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There is apparently no limit to what the United States and Israel can get away with without any consequences. The United States has been waging devastating economic warfare against Iran and Venezuela while also blaming China for a global health crisis that it is unwilling to help address due to its withdrawal from the World Health Organization. Israel meanwhile is planning on illegally annexing significant parts of the Palestinian West Bank in July, with a green light from the Trump Administration, and no one in Europe or elsewhere is even interested in initiating serious sanctions that might lead to the postponing of that decision. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has even stated flatly that the remaining Palestinians who would be annexed will not become Israeli citizens – they will instead be “subjects” of the Jewish state with no guaranteed rights or privileges.

The American Establishment is totally committed to the principle that the United States and Israel should have a “free hand” in dealing with other countries in their respective spheres of influence. That effectively means controlling the narrative so that the U.S. and the Jewish state always appear to be victims of other nations’ unprincipled behavior and also creating an environment where there can be no effective legal challenges to aggressive action.

Indeed, the one organization that was specifically set up to deal with issues like aggressive wars and ethnic cleansing, the International Criminal Court (ICC) at the Hague, has been specifically targeted by both Washington and Jerusalem to deny it any jurisdiction in situations where either country is involved. Neither Israel nor the United States has recognized the ICC for the obvious reason that they are primary sources of egregious human rights and international law violations. Israel is particularly concerned over its numerous war crimes, to include its violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention which forbids “the transfer, directly or indirectly, by the Occupying Power of parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies, or the deportation or transfer of all or parts of the population of the occupied territory within or outside this territory.”

The ICC has, in fact, been targeted recently by both the Trump Administration and Congress. Two weeks ago, a bipartisan group of 69 United States senators submitted to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo a letter condemning the “dangerous politicization of the court” that “unfairly targets Israel.” The Senators urged Pompeo to continue his “vigorous support of Israel as it faces the growing possibility of investigations and prosecutions by the International Criminal Court.” The letter included the claim that “actions currently underway could lead to the prosecution of Israeli nationals…” even though “the ICC does not enjoy legitimate jurisdiction in this case.”

The assertion that the ICC does not have jurisdiction is questionable at best as the “Palestinian State” has observer status and is a member of international bodies at the United Nations. It is also a signatory to the Rome Statute that established the ICC. The Senate letter itself was predictably written by Ester Kurz, the legislative director of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), which is the leading Israel advocacy group in the United States. A similar letter was also circulated in the House of Representatives, which added an “American issue” by criticizing the ICC’s intention to investigate United States war crimes in Afghanistan. It received 262 signatures.

Anticipating the threat to Israeli interests, the U.S. Congress has long made security and other assistance to the Palestinian Authority conditional, suspending all support if “the Palestinians initiate an International Criminal Court (ICC) judicially authorized investigation, or actively support such an investigation, that subjects Israeli nationals to an investigation for alleged crimes against Palestinians.” As Donald Trump has de facto cut off virtually all assistance, including the humanitarian aid given to refugees, the punishment for going to the ICC is essentially moot and the Palestinians have consequently moved ahead with their complaint in an attempt to upset the timetable for Israeli annexation.

The Senators’ letter surfaced at the same time as a warning was issued by Pompeo to the ICC that focused on Israel but was clearly intended to derail any attempts to look at American war crimes in Afghanistan. He claimed that the ICC is a political body, not a legitimate judicial institution, and accused chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda of maliciously investigating “Israeli war crimes in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem.” His complaint paralleled the Senatorial letter, which is perhaps no coincidence, in claiming that the court has no jurisdiction and the Palestinians are not “sovereign” and therefore have no standing to go to the court in the first place.

And Pompeo concluded with a threat: “A court that attempts to exercise its power outside its jurisdiction is a political tool that makes a mockery of the law and due process. If the ICC continues down its current course, we will exact consequences.”

Israel has also claimed, as does the United States, that it is not subject to ICC “trial” because it has a functioning court system that is capable of punishing war criminals. Of course, the fact is that Israel does not do so and the U.S. only does so when embarrassed. The most recent American war criminal was convicted by military courts and then pardoned by President Donald Trump. He was even feted at the White House.

Bensouda announced in November 2017 that she would proceed with an investigation of alleged U.S. war crimes in Afghanistan. The Trump Administration expressed its anger by criticizing her in tweets, canceling her visa to the United States, and threatening legal action against her, her staff and even ICC judges. The White House warned that if the ICC even dares to detain an American citizen the United States would use military force to release him or her. President Trump, Pompeo, and John Bolton all called the ICC “political, corrupt, irresponsible, unaccountable, and lacking transparency, and therefore illegitimate.” The critique sounded oddly enough like an accurate description of the Trump Administration itself.

 
Bad decision-making continues
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It is interesting to watch how the folks in Congress and the White House have been using the at-least- somewhat self-generated crisis over COVID-19 to serve as cover for legislation and other activities that many Americans just might object to. They are assuming that the public is so consumed with the virus, as well as with the riots over the police killing of George Floyd, that it is not paying attention to other high crimes and misdemeanors that the government might be engaged in.

There are three rather interesting stories that have received minimal attention from the mainstream media during the past several weeks that one might think are worthy of press coverage and even of some genuine debate in Congress. A little light shed on some important issues might actually help the public to understand the probable consequences of certain unwise or unnecessary actions undertaken by the federal government.

The first story relates to the Senate vote approving the USA Freedom Re-Authorization Act of 2020 (H.R. 6172). The renewal is particularly important because the act includes some features of the expired Patriot Act that have been exploited by government to surveil Americans without regard for the Fourth Amendment right to be free from searches without a clearly established probable cause that is related to a criminal investigation. It also includes endorsement of the powers of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court (FISA), which was the weapon used without any real justification by the Russiagate co-conspirators in the FBI, the White House and the National Intelligence Office in their illegal surveillance of Trump campaign advisor Carter Page.

The so-called Freedom Act’s reauthorization had been cynically delayed to avoid any attempts to include protections for individual rights in the document. As it stands, under Section 215 the legislation will continue to permit large scale collection of personal and private information as well as bulk collection relating to American citizens. Individuals who are being spied upon on by the Act cannot be made aware that they are being scrutinized and the government is meanwhile under no obligation to limit its searches, being permitted to obtain literally “any tangible thing” to include phone records, tax returns, medical and other health information, gun registrations, internet search history and even library records. Any information collected by the government can be retained and used for five years.

H.R. 6176 passed the Senate but it then had an amendment attached and went back to the House of Representatives for re-approval before being returned to the upper house. Waiting for it in the House is another amendment sponsored by congressmen Zoe Lofgren and Warren Davidson, which would compel the government to obtain a warrant to collect an individual’s internet history. It is a small enough step, and it may fail to pass, but it is at least limited recognition by some legislators of government overreach. In any event, the process whereby the legislation is being approved is nearly invisible even though it is something that can affect the freedoms enjoyed currently by all Americans.

