Israel: at war with its impoverished citizens

Marianne Azizi writes:

As Hana Gan*, the Canadian woman trapped in Israel, awaits her fate in the Israeli courts, more people are coming forward to share their stories of being held in Israel with no hope of a normal life.

Here is one such story from Billy Leybel, an Israeli.

I am living in Israel, but I can’t really call it living, because my life is only about survival. Born in 1974, I had an amazing mum and a man I cannot even call my “father”. I wasn’t really popular at school, and was bullied a lot, only to return home to my father, who also beat me. I left home at 16, preferring to live in the street and escape my hellish childhood. I encountered the police many times, not because I did anything criminal – I was just an easy target for them.

When I reached 18, I refused to join the Israeli army. I spent so much time in prison because of my refusal. Eventually, at the age of 33, I found a really good job in a print shop. It was in a very religious city and I was hassled every day for six years. Sadly, I got a medical condition which affected my legs and I was unable to work.

My ex-wife used the system to falsely claim that I had hit her and tried to kill her. Just on the basis of her words and without any investigation, I was sent to prison for two weeks. I was then placed under house arrest for a year while I waited for the court to eventually find me innocent.

Even then, I had to pay for my ex-wife’s claim and deposit money to the court – a total of USD 1,750, which I didn’t have.

As a result of all this, I am not allowed to have a credit card, I cannot have a bank account or even a driving licence. I currently receive USD 750 (2,500 shekels) in disability payments per month to live on. So, how am I supposed to live and work without a car. I am not allowed to leave Israel to find work abroad. I left a small prison as an innocent man to live in a bigger prison – Israel itself.

Please think: I had a disability and find it difficult to walk but I’m not allowed to have a car. The money the government gives me is all taken back. I can only dream about leaving Israel. The laws which appear to hold me appear centuries old. The Israeli government doesn’t want its citizens to have a life, just an existence.

I want the world to know there is a big difference between Israeli citizens and the Israeli government. We don’t have hate in our hearts, and so many Jews and Muslims live great together. I have so many Muslim friends, and I give them the respect they deserve in every aspect of life.

Love is the only way to get life. Hate brings killing and death to us all. Only governments around the world make hate, not us the people.

I am an Israeli Jew and for thousands of us we want to be humans, not treated like animals by the Israeli government. The money I receive is not even half of the minimum wage. The minimum rent here is 2,500 shekels (USD 750). Even people who earn 10,000 shekels cannot always last a full month on their income.

I am begging Israel to release me and let me find somewhere else in the world to live. You think it is easy to write this openly. I am on the edge of breaking. It will only take one more small thing, and I will be pushed to kill myself. For what life do I have?

Billy’s story is by no means unique. As domestic issues bring involvement from the state far too quickly, the ability to defend false accusations by warring families is almost impossible. Children are removed from their natural parents before any enquiries are made. Billy refused to serve in the Israeli and fight against his childhood friends and neighbours, like many more.

It seems a small request to the Israeli government to make reforms and restore civil rights and liberties to their own people. Yet activists have been asking for years but their requests fall on deaf ears.

The reason why so many people are in poverty could be due to the lack of freedom so many people suffer. Family breakdown is causing more children to be in distress.

As an election looms with much rhetoric about protecting the children from alleged international threats, the people inside Israel are dealing with their own domestic threats to their livelihood, their children and their own survival.

*For more information on Hana Gan, visit the Trapped in Israel Facebook Page.

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Netanyahu’s farcical fear mongering

Alan Hart writes:

My Chambers dictionary defines farce (a noun) as “comedy of extravagant humour, buffoonery and improbability”; and farcical (the adjective) as “comical, risible, ludicrous, ridiculous”. Those are my terms of reference for this very short article on Binyamin Netanyahu’s address to the political whorehouse known as the Congress of the United States of America.

His portrayal of an Iran on course to possess nuclear weapons for the purpose of annihilating Israel, plus the standing ovations and the applause his performance received, might well have pleased enough brainwashed Israeli Jews to vote in ways that guarantee he will emerge from Israel’s upcoming elections in a position to cobble together the next coalition government and serve a fourth term as prime minister.

In my view, that was his prime purpose in soliciting the backdoor invitation to address Congress.

What Netanyahu really wants, as do more than a few of his deluded allies in the Republican party and all the neo-cons, is war, an American war, on Iran.

His other purpose was to inspire enough members of a Congress – a two-thirds majority is required – to override a presidential veto on new legislation for more sanctions on Iran. His sales pitch to Congress included this. “If Iran threatens to walk away [if Congress brings in legislation for more sanctions], call their bluff. They’ll be back. They need a deal more than you do. You have the power [with additional sanctions] to make them want it more.” Contrary to what he said, Netanyahu knows that more sanctions would cause Iran to walk away and stay away, thus killing any prospect of a deal and a new beginning with Iran that President Obama and the other P5+1 leaders really want.

What Netanyahu really wants, as do more than a few of his deluded allies in the Republican party and all the neo-cons, is war, an American war, on Iran.

To understand why Netanyahu’s fear mongering is farcical, it’s not necessary to get bogged down with the question of whether or not Iran is seeking to develop nuclear weapons. (It isn’t, and all Western intelligence agencies know that. Israel’s own intelligence agencies also know that and some former Israeli intelligence have said so publicly.)

The answer to just one question is enough, more than enough, to expose Netanyahu’s assertion about the threat Iran poses to Israel’s existence for the propaganda nonsense it is.

The question? Even if Iran did possess a few nuclear bombs, would its leaders be mad enough to launch a first strike on Israel?

Answer? Of course not, because to do so would invite the complete destruction of their country.

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Manchester’s Royal Northern College of Music surrenders to Zionist pressure

Gilad Atzmon writes:

Yesterday I learned that my concert at the Royal Northern College of Music (RNCM) this coming Thursday, 5 March, had been cancelled due to Zionist pressure. I spoke to the RNCM’s marketing director who told me that the concert was cancelled due to “safety reasons”. It seems that the venue felt “unable to guarantee my safety”. Given that I’m now a fairly big boy, this would be somewhat amusing except for the terrible implication that the threat of Zionist violence has now made it to Britain. It took a few hours before I found out that it was the ultra-Zionist North West Friends of Israel that had put pressure on the music school.

As usual, they have produced a pile of lies about my work and my writing. They suggest that my concerts were “fostering anti-Semitism”, which is obviously a complete lie. In fact, not once has anyone logged a complaint about my concerts or my talks.

The North West Friends of Israel also refer to the “sensitivity of Jewish students”, ignoring the fact that since its day of inception the Orient House Ensemble has always included Jewish musicians and, if this were not enough, many of our promoters and supporters are also Jewish.

