Thursday, March 4, 2021

Bernie Sanders Castigates Israel About Vaccinating Palestinians - Hugh Fitzgerald

 

​ by Hugh Fitzgerald

But nothing is expected from Palestinians.

 


The report on ill-tempered Bernie is here: “Sanders slams Israel for not sending COVID vaccines to Palestinians,” by Sarah Chemla, Jerusalem Post, February 25, 2021:

US Sen. Bernie Sanders has criticized the Israeli government for sending COVID-19 vaccines to foreign allies before sending them to Palestinians.

Sanders was responding to a New York Times tweet stating that “Israel’s vaccine donations to faraway countries have angered Palestinians who say Israel is responsible for the well-being of Palestinians in the occupied territories, where vaccines are scarce.

But why are vaccines “scarce” for the Palestinians? Isn’t it because they did no planning, even many months into the pandemic, and chose to spend their aid money on other things? In Gaza, Hamas spends huge sums on building terror tunnels, and on arms that it hides throughout civilian areas. The terror group has also been the victim of colossal corruption; just two Hamas leaders, Khaled Meshaal and Mousa Abu Marzouk, have amassed fortunes of at least $2.5 billion apiece. In the West Bank, the head of the PA, Mahmoud Abbas, has a nest egg of $400 million. That’s all money that might have gone to the medical care of the Palestinians. And the PA spent $157 million last year on its Pay-For-Slay program, money which could have paid for enough vaccines to cover the entire Palestinian population in Gaza and the West Bank. It chose not to. Why doesn’t Bernie Sanders deplore the behavior of the PA? He could fulminate in the Senate: “It is unacceptable that the PA, instead of buying vaccines that would have inoculated the entire Palestinian population in Gaza and the West Bank, chose instead to spend its money on the Pay-For-Slay program that rewards, and incentivizes, terrorism.” Could Bernie begin to tell that obvious truth? I doubt it.

The former Democratic presidential contender claimed in a tweet that “Israel is responsible for the health of all the people under its control. It is outrageous that Netanyahu would use spare vaccines to reward his foreign allies while so many Palestinians in the occupied territories are still waiting.

Israel has been vaccinating “all the people under its control” – both Arab and Jewish citizens of the state of Israel, at the same rate, with the same vaccines. That is where Israel’s responsibility ends. Bernie Sanders has apparently not read the Oslo Accords (1995), Annex III, Article 17, paragraphs 1 and 2. They provide unambiguously for the transfer of responsibility for medical care for the Palestinians, including vaccinations, from Israel to the PA. And that transfer has been in force for a quarter-century.

ARTICLE 17

Health

  1. Powers and responsibilities in the sphere of Health in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip will be transferred to the Palestinian side, including the health insurance system.
  2. The Palestinian side shall continue to apply the present standards of vaccination of Palestinians and shall improve them according to internationally accepted standards in the field, taking into account WHO recommendations. In this regard, the Palestinian side shall continue the vaccination of the population with the vaccines listed in Schedule 3.

Does Sanders understand those clauses? “Powers and responsibilities in the sphere of Health in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip will be transferred to the Palestinian side”? On what basis does he now claim that Israel is “responsible for the health of all the people under its control”? And in fact, how can he claim that the Palestinians in Gaza and in the West Bank are “under its control”? The last Israeli pulled out of Gaza in 2005; its inhabitants have been under the control ever since of Hamas. In the West Bank, the PA, ruling the roost from Ramallah, controls the daily lives of Palestinians in Areas A and B. And both in those areas, and even in Area C, the Palestinian Authority has the responsibility for all medical and educational services.

As Israel began its vaccine rollout late last year, some activists and foreign media outlets criticized it for not including the Palestinians, arguing that under international law, Israel is the “occupying power” and must vaccinate them.

The Jewish state responded by pointing out that the internationally recognized Oslo Accords state that the PA is responsible for its population’s healthcare, including vaccinations.

Let’s repeat it: Israel has no obligation – none – to vaccinate the Palestinians. Those who criticize Israel for failing to do so simply want us all to ignore the Oslo Accords. Under what “international law” is Israel an “occupying power”? It is certainly not the “occupying power” in Gaza, where there is not a single Israeli. As for the West Bank, Israel cannot be accused of “occupying ” a territory that was assigned, according to the Mandate for Palestine, to the future Jewish National Home, which then became the state of Israel. Has Bernie read the Palestine Mandate, including Article 6? Does he understand that in the phrase “close settlement by Jews on the land,” which under Article 6 is to be encouraged, the “land” in question included all the land from the Golan in the north, to the Red Sea in the south, and from the Jordan River in the east, to the Mediterranean in the west? Does he realize that the mandates system was itself part of international law? Could it be that Bernie Sanders has never read the Mandate for Palestine? Yes, I think it could.

More study needed, Bernie, please, before you again presume to lecture or hector on this matter. Please, go ahead and burn the midnight oil.

Regardless of legal matters, the government has already sent thousands of doses of coronavirus vaccines to the PA and facilitated the entry of Russian donations of their Sputnik V vaccines.

Israel had no duty to supply the Palestinians with vaccines, but nonetheless has sent 5,000 doses so that, Israel hoped, frontline Palestinian health workers could be vaccinated. There is evidence that some of those doses were used instead to inoculate Palestinian leaders, their families, and relatives.

Israel has also bought one million dollars’ worth of Sputnik V vaccines from Russia to send to Syria, so that an Israeli woman with mental problems who had strayed into Syria, would be returned.

Last week, Netanyahu said Israel and the Palestinians were “in one epidemiological range.”

We have a clear interest that we don’t want illnesses and sick people to pass through our borders from the Palestinian Authority and Gaza,” he told Army Radio.

Israel has no interest in preventing the Palestinians from being vaccinated. On the contrary: many tens of thousands of Palestinians cross into Israel for work each day; their inoculation would make them less dangerous to the Israelis among whom they work. “We have a clear interest,” Prime Minister Netanyahu insists, in making sure that the Palestinians who enter Israel are not carriers of the virus. Israel’s Health Minister, Yuli Edelstein, says that once Israel has finished vaccinating its own population, it will be sending unused doses of the vaccine to the Palestinians. I don’t think Bernie Sanders is aware of that promise.

One more thing: Sanders was exercised that Israel was sending some doses of the vaccine to countries that Jerusalem wanted to thank for their pro-Israel positions. These include: Guatemala, which has its embassy in Jerusalem; Honduras, which has said it will soon be moving its embassy to Jerusalem; and the Czech Republic, which has been a steady supporter of Israel at the U.N. and has said it will add a diplomatic presence to its office in Jerusalem.

Sanders finds this unacceptable. But why? Don’t all countries reward their friends? Doesn’t the American government extend Most-Favored-Nation status to some countries and not to others? Don’t the Americans agree to sell certain advanced weapons to countries it deems friendly, and not to others? Is it wrong to do so? Why shouldn’t Israel do what other countries routinely do? In the case at hand, that means Jerusalem has decided to reward with shipments of the coronavirus three states that have taken, or are about to take, steps that will further strengthen Israel’s position on Jerusalem. Despite the fulminations of Bernie Sanders, there is nothing wrong with that.

