TBR News May 8, 2018

May 08 2018

The Voice of the White House 

Washington, D.C. May 8, 2018: “President Trump is not an easy person to work with. He has a violent temper, is very vindictive towards anyone who has the temerity to disagree with him, changes his mind and goals very often and, in general, is considered to be an egotistical and irrational person.

Herewith is a list of the senior members of his administration he has either rudely fired, forced to quit or who have left his employ in disgust:

Ty Cobb, White House special counsel

Tom Bossert, homeland security adviser

Michael Anton, National Security Council spokesperson

David Shulkin, secretary of veterans affairs

H.R. McMaster, national security adviser

Andrew McCabe, FBI deputy director

Rex Tillerson, secretary of state

John McEntee, Trump’s personal assistant

Gary Cohn, director of the National Economic Council

Josh Raffel, deputy White House communications director

Hope Hicks, White House communications director

Rachel Brand, associate attorney general

Rob Porter, White House staff secretary

Brenda Fitzgerald, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Rick Dearborn, deputy White House chief of staff

Omarosa Manigault-Newman, director of communications for the White House Office of Public Liaison

Dina Powell, deputy national security adviser

Tom Price, secretary of health and human services

Sebastian Gorka, deputy assistant to the president focusing on national security and terrorism

Steve Bannon, White House chief strategist

Carl Icahn, special adviser to the president on regulatory matters

Sean Spicer, White House press secretary

Anthony Scaramucci, White House communications director

Reince Priebus, White House chief of staff

Walter Shaub, director of the Office of Government Ethics

James Comey, FBI director

Michael Dubke, White House communications director

Vivek H. Murthy, surgeon general

K.T. McFarland, deputy national security adviser

Katie Walsh, White House deputy chief of staff

Michael Flynn, national security adviser

Preet Bharara, US attorney for the Southern District of New York

Sally Yates, acting attorney general”


Table of Contents

  • The Ultimatum: Europe’s Last Ditch Effort to Save Iran Deal
  • Don’t Trash the Nuclear Deal!
  • Trump and Netanyahu Could Fall Into a War with Iran
  • In Plots to Smear Obama Aides and George Soros, Israeli Spies for Hire Attack Netanyahu’s Enemies
  • Point: The mainstream media’s misdirection on Jerusalem
  • Counterpoint: Israel and Occupied Palestinian Territories 2017/2018


The Ultimatum: Europe’s Last Ditch Effort to Save Iran Deal

U.S. President Donald Trump has threatened to withdraw from the nuclear deal with Iran and he has until May 12 to make a decision. If he follows through, it could mean war in the Middle East. But the Europeans are trying to prevent it.

May 4, 2018

by Julia Amalia Heyer, Susanne Koelbl, Peter Müller, Dietmar Pieper and Christoph Schult


The weather forecast calls for partly cloudy skies on May 12 in Washington, D.C. The embassies of European Union member states will be welcoming the public for Open House Day and one can assume that U.S. President Donald Trump will be working in the Oval Office. In the morning, he will no doubt fire off a couple of tweets like “The Iran nuclear deal is a terrible one for the United States and the world.” And at some point on this day, his secretary of state and his national security adviser will likely walk into the room and ask him the decisive question: Mr. President, are you going to sign? Yes or no?

If Trump signs, the world will breathe a sigh of relief. It would mean that the U.S. president has once again prolonged the suspension of nuclear program-related sanctions against Iran for another 120 days. It would mean that the deal with Iran is still alive.

But that is not the most likely scenario.

It is more likely that the president won’t simply sign the extension. After all, he threatened as much four months ago, when he said: “Either fix the deal’s disastrous flaws, or the United States will withdraw.” As such, the question now is whether Trump will accept a last-minute compromise and what such a compromise might look like.

The 159-page document has a rather unwieldy name: Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA. But it is based on a simple idea: If Iran finally stops developing the means to build a nuclear weapon, then the world will resume doing business with the country. As such, if Trump reimposes sanctions, the nuclear deal would be badly crippled, and it seems likely that the Iranians would see it as a breach, leading to Tehran’s withdrawal. Iran may then resume enriching uranium to weapons-grade levels and working towards building a nuclear weapon. That would mark the beginning of the next crisis in the Middle East. It would mean the victory of national egotism over diplomacy and would represent a difficult-to-heal rift between the United States and Europe.

Or, as former German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel says: “If we aren’t careful, we could be facing another Thirty Years’ War in the Middle East.”

Those are the stakes.

With just days to go before Trump’s decision, it remains unclear whether the crisis can be avoided. But to understand how the U.S. president might ultimately decide, it helps to go back to Jan. 12 of this year.

Two hours before Trump publicly threatened that day that he was considering killing the nuclear deal with Iran, a small group of top European diplomats was notified of his decision. Brian Hook, a senior policy advisor in the State Department, called up European officials and read them the three-page statement from the president over the telephone. Because one sentence pertaining to the Europeans was erroneous, Hook had it removed from the statement. The group on the other side of the Atlantic was pleased about the removal because it showed that Hook, their State Department contact, had influence in the White House. They were talking to the right guy. But it was just a minor victory. There was no longer anything they could do to change the nature of Trump’s ultimatum.

A Particularly Bitter Moment

It was a particularly bitter moment for the Europeans. The nuclear deal had long been seen as a crowning achievement of EU diplomacy. It was regarded as proof positive that a problem like the Iranian nuclear threat could more effectively be solved through discussion and economic incentives than through military strikes and punitive actions. The world celebrated the deal — and then Donald Trump was elected president of the United States. The same man who has blasted the agreement as “terrible,” as “a catastrophe,” as “insane” and “horrendous.”

The task facing the Europeans became clear on Jan. 12. They had just four months to make improvements to the “worst deal ever” and to change Trump’s mind.

In addition to the U.S., Russia and China, the signatories to the Iran deal include France, Britain, Germany and the EU. For the most part, the task of saving the deal fell to four top diplomats: one each from Britain and France and two from Germany. The two from Germany are Helga Schmid, who represents the EU, and Andreas Michaelis, who was recently appointed state secretary in the Foreign Ministry in Berlin.

Since the beginning of the year, European-American negotiating groups have been meeting regularly in London, Paris, Berlin and Washington and there have been conference calls on an almost daily basis. Both French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have sought to change the president’s mind during visits to the U.S. capital. It quickly became apparent that Trump greatly enjoys the attention. But it remains unclear if it has had an effect.

Trump’s statement in January essentially provided the Europeans with a list of things they had to work on. They were to agree to “new multilateral sanctions if Iran develops or tests long-range missiles, thwarts inspections, or makes progress toward a nuclear weapon.” Furthermore, Trump demanded “stronger steps with us to confront Iran’s other malign activities” — including the funding of militias in Lebanon, Syria and Yemen.

Unusually Laborious

In several rounds of talks with Hook from the State Department, European negotiators tried to address Trump’s concerns without antagonizing Tehran. One of them described the task as “walking on a razor blade.” Success, he said, was only possible “if we don’t tip to the left toward the USA or tip to the right toward Iran.”

