“USS Liberty: Dead In The Water” (BBC Documentary 2002)
There are 171,306 deeds recorded in 46 registries of Jerusalem in Ottoman archive records. Of these, 133,365 are private property and 37,671 belong to foundations. In addition to this, Turkey’s archives also have records of Jerusalem between the hijri years 950 and 1917.
Among the records of private property were 139 deeds belonging to Sultan Abdul Hamid II, 137 of which were transferred to the treasury in the past. The remaining two are in Jerusalem’s Erihav region. The records show that there is a plot of land approximately 30,000 square meters in size that is recorded under the name of Sultan Abdul Hamid II.
The deeds proving that Palestine belongs to Palestinians were handed to Palestinian officials. Israel did not ask for deed records from Turkey. Had Israel requested these records, it would mean that Israel would be accepting that it is occupying Palestine.
A memorandum was signed between Palestine and Jordan. Procedures such as the maintenance and repair of foundations in Jerusalem were transferred to Jordan. Therefore, in 2016, upon the request of Jordan, Turkey provided copies of the deeds of foundations in Jerusalem to Jordan.
Origins of Arab-Israeli conflict
By Asif Baron Raja
To cast Muslims as the ‘enemy’ of Jews is distortion of history. Judaism resembles Islam in theology, structure and rituals far more than with Christianity. Historically, the Muslims treated the Jews fairly and humanely. Unlike in Europe where the Jews were hounded and ruthlessly persecuted, the Muslim rulers didn’t consider the Jews as infidels and were not proselytized. The Jews lived manifestly better in Muslim societies when compared with their stay within the Christian world. This is evident from the munificence and humility shown by the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) towards the Jews. They were treated justly and kindheartedly by Muslim rulers during their golden rule in Spain and during the rule of the mighty Ottomans. Anti-Semitics was practiced by the Christians only. Accusing them of crucifying the Christ, the Jews were not only made to live in ghettoes in Europe but they also had to endure periodic massacres by Europeans.
It must also not be forgotten that Pope Urban II instigated the Christians in the name of religion and launched a crusade in 1095 to reclaim Jerusalem. The crusaders captured Jerusalem mainly because of disunity among the Muslims. The Old City was soaked in ankle deep human blood of Muslims and Jews. The crusaders were roundly defeated by Salahuddin Ayubi in the third crusade (1187-92) in the epic battle of Hattin mainly because he succeeded in achieving unity among the Arabs. Out of five crusades spread over two centuries, four were lost to the Muslims and the Jews played no role in defending Jerusalem. Logically, the Jews should have sought Muslims help to fight against the Christians to seek revenge, but ironically the two erstwhile antagonists joined hands to repress the Muslims.
None can deny that for over 1400 years, Muslim Arabs have been predominant in Palestine and in Jerusalem. In the 19th century, Palestine was inhabited by multi-cultural population with 86% Muslims, 10% Christians and 4% Jews living in peace. Extremist Jews called Zionists decided to create a separate homeland for the Jews. Accordingly, from late 19th century, the Jews spread all over the world were motivated by the Zionists to relocate to Palestine under a calculated plan. Great Britain which was in control of Palestine granted them permission to emigrate. Their influx disturbed the local inhabitants and heightened tensions.
During the First World War, the British Empire convinced the Arab leaders in 1916 to revolt against the Ottoman Empire promising them an independent Arab State including Palestine. However, contrary to the given commitment, Balfour Declaration in 1917 envisaged establishment of a Jewish State in Palestine since the Europeans desperately wanted to get rid of troublesome Jews. In 1920, European colonial powers divided Ottoman Empire into series of separate States and shared the spoils of war in the Middle East. Once Hitler gained power in Germany, the Jews eating into the vitals of German economy came under the axe of Nazis. When they refused to depart despite repeated threats, about 6 million Jews were killed, although some doubt the Holocaust.
On November 29, 1947, the UN General Assembly under Zionist pressure recommended partition of Palestine into two States and internationalization of Jerusalem under UN administration. Minority Jews were to receive 57% and the majority Arabs 43% of land. After the plan was approved by the US, the State of Israel was proclaimed on May 14, 1948. Rejection of the partition plan and creation of Israel by the Arab States led to 1948 Arab-Israeli war. Greatly helped by over 4000 war veterans of 2nd World War residing in US, Canada and Europe, the augmented Israeli Army defeated the poorly trained armies of Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Trans-Jordon, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Egypt and captured 78% of Palestine. 750,000 Palestinians were driven out into refugee camps. Their breakdown was 2 million in Jordon, 427057 in Lebanon, 47770 in Syria, 788108 in West Bank, 1.1 million in Gaza and a quarter million internally displaced within new Jewish State of Israel, living under squalid and humiliating conditions as second rated citizens. Systematic ethnic cleansing of Palestinians was undertaken by Zionists and over 500 villages/towns were depopulated and destroyed.
After the end of war in 1949, Jordan occupied East Jerusalem and West Bank while Egypt took control of Gaza Strip in Sinai. In 1956, armies of Britain, France and Israel invaded Sinai after Egypt under Jamal Nasser nationalized Suez Canal. After the ceasefire enforced by the UN and withdrawal of invaders under international pressure, Israeli forces moved into Palestinian garrison based in Khan Younis which had refused to surrender and carried out gruesome massacre of 124 Palestinians in Rafah refugee camp. In the six-day war in 1967, Israel annexed Golan Heights in Syria, Jordon’s West Bank and Gaza Strip from Egypt. Since then, Israel is in military occupation of these lands. In the 1973 war, few Pakistani pilots took part in the Syrian air battles and downed several Israeli jets and checkmated Israeli aerial onslaught. Israeli ground forces captured Sinai Peninsula but returned it to Egypt after signing Camp David Accord in 1978.
After the debacle in 1967 war, Al-Fatah founded in 1959 joined PLO and Yasser Arafat became its chairman in 1969. That year, PLO carried out 2432 guerrilla attacks on Israel and became a force to reckon with. Arafat led the resistance movement against Israeli aggressive and expansionist policies resolutely and in short time internationalized the PLO movement. After battling with Israeli forces in Karameh in Jordon, PLO began to assert its authority and tended to mount a coup in Jordon. It impelled King Hussein to launch an all out offensive in September 1970. In this, Pakistani military advisor Brig Ziaul Haq guided Jordanian Army and helped it in expelling Fatah fighters.
They had to shift to Lebanon where they recouped and militarized 400,000 Palestinian refugees living in camps. PLO created a state-within-state in West Beirut and Southern Lebanon and then clashed with Maronite Christian Phalangists in 1975 which triggered civil war. The infighting propelled Syria to intervene in Lebanon in June 1976 with 30,000 troops. PLO fighters kept targeting Israeli targets as well, prompting Israel to invade Lebanon in March 1978 but it failed to dismantle PLO HQ. Another force which posed a challenge to Israel was Iran backed Hezbollah in Beirut in late 1970s. In the same timeframe intifada sparked in occupied Palestinian territories. Israeli troops killed thousands of teenagers armed with sling shots and stones. Israeli invasion of Lebanon in June 1982 which went up to Beirut was led by Gen Aerial Sharon. 2-3000 Palestinians in Sabra and Shatila camps were massacred by Phalangists under direct supervision of Sharon in September 1982. PLO had to pullout and shift to Tunisia and later to West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Suicide attack on US Embassy in Beirut on April 18, 1982 followed by another attack on October 23, 1983 on Marine HQ killing 241 Marines and attack on French paratroopers’ barracks killing 58 French soldiers forced the foreign forces to quit Lebanon. Civil war in Lebanon raged till 1990 claiming 120,000 fatalities.
Under intense pressure of the US and continued Israeli obduracy, Arafat made a huge compromise by foregoing PLO’s stance of not recognizing existence of Israel and agreeing to sign US brokered Oslo Peace Accords in 1993 whereby Israel recognized Palestinian Authority (PA) and gave it limited autonomy over West Bank and Gaza Strip in return for peace. The PA had however no control over borders, water and airspace. The Accord was in actuality a ruse to end Intifada which had brought a bad name to Israel. Instead of honoring the commitment and letting the PA to run an independent Palestinian State with Jerusalem as its capital, Israel continued with its forward settlement policy into West Bank at neck break speed to change the demographic structure. This illegal settlement is going on unabated to this day. It wanted the Palestinians to give right of existence to Israel but denied this right to the Palestinian State. Oslo Accords gave birth to Hamas, an offshoot of Ikhwanul Muslimeen/Muslim Brotherhood, which believed in continuation of resistance movement till the accomplishment of goals.
