foreign affairs

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‘Lies and Deceit’: Top Russian Oligarch Indicted for US Criminal Sanctions Violations had Role in Russia Interference Report

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 30/09/2022 - 11:14pm in

The indictment of Oleg Deripaska is the latest in a string of judicial decisions which lead back to Putin's interference in US elections, reports Heidi Siegmund-Cuda

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Oleg Deripaska, the Russian oligarch who made his fortune in aluminium, has been indicted by the US Justice Department for criminal sanctions violations.

The announcement follows a series of interventions by the US Government which include banning his entry into the country due to alleged ties with organised crime, investigating him for various offences including money laundering, extortion, racketeering, threatening rivals’ lives, and illegally wiretapping a Government official; and searching his homes in New York and Washington D.C.

Deripaska featured prominently in the Mueller Report due to his relationship with Donald Trump’s campaign manager, Paul Manafort. He was sanctioned by the US in 2018 in response to Russian interference in the 2016 election and its occupation of Crimea, following the 2014 invasion. 

Three women have been indicted alongside Deripaska, including his alleged girlfriend Ekaterina Olegovna Voronina, as well as Natalia Bardakova and Olga Shriki. Shriki, a US citizen and New Jersey resident, was arrested on Thursday, according to the Justice Department.

Deripaska was sanctioned by the UK Government in retaliation for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which he publicly condemned. 

‘The American Way of Life’

Thursday’s indictment revealed numerous alleged crimes by Derispaska, a favoured associate of Russian President Vladimir Putin. 

The allegations included details of lavish schemes designed to ensure his girlfriend could give birth to their children in the United States in order to gain citizenship. One child is now a US citizen, but a costly attempt to pull the same scheme in 2022 failed, according to court documents.

“As today’s charges reveal, while serving the Russian state and energy sector, Oleg Deripaska sought to circumvent US sanctions through lies and deceit to cash in on and benefit from the American way of life,” said Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco.

United States Attorney Merrick Garland, at the centre of Donald Trump’s criminal probe, explained how “In the wake of Russia’s unjust and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, I promised the American people that the DOJ would hold accountable those who break our laws and threaten national security… we are keeping that promise. The Justice Department will not stop working to identify, find, and bring to justice those who evade U.S. sanctions in order to enable the Russian regime”.

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A Shady History

Deripaska has a long history of ties to the Republican Party.

Having been denied a visa to enter the US in the mid-2000s, he turned to former Senator turned lobbyist Bob Dole and paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to launder his image. Dole, who died last year, has been accused of promoting a culture of sleazy lobbying that continues to plague US politics. 

Both Dole and Deripaska have ties to Paul Manafort, the man who would later become Trump’s unpaid campaign manager. 

Manafort took millions of dollars from Deripaska in the mid-2000s to promote pro-Russian interests. Later, he received $12.7 million from the pro-Russian party of Ukraine’s former President, Viktor Yanukovych.

The Mueller report found Manafort used his time on the Trump campaign to offer information to his former employer, in order “to get whole”. The Report indicated how Manafort directed associates to reach out to Deripaska, offering him briefings and internal campaign polling data. According to Mueller, Manafort owed Deripaska millions of dollars in unpaid debts. Deripaska has denied he received any polling data. 

Manafort later went to prison for money laundering, tax fraud and illegal foreign lobbying connected to his years working for Ukrainian politicians, as well as for conspiracy against the United States.

The former governor of Donetsk Oblast, Yanukovych is the man some argue Putin wants to put back into power in Ukraine. He fled to Russia following the Euromaidan revolution and was found guilty of treason by a Ukrainian court in 2019.

The close ties between Deripaska, Manafort and pro-Putin politicians in Ukraine puts the country once again at the centre of a scandal about Russian interference, aggression, and sanctions. 

Retired Internal Revenue Service criminal investigator Martin Sheil told Byline Times how “various connected American politicians including the powerful then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell worked to mitigate that original round of sanctions on Deripaska”.

“Not long after, Deripaska's main corporate Russian money maker Rusal invested in an aluminium plant located in McConnell's home state of Kentucky,” Sheil explained. “The folks in Kentucky were just happy to have more job creation, I am sure, and the idea of a quid for a quo might be a tad sophisticated for folks in Bourbon country, but the idea of payback might be simple enough to understand. Yet nothing came of it”.

Sheil argued that the time to act on indicting the boss-level players in the Trump/Russia interference scandal is now.

“Should the Republicans win back the Senate and the House in November then that oversight will be buried [and] nothing will come of the House 6 January Insurrection investigation,” Sheil told Byline Times

“The House will roll back Biden's historic legislation fully funding the IRS to audit and investigate the multi-millionaires who fund the Republican Party, who work so closely with the banks and the Russians and anyone else that protects their wealth and power,” he added.

Byline Times reached out to Deripaska for comment, however we received no response.

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EU Parliamentarian Calls to Sanction Vanessa Beeley and All Observers of Donbass Referendums

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 30/09/2022 - 12:43am in

Brussels (THE GRAYZONE) A French Member of European Parliament (MEP), Natalie Louiseau, has delivered a letter to EU High Representative of Foreign Affairs, Joseph Borrell, demanding the European Union place personal sanctions on all international observers of the recent votes in the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics and certain Russian-controlled territories in eastern Ukraine.

Obtained by The Grayzone from an EU source, the letteEr is currently being circulated among European parliamentarians in hopes of securing a docket of supportive signatures.

“We, as elected members of the European Parliament, demand that all those who voluntarily assisted in any way the organization of these illegitimate referendums be individually targeted and sanctioned,” Louiseau declared.

The French MEP’s letter came after a group of formally Ukrainian territories held a vote on whether or not to officially incorporate themselves into the Russian Federation in late September. Through the popular referendum, the independent Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics, which announced their respective successions from Ukraine in 2014 following a foreign-backed coup against the government Kiev, as well as the regions of Kherson and Zaporozhia, voted overwhelmingly in favor of joining the Russian Federation.

Louiseau singled out Vanessa Beeley, a British journalist who traveled to the region to monitor the vote. Extending her complaint well beyond the referendum, the French MEP accused Beeley of “continuously spreading fake news about Syria and acting as a mouthpiece for Vladimir Putin and Bashar el [sic] Assad for years.”

Louiseau, a close ally of French President Emanuel Macron, specifically demanded Beeley be “included in the list of those sanctioned.”

Beeley responded to Louiseau’s letter in a statement to The Grayzone: “Imposing sanctions on global citizens for bearing witness to a legal process that reflects the self-determination of the people of Donbass is fascism. Should the EU proceed with this campaign, I believe there will be serious consequences because the essence of freedom of speech and thought is under attack.

 

 

Russia’s referendums: drawing a line with NATO

In mid-September 2022, Beeley and around 100 other international delegates traveled to eastern Europe in order to observe a vote to join the Russian Federation in the regions of Kherson, Zaporozhia, and the independent republics of Lugansk and Donetsk.

Why did their presence trigger such an outraged response from Western governments? The answer lies in the recent history of these heavily contested areas.

The formally Ukrainian territories of Kherson and Zaporozhia fell under Russian control earlier this year as a result of the military campaign launched by Moscow in February, while the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics declared their independence from the government in Kiev in 2014.

Russia began its special military campaign in Ukrainian territory on February 24. The operation followed Moscow’s decision that same week to formally recognize the independence of the Donetsk People’s Republic and Lugansk People’s Republic (the Donbass Republics) in Ukraine’s eastern Donbass region. Pro-Russian separatists in the Donbass have been embroiled in a bloody trench battle with the US-backed government in Kiev since 2014.

Ukraine’s civil conflict broke out in March 2014, after US and European forces sponsored a coup in the country that installed a decidedly pro-NATO nationalist regime in Kiev which proceeded to declare war on its minority, ethnically Russian population.

Following the 2014 putsch, Ukraine’s government officially marginalized the Russian language while extremist thugs backed by Kiev massacred and intimidated ethnic Russian citizens of Ukraine. In response, separatist protests swept Ukraine’s majority-Russian eastern regions.

The territory of Crimea formally voted to join Russia in March of that year, while the Donetsk and Lugansk Republics in Ukraine’s eastern Donbass region declared their unofficial independence from Kiev that same month. With support from the US military and NATO, Ukraine’s coup government officially declared war on the Donbass in April 2014, launching what it characterized as an “Anti-Terrorist Operation” in the region.

Russia trained and equipped separatist militias in Donetsk and Lugansk throughout the territories’ civil campaigns against Kiev, though Moscow did not officially recognize the independence of the Donbass republics until February 2022. By then, United Nations estimates placed the casualty count for Ukraine’s civil war at roughly 13,000 dead. While Moscow offered support to Donbass separatists throughout the 2014-2022 period, US and European governments invested billions to prop up a Ukrainian military that was heavily reliant on army and intelligence factions with direct links to the country’s historic anti-Soviet, pro-Nazi deep state born as a result of World War II.

Russia’s military formally entered the Ukraine conflict in February 2022, following Moscow’s recognition of the Donbass republics. While Russian President Vladimir Putin defined the liberation of the Donbass republics as the primary objective of the military operation, he also listed the “de-nazification” and “de-militarization” of Ukraine as a goals of the campaign. As such, Russian troops have since secured control of Ukrainian territories beyond the Donbass region, including the territories of Kherson and Zaporozhia.

Facing increased Western investment in the Kiev-aligned bloc of Ukraine’s civil war, authorities in the Donbass republics announced a referendum on membership in the Russian Federation in late September 2022, with Moscow-aligned officials in Kherson and Zaporozhia announcing similar ballot initiatives. Citizens in each territory proceeded to approve Russian membership by overwhelming majorities.

The results of the referendum not only threatened the government in Kiev, but its European and US backers. Western-aligned media leapt to characterize the votes as a sham, claiming Moscow’s troops had coerced citizens into joining the Russian Federation at the barrel of a gun. Their narrative would have reigned supreme if not for the hundred or so international observers who physically traveled to the regions in question to observe the referendum process.

Observers like Vanessa Beeley now face the threat of returning home to the West as wanted outlaws. But as Loiseau’s letter made clear, the British journalist was in the crosshairs long before the escalation in Ukraine.

 

Beeley among European journalists targeted and prosecuted for reporting from Donetsk

Vanessa Beeley was among the first independent journalists to expose the US and UK governments’ sponsorship of the Syrian White Helmets, a so-called “volunteer organization” that played frontline role in promoting the foreign-backed dirty war against Syria’s government through its coordination with Western and Gulf-sponsored media. Beeley also played an instrumental role in revealing the White Helmets’ strong ties to Al-Qaeda’s Syrian branch, as well as its members’ involvement in atrocities committed by Western-backed insurgents.

Beeley’s work on Syria drew harsh attacks from an array of NATO and arms industry-funded think tanks. In June 2022, the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD), which receives funding from a variety of NATO states, corporations and billionaires, labeled Beeley “the most prolific spreader of disinformation” on Syria prior to 2020. (According to ISD, Beeley was somehow “overtaken” by The Grayzone’s Aaron Mate that year). The group did not provide a single piece of evidence to support its assertions.