 

Hugh Fitzgerald 

 Source: https://www.frontpagemag.com/fpm/2021/03/bernie-sanders-castigates-israel-about-vaccinating-hugh-fitzgerald/ 

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International Criminal Court Targets Israel - Joseph Puder

 

​ by Joseph Puder

Netanyahu fires back.

 


The seemingly biased decision of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague (Netherlands), to investigate Israeli actions during the 2014 Gaza War, prompted a sharp reaction from Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Prime Minister Netanyahu observed in his statement that Israel (as well as the US) is not a member of the ICC. He stated that, “Today the Court (ICC) proved once again that it is a political body and not a judicial institution.” He added, “The Court ignores real war crimes and instead persecutes the State of Israel, a state with a firm democratic government which sanctifies the rule of law, and it is not a member of the Court.”  

The US State Department also reacted to the political nature of the ICC determination. A pretrial chamber of the ICC determined on Friday, February 5, 2021 that it has jurisdiction to probe Israel and Hamas on the 2014 Gaza war, as well as Israel’s settlement policy, and Israel Defense Forces (IDF) actions on the Gaza border. 

Ned Price, the State Department spokesperson tweeted that, “The US objects to today’s ICC decision regarding the Palestinian situation. Israel is not a State party to the Rome Statute. (The ICC was established in 2002 in Rome).” Price added, “We will continue to uphold President Joe Biden’s strong commitment to Israel and its security, including opposing actions that seek to target Israel unfairly.”  

The decision of the ICC is a precedent-setting one, and it comes more than a year after ICC prosecutor Patou Bensouda requested the Court to confirm its jurisdiction in this case. This case is essentially the Court’s way of appeasing the Palestinians, and the dominant Arab-Muslim bloc at the UN. Naturally, the Palestinians have hailed the decision as a victory. Israel, on the other hand, excoriated the decision as a contentious political move without a valid legal basis.  

In a subsequent video statement, PM Netanyahu charged that, “When the ICC investigates Israel for fake war crimes – this is pure anti-Semitism. The Court was established (by Benjamin Ferencz, a Jewish-American prosecutor at the Nuremburg trials following WWII and the Holocaust) to prevent atrocities like the Holocaust against the Jewish people, and is now targeting the one state of the Jewish people. First, it outrageously claims that when Jews live in our homeland, this is a war crime. Second, it claims that when democratic Israel defends itself against (Hamas) terrorists who murder our children and rocket our cities – we are committing another war crime. Yet, the ICC refuses to investigate the brutal dictatorships like Iran and Syria, who commit horrific atrocities almost daily.” Netanyahu concluded, “We will fight this perversion of justice with all our might.”  

The ICC decision came in a two-to-one vote. The French and Benin justices voted to investigate; the Hungarian Justice was against it. In the 60-page report, the Court ruled that Palestine qualifies as a state on territory of which the conduct in question occurred. The Court maintained that it has “territorial jurisdiction in the situation in Palestine extends to the territories occupied by Israel since 1967, Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.” 

While Israel could argue its case on this matter to the ICC, it has chosen not to do so. Israel believes that the Court has no legal or moral authority to carry out the investigation. One of Israel’s arguments in rejecting the ICC claim of jurisdiction on this matter is that there is no sovereign Palestinian state that could delegate to the court criminal investigation over its territory and nationals. In the meantime, Israel’s Foreign Ministry charged that the ICC getting involved in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is, driving the parties further apart. It comes just when the Palestinian Authority has resumed security coordination with Israel. Israel’s Justice Ministry termed the ICC decision to intervene as “harmful and superfluous.” 

It is worth emphasizing that when Benjamin Ferencz dreamed up the International Criminal Court of Justice, he had in mind Nazi Germany’s atrocities against Jews and others. As part of the prosecution staff at the Nuremburg Trials against Nazi criminals, he never envisioned that his ICC would seek to prosecute a country like Israel, its government leaders, and the Israel Defense Forces for protecting its civilian population against murderous Palestinian terrorists who target women and children.   

Ferencz’s idea in founding the ICC was to investigate, and where warranted, put on trial individuals charged with the gravest of crimes including genocide, war crimes (deliberately murdering the innocent), and crimes against humanity. Israel, in its Gaza wars against Hamas terrorists, has done what no other army has done before it. It warned civilians to evacuate where it intended to operate. It provided an advantage for Hamas, and put in danger Israeli soldiers. Moreover, Israel has reacted to crimes committed against its people, but never deliberately initiated attacks on Palestinian combatants, let alone civilians. Israel’s military actions are in self-defense, not aggression. This is why the ICC action is scandalous.    

Keeping in mind the ICC anti-Israel bias, and with a clear message to the Court, Israel’s Chief-of-Staff, Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, revealed Israel’s strategy and operating methods at a conference held last month at Tel Aviv University Institute for National Security Studies. Kochavi, appealing to Lebanese and Gazan civilians in whose homes long-range missiles are stored, suggested that they should evacuate their homes as soon as a conflict or an escalation begins. He assured those civilians that the IDF would give them advance warning and time to leave their homes before unleashing deadly force aimed at the Hezbollah terrorists in Lebanon, and Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza. 

This clear and explicit warning to the civilian populations following the next confrontation in Gaza or Lebanon is meant to insure that IDF officers or Israeli politicians are not held responsible by the ICC for Israeli retaliatory action in Gaza or Lebanon. It puts the ICC on notice that Israel has provided the civilian population with an appropriate and timely warning in accordance with international law. Kochavi made it clear that the IDF would not violate the rules of international law as part of such action. 

Israel cannot afford to allow any international body, including the ICC, to compromise its security particularly in urban areas where Hezbollah and Hamas hide their missiles and rockets aimed at Israeli civilians. This compromise applies equally to the US troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. This is why the Biden administration was quick to condemn the ICC decision. The ICC is clearly attempting to tie the hands of democratic governments from operating against the malign forces of terror while deliberately overlooking the most heinous crimes committed by Iran and its subsidiaries as well its allies in Gaza, Iraq, and Syria.  

The bottom line is clear - the ICC is essentially a kangaroo court.

 

Joseph Puder  

Source: https://www.frontpagemag.com/fpm/2021/03/israel-reacts-icc-decision-joseph-puder/ 

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Hezbollah's precision missiles: A bigger threat than Iran's nuclear program? - Yoav Limor

 

​ by Yoav Limor

Although it flies in the face of traditional Israeli defense strategy, a preventative strike to eradicate the conventional threat of Hezbollah's precision missile project in Lebanon might be unavoidable.

Hezbollah says doesn't expect war with Israel, but is ready for one
Photo: AP

Hezbollah's missile arsenal is perhaps one of the only threats the Israeli public is not aware of in terms of its full scope. The threat is strategic and could force an Israeli preventative strike, even though the catalyst is not nuclear weapons. It is also the most burning issue facing the IDF's high command today.

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It must be noted: Israel has no intention of launching a war in the north. Neither does Hezbollah, to the best of everyone's knowledge. Since 2006, the sides have built a mutual balance of deterrence along the border, which in advance all but negates any adventurous inclinations one of the sides might harbor. This is evidenced by Hezbollah's hesitance, which for several months now hasn't followed through with its threats of revenge for the killing of an operative at Damascus airport in the summer. Israel, too, is proceeding with caution and hasn't responded to Hezbollah's attempt to shoot down an air force drone over Lebanon.

