Russia’s Putin and Israel’s Netanyahu negotiate . . . about what?

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Russia's Putin and Israel's Netanyahu negotiate . . . about what?

“Russia has friendly relations with Israel, and more than a million Russian Jews emigrated to Israel, but Iran is a strategic ally of Russia.”

Last week major state and corporate news outlets reported that Russian President Vladimir Putin and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had met and agreed on removing Iranian troops from Syria and/or Iran’s border with Syria. Then, on June 3rd, Haaretz and other outlets reported that Israel had, for the first time, participated in a NATO “exercise” near the Russian border. I spoke to Rick Sterling, an investigative journalist specializing in Syria, about what could be behind these reports.

Ann Garrison: I’d like to go through some of these disparate reports about Russia and Israel one by one, but first, what do you think of Israel’s first ever participation in NATO war games near the Russian border?

Rick Sterling: The head of NATO recently confirmed that NATO would NOT get into a war involving Israel because Israel is not a NATO member. But Israel is a “partner,” and in 2014 the US Congress designated Israel as a “major strategic partner.” So I think Israel may be participating in the war maneuvers to demonstrate that it’s a good partner. Of course, Russia sees the NATO military exercises on its border as provocative. They are countering with their own military exercises, so it’s just a continuation in the wrong direction away from peace and mutual acceptance.

AG: OK, now to these reports about negotiations between Russia and Israel. Just before the news that Israel had participated in NATO war games near Russia, Bloomberg News reported that Israel was campaigning to break the alliance between Iran and Russia. What do you think of that?

RS: It’s certainly true that Israel is playing the diplomatic game and trying to drive a wedge between Russia and Iran, but the stories are highly exaggerated. They contain both contradictory information and outright disinformation. Russia has friendly relations with Israel, and more than a million Russian Jews emigrated to Israel. But Iran is a strategic ally of Russia.

AG: On June 2nd, the Times of Israel reported that Israel denies inking a deal with Russia on Iranian withdrawal from Syria. What about that?

RS:Well, I haven’t seen any written deal. So what we’re going on are media reports, which are spun in different directions. So, number one, I don’t know if there was a written agreement. Number two, it’s certainly the case that Israel is not only saying that they don’t want Iranian militia or advisors anywhere near the border with the Israeli occupied Golan Heights, but also that they want them all out of Syria.

“Israel exaggerates the Iranian involvement in Syria for its own purposes.”

Russia and Syria may have agreed to relocate some of the Iranian advisors or Iranian militias away from the Golan Heights border. There were reports that some of those forces were headed out to eastern Syria to do combat there against ISIS, which continues to hold an important area. But even if Israel is trying to insist that no Iranian advisors or militia be in Syria, I can’t see Syria or any sovereign state agreeing to such a demand. Israel exaggerates the Iranian involvement in Syria for its own purposes.

AG: Asharq Al-Aswat reported, also on June 2nd, that Russia and Israel had agreed to keep Iran away from Syria’s South.

RS: Asharq Al-Aswat is a Saudi-owned newspaper coming out of London, so the Saudi influence and heavy anti-Iran bias is evident. The one element of this story that may be true is that the US may actually be uncomfortable with any agreement regarding the US forces that control the area around Al Tanf, a Syrian border area with Iraq. That’s the main highway from Baghdad to Damascus, and it’s currently controlled by US military and various armed militants—including former ISIS fighters—who are trained and controlled by the US. The US doesn’t want to give that up, but the Syrian foreign minister is not mincing his words. He’s saying that all the US forces must leave Syria eventually, and specifically that they should leave that area at the Syria-Iraq border soon.

Al Tanf and the highway between Iraq and Syria is a flashpoint. The US has no right to be there but seems to be digging in while Syria is getting increasingly adamant that they must leave. Things may come to a head there.

AG: Al Monitor says that Russia is “trying a new playbook to calm the escalation between Israel and Iran.” How about that?

RS: I think that’s true. What we’ve seen emerge in the last several years is that the diplomat in the room is Russia. If you look at what’s going on there, the Russian diplomacy is quite impressive and at times quite surprising. Six or eight months ago, the Saudi monarch flew to Moscow for the very first time. Russia brought Iran and Turkey together at the Astana talks, and Russia is trying to soothe the tension and danger of conflict between Israel and Iran. So that story is probably accurate.

AG: Have you seen any reports about negotiations between Russia and Israel on RT, Russia’s state- sponsored English outlet?

RS: I’ve seen some RT coverage, both stories and photographs. They certainly don’t put the spin on it that some of the Western and Israeli media do.

The fundamental fact is that Russia doesn’t want to go to war with the US. They realize how dangerous the situation in Syria currently is. They are not going to give up their long-term alliance with Syria, but at the same time, they’re doing everything they can to cool things down and avoid a head-on conflict.

AG: OK, so we’ve gone through just a sample of the wildly disparate reports and commentary about this, but after reading a lot of it, I had the feeling that this is headed toward the Balkanization of Syria, which has been much discussed for a long time. What are your thoughts about that?