Though Beeley has endured waves of smears, French MEP Natalie Loiseau’s call for the EU to sanction the journalist represents the first time a Western official has moved to formally criminalize her work. Indeed, Loiseau made no secret that she is targeting Beeley not only for her role as an observer of the referendum votes, but also on the basis of her opinions and reporting on Syria.

Loiseau’s push to issue personal sanctions against EU and US citizens comes on the heels of the German government’s prosecution of independent journalist Alina Lipp. In March 2020, Berlin launched a formal case against Lipp, who is a German citizen, claiming her reporting from the Donetsk People’s Republic violated newly authorized state speech codes.

Prior to Lipp’s prosecution, the Institute for Strategic Dialogue launched a media campaign portraying her as a disseminator of “disinformation” and “pro-Kremlin content.”

In London, meanwhile, the UK government has imposed individual sanctions on Graham Philips, a British citizen and independent journalist, for his reporting from Donetsk.

And in Brussels, Louiseau’s campaign against Beeley appears to have emerged from a deeply personal vendetta.


Nathalie Louiseau and French Pres. Macron

 

Who is Natalie Louiseau?

In April 2021, Beeley published a detailed profile of Louiseau at her personal blog, The Wall Will Fall, painting the French MEP as a regime change ideologue committed to “defending global insecurity and perpetual war.” Beeley noted that Lousieau served as a minister in the government of French President Emanuel Macron when it authorized airstrikes in response to dubious allegations of a Syrian government chemical attack in Douma in April 2018.

Beeley also reported that Louiseau has enjoyed a close relationship with the Syria Campaign, the public relations arm of the White Helmets operation. This same organization, which is backed by British-Syrian billionaire Ayman Asfari, was the sponsor of the Institute for Strategic Dialogue report which branded Beeley a “top propagator of disinformation” on Syria.

Louiseau has taken her activism into the heart of the European parliament, using her position as chair of the European Parliament’s Subcommittee on Security and Defense to silence colleagues who ask to many questions about the Western campaign for regime change in Syria.

During an April 2021 hearing, MEP Mick Wallace attempted to question Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) Director General Fernando Arias about allegations he personally aided the censorship of an OPCW investigation which concluded no chemical attack took place in Douma, Syria in April 2018.

Louiseau immediately descended into a fit of rage, interrupting Wallace and preventing him from speaking.

“I cannot accept that you can call into question the work of an international organization, and that you would call into question the word of the victims in the way you have just done,” Loiseau fulminated.

Wallace responded with indignation, asking, “Is there no freedom of speech being allowed in the European Parliament any more? Today you are denying me my opinion!”

A year later, Wallace and fellow Irish MEP Clare Daly sued the Irish network RTE for defamation after it broadcast an interview with Loiseau during which she baselessly branded them as liars who spread disinformation about Syria in parliament.

Now, Louiseau appears to be seeking revenge against Beeley, demanding that she be criminally prosecuted not just for serving as a referendum observer, but for her journalistic output.

Feauture photo | Left, French MEP Nathalie Louiseau Right:, Journalist Vanessa Beeley | Credit, Grayzone

Max Blumenthal is the founder and editor of The Grayzone, the author of several books and producer of full-length documentaries including the recently released Killing Gaza. Follow him on Twitter at @MaxBlumenthal.

Anya Parampil is a Washington, DC-based journalist. She previously hosted a daily progressive afternoon news program called In Question on RT America. She has produced and reported several documentaries, including on the ground reports from the Korean peninsula and Palestine.

The post EU Parliamentarian Calls to Sanction Vanessa Beeley and All Observers of Donbass Referendums appeared first on MintPress News.

The Nablus Riots and the Future of the Palestinian Authority

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 30/09/2022 - 12:18am in

The arrest of a prominent Palestinian activist, Musab Shtayyeh, and another Palestinian activist, by Palestinian Authority police on September 20 was not the first time that the notorious PA’s Preventive Security Service (PSS) has arrested a Palestinian who is wanted by Israel.

PSS is largely linked to the routine arrests and torture of anti-Israeli occupation activists. Several Palestinians have died in the past as a result of PSS violence, the latest being Nizar Banat who was tortured to death on June 24, 2021. The killing of Banat ignited a popular revolt against the PA throughout Palestine.

For years, various Palestinian and international human rights groups have criticized the PA’s violent practices against dissenting Palestinian voices, quite often within the same human rights reports critical of the Israeli military occupation of Palestine. The Hamas government in Gaza, too, has its fair share of blame.

In its January 2022 World Report, Human Rights Watch said that “the Palestinian Authority (PA) manages affairs in parts of the West Bank, where it systematically arrests arbitrarily and tortures dissidents.” This was neither the first nor the last time that a human rights group made such an accusation.

The link between Israeli and Palestinian violence targeting political dissidents and activists is equally clear to most Palestinians.

Some Palestinians may have believed, at one point, that the PA’s role is to serve as a transition between their national liberation project and full independence and sovereignty on the ground. Nearly thirty years after the formation of the PA, such a notion has proved to be wishful thinking. Not only did the PA fail at achieving the coveted Palestinian State, but it has morphed into a massively corrupt apparatus whose existence largely serves a small class of Palestinian politicians and business people – and, in the case of Palestine, it is always the same group.

PA corruption and subsequent violence aside, what continues to irk most Palestinians is that the PA, with time, became another manifestation of the Israeli occupation, curtailing Palestinian freedom of expression and carrying out arrests on behalf of the Israeli army. Sadly, many of those arrested by the Israeli military in the West Bank have experienced arrest by PA goons, too.

Scenes of violent riots in the city of Nablus following Shtayyeh’s arrest were reminiscent of the riots against Israeli occupation forces in the northern West Bank city or elsewhere in occupied Palestine. Unlike previous confrontations between Palestinians and PA police – for example, following the killing of Banat – this time, the violence was widespread, and involved protesters from all Palestinian political groups, including the ruling Fatah faction.

Perhaps unaware of the massive collective psychological shift that took place in Palestine in recent years, the PA government was desperate to contain the violence.

Subsequently, a committee that represents united Palestinian factions in Nablus declared on September 21 that it has reached a ‘truce’ with PA security forces in the city. The committee, which includes prominent Palestinian figures, told the Associated Press and other media that the agreement restricts any future arrests of Palestinians in Nablus to the condition that the individual must be implicated in breaking Palestinian, not Israeli, law. That provision alone implies a tacit admission by the PA that the arrest of Shtayyeh and Ameed Tbaileh was motivated by an Israeli, not a Palestinian agenda.

But why would the PA quickly concede to pressure coming from the Palestinian street?

The answer lies in the changing political mood in Palestine.

First, it must be stated that resentment of the PA has been brewing for years. One opinion poll after another has indicated the low regard that most Palestinians have of their leadership, of PA President Mahmoud Abbas and particularly of the ‘security coordination’ with Israel.

Second, the torture and death of political dissident Banat, last year, has erased whatever patience Palestinians had towards their leadership, demonstrating to them that the PA is not an ally but a threat.

Third, the Unity Intifada of May 2021 has emboldened many segments of Palestinian society throughout occupied Palestine. For the first time in years, Palestinians have felt united around a single slogan and are no longer hostage to the geography of politics and factions. A new generation of young Palestinians has advanced the conversation beyond Abbas, the PA and their endless and ineffectual political rhetoric.

Fourth, armed struggle in the West Bank has been growing so rapidly that the Israeli army Chief of Staff, Aviv Kochavi, claimed on September 6 that, since March, around 1,500 Palestinians have been arrested in the West Bank and that, allegedly, hundreds of attacks against the Israeli military have been thwarted.

In fact, evidence of an armed Intifada is growing in the Jenin and Nablus regions. What is particularly interesting, and alarming, from the Israeli and PA viewpoint, about the nature of the budding armed struggle phenomenon, is that it is largely led by the military wing of the ruling Fatah party, in direct cooperation with Hamas and other Islamic and national military wings.

For example, on August 9, the Israeli army assassinated Ibrahim al-Nabulsi, a prominent Fatah military commander, along with two others. Not only, did the PA do little to stop the Israeli military machine from conducting more such assassinations, six weeks later, it arrested Shtayyeh, a close comrade of Nabulsi.

Interestingly, Shtayyeh is not a member of Fatah, but a commander within the Hamas military wing, Al-Qassam. Though Fatah and Hamas are meant to be intense political rivals, their political tussle seems to be of no relevance to military groups in the West Bank.

Unfortunately, more violence is likely to follow, for several reasons: Israel’s determination to crush any armed Intifada in the West Bank before it is widespread across the occupied territories, the looming leadership transition within the PA due to Abbas’s old age, and the growing unity among Palestinians around the issue of resistance.

While the Israeli response to all of this can easily be gleaned from its legacy of violence, the PA’s future course of action will likely determine its relationship with Israel and its western supporters, on the one hand, and with the Palestinian people, on the other. Which side will the PA choose?

Feature photo | Palestinian security forces arrest a Palestinian protester following a raid against resistance fighters in the West Bank city of Nablus, Sept. 20, 2022. Nasser Nasser | AP

Dr. Ramzy Baroud is a journalist, author and the Editor of The Palestine Chronicle. He is the author of six books. His latest book, co-edited with Ilan Pappé, is ‘Our Vision for Liberation: Engaged Palestinian Leaders and Intellectuals Speak out’. His other books include ‘My Father was a Freedom Fighter’ and ‘The Last Earth’. Baroud is a Non-resident Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA). His website is www.ramzybaroud.net 

The post The Nablus Riots and the Future of the Palestinian Authority appeared first on MintPress News.

How Russia Feeds the Factory of Unthinking

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 29/09/2022 - 7:26pm in

From Ukrainians being mainly Jewish to allegations of black magic, hypnotism and colonising Africa, Oleksiy Pluzhnyk explores the Kremlin's exploitation of the conspiratorial mindset

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It had been a week since I started talking to Samir (not his real name), a young Syrian man living in Aleppo. As a Ukrainian, I was interested in Syrians’ attitudes towards the recent Russian invasion. Even though we both had a fresh memory of Russian war crimes, our conversations remained mostly prosaic and almost indistinguishable from any other interactions I'd had with Syrians before. That was until I received a spontaneous and rather unexpected message asking: “So, you are Jewish, right?”

I was puzzled. We had not touched upon this in our conversation.

“Anyway, I know that most Ukrainian citizens are Jewish,” he said. When I asked him why he thought this, he messaged: “My professor has told us that. He is from Russia.”

I was curious. I had never heard of such delusion before. 

There's no need to explain the attitude towards Jews in the region, especially in Syria with its history of wars with Israel, the Golan Heights issue, and current highly aggressive relations with the country. But it seemed suspicious how beneficial this was for Russia – for people to believe that Ukraine consists mainly of the group that is arguably one of the most hated by locals, even though there is no basis for this.

African Colonialists

Similar thoughts were provoked by Jonathan Moyo, Zimbabwe’s former Minister of Higher Education, when he tweeted that Ukrainians are “the masters of colonialism, slavery, and imperialism”. This has been echoed by other users of social media in Africa that claim Ukraine is "racist".

