OPINION & ANALYSIS
Remarks by China’s United Nations Ambassador, Geng Shuang, on the situation in Occupied Palestine on May 24 were impeccable in terms of their consistency with international law.
Compared to the United States’ position, which perceives the UN, and particularly the Security Council, as a battleground to defend Israeli interests, the Chinese political discourse reflects a legal stance based on a deep understanding of the realities on the ground.
Articulating the Chinese thinking during a UNSC ‘Briefing on the Situation in the Middle East, including the Palestine Question,’ Geng did not mince his words. He spoke forcefully about the “irreplaceable” need for a “comprehensive and just solution” that is based on ending Israel’s “provocations” in Jerusalem and the respect for the right of “Muslim worshipers” as well as the “custodianship of Jordan” in the city’s holy sites.
Widening the context of the reasons behind the latest violence in Palestine and the May 9 Israeli war on Gaza, Geng went on to state a position that both Tel Aviv and Washington find utterly objectionable. He unapologetically condemned the ‘illegal expansion of (Israeli Jewish) settlements’ in Occupied Palestine and Israel’s “unilateral action,” urging Tel Aviv to “immediately halt” all its illegal activities.
Geng proceeded to discuss issues that have been relatively ignored, including “the plight of the Palestinian refugees.”
In doing so, Geng has enunciated his country’s political vision regarding a just solution in Palestine, one that is predicated on ending the Israeli occupation, halting Tel Aviv’s expansionist policies, and respecting the rights of the Palestinian people.
But is this position new?
While it is true that China’s policies on Palestine and Israel have historically been consistent with international law, China, in recent years, attempted to tailor a more ‘balanced’ position, one that does not impede growing Israeli-Chinese trade, particularly in the area of advanced microchips technology.
However, the China-Israel affinity was motivated by more than mere trade.
Since its official launch, China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has served as the cornerstone of Beijing’s global outlook. The massive project involves nearly 150 countries and aims to connect Asia with Europe and Africa via land and maritime networks.
Due to its location on the Mediterranean Sea, Israel’s strategic importance to China, which, for years, has been keen on gaining access to Israeli seaports, has doubled.
China is demanding substantive United Nations Security Council reform, challenging the archaic power structure and signaling a crucial moment for global diplomacy.
MintPress News·Ramzy Baroud·22 May 2023
Expectedly, such ambitions have been of great concern to Washington, whose naval vessels often dock at the Haifa Port.
Washington has repeatedly cautioned Tel Aviv against its growing proximity to Beijing. US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, went as far as warning Israel in March 2019 that, until Tel Aviv re-evaluates its cooperation with China, the US could reduce “intelligence sharing and co-location of security facilities.”
Fully appreciating the current, but also the potential global power of China, Israel labored to find a balance that would allow it to maintain its ‘special relationship’ with the US while financially and strategically benefiting from its closeness to China.
Israel’s balancing act encouraged China to translate its growing economic prowess in the Middle East into a political and diplomatic investment as well. For example, in 2017, China put into motion a peace plan – initially formulated in 2013 – called the Four-Point Proposal. The plan offered Chinese mediation as a substitution for US bias and, ultimately, failed ‘peace process.’
The Palestinian leadership welcomed China’s involvement, while Israel refused to engage, causing an embarrassment to a government that insists on respect and recognition of its rising importance in every arena.
If balancing acts in geopolitics were possible back then, the Russia-Ukraine war brought it all to a sudden end. The new geopolitical reality can be expressed in the words of a former Italian diplomat, Stefano Stefanini. Italy’s former ambassador to NATO wrote in an article in La Stampa that the “international balancing act is over” and “there are no safety nets.”
Ironically, Stefanini made this reference to Italy’s need to choose between the West and China. The same logic can also be applied to Israel and China.
Soon after China succeeded in striking a landmark deal between Saudi Arabia and Iran on April 6, it again floated the idea of brokering peace between Palestine and Israel. China’s new Foreign Minister, Qin Gang, reportedly consulted with both sides on “steps to resume peace talks.” Again, the Palestinians accepted while Israel ignored the subject.
This partly explains China’s frustration with Israel and also with the US. As China’s former ambassador to Washington (2021-23), Qin must be familiar with the inherent US bias towards Israel. This knowledge was expressed by Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying during the latest Israeli war on Gaza.
“The United States should realize that the lives of Palestinian Muslims are equally precious,” Hua said on May 14.
A simple discourse analysis of the Chinese language regarding the situation in Palestine clarifies that Beijing sees a direct link between the US and the continued conflict or the failure to find a just solution.
This assertion can also be gleaned from Ambassador Geng’s most recent UNSC remarks, where he criticized “piecemeal crisis management,” a direct reference to US diplomacy in the region, offering a Chinese alternative that is based on a “comprehensive and just solution.”
Equally important is that the Chinese position seems to be intrinsically linked to that of Arab countries. The more Palestine takes center stage in Arab political discourse, the greater emphasis the issue receives in China’s foreign policy agenda.
Jessica Buxbaum uncovers how Israel is exporting its occupation to Morocco-Occupied Western Sahara by creating “facts on the ground.”
MintPress News·Jessica Buxbaum·26 Jun 2023
In the recent Arab Summit held in Jeddah, Arab governments agreed to prioritize Palestine as the central Arab cause. Allies, such as China, with great and growing economic interests in the region, immediately took notice.
All of this must not suggest that China will be severing its ties with Israel, but it certainly indicates that China remains committed to its principled stance on Palestine, as it has over the decades.
Soon, the relationship between China and Israel will face the litmus test of US pressures and ultimatums. Considering Washington’s unparalleled importance to Israel, on the one hand, and the Arab-Muslim world’s significance to China, on the other, the future is easy to foresee.
Judging by China’s political discourse on Palestine – situated within international and humanitarian laws – it seems that China has already made its choice.
Feature photo | Illustration by MintPress News
Dr. Ramzy Baroud is a journalist, author and the Editor of The Palestine Chronicle. He is the author of six books. His latest book, co-edited with Ilan Pappé, is ‘Our Vision for Liberation: Engaged Palestinian Leaders and Intellectuals Speak Out’. His other books include ‘My Father was a Freedom Fighter’ and ‘The Last Earth’. Baroud is a Non-resident Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA). His website is www.ramzybaroud.net
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect MintPress News editorial policy.
VISEGRÁD 24: THE POLISH GOVERNMENT-FUNDED FAKE NEWS FACTORY DRIVING THE ONLINE ISRAEL-PALESTINE NEWS CYCLE
“WE ARE PEACE LOVERS”: MOHAMMED ALI AL-HOUTHI OF ANSAR ALLAH DISCUSSES THE PROSPECTS OF ESCALATION, YEMEN’S BLOCKADE, AND BEYOND
Ansar Allah’s second-in-command, Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, joins MintPress in an exclusive interview to discuss tensions with the US and Israel as well as the movements’ goals and contingency plans in case conflict in Yemen escalates into an all-out war.
Following Israel’s war and siege against Gaza, which began in earnest on October 7 of last year and has resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of Palestinians, the Yemeni Army led by Ansar Allah declared a military operation against Israel. Its aim: to compel Tel Aviv to cease its destructive war on Gaza.
No stranger to famine, genocide, and the displacement of civilians thanks to a decade-long war waged against its people led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates and backed by the United States, Ansar Allah has led arguably the most consequential resistance to Israel’s bloody campaign in the Gaza Strip, taking the bold and unprecedented step of targeting Israeli-owned, flagged, or operated ships in the Red Sea and Arabian Sea.
Ansar Allah, known colloquially in the West as the Houthis, declared the actions a response to the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza and pledged to cease targeting Israeli-connected ships as soon as Israel’s aggression ceases. This mantra has been repeated by Ansar Allah leaders since the onset of its campaign and was confirmed to MintPress by Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, head of Yemen’s Houthi supreme revolutionary committee, a prominent member of the Ansar Allah movement and a key decision-maker in Yemen’s Sana’a based government.
In response to Ansar Allah’s campaign against Israel, Western powers, particularly the United States, deployed a large flotilla of warships under the pretext of protecting international freedom of navigation in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden. Dismissed in much of the Western media as little more than pirates or an Iranian-backed militia. Western audiences rarely have the opportunity to hear the unfiltered perspective of Ansar Allah’s own leaders. For this reason, MintPress News correspondent Ahmed Abdul-Kareem sat down with Ansar Allah’s second-in-command, Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, to discuss recent events in Yemen, Gaza and the Middle East.
MintPress News: What is Ansar Allah’s position on the killing of three American soldiers and the wounding of more than thirty soldiers in the attack that targeted Tower 22? And before that, two U.S. Navy Seals that the U.S. claims died while drowning? What is Ansar Allah’s official position about their deaths?
Mohammed Ali al-Houthi: The attacks – which we consider a natural reaction to the hostile actions carried out by the United States- are a clear message about the great extent of discontent in the Arab world towards the Americans due to their wrong policies, including the adoption of genocide in Gaza and the aggression on Yemen that puts their soldiers and interests in danger.
The Americans must understand that whoever attacks others will receive a response. As the Arab proverb says: “Whoever knocks on the door will find an answer.”
Regarding the two soldiers you mentioned in the other half of the question, that version of the incident is an American one. We do not trust what America announces. But if the American account is true, there is perhaps a major crime that the Americans are trying to conceal. They revealed the news of their soldiers in order to hide something worse. It is unreasonable for a fully prepared military force not to know where their colleagues have gone. The event is ambiguous. It must be investigated to expose what America is hiding.
MintPress News: You are suffering in Yemen from the repercussions of a war that has lasted for more than eight years, and despite that, you have taken an advanced military and political position in solidarity with Gaza. Why take this position, and how what is your reaction to U.S. and British government statements claiming that your position has nothing to do with Gaza?
Mohammed Ali al-Houthi: First, our position is religious and humanitarian, and we see a tremendous injustice. We know the size and severity of these massacres committed against the people of Gaza. We have suffered from American-Saudi-Emirati terrorism in a coalition that has launched a war and imposed a blockade against us that is still ongoing. Therefore, we move from this standpoint and do not want the same crime to be repeated. We respond to the demand of our people, who take to the streets every Friday in millions to demonstrate. We also respond to masses in Arab and Islamic nations and to all free people who ask us to defend their Palestinian brothers.