RS: Well, that’s the reality on the ground right now. Turkey is occupying part of the north. Israel and Israeli-supported terrorists are occupying part of the south. The US and the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) control big swathes of eastern Syria. So Balkanization is already the informal reality on the ground.

In early 2016, John Kerry called it “plan B,” dividing up Syria and partitioning it. He didn’t say it quite that explicitly, but he was clearly suggesting that that’s where things were headed. Now, in opposition to that, you’ve got the Syrian government saying that it will not allow partition and that the US has to leave Syria. Both Assad and the Syrian foreign minister are saying that increasingly forcefully. So we’ll have to see. At the same time it’s dangerous because there’s also threatening talk coming from the United States.

“John Kerry called it “plan B,” dividing up Syria and partitioning it.”

The US, Turkey, and Israel are, of course, violating international law codified in the UN Charter by their military presence in Syria, but the Syrian government seems to be taking things step by step with the support of Russia and Iran. Hopefully, progress can be made and the conflict can be wound down. That would certainly be to the benefit of all Americans as well as Syrians and other peoples of the Middle East.

AG: Do you think that Russia is opposed to Balkanization?

RS: Oh, absolutely. They’re opposed to it. They saw what happened with the war in Yugoslavia and the split, the separation into smaller, weaker states.

Russia also has its own experience with Western and Saudi-funded terrorism. If you look at a map, Syria is not that far from Russia, so of course they are very concerned with the situation there. They have a big stake in seeing the conflict wind down and a peaceful resolution, remote as that may seem. They’re taking the lead in helping to resolve it and working toward reconciliation, which is going to require concessions on the part of Damascus. Russia has explicitly talked about an internationally supervised election in Syria, and hopefully that’s where things will end rather than in World War III.

The question is whether the US and its allies, especially Israel and Saudi Arabia, will give up their goal of “regime change” in Syria. Or will they continue to finance and arm the opposition to further bleed Syria and its allies? The US and allies are prolonging the conflict behind a pretense of humanitarian concern. Meanwhile they ignore obvious travesties such as the Israeli killings at the Gaza border.

AG: And just one more point of clarification regarding the presence of Russia, Iran, and Hezbollah in Syria. Their presence is legal, according to international law, because they’re there at the request of the Syrian government. Right?

RS: Yes, that’s correct. Russia, Iran, and Lebanon’s Hezbollah are in Syria supporting Syrian sovereignty. The Iranian presence in the West tends to be wildly exaggerated, but they do have militia there. They also have advisors, and they’ve lent economic support to Syria. Both Lebanon and Iran know that their own governments are at risk there.

Of course, it was General Wesley Clark who said, back in 2007, that the US had a hit list of seven countries, and we’ve already seen several of them overthrown. Lebanon and Iran know they’re on that list. I’m sure they all realize that if the Syrian state is destroyed, if the government there is toppled and chaos reigns as it does in Libya, they’ll be the next targets. So they’re there for their own sake and for regional stability, not just to support their ally Syria.

By Ann Garrison/BAR

Posted by The NON-Conformist

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Gaza Killings: Names and Faces of Those Killed by Israeli Forces This Week

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From left: Ahmed Alrantisi, Laila Anwar Al-Ghandoor, Ahmed Altetr, Alaa Alkhatib Ezz el-din Alsamaak, Motassem Abu Louley (Photo: Screengrab)

Image: Common Dreams

Sixty-one people were either killed or died of wounds inflicted by Israeli forces in the Gaza Strip on Monday and Tuesday as thousands of Palestinians demonstrated across the occupied territory to mark the 70th anniversary of the Nakba.

Source: Gaza Killings: Names and Faces of Those Killed by Israeli Forces This Week

Posted by Libergirl

Is Trump Being ‘Played’ by Israel With Bogus Intel on Iran?

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President Donald Trump delivers a statement on the Iran nuclear deal at the White House. (Evan Vucci / AP)

Editor’s note: Donald Trump announced Tuesday that the United States will be withdrawing from its nuclear deal with Iran The following memo by Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) was first published on Consortiumnews on Monday.

MEMORANDUM FOR: The President

FROM: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS)

SUBJECT: Being “Played” By Bogus Evidence on Iran

NOTE: The evidence presented by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on April 30 alleging a covert Iranian nuclear weapons program shows blatant signs of fabrication. That evidence is linked to documents presented by the Bush Administration more a decade earlier as proof of a covert Iran nuclear weapons program. Those documents were clearly fabricated as well

We sent President Bush a similar warning about bogus intelligence—much of it fabricated by Israel—six weeks before the U.S./UK attack on Iraq, but Bush paid us no heed. This time, we hope you will take note before things spin even further out of control in the Middle East. In short, Israel’s “new” damaging documents on Iran were fabricated by the Israelis themselves.