This is despite the fact that Ukraine has not colonised anyone. On the contrary, Ukrainians themselves were colonised by the Russians and had a long and tragic history of serfdom strongly resembling slavery, abolished only in 1861.

But that is not the point. Racism by Africans equates to what Israel represents for Syrians – a highly sensitive issue provoking strong emotions, which tend to overshadow rational thinking, especially when a person doesn’t know much about the object around which the manipulative lie revolves. These blinding emotions leave a person suspicious and prejudiced towards the unknown.

That’s the principle basis on which a conspiratorial mindset is formed. As Peter Pomerantsev – author of This is not Propaganda and Nothing is True and Everything is Possible – has aptly put it several times, conspiracy is used to explain those things which a person doesn’t really understand, to pave a fictional way through an extremely difficult and unknown world.

This kind of propaganda has its roots in circumstances in which trust is dissolved or is absent to begin with, and where suspicion and doubt are high. When people feel lost, they seem to side with those who offer simplistic and emotional explanations. “Of course, then you need Putin, Trump or Bolsonaro to help you with things that you’re failing to grasp,” Pomerantsev observes.

Many of those making such statements about Ukrainians may not even realise that these narratives are profitable to Russia – but they are. Indeed, Russia is the main global provider of these all-answering explanations and conspiracies.

Masters of the Irrational

The Kremlin's reaction to the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine in 2014 was chaotic. According to Pomerantsev, “the reports that characterised the crash as everything from an assault by Ukrainian fighter jets following US instructions, to an attempted NATO attack on Putin’s private jet... were trying not so much to convince viewers of any one version of events, but rather to leave them confused, paranoid".

Russia constantly and tirelessly produces largely mystical conspiracy content, filling both the information environment of the country itself and spreading it around the world.

"In the headquarters of the Ukrainian military, we found traces of black magic practices" an article by Russia’s largest state-owned media RIA Novosti has observed.

“The arsonist who put the car of the Deputy Chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces on fire had been kidnapped and hypnotised by Ukrainians”, a popular media outlet Lenta.Ru wrote in August.

In the Middle East and Africa, Russian media narratives around the war in Ukraine consistently contain conspiracies – from the hidden Zionist hand responsible for the war in Syria, to the US firing missiles at Russia, and the West being responsible for the global food crisis.

In the end, some people’s indifference towards the country – about which they will know practically nothing – can transform into a zealous commitment to Russian narratives.  

“Some things about Ukrainian history that I had never known about before foreigners 'enlightened' me," wrote a Ukrainian on Twitter reacting to the foreign conspiracy Ukrainians are facing online. "Ukraine colonised Africa; Ukraine occupied Palestine."

It is difficult to draw conclusions about whether such narratives are that widespread, as well as about the authenticity of their authors, but they definitely reveal the dangers of conspiratorial thinking.

These dangers are wider than just Russian propaganda. In this case, we confront something bigger – the dark side of people’s nature itself.

From Trump incessantly turning to conspiracies during the insurrection at the US Capitol, to the popularity of far-right conspiracist Danny Kollár in Slovakia, to African belief in the Ukrainian empire, and Syrian assuredness about the Jewish majority here, the global system of reason is under attack. What is thought to be unthinkable becomes mainstream. Every society is at risk.

Some people will sincerely hate Ukraine for things it has nothing to do with. This is a great victory for irrational conspiracies, and Russia is one of the biggest factories of unthinking to nourish it. But the tendency to a conspiratorial mindset is truly global – and that is why it is a global threat.

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Ex-U.S. Special Envoy to Haiti Dan Foote: Send Special Forces to Haiti or 25,000 troops

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 29/09/2022 - 3:18am in

 

On September 19, activists gathered outside the White House to commemorate one year since the mass deportation of Haitian asylum seekers in Del Rio, Texas.

The commemoration came as a popular uprising in Haiti entered its third week, sparked by International Monetary Fund-imposed fuel price hikes amid spiraling inflation and a state of total insecurity.

Interim Prime Minister Ariel Henry has sought to avoid blame, telling citizens that,

We will have to readjust the price of gas. I know there are people who will try to heat up your heads, tell you to take to the streets so that gas does not come back to its normal price… Violence has no place. Violence won’t get us anywhere. I put out a call for calm to everyone.”

The U.S. and its junior partners, however, have sought to shift blame for the unrest onto local economic interests and so-called “gangs.”

U.S. President Joe Biden told the United Nations General Assembly, “We continue to stand with our neighbor in Haiti as it faces political-fueled gang violence, and an enormous human crisis, and we call on the world to do the same,” adding that, “we have more to do.”

“If you look at the protests that are taking place as a result of the end of fuel subsidies, they are financed by economic actors,” top Biden advisor and National Security Council Director Juan Gonzales commented.

In attendance at the White House protest was former U.S. Special Envoy for Haiti Daniel Foote, who warned that if Washington does not train a Haitian National Police unit to crush Haiti’s so-called “gangs”, it will launch a full scale invasion.

“The U.S. has two choices: Either reinforce the police now, probably using military trainers, so send a company of special forces trainers to teach the police and set up an anti-gang task force, or send 25,000 troops at some undetermined but imminent period in the future,” Foote declared.

Foote resigned from his post in September 2021, citing the inhumane treatment of Haitians at the border as the breaking point.

“I realized I could no longer have the positive impact and push Haiti towards where it needs to go in my role as special envoy because of the guy in that building right there,” he told the crowd, pointing at the White House.

The resignation earned him praise from prominent intellectuals including filmmaker Raoul Peck, who called Foote’s congressional testimony “shattering and redemptive,” saying that it “restored some measure of honor to decades of shameless American intervention.”

Since his resignation, Foote has been vocally opposed to continued U.S. support for Haitian Interim Prime Minister Ariel Henry, who remains in office despite being implicated in the July 2021 assassination of President Jovenel Moise.

Rather than withdrawing support for Henry, Washington has sought to unite him with his principal rival, a coalition of traditional political parties and dozens of so-called civil society groups, known as the Montana Accord.

Described as a “Haitian-led” alternative to Henry, the Montana coalition proposes a two-year transitional government leading to elections.

This Accord is headed by Magali Comeau Denis, who, like Ariel Henry, was a key figure in the 2004 U.S.-orchestrated coup d’état against President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

So far, the Biden administration’s attempts to unite the two coalitions have proven unsuccessful.

Despite Henry’s ongoing premiership, the Montana Accord is increasingly favored by Washington, with Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Brian Nichols publicly endorsing it.

As the uprising rocked Henry’s government, the flagship U.S. think tank, The Council on Foreign Relations, published a strategy paper endorsing the Montana Accord as “the most credible Haitian plan on the table,” saying “the United States should still help Haitians initiate its implementation.”

Early in 2022, as the Biden administration pressured the Montana group to compromise with Ariel Henry, the accord fractured.

The Movement of Haitian Liberty and Equality for Fraternity, How Britain’s Labour party became a criminal conspiracy against its members

known as MOLEGHAF, pulled out, accusing Montana of partaking in “an international plot” and saying, “We’re not going to facilitate the work of the imperialists.”

The Lavalas Family party of former President Aristide followed suit.

As these members have broken off, Foote and the liberal establishment have promoted the accord as the ideal partner for the United States and its institutions.

“They need somebody with whom the international community, the IMF, the donors, can trust and work with and the Haitian people can trust and work with to improve their lives and move towards choosing their own leaders,” he explained.

While Foote advises who should lead Haiti, he is careful to project the opposite. When MintPress News asked if the Montana Accord is a mechanism to arrive at such leadership, he replied, “Let’s not call it that because then I’m offering preference for one group or another. A consensus, let’s call it. And the Montana Group, last October 31, I think, of 2021, signed a consensus agreement and broadened it significantly by January to the point that 80 percent plus of the actors in Haiti, everyone that wanted in on, was in on it. And that’s adequate consensus.”

However, the very same day, while leading discussion of a Haiti advisory group on the sidelines of the UNGA, Trudeau listed several foreign powers who he insists will be involved in Haiti’s future. “Regional partners like CARICOM and global partners like Canada, the U.S., France, the European Union and others have an extremely important role to play as well,” he said.

Foote, Washington and its partners primary objective is to eliminate the so-called gangs.

“The gangs went from [former president Jean Bertrand] Aristide’s guys that he would pay to go out on the streets to raise hell and get things done, have developed into very sophisticated, heavily armed criminal organizations at this point in time,” Foote described.

Despite the criminal acts of groups like the 400 Mawazo, which kidnapped American and Canadian missionaries last year, the U.S’s top target is its rival – a federation of armed groups known as the Revolutionary Forces of the G9 Family and Allies, or G9.

“The G9 coalition, they were a year ago at least, the best organized and the best funded,” Foote said.

This coalition, which calls for social revolution, is led by former police officer Jimmy “Barbecue” Cherizier.

The U.S. government, through the National Endowment for Democracy, has accused Cherizier of committing a series of massacres, though has presented no evidence, qualifying its charges as “alleged.”

Nonetheless, Cherizier is the only so-called gang leader in Haiti under U.S. sanctions.

Cherizier has gained support over the past 2 years as his calls for revolution have resonated amid ever worsening conditions.

Foote, in Haiti’s largest daily newspaper, warned Haitians to not listen to Cherizier, calling him a “criminal” that must be “hunted down.”

“The issue is they have no natural predator in Haiti. The police can’t take them on,” Foote lamented. “They can’t compete with the gangs, they’re outmanned, outgunned and everything.”

Cherizier has taken center stage in the ongoing uprising, blocking the country’s largest fuel terminal, and clashing with Haitian National Police. Top Human rights figure Pierre Esperance, head of the Haitian National Network for Defense of Human Rights, which is funded by the National Endowment for Democracy, claimed that Cherizier is actually stamping out protests on behalf of Ariel Henry, though offering no proof for his allegation.

Cherizier, manning a barricade outside the fuel terminal, addressed Ariel Henry.

“Ariel Henry, get ready for what’s coming,” Cherizier said, brandishing a rifle. “This time, we will run over your legs. You can continue to give the little hungry thieving politicians money, continue to give hungry, greedy journalists money, who say that we are getting money to destroy the movement. We are the movement! The Revolutionary Forces of the G9 Family and Allies, we are the movement! Ariel is on our ass. Haitian people, stand behind your barricades!”

As special envoy, Foote advocated U.S. deployment of special forces to train a Haitian National Police unit to take out so-called “gang leaders” like Cherizier.

“Did you ever propose any kind of military intervention to Haiti,” CBS’ Margaret Brennan asked.

“I proposed sending a company or so of U.S. special forces to train an anti-gang task force within the Haitian National Police. So you’re talking about 30, 60 people,” Foote responded.

As Haiti spirals out of control under Henry, United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres and Haitian Foreign Minister Jean Geneus make similar proposals.

“The proposition I put on the table is that we must have an international program of support for the training and equipping of the police,” Guterres said, “but it will be necessary to have in this perspective a robust force capable of putting an end to the action of the gangs.”

“The national police is able to carry out its work but it needs robust assistance from our partners and it needs adequate training on the ground with aid from the international community,” Geneus told UNGA, speaking in place of Ariel Henry.