We cannot see the tragic humanitarian situation in Gaza, which has even been recognized by the International Court of Justice as a genocide, and do nothing. Therefore, our move is in this direction: to confront the arrogant ones who confront the oppressed. The oppressed are in a dire situation and endure horrific human suffering because of Israel and the United States, to such a point that they suspended their support for UNRWA [United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees], when instead they should have increased support for it so that it could continue to provide loaves of bread to Palestinians.
MintPress News: Western media represents the blockade of the Red Sea as threatening freedom of navigation for all ships traveling through it. Is this accurate? If not, what countries are allowed to use the Bab al-Mandab Strait without problems, and how does Ansar Allah determine which ships can pass and which are stopped?
Mohammed Ali al-Houthi: There is no blockade of the Red Sea, and what is being promoted in the Western media that we are targeting international navigation in the Red Sea and endangering international trade is not true. Navigation through the Red Sea is safe for all ships except those linked to Israel. Until recently, 4,874 ships have safely crossed since we announced our operations. Approximately 70 ships pass through Bab al-Mandab [Strait] daily without harm.
We have constantly confirmed that the ships being targeted are only ships linked to “Israel,” whether by heading to the occupied ports or those [ships] owned by Israelis or ships entering the port of Umm al-Rashash [Eilat port]. The Yemeni Armed Forces repeatedly confirms that all ships with no connection to “Israel” will not be harmed. This is what the official spokesman of the Army repeatedly confirms in all issued statements about the naval operations of the Yemeni Armed Forces.
We do not want Bab al-Mandab to be closed, nor for the Red Sea to be closed. This is evidenced by the fact that we have limited ourselves to targeting Israeli ships and ships heading to the occupied Palestinian territories. If we had wanted to close Bab al-Mandab, there would have been other measures, some of which were easier than launching missiles.
In fact, what is being promoted in the Western media is the result of American deception, which is keen to spread false narratives about the events so that they become dominant in the international media. The United States demonizes us through the media by pumping out its incorrect narratives, even though they, and the British, are the devils who refuse to stop the genocide in Gaza and lift the siege on its people. They are militarizing the Red Sea and are continuing the escalation and aggression against Yemen.
As for how ships heading to Israel are identified, this is based on accurate information from the Yemeni Ministry of Defense. If the ship is linked to Israel, it is warned that it must not pass through the Red Sea and the Bab al-Mandab Strait. If it rejects the warning – after announcing, clarifying and giving signals for it to stop and return – it will be targeted. No ship that was not heading to Israeli ports has been targeted, according to the military data that we trust. And neither the Americans nor the British have been able to prove otherwise.
MintPress News: Are there communication channels that ships can use to avoid danger while passing through Bab al-Mandab, the Red Sea in general, the Arabian Sea, and the Gulf of Aden?
Mohammed Ali al-Houthi: The Navy confirms this and always repeats it in its [public] statements that there is channel Number 16 through which communication can take place. We tell shipping companies (we talked to them directly) that there is a simple solution they can use, where they can write the phrase, “We have no relation to Israel,” and pass safely. We also encourage them to use Digital Selective Calling [Digital Selective Calling is a technology used in marine communication for sending distress signals. It functions like a digital “call button” on maritime radios].
MintPress News: Western countries say that its operations in the Red Sea are to maintain the security and safety of international navigation. What is your reaction to this?
Mohammed Ali al-Houthi: It is America that is endangering international navigation by establishing what it calls the “Prosperity Alliance” to protect Israeli ships, even though a more appropriate name for it would be the “Alliance of Destruction, Militarization of the Red Sea, and Expansion of Conflict.”
Its warnings, its repeated media terrorism, and its delivery of messages and calls to ships are the actions that harm global navigation and trade, in addition to its military attacks on our country.
The White House tries to mislead the world by spreading the rumor that passing through Bab al-Mandab is unsafe. It puts pressure on international shipping companies that have no link to Israel not to pass through the Red Sea. This is done to fuel discontent against Yemenis and serve the criminal [Benjamin] Netanyahu. We call on them to stop these acts and to turn to the best solution, which is to stop the aggression and lift the siege on the people of Gaza. The Yemeni Armed Forces did not target American and British ships except in response to their aggression and attacks on our country. Prior to that, the leader of the revolution [Ansar Allah leader, Abdul-Malik al-Houthi] warned them not to get involved in Yemen.
MintPress News: What is the true nature of U.S./UK airstrikes against Ansar Allah? Are they really causing damage, and what are they actually targeting? Have any Yemeni civilians died in these attacks?
Mohammed Ali al-Houthi: Firstly, the American-British aggression against Yemen is not anything new. These two countries have been practicing aggression against the Republic of Yemen since 2015. These are the same actions. We are not afraid of the U.S.’s escalation. If the two countries decide to invade by land, they will face harsh lessons even worse than those they faced in Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq.
The Yemeni people love freedom, are warriors and are well-armed. The army is well-prepared, and Yemenis have many options to inflict a strategic defeat on Americans in the region.
The American-British raids targeted populated cities, including Sana’a, Saada, Hodeidah, Hajjah, and Dhamar. Before that, they targeted our patrols in the Red Sea, and a number of naval forces were martyred. The strikes had no effect, and what is said about their influence is a baseless illusion and a failure, thanks to Allah Almighty.
Through their aggression at sea and their strikes, the Americans and British are defending criminals in the continuation of genocide in Palestine and the killing of civilians by the Israeli enemy without disturbance.
On the other hand, our position in the Republic of Yemen defends humanity. Our operation is carried out to stop the genocide and to stop the killing. Our choice is humanity’s choice, and it is the right choice for which we make sacrifices. The Americans must take the warnings of the leader [Ansar Allah leader, Abdul-Malik al-Houthi] seriously.
MintPress News: There is talk in U.S. and UK political circles about escalating the war on Yemen, possibly even talk of a ground invasion of the country. What is Ansar Allah’s reaction to this, and how does Asnar Allah plan to expand military operations if the US and UK escalate?
Mohammed Ali al-Houthi: A ground war is what the Yemeni people wish for because they will be confronted with those who have caused their suffering for more than nine years. It will be a chance for revenge. As the leader of the revolution [Ansar Allah leader, Abdul-Malik al-Houthi] said, “To be known to America, if they send their soldiers to Yemen, they will face something harsher than what they faced in Afghanistan and what they had suffered in Vietnam. We have the strength to confront the enemy and remain steadfast; our people have withstood nine years in the face of the massive aggression.”
MintPress News: What is your position on the Biden administration’s decision to classify Ansar Allah as a terrorist organization? Does this decision have repercussions for you?
Mohammed Ali al-Houthi: Designating us as terrorists because we support Gaza is an honor and pride. It is also political, immoral, and has no justification. The U.S. move does not affect us. We do not enter U.S. territory. We also do not have companies or bank balances abroad. They know the designation will not affect our humanitarian or ethical processes or decisions.The solution lies in stopping the aggression against Gaza and allowing food and medicine to enter.
MintPress News: Western countries refer to Ansar Allah as the Houthis. Why do you believe they do this, and what are the fundamental differences between “Houthi” and “Ansar Allah”?
Mohammed Ali al-Houthi: Ansar Allah, as defined by the leader, is not an organization, political party, or group, as some people promote. They are not framed or structured. Even when the leader of martyrs, Sayyid Hussein Badreddin al-Houthi [the founder of Ansar Allah], began to form the organization, he did not form a unit according to internationally known procedures (such as registration centers or granting membership cards), like most organizations, groups, and parties do. Rather, he presented a project in which the masses of various political orientations, affiliations, and societal segments moved within the framework of the positions included in this project. So you could say we are a widespread popular movement.
Our name, Ansar Allah, comes from a Quranic title that expresses a practical response to the directives of Almighty Allah according to the methodology of the Holy Quran. We always strive to be ِAnsar Allah by bearing the nation’s issues that must be supported for the sake of Allah.
The name “Houthis” is not a name we apply to ourselves. We refuse to be called Houthis. It is not from us. It is a name given to us by our enemies in an attempt to frame the broad masses in Yemeni society that belong to our project. Indeed, these attempts have failed. Our people were not affected by this designation or other negative propaganda. The leader referred to this in one of his last speeches.
MintPress News: Western countries accuse Ansar Allah of being a tool of Iran. Western media reported recently that the U.S. asked China to pressure Iran to stop Ansar Allah from their blockade of the Red Sea. What is the truth behind this matter, and what is Ansar Allah’s relationship with Iran?
Mohammed Ali al-Houthi: In his speech last Thursday, [Ansar Allah leader, Abdul-Malik al-Houthi] confirmed that U.S. and British strikes are failures and have no impact [on us] and will not limit our military capabilities. He considered that “America’s attempt to request assistance from China to persuade us to stop our operations in support of Palestine is one of the signs of its failure.”
He also pointed out that “The Chinese will not involve themselves in serving America because they realize that it is in their interest not to follow America. China knows America’s hostile policies against it. It knows very well the extent of the American conspiracy through the Taiwan dilemma.”
Although it is the accusers who are required to prove what they say, we confirm the American allegations as illusions. Our decision is in our own hands, and the Americans and Israelis know that. If they have any accusation against Iran, that is their business. Iran is a sovereign state. We do not like to bother responding to enemies. We do not care about the enemy’s words as long as we take the right position.
MintPress News: There has been a truce between Ansar Allah and the Saudi-led coalition in conjunction with negotiations currently taking place through Omani mediators. Had peace in Yemen been used as a point of pressure to stop your operations in the Red Sea? Who is obstructing the peace process and an agreement between Yemeni parties?
Mohammed Ali al-Houthi: First, there is no truce but de-escalation. We hope political work will continue to achieve lasting peace for the Republic of Yemen and lift the siege.
Secondly, we have received many indirect messages and threats from the United States, including opening internal combat fronts, moving fronts, obstructing peace, stopping aid, etc., because of the position of the Yemeni people who refuse to allow for the extermination of the people of Gaza.
