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The Russian presidential elections are blissfully over, for they were extremely nasty and embarrassing. Mr Putin could have won more modestly and plausibly. The election results would make Turkmenistan proud, if not North Korea. The turnout was quite high, 68%. The incumbent President received almost 77% of the vote, while his main contender Mr Grudinin’s share has been announced at less than 12%.

Theresa May and Boris Johnson were prominent contributors to Vladimir Putin’s landslide victory. Their ultimatum to Russia, their baseless accusations, and their threats mobilised millions of Russians who weren’t inclined to go to the polls at all. Before the Salisbury affair, a lot of Russians were indifferent to the forthcoming elections. They felt it made little sense to take part in the show with predefined results. However, the British hard line regarding the murky story of an assassination attempt changed the public mood.

Were the results falsified? Probably, up to a point, and quite unnecessarily, too.

The first true results coming from the Russian Far East gave over 20% to the Communist, and about 60% to Putin. It seems that the administration overseers who reportedly had backdoor access to the results decided to ‘improve’ them forcefully. The results received after that were already adjusted for desired numbers.

In the far-away Yakut province, with its mind-boggling frost of minus 35 ° below zero, the Communist contender has got almost 30% of the vote. In the Vladivostok province, in the region facing Japan, Grudinin has got over 20%, likewise in the Siberian university city of Omsk. On the other side, in the notoriously dishonest and despotic Muslim republic of Chechnya the contender was given less than 5%.

My guess is that true un-cooked results would be between 18% and 25% for the Communist, and correspondingly, around 60-65% for the incumbent, still good enough for Putin’s outright win, but not good enough for his zealous aides.

The veteran nationalist leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky got less than 6%. So much for the predictions of my esteemed colleague Anatoly Karlin: he quoted VTSIOM’s prognoses of 6% for Grudinin and 7% for Zhirinovsky (or other way around) as reliable numbers. These two men, and these two parties are just not in the same league. Zhirinovsky’s National-Democratic Party is likely to disappear unless radically revamped; the Communists have a solid following. And sociologist prognoses are of little value nowadays: they are tools of psychological warfare against the voter.

Miss Xenia Sobchak, the leading liberal and pro-Western candidate, was treated softly and gently by the state media. She had positive coverage every day of the election campaign. She is supposed to be a godchild of Mr Putin, and a daughter of Mr Putin’s senior colleague, the former Petersburg Mayor, and of Mrs Narusova, a member of the Russian Senate. She got the votes of Mr Navalny who was banned from running due to his criminal conviction. Still she had received one and a half per cent of the vote, showing little support for an active pro-Western agenda.

The remaining candidates were also-run, getting around one per cent or less. However, they played an important role in the Kremlin election strategy of undermining Mr Grudinin’s appeal. The main medium the Russian people have to learn of the candidates is through the state-owned TV, and its two programs: one, reports of the Central Election Board, and the debates of the candidates.

The reports were biased against Paul Grudinin; practically every report contained some negative news about him. The official posters with the names of the contenders issued by the CEB contained a claim that the CEB could not verify Mr Grudinin’s information.

The debates were even worse: Putin was exempt, while the remaining seven contenders were given four minutes each to state their cause and one minute to respond. Thus the real leading contender Mr Paul Grudinin and a Kremlin spoiler fake “also-communist” Mr Suraykin (he received 0.67% of the vote) were given the same exposure. Mr Suraykin brought to the debates a person who claimed she was cheated by Mr Grudinin, and this person was allowed to participate in the debates (imagine Mrs Clinton bringing Stormy Daniels to the debates with Donald Trump). Mr Zhirinovsky swore freely at Grudinin and at Miss Sobchak, the only female of the lot. All in all, the impression created was that of a pack of clowns in a provincial circus.

The Russians have called this shameful show Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs. Snow White was surely Mr Putin, who didn’t participate in the debates and thus had been projected as one standing above the crowd.

This technique was supplemented by the dominance of pro-Putin trolls in the social networks. They roamed the Russian networks aggressively commenting on posts supporting Putin’s rivals.

It was alleged the administration bought the allegiance of some well-known independent leftists, and they traveled around Russia preaching against Grudinin as “not a real Communist.” These people could hardly afford to fly around those long Russian distances unless somebody were footing the bill.

This dirty campaign was quite unnecessary: Putin would win with less effort and less intimidation, too. I’d guess that zealous Russian officials went into overkill hoping to curry favour with the Commander-in-Chief. Alas, this is typical for Russia: the officials know neither limits nor decency in pursuing the perceived goals of their superiors.

I do not think Mr Putin personally approved, or was aware of these tactics, but that is what happens when every official tries his best (or his worst) to reach and overreach the goal.

The leading contender Mr Grudinin had more problems at home. His party KPRF (the Communist Party) didn’t try hard to help him. He was an outsider, like Mr Trump had been an outsider for the Republicans. I was told that in many cities, the KPRF officials quietly sabotaged the campaign and spent the state-assigned election funds for their own benefits.

The Party leader Mr Zyuganov didn’t want to part with the limelight; he insisted on accompanying the candidate and speaking instead of him. There were very few videos of the campaign free of Mr Zyuganov’s overwhelming presence.

After the elections, Mr Zyuganov expressed satisfaction with the results and called upon Mr Putin to appoint his erstwhile rival Mr Grudinin as a new Prime Minister. Mr Grudinin refrained from seconding this call.

As a part of anti-Grudinin campaign, his Jewish ancestry was addressed in the social networks, even by the “leftists”, though he is not more ‘Jewish’ that John Kerry or Vladimir Lenin. He is not the only candidate with Jewish ancestry: Mr Zhirinovsky has some Jewish blood, too. It doesn’t mean much in Russia, outside ultra-nationalist circles.

A big part of Russian educated classes has some Jewish ancestry: after all, the Soviet Jews freely intermarried with the ethnic Russians for the last hundred years, with majority marrying outside of the community. Children of mixed marriages usually identified themselves as Russians; those who identified themselves as Jewish left for Israel. There they learned that the Jews do not consider them being members of the Chosen People, and many of them trekked back to Russia, cured of their illusions. However, Jewishness or otherwise of the candidates hasn’t been played up much in the course of the elections.

• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Pavel Grudinin, Russia, Vladimir Putin 
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Putin’s March 1st presentation of new Russian weapons has been greatly misunderstood as a declaration of strategic parity or triumphalism. There was a much more urgent need, namely, to prevent an imminent strike. This danger is not over yet, for a week later, on March, 7, President Putin emphasised his readiness to employ the nuclear weapons for retaliation purposes, even if it would end the world.

“Certainly, it would be a global disaster for humanity; a disaster for the entire world,” Putin said, “but, as a citizen of Russia and the head of the Russian state I must ask myself: Why would we want a world without Russia?”

This was a bold answer. A lesser man would probably reply hypocritically, dodging the brutal “yes, I shall destroy the world.” It means that the danger is still imminent, and that by these frank words President Putin wants to dissuade whoever intends to push him too far.

Why indeed, all of a sudden, did the Russian President decide now, of all times, to tell the world about these new weapons? It’s not that the Russians (or the Americans, for that matter) are accustomed to deliver hardware updates orbi et urbi. And 2002, the year the US withdrew from the ABM treaty, was consigned to history years ago. What was the reason, or at least the trigger?

Some observers bet it was a wily pre-election trick aimed at a domestic audience. This could be a consideration, but a minor one. The leading opponent of Mr Putin, the communist candidate Mr Grudinin, didn’t argue against Putin’s foreign policy or defence spending; the voters do approve of Putin’s foreign policy, anyway. Putin’s revelation made Russians proud, but they would vote Putin anyway.

