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Israel Kills Palestinians and Western Liberals Shrug. Their Humanitarianism Is a Sham. Mehdi Hasan April 2 2018, 8:55 p.m. “IF THE CONCEPT of intervention is driven by universal human rights, why is it — from the people who identify themselves as liberal interventionists — why do we never hear a peep, a word, about intervening to protect the Palestinians?” That was the question I put to the French philosopher, author, and champion of liberal (or humanitarian) interventionism, Bernard-Henri Lévy, on my Al Jazeera English interview show “Head to Head” in 2013. The usually silver-tongued Levy struggled to answer the question. The situation in Palestine is “not the same” as in Syria and “you have not all the good on one side and all the bad on the other side,” said Levy, who once remarked in reference to the Israeli Defense Forces, or IDF, that he had “never seen such a democratic army, which asks itself so many moral questions.” I couldn’t help but be reminded of my exchange with the man known as “BHL” this past weekend, as I watched horrific images of unarmed Palestinian protesters at the Gaza border being shot in the back by the “democratic army” of Israel. How many “moral questions” did those Israeli snipers ask themselves, I wondered, before they gunned downGazan refugees for daring to demand a return to their homes inside the Green Line? On Friday, the IDF shot an astonishing 773 people with live ammunition, killing 17 of them. Yet a spokesperson for the IDF bragged that Israeli troops “arrived prepared” and “everything was accurate. … We know where every bullet landed.” On Sunday, Israel’s hawkish defense minister, Avigdor Lieberman, roundly rejected calls from the European Union and the United Nations for an independent inquiry into the violence and insisted that “our soldiers deserve a commendation.” To be clear, then: Israeli troops will continue to murder and maim Palestinians while the Israeli government guarantees that there will be no consequences for their actions. So, where is the outcry from liberal interventionists across the West? Where is BHL, as Palestinians are being shot and wounded in the hundreds in 2018? Where is the call from former U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair, whose 1999 speech in Chicago defending the concept of a “just war” and a “doctrine of the international community” became a key text for liberal interventionists, for a “no-fly” zone over Gaza? Why does a guest speaker at Ariel Sharon’s funeral have nothing to say about the increasing number of Palestinian funerals? Where is the moral outrage from former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, the famously pro-intervention, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of a “A Problem From Hell,” which lamented U.S. inaction in Rwanda, over the sheer number of unarmed Palestinians shot, killed, and injured in recent days? How does she have time to retweet a picture of an elephant and a lion cub, but not to make a statement about the violence in Gaza? Where is the demand from Canadian academic-turned-politician Michael Ignatieff, who was once one of the loudest voices in favor of the so-called responsibility to protect doctrine, for peacekeeping troops to be deployed to the Occupied Territories? Where are the righteously angry op-eds from Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times, or Richard Cohen of the Washington Post, or David Aaronovitch of The Times of London, demanding concrete action against the human rights abusers of the IDF? And where is the appeal from former U.S. Secretary of State and arch-interventionist Madeleine Albright for economic and financial sanctions against the state of Israel? For an arms embargo? For travel bans on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Lieberman, and IDF chief of staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot? Their silence is deafening — and telling. Palestinians, it seems, have been so dehumanized that they don’t deserve a humanitarian intervention; their blood is cheap, their plight is unimportant, and, perhaps above all else, their killers are our friends. Palestinians protesters run for cover from Israeli tear gas during clashes with Israeli troops along the border between Israel and Gaza Strip, in the eastern Gaza Strip, 01 April 2018. Photo: Momen Faiz/NurPhoto/Sipa USA/AP SHOULD WE REALLY be surprised, though? After all, this isn’t the first time that members of the liberal intervention brigade have shamelessly ignored the tragic deaths of innocent Palestinians. In March 2001, towards the start of the “Second Intifada,” and with the Palestinian civilian death toll mounting, the U.N. Security Council proposed a resolution that would have “set up an appropriate mechanism to protect Palestinian civilians, including through the establishment of a United Nations observer force” on the ground in the Occupied Territories. The United States, however, in the form of the George W. Bush administration, vetoed that resolution. What was the response from U.S. liberals? They stayed mum. In the summer of 2014, the Israeli air force — for the the third time in six years — pounded the Gaza Strip, dropping bombs on schools, hospitals, and apartment buildings, and killing more than 1,500 Palestinian civilians — including 500 children — in the process. What was the position of then-U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (who would later throw her support behind a “no-fly” zone over Syria)? “Hamas provoked another attack” while “Israel has a right to defend itself.” And what was the response from her fellow liberals? Most of them didn’t say a word. Fast forward to 2018: This time round, 17 dead and 1,400 wounded. Videos going viral of Israeli soldiers — armed and funded by U.S. taxpayers — shooting fleeing Palestinians in their backs. Again, not a peep on Twitter, or elsewhere, from the leaders of the Democratic Party in Congress, such as Sen. Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. For liberal Democrats, #resistance is supposed to be against the Trump administration and the so-called alt-right, not against the longest military occupation in the world. This moral blindness that so many liberals and progressives in the United States have for the Palestinians has never ceased to amaze — or disgust — me. As the Israeli writer and economist Abraham Gutman notes, “This blind spot is so pronounced that it created a whole new type of progressive, the PEP, ‘Progressive-Except-on-Palestine.’” The PEP, he continues, “is horrified by the appointment of Jeff Sessions as Attorney General, but willing to argue that there is nuance and perhaps support the government of Israel, with [Ayelet] Shaked as the Minister of Justice, who posted on Facebook an article calling Palestinian children ‘little snakes.’” Indeed. The PEP will loudly condemn the bigotry and nativism of the Republican Party in the United States, and the ongoing segregation and racism in the Deep South, while averting their gaze from the brazen racism of the Israeli government and the ongoing apartheid in the Occupied Territories. The PEP rails against Trump and his hawkish minions while standing to applaud Netanyahu or smiling in photos with Lieberman — this despite the fact that the similarities between the Trump and Netanyahu administrations have been well–documented. And the PEP who happens to be a proud supporter of liberal interventionism will back interventions almost everywhere except the Occupied Territories. Their heart bleeds for Syrians, Libyans, Afghans, Iraqis, Rwandans, Kosovars … but not for Palestinians. This is not an exercise in whataboutism; it is about drawing attention to blatant double standards and moral hypocrisy. On Palestine, liberal interventionists who happen to be “progressive-except-on-Palestine” borrow from the Trump playbook when they cynically blame “both sides” for the violence. They claim that Palestinian deaths are the consequence of “clashes” and “confrontations.” Yet the reality is that one side is the occupier and the other is the occupied; one side has rockets and rifles and the other side has rocks and slingshots; one side is doing the killing and the other side is doing the dying. There is no other conclusion: The ongoing and glaring refusal of liberal interventionists in the West to say even a word about the need to protect occupied Palestinians from state-sponsored violence is a reminder of just how morally bankrupt and cynically hypocritical the whole “liberal intervention” shtick is.
Is Trump Going to Lie Our Way Into War With Iran? By MEHDI HASAN NOV. 29, 2017 https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/29/opinion/is-trump-going-to-lie-our-way-into-war-with-iran.html Photo Mike Pompeo, the director of the C.I.A., at a Senate committee hearing in May. CreditChip Somodevilla/Getty Images A decade and a half ago, in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, President George W. Bush’s administration conjured up not only terrifying images of nuclear mushroom clouds but also of Saddam Hussein plotting with Osama bin Laden to attack the United States. Mr. Bush himself declared that Mr. Hussein “aids and protects terrorists, including members of Al Qaeda” while Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld called links between Iraq and Al Qaeda “accurate and not debatable.” It wasn’t true, of course. But it helped make the case for war. That may be why a similar lie is getting trotted out again now, except this time the target is Iraq’s neighbor, Iran. On Oct. 13, in his statement decertifying the Iran nuclear deal, President Trump claimed that Tehran “provides assistance to Al Qaeda.” The following week, his C.I.A. chief, Mike Pompeo, went further: “It’s an open secret and not classified information that there have been relationships, there are connections,” Mr. Pompeo said at an event hosted by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a neoconservative think tank. “There have been times the Iranians have worked alongside Al Qaeda.” On Nov. 1, the C.I.A. released a new batch of nearly 470,000 files recovered in the 2011 raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan. But the agency did more than just release the documents to the public. It provided advance copies to the foundation’s online publication, Long War Journal. (The C.I.A. said it was common practice to distribute