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Disgust Follows Pictures of Seinfeld at ‘Anti-Terror Fantasy Camp’ in Occupied West Bank

Comedian blasted for attending facility that offers “special programs for tourists seeking a taste of the Israeli military experience”

Comedian Jerry Seinfeld posing with an employee at Caliber 3 which operates a military-style “fantasy camp” for tourists in the Occupied West Bank. (Photo: Caliber 3/Facebook)

American actor and comedian Jerry Seinfeld became the target of ire among Palestinian rights advocates worldwide on Monday after it was revealed he recently visited an “anti-terrorist training camp” located inside an illegal Israeli settlement in the Occupied West Bank.

“Finally we are allowed to tell you!!” the military-experience outfit, called Caliber 3, posted to its Facebook page on Sunday. “The legendary Jerry Seinfeld and his family were in Caliber 3. During their visit to Israel last week, they came to us for shooting training with displays of combat, Krav Maga, assault dogs and lots of Zionism. It was great.”

Read more on https://www.commondreams.org/news/2018/01/08/disgust-follows-pictures-seinfeld-anti-terror-fantasy-camp-occupied-west-bank

 

Trump And The Iran Protests

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by John Feffer

The last time Iranians went out onto the streets in large numbers, they were protesting what they thought was a stolen election.

It was 2009, and hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had convincingly won the presidency with roughly 63 percent to reformer Mir-Hossein Mousavi’s approximately 34 percent. Adopting their campaign’s green color, Mousavi’s supporters thronged the streets in protest.

These Green Movement adherents were mostly middle class and concentrated in the major cities. Ahmadinejad, by contrast, attracted the support of the more religious, the less well-off and the rural—a sizable constituency that the Green Movement routinely underestimated.

Now it’s their turn to take to the streets: these members of the Iranian working class who live in the boonies, who have not benefited from the economic changes of the reformists. This is a group that analyst Esfandyar Batmanghelidj calls the “forgotten men and women” of modern Iran.

The current demonstrations are leaderless, and the demands are all over the map. In general, however, today’s protesters seem more concerned with economic issues than political ones, though the two are inextricably linked. For instance, unlike in 2009, the most recent demonstrations have nothing to do with election fraud. After all, the last presidential election went off without a hitch, and some of the same people who protested in 2009 returned to the streets in May 2017 to celebrate the reelection of reformer Hassan Rouhani.

On the economic side, meanwhile, the reformers around Rouhani promised a big boost as a result of the nuclear deal with the United States, the European Union and other countries. And, indeed, the economy has grown, mostly as a result of an uptick in oil exports. The growth rate in 2016 was 6.4 percent—a remarkable turnabout from the nearly 2 percent contraction in 2015. That certainly helped Rouhani win reelection in May last year.

But this wealth has not trickled down fast enough. Unemployment has been rising from around 10 percent in 2015 to over 12 percent today. The youth unemployment rate, meanwhile, hovers around 30 percent, which mirrors the conditions in a number of Middle Eastern countries on the eve of the Arab Spring. Moreover, large price increases in staples like eggs and gas have hit the poorer segments of society hard, and the population is bracing for more of the same in 2018.

Iranian society is sharply divided between haves and have-nots, its rate of economic inequality comparable to that of the Philippines. The current unrest reflects the thwarted economic ambitions of a falling working class, not the thwarted political ambitions of a rising middle class.

Iranians are also protesting corruption, which has long been a central feature of economic and political life in the country. There have been the predictable scandals associated with fraud in the oil industry. The earthquake in November toppled many houses built by the state, revealing corruption in the construction industry. The underground economy encouraged by the sanctions regime has also generated a pervasive culture of bribery. And many Iranians view the high salaries that go to some government employees as a form of corruption as well.

Initially, it seems, the protests originated not with reformists, like the Green Movement, but with hardliners hoping to focus anger on Rouhani. The protests broke out, for instance, in religious centers Qom and Mashhad. Writes Ahmad Sadri, “The right-wing powerful duo of the city of Mashhad, Ebrahim Raisi (the embittered rival of Rouhani in the recent elections) and his famously simple-minded father-in-law, Ahmad Alamolhoda, struck the first match by staging a small anti-Rouhani demonstration, blaming the high price of consumer goods on the Rouhani government.”

