Zionist (& American) Spies Control US Social Media: Hundreds of Israel’s Unit 8200 Ex-spies Work for Facebook, Google, Microsoft (Trunews.com, Dec. 22, 2022) w/ MintPress Story

Graphics From MINTPRESS

Epigraph Quote:

1) “Notably, Google appears to not only accept former (Israeli Defense Forces’) Unit 8200 agents with open arms, but to actively recruit current members of the controversial organization. (from MintPress article below)

2) “jews are behind the whole (gangstalking) thing.” Alan Landis, TI and construction worker, to webmaster in conversation, 2015

3) “We’re all Palestinians/”enemies of the state” now.” Professor Eric Karlstrom, Webmaster

Socialized Media: Hundreds of Israel’s Unit 8200 Ex-spies Work for Facebook, Google, Microsoft (Trunews.com, Dec. 22, 2022)


(Relevant part begins at about 47:30 minutes into the program)

A MintPress study has found that hundreds of former agents of the notorious Israeli spy agency, Unit 8200, have attained positions of influence at many of the world’s biggest tech companies, including Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and Amazon.

(Rick Wiles rightly points out that this is equivalent of having hundreds of former SS Nazi agents working in American technology companies: Wiles: “Back then, the FBI would have hunted them down and shot them.”)


“The Israeli Defense Forces’ (IDF) Unit 8200 is infamous for surveilling the indigenous Palestinian population, amassing kompromat on individuals for the purposes of blackmail and extortion.

According to employment website LinkedIn, there are currently at least 99 former Unit 8200 veterans currently working for Google. This number almost certainly underestimates the scale of the collaboration between the two organizations, however. For one, this does not count former Google employees. Nor does it include those without a public LinkedIn account, or those who do have an account but have not disclosed their previous affiliations with the high tech Israeli surveillance unit.

Examples include:

1. Gavriel Goidel:
Between 2010 and 2016, Goidel served in Unit 8200, rising to become Head of Learning at the organization, leading a large team of operatives who sifted through intelligence data to “understand patterns of hostile activists,” in his own words, transmitting that information to superiors.

2. Jonathan Cohen: Cohen was a team leader during his time at Unit 8200 (2000 – 2003) He has since spent more than 13 years working at Google in various senior positions, and is currently head of Insights, Data, and Measurement.

3. Ori Daniel: Between 2003 and 2005, Daniel was a technical operations specialist at Israel’s Unit 8200. After a brief stint with Palantir, he jointed Google in 2018, rising to become Head of Global Self-Service of Google’s Waze.

(Google Waze is a traffic app, and all that data goes to Israel, they need to know where American citizens are located.)

4. Ben Bariach: For nearly five years between 2007 and 2011, Bariach served as a cyber intelligence officer, where he commanded strategic teams of elite officers and professionals. Since 2016, he has worked for Google. Between 2018 and 2020, he concentrated on tackling “controversial content, disinformation, and cyber security.” Today he is a product partnership manager for Google in London.

(Rick Wiles: “so “controversial content,” would that include reporting Israeli Defense Forces soldiers shooting Palestinian boys in the head? That happened to us. We read too many articles from Israeli newspapers and we got shut down on Facebook, Youtube. We got kicked off of Twitter. Now we know these spy agencies have their people inside these social media companies. Just like we’ve said for years that there are special psychological operations agents inside news networks, we also see that foreign intelligence agencies are implanted in these media outlets.)

MintPress: “Meta – the company that owns Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp – has also recruited heavily from the ranks of Unit 8200. Undoubtedly, one of the most influential people at Meta is Emi Palmor. Palmor is one of 23 individuals who sit on Facebook’s Oversight Board. Described by Mark Zuckerberg as Facebook’s “Supreme Court”, the Oversight Board collectively decides what content to accept and promote on the platform, and what should be censored, deleted, and suppressed.

(Rick Wiles: “A foreign intelligence agent decides what content is promoted and what content is suppressed. Facebook is a tool of the Israeli government. Israel has it’s people inside Facebook to censor Americans who speak up in defense of the Palestinians. The occupation is going global through technology.”)

Palmor is a Unit 8200 veteran and later went on to become General Director of the Israeli Ministry of Justice. In this role, she directly oversaw the stripping away of Palestinian rights and created a so-called “Internet Referral Unit” which would find and aggressively push Facebook to delete Palestinian content on its platform that the Israeli government objected to.

Other ex-Unit 8200 hold influential positions. For instance, Eyal Klein, the head of data science for Facebook Messenger since 2020, served for fully six years as a captain in the controversial Israeli military unit. Today, he is tasked with handling privacy issues for billions of users of Meta’s platforms.

Another former Unit 8200 leader now working in big tech in America is Eli Zeitlin. Two years after leaving Unit 8200, Zeitlin was employed by Microsoft and rose to become the corporation’s senior development lead, becoming, in his own words, the “go to person in file processing and cloud protection” for the company. For the last six years, however, he has worked for Meta, where he leads the company in “prevent[ing] data misuse by third parties” – exactly the sort of operation that current Unit 8200 officers likely continue to carry out.”

MintPress article:

Revealed: The Former Israeli Spies Working in Top Jobs at Google, Facebook and Microsoft

Revealed: The Former Israeli Spies Working in Top Jobs at Google, Facebook and Microsoft (Oct. 22, 2022)

A MintPress study has found that hundreds of former agents of the notorious Israeli spying organization, Unit 8200, have attained positions of influence in many of the world’s biggest tech companies, including Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Amazon.

The Israeli Defense Forces’ (IDF) Unit 8200 is infamous for surveilling the indigenous Palestinian population, amassing kompromat on individuals for the purposes of blackmail and extortion. Spying on the world’s rich and famous, Unit 8200 hit the headlines last year, after the Pegasus scandal broke. Former Unit 8200 officers designed and implemented software that spied on tens of thousands of politicians and likely aided in the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.


According to employment website LinkedIn, there are currently at least 99 former Unit 8200 veterans currently working for Google. This number almost certainly underestimates the scale of the collaboration between the two organizations, however. For one, this does not count former Google employees. Nor does it include those without a public LinkedIn account, or those who do have an account, but have not disclosed their previous affiliations with the high-tech Israeli surveillance unit. This is likely to be a considerable number, as agents are expressly prohibited from ever revealing their affiliation to Unit 8200. Thus, the figure of 99 only represents the number of current (or extremely recent) Google employees who are brazenly flouting Israeli military law by including the organization in their profiles.

Among these include:

Gavriel Goidel: Between 2010 and 2016, Goidel served in Unit 8200, rising to become Head of Learning at the organization, leading a large team of operatives who sifted through intelligence data to “understand patterns of hostile activists”, in his own words, transmitting that information to superiors. Whether this included any of the over 1000 Gazan civilians Israel killed during their 2014 bombardment of Gaza is unknown. Goidel was recently appointed Head of Strategy and Operations at Google.

Jonathan Cohen
: Cohen was a team leader during his time in Unit 8200 (2000-2003). He has since spent more than 13 years working for Google in various senior positions, and is currently Head of Insights, Data and Measurement.

Ori Daniel: Between 2003 and 2006, Daniel was a technical operations specialist with Unit 8200. After a stint with Palantir, he joined Google in 2018, rising to become Head of Global Self-Service for Google Waze.

Ben Bariach: For nearly five years between 2007 and 2011, Bariach served as a cyber intelligence officer, where he “commanded strategic teams of elite officers and professionals.” Since 2016, he has worked for Google. Between 2018 and 2020, he concentrated on tackling “controversial content, disinformation and cyber-security”. Today, he is a product partnership manager for Google in London.

Notably, Google appears to not only accept former Unit 8200 agents with open arms, but to actively recruit current members of the controversial organization. For example, in October 2020, Gai Gutherz left his job as a project leader at Unit 8200 and walked into a full time job at Google as a software engineer. In 2018, Lior Liberman appears to have done the same thing, taking a position as a program manager at Google after 4 years in military intelligence. Earlier this year, she left Google and now works at Microsoft.

Spying on Palestinians

Some might contend that all Israelis are compelled to complete military service, and so, therefore, what is the problem with young people using the tech skills they learned in the IDF in civilian life. In short, why is this Unit 8200-to-Silicon-Valley-pipeline a problem?

To begin with, Unit 8200 is not a run-of-the-mill regiment. Described as “Israel’s NSA” and located on a gigantic base near Beer Sheva in the Negev desert, Unit 8200 is the IDF’s largest unit – and one of its most exclusive. The brightest young minds in the country compete to be sent to serve at this Israeli Harvard. Although military service is compulsory for Jewish Israelis, Arab citizens are strongly discouraged from joining the military and are effectively blocked from Unit 8200. Indeed, they are the prime targets of the apartheid state’s surveillance operations.

The Financial Times called Unit 8200 “Israel at its best and worst” – the centerpiece of both its burgeoning high-tech industry and of its repressive state apparatus. Unit 8200 veterans have gone on to produce many of the world’s most downloaded apps, including maps service Waze, and communications app Viber. But in 2014, 43 reservists, including several officers, sent a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, informing him they would no longer serve in its ranks due to its involvement in the political persecution of Palestinians.

This consisted of using big data to compile dossiers on huge numbers of the indigenous domestic population, including their medical history, sex lives, and search histories, in order that it could be used for extortion later. If a certain individual needed to travel across checkpoints for crucial medical treatment, permission could be suspended until they complied. Information, such as if a person was cheating on their spouse or was homosexual, is also used as bait for blackmail. One former Unit 8200 man said that as part of his training, he was assigned to memorize different Arabic words for “gay” so that he could listen out for them in conversations.

Unit 8200

An award handed out to the IDF’s Unit 8200 for clandestine operations, June 24, 2020. Photo | IDF

Perhaps most importantly, the dissenters noted, Palestinians as a whole are considered enemies of the state. “There’s no distinction between Palestinians who are, and are not, involved in violence,” the letter read. It also claims that much intelligence was gathered not in service of Israel, but for powerful local politicians, who used it as they saw fit.

The letter, despite being intentionally vague and not naming anyone, was considered such a threat that Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon announced that those who signed it would be “treated as criminals.”

In short, then, Unit 8200 is partially a spying and extortion organization that uses its access to data to blackmail and extort opponents of the apartheid state. That this organization has so many operatives (literally hundreds) in key positions in big tech companies that the world trusts with our most sensitive data (medical, financial, etc.) should be of serious concern. This is especially true as they do not appear to distinguish between “bad guys” and the rest of us. To Unit 8200, it seems, anyone is fair game.

Project Nimbus

Google already has a close relationship with the Israeli government. Last year, along with Amazon, it signed a $1.2 billion contract with Israel to provide military surveillance tech services – technology that will allow the IDF to further unlawfully spy on Palestinians, destroy their homes and expand illegal settlements.

The deal led to a staff revolt at both companies, with some 400 employees signing an open letter refusing to cooperate. Google forced one Jewish employee, Ariel Koren, out of the door for her part in resisting the deal. Koren later told MintPress that,

“Google systematically silences Palestinian, Jewish, Arab, and Muslim voices concerned about Google’s complicity in violations of Palestinian human rights – to the point of formally retaliating against workers and creating an environment of fear… in my experience, silencing dialogue and dissent in this way has helped Google protect its business interest with the Israeli military and government.”

Another link between Google and the Israeli security state comes in the form of cybersecurity group Team8, a collaboration between former Google CEO and chairman Eric Schmidt, and three ex-Unit 8200 officers, including its former leader, Nadav Zafrir. Team8’s mission, according to a press release, is, “To leverage the offensive and defensive skills of veterans of Israel’s cyberwar efforts to build new security startups.”


Meta – the company that owns Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp – has also recruited heavily from the ranks of Unit 8200.

Undoubtedly, one of the most influential people at Meta is Emi Palmor. Palmor is one of 23 individuals who sit on Facebook’s Oversight Board. Described by Mark Zuckerberg as Facebook’s “Supreme Court”, the Oversight Board collectively decides what content to accept and promote on the platform, and what should be censored, deleted, and suppressed.

Palmor is a Unit 8200 veteran and later went on to become General Director of the Israeli Ministry of Justice. In this role, she directly oversaw the stripping away of Palestinian rights and created a so-called “Internet Referral Unit” which would find and aggressively push Facebook to delete Palestinian content on its platform that the Israeli government objected to.

Other ex-Unit 8200 hold influential positions. For instance, Eyal Klein, the head of data science for Facebook Messenger since 2020, served for fully six years as a captain in the controversial Israeli military unit. Today, he is tasked with handling privacy issues for billions of users of Meta’s platforms.

Another former Unit 8200 leader now working in big tech in America is Eli Zeitlin. Two years after leaving Unit 8200, Zeitlin was employed by Microsoft and rose to become the corporation’s senior development lead, becoming, in his own words, the “go to person in file processing and cloud protection” for the company. For the last six years, however, he has worked for Meta, where he leads the company in “prevent[ing] data misuse by third parties” – exactly the sort of operation that current Unit 8200 officers likely continue to carry out.

Other Unit 8200 veterans working in influential roles for Facebook include Tom Chet, head of activations and production for North American small business; Gilad Turbahn, a manager for Meta; engineering manager Ranen Goren; software engineers Gil Osher and Yoav Goldstein; security engineering manager Dana Baril; and software developer Omer Goldberg. Meanwhile, according to Yonatan Ramot’s LinkedIn biography, earlier this year, he was simultaneously working for Meta while still an active duty manager in Unit 8200.
Spying on the World

Why is having former Unit 8200 officers in charge of security, development and software design at some of the world’s most important communications companies a problem? To start with, one of the military unit’s primary functions is to use their tech know how to carry out spying operations across the world. As Israeli newspaper Haaretz noted in an investigation, “Israel has become a leading exporter of tools for spying on civilians,” selling invasive surveillance software to dozens of governments, many of them among the world’s worst human rights abusers. In Indonesia, for instance, the software was used to create a database of gay people.

