the versions are varying from “some differences” to “a campaign to limit Iranian influence”.

Most of the media outlets presented these reports as some kind of breaking news. However, in fact, this is a week-old story. First such reports appeared in several pro-militant social media accounts and a local media outlet, al Modon Online. Later this rumor was reposted by anti-Assad, anti-Iranian and anti-Russian bloggers also citing anonymous sources to show the story look more reliable. By January 29, this rumor has reached large mainstream media outlets, but no evidence has appeared to confirm this kind of developments. However, the lack of factual data was ignored because this story is contributing to the US-Israeli-backed media efforts designed to undermine cooperation between Iran and Russia or at least to show that there are significant tensions between the sides.

The similar situation was observed in 2018 when various mainstream media outlets and even top US leadership like President Trump and Secretary of State Pompeo were claiming that “hundreds” of “Russian fighters” were killed by the US-led coalition in the province of Deir Ezzor. Both of these stories demonstrate how media forgery could reach the wide international audience and start being repeated as facts despite zero evidence supporting them.

On January 27, Russian forces launched at least three surface-to-air missiles at unidentified aerial objects near the Hmeimim airbase. According to local sources, at least 3 UAVs apparently launched from the Idlib de-escalation zone were intercepted.

The Syrian Arab Army deployed reinforcements at frontlines near the Idlib de-escalation zone and carried out a series of artillery strikes on militant positions in northwestern Hama and southern Idlib on January 28 and 29.

The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces continue to claim dozens of casualties among ISIS members in the Euphrates Valley. However, a few remaining ISIS positions remaining there are still not captured.

January 29, 2019 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , | 2 Comments

GILETS JAUNES: Civilians in Police Crosshairs as Macron Adopts Totalitarian State-Practices to Suppress Dissent

By Vanessa Beeley | 21st Century Wire | January 29, 2019

A 30-year-old volunteer fireman who joined the Gilets Jaunes protests in Bordeaux, France on the 12th January 2019, is in a coma after being shot in the back of the head by an LBD or “flashball” bullet fired by French security forces who are brutally suppressing public demonstrations in most major French cities. Olivier Beziade is a father of three who now has a “very serious brain injury” and is in an induced coma. As violence radiates across France, western media locks down and fails to report comprehensively or fairly on Police infractions against protestors.

The following is the video of this event, during which one of the police officers appears to say “they (protestors) don’t know it’s us” and instructs his colleagues to “pick up the casings”, after Beziade had been gunned down and was lying face down on the street.

WATCH:

The Gilets Jaunes or Yellow Vests

The Gilets Jaunes (GJs) or Yellow Vest movement began officially on the 18th November 2018 but according to some analysts this people’s initiative was being ignited long before and is a product of successive French government marginalisation of important sectors of the French population. Thomas Flichy de Neuville, academic and historian, wrote very recently about the socio-political alarm bells that preceded the Gilets Jaunes by at least five years.

In 2013, a deputy from the Pyrenees Atlantique department of France, Jean Lassalle, spent 8 months walking around France. He covered 5000 km on foot and spoke with the “forgotten” French people. Lassalle reported that the lasting impression from his experience was that most of those he encountered had a desire to “turn the tables, that they had had enough on many levels”.

Lassalle’s report was submitted to the presidents of the assemblees in April 2014. Lassalle warned that nine out of ten people in France were ready to “explode”, three out of ten were ready to mobilise if and when the “explosion” took place. Lassalle prophesied that  “Les réseaux sociaux sont prêts à agir comme une arme formidable de mobilisation” “social media is ready to to act as a formidable weapon of mobilisation”. 

According to Flichy, the one problem with Lassalle’s ground breaking report was that he predicted the imminent eruption of dissent “it is ten minutes before midnight”, Lassalle wrote. Nothing transpired as predicted in 2015 and the 196 page report was consigned to the archives, its prescient contents forgotten as France buried itself in a foreign intervention quagmire in Syria, Yemen and Mali and ignored the gathering storm at home.

GJ protestors being tear gassed in Bordeaux, January 12th 2019. (Photo: Nicolas Duffaure)

In 2014, Christophe Guilluy, a geographer, wrote a book entitled “La France Peripherique” which investigated the demographics of major French cities and highlighted the problems of wealthy, opulent city centers compared to the marginalised and poor suburbs where 60% of the “forgotten” population resided. Guilluy concluded that many of these communities would ultimately vote for more right wing or nationalist political parties in search of an antidote for their deteriorating living conditions.

Guilluy’s work is particularly relevant when we consider that the match to the touchpaper for the GJs was the hike in fuel prices by President Macron’s government. While this is not the sole reason for the unrest we see today, nationwide in France, it is an important factor for 60% of a population, many of whom subsist on the minimum wage (SMIC) – if those people travel 20km to work every day, they will spend 250 euros per month which is a quarter of the SMIC. It is easy to see why these people reacted so forcefully against a fuel tax that would impact them the most.

Why the Gilet Jaune? Analyst and author, based in France, Diana Johnstone put it most succinctly in an article for Unz Review :

“Every automobile in France is supposed to be equipped with a yellow vest. This is so that in case of accident or breakdown on a highway, the driver can put it on to ensure visibility and avoid getting run over. [..] The costume was at hand and didn’t have to be provided by Soros for some more or less manufactured “color revolution”. The symbolism was fitting: in case of socio-economic emergency, show that you don’t want to be run over.”

The GJs have distanced themselves from politics and politicians to protect their grass-roots identity. The leadership structure is horizontal, no leaders or identity politics. The spokespeople are not practiced public speakers, they are people from every walk of life and they represent a wide spectrum of French society. The manifesto is varied depending upon regional collectives but most demands nationwide appear to be in synch with minor differences.

