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A race against time

Tilman Ruff’s life mission is to help rid the world of nuclear weapons
By Robert Fedele | Australian Nursing and Midwifery Journal | January 23, 2019

In 2007, Associate Professor Tilman Ruff and a small group of antinuclear activists founded the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) in Melbourne. In 2017, the global nongovernmental organisation captured the first Nobel Peace Prize born in Australia after years drawing attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons and driving a historic UN prohibition treaty. In June 2019, Ruff, and fellow ICAN co-founder, Dimity Hawkins, were awarded Order of Australia Honours for their advocacy on nuclear disarmament.

Tilman Ruff’s life’s mission to help end nuclear weapons traces back to growing up in Melbourne in the 1980s living with the genuine fear that nuclear war could strike at any moment.

His family background passed on a profound awareness of the impacts of war.

“My family were German Christians living in communities in Palestine,” Professor Ruff explains. “My great grandparents married there. They were in turn displaced, imprisoned, and quite a few of them were killed in both World Wars and then brought to Australia as prisoners and locked up until 1947.

“So the indiscriminate trauma, loss, madness and horror of war and its terrible legacy across generations was something I heard from my grandmothers and my old people all the time.”

As an adolescent, several empowering experiences shaped Professor Ruff’s activism, including joining the movement to end Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam War and setting up the world’s first Amnesty International high school group in 1970 to support the release of a young man imprisoned for writing a political slogan on a wall.

They made the then 15-year-old Ruff truly believe he could make a difference.

A Public Health and Infectious Diseases Physician, Professor Ruff’s diverse career has included establishing the Nossal Institute for Global Health at the University of Melbourne, where he currently teaches on public health dimensions and nuclear technology, and a longstanding position as the International Medical Advisor for Australian Red Cross.

Looking back to his early days as a medical student, he reveals the presence of nuclear weapons struck him as “the most urgent global health threat and most demanding of urgent health professional attention.

“Many of us had this daily visceral fear that nuclear war could happen at any time. It was a palpable reality in your life.”

Professor Ruff suggests the birth of his daughter in 1982 added an emotional dimension that spurred him further to want to make the world a safer place for generations to come.

Soon he joined the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW), awarded a Nobel Peace Prize in 1985 for contributing to the end of the Cold War, where he became inspired by how effective and influential evidence-based advocacy imparted by health professionals could be.

Professor Ruff maintains overwhelming evidence shows nuclear war would cause catastrophic consequences and make it impossible to provide any effective health or humanitarian response.

The evidence is epitomised by the World Health Organization (WHO), which commissioned an expert group in 1983 to examine the issue and labelled nuclear war the greatest immediate threat to human health and welfare, with no health service in the world capable of responding to the devastation even a single nuclear weapon could inflict on a city.

“Nuclear weapons are different from any other weapons in two ways,” Professor Ruff says.

“One is the simple scale of the destruction. There have been single nuclear weapons built and tested that contained four times the explosive power of all explosives that have been used in all wars throughout human history.

“Of course, they’re qualitatively different too in producing radiation that transcends borders, that transcends its effects across generations, effects that can’t be undone, increasing the risk of cancer and genetic damage and chronic disease long-term for the lifetime of those exposed.”

Professor Ruff says recent scientific evidence points to nuclear weapons triggering climate disruption and a nuclear winter. Specifically, less than 1% of the world’s nuclear weapons targeted on cities would loft so much soot and smoke into the atmosphere that it would blanket the globe in darkness and cool the climate, decimating agriculture for decades and putting billions at risk of starvation across all corners of the globe.

“It doesn’t matter where they get used. It doesn’t matter whether you’re targeted by them or not. The idea that these gargantuan instruments of destruction could provide security for anybody is completely evidence free.”

The evolution of ICAN in Melbourne in 2007 was sparked by intense frustration and despair among members of IPPNW, and its Australian affiliate the Medical Association for Prevention of War (MAPW), that nuclear disarmament had fallen off the radar.

Importantly, Professor Ruff and his cofounders were encouraged by the success of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines and felt it could be replicated for nuclear weapons.

The plan was not to recreate a new organisation but instead form a coalition of existing organisations fixed on developing a treaty to ban nuclear weapons on account of their shattering humanitarian consequences.

“It’s got to be global, it’s got to engage young people, and balance horror, humour, hope and humanity,” Professor Ruff recalls of the group’s philosophy.

Fittingly, years of raising awareness about the dangers of nuclear weapons reached a pivotal point in July 2017 when the ICAN-led treaty to ban nuclear weapons was adopted by 122 countries at the United Nations in New York.

The treaty prohibits the use of nuclear weapons, their development, testing, stockpiling, production and threat of use, underlining that any use of these weapons contravenes the rules of international humanitarian law.

Unsurprisingly, the world’s nuclear-armed states – Russia, France, US, India, North Korea, UK, Pakistan, China and Israel – boycotted the treaty, as did many of their close allies like Australia. “They’re not only not disarming they’re actually investing massively in adding new capacities and modernising those weapons,” Professor Ruff says.

As the treaty negotiations unfolded at the UN General Assembly in New York, Professor Ruff says stories told in person by victims and survivors of nuclear bombings in Japan, together with survivors of nuclear testing around the world including Indigenous test survivors from Australia, exposed the reality of nuclear weapons like nothing else.

The room burst into joy when the treaty was adopted.

“It was a very emotional moment,” Professor Ruff recalls. “These are normally very formal and dry proceedings. When the vote happened, 122 to 1, the room just erupted with hugs, tears of joy. It was one of the most extraordinary moments you could ever witness.”

To date, 70 states have signed the treaty and 23 have ratified it.

It will enter into force once 50 states have signed and ratified it.

“It’s not the final perfect all-in-one solution that’s going to magically get rid of nuclear weapons overnight,” Professor Ruff concedes.

“But it’s the best thing that the rest of the world that doesn’t own the weapons could do.”

Professor Ruff is adamant the treaty marks a major step forward of historic significance, and through growing international support and an increased focus on stigmatisation, can finally help rid the world of nuclear weapons.

If anything, the fierce and bitter opposition expressed by the nuclear-armed states in the wake of the treaty has further reassured him.

“They wouldn’t do that if this didn’t matter. If this didn’t put them on notice and on the defensive.”

Professor Ruff praised the involvement of key health professional federations from around the world, such as the International Council of Nurses (ICN) and World Medical Association (WMA), in helping to reinforce how nuclear weapons pose a planetary health threat of the highest magnitude.

In this vein, he believes real change can only occur by influencing government policy and all health professionals, including nurses and midwives, should champion the power of health evidence.

“Our responsibility as health professionals is not just to alleviate suffering and try and cure diseases but to prevent illness, keep people and our communities healthy and be advocates.”

Several months after the treaty, ICAN was awarded the first Australian-born Nobel Peace Prize at a ceremony in Norway for its efforts.

“It was hugely important, humbling and just wonderful for a couple of reasons, apart from just the fact this has been blood, sweat and tears for me, endless nights and weekends, 365 days a year for more than a decade and for 20 years before that,” Professor Ruff reflects.

“It provides really important attention to the urgency of the issue and the need to make progress. It provides historic recognition for the importance of the treaty and gives enormous encouragement to civil society and governments.”

Disappointingly, Professor Ruff says the glaring lack of support and recognition from Australia’s leaders, both for the treaty and Nobel Peace Prize, remains difficult to comprehend.

“Basically, our policy is that we might need the US to use nuclear weapons on our behalf and we actually provide, through facilities and personnel assistance, for the possible use of nuclear weapons. That’s a completely immoral position. We’re part of the problem, not the solution.”

Regardless, Professor Ruff says the Nobel Peace Prize has opened doors and allowed ICAN to spread its message further.

The immediate task rests in getting as many states to sign and ratify the treaty as possible to strengthen its legal and political force. Pressure will also be ramped up on financial institutions, such as several of the big banks, invested in companies that make nuclear weapons.

In Australia, the strategy will likely focus on getting the next Labor Party government to join the treaty, given its current policy platform from 2018 which commits Labor in government to sign and ratify the Ban Treaty.

Professor Ruff says its imperative civil society organisations, including unions, band together to push for elimination.

While decades have passed since he was a youth growing up in Melbourne with the threat of nuclear war hovering Professor Ruff remains visibly determined to close the final chapter.

“Objectively, the danger of nuclear war is growing,” he declares.

“There’s no question that if these weapons are retained they will one day be used and we absolutely have to get the job done before that happens.”


  • Nuclear weapons release vast amounts of energy in the form of blast, heat and radiation, with no adequate humanitarian response possible
  • A single nuclear bomb detonated over a large city could kill millions of people and the use of tens or hundreds of nuclear bombs would disrupt the global climate and cause widespread famine
  • Nuclear weapons have been used twice in warfare – on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, killing more than 210,000 innocent civilians
  • Nine countries possess around 15,000 nuclear weapons, with the US and Russia keeping about 1,800 of their nuclear weapons on high-alert, ready for launching within minutes.

Learn more about the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN).

July 3, 2019 Posted by | Environmentalism, Militarism, Solidarity and Activism, Timeless or most popular | Leave a comment

US eyes Sri Lanka as its military logistics hub

Sri Lankan presidential aspirant Gotabaya Rajapaksa with the radical Buddhist monk Gnanasara Thera of Bodu Bala Sena. File photo.
By M. K. BHADRAKUMAR | Indian Punchline | July 3, 2019

The Easter Sunday terrorist attacks in Sri Lanka on 21st April in which 259 people were killed and over 500 injured were initially attributed to the Islamic State (IS). But no hard evidence is available to substantiate such a reading and it remains an open question as to the perpetrators.

The Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena may have somewhat de-mystified the topic this week. On July 1, Sirisena charged at a public function that drug traffickers are behind the Easter Sunday bomb attacks. The following day he ordered the arrest of former Defense Secretary Hemasiri Fernando and the Inspector General of Police Pujith Jayasundara for their failure to prevent the Easter Sunday attacks despite prior knowledge of the attacks.

What lends enchantment to the view is that the United States had brilliantly succeeded in deploying to Sri Lanka the personnel of the Indo-Pacific Command within a couple of days of the Easter Sunday attacks on the pretext of investigating and assisting in Colombo’s upcoming fight against the IS. Historically, Sri Lanka is chary of allowing foreign military presence on its soil, but in this case Washington pressed home the deployment, since the ruling elite in Colombo was on the back foot, incoherent and in disarray in the immediate aftermath of the terrorist attacks.

