Archive for the ‘Israeli Lobby’ Category

Israeli Lobby Pressures Canadian Government Over ‘Made In Israel’ Label – Mintpress News (blog)

For a brief period, wines made in Israeli settlements built illegally in the occupied West Bank could not be sold in Ontario with the label Product of Israel.

The rulingwas short-lived, and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency abruptly reversed its decision late last week.

But Canada and the United Nations both state that the occupied Palestinian territories do not fall within Israels internationally recognized borders, and that Israeli settlements are illegal under international law, said Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME), a Canadian lobby group working for Palestinian justice.

CFIA further advised that the Government of Canada does not recognize Israels sovereignty over the territories occupied in 1967 (the Golan Heights, the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip).

What I find astonishing and really shocking is that a legitimate complaint by a concerned Canadian citizen essentially gets ignored, while the interests of the Israeli lobby in Canada get pandered to, he toldThe New Arab.

Both stem from the fact that though they are labeled Product of Israel on Canadian shelves, both wines were made from grapes grown and harvested in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

Its a change of direction that activists working in support of Palestinian human rights say puts Canada at odds with international law, and goes against its own obligations to ensure that Canadian consumers are aware of where products are made.

Its also one they have vowed to continue to fight in Canadian courts.

This is such an affront to our sense of justice. Not only have we thrown the Palestinian people under the bus again, but in addition, we are undermining the interests of Canadian consumers, said Dimitri Lascaris, an Ontario-based lawyer and human rights activist.

Settlements constitute a war crime under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and when people are buying these wines, they are enabling people to profit from a war crime, Lascaris toldThe New Arabon Monday.

Lascaris is representing David Kattenburg, a Winnipeg-based activist who lodged his first complaint against the wines in January with the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO), the body that regulates alcohol sales in Canadas most populous province.

Kattenburg filed a subsequent complaint with the CFIA in March.

Both are considered to be occupied Palestinian territory under international law.Psagot Winery Ltd operates in the Jewish-only settlement of the same name, located on a West Bank hilltop near Ramallah, while Shiloh Winery Ltd operates in the northern West Bank.

Related:Amnesty International Urges UK To Ban Imports From Israeli Settlements

Psagot Winery Ltd operates in the Jewish-only settlement of the same name, located on a West Bank hilltop near Ramallah, while Shiloh Winery Ltd operates in the northern West Bank.

Kattenburg, who is Jewish and the son of Holocaust survivors, said getting mislabelled Israeli settlement wines off the shelves was a really concrete, tangible issue he felt he could get involved with.

While he rejoiced at the LCBOs original decision, he said he realised it was going to be short-lived, and in fact, within 12 hours, the decision had been quashed.

But neither the LCBO nor the CFIA communicated with him directly, he added.

In a July 11 letter sent to vendors that was shared online by pro-Israel lobby group BNai Brith Canada, the LCBO said it received a notice from the CFIA that two wines could not be labeled Product of Israel.

The label was not acceptable for wines produced by Psagot Winery Ltd and Shiloh Winery Ltd, which have been made from grapes that are grown, fermented, processed, blended and finished in the West Bank occupied territory, the letter reads.

As such, wine products from these regions that are labeled as Product of Israel would not be acceptable and would be considered misleading, according to a subsection of CanadasFood and Drugs Act,the letter continued.

But ina brief statementposted on its website on July 13, the CFIA said it regrets the outcome of the wine labeling assessment, which it said, did not fully consider the Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement.

The CFIA said the wines did adhere to that agreement, which states under Article 1.4 that Israel is to be defined as the territory where its customs laws are applied, and thus the wines can be sold as currently labeled.

But Lascaris was adamant that argument doesnt stand up to legal scrutiny.

The free tradeagreement deals primarily with the elimination of trade barriers, not issues of consumer protection, such as the requirement under Section 5 of the Canadian Food and Drugs Act that product labeling must be accurate, Lascaris said.

Theres nothing in the Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement which exempts Israels settlement lines from the requirement that the products be accurate and that Canadian consumers understand where theyre buying the product from, Lascaris said.

This argument does not hold any water, but the Canadian government, of course, doesnt want to simply admit that its capitulating to pressure from the Israeli embassy and its lobby groups here in Canada and so its offered up this pretext.

The Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement first came into force in 1997. It eliminated tariffs on industrial products made in both countries, and on some agricultural and fishery products.

In 2014, under then-Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, a staunch Israel supporter, Canada and Israel entered into negotiations to expand and update the deal.

Two-way trade between the two countries totaled$1.6 billion in 2014, according to the Canadian government.

Therefore, under CFIA country-of-origin labelling guidelines, these two wine products must be labelled accurately to reflect that the wines were produced in occupied Palestinian territory, the CJPME said ina recent statement.On its website, Global Affairs Canada makes it clear that Canada does not recognize permanent Israeli control over territories occupied in 1967, and that Canada considers the settlements to be in contravention of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

Amnesty Internationalhas urgedgovernments to ban the import of Israeli settlement products outright in order to put an end to the multimillion dollar profits that have fuelled mass human rights violations against Palestinians.

The United Church of Canada, which supports a boycott of Israeli settlement products, also accused Ottawa of putting trade ahead of human rights and the law with its decision.

We believe that inaccurate and misleading labeling prevents Canadians from making ethical choices about their purchases, the church said in a statement.

CJPME, Lascaris, Kattenburg and others have accused Israel lobby groups like BNai Brith Canada of being behind a campaign to pressure authorities to rescind their original decision.

Ina statement, BNai Brith Canada CEO Michael Mostyn thanked Ottawa for reversing its decision on the wines.

Wewill continue to make inquiries about the origin of this travesty,to ensure that nothing like ever happens again, Mostyn said.

The group also thanked federal parliament member Michael Levitt, a member of Justin Trudeaus governing Liberal party who represents a riding in North York, just north of Toronto, for helping have the decision overturned.

This action was completely at odds with both the governments long-standing close relationship with the State of Israel and our focus on broadening the Canada-Israel trade relationship, such as the upcoming ratification of an expanded Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement, Levitt said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Lascaris and Kattenburg said they intend to file legal proceedings to challenge the most recent labeling decision.

By allowing Israel to label West Bank settlement products made in Israel is essentially Canada totally turning its back in the most dishonest of ways on a well established, fundamental policy, Kattenburg said.

Canada, to be saying one thing on the international stage and then acting completely differently this is unacceptable and Canadians should be angry about this.

Stories published in our Hot Topics section are chosen based on the interest of our readers. They are republished from a number of sources, and are not produced by MintPress News. The views expressed in these articles are the authors own and do not necessarily reflect Mint Press News editorial policy.

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Israeli Lobby Pressures Canadian Government Over ‘Made In Israel’ Label – Mintpress News (blog)

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July 19, 2017   Posted in: Israeli Lobby  Comments Closed

Roger Waters compares Israel to Nazi Germany in Facebook Q&A … – The Jerusalem Post

Roger Waters. (photo credit:REUTERS)

In an hour-long live video chat on Facebook Saturday night, musician Roger Waters compared the Israeli government to Nazi Germany, said there were no harsher regimes in the world and then contradicted both himself and facts several times.

Speaking to Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement leader Omar Barghouti in a Q&A session, the lead singer of Pink Floyd said there was no point in having dialogue with Israelis and Israeli artists.

I think that artists who say that they can somehow improve the situation by going and playing in Israel and having conversations with Israeli artists are wrong, said Waters. Ill tell you why I think theyre wrong, and that is because there are many, many Israeli Jews who are part of the BDS movement… and any of those people will say, No, I dont want to sit around a campfire with you, what I want you to do is not cross the picket line. Waters went on to say it was impossible to have a conversation with a population that have largely been under a state of living in propaganda 24 hours a day, seven days a week, all their lives since they were born.

Waters never explained why those Israelis whose views he was comfortable listening to had managed to escape the propaganda, while all those he refused to hear from did not.

During the session, hundreds of pro-Israel activists flooded the chat and accused Waters of being a hypocrite and an antisemite. During the chat, Waters called for a cultural boycott of Israel and received dozens of responses from Israelis who wrote in that they were, at that exact moment, enjoying the Guns N’ Roses concert taking place at the same time in Tel Aviv.

The British rocker has become one of the most prominent voices over the past decade in the movement to boycott Israel. His most recent battle was with Radiohead, which refused to cancel its show scheduled for this week in Tel Aviv.

Nevertheless, Waters claimed the BDS movement is hovering around a tipping point, and that Israel is heading toward being a pariah state.

He made no mention, of course, of the artists who have already performed in Israel in the past two months alone, including Justin Bieber, Britney Spears, Guns N Roses, Aerosmith, Tears for Fears and more.

In the video, which had been viewed by more than 50,000 people as of Sunday afternoon, Waters compared Israeli government activities to those of Nazi Germany.

Waters was asked what he would say about those South Africans who claim that describing Israel as apartheid is insulting to their experience.

In his response, the musician called such people entirely ignorant and said its hard not to go back to [Joseph] Goebbels, the Nazi minister of propaganda. The tactic is to tell the big lie as often as possible over and over and over again.

When it comes to the United States, Waters said, though he hates US President Donald Trump, he wouldnt consider a boycott of the US.

If I didnt play in the US it would have absolutely no effect on American foreign policy, he said. Boycott is a very specific strategy and tactic that you can use as a tool of protest in very certain specific situations… its a realistic tactic to affect the government and the people of Israel.

Waters did not offer any examples of ways in which the tactic has had any tangible results on Israeli foreign policy.

But Americans have been living in this constant state of hasbara created by AIPAC and the Israeli lobby in the United States all of them, their whole life, he added, using the acronym for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

Asked by Barghouti what he would say to those who ask why Waters doesnt speak out about worse regimes in the world, the rocker offered a truly mind-bending answer.

Im not sure there are any much harsher regimes around the world, actually, if you look at it, he said. He then noted that he is particularly concerned about Syria. But he did not say that Syria where more than 400,000 civilians have been killed in the past six years was a worse human-rights offender than Israel.

Waters also noted that he was very concerned about Ukraine, but rushed to add that he did not want to demonize the Russians.

He expressed no similar concerns about demonizing the more than eight million citizens of Israel.

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Roger Waters compares Israel to Nazi Germany in Facebook Q&A … – The Jerusalem Post

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July 17, 2017   Posted in: Israeli Lobby  Comments Closed

Review: A great gig by Roger Waters in Miami – SouthFlorida.com (blog)

The dark, eerily beautiful, dystopian landscape he conjured inside AmericanAirlines Arena Thursday night did not prevent Roger Waters from allowing a subtle grin to crease his face from time to time.

At 73 years old, Waters is hopscotching the country on his Us and Them Tour playing classic Pink Floyd cuts to sold-out arenas. He has an excellent band behind him, and the sophisticated, innovative production of the show, with lasers, projections and versatile high-definition video screens, is unsurpassed. At one point, a lifelike projection of the iconic Battersea Power Station, from the Animals cover, ran the length of the arena, steam pouring from its stacks.

But what may bring Waters the most satisfaction is seeing the fury and disillusionment in songs such as Welcome to the Machine, Money, Us and Them, Pigs and Another Brick in the Wall inspiring passionate sing-alongs from multigenerational audiences that, in the case of Miami, may include the grandchildren of original Pink Floyd fans. With a giant projection of his head looming over the stage, Waters seemed to look into the eyes of everyone in the arena while spitting the lyric, You know youre nobody’s fool.

Unshaven, with a tempest of nearly white hair curling toward his shoulders, the black-clad Waters, resembling some ancient mariner back from an odyssey, strolled nonchalantly onstage about 30 minutes after the time on the ticket and coaxed the luscious Speak to Me/Breathe to life as video of deep space enveloped the massive screen behind him.

If you watched Waters extraordinary production of The Wall when it passed through South Florida a few years back and yearned for a broader selection of Pink Floyd music, Thursday nights show answered your prayer.

In two roughly 60-minute sets separated by a 20-minute intermission, Waters delivered a riveting evening of entertainment for the ears and eyes, performing staples of the Pink Floyd catalog, as well as several enthusiastically received songs from his new album, Is This the Life We Really Want? The implication in that title was a consistent theme throughout the evening, an intertwining of the theatrical, political and spiritual, with many songs accompanied by vivid visuals that illustrated mans inhumanity to man.

In addition to Breathe, the first half was highlighted by Time, The Great Gig in the Sky Wish You Were Here, Welcome to the Machine, One of These Days and the classic Another Brick in the Wall. A new song, a troubling vision of America called Picture That, found Waters on solo guitar striding from one side of the stage to the other, as if to address the audience more directly when he sang, Picture a leader with no f—ing brains.

Leslie Ovalle / South Florida Sun Sentinel

Roger Waters performs at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami on Thursday, July 13, backed by vocalists Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig of the indie band Lucius.

Roger Waters performs at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami on Thursday, July 13, backed by vocalists Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig of the indie band Lucius. (Leslie Ovalle / South Florida Sun Sentinel)

The second set opened with revelatory 18-minute version of “Dogs,” which began as a platform lowered from the ceiling, soon erupting into a stunning display of the Battersea Power Station. The line of projection screens remained above the floor seats, perpendicular to the stage, dividing the arena in half and providing not just dramatic visuals but an odd feeling of intimacy.

Not surprisingly, in Dogs, an indictment of corporate greed and immorality from 1977s Animals, Waters has found parallels in todays evolving American value system under a new president. With the band seated at a table in pig masks toasting each other with champagne, Dogs kicked off a section of songs accompanied by images that President Donald Trump would call sad. An overwhelming majority of those in the arena seemed to love them.

Joined by many in the audience, Waters sang Ha, ha, charade you are, the refrain Pigs (Three Different Ones), as a pig-shaped blimp roamed the air and pictures of Trump (with Vladimir Putin; in a Nazi uniform; in a diaper) filled the screens. Money, Us and Them and Brain Damage followed, the later accompanied by a triangular, floor-to-ceiling alignment of lasers suggesting the Dark Side of the Moon cover.

The band took a brief break, then returned for an encore that included snippets of Vera, Bring the Boys Back Home and a version of Comfortably Numb that brought down the house and brought up the lights.

Among those behind Waters, singer-guitarists Jonathan Wilson and Dave Kilminster provided flawless accompaniment in the David Gilmour role. The density of this music also benefited from Gus Seyffert (guitars, bass, keyboards) Drew Erickson (piano, keyboards, Hammond organ), Jon Carin (piano, keyboards, programming) and Ian Ritchie (saxophone, bass).

Vocalists Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig of the indie band Lucius, in matching platinum wigs, were equally extraordinary, especially on Breathe and their lead duet on Great Gig in the Sky.

The first set ended with Another Brick in the Wall, a song that has inspired Waters to seek out young students at each stop on the tour to be onstage to sing the We dont need no education refrain to choreographed movements. As it was on The Wall tour stops in Miami and Sunrise, the moment was magic Thursday night, with eight young people singing, marching and wearing black T-shirts emblazoned with the word Resist.