In 1994 Israel carried out partial withdrawal from Gaza Strip and later withdrew from Lebanon in 2000. However, it continued to persecute the Palestinians which triggered 2nd Intifada. Besides constructing a security fence in West Bank in 2002/03, Israel stepped up its campaign against Hamas as well as targeted assassination of prominent Palestinians. Multiple pressures affected the health of Arafat and after prolonged illness he died in November 2004 in Paris hospital under mysterious circumstances. It was widely speculated that he was slow-poisoned by Mossad. In 2012, the French authorities exhumed his body to investigate the allegations and it was confirmed that he was poisoned with polonium-210.
After his death, Mahmood Abbas became PLO’s Chairman and later President of PA but he couldn’t fit into the shoes of Arafat and soon the Fatah Party gave in to corruption and comforts of life and got factionalized and in turn strengthened Hamas. Izz al Din Qassam Brigade was formed by a small group of school kids in Central Gaza to confront Israeli aggression. By September 2005, Israeli troops completely withdrew from Gaza. In January 2006, Hamas won the elections and ousted Fatah government, which by then had become unpopular. It triggered infighting but in June 2007, much to the chagrin of Israel, Hamas fighters seized control over Gaza Strip and formed a government, restricting Abbas led Fatah government to Israeli controlled West Bank only. Tel Aviv refused to recognize democratically elected Hamas government and clamped down stringent controls over movement and flow of daily commodities into/out of Gaza enclave. The US and the West backed Israeli stance and jointly declared Hamas a terrorist outfit. Israel then widened rift between Fatah and Hamas to keep them on warpath.
Since then, Gaza Strip which is only 41 km long and crammed with 1.7 million Palestinians have remained under Israeli military control and economic siege and even Egypt under pro-US/Israeli Hosni Mubarak became part of the siege. Tel Aviv refuses to honor the Oslo Accords it had signed in 1993, giving Palestinians the right to establish an independent State in Gaza Strip and West Bank with Jerusalem as its capital or Jerusalem becoming a common capital for both. Israel has refused to lift siege of Gaza as promised in 2012 agreement and continued the land and sea blockade. Two-State solution duly endorsed by the UN goes against the master plan of establishing ‘Greater Israel’. Over 10,000 Palestinian men, women and children are held in Israeli prisons. Physical abuse and torture are a routine. Refugees are prohibited to return to their homeland. The lands on which Israelis are being settled are prime lands. Water sources are under the control of Israel. Not a bird can fly into Gaza Strip without the permission of Israel. Any ship attempting to send relief goods is seized and cargo confiscated. According to Robert Fisk, ‘Future Palestinian State will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel’.
Besides the economic blockade, Gaza was subjected to frequent aerial and artillery assaults as well as ground offensives by Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) in order to fail the Hamas regime. Israeli forces launched brutal offensives in 2007, Operation Cast Lead in December 2008/January 2009, and Operation Pillar of Defence in November 2012 (8-day war). In each offensive, hundreds of Gazans including children died. Egypt added to the miseries of people of Gaza by blocking Rafah crossing and destroying secret tunnels opening into Sinai. Only time the two were on friendly terms was during the one year rule of Morsi from June 2012 to July 2, 2013, who helped in arranging truce in November 2012, but ouster of Morsi regime and replacement by pro-Israel military regime has once again put Hamas under huge disadvantage.
Alignment of Hezbollah and Hamas during Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 2006 put Israel on the back foot for the first time. IDF suffered maximum fatalities in this war and the myth of invincibility of IDF was broken for the first time by Hezbollah. Iran helped Hamas in improving its defensive capability by providing rockets. It must not be forgotten that Hamas is devoid of army, air force, air defence, navy and intelligence and pitched against US-West backed IDF which is laced with most advanced weapon systems. Owing to fearless resistance offered by al-Qassam fighters against all odds, all Israeli offensives proved inconclusive and Hamas earned moral victory.
In 2012, the UN General Assembly upgraded the Palestinian status at the UN from ‘observer entity’ to ‘Non-member State’, which by implication was a de facto recognition of an independent Palestinian State. Reconciliation pact was signed between Fatah Party and Islamist Hamas on April 23, 2014 which called for uniting the two feuding factions and forming a unity government. The two sides agreed to establish an interim government of independents that would organize elections, thus ending seven years old rivalry which suited Israel. On May 29, 2014, President Mahmoud Abbas ignoring threat of sanctions by Israel asked PM Rami Hamdullah to head a new national unity government and the long awaited unity government took oath on June 2, 2014 at Ramallah. Gaza’s Prime Minister Ismail Haniyah and his cabinet resigned and 17-member cabinet, all politically independent, was selected after mutual consultations of Fatah and Hamas. Although the reconciliation agreement has held, a lot of bad blood still remains between Hamas and West Bank leadership.
Israel, which is an artificial implant in the Muslim heartland, got highly perturbed over the unification of Fatah and Hamas and in reaction established 1500 new settlements in New Jerusalem and West Bank. Israel tried hard to break the unity and reactivate their enmity. In revenge of the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli youths on June 12, 2014, alleged to be the handiwork of Hamas activists, a 15-year old Palestinian Tariq Abu Khudair was arrested by Israeli Police in East Jerusalem on July 3, 2014 and beaten to pulp. His 16-year old cousin M. Abu Khudair was kidnapped, beaten to near-death and then burnt to death by the three Israeli teens in Jerusalem on July 4. Over 460 Palestinians in West Bank and East Jerusalem were arrested and jailed on suspicion and their homes demolished. Social media sprang into action and young Jewish boys and girls started posting flurry of messages seeking death to Palestinians. An individual act subjected 1.7 million Gazans to collective punishment.
These vicious acts prompted the armed wing of Hamas Izzel-Deen al-Qassam to fire rockets over Israeli southern towns including city of Ashdod in protest. Hamas fired 800 rockets during the conflict most of which were intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system. In reaction, IDF launched an airstrike on July 1, 2014 striking 15 Hamas sites in Gaza Strip. From July 8 onwards, Israel broke the 2012 truce and unleashed Operation Protective Edge. Thousands of young volunteers from the western world streamed in to Israel to take part in the massacre of Gazans. This inflow caused no anxiety to the western world as in the case of western Jihadists taking part in Syrian and Iraqi conflicts. Hamas fighters killed 50 Israeli soldiers.
3250 aerial strikes and gunfire by Israel killed over 1050 Palestinians, mostly women and children including handicapped, injured 5500 including 950 children and 90 women and destroyed over 500 homes. Hamas homes were the preferential targets. Over 77% fatalities were of innocent civilians. On an average, seven children were killed daily. It was soul searing to watch the pictures of mutilated bodies of children. One such picture was that of four-year old lovely Sahar Salman Abu Namous before and after his decapitation by an Israeli shell.
It was the worst flare-up and was for sure in reaction to reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah. Israeli leadership particularly defence minister Moshe Ya’alon wished to completely obliterate Hamas infrastructure once and for all to prevent future rocket attacks. Dani Dayon urged the government to cut off fuel and electricity to Gaza. Netanyahu asked 100,000 Gazans to vacate northern Gaza. Fearing ground assault, over 10,000 Gazans took shelter in installations of UN agency, but even the UN run school was not spared. Hospitals remained short of medicines and equipment. Repeated bombardments destroyed the vulnerable water system rendering hundreds of thousands without water. Israeli forces besides using chemicals also using flechette shells which sprayed thousands of tiny and lethal metal darts. Israel had turned Gaza Strip into an experimental laboratory for its high-tech weapons industry and chemicals. Israelis behaved worse than Nazis and were criminals in every law of the civilized world.
Amid worldwide protests condemning genocide of people of Gaza by IDFs, Egypt proposed a ceasefire on July 15 without consulting Hamas. It was silent on sea blockade and compensation for human/material losses incurred by Gazans. Those shortfalls shortened the life of ceasefire to six hours only. Continuation of rocket attacks by Hamas and other militant groups like Islamic Jihad, Popular Front/Democratic Front for Liberation of Palestine impelled Israel to resume aerial offensive followed by ground offensive on July 19 which took the lives of 42 Israeli soldiers and three civilians. One Israeli soldier was captured alive. Israel disregarded UN proposed humanitarian ceasefire on July 26 for 24 hours.
