Saturday, March 23, 2019

In Gaza, Hamas Beats and Tortures Those Who Protest Its Misrule (Part One) - Hugh Fitzgerald

by Hugh Fitzgerald

“The crackdown on freedom of expression and the use of torture in Gaza has reached alarming new levels,” said Amnesty’s Middle East deputy director Saleh Higazi….

Hugh Fitzgerald: In Gaza, Hamas Beats and Tortures Those Who Protest Its Misrule (Part One)

In Gaza, it is not Israel, but Hamas that is the great oppressor of the local Arabs. That became clear in mid-March, with spontaneous protests against Hamas erupting all over Gaza.

The story is here:

Hamas is facing the biggest demonstrations yet against its 12-year rule of the Gaza Strip, with hundreds of Palestinians taking to the streets in recent days to protest the dire living conditions in the blockaded territory.
With little tolerance for dissent, the Islamic militant group has responded with heavy-handed tactics. It has arrested dozens of protesters, beaten activists and violently suppressed attempts by local media to cover the unrest….
“There is no political agenda at all,” said Amin Abed, 30, an organizer who has been forced into hiding. “We simply want to live in dignity,” he said by telephone. “We just ask Hamas to ease the economic hardships and tax burdens.”…
Unemployment is over 50 percent and much higher for young university graduates like Abed. Tap water is undrinkable, electricity is limited and travel abroad severely restricted. Hamas’ cash-strapped government recently raised taxes on basic goods like bread, beans and cigarettes.
Protesters accuse Hamas of corruption and imposing the hefty taxes to enrich itself. They used social media to organize protests last week with the slogan “We want to live!”…
“These protests were the largest, the longest and the most violent in terms of Hamas’ suppression,” said Mkhaimar Abusada, political science professor at Gaza’s al-Azhar University….
On Monday, Amnesty International reported that hundreds of protesters have been beaten, arbitrarily arrested, tortured and subjected to ill-treatment. Journalists and human rights workers, including a researcher for the London-based organization, were also roughed up, Amnesty said.
“The crackdown on freedom of expression and the use of torture in Gaza has reached alarming new levels,” said Amnesty’s Middle East deputy director Saleh Higazi….
Other amateur videos have shown protesters burning tires and hurling stones toward Hamas forces. Hamas gunmen can be seen jumping out of vehicles and beating people with clubs. Other videos show Hamas going door to door and carrying out mass arrests….
The Brussels-based International Federation of Journalists reported Monday that 42 Palestinian journalists “were targeted” by Hamas forces in the past five days. The abuses included physical assaults, summons, threats, home arrests and seizure of equipment….
Abed, the protest leader, said Hamas has stormed his family’s house and delivered an arrest warrant for him to his father.
“Hamas doesn’t want us to scream. It wants us to die in silence,” he said.
In Gaza, people are visibly fed up with those who have made their lives increasingly miserable. By this they do not mean Israel, but Hamas, which ever since it seized power in 2007, has pushed the Gazan Arabs into poverty, through its mismanagement of the economy, misallocation of resources to its leaders, and staggering corruption. While the Gazan Arabs suffer increasing poverty, and 70% of young Gazans are unemployed, the leaders in Hamas are thriving; some of its leaders have amassed millions and live in seaside villas; two men who have been leaders in Hamas, Khaled Meshaal and Mousa Abu Marzouk, have each managed to  accumulate the astonishing sum of several billion dollars.

In March, this discontent with Hamas erupted in dozens of protests all over Gaza. The Gazans shouted out their fury over their economic situation, the higher prices on basic foodstuffs, the higher taxes, and the much higher levels of unemployment that they are forced to endure. They threw rocks at Hamas men, they set tires on fire in the streets. They were calling for their Hamas rulers to roll back increases in taxes and higher prices on goods, and to present a plan to end Gaza’s sky-high unemployment.

Hamas responded with great violence, rounding up more than 1,000 protesters, beating and in some cases torturing them. One spokesman for Fatah, which as the military wing of the Palestinian Authority, is the enemy of Hamas, had both his arms and both his legs broken by Hamas fighters, in a warning to other Fatah men. Hamas has charged the Palestinian Authority and Israel with collaborating to foment these protests; no evidence has been presented for this claim, and every report from Gaza makes clear that these protests have not been organized, but are spontaneous in nature: unplanned eruptions of anger at an unbearable economic situation. Israel has not had a presence in Gaza since 2005, and has done nothing, from outside, to foment Gazan discontent with Hamas which would likely only backfire, as a Zionist attempt to sow discord among Muslims. While both Israel and the Palestinian Authority would no doubt like to see Hamas’s rule over Gaza come to an end, this uprising was not their doing.

Hugh Fitzgerald


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ISIS Caliphate: Dream Over - Robert Spencer

by Robert Spencer

The jihad will, of course, continue.

The Syrian town of Baghouz, the last redoubt of the Islamic State (ISIS), was reportedly liberated on Thursday, and that means that the Islamic State’s caliphate is now definitively a thing of the past.

On June 29, 2014, the group that had up to that point called itself the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or Shams in Arabic (hence the synonymous acronyms ISIL and ISIS) announced that it was forming a new caliphate – the single unified government of all the Muslims and the only government to which Muslims rightly owe allegiance, according to Sunni Muslim thought -- and would henceforth drop the second half of its name and call itself simply the Islamic State.