One such manifesto was published by a number of media outlets in December 2018 and it listed a number of demands for reform in the economic, political, health and social security and environmental sectors. This manifesto also addressed the issue of Macron’s neoliberal foreign policy and included a call to end “France’s participation in foreign wars of aggression and exit from NATO” and to “cease pillaging and interfering – politically and militarily – in Francafrique which keeps Africa poor. Immediately repatriate all French soldiers. Establish relations with African states on an equal peer-to-peer basis”


Forces of “law and order” on the streets of Bordeaux during Acte X of GJ protests, 12/1/2019. (Photo: Nicolas Duffaure)

The fundamental message of the GJs is that they simply can’t make ends meet. The cost of living keeps going up and salaries keep being squeezed. The Government needs to listen to its people and to change course. Most europeans reading this will feel empathy with this expression of desperation. There has been a cover-up in France by the government and the media. These calls for help have been muted, filtered and ignored by the state-aligned media and government officials for some time now.

Macron’s government has used Climate Change and global warming as a damoclean sword brandished over the heads of the malcontent to distract them from their misery – suggesting the future of the planet outweighs the trivia of feeding your children or avoiding homelessness – the push back from the GJs was swift, while they may cherish their environment and are ecologically aware “they are more worried about the end of the month than the future of the world.”

In some cases, early on in the protests, the GJs are being systematically dehumanized. Gerard Darminin, the budget minister, described the GJs as the “peste brune – the brown plague” meaning fascists. In the dozens of interviews I have listened to, not one GJ has expressed a sentiment that could even remotely be described as right wing or fascist.  The GJs are an apolitical collective with a focus on socio-economic issues that directly affect their ability to survive in modern France which, in their view, is drifting dangerously away from the vision of a Republic that most of the demonstrators have grown up with.


Ingrid Lavavasseur, leading GJ candidate for May European Parliament elections. (Photo: Twitter)

In an effort to give their concerns and the movement a greater platform from which to challenge Macron, the GJs have recently nominated 10 candidates for the May 2019 European Parliament elections and are hoping to expand the list to 79 candidates. Leading contender is Ingrid Lavavasseur, a care worker raising two children alone in Normandy who believes that Macron’s government “despises the little people”.

The government response has been largely dismissive, repressive, condemnatory and increasingly inflammatory. Instead of “maintaining order” through genuine negotiation and reform, Macron appears to have unleashed an escalation of police violence against demonstrators which will provoke the GJs further, increasing dissent and the potential for counter-reactionary measures against the state.

Interior Ministry, State and Media Reaction to Gilets Jaunes


Christophe Castaner, Interior Minister. (Photo: Nicolas Messyasz)

Macron’s first choice Interior Minister was the socialist mayor of Lyons, Gerard Collomb who resigned his post in October 2018, despite Macron’s entreaties for him to stay, citing “immense difficulties” facing his successor. Collomb was replaced by Christophe Castaner as head of national police forces, among other responsibilities. Former socialist and with a degree in criminology, Castaner’s reputation is somewhat tarnished by his connections to a Marseilles mafioso, Christian Oraison, in the 1970s.

French Prime Minister, Edouard Phillippe introduced a new law to “better protect the right to demonstrate” in January 2019. Protestors who are labelled falsely as “agitators” “insurrectionists” or who demand that “President Macron resign” will effectively be collectively reprimanded by a law that introduces measures of heavy punishment of demonstration organisers whose time and place has not been given the official stamp of approval.

500 complaints against Castaner for restricing the right to protest were submitted to the Court of Cassation but were dismissed by Public Prosecutor, Francois Molins, who stated that he would not be prosecuting Castaner for his remarks that “participants in the GJ protests were complicit with those who had resorted to violence”.


Bordeaux police gather for GJ protests January 2019. (Photo: Nicolas Duffaure)

Castaner has consistently defended the police squads and their use of disproportionate force against unarmed demonstrators by claiming that the GJs are the ones to instigate violence, the police are acting in self-defense. The mounting number of cases of civilian mutilation and wounding by heavily armed police officers suggest that Castaner is distorting the truth.

Castaner’s only concession has been to equip the police forces with body cameras so they can record their own violations of the use of “proportionate force” in the maintenance of law and order. Doubts must be cast on the willingness of a police force already facing 100s if not thousands of claims against them, to provide the evidence that will further incriminate them. When Castaner was pressed to comment on the violence being meted out against civilians by the police, he responded:

I don’t know of one policeman or one gendarme who has attacked the Gilets Jaunes, on the other hand, I know many police or gendarmes who have taken defensive measures to defend the Republic, the order of the Republic – you know there is no “liberty” without public order [..] but naturally I have never seen a gendarme or a police officer attack a demonstrator or a journalist, on the contrary I have seen demonstrators systematically attack our security forces and journalists.


Police arrest a protestor. (Photo: Gilets Jaunes Facebook page)

Castaner is one of the chief promoters of the draconian and controversial “Loi Anti Casseurs – Anti-Breakers (looters) law”. Those who oppose adoption of the law have claimed it will further erode freedom of speech and liberty of expression in France. The law proposes security perimeters around protests, facial recognition, bag searches, body searches, 2-4 years in prison if found guilty of violence against the police and up to Euros 7,500 ($ 8580) fines for those who violate the law. It is worth noting that Castaner himself admits that the number of “casseurs” nationwide are negligible, numbering between “150 – 200/300 across all regions of France”.

The law states that protestors who hide their faces will be targeted – this measure is controversial as most protestors and journalists are forced to cover their heads and faces to protect themselves against tear gas and the risk of mutiliation by “flashball” rubber bullets or “grenades d’encerclement”” which contain 25g of TNT and can release hundreds of 10g rubber pellets at close range if used incorrectly, by the security forces. Macron’s government sees these measures as essential to crack down on violence against the state, the GJs will perceive it as a further instrument of oppression by the state against its own people. So far, 200 ammendments have been made to the law by those who are alarmed by the increased totalitarian measures being imposed upon France and its people by Macron’s ministers.

