MY “ISRAELI AND PALESTINIAN VOICES” BOOK REVISITED

Since my first visit to Israel/Palestine in March 2002, I have returned five additional times, including a visit to Gaza in November 2012. In those fourteen years, the more things changed the more they stayed the same. Realistic solutions were proposed. Regional players offered concessions. A neutral party with international respect could have led the negotiations and brokered an agreement. Instead, the U.S. acted as Israel’s lawyer demanding impossible concessions from one party and not the other.

Since Ariel Sharon unilaterally withdrew some 8,000 Israeli settlers from Gaza in 2005, Israel has turned the Gaza Strip into an open-air prison for daring to vote in Hamas over a corrupt-riddled Fatah in elections forced upon the Palestinian Authority in January 2006 by the Bush Administration. Since Oslo, the PA has been charged with crushing Palestinian resistance in order to make the Palestinian Occupied Territories safe for continued Israeli occupation. Hamas’ success, therefore, was as much an expresson of the determination of Palestinians in all the occupied territories to resist Israel’s efforts to force their surrender as it was a rejection of Fatah’s willingness to act as Israel’s agent. Hamas’ victory reduced the conflict to its most fundamental elements: there is occupation and there is legitimate resistance.

I am a firm believer in “people power.” We have the capacity to serve as the principal agents of change. This attitude goes against the grain of so-called “political realism” which is based on battlefield results. The power of the American people has been hijacked by the executive branch of the U.S. government and by myths perpetuated by the Israeli government. In the case of a people under a brutal military occupation, how does a popular upswing in democratic thinking begin to take place? How do the majority of peace-seeking individuals regain their voices? The answer is a simple one. Collectively, we actively and virorously participate in the process of legitimacy. We become informed on issues related to this crisis, however complicated they may seem, oftentimes going outside main stream media sources to find unbiased reporting. We hold our politicians accountable for their actions. As citizens of the international community, these are our obligations; no one is exempt. We have everything to gain. Peace, after all, is the cornerstone of world stability and a viable future, and it begins with a recogniton that all Palestinians, whether in the occupied West Bank, occupied East Jerusalem, the Golan Heights or Gaza have the legitimate right under international law to resist an ilegal Israeli military occupation that has lasted for decades.

The current conflict shows that Palestinians, undivided, have moved on from a two-state paradigm to a demand for equal rights. Our Congressional leaders should heed this new political reality. The Palestinians who can most shape the future are now in the streets and squares, speaking to one another and the world directly, and making clear that the ’67 green line that divided Israel and the occupied territories was an instrument of division, not liberation. We must stand with them and support their effort to live as liberated people with equal rights.

This is an exerpt from the third edition of Cathy Sultan’s Israeli and Palestinian Voices book available on Amazon and in your local bookstores.

B’Tselem: Israel is an apartheid state

The International Criminal Court defines apartheid as an “institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group.”

B’Tselem, the leading Israeli human rights group, argues that by dividing up the territories and using different means of control, Israel masks the underlying reality — that roughly 7 million Jews and 7 million Palestinians live under a single system with vastly unequal rights. “We are not saying that the degree of discrimination that a Palestinian has to endure is the same if one is a citizen of the state of Israel or if one is besieged in Gaza,” El-Ad said. “The point is that there isn’t a single square inch between the river and the sea in which a Palestinian and a Jew are equal. This is not democracy plus occupation. This is apartheid between the river and the sea.”

That a respected Israeli organization is adopting a term long seen as taboo even by many critics of Israel points to a broader shift in the debate as its half-century occupation of war-won lands drags on and hopes for a two-state solution fade.

“Fifty years plus, that’s not enough to understand the permanence of Israeli control of the occupied territories?” El-Ad, Director of B’Tselem said. “We think that people need to wake up to reality and stop talking in future terms about something that has already happened.”

According to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, “The crime of apartheid means inhumane acts…committed in the context of an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime.”

Apparently neither the Washington Post nor the New York Times agree because in the month since B’Tselem declared Israel an apartheid state, neither “paper of truth” have seen fit to inform their American readers of this historic, long overdue, declaration. No one is asking the Post or the Times to agree with B’Tselem’s findings of apartheid. The conventions of mainstream reporting on anything negative on Israel have long been understood but they have a duty to report on major issues, give varying points of view, and let their readers decide for themselves. Instead, the Times and the Post are censoring themselves and suppressing vital news to their readers.   

The new document provides irrefutable facts and figures to explain the four areas in which this single principle engineers, geographically and politically, the lives of all 14 million people on both sides of the Green Line, half of them Jews and half Palestinians:

1. Control of the land: the gradual Judaization of the area at the expense of the Palestinian population, by means of expulsion, dispossession, land appropriation, home demolitions and prioritization of Jewish settlement by virtue of a long list of laws and regulations’

2. Citizenship: “Any Jew in the world and his or her children, grandchildren and spouses are entitled to immigrate to Israel at any time and receive Israeli citizenship, with all of its associated rights… Palestinians living in other countries cannot immigrate to the area… even if they, their parents or their grandparents were born and lived there”;

3. Freedom of movement: “Israel allows its Jewish and Palestinian citizens and residents to travel freely throughout the area. Exceptions are the prohibition on entering the Gaza Strip, which it defines “hostile territory,” and the (mostly formal) prohibition on entering areas ostensibly under Palestinian Authority responsibility (Area A). Israel routinely restricts the movement of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories and generally forbids them from moving between the units. Palestinians from the West Bank who wish to enter Israel, East Jerusalem or the Gaza Strip must apply to the Israeli authorities and are usually refused.”

