Tom Gross Mideast Media Analysis

Finally, NY Times op-ed page properly criticizes Corbyn’s anti-Semitism; chief rabbi warns of danger spreading

August 29, 2018

Even some commentators in the western media speaking out against Corbyn’s anti-Semitism have, in the very same articles, continued to spread misinformation about “apartheid” for Israeli Arabs. Such media misinformation is helping to fuel anti-Semitism. Above is a graph showing the actual situation. -- Tom Gross

 

EX-CHIEF RABBI WARNS: “CORBYN HAS LEGITIMIZED THE PUBLIC EXPRESSION OF HATE, AND WHERE HE LEADS, OTHERS WILL FOLLOW”

[Note by Tom Gross]

For the past three years, since he became leader of the British Labour party and a favorite to become prime minister, I have noted that the New York Times (unlike other papers) has failed properly to cover Jeremy Corbyn and left-wing anti-Semitism in Britain, while writing about Corbyn.

Yesterday the New York Times opinion pages finally ran a piece clearly explaining the situation, by a Labour-voting journalist, the New York correspondent for the Sunday Times of London. The piece is below.

Also, yesterday evening, the widely respected former British Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks lashed out at Corbyn calling him an “anti-Semite” who “defiles our politics”.

The Labour leader, Sacks said, uses “the language of classic prewar European anti-Semitism… He has legitimized the public expression of hate, and where he leads, others will follow.”

In an interview with Britain’s left-wing New Statesman magazine, Lord Sacks said Corbyn was the biggest danger to race relations in Britain since the anti-immigrant politician Enoch Powell made his infamous “Rivers of Blood” speech in 1968.

In Britain, it is rare for prominent religious leaders to speak out forcibly against politicians.

Lord Sacks is a widely respected figure across British society.

 

SACKS: “WE HAVE AN ANTI-SEMITE AS HEAD OF HER MAJESTY’S OPPOSITION”

Former UK chief rabbi Jonathan Sacks:

“When challenged with such facts, the evidence for which is before our eyes, first Corbyn denies, then he equivocates, then he obfuscates. This is low, dishonest and dangerous. He has legitimised the public expression of hate, and where he leads, others will follow.

“Now, within living memory of the Holocaust, and while Jews are being murdered elsewhere in Europe for being Jews, we have an anti-Semite as the leader of the Labour Party and her majesty’s opposition. That is why Jews feel so threatened by Mr Corbyn and those who support him.

“For more than three and a half centuries, the Jews of Britain have contributed to every aspect of national life. We know our history better than Mr Corbyn, and we have learned that the hate that begins with Jews never ends with Jews. Mr Corbyn’s embrace of hate defiles our politics and demeans the country we love.”

More here: https://www.newstatesman.com/politics/uk/2018/08/corbyn-s-zionist-remarks-were-most-offensive-enoch-powell-says-ex-chief-rabbi

The full interview will be published tomorrow, Thursday, in this week’s New Statesman.

 

OPPOSITION TO CORBYN WITHIN HIS PARTY

Labour’s own internal anti-Semitism advocacy group, Labour Against Anti-Semitism, said it had now lodged a formal complaint with the party against Corbyn for “anti-Semitism and for bringing the party into disrepute.”

On Friday, as I noted in my previous dispatch on this subject, The Times of London published an editorial calling Corbyn “straightforwardly anti-Semitic,” and concluding that his comments should “render him ineligible for membership, let alone leadership, of a democratic party and for public office.”

 

CORBYN CLAIMS ISRAEL CONTROLS SPEECHES MADE IN BRITISH PARLIAMENT

Today, the Daily Mail reveals yet more conspiracy theory against Jews and Israelis propagated by Corbyn.

Article and video here.

 

Who needs British anti-Semitic conspiracy theorists when you have Haaretz opinion writers?

 

J.K. ROWLING ASKS WHY MORE BRITONS AREN’T SPEAKING OUT AGAINST ANTI-SEMITISM

Relatively few prominent British non-Jews have spoken out against anti-Semitism. There has been no comparable outcry as there would have almost certainly been had Corbyn adopted hostile positions to black people or Muslims.

One of the few to do so forcibly is Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling, who is also one of the Labour Party’s biggest funders.

On Sunday, J.K. Rowling went head to head with a fellow writer on Twitter over his criticism of Jewish complaints about anti-Semitism in the Labour Party.

Rowling, who is not Jewish, tweeted in response to Simon Maginn, who has written five thrillers under his own name and satirical comedies under the name Simon Nolan:

“How dare you tell a Jew that their outrage is ‘patently synthetic’? How dare you demand that they lay bare their pain and fear on demand, for your personal evaluation? What other minority would you speak to this way?”

Rowling also tweeted several quotes from Jean-Paul Sartre’s essay “Anti-Semite and Jew”

J.K. Rowling has a very large twitter following.

Maginn accused Rowling of “libel” for publicly calling him an anti-Semite in one of her tweets, but tweeted that “I’m not going to mount a legal action against you because I haven’t got any money and you’ve got a lot, but false + defamatory = libellous. What a class act you are. What a nasty vicious little bully. Blocked.”

In April, she tweeted: “Most UK Jews in my timeline are currently having to field this kind of crap, so perhaps some of us non-Jews should start shouldering the burden,” she said. “Antisemites think this is a clever argument, so tell us, do: were atheist Jews exempted from wearing the yellow star? #antisemitism.”

 

JK Rowling has spoken out against anti-Semitism before, including in this letter which I helped her gather signatories for.

Here is a short interview with me (and the British ambassador to Israel) about that letter, with Israel Channel 2 news .

And perhaps more interesting to watch is this clip in wake of the JK Rowling letter. (It is part of a debate hosted by one of the leading female Muslim Arab hosts on Israeli TV Lucy Aharish, between myself and the head of “Peace Now” Yariv Oppenheimer.)

 

NY TIMES ARTICLE: “I WON’T VOTE LABOUR AGAIN UNTIL HE’S GONE”

Getting Off the Fence About Jeremy Corbyn’s Anti-Semitism
I won’t vote Labour again until he’s gone.
By Josh Glancy
New York Times
Aug. 28, 2018

(Mr. Glancy is the New York correspondent for The Sunday Times of London)

Is Jeremy Corbyn an anti-Semite?

That is the question that has dogged British politics since Mr. Corbyn became the Labour Party leader three years ago. It’s also dominated every Shabbat dinner conversation and the WhatsApp thread of every Jewish family across Britain.

I didn’t want this to be true. Though the Anglo-Jewish community is increasingly Conservative, my Jewish friends and I are almost all Labour voters. That fact makes us close cousins of American Jews, who, as the saying goes, earn like Episcopalians but vote like Puerto Ricans.

As Jewish Labourites, we draw inspiration from a tradition that harks back to the Battle of Cable Street in 1936, when the left turned out in force to defend the Jews from Fascists on the streets of London. We all left university a decade ago dreaming of one day working in Labour politics.

But for the past several months, as scandal upon Jew-hating scandal has washed up at Jeremy Corbyn’s door, our parents and aunts and uncles have insisted that we were being loyal to a party that no longer wanted anything to do with us. Some friends began to leave Labour.

Consider the evidence, they told me. Mr. Corbyn has described the constitutionally genocidal Hamas as his “friends.” He’s appeared on stage with inveterate anti-Semites. He’s defended a mural that depicted hooknosed bankers running the world. He’s attended a wreath-laying ceremony that celebrated the perpetrators of the Munich Olympics massacre.

