Israeli Army engaging in mass surveillance of innocent civilians

Israel Practices Competitive Spying On Random Palestinian Civilians

The Blue Wolf system is used by the IDF to tag and monitor the entire Palestinian population, even those about whom there is no intelligence. Competitive spying.

By Yaniv Kubovich, Haaretz

Soldiers posted in the West Bank have recently received instructions from their commanders that in any shift at a checkpoint or guard post they must enter the details and photos of at least 50 Palestinians to the IDF’s “Blue Wolf” tracking system. A soldier who doesn’t make the quota, they were told at the briefing, will not be relieved from duty at the end of their shift and will be forced to remain on duty until they make quota.

The Blue Wolf system, which the army has been using for the past two and a half years, is a database into which the details and photos of Palestinians are uploaded, enabling their tracking and monitoring. The details include, among other things, ID number, age, gender, residence, vehicle license plate numbers, contacts with other people and whether they are allowed to work in Israel.

Israeli Army engaging in mass surveillance of innocent civilians

In November, the Washington Post published an investigation exposing the IDF’s massive use of the system on the Palestinians in the West Bank. According to the expose’, the details of Palestinians unconnected to terrorism, about whom there is no intelligence, are uploaded to the system. The soldiers are required to take the photos of randomly chosen Palestinians with their cell phones, and upload their details to the system. The article noted that according to estimates, the system holds the photos of thousands of Palestinians – including children and the elderly.

A group of combat soldiers who recently began operational deployment in the West Bank protested the quota demand to their commanders. One of the combat soldiers who spoke to Haaretz claimed that the requirement turns the expansion of the database into the soldiers’ main mission, and comes at the expense of protecting the public for which they are stationed. Some of the soldiers feel that this activity, when directed at Palestinians, is against their conscience. After the soldiers’ appeal the commanders responded with a clarification message, reiterating the original directive.

Soldiers required to carry out the mission told Haaretz that the directive stems from a competition in Central Command for the most uploads to the system, and that it is important to the commanders to show their strength to the senior Central Command brass.

The IDF Spokesperson’s Unit said in response that it can‎’t discuss the military’s “operational and intelligence capabilities,” but said it was making “efforts to reduce the harm to the Palestinian population’s fabric of life” are part of its security activity.

Read More

Noam Chomsky on Ukraine

Chomsky: Avoiding Nuclear War Has To Be The Priority

Arguments about “Just War Theory” don’t matter much, according to Noam Chomsky. The main thing is preventing nuclear war.

By C.J. Polychroniou, Truthout

NATO leaders announced Wednesday that the alliance plans to reinforce its eastern front by deploying many more troops in countries like Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia — including thousands of U.S. troops — and sending “equipment to help Ukraine defend itself against chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear threats.” And while the NATO alliance itself is not directly providing weapons to Ukraine, many of its member countries are pouring weapons into Ukraine, including missiles, rockets, machine guns, and more.

In all likelihood, Russian President Vladimir Putin believed that his military would overrun Ukraine within a matter of a few days on February 24, when he ordered an invasion into the neighboring country after a long and massive military buildup on Ukraine’s border.

Noam Chomsky on Ukraine

A month later, however, the war is still raging, and several Ukrainian cities have been devastated by Russian air attacks. Peace talks have stalled, and it is unclear whether Putin still wants to overthrow the government or is instead aiming now for a “neutral” Ukraine.

In the interview that follows, world-renowned scholar and leading dissident voice Noam Chomsky shares his thoughts and insights about the available options for an end to the war in Ukraine, and ponders the idea of “just” war and whether the war in Ukraine could potentially lead to the collapse of Putin’s regime.

Read More

US Escalation In Ukraine

The Corporate Media Is Sick With Bloodlust

The corporate media is repeating the same mistakes it made 20 years ago in the lead-up to the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

By Jake Johnson, Common Dreams 

In the run-up to and during the Bush administration’s catastrophic invasion of Iraq, corporate media outlets were accused of acting as stenographers for the White House, amplifying official justifications for the attack—which were lies—while stifling dissenting voices.

Today, having apparently learned no lessons—or the wrong ones—from Iraq, reporters for corporate newspapers and cable TV programs are yet again facing criticism for their coverage of a war, this time one in which the White House has vowed not to involve U.S. troops.

US Escalation In Ukraine

During briefings held at the White House over the past week as Russia ramped up its assault on Ukraine, correspondents have incessantly pushed Press Secretary Jen Psaki on President Joe Biden’s refusal to escalate U.S. involvement in the war even further, questioning the administration’s refusal to impose a no-fly zone and send MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine.