The second bit of government-by-deception inevitably relates to America’s best friend Israel. One recalls that Congress frequently returns from recess and finds that its first order of business is doing something for the Jewish state, pandemic or no pandemic. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee recently passed, without any public discussion or floor debate, the United States-Israel Security Assistance Authorization Act of 2020.

The purpose of the Senate bill, S.3176, is to codify into law the military aid, inclusive of extra funding for missile defense, committed to by the United States for Israel in a 2016 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). Readers will recall that the package, negotiated by President Barack Obama, uniquely guarantees $3.8 billion per year for ten years. S-3176 was introduced to the upper chamber and co-sponsored by boy-Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, who enthused “I was proud to reintroduce this bipartisan bill that strengthens our nation’s strategic security alliance with Israel, a vibrant democracy that faces growing and unprecedented threats to its security and stability.”

When the original MOU was issued, Senator Lindsey Graham remarked that he and other Senators would regard the annual payment as a minimum, that Israel would still expect, and receive, special authorizations as needed. S.3176 would appear to reflect that pledge by Graham, as it includes revised language stating that the annual payment would be “not less than” the $3.8 billion.

The bill also extends Congressional permission for the Pentagon to increase “forward-base” weapons stockpiles in Israel, which the Jewish state can now access as needed without having to provide any notice or seek any approval. Beyond that, the lengthy document is positively dripping with more money for Israel in the form of various co-production and cooperative schemes that will bring absolutely no benefit to the United States.

After the Senate bill is approved in its final form, which will occur imminently, it would then need to reconciled with a similar but possibly even more extreme bill passed by the House in July 2019 by a voice vote, also without any debate or discussion. The House version was introduced by passionate Zionist Congressman Ted Deutch, Democrat of Florida. It would allow Donald Trump or whoever succeeds him to determine that if “Israel is under an existing or imminent threat of military attack” the White House could “direct the immediate transfer to Israel of such defense articles or services the President determines to be necessary to assist Israel.” In other words, the president acting alone could involve the United Starts in a war on behalf of Israel without any approval process, only relying on what Israel is telling him or her about an alleged impending threat.

Finally, there is the latest outrage over Iran. Secretary of State Pompeo has completed his demolition of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) dealing with the Iranian nuclear program, a process which was begun by his boss shortly after taking office. Pompeo has now indicated that any foreign companies and businesses that continue to work at Iranian nuclear facilities under the authority of the JCPOA will be subject to economic sanctions. Astonishingly, the companies in question that include some from China, Russia and Western Europe, have been working to dismantle some of Iran’s former nuclear powerplants to make them usable for other purposes. It was a development that was permitted under the JCPOA and was intended to make sure that Iran would have only limited downstream capability to ramp up its production of enriched uranium. Also, the presence of foreign companies would serve as a guarantee that Iran would not engage in any cheating on the agreement.

Ironically, if the intention of Pompeo and Donald Trump truly is to eliminate Iran as a possible nuclear weapon proliferator, it is now taking steps that are actually counter-productive as the latest move could easily suggest to the Iranian leadership that there is no hope in dealing with the United States, possibly motivating them to begin a secret weapons program.

 
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The nearly complete corruption of the U.S. republican form of government has largely come about due to the Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court in January 2010 that basically permitted unlimited donor-spending on political campaigns based on the principle that providing money, normally through a political action committee (PAC), is a form of free speech. The decision paved the way for agenda-driven plutocrats and corporations to largely seize control of the formulation process for certain policies being promoted by the two national parties.

No one has benefited from the new rules more than the state of Israel, whose hundreds of support organizations and principal billionaire funders euphemized as the “Israel Lobby” have entrenched pro-Israel donors as the principal financial resources of both major political parties. Las Vegas casino magnate Sheldon Adelson has become relatively well known as the major funder of the Republican Party, having contributed an estimated $100 million to the 2018 midterm election, while Haim Saban, a billionaire Israeli/American movie producer has filled a similar role for the Democrats. Adelson, who once upon a time served as a draftee in the U.S. Army, has described how he wishes it had been the Israel Defense Force instead. He has also stated that he would be proud to have a son who is an Israeli Army sniper. Haim Saban in a somewhat similar vein has said that he is a one-issue guy, and his issue is Israel.

No one should be surprised that the Jewish donor and activist base is paying particular attention to certain congressional races in 2020, most particularly of the three of the four women comprising the so-called “squad,” namely Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, and Alexandria Ocasio- Cortez, who have been most critical of the U.S.- Israeli connection. Tlaib, a congresswoman representing Detroit who is of Palestinian descent, is already being targeted by fellow Democrat Brenda Jones, who is currently the Detroit City Council president.

Jones almost certainly has made her positive views of Israel known to Anti-Defamation League (ADL) inquisitors, and she will be showered with money and favorable press in a possibly successful bid to overthrow Tlaib. Prospective candidates for Congress and even state level offices are approached by supporters of Israel and are routinely asked to fill out a form explicitly detailing their view of Israel. It is frequently fatal in political terms to respond incorrectly. Play the game and one has money and press support. Do otherwise, and all that vanishes.

The highly controversial Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, also no friend of the Israel Lobby, is likewise being challenged by her own party in the Bronx. She is being confronted by no fewer than five Democratic Party challengers but is well placed to prevail due to her popularity in her district.

The red lines established around the issue of Israel are something that every American politician understands. But perhaps the biggest surprise, and an indication of the reach of Jewish power in the United States, is the flip-flop recently performed by Ilhan Omar, the ethnic Somali congresswoman who represents Minneapolis.

Omar clearly would like to remain in Congress but, not surprisingly, a strong and well-funded Democratic primary candidate named Antone Melton-Meaux, an African-American lawyer, has surfaced. He has raised $500,000 for his campaign chest, much of it coming from outside sources. He has publicly stated that Omar is not connected to her district, has done nothing for Minnesota, and, perhaps the biggest sin of all, she “… has repeatedly made divisive statements that have been hurtful to members of our Jewish community. She creates distraction and drama, not results. Rep. Omar believes that sanctions are economic warfare and is a vocal advocate for abolishing them, particularly for Iran. Yet she supports sanctions on Israel. She has repeatedly refused to explain this inconsistency. That doesn’t work for us.”