We are peace lovers. We want to build the Republic of Yemen. We’d like there to be peace. So, our operations in the Red Sea are within the framework of the search for peace for our brothers in Palestine.
But who has prevented peace in Yemen for nine years? Wasn’t it America that threatened to obstruct it? Yes, it was, as previously explained.
We presented a vision for a comprehensive solution [in Yemen], which was published in the media and delivered to the United Nations.
Recently, a paper [was published] whose points were agreed upon [by all parties], and the ones who obstructed it were the Americans. Just as Washington has done in previous rounds [of negotiations], it is obstructing peace right now.
Notice that, although they [the United States] talk about peace in Palestine, they use their veto power to prevent an end to the war. In Yemen, they talk about peace while at the same time launching [military] operations against the people of the Republic of Yemen.
MintPress News: Are there direct negotiation channels between Ansar Allah and the Americans? How can future negotiations be conducted to reduce the escalation in the region?
Mohammed Ali al-Houthi: We have not yet negotiated with the Americans directly. Although we have been asked to have direct negotiations, we have refused. We do not believe that we can engage in dialogue with the Americans because we see them as terrorist criminals who do everything to continue crimes and massacres. If the Americans hope to communicate [with us], it must be through our brothers in the Sultanate of Oman with our negotiating team there. This is the only way in which dialogue can take place.
MintPress News: Ansar Allah has stated many times that the reason for their blockade is to stand in solidarity and help the people of Gaza. What must Israel do for Ansar Allah to halt any blockade or attacks against Israeli interests?
Mohammed Ali al-Houthi: You must know that we have never resorted to carrying out operations in the Red Sea before, even though we were subjected to a major war supported mainly by the United States, but we do so now to stop the genocide in Gaza. Our operations will stop immediately as soon as medicine and food enter Gaza and the aggression is stopped. Until this noble humanitarian goal is achieved, the armed air, sea, and land forces will continue to target Israeli, American, and British ships. You see, the equation and solution is simple: let food and medicine reach the people of Gaza, and the aggression will be stopped.
MintPress News: Both the United States and Britain have repeatedly stated that what they are doing in the Red Sea is self-defense and to protect international navigation. What is your reaction to these statements?
Mohammed Ali al-Houthi: The truth is that Washington and London are bombing people thousands of miles away from their lands. They are carrying out aggression against an independent country that is a member of the United Nations without justification, legitimacy, or legal reference for what they are doing. They are carrying out aggression against Yemen only to protect the Israeli enemy. It is certain and clearly visible that they are not in a state of defense. They could have said that if their ships were being attacked off the coast of Florida or London.
In addition, their aggression has no moral or humanitarian justification, as they came to defend criminals so that Israel can continue committing more genocide in Palestine and killing civilians.
The American and British [people] should know that the administrations in the United States and Britain do not care about the safety of international navigation in the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden, and the Arabian Sea. They only care about [Benjamin] Netanyahu, encouraging him to continue the genocide of the people of Gaza, even if at the expense of their people’s interests and the lives of their soldiers.
So we say to them: You are the ones who came to ignite the region, you are the ones working to threaten navigation, and you are the ones bringing danger and terrorism to the Red Sea, the Arabian Sea, or the Gulf of Aden. You must stop these practices and return to where you came from. The Red Sea belongs to neither the United States nor the British. It is clear to us that America’s policies are hostile. It has ambitions in the China Sea, it has ambitions in the Red Sea, and it also competes with Russia in the Arctic.
Ahmed AbdulKareem is a Yemeni journalist based in Sana’a. He covers the war in Yemen for MintPress News as well as local Yemeni media.FEBRUARY 2ND, 2024
THE ISRAEL LOBBY GOT ME FIRED! – LOWKEY SPEAKS TO DAVID MILLER
David Miller was fired from his position as Professor of Sociology after a pressure campaign involving Zionist student groups and even members of parliament, who accused him of “inciting hatred against Jewish students.”
Editor’s Note: Dear Readers, MintPress News’ YouTube channel was recently demonetized, and many of our videos made age-restricted. We would greatly appreciate your support by becoming a member of our Patreon page so that we can continue to bring you important stories like this one. Much of the work that we do is supported by viewers like you.
The MintPress podcast, “The Watchdog,” hosted by British-Iraqi hip hop artist Lowkey, closely examines organizations about which it is in the public interest to know – including intelligence, lobby and special interest groups influencing policies that infringe on free speech and target dissent. “The Watchdog” goes against the grain by casting a light on stories largely ignored by the mainstream, corporate media.
For nearly a decade, Professor David Miller has been in the crosshairs of the pro-Israel lobby. But in recent years, their campaign against him has intensified. Miller was fired by Bristol University in the U.K. following a ferocious campaign by the Israel lobby, which even led to direct government intervention in the case. He has been holding the university to account in an employment tribunal and expects the results very soon. In this episode of “The Watchdog,” host Lowkey catches up with Miller to hear the latest on his case.
Professor Miller has a long background in studying P.R. and propaganda, originally focussing on media spin on Northern Ireland, the HIV/AIDS crisis and the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. It was the latter that first brought him to study Islamophobia and how it functions in society.
Today, Miller and Lowkey described how so much of the hostile atmosphere towards Muslims is actually driven by the state and committed Zionist organizations that try to influence it. For example, 12 of the top 13 funders of the Islamophobic Henry Jackson Society, a British think tank that influences U.K. public policy, were groups founded by Zionists. And three-quarters of the organizations that fund these Islamophobic groups also bankroll the building of illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
Miller was sacked from his position as Professor of Sociology after a pressure campaign involving Zionist student groups and even members of parliament, who accused him of “inciting hatred against Jewish students.”
In 2019, a student filed a complaint against him, claiming he was racist toward Jewish people. After a long, drawn-out process, the university investigated and concluded, according to Miller, that:
There wasn’t a single sentence, word or comma which I had ever said that was anti-Semitic. So I was given a complete clean bill of health. And the university wrote to me to say: ‘There is nothing to see here; you didn’t do anything wrong. This complaint was manifestly ridiculous.’”
But that was only the start of the affair. After Miller was acquitted, there began a massive media campaign against him, leading to more than 100 members of the House of Commons and House of Lords signing a letter demanding he be sacked.
This massive state intervention into the freedom and independence of academia is a free speech issue that few of those who make it their business to supposedly champion the free flow of ideas have touched.
The Kafkaesque witch hunt against Miller bears a strong resemblance to how Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was hounded out of politics. Ironically, Miller’s book, “Bad News for Labour: Anti-Semitism, the Party and Public Belief,” details how bogus charges of anti-Semitism were weaponized against Corbyn in order to defame and destroy him.
Lowkey is a British-Iraqi hip-hop artist, academic and political campaigner. As a musician, he has collaborated with the Arctic Monkeys, Wretch 32, Immortal Technique and Akala. He is a patron of Stop The War Coalition, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, the Racial Justice Network and The Peace and Justice Project, founded by Jeremy Corbyn. He has spoken and performed on platforms from the Oxford Union to the Royal Albert Hall and Glastonbury. His latest album, Soundtrack To The Struggle 2, featured Noam Chomsky and Frankie Boyle and has been streamed millions of times.JANUARY 31ST, 2024
SACHA BARON COHEN’S BORAT PAVED THE WAY FOR ISRAEL’S SLAUGHTER IN GAZA
Kit Klarenberg reveals how Sacha Baron Cohen, through films like Borat, helped manufacture hatred against Muslims in order to justify human rights abuses by Israel.
In the wake of the International Court of Justice’s (ICJ) landmark ruling in a case brought by South Africa against Israel, which found the Jewish state could be committing genocide in Gaza and must immediately cease its indiscriminate, industrial-scale slaughter of unarmed, innocent Palestinians of all ages, many Western journalists, politicians, pundits and influencers have changed their tune on the savagery. Or at least gone eerily silent, having previously whitewashed, legitimized, or even outright endorsed a twenty-first-century Holocaust.
This abrupt volte-face cannot be attributed to any moral qualms about Zionist actions since October 7. A far more likely explanation is that, given numerous statements of Israeli officials that the ICJ has found to indicate genocidal intent, they are worried their past advocacy and amplification of as yet unindicted war criminals could, in the future, be in itself legally actionable. Yet, some Zionist propagandists and apologists have not been deterred by the ruling’s ramifications.
Among the most vocal figures continuing to celebrate and encourage the Gaza genocide is Lee Kern, a self-described comedian who served as the lead writer for numerous high-profile cinema and TV projects led by Sacha Baron Cohen, including the sequel to “Borat,” and “Who Is America?” On a daily basis, since the Israeli Occupation Force carnage erupted, he has posted disgustingly Islamophobic statements while cheering and justifying Zionist bloodshed.
At the end of 2023, Kern also visited Tel Aviv to co-host an event, “Israel we F*cking Love You,” alongside Michael Rapaport, a failed actor and convicted harasser turned wannabe culture warrior. The Zionist entity has attracted numerous Z-list celebrities to its stolen land in recent months, including unrepentant pedophile Jerry Seinfeld, in a lame attempt to boost its PR. Given Cohen’s ardent Zionism, it is rather conspicuous he has not made the journey.
Nonetheless, Cohen has been playing an active role behind the scenes in the genocide. In November 2023, he was among several high-profile figures who lobbied TikTok in private to block content and comments critical of Israel. He had good reason to believe this intervention would be decisive. In September 2020, he suspended his Instagram account to protest purported “hate speech” on the platform and Facebook. The Anti-Defamation League-sponsored action prompted over 1,000 businesses to suspend their Facebook ads for a month.
Cohen has, in recent years, significantly upped the ante of his public Zionist activism under the aegis of fighting anti-Semitism. He has claimed his “comedy” output, often coordinated with the CIA and Pentagon, is concerned with the same objective. This work almost universally features racist, crude stereotypes of Muslims, whom he portrays wearing makeup and wigs reminiscent of blackface. One might reasonably ask whether his true purpose all along has been to dehumanize Muslims everywhere in order to justify Israel’s genocide.