Other political forces are calling for an international force to do the job. Following meetings with U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, and top US officials, the Dominican Republic has sent troops to its border and called for an international invasion of Haiti.

Dominican President Luis Abinader: “The crisis that overflows the borders of Haiti is a threat to the national security of the Dominican Republic.”

Foreign Minister Roberto Alvarez: “It must be focused, we have repeated numerous times, in the immediate peacekeeping, a robust force is necessary that is capable of recuperating peace and bringing an end to the violence unleashed by the armed groups.”

Abinader: “We must not only with Nancy Pelosi, but with Senator Charles Schumer of New York, and we also touched on this topic when me met with the  [Senate] Foreign Relations Committee Chair Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey, and also with when we met with USAID Director Samantha Power. I believe all that’s left is to coordinate the means.”

Abinader: “Now we [CARICOM and Dominican Republic] have the same opinion, it has to be a “special force” that pacifies that country.”

U.S. led aid to the Haitian National Police has been extensive. From 2010 to 2020, the United States pumped in $312 million for weapons and training. In 2021, The White House and State Department sent a combined $20 million. In July 2022, the State Department bolstered the SWAT training program with a $48 million package.

The United Nations has sent another $28 million, and Canada 12 million.

While the U.S. reinforces Haitian police, they have sought to cut off arms trafficking otherwise, intercepting shipments smuggled through ports, and making arrests.

The Biden administration is pressing the UN Security Council to enact its own sanctions against Cherizier, and those who it alleges are arms traffickers.

But Haiti is awash with weapons, and the Haitian National Police is an anemic force. Although they have attacked G9 neighborhoods and arrested and killed multiple leaders, the police have been unable to crush this neighborhood federation.

State Department officials have publicly said that a U.S.-led training program, working with France, Brazil and Canada, is underway.

On July 30, Mike Stokes, a State Department police trainer in Haiti, complained in a Facebook post that “Only US politicians could think sending 8 instructors down here could make a difference. Haiti needs Military action if it wants true change.”

But Foote says the Biden administration is reluctant to ramp up US involvement with Ariel Henry in office.

“It’s a critical step, and the appetite is because they are, I believe, very reticent to work and jump in with both feet with Ariel Henry despite the fact that the US anointed,” Foote said.

With Washington conscious of popular sentiment in Haiti against foreign interference, critical to its designs is the Montana Accord’s image as “Haitian-led.”

A switch from Henry to the Montana Accord would create credibility for more U.S. involvement. The Council on Foreign Relations notes that “For the United States, working in greater partnership with such organizations … could help restore Haitian confidence.”

Montana Accord founding member Ted St. Dic wrote on September 7 that  “to give this process a fighting chance of success, the United States should use creative and aggressive tactics to intercept criminal activity in Haiti.”

While “Haitian-led” is a useful slogan for public consumption, U.S. and Canadian policy makers seek to lead from behind.

“We cannot continue to see external elements, no matter how well meaning, try to determine the future of Haiti,” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said at a press conference, adding, “Haitians themselves need to be at the center.” Later that day, he led a discussion of a Haiti advisory group, saying that “Regional partners like CARICOM and global partners like Canada, the U.S., France, Europe, European Union and others have an extremely important role to play as well.”

“I also think just leaving it up to Haitians to solve their problems is a line that I think ignores a really really concerning and deteriorating situation inside the country,” commented Juan Gonzales.

“I’ve heard your answers about your overall goal of a Haitian-led democratic process. I share that, but what is our initiative to try to create some semblance of security,” Sen. Bob Menendez (D-New Jersey) asked Todd Robinson, Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, at a December 21, 2021, congressional hearing.

“We INL are working very closely with the Haitian National Police, the new director general, we are going to send advisors,” Robinson responded.

However, Russia and China voted to shorten the U.S. police advisor mandate, prompting Washington to look for a way around international bodies.

“Why do you think Russia and China stop this,” Menendez (D-New Jersey) rhetorically asked, continuing, “Because they want total unrest in the hemisphere… Authoritarianism.” Menendez concluded, “At some point, we have to think about how to circumvent that.”

Washington has done just that. A 2019 law called the Global Fragility Act has created a framework for U.S. intervention. The Act aims to strengthen U.S control of so-called “fragile states” as part of the 2017 National Security Strategy’s focus on great power competition. It is a joint State Department, USAID and Department of Defense program that would direct the U.S. military to “play a critical role in facilitating basic public order and build the capacity of foreign security forces.

U.S. forces would operate “through small-footprint, coordinated, partner-focused activities” – similar to Daniel Foote’s formula. Pentagon methods also include “psychological operations and information operations engagements.”

The Global Fragility Act and Montana Accord work in conjunction. The Council on Foreign Relations summarizes the U.S. strategy as “A more targeted form of international assistance through the Global Fragility Act, with Haitians playing the principal role.”

If the U.S. doesn’t achieve its military objectives alongside the Haitian National Police, Foote says an invasion of Haiti – the fourth in a century – is guaranteed.

“Train the police, give the police their capacity back, or we’re going to have to send 25,000 troops in a combat stabilization mission, which will accomplish what it sets out to do, but there’s no sustainability there whatsoever,” Foote said.

While Foote and Biden officials disagree on tactics, they agree that U.S. intervention is the answer.

“The other has been to try to strengthen the Haitian National Police so that an international presence is not necessary – that is challenging and a long term undertaking,” Gonzales said.

Regardless of whether Ariel Henry remains in power or the Montana Accord replaces him, the U.S. is locked and loaded, with options for all scenarios.

Dan Cohen is the Washington DC correspondent for Behind The Headlines. He has produced widely distributed video reports and print dispatches from across Israel-Palestine. He tweets at @DanCohen3000.

The post Ex-U.S. Special Envoy to Haiti Dan Foote: Send Special Forces to Haiti or 25,000 troops appeared first on MintPress News.

How Britain’s Labour Party Became a Criminal Conspiracy Against its Members

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 29/09/2022 - 2:37am in

For many years, former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters have claimed that he, and they, were targeted in a coordinated attack from the right of the party, comprising a majority of Labour MPs as well as senior party staff. The aim was to sabotage Corbyn’s chances of taking power.

Those allegations were dismissed as a wild conspiracy theory by the British media. But the first independent verification came as early as April 2020, shortly after Corbyn stepped down as leader, with the leak of a cache of internal Labour Party documents. They showed that Labour bureaucrats, responsible to the party’s general secretary Iain McNicol rather than to Corbyn, plotted to bring about their leader’s downfall, even prioritizing his destruction over winning the closely fought 2017 general election.

The impression that all was not quite how it seemed was further suggested by the absurd twists and turns in the logic of a report into Corbyn’s Labour Party published in late 2020 by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC). That this politicized, establishment body had agreed to investigate a mainstream political party for racism, directly interfering in the democratic process, was itself unprecedented.

Next, in July, a much-delayed report from an inquiry commissioned by Corbyn’s successor, Sir Keir Starmer, confirmed the contents of the leaked documents. Despite its careful wording and bogus even-handedness, the Forde Inquiry conceded that the Labour right had indeed waged a dirty factional war against Corbyn and the left of the party, weaponizing antisemitism to tar them.

Now, over the past few days, Al Jazeera has aired a shocking three-part investigation, “The Labour Files”. Running close to four hours in its online format, it is based on even more leaked documents, and reveals the complete sabotage of the party’s democratic processes by the Labour right, including by many of its senior MPs. Those processes were hijacked to carry out purges of the party’s left based in most cases on false accusations, fabrications, misrepresentations and smears.

 
One of the victims of those purges described the past few years in Labour as a “criminal conspiracy against its members”. Al Jazeera’s documentary series proves he is not exaggerating.

The Labour right was able to assert its power to act cruelly and unfairly against left-wing party members when Corbyn, the left’s champion, was leader. Now that the Labour right enjoys the protection of Starmer, Corbyn’s successor, it has the freedom to be utterly ruthless.

The Al Jazeera investigation finds that, although the Labour right soon settled on antisemitism as the most effective tool to vilify its enemies, it was willing to invent any smear that could be weaponized. One of the Labour right’s earliest demonization campaigns – based, as Al Jazeera shows, on fabrications and unsubstantiated hearsay – was that Labour MP Angela Eagle, who is gay, had faced a sudden wave of homophobic abuse and attacks from her pro-Corbyn constituency members. The smears provided a convenient rationale for her early attempt to challenge Corbyn as leader.

But antisemitism as a smear was generally preferred because trenchant criticism of Israel’s apartheid policies towards Palestinians has long been a distinctive marker of the left’s anti-racist politics and consistent with its earlier trenchant criticism of South Africa’s apartheid policies towards the country’s black population.

All the Labour right needed to do was blur distinctions between criticism of Israel and criticism of Jews, a conflation that was all too easily engineered when most of the public had long been confused by Israel and its most ardent supporters about that very distinction.

 

The establishment conspiracy

The smears were necessary because the Labour right faced two threats to its power.

Greater democratization of party rules under a previous leader, Ed Miliband, had allowed Corbyn to be elected leader with the overwhelming backing of party members – to the dismay of the majority of Labour MPs.

And Corbyn’s democratic socialism unleashed a wave of political engagement from large parts of the electorate that had felt disenfranchised by a two-party system in which both parties – Labour and Conservative – agreed on many right-wing fundamentals, such as neoliberal economics at home and neocolonial policies abroad.

Corbyn’s victory led to a surge of interest in politics. New members flooded into Labour, quickly making it the largest party in Europe and turning it into a potential grassroots movement in which the Labour right would be entirely marginalized and its agenda subsumed.

A fightback was desperately needed to reverse the tide and revoke the democratic processes that Corbyn had been able to ride to the top of the Labour Party.

The Labour right had plenty of allies in this battle. In fact, it could rely on the assistance of an entire British establishment that felt equally threatened by the rise of Corbyn: the military and security services, the ruling Conservative Party, big business, the state broadcaster and the rest of the corporate media, as well as official think tanks and establishment bodies like the EHRC.

In a very real sense, this was a conspiracy. Or, put in blunter political language, it was class war.

The playbook was well thumbed. The Labour right would claim that the party was being subjected to a hostile takeover, with Corbyn’s blessing, by the “far left”. This supposed far left – those seeking a fairer, more equal and inclusive society – would be vilified by the establishment media with a well-established trope: the “far left” would be equated with the far-right, with the implication that both shared the same brutish, undemocratic, racist impulses.

What quickly emerged was the British equivalent of the ”Bernie Bro” narrative in the United States, when the left-winger Bernie Sanders tried to become the Democratic Party’s candidate for president against the establishment-friendly Hillary Clinton. Sanders’ supporters were falsely characterized as overwhelmingly male, bullying, aggressive and misogynistic.

In the U.K., Labour members supportive of Corbyn – drawn to him by his prominent career as an anti-racist, his support for greater wealth redistribution, and his criticism of British human rights abuses abroad – soon found themselves being tarred and purged from Labour as the equivalent of neo-Nazis. The Labour left have been reeling ever since.

 

The Israeli spy

To grasp the scale and sophistication of this establishment operation, it is necessary to assess the latest Al Jazeera investigation, “The Labour Files”, in the context of an earlier documentary series, “The Lobby”, broadcast five years ago by the same channel.