Not surprisingly, Melton-Meaux has been described by the Jewish Insider as having the endorsement of “pro-Israel America.” Decisively progressive Muslim-American Omar is indeed a magnet for controversy. She is certainly not everyone’s cup of tea on specific issues, but she has up until now been one of the most powerful voices criticizing the lopsided relationship of the United States with the Jewish state. She was the one who coined the phrase “It’s the Benjamins” when linking Israel’s grip over Congress to hundred-dollar bills, implying very clearly that it is Jewish money that has bought America’s legislators as well as the White House. Omar also dared to condemn her fellow congressmen as having “dual loyalty” when they supported legislation abridging freedom of speech for anyone who criticizes Israel. For her pains, she was accused of being an anti-Semite by both President Trump and Nancy Pelosi as well as by numerous Republicans and other members of her own party in Congress. Under intense pressure, she apologized to Pelosi and expressed appreciation to her “Jewish allies and colleagues who are educating me on the painful history of anti-Semitic tropes.”

To her discredit, Omar has recently surrendered to force majeure, joining 389 of her colleagues in signing on to a House of Representatives letter supported by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) that demands the continuation of the United Nations sanctions regime against Iran, a policy that essentially treats the Persians as if they were a country having no rights beyond what Washington will allow them. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has called the overall policy one of “maximum pressure,” punishment of the Iranian people to compel them to rise up against their rulers.

Ironically, the continuation of the embargo on arms sales, which is what the letter deals with, would seem to be superfluous currently, as Iran has been suffering for some time due to U.S. pressure, a process that has been exacerbated by the arrival of the COVID virus. The U.S. has already effectively blocked Iranian oil sales, the country’s only major source of income, and the medical system is broken, with no money for medical equipment and pharmaceuticals as the virus continues to rage.

Omar’s reversal, for such it is, is particularly remarkable as she denounced on humanitarian grounds the U.S. use of sanctions to pressure other governments as recently as late April. After the story of the letter broke, Omar tried to justify her action by stating that she “has consistently, for a long time, supported arms embargoes against human rights abusers. . . . It was just a narrow ask that we couldn’t find anything wrong with.”

What is wrong with the narrow ask is that it is aimed at allowing the U.S. to intercede to block the sunset provision of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) that kicks in this fall, which will again allow Iran to buy weapons. Ironically, of course, the U.S. withdrew from the agreement in 2017 but Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is now claiming that it is still part of the arrangement, allowing it to press a case against Iran for non-compliance. Even if the U.S. fails in its gambit to interfere directly, the JCPOA will likely come apart, leaving the sanctions in place. Either way AIPAC and Israel win.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy, Ideology • Tags: Ilhan Omar, Israel Lobby 
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Let us consider why the Donald Trump White House is currently considering detonating a nuclear weapon. It would be the first “test” of a nuke since 1992 and is clearly intended to send a message that those weapons sitting around in storage will be available for use. The testing is in response to alleged development of low-yield tactical nuclear devices by Beijing and Moscow, a claim that is unsupported by any evidence and which is likely a contrivance designed to suggest that there is strong leadership coming out of Washington at a time when the Administration has been faulted for its multiple failures in combatting the coronavirus.

The Pentagon and national security agencies directed by the White House have also been discussing the viability of engaging in war with those same two global competitors Russia and China, either individually or even simultaneously. Yes, it is true that many countries wargame certain scenarios that are unlikely ever to occur, but there is nevertheless a certain consistency in the bellicosity that comes like an endless stream out of the Trump White House.

Relations with both Moscow and Beijing are the worst they have been since the end of the Cold War. A recent interview with U.S. Special Representative for Syria James Jeffrey revealed that American troops are staying in Syria not to confront ISIS but rather in hopes that Russia will be drawn into a “quagmire.” Meanwhile the U.S. government’s repeated attempts to demonize China for the coronavirus suggest that tension with that country will increase considerably as U.S. elections draw nearer. Both China and Russia have already been accused of planning to interfere in November’s presidential polling.

The Administration policy of intimidation and threats directed against foreign nations over their domestic and international policies has borne bitter fruit, but no one seems capable of halting the slide led by Secretary of State Pompeo and the president into an autocracy that depends on expressions and demonstrations of military power for its survival. Washington recently rejected global calls to suspend all sanctions and aggressive actions while the world struggles with coronavirus. It was the only country to do so, leading to derision from friend and foe alike and emphasizing the isolation of the Trump leadership on the world stage.

Recently the United States was threatening to intercept four Iranian flagged oil tankers that were making their way to Venezuela. The U.S., which has waged economic warfare against both countries by sanctioning oil exports and seriously degrading the standards of living of ordinary citizens, is now seeking to use military resources to enforce its completely illegal rules globally. If Trump wants to light a fire, attacking Iranian ships in international waters to enforce U.S. unilaterally imposed sanctions is a sure way to go about it. Starving Iranians and Venezuelans is in no one’s interest, not even the poohbahs who are in charge in Washington, but they seem to be oblivious to the fact that taking “action” has consequences.

The irony is, of course, that Donald Trump was elected president on a “peace candidate” margin of difference after he pledged that he would be ending “stupid” wars in Asia. Unfortunately, his assurances were little more than copies of the similar pledges made by his two predecessors, both of whom embraced business as usual for America the Exceptional early in their terms of office. Electing three faux peace candidates in a row also revealed that while you cannot fool all the people all the time you can fool most of them frequently enough to wind up in Washington.

And there is other cleverness afoot in an effort to make COVID-19 go away. Pompeo has just announced that the United States will unilaterally withdraw from the so-called Open Skies Treaty which was signed in 1992. Thirty-two signatories were, by its terms, allowed to conduct unarmed confidence building surveillance flights over each others’ territories to ensure that no one was planning a military offensive.

It is the third international security arrangement that Trump has discarded since he took office and the pretext, as in the previous cases, is that the other side is “cheating,” that Russia in particular has blocked overflights of strategic regions and military exercises while also using its flights to collect sensitive information on the United States to plan potential attacks.

America’s NATO allies, also signatories on the treaty, were not informed in advance regarding the White House’s intentions and are reported to be angry because they have found the Treaty a useful tool in maintaining mutually beneficial relations with Russia. Some Democrats and former intelligence official in the U.S. have declared the decision “insane”, both because it ignores the interests of America’s closest allies and because it further damages the prospect for establishing a reasonable modus vivendi with Moscow.

Previously Trump withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) shortly after taking office in 2018 under pressure from his principal donor Las Vegas casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, who is a persistent advocate for Israel. His wife Miriam has declared that there should be a new entry to the Hebrew Bible entitled the “Book of Trump.” Iran was in compliance with the agreement and it was beneficial for the United States as it would have denied Tehran the infrastructure needed to produce a nuclear weapon, but Adelson was in favor of attacking Iran, going so far as to recommend that nuclear weapons be used against it.

Trump also subsequently left the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty in 2019, using the same unsubstantiated argument being put forward by Administration hawks currently that Russia was not fully compliant with its terms.

