Saturday, December 7, 2019

The Split Screen - Caroline Glick


by Caroline Glick

The high price of politicians being motivated by cowardice and opportunism.





Watching events unfold in Israel is an experience in split-screen living. On the right side of the screen is the chaos outside our gates, in neighboring lands. And on the left side of the screen is the chaos inside.

On the left side of the screen on Tuesday, 15,000 Israelis gathered Tuesday evening outside the Tel Aviv Museum of Art to demand legal justice for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the face of what they view as an anti-democratic usurpation of political power by Israel’s legal fraternity. They were condemned by the left, by the legal fraternity and its court reporters as enemies of the “rule of law.”

On the right side of the screen, the streets of every major city in Iran were ablaze with protests as the people called out “Death to the Dictator” only to be greeted by the dictator Ali Khamenei’s shock forces. On his orders, the security forces responded to the protesters’ demands for freedom with live fire and mass arrests.

In normal times, the top story of the day for the past month would have been the story on the right side of the screen. The Iranian regime’s internet blackout didn’t stop the protests. According to opposition sources, anti-regime protests have spread to every Iranian province. Every socioeconomic class, every ethnic, religious and national group has joined them. The Iranian people have taken to the streets and demanded the overthrow of their regime despite the brutal violence the regime is using to repress them. According to opposition sources, by Tuesday, regime forces had killed 450 demonstrators and arrested between 7,000 and 10,000 people.

The protests in Iran were preceded and are now taking place in tandem with similar protests in Iran’s colonies Iraq and Lebanon. It is too early to know where they will lead. But what is clear enough is that current circumstances provide an opportunity for Israel to act in multiple ways to increase the instability and weakness of its most dangerous and powerful enemy. The Iranian regime, replete with its terror armies and nuclear installations, has never been in greater danger of losing its grip on power.

In normal times, a full screen of anti-regime protests in Iran, Iraq and Lebanon would be followed by full screens of security cabinet meetings. We would see Facebook and Telegram videos of Netanyahu speaking in Farsi directly to the Iranian people and expressing solidarity with their aspirations for freedom. In response to requests by Iranian opposition forces, the government would restore Farsi-language Voice of Israel radio broadcasts, directly into Iran.

In a full-screen reality, we would have seen a more serious response to the statements that U.S. Central Command leader General Kenneth McKenzie made to The New York Times last Saturday. The U.S. commander responsible for the Middle East told the paper that the possibility Iran will attack the Gulf states and Israel has risen.

In the event, the Israeli response was limited to a statement Sunday by Netanyahu. On a tour of the Golan Heights with IDF commanders Sunday morning, Netanyahu said that Israel is fully committed to preventing Iran from attacking it.

In normal times, a statement like McKenzie’s would have been followed by a sudden trip to Washington by Israel’s defense minister to visit with his counterpart at the Pentagon.

Our times are not normal times. We are relegated to living in a split-screen reality because our government is incapable of carrying out any real action. Its paralysis is not the result of its status as an interim government. Israel has been living under an interim government for some time now. And its members, including the prime minister, have shown no aversion to doing their job responsibly.

The reason our government is incapable of fulfilling its duty, particularly on issues of strategic importance, is because Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit has decided that almost all government activities require his prior approval.

And Mandelblit is a very busy man.

Mandelblit is not focused on the strategic and national challenges facing Israel and its interim government as one might expect in light of his arrogation of all significant powers of government decision making to himself.

Mandelblit’s main focus today is criminalizing Israel’s elected leaders and all but nullifying the authorities and powers of the political system. For instance, on Nov. 21 Mandelblit held a prime-time press briefing where he announced that he intends to indict the prime minister. The law actually bars him from indicting the prime minister, at least for the next several months.

According to Israel’s Immunity Law, before submitting an indictment of a prime minister or Knesset member to a court, the attorney general must first submit it to the Knesset’s House Committee. The House Committee is charged with deciding whether or not to grant immunity to officeholders pending indictment.

There is currently no House Committee. It cannot be convened until after a government is formed. So under the law, Mandelblit is barred from indicting Netanyahu.

Announcing his intention to indict Netanyahu at a politically sensitive time when he lacks power to do so was not the only way Mandelblit has displayed his lack of concern for the law. In the days that followed his announcement, his office announced that Mandelblit was convening a meeting with his top aides to decide whether or not to fire Netanyahu.

Here too, Mandelblit has no legal authority. According to Israel’s Basic Law: The Government, the only legal authority empowered to remove the prime minister from office is the Supreme Court. And the court can do so only in one circumstance. If a lower court convicts the prime minister of crimes and the Supreme Court upholds the conviction, then it can demand that the prime minister resign from office. Mandelblit manifestly has no power or authority to do so.

But when Mandelblit announced Monday that he had “decided” to permit Netanyahu to remain in office despite the indictment (which again, he has not carried out), none of the fawning legal reporters noted that he had no authority to even consider the option of removing him from office. Instead, they presented his “decision” as proof of Mandelblit’s objectivity and fairness.

And Mandelblit still wasn’t finished.

Less than 24 hours after he—in his infinite forbearance—announced that he was “permitting” Netanyahu to continue to serve as prime minister, news reports began streaming in that he intends to “indict” Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman and Interior Minister Aryeh Deri shortly. And again, as with Netanyahu, so with Deri and Litzman—so long as there is no House Committee, Mandelblit cannot indict them. But then, the legal limits on his power are not Mandelblit’s concern.

Were Mandelblit limiting his power plays to his bids to criminalize the government and the political system, things would be bad enough. But he’s not. He has also given himself the power to veto strategic decisions.

In the lead-up to the September election, for instance, Mandelblit reportedly nixed Netanyahu’s plan to order a military operation in Gaza in retaliation for Hamas’s missile attack on Ashdod.

What were the considerations that informed Mandelblit’s decision? Who empowered him to decide? Was he right or wrong? Did his decision advance or harm Israel’s strategic interests?