Unit 8200 also spies on Americans. Whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed that the NSA regularly passes on the data and communications of U.S. citizens to the Israeli group. “I think that’s amazing… It’s one of the biggest abuses we’ve seen,” Snowden said.

The most well-known example of Israeli spyware is Pegasus, a creation of NSO Group, a technically private company staffed primarily by Unit 8200 veterans. The software was used to eavesdrop on more than 50,000 prominent people around the world. This included dozens of human rights defenders, nearly 200 journalists, several Arab royals, and over 600 politicians, including French president Emmanuel Macron, Pakistani prime minister Imran Khan and Iraqi President Barham Salih.

Meanwhile, Indian prime minister Narendra Modi used the software to dig up dirt on his personal opponents. Other members of his government hacked the phone of a woman accusing the Chief Justice of India of raping her.

Pegasus was also found installed on murdered Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, implying that NSO was collaborating with the Saudi government, aiding them to silence dissent and criticism.

Pegasus works by sending a text message to a targeted device. If a user clicks on the link provided, it will automatically download the spyware. Once infected, it is possible to track an individual’s location and movements, take screenshots, turn on the phone’s camera and microphone, retrieve messages and steal passwords.

But while the NSO’s Pegasus made worldwide news, another firm, more worrying and dangerous, has flown under the radar. That firm is Toka, established by former Israeli defense minister and prime minister, Ehud Barak, with the help of a number of Unit 8200 officers. Toka can infiltrate any device connected to the internet, including Amazon echoes, televisions, fridges and other home appliances. Last year, Journalist Whitney Webb told MintPress that the company effectively acts as a front group for the Israeli government’s spying operations.

A third private spy firm filled with Unit 8200 graduates is Candiru. The Tel Aviv-based company barely exists, officially. It does not have a website. And if you go to its headquarters, there is no indication that you are in the right place. Nevertheless, it is widely believed that Candiru was behind malware attacks observed in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Singapore, Qatar and Uzbekistan.

The company is named after a parasitic Amazonian fish that is said (apocryphally) to swim up human urine streams and enter the body via the urethra. It is an apt analogy for a firm that spends its time finding security flaws in Android and iOS operating systems and browsers like Chrome, Firefox and Safari, using this knowledge to spy on unsuspecting targets.

The utility of these technically private Israeli spy groups filled to the brim with ex-military intelligence figures is that it allows the government some measure of plausible deniability when carrying out attacks against foreign nations. As Haaretz explained, “Who owns [these spying companies] isn’t clear, but their employees aren’t soldiers. Consequently, they may solve the army’s problem, even if the solution they provide is imperfect.”


Data from LinkedIn suggests that there are at least 166 former Unit 8200 members who went on to work for Microsoft. In addition to those already mentioned, others include Ayelet Steinitz, Microsoft’s former Head of Global Strategic Alliances, Senior Software Engineer Tomer Lev, and Senior Product Managers, Maayan Mazig, Or Serok-Jeppa and Yuval Derman.

Maayan Mazig

Notably, the Seattle-based giant also heavily leans on ex-Unit 8200 professionals to design and upkeep its global security apparatus. Examples of this phenomenon include Security Researchers Lia Yeshoua, Yogev Shitrit, Guni Merom, Meitar Pinto and Yaniv Carmel, Threat Protection Software Engineer Gilron Tsabkevich, Data Scientist Danielle Poleg, Threat Intelligence Officer Itai Grady and Security Product Manager Liat Lisha. In Merom, Carmel and Pinto’s cases, they went straight from Unit 8200 into Microsoft’s team, again suggesting that Microsoft is actively recruiting from the regiment.

Lia Yeshoua

Other Microsoft security products such as Microsoft Defender Antivirus and Microsoft Azure secure cloud computing are also designed and maintained by ex-Unit 8200 individuals. These include former Senior Architect Michael Bargury, Principal Software Engineering Manager Shlomi Haba, Senior Software Engineering Managers Yaniv Yehuda, Assaf Israel and Michal Ben Yaacov, Senior Product Manager Tal Rosler, Software Engineer Adi Griever, and Product Manager Yael Genut.

Yaniv Yehuda

This is notable, as it was reported that malware likely produced by Unit 8200 was used to attack Microsoft products, such as its Windows operating system. It reportedly exploited loopholes it found to attack control systems, delete hard drives, and shut down key systems, such as the energy infrastructure of Iran.

Big tech, big governments

None of this means that all or even any of the individuals are moles – or even anything but model employees today. But the sheer amount of people graduating from an organization such as Unit 8200 and going on to influence the world’s largest communications companies certainly causes concern.

Unit 8200 certainly has a reputation for excellence in its field. The trouble is that their craft includes spying, extortion, gross violations of personal rights, and the hacking of exactly the tech companies that are now hiring them en masse. This does not appear to be a poacher-turned-gamekeeper scenario, however; there is no indication Silicon Valley is hiring whistleblowers.

Of course, Israel is far from the only country that attempts to spy on foes or manipulate the public. However, former spies from adversary countries such as Russia, Venezuela or Iran are not being hired in their hundreds to design, maintain and oversee the largest channels of public communication. In fact, this study could find no examples of ex-FSB (Russia) ex-SEBIN (Venezuela) or former agents from the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence working at Silicon Valley corporations.

MintPress has previously documented how, in recent years, big tech companies like Twitter, Facebook, Google, TikTok and Reddit have hired hundreds of spooks from the CIA, NSA, FBI, Secret Service, NATO, and other intelligence agencies. The fact that Unit 8200 is also a recruitment reserve underlines how strong an ally Israel is considered in the West.

However, it also highlights the increasing intersection between Silicon Valley and big government and further undermines any pretense that big tech companies are on our side in the fight to secure and maintain privacy online.

Feature photo | Illustration by MintPress News

Alan MacLeod is Senior Staff Writer for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent, as well as a number of academic articles. He has also contributed to FAIR.org, The Guardian, Salon, The Grayzone, Jacobin Magazine, and Common Dreams.
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October 31st, 2022
Alan Macleod

Other MintPress stories from:

Revealed: The Former Israeli Spies Working in Top Jobs at Google, Facebook and Microsoft

Catherine Perez-Shakdam: The “Israeli Spy” Who “Infiltrated” MintPress

Whatever the truth of the situation, the curious case of Catherine Perez-Shakdam is a reminder to anti-war and anti-imperialist groups, human rights organizations and even progressive media outlets that spies could be among you.

A storm of controversy erupted earlier this year in Iran, after local media outlets announced that a “Mossad spy” and “Israeli infiltrator” had gained the trust of the country’s senior leadership, penetrated into the highest halls of power, and had even been employed as a writer for Ayatollah Khamenei himself.

Although the stories did not disclose the name of the infiltrator, it was clear that the individual in question was Catherine Perez-Shakdam. Almost immediately, Iranian media such as Press TV and The Tehran Times began silently but furiously removing all her content from their pages. Perhaps most worrying from an Iranian government perspective, Khamenei.ir, Ayatollah Khamenei’s own website, had to delete her articles and disavow her.

Catherine Perez-Shakdam is a French-born journalist and analyst who had married a Yemeni man, converted to Shia Islam and wore a hijab. In her professional life, she penned articles denouncing Israeli and Saudi crimes, lionized armed Palestinian resistance, and supported the Iranian government. She had earlier also been a frequent contributor to MintPress News – a fact that likely bolstered her anti-imperialist credibility.

Perez-Shakdam “came out,” so to speak, in a series of articles published in The Times of Israel, detailing how she was able to “walk right into the belly of the Beast” – i.e. Tehran. “Keen to be let in, I neither argued nor revealed my true motivations. I realized pretty early on that if I was to witness first-hand what it is that the region is really about I’d better blend in and listen,” she wrote. Her choice of language did nothing to douse suspicions that she was a spy in the vein of the Mista’arvim – the notorious intelligence units who spend their lives deep undercover in Arab society, gathering intelligence for Israel.

The articles come off as celebratory; the casting off of a previous identity and the embracing of a new one. “For years I peddled Iran’s propaganda,” she wrote, comparing the country to 1930s Nazi Germany. The Islamic Republic’s “regional expansionism and its obvious hunger for military supremacy”, its “imperial nihilism” and its “contempt for international law,” she noted (without irony), were contributing factors to why she now embraced Israel and had become a committed Zionist.

For her professional life, she had hidden her Jewish origins (she wrote under her husband’s surname, “Shakdam”), but now sings Israel’s praises, even revealing that her child wished to join the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF).
Spy wars

Although she categorically rejects the assertion that she is an Israeli spy, Perez-Shakdam concedes that, prior to her engagement with Iran, she did indeed work for Israeli-American intelligence agency, Wikistrat.

Founded in Israel in 2010 and now based in Washington, D.C., Wikistrat has worked with a host of U.S. government agencies on a wide range of issues to do with espionage, psychological warfare and perception management.

Although technically a private company, its upper ranks are filled with former Israeli government intelligence officers. Chief amongst them is co-founder and CEO Elad Schaffer, whose LinkedIn page notes that he was head of an intelligence desk for an unnamed Israeli government agency. Judging by the agency logo Schaffer used, this organization is very likely to be the notorious IDF intelligence group, Unit 8200. Members and former members are prohibited by Israeli law from divulging their association with Unit 8200. Others, such as Yehonatan Etzion, have moved from Wikistrat into Israeli intelligence.

Another Wikistrat co-founder, Joel Zamel (currently the company’s chairman), also created Psy-Group. Described as a “private Mossad for hire” by The New Yorker, the agency is an Israeli spying firm that operates perception management, influence campaigns, muck raking research and clandestine activities for clients. In 2016, they sought the Trump administration as a client and also approached the Israeli Ministry of Strategic Affairs, offering them their services in the fight against the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement.

Wikistrat’s council of advisors is a who’s who of senior intelligence community leaders. On the board include ex-acting director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, David Shedd; General Michael Hayden, former director of the CIA; former national security advisor to Vice-President Dick Cheney, John P. Hannah; and disgraced neoconservative war planner Elliott Abrams, who, in 2020, was appointed the president’s special advisor on Iran. It has been widely reported that slain Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi was also secretly working for Wikistrat just before his assassination.

In 2017, Zamel met with the Trump administration and members of the Saudi government for a series of meetings to, in the words of The Daily Beast, hash out a “multi-pronged strategy for eroding, and eventually ending, the current Iranian regime—including economic, information, and military tactics for weakening the Tehran government.” Wikistrat has also published forecasts on the consequences of an Israeli attack on Iran.

After working for Wikistrat, Perez-Shakdam wrote for Al-Majalla, an outlet with close connections to the Saudi monarchy. She has written off her involvement with Wikistrat as minimal and justified writing for Saudi government-controlled media, claiming she wanted “to be the change that you want to see.”

But another troubling allegation has never been made public until now. MintPress spoke with a number of sources close to Perez-Shakdam. One said that she approached them, offering them life-changing money in a deal that seemed too good to be true. The source claims Perez-Shakdam offered them thousands of dollars per month in exchange for going to certain precise urban Middle Eastern locations and providing her with photographs and videos of the area, the buildings and the surrounds. Perez-Shakdam supposedly indicated that the money for this was coming from the U.S. Perez-Shakdam strenuously denies these allegations.

A spy in our midst?

How did somebody with this background end up being welcomed in to the top tiers of Iranian society, rubbing shoulders with individuals like General Qassem Soleimani, President Ebrahim Raisi and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei?

A great part of Perez-Shakdam’s credibility with the Iranians came from the fact that she spent years writing and commenting on Middle Eastern matters for alternative media, such as Middle East Eye and Middle East Monitor. Between 2014 and 2017, she also frequently wrote articles for MintPress News, and even lobbied to become a TV and video presenter for this platform.

“She was a regular contributor” MintPress founder and CEO Mnar Adley said. “She reached out to me directly to pitch ideas and asked to be a regular contributor. She had written for a couple of independent media outlets and presented herself as anti-war and a convert to Islam.”

“She was very friendly and responsive to edits. She was pleasant to work with,” Adley added, explaining that this made her feel all the worse,

Just finding out that she could be an Israeli spy made me feel violated because I feel like she used MintPress as a means to get through to people who are sympathetic with Iranians and others who have been victims of U.S. sanctions and constant threats of war…It’s pretty disturbing. Like, who can you trust?”

Perez-Shakdam’s work focussed primarily on Middle Eastern politics, highlighting and exposing U.S., Israeli and Saudi actions in Yemen and across the region. In 2016, for example, she argued that the Saudi attack on Yemen was dictated by the country’s oil interests, writing,

The Saudi-led coalition launched its attack on Yemen, leaving the poorest nation of Southern Arabia to crack and burn under a brutal display of military force while its civil infrastructure is ground to dust…Yemen was literally set on fire so Riyadh could manifest its long-held ambition of an oil monopoly.”

She also presented an extremely radical critique of the world’s economy, regularly leaning on the work of Russian Communist leader Vladimir Lenin to explain today’s society, concluding that “capitalism require[s] more lands and more resources to fall under the control of its corporations and their owners, which neoconservatism [has] raised to the status of multi-billionaires, while the other 99 percent [is] left to scrounge on leftovers.”
Our woman in Tehran?

In the end, MintPress ended the relationship with Perez-Shakdam. However, by 2017, she had managed to parlay her work in the alternative press into becoming an important player in Iranian media.

That year, she was granted special access to travel with presidential candidate Ebrahim Raisi, following him on the campaign trail to the city of Rasht and recording an exclusive TV interview with him. Raisi, already a powerful figure, would lose the election, but would later win the presidency in 2021.