Convergence between the Europeans and the Americans proved unusually laborious, even at the working level, as interviews with those involved have revealed. Once the most important issues had been identified on the basis of Trump’s statement, each side wrote up their views on those issues separately. Finding agreement on joint formulations proved challenging and took time.

There is now one main document along with two subsidiary papers. One of them includes possible new sanctions against the Iranian missile program while the other focuses on joint action against Iranian influence in Yemen, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq.

It is a tightrope walk. The Europeans are trying to preserve the deal by making additions to it. It is an approach designed to satisfy the Americans without scaring off the Iranians. But with just one week to go before the expiration of Trump’s ultimatum, there are two important problems that still haven’t been solved.

The first problem is the U.S. demand that Iran’s “breakout time” be kept to at least 12 months. The breakout time is the amount of time a country needs to assemble a nuclear weapon. Currently, Iran’s breakout time is 15 months. But because the deal allows Iran to begin slowly ratcheting up their nuclear program again starting in 2025, that time interval could shrink. That is something the Americans would like to prevent.

The Europeans, however, point out that the Iranians have pledged to an “exclusively peaceful” use of nuclear energy. It says as much in the agreement’s preface. As such, they feel that the concerns harbored by Washington are excessive.

Establishing a concrete breakout time as the Trump administration is demanding would be a significant change to an existing deal — making it extremely challenging. Iran, after all, has categorically declared that the deal is “non-negotiable.”

Skeptical of the Pact

The second problem has to do with a European demand. They want the U.S. to issue a clear commitment to the nuclear agreement. From the European perspective, such a statement is important to bolster Iranian moderates who have thrown their support behind the deal. Iranian hardliners, after all, are just as skeptical of the pact as Trump is.

“The pressure is mounting,” says a senior EU official. “There are forces in Iran … who claim that there is a feeling that the Iranian side delivered and that our side didn’t deliver.”

The Iranian government is complaining that the country has not been able to enjoy the benefits of the deal because the U.S. is stoking doubts about its longevity and stability. Two weeks ago, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif told American broadcaster CBS: “President Trump has made it very clear that it is trying to dissuade our economic partners from engaging with Iran and that’s a clear violation of the deal.”

For Iran, the results of the deal have thus far been mixed. Although the sanctions imposed on the country due to illegal weapons sales and Tehran’s ongoing support of terrorist groups remain in place, the Iranian economy has managed to recover somewhat since JCPOA entered force in January 2016. Iranian money frozen in accounts held abroad was finally able to flow back into the country while oil exports doubled. The French energy company Total joined a Chinese company in signing a deal for the exploitation of gigantic natural gas reserves.

But despite all that, many Iranian hopes have gone unfulfilled. One example is Tehran’s planned purchase of hundreds of planes from Boeing and Airbus. Once the nuclear sanctions were lifted, the two companies received huge orders from Iran. But because of uncertainty on the part of both the companies and the banks involved as to whether such deliveries might violate existing or future sanctions, deliveries have been stalled. In the meantime, Iran has begun looking to Russia to supply its airplane needs.

Furthermore, the country remains economically weak, which can be seen in the dramatic collapse in the value of its currency. On April 9, Iranians had to pay 61,000 rials for a single U.S. dollar, which was more than a third higher than the official exchange rate. The government responded by fixing the exchange rate and arresting anyone who dared to deviate from it. Many currency exchange offices in the capital closed their doors for several days. That, too, helps explain the acrimoniousness of Iran’s recent comments on the nuclear deal.

A Final Break with the West

For months, the Iranians seemed largely unbothered by Trump’s attacks on the deal, relying on continued cooperation with Europe should America withdraw. That, though, is now over. President Hassan Rouhani said recently that he has “made plans for all scenarios.” The head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization said recently that the country could restart uranium enrichment “within four days.” And the newspaper Javan, a mouthpiece for the Revolutionary Guard, is calling for a “nuclear reversal.”

Rouhani is actually considered to be a reformer in the Iranian political landscape, but the poor economic situation has put him under pressure. He had promised, after all, that limiting the country’s nuclear program would bring immediate and significant economic improvement.

“Rouhani and his supporters don’t want the bomb because they know it would represent a final break with the West and that isolation would continue to weaken Iran economically,” says Sigmar Gabriel, who had been deeply involved in the Iran negotiations until he was replaced as German foreign minister in March. “They also see the danger of a military strike from the Israelis or the Americans.” On the other side, though, there are “strong powers who want the bomb, not to use it but to roll back the influence of Saudi Arabia and others in the region.”

Internationally, though, opponents of the deal aren’t only to be found in Washington: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman are likewise opposed to the deal. The two were once bitter adversaries, but when it comes to their rejection of the nuclear deal and their deep mistrust of Iran, they are in agreement.

The crown prince, who wields tremendous power in the kingdom, which is competing with Iran for primacy in the Middle East, recently took a trip through the United States. In interviews, he described Iran as an evil empire and said that Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei is “worse than Hitler.” Netanyahu shares that view and has long been warning of the dangers posed by Iran and its nuclear program. He has been opposed to the nuclear deal from the very beginning. On Monday of this week, he once again tried to convince the world that his skepticism is warranted. In a television appearance, he stood in front of what he said was Iran’s “atomic archive,” a bookshelf full of folders and a display case containing 183 CDs of information. All of the material is top secret and was allegedly brought to Israel from Iran by the Mossad in recent weeks in the course of a spectacular operation.

Netanyahu presented the material in an attempt to prove that the Iranian nuclear program was entirely focused on building a bomb. “Iran lied,” Netanyahu said. But the documents provide no insight into the country’s current nuclear activities. As impressive as the Mossad operation might be, the documents presented by the Israeli prime minister tell an old story. And most experts are already convinced that Iran once aspired to build atomic weapons. That’s why the nuclear deal was negotiated in the first place.

A Worst-Case Scenario

The question now is whether the Europeans will be able to make headway against Netanyahu’s emotional presentation with their rather more sober arguments. And who Trump will ultimately believe.

The experts are unified in their belief that the deal works. Helga Schmid, secretary general of the European External Action Service and a key player in deal’s negotiation, says: “I hope that the U.S. continues to stand behind the deal. The JCPOA is not based on assumptions of good faith or trust. It is based on concrete commitments, verification mechanisms and a very strict long-term monitoring done by the IAEA.”

Inspectors from the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency regularly confirm that Iran is continuing to fulfill its obligations under the agreement. Even the U.S. Department of State found nothing in a recently released report on the Iran deal to suggest that Tehran was in violation.

Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn says: “Mr. Trump should not destroy the nuclear deal. After all, it is Europe that is within range of Iranian missiles.” Sigmar Gabriel agrees, saying: “We have to do everything we can to present the following worst-case scenario: The USA backs out of the JCPOA and nobody invests in Iran anymore. That puts the Rouhani government under pressure and he restarts the nuclear program. That, in turn, could cause the Israelis and Americans to react with a military strike.”