This claim to constitute a new caliphate became the basis of its appeal to Muslims worldwide, who traveled in unprecedented numbers to Iraq, Syria and Libya to join it: it attracted 30,000 Muslims from 100 different countries.

The reason for this was the appeal of the idea of the caliphate. The caliph is the successor of Muhammad as the military, political, and spiritual leader of the Muslims. From the time of the origins of Islam until 1924, there was always a caliphate somewhere in the world. The Umayyad, Abbasid, and Ottoman caliphates were, at their peaks, massive empires. The caliph is the only person authorized, according to Sunni theology, to wage offensive jihad, and most did.

ISIS, along with al-Qaeda and other jihad groups, considered the abolition of the Ottoman caliphate by Kemal Ataturk in 1924 to be the beginning of the troubles for the Islamic world: disunity, dominance by Western powers, inability to expand the domains of Islam in any concerted manner. All of them shared, and share, the goal of restoring the caliphate. Only the Islamic State ever managed to do so, albeit only for 57 months.

Once it declared itself the new caliphate, the Islamic State swiftly began to consolidate its control over the large expanses of Iraq and Syria that it controlled – an area larger than the United Kingdom with a population of eight million people. Blithely disregarding the world’s universal condemnation of its pretensions, it moved to assemble the accouterments of a state: currency, passports and the like. Its control of oil wells in Iraq quickly gave it a steady and sizeable source of wealth.

And contrary to the confident claims of Barack Obama and a host of non-Muslim leaders worldwide, it imposed Sharia in its domains, and strictly enforced it. It collected the jizya, the Qur’an-mandated tax on the “People of the Book,” from Christians. It severely punished women for not adhering to the Sharia dress code. Its scrupulous care to implement Sharia was part of its international appeal for Muslims, along with its pretensions to the caliphate.

That fact is also why we will see another caliphate, and it will be just as brutal and bloody as the Islamic State, because that brutality and bloodlust against non-Muslims were not eccentricities of a rogue non-Islamic group twisting and hijacking Islam’s peaceful teachings, as John Kerry and so many others insisted. In reality, the cruelty of the Islamic State – stonings, amputations, oppression of women and non-Muslims – is, as I have demonstrated many times from the Islamic texts, mandated in the Qur’an and the teachings of Muhammad.

Of course the Western intelligentsia knows that to say that Islamic violence and oppression is based on Qur’anic teaching is simply a manifestation of “Islamophobia,” and that the Qur’an is full of wisdom and peace. That’s why, when some group of Muslims founds another caliphate somewhere, and it looks very much like ISIS (and Iran and Saudi Arabia and other Sharia states, for that matter), they will be utterly bewildered. Why is this misunderstanding of Islam so widespread and persistent?

Anyway, the collapse of ISIS is due to President Trump. When Obama left office, it looked as if ISIS was here to stay, and was on the path to legitimization, a la the Palestine Liberation Organization. It was finding buyers for its low-priced oil. It had, it has just been revealed, an ambassador to Turkey. If Hillary Clinton had won the Presidency, there is no doubt that it would still be a significant force in Iraq and Syria.

The caliphate is over, but ISIS isn’t. Its dispersed jihadis are focusing on attacking civilians in the West. Unfortunately, few, if any, Islamic State jihadis will take the collapse of the caliphate as a sign that their premises were wrong; they will just go wage jihad somewhere else, which is why Western countries are suicidal to take back the ISIS jihadis who are their citizens.

* * *
Screencap from YouTube

Robert Spencer is the director of Jihad Watch and a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center. He is author of the New York Times bestsellers The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) and The Truth About Muhammad. His new book is The History of Jihad From Muhammad to ISIS. Follow him on Twitter here. Like him on Facebook here.


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How Small State Democrats are Selling Out Their States to California - Daniel Greenfield

by Daniel Greenfield

The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact’s conspiracy against the electoral college.

Colorado has a population of around 5.7 million. Or 1.75% of the country.

Despite that, Governor Jared Polis, a Democrat, signed on to the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact after Colorado’s General Assembly passed the National Popular Vote bill by 34 to 29.

The bill to disenfranchise Colorado voters was sponsored by Senator Mike Foote, a Democrat, Representative Emily Sirota, a “progressive” Democrat, and Jeni James Arndt, a Democrat. The bill passed in a party line vote with Democrats lining up to make Colorado politically irrelevant.

The Popular Vote Bill conspires to bypass the electoral college and toss out the votes of Coloradans by awarding the state’s electoral college voters to the winners of the popular vote: also known as whichever candidate New York and California billionaires decided should run the country.

California has a population of almost 40 million. New York has a population of almost 20 million.

Both states would vote in a chicken, a serial killer or Adolf Hitler if he had a D after his name.

Colorado doesn’t even have 6 million people to put up against that 60 million. If the compact were to take hold, why then should any presidential candidate ever bother campaigning in Colorado again?

In the last election, both Donald J. Trump and Hillary Clinton held rallies in Colorado. But if Colorado’s electoral votes go to whomever New York and California elites pick, there would be no point.

New York City alone has 3 million more people than Colorado. They’re all boxed in within 300 square miles. Meanwhile Colorado voters are scattered across over 100,000 square miles. Even Denver only has a population density of around 1,700 per square mile. New York City has 27,000 people per square mile.

Why would any presidential nominee bother hunting and pecking for Colorado voters when Los Angeles County has 10 million people with a density of 7,500 people per square mile that he can just scoop up?

