08 September 2020


 CounterPunch 7

Drawing of Julian Assange by Nathaniel St. Clair

Having reported the long, epic ordeal of Julian Assange, John Pilger gave this address outside the Central Criminal Court in London on September 7 as the WikiLeaks Editor’s extradition hearing entered its final stage.

When I first met Julian Assange more than ten years ago, I asked him why he had started WikiLeaks. He replied: “Transparency and accountability are moral issues that must be the essence of public life and journalism.”

I had never heard a publisher or an editor invoke morality in this way. Assange believes that journalists are the agents of people, not power: that we, the people, have a right to know about the darkest secrets of those who claim to act in our name.

If the powerful lie to us, we have the right to know. If they say one thing in private and the opposite in public, we have the right to know. If they conspire against us, as Bush and Blair did over Iraq, then pretend to be democrats, we have the right to know.

It is this morality of purpose that so threatens the collusion of powers that want to plunge much of the world into war and wants to bury Julian alive in Trumps fascist America.

In 2008, a top secret US State Department report described in detail how the United States would combat this new moral threat. A secretly-directed personal smear campaign against Julian Assange would lead to “exposure [and] criminal prosecution”.

The aim was to silence and criminalise WikiLeaks and its founder. Page after page revealed a coming war on a single human being and on the very principle of freedom of speech and freedom of thought, and democracy.

The imperial shock troops would be those who called themselves journalists: the big hitters of the so-called mainstream, especially the “liberals” who mark and patrol the perimeters of dissent.

And that is what happened. I have been a reporter for more than 50 years and I have never known a smear campaign like it: the fabricated character assassination of a man who refused to join the club: who believed journalism was a service to the public, never to those above.

Assange shamed his persecutors. He produced scoop after scoop. He exposed the fraudulence of wars promoted by the media and the homicidal nature of America’s wars, the corruption of dictators, the evils of Guantanamo.

He forced us in the West to look in the mirror. He exposed the official truth-tellers in the media as collaborators: those I would call Vichy journalists. None of these imposters believed Assange when he warned that his life was in danger: that the “sex scandal” in Sweden was a set up and an American hellhole was the ultimate destination. And he was right, and repeatedly right.

The extradition hearing in London this week is the final act of an Anglo-American campaign to bury Julian Assange. It is not due process. It is due revenge. The American indictment is clearly rigged, a demonstrable sham. So far, the hearings have been reminiscent of their Stalinist equivalents during the Cold War.

Today, the land that gave us Magna Carta, Great Britain, is distinguished by the abandonment of its own sovereignty in allowing a malign foreign power to manipulate justice and by the vicious psychological torture of Julian – a form of torture, as Nils Melzer, the UN expert has pointed out, that was refined by the Nazis because it was most effective in breaking its victims.

Every time I have visited Assange in Belmarsh prison, I have seen the effects of this torture. When I last saw him, he had lost more than 10 kilos in weight; his arms had no muscle. Incredibly, his wicked sense of humor was intact.

As for Assange’s homeland, Australia has displayed only a cringeing cowardice as its government has secretly conspired against its own citizen who ought to be celebrated as a national hero. Not for nothing did George W. Bush anoint the Australian prime minister his “deputy sheriff”.

It is said that whatever happens to Julian Assange in the next three weeks will diminish if not destroy freedom of the press in the West. But which press? The Guardian? The BBC, The New York Times, the Jeff Bezos Washington Post?

No, the journalists in these organisations can breathe freely. The Judases on the Guardian who flirted with Julian, exploited his landmark work, made their pile then betrayed him, have nothing to fear. They are safe because they are needed.

Freedom of the press now rests with the honourable few: the exceptions, the dissidents on the internet who belong to no club, who are neither rich nor laden with Pulitzers, but produce fine, disobedient, moral journalism – those like Julian Assange.

Meanwhile, it is our responsibility to stand by a true journalist whose sheer courage ought to be inspiration to all of us who still believe that freedom is possible. I salute him.

John Pilger can be reached through his website: www.johnpilger.com

23 August 2020


From CounterPunch 21 August 2020


By Jonathan Cook 

Photograph Source: A street in Jenin, 2011 – Almonroth – Template:Hey – CC BY-SA 3.0

When the Palestinian actor Mohammed Bakri made a documentary about Jenin in 2002 – filming immediately after the Israeli army had completed rampaging through the West Bank city, leaving death and destruction in its wake – he chose an unusual narrator for the opening scene: a mute Palestinian youth.