Until a few weeks ago, the Europeans still had a remnant of hope that Donald Trump might throw his support behind the deal after all. But then he replaced Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. “Tillerson was always convinced that the deal could be saved,” Gabriel said. “For him, the vital prerequisite was that the Europeans too would continue to confront Iran on the other critical issues.”

But Tillerson is now gone and his successor Mike Pompeo is considered a hardliner and, most importantly, as an absolute Trump loyalist.

A ‘Very Personal Approach’

Both Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron recently made one last effort to convince the U.S. president of the validity of the European position. The Iran deal was one of the central issues on the agenda of Macron’s recent state visit to Washington at the end of April. Speaking to a small group of journalists during the visit, Macron said that it makes him “very sad” when the current administration refers to a treaty negotiated by its predecessor as a “catastrophe” or “nightmare.” That is why he tried to exert influence on Trump by way of a personal relationship. With Trump, he said, his circle of advisers is not decisive. He is, Macron said, “headstrong,” adding that politics for the U.S. president comes out of a “very personal approach.”

Macron said that he began trying back in September to convince Trump to stick to the JCPOA and expand it. At the time, the French president said, Trump flatly rejected the proposal. So Macron “changed the choreography,” as he puts it, to accommodate Trump. That means the trans-Atlantic partners could act as though they were getting rid of the deal but would in fact simply expand and repackage it. That is why Macron spoke of a “new deal” during his visit to Washington.

The French president hopes that his charm offensive will bear fruit, but he didn’t sound convinced following the visit. The worst scenario, Macron told DER SPIEGEL, would be if Trump were to simply withdraw from the deal. “That would mean opening Pandora’s box, it could mean war.” But, he continued: “I don’t believe that Donald Trump wants war.”

But the Europeans have nevertheless already begun preparing for the end of the treaty. They are considering, for example, how their companies could be protected from the consequences of new U.S. sanctions. The European Investment Bank could play a role in that effort by backing deals with Iran. “We are working on a number of proposals that could protect European companies and operators,” says a senior EU official.

European negotiators, though, admit that such programs likely wouldn’t have much effect. But they are important for another reason. They are a symbolic gesture to Iran that Europe is prepared to continue investing in the country. And that the deal would not immediately die without the U.S.

The Iranian government is also developing plans for after May 12. Foad Izadi, who teaches American Studies at the University of Tehran and is an adviser to a number of Iranian government ministries, believes that a “soft withdrawal” is the most likely scenario. That scenario envisions Trump refusing to sign the deal’s extension on May 12 but not immediately reimposing sanctions so as to give the Europeans time to convince Iran to make further concessions. In such a case, Izadi believes, Iran would withdraw from the deal.

That, says Izadi, means that Europe’s role is a vital one. “Ultimately, It’s up to you how much you give in to the pressure from America and what this deal is worth to you,” he says.

Iranian Supreme Leader Khamenei uttered a sentence a few days ago that could be understood as a warning. “We must certainly be wise, smart and resolute in our relations with the world,” he said. “But we should also know that the world is not merely America and several European countries.”


Don’t Trash the Nuclear Deal!

May 7, 2018

by Patrick J. Buchanan


This next week may determine whether President Trump extricates us from that cauldron of conflict that is the Middle East, as he promised, or plunges us even deeper into these forever wars.

Friday will see the sixth in a row of weekly protests at the Gaza border fence in clashes that have left 40 Palestinians dead and 1,500 wounded by live fire from Israeli troops.

Monday, the U.S. moves its embassy to Jerusalem. Tuesday will see the triumphal celebration of the 70th birthday of the state of Israel.

Palestinians will commemorate May 15 as Nakba, “The catastrophe,” where hundred of thousands of their people fled their homes in terror to live in stateless exile for seven decades.

Violence could begin Friday and stretch into next week.

Yet more fateful for our future is the decision Trump will make by Saturday. May 12 is his deadline to decide whether America trashes the Iran nuclear deal and reimposes sanctions.

While our NATO allies are imploring Trump not to destroy the deal and start down a road that is likely to end in war with Iran, Bibi Netanyahu on Sunday called this a Munich moment:

“Nations that did not act in time against murderous aggression against them paid a much higher price later on.”

From a U.S. standpoint, the Munich analogy seems absurd.

Iran is making no demands on the United States. Its patrol boats have ceased harassing our warships in the Persian Gulf. Its forces in Iraq and Syria do not interfere with our operations against ISIS. And, according to U.N. inspectors, Iran is abiding by the terms of the nuclear deal.

Iran has never tested a nuclear device and never enriched uranium to weapons grade. Under the deal, Iran has surrendered 95 percent of its uranium, shut down most of its centrifuges and allowed cameras and inspectors into all of its nuclear facilities.

Why Iran is abiding by the deal is obvious. For Iran it is a great deal.

Having decided in 2003 not to build a bomb, Iran terminated its program. Then Tehran decided to negotiate with the U.S. for return of $100 billion in frozen assets from the Shah’s era – by proving they were not doing what every U.S. intelligence agency said they were not doing.

Should Iran rashly decide to go for a nuclear weapon, it would have to fire up centrifuges to enrich uranium to a level that they have never done, and then test a nuclear device, and then weaponize it.

A crash bomb program would be detected almost instantly and bring a U.S. ultimatum which, if defied, could bring airstrikes. Why would Trump risk losing the means to monitor Iran’s compliance with the deal?

Israel, too, has an arsenal of nuclear weapons that can be delivered by Jericho missile, submarine-based cruise missile, and the Israeli air force.

Why then is the world anxiously awaiting a decision by President Trump that could lead to an unnecessary war with Iran?

The president painted himself into this corner. He has called the Iran nuclear deal “insane” and repeatedly pledged to tear it up.

The Israelis, Saudis and Beltway War Party want the deal trashed, because they want a U.S. clash with Iran. They are not afraid of war. Instead, they fear Trump will extricate us from the Middle East before we do our historic duty and effect regime change in Iran.

What is Israel’s motive? Israel fears that the Iranians, having contributed to Bashar Assad’s victory in Syria’s civil war, will stay on and establish bases and a weapons pipeline to Hezbollah in Lebanon. Israel has launched scores of airstrikes into Syria to prevent this.

The problem for Bibi: While Trump sees no vital U.S. interest in Syria and has expressed his wish to get out when ISIS is demolished and scattered, Bibi has cast us in the lead role in taking down Iran in Syria.

Trump may want to stay out of the next phase of the Syrian civil war. Bibi is counting on the Americans to fight it.

But while Bibi may have a vital interest in driving Iran out of Syria, Iran is no threat to any vital interest of the United States.

Iran’s economy is in dreadful shape. Its youth have voted repeatedly against presidential candidates favored by the Ayatollah. There are regular constant demonstrations against the regime.

Time is not on the side of the Islamic Republic.

Fifty million Persians, leading a Shiite nation of Persians, Azeris, Baloch, Arabs and Kurds, are not going to control a vast Middle East of hundreds of millions of Arabs and Turks in an Islamic world where Shiites are outnumbered five times over by Sunnis.

