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Disbelief as Trump Appoints Disgraced Iran-Contra Criminal Elliott Abrams as Iran Envoy

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 08/08/2020 - 3:17am in

The Trump administration has appointed disgraced neoconservative hawk Elliott Abrams to the new position of chief advisor on Iran after former insider Brian Hook handed in his resignation earlier this week. “Special Representative Hook has been my point person on Iran for over two years and he has achieved historic results countering the Iranian regime,” said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo yesterday, “Following a transition period with Brian Hook, Elliott Abrams will assume the position of Special Representative for Iran, in addition to his responsibilities as Special Representative for Venezuela.”

Anger and disbelief appeared to be the chief emotions stirred by the decision. “Elliott Abrams appointment as Special Representative for Iran is as ludicrous as his failed career as Venezuela envoy,” reacted United Nations Special Rapporteur Alfred de Zayas. “Convicted war criminal Elliott Abrams gets to try and destroy Venezuela and Iran at the same time. He certainly does have a great track record in dealing with Iran and Latin America all at once,” wrote journalist Anya Parampil, referencing his participation in the Iran-Contra scandal. Activist group CODEPINK was equally condemnatory, claiming the appointment was “another low point for the Trump administration’s disastrous policy towards Iran.” “The dangerous conflict resulting from Trump’s withdrawal from the nuclear agreement will be exacerbated by a man committed to Washington’s failed policies of regime change, including in his present-day position as Trump’s representative for Venezuela,” they added. Even mainstream, corporate-funded outlets could not hide their skepticism at the decision. “Elliott Abrams, convicted of lying about Iran-Contra, named special representative for Iran,” read CBS News’ headline.

 

Killy Elliott

Abrams’ first day on the job in the Reagan administration as Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs could hardly have been more conspicuous. The previous day, a U.S.-backed and trained death squad in El Salvador had conducted a massacre in the village of El Mozote, killing at least 800 people and raping girls as young as 10. Survivors testify that the soldiers threw a three-year-old boy in the air and impaled him on their bayonets. Abrams immediately led a cover-up, telling the Senate that eyewitness reports were “not credible” and the massacre was being “significantly misused as propaganda against their side. In total, around 75,000 people were killed in what is misleadingly described as a “civil war,” but was, in reality, a campaign of extermination directed at anyone who dissented against the U.S.-backed dictatorship. Abrams lauded what happened in El Salvador as a “fabulous achievement” for democracy. Investigative journalist Jon Schwarz described Abrams as “supporting Latin American democracy pretty much like [serial killer] Jeffrey Dahmer supported all the people that he brought to his apartment.”

Former Vice President Dick Cheney, right, poses with former Deputy National Security Adviser Elliott Abrams in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, Wednesday, May 2, 2007. (AP/Charles Dharapak)

Former Vice President Dick Cheney, right, poses with Abrams in the Oval Office, May 2, 2007. Charles Dharapak | AP

Throughout the 1980s, Abrams was a chief architect of the genocides and dirty wars plaguing the region. In Guatemala, he pushed for arms sales to the dictatorship of General Efrain Rios Montt, claiming he had “brought considerable progress” to human rights in the region. “We think that kind of progress needs to be rewarded and encouraged,” he said. While General Rios Montt was later convicted of genocide and crimes against humanity, Abrams faced no consequences for his role in the killing over 200,000 people, nor did he suffer serious repercussions for his role in the Iran-Contra Affair, where government organizations sold weapons to Iran in order to fund far-right death squads in Nicaragua. Abrams pled guilty to lying to Congress about the affair but was quickly pardoned by George H.W. Bush.

 

New regime change opportunities

“The failure of Trump’s obscure government hawk character, Elliott Abrams, was evident in the U.S. Senate today. His criminal record and his arrogant vision of the Cold War has caused him to crush the dignity and courage of a free people time and again,” wrote Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, on hearing the news about Abrams’ new position. Since January 2019, Abrams has been tasked with overthrowing the Venezuelan government, constantly encouraging the country to rise up, and placing crippling sanctions on others who trade with the Caribbean nation. Yesterday, he confirmed that he has been attempting to bribe military generals to rebel and overthrow the country’s elected leader.

The appointment of perhaps the most hardline neoconservative hawk to the new position of Special Representative for Iran is the latest in a long line of escalatory measures the Trump administration has taken. In the last two years, the president has abandoned the nuclear deal, greatly increased sanctions on the country, supported anti-government protests in Tehran, assassinated Iranian General Qassem Soleimani, and prevented the importation of COVID-19 medicines and supplies. Given his record, it is doubtful whether many in Iran will be celebrating the return of Elliott Abrams.

Feature photo | Elliot Abrams, the U.S. special adviser for Venezuela and now Iran, listens to questions from reporters at the US embassy in Lisbon, April 9, 2019. Armando Franca | AP

Alan MacLeod is a Staff Writer for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent. He has also contributed to Fairness and Accuracy in ReportingThe GuardianSalonThe GrayzoneJacobin MagazineCommon Dreams the American Herald Tribune and The Canary.

The post Disbelief as Trump Appoints Disgraced Iran-Contra Criminal Elliott Abrams as Iran Envoy appeared first on MintPress News.

With an Eye on Balkanization, Israel throws Support Behind Separatist Militants in Southern Yemen

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 08/08/2020 - 2:22am in

ADEN, YEMEN — As the war in Yemen nears its sixth year, the situation in the war-torn nation is escalating as Israel enters the fray, throwing its support behind the Emirati-backed separatist militant group, the Southern Transitional Council (STC). The STC has already effectively captured Aden and more recently seized Socotra Island. Israel’s entrance into the already convoluted and crowded theater is likely to open the door for further escalation, particularly in the Red Sea and Bab al-Mandab Strait.

Amid the ever-growing normalization of relations between Tel Aviv and wealthy Gulf Aab states, the Emirati-backed STC, now the de facto authorities in the south of the country, have already established a secret relationship with Israel encouraged by the United Arabic Emirates (UAE) according to informed sources in Aden. Despite strong opposition from leaders inside the STC and from Southern Yemen’s public, the UAE-backed group receives various forms of support from Israel, including weapons and training facilitated by the UAE following secret talks between STC officials and Tel Aviv sponsored by the UAE.

Prior to that, the Deputy Head of the STC Hani bin Breik announced that the group has a willingness to establish relations with Israel, saying “the peace with Israel is “coveted and aspiring” for them. However, he claimed that any relationship with Israel should be within the framework of the Arab peace initiative made by the late Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, but he stressed their willingness to establish relations with any country that helps them to “restore their state.”

The development comes after the Warsaw Conference held in February 2019 that ostensibly focused on security in the Middle East. There, Khaled al-Yamani, Yemen’s former foreign minister, executed a very public warming of relations with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In its wake, U.S. peace envoy Jason Greenblatt, who also served as Donald Trump’s personal lawyer and advisor on Israel, remarked that the friendly incident could be the first step in establishing cooperation between Yemen and Israel.

