Aug 20, 2014

Chomsky on Israel's Gaza assault - 'hideous atrocity, sadistic, murderous': video interview

In this edited Democracy Now interview Noam Chomsky graphically describes the vicious cycle of violence Israel visits time and again on Gaza... with particular reference to the most recent Israeli military assault dubbed Operation Protective Edge.

It's a hideous atrocity, sadistic, vicious, murderous - totally without any credible pretext. It's another one of the periodic Israeli exercises in what they delicately call "mowing the lawn." That means shooting fish in the pond to make sure the animals stay quiet in the cage you have constructed for them. After which you go to a period of what's called ceasefire which means that Hamas observes the ceasefire as Israel concedes, while Israel continues to violate it. Then it's broken by an Israel escalation... Hamas reaction... then you have a period of mowing the lawn. This one is in many ways more sadistic and vicious even than the earlier ones. 

Chomsky goes on to talk about Israeli motivations behind the periodic "mowing of the lawn" - in particular Israel's ruthless attempts to keep Gaza separate from the West Bank. In this regard he alludes to the threat posed by the unity deal brokered between Hamas and the Fatah controlled Palestinian Authority.

Noam Chomsky is Institute Professor Emiritus at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a world-renowned political dissident, linguist and author. He co-authored Gaza in Crisis: Reflections on Israel's War Against the Palestinians with Israeli scholar Ilan Pappé.

Aug 14, 2014

U.S. analysts on MH17 - 'Ukrainian forces to blame': Ron Paul - Obama 'hiding truth'

Damage to fuselage of downed Malaysian Airline MH17

Following the downing of Malaysian Airlines MH-17, anti-Russian rhetoric was hard to miss on MSM. The rhetoric has toned down of late. The Obama administration has also been noticeably quieter on the subject of MH-17.

For former rep Ron Paul the ratcheting down of the volume in itself raises questions, in particular about what the Obama administration has come to know about the downing of the airliner. Ron Paul has access to intelligence information and Washington sources that don't necessarily buy into the administration line. Paul believes the Obama administration is 'likely hiding the truth' on the downing of MH-17.


The U.S. government has grown strangely quiet on the accusation that it was Russia or her allies that brought down the Malaysian airliner with a buck anti-aircraft missile.

The little that we have heard from U.S. intelligence is that it has no evidence that Russia was involved. Yet the war propaganda was successful in convincing the American public that it was all Russia’s fault. It’s hard to believe that the U.S., with all of its spy satellites available for monitoring everything in Ukraine that precise proof of who did what and when is not available.

When evidence contradicts our government’s accusations, the evidence is never revealed to the public—for national security reasons, of course. Some independent sources claim that the crash site revealed evidence that bullet holes may have come from a fighter jet. If true, it would implicate western Ukraine.

A number of trails point in the direction of Ukrainian involvement. Despite repeated claims that Russia was responsible for supplying self-defence forces in Eastern Ukraine with a Buk anti-aircraft missile system, the Obama administration has failed to offer concrete proof to back up the claim. Social media leaks, grainy YouTube videos, anecdotal claims and other so-called "evidence" - some of which has serious discrepancies such as time/date inconsistencies - doesn't rise to the level of proof. Given America's vaunted surveillance and satellite capabilities you have to ask why nothing substantial has been forthcoming from the administration.

In support of its MH-17 version the administration released a few satellite images that have been questioned by Russia on the grounds that they show evidence of altered time-stamps. Russian officials claim that the weather conditions in the satellite images doesn't correspond with the weather on the day of the crash. They believe the images supplied were actually taken in the days following the crash. The U.S. has declined to release additional material on the grounds that it might compromise its intelligence-gathering operations.

The MH-17 disaster has attracted its share of conspiracy theories that lose sight of key facts in an effort to push an agenda. The reporting of respected investigative journalist Robert Parry has helped to keep it real. In an August 3 report entitled “Flight 17 Shoot-Down Scenario Shifts” Parry points to the lack of evidence to back up U.S. claims of Russian involvement:

Despite U.S. spy satellites positioned over eastern Ukraine, U.S. intelligence agencies have released no images of a Buk system being transferred by Russians to rebel control, shipped into Ukraine, deployed into firing position and then being taken back to Russia. Though the Obama administration has released other images of Ukraine taken by U.S. spy satellites, the absence of any photos of a rebel-controlled Buk missile battery has been the dog not barking in the strident case that Official Washington has made in blaming the rebels and Russia for the July 17 shoot-down that killed 298 people.

