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Can We Impeach the FBI Now?

By Peter Van Buren | The American Conservative | December 11, 2019

The release of Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s report, which shows that the Democrats, media, and FBI lied about not interfering in an election, will be a historian’s marker for how a decent nation fooled itself into self-harm. Forget about foreigners influencing our elections; it was us.

The Horowitz Report is being played by the media for its conclusion: that the FBI’s intel op run against the Trump campaign was not politically motivated and thus “legal.” That covers one page of the 476-page document, but because it fits with the Democratic/mainstream media narrative that Trump is a liar, the rest has been ignored. “The rest,” of course, is a detailed description of America’s domestic intelligence apparatus, aided by its overseas intelligence apparatus, and assisted by its Five Eyes allies’ intelligence apparatuses. And the conclusion is that they unleashed a full-spectrum spying campaign against a presidential candidate in order to influence an election, and when that failed, they tried to delegitimize a president.

We learn from the Horowitz Report that it was an Australian diplomat, Alexander Downer, a man with ties to his own nation’s intel services and the Clinton Foundation, who set up a meeting with Trump staffer George Papadopoulos, creating the necessary first bit of info to set the plan in motion. We find the FBI exaggerating, falsifying, and committing wicked sins of omission to buffalo the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) courts into approving electronic surveillance on Team Trump to overtly or inadvertently monitor the communications of Paul Manafort, Michael Cohen, Jared Kushner, Michael Flynn, Jeff Sessions, Steve Bannon, Rick Gates, Trump transition staffers, and likely Trump himself. Trump officials were also monitored by British GCHQ, the information shared with their NSA partners, a piece of all this still not fully public.

We learn that the FBI greedily consumed the Steele Dossier, opposition “research” bought by the Clinton campaign to smear Trump with allegations of sex parties and pee tapes. Most notoriously, the dossier claims he was a Russian plant, a Manchurian Candidate, owned by Kremlin intelligence through a combination of treats (land deals in Moscow) and threats (kompromat over Trump’s evil sexual appetites). The Horowitz Report makes clear the FBI knew the Dossier was bunk, hid that conclusion from the FISA court, and purposefully lied to the FISA court in claiming that the Dossier was backed up by investigative news reports, which themselves were secretly based on the Dossier. The FBI knew Steele had created a classic intel officer’s information loop, secretly becoming his own corroborating source, and gleefully looked the other way because it supported his goals.

Horowitz contradicts media claims that the Dossier was a small part of the case presented to the FISA court. He finds that it was “central and essential.” And it was garbage: “factual assertions relied upon in the first [FISA] application targeting Carter Page were inaccurate, incomplete, or unsupported by appropriate documentation, based upon information the FBI had in its possession at the time the application was filed.” One of Steele’s primary sources, tracked down by FBI, said Steele had misreported several of the most troubling allegations of potential Trump blackmail and campaign collusion.

We find human dangles, what Lisa Page referred to as “our OCONUS lures” (OCONUS is spook-speak for Outside CONtinental US) in the form of a shady Maltese academic, Joseph Mifsud, who himself has deep ties to multiple U.S. intel agencies and the Pentagon, paying Trump staffers for nothing speeches to buy access to them. We find a female FBI undercover agent inserted into social situations with a Trump staffer (pillow talk is always a spy’s best friend). It becomes clear the FBI sought to manufacture a foreign counterintelligence threat as an excuse to unleash its surveillance tools against the Trump campaign. … continue reading

December 12, 2019 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , | Leave a comment

US tests ground-launched ballistic missile that would’ve been banned by INF treaty

RT | December 12, 2019

The Pentagon has conducted a second test of a missile that would have been banned under the INF treaty with Russia, which the US abandoned earlier this year. A ground-based ballistic missile flew for over 500 kilometers.

The conventionally configured test missile was launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on Thursday, the US Department of Defense confirmed in a statement, giving no further details.

“Data collected and lessons learned from this test will inform the Department of Defense’s development of future intermediate-range capabilities,” the statement said.

Thursday’s test follows the cruise missile launch in August, just days after the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty expired due to the unilateral US exit.

Signed in 1987, at the height of the Cold War, the INF banned the US and the Soviet Union – later Russia – from fielding missiles with a range between 500 and 5,000 kilometers (310 and 3,400 miles).

The Trump administration accused Russia of possessing a missile that violated the treaty, something that Moscow has denied. Russian offers for NATO to inspect the allegedly offending missile system were ignored. Meanwhile, President Donald Trump and his advisers further rationalized their exit by calling the INF a “relic” of the Cold War, an “obsolete” treaty that no longer reflected strategic reality, because it did not apply to China or other countries with ballistic missile capabilities.

The new test comes just days after Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov visited Washington and discussed the possible extension of the New START nuclear reduction treaty with Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Moscow has said it was willing to extend the treaty, which expires in February 2021, by five years to allow time for a new deal to be negotiated.

Washington has not signaled any interest in doing either, however. Trump has talked about a potential new nuclear deal that would include Russia, China and other countries, but the US has not offered a specific proposal to that effect.

December 12, 2019 Posted by | Militarism | | 1 Comment

The Most Significant Afghanistan Papers Revelation Is How Difficult They Were To Make Public

By Caitlin Johnstone | December 12, 2019

The Washington Post has published clear, undeniable evidence that US government officials have been lying to the public about the war in Afghanistan, a shocking revelation for anyone who has done no research whatsoever into the history of US interventionism.

In all seriousness it was a very good and newsworthy publication, and those who did the heavy lifting bringing the Afghanistan Papers into public awareness deserve full credit. The frank comments of US military officials plainly stating that from the very beginning this was an unwinnable conflict, initiated in a region nobody understood, without anyone being able to so much as articulate what victory would even look like, make up an extremely important piece of information that is in conflict with everything the public has been told about this war by their government.

But the most significant revelation to come out of this story is not in the Afghanistan Papers themselves.

The most significant Afghanistan Papers revelation comes from The Washington Post‘s account of the extremely difficult time they had extricating these important documents from the talons of government secrecy, as detailed in a separate article titled “How The Post unearthed The Afghanistan Papers“. WaPo explains how the papers were ultimately obtained via Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests which, after they were initially rejected by the US government, needed to be supplemented over three years with two lawsuits.

“The Post’s efforts to obtain the Afghanistan documents also illustrate how difficult it can be for journalists — or any citizen — to pry public information from the government,” WaPo reports. “The purpose of FOIA is to open up federal agencies to public scrutiny. But officials determined to thwart the spirit of the law can drag out requests for years, hoping requesters will eventually give up.”

