Americans Are Clueless About The ‘March Of Return’

Americans Should Know More About The ‘March Of Return’

Susan M. Akram

Protestors march toward the Gaza Strip’s border with Israel, marking first anniversary of Gaza border protests east of Gaza City, Saturday, March 30, 2019. (Adel Hana/AP)

While Israeli politics, including the recent election between Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz, was covered widely by the U.S. news media, another event central to peace and justice in the region was taking place a stone’s throw from Tel Aviv: the March of Return.

Gazan journalist and poet Ahmed Abu Artema inspired the protest movement in January 2018, when he pondered, on Facebook, about what might happen if Gazans marched peacefully to the Israeli border fence with the keys to their homes and Palestinian flags in hand, to demand an end to the Israeli blockade. He was surprised at the response.

Thousands of Gazans marched in what became weekly Friday protests, and the “Great March of Return and Breaking of the Siege” was born. Gazans of all ages, all walks of life and all political factions joined in. Speaking at Harvard Law School in February, Abu Artema reflected on the high cost of the March and Palestinians’ determination to continue it by saying: “We have no choice.”

I was a senior Fulbright fellow in Jerusalem, taught at Al Quds University, lectured at Birzeit University and know people, including former students, human rights academics and colleagues in Gaza. Those of us with friends and close connections in Gaza watch and worry about their fate, with news of deaths and injuries every day.

The U.S. has given and continues to give more military and financial assistance to Israel than any other country in the world. As journalist Peter Beinart wrote in Jewish Forward, “What distinguishes American aid to Israel is precisely its exemption from the rules and limitations that govern assistance to other nations …” such as the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, which prohibits U.S. aid to countries that engage in “gross violations of internationally recognized human rights.”

The Trump administration’s current budget proposal is for 61% of U.S. foreign military financing to go to Israel. The United Nations, human rights experts and international human rights organizations have said that Israel has been carrying out gross violations of human rights against demonstrators and the civilian population in Gaza. For any other country, such a finding would likely require immediate termination of all U.S. aid.

Gazans of all ages, all walks of life and all political factions joined in.

Why are thousands of people demonstrating? The majority of Gazans, 75%, are refugees or descendants of the 750,000 Palestinian refugees expelled from the land in 1948, by the newly declared state of Israel. Since the early 1990s, following the first Intifada and the first Gulf War, Israel has imposed increasing restrictions on the lives of Gaza’s people, including on their freedom of movement and their ability to obtain basic goods and services.

In June 2007, following the elections that brought Hamas to power, Israel imposed a  blockade on the 2 million people in Gaza, containing them in a small strip of land 40 km long with no means of access to the outside world, except as Israel permits. As a result, Gaza’s unemployment rate is 52%, with two-thirds of young people unemployed. Sixty-eight percent of the population is food insecure and dependent on international aid.

The Israeli government claims its restrictions are based on security concerns, and that it has no obligation to permit entry and egress from Gaza for any but exceptional humanitarian reasons. The Netanyahu government says the siege is intended to stop weapons from entering Israel from Gaza. It’s a position that has been severely criticized and refuted by the international human rights community, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

Those of us with close connections and access to authoritative and first-hand reports from people on the ground are also keenly aware of the propaganda that distorts what Americans learn about the facts about the situation in Gaza; separating fact from fiction is not easy. However, there is sufficient reporting from eyewitnesses and experts from the United Nations to draw the conclusions I draw here.

The March of Return and Israel’s response to it should engender far more attention and publicity in the U.S. than it has thus far …

Israel’s response to the March of Return is to use overwhelming force against civilians. One casualty was Razan Najar, a 20-year-old member of the Palestinian Medical Relief Society. She was shot in the chest by an Israeli sniper while wearing her white paramedic coat standing about 100 meters from the border fence. She died at the hospital. Her mother delivered an anguished call to continue the March: “I see my daughter Razan in the eyes of every young Palestinian.” In a single day, on May 14, 2018, the Israeli Defense Forces killed six children. 