Together, the two series show the bigger picture of how Israel and its lobbyists found enthusiastic allies in the Labour right and the wider establishment, as well as a common purpose: to subvert Corbyn’s leadership simultaneously from within and without.

The 2017 Lobby series charted the meddling of an Israeli spy, Shai Masot, in U.K. politics. It is worth considering how that earlier exposé was treated by the British media and political class to better understand what has amounted to a comprehensive assault on British democracy.

The four-part investigation made headlines when it aired footage – shot by an undercover reporter – showing Masot actively trying, in Masot’s own words, to “take down” Sir Alan Duncan, a foreign office minister for the ruling Conservative party. Masot was operating out of the Israeli Embassy. Ostensibly he was one of its officials, but in reality, he was almost certainly working for Israel’s strategic affairs ministry, known for its black ops against prominent critics of Israel.

Masot is filmed covertly meeting a sympathetic Conservative parliamentary aide. He tells her he wants to dig up dirt on Duncan with the goal of getting him kicked out of office. Duncan was considered a liability on Israel. He had repeatedly called for Palestinian statehood – the two-state solution that is supposed to be official British policy – and had been critical of Israel’s settlements, built for Jews only on Palestinian territory and in violation of international law – a core reason why a growing body of analysts believe Israel qualifies as an apartheid state.

 
It is not difficult to understand why Masot singled Duncan out from the rest of the ruling Conservative Party. Almost every Tory MP is a member of the party’s Israel lobby in parliament, known as the Conservative Friends of Israel. They can be relied on to stand staunchly behind Israel, however blatant its law-breaking. Last year, it was revealed that a third of the Tory cabinet were funded by either Israel or its lobbyists.

Duncan’s ability to exert influence over British policy towards Israel appears to have been non-existent. During his time in office, no progress was made on Palestinian statehood, the settlements expanded aggressively, and Britain continued to sell arms to Israel to oppress the Palestinian people.

The Tory party aide tells Masot she “thought we had, you know, neutralized him just a little bit” – presumably a reference to making Duncan’s life harder over Israel and thereby intimidating him into toning down his criticisms. But Masot was unsatisfied. He and the Israeli government behind him did not want a prominent critic of their illegal actions speaking with the credibility conferred by having a platform inside the British establishment.

After the episode aired, British newspapers reported – even if mutedly – Masot’s role in trying to “take down” Duncan. The government quickly issued a low-key statement that Masot had been removed from the U.K. The shared narrative of the British government and media, as well as the Israeli government, was that Masot was an Israeli embassy official acting on his own initiative who had gone rogue. The matter was barely referred to again outside the fringes of social media.

 

The Labour connection

That was shocking in itself. But actually something even more staggering occurred in “The Lobby”. The undercover footage of Masot trying to “take down” Duncan filled only a half of one of the series’ four episodes. The other three and half showed Masot covertly helping to establish a sophisticated network of pro-Israel activists in the youth wing of the Labour Party to help take down Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the opposition.

The Israeli operation to meddle in Labour’s internal processes may have been more complex and more difficult to grasp than a single recorded conversation about trying to take down Duncan, but the implications for British democracy were far more serious. Duncan was an outlier in the Conservative Party with little real influence. Corbyn, by contrast, was a potential prime minister in waiting, a politician poised to take the reins of power and shape the policy agenda at home and abroad.

But whereas there was a short-lived outcry over the treatment of Duncan, one that led to Masot’s hurried departure, Al Jazeera’s investigations into the Israeli operation against Corbyn made no impression on the political or media debate in Britain at all.

The significance of the revelations went entirely unremarked upon. It was as if espionage to subvert a potential prime minister was less important than espionage to remove a marginal government minister. Britain’s political and media priorities appeared completely back to front.

But, in fact, the situation was even worse than that assessment suggests. And to understand how, it is necessary to trace the career trajectory of Masot’s seeming protégé inside Labour, Ella Rose.

At the time of the 2017 Al Jazeera documentary, Rose was the director of the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM), a long defunct pro-Israel lobby group that was revived in 2015 specifically to fight against Corbyn.

The need for the JLM’s resuscitation was clear: Corbyn was a life-long anti-racist, one of the few British politicians who had actively struggled against apartheid South Africa and had continued the same struggle against apartheid Israel. He supported the rights of Palestinians as vocally as he once supported the rights of black South Africans. The implications of having such a politician as prime minister were not lost on Israel’s most fanatical supporters in the U.K.

Al Jazeera’s undercover reporter filmed Rose stating not only that she had worked at the Israeli Embassy immediately before taking over the reins of the JLM, but that she had worked directly with Masot. In footage not broadcast, she also said she knew Masot “very well”, and told the undercover reporter that she could help him get a job at the Israeli Embassy.

Masot himself is caught on camera speaking about the fact that it was part of his job to set up a private company in the UK – a front for the Israeli government, as he confides – to wage a secret war on activists critical of Israel. He is shown trying to establish a youth movement in Labour, again as a front for the Israeli government. Ella Rose and the JLM appear to have been integral to this plot.

 

The non-investigation

So how did Al Jazeera’s documentary affect Rose and her relationship with the Labour Party? Was she investigated and booted out of Labour for her role in efforts to oust the leader of the opposition, just as Masot was kicked out of the U.K. for discussing how to take down Duncan?

Not a bit of it. True, Rose was investigated by Labour, but not at the party’s instigation and not over her close relationship with Masot.

Rose’s brief difficulties arose over an entirely different matter. She was shown in “The Lobby” making a threat to physically attack Jackie Walker, a black Jewish Labour activist critical of Israel and well known for her support for Corbyn. After watching the Al Jazeera documentary, several Jewish supporters of Corbyn, including Naomi Wimborne Idrissi, submitted an official complaint to Labour’s disciplinary unit about Rose’s threats of violence. That unit was staffed by officials hostile to Corbyn, as confirmed by “The Labour Files”, Al Jazeera’s follow-up investigation.

At the time of the complaint, as “The Labour Files” also shows, the disciplinary unit had been summarily suspending or expelling Corbyn supporters, including a disproportionate number of Jews, after scouring social media for obscure posts, often criticizing Israel. Such members were disciplined either on the basis that such criticisms qualified them as antisemites, or because they had supposedly “brought the party into disrepute”.

But leaked email exchanges aired in “The Labour Files” between Rose and the disciplinary unit show Labour officials being highly sympathetic to Rose, even though her threats of physical violence against a black Jewish woman had been broadcast on international TV just a few days previously.

In an astonishing email, Sam Matthews, head of the disputes team, wrote to Rose supportively about her violent threats, echoing her own claim – in flagrant denial of reality – that “there isn’t, nor will there ever be, any public record of you using such language”.

In stark contrast to Corbyn supporters who often found themselves facing months and years of investigation by the disciplinary unit, Rose was immediately cleared. Efforts by Wimborne Idrissi and others to appeal the decision to Iain McNicol (now Baron McNicol), the party’s general secretary and another opponent of Corbyn, were dismissed out of hand. Attempts to get Rose’s case heard by the National Executive Committee (NEC), Labour’s governing body, were secretly stymied.

 

Tearful testimony

Rose’s exceptional treatment was far from over, however. In 2019, two years after Al Jazeera revealed Rose’s covert alliance with Masot, she was back on TV, this time as witness for the prosecution in a BBC Panorama special supposedly exposing Corbyn as indulgent of antisemitism in the Labour Party, if not antisemitic himself. The program was a mess of unsubstantiated allegations and misleading information, as I set out in a review at the time and as “The Labour Files” shows too.

The BBC program began with tearful testimony from Rose speaking out against Corbyn and a supposed endemic problem of antisemitism in the Labour Party. Like other Jewish “witnesses” featured by the BBC, Rose was not named and her affiliation with the Jewish Labour Movement was never identified. She was presented as an ordinary Jewish party member shocked at the antisemitic taunts she said she had received at Labour’s annual party conference.

There was no way the Panorama team did not know who Rose was. It was in the public record that she had been a former Israeli embassy employee. She had admitted working with Masot, an Israeli spy who was filmed trying to “take down” a British government minister and setting up a network of advocates for Israel in Labour to take down Corbyn. She was the head of an organization, the JLM, whose barely concealed mission was to advocate for Israel in the Labour Party and damage Corbyn. And she had been filmed boasting extravagantly about using Israeli martial arts to attack a black Jewish woman at a time when she herself was claiming to be a frightened, vulnerable member of the Labour Party being victimized by antisemites.

All of this was highly relevant if viewers were to assess the credibility of Rose and the other anonymized members of the JLM who acted as witnesses against Corbyn. And yet none of this background was referred to by Panorama – a violation of journalistic ethics, as well as the BBC’s duty to deal fairly with British viewers who are required by the government to pay for its services.

That the BBC misrepresented the evidence of antisemitism in Labour is all the graver because the corporation is Britain’s state broadcaster. The program amounted to blatant interference by the British establishment’s chief media platform against the opposition leader only months before an election.

Rose and the JLM further interfered in the British political process on behalf of Israel and the British establishment by initiating complaints of racism against Corbyn’s Labour Party to the Equalities and Human Rights Commission. The EHRC agreed to investigate Labour while rejecting parallel demands to investigate the Conservative party at a time when black, Asian and Middle Eastern Tory members, including former government ministers, had repeatedly pointed to evidence of systematic racism in the party’s ranks, including from the then prime minister, Boris Johnson.

What has happened since? Rose’s career in the Labour Party has flourished. Last December, she was selected as a Labour council candidate for Barnet, North London, and won a seat in the May elections. Last year, it was announced that Rose had been accepted to one of 360 highly prized places on Labour’s “future candidates program”, seen as a stepping stone to Westminster. It was reported that thousands of other applicants were rejected.

 

Crushing party democracy

Al Jazeera’s new documentary, “The Labour Files”, differs from its predecessor, “The Lobby”, in showing how the Israeli Embassy and its activists were pushing at an open door when it came to subverting Corbyn’s leadership.

If the lobbyists worked covertly, it was not because the Labour Party bureaucracy had any interest in foiling their activities. It was out of necessity: to make sure their concocted antisemitism claims were harder to rebut and sounded more credible to the general public, and to avoid exposing the machinations of Labour’s right-wing officials who were as keen to see the back of Corbyn as Israel itself was.

What Rose and other pro-Israel activists were doing was colluding with the Labour right to crush Labour’s brief experiment in party democracy that had mistakenly allowed a popular left-wing figure in Corbyn to come within sight of No. 10, Downing Street.

As mentioned earlier, the British establishment was genuinely alarmed at the prospect of someone like Corbyn fighting them publicly and from within. Corbyn seriously threatened to redistribute wealth and limit corporate power, and challenged the British state’s lightly veiled colonialism: its foreign policy bullying; its arming of allies that systematically violate human rights; and its waging of wars to control global resources.

Rose and the other activists not only had assistance from Israel and its agents like Shai Masot, but from every wing of the British establishment. Singing in unison, the establishment’s chorus about antisemitism and a supposedly racist Labour left could drown out and vilify any countervailing voices, however plausible.