“This really isn’t a red versus blue idea," Senator Mike Foote lied. "This is about making sure that the president of the United States is elected by the entire nation."

The only reason Colorado’s elected officials chose to disenfranchise their state is that they are thinking like Democrats, not like Coloradans. They’re satisfied with only having input during the Democrat primary process and they don’t care if both candidates ignore their state during the general election.

The eleven states that have signed on to the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact are a curious combination of winners and losers. California and New York, the states with the most to gain from being able to determine presidential elections, are on board. But, on the other side of the dial are Hawaii, Rhode Island, and Vermont. The three states together weigh in at a little over 3 million.

The compact puts Colorado in a grim place. But it’s still almost twice as populous as all three tiny states combined. Their only political assets were their electoral college votes. And they chose to give those assets away to New York and California in the hopes of rigging a future presidential election.

New Mexico, which is feverishly trying to join, has a little over 2 million people.

The electoral college was meant to protect the political power of even the smallest states. But Democrats in some of those states are eager to abandon local power for national control. The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact nationalizes local votes in a trick of political socialism.

Why are small state Democrats so willing to abandon the rights and power of their states?

Take Jared Polis. He’s a California tech industry guy worth around $400 million, after inheriting a greeting card company from his parents, who bought his seat by outspending everyone else.

Polis is typical of the new blue elite transforming the country. His fortune may be impressive by the standards of Colorado politics, but spending a few million wouldn’t have bought him anything in California or New York. (Just ask Tom Steyer, who blew through tens of millions of dollars for nothing. Or Michael Bloomberg who spent over $100 million to buy just one mayoral election in New York City.)

Colorado elections are much more affordable.

Over in Rhode Island, the popular vote bill was signed by former Governor Chafee. His own conflicts were bad enough and his successor, Gina Raimondo, who worked in a venture capital firm in Manhattan, outspent her opponents by millions in a campaign funded by out-of-state donors, the finance industry and major executives. Her transition team was packed with banking executives.

Is that the bio of a politician who cares about state sovereignty?

Governor Raimondo managed to raise $2.2 million in campaign money in a non-election year in a state with a million people. $1.35 million came from out of state. Only $872K came from Rhode Island. Much of Raimondo’s cash came from California donors, including Hollywood and the tech industry.

When California and New York money elects politicians in Colorado and Rhode Island, is it any wonder that it also controls their votes?

The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact isn’t about fairness. It ratifies the power shift from the traditional political system that was built to protect the sovereignty of small states against the financial and cultural power of New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia, to new cultural and economic powerhouses.

The problem isn’t mere geography.

This isn’t a civil war pitting states against each other. New Yorkers and Californians aren’t the problem. New York and California are dominated by conglomerations of financial and cultural elites from outside the respective states that have disenfranchised state voters there as thoroughly as in Colorado.

When we talk about New York and California, what we really mean is the disproportionate power and wealth of certain industries and the manufactured elites they have gathered from around the country. These elites have hollowed out and disenfranchised actual New Yorkers and Californians, before going on to do the same thing to other states with puppet governments that run locally, but obey nationally.

Their scheme, cultivating a welfare class to disenfranchise the middle class, open borders and mass media propaganda by the alliance between the mainstream media and the tech industry, again New York and California, has worked in these respective states, but is meeting with opposition elsewhere.

The 2016 election was a backlash against the concentrated power of the elites and their tactic, mass migration to disenfranchise and impoverish American voters, became the central election issue. The geography of the resistance has also been concentrated in a handful of big blue states, and has used huge infusions of New York and California money to hijack local elections in smaller states and areas.

The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact formalizes the centralization of power in the few wealthy areas of a few powerful states at the expense of the multitude of smaller states of the country.

It overturns the balance of power keeping a handful of powerful states from controlling the country.

The compact’s backers claim that they want greater equality. But, like so many leftist reforms, their proposals centralize power in the hands of smaller numbers of people leading to greater inequality.

Opponents of the electoral college insist that what they want is for every voter to have a voice. The reality of what they propose is for California and New York Democrats to pick every president.

California and New York contain some of the country’s heaviest concentrations of major donors.

What the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact really does is allow a few New York and California billionaires to determine who will run the country until the San Andreas and Ramapo faults rupture.

That’s very promising if you’re a Hollywood studio boss or a Wall Street titan. It’s much less appealing if you’re a Colorado rancher or a Rhode Island fisherman who has been disenfranchised so that a few of Nancy Pelosi’s billionaire pals in San Francisco can always get to decide who sits in the White House.

And that is the “equality” at the heart of the vision that the Democrats have for America.

Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is an investigative journalist and writer focusing on the radical Left and Islamic terrorism.


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The inflection point: Mueller Report delivery will unleash the counter-narrative - Thomas Lifson

by Thomas Lifson

Conservative Trump-supporters have been chafing for about two years, angry that investigation of the real scandal hasn't been forthcoming. Slowly, slowly, they are going to get their satisfaction

Soon enough, the story will be told of the biggest political scandal in the history of the Republic. For almost two years, all sorts of declassifications and investigations have been put on hold, lest the special counsel's efforts be impeded. According to Catherine Herridge of Fox News, now that Mueller's report is released, DoJ inspector general Michael Horowitz is preparing to release the results of his investigation of three issues: leaks from the DoJ (which may include James Comey's leak of classified information in one of his memos — an act that was intended to lead to the appointment of Mueller, gifts from reporters of officials in the FBI and/or DoJ, and the FISA Court warrant submissions. The outcome of these I.G. investigations may well lead to criminal referrals to the DoJ.