There’s no way of knowing. But it is clear enough that with Mandelblit now effectively the only person in Israel with the power to make such decisions, Israel will not take advantage of Iran’s current weakness. And in the meantime, a month into the protests, Mandelblit has kept our leaders in a state of strategic paralysis, Iran has regrouped and Wednesday announced that it will be holding joint war games with the Chinese and Russian armies.

As expected, politicians on the left were quick to condemn the protesters at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. Like the lawyers and the media, the politicians accused them of demonstrating against “the rule of law” and endangering Israeli “democracy.”

But the truth is that most of the politicians condemning them were being cynical. They know the protesters are right. They know that the current situation is untenable.

As a senior columnist at Yediot Ahronot put it in May 2008, they understand that Israel simply cannot continue to function as an “investigatocracy.”

In his article, “Investigatocracy,” then star columnist and current Blue and White co-chairman Yair Lapid noted that four prime ministers in a row—Netanyahu, Ehud Barak, Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert—had been subjected to criminal probes during their tenures. He said, presciently, that it was a foregone conclusion that Olmert’s successor would similarly be investigated. To end this state of affairs, Lapid argued that the Knesset needed to pass a law along the lines of standing legislation in France and Italy which bar police from investigating serving prime ministers.

Lapid wrote, “This may perhaps sound a bit undemocratic. But what is happening now is much less democratic. Instead of majority rule, we have rule by criminal complainants.”

What happened to Lapid since then? Why didn’t he introduce that legislation when he entered the Knesset in 2013? Why did he instead become Netanyahu’s antagonist? It is Lapid after all who has used Mandelblit’s criminal probes of the premier as a justification for blocking the formation of a unity government between Likud and Blue and White.

And what happened to all the other politicians, like President Reuven Rivlin who once argued passionately for restraining what he referred to as Israel’s “rule of law mafia”?

Today Rivlin is among the legal fraternity’s greatest cheerleaders.

Lapid and Rivlin and their colleagues all know there is only one way to restore the power of Israel’s political system and return the legal fraternity to its proper proportions. The Knesset needs to pass laws to reform the system.

But as the problem grows more acute from year to year, our politicians fail to join forces to restore their powers.

It’s easy to explain their change of heart. Rivlin, Lapid and their colleagues suffer from a combination of cowardice and opportunism. They rightly fear that the prosecutors and police investigators will place them under criminal investigation if they support legal reform bills.

As for opportunism, why would an opposition politician stick his neck out for the prime minister or a government minister? Why would they fight for the prerogatives of their political rivals when those are seized by unelected prosecutors? It’s much safer and politically expedient to condemn their rivals as crooks while clucking sanctimoniously about the moral imperative to stand for the “rule of law.”

And so we have arrived at our split-screen reality. On one side, the Iranians, Lebanese and Iraqis are taking to the streets and demanding the overthrow of Israel’s most dangerous enemy. And on the other side, Israeli voters are taking to the streets to demand that their ballots be respected.

So long as our politicians are motivated by cowardice and opportunism, the Israeli public will be powerless to affect either side of the screen.
Caroline Glick is an award-winning columnist and author of “The Israeli Solution: A One-State Plan for Peace in the Middle East.

Source: https://www.frontpagemag.com/fpm/2019/12/glick-split-screen-caroline-glick/

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The Truth is No Defense - Mark Tapson


by Mark Tapson


An interview with extraordinary freedom fighter Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff.




As the totalitarian left advances ever more successfully toward amending or abolishing freedom of speech, it is crucial to keep in mind that hand-in-hand with curtailing the speech of those who hold “incorrect” opinions comes the enforcement of Islamic blasphemy laws, the ulterior motive of which is to shield Islam from any criticism whatsoever. This has been the longstanding goal of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the world’s largest Muslim collective, which has worked closely with leftist allies such as Hillary Clinton to promote and implement such censorship. This already has been largely embraced among the multiculturalist elites in Europe; think, for example, of today’s England, where jihadist stabbings are rampant but complaining about them in a tweet will earn you a visit and stern lecture from the police, if not actual arrest.

To grasp just how unacceptable it is to speak the truth about Islam in a multiculturalist society, read Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff’s jaw-dropping account of her legal ordeal in Austria, titled The Truth is No Defense, recently published by New English Review Press. Ms. Sabaditsch-Wolff is an Austrian human rights and anti-sharia activist who, as the daughter of a diplomat and then later as an ambassador’s assistant, had extensive experience living and working in Muslim countries (she was even held hostage during the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait). She came to the unfortunate conclusion that sharia and Western values aren’t compatible.

In 2009 she found herself charged with “hate speech” in Austria over factual statements she made during a seminar she gave on Islam. Thus began a Kafkaesque legal odyssey resulting in her conviction for “denigrating the teachings of a legally recognized religion” – i.e. Islam, of course, because can anyone imagine that someone would ever be convicted of denigrating Christianity? Ms. Sabaditsch-Wolff subsequently took her appeal before the European Court for Human Rights, but Europe tragically has no First Amendment and therefore, “the truth is no defense” when it comes to critiquing Islam. “This is what totalitarianism looks like,” the Freedom Center’s own Robert Spencer has said of her miscarriage of justice (Spencer is one of more than half a dozen notable experts who present insightful analyses of her case at the book’s conclusion).

Ms. Sabaditsch-Wolff was recently in Los Angeles promoting her book, and graciously made the time to answer some questions.

Mark Tapson: You preface the book by juxtaposing the lives of two 9-year-old girls, “Emma” and “Aisha,” who might be very much alike except for the contrasting cultures in which they live: Western and Islamic. Why did you choose to begin the book this way?

Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff: I chose these two girls and their stories for one reason only: there are millions of Aishas in the Islamic world and millions of Emmas in the Western, non-Islamic world. We still have a choice: do we want the Emmas to turn into Aishas? Or do we protect the Emmas from a life as Aishas? My choice is clear. What is yours?

MT: When did you first realize that, for the multiculturalist European elites who are determined to shield Islam from criticism, the truth is truly no defense?

