Saturday, June 30, 2018

Press gives Israel pretext to attack Gaza

Journalists in Britain and Ireland often refer to the summer months as the “silly season.” Little of consequence is happening, the media apparently decide, so we can treat trivia as newsworthy.

I’m not sure if hot weather is to blame but much recent coverage of Gaza is quite silly. Perspective has been discarded as kites and balloons have been depicted as major threats.

These are “weapons that are designed to kill,” according to an Israeli military spokesperson quoted in a Financial Times feature. Fixated on these high-flying incendiary devices, the feature omitted a pertinent fact: nobody has actually been killed by them.

Silly reporting of this nature serves Israel well. An aggressive state that has committed a number of massacres this year alone is cast as a victim.

Intentionally or not, the press is offering pretexts for Israel to launch another major offensive against Gaza. Any such attack would then be presented as an act of retaliation – or even of self-defense.

While every form of Palestinian resistance gets maligned, Israel’s weapons industry is treated with the greatest imaginable respect.

Dozens of Israeli firms took part in a Paris fair earlier this month. Eurosatory – as the event is called – was jointly organized by France’s defense ministry and arms lobby.


Some journalists helped out Israel’s exhibitors in Paris by suggesting that their new weapons could be used in Gaza.

Ynet, an Israeli website, claimed that a new drone on display at Eurosatory had been developed “to counter the threat posed by incendiary kites.”

Although the drone is named Firefly, it is impossible to believe that it suddenly materialized following the very recent discovery that the kite is Israel’s most fearsome adversary. Rafael, the Israeli firm behind the Firefly, did not mention kites or balloons in an announcement about its booth at Eurosatory.

Rather, it stated that the drone had been “designed for urban area warfare,” in which the “enemy is behind cover.” How can kites or balloons be considered as “behind cover” if they are flying in a clear blue sky?

Fox News is similarly known to hype up Israel’s weapons.

A puff piece on Fox’s website about a new Israeli armored vehicle – the Mantis – celebrated its aesthetic appeal. The Mantis looks like it has been built of Lego and has been described as “part aircraft cockpit and part sports car” and as a “space buggy,” Fox reports.

Fashion accessories

Weapons are occasionally portrayed almost as fashion accessories. Army Recognition, an outlet specializing in the arms trade, tells its readers that new Israeli guns are available in four shades, including “flat dark earth” and “sniper gray.”

The maker of these guns, Israel Weapon Industries, supplied rifles used to kill and maim unarmed protesters in Gaza over the past few months. But that fact is nowhere to be found in the aforementioned Army Recognition story.

The color of the weapons has been deemed more significant than the crimes from which their manufacturers seek to profit.

Reporters who fetishize Israeli weapons are failing – perhaps deliberately – to investigate what is really going on. Among the issues that should be probed are Israeli boasts that its weapons are “battle-tested” or “combat proven” – euphemisms for how they have been used to kill and wound Palestinians.

Shir Hever’s latest book The Privatization of Israeli Security sheds light on this sordid reality. Hever demonstrates how Israel has become increasingly reliant on selling its tools of oppression abroad.

A phenomenal 80 percent of all weapons produced by Israel are exported, according to data cited by Hever, a left-wing economist. Relative to population size, Israel is the world’s largest vendor of arms.

Israel’s arms sales rose markedly following Operation Cast Lead, its attack on Gaza in late 2008 and early 2009.

Desmond Travers, a retired Irish colonel, was part of a United Nations team which conducted an inquiry into that offensive. He argues that the Israeli arms industry is cynically exploiting the use of its products against Palestinians for marketing purposes.

“Any company known to have tested weapons on non-combatants should be precluded from exhibiting those weapons in open, democratic countries,” Travers told me.

Governments that buy from Israel’s war industry are allowing Israel to convert the suffering it inflicts on Palestinians into shekels. Surely, that warrants more attention than the threats posed by kites and balloons.

•First published by The Electronic Intifada, 27 June 2018.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Why Europe must halt support for Palestinian Authority's police

Each summer the European Union’s governments decide to help preserve an unjust situation.