The reason for Putin’s speech was a different and more urgent one: a terrible crescendo of threats had made Russia feel very vulnerable. Presumably their spy agencies convinced the Russian leader the threats were real.

The US establishment has been looking for a way to humiliate and punish Russia since Mueller’s indictment of 13 Russians. The indictment alleged that “the Russian conspirators wanted to promote discord in the United States and undermine public confidence in democracy,” in the words of Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general overseeing the Mueller’s inquiry. It did not matter that the indicted Russians weren’t officials of the Russian state; that their effort (if these existed at all) were puny: a few ads at the cost of about $100,000, a drop in the ocean compared to the vast amounts of money spent by both the Clinton and Trump campaigns. However, the US establishment called these minor actions of private Russian citizens an “act of war.”

On February 19, Glenn Greenwald summed up the US reactions in the piece called A Consensus Emerges: Russia Committed an “Act of War” on Par With Pearl Harbor and 9/11. He reminded us that Senators from both parties, such as Republican John McCain and Democrat Jeanne Shaheen, have long described Russian meddling in 2016 as an “act of war.” Hillary Clinton described Russia’s alleged hacking of the DNC and John Podesta’s email inbox as a “cyber 9/11.” Tom Friedman of the New York Times said on “Morning Joe” that Russian hacking “was a 9/11-scale event. They attacked the core of our democracy. That was a Pearl Harbor-scale event.”

After the indictment, this comparison became a common place rhetoric. “The Washington Post’s Karen Tumulty, complaining about President Donald Trump’s inaction, asked readers to “imagine how history would have judged Franklin D. Roosevelt in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor, if he had taken to the radio airwaves to declare that Tokyo was ‘laughing their asses off.’ Or if George W. Bush had stood in the rubble of the World Trade Center with a bullhorn and launched a name-calling tirade against the Democrats.”

Greenwald concluded: “If Russian election meddling is on par with the Pearl Harbor and 9/11 attacks, then should the U.S. response be on par with its response to those attacks?” In other words, the US politicians and media called to give Russia the same treatment the US gave to Japan (Hiroshima and Nagasaki) and to Afghanistan (invasion followed by 16 years of occupation).

In the search for escalation from fiery talk to fire, the Anglo-American establishment turned to the familiar device of alleged Syrian gas attacks. People have been trained to respond to such accusations (and alternatively, to keep mum while the US bombs Mosul and Raqqa, or prepares to nuke North Korea). Assad and Russia were accused of gassing the rebel stronghold of Eastern Ghouta, the West’s last chance to enforce regime change in Syria by virtue of its location near the capital.

The alleged gas chlorine attack was reported on February 25th, and it was immediately denied by the Russians and the Syrians. The Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that this anonymous ‘bogus report’ had been originated in the US in order to denigrate Syrian government and its troops, to accuse them of war crimes and to cause permanent breakup of Syria. The US and its allies, he said, were “simply exploiting baseless allegations of toxic weapons use by Damascus as a tool of anti-Syrian political engineering”.

The rebels said they were attacked by chlorine gas, as opposed to previous times when they claimed gas sarin was used. Chlorine gas is a tricky stuff; it is not deadly though unhealthy for inhaling. It is also quite difficult to monitor and verify, for chlorine is widely used for domestic purposes from cleaning bathrooms to purifying water and is not a banned substance (though the gas chlorine is forbidden). This difficulty to verify had made it an easy one to claim.

The situation in E. Ghouta was a replay of Aleppo; reports of wounded children, films produced by the White Helmets, and stubborn attempts by the rebels to prevent civilian exodus from the area. Whenever the rebels are pushed hard, they produce a story of suffering civilians and of gas attacks, hoping the US will force the Syrian government and their Russian allies to relent.

Undoubtedly civilians have suffered in the Syrian war; however, there is a way to end their suffering. The rebels could lay down their arms and join the political process, like everybody else. There are plenty of Americans unhappy with the Trump regime, but they do not shell Washington DC; they hope for a better and different outcome at the next elections. Their example can be emulated by the Syrian rebels, and then, the civilians won’t suffer.

If that’s too much to ask for, they can let the civilians leave; and fight to the bitter end. But no, they do not let the civilians out; instead, they produce reports of civilians suffering and wait for the Mounties to ride in and save them.

• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: American Military, Russia, Syria 
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The best Prime Minister the country has ever had. This is how Benjamin Netanyahu is referred to by his numerous supporters. He is the longest-serving one, since the founder of the Jewish state, David Ben Gurion; he served longer than Vladimir Putin. But now apparently he is on the way to follow his predecessor Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to jail. Olmert had been released only half a year ago after a stint for corruption and obstruction of justice. Now it is Netanyahu’s turn to taste prison gruel, instead of pink champagne he is so fond of. Or isn’t it?

The ring of the Israeli PM story sounds familiar to the American ears. Israeli police chief Ronny Alsheich has fought Bibi as hard as Robert Mueller has fought Trump, while Israeli media stood with police against the Prime Minister as the New York Times stood with the FBI. Every accusation had been leaked to the press well in advance of hearing. The public had been bombarded by accusations day and night. Not only the PM, but his wife, the woman of harsh and ungenerous manners, has been relentlessly attacked, too.

The modus operandi of Israeli Police had been very similar to that of the FBI. They found a weaker man, jailed him for some invented (or true) reason and forced him to denounce the boss. What was done to Manafort and Gates, had been done to Shlomo Filber and Ari Harow.

In the end, the police succeeded in forcing the PM’s inner circle to betray their benefactor. Shlomo Filber, the suspended Communications Ministry director general had spent “two nights in a cold, stinking cell in the police lockup”, says Haaretz newspaper, and he agreed to incriminate Netanyahu.

It is very, very difficult to plead for the Israeli Prime Minister. He is the man who killed the peace process, who enslaved the Palestinians, tortured Gaza, bombed Syria and Lebanon, did his damnedest to ignite war with Iran. However, there is a Jewish tradition of apologia, of finding positive points of villains.

A Rabbi had been asked to eulogise Theodor Herzl, the founder of Zionism, the man greatly hated by observant Jews of his day. He said, Herzl had never walked into a WC while wearing phylacteries; he never studied Talmud on Christmas Eve; and he didn’t shave on Sabbath. These acts are strictly prohibited by the Jewish law, and Herzl didn’t transgress against these prohibitions. (It is beside the point that he didn’t shave, didn’t study Talmud and didn’t wear phylacteries ever at all).

Another Rabbi had defended Satan regarding his persistence in tormenting Job. He said: God loved Job, the wonderful goy, and even preferred him to Abraham, the first Jew. Satan’s intervention had turned God’s kindness to Abraham; it was actually a good deed, restoring Divine attention to the Chosen folk. After hearing that, Satan flew to the wise Rabbi and kissed the fringe of his robe.

In the spirit of these wise Rabbis, I’ll try to raise a few points in favour of the Israeli PM.

Netanyahu didn’t take a bribe in any regular meaning of the word. He is not a corrupt man, keen to make a quick buck; he is not a fastidious one, either, but politicians rarely are.

* He is accused of having a good time with and accepting gifts from the Israeli billionaire and ex-spy Arnon Milchan. This appears to be a proper thing to do in the case of a man who produced pro-Israeli films and did much for the state of Israel. Every Israeli PM would do the same, while enjoying his splendid cigars and good whisky. Netanyahu tried to promote a regulation that would benefit Milchan, but this act would benefit every rich Jew investing in Israel, not just Milchan.

