Without Abu Alaa, the world would not have seen the peace negotiations which later became known as the Oslo process.
Qurei, who soon afterwards became Prime Minister, had flown in complete secrecy to Norway to conduct the negotiations that eventually led to the peace accord which was signed on the White House lawn in 1993.
Today, 25 years later, Palestinians and Israelis are further away from peace than at any time since. No Palestinian state is on the horizon, but Abu Alaa, drawing on long lines of history back to the Crusades, offers advice to the Israelis.
“I was born here in Abu Dis, and I used to walk into Jerusalem every day to go to school. My family were farmers; we used to have land all the way down to the Dead Sea, including where the settlement of Maale Adumim is today.” One day, he promises, the wall will be dismantled.
The Oslo peace process collapsed with the sudden assassination of Yitzhak Rabin by an Israeli fundamentalist in 1995.
Turkey-backed rebel forces declare victory over terrorists in Afrin
Free Syrian Army turns to Turkey for support in war against Assad
Syrians Around the World Commemorate 7th Anniversary of Syrian Revolution
syria, armed opposition, backed by 'the friends of israel'
According to reports, units of the so-called Free Syrian Army (FSA), the Turkish-backed rebel organisation that fights both the Syrian government and Kurdish militias alike, has went on a rampage of plundering in recently conquered areas of Afrin.
The FSA reportedly has started looting all across the city of Afrin after asserting full control over the city on Sunday, plundering civilian residences belonging to people who fled from the violence.
Reports also have it that different groups within the FSA have violently clashed with one another, either over disapproval of the plundering or due to disagreements on how the spoils of plunder should be divided amongst the rebel forces.
The FSA was one of the earliers Syrian rebel organisations, founded in 2011, but quickly lost relevance in the ensuing conflict. It subsequently all but disappeared to the background until 2016, when the FSA was chosen as Turkey’s strategical ally in the Euphrates Shield campaign, and later in the Turkish invasion of the Afrin district.
Turkish-backed Syrian Arab fighters loot shops after seizing control of the northwestern Syrian city of Afrin from the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) on March 18, 2018. (AFP photo Bulent Kilic)
The statue of Kawa the Blacksmith, a figure from Kurdish and Persian mythology, was toppled by the rebels. (Bulent Kilic photo)
The Kurd’s struggle against Turkey has also had another major impact — diverting them from the US-backed fight to wipe out the remaining pockets of the Islamic State group in Syria.
The Kurds have been the mainstay of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) alliance that has battled against jihadist with the support of a US-led coalition. Earlier this month the SDF said 1,700 of its fighters had been redeployed to fight the Turkish-led onslaught against Afrin.
While the Kurds and the Turks have been the main protagonists in the tussle for Afrin, its loss will also dent Syria’s President Bashar Assad.
The Syrian regime fiercely opposed the Turkish incursion and gave the green light for pro-government fighters to head to front line to try to turn back the advance.
Ankara’s gain comes just as Assad and his Russian-backed forces are in the ascendancy elsewhere in the country — reasserting their authority on other areas beyond their control.
Now the Turkish seizure of Afrin appears to place a key strategic region which the regime was hoping to regain firmly out of its grasp. “Every meter of Syria that Turkish troops and their Syrian rebel proxies march on is now placed well beyond the reach of Damascus,” analyst Heras said.
Kaveh the Blacksmith, also known as the Blacksmith of Isfahan, is a mythical figure in the Iranian mythology who leads a popular uprising against a ruthless foreign ruler, Zahāk (Aži Dahāk). His story is narrated in the Shahnameh, the national epic of Iran, by the 10th-century Persian poet Ferdowsi.
Kāveh was, according to ancient legends, a blacksmith who launched a national uprising against the evil foreign tyrant Zahāk, after losing two of his children to serpents of Zahāk. Kāveh expelled the foreigners and re-established the rule of Iranians.
Kāveh is the most famous of Persian mythological characters in resistance against despotic foreign rule in Iran. As a symbol of resistance and unity, he raised his leather apron on a spear, known as the Derafsh Kaviani. (Wikipedia info)
Mohammed bin Salman blamed the social problems and shift towards conservatism in Saudi Arabia on the Islamic Revolution in Iran.
"We were just normal people developing like any other country in the world until the events of 1979," he said.
Asked about human rights violations in the kingdom, he said Saudi Arabia "believes in many of the principles of human rights". "In fact, we believe in the notion of human rights, but ultimately Saudi standards are not the same as American standards. I don't want to say that we don't have shortcomings. We certainly do. But naturally, we are working to mend these shortcomings."
Bin Salman once again hit out against Iran, dismissing claims the two countries are rivals. "Iran is not a rival to Saudi Arabia," he said.
"Its army is not among the top five armies in the Muslim world. The Saudi economy is larger than the Iranian economy. Iran is far from being equal to Saudi Arabia," he added.
Bin Salman also compared Iran's Ayatollah Khameini to Adolf Hitler, a remark he has made in the past.
"He wants to create his own project in the Middle East, very much like Hitler, who wanted to expand at the time. Many countries around the world and in Europe did not realise how dangerous Hitler was until what happened, happened. I don't want to see the same events happening in the Middle East," bin Salman said.
He added that while Saudi Arabia does not want to acquire nuclear weapons, "if Iran developed a nuclear bomb, we will follow suit as soon as possible".
Iran responded to bin Salman's comments in advance of the interview's airing, saying the Saudi leader was a "delusional naive person".
"He has no idea of politics apart from bitter talk that emanates from a lack of foresight ... His remarks do not deserve a response," Bahram Qasemi, Iran's foreign ministry spokesman, was quoted as saying by the country's state TV.