The decision – which involves renewing the annual mandate for a policing operation in the occupied West Bank – is presented as largely procedural. No real scrutiny takes place on how the EU trains the Palestinian Authority to oppress fellow Palestinians.

Almost certainly, the same ritualistic rubber-stamping will occur again this year. That is despite how the argument for refusing to extend the mandate when it expires at the end of June has just become much stronger.

Last week, the PA’s forces used tear gas and sound grenades against West Bank residents determined to display solidarity with their brothers and sisters in Gaza. That violent suppression of a protest occurred in Ramallah, the city where the EU’s policing operation is headquartered.

Disgracefully, EU representatives are claiming that the thuggery has nothing to do with them.

I inquired if the EU policing team in Ramallah was investigating whether it had provided training to any of the forces who resorted to brutality last week. The EU team has “neither an executive mandate nor a monitoring role in relation to its Palestinian partner authorities,” a spokesperson for the team, replied.

That poor excuse for apathy raises questions about what agenda the EU is really pushing.

Established 13 years ago, the policing operation is one of the EU’s longest-running foreign policy initiatives. In its publications, the EU team in Ramallah expresses a delight in seeing its PA proteges graduate and take up their beats.

But when those forces assault peaceful demonstrators, the EU team does not even bother to check if the cops involved had previously been its students.

Playing Cupid

The latest newsletter from the EU’s operation in Ramallah offers a clue on its priorities. It says that the EU’s team had been “successful” in re-establishing dialogue between the PA’s forces and the Israeli police.

The “exceptionally fruitful” efforts by the EU team had resulted in joint workshops involving the PA and Israel’s national police on “practical topics of mutual interest,” according to the newsletter.

Pause for a moment and reflect on those words.

A European Union body is congratulating itself for acting as a kind of dating agency. The EU plays Cupid so that the Israeli police force – which is based in occupied East Jerusalem – can get cozy with officers from the Palestinian Authority.

What the EU is really fostering is collaboration between an occupying power and an occupied people. In their own countries, Europeans look back on collaboration with their occupiers, especially by police, with revulsion and shame.

Last week’s brutality was also reminiscent of how the PA’s forces tried to break up West Bank protests against Operation Cast Lead, a major Israeli attack on Gaza, in early 2009. The EU’s then foreign policy chief Javier Solana praised the PA’s forces for their handling of demonstrations.


Solana’s stance chimed with the strategic thinking which led to the EU policing mission being launched. That thinking can be traced back to documents drawn up when Britain held the Union’s rotating presidency in 1998.

Those papers inferred that the PA’s forces should be trained and equipped so that they would crush “terrorism.”

Israel has repeatedly applied that term to all forms of resistance by Palestinians. Following its recent massacres in Gaza, for example, Israel has sought to smear the unarmed demonstrators and even medics that it has killed and wounded as terrorists or terrorist sympathizers.

The protests held in Ramallah over the past couple of weeks challenge a situation that the EU has helped to entrench. Under that situation, the Palestinian Authority has added a new layer of repression to that which West Bank residents already had to face.

The economic warfare and movement restrictions to which the PA has subjected Gaza – a focus of the Ramallah protests – proves that its tactics and Israel’s are complementary.

As well as training police recruits, the EU has funded the construction of new prisons in Nablus and Jenin, both cities in the West Bank. The EU’s team in Ramallah has been providing advice to the PA on how these prisons should be run.

The ostensible reason for building these new facilities is to reduce overcrowding in the PA’s existing jails.

That claim should be treated with great skepticism.

The PA has often locked up its political opponents, including those wanted by Israel. Palestinians are routinely arrested and tortured by Israel after first being detained by the PA.

The new jails will more than likely be used for such incarceration.

Mahmoud Abbas, the PA’s president, has described “security coordination” with the Israeli state as “sacred.” Ordinary people who are genuinely concerned about human rights would regard as profane the very idea of making a government within an occupied territory serve the interests of the occupier.

The European Union helps perpetuate that profanity.

•First published by The Electronic Intifada, 20 June 2018.

Friday, June 1, 2018

France promotes rifles used in Gaza massacres

The maker of rifles used during Israel’s recent massacres in Gaza will soon exhibit its products at an arms fair sponsored by the French government.