“In October 2017, The Post sued the inspector general in U.S. District Court in Washington — a step that can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees — to obtain the Flynn interview materials,” WaPo adds.

Now, The Washington Post is a giant, for-profit corporate media outlet which is solely owned by Jeff Bezos, who is currently listed as the wealthiest person on earth. Does anyone reading this have hundreds of thousands of dollars and years of their life to spend battling the US government into complying with its own transparency laws? Are any of the alternative media outlets which consistently oppose US imperialism able to afford many such expenditures? I would guess not.

Is it not disturbing that the American taxpayer has to depend on outlets like The Washington Post, a neocon-packed outlet with an extensive history of promoting US interventionism at every opportunity, to extract these documents from behind the wall of government opacity?

After all, by WaPo’s own admission it both sought and published the Afghanistan Papers in order to take a swing at Donald Trump. According to the Post it went down this path in 2016 initially seeking documents on Michael Flynn, who was then part of the Trump campaign, after receiving a tip that he’d made some juicy statements about the war in Afghanistan to the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR). WaPo then made the decision to publish the papers now rather than waiting for its legal battle for more information to complete because Trump is currently in the midst of negotiating with the Taliban over a potential troop withdrawal.

“The Post is publishing the documents now, instead of waiting for a final ruling, to inform the public while the Trump administration is negotiating with the Taliban and considering whether to withdraw the 13,000 U.S. troops who remain in Afghanistan,” WaPo reports.

It is obviously an inherently good thing that WaPo poured its immense wealth and resources into pursuing and publishing these documents. But would it have done so if those documents hadn’t presented an opportunity to embarrass the Trump administration? What kinds of information does the notoriously war-happy WaPo not spend its wealth and resources pursuing and publishing? Probably a whole lot.

It is a very safe assumption that, because of the immense walls of government opacity that have been built up around the unconscionable things America’s elected and unelected leadership is doing, there are far, far more evil things that are far, far worse than anything revealed in the Afghanistan Papers that we don’t know about, and that we don’t even know we don’t know about. Is it not deeply disturbing that we have to pray that some war-loving, establishment-supporting billionaire media outlet will have a partisan agenda to advance if we want to know about even a tiny sliver of this information?

I mean, it’s not like the Afghanistan Papers revealed anything we didn’t already know. It’s been public knowledge for many years that there was a preexisting agenda to invade Afghanistan well before September 11, it’s been public knowledge that many lies were put in place after the invasion, and it’s been public knowledge for a long time that we’re being lied to about how well the war is going. All these new revelations did was reify and draw attention to what anyone with an ear to the ground already knew: like all other US-led military interventions, we were lied to about Afghanistan. It’s not like the US government was staving off some massive unknown bombshell revelation with its resistance to WaPo’s FOIA requests. Yet it resisted them anyway, just because it was more convenient.

Julian Assange once said “The overwhelming majority of information is classified to protect political security, not national security,” and we see this tacitly confirmed by the US government in its massive backlogs of unanswered FOIA requests, illegitimate refusals, unjustifiable redactions and exploitation of loopholes to retain as much security as possible. As one Twitter follower recently put it, “The FOIA was enacted in 1966 to make legally compulsory the opening of government activities to ‘sunlight’. Fifty-three years later, the government has learned how to neutralize the law and once again hide their misconduct. Classifying everything is one way, requiring an expensive ‘lawsuit’ is another.”

It shouldn’t work this way. People shouldn’t have to count on immoral plutocratic media institutions to get their government to tell them the truth about what’s being done in their name using their tax dollars. A free nation would have privacy for its citizenry and transparency for its government; with the growing increase in surveillance and government secrecy across the entire US-centralized empire, what we’re getting is the exact opposite.

December 12, 2019 Posted by | Full Spectrum Dominance | | 1 Comment

US Weaponizing Space in Bid to Launch Arms Race

By Finian Cunningham | Strategic Culture Foundation | December 12, 2019

While the spats between President Trump and other NATO leaders at the rancorous 70th summit garnered most media attention, barely noticed was the alliance’s announcement to make “space an operational domain”.

The move represents a grave assault on existing treaties forbidding the weaponization of space. The NATO announcement is doubly insidious because it gives the appearance of a multilateral acceptance of US attempts to open up the “final frontier” for militarization. A move which is far from acceptable. In fact, illegal, under international law.

Earlier this year, Donald Trump unveiled a new branch of the US armed forces, Space Command, separate from the Air Force. “Spacecom will defend America’s vital interests in space, the next war-fighting domain, and I think that’s pretty obvious to everybody. It’s all about space,” said Trump at a White House ceremony.

It is the first time that a new branch of the US armed forces has been created since 1947 when US Air Force was created out of the Army. The other existing armed services are the Marine Corps, Navy and Coast Guard. Legislation is currently going through Congress which will authorize the president’s order for setting up the new branch, to be known henceforth as Space Force.

All this is happening with barely any public debate or scrutiny. Even though it represents a dramatic escalation of military dimensions. To the existing domains of land, air and sea the United States under Trump is pushing ahead for weaponization of space. As the “war-fighting” rationale of the president makes clear, the development is explicitly about leveraging new military strike potential.

US weaponization of space has been underway for decades, going back to the “star wars” initiative of the Reagan administration in the 1980s and during the GW Bush presidency in the 2000s. However, Trump is taking the program to a whole new level by implementing a separate dedicated Space Force.

This is in spite of the existing UN-ratified 1967 Outer Space Treaty which prohibits any introduction of weapons, including nuclear weapons, into space.

“States shall not place nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction in orbit or on celestial bodies or station them in outer space in any other manner,” reads the treaty, which provides the basic legal framework for international space law.

Russia and China have been consistently strong advocates for upholding the treaty.

Yet proponents of the US Space Force routinely claim that America is being threatened by Russian and Chinese advances in space military technology. It is not clear on what basis these American claims are made.

Republican Alabama Representative Mike Rogers is quoted by Space News as saying: “We have allowed China and Russia to become our peers, not our near peers and that’s unacceptable.”

But like so many other US claims about Russia and China supposedly threatening American interests, there is little or no evidence presented. The claims rely on ideological prejudice and/or a cynical lobbying service for the military-industrial complex. Going into space will convey billion-dollar contracts to US aerospace corporations.