Given the size of these missile batteries – containing four 16-foot-long missiles – the absence of this evidence prompted caution among U.S. intelligence analysts even as senior U.S. officials and the U.S. mainstream media rushed to judgment blaming the rebels and Russians.

Parry cites U.S. intelligence analysts who "... have concluded that the rebels and Russia were likely not at fault and that it appears Ukrainian government forces were to blame [for the downing of MH-17]."

He also mentions independent analyses of the crash site that points to the likelihood of an air-to-air attack rather than a missile attack from the ground. Another working hypothesis of U.S. intelligence analysts is that "a Ukrainian military Buk battery and the jetfighters may have been operating in collusion..."

CBC's Susan Ormiston interviewed one of the first international monitors to arrive at the MH-17 crash site - a Ukrainian-Canadian named Michael Bociurkiw. Bociurkiw told Ormiston that he saw two or three sections of the plane that were "pockmarked." He said "it almost looks like machine gun fire... very very strong machine gun fire." Bociurkiw said that he saw no evidence that the plane had been hit by a missile. Link here for the video clip that focuses on key comments made by Bociurkiw during the sit-down with Ormiston.

Robert Parry importantly notes that Bociurkiw’s testimony is “as close to virgin, untouched evidence and testimony as we’ll ever get. Unlike a black-box interpretation-analysis long afterward by the Russian, British or Ukrainian governments, each of which has a horse in this race, this testimony from Bociurkiw is raw, independent and comes from one of the two earliest witnesses to the physical evidence... That’s powerfully authoritative testimony. Bociurkiw arrived there fast because he negotiated with the locals for the rest of the OSCE team, who were organising to come later.”

A number of analysts have noted that the bullet-like holes in the side of the cockpit are consistent with cannon rounds from an air-to-air attack. The following images from the crash site show what looks like the effects of machine-gun fire.

Machine gun-like holes in cockpit of MH17

Bullet holes in fuselage on MH17

In the illustration below a damaged area on the exterior of the cockpit is overlaid on an image of the plane. A number of pundits who support the air-to-air attack thesis point to this damage as evidence that the MH-17 pilots were deliberately targeted.

Damage to a section of MH17 cockpit

The Russians claim that they tracked an Su-25 fighter jet flying in close proximity to MH-17. There is also eye witness testimony on the ground that places Ukrainian fighter jets in the vicinity of MH-17 on July 17. A correspondent with the BBC's Russian service, Olga Ivshina, spoke with a number of local eye-witnesses who said they saw military aircraft overhead in the proximity of MH-17 before the crash occurred. The statements volunteered by the women Ivshina spoke with come across as entirely spontaneous and credible. They simply described what they saw with their own eyes.

Assuming that it was in fact an Su-25 as claimed and not some other variety of jet fighter - the Su-25 would be hard pushed to achieve its maximum flight ceiling of 10,000 meters cited in stats found here and here. But there is no reason to believe that if a fighter jet (or jets) was involved it in fact needed to achieve an altitude equal to that of MH-17 in order to target the Boeing with R-60 missiles or other fire. Pundits who argue that the Su-25 would have had difficulty 'chasing down' the Boeing are correct. What is feasible however is an ambush because obviously Kiev was in possession of the flight path of MH-17... leading some to speculate that MH-17 may have been directed into a trap.

Who would stand to gain from this appalling shoot-down of a civilian airliner? Certainly not the Russians or the self-defence militias in Eastern Ukraine. It would have been a lunatic move for them to target MH-17 for all of the obvious reasons. There have been accusations that they may have targeted the plane by accident. Militia spokespersons have said they didn't have the type of sophisticated missile system required to target a plane flying at that altitude. On the other hand the Ukrainian government and/or forces allied to it stood to gain big time by successfully pinning the downing of a civilian airliner on the anti-Kiev militias, and by extension on Russia - not least in the propaganda war. Outside of this scenario there is the possibility of a mistake of some sort on the part of Kiev forces. Given the incompetence that has been exhibited by the Ukrainian military, even the Putin plane theory doesn't seem beyond the realm of possibility.

