I don't think the reporters collected here would regard these articles as any more than conscientious work. But to us, unwillingly hypnotized by the tube in our anxious attempts to gain any meaningful news from the crap dished out by Trump and his band, which Badlands has labeled a cartel called Don Culo y su familia, this writing brings clear conscience to bear on the Middle East, where the latest world war has been simmering for the last three decades. -- blj
How long after this week's Gaza massacres are we going to continue pretending that the Palestinians are non-people?
Remember how they were to blame for their own exodus seven decades ago, because they followed the instruction of radio stations to leave their homes until the Jews of Israel were 'driven into the sea'. Only, of course, the radio broadcasts never existed
Monstrous. Frightful. Wicked. It’s strange how the words just run out in the Middle East today. Sixty
Palestinians dead. In one day. Two-thousand-four-hundred wounded, more than half by live fire. In one day. The figures are an outrage, a turning away from morality, a disgrace for any army to create.
And we are supposed to believe that the Israeli army is one of “purity of arms”? And we have to ask another question. If it’s 60 Palestinians dead in a day this week, what if it’s 600 next week? Or 6,000 next month? Israel’s bleak excuses – and America’s crude response – raise this very question. If we can now accept a massacre on this scale, how far can our immune system go in the days and weeks and months to come?
Yes, we know all the excuses. Hamas – corrupt, cynical, no “purity” there – was behind the Gaza demonstrations. Some of the protesters were violent, sent burning kites – kites, for heaven’s sake – across the border, others threw stones; though since when has stone-throwing been a capital offence in any civilised country? If an eight-month-old baby dies after tear gas inhalation, what were her parents doing bringing their infant child to the Gaza border? And so it goes on. Why complain about dead Palestinians when we have the Sisis in Egypt and the Assads in Syria and the Saudis in Yemen to contend with? But no, the Palestinians must always be guilty.
The victims are themselves the culprits. This is exactly what the Palestinians have had to endure for 70 years. Remember how they were to blame for their own exodus seven decades ago, because they followed the instructions of radio stations to leave their homes until the Jews of Israel were “driven into the sea”. Only, of course, the radio broadcasts never existed. We still must thank Israel’s “new historians” for proving this. The broadcasts were a myth, part of Israel’s foundational national history invented to ensure that the new state – far from being founded on the ruins of other’s homes – was a land without people.
And it was a marvel to behold the way in which the same old reporting cowardice began to infect the media’s account of what happened in Gaza. CNN called the Israeli killings a “crackdown”.
References to the tragedy of the Palestinians in many news media referred to their “displacement” 70 years ago, as if they happened to be on holiday at the time of the “Nakba”, the catastrophe, as it’s known, and just couldn’t make it home again. The word to use should have been perfectly clear: dispossession. Because that is what happened to the Palestinians all those years ago and what is still happening in the West Bank – today, as you read this – courtesy of men like Jared Kushner, Donald Trump’s son-in-law, a supporter of these wretched and illegal colonies built on Arab lands and appropriated from Arabs who have owned and lived on the land for generations.
And so we come to the most ghastly of all fateful events last week: the simultaneous bloodbath in Gaza and the glorious opening of the new US embassy in Jerusalem.
“It’s a great day for peace,” Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, announced. When I heard that, I wondered if my hearing was defective. Did he actually say those words? Alas, he did. At times like this, it is an immense relief to find that journals like the Israeli daily Haaretz maintain their sense of honour. And the most remarkable piece of reportage came in The New York Times where Michelle Goldberg caught perfectly the horror of both Gaza and the embassy opening in Jerusalem.
The latter, she wrote, was “grotesque… a consummation of the cynical alliance between hawkish Jews and Zionist evangelicals who believe that the return of Jews to Israel will usher in the apocalypse and the return of Christ, after which Jews who don’t convert will burn forever.” Goldberg pointed out that Robert Jeffress, a Dallas pastor, gave the opening prayer at the embassy ceremony.
Jeffress, who once claimed that religions like “Mormonism, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism” lead people “to an eternity of separation from God in hell”. The closing benediction came from John Hagee, an end-times preacher who, Goldberg recalled, once said that Hitler was sent by God to drive the Jews to their ancestral homeland.
Of Gaza, she added: “Even if you completely dismiss the Palestinian right of return – which I find harder to do now that Israel has all but abandoned the possibility of a Palestinian state – it hardly excuses the Israeli military’s disproportionate violence.” I’m not so sure, though, that Democrats have become more emboldened to discuss Israeli occupation as she thinks. But I think she’s right when she says that as long as Trump is president “it may be that Israel can kill Palestinians, demolish their homes and appropriate their land with impunity”.
Rarely in modern times have we come across an entire people – the Palestinians – treated as a non-people. Amid the trash and rats of the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Lebanon – oh fateful names they remain – there is a hut museum of items brought into Lebanon from Galilee by those first refugees of the late 1940s: coffee pots and front door keys to houses long destroyed. They locked up their houses, many of them, planning to return in a few days.