Indeed, there is a resonance with US claims made in the 1950s and 60s of a “missile gap” which alleged back then that the Soviet Union was outpacing America’s arsenal of strategic nuclear weapons. The putative missile gap was invoked as a pretext for greatly expanding the US arsenal, thereby creating an international arms race, only for the so-called missile gap to be found out years later to be a fiction of American scaremongering. Cynically, that fiction was deliberately propagated to the American public in order to provide a tax-payer-funded pork-barrel production line for the Pentagon and the military-industrial complex.

The same process seems to be underway with Trump’s much-vaunted Space Force.

There is another strategic aspect to this American “weaponization of the heavens”. That is, to force Russia and China into an arms race which Washington calculates would be economically ruinous for Moscow and Beijing. What’s at stake here is a pivotal struggle between Russia and China’s vision of a multipolar world and Washington’s desire to be the globe’s hegemonic uni-power. If the US can break Russia and China economically then it wins this era-defining struggle. Launching an arms race is Washington’s gambit for taking down Russia and China.

The precedent is the arms race in the 1980s under Reagan which brought the Soviet Union to collapse. Because of Washington’s presumed right to print endless amounts of dollars and rack up seemingly limitless national debt, the US is wagering that it will be the last man standing in an arms race with Russia and China.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly said that Russia will not fall into the trap of unleashing an arms race. At a recent meeting in Sochi with his top defense officials, Putin emphasized the imperative need to focus on efficiency in weapon systems. Russia’s latest-generation of hypersonic missiles which apparently can evade any US defense shield – despite the latter costing trillions of dollars to develop – is one example.

Nevertheless, if – and it is a big if – the US manages to develop space weaponry, the pressure will be on Russia and China to respond in kind to counter a whole new threat level. That would mean both nations diverting resources into another realm of weaponry instead of developing their economies.

The US Space Force has to be seen in the wider context of Washington unravelling the entire system of global arms controls. The US withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) treaty in 2002 was followed by its withdrawal from the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty last year. The Trump administration is moving towards scrapping New START in 2021, the third and last nuclear-arms control treaty.

There is an unconscionable effort by US governments over many years to incite a new arms race. Going into outer space is part of that effort. It is a gross violation of international law and the United Nations by the US to open up a new frontier for military dominance. And the US has utilized the 29-nation NATO alliance to rubber-stamp its criminal weaponization of space.

December 12, 2019 Posted by | Economics, Militarism | , , | 1 Comment

Donald Trump and Israel: When Does a ‘Passionate Attachment’ Threaten National Security?

By Philip Giraldi | Strategic Culture Foundation | December 12, 2019

In his Farewell Address, of 1796 America’s first president George Washington famously warned his fellow citizens that “… a passionate attachment of one nation for another produces a variety of evils. Sympathy for the favorite nation, facilitating the illusion of an imaginary common interest in cases where no real common interest exists, and infusing into one the enmities of the other, betrays the former into a participation in the quarrels and wars of the latter without adequate inducement or justification.”

In today’s United States, there is no more “passionate attachment” than that which exists with Israel. The tie that binds is assiduously cultivated by the media and the politically ambitious, so much so that the Jewish state is frequently referred to hyperbolically as America’s best friend and closest ally. But Israel, with its own regional interests driving its policies, is in reality neither a friend nor an ally.

Politicians mired in the past like Nancy Pelosi, Joe Biden and Chuck Schumer can see no light between Israel and the United States. Pelosi has declared astonishingly that “I have said to people when they ask me if this Capitol crumbled to the ground, the one thing that would remain is our commitment to our aid… and I don’t even call it aid… our cooperation with Israel. That’s fundamental to who we are.” Biden has repeatedly denounced any reduction in the ridiculously high level of military assistance given to Israel to convince it to modify its behavior as “bizarre,” while Schumer has identified himself as the Jewish state’s “shomer” or guardian in the US Senate.

Many members of the Democratic Party base are no longer enchanted by Israel and one would like to know what politicians like Biden and Pelosi really think about the Jewish state, but it is unlikely that that will ever be revealed. It is nevertheless clear that the adhesion to Israel by Democrats has been far overshadowed by the constant pandering to the Jewish state that has been the hallmark of the current administration of Donald J. Trump. To be sure, the musical chairs line-up of neo-conservatives that has included John Bolton, Mike Pence and Mike Pompeo has been unstinting in its praise of the malignant Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but it is the president himself who has raised the level of adoration to heights previously not observed coming out of the White House.

Donald Trump has overturned long standing foreign policy positions to favor Israel even more than has been the case hitherto. He withdrew from the nuclear pact with Iran, has moved the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, has recognized Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights, has declared the illegal settlements on the West Bank “not illegal,” has cut off funding to the Palestinians and the United Nations and is sending signals that he will approve further moves by the Jewish state to annex much of the remaining Palestinian territory. Along the way, his Ambassador to Israel David Friedman has been making excuses for Israeli shooting of unarmed demonstrators and the everyday brutality inflicted on the hapless Palestinians.

Worse might even be coming, as Secretary of State Pompeo and Netanyahu have recently been discussing a formal defense pact which would obligate the United States to intervene on the side of Israel if it were to go to war, even if the war were initiated by the Jewish state. As Israel is now reportedly considering the value of a possible pre-emptive nuclear strike on Iran, the stakes could not be higher.

But as bad as all that is, nothing outdoes the speech delivered by Trump in Florida last Saturday in front of the Israeli American Council (IAC) National Summit. IAC is a basically right-wing group funded largely by Las Vegas casino multi-billionaire Sheldon Adelson, who is also a close adviser to the president on the Middle East. Its annual gathering included 4,000 mostly well-heeled Israelis and American Jews who cheered and periodically chanted “four more years!” as the president was speaking.

Trump spoke for 45 minutes, most of which consisted of preening over how much he has done for Israel. But he also discussed Jews in America, saying that “We have to get the people of our country, of this country, to love Israel more, I have to tell you that. We have to do it. We have to get them to love Israel more. Because you have Jewish people that are great people — they don’t love Israel enough.” He also said that his audience should be supporting him and not voting for Elizabeth Warren, whom he called “Pocahontas,” saying “You’re not going to vote for the wealth tax… Let’s take 100 percent of your wealth away.”

There was considerable pushback almost immediately coming from Jewish groups and prominent individuals who saw Trump’s words as classic borderline anti-Semitic tropes. Trump, who often speaks to Jewish audiences in the second person, saying “you” rather than “we,” clearly sees the Jewish attachment to Israel as normal and acceptable, but there is an implicit second message about potential disloyalty to the United States. In August he said that American Jews who vote for Democrats show “either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty.”