ESW: My realization that the truth is no longer a defense came when, during the proceedings, the judge at her own discretion added the charge of “denigrating the teachings of a legally recognized religion.” It did not matter that what I had said in the seminars was nothing but the truth, this truth was during the appeal considered “an excess of opinion.”

MT: You tell a story of your time in Kuwait when you asked a young Kuwaiti woman, who was about your age, a question about her abaya, her Islamic garb, and you write that her answer has guided your criticism of Islam ever since. Can you tell us about that?

ESW: This Kuwaiti woman indeed has guided my criticism in that I believe we are making a grave mistake in thinking that the hijab (headscarf) or even the abaya (the full garb) is just a piece of clothing. It is not. It is a way of life, a part of a Muslim woman’s body. Demand she take it off and you essentially chop off a part of her body. There is no compromise when it comes to women’s Islamic clothing: either it is prohibited or it is allowed, which in turn allows a non-Islamic country to gradually turn into an Islamic country. Just look at European cities like London, Brussels (especially the suburb of Molenbeek, the Jihadi capital of Europe) or Berlin (with its now-rampant anti-Semitism). The hijab paved the way for the Islamic revolution in Iran in 1978 and 1979; it has been doing the same in Europe for more than two decades.

MT: You mention that your experiences living in Islamic countries had already convinced you there was something seriously wrong with Islam, but what really “red-pilled” you was Gabriel’s Whisperings by Jaya Gopal, a book about Islamic doctrine that you read in 2006 or 2007. Can you briefly describe what you learned that so terrified you?

ESW: I was terrified that everything I had experienced in the Islamic countries I lived in, what I thought was “just” a human abnormality was actually rooted in Islamic doctrine. For instance, I knew and had seen many Muslims who do not like associating with non-Muslims, but also Muslims of non-Arab origin, but to find out that this is part and parcel of the Islamic religion shocked me deeply.

MT: You end the book on a note of optimism and Churchillian determination, but considering the rising tide against the First Amendment here in the United States, how optimistic are you that America will remain a beacon of free speech for the world?

ESW: I am optimistic only because America still has the freedom to fight for freedom, as my friend Eric Metaxas so succinctly phrases it. America, together with Israel, is the world’s last hope. America’s freedoms are the gold standard of freedom. Therefore, America must not fall. My deep hope is that in 2020, the American people will vote with this knowledge in mind. Freedom-loving men and women depend on you!

MT: What is the next stage for you in carrying on this fight, and what can ordinary American citizens do to fight for their own freedom of speech? 

ESW: Legally, the fight in Europe is over for me. I have done my part and I have lost, to the detriment of Europeans’ free speech rights. My focus now is on America, to educate Americans about their First Amendment and its importance. I stand side by side with you, the American people, to fight for your freedom of speech because your loss is also my loss. America must not fall as we in Europe has fallen. You still have your freedoms and you must exercise your God-given rights to freedom! Do not take them for granted, ever!


Mark Tapson is the Shillman Fellow on Popular Culture for the David Horowitz Freedom Center.

Source: https://www.frontpagemag.com/fpm/2019/12/truth-no-defense-mark-tapson/

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Impeaching Trump for Obstructing Congress Would Harm Checks and Balances - Alan M. Dershowitz


by Alan M. Dershowitz

For Congress to impeach President Trump for abuse of Congress would be an abuse of power by Congress.

  • The president, as head of the executive branch, is entitled to challenge in court legislative subpoenas that demand material that may be subject to claims of privilege. He is also entitled to insist that the legislature obtain a court order before the executive branch complies. That is how checks and balances work.
  • Even if the president were wrong in challenging these subpoenas, his being wrong would not come close to being an impeachable offense. What do the Democratic experts claim it is? Treason? Bribery? A high crime? A high misdemeanor? It is none of the above and is, therefore, not a basis for impeachment.
  • For Congress to impeach President Trump for abuse of Congress would be an abuse of power by Congress. So despite the partisan opinions of the Democratic academic experts, Congress should not include abuse of Congress among its list of impeachable offenses. Nor should it include any counts that do not fit the specified Constitutional criteria. Since the evidence adduced thus far fails to establish treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors, Congress should not vote to impeach. If it does vote to do so along party lines, it will be acting unconstitutionally and placing itself above the supreme law of the land.

Congress is not above the law. It cannot simply ignore the words of the Constitution even if a majority of its members want to impeach the president. Pictured: Members of the House Judiciary Committee in a hearing on December 4, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Saul Loeb-Pool/Getty Images)

Among the grounds for impeachment being considered by the House Judiciary Committee is that President Trump obstructed Congress by refusing to have members of the executive branch comply with Congressional subpoenas without orders of the court. This ground was given the imprimatur of the academic experts who testified for the Democrats. These experts, however, were not only wrong; their opinions pose a real danger to civil liberties and checks and balances. Moreover, it is highly questionable that these experts would have said that citizens must always comply with Congressional subpoenas without a judicial order if the political shoe were on the other foot.

I came of age during the McCarthy era, when Congressional committees issued subpoenas to suspected Communists, fellow travelers and lawyers who represented left wing radicals. Civil libertarians challenged these subpoenas in court, sometimes winning, sometimes losing. But no liberal accused them of doing anything wrong by refusing to comply with Congressional subpoenas until and unless a court ordered them to comply. Now, however, anti-Trumpers are demanding impeachment for what they would have praised during the McCarthy era.

In the context of legislative subpoenas to members of the executive branch, there are reasons for concern in addition to those based on the civil liberties of ordinary citizens. There is the separation of powers and checks and balances. Unlike in parliamentary democracies, in which the legislative branch is superior to the executive and judicial branches, under our system, all three branches are co-equal and designed to check the excesses of each other. As Alexander Hamilton wrote in The Federalist Papers, the judicial branch gets to decide whether actions of the other branches comport with the Constitution. If they do not, they are void, because the constitution is the supreme law of the land.

The president, as head of the executive branch, is entitled to challenge in court legislative subpoenas that demand material that may be subject to claims of privilege. He is also entitled to insist that the legislature obtain a court order before the executive branch complies. That is how checks and balances work. The president should not be impeached because he takes seriously our system of checks and balances.