In political terms, what Sirisena may have done this week is to reverse the ‘internationalisation’ of Sri Lanka’s terrorism problem. Indeed, for tackling a local drug mafia, Sri Lanka doesn’t need the expertise of the US’ Indo-Pacific Command.

This is just as well because in the downstream of the Easter Sunday attacks in April, Washington also began pushing hard for the signing of a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with Sri Lanka, which Pentagon has traditionally demanded as the pre-requisite of establishment of military bases in foreign countries. (The SOFA establishes the rights and privileges of American personnel present in a host country in support of a larger security arrangement.)

Unsurprisingly, the Sri Lankan opinion militated against the SOFA project and suspected its real intentions. A huge uproar followed in the Sri Lankan media. Without doubt, the SOFA became yet another template of the power struggle between the staunchly nationalistic Sirisena and the famously ‘pro-western’ prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.

The net result is that the project which the US hoped to conclude in absolute secrecy, got derailed once the draft SOFA document under negotiation got somehow leaked to a Colombo newspaper. Interestingly, the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who was scheduled to travel to Colombo following his recent visit to New Delhi was compelled to cancel the visit once it became apparent that the SOFA project has become a hot potato.

Meanwhile, the Empire strikes back. A case has been filed in the US District Court in central California by an American law firm claiming damages on behalf of alleged victims of human rights abuse during the war against separatist LTTE ten years ago. The plaintiffs have targeted Gotabaya Rajapaksa, then wartime defense chief and the younger brother of former president Mahinda Rajapaksa, as well as several government agencies, including military intelligence, the Criminal Investigation Department, the Terrorism Investigation Division, and the Special Intelligence Service, including some serving officials.

Of course, this is a blatant American attempt to put into jeopardy Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s plan to run for president in the upcoming Sri Lankan election in December. Gotabaya was a US citizen at the time of the war against the LTTE. He has dual citizenship and his request renouncing American citizenship is pending with Washington. Now, the catch is, the lawsuits in California could delay his bid to renounce his US citizenship, in which case he would not qualify to run for president under Sri Lankan electoral laws. Washington has tripped Gotabaya.

The US is making sure that the Rajapaksa family will not regain the calculus of power in Colombo following the December poll. Equally, the trial in California can expose former President Mahinda Rajapaksa as well — and even entangle Sirisena who had a direct role as acting defence minister in the final stages of the war. Clearly, Washington is interfering in the December election in Sri Lanka in a calibrated manner with a view to strengthen the prospects of a pro-American candidate such as Wickremesinghe or the Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera who can be trusted to put the signature on the SOFA.

The US is determined to push ahead with the signing of the SOFA leading to the establishment of long-term American military presence in Sri Lanka. In August 2018, USS Anchorage, a Seventh Fleet vessel, and a unit of Marines visited the port of Trincomalee. In December 2018, the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis visited Trincomalee as part of the Pentagon’s plans to establish a logistic hub there for the US Navy. A Mass Communication Specialist on board USS John C. Stennis in a dispatch to the US Navy official web portal wrote:

“The primary purpose of the operation is to provide mission-critical supplies and services to U.S. Navy ships transiting through and operating in the Indian Ocean. The secondary purpose is to demonstrate the U.S. Navy’s ability to establish a temporary logistic hum ashore where no enduring U.S. Navy logistic footprint exists.”

The US disclaims any intention to set up military bases in Sri Lanka. This is factually true — except that it is sophistry. The US plan to use Sri Lanka as a ‘military logistics hub’ involves supportive measures that facilitate any American military operation in the Asia-Pacific region. Actually, this is well beyond the solitary use of a particular harbour such as Trincomalee as a military base. The point is, the entire island nation is being transformed into a ‘military logistics hub’.

Never before has there been such blatant US interference in Sri Lanka’s internal affairs. Washington tasted blood in the successful regime change project in January 2015 and it never looked back. The interference is so very extensive today that it is destabilising the Sri Lankan situation which is already highly polarised.

This is happening only due to India’s passivity bordering on acquiescence. The containment strategy against China in the Indian Ocean has become a common endeavour for Washington and Delhi. Is it in India’s long term interests that Sri Lanka is being destabilised, even if in the short term the Chinese Navy might be put to some difficulties in the Indian Ocean?

India’s medium and long term interests lie in regional stability. Its influence as a regional power is linked to regional stability. India cannot overlook that China has legitimate interests in our region. The US is a faraway power and is also in decline. It doesn’t make sense for India to bandwagon with the US in South Asia. A far more realistic approach will be to work with China and expand and deepen the common interests in regional security and stability.

July 3, 2019 Posted by | Deception, False Flag Terrorism, Militarism | , , | Leave a comment

Mueller Report Gets the Trump Tower Meeting Wrong; Promotes Browder Hoax

By Lucy Komisar – Consortium News – July 3, 2019

A “key event” described in the Mueller Report is the Trump Tower meeting where a Russian lawyer met with the president’s son Donald Trump Jr, his son-in-law Jared Kushner and his campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

Russiagaters have been obsessed with the meeting saying it was the smoking gun to prove collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign to steal the 2016 election. Months after Mueller concluded that there was no collusion at all, the obsession has switched to “obstruction of justice,” which is like someone being apprehended for resisting arrest without committing any other crime.

The Mueller report thus focuses instead on “efforts to prevent disclosure of information about the June 9, 2016 Trump Tower meeting between Russians and senior campaign officials.”

But the report on this topic is deceptive. Ironically, as it attacks Donald Trump and top campaign officials for lying, the report itself lies about the issue the meeting addressed.

It wasn’t to provide dirt on Hillary Clinton, which the Russian lawyer did not have and never produced. That was a ploy by Robert Goldstone, a British music publicist whose job is to get what his clients want, in this case, a meeting. So, recklessly, he invented the idea of Clinton dirt as a bait-and-switch to get Trump’s people to come to it. He got the lawyer the meeting for her to lobby a potentially incoming administration against the Magnitsky Act, which is why she was in the United States in the first place.

The Magnitsky Act is a 2012 U.S. law that was promoted by William Browder, an American-born British citizen and hedge fund investor, who claimed his “lawyer” Sergei Magnitsky had been imprisoned and murdered because he uncovered a scheme by Russian officials to steal $230 million from the Russian Treasury. It sanctioned Russians he said were involved or benefitted from Magnitsky’s death. It has since been used by the U.S. to put sanctions on other Russians and nationals from other countries.

The lawyer lobbying against the act, Natalia Veselnitskaya, told Trump Jr., Kushner and Manafort that Browder’s story was fake, a smokescreen to block the Russians from going after him for multi-millions in tax evasion. She argued the Magnitsky Act was built on this fraud. Manafort’s notes, included in the Mueller Report, trace what she said.

Natalia Veselnitskaya, the Russian lawyer who met with Trump team members in Trump Tower, and her interpreter, in background. (Lucy Komisar)

Nothing Illegal

The Trump people did nothing illegal to meet with her. Their problem was the exaggerating communications Goldstone sent them about Veselnitskaya having “dirt” on Clinton. (While U.S. election laws says it’s illegal for a campaign to receive “a thing of value” from a foreign source, it’s never been established by a court that opposition research fits that description, the Mueller Report admits.) Veselnitskaya testified to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee in November 2017 that Browder’s major American client, the Ziff brothers, had cheated on American and Russian taxes and contributed the “dirty money” to the Democrats.

The Mueller investigators appear not to have looked into her charges. The report promotes Browder’s fabrications, citing “the Magnitsky Act, which imposed financial sanctions and travel restrictions on Russian officials and which was named for a Russian tax specialist who exposed a fraud and later died in a Russian prison.”

But instead of his “lawyer” Magnitsky exposing Russian fraud, for which he was jailed and killed in prison, Magnitsky was actually Browder’s accountant who was detained under investigation for his part in Browder’s tax evasion and died of natural causes in prison, as Magnitsky’s own mother admits to filmmaker Andrei Nekrasov in the film “The Magnitsky Act: Behind the Scenes.”

Magnitsky’s mother in Nekrasov film.

Mueller’s investigators might have started with documents filed in U.S. federal court in the case of Veselnitskaya’s client, Prevezon, a Russian holding company that settled a civil-forfeiture claim by the U.S. government that linked it, without proof, to the tax fraud.

The documents include a deposition where Browder admits that the alleged “lawyer” Magnitsky did not go to law school nor have a law degree. Magnitsky’s own testimony file identifies him as an “auditor.”

Why does that matter? Because it was Browder’s red herring. Magnitsky had worked as Browder’s accountant since 1997, fiddling on Browder’s taxes on profits from sales of shares held by Russian shell companies run by his Hermitage Fund. He was not an attorney hired in 2007 to investigate and then expose a tax fraud against the Russian Treasury.

That fraud was exposed by Rimma Starova, the Russian nominee director of a British Virgin Islands shell company that held Hermitage’s reregistered companies and who gave testimony to Russian police on April 9 and July 10, 2008. It was reported by the New York Times and Vedomosti on July 24, 2008, months before Magnitsky mentioned it in an Oct. 7 interrogation.


The Mueller Report says Veselnitskaya promised dirt on Hillary Clinton as “part of Russia and its government support for Trump.” Two days before the meeting, Goldstone emailed Trump Jr. and said “the Russian government attorney” was flying in from Moscow. She had not been a government attorney since 2001, 15 years earlier.

I interviewed Veselnitskaya in New York in November 2016. She explained what she later told the Trump group, that Browder’s clients the Ziff Brothers had invested in Russian shares in a way that routed the money through loans so that they could evade U.S. taxes. [“Not invest – loans” in Manafort’s notes.]

The report says, “Natalia Veselnitskaya had previously worked for the Russian government and maintained a relationship with that government throughout this period of time.” Later it says that from 1998 to 2001, she had worked as a prosecutor for the “Central Administrative District” of the Russian Prosecutor’s office. “And continued to perform government-related work and maintain ties to the Russian government following her departure.” We are meant to presume, with no evidence, as the media does – that means “a Kremlin-connected lawyer.”

When Trump Jr asked for evidence, how the payments could be tied to the Clinton campaign, she said she couldn’t trace them, according to the Mueller Report.

Then she turned to the Magnitsky Act. The report repeats earlier fakery: “She lobbied and testified about the Magnitsky Act, which imposed financial sanctions and travel restrictions on Russian officials and which was named for a Russian tax specialist who exposed a fraud and later died in a Russian prison.” Magnitsky did not expose a fraud. Rimma Starova did.