Amnesty International’s investigations have identified the Tavor as likely to have been one of the main guns fired by Israeli snipers attacking Palestinian demonstrators over the past two months.

As the manufacturer of that rifle, Israel Weapon Industries ought to be blacklisted by every country which professes concern for human rights.

France is one such country. Emmanuel Macron, its president, officially condemned the killing of more than 100 Palestinian demonstrators since 30 March.

His condemnation was hollow. It came as preparations were underway for the Eurosatory weapons fair in Paris.

Israel Weapon Industries is among the firms scheduled to have a display at this fair, which will open in less than two weeks’ time.

It is just one of dozens of firms from Israel’s war industry – including the top drone supplier Elbit Systems– that will be present at Eurosatory. Israel’s defense ministry is listed as an exhibitor, too.

The fair is organized by the French government, working in tandem with the national weapons lobby.

Israel Weapon Industries has been availing of similar fairs to exhibit the latest Tavor model. The official program for Eurosatory indicates that these guns will be on display.

Tool for killing

The firm may not have publicized its role in enabling the Gaza massacres. Yet its marketing material stresses that the Tavor is the “primary assault rifle” for all infantry units and “special forces” in the Israeli military.

According to the firm’s website, the Tavor was developed “in close cooperation” with Israel’s army, which has “rigorously tested” the weapon. That is a coded way of saying that the Tavor is a vital tool for killing and maiming Palestinians.

Some of the company’s promotional activities are crass. On 13 May, the US division of Israel Weapon Industries tweeted a reminder that it was Mother’s Day, before beseeching its followers to “go shooting.”

The following day, Israeli snipers shot dead around 60 demonstrators in Gaza. Later that week, the firm bragged of how its fans were “excited” about the new Tavor model.

The Amnesty finding about the probable use of Tavors in Gaza was published towards the end of April. The conclusion did not seem to dampen the spirits of Israel Weapon Industries.

Buffoonery amid the bloodshed

Soon, its representatives were delighting in the fun they had at the annual get-together of the National Rifle Association in Dallas. They were even running competitions, offering entrants a chance to win a pistol dubbed Jericho, the name of a Palestinian city under Israeli occupation.

This clowning around with the NRA took place amid an unprecedented surge in protest against the US gun lobby, led by survivors of February’s school massacre in Parkland, Florida. That revulsion would be renewed in May after another massacre at a high school, this time in Santa Fe, Texas.

The arguments for an arms embargo on Israel – as human rights groups, including Amnesty demand – have been compelling for decades. When Israel Weapon Industries resorts to buffoonery after enabling bloodshed, that case becomes immensely stronger.

The European Union has not only refused to impose an arms embargo, it is helping Israel’s arms companies to boost their sales.

The EU will send a number of senior officials to the aforementioned Paris fair.

Mihnea Motoc is among those due to speak during the conferences that accompany the exhibition. Previously a minister in Romania, he now advises Jean-Claude Juncker, the European Commission’s president, on stimulating the war industry.

I asked Motoc if he had any ethical concerns about endorsing an exhibition likely to feature weapons used against unarmed demonstrators. “We are not in a position to answer your questions,” his assistant replied.

Israel Weapon Industries is benefiting from the pain of Palestinians. Its “battle-tested” firearms have been bought by armies in India, Colombia, Portugal, Nigeria, Thailand and Mexico.

Over the past five years, it has invested considerable resources towards selling weapons designed for the Israeli military to North American police, as well as running training sessions on their use.

That eagerness to export the tools and tactics of the Israeli occupation is extremely disturbing. By including the maker of Israel’s sniper rifles in an arms fair, the French authorities are helping to turn massacres into marketing opportunities.

•First published by The Electronic Intifada, 31 May 2018.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Israel lobby group spreads hoaxes about Gaza massacre

Burying the truth is accorded a high priority when states commit atrocities.

On 30 January 1972, the British Army shot dead 13 unarmed demonstrators during a civil rights march in Derry. Edward Heath, then prime minister, was determined that the ensuing inquiry into Bloody Sunday – as the massacre became known – would be a whitewash.