For the United States, the strategic challenge of this century is not Iran, North Korea or Russia. If it is any nation, it is China.

Trump the dealmaker should find a way to keep the nuclear deal with Iran. We are far better off with it than without it.


Trump and Netanyahu Could Fall Into a War with Iran

May 5, 2018

by Patrick Cockburn

The Independent

Iran  has an exaggerated reputation in the Middle East for Machiavellian cunning and an ability to outmanoeuvre its enemies. Britain used to be regarded in the same light in the region: its most ill-considered actions were admired as devilishly clever plots when all it was doing was taking advantage of the blunders of its opponents.

The Islamic Republic is similarly seen as the sinister hidden hand behind many developments with which it has little to do. It is accused of creating a corridor of pro-Iranian states from Tehran to the Mediterranean, posing an existential threat to Israel and the Gulf monarchies. The Iran nuclear deal of 2015 is to be dropped by Donald Trump because it has supposedly done nothing to avert these dangers, possibly leaving military action as the only option.

Iranian influence has certainly expanded but only thanks a series of disastrous US-led military interventions since the start of the millennium. In early 2001 Iran was isolated with Afghanistan to the east under the rule of the Taliban, whose Sunni sectarianism inspired them with hatred of Shia Iran whose diplomats they casually murdered. Iran’s neighbour to the west was Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, with whom it had fought a ferocious eight-year war.

All this was to change in two years: in 2001 the US overthrew the Taliban, though it was never able to defeat them permanently or stabilise the rule of its local Afghan allies. In 2003, a US-led coalition invaded Iraq, bringing to power the first Shia government in the Arab world since the days of Saladin and one which inevitably looked to their fellow Shia in Iran.

Western debacles in the Middle East since 9/11 have not produced a learning curve; or there is such a curve, it points down rather than up. In the wake of the popular uprising in Syria in 2011, the US and its regional allies – Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar – backed the armed opposition to president Bashar al-Assad. Whatever they supposed they were doing, they ensured that for Assad to survive he needed maximum engagement of Russia and Iran in Syria.

Are we about to see Iranian influence expand once again as the US and Israel gear up for a confrontation – and quite possibly a war – with Iran? Trump is likely to reimpose sanctions on Iran on 12 May, thereby sinking the nuclear deal negotiated by Barack Obama. It is a self-harming decision, pillorying Iran for being a great and threatening power while oddly weak enough to be brought to heel by economic sanctions and possible airstrikes.

Sanctions will not work any better against Iran than they did against Iraq in the 1990s or against Syria today. If they do not, then the only alternative is military action by the US or by the US “green-lighting” an Israeli attack. But what happens then? This is the question that was never properly answered when the US intervened directly or indirectly in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. Supporters of these ventures had no clear vision of what a US victory would look like and, in so far as they did have a strategy, it rested on wishful thinking.

In reporting these three wars I was always struck by the degree to which the US and its allies were hobbled by an unhealthy belief in their own propaganda. They claimed to be replacing evil rulers who were without popular support, but they were really plugging into complex ethnic and sectarian civil wars in which all sides had supporters who would fight to the death. Instead of facing this reality, they would take refuge in fantasies such as David Cameron’s 70,000 moderate rebel fighters in Syria whom nobody else could find.

It is not yet clear if Trump and the Israeli prime minister do want a war with Iran, but they may blunder into one all the same. Alternatively, they may imagine they will get their way by means of a short successful war and find, as so many leaders have done down the centuries, that they are mired in a long and unsuccessful conflict. Israel had plenty of experience of this in Lebanon, which it invaded in 1982 in a war from which it spent years trying to extricate itself.

But political leaders are never quite as foolish as they might appear when exaggerating foreign threats. Governments everywhere want to present themselves as the sole defenders of their citizens against some hideous menace from abroad. Iran fulfils this role for the US, Israel, Saudi Arabia and the Sunni rulers of the Gulf and acts as a useful glue for national solidarity and a diversion from domestic grievances. Belief in an all-embracing Iranian conspiracy fuels paranoia: in Bahrain in 2011, the authorities tortured Shia hospital doctors who were accused of using a piece of medical equipment to receive orders from their masters in Tehran.

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has always played up the Iranian threat. Since the early 1990s, he has warned that Iran is about to acquire a nuclear arsenal unless it is stopped forthwith. As prime minister, he has long been speaking of launching an Israeli strike against Iran, but he has been very cautious about actually doing so. Diplomats wonder if this is still the case.

More is at work here than the normal threat inflation to be expected from politicians wishing to stand tall in defence of the homeland or portray their opponents as unpatriotic weaklings. This is a common feature in the politics of every country, but Israel has always been particularly keen to have an enemy in common with the US. It was, in fact, surprisingly relaxed about the Iranian threat when Iran was at its most revolutionary in the years after the overthrow of the Shah in 1979.

It was only after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 that this changed, when Iran found itself promoted to the first rank of demons. Scott Peterson explains this in his perceptive history of Iran, Let the Swords Encircle Me, saying: “Anxious that its own strategic utility as a ‘bulwark’ against Soviet-allied Arab states was losing its shine after the Cold War, Israel launched a campaign in 1992 to convince the US that a new and more dangerous threat had emerged from Iran and the Islamic extremism that the revolution inspired.”

Such threat manipulation is still effective. But, ironically, it is the US and its allies that have opened the door to Iran by destroying or weakening the state structure in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Yemen. In any confrontation with the US and Israel, Iran will have every incentive to reinforce its position in the region. If the US really wants to reduce Iranian influence and that of its allies in the region, there is a much better and more effective way doing so: this is to end the wars which have enabled Iran and many other players to spread their influence.

In Plots to Smear Obama Aides and George Soros, Israeli Spies for Hire Attack Netanyahu’s Enemies

May 7, 2018

by Robert Mackey

The Intercept

An Israeli private intelligence firm was hired last year to conduct a smear campaign against Obama administration officials, as part of an effort to discredit the Iran nuclear deal, according to leaked documents obtained by the New Yorker and London’s Observer newspaper.

The contours of the campaign, in which spies posed as representatives of fictional firms and requested meetings to discuss financial opportunities, appeared to closely match those of a similar effort carried out by operatives of an Israeli firm this year to smear critics of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, the far-right populist who is an ally of both President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel.

The private intelligence firm involved in the anti-Obama effort was identified as Black Cube by New Yorker contributing writer Ronan Farrow, citing two unnamed sources familiar with the operation. Farrow previously revealed the firm’s role in spying on women who had accused Harvey Weinstein of sexual assault. The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported on Monday that an unnamed source close to Black Cube admitted the firm did spy on the Obama aides, but denied that the operation was related to the Iran deal.

According to Farrow, the documents outlined Black Cube’s assignment: to hunt for damaging information on former officials involved in negotiating the deal with Iran, including Ben Rhodes, a former deputy national security adviser to President Barack Obama, and Colin Kahl, former national security adviser to Vice President Joe Biden.