In a related development, Israel’s most widely-read newspaper, Israel Today, claimed that Tel Aviv has been conducting secret meetings with the Emirati-backed separatist Southern Transitional Council (STC), reporting that the STC are “secret friends” to Israel. In fact, that positive attitude towards Israel has been confirmed by the Deputy Head of the STC himself in a video posted on YouTube.

Superficially, Tel Aviv’s support aims to help the STC against the local forces that oppose them, but the fact is that Israel is trying to establish a foothold on the Yemeni Islands in the Bab-El-Mandeb Strait. The Red Sea and Bab al-Mandab are vital interests to Tel Aviv. For their part, the STC needs not only to tighten its control over Yemen’s southern districts and pursue its long-time goal of declaring secession from the north of the country, but they need a gateway to the United States and to the world. Like many Gulf Arab states, the STC has long believed the road to American validation runs through Israel.

STC Yemen Israel HQ

Militants stand guard outside of STC headquarters in Aden, Yemen, November 05, 2019. Fawaz Salman | Reuters

However, southern political leaders who spoke to MintPress realize that relations with Israel will not bring about “an independent state” and that that relationship will be an obstacle in getting public support. Moreover, southerners consider the Palestinian cause to be the cause for all, a situation that STC will not succeed in changing. They say that the Palestine issue is one that concerns Muslims as a whole, something that any local force could never hope to change.

 

Houthi resistance

Of all Yemen’s myriad political forces, tribes, and military powers, the Ansar Allah-led military, is best prepared, and likely the most willing, to take retaliatory action against both the STC and Israel. Ansar Allah, the political wing of Yemen’s Houthis, are committed to the territorial integrity of Yemen and announced that that they would not hesitate to “deal a stinging blow” to Israel in the case that Tel Aviv decides to involve itself in Yemen.

A high-ranking official quoted the words of Ansar Allah leader Abdulmalik al-Houthi when he threatened Israel in November 2011.” Our people will not hesitate to declare jihad (holy war) against the Israeli enemy, and to launch the most severe strikes against sensitive targets in the occupied territories if the enemy engages in any folly against our people.” In 1956, 1967, and 1973 war with Israel, Yemen successfully closed off the Bab Al-Mandab Strait and prevented Israeli ships from crossing through it.

The National Salvation Government in Houthi-controlled Sana’a accused the United Arab Emirates of providing cover for Israel’s efforts in southern Yemen. “The Israeli enemy sees Yemen as a threat to it,” said Information Minister Dhaifalla Al-Shami, “especially in its strategic location, so it has worked to find a foothold in Yemen through the UAE’s role.” Recently, UAE ambassador to Washington, Yousef Al-Otaiba, said in an article for the newspaper Yediot Aharonot that his country “pushed for initiatives that would have granted Israel privileges.”

Given the fact that the fragmentation of the Middle East is consistent with Israel’s strategy in Yemen, the STC’s, and by extension the UAE’s, relationship with Israel not only violates the Yemeni religious and national constants held firm by nearly all Yemenis, but it is also a threat to the prospect of a unified Yemen. Yemeni political forces, including Ansar Allah, see Israel’s efforts to back the emergence of a break-away separation state in the south as a dangerous game.

In fact, unconfirmed reports allege that Israel participated in the war against Yemen on behalf of the Saudi-led coalition as a part of a series of covert interventions involving mercenary forces, the reported launching of dozens of airstrikes in the country and even the dropping of a neutron bomb on Nuqm Mountain in the middle of the capital city of Sana’a in May of 2015. But any Israeli presence in the south will lead to an inevitable clash with Israel, according to decision-makers in Yemen.

Feature photo | An emblem of the STC at the headquarters of the separatist Southern Transitional Council in Ataq, Yemen August 27, 2019. Ali Owidha | AP

Ahmed AbdulKareem is a Yemeni journalist. He covers the war in Yemen for MintPress News as well as local Yemeni media.

The post With an Eye on Balkanization, Israel throws Support Behind Separatist Militants in Southern Yemen appeared first on MintPress News.

Susan Abulhawa Embodies the Spirit of Palestinian Resistance in Her New Book: Against the Loveless World

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 08/08/2020 - 12:57am in

Book Review — “I don’t care to be accommodating,” Nahr, the lead character in Susan Abulhawa’s new novel, “Against the Loveless World,” tells us. Perhaps she says this to prepare us or even warn us of what lies ahead. Either way, the statement runs like a thread throughout the entire book.

As the pages of the novel turn and the story of Nahr’s life unfolds, we go through the ups and downs of this Palestinian woman’s unpredictable life. Slowly, as we are gripped by the power of her story, we come to realize that Nahr’s unwillingness to be accommodating is admirable but comes at a heavy price.

Susan Abulhawa is the author of the international bestseller, “Mornings in Jenin,” among other important works of prose and poetry. Personally, I found her newest novel to be daring, honest, and totally unaccommodating. Abulhawa is also a friend of mine, and reading her novel felt a lot like listening to her talk.

 

A cube

Nahr is an inmate held in solitary confinement at an Israeli prison and she tells us the story from her tiny cell. This is no ordinary cell, the Israeli authorities placed Nahr in a highly sophisticated cell where everything is automated: the light and the shower turn on and off on their own; the toilet flushes at set times and Nahr the inmate needs to accommodate herself to their schedule. She lives in this cell and is unable to tell if it is day or night or what time of day it is.

For reasons that she lays out in the story, Nahr is not permitted to have visitors of her choice but from time to time an international observer, a journalist, or a prison guard come into the cell. It is during these random visits that we see Nahr expressing her unwillingness to be accommodating for the first time.

 

Tatreez

I can’t decide which metaphor better describes Nahr’s story, so I will use two. The first is a piece of Tatreez, or Palestinian embroidery. The characters in the story are the colors and designs that represent the various towns, villages, and regions of Palestine. It is embroidered over a black cloth, which is Palestine, thus displaying both the immense beauty and unspeakable tragedy of Palestine.

The other metaphor is a cluster of vines that twist and grow around the trunk of a large tree. In Palestine, one sees this often. They are particularly beautiful when they are in full bloom, wrapped around large trunks of tall trees. The stories of Nahr and the people around her are the vines wrapping around Palestine.

Nahr is surrounded by several strong characters, many of whom represent the breadth of the Palestinian experience. Their stories are told through Nahr’s story and together they evoke the powerful emotions that we experience together with her:  innocence, passion, love, and hate, sadness and anger as well as delicately threaded tenderness, yearning, and even compassion. Abulhawa seamlessly weaves Nahr’s personal story and the stories of the other characters into the greater story of Palestine.