All of this was variously offensive, tone-deaf, ignorant or, at times, insidious. But none of these scandals quite clinched it for me. The associations were often tangential. And, I reasoned, there was the possibility of confusion: Mr. Corbyn is not exactly known for his sharp wits.

Then, last Thursday, The Daily Mail released a video of Mr. Corbyn speaking at a 2013 conference in London about Britain’s legacy in Palestine. The conference was promoted by the Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas. Other speakers included Stephen Sizer, who has appeared alongside Holocaust deniers at a conference in Iran. So far, so familiar.

What Mr. Corbyn said, however, was different. While bemoaning the activities of a group of Zionists, he identified two problems. “One is that they don’t want to study history, and secondly, having lived in this country for a very long time, probably all their lives, they don’t understand English irony either,” he said. “I think they need two lessons, which we can help them with.”

There’s been some debate over whether he was berating just that particular group of Zionists or Zionists in general. Mr. Corbyn, in a limp effort at explaining himself, has stated that he “described those pro-Israel activists as Zionists in the accurate political sense, not as a euphemism for the Jewish people.”

This is, to put it in British, utter tosh.

This was classic anti-Semitism. Here were a group of Jews with whom Mr. Corbyn has a political disagreement. And he smeared them not on the basis of that disagreement but on the basis of their ethnicity. He accused them of failing to assimilate English values, of not fitting in, of still being a bit foreign. Had they been Christian Zionists, he could not have insulted them in this way.

The video was a watershed for many. Daniel Finkelstein, a Tory peer and columnist for The Times of London, called the revelation “qualitatively different from anything that has come before.” Ben Judah, a Labour-voting author, said that “the nasty comment from Mr. Corbyn on ‘Zionists’ not getting ‘English irony’ has finally snapped the benefit of the doubt extended by many Jewish progressives.”

A writer for The Guardian, Simon Hattenstone, who has repeatedly defended Jeremy Corbyn against charges of anti-Semitism, called his speech “unquestionably anti-Semitic.” And it wasn’t just the Jews. George Monbiot, a giant of the British left, described the comments as “anti-Semitic and unacceptable.”

And from Mr. Corbyn’s most vehement defenders, such as the Guardian columnist Owen Jones or the Novara Media columnist Ash Sarkar? Crickets.

I’d always thought that if Mr. Corbyn was ever nailed down on this issue, he’d be spouting the anti-Semitism of the international left: Shadowy Zionist lobbyists. Omnipotent Rothschilds. Benjamin Netanyahu glorying in the slaughter of innocent children.

Instead we got something much closer to home. This was the anti-Semitism of Virginia Woolf and Agatha Christie. It was T.S. Eliot’s “lustreless” Bleistein puffing on his cigar and Roald Dahl insisting that “there is a trait in the Jewish character that does provoke animosity.” The comments were more redolent of the genteel Shropshire manor house where Mr. Corbyn was raised than the anticapitalist resistance movements where he forged his reputation.

In recent months, most of the Anglo-Jewish community, normally happy to keep its collective head down, has been uncharacteristically vocal on the issue of Mr. Corbyn’s anti-Semitism.

I haven’t. It’s probably because I’ve lived in England all my life, but I don’t like to make a fuss. I recoil from the paranoia and neurosis that haunts many older members of my community, though I recognize its cause. I have never wanted to be a PTSD Jew, forever stuck in 1933. And I really do appreciate that parsing anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism can be a tricky business.

Perhaps the deeper thing keeping me on the fence is that I desperately didn’t want to face the reality that Britain’s possible prime minister is a man who traffics in an ancient prejudice against my people. What would that say about my party — and about my country?

Here’s what I do know: My fellow British Jews were right. I was wrong. From now on, Jeremy Corbyn has my loud and implacable opposition.

 

Among previous related dispatches:

* Guardian writer: Is my Jewish three-year-old too young to learn about antisemitism?

* Britain’s “next?” prime minister called terrorist who helped blow up café, “brother”

* “The worst cancer I’ve ever seen”

 

* You can also find other items that are not in these dispatches if you “like” this page on Facebook www.facebook.com/TomGrossMedia

Guardian writer: Is my Jewish three-year-old too young to learn about antisemitism?

August 26, 2018

AboveAnti-Semitic booklets being handed out to delegates at a pro-Corbyn meeting in London last week.

In a tweet last week, Dan Hogan, who worked on the British Labour Party’s internal disciplinary inquiries (but has now quit), revealed the scale of allegations investigated. Hogan said: “I’ve done plenty of disciplinary cases against Labour members who compared Israel to the Nazis, peddled conspiracy theories about Israel, promoted Holocaust deniers, praised terrorists, and who questioned the Britishness or loyalty of British Jews.”

Other MPs from the party’s moderate wing said that the party does not have enough staff to handle all the anti-Semitic allegations coming in about Labour Party members.

 

[Notes by Tom Gross]

This is another in an occasional series of dispatches about British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, who continues to rise in some opinion polls (largely because of the government’s difficulties over Brexit) and is currently a favorite to be the next prime minister of the United Kingdom. The UK is, of course, a nuclear-armed power and a permanent member of the UN Security Council.

(This dispatch is primarily for readers in America and elsewhere since papers such as the New York Times have inadequately explained what is happening in the UK.)

For those interested I have also posted many items about Corbyn on my public Facebook page in recent weeks, here:

https://www.facebook.com/TomGrossMedia

Among previous related dispatches:

* Britain’s “next?” prime minister called terrorist who helped blow up café, “brother”

* “The worst cancer I’ve ever seen”

 

Above: The cover of yesterday’s Times of London comes is hardly surprising. The far left in many ways share the same anti-Semitic ideology of the extreme right. It led to the murder and persecution of Jews in Soviet Russia, for example. (Because there are laws against race hatred and anti-Semitism in many countries today, including the UK, they often disguise their anti-Semitism as anti-Zionism.)

After Corbyn’s derogatory remarks about British Jews in 2013 were revealed in a video by the Daily Mail on Friday, Home Secretary Sajid Javid (of the Conservative party) said yesterday: “If Corbyn had said “Asians” or “Blacks” instead of “Zionists”, he would have had to resign by now.”

Mike Gapes, a senior Labour MP, said: “Corbyn is a racist anti-Semite. Period.”

 

Above: From the inside pages of yesterday’s Times of London.

On another page The Times’s lead editorial said:

For too long the leader of the opposition has tolerated antisemitism in his party. For too long he has dragged his feet amid a growing clamour from inside and outside the Labour movement to stamp it out. Now Jeremy Corbyn is revealed as straightforwardly antisemitic himself. That is the conclusion any reasonable listener must draw from a 2013 speech in London …

There is a place in any party for legitimate criticism of any country’s foreign and domestic policies, including Israel’s, but this was not Mr Corbyn’s subject. He was singling out Jews on the basis of their ethnicity as problematic and in need of “lessons”. This is antisemitism. Anyone in doubt where such remarks might resonate was offered clarification yesterday via Twitter, which published messages of support for Mr Corbyn from Nick Griffin, former head of the British National Party, and David Duke, a Holocaust denier and former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. With friends like these, Mr Corbyn can end his long search for enemies in implausible places…

Alongside Corbyn on the platform were conspiracy theorists including an Anglican vicar who has claimed that Israel was responsible for the 9/11 terror attacks and whom Mr Corbyn has commended for “excellent work” … The event was publicised on the website of the military wing of Hamas, a proscribed terrorist organisation that far from recognising Israel is dedicated to its destruction.