* Netanyahu is accused of helping media owners and asking them for a favourable press coverage. This does not strike me as an offence: everybody asks media lords for a positive coverage. Netanyahu had the same problem Trump has: media is universally hostile to him. It was not objective; media was out to get him, spilling lies or exaggerating his minor transgressions. In order to rule efficiently, he needed some positive coverage, but they were prejudiced against him, so he was forced to use this subterfuge by their hostility.

* There is a lot of unsubstantiated stories about Mr and Mrs Netanyahu, all of them petty penny-pinching: they overcharged the state while ordering catering, they overpaid their electrician, they returned empty bottles to the shop and got the deposit back, but didn’t refund it to the state. The Attorney General reasonably concluded that there is no proof they actually knew of this detail of housekeeping.

* Years ago, a person close to the PM had sounded out a candidate for the post of Attorney General on Mrs Netanyahu’s case. This was presented as an attempt to sell the high position in return for dropping the case; but it was a reasonable precaution. Pity Donald Trump did not sound out Sessions on RussiaGate before appointing him.

Thus, despite much talk, there is very little real hard stuff against PM Netanyahu, but he had been already tried by media and found guilty. However, Bibi is not indicted yet, though the police chief had recommended that. The decision is that of the Attorney General; he will probably postpone making it unless Ronny Alsheich, the top policeman, will find a way to put pressure on the AG.

If and when Bibi will be indicted, he may fight all the way through the court, and he may win. His followers won’t take his defeat easily, shrug their shoulders and go home. They will cause a lot of trouble, and Bibi is not the type to surrender.

However, if he will have to leave his post, who is likely to become the leader of the Jewish state? There are no good guys we can hope to inherit the throne. Like its neighbour Lebanon, Israel is divided into communities divided by their origin and their attitude to religion. Economically the strongest one is the secular East European Ashkenazi community, but it suffers of the same illness of mind the WASPs of America are heirs to. They are liberal and uncertain of their ability and right to rule. They accepted the minorities-prone agenda like the American white liberals: they are for LGBT, for black African refugees and they would like to have Oriental Jews fronting for them.

The Oriental Jewish communities hate Ashkenazi Jews, but they hate Arabs even more. This hatred to Arabs is the cement of the Jewish state. The Orientals want to be top dogs, but they aren’t certain of their abilities and actually prefer the Ashkenazis to take care of the state affairs.

Religious Jewish communities also subscribe to hatred of Arabs, but they are split between ultra-orthodox and nationalist. The ultra-orthodox care more about their own self-interest, while the nationalist religious are millenarians and chiliasts.

Now there are six persons with some chance of inheriting the PM office; more can appear, and some may drop out. Let us look at them briefly. From the Right to Centre-Right, there are

(1) the fiery-spoken secular Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman, the Russian Jew from Moldova, who called for bombing the Aswan Dam and threatened Lebanon with a war of extinction;

(2) The Minister of Education Naphtali Bennett, the clean-shaven religious nationalist of American background, who said authorities should lock Ahed Tamimi up and throw away the key.

These two candidates are far right.

At the Centre-Right, there are

• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel 
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Do you remember the terrible onslaught of the mainstream media on presidential candidate Donald Trump in 2016? Dozens of revelations about his fake hair, pussy grabbing, tax avoidance and what not; dozens of public polls proving that the nation wanted Hillary and hated Trump, opinion pieces convincing you that only racist white trash could think of voting for him. They even printed that Time weekly (or was it Newsweek?) cover with a Madam President! greeting. And then came the day of counting.

This development comes to my mind as I follow the incessant attacks in the Russian media and social networks on presidential candidate Paul N. Grudinin (usually nicknamed Gru). Russian state-owned TV is supposed, by its charter, to play a neutral role in the election campaign. They did it for a week after his name was entered into the race. In that week’s time, Gru’s rating skyrocketed and almost reached that of President Putin. This was an unexpected turn of events for the Kremlin, whose political witch-doctors expected Gru to make a modest showing and to improve the doubtful legitimacy of the forthcoming elections.

When they recognised the magnitude of their mistake, they gave a command to their obedient TV channels, and Gru became the target of their daily attacks. Out of eight candidates, Gru is the only one who gets negative coverage. About him, they speak bad or nothing, just like about Trump in the US in his time.

A veteran candidate, the old Nationalist Zhirinovsky gets plenty of time on the TV, for he has only one message, Down with Gru. His wild attacks on Gru are broadcasted in every election campaign program every evening on the TV.

There is a spoiler, a tiny ‘Russian Communists’ Trotskyite party, whose only purpose in life is to steal votes from the mainstream Communist Party (KPRF). It is a virtual party that disappears after elections to come back to life before new elections. Some innocent souls in the Russian hinterland vote for them being convinced that this is the Communist Party. They are violently anti-Gru, and post like mad in Facebook their denunciations of the not-quite-communist Gru.

However, Gru is not a run-of-the-mill communist candidate. A successful manager of an agricultural holding called Lenin Sovkhoz, he is a good example of Russian industrialists otherwise called ‘Red directors’, that is managers of Soviet factories and enterprises who adjusted to the new system. They are producers of goods for local consumption, and their interests do not coincide with those of the Putin (or Yeltsin) oligarchs. Those oligarchs made their fortunes by importing consumer goods and exporting raw materials; they are the base of Putin’s power.

The producers, both industrialists and agriculturalists, want more protectionist measures and cheaper credits, they want to boost the buying power of ordinary Russians, that is increase salaries and pensions. Their fortunes lie with the fortunes of the ordinary Russian workers. They are dissatisfied with President Putin, and even more with his government led by Mr Medvedev.

Gru became the candidate for a plethora of political organisations from the Left and from the Right; he is supported by Russian Nationalists, though his main alliance is with the KPRF (the mainstream Russian Communist Party). He is a combination of Sanders and Trump, for workers, against immigration, for protective trade barriers and low-cost credits for small producers. A self-made-man of the upper-middle class, not a billionaire, but definitely a wealthy man, he does not scare middle-class Russians who would be afraid to support a real red-in-tooth-and-claw Communist.

Though the official prediction grouop, the Russian Public Opinion Research Center, VTSIOM (ВЦИОМ) claims 70% of electorate will vote for Putin and only 7% for Grudinin, the feeling on the ground is very different. There are a few sites allowing people to express their preference by “voting”; a biggish site of this sort is where out of 180,000 voters 60% preferred Gru, and only 30% voted for President Putin. On other sites, Gru gets anything from 30 to 80 per cent of the vote.

It is difficult to predict the result, and it is still over a month until election day, but VTSIOM’s assessment appears too low to justify the ferocious campaign against Gru. If he were about to get 6-7%, the top wheeler-dealer, the presidential administration, would not bother and would not activate its troll factories and fake social network accounts to stop Grudinin. It seems that man has a chance to win the battle, that is if the elections are reasonably fair.

Putin has been a good president, and a popular one, but he has his limitations. He still feels obliged to keep the Deal he made with the late President Yeltsin; he still keeps fighting the Soviet memory, he is surrounded by his buddies who roll in cash; he does not support local production except for the weapons industry. While he was good for a long while, there is a feeling that the country is ripe for a changing of the guard.

A teacher in the preparatory school may be wonderful, but sooner or later, the child should move on, to new teachers. Gru is the first man who has excited the Russians since 1996, and he is likely to make a strong bid.

The Russian Left is Different.

Grudinin has the support of the left and of the right; of workers and of managers; of communists and of nationalists. How could this happen? The main reason is that the Russian Left is quite different from the European Left. The Russians are Bolsheviks. The Western Left is predominantly Menshevik.

