Reuters: US plans to use strikes against ISIS to empower “moderate” anti-Assad rebels

Reuters, “Strategy on Islamic State includes support for Syrian opposition, Iraq: White House“:

Obama could order airstrikes on an expanded list of targets within Iraq and has been considering strikes in Syria as well, on condition that moderate rebels there be in a position to hold territory cleared of Islamic State fighters by the strikes.

Of course, no one could have predicted that the US would exploit the ISIS’ newfound bogeyman status to further undermine and destabilize Assad’s regime. Except a lot of people.

Is there an IRS crack down against the Palestine movement in the works?

During a 5 March hearing before the US House Subcommittee on Terrorism, witnesses suggested that the IRS revoke the tax exempt status of NGOs viewed as being critical of Israel or supportive of the BDS movement.

The hearing, entitled Threats to Israel: Terrorist Funding and Trade Boycotts, called the author Edwin Black and Kaufman fellow from the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP) David Pollock to be among its witnesses. When asked by Rep. Juan Vargas “where is this money coming from” to support the BDS movement, Black replied that:

The number-one source of BDS funding is taxpayers. Here is how it works. [...] For each million dollars of tax exempt money, American taxpayers have to pony up $440,000. The number-one organization which has been associated with this process has been the New Israel Fund which gave hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Coalition of Women for Peace so that they could create a global infrastructure of boycotts including a database called Who Profits. They stopped giving this money in 2011 but now they continue to give hundreds of thousands of dollars to organizations like Breaking the Silence, Adalah and Bisallam, which are absolutely essential to keep the BDS alive.

Along these lines, Pollack suggested that:

I think there could be, as my fellow witness just noted, there could be an opportunity to investigate the tax exempt status of organizations that might be knowingly or unknowingly funding activities that are either illegal or improper or not eligible for tax exempt status because they are political advocacy.

There appears to be a concerted campaign by certain segments of the Israel lobby to have the IRS audit and investigate non-profits seen as being unacceptably disrespectful of Israel. On 20 May of this past year, ex-Israeli Ambassador to the US Danny Ayalon posted to his Facebook that: “Israel ambassadors in countries where these [pro-Palestinian] organizations seek funding, mainly the USA, should work to have these organizations outlawed, denying them their ability to raise tax-exempt donations.” Even earlier this year, there is the case of the Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization (IFCO), a leftist Christian group which raised money to send humanitarian aid to the besieged Gaza Strip. The IRS initiated an investigation of the group at the bidding of two members of Congress who asserted the group may be responsible for aiding Hamas. The non-profit status of this group now hangs in the balance.

While the IFCO case may be more about allegations of material support than advocacy, we should remain on the lookout for improper IRS scrutiny of other pro-Palestinian NGOs in the future. It should also be remembered that despite the agency’s recent controversy for allegedly persecuting the Tea Party movement, it has historically been a tool for hindering the left (examples here, here and here).

Recent incitements to genocide and other war crimes against the Palestinians from prominent figures

Giora Eiland (former head of Israel’s National Security Council), “In Gaza, there is no such thing as ‘innocent civilians,'” YNetNews, 5 Aug. 2014:

What would have been the right thing to do? We should have declared war against the state of Gaza (rather than against the Hamas organization), and in a war as in a war. The moment it begins, the right thing to do is to shut down the crossings, prevent the entry of any goods, including food, and definitely prevent the supply of gas and electricity. [...] You probably have two questions now. First, why should Gaza’s residents suffer? Well, they are to blame for this situation just like Germany’s residents were to blame for electing Hitler as their leader and paid a heavy price for that, and rightfully so. Hamas is not a terror organization which came from afar and forcibly occupied Gaza. It’s the authentic representative of the population there. It rose to power following democratic elections and built an impressive military ability with the residents’ support. Its power base has remained stable despite the suffering.

Kurt Schlichter (US conservative columnist), Twitter, 4 August 2014:

Yochanan Gordon, “When Genocide is Permissible,” Times of Israel, 1 August 2014:

We have already established that it is the responsibility of every government to ensure the safety and security of its people. If political leaders and military experts determine that the only way to achieve its goal of sustaining quiet is through genocide is it then permissible to achieve those responsible goals?