The Israeli forces laced with latest state-of-art weaponry ruthlessly bombed densely crowded refugee camps, schools, apartments, mosques and hospitals. They rained bombs unchecked since they knew the other side was devoid of an adequate response action. They were also confident that their excesses will not be questioned. Operation Protective Edge was aimed at punishing Gazans for bestowing confidence in the leadership of Hamas, forcibly obliterating Hamas network or bringing it to its knees.
Champions of democracy and human rights mired in hypocrisy, double-standards and Orwellian lies instead of bridling the monster projected Israel as the victim of aggression and patted it on the back that it has the right to defend itself and to go any length to safeguard its people. The US led west shed copious tears over the so-called piteous plight of the Israelis. The Israelis mourned that they had to run for cover each time a rocket was fired and that they couldn’t sleep peacefully because of the noise of rockets.
In the calculation of Israel and biased west, Palestinians are an expendable commodity while Israeli Jews are holy cows and have license to kill. For the US, security of Israel is top most priority. The western world remained silent over vicious bombing of IDFs massacring so many in open prison of Gaza and was not moved over the heart-wrenching sights of cruelly killed infants and wailing mothers. World powers including the biased UN insisted upon Hamas to stop rocket attacks that had caused death to one Israeli soldier and injury to two and politely requested Israel to show ‘maximum restraint’. For a single death of Israeli, hundreds of Palestinians were killed and their properties destroyed. Jewish controlled CNN, Fox News, CNBC, BBC uttered sheer lies to project racist Israel as victim of aggression and Palestinians as terrorists.
The American leadership bears the taunts and barbs of Israeli leaders smilingly and not only accept their blackmailing tactics submissively but also defends Israel’s black deeds resolutely and bend over backwards to keep it in good humor. Obama has doled out more aid to Israel than any president ever. This policy of appeasing Israel has been going on for decades and there are no signs of any change in this policy despite the fact that over a period of time the American public has got weary of Israel. While the Americans detest the repulsive arrogance and high-handedness of Israeli leaders and feel pity for the victims of Israeli unabated savagery, they abhor their leadership getting dictated by Israel and that too at the cost of American interests. They have seen the ugly face of Israel which is in illegal occupation of Palestinian lands since 1967 and is consistently gobbling up additional territory under the scheme of forward settlement of Jews and persecuting the subjugated Palestinians.
They are now questioning as to why their government remains subservient to the commands of Tel Aviv when it doles out largest share of aid ($3 billion) to it each year. They ask as to why Israel’s wanton crimes and injustices against Palestinians are being willfully ignored and its criminal acts backed. Such resentful sentiments are heard all over the world and voices of concern against Israeli Apartheid can be heard from all quarters. Support to Israel is diminishing in Europe as well and calls are being made to try Israeli leaders for war crimes in international court of justice. Even Jews in Israel are turning away from vindictive and violent policies pursued by their Zionist leaders.
Notwithstanding the barbarity of Israel and connivance of the US-western leadership, what is more painful is the abysmal role of the OIC and the Arab League in particular and the Muslim world in general. Their shameful silence and dreary approach is appalling. One is equally nonplussed over the indifference of dozens of Jihadi groups in Middle East towards the dilemma of marooned Gazans being mercilessly slaughtered by bestial Israelis. There is no Salahuddin Ayubi in the entire span of Muslim world to face up to the Israeli challenge. None has the ability to unite the Arab world since they direly lack Salahuddin’s piety, his mysticism, and his human and fighting abilities. The people of Gaza who in the past used to look towards Egypt are today cursing the ruling regime. Within the Muslim world only Pakistani, Turkish and Iranian armies backed by Pak air force are capable of roundly defeating US-NATO supported IDF in the battlefield.
The Muslim leaders must rise from their slumber and pick up courage to remind Israel that Muslims have historically greater claim over the holy city of Jerusalem and Israel is an illegitimate child of the west illegally occupying Palestinian land. As a minimum, they should take advantage of the change in the thinking of American and European public and collectively exert pressure on Israel to immediately stop the genocide of people of Gaza, end the inhuman blockade of Gaza, vacate the Palestinian lands under its illegal occupation and grant Palestinian refugees the right to return to their homeland. West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem are under illegal military occupation of Israel for the last 48 years. The UN and UNSC permanent members must play their role and let Palestinians establish their state as agreed to in Oslo Accord in 1993.
Libya Must Fall: The Fallacy of a New World Beginning
By Phil Butler – New Eastern Outlook – 19.04.2016
Regime change, the term hundreds of millions hear on the nightly news is rendered innocuous by the sheer repetitiveness. But regime change is almost always accompanied by death and destruction, and after effects that affect us all, no matter where in the world it occurs. The overthrow of Libya’s leader, Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 by an American president and co-conspirators is truly a case for an international tribunal. Here’s a starting lineup for an international war crimes double header.
Every time I think of Barack Obama’s former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, images of her gloating and bragging over Libya flood into my mind’s eye. Then my mind races cognitively, to a culvert in a ditch near the town of Sirte, to a bruised and bloodied figure, staring up and fearful of his captors, just before they kicked and beat him, then riddled his body with bullets, Muammar Muhammad Abu Minyar al- Gaddafi’s life surely passed before his eyes. In the blink of a US drone electronic eye, the most powerful man in Africa was dethroned, and the Middle East was set on fire. History will inquire, “Who was it that set a whole people adrift in the world?” Well I have history’s answer.
Exhibit A: A US President Misleads His People
On March 28th, 2011 the Obama White House issued this transcript of the American president’s address to the people he swore to lead and protect. Within this insulting and misleading address, there are many lies and reversals of fact, but there are also great truths as well. For instance, the nations complicit in the violent coup d’é·tat in Libya were named by Obama, they were: the United Kingdom, France, Canada, Denmark, Norway, Italy, Spain, Greece, Turkey, and Qatar along with the United Arab Emirates. Each of these nation’s geo-political interests in Libya and Gaddafi can be traced directly to big business or US surrogacy, this is irrevocable and irreconcilable. The involvement of US, UK and European agents inside Libya, the levers put in place to unseat the standing Libyan government, are just now coming into the daylight. I’ll shine more light on these further on, but right now characterizing the unmitigated audacity of Barack Obama is important. Not only did the US president mislead the American people on March 28th, 2011, his character would not allow him to pass up the opportunity to brag about how swiftly and decisively he had acted. On the mandate for unseating Gaddafi, the president said:
“It’s true that America cannot use our military wherever repression occurs. And given the costs and risks of intervention, we must always measure our interests against the need for action. But that cannot be an argument for never acting on behalf of what’s right. In this particular country -– Libya — at this particular moment, we were faced with the prospect of violence on a horrific scale.”
This statement is key for understanding the truth of not only Libya, but Syria, Ukraine, and even for policies as far back as the NATO agenda in Bosnia. In a caveat to this, Obama also frames a hidden strategy beneath by discussing what we now know as the larger European tragedy. The president claims “our interests” were served by preventing:
“A massacre (that) would have driven thousands of additional refugees across Libya’s borders, putting enormous strains on the peaceful –- yet fragile -– transitions in Egypt and Tunisia.”
Not only did Barack Obama and his administration sell this lie to the American people, he also committed one of his worst political mistakes ever.
“Of course, there is no question that Libya -– and the world –- would be better off with Qaddafi out of power. I, along with many other world leaders, have embraced that goal, and will actively pursue it through non-military means. But broadening our military mission to include regime change would be a mistake.”
This was 2011, take note of this. The Obama team now openly professed a US and coalition plan to take down Gaddafi, they foretold of a larger scheme, the Arab Spring and western expansionism that grips the world today. Violence on a horrific scale, instigated by the Bush and Obama administrations. The refugee crises, which are clearly “ordained” in the quotes above as “warnings”, these were in fact part of a regional plan of destabilization.
Exhibit B: Obama – the Little Big Man 2016
Russian President Vladimir Putin is not often wrong, but his statement last week about Barack Obama being “strong” enough to admit the mistake of Libya, it’s dead wrong. Barack Obama is not at all strong. He’s a decent actor, and can read a teleprompter like nobody’s business. Being strong in the Putin sense, it means serving the people, and not the hidden masters of the policy universe. In a now famous interview with Fox News anchor, Chris Wallace, Obama admits not planning for the aftermath of the ousting of Gaddafi was his biggest mistake as president. Obama says (via the transcript) on being asked “Worst mistake?”, by Wallace:
“Probably failing to plan for the day after what I think was the right thing to do in intervening in Libya.”