A footnote in the report said: “Browder hired Magnitsky to investigate tax fraud by Russian officials, and Magnitsky was charged with helping Browder embezzle money.” Browder did not hire Magnitsky to investigate the fraud. Magnitsky had been the accountant in charge of Hermitage since 1997, 10 years before the fraud. Embezzlement refers to Browder shifting assets out of Russia without paying taxes.

But the investigation’s focus was not on Browder’s fakery — the substance of the Trump Tower meeting — but on the communications organizing the event. The section on obstruction says Trump became aware of “emails setting up the June 9, 2016 meeting between senior campaign officials and Russians who offered derogatory information on Hillary Clinton as ‘part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.’”

That would have been inflating Goldstone’s promises.

The report says “at the meeting the Russian attorney claimed that funds derived from illegal activities in Russia were provided to Hillary Clinton and other Democrats.” Trump Jr. told a White House press officer that “they started with some Hillary thing, which as bs and some other nonsense, which we shot down fast.”

As Veselnitskaya told me, she knew the Ziffs made contributions to Democrats. She probably started with that. Manafort’s notes don’t report a “Hillary thing,” but are about Browder and the Ziffs.

On the issue of Browder, the Magnitsky story and the essence of the Trump Tower meeting, the Mueller Report is a deception intended to keep the myth of collusion in the air while dismissing that any collusion took place.

Lucy Komisar is an investigative reporter who writes about financial corruption and won a Gerald Loeb award, the most important prize in financial journalism, for breaking the story about how Ponzi schemer Allen Stanford got the Florida Banking Dept to allow him to move money offshore with no regulation. Her stories about William Browder focus on tax evasion.  Find out more on The Komisar Scoop.

July 3, 2019 Posted by | Deception, Russophobia | | 2 Comments

How the Third Temple Movement in Israel Rebranded Theocracy as “Civil Rights”

By Whitney Webb | MintPress News | July 3, 2019

JERUSALEM — In a troubling trend that continues to be overlooked by international media, the Temple Activist movement that seeks to destroy the Al-Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem and replace it with a Third Temple continues to advance its agenda. The movement’s forward progress is largely thanks to its successful efforts in recent years to rebrand as a “civil rights” movement — securing support from secular and religious Zionists alike — as well as to growing levels of support in Israel’s executive and legislative branches of government.

As was detailed in Part I of this series, the Temple Activist movement is now more mainstream than ever before and its effort to destroy the Al-Aqsa mosque compound, the third holiest site in Islam, has advanced with great rapidity since the year began and has picked up precipitously in recent weeks. Yet this new face of the Temple Activist movement — one that claims that its quest is to wrest control of the holy site from Jordanian and Palestinian custody in the name of “equal rights” for Israeli Jews — obfuscates the troubling origins of this once-fringe yet now normalized campaign.

Beginning in earnest after the Six Day War in 1967, the Temple Activist movement within Israel was largely formed by two groups of people: 1) a small, then-fringe group of messianic religious Zionists led by Rabbi Shlomo Goren that supported the complete annexation of Palestine, particularly Jerusalem with the Al-Aqsa mosque; and  2) former members of the secular Zionist paramilitary groups Irgun and Lehi, known for their penchant for massacring Palestinian civilians for political gain, who either became religious messianists following Israel’s 1967 victory or remained secular and felt that salvation for Israeli Jews necessitated the miltiary conquest of Palestine and the destruction of its mosques and churches — particularly the site of Al-Aqsa mosque, often referred to as either the Temple Mount or Haram El-Sharif (Arabic for “the Noble Sanctuary”). 

The modern “friendly” face of the Temple Activist movement — embodied by figures like Yehuda Glick, former executive director of the Temple Institute and a member of Israel’s Knesset — hides the extremist and largely secular origins of this quasi-religious movement that — as Rabbi Yisroel Dovid Weiss of Neturei Karta, an international organization of ultra-Orthodox Jews opposed to Zionism, told MintPress in Part I — is ultimately colonial (i.e., Zionist) in nature and uses religious imagery and appeals “to excuse their occupation and to try to portray this [the occupation of Palestine] as a religious conflict.”

As this installment of this multi-part series on the current threats facing the historic Al-Aqsa Mosque compound will show, the Temple Activist movement’s extremist origins and increasing normalization in Israeli society parallels the rise of Israel’s political far-right, particularly of the Likud Party — whose roots, much like those of the Temple Activist movment, trace back to secular Zionist paramilitaries like Irgun.

Miko Peled, Israeli author and human-rights activist, described this trend to MintPress as “the resurgence of the ‘good old days’ when young zealots were the forefront of the Zionist project.” Peled pointed out that these zealots set up the foundations for actions that are later pursued and consolidated by the Israeli state, such as in the context of the settler movement where, as Peled noted:

The [Israeli political] establishment comes in and takes over and turns an ‘outpost’ [established by a small group of extremists] into a settlement and then a city. The Haram El-Sharif or Temple Mount compound will be the same. These zealots, young and old are the cutting edge of Zionist ideologues and they do the ‘dirty work.’ Now they do not seem so radical any more and soon the state will come in full force.”

For that reason, and as this report will show, there is a significant degree of overlap between the dominant parties of Israeli politics today and the Temple Activist movement, with a majority of current Israeli government ministers, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu himself, and a large and influential lobby of lawmakers in Israel’s Knesset openly supporting the Israeli government takeover of Al-Aqsa mosque and its destruction and replacement with a Third Temple. Subsequent installments of this series will show how such an outcome is a grave threat to peace — not just in Israel/Palestine, but the entire Middle East — and a major yet widely overlooked motivation behind the foreign policy objectives of not only Israel’s current government but the Trump administration.

Shlomo Goren: The man who lit the match

The Israeli military’s conquest of the Old City of Jerusalem in 1967 was seen by some of its soldiers as a sign from the divine that end-times prophecies were being fulfilled. Among those who were the first to arrive at the newly conquered historic district of Jerusalem were three men who — in distinct ways — would go on to lead a movement aimed at remaking this area of Jerusalem in the image of their specific, and then-fringe, interpretation of Biblical prophecy. They were Shlomo Goren, then-Rabbi of the IDF and later Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi of Israel; Geroshon Salomon, then-soldier and later founder of the Temple Mount Faithful; and Yisrael Ariel, Rabbi and founder of the Temple Institute.

Goren, center, carries a Torah and submachine gun during a 1956 Israeli assault on Gaza. Photo | AP

Shlomo Goren, euphoric after the Israeli military’s takeover of the Temple Mount, led the celebration, where both Ariel and Salomon were present. Per Ariel’s recollection, Goren’s words about the prophetic significance of the Israeli takeover of the Temple Mount gave meaning to the occasion and would go on to inspire Ariel, as well as Salomon, to found organizations devoted to Goren’s vision of a Third Temple in the place of Al-Aqsa mosque, which currently sits on the Temple Mount of Haram El-Sharif.

Soon after the celebratory mood had faded that fateful day in 1967, Goren — according to several accounts — pushed the IDF’s Chief of Central Command Uzi Narkiss to seize the opportunity to bring down the historic mosque with explosives, something Goren felt was best done under the cover of war. Narkiss’ rejection of Goren’s plea would subsequently be remembered bitterly by Goren and his allies, Ariel and Salomon among them, as a missed opportunity and, for some, an act of “treason.” Such bitter feelings were reserved, not just for Narkiss or then-Defense Minister Moshe Dayan, both secular Zionists, but also for the State’s rabbinical authorities who, following the 1967 capture and subsequent occupation of Jerusalem, maintained the centuries-old opinion that it was against Jewish religious law for Jews to ascend the Temple Mount.

While the 1967 war did not result in the destruction of the Al-Aqsa mosque or the Dome of the Rock as Goren and others had hoped, Goren dedicated much of his future career to advancing what is now often referred to as the Temple Activist movement, which aims to replace the Al-Aqsa mosque compound with a Third Temple. Goren specifically believed that the Third Temple must be built before the Messiah could be revealed, as opposed to after he is revealed, and that the conquest of the site in the 1967 war meant that the time had come to build a new temple where Al-Aqsa sits.

It is worth pointing out that Goren’s beliefs were, and remain, at odds with the rabbinical authorities both within Israel and abroad. As Motti Inbari, scholar of Jewish fundamentalism and messianism and associate professor of religion at UNC Pembroke, wrote for The Times of Israel in 2015:

According to halakha (Jewish religious law), anyone who enters the mount will be punished by karet — death sentence carried out by God. This decision has been reinforced in innumerable rulings. One was handed down by the chief rabbinate after the capture of the Mount during the Six-Day War in 1967… And this custom is followed by the vast majority of ultra-Orthodox rabbis.”

Goren’s rise to further prominence was meteoric after the 1967 war, and he became Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi of Israel, Israel’s most important state rabbinical position, just a year after retiring as the IDF’s first chief rabbi in 1972. Miko Peled, Israeli author and human rights activist, told MintPress that Goren’s role as chief Rabbi made him “a strong influence on the ‘Religious Zionist’ movement that sought to settle all of the ‘Land of Israel’” — meaning “Biblical Israel,” which includes all of occupied Palestine and large parts of territory of several neighboring countries.

Goren’s quick ascension to the most prominent position in Israel’s Rabbinate was dogged by accusations that he had cut a secret deal with the then-Prime Minister of Israel, Golda Meir, and that Goren had promised to assist Meir in finding solutions to pressing conflicts that had arisen between Israel’s actions as a state and Jewish law. As chief rabbi, Goren would adapt Jewish religious law to scientific advances and military conflicts, solving many of the problems that had concerned Meir in the early 1970s.

As chief rabbi of Israel, Goren later developed a close relationship with Menachim Begin — former leader of the Irgun paramilitary and terrorist group, and Israel’s prime minister from 1977 to 1983 — who was denounced as a fascist and a terrorist by numerous Jewish American intellectuals and public figures – including Albert Einstein. Goren became an important liaison between Begin and U.S. President Ronald Reagan at a time when Begin was actively courting the American evangelical right, specifically Christian Zionists. Begin and Goren had both long advocated for complete Israeli control over the Temple Mount and both shared a vision of a “Greater Israel,” where the state of Israel would expand through all of the occupied Palestinian territories and into several surrounding countries.

