28 July 2006

Shin Bet Vetoed Secret Israeli-Palestinian Peace Agreement

Below is an urgent press release I drafted and sent out today. It speaks for itself.


PRESS RELEASE
Drafted by Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed, Department of International Relations, University of Sussex

For immediate release 28.7.06
SHIN BET VETOED SECRET ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN PEACE AGREEMENT
Israeli and Palestinian Sources Concur: Israel Made War Inevitable

The Omega Institute (OI), which works closely with the Institute for Policy Research for Development (IPRD), has learned from Israeli and Palestinian sources that just prior to the current crisis, senior Hamas leaders were in active dialogue with Israeli religious leaders in a round of bilateral peace negotiations. Israeli negotiators included Rabbi Menachem Froman, former deputy leader and co-founder of the Israeli Settler movement Gush Khatif; Rabbi David Bigman, head of the liberal religious Kibbutz movement Yeshiva at Ma’ale Gilboa; and Yitzhak Frankenthal, founder of the Arik Institute. Ongoing negotiations had resulted in a breakthrough peace “understanding”, which was to be announced at a press conference in Jerusalem to mark the launching of an extraordinary peace initiative. Israeli Prime Minister Olmert had been briefed extensively about the initiative by Frankenthal. Also due to attend the conference were Khaled Abu Arafa, the Palestinian Cabinet Minister for Jerusalem, Sheikh Muhamed Abu Tir, senior Hamas Member of the Palestinian Parliament, and other senior Palestinian delegates.

The meeting was to announce a joint Israeli-Palestinian call for the release of Corporal Gilad Shalit who had been abducted by Hamas in Gaza, along with proposals for the beginning of the release of all Palestinian prisoners. These measures were to precipitate unprecedented new peace negotiations on a framework peace agreement, drawn on the 1967 borders. The presence of Palestinian Cabinet Officers and senior Israeli religious leaders in contact with the Prime Minster was to underline the seriousness of this peace proposal on both sides.

Just hours before the meeting was due to start, the Israeli Shin Bet internal Security Service arrested Abu Tir and Abu Arafa and warned them not to attend the meeting, under threats of detention. The meeting, which offered a major opportunity to obtain Shalit’s release and launch a new framework for peace, was thrown into disarray. The next day, the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) invaded Gaza, and the day after both Abu Tir and Abu Arafa were abducted by Israeli forces, along with a third of the Palestinian Cabinet, provoking a predictable escalation of violence.

Israel simultaneously began conducting covert incursions on to Lebanese territory, provoking Hizbollah’s capture of two IDF soldiers. Credible sources confirm that the soldiers were not abducted on Israeli territory, but inside Lebanon. Like the scuppered peace negotiations, Western officials have ignored this, and misinformed the media. However, some reports corroborate the sources. Israeli officials, for instance, informed Forbes (12.7.06) that “Hezbollah captured two Israeli soldiers during clashes Wednesday across the border in southern Lebanon, prompting a swift reaction from Israel.”

“The revelations show that Palestinian and Lebanese actors were not principally responsible for the escalation of the current conflict”, said OI Director Graham Ennis. “Contrary to the misinformation disseminated by the Whitehouse and Whitehall, Israel vetoed unprecedented peace proposals that would have initiated a promising new framework for serious negotiations, and went on to provoke Palestinian and Lebanese groups into retaliations, that now threaten to escalate into a dangerous regional conflict.”

For more information please contact +44(0)7891 132 574 or email info@globalresearch.org
[ENDS]



Notes for Editors:

Full details and background information are annexed below in a memorandum by Graham Ennis, Director of the Omega Institute in Brighton, UK. It includes some relevant contacts for further verification. This memo was originally forwarded to Donald Macintyre at The Independent.

Memorandum:
From:
Graham Ennis
Omega Institute
Brighton, England


Begins:

1: Rabbi Menachem Froman is the former deputy leader, and co-founder, of the extremist Messianic Israeli Settler movement " Gush Khatif", but he left the movement after the massacre in Hebron of Palestinians by the Israeli terrorist Baruch Goldstein. He now lives in the West Bank Samarian settlement of Tekoa, where he works as a Rabbi, and has been long engaged in Muslim-Jewish dialogue activities. Froman himself has a typical Israeli political background. His Uncle was murdered in the 1930's by Ezzedine Al Qassam, a militant Cleric whose name was used by Hama's for it's armed wing. Froman has a track record. He was a principal negotiator in the release from prison of the Hama's spiritual leader, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin. As a result of discussions with Froman, Yassin subsequently offered a ease-fire, which Yassin withdrew, after the offer was spurned by the israeli Government. He now works closely with Rabbi David Bigman, head of the Liberal religious Kibbutz movement's Yeshiva at Ma'ale Gilboa. They in turn are connected to Yitzhak Frankenthal, founder of the Arik Institute, who is also involved in religious and political dialog with Palestinians. Frankanthal has an unusual background. His son Arik was murdered by Hama's operatives whilst hitch-hiking in July 1994. Instead of sinking into bitterness, Frankanthal has become a major force in Israel in the peace movement.

The significance of all this is that Frankanthal has developed deep contacts with Palestinians. He was rapidly able to confirm, after Corporal Gilad Shalit was abducted in Gaza by Hama's, that he was only lightly wounded and still alive, as a Hama's prisoner. Frankenthal became concerned that the abduction would destroy the opportunity that had arisen, after the agreement between Fatah and Hama's prisoners in Israeli jails, to negotiate peace with Israel, which was then underway. Hama's had made public its agreement to negotiations. After Shalit's abduction, and the Israeli incursion into Gaza, this peace process has collapsed.

What is not publicly known, however, is that these bi-lateral peace negotiations between Jewish and Palestinian religious activists had gone further than is believed. After Shalit's abduction, Frankanthal and the other Israeli peace workers had kept up a close and continuous dialog with senior Hama's leaders. On at least one occasion, Frankanthal had given a detailed briefing to an aide of the Israeli Prime Minister Olmert, who was demanding Shalit's return.

All these negotiations had resulted in a remarkable secret "understanding", as a result of which, the day before the Israeli incursion into Gaza, there was to have been a major press conference in Jerusalem. At the press meeting, there would have been an extraordinary peace initiative launched. Attending the conference would have been not only Israeli's like Frankanthal, Froman, Bigman, etc, but, more remarkably, The Palestinian Cabinet Minister for Jerusalem Khaled Abu Arafa, and the senior Hama's Member of the Palestinian Parliament, Sheikh Muhamed Abu Tir. The meeting was also supported by Sheikh Ibrahim Sarsour, Chairman of the Islamic Movement in the occupied territories.

The meeting would have issued a joint call for the release of Shalit, implicitly backed by the Palestinian Cabinet, due to the authorized presence of the Cabinet Officer, Abu Arafa. Also, this would have formed part of a call for this to be the beginning of the release of all Palestinian prisoners, as part of an immediate start to peace negotiations on a framework peace agreement, based on the joint agreement of the Hama's/Fatah prisoners, drawn on the 1967 borders. The presence of Palestinian Cabinet Officers would have underlined the seriousness of this peace proposal.

However, what actually happened was that just hours before the meeting was due to start, the Israeli Shin Bet internal Security Service arrested Abu Tir and Abu Arafa and warned them not to attend the meeting, under threats of detention. This threw the meeting, which would have been a major opportunity to obtain Shalit's release, into complete disorder. The organizers were forced to franticly contact other Rabbis, already on the road to Jerusalem, and tell them not to appear.

The next day, the Israeli Army invaded Gaza. The day after that, Abu Tir and Abu Arafa were kidnapped by Israeli forces, along with a third of he Palestinian Cabinet. Israel revoked the two men's citizenship, making them stateless, and also removed their residency rights in Jerusalem. The subsequent escalation of violence, which also spread to Lebanon, resulted, in part, from the failure of the peace agreement that had been about to be announced, together with calls for the release of Shalit, which had been strongly "Signalled" by the Palestinians. The intervention of Shin Bet almost certainly aborted a planned release of Shalit, and a powerful appeal for peace negotiations to start. The role, in all this, of Palestinian leader Abbas, which has been extensive, will one day be revealed, and written up, by Historians of this huge calamity. That is, if there is still a history, and historians, and a future, as the whole Middle East faces something that Robert Fisk memorably denounced as "Not Dunkirk, but Munich." Or is it once again, 92 years after that fateful European Summer, time for another, terrible, "Guns of August".

ENDS:

NB: Useful contacts:
Arthur Neslan, Tel Aviv. (significant Israeli writer, and journalist, writes also in English.)
Palestinian leader Mahmoud Al-Zahar.
Ted Belman, Israel National Radio.

23 July 2006

UK Govt Sources Confirm War With Iran Is On

In the last few days, I learned from a credible and informed source that a former senior Labour government Minister, who continues to be well-connected to British military and security officials, confirms that Britain and the United States

"... will go to war with Iran before the end of the year."

