The YPG, FSA, US collaboration and “double standards”

(Cross-posted from here)

An increasingly popular point being made on the part of pro-FSA Tweeters is that anti-imperialists are hypocrites for embracing the YPG while maligning the FSA, despite the fact that both forces collaborate and receive aid from US forces in the region. This argument is intellectually dishonest for the following two reasons:

1.) Anti-imperialist commenters have expressed cynicism about the US’ assistance to the YPG by pointing out that it is only being done to co-opt the Syrian Kurds into the anti-Assad cause [1]. Indeed, Reuters reported a year ago that before granting them aid to fight ISIS the Western powers sought to “clarify [the Syrian Kurds’] relationship to President Bashar al-Assad” [2]. It is also perfectly reasonable to assume that the conditions attached to Western help would further compromise the PYD’s stated commitment to a progressive societal structure. One can’t help but be reminded of the US intervention in Haiti in the 1990s, in which the US military “restored” to power the progressive, democratically elected president Jean-Bertrand Aristide on the condition he abide by certain neo-liberal reforms and allow rightist thugs to be integrated into the country’s security forces [3]. It should be remembered that the US was behind much of Haiti’s right-wing unrest [4] and exploited the situation to get more progressive elements in line. There is a clear precedent for creating a proxy force and then using it to extract concessions while claiming to oppose said proxy force.

2.) The FSA is represented abroad by liberal and neoconservative expats with deep connections to both the “soft power” USAID/NED/NGO complex and the “hard power” Western defense and intelligence establishment [5]. In Syria itself, it is largely composed of reactionary Islamists who receive massive amounts of aid from the US, the Gulf States and Turkey [6]. While there are undoubtedly some activists and even armed rebels fighting Assad’s forces with noble goals in mind, it is increasingly difficult to find progressive elements at the forefront of the actual fighting. In addition to being reactionary, the FSA’s end goal of regime change in Syria serves US (and Israeli) goals by removing a relatively independent, militarily strong Arab government from power [7].

TL;DR: The US collaborates with the YPG because it hopes to co-opt it against Assad and possibly water down its progressive ideology. The US collaborates with the FSA because it is a somewhat reliable proxy army against a counter-hegemonic regime. Thus, the YPG can be supported by anti-imperialists in so far as it remains independent from US influence and designs while the FSA serves US power through-and-through.


[1] As’ad AbuKhalil, “Who will win in Kobane (`Ayn Al-`Arab)?” [m], 19 October 2014.

[2] Tom Perry, “West widens contacts with Syria’s Kurds but suspicion remains” [m], Reuters, 8 September 2014.

[3] For US coercion of Aristide into accepting neo-liberal adjustments see: William Blum, “Haiti, 1986-1994: Who will rid me of this turbulent priest?” [m] in Killing Hope, 2004. For US collaboration with right-wing paramilitaries while occupying Haiti see: Allan Nairn, “Haiti under the gun: How US Intelligence has been excercising crowd control,” Nation, 8 Jan 1996. Also recommended is this entire Twitter thread I made.

[4] Blum, “Haiti, 1986-1994.” Tim Weiner, “Key Haiti leaders said to have been in the C.I.A.’s pay” [m], New York Times, 1 November 1993. Allan Nairn, “Occupation Haiti: The eagle is landing,” Nation, 3 Oct 1994. Allan Nairn, “Our man in FRAPH: Behind Haiti’s paramilitaries,” Nation, 24 Oct 1994.

[5] Charlie Skelton, “The Syrian opposition: who’s doing the talking?” [m], Guardian, 12 July 2012.

[6] David Mizner, “Don’t blame Islam: Al-Qaeda and ISIS are products of US and Saudi imperialism” [m], Jacobin, 30 January 2005.

[7] An early draft of a Pentagon planning document in the early 1990s spilled the beans on the US’ desire to “maintain the mechanisms for deterring potential competitors from even aspiring to a larger regional or global role,” quoted in: Patrick Tyler, “U.S. strategy plan calls for insuring no rivals develop” [m], New York Times, 8 March 2015. Recently, Israeli figures have been much more open in expressing the benefits of an Assad-free Middle East: Gilad Sharon, “Who needs Bashar Assad?” [m], YNet News, 12 May 2015. For evidence that Israel desires the Balkanization of its surrounding Arab states: Israel Shahak, The Zionist Plan for the Middle East [m], Association of Arab-American University Graduates, 1982.

Charles Krauthammer and the bravery of pro-war punditry


Charles Krauthammer, 29 Jan. 2015:

On the 70th anniversary of Auschwitz, mourning dead Jews is easy. And, forgive me, cheap. Want to truly honor the dead? Show solidarity with the living — Israel and its 6 million Jews. Make “never again” more than an empty phrase. It took Nazi Germany seven years to kill 6 million Jews. It would take a nuclear Iran one day.

Excuse me Charles, but how exactly is it a sign of bravery to endorse the bombing and continued economic strangulation of the Iranian people from your perch at the Washington Post? Could someone please explain to me why–if simply “mourning dead Jews is easy”–is it that warmongering and shilling on behalf of Zionist interests from American soil is somehow a difficult task?

I’m getting awfully tired of right-wing pundits asserting themselves to be heroic warriors for their verbal support of US and Israeli militarism. It is too often that we hear appeals to masculinity and “manliness” in supporting imperialist war crimes and aggression. Besides, where is the personal sacrifice and bravery in tweeting/blogging/writing/broadcasting “bomb Iran” from the comfort of the First World?

In addition to chiding Americans for the ease with which they mourn “dead Jews,” Krauthammer asserts that supporting Israeli expansionism and demonizing Iranians is a great way to show “solidarity” with the Jewish people. This is based on a false reading of Iranian and Palestinian intentions and a complete neglect of the factual circumstances of their historic grievances against Israel and the US. There is no justice in supporting Israel’s ongoing confiscation of the West Bank from the Palestinians as a means of expressing compensation for the Holocaust. There also is no just reason for punishing the Iranian nation, which has a history of non-aggression, for its pursuit of the same nuclear capabilities Israel now has.

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 2009:

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.