Executive Summary

The Bush administration account of how the documents on Iran got into the hands of the CIA is not true. We can prove that the actual documents originally came not from Iran but from Israel. And the documents were never authenticated by the CIA or the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Two former Directors-General of the IAEA, Hans Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei, have publicly expressed suspicion that the documents were fabricated. And forensic examination of the documents yielded multiple signs that they are fraudulent.

We urge you to insist on an independent inquiry into the actual origins of these documents. We believe that the renewed attention being given to claims that Iran is secretly working to develop nuclear weapons betokens a transparent attempt to stoke hostility toward Iran, with an eye toward helping “justify” pulling out of the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran.

* * *

Mr. President,

We write you in the hope that you will be informed of our views before you decide whether to continue to adhere to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) regarding Iran. We fear that upcoming decisions may be based, in part, on unreliable documents alleging secret nuclear weapons activity in Iran.

On April 30, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu displayed some of those documents in his slide show on what he called the Iranian “atomic archive.” But those are precisely the same fraudulent documents that were acquired by the CIA in 2004.

The official accounts offered by the senior officials of the CIA about the provenance of these documents turned out be complete fabrication. Journalists were told variously that the documents (1) were taken from the laptop computer of an Iranian working in a secret research program; (2) were provided by a German spy; or (3) simply came from a “longtime contact in Iran.”

However, Karsten Voigt, the former German Foreign Office official in charge of German-North American cooperation, revealed in an on the record interview with historian/journalist Gareth Porter in 2013 that senior officials of the German foreign intelligence service, the BND, told Voigt in November 2004 that the documents had been passed to the CIA by a BND source. That source, the senior BND official said, was not considered trustworthy, because he belonged to the Mujahideen-E-Khalq (MEK), the armed Iranian opposition group that was known to have served as a conduit for information that Israeli intelligence (Mossad) wanted to provide to the IAEA without having it attributed to Israel. (In 2012 Secretary of State Hillary Clinton removed MEK from the list of terrorist organizations.)

Voigt recalled that the senior BND officials told him of their worry that the Bush administration was going to repeat the error of using fraudulent intelligence, as was the case with the notorious “Curveball,” the Iraqi living in Germany, whom the BND had identified as unreliable. Nonetheless, Curveball’s fictions about mobile biological weapons laboratories in Iraq—with “artists renderings” by the CIA of those phantom labs—had been used by Colin Powell in his error-ridden presentation to the UN on February 5, 2003, leading to war on Iraq.

As for the purported Iranian documents, the CIA never ruled out the possibility that they were fabricated, and the IAEA made no effort to verify their authenticity. IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei recalled in his memoirs that he had believed the documents were not really from the Iranian government and that, as he put it, “it made more sense that this information originated in another country.” ElBaradei stated publicly from 2005 through 2009 that the documents had not been authenticated, and he refused to use them as “evidence” of a covert Iranian weapons research program. And ElBaradei’s predecessor as Director-General, Hans Blix, has said he is “somewhat more worried” about the intelligence on the alleged Iranian nuclear weapons program than about the dubious intelligence he saw on Iraq, because “there is as much disinformation as there is information.”

Each of the documents mentioned by both Netanyahu and the IAEA reports bears tell-tale signs of fraud. The most widely reported document in the collection is a set of schematic drawings showing efforts to redesign the re-entry vehicle of Iran’s Shahab-3 missile to accommodate a nuclear weapon. But the slide that Netanyahu displayed on the screen in his slide show provides visual confirmation of fraud. The drawing shows clearly the “dunce cap” design of the Shahab-3 reentry vehicle. But Iran’s Defense Ministry had already discarded that “dunce cap” reentry vehicle when it began to develop a new improved missile. That redesign began in 2000, according to the Congressional testimony in September 2000 of CIA national intelligence officer for strategic and nuclear programs Robert D. Walpole. But the earliest dates of any of the alleged Iranian nuclear weapon program documents on the project for redesign of the reentry vehicle in theMay 2008 IAEA report on the entire collection are from summer 2002 after the “dunce cap” was replaced. The “baby-bottle” shaped reentry vehicle on the redesigned missile was not known to the outside world until the first test of the new missile in mid-2004. So those drawings could not have been done by someone who was actually involved in the redesign of the original Shahab-3 reentry vehicle; it was clearly the work of a foreign intelligence agency seeking to incriminate Iran, but slipping up on one important detail and thus betraying its fraudulent character.

The second document from that same collection turned over to the IAEA that has been widely reported is the so-called “green salt project”—a plan for a bench-scale system of uranium conversion for enrichment given the code name “Project 5.13” and part of a larger “Project 5.” Other documents that had been provided by the MEK showed that “Project 5” also included a sub-project involving ore processing at a mine designated “Project 5.15,” according to a briefing by IAEA Deputy Director Olli Heinonen in February 2008.