(Full editorial at the end of the dispatch.)


 

Above: a tweet on Thursday in support of Corbyn from Nick Griffin, former leader of the British extreme right.

Today, The Mail on Sunday newspaper reveals that bodyguards may be hired by a Jewish organization to protect prominent Jewish delegates at the forthcoming annual Labour party conference next month. Female MPs of Jewish origin including Ruth Smeeth, Margaret Hodge and Luciana Berger all continued to receive abuse and threats from Corbyn supporters.

At last year’s Labour party conference, the BBC provided its political editor Laura Kuenssberg with security guards after she was bombarded with sexist abuse by some Corbyn supporters for alleged anti-Labour bias.

 

Above: the cover of the London Daily Mail from earlier this month.

Among other articles in The Times, Daily Mail and Daily Mirror:

* Corbyn: I did attend wreath ceremony for Munich killers

* Side by side with a cinema bomber: Jeremy Corbyn is pictured alongside yet another terrorist in Tunisia

* Corbyn faces fresh questions over his links to terrorists as pictures emerge of him sharing a stage with the world's first female plane hijacker

* 'Biggest terror chiefs in Hamas' who said Jews were 'headed to annihilation', named in delegation attending Jeremy Corbyn 'peace conference' in Tunisia

* Star Trek actor Sir Patrick Stewart breaks with Labour after 73 years over Corbyn’s support for Brexit


 

While continuing to campaign against Israel at every opportunity and promote anti-Israeli terrorists, Corbyn praises other countries.

Above, his tweet this month in honor of Pakistan.

Corbyn (who to my knowledge has never tweeted congratulations for Israel's Independence Day), omits to mention that Pakistan’s creation involved the slaughter of at least 200,000 people and up to 15 million refugees.

 

A CLIP FROM EXODUS

Here is a 42 second clip from the 1960 film “Exodus” in which Paul Newman (whose father was Jewish) plays an Israeli, Haganah officer disguised in British army uniform speaking with an anti-Semitic British officer.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w3FtzmvAiMc

I attach three pieces below.

-- Tom Gross


ARTICLES

IS MY JEWISH THREE-YEAR-OLD TOO YOUNG TO LEARN ABOUT ANTISEMITISM?

Is my Jewish three-year-old too young to learn about antisemitism?
I stand by my decision to read my daughter a children’s version of the Anne Frank story, but some of my friends have objected

By Hilary Freeman
The Guardian
August 23, 2018

My three-year-old daughter, Sidonie, stared for a moment at the illustration in the storybook I was reading her at bedtime. “Can I wear a yellow star too please, Mummy?” she asked, her innocent question betraying her lack of understanding. I laughed, uncomfortably. To her, the identifying mark forced on European Jews by the Nazis was nothing more than a fashion choice. She wanted “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” on her clothes because it looked pretty.

Like me, Sidonie is Jewish. The book I was reading her, an illustrated biography of Anne Frank for young children, forms part of a series titled Little People, Big Dreams, which introduces young children to notable women in history. She had already enjoyed similar books about Frida Kahlo and Maya Angelou and I bought her the one about Anne Frank because, of all the subjects profiled, it most resonated with me. As a child who loved writing, I identified with Anne Frank. And my grandmother – Sidonie’s great-grandmother – was, like Anne, a little girl in prewar Germany. Unlike Anne, she and my grandfather had the good fortune to escape to England, not to the soon-to-be-occupied Netherlands.

When I mentioned this bedtime story incident on Facebook, some of my friends argued that I shouldn’t be reading my daughter a book about Anne Frank, or the Holocaust, even if it is a censored version without any horror or violence. There is a nasty man with a moustache, a train to “the worst place on Earth” and a glossed-over exit for Anne. “Preserve her innocence,” they said. “She’s far too young to learn about antisemitism.”

Perhaps they’re right and it is too soon even for this gentle introduction. I certainly don’t want to frighten or traumatise my daughter. And yet, in the current climate, with accusations of antisemitism in the Labour party making headline news virtually every day, and a rise in antisemitism all over Europe, this is an issue that is pertinent to her life and to her future, not just a story in a book. Many Jews in the UK are feeling very unsettled. I even know Jews who are packing up and leaving for Israel in fear.

Antisemitism – and its generally more visible sibling, racism – are not like the monster under the bed. They do exist. If I don’t begin to prick Sidonie’s consciousness with the knowledge that the world is not always a good place for people like me and her, will I be doing her a disservice? But how and when do you tell your child that there are people in the world – not just a few, but many, and for millennia – who hate her and may even wish to do her harm, simply because she exists? How young is too young? How, as a parent, do you prepare your child for the realities of antisemitism or racism when they make no sense to you, when they are illogical and irrational? And how do you guard your child’s innocence, without wrapping them in cotton wool, turning them into a “snowflake”, leaving them vulnerable and defenceless?

To those who say that children should be shielded from these truths, I say this: being a child has never been any protection against antisemitism. Children were the first to be murdered by the Nazis because they couldn’t be used as slave labour. My middle name – Rachel – was given to me in memory of my grandma’s niece, Rachel Stern, who died in Auschwitz in 1944, aged just five, together with her parents. Had she survived, she would be 79 now and Sidonie might have met her; it really wasn’t all that long ago.

We tell children fairytales, replete with child-eating witches and wicked stepmothers, and they are meant to be scary. Child psychologists like Bruno Bettelheim have argued that the very point of such stories is that they are dark and frightening, because by reading them children learn to cope with their fears. The fact is that some monsters goose-step and wear swastikas, and it’s not always imaginary witches who burn children in ovens.

Hiding away from horrible truths doesn’t make them go away, and being screened from reality almost certainly does not create strong or happy children. That comes from being loved, from feeling secure. I believe that children absorb the information they need and process it at their own pace. They ask the questions they are ready to know the answers to. For now, Sidonie is content to see a yellow star as a fashion accessory, and I won’t tell her otherwise. In the future, she will understand what the symbol really means. Slowly learning about the evil in the world means that a child will grow up with the knowledge and resilience to cope with difficult situations and hostile people.

Like all tiny children, she is currently blind to the labels we adults ascribe to differences of race, religion, disability or colour. I am only too aware that in a few years time this won’t be the case, that she will see these differences, just as other children will see them in her. And some will hate her for them. She needs to be gently prepared.

 

IN THE AGE OF FAKE NEWS, CORBYN WILL GET AWAY WITH HIS SHAMELESS LIES

In the age of fake news, Corbyn will get away with his shameless lies
By Charlotte Henry
CapX
August 14, 2018

Anti-Semitism is, in many ways, the original fake news. Centuries before the Nazis used anti-Semitic propaganda to such horrific effect, the Bubonic plague, no less, was blamed on the Jews. Later, in 1545, Martin Luther published a pamphlet called “The Jews and their Lies” which described Jews as “base, whoring people, that is, no people of God, and their boast of lineage, circumcision, and law must be accounted as filth”. It also featured the blood libel — the vile lie that Jews slaughter non-Jewish children for the purposes of making bread.

It should, therefore, come as no surprise then that in the post-truth era, this oldest of hatreds has once again raised its ugly head.

This weekend, the alt-right returned to the streets in the US. This is the same group of people who have a devoted network of fake news websites that includes the neo-Nazi Daily Stormer and have been known to shout “lugenpresse” — a phrase used by the Nazis meaning “lying press” — at journalists covering Donald Trump’s rallies. Their riots in Charlottesville a year ago used the classic imagery of the American far right and resulted in the deaths of three people.

