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This is what gloating looks like… NY Times distorts war-torn Syria

A woman and two children walk past debris in the northern Syrian city of Raqa, the former Syrian capital of the Islamic State group, on August 21, 2019. © AFP / Delil SOULEIMAN
By Finian Cunningham | RT | August 22, 2019

A supposed survey of war-torn Syria by America’s so-called “newspaper of record” was not merely shoddy journalism; it was a cynical attempt to rewrite the history of the eight-year war.

The meandering report of more than 2,700 words was headlined: “What ‘Victory’ Looks Like: A Journey Through Shattered Syria.” It would have been more accurate to have used the title, “What Gloating Looks Like.

Even the sly way the word ‘victory’ is put in quotation marks indicates, from the outset, the insidious purpose of the article. To pour scorn on how Syria and its people have in actual fact defeated a foreign-sponsored criminal war for regime change. The regime-change plot goes back to at least 2005 as this old CNN interview clumsily admits.

With mawkish words, the New York Times reporters effect to lament the rubble and grief among the Syrian population. But all the while, the implication conveyed is that President Bashar Assad “presided over the destruction.”

It would be easy to dismiss the article for the ropey, agenda-led “journalism” that it is. But since journalism is reputed to be the “first draft” of writing history, it is therefore important that the distortion presented by the NY Times is repudiated for the outright falsification that it is.

We can’t go into every erroneous, obnoxious detail. And readers would be advised to go to alternative reports by independent journalists like Eva Bartlett and Vanessa Beeley for accurate accounts of how Syrians are dealing with the aftermath of war and what the people actually think about who caused their war-torn fate.

But suffice to say that three salient distortions or omissions can be cited to condemn the NY Times as a purveyor of propaganda. First is the staggering assertion that Syria’s lunar landscape of destruction was brought about by warplanes and artillery deployed by the state’s armed forces.

Secondly, there is not a single mention of US and other NATO states carrying out – and continuing to carry out – air strikes on Syrian infrastructure for the past five years, which have resulted in thousands of civilian deaths. Probably the most infamous episode was the American obliteration of the city of Raqqa two years ago during which an estimated 1,600 people, including women and children, were buried under rubble from indiscriminate bombing.

The NY Times would have us believe that Assad callously and gratuitously inflicted a pyrrhic victory on his people, instead of telling readers that the country was targeted covertly for regime change by the US, its NATO allies, and regional partners.

A third astounding distortion is the apparent absence of terror groups in Syria’s war. Not once is it mentioned that the militants who served as proxies for their foreign sponsors were mostly composed of Al Qaeda-linked terrorists recruited for their barbaric dirty work from all over the world and infiltrated into Syria by NATO operatives. Former urban areas like eastern Aleppo and Douma held siege under a reign of terror are referred to as “rebel-held” districts. The liberation of those hell-holes by Syrian government forces, supported by Russian airpower, is not reported as “liberation” but as something sinister, in complete disregard for how the Syrian people relate the events to the smarmy NY Times journalists. The latter presume to know better about what really happened, and consequently routinely infer that “regime minders” accompanying them are coercing the civilian interviewees to mouth pro-Assad propaganda.

Imagine the feat of mental gymnastics. In a supposed in-depth survey of war-ravaged Syria, there is not one reference to the army of jihadists belonging to Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL), Nusra Front, Jaish Al Islam, and dozens of other alphabet soup names used to conceal the fact that all were terrorist proxies weaponized by the US and NATO military intelligence.

What we have instead is the NY Times affecting a kind of grief and condescension towards the Syrian people who have been, it is claimed, plunged into misery by their government and its Russian ally. It is inconceivable, according to this narrative, that the Syrian people and their armed forces may have perhaps won the most dramatic, heroic battle in modern times against a behemoth of US-backed enemies whose terror tactics plumbed the depths of depravity.

Rather amusingly, if it weren’t so sickening, was a separate report by the NY Times only the day before which proclaimed that, “ISIS [Islamic State] Is Regaining Strength in Iraq and Syria”.

So, in the previous screed masquerading as a detailed survey of Syria, there is no mention of terror groups. Yet, in the second report the reader is told that the “Islamic State is on the rise again”. How is such a colossal contradiction entertained by the editors?

That other report kicks off with this laughable claim: “Five months after American-backed forces ousted the Islamic State from its last [sic] shard of territory in Syria, the terrorist group is gathering new strength, conducting guerrilla attacks across Iraq and Syria, retooling its financial networks and targeting new recruits at an allied-run tent camp, American and Iraqi military and intelligence officers said.”

Yes, that’s right, we are being told that US forces vanquished Syria’s terrorist tormentors from their “last shard of territory”. But now they are resurgent and “well-equipped” numbering about 18,000 fighters. We might indeed wonder how this change of good fortune happened for the militants. Could it be that powerful foreign sponsors are aiding and abetting once again? The NY Times never hints at such an obvious possibility.

The point of the article seems to be an attempt to undermine President Trump’s drawdown of US troops from Syria. The NY Times and its military intelligence sources are arguing for more American forces to be deployed in Syria and Iraq. “The resurgence [of terrorists] poses a threat to American interests and allies, as the Trump administration draws down American troops in Syria,” the report editorializes.

While the NY Times is cynically exploiting Syria for its own agenda-driven story-telling, the real task of defeating foreign-backed terror groups was continuing this week in Idlib province, northwestern Syria. The Syrian Arab Army captured the town of Khan Sheikhoun from militants affiliated to Hayat Tahrir al Sham (formerly Nusra Front, formerly Al Qaeda.) That is in spite of credible claims of armed support from NATO member Turkey whose military incursion into Syrian territory was pushed back. The US is also allegedly implicated in covertly arming the last redoubt of terror groups in Idlib.

Eight years of hideous war in Syria are coming to an end as Syrian state forces push on to claim every last inch of the nation’s territory from foreign intruders. The plain truth is that the Syrian people won a formidable victory against implacable malign powers, led by the US.

The systematic distortion and lies told by Western corporate-controlled media about Syria continues, even when victory against Washington’s infernal imperialist crimes is staring them in the face.

August 22, 2019 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , | Leave a comment

Russian Blast Points to Danger of New Nuclear Arms Race

By Jeremy Kuzmarov | CounterPunch | August 14, 2019

On Thursday August 8th, an explosion at the Nenoksa Missile test site in northern Russia during testing of a new type of nuclear propelled cruise missile resulted in the death of at least seven people, including scientists and was followed by a spike in radiation in the atmosphere.

Analysts in Washington and Europe are of the belief that the explosion may offer a glimpse of technological weaknesses in Russia’s new arms program.

The deeper concern, however, should be of the perilous consequences of the new Cold War and arms race that is developing between the United States and Russia.

In February, the Trump administration pulled out of the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), an arms control treaty considered to be among the most successful in history by former U.S. ambassador to Russia John Huntsman, which banned land-based ballistic missilescruise missiles, and missile launchers with ranges of 500–1500 kilometers.

The United States accused Russia of violating the treaty, though did not wait for this accusation to be verified by international inspectors.

Russia previously accused the United States of violating the treaty through its adoption of drone warfare, and by stationing missile launchers in Deveselu Romania.

This summer, the Trump administration has given indications that it will not ratify the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), which is set to expire in 2021.

Signed by the Obama administration as part of its “reset policy” with Russia in 2010, the New START treaty limits the number of deployed strategic nuclear warheads to 1,550 and number of deployed and non-deployed inter-continental ballistic missile (ICBM) launchers, submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) launchers, and heavy bombers equipped for nuclear armaments to 800.

On Friday, August 9, The New York Times ran an op-ed piece by columnist Brett Stephens entitled “The U.S. Needs More Nukes,” which mimicked the position of Trump’s National Security Council advisor John Bolton, a serial arms control killer.

Stephens wrote that “the problem with arms control treaties is that the bad guys cheat, the good guys don’t, and the world often finds out too late.” And now Russia, he says, is cheating again, although Stephens does not present any evidence in his article that would confirm this.

According to Stephens, U.S. presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan set the standard for effective government policy by responding to the Soviet Union’s deployment of the SS-20, a medium-range nuclear missile that threatened military installations in Western Europe in the late 1970s by deploying hundreds of intermediate-range Pershing II and cruise missiles to Europe.

Stephens in turn believes that the Trump administration and its successor should respond to Russian and Chinese provocations today through similar arms buildups and deployments.

Besides painting a Manichean view of the world as divided between good and evil, one of the major problems with Stephens’ article is that he fails to provide adequate historical context to validate his main argument.

In the case of Cold War I, the Soviet Union only embarked on a large scale arms buildup after the United States had developed a massive nuclear stockpile of 22,229 warheads (or 10,948 megatons of TNT) by the early 1960s, which dwarfed that of the Soviet Union who felt they had to catch up.

Stephens similarly presents Russia and China as bad actors menacing the United States today, when the United States has at least 15 times more overseas military bases, and spends more on the military than Russia and China combined along with at least six other major countries.

A new mobilization is now urgently needed in favor of arms control which can be modeled on the nuclear freeze movement of the 1980s.

General Lee Butler, commander of U.S. nuclear forces in the 1990s, issued a mea culpa upon his retirement in which he rebuked the “grotesquely destructive war plans” and “terror induced anesthesia which suspended rational thought, made nuclear war thinkable and grossly excessive arsenals possible during the Cold War.” Butler added that “mankind escaped the Cold War without a nuclear holocaust by some combination of diplomatic skill, blind luck and divine intervention, probably the latter in greater proportion.”

Whether the same luck will prevail in the 2nd Cold War is not worth leaving to chance.

Jeremy Kuzmarov is the author of The Russians are Coming, Again: The First Cold War as Tragedy, the Second as Farce (Monthly Review Press, 2018). 

August 14, 2019 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Militarism | , , | Leave a comment

Sneering at “Conspiracy Theories” is a Lazy Substitute for Seeking the Truth

By Thomas L. Knapp – Garrison Center – August 12, 2019

On the morning of August 10, a wealthy sex crimes defendant  was reportedly found dead in his cell at New York’s Metropolitan Correctional Center.

“New York City’s chief medical examiner,” the New York Times reported on August 11, “is confident Jeffrey Epstein died by hanging himself in the jail cell where he was being held without bail on sex-trafficking charges, but is awaiting more information before releasing her determination …”

That same day, the Times published an op-ed by Charlie Warzel complaining that “[e]ven on an internet bursting at the seams with conspiracy theories and hyperpartisanship, Saturday marked a new chapter in our post-truth, ‘choose your own reality’ crisis story.”