Historically, the Russian Social Democrats were divided into Bolsheviks, the Majorites, and Mensheviks, the Minorites. The actual argument that divided the Social Democrats into these majority and minority groups is of little importance now and of even less relevance. Nowadays, the Majorites are the Left for the Majority, while Minorites are the Left for Minorities.

The Russian Left is the force for the majority, for the workers, for the natives. The Western Left is for gender, ethnic, religious minorities. If you’d ask a Western worker about the Left, he will probably tell you: the Left is not for us, they care only for gays and migrants who take our jobs.

Mensheviks are (and were) better for Jews, as Jews are the ultimate minority. Bolsheviks accepted Jews as individuals and equals, not as a separate and preferred minority group. Bolsheviks fought against the Bund, the Jewish Social Democrats, while the Mensheviks joined with the Bund.

Stalin observed (and Trotsky quoted that in his book on Stalin):

“the majority of the Menshevik group were Jews. On the other hand, the overwhelming majority of the Bolshevik group were ethnic Russians. In this connection a Bolshevik observed in jest that the Mensheviks constituted a Jewish group while the Bolsheviks constituted a true-Russian group and, therefore, it wouldn’t be a bad idea for us Bolsheviks to organise a pogrom in the Party”.

While being comradely to Jewish comrades, Stalin effectively de-Jewified the Russian Communist Party by bringing in many ethnic Russian workers and peasants. He treated the Jews as just one of the tribes populating Eurasia, not as the Chosen Ones. This is the sin of Stalin in Jewish eyes, and that is why they condemn him now.

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While you have probably already forgotten the feast, Russia is only now slowly coming back to life after its overlong Christmas break completed on January 14 by the quaintly named Old New Year, or even perhaps by the Epiphany on January 19. Everybody went somewhere, even candidates for the presidential race coming in on March 18: the Communist one went to ski in Austria, while the right-winger went to Bali. On the eve of Epiphany, they dipped in the ice-cold waters: the ultimate trial of Russian fitness. Not only he-man Putin, but even she-woman Sobchak did it!

And now, at last, as the feasts are over, the real trial begins. The US is preparing a new round of sanctions, including seizure of Russian oligarch assets. They are ripe for collection. The confiscation of Russian holdings in Cyprus banks in 2013 passed without a hitch and served as a trial balloon. Putin didn’t object overmuch, for he is a sworn enemy of offshore accounts. None of the fleeced Russian businessmen succeeded in recovering their losses in court. Now is the time for the real thing, and much of the anti-Russian hysteria is aimed at preparing the ground for the seizure. In this way, they plan to get a cool trillion dollars into the US Treasury. Who will lose his assets and who will survive, this is the talk of the day in Moscow.

The Russian assets in the west could be divided into New Money, assets of Putin’s people, and the Old Money, assets of Yeltsin’s people. The sanctions are supposed to deal with Putin’s people, but Russian experts think the Old Money is more vulnerable, for a good reason. The New Money is under Putin’s protection. If the US or any other western authority grabs it, the Russian government may seize Western shares in Russian companies and properties.

But what about the Old Money? Its owners, elder oligarchs, are extremely worried about Putin’s nonchalance. Putin takes it easy, they say. Ma’alish, the Arab in Putin says. Que sera sera, says his inner Frenchman. And this nonchalant attitude drives the oligarchs crazy. They want him to fight and save their money. They insisted on his meeting with President Trump in Vietnam; some say the meeting took place in the depth of the night, far from prying eyes, and didn’t bring results. Now Putin says to the Old Money: if you want to save your money, repatriate it to Russia. We aren’t that mad, they reply. You have to defend us anyway! That was the Deal!

Now we are coming to a difficult part. The Deal. Connected people, in-the-know, claim that a top-secret agreement was reached between the late Mr Yeltsin and his cronies, on one side, and The West, on the other side, in 1991. Yeltsin et al had sold Russia’s interests down the river, and in return, The West allowed the bastards to hoard their ill-gotten gains in the Western financial system. Yeltsin et al had promised to let the Soviet republics go; to disarm; to follow the Washington Consensus, i.e. to stick to the liberal economic model; to allow the free import of consumer goods; to allow Western access to the Russian military complex; to let the West write Russian laws; to permit the free outflow of capital from Russia. The West promised to bring investment, to let Russia live in peace, to keep NATO away from Russian borders.

Mr Putin inherited The Deal. Slowly, the Deal has been eroded from both sides. NATO troops moved eastward, no sizeable investment came in, the West supported Chechen rebels. Russia limited Western access to its military-industrial complex; took Crimea; regained some of its international independence.

Putin was elected, or you may say, he was appointed to stick to the Deal and to serve as the Supreme Arbiter among the oligarchs, with very little of a power base of his own. Slowly, he created his own oligarchs (they are described as “siloviki”, though not all of them have some security forces background), and he had built up a limited power base; though many important positions, in particular in the economic sphere, remained in the hands of the Old Guard, Yeltsin’s men. This, too, was a part of the Deal.

The powerful personalities of Yeltsin’s era remained embedded in the upper echelons of Putin’s state. Chubais and Kudrin were and are untouchable. They are connected with the FRS and the IMF, they go to Bilderberg and Davos, they are often described as ‘the colonial administration’. They steal with both hands, and do it with impunity. Just last week it was revealed and published that Mr Chubais and Mr Kudrin appropriated a cool billion dollars of Russian state money while repaying the Soviet debt to the Czech Republic. The worst Putin can do about them is to give them a fat chunk of the Russian economy to chew on, while limiting their access to the rest. So he gave Mr Chubais the Rusnano company that made no profit but embezzled billions. This was the Deal.

Yeltsin’s oligarchs remained as rich as they were; Yeltsin’s family still possesses immense riches. And Putin does not dare to touch them. He goes hat in hand to open a Yeltsin’s Memorial Centre; he is courteous with Yeltsin’s widow and daughter. Putin’s establishment cautiously avoided celebration, or even mention of the Revolution centenary, in keeping with Yeltsin’s anticommunism. This is the Deal.

The topmost schools of Russia, the most endowed, the most privileged schools for the children of the new nobility are the HSE, (the Higher School of Economics, a clone of the LSE and the economic think-tank of the government), and MGIMO, (Moscow State Institute of International Relations, the school for perspective diplomats). Their graduates were been trained to despise Russia and admire the neo-liberal West (just like the Indian students trained by the Brits, had admired England and despised their country in the days of the British Raj). Professor Medvedev of the HSE called upon Russian government to transfer the Russian Far North to the international community, though this is the place of the greatest gas reserves (he kept his position). Professor Zubov of the MGIMO had compared Putin to Hitler, and denounced Russian diplomats as liars (his contract hasn’t been prolonged). All that is a part of the Deal.

Putin has been unhappy with the Deal for a long time, vocally so since his Munich talk in 2007, but he stuck to the script. Even now, Russia’s economy follows the liberal model; billions of dollars are being siphoned out of Russia monthly; billions of dollars’ worth of Western manufactured consumer goods are imported and sold in Russia, though it would make perfect sense to organise local manufacture. Russia’s Central Bank is directly connected to the Western finance system, and its emission is limited by the amount of hard currency in its coffers. The Rouble carry trade prospers, like the Yen carry trade did years ago.

Meanwhile, the Deal has been undone from the West, as a result of the epic struggle between Bankers and Producers, otherwise described as Liberals vs. Conservatives, or Globalists vs. Regionalists, personalised as Clinton vs. Trump. Yeltsin’s people are historically aligned with the Clinton camp. Now, their assets in the West, previously protected by the Deal, have lost their protection and come up for grabs.

The Old Money people are putting their effort into persuading the West, namely the US, to let them live in peace and instead confiscate the pro-Putin New Money.