Perhaps the most well-known – or infamous – segment of Cohen’s 2006 smash hit movie Borat is a scene very early on, in which he and a vast crowd spectate “the running of the Jew,” a purported annual Kazakhstan tradition. Easily the movie’s most impactful and memorable visual setpiece, standalone clips have garnered millions of views online since 2006. A virtually unique example of the film not featuring an “undercover” stunt, who were Cohen’s ultimate intended victims and audience here?
Giant, grotesque constructions of a Jewish man and woman replete with green skin, claws, devil horns, and pronounced hooked noses race down a dirt track after Kazakhs waving wads of money. When the female “Jew” stops mid-chase to spawn a gigantic “Jew egg,” Borat cheers on a gaggle of children who abruptly arrive to “crush that Jew chick before it hatches!” This scene is central to the film’s plot – if one can even refer to it as such.
Innate Kazakh anti-Semitism is the very inspiration for Borat’s “cultural learnings” tour around the U.S. As he explains immediately after the scene, his country faces three major problems – “social, economic, and Jew.” Throughout the movie, Borat invokes numerous hideous anti-Semitic tropes – Jews are greedy, secretly control international finance, governments and the media, and were responsible for 9/11. At one point, he even sings a supposedly popular Kazakh folk song titled “Throw the Jew down the Well.”
In all of Cohen’s in-character public appearances at the time, Borat made his visceral loathing of Jews abundantly clear. In November 2006, he was a guest on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” an interview subsequently included on the film’s DVD edition. When asked by the host whether he thought his film was homophobic and anti-Semitic, Borat gleefully replied, “Thank you very much!” Meanwhile, at an advance screening of the movie in Manhattan, he declared to the assembled press and paparazzi:
At first, Kazakh censors wouldn’t let me release this movie because of anti-Semitism. But then they decided that there was just enough.”
The Amazon-produced “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” in 2020 dialed up the main character’s rabid anti-Semitism even further. In one scene, he attends a synagogue dressed in anti-Semitic clothing, including a giant fake nose, and announces he saw a Facebook post claiming the Holocaust never happened. Judith Dim Evans, a Holocaust survivor present, greets him warmly, invites him to touch her own “Jewish nose,” and then proceeds to politely educate him about the realities of Nazi genocide while highlighting her personal history.
Understandably, many viewers effusively praised Evans’ dignity and grace. Cohen has claimed that before filming the scene, he broke character in private with her to explain he was himself Jewish, and his objective was to highlight anti-Semitic attitudes and the correct way of challenging them – supposedly the very first time one of his “victims” had been in on the gag all along. Evans herself was unable to confirm this version of events, as she sadly passed away before the film’s release.
Her daughter begged to differ, however, and filed a lawsuit against Amazon, seeking an injunction to remove the scene from the film. She contended her mother was duped into appearing in the movie and pointed to a release form allegedly signed by Evans featuring a “scribbled line” that did not match her actual signature. Amazon’s lawyers successfully argued this was a simple accident and that her signing of the document had been independently witnessed.
‘VIBRANT JEWISH COMMUNITY’
Whatever the truth of the matter, clearly, Cohen is extremely keen for his creation to be perceived by the everyday people he meets and global film audiences alike as a raging anti-Semite. This has prompted some observers to question whether, in attempting to highlight and challenge anti-Semitism, Borat might, in fact, inadvertently reinforce anti-Semitic public attitudes. A far more prescient question is whether Borat consciously legitimizes Islamophobic perspectives globally in service of the Zionist cause.
The release of the first “Borat” movie sparked public and state-level outrage in Kazakhstan for its portrayal of the country and its people. Ironically enough, a common grievance was the character’s anti-Semitism – for Kazakh Jews have a long and rich history, and Almaty has no record of religious strife or discrimination towards Jews whatsoever. During World War II, Joseph Stalin created a haven for Jews there, evacuating thousands from other parts of the Soviet Union to prevent their slaughter by the Nazis.
While Kazakhstan’s Jewish population was much reduced by emigration following the Soviet Union’s collapse, thousands still live in peace and harmony there today. A Hasidic synagogue in Almaty, named after widely respected Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Schneerson, buried at a nearby cemetery, attracts Jewish visitors from all over the world, who come to pray at his grave. Anti-Semitic incidents of any kind are vanishingly rare; the country is home to over a dozen Jewish schools, and the government electively provides land and buildings for creating new synagogues.
As a National Coalition Supporting Eurasian Jewry factsheet notes, “Kazakhstan has long embraced its Jewish community.” During “Borat’s” year of release alone, a new synagogue big enough to accommodate the capital’s entire Jewish population – and also Central Asia’s largest – was opened, Almaty’s first-ever Association for Hebrew Speakers formed, and the Kazakh government issued a postage stamp featuring a historic local synagogue. The factsheet went on to record:
In the wake of the widely released and successful 2006 comedy film Borat, which portrays Kazakhstan as a hot-bed of anti-Semitism, Kazakh officials are expanding outreach efforts to explain to the world that Kazakhs are in fact very tolerant of Jews.”
As part of these “outreach efforts,” prior to the release of “Borat,” the government of Kazakhstan took out full-page ads in major U.S. newspapers such as The New York Times, and placed commercials on CNN and other mainstream news channels, at some expense. They sought to challenge and debunk the movie’s misrepresentations of Kazakhs, and Borat’s anti-Semitism loomed large. As a spokesperson for Almaty’s Washington D.C. embassy said at the time:
[Borat] claims the Kazakhs are very anti-Semitic people and running of the Jews is the famous pastime. That is, of course, ridiculous. Kazakhstan has a very vibrant Jewish community.”
AN ‘ALREADY ISLAMOPHOBIC CLIMATE’
The lack of wider pushback against Borat from the world’s Islamic community almost two decades ago surely reflects how the film was released at a time when Islamophobia was rife in the West due to the then-ongoing War on Terror. Systematic, institutionalized discrimination against and demonization of Muslims was unashamedly and openly normalized, advocated, and practiced by European and North American governments under the aegis of battling “extremism.” Muslim civil society voices were thus very effectively silenced in the mainstream.
Fast forward to the sequel’s release, and Cohen’s victims were finally positioned to fight back. In November 2020, the Council on American-Islamic Relations and Kazakh American Association fired off strongly worded letters to the Directors Guild of America, Oscars, Golden Globes, and British Academy of Film and Television Arts, demanding they bar Cohen, his movie and its cast and crew, from consideration for awards that year.
Commenting, Kazakh-American film professional and Hollywood Film Academy CEO Gia Noortas said:
The Kazakh community worldwide is underrepresented and inherently vulnerable. Sacha Baron Cohen understands this fact and exploits the Kazakh people by hijacking our ethnic identity, whitewashing us, and inciting harassment toward us. Considering today’s socially aware political climate and the new diversity policies adopted by film associations worldwide, it is unbelievable that a film which openly berates, bullies, and traumatizes a nation of people of color is still an acceptable form of entertainment.”
As a fiery contemporary op-ed in The New Arab noted via “Borat,” “Cohen racially abuses, culturally appropriates, and mocks the Kazakh culture, traditions, and people for the purpose of crude laughter and monetary gain” – actions “not only offensive,” but directly harmful, as “Kazakhs know from personal experience.” It went on to record how since the release of the first movie:
Many Kazakhs have experienced psychological turmoil and ethnic-based humiliation. Many Kazakhs have had to explain to others that Cohen’s portrayal of Kazakhstan and its people as bigoted and backwards is a vile misrepresentation. Many Kazakh children have been bullied at school, and Kazakh women have been exposed to distasteful sexual jokes or harassment.”
Again, we are left to ponder if Cohen explicitly intended these dire consequences. A 2016 academic paper published by Brunel University explored how audiences perceived the portrayal of Muslims across his oeuvre based on an extensive focus group study. Overwhelmingly, respondents expressed dismay at the content and volunteered their view that the assorted movies and TV shows Cohen produced throughout his three-decade-long career are, universally, intensely Islamophobic.
For example, one respondent asked to comment on the “Running of the Jew” clip, said it “enforces this opinion that Muslims are anti-Semites.” The study noted that “The Dictator” was “replete with signifiers that are stereotypic of Islam and Muslims – from the name ‘Aladeen,’ his long beard, misogyny, anti-Semitism, and anti-Americanism,” and “the film also displays minarets and thus typical Islamic architecture.” Another respondent observed:
If you look at all his movies, he does portray himself as a Muslim. So, I think there is an element of Islamophobia. The Dictator, Ali G, these are all Muslims and so he’s portraying them in a bad light, in an already Islamophobic climate.”
AN UNSAFE SPACE
Such adverse reactions are striking, for they would be music to the proverbial ears of Israel and the international Zionist lobby’s countless assorted components. Perpetuating the narrative that all Muslims worldwide are possessed of virulent anti-Jewish hatred has been a core Zionist propaganda objective since before Israel’s 1948 founding.
The purpose is to frame Palestinian opposition to Zionist oppression, and anyone Muslim or otherwise united in solidarity with them, as motivated by surging anti-Semitism rather than reasonable and legitimate condemnation of oppression, brutality, and mass slaughter in service of a fundamentally colonialist, genocidal, and deeply anti-Semitic endeavor. Accordingly, Israel has, ever since its founding, actively sought to create a hostile environment for Jews elsewhere in order to cynically cement itself as the world’s exclusive safe space for Jews.
Following Israel’s creation, a Mephistophelian feat achieved by murderous conquest, land theft, and the clandestine use of chemical and biological weapons, Zionists engaged in wide-ranging efforts to compel Jews elsewhere to migrate to Tel Aviv. This effort included covertly bombing synagogues throughout West Asia, encouraging anti-Semitism the world over through a variety of means, and infiltrating and funding Amnesty International to amplify and exaggerate anti-Semitism in Muslim lands from the 1970s onwards while concealing its criminal erasure of Palestine and its indigenous people.
