Benjamin Netanyahu

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Israel: How a Trifecta of Court Cases Could Cement King Bibi’s 12-Year Reign

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 17/02/2021 - 2:30am in

Three judicial matters have been in Israeli headlines recently, all of them very serious in nature and all likely to serve Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the upcoming Israeli elections.

The first is the indicted prime minister’s court hearing in early February regarding his ongoing corruption case. The second is that the prosecutor at the International Criminal Court (ICC) announced that the territories Israel occupied in 1967 are within its jurisdiction, meaning that many Israelis may well be the subject of war-crimes investigations. The third is an Israeli court ruling from January 2021 banning the 2003 film “Jenin, Jenin,” made by Palestinian actor and director Mohammad Bakri. The film documents the atrocities committed by IDF forces in the Jenin refugee camp in the spring of 2002. All three are likely to raise serious concerns among the highest echelons of the Israeli government.

Yet even as these court cases loom over him, his government, and the Israeli military, and with national elections rapidly approaching, for Netanyahu these crises present opportunity. Taking the familiar pages from the Trump playbook, Netanyahu can turn every accusation of corruption into an attack by liberals, any claims of war crimes, or even misconduct by Israeli forces, into an attack on all Jews by antisemitic forces. Only in Netanyahu’s Israel could so many problems be a blessing.

Indeed, Netanyahu and his supporters claim that the corruption charges against him represent persecution of the prime minister by the liberal press and a biased judicial system. He is leading the charge to attack the ICC and has already stated that its decision is antisemitism raising its ugly head again. As for “Jenin, Jenin,” it is being universally condemned in Israel and is characterized as libelous and totally false.

When you are Benjamin Netanyahu, the best card player in the casino of Israeli politics — when you are the one who knows how to play everyone else in the room, possessing decades of experience — there’s nothing better than a good crisis. It helps to rally people around you. As a matter of fact, dealing with crises is what Netanyahu does best.

 

Indictment? No problem!

According to the Times of Israel, because Netanyahu’s corruption case has been in the news cycle for close to five years already, “[a]ny political fallout is already baked into the views, poll responses, and voting calculations on all sides.” In other words, nobody cares, and the election results will not be affected in any significant way.

Furthermore, the Times states that many of Netanyahu’s supporters “agree with Netanyahu that he is being unfairly targeted by a politicized prosecution.” Those who feel that the accusations of corruption against him have merit argue that “the advantages he brings as a leader far outstrip any possible malfeasance claimed in the indictment.” In fact, polls quoted in the Times show that “up to 54 percent of Israelis think he’s the best prime ministerial candidate.”

 

Making a deal with the devil

When no crisis is available, Netanyahu creates his own. Tensions along the border with Syria, a threat from Iran, or an impending War on Gaza are the usual favorites and work very well.

In recent days Netanyahu and his Likud Party signed an agreement with the most right-wing elements in the Zionist political spectrum. The worst neo-fascist religious fanatics within Israel have always been his natural allies and he has now come to an official agreement with them on a vote-sharing deal called “surplus votes.” Under the agreement, “Likud promised that Netanyahu would include Religious Zionism MKs ‘in any government he forms.’” That means that after Knesset votes are counted and applied towards seats in the Israeli Parliament, any leftover votes must be shared with Israel’s militant, right-wing religious fanatics.

Surplus vote-sharing agreements are widely used in Israeli elections and allow parties to ensure that extra votes do not go to waste. Instead, the parties utilize them through special agreements with other parties.

While the vote-sharing agreement has irked many in the center and what is sometimes referred to as the center-left of Israeli politics, it shows once again that Netanyahu calls the shots as he sees fit. If other members of the Knesset and even of his own party are unhappy, well then, they are welcome to go elsewhere. However, with nowhere else to go, year after year and election after election, not only do members of his party come running to him, members of the other parties do too.

The parties with which Netanyahu’s Likud signed the vote-sharing agreement include the far-right Religious Zionism Party and the openly racist “Otzma Yehudit,” or Jewish Might. Members of these parties support an ideology that includes expelling Palestinians who refuse to declare loyalty to Israel and accept diminished status in an expanded Jewish state. Some party members also support LGBT conversion therapy. These fanatic religious-Zionist parties represent armed gangs that openly terrorize Palestinians across the country.

 

The International Criminal Court ruling

After lengthy deliberations that led to a landmark decision, the International Criminal Court ruled that it has jurisdiction over war crimes committed by Israel in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem. This ruling opens the door to possible criminal charges against Israeli military personnel and potentially even against government officials.

Netanyahu called the international tribunal’s decision “pure antisemitism,” a meritless claim he failed to explain. The ruling addresses specific incidents in which the Israeli military was involved and has absolutely nothing to do with Jewish people.

 

After nearly 20 years, court ruling bans Jenin Jenin

Israel’s Central District Court has banned the screening of the 2003 documentary film “Jenin Jenin” and ordered the confiscation of all copies of the film in the country. In addition, the court ordered the film’s director, Mohammed Bakri, to pay Lt. Col. Nissim Magnagi, one of the reservist officers who was allegedly present during the assault on the Jenin refugee camp and was shown for a brief moment in the film, 175,000 shekels in damages on top of 50,000 shekels in legal expenses.

