Netanyahu’s war must be stopped now: The real story behind his speech to Congress

While the media covers politics and personalities, a much more dangerous game around Iran unfolds offstage

Netanyahu's war must be stopped now: The real story behind his speech to Congress
Benjamin Netanyahu (Credit: Reuters/Nir Elias)

The media has focused attention on the rude way that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu made his appearance in the U.S. this week, as though the real issue is hurt feelings between him and President Obama. This is a mistake that misleads many into thinking that the problem is about respect for our president or concern that Netanyahu is using this trip to promote his election chances in Israel, where “standing up to Obama” might enhance his electoral chances when the Israeli public chooses a new Knesset in two weeks. Watch as the media’s next angle becomes a sigh of relief when Netanyahu makes apologetic sounds about that rift.

The real story is far more worrisome.  Netanyahu is here to push the U.S. toward another Middle East war in which the U.S. would be the proxy for what Netanyahu (mistakenly) thinks is Israeli interests. And Americans are going to have to stand up and say “NO” both to Netanyahu and to the militarists in both parties who are all too happy to generate another war, this time against Iran.  If Netanyahu succeeds, it will be a disaster for all Americans, and an even greater disaster for American Jews.

Let me explain.

Netanyahu’s strategy is to frighten the American public with images of a nuclear armed Iran that will, in his estimation, use those arms against Israel. Using Hitler and the Holocaust as his rhetorical foundation, he insists that allowing Iran to develop its nuclear capacities for peaceful purposes will only be a cover for them developing nuclear capacity for armaments that could be quickly assembled. To stop that, he urges the U.S. to escalate sanctions against Iran rather than enter the deal that Obama and Secretary of State Kerry have been trying to negotiate that would allow the Iranians to develop nuclear energy to replace quickly depleting and earth-polluting energy supplies for their rapidly growing Iranian population.

There are many in Iran who don’t trust the U.S.—and they have good reason. The U.S. overthrew the democratically elected government in 1953, then installed the Shah and his brutally repressive regime, and stuck with it even when millions of Iranians were demonstrating against it. The close U.S. relationship with Israel was a sore point for many Muslims, in large part because of the obvious suffering that Israel has caused to the largely Islamic-oriented Palestinian people. And Israel has taken a variety of militaristic steps against Iran, including assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists and cyber warfare against the Iranian regime.

Using quotes from the last prime minister of Iran, who talked about wanting to eliminate the “Zionist regime” from the earth, ignoring that that Iranian prime minister had his supporters severely defeated in the last Iranian elections, ignoring the fact that their supreme leader seeks to avoid confrontation with both Israel and the U.S. and says that it is a sin against Islam for anyone to use nuclear weapons, Netanyahu evokes the great guilt that many Christians feel about the way that Jews were demeaned by Christianity for 1,700 years and then abandoned to the genocidal acts of the Nazis. He uses that as an argument for why the Iranians must be stopped from developing any nuclear capacity, even for transparently peaceful purposes.

The irony here is that the escalation of sanctions at this point would strengthen those in Iran who do not wish to make any accommodations to the U.S., which it quite reasonably sees as mostly doing Israel’s bidding in the Middle East.  If we escalate the sanctions, there are two predictable consequences: A.) The anger that many Iranians feel toward the oppressive regime of the mullahs would be redirected against Israel and the U.S., thereby strengthening the Islamic extremists as national pride replaces concerns about democracy and human rights, and weakening those who, I hope, will someday be able to non-violently overthrow the human-rights denying regime of the mullahs; and B.) Iran would move quickly to escalate its nuclear capacities and turn them toward military use, understanding the deepening sanctions as an act of war that might soon be followed by military attacks either from Israel or the U.S. (in short, actually creating the situation that Netanyahu says he fears, but which does not currently exist).

Now Netanyahu and his cheerleaders in both parties of the U.S. Congress are no dummies. They can see this same plausible outcome. So why would they be advocating it?  Sadly, the answer is that they actually want another war, this time with Iran. For some Israelis, a war led by the U.S. against Iran would be a perfect way to get rid of a state that has been funding Islamic groups closer to Israel like Hezbollah (though Iran has actually been attacking supporters of ISIS—the self proclaimed Islamic State whose barbarism rightly frightens most civilized people). For some American capitalists, the securing of Iranian oil reserves will give Big Oil several more decades of flourishing. For some right-wing Christians, fighting a war to rid the Middle East of Israel’s most significant competitor for regional influence is a way of alleviating their guilt from past failures to save the Jews. And for still other right-wing Christians, a war that decimated Iran would be a major step toward the Apocalypse that they hope will yield a return of their messiah to earth.

We’ve already seen what this kind of a war looks like—we just barely are ending the Iraq war, which cost us a trillion dollars and led to the emergence of the ISIL/Islamic state. The dismantling of the regime in Iran (if not done, as I hope it someday will be, by a powerful internal Iranian movement just as the Soviet Union was dismantled by its own people and not by an invasion by the U.S.) would likely yield power to forces even worse than the current Iranian regime and more likely like the Islamic state in Iraq . It is unwinnable, and it will lead to the loss of many lives, the possibility of terrorism being spread to the U.S. as many people around the world see and resent the U.S. once again intervening in a country that is not intervening here in the U.S.