“It had to be remembered that in Northern Ireland, we were fighting not only a military war but a propaganda war,” Heath told a judge tasked with “investigating” what happened.

It was a bloody Monday in Gaza last week. Dozens of unarmed demonstrators were shot dead. And – like the British authorities more than 40 years ago – Israel’s supporters launched the latest salvo in their propaganda war.

Europe Israel Public Affairs – a Brussels-based lobby group – alleged that Hamas had manipulated the media coverage of the killings. Journalists had been lured into “the sinister world of Hamas,” the group suggested.

The “sinister world” was, according to Europe Israel Public Affairs’ latest newsletter, one “where 62 innocents turn out to be overwhelmingly terrorists” and where photographs and videos are “doctored.”

The first segments of such videos – depicting an injured youth being carried on a stretcher – get sent to major broadcasters, the group claimed. Yet the full video, it added, shows “the teenager apparently having made a miraculous recovery and high-fiving his friends for the deception, all caught on camera.”

I contacted Europe Israel Public Affairs asking for an example of the photographs or videos to which it referred. It sent me two links, both videos.

One appeared to show a young man being carried on a stretcher through a fog of tear gas before standing up again. The video was uploaded to YouTube on 5 May – nine days before last week’s massacre.

It was titled “Gaza Pallywood” – a racist term implying that Palestinians are faking the pain inflicted on them by Israel.

The video had been uploaded by Legal Insurrection, a right-wing website. Legal Insurrection has helpfully named the source for the video: a tweet from the Israeli army.

That raises major questions about the video’s credibility..

An army which routinely violates human rights should not, to put it mildly, be regarded as an objective provider of information. Israel’s army has often told lies about Palestinians as part of its propaganda war.

Nor does the grainy 27-second video – which appears to have been edited – show precisely what is claimed. The man on the stretcher is never seen walking – as Legal Insurrection alleges.

What it appears to show is simply a person in a condition that made him unable to run being evacuated to an area deemed safer, and then standing up.

Since it appears the Israelis filmed it from a distance, it is unclear what incentive Palestinians would have to fake such an incident – especially since everyone involved would have been at very real risk of being shot. Israeli snipers have not spared anyone, including journalists and paramedics.

Distracting from the facts

An even more outrageous claim made by Europe Israel Public Affairs was that videos have emerged of “dead people under Hamas blankets coming back to life.”

The example which the group gave me of such a video was, it claimed, from 2014. In actual fact, the video was from a year earlier and had been filmed in Egypt, not Gaza.

It featured what activists call a “die-in” at Cairo’s Al-Azhar University.

No one looking at the video in good faith could conclude that it is anything other than what it appears to be: a demonstration – and the title of the original 2013 video describes it as such.

An October 2013 report in El Badil, the publication that uploaded the video to YouTube on the same day, describes the event as a student protest against the military coup in Egypt earlier that year. The students seen in the video are wearing shrouds bearing the names of people who had been killed in incidents around the country, according to El Badil.

The same video has also been deployed in efforts to discredit reports of atrocities during the war in Syria.

Europe Israel Public Affairs is led by Alex Benjamin. He is a former member of staff with Britain’s Conservatives, the party once led by the aforementioned Edward Heath.

One day after last week’s massacre, Benjamin wrote on Facebook that Iran is “seemingly paying Hamas to fund these protests with tragic consequences.”

Benjamin was almost certainly referring to press reports based on briefings from Israel’s secret police, the Shin Bet. The Israeli media has acknowledged that Shin Bet has not provided any concrete evidence of Iranian involvement in the protests.

That story was published by some outlets last Monday – around the same time that news of the massacre in Gaza was breaking. The insinuation that Gaza’s protesters are effectively mercenaries for Iran looks like a desperate attempt to distract from incontrovertible facts – like how Israel has been deliberately killing and maiming Palestinians demanding basic rights.

Hypnotized by Hamas?

Contrary to what Europe Israel Public Affairs claimed, there is no reason to believe that Western media were hypnotized by Hamas last week. Much of the coverage repeated fallacious motifs about “clashes” on the “Gaza border.”