This is not the statement of a strong president, it is weak and pitiful in so many respects. The man cannot even come to grips with a truth, let alone take responsibility. “Probably”, the “right thing to do”, “think” – the whole snippet hints at lying or misdirect. Wallace never returns to the issue, the “central issue”, as it were, for America’s role in world terror and upheaval. The “facts” of Barack Obama’s regime change agenda contravene any suggestion Libya was simply an error. Most Americans are completely unaware of the battle in the US Congress to forestall this coup.
“Despite its failure to obtain legal approval from Congress, the Obama administration continued to provide the bulk of the military support for the NATO operation until the overthrow of Gadaffi in October. Before the official termination of Operation Unified Protector, US Permanent Representative to NATO Ivo Daalder said that “the United States led in this operation… It led in the planning of the operation, it led in getting the mandate for the operation, and it led in the execution of the operation… the United States conducted more sorties than any other country in this operation, twenty six percent.”
Barack Obama, with the adamant support of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Neocons like Arizona’s Sen. John McCain, and military industrial complex lap dog, Michigan Sen. Carl Levin, ousted Gaddafi circumvented the people of the United States of America. For those wondering at my vehemence here, General Dynamics and the US Navy will name a new destroyer after Levin, just in case any out there are reticent in disbelief of my assertions. The arrogance, the insolence of these people staggers the imagination, but I must frame another constituent’s part in America’s export of revolution. Obama was not owning up to a mistake in Libya, he was sliding past a question by a sellout Fox reporter. The only reason for him even answering the question was to insert a tenant of plausible deniability later on.
Accept Open Society or Else
No one reading this report will be surprised to hear George Soros’ Open Society Foundations is neck deep in this regime change. The man who essentially got Obama elected in the first place, he and his NGO have been implicated in many political machinations. This Arizona Daily Independent opinion piece casts a blistering light on John McCain, the aforementioned Levin, and a neocon system of levers most are aware of, but know not how to confront. I’ve not the space to go into McCain’s shady past here, but his face on crisis has been adequately established. It was the Soros connection to the defense spending champion that caught my eye.
George Soros’ gift of $100 million dollars to Human Rights Watch did not make big news back in 2010. Human Rights Watch was thrilled though. A few months later, Human Rights Watch reported on the International Criminal Court (ICC) charging both Muammar Gaddafi, and his son Saif al-Islam Gaddafi with crimes against humanity. Human Rights Watch’s position in this strategy was to validate and provide presidents for a tribunal, at least in my view. This quote from the report by HRW is telling:
“Should the court issue an arrest warrant for Gaddafi, it would not be the first warrant for a sitting head of state by an international court. In 1999, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia issued its first indictment against Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Kosovo.”
Almost immediately after ICC head prosecutor Moreno Ocampo issued an arrest warrant for the Gaddafis on 7 June 2011, 30 nations recognized the Libyan rebels of the NTC as the legitimate government of the country. A key in understanding how collusion and influence parlay uprisings is in understanding how the Open Society Foundations grants and meetups operate. Central to the legitimacy of Gadaffi’s overthrow, was the notion he was a tyrant and a killer. Legitimacy for the White House agenda comes in many forms.
Legality: The Ultimate Lie
In December of 2005 the Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the International Criminal Court’s Chief Prosecutor was part of a Soros backed roundtable series, which was an initiative of OSI and the Security and Peace Initiative, which is a joint initiative of the Center for American Progress and an interesting think tank, The Century Foundation. The goals of these organizers, was ostensibly described in the title of published essays by these think tank elites, “Restoring American Leadership: 13 Steps to Improve Global Cooperation.” I believe it was the purpose of these meetings to establish Moreno Campo’s legitimacy and position within the greater scheme of things. After these meetings, and the associated United Nations meetups back then, the ICC played an ever-increasing and interesting role. Please remember, the Center for America Progress is funded by not only Soros, but Bill and Melinda Gates, huge corporations, and even the government of the United Arab Emirates. The UAE should ring bells for their part in the coalition to overthrow Gadaffi.
Subsequent Open Society Foundations rhetoric and policy showed us the ICC’s mission. First in Uganda, then in the crucial case of Sudan, the ICC allegedly became the tool of Soros and the people behind him. While I do not always agree with the controversial activist Lyndon LaRouche, there’s no denying his insight and investigations often bear fruit. In this report from 2008, the implications are black and white in this press release:
“The Soros organization also directly funded another agency at the Hague, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, which prosecuted and judicially murdered Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.”
Yugoslavia rises from the mist once again. I’ve drummed on the notion of “templates” enacted by western leadership, on think tanks and their roles, and Yugoslavia in the Clinton era was a crucial turning point. The “legality” in all this, the big lie of democracy’s validity as a new quasi-religious crusade, this is where Soros funding, American leadership role playing, and regime-policy change meet globally. Gadaffi was essentially assassinated. His son is now under a death sentence in Libya, and the old school Cold War warriors want to install a king in his place. It’s all illegality made to look legal, Soros the Nazi sympathizer transformed into the philanthropist. It’s Barack Obama, Nobel Peace Prize laureate, the biggest killer of innocent civilians since Idi Amin.
In conclusion, the question I began with remains; “Who was it that set a whole people adrift in the world?” Why the very people swearing oaths to protect us, that’s who. The champions of industry, the philanthropist, their paid for brain trusts, the money has bought out the entire democratic system of governance. The world has the true war criminals by the scruff of the neck now. But the wrong men and women will die, just as sure as I am writing this. The mission of Soros, his NGO, and the elites in power in the west is the eradication of the idea of the sovereign state. Killing Gaddafi was central to this goal.
Avaaz Ignores Libya Lessons in Advocating for Syria No-Fly Zone
By John Hanrahan | ExposeFacts | April 13, 2016
(Second of two articles)
A recent two-part series in The New York Times laid out in detail the pivotal role that then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton played in President Obama’s decision to join in France and Britain’s 2011 military campaign against long-time Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. The Times articles make the case that Clinton bears a heavy part of the responsibility for the tragic, increasingly chaotic aftermath of that campaign in which Gaddafi was ousted and killed.
As the Times summaries of the articles put it, Gaddafi’s fall “seemed to vindicate Hillary Clinton. Then militias refused to disarm, neighbors fanned a civil war, and the Islamic State found refuge,” leaving Libya “a failed state and a terrorist haven.”
While neocons, right-wingers and humanitarian interventionists back in 2011 were seeking regime change in Libya, there was one non-governmental organization that was alone among progressive groups in mobilizing public opinion around the world in support of military action in Libya in the form of a no-fly zone.
And this wasn’t just any organization, but the fast-growing, on-line advocacy giant Avaaz.org, which in 2011 had 7 million members and today boasts 43.1-million members in 194 countries. As such, the New York City-based Avaaz is, as we noted in a previous article, the largest and most influential Internet-based, international advocacy organization on the planet.
Through its members’ petitions and a full-page ad last June in The New York Times, Avaaz has for the last few years been pushing for a no-fly zone in Syria, as have assorted neocons and war-hawks in congress and think-tanks who favor military operations to remove Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from power. Hillary Clinton (but not other presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump) is a staunch advocate for a no-fly zone and regime change in Syria.
Like Clinton and other interventionists, Avaaz — in advocating for a no-fly zone in Syria — has not been chastened by what its advocacy wrought in Libya. Some of the same arguments for a no-fly zone that Avaaz made for Libya, it has made again over the last few years for Syria. This, despite as we noted in that earlier article, that top U.S. generals have warned that a no-fly zone in Syria is a “high-risk operation..a violent combat action that results in lots of casualties,” civilian and military.
It’s instructive to examine Avaaz’s no-fly zone advocacy for Libya in 2011 to get a handle on the organization’s continued thinking that — barring a diplomatic settlement growing out of a current tentative ceasefire in Syria — more war, under the cover of humanitarian intervention, would somehow save more civilians’ lives.
Call for No-Fly Zone in Libya Did Not Turn Out Well for Libyans in Aftermath of U.S./NATO Attacks
In its call for a no-fly zone in Libya in 2011, Avaaz submitted to the United Nations a petition containing 1,202,940 signatures gathered on-line. Demonstrating Avaaz’s impact, 90% of those were collected in just a two-day period between March 15 and 17 of that year, when its reported membership was a more modest, but still impressive, seven million.