Even if the president were wrong in challenging these subpoenas, his being wrong would not come close to being an impeachable offense. What do the Democratic experts claim it is? Treason? Bribery? A high crime? A high misdemeanor? It is none of the above and is, therefore, not a basis for impeachment. President Andrew Johnson was impeached for refusing to comply with a statute enacted by congress which he believed was unconstitutional. Not only do many historians and legal scholars believe that was a wrongful impeachment, but the Supreme Court agreed with Johnson that the statute he violated was unconstitutional. Johnson was narrowly acquitted by the Senate, but his impeachment by the house was an abuse of power, because he had not committed any of the criteria for impeachment specified in the constitution.

Congress is not above the law. It cannot simply ignore the words of the Constitution even if a majority of its members want to impeach the president. For Congress to impeach President Trump for abuse of Congress would be an abuse of power by Congress.

So despite the partisan opinions of the Democratic academic experts, Congress should not include abuse of Congress among its list of impeachable offenses. Nor should it include any counts that do not fit the specified Constitutional criteria. Since the evidence adduced thus far fails to establish treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors, Congress should not vote to impeach. If it does vote to do so along party lines, it will be acting unconstitutionally and placing itself above the supreme law of the land.

Alan M. Dershowitz is the Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law Emeritus at Harvard Law School and author of The Case Against the Democratic House Impeaching Trump, Skyhorse Publishing, 2019, and Guilt by Accusation, Skyhorse publishing, 2019.

Source: https://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/15247/trump-congress-checks-balances

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The Impeachment Hearings Threaten the First Amendment - Daniel Greenfield


by Daniel Greenfield


Spying on reporters and criminalizing journalism is the new normal.




The only good thing about the Democrat shift from Russia to Ukraine is that the issue has shifted from the limits of free speech to the limits of executive authority. Unlike the First Amendment, the separation of powers is at least a legitimate topic for a power struggle between the branches of government.

But the House Intelligence Committee's impeachment report continued the ongoing Dem war on attorney-client confidentiality by illegally demanding phone records for Rudy Giuliani, the President's lawyer, from AT&T (the parent company of CNN), which they then also used to track phone calls by Victoria Toensing and Joseph diGenova, also Trump's lawyers. (The harassment campaign against Alan Dershowitz, who has vigorously defended Trump in public, also appears to be part of the pattern.)

Four Trump attorneys, Michael Cohen, Rudy Giuliani, Victoria Toensing and Joseph diGenova, have now been targeted in what can only be described as a pattern of abuse meant to intimidate opposing counsel, and dissuade lawyers from agreeing to represent President Trump. The media gloats when it runs stories on Trump’s trouble obtaining legal help. There’s a reason for that. Democrat intimidation.

Targeting attorneys in this fashion is unprecedented in the United States. And these totalitarian antics are coming from the same partisan faction that in the past declared that the right to representation was sacred, which invented a constitutional right to taxpayer-funded lawyers for murderers and rapists, and yet is conspiring to deny representation to the President of the United States through intimidation.

But the Democrats are also obsessed with attacking the First Amendment. And so the report zeroes in on John Solomon, a journalist whose work had appeared in The Hill, and the phone records are used to highlight and track conversations involving Solomon. His work is treated as if it were a criminal conspiracy with one paragraph declaring that, “Mr. Solomon was not working alone. As further described below, there was a coordinated effort by associates of President Trump to push these false narratives publicly, as evidenced by public statements, phone records, and contractual agreements.”

The Democrats know all about coordinating with the media to push false narratives. This entire process is the result of coordination between the Clinton campaign, the Obama administration, and key media figures, including Mother Jones’ David Corn and Yahoo News' Michael Isikoff. The Clinton campaign’s cutouts provided copies of the Steele report, a conspiratorial document filled with false claims, to reporters whose news stories about it were then used to provide corroboration for the investigations.

Reporters using politicians and their associates as sources is routine in Washington D.C. The Democrats and their House Intelligence Committee report is criminalizing opposition journalism. Even while the New York Times and other media outlets claim that President Trump’s use of the term ‘fake news’ is an attack on the press, their political allies are abusing their power to target opposition reporters.

Again.

The aggressive pursuit of the National Enquirer criminalized behavior that is routine in the mainstream media. That attack on the First Amendment was written off because the Enquirer is a tabloid. But Solomon is a veteran of the media. The only thing that an attack on him demonstrates is that any journalist, paper, or outlet that stands in the way of the Democrats is fair game for anything.

"Adam Schiff arbitrarily releases my phone records as a 1st Amendment protected reporter. State Department bureaucrats reportedly monitored my social media," John Solomon tweeted. "Whatever happened to civil liberties, privacy and decency?"

Civil liberties were the first casualty of this campaign. The war on Trump has always been a war of narratives. The common denominator between Russiagate and Ukrainegate is that both were really about the intangibles of narrative and the limits of speech. The real question of Russiagate was who is allowed to engage in journalism, to engage in opposition research, and spread it around. The attack on Solomon shows that, even though the geography has shifted, that is still the same big question.

Narratives, the business of journalism, to support political interests, was at the core of this all along.

The Democrats weaponized journalism, not just to spread narratives, but to act as an interlocking part in FISA applications and investigations of political opponents, leaking damaging materials to not only create a public narrative, but to launder them as supporting evidence for those same investigations. And, at the same time, they sought to criminalize contrary narratives as criminal conspiracies.

Russiagate falsely claimed that Russian Facebook ads had changed the outcome of the election, and that conservative ‘fake news’ was an urgent crisis that required social media censorship. This censorship was conducted by the media’s ‘fact checkers’. Social media companies were urged to promote media content and suppress conservative content to stop this grave opposition threat to democracy.

The ‘fake news’ debate, (does the term refer to the news media or to conservative social media users), is a battle of narratives. Any free society has pitched narrative battles going on all the time. What is dangerous about these narrative battles is that they’re not being fought with arguments, good or bad, but by criminalizing opposition narratives. The existence of a narrative becomes a criminal conspiracy.