After they left the stage, Waters addressed the audience with a statement he said was important to me. He said the students who had performed were not those that were originally scheduled to take part, a group of kids from programs affiliated with the city of Miami Beach parks department. Those kids dropped out on Thursday after the Greater Miami Jewish Federation accused Waters of messages of anti-Semitism, anti-Zionism and hatred.

The Anti-Defamation League in 2013 was critical of Waters use of Jewish imagery in his concerts, including a Star of David on the floating pig.

In his statement Thursday night, after reading aloud the names of the students who were unable to perform, Waters said they had been banned by the mayor of Miami Beach. Waters blamed pressure applied by the Israeli lobby, which, he said, was targeting him for his support of pro-Palestinian human rights groups.

I carry with me the burden of everything I learned from my mother and my father, who were both great humanists, and who cared deeply about every other human being in the world, Waters told the audience. And they cared about civil and human rights all over the world, no matter who the people were.

bcrandell@sun-sentinel.com

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Review: A great gig by Roger Waters in Miami – SouthFlorida.com (blog)

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July 14, 2017   Posted in: Israeli Lobby  Comments Closed

Labour MP slammed in anti-Semitism row – The Argus

A NEWLY-ELECTED MP is under fire for intervening on behalf of a party member facing disciplinary action for anti-Semitic comments.

Brighton and Hove city councillor Caroline Penn has told The Argus she felt lied to by Kemptown MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle after the MP told her over Twitter he was not appealing on behalf of a Labour Party activist who said the BBC faked footage of a Syrian gas attack at the behest of the Israeli lobby.

But in a leaked letter from Mr Russell-Moyle to the general secretary of the Labour Party, seen by The Argus, the MP says he recommends the members reinstatement, concluding: I do hope her record and her apologies will be enough to… allow her to return to membership.

Cllr Penn said she was furious to learn of the content of the letter, written a week before the Twitter exchange with Mr Russell-Moyle in which she accused him of defending the indefensible.

Telling The Argus she felt lied to by the newly-elected MP, she added: Im very disappointed he chose to misrepresent his views and actions in this way.

The row began before the election when Labour Party member Melanie Melvin was suspended for actions including a tweet which read: Breaking: Sarin gas was filmed by the BBC at Pinewood on the orders of Mrs May and the Israeli lobby.

Following a conversation with Ms Melvin, Mr Russell-Moyle wrote to Labour Party general secretary Iain McNicol on June 30 to say her tweet seemed unhinged at best but had, he believed, been made as a parody of online conspiracy theorists.

He said her behaviour showed naivety but no malicious intent and said, as a stalwart of the campaign who has apologised, the member should be reinstated.

Ivor Caplin, south-east chairman of the Jewish Labour Movement and former MP for Hove, told The Argus: I cant see how anyone could say she should continue to be a member of the Labour Party.

We have to take firm and decisive action on this issue.

He said there was ample evidence the tweet by Melanie Melvin breached an internationally accepted definition of anti-Semitism agreed by both the Government and the Labour Party.

Via Twitter on Sunday, Mr Russell-Moyle told Cllr Penn: he had reported the conversation with Ms Melvin to the party, adding: Ive a duty to relay a genuine conversation… She will have to appeal herself. Im not appealing on anyones behalf.

Yesterday he told The Argus: Im not appealing on her behalf.

My understanding is there was an appeal going in and I was asked for evidence on her behalf. I was asked what my opinion was.

She had assured me she was trying to show how stupid those views were.

Based on that conversation I believe shed been suitably apologetic.

He added that if further evidence came to light that Ms Melvin held anti-Semitic views, that there should be no place her her in the Labour Party.

He said he would be more than happy to apologise to Cllr Penn if she feels betrayed.

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Largest Palestinian Expo concludes in UK – TRT World

Despite efforts by pro-Israeli groups to cancel the event, the 2017 Palestine Expo kicked offas planned on Saturday, in Londons Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre in Westminster.

Organised by Friends of Al-Aqsa, a UK-based NGO, working todefendthe human rights in Palestine, thousands of people attended the two-day event.

The event is a curtain-raiser on the life, culture, arts and crafts inherent to Palestine.

Special interactive zones, food stalls, augmented reality tours, theatres, traditional dabke dance workshops were set up throughout the five storeysof the conference centre.

The workshop allowed visitors to take part in discussions, and to also try out some traditional Palestinian dishes.

For those who wanted to try their hand at Palestinian cooking, special live kitchens were set up to get hands-on experience, from the author of Palestine on a Plate, Joudie Kalla.

Noted academicians and journalists such as Illan Pappe, professor for Arab and Islamic Studies at the University of Exeter, and professor of Islamic studies at the University of Oxford, Tariq Ramadan, writer Ben White and MikoPeled amongst others graced the event.

David Miller, a professor of sociology at the University of Bath, told Middle East Eye, the event has been a visible show of public support for the Palestinian cause.

“The significance of this conference is that it brings the issue of Palestine on to the agenda,” he said.

Miller, whose talk reflected the role of UK-funded charities supporting Zionist organisations in the establishment of illegal settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, said “People see that there are thousands and thousands of people who are interested in Palestine and human rights.”

Leanne Mohammed, a 16-year-old British-Palestinian and a human rights activist spoke about the use of arts and creativity as tools of campaigning.

Special photo booths with a backdrop of Palestine along with props and Palestinian outfits were made available for those who wanted to capture the memories of this event.

Attempt to defame

On June 14, the Department for Communities and Local Government, which is responsible for the venue where the event took place, wrote to organisers expressing their concerns about the organisations’ public support for Hamas, threatening to cancel the event.

However, the organisers of the event described it as a smear campaign against some of its speakers.

Ismail Patel, the founder of Friends of Al-Aqsa, told the Guardian, the department was unlawfully interfering in the event.

They have failed to provide any satisfactory reason as to why they have chosen to cancel an event which seeks to celebrate Palestinian culture and heritage, he said, accusing the department of acting on hearsay from a pro-Israeli lobby group.

Threatening legal action, the event was eventually allowed to proceed on a stipulated day and time.

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PressTV-‘US is global source of terrorism, not Iran’ – Press TV

The United States is the worlds largest source of terrorism, not the Islamic Republic of Iran, an American writer says.

The United States is the worlds largest source of terrorism, not the Islamic Republic of Iran, according to Robert Fantina, an American writer and political analyst who is based in Ontario, Canada.

Fantina, the author of Empire, Racism and Genocide: A History of US Foreign Policy, made the remarks in an interview with Press TV on Saturday when asked why does the US want to convince the world that Iran is exporting terrorism, when it itself is doing so.

The United States for generations has proclaimed, against all evidence, that it is a beacon of liberty and freedom, respecting human rights and assisting the downtrodden around the world. In that context, it accuses Iran of what it itself does, to convince the world that Iran is a terrorist regime, in order to gain widespread support for an invasion, Fantina said.

Such an invasion of Iran would serve many purposes for the United States, he stated.

First, the US is the worlds largest exporter of weaponry; the more wars it wages, the more use there is for its products. Weapons manufacturers in the US make significant donations to elected officials for their election and re-election campaigns. It has been reported that, in Syria, different factions, both supplied by the US, are actually fighting each other.

Second, and more importantly for the US, is the Israeli lobby, which donates far more to elected officials than weapons manufacturers. Israel has nuclear weapons, and with $4 billion annually from the US, has become a very powerful force in the Middle East and the world. The US will not allow Iran, a large and powerful country, to challenge sacred Israel in any way.

In addition, US government officials and the corporate-owned media, which can be seen as a branch of the government, have long tried, with some success, to convince the populace to fear Islam. By accusing Iran, an Islamic country, of exporting terrorism, this fear can be enflamed. This will enable the US to more strongly support Israel, thus pleasing Israeli lobbies and continuing the flow of money to officials running for re-election.

Also, if the US can convince the world that Iran is exporting terrorism, it moves the focus away from its own terrorist activities, and points them elsewhere. This allows the US to continue terrorizing the world.

The US citizenry always seems ready to go to war; once the wars start, and disillusionment sets in, they learn that starting wars is much easier than ending them. But as the US has destroyed Libya and Iraq, and is trying desperately, with only a modicum of success, fortunately, to do the same thing to Syria, the citizenry doesnt seem to notice; once the US goes to war, they will wave the flag, support the troops, and climb on the murderous US bandwagon.

But what they dont realize is that an invasion of Iran will not be the same as the invasion of Iraq; the names of the countries are similar, but that is about the only thing they have in common. With a population of over 72 million, Iran is twice the size of Iraq. The Iranian military is far stronger than the Iraqi military ever was. Additionally, Iran is allied with Russia, which is unlikely to sit back and watch the US destroy Iran.

US officials can say what they will about Iran, but the facts are clear: it is the US that is the worlds largest source of terrorism.

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Hassan Dai – Tablet Magazine

In 2005, Jack Abramoffs corruption and lobbying scandal became public. One of Abramoffs main accomplices was Bob Ney, a former congressman from Ohio who was sentenced to 30 months in prison. Part of the corruption charges against Ney, exposed in DOJ documents, were related to the bribes that he had received from two businessmen in London who tried to buy an airplane for the leadership of the Iranian regimean export prohibited by sanctions. Ney had been hired to resolve the legal issues prohibiting the export of the place.

Neys foreign-policy adviser during the time Ney was advocating the removal of sanctions against Iran was a young Iranian-Swedish student named Trita Parsi (according to Parsis resumes), now better known as the founder and president of the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), a Washington-based, pro-Tehran advocacy and lobbying organization founded in 2002. Back then, it was hard to explain why a Congressman with no official role in US foreign policy had a foreign policy adviser on Iran. Parsi began his pro-Tehran activities in 1997 in Sweden as he founded a small lobby organization calledIranians for International Cooperation (IIC) that used its few Washington members to send petitions and letters to Congress members. In an IIC document released during a subsequent lawsuit, Parsi explained IICs activities and goals as follows: IIC was founded in August 1997 by Trita Parsi, the present President. Our agenda is topped by the removal of US economic and political sanctions against Iran. IIC is capable of organizing the grassroots and pressure US lawmakers to pose a more Iran friendly position.

In 2001, Parsi moved to the United States and became the development director of the American Iranian Council (AIC), an anti-sanction and pro-Iran advocacy organization that had been founded by its President Hooshang Amirahmadi in 1997. AIC was funded by U.S. oil companies, which were apparently eager to do business in Iran. It also received backing from the Iranian regime. In several interviews, Amirahmadi called AIC Irans prominent lobby in the U.S. that strives to defend the interests of Iran and oppose the pro-Israeli lobby AIPAC. (Interviews with government press in Iran are here and here.)

Shortly after his arrival in the United States, Parsi begun consultations to create NIAC. Several emails by Parsi discovered in subsequent legal actions illuminate the function and the strategy of the new organization as at least an advocate for the Iranian regime. In one of the emails, Parsi indicated that Tehran-based Baquer Namazi was instructing him. Namazi was the co-director of Tehran-based Hamyaran, a semi-governmental organization also known as the Iran NGO initiative. The other co-director of Hamyaran was Hoseein Malek Afzali, a deputy minister in Iran for 18 years, whose tenure ended in 2008. Hamyaran was not a private initiative by Iranian citizens who hoped to do good: It was created by the Iranian government to monitor the activities of Iranian NGOs and to coordinate their relations with foreign organizations. Hamyaran was also assigned by the Iranian foreign ministry the role of coordinating relationships between the state and Iranian expatriates.

Following the Ney scandal, criticism against NIACs pro-regime activities mounted within the Iranian-American community. In 2008, NIAC and Parsi filed a defamation lawsuit against one of their critics who had exposed their tie to the Iranian regime. During the discovery phase of the lawsuit, NIAC was obliged to release a small part of its internal documents that proved to be devastating for the organization as they showed NIACs direct links with the regime. In November 2009, the Washington Times ran a front-page article about these documents and wrote:

Law-enforcement experts who reviewed some of the documents, which were made available to the Times by the defendant in the suit, say e-mails between Mr. Parsi and Irans ambassador to the United Nations at the time, Javad Zarifand an internal review of the Lobbying Disclosure Actoffer evidence that the group has operated as an undeclared lobby and may be guilty of violating tax laws, the Foreign Agents Registration Act and lobbying disclosure laws the Times asked two former federal law-enforcement officials to review documents from the case showing that Mr. Parsi had helped arrange meetings between members of Congress and Mr. Zarif. Arranging meetings between members of Congress and Irans ambassador to the United Nations would in my opinion require that person or entity to register as an agent of a foreign power; in this case it would be Iran, said one of those officials, former FBI associate deputy director Oliver Buck Revell. The other official, former FBI special agent in counterintelligence and counterterrorism Kenneth Piernick, said, It appears that this may be lobbying on behalf of Iranian government interests.

Following the Times report, Arizona Senator Jon Kyl sent an inquirya very unusual request in Washingtonto the U.S. Attorney General asking him to investigate the groups direct and indirect ties with the Iranian government.

But in 2009, the Obama administration, which had begun its conciliatory approach toward Tehran, decided that it could use NIACs help in mending rifts with Iranian leaders. The White House also needed NIAC, as an Iranian-American group to endorse and legitimize President Barack Obamas friendly attitude toward the clerical regime, especially after the Iranian popular uprising of 2009-2010 was brutally crushed by the regime in front of television cameras. As a result, NIAC gained influence in the administration and became a White House partner. Parsi went from being a fringe player in Washington to a semi-legitimate expert who is assumed to represent an American constituency, and whose views are seldom quoted with any acknowledgement of his intimate and longstanding links to the Iranian regime.

NIAC finally lost the legal action against its critic in 2012 as the court dismissed the defamation lawsuit, punished NIAC and Trita Parsi for discovery abuses including false declarations to the court, and ordered them to pay a significant part of the defendants legal expenses. Part of NIACs internal documents released during the lawsuit are posted here and some of them have been used to prepare this report, which hopes to answer the question of how parts of official Washington and the D.C. press came to embrace a willing advocate for a theocratic regime that brutally tortures and murders its own citizens while spreading death throughout the Middle East, contrary to the interests of America and its allies in the region.

***

NIAC was incorporated in early 2002 and presents itself as: nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing the interests of the Iranian-American community. We accomplish our mission by supplying the resources, knowledge, and tools to enable greater civic participation by Iranian Americans and informed decision making by lawmakers. But a cursory review of NIAC activities and statements seem to indicatethat the group spends very little of its time or energy working with Iranian Americans. Instead, it works to pressure the U.S. government to adopt a friendlier policy with Tehran and lift economic sanctions against the Iranian regime.

