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In Search of Ares

In 2013 we set out on a little pilgrimage around Roúmeli, or Central Greece, visiting sites related to the Greek Resistance.

1 Arachova B
We set out from Arachova, up on Parnassos, notable for a famous battle during the uprising against the Ottoman Empire. However there was another Battle of Arachova, which took place against the Germans in 1943. Italy had just capitulated to the Allies, leaving Italians who were jointly occupying Greece in an awkward position. The young captain of ELAS, Nikephoros (Dimitris Dimitriou), rode into Arachova with his men to negotiate the surrender of the Italian weaponry. The Italians delayed so as to give the Germans time to come up from Amfissa and Livadia, however Nikephoros was ready for them and ended up with not only the Italian arms but the Germans’ as well.

There are a couple of little incidents relating to this episode that I rather like. Nikephoros reports that when he and his men rode into Arachova, bearded and crisscrossed with ammunition belts, the Italian soldiers forgot all else and ran for their cameras. They asked the ELAS fighters to stay on their horses for the photos shoot but Nikephoros decided that this would be infra dig in the circumstances.

After the battle they loaded up the German and Italian lorries with all the booty, but had difficulty driving it through the narrow streets of Arachova. When a local was asked whether they could knock down and then rebuild the corner of his house, he said ‘Knock down the whole house if you need to!’

Nikephoros is famous for breaking out 60 inmates, including his own father, from the prison in the nearby town of Leivadia.

We drove over Parnassus to Agoriani or Eftalofos,

2 Eptalofos

and saw where Nikephoros is buried.

3 Nikiforos grave

We stopped at Lilea where there is a museum dedicated to Diamantis, another famed leader of ELAS Parnassidos, who died in the civil war.  The man with the key was away so we took a rain check, as Lilea is close to Arachova which is where we base ourselves in Greece.

Then on to Lamia, birthplace of the emblematic figure of the Greek Resistance, Ares Velouchiotis.

4 Lamia

Lamia is known for its attractive squares, at least four within a small radius. This statue of Ares is in People’s Square, and we dined there that night.

We spent the afternoon hiking up to the Resistance museum, which was closed indefinitely, like many others at the time. This was not the only disappointment. In the grounds of the building was an orange tree, covered in the most beautiful, brightly coloured fruit. Oh well, if the locals don’t appreciate them, we thought …. Back in the hotel, one mouthful revealed that they were the most sour, bitter, inedible fruit imaginable!

Ares Velouchiotis

The andates have gone to the mountains
The brave young men of Roúmeli
And the bravest of them all
Everyone says is Ares (andartiko song)

5 ares

Ares was the man responsible for creating the resistance army ELAS. Due in part to the discipline he imposed on the andartes (ELAS partisans) and the law and order he created in the countryside, he was loved and trusted by a large section of Greece, above all in his chief stamping ground of Roumeli. A large section of the country became ‘Free Greece’ where the Germans and the Italians could only move with a great number of troops. This improved the lives of the inhabitants immensely, amongst other things reducing the confiscation of food by the occupation authorities.

AresLamia.PNG

Forty thousand people from Lamia and the surrounding villages crowded into Freedom Square in Lamia to hear Ares’ historic speech after liberation.

8 Lamia barbara

We retraced our steps somewhat to visit the Gorgopotamos Bridge, blown up in a joint effort by ELAS with British saboteurs and also the smaller Greek organisation EDES created by the British under their chosen man Zervas (Syria watchers should think FSA). Greek and British reports show clearly that Ares was the genius behind the military operation, EDES ineffectual ,and Zervas worse than useless.

Nikephoros writes that when Ares presented his operational plan to the British and Zervas, it was accepted without change. However Nikephoros himself objected, because his only role was to captain the reserve troops. Ares response was ‘Shame on you Nikephoros, as a military man don’t you know that battles are always won by the reserves!’, and then ‘are you so sure of the competence of the men of the good General [i.e. Zervas]?’ Nikephoros was unconvinced, but as Ares suspected, the EDES troops were not up to the task entrusted to them, to take the less heavily guarded end of the bridge, so Nikephoros’s troops had to go in and save the operation.

9 Gorgopotamos

The BBC made no mention of either ELAS or Ares when it reported the operation but described Zervas’ contribution in glowing terms…

10

We drove up through the Carpenissi valley, west of Lamia. First port of call was to the ‘Hut of Stefanis’ outside Sperchiada. In May 1842 Ares and a handful of men set out from the hut to start the armed struggle against the German/Italian/ Bulgarian occupation. The hut is now a little museum.