But when Iran turned over detailed documents to the IAEA in response to its questions about Project 5.15 in 2008, the IAEA learned the truth: there had been a real ore processing project called Project 5.15, but it was a civilian project of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran—not part of a covert nuclear weapons program—and the decision to create Project 5.15 had been made on August 25, 1999—more than two years before the initial date of the project found in the collection of supposedly secret nuclear weapons research documents. That fact gives away the ruse surrounding the numbering system of “Project 5” adopted by intelligence specialists who had fabricated the document.

A third document that purportedly shows Iranian nuclear weapons research is about what Netanyahu called “Multi-Point Initiation in hemispheric geometry” and the IAEA called “experimentation in connection with symmetrical initiation of a hemispherical high explosive charge suitable for an implosion type nuclear device.” Significantly, that document was not part of the original collection that the CIA had passed to the IAEA, but had been given to the IAEA years later, and officials from the IAEA, Europe and the United States refused to reveal which member country had provided the document. Former Director-General ElBaradei revealed in his memoirs, however, that Israel had passed a series of documents to the IAEA in 2008-09, in an effort to make the case that Iran had continued its nuclear weapons experiments until “at least 2007.”

The summary picture we offer above includes unusually clear evidence of the fraudulent nature of the documents that are advertised as hard evidence of Iran’s determination to obtain nuclear weapons. One remaining question is cui bono?—who stands to benefit from this kind of “evidence.” The state that had the most to gain from the fabrication of such documents was obviously Israel.

Completely absent from the usual discussion of this general problem is the reality that Israel already has a secret nuclear arsenal of more than a hundred nuclear weapons. To the extent Israel’s formidable deterrent is more widely understood, arguments that Israel genuinely fears an Iranian nuclear threat any time soon lose much of their power. Only an extreme few suggest that Iran’s leaders are bent on risking national suicide. What the Israelis are after is regime change in Tehran. And they have powerful allies with similar aims.

We therefore urge you, Mr. President, not to go along with these plans or to decide to pull the U.S. out of the six-nation nuclear deal with Iran based on fraudulent evidence.

For the Steering Group, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS)

Richard H. Black, Senator of Virginia, 13th District; Colonel US Army (ret.); Former Chief, Criminal Law Division, Office of the Judge Advocate General, the Pentagon (associate VIPS)

Marshall Carter-Tripp, Foreign Service Officer (ret.) and Division Director, State Department Bureau of Intelligence and Research

Kathleen Christison, Senior Analyst on Middle East, CIA (ret.)

Philip Giraldi, CIA, Operations Officer (ret.)

Matthew Hoh, former Capt., USMC, Iraq & Foreign Service Officer, Afghanistan (associate VIPS)

Michael S. Kearns, Captain,Wing Commander, RAAF (ret.); Intelligence Officer & ex-Master SERE Instructor

John Kiriakou, former CIA Counterterrorism Officer and former senior investigator, Senate Foreign Relations Committee

Edward Loomis, NSA Cryptologic Computer Scientist (ret.)

David MacMichael, Ph.D., former senior estimates officer, National Intelligence Council (ret.)

Ray McGovern, former US Army infantry/intelligence officer & CIA analyst; CIA Presidential briefer (ret.)

Elizabeth Murray, former Deputy National Intelligence Officer for the Near East, National Intelligence Council & CIA political analyst (ret.)

Todd E. Pierce, MAJ, US Army Judge Advocate (ret.)

Gareth Porter, author/journalist (associate VIPS)

Scott Ritter, former MAJ., USMC, former UN Weapon Inspector, Iraq

Coleen Rowley, FBI Special Agent and former Minneapolis Division Legal Counsel (ret.)

Robert Wing, former Foreign Service Officer (associate VIPS)

Ann Wright, Colonel, US Army (ret.); also Foreign Service Officer who resigned in opposition to the US war on Iraq

This Memorandum was drafted by VIPS Associate Gareth Porter, author of “Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare,” 2014

From VIPS / Consortiumnews

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Opinion: This is Zionism as racism. This is Israel at 70

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It hurts me to write what I’m about to. But it also hurts me to live in this place today. To open my eyes and see what’s right here, right now
— Read on www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-this-is-zionism-as-racism-this-is-israel-at-70-1.5975641

Posted by The NON-Conformist

A Tale of Three Apartheids and the Land Conundrums

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A Tale of Three Apartheids and the Land Conundrums

“White settlers were convinced that the lands they appropriated in the ‘dark continent’ and other lands were theirs by right.”

The word apartheid achieved global notoriety during the height of White rule in South Africa. It then extended at least to one other country where blatant state-sanctioned bigotry went hand in hand with “democracy”: Israel (1, 2). The underlying creed fueling racist practices was White supremacy with its Eurocentric beginnings. Racism historically informed much of the imperial/colonial Caucasian dealings with other societies, beginning in earnest during the voyages of “discovery,” inaugurated by Christopher Columbus, where the slaughter of millions, massive human dislodgments under the umbrella of slavery, unprecedented dispossession and theft of entire far flung continents were to follow. Separate but Equal, Uncle Tom, Jim Crow, segregation, racial discrimination, civil rights violations, colonialism, assimilation, conquistadores, Bantustans and other innocuous, hollow terms intended to attenuate or mitigate the crimes were firmly sown in the minds of the rank and file of the victors.