But they are dying fast, that generation, like the dead of the Second World War. Even in the oral archives of the Palestinian expulsion (at least 800 survivors are recorded), organised in the American University of Beirut, they are finding that many whose voices were recorded in the late 1990s have since died.
So will they go home? Will they “return”? That, I suspect, is Israel’s greatest fear, not because there are homes to “return” to but because there are millions of Palestinians who claim their right – under UN resolutions – and who might turn up in their tens of thousands at the border fence in Gaza next time.
How many snipers will Israel need then? And, of course, there are the pitiful ironies. For there are families in Gaza whose grandfathers and grandmothers were driven from their homes less than a mile from Gaza itself, from two villages which existed precisely where today stands the Israeli town of Sderot, so often rocketed by Hamas. They can still see their lands. And when you can see your land, you want to go home.
Letter from Iran: Mr. Trump, you have been served
Top officials, including former CIA officers, Pentagon officials, US Army officers and former diplomats demand explanation of Israeli actions
By PEPE ESCOBAR
In a letter addressed to President Donald Trump, with copies to the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the UN Security Council, four top former officials at the highest level of the US government have given him legal notice about his duty to advise the US Congress, the ICC and the UNSC, among others, about Israel’s actions coinciding with the “70th anniversary of the expulsion of 750,000 Palestinians from their homes.”
The letter is signed, among others, by former CIA operations officer Phil Giraldi; former Pentagon official Michael Maloof; former US Army officer and State Department coordinator for counterterrorism contractor Scott Bennett; and former diplomat and author of Visas For al-Qaeda: CIA Handouts That Rocked The World, Michael Springmann.
Maloof, Bennett and Giraldi, as well as Springmann and this correspondent, were among guests at the 6th International New Horizon conference in the holy city of Mashhad, eastern Iran. The top themes of the conference’s debates were Palestine and the Trump administration’s unilateral exit from the Iran nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
As Maloof and Bennett separately confirmed to Asia Times, the letter was written by Giraldi and Maloof at an airport lounge as they were waiting for a flight from Mashhad to Tehran, where it was presented at a press conference this past Tuesday. This correspondent was on a reporting trip in Karaj. We all reunited on Thursday at Mashhad’s airport. The press conference in Tehran was virtually ignored by US corporate media.
Visas for the visiting Americans were an extremely delicate matter debated at the highest levels of the Iranian government between the Foreign Ministry and the intelligence services. In the end, the visitors, under intense scrutiny by Iranian media, ended up finding a huge, eager audience all across Iran.
A new psyops in the making
The letter signatories make a direct connection about Israeli actions that may trigger “and escalate American military actions against Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Iran and Russia since these nations are opposed to the transfer of the US embassy to Jerusalem; and rising tensions already exacerbated by the US withdrawal from the JCPOA.”
President Trump is also served legal notice that the letter “will be included as evidence in all matters relating to the US Embassy move to Jerusalem/Al Quds and the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. The letter is to be listed as “exhibit 1 in any war crimes investigation and prosecution (past, present, future) relating to this matter, at all times.”
As Bennett told Asia Times, the main concern is that according to his military sources the current, volatile situation may establish the preconditions for “a new psyops campaign.”
Trump has been served legal notice – pursuant to 18 US Code 4, and 28 US Code 1361 – of “national and international legal violations.” The letter also doubles as “a legal notice to the American people” – and is established as legal protection “against any retaliation, detainment, investigation, sequestration, interrogation, discrimination, imprisonment, torture, financial consequences, or any other negative or prejudicial consequences or actions.”
Moreover, “any action taken against the undersigned will be interpreted as a violation of the following; 18 USC 242 (conspiracy to deny/violate constitutional civil rights); 42 USC 1983, 1984, 1985 (civil action for rights violations); 18 US 2339A (providing material support to terrorists).
The letter may also be interpreted as an olive branch; apart from requesting full whistleblower protection, the signatories offer themselves to fully debrief the President as well as Congress.
The letter is copied to Russian President Vladimir Putin, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and the President of the European Parliament, Antonio Tajani.
There has been no White House response so far...
In the Middle East right now, all sides in this complex battle are staring at each other with increasing concern
An Israeli statement that the Iranians had missles in Syria was surely made in concert with the Trump administration -- it came within hourse, and conicidences don't run that close in the Middle East
In the West, it’s easy to concentrate on each daily drama about the Middle East and forget the world in which the real people of the region live. The latest ravings of the American president on the Iran nuclear agreement – mercifully, at last, firmly opposed by the EU – obscure the lands of mass graves and tunnels in which the Muslim Middle East now exists. Even inside the area, there has now arisen an almost macabre disinterest in the suffering that has been inflicted here over the past six years. It’s Israel’s air strikes in Syria that now takes away the attention span.