President Trump has the power to declassify the FISA warrant applications. As I have repeatedly written, he is the master of the concept of a story arc in reality television. We have now seen the dramatic peak of the first narrative; that Trump was a treasonous collaborator with Vladimir Putin to sabotage the democratic process. As every dramatist knows, audiences love surprises and reversals of fortune. President Trump wants this drama to conclude in time for voters to have a satisfying conclusion in mind when they start to vote next year. My guess is that he will time declassification and disclosure for maximum effect.

Trump knows that even if the smarter Democrats realize it's time to prevent further losses, the much larger faction of rabid Trump-haters — people like Adam Schiff — can't help themselves and will continue to keep trying to find something to justify all their foolish claims and efforts. They will only prove to the persuadable voters that they are obsessive and unreasonable. Instead of accomplishing anything through Democrat control of the House, they will just make noise, vent their frustration, and continue to stir up trouble where there is none.

Still to be explored by an official investigation is the rampant "unmasking" of people in the Trump campaign surveilled by the NSA — spying on the rival party's campaign. Then the creation of the futile search of the special counsel by potentially felonious activity of the sitting FBI director. Then the lying to the FISA Court.

Conservative Trump-supporters have been chafing for about two years, angry that investigation of the real scandal hasn't been forthcoming. Slowly, slowly, they are going to get their satisfaction, well timed for maximum impact November 2020.

Thomas Lifson


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Syrian Analyst Taleb Ibrahim: We Welcome War To Annihilate Zionist Enemy - MEMRI


In Any War, The People Are A Critical Factor And The People Of The Golan Heights Will Join Their Brothers In The Axis Of Resistance, Which Extends From The Border Of Afghanistan

Syrian political analyst Taleb Ibrahim said, in a recent Al-Manar TV program, that now that the defeat of the militants in Syria and Iraq was a "done deal," it was the right moment for a war against the Israeli enemy, which, he said, managed ISIS, the Al-Nusra Front, and the Free Syrian Army. Calling Israeli PM Netanyahu a "pro-Haredi lunatic," Taleb Ibrahim, of the Institute for National Security Research in Syria, said that the people of occupied Palestine and the occupied Golan Heights would take up arms and "fight alongside their brothers in the axis of resistance" in the "final and decisive battle." The program aired on March 14, 2019.

To view the clip of Taleb Ibrahim on MEMRI TV, click here or below.

"We Might Be Standing At The Gates Of The Great War That Will Lead Us To The Final Victory"

Taleb Ibrahim: "We are convinced that any war against the Israeli enemy will turn the tables and bring the roof down on the heads of those Bedouins who stood alongside the Israeli enemy in declarations, actions, and intentions. The war with which Netanyahu threatens us every so often is the best and most fitting option for us. As I have said on your channel before, we have defeated all the prime ministers of the Israeli enemy. We defeated Shamir, Begin, Olmert, and so on, and now it is Netanyahu's turn. We must defeat this pro-Haredi lunatic once and for all in the Middle East. Perhaps now the conflict will develop in very many directions, and such steps might prompt a military Syrian and Iranian response. Israeli might think that this is its opportunity to eliminate what is left of the axis of resistance, but there are many big surprises awaiting this enemy. Right now, we might be standing at the gates of the great war that will lead us to the final victory. Our victories over the militants in Syria and in Iraq are a done deal.

"The real, complete, and total victory is against the Zionist enemy, which managed ISIS, the Al-Nusra Front, the FSA, and those Bedouins with their money, whom the enemy led in the wrong direction. The victory will involve the annihilation of this entity, once and for all."


"When The People Of Occupied Palestine Understand That This Is A Large And Decisive Battle, They Will Take Up Their Arms And Fight Alongside Their Brothers In The Axis Of Resistance"

"In any war and in any conflict, the people – not the weapons – are the critical factor in the battle.

"The people of the Golan Heights will play a very big role in any conflict – and I am referring to the occupied Golan Heights. When the people of occupied Palestine understand that this is a large and decisive battle, they will take up their arms and fight alongside their brothers in the axis of resistance, which extends from the border of Afghanistan to Bab-el-Mandeb and beyond. We are not afraid of the war at all. We say that this is the right moment for the war. There cannot be any greater destruction than what happened to us, but the other – the enemy – must pay the price, and it must learn that any act of stupidity in the region will not be taken lightly."



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UK Bans Hezbollah - Judith Bergman

by Judith Bergman

In banning the entire organization of Hezbollah, the UK joins Canada, the U.S., Israel, the Netherlands and the Arab League, which have all banned the terror organization.

  • "Hezbollah themselves have laughed off the suggestion there is a difference. I've carefully considered the evidence and I'm satisfied they are one and the same with the entire organisation linked to terrorism." — UK Home Secretary Sajid Javid.
  • Hezbollah itself, in fact, does not acknowledge having separate political and military 'wings'.
  • A female lawyer who courageously defended Iranian women who removed their hijabs to protest the Iranian regime's misogynistic treatment, was sentenced recently to 33 years in prison and a flogging of 150 lashes.
  • On the 40th anniversary of the Islamic revolution, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier sent a telegram to Iran's regime, carrying "congratulations". The Germany Director of Human Rights Watch, Wenzel Michalski, called Steinmeier's congratulations "shocking".

