Tag Archives: anti-war

Video Games Are the Latest Additions to Russian Infowarfare

Collage by Christopher Moldes. Used with permission.

On November 14, 2017, the latest efforts in the information war appeared on Twitter, when The Russian Ministry of Defense published “irrefutable evidence” of US – ISIS cooperation. The tweet purported to show drone footage of ISIS convoys moving under US protection. There was just one problem — none of it was real.

As investigative search network, Bellingcat, and the Conflict Intelligence Team point out, four of the five pictures were from Iraqi military aerial footage, and the fifth…from the computer game, “AC-130 Gunship Simulator: Special Ops Squadron.”

The @mod_russia uses images from a computer game as evidence the US is working with ISIS https://t.co/8uv2vbEHeQ http://pic.twitter.com/EvqP1Id5pR

— Eliot Higgins (@EliotHiggins) 14 ноября 2017 г.

The Russian Ministry of Defense swiftly deleted the tweets, but not before Russian users presented their own mocking evidence of American wrongdoing in Syria:

Министерство обороны РФ предоставило неоспоримые доказательства того, как военные США минируют жилые кварталы в Алеппо http://pic.twitter.com/WIb5tzsMn2

— за сингулярность (@the_outreach) 14 ноября 2017 г.

The Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation presented irrefutable evidence of American soldiers mining residential areas in Aleppo. [screenshot: Bomberman]

Presidential hopeful Alexey Navalny weighed in:

Извините, тоже поучаствую во флэшмобе.

Минобороны РФ предъявило неоспоримые доказательства использования американцами специального вируса, меняющего сексуальную ориентацию солдат: http://pic.twitter.com/Wxv72sERK1

— Alexey Navalny (@navalny) 14 ноября 2017 г.

Sorry, I’m also going to make a meme.

The Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation presented irrefutable evidence of Americans using a special virus that changes soldiers’ sexual orientation. [the picture is of Trevor Philips from Grand Theft Auto V]

Others helped the Ministry of Defense by hailing the actions of Russian forces in the area:

Минобороны опубликовало уникальные кадры спецоперации ССО РФ в Сирии http://pic.twitter.com/2uQqMkOLn7

— Д///ИХАД (@tvjihad) 14 ноября 2017 г.

The Ministry of Defense published exclusive photos of Russian Special Operations’ covert ops in Syria [the picture is from the controversial “No Russian” mission in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2]

This last Twitter account, TV Jihad, is a well-known satirical Twitter personality lampooning the liberal, independent news channel TV Dozhd. In a typical tongue-in-cheek fashion, they jokingly broke the news that ISIS had claimed responsibility for the Ministry of Defence’s post:

Исламское государство наконец-то взяло на себя ответственность за фейки Минобороны http://pic.twitter.com/TFAKiLQOw0

— Д///ИХАД (@tvjihad) 14 ноября 2017 г.

Relying on Allah, brother Vanka Erokhin, also known as Abu Al-Kukhul Ar-Rusi, posted video game screenshots to the Ministry of Defense’s Twitter, so as to debase the kafirs (non-believers) and shatter their reputation. All glory to Allah!

Although the original tweets were deleted, many were left wondering how anything like this could have been given the go-ahead by the Russian ministry in the first place:

General: What are you doing soldier, playing a computer game!?

Corporal: No sir, it’s, uh, um … footage of the Americans protecting ISIS!

General: Excellent! Get that to the media department ASAP! https://t.co/HLquaNKnsV

— Alec Luhn (@ASLuhn) 14 ноября 2017 г.

Even pro-Kremlin bloggers were outraged. One said:

Минобороны выдало скриншот из игры за “неоспоримое доказательство” сотрудничества США с ИГ https://t.co/FNqCXxqBgs

Лавры Захаровой кому-то не дают покоя (

— Илья Ремесло (@iremeslo) 14 ноября 2017 г.

The Ministry of Defense passed off video game screenshots as “irrefutable evidence” of US cooperation with ISIS. Zakharova’s [Maria Zakharova, spokesperson for the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, known for her blunders and gaffes] laurels aren’t leaving someone in peace. This speaks to the recent dispute about Zakharova’s “honest mistake.” This is what happens when “honest mistakes” are forgiven. Do you like it? For some reason the bots are silent, downright surprising.

Others saw this as another move in Russia’s continuing eleven-dimensional chess in the information war with the West:

Love our @bellingcat commenters. Russia’s Defense Ministry shares photo of a video game saying it’s the US helping ISIS, and our beloved commenter says… https://t.co/mDv03uAv4g http://pic.twitter.com/OMKWQOe9mi

— Aric Toler (@AricToler) 14 ноября 2017 г.

Despite backlash against the fake photographs, Rossiya 24, a Russian state-owned TV network, aired a news segment about the “irrefutable proof” anyway:

Russian state TV regurgitated the Defense Ministry’s videogame-based “evidence” that America is working with ISIS. http://pic.twitter.com/99JeuKfpVS

— Kevin Rothrock (@KevinRothrock) 14 ноября 2017 г.

“We begin with a message from the Russian Ministry of Defense: the US-led international coalition is supporting ISIS terrorists and working together with them. This is confirmed by photos taken on November 9th by Russian drones during the liberation of Abu Kamel. The pictures show armed ISIS formations running from Russian airstrikes in kilometer-long convoys, heading towards the Syrian-Iraqi border. To ensure the safety of the retreating fighters, the coalition’s air forces tried to run interference against Russian warplanes in the area. These facts are irrefutable confirmation that the US is providing cover for ISIS units and is using them to promote American interests in the Middle East.”

The Ministry of Defense later put out a statement:

Минобороны России проводит проверку в отношении гражданского сотрудника одного из подразделений, ошибочно прикрепившего фотоматериалы к заявлению военного ведомства о взаимодействии возглавляемой США международной коалиции и боевиков ИГИЛ* в районе аль-Букемаля (Сирия)

Russia’s Defense Ministry is conducting a review in relation to a subdivision’s civilian employee, who mistakenly attached photographic materials to the military administration’s statement on cooperation between the US-led intenational coalition and ISIS fighters in the Abu Kamel region in Syria.