Jenin had been sealed off from the world for nearly three weeks as the Israeli army razed the neighbouring refugee camp and terrorised its population.

Bakri’s film Jenin, Jenin shows the young man hurrying silently between wrecked buildings, using his nervous body to illustrate where Israeli soldiers shot Palestinians and where bulldozers collapsed homes, sometimes on their inhabitants.

It was not hard to infer Bakri’s larger meaning: when it comes to their own story, Palestinians are denied a voice. They are silent witnesses to their own and their people’s suffering and abuse.

The irony is that Bakri has faced just such a fate himself since Jenin, Jenin was released 18 years ago. Today, little is remembered of his film, or the shocking crimes it recorded, except for the endless legal battles to keep it off screens.

Bakri has been tied up in Israel’s courts ever since, accused of defaming the soldiers who carried out the attack. He has paid a high personal price. Deaths threats, loss of work and endless legal bills that have near-bankrupted him. A verdict in the latest suit against him – this time backed by the Israeli attorney general – is expected in the next few weeks.

Bakri is a particularly prominent victim of Israel’s long-running war on Palestinian history. But there are innumerable other examples.

For decades many hundreds of Palestinian residents in the southern West Bank have been fighting their expulsion as Israeli officials characterise them as “squatters”. According to Israel, the Palestinians are nomads who recklessly built homes on land they seized inside an army firing zone.

The villagers’ counter-claims were ignored until the truth was unearthed recently in Israel’s archives.

These Palestinian communities are, in fact, marked on maps predating Israel. Official Israeli documents presented in court last month show that Ariel Sharon, a general-turned-politician, devised a policy of establishing firing zones in the occupied territories to justify mass evictions of Palestinians like these communities in the Hebron Hills.

The residents are fortunate that their claims have been officially verified, even if they still depend on uncertain justice from an Israeli occupiers’ court.

Israel’s archives are being hurriedly sealed up precisely to prevent any danger that records might confirm long-sidelined and discounted Palestinian history.

Last month Israel’s state comptroller, a watchdog body, revealed that more than one million archived documents were still inaccessible, even though they had passed their declassification date. Nonetheless, some have slipped through the net.

The archives have, for example, confirmed some of the large-scale massacres of Palestinian civilians carried out in 1948 – the year Israel was established by dispossessing Palestinians of their homeland.

In one such massacre at Dawaymeh, near where Palestinians are today fighting against their expulsion from the firing zone, hundreds were executed, even as they offered no resistance, to encourage the wider population to flee.

Other files have corroborated Palestinian claims that Israel destroyed more than 500 Palestinian villages during a wave of mass expulsions that same year to dissuade the refugees from trying to return.

Official documents have disproved, too, Israel’s claim that it pleaded with the 750,000 Palestinian refugees to return home. In fact, as the archives reveal, Israel obscured its role in the ethnic cleansing of 1948 by inventing a cover story that it was Arab leaders who commanded Palestinians to leave.

The battle to eradicate Palestinian history does not just take place in the courts and archives. It begins in Israeli schools.

A new study by Avner Ben-Amos, a history professor at Tel Aviv University, shows that Israeli pupils learn almost nothing truthful about the occupation, even though many will soon enforce it as soldiers in a supposedly “moral” army that rules over Palestinians.

Maps in geography textbooks strip out the so-called “Green Line” – the borders demarcating the occupied territories – to present a Greater Israel long desired by the settlers. History and civics classes evade all discussion of the occupation, human rights violations, the role of international law, or apartheid-like local laws that treat Palestinians differently from Jewish settlers living illegally next door.

Instead, the West Bank is known by the Biblical names of “Judea and Samaria”, and its occupation in 1967 is referred to as a “liberation”.

Sadly, Israel’s erasure of Palestinians and their history is echoed outside by digital behemoths such as Google and Apple.

Palestinian solidarity activists have spent years battling to get both platforms to include hundreds of Palestinian communities in the West Bank missed off their maps, under the hashtag #HeresMyVillage. Illegal Jewish settlements, meanwhile, are prioritised on these digital maps.

Another campaign, #ShowTheWall, has lobbied the tech giants to mark on their maps the path of Israel’s 700-kilometre-long steel and concrete barrier, effectively used by Israel to annex occupied Palestinian territory in violation of international law.