And we now know what a sage piece of advocacy that was — as Libya experienced not only a no-fly zone, but U.S./NATO forces’ bombardments, the ousting and killing of Libyan leader Muammar Gadaffy, the rise of ISIS, the attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, the flood of refugees from the chaotic, failed country that Libya is today.
Even at the time Avaaz was gathering all those signatures back in 2011 in support of a no-fly zone in Libya, there were critics who wondered why a U.S.-based non-governmental organization felt it had to stand up with neocons and war-hawks in advocating for an action that violated Libya’s sovereignty and was likely to lead to more violence against the Libyan people.
As John Hilary writing in The Guardian presciently warned in March 2011: “Little do most of these generally well-meaning activists know, they are strengthening the hands of those western governments desperate to reassert their interests in north Africa…A no-fly zone would almost certainly draw NATO countries into further military involvement in Libya, replacing the agency of the Libyan people with the control of those governments who have shown scant regard for their welfare…”
Hilary, executive director of War on Want, the U.K.-based charity that fights poverty and economic injustice, further noted, again presciently: “Clearly a no-fly zone makes foreign intervention sound rather humanitarian — putting the emphasis on stopping bombing, even though it could well lead to an escalation of violence.”
Noting that support for a no-fly zone in Libya was at that time “rapidly becoming a key call of hawks on both sides of the Atlantic,” (just as has been the case in more recent years regarding Syria) Hilary commented: “The military hierarchy, with their budgets threatened by government cuts, surely cannot believe their luck — those who usually oppose wars” [such as Avaaz] “are openly campaigning for more military involvement.”
On-line progressive organizations constantly seek signatures on petitions calling on the U.S. or other governments to adopt or change or reject certain policies. But Hilary pointed out that calling for a no-fly zone crosses a line into dangerous territory. As he wrote:
“The issue exposes the core of the problem with internet activism: instead of changing the world through a lifetime of education, it aims to change the world through a single click of the mouse. The impacts might be benign, when lobbying a government to stop causing harm. But a positive plan of action in a situation such as Libya requires more thought. Calling for military intervention is a huge step — the life and death of hundreds of thousands of people might hang in the balance. The difference between the ease of the action and impact of the consequence is great.”
Avaaz’s Justification for No-Fly Zone in Libya
It’s worth examining the Libya experience to get some idea of how Avaaz sees using military action to achieve what it contended would be civilian-saving humanitarian results.
Looking back, in calling for a no-fly zone Avaaz appeared to fully accept and spread the Gaddafi-will-systematically-murder-all-opponents line that western governments were trumpeting as the justification for intervention, stating in its March 15, 2011 message to members: “Right now Gaddafi’s forces are crushing the rebellion town by town” and noted that “brutal retribution awaits Libyans who challenged the regime. If we don’t persuade the U.N. to act now, we could witness a bloodbath.”
Avaaz went on to say that while it “is deeply committed to non-violence… enforcing a no-fly zone to ground Gaddafi’s gunships is one case where UN-backed military actions seems necessary.”
On March 17, 2011, just two days into flooding the U.N. Security Council with petitions containing 1,172,000 signatures, Avaaz enthusiastically reported (exclamation point and all) that the United Nations had agreed to take “‘all necessary measures’ short of an invasion to protect the people of Libya under threat of attack, including a no-fly zone!” It seems Avaaz’s expressed deep commitment to nonviolence had expanded beyond a no-fly zone to encompass “all necessary measures” — and Libya was soon on the receiving end of all those necessary measures.
When it was promoting a no-fly zone for Libya, Avaaz — as with its current Syria campaign — did receive pushback from some members. The organization felt it necessary to respond at some length on-line to the criticism before the no-fly zone was put into effect and the onslaught against Libya began.
Avaaz’s then-campaign director Ben Wikler (who is now with MoveOn.org), in an on-line posting responding to John Hilary’s Guardian article quoted above, outlined a number of reasons and procedures Avaaz used in taking up the cause of a no-fly zone for Libya. Among his points:
“The call for a no-fly zone originated from Libyans – including the provisional opposition government, Libya’s (defected) ambassador to the UN, protesters, and youth organisations…Avaaz staff are in close and constant contact with activists inside Libya and have been repeatedly asked to move forward on this campaign.”(***THAT IS NOT TRUE!)
“In some ways,” Wikler wrote, “we work a lot like journalists… talking to people and weighing the facts before we form conclusions. However, our staff’s personal conclusions also have to pass the test of our membership being strongly supportive of any position we take.”
In the Libya case, though, it would seem that Avaaz scarcely considered the potential negative aspects of military action — such as, when you “win,” what happens afterwards.
According to Wikler, a random-sample poll taken before the petition was promulgated on-line, showed that “84% of [Avaaz] members supported this campaign, while 9% opposed it. Since launching it, we’ve found intense support for the campaign from around the world.” (*** YES MOSTLY CIA/MOSSAD/MI6 AGENTS & EX PATRIOTS) Avaaz says that petition ideas such as a no-fly zone campaign “are polled and tested weekly to 10,000-member random samples—and only initiatives that find a strong response are taken” to the wider membership. (***PERSONALLY I DO NOT REMEMBER SUCH A POLE) The organisation has not disclosed who within Avaaz was the main instigator of the petitions for no-fly zones in Libya and Syria. Generally speaking, Avaaz says here’s how its petitions develop: “… Avaaz staff don’t set an agenda and try to convince members to go along with it. It’s closer to the opposite: staff listen to members and suggest actions they can take in order to affect the broader world. Small wonder, then, that many of our most successful campaigns are suggested first by Avaaz members themselves. And leadership is a critical part of member service: it takes vision and skill to find and communicate a way to build a better world.” Although this doesn’t say so, certainly on a matter of such import and controversy as a no-fly zone the final call would logically come from executive director Ricken Patel.
Avaaz staff played “a key role in consulting with leading experts around the world (and most of our staff have policy as well as advocacy backgrounds) on each of the campaigns we run, and Libya was no exception.” This begs the question: Who were these experts, and did Avaaz seek out critics of such an action?
On the question of whether imposing a no-fly zone would lead to a full-blown international war in Libya, Wikler downplayed the possibility at the time: “No-fly zones can mean a range of different things. Some analysts and military figures [none named by Wikler] have argued that it would require a pre-emptive attack on Libya’s anti-aircraft weapons. Others [again, none named], however, contend that merely flying fighter planes over the rebel-controlled areas would ensure that Qaddafi wouldn’t use his jets to attack eastern Libya, because he knows his air force is weaker than that of Egypt or NATO states. The best solution is the one that reduces civilian deaths the most with the least violence. Things might not turn out as expected, but while there are potential dangers to an international war, there are certain dangers to civilians if things continue without a no-fly zone.” [Emphasis added.]
Calling for military action seems a very risky calculation for an advocacy group to make, given even its own nodding recognition that the action it supports might bring on an international war or other “things… not expected.” And to discuss such an issue in a mere one sentence and conclude that the risk is worth it — and after the petition is already out there — is not indicative of a transparent, all-cards-on-the-table process that make for well-informed potential petition signers.
At the very least, now with the benefit of hindsight, you would think that the Libya experience would give Avaaz some second thoughts about supporting a no-fly zone in what top U.S. generals quoted in our previous article have described as the even riskier environment of Syria. But no such soul-searching is evident in Avaaz’s campaign for a Syrian no-fly zone.
For this and the previous article, we submitted a series of questions to Avaaz media personnel and campaign directors, with an emphasis on obtaining specifics as to the organization’s rationale for supporting no-fly zones in Libya and Syria — including whether the tragic outcome in Libya had figured at all in Avaaz’s consideration of whether to call for a no-fly zone in Syria. After requests (and reminders) on five occasions in November, December and January, we finally received a response on February 11 from campaign director Nell Greenberg, but that addressed only a few of our specific questions. Our follow-up questions, submitted on February 12, have gone unanswered.
As with the other questions we submitted to Avaaz personnel, the organization did not answer whether the Libya experience made the organization’s leaders think twice about taking up the Syria no-fly zone issue. It was possibly obscurely referencing the Libya no-fly zone when Greenberg stated to us: “Much of what you’re asking for are reflections on past campaigns given the geopolitical landscape today. But based on the way we work, I cannot tell you how any Avaaz member would feel today about a past campaign without going back and asking them.”
Our follow-up question made it clear that we were not asking how any individual Avaaz member might feel about the Libya campaign today, but rather how Avaaz’s leaders felt about proposing a no-fly zone for Syria when the Libya military action had turned out so disastrously. To date, Avaaz has not responded to any of our follow-up questions.