Kiev's cover-ups, its evidence destruction and outright lies raises suspicions. If it had no fighter jets in the area as it claims why doesn't it release ATC radar data to confirm that? Also it denies having Buk missile units on the edge of self-defence militia territory when Russian satellite images confirm that it did. Why would it move these batteries to this location when the self-defence forces they are fighting in Eastern Ukraine aren't even in possession of aircraft?

In his report Robert Parry says that Ukraine appears to be in the business of destroying evidence at the crash site:

And as for who’s been responsible for destroying evidence of the Flight 17 shoot-down, an assault by the Ukrainian military on the area where the plane crashed not only delayed access by international investigators but appears to have touched off a fire that consumed plane debris that could have helped identify the reasons for the disaster.

On Saturday, the last paragraph of a New York Times story by Andrew E. Kramer reported that “the fighting ignited a fire in a wheat field that burned over fuselage fragments, including one that was potentially relevant to the crash investigation because it had what appeared to be shrapnel holes.” The shrapnel holes have been cited by independent analysts as possible evidence of an attack by Ukrainian jetfighters.

Once the investigation wraps up, what are the chances of getting close to the truth of what happened to MH-17? Definitely a long shot when there are parties with versions to safeguard and much to lose. Official findings aside, over time the truth has a tendency to prevail. Already over the past few weeks, early media-driven "certainty" about Russian culpability has lost some of its traction as new details emerge and analysts come forward with findings that call the U.S. administration's version into question.

Aug 10, 2014

Global Day of Rage calls for sanctions against Israel - photos: Barnaby Raine speech - "Jewish Bloc Against Zionism"

Global protests calling for sanctions against Israel

August 9 saw Day of Rage demos around the world protesting Israeli actions in Gaza and calling for sanctions. Behind the fold I've posted a selection of photos.

I've also posted a video from the London Day of Rage featuring a speech by a nineteen-year-old British activist named Barnaby Raine who has been involved in organizing a "Jewish Bloc against Zionism." His impassioned appeal underscores the importance of solidarity of all people in the face of the inhumanity of Israeli occupation and aggression.

Click "read more" for videos and photos.

Aug 5, 2014

Knesset deputy speaker Moshe Feiglin calls for 'concentration' of Gazans... 'conquest of Gaza strip'

Moshe Feiglin on Gaza

Moshe Feiglin - deputy speaker of the Knesset and a member of Netanyahu's ruling Likud Party - published a statement on his Facebook page on August 1 calling for the "conquest of the entire Gaza Strip, and annihilation of all fighting forces and their supporters." He has also proposed what amounts to concentration camps on the Sinai border.

Feiglin's Facebook page links from his official page on the Knesset website. As of the date of the screenshot below, his incendiary Facebook post had received over 8,000 likes and been shared over two thousand times.

Moshe Feiglins post on Facebook

His plan proposes stripping populated areas in Gaza of the most basic amenities - disconnecting water and electricity. After the population is "concentrated" in "tent encampments" he advocates formerly populated areas 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.”

He further proposes that the Israeli army must “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.”

In attempting to justify what really amounts to an incitement to genocide as defined by the Genocide Convention, Feiglin said "This is our country - our country exclusively - including Gaza."

Electronic Intifada's Ali Abunimah denounced Feiglin's "abominable plan" in a recent post:

His [Feiglin's] detailed plan, which calls for the use of concentration camps, amounts to direct and public incitement to genocide – a punishable crime under the Genocide Convention.

Citizens and public authorities around the world should attempt to have Feiglin arrested and prosecuted under the Genocide Convention for his statements, should he set foot in their territories.

Abunimah underscores his call with a concise definition of genocide as laid out in the Genocide Convention. For further details of Feiglin's plan link here.