(Will Syria Be Partitioned?)
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Russia avoided the Syrian quagmire despite dire predictions. Putin minimised his footprint, his war is almost over, ISIL has been defeated. Trump could also exclaim “Mission is completed!” – and fly home. But it seems he is eager to rush in where angels fear to tread. Trump does not mind doing for the Israeli Prime Minister what his predecessors, whether Democrats or Republicans, refused, namely, fighting Israel’s war by indefinitely extending the hostile and illegal occupation of Syria.

He should have learned by now that foreign policy is not his forte. His liberal opponents at home effectively neutralise every move he does. Worse, his steps are counterproductive. He would achieve more if he were to forget about the world at large for a long while, and let the world forget about him.

Take, for instance, the Iranian protests. They appeared so dangerous for the regime, when the crowds called for resurrection of the late Shah and for withdrawal from Syria. They could have become dangerous, but they dissipated thanks to the timely intervention of President Trump. He had promptly expressed his support for the protesters.

Even the more pro-American segments of the European body politic have learned by now that the real American establishment never agrees with the real President Trump, and refused being drawn into human rights rhetoric and condemning Iran. We may quietly cheer the obnoxious Nikki Haley, who had succeeded in annoying the international community so much during the Jerusalem vote that her attempt to call the Security Council to arms miserably backfired.

The Russians and the Turks took Trump’s cue and denounced (otherwise almost non-existent) American intervention, while the Europeans stayed away. The Iranian protesters understood who would enjoy more riots and went back home, to deny Trump this pleasure. This was a very good outcome for the Russians who could have found themselves in dire straits in Syria without Iranian ground troops.

In Palestine, the steady genius of Trump achieved the near-impossible feat of forcing the Palestinian leadership’s withdrawal from the Oslo Accords. These miserable accords, blessed by the US and EU, and condemned by the late, great Edward Said, had been the basis of apartheid perpetuation in Israel/Palestine. As long as they were preserved, one couldn’t expect much change; they were the Iron Dome of Israeli politics, quipped an Israeli wit. Now they are dead and gone, and the new rules will be laid down, presumably with Russia’s participation.

The US-North Korean stand-off looked perilous, and the nuclear war appeared imminent. But Trump’s obvious insanity restored some sense to the troubled soul of South Korean president Moon. He understood that he was likely to become the president of incinerated Seoul, and called his North Korean counterpart for a friendly chat. The two Korean leaders exchanged virtual cigars and agreed to provide a joint team at the Olympic Games, to great disappointment of war-mongering Trump. This breakthrough encouraged the Russians and the Chinese so much that they refused to visit the Vancouver gathering; without them, the meeting had very little meaning, if any.

In Syria, the Russians came under the Attack of the Drones, which coincided with the government army offensive in the rebel-run Idlib province. The drones also came from Idlib, where the last act of the civil war is being played. Turkey was supposed to keep peace in Idlib, and the Turks were upset by the offensive. They said peace negotiations with the rebels were the only way to restore order; this suits the Russians who generally prefer to negotiate rather than fight. But Damascus does not believe in negotiations with the Islamist radicals; these radicals, a new reincarnation of al Qaeda, make impossible demands like “Assad must go”, and use the negotiation time to entrench. Confrontation between the Turks and ‘their’ rebels on one side, and the Russians and ‘their’ Syrians over Idlib was been looming and threatening.

Things could have become uncomfortable for the Russians, but here again, the US helped by declaring that they were arming and training a new rebel army in Syrian Kurdistan. Nothing spurs the Turks into action as fast as Kurdish moves. Just recently they succeeded in defeating Barzani’s attempt at creating an independent Kurdistan in Iraq, and now, Kurdistan Take Two, this time in Syria. Erdogan promised to drown the new Kurdish army under American leadership in rivers of blood and began gathering troops on the border of Afrin, the smaller Kurdish-held enclave. Even Erdogan was not sufficiently imprudent to confront both Russia and the US at once, and he patched up his relations with Putin. The Attack of the Drones has been re-assigned from the Turkish-supported rebels to the US-supported ones, as a U.S. Navy P-8A Poseidon patrol plane had been in the air in that area at the right time. Thus the big danger of Russia-Turkey quarrel was averted, while US-Turkey enmity quickly rose.

This would be a very good time for the Americans to go home while the going is good. Turkey is much more important for the US than Syria could ever be; while for Israel it is other way around, Syria is more important. This was the moment of choice for President Trump: what does he treasure more, the US or Israel? The answer has been given in Rex Tillerson’s speech at Hoover Institution.

If until now, the official US position was that they came to Syria to defeat ISIS and then go home when the mission is completed, now we were disabused. Americans are not going anywhere. They will stay put forever, or until kicked out; another part of Syria, besides the Golan Heights, will be occupied.

“The US will maintain a military presence in Syria… We will not repeat the 2011 mistake of pulling out from Iraq. We shall strive for the diminishment of Iranian influence — the northern arch will be denied, and Syria’s neighbours [read: Israel] will be secure. [We will stay until] Syria is free from weapons of mass destruction… The US will not withdraw until Assad is gone”.

Thus, Sergey Lavrov’s assessment given last week, that Americans intend to dismember Syria, became true. “A course was set for the partition of Syria,” the Russian minister of foreign affairs said. Now this prediction turned into reality.

Well, what else is new? Americans never leave voluntarily. Whenever they come, they try and stay forever. They came to Philippines in 1898, and they are still there, despite many demands to get out. They came to Cuba in 1898, and they still stay there, despite many promises to leave blood-soaked Guantanamo. In 1945, they occupied Germany and Japan, and they are still there, only their puppets change. They came to South Korea, and they still stay there. They conquered Afghanistan in 2001, and they are still there.

Among many colonial powers, the US is the exceptional one by its stubborn stickiness. It is easier to get rid of a chewing gum that got stuck to your sole than the American presence.

Good News from Around the World
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Merry Christmas to you, dear readers! It is a beautiful and serene time of hope, when the darkest time of the year is already behind us. Though the light is still not perceptible, but we know and feel that the change is coming.

The recent vote in the United Nations has been such a glimpse of light, a harbinger of Sun. The people of the world en masse rejected the American administration’s recognition of Jerusalem as a part of the Jewish state – what could be better? They did it despite open threats voiced by the crazy envoy Nikki Haley who threatened the world community mob-style, promising to write down all those who voted against the American decision. (“The first name that she should write down is Bolivia,” defiantly said the Bolivian UN ambassador.)

Trump also suggested the U.S. could cut off aid for countries that opposed it in the U.N. vote. These threats had been counterproductive: only nine states, the usual suspects including the ex-US dependencies in the Pacific voted for the Zionists. Even Canada, ever supportive of Israel and as heavily Zionised as anybody, didn’t vote for the US and Israel, because the Trump threats made it nearly impossible for an independent state to do so. If Zionists thought they already rule the world, the vote came and proved their triumphant reports were somewhat premature. “We are not Zionist slaves”, the nations of the world said.

I love these decisions of Trump: they undermine the Imperial hold on the world more than anything Putin could ever do. Did he plan it? Did the rain plan to facilitate wheat growth? What is important that Trump is doing it well. Cutting the US contribution to the UN budget is also good, as it ushers us to the blessed times when the US won’t order nations around.

Is there a flip side? Not really.

The US decision on Jerusalem has been deemed null and void. The Palestinians are justifiably angry, but they are also encouraged by world support. Before the Trump recognition, they were smothered by silence, now their struggle is back in the limelight. The Turks assumed their traditional place in the lead of the Muslim Ummah (Islamic equivalent of “Christendom”). Iran has been reconciled with its Sunni neighbours. In short, rarely has a decision by the US President made such a positive shift as Trump’s Jerusalem decision.

