All of Israel’s settlements in the occupied West Bank and Syria’s Golan Heights are illegal under international law.

New US bill would punish settlement boycotters

New bill in Congress backed by AIPAC aims to thwart international measures to hold Israel accountable for settlements built on occupied Palestinian land.

Wisam HashlamounAPA images

US Senator Ben Cardin is once again trying to pass legislation designed to suppress the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement for Palestinian rights.

During the last Congressional session, the Maryland Democrat succeeded in sneaking language into a must-pass trade bill making it a “principal negotiating objective” of the United States “to discourage politically motivated actions to boycott, divest from or sanction Israel” while negotiating trade deals.

This discouragement of BDS extended to boycotts of products originating from settlements in what the bill euphemistically referred to as “Israeli-controlled territories.” All of Israel’s settlements in the occupied West Bank and Syria’s Golan Heights are illegal under international law.

But with the Trump administration’s skepticism toward free trade deals and its withdrawal of the United States from the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership, it seems unlikely that the United States in the near term will be leveraging anti-BDS pressure through trade negotiations as Cardin envisioned.

With BDS continuing to gain momentum, Cardin went back to the drawing board and introduced the Israel Anti-Boycott Act on 23 March, designed to coincide with the annual policy conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

The powerful Israel lobby group duly made the bill one of its top legislative priorities.

The Senate version of the bill – S.720 – currently has 18 cosponsors – 14 Republicans and four Democrats.

Its counterpart in the House – H.R.1697 – introduced by Illinois Republican Peter Roskam, has 91 co-sponsors at present, about two-thirds of them Republicans.

The bill opposes the creation of a database of Israeli settlement companies by the UN Human Rights Council and any efforts to boycott those companies’ products.

According to Cardin and the other original sponsors of the Israel Anti-Boycott Act, the bill also seeks to “prevent the implementation of similar ‘blacklists’ or boycotts in the future.”

It aims to do so in a heavy-handed manner: by imposing governmental sanctions – denial of loans, fines and even potentially jail time – on companies complying with calls from the UN Human Rights Council to boycott Israeli settlement products.

Shrewdly shrouded

If it becomes law, the bill could also sweep up in its broad ambit companies refusing to do business with Israeli settlements whatever their source of inspiration for doing so may be. These sanctions would also apply to potential future international governmental calls for a broader boycott of Israel.

The draconian nature of the bill is shrewdly shrouded. None of the above-mentioned sanctions are specified in the actual text of the bill.

Only by closely examining the underlying laws which would be amended by this bill does its intent become evident: to harshly punish those companies which exercise their First Amendment-protected right to engage in boycotts of Israeli settlement products.

The bill seeks to amend two laws – the Export Administration Act of 1979 and the Export-Import Bank Act of 1945 – to accomplish its aim.

The Export Administration Act is the primary law which makes it illegal for US corporations to comply with the Arab League boycott of Israel. The Department of Commerce maintains an Office of Anti-Boycott Compliance to ensure US corporations do not participate in the Arab League boycott and to fine those that do.

The Israel Anti-Boycott Act would amend this law to encompass “restrictive trade practices or boycotts fostered or imposed by any international governmental organization against Israel or requests to impose restrictive trade practices or boycotts by any international governmental organization against Israel.”

Even if a corporation was not responding directly to a call from an international governmental organization to boycott Israel or even settlement products, it could still run afoul of this bill if its actions are perceived to “have the effect of furthering or supporting” this boycott.

The potential penalties for violating this bill are steep: a minimum $250,000 civil penalty and a maximum criminal penalty of $1 million and 20 years imprisonment, as stipulated in the International Emergency Economic Powers Act.

The bill specifies that international governmental organizations include the United Nations and European Union, a clear indication the legislation is intended to counteract the limited steps the UN Human Rights Council has taken to catalog Israeli settlement products and the EU’s labeling – but not prohibition – of those products.

Protecting settlements

The bill also amends the Export-Import Bank Act to make it possible for the bank to “deny applications for credit” to corporations whose policies and actions “are politically motivated and are intended to penalize or otherwise limit commercial relations specifically with citizens or residents of Israel, entities organized under the laws of Israel, or the Government of Israel.”