Just recently The Economist depicted the Russian president Putin as a dangerous octopus.
The idea was not original at all. Russia has been the favored target of this denigrating comparison for more than a century.
The archive description of the NAZI-poster notes: "In early 1935, the Nazis unleashed an anti-Bolshevik campaign which it initiated with a series of traveling exhibits on the dangers of world Communism.
This poster comes from the exhibit in Karlsruhe, the capital city of the German state of Baden. But its imagery is found in almost all of the posters of this exhibit.
Here Bolshevism is represented as a huge red spider, whose head is the familiar grinning skull topped with the red star. Sitting in the Soviet Union, the legs of the spider can still reach out to threaten the entire world."
One wonders how much the Economist, the Guardian and other anti-Russian outlets, writers and cartoon artists get from the $160 million fund the Obama administration budgeted to "counter an uptick in Russian propaganda"...
The enormous amount of money from the dozens of officials and unofficial slush funds surely creates a lot of the anti-Russian noise. But for all the taxpayer money spent on the issue can we please ask for better than a warmed up Nazi campaign..
Flashback: Vladimir Putin & the "Russophobic hysteria"
President Bashar al-Assad sent a cable to Russian President Vladimir Putin congratulating him on winning the presidential elections with more than 70% of votes.
In the cable, President al-Assad said having this exceptional trust from the Russian people is a natural result of President Putin’s distinguished patriotic performance and serving the Russian Federation’s interests with the utmost competence and faithfulness, in addition to being a natural result of the cooperation between Russia and the countries of the world which share its positions and its belief in the sovereignty and independent decision-making of states.
He said that under President Putin’s leadership, the Russian Federation stood against terrorism in words and actions, contributing commendably with the Syrian Arab Army in vanquishing Takfiri terrorist forces in most of Syrian territories...
President al-Assad said that President Putin was honest in his positions which leave no room for hypocrisy and ambiguity, asserting that Russia’s positions in international forums and circles reflect the pulse of all peoples that aspire to realize justice among countries on the basis of equal dignity for all, whether small or big, contrary to the forces of hegemony and colonialism that attach no importance to the dignity of countries and peoples.
John McCain: Trump congratulatory call to Putin insult to Russian citizens
The Communist Party of the Russian Federation is a Marxist–Leninist political party. The party is often viewed as the immediate successor of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, which was banned in 1991 by then-President Boris Yeltsin. It is the second largest political party in the Russian Federation after United Russia. As of 2015, the party has 160,000 members.|
The party's stated goal is to establish a new, modernised form of socialism in Russia.
Immediate goals of the party include the nationalisation of natural resources, agriculture and large industries within the framework of a mixed economy that allows for the growth of small and medium enterprises in the private sector.
The party is in favour of cooperation with the Russian Orthodox Church. According to the words of Zyuganov, the CPRF is a party of scientific, but not militant atheism.
McCain released a statement after Trump phoned the Russian president over his reelection on Sunday. The 81-year-old politician described the call as an “insult” to the Russian nation, questioning the latest election’s fairness.|
“An American president does not lead the Free World by congratulating dictators on winning sham elections," McCain said.
"And by doing so with Vladimir Putin, President Trump insulted every Russian citizen who was denied the right to vote in a free and fair election to determine their country's future, including the countless Russian patriots who have risked so much to protest and resist Putin's regime." Putin does not like Trump and he “has something” on the US president which is the reason why Trump speaks so highly of him.
The US president called Putin two days after the Russian president's re-election victory and said he hopes the two leaders can meet in the “not too distant future.” “We had a very good call,” he said. His call came not long after the US government imposed new sanctions on Moscow for alleged efforts to meddle in the 2016 presidential election, which yielded President Trump.
Turkey’s relations with Arab countries have reached a record low.
Relations may of course deteriorate between countries from time to time when their national interests collide, but in the case of Turkey and Arab countries, there was no threat to the interests of either side.
In Egypt, Turkey stood against Abdel Fattah El-Sisi’s military takeover, which was understandable because Turkey has suffered a lot from military interventions.
The mistake was in Turkey’s insistence in not recognizing the new leadership even after it had established its authority in the country.
Turkey had to take into account that Egypt is the unchallenged leader of the Arab world. When the region faces its worst crises, these two countries can take action to alleviate the effects and contribute to their solution.
Turkey’s relations with Saudi Arabia and the UAE have soured not because of reasons directly related to bilateral ties, but because Ankara is part of an intra-Arab conflict.
Its traditional foreign policy was to avoid direct involvement in such conflicts and, thanks to this policy, Turkey had accumulated great prestige among Arab countries. It now wastes this prestige prodigally.
In the Syrian crisis, Turkey has persistently picked the wrong options since the outset.
-- First, it presumed in late 2011 that the regime’s fall was imminent and suffered the consequences of ill-advised policies.
-- Second, when Western powers became aware that arms they were supplying were ending up in the wrong hands, they stopped the supply. Turkey, meanwhile, was slow in following this decision and became a “highway” of arms supply to extremist factions and for the passage of terrorists going to Syria. Eventually, Turkey became one of the most important recruiting grounds for Daesh.
-- Third, in the north of Syria, Turkey took the right initiative by inviting Salih Muslim, the representative of the Syrian Kurds, for talks. But it failed to discuss with him Ankara’s issues with the Syrian Kurds — instead it asked Salih Muslim to cooperate in overthrowing the Assad regime.
-- The fourth mistake made by Turkey in Syria was its military operation in Afrin, which reportedly aimed to set up an administration where all ethnic groups would be represented proportionally. The idea is appealing but it is the Syrian authorities, with or without Bashar Assad, that will govern Afrin after the crisis. Therefore, Turkey should cooperate with the Syrian authorities during this operation.
