Israel is Losing the Debate – in More Ways Than One

Courtesy of Ben White @ Middle East Monitor:

Last night, I participated in a debate at the Cambridge Union on ‘This House Believes Israel is a Rogue State.’ Speaking alongside Ghada Karmi and Norman Finkelstein for the proposition, the motion was carried by 51 percent to 19 percent – with a 7 percent swing from the pre-debate vote.

The debating chamber was packed, and the atmosphere charged. At the end of the debate, cries of ‘Free, Free Palestine’ rang out. But my main takeaway from the proceedings was the sheer weakness of the opposition’s arguments – a microcosm of pro-Israel propaganda that simply no longer works.

In my opening speech, I pointed out that the issue was not about whether Israel is ‘perfect’, or makes ‘mistakes’. To concede that Israel is ‘not perfect’, as I suggested the opposition may do, is in fact no concession at all, and misses the point. The issue is whether Israel violates international law and human rights, and whether it does so systematically.

I also stressed that the debate was not about the record of other countries or actors, in the region or elsewhere. It was not about Iran or Syria, Hamas or ISIS, North Korea or Russia. The Cambridge debating chamber hosts debates about dozens of topics of international interest but last night, the subject was Israeli policy, and the question was plain – is Israel a rogue state?

Yet in the speech directly following mine, Vivian Wineman, president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, opened up for the opposition by stating exactly what I had predicted just minutes before: ‘Israel is not perfect.’ Such is the reliance of Israel’s apologists on predictable talking points.

Similarly, Wineman – like the other two opposition speakers – indulged in the familiar tactic of citing abuses by other states (Iran, Saudi Arabia, North Korea, etc.). The rest of his talk was a regurgitation of tired talking points about the Israeli army’s morality and so forth.

Joining Wineman in opposing the motion were Hannah Weisfeld, head of liberal Zionist advocacy group Yachad, and Davis Lewin, deputy director of the Henry Jackson Society.

Weisfeld’s approach was to immediately state she had no intention of defending the occupation or settlements. The bulk of her speech was an attempt to demonstrate that Israel could not be a rogue state because it has parliamentary democracy, an independent judiciary, a free press, and that critics of the government are not arrested.

She did not clarify if this wonderful list also applies to the millions of Palestinians living for half a century under a military regime. Continue reading

UK-US Surveillance Regime was Unlawful ‘For Seven Years’

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The legal challenge was the first of dozens of GCHQ-related claims to be examined in detail by the IPT. Photograph: Ho/Reuters

 Courtesy of Owen Boycott @ The Guardian:

The regime that governs the sharing between Britain and the US of electronic communications intercepted in bulk was unlawful until last year, a secretive UK tribunal has ruled.

The Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT) declared on Friday that regulations covering access by Britain’s GCHQ to emails and phone records intercepted by the US National Security Agency (NSA) breached human rights law.

Advocacy groups said the decision raised questions about the legality of intelligence-sharing operations between the UK and the US. The ruling appears to suggest that aspects of the operations were illegal for at least seven years – between 2007, when the Prism intercept programme was introduced, and 2014.

The critical judgment marks the first time since the IPT was established in 2000 that it has upheld a complaint relating to any of the UK’s intelligence agencies. It said that the government’s regulations were illegal because the public were unaware of safeguards that were in place. Details of those safeguards were only revealed during the legal challenge at the IPT.

An “order” posted on the IPT’s website early on Friday declared: “The regime governing the soliciting, receiving, storing and transmitting by UK authorities of private communications of individuals located in the UK, which have been obtained by US authorities … contravened Articles 8 or 10” of the European convention on human rights.

Article 8 relates to the right to private and family life; article 10 refers to freedom of expression.

The decision, in effect, refines an earlier judgment issued by the tribunal in December, when it ruled that Britain’s current legal regime governing data collection through the internet by intelligence agencies – which has been recently updated to ensure compliance – did not violate the human rights of people in the UK. Continue reading

Leader of Al Qaeda Group in Iraq was Fictional, U.S. military Says

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Courtesy of Michael R. Gordon @ The NY Times 2007:

BAGHDAD — For more than a year, the leader of one the most notorious insurgent groups in Iraq was said to be a mysterious Iraqi named Abdullah Rashid al-Baghdadi.

As the titular head of the Islamic State in Iraq, an organization publicly backed by Al Qaeda, Baghdadi issued a steady stream of incendiary pronouncements. Despite claims by Iraqi officials that he had been killed in May, Baghdadi appeared to have persevered unscathed.

On Wednesday, a senior American military spokesman provided a new explanation for Baghdadi’s ability to escape attack: He never existed.

Brigadier General Kevin Bergner, the chief American military spokesman, said the elusive Baghdadi was actually a fictional character whose audio-taped declarations were provided by an elderly actor named Abu Adullah al-Naima.

The ruse, Bergner said, was devised by Abu Ayub al-Masri, the Egyptian-born leader of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, who was trying to mask the dominant role that foreigners play in that insurgent organization.

The ploy was to invent Baghdadi, a figure whose very name establishes his Iraqi pedigree, install him as the head of a front organization called the Islamic State of Iraq and then arrange for Masri to swear allegiance to him. Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden’s deputy, sought to reinforce the deception by referring to Baghdadi in his video and Internet statements.