She also contributed to a range of Iranian outlets, including Mashregh News, Tasnim News and Mehr News. Perhaps most notably, however, she became a regular writer for Khamenei.ir, the official website of Iran’s supreme leader. After the scandal broke earlier this year, the organization wiped Shakdam’s content from its website, attempting to save face. Still, at least 18 articles can still be accessed via the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine.

Thus, for quite some time, Perez-Shakdam was welcomed into the highest echelons of Iranian society. That a Zionist journalist (and possible intelligence agent) was granted such extraordinary and intimate access to Iran’s most influential figures was a major cause of embarrassment and concern for its security services, who are deeply mistrustful and wary of Western interference. This information was openly available on the internet for those searching for it, meaning that background checks were either botched or non-existent.

 A regular pattern

Perez-Shakdam has repeatedly ridiculed those who allege she is a spy for Mossad or another Israeli intelligence agency, arguing that they are hardly likely to enlist a non-Farsi-speaking French citizen for Iran operations.

Yet there have been a great many documented examples of foreign-born agents working for Israel and going deep undercover, marrying locals and having children, only later to reveal their true identities to their families. Those families were generally then given the opportunity to flip sides or be left behind. However, those cases primarily involved Iraqi Jews who were trained to pass as Palestinians.

Other similar cases include the agents of the Mista’arvim. Taken from the Arabic term “Musta’arabi” or “those who live amongst the Arabs”, the Mista’arvim are units within the Israeli military, police and intelligence services who operate undercover in enemy states in order to gather intelligence and infiltrate movements. Israeli military intelligence has even held “competitions”, rewarding those who take the photos of the most Palestinians for their facial recognition database.

Another group, the Duvdevan Unit of the Israeli Defense Forces, operates in a similar fashion, embedding itself in enemy populations in order to carry out targeted assassinations.

Modern spy agencies’ work is not all cloak and dagger, however. Much of it centers around cultivating all manner of assets in the world of politics, think tanks and journalism in order to increase their knowledge and influence and to effect public discourse and opinion.

Perez-Shakdam’s explanation for her extraordinary shift in political outlook is that she went through a genuine and profound change based on life experiences and introspection. According to her, she went to Iran purely to satiate her own curiosity. Yet, she was so disillusioned by what she saw and experienced that it caused her to completely reevaluate her worldview. In other interviews, she has noted her daughter was also a catalyst in her conversion, challenging her on religious and political issues and revealing her own intellectual weaknesses.

Shakdam’s daughter also appears to have gone through a similar transition. As late as 2018, social media posts show her celebrating Ramadan. Yet today, she commemorates fallen IDF soldiers and describes herself as a “proud Judean warrior” who will “always be a Jew, no matter what”.
All about the money?

One source MintPress spoke to cast doubt on the idea Perez-Shakdam was a spy, instead framing her repositioning as an astute career move. Certainly, she is likely earning more writing for The Times of Israel and appearing on the BBC and GB News than in independent media or on Iranian television.

Yet making this transition would require a complete reversal of position. Perez-Shakdam had, for years, publicly condemned Western regime changers on Iran. Writing on the 2017 Iranian protests, for example, she excoriated the biased media coverage in the West. “Rather than objectively report on facts, the BBC took it upon itself to manipulate facts to feed into a predetermined political narrative,” she stated.

Meanwhile, as late as December 2018, she appeared on television and openly praised Hamas for its armed resistance against Israeli occupation. “I think it is important to remember this ability that Hamas has shown to unite all Palestinians, regardless of their political position or religious belief,” she said. These sorts of comments had drawn the ire of pro-Israel groups such as the Middle East Media Research Institute and the ADL, the latter of which had even labelled her anti-Semitic.

But now she has performed an ideological 180° on virtually every key political issue, suggesting Iran is guilty of “crimes against humanity” and repeating allegations that it buys babies from poor mothers to harvest the infants’ organs. In September, she confidently predicted that Ayatollah Khamenei was at death’s door, telling The Daily Express that “It is believed as of yesterday that Khamenei is about to breathe his last.” And last month, in response to the news that the United States and Israel were holding joint drills simulating bombing Iran’s infrastructure, she simply tweeted “hehe”.

Meanwhile, on Palestine, she now warns that if the European Union begins stepping up its aid to the beleaguered nation, Hamas “terror” is likely to increase. And she is comfortable enough to give extended TV interviews to Saudi government-funded media. Perez-Shakdam refused to speak to independent, reader-supported MintPress News, however.
A new home

Only fueling more speculation about her connections to intelligence was the news this summer that Perez-Shakdam had been appointed as a research fellow at the Henry Jackson Society (HJS), a hawkish London-based think tank.

Named after the neoconservative anti-communist senator, the HJS advocates that Western states are the most technologically and morally advanced and that NATO and other Western organizations must project “a global reach” to “assist those countries that are not yet liberal and democratic to become so” – in other words, advocating regime change.

Unsurprisingly, the HJS is closely connected to the military and intelligence establishments, as well as the U.K. Conservative Party, which it has helped fund. While the HJS’ finances are somewhat opaque, it proudly notes that its top international patrons include:

Michael Chertoff, former head of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security;
R. James Woolsey, former director of the Central Intelligence Agency;
Carl Gershman, longtime president of CIA regime change arm, the National Endowment for Democracy;
Jack Shaheed, former supreme allied commander of NATO;
Richard Perle, former 1st assistant secretary of defense for global affairs and a chief architect of the Iraq and Afghanistan invasions;
More Gold, former Israeli permanent representative to the United Nations and foreign policy advisor to prime ministers Ariel Sharon and Benjamin Netanyahu.

As the last name on the list suggests, the HJS enjoys something of a revolving door with the Israeli government. In 2011, the HJS’ board was defenestrated and replaced by individuals from Israel advocacy group, Just Journalism. Furthermore, at least two HJS staffers have moved directly from the group to positions within the Israeli Foreign Ministry. The HJS does not hide this relationship. Indeed, an HJS job advertisement for the position of North American Director noted that they were looking for someone who could reach out to the “pro-Israel community.”

The HJS has hosted the Friends of Israel Initiative in London and enjoys a close relationship with the parliamentary group, the Conservative Friends of the IDF, who are one of the signatories of the HJS’ statement of principles. Other organizations hold a dimmer view of the HJS. Israeli human rights group, B’Tselem, for instance, has accused it of trying to smear them as “terrorist sympathizers.”

Given these connections, it is perhaps unsurprising that the HJS has taken extremely hawkish positions on Iran, insisting the West must “counter” the Islamic Republic, condemning the U.S./Iran nuclear deal, claiming that Iran possesses a huge influence network across the United Kingdom, and publishing reports assessing Iran’s capability of withstanding drone attacks.

Counting many of the U.K. Conservative Party’s most powerful politicians as friends and associates, the HJS has also influenced the British government’s hard-line foreign policy and domestic treatment of its own Muslim population.

No doubt this legislation was affected by perhaps the HJS’ most controversial figure, Douglas Murray, HJS associate director between 2011 and 2018. Described by some as an “extreme right ideologue” who “spread anti-Muslim vitriol”, Murray is one of the key figures in mainstreaming the “Great Replacement” theory, i.e. that we are in the midst of a genocide of white people, as people of color invade Europe and North America. Murray’s solution to this is that “all immigration into Europe from Muslim countries must stop” and that, “conditions for Muslims in Europe must be made harder across the board.”

The HJS has certainly opened doors for Perez-Shakdam. She is now a regular on right-wing U.K. television networks such as TalkTV and GB News, discussing what the Western position on Iran should be. In September, she was able to go to the House of Lords to warn about the perils of giving aid to Palestinians. And just last week, she hosted an event in parliament assessing the possibilities for regime change in Tehran.

 A mysterious case

Thus, in just a few short years, Catherine Perez-Shakdam has gone from rubbing shoulders with the Iranian political elite to walking in the halls of power in the United Kingdom. Is she a longtime asset of Western or Israeli intelligence that has now come out in the open, a genuine political convert oscillating wildly from one belief to the next, or a calculating careerist who spotted an opportunity?

All three are plausible, given the facts of the case. Adley, however, suspects Perez-Shakdam did indeed have ulterior motives when working at MintPress, stating,

I believe she used her experience working with MintPress to give herself clout in infiltrating the anti-war movement and to get close to people who are sympathetic with resistance movements in the Middle East. I do feel confident that she is a spy”.

Whatever the truth of the situation, the curious case of Catherine Perez-Shakdam is a reminder to anti-war and anti-imperialist groups, human rights organizations and even progressive media outlets that spies could be among you.

Feature photo | Illustration by MintPress News

Alan MacLeod is Senior Staff Writer for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent, as well as a number of academic articles. He has also contributed to FAIR.org, The Guardian, Salon, The Grayzone, Jacobin Magazine, and Common Dreams.

Under Cover of War, Zelensky is Leading Ukraine’s Massive Privatization Drive

On the latest edition of the MintCast, host Mnar Adley is joined by journalist Max Blumenthal, editor-in-chief of The Grayzone, to discuss Zelensky, the war, and the consequences for Europe.

Although corporate media inundate us with stories of Russian aggression, far fewer people are aware that the Ukrainian government itself has been using the fog of war to move against certain sectors of its own population, settle scores, and attempt to revolutionize society.

These attempts have been led by President Volodymyr Zelensky himself, who, in recent months, has banned more than ten political parties (including the main opposition bloc), made trade unions illegal, outlawed Russian language, music and culture, and proclaimed his country open for business to Western investors.

On the latest edition of the MintCast, host Mnar Adley is joined by journalist Max Blumenthal, editor-in-chief of The Grayzone, to discuss Zelensky, the war, and the consequences for Europe.

While Zelensky has been presented as a heroic figure in the West, he has also cracked down on all forms of dissent within Ukraine, even moving against religious groups he feels are not sufficiently loyal to his administration.

“They are rounding up priests in Kherson as we speak, along with members of the Jewish ultra-orthodox sect, Chabad, to stayed behind in Kherson to tend to their people, when it was Russian territory, before the Russian retreat,” Blumenthal told Adley.

While Ukrainian men in their millions are subject to being drafted into the military, others wait in fear of being targeted by the administration. Kill lists circulate online, while news of the latest politicians to be arrested spreads on social media.

Blumenthal denounced what he described as “Pinochet-style regime of disappearances, assassinations, torture, arrests of all of Zelensky’s opposition, including his most popular and prominent opponent, the leader of the Ukrainian Patriots Party, Viktor Medvedchuk.”

Chile’s General Pinochet, of course, used overwhelming violence as a tactic to force through economic measures to enrich his Western backers – measures that the population would not have accepted otherwise.

Zelensky, too, it seems, is attempting to force through waves of privatization to revolutionize the Ukrainian economy. At the same time as jetting off to the New York Stock Exchange and proclaiming that Ukraine offers the best investment opportunity since World War Two, unions have effectively been banned across the country, and communists and labor rights activists have been jailed.

Describing this as the “financial rape of Ukrainian public holdings”, Blumenthal compared the events to the asset-stripping frenzy that wrecked the Russian economy in the 1990s.

It was this sort of reporting and commentary that likely triggered Blumenthal’s disinvitation from a conference in Portugal (reportedly at the behest of Ukrainian First Lady, Olena Zelenska).

Max Blumenthal is an award-winning journalist and the author of several books, including Republican Gomorrah, Goliath, The Fifty One Day War, and The Management of Savagery. He has produced print articles for an array of publications, many video reports, and several documentaries, including Killing Gaza. Blumenthal founded investigative news outlet, The Grayzone in 2015. It focuses on highlighting America’s bellicose foreign policy and how the perpetual state of war echoes into domestic policy.

MintPress News is a fiercely independent. You can support us by becoming a member on Patreon, bookmarking and whitelisting us, and by subscribing to our social media channels, including Twitch, YouTube, Twitter and Instagram.

Subscribe to MintCast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and SoundCloud.

Also, be sure to check out the new Behind the Headlines channel on YouTube and subscribe to rapper Lowkey’s new video interview/podcast series, The Watchdog.

Mnar Adley is founder, CEO and editor in chief of MintPress News, and is also a regular speaker on responsible journalism, sexism, neoconservativism within the media and journalism start-ups. She started her career as an independent multimedia journalist covering Midwest and national politics while focusing on civil liberties and social justice issues posting her reporting and exclusive interviews on her blog MintPress, which she later turned MintPress into the global news source it is today. In 2009, Adley also became the first American woman to wear the hijab to anchor/report the news in American media. Contact Mnar at mnar@mintpressnews.com. Follow Mnar on Twitter at @mnarmuh
December 14th, 2022
Mnar Adley
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Two US-Supported Coups In Latin America In Two Days, with Ben Norton

Ben Norton joins The Most Censored News Host, Lee Camp, to discuss the recent US-backed coups in Argentina and Peru.

Ben Norton is an investigative journalist and the founder and editor of Multipolarista, a new independent anti-imperialist media outlet focusing on the rise and struggles of left-wing movements, governments, and oligarchs in Latin America through the lens of a burgeoning multipolar world. He lives in Nicaragua, has traveled across Latin America for some time and has done extensive work on the Middle East as well as Europe.

Ben’s eagle eye perspective brings clarity to what he points out was “two coups in two days” on December 6 and 7, explaining the 4th generational warfare used against left-wing vice president of Argentina, Cristina Kirchner and former Peruvian president, Pedro Castillo and likening them to the embattled former President of Pakistan, Imran Khan who, similar to Cristina Kirchner, also survived a recent assassination attempt

Norton paints a picture of President Castillo’s time in power with intricate detail. Castillo seemed almost doomed to fail from the start, and joins the long line of Peruvians heads of state removed by the country’s deeply conservative congress. After having been politically isolated from his allies and at odds with the right-wing alliance trying to impeach him, Castillo attempted a desperate, last-minute action and tried to dissolve congress. This was a legal move. However, Castillo went from the halls of power to being under arrest in mere hours.