11 Stefanis hut

On to Domnista, famous as the place where Ares publicly announced the struggle against the occupation. On 7 June 1942 he and his small band of about 15 made as dramatic an entrance as they could into the village, preceded by the Greek flag and singing, and then Ares addressed the locals about resistance and also law and order. At that time he repeated this many times in the villages around, moving round at a punishing speed so as to give the impression that there were several groups of andartes in the area.

12 domnista

They came down this road. Behind the car on the corner is a kafeneio where we had coffee. The owner was eight when Ares came but still remembers him talking about what ELAS intended to do to rapists, thieves and murderers.

At Korischades is ‘The Old School House’, now a museum, which was the base for the ‘Government in the Mountains’, established in March 1944. The actual name was the more modest Political Committee of National Liberation, but it held near-nationwide elections, in which 1,800 people voted. (In the Greek elections of 1936 only 1 million voted).

13 Korischades

There was a very good argument for seeing this ‘Government’ as the only legitimate one for Greece at the time, but the political leadership chose instead to throw its lot in with the British sponsored ‘Government of National Unity’ at the Lebanon Conference in May 1944. The Prime Minister was to be George Papandreou, whose party had won about 6% of seats in the 1936 elections.

14 Korischades museum

Left: Good luck Duce!; Right: Good luck Fuhrer!

Mikro Chorio’ is the place of a famous battle by ELAS under Ares against the Italians, featuring in the ‘Hymn to Ares’ aka as the ‘Mikro Chorio Hymn’.

The mountains groan, the sun darkens
Wretched Mikro Chorio once again faces grief.

But golden swords flash, rifles take aim.
Ares is waging war, with his brave young andartes

Come o faithless Italian, ridiculous Mussolini
And consider what will happen here

You do not face the old and sick to butcher today
Nor shamefaced girls, Nor villages to burn,

Nor mothers to tyrannise in the market place.
What you have before you today is Capetan Ares

Who is as fast as the eagle, as the wild wind
And kills traitors with his mighty sword.

Word of the ELAS’s victories against the Italians, like that of Mikro Chorio and Gorgopotamos, spread throughout Greece like wildfire.

15

Ares took his surname from Mount Velouchi, which dominates the Carpenissi Valley. Seen here from near Mikro Chorio

We could have stayed longer in the area, as Megalo Chorio is particularly appealing, however …
Our final destination was to be the Fango Gorge, Mesouda, Ares’ place of death. Mesouda is deep in the Agrapha Mountains north of the Carpenissi valley. Rather than go round on the main road of Western Greece, we decided to take a ‘short cut’ through mountains.

The Agrapha are spectacular, offset by the most beautiful green valleys.

AgraphaB

In fact Agrafa means uncharted, and though things have improved since Ottoman times it is still very difficult to navigate, with my 1990s map way out of date. The idea was to get to Mesouda in the evening and whip down to the Fango Gorge before sunset. We didn’t arrive until about 10pm (fortunately as it turns out) and then as there was no accommodation we had to look elsewhere for a bed. It was a shame that we couldn’t stay in Mesouda because there was a very popular tavern filled with friendly people and it would have been great to eat there.

Back at Mesouda the next morning we found a sign to Fango Gorge. An elderly lady told us that we needed to take the car and then walk for a bit. We drove down a terrible road and then when it gave out walked down to the Acheloos River. Very pretty but could see no signs of anything relating to Ares.

Riveralchoos.PNG

Eventually we returned to the car, very disappointed. Then we noticed an arrow in red paint pointing right. This was followed by red splotches on trees and rocks. The ground became rougher and rougher,with some difficult and scary-looking slips. Fortunately we had our walking shoes on, but I didn’t think to go back for my water bottle.

18 Barbara Mesouda

Late middle age is a funny time to take up mountaineering …

Rossmountaineering.PNG

After some serious rock climbing we arrived at a very pretty little gorge with rocks and waterfalls.

Gorge.PNG

The only thing we noticed here was more red splotches, so after a drink, onward … and onward.

23 ross river

24 view of Acheloos

We wound up the mountain for about two hours but when faced with yet another stretch of sun-baked scree we gave up, fearing sunstroke. We lost the trail back once or twice but finally found ourselves back at the stream.