The conservatives opened a Pandora’s box of resentments. Protesters in other cities have subsequently denounced the Ayatollah Khamenei and the Revolutionary Guard. They’ve even sung the praises of the deposed shah and called for the return of his son.

This is a protest of profound disillusionment.

Washington’s Response

The Rouhani government banked on a big dividend coming from the 2015 nuclear deal.

It needed this infusion of capital from outside because, in reality, Rouhani has rather narrow room for maneuver on economic issues. The religious establishment holds all the trump cards when it comes to governance. A large state-owned sector and extensive public services absorb a large chunk of the government budget. Wages and salaries take up around 40 percent of the budget—and social security a little over 30 percent. In a “semi-state sector” bolstered by an opaque privatization process, conservative institutions like the Revolutionary Guards hold considerable sway and are often resistant to any reform.

Rouhani needed leverage from outside the system because he controlled so few levers within the system. The nuclear deal was supposed to reduce sanctions, expand Iranian exports and attract a new wave of foreign investment. Some sanctions have been lifted (but not all). Some exports have spiked (mostly oil). But the foreign investment has been slow to materialize.

True, some European firms, such as the French energy firm Total, have dipped their toes into the Iranian market. And Boeing secured a major civilian airplane deal.

But opposition to economic engagement with Iran was strong in Washington, even during the Obama administration. In the wake of their defeat on the nuclear deal, hardliners in Congress were eager to apply new sanctions against Iran and reduce what little investment was flowing toward the country. Granted, it’s not easy to navigate the business environment inside Iran. But the United States didn’t make it any easier.

The Trump administration hasn’t been shy about voicing its opposition to the Iran nuclear deal. Even before the latest protests broke out, the administration was also exploring ways of killing the Boeing aircraft deal, as well as the Total investment. Suffice it to say, Trump is not interested in any kind of engagement with the Iranian government.

As soon as the protests broke out in Iran in December, Trump gleefully took to Twitter to support the people in the streets and castigate the Rouhani government. “The people of Iran are finally acting against the brutal and corrupt Iranian regime,” Trump tweeted. “All of the money that President Obama so foolishly gave them went into terrorism and into their ‘pockets.’ The people have little food, big inflation and no human rights. The U.S. is watching!”

For Trump, the protests vindicate his argument that the government in Tehran is illegitimate. That the protests have resulted at least in part from U.S. policies to squeeze Iran is immaterial to Trump and his supporters in Congress.

This has been their strategy all along. “The policy of the United States should be regime change in Iran,” Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) has said. “I don’t see how anyone can say America can be safe as long as you have in power a theocratic despotism.” Sanctions are not designed to extract a “better deal” from Tehran or even to dissuade it from engaging in “bad behavior” in the region. That’s a canard to make the United States appear to be playing by the rules of respecting sovereignty.

The punditocracy, meanwhile, has largely come out in support of the protests, with people on both sides of the nuclear deal laying down their differences to side with the street. Here’s Daniel Shapiro and Mark Dubowitz in Politico:

We are long-time friends who have disagreed vehemently on the wisdom of President Barack Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran; Dan is Obama’s former ambassador to Israel, and Mark is one of that agreement’s most persistent critics. But we agree with equal passion that Americans, regardless of party or position on the nuclear deal, should be supporting the aspirations of Iranians to be free from their brutal and corrupt rulers. 

But what are Shapiro and Dubowitz supporting exactly? By all means, the Iranian government should permit freedom of assembly. It should not respond to the protests with violence. And who cannot sympathize with people who are fed up with unemployment and corruption and want to exercise their right of self-determination?

But these protests are not the Green Movement. The current demonstrators don’t have a single, coherent program. They don’t appear to have rallied behind anything to replace the current government. They are, like the groundswell of support for Donald Trump, a movement defined by opposition to the status quo. It’s not immediately clear what alternative system such protesters would support, but it’s just as likely to be something religiously populist along the lines of Ahmadinejad as anything resembling secular liberalism.

Barack Obama received criticism from the Left and the Right for not throwing U.S. support behind the Green Movement. The stakes were clearer then—a hardline president with dubious legitimacy on one side versus a mass movement with leaders and a program. Today, the stakes are considerably muddier. But Trump, who cares so little about Iranians that he’s blocked them from entering the United States regardless of their affiliations, is interested only in the larger game: scoring points against Obama and the Iranian leadership and scoring points for Saudi Arabia and Israel.