Staying true to the Multipolarista name, Ben explains how Argentina’s internal struggles against right-wing oligarchs plays out on the geopolitical chessboard and how it impacts revived efforts by regional powers such as Mexico and Brazil to create a regional currency and break free of dollar hegemony.

United States dollars are used in over 90% of exports in the Americas, meaning countries who run afoul of U.S. foreign policy are left vulnerable to being shut off from the international financial system or being placed under sanctions, such as countries like Nicaragua, Cuba, and Venezuela. A UN expert estimated over 100,000 deaths in Venezuela as having occurred due primarily to difficulty receiving medicine under US sanctions. For Latin American nations, therefore, breaking free from the dollar is not just about national sovereignty, but also national security.

Lee points out that the countries who come under the most severe attacks by the United States empire are generally ones who try to create alternative currencies, such as Libya, that was quickly attacked and destroyed after President Gaddafi tried to establish the Golden Dinar. The destruction of Libya was a war crime that Hillary Clinton later hoped to use as a campaign talking point.

Explaining how countries in Europe without a national currency such as Greece have had themselves subjugated by unpayable debt, Ben tells of a process unfolding in Latin America that is hoping to break out of dollar hegemony. Efforts to establish a “Bank of The South” are led by Andrés Arauz, an economist who served under former Ecuadorian President, Rafael Correa. This bank seeks to create a new currency and is expected to include tens of billions of dollars in capital from a union of countries including Brazil, Argentina, Venezuela and Colombia.

Watch Lee Camp’s interview this week with journalist Ben Norton on “The Most Censored Interviews”.

Lee Camp is an American stand-up comedian, writer, actor and activist. Camp is the host of Behind The Headlines’ new series: The Most Censored News With Lee Camp. He is a former comedy writer for the Onion and the Huffington Post and has been a touring stand-up comic for 20 years.
December 13th, 2022

As Far-Right Come to Power in Israel, J Street Struggles for Relevance

J Street, America’s more polite and liberal pro-Israel lobby group, is struggling to maintain legitimacy as the Israeli government openly embraces far-right fascism.

Strange things are taking place in the inner workings of the State of Israel, and here in the U.S., liberal Zionists must face the reality that they have not only failed, but unleashed the worst of the worst of the Zionist thugs who are now in power. The power in the “Jewish State” is no longer in the hands of so-called moderate Zionists who are palatable to Zionist liberals, but the most violent, dangerous thugs the State of Israel has ever seen. However, these individuals would never have been able to reach such power if it were not for the J Street liberals who keep the pie-in-the-sky myth of the liberal, peace loving Israel alive.

In a pathetic, lackluster address to the organization, Jeremy Ben-Ami, founder and president of J Street, all but begged them to allow him to continue in his job, even though he admitted that things are far worse today than they were when J Street was founded in 2008. Under a different set of circumstances, Ben-Ami’s speech would have been just another boring, lackluster talk. But in today’s reality, there was more to it than that. What Ben-Ami and the entire J Street operation refuse to acknowledge (and their members refuse to see) is that Liberal Zionism is the fig leaf under which Zionist crimes and the apartheid regime to flourish.

New far-right Minister for National Security Itamar Ben-Gvir is the direct ideological descendant of the early founders of Zionism. He could have never come to power had liberal Zionism not kept alive the myth that says another Israel is possible, or as some call it, “the Israel we once knew.”

Code words

Ben-Ami made certain to include all the necessary code words in his speech so that no one would suspect he intended to interfere with the liberal Zionist business as usual attitude towards Israel. Those three terms included in every Zionist speech are: “Israeli security,” “Israeli democracy,” and “Jewish character of Israel.”

He stressed that J Street is committed to Israel’s security, but of course would not dare to mention a commitment to the security of Palestinians living under Israeli apartheid. This means Israel has the right to maintain a monstrous military force dedicated to murder, abuse and to enforcing the apartheid regime. He then said that the whole point of the Two-State Solution – which some call “the Two-State Illusion” – is to ensure Israeli security. Because, according to every liberal Zionist in history, the occupation and oppression are bad for Israeli security. Yet liberal Zionists have always been opposed to enforcing measures that were sure to bring an end to Israeli lawlessness and abuses of human rights.

Ben-Ami talked about how J Street values are aligned with Israeli democracy, “and the values upon which Israel was founded.” He failed to demonstrate at what point exactly was Israel a democracy and which value Israel was founded upon that he particularly finds appealing. At this very moment, video clips showing former Israeli terrorists of 1948 telling the stories of their horrific crimes are going viral. Stories from 1948 describing rape and senseless mass murder of Palestinian civilians by Zionist terrorists throughout Palestine continue to surface to this day. One wonders if there will be an end to these hellish accounts given by old, white men who should be indicted for crimes against humanity.

The so-called Jewish character of Israel is yet another sad myth. It reflects poorly on Jews everywhere to think that there is anything about Israel that is remotely Jewish in nature. However, when Zionists talk about Israel’s “Jewish character”, they mean Jewish majority. It is code for a racist idea, according to which there has to be a Jewish majority within the boundaries of the state of Israel. The occupation of 1967 interferes with that. If a few million Palestinians are forced to remain within a small Bantustan state, then that allows Israel to maintain its Jewish majority. This is not a Jewish characteristic, but a racist one.

The lackluster general

Jeremy Ben-Ami wanted to show that the very people at the top of the Israeli security apparatus also oppose the new form of right-wing Israeli politics. To that end, he mentioned the former IDF chief of staff General Gadi Eizenkot. Eizenkot himself is another lackluster general who made it to the top of the IDF pyramid only because he was ambitious, not very intelligent and posed no political threat to anyone around him. Being the IDF chief of staff has been known to be a political stepping stone.

Eizenkot, Ben-Ami stated, “said that if the new government harms Israeli democracy…a million people should take to the streets, and he committed to be in front of the line.” Here, Ben-Ami really outdid himself. To quote Eizenkot of all people – and particularly in the context of people marching for liberty – is both cruel and cynical. Eizenkot was the IDF chief of staff when the Gaza March of Return took place. His soldiers shot, killed and maimed thousands of unarmed protestors demonstrating for their freedom.

This horrific war crime which Eizenkot presided over proudly is documented in the film “Gaza Fights for Freedom,” directed and narrated by Abby Martin. Clearly, for Ben-Ami, the IDF mowing down marchers in Gaza was perfectly acceptable.


The mind cannot grasp the hypocrisy of quoting an Israeli general while speaking of marching for freedom, and particularly this general at this time. But hypocrisy, dishonesty, and a sense of superiority are part and parcel of liberal Zionism.

Ben-Ami made sure to refer to Israel as the “national homeland” of the Jewish people, which is a pillar of Zionist ideology and which connects him directly to Ben-Gvir and Benjamin Netanyahu – the very people he pretends to distance himself from.

At the end of his speech he made a plea for J Street supporters to continue to support the organization, and consequently keep him in his job – even though he and the organization, along with the entire liberal Zionist apparatus, have proven to be useless at best, and catastrophic at worst.

Feature photo | Jeremy Ben-Ami, President, J Street, speaking at a press conference where members of Congress unveiled the Two-State Solution Act, September 23, 2021. Michael Brochstein | Sipa via AP Images

Miko Peled is MintPress News contributing writer, published author and human rights activist born in Jerusalem. His latest books are”The General’s Son. Journey of an Israeli in Palestine,” and “Injustice, the Story of the Holy Land Foundation Five.”

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect MintPress News editorial policy.
December 13th, 2022
Miko Peled
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John Pilger exposes the Permanent War State

Veteran journalist John Pilger shares his opinion on political figures from U.K. Labour Party leader Keir Starmer, Wikileaks founder Julian Assange and Venezuelan revolutionary Hugo Chavez and reveals the truth about our political system and its addiction to war.

The MintPress podcast, “The Watchdog,” hosted by British-Iraqi hip hop artist Lowkey, closely examines organizations about which it is in the public interest to know – including intelligence, lobby and special interest groups influencing policies that infringe on free speech and target dissent. The Watchdog goes against the grain by casting a light on stories largely ignored by the mainstream, corporate media.

On this week’s episode of “The Watchdog,” Lowkey joins veteran journalist John Pilger, as he shares his opinion on political figures from U.K. Labour Party leader Keir Starmer, Wikileaks founder Julian Assange and Venezuelan revolutionary Hugo Chavez and reveals the truth about our political system and its addiction to war.

Pilger begins discussing the case of Julian Assange, discrediting not only the legitimacy of the Espionage Act (1917) but also the charges themselves, which Pilger described as “bogus”. In doing so, both commentators highlighted the striking similarities between this case and that of Gary Webb. Webb was a California journalist who uncovered the CIA’s role in flooding black communities across America with crack cocaine. He faced immense pushback and was later found dead in his apartment.

The conversation later drifted into a discussion, assessing the relationship between the intelligence service and the state media.

Drawing examples from his personal experience in Cambodia and Vietnam, Pilger highlighted how he had been subjected to a surveillance operation during the 1980s, by the intelligence services which branded the veteran journalist as “pro-Kremlin.”

“The real threat to the establishment is not China or Russia, or all the other objects of paranoia. It’s you. It is people,” he concluded.

Is there a revolving door between mainstream media outlets and the British state? Throughout the podcast, Pilger reaffirms the notion that “the free press has gone, it’s an ironic term, just as the mainstream media.”

Lowkey then speaks of Lorna Ward, former foreign news editor of Sky News, who was also an adviser to the deputy commander of NATO. In response to this example, Pilger reminds Lowkey how this practice “wasn’t uncommon” during this period.

”The British military had people all over the BBC and always have had…there’s always been that association,” he said, adding, “We’ve had Kissinger bombing the life, literally, out of countries, when he is our source, we should despair.

Ultimately, the ability for the public to access large swaths of sensitive secret information via the internet has accelerated in the last 20 years. Nevertheless, as we approach the end of 2022, independent journalists that work towards exposing the state are becoming increasingly under threat.

As the podcast draws to a close, John Pilger speaks on his personal relationship with the late Hugo Chavez, described as a “populist” who was dearly loved throughout his country.

John Pilger is an award-winning journalist. His articles appear worldwide in newspapers such as the Guardian, the Independent, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Mail & Guardian (South Africa), Aftonbladet (Sweden) and Il Manifesto (Italy).

Lowkey is a British-Iraqi hip-hop artist, academic and political campaigner. As a musician, he has collaborated with the Arctic Monkeys, Wretch 32, Immortal Technique and Akala. He is a patron of Stop The War Coalition, Palestine Solidarity Campaign, the Racial Justice Network and The Peace and Justice Project, founded by Jeremy Corbyn. He has spoken and performed on platforms from the Oxford Union to the Royal Albert Hall and Glastonbury. His latest album, Soundtrack To The Struggle 2, featured Noam Chomsky and Frankie Boyle and has been streamed millions of times.
December 13th, 2022
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US Non-Profit-Funded Israeli Extremists Pose Immediate Threat to Al-Aqsa Mosque and Regional Stability

Recent Israeli elections have greatly increased the influence of extreme right-wing Israeli groups who plan to destroy the Al-Aqsa Mosque and replace it with a Third Temple, risking sparking a regional war. These groups are funded by American tax-exempt non-profits. All the while, Palestinian lives are in danger.

As the Religious Zionist Party forms part of Israel’s new government, fears arise of tensions over the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound leading to a new regional escalation. Israeli settler provocations at Jerusalem’s holy sites have a long history of causing civil unrest that runs counter to Washington’s foreign policy goals, which is why U.S.-based non-profits that finance Israeli extremists are all the more outrageous.

With far-right Israeli lawmaker Itamar Ben-Gvir pledging to fight for unfettered access to Al-Aqsa Mosque for extremist settlers, the conditions that could lead to an explosion of violence throughout occupied Palestine – and even regionally – are ripe. In May 2021, Israeli settler incursions into the Al-Aqsa Mosque, combined with routine attacks on worshipers by Israeli police, caused a war to break out between Israel and the Gaza Strip.

Once on the fringes of Israeli society, the extremist Temple Mount and Eretz Yisrael Faithful Movement have now entered the mainstream, with a leader of the second most powerful Israeli political party on their side. The temple mount group openly states on its website its intentions of destroying the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound as we know it today and building the Jewish “Third Temple” in its place – a virtual declaration of war against the Muslim world.

Although the extremist settlers who routinely storm the mosque are not necessarily close to achieving their end goal, they are hoping to see the new Israeli government grant them the full right to storm at will and perform religious rituals in Al-Aqsa. Such provocations could spark a round of tensions inside the Old City of Jerusalem and its surroundings, leading to a situation that the Secretary General of Lebanese Hezbollah, Seyyed Hassan Nasrallah, has vowed to challenge using a united resistance front, formed of a number of regional actors, including Yemen’s Ansar Allah.

The origins of the Al-Aqsa mosque tensions

Since the early days of the British Mandate period in Palestine, the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound and its surroundings have been central to both the Palestinian national struggle and to creating the grounds for greater conflict between Zionists and Palestinians.

The Zionist movement’s attempts to take over the Western (Wailing) Wall – attached to the outer walls of the Al-Aqsa site, have sparked a number of riots and clashes, culminating in the bloody 1929 al-Khalil (Hebron) uprising.