And this will be a huge disaster for the Jewish people. Americans will quickly see that the resulting war was brought about by those who wanted to put the supposed (though mistaken) interests of Israel above the interests of Americans. The outcome could well be a new flourishing of anti-Semitism in our society that has, since the end of the Second World War, managed to keep our home-grown anti-Semites out of positions of power. As American casualties increase, and Iranian terrorists strike inside the U.S., the anger will almost certainly explode against Jews, whereas it should be only directed at the militarists who once again lead us into war.

What if Iran actually did develop nuclear weapons? Is there any reason to believe that they would use them against Israel or the U.S.?  The Iranian mullahs are willing to torture and oppress their own people and pursue policies I deplore toward Baha’I and other religious minorities. But they are not a self-destructive lot. They managed to end the hostage crisis in 1980 in a deal cut by America’s militaristically inclined Reagan regime, and they have backed away from wars with other countries. They will continue their attempts at subversion, just as the U.S. continues to try to subvert governments we don’t like (most recently in Venezuela, but in many other places around the globe as well). But they do know full well that a nuclear strike at Israel would lead to Israel using its current stockpile of 200 nuclear weapons to completely wipe out Iran. The mullahs want to preserve their Islamic regime and spread it, not end it in one spasm of death and destruction.

That’s why, even if the Iranians did develop nuclear weapons, they would only be joining a world where the U.S. has ten thousand of these or more, and where India and Pakistan also already have these weapons. The Soviets under Stalin were just as much a threat to our security, talked about “burying the U.S. and capitalism,” but of course never used their nukes because they knew the consequences. It is only the U.S. that has ever used nukes, and that was before we realized others could have them too.

I hope we won’t have to live with that situation. The Obama Administration is moving in the right direction to try to avoid it, creating safeguards and serious inspection regimens for Iran. But they may fail as long as Iranians feel that the U.S. is under the sway of Israelis like Netanyahu. Obama is offering something to the Iranians, but my fear is that it is too little, too late. Netanyahu and the Israelis who support him are not the only paranoid force in the Middle East.

What is really needed is a dramatic break from the way the U.S. (and Israel) have dealt with those whom we believe do or might threaten us. For 5,000 years “the realists” have preached war or other forms of domination and power-over others as the path to security. And it hasn’t worked. Over and over again those who believe that whoever they’ve decided is “the enemy” of the day can only be dealt with by force (economic, diplomatic, cultural but ultimately military) have ended up in devastating wars.

But is there an alternative? We, at Tikkun and our interfaith and secular-humanist-welcoming Network of Spiritual Progressives, have become advocates for a Strategy of Generosity. We’ve developed the details of a Global Marshall Plan that would:

Have the U.S. lead the other advanced industrial countries in each dedicating 1-2 percent of their Gross Domestic Product each year for the next twenty to once and for all end both domestic and international poverty, homelessness, hunger, inadequate education, and inadequate health care and repair the global environment;

Overturn all the trade agreements (and stop the TPP currently being negotiated in secret by the Obama administration) that have favored the interests of Western globalized capitalist firms while undermining local economies and impoverishing tens of millions of small farmers in the global south and east who are then forced off their lands and into the big cities where they live in slums and become attracted to a politics of resentment;

Create local community-based economies outside the control of national governments or large corporations to make sure that this doesn’t turn out to be another pointless give-away program but instead becomes a program of genuine empowerment of local communities around the world.

Approach the peoples of the world with a spirit of humility and a genuine desire to learn from their cultures and experiences. That does not mean suspending our ethical values (we need not tolerate abuse of women or children under the guise of multiculturalism). But it does mean ridding ourselves of the false notion that having more material things and being richer than other societies is somehow a sign of being better or wiser. In fact, we need to open ourselves to the wisdom of those who may be poorer in things but richer in their cultural resources and in building communities in which people care for each other.

The GMP proposed by Tikkun (read the details by downloading the whole proposal here) requires that we engage in this activity not only because it is in our interests, but also because of a genuine caring for the well-being of everyone else on the planet. Fostering that attitude is a precondition for any such program to work. Yet believe it or not, there are tens of millions of Americans who already have this part of them that would love to live in a world based on mutual caring and generosity. Why don’t they create it? Because each of us is beaten down by the voice of “the reality police” that tells us that no one else really wants this kind of world, and hence that it is unrealistic, naïve, foolish, self-destructive, even dangerous. It is these voices inside each of us that keep us from building the kind of world most Americans, and most people on the planet, actually want. Instead, we allow ourselves to be intimidated by the voices of those who say “You don’t really know what these other people are like—they are really hateful, crazy, hurtful and they will do terrible things to you unless you scare them back and get power over them.”

It is this cynical voice that Netanyahu seeks to strengthen in each of us. It is tragic for me as a rabbi to see the representative of a state that claims to be “the Jewish state” talking the language that Hitler popularized, giving Hitler an ultimate victory by popularizing fear and demeaning of others. And of course, as people act according to the logic of that fear, it becomes self-fulfilling, because everyone else thinks that they too have to protect themselves against us, whether that “us” is the U.S., the Western societies, Israel, or U.S. Jews.