Israeli spokespeople were invited to take part in typically softball interviews. The BBC reported that the “only issue” at stake related to “proportionate force.” If Israel had chosen a more gentle form of “crowd control” – a euphemism for repression – then there would be nothing to worry about, the broadcaster implied.

Predictably, the pro-Israel lobby has pounced on a boast by one Hamas official that 50 of those killed last week were affiliated to the organization. The boast has not been verified and is ultimately irrelevant to the patent illegality of Israel’s conduct.

Long before last week, Israel had declared Gaza a “hostile entity.”

That designation is unknown in international law. It offered no more than a flimsy pretext for suffocating one of the most densely populated areas on earth.

The Great Return March represents a concerted effort to embrace an unarmed form of resistance. The tactics and teachings of Mahatma Gandhi are being practiced in Gaza.

Huge courage has been displayed in the face of snipers’ bullets. And the response of Israel’s supporters has been to blame and besmirch the victims.

Ali Abunimah contributed research.

•First published by The Electronic Intifada, 23 May 2018.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Perverse lobby parties after Gaza massacre

It was an obscene spectacle. A short while after around 60 people were killed in Gaza on Monday, Israel’s embassy to the European Union threw a party.

Doubtless, the invitations were issued in advance of the massacre. But that offers no excuse to those who attended.

They were celebrating the 70th anniversary of Israel’s foundation and honoring a state formed through the dispossession of an indigenous people – a people whom Israel continues to butcher.

Although the guest list for the event has not been published, some pro-Israel advocates have tweeted about their participation.

Earlier this year, an EU lawmaker was scolded and smeared for speaking about a “perverse lobby” which seeks to muzzle criticism of Israel’s crimes.

Monday’s celebrations were a testament to such perversion. They illustrate why it is necessary to probe the activities of pro-Israel advocates and the agenda which they push.

One aspect of the perversion that requires further probing is how the pro-Israel lobby in Europe has grown with considerable help from US donors.

The European Leadership Network has played a significant, if discreet, role in efforts to counter the Palestine solidarity movement. Despite having offices in Paris, Berlin, Warsaw and Brussels, the organization’s strategy may be dictated from across the Atlantic.

Wooing “important leaders”

A recent – unpublished – briefing on the group’s activities was authored by Steven Rosen and Larry Hochberg. Both men have previously been senior figures in the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, one of Washington’s most influential pressure groups.

The briefing contends that the “campaign to boycott Israel is being defeated where it matters most.” The explanation offered is that “all of the most important leaders of Europe have declared their strong opposition” to the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment and sanctions.

That rationale is specious. Far from providing evidence of defeat, the fact that “important leaders” are opposing Palestinian solidarity activists is a sign that governments are taking them seriously.

If it wasn’t for how major corporations – Veolia, CRH, Orange – had been pressured into withdrawing from the Israeli market, then it’s unlikely that “important leaders” would speak out against the BDS call.

And it is no more a sign of “defeat” than was the fact that – despite overwhelming popular pressure – the British, Dutch and German governments resisted calls to divest from and sanction apartheid South Africa until the late 1980s.

The emphasis of the briefing is nonetheless instructive. It implies that wooing “important leaders” can compensate for the huge sympathy towards the Palestinian plight among ordinary people.

Some of the “important” folk who have engaged with the European Leadership Network may not know that it has resorted to questionable behavior.

A 2013 article by the Los Angeles-based Jewish Journal suggested that the organization had contributed significantly to Fran├žois Hollande’s presidential election campaign in France the previous year.

According to that article, the European Leadership Network has “duplicated the secrets of AIPAC’s success” across the Atlantic. By cultivating a strong relationship with Hollande, the European Leadership Network convinced him to take a hawkish line on Iran’s nuclear program.

As well as working for AIPAC, Larry Hochberg has chaired Friends of the IDF, a group which finances recruits to the Israeli army – the same army which committed a massacre in Gaza this week.

Steven Rosen was charged in 2005 with conspiracy to violate the US law on espionage – for allegely passing on confidential information to a journalist and diplomat. The charges were later dropped but the whole episode caused acrimony between Rosen and AIPAC, which sacked him for inappropriate conduct.