After three years of continuously beating the drum for its own  now-discredited conspiracy theory —  that the President of the United States conspired with Vladimir Putin’s regime to rig the 2016 presidential election — the Times doesn’t have much standing to whine about, or sneer at, “conspiracy theories and hyperpartisanship.”

Is Jeffrey Epstein really dead? If so, did he kill himself or was he murdered? If he was murdered, whodunit and why?

Those are legitimate questions. Calling everyone who asks them, or proposes possible answers to them, a “conspiracy theorist” isn’t an argument, it’s intellectual laziness.

Yes, some theories fit the available evidence better than others. And yes, some theories just sound crazy. If someone says a UFO beamed Epstein up, or that Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump posed as corrections officers and personally strangled him, I suggest setting those claims aside absent very strong evidence.

But there are plenty of good  reasons to question the “official account.”

Yes, prisoners have committed suicide at federal jails and prisons. But prisoners have also escaped from, and been killed at, such facilities. In fact, notorious Boston gangster Whitey Bulger was murdered in a federal prison just last year.

Given Epstein’s wealth and power, the wealth and power of persons accused of serious crimes in recently unsealed court documents, the claim of one of his prosecutors that Epstein “belonged to” the US intelligence community, the well-established inability of the federal government to secure its facilities or prevent criminal activity inside those facilities (including the corruption of its own personnel), the equally well-established unreliability of claims made by government agencies and officials in general, and the already flowing stream of admissions that the Metropolitan Correctional Center’s procedures weren’t followed where Jeffrey Epstein was concerned, the question is not why “conspiracy theories” are circulating — it’s why on earth they WOULDN’T be.

No, I’m not saying that Epstein is alive and living it up in “witness protection,” or that he was murdered by a hit team on behalf of one of his “Lolita Express” cronies. I just don’t know. Neither, probably, do you. Nor do those screaming “conspiracy theory!” at every musing contrary to the suicide theory.

Maybe we’ll find out the truth someday. Maybe we won’t. Pretending we already have, and shouting down those who suggest we haven’t, isn’t a method of seeking knowledge. It’s a method of avoiding knowledge.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org).

August 12, 2019 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , | 1 Comment

The War on White Supremacist Terror

By CJ Hopkins | Consent Factory | August 8, 2019

If you enjoyed the global corporatocracy’s original War on Islamicist Terror, you’re going to love their latest spinoff, The War on White Supremacist Terror. It’s basically just like the old War on Terror, except that this time the bad guys are all white supremacists, and Donald Trump is Osama bin Laden … unless Putin is Osama bin Laden. OK, I’m not quite sure who’s Osama bin Laden. Whatever. The point is, the Terrorists are coming!

Yes, that’s right, some racist psycho murdered a bunch of people in Texas, so it’s time to “take the gloves off” again, pass some new kind of Patriot Act, further curtail our civil liberties, and generally whip the public up into a mass hysteria over “white supremacist terrorism.”

The New York Times Editorial Board is already hard at work on that front. In a lengthy op-ed that ran last Sunday, “We Have a White Nationalist Terrorist Problem,” the Board proposes that we would all be safer if the government — but presumably not the current government — could arbitrarily deem people “terrorists,” or “potential terrorists,” or “terrorist sympathizers,” regardless of whether they have any connection to any actual terrorist groups, and … well, here’s what the Editorial Board has in mind.

“The resources of the American government and its international allies would mobilize without delay. The awesome power of the state would work tirelessly to deny future terrorists access to weaponry, money and forums to spread their ideology. The movement would be infiltrated by spies and informants. Its financiers would face sanctions. Places of congregation would be surveilled. Those who gave aid or comfort to terrorists would be prosecuted.”

The Board didn’t mention the offshore gulags, wars of aggression, assassinations, torture, mass surveillance of virtually everyone, and other such features of the original War on Terror, but presumably all that kind of stuff would be included in “the awesome power of the state” that the Board would like the U.S. government to “mobilize without delay.”

And the mandarins of The New York Times were just getting started with the terrorism hysteria. The Tuesday edition was brimming with references to “white supremacy” and “domestic terrorism.” Here are some of the front page headlines … “Trump is a White Supremacist Who Inspires Terrorism.” “White Terrorism Shows Parallels to Islamic State.” “The Nihilist in Chief: how our president and our mass shooters are connected to the same dark psychic forces.” “I Spent 25 Years Fighting Jihadis. White Supremacists Aren’t So Different.” “Trump, Tax Cuts, and Terrorism.“ And so on.

The Times was hardly alone, of course. In the wake of the El Paso and Dayton shootings, the corporate media went into overdrive, pumping out “white supremacist terrorism” mass hysteria around the clock. The Guardian took a break from smearing Jeremy Corbyn as an anti-Semite to proclaim that El Paso was “Trump-inspired Terrorism.” The Sydney Morning Herald declared that the U.S. is now officially in the throes of a “white nationalist terrorism crisis.The Atlantic likened Trump to Anwar al-Awlaki, and assured us that “the worst is yet to come!“ Liberal journalists and politicians rushed onto Twitter to inform their followers that a global conspiracy of white supremacist terrorists “emboldened” or “inspired” by Donald Trump (who, remember, is a Russian secret agent) is threatening the very fabric of democracy, so it’s time to take some extraordinary measures!

Never mind that it turns out that two of the three “white supremacist terrorist” mass murderers in question (i.e., the Gilroy, El Paso, and Dayton shooters) do not appear to have been white supremacists, and that none of them were linked to any terrorist groups. We’re living in the Age of Non-Terrorist Terrorism, in which anyone can be deemed a “terrorist,” or a “suddenly self-radicalized terrorist,” regardless of whether they have any actual connection to organized terrorism.

Terrorism isn’t what used to be. Back in the day (i.e, the 1970s), there were terrorist groups like the PFLP, ANO, BSO, IRA, RAF, FARC, the Weather Underground, and so on … in other words, actual terrorist groups, committing acts of actual terrorism. More recently, there was al Qaeda and ISIS. Nowadays, however, more or less any attention-seeking sociopath with a death wish and a knock-off AR-15 (or moron with a bunch of non-exploding pipe bombs) can be deemed a bona fide “domestic terrorist,” as long as it serves the global capitalist ruling classes’ official narrative.

The official narrative of the moment is Democracy versus The Putin-Nazis (also known as The War on Populism), which I’ve been covering in these columns, satirically and more seriously, for the better part of the last three years. According to this official narrative, “democracy is under attack” by a conspiracy of Russians and neo-Nazis that magically materialized out of thin air during the Summer of 2016, right around the time Trump won the nomination. OK, the Russia part kind of sputtered out recently, so the global capitalist ruling classes and their mouthpieces in the corporate media are now going full-bore on the fascism hysteria. They’ve been doing this relentlessly since Trump won the election, alternating between the Russia hysteria and the fascism hysteria from week to week, day to day, sometimes hour to hour, depending on which one is “hot” at the moment.

These recent mass shootings have provided them with a golden opportunity, not just to flog the fascism hysteria once again, but to fold it into the terrorism hysteria which Americans have been indoctrinated with since September 11, 2001 (the objective of which indoctrination being to establish in the American psyche “the Terrorist” as the new official enemy, replacing the “Communist” official enemy that had filled this role throughout the Cold War). If you think the original War on Terror was just about oil or geopolitical hegemony, check out “leftist” political Twitter’s response to the El Paso and Dayton shootings. You’ll find, not just hysterical liberals, but “leftists” and even so-called “anarchists,” shrieking about “white supremacist terrorism.” It was the number one U.S. hashtag on Monday.

No, the original War on Terror (whatever else it was) was probably the most effective fascist psy-op in the history of fascist psy-ops. Fifteen years of relentless exposure to manufactured “terrorism” hysteria has conditioned most Americans (and most Westerners, generally), upon hearing emotional trigger words like “terrorist” and “terrorism” emanating from the mouths of politicians (or the front page of The New York Times) to immediately switch off their critical thinking, and start demanding that the authorities censor the Internet, suspend the U.S. Constitution, and fill the streets with militarized vehicles and special “anti-terror” forces with assault rifles in the “sling-ready” position. This tweet by Geraldo Rivera captures the authoritarian mindset perfectly:

“In the meantime, there must be active-shooter trained, heavily armed security personnel every place innocents are gathered.”

I’m not quite sure what “in the meantime” means. Perhaps it means until the USA, Western Europe, and the rest of the empire, can be transformed into a happy, hate-free, supranational corporate police state where there is no racism, no fascism, no terrorism, and no one ever says bad things on the Internet.

What a glorious, transhuman world that will be, like a living, breathing Benetton ad, once all the racists, terrorists, and extremists have been eliminated, or heavily medicated, or quarantined and reeducated!

Until then, the War on White Supremacist Terrorism, Domestic Terrorism, Islamicist Terrorism, Russian Terrorism, Iranian Terrorism, anti-Semitic Labour Party Terrorism, and any other type of terrorism, extremism, hate, conspiratorial thinking … oh, and Populism (I almost forgot that one), and every other type of non-conformity to global capitalist ideology, will continue until we achieve final victory! It’s coming … sooner than you probably think.

Damn, here I am, at the end of my essay, and I almost forget to call Trump a racist. He is, of course. He’s a big fat racist. I should have put that right at the top. I’m already in hot water with my fellow leftists for not doing that enough. Oh, and for the record, in case there are any other kinds of Inquisitors reading this, I also renounce Satan and all his works.

August 8, 2019 Posted by | Civil Liberties, False Flag Terrorism, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , | 1 Comment

It Doesn’t Matter At All That Oil is Priced in Dollars #43,656

By Dean Baker | Beat the Press | August 5, 2019

The New York Times ran a piece on China’s devaluation of its currency, which warned that the move could hurt China because commodities like oil, which are priced in dollars, will become more expensive for companies in China. While it is true that the devaluation will make imported goods more expensive, the fact that some are priced in dollars is irrelevant.

Suppose oil was priced in yen. Other things equal, the decision to devalue against the dollar would also mean that Chinese yuan is devalued against the yen. This would lead to the same increase in the price of oil as if oil were priced in dollars. The pricing in dollars is simply a convention, there is special importance to it in international trade.

The piece also raises the prospect that the drop in the value of the yuan, “could spur wealthy Chinese to take their money out of the country.” While it could have this effect, it may also have the opposite effect. Once the yuan has dropped in value the question is whether it is likely to fall further. This drop may lead many investors to believe that a further decline is unlikely, just as if the stock market fell by 20 percent, investors may come to believe that further decline is unlikely and therefore may be anxious to buy into the market.

It is also important to put the drop of the yuan in some context. The devaluation reduced the value of the yuan by less than 1.5 percent against the dollar. This is a large single day movement, but it is not that unusual for currencies to move around by this amount against each other even without government intervention. Also, a 1.5 percent reduction in the value of the yuan will not have large effects on the price in China of oil or other commodities.