25 back to river

After drinking as much water as we could we collapsed in the shade, somewhat disconsolate but telling ourselves that at least we had some idea of the terrain that the andartes travelled over, often with terrible or no (!) footwear .

25-barb-back-to-river.jpg

It was about this point that Ross asked, ‘What’s that behind you?’. I turned round and read out slowly ’16-6-1945 Here fell the First Captain of ELAS, Ares Velouchiotis.’ !!

Barbara Ares.PNG

 

Aresmem

 

28 Ares poem

‘Wind in the mountains, black moon in the hearts, come and take for yourself freedom with songs, guns and swords’. From the andartiko song ‘Heroes’.

Recovering at the kafeneio / taverna at Mesouda. Coffee at the unheard of price of 50c, but sadly it was exactly the wrong time for food.

30 river

 

Historical Note

From the outset of WWII Winston Churchill was determined to restore the ‘Greek’ monarchy, as the best one of ensuring British influence in the Eastern Mediterranean.  Reports from British agents in Greece that perhaps 90% of Greeks were opposed to the monarchy only strengthened his resolve.  In October 1944 Churchill visited Moscow and he and Stalin formulated what is known as the percentage agreement, whereby after the war Britain would have 90% of influence in Greece and the USSR would have 90% influence over e.g. Roumania.  A series of manoeuvres by the British and disastrous errors and capitulations by the Communist Party, who now controlled the progressive movement in Greece, led to the final disaster of the Treaty of Varkiza.

‘The British kicked us into the hole they had been digging for us’ (Manos Ioannidis)

Under the terms of the treaty ELAS disarmed – the other clauses are irrelevant as they were not honoured either by the British or the Greek politicians.    There was certainly no attempt to disarm the right-wing gangs who had collaborated with both the Germans and the British and now roamed the countryside pillaging, bashing and murdering (this period is known as the White Terror).   Members of ELAS were hunted down and murdered or tried as war criminals.  Others were persecuted by the Stalinist leadership of the KKE (Greek Communist Party), who resented Ares for opposing the Varkiza agreement and ELAS members for defending his memory.

Nikephoros was sentenced to death but his father spent years campaigning on his behalf, even approaching the British commander at Gorgopotomos for support, and he was eventually released.   Although he had previously been a regular officer in the army Nikephoros was now reduced to selling coffee round offices to support his family.  Photis Mastrokostas, who was one of the people who set out with Ares from the ‘Hut of Stefanis’, fought at Gorgopotamos and stayed with Ares until his death, spent 16 years in prison, developed TB and died the week after his release.  Diamantis was caught and executed during the civil war which followed (1946-49).  Another hero of Gorgopotamos, Kostoulas, went to fight with the Democratic Army in the civil war but was arrested as an ‘enemy agent’ and either murdered on the orders of the leadership or committed suicide.

On a personal note, the father of my friend Charikleia in Arachova was a member of the resistance and after the war spent 18 months in prison.  Her uncle Charalabos was killed in the civil war and both Charikleia and her brother Babis are named after him.  Her mother was also active in the resistance movement and like many Greek women was beaten by right wing gangs during the White Terror.

Death of Ares

It seems that Ares committed suicide, but there is some debate over whether he had already been shot. Although he was being systematically hunted down by right-wing forces (some say with the help of the Communist Party), many people find it hard to understand why he would commit suicide rather than fight to the end. One suggestion is that he was cut to the quick by the news that he had lost his Communist party membership. However given that he despised the party leadership this doesn’t seem likely.

The noose was closing in; many of his companions were captured within hours. No-one was able to prevent the desecration of his body – his head was cut off and hung from a lamppost in Trikala for some days. Ares always avowed that he would never fall into the hands of the British or their agents. It could be that he was struck by one hostile bullet and decided to finish it himself.

Failing that scenario, there is another, which seems quite probable if you actually go to the Gorge and see where he fell.  Is it purely a coincidence that he died in this beautiful little gorge, with rocks, river, waterfalls, and the mountains looming around him and across the Acheloos River? Knowing that the end was inevitable, did he actually choose to take his last breathe here, and made his way here for that purpose?

It was Ares that suggested the name ELAS, pronounced identically to the older name for Greece, Ellas. He chose for himself the names Ares, from the god of war, and Velouchiotis, after the most magnificent mountain in the Carpenissi Valley. To choose to die in the Fango Gorge could well be another example of his fine judgement.