Rosen’s reputation may have been damaged but he was able to find alternative employment – with the Middle East Forum run by Daniel Pipes, a leading purveyor of anti-Muslim hatred.

Massacre denial

The European Leadership Network has been embraced by neoconservatives. Elliott Abrams, who held foreign policy posts in the administrations of Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, sits on a board that oversees fundraising for the organization.

Given this week’s events, that may be grimly appropriate: The Nation magazine has described “massacre denial” as one of Abrams’ specialities. In the 1980s, Abrams praised the US record on El Salvador as a “fabulous achievement.” When challenged on reports that the Reagan-backed right-wing military in El Salvador had carried out mass killings, Abrams lied that no such events had taken place.

During the George W. Bush presidency, Abrams participated in the drawing up of plans to sow political divisions among Palestinians. His supposed misgivings about the plans do not absolve him of responsibility for fomenting violence between Fatah and Hamas – violence with lasting consequences, particularly in Gaza.

Last weekend, professional lobbyists feigned an interest in pop music. They rejoiced at how Israel’s Netta Barzilai won the Eurovision Song Contest.

A few days after Barzilai performed her chicken dance to a TV audience of millions, the Israeli military carried out a turkey shoot on Gaza’s unarmed protesters. Some lobbyists kept on partying, underscoring just how perverse they have become.

•First published by The Electronic Intifada, 17 May 2018.

Monday, May 14, 2018

How Britain enabled the ethnic cleansing of Palestine

Supporters of Israel among Britain’s ruling elite tend to recite mantras about the two nations sharing the same values.

If theft and plunder were regarded as values, the mantras would have a ring of truth to them.

Expecting full honesty and transparency from Theresa May’s government would, however, not be realistic. So it comes as little surprise that one of her cabinet colleagues has wished Israel a happy 70th birthday, while trumpeting its commitment to “justice, compassion, tolerance.”

The greeting – from Gavin Williamson, Britain’s defense secretary – was delivered at a time when unarmed protesters were being massacred in Gaza.

Omitted from the discourse on shared values is that Israel and Britain have a shared culpability. While Zionist troops were directly responsible for the Nakba – the 1948 ethnic cleansing of Palestine – their crimes were enabled and, in some cases, abetted by the British authorities.

The first important point is that the Haganah – the main Zionist militia at the time – was, to a large extent, trained by Britain while it ruled Palestine between the two world wars.

Although the Haganah was illegal, the British relied on it when conducting ambush operations against a Palestinian revolt during the 1930s. The Haganah provided thousands of men who joined the “supernumerary” police force that the British assembled while trying to crush that revolt.

Haganah commanders were also brought into the “special night squads,” led by Orde Wingate, a notoriously violent British officer.

Wingate worked closely with Yitzhak Sadeh, later a key military figure during the Nakba and a founder of the Israeli army. The 1930s cooperation has been credited by Yigal Allon, a general who became a high-level politician, with pulling “the Haganah out of its trenches and barbed wire into the open field, making it adopt a more active kind of defense.”

This means Wingate – a maverick who nonetheless enjoyed support from his superiors at a crucial period – helped shape the tactics and thinking of the men who forcibly dispossessed the Palestinians the following decade.


The relationship between Britain and the Zionist movement is admittedly complicated.

Through the 1917 Balfour Declaration, Britain assumed the role of imperial sponsor to the Zionist project.

A series of measures were subsequently implemented to boost colonization efforts in Palestine. Yet the pace of events was not sufficiently fast for the more hardcore elements in Zionism.

Unhappy that their coveted Jewish state had not yet been established, two armed groups – the Irgun and the Lehi – began to wage a guerrilla war against Britain in the 1940s. The ensuing turmoil and a more general weakening of its empire led Britain to decide it would relinquish the League of Nations mandate under which it had governed Palestine.

The Nakba was underway well before the date set by Britain for ending its rule: 14 May 1948. So long as they remained in Palestine, the British, therefore, had an obligation to protect Palestinians from harm.

The British reneged on their obligations.

On 9 April that year, Zionist troops went on a killing spree in Deir Yassin, a village near Jerusalem. Alan Cunningham, the British high commissioner in Palestine, acknowledged that a “deliberate mass murder of innocent civilians” occurred, yet argued that the British forces were “not in a position to take action in the matter owing to their failing strength and increasing commitments.”