The North West Friends of Israel also argue that my book The Wandering Who? has been called “probably the most anti-Semitic book published in recent years”, forgetting to mention that it is a best seller in Britain, the USA and many other countries, and has been endorsed by some of the greatest humanists of our time.

They also forget to mention that not a single country, including Israel, has banned the book or declared it unlawful. And yes, the book is indeed critical of Jewish identity politics and exposes the exact same Jewish political lobbying which the North West Friends of Israel yesterday exercised in Manchester.

It’s worth noting that the Zionist pressure group substantiated its “arguments” by referring to the writing of none other than Alan Dershowitz, currently implicated in a huge sex scandal. This puzzles me. Would the RNCM cancel my concert based on criticism of my work by the likes of, say, Jimmy Saville or Garry Glitter? You decide.

This morning I referred this issue to my legal team. I also learned that very soon a petition will be launched denouncing the RNCM and calling on it to put this matter right.

In the meantime, please write or call the RNCM on:

Tel: +44-161 907 5200
Fax: +44-161 273 7611

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Who and what is the real Netanyahu?

By Alan Hart

Is Binyamin Netanyahu a smooth-talking, disingenuous, cunning salesman who knows that everything he asserts about Israel being in danger of annihilation and not having a Palestinian partner for peace is propaganda nonsense, or, does he really believe what he says?

Before I offer my own thoughts here’s a quote from London-based Jamie Stern-Weiner who co-founded the New Left Project. In a recent article published by Mondoweiss he wrote this:

If Binyamin Netanyahu hadn’t gone into politics he’d be on Broadway, hamming it up as a pantomime villain. Israel’s hawkish prime minister is theatrically obnoxious to the point where even Israel’s staunchest allies in the American Jewish community are urging him to tone it down. He’s the kind of guy who doesn’t just show up to your house uninvited but brings along his dirty laundry, empties your fridge, urinates in the sink and then abruptly storms out, complaining about poor service.

If President Obama had read that I imagine he would have said to himself something like: “Spot on, Jamie. Couldn’t put it better myself.”

If Netanyahu knows that his assertions are “bs” (a Carterism for bullshit), I think it could be said that he is following in the footsteps of Joseph Goebbels, Adolf Hitler’s propaganda chief. Underpinning his approach to propaganda was the belief that the bigger the lie and the more frequently it was told, the more likely it was that it, the lie, would be believed. (In my view that was the key to Zionism’s success throughout the second half of the 20th century. The good news is that as the 21st century advances the number of Europeans and Americans who are buying Zionism’s propaganda lies is decreasing.)

Goebbels put into writing 18 principles for the guidance of all who were waging Nazi Germany’s propaganda war. Here are two of them.

14. Propaganda must label events and people with distinctive phrases or slogans.
a. They must evoke desired responses which the audience previously possesses.
b. They must be capable of being easily learned.
c. They must be utilised again and again.
16. Propaganda to the home front must create an optimum anxiety level.

The evidence of Netanyahu’s success in creating an optimum level of anxiety on his home front is in the fact that the vast majority of Israel’s Jews believe that they are and always will be in danger of annihilation. But now comes what seems to me to be a contradiction. In recent weeks Netanyahu has taken advantage of events to play his fear card in Europe with calls to its Jews to move to Israel.

A question arising is this.

If Netanyahu really believes that Israel is in danger of annihilation, is he not being irresponsible in the extreme with his calls for Europe’s Jews to make new lives there?

The only answer I can think of is that he knows Israel is not in danger of annihilation and takes comfort from a statement made by Yitzhak Shamir, the Zionist terrorist leader who became prime minister. According to a recent article by Israeli writer Akiva Eldar, Shamir once said, “For the land of Israel lying is allowed.”

Any assessment of who and what the real Bibi Netanyahu is must consider what he may have inherited from his Polish-born father Benzion who changed the family name from Mileikowsky to Netanyahu.

Benzion Mileikowsky/Netanyahu was an historian and writer who always believed in a Greater Israel. He opposed the UN Partition Plan because it didn’t give the Israel-to-be enough land; and at the time he was in favour of “transferring” the Arabs out of Palestine.

In fact, his analysis of what had to happen in Palestine for Zionism to get everything it wanted was exactly the same as that put into words by Ze’ev Jabotinsky, the founder of Israel’s army and what was called “Revisionist” Zionism but was actually honest Zionism. (The only difference between it and what was regarded as mainstream Zionism founded by Herzl and led by Weizmann was that the mainstreamers lied about Zionism’s true purpose and the implications of it. As I describe in my book Zionism: The Real Enemy of the Jews, the mainstreamers went through the motions of pretending there could be an accommodation with the Arabs. They lied for two main reasons. One was the need to avoid provoking too much Arab hostility too soon. The other was the need to mislead and deceive Jews, in Western Europe and North America especially, about Zionism’s real intentions.)

Russian-born Jabotinsky wrote The Iron Wall which became the bible of “Revisionist” Zionism and, actually, the main inspirational text for all Jewish nationalists who became Israelis, including those who would not have considered themselves to be revisionists. In 1940 Benzion Mileikowsky/Netanyahu went to New York to be Jabotinsky’s personal secretary.

Because knowledge of the mindset of Jabotinsky and Binyamin Netanyahu’s father is the key to understanding how and why Israel became an arrogant, aggressive and oppressive state, I am now going to quote (as I do in my book) nine paragraphs from The Iron Wall.

There can be no discussion of voluntary reconciliation between the Arabs, not now and not in the foreseeable future. All well-meaning people, with the exception of those blind from birth, understood long ago the complete impossibility of arriving at a voluntary agreement with the Arabs of Palestine for the transformation of Palestine from an Arab country to a country with a Jewish majority.

Any native people view their country as their national home, of which they will be the complete masters. They will never voluntarily allow a new master. So it is for the Arabs. Compromisers among us try to convince us that the Arabs are some kind of fools who can be tricked with hidden formulations of our basic goals. I flatly refuse to accept this view of the Palestinian Arabs.

They have the precise psychology that we have. They look upon Palestine with the same instinctive love and true fervour that any Aztec looked upon his Mexico or any Sioux upon his prairie. Each people will struggle against colonisers until the last spark of hope that they can avoid the dangers of colonisation and conquest is extinguished. The Palestinians will struggle in this way until there is hardly a spark of hope.

It matters not what kind of words we use to explain our colonisation. Colonisation has its own integral and inescapable meaning understood by every Jew and every Arab. Colonisation has only one goal. This is in the nature of things. To change that nature is impossible. It has been necessary to carry on colonisation against the will of the Palestinian Arabs and the same condition exists now.

Even an agreement with non-Palestinians (other Arabs) represents the same kind of fantasy. In order for Arab nationalists of Baghdad and Mecca and Damascus to agree to pay so serious a price they would have to refuse to maintain the Arab character of Palestine.