In the UK, developments have been perhaps less dramatic, but no less sinister. The Labour anti-Semitism scandal has rumbled on for nearly two years, with Jeremy Corbyn supporters insisting the whole thing is nothing more than a smear cooked up by a hostile press.

Corbyn and his allies’ evasion and dishonesty have reached new heights in the last few days. Following a Mail on Sunday story that Corbyn had laid a wreath at a ceremony commemorating Palestinian terrorists who were involved in the kidnapping, torture and murder of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics, the Labour leader at first denied it. The Labour press office even issued a statement that had the stomach-churning gall to claim that the “Munich widows are being misled”.

Having lied to journalists with this statement, Corbyn then conceded in a television clip that he was “present when it was laid”, but did not “think I was actually involved in it”, evoking his equally bizarre denial that he did not properly look at an anti-Semitic mural before praising it.

That a Labour leader — someone who wants to run the country — can tell such a lie and get away with it suggests there has been a worrying change in the way politics works. The durability of his claim to have worked tirelessly for peace in the face of the torrent of evidence of his penchant for some of the most extreme people on a rather regular basis perfectly encapsulates the post-truth era in which we live.

Corbyn’s behaviour has a lot in common with Donald Trump’s. They both follow the post-truth playbook. The two have even started using the same form of words, with Trump this weekend condemning “all types of racism and acts of violence” as Corbyn frequently refers to anti-Semitism and all forms of racism. If you don’t deal with specifics, they can’t pin you down.

Indeed, anti-Semitism is to Corbyn what the Russia election probe is to Trump — more and more keeps dripping out, but nothing seems to stick. Instead, Corbyn and his followers keep gas-lighting us, telling us what we can see with our own us is not true. The chutzpah of it all is almost breathtaking. The mental gymnastics required to believe it would be impressive if it were not all so frightening.

These post-truth politicians pretend they are being authentic and honest but, in reality, they deny, obfuscate and muddy the waters as much as they can. So what if Corbyn had written in the Morning Star about the wreath being laid on the graves of terrorists? Fake news sites like Skwawkbox were happy to go into bat for him, dismissing the Mail story as “desperate smears” before seemingly deleting a host of tweets on the topic when Corbyn released his statement.

In this era of information overload, people mostly hear what they want to. There is so much out there that we are unable to process it all. Populists and fringe politicians can, therefore, rest safe in the knowledge that the true believers will not be put off by negative stories, and they will be there to attack anyone who dares to question their hero.

What ultimately happens is that everyone’s opinion just stays exactly the same. Those core supporters still continue to believe in the cause and that their hero is being attacked, people who oppose Corbyn still want him out and everyone else cuts out all the noise and gets on with their lives. The post-truth politicians win.

In normal political times, Corbyn would not have won the leadership of one of the great political parties. There was too much baggage, too many questions, even then. He certainly would not be able to survive the ongoing revelations and accusations of anti-Semitism both by him and his supporters. But we do not live in normal political times, we live in a time when facts are anything you want them to be and politicians can seemingly do and say the most heinous things under the guise of “authenticity”.

The true believers have gone through the looking glass and are able to believe “as many as six impossible things before breakfast”, but the rest of us mustn’t fall for it. In times like these, guarding the truth matters more than ever before.

 

“IT IS TIME FOR THE PARTY TO TELL HIM HE IS NO LONGER WELCOME AS ITS LEADER”

Labour’s Moral Vacuum
The Times (of London)
Lead editorial
August 25 2018

Corbyn’s antisemitism makes Jewish MPs feel unwelcome in his party. It is time for the party to tell him he is no longer welcome as its leader

For too long the leader of the opposition has tolerated antisemitism in his party. For too long he has dragged his feet amid a growing clamour from inside and outside the Labour movement to stamp it out. Now Jeremy Corbyn is revealed as straightforwardly antisemitic himself. That is the conclusion any reasonable listener must draw from a 2013 speech in London in which he claimed that “Zionists” did not want to study history and “don’t understand English irony either”.

The speech used the word “Zionists” as a synonym for “Jews” and as a term of casual abuse. It sought to depict British Jews as alien to British culture, and wilfully ignorant of it despite “having lived in this country for a very long time, probably all their lives”. John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, has said Mr Corbyn’s remarks have been taken out of context and that Mr Corbyn has dedicated his career to the pursuit of peace. To take such evasions at face value is at best naive.

There is a place in any party for legitimate criticism of any country’s foreign and domestic policies, including Israel’s, but this was not Mr Corbyn’s subject. He was singling out Jews on the basis of their ethnicity as problematic and in need of “lessons”. This is antisemitism. Anyone in doubt where such remarks might resonate was offered clarification yesterday via Twitter, which published messages of support for Mr Corbyn from Nick Griffin, former head of the British National Party, and David Duke, a Holocaust denier and former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. With friends like these, Mr Corbyn can end his long search for enemies in implausible places.

Labour’s current leadership has gone through the motions of addressing antisemitism in the party rank and file, but it has a blind spot when it looks for antisemitism in the mirror. It is fixated on the notion that it has become the victim of a media conspiracy to remove Mr Corbyn using antisemitism as a pretext.

There are many reasons to remove Mr Corbyn from the leadership of a once-great progressive party. One is his economic illiteracy, which would cause a run on the pound if ever allowed to influence policy. Another is his conspiratorial world view, formed as a student, based on a kneejerk instinct to blame America for the world’s ills, and unchanged by decades on the back benches — or, it appears, by three years close to power. But what disqualifies him from power and from his present position is precisely his antisemitism. His refusal to acknowledge it does not make it any less real. This is not a pretext for his removal but the most urgent reason for it, and the task falls squarely on the shoulders of Labour members who have so far conspicuously failed to summon the courage or moral clarity to carry it out.

Mr Corbyn has a record of insouciant disregard for the concerns of British Jewry and of evasion about his past affiliations. His remarks from 2013, only two years before his elevation to Labour’s leadership, are a case apart even from this dismaying history. Alongside him on the platform were conspiracy theorists including an Anglican vicar who has claimed that Israel was responsible for the 9/11 terror attacks and whom Mr Corbyn has commended for “excellent work . . . in highlighting the injustices of the Palestinian-Israeli situation”. The event was publicised on the website of the military wing of Hamas, a proscribed terrorist organisation that far from recognising Israel is dedicated to its destruction.

Labour prime ministers have included such staunch friends of Israel as Harold Wilson, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. By contrast, Mr Corbyn exemplifies not only poor judgment but bigotry and dishonour. In earlier eras, he would have been forced to resign. His comments should render him ineligible for membership, let alone leadership, of a democratic party and for public office.

 

* You can also find other items that are not in these dispatches if you “like” this page on Facebook www.facebook.com/TomGrossMedia

Why many Saudis don’t want a Palestinian state (& Saudis attack Canada over Badawi)

August 08, 2018

While Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland has denounced the recent arrests of Samar Badawi and other Saudi women rights activists, Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama (above with Samar Badawi in 2012) have been largely silent.

Badawi is being held in prison for calling for Saudi women to be granted the most basic rights enjoyed by women in the rest of the world. She is the sister of the imprisoned Saudi blogger Raif Badawi, who was sentenced to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in prison for calling for freedom of speech in the kingdom.

 

Raif Badawi’s wife, Ensaf Haidar, who escaped to Canada with their children

 

Raif Badawi on one of the last occasions he was able to see his children

 

“NOT FOOLISH ENOUGH TO LOBBY FOR A STATE THAT WOULD BE AN IRANIAN CLIENT STATE”

[Notes by Tom Gross]

This dispatch concerns Saudi Arabia.