And last month Palestinian groups launched yet another campaign, #GoogleMapsPalestine, demanding that the occupied territories be labelled “Palestine”, not just the West Bank and Gaza. The UN recognised the state of Palestine back in 2012, but Google and Apple refused to follow suit.

Palestinians rightly argue that these firms are replicating the kind of disappearance of Palestinians familiar from Israeli textbooks, and that they uphold “mapping segregation” that mirrors Israel’s apartheid laws in the occupied territories.

Today’s crimes of occupation – house demolitions, arrests of activists and children, violence from soldiers, and settlement expansion – are being documented by Israel, just as its earlier crimes were.

Future historians may one day unearth those papers from the Israeli archives and learn the truth. That Israeli policies were not driven, as Israel claims now, by security concerns, but by a colonial desire to destroy Palestinian society and pressure Palestinians to leave their homeland, to be replaced by Jews.

The lessons for future researchers will be no different from the lessons learnt by their predecessors, who discovered the 1948 documents.

But in truth, we do not need to wait all those years hence. We can understand what is happening to Palestinians right now – simply by refusing to conspire in their silencing. It is time to listen.

A version of this article first appeared in the National, Abu Dhabi.

More articles by:

Jonathan Cook won the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His website is http://www.jonathan-cook.net/

21 August 2020


From CounterPunch 20 AUGUST 2020

Torturing Assange: An Interview with Andrew Fowler

By John Kendall Hawkins

Drawing by Nathaniel St. Clair

“I love Wikileaks.”

– DJ Trump

“Can’t we drone him?”

– Hillary Clinton

Andrew Fowler is an Australian award-winning investigative journalist and a former reporter for the ABC’s Foreign Correspondent and Four Corners programs. and the author of The Most Dangerous Man in the World: Julian Assange and WikiLeaks’ Fight for Freedom. This is an updated edition of his 2011 account of the rise and political imprisonment of Assange. Much of that account explained how Assange seemingly inevitably moved toward an adversarial positioning against American imperialism abroad. He was a tonic for the indifference expressed by so many ordinary Americans in the traumatic aftermath of 9/11 and the rise of the surveillance state. Boston Legal’s Alan Shore (James Spader) seems to sum it up succinctly.

His updated version discusses the torture Assange is currently undergoing at Belmarsh prison in Britain. Here is a mut-see film regarding his torture.

His book also contains the latest on UC Global’s comprehensive spying on Assange and his visitors at the Ecuadorian embassy in London in the last year of his ‘refuge’ there. UC Global is a Spanish security company hired to protect the embassy. It has since been revealed that they were passing on data to American intelligence, presumably the CIA. Certainly, Fowler implies such a connection in his updated book, citing two Assange hacking breaches of US government servers, each of which, Fowler writes, the CIA went berserk, as if they’d been hit by a foreign enemy. In the last (new) chapter of the book, “The Casino,” Fowler describes how outraged the CIA was when Assange published their hacking tools, known as Vault 7, on Wikileaks: “Sean Roche, the deputy director of digital innovation at the CIA, remembers the reaction from those inside the CIA. He said he got a call from another CIA director who was out of breath: ‘It was the equivalent of a digital Pearl Harbor.’” Below is my recent interview with the author.

* Note: Upon his release of the Pentagon Papers, Daniel Ellsberg was referred to as “the most dangerous man in the world.”

What is the up-to-date status of Julian’s health?

It seems quite clear that there is an attempt by the British and US administrations to destroy Assange, either driving him to suicide or a psychological breakdown. He has had a lung condition for a number of years, which has not been properly treated, and is clearly suffering from huge stress. During his last court appearance over a video link, there were long pauses between his words, even when speaking his own name.

When Chelsea Manning was imprisoned at Quantico she spent 23 hours per day in solitary confinement and was stripped naked at night. How does Julian’s treatment at Belmarsh compare? Manning’s treatment was said to be an attempt to coerce her into ratting on others, including, presumably Assange. What do you see as the ultimate purpose of Assange’s treatment? And how does it amount to torture?