A NIAC internal document, released during the lawsuit, shows that the organization uses its pro-Iranian-American posture as a tool to advance its political agenda. NIAC was registered as a 501c3 with restrictions for the amount of lobbying it could legally perform. In 2002, when NIAC was launched, Parsi and two Washington lobbyists worked together to create a parallel organization to NIAC that would carry out lobbying activities. In October 2002, Parsi sent a memo to these two lobbyists, titled Towards the creation of an Iranian-American lobby, and explained the real goal of his lobby activities:

Although the mission of the proposed lobby should be to improve relations between the US and Iran and open up opportunities for trade, the initial targets should be less controversial issues such as visas and racial profiling/discrimination. Despite its predominantly business oriented constituency, it is essential that the lobby creates a human face. The human element is essential both when it comes to attracting support among Iranian-Americans and when it comes to winning the debate and the votes on the Hill.

While NIAC claims that it is the largest Iranian-American organization in the United States, and hence bestequipped to represent the views of more than one million Iranian-Americans, this claim is deceitful and fraudulent. NIACs internal documents obtained during the lawsuit show that the organization has systematically hyped the number of its members and misrepresented its constituency. For example, in 2005-2006, in several CVs that Parsi attached to his job application sent to U.S. organizations such as Amnesty International, Saban or Eurasia Fund, he claimed 10,000 members for NIAC. In a meeting with Sen. John Chafees office, Parsi repeated the same claims and declared that an NIAC survey was sent to 10,000 members, though a NIAC document shows that only 224 members participated in the survey.

The minutes of NIACs Board meeting in 2007 give what is probably a more accurate picture of the organizations actual strength within the Iranian-American community: Trita reviewed the membership trends: 1,034 (2005) increased to 1,307 in 2006 and 1,680 as of todayciting these figures as absolutely unacceptable. The same document shows that Alex Patico, NIAC co-founder and a board member felt that: it would not be deceitful to mention NIAC as being comprised of 25,000+ members when dealing with the media and other inquiries. Other NIAC documents shows that the group only had 1,068 members in 2008. It had 1,100 in May 2009. In July 2009, less than 500 (including non-members) participated in a NIAC members survey. 275 of them responded to the questions. In December 2010, Parsi claimed that NIAC had 4,000 paid members and 43,000 active supporters. During his testimony in May 2011 and under oath he admitted that the organizations real membership was only around 1,000 members.

The reason for NIACs unimpressive membership numbers may besimple: NIAC doesnt represent the views of Iranian Americans, the vast majority of who oppose Irans clerical regime and reject appeasement policies toward Tehran. As a result of its unpopularity among its presumed base, NIACs primary source of income is not dues-paying Iranian-Americans but American foundations. The organizations biggest donor is the Ploughshares Fund, which over the past few years has financially supported groups and individuals who advocate for a friendlier policy with Iran and the lifting of economic sanctions. However, it is worth noting that U.S. foundations often act as conduits for funds they receive from business interests and individuals. It is therefore difficult to trace the origins of the funds that NIAC or other organizations receive from these foundations to their source.

One example that illustrates this difficulty is the case of a $900,000 donation by Vahid Alaghband, London-based Iranian businessman to the Brookings Institution in 2007. Alaghband is the chairman of the Balli group in London with multiple large holdings inside Iran. In 2010, Balli pleaded guilty to illegally exporting Boeing 747 aircraft to Iran and agreed to pay $15 million in fines to the US government.

In 2007, while Alaghband was preparing the illegal sale of aircraft to Iran, he donated $50,000 to the California-based Parsa Foundation. In the same year, the Parsa Foundation awarded a grant of $50,000 to NIAC. During the NIAC defamation lawsuit, the Parsa Foundation was subpoenaed and produced some of its email exchanges with Alaghband showing use of the Foundation to funnel a large donation to the Brookings Institution: Alaghband would donate $900,000 to the Parsa Foundation and the foundation would subsequently give the money to Brookings, which was actively promoting a friendlier policy with Iran. According to his own subsequent account, Alaghband wound up donating money directly to Brookingswhich in that same year hired a scholar named Suzanne Maloney who conscientiously produced a series of reports hyping the prospects for reform and better relations with the regime.

According to Michael Weiss inThe Daily Beast:

A former Brookings staffer with direct knowledge of the donation told The Daily Beast that, on the contrary, Alaghbands problems with the U.S. government were known to the think tank at the time and that the money helped finance the work ofSuzanne Maloney, a former State Department policy adviser and Republican advocate of U.S.-Iranian rapprochement.’

Maloney continues to work at Brookings, which denied any direct link between Maloneys hire and Alaghbands donation to the Saban Center, where Maloney is employed, and which has organized events at which Alaghband is listed as a participant.

In Britain, according to a long article on the website IntelligenceOnline, Alaghband was also instrumental in developing former Chancellor of the Exchequer, Norman Lamont, into a high-level intermediary between Western governments and business interests and the Iranian regime, in the hopes of lifting sanctions and gaining contracts.

American business interests are NIACs main allies in the United States and could naturally provide financial and political support for the organization. In the 2002 memo that Parsi sent to his lobby partners in Washington, he explained this alliance and wrote: Iranian-American organizations have in the past targeted the oil companies for financial support. This strategy has been a two-edged sword. On the one hand, the oil companies have been relatively dedicated to the cause and have been generous supporters of groups such as AIC. On the other hand, oil companies have a bad reputation among Iranian-Americans and are easily depicted as greedy and insensitive to human rights concerns in the media. The lobby should target business with positive images that have a strategic interest in trade with Iran.

The alliance between the trade lobby and pro-Iran lobby goes back to the 1990s and especially 1997, when the so-called reformist Mohammad Khatami became president and launched a charm offensive to soften the western attitude toward Iran. American business interests grasped the opportunity and launched a lobbying campaign to change US policy with Iran and remove economic sanctions. The National Foreign Trade Council (NFTC), representing large U.S. corporations, launched its own lobby arm called USA*ENGAGE joining forces with oil giants. Some of NIACs emails released during the defamation lawsuit show the nature and extent of NIACs joint lobbying efforts with USA*Engage.

To bolster their anti-sanction lobby, U.S. business interests needed the input and support of Iranian-American organizations. In 1998 Gary Marfin, Conocos manager for government affairs, explained this strategy and declared that the companys alliance with Iranian-Americans is part of its general opposition to economic sanctions. The desire to have an Iranian voice in Washington to promote the removal of sanctions was also shared by the Iranian regime. The shared aims of American business interests and the Iranian regime helped create several Iranian-American organizations, including NIAC that received simultaneous support from Tehran and the trade lobby in Washington in the hopes of weakening or eliminating sanctions. It would take a political transformation in U.S.-Iranian relationspushed simultaneously by the White House and Tehranto give this weird alliance life.

***

In August 2013, the newly nominated Foreign Minister Javad Zarif made a speech to the Iranian parliament and explained that during his tenure in New York as Iranian Ambassador to the UN, he established contacts with anti-Bush politicians to exploit American political divisions on behalf of Iran. He declared: I had the approval of the regimes highest authorities and established contacts with anti-Bush politicians within the U.S. to attempt to cause a division amongst the decision makers and neutralize the White Houses bellicose policy toward Iran.

The email exchanges between Zarif and Parsi and NIACs public documents demonstrate that the organization and Parsi were Zarifs main partners in the early stages of this campaign. According to these emails, in April 2006, Zarif gave a copy of the so-called Iranian 2003 offer for grand bargain to Parsi, which he subsequently released to the press and used as the centerpiece of a campaign to prove that Iran was ready for peace and dialogue while the United States was instead seeking war with Iran. An NIAC 2007 internal report released during the lawsuit detailed how NIAC used the Grand Bargain story to influence public opinion: The report concluded that NIACs campaign succeeded in bringing wide range attention to Irans 2003 Grand Bargain offer.

Zarif and NIACs collaboration was part of Irans large-scale media and PR campaign to influence public opinion in the West and counter U.S. and international pressure and consequently, to help Iran continue its nuclear program. Both Washington Times and Bloomberg have reported on the Zarif/NIAC collaboration to influence American public opinion. During this time, Iran also pursued an ambitious plan to connect with American anti-war groups, recruit amongst them and use their social networks in a grassroots lobby to prevent tougher policies against Iran. NIAC and Parsi also played a pivotal role in bridging the anti-war activists with the Iranian regime.

The Iranian strategy of exploiting political divisions in Washington rested on a depiction of Israel as the bullying force behind sanctions and pressure against Iran. The Iranian leaders believed that the marginalization of Israel and the weakening of its influence in Washington would help Iran to attain its strategic goals. Upon his return from New York in September 2013, President Rouhani declared: The next thing we wanted to do in New York was to soften the negative atmosphere that the Israelis create in the U.S. against our country. They fabricate lies to demonize our nation. We wanted to limit this space for the Israelis and make American public opinion aware that many of the things that are said against us, are not true. Of course, you know that Israel has a strong lobby in the U.S. and a lot of influence in the Congress. They have done a lot of work and, we need to fill the vacuum and create a strong Iranian lobby in Washington that could counter AIPACs campaign against Iran. I think the Iranians who live there should take first steps in this regard. I proposed this in my meeting with the Iranians (in the U.S.) and said that all Iranians in America are our voice and should echo the Iranian realities.

Similarly, in an interview with Aseman magazine on August 31, 2013, Foreign Minister Zarif explained that the government intends to dedicate resources, to mobilize the Iranian-American community and create a powerful lobby capable of opposing AIPAC.

NIAC and Parsi carried out the Iranian regimes anti-Israel and anti-AIPAC campaign in the United States in part by presenting its campaign against Israel and its lobby in the United States as a modern era David versus Goliath battle.

According to Parsi, Israel should be blamed because, since 1992, it has been preventing a U.S.-Iran rapprochement: Israel is playing hardball to prevent Washington from cutting a deal with Tehran that could benefit America, but deprive Israel of its military and strategic supremacy.

Parsi claims that in order to achieve this goal, Israel has been demonizing Iran: For Israel, rallying Western states to its side was best achieved by bringing attention to the alleged suicidal tendencies of the clergy and to Irans apparent infatuation with the idea of destroying Israel. If the Iranian leadership was viewed as irrational, conventional tactics such as deterrence would be impossible, leaving the international community with no option but to have zero tolerance for Iranian military capabilities.

For Parsi, the United States is a passive character that bows to Israeli pressure and adopts the policy dictated by Israel at the expense of American national interests. As a result, the United States imposes sanctions on Iran and ignores the Iranian overtures for dialogue: Washington started to adopt the Israeli line on Iran. In response to Israeli pressureand not to Iranian actionsWashingtons rhetoric on Iran began to mirror Israels talking points. Washingtons recycling of Israels argument back to Tel Aviv reflected the success of Rabin and Peres campaign against Iran. Washingtons turnaround was a direct result of Israels pressure.

NIACs close alignment with Tehrans anti-Israeli campaign was on display in March 2015 when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu traveled to Washington to address the U.S. Congress. On March 2, the Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei wrote on his English Twitter account: The day when Western people realize that their problems result from Zionisms hegemony over governments they will make an inescapable hell for them. A day later, he posted a new tweet and wrote: In the past 50 years, how much money and reputation has it cost the U.S. to support Israels crimes? Who other than its nation has paid for it? NIAC similarly escalated its anti-Israeli campaign and bought a full-page ad in the New York Times accusing the Speaker of the House of being loyal to Israel. (NIAC related video.) Two weeks later, Parsi posted a tweet about Sen. Lindsey Grahams trip to Israel, and wrote: Graham re-pledges loyalty to a foreign leader.

But the main service that Parsi and NIAC provided to Tehran was not in repackaging the Supreme Leaders tweets for American domestic consumption but in engaging in the hard organizational work of coalition-building in the US around the regimes foreign policy goals. In 2005-2006, a coalition of nearly 50 groups, mostly comprising of anti-war and progressive organizations formed a coalition to oppose Americas harsh policy toward Iran and prevent a potential war between the two countries. NIAC played a key role in shaping the coalitions policies. One of the documents obtained during the lawsuit is a 2007 report titled Lobby Groups that Parsi wrote and sent to Siamak Namaz, his lobbying partner in Tehran. Parsi explained how NIAC tried to transform this coalition into an anti-sanction pressure group:

While these groups have focused extensively on passing measures to reduce the risk for war with Iran, little attention has been paid to efforts to intensify sanctions against Iran. However, initial efforts are currently being made to make align the trade groups with the pro-dialogue coalition and frame sanctions an initial step that invariably will lead to war. If such a coalition of pro-trade and pro-dialogue groups can be formed, the current momentum for sanctions may be significantly hampered.

In 2008, the coalition was named Campaign for New American policy on Iran (CNAPI) and NIAC became its official coordinator. CNAPI comprised of leftist and religious groups, including Open Society, Center for Arms Control and Nonproliferation as well as USA*Engage, a pro-trade business advocacy group that lobbies againstIran sanctions. Several former politicians and diplomats also worked with CNAPI.

After Obamas victory in the 2008 presidential elections, during the monthly meeting of CNAPI, Patrick Disney, a NIAC lobbyist and the coordinator for CNAPI declared: This is a chance to demonstrate that our group and our position is now the center of gravity on the Iran issue. With Obama in the White House, it is no longer acceptable for staffers to say they only hear from the far-right hawks on Iranwere here and were going to push for a positive agenda.

The convergence of views between the Obama administration and the pro-Iran lobby helped NIAC and its partners to evolve from a pressure group to a high-level White House player. Philip Gordon, special assistant to the president and White House coordinator for the Middle East, North Africa, and the Gulf Region spoke at the NIAC 2014 annual conference and in September 2016, Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes spoke at the NIAC conference to highlight the White House alliance with the organization. Similarly, Alan Eyre, the State Departments Persian-language spokesperson regularly participated as a keynote speaker at the NIAC conferences and, even more amazingly, the State Department and U.S. embassy in Jeddah organized a series of speeches for Trita Parsi in Saudi Arabia about U.S.-Iran relations. It was therefore not surprising that Sahar Nowrouzzadeh, a former NIAC employee became National Security Council Director for Iran. According to official records, NIAC President Parsi, visited the White House 33 times between 2013 and 2016.

***

Once in the White House, Obama extended a friendly hand toward the Iranian regime, sent two secret letters to the Iranian Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, as well as a conciliatory video message to Irans leaders. Yet only a few months later, in June 2009, as the White House was trying to gain the trust of the Iranian regime, the rigged presidential election in Iran provoked a historic popular movement, which gradually morphed to an anti-regime uprising that lasted almost a year and brought the regime to the edge of collapse. While millions of Iranian demonstrators were facing the regimes brutal crackdown, thousands were arrested, beaten, raped, and tortured and hundreds were killed, Obama seemed to ignore this defining moment and continued his overture toward the regime. This attitude angered the Iranian people who shouted in the streets and asked the U.S. President: Obama, Obama, are you with themthe Iranian regimeor with us?