French state-aligned media and UK corporate media have followed Castaner’s narrative lead with little deviation, the following short clip from a report by France’s TF1 demonstrates the disinformation being presented about the GJs and the police violence. The TF1 presenter denies any police infractions and praises them for their “sang froid”, their composure.

Macron Response to Gilets Jaunes

After initially distancing himself from the protests, perhaps in the vain hope they would fizzle out, on the 10th December Macron finally appeared before his people on TV. During the broadcast an apparently chastened Macron agreed to delay the fuel tax hike, he offered an extra 100 Euros per month for minimum wage earners and tax cuts for pensioners among other measures. Even the Economist described Macron’s 10 billion-euro concession package as an attempt to buy off his critics. The broadcast was watched by a staggering 21m people. The reaction was mixed, perhaps 50% of the GJs and their supporters seeing it as an attempt to keep the people quiet rather than a genuine effort to change course and address the long-standing issues that had generated the protests in the first place.

Macron’s later New Year 2019 address to the nation which followed a terrifying increase in the violence seen on the streets of Paris and across France, was a much more aggressive affair. Having failed to appease the “crowds” with a few unconvincing political crumbs, Macron seemed to have decided to adopt the hardline approach. “These days I have seen unthinkable things and heard the unacceptable” Macron stated. Macron even took on the few opposition politicians who dared to empathise with the protestors. Macron berated those who pretend to “speak for the people”, calling them “spokespersons for hateful crowds” and denounced “those who have mingled with the Yellow Vest protesters to spread hate speech about “police forces, journalists, Jews, foreigners, homosexuals” as a “negation of France”. I am yet to find a recording of a GJ spreading hate speech about any of the factions mentioned by Macron.

Macron’s other concession was the so called “Grand Debate”, a series of town hall meetings where representatives of the communes and departments across France would meet to present grievances on behalf of their constituents and the GJs. In reality, anyone wearing a yellow vest in the vicinity of the meetings may be fined Euros 135 ( $154). At some meetings road blocks were erected some way from the meeting place and identity papers of drivers were photographed, anyone wearing a yellow vest was told to go back. So, from day one, the Grand Debate called to address the concerns raised by the GJs deemed the GJs as persona non grata.

On the 18th January 2019, a Grand Debate was held in Souillac, south-west France. One of the attending Mayors gave an interview to a local media outlet after the debate had finished. Rene Revol, Mayor of Grabels (Department 34) said the meeting was nothing more than a “masquerade”, a farce, an election campaign for Macron. Gilets Jaunes were forbidden and threatened with fines if they were caught in the vicinity wearing their vests. Road blocks were set up on all roads leading to the venue. Security forces surrounded Macron’s cavalcade. Mayors were able to speak only if chosen by government ministers or Prefets – effectively controlled discourse. The meeting was ostensibly called to address the issues of the people. Nothing was discussed and the “people” were banned.

State Sanctioned Violence and Repression


Record of some of the appalling injuries inflicted upon unarmed civilians by police forces across France. (Photo: Desarmons.net)

Since the beginning of December the violence witnessed on the streets of cities across France has escalated dramatically. One French independent journalist, David Dufresnes, has been recording all infractions committed by police and security forces and tweeting them to the Interior Ministry while giving interviews to a huge number of French media channels to raise awareness of the police brutality during peaceful protests. In the tweet below, infraction number 362 dated 26/1/2019, an off duty soldier is reported to be hit in the head by a police LBD40 rubber bullet as he is leaving a restaurant in Montpelier on his way to the nightclub with two of his colleagues.

Dufresnes has recorded 157 injuries to the head including 18 who have lost an eye, fractures of the jaw and comas in the most severe cases. 11 hand injuries, in 4 cases resulting in the loss of a hand. 8 back injuries, 28 injuries to the upper body, 40 lower limb injuries, 3 injuries to the genital area, 48 unspecified injuries and 55 cases of intimidation, insults, repression of press freedom infractions. One eighty-year-old was murdered on the 1st December 2018 in Marseilles – Zineb Redouane was killed when a tear gas grenade was thrown in her face by the security forces. According to Dufresnes this is the list of the more serious injuries, an estimated 2000 – 3000 more GJs have been “lightly” injured during the protests since November 2018.


Chart produced by independent journalist, David Dufresnes and Mediapart showing injuries received by GJs and civilians from Police weapons and brutality during protests.

Dufresnes argues that the police have already lost control of the situation and can no longer be legitimately claiming to “maintain law and order”. In one interview Dufresnes points out that the use of 10,000 tear gas grenades on one day of protests points to a “panic” situation among the security forces. During “Acte XI” of the protests on the 26th January the elderly man, Eric, in the photo below was hit on the head by a police truncheon in Marseilles. He has three fractures and is forced to eat only liquid food from the left side of his mouth for three weeks, according to his brother.

Two students were recently inteviewed by independent French media channel, Mediapart. Antoine Boudinet lost his right hand when a GLIF4 grenade exploded close to him in Bordeaux, December 2018. Lola Villabriga was hit in the face by a LBD40 flashball bullet which triple-fractured her jaw in Biarritz, also December 2018.


Lola Villabriga, student, her jaw was fractured when she was hit in the face by a “flashball” bullet, December 2018 in Biarritz next to Antoine Boudient, student, who lost a hand during protests in Bordeaux December 2018.