Until recently, conquerors had a monopoly of relating and documenting history with colonial subjects looking on submissively until the explosion of the anti-colonial struggles began to alter the course of event— in Africa and Asia especially, albeit fleetingly. The term apartheid then, even if applied retroactively, is unlikely to gain currency to characterize patterns of imperial conduct of the past that had indistinguishable aims: dehumanize, denigrate, dispossess and destroy the vanquished. But apartheid in practice they most certainly were. Thus, the tripartite representatives of this practice — European settler and colonizing nations, apartheid South Africa and Israel, should be so branded for the sake of calling a spade a spade and for prioritizing substance over style. Lexical hair-splitting over events that held unbelievably cruel consequences for native, indigenous peoples would not serve any useful purpose for any meaningful analyses or historical perspectives on land reforms in South Africa.

“Conquerors had a monopoly of relating and documenting history with colonial subjects looking on submissively.”

Regardless of the lexicon used, the aftermath had inexorable parallels in all lands where European invaders established footholds: vanquishing natives and robbing them of their ancestral lands; sabotaging their reference points and ethos forever. No matter too, that many native residents had freely roamed the landscapes for millennia — save for practitioners of intensive crop and/or livestock husbandry. Even there, the concept of private ownership was alien to native societies, neutralized as it was by the overriding imperative of satisfying collective needs (family à clan à tribe à societal) over individual greed — a tacit eminent domain principle etched in the social ethos. Wars were waged, to be sure, as territorial instincts spawned hostilities, especially at the interface of group contacts. Where empires resulted from skirmishes, few if any, had reached the scale achieved by European conquest. Certainly, none are documented to have ventured beyond local frontiers to distant continents for conquest and fashioning empires spanning much of the globe.

In European colonized lands, occupiers imported their concepts of land as assets, to be traded much like any other merchandise. Largely for the colonizers’ benefit of course, with the natives excluded in the real estate transactions. Consumerism had found expression in land ownership long before it was to gain ascendancy in the fecund junk ownership rampant in modern neoliberal capitalist economies, that has now spanned the globe and whose cash flow is unidirectional: toward the imperial metropolis. Three factors encapsulate the motivation that mostly led to irreversible catastrophes: greed (gold, spices, land), god (one exclusive to the victors), glory (, exceptionalism and notions of superiority cited with my italicized emphasis 3).

“The ‘Empty Land’ myth was invoked to justify massive land robberies.”

Subsequent anti-colonial struggles made land a central issue targeted for containment and reverse the dispossessing drives aggressively pursued by colonial and invading powers. This was testament to the unwitting assimilation of Eurocentric land ownership principles by the colonized as integral to their struggles to liberate themselves from the colonial yoke. An astute idea, terra nullius (4) or the “Empty Land” myth (5) was invoked to justify massive land robberies. Few, if any of the planet’s countries can claim to be without large swathes of empty, uninhabited lands within its borders, which, according to the logic implicit in such a notion, should invite occupation and appropriation from any and all comers. But this would invite derision and ridicule if aspirants to such land ownership were natives who summoned the same logic to occupy empty expanses of land. European prevalence is a God-given right; the coveting of White acquisitions by colored folks is a God-given curse — according to the precepts of exceptionalism, long before they were to be codified into quasi-legal frameworks.

Recently, South Africa’s parliament voted to seize White-owned land without compensation (6,7). Notice the subtle absurdity here: that Afrikaners had given serious thought to compensating Black South Africans for the land they stole. The South African measure had been in the pipeline for some time although few paid much attention. Zimbabwe had taken the “foolish” step of reclaiming land from White farmers that did not belong to the latter. Zimbabweans understood that the British settlers had not imported it from Britain. Foolish because as a result Zimbabwe was to suffer sanctions that drove their economy to near total ruin. Contrast that with Zionist Israel being rewarded for their dispossessing Palestinians with billions of American taxpayer dollars. Beyond that, any moves to push for divestment against this egregious Zionist policy is being criminalized in increasing numbers of states of the Union. Zimbabweans were being punished for claiming what was rightfully theirs, while Israel is compensated for what is expropriated. The idea that Zimbabweans could demand entitlements to lush farms in the English countryside, whatever the pretext, would be met with scorn and laughter, but that humor was lost on White settlers convinced that the lands they appropriated in the “dark continent” and other lands were theirs by right, just as British settlers had appropriated rich farmlands in Kenya and named them the “White” highlands.

“Zionist Israel was rewarded for their dispossessing Palestinians with billions of American taxpayer dollars.”