The necessity of such actions from Israel’s perspective couldn’t be clearer. It is barely known today that a majority of world Jewish opinion actively opposed Israel’s creation. The 1917 Balfour Declaration, which pledged London’s commitment to creating a “national home for the Jewish people” and is widely considered the Zionist state’s foundational document, was vigorously condemned by Edwin Montagu, the only Jew in a senior British government position at the time:
The policy of His Majesty’s Government is anti-Semitic in result and will prove a rallying ground for anti-Semites in every country of the world.”
Montagu’s concerns were well-founded. Zionists, professing to be inspired by ubiquitous Western anti-Semitism, were and remain committed to building an ethnonationalist homeland for Jews in the Arab and Muslim world – the one place on Earth where Jews have always been safest. It is widely unknown that the only European country, bar Britain, to boast a bigger Jewish population following World War II than before was Muslim-majority Albania. It provided a sanctuary for Jews fleeing the Holocaust elsewhere in Europe.
Many Albanians are considered “Righteous Among Nations” for risking their lives to protect Jews during the genocidal Axis occupation of the Balkans, 1941 – 1944. A great many Jews had for centuries resided in the region by that point, having been invited to relocate there under Ottoman Sultan Bayezid II’s personal protection following the fall of Al Andalus to Christian crusaders in 1492. They flourished, free from the routine pogroms, discrimination, and punitive taxes inflicted upon them everywhere else in Europe.
Since the Gaza genocide began, shocking scenes reminiscent of 1930s Germany, in which Israeli security forces storm areas of Jerusalem, physically attacking Hasidic Jews and tearing down Palestine flags, have spread like wildfire on social media. Meanwhile, Jews can consistently be found in profusion at every major anti-Israel protest in Europe and North America, very vocally denouncing not only Tel Aviv’s relentless atrocities but the entire “Godless and merciless” ideology of Zionism.
Sacha Baron Cohen’s canon should be viewed as a modern-day manifestation of the perpetual Zionist drive to distort and conceal reality and turn Jews and Muslims, natural and historic comrades, against one another. Now that he and close collaborator Lee Kern have so amply exposed their guiding mission quite so publicly, a liberal media apparatus that enthusiastically promoted them and their repulsively racist, genocidal output must not be forgiven or trusted ever again.
Feature photo | A Hebrew poster for the film “Borat” in Tel Aviv. Photo | Yaffa Phillips | Flickr CC
Kit Klarenberg is an investigative journalist and MintPress News contributor exploring the role of intelligence services in shaping politics and perceptions. His work has previously appeared in The Cradle, Declassified UK, and Grayzone. Follow him on Twitter @KitKlarenberg.JANUARY 30TH, 2024
YEMEN’S HOUTHIS SPEAK TO MINTPRESS ABOUT US ATTACKS, THEIR BLOCKADE OF ISRAEL
Joining MintCast to discuss the blockade and Yemen’s escalating tensions with the United States is Mohammed al-Bukhaiti, a senior political official and spokesperson for Yemen’s Ansar Allah.
The United States and the United Kingdom recently carried out their eighth round of strikes against targets in Yemen that they claim are being used by Yemen’s Ansar Allah – known in the West as the Houthis – to threaten maritime navigation in the Red Sea.
Since Israel began its deadly incursion into Gaza on October 7 of last year, Ansar Allah has carried out a de facto campaign of targeted sanctions against Israeli economic interests, attacking ships traveling through the Red Sea that it says are tied to Israel. The operation stands out in the region, as neighboring Arab countries have largely stayed out of the fray, if not directly supported Israel’s bloody campaign.
While Ansar Allah has been much discussed (or, more accurately, denounced) in Western media, they have rarely been allowed to talk for themselves. Joining the MintCast today to discuss the blockade and Yemen’s escalating tensions with the United States is Mohammed al-Bukhaiti, a senior political official and spokesperson for Ansar Allah. Bukhaiti has held his position since 2014, when the failed U.S.-backed Saudi campaign to dislodge Ansar Allah from power began.
The human cost of the U.S.-Saudi campaign has been enormous. More than 400,000 people are thought to have been killed, and tens of millions of people lost their access to food, shelter and medical treatment in what the United Nations consistently called “the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.” A 2021 MintPress investigation found that the United States had supplied Saudi Arabia with at least $28.4 billion worth of weapons and provided diplomatic support for the onslaught.
Ansar Allah officials have repeatedly stated that the goal of their blockade is to pressure Israel into halting its assault on the besieged Gaza Strip, a deadly campaign that has claimed the lives of well over 25,000 people and has left over 63,000 injured, most of them women and children.
Ansar Allah says that their blockade against Israeli interests is working, and indeed, major ocean carriers have suspended Red Sea and Suez Canal transport, instead sailing around Africa, creating significant delays and supply bottlenecks and costing the Israeli economy billions.
When asked by reporters if U.S. strikes on Yemen were effective, President Biden responded by stating: “When you say ‘working,’ are they stopping the Houthis? No. Are they going to continue? Yes.” Biden is now the fourth successive American president to bomb Yemen, a country of 33 million people.
Join us exclusively on MintPress News to hear a side of the story completely missing in Western media.
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Also, be sure to check out rapper Lowkey’s video interview/podcast series, The Watchdog.
Mnar Adley is an award-winning journalist and editor and is the founder and director of MintPress News. She is also president and director of the non-profit media organization Behind the Headlines. Adley also co-hosts the MintCast podcast and is a producer and host of the video series Behind The Headlines. Contact Mnar at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter at @mnarmuhJANUARY 30TH, 2024.
ISRAEL’S BEN-GVIR SEES WEST BANK OPPORTUNITY IN GAZA GENOCIDE
Itmar Ben-Gvir perceives all Palestinians in the West Bank as potential terrorists, the same way that Israel’s ‘moderate’ President Isaac Herzog perceives all Gazans as “responsible” for Hamas’ actions.
If what is currently happening in the occupied Palestinian West Bank took place before October 7, our attention would have been completely fixated on that region in Palestine.
The ongoing Israeli genocide in Gaza, however, has devalued the important, if not earth-shattering, events underway in the West Bank, which is now a stage for the most violent Israeli military campaign since the Second Palestinian Uprising (2000-05).
As of the time of writing of this article, since October 7, more than 360 Palestinians have been killed in the West Bank, while thousands have been wounded and thousands more arrested.
These numbers exceed, by far, the total number of Palestinians killed in 2022, which was already designated by the United Nations as the most violent year on record since 2005.
But how are we to understand the logic behind the Israeli violence in the West Bank, considering that it is already under Israeli military occupation and the joint ‘security’ control of the Israeli army and the Palestinian Authority?
Moreover, if the Israelis are honest in their claim that their war in Gaza is not genocide against the Palestinian people but a war on Hamas, why are they attacking the West Bank with such ferocity, killing people from all different political and ideological backgrounds, and many civilians, including children as well?
The answer lies in the growing political power of the Jewish settlers.
Historically, there are two types of Israeli violence meted out routinely against Palestinians: violence carried out by the Israeli army and another carried out by illegal Jewish settlers.
Palestinians fully understand that both phenomena are intrinsically linked. The settlers often attack Palestinians under the protection of the Israeli army, and the latter often launches violent raids on Palestinians for the sake of the illegal settlers.
In recent years, however, the relationship between these two violent entities began to change, thanks to the rise of the far right in Israel, which is situated mostly within illegal settlements, and their supporters inside Israel.
Not only does the racist thug Ben-Gvir walk around with an entourage of armed guards, but now he has an entire “National Guard” made of armed settler gangs.
As soon as Ben-Gvir claimed the role of the National Security Minister, he began promoting the idea of establishing a National Guard. After October 7, he managed, with direct support from Netanyahu’s government, to establish so-called civilian security teams.
Even Israeli officials, like Yair Lapid, have described Ben-Gvir’s new army as a “private militia.” And he is right.
Though Ben-Gvir is insisting that the war on Gaza must continue, his actual aim of its continuation – aside from the ethnic cleansing of the Gaza population – is to use this rare opportunity to fulfill all the wishes of Israel’s political extremists, all at once.
Let us remember that Ben-Gvir came to power based on the lofty promises of annexing the West Bank, expanding settlements, and seizing control of Palestinian holy sites in East Jerusalem, among other extremist ideas.
Al-Aqsa Mosque was a major target for Ben-Gvir and his followers, who believe that only by building a Third Temple on the ruins of Islam’s third holiest shrine would Israel be able to reclaim total control over the Holy Land.
Ben-Gvir’s bizarre political language could have been dismissed as the extremism of a fringe politician. Far from it. Currently, Ben-Gvir is arguably the most powerful politician in Israel due to his ability to use six seats in the Knesset to make or break Netanyahu’s coalition.
While Netanyahu is behaving largely out of desperation, his Defense Minister Yoav Gallant is fighting to redeem the tattered reputation of his army. Others, like War Council Minister, Benny Gantz, are walking a political fine line so as not to be perceived as the ones who have broken Israel’s fragile political unity during a most decisive war.
None of this applies to Ben-Gvir. The man, who sees himself as the political descendant of the likes of the notorious Meir Kahane, is a fervent advocate of a religious war.
And since religious wars can only be the outcome of chaotic social and political circumstances, he is keen to instigate these very events that could ultimately lead to this coveted war.
One of the prerequisites is unhinged violence, where people are killed based on the mere suspicion of being ‘terrorists.’ For example, on January 18, Ben-Gvir told Israeli border police officers during a visit to a base in the West Bank, “You have complete backing from me,” urging them to shoot at every ‘terrorist,’ even if they do not pose a threat.
Of course, Ben-Gvir perceives all Palestinians in the West Bank as potential terrorists, the same way that Israel’s ‘moderate’ President Isaac Herzog perceives all Gazans as “responsible” for Hamas’ actions. This essentially means that the Israeli army in the West Bank is expected to kill Palestinians there with the same impunity as those being killed in Gaza.
An unbiased look at the progression within Israeli politics shows that there is a clear and direct line between the early Zionists like Golda Meir and Shimon Peres and today’s Zionists Ben-Gvir and his vile constituency of rac
Even though security and intelligence officials in Israel have warned Netanyahu against launching another war front in the West Bank, the Israeli army has no other option but to fight that supposed ‘war’ anyway. Why?