The evidence for the American assertions, Bergner announced at a news briefing, was provided by an Iraqi insurgent: Khalid Abdul Fatah Daud Mahmud al-Mashadani, who was said to have been captured by American forces in Mosul on July 4. Continue reading

Obama Sanctions North Korea For Sony Hack Which Was Perpetrated By Disgruntled Former Employee

Courtesy of The Hedge:

US foreign policy just jumped the shark: a few days after both the FBI and the US State department were humiliated when it was revealed that it wasn’t North Korea but a disgruntled, laid off Sony employee that was responsible for the “hack”, and when the best possible course of action would have been to simply let this latest embarrassing incident fade from memory, moments ago Obama – currently not working out next to a rainbow or flashing his support of “Shaka” – just signed his first executive order of 2015, imposing even more sanctions against North Korea.

From Bloomberg:

President Obama signs order imposing additional sanctions on North Korea in response to country’s “efforts to undermine U.S. cyber-security and intimidate U.S. businesses and artists exercising their right of freedom of speech,” according to Treasury Dept statement.

Sanctions target 3 entities, 10 individuals

Including North Korea’s intelligence agency, arms dealer, North Korea’s representatives in Namibia, Sudan, Iran, Syria, China

“Even as the FBI continues its investigation into the cyber-attack against Sony Pictures Entertainment, these steps underscore that we will employ a broad set of tools to defend U.S. businesses and citizens, and to respond to attempts to undermine our values or threaten the national security of the United States,” Treasury Sec. Lew says in statement
That this action is so stupid no amount of commentary would possibly do it justice is quite clear, which is why we patiently await North Korean TV to escalate its comedic feud with the “monkey in a tropical jungle.”

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2014: The Year Propaganda Came Of Age

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Courtesy of Raúl Ilargi Meijer @ The Automatic Earth Blog:

From just about as early in my life as I can remember, growing up as a child in Holland, there were stories about World War II, and not just about Anne Frank and the huge amounts of people who, like her, had been dragged off to camps in eastern Europe never to come back, but also about the thousands who had risked their lives to hide Jewish and other refugees, and the scores who had been executed for doing so, often betrayed by their own neighbors.

And then there were those who had risked their lives in equally courageous ways to get news out to people, putting out newspapers and radio broadcasts just so there would be a version of events out there that was real, and not just what the Germans wanted one to believe. This happened in all Nazi – and Nazi friendly – occupied European nations. The courage of these people is hard to gauge for us today, and I’m convinced there’s no way to say whom amongst us would show that kind of bravery if we were put to the test; I certainly wouldn’t be sure about myself.

Still, without wanting to put myself anywhere near the level of those very very real heroes, please don’t get me wrong about that, that’s not what I mean, I was thinking about them with regards to what is happening in our media today. I’ve mentioned before that I don’t think Joseph Goebbels had anything on US and European media today.

That propaganda as a strategic and political instrument has been refined to a huge extent over the past 70-odd years since Goebbels first picked up on Freud’s lessons on how to influence the unconscious mind, and the ‘mass-mind’, as a way to ‘steer’ an entire people, not just as a means to make them buy detergent. These days, the media can make people believe just about anything, and they have the added benefit that they can pose as friends of the people, not the enemy. Continue reading

Only the Rich Can Afford to Keep Their Homes

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Courtesy of Martin Armstrong @ Armstrong Economics:

Philadelphia prosecutors agreed last Thursday to halt efforts to seize the homes of two of the lead plaintiffs in a widely publicized federal suit challenging the city’s use of civil forfeiture laws in drug cases.

Philadelphia drops a Civil Asset Forfeiture case to prevent any court from ruling just seizing people’s property is unconstitutional. Phily.COM has reported the case of Christos Sourovelis and Doila Welch,who were both caught up in having their homes seized to pay police pensions when the police arrested a relative they claimed was dealing drugs on their properties. Today, you basically have to shun relatives and never pick up a hick-hiker in trouble for if they have any drugs, even marijuana, there goes your assets.

The prosecutors, only after these people has money for lawyers and the press got involved, moved for dismissal in Common Pleas Court. The prosecutor agreed to drop the cases against properties as long as both owners took “reasonable measures” to ensure no further drug crimes occurred there.

Here is the entire problem. Only the rich can win for it is your burden to fork-over huge legal fees. If you do not have the money for lawyers, there goes your property. This is what is desperately wrong in America. Any law passed becomes your burden to prove it is unconstitutional. They can actually pass the ancient right of kings under the Common Law since there is precedent known as Prima Noctum – first night. The governor, mayor, county freeholder, whoever, could “legally” claim the right to spend the first night in bed with any women getting married in their district. It would then become your burden to say – NO. That is uncivilized. Continue reading

Democracy And Corruption: Germany Files War Crimes Charges Against Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld And Other CIA Officials

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Courtesy of Tiffany Willis @ Liberal America:

The European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights has filed a criminal complaint against U.S. torture program architects and members of the Bush Administration. The organization has accused CIA director George Tenet and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld of war crimes and they’ve called for a German prosecutor to conduct an immediate investigation.

This move follows the release of the damning Senate report on CIA torture that includes the case of German citizen Khalid El-Masri, who was captured in 2004 by CIA agents in a case of mistaken identity. The report revealed the shocking contrast of democracy and corruption.

Bizarrely, the only person involved with the CIA torture program who has been charged with a crime is the man who exposed the war crimes — whistleblower John Kiriakou.

The relevant parties in this case have given an extensive interview to Democracy Now. Some of the important points are below.

Wolfgang Kaleck, the general secretary of the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights and the author of International Prosecution of Human Rights Crimes said this:

“By investigating members of the Bush administration, Germany can help to ensure that those responsible for abduction, abuse and illegal detention do not go unpunished.”

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