One has to question the merits of banning a film in 2021 when it was made in 2003. There are no public screenings of the film and the only viewers that watch it do so online — and that of course cannot be banned. The fine, however, is a blow and it has yet to be seen what will happen when the decision reaches a higher court for appeal.

Of the three judicial issues stated here, only one pertains to Netanyahu and is likely to have little or no effect on his chances to win the elections. The other two only confirm what the Israeli electorate already believes, that the International Criminal Court is antisemitic and that a film made by a Palestinian showing Israeli military crimes must be a vicious, libelous lie, and the common wisdom is that Netanyahu knows better than anyone how to deal with the anti-Semites.

The Israeli electorate is used to both crises and to the controversy surrounding Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The results of the next election, just like the results of the three previous ones, are almost guaranteed to go in his favor.

Feature photo | Israeli protesters hold signs during a demonstration against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, Dec. 26, 2020. Hebrew reads: “Mafia member.” Sebastian Scheiner | AP

Miko Peled is an author and human rights activist born in Jerusalem. He is the author of “The General’s Son. Journey of an Israeli in Palestine,” and “Injustice, the Story of the Holy Land Foundation Five.”

The post Israel: How a Trifecta of Court Cases Could Cement King Bibi’s 12-Year Reign appeared first on MintPress News.

Beeb Documentary Next Week on American Evangelical Christian Support for Israel

Also on TV next Wednesday, 19th January 2021, at 9.00 pm in the evening, is a programme on BBC 4 on the support for Israel amongst American Evangelical Christians and their influence on Donald Trump’s administration, ‘Til Kingdom Come: Trump, Faith and Money. The blurb for this on page 89 of the Radio Times runs

Documentary exploring the relationship between American evangelicals and Israel’s foremost philanthropic institution, the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, and its influence on both nations’ foreign policies.

There’s an additional few paragraphs about the programme by Jack Searle on page 87, which states

This seems at first to be telling a small, local story: we’re in woodland in Kentucky, where a man loading an assault rifle in preparation for some target practice explains how Donald Trump, he feels, spoke up for ordinary folk like him. But he isn’t just a regular Republican voter. He’s an evangelical pastor whose calling in life is to raise money for Israel.

Maya Zinshtein’s film explores the global significance of US Christians, who believe Israel is the key to the Second Coming, and ow that partly explains Trump’s highly controversial relocation of the US embassy to Jerusalem. It forms a spiky fable about what happens when politics and rigid religious dogma interact.

Apocalypticism and the desire to hasten Christ’s return has been a very important strand in Christian Zionism since the 19th century. Historians and activists critical of Israel and its barbarous treatment of the Palestinians, like Ilan Pappe and Tony Greenstein, have pointed out that Zionism first emerged amongst Christians in the 19th century. They wished to see the Jews return to Israel in order to fulfil, as they saw it, the prophecies in the Book of Revelation. Support for Israel in America is now strongest amongst Christian evangelicals. The largest Zionist organisation in America by sheer numbers of members is Ted Hagee’s Christians United for Israel. Jewish support for Israel is waning, especially among the young. American Jews were like their European coreligionists before the rise of the Nazis. They wished to stay in the countries in which they were born, and this attitude continued at least up to 1969. One of the Jewish magazines ran an article that year lamenting the lack of interest in Israel among Jewish Americans. The Neo-Conservative movement, founded by William Krystol, had its origins as an attempt to raise support for Israel amongst Americans. Young Jewish Americans are increasingly losing interest in Israel or actually becoming opposed to it, because of its treatment of its indigenous Arab population. The numbers of school leavers taking up the heritage tours of the country, sponsored by the Israel state as a way of gaining their support, is falling. Many Jewish young people have joined the BDS movement against goods produced in the occupied territories. As a result, Israel is shifting its efforts to muster support to American Christians.

I do wonder how many of those evangelical Christians would still be vocal in their support for Israel, if they knew that Israel pulls down monasteries and churches as well as mosques and that some of the extreme right-wing rabbis in Netanyahu’s coalition have said that they’d like to see every church in Israel pulled down as a place of idolatry. Or that the European founders of Israel really didn’t want Arabic Jews, the Mizrahim, settling in the country, and only accepted them because they needed their labour while also heavily discriminating against them. Possibly some might find this troublesome, but I’ve no doubt others would find some way to justify it and their continued support for the country.

Netanyahu’s Days May Be Numbered, but a Cadre of Far-Right Fanatics Wait in the Wings

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 15/12/2020 - 5:13am in

Israel is due to hold elections for the fourth time in just two years. The Israeli election commission has yet to announce the precise date, but it seems fairly certain that elections will take place in March of 2021, demonstrating once again that Israel is unstable and likely to become even more dangerous than it already is today.

All eyes are on Benjamin Netanyahu and how he might manage to remain in the Prime Minister’s seat. But all eyes should, in fact, be on two men that are far more dangerous than Netanyahu. They are the two standard-bearers of the Zionist religious right, Naftali Bennett and Bezalel Smotrich. These two men are the most radical, uncompromising, religious-nationalist radicals in Israeli politics today. They are ambitious and politically savvy, and if they get their way, then what the Russian Ambassador in Tel-Aviv said in an interview recently, that Israel is a destabilizing factor in the region, will soon be considered an understatement.