During this same time period, according to the U.N. Special Commission of Inquiry (COI), there were no civilian deaths or injuries of Israelis, within Israel, due to the Gazan demonstrations. The COI Report found that four Israeli soldiers were injured as a result of the demonstrations, but none died. It further found that since the marchers in Gaza are civilian demonstrators, engaging in neither combat nor military operations, the IDF’s use of live ammunition against them are war crimes.

Meanwhile, the U.N. Office of Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs reported that 23,313 Palestinian demonstrators were injured in 2018 by Israeli Defense Forces, including by tear gas inhalation and canisters. These statistics were included in COI’s findings.

The March of Return and Israel’s response to it should engender more attention and publicity in the U.S. than it has thus far, particularly in light of the Trump administration’s request for more aid to Israel. As Abu Artema wrote in an essay published by Al Jazeera, “The Great March of Return is the response of a proud nation to decades of occupation, aggression and theft. By taking this peaceful stand, we are announcing to the world that despite Israel’s attempts to wipe us out, we are still standing strong and united.”

Americans must take heed and challenge the unrestricted use of our tax dollars that is funding violations of Gazans’ freedom, and their right to march for their lives and dignity.

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Bolton will drag US into a war with Iran

Despite Trump’s stance, Bolton amps up accusations of Iran sabotage, desire for nuclear weapons

WASHINGTON – Two days after President Donald Trump tried to tamp down U.S. tensions with Iran, his national security adviser, John Bolton, dialed the administration’s hawkish rhetoric back up.

Wednesday, Bolton essentially accused Iran of seeking nuclear weapons and said the regime was behind the alleged sabotage of four oil tankers off the coast of the United Arab Emirates.

Bolton’s remarks came during a visit to the UAE, during which he said the oil tanker attacks were “almost certainly (conducted) by Iran.” He did not offer specific evidence to support that claim. Bolton said there was “no reason” for Iran to back out of its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers unless it planned to seek nuclear weapons.

“These kinds of action risk a very strong response from the United States,” said Bolton, a longtime foreign policy hard-liner.

Bolton’s remarks stood in stark contrast to Trump’s comments Monday during the president’s visit to Japan.

“We’re not looking for regime change. I want to make that clear,” Trump said during a joint news conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. “We’re looking for no nuclear weapons.”

Trump downplayed Bolton’s assessment of another global hot spot: North Korea. Bolton had said North Korea’s recent missile tests violated United Nations resolutions.

“There is no doubt about that,” Bolton said before Trump’s news conference with Abe.

“All I know is there have been no nuclear tests,” Trump said, “no ballistic missiles going out, no long-range missiles going out, and I think that someday we’ll have a deal.” Trump said he was in “no rush.” He praised North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, calling him a “smart man” who might have launched the missiles this month to “get attention.”

Bolton’s role exaggerated, experts contend

The apparent disconnect has raised questions across the globe about Trump’s foreign policy. Some fear Bolton is driving Trump into a perilous military confrontation with Iran, America’s principal foe in the Middle East.

National security experts inside and outside the White House said Bolton’s role has been exaggerated – and his influence on the president has been overstated, particularly when it comes to the prospect of a costly war with Iran.

Trump has made it clear he doesn’t like the idea and is generally averse to foreign military entanglements.

Asked this month if his administration is marching toward war with Iran, Trump offered a three-word response: “I hope not.”

Asked if US is going to war with Iran, President Donald Trump responds: ‘I hope not’

Bolton is simply playing his part in a geopolitical dance designed to send a hard-line message to the Iranian regime, said Mark Dubowitz,  chief executive of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a Washington-based foreign policy research institute that supports strong pressure on Iran.

“Bolton in many ways is from central casting if you were looking for a consummate hawk,” said Dubowitz, who has advised the Trump administration and previous presidents on Iran policy. “It’s all useful from the psyops perspective.”

Dubowitz said the White House deliberately trumpeted its decision to send B-52 bombers and other military forces to Iran, purposefully said that move was in response to threats from Iran and intentionally used Bolton as a key messenger.