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Mubaraka Awainiya al-Brahimi Gives the Parliamentary Speech of the Year

Mubaraka Awainiya al-Brahimi is a Tunisian member of parliament.

Saudi Arabia called an emergency meeting of the “Arab League” in Cairo, for 19 November, 2017.  The agenda of the meeting, dominated by states who actively support terrorist groups fighting the Syrian government, included accusing Iran of aggression and meddling in the internal affairs of Arab states (i.e. aiding its ally Syria against an externally instigated insurgency), and to accuse Hezbollah, likewise fighting terrorists in Syria, of terrorism. There is no indication that Saudi Arabia’s own, proven, role in funding terrorist groups was on the agenda.

On 27 November, @walid970721  tweeted:

 

Text of speech (as excerpted)

“Your participation of the scandal known as the most recent meeting of the Arab Foreign Ministers in Cairo is the ultimate farce.  You met to condemn a Yemeni missile which landed in the desert, while you remain silent about the killing and displacement of the whole Yemeni population.  Are you not ashamed of the carnage of the heroes of Yemen?  Instead you are showing solidarity with the aggressor country.

“You and your Arab League rushed into criminalising the Hezbollah resistance, the only one carrying a gun in the face of the Zionist entity.  At the same time, this league does not care anything when it comes to the terrorist organisations that immersed themselves in the blood of Arabs and Muslims – the likes of ISIS, Taliban, Jabhat al Nusra, Jund ah-Sham, FSA and many others.

“Nor are you concerned about your failure in dealing with the crisis in Libya, and your inability to re-establish relations with Syria.  Because the Saudi regime, America and Israel will not allow you to take such a position.

“Your Excellency, what is falsely called the Islamic Coalition is the new Baghdadi coalition, and its General-Secretary is Benjamin Netanyahu.  And its military commander is Eisencott, the commander of what they call the IDF.  And the Tunisian people, who have paid with martyrs in all of the Arabs’ battles will not be part of a reactionary Zionist-American coalition.”

Tunisian Solidarity with Syria

In August Mubaraka Awainiya al-Brahimi led a parliamentary delegation to Syria “to voice our support for the Syrian people in the confrontation of the terrorist takfiri terrorism and to join them their happiness in achieving major victories over the terrorist organizations.”

MubarakaAleppo

Above: the delegation visited historical sites in the city of Aleppo, including the citadel, the Ummayyad Mosque, the Arab Anglican Church and the ancient souqs.

Al-Brahimi described Syria as “the only castle of resistance which has been adhering to its national principles and confronted the Zionist enemy which has been trying to divert the world attention away from the Palestinian cause by backing evil and aggression forces and their terrorist takfiri tools.

“Syria is now paying the price for the steadfast national stances it has been adopting under the weakness of the Arab regimes which are supporting terrorism in Syria and exporting terrorists to the entire world.” (From Syria Times, Tunisian Lawmakers: Syria Paying the Price for its Principled Stances)

 

See also: 

Tunisian MP: Hezbollah not alone in fighting terrorism

 

 

Who are Syria’s ISIS Hunters?

On 17 November news came out of Syria that the ISIS Hunters had captured 250 ISIS fighters in order to secure Kate Island, north of Deir ezZor.

Hawija prisoner

On November 17, the Russian-backed ISIS Hunters announced that they have fully secured Kate Island north of the city of Deir Ezzor and captured 250 fighters of ISIS. The captured ISIS fighters had been trapped inside the island since the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) liberated Deir Ezzor on November 3. (South Front)

The map shows that Kate Island is right against the city of Deir ezZor, so victory was essential to the well-being of its inhabitants.

Map

The ISIS Hunters posted on facebook:

ISIS surrendered to ISIS Hunters after several days siege of Hawijah Kate island:
Hunters captured more than 250 ISIS militia capitulated with lots of 7.62 and 12.7 ammunition and enough food reserves after the last way to retreat was cut off.

On November 14, Hunters joined a comb out operation of the island. ISIS was concentrated in the central and southern part of the island. At the beginning Hunters operation was complicated by heavy resistance and high-density fire. They used all range of weapons like ak-47 and machine guns hiding behind backs of local civilians. Nevertheless, Hunters kept moving with field artillery support. At night, our men spotted several boats heading towards the island and opened heavy fire. After several minutes of gunfire boats turned back and left their comrades on the island.
The next morning ISIS started to surrender in groups of 10-15 men. Overall amount of surrendered militia is 250 men.
Now Hawijah Kate island is secured.