The first article is by Haisam Hassanein, an Egyptian political analyst currently doing his masters at Tel Aviv University. (There are an increasing number of Arabs studying at Israeli universities.)

Hassanein points out that the younger generations of leaders in the Gulf, led by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (known as MBS) and his ally Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohamed bin Zayed (MBZ), have long grown weary of helping support a Palestinian state.

As reported in previous dispatches on this list, MBS, unlike his father King Salman, has recognized Israel’s right to exist and said the Palestinians should either “shut up” or make peace with Israel.

Hassanein writes:

“The younger Gulf generations are now unconvinced that moderation would follow the establishment of a Palestinian state. They believe it is more likely that a fully independent Palestinian state would itself be hostage to radical forces, and would in fact become an extreme source of instability in the region.

“MBS and MBZ are certainly not foolish enough to lobby for and fund the establishment of a state that would most certainly be an Iranian client state... Those who actively dictate policy in the Gulf are convinced that every dollar the Saudis give to the Palestinians means handing it to Iran.”

 

SAUDI ARABIA FREEZES TRADE, EXPELS AMBASSADOR, AFTER CANADA DEMANDS WOMEN RIGHTS ACTIVISTS BE FREED

The second piece below, from The Canadian Press, concerns Saudi Arabia’s expulsion of the Canadian ambassador and the freezing of all new trade with Canada. This comes after Canada a few days ago criticized the arrest of Saudi women’s rights activists, including Samar Badawi, the sister of the imprisoned Saudi blogger Raif Badawi.

In June, Saudi Arabia lifted its ban on women from driving cars – a ban Samar Badawi and other women’s rights activists have long campaigned against.

However, Badawi and others were then arrested as a warning to others not to seek increased rights for women and other Saudis.

Saudi women still need permission from male guardians to travel abroad or marry.

 

A WARNING TO OTHER COUNTRIES TOO

Canada receives 10 percent of its imported crude oil from Saudi Arabia, and bilateral trade between the two nations is $3 billion a year.

“This message is obviously not just being sent to Ottawa,” Giorgio Cafiero, the CEO of Gulf State Analytics, a Washington-based risk consultancy, told the Associated Press. “It’s a message to countries across Europe and across the rest of the world that criticism of Saudi Arabia has consequences.”

 

WIFE, CHILDREN GRANTED CANADIAN CITIZENSHIP

Raif Badawi is Saudi Arabia’s most prominent pro-liberal democracy political prisoner.

Raif Badawi’s wife, Ensaf Haidar, and his three children managed to flee Saudi Arabia and receive political asylum in Canada. Last month they were awarded Canadian citizenship.

I am on the board of the Raif Badawi Foundation.

I have interviewed his wife Ensaf Haidar about Raif and Samar Badawi here (video).

Tom Gross with Ensaf Haidar, the exiled wife of Saudi political prisoner Raif Badawi, who is campaigning for his release

 

PALESTINIANS CHEERING AGAINST SAUDI ARABIA IN THE WORLD CUP

Among those who have spoken out in support of the arrests in Saudi Arabia is Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

“President Abbas affirmed his rejection and condemnation of the Canadian intervention in the internal affairs of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” the official Palestinian news site Wafa reported on Monday.

In Gaza by contrast, where Iran is reportedly sending almost $100 million to arm and help Hamas while the Iranian population is suffering shortages, MBS’ picture has been burned. During the recent soccer World Cup, on Hamas’ instructions, Gazans cheered for Iran against its Western opponents, while supporting Western countries against the Saudi national team in other matches.

 

INVADING QATAR?

The third piece below, from The Intercept, reveals that Saudi Arabia “planned to invade Qatar last summer” and “Rex Tillerson’s efforts to stop it may have cost him his job.”

The fourth and final piece below is from last month’s Wall Street Journal: “Saudi Arabia Still Detaining Dozens From Corruption Crackdown: Newly arrested join others held for months; detainees have been abused and not informed of any charges.”

-- Tom Gross


ARTICLES

WHY YOUNGER SAUDIS WON’T FUND, FACILITATE OR FIGHT FOR A PALESTINIAN STATE

Why Younger Saudis Won’t Fund, Facilitate or Fight for a Palestinian State

An emerging Gulf leadership has shaken off its elders’ attachment to the Palestinian cause. They’re convinced an independent Palestine means handing Iran and Sunni political Islamists yet another Arab capital

By Haisam Hassanein
Haaretz (opinion pages)
August 6, 2018

That there is a wide gap between the position of Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdel Aziz, endorsing full rights for Palestinians, as opposed to his son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (known as MBS) should come as no surprise to Western policymakers.

There have been clear recent indications of this difference. The Crown Prince has recognized Israel’s right to exist and was reported as saying the Palestinians should either “shut up” or make peace with Israel.

Pushing back, King Salman reiterated “the kingdom’s steadfast position towards the Palestinian issue and the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people to an independent state,” and lately declared that U.S. President Trump’s peace plan had to include East Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital.

The Gulf states, particularly Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, are experiencing tremendous socio-political change that has accelerated a generation gap that has been widening for some time. One particular divergence in the thinking between the younger generations and the older ones is what approach to adopt towards the Palestinians.

Older Saudis grew up in the 1950s and 1960s during the heyday of Arab nationalism, and its embrace of the Palestinian cause as the main driver for all events in the region. While the Saudis never fully embraced Arab nationalism, they adopted the Palestinian cause to preempt attacks based on a lack of solidarity from their arch-opponents, Arab nationalists.

Thus, the older generation in the Gulf that Saudi King Salman embodies believes deeply in the Palestinian cause, whatever political complexion the Palestinian leadership exhibits.

However, the younger generations, characterized and led by MBS and his close ally Mohamed bin Zayed (MBZ), the crown prince of Abu Dhabi and primary driver of the UAE’s foreign policy, display far less political equanimity; they prioritize realpolitik over political nostalgia. They long ago stopped overlooking what they consider problematic political biases within the West Bank, Gaza, and even among the Palestinian diaspora around the world.

They realize that Palestinians in general are not enthusiastic toward or supporters of Saudi and Emirati interests in checking the power of political Shia Islamists, most notably Iran, and Sunni political Islamists, primarily the Muslim Brotherhood.

There has long been a school of thought in the Gulf that called for a separation between Gulf states’ national interests and the Palestinian cause, but this was still an unpopular position among the general public. But over the last few years, this position has been increasingly adopted, first by younger elites and then more broadly, not least as Saudi Arabia itself has come under missile attack from Iranian proxies.

The younger Gulf generation has seen for itself the attacks launched by Palestinians against their countries on social media, including the burning of MBS’ pictures in Gaza. During the soccer World Cup, many Palestinians rushed to root for Iran against its Western opponents, while supporting Western countries against the Saudi national team. This immediate, visceral experience differentiates the younger Gulf generation from its elders.

The older generation of Saudi and Emirati policymakers have known these Palestinian political tendencies for years, but they overlooked them in the hope that once a Palestinian state is established, local actors sympathetic to Iran would have an incentive to moderate their positions, providing the Saudis offer generous financial contributions. The general prognosis was that the emergence of other moderate groups would counterbalance the radicals.

However, the younger Gulf generations are now unconvinced that moderation would follow the establishment of a Palestinian state. They believe it is more likely that a fully independent Palestinian state would itself be hostage to radical forces, and would in fact become an extreme source of instability in the region.