Regarding whether a no-fly zone would violate Libya’s national sovereignty, Wikler in March 2011 stated: “National sovereignty should not be a legitimate barrier to international action when crimes against humanity are being committed.” Then in perhaps a foreshadowing of the organization’s call for a similar action in Syria, Wikler added: “If you strongly disagree, then you may find yourself at odds with other Avaaz campaigns as well.”
Wikler concluded his defense of the call for a Libyan no-fly zone by saying: “All told, this was a difficult judgment call. Calling for any sort of military response always is. Avaaz members have been advocating for weeks for a full set of non-military options as well, including an asset freeze, targeted sanctions, and prosecutions of officials involved in the violent crackdown on demonstrators.
“But although those measures are moving forward, the death toll is rising. Again, thoughtful people can disagree – but in the Avaaz community’s case, only 9% of our thoughtful people opposed this position [84% approved] – somewhat surprising given that we have virtually always advocated for peaceful methods to resolve conflicts in the past. We think it was the best position to take given the balance of expert opinion, popular support, and most of all, the rights and clearly expressed desire of the Libyan people.”
The figure of 84% approval from a sampling of Avaaz members seem astounding — and raises the issue of whether the questions were worded in the most emotional ways that would produce such an overwhelming result (along the lines of — Gaddafi is slaughtering, and will slaughter, everyone in his path and we must act now to avert a bloodbath). It also raises the question of whether Avaaz offered any counterpoints that a no-fly zone could lead to a wider war and end up killing, maiming and displacing thousands of civilians.
Regardless of the numbers, relying on partisan civilian sources in embattled areas for tactics or military solutions of any sort is both a dubious and frightening proposition and hardly seems the role for an advocacy organization to undertake.
Avaaz’s Origins: Founders and Funders
Even in the U.S. progressive community, Avaaz is far less well-known than its sister advocacy organization MoveOn.org. To put Avaaz in perspective, a little background is in order.
Avaaz was created in 2006 and officially launched in 2007 by MoveOn.org Civic Action and the little known and closely affiliated global advocacy group Res Publica, Inc. Its initial significant financial backing came from liberal philanthropist George Soros and his Open Society Foundations (then called Open Society Institute).
Avaaz’s individual founders included three of its current officers/directors — Ricken Patel, Eli Pariser and Thomas Pravda — as well as Thomas Perriello, Andrea Woodhouse, Jeremy Heimans, and David Madden. (More about them later.) (****MOST OF THEM ARE ZIONISTS/JEWS just saying)
If you don’t know much about Avaaz, or think about it as I long did as a non-U.S. entity (actually, its headquarters is in New York City), that is not so surprising since many of its campaigns are targeted to specific countries other than the United States, and only a little over 5 percent of its 43.1 million members are U.S.-based. (A member being anyone who has ever signed an Avaaz petition — and that includes me.) Still, even that small U.S. percentage equates to 2.3 million people — a number that would be the envy of most U.S. activist organizations. (By way of comparison, Avaaz’s affiliated member organization MoveOn.org claims more than 8-million members.)
The U.S. membership in Avaaz is about the same as the German membership (2.2 million), and far less than France with 4.3 million and Brazil with a whopping 8.8 million members. Other nations with more than one million Avaaz members include Italy (2.1 million), Spain (1.8 million), the United Kingdom (1.6 million), Mexico (1.4 million), Canada (1.2 million). India has 991,000 members and Russia 901,000. Overall, Avaaz claims members in 194 countries, with its smallest membership — 81 — in the British overseas territory of Montserrat, population 5,100.
Avaaz is organized under the name the Avaaz Foundation, a 501(c)(4) non-profit lobbying organization, with its headquarters in Manhattan. It describes itself as having “a simple democratic mission: To close the gap between the world we have and the world most people everywhere want.”
In its most recent Form 990 filing with the Internal Revenue Service, signed in September 2015 for tax year 2014, Avaaz reported contributions totaling $20.1 million and net assets of $7.6 million. Avaaz, which says that it is entirely member funded, had previously stated that it accepts no single contribution of more than $5,000, but that was not the case in 2014 as the organization reported that 18 individuals had contributed amounts ranging from $5,000 to $15,383. The contributors were not identified by name in the filing. Since around 2010, the organization is on record as not accepting corporate or foundation donations — although it did receive grants totaling $1.1 million from George Soros-connected foundations in the three years before that.
In response to our inquiry about Avaaz funding and the organization’s early link to Soros, campaign director Nell Greenberg responded:
“With regards to Avaaz funding, this movement was founded with the ideal of being completely self sustaining and democratic. 100% of the Avaaz budget comes from small online donations…Avaaz has never taken a contribution from a government or a corporation, and since 2009 has not solicited any contributions from charitable foundations.”
She continued: “We did receive seed funding from George Soros and the Open Society Foundation, but not after 2009. No corporation, foundation or board member has influence on the organization’s campaign directions or positions. This is hugely important to ensuring that our voice is exclusively determined by the values of our members, and not by any large funder or agenda.”
Of Avaaz’s four current officers/directors, only executive director Ricken Patel was listed as full-time, with annual pay of $177,666 for 2014. Chairman Eli Pariser; treasurer Thomas Pravda, and secretary Ben Brandzel are not day-to-day employees and all received no compensation in 2014. Of Avaaz’s 77 employees, the five highest-compensated staff members after Patel received salaries ranging between $111,000 and $153,000.
For its various domestic and overseas campaigns, Avaaz reported providing $3.2 million in grants to U.S. organizations and $932,000 to foreign organizations in 2014. Reported grants of more than $5,000 came in five categories, with the largest recipients being the U.S. Fund for UNICEF ($1 million for education for Syrian refugees), and the Rain Forest Trust ($1 million for “conservation of land and species”).
To help combat the Ebola virus, Avaaz provided $500,000 to the International Medical Corps, $350,000 to Save the Children and $300,000 to Partners in Health. For organizing for the September 2014 People’s Climate March in New York City, Avaaz provided $27,500 to Align and $10,000 to New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG). Rounding out the list, a $10,000 grant went to Amazon Watch for “protection of the Amazon.”
For activities outside the United States, Avaaz spent most heavily in Europe on campaigns, advertising and consulting — $6.2 million, with South America a distant second at $685,000 for consulting services, followed by East Asia and the Pacific with $553,000 for campaigns and consulting services. Expenditures in five other regions ranged from $45,000 to $270,000.
Avaaz reported that the foundation is still comprised of the same two member organizations — MoveOn.org Civic Action and Res Publica, Inc. (U.S.) — which were the original founding groups.
Res Publica, a 501(c)(3), lists the same Manhattan address as the 501(c)(4) Avaaz and presumably provides unspecified assistance to Avaaz. Back at Avaaz’s beginning, the three principals in Res Publica were the aforementioned Patel, Pravda and Perriello. The three men had all served with the International Center for Transitional Justice, which “assists countries pursuing accountability for past mass atrocity or human rights abuse.” Also in those early days, according to some accounts, Avaaz listed the Service Employees International Union and Australia-based GetUp.org.au as co-founding organizations, but they seem to have long since been out of the picture.
In Res Publica’s most recent Form 990 filing with the IRS for 2013, Patel is listed as executive director, Pravda as treasurer, and Vivek Maru as secretary. All received no compensation. Contributions for 2013 totaled $963,895, of which $846,165 was from “Government grants” for unspecified purposes. The organization reported that it “provides strategic advice to other non-profit organizations… [and] also provides educational and action-based e-mail campaigns to citizens in every country via its website.” It also reported supporting projects “through fiscal sponsorship, that focused on online security and Internet freedom for repressed communities globally…”
Here are profiles of Avaaz co-founders and past and current officers:
Eli Pariser: Avaaz Chairman and Co-founder
Eli Pariser was executive director of MoveOn.org from 2004 through 2009 when the organization experienced explosive growth, and has been its board president since then. MoveOn, in the words of an on-line Pariser biography, “revolutionized grassroots political organizing by introducing a small-donor-funded and email-driven model that has since been widely used across the political spectrum.”
In addition to being a founder of Avaaz and currently serving as its chairman, the Brooklyn-based Pariser has been a member of the boards of Access and the New Organizing Institute. A best-selling author and former fellow at the Roosevelt Institute, Pariser is co-founder and executive of the on-line media company Upworthy. He is also currently a member of the advisory board of George Soros’s Open Society Foundations’ U.S. Programs.