 

Gaining power

The religious Zionist movement has, until recently, been treated as a fringe group, but they have long been on the cutting edge of the Zionist project, and most post-1967 Zionist expansion can be credited to them. Their relentless activism and zealous belief that God is on their side have in many ways shaped the Zionist state. Netanyahu may be the only person capable of keeping them somewhat contained.

Over the past few decades, these religious fanatics managed to become the darlings of the Zionist mainstream. On the one hand, they seem friendly and generous in their desire to see all Jewish people thrive in their “ancestral homeland.” On the other, they are feared and despised. Either way, they have considerable political strength and influence and have reached a point where their agenda is no longer seen as fringe or radical. They are dedicated and effective in all areas where they serve. They perform well in both the military and civil service, and both have the capacity to reach the very top of the political pyramid.

 

Naftali Bennett

A piece in the Israeli daily Haaretz, comparing Netanyahu to Bennett, claims that “They both get their inspiration from the right-wing in the United States and in Israel, the Bible and Ayn Rand, and believe that the strong are right. But as a kippa-wearer and an entrepreneur who made a profitable exit, Bennett beats his rival hands down. Netanyahu might know how to quote the Bible and Ayn Rand, but Bennett fulfills them with his actions and his way of life.”

The piece goes on to say that “Bennett is undoubtedly the most impressive Israeli politician who has emerged over the past decade. Instead of the prime minister’s miserliness and glory-hounding, which has led him to indictment, Bennett is seen as go-getter without affectations who pays his way.”


Netanyahu, right, and Bennett pose for a photos with children in the Arab town of Tamra, Sept. 1, 2016. Sebastian Scheiner | AP

Indeed it seems that today many Israelis hang their hopes on “Hayamin Hahadash” party Chairman Naftali Bennett as their savior. In the opinion polls, where he has soared to 22 Knesset seats, he is seen as a leading candidate in the race to the premiership. This is unprecedented for someone who represents not just the radical right but the religious Zionist right.

While serving as defense minister, Bennett said, “the ICC comes from an antisemitic starting point, such that Israel will always lose because it is the Jewish State and Israel should not try to ingratiate itself to the court.”  Further, he is quoted as saying, “The Hague is the workshop of modern antisemitism.”

 

War criminal

Bennett has served as an officer in some of the IDF’s most murderous terror units and is known to defend IDF soldiers and commanders who commit war crimes. During Israel’s 1996 criminal excursion into southern Lebanon, Bennett commanded a reconnaissance unit and personally ordered an artillery attack on the UN compound in Qana village, where hundreds of Lebanese civilians had taken shelter. The attack caused the death of over 100 civilians who had fled there to take shelter.

Several decades later, when another war criminal, Ofer Vinter, a friend and comrade in arms of Bennett, commanded the notoriously murderous “Givati” Brigade that murdered countless civilians in the Gaza Strip, Bennett said Vinter and his soldiers deserve medals. Vinter, too, comes from the radical religious Zionist right and has since been promoted general. As for his own conduct, Bennett admitted publicly on Israeli television that “I killed many Arabs in my life, and I have no problem with that.”

 

Bezalel Smotrich

The Israeli newspaper Haaretz, reported how Smotrich justifies his support for the segregation between Jews and non-Jews in Israeli maternity wards, “My Wife Wouldn’t Want to Give Birth Next to an Arab Woman,” Smotrich says. He continues that he “doesn’t want his wife lying next to a woman whose baby will murder his child in another 20 years.”

David Friedman Bezalel Smotrich

US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, right, speaks to Smotrich during a 2017 visit to an Israeli Yeshiva. Photo | US Embassy

Smotrich is one of the founders of the Regavim organization, known for its campaigns to terrorize Palestinian citizens of Israel and Palestinians in the West Bank. In their well-funded campaigns, they claim Palestinians are “stealing Jewish land and water, taking over lands that are not theirs, and building illegally.” It’s a radical organization of right-wing religious Zionists who promote racism and violence.

Smotrich has been at the forefront of a relentless attack by the religious Zionist right against the Israeli High Court. Along with the rest of Israel’s religious right political block, he has been pushing for resources and support for Israeli settlements in the West Bank, and through his Regavim organization, actively terrorizing Palestinians throughout Palestine.

 

Three choices

“The Land of Israel was desolate and empty,” Smotrich stated, referring to Palestine as “Eretz Yisrael.”

We returned to this land after two thousand years and found sand and Malaria and we brought progress. We are very hospitable people, and the Arabs are welcome to remain here as our guests as long as they accept that this is a Jewish state. Any Arabs who have national aspirations can go somewhere else to other Arab countries.”

In a rare speech delivered in English, he added that “Only when they [the Palestinian people, MP] give up on their national aspirations here in the Land of Israel will there be a chance for peace.”

Smotrich claims that there are no Palestinian people and that the Arabs who reside in Israel have three choices. The first is to remain in the state of Israel as residents with no political rights. They may live here and enjoy the progress the Jews brought here to Israel’s otherwise desolate land, and they can enjoy the fruits of “our” labor. They may vote in local elections and have some control over their local government but not on a national level.