The Israeli army is already seen by a large constituency in Israel as a failure for their inability to prevent or to respond successfully to the October 7 attacks, even after over 100 days of war in Gaza. To redeem their tarnished honor, they are happy to fight a less challenging ‘war’ against isolated and under-equipped Palestinian fighters in small parts of the West Bank.
Ben-Gvir is, of course, ready to manipulate all these elements in his favor. And he is getting precisely what he wants: expanding the war to the West Bank, ethnically cleansing Palestinians, torturing prisoners, demolishing homes, torching properties, and all the rest.
Perhaps Ben-Gvir’s greatest achievement so far is his ability to create a perfect amalgamation between the political interests of the settlers, the government, and its security apparatus.
His aim, however, is not merely stealing yet more Palestinian land or expanding a few settlements. He wants a religious war, one which will ultimately lead to the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, not just from Gaza but from the West Bank as well.
The war in Gaza is a perfect opportunity for these sinister goals to be achieved. For now, this genocidal war continues to create opportunities for religious Zionism to acquire new followers and to lay deeper roots within Israel’s political establishment.
A sudden end to the war, however, could represent the marginalization of religious Zionism for years to come.
Feature photo | Israel’s National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir attends an event to deliver weapons to local volunteer security group members in Ashkelon, Israel, Oct. 27, 2023. Tsafrir Abayov | AP
Dr. Ramzy Baroud is a journalist, author and the Editor of The Palestine Chronicle. He is the author of six books. His latest book, co-edited with Ilan Pappé, is ‘Our Vision for Liberation: Engaged Palestinian Leaders and Intellectuals Speak Out’. His other books include ‘My Father was a Freedom Fighter’ and ‘The Last Earth’. Baroud is a Non-resident Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA). His website is www.ramzybaroud.net
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect MintPress News editorial policy.JANUARY 25TH, 2024.
100 DAYS OF WAR: PALESTINIAN RESISTANCE WILL BE NETANYAHU’S DOWNFALL
Netanyahu may continue digging, but history has already been written: the spirit of the Palestinian people has won over Israel’s death machine.
Law number one in the ‘law of holes’ is that “if you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.” Law number two, “If you are not digging, you are still in a hole.”
These adages sum up Israel’s ongoing political, military and strategic crises, 100 days following the start of the war on Gaza.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was faced with the unprecedented challenge of having to react to a major attack launched by Palestinian Resistance in southern Israel on October 7.
This single event is already proving to be a game changer in the relationship between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Its impact will be felt for many years, if not generations, to come.
Netanyahu was already in a hole long before the Al-Aqsa Flood operation took place, and he had no one else to blame but himself.
To stay in power and to avoid three major corruption cases and subsequent trials, Netanyahu labored to fortify his position at the helm of Israeli politics with the help of the most extreme government ever assembled in a state whose very existence is an outcome of an extremist ideology.
Even the anti-Netanyahu mass protests throughout Israel, which also took place for months before the war, did not alert the Israeli leader that the hole was getting deeper and that the Palestinians, living under a perpetual military occupation and siege, could find in Israel’s political and military crises an opportunity.
He simply kept on digging.
October 7 should not be perceived as a surprise attack since the entire Gaza Division, the massive Israeli military build-up in the Gaza envelope, exists for the very purpose of ensuring that Gaza’s subjugation and siege were perfected according to state-of-the-art military technology.
This advanced military capability meant that no surprise attacks should have been possible because it is not humans but sophisticated machines that scan, intercept, and report on every perceived suspicious movement. In the Israeli case, the failure was profound and multi-layered.
Subsequently, following October 7, Netanyahu found himself in a much deeper hole. Instead of finding his way out by, for example, taking responsibility, unifying his people, or, God forbid, acknowledging that war is never an answer in the face of a resisting, oppressed population, he kept on digging.
The Israeli leader, flanked by far-right ministers Itamar Ben-Gvir, Bezalel Smotrich, and Amichai Eliyahu, worsened matters by using the war on Gaza as an opportunity to implement long-dormant plans of ethnically cleansing Palestinians, not only from the Gaza Strip but also the West Bank.
Were it not for the steadfastness of the Palestinian people and strong rejection by Egypt and Jordan, the second Nakba would have been a reality.
All mainstream Israeli politicians, despite their ideological and political differences, unanimously outdid one another in their racist, violent, and even genocidal language. While Defense Minister Yoav Gallant immediately announced that “there will be no electricity, no food, no fuel, everything is closed” to the Gaza population, Avi Dichter called for “another Nakba.”
Meanwhile, Eliyahu suggested the ‘option’ of “dropping a nuclear bomb on Gaza.”
Instead of saving Israel from itself by reminding the Tel Aviv government that the genocidal war on Gaza would also bode poorly for Tel Aviv, the US Biden Administration served the role of cheerleader and outright partner.
According to a New York Times report on January 12, the CIA is also actively involved in collecting information from Gaza and providing that intelligence to Israel.
US support for Israel, in all its forms, has been maintained despite the shocking reports issued by every respected international charity that operates in Palestine and the Middle East.
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) said that 1.9 million out of Gaza’s entire population of 2.3 million people have been displaced. Israeli rights group B’tselem said that 2.2 million are starving. Save the Children reported that over 100 Palestinian children are killed daily. Gaza’s government media office has said that about 70 percent of the Strip has been destroyed.
Even the Wall Street Journal concluded that the destruction of Gaza was greater than that of Dresden in WWII.
Yet, none of this concerned US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who visited the region five times in less than 100 days with the same message of support for Israel.
What is so astonishing, however, is that Gaza’s threshold of resilience continues to prove unequaled. This is how determined the Palestinians are to achieve their freedom finally.
Indeed, fathers or mothers, in a scene repeated numerous times, would be carrying the bodies of their dead children while howling in pain, yet insisting that they would never leave their homeland.
This dignified pain has moved the world. Even though Washington has ensured no meaningful action will be taken at the UN Security Council, countries like South Africa sought the help of the world’s highest court to demand an immediate end to the war and to recognize Israel’s atrocities as an act of genocide.
South Africa’s efforts at the International Court of Justice soon galvanized other countries, mainly in the Global South.
But Netanyahu kept on digging, unmoved, or possibly unaware that the world around him was finally beginning to truly understand the generational suffering of the Palestinians.
The Israeli leader still speaks of ‘voluntary migration,’ of wanting to manage Gaza and Palestine, and of reshaping the Middle East in ways consistent with his illusions of grandeur and power.
One hundred days of the war on Gaza has taught us that superior firepower no longer influences outcomes when a nation makes the collective decision to resist.
It has also taught us that the US can no longer reorder the Middle East to fit Israeli priorities and that relatively small countries in the Global South when united, can alter the course of history.
Netanyahu may continue digging, but history has already been written: the spirit of the Palestinian people has won over Israel’s death machine.
Feature photo | A man stands over a photograph of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and that reads in Turkish: “Baby killer” during a protest to show solidarity with Palestinians amid the ongoing war in Gaza, in Istanbul, Turkey, Jan. 1, 2024. Francisco Seco | AP
Dr. Ramzy Baroud is a journalist, author and the Editor of The Palestine Chronicle. He is the author of six books. His latest book, co-edited with Ilan Pappé, is ‘Our Vision for Liberation: Engaged Palestinian Leaders and Intellectuals Speak Out.’ His other books include ‘My Father was a Freedom Fighter’ and ‘The Last Earth’. Baroud is a Non-resident Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA). His website is www.ramzybaroud.net
UNITED AGAINST NUCLEAR IRAN: THE SHADOWY, INTELLIGENCE-LINKED GROUP DRIVING THE US TOWARDS WAR WITH IRAN
United Against Nuclear Iran, a secretive neoconservative organization with close links to the CIA and the Mossad, is trying to escalate the Israeli assault on Gaza into an Iraq-level U.S. Attack on Iran.
Most of the world has watched the Israeli assault on Gaza in horror. As tens of thousands have been killed and millions displaced, tens of millions of people around the world have poured onto the streets to demand an end to the violence. But a few select others have taken to the pages of our most influential media to demand an escalation of the violence and that the United States help Israel strike not just Palestine, Syria, and Lebanon but Iran as well.
“I might have once favored a cease-fire with Hamas, but not now,” wrote Bush-era diplomat Dennis Ross in The New York Times, explaining that “if Hamas is perceived as winning, it will validate the group’s ideology of rejection, give leverage and momentum to Iran and its collaborators and put [our] own governments on the defensive.”
In the wake of Hamas’ October 7 assault, arch-neoconservative official John Bolton was invited on CNN, where he claimed that what we witnessed was really an “Iranian attack on Israel using Hamas as a surrogate” and that the U.S. must immediately respond. When asked whether he had any evidence, given the implications of what he was saying, he shrugged and replied, “This is not a court of law.”
On December 28, Bolton doubled down on his hawkish stance, writing in the pages of Britain’s Daily Telegraph that “The West may now have no option but to attack Iran” – a position he has held for at least a decade.
Meanwhile, in an interview with Saudi state-funded broadcaster Iran International, senior Bush official Mark Wallace bellowed that, “This is Iran’s work. Iran will suffer at the hands of retribution and will suffer the consequences of supporting this terror group and its horrific attack on Israel.” Wallace continued:
No civilized country wants further conflict. But the Iranians are forcing the civilized world’s hand. And you will see a dramatic response soon as the United States, Israel, and our allies begin to position assets around the world in preparation.”
If there was any doubt as to what sort of “dramatic response” Wallace wanted to see, he added a message to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps: “I look forward to seeing you hanged from the end of one of your own ropes.”
Iran was recently the victim of a deadly terrorist attack. As mourners commemorated the U.S. assassination of Qassem Soleimani, two bombs exploded, killing 91 and injuring hundreds more. In this context, it was understandable why Iranian officials pointed the finger at the U.S. and Israel.
Iran International: How a network of Western and Saudi interests converged to create the ultimate propaganda tool in a failed bid to overthrow the government of Iran.
What these individuals all have in common is that they are board members of United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI), a shadowy but influential organization dedicated to pushing the West toward a military confrontation with the Islamic Republic.