Further description and pictures from Muraselon Syrian Reporters here.

Who are the ISIS Hunters  (صائدوا داعش)?

  “Elite SF unit. They lost their families and homes. They have nothing but their Motherland… and boiling hatred for the enemies. It is time for revenge.” (twitter bio.)

The ISIS Hunters are a special force of the Syrian Arab Army,  formed, funded and trained by the Russian military to fight ISIS in the Syrian desert.  Al Masdar reported in February:

The ISIS Hunters will be tasked with protecting the liberated gas and oil fields in western Palmyra, along with the weapons storage facilities near the T-4 Military Airport.

In fact the activities of the ISIS Hunters quickly expanded well beyond this initial brief, including the liberation of Palmyra and then crossing the Euphrates to clear ISIS from the eastern Bank.  The operation to take Palmyra must have already been in the planning stage, given that the Hunters moved towards the town soon after formation, with Palmyra falling on 2 March.

The ISIS Hunter motto is “it’s time to avenge our country, Syria”.

Their formation was officially announced in February 2017, with a video released on the 27th:

The operation to retake Palmyra was soon underway (video).

taking Palmyra

Palmyra town was taken on 2 March, with the support of Russian air power and also  Hezbollah, according to the Washington Post – the Post was disappointed that the Syrian statement on Palmyra “did not mention the role of the United States, which has also stepped up strikes in the Palmyra area in recent weeks”.

Soon after, the Hunters released another mission statement, and an appeal for recruits, filmed in the theatre of Palmyra.

Palmyra.PNG

After the liberation of Palmyra, the ISIS Hunters were occupied with guarding the town against the return of ISIS, clearing the environs, including retaking the Palmyra gas fields, and keeping roads such as the Homs-Palmyra highway open.

On 4 April came reports of a sarin attack by Syrian forces in Khan Sheikhoun, Idlib.  Despite the obvious discrepancies in the reporting (the only witnesses were members of terrorist gangs, who photographed and videos themselves standing in round in sarin contaminated ground in sandalled feet), Donald Trump was persuaded to send a message to the Syrian government a couple of days later, by unleashing 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at Al Shayrat airfield in western Syria, where the chemical weapons attack was claimed to have originated.

The Hunters’ reply to Trump was scornful:

Clearing ISIS from the gas fields continued:

A new video appeared on May 14, introducing ISIS Hunter commander Ameer Ahmad Ahmad.

Ameer.PNG

Ahmads message to the US:

“To the United States and precisely Trump, you have saved many of those mercenaries in prisons and sent those same criminals to be buried on our lands. Our arms are waiting for them on this holy land. We will hunt them as long as they are on this land; we will hunt them wherever they are. They will never be able to hide from us.”

Securing the Homs-Palmyra road, July 3:

In July, ISIS Hunter Abu Yusha reports that “American intelligence have blocked us” – their Official Isis Hunters facebook page had been closed down (the page is up again).

Professional development has not been forgotten, with a two-week tactical drill course for assault units .

In August the Hunters uploaded a video on their activities in the east Hama region:

The Hunters now prepared to take Huwaysis.  According to their report,

“Before the assault on Huwaysis ISIS Hunters took under control several strategic IS strongholds located to the southeast from the city. The most important and the most arduous was a fortified stronghold in the area of height 863. Right before the battle commander of terrorist fled from the position on the motorcycle leaving his fighters on their own. Despite the heavy resistance of the remaining, Hunters managed to take the stronghold without any losses. When the Hunters eliminated all the IS terrorists and took their position, they found perfectly fortified bunker craved into the mountain. “

Next step was to take Uqayribat, on the Palmyra-Hama road.

The Hunters took and held al Mushrifeh, close to Homs, which was not without its challenges.

And on 1 September Uqayribat is liberated by the ISIS Hunters:

ISIS Hunters then moved into the province of Deir ezZor, taking ash Sholah, about 30 km from Deir ezZor city on the Palmyra road.

Crossing to the left (east) side of the river was cause for celebration, with Marrat, Sbahah and Mazlum taken in short order:

Syrian and allied forces lifted the siege on the airport at Deir ezZor on 10 September (video).  The ISIS Hunters were occupied with clearing the east bank of the Euphrates below the city.   Kusham is about 15 kilometres south-east of Deir ezZor city:

The Hunters continued to clear the east bank towards al Busayr, another 20k south from Kusham.