We cannot give any compensation for Palestine, neither to the Palestinians nor to other Arabs. Therefore, a voluntary agreement is inconceivable. All colonisation, even the most restricted, must continue in defiance of the will of the native population. Therefore, it can continue and develop only under the shield of force which comprises an Iron Wall which the local population can never break through. This is our Arab policy. To formulate it any other way would be hypocrisy.

Whether through the Balfour Declaration or the Mandate, external force is a necessity for establishing in the country conditions of rule and defence through which the local population, regardless of what it wishes, will be deprived of the possibility of impeding our colonisation, administratively or physically. Force must play its role – with strength and without indulgence. In this, there are no meaningful differences between our militarists and our vegetarians. One prefers an Iron Wall of Jewish bayonets; the other an Iron Wall of English bayonets.

If you wish to colonise a land in which people are already living, you must provide a garrison for that land, or find some rich man or benefactor who will provide a garrison on your behalf. Or else? Or else, give up your colonisation, for without an armed force which will render physically impossible any attempt to destroy or prevent this colonisation, colonisation is impossible – not difficult, not dangerous but IMPOSSIBLE! Zionism is a colonising adventure and therefore it stands or it falls by the question of armed force. It is important to speak Hebrew but, unfortunately, it is even more important to be able to shoot – or else I am through with playing at colonisation.

To the hackneyed reproach that this point of view is unethical, I answer – absolutely untrue. This is our ethic. There is no other ethic. As long as there is the faintest spark of hope for the Arabs to impede us, they will not sell these hopes – not for any sweet words nor for any tasty morsel, because this (the Palestinians) is not a rabble but a people, a living people. And no people makes such enormous concessions on such fateful questions, except when there is no hope left, until we have removed every opening visible in the Iron Wall.

That, a decade before the Nazis came to power in Germany, was the ideology of revisionist/honest Zionism. Its “big idea”, which thrilled Binyamin Netanyahu’s father, was the application of brute force in order to give the Arabs, when they had been dispossessed of their land, no hope of getting it back. There was to be no consideration of what was morally right or wrong. Compromise was entirely ruled out. It was a “them or us” strategy.

Benzion Mileikowsky/Netanyahu died in his Jerusalem home in April 2012 at the age of 102. Shortly after his death Jason Epstein, a co-founder of the New York Review of Books, let slip to a Jewish discussion group that Benzion once told him that he believed the only way Israel could survive was “by killing all Arabs”.

There’s no mystery about what Binyamin Netanyahu is. He is a disaster. For the Palestinians. For Israel’s Jews. For the region. For Jews everywhere. And quite possibly the whole world.

The question of how much the son was influenced by the father was put to Benzion in an interview with the Israeli newspaper Maariv in April 2009. He replied: “I have a general idea. Bibi [Binyamin] might aim for the same goals as mine, but he keeps to himself the ways to achieve them, because if he expressed them, he would expose his goals.”

And there, I believe, is the key to understanding the real Binyamin Netanyahu. Because he can’t tell the truth, it being that he is not remotely interested in peace with the Palestinians and that his preferred solution is a final ethnic cleansing of Palestine, he has to tell lies. But to have credibility in the face of Israel’s defiance of international law and criminal actions, they have to be really B-I-G lies and, as Goebbels advised, they have to be repeated again and again.

One obvious conclusion, it seems to me, is that Binyamin Netanyahu has always known that everything he asserts about Israel being in danger of annihilation and not having a Palestinian partner for peace is propaganda nonsense. But the truth about him today, as he prepares to address Congress again and deliver a public “Fuck You!” gesture to Obama, could be more complicated than that.

Way back in 1980 I had a conversation with Retired Major-General Shlomo Gazit, the best and the brightest of Israel’s directors of military intelligence. I told him I had come to the conclusion that it was all a myth – that Israel’s existence had never, ever, been in danger. He smiled sadly and replied. “The trouble with us Israelis is that we have become the victims of our own propaganda.”

So it might be that when Netanyahu addresses Congress in a desperate (and I think doomed) effort to create a big enough majority in that Zionist-corrupted assembly to sabotage the deal in-the-making with Iran, he won’t on this occasion be knowingly lying when he asserts that Iran is a threat to Israel’s existence because he has become the victim of his own propaganda, and now believes what he says is true.

If that is the case it would have to be said that he is not only beyond reason but deluded to the point of clinical insanity.

If Israel’s upcoming elections give him a fourth term in office – he is obviously hoping that more standing ovations in Congress will guarantee that – Zionism will continue its cruel and criminal efforts to bring about a Palestinian surrender on its terms, and the pace of the creeping transformation of anti-Israelism into anti-Semitism will be quickened.

There’s no mystery about what Binyamin Netanyahu is. He is a disaster. For the Palestinians. For Israel’s Jews. For the region. For Jews everywhere. And quite possibly the whole world.

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Binyamin Netanyahu’s expensive speech

By Uri Avnery

Winston Churchill famously said that democracy is the worst political system, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.

Anyone involved with political life knows that that is British understatement.

Churchill also said that the best argument against democracy is a five minute talk with an average voter. How true.

I have witnessed 20 election campaigns for the Knesset. In five of them I was a candidate, in three of them I was elected.

As a child I also witnessed three election campaigns in the dying days of the Weimar republic, and one (the last more or less democratic one) after the Nazi ascent to power.

(The Germans at that time were very good at graphic propaganda, both political and commercial. After more than 80 years, I still remember some of their election posters.)

For God’s sake, do not mention peace!

Elections are a time of great excitement. The streets are plastered with propaganda, politicians talk themselves hoarse, sometimes violent clashes break out.

Not now. Not here. Seventeen days before the election, there is an eerie silence. A stranger coming to Israel would not notice that there is an election going on. Hardly any posters in the streets. Articles in the newspapers on many other subjects. People shouting at each other on TV as usual. No rousing speeches. No crowded mass meetings.

Everybody knows that this election may be crucial, far more so than most.

It may be the final battle for the future of Israel – between the zealots of Greater Israel and the supporters of a liberal state. Between a mini-empire that dominates and oppresses another people and a decent democracy. Between settlement expansion and a serious search for peace. Between what has been called here “swinish capitalism” and a welfare state.

Seventeen days before the election, there is an eerie silence. A stranger coming to Israel would not notice that there is an election going on.

In short, between two very different kinds of Israel.

So what is being said about this fateful choice?


The word “peace” – shalom in Hebrew – is not mentioned at all. God forbid. It is considered political poison. As we say in Hebrew: “He who wants to save his soul must distance himself.”

All the “professional advisers”, with whom this country is teeming, strongly admonish their clients never ever to utter it. “Say political agreement, if you must. But for God’s sake, do not mention peace!”