Even Israeli Defence Minister Mr Lieberman, well known for his fiery rhetoric, has been accommodating. He refrained from bombing Gaza despite a few stray rockets, and he watched placidly as Assad’s troops cleared the pockets of jihadis on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights armistice line. This is good news, as in normal times, he would already send his air force to strafe them.

Suppression of Palestinian protests has been less fierce than usual, too. A legless invalid protester in his wheelchair was killed by a well-aimed shot of a Jewish sniper, a teenage girl who slapped an Israeli officer has been taken to jail, a lot of tear gas has been fired in Bethlehem; but by Israeli standards, the repression has been restrained, and as I predicted, the Third Intifada did not materialise.

The Beast of Riyadh has been forced to vote against his best friends America and Israel. He tried again to convince Abu Mazen, that is Mahmoud Abbas, the PNA President, to accept “the American Peace Plan”, and in vain. Even before the Trump recognition, Abbas declined the offer; now it would be suicidal.

But don’t weep for MBS. He keeps milking his relatives and notables, locked up in the Ritz Carlton. One of them, Royal Guard Major General Ali Alqahtani died under torture. His family had difficulty recognising his body – too many electric shocks. The price tag for the freedom of al-Waleed bin Talal, the richest detainee, has been placed at $6 billion dollars, some 30% of his net worth, but probably 70% of his unencumbered assets. The Dog Still Does Not Bark, that is the world media keeps mum about this shakedown, and this is good news for MBS.

If you were taken in by Thomas Friedman oral job and came to believe that the money will be spent on an alternative economy for Arabia, rest assured: MBS bought himself a palace in France worth 300 million, a painting attributed to Leonardo, for 450 million, and a new yacht for 500 million. And he still a lot of cash to spend.

Will he start a new war with Iran? MBS found a better way. You can watch a great cartoon depicting the Saudi victory over Iran – this is his war effort.

I wholeheartedly approve of making cartoons instead of fighting wars. Let Trump learn from MBS and be satisfied by commissioning a cartoon of his brilliant victory over North Korea (Trump lands, kills Kim the Rocket Man in hand-to-hand combat, and Koreans greet him as their saviour) instead of actually going there.

The world is full of good news, suitable for Yuletide. There is good news in Russia, too. The Russian Communists, nominally the main opposition force, erstwhile a timid supporter of Putin, have chosen a new face to run in the Presidential elections of March 2018. This is Pavel Grudinin, the successful manager of a collective farm near Moscow. The farm named after Lenin survived Yeltsin’s drive to eliminate all socialist enterprises, and actually flourished – it feeds Moscow with its strawberries. His ascendancy has been greeted with unexpected excitement, and some people already predict he can win in the race.

People were reluctant to vote for the veteran Communist leader Gennadi Zyuganov. The Russians believe that he had won the Presidential elections race 1996, but agreed to accept Yeltsin’s “victory” – to save his life, or to avoid a new civil war. He has been a pocket opposition leader since then, and the Left looked out for a new independent leader. Pavel Grudinin and Yuri Boldyrev were the favourites; Boldyrev is a better polemist while Grudinin is a better practical economist. Both would be serious contenders, however, the party and assorted Left chose Grudinin.

Russia is ripe for a Communist comeback. Probably you do not remember – these events went down the memory hole years ago – but just before Putin’s appointment as Russian President by his predecessor Boris Yeltsin, Russia had been on the verge of peacefully electing Communists to lead the country.

The rule of full-blown anti-Communists (1990 to 1998) had been disastrous. By 1998, all assets and gold (and the previous loans ever given to Russia) had been stolen by Yeltsin’s family and their supporting oligarchs in the name of fighting Communism, and the Russian state had defaulted and gone into bankruptcy. In order to save his skin, Yeltsin had appointed Mr Evgeni Primakov, a former Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Parliament Speaker, the Head of the Foreign Intelligence Service (Russian NSA), as the Prime Minister, and with Communist support, Primakov saved the country. It was almost a certainty that Primakov would become the next President of Russia, as Yeltsin’s term was running out.

• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Israel/Palestine, Russia, Saudi Arabia 
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Jerusalem is first of all a symbol, and a potent one; the American recognition of Jewish sovereignty over the Holy City is a sign of the final Jewish victory over Christianity, and it is to be deeply regretted. Richard Coeur de Lion and Tancred would not understand this surrender of the city they fought for, but the times have changed. The Christians of yesteryear did not refer to Jews as their “elder brothers”. What began with Americans saying “Season greetings” instead of ‘Merry Christmas,’ ended with this shameful act of Christ denial.

The Palestinians won’t be able to save the city. The Third Intifada is not coming yet, despite the annoying in-your-face Trump declaration, and despite the Hamas call for a rising, and it is not likely to come anytime soon, unless Israelis will provoke it. Thousands of men and women protested during the week that passed; a few were shot by Israeli soldiers, among others, a double amputee in his wheel chair. However, Palestine did not explode in anger. For a regular reader of my articles, the muted Palestinian response to the American provocation does not come as a surprise. I wrote recently that it has never been so good, Palestine has now a run of modest prosperity, a building boom, a tourist boom, restaurants’ boom, and they are not likely to go and die for a statement, even for an annoying statement.

The Palestinians of East Jerusalem have it better than other Palestinians: they have no citizenship, but they can move more-or-less freely about the whole of Palestine, including the “old Israel”. They are pragmatic and patriotic. They consider themselves the guardians of their legacy, including the great shrines of al Aqsa and of the Holy Sepulchre. If and when the Jews touch the shrines, they respond in force, as it happened last August when Israel tried to limit the access to the Mosque.

But President Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish state did not ignite them. Nobody in his right mind has had any doubts about American feelings. Americans are for Israel, it is a national obsession. So now they declared Jerusalem – a Jewish capital. And before, when they had sent their ambassadors, all Jews, all devout Zionists, all “Israel Firsters” – was it any different?

Trump is not different from his predecessors. All American Presidents declared Jerusalem – the eternal united and indivisible capital of the Jewish state. Obama did it, and so did Bush. True, they said it while running for the office, and they avoided repeating the mantra while in the White House, but they never repudiated it, either.

Ninety out of a hundred US Senators approved of Trump’s statement. Ten abstained, probably being unable to support Trump for any reason at all. Still, it was a most-approved step of the President. The American political establishment is thoroughly pro-Israel, both liberal and fundamentalist, Republican and Democrat, from Sanders to Bannon; we knew it, and now Trump allowed the people to read it loud and clear. He did what the people want. That is why you elected him: so he will do what you want, not what somebody else who claims to know better, tells you.

Why do you Americans want it? America is working out its Gestalt as the Shining City on the Hill, the New Israel of Manifest Destiny. This great country does not yet want to become just another great country, it wants to lead mankind and to re-form the world after its own shape and image. America had been messianic for a long time, and this habit is hard to kick.

Under the shell of a hard-nosed Yank, there is a fanatic Dispensationalist with The Scofield Reference Bible under his arm waiting for the Gog and Magog war against Israel. You can look at this site, just one of plethora of sites predicting the war between Israel on one side, Iran and Russia on the other side, with the US siding with Israel but staying away until being Raptured into Second Coming. This is insane, but such Gestalts run deep, and they explain insane behaviour (seeking war with Iran, bombing Babylon and supporting Israel) better than a calculation of profit and loss.