That same self-fulfilling dynamic would make the strategy of generosity work if we were to take it seriously. The more the U.S. and other advanced industrial societies acting in a genuinely generous and caring way while abandoning its overt and covert attempts to dominate and control the world, the more that others would respond in kind. This is not Kumbaya-style naivete, but rather a proven fact of history. We’ve seen these kinds of consciousness transformation happen over and over again in the past fifty years—the ending of segregation, the emergence of women’s equality in politics and economics and in family life and social life, the ending of legal discrimination against gays and lesbians, all modern miracles made possible because these people refused to be realistic and instead mobilized for the world they really wanted.  But this can’t happen with a weak backbone—one must be powerfully for love and generosity, not fearfully and apologetically.

That’s why we’ve created the Network of Spiritual Progressives as a “consciousness-change” organization to fight the logic of Hitler and the dominators, to affirm the possibility of a world based on love, kindness, generosity, environmental sanity, economic and political justice, and transcending the tendency to take a utilitarian attitude toward other human beings or even toward the earth itself (“how can I use them or the planet for my purposes”) and instead respond to other human beings as embodiments of the sacred, and to Nature (and the universe) with awe, wonder and radical amazement at the grandeur of all that is. You don’t have to believe in God or be part of a spiritual tradition to be a Spiritual Progressive—you only have to want to build a world based on love, justice, and generosity. And that path is the best path not only for the U.S., but for Israel as well. It has been at war with surrounding Arab states since 1948. It will only be able to move beyond that when it adopts a new consciousness of love, justice and generosity. That, not manipulating the US into a war with Iran, is the path to Israeli security.

So that’s why we at Tikkun put a full page ad in the New York Times on March 2 and in The Hill newspaper on March 3 in time for Netanyahu’s talk to the Congress. We say clearly in those ads: “No, Mr. Netanyahu, the American people do not want a war with Iran, and American Jews do not support your efforts to undermine the Obama Administration’s negotiations with Iran.” More than 2,600 people signed these ads and donated generously to make them possible. I invite you to also sign the ad ( and then to actually join us as members of the Network of Spiritual Progressives ( We will try to take the message to Israeli media as well as U.S. media—but we need your help.

Rabbi Michael Lerner is editor of Tikkun Magazine, chair of the interfaith and secular-humanist-welcoming Network of Spiritual Progressives, and rabbi of Beyt Tikkun Synagogue-Without Walls in San Francisco and Berkeley, California. He welcomes your responses and invites you to join with him by joining the Network of Spiritual Progressives (membership in which also brings you a subscription to Tikkun Magazine).

Wisconsin Governor Walker, American workers and terrorism

Wisconisn Governor Scott Walker gestures as he addresses the second session of the Republican National Convention in Tampa

2 March 2015

On three separate occasions in the past four days, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, one of the frontrunners for the Republican presidential nomination, has stressed the close connection between the struggle against the working class at home and Washington’s militarist policies internationally.

Linking the suppression of workers’ protests to the fight against terrorism, he has presented his success in defying mass demonstrations that broke out in 2011 in Wisconsin against his attacks on workers’ social and democratic rights as proof of his ability to take on and defeat ISIS.

Speaking Thursday at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in suburban Washington DC, Walker cited his experience in pushing through anti-worker legislation as proof of his fitness for the presidency. “If I could take on 100,000 protesters, I could do the same across the world,” he boasted, effectively comparing throngs of state workers and students to ISIS terrorists.

The next day, speaking before the Club for Growth, an assembly of billionaires and their political advisers meeting in Palm Beach, Florida, Walker returned to the theme. He declared that “the most significant foreign policy decision of my lifetime” was President Ronald Reagan’s smashing of the 1981 PATCO strike and mass firing of 11,000 air traffic controllers. “It sent a message not only across America, it sent a message around the world,” he said, that the Reagan administration was serious about confronting its enemies and “we weren’t to be messed with.”

Appearing two days later on “Fox News Sunday,” Walker repeated his claim that defeating public employee unions in Wisconsin was relevant to fighting ISIS terrorists, while pretending to disavow a direct comparison. “I want to make it clear right now. I’m not comparing those two entities,” he said, and then proceeded to do just that.

“What I meant was, it was about leadership,” he declared. “The leadership we provided under extremely difficult circumstances, arguably, the most difficult of any governor in the country.” He added that “if I were to run, and if I were to win and be commander-in-chief, I believe that kind of leadership is what’s necessary to take on radical Islamic terrorism.”

Walker’s initial statement at CPAC was widely described in the media as a gaffe. The problem, however, was not his implicit equation of working-class opposition with terrorist organizations that have been targeted for extermination, but rather his indiscretion in blurting out publicly what the US corporate-financial oligarchy thinks and discusses internally.

In the event, comparing public employees to ISIS terrorists has not disqualified Walker in the eyes of the media. If anything, it appears to have enhanced his stature as a serious presidential candidate.

This is certainly the case among the so-called “base” of the Republican Party that attended CPAC. Walker won the loudest ovations of any of the 13 potential candidates who addressed the group. In the CPAC straw poll, Walker vaulted from sixth place in 2014 to second place, with 21.4 percent of the vote, only narrowly behind Kentucky Senator Rand Paul.

As the WSWS noted Saturday, Walker is not the first US political figure to equate the struggle against popular opposition at home with the wars waged by American imperialism overseas. In the American ruling elite, whether among Republicans or Democrats, there is less and less of a distinction made between domestic and foreign policy. The financial aristocracy increasingly sees itself besieged and compelled at home as well as abroad to resort to force and violence.