Western sanctions against Zimbabwe, contrary to claims of injustice, were driven by kinship sentiments. They were not borne out of White empathy for the woes of ordinary Zimbabweans who were hurt most by the sanctions. Bleeding Western hearts could have encouraged a more disciplined approach to the conundrum by sharing expertise in agriculture and farm management to help Zimbabwean farmers oversee smoother transition in farmland ownership and compensate their kinsfolk for appropriating land without consent of their owners, as the British had done in Kenya. Still, and despite the initial setbacks admitted by former President Mugabe, ten years on, there are signs of recovery with corn production now higher than at any time of White ownership of Zimbabwe’s farmlands, as is the production of other crops.

All said, there is a convergence of histories of Western settler, colonial and imperial expansion: massive land thefts and the social and economic isolation of natives. These actions would reflect in fact apartheid-like scenarios, but this term has been dropped and restricted to South Africa and Israel. Between 1776 and the present, in the US alone, an astounding 1.5 billion acres were seized from native inhabitants. This represents a land mass about 25 times the size of the United Kingdom. Not counting figures in Canada, South America, Australia and New Zealand. The combined land area of the Americas alone makes up 8% of the total surface area of the planet and over 28% of the planet’s land area. Australia accounts for a cool 5% of the earth’s land area. The Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia was emptied of its inhabitants to make way for an American military base; that is chicken feed by comparison.

Africa represented a different set of challenges. Much of its terrain possessed natural barriers to European settler appropriation: malaria and sleeping sickness. But lands that supported intensive farming practices in as far flung places as Kenya, Algeria, Zimbabwe, and South Africa were stolen with the ensuing anti-colonial struggles — particularly vicious in Algeria (2 million dead) and Kenya (estimates range between 11,000 to 90,000 casualties) — subsequently halting and reversing such thefts.

“Between 1776 and the present, in the US alone, an astounding 1.5 billion acres were seized from native inhabitants.”

Since the land redistribution announcement from Pretoria, White kinship passions seem to be gathering momentum: an online petition (8) calls on Trump to “take the steps necessary to initiate an emergency immigration plan allowing white Boers to come to the United States.” Boers may reside in a shithole continent, but their skin color still entitles them to privileges denied others devastated by American wars of aggression. Elsewhere, a member of the European Parliament (Janice Atkinson) recently wrote to British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson‚ urging the him to “mediate” with South African officials following the National Assembly’s passing of a motion to investigate land expropriation without compensation (9). She said she was a regular visitor to South Africa‚ and had followed the country’s “troubled history for years.” To this racist, South Africa’s “troubled history” began with the long overdue land reforms, not with decades-long racism and dispossession. Besides, Zionist Israel’s ongoing theft of Palestinian lands would scarcely justify such lofty mediation efforts. A seemingly progressive site as the UNZ Review had an uncommonly reactionary piece on this issue (10) whose concluding remarks speak mountains about kinship concerns trumping historical injustices and measures to redress them. “Most damningly, the country’s constitution has a clause devoted to ‘Limitation of Rights.’ Apparently, the constitutional ‘scholars’ who compiled the document saw no need to protect the rights of minorities ‘that [had] not been victims of past discrimination.’” Whatever happened to redressing balances for the overwhelming majority in place of continuing the untenable status quo initiated by an uninvited usurper?

Black kinship sentiments were not about to be upended on the issue of land reform. “…participants of the Summit of the Non-Alignment Movement held in Tanzania in 2003 gave unqualified political support to the Mugabe regime at virtually the same time that Australia, Britain and the United States (where is Canada, Israel and New Zealand when you need them? Italics supplied) were successfully pushing for the renewal and extension of ‘smart sanctions’ against Mugabe and his cronies. According to such an approach racial solidarity would be the driving force behind policy stances of African leaders, including Thabo Mbeki, towards the Zimbabwe crisis (12).” But racial solidarity initiated by Black Africans would be an aberration. Racial narratives and the refashioning of realities have been proceeding unchallenged from Europeans for so long that the idea that Africans and others can possess similar narratives has been total lost on them.

By Kweli Nzito/BlackAgendaReport

Posted by The NON-Conformist

The Emmett Till Effect in Israel

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Is this justice?

Last Thursday, two Israelis were convicted of brutally beating an African refugee to death, but were spared long prison sentences when the judge agreed to reduce the charges against them from murder to manslaughter and grievous bodily harm, the Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz reported.

In November 2016, 20-year-old Dennis Barshivatz and a 17-year-old who cannot be named under Israeli law beat Babikir Ali Adham-Abdo, a 40-year-old Sudanese asylum seeker, for an hour and a half in front of the city hall of Petach Tikva, a Tel Aviv suburb that is a sister city of Chicago, Ill. Barshivatz will serve a maximum of 10 years in jail and will be eligible for release much earlier. The court has yet to determine sentencing for his teenage accomplice.