Come January 13, when Trump has another opportunity to cancel U.S. participation in the nuclear agreement, he will likely do so in the name of the Iranian people, the very ones who have taken to the streets because Trump and others like him are determined to make sure that the agreement ultimately doesn’t provide any real economic benefits to the Iranian people. His supporters on the Right are already giving him the ammunition to gun down the deal in this way.

What Goes Around

Trump immediately identified the protesters as his kind of people—angry at political elites, upset that economic “reforms” have not benefited them, disgusted with the corruption of the system. Trump knows a “throw the bums out” kind of movement when he sees one.

The groundswell of anger in Iran matches the rage felt by people all over the world at the greed and cluelessness of their leaders. So far, manipulative so-called populists have managed to translate this anger into electoral success—in Hungary, Russia, the Philippines and the United States. The most likely political actor to take advantage of this anger in Iran would walk and talk like Ahmadinejad and embrace positions that are more anti-American, anti-Saudi and anti-Israel than those of the current government.

Trump should be careful when he supports a movement in Iran like that, and not just because it probably wouldn’t produce a more U.S.-friendly regime. Trump is already facing something similar. After all, the president is now undeniably a member of the political elite. He’s the one implementing economic reforms that don’t benefit the vast majority. He’s the one making gobs of money off of the system. And, as in Iran, he’s the one backed by powerful religious fanatics.

In short, Trump is now the bum that a growing movement wants to throw out of the White House. When the time comes, will Mark Dubowitz and his conservative brethren similarly defend American citizens who aspire “to be free from their brutal and corrupt rulers”?

Photo: Donald Trump (White House via Flickr).

I have live most of my life in the free world, first in Sweden, then US, Ireland and lately France. I felt privileged and lucky to be able to be able to flee the terror of the Islamic Republic of Iran and live in a world without fear of expressing my ideas.

I have also lived under 2 dictatorships, one during Shah where the control of the secret police was so strong that my father had to answer to questions about the content of a short essay I wrote in the 3rd grade about a book I had read and spent the whole day at SAVAK to clarify to them that we were not enemies of the King and I had bought the book from a second hand book store among other books. The book store was later raided by the police and till now I have no idea what happened to the nice man who sold me the book, and I still feel bad remembering the story.

I have been active in politics, ever since the revolution, under Khomeini’s terror and after I left Iran to fight for freedom of expression and for human rights, firstly in Iran and as I got older and got the wider view of the world, I have learned that human rights are general and injustice in one land is injustice everywhere and we should never accept abuse of human rights in the name of nationality, religion or anything else.

I have never had any problem with this, but since the terror attacks of September 11, things are changing.

The world is more tolerant on abuse, on profiling the individuals and discriminating against those who dare to stand up against the tyranny of the world leaders, not only the ones that are obviously clear in their definition of being a dictator, but also the nice suite wearing westerners who are working hard to minimize our freedom of expression, our right to stand up for what is right and to do what is necessary to stop the abusers and profiteers in our world.

One of the major way of communicating with others these days are social media, twitter, facebook, reddit, youtune and G+ among other are necessary tools for the activists around the world to be able to get their voices heard.

But as times moves on, we are loosing our voices, and our ability to make others heard.

Google is changing it’s algorithm to lower the rank of the pages where the information is deemed controversial. They are doing this in the name of fighting the flow of “fake news” that people believe led to the presidency of Donald tRump in the US.

But this is not new, I wrote many years ago about the issues I had with google, that EVERY TIME I published an article critical of the apartheid regime of Israel, my google ranking would go down. It was not a co-incident. I tested it several time, let go publishing anything critical of Israel and would see the traffic to my site increase form Google, but a soon as I posed something against Israel again, BOOM, may traffic would go almost to 0 or to an insignificant level.

People around me thought I am crazy, a conspiracy theorist who believed Jews control the world. No matter how much I explain to them that this has nothing to do with the Jews in general or Jewish religion specifically, but it was about punishing those who criticize the state of Israel.