Moshe Feiglin (deputy speaker in the Knesset), Facebook post [translated here], 1 August 2014:

Israel must do the following: The IDF shall designate certain open areas on the Sinai border, adjacent to the sea, in which the civilian population will be concentrated, far from the built-up areas that are used for launches and tunneling. In these areas, tent encampments will be established, until relevant emigration destinations are determined. The supply of electricity and water to the formerly populated areas will be disconnected. The formerly populated areas will be shelled with maximum fire power. The entire civilian and military infrastructure of Hamas, its means of communication and of logistics, will be destroyed entirely, down to their foundations.

Martin Sherman, “Into the fray: Why Gaza must go,” Jerusalem Post, 24 July 2014:

The only durable solution requires dismantling Gaza, humanitarian relocation of the non-belligerent Arab population, and extension of Israeli sovereignty over the region.

Thane Rosenbaum, “Hamas’s Civilian Death Strategy,” Wall Street Journal, 21 July 2014:

The people of Gaza overwhelmingly elected Hamas, a terrorist outfit dedicated to the destruction of Israel, as their designated representatives. Almost instantly Hamas began stockpiling weapons and using them against a more powerful foe with a solid track record of retaliation. What did Gazans think was going to happen? Surely they must have understood on election night that their lives would now be suspended in a state of utter chaos. Life expectancy would be miserably low; children would be without a future. Staying alive would be a challenge, if staying alive even mattered anymore.

Ayelet Shaked (Knesset member), Facebook post [translated here], 1 July 2014:

The enemy soldiers hide out among the population, and it is only through its support that they can fight. Behind every terrorist stand dozens of men and women, without whom he could not engage in terrorism. Actors in the war are those who incite in mosques, who write the murderous curricula for schools, who give shelter, who provide vehicles, and all those who honor and give them their moral support. They are all enemy combatants, and their blood shall be on all their heads. Now this also includes the mothers of the martyrs, who send them to hell with flowers and kisses. They should follow their sons, nothing would be more just. They should go, as should the physical homes in which they raised the snakes. Otherwise, more little snakes will be raised there.

If I am missing any examples the past two months (and I’m sure I am), please let me know.

Collection of incitements to genocide and ethnic cleansing against the Palestinians

Israel’s current Defense Minister once called for completely blocking Gaza’s access to food and water

US Embassy in Tel Aviv, 21 August 2001:

Vice Prime Minister and Minister for Strategic Affairs [ed.: current Defense Minister] Moshe Ya’alon, speaking to an extreme right-wing Likud faction that has opposed Netanyahu’s party leadership, reportedly referred to the Israeli left as a “virus,” attacked the media, said the Supreme Court was authority without responsibility, called for a complete cut-off of humanitarian support to Gaza, and reiterated that Jews should be able to live anywhere in the Land of Israel. [...] The headlines were dominated on August 20 by a leaked speech Ya’alon gave over the weekend to the Jewish Leadership Forum, an extreme right-wing Likud faction led by Moshe Feiglin, who has opposed Netanyahu’s party leadership. [...] On Gaza, he said “we need to disengage completely from the Gaza Strip. . .not electricity, not water, not vegetables and not fruit. Neither a supply of food nor money.

It should be noted that this stance is even more extreme than that of a legal paper presented to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee this past month:

Because Israel is not obligated to trade in fuel, electricity or anything else with the Gaza Strip, and is not obligated to preserve a policy of open borders with it, it is permitted to avoid supplying consumer items and to close its borders if it chooses to do so, even if this is imposed as a ‘punishment’ for terror activity. The only restriction is that Israel is forbidden to interfere in the supply of basic humanitarian needs, like food and medicines, by others.

According to Al-Monitor, a video of the secretly recorded speech given by Ya’alon can be found here:

If anyone knows Hebrew and can provide a translation of any other revealing segments from the speech, it would be appreciated.

Statement of Bolivia’s ambassador to the UN before the Security Council on Gaza

UN Security Council, Sixty-ninth year, 7222nd meeting, 22 July 2014 (S/PV.7222), pp. 47-48:

The President: I now give the floor to the representative of the Plurinational State of Bolivia.