And Trump also is not reluctant to link Jews with money, a generally taboo subject that he has raised before, most particularly when he was campaigning and he told an audience of Jewish Republicans that “you’re not going to support me because I don’t want your money. You want to control your politicians, that’s fine.” And, of course, the irony is that everyone who has not been asleep knows very well that the Israel Lobby in the US and Europe is indeed all about money. Money buys access to power.

For someone who has spent much of his life around Jews in the New York business world, Donald Trump is remarkably ignorant of their political culture. To be sure there is a group of oligarch billionaires that includes Adelson, Paul Singer, Ron Lauder and Bernard Marcus who are politically conservative and fund Trump as well as other Republicans. They do so not because Trump is good for the United States but because he is a gift to Israel and can easily be bought or persuaded.

But most Jews, while supporting the existence of Israel, do not exactly see things quite that way and many Jews of a liberal persuasion want to see a secure Israel that will deliver justice for the Palestinians. Plus, Trump’s authoritarianism, denigration, and abrasive style offend many Jews, so the president will not be getting many Jewish votes no matter what he does. His approval rating is 29% among Jewish voters nationwide, according to a Gallup poll while only 17% of Jews voted Republican in 2017. And one would have thought even the narcissistic president might have noticed the large number of Jewish witnesses, “experts” and congressmen who seem to be “out to get him” in the impeachment hearings.

Beyond that, Trump’s constant exaltation of the Israelis and of Jews in general as something like a gift to humanity should offend all other Americans. The president is elected to represent the interests of all Americans, not just a wealthy and powerful ethno-religious minority that is able and willing to give him a great deal of money to run his political campaigns. It is unthinkable that a national politician should mount his bully pulpit to praise interminably any specific ethnic group, and so it should be. It is offensive and completely unacceptable, particularly as in this case it is a favor bought that brings with it grave damage to genuine US interests and could easily lead to a major war in which Americans will die.

Nevertheless, the painful issue of who is loyal to what is genuine, particularly when a dedicated and powerful group affiliated with a foreign country is able to game the system to get what it wants. We are all supposed to be Americans first. In her comment on the Trump speech, conservative pundit Ann Coulter maintained that the president didn’t go far enough in impugning the loyalty of some Jews to Israel, writing, “Could we start slowly by getting them to like America?”

December 12, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , , | 9 Comments

Unprecedented brazenness

By Paul Robinson | IRRUSIANALITY | December 11, 2019

‘Something is rotten with the state of Denmark’, or if not Denmark then certainly the United States of America. It’s the only conclusion one can draw from the way the absolutely normal is nowadays treated as the most extraordinary drama.

On Monday, US President Donald Trump met Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov. It’s about as normal a diplomatic event as one could possibly imagine, but it caused much of the American commentariat to go into a collective meltdown.

Lavrov-Trump-Dec-10

‘Trump welcoming Russia’s top diplomat to the Oval Office is one of his most brazen moves yet,’ declared the Washington Post, which makes you think that Trump really needs to step up his game on the brazenness front. The Post isn’t alone in thinking this way, however. What one might call the ‘liberal’ TV channels leapt on the story too, dragging in some representatives of the American security apparatus to ram home the point (there was a time when liberals regarded the FBI and CIA with suspicion, but such days are apparently long gone).

And so it was that CNN brought on as a guest former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe to ‘explain why the photograph tweeted by President Trump of his meeting with Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov is so extraordinary.’ As McCabe told CNN:

There’s no doubt there’s something deeply odd about the way this president interacts with Russia. We’ve never seen anything like this before. … Russia is our most significant enemy on the world stage. … I don’t think that we’ve ever seen a photograph out of the Oval Office on the lines of the one we saw today.

Meanwhile, MSNBC had its own star witness, former Under Secretary of State Richard Stengel. ‘Why is a head of state meeting with the Russian foreign minister?’ Stengel asked, ‘Vladimir Putin doesn’t meet with Mike Pompeo when he comes to Moscow. So it’s very curious and it’s very strange.’

Actually Rick, dear boy, Putin does meet with Pompeo, as you can see from this photo here. But when did one ever let little details like factual accuracy get in the way of a good line?

putin pompeo

Stengel wasn’t MSNBC’s only witness to Trump’s suspicious behaviour. Former US ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul also put in an appearance. ‘He’s obsessed with the East, like a certain world leader in the 1940s was obsessed with the East. Why is this guy obsessed with meeting with Russians all over the place’, the host asked McFaul. The latter let pass the gratuitous Hitler comparison, and gave his learned response: ‘It’s truly bizarre. I confess I do not have a rational explanation for it,’ said McFaul.

Just in case you think it was only the media, FBI, and the State Department, others were on the ball too. The Trump-Lavrov meeting had Twitter abuzz. Anne Applebaum, for instance, had the following to say.

applebaum

It’s all simply nuts. Trump is Hitler. A former ambassador can’t think of any reason why representatives of two major powers might wish to meet. A former deputy head of the US foreign service thinks that heads of state never meet foreign ministers. And all of them believe that a photograph of the US President and the Russian foreign minister is totally unprecedented and suggestive of something deeply suspicious, though exactly what they can’t quite tell us. Which makes you wonder what they’d all make of this picture.

800px-Lavrov_and_Obama

I don’t know about you, but that looks a lot like Sergei Lavrov and President Obama to me. So, was Obama a Russian agent? Was he secretly selling out US interests to a foreign power? Should we be investigating him as well? It’s all rather suspicious, don’t you think?

I’ll leave the last word to the excellent Fred Weir of the Christian Science Monitor :

It’s pretty clear by now that no normal dialog is going to be possible between Russia and the US. Perhaps ever again. It’s not my job to advise the Russians what to do, but if it were I would suggest they just give it up. Spend your time going to Beijing, Delhi, Ankara, even Berlin and Paris, but give Washington a miss.

It’s the most peculiar damned thing I have ever seen. Even at the lowest depths of the Cold War, the Washington Post would never have run a headline that described a US president meeting a Soviet leader in the Oval Office as “one of his most brazen moves yet.”

Analyzing the official photo of Trump and Lavrov in the Oval Office, the main — disapproving — takeaway the WaPo has to offer here is: “Judging by the expressions on their faces, the conversation does not seem to have been particularly acrimonious.” Geez.