“I think it’s actually a well-orchestrated campaign that has a public relations piece, a military positioning piece (and) obviously the economic financial piece” of escalating sanctions, Dubowitz said. Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo are the perfect “bad cops,” he said, to make Iran – and the rest of the world – nervous about Trump’s intentions.

“Trump can go from fire and fury to writing love letters, so he has a certain amount of diplomatic flexibility,” he said. “One minute he can be as bellicose as Bolton, and the next he can shout, ‘Hey, hi there. Do you want to talk.’ “

That’s what Trump seemed to be doing this month, when he met with the president of the Swiss government, which has mediated between Iran and the United States.

“I’m sure that Iran will want to talk soon,” Trump tweeted Wednesday in a pair of messages. The president used social media to downplay reports of divisions within the administration over Iran.

“There is no infighting whatsoever,” Trump said. “Different opinions are expressed and I make a decisive and final decision – it is a very simple process.”

Concern in Congress over statements

Lawmakers are not reassured.

“This president has surrounded himself with people – Pompeo and Bolton in particular – who believe that getting tough on a military basis with Iran is in our best interest. I do not,” said Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, the chamber’s No. 2 Democratic leader.

Durbin and other lawmakers said Bolton’s statements on Iran and his trumpeting of questionable intelligence in the lead-up to the Iraq War in 2003 are deeply concerning.

Before Bolton joined the Trump administration, he advocated for regime change in Iran. He played a key role in pushing for the U.S. invasion of Iraq during George W. Bush’s administration, which relied on faulty intelligence about Saddam Hussein’s chemical and nuclear weapons program.

Durbin said the situation with Iran has become so tense and the rhetoric so hot that even if Trump has no desire for war, he may stumble into it.

He noted that the Houthi rebels, who are backed by Iran and at war with Saudi Arabia in Yemen, could launch an attack that might inadvertently kill an American service member.

“I fear … we’re going to have a Gulf of Tonkin moment, where there is some American or serviceman who is going to be injured or killed and people are going to be calling for retribution,” Durbin said.

Bolton is one of many advisers Trump speaks to about Iran and other foreign policy issues, said current and former officials. He hears a lot of different views and often throws out ideas of his own – sometimes ideas he doesn’t really plan to pursue.

Throughout his presidency, Trump’s sounding boards have ranged from super hawks such as Bolton to cautious types such as Jim Mattis, who was defense secretary. From anti-China tariff warriors such as Peter Navarro to more market-oriented types such as Larry Kudlow.

At some point – no one else knows how or when – Trump suddenly makes a decision. He often announces things before informing staff members, sometimes by tweet and sometimes by statements to inquiring reporters.

“It’s not exactly chaos,” one former staff member said. “But it’s not orderly.”

Garrett Marquis, a spokesman for the National Security Council, said Bolton and the president are on the same page.

“Working closely with President Trump’s national security team, Ambassador Bolton continues to coordinate the president’s guidance to protect American personnel and interests from Iranian threats abroad,” he said.

Trump and his advisers chafe at claims that Bolton is some kind of “puppet master” leading Trump into war. Having campaigned against “stupid wars” in Iraq and Afghanistan, Trump is highly unlikely to order military action against Iran, administration officials said, despite the rising beat of war drums from Bolton and others.

Talk of war with Iran is “way ahead of where things are” within the administration, particularly with Trump, one official said.

The exception would be if Iran attacked U.S. personnel in the Middle East, officials said

Trump often sticks with his pre-existing views, and his default position in foreign policy tends to be against intervention. He has pushed to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan and Syria, over the objections of military advisers. Mattis resigned in part over Trump’s plan – later modified – to withdraw troops from Syria.

For all his criticism of the George W. Bush administration’s actions in Iraq and Afghanistan, Trump has as his national security adviser a major proponent of those interventions.

Durbin said he fears he’s watching a replay of the debate for the Iraq War.

“The weapons of mass destruction turned out to be a fiction, and we were just stampeding into this invasion at that time,” he said. “I see it again, all over again.”

History Expects the Sixth Seal in NYC (Revelation 6:12)

Based on historical precedent, Armbruster says the New York City metro area is susceptible to an earthquake of at least a magnitude of 5.0 once a century.