By contrast, very few questions have centered on the diplomatic talks between Russia and Ukraine and what the U.S. is doing to facilitate the ongoing negotiations.

“Even with this additional aid that you’re providing today, it seems there are still other options on the table,” ABC News correspondent Mary Bruce said during a press briefing Wednesday after President Joe Biden authorized another $800 million worth of weaponry for Ukraine, including drones and anti-aircraft systems.

“So why hold back?” Bruce asked. “Why not use every tool at your disposal now to spare additional lives?”

When Psaki outlined the slew of measures the U.S. has taken in concert with Western allies to cripple Russia’s economy and bolster Ukraine’s defenses—and noted there are additional steps the administration could take in the future—Bruce was not assuaged.

“But what are you waiting for?” she asked.

That line of questioning—highlighted by The Intercept in one of two video compilations of recent press briefings—encapsulated the approach much of the White House press corps has taken during the first three weeks of Russia’s deadly assault on Ukraine.

In one exchange on Monday, a reporter suggested to Psaki that by refusing to send American troops into Ukraine and impose a no-fly zone—which experts agree would likely spark a full-blown war between the U.S. and Russia—the Biden administration is effectively “pushing these guys [Ukrainian soldiers] to commit suicide.”

“Can you imagine if the press covered climate change like this?” The Intercept‘s Ryan Grim asked during a HillTV segment on Thursday. “Or the expiration of the child tax credit? Or the Saudi and UAE war on Yemen that has led to hundreds of thousands of deaths? Or the seizure of Afghanistan’s central bank reserves?”

In his HillTV segment, Grim pointed to a striking back-and-forth in which Gray Television‘s White House correspondent Jon Decker pressed Psaki on why the Biden administration is not providing “more offensive weapons” to the Ukrainian military.

“If a Ukrainian military officer or someone who is enlisted has one of these weapons,” said Decker, “they can take out a Russian military official of some sort with these weapons.”

The White House press corps is hardly alone in its hawkish coverage of Russia’s assault, which has killed at least 816 civilians and sparked a massive humanitarian crisis.

As Gideon Taaffe and Chloe Simon of Media Matters noted last week, “Both right-wing and mainstream cable news have featured commentary from hosts and guests pushing the idea of a NATO-imposed ‘no-fly zone’ over Ukraine, sometimes without providing important context about the possibility of escalation into a hot war with Russia.”

“On March 4, Fox News contributor and retired Gen. Keith Kellogg pushed for a no-fly zone during an appearance on Fox News‘ America Reports, claiming that ‘no plans are perfect, but there is a way to do and we should at least explore it,'” Taaffe and Simon observed. “On the March 6 edition of Meet the Press, NBC anchor Chuck Todd pressed Secretary of State Anthony Blinken on his hesitancy to execute a no-fly zone, saying, ‘Why rule out the no-fly zone? Why not make Putin think it’s possible?'”

“This eagerness to get into a war with Russia,” the pair wrote, “seems to ignore the potentially devastating consequences of the U.S. initiating that escalation, which could include nuclear fallout.”

In a Twitter post earlier this week, Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo expressed a similar sentiment.

“Hopefully this will remain a matter of academic and media studies interest only,” he wrote. “But it is worth considering why much of cable news has become nonstop cheerleading for the U.S. to declare war on Russia, often via a ‘no-fly zone.'”

 


police violence

Keeping Breonna Taylor In Focus

A compilation of six decades of protest portraits show why we need abolition to end police violence on civilians. It’s not just notable victims like Breonna Taylor.

By Anna Blake, Scalawag

It’s hard to believe only—and somehow, already—two years have passed since Jonathan Mattingly, Brett Hankison, and Myles Cosgrove forced themselves, in plainclothes with a no-knock warrant, into the apartment on Elliot Ave in Louisville where they shot and killed  26-year-old Breonna Taylor.

News of her murder spread exponentially, eventually coming to a fever pitch following the murder of George Floyd two months later, some 700 miles away in Minneapolis. Suddenly, our city, once only known for horses, bourbon, and disco balls, became a hotbed of protests as activists and communities across the city gathered calling for justice for Breonna Taylor.

police violence

None of us bore witness to the negligent and violent events that took place in those early morning hours of March 13, 2020, but we don’t have to: Photographs taken in Louisville during the protests of 2020 reveal to us the fascist nature of the police state we live in.