 

I stopped blogging for many years, having children, being freelancer and moving around to work hard to make a living didn’t left much time to keep my blog up. And after a while  I changed my focus into social media, the G+ and twitter mostly. But I am re-starting this blog again because I see that the issues I used to see a possible problem, is now a documented policy of companies like FaceBook and Twitter. They are openly admitting that they are deleting the account of people by the request of the US and Israeli government!

Here are a few links to stories about the subject, I will be following these as much as I can in the future:

I have been struggling to get my access rights back on Twitter. But it is still refusing to respond to my requests and I only have ‘limitted’ access to their service.

I spent many years writing letters to support the release of Herman Wallace back in the 80s and 90s when I was very active with Amnesty.

Today, I read the news, Herman Wallace, the innocent man who sat in solitary confinement for the past 15000 days, died as a free man.

I was so happy the other day to hear about his release, I told my kids and my wife that it was like waking up from a bad dream, knowing that Wallace was still in solitary confinement after all these years that I left his case, but then I saw the news on CommonDreams, tears started falling off my eyes in an uncontrolled reaction.

He died as a free man! The bastards who took years of his life only released him days before his death, but the shame of keeping a man in shackles and in a small room, all by himself for 41 years, will stain the history of a country that sends 1000s of troops to far away countries to wage wars to “free” other nations, but fails to free innocent people in their own country from such barbaric punishment.

Rest in peace Herman Wallace, we all miss you, at least you proved them wrong and you died in freedom, you will be in our minds for ever.

 

“I Am Free. I Am Free.” Prisoner Herman Wallace Dies Just Days After Release

– Jacob Chamberlain, staff writer

Herman Wallace, the “Angola 3” prisoner who was released from jail earlier this week after being held in solitary confinement for 41 years, died early Friday morning after a battle with liver cancer.

Herman Wallace rides in an ambulance taking him away from prison. (Photo: Democracy Now!)Among his last words, according to those in attendance, were: “I am free. I am free.”

71-year-old Wallace, who was wrongfully accused of murdering a prison guard 41 years ago, maintained his innocence for that duration and finally had his case overturned Tuesday.

However, as he lay on his death bed,Wallace was re-indicted by a Louisiana grand jury on Thursday, according to District Attorney Samuel D’Aquilla who filed for the re-indictment.

Wallace died shortly after on Friday morning at 5:30 am Louisiana time.

“He passed away in my home,” saidAshley Wennerstrom, a long-time friend and program director at Tulane’s School of Medicine. “He was surrounded by friends and family and love in his last few days.”

“He completed that mission,” said longtime friend Parnell Herbert. “And he was able to see himself a free man. He passed away peacefully in his sleep.”

Following Wallace’s release from prison earlier in the week, Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! wrote of Wallace’s final days:

As he lies dying, Herman Wallace knows that after a lifetime of enduring the torture of solitary confinement for a crime he did not commit, he is now a free man. […]

The Angola 3 were united for the last time Tuesday. The prison rules allowed King and Woodfox to say their final goodbyes to Wallace, not because he was leaving prison, but because he was dying. By sheer coincidence, that was when the judge overturned Wallace’s conviction, and they were the ones who gave Wallace the news. Robert King described their final moments together: “Albert’s last words were, ‘Herman, we love you, and you’re going to get out today.’” King described how Albert Woodfox leaned over, hands and feet shackled, and kissed Herman goodbye on his forehead. […]

Wallace was transferred to an ambulance and driven to the Louisiana State University Hospital in New Orleans. He has dreamed of his release for years, and describes it in “Herman’s House”:

“I got to the front gate, and there’s a whole lot of people out there. … I was dancing my way out. I was doing the jitterbug. … I turn around, and I look, and there are all the brothers in the window waving and throwing the fist sign—it’s rough, man. It’s so real. I can feel it even now.”

Herman Wallace was strapped into an ambulance, not dancing, as he left the prison, hanging on to life by a thread. But he was free, after almost 42 years in solitary confinement, longer than any other prisoner in U.S. history.

“Nothing can undo the authorities’ shocking treatment of (Wallace), which led more than 200,000 people to act on his behalf,” said Amnesty International USA Executive Director Steven Hawkins, in reference to an Amnesty campaign for the release of Wallace and the last co-defendant of the Angola 3 case who remains behind bars, Albert Woodfox. “The state of Louisiana must now prevent further inhuman treatment by removing Wallace’s co-defendant Albert Woodfox from solitary confinement.”

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