Events of the past several years demonstrate that for the American ruling class, the main enemy is at home: the jailing of protesters on terrorism charges, such as the “NATO Three”; the lockdown of Boston after the 2013 Marathon bombing; the militarized response to protests in Ferguson and other cities over police violence; the constant invocations of “home-grown” terrorism as the pretext for the dismantling of democratic rights and the buildup of a police state.

There has been comparatively little media attention given to Walker’s open linkage of suppressing strikes and protests at home with waging war for imperialist interests abroad. The television networks and national newspapers prefer to leave such discussions to in-house assemblies of the ultra-right and conclaves of the corporate elite.

There was one revealing commentary, however, posted by right-wing columnist Peggy Noonan, on the web site of the Wall Street Journal. Noonan, a White House speechwriter in the Reagan administration, responded to Walker’s invocation of the PATCO strike as a historic turning point that showed the Soviet Union Reagan’s determination to smash opposition to his policies.

She noted that the PATCO strike had a direct international dimension, since Canadian air traffic controllers carried out job actions in sympathy with their American colleagues and there was widespread support among European workers. The Reagan administration bullied the Canadian government to force a return to work.

Noonan then wrote: “Sen. Edward Kennedy and Lane Kirkland of the AFL CIO played helpful and constructive roles” in support of Reagan’s handling of the PATCO strike.

What Noonan noted in passing was a devastating admission, confirming what the Workers League, forerunner of the Socialist Equality Party, and our newspaper, the Bulletin, explained throughout the 1981 strike: the outright hostility of both the Democratic Party and the AFL-CIO officialdom to the struggle of the 11,000 strikers, who had enormous support in the working class.

Kennedy had spearheaded the deregulation of the airline industry in the late 1970s and it was one of his aides, working in the Carter administration, who drew up the plans for strikebreaking and mass firings in the event of an air traffic controllers strike, eventually implemented under Reagan.

Kirkland played the central role in the AFL-CIO’s deliberate isolation of the strike. After a mass rally brought 500,000 workers to Washington on September 19, 1981, the biggest labor demonstration in US history, led by thousands of PATCO strikers, the unions shut down all support, blocked any solidarity strike action by airline or airport workers, and tacitly supported the jailing of strikers and the outlawing and destruction of PATCO.

It is critical that workers entering into struggle, such as the US oil refinery workers now in the second month of a bitter strike, carefully consider the significance of Walker’s statements as well as the record of the Obama administration in overseeing the buildup of the forces of state repression. The ruling class will stop at nothing to defeat the resistance of workers to its assault on living standards and social conditions. It recognizes in the working class its irreconcilable enemy.

The working class must respond with the same degree of consciousness, determination and ruthlessness.

The PATCO precedent remains of decisive importance today because the twin obstacles of the AFL-CIO and the Democratic Party remain the decisive barriers that the American working class must overcome in order to build a mass independent political movement that will challenge the profit system and advance a socialist and revolutionary program.

Patrick Martin

Nimoy transformed the classic intellectual, self-questioning archetype…

 …into a dashing “Star Trek” action hero

How Leonard Nimoy made Spock an American Jewish icon
Leonard Nimoy as Spock on “Star Trek” (Credit: CBS)

I suspect I can speak for most American Jews when I say: Before I’d watched even a single episode of “Star Trek,” I knew about Leonard Nimoy.

Although there are plenty of Jews who have achieved fame and esteem in American culture, only a handful have their Jewishness explicitly intertwined with their larger cultural image. Much of the difference has to do with how frequently the celebrity in question alludes to his or her heritage within their body of work. This explains why, for instance, a comedian like Adam Sandler is widely identified as Jewish while Andrew Dice Clay is not, or how pitcher Sandy Koufax became famous as a “Jewish athlete” after skipping Game 1 of the 1965 World Series to observe Yom Kippur, while wide receiver Julian Edelman’s Hebraic heritage has remained more obscure.

With this context in mind, it becomes much easier to understand how Nimoy became an iconic figure in the American Jewish community. Take Nimoy’s explanation of the origin of the famous Vulcan salute, courtesy of a 2000 interview with the Baltimore Sun: “In the [Jewish] blessing, the Kohanim (a high priest of a Hebrew tribe) makes the gesture with both hands, and it struck me as a very magical and mystical moment. I taught myself how to do it without even knowing what it meant, and later I inserted it into ‘Star Trek.’”

Nimoy’s public celebration of his own Jewishness extends far beyond this literal gesture. He has openly discussed experiencing anti-Semitism in early-20th century Boston,speaking Yiddish to his Ukrainian grandparents, and pursuing an acting career in large part due to his Jewish heritage. “I became an actor, I’m convinced, because I found a home in a play about a Jewish family just like mine,” Nimoy told Abigail Pogrebin in “Stars of David: Prominent Jews Talk About Being Jewish.” “Clifford Odets’s ‘Awake and Sing.’ I was seventeen years old, cast in this local production, with some pretty good amateur and semiprofessional actors, playing this teenage kid in this Jewish family that was so much like mine it was amazing.”

Significantly, Nimoy did not disregard his Jewishness after becoming a star. Even after his depiction of Dr. Spock became famous throughout the world, Nimoy continued to actively participate in Jewish causes, from fighting to preserve the Yiddish language and narrating a documentary about Hasidic Jews to publishing a Kabbalah-inspired book of photography, The Shekhina Project, which explored “the feminine essence of God.” He even called for peace in Israel by drawing on the mythology from “Star Trek,” recalling an episode in which “two men, half black, half white, are the last survivors of their peoples who have been at war with each other for thousands of years, yet the Enterprise crew could find no differences separating these two raging men.” The message, he wisely intuited, was that “assigning blame over all other priorities is self-defeating. Myth can be a snare. The two sides need our help to evade the snare and search for a way to compromise.”