Filmmaker and activist Susan Sontag, in her 1977 collection of essays On Photography, claims that “to take a picture is to have an interest in things as they are, in the status quo remaining unchanged.”

Read More

A peaceful solution for ukraine

Ukrainian Peace Activist: All Sides Have Fueled the War. Peace Talks Now!

Ukrainian peace activist Yurii Sheliazhenko talks about the war and how to end it. Comprehensive peace talks, yes. A no-fly zone, no.

By Amy Goodman & Yurii Sheliazhenko, Democracy Now!

Hundreds of nonviolent antiwar protesters gathered in the Ukrainian city of Kherson on Monday to oppose Russian occupation of the city and object to involuntary military service. Russian forces used stun grenades and machine gun fire to disperse the crowd. Meanwhile, President Biden is expected to travel to a NATO summit this week in Brussels, where Western allies are preparing to discuss the response if Russia turns to using nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction. Both sides of the war must come together and deescalate, says Kyiv-based Ukrainian peace activist Yurii Sheliazhenko. “What we need is not escalation of conflict with more weapons, more sanctions, more hatred toward Russia and China, but of course, instead of that, we need comprehensive peace talks.”

Both sides of the war must come together and deescalate, says Kyiv-based Ukrainian peace activist Yurii Sheliazhenko. “What we need is not escalation of conflict with more weapons, more sanctions, more hatred toward Russia and China, but of course, instead of that, we need comprehensive peace talks.”


Military Involvement In Ukraine - bad idea

Why America Should Not Deepen Its Military Involvement In Ukraine

The Biden administration is right to resist calls to deepen American military involvement in Ukraine. No one wins that game.

By Tom Z. Collina, The New York Times

In his stirring address to Congress on Wednesday, President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine asked the United States for more help as his nation defends itself against a brutal and unjustified Russian invasion. Invoking the attacks on Pearl Harbor and the World Trade Center, Mr. Zelensky said simply, “I call on you to do more.”

Given the stakes, the United States can and should do more to end the war and help alleviate human suffering in Ukraine. We were already providing weapons for the Ukrainians to defend themselves, such as Stinger antiaircraft missiles and Javelin antitank missiles, as well as hitting Russia with huge economic sanctions. And soon after Mr. Zelensky’s speech, President Biden announced that the United States would send an additional $800 million in military assistance to Ukraine, as part of a $14 billion support package he had already approved.

Military Involvement In Ukraine - bad idea

But there is a limit to how far we should go. Even as our hearts go out to the brave Ukrainian people, the Biden administration is right to resist calls to deepen American military involvement in Ukraine, because the consequences of a direct confrontation between NATO and Russia could be unimaginably dire. If Mr. Biden bows to public pressure and, for instance, attempts to create a no-fly zone in Ukraine, we could be stepping on the path to nuclear war. As the U.N. secretary general, António Guterres, said this week, “The prospect of nuclear conflict, once unthinkable, is now back within the realm of possibility.”

A product of the Cold War, Mr. Biden well understands that direct U.S.-Russian conflict could escalate to nuclear war. The Soviet Union may have disappeared 30 years ago, but its nuclear weapons did not, and neither did ours. If they are used, the consequences would be horrific — instant death for people in the immediate blast area followed by environmental destruction, possible famine and more death as the radiation spread. It could mean the end of civilization as we know it.

The Biden administration is keenly aware of the risks. Mr. Biden said on March 11: “We will not fight a war against Russia in Ukraine. Direct conflict between NATO and Russia is World War III, something we must strive to prevent.” The administration has rightly ruled out sending U.S. troops to Ukraine for now, sending them instead to NATO states, which the administration has vowed to defend. And Mr. Biden has wisely refused to consider anything that might provoke direct conflict with Russia, not only rejecting a no-fly zone but also resisting a Polish offer to provide Soviet-era MIG fighter jets to Ukraine.

But as the humanitarian toll in Ukraine increases, so, too, will the pressure to do more. For many here in the United States, it will be deeply frustrating that the threat of nuclear war limits what we do. President Vladimir Putin of Russia warned that “anyone who tries to interfere with us” will suffer “consequences you have never faced in your history.” He is, in effect, using his nuclear arsenal as a terrorist weapon to hold Ukraine hostage and keep other nations out. Is he bluffing? Maybe. But given the potential consequences, we can’t afford to be wrong.