The second choice is to leave and live anywhere else, or as he calls it, “they can pick any Daesh or ISIS country that they want.” “All around you see wars and Arabs killing and eating each other alive, so they can go there if they want.”

The third option is that “we will see them through the sight of a gun.” If the Arabs decide to stay and fight, they will die.” Smotrich also considers this a choice that works.

Smotrich is careful not to discuss the issue of Jerusalem and the building of a so-called “Jewish Temple” to replace the 1,500-year-old Al-Aqsa Mosque, a mainstay of the religious Zionist right. While detailed plans are being made and millions of dollars invested to that end, all he says is that this will be done in accordance with the will of the Almighty.

Smotrich has referred to Arabs as uncivilized and barbaric and referred to himself as a “proud homophobe” and the Gay Pride Parade as a “parade of beasts.” He called the Palestinian Bedouin a demographic ticking time bomb and said something must be done about their fast growth as a community. He has no problem with Jewish people having large families, quite the opposite, that, he says, is a “blessing.”

 

The face of Israel

Tamar Zandberg, a member of Knesset from the left-leaning Zionist Meretz party, said that “the face of the generation is the face of Smotrich.” While speaking in the Knesset, she outlined policy after policy from the Smotrich playbook all of which have been adopted by the Israeli government.

While every democratic society has had to deal with its own right-wing fanatics, Israel has provided them with a platform, funding, and weapons of mass destruction. As the U.S. and Israel point to Iran as a potential nuclear threat, the real threat comes from Israel, where Bennett and Smotrich can get their hands on Israeli nukes.

Smotrich is admittedly one of the most serious, effective, and hard-working politicians in the Israeli Knesset and has managed to create an image of a caring politician, albeit with an extreme anti-Palestinian and anti-left agenda. Together with Bennett, who is more of a political heavyweight, they will either replace Netanyahu or be in positions to wield even more power.

Feature photo | Naftali Bennett, the charismatic new leader of Israel’s Jewish religious right, speaks in Ashdod. Ariel Schalit | AP

Miko Peled is an author and human rights activist born in Jerusalem. He is the author of “The General’s Son. Journey of an Israeli in Palestine,” and “Injustice, the Story of the Holy Land Foundation Five.”

The post Netanyahu’s Days May Be Numbered, but a Cadre of Far-Right Fanatics Wait in the Wings appeared first on MintPress News.

Conspiracy Theories Spreading About the Covid Vaccine

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 07/12/2020 - 1:58am in

Okay, it seems that no sooner has a vaccine against the Coronavirus been announced, than the paranoids are out there spreading stupid and dangerous conspiracy theories about it. Mike put up a piece about one on Friday, which claimed that Bill Gates was going to put a microchip in each dose so that he could monitor what people were doing. This rumour, according to the Beeb, started in March when Gates told an interviewer that there would be ‘digital certificates’ that would show who’d had the disease and recovered, been tested and received the vaccine. He hadn’t mentioned microchips. But the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation stated that the reference to digital certificates referred to the efforts to create an open-source digital platform with the goal of expanding access to safe, home-based testing.

So it’s not about putting microchips in people.

See: ‘Bill Gates is microchipping you’: Vaccine roll-out prompts return of anti-vaxxer conspiracy flapdoodle | Vox Political (voxpoliticalonline.com)

This looks like a recent mutation of the old End Times conspiracy theory about bar codes. This first emerged in the 1970s/80s. I first came across it at college from evangelical Christian friends. According to this rumour, every bar code contains the numeral ‘666’. This is the number of the Beast in the Book of Revelation in the Bible, which states that under the rule of the Antichrist no-one will be allowed to trade unless they have the Mark of the Beast – this number – on the hand and forehead. So some fundamentalist Christians believe that at the end of the World, everyone will be marked with barcodes on their hand and forehead, because they have the 666 code.

Revelation is a very difficult book of the Bible to understand. One interpretation is that, apart from being a prophecy about the future End of the World and the return of Christ, it’s also a comment on the persecution Christians were then suffering under the emperor Nero. Both the Romans and ancient Jews used codes in which letters had numerical values. In this view, 666 stands for ‘Neron’, Nero’s name in Greek. Not only did Nero persecute the Christians, when he was a young aristocrat he also used to think it was jolly japes to disguise himself as some kind of beast and go round at night attacking people. Hence the Great Beast in Revelation is also reference to Nero.

Now that microchips have been developed, which can be implanted I think the fears about barcodes have changed to include them. Instead of being marked with barcodes, people will be injected with microchips. And Bill Gates is obviously a prime focus for such fears and suspicions because of his huge power through his tech company. But these stories are nevertheless just conspiracy theories in the pejorative sense of the term, nothing more.

Unfortunately it isn’t just western Christians falling prey to stupid fears about the vaccine. I saw a video the other day about a fanatical Islamic cleric in Pakistan, who announced to his audience in cyberspace that the Covid vaccine had been developed to destroy the instinct that stops people committing incest. Once people had it injected, they would start having sex with their close relatives. And it was all the fault of the Jews, because they wanted Israel to get hold of the al-Aqsa mosque.