As we pay our respects to Nimoy’s life and legacy, his status as an American Jewish icon is important in two ways. The first, and by far most pressing, is socio-political: As anti-Semitism continues to rise in American colleges and throughout the world at large, it is important to acknowledge beloved cultural figures who not only came from a Jewish background, but who allowed their heritage to influence their work and continued to participate in Jewish causes throughout their lives. When you consider the frequency with which American Jews will either downplay their Jewishness (e.g., Andy Samberg) or primarily use it as grounds for cracking jokes at the expense of Jews (e.g., Matt Stone of “South Park”), Nimoy’s legacy as an outspokenly pro-Jewish Jew is particularly meaningful right now.

In addition to this, however, there is the simple fact that Nimoy presented American Jews with an archetype that was at once fresh and traditional. The trope of the intellectual, self-questioning Jew has been around for as long as there have been Chosen People, and yet Nimoy managed to transmogrify that character into something exotic and adventurous. Nimoy’s Mr. Spock was a creature driven by logic and a thirst for knowledge, yes, but he was also an action hero and idealist when circumstances demanded it. For the countless Jews who, like me, grew up as nerds and social outcasts, it was always inspiring to see a famous Jewish actor play a character who was at once so much like us and yet flung far enough across the universe to allow us temporary escape from our realities. This may not be the most topically relevant of Nimoy’s legacies, but my guess is that it will be his most lasting as long as there are Jewish children who yearn to learn more, whether by turning inward into their own heritage or casting their gaze upon the distant stars.

Matthew Rozsa is a Ph.D. student in history at Lehigh University as well as a political columnist. His editorials have been published in “The Morning Call,” “The Express-Times,” “The Newark Star-Ledger,” “The Baltimore Sun,” and various college newspapers and blogs. He actively encourages people to reach out to him at


Banksy filmed himself sneaking into Gaza to paint new artwork


World-renowned street artist Banksy released a 2-minute video on his website this week that delivers an eye-opening view of life behind the guarded walls of the Gaza Strip.

The video, “Make this the year YOU discover a new destination,” invites viewers to witness the devastation of war-torn Gaza and the tribulation of the Palestinian population cordoned within its borders.

The satirical mini-documentary, which is set to the legendary East Flatbush Project’s “Tried by 12,” presents itself as an advertisement for world travelers. It begins by showing an individual, presumably Banksy himself, entering Gaza by climbing through what’s parenthetically described as an illegal network of tunnels. “Well away from the tourist track,” the caption reads.

Exiting one of the dark tunnels, Banksy ascends into the bombed-out region and is greeted by children playing amid piles of rubble. “The locals like it so much they never leave,” the video says. Cutting to a scrum of Israeli Defense Force (IDF) soldiers, it continues: “Because they’re never allowed to.


The video captures four of the mysterious artist’s new pieces. The first, titled “Bomb Damage,” is painted on a door defiantly erect at the facade of a destroyed building. Potentially inspired by Rodin’s “The Thinker,” it shows a man knelt over in apparent agony. Another depicts one of the Israeli guard towers along the separation wall transformed into an amusement park swing carousel. The third and largest piece is a white cat with a pink bow measuring roughly 3 meters high; its paw hovering above a twisted ball of scrap metal like a ball of yarn.

“A local man came up and said ‘Please – what does this mean?’ I explained I wanted to highlight the destruction in Gaza by posting photos on my website – but on the internet people only look at pictures of kittens.”

“This cat tells the world that she is missing joy in her life,” a Palestinian man resting nearby speaks in Arabic to the camera. “The cat found something to play with. What about our children?”

The fourth and final piece is simple red paint on a wall. It reads: “If we wash our hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless we side with the powerful—we don’t remain neutral.”

According to the video, much of the recorded destruction is the result of “Operation Protective Edge,” a July 2014 Israeli military campaign, the stated of goal of which was to prevent Hamas rocket fire from entering Israeli territory.

During the seven weeks of airstrikes, Gaza suffered up to 2,300 casualties, including 513 children; 66 Israeli soldiers and 5 civilians were also killed. Up to 7,000 Palestinian homes were complete destroyed, and another 10,000 severely damaged, according to the United Nations. Over half a million people were displaced by the conflict. By some estimates, rebuilding Gaza City could cost in excess of $6 billion and take more than 20 years.

Banksy isn’t new to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In 2005, he painted nine pieces along the 425-mile West Bank Wall, the barrier which separates Palestine and Israel.

Screenshot via Banksy/YouTube

US slaughter in Afghanistan rages on


24 February 2015

Less than two months after President Barack Obama announced an end to US combat operations in Afghanistan, top Pentagon officials have made it clear that these murderous operations are not only continuing, they are escalating, while plans for the withdrawal of American troops are being reconsidered.

At the end of last year, the American president declared that “the longest war in American history is coming to a responsible conclusion.” He added that the drawdown of US forces marked “a milestone for our country.”