Behind this restraint, however, both sides are preparing for war. It could erupt at any moment: the death of a Hezbollah operative in Syria that triggers an attack on Israeli soldiers or civilians, which in turn forces a counter-response, at which point everything depends on nerves and yet-untested containment mechanisms. It is no coincidence that the IDF exercise two weeks ago or the air force drill last week, simulated this exact scenario.

Hezbollah learned quite a few lessons from the Second Lebanon War. Publicly, of course, it claims it won. As is the case with any terrorist group, not losing is a victory. Internally, however, it was forced to engage in difficult introspection due to the blows it sustained. Hassan Nasrallah admitted at the time, in a rare moment of honesty, that he wouldn't have abducted the Israeli soldiers had he known the outcome in advance.

"Foreign sources" have attributed thousands of airstrikes in Syria to the Israel Air Force (IDF Spokesperson's Unit)

Like any serious organization (and Hezbollah is a very serious organization), it implemented an organized process of inquiry and learning. In terms of defense, it learned it is powerless against Israel's air superiority and precision: In the Dahiyeh neighborhood in south Beirut, the group's stronghold, some 180 buildings and other targets were hit, all of them precisely. The organization was also surprised at the breadth of Israeli intelligence, which at the start of the war allowed Israel to strike its medium- and long-range rockets, thus impeding its ability to target anything south of Haifa Bay.

In terms of its offensive capabilities, Hezbollah noted with satisfaction that Israel was shell-shocked in the face of 4,000 rockets and after direct hits in particular, for example at the train yard in Haifa (eight killed) and the reservist gathering point at Kfar Giladi (12 killed). Hezbollah also learned that it wants to move the fighting into Israeli territory. The tunnels that were detected two years ago along the Lebanese border were meant to allow the group to "conquer the Galilee" and win the perceptual war in its earliest stages.

Immediately after the Second Lebanon War, in complete disregard for UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which placed a full embargo on Hezbollah weapons smuggling, the organization launched a massive logistics operation – with $1 billion in Iranian funds – to acquire tens of thousands of rockets, essentially making it the most powerful terrorist army in the world. "Terrorist army" is commonly used in the IDF even though the term is in dispute – some experts believe it gives the organization too much credit because, after all, it is a terrorist organization untethered to a government.

According to updated assessments, Hezbollah currently possesses between 120,000-140,000 short-range rockets (range of 25-28 miles), which cover Israel's north, including Haifa Bay and Tiberias; several thousand medium-range rockets (range of 56 miles), which can reach the Sharon coastal plain and northern suburbs of Gush Dan; and several hundred long-range rockets and missiles (range of hundreds of miles), including Scud missiles from Syrian military warehouses, capable of hitting targets anywhere in Israel.

Hezbollah's rockets and missiles are dispersed throughout Lebanon. Its short-range rockets are mostly stored in the country's south, in the area near the Israeli border, to maximize their range. They are hidden in homes in the 230 Shiite villages, ready to be activated at a moment's notice. It is from here that Hezbollah intends to rain fire on the Galilee, and essentially paralyze it. If the IDF decides to enter these villages on the ground to stop this barrage, it will be met with an array of fortifications and ambushes.

Hezbollah has tens of thousands of rockers and is not the strongest "terrorist army" in the world (AP)

The other missiles, made in Iran and Syria, are dispersed across the country. The longer their range, the farther Hezbollah can store them from the border with Israel. This makes hunting them far more challenging for Israel's intelligence services and air force.

Israel's air-defense is not built to cope with this amount of rockets. As a rule of thumb, it is designed to intercept all ranges, but the brunt of its energy will be focused on intercepting long-range missiles and defending strategic sites. Israel's Iron Dome (short-range) and David's Sling (medium-long-range) missile defense systems will be tasked with this countering this threat. David's Sling is also responsible for intercepting cruise missiles. These systems are also supposed to distinguish between precision and unguided missiles and prioritize the interception as needed.

The purpose of Hezbollah's immense missile arsenal is to deter Israel from launching a war. In actuality, however, it is part of a more comprehensive plan spearheaded by the former commander of Iran's clandestine Quds Force, Qassem Soleimani, who was assassinated in Iraq last year by the Americans. His idea was to surround Iran's enemies from all directions with a terroristic missile threat, and Hezbollah's arsenal was just one component of this plan.

Another component is the aid Iran gives to Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Gaza. Iran wants to solidify another front against Israel, in Syria, comprising militias operating at its behest. The idea was to build naval, air, and land bases manned by Afghani and Pakistani fighters, arm them significantly (mainly with rockets but not only), and carry out shooting attacks against Israel.

Israel identified this trend in time. Many of the airstrikes attributed to it in recent years were intended to foil Iran's entrenchment efforts, not just in Syrian territory near the border, but throughout the country. For example, the Israel Air Force was accused last month of attacking infrastructure in the Deir ez-Zor region near the Syria-Iraq border, where these militias were stationed but have since been forced to move eastward toward Iraq after failing to solidify a foothold deep inside Syria. It was the first time Israeli jets attacked this part of Syria since destroying the nuclear reactor there in September 2007.

The resolute action Israel has taken in Syria is largely a consequence of its failure in Lebanon. Up until the latter part of 2012, Israel anxiously watched as Hezbollah armed itself, doing nothing because the political echelon feared another war in the north. Declarations by Israel's leaders after the Second Lebanon War, whereby "Hezbollah will not be allowed to rebuild its strength," proved baseless. A monster has been built in the north.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, and former Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani

The Syrian civil war changed the picture. After a period of orientation, Israel understood it had an opportunity – and began taking action. Under the whitewashed codename "foreign sources" came reports of thousands of Israeli airstrikes in Syria, and if, at first, every attack was earthshattering news, today such attacks are barely reported. These attacks are anything but normal: they are each is a complex and often dangerous operation, which could result in a downed plane or civilian casualties. The fact that this hasn't happened (except for one instance in which an F-16 was hit and its pilots ejected safely over Israeli territory in 2018), is proof of the IAF's absolute superiority in the arena.

After its accelerated armament in the wake of the Second Lebanon War, Hezbollah concluded it was oversaturated in terms of missile quantity, and began investing in improving its precision capabilities. This term, "precision," could be misleading for those unacquainted with the subject, but it is critical: The majority of Hezbollah's arsenal today, and that of Hamas, consists of "dumb" statistical rockets. The person firing them cannot control where they hit, and to inflict real damage a large number of rockets need to be launched. Hence, almost half of the rockets fired by Hamas during Operation Protective Edge in 2014 landed in open fields or in Gaza, similar to many of the Scud missiles Saddam Hussein fired at Israel during the Gulf War in 1990-91.

Precision missiles are another world altogether. They are fitted with navigation systems, which help them hit targets with considerable accuracy. One of Hezbollah's key missiles is the M-600 ("Tishrin"), manufactured in Syria and predicated on the Iranian Fateh-110 missile. This missile has many variants, has a range of 250 kilometers (155 miles), and can carry a half-ton warhead. Its accuracy is currently a radius of dozens of yards from the target. Other missiles are precise at a radius of 100 yards. This means that if Hezbollah places the crosshairs on IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv (the Kirya), the missile will strike anywhere from Azrieli towers, Sarona market, Ichilov hospital and Ibn Gavirol Street.