Founded in 2008, the group is led by neoconservative hawks and has close ties to both U.S. and Israeli intelligence. It does not divulge where it receives its copious funding. However, it is known that right-wing Israeli-American billionaire Sheldon Adelson was a source. There is strong circumstantial evidence that Gulf dictatorships may also be bankrolling the group, although UANI has strongly denied this. In 2019, Iran designated UANI as a terrorist organization.
When asked by MintPress what he made of UANI’s recent statements, Eli Clifton, one of the few investigative journalists to have covered the group, said, “It’s very consistent with the positions and advocacy that the organization has taken since its inception.” Adding,
United Against Nuclear Iran does not miss an opportunity to try to bring the United States closer to a military conflict with Iran. And on the other side of the equation, they also have worked very hard to oppose efforts to de-escalate the U.S.-Iran relationship.”
UANI’s board is a who’s who of high state, military and intelligence officials from around the Western world. Among its more notable members include:
- CEO Mark Wallace, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and deputy campaign manager for George W. Bush’s 2004 reelection.
- Chairman Joe Lieberman, former senator and Democratic vice-presidential nominee for the 2000 election.
- Tamir Pardo, Director of the Mossad, 2011-2016.
- Dennis Ross, former State Department Director of Policy Planning and former Middle East Envoy under George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton.
- Field Marshall Lord Charles Guthrie, ex-Chief of Staff of the U.K. Armed Forces.
- Jeb Bush, former Governor of Florida.
- August Hanning, President of the German Federal Intelligence Service (BND), 1998-2005; State Secretary at the Federal Interior Ministry, 2005-2009.
- Zohar Palti, former head of the Political-Military Bureau, Israeli Ministry of Defense; former Director of Intelligence of the Mossad.
- Frances Townsend, Homeland Security Advisor to President George W. Bush.
- John Bolton, former U.S. National Security Advisor and former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N.
- Roger Noriega, former Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs and Ambassador to the Organization of American States.
- Otto Reich, former Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs and architect of the 2002 U.S. coup against Venezuela.
- Michael Singh, White House Senior Director for Near East and North African Affairs, 2007-2008.
- Giulio Terzi di Sant-Agata, former Italian Foreign Minister.
- Robert Hill, former Minister of Defense of Australia.
- Jack David, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Combating Weapons of Mass Destruction, 2004-2006.
- Mark Kirk, U.S. Senator for Illinois, 2010-2017.
- Lt. Gen. Sir Graeme Lamb, ex-Director of U.K. Special Forces and Commander of the British Field Army.
- Norman Roule, former CIA Division Chief and National Intelligence Manager for Iran at the Director of National Intelligence.
- Irwin Cotler, Canadian Minister of Justice and Attorney General, 2003-2006.
- Baroness Pauline Neville-Jones, U.K. Minister of State for Security and Counter Terrorism, 2010-2011.
In addition, notable former board members include ex-CIA Director R. James Woolsey; head of Mossad between 2002 and 2011, Meir Dagan; and one-time chief of British spy agency MI6, Sir Richard Dearlove.
For 15 years, UANI has organized conferences, published reports, and lobbied politicians and governments, all with one goal: pushing a neoconservative line on Iran. “UANI are a force multiplier. They provide at least the veneer of an intellectual infrastructure for the Iran hawk movement. They did not invent being hawkish on Iran, but they sure made it a heck of a lot easier,” Ben Freeman, Director of the Democratizing Foreign Policy Program at the Quincy Institute, told MintPress.
CONFLICTS AND CONFLICTS OF INTEREST
For such a large, well-financed, and influential organization filled with senior officials, United Against Nuclear Iran keeps its funding sources very quiet. However, in 2015, Clifton was able to obtain a UANI donor list for the 2013 financial year. By far and away, the largest funders were billionaire New York-based investor Thomas Kaplan and multibillionaire Israeli-American casino mogul Sheldon Adelson.
Kaplan, whose $843,000 donation supplied around half the group’s 2013 funding, is a venture capitalist investor concentrating on metals, particularly gold. He is the chairman of Tigris Financial and the Electrum Group LLC. Both of Kaplan’s firms employ UANI CEO Mark Wallace as CEO and COO, respectively.
A 2010 Wall Street Journal article titled “Tigris Financial Goes All-in on Gold” noted that the company had bet billions of dollars on the price of gold rising, more than the reserves of the Brazilian central bank. As Clifton has noted, both Kaplan and Wallace have marketed gold to clients as the perfect commodity to hold if there is increased instability in the Middle East. Therefore, both Kaplan and Wallace stand to make massive sums if the U.S. or Israel were to attack Iran, making their UANI warmongering a gigantic and potentially profitable conflict of interest.
Adelson provided the majority of the rest of UANI’s funding. The world’s 18th-richest individual at the time of his 2021 death, the tycoon turned his economic empire into a political one, supporting ultraconservative causes in both the United States and Israel. Between 2010 and 2020, he and his wife donated more than $500 million to the Republican Party, becoming GOP kingmakers in the process. He would often vet Republican presidential candidates at his casino in Las Vegas, and it was often said that this “Adelson Primary” was almost as important as the public one.
An ardent Zionist, Adelson bankrolled numerous pro-Israel lobby projects, such as AIPAC, One Jerusalem and Taglit Birthright. He also owned Israel Hayom, the country’s most-read newspaper, with 31% of the national share. Relentlessly pro-Netanyahu, it was said that the Israeli prime minister asked his friend Adelson to set up a newspaper to help his political career.
Adelson and his influence have been one of the driving forces of American hostility towards Iran. In 2013, during a conversation with Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, he called for the United States to stop negotiating and drop a nuclear bomb on Iran to show that “we mean business.”
A potential third, even more controversial, source of funding is the Gulf monarchies of Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Leaked emails show UANI officials soliciting support from the Emirati royal family. Both Mark Wallace and Frances Townsend, for example, emailed the Emirati Ambassador to the U.S. detailing cost estimates for upcoming events and inquiring about support from the UAE.
Thomas Kaplan himself is extraordinarily close to the nation. “The country and the leadership of the UAE, I would say, are my closest partners in more facets of my life than anyone else other than my wife,” he told the Emirati outlet, The National News, which also detailed his friendship with Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed.
PUTTING IRAN IN THE CROSSHAIRS
One of United Against Nuclear Iran’s primary activities, Iranian political commenter Ali Alizadeh told MintPress, is to create a worldwide “culture of fear and anxiety for investing in Iran.” The group attempts to persuade businesses to divest from the Islamic Republic and sign their certification pledge, which reads as follows:
The undersigned [Name], the [Title] of [Company] (the “Company”), does hereby certify on behalf of the Company that until the Iranian regime verifiably abandons its drive for nuclear weapons, support for terrorism, routine human rights violations, hostage-taking, and rampant anti-Americanism as state policy, that neither the Company nor any subsidiary or affiliate of the Company, directly or through an agent, representative or intermediary.”
One corporation that UANI targeted was the industrial machinery firm Caterpillar. UANI hectored the firm, even erecting a roadside billboard outside its headquarters in Peoria, IL, insinuating that they were aiding Iran in constructing a nuclear weapon. Caterpillar quickly ordered its Iran projects terminated. Wallace took heart from his group’s victory and warned that other businesses would be targeted.
These have included French companies such as Airbus and Peugeot-Citroen, who were threatened with legal action. In 2019, UANI earned an official rebuke from the Russian Foreign Ministry for attempting to intimidate Russian corporations trading with Tehran. “We think such actions are unacceptable and deeply concerning,” said Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova. “Attempts to pressure and threaten Russian business … are a follow-up on the dishonorable anti-Iranian cause by the U.S. administration,” she added, hinting at collusion between the government and the supposedly non-governmental organization.
Some of UANI’s campaigns have been markedly petty, including pressuring New York City hotels to cancel bookings with Iranian officials (including then-President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad) visiting the city on United Nations business. Others, however, have been devastating to the Iranian economy, such as the SWIFT international money transfer terminating its relationship with Tehran, cutting the country off from the global banking system.
On UANI’s actions against businesses, Freeman said: “It’s effective, and (in some cases, at least) it’s to the detriment of the people of Iran; it’s to the detriment of these companies; and it’s to the detriment of peace in the region.”
While the group presents itself as against a nuclear Iran, UANI was strangely opposed to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – the deal between Iran and the West that limited the former’s nuclear technology research in exchange for sanctions relief from the latter. As MintPress reported at the time, UANI spent millions on T.V. advertisements trashing the agreement. As Wallace noted, “We have a multi-million-dollar budget, and we are in it for the long haul. Money continues to pour in.”
If the Iran deal passes, Israel loses. The Israel lobby is spending big on whatever it takes to make sure this doesn’t happen.
After the JCPOA was signed, UANI hosted a summit attended by senior Israeli, Emirati, and Bahraini officials, touting its failures. Once UANI’s John Bolton was named Donald Trump’s National Security Advisor, he persuaded the president to withdraw entirely from the deal. Bolton has deep connections to the Mojahedin-e-Khalq (MEK), an exiled Iranian political group widely identified as a terrorist organization. He has, for some time, considered them a government in waiting after the U.S. overthrows the current administration. “Before 2019, we will celebrate in Tehran,” he told the group in 2018, predicting that, with him at the helm, the Trump administration would soon cause the downfall of the Iranian government.
Bolton has long been a hardliner on regime change. “To stop Iran’s bomb, bomb Iran,” read the title of his 2015 New York Times op-ed. Yet this appears to be the dominant position at UANI. In March, Ross published an article in The Atlantic headlined “Iran needs to believe America’s threat,” which demanded that the U.S. “take forceful action to check Tehran’s progress toward a nuclear bomb.” Failure to do so, Ross claimed, would provoke Israel to do so itself – a “much more dangerous scenario,” according to him. Yet only two years previously, Ross called on the U.S. to “give Israel a big bomb” to “deter Iran,” noting that the “best way” to stop the Iranian nuclear program was to supply Israel with its own nukes, thereby taken as a given that Iran was indeed pursuing nuclear weapons itself (a highly questionable claim at the time) and ignoring Israel’s already existing 200+ stockpile of nuclear missiles.