In Iraq, when Turkey made a deal with the Kurdish Regional Government to pump oil to its Mediterranean terminals, the Iraqi central authorities opposed it, saying the export of Iraqi oil requires their approval. Turkey disregarded this objection and responded by using less-than-diplomatic language about Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Abadi.
Turkey also deployed a military detachment in the Bashiqa base in northern Iraq with the consent of the KRG authorities, but the central government opposes this presence. This is another thorny issue that casts a shadow over Turkey-Iraq relations.
In Tunisia, when the Ennahdha Party was about to come to power, its leader Rached Ghannouchi said it was going to be inspired by the moderate Islam as practiced in Turkey by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).
Six years later, when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan paid an official visit to Tunisia, he greeted the crowd by raising his hand and showing four fingers as a sign reminiscent of the Rabaa Square in Cairo, where 800 to 1,000 members of the Muslim Brotherhood were killed in 2013.
Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi responded by saying: “Tunisia has no other symbol but its flag. Neither Rabaa nor any other symbol.”
Turkey has always been held in high esteem in Tunisia but, six years on from the Arab Spring, it became a country where its president was snubbed.
Mutual confidence between nations takes decades to establish, but can be lost with one unfortunate incident. If Turkey starts to mend relations with Arab countries now, it will take decades to bring it back to the level before the recent deterioration.
Therefore Turkey has to immediately engage in a serious overhaul of its policies toward Arab countries.
Yasar Yakis is a former foreign minister of Turkey and founding member of the ruling AK Party.
Thousands of Syrian fighters and their relatives will be evacuated from Harasta, a besieged town in Eastern Ghouta, to an opposition-held province in northern Syria, state media and a rebel group have said. Addounia TV, a state-run outlet, said that 1,500 gunmen and 6,000 family members would be evacuated on Thursday in two groups to Idlib.
The Russian-brokered deal was reached on Wednesday (March 22) after a meeting between a Syrian government delegation and representatives of residents and Ahrar al-Sham fighters in rebel-held Harasta.
"Evacuation for families who want to leave will begin tomorrow at 7am (05:00 GMT)," Munther Fares, spokesperson for the Ahrar al-Sham group, which holds Harasta, said in a statement on Wednesday.
"Families who want to stay [in Harasta] will be given guarantees by the Syrian government and the Russians that no harm will come to them, and that the city will not be subjected to displacement or demographic change," Fares said. He added that civilians inside and outside Harasta would form a committee to follow up the affairs of those remaining in the city and prisoners.
A 15-minute video pertaining to the current situation in Syria's Eastern Ghouta has been posted on the YouTube channel of Russia's UN mission. Russia's UN envoy Vasily Nebenzia described the video as a "documentary in its true colors" which he said "depicts a real picture of what has taken place in these Damascus suburbs." "I hope that UN Security Council members will take the time to watch the film," Nebenzya said. Sputnik News, 22-3-2018
Tens of thousands of civilians have fled Eastern Ghouta, which used to have a population of around 400,000.
"It is extremely challenging for all humanitarian actors to cover all the needs as thousands of people keep coming every day [at least till yesterday] but we are doing all we can to cope with the current influx."
DAMASCUS, (ST) Mrs. Asma Al-Assad, the First Lady of Syria, received, on the occasion of Mother's Day, a group of women soldiers and their mothers. Here are some excerpts of Mrs. Al-Assad cordial and spontaneous words:
''The Syrian heroine women defended Syria…they did plait their hair … postponed their dreams…left their families and put on their military uniforms instead of wedding suit; they carried the gun instead of school copybooks and did defend the soil of their homeland...''
'''You are the flourishing roses who beautified Damascus and all other Syrian governorates...'' ''You are the flowers, but in need become thorns against terrorists and enemies…"
"You are mothers too, defending your big mother, Syria, and defending Syria as your small daughter who does need your tenderness, care and sacrifice.... Surely in the future you will be the real mothers and the strength and power in your eyes have increased the sight of tenderness, tranquillity and calmness bestowed on life by women.''
Syrian rebels withdrew in busloads from a town in eastern Ghouta on Thursday and handed it over to the army, the first such surrender since one of the fiercest campaigns of the seven-year war began more than a month ago.
The Ahrar al-Sham group's decision to accept the army's terms and abandon the town of Harasta puts the government on course for its biggest victory over rebels since the battle of Aleppo in 2016.
After dark fell on Thursday around 30 buses carrying rebel fighters and their families left the town. Syrian state media said the buses carried 1,580 people including 413 rebel fighters given safe passage to Idlib province in the northwest, which has become the main sanctuary for insurgents who agree to quit territory under deals with the government. The northwestern province is the biggest remaining area under rebel control in Syria and its population has been doubled by refugees fleeing other areas.
Before boarding the buses, a small group were seen in dimming daylight on television kneeling in a line for Islam's sunset prayer - perhaps the last they would perform in their hometown. Children ran among the adults waiting to board.
Between 18,000 and 20,000 people were expected to stay in Harasta under government rule, a military source said.
The government's control of Harasta leaves eastern Ghouta's rebels in control only of Douma and another pocket that includes the towns of Jobar, Ein Terma, Arbin and Zamalka.
Douma is the most populous area in eastern Ghouta, and for more than a week it has been entirely surrounded by the government. The Jaish al-Islam rebel group that holds the town has said it is determined to fight on.
However, the Observatory said people leaving the area were doing so under an agreement between the group and Russia. The state television reported that more than 6,000 people had fled the larger rebel-held town of Douma since Wednesday, crossing over into government-held territory.