As we now know from similar reporting prior to the invasion of Iraq, it's quite possible that the war planning may indeed change repeatedly, and the war may again be postponed. In any case, it's worth noting that the information from a former Labour Minister corroborates expert analyses suggesting that Israel, with US and British support, is deliberately escalating the cycle of retaliation to legitimize the imminent targeting of Iran before year's end. Let us remind ourselves, for instance, of US Vice President Cheney's assertions recorded on MSNBC over a year ago. He described Iran as being "right at the top of the list" of "rogue states". He continued: "One of the concerns people have is that Israel might do it without being asked... Given the fact that Iran has a stated policy that their objective is the destruction of Israel, the Israelis might well decide to act first, and let the rest of the world worry about cleaning up the diplomatic mess afterwards."

But the emphasis on Israel's pre-eminent role in a prospective assault on Iran is not accurate. Israel would rather play the role of a regional proxy force in a US-led campaign. "Despite the deteriorating security situation in Iraq, the Bush Administration has not reconsidered its basic long-range policy goal in the Middle East..." reports Seymour Hersh. He quotes a former high-level US intelligence official as follows:

“This is a war against terrorism, and Iraq is just one campaign. The Bush Administration is looking at this as a huge war zone. Next, we’re going to have the Iranian campaign. We’ve declared war and the bad guys, wherever they are, are the enemy. This is the last hurrah—we’ve got four years, and want to come out of this saying we won the war on terrorism.”

Are these just the fanatical pipedreams of the neoconservative faction currently occupying (literally) the White House?

Unfortunately, no. The Iraq War was one such fanatical pipedream in the late 1990s, one that Bush administration officials were eagerly ruminating over when they were actively and directly involved in the Project for a New American Century. But that particular pipedream is now a terrible, gruelling reality for the Iraqi people. Despite the glaring failures of US efforts in that country, there appears to be a serious inability to recognize the futility of attempting the same in Iran.

The Monterey Institute for International Studies already showed nearly two years ago in a detailed analysis that the likely consequences of a strike on Iran by the US, Israel, or both, would be a regional conflagaration that could quickly turn nuclear, and spiral out of control. US and Israeli planners are no doubt aware of what could happen. Such a catastrophe would have irreversible ramifications for the global political economy. Energy security would be in tatters, precipitating the activation of long-standing contingency plans to invade and occupy all the major resource-rich areas of the Middle East and elsewhere (see my book published by Clairview, Behind the War on Terror for references and discussion). Such action could itself trigger responses from other major powers with fundamental interests in maintaining their own access to regional energy supplies, such as Russia and particularly China, which has huge interests in Iran. Simultaneously, the dollar-economy would be seriously undermined, most likely facing imminent collapse in the context of such crises.

Which raises pertinent questions about why Britain, the US and Israel are contemplating such a scenario as a viable way of securing their interests.

A glimpse of an answer lies in the fact that the post-9/11 military geostrategy of the "War on Terror" does not spring from a position of power, but rather from entirely the opposite. The global system has been crumbling under the weight of its own unsustainability for many years now, and we are fast approaching the convergence of multiple crises that are already interacting fatally as I write. The peak of world oil production, of which the Bush administration is well aware, either has already just happened, or is very close to happening. It is a pivotal event that signals the end of the Oil Age, for all intents and purposes, with escalating demand placing increasing pressure on dwindling supplies. Half the world's oil reserves are, more or less, depleted, which means that it will be technologically, geophysically, increasingly difficult to extract conventional oil. I had a chat last week with some scientists from the Omega Institute in Brighton, directed by my colleague and friend Graham Ennis (scroll down about 2/3's to see Graham's letter published in The Independent), who told me eloquently and powerfully what I already knew, that while a number of climate "tipping-points" may or may not have yet been passed, we have about 10-15 years before the "tipping-point" is breached certainly and irreversibly. Breaching that point means plunging head-first into full-scale "climate catastrophe". Amidst this looming Armageddon of Nature, the dollar-denominated economy itself has been teetering on the edge of spiralling collapse for the last seven years or more. This is not idle speculation. A financial analyst as senior as Paul Volcker, Alan Greenspan's immediate predecessor as chairman of the Federal Reserve, recently confessed "that he thought there was a 75% chance of a currency crisis in the United States within five years."

There appears to have been a cold calculation made at senior levels within the Anglo-American policymaking establishment: that the system is dying, but the last remaining viable means of sustaining it remains a fundamentally military solution designed to reconfigure and rehabilitate the system to continue to meet the requirements of the interlocking circuits of military-corporate power and profit.

The highly respected US whistleblower, former RAND strategic analyst Daniel Ellsberg, who was Special Assistant to Assistant Secretary of Defense during the Vietnam conflict and became famous after leaking the Pentagon Papers, has already warned of his fears that in the event of:

"... another 9/11 or a major war in the Middle-East involving a U.S. attack on Iran, I have no doubt that there will be, the day after or within days an equivalent of a Reichstag fire decree that will involve massive detentions in this country, detention camps for middle-easterners and their quote 'sympathizers', critics of the President’s policy and essentially the wiping-out of the Bill of Rights."

So is that what all the "emergency preparedness" legislation, here in the UK as well as in the USA and in Europea, is all about? The US plans are bad enough, as Ellsberg notes, but the plans UK scene is hardly better, prompting The Guardian to describe the Civil Contingencies Bill (passed as an Act in 2004) as "the greatest threat to civil liberty that any parliament is ever likely to consider."

As global crises converge over the next few years, we the people are faced with an unprecedented opportunity to use the growing awareness of the inherent inhumanity and comprehensive destructiveness of the global imperial system to establish new, viable, sustainable and humane ways of living. Unfortunately, we have no other option. There is still light, however dim it may seem in this overwhelming smog of escalating calamity...

22 July 2006

Anniversary of the Police Murder of De Menezes

Today is the anniversary of the police shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes, an innocent Brazilian who was inexplicably shot in the head, repeatedly, at close range by armed officers. Today, we still don't know the full story of what happened.

But the Crown Prosection Service thinks the case is fairly simple. They have charged the Met with "failing to provide for the heath, safety and welfare of Jean Charles de Menezes". It is a distinctly unsatisfactory ruling. De Menezes was an innocent civilian going about his business. He was shot and killed, deliberately, by police officers.

Whatever the circumstances, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that what occurred this time last year amounts to state-murder. I say "state", because the police is fundamentally a state institution. The evidence available in the public record demonstrates that the shooting cannot be easily explained. I've reviewed this evidence in some detail in a special chapter on the murder of de Menezes in my book, The London Bombings: An Independent Inquiry. Yes, the police were on alert looking for suspected bombers. But reports show that surveillance officers had already informed their colleagues that de Menezes was a white, Caucasian male who thus didn't in anyway resemble Hussein Osman, who was involved in the 21st July 2005 failed bombings and who police were looking for at the time. Reports also confirm that officers didn't find his behaviour or conduct suspicious at all.

But he was still targeted, tracked, and eventually shot repeatedly in the head, by the long arm of the law. Police spokesman and media commentators keep referring to the guidelines under Operation Kratos, which were unilaterally implemented without public knowledge/consent in the first place, allowing police to shoot-to-kill on the basis of reasonable suspicion that an individual might be a suicide bomber. The guidelines are supposed to allow officers to take firm, quick and decisive action to prevent the possibility, or perceived probability, of greater loss of life.

But even Kratos cannot explain why armed officers, instead of apprehending de Menezes near the beginning of his journey, allowed him to travel by bus and board a tube train before grabbing him and pinning him down so he could be shot. Is that action endorsed by the Kratos guidelines? Afraid not. If de Menezes had ever truly been suspected as a suicide bomber, officers should not have risked detonating his device by manhandling him in this way before shooting him. Kratos instructs officers to shoot from afar precisely to avoid possible detonation.

Other reports suggest that the identification of de Menezes as a terrorist suspect had originated from hitherto unidentified senior officers responsible for coordinating the entire operation. What had prompted them to do so? Were they acting on false intelligence?

Grim echoes of the Stockwell murder reverberated in Forest Gate when police carried out an "anti-terror" raid in which they terrorised two families, one Muslim, one Hindu, this time shooting an innocent British citizen. We now know that the raid had been derived from intelligence based on a source whose credibility had been undermined and questioned.

These incidents of police terrorisation on the streets of Britain must be understood in the context of wider state-repression. We need only look, for example, at the extradition proceedings of British citizens to the United States, such as Babar Ahmed, where an innocent Briton can be detained in a high security prison even when British police have already conceded his innocence, on the basis of an unsubstantiated accusation from the American government.

We are watching as due process is being duly eroded, in the name of catching "terror suspects", a label that can be applied, and is indeed enforced, upon anybody on the basis of a mere "suspicion", regardless of whether or not it is based on any sort of evidence, let alone whether or not that evidence might stand in a court of law.