During the Ottoman Rule of Palestine, Chaim Weizmann, then head of the Zionist Organization, saw the Western Wall site as a prize to attain, initially in order to bring ultra-orthodox Jews into the Zionist camp. He attempted to purchase the site from the Islamic religious trust known as the Waqf. In Tom Segev’s book, “One Palestine, Complete,” he cites a letter written by Weizmann to his wife, where he described, “the minarets and the bell-towers and the domes rising to the sky are crying out that Jerusalem is not Jewish,” clearly indicating a need to change the city’s character.
Israeli troops face Arab demonstrators at the entrance to Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, Aug. 22, 1969. Brian Calvert | AP

According to Yehoshua Porath’s book, “The Emergence of the Palestinian-Arab National Movement 1918-1929”, during tensions between Zionists and Palestinians in 1920s Jerusalem, the precedent was already set for Muslim fears over any change in the status quo at Jerusalem’s holy sites. Porath writes that the Palestinians understood Zionist attempts to change the status quo at the Western Wall site as a gradual attempt to take over the Haram al-Sharif (otherwise known as the Dome of the Rocks mosque), located in the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound.

In reaction to Zionist attempts to attain more control in the Old City, the former Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, created a large campaign to both refurbish the site and to signal to Muslims that the Al-Aqsa Mosque was under attack. This campaign ended up increasing the importance of the third-holiest site in the Islamic faith and in the Palestinian national struggle, combining the religious significance of al-Aqsa with the Palestinian fight for national liberation. The fact that Judaization attempts were being made by leaders of the Zionist movement, pre-dating the British Mandate rule itself, remains stored in the Palestinian collective consciousness until this day.

Al-Aqsa under the law

The position that is maintained by the United Nations, despite Israel having passed its own legislation to annex Jerusalem in 1980, is that under international law, the territory is considered to be occupied. The international community “rejects the acquisition of territory by war and considers any changes on the ground illegal and invalid”, is the way the issue of Israel’s claims to sovereignty over the city it viewed by the UN. In addition to this, the status quo, as per Israel’s agreement with Jordan, is that the Jordanian Waqf has the right to maintain security inside the Al-Aqsa compound, whilst Israeli forces have the right to manage security on the Holy Site’s exterior.

Despite attempts to change it, Israeli law states that performing acts of religious worship inside the site is forbidden for Israeli Jewish citizens. Jewish Israelis are allowed to enter as tourists, as is the case for non-Muslim international travelers to the site. However, the Israeli police that operate security checks surrounding Al-Aqsa clearly do not abide by this precedent.

Israel has no right, under international law, to any of Jerusalem. One way that Tel Aviv could have been granted legitimacy in Jerusalem was through a potential peace deal with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), with no such deal having yet taken place. Between 1993 and 1995, both Israel and the PLO signed what was known as the Oslo Accords. Oslo gave birth to a semi-autonomous Palestinian governing body – the Palestinian Authority – in some limited areas of the West Bank and Gaza. The series of agreements between the PLO and the Israeli government was supposed to lead to a process by which a Palestinian State could be created.
Israel Palestinians
Palestinian youth are handcuffed after protesting Israelis stroming Al-Aqsa Mosque, April 15, 2022. Ariel Schalit | AP

Although Israeli negotiations with the Palestinian Authority (PA), currently based out of the city of Ramallah, never resulted in a peace deal, the PA had only ever claimed for their state to include East Jerusalem. Under international law, without a viable Palestinian state – one that has its capital in East Jerusalem, Israel has no legal right to any part of the city.

Despite this, in 2000, then-Israeli opposition leader, Ariel Sharon, stormed the Al-Aqsa compound, causing a mass Palestinian revolt. Sharon’s move followed a march that had just taken place to commemorate the 1982 Sabra and Shatila massacres of around 3,500 Palestinians and Lebanese civilians – massacres that Sharon played a central role in facilitating.

For Palestinians, it was the act of an Israeli politician storming the Al-Aqsa Mosque site that served as the straw that broke the camel’s back. The uprising across the Occupied Territories known as the Second Intifada began in September 2000 and continued officially until 2005.

Israel’s growing encroachment on Al-Aqsa

Over the past two years, the Israeli assaults on Palestinian worshipers inside the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound have been extremely pronounced, especially during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Israeli riot police have repeatedly stormed the site, injuring hundreds of Palestinians and even killing a young man earlier this year. The war between Gaza and Israel in 2021 began as a result of tensions surrounding Al-Aqsa and the threat of an Israeli settler “death to Arabs” march penetrating the compound’s walls.

Leading up to the 2021 conflict, Israeli police had restricted access to the site for prayer during the month of Ramadan and even closed off the minarets at Al-Aqsa to prevent the call to prayer. In 2019, the Israeli Mayor of Jerusalem, Moshe Leon, pushed to install quiet speakers at the Mosque site, which indicates that the action performed by the Israeli police was likely not arbitrary and fits into a trend of extinguishing the Islamic presence in the city.

Going further back, in 2010, an Israeli terrorist attempted to detonate explosives in order to blow up the Al-Qibli Mosque inside the Al-Aqsa compound. This attack was followed by continued attempts by settlers to invade the area. 2015 however, was when the provocations began to take off in an unprecedented manner, with the number of Israeli settlers choosing to storm the Al-Aqsa Mosque steadily increasing since that time.

According to Yaraeh – an organization that promotes settler incursions into Al-Aqsa – from August to October 2021, approximately 10,000 Israeli settlers entered the Al-Aqsa mosque compound, representing a 35% increase from previous years. This October, Yaraeh proudly announced that almost 8,000 settlers stormed the site in one month – the highest on record and more than in the entirety of 2012

In 2021, Hagit Ofran, the director of Peace Now’s Settlement Watchdog, told +972 Magazine that Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government had been responsible for tensions at the al-Aqsa site, “so much so that it was the reason Netanyahu was no longer in touch with Jordan’s King Abdullah II”. Since the occupation of Jerusalem in 1967, Israel and Jordan have been bound by an agreement that maintains the “status quo” at the site, which involves Tel Aviv respecting the Hashemite King of Jordan’s symbolic custodianship over Al-Aqsa.

With Netanyahu returning to power, the Jordanian element to this story is particularly important. Netanyahu is backed by fanatical Israeli lawmakers who would like to see Palestinian citizens of Israel expelled from the country altogether. Although Jordan’s King Abdullah II is not likely to abandon his nation’s 1994 peace treaty with Tel Aviv, it is clear that during the Trump administration years, the Hashemite ruler had been isolated after taking a stance against the Netanyahu-Trump “Deal of the Century” model to end the Palestine-Israeli conflict. There are even reports that Benjamin Netanyahu, along with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was involved in attempts to hatch a coup plot to overthrow the Jordanian monarch – one that was publicly quashed in April 2021. The Israeli role in the alleged U.S.-Saudi campaign to undermine Abdullah was said to have been part of an attempt to strip the Hashemites of their symbolic custodianship over Al-Aqsa.

Under the Biden administration’s combined efforts with the former Bennett-Lapid government of Israel, Amman had again grown closer to Tel Aviv and even signed a memorandum of understanding for a “water for clean energy” exchange agreement. However, with Netanyahu’s return to power and the current weakening of the Palestinian Authority, if tensions arise from the growing encroachment upon Al-Aqsa, Jordan’s ruler could again be undermined. The Jordanians and Palestinian Authority have already joined hands, sending a message to the U.S. and E.U. to demand that no change be made to the status quo at Al-Aqsa as the new Israeli government comes to power.

In addition to its plans for the expulsion of thousands of Palestinians in neighborhoods like Silwan, Israel is also demolishing Islamic burial sites in the Old City. The Israeli Supreme Court has also been complicit in rejecting appeals to prevent a cable car project in the Old City, which will economically impact local Palestinians, as well as destroy their heritage sites. Recently, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem has condemned the rising settler attacks on holy sites throughout the city, but his statements largely fell on deaf ears.

Given all the context noted above, it is fair to assume that another escalation is only around the corner and that due to the silence of the international community, the Palestinian people will be left to defend their holy sites on their own. When this happens, however, it is likely that much of the Western world, along with Israel, will act as if the Palestinians are being violent and unreasonable, and motivated purely by anti-Semitism.

U.S. funding of extremist Temple Mount groups

The Temple Mount movement, which explicitly expresses its desire to not only change the status quo at Al-Aqsa but to build the ‘third temple’ by destroying the Islamic Holy site there, is spearheaded by American-born Israelis. There has been significant financial as well as promotional support from U.S. citizens and organizations. Lately, prominent conservative commentators Ben Shapiro and Jordan Peterson have themselves entered the site in the presence of extremist Temple Mount figures. Among both Christian and Jewish Americans, the issue has been of importance for starkly different religious reasons.

The Temple Institute, the most notable of a number of organizations that advocate changing the status quo at the Al-Aqsa compound and building the Jewish third temple, was revealed by a Haaretz news investigation to have been funded by a leading U.S. donor to Benjamin Netanyahu. The Temple Institute, founded in 1987 by Rabbi Yisrael Ariel, received $96,000 from the U.S.-based One Israel Fund in 2012 and 2013 alone, with a number of other American organizations also contributing donations during that time. The 2015 Haaretz report uncovered that the financing of extremist Temple Mount groups comes from a large pool of tax-exempt charitable organizations that are based in the United States, ranging from New York and California to Texas.

According to the Temple Institute’s last publicly available financial report, for the years 2019 and 2020, the organization received over $2.9 million in funding. Around half came from the Israeli government, with the other half coming from donations. To contribute funds from the United States to the Temple Institute, donors can be directed from a website called America Gives, partnered with Israel Gives, a website from which you can directly aid to the Temple Institute. American Support for Israel, U.K. Gives and Canada Charity Partners are all set up to receive donations from outside of Israel.

American-born ex-Likud Party Knesset member, Yehuda Glick is a prominent figure in the Temple Mount movement and heads the Shalom Jerusalem Foundation. On the foundation’s official website, you can find a donation campaign that hopes to attract people who seek to “see the rebuilding of the Third Temple speedily in our time”. The foundation collects money through a tax-exempt charity based in New Jersey called the Jerusalem Friendship Alliance INC and collected more than $1.8 million in total revenue between 2011 and 2020.

The above-noted means of donating from the United States to the Temple Mount movement are but only a sample of a much larger pool of charitable organizations, through which American organizations and private persons can give money to a cause that runs counter to U.S. policy. Washington supposedly supports maintaining the status quo at Al-Aqsa.

Fearing a repeat Ibrahimi Mosque massacre scenario

In 1994, after years of attempts by extremists to change the status quo at the Ibrahimi Mosque in the West Bank city of al-Khalil (Hebron), the settlers were finally successful. On February 25, U.S.-born Israeli settler Baruch Goldstein entered the Ibrahimi Mosque with an automatic weapon, opening fire on Palestinian worshipers. The horrifying terrorist attack resulted in the murder of 29 people and the injury of 125 others, in what Palestinians claimed was a settler plot with indirect support from the Israeli military.

Shortly after the attack, Israel declared the old city of Al-Khalil a closed military zone, later seizing 60% of the Ibrahimi Mosque and turning it into a synagogue closed off to Palestinians. The attack was a resounding success for the Israeli terrorist, who had achieved his goal of making Palestinians pay for falling victim to his actions, and making the life of those living in the Old City miserable and subjected to constant checkpoint stops. Today, Al-Khalil’s Old City is one of the most disturbing areas to visit in all of Palestine, as settlers occupy homes that Palestinians have been expelled from, while simply visiting the Ibrahimi Mosque comes with a humiliating journey through a military checkpoint and a number of stops.

Although violent attempts to destroy the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound have not yet returned into the fold, the possibility of extremist attempts to use violence at the site is always a fear in the back of every Palestinian’s head. This fear is not unfounded, nor is it without historical precedent, as the Jewish Underground terrorist group had attempted just this back in the 1970s and 1980s; to not only blow up al-Aqsa Mosque but to detonate bombs on packed Palestinian civilian buses in East Jerusalem. Yehuda Etzion, a former member of the Jewish Underground who attempted to blow up Al-Aqsa in 1984, today still advocates building the third temple. Etzion continued to agitate, heading the Chai Vekayam movement that played a prominent role in promoting the Temple Mount movement in the early 2000s. The Jewish Underground is no longer operating, and many of its members were arrested for their violent attacks and plots. However, interestingly, the funding for this organization came primarily from within the United States.

The extremist settler, Baruch Goldstein, who was responsible for the Ibrahimi Mosque massacre, was a protégé of the extremist Israeli political figure known as Meir Kahane, the founder of the infamous Kach movement, whose armed wing was the Jewish Defense League (JDL). The Kach movement was eventually outlawed in both Israel and the United States, with the JDL being designated a terrorist group for its violent antics. Today, former members of the Kach movement and those sympathetic to its cause, such as Itamar Ben-Gvir, are now about to take cabinet positions in the new Israeli government.

Those who follow the beliefs of Meir Kahane, whose group carried out bombing attacks on U.S. soil, are called Kahanists. A 2019 Investigation conducted by The Nation revealed that a web of non-profit American organizations was financing Kahanist groups affiliated with the Religious Zionism Party, which is poised to become the second most powerful Israeli political party under the new Netanyahu administration. An Intercept report in early November then followed up on The Nation’s findings and revealed that tens of millions of dollars had been donated to Israeli far-right groups affiliated with the Religious Zionism Party. Religious Zionism openly advocates for changing the status quo at Al-Aqsa. Its most prominent figures, Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich, have both stormed the Al-Aqsa mosque this year.

The Biden administration has not changed Washington’s long-standing position of maintaining the status quo at al-Aqsa. However, its position of upholding “unwavering support” for Tel Aviv directly contradicts this position. The Israeli government, the recipient of $150 Billion in U.S. aid, directly finances the Temple Institute and other far-right organizations. Some of Israel’s most prominent political figures also support the idea of building the Jewish Third Temple and actively call for changing the status quo at Al-Aqsa.