4. Political participation: “political engineering excludes millions of Palestinians from participating in the processes that determine their lives and futures while holding them under military occupation… Israel also denies Palestinians political rights such as freedom of speech and freedom of association.”

There is not a single principle of an apartheid regime that has not been implemented in Israel since 1948. Its military government saw to that in both overt and covert ways, until it ended in 1966; a year later the boundaries of Israeli apartheid expanded by the same methods from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. And there may well be more to come.

It will be interesting to see how President Biden deals with this declaration. If he chooses to ignore it, he will have to explain why the US State Department relied for so many years on B’Tselem reports for its annual human rights evaluation of Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. He will have to explain why B’Tselem is seen the world over as a fair arbiter of human rights and is respected by the United Nations and many other world bodies, and why it has long been seen as a credible source in the United States despite years of attacks by right-wing forces.

Cathy Sultan’s book Israeli and Palestinian Voices: A Dialogue with Both Sides, along with all her other books, can be found on Amazon.

MIKE POMPEO’S NEW LOW

 Mike Pompeo has been busy in his last few days in office. In an effort to please both Saudi Arabia and Israel, he is preparing to declare the Houthi rebel movement in Yemen a “terrorist group.” The Houthi, who control a large portion of their nation, are no threat to the US or to American citizens. Pompeo is making the declaration because, according to him, the Houthis are backed by Iran even though there is no credible evidence to support this accusation. Trump’s allies in Saudi Arabia want this declaration as part of their aggressive campaign against Iran. Pompeo’s declaration will have no impact on the Houthis themselves, but it will constitute a crime against humanity in Yemen, one that could trigger what the U.N. secretary-general calls, “the worst famine the world has seen for decades.” Such a declaration would also chill humanitarian efforts to donate food and medicine to Houthi-controlled areas in northern and western Yemen where the majority of the country’s thirty million people live.

The US government is complicit in this crime against humanity. According to the New York Times, “it has supported Saudi Arabia and its allies against the Houthis, providing intelligence and billions of dollars in weapons, over the objections of Congress, that could amount to war crimes.”

Why the “terrorist” designation?

One reason could be because the Saudi’s de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammad wants it and so does Israel which considers Iran a regional enemy and as a purported supporter of the Houthi, is pleased by Pompeo’s declaration. Both he and the Israelis are doing everything they can to goad Iran into a conflict, and both want to leave the Biden administration with a dilemma: either reverse the designation and be smeared as “pro-terrorist” by the Israel lobby, or leave it in effect in a nation where already half of all children suffer stunted growth because of malnutrition.

In an equally outrageous effort to initiate war with Iran, Pompeo now claims that al Qaeda’s new home base is Iran, a claim Iran immediately rebuffed. Though these claims have been met with skepticism within the US intelligence community and Congress, this did not prevent Pompeo from sharing these remarks in a speech at the National Press Club.

“I would say Iran is indeed the new Afghanistan as the key geographic hub for al Qaeda, but it’s actually worse. Unlike in Afghanistan, where al Qaeda was hiding in the mountains, al Qaeda is operating under the hard shell of the Iranian regime’s protection.”

The National Iranian American Council, which is no friend to the regime in Tehran, noted that “the American people still remember the consequences of falling for Dick Chaney’s lie that Saddam Hussein was harboring al Qaeda terrorists who were plotting against the United States.”

According to Barbara Slavin of the Atlantic Council “Iran and al Qaeda have a largely hostile relationship and the Sunni jihadi group sees Shiite Iran as an enemy.”

Why these lies? Pompeo, the man who, when director of the CIA, boasted, “We lie. We cheat and we steal,” wants to run for president in 2024, and he plotted his move when billionaire mega-donor Sheldon Adelson was still alive. Even after his recent death, the top of the Adelson family wish list is continued confrontation with Iran. Adelson himself famously said that the US should fire an atomic weapon at Tehran instead of negotiating.

If left unchecked, Pompeo’s statement could represent an escalation in the US’s ability to use force against Iran. The 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) allows US forces to pursue al-Qaeda anywhere in the world. Pompeo’s lie, if allowed to stand, would permit the Trump administration in the week it has left to claim it already has Congressional approval and attack on Iran.

In a more normal time in our nation, Secretary of State Pompeo’s actions would constitute reasons for impeachment, thereby eliminating any ambitions he might have about running for president in 2024. How unfortunate the US Congress is so preoccupied with impeaching Trump that they cannot take up this important consideration.