The story takes us into two of the largest Palestinian refugee communities in the world, Kuwait and Jordan. We come face to face with Palestinians who became refugees in 1948, and then again in 1967, and then brutally kicked out of Kuwait and turned into refugees again as a result of the first Gulf War. Each time they think they can finally rest, something happens and they are forced to move again. Yet throughout this painful and seemingly endless odyssey their anchor continues to be Palestine.

 

A story of love

Nahr experiences the full scope of cruelty meted out to women by men, by the patriarchy. Since men’s brutality towards women is not unique to a particular race, nationality, or culture, her experience is universal. And yet, although she suffers greatly at the hands of men, she is capable of feeling and expressing a deep, sincere love for a man.

Against the Loveless World A Novel By Susan AbulhawaThough she speaks to us from a cold, lonely cell in which she is held by Israel, Nahr is able to relay her feelings to one man who she truly loves and who loves her completely. She admits to “a sexual yearning made insatiable by love so vast, as if a sky.”

In one scene Nahr watches the man she loves and describes what she sees, “the guilt, the impotence of seeing those settlements, the anguish over his brother, his mother, the years in prison, the torture, the inability to move.” Then, reflecting on her own sense of helplessness she says, “I wanted to take him in my arms and fix everything,” but, Nahr sums it up “all I could do was help carry the tea glasses.”

Palestine, for those who were torn away from her and for those who care for her, is like a loved one dying of terminal cancer. Hard as we may try, all we can do is watch as she is being eaten away by the cancer of Zionist brutality, and make her as comfortable as possible as she slips away.

Nahr’s pain is deep and real and reading this novel one often forgets that it is, in fact, fiction. She experiences pain as a woman, as a Palestinian, and as a human being. In Nahr’s own words, it is “a cloistered, unreachable, immutable ache.”

 

The spirit of resistance

Nahr tells us about “the epic fabrication of a Jewish nation returning to its homeland.” She goes on to say that the deceit, “had grown into a living, breathing narrative that shaped lives as if it were truth.”

She describes the Jewish-only settlements that she sees spreading all over Palestine. Entire cities, neighborhoods, and homes of people she knows and loves who were forced to flee their homeland, taken over by Jewish settlers. She describes the silences of older Palestinians who cannot bear to talk about their loss.

But the spirit of resistance is alive in Palestine and Nahr will not stand idly by as others prepare to act. Nahr is enraged by the ruthlessness of settlers and soldiers, tucked away safely in their exclusive, Arab-free colonies. They live on stolen Palestinian land and come out periodically to attack Palestinians with impunity.

Once she realizes that people around her are engaged in acts of resistance, she wants in on the action. Here, once again, we see Nahr unaccommodating, fierce, and willing to face the consequences.

From her solitary cell in an Israeli prison, Nahr recalls Ghassan Kanafani and James Baldwin, two great writers, who, like her, were unwilling to be accommodating. They suffered greatly because of who they were, one a Palestinian, the other a Black American. They both wrote and spoke with unmatched courage and clarity, and although dead for decades, (Kanafani was murdered by Israel in 1972, Baldwin died of cancer in 1987), they remain icons of the struggle against racism, oppression, and colonialism.

 

Feeling the pulse

Along with Ghassan Kanafani and Ibrahim Nasrallah, Susan Abulhawa’s writing has the rare quality of allowing us to taste the flavor, to smell the fragrance, and to feel the pulse of Palestine. A  true understanding of the Palestinian experience is not possible without reading the work of these three writers.

Feature photo | A Palestinian woman enjoys the Mediterranean during the Eid al-Adha holiday, Aug. 2, 2020. Oded Balilty | 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 Susan Abulhawa Embodies the Spirit of Palestinian Resistance in Her New Book: Against the Loveless World appeared first on MintPress News.

Apocalyptic Scenes from the Site of the Deadly Beirut Blast

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 07/08/2020 - 3:56am in

A massive explosion rocked Beirut on Tuesday, flattening much of the city’s port, damaging buildings across the capital and sending a giant mushroom cloud into the sky. More than 100 people are feared dead and thousands injured, with bodies buried in the rubble, officials said.

It was not clear what caused the blast, which struck with the force of a 3.5 magnitude earthquake, according to Germany’s geosciences center GFZ, and was heard and felt as far away as Cyprus more than 200 kilometers (180 miles) across the Mediterranean. Lebanon’s interior minister said it appeared that a large cache of ammonium nitrate in the port had detonated.

The sudden devastation overwhelmed a country already struggling with both the coronavirus pandemic and a severe economic and financial crisis.

The Associated Press captured the following images of the unfolding tragedy:


A survivor is taken out of the rubble after a massive explosion in Beirut, Lebanon, Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2020. The explosion flattened much of a port and damaged buildings across Beirut, sending a giant mushroom cloud into the sky. In addition to those who died, more than 3,000 other people were injured, with bodies buried in the rubble, officials said.(AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)


Citizens ride their scooters and motorcycles pass in front of a house that was destroyed in Tuesday’s massive explosion in the seaport of Beirut, Lebanon, Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2020. Residents of Beirut awoke to a scene of utter devastation on Wednesday, a day after a massive explosion at the port sent shock waves across the Lebanese capital, killing at least 100 people and wounding thousands. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)


Rescue workers and security officers work at the scene of an explosion that hit the seaport of Beirut, Lebanon, Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2020. Prime Minister Hassan Diab, in a short televised speech, has appealed to all countries and friends of Lebanon to extend help to the small nation, saying: “We are witnessing a real catastrophe.” (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)


People walk by storages destroyed by an explosion that hit the seaport of Beirut, Lebanon, Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2020. Prime Minister Hassan Diab, in a short televised speech, has appealed to all countries and friends of Lebanon to extend help to the small nation, saying: “We are witnessing a real catastrophe.” (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)


A Lebanese army helicopter flies over the scene where an explosion hit the seaport of Beirut, Lebanon, Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2020. Prime Minister Hassan Diab, in a short televised speech, has appealed to all countries and friends of Lebanon to extend help to the small nation, saying: “We are witnessing a real catastrophe.” (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)


A Lebanese army helicopter throw water at the scene where an explosion hit the seaport of Beirut, Lebanon, Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2020. Residents of Beirut awoke to a scene of utter devastation on Wednesday, a day after a massive explosion at the port sent shock waves across the Lebanese capital, killing at least 100 people and wounding thousands. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)


People evacuate wounded after of a massive explosion in Beirut, Lebanon, Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2020. Massive explosions rocked downtown Beirut on Tuesday, flattening much of the port, damaging buildings and blowing out windows and doors as a giant mushroom cloud rose above the capital. Witnesses saw many people injured by flying glass and debris. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)


A couple drives past destruction after a massive explosion in Beirut, Lebanon, Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2020. The explosion flattened much of a port and damaged buildings across Beirut, sending a giant mushroom cloud into the sky. In addition to those who died, more than 3,000 other people were injured, with bodies buried in the rubble, officials said.(AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)