The Defense Ministry went on to say that the US’s refusal to carry out airstrikes on the convoy and interference against Russian warplanes is a fact borne out by official transcripts. This is not the first time tensions have arisen between US and Russian forces over whether or not to carry out attacks on convoys.  Earlier in September, during a weeks-long standoff with a convoy transporting not only ISIS fighters, but also fleeing civilians, Russian officials had requested that their American counterparts pull their air assets back, apparently standard procedure so the Russian planes could carry out strikes. This was the deconfliction process at work, whereby both the US and Russia could ensure their forces do not strike one another in the fight against ISIS. American drones and warplanes had been harassing the convoy from the get-go, but as the conflict drew on, the Americans acquiesced and pulled all air reconnaissance units out. Since this particular convoy was crossing into Iraqi territory from Lebanon, it seems that a deal had been struck between the Assad government and the respective governments. As Assad’s allies, the Russians were perhaps using the deconfliction process to facilitate the convoy’s movement. No Russian airstrikes took place. By pulling back their air assets, the Americans therefore let the convoy reach its destination.  This is not the first time a deal of this sort has been struck; the BBC wrote an exposé about a secret deal with coalition forces that allowed another such convoy to leave Raqqa with thousands of ISIS fighters and their families.

As for the latest Russian tweet, the Russian Defense Ministry eventually posted a new one with the “correct” images. Some commentators were still doubtful that they amounted to much, however:

Российские беспилотники в Сирии умеют делать гораздо более качественные фотки с таймстампами, а «неоспоримое подтверждение» 2.0 — это нарезка с видео, причем непонятно когда снятого (таймстамп обрезан). http://pic.twitter.com/5iUH7tu96b

— Содомский лайк (@Mortis_Banned) 14 ноября 2017 г.

Russian drones in Syria can take much higher-quality photos with time-stamps, but this “irrefutable evidence” 2.0 is a still from a video and it’s not clear when it was shot (the timestamp’s been cut out).

Social media users may have had some fun with this, but others wondered if this is the kind of intel the commander in chief himself, Vladimir Putin, is getting from his agencies. Because there are definitely reasons to believe that this might be the case.

Written by Christopher Moldes · comments (0)
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Video Games Are the Latest Additions to Russian Infowarfare

Collage by Christopher Moldes. Used with permission.

On November 14, 2017, the latest efforts in the information war appeared on Twitter, when The Russian Ministry of Defense published “irrefutable evidence” of US – ISIS cooperation. The tweet purported to show drone footage of ISIS convoys moving under US protection. There was just one problem — none of it was real.

As investigative search network, Bellingcat, and the Conflict Intelligence Team point out, four of the five pictures were from Iraqi military aerial footage, and the fifth…from the computer game, “AC-130 Gunship Simulator: Special Ops Squadron.”

The @mod_russia uses images from a computer game as evidence the US is working with ISIS https://t.co/8uv2vbEHeQ http://pic.twitter.com/EvqP1Id5pR

— Eliot Higgins (@EliotHiggins) 14 ноября 2017 г.

The Russian Ministry of Defense swiftly deleted the tweets, but not before Russian users presented their own mocking evidence of American wrongdoing in Syria:

Министерство обороны РФ предоставило неоспоримые доказательства того, как военные США минируют жилые кварталы в Алеппо http://pic.twitter.com/WIb5tzsMn2

— за сингулярность (@the_outreach) 14 ноября 2017 г.

The Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation presented irrefutable evidence of American soldiers mining residential areas in Aleppo. [screenshot: Bomberman]

Presidential hopeful Alexey Navalny weighed in:

Извините, тоже поучаствую во флэшмобе.

Минобороны РФ предъявило неоспоримые доказательства использования американцами специального вируса, меняющего сексуальную ориентацию солдат: http://pic.twitter.com/Wxv72sERK1

— Alexey Navalny (@navalny) 14 ноября 2017 г.

Sorry, I’m also going to make a meme.

The Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation presented irrefutable evidence of Americans using a special virus that changes soldiers’ sexual orientation. [the picture is of Trevor Philips from Grand Theft Auto V]

Others helped the Ministry of Defense by hailing the actions of Russian forces in the area:

Минобороны опубликовало уникальные кадры спецоперации ССО РФ в Сирии http://pic.twitter.com/2uQqMkOLn7

— Д///ИХАД (@tvjihad) 14 ноября 2017 г.

The Ministry of Defense published exclusive photos of Russian Special Operations’ covert ops in Syria [the picture is from the controversial “No Russian” mission in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2]

This last Twitter account, TV Jihad, is a well-known satirical Twitter personality lampooning the liberal, independent news channel TV Dozhd. In a typical tongue-in-cheek fashion, they jokingly broke the news that ISIS had claimed responsibility for the Ministry of Defence’s post:

Исламское государство наконец-то взяло на себя ответственность за фейки Минобороны http://pic.twitter.com/TFAKiLQOw0

— Д///ИХАД (@tvjihad) 14 ноября 2017 г.

Relying on Allah, brother Vanka Erokhin, also known as Abu Al-Kukhul Ar-Rusi, posted video game screenshots to the Ministry of Defense’s Twitter, so as to debase the kafirs (non-believers) and shatter their reputation. All glory to Allah!

Although the original tweets were deleted, many were left wondering how anything like this could have been given the go-ahead by the Russian ministry in the first place:

General: What are you doing soldier, playing a computer game!?

Corporal: No sir, it’s, uh, um … footage of the Americans protecting ISIS!

General: Excellent! Get that to the media department ASAP! https://t.co/HLquaNKnsV

— Alec Luhn (@ASLuhn) 14 ноября 2017 г.

Even pro-Kremlin bloggers were outraged. One said:

Минобороны выдало скриншот из игры за “неоспоримое доказательство” сотрудничества США с ИГ https://t.co/FNqCXxqBgs

Лавры Захаровой кому-то не дают покоя (

— Илья Ремесло (@iremeslo) 14 ноября 2017 г.