The legislation refers back to the definition of BDS enshrined in law in the last congressional session to include “Israeli-controlled territories,” thereby making the harsh sanctions applicable to actions solely targeting Israeli settlements.

The bill concludes with a dubious stipulation that nothing in it “shall be construed to alter the established policy of the United States or to establish new United States policy concerning final status issues associated with the Arab-Israeli conflict, including border delineation, that can only be resolved through direct negotiations between the parties.”

However, by establishing such stringent penalties for corporations that respond to nascent international governmental organizations’ efforts to end trade in Israeli settlement products, the bill does in fact attempt to dramatically alter US policy.

Growing consensus

For the past 50 years, official US policy has held that Israel’s settlements are violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention and illegal under international law. The bill seeks to undermine this determination by penalizing companies refusing to do business with Israeli settlements and conversely attempts to legitimize their status.

Under existing law, corporations can only be penalized for adhering to the Arab League boycott of Israel. Cardin’s bill would vastly widen this net by also ensnaring corporations that support international governmental organizations’ boycotts of Israeli settlement products or even those which are perceived as furthering those boycotts.

Last year, Human Rights Watch urged that all corporations had to end all business in or with settlements in order to comply with their human rights obligations, and that governments are responsible for taking steps to discourage settlements.

“Settlement businesses unavoidably contribute to Israeli policies that dispossess and harshly discriminate against Palestinians, while profiting from Israel’s theft of Palestinian land and other resources,” Arvind Ganesan, director of the group’s business and human rights division, said.

There is also a growing consensus among international legal scholars that trade in settlement goods violates international law.

Activists are organizing against this bill because they believe that if passed, it could stymie campaigns by the Palestine solidarity movement to pressure corporations to cut ties to Israel or even with Israeli settlements.

Noam Chomsky: Russia Interference Claims Turning US Into Laughing Stock (Video)

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‘Half the world is cracking up in laughter’ — Chomsky

Noam Chomsky is asking, what the heck is wrong with Democrats? They’re giving Trump a free pass on everything except the one thing he is mildly good on. Their incessant whining on alleged Russian interference is a joke — the US doesn’t just interfere, it topples governments it doesn’t like in coups and invasions.

Meanwhile you’ve got NATO exercises on the Russian border — not Warsaw Pact exercises in Mexico — and the US building up a first strike infrastructure in eastern Europe under the guise of a missile shield to protect against Iran.

It’s a pretty remarkable fact that—first of all, it is a joke. Half the world is cracking up in laughter.

The United States doesn’t just interfere in elections. It overthrows governments it doesn’t like, institutes military dictatorships.

Simply in the case of Russia alone—it’s the least of it—the U.S. government, under Clinton, intervened quite blatantly and openly, then tried to conceal it, to get their man Yeltsin in, in all sorts of ways.

So, this, as I say, it’s considered—it’s turning the United States, again, into a laughingstock in the world.

So why are the Democrats focusing on this? In fact, why are they focusing so much attention on the one element of Trump’s programs which is fairly reasonable, the one ray of light in this gloom: trying to reduce tensions with Russia? That’s—the tensions on the Russian border are extremely serious. They could escalate to a major terminal war. Efforts to try to reduce them should be welcomed.

Just a couple of days ago, the former U.S. ambassador to Russia, Jack Matlock, came out and said he just can’t believe that so much attention is being paid to apparent efforts by the incoming administration to establish connections with Russia. He said, “Sure, that’s just what they ought to be doing.”

So, meanwhile, this one topic is the primary locus of concern and critique, while, meanwhile, the policies are proceeding step by step, which are extremely destructive and harmful. So, you know, yeah, maybe the Russians tried to interfere in the election. That’s not a major issue.

Maybe the people in the Trump campaign were talking to the Russians. Well, OK, not a major point, certainly less than is being done constantly.

And it is a kind of a paradox, I think, that the one issue that seems to inflame the Democratic opposition is the one thing that has some justification and reasonable aspects to it.

Well, you can understand why the Democratic Party managers want to try to find some blame for the fact—for the way they utterly mishandled the election and blew a perfect opportunity to win, handed it over to the opposition.