Lebanese soldiers search for survivors after a massive explosion in Beirut, Lebanon, Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2020. The explosion flattened much of a port and damaged buildings across Beirut, sending a giant mushroom cloud into the sky. In addition to those who died, more than 3,000 other people were injured, with bodies buried in the rubble, officials said.(AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)


People stand in front of a destroyed building near the scene of an explosion that hit the seaport of Beirut, Lebanon, Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2020. A massive explosion rocked Beirut on Tuesday, flattening much of the city’s port, damaging buildings across the capital and sending a giant mushroom cloud into the sky. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)


This photo shows a general view of the scene of an explosion that hit the seaport of Beirut, Lebanon, Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2020. The massive explosion rocked Beirut on Tuesday, flattening much of the city’s port, damaging buildings across the capital and sending a giant mushroom cloud into the sky. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)


This photo shows a general view of the scene of an explosion that hit the seaport of Beirut, Lebanon, Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2020. The massive explosion rocked Beirut on Tuesday, flattening much of the city’s port, damaging buildings across the capital and sending a giant mushroom cloud into the sky. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)


Aftermath of a massive explosion is seen in in Beirut, Lebanon, Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2020. Massive explosions rocked downtown Beirut on Tuesday, flattening much of the port, damaging buildings and blowing out windows and doors as a giant mushroom cloud rose above the capital. Witnesses saw many people injured by flying glass and debris. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)


Wounded people are evacuated after a massive explosion in Beirut, Lebanon, Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2020. Massive explosions rocked downtown Beirut on Tuesday, flattening much of the port, damaging buildings and blowing out windows and doors as a giant mushroom cloud rose above the capital. Witnesses saw many people injured by flying glass and debris. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)


Civilians carry a victim at the explosion scene that hit the seaport, in Beirut Lebanon, Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2020. Massive explosions rocked downtown Beirut on Tuesday, flattening much of the port, damaging buildings and blowing out windows and doors as a giant mushroom cloud rose above the capital. Witnesses saw many people injured by flying glass and debris. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)


Smoke rises from a massive explosion in Beirut, Lebanon, Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2020. Massive explosions rocked downtown Beirut on Tuesday, flattening much of the port, damaging buildings and blowing out windows and doors as a giant mushroom cloud rose above the capital. Witnesses saw many people injured by flying glass and debris. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)


An injured man walks at the explosion scene that hit the seaport, in Beirut Lebanon, Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2020. Massive explosions rocked downtown Beirut on Tuesday, flattening much of the port, damaging buildings and blowing out windows and doors as a giant mushroom cloud rose above the capital. Witnesses saw many people injured by flying glass and debris. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)


Lebanese man helps an injured man who was wounded by an explosion that hit the seaport, in Beirut Lebanon, Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2020. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)


People help a man who was wounded in a massive explosion in Beirut, Lebanon, Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2020. Massive explosions rocked downtown Beirut on Tuesday, flattening much of the port, damaging buildings and blowing out windows and doors as a giant mushroom cloud rose above the capital. Witnesses saw many people injured by flying glass and debris. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

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Study: Billionaires That Donated to Gates-Buffet Giving Pledge Now Richer Than Ever

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 07/08/2020 - 3:07am in

A study released by the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) through its Program on Inequality and the Common Good, titled “Gilded Giving 2020: How Wealth Inequality Distorts Philanthropy and Imperils Democracy” examines the reality behind the ostensible charitableness of the billionaire donor class and the disturbing trend of charitable organizations and foundations relying more and more on fewer and fewer wealthy donors; funds which “end up in family foundations and donor-advised funds that could legally exist in perpetuity,” while donations from lower and middle-income sources are disappearing.

In particular, the paper looks at The Giving Pledge initiative started in 2010 by a few dozen U.S. billionaires and led by Bill Gates and Warren Buffet. The professed goal of the initiative was to have the wealthiest people in the world pledge to give at least half of their fortunes away to charitable causes before their death. The study found that contrary to the stated purpose of the philanthropic commitment of the organization, a full 75 percent of participants have actually increased their net worth in the ten years since they made their charitable vow.

More concerning is the finding that a growing share of “high-end” donations never ends up in organizations that do any kind of altruistic work. Rather, they go to tax-privileged private foundations designed to serve as tax shelters for the very wealthy, which then only disburse a small percentage of their assets to charitable non-profits; a particularly galling fact considering how much more wealthy the one-percenters have gotten over the course of the pandemic in contrast to the 54 million Americans who’ve filed for unemployment in that same span of time.

 

Top-heavy risk

Among its key findings, the study notes that giving intermediaries like donor-advised funds (DAFs) like Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund (the largest in the country), and private foundations have grown dramatically over the last few years, with assets ballooning 118 percent between 2005 and 2019. The number of private foundations has multiplied as well by a whopping 68 percent over the same period.

In addition, IPS found that there has been a “marked increase in mega-gifting,” or donations of $50 million or more. The trend highlights one of the main risks identified by the study, characterized in the paper as “Top-Heavy Philanthropy,” which “poses significant implications for the practice of fundraising, the role of the independent nonprofit sector, and the health of our larger democratic civil society.”

These risks associated with top-heavy philanthropy are clearly illustrated in their case study of the Gates/Buffet Giving Pledge, exposing it as a vehicle for the “concentration of taxpayer-subsidized private charitable power.” In other words, the majority of donations given to the organization end up “sequestered” in private foundations and DAFs, guaranteeing that donors and their heirs will retain control over the very assets they ostensibly donated to the greater good.

Remarkably, the study found that a vast majority of the foundation’s 62 billionaire pledgers substantially increased their wealth in the span of the ten years since their initial donations. Only 11 saw their fortunes dwindle due to “aggressive charitable giving” or market conditions. Nine of the mega-wealthy donors saw their collective riches swell by an average of 200 percent. Among the charmed list, Mark Zuckerberg saw the largest surge by an outlandish 1,783 percent.

 

Hardly charity

The significance for U.S. taxpayers of these and other factors analyzed are revealed by a hypothetical calculation made by researchers regarding the tax-subsidy, which DAF-parked donations represent for the average American. According to July survey by Forbes magazine, U.S. billionaires currently hold $971.9 billion in assets; if the top 100 gave away half their wealth to foundations like these, the U.S. Treasury would lose roughly $360 billion in tax revenue.

While researchers admit that it is difficult to determine the “exact amount of taxpayer subsidies for these donations,” the reality is that the wealthiest among us are using these foundations to reduce their “taxable estates” by millions and even billions of dollars, while the resources that actually make it to organizations doing charitable work dwindles. Such a state of affairs combined with the economic recession unfolding as a result of the pandemic and tax-breaks for the rich poses serious challenges to charities, in general.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) passed in 2018 drastically reduced income tax rates for top earners and doubled the standard deduction, both of which reduced incentives for charitable giving. Meanwhile, non-profit charitable organizations whose mission does not fall into the sectors related to the pandemic, itself, are suffering financially resulting in program cutbacks for 64 percent of these, according to an April survey by Charity Navigator and Reuters.

