Category Archives: Middle East & North Africa

Chase Madar: U.S. drone attacks undermine national security

Chase Madar, author of The Passion of Bradley Manning, writes for Al Jazeera:

‘Drone blowback is real. Over the past five years, terrorists have attempted serious attacks on American soil that were motivated in part by U.S. drone strikes abroad. We know this because the apprehended terrorists have been loud and clear about their motives. As Pakistani-born Faisal Shahzad, whose car bomb failed to explode in Times Square in May 2010, said at his arraignment:

Until the hour the U.S. pulls its forces from Iraq and Afghanistan and stops the drone strikes in Somalia and Yemen and in Pakistan and stops the occupation of Muslim lands … we will be attacking U.S. The drone hits in Afghanistan and Iraq, they don’t see children … They kill women, children — they kill everybody.

A foiled plot to blow up the New York subway, led by Afghan-born, Queens-raised Najibullah Zazi, also speaks to the growing anger over drone warfare. According to courtroom testimony from the would-be perpetrators, they conceived their effort as revenge for the drone attacks in northwestern Pakistan, where U.S. strikes have killed some 2,800 people. Just how many of those killed were Al-Qaeda fighters and how many civilians is not precisely known. But the connection between drones abroad and danger at home is not hypothetical: It’s a demonstrable fact. And yet our national security experts tend to treat these attempted terrorist attacks as if they were of no relevance to Washington’s increasing use of lethal unmanned aircraft.’

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Millions displaced by religious violence in 2013

The Associated Press reports:

Millions of people were forced from their homes because of their religious beliefs last year, the U.S. government said Monday, citing the devastating impact of conflicts in Syria, Iraq and the Central African Republic.

Secretary of State John Kerry called the displacement of families and devastation of communities from sectarian violence a troubling trend in the world, as he launched the State Department 2013 report on religious freedom… The report, released annually, reviews how religious freedoms are respected and violated in almost 200 countries and territories.’

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Will robots fight Israel’s future wars?

Inbal Orpaz reports for Haaretz:

‘Just as advanced technology is changing the household, it’s also changing the battlefield. Some envision a day when robots will take over from all-too-vulnerable flesh and blood soldiers. While that day hasn’t arrived, and the army is silent about what it’s using now, the robots are out there: Israel, outmanned on the ground, is becoming a global expert on unmanned vehicles for land, sea and air.

…The Israeli army has long used robots in routine security missions. They can stay in the field. They don’t need lunch breaks. In short, the army’s goal is to replace grunts with gears as much as possible. Not only will soldiers’ lives be spared, points out robotics expert Isabelle Okashi, of the Israel Aerospace Industries robotics division: Machines don’t get bored and don’t cavil at messy missions. She believes that within five years, robots will be a routine part of the ground forces. She does not, however, buy “Terminator”-esque apocalyptic visions of wars being relegated to machine versus machine.’

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Israel and the US Have Dropped Bombs on 8 Muslim Countries This Year

Chris Ernesto writes for Antiwar:

‘There are 1.6 billion Muslims in the world today, with 49 countries having a predominantly Muslim population. Of these countries, 4 have been bombed by Israel, and 4 have been bombed by the US this year alone.’

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“Nowhere to Go”: Gaza Suffers One of Deadliest Days so Far as Israel Vows “Protracted” Assault

‘Despite a U.N. Security Council call for a ceasefire, Israel has intensified its attack on Gaza and warned of a “protracted campaign.” Palestinian officials say more than 110 people have been killed in the past 24 hours, with some saying Monday was the most intensive night of bombing so far. In this time period, Israel attacked more than 150 sites including Gaza’s only power station and a media center that houses the broadcasting headquarters of Hamas and a number of other Arab satellite news channels. Earlier on Monday, 10 people were killed, eight of which were children, and 40 others wounded by an explosion in a park near the beach in the Shati refugee camp in Gaza City. The child victims were said to be playing on a playground swing when they were hit. Israel denied carrying out the attack, but eyewitnesses said the explosion was caused by an Israeli air strike. Another Israeli bombing reportedly hit an outpatient building at at Shifa, Gaza’s main hospital. Meanwhile ten Israeli soldiers were killed on Monday. Fifty-three Israeli soldiers, two Israeli civilians and a Thai farmworker have died since the assault began. We go to Gaza City to speak with Democracy Now! correspondent Sharif Abdel Kouddous. “[Israel has] shelled hospitals, U.N. schools, they’ve bombed people in their homes,” Kouddous says. “There’s literally nowhere for these people to run to.”‘ (Democracy Now!)