So let us remember and mourn the murder of Jean Charles de Menezes and stand in solidarity with his grieving family and friends, for his death is a sad reflection of a system of state-repression that is carefully shredding our most sacred liberties in the name of fighting The Long War.

21 July 2006

Armageddon on the Horizon? from London to Beirut

Over 300 people killed, most of them civilians. 1,000 wounded. Half a million and rising displaced from their homes. A third of these Lebanese casualties, according to the UN, have been children. These estimated figures dwarf in scale the terror and tragedy that paralysed London almost around the same time last year, when 52 were killed and over 700 wounded in a coordinated bomb attack on the commuter transport system.

What's happening in Lebanon is six times the devastation, six times the agony, six times the trauma, six times the terror of the 7/7 terrorist attacks. But our leaders in UK, US and European governments don't seem to think so. They have all unanimously fumbled their fingers and mumbled meaninglessly as Israel has proceeded to respond to Hizbollah's capture of IDF combatants -- an action in concordance with legitimate military resistance against illegal occupation -- by ruthlessly smashing civilian life and infrastructure in Beirut. IDF operations have targeted key civilian installations, including water and sanitation systems, destroyed Lebanon's largest dairy farm and pharmeceutical plant, shelled UN posts sheltering civilians, flattened whole villages, and turned mosques, churches and houses into rubble. They have cut off roads and bridges, blocking urgently needed humanitarian assistance.

But such terrorist attacks, when targeted against the Other, no longer constitute terrorism at all; in our Orwellian world of media double-speak, they become instead laudable acts of valour. In fact, when an Israeli air strike killed 8 Canadian citizens in southern Lebanon, US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton emphasized that such deaths due to IDF operations are morally different to the deaths of Israelis due to attacks by Hizbollah. "I think it would be a mistake to ascribe moral equivalence to civilians who die as the direct result of malicious terrorist acts," he said. In contrast, Israeli military operations constituted only "self-defense", with the "the tragic and unfortunate consequence of civilian deaths."

Dead Lebanese are unworthy victims. They don't count. But Israeli lives do. The moral distinction drawn by Bolton is not in fact moral at all; it is political, a political decision to view the lives of one group of human beings as sacred, and another group as functionally irrelevant. Such "moral" distinctions are central to the legitimization of large-scale systematic violence against a particular human group.

The Beirut bombings are not the result of a fundamentally religious conflict. Israel Defence Force raids are indiscriminately murdering Lebanese and non-Lebanese Muslims, Jews and Christians. It's difficult, caught in the horror of the bloodied bodies left in the wake IDF air strikes, to remind ourselves of the context of the crisis, and its strategic trajectories. But the broad ramifications must be understood.

Israeli policy-planners have long envisaged a protracted wider regional conflict as a potentially useful way for Israel to achieve longstanding historical objectives. Israeli spokesmen have been at pains to characterize the conflict as a regional conspiracy against Israel hatched by Iran and Syria. But this obscures the fact that, although the latter indeed provide support for Hizbollah, the Lebanese resistance group remains an autonomous and outspoken organization rooted firmly in its national homeland. US and Israeli officials, however, see the drastic escalation of the conflict as an opportunity to explore the prospects for US-Israeli military expansionism.

The invasion of Iraq was, we ought to remind ourselves, merely the first stage in a rolling strategy for the reconfiguration of the Middle East whose existence is now well-documented and indisputable. Reporting for Time Magazine in February 2003, Joe Klein – a member of the Council on Foreign Relations – observed that: “Israel is very much embedded in the rationale for war with Iraq. It is part of the argument that dare not speak its name, a fantasy quietly cherished by the neo-conservative faction in the Bush and by many leaders of the American Jewish Community.” The US war on Iraq was intended to be the beginning of a whole new era in the Middle East, designed to “send a message to Syria and Iran about the perils of support for Islamic terrorists,” bring an end to the Palestinian problem, and shake the “wobbly Hashemite monarchy in Jordan.” We are now seeing the next stages of this "new era" in construction.

Need we also remind ourselves of the influential 1996 strategy paper authored by David Wurmser published by the Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies (IASPS) based in Jerusalem and Washington D.C.? It advised: "The battle to dominate and define Iraq is, by extension, the battle to dominate the balance of power in the Levant over the long run... The United States must support moves to challenge Syria’s position in Lebanon, to undermine Iran, to ensure Turkey’s long-term pro-Western tilt and integration into Europe, to support Jordan’s efforts in Iraq, and to understand better the dynamics of Saudi succession as they relate to its foreign policy."

The overwhelming danger is plain for all reasonable observers to see. Israel is escalating its aggression, in both diplomatic rhetoric and military conduct, against Beirut, Damascus and Tehran, knowing full-well that this is dramatically increasing the probability of a wider conflict. Tehran has loudly confirmed its solidarity with Damascus in the event of a serious Israeli assault there. As the IDF continues to terrorise Lebanon with impunity while our own governments continue to supply military and financial aid to Israel, Hizbollah is left with little option but to escalate its own responses with support from Iran and Syria. As usual, Hizbollah's responses are in turn cited by Israel as ample justification for the increasing its own indiscriminate massacres of Lebanese civilians, which further aggravates and escalates Hizbollah's retaliations.

As the cycle widens and deepens, US leaders and experts increasingly blame Iran, albeit without evidence, for engineering Hizbollah's initial operation to capture the IDF soldiers. The danger that the increasing involvement of Iran and/or Syria in the conflict could be exploited by Israel to convert it into a full-scale regional war should not be underestimated. As the late Professor Israel Shahak of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, wrote years ago in his Open Secrets (London: Pluto, 1997):

"The wish for peace, so often assumed as the Israeli aim, is not in my view a principle of Israeli policy, while the wish to extend Israeli domination and influence is… Israel is preparing for a war, nuclear if need be, for the sake of averting domestic change not to its liking, if it occurs in some or any Middle Eastern states... Israel clearly prepares itself to seek overtly a hegemony over the entire Middle East..., without hesitating to use for the purpose all means available, including nuclear ones."

There could perhaps be no better time to heed Shahak's warning than now, when both the US and Israel, with British complicity and European duplicity, are maneuvering themselves into a position where they can legitimize the opening of multiple military confrontations with Lebanon, Iran and Syria. The nuclear implications have never been lost on our leaders. Both Britain and the United States have adopted first-strike nuclear policies, and are actively pursuing tactical nuclear weapons to make such unconventional warfare strategically viable. Vice-President Dick Cheney continues to spend most of his time in secret nuclear bunkers where he oversees the establishment and functioning of an unelected network of unknown officials, planned to immediately come into power in the event of a nuclear strike against the United States.

For the last few decades in the Middle East, armageddon has long lingered on the horizon, but in light of recent events, its shadow looms closer. Our leaders are not rational, trustworthy individuals, and we are not safe in their hands. We do not want to experience 7th July 2005 a thousand times over. So we must take action, now; which means making the voices of we, the people, heard so clearly and overwhelmingly that those who kill and support killing in our name can do so no longer.

15 July 2006

Middle East Crisis in Context

I won't comment in detail, yet, on the extremely disturbing events in the Middle East. The mainstream media's analysis of the escalating conflict has been, as usual, simplistic and overwhelmingly sympathetic to Israel. But the real dynamic of what is happening now cannot be understood without knowing its roots, and for that we must remind ourselves of recent history. Hence, I thought it would be useful to post a few excerpts of a lengthy briefing I wrote around the same time 4 years ago, The Impending Abyss.


===

[...]

Despite the historical and documentary record, the myth of Israel’s victim-hood is consistently propagated by the regime to justify its illegal and increasingly brutal occupation of Palestine. This myth is achieved by the constant repetition, and distortion, of the following concept: that the State of Israel is under siege from Palestinian terrorists embarking on incessant suicide missions, resulting in the mass terrorisation of Israeli civilians. This concept is without doubt to some extent correct – however, devoid of qualification it becomes misleading.

The picture of Israel as a victim, rather than a perpetrator of terrorism, can only emerge from a presupposed pro-Israeli agenda, which focuses principally on the killing of Israelis by Palestinian suicide bombers, while completely blocking out all consciousness of the killing of Palestinians by the Israeli Defence Force (IDF). As a consequence, the historical record, along with the factual context of contemporary developments, is almost entirely erased from public consciousness.

To understand the reality of the Middle East conflict as objectively as possible, it is essential to inspect and compare the entire spectrum of violence committed by all actors within the conflict. Only in this way can the reality and scale of terrorism on both sides be clarified, and responsibility for the violence be thus proportionally assigned. This should be done comprehensively by drawing together the historical and contemporary record of conflict between Israeli and Palestinian forces.