This latest withdrawal suggests that there will be another departure if Trump is reelected. The New START Treaty, the only remaining nuclear-arms-control agreement between the United States and Russia, is set to expire in February 2021. New START was negotiated by the Obama administration, which would render it a prime target for rejection by Trump. It sets a cap on the number of nuclear missile warheads deployed by the United States and Russia, which is certainly to everyone’s benefit, but apparently the White House does not agree.

The trend is clear. Trump and his advisers, most notably Pompeo, are opposed to any international bodies on principle, most particularly if they are not completely supportive of U.S. policies and positions or are able to limit the White House’s freedom of action, up to an including the use of nuclear weapons. Recently Trump has cut off all funding to the World Health Organization (WHO) in spite of the globally significant coronavirus crisis. Last year, Trump cut off funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) refugee program to punish the Palestinians and express his support for the Israelis. Now, the president is clearly opposed to any attempts at arms control and is seeking to dismantle the existing international framework.

 
Mystery Remains About the Death of the Chinese Ambassador
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On Sunday morning May 17th, China’s Ambassador to Israel, Du Wei, was found dead in bed inside his official residence in the Tel Aviv upscale suburb of Herzliya. He was 57 years old, married and the father of a son, and had been appointed to his position in February. He was reported to be in good health. His wife and son were not yet in Israel when he died.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry quickly released a report stating that he had died of natural causes, later described by the Chinese Foreign Ministry as “unspecified health problems,” which has been interpreted to probably mean a heart attack or stroke. He had been quarantined for 15 days upon arrival in Israel and his death has not in any way been attributed to the coronavirus.

Israeli police moved quickly to close access to the residence, reported to be standard procedure, and the government in Beijing indicated that it would be sending an investigative team to Tel Aviv to determine what had happened and also to return the body to China. Israel at the time required all travelers entering the country to comply with a mandatory 15 day quarantine, but the Foreign Ministry waived the requirement for the incoming Chinese officials. Du Wei was thereupon removed and returned to China. The Beijing government has not as of this date issued a report indicating its own findings regarding the untimely death.

It is to be presumed that Du in his residence had security. Overseas Embassies differ in their levels of security depending on the threat level in the country where they are located. U.S. Embassies and Consulates overseas have Marine guards in the buildings themselves, supervised by Department of State Security (DS), but an outer perimeter of security outside the building and grounds providing access to the diplomatic protected site is frequently contracted to guards that are hired locally or even by host country police. Du, as a Chinese diplomat in Israel, would not have been particularly threatened but one might reasonably assume that he had Chinese bodyguards as well as local security. So, in theory, no one should have been able to get in to injure or kill him.

Du would have likely been secure in his own residence, but there are a couple of interesting back stories that might suggest otherwise. The ambassador’s death occurred less than a week after a surprise visit to Jerusalem by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. As one might have expected, most of the visit took place to discuss Israel’s planned annexation of much of the Palestinian West Bank, but Pompeo also took Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to task for Israel’s willingness to enter into commercial agreements with China that involve major infrastructure developments as well as telecommunications. Pompeo also reiterated the increasingly shrill Trump Administration claims that Beijing must somehow be held accountable for “the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people worldwide” from the coronavirus because it had not reported the disease when it first surfaced, a contention that the Chinese dispute.

Du was no ordinary diplomat. He was very experienced, having served for thirty years in the Foreign Ministry. He had been posted to Ukraine prior to Israel and he was noted for his aggressiveness in advancing Chinese interests through investments in infrastructure and in co-production projects, seeking to undercut U.S. influence in both countries. China is currently the largest investor in Israeli infrastructure and the activity of Du and his predecessors in Israel has, to say the least, irked the Trump White House. The New York Times describes the tension between the two nominal allies as follows: “China has been investing heavily in Israel in recent years, taking stakes in hundreds of technological start-ups and acquiring a controlling interest in the dairy food-processing company Tnuva. But Israel has antagonized Washington by allowing Chinese companies to make major infrastructure investments in recent years, including in sensitive locations. A company majority-owned by the Chinese government has signed a 25-year lease to run Israel’s commercial seaport in Haifa, a frequent port of call for the United States Navy, beginning in 2021. And near Israel’s Palmachim air force base, a Hong Kong-based company, Hutchison Water International, is a finalist to build a desalination plant that Israel says will be the largest in the world. Trump administration officials have repeatedly warned Israeli officials that intelligence sharing between the two close allies could be impaired or compromised over such investments by China.”

And Pompeo as well as other Trump administration officials also have had a stronger message that they have been delivering to all of Washington’s presumed allies. Pompeo again made clear the warning to Israel: do not install equipment from Huawei – a Chinese telecom conglomerate that operates globally – in developing a new, next-generation 5G telecommunications network. Washington believes that Huawei equipment is used by Chinese intelligence to covertly access mobile phone networks through “backdoors.” Several nations, including Israel, have been warned that if they go ahead with Huawei, the U.S. might not continue sharing sensitive intelligence information.

The White House concern is in part commercial as the U.S. would like to become the lead provider of the new technology. It derives from the belief that 5G will soon serve as the backbone for all critical telecommunications and its faster download speeds mean that it will be the foundation of many new technologies, leaving the U.S. far behind in the race to develop new consumer products while also giving China the ability to both spy and interfere with America’s infrastructure.

In the event, it has been suggested that Netanyahu was polite about the China problem but did not agree to any of the limitations being imposed by Pompeo, which leads directly to the suspicion that the U.S. government, possibly working through a friendly Mossad, sought to send a message to Bibi by killing an ambassador in such a fashion as to suggest a “heart attack.” It might seem extremely unlikely that even the Trump Administration would behave so recklessly, but one might recall the assassination of Iranian Major General Qassim Soleimani in January, carried out by a feckless U.S. national security team heedless of consequences.

 
Words to criticize Israel are fast disappearing
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Regular visitors to this site will be aware that I frequently write about the massive propaganda campaign being run by supporters of Israel to conceal the damage done by the Jewish state to actual United States’ interests. One of the more interesting aspects of that effort is the bowdlerization of language to extirpate some words that might have anti-Semitic overtones and to twist the meaning of others in such a fashion as to deprive them of any meaning. Providing loans at usurious rates of interest used to be regularly referred to “Shylocking” even in legal circles, named after the Shakespearean character in the Merchant of Venice. It is an obvious word just waiting around to be censored and has consequently disappeared from use.

Recently, those obvious expressions denoting ethnicity have been joined by a whole lot of words condemned by the American Jewish Committee that are a lot more subtle like “clannish,” “cosmopolitan” and “globalist.” The AJC defines the alleged anti-Semitic expression “dual loyalty” as “…a bigoted trope used to cast Jews as the ‘other.’ For example, it becomes antisemitic when an American Jew’s connection to Israel is scrutinized to the point of questioning his or her trustworthiness or loyalty to the United States. By accusing Jews of being disloyal citizens whose true allegiance is to Israel or a hidden Jewish agenda (see globalist), anti-Semites sow distrust and spread harmful ideas—like the belief that Jews are a traitorous ‘fifth column’ undermining our country.”