The killing of Adham-Abdo has evoked comparisons to the Mississippi murder and mutilation of the Chicago teenager Emmett Till in 1955. Just as American racists attempted to excuse Till’s murder by posthumously accusing the black teen of having flirted with a white woman whose path he had crossed, some Israelis allege that Adham-Abdo had brought on the lethal beating he received when he supposedly sexually harassed a group of Israeli teenage girls at the scene.

In the case of Till, the woman he was accused of flirting with admitted over half a century later that she had fabricated the entire claim, and that Till had never made any advances toward her. The allegations against Adham-Abdo were also revealed to be baseless when CCTV footage of the incident was released. The city hall security camera video clearly showed that Adham-Abdo approached the table where the three teens were sitting, spoke to the group for less than 10 seconds, then turned and walked away. Moments later, his assailants set upon him and began to brutally beat him.

Another parallel between the Adham-Abdo and Emmett Till incidents lay in the grievous injuries wrought to their faces. In both cases, their faces were pummeled so badly that they were unrecognizable. Adham-Abdo’s brother was only able to claim the body for burial once he had identified it based on its missing fingers, which had been severed during murderous clashes in Darfur, from which Adham-Abdo had originally fled to Israel to escape.

“We don’t agree to the penalties,” Adham-Abdo’s cousin Moussa told Haaretz. “We thought there was justice in the Israeli courts, we thought Israel was a state of justice. If the victim had been an Israeli, the outcome would have been different. There’s racism here.”

Sadly, Adham-Abdo was not the first African refugee to be beaten to death by a group of Israelis in a public place in recent years. In October 2015, during a shooting attack at the central bus station in the southern Israeli city of Beersheba, a security guard shot 29-year-old Ertirean refugee Haftom Zarhum under the premise that he was assumed to be one of the terrorists. The bus station’s security footage revealed that Zarhum was clearly unarmed and crawling on the ground like other innocent bystanders, trying to avoid the bullets of the terrorist attackers.

As Zarhum bled out on the ground, Israelis took turns kicking him in the face and slamming chairs and benches down on him, while other bystanders actively prevented medics from reaching him to treat his wounds. In June 2016, a judge ruled that one of the Israelis who slammed a bench down on Zarhum’s head would not be charged. Charges are pending against four other Israelis who participated in the lynching.

The vicious violence against non-Jewish African refugees in Israel follows years in which Israeli political leaders and religious officials regularly whipped up racist sentiments against them, accusing them of bringing to Israel deadly diseases, violent crimes and anti-state terrorism. Official Israeli government statistics have proven all these smears to be baseless. But Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s primary justification for expelling the refugees cannot be so easily dismissed: They should not be able to live in Israel, he claims, because they are not Jews.

That the refugees are not Jews is true. Of those who are religious, about half are Christian, and about half are Muslim. The belief that non-Jews have no right to live in the Holy Land has always had some currency among Israeli Jews, but it has become increasingly popular in recent years, with the country’s current chief rabbi now openly preaching that genocidal doctrine.

In 2013, Netanyahu completed the construction of a high-tech fence on Israel’s border with the African continent, in order to end the influx of asylum seekers. In the five years that followed, Israeli authorities cajoled over a third of the community, more than 20,000 refugees, to agree to self-deport, by withholding their refugee rights and promising instead that these will be granted to them in an unnamed African country. Now Netanyahu has warned that any African refugees who don’t agree to self-deport by April 1 will be jailed indefinitely until they do so. The first group to face this choice will be single African men who aren’t yet fathers.

Human rights activists, journalists and liberal lawmakers who have followed up with refugees already forced out of Israel have learned that the government never fulfilled its promises to them, and that they were quickly made stateless once more. Without state protection, the vast majority of these refugees then fled for the European Union, hoping to find asylum there. Many then endured horrific tortures at the hands of Libyan slave traders, or drowned in the Mediterranean in failed attempts to reach Fortress Europe.

Anticipating Netanyahu’s April 1 deadline to self-deport, progressive Israelis have begun to publicly oppose the impending expulsion. In recent weeks, groups of doctors and artists, pilots and teachers have taken out advertisements in Israeli newspapers, articulating their objections to the plan. Liberal rabbis have invoked the memory of iconic Holocaust victim Anne Frank in announcing that they plan to resist by hiding African refugees in their own homes, and some Holocaust survivors have also agreed to take them in.

But despite these expressions of solidarity, Netanyahu has vowed to carry out the expulsion as planned, reaping popular support for the plan that he sowed with years of racist incitement. A poll last month found that two-thirds of Israeli citizens support the government’s plan to round up and deport all the remaining African asylum seekers, who now number only about 36,000, less than 0.5 percent of the population.

On Saturday, 20,000 Israelis and Africans marched in the streets of Tel Aviv, calling on the government to allow the refugees to work legally, and to invest in the neighborhoods they live in, so that their presence is not perceived as a burden to long-time residents. It was a brief reminder that the left still exists, even after a decade of rule by what may have been the most racist governments in Israel’s history.