All of Cathy Sultan’s books, including The Syrian and Damascus Street which deal specifically with Iran’s involvement in the Syrian war, can be found on Amazon.

THIS IS WHAT THE NAZIS DID TO THE JEWS

In 2017 the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) issued a report that concluded “Israel has established an apartheid regime that dominates the Palestinian people as a whole.” The US and Israel continue to deny the veracity of this report but one has only to examine the more recent citizenship inequality, nationality inequality, marriage inequality, legal inequality and residential inequality to see its accuracy. The predictable Palestinian struggle to reverse these inequalities is seen as subversive by the Israeli’s ever increasingly rightwing governments.

On 18 July 2018 the Israeli Knesset enacted a “Nation-State” Law that defines the State of Israel as the nation-state “of the Jewish people only.” In other words, only Jews can hold “nationality rights” in Israel.

According to the Jewish intellectual Hanna Arendt, “If a state decides that for racial, ethnic, religious or any other reason, only one portion of its population is worthy of first-class citizenship, it can proceed to deny to all those who do not qualify any and all rights. This is what the Nazis did to the Jews.”

Amira Hass, the Haaretz journalist and daughter of holocaust survivors, added:  

“The current reality in Israel is actually one state, which is an apartheid state. This means there are two separate laws: one for Palestinians and one for Israeli Jews. The Palestinian population is subdivided into groups and subgroups like the non-white population of former apartheid South Africa. They’re disconnected from each other. They are treated differently by Israel, while Israeli Jews live in the entire country, like one people, with full rights.”

Haas goes on to say that the apartheid nature of Israel is a developmental plan of the state. It’s main goal is “to get more land, and to manipulate the Palestinian demography… You can actually see that this is really a plan. Israeli leaders sit and they think about how to implement it, and what regulations will achieve this goal… One by one, step by step. For Israel, this is the desired reality: that Palestinians live in their enclaves, deprived of any ability to develop their economy, and that the world gives them donations so that they can sustain themselves. And that’s it. There is no desire on the part of Israel to reach a different reality.”

After seventy years, one can only conclude that Israeli apartheid will continue for years to come because most of the world’s governments allow it to happen. Can this reality change? Yes, but it will take the world body to stand up to Israeli claims of antisemitism anytime anyone criticizes its actions. Palestinians are like the Jews in any number of anti-Semitic historical circumstances, a fact that seems to have escaped modern-day Israelis.

All of Cathy Sultan’s books including Israeli and Palestinian Voices: A Dialogue with Both Sides, are available on Amazon.

IN COVID RELIEF BILL, $3.3 BILLION GOES TO ISRAEL

On December 21, 2020, the US Congress passed the COVID-19 Relief Package as part of a larger $2.3 trillion bill meant to cover spending for the rest of the fiscal year. In this bill, Congress found it essential to provide Israel with $3.3 billion in ‘security assistance,’ and $500 million for its US-Israel missile defense cooperation. Although a meager $600 dollars to help struggling families was the subject of several months of intense debate, there was little discussion among American politicians over the large funds handed out to Israel at a time when American families were lined up for hours to get a bag of groceries. The mere question of how Israel uses the funds—whether the military aid is being actively used to sustain Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine, financing illegal Jewish settlements build on Palestinian lands, funding proposed annexation of Palestinian land or violating Palestinian human rights—is a major taboo. Support for Israel is considered a bipartisan priority and has, for decades, been perceived as the most stable item in the US foreign policy agenda. Why? One only needs to follow the money. Congress rewards the Israeli-linked billionaires who bought them their seats in both the House of Representatives and the Senate.

According to data provide by the US Congressional Research Service, as of November 2020, Israel had received $146 billion dollars in US taxpayers’ dollars. Since 2008, most of the money has been allocated for military purposes, including the security of Israel’s illegal Jewish settlement enterprise.

As of February 2019, the US has withheld all funds to the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, in addition to cutting aid to the UN Palestinian Refugee Agency (UNRWA), the last lifeline of support needed to provide basic education and health services to millions of Palestinian made refugees when Israel declared itself a state in 1948.

Israel was one of the first countries in the world to begin rolling out the COVID-19 vaccine to its population, that is, anyone who holds Israeli nationality. Israel defines ‘Jewish’ as a nationality. The purpose of this is to reserve exclusive national rights to Jews only in the Nation State of the Jewish People. According to Netanyahu, Israel is a nation state of Jews alone. So, when we read recently in the national headlines that 400,000 Israelis had already been vaccinated against the coronavirus, and tens of thousands of other were on track to do the same in the coming week, this number will not include the more than five million Palestinians who live in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip under illegal Israeli occupation and have done so for the last fifty years. They will not be eligible to receive the vaccine because they are not Jewish while the half million Israelis settlers living illegally in the West Bank and East Jerusalem will be vaccinated.