Boudinet was actually taking part in a “climate” march which joined with the GJ march at one point during the protests. Boudinet has submitted a claim against Christophe Castaner for the police use of the GLIF4 grenade which has disabled him for life. Boudinet clearly states that he holds Castaner and the Interior Ministry responsible for the arms used by the police – “when such arms are available, it is certain that at some moment something will happen and there will be an incident. Explosives should never be thrown at people”

Villabriga had been standing on a bench filming the protests when she was hit by the flashball bullet. She describes a protest that was 100% peaceful, “there was no chaos at all. The use of force was totally disproportionate”. Villabriga suffered a triple fracture of her jaw, she has undergone one operation and a second operation is foreseen in the future to remove the metal pins. Commenting on Castaner’s denial of police brutality, Villabriga told the presenter:

“This is absolute denial (from Castaner) which I find totally alarming to see that we are ignored while what happened to us is so terrible. Nobody has come to talk to us.”

Watching the interviews, including one with Dominique Rodtchenki Pontonnier, a mother whose two sons were terribly injured by a GLIF4 grenade, one son losing three fingers in the blast – I was struck by the trauma and shock on the faces of the guests. At one point we are shown the film of the moment Pontonnier’s son is hit and is screaming that he has lost his hand. Boudinet is visibly shaken by the video, he explains that it brings back the memories of the moment he realised that he had been mutilated by the GLIF4 grenade fired by police into unarmed crowds of people that included children and families.

There is utter disbelief during the interview that France has been so rapidly reduced to a violent police state and that the trust between state and people has been so profoundly damaged. Another guest, Anaelle, a volunteer medic, describes the “profound lack of respect and complete rupture of dialogue” between state and people. All guests are horrified at the weapons being deployed to maintain “law and order”.


Record of injuries from police use of disproportionate force against unarmed civilians during GJ protests. (Photo: Desarmons.net)

Meanwhile, Interior Minister, Castaner maintains that the use of the Flashball bullet is necessary because:

“… in the face of extreme violence we need the means to defend ourselves and the simple fact of having a uniform (presence) for a long time has prevented the violence because the people respect that. Now there are people who come to provoke, to attack and to aggress, even to kill. If we consider what happened on the Champs Elysee or at the Arc De Triomphe, according to statements I have studied, there is a desire to kill members of the security forces, therefore they need to be able to defend themselves”


The moment GJ spox, Jerome Rodrigues, is targeted first by a GLIF4 grenade before being hit in the eye by a LBD40 Flashball bullet. Acte XI, 26th January 2019. (Photo: Twitter)

Paris, 26th January 2019, the forces of “law and order” targeted one of the GJ’s most popular spokespeople, Jerome Rodrigues, while he was filming events during the GJ march. During Rodrigues’ live video we can hear him cautioning GJs to withdraw from the scene as elements of the Black Bloc have arrived. Rodrigues does not want the GJs to get caught up in the Black Bloc violence. As he continues filming we see the police forces advancing but not confronting the few members of the Black Bloc who are responsible for much of the looting and damage to shops and buildings during the weekly protests. Instead, the police appear to open fire on the retreating GJs including Rodrigues who is suddenly struck down.

The following video shows the moments after Rodrigues is targeted first by a GLIF4 grenade and then by a Flashball bullet to the eye (according to later testimony from Rodrigues from his hospital bed).

WATCH:

Rodrigues is treated by the volunteer medics at the scene before being rushed to hospital. Two days after the incident, Rodrigues posted a live video to his Facebook page, from his hospital room. He calls for peace and calm, no violent reactions from the GJs. He feels that he was deliberately targeted by the police and this had also been claimed by a number of eye witnesses to the attack. Rodrigues also reminds people that his mutilation is one of many and that he should not be singled out among the GJs who have suffered at the hands of the police. Rodrigues urges GJs back onto the streets for Acte XII, Saturday 2nd February. It remains to be seen where the escalation of violence will progress from here as popular support for the GJs grows across France.

Rodrigues’ poster for Acte XII reads “The powerful will stop dominating when the little people stop crawling”

Weapons used to “Maintain Law and Order” 


Chart taken from the website of ACAT, an NGO arguing against increase in repressive laws in France, showing the weapons deployed by France during crowd control compared to other EU countries, November 2017.

The above chart shows the weapons used by French security forces against unruly crowds. There is a clear recommendation of steps and maintenance of proportionate force which is outlined in the national police instruction chart, below. Journalist, David Dufresnes, has clarified that the LBD40 Flashball rubber bullets and the GLIF4 grenade “d’encerclement” are not used anywhere else in Europe because of the risks to human life involved.

The National Police in France should be following the recommendations shown in the infograph above. Step one: demand for the crowd to disperse followed by two clear announcements of the intention to use “force”. First level of force: firearms are strictly prohibited at this stage. Truncheons, water canon and hand thrown tear gas grenades. Level two of force: GLIF4 grenades and grenade launchers. Level three of force: if the police are met with violence. LBD40 Flashball bullets, grenade launchers firing non-metal projectiles and flashball bullets.

What we are seeing, from the footage that is being released, is the police bypassing the recommended steps and progressing almost immediately to the use of disproportionate force and the apparent deliberate targeting of unarmed protestors among the GJs. This is panic crowd control with horrifying consequences. More than 80,000 police are deployed to maintain order during the nationwide GJ marches every weekend. A mix of the BAC (Brigade Anti Criminalite) and the CRS (general reserve of the French national police) are the most prevalent security forces who police the marches.

Many appear not to have been properly trained in the use of the weapons provided to them. The LBD40 Flashball bullet should never be fired at head height, for example, yet we consistently see police officers standing and firing from the shoulder into crowds of Gilets Jaunes. On the saturday that Rodrigues was targeted, I took screenshots from the Ruptly TV live video coverage of the Paris marches which clearly show one police officer pointing a target out to another officer who fires the weapon at head height ten seconds later. The velocity of the Flashball bullet is ten times that of a paintball, its capacity to mutilate at close quarters has been proven by the horrifying injuries circulating on social media.

A recent article in the media outlet, Liberation, has revealed that a police report highlighted the risks of using the GLIF4 grenade for crowd control but the grenade is still being used by police in France. The GLIF4 contains 25g of TNT explosive, emits 165 decibels upon explosion which has permanently deafened one protestor and has caused inner ear problems for others. The GLIF4 can contain CS gas in powder form or 10g rubber pellets, lethal at close quarters with potential to tear into limbs and shred hands.