Of the approximately 800,000 Palestinians who would be expelled or flee their homes in the 1948 Zionist onslaught, more than 400,000 had already been displaced by the time the British left.

Was Britain really powerless?

In 1948, there were around 100,000 British soldiers in Palestine, along with a British-headed police force. The Haganah had about 50,000 members, although only around half that number may have been active fighters.

The inescapable conclusion is that Britain could have spared Palestinian suffering – and chose not to.

“Fight it out”

It was not simply a case of inaction.

On 20 April 1948, Cyril Marriott, the British consul-general in Haifa, sent a telegram to London officials apprising them of the security situation where he was based. Zionist forces were expected to attack Haifa – a strategically vital port city – within the next day or two, Marriott noted.

The priority of the military, he added, would be to safeguard “the route and installations” regarded as essential for the evacuation of British troops. Once that objective was achieved, Britain would “let Jews and Arabs fight it out in other parts of the town.”

The instruction to allow the warring parties to “fight it out” overlooked how the Haganah was numerically stronger and equipped with more modern weapons than the Arab forces.

When the offensive took place, Zionist forces swiftly captured a large part of Haifa. Hugh Stockwell, a British general, refused to allow Arab reinforcements to advance towards the town. He also ordered British forces to withdraw.

Stockwell then instructed Arab forces to disarm. He told “all foreign Arab males” to assemble at a place designated by the Haganah, so that these men could be expelled “under military control.”

Palestinian leaders in Haifa complained that Stockwell’s conditions were unfair. Without any viable alternative, they requested that Palestinians leave the area.

As the Palestinians fled – reportedly with just the clothes they were wearing – the Haganah fired on an ambulance, ransacked a hospital and looted homes. Once more, the British held back.

By leaving Palestinians with no option than to quit Haifa, Stockwell was arguably an accomplice in mass expulsion. The Zionist capture of Haifa that he facilitated helped turn it into what David Ben-Gurion called a “corpse city.”

Ben-Gurion, it should be stressed, favored transforming Palestinian communities into corpse cities. He predicted that the Zionist success in Haifa could be replicated throughout Palestine.

Within a few weeks, Ben-Gurion had formally declared the establishment of Israel. He became its first prime minister.

Britain’s involvement in Palestine did not end when it gave up the League of Nations mandate. For most of Israel’s seven decades, Britain has given it practical and rhetorical assistance.

Britain’s ruling elites have never atoned for their role in enabling the 1948 dispossession of Palestinians. Rather, they have prolonged and exacerbated the suffering of Palestinians, while pretending to believe in justice.

•First published by The Electronic Intifada, 9 May 2018.

No longer "obsolete," NATO acts as Trump's lapdog

Donald Trump has proven that it only takes 100 missiles to win over an elite.

The latest US-led attack on Syria was swiftly applauded by NATO. The readiness to endorse that show of force could be interpreted as an improvement in relations. During his election campaign, Trump had dismissed the alliance as “obsolete”.

That insult caused a degree of consternation among the trans-Atlantic establishment. After taking up residence in the White House, Trump decided to recant. He is now eager to strengthen this “obsolete” body.

No doubt, that is largely because America dominates NATO. On his inauguration day, Trump effectively became commander-in-chief of all its 29 - mostly European - nations. NATO’s shiny “eco-friendly” headquarters near Brussels main airport are a monument to US hegemony.

Trump is in many respects unconventional. No previous president saw Twitter as the ideal tool for taunting adversaries. Yet his insistence that NATO bolster its capabilities follows a long-written script. Robert Gates, who served as defence secretary under both George W. Bush and Barack Obama, was similarly adamant that Europe increase its military spending.

The argument has been packaged as one of making “freeloaders” cough up some cash. Reporters regurgitating that line have not paused to question America’s motives. Is this a genuine case of encouraging European autonomy? Or is it a ploy to drum up business for the weapons industry?