August 6, 2019 Posted by | Economics | , | Leave a comment

Don’t Let Mass Shooters and the New York Times Destroy Freedom of Speech

By Thomas L. Knapp | Garrison Center | August 5, 2019

“Online communities like 4chan and 8chan have become hotbeds of white nationalist activity,” wrote the editors of the New York Times  on August 4 in the wake of a mass shooting in El Paso, Texas. Then: “Law enforcement currently offers few answers as to how to contain these communities.”

Wait, what? Is the Times really implying what it looks like they’re implying? Yes.

“Technology companies have a responsibility to de-platform white nationalist propaganda and communities as they did ISIS propaganda,” the editorial continues. “And if the technology companies refuse to step up, law enforcement has a duty to vigilantly monitor and end the anonymity, via search warrants, of those who openly plot attacks in murky forums.”

Translation: The New York Times has announced its flight from the battlefield of ideas. Instead of countering bad ideas with good ideas, they want Big Tech and Big Government to forcibly suppress the ideas they disagree with.

Not so long ago, the Times‘s editors endorsed a very different view:

“One of the Internet’s great strengths is that a single blogger or a small political group can inexpensively create a Web page that is just as accessible to the world as Microsoft’s home page. But this democratic Internet would be in danger if the companies that deliver Internet service changed the rules so that Web sites that pay them money would be easily accessible, while little-guy sites would be harder to access and slower to navigate. Providers could also block access to sites they do not like.”

Now the Times says providers have a “responsibility” to block access to sites the Times doesn’t like. That’s quite a change. And an ugly one.

There are plenty of good reasons, both moral and practical, to oppose the suppression of white nationalist and other “extremist” web platforms.

Free speech is a core moral value for any society that aspires to freedom of any kind and to any degree. We must — MUST — have the right to form our own opinions, and to express those opinions, no matter how ugly others may find those opinions. Without that freedom, no other freedoms can survive.

As a practical matter, “extremists,” like everyone else, will choose to state, promote, and argue for their beliefs. If they can do so in public, those beliefs can be engaged and argued against. If they can’t do so in public, they’ll do so in private, without anyone to convince them (and those they quietly bring into their circles over time) of the error of their ways. The rest of us won’t have a clue what might be in the offing — until the guns come out, that is.

It’s appalling to see the New York Times endorsing an end to the freedom that undergirds its very existence and the prerogatives of every other newspaper and soapbox speaker in America. The only substantive difference between the editors’ position and that of the El Paso shooter, allegedly one Patrick Crusius, is that the shooter did his own dirty work.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org).

August 5, 2019 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , | 1 Comment

American Pravda: John McCain, Jeffrey Epstein, and Pizzagate

Our Reigning Political Puppets, Jerked by Invisible Strings

By Ron Unz • Unz Review • July 29, 2019

The death of Sen. John McCain last August revealed some important truths about the nature of our establishment media.

McCain’s family had released word of his incurable brain cancer many months earlier and his passing at age 84 was long expected, so media outlets great and small had possessed all the time necessary for producing and polishing the packages they eventually published, and that was readily apparent from the voluminous nature of the tributes that they ran. The New York Times, still our national newspaper of record, allocated more than three full pages of its printed edition to the primary obituary, and this was supplemented by a considerable number of other articles and sidebars. I cannot recall any political figure other than an American president whose passing had ever received such an enormous wealth of coverage, and perhaps even some former residents of the Oval Office might have fallen short of that standard. Although I certainly didn’t bother reading all of the tens of thousands of words in the Times or my other newspapers, the coverage of McCain’s life and career seemed exceptionally laudatory across the mainstream media, liberal and conservative alike, with scarcely a negative word appearing anywhere outside the political fringe.

On the face of it, such undiluted political love for McCain might seem a bit odd to those who have followed his activities over the last couple of decades. After all, the Times and most of the other leading lights of our media firmament are purportedly liberal and claim to have become vehement critics of our disastrous Iraq War and other military adventures, let alone the calamitous possibility of an attack upon Iran. Meanwhile, McCain was universally regarded as the leading figure in America’s “War Party,” eagerly supporting all prospective and retrospective military endeavors with gleeful fury, and even making his chant of “Bomb, Bomb, Bomb Iran” the most widely remembered detail of his unsuccessful 2008 presidential campaign. So either our major media outlets somehow overlooked such striking differences on an absolutely central issue, or perhaps their true positions on certain matters are not exactly what they seem to be, and merely constitute elements of a Kabuki-performance aimed at deceiving their more naive readers.

Even more remarkable were the discordant facts airbrushed out of McCain’s history.

As the winner of the Pulitzer Prize and two George Polk awards, the late Sydney Schanberg was widely regarded as one of the greatest American war correspondents of the twentieth century. His exploits during our ill-fated Indo-Chinese War had become the basis of the Oscar-winning film The Killing Fields, which probably established him as the most famous journalist in America after Woodward and Bernstein of Watergate fame, and he had also served as a top editor at The New York Times. A decade ago, he published his greatest expose, providing a mountain of evidence that America had deliberately left behind hundreds of POWs in Vietnam and he fingered then-presidential candidate John McCain as the central figure in the later official cover-up of that monstrous betrayal. The Arizona senator had traded on his national reputation as our best-known former POW to bury the story of those abandoned prisoners, permitting America’s political establishment to escape serious embarrassment. As a result, Sen. McCain earned the lush rewards of our generous ruling elites, much like his own father Admiral John S. McCain, Sr., who had led the cover-up of the deliberate 1967 Israeli attack on the U.S.S. Liberty, which killed or wounded over 200 American servicemen.

As publisher of The American Conservative, I ran Schanberg’s remarkable piece as a cover story, and across several websites over the years it has surely been read many hundreds of thousands of times, including a huge spike around the time of McCain’s death. I therefore find it rather difficult to believe that the many journalists investigating McCain’s background might have remained unaware of this material. Yet not a hint of these facts were provided in any of the articles appearing in any remotely prominent media outlets as can be seen by searching for web pages containing “McCain and Schanberg” dated around the time of the Senator’s passing.

Schanberg’s journalistic stature had hardly been forgotten by his former colleagues. Upon his death a couple of years ago, the Times ran a very long and glowing obituary, and a few months later I attended the memorial tribute to his life and career held at the New York Times headquarters building, which drew a couple of hundred prominent journalists mostly from his same generation, including those of the highest rank. Times Publisher Arthur Sulzberger, Jr. gave a speech describing how as a young man he had always so greatly admired Schanberg and had been mortified by the unfortunate circumstances of his departure from the family’s newspaper. Former Executive Editor Joseph Lelyveld recounted the many years he had worked closely with the man he had long considered his closest friend and colleague, someone whom he almost seemed to regard as his older brother. But during the two hours of praise and remembrance scarcely a single word was uttered in public about the gigantic story that had occupied the last two decades of Schanberg’s celebrated career.

This same blanket of media silence also enveloped the very serious accusations regarding McCain’s own Vietnam War record. A few years ago, I drew upon the Times and other fully mainstream sources to strongly suggest that McCain’s stories of his torture as a POW were probably fictional, invented to serve as a cover and an excuse for the very real record of his wartime collaboration with his Communist captors. Indeed, at the time our American media reported his activities as one of the leading propagandists of our North Vietnamese foes, but these facts were later flushed down the memory-hole. McCain’s father was then ranked as one of America’s top military officers, and it seems likely that his personal political intervention ensured that the official narrative of his son’s wartime record was transmuted from traitor to war-hero, thereby allowing the younger McCain to later embark upon his celebrated political career.

The story of the abandoned Vietnam POWs and McCain’s own Communist propaganda broadcasts hardly exhaust the catalog of the major skeletons in the late Senator’s closet. McCain was regularly described by reporters as being remarkably hot-headed and having a violent temper, but the national press left it to the alternative media to investigate the real-life implications of those rather suggestive phrases.

In a September 1, 2008 Counterpunch expose later published online, Alexander Cockburn reported that interviews with two emergency room physicians in Phoenix revealed that around the time that McCain was sucked into the political maelstrom of the Keating Five Scandal, his wife Cindy was admitted to her local hospital suffering from a black eye, facial bruises, and scratches consistent with physical violence, and this same situation occurred two additional times over the next few years. Cockburn also noted several other highly suspicious marital incidents during the years that followed, including the Senator’s wife appearing with a bandaged wrist and her arm in a sling not long after she joined her husband on the 2008 campaign trail, an injury reported by our strangely incurious political journalists as being due to “excessive hand-shaking.” It’s an odd situation when a tiny leftist newsletter can easily uncover facts that so totally eluded the vast resources of our entire national press corps. If there were credible reports that Melania Trump had been repeatedly admitted to local emergency rooms suffering from black eyes and facial bruises, would our corporate media have remained so uninterested in any further investigation?

McCain had first won his Arizona Congressional seat in 1982, not long after he moved into the state, with his campaign bankrolled by his father-in-law’s beer-distributorship fortune, and that inheritance eventually elevated the McCain household into one of the wealthiest in the Senate. But although the Senator spent the next quarter-century in public life, even nearly upsetting George W. Bush for the 2000 Republican presidential nomination, only in late 2008 did I learn from the Times that the Phoenix beer-monopoly in question, then valued at around $200 million, had accrued to a man whose lifelong business partner Kemper Marley had long been deeply linked to organized crime. Indeed, close associates of that latter individual had been convicted by a jury of the car-bomb assassination of a Phoenix investigative crime reporter just a few years before McCain’s sudden triumphal entrance into Arizona politics. Perhaps such guilt-by-association is improper, but would our national press-corps have remained silent if the personal fortune of our current president were only a step or two removed from the car-bomb assassins of a nosy journalist who died while investigating mobsters.

As I gradually became aware of these enormities casually hidden in McCain’s background, my initial reaction was disbelief that someone whose record was so deeply tarnished in so many different ways could ever have reached such a pinnacle of American political power. But as the media continued to avert its eyes from these newly revealed facts, even those disclosed in the pages of the Times itself, I gradually began to consider matters in a different light. Perhaps McCain’s elevation to great American political power was not in spite of the devastating facts littering his personal past, but because of them. As I wrote a few years ago:

Today when we consider the major countries of the world we see that in many cases the official leaders are also the leaders in actuality: Vladimir Putin calls the shots in Russia, Xi Jinping and his top Politburo colleagues do the same in China, and so forth. However, in America and in some other Western countries, this seems to be less and less the case, with top national figures merely being attractive front-men selected for their popular appeal and their political malleability, a development that may eventually have dire consequences for the nations they lead. As an extreme example, a drunken Boris Yeltsin freely allowed the looting of Russia’s entire national wealth by the handful of oligarchs who pulled his strings, and the result was the total impoverishment of the Russian people and a demographic collapse almost unprecedented in modern peacetime history.