Same about occupation, settlements, transfer (of populations) and such. Keep away. Voters may suspect that you have an opinion. Avoid it like the plague.

The Israeli welfare state, once the envy of many countries (remember the kibbutz?) is falling apart. All our social services are crumbling. The money goes to the huge army, big enough for a medium power. So does anyone suggest drastically reducing the military? Of course not. What, stick the knife in the backs of our valiant soldiers? Open the gates to our many enemies? Why, that’s treason!

So what do the politicians and the media talk about? What is exciting the public mind? What reaches the headlines and evening news?

Only the really serious matters. Does the prime minister’s wife pocket the coins for returned bottles? Does the prime minister’s official residence show signs of neglect? Did Sara Netanyahu use public funds to install a private hairdresser’s room in the residence?

The Great Absent One

So, where is the main opposition party, the Zionist Camp (also known as the Labour Party)?

The party labours (no pun intended) under a great disadvantage: its leader is the Great Absent One of this election.

Yitzhak Herzog does not have a commanding presence. Of slight build, more like a boy than a hardened warrior, with a thin, high voice, he does not seem like a natural leader. Cartoonists have a hard time with him. He does not have any pronounced characteristics that make him easily recognisable.

He reminds me of Clement Attlee. When the British Labour Party could not decide between two conspicuous candidates, they elected Attlee as the compromise candidate.

He, too, had no commanding features. (Churchill again: An empty car approached and Major Attlee got out.) The world gasped when the British, even before the end of World War II, kicked Churchill out and elected Attlee. But Attlee turned out to be a very good prime minister. He got out in time from India (and Palestine), set up the welfare state and much more.

Herzog started out well. By setting up a joint election list with Tzipi Livni he created momentum and put the moribund Labour Party on its feet again. He adopted a popular name for the new list. He showed that he could make decisions. And there it stopped.

The Zionist Camp fell silent. Internal quarrels paralysed the election staff.

(I published two articles in Haaretz calling for a joint list of the Zionist Camp, Meretz and Ya’ir Lapid’s party. It would have balanced the left and the centre. It would have generated rousing new momentum. But the initiative could only have come from Herzog. He ignored it. So did Meretz. So did Lapid. I hope they won’t regret it.)

Now Meretz is teetering on the brink of the electoral threshold, and Lapid is slowly recovering from his deep fall in the polls, building mainly on his handsome face.

In spite of everything, Likud and the Zionist camp are running neck and neck. The polls give each 23 seats (of 120), predicting a photo finish and leaving the historic decision to a number of small and tiny parties.

A game changer for worse

The only game changer in sight is the coming speech by Binyamin Netanyahu before the two Houses of Congress.

It seems that Netanyahu is pinning all his hopes on this event. And not without reason.

All Israeli TV stations will broadcast the event live. It will show him at his best. The great statesman, addressing the most important parliament in the world, pleading for the very existence of Israel.

Netanyahu is an accomplished TV personality. He is not a great orator in the style of Menachem Begin (not to mention Winston Churchill), but on TV he has few competitors. Every movement of his hands, every expression of his face, every hair on his head is exactly right. His American English is perfect.

I cannot imagine any more effective election propaganda. Using the Congress of the United States of America as a propaganda prop is a stroke of genius.

The leader of the Jewish ghetto pleading at the court of the Goyish king for his people is a well-known figure in Jewish history. Every Jewish child reads about him in school. Consciously or unconsciously, people will be reminded.

The chorus of senators and congress(wo)men will applaud wildly, jump up and down every few minutes and express their unbounded admiration in every way, except licking his shoes.

Some brave Democrats will absent themselves, but the Israeli viewers will not notice this, since it is the habit on such occasions to fill all empty seats with members of the staff.

No propaganda spectacle could be more effective. The voters will be compelled to ask themselves how Herzog would have looked in the same circumstances.

I cannot imagine any more effective election propaganda. Using the Congress of the United States of America as a propaganda prop is a stroke of genius.

Spitting in President Obama’s face

Milton Friedman asserted that there is no such thing as a free lunch, and this lunch has a high price indeed.

It means almost literally spitting in the face of President Obama. I don’t think there was ever anything like it. The prime minister of a small vassal country, dependent on the US for practically everything, comes to the capital of the US to openly challenge its president, in effect branding him a cheat and a liar. His host is the opposition party.

Like Abraham, who was ready to slaughter his son to please God, Netanyahu is ready to sacrifice Israel’s most vital interests for election victory.

For many years, Israeli ambassadors and other functionaries have toiled mightily to enlist both the White House and the Congress in the service of Israel. When Ambassador Yitzhak Rabin came to Washington and found that the support for Israel was centred in the Congress, he made a large – and successful – effort to win over the Nixon White House.

Like Abraham, who was ready to slaughter his son to please God, Netanyahu is ready to sacrifice Israel’s most vital interests for election victory.

AIPAC [American Israel Public Affairs Committee] and other Jewish organisations have worked for generations to secure the support of both American parties and practically all senators and congress(wo)men. For years now, no politician on Capitol Hill dared to criticise Israel. It was tantamount to political suicide. The few who tried were cast into the wilderness.

And here comes Netanyahu and destroys all of this edifice for one election spectacle. He has declared war on the Democratic Party, cutting the bond that has connected Jews with this party for more than a century. Destroying the bipartisan support. Allowing Democratic politicians for the first time to criticise Israel. Breaking a generations-old taboo that may not be restored.

President Obama, who is being insulted, humiliated and obstructed in his most cherished policy move, the agreement with Iran, would be superhuman if he did not brood on revenge. Even a movement of his little finger could hurt Israel grievously.

Does Netanyahu care? Of course he cares. But he cares more about his re-election.

Much, much more.

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The poisonous State of Qatar

By Nureddin Sabir
Editor, Redress Information & Analysis

To ordinary people living in the West, the tiny State of Qatar typically conjures three images: women wearing the niqab and trawling public parks and expensive shopping malls in major cities, arrogant men in expensive sports cars acting as if their money puts them above the law and common courtesy and, more recently, bribery and corruption, as represented by the scandal surrounding the decision to let Qatar host the 2022 football world cup.

But, anecdotally, few people in the West associate Qatar with perhaps its most visible and successful international enterprise, Aljazeera TV.

Launched in 1996 as an Arabic-language TV channel and owned by Qatar’s ruling Al-Thani family, Aljazeera Media Network now boasts an English channel and offshoots in the Balkans and North America, as well as websites and a digital news and current events channel, AJ+. It has more than 70 bureaus worldwide and employs around 3,000 staff.

The forked tongue of Aljazeera

In Britain at least, Aljazeera TV is seen not as the mouthpiece of the Qatari ruling family, but as a welcome alternative to the bland domestic and US television channels, most of which are echo chambers of establishment values and priorities – and endless, mindless trivia.