A former administration official explained the main reason for Obamas attitude to a reporter for The New Yorker: The core of it was we were still trying to engage the Iranian government and we did not want to do anything that made us side with the protesters.

NIAC helped the White House run interference domestically for a policy orientation that was beginning to look questionable. For example, Parsi wrote an article and defended Obamas passive attitude: The White Houses position has been on the mark. The Iranians want to make sure that the world knows and sees what is happening on the streets of Tehran and other cities. And they want the U.S. to stay out of the fight. Patrick Disney, NIACs policy director published an article titled: On Iran, the Power of Obamas Silence and wrote: For now, the Obama administration is just taking a step back and assessing the situation, and rightly so. But the Obama administration is also making it perfectly clear that, regardless of the outcome of the next few days, they are committed to engage in direct diplomacy with the Iranian government. At this point, thats the best we, as Americans, can do. In October 2009, in the midst of the Iranian uprising, the 5+1 countries led by the U.S. begun the much-anticipated high-level nuclear talks.

While coalition partners ceased using the CNAPI name, the coalition that NIAC put together formed the nexus for continued collaboration between these groupswhich the Iranian regime calls the pro-Iran lobby in Washingtonand advancing their agenda. These included the easing of economic sanctions (without asking too much in return), accepting a nuclear-capable Iran, the recognition of Iran as a regional power, accepting the Iranian regimes legitimacy and a strategic reconciliation and cooperation with Iran akin to the rapprochement toward China in the 1970s. As president, Obama embraced these recommendations. Parsi and pro-Iran lobby argues that If the United States stops its animosity and adopts a less belligerent attitude toward Iran, the Iranian regime will reciprocate, the moderate factions will be empowered, the Iranian regime will gradually reform itself, its regional policies will change and it will become a successful regional power abiding by international rules, as Obama explained during an interview on Dec. 20, 2015.

The emergence of Rouhanis government and the interim nuclear agreement in November 2013 encouraged the Obama administration to pursue its conciliatory approach toward Iran and at the same time, oppose more forcefully the opponents of his Iran policyat the top of the list being the U.S. Congress. As a result, a more dynamic pro-Iran lobby willing to exploit political divisions in Washington became a full-fledged supporter of the Obama administration and as a result, a practical partnership emerged between them. The administration began questioning the futility of sanctions against Iran even those previously signed by Obama and claimed that they have only pushed Iran to expand its nuclear program. In his weekly addresson Apr. 4, 2015, Obama declared that the sanction always led to Iran making more progress in its nuclear program.

Then, during a congressional hearing, Secretary of State John Kerry went further and declared that a decade of resolutions and sanctions against Iran have been futile: You just said decades of resolutions that they abandoned enrichment. What did they get you? What did those decades of resolutions get you? Meanwhile their program continues to grow. In 2003, my friend, they [Iran] had 164 centrifuges. Now they have 19,000. You know what Zarif said to me, you know what your sanctions have gotten you, is 19,000 [centrifuges].

The Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif echoed Obama and Kerrys remarks. In an interview with NBC on Mar. 4, 2015 he stated: I think President Obama was right in saying that the sanctions caused Iran to go from less than 200 centrifuges to over 20,000 centrifuges. I think the fact that the United States has recognized the futility of pressure against Iran, the futility of sanctions against Iran, the fact that they have recognized that sanctions dont work, that pressure dont work, that threats dont work, the only way to deal with Iran is to be through respect and through negotiations.

NIAC and its partners campaigned aggressively against Congressional sanctions while promoting the narrative that the Rouhani government and the Obama administration were on the side of peace and moderation and on the other hand, the U.S. Congress members who opposed a nuclear deal favoring Iran, were warmongers who followed the orders of Israel and were, therefore, allied with Iranian hardlinersmessaging that was in turn retailed directly by the White House. For example, Bernadette Meehan, the National Security Council spokeswoman called the U.S. Senators who support more sanctions against Iran warmongers, while Obama criticized the Congress members who opposed his proposed nuclear deal declaring: I think its somewhat ironic to see some members for Congress wanting to make common cause with the hardliners in Iran.

Take a step back, and the picture that emerges is a startling one: The White House and the pro-Iran lobby worked together to create an echo chamber to advance a large scale media campaign designed to overcome widespread opposition to a nuclear deal that was favorable to Iran. A key part of this campaign was the argument the nuclear deal and lifting of sanctions would change Iranian foreign policy and its position toward the US. During a congressional briefing, NIAC Research Director Reza Marashi declared that Iran is currently seeking to move away from the relationship of animosity it has had with the United States to a state he described as rivalry, where mutual interests can be pursued while differences can be managed. Simply put, both sides need each other right now. In a statement supporting the nuclear deal, NIAC declared that: this deal provides the Iranian people with the space to push Iran in the right direction: an Iran that respects human rights and pursues moderate policies internally and externally.

In a memo published in April 2015 and titled Truce: Iran, the U.S. and the Middle East After the Nuclear Deal NIAC promoted this narrative:

The nuclear deal now signals a degree of American acceptance of Iranian power in the region, and if the lifting of sanctions ends Irans status as a pariah state, does that mean that Iran will have fewer incentives to play the destabilization card? Such an outcome cannot be ruled out. In fact, if previous patterns hold, Iran is more likely to pursue a less aggressive foreign policy going forward The first place to look is Irans posture toward Israel. Already, prior to reaching a final nuclear deal, Irans approach to the Jewish state has changed dramatically since U.S.-Iran diplomacy began in earnest under Rouhani. On the rhetorical level, Iran went from questioning the Holocaust under former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to tweeting Rosh Hashanah greetings to the Jewish people worldwide under Rouhani. It is reasonable to expect that this trend will not only continue, but will also be strengthened if a nuclear deal paves the way for a larger U.S.-Iran truce. Some would argue that the nuclear deal is destabilizing the region and increasing tensions. That is a misdiagnosis.

Yet contrary to NIACs claims, the Iranian regime has intensified its holocaust-denying and anti-Jewish hatred. In January 2016, as the world marked International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Khamenei published a video titled Are the Dark Ages Over on his official website which included one of his speeches from two years ago in which he questions the reality of the Holocaust. In May 2016, Iran held another Holocaust cartoon festival inviting the usual despicable cast of characters from Europe and around the world with the supreme leader sending a message to the organizers of the event thanking and congratulating them.

Regarding NIACs claim that the nuclear deal and the lifting of sanctions would moderate Iranian foreign policy, there is someconsensus that Iran feels emboldened to pursue its radical and hegemonic policies in the region. As CENTCOM Commander General Joseph L. Votel testified before the House Armed Service Committee in March 2017, We have not seen any improvement in Irans behavior since the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), addressing Irans nuclear program, was finalized in July 2015. Iran aspires to be a regional hegemon and its forces and proxies oppose U.S. interests in Iraq, Yemen, Lebanon, Gaza, and Syria, and seek to hinder achievement of U.S. objectives in Afghanistan and some Central Asian States.

What is unquestionable here is that NIACs activities since 2002 and particularly during the Obama administration eased pressure on the Iranian regime and helped Tehran to advance its strategic goals.

***

Read more from Tablets special Iran Week.

Hassan Dai is a human rights activist, political analyst and editor of the Iranian American Forum.

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Inside the US Fight to Fix Israel’s Global Standing – Center for Research on Globalization

Al Jazeera 8 June 2017

The Trump administration is using unprecedented threats and financial blackmail against the United Nations and its agencies to end their focus on human rights abuses by Israel, according to analysts and Palestinian leaders.

They accuse the United States of joining Israel in a campaign of intimidation against the UN secretariat and member states to forcibly rehabilitate Israels international standing.

The offensive comes after the Israeli government of Benjamin Netanyahu had faced several years of criticism in diplomatic circles for refusing to engage in a peace process with the Palestinians.

An early indication of the new campaigns success, analysts noted, was the election last week of Danny Danon as a vice-president of the UNs main representative forum, the General Assembly.

Danny Danon (Source: embassies.gov.il)

Danon has been Israels ambassador to the UN since 2015.

He is known as an arch-opponent of the two-state solution and, before heading to the UN in New York, had repeatedly called for Israel to annex most of the West Bank.

US attorneyfor Israel

It is views like Danons, which are increasingly dominant inside the Israeli government, that have driven a swelling boycott movement, as well as increasing comparisons between Israel and apartheid South Africa.

The US and Israel are now jointly engaged in street fighting at the UN, a Western diplomat, who wished to remain anonymous, told Al Jazeera. Washington is throwing its weight around and bullying people. The old rules of diplomacy have been thrown out of the window.

That view was confirmed by Hanan Ashrawi, a former Palestinian negotiator and member of the PLO Executive Committee.

The Trump administration has become a very vocal and aggressive attorney for Israel, she told Al Jazeera. It threatens consequences for anyone seen to be supporting the Palestinians or criticising Israel.

Danon will take up his new post in September, chairing sessions of the General Assembly, helping to set its agenda and overseeing enforcement of rules and decorum during its meetings.

New sheriff in town

The increasingly overt alliance between Israel and the US at the UN was highlighted this week when Danon escorted Nikki Haley, Trumps envoy to the UN, on a visit to Israel.

In a speech to the US pro-Israeli lobby group AIPAC in March, Haley promised to be a new sheriff in town at the UN.

On the way to Israel, Haley stopped in Geneva to berate one of the UNs chief agencies, the Human Rights Council (UNHRC), for what she termed its chronic anti-Israel bias. Its behaviour makes a mockery not of Israel, but of the Council itself, she added.

She threatened that the US would pull out of the UNHRC if it did not rein in its criticism.

In April, Haley issued a similar warning when she took over the rotating presidency of the UNs most powerful body, the Security Council. She told members that their monthly Middle East debates would now focus on Iran, Syria, Hamas and Hezbollah, not Israel.

Apartheid report retracted

Israel and the White House have been leaning on other key UN agencies.

In March, the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia was forced to retract an expert report after it concluded that Israel had established an apartheid regime ruling over the Palestinians.

And last month the US condemned a resolution by the UNs cultural agency, UNESCO, after it called on Israel to uphold international law and end policies that were changing the religious and cultural character of occupied East Jerusalem.

Although the resolution passed, most European countries either abstained or voted against it. Afterwards, Netanyahu crowed:

The number of countries who support this absurd UNESCO resolution is getting smaller.

Threat to UN budget

All this has been occurring against the drumbeat of threats from the Trump administration that it is ready to impose drastic cuts to the UN budget. Washington is the UNs biggest contributor, covering nearly $13.5bn of the world bodys funding.

The main factor behind Danons promotion is blackmail by the Trump administration, said Ashrawi. It is threatening to withhold UN funding and it is clear member states are scared.

Nathan Thrall (Source: Amazon)

Nathan Thrall, author of a new book on Israeli-Palestinian diplomacy, The Only Language They Understand, said the campaign had forced the Palestinians to back off from diplomatic initiatives at the UN.

Over the past seven years, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas placed an emphasis on the struggle to win recognition of Palestinian statehood at the UN. That included joining a UN agency, UNESCO, in 2011. The US responded by suspending its UNESCOs funding.

The Palestinians are afraid what Trump might do, Thrall told Al Jazeera. If the US starts making global institutions collapse, the Palestinian leadership are worried they will get the blame from other countries.

Peacekeeping operations and humanitarian assistance would be among the UN operations expected to suffer.

The Palestinians dont want to lose friends when they need them most, added Thrall.

Rights enfant terrible

Danon, aged 46, was selected for the role of General Assembly vice-president by a regional faction at the UN known as the Western European and Others Group. It includes most European countries, plus Israel, Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

The election of vice-presidents is organised on a regional basis to ensure fair geographical representation.

Salah Bardawil, a senior Hamas official, tweeted that Danons elevation was a mark of Cain on the UNs forehead.

Israel has been the subject of dozens of resolutions condemning its violations of the UN charter far more than any other member state. But in particular, the choice of Danon has disturbed Palestinian leaders. Until recently, his was widely seen as the enfant terrible of the Israeli right.

Netanyahu sacked Danon from his post as deputy defence minister in summer 2014, during Israels attack on Gaza, in which some 500 Palestinian children were killed. He called Danon irresponsible for describing Israels military operation as too lenient.

Salam Fayyad blocked

When Netanyahu announced Danons posting as ambassador a year later, Israeli analysts described the decision as a cruel joke.

Ashrawi noted that Danons treatment at the UN contrasted strongly with that of Salam Fayyad, the former Palestinian prime minister.

Efforts by the US Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, to appoint Fayyad, a Palestinian moderate, as the UN envoy to Libya were blocked by the US in February. Haley described the move as against Israel and added:

The United States will act, not just talk, in support of our allies.

Even before Trump, there were signs that Israels fortunes at the UN were changing.

Last year, Danon made history becoming the first Israeli ambassador to chair a permanent committee dealing, paradoxically, with international law, the subject on which Israel has faced most criticism. Again, Danon received the backing of the Western European and Others Group.

However, Danons relations with the previous US administration were strained. In late 2012 he accused President Barack Obama of being no friend of Israel.

Security Council seat?

By contrast, Danon has been enthusiastically embraced by the Trump administration, observed Thrall.

Israel is doing well diplomatically, at the moment. There are rumours that it aspires to a seat in the Security Council. The climate is such that some Israeli politicians even seem to think that might be achievable.

Interviewed by the settlers news agency Arutz Sheva last month, Danon said there was a new spirit at the UN.

They no longer focus only on Israel. The UN is no longer the Palestinian playground. Something is changing here.

Of his relationship with Haley, he told the Orthodox Jewish magazine Mishpacha in April:

When it comes to Israel, we share the same views.

Making new friends

Although the world body has been viewed as traditionally hostile to Israel, experts have cited several factors that explain Israels changing fortunes.

In recent years, Israel has made strategic alliances with powerful states at the UN, in addition to its main ally in Washington. Israel has won favour often through arms sales and intelligence sharing.

The diplomat, who has worked in Israel, said:

Israel has been reaching out to emerging economies in BRICS [Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa] as well as Mexico. That is starting to pay a diplomatic dividend.

Also, Europe, which is in growing disarray, has abandoned even the pretence of acting as a counterweight to Washington. That has made it easier to win over European countries to Israels side.

Thrall noted:

The apparent calculus in countries like the UK is that the best way to ingratiate themselves with the US is to be good to Israel.

And the UN, mired in financial difficulties, is reeling from the threat of further penalties from the US and its allies if it continues to be seen as anti-Israel.

Israel and the US are ready to break the international order to get their way, said the diplomat. People are scared of what they might be capable of doing.