Mr. Llorentty Solíz (Plurinational State of Bolivia) (spoke in Spanish): I thank you, Mr. President, for this opportunity to speak about the situation in Palestine.

The events we are discussing in this Chamber are tragic. The Charter on which the Organization was founded states that the peoples of the United Nations are determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which has brought untold sorrow to mankind. The same Charter, which is quoted with such grand eloquence in so many statements, says that the Organization is based on the principle of the sovereign equality of all its Members. However, this meeting and the scourge afflicting the Palestinian people are clear proof that the international order cannot save Palestine from the untold suffering brought about by Israeli aggression.

This meeting, this Council and the tragedy of Palestine are clear proof that this principle — the sovereign equality of all its Members — is not true. What the Charter says is not true. Members in this Organization are not equal. I will not speak about my country, which is one of the 193 Members, but I shall refer to the statement on behalf of the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries, whereby 120 countries demand that the Council stop the invasion into Gaza and put an end to the repeated Israeli military attacks against the Palestinian people. Many statements have been made on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, which brings together more than two thirds of the membership of the Organization, calling for an end to the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territory.

We are not equal, as the Charter claims, because only one of the five privileged members with the right to veto can paralyse any initiative for action. A single member has more power than two thirds of the Members of the United Nations. That same permanent member with the right to veto, which has justified those crimes with the “right to self-defense” formula, is complicit through action and inaction for those atrocities. Of course, I am referring to the United States, the same Member State that has hindered Palestine’s recognition as a full member of the Organization.

However, I do not believe that those considerations, which are discussed in the grey corridors of international diplomacy, went through the minds of any of the eight members of the Abu Jarad family when an Israeli missile struck their house in northern Gaza on 14 July, killing all of them, including five children aged 15, 13, 12 and 3 years and 6 months.

While we will never forget the atrocities the Nazis committed against the Jewish people, we also cannot remain silent in the face of these tragic events. It appears that in this story Goliath uses attack planes and missile launchers, while David wears a scarf.

In that context, I want to devote the four minutes that I have to the Palestinian people and to the Council. I apologize to the Palestinian people, through their representative and with our limited ability to reach them, from the bottom of our souls as a human beings. I want to apologize for the more than 600 Palestinians — men, women, the elderly and girls and boys — who lost their lives in the past few days. The international community, of which we are part, has failed them. We are failing them.

I want to apologize for the more than 3,500 Palestinian men, women, elderly and children who have been wounded and may be permanently disabled as a result of the Israeli aggression. The international community is failing them.

I apologize for the nearly 100 schools and the 18 medical facilities destroyed by the Israeli attack. The international community is failing them.

I apologize for the 72,000 children who will require specialized psychological counselling after these horrendous attacks. The international community is failing them.

I want to apologize for the 1,500 homes that have been totally or partially destroyed by the occupying Power. The international community is failing them.

I want to apologize for 6,000 Palestinians detained by the occupying Power. The international community is failing them.

I want to apologize for the illegal settlements. I want to apologize for the inhumane wall being built to isolate them. The international community is failing them.

I now want to address the Council — its 15 members and the 5 that have a privilege that makes us unequal, the right to veto — but above all the Government of the United States. We well know that what the world is witnessing today is the result of the illegal and illegitimate Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory. We have lost our innocence. We know that many of the diplomatic efforts only give more time to Israel to pursue its military objectives.

The Council has the power to stop that, and it does not do it. It does not impose sanctions against Israel. There will be no decisions taken to stop tose atrocities. As President Evo Morales has said, we must put an end to that genocide and prosecute those responsible. Bolivia demands in the strongest terms that the Council put an end to the Israeli military aggression against Palestine. We call upon them to shoulder their responsibility and put an end to the building of the wall. We demand that an end be put to illegal settlements. We demand that Palestinian prisoners be freed. We demand compliance with the Geneva Conventions, human rights conventions and the Rome Statute. We call for a sanctions regime against Israel. We want aggression and the occupation to end. The Palestinians must have a free, sovereign and independent State.

I will conclude this statement by recalling the words of Nelson Mandela, that great revolutionary who took no half-measures but fought for the freedom of peoples. He said: “We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians”.