An obvious problem with installing puppet rulers is the risk that they will attempt to cut their strings, much like Putin soon outmaneuvered and exiled his oligarch patron Boris Berezovsky. One means of minimizing such risk is to select puppets who are so deeply compromised that they can never break free, knowing that the political self-destruct charges buried deep within their pasts could easily be triggered if they sought independence. I have sometimes joked with my friends that perhaps the best career move for an ambitious young politician would be to secretly commit some monstrous crime and then make sure that the hard evidence of his guilt ended up in the hands of certain powerful people, thereby assuring his rapid political rise.

In physics, when an object deviates from its expected trajectory for inexplicable reasons, we assume that some unknown force has been at work, and tracing the record of such deviations may help to determine the characteristic properties of the latter. Over the years, I’ve increasingly become aware of such strange ideological deviations in public policy, and although some are readily explained, others suggest the existence of hidden forces far beneath the surface of our regular political world. This same situation may have occurred throughout our history, and sometimes the political decisions that so baffled contemporaries eventually came to light decades later.

In The Dark Side of Camelot, famed investigative reporter Seymour Hersh claimed that secret blackmail evidence of JFK’s extra-marital affairs probably played a crucial role in having his administration overrule the unanimous verdict of all top Pentagon advisors and award the largest military procurement contract in U.S. history to General Dynamics instead of Boeing, thereby saving the former company from likely bankruptcy and its major organized-crime shareholders from devastating financial losses. Hersh also suggests that a similar factor likely explains JFK’s last-minute reversal in the choice of his Vice President, a decision that landed Lyndon Johnson on the 1960 ticket and placed him in the White House after Kennedy’s 1963 assassination.

As I recently mentioned, in the 1950s Sen. Estes Kefauver shifted the focus of his Organized Crime Hearings after the Chicago Syndicate confronted him with the photographs of his sexual encounter with two mob-supplied women. A decade later, California Attorney-General Stanley Mosk suffered much the same fate, with the facts remaining hidden for over twenty years.

Similar rumors swirl around events much farther back in history as well, sometimes with enormous consequences. Well-placed contemporary sources have claimed that Samuel Untermyer, a wealthy Jewish lawyer, purchased the secret correspondence between Woodrow Wilson and his longtime mistress, and that the existence of that powerful leverage may have been an important factor behind Wilson’s astonishingly rapid rise from president of Princeton in 1910 to governor of New Jersey in 1911 to president of the United States in 1912. Once in office, Wilson signed the controversial legislation establishing the Federal Reserve system in 1913 and also named Louis Brandeis as the first Jewish member of the U.S. Supreme Court despite the public opposition of nearly our entire legal establishment. Wilson’s swiftly changing views on American involvement in the First World War may also have been influenced by such personal pressures rather than solely determined by his perceptions of the national interest.

Without naming any names, since 2001 it has been difficult to avoid noticing that one of the most zealous and committed supporters of the Neocon party-line on all Middle Eastern foreign policy matters has been a leading Republican senator from one of the most socially-conservative Southern states, a man whose rumored personal inclinations have long circulated on the Internet. The strikingly-sudden reversal of this individual on a major policy question certainly supports these suspicions. There have also been several other such examples involving prominent Republicans.

But consider the far different situation of Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts, who in 1987 became the first member of the Congress to voluntarily admit that he was gay. Not long afterward, a notorious scandal erupted when it was revealed that his own DC townhouse had been used by a former boyfriend as headquarters for a male-prostitution ring. Frank claimed to have had no knowledge of that sordid situation, and his liberal Massachusetts constituents apparently accepted that, since he was resoundingly reelected and went on to serve another 24 years in Congress. But surely if Frank had been a Republican from a socially-conservative district, anyone possessing such evidence would have totally controlled his political survival, and with Frank spending several years as Chairman of the very powerful House Financial Services Committee, the value of such a powerful hold would have been enormous.

This demonstrates the undeniable reality that what constitutes effective blackmail material may vary tremendously across different eras and regions. Today, it is widely accepted that longtime FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover lived his life as a deeply-closeted homosexual and there seem to be serious claims that he also had some black ancestry, with the secret evidence of these facts probably helping to explain why for decades he stubbornly refused to admit the existence of American organized crime or focus his G-men on efforts to uproot it. But in today’s America, he would surely have proudly declared his sexuality and racial ancestry in an New York Times Magazine cover-story, rightly believing that they would have enhanced his political invulnerability on the national stage. There are lurid rumors that the Syndicate possessed secret photos of Hoover wearing a dress and high-heels, but just a few years ago Rep. Mike Honda of San Jose desperately placed his eight-year-old transgendered grand-daughter front-and-center in his unsuccessful attempt to win reelection.

The decades have certainly softened the effectiveness of many forms of blackmail, but pedophilia still ranks as an extremely powerful taboo. There seems to be a great deal of evidence that powerful organizations and individuals have successfully managed to suppress credible accusations of that practice for very long periods of time so long as no group with substantial media influence had chosen to target the offenders for unmasking.

The most obvious example is the Catholic Church, and the failings of its American and international hierarchy in that regard have regularly made the front pages of our leading newspapers. But until the early 2000s and the breakthrough reporting of the Boston Globe as recounted in the Oscar-winning film Spotlight, the Church had routinely fended off such scandals.

Consider also the remarkable case of British television personality Sir Jimmy Savile, one of his country’s most admired celebrities, eventually knighted for his public service. Only shortly after his death at age 84 did the press begin revealing that he had probably molested many hundreds of children during his long career. Accusations by his young victims had stretched back across forty years, but his criminal activities had seemingly been protected by his wealth and celebrity, along with his numerous supporters in the media.

There is also the intriguing example of Dennis Hastert. As the longest serving Republican Speaker of the House in U.S. history, holding office during 1999-2007, Hastert was third in line to the Presidency and even ranked as our nation’s top Republican elected official during some of that period. Based upon my newspaper readings, he had always struck me as a rather bland and ordinary individual, with journalists sometimes even strongly hinting at his mediocrity, so that I occasionally wondered just how someone so unimpressive could have risen to such extremely high national office.

Then a few years ago, he was suddenly thrust back into the headlines, arrested by the FBI and charged with financial crimes relating to what apparently had been his past history of abusing young boys, at least one of whom had committed suicide, with the federal judge who sent him to prison denouncing him as “a serial child molester” at sentencing. Perhaps I’ve led an overly sheltered life, but my impression is that only a tiny sliver of Americans have had a long record of child molestation, and all things being equal, it seems rather unlikely that someone of such a background but who possesses no other great talents or skills would rise to near the absolute top of our political heap. So perhaps not all things were otherwise equal. If some powerful elements possessed the hard evidence that placed a particular elected official under their total control, working very hard to elevate him to Speaker of the House would be a very shrewd investment.

At times the unwillingness of our national media to see major stories in front of their very noses reaches ridiculous extremes. During the summer of 2007, the Internet was ablaze with claims that Sen. John Edwards, a runner-up in the 2004 Democratic presidential primaries, had just fathered a child with his mistress, and those reports were backed by seemingly-credible visual evidence, including photos showing the married senator holding his new-born baby. Yet as the days and even the weeks went by, not a whiff of this salacious scandal ever reached the pages of any of my morning newspapers or the rest of the mainstream media although it was a top conversation topic everywhere else. Eventually, the National Enquirer, a notorious gossip tabloid, scored a journalistic first, receiving a Pulitzer Prize nomination for breaking the story that no other outlet seemed willing to cover. Would our media have similarly averted its eyes from a newborn baby Trump coming from the wrong side of the bed?

Over the years, it became increasingly obvious to me that nearly all elements of our national media were often quite willing to enlist in a “conspiracy of silence” to minimize or entirely ignore stories of tremendous potential interest to their readership and major public importance. I could easily have doubled or tripled the number of such notable examples I provided above without much effort. Moreover, it is quite intriguing that so many of these cases involve the sort of criminal or sexual misbehavior that would be ideally suited for blackmailing powerful individuals who are less likely to be vulnerable to other influences. So perhaps many of the elected officials situated at the top of our democratic system merely reign as political puppets, jerked by invisible strings.

Given my awareness of this remarkable track-record of major media cover-ups, I’m ashamed to admit that I had paid almost no attention to the Jeffrey Epstein case until it exploded across our national headlines earlier this month, suddenly becoming one of the biggest news stories in our country.

For many years, reports about Epstein and his illegal sex-ring had regularly circulated on the fringes of the Internet, with agitated commenters citing the case as proof of the dark and malevolent forces that secretly controlled our corrupted political system. But I almost entirely ignored these discussions, and I’m not sure that I ever once clicked on a single link.

Probably one reason I paid so little attention to the topic was the exceptionally lurid nature of the claims being made. Epstein was supposedly an enormously wealthy Wall Street financier of rather mysterious personal background and source of funds, who owned a private island and an immense New York City mansion, both regularly stocked with harems of underage girls provided for sexual purposes. He allegedly hobnobbed on a regular basis with Bill Clinton, Prince Andrew, Harvard’s Alan Dershowitz, and numerous other figures in the international elite, as well as a gaggle of ordinary billionaires, frequently transporting those individuals on his personal jet known as “the Lolita Express” for the role it played in facilitating illegal secret orgies with young girls. When right-wing bloggers on obscure websites claimed that former President Clinton and the British Royals were being sexually serviced by the underage girls of a James Bond super-villain brought to life, I just assumed those accusations were the wildest sort of Internet exaggeration.

Moreover, these angry writers did occasionally let slip that the fiendish target of their wrath had already been charged in a Florida courtroom, eventually pleading guilty to a single sexual offense and receiving a thirteen month jail sentence, mitigated by very generous work-release provisions. This hardly seemed like the sort of judicial punishment that would lend credence to the fantastical accusations against him. If Epstein had already been investigated by law enforcement authorities and given the sort of sentence one might expect for writing a bad check, I found it quite unlikely that he was actually the Goldfinger or Dr. No that deluded Internet activists made him out to be.

Then these same wild, implausible claims previously found only on anonymous comment-threads were suddenly repeated as solid fact on the front pages of the Times and all my other morning newspapers, and the former federal prosecutor who had signed off on Epstein’s legal slap-on-the-wrist was forced to resign from the Trump Cabinet. Epstein’s safe had been found to contain a huge cache of child-pornography and other highly suspicious material, and he was quickly rearrested on charges that could send him to federal prison for decades. Prestigious media outlets described Epstein as the mastermind of a huge sex-trafficking ring, and numerous underage victims began coming forward, telling their stories of how he had molested, raped, and pimped them. The author of a long 2003 Epstein profile that had appeared in Vanity Fair explained that she had personally spoken to some of his victims and included their highly-credible accounts in her article, but that those portions had been censored and removed by her timorous editors.