We may begin with the current crisis. The Israeli human rights group B’Tselem based in Jerusalem reports that:

“Since Israel began its invasions into Palestinian refugee camps on February 27, dozens of unarmed Palestinian civilians have been killed, including children and medical personnel…

“In every city and refugee camp that they have entered, IDF soldiers have repeated the same pattern: indiscriminate firing and the killing of innocent civilians, intentional harm to water, electricity and telephone infrastructure, taking over civilian houses, extensive damage to civilian property, shooting at ambulances and prevention of medical care to the injured.

“The grave results have not caused the IDF to change its course of action. Israeli policymakers knew the grave price to the civilian population after the incursion into the first refugee camp. Yet they continue to engage in actions that constitute grave breaches of international humanitarian law.”[1]

According to authoritative statistical data on the number of fatalities for both Israelis and Palestinians published and endorsed by B’Tselem, between the beginning of the Intifada (9th December 1987) and the end of January 2002, a total of 2,166 Palestinian civilians were killed by Israeli security forces and settlers. In the same period, a total of 454 Israeli civilians were killed by Palestinians.[2]

Thus, the approximate ratio of fatalities between Palestinians and Israelis for this period is 5:1. In other words, Israeli violence resulting in death against Palestinians is approximately 5 times that of Palestinian violence resulting in death against Israelis.

Statistical data on the number of injuries on both sides is an even more damning indictment of the Israeli role. According to data produced by the Palestine Red Crescent Society for the period between 29th September 2002 and 6th April 2002 – and endorsed as reliable by B’Tselem – the total number of Palestinians (mostly civilians) seriously injured by Israeli use of live ammunition, rubber/plastic bullets, tear gas, shrapnel and bomb fragments amounts to 18,761.[3] In the same period, the total number of Israeli casualties (again, mostly civilians) amounts to 427. Thus, the ratio of casualties between Palestinians and Israelis is a shocking 44:1. In other words, Israeli violence against Palestinians resulting in civilian casualties is 44 times that of Palestinian violence against Israelis.[4]

The only logical conclusion one can draw from this analysis is that the statistical data proves very clearly that Israel bears overwhelming responsibility for violence and terrorism in this conflict, as a matter of record. The implications have been duly noted by respected observers, such as the Israeli political sociologist Dr. Lev Grinberg, Director of the Humphrey Institute for Social Research at Ben Gurion University in Beersheva. He describes how Israeli State terrorism in the Occupied Territories is tolerated by the international community, and repackaged through the media as “self-defence”:

“What is the difference between State terrorism and individual terrorist acts? If we understand this difference we’ll understand also the evilness of the U.S. policies in the Middle East and the forthcoming disasters. When Yassir Arafat was put under siege in his offices and kept hostage by the Israeli occupation forces, he was constantly pressed into condemning terror and combatting terrorism. Israel’s State-terrorism is defined by U.S. officials as ‘self-defense’, while individual suicide bombers are called terrorists.

“The only small difference is that Israeli aggression is the direct responsibility of Ariel Sharon, Benjamin Ben Eliezer, Shimon Peres and Shaul Mofaz, while the individual terrorist acts are done by individuals in despair, usually against Arafat’s will. One hour after Arafat declared his support of a cease-fire and wished the Jews a Happy Passover feast, a suicide bomber exploded himself in an hotel in Netanya, killing 22 innocent Jews celebrating Passover. Arafat was blamed as responsible for this act, and the present IDF offensive has been justified through this accusation.

“At the same time, Sharon’s responsibility for Israeli war crimes is being completely ignored. Who should be arrested for the targeted killing of almost 100 Palestinians? Who will be sent to jail for the killing of more than 120 Palestinian paramedics? Who will be sentenced for the killing of more than 1,200 Palestinians and for the collective punishment of more than 3,000,000 civilians during the last 18 months? And who will face the International Tribunal for the illegal settlement of occupied Palestinian Lands, and the disobedience of UN decisions for more than 35 years?”[5]


[...]

Indeed, Israeli military planners fully accounted for the possibility that the militant faction Hamas might rise to power, or at least become far more powerful than it already is. There is evidence to suggest that the Israeli rightwing has, however, not been adverse to this possible consequence, but on the contrary, has even seen the rise of the militant faction as a boon because of its terrorist activities against Israeli civilians. The Israeli Insider continues to note in its July report that:

“MK Michael Kleiner [Chairman of the Herut Party in the Israeli Knesset] called on Israel to either assassinate or topple Arafat… Kleiner suggested replacing Arafat, even if it meant the Hamas would take his place. According to Kleiner, the entire world recognizes the Hamas as a terrorist organization so Israel’s continued efforts against a radical Palestinian leadership would not be condemned.”[70]

Kleiner’s sentiments are not isolated. For instance, senior Ha’aretz commentator Akiva Eldar reports that at a high-level Cabinet meeting, Israeli Minister of Finance Silvan Shalom criticised his colleague Foreign Minister Shimon Peres for advocating “negotiations” with Arafat. “Between Hamas and Arafat, I prefer Hamas,” he declared, explaining that Arafat is a “terrorist in a diplomat’s suit, while Hamas can be hit unmercifully… there won’t be any international protests.”[71]

Indeed, this ruthless line of thought seems to explain why Israel has targeted Arafat while leaving Hamas untouched. As the Russian journal Pravda observes in an insightful article titled ‘Hamas and Israel Unite Against Arafat’:

“What is the power that the Israeli prime minister stakes on? No matter how strange it may seem, he has chosen Hamas... Sharon is leveling Arafat’s influence, at the same time getting rid of a peace plan that is unfavorable for Israel. The Hamas leader assumes command over the Palestinian opposition, while Arafat is isolated to his Ramallah residence. Political and financial support will be automatically switched from the PLO to Hamas. It is not a delirium, which is confirmed by the following: Israel, which has already declared its intention to liquidate centers of terrorism, does not disturb Hamas, which claims responsibility for several recent acts of terrorism. This is rather strange. The previous connection between Israel and Hamas confirms the statement.”[72]

[...]

It comes as no surprise then that Hamas was originally financed by Israel to undermine the PLO, during the Israeli occupation of Lebanon in the 1980s.[74] PA President Yassir Arafat has commented in detail on the genesis of Hamas and the Israeli connection in interviews with leading Italian publications:

“We are doing everything possible to stop the violence. But Hamas is a creature of Israel which, at the time of Prime Minister [Yitzhak] Shamir [the late 1980s, when Hamas arose], gave them money and more than 700 institutions, among them schools, universities and mosques. Even [former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak] Rabin ended up admitting it, when I charged him with it, in the presence of [Egyptian President Hosni] Mubarak.”[75]

“Hamas was constituted with the support of Israel. The aim was to create an organization antagonistic to the PLO. They [Hamas] received financing and training from Israel. They have continued to benefit from permits and authorizations, while we have been limited, even [for permits] to build a tomato factory. Rabin himself defined it as a fatal error. Some collaborationists of Israel are involved in these [terrorist] attacks. We have the proof, and we are placing it at the disposal of the Italian government.”[76]


U.S. terrorism correspondent Richard Sale has provided detailed discussion of evidence for Israel’s covert support of the militant Hamas faction in a United Press International (UPI) report on the subject, which is worth quoting copiously. Drawing on U.S. and Israeli intelligence sources, Sale finds that “according to several current and former U.S. intelligence officials, beginning in the late 1970s, Tel Aviv gave direct and indirect financial aid to Hamas over a period of years.” According to Tony Cordesman, Middle East analyst for the Center for Strategic Studies, Israel “aided Hamas directly - the Israelis wanted to use it as a counterbalance to the PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organization).” A former senior CIA official told Sale that Israel’s support for Hamas “was a direct attempt to divide and dilute support for a strong, secular PLO by using a competing religious alternative.” Sale reports that: “According to U.S. administration officials, funds for the movement came from the oil-producing states and directly and indirectly from Israel. The PLO was secular and leftist and promoted Palestinian nationalism. Hamas wanted to set up a transnational state under the rule of Islam, much like Khomeini’s Iran...

“… with the triumph of the Khomeini revolution in Iran, with the birth of Iranian-backed Hezbollah terrorism in Lebanon, Hamas began to gain in strength in Gaza and then in the West Bank, relying on terror to resist the Israeli occupation.

“Israel was certainly funding the group at that time. One U.S. intelligence source who asked not to be named said that not only was Hamas being funded as a ‘counterweight’ to the PLO, Israeli aid had another purpose: ‘To help identify and channel towards Israeli agents Hamas members who were dangerous terrorists.’

“In addition, by infiltrating Hamas, Israeli informers could only listen to debates on policy and identify Hamas members who ‘were dangerous hard-liners’, the official said.

“In the end, as Hamas set up a very comprehensive counter-intelligence system, many collaborators with Israel were weeded out and shot. Violent acts of terrorism became the central tenet, and Hamas, unlike the PLO, was unwilling to compromise in any way with Israel, refusing to acquiesce in its very existence.