But it was also an indication of the vigilante violence that could be let loose against African refugees if Israeli racists feel that the government plan to expel them all is in danger of being annulled. According to Israeli news site i24, police detained two Israeli men and seized a gun from one of them after they publicly plotted over Facebook to attend a pro-refugee demonstration and attack the Africans with weapons.

By David Sheen/truthdig

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Why is the Israeli Army Finally Worried About Gaza?

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Last week Israeli military officials for the first time echoed what human rights groups and the United Nations have been saying for some time: that Gaza’s economy and infrastructure stand on the brink of collapse.
They should know.
More than 10 years ago the Israeli army tightened its grip on Gaza, enforcing a blockade on goods coming in and out of the tiny coastal enclave that left much of the 2 million-strong population there unemployed, impoverished and hopeless.
Since then, Israel has launched three separate major military assaults that have destroyed Gaza’s infrastructure, killed many thousands and left tens of thousands more homeless and traumatised.
Gaza is effectively an open-air prison, an extremely overcrowded one, with only a few hours of electricity a day and its ground water polluted by seawater and sewage.
After a decade of this horrifying experiment in human endurance, the Israeli army finally appears to be concerned about whether Gaza can cope much longer.
In recent days it has begun handing out forms, with more than a dozen questions, to the small number of Palestinians allowed briefly out of Gaza – mainly business people trading with Israel, those needing emergency medical treatment and family members accompanying them.
One question asks bluntly whether they are happy, another whom they blame for their economic troubles. A statistician might wonder whether the answers can be trusted, given that the sample group is so heavily dependent on Israel’s good will for their physical and financial survival.
But the survey does at least suggest that Israel’s top brass may be open to new thinking, after decades of treating Palestinians only as target practice, lab rats or sheep to be herded into cities, freeing up land for Jewish settlers. Has the army finally understood that Palestinians are human beings too, with limits to the suffering they can soak up?
According to the local media, the army is in part responding to practical concerns. It is reportedly worried that, if epidemics break out, the diseases will quickly spread into Israel.
And if Gaza’s economy collapses too, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians could be banging on Israel’s door – or rather storming its hi-tech incarceration fence – to be allowed in. The army has no realistic contingency plans for either scenario.
It may be considering too its image – and defence case – if its commanders ever find themselves in the dock at the International Criminal Court in the Hague accused of war crimes.
Nonetheless, neither Israeli politicians nor Washington appear to be taking the army’s warnings to heart. In fact, things look set to get worse.
Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said last week there could be no improvements, no reconstruction in Gaza until Hamas agrees to give up its weapons – the only thing, in Hamas’s view, that serves as a deterrent against future Israeli attack.
Figures show Israel’s policy towards Gaza has been actually growing harsher. In 2017 exit permits issued by Israel dwindled to a third of the number two years earlier – and a hundredfold fewer than in early 2000. A few hundred Palestinian businesspeople receive visas, stifling any chance of economic revival.
The number of trucks bringing goods into Gaza has been cut in half – not because Israel is putting the inmates on a “diet”, as it once did, but because the enclave’s Palestinians lack “purchasing power”. That is, they are too poor to buy Israeli goods.
Netanyahu has resolutely ignored a plan by his transport minister to build an artificial island off Gaza to accommodate a sea port under Israeli or international supervision. And no one is considering allowing the Palestinians to exploit Gaza’s natural gas fields, just off the coast.
In fact, the only thing holding Gaza together is the international aid it receives. And that is now in jeopardy too.
The Trump administration announced last week it is to slash by half the aid it sends to Palestinian refugees via the UN agency UNRWA. Trump has proposed further cuts to punish Mahmoud Abbas, the increasingly exasperated Palestinian leader, for refusing to pretend any longer that the US is an honest broker capable of overseeing peace talks.
The White House’s difficuties are only being underscored as Mike Pence, the US vice-president, visits Israel as part of Trump’s supposed push for peace. He is being boycotted by Palestinian officials.
Palestinians in Gaza will feel the loss of aid severely. A majority live in miserable refugee camps set up after their families were expelled in 1948 from homes in what is now Israel. They depend on the UN for food handouts, health and education.
Backed by the PLO’s legislative body, the central council, Abbas has begun retaliating – at least rhetorically. He desperately needs to shore up the credibility of his diplomatic strategy in pursuit of a two-state solution after Trump recently hived off Palestine’s future capital, Jerusalem, to Israel.
Abbas threatened, if not very credibly, to end a security coordination with Israel he once termed “sacred” and declared as finished the Oslo accords that created the Palestinian Authority he now heads.
The lack of visible concern in Israel and Washington suggests neither believes he will make good on those threats.
But it is not Abbas’s posturing that Netanyahu and Trump need to worry about. They should be listening to Israel’s generals, who understand that there will be no defence against the fallout from the catastrophe looming in Gaza.

by Jonathan Cook/CounterPunch

Posted by The NON-Conformist

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