As presented by these media outlets, Epstein’s personal rise also seemed rather inexplicable unless he had benefited from some powerful network or similar organization. Lacking any college degree or credentials, he had somehow gotten a job teaching at one of New York City’s most elite prep schools, then quickly jumped to working at a top investment bank, rising to become partner with astonishing speed until he was fired a few years later for illegal activity. Despite such a scanty and doubtful record, he was soon managing money for some of America’s wealthiest individuals, and keeping so much of it for himself that he was regularly described as a billionaire. According to newspaper accounts, his great specialty was “making connections for people.”

Obviously, Epstein was a ruthlessly opportunistic financial hustler. But extremely wealthy individuals must surely be surrounded by great swarms of ruthlessly opportunistic financial hustlers, and why would he have been so much more successful than all those others? Perhaps a clue comes from the offhand remark of Epstein’s now-disgraced prosecutor, saying that he had been told to go very easy on the sex-trafficker because he “belonged to intelligence.” The vague phrasing of that statement raises questions about whether the intelligence service may not have been one controlled by the U.S. government.

Philip Giraldi, a highly-regarded former CIA officer, put things very plainly when he suggested that Epstein had probably been working for the Israeli Mossad, operating “honey traps” to obtain blackmail information on all the wealthy and powerful individuals whom he regularly plied with underage girls. Indeed, longtime Canadian journalist Eric Margolis recounted his early 1990s visit to Epstein’s enormous NYC mansion, in which he had barely crossed the threshold before he was offered an “intimate massage” by one of the many young girls there, presumably in a bedroom well-stocked with hidden cameras.

Given my personal lack of interest in the Epstein case, then or now, perhaps a few of these details may be garbled, but it seems undeniable that he was exactly the sort of remarkable renegade typically faced by Agent 007 of the movies, and the true facts will presumably come out at his trial. Or perhaps not. Whether he lives to see trial is not entirely clear given the considerable number of powerful individuals who might prefer that hidden facts remain hidden, and the Friday newspapers reported that Epstein had been found injured and unconscious in his prison cell.

When one seemingly implausible pedophilia scandal has suddenly jumped from obscure corners of the Internet to the front pages of our leading newspapers, we must naturally begin to wonder whether others might not eventually do the same. And a very likely candidate comes to mind, one that seemed to me far better documented than the vague accusations being thrown about over the last few years against a wealthy financier given a thirteen-month jail sentence in Florida a decade earlier.

I don’t use Social Media myself, but near the end of the 2016 presidential campaign, I gradually began seeing more and more Trump supporters referring to something called “Pizzagate,” a burgeoning sexual scandal that they claimed would bring down Hillary Clinton and many of the top leaders of her party, with the chatter actually increasing after Trump was elected. As near as I could tell, the whole bizarre theory had grown up on the far-right fringe of the Internet, with the utterly fantastical plot having something to do with stolen secret emails, DC pizza parlors, and a ring of pedophiles situated near the top of the Democratic Party. But given all the other strange and unlikely things I’d gradually discovered about our history, it didn’t seem like something I could necessarily dismiss out of hand.

At the beginning of December, a right-wing blogger produced a lengthy exposition of the Pizzagate charges, which finally gave me some understanding of what was actually under discussion, and I soon made arrangements to republish his article. It quickly attracted a great deal of interest, and some websites pointed to it as the best single introduction to the scandal for a general audience.

A couple of weeks later, I republished an additional article by the same writer, describing a long list of previous pedophilia scandals that had occurred in elite American and European political circles. Although many of these seemed to be solidly documented, nearly all of them had received minimal coverage by our mainstream media outlets. And if such political pedophile rings had existed in the relatively recent past, was it so totally implausible that there might be another one simmering beneath the surface of today’s Washington DC?

Those interested in the details of the Pizzagate Hypothesis are advised to read these articles, especially the first one, but I might was well provide a brief summary.

John Podesta had been a longtime fixture in DC political circles, becoming chief of staff to President Bill Clinton in 1998, and afterward remaining one of the most powerful figures in the Democratic Party establishment. While serving as as chairman of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, his apparent carelessness with the password security of his Gmail account allowed it to easily be hacked, and tens of thousands of his personal emails were soon published on WikiLeaks. A swarm of young anti-Clinton activists began scouring this treasure-trove of semi-confidential information, seeking evidence of mundane bribery and corruption, but instead they came across some quite odd exchanges, seemingly written in coded language.

Now use of coded language in a supposedly secure private email account raises all sorts of natural suspicions regarding what might have been under discussion, with the most likely possibilities being illegal drugs or sex. But most of the references didn’t seem to fit the former category, and in our remarkably libertine era, in which political candidates compete for the right to be Grand Marshal at an annual Gay Pride Parade, one of the few sexual activities still discussed only in whispers would seem to be pedophilia, with some of the very strange remarks possibly hinting at this.

The researchers also soon discovered that his brother Tony Podesta, one of the wealthiest and most successful lobbyists in DC, had extremely odd taste in art. Major items of his very extensive personal collection seemed to represent tortured or murdered bodies, and one of his favorite artists was best known for paintings depicting young children being held captive, lying dead, or suffering under severe distress. Such peculiar artwork obviously isn’t illegal, but it might naturally arouse some suspicions. And oddly enough, arch-Democrat Podesta had long been a close personal friend of former Republican Speaker and convicted child-molester Dennis Hastert, welcoming him back into DC society after his release from prison.

Furthermore, some of the rather suspiciously-worded Podesta emails referred to events held at a local DC pizza parlor, greatly favored by the Democratic Party elite, whose owner was the gay former boyfriend of David Brock, a leading Democratic activist. The public Instagram account of that pizza-entrepreneur apparently contained numerous images of young children, sometimes tied or bound, with those images frequently labeled by hashtags using the traditional gay slang for underage sexual targets. Some photos showed the fellow wearing a tee-shirt bearing the statement “I Love Children” in French, and by a very odd coincidence, his possibly assumed name was phonetically identical to that very same French phrase, thus proclaiming to the world that he was “a lover of children.” Closely connected Instagram accounts also included pictures of young children, sometimes shown amid piles of high-value currency, with queries about how much those particular children might be worth. None of this seemed illegal, but surely any reasonable person would regard the material as extremely suspicious.

DC is sometimes described as “Powertown,” being the seat of the individuals who make America’s laws and govern our society, with local political journalists being closely attuned to the relative status of such individuals. And oddly enough, GQ Magazine had ranked that gay pizza parlor owner with a strange focus on young children as being one of the 50 most powerful people in our national capital, placing him far ahead of many Cabinet members, Senators, Congressional Chairmen, Supreme Court justices, and top lobbyists. Was his pizza really that delicious?

These few paragraphs provide merely a sliver of the large quantity of highly-suspicious material surrounding various powerful figures at the apex of the DC political world. A vast cloud of billowing smoke is certainly no proof of any fire, but only a fool would completely ignore it without attempting further investigation.

I usually regard videos as a poor means of imparting serious information, far less effective and meaningful than the simple printed word. But the overwhelming bulk of the evidence supporting the Pizzagate Hypothesis consists of visual images and screen shots, and these are naturally suited to a video presentation.

Some of the best summaries of the Pizzagate case were produced by a young British YouTuber named Tara McCarthy, whose work was published under the name of “Reality Calls,” and her videos were viewed hundreds of thousands of times. Although her channel was eventually banned and her videos purged, copies were later reloaded to other accounts, both on YouTube and BitChute. Some of the evidence she presents seemed rather innocuous or speculative to me and other elements were probably based upon her unfamiliarity with American society and culture. But a great deal of extremely suspicious material remains, and I would suggest that people watch the videos and decide for themselves.

See also instagram video at Unz Review [disturbing]

Around the same time that I first became familiar with the details of the Pizzagate controversy, the topic also started reaching the pages of my morning newspapers, but in an rather strange manner. Political stories began giving a sentence or two to the “Pizzagate hoax,” describing it as a ridiculous right-wing “conspiracy theory” but excluding all relevant details. I had an eerie feeling that some unseen hand had suddenly flipped a switch and caused the entire mainstream media to begin displaying identical signs reading “Pizzagate Is False—Nothing To See There!” in brightly flashing neon. I couldn’t recall any previous example of such a strange media reaction to some obscure controversy on the Internet.

Articles in the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times also suddenly appeared denouncing the entirety of the alternative media—Left, Right, and Libertarian—as “fake news” websites promoting Russian propaganda, while urging that their content be blocked by all patriotic Internet giants such as Facebook, Twitter, and Google. Prior to that moment, I’d never even heard the term “fake news” but suddenly it was ubiquitous across the media, once again almost as if some unseen hand had suddenly flipped a switch.

I naturally began to wonder whether the timing of these two strange developments was entirely coincidental. Perhaps Pizzagate was indeed true and struck so deeply at the core of our hugely corrupted political system that the media efforts to suppress it were approaching the point of hysteria.

Not long afterward, Tara McCarthy’s fine Pizzagate videos were purged from YouTube. This was among the very first instances of video content being banned despite fully conforming to all existing YouTube guidelines, another deeply suspicious development.

I also noticed that mere mention of Pizzagate had become politically lethal. Donald Trump had selected Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, as his National Security Advisor, and Flynn’s son served as the latter’s chief of staff. The younger Flynn happened to Tweet out a couple of links to Pizzagate stories, pointing out that the accusations hadn’t yet been actually investigated let alone disproven, and very soon afterward, he was purged from the Trump transition team, foreshadowing his father’s fall a few weeks later. It seemed astonishing to me that a few simple Tweets about an Internet controversy could have such huge real-life impact near the top of our government.

The media continued its uniform drumbeat of “Pizzagate Has Been Disproven!” but we were never explained how or by whom, and I was not the only individual to notice the hollowness of such denunciations. An award-winning investigative journalist named Ben Swann at a CBS station in Atlanta broadcast a short television segment summarizing the Pizzagate controversy and noting that contrary to widespread media claims, Pizzagate had neither been investigated nor debunked. Swann was almost immediately purged by CBS but a copy of his television segment remains available for viewing on the Internet.

There is an old wartime proverb that enemy flak is always heaviest over the most important target, and the remarkably ferocious wave of attacks and censorship against anyone broaching the subject of Pizzagate seems to raise all sorts of dark suspicions. Indeed, the simultaneous waves of attacks against all alternative media outlets as “Russian propaganda outlets” laid the basis for the continuing regime of Social Media censorship that has become a central aspect of today’s world.