“But even then, some in Israel saw some benefits to be had in trying to continue to give Hamas support: ‘The thinking on the part of some of the right-wing Israeli establishment was that Hamas and the others, if they gained control, would refuse to have any part of the peace process and would torpedo any agreements put in place,’ said a U.S. government official who asked not to be named. ‘Israel would still be the only democracy in the region for the United States to deal with’, he said…

“According to former State Department counter-terrorism official Larry Johnson, ‘the Israelis are their own worst enemies when it comes to fighting terrorism. The Israelis are like a guy who sets fire to his hair and then tries to put it out by hitting it with a hammer. They do more to incite and sustain terrorism than curb it,’ he said.”[77]

[...]

Nuclear scientist John Steinbach, whose previous work includes the mapping of dangerous radiation hazards in the United States, corroborates this assessment in a detailed analysis of Israeli weapons of mass destruction published by the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation based in Santa Barbara, California.

“With between 200 and 500 thermonuclear weapons and a sophisticated delivery system, Israel has quietly supplanted Britain as the World’s 5th Largest nuclear power, and may currently rival France and China in the size and sophistication of its nuclear arsenal…

“Although dwarfed by the nuclear arsenals of the U.S. and Russia, each possessing over 10,000 nuclear weapons, Israel nonetheless is a major nuclear power, and should be publically recognized as such. Since the Gulf War in 1991, while much attention has been lavished on the threat posed by Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, the major culprit in the region, Israel, has been largely ignored. Possessing chemical and biological weapons, an extremely sophisticated nuclear arsenal, and an aggressive strategy for their actual use, Israel provides the major regional impetus for the development of weapons of mass destruction and represents an acute threat to peace and stability in the Middle East…

“In popular imagination, the Israeli bomb is a ‘weapon of last resort’, to be used only at the last minute to avoid annihilation, and many well intentioned but misled supporters of Israel still believe that to be the case... today the Israeli nuclear arsenal is inextricably linked to and integrated with overall Israeli military and political strategy... Israel has made countless veiled nuclear threats against the Arab nations and against the Soviet Union (and by extension Russia since the end of the Cold War).”[97]

Steinbach cites numerous sources showing that the nuclear option is very much on the table as far as Israel is concerned. For example, according to the late Professor Israel Shahak of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem in his highly acclaimed extensive study of Israel’s nuclear capabilities, Open Secrets:

“The wish for peace, so often assumed as the Israeli aim, is not in my view a principle of Israeli policy, while the wish to extend Israeli domination and influence is… Israel is preparing for a war, nuclear if need be, for the sake of averting domestic change not to its liking, if it occurs in some or any Middle Eastern states... Israel clearly prepares itself to seek overtly a hegemony over the entire Middle East..., without hesitating to use for the purpose all means available, including nuclear ones… Israel’s insistence on the independent use of its nuclear weapons can be seen as the foundation on which Israeli grand strategy rests… The prospect of Gush Emunim, or some secular right-wing Israeli fanatics, or some of the delirious Israeli Army generals, seizing control of Israeli nuclear weapons... cannot be precluded... [W]hile Israeli Jewish society undergoes a steady polarization, the Israeli security system increasingly relies on the recruitment of cohorts from the ranks of the extreme right.”[98]

American Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh largely agrees with Shahak’s assessment. He writes in another leading study of the subject that: “… the size and sophistication of Israel’s nuclear arsenal allows men such as Ariel Sharon to dream of redrawing the map of the Middle East aided by the implicit threat of nuclear force… Should war break out in the Middle East again, … or should any Arab nation fire missiles against Israel, as the Iraqis did, a nuclear escalation, once unthinkable except as a last resort, would now be a strong probability.”[99] Ezar Weissman, Israel’s current President has virtually confirmed the same, promising ominously that: “The nuclear issue is gaining momentum [and the] next war will not be conventional.”[100] A past chilling statement by current Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is even more revealing: “Arabs may have the oil, but we have the matches.”[101]


[1] B’Tselem Press Release, ‘The IDF has lost any moral compass’, B’Tselem: The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, Jerusalem, 12 March 2002, http://www.btselem.org/English/Press_Releases/2002/020312.asp.

[2] B’Tselem Statistics, ‘Total casualties since Dec. 1987’, B’Tselem, Jerusalem, viewed 7 April 2002, http://www.btselem.org/English/Statistics/Total_Casualties.asp.

[3] PRCS Table of Figures, ‘Total daily number of deaths & injuries – West Bank & Gaza’, Palestine Red Crescent Society, Al-Bireh, viewed 7 April 2002, http://www.palestinercs.org/Crisis%20Tables/table_of_figures.htm. Linked from B’Tselem ‘Statistics’ section, http://www.btselem.org/English/Statistics.

[4] IDF News, ‘Terror casualties during Ebb and Flow’, Israeli Defense Forces Official Website, 5 April 2002, http://www.idf.il/English/news/nifg.stm.

[5] Grinberg, Lev, ‘Israel’s State Terrorism’, Tikkun Magazine, 1 April 2002.


[...]

[70] Shuman, Ellis, ‘Is Israel preparing to dismantle the Palestinian Authority?’, op. cit.

[71] Eldar, Akiva, Ha’aretz, 4 December 2001.

[72] Litvinovich, Dmitry, ‘Hamas and Israel Unite Against Arafat’, Pravda, 4 April 2002.

[...]

[74] Ha’aretz, 21 December 2001. Also see Sale, Richard, ‘Israel gave major aid to Hamas’, United Press International (UPI), 24 February 2001.

[75] Corriere della Sera, 11 December 2001.

[76] L’'Espresso, 19 December 2001.

[77] Sale, Richard, ‘Analysis: Hamas history tied to Israel’, United Press International, 18 June 2002.

[78] Szamuely, George, ‘Israel’s Hamas’, New York Press, April 2002, Vol. 15, No. 17.

[...]

[97] Steinbach, John, ‘Israeli Weapons of Mass Destruction: a Threat to Peace’, Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, Santa Barbara, CA, March 2002. Also published by the Centre for Research on Globalisation, Montreol. Steinbach’s paper was first published by the DC Iraq Coalition.

[98] Shahak, Israel, Open Secrets: Israeli Nuclear and Foreign Policies, Pluto Press, London, 1997, p. 2, 37-38, 150.

[99] Hersh, Seymour, The Samson Option: Israel’s Nuclear Arsenal and American Foreign Policy, Random House, New York, 1991, p. 319, 19

[100] Cited in Aronson, Geoffrey, ‘Hidden Agenda: U.S.-Israeli Relations and the Nuclear Question’, Middle East Journal, Autumn 1992, p. 619-630.

[101] Gaffney, Mark, The Third Temple: The Story Behind the Vanunu Revelation, Amana Books, Brattleboro, VT, 1989, p. 16.

13 July 2006

7/7: Interrogating British Security Policies

Yesterday, the Campaign Against Criminalising Communities hosted the first Parliamentary public meeting calling for an independent public inquiry into the London bombings. The meeting took place in the House of Lords, and was chaired by Lord Rea. We were most fortunate to benefit from the participation of a number of 7/7 survivors, including Rachel North, who delivered a moving address that opened the meeting, Holly Finch and John Tulloch.

Below is the text of my statement at the meeting.

====

On 11th May 2006 the British government published its two principal investigative reports on the London bombings, the first by the House of Commons Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC), and the second being the government’s own “official account” of the bombings.

The first problem with the official account is that it’s not objective. Written entirely by an anonymous civil servant, based on unspecified official intelligence sources, and edited by the government before final release, there was little prospect that it might contain serious criticism of government policy, even if there were good grounds for such criticism.

The ISC report is similar. All members of the ISC are appointed by the Prime Minister, to whom they report directly, and who had the power to censor its contents on security grounds. Hence, its contents were subject to high-level government approval, and unlikely to offer a critical analysis of government policy.

These reports are fundamentally politicized -- that is, written in the context of obvious political constraints, which limit their scope and shape their conclusions.

Even allowing for these constraints, the reports are guilty of a litany of omissions and factual inaccuracies. Read against what we know about the attacks from other sources, it is difficult to see how these reports offer anything at all of value. Virtually no new information was offered, and much of the material purportedly based on intelligence sources has already been widely reported in the media.

The central thesis supported by the reports is as follows: This was an attack by a cell of four home-grown terrorists. There is no evidence that they were connected to a wider network, no firm evidence that they were radicalized by anybody else, no evidence of any al-Qaeda connection. These people were, we are told, most probably self-radicalized. The attacks were planned in isolation and the method of the attacks was relatively unsophisticated.

This account of the London bombings emphasises evidence that appears to support these claims, and suppresses evidence that contradicts them . In my view, a more impartial examination of the evidence in the public record reveals many ambiguities in official statements, some minor, some more fundamental, but all of which tend to undermine elements of the government’s account.

Broadly speaking, there are three categories of anomaly. The first pertains to the technical and logistical aspects of the bombings. The second concerns the social and ideological background of the four bombers. The third concerns the intelligence surveillance of them and the networks they associated with. I’ll discuss categories 2 and 3 together.