Iraq and Turkey have agreed that the latter can launch military operations on the joint borders presumably targeting anti-Turkish, Kurdish fighters.
Meeting with Iraqi Justice Minister Haider al-Zamili in Baghdad, Turkish ambassador to Iraq, Fateh Yildiz, said Ankara started to launch military operations on its borders with Iraq “to purge the borders from terrorist pockets in collaboration with the Iraqi government”, as quoted by a statement by the Iraqi justice ministry.
“Turkey is prepared to cooperate with the Iraqi government in the field of counter-terrorism and entrenching the sovereignty of both countries,” the statement quoted Yildiz saying.
On his side, the Iraqi minister said “Iraq has shown good intentions in Turkish demands related to the security on joint borders”, adding that “the political and security situation requires new agreements”.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in a speech in Ankara on Monday his country would, at any time, launch operations in Iraq’s northern Sinjar region against Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), a group designated by Ankara as a terrorist group for engaging in decades of armed confrontations with it.
"There's no such thing as the United Nations.
If the U.N. secretary building in New York lost 10 stories,
it wouldn't make a bit of difference." John Bolton
H.R McMaster will exit the role of National Security Adviser to United States President Donald Trump. Former UN Ambassador John Bolton, a prominent war hawk, will replace McMaster, Trump announced on Twitter:
" I am pleased to announce that, effective 4/9/18, @AmbJohnBolton will be my new National Security Advisor. I am very thankful for the service of General H.R. McMaster who has done an outstanding job & will always remain my friend. There will be an official contact handover on 4/9." Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 22, 2018
McMaster is the 27th official to be fired or resign from the Trump administration.
Bolton will be Trump's third NSA, following in the footsteps of Michael Flynn and McMaster. Historian Gareth Porter told Radio Sputnik's Loud & Clear last week that Bolton's nomination would likely lead to a White House that is more eager to pursue a war with Iran.
"During the [George W.] Bush administration," when Bolton was the US ambassador to the UN, "there was a plan for war with Iran," Porter said.
Like Trump, Bolton opposes the multilateral 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action involving Iran's nuclear program.
Since his time in the Bush administration, Bolton has worked as a foreign policy fellow at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). He frequently appears on TV as a conservative pundit.
During the George W. Bush administration, AEI was regarded as the intellectual command post of the neoconservative campaign for regime change in Iraq.
McMaster's replacement, Bolton, is seen as a hardliner on foreign policy. As a senior official at the state department during George W Bush's administration, he led in the opposition to the creation of the International Criminal Court, and was seen as a cheerleader of the Iraq invasion.
Despite his appointment as US ambassador to the UN, he was a critic of the international body.
Bernie Sanders, a senator and Trump critic, tore into Bolton's record, saying he was "part of the effort to mislead the US into the disastrous Iraq war, and has supported military action against North Korea and Iran".
"He was too extreme to be confirmed as UN ambassador in 2005 and is absolutely the wrong person to be national security advisor now".
Elizabeth Warren, another opposition senator, said Bolton "never met a war he didn't like". "The last thing we need is someone like John Bolton who embraces military solutions first and puts us all at risk," she said.
On Iran, Bolton is also seen as a hawk, advocating for strikes on the country's military facilities. In a statement following Bolton's appointment, the National Iranian American Council said "Donald Trump have have just effectively declared war on Iran".
"Bolton is an unhinged advocate for waging World War III. He has explicitly calling for bombing Iran for the past ten years and has suggested the US engage in nuclear first strikes in North Korea," the statement said.
Flashback 2011 - Return of the War Party?
"Bombing Iraq Isn't Enough": William Kristol and Robert Kagan, 1998 (Project for the New American Century).
KSA – USA partnership dinner: High-level speakers, including Jeb Bush, Dick Cheney, Lindsey Graham, James Baker, William Cohen, Cindy Schwarzkopf, daughter of the late General Norman Schwarzkopf, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, and Ambassador Khalid bin Salman, delivered stirring remarks commemorating the historic American and Saudi Arabian leaders of the past who further reinforced the foundations of the unshakable alliance between the two nations. Al-Arabiya, 23-3-2018
“President Trump is continuing to appoint true friends of Israel to senior positions. John Bolton stands out among them,” Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked of the far-right Jewish Home said.
“An excellent appointment, Bolton has a lot of experience and is an original thinker,” Shaked said in a statement. “The Trump administration is turning out to be the most friendly administration to Israel ever.”
Education Minister Naftali Bennett, the head of Jewish Home, called the appointment “great” in a tweet, describing Bolton as “an extraordinary security expert, experienced diplomat and a stalwart friend of Israel.”
And Environment Minister Zeev Elkin, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing ruling Likud party, said Bolton was “not unknown to Israel”. “He has been, unquestionably, a friend of Israel for many years, including in his position as US ambassador to the UN,” Elkin told Tel Aviv radio station 102 FM. “I have no doubt it will be convenient for us to work with him.”
Bolton, a veteran of the George W. Bush administration, is known for his virulent defense of “Israel” and had witnessed the most vicious crimes against innocents in the region.
Al-Manar is a Lebanese satellite television station affiliated with Hezbollah, broadcasting from Beirut, Lebanon.
bush (usa) & bandar bin sultan (ksa)
Palestinian officials reacted angrily, with Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), denouncing Trump's Thursday choice, who replaces Herbert Raymond McMaster.
“This man has a long history of hostility to Palestinians, dating to when he was at the United Nations, where he was protecting Israeli immunity,” Ashrawi said.