This report was picked up by journalist, David Dufresne, who highlighted the following paragraph:

Liberation had access to a Police scientific laboratory report carried out on this wound ( and submitted to the enquiry) before the Gilets Jaunes movement. The report concludes that the high risk of the (GLIF4) grenade has been underestimated by French authorities and the manufacturer. The Interior Minister (Christophe Castaner) still chose to use the grenades until “stocks were exhausted” without specifying the number of grenades remaining in stock.

The cavalier manner in which Castaner has put the lives of French civilians at risk must be considered reckless at best, criminally negligent at worst.

The following video is a compilation of just a few of the police infractions and violent responses to the GJ protests across France.

WATCH:

Conclusion – Chaos Strategy Unleashed? 


Alexandre Langlois, police violence and the Gilets Jaunes.

Alexandre Langlois, General Secretary of the Police Syndicate, VIGI, has accused Macron’s government of stoking confrontation and of favouring repression over dialogue. In a series of public interviews, Langlois blames the hierarchy within the Interior Ministry for the “manipulation” of the police forces already hugely under pressure and experiencing a climbing suicide rate since Macron’s rise to power in France. According to Langlois, the “hierarchy” direct the police working during the marches from remote control centers which disable the police’s ability to analyse events on the ground and avoid dangerous confrontation or provocation. Langlois demonstrates that this system has led to situations that have increased pressure on both the police and the Gilets Jaunes.

Langlois warns that Police are being forced to work blind. The state is pushing for confrontation and it is not avoiding repressive measures that will only increase the chances of violence not reduce them. Langlois laments the 75 suicides of police officers since Macron was elected, 17 since Castaner took over from Collomb who resigned after pressure from Langlois and his syndicate to address the issue of high suicide rates among the national police forces – “we called for the resignation of Collomb, now Castaner should go” .

The dismantlement of the “renseignments generaux” (RG – police intelligence branch) under Sarkozy in 2008 has contributed to the problems in 2019 according to Langlois. Langlois believes the RG would have developed relationships with GJ organisers and worked with them to ensure peaceful demonstrations. The police have been deliberately distanced from the people in order to enable the violence we are seeing since the 1st December 2018. Langlois stresses that many of the Police sympathise with the GJs but that the government is pushing the police to oppose the GJs which can only lead to catastophic consequences if allowed to continue.

Effectively the Gilets Jaunes have exposed Macron and his government for what it is. Macron is the President who was elected by the globalists, the capitalists and the ruling elite to protect their interests. A book recently published, authored by Francois-Xavier Bourmand, entitled “Emmanuel Macron the Banker who would be King” has investigated the corporatocracy who ensured Macron’s election win in order to expand their interests globally and to convert France from Republic into Plutocracy at the expense of the “dispensables”, the “little people”.

During one confrontation with a citizen at one of the Grand Debates, Macron is asked why he has failed his pre-election promise of “no more SDF (homeless) on the streets of France – 580 SDF died on the streets of France in 2018. Rather than show compassion for the poverty-stricken and homeless, Macron defends his policies with accountant-speak, informing the audience that the elite must be protected in order to provide jobs for the “poor”.

If indeed Macron’s coterie in government are pushing for confrontation between the people and the security forces and introducing increasingly repressive measures to up the pressure on the protestors rather than trying to defuse matters, it is really ten minutes before midnight in France. The insanity of Macron supporting the “uprising” in Venezuela while sanctioning vicious reprisals against his own people at home is glaringly obvious to all but Macron and his backers. That is because Macron is doing his job and his job is to manufacture the conditions in which the privileged, wealthy ruling elite can thrive and further their globalist ambitions which includes military adventurism and resource theft from target nations that include Venezuela and Syria.

Violence will escalate in France because it is state-sanctioned. Unless the police wake up to their manipulation by the state and join forces with the GJs there is a risk of a serious confrontation in the very near future. However, as historian Diana Johstone has said “For all the lamented decline in the school system, the French people today are as well-educated and reasonable as any population can be expected to be. If they are incapable of democracy, then democracy is impossible.”. There is still hope that the wave of discontent generated by the GJs may still bring down the globalist power structure and replace it with something more allied to the principles of the Republic of France.

***

Vanessa Beeley is an independent journalist, peace activist, photographer and associate editor at 21st Century Wire.

January 29, 2019 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Economics, Solidarity and Activism, Subjugation - Torture | , | Leave a comment

Partition: Bad in Ireland and Palestine, Good in Syria?

By Gavin O’Reilly | American Herald Tribune | January 29, 2019

Ask the question in left-wing circles of what affect partitioning a country along ethno-religious lines at the behest of an imperial power can have and the response will usually be straightforward.

In Ireland, following the 1921 surrender agreement between former revolutionaries and the British government, a six-county statelet was formed in the north-east of the country remaining under British rule and with an inbuilt Unionist majority; the pro-British element descended from English and Scottish colonizers, planted in the region by King James in the 17th century in a bid to displace the native Irish population which had provided so much resistance to British occupation.

The Nationalist population of this British-ruled part of Ireland, those descended from the indigenous Irish and who sought to live in an Ireland free of British rule, suffered systemic discrimination at the hands of this newly-formed British statelet, being denied the same access to housing, education, and employment that was afforded to their Unionist counterparts.

A neo-colonial pro-British state was also formed in the south of Ireland, where secret police and military units intern Irish Republicans through the use of non-jury courts to this day.

In Palestine, following the establishment of the Zionist State in 1948 in line with the UK-authored 1917 Balfour Declaration, more than half a million Palestinians found themselves refugees in their own country overnight; being forced from their homes in order to accommodate Jewish settlers from Europe.