The AJC’s definition of “dual loyalty” would perhaps bemuse President George Washington whose Farewell Address included “…nothing is more essential than that permanent, inveterate antipathies against particular nations, and passionate attachments for others, should be excluded; and that, in place of them, just and amicable feelings towards all should be cultivated. The nation which indulges towards another a habitual hatred or a habitual fondness is in some degree a slave. It is a slave to its animosity or to its affection, either of which is sufficient to lead it astray from its duty and its interest… So likewise, a passionate attachment of one nation for another produces a variety of evils. Sympathy for the favorite nation, facilitating the illusion of an imaginary common interest in cases where no real common interest exists, and infusing into one the enmities of the other, betrays the former into a participation in the quarrels and wars of the latter without adequate inducement or justification. It leads also to concessions to the favorite nation of privileges denied to others which is apt doubly to injure the nation making the concessions; by unnecessarily parting with what ought to have been retained, and by exciting jealousy, ill-will, and a disposition to retaliate, in the parties from whom equal privileges are withheld. And it gives to ambitious, corrupted, or deluded citizens (who devote themselves to the favorite nation), facility to betray or sacrifice the interests of their own country, without odium, sometimes even with popularity; gilding, with the appearances of a virtuous sense of obligation, a commendable deference for public opinion, or a laudable zeal for public good, the base or foolish compliances of ambition, corruption, or infatuation.”

If it seems that the First President was predicting the current subservient condition of the United States vis-à-vis Israel, I will leave that judgement up to the reader. More recently, Jewish pressure groups who seek to benefit Israel exclusively have been aided and abetted by the so-called U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman to suppress the use of words that cast Israel in a bad light. Most contentious is the elimination of the word “occupation” in State Department reporting to describe the wholesale illegal Israeli seizure of land in Palestine. The “occupied territories” held by Israel for over fifty years are now described as “disputed” while Jewish settlements on Palestinian land once routinely described as illegal are now legal. Friedman has expressed his approval of those “disputed” bits being scheduled for “annexation” after July 1st. Perhaps he will come up with a new word to replace annex, possibly something like “restore” or “reunite.” Or “fulfilling biblical prophecy.”

Words are important because how they are used and their context shapes the understanding of the reader or listener. In the United States there has been a concerted effort to equate any criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism while simultaneously making anti-Semitism a hate crime and thereby converting what one might perceive as exercise of a First Amendment right into a felony. This is largely being done as part of the plan to create a legal basis to suppress the growing Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS). Twenty-seven states have now passed laws criminalizing or otherwise punishing criticism of Israel, to include requirements to sign documents declaring opposition to boycotts of the Jewish state if one wants a government job or other benefits. Donald Trump has also signed an executive order to combat what he calls discrimination against Jews and Israel at universities and there are several bills working their way through Congress that can criminalize BDS in particular, incorporating prison time and punitive fines.

But when it comes to protecting Israel in speech and in writing, no one outdoes the totally cowed Europeans. It is a criminal offense to challenge the many shaky details of the standard holocaust narrative in France, Germany and Britain and now the wordsmiths are hard at work to broaden what is unacceptable in speaking or writing.

A truly bizarre story comes from England, once upon a time the mother of parliamentary democracy and a model for those who cherished free speech. One recalls that recently Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn was ousted after a sustained effort headed by the country’s Chief Rabbi marshalling what one might reasonably call Britain’s “Israel Lobby.” It was claimed that Corbyn was an anti-Semite because he believed in the human rights of the Palestinian people and had also attended several pro-Palestinian events. Since the departure of Corbyn, there has been a major effort by the totally subdued Labourites to purge the party of all traces of anti-Semitism to include criticism of Israel and any expressions of sympathy for the Palestinians.

The new Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has apparently learned how to behave from the Corbyn experience. He has been crawling on his belly to Jewish interests ever since he took over and has even submitted to the counseling provided by the government’s “Independent Adviser on Antisemitism,” a special interests office not too dissimilar to the abomination at the U.S. State Department where Elan Carr is the Special Envoy for Monitoring and Combating anti-Semitism.

 
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The Global War on Terror or GWOT was declared in the wake of 9/11 by President George W. Bush. It basically committed the United States to work to eliminate all “terrorist” groups worldwide, whether or not the countries being targeted agreed that they were beset by terrorists and whether or not they welcomed U.S. “help.” The GWOT was promoted with brain-dead expressions like “there’s a new sheriff in town” which, after the destruction of large parts of the Middle East and Central Asia, later morphed into the matrix of the God-awful belief that something called “American Exceptionalism” existed.

With a national election lurking on the horizon we will no doubt be hearing more about Exceptionalism from various candidates seeking to support the premise that the United States can interfere in every country on the planet because it is, as the expression goes, exceptional. That is generally how Donald Trump and hardline Republicans see the world, that sovereignty exercised by foreign governments is and should be limited by the reach of the U.S. military. Surrounding a competitor with military bases and warships is a concept that many in Washington are currently trying to sell regarding a suitable response to the Chinese economic and political challenge.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo puts it another way, that the U.S. is a “force for good,” but it was former Secretary Madeleine Albright who expressed the fantasy best, stating that “…if we have to use force, it is because we are America; we are the indispensable nation. We stand tall and we see further than other countries into the future, and we see the danger here to all of us.” She also said that the deaths of 500,000 Iraqi children through U.S. imposed sanctions was “…a very hard choice, but the price — we think the price is worth it.” That is the basic credo of the liberal interventionists. Either way, the U.S. gets to make the decisions over life and death, which, since the GWOT began, have destroyed or otherwise compromised the lives of millions of people, mostly concentrated in Asia.

One aspect of the American heavy footprint that is little noted is the ruin of many formerly functioning countries that it brings with it. Iraq and Libya might have been dictatorships before the U.S. intervened, but they gave their people a higher standard of living and more security than has been the case ever since. Libya, destroyed by Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, had the highest standard of living in Africa. Iraq is currently one of the world’s most corrupt countries, so corrupt that there have been massive street demonstrations recently against the government’s inability to do anything good for the its own people. Electricity and water supplies are, for example, less reliable than before the U.S. intervened seventeen years ago.

Add Afghanistan to the “most corrupt” list after 19 years of American tutelage and one comes up with a perfect trifecta of countries that have been ruined. In a more rational world, one might have hoped that at least one American politician might have stood up and admitted that we have screwed up royally and it is beyond time to close the overseas bases and bring our troops home. Well, actually one did so in explicit terms, but that was Tulsi Gabbard and she was marginalized as soon as she started her run. Alluding to how Washington’s gift to the world has been corruption would be to implicitly deny American Exceptionalism, which is a no-no.