Organizations that are the most prominent in promoting these ideas receive a large sum of their finances from U.S.-based tax-exempt organizations. If the U.S. government does not decide to put its foot down and make its support for Israel conditional, a major flare-up over the status of Al-Aqsa will be on its hands – an escalation that could cost Washington its relationship with Jordan and even leaderships in the wider Muslim world. The Al-Aqsa Mosque’s status is an issue that is close to the hearts of over 2 billion Muslims worldwide and attempts to destroy it will be tantamount to a declaration of Holy War, funded by tax-exempt U.S. organizations.

Feature photo | Jews pray in Jerusalem opposite the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the night before Yom Kippur, October 3, 2022. Saeed Qaq | NurPhoto via AP

Robert Inlakesh is a political analyst, journalist and documentary filmmaker currently based in London, UK. He has reported from and lived in the occupied Palestinian territories and hosts the show ‘Palestine Files’. Director of ‘Steal of the Century: Trump’s Palestine-Israel Catastrophe’. Follow him on Twitter @falasteen47
December 7th, 2022
Robert Inlakesh
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US Plans to Build Jerusalem Embassy on Palestinian Land

“Should the US proceed with this plan, it would not only be complicit with Israel’s illegal confiscation of Palestinian-owned land, but it would also become an active participant in the seizure of the land of U.S. citizens.” — Adalah

Former President Donald Trump’s decision to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem was met with widespread international condemnation. Yet, despite rejecting Trump’s extremist politics, President Joe Biden is pushing forward with the embassy move and constructing a compound atop stolen Palestinian land.

This month, human rights groups called on Biden’s administration to end plans to build the U.S. Jerusalem Embassy on private Palestinian property. Adalah, The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel and the Center for Constitutional Rights sent a letter to the U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and the U.S. Ambassador to Israel, Thomas Nides. The organizations argued that continuing with Trump’s decision to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem violates international law, specifically given Jerusalem’s special status as a city whose sovereignty is undetermined. The letter was written on behalf of several Palestinian families who would have inherited the land where the U.S. Embassy would be constructed if Israel had not illegally confiscated it.

According to records found in the Israeli State Archives and published by Adalah in July, the land in question was owned by Palestinian families and leased to British Mandate authorities before Israel’s establishment in 1948.

Israel seized the land using its 1950 Absentees’ Property Law, which stipulates that property abandoned — even due to expulsion — during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War now belongs to Israel. This legislation is one of Israel’s primary tools in stripping land from Palestinian refugees, including being used in infamous cases such as ongoing dispossession efforts in Sheikh Jarrah.

“The U.S. Embassy plan to build on this land will also violate the private property rights of Palestinian landowners and the internationally established right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and gain restitution of their properties,” the letter states.

The organizations have not received a response to their November 10 letter.
Sheikh Jarrah
Israeli police guard a Palestinian home that was taken over by Jewish settlers in Sheikh Jarrah on May 5, 2021. Maya Alleruzzo | AP

“The Biden Administration is committed to keeping the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem,” the State Department said in a statement to MintPress News. “The United States recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Jerusalem itself is a final status issue to be resolved through direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.”

The State Department said they are considering two sites for the embassy complex — one being the area belonging to Palestinians —but haven’t settled on a final location.

“Construction, location, and a range of other factors, including the history of the sites, will be part of the ultimate site selection,” the State Department said.

Earlier this month, the Jerusalem District Planning and Building Committee published its plan for the U.S. diplomatic compound, which can receive public objections until January 7. Adalah’s legal director, Adv. Suhad Bishara told MintPress News that Adalah plans to file an objection to the master plan.

“We are talking about confiscations based on an Israeli, racially-motivated law that’s against international law and international obligations,” Bishara said, referring to Israel’s absentees’ property law.

Erasing Palestinian history from Jerusalem

The lease agreements found in Israeli State Archives detail the names of several Palestinian landowners, including the El Khalidi family, whose descendants include Palestinian-American historian Rashid Khalidi.

“The fact that the U.S. government is now participating actively with the Israeli government in this project means that it is actively infringing on the property rights of the legitimate owners of these properties, including many U.S. citizens,” Khalidi said in an Adalah press release.

The descendants are demanding the Biden Administration and the Israeli government immediately cancel this plan. Ali Qleibo, one of the heirs living in Jerusalem, described U.S. attempts to build an embassy on his family’s land as outrageous. “It legitimizes the Israeli occupation on the one hand, and it breaks international laws regarding Jerusalem,” Qleibo told MintPress News.

Qleibo’s lineage goes back at least 2,000 years in Palestine. His ancestors came from wealth and were scholars, theologians, and custodians of what is today the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron. Part of the location for the new U.S. Embassy was once Qleibo’s family’s summer manor. The family’s property was placed into an endowment along with other notable Palestinian families.
Ali Qleibo
Ali Qleibo stands outside his family home in Jerusalem, taken over by Jewish settlers in 1948. Screenshot | Mondoweiss

“The endowment and the beneficiaries form a network of relation that objectifies the social structure and hierarchy of Jerusalem and establishes the aristocratic families in the city and their long historical background,” Qleibo explained, identifying this investment as a cornerstone of Jerusalemite history.

“This particular property is the social registry for the Jerusalem elite,” Qleibo said. “And by removing it, you remove the connections.”

Trump-era policies live on through Biden

Trump’s landmark decision to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in 2017 radically reversed decades of American foreign policy. Less than six months later, in 2018, an interim embassy compound was opened in Jerusalem. Despite Biden expressing commitments to Palestinian statehood, he has continued with Trump’s controversial Middle East policy.

Bishara described the Biden administration’s dedication to a two-state solution while building a Jerusalem embassy as contradictory. “Israel’s position is very clear in this regard, that Jerusalem, as what they call the United East and West, is the capital of the state of Israel. This [embassy] plan backs even indirectly such statements and laws enacted by the Israeli parliament in clear violation of international law,” Bishara said; “The plan backs and strengthens the illegal position of Israel concerning Jerusalem because they see it as one united city with no rights for the Palestinians whatsoever.”

From Qleibo’s perspective, Biden’s decision to keep with Trump’s expansionist policy originates out of fear. “The U.S.A. has decided that they will favor Israel, that they will support them, and that they will not say no. And in the present context, it has become any action that’s anti-Israeli policy is constituted as anti-Semitic,” Qleibo said. “They just comply and are complacent, and they try to appease the Israelis in any way for fear lest they should be called anti-Semitic.”

And according to Qleibo, that pervasive fear of anti-Semitism dictating U.S. politics is part of what’s preventing Palestinians from obtaining their rights. “The American policy now is shaped by a group of people caught up in a series of beneficial mutual relations,” Qleibo said. “And the concept of justice for the Palestinians does not exist in this formula.”

Feature photo | Illustration by MintPress News

Jessica Buxbaum is a Jerusalem-based journalist for MintPress News covering Palestine, Israel, and Syria. Her work has been featured in Middle East Eye, The New Arab and Gulf News.
December 5th, 2022
Jessica Buxbaum
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UN Resolution 181: 75 Years of Myth Making and False Israeli Legitimacy

Seventy-Five years after the decision to partition Palestine, the carnage and oppression of Palestinians by Zionists promises to get much worse. 

Seventy-Five years after the United Nations’ fatal decision to partition Palestine, the carnage and oppression of Palestinians by those who would claim they represent the Jewish people continues – and it promises to get much worse.

Some claim that Zionism came to save the Jewish people from another Holocaust, that they speak for defenseless Jews so that they will never again have to endure a genocide the likes of the Nazi genocide of the Jews in Europe. But these assertions are merely excuses to allow the Zionist regime to exercise its cruelty and brutality without interruption.

The United Nations Partition Resolution or Resolution 181 of November 1947 brought about the first attacks against Palestinians and opened the door to the brutality of forced exile. Terrorist attacks and massacres that lasted well into the 1950s forced close to one million Palestinians to leave their country or die. Yet the world stood silent and allowed this unforgivable tragedy to unfold.


What makes it possible for the Zionist anti-Palestinian campaign to continue to this day is the fact that Zionist terrorism was in fact hailed as heroism. The myth that the Zionist killers were heroes who freed their country and liberated their people after two thousand years was perpetuated even though it was well-known that it was a lie.

The international community legitimized the conquest and consequent destruction of Palestine and the establishment of a violent, racist anti-Palestinian, Anti-Arab apartheid regime called Israel. The State of Israel, which stole the land and its riches, was now welcomed by the international community as a legitimate actor in the global arena.
Israel rally 1957
An estimated 12,000 persons sit in Madison Square Garden to attend an “emergency rally for Israel” on Feb. 25, 1957 to protest sanctions against Israel proposed by the UN. Matty Zimmerman | AP

Once the first wave of ethnic cleansing of Palestine came to a pause in the early 1950s, the newly established state began planning its next war against Egypt. Fearing peace as one might fear the plague, Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion was busy building a coalition to attack Egypt. Although it took him a few years to build a coalition that would go along with his plan, he succeeded in launching an unwarranted attack against Egypt.

As the 1960s rolled in, the State of Israel was again planning for war. This time, they coveted the Syrian Golan Heights. Again, though it took several years, Israel was able to engage in a war that left the Golan Heights in its hands.

Never enough

While the Zionists celebrated UN resolution 181 and rightfully saw it as a diplomatic victory, it was not enough. The Zionists wanted more. And indeed, by 1949, they had almost 80% of Palestine in their hands, with the vast majority of Palestinians out. But that was not enough. As early as the 1950s, my father who was then a young Lieutenant Colonel, said in a speech in front of American Jewish leaders and the Prime Minister of Israel, “The IDF is waiting for the order to push the eastern boundary of Israel to its natural location, the Jordan River.”

In 1967 my father was among the generals who demanded this order be given and then lead the war to make it happen. By 1967 the Zionists had all of historic Palestine in their hands and the single state was the reality in Palestine: it was the State of Israel.

Throughout this time, control of the land was insufficient. Israel needed to deepen its claims to the land, and so all signs of Palestinian history and heritage had to go. Israel went on a campaign to destroy Palestinian historical monuments and cemeteries and anything that might remind people of their rich history. Instead, Israel developed the Zionist myth of a direct link between modern Israel and the ancient tribe of the Hebrews, who lived in Palestine thousands of years ago.

Furthermore, Palestinian existence was seen as a threat to Israel, particularly to its legitimacy. Since its establishment, Israel passed laws that made Palestinian existence all but illegal and impossible. By enacting racist laws and policies, Israel created limits on where Palestinians can live, work, and study, where they may travel, how much water they may receive and what lands they may cultivate.

The world – and particularly Europe – must have suffered from amnesia, because for centuries they were conducting trade with Palestine. Yet somehow after Israel was established, Palestine was forgotten and forsaken, and everyone bought into the Zionist mythology. The legitimacy of Israel and the adherence to Israeli mythology became like a second religion, and no one dared to stray from it for fear of the Zionist wrath.
Pre Israel Palestine

The ruins of a building in Nablus which the British blew up, alleging it was used by Arab snipers on Jan. 12, 1937. Photo

Anyone who does stray from the Zionist line is immediately attacked with accusations of anti-Semitism and banished, but this is only possible because rather than fight back and resist the Zionist bullying, people bow their heads and let themselves be bullied.
Seventy-Five Years later

Now, 75 years after that fateful decision by the United Nations, the killing and destruction continue. Israel promotes itself as a “miracle” and a “success story,” but in reality it is a tale of theft and dispossession. Israel claims to be a story of a nation reborn, but it is in fact a nation destroyed. It claims to have made the desert bloom when, in fact, it stole a blossoming country. Israel asserts it has created a safe haven. But, in reality, it has developed a ruthless apartheid regime that has outdone others in its cruelty and its efficiency.

As we look back at the last 75 years it is clear that the United Nations (and especially countries such as Britain, Germany and the United States) are culpable, and must be held accountable for the terrible crimes they supported – and continue to fully support – against the Palestinian people.

We need to look at the history of Palestine in order to appreciate its potential future. Commerce, learning, culture, religion, philosophy, architecture, were all part of the legacy of this land and its people, as was tolerance. The current chapter of Palestine is marked by pain, suffering and racism, and hopefully, it will end soon. With any luck, when Palestine is liberated and its people are free to enjoy its wonders and live free, the chapter known as “Israel” will be remembered as a short, sad chapter.

Feature photo | David Ben Gurion, left, signs a document in Tel Aviv, Palestine, proclaiming the new Jewish State of Israel in Tel Aviv at midnight on May 14, 1948. Photo | AP

Miko Peled is MintPress News contributing writer, published author and human rights activist born in Jerusalem. His latest books are”The General’s Son. Journey of an Israeli in Palestine,” and “Injustice, the Story of the Holy Land Foundation Five.”

Itamar Ben-Gvir’s Appointment as Minister for National Security is Bad News For Palestinians, Humanity.

The position of Minister of National Security is a new post created specifically for Ben-Gvir. It is an appointment that will give him unprecedented power over the lives of Palestinian citizens of Israel, as well as those living in Jerusalem and the West Bank.

The racist thug Itamar Ben-Gvir has not yet set foot in his new office as Minister of National Security, but the effects of his rise to power have already been felt throughout Palestine. As I write these words, Palestinian human rights activist Issa Amro was arrested by the Israeli Army. He recently published a video showing an IDF soldier attacking and beating an Israeli activist in the city of Al-Khalil (also known as Hebron). The actions of the soldier and the sudden unwarranted arrest of Issa are signs of things to come.

From Al-Khalil, Issa runs Youth Against Settlements, one of the most important and effective grassroots organizations in Palestine. His life has been threatened many times by soldiers and by Israeli settlers, and now the pressure on him is worse than ever before. He is not alone, as has been said many times recently, the safety and security of Palestinians is in grave danger, more than ever before.