December 12, 2019 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | , | 2 Comments

Page from Iraq playbook: US invokes WMDs to pile ‘maximum pressure’ sanctions on Iran

By Nebojsa Malic | RT | December 11, 2019

With over a year of sanctions failing to force Tehran to bend the knee, Washington is now resorting to creatively invoking “weapons of mass destruction” – the very same pretext the US used for the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

On Wednesday, the US Treasury Department expanded sanctions against Mahan Air, Iran’s largest privately-owned airline, citing a 2005 executive order by then-President George W. Bush targeting “weapons of mass destruction proliferators and their supporters.”

Mind you, nowhere in the sanctions announcement does Treasury say that Mahan actually transported WMDs. Instead, the airline is accused of flying personnel and weapons for Iran’s “terrorist and militant groups” and thereby “directly contributing” to conflicts in Syria and Yemen.

Meanwhile, the US is sending weapons to “moderate” jihadist terrorists in Syria, and arming and refueling Saudi Arabian and allied forces that have been bombing Yemen to the stone age since 2015. This is never mentioned, of course. Nor is anyone allowed to sanction Washington for any of this, as sanctions only go in one direction.

The point of the sanctions is to scare anyone away from doing any business with the blacklisted companies or individuals. Imagine being sued by the US for violating sanctions against “WMD proliferators” over fulfilling a catering contract, selling airplane parts, or providing ticketing services. It may sound nonsensical, but there you have it.

The State Department has basically admitted to deliberately using the WMD classification to make Iranian companies radioactive to potential business partners.

“Our ability to work with partners overseas to deny Iranian shippers access to ports, or prevent transactions, much more diplomatically persuasive when able to identify WMD or missile proliferation as the gravamen of the complaint,” is how Christopher Ford, assistant secretary of state for international security and non-proliferation, explained it to Financial Times.

That the Trump administration is using the WMD gambit against Iran is particularly ironic, given that demonstrably false accusations about WMDs were used by Bush to invade the neighboring Iraq in 2003, setting off a chain of events that claimed tens of thousands of lives and gave birth to Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS). Donald Trump has long been critical of the Iraq War, and specifically the false WMD charges, only to apparently not mind when the same playbook is used against Iran.

What evidence does the US have for Mahan actually proliferating any WMDs? Funny you should ask. US sanctions designations require no pesky evidence, or due process; they are basically imposed and lifted on the sole discretion of Treasury, without any possibility of appeal or redress. That’s a mighty convenient way to bypass the burden of proof.

Officially, the sanctions are all about US solidarity with the “Iranian people,” as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo puts it, and punishing the government in Tehran for funding “terrorism” instead of spending money on social programs. It’s a tempting narrative, to be sure – yet no different from the claims of neoconservative hawks in 2003 that US troops will be greeted in Iraq with flowers, like liberators. Except they were met with improvised explosive devices (IEDs) instead.

Again, it is particularly ironic that all of this is happening on Trump’s watch and with his apparent blessing, even as the neoconservatives and Democrats have joined forces in trying to get him impeached. In Washington, it seems, the Swamp always wins.

December 12, 2019 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , | 4 Comments

The 2019 Atlantic Hurricane Season

By Paul Homewood | Not A Lot Of People Know That | December 11, 2019

The Atlantic hurricane season has now officially ended, so let’s check the numbers.

https://www.aoml.noaa.gov/hrd/tcfaq/E11.html
http://rammb.cira.colostate.edu/products/tc_realtime/season.asp?storm_season=2019

There have been six hurricanes in total, including three major ones, Dorian, Humberto and Lorenzo. Coincidentally both numbers are the same as the average since 1950.

According to NOAA’s Hurricane Research Division, many hurricanes were missed in the earlier decades. Systematic aircraft reconnaissance began in 1944, but this only covered half of the Atlantic basin, until daily satellite monitoring started in 1966.

There has only been one US landfalling hurricane this year, Dorian which clipped Cape Hatteras as a weak Cat 1.

https://www.aoml.noaa.gov/hrd/hurdat/All_U.S._Hurricanes.html

Despite four major hurricanes in the previous two years, the period since 2005 remains notable for its relative lack of major hurricanes.

Globally, 12-month running averages indicate nothing out of the ordinary, either for all hurricanes or major ones:

http://climatlas.com/tropical/

December 11, 2019 Posted by | Science and Pseudo-Science | | Leave a comment

Venezuela Oil Production Continues Slow Recovery

According to state oil company PDVSA, production is again approaching one million barrels per day.

By Ricardo Vaz | Venezuelanalysis | December 11, 2019

Caracas – Venezuela’s oil output increased slightly in November for the second month running.

The monthly report of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) registered Venezuela’s November crude production at 697,000 barrels per day (bpd), as reported by secondary sources, up from 685,000 bpd in October.

State oil company PDVSA’s direct reporting to OPEC showed a bigger increase, from 761,000 to 912,000 bpd. Exports reportedly averaged over one million bpd as the oil giant drained stored crude.

Venezuela’s flagship industry has seen output fall precipitously from 1.911 million and 1.354 million bpd in 2017 and 2018, respectively, following the imposition of crippling US financial sanctions. PDVSA operations have likewise suffered from mismanagement, corruption, brain drain and lack of maintenance.

Before the trend was reversed in October and November, production had steadily plummeted following a US oil embargo imposed in January, which was expanded to a blanket ban on all business with Venezuelan state companies in August.

The August measures additionally authorized secondary sanctions against third party actors, leading several foreign companies to cancel oil shipments, including China’s state oil company CNPC. PDVSA has reportedly resorted to selling a large proportion of its crude output to Russian energy giant Rosneft, which then reroutes it to other destinations.

PDVSA’s modestly rising production levels comes as the firm resumes shipments to Indian customers such as Reliance Industries following a four month hiatus due to US threats. Dealings often involve exchanging crude for fuels or diluents so as to avoid sanctions. According to unnamed Trump officials cited by Bloomberg, the White House has ruled out sanctioning Indian firms at this time.

Analysts agree that recovering oil production is key to Venezuela’s economic recovery, but US Treasury sanctions create significant hurdles for foreign investment.

Reuters has recently reported that government and opposition figures are contemplating allowing private companies in joint ventures with PDVSA to operate oil fields themselves. The move would represent a reversal of a longstanding policy dating back to former President Hugo Chávez’s government which required that PDVSA retain operational control of oil operations. In an attempt to attract foreign investment, the Maduro government has also loosened the requirement that PDVSA hold at least a 60 percent stake in joint ventures, requiring only a majority stake in new dealings.