“Black Cube agents were instructed to try to find damaging information about them,” Farrow wrote, “including unsubstantiated claims that Rhodes and Kahl had worked closely with Iran lobbyists and were personally enriched through their policy work on Iran (they denied those claims); rumors that Rhodes was one of the Obama staffers responsible for ‘unmasking’ Trump transition officials who were named in intelligence documents (Rhodes denied the claim); and an allegation that one of the individuals targeted by the campaign had an affair.”

While The Observer reported on Saturday that the private spies, including former Mossad agents, had been hired by aides to Trump, Farrow said that an unnamed source familiar with the operation told him on Sunday that Black Cube had been retained by “a private-sector client pursuing commercial interests related to sanctions on Iran.”

“Black Cube has no relation whatsoever to the Trump administration, to Trump aides, to anyone close to the administration, or to the Iran Nuclear deal,” the firm said in a statement. “Luckily,” it added in an aside, “the Mossad and the CIA are capable to deal with the Iran Nuclear Deal.”

Unless Farrow’s Pulitzer-winning reporting on Black Cube’s work for Weinstein is incorrect, however, the firm’s denial that it spied on the former Obama aides rings hollow. That’s because, as the national security reporter Laura Rozen first reported, the same front company, Reuben Capital Partners, a fictional London-based wealth-management firm, was used as a cover by both an operative who spied on one of Weinstein’s accusers and an operative who tried to set up a meeting with Rebecca Vanasek Kahl, who is married to the former Biden adviser.

The female spy who befriended actress Rose McGowan claimed to be Diana Filip, a Reuben Capital Partners employee looking for ways to empower women. She was later identified as Stella Penn Pechanac, a former Israeli Air Force officer and actress whose non-Jewish family was rescued from Sarajevo in 1994 by Israel because her Muslim grandparents had saved Jews during the Nazi occupation of Bosnia in the 1940s. The female operative who contacted Kahl’s wife, seeking a meeting with her, and promising a donation to her children’s school, posed as Adriana Gavrilo, a “Corporate Social Responsibility Associate” at the nonexistent Reuben Capital Partners.

According to her LinkedIn profile, Gavrilo — whose pseudonym evokes Gavrilo Princip, the Bosnian Serb who assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo in 1914, sparking the First World War — appears to be older than Pechanac, but is also fluent in Serbian.

Farrow’s report notes that an intelligence operative using another name — whose now-deleted LinkedIn profile included a photo of a thin blonde woman who looks like Gavrilo — also sought a meeting with Ann Norris, a former State Department official who is married to Ben Rhodes, to discuss hiring her as a consultant on a film. Like Rebecca Kahl, Norris suspected that the approach might be from intelligence agents and did not agree to meet.

The identity of the client who paid the former spies to conduct the failed smear campaign remains a mystery. But looking for a way to destroy the international arms control agreement the Obama administration and five other countries struck with Iran is a key foreign policy aim of two world leaders: Trump and Netanyahu.

Last month, Black Cube vehemently denied that it was the Israeli private intelligence firm Hungarian intelligence sources blamed for an elaborate smear campaign targeting Hungarian rights activists and groups that receive funding from George Soros. However, there was little doubt that at least some of the operatives who carried out that attack on critics of Hungary’s prime minister were Israelis, since both of the men whose voices were recorded spoke English with Israeli accents.

Between December and March, as The Intercept previously reported on that effort, at least 10 people who either run Hungarian nongovernmental organizations or have worked with or been supported by Soros were approached by intelligence operatives posing as representatives of nonexistent businesses who requested meetings. Those who agreed to meet were then secretly recorded — in Vienna, Amsterdam, and New York — by intelligence operatives using fake names who probed their subjects for dirt on Soros or suggested unethical or illegal behavior.

As part of the operation, the operatives created fake websites for the companies they said they represented, all of which were taken down after the meetings. Heavily edited portions of those mostly uneventful conversations were then provided to far-right Israeli and Hungarian newspapers, which falsely presented them in the run-up to last month’s election, as incriminating evidence that the rights activists were plotting against Hungary.

Soros, as a supporter of Israeli and Palestinian rights groups, has also become a hate figure to ultranationalist Israelis — including Netanyahu’s son — who have recently bonded with ultranationalist Europeans around a shared hatred of Muslims.

Netanyahu, who has similarly tried to blunt criticism from rights groups supported by Soros, describing the philanthropist as “hostile to Israel,” has forged a close bond with Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. During a visit to Budapest last year, the Israeli prime minister was overheard urging the Hungarian leader to help him undermine a provision of a European Union trade agreement that imposes an obligation on Israel to respect the rights of the millions of Palestinians it rules in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Although the effort to demonize Soros, a Hungarian-born Jewish financier whose philanthropy supports liberal causes, was accompanied by a government-funded advertising campaign that seemed to draw on racist tropes from the 1930s, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s spokesman, Zoltán Kovács, told The Intercept last month that the attacks on Soros, “if he’s a Jew,” could not possibly be anti-Semitic, since they were echoed by Netanyahu.

The target of one part of the Hungarian smear campaign, András Siewert, director of Hungary’s Migration Aid, was so suspicious of the approach from a man with an Israeli accent who called himself Grigori Alexsandrov, that he secretly recorded and photographed their meeting, and later posted the audio and photos on YouTube. Siewert’s recording shows that the operative had tried to aggressively push him in the direction of agreeing that his organization should be involved in politics, which he resisted.

That episode appears to mirror a conversation between an intelligence operative who posed as journalist to interview Trita Parsi, head of the National Iranian American Council and an expert on the Iran deal negotiations. Writing on Twitter, Parsi recalled that “things took a strange turn” at one stage in the interview, “as this pretend journalist tried to goad me into agreeing that the Obama administration had pursued the nuclear deal for economic and financial reasons.” According to a transcript of the call, The Guardian reported on Monday, the operative probed Parsi “for any ways Ben Rhodes and Colin Kahl… might have benefited from the 2015 agreement.”

In a series of tweets, Kahl suggested that the strange focus on him and Rhodes, as opposed to other, more senior figures involved in the Iran negotiations, might point to another Hungarian connection. Pointing to remarks made by the Hungarian-American former Trump aide Sebastian Gorka to Fox News in May, 2017, Kahl noted that “around the same time the Israeli firm was hired, senior White House aides began complaining to Fox News about a ‘Ben Rhodes-Colin Kahl nexus’ that was supposedly organizing opposition to the administration.”

“About a month after the Israeli firm was allegedly hired,” Kahl added, “anonymous White House officials reached out to the Washington Free Beacon, a right-wing tabloid, to smear Ben and me with baseless and false accusations.”

“As the summer wore on, senior White House aides pushed a narrative that Ben and I were solely responsible for turmoil across the Middle East,” Kahl noted, pointing to a July, 2017 CNN interview in which Gorka said: “policies that were born in the Beltway by people who have never worn a uniform, the people that were in the White House like Ben Rhodes, Colin Kahl, they helped to create the firestorm that is the Middle East, that is ISIS, today.”

At the time, Kahl responded on Twitter with sarcasm and a jab at Gorka’s inability to gain a security clearance.