This is real anti-Semitism, for those, who are so deluded they think it means quietly spoken senior Jewish ladies or gents, who criticise Israel.

I don’t blame Muslims for worrying about what will happen to the Dome of the Rock mosque in Jerusalem now that Netanyahu and Donald Trump have decided that Jerusalem’s the real capital of Israel rather than Tel Aviv.

But the claim that the Covid vaccine will turn people into perverted sex maniacs is stupid, wrong and dangerous.

Of course the vaccine isn’t going to do that. And the mullah coming out with this bilge didn’t say how turning people into sex maniacs would enable Israel to get their hands on Islam’s third holiest mosque. Because the theory’s total nonsense.

But it is part of a number of other stupid, dangerous fears about vaccines. The country has been unable to get rid of polio unlike many other Developing nations. It’s because there are rumours going around claiming that the vaccine has been deliberately designed as a bioweapon against Muslims and causes sterility, thus preventing Pakistani Muslim women having children. As a result, people have refused to have the vaccine and medical workers and government officials have been killed. See Meera Senthilingam’s book, Outbreaks and Epidemics: Battling Infection from Measles to Coronavirus (London: Icon Books 2020).

Conspiracy theories like these are dangerous, and stop people getting the medical treatment they need. Don’t believe them. The Covid vaccine doesn’t contain microchips and it won’t turn anyone into a raging pervert bent on incest.

But it might stop someone dying slowly and painfully from the virus.

Don’t believe the rumours and make sure you get treated when it comes to you.

Which is a good question considering the blithering idiocy and incompetence of Boris’ government!

Iranian Nuclear Scientist Assassinated – But Do They Really Have a Nuclear Weapons Programme?

I’ve just seen this report on YouTube from the Beeb reporting the assassination of the top Iranian nuclear scientists, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh. Reports were confused at first, with the Iranian nuclear authority claiming that Fakhrizadeh had survived, but the country’s defence minister then confirmed that he had died. The Beeb’s Middle East editor for the World Service, Sebastian Usher, states that he was the head of Iran’s cover nuclear weapons programme. This has been extremely controversial for years, and is at the heart of the way Israel and America look at Iran. They see Iran as close to becoming a massive risk all across the region because of its nuclear programme. Fakhrizadeh was the ‘father’ of the nuclear weapons programme, and so the prime target, particularly for anyone trying to send a message by whoever was responsible that action would be taken against their weapons programme.

The head of the Revolutionary Guards said that these attacks had happened in the past and have been revenged in the past, and would be revenged this time. Usher states that was quite true. Between 2010 and 2012 there was a spate of assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists, four of whom were killed in relatively mysterious circumstances, but Iran blamed the Israelis. Netanyahu hasn’t made any comment on what has just happened. Usher states that we should look at the context of this assassination. Trump was in power with a very overt foreign policy from Saudi Arabia and Israel, which had a very strong attitude and ‘strategy of maximum pressure’ against Iran. Usher says that in the last few weeks there has been speculation what Trump’s administration would do to get its message across and make it more difficult for the president elect, Joe Biden, if he were to try to go back to the Iranian nuclear deal which Trump walked away from in 2018.

Top Iranian nuclear scientist assassinated – BBC News – YouTube

I’m calling bullshit on some of this. I’m not at all sure that Iran has a covert nuclear weapons programme – not after the lies Netanyahu and the Americans have told in the past, and definitely not after the total hogwash we were also fed about Saddam Hussein having weapons of mass destruction.

Readers of this blog will know that I despise the Iranian regime. They are a bunch of corrupt mass-murderers and torturers, who oppress and rob their people. But it’s a very good question whether Iran is developing nuclear weapons. As the Beeb report says, concerns about this have been around for years. The Iranians do have a nuclear programme, but denied it was military. They said it was all about supplying domestic power. Some western commenters I’ve read have said that’s probably true. Iran’s economy is heavily dependent on oil exports. They want to increase these, and so it would make sense for them to develop nuclear power to generate electricity for their people, so they can export more to the rest of the world.

I also remember how Netanyahu nearly a decade ago now was screaming that the Iranians were close to developing a nuclear bomb, and that action had to be taken against them soon. It was a lie from a man all to practised in lying. It was contradicted by that mamzer’s own security service and his generals. Unsurprisingly, William Blum has a chapter on Iran and the US’ hostility and lies about it in his book, America’s Deadliest Export: Democracy. He talks about the scare in 2007 when the Israeli state was telling the world that Iran was on the point of developing nuclear weapons and a threat to Israel. But three months before that, Tzipi Livni, the same foreign minister making the claim, had said instead that the Iranian nuclear weapons programme was not a threat to Israel. Blum also quotes Fareed Zakaria, the editor of Newsweek International, on how cooperative the Iranians were when the Americans negotiated with them in the 1990s.