But the war in Afghanistan rages on, with mounting evidence that more than 13 years of US military occupation—dubbed “Operation Enduring Freedom”—have produced only a debacle for US foreign policy and a humanitarian catastrophe for the impoverished Afghan population.

The longest war in US history has claimed the lives of 2,356 American troops and left another 20,066 wounded, the vast majority of these casualties having taken place during the administration of Barack Obama. The current president promoted the intervention in Afghanistan as the “good war” and more than tripled the number of US soldiers and Marines fighting it. The cost to the US economy is estimated at somewhere between $750 billion and several trillion dollars.

In his speech last December, Obama claimed that 13 years of US war and occupation had succeeded in “devastating the core Al Qaeda leadership, delivering justice to Osama bin Laden, disrupting terrorist plots and saving countless American lives.” They had as well “helped the Afghan people reclaim their communities” and “take the lead for their own security.”

This glowing assessment was given a different spin last week when newly installed Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said that Washington wanted to make sure that “the Afghans themselves are able to preserve the environment which our forces have created over the last few years—one of relative security and stability.” As a result, he said, Washington was “rethinking” its “counterterrorism” operations, as well as its stated troop withdrawal timetable.

Carter’s talk of “relative security and stability” is hogwash. All indications are that the US puppet regime in Kabul is confronting a catastrophe, and that its patrons in Washington are convinced that only an escalation of the slaughter can reverse ever more threatening trends and prevent a Vietnam-style rout.

There are presently some 10,000 US troops in Afghanistan, along with an estimated 20,000 military contractors and several hundred CIA operatives. While Obama claims to have ended US combat operations in the country, his administration has ordered a sharp increase in night assassination raids by American special forces troops against Afghan villages, as well as stepped-up aerial bombardments of suspected insurgent targets.

Both tactics aroused intense popular hostility and were formally proscribed by former President Hamid Karzai. They have received support, however, from his successor, Ashraf Ghani, who is increasingly desperate in the face of a rising offensive by anti-regime forces.

The military escalation has exacted a brutal toll upon the Afghan civilian population. The United Nations agency for Afghanistan documented 10,548 civilian casualties last year (3,699 deaths and 6,849 injuries). This represents a 25 percent increase in the number of fatalities over the previous year and the highest number of civilian deaths and injuries since the UN began systematically recording casualties in 2009.

There are mounting signs that the US-armed and trained Afghan security forces are in a state of disintegration. The special inspector general for Afghan reconstruction (SIGAR) last month quoted Lt. Gen. Joseph Anderson, the then-commander of the US-led occupation forces, as stating that the level of casualties suffered by the Afghan forces (more than 5,000 Afghan soldiers and police were killed in 2014 alone) was “not sustainable,” nor, for that matter, was their desertion rate.

The clearest indication of the dire condition of the Afghan National Army and police was the recent decision by the Pentagon and NATO to classify all information on their combat capabilities as secret, after years of publicly releasing such data.

The economic and social situation confronting the country is, if anything, even more desperate. Afghanistan ranks 215th in the world in terms of per capita income, with close to half of the population living in dire poverty. The economy has begun to contract along with the decline in the US military presence and the level of foreign aid, the main sources of revenue.

Figures given out by US agencies boasting of dramatic strides in life expectancy, education and other indices have all been called into question by international agencies, with the numbers from Washington representing little more than war propaganda.

As opposed to the fraudulent claims of progress made by the White House and the Pentagon, polls have shown that a broad majority of the American public believes the Afghanistan war was not worth waging, while just 23 percent of the US soldiers who fought there believe their campaign was successful.

The turn by the Obama administration to an escalation of military operations in Afghanistan is driven by the same predatory geostrategic interests that led to the US invasion and occupation in the first place. These were based not on concerns about terrorism, but rather the desire to assert US hegemony over the energy-rich regions of the Caspian Basin and Central Asia and position the US military closer to the borders of both Russia and China.

Within the US ruling establishment, there are growing fears that a precipitous US withdrawal will create a vacuum that will be filled by Beijing and Moscow.

The “rethinking” of US combat operations in Afghanistan is taking place amid escalating US military interventions on a world scale. Washington has announced plans for a major US-led offensive against Mosul, an Iraqi city of 1.5 million, as it continues aerial bombardments in both Iraq and Syria. Almost simultaneously, it joined Turkey in announcing plans to train thousands of Syrian “rebels” to be unleashed nominally against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), but also in a war for regime change in Syria.

In Ukraine, Washington is escalating its provocations against Moscow. The new US defense secretary has signaled his support for arming the Ukrainian regime in a war that could bring the US into direct confrontation with a nuclear-armed Russia.

At the same time, the US Navy has unveiled plans to deploy four littoral combat ships—designed for combat in coastal areas—in northeast Asia as part of the “pivot to Asia,” which includes plans to shift 60 percent of US naval assets to the region in order to confront the rise of China.

As Leon Trotsky wrote in the run-up to the Second World War, while Nazi Germany was driven to “organize” Europe, US imperialism “must ‘organize’ the world.”

“History,” he warned, “is bringing humanity face to face with the volcanic eruption of American imperialism.”

This prognosis is being powerfully confirmed in the continuing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and the threat of military confrontation with Russia and China.