I’ll very briefly discuss some of these anomalies. On the first category, we have anomalies about the types of explosives used in the attacks, the nature of the explosions, and even about the chronology of the movements of the bombers on the day, as well as other issues. There’s no time of course to review these in detail. But it’s worth mentioning a few examples here.

Many of us will be aware that Home Secretary John Reid has now admitted in parliament that the government’s narrative of the attacks was incorrect on one point, the chronology. He admitted that the narrative states wrongly that Mohammad Sidique Khan, Shehzad Tanweer, Hasib Hussain and Germaine Lindsay left Luton station at 7.40am on 7th July last year to arrive in time to be photographed by CCTV in Kings Cross at 8:26AM. In my book, I point out that in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks, police officials issued two mutually inconsistent stories to the media, both purporting to be based on material evidence. The first was that the four had taken the 7:40am train. The second story was that they had taken the 7:48am train. Police cited CCTV and eyewitness evidence as the basis for both findings. The government uncritically repeated the 7:40am account. Both accounts are false. As we’ve all experienced, trains in Britain rarely stick to their assigned schedules. So it is not too surprising that in reality, the 7:48 am train on 7th July 2005 was delayed and reached Kings Cross well after 8:26AM. The 7:40AM train was cancelled. As Reid now concedes, they could only have taken one earlier train from Luton which departed at 7:25AM and arrived in Kings Cross at 8:23AM.

To his credit, Reid admitted that the error "may be of concern". He subsequently ordered a report from police into how this sort of inaccuracy was perpetuated for more than a year. But clearly, the problem goes deeper than this. As noted by Grahame Russell, whose son Philip died on 7th July, this inaccuracy on something as seemingly trivial as train times, raises serious concerns about the accuracy of the rest of the report.

The same sort of bizarre anomalies arise again in relation to accounts about the explosives. The government’s narrative states that the bombings were relatively unsophisticated requiring “little expertise”. The reports claim the attacks were “self-financed” with a relatively small amount of funds, and executed using easily available household ingredients in home-made bombs. The house of commons intelligence committee report says that the bombs were made from acetone peroxide also known as TATP.

But it seems that just under a year after the attacks, the government is still not a hundred percent clear about the composition of the bombs. The official account saysthat “it appears” the bombs were homemade from cheap, household commodities, rather than confirming the matter decisively. The report notes that forensic analysis of the bombs continues, implying that the current conclusion about their composition could change. Forensic science, however, tends to provide unambiguous answers within a matter of hours and days. The forensic examiners have surely found out all they can by now. Why does forensic analysis continue?

Indeed, the official account fails to acknowledge and does not explain why in the first week after the 77 terrorist attacks, intelligence officials, police officers and forensic scientists independently said that forensic examination had found “traces of military-grade C4 plastic explosive at the London Underground blast sites”. Some of these sources suggest that the C4 most likely originated from jihadist networks in the Balkans. The Balkans connection, if true, raises further awkward questions regarding the international dimension of the plot. But after that week, the police said they found TATP in a bathtub in a Leeds flat linked to the bombers. Suddenly, the C4 finding was forgotten, and sources told the press that the explosives used on the London Underground and bus bombings were solely TATP. When I scrutinized the relevant reports I was dissatisfied. For instance, Janes Terrorism and Insurgency Centre, when reporting the TATP finding as late as 22nd July (about a week after the finding) said that forensic tests “had still to confirm whether TATP had indeed been found”, and that further testing was still needed to get a decisive result. Meanwhile, the rest of the media was saying that TATP had definitely been found.

Perhaps it had. But why the inexplicable vagueness? And how can we make sense of this inexplicable shift in official statements? Are the government’s forensic scientists horrendously incompetent? Or is the government being economical with the truth? We may never know without an independent public inquiry.

These sorts of legitimate questions extend to other central issues. In mid-May, for instance, the Sunday Times reported that: “MI5 had secret tape recordings of Mohammad Sidique Khan, the gang leader, talking about how to build the device and then leave the country because there would be a lot of police activity.” (http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2087-2179602,00.html) The article raises significant questions. It suggests firstly that Khan was monitored quite closely by British intelligence, and secondly that he may not have intended to kill himself in the attack, but had instead contemplated leaving the country afterwards. It is of course possible that after the MI5 recording, Khan changed his mind and decided to become a martyr. On the other hand, given the unfortunate lack of clarity in terms of detail here, at face value the Times report suggests the possibility that the bombers were not necessarily aware of all aspects of the terrorist plot. This would, again, imply the involvement of a wider veteran terrorist network.

I could go on and on detailing many other technical inconsistencies pertaining to other dimensions of the official account. The government has a duty to resolve these inconsistencies for the public, and to provide a more coherent and reliable account. But in the absence of an independent public inquiry empowered to review the evidence available to police and intelligence services about the attacks, this may never happen. Will we have to wait another year, or 2 years, or 3 years or more for the government to concede and rectify these other sorts of anomalies? Such a situation is simply not satisfactory.

I’ll now briefly look at the next categories of anomaly, pertaining to the social and ideological background of Khan, Tanweer, Hussein and Lindsay and related issues of intelligence surveillance. The government’s account downplays the notion that the bombers operated as part of a wider al-Qaeda terrorist network, insisting that there “is as yet no firm evidence to corroborate this claim or the nature of Al Qaida support, if there was any.” Although speculating about the cursory liaison with al-Qaeda members during visits to Pakistan, the report focuses on the role of Mohamed Sidique Khan in indoctrinating and radicalizing the group.

This is perhaps the official account’s most significant omission. The evidence I’ve reviewed demonstrates that the four had operated as part of a well established al-Qaeda terrorist network in Britain, whose key leadership is well known to British authorities. The official account excludes the fact, reported shortly after the attacks, that British investigators had identified likely collaborators with the four bombers in Central Asia, Northwest Africa and the Balkans.

Khan and his colleagues in particular were members of a UK-based al-Qaeda network that had been planning terrorist attacks on multiple targets in New York, London and elsewhere in Europe. The cells involved in this planning, which included Khan and his colleagues, were being directed by a senior al-Qaeda operative, Abu Faraj al-Libbi. Al-Libbi had been arrested and detained in Pakistan in May 2005. US investigators called into interrogate him told the press that al-Libbi admitted that “the London mass transit system was a likely target for an attack.” That warning was reportedly passed on to British intelligence services. But the parliamentary intelligence committee report blandly insists that no warnings at all of the 77 terrorist attack was received by the security services. This is demonstrably false. Without an independent public inquiry, we may never know what happened to this, along with the many other warnings of the London bombings, that had been passed on to our government from various credible sources.

My research indicates that the networks under al-Libbi’s jurisdiction overlapped strongly with al-Muhajiroun, a militant British group headed by Omar Bakri Mohammed who is now in Lebanon, debarred from returning to the UK. Although routinely derided as nothing more than a hothead and a loudmouth, two of Bakri’s boys from al Muhajiroun had already conducted a suicide bombing in Tel Aviv years before the London bombings, which Bakri had openly praised. A Manchester businessman Kursheed Fiaz has told the BBC that Sidique Khan, described as the chief bomber, had personally known the Tel Aviv bombers and had visited Fiaz with them as early as the summer of 2001 to discuss recruitment tactics.

Numerous other al-Muhajiroun members and associates had repeatedly boasted in the years prior to the attacks that hundreds of them had undergone training in al-Qaeda camps with a view to return to Britain to carry out possible terrorist attacks against British targets. Khan and his colleagues were reportedly members of al-Muhajiroun. Compelling evidence indicates that Bakri himself had advanced warning of the 77 attack plans to target London, and may even have had a direct role in radicalizing the four, as well as facilitating their activities. In April 2004, Bakri declared that an al-Qaeda cell in London was planning an imminent attack. This is utterly ignored by the government. Now that Bakri is permanently outside of British jurisdiction, it seems that there is no prospect that he might be investigated in this regard, despite Scotland Yard’s recent insistence that those who knew about the attacks might face prosecution.

Similarly ignored is the evidence from a Times investigation that some of the four had attended Finsbury Park mosque and were inspired by Abu Hamza’s inflammatory preaching. And further overlooked is the connection to Muhammad Naeem Noor Khan, an al-Qaeda IT expert whose laptop contained details of these very plans to attack, among other targets, the London Underground. The four were associated with networks with whom Noor Khan had been communicating, which were known to British police.