Late Sunday, Kahl also noted that before Gorka was forced out of the White House, he was reportedly tasked by Trump with helping to look for ways to justify withdrawing from the Iran deal.

“Some senior aides to the President were obsessed with Ben and me, and were seeking to smear us, around the same time the Israeli firm was tasked by someone to dig up dirt on us and our families,” Kahl concluded. “Did these same Trump aides—or outside people they contacted—have any connections to Black Cube? It’s unclear. Maybe it is all a coincidence. But it’s a creepy one… and one worth further investigation.”

Gorka does seem to have a strange obsession with trying, unsuccessfully, to bait Rhodes into responding to his insults on Twitter — which continued unabated on Monday following the revelation that he and Kahl had been targeted by foreign intelligence agents.

Updated: Monday, May 7, 6:00 p.m. EDT This article was updated to note Colin Kahl’s observation that the former White House aide Sebastian Gorka had publicly claimed there was “a Ben Rhodes-Colin Kahl nexus” supposedly working to undermine the Trump administration around the time that Israeli operatives were tasked with digging up dirt on the two Obama administration officials.


Point: The mainstream media’s misdirection on Jerusalem

December 14, 2017

by Evelyn Gordon,

Think Israel!

Mainstream media outlets like to complain about “fake news” emanating from sources other than themselves, but the mainstream media itself has taken fake news to new heights in its recent coverage of Jerusalem. Leading media outlets have asserted, inter alia, that Jews never cared about Jerusalem until a few decades ago, that Jews didn’t live in East Jerusalem before 1967, and that Jordan protected freedom of worship in the city.

Exhibit A is the New York Times’ mind-boggling backgrounder[1] on Jerusalem, which “informs” readers that Jews didn’t really care about the city until “hard-line religious nationalism” came into vogue a few decades ago. To produce this flat-out lie, the reporters omit crucial facts, downplay those they can’t omit and rely heavily on Arabs—who have made a fetish of denying Jewish links to Jerusalem for decades—to tell their readers what Jews think (though, naturally, they also found some Jews to echo these claims). Thus, for instance, they paraphrase historian Issam Nasser as saying, “The early Israeli state was hesitant to focus too much on Jerusalem,” while Prof. Rashid Khalidi asserts that post-1967, “Jerusalem became the center of a cultlike devotion that had not really existed previously.”

To support this idea, the reporters omit almost any fact that might contradict it. Readers are never told, for instance, that Israel’s founding fathers—the ones who ostensibly had little interest in Jerusalem—fought some of the bloodiest battles of the War of Independence in an effort to save the city from its Arab besiegers.They even took the extraordinary step, after repeated failures to open the road to Jerusalem militarily, of building an entirely new road[2] through very difficult terrain to relieve the siege.

Readers also aren’t told that Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, repeatedly[3] stressed Jerusalem’s importance, declaring it “the heart of the State of Israel,” which “Israelis will give their lives” to keep, because for Israel, “there has always been and always will be one capital only.” And they’re certainly never told that the devotion to Jerusalem Khalidi deems of such recent vintage actually dates back 3,000 years, to the First Temple, and that throughout two millennia of exile, Jews prayed facing Jerusalem and begged God to restore them to their holy city.

But on the rare occasions when the reporters can’t omit an inconvenient fact, they shout, like the Wizard of Oz, “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!” Thus, the Times’ reporters do concede the pesky fact that Israel’s founding fathers—those same people who ostensibly didn’t care about Jerusalem—relocated Israel’s capital to the city the moment it was safe to do so, a few months after the war ended, and even codified this decision in legislation. But the information is hidden in a parenthetical aside: Jerusalem’s “western half became part of the new state of Israel (and its capital, under an Israeli law passed in 1950).”

Unfortunately, this backgrounder was no aberration. Just a few days later, a Times editorial[4] asserted that “East Jerusalem was exclusively Arab in 1967, but Israel has steadily built settlements there, placing some 200,000 of its citizens among the Arab population and complicating any possible peace agreement.” You’d never know from reading this that east Jerusalem was “exclusively Arab” in 1967 only because Jordan had ethnically cleansed every last Jew from the area 19 years earlier. Prior to this ethnic cleansing, Jews had not only lived there almost continuously for 3,000 years but constituted an absolute majority of the city’s residents for the past century. Still, one can understand the paper’s dilemma. It might be difficult to explain to readers why the Times, which normally condemns ethnic cleansing, suddenly condones it when the victims are Jews; much better to simply conceal the fact that it ever happened.

Nor is the Times unique. The Israeli paper most quoted by mainstream media outlets overseas—Haaretz—had a true gem in the fake news department in the form of an op-ed,[5] printed without editorial comment, by Jordan’s Prince Hassan Bin Talal. He blithely asserted that “His Majesty King Abdullah II of Jordan, like his late father King Hussein, has been relentless in defending the rights of all believers to be able to worship freely in Jerusalem at their respective holy places, as has been the case for centuries.”

Of course, during the 19 years when King Hussein ruled east Jerusalem, not one Jew was even allowed to visit, much less pray at, the Western Wall, not to mention the Temple Mount. The Jordanians razed synagogues in east Jerusalem, vandalized Jewish cemeteries, and used the gravestones as construction material. Religious rights weren’t exactly sacrosanct during the previous 1,300 years of Muslim rule either. Some rulers were more tolerant of Jewish worship than others. But the intolerance reached its pinnacle under Hussein, and would most likely have continued under Abdullah had Israel not liberated the area from Jordan before he took the throne.

Finally, there are all the European leaders whom mainstream media outlets laud as paragons of “fact-based” governance in comparison to Donald Trump. As the Elder of Ziyon blog pointed out,[6] leaders who have repeatedly voted for resolutions declaring east Jerusalem “occupied Palestinian territory” suddenly lined up at last Friday’s Security Council meeting on Jerusalem to declare that actually, the city is a corpus separatum, and therefore even western Jerusalem isn’t Israeli.

Clearly, these two positions are mutually contradictory: If the city is legally an international corpus separatum, as per the 1947 Partition Resolution, then it can’t be occupied Palestinian territory. Yet many European leaders evidently have no problem advancing both contradictory positions simultaneously, depending on which is more useful at any given moment for denying Jewish rights to Jerusalem and privileging Palestinian claims.

All of the above examples reflect a belief that any lie is permissible in the service of the sacred goal of denying Israeli rights in Jerusalem. But Jerusalem isn’t unique in this regard; mainstream media outlets have also deemed the truth dispensable[7] in the service of other ideological goals. And then they have the gall to wonder why so many people, confronted with such obvious lies from the people they trusted to tell them the truth, now put more faith in “alternative facts” than they do in mainstream media and politicians.