Then on 17 November the Hunters took Kate Island:

soldierprisoner.jpg

And offered to exchange their prisoners for Russians captured by ISIS:

As at 22 November the ISIS Hunters were continuing to clear ISIS from the Euphrates area.

Good

Alaa – Noor : Not Just One But Two Little Syrian Girls, Now Tweeting from East Ghouta

 

On 3 November two young girls, Nour (10) and Alaa (8), began to tweet (@shmsalkhtyb), as we are told, from East Ghouta, calling for an end to the siege by Syrian and allied troops. If this story has a familiar ring to it, there are good reasons.

For over a year the Western media have been doggedly pushing the Bana Alabed brand – the story of a little girl who tweeted from Aleppo about “Assad/Russia bombing”, calling for the world to save her by imposing a no-fly zone on Syria and then bombing it to bits. The media has been impervious to the fact that the fakery of the Bana count was well exposed, and if anything strengthened the resolve of Russia and Syria to ignore such shameless propaganda. They have also shown a callous disregard for the effects on the child fronting his campaign (see The Crucifixion of Bana Alabed).

Western propagandists have been so blinded by the media support for the Bana Project   that they continue in attempts to replicate its success, firstly with Nour the Karate Kid in Idlib, and now with a focus on on East Ghouta.

The situation is almost identical to that of Aleppo at the end of 2016. Like eastern Aleppo East Ghouta has been a terrorist enclave for years, occupied by al Nusra (al Qaeda in Syria) and Jaish al Islam, notorious for various atrocities such as parading caged women through the streets on trucks, and firing mortars at residential areas of Damascus, the historic old city being a favourite target.  Jaish al Islam, under its former name of Liwa al Islam, is the most likely culprit of the 2013 sarin gas attack in East Ghouta, see the conclusions of the collaborative research project on the attack, WhoGhouta.

With the total defeat of ISIS in eastern Syria imminent, the terrorist enclave in east Ghouta may soon be facing the full attention of Syria and its allies. As with Aleppo, the defeat of Jaish al Islam will mean liberation from occupation for the people of East Ghouta, and also liberation from mortar attack for the rest of Damascus.

The West sees the siege of East Ghouta as both a threat – another crushing defeat of its assets in Syria – and an opportunity, one more chance to press for open war on Syria.
This latest example of child exploitation can be seen as another desperate attempt to facilitate a Libya-style zone in Syria.

This project, most probably the brain child of the Foreign Office, like Bana, however, feels more like the actions of a government department nearing the end of the financial year, desperately trying to use up their budget, whether or not efficaciously, before the money disappears and also so they can get more money in the next round.

The formula is now stale: two little girls, in a town besieged by the Syrian Arab Army, drawing the attention of the world to their plight. Like Bana Alabed, they are helped by “mom” (Shams al Khateeb?); like Bana they want to tell the world about the war crimes of “Assad” specifically about the “bombbing”. Like Bana they look healthy and well-dressed, an advertisement for what civil war can do for a child.

Which is not to say that things are really so rosy for most of those still in East Ghouta.

The account looks to follow the same pattern as the Bana Project, with videos and nicely posed photos uploaded immediately, even a drawing released on the very first day by a follower.

8 46 am 5 11 nz time2

As with Bana’s videos, the one used for the fixed tweet is unconvincing: Alaa fizzles out quickly, while Noor appears to be reading from an autocue, in the same expressionless sing-song voice that was a Bana signature. Once again, the high level of the wording – “we will try to share our daily lives with you” – is at odds with the speakers’ manifest lack of linguistic competence.   Again there is the repeated use of slogans – we want to go to school, we want to play.  As with Bana there is an appeal for the world to help.

The handlers may have learned from some of the mistakes of the Bana account. The well-publicised details of the Alabed family enabled her father’s links with terrorism to be revealed, but so far the Alaa-Noor account gives no mention of surnames or parents names, or of other siblings. There is no indication of the identity of Shams al Khateeb, owner of the account (Twitter was criticised for verifying an account in the name of seven-year old Bana).

Whereas the Bana account hit the ground running with a flood of tweets, photographs and videos (someone was clearly doing Bana 9 to 5), there have only been 13 tweets so far over the last five days. At time of writing (Thursday 9 November) followers number 433, so no followers have been purchased in their thousands, and no politicians or media personalities (or anyone else for that matter) are followed by the account.