Professor Ilan Pappé: Israel Has Chosen To Be A “Racist Apartheid State” With U.S. Support

‘As the Palestinian death toll tops 1,000 in Gaza, we are joined from Haifa by Israeli professor and historian Ilan Pappé. “I think Israel in 2014 made a decision that it prefers to be a racist apartheid state and not a democracy,” Pappé says. “It still hopes that the United States will license this decision and provide it with the immunity to continue, with the necessary implication of such a policy vis a vis the Palestinians wherever they are.” A professor of history and the director of the European Centre for Palestine Studies at the University of Exeter, Pappé is the author of several books, including most recently, “The Idea of Israel: A History of Power and Knowledge.”‘ (Democracy Now!)

Israeli Jewish Congress president: ‘We are looking at the beginnings of a Holocaust’

Sam Sokol reports for The Jerusalem Post:

naftali bennett‘The situation facing European Jewry is “simply intolerable, unacceptable and inexcusable,” Israeli Jewish Congress president Vladimir Sloutsker told MKs and foreign diplomats at a special session of the Knesset Immigration Absorption and Diaspora Affairs Committee on Monday. Calling the rise in anti-Semitic incidents accompanying Israel’s invasion of Gaza an “SOS situation,” Sloutsker warned that if left unchecked, such behavior could lead to another European genocide.

“Never before since the Holocaust, have we seen such a situation as today,” he said, referring to the continent-wide demonstrations by pro-Palestinian activists, a number of which have degenerated into violence and many of which have featured racist rhetoric. “We are potentially looking at the beginning of another Holocaust now. These events will only grow in scale across Europe.”’

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During Brief Lull, Gazans Return to Neighborhoods Destroyed & Bodies Beneath the Rubble

Emergency UN Security Council Meeting Calls for Immedate Unconditional Ceasefire in Gaza

Editor’s Note: Video from the UN Security Council meeting comes at around 6:30, after some typically biased reporting on the situation.

DON’T SHOOT!

Gaza

Al-Qaeda wing seeks to set up ‘emirate’ in east Yemen

Reuters reports:

Yemen’s Al-Qaeda wing has ordered men and women in the east to obey its strict interpretation of Islamic law, saying it aims to set up an emirate in the remote area, local media and a resident said. The announcement by Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula will stoke concerns about the territorial ambitions of militant groups weeks after Al-Qaeda offshoot Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria declared its own caliphate across parts of the embattled countries.

AQAP – one of the most active branches of the global militant network – has been shifting its operations to Yemen’s eastern Hadramawt province after the army, backed by U.S. drones, helped drive it out of southern strongholds this year. The impoverished country neighboring the world’s biggest oil producer, Saudi Arabia, is also facing southern separatists, northern rebels and political turmoil that surged after 2011 protests unseated president Ali Abdullah Saleh.’

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Sean Hannity Unleashes Shouting Points On Palestinian Guest

The NSA’s New Partner in Spying: Saudi Arabia’s Brutal State Police

Glenn Greenwald and Murtaza Hussain wrtie for The Intercept:

Featured photo - The NSA’s New Partner in Spying: Saudi Arabia’s Brutal State Police‘The National Security Agency last year significantly expanded its cooperative relationship with the Saudi Ministry of Interior, one of the world’s most repressive and abusive government agencies. An April 2013 top secret memo provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden details the agency’s plans “to provide direct analytic and technical support” to the Saudis on “internal security” matters.

The Saudi Ministry of Interior—referred to in the document as MOI— has been condemned for years as one of the most brutal human rights violators in the world. In 2013, the U.S. State Department reported that “Ministry of Interior officials sometimes subjected prisoners and detainees to torture and other physical abuse,” specifically mentioning a 2011 episode in which MOI agents allegedly “poured an antiseptic cleaning liquid down [the] throat” of one human rights activist. The report also notes the MOI’s use of invasive surveillance targeted at political and religious dissidents.

But as the State Department publicly catalogued those very abuses, the NSA worked to provide increased surveillance assistance to the ministry that perpetrated them. The move is part of the Obama Administration’s increasingly close ties with the Saudi regime; beyond the new cooperation with the MOI, the memo describes “a period of rejuvenation” for the NSA’s relationship with the Saudi Ministry of Defense.’

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Jordan is America’s ‘Habibi’

André Vltchek writes for CounterPunch:

The formula is simple: Jordan is helping the West to destabilize nations of the region, including Iraq and Syria. As a result, hundreds of thousands of refugees are crossing its borders, flooding its deserts and cities. Refugee camps are growing into sizeable cities. Local people get hard-hit by high prices, despondent salaries for the poor, and scarcity of basic services. As a result, the Jordanian government and its elites go out of their way demanding money ‘to tackle the refugee crises’; money from the donors, mainly those in the West and the United Nations. Later, part of this money disappears into the deep pockets of the Jordanian rich, burned in outrageously posh shopping and ‘lifestyle malls’, or on inflated salaries for those working for major ‘international organizations’. There are more and more luxury cars on the streets, while the situation in most of the refugee camps – those that are housing Syrians, Palestinians and others – remains appalling.’