“It doesn’t seem like UANI ever really took seriously the possibility of a diplomatic means to constrain Iran from continuing to increase its enrichment levels and moving towards a nuclear weapon,” Clifton told MintPress. “As a matter of fact, they generally fought tooth and nail against the JCPOA. They are eager to push the United States toward confrontation with Iran using the possibility of Iranian nuclear weapons as a reason,” he added.
That UANI is headed by so many state, military and intelligence leaders begs the question: to what extent is this really a non-governmental organization? “That is one of the dirty secrets of think tanks: they are very often holding tanks for government officials,” Freeman said, adding:
The Trump folks all had to leave office when Biden won, so a lot of them ended up in think tanks for a while, four years, let’s say. And if Trump wins again, they will bounce back into government. And the same is true of Democratic administrations, too.”
The U.S. government also clearly has a longstanding policy of outsourcing much of its work to “private” groups in order to avoid further scrutiny. Many of the CIA’s most controversial activities, for example, have been farmed out to the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), a technically non-governmental organization funded entirely by Washington and staffed with ex-state officials. In recent years, the NED has funneled millions of dollars to protest leaders in Hong Kong, organized an attempted color revolution in Cuba, organized anti-government rock concerts in Venezuela, and propped up dozens of media organizations in Ukraine.
Documents reviewed by MPN show that CIA cutout the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) spent over $22 million on propaganda efforts in Ukrain.
These sorts of institutions blur the line between public and private sectors. But a 2014 legal case raises even more questions about UANI’s connections to the U.S. government. After UANI accused Greek shipping magnate Victor Restis of working with the Iranian government, he sued them for libel. In an unprecedented move for what was a private, commercial lawsuit, Attorney General Eric Holder intervened in the lawsuit, ordering the judge to shut the case down on the grounds that, if it continued, it would expose key U.S. national security secrets. The case was immediately dropped without explanation.
In the past, when the Justice Department has invoked state secrets, a high-ranking state official has offered a public statement as to why. Yet, this time, nothing was offered. Reporters at the time speculated that much of the material Restis wanted to make public was possibly given to UANI by either the CIA or Mossad, which would have revealed a network of collusion between state intelligence agencies and a supposedly independent, private non-profit. Given the glut of ex-Mossad and CIA chiefs at UANI, this speculation is perhaps not as wild as it might seem.
UANI’s funders certainly also have extensive connections to Israel. Kaplan is the son-in-law of Israeli billionaire Leon Recanati and is said to be close with Prime Ministers Naftali Bennet and Yair Lapid. He has also employed a number of Israeli officials at his businesses. An example of this is Olivia Blechner, who, in 2007, left her role as the Director of Academic Affairs at the Israeli Consulate General in New York to become Executive Vice-President of Investor Relations and Research at Kaplan’s Electrum Group – a rather perplexing career move.
Adelson, meanwhile, was given what amounted to an official state funeral in Israel, one that even Prime Minister Netanyahu attended. He was buried on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem – one of the holiest sites in Judaism and an honor that very few figures receive.
A NETWORK OF REGIME CHANGE GROUPS
While United Against Nuclear Iran is already a notable enough organization, it is actually merely part of a large group of shadowy non-governmental groups working to cause unrest and, ultimately, regime change in Iran. These groups all share overlapping goals, funders and key individuals.
One example of this is the Counter Extremism Project (CEP), a non-profit that purports to exist to “combat the growing threat posed by extremist ideologies.” Yet the group focuses largely on Islamist extremism – and only those groups that are enemies of the U.S., Israel and the Gulf Monarchies (about whose extremism and violence the CEP has nothing to say). Ten members of the CEP’s leadership council are also on UANI’s board, including Wallace, who is CEO of both organizations.
Another group headed by Wallace is the Jewish Committee to Support Women Life Freedom in Iran. This organization claims to be focused on improving women’s rights in Iran. It very quickly, however, divulges that this is a vehicle for regime change. On its homepage, for example, it writes:
These freedom fighters continue with no sign of relenting on their calls for regime change. Calls for “Woman Life Freedom” and the removal of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei echo from rooftops, down street corridors, across campus hallways, and on government billboards. These brave Iranians have expressed their hatred for the ruling clerics not only in their words, but in their actions.”
Seven members of the Jewish Committee to Support Women Life Freedom in Iran’s steering group – including Wallace and Kaplan – also lead UANI.
Kaplan is well-known as a conservationist. However, his group, Panthera, which works to preserve the world’s 40 known species of big cats, has also been accused of being a secret regime change operation. Panthera has a number of UANI officials on its board or conservation council, including Wallace and Lamb (the ex-director of U.K. Special Forces and Commander of the British Army). Also on the council are Itzhak Dar, former Director of the Israeli Secret Service, Shin Bet, and General David Petraeus, former CIA Director and Commander of the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan.
In 2018, Iranian authorities arrested eight individuals working with Panthera inside the country. All eight were convicted of spying on behalf of the U.S. and Israel. While many in the West decried the trials as politically motivated, any organization led by these figures is bound to cause suspicions.
This is especially the case as Wallace is also a founder of PaykanArtCar, an organization that attempts to use art to, in its words, “advocate for the restoration of human rights and dignity for all in Iran.” All three team members of PaykanArtCar also work at UANI.
The final group in this Iran regime change network is the International Convention for the Future of Iran. Set up by Wallace himself, the organization’s website explains that it exists to “end the repression of the regime and bring true change to Iran.” Further purposes are to “connect the Iranian opposition in exile [i.e., the MEK] with policymakers in the United States and internationally” and to “offer program grants and technical support” to groups working to overthrow the government. However, judging by the lack of updates and the group’s Twitter profile having only 31 followers, it appears that it has not had much success achieving its goals.
In short, then, there exists a network of American NGOs with the mission statements of helping Iran, opposing Iran, preserving Iran, and bombing Iran, all staffed by largely the same ex-U.S. government officials.
Iran, however, is not the only target in Wallace’s sights. It appears that he is also trying to give Turkey similar treatment. Wallace is the CEO of the Turkish Democracy Project, a non-profit established to oppose the rule of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who, it says, has “dramatically altered Turkey’s position in the international community and its status as a free and liberal democracy.” The Turkish Democracy Project denounces what it calls Erdoğan’s “destabilizing actions in and beyond the region, his systemic corruption, support for extremism, and disregard for democracy and human rights.” There are no Turkish people among the Turkish Democracy Project’s leadership. But there are seven UANI board members at the top, calling the shots.
A LESSON FROM HISTORY
The history of Iran has been intimately intertwined with the United States since at least 1953 when Washington orchestrated a successful coup against Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh. Mosaddegh had refused U.S. demands to stamp out Communist influences in his country and had nationalized the nation’s oil. The U.S. installed Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi as a puppet ruler. An unpopular and authoritarian ruler, the Shah was overthrown in the Revolution of 1979. Since then, it has become a target for regime change, and its nuclear program is something of an obsession in the West.
Often orchestrated by UANI officials while they were in government, the U.S. has carried out a sustained economic war against Tehran, attempting to collapse its economy. American sanctions have severely hurt Iran’s ability to both buy and sell goods on the open market and have harmed the value of the Iranian rial. As prices and inflation rose rapidly, ordinary people lost their savings.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. turned the screw once again, intimidating both businesses and nations into refusing to sell Tehran vital medical supplies. Eventually, the World Health Organization stepped in and directly supplied it with provisions – a factor in the Trump administration’s decision to pull out of the agency.
While U.S. actions have severely harmed the Iranian economy, a future bright spot may come in the form of BRICS, the economic bloc that Iran – along with Egypt, Ethiopia, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE – joined on January 1. American economic power on the global stage appears to be waning. However, This new reality might spur Washington policymakers to reconsider a military option, as UANI desperately wants them to.
It is perfectly reasonable to be worried about Iran – or any country, for that matter – developing atomic bombs. Nuclear weapons pose an existential threat to human civilization, and more actors with access to them increase the likelihood of a devastating confrontation. Already in the region, India, Pakistan, Israel and Russia possess them. But it is only the United States that has ever used them in anger, dropping two on Japan and coming close to doing so in China, Korea and Vietnam. And given the U.S.’ recent track record of attacking countries that do not possess weapons of mass destruction (e.g., Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan) and not touching those who do (such as North Korea), it is entirely understandable why Iran might want one. As Freeman said:
I certainly do not want Iran to get a nuclear weapon. But at the same time, you can also believe that it would be catastrophic if the U.S. were to engage in a war with Iran…And the concern with groups like UANI is that they are taking that [the worry of Iran getting a nuclear weapon] and pushing that argument to a point where it might lead to an active conflict.”
The slaughter in Gaza has been horrifying enough. More than 22,000 people have been killed in the Israeli invasion, and a further 1.9 million displaced. Israel is also simultaneously bombing the West Bank, Syria and Lebanon. The U.S. is facilitating this, sending billions of dollars in weaponry, pledging iron-clad political support to Israel, silencing critics of its actions, and vetoing United Nations resolutions.
But United Against Nuclear Iran is eager to escalate the situation to a vastly greater level, urging Washington to attack a well-armed country of nearly 90 million people, erroneously claiming that Iran is behind every Hamas or Hezbollah action. “This is not a nuclear non-proliferation organization” Clifton said, noting that there are plenty of genuine already existing peace and environmental groups worried about nuclear weapons that either supported the JCPOA or said it did not go far enough. “Their focus is more on working towards regime change in Iran rather than actually supporting efforts that might prevent Iranian nuclear weapons,” he added.
IF UANI gets its way, a conflict with Iran might spark a Third World War. And yet they are receiving virtually no pushback to their ultra-hawkish pronouncements, largely because they operate in the shadows and receive virtually no public scrutiny. It is, therefore, imperative for all those who value peace to quickly change that and expose the organization for what it is.
Feature photo | Illustration by MintPress News
Alan MacLeod is Senior Staff Writer for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017, he published two books, Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent, as well as a number of academic articles. He has also contributed to FAIR.org, The Guardian, Salon, The Grayzone, Jacobin Magazine, and Common Dreams.