Begin, right, bows his head to receive a blessing from Shlomo Goren in 1977 at Ben-Gurion Airport. Max Nash | AP

In one example, Goren claimed that he had been sent by Begin to the White House to personally deliver Reagan a message regarding the withdrawal of Israel from the Sinai Peninsula and “to provide Reagan with a sense of the moral and spritual feeling in Israel,” which included warning against the formation of a Palestinian state, keeping Jerusalem “united,” and recognizing the city as exclusively Israeli.

As chief rabbi of Israel, Goren’s “activism” regarding the Temple Mount continued unabated and arguably grew with his growing political influence, both within Israel and abroad. Having led extremists in ascending the Temple Mount since the Old City’s conquest in 1967, Goren’s stature as chief rabbi allowed him to continue and expand his efforts to push for an increased presence of extremist religious Zionists on the Temple Mount. Following the 1967 war, Goren also created detailed maps of the Temple Mount with the intention of delineating where the Third Temple should be built and where he believed the long-lost treasures of the Ark of the Covenant were hidden beneath the Temple. Those maps are still used by Temple Activists today.

Yet Goren’s “activism” on behalf of a Third Temple was much more far-reaching during his time as chief rabbi. In 1981, Goren along with Rabbi of the Western Wall Yehuda Getz, began excavating a series of tunnels under the Temple Mount, without archaeological approval, in an alleged search for the Ark of the Covenant artifact. They believed that finding the Ark of the Covenant would signal that the time to build a Third Temple had arrived. One of the volunteers aiding Getz and Goren was Gersh Salomon, who had founded the Temple Mount Faithful a few years prior.

The tunnels — conducted without archeological supervision, as is required by Israeli law — were dug with the support of Israel’s Religious Affairs Ministry. There was also another government connection to the illegal project, owing to the intimate involvement of Rafi Eitan in the project. Eitan was an influential counterterrorism and security adviser to three Israeli prime ministers (Menachem Begin, Yitzhak Shamir and Shimon Peres), a former officer for the Mossad and Shin Bet, and a “personal and close family friend” of current Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He later gained notoriety for recruiting Jonathan Pollard, a former United States Navy intelligence analyst convicted of spying for Israel, and serving as his handler.

Goren, Getz and their group of volunteers managed to reach Warren’s Gate, an ancient subterranean passage leading to the Temple Mount. Accordig to Salomon, “We needed just two days more to come to the place where the Ark of the Covenant is located.” However, their ambitions were cut short when Palestinians guarding Al-Aqsa heard strange noises coming from below Al-Aqsa Mosque and quickly discovered the group’s excavations. A riot nearly broke out and Israeli authorities subsequently sealed the tunnel.

A few years later, in 1986, three years after leaving his position as chief rabbi, Goren, together with other prominent rabbis, issued a religious edict that called for the immediate construction of a Third Temple on the Temple Mount and for public Jewish prayers on the site, an act historically forbidden by Jewish law. Prior to the end of his life in 1994, Goren issued several other controversial religious edicts, such as one that ruled that IDF soldiers could disobey government orders in order to remove extremist settlers from the West Bank, and another stating that Jewish law compelled Jews to murder Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

The Temple Mount Faithful

Goren’s impact on the Temple Activist movement is unique, as his actions following the Israeli conquest of Jerusalem’s Old City were the spark that inspired the two other most notable forces in laying the ground for the Temple Activist movement of today: Gershon Salomon and Yisrael Ariel.

Salomon was one of the paratroopers who helped “liberate” the Temple Mount and the Western Wall in 1967 and he went on to found the Temple Mount Faithful soon after. Following the war, he “dedicated himself to the vision of consecrating the Temple Mount to the Name of G‑d, to removing the Muslim shrines placed there as a symbol of Muslim conquest, to the rebuilding of the Third Temple on the Temple Mount, and the godly redemption of the People and the Land of Israel,” according to the Temple Mount Faithful website. He worked directly with Goren for a number of years, and others who were greatly influenced by Goren, such as Ariel, later joined Salomon’s group.

Gershon Salomon, right, poses in front of al-Aqsa Mosque in 1967.

Goren participated directly with the Temple Mount Faithful on some occasions, such as in hosting a “conference” in front of the Temple Mount where Goren, Salomon and other attendees called on Israel’s government “to purify the Temple Mount from its Arab and Islamic presence and desecration,” as it was later described by Salomon.

The group attracted members from the messianic fringes of religious Zionism, as well as more secular, fascist elements that were associated with the precursors to the modern-day Likud Party. Indeed, Motti Inbari has noted that most of the Temple Mount Faithful’s membership during its “golden years” (from the late 1960s to 1987) were former members of the Irgun and Lehi Zionist paramilitary groups, both of which have deep ties to Israel’s Likud Party.

For decades, the Temple Mount Faithful’s main activities were demonstrations that Inbari, who attended several of the group’s demonstrations, states were intended to “cause provocations and riots bordering on hysteria among the [Palestinian] Muslim public.” These provocations center around the group attempting to physically place cornerstones they commissioned for a future Third Temple on the Temple Mount. One of the group’s cornerstone demonstrations led to what became known as the Al-Aqsa massacre of 1990, which resulted in rioting among Palestinian worshippers who were then at the mosque. Israeli police shot and killed over 20 Palestinians and wounded an estimated 150 more.

Yet, beginning in the mid-1980s, a rift started to emerge in the Temple Mount Faithful between the religious and secular Zionists within the group. The rift was initiated by Rabbi Yosef Elboim and saw religious Zionists, like Rabbi Yisrael Ariel, leave the Temple Mount Faithful en masse, as they felt the movement could only grow in influence if it focused more strongly on the Third Temple’s religious and ritual importance, as opposed to its importance as a nationalist and Zionist symbol, a view espoused by Salomon.

Though Salomon frequently uses religious and biblical imagery when discussing the Temple and sees the construction of the Temple as his divine mission, he ultimately viewed the Temple as a symbol of Israeli nationalism. This view of the Temple as a nationalist symbol was first articulated by members of the Zionist and fascist paramilitary group Lehi, also known as the Stern Gang. The view helped Salomon win over some influential secular Zionists to the Temple Activist movement, though it caused him to lose influence with religious Zionists. Yet this loss of support from religious Zionists led Salomon to reach out and forge ties with another group, the Christian Zionists of the West.

Temple Mount Faithful members step on a mock coffin symbolizing Palestine during a 2007 parade in Jerusalem. Alex Kolomoisky | AP

The 1987 rift with the Temple Mount Faithful resulted in the official creation of the Temple Institute, which was founded by Rabbi Ariel and has since become the most prominent organization of its type within Israel. Soon after its creation, the Institute joined an alliance of other Temple Mount Faithful splinter groups and associated groups, known collectively as the Movement for the Establishment of the Temple, but did not include the Temple Mount Faithful itself.

The Jewish Underground

While many former members of Irgun and Lehi joined the Temple Activist movement following its formation in the late 1960s, others chose an even more extreme approach than that offered by the Temple Mount Faithful. Shabtai Ben-Dov, a former member of Lehi who believed that the Third Temple and Jewish Messiah could only be achieved through violence and blood-soaked conquest, was one of the “guiding lights” of a group known as the Jewish Underground.

Ben-Dov is an obscure figure to most Israelis, but his impact on Jewish messianic groups in Israel was profound. He was an enthusiastic member of Lehi — or, as noted above, “the Stern Gang” — a Zionist paramilitary group known for its use of terrorism as well as its role in comitting several civilian massacres; the assassination of UN and British officials; its attempts to formally ally with the Nazis; and desire to create a Jewish state in Palestine based on “nationalist and totalitarian principles.”

Ben-Dov, who became increasingly more religious following the founding of the state of Israel and the dissolution of Lehi, turned to writing and argued that Lehi’s totalitarian vision for the state of Israel should be realized through the establishment of a theocracy, led by a king and the Sanhedrin, a council that served as the main political, judicial and religious force for Jews during the Roman period and was guided by the values of “conquest and holy war.” Furthermore, he believed — like Avraham Stern, who founded Lehi —  that the Third Temple must be built as soon as possible and that doing so would solve all of the problems then facing the Jewish people.

Though his beliefs didn’t catch on — then, at least — Ben-Dov’s writings were dramatically inspirational to Yehuda Etzion, a settler activist who became profoundly disillusioned with the efforts to broker peace between Israel and Egypt that eventually resulted in the Camp David Accords in 1979. Shortly prior to Ben-Dov’s death and soon after the accords were formalized, Etzion sought out the former Lehi member, who successfully convinced the young Etzion to actively participate in the “messianic process.” When Etzion asked Ben-Dov if destroying the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa mosque would catalyze the “redemption” process and usher in the coming of the messiah, Ben-Dov responded, “If you want to do something that will solve all the Jew’s problems, do that.”

With that, the planning of the now infamous plot of the Jewish Underground to destroy Al-Aqsa began, a plot that was narrowly foiled just a few years later in 1984. Indeed, Etzion and his co-conspirators, all of whom were later convicted of terrorism, had raided an Israeli military outpost in the occupied Golan Heights and had managed to steal over 2,000 pounds of explosives, which were used to build at least 27 bombs with which to commit the deed. For reasons that will become more relevant in a future article in this series, Etzion and his co-conspirators also believed that destroying Al-Aqsa mosque would first lead to a war with rival Middle Eastern nations, a war from which Israel would emerge victorious — and only then could the Third Temple and a theocratic Israel take shape.

Israeli police carry Yehuda Etzion after he breached the Temple Mount in 1997. Zoom 77 | AP

After his arrest, Etzion had lamented that the plot had failed only because “the generation was not ready.” As noted in Part I, he called for the building of “a new force that grows very slowly, moving its educational and social activity into a new leadership,” a force that — as this article and Part I of this series clearly show — has been spectacularly successful.

Though a convicted terrorist and a proponent of theocracy and “holy war,” Etzion today is considered “the most revered figure among patrons of the Temple Mount,” according to Israeli newspaper Haaretz. Etzion was even the subject of a rather sympathetic New York Times article in 2015, as the rebranding of the Temple Activist movement (discussed shortly) was in full swing. That article asserted that Etzion “laments violence now used against Palestinians,” despite noting that Etzion “does not regret, exactly, helping plant bombs in the cars of Palestinian mayors and plotting to blow up the Dome of the Rock in the 1980s, nor does he express remorse.”