She added: the Trump administration “has joined with extremist Zionists, fundamentalist Christians and white racists” with Bolton's appointment. (Press TV 23-3-2018)
"The post-September 11 era in the US has heralded in a new age of ideology whose discourse and world views have served not only to accommodate such extremist views as those held by Sharon, but also to provide him with a platform and an influence that were unthinkable only a year ago.
Thus while the American President is busy devising a new Manichean universe of absolute good and absolute evil, pronouncing policy on the basis of a simplistic polarization of the world, and unilaterally defining the terms while categorizing state and non-state actors accordingly, Sharon’s Israel has maneuvered itself into a position of even greater power on the world stage provided explicitly by the US."
Eight months ago, at a Paris gathering, John Bolton told members of the Iranian exile group, known as the Mujahedeen Khalq, MEK, or People’s Mujahedeen, that the Trump administration should embrace their goal of immediate regime change in Iran and recognize their group as a “viable” alternative.
“The outcome of the president’s policy review should be to determine that the Ayatollah Khomeini’s 1979 revolution will not last until its 40th birthday,” Bolton said. (The 40th anniversary of the Iranian revolution will be on February 11, 2019.)
“The declared policy of the United States should be the overthrow of the mullahs’ regime in Tehran,” Bolton added.
“The behavior and the objectives of the regime are not going to change and, therefore, the only solution is to change the regime itself.”
As the Iranian expatriate journalist Bahman Kalbasi noted, Bolton concluded his address to the exiles with a rousing promise: “And that’s why, before 2019, we here will celebrate in Tehran!”
At the group’s celebration of Nowruz, the Persian New Year, in Albania on Tuesday, MEK leader Maryam Rajavi was joined on stage by Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of New York City.
Mr. Giuliani reiterated that unlike other countries in the region, there is an alternative to the ruling regime in Iran. Thus, its overthrow will lead to peace and tranquillity in a region that has been severely threatened by the clerical regime.
Although the official announcement from the White House was not made until Thursday, Giuliani told the group, to loud applause, that Bolton “is going to be President Trump’s national security adviser.”
In case there was any doubt among the exiles that Bolton might not advise Trump to overthrow Iran’s government, Giuliani assured them that “if anything, John Bolton has become more determined that there needs to be regime change in Iran, that the nuclear agreement needs to be burned, and that you need to be in charge of that country.”
Flashback: Senator McCain to MEK (Iranian militant opposition group)
Nasr al-Hariri, leading member of the [Saudi-backed] Syrian opposition:
Zionism is one of the two religions of Israel. As a religion, as with any religion, you can’t question it.
The second religion is obviously the religion of security. So between Zionism and security, anyone in Israel who dares to raise any kind of question mark is immediately perceived as a traitor.
It’s impossible to describe to you what does it mean to say that you have some questions about Zionism. Imagine yourself if you question today the other religion, if you claim that the Israeli idea of the Israel Defense Forces are not the most moral army in the world... – how dare you!
We are getting it with the milk of our mothers, even though my mother was not such a Zionist, I think. But it’s very hard to understand from the outside how an ideology became part of the DNA, how an ideology became something which must be taken for granted and there is no room for any question marks.
I know it about myself. I know how I grew up. I know what I thought about those very, very, very few who claimed that they were not Zionist or, God forbid, anti-Zionists. They were the Satans, even though they were Jews and Israelis.
I don’t recall one example on earth in which an ideology is so totalitarian, is so saintly, is so holy that you have no right to put any kind of doubts or question marks – nothing. Not about the past, not about the future, not about the present – nothing.
It’s unbelievable when you live in a state in which, if you declare that you don’t accept this ideology, you are not part of the place. You are not part of society...
When it comes to Zionism, there is no difference in Israel between left and right.
When it comes to the occupation, which is part and parcel of Zionism, there is no meaningful difference between left and right in Israel. When I mean left and right, I mean this so-called Zionistic left, Labor and others, and the right-wingers. The difference is only by rhetoric. [...]
I cannot think about one society which lives in such denial like the Israeli society.
Again, it includes left and right, except for the very devoted extreme left activists, let’s remember them. But they are really small in [numbers] and totally, totally, delegitimized...
So when I speak about left, I mean Labor, Yeshuati, Yair Lapid and all the rest. In many ways they're worse than the right-wingers because they feel so good about themselves, because they are so sure that they are so human and universal and moral.
While the right-wingers at least don’t cover up, they say, yes, we are fascists. So what’s wrong about it? We are Jews and we have the right to be fascists. Because we are the chosen people, we have the right, and nobody’s going to tell us what to do....
Which brings me to the set of values which I see as the core of Israeli society nowadays, three or four sets of values which explain everything, in my view.
-- The first very deep-rooted value, let’s face it, is the value that we are the chosen people. Secularists and religious [alike] will claim so. Even if they don’t admit it, they feel so. The implementation is very simple: If we are the chosen people, who are you to tell us what to do? Who are you? Who is the international community to tell Israel what to do? International law, wonderful thing – it doesn’t apply to us. It applies to any other place on earth, but not to Israel, because we are the chosen people. Don’t you understand it?
-- The second very deep-rooted value is obviously the value of “we the victims” – not only the biggest victims, but the only victims around. I know many occupations which were longer than Israeli occupation, some were even more brutal, even though it’s getting harder and harder to be more brutal than the Israeli occupation.
I don’t recall one occupation in which the occupier presents himself as the victim – not only the victim, the only victim.
-- To this there’s a third very deep-rooted value, and this is the very deep belief: The Palestinians are not equal human beings like us. They are not like us. They don’t love their children like us. They don’t love life like us. They were born to kill. They are cruel. They are sadists. They have no values. No manners. Look how they kill us. This is very, very deep-rooted in Israeli society, and maybe that’s the key issue, because as long as this continues, nothing will move.