That very much included Corbyn’s long-time, anti-racist allies on the Labour left, especially its black and Jewish members radicalized by their experiences of dealing with the racism of British society and the British establishment.

Wimborne Idrissi, who founded Jewish Voice for Labour (JVL) as a counterweight to the JLM and to demonstrate that many Jews in the party supported Corbyn, has been repeatedly investigated and suspended by party bureaucrats. She is, remember, the Jewish member who tried unsuccessfully to get Rose disciplined over her violent threats against Jackie Walker, a black Jewish party member.

This month, Wimborne Idrissi was the only Jew elected by the membership to Labour’s NEC, its governing body. But Starmer’s officials quickly suspended her once again – apparently to deprive her of a seat on the body that oversees disciplinary cases and has been singling out Corbyn-supporting Jews, like herself and her allies in JVL. The party machinery has been carefully rigged under Starmer to make sure that no dissenting voices on its purges of the left are heard.

Confident that there would be no negative coverage from the establishment media, in stark contrast to the constant barracking of Corbyn, Labour officials stripped Wimborne Idrissi of her pass to the annual party conference this week. One can only imagine how the media would have reacted had Corbyn’s officials barred Ella Rose or any other JLM member.

Wimborne Idrissi is clearly seen as the “wrong kind of Jew” by the Labour right and the establishment media, including The Guardian newspaper that cheerled the campaign against Corbyn and has barely bothered, despite its profession of concern about antisemitism, to report on Labour’s systematic abuse of the JVL’s membership.

 

Fantastical claims

The Labour Files is replete with examples of Labour Party officials and the media, especially the BBC, applying double standards, deceiving the public, misrepresenting events, making fantastical claims, and promoting outright lies in promoting the Labour antisemitism narrative.

There are far too many instances to mention them all. Here are just a few of the nadirs:

• BBC’s Panorama program against Corbyn prominently featured a claim by Ben Westerman, a member of Labour’s disputes team, that he personally faced antisemitic abuse during a meeting to investigate antisemitism. He did not mention that it was two elderly Jewish women whom he met. In the program, he wrongly claims that one of the Jewish women asked him if he was from Israel. A tape recording made by the women shows that, in fact, she asked him what branch of the Labour Party he was from.

• Panorama selectively edited and misrepresented an email sent by Corbyn’s chief of staff, Seumas Milne. Panorama wrongly suggested that it was evidence of Corbyn’s office actively interfering in the handling of disciplinary hearings to clear political allies accused of antisemitism. In fact, Milne offered his view only after Labour HQ’s most senior staff asked for his guidance. His comment, far from constituting interference, referred to difficulties the party bureaucracy faced in the optics of investigating a Holocaust survivor for antisemitism. Milne rightly suggested that the party was getting involved in the Jewish community’s internal political arguments about Israel – or as he put it, “muddling up political disputes with racism”.

• Panorama broadcast incredible and entirely unsubstantiated claims by Izzy Lenga, a colleague of Rose’s in the JLM whose affiliation was not identified. She alleged that “every single day” she faced antisemitic abuse “telling me Hitler was right, Hitler did not go far enough”. In fact, as a search of earlier media reports confirm, Lenga appeared to be referring to a problem with neo-Nazi posters at her university in 2015. There was no suggestion in those contemporaneous reports that the Labour Party or any of its members were responsible. It appears to have been the work of far-right activists. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence – something Panorama seems to have recklessly ignored in advancing claims that damaged Corbyn.

• Halima Khan, who worked for the investigations team under Starmer, says she was instructed to scour through social media posts of identified individuals to find any material that could be construed as antisemitic, and that “Palestine” was one of the search terms they were supposed to use. Staff, she says, were expected to respond immediately when The Jewish Chronicle or Jewish News contacted them with a name. She further notes that when she asked if her job might be at risk for expressing support for the freedom of the Palestinians, the response was: “I’ll have to get back to you on that.”

• Several of the groups most vocal in fighting against Corbyn and Labour’s supposed “antisemitism crisis” had a history of being closely involved with Islamophobic far-right groups like the English Defence League. One, who has been convicted of aggressive bullying in his attempts to silence Corbyn supporters, was nonetheless seen as a suitable person to be invited on to the BBC to criticize Corbyn as a racist. The blog of another Jewish anti-Corbyn activist with an EDL past became the source of several anti-Corbyn stories that the establishment media eagerly turned into front-page stories.

• The Labour Files unearths video footage of Dan Fox, a former director of Labour Friends of Israel, which represents a third of Labour MPs, attending a small private meeting at the home of Sharon Klaff, an active Jewish EDL supporter. He is seen referring to her as “an old friend” as others at the meeting express opposition to Labour’s Sadiq Khan becoming mayor of London because he is a Muslim. Fox is the partner of prominent anti-Corbyn MP Stella Creasy.

• The entire membership of the pro-Corbyn Wallasey constituency party, in Merseyside, was suspended for more than a year by Labour HQ on the basis of a dossier compiled by an anti-Corbyn local councillor, Paul Stuart, claiming that 17 people at a constituency meeting had overheard horrifying homophobic abuse of its anti-Corbyn MP, Angela Eagle. These claims received widespread and supportive media coverage. Leaked documents reveal that, in fact, the only evidence supplied by Stuart were claims made by four of his relatives. Stuart also manufactured evidence against the head of the constituency party to get him removed. He further claimed to have found a strategy note circulating in Wallasey proving that the pro-Corbyn Momentum group was plotting a hostile takeover of the Labour Party through “Trotskyite entryism” – a tactic ascribed to the far-left Militancy Tendency back in the 1980s. The media widely reported the document as proof of the nefarious practices of the Corbyn left. In fact, the alleged Momentum document had been copied verbatim from an old book review on the Militant Tendency.

• One of the anti-Corbyn Labour activists whose name keeps appearing is Luke Stanger. He hounded a prospective Labour parliamentary candidate, Pamela Fitzpatrick, with accusations of antisemitism and Holocaust denial after her Harrow East constituency voted to affiliate with the pro-Corbyn Jewish Voice for Labour rather than the anti-Corbyn Jewish Labour Movement. Other Labour activists in Brighton and Hove found Stanger regularly writing threatening and abusive messages accusing them of antisemitism.

• Despite being suspended pending investigation by Labour HQ for his bullying and threats, often against women and Jews, he found protection from the Labour right. He remained on the campaign team for Hove’s anti-Corbyn MP, Peter Kyle. His response to the disputes unit was secretly written by Luke Akehurst, who sits on Labour’s governing body, the NEC, and is also the director of the lobby group, We Believe in Israel. Stanger was represented by one of London’s most prestigious and expensive law firms, Mischon de Reya. Some 14 right-wing Labour MPs rallied to his defense, writing character references, including the current shadow justice minister, Steve Reed. And John Stolliday, the former head of the governance and legal unit, offered his support. When Labour’s top disciplinary body eventually voted to expel Stanger, the expulsion was never carried out.

• The very same senior Labour staff who claimed to be deeply concerned about institutional racism towards Jews in the party under Corbyn are shown in the leaked files to be regularly sharing private messages that express the most ugly racism towards black party members and MPs. Under Starmer, this racism appears to have intensified. Labour head office has colluded in concealing law-breaking, covert surveillance and data collection of Asian party members, as a prelude to suspending the entire London constituency of Newham, apparently because it is heavily dominated by the local ethnic minority community. And ethnic minority staff in Labour head office who have raised complaints about these actions have been dismissed from their jobs.

 

Media silence

The question that keeps surfacing as Al Jazeera documents this and much, much more about the endless smear campaigns is how has it been left to a Qatari TV network to bring these revelations to public attention? How has none of this been visible on the British media’s radar for the past seven years?

The answer is highlighted by the complete lack of coverage of Al Jazeera’s latest revelations. The British media has not just failed to report on what should have been staring them in the face over five years of Corbyn’s tenure as leader and the past two years of Labour’s purges, under Starmer, it has also refused to report on, or investigate further, the evidence when it has been handed to them on a plate by Al Jazeera, now and back in 2017.

In recent days, media outlets have turned a blind eye to evidence of malpractice, rule-breaking and fraud by Labour Party staff, just as five years ago they turned a blind eye to the role of Masot in subverting the Labour Party and to the evidence of his close ties to groups like the JLM.

And that is for a very obvious reason. The entire British media willfully colluded in those smear operations, precisely because they feared Corbyn, and what he represents, as much as the Labour right and the rest of the establishment did.

Which BBC program will acknowledge Al Jazeera’s revelations, let alone pursue them further, when the BBC’s flagship news investigation program, Panorama, is deeply implicated in the very smears Al Jazeera exposed. The BBC would in effect be investigating its own malpractice.

And similarly for the Guardian. To investigate the leaked documents would convict the paper – traditionally seen by many Labour voters as their house journal – of colluding in a bogus antisemitism narrative against the Labour left that it played a central role in building. The Guardian would expose itself not as it wishes to be seen – as a fearless, independent newspaper confronting the British establishment with uncomfortable truths – but as a key pillar of that very establishment.

The reality is that no one with a major platform in Britain wishes to stand up for a genuinely popular or pluralistic politics. The system is as rigged as it looks. Labour’s democratic processes can be sabotaged, the wishes of its members subverted, the rule book torn up, and the only significant voice that will be raised is a Gulf-owned website – one that can be dismissed, however much evidence it marshals and however many experts and witnesses it cites, as axe-grinding or antisemitic.

Which is why there will be little to no pressure on the BBC or the Guardian to dig deeper into a story with huge ramifications for the future of Britain. And Keir Starmer will continue to go unchallenged as he falsely claims – in a party that now requires its members to sing an anthem glorifying the rule of kings – that Labour is a vibrant, democratic party.

Feature photo | Illustration by MintPress News

Jonathan Cook is a MintPress contributor. Cook won the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East (Pluto Press) and Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair (Zed Books). His website is www.jonathan-cook.net.

The post How Britain’s Labour Party Became a Criminal Conspiracy Against its Members appeared first on MintPress News.

The One Thing The Israeli Military Is Terrified Of

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 29/09/2022 - 1:39am in

The Most Censored News with Lee Camp hosted by comedian/ writer/ raconteur/ provocateur/ saboteur Lee Camp is a twice-weekly look at the most censored stories within corporate media hosted by the new video platform Behind the Headlines – a MintPress video project that is 100% viewer supported. 

Camp both brings to light stories that are (intentionally) ignored by the corporate media and digs deeper when the mainstream media only reports on the surface-layer reality. Having been a professional stand-up comic for 20 years, a writer for The Onion, and the host/head writer of Redacted Tonight, Camp is also uniquely suited to bring humor to these topics.

A few weeks ago the Israeli military admitted that famed journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was likely killed by a bullet shot by an Israeli Occupation Forces sniper. This is something the entire world already knew, but it’s nice to see them admit it. 

It always amazes me when the military does something awful and then they act like they need months to review the situation. 

This is just the latest well-known event where the Israeli military murdered journalists. You see, the IOF has a long, impressive history of war crimes and morally bankrupt behavior. They’re like Bill Bryson except instead of charming bestselling books with light British humor, they have a long list of child murders.