As part of ongoing talks, government representatives and several minority opposition parties have recently agreed to seek oil-for-food and oil-for-medicine agreements with international partners, but no further details are known at this time.

Edited by Lucas Koerner from Caracas.

December 11, 2019 Posted by | Economics | , , , | 1 Comment

The Fraud of Anti-Semitism Exposed

Raja Krishnamoorthi (L) Fiona Hill (R). Credit: PBS NewsHour/ YouTube
By Philip Giraldi | American Free Press | December 9, 2019

“Newspeak” was the expression coined in George Orwell’s novel 1984 to describe the ambiguous or deliberately misleading use of language to make political propaganda and narrow the “thought options” of those who are on the receiving end. In the context of today’s political discourse, or what passes for the same, it would be interesting to know what George would think of the saturation use of “anti-Semitism” as something like a tactical discussion stopper, employed to end all dispute while also condemning those accused of the crime as somehow outside the pale, monsters who are consigned forever to derision and obscurity.

The Israelis and, to be sure, many diaspora Jews know exactly how the expression has been weaponized. Former Israeli Minister Shulamit Aloni explained how it is done: “Anti-Semitic . . . It’s a trick; we always use it.”

Indeed, a claim of anti-Semitism even crept into the current impeachment inquiry in Washington, where Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.) questioned National Security Council member Fiona Hill about suggestions from “conspiracy theorists” that Hill herself as well as former Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch have been linked to George Soros, and that Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a Ukrainian Jew, might not be completely loyal to the United States.

Krishnamoorthi asked, “Would you say that these different theories, these conspiracy theories targeting you, spun in part by people like [Roger] Stone, as well as fueled by Rudy Giuliani and others, basically have a tinge of anti-Semitism to them, at least?”

Hill answered, “Well, certainly when they involve George Soros, they do.”

Krishnamoorthi, who is seeking a career in politics, understands that pandering to Jewish power in America is essential, so his question was more an expression of where his own loyalty lies than serious. And his query is rooted in what appears in the U.S. mainstream media, reflective as it nearly always is of a certain institutional Jewish viewpoint. One would think from the New York Times and Washington Post that there has been a dramatic increase in anti-Semitism worldwide, but that claim is largely a fabrication that is being exploited to support making any criticism of Israel and Jewish group behavior a hate crime.

What has been taking place is not hatred of Jews but rather a rejection of how Israel and major Jewish organizations behave. Foremost is the undeniable fact that Israel has been acting particularly badly, even by its admittedly low standards. Its weekly slaughter of Palestinians in Gaza has been unusually observable in spite of media attempts to avoid mentioning it, plus its frequent attacks on Syria and demands for war against Iran have also raised questions about the intentions of whatever kleptocratic regime emerges in Tel Aviv in the near future.

That all means that the perception of Israel, which boasts that it is the exclusively Jewish state composed of people chosen by God, inevitably raises questions about the international Jewish community that provides much of its support. But it is important to understand that the hostility towards Zionism as a political movement is mostly driven by Israeli behavior, not by Jews as an ethnicity or as a religion.

The alleged increase in anti-Semitic incidents is largely fueled by how those incidents are defined. Israel and its friends have worked hard to broaden the definition, making any criticism of Israel or its activities ipso facto an anti-Semitic incident. The State Department’s working definition of anti-Semitism includes “the targeting of the state of Israel” and it warns that anti-Semitism is a criminal offense. Recent legislation in Washington and also in Europe has criminalized hitherto legal and non-violent efforts to pressure Israel regarding its inhumanity vis-à-vis the Palestinians. Legitimate criticism of Israel thereby becomes both anti-Semitism and criminal, increasing the count of so-called anti-Semitic incidents. That means that the numbers inevitably go up, providing fodder to validate a repressive response.

One might add that Hollywood, the mainstream media, and academia have contributed to the allegations regarding surging anti-Semitism, relentlessly unleashing a torrent of material rooting out alleged anti-Semites, while simultaneously heaping praise on Israel and its achievements.

Professor of Holocaust Studies Deborah Lipstadt has written a book Anti-Semitism: Here and Now about what she regards as the new anti-Semitism, supporting her belief that it is getting markedly worse in both Europe and the U.S. There is also a movie about her confrontation with holocaust critic David Irving called Denial.

All of the media exposure of so-called anti-Semitism has a political objective, whether intended or not, which is to insulate Israel itself from any criticism and to create for all Jews the status of perpetual victimhood which permits many in the diaspora to unflinchingly support a foreign country against the interests of the nations where they were born, raised, and made their fortunes. That is called dual loyalty and, in spite of frequent denials from Israel-apologists, it clearly exists for many American Jews, who are passionate about the Jewish state, including members of the Trump Administration Avi Berkowitz, David Friedman, and Jared Kushner.

Much of the recent activity to silence critics of Israel has, ironically, taken place on university campuses, where free speech has been revoked because some Jewish students have claimed to be threatened by criticism of the Jewish state. The growing non-violent Boycott, Divestment, and Sanction movement (BDS) on campus is rightly perceived as a major threat by both the Israeli government and the Israel lobby in the United States. Twenty-seven states and Congress have either passed or intend to vote on legislation penalizing its supporters.

To combat the BDS movement, a recent document entitled A Hotbed for Hate: A Comprehensive Dossier of Antisemitism at Columbia University and Barnard College Since the 2016-2017 Academic Year has been published by a Jewish group in New York City that calls itself “Alums for Campus Fairness.” It claims to be a meticulous documentation of anti-Semitism in action at the two colleges, but when one goes through the entire 33 pages, nearly all the citations relate to protests, speeches, or writing concerning Israel and its inhumane treatment of the Palestinians.

The campaign to eliminate any criticism of Israel or the standard narratives that support the creation of the Jewish state is indeed unrelenting, and where the claim of anti-Semitism is not enough, allegations of Holocaust denial become the ultimate weapons. Karen Pollock of the Holocaust Education Trust said in January, “One person questioning the truth of the Holocaust is one too many.” That is nonsense. Any, and all, historical events should be questioned regularly, a principle that is particularly true regarding developments that carry a lot of emotional baggage. The Israel Lobby would have all Americans believe that any criticism of Israel is motivated by historic hatred of Jews and is therefore anti-Semitism. Don’t believe it. When the AIPAC crowd screams that linking Jews and money is a classic anti-Semitic trope respond by pointing out that Jews and money are very much in play in the corruption of Congress and the media over Israel.