Though Etzion’s ideology may once have been fringe and his embrace of violence odious, it has gone increasingly mainstream, much like the Temple Activist movement itself, and there is considerable overlap. A fitting example of such overlap was seen just a few months ago when Bezalel Smotrich — now Israel’s Transportation Minister, who has openly called for the construction of a Third Temple and incited settlers to violently attack Palestinains in the occupied West Bank — called for Israel to be ruled by Jewish law and to become a theocracy at a time when he was under consideration for the position of Justice Minister.

Smotrich is but one example of how the ideas promoted by figures like Etzion have found their way into Israel’s halls of power. Indeed, Israel’s current Minister of Strategic Affairs, Internal Security, and Information Gilad Erdan, former Minister of Education Naftali Bennett, and Speaker of the Knesset Yuli Edelstein are all close associates and supporters of Etzion and his Chai Vekayam (Alive and Existing) movement.

Carmi Gillon, former head of Israel’s internal security service Shin Bet, stated last year that the former members of Jewish Underground have become so influential that they have won the battle for Israel’s future. Gillon told Haaretz

They are more devoted to their idea. It’s exactly what you see with Hamas or Hezbollah. A religious person who believes he is commanded from on high can’t compromise on that command. A secular person is more pragmatic to begin with. But they have one goal: to turn Israel into a Jewish state governed by religious Jewish law, to perpetuate the occupation and to rescind liberal laws.”

The “Moderate” facade of the Temple Institute

Today, the Temple Institute, founded by Yisrael Ariel, is treated by many media sources as the “moderate face” of the Temple Activist movement. Yet, Ariel — much like Salomon, Etzion and other prominent figures in the Temple Activist movement — has long been an extremist, making his institute hardly “moderate.” As the saying goes, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

After following Shlomo Goren to the Western Wall the day of its conquest in 1967, Ariel became deeply involved in the settler movement and became the “unofficial” rabbi of an Israeli settlement in the Sinai Peninsula. After that settlement was dismantled as part of the Camp David Accords, which saw the Sinai returned to Egypt, Ariel returned to Jerusalem and joined one of the most radical, racist political parties in Israel’s history, Kach.

Yisrael Ariel oversees a Temple Mount Faithful enactment of rituals for a rebuilt Third Temple. Tomer Appelbaum | Haaretz

The Kach Party was founded in 1971 by American-born Rabbi Meir Kahane, a convicted terrorist known for his racist, extremist positions that advocated Jewish supremacy, the expulsion of Palestinians from the occupied territories, and prison sentences for Palestinian men accused of having intimate relations with Jewish women. In addition, an often overlooked aspect of his radical platform was complete Jewish sovereignty over the Temple Mount.

In the 1981 elections, Ariel ran as Kahane’s number two right-hand man as a member of Kach, later served as Kahane’s deputy in the Knesset, and continued to be active in the party until it was banned from participating in Israeli elections in 1988. A few years after Kahane was assassinated in 1990, Baruch Goldstein, a Kahane follower and Kach member who murdered scores of praying Palestinians in a Hebron mosque, was praised by Ariel as a “martyr” and “our advocate in Heaven,” even as Goldstein’s actions led the Kach Party and its spinoffs to be labeled terrorist organizations by Israel, the United States and several other countries.

During his lengthy association with the Kach Party and Meir Kahane, Ariel founded the Temple Institute, registering it first as an association in 1984 and then creating a more formal organization in 1987 soon after other religious Zionist elements of the Temple Mount Faithful left that group en masse.

Ariel’s reason for doing so was based on his view that the Third Temple must be pursued at all costs. Ariel’s “Holy Temple Prayerbook” as cited on the Temple Institute’s website, summarizes his beliefs in his own words:

Through the years, the more I studied the more I began to understand that we had only ourselves and our own inaction to hold accountable: God does not intend for us to wait for a day of miracles. We are expected to act. We must accomplish that with which we have been charged: to do all in our power to prepare for the rebuilding of the Holy Temple, and the renewal of the divine service.”

Furthermore, Ariel feels that the Temple lies at the heart of Israel’s future as a state and as a panacea for all of its problems. He stated the following in 2005:

The State of Israel can be only one thing — a state with a Temple at its center. Otherwise it is no different from any other state. All of today’s troubles originate in the sin of abandoning the Temple Mount and the site of the Holy Temple… The Holy Temple is the solution to all of our problems.”

This same view that held that the Temple would solve all of Israel’s problems was also voiced by Shabtai Ben-Dov, the former Lehi member who advised members of the radical Jewish Underground terrorist group to blow up Al-Aqsa mosque in the early 1980s.

While the worldview of Ariel and his ideological allies can easily be dismissed as that of an extremist, the issue is that — over the past few decades — the Temple Institute he founded has taken a central role in the Temple Activist movement and has found growing levels of support from Israel’s government, including financial support.

Since its formation, the Temple Institute has created detailed blueprints of its vision for a Third Temple, based partially on the maps first made by Shlomo Goren in 1967, as well as 3-D computer animations and physical models of that Temple. In addition, it has created several artifacts for use in a future temple, including a golden menorah, incense altars, priestly garments and a variety of ritual vessels, among others. The menorah alone is estimated to have cost 5 million NIS (about $1.3 million USD).

These artifacts and models have allowed the Temple Institute to obfuscate its extremist origins by opening a museum dedicated to the Third Temple, a museum that enjoys Israeli government sponsorship. That museum, dubbed the “Disney Land for Temple fundamentalism” by the Times of Israel, receives hundreds of thousands of visitors every

Beyond its creation of artifacts and structures to be used in a future temple, the Institute has also dedicated itself to training a new generation of Levite priests with the intention that they perform ritual sacrifices in the future temple, and has also attempted to recreate a “Red Heifer” for use in a purification ritual.

Rabbi Yisroel Dovid Weiss of Neturei Karta — an ultra-Orthodox group of Haredi Jews founded in Palestine in 1938, who believe Jews are forbidden from having their own state until the Jewish Messiah is revealed — told MintPress that these rituals cannot be performed because the red heifer, among other objects, is no longer available as these objects were when these rituals were practiced nearly two thousand years ago. Yet, the Temple Institute has made efforts to recreate a red heifer using advanced techniques in animal husbandry and artificial insemination and claimed to have produced a suitable red heifer in 2018.

Over the years, the Institute has received increasing levels of support from Israel’s government, even though the Institute’s activities run counter to official Israeli government policy in relation to the Temple Mount and also violate a 1994 peace treaty between Israel and Jordan that explicitly forbids non-Muslims from praying on Haram el-Sharif (the Temple Mount), in keeping with Islamic theological doctrine regarding its most holy sites. According to Israeli non-profit Ir Amim, the Temple Institute has been receiving direct funding from Israel’s government since at least 2008 —  receiving an estimated 412,000 NIS (~$114,775) annually from Israel’s Ministry of Culture, Science and Sports, headed by Miri Regev, as well as Israel’s Ministry of Education from 2008 to 2012. In 2012 alone, the educational arm of the Temple Institute, the Midrasha, received 189,000 NIS (~$52,650) from the Ministry of Education.

Prior to obtaining direct government funding, the Temple Institute received funding from “persons in different government ministries,” according to statements made by Ariel in 1992 when thanking members of the government for helping finance the Institute and offset its debts. Notably, government funding of the Temple Institute is a small portion of its estimated $1 million annual operating budget. However, direct government funding of the organization suggests that the current Likud government led by Netanyahu is relatively supportive, at least covertly, of its mission.

This is corroborated by the fact that recent years have seen overt support for the Institute and its objectives by prominent Israeli politicians. For instance, in 2013, Nir Barkat — then-mayor of Jerusalem and member of the ruling Likud Party — presented Ariel with an award for his work at the Temple Institute. It was subsequently revealed that the Temple Institute had received a government contract from Israel’s Ministry of Education. That contract paid the Temple Institute to develop a mandatory social studies curriculum that would instill a “longing for the Temple” in children at the kindergarten level and above. Critics argued that the curriculum “could drive students to take violent actions to advance the building of the Third Temple,” according to Haaretz. The Institute’s relationship with Israel’s government is further revealed by Israel’s allowing of women to perform their mandatory national service in lieu of mandatory military service by working as tour guides in the Institute’s Museum.

A schoolbook created jointly with Israel’s Ministry of Education depicts rebuilding of the Third Temple. Credit | Ir Amim

The combination of government support for the Temple Institute and the Institute working as a government contractor in developing a national educational curriculum has resulted in growing support for the Third Temple among religious and secular Israelis alike.

Miko Peled told MintPress that the type of material being taught and normalized in schools throughout the country had been a key factor in the Temple Activist movement’s goals becoming mainstream:

The mainstreaming of these fringe [Temple Activist] groups is possible only because within the mainstream in Israel there is a desire to see the Temple ‘restored.’ The mythical narrative of King David and King Solomon and his magnificent temple are taught as history, and so even secular Israelis see this as a symbol of their identity and a right. This is taught in schools, through Israeli folk songs, etc. Furthermore, among the ‘tour’ organizers and the Temple activists there have always been non-religious Israelis.”

As the Temple Institute’s influence has grown and as it has perfected the capacity to speak to more moderate as well as extremist factions within religious Zionism, Ariel has notably felt emboldened to articulate the controversial, extremist beliefs he has long held. In a video recorded in 2015, he made overt calls for genocide and murder based on his interpretation of the works of 12th-century Jewish sage Maimonides.

In that video, publicized by Canadian journalist David Sheen, Ariel makes several outrageous statements, including claims that Jewish law compelled religious Jews to assassinate then-President of the United States Barack Obama, and calling for a Jewish army to conquer the entire Middle East, specifically Iran, and to destroy all mosques and churches.

Ariel also called for the murder of all Muslims and Christians who do not renounce their religions in order to follow the “Noahide laws,” which Ariel and other extremists believe must be imposed on all of humanity, aside from practitioners of Judaism, as a condition of their existence. A year later, Ariel again garnered attention from Israeli media for claiming that the Temple Mount must be “flattened and cleaned” of the Al-Aqsa mosque so a Third Temple could be rebuilt.

From extremist to “civil rights” movement

Though Rabbi Yisrael Ariel is often considered the face of the Institute, the Institute’s increasing prominence has been aided by a somewhat younger generation of Temple Activists who have become influential in Israeli politics.