But that’s hardly a justification for allowing the Trump policies to slide by quietly, many of them not only harmful to the population, but extremely destructive, like the climate change policies, and meanwhile focus on one thing that could become a step forward, if it was adjusted to move towards serious efforts to reduce growing and dangerous tensions right on the Russian border, where they could blow up.

NATO maneuvers are taking place hundreds of yards from the Russian border. The Russian jet planes are buzzing American planes. This—something could get out of hand very easily.

Both sides, meanwhile, are building up their military forces, adding—the U.S. is—one thing that the Russians are very much concerned about is the so-called anti-ballistic missile installation that the U.S. is establishing near the Russian border, allegedly to protect Europe from nonexistent Iranian missiles. Nobody seriously believes that. This is understood to be a first strike threat.

These are serious issues. People like William Perry, who has a distinguished career and is a nuclear strategist and is no alarmist at all, is saying that we’re back to the—this is one of the worst moments of the Cold War, if not worse. That’s really serious. And efforts to try to calm that down would be very welcome.

And we should bear in mind it’s the Russian border. It’s not the Mexican border. There’s no Warsaw Pact maneuvers going on in Mexico. And that’s a border that the Russians are quite reasonably sensitive about. They’ve practically been destroyed several times the last century right through that region.

Opening Trump’s eyes to the truth one tweet at a time…@POTUS

Vanessa Beeley 21st Century Wire “When the [REAL] Syria Civil Defence are working, attending a rescue, they must divorce from their emotions in order to be 100% effective. When we see the White Helmets ‘working’ they are acting, performing for the camera..it is not real” ~ Colonel of the Damascus Head Quarters of the REAL Syria […]

via The REAL Syria Civil Defence, Saving Real Syrians, NOT Oscar Winning White Helmets, Saving Al Qaeda — Friends of Syria

Image result for The truth about White Helmets

President Trump has changed nothing for the good of America…(cont.)

The FBI’s Secret Rules

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President Trump has inherited a vast domestic intelligence agency with extraordinary secret powers. A cache of documents offers a rare window into the FBI’s quiet expansion since 9/11.

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Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide

The rulebook governing all FBI agents’ activities, in unredacted form for the first time. This is the 2011 edition, which remains the baseline document today, although the FBI recently released some updates from 2013.

SEE DOCUMENT

Hidden Loopholes Allow FBI Agents to Infiltrate Political and Religious Groups

Cora Currier
Beneath the FBI’s redaction marks are exceptions to rules on “undisclosed participation.”

National Security Letters Demand Data Companies Aren’t Obligated to Provide

Jenna McLaughlin, and Cora Currier
Internal documents suggest the FBI uses the secret orders to pursue sensitive customer data like internet browsing records.

Despite Anti-Profiling Rules, the FBI Uses Race and Religion When Deciding Who to Target

Cora Currier
The bureau still claims considerable latitude to use race, ethnicity, nationality, and religion in deciding which people and communities to investigate.

In Secret Battle, Surveillance Court Reined in FBI Use of Information Obtained From Phone Calls

Jenna McLaughlin

Secret Rules Make It Pretty Easy for the FBI to Spy on Journalists

Cora Currier
Rules governing the use of national security letters allow the FBI to obtain information about journalists’ calls without going to a judge or informing the targeted news organization.

Annotation Sets

  • Bureau Hid Doubts About Reliability of Stingray Evidence Behind Redaction Marks


  • CIA and NSA Dossiers Are Available to the FBI in the Absence of Any Crime, Raising Privacy Questions


  • FBI Spy Planes Must Abide Rules When Looking Into Homes


  • On Campus, the FBI Sometimes Operates Outside Restrictions


  • To Probe the Digital Defenses of Targets, the FBI Turns To a Special Program


Confidential Human Source Policy Guide

Detailed rules for how the FBI handles informants. Classified secret. This unreleased September 2015 document is a major expansion and update of a manual from 2007 on the same topic.

SEE DOCUMENT

The FBI Gives Itself Lots of Rope to Pull in Informants

Trevor Aaronson
Agents have the authority to aggressively investigate anyone they believe could be a valuable source for the bureau.