Raytheon supplied the Tomahawk missiles recently fired on Syria. The Massachusetts-based firm meddles a great deal in European affairs. Whenever corporate-funded think tanks host discussions on “defence”, there is a strong likelihood that Raytheon’s representatives will feature prominently.

Violating the ethics of journalism, Politico - a news outlet courting the powerful in both Washington and Brussels - has posted Raytheon’s talking points on its website, without making clear they are advertisements. One of these points is that every NATO country “must share the burden”. It is a contemptible argument. While America leads the West in terms of military expenditure, it has been slashing education budgets.

In this context, “burden-sharing” is a fancy way of saying that Europe should ape America - a nation which perverts its priorities.

NATO planners have stated that they wish the alliance to be capable of undertaking two major and six smaller operations simultaneously. Such thinking could have profound implications for the Middle East, where many of NATO’s activities have been conducted.

The recent strikes on Syria were not formally carried out by NATO but by its three most powerful members: the US, Britain and France. The haste with which the alliance cheered at this belligerent act may nonetheless signal a willingness for NATO to bomb Syria at a later date. The alliance has, after all, previously assumed responsibility for the war that the US began waging against Afghanistan in 2001.

The invasion of Iraq less than two years later was opposed by several NATO countries, notably France and Germany. The opposition was not sustained long enough to prevent NATO from participating in the occupation.

In 2004, NATO deployed a training mission ostensibly aimed at helping the interim Iraqi government build up a new security force. In practice, it was difficult - and arguably impossible - to distinguish this mission from the US army that destroyed Iraq. American personnel also took charge of the NATO operation.

Perhaps NATO’s most criminal endeavour to date was its offensive against Libya, starting in 2011. The conduct of that war undermines the efforts by NATO’s in-house propagandists to depict it as altruistic.

Evidence gathered by human rights groups indicate NATO was not in the least bothered by how its troops repeatedly killed civilians. Nor was it overly exercised by the wanton cruelty of the “rebels” that it aided in order to topple Muammar Gaddafi’s government. NATO’s assault on Libya was - by the standards set by the post-Holocaust Nuremberg trials - a war of aggression and, therefore, fundamentally unlawful.

The chaos unleashed in Libya and the wider region looks like the kind of recipe favoured by John Bolton, a man whose default position is to threaten any country he views as insufficiently obsequious.

Yet NATO is not supposed to be a neocon plaything. Its key strategic document was drawn up through a process overseen by Madeleine Albright, America’s foreign secretary under that suave liberal Bill Clinton. Albright has lately been warning about the dangers of fascism. Fawning interviewers have not reminded her of how she once remarked that the deaths caused by denying medicine to Iraqi children was a price worth paying.

The findings of Albright’s aforementioned reflection were issued in 2010 - a year before the assault on Libya. They included a recommendation that any disruption to the West’s energy imports may require an “appropriate response”. By raising fees and taxes, Gaddafi was a “problematic partner” for the oil industry, in the words of The New York Times. That offers a far more plausible explanation for why NATO decided he should go than the alliance’s professed desire to spread freedom.

NATO’s declared commitment to liberty sits uncomfortably with how it has repeatedly assured the increasingly autocratic Recep Tayyip Erdogan that Turkey is a valued member of the alliance. NATO’s wish to promote the rule of law is similarly at odds with its deepening cooperation with Israel.

Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s defence minister, has insisted over the past few weeks that every man, woman and child in Gaza is a legitimate target for snipers and drones. NATO’s silence about with that attempt to justify the gunning down of Palestinian protesters betokens a business as usual approach. Israel will be able to continue taking part in NATO’s exercises.

The bureaucracy of NATO is headed by Jens Stoltenberg, a Norwegian social democrat widely praised for his cool-headed response - in his then capacity as prime minister - to the massacre committed by Anders Behring Breivik. Stoltenberg has learned that he is expected to express views that probably would not have been popular at the left-wing summer camp, where that massacre occurred.

Stoltenberg argued recently it was “absolutely necessary” for America to keep its nuclear weapons.

The codes for those weapons are now available to a president who can’t control his temper on Twitter. That is truly frightening. But Stoltenberg would not dare to say so. His job requires him to work under Trump’s thumb.

•First published by Middle East Eye, 29 April 2018.