According to the New York Daily News, Lynn Skyes, lead author of a recent study by seismologists at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory adds that a magnitude-6 quake hits the area about every 670 years, and magnitude-7 every 3,400 years.

A 5.2-magnitude quake shook New York City in 1737 and another of the same severity hit in 1884.

Tremors were felt from Maine to Virginia.

There are several fault lines in the metro area, including one along Manhattan’s 125th St. – which may have generated two small tremors in 1981 and may have been the source of the major 1737 earthquake, says Armbruster.

There’s another fault line on Dyckman St. and one in Dobbs Ferry in nearby Westchester County.

“The problem here comes from many subtle faults,” explained Skyes after the study was published.

He adds: “We now see there is earthquake activity on them. Each one is small, but when you add them up, they are probably more dangerous than we thought.”

“Considering population density and the condition of the region’s infrastructure and building stock, it is clear that even a moderate earthquake would have considerable consequences in terms of public safety and economic impact,” says the New York City Area Consortium for Earthquake Loss Mitigation on its website.

Armbruster says a 5.0-magnitude earthquake today likely would result in casualties and hundreds of millions of dollars in damage.

“I would expect some people to be killed,” he notes.

The scope and scale of damage would multiply exponentially with each additional tick on the Richter scale. (ANI)

Iranian Horn Attack’s Christianity

IRAN AGENTS STORM CHURCH, TEAR DOWN CROSS AT 100-YEAR-OLD CHRISTIAN PLACE OF WORSHIP

Iranian intelligence agents have shut down a church in the country’s northwestern city of Tabriz, storming the place of worship and tearing down a cross that stood on its conical spire.

The Christian Iranian rights group Article Eighteenhas said Iranian regime security officials charged into the 100-year-old church May 9, took down its cross, changed all the locks and ordered the church warden to leave.

According to the group, members of the Assyrian Christian community that worshipped at the Presbyterian church had been living in a state of fear after pastors from nearby churches were barred from visiting the Tabriz church, a National Heritage site, in the days after Christmas.

Those fears were realized earlier this month when agents from the Execution of Imam Khomeini’s Order (EIKO), a state owned holding company built on confiscated assets and under the direct control of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, descended on the church. As well as taking down the cross and threatening the custodian, the agents reportedly installed monitoring instruments.

While the church had been confiscated by the Iranian authorities in 2011, local worshippers had been permitted to continue using the building and carry out Assyrian language services. Article Eighteen’s Advocacy Director has said the confiscation and eventual destruction of Protestant churches in Iran has become a part of a noticeable strategy.

“In most cases the government has been unable to repurpose them, especially if they were listed. So they typically remain as empty buildings, often neglected, and turn into ruins before being demolished,” Mansour Borji explained.

The human rights group Amnesty International has decried the treatment of the Christian minority by the Iranian government. Under the constitution of the Islamic Republic, the country’s Assyrian and Armenian Christians are permitted freedom of worship. However, they are not allowed to hold services in Persian, as this could be interpreted as proselytizing, and converts face harsh sentences of between 10 and 15 years in prison.

Ahead of Christmas last year, Iran arrested more than 100 Christians during a week-long crackdown. Many of the 114 detained were converts, who were accused of spreading Christianity, The Telegraph reported.

Christian groups have said imposition of harsh economic sanctions on Iran under the administration of President Donald Trump has had the unintended consequence of worsening the plight of Iran’s Christians.

“There are many reports that this has contributed to the government’s ever-increasing dependence on hardline Islamic ayatollahs, who naturally see Christianity as a threat to their power,” said Jeff King, president of International Christian Concern. “For this reason, it’s not surprising that we’re seeing an increase in Christian persecution.”

Iran Helped by Oil Reserves

Iran To Withdraw Another One Billion Dollars From Reserve Fund

Radio Farda

Iran’s vice president announced Monday, May 27 that the government will withdraw another one billion dollars from the National Development Fund (NDF) to create “employment”.

Es’haq Jahangiri reiterated that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has approved the decision.