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Anal jihad: Militant Islamists accused of gay sex

Gay Star News reports:

Mazar Shahin claims the Muslim Brotherhood are allowing their fighters to have gay anal sex with each other.‘Militant Islamists and terrorists are waging ‘anal jihad’ by having gay anal sex with each other, an Egyptian cleric has claimed. There is even a ‘fatwa’ or religious edict allowing it, says Mazhar Shahin.

But others have claimed Shahin may be simply trying to discredit the Muslim Brotherhood, who were kicked out of power last year in Egypt and who he fiercely opposes. A video picked up by progressive online news show The Young Turks shows Shahin describing ‘anal jihad’ on Egyptian channel al-Tahrir.’

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The deafening silence around the Hamas proposal for a 10-year truce

Francesca Albanese writes for Mondoweiss:

‘During its first 14 days, the Israeli military aggression on the Gaza Strip has left a toll of over 500 dead, the vast majority of whom civilians, and many more injured. Thousands of houses were targeted and destroyed together with other essential civilian infrastructures. Over one hundred thousand civilians have been displaced. By the time you will read this article the numbers will have grown higher and, despicably, no real truce seems in sight. When I say real, I mean practicable, agreeable to both sides and sustainable for some time.

The Israeli government, followed suit by Western media and governments, was quick to put the blame on Hamas for that. Hamas – they claim – had an opportunity to accept a truce brokered by Egypt – and refused it. Others have already explained at length why this proposal crafted without any consultations with Hamas, was hard to accept by Hamas.

Much less noticed by the Western media was that Hamas and Islamic Jihad had meanwhile proposed a 10 year truce on the basis of 10 – very reasonable – conditions. While Israel was too busy preparing for the ground invasion, why didn’t anyone in the diplomatic community spend a word about this proposal? The question is all the more poignant as this proposal was in essence in line with what many international experts as well as the United Nations have asked for years now, and included some aspects that Israel had already considered as feasible requests in the past.’

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Israel’s security cabinet discusses both expanding Gaza operation, cease-fire efforts

The Jerusalem Post reports:

‘As Hamas head Khaled Mashaal indicated in Doha Wednesday night that Hamas was ready for a “humanitarian cease-fire,” the security cabinet met to discuss the direction of the military action inside Gaza, as well as the diplomatic efforts to stop it.

Mashaal continued to lay down conditions for the cease-fire, calling for lifting the blockade that has been imposed on the Gaza Strip since 2007 and reopening the border crossings. He said Hamas would not accept any cease-fire that bypasses the demands of the movement and other resistance groups in the Gaza Strip.’

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Hug A Terrorist

Gaza Resident: I’m Called a Human Shield for Refusing to Leave My Home

Abby Martin speaks with Suha Najjar, a resident of Gaza City, discussing the horrors of daily life on the ground in Gaza since the Israel’s latest offensive and debunks the ‘human shield’ rhetoric often heard from the IDF when justifying indiscriminate killings of civilians.’ (Breaking the Set)

Israel’s military by the numbers

War tourism: Tour operators taking advantage of growing interest in travel to conflict zones

Moshe Gilad reports for Haaretz:

‘It’s a thin line between morbid curiosity about the catastrophes of others and a genuine desire to understand the world’s most sensitive areas. It’s what separates war tourism from deep journeying into a region in conflict. Nicholas Wood, a former New York Times Balkans correspondent who founded the study-tour company Political Tours five years ago, insists that his firm’s activities fall into the latter group. You want to get a nuanced and complex understanding of the situations we see on the television news, he said, adding, that the idea is not to be voyeuristic, but rather to gain a deeper understanding.

[...] Political Tours’s list of destinations is long and varied. It includes North Korea, Bosnia, Kosovo, South Africa, Russia, Georgia, Libya, Northern Ireland and Scotland, where the focus is on the referendum on independence from the United Kingdom. A tour of Israel and the Palestinian Authority is planned for October.’

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Netanyahu said to have offered Lewinsky tapes for Pollard

Rebecca Shimoni Stoil reports for the Times of Israel:

‘Israel attempted to use tapes of former US president Bill Clinton’s steamy conversations with intern Monica Lewinsky to leverage the release of Jonathan Pollard, a new book on the Clinton family’s political enterprises has claimed. In the book, titled “Clinton Inc: The Audacious Rebuilding of a Political Machine,” author Daniel Halper relies on on-the-record interviews with former officials together with a close analysis of documents termed “the Monica Files” to paint a salacious – and uncomplimentary – picture of one of the most prominent political families in the United States

Halper reviewed hundreds of pages of documents compiled as a contingency to use in case the former intern ever was involved in legal action against Clinton. According to the author, the documents indicate that during the Wye Plantation talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, held in Maryland in 1998, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pulled Bill Clinton aside to press for Pollard’s release. Halper said that Israel had found new leverage to push for Pollard’s release.’