[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/05/world/middleeast/jerusalem-history-peace-deal.html

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burma_Road_(Israel)

[3] https://www.knesset.gov.il/docs/eng/bengurion-jer.htm

[4] https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/05/opinion/does-president-trump-want-to-negotiate-middle-east-peace.html

[5] https://www.haaretz.com/middle-east-news/1.827135

[6] http://elderofziyon.blogspot.com/2017/12/unsc-debate-indicates-that-west.html

[7] http://evelyncgordon.com/the-fruits-of-lying-to-the-public/


Counterpoint: Israel and Occupied Palestinian Territories 2017/2018

Amnesty International

June marked 50 years since Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian Territories and the start of the 11th year of its illegal blockade of the Gaza Strip, subjecting approximately 2 million inhabitants to collective punishment and a growing humanitarian crisis. The Israeli authorities intensified expansion of settlements and related infrastructure across the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and severely restricted the freedom of movement of Palestinians. Israeli forces unlawfully killed Palestinian civilians, including children, and unlawfully detained within Israel thousands of Palestinians from the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), holding hundreds in administrative detention without charge or trial. Torture and other ill-treatment of detainees, including children, remained pervasive and was committed with impunity. Israel continued to demolish Palestinian homes in the West Bank and in Palestinian villages inside Israel, forcibly evicting residents. Conscientious objectors to military service were imprisoned. Thousands of African asylum-seekers were threatened with deportation.


Israeli authorities intensified settlement expansion and land appropriation in the OPT. US and international efforts to revive negotiations failed, and Israeli-Palestinian relations remained tense. In January, Israeli authorities passed the so-called “regularization law” that retroactively legalized the settler takeover of thousands of hectares of privately owned Palestinian land and an estimated 4,500 settler homes. In addition, Israeli authorities announced and issued tenders for tens of thousands of new settlement units in East Jerusalem and across the rest of the West Bank.

Palestinians carried out stabbings, car-rammings, shootings and other attacks against Israelis in the West Bank and in Israel. The attacks, mostly carried out by individuals unaffiliated to armed groups, killed 14 Israelis and one foreign national. Israeli forces killed 76 Palestinians and one foreign national. Some were unlawfully killed while posing no threat to life.

In March, the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia issued, then withdrew, a report determining Israel to be “guilty of the crime of apartheid” against Palestinians. In May, a UNESCO resolution reaffirmed the occupied status of East Jerusalem and criticized Israel’s conduct in the city. Following the killing of two Israeli policemen by Palestinians, in July Israel installed metal detectors to screen Muslim worshippers entering the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif. The new security measures led to heightened tensions and mass protests by Palestinians, including collective prayers, across the West Bank. The prayer protests, often met with excessive force, ended once the metal detectors were removed.

In September, the Hamas de facto administration in Gaza and the “national consensus” government in the West Bank embarked on a reconciliation process, which was rejected by Israel.

In December, US President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in violation of international law, sparking widespread protests across the OPT and globally.

Freedom of movement – Gaza blockade and West Bank restrictions

Israel’s illegal air, land and sea blockade of the Gaza Strip entered its 11th year, continuing the long-standing restrictions on the movement of people and goods into and from the area, collectively punishing Gaza’s entire population. Combined with Egypt’s almost total closure of the Rafah border crossing, and the West Bank authorities’ punitive measures, Israel’s blockade triggered a humanitarian crisis with electricity cuts reducing access to electricity from an average of eight hours per day down to as little as two to four hours, affecting clean water and sanitation and diminishing health service access, and rendering Gaza increasingly “unlivable” according to the UN. Gaza’s economy deteriorated further and post-conflict reconstruction of civilian infrastructure remained severely hindered; some 23,500 Palestinians remained displaced since the 2014 conflict. Many patients with life-threatening illnesses were unable to access treatment outside Gaza due to Israeli restrictions and delays by West Bank authorities in processing referrals. Israeli forces maintained a “buffer zone” inside Gaza’s border with Israel and used live ammunition against Palestinians who entered or approached it, wounding farmers working in the area. Israeli forces also fired at Palestinian fishermen in or near the “exclusion zone” along Gaza’s coastline, killing at least one and injuring others.

In the West Bank, Israel maintained an array of military checkpoints, bypass roads and military and firing zones, restricting Palestinian access and travel. Israel established new checkpoints and barriers, especially in East Jerusalem. In response to Palestinian attacks on Israelis, the military authorities imposed collective punishment; they revoked the work permits of attackers’ family members and closed off villages and entire areas including Silwad, Deir Abu Mishal and Beit Surik.

In Hebron, long-standing prohibitions limiting Palestinian presence, tightened in October 2015, remained in force. In Hebron’s Tel Rumeida neighbourhood, a “closed military zone”, Israeli forces subjected Palestinian residents to oppressive searches and prevented the entry of other Palestinians while allowing free movement for Israeli settlers. In May, Israel erected a new checkpoint and a new fence barrier within Hebron’s H2 area, arbitrarily confining the Palestinian Gheith neighbourhood and segregating a street alongside the area.

Arbitrary arrests and detentions

Israel detained or continued to imprison thousands of Palestinians from the OPT, mostly in prisons in Israel, in violation of international law. Many detainees’ families, particularly those in Gaza, were not permitted entry to Israel to visit their relatives.

The authorities continued to substitute administrative detention for criminal prosecution, holding hundreds of Palestinians, including children, civil society leaders and NGO workers, without charge or trial under renewable orders, based on information withheld from detainees and their lawyers. More than 6,100 Palestinians, including 441 administrative detainees, were held in Israeli prisons at the end of the year. Israeli authorities also placed six Palestinian citizens of Israel under administrative detention.

In April around 1,500 Palestinian prisoners and detainees launched a 41-day hunger-strike to demand better conditions, family visits, an end to solitary confinement and administrative detention, and access to education. The Israeli Prison Service punished hunger-striking detainees, using solitary confinement, fines, and denial of family visits.

Palestinians from the West Bank charged with protest-related and other offences faced unfair military trials, while Israeli civilian courts trying Palestinians from East Jerusalem or the Gaza Strip issued harsh sentences even for minor offences.

In April the Israeli High Court of Justice issued a decision to reduce excessive sentencing of Palestinians under the military judicial system and ordered that legislation be amended to apply shorter sentences as of May 2018. Despite the ruling, the sentences would remain harsher than those in the Israeli civilian judicial system.

Khalida Jarrar, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council and board member of the NGO Addameer, and Addameer staff member Salah Hammouri, remained in administrative detention at the end of the year.

The trial of Mohammed al-Halabi, a Gaza-based humanitarian worker, began at Beer Sheva District Court on charges of embezzlement from the NGO World Vision to fund Hamas. Neither an Australian government review of World Vision Gaza nor an internal World Vision audit found any evidence to support the charges. Mohammed al-Halabi stated in court that he was tortured during interrogation and detention.

Torture and other ill-treatment

Israeli soldiers and police and Israel Security Agency officers subjected Palestinian detainees, including children, to torture and other ill-treatment with impunity, particularly during arrest and interrogation. Reported methods included beatings, slapping, painful shackling, sleep deprivation, use of stress positions and threats. No criminal investigations were opened into more than 1,000 complaints filed since 2001. Complaints of torture and other ill-treatment by the Israeli police against asylum-seekers and members of the Ethiopian community remained common.