There is no better example of such a figure than Yehuda Glick, who was the Temple Institute’s executive director for five years and became a member of Israel’s Knesset for the ruling Likud Party in 2016. Largely thanks to the “affable” face Glick and some of his contemporaries have lent to the Temple Activist movement, it has been able to rebrand from an extremist colonialist project to a “civil rights movement” promoting “equal rights” for Jewish Israelis when it comes to praying on the Temple Mount. Yet Glick differs little, in terms of ideology, from the old guard, as evidenced by his personal beliefs and his close relationships with figures such as Etzion and Ariel.

Glick, through his prominent role in the Temple Institute and the Temple Mount Heritage Foundation, had become a well-known figure in the Temple Activist movement by the time he was attacked and shot in early February 2014, almost losing his life to his assailant, who was alleged to have been a young Palestinian. Glick’s serious injuries, which he survived, became the basis for a subsequent and successful media campaign within Israel that helped paint the Temple Activist movement as a “civil rights” movement aimed merely at securing “equal rights” to pray on the Temple Mount, for both Jews and Muslims alike.

This narrative soon went beyond Israel, with prominent media outlets like the New York Times euphemistically describing Glick as an “agitator who has pushed for more Jewish access and rights at a hotly contested religious site in Jerusalem.” Left unmentioned was Glick’s history of arrests for participating in provocations at the Temple Mount, his assault of a Palestinian woman at the contested site, and the fact that he lives in an illegal West Bank settlement.

Yet, there is much to doubt about the narrative surrounding Glick’s attempted murder, leading some critics to suggest that the attempt on his life may have been a “false flag” aimed at creating enough public outrage so as to force Israel’s government to alter the current status quo on the Temple Mount. Indeed, just a week before he was nearly killed, Glick had told Haaretz that the situation on the Temple Mount would only change after a Jew was violently attacked by an Arab.

Yehuda Glick arrives to cast his vote during Likud party elections in Jerusalem, still healing from an alleged attack, Dec. 31, 2014. Oded Balilty | AP

“When will the change take place?” Glick told the Israeli newspaper, answering:

As soon as the Arabs harm someone on the Temple Mount, the prime minister will wake up and it will be too late… Violence is escalating every day, and the police are simply helpless. Police impotence leads to violence… Bibi is tying their hands and the Jordanians are tying their hands.” (emphasis added)

Soon after the murder attempt, Ali Abunimah detailed at Electronic Intifada many of the other discrepancies regarding the events that led to Glick’s injuries, including the swift extrajudicial execution of his alleged attacker before an investigation or trial could take place and some of the dubious claims made by witnesses at the scene, particularly witnesses known to be greatly involved in the Temple Activist cause. Two of the witnesses were none other than Rabbi Yisrael Ariel, founder of the Temple Institute, and Moshe Feiglin, then-Likud member of the Knesset and outspoken Temple Activist, each of whom later called the attack on Glick “inevitable” and “expected,” respectively.

A year and a half after the attack that threatened his life, Glick became a member of Israel’s Knesset for the Likud Party, occupying the post left by former Defense Minister Mosha Ya’alon, who had resigned. Though Glick had previously served a minor role in government, his ascent to the Knesset as a Likud lawmaker gave him a platform to continue to promote Temple Activism as an issue of “civil rights,” one that was received by outlets like Forward with great sympathy.

“The discrimination on the Temple Mount is obvious,” Forward quoted Glick as saying soon after he became a member of the Knesset. “[Under Jordanian control] the Temple Mount became a center of incitement and hate instead of a center of peace.”

Miko Peled described the effort to rebrand what was once a radical, fringe movement as a “civil rights” struggle that has been “very successful” and played a role in the increasingly mainstream status that the Temple Activist movement now enjoys. Peled told MintPress:

Their [the Temple Activists] entire discourse is now about their rights, and the denial of the rights of Jewish [people] to freedom of worship, etc. This works well in promoting them as more moderate and friendly and as victims of a reality that once again discriminates against Jews. They realize that what is working for the Palestinians is the fact that their narrative is framed as an injustice and they now do the same. You hear them complaining that while the world, and even the Israeli “Left,” stand for Palestinian rights, they — once again — don’t stand for the rights of Jews.”

Powerful mainstream proponents

Since the attack on Glick and the subsequent rebranding of Temple Activism as a “civil rights” movement, the decades-long effort to manufacture consensus among both secular and religious Israelis has grown dramatically. The growth of this movement, much of which is detailed in Part I of this series, has been most noticeable within Israel’s halls of power, with a large number of Israel’s most powerful politicians, and a majority of Israel’s current cabinet, now openly pushing for Israeli sovereignty over the Temple Mount and for the reconstruction of a Third Temple.

In the interest of brevity, MintPress has compiled the following list of current Israeli government ministers who have shown or expressed varying degrees of public support for the construction of a Third Temple, the destruction of Al-Aqsa, and/or complete Israeli sovereignty over the Temple Mount. Some of the individuals listed below hold multiple ministerial positions.

Current Israeli Government Ministers Supportive of Temple Activism

    • Miri Regev, Minister of Culture and Sport
    • Rafi Peretz, Minister of Education
    • Bezalel Smotrich, Minister of Transportation
    • Uri Ariel, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development
    • Gilad Erdan, Minister of Strategic Affairs, Minister of Internal Security, Minister of Information
    • Yisrael Katz, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister of Intelligence and Atomic Energy
    • Yoav Galant, Minister of Construction
    • Amir Ohana, Minister of Justice
    • Ze’ev Elkin, Minister of Jerusalem, Minister of Environmental Protection
    • Ofir Akunis, Minister of Science, Technology and Space
    • Tzachi Hanegbi, Minister of Communications, Minister of Regional Communications

Those listed above account for more than half of all Israeli government ministers (11 out of 20) and nearly 60 percent of all ministerial positions (16 out of 27) that are not currently held by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, who is currently serving as the Minister of Health, Defense, and Diaspora Affairs in addition to being Prime Minister.

While it may come as a shock that more than half of all current Israeli government ministers are supportive of key aspects of Temple Activism, numerous other prominent Israeli politicians in the Knesset and other positions of political power are also strong advocates for altering the current Temple Mount status quo.

The strong presence of Temple Activist supporters in Israel’s halls of power has not been lost on leaders within the movement. Rabbi Chaim Richman, head of the Temple Institute’s International Department, told Christian Headlines in 2017 that:

Today there’s a lobby in the Knesset … many members of the Knesset that are constantly speaking about Jewish rights to pray on the Temple Mount. There are members of the Knesset that actually talk about rebuilding the Holy Temple.  Do you realize that 20 years ago these people wouldn’t have been given a moment on prime time television to say these things. They would have been laughed out.”

Netanyahu’s dance

In addition to its increasingly strong hold on Israeli legislatures, the Temple Activist movement’s reach stretches all the way to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Netanyahu, given his role as prime minister, has long avoided any explicit endorsements of Temple Activism, though his actions over his decades-long political career offer enough insight to conclude that he is, at the very least, supportive of the movement and some of its objectives.

Netanyahu, from his prominent political position, has publicly maintained that his government seeks to maintain the current status quo on the Temple Mount, likely to avoid stoking unrest and protests. Yet, such claims are at odds with the fact that a majority of his ministers have publicly stated that they wish to wrest control of the holy site from its current custodians.

Furthermore, Netanyahu himself in 2017 told the Knesset the following: “To you, the members of the Knesset, the citizens of Israel, and to the entire world, I want to make it clear: The Temple Mount and the Western Wall will stay under Israeli sovereignty forever.” In that same speech, Netanyahu referred to Palestinian sovereignty over Jerusalem prior to 1967 as a “black cloud” that had hung over the city.

Though Netanyahu has been relatively mum on the subject of the Third Temple specifically, his practice of remaining silent after prominent members of his government and political party promote Temple Activism has not escaped the notice of Israeli media, which has repeatedly pointed out that the claims of government officials close to Netanyahu qualify as incitement under Israeli law, a punishable offense. Such silence has been taken by some Netanyahu critics as tacit support for Temple Activists, as has Netanyahu’s recent appearances at events where Al-Aqsa and the Dome of the Rock have been edited out of the Jerusalem skyline, despite the compound’s iconic status.

Netanyahu attends an event back-dropped by an image of the Temple Mount with a dome-less mosque, June 13, 2019. Olivier Fitoussi | AP

Yet Netanyahu is silent not only about many of his closest political associates embracing Temple Activism, but about the considerable support that some of his most important political donors have given to Temple Activist groups. A 2015 Haaretz investigation found that top Netanyahu donor Kenneth Abramowitz — an American billionaire who also heads American Friends of Likud — had given more than $1.3 million to the Israel-based institution that funds all of Yehuda Glick’s Temple Activist organizations.

In addition to funding Netanyahu, Abramowitz has also donated to Yisrael Katz and Gilad Erdan — current Minister of Foreign Affairs and current MInister of Strategic Affairs, Internal Security and Information, respectively — both of whom support upending the current status quo on the Temple Mount. Palestinian academic and journalist Ramzy Baroud told MintPress that Gilad Erdan is “the main person advocating for this [Temple Activist] movement within Israel’s government and within Israeli politics.”

Another key financier of Netanyahu — U.S. casino magnate Sheldon Adelson — also appears to be supportive of Temple Activism. For instance, Israel Hayom — the Israeli newspaper that Adelson funds — has published numerous articles supportive of Temple Activism, including front-page stories that call for the destruction of Al-Aqsa mosque. Furthermore, Adelson has grown increasingly close to Israeli politician Naftali Bennett, who has increasingly pushed for increased Israeli control over the Temple Mount in recent years. Adelson even allegedly favored Bennett over Netanyahu for the position of prime minister at one point.

Bennett, who until recently was Education Minister, spent his tenure at that ministry inserting Temple Activist educational material into mandatory school curriculums, some of which were developed by the Temple Institute as part of a contract with the Bennett-led Education Ministry. In addition, Bennett — after failing to secure enough seats in Israel’s elections this past April — is mulling joining forces with Moshe Feiglin, one of the most pro-Third Temple Israeli politicians of all.

Beyond his close association with donors and politicians who support Temple Activism, Netanyahu’s relationship with prominent religious leaders have led to speculation that he supports the construction of a Third Temple on the Temple Mount. During a meeting in 1990 with Rabbi Mencahem Schneerson — then leader of the Chabad Lubavitch movement, an international Orthodox Jewish organization that has gained global prominence and also invited controversy — Netanyahu asked Schneerson, often referred to simply as “the Rebbe,” for advice on both personal and political matters.