MBS and MBZ believe that establishing a Palestinian state would mean handing Iran and Sunni political Islamists another Arab capital to control and influence. Iranian influence among Palestinian groups has solidified over the years, and the two crown princes’ assessment is that it is irreversible.

They are fortified in that position by the example of Gaza. Sunni political Islamists have run the Strip disastrously for over a decade, opening the door for [the extremist governments of] Qatar and Turkey to project influence there. That this is also leading to conflict in Egypt further reinforces the belief that an independent Palestine would be a source of instability.

MBS and MBZ are certainly not foolish enough to lobby for and fund the establishment of a state that would most certainly be an Iranian client state, analogous to a Soviet-era satellite state.

Despite this, many Western policymakers still fantasize about the idea that the Gulf countries could provide money to birth and develop a Palestinian state – indeed, this is reportedly one of the founding principles of the Trump-Kushner peace plan.

That is never going to happen. Those who actively dictate policy in the Gulf are convinced that every dollar the Saudis give to the Palestinians means handing it to Iran. The Saudis and Emirates are likely to promise to provide financial assistance in public, but U.S. policymakers should not believe that they would ever deliver when push really comes to shove.

For those in Washington dreaming of another peace process breakthrough, another Rabin-Arafat handshake on the White House lawn, this time midwifed by the Gulf – there is little chance this will become anything more than a mirage.

The Middle East has moved on from the 1990s, and just like the Saudis and Emirates have woken up to the facts of the Palestinians’ political biases, policymakers in D.C. must keep up and evolve their thinking to better serve American interests, and not repeat the mistakes of the past.

 

SAUDI ARABIA FREEZES NEW TRADE, INVESTMENT AFTER CANADA DEMANDS ACTIVISTS BE FREED

Saudi Arabia freezes new trade, investment after Canada demands activists be freed
Ottawa is ‘seeking greater clarity’ on statements from Riyadh, Chrystia Freeland’s spokesperson says
The Canadian Press
August 6, 2018

https://www.cbc.ca/news/world/saudi-arabia-suspends-trade-canada-ambassador-1.4775133

Saudi Arabia said on Sunday that it is ordering Canada’s ambassador to leave the country and freezing all new trade and investment transactions with Canada in a spat over human rights.

“We consider the Canadian ambassador to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia persona non grata and order him to leave within the next 24 hours,” Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Ministry said on Twitter.

Tweet by Saudi Foreign Ministry:

#Statement | KSA through its history has not and will not accept any form of interfering in the internal affairs of the Kingdom. The KSA considers the Canadian position an attack on the KSA and requires a firm stance to deter who attempts to undermine the sovereignty of the KSA.

Tweet by Canadian Foreign Ministry:

@CanadaFP
Canada is gravely concerned about additional arrests of civil society and women’s rights activists in #SaudiArabia, including Samar Badawi. We urge the Saudi authorities to immediately release them and all other peaceful #humanrights activists.

The ministry added that Saudi Arabia is recalling its ambassador to Canada. Both the Saudi and Canadian ambassadors were away on leave at the time of the announcement.

The dispute appears to be over a tweet on Friday from Global Affairs Canada.

“Canada is gravely concerned about additional arrests of civil society and women’s rights activists in Saudi Arabia, including Samar Badawi. We urge the Saudi authorities to immediately release them and all other peaceful human rights activists,” the tweet said.

The Saudi Foreign Ministry called the use of “immediately release” in Canada’s tweet “unfortunate, reprehensible, and unacceptable in relations between states.”

It dismissed Canada’s characterization of the activists as “an incorrect claim” and said Canada’s attitude was “surprising.”

Tweet by Saudi Foreign Ministry:

@KSAmofaEN

#Statement | The Canadian position is an overt and blatant interference in the internal affairs of the Kingdom of #SaudiArabia and is in contravention of the most basic international norms and all the charters governing relations between States.

6:59 PM - Aug 5, 2018

“Any other attempt to interfere with our internal affairs from Canada, means that we are allowed to interfere in Canada’s internal affairs,” it said.

Saudi state television later reported that the Education Ministry was coming up with an “urgent plan” to move thousands of Saudi scholarship students out of Canadian schools to take classes in other countries.

The sudden and unexpected dispute bore the hallmarks of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s 32-year-old future leader, whose recent foreign policy exploits include the war in Yemen, the boycott of Qatar and Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s surprise resignation broadcast during a visit to the kingdom. Hariri later rescinded the resignation, widely believed to be orchestrated by Riyadh, and returned to Beirut.

A spokesperson for Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland issued a brief response to the Saudi complaint on Sunday evening.

“We are seriously concerned by these media reports and are seeking greater clarity on the recent statement from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” said Marie-Pier Baril.

“Canada will always stand up for the protection of human rights, very much including women’s rights, and freedom of expression around the world. Our government will never hesitate to promote these values and believes that this dialogue is critical to international diplomacy.”

Tweet by Chrystia Freeland @cafreeland:

Very alarmed to learn that Samar Badawi, Raif Badawi’s sister, has been imprisoned in Saudi Arabia. Canada stands together with the Badawi family in this difficult time, and we continue to strongly call for the release of both Raif and Samar Badawi.

Saudi Arabia said it is also freezing all new trade and investment transactions with Canada and “reserves its right to take further action.” Saudi Arabia is one of Canada’s largest export markets in the region, and some 10 per cent of Canadian crude oil imports come from Saudi Arabia.

It said it will not accept any form of interference in its internal affairs and considers the Canadian position “an attack” requiring a firm stance to deter “attempts to undermine the sovereignty” of Saudi Arabia.

In neighbouring United Arab Emirates, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said Monday on Twitter that his country stands with Saudi Arabia “in defending its sovereignty.” Bahrain’s foreign minister made similar comments in support of Riyadh.

Amnesty International has said Badawi, the sister of jailed blogger Raif Badawi, was recently detained along with Nassima al-Sada, another prominent female activist.

The human rights group’s Middle East research director described the arrests as part of a larger crackdown on human rights in Saudi Arabia.

Jackie Hansen, a gender rights campaigner for Amnesty International Canada, said last Thursday that the circumstances of the arrests were still unclear and there was no news of any charges.

Badawi’s brother was arrested in Saudi Arabia in 2012 and later sentenced to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in jail for criticizing clerics.

He received 50 lashes in January 2015 during a public flogging but is not believed to have received any further corporal punishment since then.

His wife, Ensaf Haidar, and three children live in Quebec and became Canadian citizens last month.

Freeland said on social media last Thursday that she was “alarmed” to hear of Samar Badawi’s arrest.

“Canada stands together with the Badawi family in this difficult time, and we continue to strongly call for the release of both Raif and Samar Badawi,” she wrote on Twitter.

Bessma Momani, a political science professor at the University of Waterloo, believes the apparent diplomatic moves by Riyadh were about more than the Badawi case.

“I think one has to stand back and see that there’s been a lot of heat on Saudi Arabia, particularly its treatment of civil society actors and and human rights activities,” she said. “I think Canada is literally made to be an example.”

Tweet by Bessma Momani @b_momani:

We’ve seen a lot of support for Saudi dissidents in the UK, Canada, the US Congress, & others. But Canada is easier to cut ties with than the rest. There isn’t a strong bilateral trade relationship & poking Trudeau government likely resonates with Saudi’s hawkish regional allies.