Iran deposits part of its oil income in NDF, to save money for future generations. However, as sanctions have reduced the country’s oil exports and crippled state finances, the government has dipped into the reserve fund to finance urgent needs.

In the past, Khamenei has ordered withdrawals from NDF on several occasions to pay for military expenditures, state broadcasting and other needs.

But recently he refused a request from President Hassan Rouhani to take money from the fund to pay for damages caused by devastating floods in March and April.

The charter of NDF says that part of the oil and gas income is to be saved as capital to produce profits and guarantee the share of future generations from Iran’s fossil fuel resources.

Iran’s current economic development plan prescribes saving 34 percent of oil and gas income, but as new U.S. sanctions hit Iran hard in the past year, Khamenei ordered to reduce that share to 20 percent in the current budget.

However, Iran’s oil exports have been reduced to less than a million barrels per day by U.S. sanctions and its oil export income cut proportionately.

Iran’s crude oil production, export, revenues (excluding gas condensate)

 

Iran’s crude oil production, export, revenues (excluding gas condensate)

Iranian parliament’s research center has forecast that in the current Iranian calendar year the national reserve fund will not grow, as little money will be added, and some withdrawals will be inevitable.

Iran struggled this year to come up with a budget, parts of which remain opaque. Jahangiri on Monday admitted that U.S. sanctions might lead to more budgetary pressures. Other officials have predicted oil income to be reduced by close to 70 percent.

Iran mainly depends on oil revenues, which constitute 33-40 percent of its publicly disclosed budget. Many believe that some military, security and intelligence needs are financed outside of the official budget. This includes expenditures to support proxy forces, such the Hezbollah and Houthis in Yemen.

In this year’s budget Iran had planned to use $30 billion from fossil fuel export revenues, of which $24 billion was supposed to finance the budget and the rest saved in the NDF. But with dwindling exports, it is doubtful that Iran can earn even the minimum oil income to support its budget.

The United States imposed sanctions on Iran’s oil exports in November but allowed some friendly countries to buy a limited amount for six months, which expired May 1, without renewal.

More Explosions Outside the Temple Walls (Revelation 11)

Incendiary balloon sparks blaze in Gaza border region

No reports of injury and damage to property; fire and rescue services say investigation finds flames were caused by airborne-incendiary

A fire that broke out Tuesday in an area close to the Gaza Strip was caused by an incendiary balloon, the Israel Fire and Rescue Services said in a statement Tuesday.

The brushfire was in the Eshkol Regional Council area. There were no reports of injury or damage to property.

“After an investigation, fire inspectors concluded that it was caused by an incendiary balloon,” the statement said.

Israel announced Saturday night that, as of Sunday, the fishing zone off the coast of the Gaza Strip will be expanded to 15 nautical miles (27.8 kilometers), four days after it was reduced to 10 nautical miles (18.5 kilometers) amid a rash of incendiary balloon attacks from the coastal Palestinian territory.

Since last March, incendiary balloons have caused fires which destroyed thousands of acres of farmland and nature reserves in southern Israel, in particular in the areas bordering Gaza.

Recent weeks have seen tensions in the Strip soar, following a massive two-day flare-up earlier this month between Israel and terror groups in the Palestinian enclave.

According to Israel’s Channel 12 news, the agreement that ended that flare-up included a Hamas obligation to halt violent incidents along the border fence, maintaining a buffer zone 300 meters from the border, an end to the launching of incendiary balloons at Israeli communities and nighttime clashes between Gazans and Israeli security forces, and a stop to flotillas trying to break through the maritime border between Gaza and Israel.

In return, Israel reportedly agreed to expand the fishing zone, enable the United Nations cash-for-work programs, allow medicine and other civil aid to enter the Strip, and open negotiations on matters relating to electricity, crossings, healthcare and funds.

Since March 30, 2018, Palestinians in Gaza have participated in regular protests along the border, demanding Israel lift its restrictions on the movement of people and goods into and out of the coastal enclave and calling for the return of Palestinian refugees and their descendants to lands that are now part of the Jewish state.