Pizzagate may or may not turn out to be true, but the ongoing Internet crackdown has similarly engulfed topics of a somewhat similar nature but with vastly stronger documentation. Although I don’t use Twitter myself, I encountered the obvious implications of this new censorship policy following McCain’s death last August. The senator had died on a Saturday afternoon, and readership of Sydney Schanberg’s long 2008 expose quickly exploded, with numerous individuals Tweeting out the story and a large fraction of our incoming traffic therefore coming from Twitter. This continued until the following morning, at which point the huge flood of Tweets continued to grow, but all incoming Twitter traffic suddenly and permanently vanished, presumably because “shadow banning” had rendered all such Tweets invisible. My own article on McCain’s very doubtful war record simultaneously suffered the same fate, as did numerous other articles of a controversial nature that we published later that same week.

Perhaps that censorship decision was made by some ignorant young intern at Twitter, casually choosing to ban as “hate speech” or “fake news” a massively-documented 8,400 word expose by one of America’s most distinguished journalists, a Pulitzer-prize winning former top editor at The New York Times.

Or perhaps certain political-puppeteers who had spent decades controlling that late Arizona senator sought to ensure that their political puppet-strings remained invisible even after his death.

Related Reading:

July 29, 2019 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Fake News, Full Spectrum Dominance, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular, Video | , | 3 Comments

Study finds 50-year history of anti-Palestinian bias in mainstream news reporting

CONTEXT matters, and CONTEXT is often missing in news reports about Israel-Palestine
CONTEXT matters, and CONTEXT is often missing in news reports about Israel-Palestine
By Kathryn Shihadah – If Americans Knew – January 19, 2019

A recent media study based on analysis of 50 years of data found that major U.S. newspapers have provided consistently skewed, pro-Israel reporting on Israel-Palestine.

The study, conducted by 416Labs, a Toronto-based consulting and research firm, is the largest of its kind.

Using computer analysis, researchers evaluated the headlines of five influential U.S. newspapers: the Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal from 1967 to 2017.

The study period begins in June 1967, the date when Israel began its military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip – now officially termed the Occupied Palestinian Territories – following its Six Day War against Jordan, Egypt and Syria.

Methodology involved the use of Natural Language Processing (NLP), a type of computer analysis that sifts through large amounts of natural language data and investigates the vocabulary. NLP tabulated the most commonly used words and word pairs, as well as the positive or negative sentiment associated with the headlines.

Using NLP to analyze 100,000 headlines, the study revealed that the coverage favored Israel in the “sheer quantity of stories covered,” by presenting Palestinian-centric stories from a more negative point of view, as well as by grossly under-representing the Palestinian narrative, and by omitting or downplaying “key topics that help to identify the conflict in all its significance.”

Four times more headlines mentioned Israel than Palestine

The Fifty Years of Occupation study reveals a clear media bias first in the quantity of headlines: over the half-century period in question, headlines mentioned Israel 4 times more frequently than Palestine.

The study revealed other discrepancies in coverage of Israel and Palestine/Palestinians as well.

Sentiment

For all 5 newspapers studied, Israel-centric headlines were on average more positive than the Palestinian-centric headlines.

Sentiment analysis measures “the degree to which ideological loyalty colors analysis.”

In order to measure sentiment, the study employed a “dictionary” of words classified as either positive or negative; each headline was scored based on its use of these words.

The report explains that journalistic standards require news stories to be “neutral, objective, and derived from facts,” but the reports on Israel-Palestine “exhibit some form of institutionalized ideological posturing and reflect a slant.” [See graphs below post]

Under-representation of the Palestinian voice

The study also found Palestinians marginalized as sources of news and information.

A simple case in point: The fact-checking organization Pundit Fact examined CNN guests during a segment of the 2014 Israeli incursion into Gaza, Operation Protective Edge. Pundit Fact reported that during this time, 20 Israeli officials were interviewed, compared to only 4 Palestinians, although Palestinians were overwhelmingly victims of the incursion with 2,251 deaths vs. 73 Israeli deaths.

The study’s data reveal what it calls “the privileging of Israeli voices and, invariably, Israeli narratives”: the phrases “Israel Says” and “Says Israel” occurred at a higher frequency than any other bigram (2-word phrase) throughout the 50 years of headlines – in fact, at a rate 250% higher than “Palestinian Says” and similar phrases. This indicates that not only are Israeli perspectives covered more often, but Palestinians rarely have an opportunity to defend or explain their actions.

The report explains the significance of such asymmetry:

This imbalance matters, as official Israeli government policy is effectively made an intrinsic part of the discussion of the conflict, while the views of Palestinians living under occupation are subordinated to the margins.

Sins of omission and de-emphasis

The analysis turned up yet another significant problem with the newspapers’ coverage: failure to report, or to report adequately, on important aspects of the Palestine-Israel conflict.

The study found several critical topics that the 5 newspapers failed to cover adequately, resulting in reader misperceptions.

Peace process?

One misperception revolves around the alleged existence of an ongoing “peace process.”

The study points out the consistent use of bigrams such as “peace talks,” in spite of the fact that since 1993, peace talks have been essentially nonexistent. And,

A hallmark of the conflict has been the perception that there is an ongoing peace process which, from time to time, breaks down, thereby delaying resolution of the conflict…the dispute is effectively portrayed as being one between two equal warring sides, not one where one group is an occupier and the other the occupied.

Occupation

The researchers emphasize the fact that as the occupation of the West Bank (and de facto occupation of Gaza) drags on past 50 years, the brutality of the Israeli occupation is becoming normalized and its illegality forgotten.

They draw this conclusion from their analysis of the unigram “occupation,” which has appeared in headlines less and less frequently, dropping by 85% in Israel-centric headlines, and by 65% in Palestinian-centric headlines over the 50-year period.

Gaza

The blockade of Gaza, and the economic hardships of Gazans under the blockade, were mentioned in Palestine-centric headlines just 30 and 63 times respectively, in the 11 years since the blockade began.

In Covering Gaza: is the mainstream media discourse changing on Palestine-Israel?, Tamara Kharroub of the Arab Center in Washington DC censures mainstream media coverage of the Great Return March – a nonviolent demonstration by Palestinian Gazans for justice and the end of the blockade – for failing to report the names of Gazan civilians killed by Israeli snipers, “in stark contrast to the usual reporting on Israeli victims, in which their pictures, lives, and grieving families are repeatedly shown and discussed.”

… and more

As another example, Palestinian refugees – still waiting to be repatriated according to UN Resolution 242 of 1949 – have been forgotten as a group: the words “Palestine Refugee(s)” in headlines has declined by 93% over the last 50 years, reflecting a decline in concern from media.

The study reveals similar underreporting on topics including the illegality of Israeli settlements and Palestinians’ designation of East Jerusalem as the future capital of the future Palestinian state.

According to Siham Rashid, formerly of the Palestinian Counseling Center, these accumulated flaws characterize the Israel-Palestine issue as

a conflict revolving around security and terrorism, with Israel being the victim…So, for many people, the conflict is understood as a conflict of land and borders between two peoples who have equal claims, not as a conflict between an oppressed and oppressor and colonized and colonizer.

International consensus

As cited by the researchers, Marda Dunsky’s  2008 book, Pens and Swords: How the American Mainstream Media Report the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, analyzed US media over a 4-year period. One of her most significant findings was the lack of coverage of the international consensus on important issues, for example the almost-universal conclusions that Israeli settlements are illegal, and that Palestinian refugees should be allowed to return to their homes.

Greg Shupak’s The Wrong Story: Palestine, Israel, and the Media offers an example from Operation Protective Edge, the Israeli aggression of 2014 into Gaza. He points out that the blockade of Gaza, a key antecedent to the violence, was mentioned only once in the many New York Times editorials on the conflict published just before and during the war.

Shupak’s work shows how NYT “frequently omits important details that would better contextualize the conflict.”

In More Bad News From IsraelGlasgow University researchers Greg Philo and Mike Berry examined British mainstream media coverage of Israel-Palestine. In a study of BBC coverage, the lack of adequate context resulted in

the failure to convey adequately the disparity in the Israeli and Palestinian experience, reflecting the fact that one side is in control and the other lives under occupation…BBC output does not consistently give a full and fair account of the conflict. In some ways the picture is incomplete and, in that sense, misleading.

Alison Weir of If Americans Knew has published extensive studies of American media coverage of Israel-Palestine which reveal “daily reporting [that is] profoundly skewed” and a “pervasive pattern of distortion” in which “[t]he favored population was the Israeli one.”

If Americans Knew has conducted six major studies and one shorter study on coverage of Israel-Palestine news and found that media had reported on Israeli deaths at far greater rates than they reported on Palestinian deaths. The studies also revealed the palpable pro-Israel bias, under-representation of the Palestinian voice and the omission or downplaying of critical topics.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) is a lobbying group that advocates pro-Israel policies to the Congress and Executive Branch of the United States.

Causation?

The Canadian researchers found a “systemic problem in coverage,” but did not study the causation. Nevertheless, they excluded the possibility of “deliberate planned bias,” attributing the biased coverage to “the U.S. media’s affinity to broadly align and support their government’s foreign policy objectives.”

Some other researchers, however, report a wider range of factors, many connected to the pro-Israel lobby in the United States. For example, Alison Weir discovered deep links between US media and Israel (e.g. hereherehere, and here). Mearsheimer and Walt reported on the power of pro-Israel pressure in their book The Israel Lobby; Paul Findley in his book They Dare to Speak Out, and others report a wider range of factors, many connected to the pro-Israel lobby in the United States. In many cases, pressure from pro-Israel groups in the Israel lobby, contributed significantly to the consistent slant in mainstream media.

Conclusion

As the authors point out:

Whether online, television, or print, the mainstream media serves to provide most Americans with their daily news. How the media frames the news and presents it to viewers can profoundly shape their perception of current events.

Yet numerous analysts, across time and region, have established that this media consistently skews the news when it comes to Israel-Palestine. This results in nations and their governments upholding Israeli priorities rather than those of their own people, and perpetuating injustice toward Palestinians.


1-19 chart.png

July 29, 2019 Posted by | Deception, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The New York Times Can’t Even Talk About Publicly Funded Drug Research

By Dean Baker | CEPR | July 16, 2019

Austin Frakt had a peculiar piece in the NYT Upshot section, which told readers, “there is no single, best policy for drug prices.” The piece is peculiar because for some reason Frakt opts not to even consider the policy of direct public funding for research, which would then allow all new drugs to be sold at generic prices.