And narratives are what the press and attorneys have in common. Both advance arguments and cite evidence. The Democrats are working to criminalize opposition narratives, by journalists and by lawyers.

The narrative is the real crime. Where possible, legal technicalities are used to find or invent crimes to get around the First Amendment, but these offenses are not the issue. The real goal is to silence the opposition’s ability to advance arguments, uncover evidence, and put them forward in either the marketplace of ideas or a court of law. The toolset is the familiar three-pronged approach used by China, Russia, and any random totalitarian country against domestic political opponents, accusations of foreign involvement, innovative criminal charges over acts not normally prosecuted or treated as offenses, and criminal charges based on unrelated misconduct. All three keep popping up in the war on Trump.

The Democrats are fighting a narrative war. Their targets are narratives. There is never anything more tangible in their scandals and investigations than narratives. Get past the arm-waving and pulpit-pounding rhetoric and the basic issue is that Republicans had damaging information about Democrats. The targets of their investigations are the machinery of how the information is obtained and distributed.

That’s the same issue at stake in California’s unconstitutional prosecution of the Center for Medical Progress journalists who captured undercover video of Planned Parenthood misconduct.

Dem investigations aren’t about money or special favors. The usual elements of political corruption never show up. Instead, it’s about who gets to find things out and who gets to report on them.
This isn’t just a war about Trump. It’s a war about the First Amendment.

Spying on reporters has become the new normal. Criminalizing journalism is at the center of every Democrat investigation of President Trump. And that’s an urgent threat to the First Amendment.

The internet destroyed a monopoly on narrative, allowing anyone to conduct opposition research, to spread ideas, and to put forward arguments. The impeachment push once again threatens a free press. Its thuggery is not accidental. It’s a deliberate effort to eliminate the civil rights of the opposition.

And it cannot be allowed to succeed.
 

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

Source: https://www.frontpagemag.com/fpm/2019/12/impeachment-hearings-threaten-first-amendment-daniel-greenfield/

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Massive Leak Confirms Turkey's "Gold-For-Gas" Scheme To Evade US Sanctions On Iran - Tyler Durden


by Tyler Durden

Hat tip: Dr. Jean-Charles Bensoussan

Included in the voluminous Formations House documents is a register of shareholders in an offshore company called Naftiran Intertrade Company Ltd, or NICO.



We first started noticing major 'odd' exports of gold from Turkey to Iran in May 2012.  Turkey’s trade balance fluctuated wildly as gold stocks flowed out of the country in bursts. 

“Turkey’s going to continue it,” the Turkish economy minister said. “If those casting aspersions on the gold trade are searching for immorality, they should take a look in the mirror.”
Then, in 2014, we discussed Turkey's "200 tons of secret gold" trade with Iran detailing how a complex network that spanned Turkey, China, Dubai and Iran was used to skirt US sanctions on energy exports from Iran.

The operation featured an Iranian-born businessman who liked fast horses, faster cars and the fastest planes. His unique skill: Getting gold into sanctions-encircled Iran.
Enough gold that for a time he became the government’s key instrument in improving Turkey’s irksome economic imbalance.


At the time, the plot revealed what one observer called, "one of the most complex illicit finance schemes [prosecutors] have seen."

In 2017, the man at the center of the scheme, Reza Zarrab, was arrested (and briefly disappeared) and was tied to Turkey's president.

“Zarrab is thought to have been close to the Erdogan family and, indeed, he was given Turkish citizenship, alongside Iranian. This is a real stress point."
Zarrab pleaded guilty in October 2017 and turned against Mehmet Hakan Atila - a director at Turkey’s Halkbank - who was convicted on Jan. 3, 2018, and after serving a total 32 months behind bars was returned to Turkey and has since become the head of the Istanbul stock exchange.



And since then "one of the biggest money-laundering schemes ever" has disappeared from the headlines... until now.

Thanks to a massive leak of more than a million documents from a British offshore shell company provider, think Panama Papers 2.0, we now learn exactly how Iran’s national oil company and its subsidiaries hopscotch the globe, with the help of intermediaries, in search of tax havens that help it try to wriggle free from the grip of crippling U.S.-led sanctions.

As McClatchy reports, the massive data set of communications, incorporation certificates and other documents was leaked to journalists, and after months of collaboration, news organizations across the globe are collectively publishing stories starting this week under the title #29Leaks.

Included in the voluminous Formations House documents is a register of shareholders in an offshore company called Naftiran Intertrade Company Ltd, or NICO. This list of shareholders was attached to an email from December 2014, declaring the state-owned National Iranian Oil Company as the overarching shareholder and having complete control over NICO.

Also attached was a register of NICO directors listing five Iranian nationals.

NICO, the gasoline import arm of the state oil company, came to renewed international attention in March 2016 after the arrest at Miami International Airport of Reza Zarrab.

He flew to Florida to visit Disney World and on that trip was charged with conspiring to evade U.S. sanctions through an elaborate gold-for-gas scheme between Turkey and Iran, and using global banks to process transactions on behalf of Iran.

Prosecutors contend that Zarrab and a co-defendant, Mehmet Hakan Atila, who was a director at Turkey’s Halkbank, schemed to help Iran skirt U.S. sanctions by trading Turkish gold for oil and natural gas. Using companies across the globe, they facilitated $20 billion worth of transactions.

“High-ranking government officials in Iran and Turkey participated in and protected this scheme,” the Justice Department in Oct. 15, 2019. statement announcing charges against Halkbank, which incriminated Zarrab.
“Some officials received bribes worth tens of millions of dollars paid from the proceeds of the scheme ... and to help shield the scheme from the scrutiny of U.S. regulators.”
Shortly after his arrest, Zarrab, who is married to a Turkish pop star and has citizenship in Iran as well as Turkey, implicated Turkish President Recep Erdogan as having approved the operation.
Zarrab was represented briefly by Rudolph Giuliani, who has since become President Trump’s personal attorney. Zarrab was also a focus of Special Counsel Robert Mueller III’s prosecution of Trump adviser Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn for lying under oath the FBI. Mueller looked at Flynn’s lobbying for Turkey.