For anyone looking to kill as many civilians as possible, this is accurate enough, but anyone who wants to paralyze a country needs more than this. Hezbollah wants to be able to do to Israel what Israel did to it during the Second Lebanon War: Hit strategic facilities (power stations in particular), military bases (specifically air force), government buildings (mainly in Jerusalem), to produce an image of victory. Precision, therefore, is critical.

The person who orchestrated Hezbollah's aggressive missile armament project after the Second Lebanon War was Imad Mugniyeh. Following his assassination in February 2008 in Damascus, in an operation attributed to the Mossad and CIA, he was replaced by his cousin and brother-in-law Mustafa Badredinne – also a founding member of the organization. In May 2016, Badredinne was also assassinated in a joint Hezbollah-Iran operation. The official excuse was his love of alcohol, women, and side hustles, but the real reason he was killed was his disagreement with Soleimani over Hezbollah's involvement in the Syrian civil war. His death put the missile project in the sole hands of Nasrallah and Soleimani.

Lt. Col. Eran Niv, the head of the IDF's Warfare Methods and Innovation Division (Oren Ben Hakoon)

In the beginning, Hezbollah's quest to acquire precision missiles was clumsy. The precision missiles were manufactured in Iran and flown to Damascus. In 2013, when current Defense Minister Benny Gantz was IDF chief of staff and Amir Eshel was commander of the air force, Israel launched a campaign to prevent precision capabilities from reaching Lebanon. This campaign is still ongoing, and each operation or airstrike carried out within its framework receives a different name.

The attacks in Lebanon accelerated in 2014, slowed down somewhat in 2015 when Russia joined the fray to save the Assad regime, and again accelerated in 2016 when Israel understood it had considerable leeway to act, despite the Russian presence in Syria. At the same time, the other side also realized something: Soleimany understood the Islamic State group had been defeated and the Assad regime saved, and he identified the opportunity to entrench Iranian hegemony in Syria. He had three primary objectives: establish a foothold for Iran and its proxies on Syrian soil; indoctrinate the Syrian people through Shiite clerics flown in from Iran; seize control of Syria's weapons industry.

Syria is home to a developed weapons industry, which can be traced back to Russian expertise and years of preparing the Syrian army for war against Israel. Most of this activity comes out of the Scientific Studies and Research Center.

Soleimani's idea was simple: manufacture the missiles on Syrian soil, thus negating the threat of attack on Iranian weapons shipments. Iran would fund the project, Syria would make the missiles, and from there they would be transferred to Lebanon. Assad was powerless to oppose this plan; he owed his life to the Iranians and Hezbollah, and also owed them $80 billion for equipment, aid, and loans he received. Beyond that, the missile factories would provide jobs and wages for thousands of Syrians.

Israel identified this process and began methodically attacking these facilities and other manufacturing infrastructure in Syria. According to published reports, many dozens of these airstrikes have been carried out.

Israeli determination to attack was met with Iranian determination to manufacture. If manufacturing in Iran had failed, and manufacturing in Syria had failed, the next phase was to move the project to Lebanon. This time, the plan didn't include making the whole missile from scratch. Hezbollah doesn't have this ability, which requires a developed military industry with dozens of scientists and large factories. Instead, they opted for a process of conversion: take an old model of a "dumb" rocket smuggled in from Iran and Syria, and fit it with GPS, wingtips and a small-computer so it can be guided precisely to a target.

All of these components can be purchased online, but Hezbollah receives them from Iran. The computer itself is based on an algorithm with exceedingly simple aerodynamical equations. The conversion process, too, is rather simple and takes several days, at which point more adjustments and calibrations are likely required and the wingtips must be tested to ensure proper movement.

According to various reports, the conversion process can produce a rocket with a 20-30 yard precision radius. Accurate enough to hit a power station or building, but not enough to put a missile through a specific window or assassinate someone. This would require a different level of technological sophistication and real-time intelligence capabilities only possessed by the world's military superpowers.

The size (or lack thereof) of the components needed for this conversion process, specifically the laptops, testify to the complexity of the IDF's task, and to the magnitude of its success thus far. Ultimately, a large number of the airstrikes attributed to Israel target these tiny laptops, without which dumb rockets can't be made precise. Considering the quality of the real-time intelligence required, and the level of risk and precision undertaken by the air force, this is an impressive operation by all standards. In the words of Maj. Gen. Tamir Hayman, the outgoing commander of the IDF's Military Intelligence Directorate, there are currently a few dozen precision missiles in Lebanon.

IDF soldiers inspect a Hezbollah attack tunnel on the northern border (IDF Spokesperson's Unit)

During the Second Lebanon War, Hezbollah fired some 200 rockets a day at Israel. In the next war, it intends to fire thousands. Israel doesn't have the ability to intercept all of them or even most of them, which means the damage to the Galilee region will likely be immense. On the other hand, the potential damage of each individual rocket is relatively low, and the bomb shelters and fortified rooms should provide sufficient protection.

As part of its war against this project, Israel isn't only employing military means. It is using diplomacy and applying international pressure; it is fighting economically and is openly waging a public relations campaign. Twice in recent years, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has publicly revealed the existence and location of Hezbollah's precision missile factories in Lebanon. The first time was in 2018 at the UN General Assembly, when he exposed three facilities; and the second time was in 2020 in a recorded address to the General Assembly, in which he exposed other facilities, including a rocket factory in the heart of a civilian neighborhood in Beirut.

In both cases, Hezbollah denied the allegations. These denials were mostly intended for Lebanese ears: The situation in Lebanon has never been worse, and the country is coping with the most severe economic and social crises since its inception. Hezbollah, which has been part of the Lebanese government for a while now and in many regards controls the entire country, is perceived as partially responsible for the situation and it's doubtful the Lebanese public would be empathetic toward anyone who might trigger another calamity, certainly not after the trauma of the devastating blast at Beirut port last summer.

Israel's decision to procure new aircraft and interceptor missiles for the air force mainly stemmed from its assessments pertaining to the northern front, where the Institute for National Security Studies said in its annual report a war is most likely to erupt. The working assumption is that such a war will not be confined to Lebanon, rather will expand to include Syria (and maybe Iraq). It's possible that Syria itself will act against Israel, to repay Iran and Hezbollah for their generous aid throughout the civil war. It's also possible that Shiite militias in Iraq will fire missiles at Israel, and perhaps even Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen will join the fray.

Beyond a certain missile barrage, is also the threat of cross-border infiltration. Unearthing Hezbollah's underground tunnel project severely damaged the group's plans, but this threat hasn't been completely negated. Hezbollah's elite Radwan Unit intends to raid Israeli territory and seize control of communities or military outposts. In an effort to counter this threat, Israel has built high walls to buttress certain parts of the border.

In recent years, Hezbollah has also invested in drones. Although it used them in the Second Lebanon War, since then it has made considerable progress in this field and today possesses a wide array of small drones, including those that can carry explosive payloads hundreds of kilometers.