The Ministry of Defense passed off video game screenshots as “irrefutable evidence” of US cooperation with ISIS. Zakharova’s [Maria Zakharova, spokesperson for the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, known for her blunders and gaffes] laurels aren’t leaving someone in peace. This speaks to the recent dispute about Zakharova’s “honest mistake.” This is what happens when “honest mistakes” are forgiven. Do you like it? For some reason the bots are silent, downright surprising.

Others saw this as another move in Russia’s continuing eleven-dimensional chess in the information war with the West:

Love our @bellingcat commenters. Russia’s Defense Ministry shares photo of a video game saying it’s the US helping ISIS, and our beloved commenter says… https://t.co/mDv03uAv4g http://pic.twitter.com/OMKWQOe9mi

— Aric Toler (@AricToler) 14 ноября 2017 г.

Despite backlash against the fake photographs, Rossiya 24, a Russian state-owned TV network, aired a news segment about the “irrefutable proof” anyway:

Russian state TV regurgitated the Defense Ministry’s videogame-based “evidence” that America is working with ISIS. http://pic.twitter.com/99JeuKfpVS

— Kevin Rothrock (@KevinRothrock) 14 ноября 2017 г.

“We begin with a message from the Russian Ministry of Defense: the US-led international coalition is supporting ISIS terrorists and working together with them. This is confirmed by photos taken on November 9th by Russian drones during the liberation of Abu Kamel. The pictures show armed ISIS formations running from Russian airstrikes in kilometer-long convoys, heading towards the Syrian-Iraqi border. To ensure the safety of the retreating fighters, the coalition’s air forces tried to run interference against Russian warplanes in the area. These facts are irrefutable confirmation that the US is providing cover for ISIS units and is using them to promote American interests in the Middle East.”

The Ministry of Defense later put out a statement:

Минобороны России проводит проверку в отношении гражданского сотрудника одного из подразделений, ошибочно прикрепившего фотоматериалы к заявлению военного ведомства о взаимодействии возглавляемой США международной коалиции и боевиков ИГИЛ* в районе аль-Букемаля (Сирия)

Russia’s Defense Ministry is conducting a review in relation to a subdivision’s civilian employee, who mistakenly attached photographic materials to the military administration’s statement on cooperation between the US-led intenational coalition and ISIS fighters in the Abu Kamel region in Syria.

The Defense Ministry went on to say that the US’s refusal to carry out airstrikes on the convoy and interference against Russian warplanes is a fact borne out by official transcripts. This is not the first time tensions have arisen between US and Russian forces over whether or not to carry out attacks on convoys.  Earlier in September, during a weeks-long standoff with a convoy transporting not only ISIS fighters, but also fleeing civilians, Russian officials had requested that their American counterparts pull their air assets back, apparently standard procedure so the Russian planes could carry out strikes. This was the deconfliction process at work, whereby both the US and Russia could ensure their forces do not strike one another in the fight against ISIS. American drones and warplanes had been harassing the convoy from the get-go, but as the conflict drew on, the Americans acquiesced and pulled all air reconnaissance units out. Since this particular convoy was crossing into Iraqi territory from Lebanon, it seems that a deal had been struck between the Assad government and the respective governments. As Assad’s allies, the Russians were perhaps using the deconfliction process to facilitate the convoy’s movement. No Russian airstrikes took place. By pulling back their air assets, the Americans therefore let the convoy reach its destination.  This is not the first time a deal of this sort has been struck; the BBC wrote an exposé about a secret deal with coalition forces that allowed another such convoy to leave Raqqa with thousands of ISIS fighters and their families.

As for the latest Russian tweet, the Russian Defense Ministry eventually posted a new one with the “correct” images. Some commentators were still doubtful that they amounted to much, however:

Российские беспилотники в Сирии умеют делать гораздо более качественные фотки с таймстампами, а «неоспоримое подтверждение» 2.0 — это нарезка с видео, причем непонятно когда снятого (таймстамп обрезан). http://pic.twitter.com/5iUH7tu96b

— Содомский лайк (@Mortis_Banned) 14 ноября 2017 г.

Russian drones in Syria can take much higher-quality photos with time-stamps, but this “irrefutable evidence” 2.0 is a still from a video and it’s not clear when it was shot (the timestamp’s been cut out).

Social media users may have had some fun with this, but others wondered if this is the kind of intel the commander in chief himself, Vladimir Putin, is getting from his agencies. Because there are definitely reasons to believe that this might be the case.

Written by Christopher Moldes · comments (0)
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The Russian Ministry of Defence Publishes Screenshots of Computer Games as Evidence of US Collusion with ISIS

On the morning of November 14th 2017 the Russian Ministry of Defence published multiple posts in Russian, Arabic, and English on their Twitter and Facebook accounts, claiming to show “irrefutable evidence” of collusion between the US and ISIS combat units:

Unfortunately for the Russian MoD, eagle-eyed Twitter users immediately spotted some problems with the images. One image claimed to show an ISIS convoy leaving Abu Kamel on November 9th, 2017:

What this in fact showed was a cropped screenshot from the mobile phone game AC-130 Gunship Simulator, specifically a screenshot from a promo video for the game:

A side by side comparison of the Russian MoD image and the mobile phone game screenshot shows they are identical, with even part of the text from the promo video reading “DEVELOPMENT FOOTAGE. THIS IS A WORK IN PROGRESS. ALL CONTENT SUBJECT TO CHANGE.” visible in the cropped image used by the Russian MoD as their “irrefutable evidence”:

Left – Russian MoD Evidence; Right – The mobile phone game

The other images are also not from the dates and locations claimed by the Russian MoD, but from videos filmed in Iraq in 2016. The Conflict Intelligence Team highlighted one of these videos, showing the Iraqi Air Force bombing ISIS in 2016:

Another alleged @mod_russia drone image accusing US of cooperating with IS was taken from a June 2016 Iraqi MoD video showing Iraqi Air Force bombing IS near Fallujah https://t.co/ybRbuAxA6w
(via @uckuduk1) http://pic.twitter.com/MtzjqAAStW

— CIT (en) (@CITeam_en) November 14, 2017

Other Twitter users identified footage from Iraq 2016 reused by the Russian MoD as part of their “irrefutable evidence”:

The other footage is from this old video of Iraqi airforce destroying an ISIS convoy in 2016 https://t.co/4kIeGR5VWu http://pic.twitter.com/jnpWmHveVA

— Gerards (@GerardsScw) November 14, 2017

The Russian MoD is now in the process of removing the social media posts, but this not the first time the Russian MoD has been found using false footage. During Oliver Stone’s documentary on Vladimir Putin, Putin is filmed showing Oliver Stone footage of what he claims are Russian forces in Syria, but what in fact turned out to be old footage of US forces in Afghanistan:

Update: The Kremlin insists the very fake footage that Putin showed Oliver Stone is real https://t.co/iO8D1iIT50 http://pic.twitter.com/fpIRo1zkdj

— Gizmodo (@Gizmodo) June 22, 2017

When this was brought to the attention of the Kremlin they claimed the Russian MoD had provided the video. If the Russian MoD is willing to pass off fakes to President Putin it seems somewhat unsurprising they would try to fool the world with video game footage, but, unfortunately for the Russian MoD, it seems the world, unlike President Putin, isn’t so easily taken in by fakes.

 

The post The Russian Ministry of Defence Publishes Screenshots of Computer Games as Evidence of US Collusion with ISIS appeared first on bellingcat.

When political persecution hits close to home

+972 Magazine strongly condemns the silencing and political assault against Palestinian journalist Makbula Nassar by Israel’s most-read newspaper and a senior government minister.

By +972 Magazine

Palestinian journalist Makbula Nassar.

Palestinian journalist Makbula Nassar.

Israel Hayom, the free daily widely viewed as Prime Minister Netanyahu’s mouthpiece, reached new heights of McCarthyism when it targeted journalist Makbula Nassar, a blogger for Local Call and frequent +972 Magazine contributor, above the fold on its front page Wednesday. According to the newspaper, Nassar, who was recently appointed the National Road Safety Authority’s head of Arabic-language public relations, was accused of being an “active member of anti-Zionist and pro-Palestinian organizations.”

[tmwinpost]

The “investigative report,” by journalist Daniel Soryoti, included looking through old posts on Nassar’s personal Facebook page, in which she expressed criticism of the state and the way it treats the Arab public in Israel. These posts were carefully handpicked and packaged under a sensationalized headline calling Nassar a “prominent activist against the state.” It didn’t take long for Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz to call for her to be fired.

The latest developments in highly publicized police interrogations of Netanyahu two closest confidants, part of several looming criminal corruption probes against the prime minister, however, only appeared on page five of the paper.

+972 Magazine condemns in the strongest possible terms the persecution of our friend and colleague, and we are proud that she is part of our community of writers. Nassar, one of the bravest and most renowned Palestinian journalists in Israel, was appointed to the job for her unrivaled professionalism. Despite the political silencing that has come to define this era, she has never once hidden her political opinions.

Israel Hayom labels Palestinian journalist a 'prominent activist against the state.'

Israel Hayom labels Palestinian journalist a ‘prominent activist against the state.’

Anyone who views political criticism as “activities against the state” makes no distinction between the state and the government, as is typical of oppressive regimes. One of journalism’s central roles in a democratic society is to support political pluralism, especially when the opinions expressed challenge those of the majority and the government. It is saddening and shameful that Israel Hayom is once again serving as the government’s attack dog, striking at all those who stray from its political vision.

While Minister Katz’s response is anything but surprising, the fact that a minister in the Israeli government is demanding the firing of a civil servant for her political opinions crosses a dangerous line and should serve as a warning sign.

We stand proudly behind Makbula Nassar.


Written and published in the name of +972 Magazine’s and Local Call’s staff and writers.

The Netanyahu government went off the rails this weekend

In under 24 hours, Netanyahu and his cronies attacked left-wing NGOs, tried to shut down Israel’s public broadcaster, and starting advancing a law that would give the prime minister immunity for corruption charges.

By Yossi Dahan

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly government conference at the PM's office in Jerusalem, October 15, 2017. (Alex Kolomoisky/Flash90)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly government conference at the PM’s office in Jerusalem, October 15, 2017. (Alex Kolomoisky/Flash90)

What transpired in the Israeli government over a 24-hour period this past weekend is nothing short of nauseating.

[tmwinpost]

It began with a scathing attack by Prime Minister Netanyahu on top police officials in response to news reports that police renewed the investigations against him in a number of corruption scandals. Netanyahu attacked the national police commissioner for allegedly leaking details of the investigations.

Immediately after that, on Sunday morning, the government approved a new law, allowing ministries to make certain political appointments bypassing normal civil service norms and bidding processes.

Later that day Interior Minister Aryeh Deri (Shas) proposed shutting down the new Israel Broadcasting Corporation (IBC), in order to fund new settler roads in the West Bank, which Netanyahu floated funding with across-the-board cuts. The interior minister could have solved the budget problem in other ways but it turns out what worries him most these days is the months-old public broadcaster’s low ratings.

It is difficult to know whether Deri’s sudden interest in the corporation’s ratings was the result of an investigative report it aired, according to which Israeli police have gathered enough evidence to indict him and his wife for tax offenses, money laundering and breach of trust.

Interior Minister Aryeh Deri speaks during a conference of the Shas Party, Jerusalem, July 30, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Interior Minister Aryeh Deri speaks during a conference of the Shas Party, Jerusalem, July 30, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Netanyahu said that he will consider Deri’s proposal. Comedic relief came from Communications Minister Ayoub Kara, who wrote on Twitter: “I was happy to receive the prime minister’s blessings to shut down the Israel Broadcasting Corporation, an end to wasting public money.” Kara, who is Netanyahu’s puppet in the Communications Ministry, clearly misread the instructions and quickly erased the Tweet, publishing a clarification that mostly likely came from above.