I’m very, very skeptical about change from within the Israeli society, because life in Israel is far too good and the brainwashing system is far too efficient. To have a dialogue today with most of Israelis is, even for me, almost an impossible job...
The brainwashing is so deep and the denial is so deep. The ignorance, the ignorance, they know nothing, and what they know is wrong.
The newly elected leader of Meretz said Saturday that her party was better suited than Labor to lead Israel’s left.
Tamar Zandberg, speaking at a cultural event in Hadera, said she was disappointed by the conduct of the Labor party under the leadership of Avi Gabbay, “zigzagging and apologizing for its positions and as a result collapsing politically.” She said Meretz “is certainly a better candidate to lead the left-wing bloc due to its ideological clarity and its loyalty to its values.”
Accepting victory in front of a crowd of party loyalists at its headquarters in Tel Aviv, the 41-year-old Zandberg, who has been an MK for Meretz since 2013 and a party activist for many years, said she planned to lead the Israeli left to better days.
“We will be here for the huge public that has not given up on Israeli democracy, on justice and equality,” she said. “Everyone who understands that the occupation is an existential threat to the state of Israel, to all those Israelis I say: Don’t believe that you are the minority. You are not...
Zandberg repeated her stated goal throughout the campaign for Meretz to win 10 seats in the Knesset in the next national elections... She has vowed to change the perception of Meretz as a perpetual opposition party.., even suggesting a willingness to join a coalition with arch-nemesis Avigdor Liberman, who leads the right-wing Yisrael Beytenu.
“Meretz is ready to push forward to the center of the political stage. We will lead a strong left-wing force on every stage, in the Knesset, at rallies, on the street, on social media,” she said to the cheers of activists.
“Everywhere, we will be part of the revolution that Israel so desperately needs. We will break the mold of Israeli politics that pushed us to a corner and told us that the public wasn’t with us.”
Since his election as Labor leader last July, Avi Gabbay has sought to move the party rightward in an apparent bid to bolster its standing, and has made a number of comments at odds with Labor’s historical stances.
In December he said preserving a “united” Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty was more important than clinching a peace deal with the Palestinians... . And in October, he said he would not evacuate West Bank settlements as part of a peace deal with the Palestinians, and days later he called the settlement enterprise “the beautiful and devoted face of Zionism.”
'Land of Israel belongs to the Jews' - 'the Arabs have to be afraid of us'
The body of Palestinian vocalist and songwriter Rim Banna was laid to rest in her home city of Nazareth on March 24, 2018, after a struggle with cancer that never reduced her determination to sing and resist.
She will be remembered for her songs for children, her dedication to Palestinian freedom, and for her refusal to be categorized as a second class citizen of the state of Israel. Her music told the stories of the beauty of life despite times of oppression and urged the occupied, exiled and imprisoned to maintain a heritage of resistance.
Born in 1966, into a working class Christian family in Nazareth, Rim received training in the Soviet Union and rose to prominence in Palestine in the era of the first intifada, recording her first album Jafra while she was still a teen.
Her cassettes were produced on low budgets and, like Shafiq Kabha and other radical Palestinian voices, she operated outside of the Zionist cultural mainstream, refusing to be co-opted and instead finding popularity among the masses dedicated to the cause of liberation.
While she often sang of tragedy, she also embraced sumud (steadfastness) and promoted pride in being Palestinian, responding to Zionist narratives of repression and erasure with a message of the life and vitality of everyday experience.
In an unpublished interview in 2005, Rim said her mission was to “keep folk texts from being lost and helping the younger generation to be aware of their folklore”.
“For me, my music and song has become very political. I’m fighting through the music and trying to leave a big influence in the heart of the European audience, to move something in their minds and feelings...
I want them to be more active in supporting the Palestinian people because people can change the political will of their governments.”
The Syrian Army forces captured Ein Tarma Valley in Eastern Ghouta area in Damascus Countryside and blow life back into the region. (FARS News Agency, 23-3-2018)
Army units on Saturday prepared a new passage on the outskirts of Harasta city to evacuate gunmen who refused the reconciliation along with their families through the southern part of Eastern Ghouta in Damascus Countryside province.
SANA delegate to Harasta said that Army’s bulldozers are working to remove barricades and open the main street near the Water Resource Bridge in order to open a new passage for buses that will transfer gunmen and their families from the towns of Joubar, Zamalka, Erbin and Ain Tarma.
The delegate clarified that it is expected during the upcoming days that hundreds of gunmen and their families from Joubar, Erbin and Zamalka will be evacuated and transferred through buses in a scenario similar to that of Harasta.
He added that army units are working on opening streets and removing barricades in Harasta city in preparation for the entry of the engineering units as to cleanse the city of mines and explosives.
Turkey's military and its Syrian rebel allies have taken full control of northwest Syria's Afrin region, a Turkish army source said, as aid workers distributed food to people in the area.
Turkish forces and the Syrian fighters swept into the main Afrin town after an eight-week campaign to drive out the Kurdish YPG militia, which Ankara regards as a terrorist group.
A military source told Reuters the last remaining villages had been seized and control established overnight.
"Control has been completely achieved in the Afrin region and search operations are continuing so that local people can return safely to their houses," the source said.
State-run Anadolu news agency carried a similar report. Anadolu said the Turkish military was continuing its sweep for mines and explosives to allow Afrin’s resident’s to return, after airstrikes and clashes with Syrian Kurdish forces.