The IDF has numerous tools at its disposal to counter this threat. One of them is jamming their frequencies, which disrupts the flight path and sometimes causes the targeted drone to crash. The challenge is to do this without compromising communication on the Israeli side.

But above all else, as stated, the most pressing threat from the IDF's perspective are the precision missiles. The matter is so grave, that the chief of staff and his deputy handle it personally on a permanent basis. This means routine briefings, planning, and closely monitoring developments on both sides of the border.

The overriding view in the IDF, as of now, is that the "precision" threat is tolerable and can be countered. This calculation takes into account the nature of the missiles in Hezbollah's arsenal, their damage potential, the intelligence picture that will facilitate their destruction at the outset of the next war, and the army's ability to disrupt and intercept missile launches. Assuming that a few precision missiles will make it through, the question is how much damage they will cause.

All of this is supposed to produce a magic number, which needs to be Israel's red line. A line which, if crossed, the IDF must launch a preventative strike, in the estimation that doing so will come at a lower cost than a future war. Thus far, Israel has not specified such a number. Some experts say the number is 500 precision missiles, others say the number should be 1,000 missiles. As stated, Hezbollah is still far from these numbers, but the horizon is clear: It is continuing to manufacture and smuggle them.

PM Benjamin Netanyahu displays the location of a hidden Hezbollah depot (GPO

Those who argue that setting a specific red line is a bad idea believe the situation is dynamic and that Israel is continually acquiring tools that alter the picture and equation. Conversely, the concern is that Israel will constantly acclimate itself to a new reality. Like a frog in the pot, slowly stewing until it is completely boiled. Israel stewed idly as Hezbollah accumulated tens of thousands of "dumb" rockets and could do the same with the precision threat.

The common view in the IDF and among civilian experts is that Israel must define its red lines, and the fact that it hasn't done so yet is a serious problem that needs immediate fixing.

"If Hezbollah crosses a quantitative or qualitative threshold for precision weapons, we will have to act against it. This is a serious decision, but one from which we cannot run away," Lt. Col. Eran Niv, the head of the IDF's Warfare Methods and Innovation Division, told Israel Hayom.

"Beyond Iran's nuclear program, this is the greatest threat to Israel today. This is the event, with a capital T. It is the focus of situational assessments. It is the scenario used in training exercises. Everything is geared in that direction, but so is the response. In the meantime, we are trying to act in other creative ways, which won't allow [Hezbollah] to get there," said Niv.

Niv is among those who believe it's imperative for Israel to determine its red lines. Not just in terms of quantity but quality. For example, if Hezbollah were to transition from smuggling precision components to mass-scale production of precision missiles in Lebanon. "We need to mark a quantitative and qualitative threshold, which if crossed will require us to take other actions," he emphasized.

Hezbollah isn't there yet, but this could change soon. Lifting the economic sanctions imposed on Iran, as part of the United States' expected return to the nuclear deal, will free up considerable funds for Iran's proxies in the region, chief among them Hezbollah. If Tehran and Beirut sense that the Americans are restricting Israeli activity, or support the Jewish state less, they could feel emboldened enough to accelerate and greatly expand the precision missile project.

"Hezbollah views us exactly how we view it – as someone plotting to attack it," says Middle East expert Prof. Eyal Zisser of Tel Aviv University. "It wants precision capabilities to deter us. A few thousand more missiles won't change anything, but precision missiles, from its perspective, are a tiebreaker. And because it is struggling to smuggle precision components from Syria, it wants to manufacture them in Lebanon."

Former MID chief Maj. Gen. (res.) Amos Yadlin, who is currently head of the Institute for National Security Studies, is a firm believer and prominent voice calling for Israel to define its red lines now.

Former head of the IDF's Military Intelligence Directorate Maj. Gen. (res.) Amos Yadlin (KOKO)

"We must examine and designate the right timing for taking action against the precision weapon project, in the understanding that it can trigger a broad conflagration. Hundreds of precision missiles in the hands of the Iranian axis, particularly Hezbollah, which can cause comprehensive civilian damage in Israel and paralyze vital systems, is a strategic threat that can't be allowed to develop."

According to Yadlin, the watershed moment in terms of the precision threat was the Iranian missile strike on Saudi Arabia's main oil refinery in September 2019, temporarily shutting down some 50% of the country's oil production.

believes that if Hezbollah accelerates its armament efforts, Israel will have to consider a preventative strike to negate the threat. According to other defense officials, Israel mustn't initiate such a strike as doing so would assuredly spark a war. They believe Israel should consider "exploiting the opportunity" of a limited escalation on the northern border to target Hezbollah's precision capabilities.

As a result of this event, the Iranians realized that precision is indeed paramount, and therefore decided to pursue this capability, on all fronts, with everything in their power. This is more difficult for them without Soleimani, but in Yadlin's words: "The train has left the station" and beyond already reaching Yemen could eventually reach Lebanon as well.

"Israel's situation is not the same as the Saudis' situation," Yadlin says. "We have better intelligence, and it's reasonable to assume we'll know about an attack such as [the oil refinery attack] in advance. We have impressive preventative capabilities and we can attack before the launch, and we have detection and defensive capabilities as well, but the threat, in general, is problematic and requires a change of strategy."

Yadlin lists four possible strategies at Israel's disposal: Deterrence (make Nasrallah understand that firing precision missiles at Israel will lead to the destruction of Lebanon); defense (greater investment in interceptors and other systems); pinpoint airstrikes and other operations (which simply delay the inevitable); a preventative strike (which will remove this capability from Hezbollah's hands but open Israel to a broad war).

"The problem is that deterrence could erode or cease to exist if Hezbollah acquires a large stockpile of precision missiles, and defense is incredibly expensive and could still prove insufficient against massive barrages. Therefore, the important discussion should be about prevention. In theory, we do this all the time, but we already need to start thinking about the next stage. It's possible we'll have to implement the Begin doctrine (to prevent nuclear proliferation in the Middle East) against the precision missile threat as well," says Yadlin.

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Brig. Gen. (res.) Itai Brun, the former head of MID's Intelligence Analysis Division, who penned the annual situational assessment published by the INSS, has a different opinion.

"The precision missiles are indeed an extraordinarily powerful threat, but these are not nuclear weapons," he tells Israel Hayom.

"The precision missiles are not the end-all and be-all from Hezbollah's perspective. They are part of a broader picture."

Brun continues: "Hezbollah doesn't want a lengthy war; it wants to deliver painful blows that shorten the war and mitigate its fallout. To this end, perhaps all it needs is to launch a small number of precision missiles amid a massive barrage and ground infiltration into Israel. Perhaps all they need is one precise missile hitting a power station or the Knesset to provide the effect they want."

If Hezbollah persists at its present pace of producing precision missiles, it will take it years to reach Israel's red line. But if it accelerates the pace or transitions to manufacturing precision missiles in Lebanon, this timeframe could be reduced significantly. In this scenario, Israel will have to decide whether or not to act to eradicate the greatest and most dangerous conventional threat it faces, or to live with it

 

Yoav Limor  

Source: https://www.israelhayom.com/2021/03/03/hezbollahs-precision-missiles-a-bigger-threat-than-irans-nuclear-program/ 

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Is Hezbollah More Ready to Engage in Conflict with Israel? - Orna Mizrahi and Yoram Schweitzer

 

​ by Orna Mizrahi and Yoram Schweitzer

[W]ith an intensifying crisis in Lebanon and Israel’s preoccupation with its own internal affairs, Nasrallah may feel sufficiently comfortable to risk escalation in order to restore deterrence. How should Israel act?