Saudi Arabia ended in June its long practice of not allowing women to drive automobiles in the Sunni kingdom. However, supporters of women’s rights were arrested just weeks before the ban was lifted, signalling that only King Salman and his powerful son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, will decide the pace of change.

Saudi women still need permission from male guardians to travel abroad or marry.

Germany similarly has found itself targeted by the kingdom in recent months over comments by its officials on the Saudi-led war in Yemen.

It isn’t immediately clear what new business could be affected between the two countries. Bilateral trade reached $3.9 billion Cdn in 2016, with tanks and fighting vehicles among the top Canadian exports to the kingdom, according to government statistics.

Saudi Arabia in recent years has expelled Iran’s ambassador over attacks on its diplomatic posts following its 2016 execution of a prominent Shia cleric.

 

“SAUDI ARABIA PLANNED TO INVADE QATAR LAST SUMMER. REX TILLERSON’S EFFORTS TO STOP IT MAY HAVE COST HIM HIS JOB”

Saudi Arabia Planned to Invade Qatar Last Summer. Rex Tillerson’s Efforts to Stop It May Have Cost Him His Job.
By Alex Emmons
The Intercept
August 1 2018

https://theintercept.com/2018/08/01/rex-tillerson-qatar-saudi-uae/

Thirteen hours before Secretary of State Rex Tillerson learned from the presidential Twitter feed that he was being fired, he did something that President Donald Trump had been unwilling to do. Following a phone call with his British counterpart, Tillerson condemned a deadly nerve agent attack in the U.K., saying that he had “full confidence in the U.K.’s investigation and its assessment that Russia was likely responsible.”

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders had called the attack “reckless, indiscriminate, and irresponsible,” but stopped short of blaming Russia, leading numerous media outlets to speculate that Tillerson was fired for criticizing Russia.

But in the months that followed his departure, press reports strongly suggested that the countries lobbying hardest for Tillerson’s removal were Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, both of which were frustrated by Tillerson’s attempts to mediate and end their blockade of Qatar. One report in the New York Times even suggested that the UAE ambassador to Washington knew that Tillerson would be forced out three months before he was fired in March.

The Intercept has learned of a previously unreported episode that stoked the UAE and Saudi Arabia’s anger at Tillerson and that may have played a key role in his removal. In the summer of 2017, several months before the Gulf allies started pushing for his ouster, Tillerson intervened to stop a secret Saudi-led, UAE-backed plan to invade and essentially conquer Qatar, according to one current member of the U.S. intelligence community and two former State Department officials, all of whom declined to be named, citing the sensitivity of the matter.

In the days and weeks after Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt, and Bahrain cut diplomatic ties with Qatar and closed down their land, sea, and air borders with the country, Tillerson made a series of phone calls urging Saudi officials not to take military action against the country. The flurry of calls in June 2017 has been reported, but State Department and press accounts at the time described them as part of a broad-strokes effort to resolve tensions in the Gulf, not as an attempt by Tillerson to avert a Saudi-led military operation.

Tillerson made a series of phone calls urging Saudi officials not to take military action against Qatar.

In the calls, Tillerson, who dealt extensively with the Qatari government as the CEO of Exxon Mobil, urged Saudi King Salman, then-Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir not to attack Qatar or otherwise escalate hostilities, the sources told The Intercept. Tillerson also encouraged Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to call his counterparts in Saudi Arabia to explain the dangers of such an invasion. Al Udeid Air Base near Doha, Qatar’s capital city, is the forward headquarters of U.S. Central Command and home to some 10,000 American troops.

Pressure from Tillerson caused Mohammed bin Salman, the de facto ruler of the country, to back down, concerned that the invasion would damage Saudi Arabia’s long-term relationship with the U.S. But Tillerson’s intervention enraged Mohammed bin Zayed, the crown prince of Abu Dhabi and effective ruler of that country, according to the U.S. intelligence official and a source close to the Emirati royal family, who declined to be identified, citing concerns about his safety.

Later that June, Mohammed bin Salman would be named crown prince, leapfrogging over his cousin to become next in line for the throne after his elderly father. His ascension signaled his growing influence over the kingdom’s affairs.

Qatari intelligence agents working inside Saudi Arabia discovered the plan in the early summer of 2017, according to the U.S. intelligence official. Tillerson acted after the Qatari government notified him and the U.S. embassy in Doha. Several months later, intelligence reporting by the U.S. and U.K. confirmed the existence of the plan.

The plan, which was largely devised by the Saudi and UAE crown princes and was likely some weeks away from being implemented, involved Saudi ground troops crossing the land border into Qatar, and, with military support from the UAE, advancing roughly 70 miles toward Doha. Circumventing the U.S. air base, Saudi forces would then seize the capital.

On June 20, State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert told reporters that Tillerson had “more than 20 calls and meetings with Gulf and other regional and intermediate actors,” including three phone calls and two meetings with Jubeir. “The more time goes by, the more doubt is raised about the actions taken by Saudi Arabia and the UAE,” she said.

A spokesperson for the State Department told The Intercept last week that “throughout the dispute, all parties have explicitly committed to not resort to violence or military action.” Tillerson, reached through a personal assistant, did not respond to interview requests.

Pentagon spokesperson Lt. Cmdr. Rebecca Rebarich told The Intercept that although Mattis meets regularly with the secretary of state, the “details and frequency of those meetings are confidential.”

“The Department of Defense has made clear that the persistent Gulf rift puts at risk mutual regional security priorities and has encouraged all parties seek resolution,” Rebarich said. “It is critical that the [Gulf Cooperation Council] recovers its cohesion as the proud Gulf nations return to mutual support through a peaceful resolution that provides for enhanced regional stability and prosperity.”

Spokespeople for the Saudi and UAE embassies did not respond to multiple requests for comment. A spokesperson for the Qatari embassy in D.C. also did not respond to interview requests from The Intercept. None of the information in this story was provided by Qatari government officials or the country’s paid public relations consultants.

The invasion plan raises questions about interventionist tendencies on the part of two of the U.S.’s closest allies and largest weapons clients. In recent years, both countries have demonstrated a willingness to use military force to reshape politics in the Gulf, intervening in Bahrain to suppress an Arab Spring uprising in 2011 and waging a three-year, U.S.-backed war that has devastated Yemen.

Robert Malley, president and CEO of Crisis Group and a former top Middle East adviser to President Barack Obama, said that since the summer of 2017, Qatari officials have consistently told him that their country had been threatened with invasion.

“There is little doubt that senior Qatari officials with whom I spoke were convinced — or at least acted as if they were convinced — that Saudi Arabia and the UAE had been planning a military attack on their country that was halted as a result of U.S. intervention,” Malley told The Intercept.

Tillerson’s attempts to de-escalate the conflict in the Gulf diverged from the signals sent by the White House. Trump offered a full-throated public endorsement of the blockade, tweeting that “perhaps this will be the beginning of the end to the horror of terrorism.” As Tillerson called on the Gulf countries to lift their embargo, Trump told reporters that “the nation of Qatar, unfortunately, has historically been a funder of terrorism at a very high level.”

According to one news report, Tillerson was frustrated with the White House for undercutting him, and his aides suspected that the line in Trump’s prepared Rose Garden remarks had been written by UAE Ambassador Yousef Al Otaiba, a powerful D.C. player who maintained “almost constant phone and email contact” with Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, according to Politico.

“Senior Qatari officials with whom I spoke were convinced — or at least acted as if they were convinced — that Saudi Arabia and the UAE had been planning a military attack on their country.”