The ultimate purpose of Assange’s treatment is a warning to others. Particularly other journalists. It’s the modern day equivalent of crucifixion, putting heads of enemies on spikes, or public hangings. The torture of Assange involves two main areas: being confined to three rooms in a single building for 7 years, and unable to leave without fear of arrest and extradition to Sweden which was playing an underhand role to allow Assange to be extrdited to the US. As the UN rapporteur on torture Nils Meltzer wrote that never in the two decades he had spent investigating war crimes had he ever seen such a ganging up of so many powerful nations against one individual. It is a testament to Assange’s mental strength that he resisted at all.

No effort was made by the Swedes to “question” Assange once he was lifted from the Ecuadorian Embassy, suggesting that their purpose all along was, as Assange and his defenders averred, a pretext for hand-over. You’d think there was some way to nix the bail jump charge given this likelihood of intergovernmental collusion. Thoughts?

There are no outstanding allegations for Assange to answer in Sweden. They were always only allegations, rather than charges. It is important to understand that if the Swedish prosecutors had charged Assange, they would have had to reveal the evidence of the ‘offences’ to his lawyers upon which those charges were based. And the evidence was not only thin, it pointed to a conspiracy. So it was possible to keep Assange in the embassy, while the UK prosecuting authority worked at ways of getting him extradited to Sweden. There seems little doubt that the plan all along was to use Sweden as a holding pen for Assange as the US applied for his extradition. It is possible he could take his case to the European Human Court of Human Rights, but the Brexit decision, makes this area extremely murky.

Can you provide more details about the UC Global, the Spanish company brought into the Ecuadorian Embassy to spy on Assange? Do we know more about what data that they gathered? Has a more definitive connection to the CIA been made? Has any further effort been put into place to quash the extradition process based on this fact alone? (He could never expect a fair trial back in the US if such surveillance and potentially framing were done.)

UC Global not only recorded hundreds of conversations inside the Ecuadorian embassy, but also photographed the phones [and] their location identifying IMEI numbers, passports and other documents of everyone who visited Assange in the embassy between 2015 and 2018. It’s my understanding that the case running in Madrid at the moment against the former CEO of UC Global, David Morales, who is charged with illegally spying on Assange and his lawyers (a specifically illegal act in Europe) will be used by the Assange legal team to argue that the US extradition case should be thrown out. It is my understanding that if any material gathered spying on Assange and his lawyers is used, or even known about, by those involved in the US prosecution – the charges must be withdrawn. There has been no definitive connection to the CIA. The closest I have managed to make the link is to the State Department and White House confidantes.

Snowden’s, Permanent Record is one of the best reads I’ve had in quite some time. You could argue that his revelations are equally, if not more significant, than what Assange offers up through Wikileaks. Where do you stand on the difference of value, if any, between Wikileaks and the Snowden revelations?

The main differences are: Assange is a recipient of information which as a journalist he publishes. Snowden is a source. When it comes to quantifying the different values of their work, Assange mainly provided information and analysis, whereas Snowden exposed intelligence gathering systems. In the source-journalist relationship, they both need each other. Both exposed the activities of a war-making machine. Without Assange it is unlikely that we would have had Snowden. It was WikiLeaks that opened up the public on a truly massive scale to a secret world of horror and deception which until then had been largely hidden from view. For Snowden’s part he brought the argument home that it wasn’t just foreign governments who were being spied on, it was the Americans themselves. They both played a significant and at times overlapping role in revealing the truth about the world we’re in.

Assange and Snowden seem to have had their differences over the years. Snowden describes in PR how he chose his nickname: “The final name I chose for my correspondence was ‘Verax,’ Latin for ‘speaker of truth,’ in the hopes of proposing an alternative to the model of a hacker called ‘Mendax’ (‘speaker of lies’)—the pseudonym of the young man who’d grow up to become WikiLeaks’s Julian Assange.” (p.193) There was irritability there between them, and Snowden didn’t trust Assange with his life (fearing that a dump, rather than a journo-processed revelation system, would close off future whistleblower arguments). His first choice had been the NYT, but their suppression of James Risen’s 2004 pre-election piece on STELLARWIND enraged him and he ended up going with Greenwald et al, instead. Snowden suggests character differences between the two, but on the other hand Assange really pissed the US government off when he sent a woman to rescue Snowden from Hong Kong. Some of us thought Obama was going to shoot down Bolivia One with president Evo Morales on board because Obama thought Snowden was onboard.