One has to wonder how many more warnings will it take before the world intervenes to protect Palestinians. Israeli sources confirm that Itamar Ben-Gvir, a student of hate-mongering, anti-Arab racist Meir Kahane – a man who has publicly stated his admiration for the mass murderer Baruch Goldstein who massacred Palestinian worshipers at the Ibrahimi Mosque in Al-Khalil – will be Israel’s minister of national security. Benny Gantz, the outgoing Israeli minister of defense, described the situation as, “Netanyahu allowing Ben-Gvir to create his own army in the West Bank.”

The position of Minister of National Security is a new post created specifically for Ben-Gvir. It is an appointment that will give him unprecedented power; he will have control over the lives of Palestinian citizens of Israel, as well as those living in Jerusalem and the West Bank. This position includes control over the Border Police, who deal primarily with Palestinians. He will have control of the so-called “Green Brigade,” and the “Green Police,” two agencies that directly deal with Palestinian “environmental” violations, a code word used to describe actions taken by Palestinian citizens of Israel, Palestinians who hold a Jerusalem ID or Palestinian residents of the districts Israel designates as “Area C”.

The Border Police have several brigades that operate in the West Bank, with an estimated personnel of 2,000. An additional 4,000-5,000 are in reserves. Currently, they are funded by and under the command of the IDF. The reason Ben-Gvir wants this enormous force under his control is because part of their mandate is the evacuation of the settler outposts. These outposts are in fact settlements that are yet to be officially recognized or authorized by the government, and from time to time the army actually needs to evaluate them.

The Border Police are particularly violent. And while no one cares when they apply their violence towards Palestinians, there have been cases where even Israeli have settlers complained of excessive use of force. These settlers are Ben-Givr’s foot-soldiers. Therefore, he wants to control the Border Police who enforce the law when they break it.
Ben Gvir will fix everything

Issa Amro recently published video of an encounter he had with a soldier at an Al-Khalil checkpoint. “That’s it, you are fucked, you and your activities, the whorehouse you are operating here are now finished,” the soldier says. “What activities?” Issa asked, “Am I breaking any laws?” “Yes you are. You are breaking all the laws, I make the laws here,” this twenty-year-old corporal said, adding, “Now get away from here.”

One has to be deeply concerned by the fact that approximately 30% of soldiers voted for Ben-Gvir’s racist anti-Arab party.

As this video was making its way through social media, another video showed a soldier in Al-Khalil beating an Israeli activist. This soldier, who I had confronted in the past, threw an Israeli activist on the ground and punched him in the face. All this was in front of the cameras and as other activists and soldiers were watching. The Israeli papers all carried the story and posted the video.
Death to Arabs

Although Ben-Gvir himself is careful not to allow this chant when he is present, his followers show no such restraint. Ben-Gvir insists they chant “Death to terrorists” instead, but, in his circles, “terrorist” is often a code word for “Arabs”.

A march in the Old City of Jerusalem from earlier this month makes this clear. Video show young settlers marching through Muslim-majority neighborhoods chanting “Death to Arabs, death to enemies” and “No Arabs, no terrorism.”

A short list of worrying events that have taken place since the Israeli elections includes the following:

• Issa Amro’s settler neighbors in the old city of Al-Khalil terrorize him by throwing rocks at his house and at the Youth Against Settlements offices. This is not new, but incidents such as these have been on the rise.

• Palestinians who left their house for a few hours to attend a funeral had settlers take over their home and move in.

• Hamdallah Badir, a Palestinian doctor in the Israeli town of Kiryat Malachi, was attacked for being an Arab.

• In the small towns of Abu Ghosh and Ein Nakuba, two towns on the outskirts of Jerusalem that are heavily frequented by Israelis who come to dine at their restaurants and shop at their stores, there were arson attacks and graffiti calling for the expulsion of Arabs.
Will Israelis act?

Former IDF chief General Dan Halutz warned in a recent interview that the appointment of Ben-Gvir to minister of national security would lead to civil war among Israelis. This is not a likely scenario for two reasons: The first is that too many Israelis actually agree with Ben-Gvir, even if they did not vote for him directly. The second reason is that the Israelis who do not agree with him do not possess the conviction it takes to fight a man like him.

General Halutz also mentioned that, “Ben Gvir, who the IDF declined to draft due to his far-right activities even as a teenager, has experienced a surge in popularity.” When Benjamin Netanyahu was opposition leader, he said Ben Gvir could be in his coalition but that he was “not fit” for ministerial office. Now it is confirmed that he will be minister of national security, a post created especially for him.

It did not take long for Palestinians to feel the repercussions of the election results. How many more will be terrorized, detained, tortured, and killed no one knows. How many more will lose their homes and property and how wild will Israeli youth and soldiers become now that they are empowered, no one knows. What is certain is that Palestinians will pay the price, and thus far no one has stepped up to protect them.

Feature photo | Leader of the ultranationalist party Otzma Yehudity ( Jewish Strength ) Itamar Ben-Gvir speaks to supporters in Jerusalem after hearing the results of the exit polls giving his party 14 seats in the parliament. Eyal Warshavsky | Sipa via AP Images

Miko Peled is MintPress News contributing writer, published author and human rights activist born in Jerusalem. His latest books are”The General’s Son. Journey of an Israeli in Palestine,” and “Injustice, the Story of the Holy Land Foundation Five.”

Settler Pogroms Against Palestinians Will Become the Norm Under New Israeli Government

The main point to be taken from the results of the Israeli elections is that the lives of Palestinian have never been in more danger than they are now.

Saturday, November 19, 2022, was according to Jewish tradition Shabat Chayei Sarah – the Shabbos, or Saturday commemorating the death and burial of the biblical matriarch Sarah. In the biblical story, her husband Abraham purchased her burial plot in the ancient city of Al-Khalil. According to Rabbi Yaakov Shapiro, the “commemoration” events that Al-Khalil has been subjected to over the last few decades have nothing to do with Jewish tradition, only, “Zionist Embellishments.”

Al-Khalil, or Hebron in Hebrew, is the largest city in the West Bank, with close to a quarter of a million residents. The Old City part of Al-Khalil, also known as H-2, is a beautiful place, with narrow alleyways and architecture that bears witness to the centuries of grandeur it enjoys, the fourth-holiest city in Islamic tradition. Around 25,000 Palestinians and close to 800 Jewish settlers live in the old city. The settlers are vile, racist and violent to a point where 800 of them are able to terrorize thousands of their Palestinian neighbors.

Besides that, there is a massive military presence in the Old City of Al-Khalil. This military presence includes at least one full combat brigade which monitors the more than five hundred checkpoints and movement barriers that exist within one square kilometer or approximately 0.4 square miles of the city. The military is there to assist the settlers, not protect the Palestinian civilians who they are constantly terrorizing.
Thirty Thousand settlers

The “settler” community is a deeply racist, anti-Palestinian movement that had appeared on the scene after the Israeli attack on its neighbors of 1967, and the consequent occupation of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem. This conquest was marketed as an act of the almighty, and a movement of thousands of religious Zionist zealots began invading the West Bank. Al-Khalil was one of their first targets, and they were successful in establishing a city for themselves on the lands of Al-Khalil called Kiryat Arba.

Today, this settler movement mobilizes its people to wherever they want in order to terrorize Palestinians. In May 2021, they sent hundreds of their members to the occupied city of El-Lyd where they rioted and terrorized Palestinian residents of the city. During the attack, they murdered Musa Hassuna, a 31-year-old truck driver, whose family I met. They also rioted and attacked Palestinians in Bi’r Saba in the Naqab and tried to invade local Palestinian Bedouin communities, but were pushed back.

Last weekend, 30,000 settlers converged on the city of Al-Khalil where they, along with the Israeli military, proceeded to terrorize local Palestinians. Even as they invaded Palestinian homes, destroyed shops and attacked people in the streets, the Israeli army was ordering Palestinians to close their shops and leave the area, thus permitting the Israeli setters to riot without interruption.

Anyone who has been to Al-Kalil and particularly to H-2 knows how small and crowded it is. To imagine thirty thousand racist thugs with a license to destroy anything in their path is a terrifying image. And yet there they were.
The first of many

The Israeli media described what happened in Al-Khalil as a pogrom. Pogroms were known as murderous riots perpetrated against Jews throughout Eastern Europe and usually resulted with entire communities destroyed and countless dead. This riot in Al-Khalil was by no means the first riot by the settler movement. It was, however, the first open riot since the Israeli elections. The election results gave the leaders of the settler movement unprecedented power, and it is expected that they will now be given influential cabinet and sub-cabinet positions, as well as control over important parliamentary committees and appropriation of government funds. This means more money and more licenses than ever before to build and to displace Palestinians.

One portfolio they are demanding is a new government office titled, “The Negev, Galilee and the Periphery.” If they do receive this, it will mean control over areas within 1948 Palestine, where there are still large Palestinian communities.

Their new-found power is also a sign for their base to continue and escalate their vigilantism on the ground, killing, destroying property and generally terrorizing Palestinians everywhere. Other areas where we see members of this movement rioting freely is in the northern West Bank around Za’atara Junction which leads to the cities of Nablus and Jenin.

In that area surrounding Za’atara Junction are towns like the tiny and incredibly beautiful village of Yanoun and the larger town of Akraba, with close to twenty thousand people. All Palestinian communities in that area have seen settler violence and rioting, and they can expect to see a great deal more violence now that the elections have given them a boost. Similarly, the cities of Lyd, Ramle and Yafa as well as the Naqab are all in grave danger.
No security provided for Palestinians

The main point to be taken from the results of the Israeli elections is that the lives of Palestinian have never been in more danger than they are now. If one could assume that the reality for Palestinians will continue to be as it has, as one Israeli historian called it, a slow genocide, now it is clear this is not going to be the case. The Israeli politicians who are expected to be in the coalition – people like Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich – want the Palestinians out or dead. They will act with greater authority to accomplish the full ethnic cleansing of Palestine, as well as the destruction of Al-Aqsa Mosque and the erection of a so-called Jewish temple in its place.

They demand full control of the budgets and policymaking regarding Palestinians throughout the country. They want an easing of the rules of engagement vis-à-vis the Palestinians and the death penalty for all Palestinian political prisoners. They also call for what they term “stronger governance” over the Palestinian population – a code word for tighter control, more expulsions, home demolitions, arrests, torture and killing.

Palestinians are provided no security, no safety and no protection by anyone. The Israeli authorities are certainly not going to provide security or protection for Palestinians who are terrorized by the army or by groups of Israeli Jewish vigilante gangs. The international community is unwilling to intervene, and the United Nations has no means of enforcing its resolutions regarding Israel.

So who may Palestinians turn to as the violence against them increases? One particularly disturbing video posted on Twitter during the riots in Al-Khalil shows a young Palestinian man, Yousef Azza from Tel-Rumeida, in the Old city of Hebron running to get help. Settlers invaded his home and attacked his mother and sisters. He tried to approach the soldiers, and his fury and fear are evident as he fails to find help.

Just as Yousef Azza tried in vain, so do Palestinians everywhere try in vain to seek help from Israeli authorities, the Israeli public, the international community and the various non-governmental organizations that operate in Palestine. However, there is no entity that is willing to step in to save Palestinians as they continue to be terrorized by Zionist gangs.

Feature photo | A Jewish settler carries a weapon by the main entrance to the Palestinian city of Nablus in the northern West Bank, October 04, 2022. Ilia Yefimovich | DPA via AP Images

Miko Peled is MintPress News contributing writer, published author and human rights activist born in Jerusalem. His latest books are”The General’s Son. Journey of an Israeli in Palestine,” and “Injustice, the Story of the Holy Land Foundation Five.”

Call of Duty is a Government Psyop: These Documents Prove It

A closer inspection of Activision Blizzard’s key staff and their connections to state power, as well as details gleaned from documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, reveal that Call of Duty is not a neutral first-person shooter but a carefully constructed piece of military propaganda, designed to advance the interests of the U.S. national security state. 

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II has been available for less than three weeks, but it is already making waves. Breaking records, within ten days, the first-person military shooter video game earned more than $1 billion in revenue. Yet it has also been shrouded in controversy, not least because missions include assassinating an Iranian general clearly based on Qassem Soleimani, a statesman and military leader slain by the Trump administration in 2020, and a level where players must shoot “drug traffickers” attempting to cross the U.S./Mexico border.

The Call of Duty franchise is an entertainment juggernaut, having sold close to half a billion games since it was launched in 2003. Its publisher, Activision Blizzard, is a giant in the industry, behind titles games as the Guitar Hero, Warcraft, Starcraft, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, Crash Bandicoot and Candy Crush Saga series.

Yet a closer inspection of Activision Blizzard’s key staff and their connections to state power, as well as details gleaned from documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, reveal that Call of Duty is not a neutral first-person shooter, but a carefully constructed piece of military propaganda, designed to advance the interests of the U.S. national security state.

Military-Entertainment Complex

It has long been a matter of public record that American spies have targeted and penetrated Activision Blizzard games. Documents released by Edward Snowden revealed that the NSA, CIA, FBI and Department of Defense infiltrated the vast online realms such as World of Warcraft, creating make-believe characters to monitor potential illegal activity and recruit informers. Indeed, at one point, there were so many U.S. spies in one video game that they had to create a “deconfliction” group as they were wasting time unwittingly surveilling each other. Virtual games, the NSA wrote, were an “opportunity” and a “target-rich communication network”.

However, documents obtained legally under the Freedom of Information Act by journalist and researcher Tom Secker and shared with MintPress News show that the connections between the national security state and the video game industry go far beyond this, and into active collaboration.

In September 2018, for example, the United States Air Force flew a group of entertainment executives – including Call of Duty/Activision Blizzard producer Coco Francini – to their headquarters at Hurlburt Field, Florida. The explicit reason for doing so, they wrote, was to “showcase” their hardware and to make the entertainment industry more “credible advocates” for the U.S. war machine.