Bill Van Auken

Leaked cables show Netanyahu’s Iran bomb claim contradicted by Mossad

Gulf between Israeli secret service and PM revealed in documents shared with the Guardian along with other secrets including CIA bids to contact Hamas

Netanyahu’s Iran bomb claim contradicted by Mossad, leaked spy cables show

Binyamin Netanyahu’s dramatic declaration to world leaders in 2012 that Iranwas about a year away from making a nuclear bomb was contradicted by his own secret service, according to a top-secret Mossad document.

It is part of a cache of hundreds of dossiers, files and cables from the world’s major intelligence services – one of the biggest spy leaks in recent times.

Brandishing a cartoon of a bomb with a red line to illustrate his point, the Israeli prime minister warned the UN in New York that Iran would be able to build nuclear weapons the following year and called for action to halt the process.

But in a secret report shared with South Africa a few weeks later, Israel’s intelligence agency concluded that Iran was “not performing the activity necessary to produce weapons”. The report highlights the gulf between the public claims and rhetoric of top Israeli politicians and the assessments of Israel’s military and intelligence establishment.

An extract from the document
An extract from the document Photograph: The Guardian

The disclosure comes as tensions between Israel and its staunchest ally, the US, have dramatically increased ahead of Netanyahu’s planned address to the US Congress on 3 March.

The White House fears the Israeli leader’s anticipated inflammatory rhetoric could damage sensitive negotiations between Tehran and the world’s six big powers over Iran’s nuclear programme. The deadline to agree on a framework is in late March, with the final settlement to come on 30 June. Netanyahu has vowed to block an agreement he claims would give Iran access to a nuclear weapons capability.

The US president, Barack Obama, will not meet Netanyahu during his visit, saying protocol precludes a meeting so close to next month’s general election in Israel.

The documents, almost all marked as confidential or top secret, span almost a decade of global intelligence traffic, from 2006 to December last year. It has been leaked to the al-Jazeera investigative unit and shared with the Guardian.

The papers include details of operations against al-Qaida, Islamic State and other terrorist organisations, but also the targeting of environmental activists.

The files reveal that:

The CIA attempted to establish contact with Hamas in spite of a US ban.

South Korean intelligence targeted the leader of Greenpeace.

Barack Obama “threatened” the Palestinian president to withdraw a bid for recognition of Palestine at the UN.

South African intelligence spied on Russia over a controversial $100m joint satellite deal.

The cache, which has been independently authenticated by the Guardian, mainly involves exchanges between South Africa’s intelligence agency and its counterparts around the world. It is not the entire volume of traffic but a selective leak.

One of the biggest hauls is from Mossad. But there are also documents from Russia’s FSB, which is responsible for counter-terrorism. Such leaks of Russian material are extremely rare.

Other spy agencies caught up in the trawl include those of the US, Britain, France, Jordan, the UAE, Oman and several African nations.

The scale of the leak, coming 20 months after US whistleblower Edward Snowden handed over tens of thousands of NSA and GCHQ documents to the Guardian, highlights the increasing inability of intelligence agencies to keep their secrets secure.

While the Snowden trove revealed the scale of technological surveillance, the latest spy cables deal with espionage at street level – known to the intelligence agencies as human intelligence, or “humint”. They include surveillance reports, inter-agency information trading, disinformation and backbiting, as well as evidence of infiltration, theft and blackmail.

The leaks show how Africa is becoming increasingly important for global espionage, with the US and other western states building up their presence on the continent and China expanding its economic influence. One serving intelligence officer told the Guardian: “South Africa is the El Dorado of espionage.”

Africa has also become caught up in the US, Israeli and British covert global campaigns to stem the spread of Iranian influence, tighten sanctions and block its nuclear programme.

The Mossad briefing about Iran’s nuclear programme in 2012 was in stark contrast to the alarmist tone set by Netanyahu, who has long presented the Iranian nuclear programme as an existential threat to Israel and a huge risk to world security. The Israeli prime minister told the UN: “By next spring, at most by next summer, at current enrichment rates, they will have finished the medium enrichment and move[d] on to the final stage. From there, it’s only a few months, possibly a few weeks before they get enough enriched uranium for the first bomb.”

He said his information was not based on secret information or military intelligence but International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reports.

Behind the scenes, Mossad took a different view. In a report shared with South African spies on 22 October 2012 – but likely written earlier – it conceded that Iran was “working to close gaps in areas that appear legitimate, such as enrichment reactors, which will reduce the time required to produce weapons from the time the instruction is actually given”.

But the report also states that Iran “does not appear to be ready” to enrich uranium to the higher levels necessary for nuclear weapons. To build a bomb requires enrichment to 90%. Mossad estimated that Iran then had “about 100kg of material enriched to 20%” (which was later diluted or converted under the terms of the 2013 Geneva agreement). Iran has always said it is developing a nuclear programme for civilian energy purposes.

Last week, Netanyahu’s office repeated the claim that “Iran is closer than ever today to obtaining enriched material for a nuclear bomb” in a statement in response to an IAEA report.

A senior Israeli government official said there was no contradiction between Netanyahu’s statements on the Iranian nuclear threat and “the quotes in your story – allegedly from Israeli intelligence”. Both the prime minister and Mossad said Iran was enriching uranium in order to produce weapons, he added.

“Israel believes the proposed nuclear deal with Iran is a bad deal, for it enables the world’s foremost terror state to create capabilities to produce the elements necessary for a nuclear bomb,” he said.