The failures of the American foreign policy since George W. Bush have been accredited to the so-called neoconservatives, who successfully hijacked the Bush presidency. Paul Wolfowitz, Doug Feith, Scooter Libby and the merry crowd at the American Enterprise Institute had a major ally in Vice President Dick Cheney and were pretty much able to run wild, creating a casus belli for invading Iraq that was largely fabricated and which was completely against actual U.S. interests in the region. Apparently no one ever told Wolfie that Iraq was the Arab bulwark against Iranian ambitions and that Tehran would be the only major beneficiary in taking down Saddam Hussein. Since Iraq, the chameleonlike neocons have had a prominent voice in the mainstream media and have also played major roles in the shaping the foreign and national security policies of the presidencies that have followed George W. Bush.

Ironically, neocons mostly were critics of Donald Trump the candidate because he talked “nonsense” about ending “useless wars” but they have been trickling back into his administration since he has made it clear that he is not about to end anything and might in fact be planning to attack Iran and maybe even Venezuela. The thought of new wars, particularly against Israel’s enemy Iran, makes neocons salivate.

The disastrous American occupation of Iraq from 2003-2004 was mismanaged by something called the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), which might have been the most corrupt quasi-government body to be seen in recent history. At least $20 billion that belonged to the Iraqi people was wasted, together with hundreds of millions of U.S. taxpayer dollars. Exactly how many billions of additional dollars were squandered, stolen, given away, or simply lost will never be known because the deliberate decision by the CPA not to meter oil exports means that no one will ever know how much revenue was generated during 2003 and 2004.

Some of the corruption grew out of the misguided neoconservative agenda for Iraq, which meant that a serious reconstruction effort came second to doling out the spoils to the war’s most fervent supporters. The CPA brought in scores of bright, young true believers who were nearly universally unqualified. Many were recruited through the Heritage Foundation or American Enterprise Institute websites, where they had posted their résumés. They were paid six-figure salaries out of Iraqi funds, and most served in 90-day rotations before returning home with their war stories. One such volunteer was former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer’s older brother Michael who, though utterly unqualified, was named director of private-sector development for all of Iraq.

The $20 billion disbursed during the 15-month proconsulship of the CPA came from frozen and seized Iraqi assets held in the U.S. Most of the money was in the form of cash, flown into Iraq on C-130s in huge plastic shrink-wrapped pallets holding 40 “cashpaks,” each cashpak having $1.6 million in $100 bills. Twelve billion dollars moved that way between May 2003 and June 2004, drawn from the Iraqi accounts administered by the New York Federal Reserve Bank. The $100 bills weighed an estimated 363 tons.

Once in Iraq, there was virtually no accountability over how the money was spent. There was also considerable money “off the books,” including as much as $4 billion from illegal oil exports. Thus, the country was awash in unaccountable cash. British sources report that the CPA contracts that were not handed out to cronies were sold to the highest bidder, with bribes as high as $300,000 being demanded for particularly lucrative reconstruction contracts. The contracts were especially attractive because no work or results were necessarily expected in return.

 
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There are two stories that seem to have been under-reported in the past couple of weeks. The first involves Michael Flynn’s dealings with the Russian United Nations Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. And the second describes yet another bit of espionage conducted by a foreign country directed against the United States. Both stories involve the State of Israel.

The bigger story is, of course, the dismissal by Attorney General William Barr of the criminal charges against former National Security Advisor General Michael Flynn based on malfeasance by the FBI investigators. The curious aspect of the story as it is being related by the mainstream media is that it repeatedly refers to Flynn as having unauthorized contacts with the Russian Ambassador and then having lied about it. The implication is that there was something decidedly shady about Flynn talking to the Russians and that the Russians were up to something.

In reality, the part left out of the story is that the phone call to Kislyak on December 22, 2016, was made by Flynn at the direction of Jared Kushner, who in turn had been approached by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Netanyahu had learned that the Obama Administrating was going to abstain on a United Nations vote condemning the Israeli settlements policy, meaning that for the first time in years a U.N. resolution critical of Israel would pass without drawing a U.S. veto. Kushner, acting for Netanyahu, asked Flynn to contact each delegate from the various countries on the Security Council to delay or kill the resolution. Flynn agreed to do so, which included a call to the Russians. Kislyak took the call but did not agree to veto Security Council Resolution 2334, which passed unanimously on December 23rd.

In taking the phone calls from a soon-to-be senior American official who would within weeks be part of a new administration in Washington, the Russians did nothing wrong, but the media is acting like there was some kind of Kremlin conspiracy seeking to undermine U.S. democracy. It would not be inappropriate to have some conversations with an incoming government team and Kislyak also did nothing that might be regarded as particularly responsive to Team Trump overtures since he voted contrary to Flynn’s request.

The phone call made at the request of Israel was neither benign nor ethical as the Barack Administration was still in power and managing the nation’s foreign policy. At the time, son-in-law Jared Kushner was Trump’s point man on the Middle East. He and his family have extensive ties both to Israel and to Netanyahu personally, to include Netanyahu’s staying at the Kushner family home in New York. The Kushner Family Foundation has funded some of Israel’s illegal settlements and also a number of conservative political groups in that country. Jared has served as a director of that foundation and it is reported that he failed to disclose the relationship when he filled out his background investigation sheet for a security clearance. All of which suggests that if you are looking for possible foreign government collusion with the incoming Trumpsters, look no further.

And it should be observed that the Israelis were not exactly shy about their disapproval of Obama and their willingness to express their views to the incoming Trump. Kushner went far beyond merely disagreeing over an aspect of foreign policy as he was actively trying to clandestinely subvert and reverse a decision made by his own legally constituted government. His closeness to Netanyahu made him, in intelligence terms, a quite likely Israeli government agent of influence, even if he didn’t quite see himself that way.

Kushner’s actions, as well as those of Flynn, would most certainly have been covered by the Logan Act of 1799, which bars private citizens from negotiating with foreign governments on behalf of the United States and also could be construed as a “conspiracy against the United States.” But in spite of all that the investigation went after Flynn instead of Kushner. As Kushner is Jewish and certainly could be accused of dual loyalty in extremis, that part of the story obviously makes many in the U.S. Establishment and media uncomfortable, so it was and continues to be both ignored and expunged from the record as quickly as possible.