“We’ve got a bunch of people working on future blockbusters (think Marvel, Call of Duty, etc.) stoked about this trip!” wrote one Air Force officer. Another email notes that the point of the visit was to provide “heavy-hitter” producers with “AFSOC [Air Force Special Operations Command] immersion focused on Special Tactics Airmen and air-to-ground capabilities.”

“This is a great opportunity to educate this community and make them more credible advocates for us in the production of any future movies/television productions on the Air Force and our Special Tactics community,” wrote the AFSOC community relations chief.

Francini and others were shown CV-22 helicopters and AC-130 planes in action, both of which feature heavily in Call of Duty games.

Yet Call of Duty collaboration with the military goes back much further. The documents show that the United States Marine Corps (USMC) was involved in the production of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 and Call of Duty 5. The games’ producers approached the USMC at the 2010 E3 entertainment convention in Los Angeles, requesting access to hovercrafts (vehicles which later appeared in the game). Call of Duty 5 executives also asked for use of a hovercraft, a tank and a C-130 aircraft.

This collaboration continued in 2012 with the release of Modern Warfare 4, where producers requested access to all manner of air and ground vehicles.

Secker told MintPress that, by collaborating with the gaming industry, the military ensures a positive portrayal that can help it reach recruitment targets, stating that,

For certain demographics of gamers it’s a recruitment portal, some first-person shooters have embedded adverts within the games themselves…Even without this sort of explicit recruitment effort, games like Call of Duty make warfare seem fun, exciting, an escape from the drudgery of their normal lives.”

Secker’s documentary, “Theaters of War: How the Pentagon and CIA Took Hollywood” was released earlier this year.
The military clearly held considerable influence over the direction of Call of Duty games. In 2010, its producers approached the Department of Defense (DoD) for help on a game set in 2075. However, the DoD liaison “expressed concern that [the] scenario being considered involves future war with China.” As a result, Activision Blizzard began “looking at other possible conflicts to design the game around.” In the end, due in part to military objections, the game was permanently abandoned.

 From War on Terror to first-person shooters

Not only does Activision Blizzard work with the U.S. military to shape its products, but its leadership board is also full of former high state officials. Chief amongst these is Frances Townsend, Activision Blizzard’s senior counsel, and, until September, its chief compliance officer and executive vice president for corporate affairs.

Prior to joining Activision Blizzard, Townsend spent her life working her way up the rungs of the national security state. Previously serving as head of intelligence for the Coast Guard and as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s counterterrorism deputy, in 2004, President Bush appointed her to his Intelligence Advisory Board.

As the White House’s most senior advisor on terrorism and homeland security, Townsend worked closely with Bush and Rice, and became one of the faces of the administration’s War on Terror. One of her principal achievements was to whip the American public into a constant state of fear about the supposed threat of more Al-Qaeda attacks (which never came).

Frances Townsend

Before she joined Activision Blizzard, Frances Townsend worked in Homeland Security and Counterterrorism for the Bush White House. Ron Edmonds | AP

As part of her job, Townsend helped popularize the term “enhanced interrogation techniques” – a Bush-era euphemism for torturing detainees. Worse still, Lt. Col. Steven L. Jordan, the officer in charge of the notorious Abu Ghraib prison, alleged that Townsend put pressure on him to ramp up the torture program, reminding him “many, many times” that he needed to improve the intelligence output from the Iraqi jail.

Townsend has denied these allegations. She also later condemned the “handcuff[ing]” and “humiliation” surrounding Abu Ghraib. She was not referring to the prisoners, however. In an interview with CNN, she lamented that “these career professionals” – CIA torturers – had been subject to “humiliation and opprobrium” after details of their actions were made public, meaning that future administrations would be “handcuffed” by the fear of bad publicity, while the intelligence community would become more “risk-averse”.

During the Trump administration, Townsend was hotly tipped to become the Director of National Intelligence or the Secretary of Homeland Security. President Trump also approached her for the role of director of the FBI. Instead, however, Townsend took a seemingly incongruous career detour to become an executive at a video games company.
Enter the War planners

In addition to this role, Townsend is a director of the NATO offshoot, the Atlantic Council, a director at the Council on Foreign Relations, and a trustee of the hawkish think tank, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a group MintPress News has previously covered in detail.

Funded by weapons companies, NATO and the U.S. government, the Atlantic Council serves as the military alliance’s brain trust, devising strategies on how best to manage the world. Also on its board of directors are high statespersons like Henry Kissinger and Conzoleezza Rice, virtually every retired U.S. general of note, and no fewer than seven former directors of the CIA. As such, the Atlantic Council represents the collective opinion of the national security state.

Two more key Call of Duty staff also work for the Atlantic Council. Chance Glasco, a co-founder of Infinity Ward developers who oversaw the game franchise’s rapid rise, is the council’s nonresident senior fellow, advising top generals and political leaders on the latest developments in tech.

Game designer and producer Dave Anthony, crucial to Call of Duty’s success, is also an Atlantic Council employee, joining the group in 2014. There, he advises them on what the future of warfare will look like, and devises strategies for NATO to fight in upcoming conflicts.

Anthony has made no secret that he collaborated with the U.S. national security state while making the Call of Duty franchise. “My greatest honor was to consult with Lieut. Col. Oliver North on the story of Black Ops 2,” he stated publicly, adding, There are so many small details we could never have known about if it wasn’t for his involvement.”

Oliver North is a high government official gained worldwide infamy after being convicted for his role in the Iran-Contra Affair, whereby his team secretly sold weapons to the government of Iran, using the money to arm and train fascist death squads in Central America – groups who attempted to overthrow the government of Nicaragua and carried out waves of massacres and ethnic cleansing in the process.
Republicans for hire

Another eyebrow-raising hire is Activision Blizzard’s chief administration officer, Brian Bulatao. A former Army captain and consultant for McKinsey & Company, until 2018, he was chief operating officer for the CIA, placing him third in command of the agency. When CIA Director Mike Pompeo moved over to the State Department, becoming Trump’s Secretary of State, Bulatao went with him, and was appointed Under Secretary of State for Management.

There, by some accounts, he served as Pompeo’s personal “attack dog,” with former colleagues describing him as a “bully” who brought a “cloud of intimidation” over the workplace, repeatedly pressing them to ignore potential illegalities happening at the department. Thus, it is unclear if Bulatao is the man to improve Activision Blizzard’s notoriously “toxic” workplace environment that caused dozens of employees to walk out en masse last summer.

After the Trump administration’s electoral defeat, Bulatao went straight from the State Department into the highest echelons of Activision Blizzard, despite no experience in the entertainment industry.
Donald Trump,

Trump stands with then-CIA Chief Operations Officer Brian Bulatao at CIA Headquarters, May 21, 2018, in Langley, Va. Evan Vucci | AP

The third senior Republican official Activision Blizzard has recruited to its upper ranks is Grant Dixton. Between 2003 and 2006, Dixton served as associate counsel to President Bush, advising him on many of his administration’s most controversial legal activities (such as torture and the rapid expansion of the surveillance state). A lawyer by trade, he later went on to work for weapons manufacturer Boeing, rising to become its senior vice president, general counsel and corporate secretary. In June 2021, he left Boeing to join Activision Blizzard as its chief legal officer.

Other Activision Blizzard executives with backgrounds in national security include senior vice president and chief information security officer Brett Wahlin, who was a U.S. Army counterintelligence agent, and chief of staff, Angela Alvarez, who, until 2016, was an Army chemical operations specialist.

That the same government that was infiltrating games 10-15 years ago now has so many former officials controlling the very game companies raises serious questions around privacy and state control over media, and mirrors the national security state penetration of social media that has occurred over the same timeframe.

 War games

These deep connections to the U.S. national security state can perhaps help partly explain why, for years, many have complained about the blatant pro-U.S. propaganda apparent throughout the games.

The latest installment, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II, is no exception. In the game’s first mission, players must carry out a drone strike against a character named

The latest installment, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II, is no exception. In the game’s first mission, players must carry out a drone strike against a character named General Ghorbrani. The mission is obviously a recreation of the Trump administration’s illegal 2020 drone strike against Iranian General Qassem Soleimani – the in game general even bears a striking resemblance to Soleimani.

General Ghorbrani

The latest Call of Duty game has players assassinate a General Ghorbrani, a nebulous reference to Iranian General Qassem Solemani, pictured right

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II
ludicrously presents the general as under Russia’s thumb and claims that Ghorbrani is “supplying terrorists” with aid. In reality, Soleimani was the key force in defeating ISIS terror across the Middle East – actions for which even Western media declared him a “hero”. U.S.-run polls found that Soleimani was perhaps the most popular leader in the Middle East, with over 80% of Iranians holding a positive opinion of him.

Straight after the assassination, Pompeo’s State Department floated the falsehood that the reason they killed Soleimani was that he was on the verge of carrying out a terror attack against Americans. In reality, Soleimani was in Baghdad, Iraq, for peace talks with Saudi Arabia.

These negotiations could have led to peace between the two nations, something that the U.S. government is dead against. Then-Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi revealed that he had personally asked President Trump for permission to invite Soleimani. Trump agreed, then used the opportunity to carry out the killing.

Therefore,, just as Activision Blizzard is recruiting top State Department officials to its upper ranks, its games are celebrating the same State Department’s most controversial assassinations.

This is far from the first time Call of Duty has instructed impressionable young gamers to kill foreign leaders, however. In Call of Duty Black Ops (2010), players must complete a mission to murder Cuban leader Fidel Castro. If they manage to shoot him in the head, they are rewarded with an extra gory slow motion scene and obtain a bronze “Death to Dictators” trophy. Thus, players are forced to carry out digitally what Washington failed to do on over 600 occasions.

Call of Duty: Black Ops

A mission from “Call of Duty: Black Ops” has players assassinate a hostage-taking Fidel Castro

Likewise, Call of Duty: Ghosts is set in Venezuela, where players fight against General Almagro, a socialist military leader clearly modelled on former president Hugo Chavez. Like Chavez, Almagro wears a red beret and uses Venezuela’s oil wealth to forge an alliance of independent Latin American nations against the U.S. Washington attempted to overthrow Chavez and his successor, Nicolás Maduro, multiple times. During the sixth mission of the game, players must shoot and kill Almagro from close range.

The anti-Russian propaganda is also turned up to 11 in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (2019). One mission recreates the infamous Highway of Death incident. During the First Iraq War, U.S.-led forces trapped fleeing Iraqi troops on Highway 80. What followed was what then-Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Colin Powell described as “wanton killing” and “slaughter for slaughter’s sake” as U.S. troops and their allies pummeled the Iraqi convoy for hours, killing hundreds and destroying thousands of vehicles. U.S. forces also reportedly shot hundreds of Iraqi civilians and surrendered soldiers in their care.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare recreates this scene for dramatic effect. However, in their version, it is not the U.S.-led forces doing the killing, but Russia, thereby whitewashing a war crime by pinning the blame on official enemies.

A mission in “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare” has players recreate the infamous highway of death

“Call of Duty, in particular, has been flagged up for recreating real events as game missions and manipulating them for geopolitical purposes,” Secker told MintPress, referring to the Highway of Death, adding,

In a culture where most people’s exposure to games (and films, TV shows and so on) is far greater than their knowledge of historical and current events, these manipulations help frame the gamers’ emotional, intellectual and political reactions. This helps them turn into more general advocates for militarism, even if they don’t sign up in any formal way.”

Secker’s latest book, “Superheroes, Movies and the State: How the U.S. Government Shapes Cinematic Universes,” was published earlier this year.
Game Over

In today’s digitized era, the worlds of war and video games increasingly resemble one another. Many have commented on the similarities between piloting drones in real life and in games such as Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. Prince Harry, who was a helicopter gunner in Afghanistan, described his “joy” at firing missiles at enemies. “I’m one of those people who loves playing PlayStation and Xbox, so with my thumbs I like to think I’m probably quite useful,” he said. “If there’s people trying to do bad stuff to our guys, then we’ll take them out of the game,” he added, explicitly comparing the two activities. U.S. forces even control drones with Xbox controllers, blurring the lines between war games and war games even further.

The military has also directly produced video games as promotional and recruitment tools. One is a U.S. Air Force game called Airman Challenge. Featuring 16 missions to complete, interspersed with facts and recruitment information about how to become a drone operator yourself. In its latest attempts to market active service to young people, players move through missions escorting U.S. vehicles through countries like Iraq and Afghanistan, serving up death from above to all those designated “insurgents” by the game.

Players earn medals and achievements for most effectively destroying moving targets. All the while, there is a prominent “apply now” button on screen if players feel like enlisting and conducting real drone strikes on the Middle East.

U.S. Armed Forces use the popularity of video games to recruit heavily among young people, sponsoring gaming tournaments, fielding their own U.S. Army Esports team, and directly trying to recruit teens on streaming sites such as Twitch. The Amazon-owned platform eventually had to clamp down on the practice after the military used fake prize giveaways that lured impressionable young viewers onto recruitment websites.

Video games are a massive business and a huge center of soft power and ideology. The medium makes for particularly persuasive propaganda because children and adolescents consume them, often for weeks or months on end, and because they are light entertainment. Because of this, users do not have their guards up like if they were listening to a politician speaking. Their power is often overlooked by scholars and journalists because of the supposed frivolity of the medium. But it is the very notion that these are unimportant sources of fun that makes their message all the more potent.

The Call of Duty franchise is particularly egregious, not only in its messaging, but because who the messengers are. Increasingly, the games appear to be little more than American propaganda masquerading as fun first-person shooters. For gamers, the point is to enjoy its fast-paced entertainment. But for those involved in their production, the goal is not just making money; it is about serving the imperial war machine.

Feature photo | Illustration by MintPress News

Alan MacLeod is Senior Staff Writer for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent, as well as a number of academic articles. He has also contributed to FAIR.org, The Guardian, Salon, The Grayzone, Jacobin Magazine, and Common Dreams.

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