At the time, Kushner was personally handling much of the administration’s diplomacy with the Gulf states, and the leaders of Saudi Arabia and the UAE were choosing to go through him instead of the U.S. defense or intelligence establishments. Kushner communicated directly with the crown princes of Saudi Arabia and the UAE using the encrypted messaging service WhatsApp.

Some Gulf watchers speculate that the incentive for the planned invasion may have been partly financial. Saudi Arabia’s “cradle to grave” welfare system relies on high oil prices, which plummeted in 2014 and have not fully recovered. Since the current king came to power in 2015, the country has spent more than a third of its $737 billion in reserves, and last year, the Saudi economy entered a painful recession. In response, the government has looked for ways to raise money, including by selling shares in the state-owned oil company, Saudi Aramco.

“It’s unsustainable,” said Bruce Riedel, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institute and 30-year CIA officer, in a lecture last November. “In the three years since [King Salman] ascended to the throne, one third of Saudi Arabia’s reserves have already been spent. You don’t need to have an MBA from the Wharton school to figure out what that means six years from now.”

If the Saudis had succeeded in seizing Doha, they would potentially have been able to gain access to the country’s $320 billion sovereign wealth fund. In November of last year, months after the plan collapsed, the Saudi crown prince rounded up and detained dozens of his relatives in the Ritz-Carlton Riyadh, forcing them to sign over billions in privately held assets. The government justified the detentions as a corruption crackdown, but it allowed the state to recoup billions in assets for government use.

Beginning in the fall of 2017, the crown princes in Riyadh and Abu Dhabi began lobbying the White House for Tillerson’s removal, according to the source close to the Emirati royal family and another source who is close to the Saudi royal family.

None of the current or former officials interviewed by The Intercept had direct insight into why Trump decided to fire Tillerson. But one source told The Intercept that the timing — a week before the Saudi crown prince arrived for a much-publicized visit to Washington — was significant. During that visit, MBS, as the crown prince is known, was set to discuss the Qatar crisis and future arms sales with the administration.

Four of the sources interviewed by The Intercept also pointed to an ongoing campaign by the UAE to try to provoke Qatar into escalating the crisis. Qatar has continued to complain about violations of its airspace by UAE aircraft, detailing its accusations in a letter to the U.N. earlier this year.

The UAE’s harassment of Qatar also includes crude public insults lodged by UAE leadership against the Qatari royal family. The jibes frequently emanate from the verified Twitter account of Hamad al Mazrouei, a high-level Emirati intelligence official and righthand man to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed. Mazrouei’s account frequently tweets sexually suggestive content directed at Mozah bint Nasser, the mother of the emir of Qatar. Just last week, Mazrouei tweeted a video of a man and woman – with Mazrouei and Sheikha Mozah’s faces photoshopped onto their bodies – doing a raunchy bump-and-grind.

The content and audacity of Mazrouei’s tweets have led to speculation in Qatari media that the account is actually controlled by the crown prince of Abu Dhabi himself.

 

SAUDI ARABIA STILL DETAINING DOZENS FROM CORRUPTION CRACKDOWN

Saudi Arabia Still Detaining Dozens From Corruption Crackdown
Newly arrested join others held for months; detainees have been abused and not informed of any charges, people close to them say
By Margherita Stancati and Summer Said
Wall Street Journal
July 5, 2018

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia—Months after the start of an anticorruption crackdown, Saudi authorities are still holding a senior prince and several dozen businessmen and former officials in detention and recently have made new arrests, government officials said.

Some of the detainees have been beaten and deprived of sleep while being questioned, officials and people close to the detainees said. In some cases, these people said, those in custody haven’t been charged with crimes and have been permitted little or no contact with relatives or lawyers.

Many are being held at a maximum-security prison outside the capital, while others are being housed in palaces that have been converted into detention centers, two government officials said. The officials acknowledged that some prisoners had been subjected to rough treatment.

Spokesmen for the Saudi government didn’t respond to requests for comment. The country’s deputy attorney general has said some detainees face charges that go beyond corruption and could be tried in courts that specialize in cases of national security and terrorism.

None of the detainees could be reached for comment. People close to several of them said authorities had raised the prospect of treason or terror charges, which could lead to prison or the death penalty, as a tactic aimed at pressing for untrue confessions or financial settlements.

Hundreds of prominent Saudis were arrested in November and detained at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Riyadh. Most were released after agreeing to make payments Saudi officials say totaled more than $100 billion.

The Saudi government has described the campaign as a way of ridding the country of corruption and leveling the commercial playing field as Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman works to revamp the economy and attract foreign investment and talent.

Corruption has been endemic in the kingdom, where much of the economy depends on state spending and a large royal family made rich by oil long operated with few limits. In March, King Salman, Prince Mohammed’s father, established new departments in the attorney general’s office to prosecute corruption cases.

Critics of the government say the new arrests and continued detentions are an effort by Prince Mohammed to consolidate power and sideline potential opponents one year after his father installed him as the country’s de facto ruler in a precedent-breaking move. The government denies the accusation.

Under Prince Mohammed, who runs Saudi Arabia day to day, the government has worked to open up a religiously conservative traditional society with steps such as allowing women to drive and opening cinemas, while at the same time jailing critics, including clerics and rights activists.

Those still in custody include some of Saudi Arabia’s richest men, and some who once held powerful government positions until their arrests last November. Among them are Mohammed al-Amoudi, a Saudi-Ethiopian billionaire; Bakr bin Laden, the chairman of the construction giant Saudi Binladin Group; Amr al-Dabbagh, former head of Saudi Arabia’s investment agency; and Adel Fakeih, a former economy minister and once a trusted aide to Prince Mohammed.

Also detained is a senior royal, Prince Turki bin Abdullah, who served as governor of Riyadh and is a son of the previous monarch, King Abdullah.

A Saudi official in November said the prince was accused of corruption linked to a project to build a subway in Riyadh. He hasn’t been charged and the exact accusations he faces remain unclear, according to a person familiar with the matter, who cast the prince’s arrest as a political move intended to sideline a potential rival of Prince Mohammed.

Some detainees released from the Ritz have been subjected to travel bans and some have had to wear ankle monitors, people close to those former detainees said. Several have become outspoken advocates for Prince Mohammed’s approach. At least one has gone into business with the government.

The Saudi government’s investigation into some prominent business families is still under way, Saudi government officials said. In recent days, three billionaires from the Mahfouz family, a prominent Saudi banking group, have been detained for undisclosed reasons, the officials said.

Other executives have secretly negotiated settlements to avoid detention in recent weeks, these officials said.

Since the Ritz was closed as a detention center and reopened as a hotel in late January, there has been nearly complete official silence on the cases of 56 suspects who didn’t agree to a settlement.

The Saudi government wants to avoid the publicity of the Ritz episode “and will do things more quietly with any new arrests,” a person familiar with the matter said.

Mr. Dabbagh, the former head of the Saudi investment agency and a Jeddah businessman who heads one of the country’s biggest conglomerates, has been subjected to physical and psychological abuse in detention, people familiar with the matter said.

He initially rejected a government request to hand over 70% of his assets and 50% of all future revenue in exchange for his freedom, a person close to him said.

“There are no charges, no evidence, no interviews with family members, executives of his company,” that person said. “He refuses to settle because that would make him guilty, and he isn’t.”

Saudi authorities have discussed charging Mr. Fakeih, the former economy and planning minister, with orchestrating a plot to separate the Hijaz region from the rest of Saudi Arabia, government officials said. People close to Mr. Fakeih said the accusations were baseless.

 

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