Israel is obligated by international law to provide for Palestinians’ healthcare needs. As the military occupier, Israel is mandated to provide the COVID vaccine to Palestinians under occupation. Israel, instead, puts the responsibility on the Palestinian Authority. The Palestinian Authority’s inability to procure and store vaccines in its flailing healthcare system is indicative of the decade of damage the Israeli occupation has done to the Palestinian infrastructure. Palestinians have been forced to rely on outside help and have been prevented from being self-sufficient by the Israeli occupation with the complacency of the international community.

To expect Washington’s policy toward Israel to change reflects not only an indefensible naivety but willful ignorance. Just follow the money.

All of Cathy Sultan’s book, including Israeli and Palestinian Voices: A Dialogue with Both Sides, are available on Amazon.

REFLECTIONS ON LEBANON’S CIVIL WAR, IN MEMORY OF ROBERT FISK

I shared the first eight years of Lebanon’s civil war with Robert Fisk. As the keeper of the hearth I was the heartbeat of my family when war broke out in April 1975. I was the mother who comforted her children after a bomb blast shattered their bedroom wall, the wife who consoled her husband after he spent his mornings treating wounded civilians and sending mangled bodies to the morgue, the housewife who dealt with water shortages and daily power outages and supervised her children’s homework by candlelight at the kitchen table while I prepared the evening meal while Robert Fisk was in the street, reporting on what was happening outside my little world. He kept track of the daily death toll along the infamous Green Line that separated East from West Beirut. I relied on him to tell me if I should send my children to school after a night of bombing, or if I should prepare to evacuate my apartment before the next round of fighting or whether I could take a day off and spend it with my children at the beach.  

He would not have known anything about my apron, a long fuchsia one that hung on a hook behind my kitchen door, or that after a particularly long night of fighting, I found a hole right through its middle or that on the floor, nearly mangled and hardly looking like a bullet at all, I discovered a three-9nch machine gun slug but he would have known who had spent the night shelling our neighborhood and who was responsible for firing that bullet through my kitchen window. And while I now live in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, where aprons hang safely on hooks and bullets rarely shatter kitchen doors and those battles were a long time ago, I will never forget how important Robert Fisk was to my family’s survival for he chronicled a war that not only shattered a country, he monitored the centers of power, called out our inept leaders for failing to dissuade the various political factions from turning into vicious militiamen who whether through personal greed, political inflexibility or sheer ineptitude failed to save a nation they were trusted to preserve.

On one particular occasion, Robert Fisk and I shared a breakfast meeting at the Hotel Commodore in West Beirut. As soon as he sat, and without so much as addressing the rest of us, he turned to the PLO representative and excoriated him for Arafat’s insistence that the road to Palestine lead through Beirut. While Fisk was right to have called out such a selfish act, it was also Fisk who reported on June 24, 1982, three weeks after the Israeli invasion and the carpet bombing of Beirut, that Arafat was finally willing to compromise. He asked only for an honorable exodus from Beirut. Former Prime Minister Saeb Salim tried to broker the deal but Arial Sharon, Israel’s Defense Minister and architect of the Israeli invasion, refused, insisting on a humiliating defeat for Arafat. In Washington, Alexander Haig, then Secretary of State under President Reagan, subverted the plan before it even reached the White House, prolonging the siege of Beirut by forty-nine days.

The Israeli bombing of Beirut ended on August 21, 1982, exactly three minutes after Alexander Haig resigned as Secretary of State. As Fisk reported: “Haig had given tacit approval for the Israeli invasion in conversations with Ariel Sharon. Throughout the summer the Saudis had sent a series of urgent messages to Washington imploring President Reagan to put pressure on the Israelis. Reagan never received those messages; Haig blocked them at the State Department.” According to Fisk, “King Fahd of Saudi Arabia warned that his country would withdraw all its investments from the United States at once and impose oil sanctions against the West within hours if the Israeli army was not brought under control. Reagan was at last made aware of the gravity of the crisis and Haig forced to resign.” Arrangements were then made for Arafat and his PLO to leave Beirut, his soldiers dispersed to Syria, Jordan, South Yemen, Algeria, Iraq, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates. Only unarmed women, children and the elderly would stay behind in the Sabra-Shatila camps.

On September 18, 1982, between fifteen hundred and two thousand men, women and children were found massacred in the Sabra-Shatilla camps. The massacres began on the night of September 16 when about two hundred militiamen sent by Ariel Sharon entered the camps.

Robert Fisk revisited the Sabra-Shatilla massacre in a 2003 article for The Independent. After spending several weeks in Israel, he became fascinated by Ariel Sharon’s repeated reference to the Palestinians as ‘murderers, terrorists.’ He had heard Sharon use these words before. “I called up an old friend with a talent for going through archives. I gave her the date that was going through my head, September 15, 1982, the last hours for up to two thousand Palestinians who were about to be murdered in the Sabra and Shatilla camps in Beirut.” She was able to locate the September 1982 Associated Press release. “Defense Minister Ariel Sharon, in a statement, tied the killing of the Phalangist leader Bashir Gemayel to the PLO, saying that it ‘symbolizes the terrorist murderousness of the PLO terrorist organization and its supporters.’ A few hours later, Sharon sent the Phalangist Christian militiamen into the camps. Fisk goes on to say, “Reading this release again, I felt a chill come over me. There are Israelis today who feel as much rage towards the Palestinians as the Phalangist all those years ago. And these are the same words I am hearing today, from the same man about the same people. Why?”