During that same meeting, the heads of the coalition unanimously agreed to establish a parliamentary committee to investigate foreign government funding of left-wing NGOs, and the involvement of those governments in internal Israeli politics. In order to prevent any surprises, coalition head David Bitan proposed the committee be headed by a member of Knesset from his Likud party. Netanyahu supported this move. Meanwhile, Minister of Tourism Yariv Levin updated the coalition heads on the progress of a new government-supported bill to outlaw left-wing NGOs. At the end of that day, it was revealed that Likud MKs close to Netanyahu are currently promoting a bill that would would effectively extend the prime minister’s parliamentary immunity to corruption charges.

The most common explanation given by commentators for the relentless attacks by Netanyahu and his cronies is that they are trying to terrorize anyone who is directly or indirectly involved in the decision whether to indict him — to make sure he doesn’t stand trial.

The attempts to portray the prime minister as a victim has a long-term goal, however. Going after police investigators, limiting the independence of the courts, violating the media’s independence, politicizing and taking over the civil service, persecuting civil society organizations that work toward social justice and for human rights, and treating Arab citizens as a fifth column — all this so that when the damage is done, if and when he is proven innocent, Netanyahu will be able to continue to rule endlessly, with no investigations or real political opposition. An authoritarian leader in a regime that pretends to be a democracy.

Yossi Dahan is a law professor, the head of the Human Rights Division at the College of Law and Business and the co-founder of Haokets. This article was first published in Hebrew in Yedioth Ahronoth.

The slow death of Israeli citizenship

Racism in strange places

As the Right consolidates its power over nearly every sphere of Israeli politics, it is slowly turning citizenship into a matter of ideology. Non-Jewish citizens aren’t the only ones who will suffer.

By Marzuq Al-Halabi

Thousands of Israeli Jews wave flags as they mark Jerusalem Day in Damascus Gate on their way to the Western Wall, East Jerusalem, May 24, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Thousands of Israeli Jews wave flags as they mark Jerusalem Day in Damascus Gate on their way to the Western Wall, East Jerusalem, May 24, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The concept of citizenship in Israel has always suffered from significant inadequacies, whether due to the Law of Return or to state policies that make acquiring citizenship an extremely difficult feat. The current situation, for example, allows the state to claim that Bedouin citizens in the Negev aren’t citizens at all and that their blue ID cards were issued to them by mistake, even if they and their tribe were here long before the establishment of the state. Moreover, the situation allows the state to convince its High Court of Justice to uphold, time and time again, a law that restricts Palestinian spouses on both sides of the Green Line from family reunification.

[tmwinpost]

The same goes for foreign workers and asylum seekers — they are good for doing work that Israelis aren’t willing to do, yet we must prevent them from obtaining citizenship at all costs, while denying them human rights. Furthermore, the state has thus far succeeded at convincing the High Court that there is no such thing as an “Israeli nation.”

Analyzing the current state of Israeli citizenship is no less problematic. Citizenship, after all, is not a formal issue limited to identification cards and papers. There are various layers of Israeli citizenship: one for Jews and one for Arabs; one for veteran citizens and one for immigrants; one for those who live in the center of the country and one for those in the periphery; those who are rich and others who are not. Arab citizens in Israel will justifiably claim that the principle of equality — a foundational principle in any democracy — does not apply to them in many aspects of life, thus infringing upon their rights.

In fact, “equality” does not appear in legislation, nor in any of Israel’s basic laws; it exists only in a number of landmark High Court rulings. Moreover, discrimination against Arabs and other groups exists under the guise of bypassing citizenship through national institutions that privilege Jewish citizens. Even the Law of Return gives preference to a Jewish person living abroad over the Arab in Israel.

Palestinian citizens take part in a general strike in solidarity with Palestinians in Jerusalem, West Bank and Gaza, in the northern town of Sakhnin, on October 13, 2015. (photo: Omar Sameer)

Palestinian citizens take part in a general strike in solidarity with Palestinians in Jerusalem, West Bank and Gaza, in the northern town of Sakhnin, on October 13, 2015. (photo: Omar Sameer)

If we look at the concept of fundamental citizenship as it pertains to the allocation of resources — material, symbolic, and spatial — we will understand the depth of the inequality that Arab citizens suffer. The indigenous population, which makes up approximately 20 percent of Israel’s citizens, lives and exists on three percent of Israeli land. Every Arab community has lost approximately seven percent of the land owned by its residents before the Nakba in 1948, through land expropriations for “the benefit of the public,” enshrined in laws and regulations passed for this very purpose.

The state has managed to build 700 new towns since its founding, yet not a single Arab town has been built. Israel’s Arab population has for years been suffering from a lack of infrastructure development, services, and budgets. A new law would allow the demolition of Arab homes while restricting the authority of the courts to interfere. Israel is defined as a Jewish country subject to continual Judaization, in which the Arab is viewed as a nuisance, an invader, even a foreigner. The Arab citizen is entirely excluded from the symbols of the state, even though he/she is used as a fig leaf in its ceremonies, or as a way of legitimizing the state in the eyes of its victims.

Not only Arabs

The political space is an additional realm in which we can analyze the essence of citizenship vis-a-vis Arab citizens. Arabs have always been excluded from decision-making positions. In politics and in the economy, they have been dependent on Israeli Jews — consumers of politics, rather than producers.

This trend has only worsened under the formal policies of Israel’s right-wing government over the past decade. The ethnic democracy creates at least two kinds of citizenships: that of the preferred ethnic group and that of those who do not belong to it. But that does not end with Israel’s Arab citizens. The cheapening of citizenship threatens all those who oppose the government’s policies, even if they make up the bread and butter of the country’s preferred ethnic group.

Education Minister Naftali Bennett, MK David Bitan, Culture Minister Miri Regev and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attend a Knesset plenum session, December 5, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Education Minister Naftali Bennett, MK David Bitan, Culture Minister Miri Regev and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attend a Knesset plenum session, December 5, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

It is far easier today to torpedo basic political activities through divide and conquer tactics, delegitimization, and deeming people anti-Israeli traitors. That was done to Breaking the Silence and other civil society organizations who deal with human rights. The attacks on cultural institutions who are unwilling to give up on the role of art — to critique the powers that be and bring forward the voice of the silenced, to speak out against the regime and corruption — is a testament to the attempt to silence artistic freedom of expression.