Love, or rather obsession with Israel is a part of this Gestalt. Though Southern Baptists and Eastern Liberals appear different, they have the same original imprint cast by the Founding Fathers, by Puritans and Pilgrims. This Gestalt breaks out unexpectedly. The present fight against harassment is just another break-out of Puritan zeal, though the Fundamentalists will quote the Bible, and the Liberals will appeal to Woman whose rights should not be violated.

This is the only plausible explanation to such complaints in the New York Times: “Samantha Holvey, a former contestant in the Miss USA pageant, said that Mr Trump ogled her and other women in the pageant’s hair and makeup room.”

For a sane person, it is apparent that a participant in the Miss USA pageant came there to be ogled and desired by multitudes of men. For a Puritan fanatic, “anyone who looks at a woman lustfully etc”, just looking lustfully (=ogling) is a sin. A Boston zealot circa 1650 would approve of the very modern persecution of lusting and ogling men.

The difference between enlightened de-Christianised American Democrats for Clinton in Vermont and a Fundamentalist Christian Republican for Trump in Mississippi is minor, in rationalisation of their feelings and actions. Both find ogling or flirting or courting – wrong, though they explain it differently. That is why so many American politicians commit suicide while being accused of some non-actionable non-offence, like lusting after a 17 year old girl some years ago.

It is the same in foreign relations. The Eastern Liberal descendants of the Puritans want to go and kill people abroad to save black women from being ravished by black men in Afghanistan, the Fundamentalists want to crush Babylon; in both cases they are motivated by messianic zeal and desire to transform the world.

It would be the best for the Americans to forget for a while about the Middle East, about Babylon, Israel and Gog and Magog. Perhaps Trump will achieve even that, by fully accepting the people’s will. After all, he has some real reasons to do what he did. He is the Destroyer of Falsitude in his struggle against the Congress. The Congress forced the US President to certify Iran’s good behaviour every six months; Trump refused to do it, and the world did not come down. The Congress forced the US President to postpone the Tel Aviv Embassy move every six months; Trump refused that, and the world did not come down. Just another falsity of the Political Establishment had been destroyed.

By his deed, he probably gained some time and postponed his impeachment. The Jews are not famous for their gratitude, as they accept every good deed as something they anyway deserved, but still, there is a chance they won’t dump him right away.

Imprisoning and Torturing Billionaire Oligarchs
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The best solutions to difficult problems are simple. The Columbus Egg. The Gordian Knot. The Procrustean Bed. So many people strained their fingers trying to untangle the messy knot, until Alexander came and slashed it open with one fine stroke of his mighty sword. Wise men vainly tried to make an egg stand upright on its end on the table, until Columbus smashed one end. Procrustes solved the problem of the great diversity of population height-wise, by chopping off the legs of the tall and stretching the legs of the short.

Now the glorious if a tad too long name of the Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman (or MBS) should join the list of the great solution-makers. He faced the problem of having a broke country, an empty treasury, and a lot of very rich citizens with full coffers.

Trump faces a similar problem; in the US, the top dogs have the whole hog, while the state is in multi-trillion debt. Just three well-to-do gentlemen—Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg—have as much in their coffers as all the ordinary folk. The annual deficit is about $400 billion; the Rockefellers would not even notice if this paltry sum went amiss from their holdings, estimated at well over a trillion dollars, that is twelve zeroes after the first digit.

The Greeks have it even worse: they are in debt, biting the bullet of austerity, while the moneys the Greek state borrowed has lined the pockets of the rich.

The problem is universal. Everywhere, from the UK to Russia and from Brazil to Greece it’s the same: the state coffers are empty, politicians prescribe austerity for the people, while a few rich guys enjoy the fast growth of their untaxed capital.

Now, we know that, but what will you do about it, smart guy? Will you bite your moustache? Will you complain, in sotto voce or loudly, or just drink some cold beer to forget of this unhealthy fact of life? You know that you are not allowed to tax the rich people, you can’t stop them moving their capital offshore, you should not even utter such hateful words as it may be found anti-Semitic. It happened to Trump: when he attacked bankers in his election campaign, he was immediately called an ‘anti-Semite’.

Crown Prince MBS found a solution. He rounded up hundreds of the wealthiest people in his Kingdom, placed them in the posh five-star hotel Ritz Carlton in his capital Riyadh, and told them to cough up the dough. When they laughed at his face, he called for torturers to begin, Mafia-style, his extortion racket.

The Daily Mail, in an exclusive report, tells us that “the Saudi princes and billionaire businessmen arrested in a power grab earlier this month are being strung up by their feet and beaten by American private security contractors. The arrests have been followed by ‘interrogations’ which a source said were being carried out by ‘American mercenaries’. ‘They are beating them, torturing them, slapping them, insulting them. They want to break them down,’ the source told

(‘Blackwater’ has been named as the firm involved, and the claim of its presence in Saudi Arabia has also been made on Arabic social media, and by Lebanon’s president. The firm’s successor, Academi, strongly denies even being in Saudi Arabia and says it does not engage in torture.)

The torture in the glamorous hotel had been reported by one of best old-hand journalists in the Middle East, David Hearst. Several detainees were taken to hospital with torture injuries, he writes.

There is a vast difference between ‘incredible’ and ‘impossible’, and the princes of Saudi Arabia learned by their own experience that though it is incredible that these worthies, pillars of society, owners of great hotels in London and film companies in Hollywood would be tortured, it was by no means impossible.

The wealthiest Arab of all, Prince Al-Walid bin al-Talal, a billionaire 18 times over, an “important partner” to Bill Gates, co-owner of 21st Century Fox and Twitter, of Paris’ Hotel George V and London’s Savoy Hotel, inter alia, had been hung upside down, Mussolini-style.

Hundreds of other princes and gentlemen were tortured, too, until they agreed to surrender their ill-gotten assets, 70% of all they have. As I write, and as you read these lines, the torture goes on, and so far MBS has already milked his victims of hundreds of billions $$ worth of cash and assets.

“An Extortion racket”, you’ll exclaim. Perhaps MBS watched The Godfather in his impressionable youth and was impressed by efficiency of their methods. However, he has solved, or rather is in the process of solving, the problem of solvency.

Perhaps this is the method to be advised to Trump and Putin, as well as to other leaders? If the neoliberal dogma forbids taxing, if the offshore are sacred, what remains for a diligent leader but a plush five-star hotel and a band of experienced torturers?

But surely, the torturer will be condemned and ostracised by human rights’ defenders! Not at all. Not a single voice, neither from liberal left nor from authoritarian right objected to this amazing deed of mass torture and extortion. While the co-owner of Twitter has been subjected to daily beatings, the prime voice of liberal conscience, Tom Friedman of the New York Times, eulogised MBS as the bearer of progress. In an article as panegyric as they come, titled Saudi Arabia’s Arab Spring, at Last and subtitled “The crown prince has big plans for his society”.

Tom Friedman does not use the word “extortion”, saying that [MBS’s] “government arrested scores of Saudi princes and businessmen on charges of corruption and threw them into a makeshift gilded jail — the Riyadh Ritz-Carlton — until they agreed to surrender their ill-gotten gains.” No condemnation at all! Can you imagine what he would say if Putin were to arrest his oligarchs “until they agreed to surrender their ill-gotten gains”?

I believe one line in Friedman’s eulogy, saying that the Saudis are content with the extortion act: “the mood among Saudis I spoke with was: “Just turn them all upside down, shake the money out of their pockets and don’t stop shaking them until it’s all out!” Moreover, I am sure the Americans would applaud if their billionaires were to get the MBS treatment. The Russians were mighty pleased when Putin locked up the oligarch Khodorkovsky, and complained that he was the only one to be jailed. They would love to see the whole lot of oligarchs who plundered Russia through manifestly fraudulent, staged auctions under American advisers in Yeltsin’s days, to be shaken “until it’s all out”.