However, to many Arabs Aljazeera and Qatar represent two sides of the same coin and, although Aljazeera Arabic is still the most-watched news channel across the Arab world – because the alternatives are so inadequate – it is increasingly held in suspicion, thanks to its parent country.

The oil- and gas-rich state is resented for its interfering pro-Islamist activities. Obscenely rich, with a gross national income of over USD 80,000 per capita, it ostensibly embraces modernity and democracy but in actual fact bankrolls and promotes all forms of Islamism – in Egypt, Libya, Syria, Europe and sub-Saharan Africa  – supposedly in the name of democracy.

Qatar’s Aljazeera Arabic channel, which contrasts in many ways with its relatively progressive and thought-provoking English counterpart, is an unapologetic and blatant advocate of the far right Muslim Brotherhood and other violent and extremist Islamist bodies. It is a contrast which, as the political commentator Magdi Abdelhadi points out, reflects the Gulf state’s strategy of speaking one language to Western audiences and another to the Arabs.

When mass decapitation is not a story

A recent case in point is Qatar’s attitude towards the decapitation of 21 Egyptian Christians by “Islamic State” cutthroats in Libya, and Egypt’s retaliatory air strikes against the cutthroats in the eastern Libyan jihadist hub of Derna.

A straightforward case of premeditated murder, followed by retaliation, you might think. Not for Qatar’s media outlets. 

For the Arabic channel of Aljazeera in particular, the story was not the fact that Egypt had hit back against the Islamist cutthroats who had beheaded 21 innocent and impoverished Egyptian workers but, astonishingly, Egypt’s violation of Libyan sovereignty and the condemnation of the air raids by the unelected and unrecognised Tripoli-based “government” of the Muslim Brotherhood stooge Omar al-Hasi. It is a stance that was parroted, albeit more crudely, by a Qatari-funded pro-Islamist Libyan TV channel, Al-Naba, which went as far as to question that the decapitations of the Egyptians had even taken place.

Benevolence versus duplicity

Qatar and its media outlets seek to present the Gulf state as the benevolent and enlightened emirate supporting the underdog, a theme that is reflected in the programmes of Aljazeera English. But its critics see it more as a duplicitous pillar of US strategy in the Middle East and as being behind some of the most reactionary movements in the Arab world, from the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt to the diabolical Islamist coalition fronted by Al-Hasi in Libya.

Qatar’s Aljazeera English channel has carved out a niche for itself, and made itself popular among many Westerners, by bringing to light the hypocrisy and double standards of the United States’ foreign policy and its destructive consequences, especially as regards the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

But that is not a reflection of Qatari policy. A hint of the real Qatar lies in the fact that the emirate is host to one of the largest US military bases in the region, the Al-Udeid air base, which serves as a forward headquarters of the US Central Command. In 1999 the then emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, told American officials that he would like to see as many as 10,000 US servicemen permanently stationed at Al-Udeid.

Hand in hand with this love affair with the US, the ruling Al-Thani family has “transformed Doha into a refuelling station for the majority of extremists in the world”, according to French journalists Nicolas Beau and Jacques-Marie Bourget. In their book, Le Villain Petit Qatar, cet ami qui nous veut du mal (Our friend Qatar, the little villain who doesn’t wish us well), quoted by Abdelhadi, they say:

The only condition for admission is to be Islamist. Besides an office for the Taleban, you will find the Algerian Islamic Salvation Front, several branches of Chechen suicide / “martyrdom” groups, Syrian fundamentalists – the list of religious symbols is limitless. Just create “an Islamic front” and Doha will give you an office, lodgings and a cover.

This, Beau and Bourget argue, has been happening not only in Qatar, but practically anywhere where there are Muslims, from Damascus to Dakar. And France – home to the largest Muslim community in Western Europe – is one such place. The authors, Abdelhadi points out in a blog post published 15 months before the Islamist shootings in Paris, “detail Qatari efforts to use their petrodollars to infiltrate Muslim communities and convert young French Muslims to the cause of Islamism and to support Muslim Brotherhood outfits in Europe”.

Indeed, proselytising for the Muslim Brotherhood has been a central feature of Qatari foreign policy and Aljazeera programmes. In Abdelhadi’s words, the Al-Thanis have played a key role in selling the Muslim Brothers to the West as “the moderate Islamists” that can defeat or at least contain Al-Qaeda, a fiction that has apparently worked for some.

It is in this context that Qatar’s support for the beleaguered Gaza Strip – one of the central features of Aljazeera’s appeal to Western leftists and liberals – must be seen, that is, as support for the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood – also known as Hamas – vis-a-vis other Palestinian factions, rather than as unconditional aid to help the Palestinian people survive the criminal siege imposed by Israel, with which Qatar has diplomatic relations and extensive business interests.

Fuddled motives

But to what end? What does Qatar hope to achieve by being in bed with the United States, Al-Qaeda and other violent Islamists at the same time?

According to Abdelhadi, one possible explanation for Qatar’s embrace of Islamist groups – though not at home, where the emir practices absolute rule – is the desire of Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani and his successor-son, the present emir, Sheikh Tamim, to stand up and be counted and to leave a legacy of some kind. With a seemingly endless supply of money with which to buy influence, the Al Thanis have sought to further their influence by exploiting existing religious extremist trends and fuelling national political and social discontent.

This begs the question of whether Qatar, a close ally of the United States, on which it is highly dependent for its security, would play the destructive role it is playing in the Arab world without at least an approving nod from Washington.

Another possible motive is more mundane. According to the former head of France’s General Directorate for External Security (DGSE), Jean-Calude Cousseran, quoted in Beau’s and Bourget’s book and cited by Abdelhadi, “the role the emir has taken upon himself in international affairs is the best way to escape from boredom in a world where he has exhausted all means of having fun”.

Whatever might lie behind Qatar’s bizarre foreign policy and the forked tongue of Aljazeera’s Arabic and English channels, one thing is crystal clear. As one Syrian observer points out, the Al-Thanis and their media outlets have polarised Arab societies and turned the struggle for freedom and democracy into prolonged civil wars.

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Palestine at the International Criminal Court

By Lawrence Davidson

The International Criminal Court (ICC) was designed as a vehicle for the prosecution of the most heinous of crimes committed by individuals in positions of state authority – those military officers and politicians at the top of a national chain of command. Until recently, ICC prosecutions have been limited to leaders of small and weak states. This is not because the leaders of powerful nations are not sometimes culpable, but rather because no member state of the ICC has yet brought a relevant complaint.

Going to the ICC

This situation is about to change. In November 2012 Palestine achieved official observer status within the United Nations and this position allowed it to join the ICC.