Jonathan Cook is an award-winning British journalist based in Nazareth, Israel, since 2001. He is the author of three books on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

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Lobbying for votes favourite Israeli method of gaining control – the Irish News

Lobbying for votes favourite Israeli method of gaining control
the Irish News
John Grills (May 31) advocates obtaining a pledge from candidates in today's election to support the state of Israel if elected. This is one of the favourite methods of gaining control of the lawmakers of a country much as the Israeli lobby has almost

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Lobbying for votes favourite Israeli method of gaining control – the Irish News

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June 7, 2017   Posted in: Israeli Lobby  Comments Closed

Israeli Lobby Pressures Canadian Government Over ‘Made In Israel’ Label – Mintpress News (blog)

For a brief period, wines made in Israeli settlements built illegally in the occupied West Bank could not be sold in Ontario with the label Product of Israel. The rulingwas short-lived, and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency abruptly reversed its decision late last week. But Canada and the United Nations both state that the occupied Palestinian territories do not fall within Israels internationally recognized borders, and that Israeli settlements are illegal under international law, said Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME), a Canadian lobby group working for Palestinian justice. CFIA further advised that the Government of Canada does not recognize Israels sovereignty over the territories occupied in 1967 (the Golan Heights, the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip). What I find astonishing and really shocking is that a legitimate complaint by a concerned Canadian citizen essentially gets ignored, while the interests of the Israeli lobby in Canada get pandered to, he toldThe New Arab. Both stem from the fact that though they are labeled Product of Israel on Canadian shelves, both wines were made from grapes grown and harvested in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Its a change of direction that activists working in support of Palestinian human rights say puts Canada at odds with international law, and goes against its own obligations to ensure that Canadian consumers are aware of where products are made. Its also one they have vowed to continue to fight in Canadian courts. This is such an affront to our sense of justice. Not only have we thrown the Palestinian people under the bus again, but in addition, we are undermining the interests of Canadian consumers, said Dimitri Lascaris, an Ontario-based lawyer and human rights activist. Settlements constitute a war crime under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and when people are buying these wines, they are enabling people to profit from a war crime, Lascaris toldThe New Arabon Monday. Lascaris is representing David Kattenburg, a Winnipeg-based activist who lodged his first complaint against the wines in January with the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO), the body that regulates alcohol sales in Canadas most populous province. Kattenburg filed a subsequent complaint with the CFIA in March. Both are considered to be occupied Palestinian territory under international law.Psagot Winery Ltd operates in the Jewish-only settlement of the same name, located on a West Bank hilltop near Ramallah, while Shiloh Winery Ltd operates in the northern West Bank. Related:Amnesty International Urges UK To Ban Imports From Israeli Settlements Psagot Winery Ltd operates in the Jewish-only settlement of the same name, located on a West Bank hilltop near Ramallah, while Shiloh Winery Ltd operates in the northern West Bank. Kattenburg, who is Jewish and the son of Holocaust survivors, said getting mislabelled Israeli settlement wines off the shelves was a really concrete, tangible issue he felt he could get involved with. While he rejoiced at the LCBOs original decision, he said he realised it was going to be short-lived, and in fact, within 12 hours, the decision had been quashed. But neither the LCBO nor the CFIA communicated with him directly, he added. In a July 11 letter sent to vendors that was shared online by pro-Israel lobby group BNai Brith Canada, the LCBO said it received a notice from the CFIA that two wines could not be labeled Product of Israel. The label was not acceptable for wines produced by Psagot Winery Ltd and Shiloh Winery Ltd, which have been made from grapes that are grown, fermented, processed, blended and finished in the West Bank occupied territory, the letter reads. As such, wine products from these regions that are labeled as Product of Israel would not be acceptable and would be considered misleading, according to a subsection of CanadasFood and Drugs Act,the letter continued. But ina brief statementposted on its website on July 13, the CFIA said it regrets the outcome of the wine labeling assessment, which it said, did not fully consider the Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement. The CFIA said the wines did adhere to that agreement, which states under Article 1.4 that Israel is to be defined as the territory where its customs laws are applied, and thus the wines can be sold as currently labeled. But Lascaris was adamant that argument doesnt stand up to legal scrutiny. The free tradeagreement deals primarily with the elimination of trade barriers, not issues of consumer protection, such as the requirement under Section 5 of the Canadian Food and Drugs Act that product labeling must be accurate, Lascaris said. Theres nothing in the Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement which exempts Israels settlement lines from the requirement that the products be accurate and that Canadian consumers understand where theyre buying the product from, Lascaris said. This argument does not hold any water, but the Canadian government, of course, doesnt want to simply admit that its capitulating to pressure from the Israeli embassy and its lobby groups here in Canada and so its offered up this pretext. The Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement first came into force in 1997. It eliminated tariffs on industrial products made in both countries, and on some agricultural and fishery products. In 2014, under then-Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, a staunch Israel supporter, Canada and Israel entered into negotiations to expand and update the deal. Two-way trade between the two countries totaled$1.6 billion in 2014, according to the Canadian government. Therefore, under CFIA country-of-origin labelling guidelines, these two wine products must be labelled accurately to reflect that the wines were produced in occupied Palestinian territory, the CJPME said ina recent statement.On its website, Global Affairs Canada makes it clear that Canada does not recognize permanent Israeli control over territories occupied in 1967, and that Canada considers the settlements to be in contravention of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Amnesty Internationalhas urgedgovernments to ban the import of Israeli settlement products outright in order to put an end to the multimillion dollar profits that have fuelled mass human rights violations against Palestinians. The United Church of Canada, which supports a boycott of Israeli settlement products, also accused Ottawa of putting trade ahead of human rights and the law with its decision. We believe that inaccurate and misleading labeling prevents Canadians from making ethical choices about their purchases, the church said in a statement. CJPME, Lascaris, Kattenburg and others have accused Israel lobby groups like BNai Brith Canada of being behind a campaign to pressure authorities to rescind their original decision. Ina statement, BNai Brith Canada CEO Michael Mostyn thanked Ottawa for reversing its decision on the wines. Wewill continue to make inquiries about the origin of this travesty,to ensure that nothing like ever happens again, Mostyn said. The group also thanked federal parliament member Michael Levitt, a member of Justin Trudeaus governing Liberal party who represents a riding in North York, just north of Toronto, for helping have the decision overturned. This action was completely at odds with both the governments long-standing close relationship with the State of Israel and our focus on broadening the Canada-Israel trade relationship, such as the upcoming ratification of an expanded Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement, Levitt said in a statement. Meanwhile, Lascaris and Kattenburg said they intend to file legal proceedings to challenge the most recent labeling decision. By allowing Israel to label West Bank settlement products made in Israel is essentially Canada totally turning its back in the most dishonest of ways on a well established, fundamental policy, Kattenburg said. Canada, to be saying one thing on the international stage and then acting completely differently this is unacceptable and Canadians should be angry about this. Stories published in our Hot Topics section are chosen based on the interest of our readers. They are republished from a number of sources, and are not produced by MintPress News. The views expressed in these articles are the authors own and do not necessarily reflect Mint Press News editorial policy.

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July 19, 2017   Posted in: Israeli Lobby  Comments Closed

Roger Waters compares Israel to Nazi Germany in Facebook Q&A … – The Jerusalem Post

Roger Waters. (photo credit:REUTERS) In an hour-long live video chat on Facebook Saturday night, musician Roger Waters compared the Israeli government to Nazi Germany, said there were no harsher regimes in the world and then contradicted both himself and facts several times. Speaking to Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement leader Omar Barghouti in a Q&A session, the lead singer of Pink Floyd said there was no point in having dialogue with Israelis and Israeli artists. I think that artists who say that they can somehow improve the situation by going and playing in Israel and having conversations with Israeli artists are wrong, said Waters. Ill tell you why I think theyre wrong, and that is because there are many, many Israeli Jews who are part of the BDS movement… and any of those people will say, No, I dont want to sit around a campfire with you, what I want you to do is not cross the picket line. Waters went on to say it was impossible to have a conversation with a population that have largely been under a state of living in propaganda 24 hours a day, seven days a week, all their lives since they were born. Waters never explained why those Israelis whose views he was comfortable listening to had managed to escape the propaganda, while all those he refused to hear from did not. During the session, hundreds of pro-Israel activists flooded the chat and accused Waters of being a hypocrite and an antisemite. During the chat, Waters called for a cultural boycott of Israel and received dozens of responses from Israelis who wrote in that they were, at that exact moment, enjoying the Guns N’ Roses concert taking place at the same time in Tel Aviv. The British rocker has become one of the most prominent voices over the past decade in the movement to boycott Israel. His most recent battle was with Radiohead, which refused to cancel its show scheduled for this week in Tel Aviv. Nevertheless, Waters claimed the BDS movement is hovering around a tipping point, and that Israel is heading toward being a pariah state. He made no mention, of course, of the artists who have already performed in Israel in the past two months alone, including Justin Bieber, Britney Spears, Guns N Roses, Aerosmith, Tears for Fears and more. In the video, which had been viewed by more than 50,000 people as of Sunday afternoon, Waters compared Israeli government activities to those of Nazi Germany. Waters was asked what he would say about those South Africans who claim that describing Israel as apartheid is insulting to their experience. In his response, the musician called such people entirely ignorant and said its hard not to go back to [Joseph] Goebbels, the Nazi minister of propaganda. The tactic is to tell the big lie as often as possible over and over and over again. When it comes to the United States, Waters said, though he hates US President Donald Trump, he wouldnt consider a boycott of the US. If I didnt play in the US it would have absolutely no effect on American foreign policy, he said. Boycott is a very specific strategy and tactic that you can use as a tool of protest in very certain specific situations… its a realistic tactic to affect the government and the people of Israel. Waters did not offer any examples of ways in which the tactic has had any tangible results on Israeli foreign policy. But Americans have been living in this constant state of hasbara created by AIPAC and the Israeli lobby in the United States all of them, their whole life, he added, using the acronym for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. Asked by Barghouti what he would say to those who ask why Waters doesnt speak out about worse regimes in the world, the rocker offered a truly mind-bending answer. Im not sure there are any much harsher regimes around the world, actually, if you look at it, he said. He then noted that he is particularly concerned about Syria. But he did not say that Syria where more than 400,000 civilians have been killed in the past six years was a worse human-rights offender than Israel. Waters also noted that he was very concerned about Ukraine, but rushed to add that he did not want to demonize the Russians. He expressed no similar concerns about demonizing the more than eight million citizens of Israel. Share on facebook

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July 17, 2017   Posted in: Israeli Lobby  Comments Closed

Review: A great gig by Roger Waters in Miami – SouthFlorida.com (blog)

The dark, eerily beautiful, dystopian landscape he conjured inside AmericanAirlines Arena Thursday night did not prevent Roger Waters from allowing a subtle grin to crease his face from time to time. At 73 years old, Waters is hopscotching the country on his Us and Them Tour playing classic Pink Floyd cuts to sold-out arenas. He has an excellent band behind him, and the sophisticated, innovative production of the show, with lasers, projections and versatile high-definition video screens, is unsurpassed. At one point, a lifelike projection of the iconic Battersea Power Station, from the Animals cover, ran the length of the arena, steam pouring from its stacks. But what may bring Waters the most satisfaction is seeing the fury and disillusionment in songs such as Welcome to the Machine, Money, Us and Them, Pigs and Another Brick in the Wall inspiring passionate sing-alongs from multigenerational audiences that, in the case of Miami, may include the grandchildren of original Pink Floyd fans. With a giant projection of his head looming over the stage, Waters seemed to look into the eyes of everyone in the arena while spitting the lyric, You know youre nobody’s fool. Unshaven, with a tempest of nearly white hair curling toward his shoulders, the black-clad Waters, resembling some ancient mariner back from an odyssey, strolled nonchalantly onstage about 30 minutes after the time on the ticket and coaxed the luscious Speak to Me/Breathe to life as video of deep space enveloped the massive screen behind him. If you watched Waters extraordinary production of The Wall when it passed through South Florida a few years back and yearned for a broader selection of Pink Floyd music, Thursday nights show answered your prayer. In two roughly 60-minute sets separated by a 20-minute intermission, Waters delivered a riveting evening of entertainment for the ears and eyes, performing staples of the Pink Floyd catalog, as well as several enthusiastically received songs from his new album, Is This the Life We Really Want? The implication in that title was a consistent theme throughout the evening, an intertwining of the theatrical, political and spiritual, with many songs accompanied by vivid visuals that illustrated mans inhumanity to man. In addition to Breathe, the first half was highlighted by Time, The Great Gig in the Sky Wish You Were Here, Welcome to the Machine, One of These Days and the classic Another Brick in the Wall. A new song, a troubling vision of America called Picture That, found Waters on solo guitar striding from one side of the stage to the other, as if to address the audience more directly when he sang, Picture a leader with no f—ing brains. Leslie Ovalle / South Florida Sun Sentinel Roger Waters performs at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami on Thursday, July 13, backed by vocalists Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig of the indie band Lucius. Roger Waters performs at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami on Thursday, July 13, backed by vocalists Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig of the indie band Lucius. (Leslie Ovalle / South Florida Sun Sentinel) The second set opened with revelatory 18-minute version of “Dogs,” which began as a platform lowered from the ceiling, soon erupting into a stunning display of the Battersea Power Station. The line of projection screens remained above the floor seats, perpendicular to the stage, dividing the arena in half and providing not just dramatic visuals but an odd feeling of intimacy. Not surprisingly, in Dogs, an indictment of corporate greed and immorality from 1977s Animals, Waters has found parallels in todays evolving American value system under a new president. With the band seated at a table in pig masks toasting each other with champagne, Dogs kicked off a section of songs accompanied by images that President Donald Trump would call sad. An overwhelming majority of those in the arena seemed to love them. Joined by many in the audience, Waters sang Ha, ha, charade you are, the refrain Pigs (Three Different Ones), as a pig-shaped blimp roamed the air and pictures of Trump (with Vladimir Putin; in a Nazi uniform; in a diaper) filled the screens. Money, Us and Them and Brain Damage followed, the later accompanied by a triangular, floor-to-ceiling alignment of lasers suggesting the Dark Side of the Moon cover. The band took a brief break, then returned for an encore that included snippets of Vera, Bring the Boys Back Home and a version of Comfortably Numb that brought down the house and brought up the lights. Among those behind Waters, singer-guitarists Jonathan Wilson and Dave Kilminster provided flawless accompaniment in the David Gilmour role. The density of this music also benefited from Gus Seyffert (guitars, bass, keyboards) Drew Erickson (piano, keyboards, Hammond organ), Jon Carin (piano, keyboards, programming) and Ian Ritchie (saxophone, bass). Vocalists Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig of the indie band Lucius, in matching platinum wigs, were equally extraordinary, especially on Breathe and their lead duet on Great Gig in the Sky. The first set ended with Another Brick in the Wall, a song that has inspired Waters to seek out young students at each stop on the tour to be onstage to sing the We dont need no education refrain to choreographed movements. As it was on The Wall tour stops in Miami and Sunrise, the moment was magic Thursday night, with eight young people singing, marching and wearing black T-shirts emblazoned with the word Resist. After they left the stage, Waters addressed the audience with a statement he said was important to me. He said the students who had performed were not those that were originally scheduled to take part, a group of kids from programs affiliated with the city of Miami Beach parks department. Those kids dropped out on Thursday after the Greater Miami Jewish Federation accused Waters of messages of anti-Semitism, anti-Zionism and hatred. The Anti-Defamation League in 2013 was critical of Waters use of Jewish imagery in his concerts, including a Star of David on the floating pig. In his statement Thursday night, after reading aloud the names of the students who were unable to perform, Waters said they had been banned by the mayor of Miami Beach. Waters blamed pressure applied by the Israeli lobby, which, he said, was targeting him for his support of pro-Palestinian human rights groups. I carry with me the burden of everything I learned from my mother and my father, who were both great humanists, and who cared deeply about every other human being in the world, Waters told the audience. And they cared about civil and human rights all over the world, no matter who the people were. bcrandell@sun-sentinel.com