Rasmea Odeh prosecution moves to suppress claims of innocence and torture allegations

In a recent court filing made in the federal prosecution of Palestinian-American activist Rasmea Odeh on immigration fraud charges, US Attorneys are pushing for the court to declare inadmissible assertions by Odeh’s defense team that she was innocent of the crime Israel convicted her of in addition to accounts of her torture at the hands of Israeli interrogators. The motion argues that since the indictment specifically accuses her of lying about being convicted and sentenced by Israeli authorities for acts of terrorism, claims about her actual innocence and the conditions of her interrogations are “irrelevant.”

As Charlotte Kates wrote about the experiences of Rasmea Odeh in Jacobin, 17 January 2014:

In 1969, Israeli military forces arrested Odeh herself in Ramallah. She and her sister Aisha were taken to Moskobiyeh detention center, where they were subject to torture and sexual assault. Odeh has recounted her experiences under Israeli captivity:

The first time they stripped me and threw me on the floor, the room was full of men — civilians and soldiers. They laughed at my nakedness and kicked me, beat me with sticks, pinched me all over, especially on the breasts; my body was covered with bruises. Then they got a wooden stick, not a smooth one, and pushed it into me to break the hymen. They brought my father and fiancé to see me. I lost consciousness and when I woke I was in another room, lying on the floor with a blanket over my legs but my body still naked.

Odeh was charged with membership in the PFLP, and with organizing two Palestinian military operations on behalf of the Front. Like 99.74 percent of Palestinians facing Israeli military courts, she was convicted, and sentenced to life in prison. Rasmea and Aisha’s home was destroyed by occupation authorities after this verdict.

Even more outrageous is the filing‘s claim that:

Even if the evidence is relevant, it nevertheless should be excluded under Federal Rule of Evidence 403, because any probative value would be significantly outweighed by the risk of misleading the jury, confusing the issues, and wasting time. Permitting evidence regarding factual guilt or innocence of the foreign charges would lead to a trial about a trial which took place 45 years ago, under very different procedural rules and in a foreign language. Similarly, claims of torture, whether true or not, have no direct application to the offense charged here. Rather, such evidence would suggest to a jury that it render its verdict based on whether it believed defendant had been mistreated or tortured overseas, instead of whether she violated United States immigration law here.

This argument is later expanded upon in an attached brief in support of the government’s motion (PDF page 14, brief page 10):

Even if such evidence were relevant, it nevertheless should be excluded at trial under Fed. R. Evid. 403. To begin with, the mere fact of imprisonment in a country in which innocents are imprisoned without due process of law[3] does not mean that everyone imprisoned or even tortured there was in fact innocent. For instance, even in a lawless totalitarian state such as the Soviet Union, political prisoners were not the only ones in the Gulag; actual criminals also were inmates. (See U.S. National Park Service Gulag Factsheet, Thus, whether or not defendant was “tortured” would not, by itself, make actual guilt or innocence “more or less probable than it would be without the evidence.”
[Footnote 3] As previously noted, the nation in which defendant was convicted, Israel, does not fall in that category.

So we have it asserted here that:

  1. Soviet Gulags had genuinely guilty people in them; and
  2. Being tortured does not make one more or less likely to be innocent.

The first statement is technically true (but problematic in the context of a US federal court filing), the second statement is incredibly misleading (and incredibly problematic in any legal system in the world). The assertion being made by Odeh is that she confessed to Israeli interrogators and was ultimately convicted because of she was tortured by the Israelis. I’m fairly certain most nations considered liberal democracies have laws and legal precedents explicitly prohibiting the use of evidence obtained through torture even if such stipulations aren’t always followed..

Still, good job on pointing out that Israel doesn’t qualify as a “lawless totalitarian state” in a footnote.

On an additional note, I don’t think federal prosecutors would go through all the trouble of trying someone accused of lying on immigration papers about being convicted by a government the US is on less friendly terms with. Remember that anti-Castro militant Luis Posada Carriles was ultimately acquitted because jurors were allowed to determine for themselves whether or not they thought he was guilty of terrorism against Cuba and had nothing to do with claims made by Cuba or Venezuela.