The Palestinian National Authority (PNA – also known as the Palestinian AUthority, or PA) hesitated to take this next step as long as “peace negotiations” with Israel were ongoing. But by the spring of 2014, the latest round of such talks had proved as fruitless as their many predecessors. And so the Palestinians went ahead and signed the treaty that would make them a member nation of the court – a status that becomes official in April 2015. Palestine has already requested the court to begin a preliminary investigation of Israel’s actions within Palestinian territory (the occupied territories) during the 2014 invasion of Gaza. It is looking for indictments of Israeli leaders on war crimes charges.

This has made the Israeli government and its patron in Washington very angry. The US Congress has sworn to defund the PNA, and the Israelis have sworn to “dissolve the ICC”. The reason for the anger rests on the fact that the evidence for the commission of war crimes by Israel is overwhelming.


It is to be noted that even as the ICC begins its own formal investigation into Israeli behaviour, the United Nations Human Rights Council has appointed a three-member independent commission of inquiry into possible violations of international law and human rights during the 2014 invasion. Its report is due this March. In the meantime, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the Israeli human rights organisation B’Tselem have all brought out their own independent reports.

Roughly, here are the facts as they are presently known:

  • The UN estimates that Israeli action destroyed 18,000 housing units, permanently displacing around 108,000 Gazans. In the process, Israel specifically targeted the civilian homes of Palestinian political and military leaders.
  • About 2,200 Palestinians, mostly civilians, were killed in the period between 8 July and 26 August. According to United Nations estimates, 1,473 of these were civilians, including 527 children and 299 women. According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, 11,100 were injured, including 3,374 children, 2,088 women, and 410 elderly. This high casualty rate has been attributed to Israel’s “reckless and disproportionate use of deadly force in densely populated urban areas”.
  • In comparison, 71 Israelis were killed, of whom four were civilians; 469 Israeli soldiers were injured, as were 261civilians.
  • The Israelis also targeted the Gaza electrical grid, indefinitely knocking out the Gaza Strip’s only community-wide power plant.
  • The destruction of the power plant caused the water treatment facilities to shut down. Thus, 450,000 people were cut off from the municipal water system. Israeli tank fire also targeted reservoirs and individual wells. By the way, it doesn’t take a war for the Israelis to deny water to Palestinian communities. On 11 February 2015 it was reported that Israeli soldiers destroyed a thousand-metre pipeline supplying water to Palestinian communities in the northern Jordan Valley.
  • Israeli tank fire destroyed Gaza’s largest sewage treatment plant.
  • The UN reports that 22 schools were destroyed and 118 damaged, including UN schools sheltering displaced civilians. To this must be added the fact that an estimated that 373,000 children have been traumatised to the point of needing professional “psycho-social support”.
  • Israel targeted hospitals and medical clinics: 24 medical facilities were damaged as a result.

Embedded enemy argument

The Israelis make the case that Hamas fighters embedded themselves within the civilian population and that is the reason for the high number of civilian casualties. This excuse does not account for their widespread and obviously purposeful destruction of civilian infrastructure.

Even if there is some truth to the claim of an intermingling of fighters and the general population, one can ask why the resistance fighters would do this? Is it a voluntary and, therefore, a callous and uncaring act? Or do they really have no choice? The latter is actually more likely because the Israelis have made Gaza into one of the most crowded places on the planet. Repeated expulsions of Palestinians from Israel into the Gaza Strip as well as the Israeli-Egyptian blockade, which prevents people from leaving, has resulted in 1.8 million Palestinians crammed into a 139 square mile area. The place is often referred to as an open-air prison or ghetto. It can argued that it is Israeli policies that have forced Gaza’s resistance fighters into civilian areas.

Even more damning is the fact that there is a historical pattern to Israeli attacks on civilians, as well as civilian infrastructure. In other words, there is a conscious, purposeful strategy designed to produce the high civilian casualties through the practice of collective punishment. This strategy is as old as the state of Israel itself and is based on a hardline, indeed an extremist, interpretation of the concept of an Iron Wall first propounded by the neo-fascist Zionist leader Vladimir Jabotinsky. The purpose of an Iron Wall strategy was, and still is, to make the cost of resistance so high that the Palestinians will simply give up. This tactic has actually worked when it comes to some Arab governments, such as those in Jordan and post-Nasser Egypt. It may have also influenced the position of Mahmoud Abbas and the PNA. However, it has never worked on the Palestinian population in general or resistance groups such as Hamas.

Whether the Iron Wall strategy works or not is not the issue for the UN or ICC. Collective punishment and the purposeful destruction of civilian infrastructure are acts in contravention of international law. They are war crimes.

Argument of self-defence

The Israelis have always said that their wars are defensive ones and that, of course, they have a right to defend their country and people. It is within that context that they interpret the Palestinian decision to go to the ICC. As Israel’s foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, asserts, the move “only aims at attempting to impact Israel’s ability to defend itself”.

Leaving aside the question of the legitimacy of Israel within the pre-1967 borders, the consensus of the vast majority of world governments is that the West Bank and Gaza Strip are occupied territories and that Israel has certain obligations under international law toward the people of those lands. Placing settlements of Israeli citizens into these territories and the purposeful impoverishment of their indigenous populations are illegal acts under international law.

Also, as a point of sheer logic, Israel’s violent and punitive reactions to what is actually Palestinian resistance to an occupation illegally administered, cannot accurately be called “self-defence.” Put another way, if you break into your neighbour’s house and he resists you, whereupon you shoot him, you cannot claim you did it in self-defence.

Most Zionists will protest that the West Bank and Gaza Strip are not occupied territories but rather are biblically parts of Israel proper or, perhaps, “contested territories”. However, beyond the Zionists’ own ideological circle, no one else believes these are credible arguments and it is highly unlikely they would be taken seriously by the ICC.

ICC actions: potential and problems

The possibility of finally breaking through the facade of Zionist justifications and US obfuscations, and actually branding Israel’s policy makers for the aggressors they are, is very encouraging. And, given the evidence, actual indictments should be returned. This outcome would give a big boost to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel and, one would hope, undermine Zionist influence in the US Congress and other Western governments.

However, it remains doubtful that any Israeli will be successfully brought to trial. Indeed, the dilemma such indictments will cause Western governments that are member states of the court will be acute. For what happens if an indicted Israeli travels to France, the United Kingdom or Germany? After all, it could well be that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will be charged. Will these governments honour their treaty obligations and comply with outstanding warrants issued by the ICC? Or will the prevailing Zionist influence in these countries lead them to defy the court and thereby undermine the rule of law? It is by no means guaranteed that any of them will opt for the law.

Palestine’s request that the ICC take up Israeli behaviour during its summer 2014 invasion of Gaza is a seminal cry for justice. It is also a seminal challenge to the court and all its member states to see that international law applies to the strong and influential. As goes the judgment on Israel, so goes international law in our time.