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July 14, 2017   Posted in: Israeli Lobby  Comments Closed

Labour MP slammed in anti-Semitism row – The Argus

A NEWLY-ELECTED MP is under fire for intervening on behalf of a party member facing disciplinary action for anti-Semitic comments. Brighton and Hove city councillor Caroline Penn has told The Argus she felt lied to by Kemptown MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle after the MP told her over Twitter he was not appealing on behalf of a Labour Party activist who said the BBC faked footage of a Syrian gas attack at the behest of the Israeli lobby. But in a leaked letter from Mr Russell-Moyle to the general secretary of the Labour Party, seen by The Argus, the MP says he recommends the members reinstatement, concluding: I do hope her record and her apologies will be enough to… allow her to return to membership. Cllr Penn said she was furious to learn of the content of the letter, written a week before the Twitter exchange with Mr Russell-Moyle in which she accused him of defending the indefensible. Telling The Argus she felt lied to by the newly-elected MP, she added: Im very disappointed he chose to misrepresent his views and actions in this way. The row began before the election when Labour Party member Melanie Melvin was suspended for actions including a tweet which read: Breaking: Sarin gas was filmed by the BBC at Pinewood on the orders of Mrs May and the Israeli lobby. Following a conversation with Ms Melvin, Mr Russell-Moyle wrote to Labour Party general secretary Iain McNicol on June 30 to say her tweet seemed unhinged at best but had, he believed, been made as a parody of online conspiracy theorists. He said her behaviour showed naivety but no malicious intent and said, as a stalwart of the campaign who has apologised, the member should be reinstated. Ivor Caplin, south-east chairman of the Jewish Labour Movement and former MP for Hove, told The Argus: I cant see how anyone could say she should continue to be a member of the Labour Party. We have to take firm and decisive action on this issue. He said there was ample evidence the tweet by Melanie Melvin breached an internationally accepted definition of anti-Semitism agreed by both the Government and the Labour Party. Via Twitter on Sunday, Mr Russell-Moyle told Cllr Penn: he had reported the conversation with Ms Melvin to the party, adding: Ive a duty to relay a genuine conversation… She will have to appeal herself. Im not appealing on anyones behalf. Yesterday he told The Argus: Im not appealing on her behalf. My understanding is there was an appeal going in and I was asked for evidence on her behalf. I was asked what my opinion was. She had assured me she was trying to show how stupid those views were. Based on that conversation I believe shed been suitably apologetic. He added that if further evidence came to light that Ms Melvin held anti-Semitic views, that there should be no place her her in the Labour Party. He said he would be more than happy to apologise to Cllr Penn if she feels betrayed.

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July 12, 2017   Posted in: Israeli Lobby  Comments Closed

Largest Palestinian Expo concludes in UK – TRT World

Despite efforts by pro-Israeli groups to cancel the event, the 2017 Palestine Expo kicked offas planned on Saturday, in Londons Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre in Westminster. Organised by Friends of Al-Aqsa, a UK-based NGO, working todefendthe human rights in Palestine, thousands of people attended the two-day event. The event is a curtain-raiser on the life, culture, arts and crafts inherent to Palestine. Special interactive zones, food stalls, augmented reality tours, theatres, traditional dabke dance workshops were set up throughout the five storeysof the conference centre. The workshop allowed visitors to take part in discussions, and to also try out some traditional Palestinian dishes. For those who wanted to try their hand at Palestinian cooking, special live kitchens were set up to get hands-on experience, from the author of Palestine on a Plate, Joudie Kalla. Noted academicians and journalists such as Illan Pappe, professor for Arab and Islamic Studies at the University of Exeter, and professor of Islamic studies at the University of Oxford, Tariq Ramadan, writer Ben White and MikoPeled amongst others graced the event. David Miller, a professor of sociology at the University of Bath, told Middle East Eye, the event has been a visible show of public support for the Palestinian cause. “The significance of this conference is that it brings the issue of Palestine on to the agenda,” he said. Miller, whose talk reflected the role of UK-funded charities supporting Zionist organisations in the establishment of illegal settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, said “People see that there are thousands and thousands of people who are interested in Palestine and human rights.” Leanne Mohammed, a 16-year-old British-Palestinian and a human rights activist spoke about the use of arts and creativity as tools of campaigning. Special photo booths with a backdrop of Palestine along with props and Palestinian outfits were made available for those who wanted to capture the memories of this event. Attempt to defame On June 14, the Department for Communities and Local Government, which is responsible for the venue where the event took place, wrote to organisers expressing their concerns about the organisations’ public support for Hamas, threatening to cancel the event. However, the organisers of the event described it as a smear campaign against some of its speakers. Ismail Patel, the founder of Friends of Al-Aqsa, told the Guardian, the department was unlawfully interfering in the event. They have failed to provide any satisfactory reason as to why they have chosen to cancel an event which seeks to celebrate Palestinian culture and heritage, he said, accusing the department of acting on hearsay from a pro-Israeli lobby group. Threatening legal action, the event was eventually allowed to proceed on a stipulated day and time.

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July 10, 2017   Posted in: Israeli Lobby  Comments Closed

PressTV-‘US is global source of terrorism, not Iran’ – Press TV

The United States is the worlds largest source of terrorism, not the Islamic Republic of Iran, an American writer says. The United States is the worlds largest source of terrorism, not the Islamic Republic of Iran, according to Robert Fantina, an American writer and political analyst who is based in Ontario, Canada. Fantina, the author of Empire, Racism and Genocide: A History of US Foreign Policy, made the remarks in an interview with Press TV on Saturday when asked why does the US want to convince the world that Iran is exporting terrorism, when it itself is doing so. The United States for generations has proclaimed, against all evidence, that it is a beacon of liberty and freedom, respecting human rights and assisting the downtrodden around the world. In that context, it accuses Iran of what it itself does, to convince the world that Iran is a terrorist regime, in order to gain widespread support for an invasion, Fantina said. Such an invasion of Iran would serve many purposes for the United States, he stated. First, the US is the worlds largest exporter of weaponry; the more wars it wages, the more use there is for its products. Weapons manufacturers in the US make significant donations to elected officials for their election and re-election campaigns. It has been reported that, in Syria, different factions, both supplied by the US, are actually fighting each other. Second, and more importantly for the US, is the Israeli lobby, which donates far more to elected officials than weapons manufacturers. Israel has nuclear weapons, and with $4 billion annually from the US, has become a very powerful force in the Middle East and the world. The US will not allow Iran, a large and powerful country, to challenge sacred Israel in any way. In addition, US government officials and the corporate-owned media, which can be seen as a branch of the government, have long tried, with some success, to convince the populace to fear Islam. By accusing Iran, an Islamic country, of exporting terrorism, this fear can be enflamed. This will enable the US to more strongly support Israel, thus pleasing Israeli lobbies and continuing the flow of money to officials running for re-election. Also, if the US can convince the world that Iran is exporting terrorism, it moves the focus away from its own terrorist activities, and points them elsewhere. This allows the US to continue terrorizing the world. The US citizenry always seems ready to go to war; once the wars start, and disillusionment sets in, they learn that starting wars is much easier than ending them. But as the US has destroyed Libya and Iraq, and is trying desperately, with only a modicum of success, fortunately, to do the same thing to Syria, the citizenry doesnt seem to notice; once the US goes to war, they will wave the flag, support the troops, and climb on the murderous US bandwagon. But what they dont realize is that an invasion of Iran will not be the same as the invasion of Iraq; the names of the countries are similar, but that is about the only thing they have in common. With a population of over 72 million, Iran is twice the size of Iraq. The Iranian military is far stronger than the Iraqi military ever was. Additionally, Iran is allied with Russia, which is unlikely to sit back and watch the US destroy Iran. US officials can say what they will about Iran, but the facts are clear: it is the US that is the worlds largest source of terrorism.

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July 9, 2017   Posted in: Israeli Lobby  Comments Closed