Schneerson, who up until his death was a strong advocate for the religious messianic belief that physical actions could speed up the fulfillment of end-times prophecy and the coming of the Messiah, advised Netanyahu that he “do something to hasten his [the Messiah’s] coming.” Netanyahu responded, “We’re doing, We’re doing…,” at which the Rebbe interrupted him, saying “Apparently, it’s not enough,” urging him to do more still, and eventually garnering a “Yes” from Netanyahu. After that meeting, Schneerson stated that Netanyahu would later “hand his keys over to Moshiach [the Messiah],” suggesting that Netanyahu’s political career would culminate in the building of a Third Temple, a prerequisite for the appearance of the Messiah per Schneerson’s teachings.

Given that Schneerson heavily promoted the construction of a Third Temple during his lifetime and frequently received Third Temple models from devotees as offerings and gifts, this exchange has contributed to speculation that Netanyahu supports the same vein of religious messianism and vision propounded by Temple Activists.

However, leaked audio of a private meeting between Netanyahu and other Likud Party members provided evidence that Netanyahu does not personally approve of constructing a Third Temple, but turns a blind eye to those that do within his ruling coalition and among his donors purely out of political expediency. In that leaked audio, recorded in 2015, the prime minister stated that if Israel wanted to destroy Al-Aqsa “it would not require a great effort… but it goes against everything we stand for.”

Yet, in the years since that meeting took place, the prime minister has made some moves that have suggested that he may no longer think that destroying Al-Aqsa is “against everything we stand for,” especially given that Temple Activism is much more mainstream now than it was in 2015. Such claims of possession and right have increased following the beginning of the Trump administration in the United States, which — as the next installment of this series will show — also contains numerous figures who are committed to building a Third Temple on the Temple Mount, albeit for different reasons.

Netanyahu | Yehuda Glick

Netanyahu poses with Yehuda Glick, who is holding his Temple Activist “guide book” to the Temple Mount

During his speech last May at the dedication of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem — a political move heralded by numerous Temple Activists and Netanyahu himself as having “fulfilled prophecies” related to the Third Temple — Netanyahu made numerous references to the Temple and the Temple Mount and linked Israeli sovereignty over the Temple Mount to the presence of a physical temple.

According to Miko Peled, Netanyahu’s recent ministerial appointments following Israel’s recent elections in April reveal his private support for Temple Activism. Peled told MintPress:

Recently, Netanyahu brought two new members into his cabinet — Bezalel Smotrich and Rafi Peretz. They are from the heart of the settler, religious Zionist, messianic, Temple movement. They are clear about their political goals and are not shy about stating their goals.

They talk about giving the “Arabs of Israel,” as they call the Palestinians, three options: surrender and live without rights in a Jewish state, leave, or die. They make no secret of their desire to build a temple in place of Al-Aqsa. Netanyahu brought them in only because he agrees with them, shares their vision, but cannot express it as they do for fear of losing his international standing as a ‘statesman.’”

While Netanyahu may share their vision, as Peled asserted, other political moves he has made since the April elections suggest that he is likely not ready to enact such a vision, at least in regard to the Temple Mount. For instance, while he did include Smotrich in his cabinet, Netanyahu denied the controversial politician the ministerial positions he had desired, either Defense Minister or Justice Minister, precisely because of Smotrich’s comments about and stances regarding the Temple Mount.

Mainstreaming the apocalypse

As Yehuda Etzion had hoped back in 1985, writing from his prison cell after his failed effort to destroy Al-Aqsa, the “new force that grows very slowly, moving its educational and social activity into a new leadership” in the Israeli political establishment has now clearly manifested. Thanks to the efforts of Etzion and other Temple Activists like Yisrael Ariel and Yehuda Glick, the Temple Activist movement has become more mainstream within Israeli culture and politics than ever before, largely owing to the movement’s huge success since 2014 in rebranding itself as a “civil rights” movement, despite its origins steeped in religious extremism and terrorism.

In Part I of this series, the urgency with which the Israeli political establishment and Temple Activists are pursuing their agenda targeting Al-Aqsa and the Temple Mount was detailed, revealing – as Ramzy Baroud described it – that support for the Third Temple within Israeli society is now “greater than at any time in the past.”

Yet, as the next installment of this series will show, none of this would be possible without strong support from the United States government, where powerful politicians and individuals – particularly within the Trump administration – share the vision of the Temple Activists, although many of them, being Christian Zionists, do so for radically different reasons. The combination of strong support for using political force as a driver of eschatology — among certain groups, whether of Christians or Jews — has increasingly become a common denominator between U.S. and Israeli politics in recent years, one that has colored the foreign policy of both countries.

However, far from a benign influence, the end-times prophecies that are motivating these influential individuals are stocked with future events that portend untold suffering, mass loss of life and cataclysmic wars. Given that both Christians and Jews that favor this interpretation of the end-times believe that active steps must be taken to usher in these apocalyptic scenarios by those with the capacity to do so — e.g., politicians, political donors and so on — it makes understanding this often overlooked aspect lurking behind current Israeli and U.S. foreign policy both a critical and urgent task.

Whitney Webb is a MintPress News journalist based in Chile. She has contributed to several independent media outlets including Global Research, EcoWatch, the Ron Paul Institute and 21st Century Wire, among others. She has made several radio and television appearances and is the 2019 winner of the Serena Shim Award for Uncompromised Integrity in Journalism.

July 3, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Ethiopian Jews clash with Israel police over shooting

MEMO | July 3, 2019

Ethiopian-Israeli Solomon Tekah, shot dead by an off-duty policeman on 27 June, 2019

At least 47 police officers were injured and 60 people were arrested following protests across Israel after a police officer shot and killed an unarmed Ethiopian teen, Israeli authorities said Tuesday, reports Anadolu Agency.

Nineteen-year-old Solomon Tekah, a black Ethiopian Jew, was killed Sunday night when the off-duty officer fired at him in the Kiryat Haim neighborhood of Haifa. The incident triggered violent protests.

Protestors gathered in various cities and police intervened at times.

Protestors in the capital, Tel Aviv, the center of the demonstrations, blocked one of the main roads near Azrieli Tower, setting fire to the cars of drivers who wanted to pass through.

A kilometers-long traffic queue emerged in the capital following the protests.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on the protestors to stop closing down roads and said he was saddened by Tekah’s death.

More than 140,000 Ethiopian Jews live in Israel. Between 1984 and 1991, some 80,000 Ethiopian Jews migrated to the country. Ethiopians – also called Falas – who lived isolated for years and were only recognized by Israeli religious authorities after a long while.

In previous years, Ethiopian Jews held demonstrations protesting against the racism and discrimination they allegedly faced in Israel. According to Israeli media outlets, 11 Ethiopians have died since 1997 during clashes with the police.


Israel Police close case against cop who killed mentally ill Ethiopian man

July 3, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture | , | 1 Comment

Trump Admin Dangles $50Bn Bribe for Palestinian Surrender

By Finian Cunningham | Strategic Culture Foundation | July 3, 2019

President Trump’s senior aide on Mideast affairs Jared Kushner tried last week to sell his much-vaunted “deal of the century” for a Palestinian-Israeli peace settlement. The core of it was a purported foreign investment plan worth $50 billion.

The sales pitch made at a conference in Bahrain amounted to a $50Bn bribe dangled at the Palestinians to accept permanent illegal occupation of their ancestral lands in exchange for foreign investment. Kushner rebranded it as the “opportunity of the century”.

He claimed that political peace depends on a viable economic plan. Others would see that formulation as back-to-front: economic development and prosperity depends on a political solution to decades of injustice against Palestinians.

American diplomacy has been an utter failure for decades with regard to settling this bitter dispute. It would therefore be impossibly naive to expect the Trump administration to succeed. More likely, its blundering and bias will only make this historic problem a whole lot worse.

That’s no doubt why so many regional players decided to give the Bahrain event this week a clunking big miss.

Like his father-in-law in the White House, Kushner comes from a real estate background before Trump appointed him as his top aide on the Palestinian-Israeli issue. For the past two years, Kushner has been working on a “master plan” to end the eight-decade-old conflict. That conflict has been at the center of most other disputes and tensions in the region. Trump has billed his son-in-law’s peace plan as the “deal of the century”.

In Bahrain, the Trump administration gave the first-ever preview of its peace plans. Skeptics of Kushner’s ability to deliver a realistic, workable framework were not to be surprised. The boyish-looking Kushner looked way out of his depth as he presented his vision of business and investment as the supposed key to peace. He invited the audience to “imagine” Palestinian territories in the West Bank and Gaza bustling with enterprise and trade. That entrepreneurial “promised land” would arrive if the Palestinians accepted Kushner’s vision of a $50Bn foreign investor fund.

What that boils down to is Palestinians accepting the present status quo of illegal occupation by Israel and in effect surrendering their historic claims for sovereign statehood. Moreover, the $5oBn in investments that Kushner was swooning about are not existing funds. They are only promises of potential investment, which may never actually be delivered.

Nowhere in the Trump administration’s “deal of the century” is there any attempt to redress historical violations of Palestinian national rights. There is no mention of the right of return of millions of Palestinians displaced by the 1948 war that established the sate of Israel. Nor of returning land annexed during the 1967 war. Illegal occupation is merely a fact on the ground that needs to be officially recognized as Israeli territory, according to the Trump administration. In the same way that Trump earlier this year officially recognized the occupied Syrian Golan Heights as part of Israel.

Kushner’s bias in a supposedly peace mediator role is flagrant. He is Jewish and a family friend of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Kushner’s wife, Ivanka, Trump’s daughter, is a convert to Judaism. Last year, she personally unveiled the controversial new American embassy in Jerusalem, which Trump had promised to Netanyahu on his election in 2016 in recognition of the city as the capital of Israel. That move was seen by Palestinians as a betrayal of their historic claim to East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.

During the past two years, the Trump administration has cut off development aid and diplomatic links with Palestinian authorities. Respected Palestinian negotiators like veteran envoy Hanan Ashrawi have been denied travel visas to the US. The consultation conducted by Kushner with the Palestinian side in formulating his peace plan has been minimal.

During a recent interview in the US, Kushner revealed his colonial-type mindset when he asserted that the “Palestinians were not ready yet for self-government”. In other words, in this supposed mediator’s view, he is saying that there will be no foreseeable state of Palestine. That is, the Palestinians must accept their inferior status as an occupied people while the state of Israel is permitted to continue annexing more and more of their ancestral land. Indeed, Kushner is believed to have personal business investments in the construction of new Israeli settlements in the occupied territories.