Could it be because we still have no leader wise or courageous enough to sit the warring factions down and demand some sensible humane solutions? Without Robert Fisk’s voice, without his willingness to monitor the centers of power and hold them accountable, I fear we will see no solution anytime soon.

Robert Fisk, your voice, your honest reporting, your willingness to go against mainstream media, to report the truth across the war-ravaged Middle East, will be sorely missed.

A Beirut Heart: One Woman’s War, as well as my other books, can be found on Amazon.

Robert Fisk, Veteran Foreign Correspondent, Dies at 74

by Naharnet Newsdesk 2 days ago

THE DEATH OF ROBERT FISK IS A GREAT LOSS TO HONEST JOURNALISM

Veteran British journalist Robert Fisk, one of the best-known Middle East correspondents who spent his career reporting from the troubled region and won accolades for challenging mainstream narratives has died after a short illness, his employer said Monday. He was 74.

Fisk, whose reporting often sparked controversy, died Sunday at a hospital in Dublin, shortly after he was taken there after falling ill at his home in the Irish capital. The London Independent, where he had worked since 1989, described him as the most celebrated journalist of his era.

“Fearless, uncompromising, determined and utterly committed to uncovering the truth and reality at all costs, Robert Fisk was the greatest journalist of his generation,” said Christian Broughton, managing director of the newspaper.

“The fire he lit at The Independent will burn on,” he said.

Born in Kent, in the United Kingdom, Fisk began his career on Fleet Street at the Sunday Express. He went on to work for The Times, and was based in Northern Ireland, Portugal and the Middle East. He moved to Beirut in 1976, a year after the country’s civil war broke out. Until his death, his home was an apartment on the Lebanese capital’s famed Mediterranean corniche.

From his base in Beirut, Fisk traveled across the Mideast and beyond, covering almost every big story in the region, including the Iran-Iraq war, the Arab-Israeli conflict, the war in Algeria, the conflict in Afghanistan, Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait, the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq, the Arab Spring and Syria’s civil war. His reporting earned him awards, but also invited controversy, particularly his coverage of the Syria conflict.

A fearless, bespectacled and cheerful personality bristling with energy, Fisk was often the first reporter to arrive at the scene of a story. He shunned e-mail, smart phones and social media, and strongly believed in the power of street reporting.

In 1982, he was one of the first journalists at the Sabra and Chatila camp in Beirut, where Israeli-backed Christian militiamen slaughtered hundreds of Palestinian refugees. Earlier that year, he was also the first foreign journalist to report on the scale of the Hama massacre in 1982, when then-Syrian President Hafez Assad launched a withering assault on the rebellious city in central Syria, leveling entire neighborhoods and killing thousands in one of the most notorious massacres in the modern Middle East.

Fisk was in love with Beirut, the city he called home, sticking with it during the most difficult days of the 1975-90 civil war when foreign journalists fell victim to kidnappers. Back then, he used the offices of The Associated Press to file his stories during the war, where colleagues called him “the Fisk,” or “Fisky.”

In his book chronicling the war, Pity the Nation, he describes filing his dispatches by furiously punching a telex tape at the bureau, which he described as “a place of dirty white walls and heavy battleship-grey metal desks with glass tops and iron typewriters” and a “massive, evil-tempered generator” on the balcony.

“So sad to lose a true friend and a great journalist. The Temple of truth is gone,” said Marwan Chukri, director of the Foreign Press Center at the Information Ministry in Beirut.

Fisk gained particular fame and popularity in the region for his opposition to the Iraq war – challenging the official U.S. government narrative of weapons of mass destruction as it laid the groundwork for the 2003 invasion – and disputing U.S. and Israeli policies.

He was one of the few journalists who interviewed Osama bin Laden several times. After the Sept. 11, 2011 attacks and the subsequent U.S. invasion of Iraq, he travelled to the Pakistan-Afghan border, where he was attacked by a group of Afghan refugees.

He later wrote about the incident from the refugees’ perspective, describing his beating by refugees as a “symbol of the hatred and fury of this filthy war.”

“I realized – there were all the Afghan men and boys who had attacked me who should never have done so but whose brutality was entirely the product of others, of us – of we who had armed their struggle against the Russians and ignored their pain and laughed at their civil war,” he wrote.

His most controversial reporting, however, was on the conflict in Syria in the past decade. Fisk, who was often allowed access to government-held areas when other journalists were banished, was accused of siding with the government of President Bashar Assad and whitewashing crimes committed by Syrian security forces.

In 2018, he cast doubt on whether a poison gas attack blamed on the government had taken place in the Damascus suburb of Douma in 2018. The global chemical weapons watchdog later said it found “reasonable grounds” that chlorine was used as a weapon.