The second story, which has basically been made to disappear, relates to spying by Israel against critics in the United States. The revelation that Israel was again using its telecommunications skills to spy on foreigners came from an Oakland California federal court lawsuit initiated by Facebook (FB) against the Israeli surveillance technology company NSO Group. FB claimed that NSO has been using servers located in the United States to infect with spyware hundreds of smartphones being used by attorneys, journalists, human rights activists, critics of Israel and even of government officials. NSO allegedly used WhatsApp, a messaging app owned by FB, to hack into the phones and install malware that would enable the company to monitor what was going on with the devices. It did so by employing networks of remote servers located in California to enter the accounts.

NSO has inevitably claimed that they do indeed provide spyware, but that it is sold to clients who themselves operate it with the “advice and technical support to assist customers in setting up” but it also promotes its products as being “used to stop terrorism, curb violent crime, and save lives.” It also asserts that its software cannot be used against U.S. phone numbers.

Facebook, which did its own extensive research into NSO activity, alleges that NSO rented a Los Angeles-based server from a U.S. company called QuadraNet that it then used to launch 720 hacks on smartphones and other devices. It further claims in the court filing that the company reverse-engineering WhatsApp, using an program that it developed to access WhatsApp’s servers and deploy “its spyware against approximately 1,400 targets” before “…covertly transmit[ting] malicious code through WhatsApp servers and inject[ing]” spyware into telephones without the knowledge of the owners.”

The filing goes on to assert that the “Defendants had no authority to access WhatsApp’s servers with an imposter program, manipulate network settings, and commandeer the servers to attack WhatsApp users. That invasion of WhatsApp’s servers and users’ devices constitutes unlawful computer hacking.”

NSO, which is largely staffed by former (sic) Israeli intelligence officers, had previously been in the news for its proprietary spyware known as Pegasus, which “can gather information about a mobile phone’s location, access its camera, microphone and internal hard drive, and covertly record emails, phone calls and text messages.” Pegasus was reportedly used in the killing of Saudi dissident journalist Adnan Kashoggi in Istanbul last year and it has more recently been suggested as a resource for tracking coronavirus distance violators. Outside experts have accused the company of selling its technology and expertise to countries that have used it to spy on dissidents, journalists and other critics.

 
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Palestinians worldwide have an annual day of remembrance called Nakba Day. Nakba comes from the Arabic al-Nakbah and means “disaster” or “catastrophe.” It takes place on May 15th, the day after the Gregorian calendar date for Israeli independence in 1948. It is an opportunity for a people who live largely in exile to recall what was stolen from them by the nascent Israeli state in 1947 through 1949. An estimated 700,000 Palestinians, half of the country’s Arab Christian and Muslim population, were driven from their homes through a deliberate policy of terrorism officially initiated in January 1948 to drive the Palestinian population out, a clear case of government initiated ethnic cleansing.

The expulsion orders, formulated as Plan Dalet in March, were carried out by the Jewish state’s military and militia forces, to include terrorist groups like Irgun and Lehi. The massacre of Arab civilians at Deir Yassin in April 1948, in which hundreds of civilians died, was, for example, implemented to terrorize the local population, forcing it to flee. In the portion of Palestine that was to become Israel fully 80% of the resident Arabs, many of them Christian, were killed, fled in terror or were compelled to leave at gunpoint.

In the expulsion process, which continued into early 1949, between four hundred and six hundred Arab villages were destroyed or rendered uninhabitable, while Palestinians in the larger urban centers were driven from their homes. Those homes were then given to Jews coming from Europe or America and one of the first acts carried out by the new nation Israel’s parliament was to pass laws blocking the return of any Palestinian to his or her home in what was to become the Jewish state. This meant in practice that a European Jew could arrive in Israel on one day and by the next be settled in a former Palestinian home. The legal owner of that home, however, had no right to return or even visit his former property. United Nations demands that the Palestinians should one day be able to return home have been since that time ignored by Israel and unsupported by the United States.

In fact, Israel never intended to allow Palestinians to return to their homes, in spite of the fact that when it joined the United Nations in May 1949 it agreed to “unreservedly accept the obligations of the United Nations Charter and undertake to honor them from the day when it becomes a member of the United Nations.” This included an explicit understanding in principle to allow the return of all Palestinian refugees.

Palestinians are to a certain extent wards of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which was founded in 1949 to support those displaced by the Israelis. In 1949 there were less than one million refugees, but today, due to large families and other population growth, the number who technically qualify for UNRWA’s assistance is over 5 million. Services include education, health care, food security and other essentials, to some 800,000 Palestinians registered as refugees in the West Bank and 1.3 million people in the Gaza Strip, as well as 534,000 in refugee camps in Syria, 464,000 more in Lebanon and also 2 million in Jordan. Approximately 1 million refugees have no documents other than an UNRWA identification card.

Israel has long been highly critical of UNRWA and the Donald Trump Administration predictably followed its lead to eliminate funding to the organization in August 2018.

The so-called peace plan being promoted by the Trump Administration has been rightly described as a non-starter as it is a wish list for Israel that will permit annexation of much of the West Bank with a rump Palestinian state that has no control over its airspace, water, borders or defense in place for those Arabs who can be induced to remain. It would mark the clearly perceived end of any Palestinian aspirations for either statehood or even for an acceptable relationship marked by mutual respect with its de facto Jewish overlords.

American antipathy towards the Palestinians, particularly as expressed by Evangelicals, is somewhat surprising as there has long been a vibrant Christian community in Palestine that has been sharply diminished through the actions of the state of Israel. Residents and church leaders describe the nervousness of the tiny Christian communities in Israel, caught between larger Muslim and Jewish populations. Like other Palestinians, Christians face land seizures, arbitrary arrests, home demolitions and collective punishment that come with the Israeli occupation. Recently radical Jewish settlers have become more active, defacing Christian churches and cemeteries while also threatening and spitting on clergy in the streets.

In and around Bethlehem, Christians constituted 80 percent of the population in 1950 and are only around 12 percent today. Jewish settlements have annexed land owned by Christians in many areas. In Israel itself, Christians were 21 percent of the Arab population in 1948 but number only 8 percent today, just 2 percent of the total population. The process has been described as “a quiet ethnic cleansing… not large-scale massacres or large-scale deportations, but it is bit by bit over many years with a variety of policies which Christians are not necessarily attacked as Christians but they are marked by being Palestinians.”

This year Palestinians are expressing themselves on Nakba Day to demonstrate their rejection of the Trump peace plan as well as of the new Israeli Benjamin Netanyahu led government’s intention to annex large portions of the West Bank, to include the entire Jordan River Valley, after July 1st. They have adopted the hashtag #COVID1948, which seeks to equate the current devastation resulting from the coronavirus with the catastrophe that occurred to the Palestinian people in 1948 at the hands of the Israelis. It is reportedly trending on social media and is in one sense an eloquent reminder of the wrongs committed against an entire people, to include a deliberate policy of ethnic cleansing that bore fruit in 1948-9. It is also a reminder that the Palestinians are a stubborn and self-aware people who will not just go away because the Israelis and the United States would like to see that happen.