Britain recently proscribed the Iranian terrorist proxy organization, Hezbollah, under the UK Terrorism Act 2000. According to that law, membership of a proscribed terrorist organization is an offense, and so is supporting it, not just financially, but also voicing support and advocating for it, as well as publicly displaying the insignia or other articles of that organization, such as its flag. Pictured: The 2014 Al Quds Day march in London, England. A Hezbollah flag is held aloft at upper-right. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

British Home Secretary Sajid Javid recently proscribed the Iranian terrorist proxy organization, Hezbollah ('Party of God') in its entirety under the UK Terrorism Act 2000, a government decision that the UK Parliament also recently approved.[1]

"There have long been calls to ban the whole group with the distinction between the two factions derided as smoke and mirrors," Javid said during a debate on the prevention and suppression of terrorism in the House of Commons. "Hezbollah themselves have laughed off the suggestion there is a difference. I've carefully considered the evidence and I'm satisfied they are one and the same with the entire organisation linked to terrorism."

In banning the entire organization of Hezbollah, the UK joins Canada, the U.S., Israel, the Netherlands and the Arab League, which have all banned the terror organization.

According to the UK Terrorism Act 2000, membership or professed membership of a proscribed terrorist organization is an offense, and so is supporting it, not just financially, but also voicing support and advocating for it, as well as publicly displaying the insignia or other articles of that organization, such as its flag. Offenders are liable to imprisonment of up to 10 years. The yearly Al Quds Day march in London, in which support for Hezbollah was openly displayed through the public waving of the Hezbollah flag, for instance, has now, with the banning of the organization, been made illegal, as have the banners carried at the 2017 Al Quds march in London, which stated, "We are all Hezbollah".

Significantly, the ban on Hezbollah makes it impossible for the organization legally to raise funds in the UK at a time when the organization is beginning to face financial difficulties, as a result of the pressure exerted by the reinstated US sanctions against Iran, Hezbollah's main sponsor. "The sanctions and terror lists are a form of warfare against the resistance and we must deal with them as such," said Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah recently in a televised speech. "I announce today that we are in need of the support of our popular base".

The UK's welcome decision to proscribe Hezbollah in its entirety stands in stark contrast to the rest of the EU, which designated only Hezbollah's military wing as a terrorist organization in 2013, after a July 2012 Hezbollah terrorist attack in Burgas, Bulgaria killed five Israeli tourists and their local bus driver, and injured another 32 people.

Hezbollah itself, in fact, does not acknowledge having separate 'wings'. In 2002, Muhammad Fneish, a senior Hezbollah operative and a Hezbollah MP in Lebanon's Parliament, said on Hezbollah's television station, Al-Manar:
"They are trying to tempt Hezbollah in order to curb it. The goal is not to harm the political role [of Hezbollah] but rather its military wing. However, I can say that the military wing and the political wing of Hezbollah cannot be separated".
Leading European countries have also not designated Hezbollah a terrorist organization. On March 8, Niels Annen, deputy minister at the Foreign Ministry of Germany, told Der Spiegel that Germany will not declare Lebanon's Hezbollah movement a terrorist organization, because Germany views it as "a relevant factor in Lebanese society and part of the complex political landscape in the country..." The British move," he added, "is a national decision that has no direct impact on the position of the German government or the EU".

Recently, on the 40th anniversary of the Iran's Islamic revolution, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier sent a telegram to the Iranian regime, carrying "congratulations" on the occasion of the national holiday, "also in the name of my compatriots". According to a report in Bild, the German president also promised that Germany will continue to do "everything in its power to guarantee the maintenance and continued implementation of the JCPOA," (the "Iran nuclear deal"). The telegram praised the bilateral relations and promised to "intensely maintain" the dialogue. Only together, is it possible to "overcome the crises and conflicts", wrote the President.

Incredibly, Steinmeier concluded his telegram by asking the regime "to also listen to the critical voices in your country". One of those critical voices, a female lawyer who courageously defended Iranian women who removed their hijabs to protest the Iranian regime's misogynistic treatment, was sentenced recently to 38 years in prison and a flogging of 150 lashes. The Germany Director of Human Rights Watch, Wenzel Michalski, called Steinmeier's congratulations "shocking".

Both Germany and the EU are under US pressure to stop circumventing US sanctions on the Iranian regime, but neither appears to be the least bit bothered either by that or by the human rights violations that the regime continues to level at its population. As such, the German president's telegram is no more shocking than the behavior of those EU member states that refuse to comply with the reimposed US sanctions. On January 31, Britain, France and Germany announced a trade mechanism known as the Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges (INSTEX) that will allow Iran and the EU to keep trading despite the US sanctions and to preserve the JCPOA.

"INSTEX will support legitimate European trade with Iran, focusing initially on the sectors most essential to the Iranian population -- such as pharmaceutical, medical devices and agri-food goods," the foreign ministers of Britain, Germany and France said in a joint statement. In the longer term, INSTEX aims to be open to other countries wanting to trade with Iran, the statement said. Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice President of the European Commission, said INSTEX was "essential for the continued full implementation of the nuclear deal".

The UK has set a praiseworthy example when it comes to proscribing Hezbollah. The moral thing to do would be for the rest of the EU to follow in proscribing Hezbollah in its entirety and to comply with the renewed US sanctions against its main sponsor, Iran. Or is moral clarity from the EU too much to expect?