The State of Israel, in a similar vein to the occupied North of Ireland, would also subject its indigenous Arab population to systemic discrimination and would go on to launch several imperialist wars against its Arab neighbors throughout its existence, with the most recent being covert Israeli involvement in the Syrian conflict.

This would all ultimately suggest that partition is a concept that should be universally opposed by anyone claiming to be anti-Imperialist. Right?

Wrong; when it comes to the issue of Syria, many ‘anti-Imperialists’ do a complete U-turn on the position and instead demand that the Arab Republic, along with Iran, Iraq, and Turkey, is divided up to form a US-Israeli backed Kurdish ethnostate.

In July 2012, when the Syrian conflict was its height, units of the Syrian Arab Army withdrew from the predominantly Kurdish Rojava region in the north of the country in order to provide assistance to military units fighting elsewhere in the Arab Republic; besieged at the time by Western-backed terrorists and yet to receive the key support which would later be provided by Iran and Russia.

The withdrawal of the SAA allowed local Kurdish militias to turn Rojava into a de facto autonomous region, with the most prominent of said groups being the People’s Protection Units (YPG), part of the wider Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a US-backed anti-government group.

However, whilst US-backed groups elsewhere in the country were supported by the White House with the intention of ousting the government of Bashar al-Assad, the primary reason for Washington’s support of the Kurds was to fulfill the 1982 Tel Aviv-authored Yinon plan.

This document, written by Oded Yinon, a senior advisor to Ariel Sharon, envisaged Israel maintaining hegemonic superiority in the region via the balkanization of neighboring Arab states hostile to Tel Aviv; in Syria, a country long known for its opposition to Zionism, this would entail the creation of a Kurdish state in the north of the country in a bid to undermine the authority of Damascus.

However, despite this US support for Rojava lining up perfectly with the Yinon plan, support for the creation of a Kurdish state within Syria remains widespread amongst Western leftists, with the feminist politics of the YPG endearing itself to Western Anarchists in particular; the lessons of Ireland and Palestine being lost it would ultimately seem.

January 29, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , , , | Leave a comment

The US Senate Just Quietly Advanced A Free Speech Busting Anti-BDS Bill

By Whitney Webb | Mint Press News | January 29, 2019

WASHINGTON — In an evening vote that garnered essentially no national media coverage, the U.S. Senate voted last night to advance the “Strengthening America’s Security in the Middle East Act of 2019” – sometimes called the “anti-BDS bill” for its component that would allow state and local governments to punish companies or individuals who support the non-violent Boycott, Divest, Sanctions movement aimed at promoting Palestinian rights and ending Israeli apartheid and military occupation of the West Bank. The bill was, notably, numbered S.1 — the Senate’s first legislative act of its 2019-20 session.

Numerous rights groups, politicians and civil rights advocates have accused this measure of violating freedom of speech and setting a dangerous precedent for the private political activism of American citizens, all on behalf of a foreign country.

The bill was adopted by the Senate in a vote of 74 in favor to 19 against, with seven abstentions. The bill had previously been blocked by Senate Democrats by a 56-44 vote as part of their objection to acting on legislation during the government shutdown. However, many of those Democratic senators who had previously blocked the bill ultimately voted in support of the measure. In order to become law, the measure would still need to pass the Democrat-run House of Representatives. However, given the amount of support for the measure among Democrats and the power of the Israel lobby, the bill stands a considerable chance of passing the House.

Some commentators have paid particular attention to how Democratic senators considered to be 2020 hopefuls voted on the bill. Several confirmed and likely contenders for the upcoming Democratic nomination voted “No” – including Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT). However, Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Kamala Harris (D-CA), whose private courting of the Israel lobby was the subject of a recent MintPress News report, abstained from voting. Another notable abstention was Republican Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), who had previously threatened to filibuster a key component of the bill last year, preventing its passage during the previous Congress.

Punishing organized dissent

The bill includes several measures that were promoted by the Israel lobby last year but did not make it through the previous Congress. These include the “Ileana Ros-Lehtinen United States-Israel Security Assistance Authorization Act of 2019” which would give a record-breaking $38 billion to Israel over the next 10 years, and which ultimately failed to pass after Sen. Paul threatened a filibuster against it. That bill also requires Congress to give at least $3.8 billion to Israel every subsequent year after the initial 10 years.

Other measures in the bill include the “Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act of 2019”  — which imposes more sanctions on Syria and has been described as a “rebuttal” to President Trump’s proposed Syria troop withdrawal, which Israel also opposes – and the “The United States-Jordan Defense Cooperation Extension Act,” which would also give money to Israel. Some analysts have long asserted that U.S. security assistance to Jordan and other regional countries such as Egypt is aimed at securing regional support for Israeli and American geopolitical objectives in the Middle East.

Yet, the most controversial part of the bill by far is the “Combating BDS Act of 2019,” which would authorize state and local governments to retaliate commercially against entities that support BDS, such as by halting business with or refusing to contract or hire companies or individual citizens who either actively participate in or support the movement. A previous version of the bill included possible jail time as punishment for supporting a boycott of Israel or Israeli settlements, their violation of international law notwithstanding.

Some have asserted that the current text of the bill would mean that these same retaliatory measures would apply to boycotts targeting any country considered an “ally” by the U.S. government – Saudi Arabia, for example – if that boycott was not explicitly sanctioned by Washington. Others, such as Senior Legislative Counsel to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Kathleen Ruane, have asserted that the bill “sends a message to Americans that they will be penalized if they dare to disagree with their government.” The ACLU also argued via Twitter that “states don’t have the ‘right’ to punish individuals for participating in political boycotts the government doesn’t agree with, which this bill encourages them to do.”