I see in Permanent Record Snowden says he decided not to go with WikiLeaks because of a change of policy to publish material unredacted, or ‘pristine’ as he calls it. Not sure why he says this because WL policy is to redact. [Here’s Snowden’s explanation.] WL did put all the Iraq/Afghanistan/Cablegate documents online un-redacted, but only after David Leigh of the Guardian published the password — and the material was already out on the internet. I’ve never asked Assange this, but there is another Mendax. In the 1920s an Australian science fiction writer Erle Cox’a Mendax was an eccentric inventor. Mendax experiments with ‘matter transmission’ ‘invisibility’ and ‘extracting gold from seawater’. There is a tension between the two, no doubt about it. Snowden still errs on the side of secrecy and Assange on the side of publication, possibly the difference between an ex-intelligence agent and a journalist.

Covid-19 seems to be the wild card in the deck, vis-a-vis Assange’s extradition to the US. If he doesn’t contract the illness in prison, then his extradition next year could prove problematic — courts, protests, circus. How do you think the virus will affect the legal proceedings? Do you think he’ll be better off under Biden’s DOJ? Or worse, given the perceived threat to the Democrats he represents? Do you see a way for his defense to exploit the DNC/Russia hack dishonesty?

Not sure how Covid will impact anything much, other than slowing down the process, which in itself is extremely problematic for Assange. He’s already been in prison or under house arrest (including the embassy) for nine years. I’m not sure what it takes to embarrass the UK government into refusing the extradition request, but the new indictment is surely turning the political prosecution into a farce. The US now wants to re-arrest Assange to wrap in a new indictment because the first one was likely to fail. In past years it might have been possible for the UK Government to reject this deceptive or incompetent behaviour by the US, but Britain is a spent force now on the world stage, and the US can do whatever it wants.

As for Biden’s DoJ, he’s called Assange a ‘high-tech terrorist’ and has recently said though he favours freedom of the press it should not compromise US national security. Not much hope there.

One hope Assange has is the possible pardoning of Snowden. It plays to Trump’s ‘deep state’ argument that the intelligence agencies are out of control and were involved in the fabrication of Russian collusion. [Here’s Snowden referencing his work for the “Deep State”] Assange’s work has exposed CIA atrocities (which supports Trump’s position) but WikiLeaks has also revealed evidence of war crimes by the US military, an establishment so admired by his core supporters. I fear that a Snowden pardon, much as I would personally welcome it, would only further isolate Assange.

If Assange goes down, do you see a future for journalism in the world — given America’s so-called leadership in this area, by way of the holy first amendment, but with dwindling global newspapers. The Guardian, WaPo and the NYT remain the only papers of record available in every international terminal in the world — and sales falling for them, the fight over what’s real news and what isn’t underway (a proxy war to control the narrative), how do you see the fight for journalism ahead?

If Assange goes down, it will be the third domino. First, the rising power of executive government; second, the destruction of the, at times, countervailing power of the mainstream media, including public broadcasters who draw their political power from their audiences (and thus to a certain extent are independent). The internet has savaged media budgets which has weakened the overall media environment and empowered governments to attack and cut public broadcasters. Assange who used the internet as a weapon for journalism provided a way to re-energise old media structures — engage readers and challenge executive government authority. He provided a way to democratise journalism. It is the reason he is such a threat to the hegemony of the US led five eyes nations, who until recently in a uni-polar political and strategic world, have ruled supreme.

I sometimes marvel at the effect on journalism and even constitutional issues in America that Australians have had. Early on, Assange seems to have declared war on the DoD and, later, the US State Department; John Pilger has, with his interview with the CIA “rogue” Duane Clarridge, exposed the full fuckin hubris of American foreign policy; and, Fox News has so dumbed down the political conversation in America that it may be heading for a fate like that depicted in Idiocracy. Any thoughts?

There’s a strange contradiction in Australia. Australians are very conservative, and cautious, but part of the national identity is tied to the notion of anti-authoritarianism, dating back to the nation’s convict past. The degradation of the mainly poor, transported to Australia from the UK and Ireland two centuries ago for often minor crimes, created a bedrock of antagonism against the ruling ‘elites’. This long history of dissent in Australia has produced outstanding journalists such as Pilger and Assange, Wilfred Burchett and Philip Knightly. I can think of no better way to explain how Assange and Murdoch became two of the most influential global media figures in the past century. Murdoch rose to power as an anti-establishment figure in the UK and Assange has done the same on a global basis.