Additionally, the leaked documents tie the mid-October, six-count indictment against Halkbank for fraud, money laundering and sanctions-evasion was tied to NICO and the state oil company.
Prosecutors said that bank has been the “sole repository of proceeds from the sale of Iranian oil” to Turkey and also cited Zarrab transactions involving NICO.

The leaked new documents expose this chain of communications between a Dutch offshore services provider, Dennis Vermeulen of INCO Business Group, Formations House employees Oliver Hartmann (aka Syed Rizwan Ahmed) and Charlotte Pawar, and Farhad Dizadji, owner and senior partner of London-based accounting firm Roberts & Partners.

“Just like we’ve seen in the Halkbank scandal, entities are eager to exploit the secrecy afforded by anonymous shell companies to evade U.S. sanctions on Iran, undermining our national security,” the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, Oregon’s Ron Wyden, said in a statement on the Formations House leak.
“Ending anonymous shell companies would make it easier for law enforcement to ‘follow the money’ when investigating complex financial crimes like sanctions evasion.”
By constantly switching domiciles, NICO may have sought to ease political pressures, according to a former senior official at the U.S. Treasury Department. The official previously worked on Iran sanctions and international money-laundering investigations and requested anonymity in order to discuss non-public matters.

So, in conclusion, we now have two facts confirmed - trust no one and nothing; and gold is money. Given the level of grift here, we wonder just how long before more incriminating evidence is leaked about how Democrats have benefited greatly from Ukraine deals.


Tyler Durden

Source: https://www.zerohedge.com/geopolitical/massive-leak-confirms-turkeys-gold-gas-scheme-evade-us-sanctions-iran

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Rockets fired at southern Israel - Arutz Sheva Staff


by Arutz Sheva Staff

Sirens sound in Gaza border area, Iron Dome intercepts two rockets.



Rockets launched from Gaza into Israel
Rockets launched from Gaza into Israel
Reuters
Sirens sound in the city of Sderot and in the area surrounding Gaza, the IDF confirmed.

"Following the previous report regarding sirens which sounded a few minutes ago, three projectiles were fired from Gaza towards Israeli territory," the IDF said in a statement.

"Two of them were intercepted by the Iron Dome system."

Magen David Adom (MDA) Spokesman Zaki Heller reported that "MDA EMTs and paramedics are treating a 40 year old female and a 10 year old girl (a mother and daughter) and a 27 year old male, all lightly injured."

"In addition, 2 are being treated for stress symptoms."



Arutz Sheva Staff

Source: http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/272829

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Sanctuary for Gays: Ignored or Jeered at by West - Khaled Abu Toameh


by Khaled Abu Toameh

Palestinian gays have two choices: hide their sexual preferences and lead double lives in their villages, or flee to Israel

  • "Israel has always embraced this path [of liberty] in a Middle East that has long rejected it. In a region where women are stoned, gays are hanged, Christians are persecuted, Israel stands out. It is different." – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, to the U.S. Senate, 2011.
  • Adam and Rami are among scores of Palestinian members of the LTBGQ community who, in the past few decades, have fled their homes to seek shelter in Israel. Yet, their plight is totally ignored not only by human rights organizations, but by but by people who purport to be advocates of gay rights. This is part of a far more malignant story: when Israel looks good, the international community looks away.
  • Hate for Israel has blinded people to the point where they align themselves with their own executioners.
  • alQaws pointed out that some Palestinian groups actually celebrated the police threat against the LTBGQ community, "raising (yet again) disturbing questions about the Palestinian Authority's commitment to human rights."
  • Palestinian gays have two choices: hide their sexual preferences and lead double lives in their villages, or flee to Israel and live as normal human beings. Groups such as Queers for Palestine, though, are too busy bashing Israel on college campuses and the streets of San Francisco to take much notice of the sanctuary to which their gay Palestinian friends have chosen to relocate.

Palestinian gays have two choices: hide their sexual preferences and lead double lives in their villages, or flee to Israel and live as normal human beings. Pictured: Tens of thousands of participants take part in the annual Gay Pride parade on June 14, 2019, in Tel Aviv, Israel. (Photo by Amir Levy/Getty Images)

Members of the Palestinian LTBGQ community continue to flee to Israel, where, unlike under the Hamas and Palestinian Authority regimes, they are free to lead normal lives.

The gay community in the West, however, has evidently chosen to ignore the plight of their friends living under the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the West Bank and under Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Remarkably, rather than reaching out to help the Palestinian LTBGQ members, several gay groups in the West, including in the US, continue to spout hate against Israel, the only country in the Middle East where the LTBGQ community feels safe and secure.

As Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a 2011 speech to the US Senate:
"Israel has always embraced this path [of liberty] in a Middle East that has long rejected it. In a region where women are stoned, gays are hanged, Christians are persecuted, Israel stands out. It is different."
Groups such as "Queers for Palestine" and "Queers Undermining Israeli Terrorism" have long been inciting against Israel, even as Palestinian gays are fleeing persecution and the threat of death under the Palestinian Authority and Hamas. Both groups, rather than helping gays, noisily advocate financial divestment from Israel, and their members regularly demonstrate at gay pride marches and collaborate with extremist Muslim organizations.

The Western members of the LTBGQ community are eagerly joining forces with the very parties who are persecuting and killing their Palestinian allies -- as long as that advances the anti-Israel agenda of those who hate Israel more than they care about gays.

Hate for Israel has blinded people to the point where they align themselves with their own executioners.

If Israel-haters among the Western gay community took a quick tour of Tel Aviv, they would see for themselves how Palestinian members of the LTBGQ have escaped from the West Bank and Gaza into Israel. The Palestinian gays prefer to sleep on the streets of Israeli cities than stay in their villages and towns, where they face torture, harassment and death.