It’s no wonder then than his so-called “deal of the century” amounts to a shallow business plan bereft of any deep historical, political issues. Palestinians are expected to shut up and surrender their historic rights for statehood by accepting a quixotic vision of economic wonders descending on them while living under permanent marginalization and deprivation. A UN report last year found that Gaza will no longer be habitable in a few years due to water and power shortages.

The Trump-Kushner proposal is the sort of con job that real estate agents excel at. Everything is reduced to the value of money while prospects are talked up with the most ludicrous glamor. Unscrupulous real estate agents would have the temerity to sell a cardboard box as if it were a penthouse suite. Trump and his son-in-law would seem to be of that same wheeler-dealer ilk.

After two years of bragging about its big Middle East “vision”, what people saw this week was little more than a glossy brochure of hype over historical realities. Indeed, it would seem that the purpose of the hype is to bury the hard historical problems that underly the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The excessive emphasis on billions of dollars of investment by Kushner is an attempt to seduce Palestinians into relinquishing their political and moral rights.

This week, however, while the Trump administration was making its sales pitch in Bahrain, it was notable that there was no Palestinian delegation present. All across the West Bank and Gaza, Palestinians shut their businesses in protest and took to the streets to burn effigies of the “deal of the century”.

Israeli government representatives were also not in attendance. That was only after the White House belatedly pulled their invitations in the weeks before the Bahrain conference took place. No doubt that hasty move by the White House was meant to minimize the embarrassing spectacle of a Palestinian boycott by also not having an official Israeli delegation.

Russia and China also gave the Kushner presentation a miss. Some Arab countries, such as Iraq and Lebanon, did not attend either. Iran, a major regional player and supporter of the Palestinian cause, was not represented. The European Union sent only technical-level officials; EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini was not present.

The glaring absences reflect the lack of international credibility of this White House’s peace efforts for the Middle East. The “deal of the century” is more seen as the “con of the century”.

July 3, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation | , , , | 2 Comments

Majority of voters back Trump’s decision not to strike Iran: Poll

Press TV – July 3, 2019

A new opinion poll shows that a vast majority of American voters oppose a military conflict with Iran and express support for US President Donald Trump’s decision last month not to launch a military strike against the Islamic Republic.

The Harvard CAPS/Harris poll, released to The Hill newspaper on Tuesday, found that 78 percent of voters said they believed Trump’s decision to call off the strike on Iran was the right move.

The survey also found that 57 percent of respondents were against military confrontation with Iran if the US was not directly attacked by the country.

Fifty-five percent of voters said they disapproved of the way the US was handling relations with Iran.

The Harvard CAPS/Harris poll was conducted online among 2,182 registered voters between June 26 and June 29.

An opinion poll found last week that only five percent of Americans wanted the US to declare war on Iran, amid rising tensions between Tehran and Washington.

Tensions have been running high between the two countries since Washington’s decision in May last year to abandon the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and reimpose sanctions on Tehran as part of a “maximum pressure” campaign aimed at forcing it to renegotiate a new deal that addresses its ballistic missile program and regional influence as well.

The US has also sent warships, bombers and additional troops to the region in the wake of suspicious tanker attacks in the Sea of Oman, which it has blamed on Iran without providing evidence.

Tensions between Washington and Tehran hit a new high after Iran shot down a US surveillance drone on June 20 following its violation of Iranian airspace.

The US president said a day later that he had ordered and then reversed a decision to strike Iran after the drone incident, claiming that he had learned 10 minutes before the US strike that 150 Iranians would die as a result.

Tehran has time and again said that it does not seek military confrontations with the United States, yet stands ready to defend its interests in the region.

July 3, 2019 Posted by | Wars for Israel | | 1 Comment

Arak reactor to resume pre-deal activities if EU fails to meet pledges: Rouhani

Press TV – July 3, 2019

President Hassan Rouhani says Iran’s Arak heavy water nuclear reactor — which was agreed to be redesigned under a 2015 nuclear agreement — will resume its previous activities after July 7 if the other signatories to the deal fail to uphold their end of the bargain.

“As of July 7, the Arak reactor would be restored to its former condition, which they (other parties) used to claim was ‘dangerous’ and could produce plutonium” if the other deal partners fail to fully act on their commitments under the accord, Rouhani said at a Wednesday cabinet meeting.

The agreement was initially reached between the P5+1 group of states — the United States, the UK, France, Russia, and China plus Germany — and Iran in Vienna in July 2015. It is officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

Under the JCPOA, Iran agreed to redesign the 40-megawatt research reactor, which is located in the central Iranian Markazi Province, to cut its potential output of plutonium.

Rouhani said Iran’s decision concerning the reactor could only be reversed “if they (the other signatories) act on all of their commitments concerning the facility.”

The fate of the deal has been in doubt since last May, when the US pulled out and reinstated the anti-Iran sanctions that it had lifted under the document.

Bowing to Washington’s pressure, Europe has been throwing only verbal support behind the agreement ever since, refusing to guarantee the Islamic Republic’s business interests in the face of American bans despite being contractually obliged to do so.

The decision concerning the reactor is among the countermeasures, which Iran began this May in reaction to the US’s withdrawal and the other parties’ failure to keep their side of the agreement.

Rouhani further said Iran would, in addition, surpass the limit placed by the nuclear agreement on the level of purity of the uranium it produces when the July 7 deadline set by Tehran for the remaining deal partners expires.

“The level of uranium enrichment will no longer stay at 3.67 percent,” he said. “This commitment [taken under the nuclear deal] will be set aside, and we will enhance [the enrichment level] to whatever amount, which we deem necessary and need.”

‘Fear fire? Don’t start a flame!’

The chief executive also commented on US President Donald Trump’s reaction to Iran’s recent move to exceed the 300-kilogram limit on its low-enriched uranium production as part of its nuclear responses.

Reacting to the nuclear measure, Trump had said Tehran was “playing with fire.”

“If the US is so afraid of the word ‘fire,’ it should not start a flame then,” Rouhani said, reminding, “This fire could only be doused by returning to commitments and United Nations Security Council resolutions.” The JCPOA was ratified in the form of Security Council Resolution 2231 upon conclusion.

‘Worst deal? Why blame Iran then?’

He also referred to Trump’s hostile stance on the JCPOA, which the US president has, on several occasions, called the “worst deal ever.”

If Washington considers the nuclear deal to be a bad one, what was the reason behind its unease at Iran’s suspending its commitments to it? Rouhani asked. Similarly, if the deal can be rated as a good pact and Iran is advised to remain a part of it, “why do the US and Europe [themselves] fail to observe it?” he also questioned.

Rouhani further said Iran’s retaliatory actions were “never emotional” in nature, but meant to preserve the deal by prompting others to honor their obligations.

The countermeasures would be reversed as soon as the other partners begin to observe to their contractual commitments, he added.

Zarif: Europe duties far exceed INSTEX

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who had also joined the meeting, told reporters afterwards that the Europeans have undertaken 11 commitments to the country under the JCPOA.

These include Iran’s oil sales, which the US has been trying to block through the sanctions, secure financial returns from the sales and investment in Iran, as well as facilitation of transport, aviation, and shipping activities involving the country, he noted.

Zarif described the Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges (INSTEX)— which Britain, France, and Germany announced in January to enable non-dollar trade with Iran — as just a prelude to implementation of the 11-fold commitments.

The JCPOA obliges the European partners to prove their commitment to the nuclear deal in action, Zarif said, adding that the Islamic Republic would commit to the agreement in exactly the same way as those countries would.

“If Europe commits to the JCPOA, we will do so, too,” he stated.

The top diplomat also commented on Trump’s “playing with fire” remarks.

“If he (Trump) feels entitled to issue such a reaction, he should first reverse [the US’s] violation of the JCPOA and its withdrawal from it as well as the illegal sanctions that are tantamount to economic terrorism against 82 million Iranians,” Zarif said.

July 3, 2019 Posted by | Wars for Israel | , , | Leave a comment

Internet users beware, GCHQ is trolling you

Press TV – July 3, 2019

Britain’s primary signals intelligence organization, Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), is actively recruiting for what it calls “Covert Online Operators”.

GCHQ recruiters are vague about the role, describing potential applicants as people who are “passionate” about the online world and are dedicated to using it to achieve “real world” results.

The successful applicant is expected to confront what is billed as Britain’s “adversaries” in an online setting with a view to delivering “end-to-end” results. The job description mentions “scoping” as well as working with “behavioural scientists” to achieve “operational objectives”.

Despite going to great lengths to present the job as high-end and sophisticated, nonetheless there are give-aways which reveal the real nature of the work.

Foremost, successful applicants only require A-levels or a university degree in any subject and then only at 2:2 level. The relatively low-level entry threshold is in stark contrast to the stringent entry requirements for mainstream national security-related jobs which typically require high level academic achievements.

The job description has led British political analysts to speculate on whether GCHQ is looking to employ trolls or social media disruptors whose job it is to identify and harass critics and opponents of British government policy online.

One such analyst is former British diplomat and ex-ambassador to Uzbekistan turned whistleblower, Craig Murray, who has long complained of online harassment at the hands of alleged British government trolls.

According to Murray the British government employs “a very large number” of people to shape the online political narrative in a manner consistent with British government positions and interests.

GCHQ’s large-scale recruitment of online trolls runs the risk of undermining the UK’s position in three important respects. Foremost, it undermines the myth of GCHQ as a cutting edge signals intelligence and cyber warfare organisation. By recruiting trolls, GCHQ is effectively admitting to online harassment and other low-level activities.

By implicitly admitting to deploying an army of trolls, the British government undermines its claims of strong commitment to media freedom and integrity on the world stage.

As critics of the British government have pointed out, if the establishment uses industrial-level trolling to silence dissidents and critics at home, it leaves little to the imagination as what it is capable of doing overseas to shape the debate in favour of Britain’s ruling elites.

To reinforce the message of cyber victimization, the British government set up the National Cyber Security Centre in 2016 ostensibly to combat cyber-based threats.

Despite the fact the UK likes to paint itself as a victim of cyber aggression, by most credible accounts Britain is more engaged in cyber offence than defence. Back in September it was reported that the Ministry of Defence and GCHQ are setting up a £250 million joint cyber warfare centre to take the fight to Britain’s adversaries.

Britain employs thousands of skilled personnel in cyber offensive roles and the government readily admits to a £1.9 billion national cyber security strategy.

July 3, 2019 Posted by | Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance | , | Leave a comment