Even the UN found the IDF deliberately shot children a few years ago on the Gaza border. This is a horrific fact but it’s also interesting that, as a society, we’re far more upset about Israel killing innocent children than innocent adults. I feel like if you’re murdering innocent people, all of them should matter, not just the short ones. Sorry kids. 

IOF war crimes have become so common that many hardly take notice. As major newspaper Ha’aretz put it, “…such acts have become the norm.”

And it’s not like you have to do anything to get attacked by the Israeli military. One journalist was arrested the other day for posting on Facebook.

You may wonder, “If the Israeli military is involved in so many disgusting acts, how do they manage to get millions of Israelis to sign up to do it?” It’s not that hard. Military service is mandatory in Israel. They don’t have a choice. 

By the way, we really need to stop calling what soldiers do service. That implies that every action by a soldier is a service. I don’t feel like bombing villages, arresting peaceful activists and intentionally killing unarmed children should be listed as a “service we provide.” 

The reason Israel has enough military personnel to keep their apartheid state going is that they make it mandatory. However, an increasing number of young people are actually refusing to sign up to be hitmen for the state. 

+972 Magazine interviewed some of the teens who took this stand, “Conscientious objectors, commonly nicknamed “refuseniks,” are typically tried at the Recruitment Center and sentenced to prison terms of between 10 and 21 days. Upon their release, they are called to report back to the Recruitment Center, where they usually announce again that they still refuse to enlist.” This process can be repeated until the army decides to discharge them. Some end up spending months in prison for their courage.

Here are some of the reasons these brave teenagers gave for refusing to join the IDF:

One said, “I realized that there was no way I could serve in an army that for decades has been responsible for a violent regime.”

Another stated, “…if I join the army, regardless of the role, I am still part of an organization that has been oppressing the Palestinians for decades.”

Another said, “…the main goal of the army is the ethnic cleansing of non-Jews… This is something I cannot abide by — neither ideologically nor morally.”

Basically, these teenagers have decided they don’t want to be a part of a racist, oppressive, murderous organization. That sounds incredibly rational.

Watch the full report above.

Lee Camp is an American stand-up comedian, writer, actor and activist. Camp is the host of Behind The Headlines’ new series: The Most Censored News With Lee Camp. He is a former comedy writer for the Onion and the Huffington Post and has been a touring stand-up comic for 20 years.

The post The One Thing The Israeli Military Is Terrified Of appeared first on MintPress News.

‘There is a Connection Between their Roots in Fascism and their Embrace of these Ideas’: Italy’s Drift to the Far-Right

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 28/09/2022 - 10:22pm in

Adrian Goldberg spoke to David Broder – author of Mussolini’s Grandchildren: Fascism In Contemporary Italy – for the Byline Times Podcast about the historical roots of the country's new far-right leadership

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AG: Giorgia Meloni looks set to become Italy’s first female Prime Minister and leader of its most right-wing Government since the days of Mussolini. Her Fratelli D’Italia (Brothers of Italy) Party secured 26% of the vote in the recent General Election, making it the likely leader of a new coalition. What can you tell us about Meloni?

DB: She has been a political activist since a very young age. She's from a working-class district of Rome and joined the Italian Social Movement (MSI) in 1992. The MSI was a neo-fascist party founded by members of the defeated fascist regime in 1946... it has a long and often violent history.

In the post-war decades, it was always quite a small party, but Meloni joined at a time of great upheaval in Italian politics and she made her career in the MSI.

She was a councillor in Rome, then an MP, and became the youngest ever Deputy Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies when she was only 29. She was Youth Minister in the last of Silvio Berlusconi's Governments at a time when her post-fascist party was welcomed into a broad right-wing coalition. 

So, already in the 1990s, former fascists were in government as a junior partner to Berlusconi. But what we've seen in more recent decades is that the most right-wing parts of that coalition, including former fascists, have become the dominant force. This election result is really the culmination of that process.

Is Meloni’s party the same as the MSI which she originally joined?

Yes and no. In the 1990s, the MSI renamed itself the Alleanza Nazionale (National Alliance) and then it directly merged with Berlusconi's party (Forza Italia). In those years, its leader Gianfranco Fini made some efforts to distance it from fascism, with a commitment to taking part in electoral politics and rejecting violence and authoritarianism.  

After Fini took the party into a merger with Berlusconi's party, Fratelli D'Italia was created in 2012 by people who rejected that process and who reasserted the claim to the party tradition. They adopted the MSI’s logo, which is a tricolour flame, and Fratelli D’Italia’s flag even now has the flame of the MSI in it. 

In the early years of the party, Meloni leant into a very severe denunciation of those who had earlier dissolved the neo-fascist tradition.  

So Fratelli D’Italia wanted to reclaim the fascist tradition from which the MSI had grown?

Yes. Giorgia Meloni often cites as her political forefather Giorgio Almirante, who was the founding leader of the MSI and led it through most of its history until his death in 1988. Almirante had taken part in the [wartime fascist] regime; he had written for a journal called La Difesa della Razza (The Defence Of The Race) in which he advocated explicitly biological racist ideas. 

At the time Meloni joined in 1992, many of the main leaders were still people who had directly participated in the Nazi collaborationist Social Republic [led by Mussolini].

Of course, over the decades, the way that they organised changed and it isn't just the same as historical fascism. For instance, they showed commitment to the constitutional process, taking part in elections and have generally, over time, rejected terrorist groups who were within the orbit of the party.

But there is a genuine historical link between Mussolini and the party of the woman who is now set to be the leader of Italy?

Yes, absolutely. And often, we hear the kind of story which goes, ‘oh well, the party has broken with the past, that no longer applies and so on’. But when you look specifically at what her party is saying, it's actually very indulgent and [only a] partial criticism of fascism.

For instance, Giorgia Meloni about a month ago issued a video where she sought to dismiss claims that her party is steeped in fascism. What was really interesting was the pedantic phrasing she used it in order to not condemn fascism in general. A typical way of doing this is to condemn Italy’s 1938 racial laws, which involved the segregation of Jews and other ethnic minorities from taking part in public life... and to say that participation in the Holocaust is to be condemned – but not to condemn the fascist experience in general. What this aims to do is suggest that Mussolini went astray when he was led along by Hitler. 

So this party has a much more distinctly fascist tradition than other far-right parties, such as [Marine Le Pen’s National Rally] in France.

Has Meloni tried to make her appeal mainstream like Le Pen?

Yes, in part, but it's also a very contradictory process. 

Meloni insists that she won't disturb Italy's international position, emphasising that she supports Ukraine not Russia, that she's committed to NATO, and that she wants to change the European Union rather than consider an exit. 

At the same time, we have this very intense hostility directed against the 'conspiracies of globalists' like [billionaire US philanthropist] George Soros and the left, who are who are basically accused of a plot to destroy Italian society. Meloni has often resorted to the language of the ‘Great Replacement’ theory, which presents the idea of a shadowy plot to replace white Europeans with immigrants and Muslims. 

So if you are from a minority background in Italy you might be feeling very uncomfortable? 

Meloni has policies which are extremely hostile to immigrants and proposes very outlandish and harsh means of repression, including the call for a naval blockade in the Mediterranean to stop migrant boats. One of the key focuses of far-right agitation – including by Meloni – is that they're opposed to the idea that the children of migrants should have the right to citizenship, even if they’re born in Italy. In some cases, in local councils run by the far-right parties, we've seen them denying free school meals to non-EU citizens, even though the children in question were born in the country and have no choice but to live there.  

Is there an underlying dog whistle of antisemitism too?

Yes, and we see this in the prominence of George Soros in the party's propaganda. There’s the claim that Soros is the figure behind ‘ethnic substitution’ and, in one of her posts, Meloni refers to him as a ‘usurer’ – a word with strong [antisemitic] connotations.

What about the LGBT community and women’s rights?

Meloni says she doesn't want to get rid of the existing right to abortion. Yet, already in the regions control controlled by her party, we've seen that they actually act to make access harder, including imposing unrealistic limits. For instance, a seven-week limit on abortion with a compulsory one-week cooling-off period. 

One of the typical themes of Fratelli D'Italia is the destruction of our identity by speculators, by online social networks, by the ‘International Republic Of Money’ as they call it, to create a formless mass of atomised citizens who have no loyalty or roots.

Against this, they pose the traditional, heterosexual family. Within that, there’s a very harsh idea of LGBT people who are portrayed as unnatural and rootless and not really belonging.

Victory for this party will be a boost to all manner of homophobes and reactionaries.

So is this the return of Italian fascism?

I’m not someone who has called every new right-wing phenomenon ‘the return of fascism’ but I think you'd have to be very blind to not see that there is a connection between their roots in fascism and their embrace of these ideas. 

Beyond the actual policies pursued by the Italian Government, the example that Meloni sets and the fact that the state is controlled by people who hold these ideas, will unleash a very hostile climate in Italian society. 

We're not going to see the imposition of a fascist regime – but that’s a very low bar. I think what we can expect is the pursuit harsh identity politics and culture wars, and that will have a very negative effect on a lot of people's lives.

Adrian Goldberg is the Editor and Producer of the ‘Byline Times Podcast’ and ‘Byline Radio’ 

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‘I Could See the Last Seconds of My Life’: Iranians Speak of the Terror of Protest

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 28/09/2022 - 9:00pm in

Guy Taylor speaks to a former political activist from Iran and hears the shocking stories of people currently on the ground

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As Leila (not her real name) desperately clambered under the descending shutters of a small shop in Tehran, she thought the game was up. Unintentionally, she had crawled into a room full of Iranian policeman.

A former political activist in Iran and member of the women’s branch of a reformist political party, she had been fleeing from a nearby demonstration that was violently suppressed by police. 

“I could see myself in a detention centre in my mind... I could see the last seconds of my life,” she told Byline Times. Now she found herself face-to-face with her oppressors and feared the worst. 

However, through what can only be described as a miracle, “they smiled, and it was one of the best experiences that I’ve had... they said we have fled like you”. 

“They had hidden themselves there to not be forced to kill people,” she explained. In a rare moment, both sides came together.

“We hugged each other, we cried with each other,” she said.  This time, she was not taken to a detention centre or forced into what some protestors describe as “murder vans” – vehicles in which dissenting Iranians are reportedly tortured or killed.

This was a departure from the brutality she had witnessed many times before.

Her work as a political activist and role in organising protests has led to her being blacklisted by the Iranian regime. Having participated in more than 50 street demonstrations, she eventually left the country in 2020.

Now, as unrest sweeps across the region following the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in morality police custody, Leila told Byline Times her story and the stories of the Iranians currently risking their lives to protest.

Ms Amini's hair was allegedly visible under her headscarf when she was arrested by morality police in Tehran earlier this month. Under Iranian law, based on the country's interpretation of Sharia, women must cover their heads with a hijab. In response to her death, women have been burning their headscarves in acts of defiance against the state.

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Forced to Fight for Human Rights

Although she is safe in the UK from the most recent outbreak of violence, Leila remains in contact with Iranians on the ground. No internet, limited access to social media and fears of state reprisal make international contact difficult. However, through Leila, Byline Times has heard accounts from people inside the country. So far, at least 41 have died.