Philip M. Giraldi is a former CIA counter-terrorism specialist and military intelligence officer who served nineteen years overseas in Turkey, Italy, Germany, and Spain. He was the CIA Chief of Base for the Barcelona Olympics in 1992 and was one of the first Americans to enter Afghanistan in December 2001. Phil is Executive Director of the Council for the National Interest, a Washington-based advocacy group that seeks to encourage and promote a U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East that is consistent with American values and interests.

 
Leave it to the Mossad and Shin Bet to profit militarily and financially from virus.
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Israel’s external spy organization Mossad and its internal espionage equivalent Shin Bet have reputations that are much larger than their actual successes, but the one area where they have excelled is electronic intelligence gathering. Recent electronic spying around the White House and other federal buildings in Washington carried out by the Israeli Embassy demonstrates that Israel does not differentiate much between friends and enemies when it conducts espionage. In fact, spying targeting the U.S. is probably its number one priority due to the fact that the Jewish state is so heavily dependent on American support that it feels compelled to learn what discussions relating to it are taking place behind closed doors.

Israeli penetration of U.S. telecommunications began in the 1990s, when American companies like AT&T and Verizon, the chief conduits of the National Security Agency (NSA) for communications surveillance, began to use Israeli-produced hardware, particularly for law enforcement-related surveillance and clandestine recording. The devices had a so-called back door, which meant that everything they did was shared with Israel. Israeli cyber-specialists even broke into classified networks with the NSA and FBI aware of what was going on but unwilling to confront “America’s best ally.” President Bill Clinton once quipped to Monica Lewinski that they should avoid using the Oval Office phone because someone might be listening in. He was referring to Israel.

To be sure, the Jewish state’s high-tech sector has been much assisted in its effort by “own goals” provided by the United States, which allows Israel to bid on government contracts relating to national security, virtually guaranteeing that any technical innovations will be stolen and re-exported by Israeli high-tech companies. Major technology innovators like Intel, which works with the NSA, have set up shop in Israel and have publicly stated, “We think of ourselves as an Israeli company as much as a U.S. company.” Vulture capitalist Zionist billionaire Paul Singer has recently been accused of steering highly paid U.S. tech sector jobs to Israel, jobs that are lost to the American economy forever.

So, Israel is a leader in using electronic resources to carry out espionage and collect information on various targets of interest. Israel is also an innovator, and its close relationship with the U.S. intelligence community (IC), most particularly the NSA, means that technologies and procedures developed by the Jewish state will inevitably show up in America.

The U.S. is in any event working hard on its own tools for managing the public, spurred by Covid-19 hysteria. Special ID cards could help track the health status of individuals. This status would be recorded and updated on a chip readable by government scanners that, by some accounts, might be either carried or even permanently embedded in everyone’s body. Another plan being promoted in a joint venture by Apple and Google that appears to have White House support involves “add[ing] technology to their smartphone platforms that will alert users if they have come into contact with a person with Covid-19. People must opt into the system, but it has the potential to monitor about a third of the world’s population” with monitoring done by central computers. Once the legal principle is established that phones can be manipulated to do what is now an “illegal search,” there are no technical or practical limits to what other tasks could also be performed.

DEVELOPMENTS IN ISRAEL

With those steps being taken to control the movements of possibly infected citizens in mind, some recent developments in Israel are, to put it mildly, ominous. The Jewish state is currently achieving multi-level 24/7 surveillance of everyone residing in the country conducted in real time. Investigative reporter and peace activist Richard Silverstein describes in some detail why it is happening now, what it means, and how it works.

Per Silverstein, Israel, like every other authoritarian state, is currently taking advantage of the distraction caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose political fortunes seemed to be on the wane due to three hung elections, exploited the fear of the virus to assume emergency powers and obtain Knesset approval to use a highly classified national database “compiled by the Shin Bet and comprising private personal data on every Israeli citizen, both Jewish and Palestinian. In the aftermath of 9/11, Israel’s Knesset secretly assigned its domestic intelligence agency the task of creating the database, which was ostensibly meant as a counterterrorism measure.”

The database, nicknamed “The Tool,” includes names, addresses, phone numbers, employment, and educational information but it goes well beyond that in using phone tracking data to record every phone call made by the individual to include names and numbers of those called and the geo-location of where the call was made from. Phone tracking also enabled Shin Bet to create a log of where the caller traveled in Israel and the occupied territories. Internet use, if active on the phone, was also recorded. It is as complete and total surveillance of an individual as is possible to obtain and it does not involve any human participation at all, every bit of it being done by computer.

Netanyahu publicly proclaimed his intention to use the database, stating that it would be employed to combat the coronavirus, which he described as a threat to national survival. As a result of the claimed crisis, he and his principal opponent, Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz, were able to come to terms on April 20 to form a “national emergency unity government” with Netanyahu as prime minister yet again. The exploitation of the fear of the virus plus that revelation about Israel’s powerful technical tool to thwart it produced a victory for Netanyahu, who effectively portrayed himself as a strong and indispensable leader, erasing the stigma resulting from his pending trial on charges of massive corruption while in office. One of the first steps Netanyahu will reportedly take is to replace the attorney general and state prosecutor who were seeking to send him to prison, effectively taking away the threat that he might go to prison.

The exposure of the existence of the database inevitably led to charges that Netanyahu had, for personal gain, revealed Israel’s most powerful counterterrorism weapon. There were also concerns about the significance of the huge body of personal information collected by Shin Bet, to include suggestions that it constituted a gross violation of civil liberties. But carefully stoked fear of the virus combined with some political deals and maneuvers meant that use of the data was eventually approved by the Knesset security committee at the end of March.

Israel, which has closed its borders, and which still has a relatively low level of coronavirus infections and deaths, has already started using the Shin Bet database while also turning the attempts to deal with the disease as something like an intelligence war. The information obtained from “The Tool” enables the police and military to determine if someone were standing near someone else for more than a few minutes. If the contact included someone already infected, all parties are placed under quarantine. Any attempt to evade controls leads to arrest and punishment of a six-month prison term plus a $1,500 fine. Armed soldiers patrolling the streets are empowered to question anyone who is out and about.

 
Philip Giraldi
About Philip Giraldi

Phil Giraldi is a former CIA Case Officer and Army Intelligence Officer who spent twenty years overseas in Europe and the Middle East working terrorism cases. He holds a BA with honors from the University of Chicago and an MA and PhD in Modern History from the University of London. In addition to TAC, where he has been a contributing editor for nine years, he writes regularly for Antiwar.com. He is currently Executive Director of the Council for the National Interest and resides with his wife of 32 years in Virginia horse country close to his daughters and grandchildren.


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