Terrible things are being done in the Middle East in the name of Jews and of Israel, who make the war criminals appear to be victims every time they raise the issue of anti-Semitism. Just recall what the Israeli minister admitted: “It’s a trick; we always use it.”

December 11, 2019 Posted by | Deception, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , | 4 Comments

Barr Blasts Inspector General For Whitewashing FBI

By Ray McGovern – Consortium News – December 10, 2019

Attorney General William Barr on Monday disparaged the long-awaited findings of the Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz into FBI conduct in the investigation of alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign. Barr, in effect, accused Horowitz of whitewashing a litany of proven misfeasance and malfeasance that created the “predicate,” or legal justification, for investigating candidate-and-then-president Donald Trump on suspicion of being in cahoots with the Russians.

In grammatical terms, there can be no sentence, so to speak, without a predicate. Trump was clearly the object of the sentence, and the sleuths led by then-FBI Director James Comey were the subjects in desperate search of a predicate. Horowitz candidly depicted the predicate the FBI requires for a counter-intelligence investigation as having to meet a very low bar. The public criticism from his boss was unusual. For the tenacious attorney general, doing a serious investigation of how the FBI handled the Trump-Russia inquiry has become a case of no-holds-Barr-ed, one might say.

Lindsey Smacking His Lips

Particularly damning in Horowitz’s report was the revelation that the FBI kept the “Russia investigation” going well after countervailing and exculpatory evidence clearly showed that, in the unforgettable words of one senior FBI official, Peter Strzok, there was “no there there.”

As Sen. Lindsey Graham put it yesterday, FBI investigators kept running through STOP signs in hot pursuit of a needed, but ever elusive, credible predicate. At a press conference, Graham pointed to page 186 of the Horowitz report to call attention to one of the most obvious STOP signs FBI sleuths should have heeded; namely, the fact that the FBI learned in January 2017 that the primary sub-source for Christopher Steele’s “dossier” disavowed it as misstated and exaggerated — basically rumor and speculation. No problem: the FBI investigation continued.

Mincing no words, Graham called the FBI investigation into alleged Trump campaign ties with Russia a “criminal enterprise” that got off the rails. (Special Counsel Robert Mueller found no evidence of such a conspiracy.) Sparks will fly on Wednesday as Graham, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, pursues the matter in more depth when Horowitz testifies before the committee. Graham emphasized yesterday that the general goal is to ensure that such a “criminal enterprise” does not happen again.

He added that one of the ways to prevent a recurrence is to make sure “those who took the law into their own hands need to pay a price.” Uh-oh. I cannot remember the last time leaders of the “national-security state” had to pay a price.

Barr: ‘Thinnest of Suspicions’

Barr took unusually strong public issue with Horowitz’s conclusion that there was adequate reason to mount an FBI investigation of the Trump campaign and suspected ties to Russia. Barr issued a formal statement asserting that the Horowitz report “now makes it clear that the FBI launched an intrusive investigation of a U.S. presidential campaign on the thinnest of suspicions that, in my view, were insufficient to justify the steps taken.”

U.S. Attorney John Durham, whom Barr picked to lead what has now become a criminal investigation regarding how that FBI’s “intrusive investigation” was launched, issued his own formal statement of criticism, expressing disagreement with the IG’s findings as to the predication of the investigation and “how the FBI case opened.” Durham added that he had told the IG last month of this disagreement. In his statement yesterday, Durham spoke not of suspicions, but of evidence his ongoing investigation has already gathered “from other persons and entities both in the U.S. and outside of the U.S.”

Evidence, Not Just Suspicions

Both Barr and Durham chose their words carefully, and so did former CIA Director John Brennan in his May 2017 congressional testimony about his suspicions that Trump’s campaign might have been colluding with the Russians. Soon the spotlight is likely to turn onto Brennan and his carefully parsed testimony, which fell considerably short of qualifying as a predicate for investigation (but played a key role anyway).

On May 23, 2017, Brennan told Congress:

“I encountered and am aware of information and intelligence that revealed contacts and interactions between Russian officials and US persons involved in the Trump campaign that I was concerned about because of known Russian efforts to suborn such individuals. It raised questions in my mind about whether Russia was able to gain the cooperation of those individuals.”

CNN’s coverage of Brennan’s testimony is even more revealing (of CNN’s bias) in retrospect.

Moreover, Brennan famously told Congress, he doesn’t deal with evidence. That was what Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy was wondering about, when he grilled the former CIA director, also on May 23, 2017, on what evidence he had provided to the FBI to catalyze its investigation of the alleged Trump-Russia collusion.

Brennan replied: “I don’t do evidence.”

The best Brennan could do was start out by repeating his well-rehearsed statement, later contradicted by Mueller’s report: “I encountered and am aware of information and intelligence that revealed contacts and interactions between Russian officials and U.S. persons involved in the Trump campaign,” adding that “that required further investigation by the Bureau to determine whether or not U.S. persons were actively conspiring, colluding with Russian officials.”

Media Treatment

Referring to the Horowitz report yesterday, Law Professor John Turley noted:

“Despite this shockingly damning report, much of the media is reporting only that Horowitz did not find it unreasonable to start the investigation, and ignoring a litany of false representations and falsifications of evidence to keep the secret investigation going. Nothing was found to support any of those allegations, and special counsel Robert Mueller also confirmed there was no support for collusion and conspiracy allegations repeated continuously for two years by many experts and members of Congress.”

And yet “debunking” is the name of the game. A New York Times headline this morning read, “Report on F.B.I. Russia Inquiry Finds Serious Errors but Debunks Anti-Trump Plot.” And an “analysis” article by Mark Mazzetti was titled: “Another Inquiry Doesn’t Back Up Trump’s Charges. So, on to the Next.”

Mazzetti writes:

“Engage in a choreographed campaign of presidential tweets, Fox News appearances and fiery congressional testimony to create expectations about finding proof of a “deep state” campaign against Mr. Trump. And then, when the proof does not emerge, skew the results and prepare for the next opportunity to execute the playbook.

“That opportunity has arrived in the form of an investigation by a Connecticut prosecutor [Durham] ordered this year by Attorney General William P. Barr — and the president and his allies are now predicting it will be the one to deliver damning evidence that the F.B.I., C.I.A. and even close American allies conspired against Mr. Trump in the 2016 election.”

Horowitz Report an ‘Appetizer?’