The one time we seriously negotiated with Tehran was in the closing days of the war in Afghanistan [early 199s], in order to create a new political order in the country. Bush’s representative to the Bonn conference, James Dobbins, says that ‘the Iranians were very professional, straightforward, reliable and helpful. They were also critical to our success. They persuaded the Northern Alliance [Afghan foes of the Taliban] to make the final concessions that we asked for.’ Dobbins says the Iranians made overtures to have better relations with the United States through him and others in 2001 and later, but got no reply. Even after the Axis of Evil speech, he recalls, they offered to cooperate in Afghanistan. Dobbins took the proposal to a principals meeting in Washington only to have it met with dead silence. The then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, he says, ‘looked down and rustled his papers.’ No reply was ever sent back to the Iranians. Why bother? They’re mad. (p. 104-5).

Dobbins himself states that it was the Iranians who included the references to democracy and the War on Terror in the Bonn Agreement and insisted that the new Afghan government should be committed to them.

Blum goes on

Shortly after the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, Iran made another approach to Washington, via the Swiss ambassador, who sent a fax to the State Department. The Washington Post described it as ‘a proposal from Iran for a broad dialogue with the United States, and the fax suggested everything was on the table – including full cooperation on nuclear programs, acceptance of Israel and the termination of Iranian support for Palestinian militant groups.’ The Bush administration ‘belittled the initiative. Instead, they formally complained to the Swiss ambassador who had sent the fax.’ Richard Haass, head of policy planning at the State Department at the time and now president of the Council on Foreign Relations, said the Iranian approach was swiftly rejected because in the administration ‘the bias was toward a policy of regime change.’ (p. 105).

Blum concludes

So there we have it. The Israelis know it, the Americans know it. Iran is not any kind of military threat. Before the invasion of Iraq I posed the question: What possible reason would Saddam Hussein have for attacking the United States or Israel other than an irresistible desire for mass national suicide? He had no reason, and neither do the Iranians. (p. 105).

Blum also has a chapter on Iraq, and how Hussein tried again and again to make a peace deal with the Americans and show them he didn’t have WMDs. And each time he was rebuffed. A little while ago Trump had an Iranian general assassinated in a drone strike, and there are reports that he would have liked to have had others assassinated in the final days of his presidency. He’s frustrated that he couldn’t. We don’t know who was behind this assassination. It could be the Israeli state, or the Saudis, but it may very well be Trump.

And I’m afraid that over the next few days or weeks, we shall hear more about an Iranian nuclear weapons programme and how they’re a threat to America and its allies. And I fear that the hawks are also preparing to demand war with Iran. If they are, then we’ll hear all the same lies we were told about Saddam Hussein and Afghanistan – that the Iranian government is a tyranny oppressing its people, and that we shall go in there to give them democracy and freedom while eliminating them as a threat to the region’s peace.

But any invasion very definitely won’t be for the benefit of the Iranian people, or to give them freedom and democracy. It will be for the same reasons Iraq and Afghanistan were really invaded – for the oil and the maintenance of American geopolitical power. Plus in the case of Iraq, American and western multinationals also wanted to buy up the country’s state industries.

And the results of any invasion of Iran will be the same as Iraq: bloody carnage. There will be ethnic and sectarian violence, the country’s economy will collapse and unemployment skyrocket. Whatever the country has of a welfare state will disappear and the position of women will get worse. Iran is an Islamic theocracy, but it was also one of the most westernised and industrially advanced societies in the Middle East. I think it still is. The Iranian middle class go skiing in the mountains during which they sport the same fashions as the west. Yes, it part of the developing world, but I got the impression that it was also a comparatively rich and sophisticated country.

We’ve got no business whatsoever invading Iran and the other Middle Eastern nations, and so much of what we’ve been told about them, about the threat they pose, is just one lie after another. And it’s utterly disgraceful that our leaders sent our brave young men and women to fight, die or come back maimed and scarred in body and mind, not to defend this country, but simply so the multinationals can see their stocks and their managers’ salaries rise.

We were lied to about Afghanistan and Iraq. And I’m afraid our leaders will lie to us about Iran, and the Beeb will repeat these lies.

For the sake of millions of people, No War!

French Muslims Form Anti-Terrorist Group to Protect Cathedral

After the recent Islamist terrorist outrages following the Charlie Hebdo cartoons, here’s a much more positive piece of news. Yesterday’s I, for Saturday, 7th November 2020, carried a piece by Angela Charlton, ‘After Nice attack, Muslim group protects cathedral’ reporting that a French Muslim was so angered by the terrorist attacks in Nice that he got together with other local Muslims to protect his town’s cathedral. The article runs

As a French-born Muslim, Elyazid Benferhat’s stomach turned when he heard about a deadly Islamic extremist attack in Nice. Then he decided to act.

Mr Benferhat and a friend gathered a group of young Muslim men to stand guard outside their town’s cathedral, to protect it and show solidarity with Catholic churchgoers. Parishioners in the town of Lodeve were deeply touched. The parish priest said their gesture gave him hope in time of turmoil.

Mr Benfarhat said: “I am also Muslim and we have seen Islamophobia in tis country, and terrorism.” He said he always has a pit in his stomach because every time Islamic extremist violence strikes, French Muslims face new stigmatisation, even though “we had nothing to do with it”.

After the Nice attack, he said “we needed to do something beyond paying homage to the victims. We said we will protect churches ourselves.” They recruited volunteers, and after co-ordinating with police, guarded the church.