More articles by:

John Kendall Hawkins is an American ex-pat freelancer based in Australia.  He is a former reporter for The New Bedford Standard-Times.

12 August 2020



Subject: disposable old people
Date: Sun, 9 Aug 2020 
From: Mannie De Saxe <redjos30@tpg.com.au>
To: letters@theage.com.au

Mannie De Saxe

2/12 Murphy Grove,


Vic 3072

Phone: 03 9471 4878

9 August 2020

*Geriatrics for disposal*

I am sick and tired of reading letters in The Age every day telling the world that old people should be allowed to be disposed of because they have lived their lives and it is younger people who need to be saved from death by the pandemic.

My partner is 97 and I am 93 and 25 years ago we were carers for people who were living with - and dying from - HIV/AIDS illnesses which were frightening to behold. Most of them were in their 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s and many of them died before treatments were found which allowed them to live longer and have a quality of life, which no one could envisage in the early to mid-90s. Some of them are still alive today and a few have reached their 80s and are still living useful and productive lives.

We live on our own and although we have all sorts of ailments and illnesses, we are fortunate that our minds are still functioning and we can do most daily tasks without assistance.

What is more we are still able to use our computers and can even write letters to newspapers.

People are people no matter what their ages and whether they are in nursing homes or their own homes they should not be thrown away as some of the letter writers would like to do with us. We still have human rights and I will insist on mine until I am ready to euthanase if life becomes intolerable, at a time of my own choosing.

............and just by the way, Bertrand Russell and George Bernard Shaw were still writing into their 90s .

Mannie De Saxe

Sent to us by Gary Jaynes on 11 AUGUST 2020 from a friend of his.

01 August 2020


List of Israeli Targets Leaked: Tel Aviv Fears the Worst in ICC Investigation of War Crimes

When International Court of Justice (ICC) Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, confirmed last December that the Court has ample evidence to pursue a war crimes investigation in occupied Palestine, the Israeli government responded with the usual rhetoric, accusing the international community of bias and insisting on Israel’s ‘right to defend itself.’

Beneath the platitudes and typical Israeli discourse, the Israeli government knew too well that an ICC investigation into war crimes in Palestine could be quite costly. An investigation, in itself, represents an indictment of sorts. If Israeli individuals were to be indicted for war crimes, that is a different story, as it becomes a legal obligation of ICC members to apprehend the criminals and hand them over to the Court.

Israel remained publicly composed, even after Bensouda, last April, elaborated on her December decision with a 60-page legal report, titled: “Situation in the State of Palestine: Prosecution Response to the Observations of Amici Curiae, Legal Representatives of Victims, and States.”

In the report, the ICC addressed many of the questions, doubts and reports submitted or raised in the four months that followed her earlier decision. Countries such as Germany and Austria, among others, had used their position as amici curiae – ‘friends of the court’ – to question the ICC jurisdiction and the status of Palestine as a country.

Bensouda insisted that “the Prosecutor is satisfied that there is a reasonable basis to initiate an investigation into the situation in Palestine under article 53(1) of the Rome Statute, and that the scope of the Court’s territorial jurisdiction comprises the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza (“Occupied Palestinian Territory”).”

However, Bensouda did not provide definitive timelines to the investigation; instead, she requested that the ICC’S Pre-Trial Chamber “confirm the scope of the Court’s territorial jurisdiction in Palestine,” an additional step that is hardly required since the State of Palestine, a signatory of the Rome Statute, is the one that actually referred the case directly to the Prosecutor’s office.

The April report, in particular, was the wake-up call for Tel Aviv. Between the initial decision in December till the release of the latter report, Israel lobbied on many fronts, enlisting the help of ICC members and recruiting its greatest benefactor, Washington – which is not an ICC member – to bully the Court so it may reverse its decision.

On May 15, US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, warned the ICC against pursuing the investigation, targeting Bensouda, in particular, for her decision to hold war criminals in Palestine accountable.

The US slapped unprecedented sanctions against the ICC on June 11, with President Donald Trump issuing an ‘executive order’ that authorizes the freezing of assets and a travel ban against ICC officials and their families. The order also allows for the punishing of other individuals or entities that assist the ICC in its investigation.

Washington’s decision to carry out punitive measures against the very Court that was established for the sole purpose of holding war criminals accountable is both outrageous and abhorrent. It also exposes Washington’s hypocrisy – the country that claims to defend human rights is attempting to prevent legal accountability by those who have violated human rights.