Hassan Dai – Tablet Magazine

In 2005, Jack Abramoffs corruption and lobbying scandal became public. One of Abramoffs main accomplices was Bob Ney, a former congressman from Ohio who was sentenced to 30 months in prison. Part of the corruption charges against Ney, exposed in DOJ documents, were related to the bribes that he had received from two businessmen in London who tried to buy an airplane for the leadership of the Iranian regimean export prohibited by sanctions. Ney had been hired to resolve the legal issues prohibiting the export of the place. Neys foreign-policy adviser during the time Ney was advocating the removal of sanctions against Iran was a young Iranian-Swedish student named Trita Parsi (according to Parsis resumes), now better known as the founder and president of the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), a Washington-based, pro-Tehran advocacy and lobbying organization founded in 2002. Back then, it was hard to explain why a Congressman with no official role in US foreign policy had a foreign policy adviser on Iran. Parsi began his pro-Tehran activities in 1997 in Sweden as he founded a small lobby organization calledIranians for International Cooperation (IIC) that used its few Washington members to send petitions and letters to Congress members. In an IIC document released during a subsequent lawsuit, Parsi explained IICs activities and goals as follows: IIC was founded in August 1997 by Trita Parsi, the present President. Our agenda is topped by the removal of US economic and political sanctions against Iran. IIC is capable of organizing the grassroots and pressure US lawmakers to pose a more Iran friendly position. In 2001, Parsi moved to the United States and became the development director of the American Iranian Council (AIC), an anti-sanction and pro-Iran advocacy organization that had been founded by its President Hooshang Amirahmadi in 1997. AIC was funded by U.S. oil companies, which were apparently eager to do business in Iran. It also received backing from the Iranian regime. In several interviews, Amirahmadi called AIC Irans prominent lobby in the U.S. that strives to defend the interests of Iran and oppose the pro-Israeli lobby AIPAC. (Interviews with government press in Iran are here and here.) Shortly after his arrival in the United States, Parsi begun consultations to create NIAC. Several emails by Parsi discovered in subsequent legal actions illuminate the function and the strategy of the new organization as at least an advocate for the Iranian regime. In one of the emails, Parsi indicated that Tehran-based Baquer Namazi was instructing him. Namazi was the co-director of Tehran-based Hamyaran, a semi-governmental organization also known as the Iran NGO initiative. The other co-director of Hamyaran was Hoseein Malek Afzali, a deputy minister in Iran for 18 years, whose tenure ended in 2008. Hamyaran was not a private initiative by Iranian citizens who hoped to do good: It was created by the Iranian government to monitor the activities of Iranian NGOs and to coordinate their relations with foreign organizations. Hamyaran was also assigned by the Iranian foreign ministry the role of coordinating relationships between the state and Iranian expatriates. Following the Ney scandal, criticism against NIACs pro-regime activities mounted within the Iranian-American community. In 2008, NIAC and Parsi filed a defamation lawsuit against one of their critics who had exposed their tie to the Iranian regime. During the discovery phase of the lawsuit, NIAC was obliged to release a small part of its internal documents that proved to be devastating for the organization as they showed NIACs direct links with the regime. In November 2009, the Washington Times ran a front-page article about these documents and wrote: Law-enforcement experts who reviewed some of the documents, which were made available to the Times by the defendant in the suit, say e-mails between Mr. Parsi and Irans ambassador to the United Nations at the time, Javad Zarifand an internal review of the Lobbying Disclosure Actoffer evidence that the group has operated as an undeclared lobby and may be guilty of violating tax laws, the Foreign Agents Registration Act and lobbying disclosure laws the Times asked two former federal law-enforcement officials to review documents from the case showing that Mr. Parsi had helped arrange meetings between members of Congress and Mr. Zarif. Arranging meetings between members of Congress and Irans ambassador to the United Nations would in my opinion require that person or entity to register as an agent of a foreign power; in this case it would be Iran, said one of those officials, former FBI associate deputy director Oliver Buck Revell. The other official, former FBI special agent in counterintelligence and counterterrorism Kenneth Piernick, said, It appears that this may be lobbying on behalf of Iranian government interests. Following the Times report, Arizona Senator Jon Kyl sent an inquirya very unusual request in Washingtonto the U.S. Attorney General asking him to investigate the groups direct and indirect ties with the Iranian government. But in 2009, the Obama administration, which had begun its conciliatory approach toward Tehran, decided that it could use NIACs help in mending rifts with Iranian leaders. The White House also needed NIAC, as an Iranian-American group to endorse and legitimize President Barack Obamas friendly attitude toward the clerical regime, especially after the Iranian popular uprising of 2009-2010 was brutally crushed by the regime in front of television cameras. As a result, NIAC gained influence in the administration and became a White House partner. Parsi went from being a fringe player in Washington to a semi-legitimate expert who is assumed to represent an American constituency, and whose views are seldom quoted with any acknowledgement of his intimate and longstanding links to the Iranian regime. NIAC finally lost the legal action against its critic in 2012 as the court dismissed the defamation lawsuit, punished NIAC and Trita Parsi for discovery abuses including false declarations to the court, and ordered them to pay a significant part of the defendants legal expenses. Part of NIACs internal documents released during the lawsuit are posted here and some of them have been used to prepare this report, which hopes to answer the question of how parts of official Washington and the D.C. press came to embrace a willing advocate for a theocratic regime that brutally tortures and murders its own citizens while spreading death throughout the Middle East, contrary to the interests of America and its allies in the region. *** NIAC was incorporated in early 2002 and presents itself as: nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing the interests of the Iranian-American community. We accomplish our mission by supplying the resources, knowledge, and tools to enable greater civic participation by Iranian Americans and informed decision making by lawmakers. But a cursory review of NIAC activities and statements seem to indicatethat the group spends very little of its time or energy working with Iranian Americans. Instead, it works to pressure the U.S. government to adopt a friendlier policy with Tehran and lift economic sanctions against the Iranian regime. A NIAC internal document, released during the lawsuit, shows that the organization uses its pro-Iranian-American posture as a tool to advance its political agenda. NIAC was registered as a 501c3 with restrictions for the amount of lobbying it could legally perform. In 2002, when NIAC was launched, Parsi and two Washington lobbyists worked together to create a parallel organization to NIAC that would carry out lobbying activities. In October 2002, Parsi sent a memo to these two lobbyists, titled Towards the creation of an Iranian-American lobby, and explained the real goal of his lobby activities: Although the mission of the proposed lobby should be to improve relations between the US and Iran and open up opportunities for trade, the initial targets should be less controversial issues such as visas and racial profiling/discrimination. Despite its predominantly business oriented constituency, it is essential that the lobby creates a human face. The human element is essential both when it comes to attracting support among Iranian-Americans and when it comes to winning the debate and the votes on the Hill. While NIAC claims that it is the largest Iranian-American organization in the United States, and hence bestequipped to represent the views of more than one million Iranian-Americans, this claim is deceitful and fraudulent. NIACs internal documents obtained during the lawsuit show that the organization has systematically hyped the number of its members and misrepresented its constituency. For example, in 2005-2006, in several CVs that Parsi attached to his job application sent to U.S. organizations such as Amnesty International, Saban or Eurasia Fund, he claimed 10,000 members for NIAC. In a meeting with Sen. John Chafees office, Parsi repeated the same claims and declared that an NIAC survey was sent to 10,000 members, though a NIAC document shows that only 224 members participated in the survey. The minutes of NIACs Board meeting in 2007 give what is probably a more accurate picture of the organizations actual strength within the Iranian-American community: Trita reviewed the membership trends: 1,034 (2005) increased to 1,307 in 2006 and 1,680 as of todayciting these figures as absolutely unacceptable. The same document shows that Alex Patico, NIAC co-founder and a board member felt that: it would not be deceitful to mention NIAC as being comprised of 25,000+ members when dealing with the media and other inquiries. Other NIAC documents shows that the group only had 1,068 members in 2008. It had 1,100 in May 2009. In July 2009, less than 500 (including non-members) participated in a NIAC members survey. 275 of them responded to the questions. In December 2010, Parsi claimed that NIAC had 4,000 paid members and 43,000 active supporters. During his testimony in May 2011 and under oath he admitted that the organizations real membership was only around 1,000 members. The reason for NIACs unimpressive membership numbers may besimple: NIAC doesnt represent the views of Iranian Americans, the vast majority of who oppose Irans clerical regime and reject appeasement policies toward Tehran. As a result of its unpopularity among its presumed base, NIACs primary source of income is not dues-paying Iranian-Americans but American foundations. The organizations biggest donor is the Ploughshares Fund, which over the past few years has financially supported groups and individuals who advocate for a friendlier policy with Iran and the lifting of economic sanctions. However, it is worth noting that U.S. foundations often act as conduits for funds they receive from business interests and individuals. It is therefore difficult to trace the origins of the funds that NIAC or other organizations receive from these foundations to their source. One example that illustrates this difficulty is the case of a $900,000 donation by Vahid Alaghband, London-based Iranian businessman to the Brookings Institution in 2007. Alaghband is the chairman of the Balli group in London with multiple large holdings inside Iran. In 2010, Balli pleaded guilty to illegally exporting Boeing 747 aircraft to Iran and agreed to pay $15 million in fines to the US government. In 2007, while Alaghband was preparing the illegal sale of aircraft to Iran, he donated $50,000 to the California-based Parsa Foundation. In the same year, the Parsa Foundation awarded a grant of $50,000 to NIAC. During the NIAC defamation lawsuit, the Parsa Foundation was subpoenaed and produced some of its email exchanges with Alaghband showing use of the Foundation to funnel a large donation to the Brookings Institution: Alaghband would donate $900,000 to the Parsa Foundation and the foundation would subsequently give the money to Brookings, which was actively promoting a friendlier policy with Iran. According to his own subsequent account, Alaghband wound up donating money directly to Brookingswhich in that same year hired a scholar named Suzanne Maloney who conscientiously produced a series of reports hyping the prospects for reform and better relations with the regime. According to Michael Weiss inThe Daily Beast: A former Brookings staffer with direct knowledge of the donation told The Daily Beast that, on the contrary, Alaghbands problems with the U.S. government were known to the think tank at the time and that the money helped finance the work ofSuzanne Maloney, a former State Department policy adviser and Republican advocate of U.S.-Iranian rapprochement.’ Maloney continues to work at Brookings, which denied any direct link between Maloneys hire and Alaghbands donation to the Saban Center, where Maloney is employed, and which has organized events at which Alaghband is listed as a participant. In Britain, according to a long article on the website IntelligenceOnline, Alaghband was also instrumental in developing former Chancellor of the Exchequer, Norman Lamont, into a high-level intermediary between Western governments and business interests and the Iranian regime, in the hopes of lifting sanctions and gaining contracts. American business interests are NIACs main allies in the United States and could naturally provide financial and political support for the organization. In the 2002 memo that Parsi sent to his lobby partners in Washington, he explained this alliance and wrote: Iranian-American organizations have in the past targeted the oil companies for financial support. This strategy has been a two-edged sword. On the one hand, the oil companies have been relatively dedicated to the cause and have been generous supporters of groups such as AIC. On the other hand, oil companies have a bad reputation among Iranian-Americans and are easily depicted as greedy and insensitive to human rights concerns in the media. The lobby should target business with positive images that have a strategic interest in trade with Iran. The alliance between the trade lobby and pro-Iran lobby goes back to the 1990s and especially 1997, when the so-called reformist Mohammad Khatami became president and launched a charm offensive to soften the western attitude toward Iran. American business interests grasped the opportunity and launched a lobbying campaign to change US policy with Iran and remove economic sanctions. The National Foreign Trade Council (NFTC), representing large U.S. corporations, launched its own lobby arm called USA*ENGAGE joining forces with oil giants. Some of NIACs emails released during the defamation lawsuit show the nature and extent of NIACs joint lobbying efforts with USA*Engage. To bolster their anti-sanction lobby, U.S. business interests needed the input and support of Iranian-American organizations. In 1998 Gary Marfin, Conocos manager for government affairs, explained this strategy and declared that the companys alliance with Iranian-Americans is part of its general opposition to economic sanctions. The desire to have an Iranian voice in Washington to promote the removal of sanctions was also shared by the Iranian regime. The shared aims of American business interests and the Iranian regime helped create several Iranian-American organizations, including NIAC that received simultaneous support from Tehran and the trade lobby in Washington in the hopes of weakening or eliminating sanctions. It would take a political transformation in U.S.-Iranian relationspushed simultaneously by the White House and Tehranto give this weird alliance life. *** In August 2013, the newly nominated Foreign Minister Javad Zarif made a speech to the Iranian parliament and explained that during his tenure in New York as Iranian Ambassador to the UN, he established contacts with anti-Bush politicians to exploit American political divisions on behalf of Iran. He declared: I had the approval of the regimes highest authorities and established contacts with anti-Bush politicians within the U.S. to attempt to cause a division amongst the decision makers and neutralize the White Houses bellicose policy toward Iran. The email exchanges between Zarif and Parsi and NIACs public documents demonstrate that the organization and Parsi were Zarifs main partners in the early stages of this campaign. According to these emails, in April 2006, Zarif gave a copy of the so-called Iranian 2003 offer for grand bargain to Parsi, which he subsequently released to the press and used as the centerpiece of a campaign to prove that Iran was ready for peace and dialogue while the United States was instead seeking war with Iran. An NIAC 2007 internal report released during the lawsuit detailed how NIAC used the Grand Bargain story to influence public opinion: The report concluded that NIACs campaign succeeded in bringing wide range attention to Irans 2003 Grand Bargain offer. Zarif and NIACs collaboration was part of Irans large-scale media and PR campaign to influence public opinion in the West and counter U.S. and international pressure and consequently, to help Iran continue its nuclear program. Both Washington Times and Bloomberg have reported on the Zarif/NIAC collaboration to influence American public opinion. During this time, Iran also pursued an ambitious plan to connect with American anti-war groups, recruit amongst them and use their social networks in a grassroots lobby to prevent tougher policies against Iran. NIAC and Parsi also played a pivotal role in bridging the anti-war activists with the Iranian regime. The Iranian strategy of exploiting political divisions in Washington rested on a depiction of Israel as the bullying force behind sanctions and pressure against Iran. The Iranian leaders believed that the marginalization of Israel and the weakening of its influence in Washington would help Iran to attain its strategic goals. Upon his return from New York in September 2013, President Rouhani declared: The next thing we wanted to do in New York was to soften the negative atmosphere that the Israelis create in the U.S. against our country. They fabricate lies to demonize our nation. We wanted to limit this space for the Israelis and make American public opinion aware that many of the things that are said against us, are not true. Of course, you know that Israel has a strong lobby in the U.S. and a lot of influence in the Congress. They have done a lot of work and, we need to fill the vacuum and create a strong Iranian lobby in Washington that could counter AIPACs campaign against Iran. I think the Iranians who live there should take first steps in this regard. I proposed this in my meeting with the Iranians (in the U.S.) and said that all Iranians in America are our voice and should echo the Iranian realities. Similarly, in an interview with Aseman magazine on August 31, 2013, Foreign Minister Zarif explained that the government intends to dedicate resources, to mobilize the Iranian-American community and create a powerful lobby capable of opposing AIPAC. NIAC and Parsi carried out the Iranian regimes anti-Israel and anti-AIPAC campaign in the United States in part by presenting its campaign against Israel and its lobby in the United States as a modern era David versus Goliath battle. According to Parsi, Israel should be blamed because, since 1992, it has been preventing a U.S.-Iran rapprochement: Israel is playing hardball to prevent Washington from cutting a deal with Tehran that could benefit America, but deprive Israel of its military and strategic supremacy. Parsi claims that in order to achieve this goal, Israel has been demonizing Iran: For Israel, rallying Western states to its side was best achieved by bringing attention to the alleged suicidal tendencies of the clergy and to Irans apparent infatuation with the idea of destroying Israel. If the Iranian leadership was viewed as irrational, conventional tactics such as deterrence would be impossible, leaving the international community with no option but to have zero tolerance for Iranian military capabilities. For Parsi, the United States is a passive character that bows to Israeli pressure and adopts the policy dictated by Israel at the expense of American national interests. As a result, the United States imposes sanctions on Iran and ignores the Iranian overtures for dialogue: Washington started to adopt the Israeli line on Iran. In response to Israeli pressureand not to Iranian actionsWashingtons rhetoric on Iran began to mirror Israels talking points. Washingtons recycling of Israels argument back to Tel Aviv reflected the success of Rabin and Peres campaign against Iran. Washingtons turnaround was a direct result of Israels pressure. NIACs close alignment with Tehrans anti-Israeli campaign was on display in March 2015 when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu traveled to Washington to address the U.S. Congress. On March 2, the Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei wrote on his English Twitter account: The day when Western people realize that their problems result from Zionisms hegemony over governments they will make an inescapable hell for them. A day later, he posted a new tweet and wrote: In the past 50 years, how much money and reputation has it cost the U.S. to support Israels crimes? Who other than its nation has paid for it? NIAC similarly escalated its anti-Israeli campaign and bought a full-page ad in the New York Times accusing the Speaker of the House of being loyal to Israel. (NIAC related video.) Two weeks later, Parsi posted a tweet about Sen. Lindsey Grahams trip to Israel, and wrote: Graham re-pledges loyalty to a foreign leader. But the main service that Parsi and NIAC provided to Tehran was not in repackaging the Supreme Leaders tweets for American domestic consumption but in engaging in the hard organizational work of coalition-building in the US around the regimes foreign policy goals. In 2005-2006, a coalition of nearly 50 groups, mostly comprising of anti-war and progressive organizations formed a coalition to oppose Americas harsh policy toward Iran and prevent a potential war between the two countries. NIAC played a key role in shaping the coalitions policies. One of the documents obtained during the lawsuit is a 2007 report titled Lobby Groups that Parsi wrote and sent to Siamak Namaz, his lobbying partner in Tehran. Parsi explained how NIAC tried to transform this coalition into an anti-sanction pressure group: While these groups have focused extensively on passing measures to reduce the risk for war with Iran, little attention has been paid to efforts to intensify sanctions against Iran. However, initial efforts are currently being made to make align the trade groups with the pro-dialogue coalition and frame sanctions an initial step that invariably will lead to war. If such a coalition of pro-trade and pro-dialogue groups can be formed, the current momentum for sanctions may be significantly hampered. In 2008, the coalition was named Campaign for New American policy on Iran (CNAPI) and NIAC became its official coordinator. CNAPI comprised of leftist and religious groups, including Open Society, Center for Arms Control and Nonproliferation as well as USA*Engage, a pro-trade business advocacy group that lobbies againstIran sanctions. Several former politicians and diplomats also worked with CNAPI. After Obamas victory in the 2008 presidential elections, during the monthly meeting of CNAPI, Patrick Disney, a NIAC lobbyist and the coordinator for CNAPI declared: This is a chance to demonstrate that our group and our position is now the center of gravity on the Iran issue. With Obama in the White House, it is no longer acceptable for staffers to say they only hear from the far-right hawks on Iranwere here and were going to push for a positive agenda. The convergence of views between the Obama administration and the pro-Iran lobby helped NIAC and its partners to evolve from a pressure group to a high-level White House player. Philip Gordon, special assistant to the president and White House coordinator for the Middle East, North Africa, and the Gulf Region spoke at the NIAC 2014 annual conference and in September 2016, Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes spoke at the NIAC conference to highlight the White House alliance with the organization. Similarly, Alan Eyre, the State Departments Persian-language spokesperson regularly participated as a keynote speaker at the NIAC conferences and, even more amazingly, the State Department and U.S. embassy in Jeddah organized a series of speeches for Trita Parsi in Saudi Arabia about U.S.-Iran relations. It was therefore not surprising that Sahar Nowrouzzadeh, a former NIAC employee became National Security Council Director for Iran. According to official records, NIAC President Parsi, visited the White House 33 times between 2013 and 2016. *** Once in the White House, Obama extended a friendly hand toward the Iranian regime, sent two secret letters to the Iranian Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, as well as a conciliatory video message to Irans leaders. Yet only a few months later, in June 2009, as the White House was trying to gain the trust of the Iranian regime, the rigged presidential election in Iran provoked a historic popular movement, which gradually morphed to an anti-regime uprising that lasted almost a year and brought the regime to the edge of collapse. While millions of Iranian demonstrators were facing the regimes brutal crackdown, thousands were arrested, beaten, raped, and tortured and hundreds were killed, Obama seemed to ignore this defining moment and continued his overture toward the regime. This attitude angered the Iranian people who shouted in the streets and asked the U.S. President: Obama, Obama, are you with themthe Iranian regimeor with us? A former administration official explained the main reason for Obamas attitude to a reporter for The New Yorker: The core of it was we were still trying to engage the Iranian government and we did not want to do anything that made us side with the protesters. NIAC helped the White House run interference domestically for a policy orientation that was beginning to look questionable. For example, Parsi wrote an article and defended Obamas passive attitude: The White Houses position has been on the mark. The Iranians want to make sure that the world knows and sees what is happening on the streets of Tehran and other cities. And they want the U.S. to stay out of the fight. Patrick Disney, NIACs policy director published an article titled: On Iran, the Power of Obamas Silence and wrote: For now, the Obama administration is just taking a step back and assessing the situation, and rightly so. But the Obama administration is also making it perfectly clear that, regardless of the outcome of the next few days, they are committed to engage in direct diplomacy with the Iranian government. At this point, thats the best we, as Americans, can do. In October 2009, in the midst of the Iranian uprising, the 5+1 countries led by the U.S. begun the much-anticipated high-level nuclear talks. While coalition partners ceased using the CNAPI name, the coalition that NIAC put together formed the nexus for continued collaboration between these groupswhich the Iranian regime calls the pro-Iran lobby in Washingtonand advancing their agenda. These included the easing of economic sanctions (without asking too much in return), accepting a nuclear-capable Iran, the recognition of Iran as a regional power, accepting the Iranian regimes legitimacy and a strategic reconciliation and cooperation with Iran akin to the rapprochement toward China in the 1970s. As president, Obama embraced these recommendations. Parsi and pro-Iran lobby argues that If the United States stops its animosity and adopts a less belligerent attitude toward Iran, the Iranian regime will reciprocate, the moderate factions will be empowered, the Iranian regime will gradually reform itself, its regional policies will change and it will become a successful regional power abiding by international rules, as Obama explained during an interview on Dec. 20, 2015. The emergence of Rouhanis government and the interim nuclear agreement in November 2013 encouraged the Obama administration to pursue its conciliatory approach toward Iran and at the same time, oppose more forcefully the opponents of his Iran policyat the top of the list being the U.S. Congress. As a result, a more dynamic pro-Iran lobby willing to exploit political divisions in Washington became a full-fledged supporter of the Obama administration and as a result, a practical partnership emerged between them. The administration began questioning the futility of sanctions against Iran even those previously signed by Obama and claimed that they have only pushed Iran to expand its nuclear program. In his weekly addresson Apr. 4, 2015, Obama declared that the sanction always led to Iran making more progress in its nuclear program. Then, during a congressional hearing, Secretary of State John Kerry went further and declared that a decade of resolutions and sanctions against Iran have been futile: You just said decades of resolutions that they abandoned enrichment. What did they get you? What did those decades of resolutions get you? Meanwhile their program continues to grow. In 2003, my friend, they [Iran] had 164 centrifuges. Now they have 19,000. You know what Zarif said to me, you know what your sanctions have gotten you, is 19,000 [centrifuges]. The Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif echoed Obama and Kerrys remarks. In an interview with NBC on Mar. 4, 2015 he stated: I think President Obama was right in saying that the sanctions caused Iran to go from less than 200 centrifuges to over 20,000 centrifuges. I think the fact that the United States has recognized the futility of pressure against Iran, the futility of sanctions against Iran, the fact that they have recognized that sanctions dont work, that pressure dont work, that threats dont work, the only way to deal with Iran is to be through respect and through negotiations. NIAC and its partners campaigned aggressively against Congressional sanctions while promoting the narrative that the Rouhani government and the Obama administration were on the side of peace and moderation and on the other hand, the U.S. Congress members who opposed a nuclear deal favoring Iran, were warmongers who followed the orders of Israel and were, therefore, allied with Iranian hardlinersmessaging that was in turn retailed directly by the White House. For example, Bernadette Meehan, the National Security Council spokeswoman called the U.S. Senators who support more sanctions against Iran warmongers, while Obama criticized the Congress members who opposed his proposed nuclear deal declaring: I think its somewhat ironic to see some members for Congress wanting to make common cause with the hardliners in Iran. Take a step back, and the picture that emerges is a startling one: The White House and the pro-Iran lobby worked together to create an echo chamber to advance a large scale media campaign designed to overcome widespread opposition to a nuclear deal that was favorable to Iran. A key part of this campaign was the argument the nuclear deal and lifting of sanctions would change Iranian foreign policy and its position toward the US. During a congressional briefing, NIAC Research Director Reza Marashi declared that Iran is currently seeking to move away from the relationship of animosity it has had with the United States to a state he described as rivalry, where mutual interests can be pursued while differences can be managed. Simply put, both sides need each other right now. In a statement supporting the nuclear deal, NIAC declared that: this deal provides the Iranian people with the space to push Iran in the right direction: an Iran that respects human rights and pursues moderate policies internally and externally. In a memo published in April 2015 and titled Truce: Iran, the U.S. and the Middle East After the Nuclear Deal NIAC promoted this narrative: The nuclear deal now signals a degree of American acceptance of Iranian power in the region, and if the lifting of sanctions ends Irans status as a pariah state, does that mean that Iran will have fewer incentives to play the destabilization card? Such an outcome cannot be ruled out. In fact, if previous patterns hold, Iran is more likely to pursue a less aggressive foreign policy going forward The first place to look is Irans posture toward Israel. Already, prior to reaching a final nuclear deal, Irans approach to the Jewish state has changed dramatically since U.S.-Iran diplomacy began in earnest under Rouhani. On the rhetorical level, Iran went from questioning the Holocaust under former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to tweeting Rosh Hashanah greetings to the Jewish people worldwide under Rouhani. It is reasonable to expect that this trend will not only continue, but will also be strengthened if a nuclear deal paves the way for a larger U.S.-Iran truce. Some would argue that the nuclear deal is destabilizing the region and increasing tensions. That is a misdiagnosis. Yet contrary to NIACs claims, the Iranian regime has intensified its holocaust-denying and anti-Jewish hatred. In January 2016, as the world marked International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Khamenei published a video titled Are the Dark Ages Over on his official website which included one of his speeches from two years ago in which he questions the reality of the Holocaust. In May 2016, Iran held another Holocaust cartoon festival inviting the usual despicable cast of characters from Europe and around the world with the supreme leader sending a message to the organizers of the event thanking and congratulating them. Regarding NIACs claim that the nuclear deal and the lifting of sanctions would moderate Iranian foreign policy, there is someconsensus that Iran feels emboldened to pursue its radical and hegemonic policies in the region. As CENTCOM Commander General Joseph L. Votel testified before the House Armed Service Committee in March 2017, We have not seen any improvement in Irans behavior since the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), addressing Irans nuclear program, was finalized in July 2015. Iran aspires to be a regional hegemon and its forces and proxies oppose U.S. interests in Iraq, Yemen, Lebanon, Gaza, and Syria, and seek to hinder achievement of U.S. objectives in Afghanistan and some Central Asian States. What is unquestionable here is that NIACs activities since 2002 and particularly during the Obama administration eased pressure on the Iranian regime and helped Tehran to advance its strategic goals. *** Read more from Tablets special Iran Week. Hassan Dai is a human rights activist, political analyst and editor of the Iranian American Forum.