Associated Press journalists on a tour organized by the Turkish government Saturday passed through the northwestern town of Jinderes en route to central Afrin. Jinderes, captured by Turkey and allied Syrian opposition fighters, was the scene of heavy street clashes earlier in March. The AP saw a widely destroyed and empty town.
In Afrin, people queued to receive hot food that was being distributed by the Turkish Red Crescent while Turkish soldiers kept security and armoured vehicles moved along the streets.
"We are trying to bring back life to normal in the short and medium term here." the aid group's president, Kerem Kinik, told Reuters. "Our mobile kitchens are here, and our crews are in the villages.
Turkey’s military operation in the Syrian district of Afrin has completed its first stage, which was the seizure of the city of Afrin. After this difficult episode, Turkey is now taking its efforts into the political arena. It is hoping to expel the fighters of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) from the district, but it has to do so without contravening article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which provides that “individual or mass forcible transfers… are prohibited, regardless of their motive.”
Turkey should also refrain from resorting to manhunts. This will complicate the process even further, because ill-intentioned individuals may crop up and mislead the authorities into targeting the wrong people, for reasons of personal rift, political or commercial rivalry, or greed.
Turkey’s ultimate objective was to dismantle the cantonal structure established by the strongest Kurdish political party in Syria, the Democratic Union Party (PYD), and set up a more representative administration in the district.
But UN Security Council Resolution 2254 provides that the political transition in Syria will be “Syrian-led and Syrian-owned.”
In line with this UN framework, the Turkish authorities, on March 18, the day Afrin city center was seized, convened a meeting in Gaziantep under the title of the “Afrin Liberation Congress” and elected 30 delegates to represent Afrin’s population of Arabs, Turkmens and Kurds who do not support the PYD.
It is not an easy task to find in Afrin Kurds who do not support this party, because this district is the biggest Kurdish agglomeration in Syria.
Apart from the issue of how representative the congress is, there is also the problem of its competences.
The “Syrian-led and Syrian-owned” process has not yet announced its choice regarding what type of state structure will be introduced...
Many Kurds, whether PYD supporters or not, are likely to vote in favor of their autonomy, preferably in the form of cantons, at least in Rojava and Jazira, though this may no longer work in Afrin. Such autonomy could be sustained only with strong support from the US and Russia. Turkey vehemently opposes such a move, and it proved in Afrin that it means what it says.
Russia suggested a federal structure for Syria in a draft constitution that it prepared within the framework of the Astana process. The overlapping feature in the attitude of the five major actors in Syria — the Syrian government, the US, Russia, Iran and Turkey — is that they all favor the preservation of the country’s territorial integrity.
Turkey, Iran and Syria would prefer this integrity to be translated into a unitary state, while the US and Russia want a federal state... For this reason, Turkey’s cooperation with the Syrian regime at every stage of its mission is important for the continuity of the work it is doing.
"The US-led Western alliance, while acting as an advocate of democracy, rule of law and human rights in individual countries, is acting in the international arena from the opposite position, rejecting the democratic principle of the sovereign right of states enshrined in the UN Charter and trying to decide for others what is good and what is bad."
A number of EU member countries, the United States, Canada and Australia earlier announced the expulsion of Russian diplomats over the poisoning of former Russian military intelligence (GRU) officer Sergei Skripal, which the UK blames on Moscow without providing any evidence.
On March 4, ex-Colonel Skripal and his daughter Yulia suffered the effects of an alleged nerve agent in the British city of Salisbury.
British Prime Minister Theresa May said the substance used in the attack had allegedly been the so-called Novichok-class nerve agent developed in the Soviet Union.
Moscow rejected all of the United Kingdom’s accusations, saying that a program aimed at developing such a substance had existed neither in the Soviet Union nor in Russia.
Anti-Erdoğan staff at the White House
Three years ago, the Army of Islam, one of Syria’s most powerful armed opposition groups, held a massive military parade that included thousands of opposition fighters marching in formation and a striking display of tanks and armored vehicles at the doors of the Syrian capital.
The parade, held in the town of Douma in the spring of 2015, demonstrated the Saudi-backed group’s growing clout in the eastern Ghouta suburbs, which for years were seen as a potential launch pad for a ground attack on Damascus, seat of President Bashar Assad’s power.
The Army of Islam now stands alone in eastern Ghouta, its fighters facing a stark choice: Surrender or die.
Haitham Bakkar, a Douma-based opposition activist, said the situation in Douma is very tense because it is unclear what will happen next. He said it was a question of existence for the Army of Islam fighters, most of whom are from Douma. “If the Army of Islam goes to northern Syria it will be its end,” he said.
Rebels who have left eastern Ghouta so far have all gone to Idlib, an insurgent-held region dominated by al-Qaida-affiliated fighters near the Turkish border, where they either have a presence or good relations with Turkey.
By contrast, the Army of Islam, called Jaysh al-Islam in Arabic, is home-grown and has no other strongholds in the country.
“Jaysh al-Islam is a very local phenomenon, emerging from the specific social fabric and Salafi school of thought of the Damascus countryside,” said Faysal Itani, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Atlantic Council.
“More precisely, Jaysh al-Islam is a creature of Douma, and I don’t know how it would survive outside it,” especially in Idlib, where there is rebel rivalry, he said. [...]
The group has no good choices. Going to Idlib would put its fighters in an area dominated by al-Qaida, against whom it has fought pitched battles in the past.
The Britain-based Observatory reported this week that the Russians rejected a request by some Army of Islam members to head to the southern province of Daraa. Such a move would bring the militants close to the Jordanian border, from where they would likely get assistance from Saudi Arabia.