Mazzetti goes on to express doubt “that Mr. Durham will exhume any information that will fundamentally change the understanding of what happened in 2016.” Maybe, maybe not. It is a safe bet, though, that President Trump has better insight into this. According to Mazzetti, Trump recently had been playing down expectations about the Horowitz inquiry — indicating it was only an appetizer for what’s to come. “I do think the big report to wait for is going to be the Durham report,” he said. “That’s the one that people are really waiting for.”

The president may be expecting Mueller-inquiry-type vindication once Durham’s investigation is complete. If that proves to be the case and Trump receives post-impeachment acquittal from the Senate, as expected, he may be able to parlay that into four more years, a sobering thought.

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. He was an Army Infantry/Intelligence officer, then a CIA analyst for 27 years. He prepared and briefed the President’s Daily Brief for Presidents Nixon, Ford, and Reagan, and in retirement co-founded Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).

December 11, 2019 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception | , , | 1 Comment

Hebron Plan is Israel’s Reminder to Palestinians that Settler Power knows no Limits

Proposed destruction of Hebron’s market to make way for a new settlement is Israeli government’s route to refashion its apartheid system as the rule of law

By Jonathon Cook | The National | December 10, 2019

US President Donald Trump told thousands of Israel’s supporters at a rally in Florida at the weekend that some American Jews “don’t love Israel enough”. It is certainly troubling that a US president insists a section of his country’s citizens – the Jewish population – be required to love a foreign state. But then Trump went further, muddying the waters about what constitutes “Israel”.

Echoing remarks made last month by Mike Pompeo, his secretary of state, he described the Jewish settlements in the West Bank as legal – thereby subverting a long-established principle of international law.

US Jews – and the rest of us, it seems – are expected not only to love Israel inside its internationally recognised borders but also to love the Jewish settlements that international law designates as a war crime. Those are the same settlements eating up ever more of the territory supposed to form the basis of a Palestinian state.

When Trump, like his predecessors, told his weekend audience that the US shared an “unbreakable” bond with Israel, what exactly was the “Israel” he referred to? Both the US and Israel have implied in recent declarations and actions that a central plank of the long-delayed Trump peace plan will be Israel’s annexation of the settlements – and with them most of the West Bank.

“Loving Israel” now is meant to include abandoning any hope of Palestinian statehood and accepting that Palestinians will live permanently under an Israeli version of apartheid, with inferior rights to Jews.

The Trump administration seems keen to press ahead with the peace plan – and annexation – but is being hampered by political chaos in Israel.

Mired in corruption scandals and having staged two inconclusive elections this year, Benjamin Netanyahu, the caretaker prime minister, is unable to cobble together a coalition to keep himself in power. The impasse is not over the occupation or the settlements but about who gets to dominate the next government: far-right religious settlers led by Netanyahu or right-wing, secular former army generals?

Nonetheless, Netanyahu is behaving as if Washington has given its blessing to annexation – even without a US peace plan.

That was what Pompeo’s statement last month backing the settlements amounted to. He offered one paltry safeguard, investing responsibility for monitoring and limiting settlement expansion in Israel’s supreme court. But this is the same court that has consistently failed to block settlement growth over five decades. It now includes two judges who actually live in settlements, as well as others who sympathise politically with the settlement project.

Meanwhile, in preparation for a likely third election campaign, the interim Netanyahu government has announced a splurge of new settlement building and boosted settler budgets.

In another fillip for the settlers last month, Netanyahu appointed one of their leaders, Naftali Bennett, to the sensitive role of defence minister. Bennett lost no time in unveiling his latest settlement plan last week, selecting an incendiary spot greatly prized by the settlers: the middle of Hebron, the West Bank’s largest Palestinian city.

For decades, life for Hebron’s 230,000 Palestinians has been forced to a virtual standstill by a few hundred Jewish religious extremists who have taken over the city centre, backed by more than 1,000 Israeli soldiers. Their ultimate goal is to wrestle away the city’s Ibrahimi mosque, the reputed burial site of Abraham, father of the world’s three main monotheistic religions.

After Baruch Goldstein, a settler, shot dead and wounded some 150 Muslim worshippers in 1994, Israel rewarded the settlers twice over.

First, it segregated the mosque site, splitting it into two. Half is now the Jewish Tomb of the Patriarchs. But in practice the Israeli army enjoys absolute control over who can pray there.

And next, Israel declared the surrounding area, including Hebron’s main commercial market, a closed military zone, thereby forcing the Palestinian merchants out. It has been a ghost town ever since, serving as a passageway between the settlement enclaves and the mosque.

For years, the closed market has stood as a potent, silent symbol of the way Israel has been tearing the city apart.

In February, Netanyahu gave the settlers another boost. He shuttered the international observer mission in Hebron, there to witness and record the abuse of Palestinians, especially at the checkpoints that litter the city centre. But still the settlers were not satisfied. They have long wanted to take over the Hebron market for themselves, to expand their enclaves.

So last week, Bennett granted their wish. He announced plans to destroy the market to make way for a settlement serving effectively as a bridge between the existing enclaves and the mosque site. The plan will double the number of settlers in Hebron and complete a wall of Jewish settlement dividing the city in two. This week Palestinian leaders called a citywide strike in protest.

As ever, the Israeli government has tried to put a surreal legal gloss on its criminality, apparently to spare the blushes of its US and European allies. Bennett’s advisers have insisted that Israel has legal title to the air above the roofs of the empty shops. This is where the settlers will supposedly be housed, after the shops have been demolished and rebuilt to support the new apartment blocks.

It emerged this week that Bennett had threatened Hebron’s municipality, warning it would lose property rights to the shops area too if it did not consent to the settler homes above.

Israel is reminding Palestinians that there are now no limits – military, legal, moral or diplomatic – to the settlers’ power. Israel will annex land where it chooses and deceptively refashion the resulting apartheid system as the rule of law.

The material losses to the Palestinians from Israel’s ever-growing settlement enterprise are devastating enough. This month, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development issued a report estimating conservatively that the past 17 years of occupation alone had cost the Palestinians a whopping $48 billion – three times the current size of its economy.

That income would have generated two million job opportunities, freeing Palestinians from a miserable choice between life without work and, if they are issued a permit by Israel, precarious, exploitative casual labour in Israel or the settlements.

Equally significantly, the ever-expanding settlements have stripped Palestinians of their most basic freedoms, such as movement, and undermined their security and right to be treated with dignity.

And no one ought to love that.

December 10, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation | , , , , , | 5 Comments