[1] The Labour Party refused to back the government's decision, but did not 'oppose' it. At a meeting in parliament in 2009, Labor leader Jeremy Corbyn famously called Hezbollah and Hamas 'friends'. Whereas he told a parliamentary committee that he regretted using those words, his shadow solicitor general still argued that the government had not presented "clear evidence" for proscribing the entire organization.

Judith Bergman, a columnist, lawyer and political analyst, is a Distinguished Senior Fellow at Gatestone Institute.


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As Whitehall systematically sabotages Brexit, civil servants blow the whistle and promote no-deal - Melanie Phillips

by Melanie Phillips

"Brexit is the greatest opportunity this country has faced in years, yet our Government machine is currently working from within to frustrate it."

I previously wrote here about “Caroline Bell”, who the Briefings for Brexit website says is a civil servant at the heart of preparations to leave the EU without a formal deal and whose identity it is protecting. S/he has listed the preparations now in place for no deal. The list, says BfB, shows that the civil service has prepared the country well to leave on a clean managed basis; “ Caroline Bell” says “it is simply a lie to suggest otherwise”. S/he says:

“MPs and the public have been deliberately kept in the dark by some departments and Ministers: the civil service has done its job and the country is well prepared”.

In last Sunday’s Telegraph, an anonymous civil servant wrote that “large parts of the Whitehall machine are systematically working against leaving the EU.” S/he went on:

“My experience tells me that there is a genuine hatred of those who voted for Brexit. I recall my first day in the Civil Service as a graduate, being invited to a meeting of senior members of staff who spent the good part of two hours in agreement that the public made a ‘stupid’ decision in the EU referendum.On June 24 2016 the mood within the civil service was like someone had died.

…There is a strong presence of Anglophobia, combined with cultural Marxism that runs through the civil service. It has meant that many Civil Servants, including myself, have been actively discouraged from co-operating with Think Tanks which are seen as being ‘too right wing’ despite sharing our goal of promoting free trade. This attitude also prevails in our work with our closest allies, particularly in the Commonwealth, where we are afraid to be seen as overly keen to work with countries that are run by ‘rich white men’.

…Brexit is the greatest opportunity this country has faced in years, yet our Government machine is currently working from within to frustrate it. This must not go on. In the next phase of the Brexit negotiations it is vital our civil service ceases to allow the massive remain voting bias that has so far helped scupper our post-Brexit future.”