While there are problems with any system, direct funding, which could be done through various mechanisms, would permanently end the problem of high-priced drugs. With the research costs paid upfront, the price of the drugs would simply cover the manufacturing cost with normal profits. In nearly all cases, this would mean prices would be low, generally less than 10 percent of current prices for patent-protected drugs and in some cases less than 1 percent.

This is also not a far-out idea. It has long been pushed by several prominent economists, most notably Joe Stiglitz. The idea of delinking drug prices from research costs has also been pushed in international forums by China, India, and many other developing countries. In fact, if Trump were pursuing his trade war with China in the interest of working people, instead of the rich, such a shift in funding for drug research could well be an outcome.

In any case, it is bizarre that a piece that purports to be an overview of ways to lower drug prices would not even mention this issue.

July 16, 2019 Posted by | Economics | , , | 1 Comment

Sic Transit Gloria Mueller

Making the Worst Case Appear the Better

By Ray McGovern | Consortium News | July 16, 2019

Friday’s surprising report that Robert Mueller had successfully sought an extra week to prepare for his House testimony on Russiagate (now set for July 24) must have come as scary news to those of his fans who can put two and two together. Over the past few weeks, it has become clearer that each of the two frayed findings of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election has now come apart at the seams.

Saturday’s New York Times reports that “the Democrats said they chose to delay at the request of Mr. Mueller” after a day of negotiations, “as both Democrats and Republicans were deep in preparations for his testimony” earlier scheduled for July 17. The Washington Post, on the other hand, chose not to say who asked for the delay. Rather, it explained the abrupt change in timing with a misleading article entitled, “Mueller, House panels strike deal to delay hearing until July 24, giving lawmakers more time to question him.”

How to Avoid Eating Crow

Friedrich: Told Mueller put up or shut up (Flickr)

As the truth seeps out, there will be plenty of crow to go around. To avoid eating it, the Democrats on the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees, the stenographers who pass for journalists at the Times and Post, and the “Mueller team” will need all the time they can muster to come up with imaginative responses to two recent bombshell revelations from the United States District Court for the District of Columbia.

Perhaps the most damning of the two came last Monday, when it was disclosed that, on July 1, Judge Dabney Friedrich ordered Mueller to stop pretending he had proof that the Russian government was behind the Internet Research Agency’s supposed attempt to interfere via social media in the 2016 election. While the corporate media so far has largely ignored Judge Friedrich’s order, it may well have been enough to cause very cold feet for those attached to the strained Facebook fable. (The IRA social-media “interference” has always been ludicrous on its face, as journalist Gareth Porter established.)

Ten days is not a lot of time to conjure up ways to confront and explain Judge Friedrich’s injection of some unwelcome reality. Since the Democrats, the media, and Mueller himself all have strong incentive to “make the worst case appear the better” (one of the twin charges against Socrates), they need time to regroup and circle the wagons. The more so, since Mueller’s other twin charge — Russian hacking of the DNC — also has been shown, in a separate Court case, to be bereft of credible evidence.

No, the incomplete, redacted, second-hand “forensics” draft that former FBI Director James Comey decided to settle for from the Democratic National Committee-hired CrowdStrike firm does not qualify as credible evidence. Both new developments are likely to pose a strong challenge to Mueller. On the forensics, Mueller decided to settle for what his former colleague Comey decided to settle for from CrowdStrike, which was hired by the DNC despite it’s deeply flawed reputation and well known bias against Russia. In fact, the new facts — emerging, oddly, from the U.S. District Court, pose such a fundamental challenge to Mueller’s findings that no one should be surprised if Mueller’s testimony is postponed again.

Requiem for ‘Interference’

Daniel Lazare’s July 12 Consortium News piece shatters one of the twin prongs in Mueller’s case that “the Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election in sweeping and systematic fashion.” It was the prong dripping with incessant drivel about the Kremlin using social media to help Trump win in 2016.

Mueller led off his Russiagate report, a redacted version of which was published on April 18, with the dubious claim that his investigation had

“… established that Russia interfered in the 2016 election principally through two operations. First, a Russian entity carried out a social media campaign that favored presidential candidate Donald J. Trump and disparaged presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Second, a Russian intelligence service conducted computer-intrusion operations against entities, employees, and volunteers working in the Clinton campaign, and then released stolen documents.”

Judge to Mueller: Put Up or Shut Up

Mueller: Needs more time. (Flickr)

Regarding the social-media accusation, Judge Friederich has now told Mueller, in effect, to put up or shut up. What happened was this: On February 16, 2018 a typically credulous grand jury — the usual kind that cynics say can be persuaded to indict the proverbial ham sandwich — was convinced by Mueller to return 16 indictments of the Internet Research Agency (IRA) and associates in St. Petersburg, giving his all-deliberate-speed investigation some momentum and a much-needed, if short-lived, “big win” in “proving” interference by Russia in the 2016 election. It apparently never occurred to Mueller and the super-smart lawyers around him that the Russians would outsmart them by hiring their own lawyers to show up in U.S. court and seek discovery. Oops.

The Feb. 2018 indictment referred repeatedly to the IRA simply as a “Russian organization.” But in Mueller’s report 14 months later, the “Russian organization” had somehow morphed into “Russia.” The IRA’s lawyers argued, in effect, that Mueller’s ipse-dixit “Russia did it” does not suffice as proof of Russian government involvement. Federal Judge Friedrich agreed and ordered Mueller to cease promoting his evidence-less charge against the IRA; she added that “any future violations of her order will trigger a range of potential sanctions.”

More specifically, at the conclusion of a hearing held under seal on May 28, Judge Friedrich ordered the government “to refrain from making or authorizing any public statement that links the alleged conspiracy in the indictment to the Russian government or its agencies.” The judge ordered further that “any public statement about the allegations in the indictment . . . must make clear that, one, the government is summarizing the allegations in the indictment which remain unproven, and, two, the government does not express an opinion on the defendant’s guilt or innocence or the strength of the evidence in this case.”

Reporting Thursday on Judge Friedrich’s ruling, former CIA and State Department official Larry C. Johnson described it as a “potential game changer,” observing that Mueller “has not offered one piece of solid evidence that the defendants were involved in any way with the government of Russia.” After including a lot of useful background material, Johnson ends by noting:

“Some readers will insist that Mueller and his team have actual intelligence but cannot put that in an indictment. Well boys and girls, here is a simple truth–if you cannot produce evidence that can be presented in court then you do not have a case. There is that part of the Constitution that allows those accused of a crime to confront their accusers.”

IRA Story a ‘Stretch’

Last fall, investigative journalist Gareth Porter dissected and debunked The New York Times’ far-fetched claim that 80,000 Facebook posts by the Internet Research Agency helped swing the election to Donald Trump. What the Times story neglected to say is that the relatively paltry 80,000 posts were engulfed in literally trillions of posts on Facebook over the two-year period in question — before and after the 2016 election.

In testimony to Congress in October 2017, Facebook General Counsel Colin Stretch had cautioned earlier that from 2015 to 2017, “Americans using Facebook were exposed to, or ‘served,’ a total of over 33 trillion stories in their News Feeds.” Shamefully misleading “analysis” by Times reporters Scott Shane and Mark Mazzetti in a 10,000-word article on September 20, 2018 made the case that the IRA’s 80,000 posts helped deliver the presidency to Trump.

Shane and Mazzetti neglected to report the 33 trillion number for needed context, even though the Times’ own coverage of Stretch’s 2017 testimony stated outright: “Facebook cautioned that the Russia-linked posts represented a minuscule amount of content compared with the billions of posts that flow through users’ News Feeds everyday.”

The chances that Americans saw any of these IRA ads—let alone were influenced by them—are infinitismal. Porter and others did the math and found that over the two-year period, the 80,000 Russian-origin Facebook posts represented just 0.0000000024 of total Facebook content in that time. Porter commented that this particular Times contribution to the Russiagate story “should vie in the annals of journalism as one of the most spectacularly misleading uses of statistics of all time.”

And now we know, courtesy of Judge Friederich, that Mueller has never produced proof, beyond his say-so, that the Russian government was responsible for the activities of the IRA — feckless as they were. That they swung the election is clearly a stretch.

The Other Prong: Hacking the DNC

The second of Mueller’s two major accusations of Russian interference, as noted above, charged that “a Russian intelligence service conducted computer-intrusion operations against entities, employees, and volunteers working in the Clinton campaign, and then released stolen documents.” Sadly for Russiagate aficionados, the evidence behind that charge doesn’t hold water either.

CrowdStrike, the controversial cybersecurity firm that the Democratic National Committee chose over the FBI in 2016 to examine its compromised computer servers, never produced an un-redacted or final forensic report for the government because the FBI never required it to, the Justice Department admitted.

The revelation came in a court filing by the government in the pre-trial phase of Roger Stone, a long-time Republican operative who had an unofficial role in the campaign of candidate Donald Trump. Stone has been charged with misleading Congress, obstructing justice and intimidating a witness.

The filing was in response to a motion by Stone’s lawyers asking for “unredacted reports” from CrowdStrike challenging the government to prove that Russia hacked the DNC server. “The government … does not possess the information the defendant seeks,” the DOJ filing says.

Small wonder that Mueller had hoped to escape further questioning. If he does testify on July 24, the committee hearings will be well worth watching.

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. He was a CIA analyst for 27 years and a presidential briefer. In retirement he co-founded Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity. His colleagues and he have been following closely the ins and outs of Russiagate.

July 16, 2019 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | , | 2 Comments

The Incredible Disappearing Country

By Helen Buyniski · July 13, 2019

Americans celebrating Independence Day last week did so amidst levels of domestic discord unprecedented in their lifetimes. With the media establishment openly scoffing not merely at the “founding fathers,” who could stand to be removed from their pedestals once in a while, but at the Declaration of Independence itself and even at the notion of declaring that independence, Americans who never thought of themselves as patriots were nevertheless placed on the defensive. One need not believe in “my country right or wrong” to bristle at the idea that said country shouldn’t exist. But would-be defenders of the American Way are finding themselves increasingly at a loss for words. What does America actually stand for now that the “freedoms” once guaranteed its citizens are rapidly fading into the rearview mirror?

we’re so jaded. except when it comes to war. we like war.

The New York Times led the parade of mainstream outlets sneering at America on its birthday, posting a sarcastic video showing the US’ poor performance against other developed countries on metrics like education and healthcare. But as usual, the Times left out the most important parts — the parts that would implicate it as guilty in the full-on plundering of the American dream. The Fourth Estate — the self-appointed watchdog of the people’s freedoms — was bribed with CIA steaks to lie down while craven opportunists dismantled the country and left a second-rate replica in its place. The Times went one better, actually aiding and abetting the neocon warmongers who lied the US into war — in Iraq, but also in Syria, Libya, and, they hope, Iran. For the Times to complain now that the country, out $6 trillion thanks to the “War on Terror” it enabled and cheered at the top of its lungs, is broke and broken, is hypocritical in the extreme.