In February 2020, the Chronicle of Philanthropy published a list of the top 50 philanthropists in the United States. 42 percent of those contributions, which totaled $15.8 billion, went to DAFs. Most of these were to the donors’ own private funds and nearly 30 percent went to colleges and universities, leaving actual charitable causes very low in the philanthropic totem pole.

Feature photo | American investor Warren Buffett, left, and Microsoft Corp. co-founder Bill Gates, right, talk during their visit to a Dairy Queen in Beijing, China, Sept. 30, 2010. Alexander F. Yuan | AP

Raul Diego is a MintPress News Staff Writer, independent photojournalist, researcher, writer and documentary filmmaker.

The post Study: Billionaires That Donated to Gates-Buffet Giving Pledge Now Richer Than Ever appeared first on MintPress News.

Do Hundreds of UN Resolutions Prove the United Nations has an Anti-Israel Bias?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 06/08/2020 - 7:25am in

The U.S. government is in a love affair with Israel, and nowhere is it more apparent than in the halls of the United Nations. Former U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley once asserted, “Nowhere has the UN’s failure been more consistent and more outrageous than its bias against our close ally Israel.”

Indeed, since 1949, that state has been the subject of many hundreds of United Nations General Assembly (General Assembly) resolutions – nearly every one of them critical of Israel, “the Occupying Power.” Each year the General Assembly agenda includes a dozen or more discussions about Israeli injustice toward Palestinians, but rarely the reverse.

Many Israel supporters agree with Haley that this indicates an anti-Israel or even anti-Semitic tendency in the UN. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) suggests that “Arab member states of the UN have used the General Assembly (GA) as a forum for isolating and chastising Israel.” The ADL speculates that “third-world nations” add their votes to those of hostile Arab states to pass measures against Israel.

This analysis is both implausible and ahistorical.

 

The UN agenda

Subjects matter in the General Assembly emerge not from personal animus, but the priorities of the UN and geopolitical facts. The UN strives to promote economic growth, maintain peace, support developing countries, and promote human rights, justice, and international law. The items on the General Assembly agenda involve complex issues. Most topics are automatically revisited every year until they are resolved; occasionally, a new one is added, or one is dropped or merged with another.

Resolutions grow not from hearsay or opinion, but from fact-based eyewitness reports, many of them UN-commissioned. Experts and members of UN committees regularly contribute carefully researched reports. Starting in the late 1960s, for example, the UN passed resolutions concerning South Africa, calling for an end to apartheid and encouraging all justice-loving countries to boycott, sanction, and isolate the country. UN member states overwhelmingly supported the efforts to end apartheid – not from an anti-South-African bias, but from a passion for justice. The topic: Policies of Apartheid of the Government of South Africa, came up year after year until 1994 when the issue was resolved.

Israel, on the other hand, has not made any of the changes the international community has called for. While it’s not surprising that Arab countries support Palestine in the UN, they are not numerous enough to accomplish anything on their own. Member States from all over the world vote in favor of resolutions that censure Israel – delegates look at facts and recommendations and decide whether they are compelling.

The fact that General Assembly passes a dozen or more resolutions addressing the Palestinian issue each year owes not to a bias against Israel (or Jews), but to the enormous scale and long history of the problem. The Palestinian plight has been before the organization for decades and has grown in scope – not just because the number of Palestinians has grown, but because Israel’s brutality has intensified.

It is worth taking time to trace the roots of the General Assembly’s supposed preoccupation with Palestine and determine whether it is malicious or constructive.

 

1948 refugees and UNRWA

At least 750,000 Palestinians fled or were exiled from their homes and villages as the state of Israel emerged in 1948 on 78 percent of historic Palestine. The UN passed a resolution expressing its expectation that the refugees would be allowed to return. Israel refused to comply.

In 1949, the UN created UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, and gave it the mandate to care for those refugees and help them return home. And because the Palestinian refugees from 1948 are still in exile, UNRWA is still at work, providing health care, education, and social services to the refugee population of the Palestinian territories.

Every year since 1952, UNRWA has reported to General Assembly on its work, and has been commissioned via resolution to continue its efforts – that’s 67 resolutions in 67 years while waiting for Israel to grant the refugees their right of return. Every year, some Palestinians leave the refugee camps and emigrate to countries around the world, but the majority stay, either because they can’t afford to leave, or in hopes of returning home. The number of refugees has grown from 750,000 to around 3 million – and the costs to UNRWA have increased exponentially.

In 1970, the General Assembly created the Working Group on the Financing of UNRWA to address the Agency’s financial crisis. Every year since, the Working Group has pursued new ways to finance UNRWA’s work, and produced a report on its efforts; every year, the UN passes a resolution for the continuation of those efforts – 49 years, 49 resolutions.

 

1967 refugees

About 200,000 Palestinians were displaced during the so-called Six-Day War in June of 1967 (some of these had already been displaced in 1948) when Israel occupied what was left of Palestine. Again, Israel refuses to let them return.

In 1983, General Assembly began addressing this issue individually, demanding that not just the refugees from 1948, but also those from 1967, be allowed to return. Because Israel has steadfastly refused to give them this right, the topic: Persons Displaced as a Result of the June 1967 and Subsequent Hostilities, has prompted resolutions every year since 1975 – 44 years in a row.

UN History Palestine

Displaced by the Six Day War, Refugees wait for food rations from UNRWA in an almost deserted refugee camp near Jericho, Feb. 6, 1968. Photo | AP

 

Settlements: land theft

As soon as Israel began its occupation in 1967, it began to build settlements – pockets of Israeli citizens living illegally on Palestinian land. In yet another affront to justice and international law, settlement construction includes the demolition of entire Palestinian villages, the confiscation of Palestinian property, and the expulsion of Palestinians.

By 1972, the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Population of the Occupied Territories had brought this to the attention of the General Assembly, which began tracking Israel’s settlement-building and passing resolutions condemning the practice, asking the Special Committee to follow up – 47 resolutions in 47 years. (Until 2019, the United States agreed with the rest of the world that these settlements are illegal.)

Because Israel has persistently ignored the UN’s demands, at least 600,000 Israelis now live illegally in the Palestinian territories, including in East Jerusalem.

 

Human rights abuses

The UN Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People is also fighting for Palestinian rights. The committee was formed in 1968 to specifically address Israel’s violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law that arose in the wake of the occupation.

Every year, the Committee conducts a fact-finding mission in the region, and every year, the Israeli government refuses to participate or even allow the members to enter the occupied Palestinian territories. Through investigation, independent research, and interviews with members of relevant UN committees and reputable NGOs, the Committee puts together a report in keeping with their mandate. Various groups use these reports to carry on advocacy work.

Every year since 1971, General Assembly has passed a resolution directing the Committee to continue its valuable work. That’s 48 resolutions in 48 years. (Here is the 2019 report.)