This reminds me of the ‘Don’t Touch My Mate’ protests in France a few years ago. This is the English translation of the slogan for a movement a few years ago in which French White youths marched and demonstrated in solidarity with Blacks and Muslims. It was kind of like the White marchers and protesters in the Black Lives Matter demonstrations just a month or so ago. Now Benferhat and his friends are doing something similar for the Catholics in their part of la Patrie.

I’ve also heard of Muslims protecting churches and their worshippers in other countries as well. Such as Israel. A few years ago Channel 4 screened a documentary in which a Black British priest went off examining other religion’s attitude to Christ and Christianity. He talked to an archaeologist excavating a Pagan Roman temple to Mithras, Muslims, and Hindus before going to Israel. Most of those he talked to had positive attitudes to Christ. The archaeologist talked about the supposed similarities between Mithraism and Christianity. The Hindus he met also worshipped Christalongside the traditional Indian deities, showing the syncretistic tendencies within Hinduism. And Jesus is revered by Muslims as the prophet Isa. It was when he went to Israel that he encountered hostility.

The programme showed a mob of Orthodox Jews marching on a church, which I understand was being used by a group of Messianic Jews. Messianic Judaism is a form of Jewish Christianity, in which Christ is worshipped as the Jews’ Messiah but the Mosaic and rabbinical laws are still observed. If I understand it properly, it seems to be rather like the form of Christianity practised by the gospel-writer, St. Matthew. His gospel is traditionally considered the Jewish gospel partly because, according to tradition, he was himself Jewish. But the gospel also shows a particular concern for Christ as the Jews’ saviour and assimilates the Lord’s teachings to that of the ancient rabbis. According to the historian of the early church, Eusebius, Jewish Christians also had their own bishop, Hegesippus.

The Israeli mob were prevented from causing trouble by the church’s Muslim doorman, and apparently that’s not uncommon. As well as attacks on mosques and Muslim Palestinian homes and property, Israeli fanatics and extremists have also attacked Christian churches and monasteries. These have often been protected by their Muslim staff. It’s understandable that, after centuries of Christian persecution, some Israelis have a hatred of Christianity. The inveterate Jewish opponent of all forms of racism, including Zionism, Tony Greenstein, on his blog quoted the comments of one extremist Israeli rabbi. This vile piece of work declared that Christian churches in Israel should be demolished as temples of polytheism and idolatry. The man’s clearly a member of fringe minority, but it is a minority that is closely allied with Benjamin Netanyahu and his ruling Likud coalition.

But you won’t hear about such bigotry from western Zionist groups, such as Pastor Ted Hagee’s Christians United for Israel. In terms of membership, this is the largest Zionist organisation in America. Many young Jewish Americans are turning away from Israel because, along with liberal Israelis, they despise the Israeli state and the Likudniks for its brutality and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians. It’s why the Israel lobby is apparently concentrating its efforts on winning the support of fundamentalist evangelical Christians rather than Jews.

I applaud Monsieur Benfarhat and his fellows, just as I do everyone whatever their religion or lack thereof, who is attempting to reach across ethnic and religious divides to bring people together against the forces of hate, bigotry and violence. May then win against all the Fascists, butchers and terrorists.

This is Why Israel’s Mass Protest Movement Will Never Lead to Change

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 27/10/2020 - 5:43am in

Since November of 2019, Israelis have been protesting to demand the resignation of indicted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Since the spring of 2020, these protests have escalated to the point where thousands of Israelis take to the streets every week to demand his resignation. However, Netanyahu, who has been in power for over a decade, will not budge.

 

Democracy?

A system where a politician can remain in power even after losing an election can hardly be called democratic. In Israel, however, this has happened several times in the past decade. Prime Minister Netanyahu lost the elections numerous times and through underhanded backroom horse-trading, was able to create coalitions that kept him in power.

During the last election, he created an upset that was probably the most impressive of them all. It was clear that the opposition block headed by former IDF chief General Benny Gantz had a solid majority. Yet even then, Netanyahu was able to get Gantz to capitulate at the last minute and allow him to lead the government with Ganz working for him as defense minister.

Since those fateful elections and the humiliating capitulation of retired IDF general Gantz, who, by the way, promised voters he would never serve in a government led by Netanyahu, Israelis have taken to the streets. Netanyahu’s indictment, paired with the huge impact of the coronavirus and the Israeli government’s inability to control the spread of the disease, has brought about civil unrest the likes of which Israel has never seen.

However, even though thousands are taking to the streets week after week, there has been little reporting on the protests in the United States and no impact on Netanyahu, who is protected by coalition agreements and a political reality that promises to keep him in the PM’s seat.

 

Protests throughout the country

The popular movement’s focal point has been a protest encampment across from the prime minister’s Jerusalem residence on Balfour Street. Israeli newspaper Haaretz reports that protesters have taken to the streets throughout the country. In one case, about 200 anti-Netanyahu protesters marched for eight days from the city of Kiryat Tivon in the north to the protest camp, “receiving upwards of 100 police tickets for violating public health along the way.”