Yet take the discovery of dozens of corpses in a mass grave in Raqqa, Isis’s Syrian “capital”. It garnered scarcely three paragraphs in Arab papers last month, yet the 50 bodies recovered were real enough and there may be another 150 to be recovered. The corpses lay under a football pitch near a hospital which Isis fighters used before they fled the city – under an agreement with Kurdish forces – and could only be identified by markings which gave only their first names (if they were civilians) or their nom de guerre if they were jihadis. Who killed them?
Even less space was given to another gruesome discovery last month in tunnels beneath the Syrian town of Douma, east of Damascus. This vast stone warren of underground streets wide enough for cars and trucks was found to contain 112 bodies, 30 of them Syrian soldiers, the rest probably civilians, many killed long ago, presumably by the Jaish al-Islam group which fought for the town for many years. Were they hostages for whom the Islamists wished to exchange prisoners? And then murdered when no deal was struck?
My colleague Patrick Cockburn investigated an even more terrible mass killing outside Mosul which occurred in 2014, most of the victims Shia Iraqi soldiers. We know this because Isis filmed their appalling end, shot in the head and then tossed carelessly into the blood-stained waters of the Tigris, some of them floating far south towards Baghdad. History has not been kind to these lands. In 1915, when the Turks were massacring Armenians, many of the Armenian corpses drifted down the Tigris and reached Mosul – the very execution site which can be seen in the Isis video, taken, of course, 99 years later.
Like the vast mass graves of Europe after the Second World War – especially in the Soviet Union – the memory of this savagery will not be forgotten. Which is why the Iraqi authorities (largely Shia in the case of “judicial” trials which meet no international standards) have been hanging Isis suspects like thrushes on prison gallows, 30 at a time, in the south of the country. The Kurds appear to be behaving much more humanely outside Raqqa where court hearings have a modicum of justice, albeit unrecognised in the West. And so it goes on.
And to whom does one turn for justice? Or peace? The Russians in Syria, interestingly enough, have just started publishing a monthly newspaper for joint Syrian and Russian forces in the country. It has a touch of the old Soviet Union about it. The title is “Together, We Make Peace” – which might not convince the Syrian government’s opponents – and there are photographs of Russian troops feeding refugees (flat, Arab bread), of red-bereted soldiers patrolling front lines and a very large front-page photograph of both Vladimir Putin and Bashar al-Assad.
Intriguingly, just below, is a colour photograph of perhaps Russia’s top soldier in Syria: General Aleksander Juravlov, much bemedalled and in his dark blue dress uniform, staring unsmilingly at the camera. We may hear more of him as the weeks go by. Because Russia’s presence in Syria is far from over.
Copies of the newspaper in Arabic also attempt to teach Syrian soldiers basic Russian – the Russian version teaches Arabic. And there’s even (in the Arabic print run) a guide to Moscow, maps of Russia and stories about Second World War weapons. In the top left of each front page is another Soviet-style symbol: two hands clasped together. One hand is coloured in the red, white and black banner of Syria, the other in the red, blue and white of Russia. Yes, the Russians are going to be around for quite a while.
So are the Israelis. Their earlier attack on Iranian forces in Syria – of which there appear to be far fewer than the West imagines, although there are many pro-Iranian Hezbollah fighters still in the country – came suspiciously close to the Trump announcement reneging on the US nuclear agreement with Iran. And an Israeli statement that the Iranians had missiles in Syria was surely made in concert with the Trump administration – it came within hours, and coincidences don’t run that close in the Middle East.
The latest overnight Israeli air strikes, supposedly at Iranian forces in Syria after a supposed Iranian rocket attack on Israeli forces in Golan – and it’s important to use the “supposed” and not take all this at face value – must have been known to the Americans in advance. The Russians, too. And it’s clear that any Israeli plans to create a “security zone” (ie occupation zone) inside Syria and along the border of Golan – along the lines of the “security zone”, equally occupied and patrolled by local militias, in southern Lebanon until the year 2000 – would meet with American approval.
So it’s a moment when all sides are now staring at each other with increasing concern. Oddly, in all the coverage of Lebanon’s largely peaceful election last weekend, hardly anyone commented upon one of the successful Shia candidates in the Baalbek-Hermel district. He’s a familiar name – Jamil Sayyed – and he used to be Lebanon’s head of general security. He was also a loyal friend of Syria. The West had him locked up for three years after the inquiry into ex-prime minister Rafiq Hariri’s murder but he was released without any evidence found against him. After which, General Sayyed has been a frequent visitor to Damascus.
“Robert,” he said to me over coffee there some months ago, “why do you hate me?” That was a bit of a breath-taker, and your correspondent hastened to deny any such emotion. Then came an invitation to the restaurant he owns in Beirut.
The point, of course, is that General Sayyed’s election means that one of Syria’s most trusted friends now has a seat in the Lebanese parliament. His speeches will be listened to with deep interest by his parliamentary colleagues. Odd, though, how we go on missing these developments. Out in the West – or Trump’s Wild West – mass graves, Russian alliances and Lebanese elections just don’t get the coverage they deserve.