When Informants Are No Longer Useful, the FBI Can Help Deport Them

Trevor Aaronson
The FBI coordinates with immigration authorities to locate informants who are no longer of value to the bureau.

How the FBI Conceals Its Payments to Confidential Sources

Trevor Aaronson
A classified policy guide creates opportunities for agents to disguise payments as reimbursements or offer informants a cut of seized assets.

Annotation Sets

  • How the FBI Recruits and Handles Its Army of Informants


Counterterrorism Policy Guide

Excerpts from a guide for agents working on counterterrorism cases, which functions as a supplement to the FBI’s main rulebook, the Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide. Classified secret. Not previously released. Dates to April 2015.

SEE DOCUMENT

Undercover FBI Agents Swarm the Internet Seeking Contact With Terrorists

Cora Currier
The FBI’s online activities are so pervasive that the bureau sometimes finds itself investigating its own people.

Based on a Vague Tip, the Feds Can Surveil Anyone

Cora Currier
Low-level “assessments” allow the FBI to follow people with planes, examine travel records, and run subjects’ names through the CIA and NSA.

The FBI Has Quietly Investigated White Supremacist Infiltration of Law Enforcement

Alice Speri
Bureau policies have been crafted to take into account the active presence of domestic extremists in U.S. police departments.

Annotation Sets

  • Disruptions: How the FBI Handles People Without Bringing Them To Court


Confidential Human Source Assessing Aid

A document bearing the seal of the FBI’s Anchorage field office that gives tips for agents cultivating informants. It is classified secret, and dates from 2011.

SEE DOCUMENT

DIOG Profiling Rules 2016

A 2016 update to the Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide’s policy on profiling by race, gender, and other factors.

SEE DOCUMENT

Guidance on Guardian Assessments 2013

A 2013 unclassified communique from the FBI’s counterterrorism division explaining the database checks and other steps to be taken as part of low-level investigations.

SEE DOCUMENT

National Security Letters Redacted

An unclassified internal FBI document explaining the rules for national security letters, orders that the bureau uses to obtain certain information without a warrant. The document is undated but contains references to another document from November 2015.

SEE DOCUMENT

Throwing Paul Ryan Under The Bus

Throwing Paul Ryan Under The Bus

“A Practical Guide To Political Revenge” -By Donald Trump

Paul Ryan realizes he is being thrown under the bus

Step 1

Ask Paul Ryan to draft a new healthcare plan because he has been itching to do this for 7 years. In your heart, you know that he already should have one up his sleeve, which you, by all means, already know is shitty. Also, since you just realized that healthcare is such a complicated f****$g business, you have no better alternative in any case, other than asking someone like Paul Ryan.

Step 2

Let him own the plan and float it to his fellow GOP house members and GOP senators like a tipsy clown. All the while, you keep talking about “Repealing Obamacare” to your voters, because they have no f****$g idea that ACA and Obamacare are the same and that without ACA, they may just die soon, even though they love hearing “Repeal Obama-anything”.

Step 3

If many conservatives react the way you are hoping they would, don’t associate your name with the plan. Just stand away from it, till the house takes up a vote on this. In other words, it’s not Trumpcare but Obamacare Replacement. That’s all. Wait and Watch.

Step 4

Have your cronies at Breitbart start a smear campaign on Ryan. Old audio tapes, interview scripts, pretty much anything that they can find where he was found talking ill of you. Because you know, your supporters will piss on Ryan if you just point fingers at him. Oops! Wrong analogy. Your supporters will take Paul Ryan to task if you just tweet about it (not piss..not at all..that happens only in Russia).

Step 4

If the house doesn’t vote in favor of the bill because of CBO’s alarming forecast or media attack or people’s anger or anything like that, just distance yourself from the f****$g plan. Like 100s of miles way. Like you can’t f****$g see Washington DC from wherever you are. Like Mar-a-Lago, perhaps. It’s Paul Ryan’s plan. Not yours. Change the script and send a tweet saying something to this effect. If not the house, the senate will eventually kick the plan out of DC before you send your next tweet.

Step 5

Congratulations!! The world will take care of the rest.
Paul f****$g Ryan has successfully been thrown under the political bus.