We would note that Pariser appears to be one of the few Avaaz founders and officers whose background is almost entirely in on-line activism, while some others have governmental or otherwise overseas experience working in programs in high poverty and/or war-torn countries.
We submitted several questions to Pariser on March 9, but he has not responded as of this writing.
Ricken Patel: Avaaz Executive Director and Co-founder
Prior to the founding of Avaaz in 2007, the Canadian-born Ricken Patel consulted for a number of international and well-established non-profit organizations — the International Crisis Group, the United Nations, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Gates Foundation, Harvard University, CARE International, and the International Center for Transitional Justice. He worked in several countries including Sierra Leone, Liberia, Sudan and Afghanistan. He also was the founding executive director of Avaaz-affiliated Res Publica, which among its past projects “worked to end genocide in Darfur.” As executive director of Avaaz since its begining, Patel is the face of the organization and has been termed “the global leader of online protest” by The Guardian.
Thomas Pravda: Avaaz Treasurer and Co-founder
Through two of its co-founders — Tom Perriello and Thomas Pravda — Avaaz has connections to government officialdom in both the United States and the United Kingdom. Perriello (discussed below) is now with the State Department as U.S. special envoy for the African Great Lakes and the Congo-Kinshasa.
Pravda is currently serving as the (unpaid) treasurer and a director for Avaaz, while at the same time holding down a post as a diplomat with the United Kingdom Foreign and Commonwealth Office, commonly known as the Foreign Office. He is also co-founder and officer in Res Publica.
As the Foreign Office is “responsible for protecting and promoting British interests worldwide,” this could raise conflict-of-interest possibilities regarding U.K. and U.S. foreign relations and military issues that might be taken up by Avaaz. This would include the organization’s advocacy for a no-fly zone in Syria, in which both the U.S. and U.K. would be expected to participate. Our research, though, found no example of anyone raising a specific issue about Pravda’s dual role as U.K. diplomat and Avaaz officer, but this relationship looks problematic on the face of it.
Pravda’s self-provided biography shows he has been with the Foreign Office since October 2003, and with Avaaz since 2006, and that he was also an advisor to the U.S. State Department in 2009-2010 regarding the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
In his diplomatic assignments Pravda has worked on E.U. trade and development policy; as an advisor to the Special Representative for Climate Change, and as the U.K. Representative in Goma, Democratic Republic of the Congo. He has also consulted extensively on political, security, research and advocacy issues for such institutions as the U.S. State Department, the United Nations Development Program, the International Center for Transitional Justice and Oxford Analytica.
Ben Brandzel: Avaaz Secretary and Co-founder
In addition to currently serving as the (unpaid) secretary for Avaaz, Ben Brandzel is the founder and director of OPEN (Online Progressive Engagement Network), described as an alliance of the world’s leading national digital campaigning organizations. Besides being a founding board member and former senior campaigner at Avaaz, Brandzel is the chief founding advisor for OPEN member groups in the United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand and Ireland. He also served as the original advocacy director for MoveOn.org and in 2009-2010 directed new media campaigns and fundraising for President Obama during the health reform campaign. He writes frequently on digital organizing and transnational movement building.
Tom Perriello: Avaaz Co-founder
If I were going to name one chief suspect among Avaaz’s founders as the architect of its no-fly zone advocacy in Libya and Syria, it would be Tom Perriello. More than anyone else connected with Avaaz from its earliest days, Perriello, since leaving the organization — first for Congress and then for the think-tank world before going to the U.S. State Department — has shown himself to be a reliable advocate for war: For continuing the war in Afghanistan, for bombing Libya and ousting Gaddafi, and for taking military action to support Syrian rebels and remove Assad from power.
Perriello champions “humanitarian intervention” and lauded the NATO bombing campaign in Libya — before the U.S./NATO “victory” there and before the country subsequently went all to hell — as a prime example of how this approach can succeed .
We asked Avaaz whether Perriello’s thinking had influenced the organization’s campaigns for no-fly zones in Libya and Syria, and received a stern denial from Avaaz’s Greenberg: “Tom Perriello, specifically, was an Avaaz board member at the founding of the organization but has not been on the board since December 2009, and has had no role in Avaaz’s Syria campaigns.”
Perriello’s career, like some others with Avaaz, has been more one of public service through established organizations than of activism. According to an on-line biography, in 2002-2003 Perriello was special advisor to the international prosecutor of the Special Court of Sierra Leone, and then served as a consultant to the International Center for Transitional Justice in Kosovo (2003), Darfur (2005) and Afghanistan (2007). In 2004, he co-founded Res Publica with Patel and Pravda. Perriello has also been a fellow at The Century Foundation and is a co-founder of DarfurGenocide.org. He said in his on-line bio that he had “spent much of his career working in West Africa and the Middle East to create strategies for sustainable peace, and he was involved in the peace processes that helped end the civil wars in Sierra Leone and Liberia.”
A Democrat, Perriello was elected to Congress from Virginia’s 5th District in 2008. (It would appear from the statement we received from Avaaz that if Perriello left the organization in December 2009 then he was still on the Avaaz board during his first year in Congress.)
In his one term, Perriello was a staunch supporter of the global war on terror, the military appropriations to continue U.S. wars, and keeping U.S. troops in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Defeated in his 2010 bid for reelection, Perriello went on to serve as president and CEO of the Center for American Progress Action Fund and counselor for policy also at Center for American Progress, a Democratic party-supporting think tank. From 2014 to the present he has been with the State Department, first as the Special Representative to the Secretary of State for the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review, and since last summer as the U.S. special envoy for the African Great Lakes and the Congo-Kinshasa. Although said not to be involved with Avaaz currently, his humanitarian intervention philosophy seems alive and well at Avaaz with its calls for no-fly zones in Libya and Syria.
In this excerpt from his 2012 article on humanitarian intervention, Perriello sounds absolutely eager to send in the bombs wherever “egregious atrocities” are occurring and human beings are suffering. And this, as Perriello writes, would give “progressives” the “opportunity… to expand the use of force to advance key values.” Following are two paragraphs from Perriello’s article that give the flavor of the “humanitarian intervention” philosophy he advocates. It would certainly be helpful if Avaaz would tell us if it subscribes to its co-founder’s rather bloodless and creepy prescription for advancing progressives’ “key values.”
“Operational developments since the end of the Cold War have substantially improved our capacity to wage smart military operations that are limited in time and scope and employ precise and overwhelming force,” Perriello wrote. “This presents progressives with an opportunity—one that is too often seen as a curse—to expand the use of force to advance key values. Our technical capacities, ranging from accuracy of systems intelligence to smart weaponry, now allow for previously impossible operations. Today, we have the ability to conduct missions from the air that historically would have required ground troops. And we possess an admittedly imperfect but highly improved ability to limit collateral damage, including civilian casualties. Among other things, this means fewer bombs can accomplish the same objectives, with early estimates suggesting that the Libyan air campaign required one-third the number of sorties as earlier air wars…
“We must realize that force is only one element of a coherent national security strategy and foreign policy. We must accept the reality—whether or not one accepts its merits—that other nations are more likely to perceive our motives to be self-interested than values-based. But in a world where egregious atrocities and grave threats exist, and where Kosovo and Libya have changed our sense of what’s now possible, the development of this next generation of power can be seen as a historically unique opportunity to reduce human suffering.”
Imagine the nerve of those other nations Perriello refers to — failing to see that the United States selflessly engages in “values-based” bombing: Bombs for a better world.
Andrea Woodhouse: Avaaz Co-founder
Another Avaaz co-founder, Andrea Woodhouse, describes herself as a development professional, social entrepreneur and writer. She has worked in many countries experiencing conflict and political transition, including Indonesia, Timor Leste, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Burma/Myanmar. In Indonesia, she reported working on one of the largest anti-poverty programs in the world, which she said became the model for a national program of post-conflict reconstruction and state-building in Afghanistan. She has worked for the World Bank and the United Nations and was a founder of the World Bank’s Justice for the Poor program.
Jeremy Heimans: Avaaz Co-founder
According to an on-line biography, Jeremy Heimans in 2005 co-founded GetUp, an Australian political organization and one of that country’s largest campaigning communities. It has campaigned for same-sex marriage and in support of Julian Assange of Wikileaks. In addition to being an Avaaz co-founder, Heimans in 2009 co-founded Purpose, an activist group that launched several major new organizations including All Out, a two-million member LGBT rights group.