Such concerns over similar laws enacted at the state level led two federal courts to rule that “anti-BDS” laws were unconstitutional for their restriction on the right to free speech. However, the bill the Senate just advanced both ignores and nullifies those court rulings by attempting to shield anti-BDS legislation at the state level from future legal challenges. However, as a recent MintPress report noted, the effort to protect anti-BDS state legislation through the passage of national legislation is unlikely to work.

A frighteningly slippery slope

The fact that the Senate just voted in favor of a bill to nullify the right of American citizens to engage in political speech that is opposed by the U.S. government should be headline news across the country. However, mention of the vote has been notably absent from American mainstream news outlets Tuesday morning. One would think that left-leaning news networks, ever eager to criticize the Republican Party, would be quick to cover how the Republican-controlled Senate just voted to restrict American political speech if it deviates from the government’s own position. Yet the fact that the bill itself has several co-sponsors from the Democratic Party, and is strongly supported by the powerful Israel lobby, has apparently helped to earn their silence.

While the bill’s relation to the BDS movement – and, by extension, the Israel/Palestine conflict – makes it a polarizing and largely partisan issue, all Americans, regardless of political affiliation or their views on Israel/Palestine, should be gravely concerned about not just the bill itself but the precedent it would set should it become law. By encouraging retaliation by the State against American citizens for making decisions about what to buy and what not to buy in their private lives, a dangerous and chilling precedent has been approved by 74 U.S. Senators in order to shield a foreign country from criticism and the consequences of grassroots activism. Under the guise of preventing “anti-Semitism,” this bill represents a fraught, Orwellian overreach by Congress into the private lives of all Americans and their right to make politically-motivated decisions.

If passed, it will not take much for the U.S. government to use this precedent to silence Americans’ political speech when it comes to domestic matters. Consider how the government would react if conservatives chose to boycott or push for divestment from U.S. companies that profit from abortion? What if anti-war activists chose to boycott or push for divestment from U.S. companies that profit from our wars abroad? This slope is as slippery as they come and the fact that a sizeable majority in the Senate has chosen to target a certain political movement should sound alarm bells for all Americans who care about free speech, regardless of their views on Israel/Palestine or their position on the political spectrum.

Whitney Webb is a staff writer for MintPress News and a contributor to Ben Swann’s Truth in Media. Her work has appeared on Global Research, the Ron Paul Institute and 21st Century Wire, among others. She has also made radio and TV appearances on RT and Sputnik. She currently lives with her family in southern Chile.

January 29, 2019 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism | , | 3 Comments

Nasrallah challenges world intelligence services with a three-hour live interview

By Elijah J. Magnier | January 27, 2019

The leader of Hezbollah Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah challenged world intelligence services, notably the Israelis, who track him by the hour, during a three hour live broadcast interview with al-Mayadeen TV on Saturday. Nasrallah showed he has the technical ability to broadcast live for this length of time without fear of being located. Even more important, Nasrallah showed the capacity to receive electronic messages via an internet connection in his vicinity, allowing him to take questions and get breaking news from around the world. This is a clear indication that Nasrallah trusts Hezbollah’s technical competence, capable of jamming any interception signal and efficient enough to blind any local or international intelligence services trying to locate him.

Hezbollah seems to enjoy electronic abilities superior to those of many Middle Eastern and other countries. What is unusual is that Nasrallah displayed these abilities, online, to tens of thousands of people watching the interview.

Hezbollah’s electronic capability is not new: Israel tried to physically intercept its fibber optic landlines and to electronically intercept the mobile phones of many officers and leaders. Indeed, Israel’s interception capabilities made it possible, in the past, for the Israeli army to break into Hezbollah’s telephone network, exposing a spider web of connections and leading to the destruction of hundreds of Hezbollah homes, offices and bases during the 2006 war.

It is not a secret that by intercepting one mobile phone, it is possible to identify other mobile phones in the same location and to create a record of the phone’s IMEI even if the user changes his or her SIM card but keeps the same mobile phone.

Hezbollah recognised the mistake of its members and issued a serious warning to all members or leaders preventing them from carrying a mobile phone at work. Failure to follow those instructions caused much of the destruction Hezbollah suffered in the 2006 war.

At the same time, Hezbollah was able to use the same available technology to intercept and capture spies. In 2006 Hezbollah ambushed the Israeli Special Operation Forces (SOF) by creating a false track of the presence of one of their most wanted and top leaders at al-Rasoul al-A’zam, on the Beirut airport road. One of those present revealed at the last minute the plan that could have led to the killing and arrest of many SOF soldiers. The same spy fell into his own trap, a few years later, due to misuse of his mobile phone. The SIM card he uses to contact Israel with was intercepted by Hezbollah when he inserted it, by mistake, into his Lebanese phone. It took him very little time to realise his mistake, but not enough to escape to Israel. Hezbollah’s capability helped in arresting many spies of which some where not exposed overtly.

Far from hiding under the ground–as Israel propaganda tried to portray him for years after the 2006 war–Sayyed Nasrallah spoke very confidently in an elegant flat. In fact, Sayyed Nasrallah meets local politicians, regional officials, and other Hezbollah leaders in various flats in Beirut, never the same ones. This is another indication of his frequent movements, a security procedure in accordance with a figure of his stature on the most wanted list of many countries, including Middle Eastern and European ones collaborating with Israel and the USA.

Nasrallah’s professional security team freely moves him around inside Lebanon and abroad; he travels between Beirut and Damascus on a single long, busy road to meet President Bashar al-Assad. Nasrallah has an electronic media team providing him with all breaking news on the spot and a resumé of all newspapers and media outlets publishing information or articles related to the Middle East.

Hezbollah’s electronic abilities seem to be constantly updated in accordance with the latest technology and security measures needed to face his enemies and to protect his leaders and military capabilities. The battle between Israel and Hezbollah is not merely a military one but also a battle of intelligence and technology.

January 29, 2019 Posted by | Timeless or most popular | , , | Leave a comment

Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah resigns

MEMO | January 29, 2019

Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah has resigned, just days after Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas announced plans to form a new government.