Also see:

Why we need the International Criminal Court


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Israel’s new Asian allies

By Jonathan Cook

It was another difficult week for Israel.

In Britain, 700 artists, including many household names, pledged a cultural boycott of Israel, and a leader of the Board of Deputies, the representative body of UK Jews, quit, saying he could no longer abide by its ban on criticising Israel.

Across the Atlantic, the student body of one of the most prestigious US universities, Stanford, voted to withdraw investments from companies implicated in Israel’s occupation, giving a significant boost to the growing international boycott (BDS – Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement.

Meanwhile, a CNN poll found that two-thirds of Americans, and three-quarters of those under 50, believed the US foreign policy should be neutral between Israel and Palestine.

This drip-drip of bad news, as American and European popular opinion shifts against Israel, is gradually changing the West’s political culture and forcing Israel to rethink its historic alliances.

The deterioration in relations between Israel and the White House is now impossible to dismiss, as Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and President Barack Obama lock horns, this time over negotiations with Iran.

This drip-drip of bad news, as American and European popular opinion shifts against Israel, is gradually changing the West’s political culture and forcing Israel to rethink its historic alliances.

The US was reported last week to be refusing to share with Israel sensitive information on the talks, fearful it will be misused. A senior Israeli official described it as like being evicted from the “deluxe guest suite” in Washington. “Astonishing doesn’t begin to describe it,” he said.

The fall-out is spreading to the US Congress, where for the first time Israel is becoming a partisan issue. A growing number of Democrats have declared they will boycott Netanyahu’s address to the Congress next month, when he is expected to try to undermine the Iran talks.

Things are more precarious still in Europe. Several leading parliaments have called on their governments to recognise Palestinian statehood, and France rocked Israel by backing just such a resolution recently in the UN Security Council.

Europe has also begun punishing Israel for its intransigence towards the Palestinians. It is labelling settlement products and is expected to start demanding compensation for its projects in the occupied territories the Israeli army destroys.

This month 63 members of the European Parliament went further, urging the European Union to suspend its “association agreement”, which allows Israel unrestricted trade and access to special funding.

None of this has gone unnoticed in Israel. A classified report by the Foreign Ministry leaked last month paints a dark future. It concludes that Western support for the Palestinians will increase, the threat of European sanctions will grow, and the US might even refuse to “protect Israel with its veto” at the UN.

Israel is particularly concerned about the economic impact, given that Europe is its largest trading partner. Serious sanctions could ravage the economy.

One might assume that, faced with these drastic calculations, Israel would reconsider its obstructive approach to peace negotiations and Palestinian statehood. Not a bit of it.

Netanyahu’s officials blame the crisis with Washington on Obama, implying that they will wait out his presidency for better times to return.

In response to recent developments, Netanyahu announced… that he was courting trade with China, India and Japan – comprising nearly 40 per cent of the planet’s population.

As for Europe, Netanyahu blames the shift there on what he calls “Islamisation”, suggesting that Europe’s growing Muslim population is holding the region’s politicians to ransom. On this view, the price paid for the recent terror attacks in Paris and Copenhagen is Europe’s support for Israel.

Instead, Netanyahu has begun looking elsewhere for economic – and ultimately political – patrons.

In doing so, he is returning to an early Israeli tradition. The state’s founders were inspired by the collectivist ideals of the Soviet Union, not US individualism. And in return for attacking Egypt in 1956, Israel was secretly helped by Britain and France to build nuclear weapons over stiff US opposition.

In response to recent developments, Netanyahu announced last month that he was courting trade with China, India and Japan – comprising nearly 40 per cent of the planet’s population.

Last year, for the first time, Israel did more trade with these Asian giants than with the US. Much of it focused on the burgeoning arms market, with Israel supplying nearly USD 4 billion worth of weapons in 2013. A region once implacably hostile to Israel is throwing open its doors.

India, plagued by border tensions with Pakistan and China, is now Israel’s largest arms purchaser – and such trade is expected to expand further following the election last year of Narendra Modi, known for his anti-Muslim views.

… Israel hopes to convert Chinese and Indian dependency on Israeli armaments – based on technology it tests and refines on a captive Palestinian population – into diplomatic cover…

He has lifted the veil off India’s growing defence cooperation with Israel, one reason why Moshe Yaalon last week became the first Israeli defence minister to make an official visit.

Ties between Israel and China are deepening rapidly too. Beijing has become Israel’s third largest trading partner, while Israel is China’s second biggest supplier of military technology after Russia.

Last month the two signed a three-year cooperation plan, with China keen to exploit – in addition to Israel’s military hardware – its innovations on solar energy, irrigation and desalination.

Emmanuel Navon, an international relations expert at Tel Aviv University, claims that, despite its poor public image, Israel now enjoys a “global clout” unprecedented in its history.

Israel’s immediate goal is to future-proof itself economically against mounting popular pressure in Europe and the US to act in favour of the Palestinian cause.

But longer term Israel hopes to convert Chinese and Indian dependency on Israeli armaments – based on technology it tests and refines on a captive Palestinian population – into diplomatic cover. One day Israel may be relying on a Chinese veto at the UN, not a US one.

A version of this article first appeared in the National, Abu Dhabi. The version here is published by permission of Jonathan Cook.

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Israel holds pregnant Canadian woman hostage

Marianne Azizi writes:

Hana Gan, 36, is five months pregnant. She has lived in Canada since early childhood and is a citizen of that country. Her two sons were born in Canada.

Ms Gan’s parents immigrated to Israel over 10 years ago, and persuaded her to come to the “Garden of Eden” and live a better life. Hana, a single mother, eventually decided to immigrate to Israel, where she was rapidly given Israeli nationality.

Upon arrival, Ms Gan discovered that her parents had turned to religion, and almost from the outset began to curse and abuse her. Within only a week after she had arrived, she realised she had made the biggest mistake of her life. She told her family she wanted to return to Canada, and duly booked a flight home.

Using the accepted weapon of choice in Israel, her father placed a No Exit order upon her and the children, and proceeded to make false claims to the welfare department to try to gain guardianship of her children. This is frequently done, and requires no proof. Her parents destroyed the children’s passports and prepared to make a case to declare her an unfit mother. “They found religion, and decided I was worthless,” Hana explains. She added:

They started to abuse me, and my father actually kicked me in the stomach. I was terrified and had no one to turn to. People in Israel claimed they were doing this to me out of love, and within only a few weeks I was desperate and alone.

Turning to the internet for help, she found some English articles about the abuse of freedom of movement so regularly used in Israel, for both citizens and foreign nationals. She decided to renew her children’s passports and fly out of the country as Canadian citizens.