 

Inalienable rights

By 1975, the General Assembly was “gravely concerned” that Palestinian refugees still lacked their inalienable rights to self-determination, sovereignty, and the ability to return home. The body stated:

the United Nations has a permanent responsibility with respect to the question of Palestine until the question is resolved in all its aspects in a satisfactory manner in accordance with international legitimacy.

The General Assembly created the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People in hopes of finding a solution.

Starting in 1976, and every year since, the Committee has worked with other organizations around the world that are advocating for a just solution. They have reported every year, and every year General Assembly has passed a resolution – 43 in total – recognizing the work and authorizing it to continue.

UN History Palestine

Reem Hassan holds items that belonged to a child killed by an Israeli landmine during a 2002 U.N. Children’s summit in New York. Stephen Chernin | AP

 

Self-determination

The UN Social, Humanitarian, and Cultural Committee has also taken on the Palestinian issue, with an emphasis on “the development of friendly relations among nations, based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples.” This Committee has been working and reporting since 1995; each year, the General Assembly passes a resolution reaffirming these efforts: 24 resolutions in 24 years.

 

Stealing natural resources

Beginning in July 1996, General Assembly joined with the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia to highlight (among other things) Israeli settlements’ devastating impact on Palestinians’ access to their own natural resources.

For years, Israel’s government and illegal settlers have been confiscating or destroying agricultural land and orchards, water pipelines and sewage networks, and diverting water resources from Palestinian towns to illegal settlements.

The Permanent Sovereignty over Natural Resources Committee tracks and reports these actions in an effort to hold Israel accountable for its exploitation and destruction of Palestinian natural resources.

Israel has refused to take appropriate action. The General Assembly has, therefore, continued to pass resolutions to keep the Committee on the job – 23 resolutions in 23 years.

 

The Holy City of Jerusalem

Ever since 1947, before the State of Israel was created on Palestinian land, Jerusalem has been a focal point of the United Nations. Resolution 181 declared,

The City of Jerusalem shall be established as a corpus separatum under a special international regime and shall be administered by the United Nations.

In support of Israel’s application for UN membership, the Israeli delegate Abba Eban assured the General Assembly that the Jewish state agreed with Resolution 181.

In the more than seventy years since, Israel never put the UN plan into motion. Israel controlled much of the city beginning in 1948 and officially – illegally – annexed the rest in 1980 – an act which the United Nations has deemed “null and void” (but which the current U.S. administration supports).

The topic of Jerusalem has come up in 38 General Assembly sessions and resolutions as the body has attempted again and again to pressure Israel to submit to international law and the UN’s own declarations – as well as Israel’s own promises.

 

Israel created an economic crisis

The Economic and Social Council of United Nations works with various UN bodies to identify “economic and social repercussions of the Israeli occupation on the living conditions of the Palestinian people,” and has been working for over four decades to coordinate and deliver needed assistance. Consequently, the topic of “Assistance to the Palestinian People” has spawned 40 resolutions.

 

United Nations as a myth-buster

As General Assembly saw, year after year, Israel’s impunity for egregious human rights violations, the body turned to the UN Department of Public Information (DPI) to ramp up the pressure. The DPI had been established in 1946, “to promote global awareness and understanding of the work of the United Nations …[to build] support for peace, development and human rights for all.

The General Assembly instructed DPI to build close contact with the media, organize conferences and meetings with NGOs, publish newsletters and articles, and organize trips for journalists “in order to heighten awareness of the facts relating to the question of Palestine.” Each year since 1996, General Assembly has passed resolutions renewing DPI’s mandate – 23 years in a row.

The effort may be paying off in the one country that stands most resolutely by the side of Israel: polls are beginning to indicate that Americans are becoming less supportive of Israel and of U.S. government policies that favor the “Jewish State.”

UN History Palestine

UNRWA’s Peter Hansen speaks to the media during a tour of Nablus following Israeli helicopter and tank attacks in 2002. Greg Baker | AP

 

Numbers speak volumes

Palestine has been a prominent UN topic since 1949 and has been the subject of at least seven hundred resolutions – only a fraction of which are discussed here.

The list of committees and working groups toiling over the Palestinian issue is long. General Assembly indeed spends a great deal of time discussing and debating this topic. Their work attests, not to an anti-Israel or anti-Semitic culture in the United Nations, but to the tenacity of this global body – and the shameless belligerence of Israel.

It also speaks volumes that the United States remains one of only a handful of allies of this rogue state. Until this changes, there is no reason to expect that Israel’s behavior will improve.

Feature photo | A United Nations aid agency car lies destroyed by shrapnel from an Israeli airstrike in the Jebaliya refugee camp, northern Gaza, July 29, 2014. Lefteris Pitarakis | AP

Kathryn Shihadah writes for MintPress News and If Americans Knew. She speaks regularly about the injustice and demonization Palestinians face at the hands of Israel with complicity from the United States, especially to Christian audiences. Kathryn has lived in the Middle East for ten years and has traveled extensively. She blogs at PalestineHome.org

The post Do Hundreds of UN Resolutions Prove the United Nations has an Anti-Israel Bias? appeared first on MintPress News.

Shadowy US Firm Run by Former Diplomat Cinches Syria Oil Deal with Kurds

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 06/08/2020 - 7:25am in

In November of last year, the Pentagon’s assistant to the secretary of defense for public affairs assured reporters during a press briefing that “the revenue from [Syrian oil fields] is not going to the U.S. [It] is going to the SDF”, adding that the purpose of the mission was “to defeat ISIS” and that “securing of the oil fields [was] a subordinate task to that mission”, which was “to deny ISIS the revenues from that oil infrastructure.”

At that time, however, a recently incorporated company in the Delaware jurisdiction named Delta Crescent Energy LLC had already been communicating with members of the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in the northeastern region of Syria for several months about developing and exporting crude oil from the Kurdish-occupied territory.

Already in April 2019, the new oil concern had received a license from the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) to carry on with the work; the same Treasury department that in 2018 had levied sanctions against the Syrian government’s “Petroleum Procurement Network,” targeting companies in Lebanon and the UAE which deliver fuel and natural gas to Syria.

The Syrian foreign ministry issued a statement on Sunday declaring the deal to be illegal and designed to steal Syrian crude. “This agreement is null and void and has no legal basis,” read the statement from Damascus, which condemned “in the strongest terms the agreement signed between al-Qasd militia (SDF) and an American oil company.”

The loose band of Kurdish rebels now known as the SDF was formed after U.S. airstrikes allowed them to take the Syrian city of Kobani in 2015. Subsequent military assistance and training by U.S. forces helped consolidate the 60,000-man army, which has been pivotal in American destabilization efforts in Syria.