Russia remains a country that is interested in meddling in other countries' affairs, particularly elections, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Tuesday.
Nauert said the U.S. has seen Russian interference in Mexico, France and several European countries, and that Moscow is likely to continue its practices. "We can't say that the United States is going to be any safer from its election [meddling] as a result. Russia has long arms, Russia has lots of tentacles," she said, describing Russia as "a beast from the deep sea."
Nauert's comments come amid mass expulsions of Russian diplomats from the U.S., EU and several other countries over the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the U.K. earlier this month.
British Prime Minister Theresa May accused Moscow of being behind what she called an "act of aggression" against the U.K. Russia, in turn, denied any involvement.
Syrian children make up for lost years
BEIRUT, LEBANON (9:30 P.M.) – The Russian Defence Ministry announced that an accord has been reached with the leaders of Syrian armed groups on the withdrawal of militants and their families from the city of Douma in Eastern Ghouta.
The announcement was made by Head of Main Operational Department of General Staff Sergei Rudskoi at a press briefing in Moscow on Friday.
Rudskoi noted that 28,495 civilians had already fled Douma through the Muhayam al-Wafedeen humanitarian corridor. He went on to say that an accord has been reached “with the leaders of illegal armed groups” on the withdrawal of militants and their families from Douma “in the near future.”
The head of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces also said that “in accordance with the agreements, before leaving the settlements, the militants will present maps of minefields and underground tunnels, voluntarily demine buildings, clear barricades and main transport routes.”
The artist, Kalen Ockerman, known as Mear One, is still selling versions of the mural on his website. Ockerman, who is based in Los Angeles, admitted he had “depicted the elite banking cartel known as the Rothschilds, Rockefellers, Morgans, the ruling elite few playing a game of Monopoly on the backs of the working people... Mear One denied that the mural was racist; he was quoted in the British newspaper The Independent as saying that the mural was about "class and privilege", and pointed out that the figures depicted included both "Jewish and white Anglos".
The Zionist strategy here has been evident for a long time: when dealing with anti-Zionists such as Corbyn, do everything to blur the line between anti-Zionism (which has become increasingly acceptable in the mainstream as a result of Zionist Israel’s systematically brutal treatment of the Palestinians), and antisemitism (which, given what Jews have had to suffer in their long history, is categorically unacceptable).
The rote and reflex conflation of anti-Zionism with antisemitism will probably make it harder for actual antisemitism to be responded to with the seriousness it always merits.
Many are maligned routinely as antisemites because they oppose Israel’s repellent treatment of the Palestinians – if time after time, principled pro-Palestinians such as Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu, let alone Corbyn, are deemed antisemitic by virtue of their insistence on Palestinian legal rights vis-à-vis Israel, then there will be more than a few, some of whom may in truth alas be antisemites, who will be inclined to laugh-off this imputation of antisemitism.
The thirst of the Zionists, and their convenient abettors in Blairite Labour and the latter’s supporters in the UK media, in wanting Corbyn’s “apologies” in order to undermine him and his allies, is unslakable.
For Zionists and their allies, the pro-Palestinian Corbyn and his supporters will always be irremediable “antisemites”. Zionists allow us no alternative to this travesty.
Kenneth Surin teaches at Duke University, North Carolina. He lives in Blacksburg, Virginia.
Corporatism: When the State Merges with Corporations
The US has been slowly moving into corporatism for decades.|
The pace accelerated rapidly with the advent of Johnson’s War on Poverty and the Vietnam War and is now at the point where there is open collusion between government and big business in every area of our life.
From banking, food production, media outlets and transportation industries, the revolving door between business and government is undeniable and yet only whispered about in the main stream media.
Tens of thousands of protesters were demonstrating across the occupied Palestinian territory and Israel on Friday on "Land Day", notably marking the beginning of the "Great March of Return" in Gaza.
The Gaza Ministry of Health confirmed at least 16 Palestinian demonstrators had been killed by Israeli forces on the border with Israel... The Ministry also stated that more than 1,000 demonstrators had been wounded as of late afternoon, although a spokesperson for the Palestinian Red Crescent Society told MEE they estimated that some 800 protesters in Gaza had been injured by live fire.
The Israeli army announced in a statement that it had declared the border area of the Gaza Strip a closed military zone - meaning all Palestinians getting close to the border fence could risk getting shot.
Held annually, Land Day marks the killing by Israeli troops of six Palestinian citizens of Israel on 30 March 1976 during a protest against land confiscations.
In the Gaza Strip, where 1.3 million of the small territory’s two million inhabitants are refugees, protest organisers have called for six weeks of demonstrations called the "Great March of Return" along the border of the besieged Palestinian enclave and Israel, starting on Friday and culminating on 15 May for Nakba Day.
While Gaza organisers have insisted that the demonstrations will be peaceful, several incidents of Gazans being detained after entering Israel in recent days have seen Israeli forces keen to prove their control of the situation.
The Israeli army confirmed in a statement that it was using "riot dispersal means" - a term typically used to refer to tear gas and sound bombs - as well as firing at "main instigators" of the protest.
Israel's military chief said on Wednesday that more than 100 snipers had been deployed on the Gaza border ahead of the planned mass demonstration near the frontier. Heavy earth-moving vehicles have built up dirt mounds on the Israeli side of the border and barbed wire has been placed as an additional obstacle against any mass attempt to breach the border into Israeli territory.
Meanwhile, Palestinians demonstrated in Israel and the West Bank on Friday to commemorate Land Day. In the Palestinian-majority town of Arraba in the Galilee region of northern Israel, thousands, including Palestinian MPs from the Israeli Knesset, heads of municipalities, and religious figures, took to the streets.