Upon its failure to halt the ICC legal procedures regarding its investigation of war crimes, Israel began to prepare for the worst. On July 15, Israeli daily newspaper, Haaretz, reported about a ‘secret list’ that was drawn up by the Israeli government. The list includes “between 200 and 300 officials”, ranging from politicians to military and intelligence officials, who are subject to arrest abroad, should the ICC officially open the war crimes investigation.

Names begin at the top of the Israeli political pyramid, among them Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his current coalition partner, Benny Gantz.
The sheer number of Israeli officials on the list is indicative of the scope of the ICC’s investigation, and, somehow, is a self-indictment, as the names include former Israeli Defense Ministers – Moshe Ya’alon, Avigdor Lieberman and Naftali Bennett; current and former army chiefs of staffs – Aviv Kochavi, Benny Gantz and Gadi Eisenkot and current and former heads of internal intelligence, the Shin Bet – Nadav Argaman and Yoram Cohen.

Respected international human rights organizations have already, repeatedly, accused all these individuals of serious human rights abuses during Israel’s lethal wars on the besieged Gaza Strip, starting with the so-called ‘Operation Cast Lead’ in 2008-9.

But the list is far more extensive, as it covers “people in much more junior positions, including lower-ranking military officers and, perhaps, even officials involved in issuing various types of permits to settlements and settlement outposts.”

Israel, thus, fully appreciates the fact that the international community still insists that the construction of illegal colonies in occupied Palestine, the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians and the transfer of Israeli citizens to occupied land are all inadmissible under international law and tantamount to war crimes.

 Netanyahu must be disappointed to learn that all of Washington’s concessions to Israel under Trump’s presidency have failed to alter the position of the international community and the applicability of international law in any way.

Furthermore, it would not be an exaggeration to argue that Tel Aviv’s postponement of its plan to illegally annex nearly a third of the West Bank is directly linked to the ICC’s investigation, for the annexation would have completely thwarted Israel’s friends’ efforts aimed at preventing the investigation from ever taking place.

While the whole world, especially Palestinians, Arabs and their allies, still anxiously await the final decision by the Pre-Trial Chamber, Israel will continue its overt and covert campaign to intimidate the ICC and any other entity that aims to expose Israeli war crimes and to try Israeli war criminals.

Washington, too, will continue to strive to ensure Netanyahu, Gantz, and the “200 to 300” other Israeli officials never see their day in court.

However, the fact that a “secret list” exists is an indication that Tel Aviv understands that this era is different and that international law, which has failed Palestinians for over 70 years, may, for once, deliver, however a small measure of justice.

More articles by:
Ramzy Baroud is a journalist and the Editor of The Palestine Chronicle. He is the author of five books. His latest is “These Chains Will Be Broken: Palestinian Stories of Struggle and Defiance in Israeli Prisons” (Clarity Press, Atlanta). Dr. Baroud is a Non-resident Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA), Istanbul Zaim University (IZU). His website is www.ramzybaroud.net


.......and the Australian government has done nothing to help its citizen who it is leaving to rot in hell, so Australians overseas should know how its government looks after those citizens who have no significance for them politically. 

From CounterPunch 31 July 2020

Julian Assange's Political Indictment: Old Wine in Older Bottles

By Binoy Kampmark

The book of hours on Julian Assange is now being written. But the scribes are far from original. Repeated rituals of administrative hearings that have no common purpose other than to string things out before the axe are being enacted. Of late, the man most commonly associated with WikiLeaks’ publication project cannot participate in any meaningful way, largely because of his frail health and the dangers posed to him by the coronavirus. Having already made an effort to attend court proceedings in person, Assange has come across as judicial exotica, freak show fodder for Judge Vanessa Baraitser’s harsh version of Judge Judy. He was refused an application to escape his glass commode when he could still attend in person, as permitting him to descend and consult his defence team in a court room would constitute a bail application of some risk. This reading by the judicial head was so innovative it even puzzled the prosecutors.

What we know to date is that restrictions and shackles on Assange’s case are the order of the day. Restricted processes that do nothing to enable him to see counsel and enable a good brief to be exercised are typical. Most of all, the ceremonial circus that we have come to expect of British justice in the menacing shadow of US intimidation has become gloomily extensive. On July 27, that circus was given yet another act, another limping performance. As before, the venue was the Westminster Magistrates’ Court in London.