His deep attachment to Lebanon and its people consistently came through his writing. Following the massive explosion that tore through Beirut port on Aug. 4 and destroyed large parts of the city, he wrote a scathing article that summed up the country’s curse and corrupt political class.

“So here is one of the most educated nations in the region with the most talented and courageous – and generous and kindliest – of peoples, blessed by snows and mountains and Roman ruins and the finest food and the greatest intellect and a history of millennia. And yet it cannot run its currency, supply its electric power, cure its sick or protect its people,” Fisk wrote.

Fisk wrote several books, including “Pity the Nation: Lebanon at War” and “The Great War for Civilisation: The Conquest of the Middle East.”

He is survived by his wife, Nelofer Pazira, a filmmaker and human rights activist.

SourceAssociated Press

IS THERE A LINK BETWEEN ISRAEL’S AGREEMENT WITH EMIRATES AND BEIRUT’S PORT EXPLOSION?

Suppose the August 4th explosion at Beirut’s port and the agreement between Israel and the Emirates were linked. Suppose that Israel intended the port of Haifa to be the port of entry for the Emirates and the Arab states of the Persian Gulf. For this to happen, Israel would have to destroy Beirut’s port, then blame Hezbollah for the attack. Suppose Israel had already begun to plan its attack on Beirut’s port back in March 2005 when it signed an agreement with China, specifically with the Shanghai International Port Group, with the stipulation that the overhaul and modernization of Haifa’s port be completed by early 2021.

Until August 4, 2020, Beirut’s port was not only the most important maritime port along the eastern Mediterranean, it was also the confluence of the three continents of Europe, Asia and Africa, a role Israel has long coveted. Ever since Israel declared its independence in 1948, Haifa’s port has played a secondary role to Beirut’s. The Arab boycott of the Jewish community in Palestine predated the formal establishment of Israel and this contributed to Haifa’s secondary status. By 1950, the boycott was extended to keeping all Israeli products out of Arab countries, further sealing Haifa’s fate. The boycott only became a thing of the past when Israel signed the recent agreement with the Gulf states.

The Gulf states import practically everything from heavy construction equipment to trucks and cars to food and sanitation products from Europe. Until August 4th, all these goods came through Beirut, the preeminent capital of commerce and finance for the Middle East. Since 1943, when it declared its independence, Beirut’s port has been the lifeline of the Lebanon’s economy furnishing Jordan, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, Bahrain and Qatar. This suggests two possible scenarios. Israel only intended to destroy the port, not the city itself, and was unaware that the Lebanese government had confiscated thousands of tons of ammonium nitrate from an abandoned ship that had limped its way into Beirut’s harbor in 2013 and been improperly stored. Or, Israel knew of the material stored at the port and did not care what it destroyed so long as Haifa was elevated to its rightful place as the most important maritime port along the eastern Mediterranean. 

The Lebanese government, forced to resign a week after the blast, officially attributed the incident to negligence but Lebanon’s president acknowledged the port’s destruction could have been the result of an attack by outside forces. Residents throughout the city saw and heard military aircraft flying overhead moments before the explosion. According to Asia Times, unnamed Western officials claimed that Western reconnaissance craft were in the skies above the Lebanese coast at the time of the blast. A US Central Command official told Asia Times that the cause of the first fire/explosion was still an unanswered question, adding that there is no actual evidence to support or confirm the blast was caused by ammonium nitrate, and that other alternatives were quite possible.

Despite eye-witness accounts of Western aircraft sighted during the explosion and a long history of Israeli attacks and daily Israeli violations of Lebanese airspace, the US, Israel and their regional allies have all vigorously campaigned to pin the port blast on Hezbollah, even though there is no evidence linking Hezbollah to the explosion. In fact, the Lebanese resistance group would have everything to lose if it were involved.

Following the explosion, anti-Hezbollah groups, supported by the US, took over Lebanese government buildings and called for Beirut to demilitarize, an obvious demand for Hezbollah to lay down its weapons and end its fight against Israel which illegally occupied south Lebanon for twenty-two years (from 1978 until Hezbollah finally expelled them in 2000).

US Secretary of State Pompeo has portrayed his country as the noble protector of Lebanon but at the same time has threatened to impose more aggressive sanctions on Lebanon if it does not immediately expel Hezbollah from its government. The IMF has also refused to aid Lebanon at the request of the US government, which holds de facto veto power over the organization, until Hezbollah is removed even though it has thirteen duly elected members in the Lebanese parliament and enjoys not only the support of its fellow members but the majority of Lebanese.

The pro-Israel lobby group the American Jewish Committee (AJC) tweeted on August 9, five days after the port explosion, that international assistance to Lebanon “must be conditioned on the long-promised, long-avoided disarmament of Hezbollah,” something Hezbollah has refused to do, claiming its military power is Lebanon’s only deterrent to another Israeli attack. 

AJC has made it clear that Western aid will be hung over Lebanon like a sword of Damocles (an allusion to the imminent and ever-present peril faced by those in positions of power), adding that, “Unless the malignant role of Iran’s terror proxy, Hezbollah, is addressed there will never be meaningful change for the people of Lebanon.”