One lady, a 40-year-old mother from Tehran who works as a ‘digital trader’, said that she fears for her teenage daughter’s life, whom she can’t prevent from going to demonstrations. Her other daughter fled to Turkey months ago. The mother has been arrested three times and shot at.

She said police are regularly using tear gas and that she struggles to breathe properly because her lungs are “full of gas”. She has been forced to stay out on the street at night, as police conduct raids on local houses. She is most afraid of the Sepah (a special branch of the Iranian armed forces).

A 30-year-old account manager described what she has witnessed in Tehran. “Over the past few days, I have seen people unite without damaging public property... In the central streets of Tehran, security forces were shooting at people with batons, tear gas and bullets. People helped each other and gave [each other] masks so as not to be recognised.”

She described protestors and police clashing on motorbikes. On Valiasr Street, police on bikes rushed towards protestors, who formed a blockade using their own motorcycles, buying time for others to flee.

“Some officers in the crowd used spray to mark the [protestors’] clothes for identification... People were together, talking to the officers and saying that we want freedom and security,” she said, adding that some people have been “injured but cannot go to medical centres”.

“As a human being, as an Iranian, I’m tired of anger, violence and insecurity, being killed or forced to fight to obtain minimum human rights... I ask my people not to forget that no one should be persecuted for his opinion unless he has caused others to suffer.”

Sabah, from Kurdistan, currently based outside the country, described this as “the biggest political situation I can remember”.

He described a growing unity among different groups in Iran. “Now you can see this unity, now you can see people in Tabriz (a city in north-western Iran), showing support for Kurdistan," he said. "Not only Tabriz, now we have 80 cities protesting and supporting each other. That is amazing.”

"You can see a lot of people changing their mind," he added. "We even have celebrities, who have been supporting the Government for 40 years. Now they changed their mind just yesterday.”

He described how suppression of protest has become “more and more brutal... merciless” in recent years, fuelling unrest.

In 2019, violence erupted after fuel prices tripled. Amnesty International estimated that more than 300 people died, while Reuters reported that 1,500 were killed.

“I have witnessed countless brutal behaviour of police with protestors," Sabah said. "I remember with my friend, we were in the street, I was young, so young, but my friend was a little bit younger than me, and one officer took his hands... another officer started beating him in the stomach... badly. I couldn’t do anything about it... They have no mercy.”

Another woman, a filmmaker in Tehran, described seeing protestors with shirts pulled over their heads.

“They were made to sit on their knees," she said. "The people who were arrested were screaming and the oppressors were screaming terribly to scare them... people kept shouting so that someone from outside would hear their voice and help them.”

‘Still the Trauma is With Me

Leila herself has experienced years of trauma and regularly sees a counsellor in the UK.

“Once, I was running across one of the bridges in Tehran," she told Byline Times. "I’ll never forget this. I saw one of the girls... Two [of her] hands were taken by [a police officer] and two feet were taken by another one.”

As she ran, she saw the police begin to swing the girl from side to side. “They threw her from the bridge... and I was just running and, when I was running, I turned my face back, and I heard that sound of [her] hitting the floor.”

On another occasion, she witnessed the police drive over a young boy repeatedly. “I remember one of the days that I was in one of the squares of the capital, and one of the police cars drove over the body of... a very young boy, deliberately, and came back and forward to be sure that he was, yeah, smashed,” she said.

But Leila’s scars are not just mental. She still struggles to breathe after inhaling tear gas in 2019. “Still, I’m suffering from it. I felt dizzy, I fell on the floor. I didn’t understand anything afterwards. I’ve been kicked to the floor... I’ve been arrested, and I’ve been taken to a place where I didn’t know where I was and you couldn’t understand whether it was day or night, you couldn’t recognise the time.”

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These experiences have fuelled her desire to speak out and she has helped to organise multiple protests in the UK. At a recent demonstration, she and other women cut their hair as a symbol of defiance against the Iranian Government’s restrictions on social freedoms. Another lady set fire to her headscarf.

Because of this, Leila received threatening messages on social media from Iranian police.

Her husband has received threats of violence and was told that Iranians would get “revenge” on them. Visibly shaken, Leila said: "They’re swearing at us and they are saying 'you have sold your country out'... I’m scared... It’s not the first time that they are threatening us, it is not the first time. My heart is pulsing now... because they can do everything, even in the UK... I really want the UK Government to protect us”.

“I knew that I was risking something,” she added, “but my fellow countrymen need to know that we are not silent here.”

Asked what her message is for people in the UK, Leila said: “First, there is a vast valley between Iranians’ attitudes and Iran's regime's attitude.

"Second, Iranian’s are mostly peaceful people and against terrorism. They’re paying the price of protesting against terrorism and standing for human rights with their lives.

"Third, let’s not think of the concept of the protests as related to religion, ethnicity, political or any other internal problems – they’re matters related to fundamental human rights and should concern not only Iranians, but every single individual who’s living in this planet and is expecting peace for the world.

“Fourth, please let’s all stand together for human rights shoulder-to-shoulder. Be an Iranian’s voice and ask your MPs or other politicians to take serious action.”

Amnesty International has a petition calling on states to set up an independent UN mechanism to investigate serious crimes under international law in Iran. It can be viewed here

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Conservative MP Blaming ‘Islamist Extremists’ for Leicester Violence Funded by Organisations Tied to Hindutva Militants

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 28/09/2022 - 2:50am in

Bob Blackman, who is the executive secretary of the influential 1922 Committee, has had a number of visits to India hosted by pro-RSS groups

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A Conservative MP who has written to the Home Secretary blaming “Islamist extremists” for the recent violence between Muslims and Hindus in cities such as Leicester has funding ties to far-right Hindutva followers supportive of India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, as well as the BJP's parent organisation, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh – a Hindu nationalist paramilitary volunteer network linked to anti-Muslim violence in India.

Bob Blackman – who represents Harrow East and is chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for British Hindus – has received more than £20,200 from groups directly linked to these organisations.

Recent weeks have seen more than 500 young Hindu and Muslim men clashing with each other and police in Leicester, resulting in 20 arrests and 25 police being officers injured. After visiting local community leaders and police, Suella Braverman vowed that “disorder and thuggery” would face “the full force of the law” and pledged to "restore safety and harmony".

However, in his letter to Braverman last Friday, Blackman – who is also the executive secretary of the Conservative Party’s influential 1922 Committee – portrayed the unrest as a case of violence instigated solely by Muslims.

He referred to “appalling attacks on Hindus in Leicester, Birmingham and elsewhere in the UK” – rather than acknowledging attacks by both Hindu and Muslim extremists in the clashes.

Analysis by Byline Times of donations received by Blackman, recorded in the parliamentary register of interests, shows his long-standing ties with far-right Hindu nationalist organisations – some of which have been directly linked to anti-Muslim violence. He received the donations between 2016 and 2019, mostly to fund visits to India hosted by pro-RSS groups.

Under the leadership of BJP Prime Minister Narendra Modi since 2014, widespread concerns have been raised about the persecution of religious minorities – Muslims, Sikhs, Christians and others – in India, the world's largest democracy.

As the political wing of the RSS, the BJP is a far-right nationalist political movement associated with ‘Hindutva’ ideology. This promotes a purist strain of Hindu nationalism, positing Indian national culture and identity as inseparable from the Hindu religion. The RSS calls for an exclusively Hindu nation state of India.

Gujarat Riot Connection

In February 2019, Blackman received £1,800 from the pro-BJP International Siddhashram Shakti Centre in Harrow to fund a trip to Mumbai, India.

The year before, he received £11,300 from the Indian-branch of the Centre to visit Ahmedabad and Delhi to “meet with political figures in India”.

The International Siddhashram Shakti Centre was founded by Shri Rajrajeshwar Guruji, who has close ties with senior BJP officials including the late Lalubhai Parekh, vice-president of the Overseas Friends of the BJP (OFBJP) and Kuldeep Shekhawat, OFBJP president. Byline Times contacted the Centre for comment.

The Centre’s Harrow branch recently hosted Vijay Rupani, chief BJP minister of Gujarat from 2016 to 2021. In 2019, Rupani declared that “Muslims have 150 countries to go to, Hindus have only India”. In 2020, Rupani justified the role of his predecessor as Gujarat's chief minister, Modi, in the 2002 Gujarat riots.

It is widely recognised that, as chief minister of the state, Modi 'allowed' the anti-Muslim riots to take place, which resulted in the killings of an estimated 1,000 Muslims. At least 20,000 Muslim homes were destroyed and at least 150,000 people were displaced. Modi’s role in the riots led the UK's Labour Government to institute a diplomatic boycott against him – which was ended by the Conservative-led Government in 2012 to boost bilateral “trade and investment”.

In February 2017, Blackman also received £4,000 from the Indian High Commission in London – which formally represents Modi's Government in the UK – to fund his trip to New Delhi, aimed at developing “understanding of Indian policy aims” and to “meet key decision-makers in the Indian Government”.

Pro-RSS Connections

Blackman also travelled to India in March 2016, a trip partly-funded by a pro-RSS NGO. The Art of Living Foundation’s UK and Bangalore branches, along with several other donors, together gave Blackman more than £1,100 for flights, meals and accommodation to visit Delhi.

Although the Art of Living Foundation operates as an educational and humanitarian organisation promoting yoga meditation across 156 countries, its founder Sri Sri Ravi Shankar was accused in 2014 of leveraging the charity’s funds for electoral purposes in support of Modi and the BJP.

Shankar is a long-time Modi apologist who has vehemently defended Modi’s role in the Gujarat riots. He is also an old RSS cadre who had attended RSS programmes for many years. Shankar had also reportedly supported the idea of building a Hindu temple over the Babri mosque in Ayodhya, India, which had been demolished in 1992 by a Hindutva mob.

Shanka has denied supporting the BJP but has admitted his involvement in the RSS.

Blackman received another £2,000 donation for travel to India in April 2016, from the UK branch of the RSS-affiliated charity Sewa International – the international welfare wing of the RSS which provides a formal charitable structure for its volunteer members. It is directly linked to anti-Muslim violence.

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Blackman visited Sewa projects in India to “meet with trustees, volunteers and political figures”, according to the register of interests.

Back in August 2002, the late Lord Adam Patel of Blackburn resigned from his role as a patron of Sewa International after discovering that it operates as “a front for controversial militant Hindu organisations” which harbours a “racist and anti-Muslim agenda”. He added at the time, according to Birmingham’s Sunday Mercury newspaper: “I very much regret ever having been part of this racist organisation.”

According to the UK-based human rights network, Awaaz South Asia Watch, Sewa International’s “main purpose is to raise funds for and support a distinct family of organisations associated with the extremist RSS”.

Lord Patel’s resignation was prompted after reports emerged that officials in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh had banned Sewa Bharti, a charity partly-funded by Sewa International’s Leicester entity. The officials cited intelligence reports showing that Sewa Bharti had planned to “stir racial hatred” in Ayodhya. Sewa International was also providing funds to build Hindu temples in Gujarat.

The pro-RSS stance of the Sewa network of charities has been well-documented by journalist Pieter Friedrich.

Sewa International has denied all allegations.

Bob Blackman MP, the Conservative Party and the International Siddhashram Shakti Centre have been contacted for comment.

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