What can we do? First, we must stay the course and end this brutal war. The sanctions that have already been imposed on Russia and the weapons that the Pentagon is sending to Ukraine are meant to raise the cost of the conflict to Mr. Putin, so that he will eventually see the wisdom of a political settlement. Both of those efforts must go on while the White House continues to avoid direct conflict between NATO and Russian troops. The longer the war lasts, the more painful it will become for both sides. As difficult as it may be to watch as Ukraine suffers, escalating the war could make it much worse.

Next, we must change our attitude toward nuclear weapons, understanding that the old ways of thinking are not only outdated but also dangerous. The U.S. nuclear arsenal does nothing for us in this conflict. It did not keep Mr. Putin out of Ukraine. Because he is willing to use the threat of nuclear war to deter intervention in Ukraine, the existence of nuclear weapons, if anything, helped enable him. He is the only one suggesting a willingness to use nukes as a cover to brutalize weaker states. We must continue to stigmatize and limit nuclear weapons to reduce the chances that Russia will do this again.

The Biden administration can help by changing its nuclear policies accordingly. Mr. Putin is threatening to use nuclear weapons first in this conflict. The Biden administration should rule out first use and seek to build an international consensus around the idea that the sole purpose for nuclear weapons is to deter their use by others. Mr. Biden has supported this position for years. In addition, the United States should start now to build international support for the deep reduction and eventual elimination of nuclear weapons so they cannot be used by strongmen and autocrats to enable their atrocities.


The left has good positions on Ukraine

The Left Has Good Answers On Ukraine

Being anti-war isn’t naive, but a serious, considered, and humane position. The left has good answers on Ukraine.

By Elizabeth Bruenig, The Atlantic

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has forced the American left to fight on two fronts. Critics of American foreign policy—and I number myself among them—are making an urgent case against escalation, or the United States allowing itself to be drawn into open conflict with Russia. But instead of engaging our arguments on their merits, some people in the center and on the right are singling out versions of leftist anti-war sentiment, no matter how atypical, for ridicule.

The left has good positions on Ukraine

A case in point: In late February, the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) released a position statement on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The short, five-paragraph letter instantly inspired outrage—primarily because of a single sentence in its fourth paragraph. After condemning Russia’s invasion and urging diplomacy, de-escalation, and an immediate cease-fire, the statement’s authors added that the DSA “reaffirms our call for the US to withdraw from NATO and to end the imperialist expansionism that set the stage for this conflict.” Further remarks about American obligations toward refugees and preparing for a long-term response to this crisis followed, but so far as the majority of the reading public was concerned, the DSA might as well have said nothing else at all. Backlash followed swiftly.

Per the New York Postthe DSA had “blame[d] US imperialism” for the invasion; the article acknowledged that the organization had specifically condemned Russia for the brutal invasion only after a break punctuated by a prominent picture of Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the group’s most notable public member. Fox News had a field day with the “Squad” connection, and, evidently fearing that the Democratic Party might be wrongly associated with the group’s statement, White House Rapid Response Director Mike Gwin quote-tweeted a link to the release with a curt dismissal: “Shameful.” On the left, the statement drew both defenses and condemnation. So significant was the controversy—especially relative to the scant power represented by the release itself—that it wound up with its own congressional denunciations and write-up in The New York Times.

Read More

The War On Black Lives Continues

The War On Black Lives Never Stopped

The epidemic of brutality our communities face has not diminished. The police are still killing. It’s an ongoing war on Black lives.

By Cat Brooks, PRISM

On March 13, 2020, 26-year-old Breonna Taylor was asleep with her partner Kenneth Walker when they were startled awake by three white Louisville, Kentucky, police officers breaking down their door during a no-knock warrant raid. The medical technician was killed, and her home was never searched. No one has been held accountable.

The War On Black Lives Continues

Murdered just two months before former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin killed George Floyd, sparking international uprisings, Taylor also kindled demands to end the unfettered state violence that is the daily reality of Black people’s lives in America.

But unlike Floyd, those responsible for Taylor’s death would never see a court or a jury, and certainly not a jail cell. The only police officer held to any standard of accountability, Brett Hankison, was only indicted for recklessly firing his weapon into the home of Taylor’s neighbor. He was acquitted earlier this month.

Neoliberals and the state seized on the conviction of Derek Chauvin as an opportunity to spin a narrative that America was marching toward post-racial bliss so protesters could stop marching in the streets, quit embarrassing the U.S. on the international stage, and go home. Even President Joe Biden said the Chauvin verdict could “be a moment of significant change.”