However, Mossad had been at odds with Netanyahu on Iran before. The former Mossad chief Meir Dagan, who left office in December 2010, let it be known that he had opposed an order from Netanyahu to prepare a military attack on Iran.

Other members of Israel’s security establishment were riled by Netanyahu’s rhetoric on the Iranian nuclear threat and his advocacy of military confrontation. In April 2012, a former head of Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security agency, accused Netanyahu of “messianic” political leadership for pressing for military action, saying he and the then defence minister, Ehud Barak, were misleading the public on the Iran issue. Benny Gantz, the Israeli military chief of staff, said decisions on tackling Iran “must be made carefully, out of historic responsibility but without hysteria”.

There were also suspicions in Washington that Netanyahu was seeking to bounce Obama into taking a more hawkish line on Iran.

A few days before Netanyahu’s speech to the UN, the then US defence secretary, Leon Panetta, accused the Israeli prime minister of trying to force the US into a corner. “The fact is … presidents of the United States, prime ministers of Israel or any other country … don’t have, you know, a bunch of little red lines that determine their decisions,” he said.

“What they have are facts that are presented to them about what a country is up to, and then they weigh what kind of action is needed in order to deal with that situation. I mean, that’s the real world. Red lines are kind of political arguments that are used to try to put people in a corner.”

US expands “secret war” in Afghanistan


By Thomas Gaist
23 February 2015

The Obama administration is considering new proposals from the Pentagon to delay troop withdrawals from Afghanistan and increase the number of US forces to be stationed in the country on a permanent basis, US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter announced this weekend during a joint conference with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.

Carter and Ghani indicated that formal arrangements for a larger long-term US troop presence, maintenance of US bases previously planned to close, and stepped up “counterterrorism” operations by US forces in Afghanistan may be finalized as early as the beginning of March.

“President Obama is considering a number of options to reinforce our support for President Ghani’s security strategy, including possible changes to the timeline for our drawdown of US troops,” Carter said.

President Ghani stressed “the comprehensive nature of the partnership” being worked out between his government and the Obama administration, adding that he was personally grateful for Obama’s executive decree in December 2014 ordering an additional 1,000 US troops to remain in the country on an indefinite basis.

More than 10,000 US troops remain in Afghanistan, and an array of US Special Forces and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) paramilitary units are continuing to carry out combat missions against alleged insurgents throughout the country.

Despite the proclamation of an official end to US combat operations in Afghanistan beginning December 31, 2014, recent weeks have seen a “significant increase in night raids” and a “tempo of operations unprecedented for this time of year,” the New York Times reported in mid-February.

“The official war for the Americans—the part of the war that you could go see—that’s over. It’s only the secret war that’s still going. But it’s going hard,” said an Afghan security official cited by the Times.

The US forces are leading the missions and directly engaging targets, “not simply going along as advisors,” the Times noted.

Assassination teams are regularly dispatched against “a broad cross section of Islamist militants,” the Times reported. The US-led death squads include elite soldiers under the command of Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security, as well as CIA paramilitary groups, US Army Rangers and Navy SEALs.

The raids represent a continuation and intensification of the counterinsurgency strategy implemented by the US during the official occupation, which sought to stabilize the US puppet government in Kabul by murdering anyone suspected of supporting armed opposition to the Karzai regime.

As early as 2005, a top US military general declared that this strategy was leading to the total defeat of the Taliban. When the Obama administration ordered the US military to add 30,000 additional troops to its overall occupation force in 2009, General Stanley McChrystal vowed that the insurgency would be defeated by 2011.

Similar assessments were made by US leaders during the occupation of and then the “surge” of troops into Iraq, along with enthusiasm about the readiness of the Iraqi national army, which has subsequently been shattered by the seizure of large sections of the country by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

Unflagging optimism of US commanders and politicians notwithstanding, the US targeted murder programs in Afghanistan have also clearly failed. Taliban forces have regained control over large portions of the country during the past year, inflicting casualties against government and US-led International Security Assistance Force coalition troops, as well as the civilian population, at the highest rate since the US occupation began in October 2001.

In the absence of substantial support from the US military, the Afghan government stands little chance of defeating the resurgent Taliban, according to experts cited by Stars and Stripes.

“The overly positive assessments are repeated so often that the leaders in the military and civilian world start to believe it,” director of the Kabul-based Afghanistan Analysts Network told the Department of Defense-based newspaper.

The Pentagon’s claims that violence is down in Afghanistan is “borderline insane,” International Crisis Group’s lead Afghanistan analyst Graeme Smith told Stars and Stripes.

“You’re saying that the war is getting smaller, and its not; its getting a lot bigger. Policy needs to adjust to deal with the fact that the inferno is growing,” Smith said.

More than 5,000 Afghan security forces, who received their paychecks from the US government were killed during 2014 in fighting with Taliban and other anti-government militants, according to statistics provided by Kabul.

Civilian fatalities have reached their highest levels since 2009, according to a UN report released last week, which confirmed the deaths of at least 3,600 noncombatants and wounding of another 6,800 in 2014.

Amdist the ongoing catastrophe that is a result of the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan, US policy makers and generals are clearly determined to intensify operations against its population for years to come.

With reports of growing Chinese political influence in Afghanistan, including the cultivation of ties with sections of the government as well as with the Taliban, Washington is determined to maintain its military grip on the country and Central Asia as a whole, which remain important linchpins in its drive to control the Eurasian landmass.


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