One gay Palestinian man, Adam, said that when his uncles found out he was gay, they beat him severely and locked him up in the basement of his home in the West Bank. "I miss my mother, but I'm afraid to go see her," he said. Israel has allowed him to stay in Tel Aviv out of fear for his life, he added.

Rami, another gay Palestinian, who crossed from the West Bank into Israel about a year ago, suffers from a fractured skull after seven years of physical abuse by his family, after they discovered his sexual preferences. "I faced physical and psychological torture," recounted Rami, who now lives in Tel Aviv.

Adam and Rami are among scores of Palestinian members of the LTBGQ community who, in the past few decades, have fled their homes to seek shelter in Israel. Yet, their plight is totally ignored not only by human rights organizations, but by people who purport to be advocates of gay rights. This is part of a far more malignant story: when Israel looks good, the international community looks away.

Significantly, the Palestinian organization alQaws for Sexual & Gender Diversity in Palestinian Society has offices in east Jerusalem and Haifa -- inside Israel. alQaws, it seems, does not dare to open an office in a Palestinian city or village.

Moreover, because of its activities, alQaws and its members have become regular targets for harassment by the Palestinian Authority.

In August this year, the spokesman for the Palestinian Authority police issued a statement banning alQaws's activities in the West Bank and inciting Palestinians to report any person affiliated with alQaws. The statement announced that the Palestinian Authority police would prohibit any event organized or held by alQaws, and claimed that it (alQaws) goes against "traditional Palestinian values." The statement also accused members of the Palestinian LTBGQ community of being "foreign agents" -- a hint that they could be working for Israel or any other supposedly hostile state.

In response, alQaws said that the police statement was unacceptable. "Furthermore, the accusation of alQaws being a 'suspicious entity' working to break up the Palestinian society is unfounded and entirely untrue," alQaws emphasized in a statement. "alQaws condemns the use of persecution, intimidation, and threats of arrest, be it by the police or members of society."

Once again, the supporters in the West of gay rights did not see fit to speak out in defense of their Palestinian friends. The posturers in the West paid no attention to the complaint by alQaws about the threat from the Palestinian police. This silence and hypocrisy simply emboldened the Palestinian Authority: it stepped up its persecution.

A few weeks after the threat, alQaws said:
"... the violence [the police] called for against LGBTQ people in Palestine has continued - unabated, with greater frequency and intensity (we have witnessed an alarming increase in abuse cases and intensified blackmail and threats in the public and digital spheres)..."
alQaws pointed out that some Palestinian groups actually celebrated the police threat against the LTBGQ community, "raising (yet again) disturbing questions about the Palestinian Authority's commitment to human rights."

alQaws revealed that much of the violence and harassment perpetrated since August has been at the hands of police officers.
"Alarmingly, we have witnessed more than a dozen cases of targeting and harassment that have led to numerous arrests -or rather abductions- in recent weeks. We believe there are many more cases that have not reached us.
"Our arrested friends and fellow activists report military-style investigations involving violence, blackmailing, and interrogations marked by coercive, offensive, and insulting questions regarding private lives, their connections to alQaws, and attempts to coerce these individuals to collaborate with the PA in order to arrest and persecute others."
Palestinian gays have two choices: hide their sexual preferences and lead double lives in their villages, or flee to Israel and live as normal human beings. Groups such as Queers for Palestine, though, are too busy bashing Israel on college campuses and the streets of San Francisco to take much notice of the sanctuary to which their gay Palestinian friends have chosen to relocate.
  • Follow Khaled Abu Toameh on Twitter

Khaled Abu Toameh, an award-winning journalist based in Jerusalem, is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at Gatestone Institute.

Source: https://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/15232/gay-palestinians

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The Transrealism of the Left - David Solway


by David Solway

Severing gender from sex is a powerful strategy of the Left


In the ongoing and infinitely tedious sex wars of our time, pitting women against men, women against women, men against women, men against men, and whatever seventy or so gender claimants lurk in between, it looks like the transgender brigade is winning the day. It represents, so to speak, the cutting edge of the intersectional fray.

Indeed, the trans phenomenon is perhaps the most interesting of the erotic variables that define the current wave of insanity, of which the transition from male to female, whether surgical, hormonal or cosmetic, appears to be the paramount factor in the venereal mix. Bathrooms in many establishments are no longer gender-specific. Women’s sporting events are increasingly dominated by biological males identifying as women. Corporations have climbed aboard the intersex, gender non-conforming and transgender bandwagon. Over fifty large companies, including Amazon, Coca Cola, ebay, Google, Microsoft and counting, have issued a statement affirming “the rights and identities of transgender people,” ludicrously claiming that “gender definition determined by birth anatomy fails[s] to reflect the complex realities of gender identity and human biology” and implying the virtue of biomorphic mutation. Many religious institutions have welcomed such gender anomalies into the fold. Even preschoolers are being subjected to the LGBT+ blitz and are taught the blessings of transitioning.

The internet as well is awash with articles, blogs, book titles and reviews all touting the wonders of transgenderism in a concerted effort to persuade a skeptical public and encourage those who have undergone sexual “reassignment” or “confirmation” surgery -- as if one could reassign what was never “assigned” in the first place. Literature of this sort studiously avoids the downside of treating gender dysphoria as a medical condition requiring drastic intervention and the immense unhappiness and well-documented suffering such treatment can and often does cause in later life.

Despite widespread resistance from parents, other members of the public and even some vocal feminists concerned about the weakening of their political bloc, it seems the trans movement can’t be stopped, irrespective of common sense and biological fact. For transpeople have become the “intentional community” du jour. The question that poses itself is: why? How has such an absurd satyricon come to pass in an advanced culture, in an information-rich and presumably enlightened age? How is such utter buffoonery even remotely possible?

Like feminism itself and the cultural drift toward identity politics, transgenderism is a child of the left. The answer to the question seems to lie in the socialist belief in limitless human perfectibility, in the political and technological capacity to change human nature in the quest to establish a utopian society, or, in the words of Joshua Muravchik in his takedown of socialist ideology, Heaven on Earth, to make “things that had been taken as fanciful suddenly seem possible,” which he associates with the secular program of the French Revolution.