Bill of rights, or bill of goods?

Freedom of speech, so important to the national identity it leads the Bill of Rights, has been so vilified in the media that the very notion of “defending free speech” has come to be associated with the extreme Right in establishment reporting. This is no accident, of course — truth is the first casualty of war, and anyone who speaks it has been told in no uncertain terms that they are next on that casualty list. The looming extradition of Julian Assange is a warning to all adversarial journalists and publishers that they are no longer protected by the laws that once enshrined press freedom in the country’s heart, and even those who never set foot in the US can be treated as disposable if they oppose its imperial project. The internet, once a refuge for those silenced by the bought establishment organs, has been quietly scrubbed of those same troublemakers thanks to private corporations doing the government’s dirty work. And the only group more enthusiastic about the police state than the government itself is the clique of Big Tech bandits that receive fat government contracts to enable it.

Private corporations can get away with a lot that governments can’t, even beyond the legal restrictions on the state imposed by the Bill of Rights. Thanks to “free market” orthodoxy, regulation of the private sector is considered borderline criminal, un-American even, allowing companies to do whatever they want — financially, legally and ethically. And Americans have a certain reverence for successful corporations that they have never had for their government. They were livid when they learned their government was spying on their phone calls and emails through the NSA’s StellarWind program, but when it’s Amazon doing the spying through an Alexa “smart” speaker, they not only don’t mind — they’ll pay $100 for the privilege.

“what about for C4? do you have a recipe for C4?”

Increasingly, corporations are the intelligence services. At least a quarter of American intelligence work is done by private contractors, most of whom work for 5 companies. The CIA has run off Amazon servers since 2014, while the DHS is rolling out an ultra-Orwellian new biometric database that will allow agents to cross-reference facial scans, fingerprints, DNA, and even social relationships(!) — using Amazon servers. Amazon is competing with Microsoft to host the entire Defense Department computing infrastructure in a process riddled with conflicts of interest. Even as the #Resistance flings around the word “fascist” with gusto, they never seem to apply it where it fits — to describe a system in which large corporations work hand in hand with an authoritarian state to suppress dissent and perpetuate the (myth of) national greatness.

Nor is the First Amendment the only one to go AWOL when most needed. The Fourth Amendment, protecting Americans against unreasonable search and seizure, was gutted by the PATRIOT Act under the reasoning that if the terrorists truly hate us for our freedoms, it’s best to just be safe and chuck those freedoms altogether. What the post-9/11 police state started, civil asset forfeiture exacerbated, institutionalizing the practice of confiscating the possessions of individuals merely suspected of committing a crime. While the Supreme Court decided earlier this year that the procedure violated the Constitution’s prohibition against excessive fines, police departments have already found a way around that problem — they simply classify the desired property as “evidence,” allowing them to hold it in the station indefinitely and, after four months, sell it.

sure, you can have your car back. come get it.

The right to a speedy and public trial was destroyed for good under the watchful eye of Obama, whose 2011 National Defense Authorization Act allowed indefinite detention of Americans without charge or trial around the world. Someone clearly got a chuckle out of having a president who convinced voters he would close Guantanamo instead take the model global. Meanwhile, overcrowded courts and backlogged public defenders mean the Sixth Amendment is violated as often in practice as in letter, with innocent defendants urged to plead guilty just to get out of jail with a conviction that will follow them the rest of their lives — often not knowing they have any other options, let alone a constitutional right to them. Likewise, protection against excessive fines and bail has been superseded by systematic greed. Predatory courts have learned that offering impoverished defendants alternatives to jail like electronic monitoring can be just as lucrative as civil asset forfeiture, without the bad press — even if the target is eventually found innocent, he still has to pay to have the monitor removed, and if he doesn’t keep up with the payments mandated by the extortionate contract he signed to keep himself out of prison, he ends up there anyway.

Cruel and unusual punishment, meanwhile, has been renamed “enhanced interrogation” and embraced by unreconstructed thugs. Leaked vetting documents from Trump’s cabinet selection process revealed that “opposition to torture” was actually considered a “red flag” among those being considered for administration positions, suggesting the US has learned nothing from the horrors of the Bush years and Abu Ghraib. Or perhaps it has — the US’ “War on Terror” and the torture it enabled have been a terrorist recruiter’s wet dream, quadrupling the number of extremist Salafi Islamic militants since 2001 and ensuring a constant supply of propaganda-ready enemies.

So what’s left?

Americans still have the right to vote and the right to bear arms, but the first is a bad joke and the second we’ve primarily turned against ourselves. Suicides are at an all-time high, part of a phenomenon commentators have termed “deaths of despair” when combined with steep rises in deaths from alcohol and drug abuse, both of which are also at record or near-record highs. The pursuit of happiness has been replaced by the pursuit of oblivion. And given the future spread out before us, it’s not difficult to understand why.

cheer up!

Millennials and Generation Z are confronting an even wider gap than the previous generation between their expectations — the Shining City on a Hill conservatives unironically insist the US is, the example the rest of the world supposedly envies and wants to emulate — and reality. More than ever, Americans coming of age are finding it impossible to square the crippling debt, decaying infrastructure, impossible expenses, and absence of basic services that characterize their own experience with the propaganda they’ve internalized since their first day in school.

Whether they blame themselves for failing to measure up or blame the system that sold them a bill of goods depends on their programming. Americans are taught to think of poverty as punishment for personal shortcomings, a Calvinistic safeguard against socialist sentiment taking root in the working classes, but traps have been set even for those who realize the problem is larger than themselves. Too many fall for simplistic scapegoat-based explanations of the US’ problems: on the Right, immigrants and foreigners are blamed for stealing jobs without so much as a glance for the private equity firms and CEOs who actually shipped those jobs overseas. On the Left, the entire white race is presumed responsible, ensuring a working class that should be united is instead divided along racial lines, reenacting centuries-old oppression.

Even those who have managed to eke out a position of economic comfort are plagued by a nagging awareness that their country is not what it seems, but most are unwilling to peek behind the façade and admit something has gone drastically wrong with the whole American experiment. Instead, they keep their panic in check with the politically amnesiac view that it’s the fault of the current inhabitant of the White House. Orange-Man-Bad and Obama-the-Secret-Muslim are two sides of the same coin: these figureheads, not decades of neoliberal leprosy, are blamed for the country’s misfortunes.

243 years old & not looking a day over 240!

What we once understood as “America” has been packaged off and sold, and not even to the highest bidder — just the best-connected one. In its place has arisen a series of gated communities that require a certain income level for entry. Those who do not meet the restrictions — “You must make this much money to matter” — are relegated to the few dilapidated public services that remain, the leftovers too unappealing to privatize. Flint’s water system, Washington DC’s metro, Stockton’s police force, Puerto Rico’s electrical grid. The middle class that might once have relied on these services has been erased, literally and figuratively — robbed of their assets during the crash of 2008, they have been written off as irredeemable as “middle class” was itself redefined as six-figure incomes. Meanwhile, private companies, unfettered by regulation in Milton Friedman’s free-market wet dream, can do everything the government can’t. The state of Alabama signed a law last month allowing schools and churches to operate private police forces, opening the door to Blackwater (or Xe, or Academi, or whatever bad press has forced it to change its name to now) operating in the US with the full complicity of the government.

The Pentagon is so overrun by contractors like Blackwater doing the jobs the military is no longer capable of doing that it admits it doesn’t know how many of them are lined up at the government trough, but in 2016 three quarters of US forces in Afghanistan were contractors. Which isn’t so strange — the Pentagon doesn’t know (or care) where most of its money goes, because there’s always more where that came from when you’re the world’s reserve currency. America’s once-mighty military-industrial complex — the last heavy industry standing post-NAFTA — has been picked over by predatory monopolies to the point where despite unprecedented levels of military spending, America can no longer compete on the global stage. The F-35 — the most expensive fighter plane ever produced — performs so poorly Washington has to threaten its allies with sanctions to get them to buy it (and presumably stash it in the back of the closet), while Russian and Chinese missile developments have rendered the US’ multibillion dollar aircraft carriers a flotilla of overpriced sitting ducks. Even Big Tech — the last great hope for American capitalism — is quietly migrating to Israel, sucking up subsidies from both US and Israeli governments and laughing all the way to the bank.

All the US can still “make” is deals — Wall Street gets fat on Main Street’s misfortunes. When the mortgage bubble popped in 2008, financiers turned to student debt, packaging and marketing loans as “Student Loan Asset Backed Securities” (SLABS). Over the last decade, as SLABS have become a $200 billion market, the total amount of debt held by American students has more than doubled, surpassing $1.47 trillion. It’s no coincidence that college costs more than twice what it did 20 years ago. Student debt is even more attractive than mortgage debt, because it can’t be forgiven or dismissed through bankruptcy, and its bearers are too young when they sign the papers to fully comprehend that they may never pay it off.

the real Captain America

Colleges have turned students into “investments” with exploitative income-sharing agreements in which the student agrees to give a percentage of their future income to the school after graduation in order to guarantee loan payback, a model uncannily similar to indentured servitude (and, perhaps unsurprisingly, developed by Milton Friedman). Debtors’ prisons are back with a vengeance, too — SWAT teams and US Marshals are arresting people over unpaid student loan debts and predatory court fee systems have widened the pool of potential “criminals” the state can count on as a renewable financial resource. Broke municipalities are so excited when private prison corporations like GEO Group come knocking that they willingly sign agreements pledging to keep the facility a certain percentage full, offering their citizens up on a silver platter to appease their new corporate overlords.

What’s the government to do when there’s no “America” left to sell? How do you define yourself when you’ve sold your ideals, your heavy industry, your technological advancements, your land, and even your citizens? The American dream has always somewhat resembled a fairytale, and that has been part of its persistent attraction. People fleeing war-torn countries or economic wastelands believed they would live happily ever after if they just made it to the United States. But there was once something, however flawed, to back up the fantasy. Now, Americans celebrating their country’s independence are hard-pressed to find any traces of it left. No wonder we’re setting off more fireworks than ever — nothing banishes an existential crisis like a big explosion.

tell that to Syria…

Helen Buyniski is a journalist and photographer based in New York City. Her work has appeared on RT, Global Research, Ghion Journal, Progressive Radio Network, and Veterans Today. Helen has a BA in Journalism from New School University and also studied at Columbia University and New York University. Find more of her work at http://medium.com/@helen.buyniski, or follow her on Twitter @velocirapture23.

July 13, 2019 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Economics | , | 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 year.education

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