Meanwhile, as millions of Lebanese civilians suffer, financial analysts expect the US and Israeli campaign of economic warfare and maximum pressure to continue for the foreseeable future.

ARMENIA, AZERBAIJAN AND ISRAEL

Few geopolitical hot spots are more complicated than the Middle East but renewed hostilities involving both the Levant and nomads from the Eurasian steppes, could be the exception. Deadly clashes between Armenia and Azerbaijan, fighting over a region called Nagorno-Karabakh involves Turkey, Russia, Iran and Israel.

The Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh, held by Armenia, declared independence in 1991 shortly after the fall of the USSR but it was never recognized by the international community. Between 1988 and 1994 the Azerbaijani Army fought the Armenians over this republic, killing thirty thousand and wounding one million. A cease-fire was finally declared in 1994 with Nagorno-Karabakh entering the gray area of a “frozen conflict.”

In 1993, the UN approved no less than four resolutions demanding Armenia withdraw from what was deemed to be roughly twenty percent of Azerbaijani territory. This is the core of Azerbaijan’s rationale for fighting against what it sees as a foreign occupation army.  Armenia insists these resolutions are null and void because Nagorno-Karabakh (population 150,000) harbors an Armenian-majority population (90%) that wants to secede from Azerbaijan. In September 2020, Ilham Aliyev, Azerbaijan’s strongman, in power since 2003, launched a de facto war on the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Historically, Nagorno-Karabakh (also called Artsakh) is one of three ancient provinces of Armenia, rooted in the 5th century B.C. and finally established in 189 B.C. Based on DNA samples, the Armenians claim they have been settled in Artsakh for at least 4,000 years.

Nagorno-Karabakh was given to Azerbaijan by Stalin in 1923. That set the stage for the future powder keg to inevitably explode especially since there was no Azerbaijan nation-state until the early 1920s. Historically, Azerbaijan was a territory in northern Iran. Azeris were well integrated within the Islamic Republic so the Republic of Azerbaijan actually borrowed its name from their Iranian neighbors.

Azerbaijan hatred of Armenians is a major concern in this conflict. Because of Azerbaijan’s military strength, Armenians fear a massacre. Next year marks one hundred years since the genocide against the Armenian people. An Azeri assault, if one were to take place, would be a sorrowful reminder of those tragic days. Since September 27th, when the righting resumed, at least three hundred people have already been killed. 

A Middle East-Eurasian conflict would not be complete without the added wrinkle of oil and gas. Two key gas pipelines pass through the conflict zone. The Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan crude pipeline is Azerbaijan’s main oil artery to world markets. The South Caucasus gas pipeline supplies Turkey and European countries. Azeri and Armenian forces are engaged on the “line of contact” between Azerbaijan and Nagorno-Karabakh. This is about 30-40 km. from the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan crude pipeline and South Caucasus gas pipeline.  The fighting comes amid preparations for the start of gas exports to southeast Europe from the second phase of Azerbaijan’s BP-led offshore project. Exports to Europe will put Azerbaijan on the map as a truly international gas supplier.

Azerbaijan owes its military strength to Israel. In the last two weeks alone, four Azeri plans have flown directly from Baku to Uvda air base in southern Israel, the only Israeli airport from which plans loaded with explosive material are allowed to take off. Azerbaijan has purchased weapons from Israel to the tune of $5 billion including Israeli-made M095 cluster munitions. Cluster bombs, often referred to as area weapons, are designed to open in mid-air and disperse smaller submunitions called bomblets. They have been scattered on the Armenian residential areas of Stepanakert, Nagorno-Karabakh’s capital. Mossad, meanwhile, has Bottom of Formestablished a station in Azerbaijan, serving as the “eyes, ears and a springboard” for monitoring Iran.

Azerbaijan has also prepared an airfield that would assist Israel in case it decided to attack Iran. The Iranian nuclear archive that was stolen by Mossad agents in Tehran two and a half years ago was smuggled to Israel through Azerbaijan. Israel’s aerospace industries, Elbit, Rafael and other smaller companies are selling Baku just about anything despite the fact that Azerbaijan is considered one of the worst countries in terms of democracy and freedom. This includes artillery, missiles, naval vessels, intelligence equipment and a large number of drones. As far back as 2012, Israel was already granted access to air bases in Azerbaijan though a series of behind-the-scenes political and military understandings. It was assumed these bases would be used in Israeli air strikes against Iran over its nuclear program and any other tensions with Iran Israel deemed “a threat to its national security.”  

All of this interfaces with the fierce competition between Shi’ite Iran and Turkey for regional hegemony. The same bizarre pattern of behavior characterized by the Kremlim in Syria, with Vladimir Putin assisting the regime of Bashar Assad and the Iranians, while providing Israel with “silent encouragement” for carrying out air strikes against Iranian positions. To add to the confusion, Mossad and Turkish intelligence cooperate with each other, with Israel’s defense industries selling arms to Turkey for billions of dollars.