In Lectures on Ideology and Utopia, French philosopher Paul Ricoeur defined the positive form of utopian thinking as the “exploration of the possible,” but understood that it is always vulnerable to fantasy, a gloss on Karl Mannheim’s Ideology and Utopia where Mannheim claims that utopian thinking is “not at all concerned with what really exists.” And utopian thinking is the definitive property of the political left -- that is, not only as the “exploration of the possible” but the attempted realization of the impossible. Human beings can thoroughly shed their private personalities, wealth can be equally distributed without damaging the social consensus, property can be seized by an all-encompassing state for the undeniable benefit of all its citizens, society can be happily and productively collectivized, class divisions can be eradicated, endemic corruption can be rooted out, and human beings and human societies can be manipulated to ensure peaceful coexistence, economic parity, pastoral tranquillity and a sense of universal kinship.

In other words, everything becomes possible in the socialist world-view. That is why a woman can become a man but, more importantly in the current milieu, why a man can become a woman. Biological sex can be transformed into voluntary gender. All that is needed is a bit of invasive tinkering and the right attitude. The transgender phenomenon is merely the latest manifestation of leftist postconceptions, the basic assumption that the impossible is possible, that everything can be transformed according to an ideologically inspired blueprint.

As Ryan Anderson writes in When Harry Became Sally, “Thoughts or feelings that disguise or distort reality,” especially sexual reality, will create “a culture of androgyny and confusion.” This pathology, which he describes as “severing gender from sex,” is a powerful strategy of the left in its project to abolish the natural and traditional joists of human societies in a bid to remake the world from scratch. That is why the transgender person is now the mermaid on the bowsprit of the socialist ship of state.

Ultimately, the utopian, or transreal, dialectic embraced by the left is doomed to eventual failure, as the historical record has proven time and time again, without exception. But in the meantime, what inevitably ensues is political tyranny, economic misery, the breakdown of social truth, and -- the inescapable result of forced assent to a collectivist lie -- the humiliation of the individual person. Theodore Dalrymple’s brilliant aper├žus in Our Culture, What’s Left of It is pertinent: “When people are forced to remain silent when they are being told the most obvious lies, or even worse when they are forced to repeat the lies themselves, they lose once and for all their sense of probity… A society of emasculated liars is easy to control.”

Life then becomes a prolonged act of pretending that what cannot or should not be is acceptable and even glorious. The lie seeps into every crack and facet of everyday existence. Both intellectual reason and civil autonomy have been sacrificed to a mirage. As Polish philosopher Leszek Kolakowski wrote in Main Currents of Marxism, to imagine “that we can design some plan for the whole society whereby harmony, justice and plenty are attained by human engineering is an invitation to despotism.” It is, in short, an invitation to disaster.

One notes so pernicious a program at work in Barack Obama’s pledge to “fundamentally transform America,” a significant chapter in the Left’s operational manual and an act of political transrealism. It is, as Paul Kengor writes, “the textbook definition of totalitarianism…[which seeks] to fundamentally transform human nature via some form of political-ideological-cultural upheaval.” (Italics mine.) As Kengor points out, Obama’s fundamental transformation involves the “sexual-gender-family front” and the promotion of “LGBT rights at home and abroad.” One might say that America, or a large sector of the country, has transitioned, that its republican tradition has been reassigned as “democratic socialism,” that is, as a fledgling totalitarian state. This is the left’s wet dream.

There is, of course, a much larger stage on which the sociopolitical play is being mounted, namely, a world from which God has been banished and that sees the ascension of what Nietzsche in Thus Spake Zarathustra called the ubermensch (or “overman”) to occupy the now empty throne. This is both a human temptation and a historical reality that has been discussed and analyzed for centuries, going back to the Book of Genesis and St. Augustine’s City of God, and has culminated since the time of Robespierre in a major theme of modern political, philosophical and religious discourse.

The conversation has taken many forms with respect to human agency and the plenary autonomy of the will. Liberation theology, for example, is a self-avowed transformative mode of socialist dogma and practice, profoundly influenced by Marxism and committed to the ideal recreation of society, by violence if necessary. Major theologians like Paul Tillich in Political Expectations and Martin Buber in Paths in Utopia have entered into the perennial debate, recognizing the plus and minus sides of the utopian prepossession, but they remain cautious. Reinhold Niebuhr for his part is far more unflattering, devoting portions of his two-volume The Nature and Destiny of Man to condemning “The utopian illusions and sentimental aberrations of modern liberal culture,” stemming from “the basic error of negating the fact of original sin.” The concept of original sin may be interpreted as the theological understanding of intractable human nature, which socialist doctrine refuses to admit. Such refusal surrenders the theater to the radical playbill of the leftist dramaturge, who is sufficient only to himself and who can reinvent the world on his own terms, morality be damned. “Communists do not preach morality at all,” lectured Karl Marx in The German Ideology.

“If God does not exist, then everything is permitted,” said Ivan Karamazov. By which he meant that in the absence of reason, morality and humility, man in his overweening pride could do as he wishes despite the consequences, and would seek to enact the impossible: the perfectly egalitarian society, the advent of socialist man, and the multigender human being as the latest sign and accomplishment of the left’s political sorcery. “Ye shall be as gods,” as the serpent promised. In effect, you can be anything you want to be, in defiance of mind, nature, biology, history and spirit. There are no rules, no boundaries, no limitations. Reality is malleable. You can unmake and remake the world at will. This is the core philosophy of the Godless left.

In the beginning of the Transreal Age, there was AdamEve, a transgender being formed from the dust of ideology who sallies forth as the harbinger of a sinless future.
Transgender symbol by ParaDox

David Solway’s latest book is Notes from a Derelict Culture, Black House Publishing, 2019, London. A CD of his original songs, Partial to Cain, appeared in 2019.

Source: https://www.americanthinker.com/articles/2019/12/the_transrealism_of_the_left.html

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