Death to the citizen, long live the regime

Slowly but surely, Israeli citizenship is diminishing in the face of the Right’s crusade. Citizenship has been damaged by a regime that is attempting to draw its boundaries according to a specific ideology. And all those who stray from that ideology or oppose it will have their rights compromised. What is the significance of restricting the right of Israeli citizens from demonstrating in front of the attorney general’s house if not an attempt to clamp down on political rights that are part and parcel of our civic participation?

After decades of “ethnic citizenship,” it seems that Israel is headed toward “ideological citizenship.” In totalitarian Communist regimes of the past, this type of citizenship was characterized by doing away with society for the benefit of the state, and the state for the benefit of the party. Thus, citizenship is wholly negated for the purpose of praising the regime and its symbols.

Tell me that this is far from happening in Israel for some reason or another, and I’ll tell you: no other situation can arise from the right’s policies — only ideological citizenship, in which the regime will live and the citizen will perish. The nation-state law will only be the first constitutional step toward this kind of citizenship. Because all blind nationalism that sanctifies itself will immediately oppress all those who dare call it into question, especially from within. Jews have already been in this situation — as victims.

Marzuq Al-Halabi is a jurist, journalist, author. He writes regularly for Al-Hayat. This post was originally published in Hebrew on Local Call.

How can women ‘wage peace’ without talking about occupation?

Last week’s rally organized by ‘Women Wage Peace,’ may have looked momentous, yet it ignored 50 years of military occupation, while recycling the same old tropes about the role of women in violent conflicts.

Women from the 'Women Wage Peace' movement take part at the final part of the peace journey in Jerusalem, October 8, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Women from the ‘Women Wage Peace’ movement take part at the final part of the peace journey in Jerusalem, October 8, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

I arrived early at the rally organized by “Women Wage Peace,” in Jerusalem’s Independence Park last week with many reservations. It was the culmination of a two-week “Journey to Peace,” in which thousands of Israeli and Palestinian women marched through Israel and the West Bank to demand a peaceful resolution to the conflict. I had been following the group since it was formed after the last Gaza war in the summer of 2014. On the one hand, a mass movement of women in support of peace is a welcome change. On the other hand, what are they actually saying? And even more importantly: what are they not saying? How can it be that the word occupation is entirely absent from a group that aims to end the conflict?

[tmwinpost]

I came early, deciding to sit in a cafe along the route of the march to the rally. After a few minutes, two women dressed in white and speaking in Arabic sat next to me. I asked if they were from the march, they said yes. After a brief conversation, I asked one of the women, a Palestinian-Israeli from Jaffa, if she isn’t bothered by the fact that Women Wage Peace never even hint at the word “occupation.”

“This was the decision that was made,” she responded evasively. When I asked once more whether or not it bothers her, she said, “Of course it bothers me. It bothers me as a woman, as a Palestinian, as an Israeli, but this is what they decided. That we must speak about the future, we’ve already spoken plenty about the past.” But the occupation is not the past, I insist. It is very much the present. “You’re right, but what can we do? Keep sitting at home? We need to do something to change reality.”

Our conversation was cut off by the march, which suddenly grew very close to us. We pay and hurry outside. The sight was enthralling: thousands of women, and men, dressed in all white, marching while singing songs of peace in central Jerusalem. This was, of course, not a common sight. There were so many people that passersby just gaped; the usual right-wing chants well known from other protests — generally far smaller, especially in Jerusalem, were hardly hear. As a Jerusalemite, it was strange and exciting to be part of it all.

Israeli and Palestinian women from ‘Women Wage Peace’ march near the Dead Sea in the West Bank to demand that their leaders do more for peace, October 8, 2017. (Flash90)

Israeli and Palestinian women from ‘Women Wage Peace’ march near the Dead Sea in the West Bank to demand that their leaders do more for peace, October 8, 2017. (Flash90)

Wombs in the service of peace

With utmost ease, an estimated 30,000 women — the vast majority of them Jewish — into the park, waiting for the rally to begin. After the crowd amassed, the rally began with a trilingual (in English, Arabic, and Hebrew) singing of Leonard Cohen’s classic “Hallelujah,” led by Yael Deckelbaum and the Prayers of Mothers ensemble. Very quickly I learned that “mothers” is the key word here. Nearly every woman who spoke during the rally, aside from the younger ones, spoke about motherhood. Adi Altschuler, an educational entrepreneur, used the mantra “heart to heart, womb to womb,” causing me to break out into an uneasy sweat in the Jerusalem cold. We live in a country where women’s wombs are deployed by the regime as an incubator for future soldiers (Altschuler, who gave birth to her first child recently, also spoke about being a mother to a future soldier), while on the other hand our wombs are deployed for the sake of speaking about our place as mothers who want peace. This as opposed to, say, women who simply demand justice. Equating womanhood and motherhood was, to put it mildly, enraging.

Another motto that was bandied about was kulan, all women. The movement, it turns out, includes all women — Jews and Palestinians, religious and secular, Mizrahim and Ashkenazim, residents of central Israel and the periphery, LGBTQs, right wingers, left wingers, centrists, immigrants and veterans. All women including the settler who lives, according to her, in “beautiful and bleeding Samaria.” Yes, even she wants peace. But how does she see us achieving that peace? “When tens of thousands of women will be able to talk about the difficult things, our leadership won’t be able to ignore us.” But what are those difficult things we must talk about? Perhaps the defiant and growing presence of settlements, like the one she lives in, which prevent any chance of establishing a Palestinian state? No. So perhaps the occupation and the checkpoints she passes through on the way home? Human rights violations? War crimes? No. The settler from Samaria can so easily stand on stage and speak about the need “to talk about the difficult things,” because she knows they won’t actually be talked about. Otherwise, perhaps, she wouldn’t be able to take part in the movement from the get go.