Slow down, Joe.

While it is true that more officers have been held accountable for their violence than in past years, the epidemic of brutality our communities face has not diminished. In 2020, police officers killed more than 1,100 people, and in 2021, they killed 1,055 people, and since the start of the year, police have killed 138 peopleOnly about 140 law enforcement officers have been arrested for on-duty shootings since 2005, and of those, only 44 were convicted, often on charges much less serious than murder.

Read More

Russia’s billionaires

Our Elites Don't Really Want To Go After The Assets Of Russia’s Billionaires

Why has no progress been made on an international financial registry? One simple reason: wealthy westerners don’t want one.

By Thomas Piketty, The Guardian

The Ukrainian crisis has revived an old debate: how to effectively sanction a state like Russia? Let’s say it straight away: it is time to imagine a new type of sanction focused on the oligarchs who have prospered thanks to the regime in question. This will require the establishment of an international financial register, which will not be to the liking of western fortunes, whose interests are much more closely linked to those of the Russian and Chinese oligarchs than is sometimes claimed. However, it is at this price that western countries will succeed in winning the political and moral battle against the autocracies and in demonstrating to the world that the resounding speeches on democracy and justice are not simply empty words.

Russia’s billionaires

Let us first recall that the freezing of assets held by Putin and his relatives is already part of the arsenal of sanctions that have been tried for several years. The problem is that the freezes applied so far remain largely symbolic. They only concern a few dozen people, and can be circumvented by using nominees, especially as nothing has been done to systematically measure and cross-reference the real estate and financial portfolios held by each of them.

Read More

Chomsky on Ukraine

Chomsky: We Must Find A Way To Bring This War To An End

“We must find a way to bring this war to an end before it escalates.”

By C.J. Polychroniou, Truthout

As Russia steps up its assault on Ukraine and its forces advance on Kyiv, peace talks between the two sides were scheduled to resume today for the fourth time, but have now been postponed until tomorrow. Unfortunately, some opportunities for a peace agreement have already been squandered, so it’s hard to be optimistic about when the war will end. Regardless of when or how the war ends, though, its impact is already being felt across the international security system, as the rearmament of Europe shows. The Russian invasion of Ukraine also complicates the urgent fight against the climate crisis. The war takes a heavy toll on Ukraine and on the environment, but it also gives the fossil fuel industry extra leverage among governments.

Chomsky on Ukraine

In the interview that follows, world-renowned scholar and dissident Noam Chomsky shares his insights about the prospects for peace in Ukraine and how this war may impact our efforts to combat global warming.

Noam Chomsky, who is internationally recognized as one of the most important intellectuals alive, is the author of some 150 books and the recipient of scores of highly prestigious awards, including the Sydney Peace Prize and the Kyoto Prize (Japan’s equivalent of the Nobel Prize), and of dozens of honorary doctorate degrees from the world’s most renowned universities. Chomsky is Institute Professor Emeritus at MIT and currently Laureate Professor at the University of Arizona.

C.J. Polychroniou: Noam, while a fourth round of negotiations was scheduled to take place today between Russian and Ukrainian representatives, it is now postponed until tomorrow, and it still seems unlikely that peace will be reached in Ukraine any time soon. Ukrainians don’t appear likely to surrender, and Putin seems determined to continue his invasion. In that context, what do you think of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s response to Vladimir Putin’s four core demands, which were (a) cease military action, (b) acknowledge Crimea as Russian territory, (c) amend the Ukrainian constitution to enshrine neutrality, and (d) recognize the separatist republics in eastern Ukraine?

Noam Chomsky: Before responding, I would like to stress the crucial issue that must be in the forefront of all discussions of this terrible tragedy: We must find a way to bring this war to an end before it escalates, possibly to utter devastation of Ukraine and unimaginable catastrophe beyond. The only way is a negotiated settlement. Like it or not, this must provide some kind of escape hatch for Putin, or the worst will happen. Not victory, but an escape hatch. These concerns must be uppermost in our minds.

I don’t think that Zelensky should have simply accepted Putin’s demands. I think his public response on March 7 was judicious and appropriate.

In these remarks, Zelensky recognized that joining NATO is not an option for Ukraine. He also insisted, rightly, that the opinions of people in the Donbas region, now occupied by Russia, should be a critical factor in determining some form of settlement. He is, in short, reiterating what would very likely have been a path for preventing this tragedy — though we cannot know, because the U.S. refused to try.

Read More