The dismantling of the strategic alliance between Turkey and Israel was a systematic and deliberate process, begun by Erdogan a decade and a half ago and yet Israel has not used this opportunity to fulfill its historic duty to recognize the Armenian genocide. At the same time that Erdogan started distancing himself from Israel, Azerbaijan and Israel grew closer. It soon became clear that the two countries had set up a strategic alliance centered on their mutual hostilities towards Iran. Baku is also Israel’s top oil supplier, providing forty percent of its annual consumption, while Israel is the sixth-highest importer of Azerbaijani oil.

Until recently, Azerbaijan saw President Putin’s Russia as a hostile force trying to undermine its pro-Western policy while supporting neighboring Armenia in the conflict over the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave. In early October, Azerbaijan’s President Aliyev suddenly began praising Moscow, saying, “Azerbaijan and Russia are two neighboring friendly countries which are developing together and are ready to face world challenges.”

With the possibility of prolonged military operations between Armenia and Azerbaijan, could a shift in this conflict from a multilateral framework involving the US and France to a regional one mean that both Russia and Azerbaijan no longer consider the West a relevant player in their backyard and are willing to implement their own security strategies in the South Caucus? As for Russia and Turkey, are they engaged in what can best be described as competitive competition, the South Caucasus only one region, along with Syria and Libya, were this competition is most intense? Stay tuned.

THE SYRIAN WAR: CULTIVATED AND MARKETED BY THE WEST

According to Grayzone’s Ben Norton, Western government-funded intelligence cutouts trained Syrian opposition leaders, planted stories in media outlets from BBC to Al Jazeera, and ran a cadre of journalists. A trove of recently leaked documents entitled HMG Trojan Horse: From Integrity Initiative to Covert Ops around the Globe: Part 1: Taming Syria produced under the auspices of the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office show how UK government contractors developed an advanced infrastructure of propaganda to stimulate support in the West for Syria’s armed opposition.

Virtually every aspect of the Syrian opposition was cultivated and marketed by Western (UK-US) government-backed public relations firms, from their political narratives to their branding, from what they said and where they said it. The leaked files reveal how Western intelligence cutouts played the media like a fiddle, carefully crafting English and Arabic language media coverage of the war on Syria to churn out a constant stream of pro-opposition coverage. US and European contractors trained and advised Syrian opposition leaders at all levels, from media experts to the heads of the parallel government-in-exile. These firms also organized interviews for Syrian opposition leader on mainstream outlets such as BBC and the UK’s Channel 4.

More than half of the stringers used by Al Jazeera in Syria were trained in a joint US-UK government program called Basma, which produced hundreds of Syrian opposition media activists. Western government PR firms not only influenced the way the media covered Syria, they also produced their own propagandistic pseudo-news for broadcast on major TV networks in the Middle East, including BBC Arabic, Al Jazeera, Al Arabiya and Orient TV.

These UK-US funded firms functined as full-time PR flacks for the extremist- dominated Syrian armed opposition. One contractor called InCoStart, said it was in constant contact with a network of more than 1,600 international journalists and “influencers,” and used them to push pro-opposition talking points. Virtually every major Western corporate media outlet was influenced by the UK-US government-funded disinformation campaign from the New York Times to the Washington Post, CNN to the Guardian, the BBC to Buzzfeed.

According to journalist Sharmine Narwani, all Western wars have been fought with imagery and disinformation. The US government calls it propaganda and accuses the Russians of doing it, but the US does it better than anyone else. It is literally the main tool in America’s military kit. Otherwise, the American people would never accept the never-ending wars. There used to be laws forbidding the US government from propagandizing the American people but the Obama administration undid many of those legal barriers.

All the firms listed in the leaked files were contracted by the British government, but many also were running “multi-donor projects” that received funding from the governments of the US and other Western European countries. Many of these Western-backed opposition groups in Syria were extremist Salafi-jihadists. Some of the UK government contractors whose activities were exposed in the leaked documents were supporting Syrian al-Qaeda afiliate Jabhat al Nusra and its fanatical offshoots.

In an excerpt from Robert Reuel Naiman’s book “Wikileaks Reveals How the US Aggressively Pursued Regime Change in Syria, Igniting a Bloodbath,” he showed, in the case of Syria, that regime change has been a long-standing goal of US policy; that the US promoted sectarianism in support of its regime-change policy, thus helping lay the foundation for the sectarian civil war and massive bloodshed that we see in Syria today. Wikileaks cables suggest that the US goal as early as December 2006 was to undermine the Syrian government by any means possible. In public, the US was opposed to “Islamic extremists” but in private it saw the potential threat to the regime from the increasing presene of Islamist extremists as an opportunity that the US should take action to try to increase.

According to the US Special Forces Unconventional Warfare manual, propaganda is fundamental to US efforts to maintain hegemony. Everything starts and ends with “scene setting” and “swaying perceptions” to prepare a population to support invasion, occupation, drone warfare, “humanitarian interventions,” rebellions and regime change. It was no different in Syria.