Why is the government downplaying these issues? An inkling of the answer may come when we look at the way security officials have dealt with the case of Haroon Rashid Aswat. Aswat, who used to be Osama bin Laden’s bodyguard, was believed by both British and US investigators to have been the key senior al-Qaeda operative who masterminded the London bombings. The connection was established through records of telephone conversations between Aswat and Sidique Khan, many of which occurred on the morning of 7th July 2005. Police officials described the contents of these conversations to the Times and other media in some detail, suggesting that Aswat had provided bomb-making expertise and other planning assistance. But British authorities quickly backtracked on these statements about Aswat’s involvement in 7/7 after revelations from US intelligence sources that Aswat was, in fact, an MI6 double agent. The revelation first came from former Justice Department prosecutor John Loftus. It has subsequently been corroborated by US and French investigators who even now continue to describe Aswat as the chief suspected 77 mastermind. Meanwhile British officials have said that they will not investigate Aswat in connection with 77.

The Aswat example seems to illustrate a wider problem here. American and French intelligence officials confirm that Aswat and his colleagues, Abu Hamza and Omar Bakri, were all used in an MI6 operation to recruit British Muslims to fight in Kosovo in the 1990s. The Anglo-American strategy of using mujahideen networks had begun in Afghanistan, continued in Azerbaijan and was imported to Europe during the Bosnian War. The operation is described in detail in Dutch intelligence files reviewed in the official Dutch inquiry into the Srebrenica genocide. The policy continued in Kosovo, and continues today in Macedonia.

British foreign policy in the Balkans meant that terrorists at home were given considerable latitude, and only this explains the reluctance of police and security services to prosecute individuals like Abu Hamza (who still has not been charged for numerous al-Qaeda linked terrorist activities in the UK). The Balkans is not the only region where British foreign policy makes use of networks affiliated to al-Qaeda. In Central Asia and Northwest Africa, British and American covert operations have collaborated with extremist Islamist terror networks in the pursuit of specific strategic and economic interests, largely to do with protecting corporate interests and controlling energy reserves. These networks are closely associated with the UK-based operatives linked to the London bombings. For example, in the summer of 2000, Yousef Bodanksy, former Director of the Congressional Task Force on Terrorism, reported that US and British intelligence had held a formal meeting hosted by Azerbaijan to discuss the supply of arms and funds to al-Qaeda mercenaries in the Caucasus, Central Asia and the Middle East. There are many other reliable examples of this sort of collaboration.

There is now growing acknowledgement in the international intelligence community that Britain has operated within the framework of a “Covenant of Security” with these networks. Former Downing Street intelligence adviser Crispin Black, for instance, notes that the covenant was a tacit understanding between the security services and extremist terrorist networks inside the UK that they would be permitted to do what they liked on British soil as long as they didn’t target British interests. But even this doesn’t fully explain the phenomenon at stake. Omar Bakri, for instance, told his followers over the internet in January 2005 that the covenant of security had been broken by the British government in its arrest of people like Abu Hamza, whose trial had been originally scheduled for 7th July 2005, and that therefore Britain was now a legitimate target of al-Qaeda terrorist activity. The failure of the authorities to act can only be explained in light of the fact these extremist networks were not only tolerated, but were actively protected due to their utility to British foreign policy objectives in the Balkans and elsewhere.

The danger is that the government’s overwhelming imperative to conceal these policies from the public are compromising the integrity of the criminal investigation. Many of these networks in the UK remain intact. People associated with Bakri and other UK-based operatives linked to terrorism whom I identify in my writing, and who by their own admission have undergone terrorist training and are willing to carry out attacks inside the UK, have not been pursued. Meanwhile, the clear flaws in the British national security system that made the 77 attacks possible, tied as they are to Britain’s foreign policies, have yet to be rectified.

I’ve only touched the tip of the iceberg here. The full story of the London bombings will not be fully told or understood in the absence of an independent public inquiry.
It is not reasonable for the government to leave the public, including the 77 survivors and families, to speculate about these issues. The government has a duty to clarify reasonably and judiciously what happened, how and why, on 7th July 2005.

10 July 2006

House of Lords: Call for an Independent Public Inquiry

We have managed to organize a public meeting in the House of Lords for this wednesday, 7-9pm, calling for an independent public inquiry. The announcement from the principal organizing group, CAMPACC, is below:

Public Meeting

Before & After 7/7: Interrogating British ‘Security’ Policies

Why did the 7/7 terrorist attack happen?
Like the 11 September 2001 attack, was this a ‘blowback’ effect of government policy?
What is being protected by British ‘security’ policies? What alternative policies could protect us?

6.30pm Wednesday 12 July
Committee Room 3, House of Lords, Westminster, SW1

Hosted by Lord Rea

Speakers

Nafeez Ahmed, author of The War on Freedom and The War on Truth and the new book
London Bombings – An Independent Inquiry, http://www.independentinquiry.co.uk

Milan Rai, co-founder of Voices in the Wilderness UK; author of Chomsky's Politics;
War Plan Iraq; Regime Unchanged; and 7/7: The London Bombings, Islam and the Iraq War

Gareth Peirce, human rights lawyer

Asad Rehman, Chair of Newham Monitoring Project, Representative of Charles de Menezes Family Campaign

Saghir Hussain, lawyer and Stop Political Terror

Prof. Bill Bowring, Human Rights & Social Justice Research Institute

Les Levidow, CAMPACC

Anomalies and inconsistencies continue to plague the government's explanation of what happened on 7th July 2005, and why it failed to anticipate the London tube bombings. The government has since used the attacks to promote increasingly draconian powers, justified on the basis of protecting ‘national security’. This strategy does not protect us, but instead alienates and even criminalizes communities, especially by creating and persecuting more ‘terror suspects’. As the most extreme cases, the shootings at Stockwell and Forest Gate have disturbing parallels.

There is still no coherent, verifiable public account of the 7th July terrorist attacks. In his book, The London Bombings: An Independent Inquiry, Nafeez Ahmed demonstrates how the authorities' explanations have shifted continuously and inexplicably. In this context, the absence of a credible narrative has fueled wild speculation and left the public in the dark. Meanwhile leaks from security services and journalistic investigations continue to undermine the government's claims that the bombers were 'clean skins'.

Ahmed argues that the attacks can only be fully understood in the light of extensive co-operation between Islamist extremists and Western intelligence in the Balkans, Central Asia and Northwest Africa before 7/7. In reality, government policies promote terror abroad and tolerate extremism at home. Looking beyond the platitudes of the 'war on terror', Ahmed asks what exactly the government means by ‘national security’.

This meeting will hear critical perspectives from Nafeez Ahmed and Milan Rai and other leading experts. They will explore links between government policies that were already undermining our security before 7/7, and that are backfiring drastically after 7/7. The participants are calling for an independent public inquiry to unearth the failures that may have facilitated the London bombings, and which point towards an anti-terrorist strategy which could truly protect us.

The meeting has been called by CAMPACC (Campaign Against Criminalising Communities)
and is supported by HRSJ (Human Rights & Social Justice Research Institute), Stop Political Terror, 1990 Trust, The Muslim Parliament

Information: estella24@tiscali.co.uk, www.campacc.org.uk, Tel 020 272 4131, 020 7586 5892

All are welcome to attend the next organizational meeting, 7-9pm Monday 24th July at Camden Town Hall, Judd St, near Kings Cross station. Ask for the room booked by UNISON.

7 July 2006

Our Shameless Government on the 77 Anniversary

I began the day in a solemn mood. Had a number of media engagements during the day. As I did the rounds, starting with a television interview on the Islam Channel's "The Agenda" hosted by former Sunday Express journalist Yvonne Ridley, I began to feel a little more upbeat and hopeful about promoting the urgent necessity of an independent public inquiry.

But as the day went on, my mood became increasingly agitated and even angry. I was fortunate enough to be interviewed on BBC Radio 4's World at One programme to talk about some of the "unanswered questions of 7/7 ", and I was able to quite robustly emphasise the fact that the government's account of the terrorist attacks last year is hopelessly inconsistent, and that the intelligence available to the security services about an impending attack on the London Underground had been far more precise and abundant than admitted by the House of Commons Intelligence & Security Committee. Due to the time constraints of the interview, Radio 4 wasn't able to include all my comments on this subject. I was slightly disappointed about this, as I had highlighted two crucial themes that the government wants very much to keep concealed from public understanding: the 'covenant of security' at home, and active collusion abroad. The covenant of security, whose existence has been conceded by former British intelligence officials like Crispin Black, consisted of a tacit understanding with radical Islamist networks (some directly and openly associated with al-Qaeda) allowing them to have free reign inside the UK on condition that they refrain from attacking British targets and focus any terrorist activity outside the UK. But the covenant alone was and is not the whole story. The rest of it concerns Britain's (and the West's) active cooperation with radical Islamist networks to pursue key strategic and economic interests in regions of central geopolitical significance, particularly the Balkans, Central Asia and Northwest Africa (although there are more, these are the most relevant to 77). This international policy has obvious domestic ramifications, in that domestic networks tied to groups considered nominally useful to certain foreign policy objectives have therefore been protected from normal law-enforcement procedures.