 

Shell company

Delta Crescent Energy LLC was formed in February 2019 in the tax haven jurisdiction of Delaware and lists its address as 1209 North Orange Street in Wilmington, DE; a “tiny brick building,” which is also home to more than 300,000 business entities. Among its neighbors at the cramped address are companies like Apple, eBay, and Walmart, just to name a few.

The company’s officers include George W. Bush’s ambassador to Denmark, James P. Cain – a sports franchise owner who once called for the execution of Chelsea Manning for leaking diplomatic cables to Wikileaks; former Delta Force commander and TigerSwan CEO, James Reese and John P. Dorrier Jr. founder of UK-based, Houston, TX-located, GulfSands Petroleum, which has carried out business in Syria before.

Reese, whose private mercenary company TigerSwan infiltrated and surveilled Dakota Access Pipeline protestors at Standing Rock in 2016, told Fox News in 2018 that “the whole eastern part of Syria” belonged to the U.S. “That’s ours,” he continued, “We can’t give that up.”

The secretive oil deal was a topic of conversation during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on July 30. When Sen. Lindsey Graham asked Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo if he was supportive of the agreement, he testified that “We are,” adding that it had taken “longer” than anticipated, but it “was now in implementation, and it can be very powerful.”

 

Oil market viability

Graham praised the blatantly illegal arrangement, saying that it would “improve the viability of the northern oil fields to make them more productive.” Syrian oil fields were producing approximately 380,000 barrels a day until U.S.-backed rebels took over the oil-rich northeastern region of the country after “ousting” ISIS forces – themselves spawned from the EU, the U.S., and the UK  – reducing production to less than 60,000 barrels a day.

The negotiations were brokered by U.S. government officials from the State Department. James Jeffrey, United States Special Representative for Syria Engagement and his deputy, Joel Rayburn were charged with cementing the contract, which the Trump administration still cynically claims was done on behalf of the “Syrian people” and that the U.S. “government does not own, control, or manage the oil resources in Syria. The populations in areas liberated from ISIS make their own decisions on local governance.”

The Pentagon’s spokesperson, Jessica McNulty added that the DoD “does not have an affiliation with any private companies in regard to the oil fields in northeast Syria” and in the same breath expressed how the American military was there to literally protect the interests of the oil company by “securing [the] critical petroleum infrastructure in northeast Syria to deny ISIS access to critical resources and revenue.” McNulty, however, did not mention that the Delaware-based company has plans to sell the oil to “various customers in the region,” including Assad, himself.

Feature photo | U.S. military forces patrol Syrian oil fields, Oct. 28, 2019. Baderkhan Ahmad | AP

Raul Diego is a MintPress News Staff Writer, independent photojournalist, researcher, writer and documentary filmmaker.

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Apartheid or One State: Has Jordan Broken a Political Taboo?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 06/08/2020 - 12:21am in

What will it take for the idea of a two-state solution, which was hardly practical to begin with, to be completely abandoned?

Every realistic assessment of the situation on the ground indicates, with palpable clarity, that there can never be a viable Palestinian state in parts of the West Bank and Gaza.

Politically, the idea is also untenable. Those who are still marketing the ‘two-state solution’, less enthusiastically now as compared with the euphoria of twenty years ago, are paralyzed in the face of the Israeli-American onslaught on any attempt at making ‘Palestine’ a tangible reality.

The Palestinian Authority of Mahmoud Abbas is still busy compiling more symbolic recognition of a state that, at best, exists in the dusty files of the United Nations. Arabs and Europeans, too, still speak of a two-state, rhetoric that is never followed with practical steps that may enforce international law and hold Israel accountable to it.

The fate of Palestine seems to be entirely dependent on the aggressive and violent actions of Israel alone – not only through the policies of Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, but all previous Israeli governments.

This trajectory of aggression and violence is likely to continue for as long as Israel is held hostage to the ideology of Zionism which remains committed to territorial, colonial expansion and the ethnic cleansing of the indigenous population.

These two factors – colonialism and ethnic cleansing – can never coexist with the principles of justice and peace. For Zionism to remain relevant, Israel and Palestine must remain in the throes of a protracted, interminable war.

Therefore, it was encouraging to read comments made by Jordanian Prime Minister, Omar Razzaz, in an interview with the British Guardian newspaper on July 21.

“You close the door to the two-state solution, I could very well look at this positively, if we’re clearly opening the door to a one-state democratic solution,” Razzaz said.

Razzaz was referring specifically in the context of Netanyahu’s decision to annex nearly a third of the West Bank and the Jordan Valley. The senior Jordanian official referred to Israel’s annexation policies as the “ushering in (of) a new apartheid state.”

An apartheid state was, practically, ushered in a long time ago. Israel’s so-called Nation-State Law of 2018 merely confirmed an existing reality.

The Law left no doubt regarding Israel’s exclusionist ‘Jewish identity’, formulated at the expense of the Palestinian people, their historic rights in Palestine, and the internationally-enshrined Right of Return for Palestinian refugees.

On July 29, the Israeli Knesset (parliament) callously rejected a draft amendment to make the unmistakably racist Nation-State Law slightly less racist. The amendment had called for the inclusion of a clause that guarantees equality for all of Israel’s citizens, regardless of race, religion, or ethnicity.

In its current form, Israel represents the very essence of apartheid.

Razzaz knows this, as do many politicians and leaders throughout the Middle East, in Europe, and across the world. Unlike his counterparts elsewhere, however, the Jordanian Prime Minister had the courage to imagine a future in Palestine and Israel that is not inundated by empty clichés of ‘solutions’ that were never fair, to begin with.

Razzaz’s positive and upbeat tone of words is notable.

“I challenge anybody from Israel to say yes, let’s end the two-state solution, it’s not viable,” he said. “But let’s work together on a one-state democratic solution. That, I think, we will look at very favorably. But closing one and wishful thinking about the other is just self-deception.”

Other Arab officials, prior to Razzaz, alluded to the one-state possibility, but largely in a negative context. Palestinian Authority officials, in particular, have waved this card before, often threatening Israel that, if illegal settlement expansion was not frozen, for example, Palestinians would have no alternative but to demand one state.

What Razzaz is saying is quite different, if not radical, as Jordan, which signed a peace agreement with Israel in 1994, has remained the most visible Arab advocate for the two-state solution for many years. Razzaz’s words bring that ‘self-deception’ to an end.

Of course, political necessity will compel Jordan, and others, to continue to pay lip service to a political ‘solution’ that will, unlikely, ever materialize. Israelis and Palestinians are now conjoined in such a way that physical separation between Palestinian Arabs and Israeli Jews is impossible. Additionally, speaking of a two-state solution while Israel is cementing a one apartheid state reality is a waste of precious time that should be used to foster equality, accountability, and just peace.

Ordinary Palestinians, too are beginning to realize the futility of the two-state paradigm. According to a February poll conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, 61 percent of all Palestinians no longer believe that ‘a two-state solution’ is viable. The same poll suggests that 37 percent support the idea of a single state solution. Judging by previous poll numbers, it seems that, before long, the majority of Palestinians will embrace the latter as the most rational and achievable objective.