In the final months of the Trump administration, Hezbollah was careful not to fan the flames along the border with Israel for fear of a painful reaction. Now, however, with a new administration in Washington, and with an intensifying crisis in Lebanon and Israel’s preoccupation with its own internal affairs, Nasrallah may feel sufficiently comfortable to risk escalation in order to restore deterrence. How should Israel act?
There are signs that Hezbollah is more ready than in the past to take risks vis-à-vis Israel, though at this stage it is unclear whether the organization will further escalate the situation. No deliberate reversal is evident – Hezbollah is still interested in avoiding war – but it is making an effort to consolidate the deterrence equation with Israel. This approach represents a shift from the restraint the organization displayed in the final months of President Trump's tenure, in order to preclude any excessive response. Although the Biden administration has not yet formulated its policy vis-à-vis Lebanon and Hezbollah, the organization's leadership, like its patron Iran, believes there is a window of opportunity to advance interests with respect to Israel and the Lebanese arena. According to the Israeli intelligence estimate published recently, in the coming year Hezbollah may choose limited and short confrontations ("battle days"). The exchange of public messages between the organization and Israel supports this impression. If Hezbollah initiates an attack that will lead to a military confrontation, Israel will face a dilemma regarding if and how to respond: should Israel contain the incidents, or should it view them as a strategic threat and cause for widespread military action that would harm the organization's infrastructure. As for the Biden administration's policy toward Lebanon and Hezbollah, Israel should encourage the United States to continue its political and economic pressure on the organization, alongside ongoing involvement and assistance in Lebanon.

Hezbollah has recently shown greater willingness to take risks regarding a possible military confrontation with Israel, which contrasts with the period of restraint the organization imposed on itself in the last months of the Trump administration. Since the new administration entered the White House, this has been reflected mainly in the realization of Hezbollah's threats to try and harm Israeli flights in Lebanese skies – after a long period (since October 2019) of avoiding such action – when on February 3, 2021 it launched an anti-aircraft missile against an Israeli drone; the missile failed to hit the drone. Spokesmen for the organization boasted of the action as evidence of their determination to prevent Israeli activity in Lebanese airspace and to preserve the deterrence equation with Israel.

 

 

Hezbollah's temerity seems to be coordinated with Iran and stems from the organization's assessment that Israel is preoccupied with its internal affairs in light of the ongoing pandemic and political crisis, and is therefore not in a place to conduct a risky military campaign. In addition, the organization perceives a window of opportunity created by the change of command in the United States. In the final months of the Trump administration, it was clear that the organization exercised caution in its operations along the Israel-Lebanon border, and had difficulty demonstrating the deterrence equation that Nasrallah promised to implement by force against the IDF. For example:


  1. After two failed attempts at revenge, Hezbollah refrained from the action against Israel it promised in response to the killing of one of its combatants in Syria (July 2020). The only achievement that Nasrallah could present in this context is the pressure imposed on the IDF following the ongoing tensions on the Lebanese border, which prompted reinforced deployment. Nasrallah attributed this deployment to Hezbollah's deterrent force and IDF concerns about its military strength.

  2. Hezbollah's lack of response to the widespread attacks attributed to Israel on its assets in Syria – attacks that were intended to thwart weapons transfers from Iran and damage Hezbollah’s infrastructure in the Golan Heights.

  3. Hezbollah has also refrained from any action against Israel along the Lebanese border following the killing of Iranian nuclear scientist Fakhrizadeh (November 2020), attributed to Israel, arguing that the response should come from the side targeted, namely Iran. It seems that publicizing this position was designed to calm internal criticism in Lebanon that the organization is in the service of Iran.

In a speech delivered on February 16 (commemorating the anniversary of the death of his predecessor, Mousavi, who was killed by Israel), Nasrallah discussed the possibility of a confrontation with Israel. His reference was to the speech by IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi at the annual conference of the Institute for National Security Studies (January 26), and to the Israeli intelligence assessment published recently regarding the feasibility of "battle days," i.e., limited rounds of confrontation. His remarks underscored the importance he attaches to the deterrence equation vis-à-vis Israel and the organization's determination – even though he claimed he was not interested in war – to respond strongly to any Israeli move. Regarding Kochavi, who insisted on the legitimacy of a "moral and effective" attack by the IDF on Hezbollah's missile deposits hidden among the Lebanese civilian population, Nasrallah warned that if Israel harmed Lebanese civilians, Hezbollah would cause severe damage to the Israeli home front – the worst since 1948. He claimed that this too is justified, since all Israelis are military reservists. Regarding the assessment that Hezbollah is interested in "battle days" with the IDF, Nasrallah clarified that Israel is "playing with fire" when it thinks that exchanges of blows between the parties will be limited and not lead to a broad campaign. He added that although it does not want a confrontation, his organization will fight back if it happens.

Although the Biden administration has not yet fully formulated its policy vis-à-vis the Lebanese theater, or specifically with regard to Hezbollah, it seems that the organization, like its patron Iran, identifies a window of opportunity to advance its interests in view of Biden's expected change in policy from the Trump stance toward the Shiite axis. The previous administration advocated "maximum pressure" on Hezbollah, in parallel with the pressure it exerted on Iran (expanding sanctions on its members and its supporters in the Lebanese system; demanding a reduction in Hezbollah's influence in the new Lebanese government, in contrast to France, which is willing to accept Hezbollah's political status in the Lebanese system; and pressuring Lebanon to compromise and move forward with negotiations with Israel on the maritime border). At the same time, Hezbollah has suffered a few blows in the international arena in the past year, reflected mainly by the wave of 13 new countries that now recognize it as a terrorist organization.

A policy paper was submitted recently to the Biden administration by the Washington International Crisis Group, headed by Robert Malley, until his recent appointment as Biden's envoy on the Iranian issue. The paper advised the administration to change the US perspective on Lebanon, and instead of promoting an effort to weaken Hezbollah, adopt a new approach aimed at strengthening the Lebanese state and preventing its collapse, by supporting the French initiative and forming a government with Hezbollah.

Even in the Lebanese domestic arena, despite claims that Hezbollah has benefited from the paralysis of the political system and continues to strengthen its power bases among the country's Shiite population, the dismal Lebanese reality has led to increased public criticism of the organization. This emerges from the results of a public opinion poll conducted in Lebanon (November 2020) by David Pollock of the Washington Institute, which indicated a clear decline in support for Hezbollah in recent years among the Lebanese public, including among the Shiite community. Hezbollah's extensive campaign, marking the anniversary of the killing of Qasem Soleimani (January 2020) and bordering on worship of his persona, also drew widespread criticism in Lebanon that Hezbollah was operating in the service of Iran. 