It isn't the first time Feiglin has proposed the cleansing of Palestinians. Last year he called for the annexation of part of the West Bank and proposed that the state of Israel should pay Palestinian families to leave.

Abunimah notes that genocidal statements have also been made by a Knesset colleague of Feiglin - Ayelet Shaked - who published a Facebook screed labeling the entire Palestinian population "the enemy" and justifying its destruction - including "the elderly, its women, its cities and villages, its property and its infrastructure." The offspring of Palestinian mothers were characterized as "little snakes."

Such statements reek of psychopathy and racism but they are by no means unusual among hardline Israeli Zionists. In 2012, Gilad Sharon - son of former Israeli PM Ariel Sharon - made a case for "flattening Gaza" by invoking the nuking of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In his words: "We need to flatten entire neighborhoods in Gaza. Flatten all of Gaza. The Americans didn’t stop with Hiroshima – the Japanese weren’t surrendering fast enough, so they hit Nagasaki, too."

Aug 1, 2014

The West's dangerous game: anti-Russia media hype and the MH-17 blame game

Putin demonized by western media

Obama continued with the blame game this week as a raft of new sanctions were introduced against Russia. In remarks directed at Moscow, he said that the 'destabilization of a sovereign country [Ukraine] cannot be accepted in 21st century Europe.'

Obama must have a short and highly selective memory. It wasn't Russia that destabilized Ukraine. The US and its EU allies played a lead role in the ousting of the democratically elected government of Victor Yanukovych earlier in the year. That event was the catalyst for the conflict that followed... yet another example of Washington backed "regime change" that has triggered war and ethnic strife. The crisis is now escalating into an increasingly risky face-off with Russia. Some of the ramifications of this scenario are discussed in the article Why is Washington Risking War with Russia posted on The Nation website - here.

Western media has gone the extra mile in demonizing Russia following the MH-17 disaster even though there isn't a shred of hard proof that definitively establishes who was behind the downing of the airliner. In some quarters anti-Putin sentiment has risen to such a pitch that judgments about the MH-17 disaster are colored almost exclusively by the blame game. Not surprisingly this looks to many Russians like rampant prejudice toward their nation - an impression added to by the increased volume of the propaganda war.

Western media has gone into overdrive. Der Spiegel, Süddeutsche Zeitung, Die Zeit in Germany - Time magazine, the Economist and other publications - have run stories that stir the pot of anti-Russian sentiment along with personal attacks on Vladimir Putin. An edition of the Globe and Mail here in Canada had a black and white ink drawing of Putin on its front page with an outline of a plane for the mouth, accompanied with the slogan "public enemy."

The MH-17 tragedy has been seized upon and exploited for political ends in what could turn out to be a very dangerous game indeed - one that Obama, Harper and their EU allies appear determined to play. It could turn out to be a high stakes confrontation. Russia is in possession of the second largest stockpile of nuclear weapons on the planet. It is a conflict that could escalate - by design or by accident - into a broader war with serious implications for the world.

Calculations by some in the west that sanctions and the threat of military action might destabilize Russia and lead to the overthrow of Putin is rather like playing with fire and believing you won't get burned. Putin's popularity in Russia has never been higher. According to this Gallup poll from July 18 Putin's job approval rating was a high 83%. Some contend that in addition to the boost in his popularity following Crimea, his high poll numbers derive in part from the demonizing of Russia by the west. As a recent Reuters article notes, even pro-western critics amongst Russia's "intelligentsia and professionals" back Putin's contention that it is the U.S. - not the Kremlin - that has been destabilizing Ukraine.

Over and above the fall-out following the downing of MH-17, there is the larger issue of the conflict in Ukraine that made the air disaster possible in the first place. US/EU interference in Ukraine's internal affairs and the roiling conflict in the east of the country has led to extensive loss of civilian life, the destruction of infrastructure, a growing army of refugees and more recently the tragic deaths of foreign nationals. These tragedies would never have occurred if not for the American-backed "regime change" in Kiev earlier in the year and the regional conflicts that erupted in its wake... events in which Washington and its EU partners played a key role.