On 19 February she was denied exit at Ben Gurion Airport. She cannot relinquish her Israeli ID, as her family have begun court proceedings against her. She is trapped in Israel, and desperate to have her baby in a free democratic country, and is now in hiding until she can get help.

The video below was taken as she was denied exit at the airport.

On 22 February, some 15 Israeli police officers swooped on the house where Ms Gan was hiding and took her children away from her. In the video below she describes what happened.

Ms Gan is still trapped in Israel. Many foreign nationals and thousands of Israeli citizens are denied the freedom to leave Israel. Ms Gan’s story is happening right now. She needs help.

The prime minister of Israel, Binyamin Netanyahu, raises money to assimilate Jews in Europe, declaring that in Europe they risk becoming victims of anti-Semitism. Simultaneously, he is driving fear into the hearts of Israeli citizens, declaring Iran will obliterate them. It would make more sense for European or American/Canadian Jews to stay a great distance from such an alleged threat. He surely cannot have it both ways.

The bigger reason they should stay away from Israel is the rampant corruption sweeping through the country which shows no mercy to men, women or children. The domestic systems trump any international rights. The authorities are holding with impunity a 36-year-old pregnant woman because her Zionist father insists that they do so.

A No Exit Order can be placed on any individual for an alleged debt, or a claim of child abuse without any proof whatsoever. It is a green light for the authorities (who recently claimed the people were sewage in Israel) to swoop in and find more profits by taking children against the will of a fit and loving parent.

The Israeli people may now be accustomed to such abuse of their civil and human rights, though divorce, suicide and the trafficking of up to 12,000 children a year into private institutions for profit shows their family laws are designed for money and not for the benefit and wellbeing of the public.

Ms Gan is by no means the only victim of the abusive state of Israel. Her life changed irrevocably today as she became one of the statistics – the latest member of a growing club of people who are speaking out about the truth of Israel’s rotten system.

“I know I may have to sacrifice my security today,” she told me, “But I have to get home and warn people about what is really happening here. I cannot have this baby in Israel. I will be kept here forever if it happens. “

There are few truly brave people who are prepared to stand up and be counted against the abuse of freedom.

Hana has just become one of them.

For further details, visit Marianne Azizi’s website.

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How to defeat violent Islamic fundamentalism

By Alan Hart

If perverted and violent Islamic fundamentalism (PVIF) in all of its manifestations is to be contained and defeated there’s one thing above all others that must happen: Western leaders, starting with President Barack Obama, must open their minds to the fact that consequences have causes and then address the causes.

There are two main and related causes of PVIF.

(1) American-led Western foreign policy for the Arab and wider Muslim world, including its double standard as demonstrated by refusal to call and hold Israel to account for its defiance of international law and rejection of the Palestinian claim for justice.

(2) The corruption, authoritarianism and repression of most if not all Arab and other Muslim regimes. In most cases they are regimes supported/endorsed by American-led Western foreign policy.

1 and 2 cause or provoke Muslim hurt, humiliation, anger and the despair of no hope. Generally speaking, these feelings do not of themselves turn Muslims into killers and terrorists or even supporters of those who do the killing and/or order it. The real problem is the exploitation and manipulation of these feelings by deluded or mad preachers and other self-styled leaders who misinterpret and pervert Islam for their own purposes.

Regarding 1 above, there are some commentators who assert that American-led Western foreign policy created Al-Qaeda and so-called “Islamic State” [formerly known as Islamic State in Iraq and Syria – ISIS – and Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant – ISIL]. I think a more accurate summary statement of what happened is that American-led Western foreign policy created the environment and the conditions in which PVIF could emerge and grow.

Professor Fawaz Gerges of the London School of Economics put it this way:

Between 2003 and 2010, the power vacuum and armed resistance triggered by the US-led invasion and occupation of Iraq, as well as the dismantling of Saddam Hussein’s former ruling Baath party and the Iraqi army, provided a fertile terrain for Al-Qaeda’s growth and an opportunity to infiltrate the increasingly fragile body politic.

He added, and I agree with him, that ISIS is “a manifestation of the breakdown of state institutions, dismal socio-economic conditions and the spread of sectarian fires in the region”.

The view of John Feffer, Co-Director of Foreign Policy in Focus at the Institute for Policy Studies, on events, with which I also agree, is that “ISIS is decidedly a homegrown product of the turmoil that has engulfed two states: Iraq since the US invasion in 2003 and Syria since the aborted Arab Spring uprising that began in 2011”.

I stand by the view I expressed when President George W. Bush had a premature political ejaculation and claimed victory in Iraq. I wrote at the time that he and UK Prime Minister Tony Blair were the best recruiting sergeants for violent Islamic fundamentalism. (The question arising is did they know what they were doing – I mean were they committed to the neo-conservative agenda and wanting to create an enemy, or were they just ignorant and stupid?)

Regarding (2) above, with words President Obama himself has gone some way to acknowledging that the corruption, authoritarianism and repression of Arab and other Muslim regimes is one of the main causes of the rise and growth of PVIF.

In an editorial for the Los Angeles Times the day before the opening in Washington DC of the three-day summit on combating extremism, he wrote:

Groups like al Qaeda and ISIL exploit the anger that festers when people feel that injustice and corruption leave them with no chance of improving their lives. The world has to offer today’s youth something better.

Governments that deny human rights play into the hands of extremists who claim that violence is the only way to achieve change. Efforts to counter violent extremism will only succeed if citizens can address legitimate grievances through the democratic process and express themselves through strong civil societies. Those efforts must be matched by economic, educational and entrepreneurial development so people have hope for a life of dignity.

Unfortunately, they were only words. And the question I would put to Obama is this. Can you name me one Arab country in which citizens can address legitimate grievances through the democratic process and express themselves through strong civil societies?

An honest reply would be “NO!”

If President Obama and other Western leaders were prepared to get to grips with the causes of PVIF instead of addressing only its consequences, there are two things they could do to vastly improve the prospects of containing and defeating it.

One would be to use their influence with leverage as necessary to persuade Arab leaders that it really is time for authoritarianism to give way to democracy. If Arab leaders agreed (no matter how reluctantly), this would rob PVIF of its most persuasive argument: that the Arab and other Muslim masses have nothing to gain from politics and non-violent demands for change.

The other would be to use as necessary the leverage they have to cause Israel to end its defiance of international law. The double standard of Western foreign policy which allows Israel to commit crimes with impunity is the cancer at the heart of international affairs. If it was cured a major cause of Arab and other Muslim hurt, humiliation and anger would be removed, and that would make closing the vast majority of Arab and other Muslim hearts and minds to PVIF propaganda a mission possible.

The above should not be taken to mean or imply that I have more than the smallest amount of hope that Western leaders will have the good sense to come to grips with the main causes of PVIF. I am only saying what I think could happen if they did.

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