Protesters march during a protest against Netanyahu in Tel Aviv, Oct. 6, 2020, during a nationwide lockdown. Ariel Schalit | AP

The government has tried to use emergency regulations to limit the protests, and the Israeli police have been using heavy-handed tactics against them to no avail. There are reports of arrests, tear gas, and even stun grenades being used against the protesters, who nevertheless violate the regulations and continue to march without permits.

Anti-Netanyahu demonstrators holding posters emblazoned with the slogans, “Crime Minister,” “Bibi Go!” and “We are the Hope” stand on one side of the street as pro-Netanyahu groups, far smaller, but louder and more prone to violence, stand on the other. Pro-Netanyahu groups are often heard shouting “traitors” and “You are not Jewish” to their counterparts on the other side of the street.

 

Violence directed at the Ultra-Orthodox

Hatred of Ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities, not to be confused with orthodox Zionist groups who practice an entirely different brand of Judaism, is commonplace among Israelis. Not unlike their counterparts in the U.S., they are more vulnerable to the coronavirus and have been hit hard by the disease. In many cases, they have been accused of not following safety guidelines.

Ultra-Orthodox Jews, by and large, reject the State of Israel and understandably distrust state institutions. Israel has been persecuting them from its very foundation, and the enmity between the government and Ultra-Orthodox communities has a long and violent history.

Enter COVID-19. The Ultra-Orthodox community rejects the internet, television, and any other form of communication that is not from within the community. Many still refuse to speak Hebrew and use only Yiddish. Socializing is a crucial part of their life, be it during study, prayer, family gatherings, or large community gatherings like weddings or other festivities.

The state, which for decades has been interfering with their chosen way of life in an attempt to secularize them and turn them into Zionist soldiers, now sends riot police into their homes, synagogues, and community gatherings, once again trying to deny them the right to gather, worship and celebrate. No effort has been made to reach out and provide them with the information they need to remain safe and clashes between the two sides are quite simply horrifying.

Protests have been erupting from within these communities and police are using all forms of brutality, including brutal beatings, tear gas, and water cannons to quell them. Protesters have even been run over by police vehicles. As expected, the Israeli government’s success in reducing the virus’s spread within this community has been dismal.

 

No budget

As hard as it may be to believe, and even though Israel has held three elections in less than two years, there is already talk of new elections.

The Israeli daily Maariv reports that Netanyahu is now blocking efforts to pass a budget, leaving government agencies with no idea what their budgets will be for 2021. Members of Netanyahu’s own coalition are rightfully nervous and demanding a budget for 2020-2021 be released. Netanyahu, on the other hand, is in no rush. He is stalling for as long as he can and prefers not to commit to a budget but instead to appropriate funds to his cronies based on their support. Furthermore, chaos is good for Netanyahu, and there are speculations that he wants to hold new elections soon and blame it on his partners in the coalition government.

Israel Mass protests

A torn poster depicting Netanyahu lies at the bottom of a fountain during a protest in Tel Aviv, Oct. 8, 2020. Ariel Schalit | AP

The lack of ability to function by Israeli government institutions was already apparent before COVID-19. Now, government agencies are functioning even less, with health care and education in a state of collapse. Add to that the lack of financial stability, or even a financial plan, and, according to Maariv, Netanyahu has a good case to call for new elections.

If there is one thing that Netanyahu knows he can rely on, it is the support of the “Right Block.” This “Block” is made of West Bank settlers, “National Religious” parties, and other neofascists. They have a right-wing agenda and can rely on Netanyahu to respond to their every whim and wish. The Block openly calls for pushing Palestinians out of Palestine, destroying the Holy Sanctuary, and building a temple to replace the Al-Aqsa Mosque. It is an agenda that Netanyahu is happy to pursue. Indeed, one of his cabinet ministers, Rafi Peretz, Minister of Jerusalem Affairs, is part of the movement to build the “Third Temple.”

Perhaps it is needless to mention, but none of the Right Block’s supporters participate in the anti-Netanyahu protests. In fact, there is at least one group that consistently shows up to disrupt the demonstrations and engage in violence. This group, called “La Familia,” originated as fans of the Beitar-Jerusalem soccer team. Beitar has a reputation for cultivating violent right-wing gangs, and quite naturally, they are Netanyahu supporters.

 

It all leads to nothing

While mass movements may, from time to time, lead to real change, it is unlikely that will be the case in Israel. As in the United States where anti-Trump and anti-fascist protests lead to little immediate political change, the Israeli political system has created a protected zone in which Netanyahu’s place is secure.

Furthermore, demands (if one can call them that) made by anti-Netanyahu groups for him to resign are weak and have little political backing. Unlike the clear agenda set forth by neofascist Zionists and the religious-Zionist settlers, the so-called Israeli “center-left” has no clear agenda, no real principles, and no ability to bring about change. They are weak politically and lack the ability to outsmart the man who has shown time and time again that he is the greatest horse trader in the business, Benjamin Netanyahu.

Feature photo | Israeli protesters chant slogans during a protest against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu In Jerusalem, Oct. 14, 2020. Sebastian Scheiner | AP

Miko Peled is an author and human rights activist born in Jerusalem. He is the author of “The General’s Son. Journey of an Israeli in Palestine,” and “Injustice, the Story of the Holy Land Foundation Five.”

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