Looking ahead, a possible change in US policy toward Iran (and in Hezbollah’s view, perhaps toward the organization as well) concomitant with Lebanon's continued deterioration, as well as the organization's sense that Israel is preoccupied with its internal affairs, may increase Hezbollah’s boldness vis-à-vis Israel. It may try again to carry out the promised revenge attack, which could create a round of conflict, in the spirit of the military intelligence division's assessment. The organization's immediate goal is to consolidate its deterrence equation, but it seems that the renewed tension on the Israel-Lebanon border may, in its view, also serve to improve its image in the internal arena as the "defender of Lebanon" and perhaps even indirectly provide Iran with leverage with the new US administration – at least until a resumption of nuclear negotiations. However, following any resumption of negotiations between the United States and Iran, Hezbollah will presumably restrain its activities with Israel so as not to sabotage the dialogue, which is supposed to serve Iran. 

Therefore, IDF vigilance on the northern border must be maintained, and in light of the possibility that Hezbollah will try to carry out its threats to increase tensions in the coming months, Israel's reaction must be re-examined to best serve Israeli interests. The two main options are ensuring an appropriate but measured response that will limit events and prevent degeneration into large-scale fighting, or exploiting the event in order to carry out extensive action to significantly impair Hezbollah's precision missile capability, which poses a strategic threat to Israel. 

It is recommended that the Lebanon issue be raised as soon as possible in a dialogue between the Israel and the new US administration. The US should be encouraged to continue its involvement in Lebanon while formulating its policy toward it, which should include two parallel efforts: continued economic-political pressure on Hezbollah, and aid to the Lebanese state, which is on the verge of collapse.

 

Orna Mizrahi and Yoram Schweitzer  

Source: https://www.inss.org.il/publication/hezbollah-escalation/ 

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Israel moving to protect hundreds of personnel against ICC probe - Reuters and ILH Staff

 

​ by Reuters and ILH Staff

The Hague-based tribunal ruled last month that it has jurisdiction over the occupied West Bank, the Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem. Israel is not a member of the ICC and rejects its jurisdictions, but the Palestinians have welcomed the ruling as a chance for "justice for victims."

Israel estimates that hundreds of its citizens might be subject to war crimes probes by the International Criminal Court, whose jurisdiction it rejects, and is working on how to protect them, the Defense Ministry said on Tuesday.

Including himself among Israelis who could be threatened with arrest, Defense Minister Benny Gantz said, "I was never afraid to go across enemy lines, I will continue to stand wherever I have to."

The Hague-based tribunal ruled last month that it has jurisdiction over the occupied West Bank, the Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem. The ruling could lead to criminal investigations of Israel and of Palestinian militant groups including Hamas.

Israel is not a member of the court and rejects its jurisdiction, a position backed by its close ally the United States. Palestinians have welcomed the ruling as a chance for justice for victims of Israeli attacks.

In an interview on Israel's fortified border with Gaza, Gantz, who also holds Israel's justice portfolio, called the ruling a "negative development" and added: "We have our own teams working in different [places] to try [and] influence," the ICC.

Gantz was the military's chief of staff during a 2014 war between Israel and militants in Hamas-controlled Gaza. The ICC has pointed to that conflict as a potential issue to be probed.

Asked by Reuters how many Israelis, including himself, might expect to be subject to arrest should the probe lead to criminal investigations, Gantz said: "I guess several hundred, but we will take care of everybody."

Gantz called that "an estimate", declining to say if Israel had drawn up a list of officials. Israel will provide legal assistance to any implicated Israelis and will give them legal warnings regarding travel if necessary, Gantz said.

Asked if he himself might change his travel plans in light of the ICC probe, Gantz said: "So far, no."

 

Reuters and ILH Staff 

Source: https://www.israelhayom.com/2021/03/03/israel-moving-to-protect-hundreds-of-personnel-against-icc-probe/ 

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How Democracy Dies: Big Tech Becomes Big Brother - Leni Friedman Valenta with Dr. Jiri Valenta

 

​ by Leni Friedman Valenta with Dr. Jiri Valenta

Democracy cannot survive in a country where a few technocrats and oligarchs can choose to deny access to information or platforms to candidates running for office.

  • The power-sharing of the U.S. Federal government with Big Tech appears a recipe for unharnessed power and corruption. Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny caught on right away, saying: "This precedent will be exploited by the enemies of freedom of speech around the world. In Russia as well. Every time when they need to silence someone, they will say: 'this is just common practice, even Trump got blocked on Twitter.'"

  • Fortunately, governors such as Ron DeSantis in Florida, Greg Abbott in Texas and Kevin Stitt in Oklahoma are now moving legislatively to counter federal laws that may have adverse effects on freedom of speech, jobs, election integrity, the energy industry, the first or second amendments and general constitutional rights.

  • Democracy cannot survive in a country where a few technocrats and oligarchs can choose to deny access to information or platforms to candidates running for office. It is simply unacceptable that they alone -- unelected, unappointed, untransparent and unaccountable -- can deem what is "harmful" to society. The job now for all of us is to prevent the United States from slowly becoming a full-blown tyranny.

"Digital giants have been playing an increasingly significant role in wider society... how well does this monopolism correlate with the public interest?," Russian President Vladimir Putin said on January 27, 2021.

"Where is the distinction between successful global businesses, sought-after services and big data consolidation on the one hand, and the efforts to rule society[...] by substituting legitimate democratic institutions, by restricting the natural right for people to decide how to live and what view to express freely on the other hand?"

Was Mr. Putin defending democracy? Hardly. What apparently worries him is that the Big Tech might gain the power to control society at the expense of his government. What must be a nightmare for him -- as for many Americans -- is that the Tech giants were able to censor news favorable to Trump and then censor Trump himself. How could the U.S. do this to the president of a great and free country?

Putin made these comments at the Davos World Economic Forum, in which he and Chinese President Xi Jinping, sped on by the "Great Reset" of a fourth industrial revolution, used enlightened phrases to mask dark plans for nation states in a globalist New World Order. Thus did Xi caution attendees "to adapt to and guide globalization, cushion its negative impact, and deliver its benefits to all countries and all nations."

In March 2019, Putin signed a law "imposing penalties for Russian internet users caught spread 'fake news' and information that presents 'clear disrespect for society, government, state symbols the constitution and government institutions.'" Punishments got even heavier with new laws in December.

Meanwhile, opposition leader Alexei Navalny has been sentenced to prison for more than three years (with a year off for time served), in part because he revealed photos of a lavish Russian palace allegedly belonging to Putin on the coast of the Black Sea. Its accouterments supposedly include an $824 toilet brush. Many of the thousands of people protesting Navalny's imprisonment have since been protesting Putin by waving gold-painted toilet brushes.

How nice that American Big Tech companies is pushing democracy in Russia -- even while it is denying it at home. Do you notice how many leaders in Europe have risen to condemn censorship in America even though many in Europe are censoring their citizens as well, and are not exactly fans of the person who was being censored, former President Donald J. Trump? Like Putin, they probably do not want Big Tech competing with their governments, either.

The power-sharing of the U.S. Federal government with Big Tech appears a recipe for unharnessed power and corruption. Navalny caught on right away, saying:

"This precedent will be exploited by the enemies of freedom of speech around the world. In Russia as well. Every time when they need to silence someone, they will say: 'this is just common practice, even Trump got blocked on Twitter.'"