Not only the media is supportive of the extortion scheme. US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told CNBC: “I think that the Crown Prince [Mohammed bin Salman] is doing a great job at transforming the country.” President Trump blessed MBS along similar lines. Not a word of condemnation came out of President Putin, either. Even Al Jazeera, though reporting the extortion in a matter-of-fact way, didn’t make too much out of it.

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A burly unattractive woman in her late fifties or sixties, dyed hair, pearl laces around wrinkled neck, tearfully relating a story of unwanted sexual attention that maybe occurred many years ago, presents a most embarrassing sight. Perhaps once Beverly Young Nelson was young and pretty, and could awake passion in a man’s loins, but that was long time ago. And still this awkward creature effectively had stopped the suspect, Roy Moore from Alabama, from winning an election.

If this old crow were to claim she loaned Moore a hundred dollars thirty years ago and demanded it back with accrued interest, she would be laughed out of court. Where was she until now, where is the proof, people would say. Why nobody asks this question now, when the political career of the man is at stake? How could it be that a few unsubstantiated claims can ruin a man?

Moreover, this person has a name and a face, if an ugly one, but in many cases, the accuser remains anonymous, hidden by a letter, while the accused has a name, and a face, and often he had a job until this accusation. Only the Inquisition had similar features, with anonymous sources and obscure charges. Now we have sexquisition.

Is it a purely American phenomenon? A payback for Salem, where a similar spasm of mass paranoia caused a small New England town to hang some twenty women accused of witchcraft?

In Salem, men hunted witches; just three hundred years passed, and now witches hunt men.

Alas, no, it is a world-wide epidemic. The US is the model for the whole of Pax Americana, where people imitate American music and movies, and now they imitate this trend. No man of any confession or age is safe from persecution.

In Israel, the smaller soul-mate of America, a Rabbi has been indicted for raping and sodomising a teenage girl seven years ago. A feminist policewoman was given the case. The Rabbi spent a month in jail and almost a year under house arrest, he lost his job, his name was besmirched forever. Eventually it became clear that the girl couldn’t even remember and repeat her own lies. The State Prosecutor’s Office has withdrawn the indictment filed against Rabbi David Harrison, and he has been set free. Will somebody return to him the year of his life lost, his good name, his work? Will his accuser and the insistent policewoman pay for it? No.

He was anyway a lucky one. The Israeli President Moshe Katsav had less luck. His first accuser, hidden behind letter A. turned out to be a liar, and her claims were dismissed. But as her story unfolded, many women joined in the royal hunt, and eventually Katsav was jailed. Now, the judges in Israel are predominantly women, and men are doomed.

Europe meekly follows the US. There, the accused is a Swiss-born Muslim scholar Oxford University Professor Tariq Ramadan, the man who worked to make Muslims in Europe feel European. A string of women came claiming he raped them or made unwanted sexual advances to them some years ago. He had to take a leave of absence from the University.

In short, no man, Christian, Jew or Muslim, is safe from such an accusation, provided he has a name, a position and some money in his bank account. For a mysterious reason, ordinary hard-living guys, taxi drivers, lift operators or assembly belt workers were never remembered by the likes of Beverly Young Nelson twenty years later. Is it plausible that the working class blokes never push their way or even squeeze a girl? That only rich and famous guys do it?

This assault on men coincides with the very successful campaign #MeToo in the social networks. Many women were forced to join: if you didn’t, perhaps nobody ever found you attractive enough to make a pass. And they did join en masse. Men, too, are receptive to mass hysteria, but women much more so. Social networks are the breeding grounds for such trends.

Is there some kernel of truth in those woeful tales? Up to a point. Perfectly ordinary action can be described in extreme sensationalist language. Instead of saying “he embraced and kissed me”, use “he forcibly introduced his tongue into my mouth while holding me tight”, and then “by his weight he kept me pinned to the bed”. Sex can be described – by a Puritan, by a man-hater, by a psycho, – in such a way that you will call for death sentence for the perpetrator.

The word “rape” has little of its original meaning remaining. My friend Julian Assange has been imprisoned for years, and his perfectly consensual sex with two of his groupies has been described as ‘rape’ for some technicalities (a broken condom, a semi-sleeping or not fully awake condition). In both cases it was buyer’s remorse, the women regretted what they did after a couple of days because he did not call back. A man-hating woman, the state attorney, a self-proclaimed lesbian, insisted on sending Julian to jail. In her view, jail is a good place for any man, even if the complaint is baseless. Even after making such a discriminating statement, she was not fired.

Sweden has had a lot of rape complaints recently. Some readers connected it with mass immigration from the Middle East. And indeed a normal man from the Middle East may misinterpret girl’s words and actions. No means no, say the feminists, but it wasn’t so understood by European men even in the 1950s. A girl had to insist on her ‘no’, otherwise it would be construed as normal feminine way to be coy. So many ordinary actions are called ‘rape’ nowadays in Sweden, that the word had been properly devalued.

Anything can be described in nauseating manner. Eating meat can be compared to cannibalism, flirt can be described as horrible rape. In the same time, actions that nauseate a normal person can be described as normal and even normative. Normal men are revolted by the description or presentation of same-sex relationships. Nowadays they are forced to accept it as normal while considering usual man-to-woman act as almost criminal.

Americans voted for Donald Trump hoping he would end the emasculating trend in their society. It still can be done by enforcing two simple rules that were taken for granted until the US Supreme Court removed them.

One, end with reminiscences. The Bible, this great source of common sense, tells us what rape is and how to deal with it. If the crime occurred in town, the woman should raise hell. She should cry and shout. If it did not help, or if the crime occurred out of town, she should go right away to police. Not twenty years later, not in a week time, not even in a couple of days, but right away. If she kept silent, it is her problem.

This attitude will solve the question whether the woman means ‘no’, when she says ‘no’. If she cries out for help, she definitely means that.

And there will be no sleeping mines ready to go off any moment.

Two, no anonymity for the accusers. If you accuse a man, be prepared to stand for it, do not hide behind the veil of anonymity.

This two simple rules will restore sanity and make rape the horrible crime it was and is.

As for harassment, this is most often an invention of man-haters. It should be out of criminal law and out of police business altogether. If a lady feels that somebody’s stares annoy her, she might sue the guy. Or call for a policeman if it is more than just stares. Policemen know how to deal with such guys.

• Category: Ideology • Tags: Feminism, Political Correctness 
Israel Shamir
About Israel Shamir

Israel Shamir has written extensively on public affairs, primarily relating to the Israel/Palestine conflict and Russia, including three books, Galilee Flowers, Cabbala of Power and Masters of Discourse available in English, French, German, Spanish, Russian, Arabic, Norwegian, Swedish, Italian, and Hungarian.

He describes himself as a native of Novosibirsk, Siberia, who he moved to Israel in 1969, served as paratrooper in the army and fought in the 1973 war, afterwards turning to journalism and writing. During the late 1970s, he joined the BBC in London later living in Japan. After returning to Israel in 1980, Shamir wrote for the Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz, and was the Knesset spokesman for the Israel Socialist Party (Mapam), also translating and annotating the cryptic works of S.Y. Agnon, the only Hebrew Nobel Prize winning writer, from the original Hebrew into Russian.

His perspective on the Israel/Palestine conflict was summed up in The Pine and the Olive, published in 1988 and republished in 2004. That same year, he was received in the Orthodox Church of Jerusalem and Holy Land, being baptised Adam by Archbishop Theodosius Attalla Hanna. He now lives in Jaffa and spends much time in Moscow and Stockholm; he is father of three sons.