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UN Human Rights Council voting on investigation into Israel’s war on Gaza

Israel and the Psychological Dynamics of Totalitarianism

Normal Pollack writes for CounterPunch:

‘Silence, in the face of extreme moral provocation, is not golden; it is cowardice, in this case, for a Jewish person deeply respectful of Judaism for its ethical principles and writings, its “home” to much of modern radicalism and social protest across religious, racial, ethnic lines in struggles on behalf of all humankind, the seat of devotion for his parents, to be silent NOW, is to be complicit in the degradation of one’s faith as Israel taking the name of the Jewish State and claiming to represent world Jewry commits wanton war crimes and atrocities—and has for some time—on a helpless, desperate, defenseless people who have been under the Iron Heel of occupation for decades. Palestinians face subjugation on a daily basis; I, and my fellow Jews, face the long-term desecration of our faith and, ultimately, separation from God. For what purpose? To what end?’

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Cabinet ministers: IDF may have to reconquer all or part of Gaza to ensure security

Lahav Harkov reports for the Jerusalem Post:

Security Cabinet members said Thursday that the IDF may need to re-conquer all or part of Gaza to ensure Hamas does not continue to attack Israel. Communications Minister Gilad Erdan said during a visit to Ashkelon Monday that the IDF must continue fighting until it ensures long-term calm.

“We cannot stop the operation while it is still unclear whether the Gaza Strip will be demilitarized or not. If that means the IDF needs to stay in the northern Gaza Strip to ensure quiet, then we will have to reconquer the area near its northern border,” Erdan said.

The cabinet member added that he hopes there will not be a ceasefire in the coming days, until the threat of terror tunnels, with which Israel cannot live, is removed. Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz, visited Ashkelon, as well. “The fighting will continue for a long time and could include more expansions,” Steinitz said. “If we need to, we will take over the whole [Gaza] Strip.”‘

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Alexei Sayle: “Israel is the Jimmy Savile of nation states”

From the Belfast Telegraph:

‘Alexei Sayle has fiercely condemned Israel’s air strikes in the Gaza Strip, by comparing the nation’s behaviour to that of prolific sex offender Jimmy Savile. The comedian’s comments were released after Israel resumed airstrikes in the Gaza Strip – killing one Palestinian civilian – after Hamas rejected a ceasefire plan and continued rocket attacks. 166 people in Gaza have died in the week-long offensive, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry.

“Israel is the Jimmy Savile of nation states,” Sayle said on Tuesday [July 15th] during an interview with Caabu (Council for Arab-British Understanding). “It clearly doesn’t care about damaging the lives of children,” he added, referring to the late entertainer.

Sayle also described Israel as a “teenager that’s never been given any boundaries. [Israel] is endlessly indulged by its doting parents, the West, and has become a psychopath as a result. It thinks that everybody else is in the wrong and it is in the right,” he said.’

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Ukraine and Gaza: Spot the difference in the value of civilian lives killed by war

Lindsey German writes for Stop the War:

‘The fear Channel 4 journalist Jon Snow’s expressed on Twitter has turned out to be all too prophetic: “Awful danger that the shooting down of flight MH17 will provide cover for an intensification of Israel’s ground war in Gaza”. Yet the coverage of both events in the western media shows a quite shocking disproportion of standards between the two. While new Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond argued the case for more sanctions on Russia as a result of the shooting, David Cameron, writing in the Sunday Times, went even further:

“This is a direct result of Russia destabilising a sovereign state, violating its territorial integrity, backing thuggish militias and training and arming them. We must turn this moment of outrage into a moment of action.”

The wording is uncannily reminiscent of Tony Blair’s call for action after 9/11, which has created much of the horror we are now seeing in the world. The media refer to Putin as a ‘terrorist’, there are calls to brand the Ukrainian separatist organisations as terrorist, and there are demands from the Dutch and other governments to take even stronger strong action against Russia.

It is hardly worth recording that attitudes to Israeli bombing and ground invasion are completely different in tone, let alone in trying to apply serious sanctions to a government which has repeatedly attacked Palestinians and who used the kidnapping and killing of three Jewish students on the West Bank to launch another attack on Gaza. When Philip Hammond was asked, by the BBC’s Andrew Marr, whether Israel was acting disproportionately in Gaza, he three times refused to answer, but blamed Hamas.’

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Remember when the U.S. shot down Iran Air Flight 655?

US Weaponizes Nearly Every Major World Conflict

Abby Martin reports on the militant group ISIS seizing 52 US-made heavy artillery cannons, going over several other examples of US weapons playing a role in almost every major global conflict.’ (Breaking the Set)