In December the Israeli High Court of Justice accepted the Attorney General’s decision not to open a criminal investigation into Asad Abu Ghosh’s torture claims despite credible evidence, thus condoning the continued use of stress positions and sleep deprivation against Palestinian detainees by Israeli interrogators.

Unlawful killings

Israeli soldiers, police and security guards killed at least 75 Palestinians from the OPT, including East Jerusalem, and five Palestinians with Israeli citizenship. Some of those killed were shot while attacking Israelis or suspected of intending an attack. Many, including children, were shot and unlawfully killed while posing no immediate threat to life. Some killings, such as that of Yacoub Abu al-Qi’an, shot in his car by police in Umm al-Hiran in January, appeared to have been extrajudicial executions.

Excessive use of force

Israeli forces, including undercover units, used excessive and sometimes lethal force when they used rubber-coated metal bullets and live ammunition against Palestinian protesters in the OPT, killing at least 20, and injuring thousands. Many protesters threw rocks or other projectiles but were posing no threat to the lives of well-protected Israeli soldiers when they were shot. In July, in response to the tensions over Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif, the authorities killed 10 Palestinians and injured more than 1,000 during the dispersal of demonstrations, and conducted at least two violent raids on al-Makassed hospital in East Jerusalem. In December, wheelchair user Ibrahim Abu Thuraya was shot in the head by an Israeli soldier as he was sitting with a group of protesters near the fence separating Gaza from Israel.

Freedoms of expression, association and assembly

The authorities used a range of measures, both in Israel and the OPT, to target human rights defenders who criticized Israel’s continuing occupation.

In March the Knesset (parliament) passed an amendment to the Entry into Israel Law banning entry into Israel or the OPT to anyone supporting or working for an organization that has issued or promoted a call to boycott Israel or Israeli entities, including settlements. The authorities continued to obstruct human rights workers’ attempts to document the situation by denying them entry into the OPT, including the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in the OPT. An Amnesty International staff member was denied entry after he was questioned about the organization’s work on settlements.

Using public order laws in East Jerusalem, and military orders in the rest of the West Bank, Israeli authorities prohibited and suppressed protests by Palestinians, and arrested and prosecuted protesters and human rights defenders. In July, the military trials of Palestinian human rights defenders Issa Amro and Farid al-Atrash began on charges related to their role in organizing peaceful protests against Israel’s settlement policies. Israeli authorities continued to harass other Hebron-based human rights activists, including Badi Dweik and Imad Abu Shamsiya, and failed to protect them from settler attacks.

From May to August, the Israeli authorities detained prisoner of conscience and writer Ahmad Qatamesh under a three-month administrative detention order solely on account of his non-violent political activities and writing.

Palestinian human rights NGOs, including Al-Haq, Al Mezan and Addameer, encountered increased levels of harassment by Israeli authorities. Israeli authorities initiated tax investigations against Omar Barghouti, a prominent advocate of the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign, in what appeared to be an effort to silence his work.

Several Israeli human rights organizations, including Breaking the Silence, Gisha, B’tselem and Amnesty International Israel were also targeted by government campaigns to undermine their work, and faced smears, stigmatization and threats.

Right to Housing – forced evictions and demolitions

In the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, the Israeli authorities carried out a large number of demolitions of Palestinian property, including 423 homes and structures built without Israeli permits that remained virtually impossible for Palestinians to obtain, forcibly evicting more than 660 people. Many of these demolitions were in Bedouin and herding communities that the Israeli authorities planned to forcibly transfer. The authorities also collectively punished the families of Palestinians who had carried out attacks on Israelis, by demolishing or making uninhabitable their family homes, forcibly evicting approximately 50 people.

Israeli authorities forcibly evicted eight members of the Shamasneh family from their home in Sheikh Jarrah, East Jerusalem, allowing Jewish settlers to move in. The authorities also demolished dozens of Palestinian homes inside Israel that they said were built without permits, including in Palestinian towns and villages in the Triangle, the Galilee, and in “unrecognized” Bedouin villages in the Negev/Naqab region. In January the Israeli police forcibly demolished the Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran, to begin building a Jewish town in its place. The Knesset passed a law in April that raised the fines for building without permits, charging punitive costs for the demolition to those whose homes have been demolished, and limited recourse to the courts for those challenging demolition or eviction orders. In August, the authorities demolished al-Araqib village in the Negev/Naqab for the 116th time. Residents were ordered to compensate the state 362,000 new shekels (approximately USD100,000) for the cost of demolition and lawyers’ fees.


More than three years after the end of the 2014 Gaza-Israel conflict, in which some 1,460 Palestinian civilians were killed, many in evidently unlawful attacks including war crimes, the authorities had previously indicted only three soldiers for looting and obstructing an investigation.

In a rare move, in January an Israeli military court convicted Elor Azaria, a soldier whose apparent extrajudicial execution of a wounded Palestinian in Hebron was filmed, of manslaughter. His conviction and 18-month prison sentence, which was confirmed on appeal but reduced by four months by Israel’s military Chief of Staff in September, failed to reflect the gravity of the crime. Israeli authorities failed to investigate, or closed investigations into, cases of alleged unlawful killings of Palestinians by Israeli forces in both Israel and the OPT.

The Prosecutor of the ICC continued her preliminary examination of alleged crimes under international law committed in the OPT since 13 June 2014.

Violence against women and girls

There were new reports of violence against women; Palestinian communities in Israel were particularly affected. In June, the Special Rapporteur on violence against women issued recommendations urging Israeli authorities to carry out law and policy reforms by integrating CEDAW standards; to combat and prevent violence against women in Israel and the OPT; and to investigate reported abuses.

Deprivation of nationality

On 6 August the Haifa District Court confirmed the citizenship revocation of Alaa Zayoud, who was stripped of his citizenship and rendered stateless by the Minister of the Interior following a conviction for attempted murder. An appeal against the decision was pending before the Supreme Court at the end of the year. The authorities also revoked the citizenship of dozens of Palestinian Bedouin residents of the Negev/Naqab region without process or appeal, leaving them as stateless residents.

Refugees and asylum-seekers

The authorities continued to deny asylum-seekers, more than 90% of whom were from Eritrea or Sudan, access to a fair or prompt refugee status determination process. More than 1,200 asylum-seekers were held at the Holot detention facility and at Saharonim Prison in the Negev/Naqab desert at the end of the year. According to activists, there were more than 35,000 asylum-seekers in Israel; 8,588 asylum claims remained pending. In December, the Knesset passed an amendment to the anti-infiltration law that would force asylum-seekers and refugees to accept relocation to countries in Africa or face imprisonment. Tens of thousands were at risk of deportation.

Conscientious objectors

At least six Israeli conscientious objectors to military service were imprisoned, including Tamar Zeevi, Atalia Ben-Abba, Noa Gur Golan, Hadas Tal, Mattan Helman and Ofir Averbukh. Israeli authorities recognized Tamar Zeevi as a conscientious objector and released her from conscription after she served a total of 100 days in prison.





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