That pesky word

In fact, the movement’s demands are so unclear that even Netanyahu could join it. Their demands can be summed up as such: peace negotiations that include women. And that’s it. But what will these women say when they sit around the negotiating table? What are their demands? Their red lines? It’s a mystery. Even the Palestinian speaker — the only one who came from the occupied territories, from Hebron, a city that lives under apartheid — did not mention the word occupation even once. She did not even speak in Arabic, for God’s sake, but rather in English. Not a word about the checkpoints or the hardship she endured just to get a permit form the Israeli army to enter Israel. Occupation? Forget it. We are talking about the conflict — a much nicer, more symmetrical word than occupation. Almost ironically, the only time the word occupation was used onstage was by the only man who spoke, former MK Shakib Shnaan, whose son Kamil was killed in the bloody attack on the Temple Mount three months ago. Perhaps the fact that he is a man allows him to speak this way. Us women need to speak about the womb, wear white, and hope for peace. How do we achieve peace? Ask the men.

Israeli soldiers arrest a Palestinian man during a raid on the West Bank city of Hebron, September 20, 2017. (Wisam Hashlamoun/Flash90)

Israeli soldiers arrest a Palestinian man during a raid on the West Bank city of Hebron, September 20, 2017. (Wisam Hashlamoun/Flash90)

I write these words with a great deal of sadness. In the political reality of the last few decades, there is nothing trivial about the fact that a few dozen of thousands women demand to change that reality and are willing to march in the streets of every town and city in order to gain more supporters. The fact that this is a women’s initiative gives it even greater potential. And yes, there is such a thing as women-led politics, and it can be revolutionary and powerful — a politics that first and foremost challenges existing hierarchies and social structures.

However, the women-led politics I saw in Jerusalem was the complete opposite of that — the kind that only strengthens those power structures. A politics in which being a woman means wearing white, singing and dancing. It means being a mother and a womb, to sit at home and take care of our soldier sons. It means gently asking men to make peace already. Instead of a woman’s revolution, we got women who are demanding change but cannot for the life of them decide what kind of change they want to see. Women who only entrench the view that politics is a dirty word that women shouldn’t bother with — that it’s reserved for men alone.

No symmetry

Israeli and Palestinian women from ‘Women Wage Peace’ march near the Dead Sea in the West Bank to demand that their leaders do more for peace, October 8, 2017. (Flash90)

Israeli and Palestinian women from ‘Women Wage Peace’ march near the Dead Sea in the West Bank to demand that their leaders do more for peace, October 8, 2017. (Flash90)

There is something simplistic, even childish, about speaking of “negotiations” and demanding a “peace agreement” a quarter century after the failure of the Oslo Accords. Negotiations? On the contrary: Israel would love to enter into another endless round of talks that will stave off inter nation pressure and allow it to continue dispossessing, just as it did during all previous rounds of negotiations. The women seek to jump into this vacuum, filling it with lots of emotional words and a desperate attempt to create some semblance of symmetry between Israelis and Palestinians.

As thousands of women sang songs of peace and sisterhood in Jerusalem, a rocket was fired from Gaza at Israel, to which Israel responded by attacking the Strip. Can we even begin to grapple with this reality without, for example, speaking about the siege? Without using the word occupation?

Yes, speaking about the occupation is not popular, and it may even drastically decrease the number of participants in the next march. But perhaps this is when we should listen to the words of the settler from Samaria: until we are unable to speak about the difficult things, it is doubtful whether we will be able to change anything in the real world. Even if we all wear white and talk about our wombs — in Hebrew, Arabic, and English.

This post was first published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.

Thousands of Israeli, Palestinian women ‘wage peace’ in the desert

The march by Israeli and Palestinian women, demanding that both peoples’ leaders do more for peace, was set to culminate with a protest outside Netanyahu’s residence.

By +972 Magazine Staff

Israeli and Palestinian women from ‘Women Wage Peace’ march near the Dead Sea in the West Bank to demand that their leaders do more for peace, October 8, 2017. (Flash90)

Israeli and Palestinian women from ‘Women Wage Peace’ march near the Dead Sea in the West Bank to demand that their leaders do more for peace, October 8, 2017. (Flash90)

Thousands of Israeli and Palestinian women marched through the West Bank along the Dead Sea on Sunday, part of more than two weeks of a “Journey to Peace” by an organization called Women Wage Peace.

The march, which was held under the banner, “We’re not stopping without an agreement,” was meant to culminate with a protest outside the Israeli Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem later Sunday evening.

Israeli and Palestinian women from ‘Women Wage Peace’ march near the Dead Sea in the West Bank to demand that their leaders do more for peace, October 8, 2017. (Flash90)

Israeli and Palestinian women from ‘Women Wage Peace’ march near the Dead Sea in the West Bank to demand that their leaders do more for peace, October 8, 2017. (Flash90)

Israeli and Palestinian women from ‘Women Wage Peace’ march near the Dead Sea in the West Bank to demand that their leaders do more for peace, October 8, 2017. (Flash90)

Israeli and Palestinian women from ‘Women Wage Peace’ march near the Dead Sea in the West Bank to demand that their leaders do more for peace, October 8, 2017. (Flash90)

Smaller events have been taking place throughout Israel and Palestine for the past two weeks.

Last year a similar march was held in the same area near Jericho. In 2015, Women Wage Peace fasted (in shifts) outside the Israeli Prime Minister’s Residence for 50 days, to mark one year since the 2014 Gaza war.

Israeli and Palestinian women from ‘Women Wage Peace’ march near the Dead Sea in the West Bank to demand that their leaders do more for peace, October 8, 2017. (Flash90)

Israeli and Palestinian women from ‘Women Wage Peace’ march near the Dead Sea in the West Bank to demand that their leaders do more for peace, October 8, 2017. (Flash90)

Israeli and Palestinian women from ‘Women Wage Peace’ march near the Dead Sea in the West Bank to demand that their leaders do more for peace, October 8, 2017. (Flash90)

Israeli and Palestinian women from ‘Women Wage Peace’ march near the Dead Sea in the West Bank to demand that their leaders do more for peace, October 8, 2017. (Flash90)

Chinese Are Questioning the Government’s Response to Pyongyang’s Nuclear Tests

A cartoon by @badiucao published on September 6, 2017, titled #NorthKoreaNukes: Dictators Are Dictators’ Own Nightmare.

Chinese political cartoonist Badiucao’s latest work, “Dictators Are Dictators’ Own Nightmares,” perhaps best captures public sentiment in China on North Korea’s recent aggressive military moves.