Released documents show thinking behind censorship by US occupation in Iraq

During the first months of the US occupation of Iraq, it was occasionally reported that the US occupation authorities had given itself the right to ban media outlets and seize newspapers it accused of inciting violence against US troops and of promoting the Iraqi Baath Party. According to Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) Order 14, signed by CPA leader L. Paul Bremer on 10 June 2003:

Media organizations are prohibited from broadcasting or publishing original, re-broadcast, re-printed or syndicated material that:

a) incites violence against any individual or group, including racial, ethnic or religious groups and women;
b) incites civil disorder, rioting or damage to property;
c) incites violence against Coalition Forces or CPA personnel;
d) advocates alterations to Iraq’s borders by violent means;
e) advocates the return to power fo the Iraqi Ba’ath Party or makes statements that purport to be on behalf of the Iraqi Ba’ath Party.

A newly released PDF (mirrored here) posted on the Defense Department’s FOI site alongside other documents relating to the US occupation of Iraq reveals the US media strategy for Iraq. There are a couple of pages I found to be particularly interesting. They relate to the March 2004 closing of the Shia news weekly Al Hawza, which was associated with the nationalist, anti-US cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

On pages 68 and 69 of the PDF, there is a “draft letter” by Bremer addressed to Al Hawza‘s chairman:

This action is based upon my determination that Al-Hawzah has printed numerous articles that have falsely claimed wrongdoing by the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) and Coalition Forces and that the repeated nature of these false articles demonstrates intent to cause public unrest and to incite violence against Coalition Forces and CPA personnel in violation of CPA Order Number 14, as evidenced by the facts set forth below.

On February 26, in an article on “Terrorist Operations in Iraq that Targeted Iraqi Army Volunteer Centers,” Al-Hawzah claimed that the February 10 explosion in Al-Iskandariyah was triggered by a missile “launched by an Apache helicopter” and not by a car bomb, “as the US Forces announced.” In fact, the report is false; no U.S. forces attacked the building.

In the same issue, an article entitled “Bremer in the Footsteps of Saddam” stated that the Coalition is “pursuing a policy of starving the Iraqi people to make them preoccupied with procuring their daily bread” so that they do not have “the chance to demand their political and individual freedoms.” Again, this report is false. The Coalition has undertaken unprecedented efforts to feed and care for the people of Iraq, restore and improve the country’s infrastructure, and lay a foundation of political, economic, and individual freedom hitherto only dreamt about in Iraq.

Al-Hawzah’s false articles about the CPA and Coalition Forces are not of recent origin. As long ago as August 7, 2003, the paper charged that the U.S. “did not come just to overthrow Saddam or take oil,” but also “to destroy the whole cultural, moral, and humanitarian structure of the Iraqi people’s civilization.” Again, on August 21 of last year, Al-Hawzah decried a Coalition incursion into Baghdad’s Al-Sadr City, charging: “The U.S. administration has not ceased fighting Islam and its symbols wherever they may be. Last Wednesday’s incident has proven its insistence on its despicable crimes.” Again, the claims are totally baseless.

Bremer’s defense of the CPA’s reconstruction efforts is rather hilarious considering all of the accounts of corruption and malfeasance in mainstream Western publications and the numerous reports of the US government’s own Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction. The only factually incorrect claim made by Al-Hawzah that Bremer objects to is its allegation that the 10 Feburary 2004 explosion was caused by US forces. Bremer’s other examples of purported falsehoods are standard anti-imperialist claims that appear to be backed up by the US’ documented efforts to forcibly liberalize Iraq’s economy and open up its oil fields to foreign (mainly Western) companies and investors.

On page 15 of the PDF there are two emails from US diplomat Richard Jones that show his thinking on the matter.

Here is one sent on 9 March 2004:

This rag belongs to Muqtada; I’m tempted to say we should go for stronger measures, but I hope that by the end of 30 days we’ll have taken other measures against him anyway. What do you think?

Here is another sent on 10 March 2004:

I’m totally convinced we should hit them as hard as we can. But the stress is on the “we.” I think we should simply shut them down ourselves rather than wait for the GC [Iraqi Governing Council] which may be hesitant to appear so blatantly and publicly on our side. It’ll just make them seem more like our lackeys and open them to attack from other similarly scurrilous newspapers. Plus, us moving against MAS’ paper will send a good strong signal that we may move more aggressively against him …