David Madden: Avaaz Co-founder
David Madden, another Avaaz co-founder, is a former Australian Army officer and World Bank and United Nations employee. With Jeremy Heimans, he co-founded GetUp. Madden has worked for the World Bank in Timor Leste, and for the United Nations in Indonesia. In 2004, Madden was one of the founders of Win Back Respect, a web-based campaign against the foreign policy of U.S. President George W. Bush.
George Soros’s Role in Avaaz Early Years
For the last few years, various on-line bloggers have questioned whether Avaaz is somehow doing the bidding of philanthropist George Soros and his Open Society Foundations, or of the U.S. government (or portions thereof). (See an example here.)
There is no question that there was a close connection between Avaaz and Soros and his organizations dating back to Avaaz’s early days, but what — if anything — does that translate into today?
As noted earlier, in one of the few of my questions that Avaaz answered directly, there was an acknowledgement of early Soros “seed money” to Avaaz, but a denial of any continuing involvement with the organization.
Of all individuals or organizations outside the Avaaz structure, though, Soros’s foundations played the most significant role in helping get Avaaz off the ground with generous grants. Additionally, the Open Society Institute (the previous name of the Open Society Foundations) served as Avaaz’s “foundation partner” on campaigns of joint interest, most notably in connection with the Burmese Democracy Movement.
Avaaz still has a Soros connection — notably, as indicated above, Eli Pariser serving on an Open Society advisory board. And both Avaaz and Soros seem to share an antipathy to what they characterize as Russian aggression as exemplified by Avaaz’s sometimes over-the-top statements about Russia in Syria. (For example, as noted in our previous article, Ricken Patel holding Putin’s government responsible for being complicit with the Assad government in “coordinating atrocities” and “targeting the assassinations of journalists” in early 2012. Also, see this September 30, 2015 Avaaz posting using flimsy evidence to accuse Russian planes of deliberately bombing civilian neighborhoods.)
Donations by Soros’s Foundations
Over a three-year period beginning in 2007, Soros’s foundations — either directly or passed through Res Publica — gave Avaaz a total of $1.2 million.
In 2007, the Open Society Institute gave $150,000 to Res Publica for general support for Avaaz, and $100,000 for Avaaz’s work on climate change.
In 2008, Open Society Institute again gave a total of $250,000 to Res Publica — with $150,000 of that again for general support for Avaaz and the remaining $100,000 for Avaaz’s climate change work.
The following year, Soros was even more generous to Avaaz. His Foundation to Promote Open Society in its Form 990 filing for 2009 (page 87) reported giving a total of $600,000 to Res Publica for Avaaz’s use — $300,000 for general support and $300,000 for climate campaigning.
Avaaz increased its ties to the Soros organization in 2008 by selecting the then-named Open Society Institute (OSI) as its “foundation partner” to oversee some $325,000 in donations that Avaaz had received from its members — in just four days — to support the Burmese Democracy Movement.
Avaaz said it was linking up with OSI — “one of the largest and most respected foundations in the world” — for the purpose of OSI monitoring Avaaz’s grant awards and expenditures. OSI was “taking no overhead on the funds we are granting to Burmese groups” for technology, organizing, support for the regime’s victims and victims’ families, and international advocacy.
In June 2009, OSI reported that its Burma Project grantees — including Avaaz — had rallied global support around democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi. On that occasion, Avaaz partnered with the Free Burma’s Political Prisoners Now! Campaign to collect more than 670,000 signatures asking for UN General Secretary Ban Ki-moon’s support for Aung San Suu Kyi and some 2,000 other political prisoners.
From available information, it does not appear Soros or his foundations have contributed financially to Avaaz or directly engaged in projects with the organization in the last five to six years. And Avaaz itself says the Soros financial connection ended in 2009. Whether the substantial assistance Soros’s foundations gave Avaaz in its first three years of existence carries any lasting influence, though, is certainly hard to show.
Avaaz’s Impressive Record of Advocacy
As noted in our previous article, even allowing for organizational self-hype, Avaaz has an impressive record of advocacy — a record that mostly seems off-kilter with its no-fly zone advocacy in Libya and Syria. For example, here are some other Avaaz campaigns not previously mentioned:
Avaaz has played a prominent role in a number of actions directed at Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.
Avaaz was a key player in a successful campaign (including a petition with more than 1.7 million signatures, coupled with occupations and protests at some 15 Barclays bank branches across the United Kingdom) to pressure Barclays to divest its $2.9 million holdings in an Israeli defense contractor, Elbit Systems.
Avaaz received plaudits from the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement for its role in that campaign. Elbit Systems is the major Israeli-based arms and security company that manufactures drones used in surveillance and attacks on Palestinians in Gaza. It also provides electronics for the “apartheid wall” being constructed on the West Bank.
A petition directed to the government of Israel and to the U.S. Congress netted 185,000 signatures in support of the portion of President Obama’s Cairo speech in June 2009 in which he said: “The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop.”
In 2011, some 1.6 million people — more than 300,000 of them in just the first two days — signed an Avaaz petition to European leaders and U.N. member states, urging them “to endorse the legitimate bid for recognition of the state of Palestine and the reaffirmation of the rights of the Palestinian people. It is time to turn the tide on decades of failed peace talks, end the occupation and move towards peace based on two states.”
In March 2013, at the time of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s (AIPAC’s) annual conference and congressional lobbying days in Washington, D.C., Avaaz joined with Jewish Voice for Peace to erect hundreds of anti-AIPAC posters across Metro stations in central D.C. The signs read: “AIPAC does not speak for me. Most Jewish Americans are pro-peace. AIPAC is not.”
Through its petitions, Avaaz has strongly opposed governmental surveillance of U.S. citizens, and has defended Wikileaks and national security whistleblowers Edward Snowden and Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning.
In April 2011, amid news reports of Manning’s brutal treatment while imprisoned at Marine Corps Base Quantico in Virginia before facing a court martial for providing classified documents to Wikileaks, almost 550,000 people signed an Avaaz petition to President Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. The petition, headlined “Stop Wikileaks Torture,” called on those officials “to immediately end the torture, isolation and public humiliation of Bradley Manning. This is a violation of his constitutionally guaranteed human rights, and a chilling deterrent to other whistleblowers committed to public integrity.”
A December 2010 Avaaz petition, calling “the vicious intimidation campaign against Wikileaks” by the U.S. and other governments and corporations “a dangerous attack on freedom of expression and freedom of the press,” produced 654,000 signatures — more than 300,000 of those in the first 24 hours the petition was circulated on-line.
In June 2013, just days after the first reports of the National Security Agency’s illegal worldwide spying appeared, some 1.38 million people signed a petition, headlined “Stand with Edward Snowden,” to President Obama. The petition read: “We call on you to ensure that whistleblower Edward Snowden is treated fairly, humanely and given due process. The PRISM program is one of the greatest violations of privacy ever committed by a government. We demand that you terminate it immediately, and that Edward Snowden be recognized as a whistleblower acting in the public interest — not as a dangerous criminal.”
In April 2012, some 780,000 people signed an Avaaz petition to members of Congress, and another to Facebook, Microsoft and IBM (with 626,000 signers), to drop their support for the Internet surveillance bill known as the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA). The bill, the petition stated, would place “Our democracy and civil liberties… under threat from the excessive and unnecessary Internet surveillance powers” that it would grant to the U.S. government without requirement of a warrant.
In the face of widespread hunger strikes at the Guantanamo Bay prison in 2013, Avaaz gathered 690,000 signatures on a petition to transfer the 86 men who had already been cleared for release, and to appoint a White House official whose responsibility it would be to close down the prison. Said the petition: “This shameful complex is a scourge on humanity, is destroying lives, and fuels hate across the world. Close it down!”
Avaaz is also in the front ranks on various other issues — fighting global warming, seeking an end to U.S. and European arms sales to Saudi Arabia, protecting rain forests, saving endangered species, promoting clean energy, challenging Rupert Murdoch’s bid for a greater media monopoly in the United Kingdom, defending human rights in a number of countries, etc.
In none of those other campaigns do we see Avaaz proposing military action of any sort. Why this anomaly when it came to Libya and now Syria? Especially, when military action’s aftermath turned out so badly in Libya, and when even the nation’s leading generals say a Syria no-fly zone would escalate the war and endanger the very civilians Avaaz has the stated goal of protecting?