This is a scandalous but central part of the untold story behind the 7th July 2005 terrorist attacks. BBC World at One had no time to air it, but at least they covered the need for a public inquiry. They need to be commended, as after me our Culture Minister came on, Tessa Jowell, to give what I feel is a shameless and despicable explanation of the inexcusable refusal of the government to have an independent public inquiry into 77. When she said that an inquiry wasn't necessary because with many of the questions survivors are asking it is not clear whether they could be answered, her interviewer noted that surely the point of an inquiry is to at least find out what questions can be answered, and in any case try to answer them as best as possible. To which Tessa stuttered a little and switched to the "diversion of resources" line, actually suggesting that an inquiry would mean less money for surveillance. Commendably, the host grilled her again, pointing out that during the Met's Steven Lawrence inquiry, no one ever suggested that the millions of pounds of funds would be diverted away from normal police work endangering the country...

Listening to Tessa was bad enough. Later on in the day I went head-to-head with a Cabinet Minister, Hilary Benn, the Secretary of State for International Development and also a Leeds MP. When I was asked by the host about the grounds for an independent public inquiry, I basically outlined the fact that the government's account consists essentially of two sets of anomalies: 1. anomalies concerning the technical and logistical dimensions of the attacks and 2. anomalies concerning the intelligence, political and sociological background to the attacks, including issues such as the connections of the alleged bombers to wider terrorist networks. The public has an elementary right to get these things resolved so that a lucid and indisputable account of what happened, how and why, is available. Benn's response was to say that we don't need an inquiry because we've already got the two documents put out by the government, the parliamentary intelligence report and the whitehall 'narrative' which, he said, were quite clear, full and convincing accounts. I found this, frankly, to be preposterous. I noted the reality of bizarre and inexplicable shifts in the statements made by police and other officials involved in the investigation as weeks and months passed after 77, concerning a myriad of issues, some minor, some central, such as the inconsistencies about the types of explosives used, absurd and unexplained errors in the chronology of the movements of the four identified individuals, etc.; as well as extensive evidence in the public record that all four of them had actually been monitored by the security services for at least a year prior to 7th July, and did reportedly associate with radical Islamist networks that the government has not only tolerated, but in some cases actively protected in the UK.

Benn's ensuing retort was bizarre. Rather than addressing the very real issues raised in a meaningful way, he dismissed everything by simply saying that, well, we all now know that the bombers did carry out these attacks, and cited the newly released Shahzad Tanweer video as an example.

Now I found this response very wanting, particularly as I had never articulated any particular "theory", and certainly hadn't told him that the four identified individuals were not involved in the attacks. He had simply sidestepped the obvious issue: that the government's account is so riddled with anomalies and inconsistencies, that ultimately there is very little that we can confidently say we genuinely know about the attacks. In my book, I've tried to be as balanced as possible in looking at these anomalies, and have deliberately avoided jumping to speculative conclusions. But the reality of the situation as it stands is this: what little evidence and information has been made available to the public about the bombers will simply not stand up in a court of law. In that context, whether or not the government's account remains plausible or implausible on certain issues as compared to others is besides the point. If the account cannot stand the test of law, then we do have slight problem here (understatement), and the government's obsessive desire to pretend that there is no problem at all is rather like insisting that the elephant in the living room is in fact a giraffe.

Benn quickly moved on to repeat the "diversion of resources" line, but I wasn't given the opportunity to respond immediately to him. If I had, I would've pointed out, as Rachel North has done so forcefully, that if they were really worried about resources, why are they willing to invest millions of taxpayer's money into ID cards to stop terror, when by the government's own account ID cards were found all over the scenes of the terrorist atrocities (many of them, in fact Khan's was reportedly found at several different blast sites.)

By the end of the day, then, I felt kind of pleased that I'd been able to challenge a government minister on the refusal to have an inquiry, but far more disappointed and angry at the government's total loss of moral compass. In the final analysis, the refusal to have an inquiry can only be understood in the context of the government's desire to conceal from public consumption the systematic policy failures that occurred, and are still occurring, that made the 77 attacks possible. What do I mean by "failures"? Very simply, failures in relation to the government's statutory duties to ensure the security, safety and well-being of the public. More than that, the government doesn't want us to understand the complex of corporate corruption, vested interests, and worse, selective collusion with radical Islamist terrorists, behind these failures. There is more, much more, to say, and that needs to be said, but I'm constrained by time.

3 July 2006

"The Independent on Sunday" features my new 77 book

My new book, "The London Bombings: An Independent Inquiry", was featured in a special Inside Story report in yesterday's Independent on Sunday (p. 22-25). The report by Francis Elliot, winner of the Political Journalist of the Year British Press Award, and Sophie Goodchild, says that my book "pulls apart the official narrative of 7/7":

..... According to the official Whitehall-authored narrative, the four bombs, three on trains, the last on a bus, were the work of a self-radicalised cell working alone on a budget of £8,000. The bombs were home-made. There was no evidence of a mastermind nor of a network, other than a loose, social nebula of radical Islamists.

This "clean skin" version, published in May, was given an apparent parliamentary rubber stamp by a report from the ISC released at the same time. The ISC effectively cleared the intelligence and security services of any failure, asserting that none of the four bombers had been identified as a potential terrorist and that the attack had happened without warning.

Reassuring these reports may be, but they are wrong, according to the respected terror analyst Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed, a tutor in international relations and politics at the University of Sussex. His new book, The London Bombings: An Independent Inquiry, pulls apart the official narrative of 7/7, pointing out its gaps and contradictions. He concludes that the security and intelligence services, with government connivance, downplayed the sophistication of the operation and the size and nature of its support network. Evidence of al-Qa'ida involvement is suppressed, he says, to deflect awkward questions about how a large terror network flourished unchecked in Britain for 10 years.

If he is right, the next wave of attacks to hit London is far closer and more violent than is commonly supposed.

There are some bewildering gaps in the Whitehall account of 7/7; even the nature of the explosives used in the bombing is unclear. The report says only that "it appears" they were home-made, although there is plenty of evidence that the bombs were powered by at least some commercial or military explosive.

"Forensic science ... tends to produce unambiguous answers within a matter of hours and days," Mr Ahmed says. "The idea that continuous examination over many months has failed to finish the job beggars belief."

Furthermore, the substance that the bombers were said to have mixed from household products - TATP - produces neither flame nor heat upon detonation. But eyewitnesses reported both.

Then there is the curious official reticence over proven links between the bombers' ringleader, Mohammed Siddique Khan, and other terrorists, including senior al-Qa'ida lieutenants abroad. Officially, it is admitted only that Khan was on the "periphery" of another terror plot currently the subject of court proceedings. In fact, Khan had been placed on a watchlist in 2004. MI5 had opened a file on him. Mr Ahmed claims the three other bombers were all also known to MI5.
The official narrative baldly states: "The extent to which others may have been involved in indoctrinating the group, have known what they were planning, or been involved in the planning, is unknown at this stage."


The ISC report goes a little further, admitting that Khan and Tanweer probably received "some form of operational training" in Pakistan in the months before the attacks. But Mr Ahmed is amazed that this ignores the telephone traffic between Khan and, among others, Haroon Rashid Aswat, an al-Qa'ida lieutenant previously based in Pakistan, believed by US investigators to be the mastermind of 7/7.

Mr Ahmed's controversial inference is that MI5 is now trying to cover up a tacit understanding with terror groups that operated until 9/11. They were allowed to operate as long as they did not bomb Britain or UK targets abroad. There was, in effect, a "covenant of security", he says.
Radicals such as Omar Bakri and Abu Hamza, who did so much to foment violent Islamism in Britain, were used by intelligence services in a disastrous miscalculation, he contends.
"In systematically downplaying the undeniable role of al-Qa'ida in the London bombings, the official account is attempting to draw public attention from the fact British authorities have tolerated the activities of an entrenched and burgeoning network of radical Islamists with terrorist connections for more than a decade," says the analyst......


In the Independent on Sunday's "leading article", the newspaper (p. 33) further quotes my work in support of its call for an independent inquiry:

One year on from the bomb explosions on the London Tube trains and bus that claimed 52 lives, we still know terrifyingly little about how it happened and how likely it is to happen again. The reports that the security services let Mohammed Siddique Khan, the leader of the 7/7 bombers, slip through their fingers do not inspire confidence. The failure to put Khan under surveillance may not have been particularly culpable - it is impossible to assess how important he might have appeared compared to all the other possible threats. But that is the point. Unless there is an independent inquiry into the performance of the intelligence agencies in relation to 7/7, it will be difficult to know to what extent they failed to act on information as they should have.

So far, as we report today, the authorities seem to be unable to answer many of the most basic questions about the 7/7 bombings. The bland official "narrative" says only that "it appears" that the bombs were home-made, yet this is central to the question of whether the plot was the work of a closed cell or a wider network. Equally, it has taken a study by an academic outsider, Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed, to assess the extent of the bombers' international terrorist connections. He believes that they had extensive support from al-Qa'ida in Pakistan and suggests that MI5 knew about it.

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