In a statement today, PA spokesperson Yusuf Al-Mahmoud said that “the prime minister and his ministers welcome [Fatah, the Palestinian faction which dominates the PA]’s decision to form a new government,” adding that: “Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah has placed his government at the disposal of the President of the Authority [Abbas].”

Hamdallah confirmed the statement in a tweet, writing that: “We put our government at the disposal of President Mahmoud Abbas and we welcome the recommendations of the Fatah Central Committee to form a new government.”

Hamdallah’s resignation came following a request by Abbas this weekend after the latter announced that a new Palestinian government would be formed. Commentators have seen this as a bid by Fatah to strengthen its grip over the PA in the wake of declining popular support and challenges from other Palestinian factions, namely Hamas – which governs the besieged Gaza Strip.

Though Hamdallah is affiliated with Fatah, he does not hold an official position in the organisation. Some Fatah leaders have been disappointed with his performance as prime minister, leading them to seek a “friendlier” alternative, the Jerusalem Post reported. Although it not yet clear who will head the new government, some names have already been floated, including: Minister of the Palestinian Economic Council Mohammed Shtayyeh; Secretary of the PLO’s Executive Committee Saeb Erekat; and Member of Fatah’s Executive Committee Azzam Al-Ahmed.

Abbas’ new government will be comprised only of members of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) – a symbolic umbrella organisation made  up of a number of Palestinian factions. However, since Hamas and Islamic Jihad are not part of the PLO, they will not be included in the new government.

The move has been interpreted as a deliberate bid to exclude Hamas – which won the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) elections in 2006 – from government. Hamas has slammed Abbas’ plans, with the movement’s spokesman Fawzi Barhoum saying: “Fatah’s call for forming a new government consisting of PLO factions will solidify the split between the West Bank and Gaza Strip.” Another Hamas spokesman, Hazem Qassem, called the move a “severe blow to efforts to achieve Palestinian national unity,” the Jerusalem Post reported.

Other Palestinian factions have refused to take part in forming the new government, including the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP).

Fatah and Hamas have been engaged in a bitter feud since the latter’s victory in the PLC elections. When Fatah refused to cede control of the government, a war broke out between Hamas and Fatah in the Gaza Strip. Hamas emerged victorious and has governed the besieged enclave since 2007.

The current PA government has been in place since mid-2014 and was meant to act as a “national unity government” following a reconciliation deal between Fatah and Hamas. However, the deal quickly broke down in the wake of Israel’s 2014 war on Gaza. Since then, Abbas has rebuffed any engagement with Hamas, imposing sanctions on the Strip, refusing to hold elections and dissolving the PLC.

January 29, 2019 Posted by | Corruption, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , | 1 Comment

New report: Israel’s ‘digital occupation’ of Palestine

MEMO | January 29, 2019

A new report has documented “Israeli control over the Palestinian ICT infrastructure in the West Bank and Gaza and its impact on the digital rights of the Palestinian people” – a form of “digital occupation of the Palestinian telecommunications sector”.

The report – Connection Interrupted – has been published by 7amleh – the Arab Centre for the Advancement of Social Media.

According to 7amleh, since Israel’s military occupation of the Palestinian territories began in 1967, the Israeli authorities “took complete control of the ICT infrastructure and sector in the West Bank and Gaza, impeding development and blocking the establishment of an independent network”.

This also made “Palestinians entirely dependent on the Israeli occupation authorities”, states the report.

7amleh noted that Israel’s measures are “in defiance of the Oslo Accords, which stipulate that Israel must gradually transfer control over the ICT sector to the Palestinians, Israel has tightened its control over the Palestinian ICT infrastructure, resulting in severe violations of Palestinian digital rights.”

According to the report, “this digital occupation has resulted in the creation of a severe ICT gap between Palestinians and the rest of the world, violating several human rights including their right to access economic markets.”

“Additionally, Israel’s continuous control over the ICT infrastructure has enabled Israel to monitor all Palestinian online activity, violating their right to privacy and in many cases cooperating with social media companies to censor Palestinians online, a violation of their right to freedom of expression.”

The report also stresses the obligations of third-party states “to ensure that their policies do not recognise or support the illegal Israeli occupation and its practices and instead ensure that Israel abides by their international obligations as an occupying power.”

7amleh urges “an independent Palestinian ICT sector, including access to infrastructure and frequency spectrums, an immediate stop to illegal surveillance and monitoring of the Palestinian population, and for Israel to adhere to its responsibilities and duties as an occupying power.”

January 29, 2019 Posted by | Economics, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , | 1 Comment

Netanyahu to expel international observers out of Hebron

Ma’an – January 29, 2019

BETHLEHEM – Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, announced on Monday evening that Israel will not be renewing the mandate of the Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH).

TIPH has been monitoring the southern occupied West Bank’s city for twenty years; the group’s mandate is renewed every six months; their current mandate expires by the end of the this month.

According to Israeli news outlets, Netanyahu said in a statement “We will not allow the continuation of an international force that acts against us,”

TIPH is an international civilian observer group that, according to its mandate, is tasked with “monitoring and reporting efforts to maintain normal life in the city of Hebron, thus creating a sense of security among the Palestinians in Hebron.” It also reports alleged human rights abuses and violations of accords in the city between Israel and Palestinians. Observers for the group come from Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland, Italy, and Turkey. TIPH has roughly a dozen staff operating locally and an additional 64 working abroad.

The Old City of Hebron is under full military control by Israel imposing restrictions on the movement of Palestinians living there.

Between 500,000 and 600,000 Israelis live in Jewish-only settlements across occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank in violation of international law.

The Palestinian government has no jurisdiction over Israelis in the West Bank, and acts carried out by Israeli settlers often occur in the presence of Israeli military forces who rarely act to protect Palestinian residents.

January 29, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , , | 2 Comments