It will take time because the establishment of an independent Palestinian state has been the only rallying cry by the Palestinian leadership for nearly three decades.

However, even prior to the 1960s, the Palestinian national movement adopted a political strategy that was predicated on the establishment of one democratic state for Christians, Muslims, and Jews. Alas, political expediency impelled late Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) to shift tactics, settling for a Palestinian state that would, in theory, be incrementally established in disconnected parts of the occupied territories – Gaza, Jericho, Area A, B, and so on.

Even the latter idea, which was most unfair to Palestinians, was still rejected by Israel, and Netanyahu’s latest annexation scheme is proving to be the final nail of the two-state coffin.

Since the two-state solution is no longer workable, Palestine and Israel are now left with one of two options: a protracted, racist, and violent apartheid or coexistence in a modern, democratic, and secular state, for all of its people.

The democratic and sustainable choice should be obvious, even to politicians.

Feature photo | Jordanians yell slogans during a protest against Trump’s so-called Deal of the Century in the center of Amman, Jordan, Jan. 31, 2020. Raad Adayleh | AP

Ramzy Baroud is a journalist and the Editor of The Palestine Chronicle. He is the author of five books. His latest is “These Chains Will Be Broken: Palestinian Stories of Struggle and Defiance in Israeli Prisons” (Clarity Press, Atlanta). Dr. Baroud is a Non-resident Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA), Istanbul Zaim University (IZU). His website is www.ramzybaroud.net

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Shadow Wars: Leaks by Mossad Point to Israeli Involvement in Deadly Attacks on Iran

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 05/08/2020 - 2:27am in

Israel is believed to be behind several recent acts of sabotage against Iranian civilian and military infrastructure, including a hospital, that have taken the lives of at least 19 people and has further disrupted an economy already in the throes of a devastating downturn brought on by a global pandemic and crippling economic sanctions.

Click-Here-to-watch-on-YouTube

Read more about the attacks:

Feature photo | Rescue workers search for survivors at the scene of a mysterious explosion at the Sina At’har Health Center in the north of Iran’s capital Tehran on June 30, 2020. Amir Kholousi | ISNA

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Federal Government Releases Bipartisan Anti-China Plan for Artificial Intelligence

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 05/08/2020 - 12:45am in

A bipartisan plan for artificial intelligence (AI) in relation to national security has just been released by U.S. Representatives Robin Kelly (D-IL) and Will Hurd (R-TX). The report was put together by the D.C.-based think tank Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) and the Center for Security and Emerging Technology (CSET) of Georgetown University, in addition to industry representatives and academics, as well as other government officials.

The proposal comes as anti-China rhetoric begins to coalesce in the policy-forming circles of the U.S. government. “American leadership and advanced technology has been critical to our success since World War II, and we are in a race with the government of China,” Hurd stated. “It’s time for Congress to play its role.” Most of the document, however, focuses on China and Russia as threats to American hegemony, with AI being just the latest excuse to assert its power over aligned nations and launch threats of economic warfare and tease military action against non-aligned countries.

Recent headlines about the possible acquisition of the Chinese video platform TikTok by Microsoft and Trump’s threats to ban the social media company from operating in the U.S. underscore the aggressive tactics now being employed by the government and American tech firms, in tandem, to assert U.S. hegemony over AI systems worldwide.

The tussle over mobile software applications is occurring as the U.S. Department of Justice brings hacking charges against Chinese nationals and the FBI lobs accusations against the Chinese consulate in San Francisco of harboring fugitives. Meanwhile, a Congressional inquiry into the alleged disappearance of a Chinese Catholic Bishop adds to the strong signals that the U.S. is moving into cold war footing against the Asian nation.

 

Principles and takeaways

The AI plan is based on three reports issued by the National Security Commission on AI; established in 2018 by the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act (P.L. 115-232).

The Commission, co-chaired by former Alphabet CEO Eric Schmidt and former deputy secretary of defense Robert O. Work, recently created an advisory committee to steer policy in regards to applications of AI.

The Commission has come under fire for holding closed-door meetings and for failing to publicly disclose their recommendations. A decision handed down by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in June held that the Commission must abide by the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) and must “hold open meetings and proactively provide records and other materials to the public.” The Commission is set to expire in one year, by October 2021.

The bipartisan plan on AI offers five “Key Principles” the first of which involves the implementation of the DoD’s “Ethical Principles for AI,” a set of broad rules meant to guide “both combat and non-combat functions” of AI, which are to be enforced by the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (JAIC); an agency established in 2018 within the Pentagon. The JAIC is currently led by acting director, Nand Mulchandani of DoD enterprise software contractor, Citrix, and former Chief of the FBI’s Counterterrorism and Forensic Science Research Unit, Stephen T. Homeyer.

The second “principle” alludes to cooperating “selectively and pragmatically” with China and Russia. The third implies surveillance of other countries’ AI capabilities and “perspectives,” while the fourth calls for greater investment in R&D for artificial intelligence and promoting “standardization” to achieve more “trustworthy” AI systems. The fifth brings it full circle back to the confrontational stance of the U.S. government by recommending “export and investment controls” to prevent the transfer of sensitive AI technologies to China.

The plan then offers several takeaways, such as the “operational advantage against adversaries,” AI-enabled command and control “as envisioned by programs such as the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA) Mosaic Warfare and the Air Force’s Multi-Domain Command and Control.” In addition, it adds two recommendations regarding the use of AI for logistical aspects of the U.S. military “including troop rotations,” counseling the “implementation of enterprise AI applications” to these ends.

 

Curbside Constitution

Other parts of the plan revolve around autonomous vehicles and weapons systems. The former, in particular, has important implications for the private sector as ride-sharing companies like Uber and car-makers alike push for policies to shape the burgeoning autonomous vehicle market. But, due to the technology’s requirements to “perceive and map the environment, fuse sensor data, identify obstacles, plan navigation, and communicate with other vehicles,” it has the potential to bleed into many other sectors of the economy and local levels of government, down to zoning laws.

In an interview earlier this month, JAIC acting director Nand Mulchandani advanced this narrative when he claimed China had “the world’s most advanced [AI] capabilities, such as unregulated facial recognition for universal surveillance and control of their domestic population, trained on Chinese video gathered from their systems.” Mulchandani, nevertheless, conceded that the “U.S. is capable of doing similar things,” but offered only the U.S. Constitution as the barrier that would prevent America from building “such universal surveillance and censorship systems.” A less than comforting thought, to say the least.

Feature photo | Chinese students work on the Ares, a humanoid bipedal robot run on artificial intelligence and designed by them with funding from a Shanghai investment company, displayed during the World Robot Conference in Beijing. Ng Han Guan | AP

Raul Diego is a MintPress News Staff Writer, independent photojournalist, researcher, writer and documentary filmmaker.

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