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June 28, 2017   Posted in: Israeli Lobby  Comments Closed

Inside the US Fight to Fix Israel’s Global Standing – Center for Research on Globalization

Al Jazeera 8 June 2017 The Trump administration is using unprecedented threats and financial blackmail against the United Nations and its agencies to end their focus on human rights abuses by Israel, according to analysts and Palestinian leaders. They accuse the United States of joining Israel in a campaign of intimidation against the UN secretariat and member states to forcibly rehabilitate Israels international standing. The offensive comes after the Israeli government of Benjamin Netanyahu had faced several years of criticism in diplomatic circles for refusing to engage in a peace process with the Palestinians. An early indication of the new campaigns success, analysts noted, was the election last week of Danny Danon as a vice-president of the UNs main representative forum, the General Assembly. Danny Danon (Source: embassies.gov.il) Danon has been Israels ambassador to the UN since 2015. He is known as an arch-opponent of the two-state solution and, before heading to the UN in New York, had repeatedly called for Israel to annex most of the West Bank. US attorneyfor Israel It is views like Danons, which are increasingly dominant inside the Israeli government, that have driven a swelling boycott movement, as well as increasing comparisons between Israel and apartheid South Africa. The US and Israel are now jointly engaged in street fighting at the UN, a Western diplomat, who wished to remain anonymous, told Al Jazeera. Washington is throwing its weight around and bullying people. The old rules of diplomacy have been thrown out of the window. That view was confirmed by Hanan Ashrawi, a former Palestinian negotiator and member of the PLO Executive Committee. The Trump administration has become a very vocal and aggressive attorney for Israel, she told Al Jazeera. It threatens consequences for anyone seen to be supporting the Palestinians or criticising Israel. Danon will take up his new post in September, chairing sessions of the General Assembly, helping to set its agenda and overseeing enforcement of rules and decorum during its meetings. New sheriff in town The increasingly overt alliance between Israel and the US at the UN was highlighted this week when Danon escorted Nikki Haley, Trumps envoy to the UN, on a visit to Israel. In a speech to the US pro-Israeli lobby group AIPAC in March, Haley promised to be a new sheriff in town at the UN. On the way to Israel, Haley stopped in Geneva to berate one of the UNs chief agencies, the Human Rights Council (UNHRC), for what she termed its chronic anti-Israel bias. Its behaviour makes a mockery not of Israel, but of the Council itself, she added. She threatened that the US would pull out of the UNHRC if it did not rein in its criticism. In April, Haley issued a similar warning when she took over the rotating presidency of the UNs most powerful body, the Security Council. She told members that their monthly Middle East debates would now focus on Iran, Syria, Hamas and Hezbollah, not Israel. Apartheid report retracted Israel and the White House have been leaning on other key UN agencies. In March, the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia was forced to retract an expert report after it concluded that Israel had established an apartheid regime ruling over the Palestinians. And last month the US condemned a resolution by the UNs cultural agency, UNESCO, after it called on Israel to uphold international law and end policies that were changing the religious and cultural character of occupied East Jerusalem. Although the resolution passed, most European countries either abstained or voted against it. Afterwards, Netanyahu crowed: The number of countries who support this absurd UNESCO resolution is getting smaller. Threat to UN budget All this has been occurring against the drumbeat of threats from the Trump administration that it is ready to impose drastic cuts to the UN budget. Washington is the UNs biggest contributor, covering nearly $13.5bn of the world bodys funding. The main factor behind Danons promotion is blackmail by the Trump administration, said Ashrawi. It is threatening to withhold UN funding and it is clear member states are scared. Nathan Thrall (Source: Amazon) Nathan Thrall, author of a new book on Israeli-Palestinian diplomacy, The Only Language They Understand, said the campaign had forced the Palestinians to back off from diplomatic initiatives at the UN. Over the past seven years, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas placed an emphasis on the struggle to win recognition of Palestinian statehood at the UN. That included joining a UN agency, UNESCO, in 2011. The US responded by suspending its UNESCOs funding. The Palestinians are afraid what Trump might do, Thrall told Al Jazeera. If the US starts making global institutions collapse, the Palestinian leadership are worried they will get the blame from other countries. Peacekeeping operations and humanitarian assistance would be among the UN operations expected to suffer. The Palestinians dont want to lose friends when they need them most, added Thrall. Rights enfant terrible Danon, aged 46, was selected for the role of General Assembly vice-president by a regional faction at the UN known as the Western European and Others Group. It includes most European countries, plus Israel, Australia, Canada and New Zealand. The election of vice-presidents is organised on a regional basis to ensure fair geographical representation. Salah Bardawil, a senior Hamas official, tweeted that Danons elevation was a mark of Cain on the UNs forehead. Israel has been the subject of dozens of resolutions condemning its violations of the UN charter far more than any other member state. But in particular, the choice of Danon has disturbed Palestinian leaders. Until recently, his was widely seen as the enfant terrible of the Israeli right. Netanyahu sacked Danon from his post as deputy defence minister in summer 2014, during Israels attack on Gaza, in which some 500 Palestinian children were killed. He called Danon irresponsible for describing Israels military operation as too lenient. Salam Fayyad blocked When Netanyahu announced Danons posting as ambassador a year later, Israeli analysts described the decision as a cruel joke. Ashrawi noted that Danons treatment at the UN contrasted strongly with that of Salam Fayyad, the former Palestinian prime minister. Efforts by the US Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, to appoint Fayyad, a Palestinian moderate, as the UN envoy to Libya were blocked by the US in February. Haley described the move as against Israel and added: The United States will act, not just talk, in support of our allies. Even before Trump, there were signs that Israels fortunes at the UN were changing. Last year, Danon made history becoming the first Israeli ambassador to chair a permanent committee dealing, paradoxically, with international law, the subject on which Israel has faced most criticism. Again, Danon received the backing of the Western European and Others Group. However, Danons relations with the previous US administration were strained. In late 2012 he accused President Barack Obama of being no friend of Israel. Security Council seat? By contrast, Danon has been enthusiastically embraced by the Trump administration, observed Thrall. Israel is doing well diplomatically, at the moment. There are rumours that it aspires to a seat in the Security Council. The climate is such that some Israeli politicians even seem to think that might be achievable. Interviewed by the settlers news agency Arutz Sheva last month, Danon said there was a new spirit at the UN. They no longer focus only on Israel. The UN is no longer the Palestinian playground. Something is changing here. Of his relationship with Haley, he told the Orthodox Jewish magazine Mishpacha in April: When it comes to Israel, we share the same views. Making new friends Although the world body has been viewed as traditionally hostile to Israel, experts have cited several factors that explain Israels changing fortunes. In recent years, Israel has made strategic alliances with powerful states at the UN, in addition to its main ally in Washington. Israel has won favour often through arms sales and intelligence sharing. The diplomat, who has worked in Israel, said: Israel has been reaching out to emerging economies in BRICS [Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa] as well as Mexico. That is starting to pay a diplomatic dividend. Also, Europe, which is in growing disarray, has abandoned even the pretence of acting as a counterweight to Washington. That has made it easier to win over European countries to Israels side. Thrall noted: The apparent calculus in countries like the UK is that the best way to ingratiate themselves with the US is to be good to Israel. And the UN, mired in financial difficulties, is reeling from the threat of further penalties from the US and its allies if it continues to be seen as anti-Israel. Israel and the US are ready to break the international order to get their way, said the diplomat. People are scared of what they might be capable of doing. Jonathan Cook is an award-winning British journalist based in Nazareth, Israel, since 2001. He is the author of three books on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Featured image: credits to the owner

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June 11, 2017   Posted in: Israeli Lobby  Comments Closed

Lobbying for votes favourite Israeli method of gaining control – the Irish News

Lobbying for votes favourite Israeli method of gaining control the Irish News John Grills (May 31) advocates obtaining a pledge from candidates in today's election to support the state of Israel if elected. This is one of the favourite methods of gaining control of the lawmakers of a country much as the Israeli lobby has almost …

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June 7, 2017   Posted in: Israeli Lobby  Comments Closed


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