What watchdog, if any, is now restraining Big Tech in America? It has become quite clear that Big Tech's censorship may well have cost Trump the election, even if one ultimately finds that election fraud did not.

Big Tech took it upon itself to censor an exposé -- published by the New York Post on October 24, 2020, as well as follow-up exposés -- reporting that Hunter Biden, Joe Biden's son, had sold his influence to China and Ukraine, and had raked in millions for the family.

The Media Research Center (MRC) found that "One of every six Biden voters we surveyed (17%) said they would have abandoned the Democratic candidate had they known the facts about one or more of these news stories". That information might well have changed the outcome in all six of the swing states Biden reportedly won.

Last August, Twitter also undertook censoring the trailer of an explosive documentary entitled "The Plot Against the President." The film, narrated by Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) with commentary by leading members of the Republican Party, exposes leading members of the Democratic Party and their deep state allies, many of whom knowingly used phony evidence to frame President Trump and some in his circle to try convince Americans that he and his campaign had colluded with the Russian government to win the 2016 election.

The film claims, using with recently declassified information, that President Barack Obama, as well Hillary Clinton, were involved in an almost four-year attempted coup incomparably more undemocratic than any riot at the Capital Building on January 6.

Rep. Devin Nunes, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, claimed in August 2020 that Biden also knew of the ongoing efforts to unseat Trump. Nevertheless, Trump did not target them, perhaps to avoid dividing the country even further.

According to the Washington Times, the Twitter account of the movie, which debuted in October 2020, attracted 30,000 followers. Twitter blacklisted it for a day, but after a public uproar, put the popular documentary back. Our question is: How many blacklistings did Twitter not put back?

The January 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol was a pivotal event for Trump and the Republican Party. Prior to January 6, President Trump had offered to deploy 10,000 troops to the capitol, according to his former Chief-of-Staff Mark Meadows. The Pentagon and the Department of Justice had also offered help but were also reportedly turned down by the US Capitol Police The problem, apparently, was "optics" -- about a Capitol now surrounded by barbed wire and thousands of troops, which the current Administration now seems to like.

Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests for further details about the event were also rejected -- it is not clear by whom. It is ridiculous, therefore, for anyone to frame the riots, ugly as they were, as a seditious "insurrection," particularly in light of what appears to be a massive security failure that could have averted the violence. One thing is certain: the timing of the event could not have been more perfect for opposition groups, which is probably why it had been planned for weeks before January 6.

What these efforts and the media did achieve was an end to all attempts to ascertain election fraud at a time when Vice President Mike Pence was counting Electoral College ballots, and allowing speeches from those supporting that claim. Some politicians even called for the resignation of Senators Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley, and referred them to the ethics committee for even suggesting an election audit of battleground states, despite questions having been asked -- with no objections -- concerning the results of the 2000, 2004 and 2016 presidential elections.

Ultimately, the result of the latest "witch hunt" against President Trump, as it has been called, was a contrived impeachment attempt to bar Trump from a future presidential bid -- a kangaroo court devoid of due process, hearings, witnesses, and evidence. The prosecution, however, was undeniably eloquent in evoking "democracy" for a totally undemocratic procedure that justly resulted in Trump's acquittal.

Meanwhile, Facebook and Twitter banned Trump and some of his supporters from their cyber domains. An alternative social media platform, Parler, was banned from the Apple and Google app stores, and then completely closed down by Amazon.

Meanwhile, mainstream social media platforms were reportedly used to rally and organize carry out riots in American cities last year. No one was penalized.

Do not, however, expect such slackness now. According to Fox News:

"People like Obama-era CIA Director John Brennan and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., have made various public statements labeling Republicans as extremists -- with Ocasio-Cortez claiming the GOP has 'white supremacist sympathizers' within its ranks, and Brennan claiming 'domestic violent extremists' in the form of far-right supporters of President Trump are more dangerous than Al Qaeda."

Columnist and radio host Jeffrey Kuhner warns that a new bill, H.R. 350, "is the liberals' equivalent of the Patriot Act redux. This time, however, it is not aimed at Islamic jihadists. Rather, it directly targets Trump patriots." Kuhner writes that the bill "has the full backing of the Democratic congressional leadership, the Biden administration... Big Media and Big Tech."

"The bill empowers the Deep State to monitor, surveil and spy on American citizens' social media accounts, phone calls, political meetings and even infiltrate pro-Trump or 'Stop the Steal' rallies.

"Conservatives who are deemed potentially 'seditious' or 'treasonous' can be arrested and jailed, fined and/or lose their employment. The goal is simple: to crush all dissent to the Biden regime."

Moreover, last month the new Secretary of Defense, Lloyd Austin, ordered a "stand down "of the entire military for 60 days, "so each service, each command and each unit can have a deeper conversation about this issue [extremism]." Normally stand downs last only a few hours or days and do not involve the entire military. Austin, in addition, has pledged to "rid our ranks of racists and extremists."

These are words that can be applied to anyone dreamed up, including Trump supporters, and based, of course, on nothing but propaganda.

Austin's plan is therefore needless, divisive and dangerous, considering the foreign dangers now circling their prey. This punishment of the regime's "foes" makes one wonder what is next. Are we already marching in lockstep with Russia and China? The way to unite and strengthen the United States is not through suppression and punishment but through political power with checks and balances, a free press and closer adherence to the Constitution.

But here, again, there seems to be. a problem. The Federalist wrote in July:

"According to a new Quillette survey released last month, 70 percent of self-identifying liberals want to rewrite the U.S. Constitution 'to a new Americans constitution that better reflects our diversity as a people.'"

Oh, so that is what we lack: diversity!

What can Americans Do? We are presently at a tipping point in America. Communist China is working hard and is focused on global domination; we are just messing around. In an increasingly digital world, the war against infringements on our freedoms most probably needs to be fought largely in the digital and cyber-space. That is why ending censorship in both the traditional and social media is such an important priority. First, break up the Big Tech companies. Let them become the utilities they originally claimed to be, or else be liable to lawsuits as other publishers are.

We do take some comfort that whereas dictatorships in authoritarian countries such as China and Russia is vertical -- from the top down -- in America, the central government shares power with the states from the bottom up, and with powers separated: the executive, the judiciary and the legislative. Fortunately, governors such as Ron DeSantis in Florida, Greg Abbott in Texas and Kevin Stitt in Oklahoma are now moving legislatively to counter federal laws that may have adverse effects on freedom of speech, jobs, election integrity, the energy industry, the first or second amendments and general constitutional rights.

This does not speak, however, to the major issue here -- that democracy cannot survive in a country where a few technocrats and oligarchs can choose to deny access to information or platforms to candidates running for office. It is simply unacceptable that they alone -- unelected, unappointed, untransparent and unaccountable -- can deem what is "harmful" to society. The job now for all of us is to prevent the United States from slowly becoming a full-blown tyranny.

 

Leni Friedman Valenta is a graduate of Brandeis and Yale (playwriting) and has written articles for the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, the Gatestone Institute, Circanada, The National Interest, Aspen Review and other publications. She is married to international expert Dr. Jiri Valenta, a non-resident, senior research associate at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies. Their website is valenta-center.com

Source: https://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/17104/big-tech-big-brother 

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