The cartoon shows a white-gloved Kim Jong-un slapping his adversary, US President Donald Trump, and his ally, Chinese President Xi Jinping, in exactly the same manner — one that would probably be embarrassing for a leader who tries to project an image of strength.

It was published after Pyongyang fired a missile on August 28 that flew over Japan’s Hokkaido island and landed in the sea after travelling for 1,700 miles – a distance that can reach major cities in northern and eastern China, including Beijing and Shanghai. Then a week later conducted a nuclear test and claimed that it was an advanced hydrogen bomb designed for long-range missiles.

The nuclear blast yield of the latest hydrogen bomb test, according to Norwegian Seismic Array’s estimation, is up to 120 kilotons, which is the strongest of North Korea’s six nuclear tests and more powerful than the two nuclear bombs dropped on Japan’s Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the US during World War II.

Pyongyang’s actions followed a series of chest-thumping statements from Trump, and happened at a time when Xi was in the international spotlight hosting the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) summit in Xiamen, a port city in southeastern China.

Diplomatic analysts have theorized that the timing of the tests were meant to cause “maximum embarrassment” for Xi as a means to put pressure on him, in the hopes that he influences the US towards opening up meaningful negotiations with Kim Jong-un.

The matter certainly seems to have touched a nerve in China. Beijing’s official response was brief and moderate, and authorities began to censor key terms such as “hydrogen bomb” on Chinese social media.

But netizens are still finding ways to cynically comment on China’s response and debate about what North Korea’s actions mean for their own country.

On September 3, Chinese Communist Party mouthpiece the Global Times urged people to stay calm in their editorial, arguing that China should stand firm on the possible radiation from North Korea’s tests polluting northeast China, but implying that China should recognize North Korea as a defacto nuclear power:

朝鲜最新核试爆和最近的一系列中远程导弹试验显示,平壤软硬不吃,它决心获得中远程核打击能力,不会向任何外来压力屈服,朝核问题几近成为死结。

中国需面对这一复杂态势保持高度冷静,从中国的国家利益出发采取措施,最大限度地减轻中国社会从中面临的风险。

中国东北的安全是第一位的,我们需要通过各种管道明确告诉平壤,它的核试验不能污染中国东北。中国的战略安全与环境安全是中国对其采取克制行动的底线。

North Korea’s latest round of nuclear tests and missile launches indicated that Pyongyang won’t accept neither hard-handed nor soft-handed negotiations. It is determined to equip the country with mid-range to far-range nuclear missile power and won’t submit to any pressure from outside. The whole situation is in a deadlock.

China needs to be cool in this highly complicated situation. Decisions should be based on national interest — reducing the risk to Chinese society.

The security of northeast China is most important. We need to tell Pyongyang that its nuclear tests cannot pollute the Dongbei region. The strategic and environmental security is the baseline for Beijing’s restraint.

Readers responded critically:

谴责就行

All we have to do is condemn [Pyongyang].

不用理它,继续做我们的中国梦

Let it be. Let’s continue our China dream.

看完了 这文章重点就是 不能被拖下水 不能冲锋陷阵 前提是东北安全 但是问题来了 你咋保证东北安全……

The main point of the editorial is: don’t be dragged into troubled water, don’t fight. The premise is Dongbei’s security, but if there is no way to ensure Dongbei’s security when the problem of [radiation] arises.

Many discussions about the hydrogen bomb test happened underneath a post from the China Meteorological Administration on the popular social media platform Weibo that urged radiation monitoring stations in northeast China, also known as Dongbei, to keep a close eye on radiation levels.

The post, published on September 4, did not mention anything about North Korea nor the hydrogen bomb test. Netizens did the same, discussing the crisis without mentioning any keyword to avoid censorship:

在重大的历史节点上,大家都以为这是个平常的午后。

In a critical historical moment, everyone thinks it is just an ordinary day.

政府说没事,那就没事,继续跳舞,嗨起来

The government says it is okay, let’s continue our dance, come on, get up!

消除污染最有效的办法:封消息,抓人,然后组织民众看战狼

The most effective way to clean nuclear pollution is to block information, arrest people and organize people to watch [the patriotic movie] Wolf Warriors.

完全看不懂热评,首先,这已经是第六次核试验了,而且第六次也已经是48小时之前的事了,那些看过新闻开始觉得自己浑身疼的能不能不带节奏?还有那些说东北怎么样跟你无关的,你可能不在东北,一辈子也没去过东北,但你绝对吃过东北的食物,如果东北被污染,全中国就得玩完,14亿人口的口粮都没了。

I don’t understand why people are making such cynical remarks. This is the sixth nuclear test, and the latest one happened 48 hours ago. But the news hadn’t addressed people’s concern. The comments saying that what happened in northeast China has nothing to do with them [aren’t accurate]. Perhaps you are not in Dongbei, or you’ve never been to Dongbei and never eaten Dongbei’s cuisine. But if Dongbei is polluted, China will be too, as the rice that feeds 1.4 billion people will not be edible.

这世界在变好。但没有想象中那么好。 这世界在变坏,远比你想象中坏。

The world is getting better, but not as good as imagined. The world is getting worse, but far worse than imagined.

可是山东这边真的没有什么很强烈的消息和通知告诉市民要注意规避户外什么的啊,如果不是朋友翻墙看到的新闻告诉我我根本不知道已经严重到这个地步。所以政府到底要干什么呢,自欺欺人很有意思吗?

No information or notice in Shandong [province, across the Yellow Sea from North Korea] telling people what they should be aware of. If my friend did not climb over the [Great Fire]wall and tell me the news, I would have no idea of the severity of the situation. What is the government doing? Why is it burying its head in the sand?

发这个有用吗?具体指数是多少?会不会有危险?低剂量有害核辐射人体在不知觉的情况下可能就受伤了。维稳就能拿人命抵?

This alert is useless. Exactly what is the level of radiation? Has it reached a dangerous level? Radiation even at a low level can be harmful to the human body. Maintaining [social] stability is more important than human life?

Written by Oiwan Lam · comments (0)
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