Because this is so important, I reproduce “Caroline Bell’s” summary for Briefings for Brexit here.
As we draw closer to EU Exit Day on 29 March 2019, with no viable “deal” on the table, we are still deafened daily by the strident voices of those seeking to stop Brexit screeching that leaving without an agreement – as we will do by law – is akin to jumping over a cliff-edge, tumbling into an abyss, waking up on 30 March to chaos, confusion and disaster. Such wild and emotive assertions lend little credit to the arguments of these arch-Remainers, who would prefer permanent subjection to EU laws over which we will have no say to the many opportunities for growth and prosperity offered by self-government and independent trade, foreign, defence, social, environmental, energy and research and development policies. After all, 55% of our trade is already with non-EU countries, and our non-EU trade runs a surplus – unlike our trade with the EU, with which we run a whopping £95 billion annual trade deficit.
The desperate claims of Remainer MPs are even more risible than those of media pundits, since they cast serious doubt on their ability to read or even take note of the masses of no-deal Brexit legislation that has already been passed by Parliament to ensure there is no “cliff-edge” on 29 March 2019. Parliament, after all, has already legislated for a “no-deal” Brexit, principally through the European Union (Withdrawal Act) 2018 and the Taxation (Cross-border Trade) Act 2018, both of which seek to make the transition to an independent future as smooth as possible by domesticating EU systems businesses are used to precisely to avert the “chaos and confusion” so gleefully predicted by Remainer MPs.
The EU, too, has not been idle. It published a whole raft of no-deal preparedness notices on 19 December 2018, after the first vote on the Withdrawal Agreement was pulled, and announced further measures in January and February. Since then EU27 member states have published more bilateral arrangements to enable life to continue as normal after 29 March – bar a few formalities which are nothing to anyone used to travelling or trading further than the Continent.
Far from “No-Deal” (or as it should more correctly be termed, a return to full sovereignty trading under WTO rules) being a disaster or a “cliff-edge” scenario, it is looking more and more like the best deal on offer. It provides complete certainty under international law and conventions to which the UK has long subscribed. It prevents endless prevarication and delay while years are wasted trying to hammer out terms with an intransigent EU. And it delivers Brexit in full – no multi-billion pound divorce settlement, an immediate release from the jurisdiction of the ECJ, no requirement to follow EU rules over which we have no say, no border in the Irish Sea, no customs union, no EU control over our economy, agriculture, fisheries, no risk of new EU taxes being imposed on a UK that will have no ability to vote them down.
Below, we pull together some of the many announcements on trade, citizens and other areas that give a clear outline of what this WTO Deal looks like. Altogether, it presents a very attractive package of measures based on practical common-sense and mutual self-interest, just as a good business deal should.
  • Tariffs
The government has yet to publish the UK’s no-deal tariff, due to political arguments, but recent reports suggest that a low tariff model is now the preferred option. Cutting tariffs is at zero cost to the Exchequer, since all customs duties currently raised are collected on behalf of the EU, with only 20% retained to cover administrative costs.
DIT has, however, already published a list of EU trade remedies it will delete (66) as well as 43 it will retain to protect British businesses and consumers after Brexit. These figures alone show that having to implement the EU’s trade policy in full, as the Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration oblige us to do, could be very detrimental to our own commercial interests.
  • Trade deals
Despite not being able to commence any trade deals until after a complete Brexit (which means no backstop and no customs union as envisaged by the Political Declaration), the UK has rolled over some important trade and mutual recognition agreements to enable trade flows to continue unhindered in a no-deal Brexit – with the USA, Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland, Israel and South Africa among others.
Talks are continuing with a host of other partners, including Japan, with agreements expected to be in place by 29 March. It is obvious that third countries with EU agreements are waiting to see what status the UK will have in relation to the EU before they sign transitioning agreements, which makes uncertainty about the Withdrawal Agreement something of a blocker.
  • Procurement
The government has joined the WTO Government Procurement Agreement, an annual market of public sector contracts worth £1.3 trillion, which British businesses will be able to bid for.
  • Financial services
Several mitigation measures have now been made to prevent a legal black hole for cross-border financial services, which could have severe repercussions on the already fragile Eurozone banking sector. On 19 December 2018, the EU published a range of contingency measures for a no-deal Brexit, including equivalence guarantees to enable the continuation of derivatives contracts in the City. Regulations and decisions followed to give these measures legal effect. The Bank of England and UK Debt Office were given mutual recognition statusfor all key market areas on 30 January. In February 2019, ESMA (the European Securities & Markets Authority) recognised UK clearing houses (LCH Limited, ICE Clear Europe Limited and LME Clear Limited) as able “to provide their services in the EU in the event of a no-deal Brexit… in order to limit the risk of disruption in central clearing and to avoid any negative impact on the financial stability of the EU”.
A memorandum of understanding between the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority and ESMA allows asset management firms to continue trading as normal after a no-deal Brexit
Insurance firms are covered by a separate MoU between the UK’s Prudential Regulatory Authority and the EU’s equivalent regulators, although less than 0.5% of existing insurance business is not covered by no-deal preparations.
Elsewhere, the UK has signed a deal with the USA to enable mutual recognition, regulatory cooperation and the continuance of the £45 trillion worth of derivatives traded each year between the two countries (about a third of the £230tn of derivatives contracts traded in the City every year come from US companies, more than from any other jurisdiction).
Newspaper reports and surveys confirm that the post-Brexit landscape for financial institutions is now very clear, with contingency plans already triggered. The City of London is expected to retain its position as a global financial centre.
  • Aviation
On 7 March, the British government provided a guarantee that flights to and from the EU would continue unchanged after Brexit: “Measures put forward by the UK and the EU will ensure that flights can continue in any scenario; deal or no deal. This is good news, not only for the industry but most importantly it reaffirms the fact that passengers can book flights with confidence, as normal.”
Here, the UK government sets out in detail its reciprocal arrangements to the EU’s no-deal offer on aviation, in many cases going beyond the EU’s offer to maximise competition and offer better choice to consumers. The UK has already signed open skies aviation agreements with the USA and Canada, and as all other third country flights will operate under international law and the 1944 Chicago Convention, leaving the EU will make no difference to non-EU aviation.
  • Channel Tunnel
Eurotunnel has made it quite clear that its services and business model remain unaffected by Brexit:
“Yes – the Channel Tunnel will definitely be open after Brexit, and Eurotunnel will be operating as normal whatever form Brexit takes,” it has announced.
The Channel Tunnel is operated under the Anglo-French bilateral Treaty of Canterbury, and not under EU law, with both countries committed to facilitating “as frictionless trade as possible”. Eurotunnel goes on to explain:
There has been a recent story in the press about The European Commission providing authorisation for the Tunnel to continue to operate as it does now for 90 days after Brexit in the case of a “no deal”. This is just because agreed safety and operating licences can’t be signed between the UK and the EU unless the UK actually is a “third party” at the moment of signing. The 90 days means that these agreements will be physically signed after the 29th of March, without the service being affected in any way. We are Brexit-ready and pleased to let customers know they can book with confidence.”