During the proceeding, Assange did appear via video link from Belmarsh Prison, albeit it an hour late, and only at the insistence of his legal team. The Guardian report on his presence reads like an account of a sporting engagement. “Wearing a beige sweater and a pink shirt, Assange eventually appeared from Belmarsh prison after an earlier attempt was aborted.”

Others were alarmed. During his call-over hearing, noted Martin Silk of the Australian Associated Press, “neither the Australian, nor his guards, were wearing face masks. I don’t understand the reason for that given we have to wear them inside shops.” This point was also made by Assange’s partner, Stella Moris: “Belmarsh hasn’t provided Julian with a face mask throughout this #covid crisis. The prison guards he interacts with don’t wear them either.” WikiLeaks supporter Juan Passarelli also felt that Assange “was having trouble following the proceedings due to the Judge and lawyers not speaking loud enough and into the microphones.”

Arrangements for the hearing for observers proved characteristically sloppy. Freelance journalist Stefania Maurizi was unimpressed by being on the phone for two hours during which she “couldn’t understand more than 20 percent of what has been discussed.” She was adamant that “UK authorities don’t care at all about international reporters covering” the Assange proceedings. “Dial in system is, as usual,” agreed Passarelli, “a shambles!”

The topic of discussion during this administrative hearing was what was announced by the US Department of Justice on June 24, namely the second superseding indictment. That document proved to be a naked exercise of political overreach, adding no further charges to the already heavy complement of eighteen, seventeen of which centre on the US Espionage Act. The scope of interest, however, was widened, notably on the issue of “hacking” and conferencing. Assange is painted as devilish recruiter and saboteur of the international secret order, a man of the conference circuit keen to open up clandestine governments and make various reasons for doing so. “According to the charging document, Assange and others at WikiLeaks recruited and agreed with hackers to commit computer intrusions to benefit WikiLeaks.”

Edward Fitzgerald QC, in representing Assange, fulfilled his norm, submitting that the recently revised document did little to inspire confidence in the nature of clarified justice. “We are concerned about a fresh request being made at this stage with the potential consequences of derailing proceedings and that the US attorney-general is doing this for political reasons.” Fitzgerald reminded the court that US President Donald Trump had “described the defence case as a plot by the Democrats.”

This should have been obvious, but Baraitser’s court would have none of it. To admit at this point that Assange is wanted for political reasons would make it that much harder to extradite him to the United States, given that bar noted in the US-UK Extradition Treaty. Whilst it was good of Fitzgerald to make this point, he should know by now that his audience is resolutely constipated and indifferent to such prodding. Assange is to be given the sharpest, rather than the most balanced, of hearings. Accordingly, Baraitser insisted that Fitzgerald “reserve his comments” – she, in the true tradition of such processes, had not been supplied, as yet, with the US indictment. This made the entire presence of all the parties at the Westminster Magistrates’ not merely meaningless but decidedly absurd.

Assange’s defence team could draw some cold comfort from Baraitser’s comments that July 27 was the deadline for any further evidence to be adduced by the prosecution before the September extradition hearing. One exception was permitted: psychiatric reports.

The current chief publisher of WikiLeaks Kristinn Hrafnsson had a few choice words for the prosecutors of Wikileaks. “All the alleged events have been known to the prosecution for years. It contains no new charges. What’s really happening here is that despite its decade start the prosecution are still unable to build a coherent case.” The scrapping of the previous indictments suggested that they were “flagrantly disregarding proper process.”

Assange is facing one of the most disturbing confections put together by any state that claims itself to be free. Should this stratagem work, the publisher will find himself facing the legal proceedings of a country that boasts of having a free press amendment but is keen on excluding him from it. What is even more troubling is the desire to expand the tent of culpability, one that will include press outlets and those who disseminate classified information.

To the next circus instalment we go: a final call-over hearing in Westminster Magistrates’ Court on August 14, then the September 7 extradition hearing, to be held at the Central Criminal Court most of us know as the Old Bailey. Will justice prove blind, or merely blinded?

More articles by:
Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com


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90 years old, political gay activist, hosting two web sites, one personal: http://www.red-jos.net one shared with my partner, 94-year-old Ken Lovett: http://www.josken.net and also this blog. The blog now has an alphabetical index: http://www.red-jos.net/alpha3.htm