declassified documents to the news media and academic organizations on an embargoed basis and that the only agenda in releasing these files was “to enhance public understanding” of Al Qaeda.) Long War Journal homed in on a 19-page document by an unidentified Qaeda official who claimed that the Iranian government had offered “Saudi brothers” in Al Qaeda “everything they needed,” including money, arms and training in Hezbollah camps in Lebanon, “in exchange for striking American interests in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf.” Yet the Iranian offer, admitted the official, was never accepted by Al Qaeda — if such an offer was in fact made. The timing of these latest claims from the president and his C.I.A. chief are hardly coincidental. Tensions in the Middle East are ramping up. America’s chief allies in the region, Saudi Arabia and Israel, are pushing even more aggressively than usual to confront Iran. With the Obama administration gone, they have found a soul mate in the White House. President Trump has staffed his administration with hawks who believe that the road to solving the Middle East’s problems runs through Tehran. Nikki Haley, the American ambassador to the United Nations, has accusedIran of trying to “hold the world hostage to its bad behavior.” Defense Secretary James Mattis once described the three biggest threats to American national security as “Iran, Iran, Iran.” A former State Department official who worked under Mr. Trump’s secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, told me that the Trump administration is “obsessed” with Iran in the same way that the Reagan administration was obsessed with the Soviet Union. Inside the government, the former official added, “Iran, ISIS, Al Qaeda, are all mentioned in the same breath, as a menacing threat.” But Americans aren’t exactly itching for a new war. (A majority, in fact, believes the country would be better offstaying in the nuclear deal with Iran.) So how can the Trump administration build a case for a pre-emptive strike? Those claims of a nefarious alliance with Al Qaeda might help. The “bomb Iran” crowd has long pointed to the presence of senior Qaeda officials, including members of the Bin Laden family, inside Iran since late 2001. But Iran is far from being a base or command center for Al Qaeda. In 2001, after hundreds of Qaeda fighters crossed into Iran from Afghanistan fleeing American airstrikes, the Iranians deported most of them back to their countries of origin. In 2003, the Iranians offered to swap Qaeda members held under house arrest for members of Mujahedeen Khalq, a militant group that seeks to overthrow the Iranian government, who are being detained by American forces in Iraq. The relationship between the Salafi Sunnis of Al Qaeda and the Shiite clerics of Iran is “not one of alliance” but “highly antagonistic” and “largely based on indirect and unpleasant negotiations over the release of detained jihadis and their families, including members of Bin Ladin’s family,” according to a 2012 report by the Combating Terrorism Center at the United States Military Academy at West Point. The report said that Iran held onto senior Qaeda figures not to protect or assist them but to use them as bargaining chips with the United States and also as a deterrent against Qaeda attacks. When I asked terrorism experts what they made of the alleged Iran-Al Qaeda ties, they were unanimous in their incredulity. “I’ve never seen any evidence of active collaboration,” said Jason Burke, the author of an acclaimed book on Al Qaeda. Ali Soufan, a former F.B.I. agent and the author of the new book “Anatomy of Terror,” dismissed the coverage of the C.I.A.’s documents as an “oversimplification of the facts” and a result of “the Trump administration joining Saudi Arabia’s anti-Iran campaign.” Few would deny that Iran has sponsored groups listed by the United States as “foreign terrorist organizations,” such as Hamas and Hezbollah. But, say the experts, support for Al Qaeda is another matter altogether. As William McCants, a former American government adviser on extremism and author of a recent book on the Islamic State, put it, Iran and Al Qaeda “never embraced as lovers.” So far, none of the documents newly released by the C.I.A. contains a smoking gun. Have Iranian security forces and members of Al Qaeda had contacts, or done deals? Probably. Are there Qaeda figures still living in Iran? Almost definitely. Does that mean there’s an anti-American alliance between Iran and Al Qaeda? No. Mr. Trump, like Mr. Bush before him, is beating the drum for war in the Middle East. But he needs a pretext for an attack on a sovereign nation that, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency, is complying with the terms of the nuclear deal. The American public fell for a false pretext in 2003 — and it cannot afford to do so again. Saddam Hussein was not allied with Al Qaeda; for all its faults, neither is the Iranian government. As Mr. Bush himself once famously tried, yet failed, to say: “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.” Mehdi Hasan (@mehdirhasan) is the host of Al Jazeera English’s program “UpFront''
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