Train scanners funded entirely by Eurotunnel at their hub at Calais-Fr├ęthun can scan freight wagons for customs as they cross into France without trains needing to stop, thus opening up the possibility of rail freight from the UK all the way to China.
  • Goods trade:Calais
In addition to guarantees from Eurotunnel, French authorities have given repeated assurances that there will be no long queues due to new controls at Calais in the event of a no-deal Brexit. The French government has now gone one step further, launching its smart customs border at Calais for 29 March 2019 to enable people and goods to keep flowing. The main incentive, as the promotional video says, is to maintain France’s dominant position in cross-Channel trade.
The “smart border” will operate for both ferry traffic and shuttle trains through the Channel Tunnel, enabling business to automate goods crossings by HGV through electronic pre-declaration of goods, a barcode linking the declaration to the goods and the registration plate of the vehicle, and dedicated lanes as drivers reach the port – green for “no checks” and orange if the vehicle needs to be checked.. This simply takes existing trusted trader schemes and electronic declarations and customs pre-clearance to its logical conclusion.
  • Goods trade: Dover
The idea of a 50-mile lorry queue in Kent often portrayed by Project Fear is, of course, dependent on hold-ups at Calais for ferries leaving the UK – and the French are not anticipating any problems. Nor is the port of Dover anticipating any more checks than it currently operates for lorries entering the UK. DFDS seaways has been focusing its resources on helping businesses deal with electronic customs, and this is, of course, the key to a frictionless border.
Certain legislative measures have already been made to ease traffic at RoRo ports, and the UK’s accession to the Common Transit Convention as an independent state greatly reduces customs formalities, allowing goods to move across multiple customs borders on a single transit declaration. CTC membership also moves certain customs formalities away from ports, thereby easing the pressure on these potential pinch points.
HMRC has offered guidance and even £8 milllion for training and IT grants to help traders to familiarise their staff and upgrade their systems for customs processes. Businesses used to importing from the rest of the world will already be familiar with the system, since the UK’s standalone customs regime is designed to keep rules essentially the same in order to minimise confusion and disruption. However, the government has just made legislation that will reduce the checks and formalities required at RoRo ports for a period of up to twelve months (Customs Managed Transition Procedure). Coupled with the simplified electronic processes already announced, the aim is “to keep trade flowing” by making customs compliance as easy as possible. Further easements for excise duty movements and VAT have also just been published. This handy tracker keeps up to date with the latest no-deal statutory instruments.
People – citizens’ rights
Gallons of ink and much vitriol has been expended on citizens’ rights, yet it’s one of the few areas in the Brexit debate on which all parties have largely agreed. No one thinks it’s fair for people who have based their life choices on an existing system to be disadvantaged because that system has changed.
  • EU citizens already in the UK
The UK has unilaterally committed to protect the rights of EU citizens in the UK and has offered generous terms to enable them to complete the necessary formalities in order to obtain settled status. Applications must be made by 30 June 2021 and there is no fee. The process is simple, and applicants can receive confirmation of their rights by email after scanning documents through a Home Office app.
  • EU short stay visitors
Rules for EU visitors to the UK will not change either in a no-deal Brexit, with visa-free entry for visits of up to 90 days guaranteed. The EU has offered to reciprocate for UK visitors to the EU.
  • EU immigration
Rules for EU immigrants in a no-deal Brexit give them the same opportunity to live, study and work in the UK as now, up until 2021, provided they apply for a European Temporary Leave to Remain. If they wish to remain after 2021, they will still be eligible to apply for settled status.
In effect, this means that free movement of EU/EEA citizens for work and study continues until 2021 under a WTO Brexit. There is therefore no “cliff-edge” when it comes to recruiting and retaining staff from the EU.
  • UK citizens living in the EU27 countries
It’s unfortunate that the EU, which has made such a fuss about citizens’ rights, has not been able to reciprocate the UK’s generous offer. Whilst it had the authority to negotiate under the Article 50 talks, it doesn’t have a mandate to make bilateral arrangements, although it has encouraged all EU27 member states to guarantee the rights of UK citizens living in their countries.
Many countries have now published their guarantees to protect the rights of British expats in the event of a no-deal Brexit, including: France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Austria, Ireland (which is of course covered by a separate bilateral treaty). However, some of these offers are not quite clear, since they are based on reciprocity for those countries’ nationals living in the UK – rights which the UK has more generously protected as outlined above.
The UK has already signed an agreement with the EEA countries (including Norway, which has 30,000 British residents) to enable current residence rights to continue, and the citizens’ rights agreement with Switzerland could perhaps serve as the template for bilateral treaties with the EU27.
  • UK visitors to the EU
The EU runs a very profitable tourist trade on visitors from the UK, and one of the first no-deal offers from Brussels was a 90-day visa waiver for short stay visitors from the UK provided there was reciprocity – which there has been. Portugal is so keen to ensure British holidaymakers still choose to visit that it has proposed fast-track UK-only passport lanes at its airports. It is an idea that is likely to catch on in hotspots popular with British tourists as destinations compete for business.
People – study & research
  • Students – Erasmus
Both the UK and the EU have proposed the continuation of current Erasmus programmes for the 14,000 EU students and researchers currently in the UK and the 7,000 UK students in the EU. The EU has published a regulation to come into force on Exit Day, while the UK government has guaranteed funding for all current programmes and students for the current cycle that ends in 2020, even for projects that continue beyond that date. The government intends to seek a continuation of Erasmus participation in the event of a no-deal Brexit, and as this is set out as an objective in the Political Declaration, it is likely to meet with a receptive hearing.
  • Researchers – Horizon 2020 and beyond
The government has also guaranteed to underwrite Horizon 2020 projects entered into before 29 March 2019 for the lifetime of the projects entered into by Exit Day. The government has also committed to develop a new UK research strategy providing a fund for research and development fund of 2.7% of GDP by 2027. In essence, research funds currently sent to Brussels and dished out through a complicated process between several countries will be able to be focused on projects run entirely from the UK (with or without overseas partners).
New Horizons…. In June 2018, the EU set out proposals for its next Horizon Programme, 2020-2027, in which non-EU countries will be able to participate for a fee. This concession is clearly aimed at keeping the UK within the Horizon programme.
It can be seen from all of the above that – to quote a hackneyed phrase – as the clock ticks down to 29 March, there is nothing whatsoever to fear from leaving the EU without an agreement and reverting to WTO rules. These rules have been long-established, are universally accepted, and present no change at all for the majority of our exporters. Only then will the UK gain the leverage it needs to propose the kind of free trade deal with the EU that would maximise the benefits of Brexit – when control of our borders, law and money has been repatriated to these shores.

Melanie Phillips


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