[Warning: The ambitious, heartless and Ayn Rand loving smart cookie he is, you bet Ryan is going to be hatching his own revenge plan to get back at you. But don’t you worry! Your Russian friends will come handy when needed.]

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WikiLeaks, the CIA and the sad reality of our world

The release by WikiLeaks of Vault 7, a file with more than eight thousand documents detailing some of the techniques that the CIA uses to access information on iOS or Android devices, on our computers, as well as the use of smart TVs to listen to conversations and other equally chilling practices is undoubtedly worrying and revives tensions between technology companies and government spy agencies… but it is hardly surprising.

In reality, it is simply further evidence that spy agencies adapt to the surrounding ecosystem which now consists of devices permanently connected through networks. Today’s “spy kit” no longer consists of a magnifying glass, a flashlight, a pistol or a fake beard, but a computer and an internet connection.

The role of a government espionage agency is to spy. That this espionage is carried out to guarantee the security of a nation or to preserve a certain tyrannical regime is another question that depends on the concept of politics, liberties or ethics of the government of each country. In other words, being scandalized because there are spies or because the spies are engaged in spying is at best naive and at worst a sign of idiocy, and wondering why these spies adapt their methods to the times we live is absurd: Given that we are supposed to accept — although no one asked us — that governments have to have spies and that we have to pay for them with our taxpayers’ money, would we prefer them to continue using outdated tools and methods? Do you want to fight modern spies with sophisticated online tools from a foreign country with agents equipped with magnifying glasses and fake beards?

Obviously, the answer to that question is a very big “it depends”. In the first place, because we would obviously prefer a world without spies. But since since that isn’t going to happen, we will have to consider the different scenarios. If in a country we understand that spies are used to catch terrorists, drug traffickers, criminals or other threats, we will surely want these spies to have the best tools available, and to possess the expertise to invent any they need. If, on the contrary, we think that spies are used to control us, to detect protests or insurgency, to persecute those who think differently and to ignore our most basic human rights, the idea that these spies have the best tools is deeply worrying. It is not the same to live in a democracy where we expect spies to be able to detect a terrorist cell preparing an attack in the center of the city, as to be a homosexual in an Islamic country, or a pro-human rights activist living in a dictatorship, or a non-believer living in a theocracy.

The only thing that the latest WikiLeaks revelations show is that the world is as complex as it was twenty years ago, or probably even more. Twenty years ago government agencies were eavesdropping on our phones and our conversations with microphones, by reading our lips, our letters or tracking our trips: now they tap into our connected electronic devices, which will soon be all devices. As much as we may be concerned or outraged, this is the reality of our world. Things have moved on since the Cold War, and as technology companies strive to use ever more advanced technologies to protect their users, spies will, in turn, find more and better techniques to keep spying on them. Like it or not, spies gonna spy.

Are these leaks good or evil? On the one hand, they lead us to a more transparent society, to understand much better what happens to our privacy and to our data, to put pressure on both the spies and the tech companies (thus leading to further innovation), and to help clarify if there were any wrongdoings (such as spying on innocent citizens without a warrant, as it clearly seems to be the case). On the other hand, they contribute to generate a collective state of psychosis that could collide with our freedom to do ordinary things, and could serve as an example, even a guide, to spies in less developed countries, with all the consequences to citizens in those countries that this possibility may entail. The leaks are not good or evil: they just happen. But if you ask me, I rather live in a world where WikiLeaks exists and plays a significant role in controlling certain behaviors.

Furthermore, we must appreciate the efforts of technology companies to fix the security holes that have allowed spies to spy, and try to be pragmatic and, above all, see things in perspective: most of us, average Joes or Janes who live in democracies, are probably not spied on. What’s more, despite of what was being implied or said yesterday, the CIA has not been able to crack Signal’s encryption, nor WhatsApp’s, or Telegram’s, nor many others. Instead, what they have found are methods to access the devices that originate or receive messages, which can allow them to read those messages at the point of origin or destination. So we don’t yet have to delete apps we thought were safe, and besides, most of us are using them for things that are of no interest whatsoever for the spies of our governments. If you are being spied on and haven’t done anything wrong, then be worried. But not about the spies… about your government! As ever, the problem lies not in technology, but in who uses it and why.


(En español, aquí)