Bana’s progress has been dogged by criticism that she never had time to go to school, even after she moved to Turkey. It would seem that the Alaa-Noor handlers decided to silence critics, and accusations of child abuse, by having a school shot on the second day. However the effect is spoiled somewhat by the lack of any other children in the yard.

London, it seems, cannot get past the “only children left alive” feel of the Bana account.

Banalast

Two friends of Alaa-Noor were introduced from day three, with pictures and videos of them at school. Again, the effect is artificial, because there are no other children visible; even in in the classroom there was no attempt to fill other tables.

Even though there is some change in clothing, it looks like the photographer visited Alaa-Noor only the once –  the photo for their ‘first 280 character tweet’ is almost identical to that for their first school picture.

There is no evidence as yet of a familial link with terrorism, as there was with Bana Alabed. However Alaa-Noor’s following is consistent with the other FCO enterprises, characterised by overt support for terrorists in Syria. @IranArabSpring, which follows all the Foreign Office Syria projects, including Bana and the White Helmets (as well as preparing for the next regime operation in Iran), was the very first of Alaa-Noor’s followers, and has been assiduously retweeting the account.

Another is Shajul Islam (@ShajulIslam), a doctor who was struck off the medical register in Britain but who apparently practices medicine in terrorist areas.  Along with members of the terrorist propaganda construct the White Helmets, funded by the FCO and staffed by the vicious al Zinki gang, Rahul Islam was heavily relied on as a witness to the alleged sarin attack in Khan Sheikhoun in April 2017.  The use of such sources left Russia no choice but to slam the UN findings on Khan Sheikhoun.

Another follower also resident in Britain is Oz Katerji  (@OzKaterji), well known as a terrorist supporter and proponent of a no-fly zone in Syria, reporting for NBC News, BBC World Service, Al-Jazeera and others.

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has been open about Foreign Office support for the White Helmets (though not about its role in creating them), but more reticent about underwriting the Bana project. However the Alaa-Noor twitter account was followed within hours by his chief speechwriter, David Blair (@davidblairdt ‏), former Telegraph correspondent in Africa & Middle East. Blair also follows the accounts attributed to Bana Alabed and her mother Fatemah.

Given the lack of activity in the @shmsalkhtyb account, it likely that this pilot may not actually see a full series.  A number of salient factors:

  • The transparent agenda of the account and the account’s followers,
  • the choice of well-fed, well-dressed children who are clearly loving the attention,
  • the West’s complete failure to ever put the viewpoint of children who are besieged by terrorists, and once again
  • the use of professional but obviously staged photography,

make it impossible to see the account as any thing but another example of cheap propaganda and child exploitation. If anything this effort further exposes those behind the Bana Alabed and other such projects.

Furthermore Aleppo is being rebuilt and is obviously a far happier place than it was a year ago.  The Syrian government is already planning the renewal of the parts of East Ghouta that have been retaken.  Any suggestion now that the continued presence of Jaish al Islam and al Nusra in Damascus is for the good of Syrians will convince nobody.

 

See also Sputnik’s moving testimonies from Aleppo children

‘When I Grow Up I’ll Arrest All Terrorists’: Aleppo Children Tell Their Stories

 

JK Rowling and the Bana Fraud

The Political Views of JK Rowling

JK Rowling is the author of the well-known Harry Potter books. Further generalisations may be unwise: Rowling has been accused, rightly or wrongly, of suing people without access to the same level of representation that she can enjoy, see for example Rev. Stuart Campbell, JK Rowling is a Litigious Bully.  However it is probably safe to say that Rowling has been vocal about various political positions she has taken. For example:

As can be expected these views  pleased some of Rowling’s readers, while disappointing others – they can all be seen however, as consistent with a Guardian-reading Blairite member of the Labour Party.

The Bana Alabed Fraud

JK Rowling’s endorsement of the Bana Project, while also in line with Guardian policy,  is a rather different matter.  In the case of Bana, Rowling underwriting a fraud, perhaps the most blatantly fake of a number of propaganda projects designed to engender support for the UK-supported war on Syria.  She is also an accomplice, if unwitting, to child exploitation and abuse (see The Crucifixion of Bana Alabed).

At the height of the campaign to take Aleppo back from al Nusra, “seven year old Bana”, more probably a native English speaker based in London, was ostensibly tweeting to urge the world to impose a Libya-style no fly zone.

Bana wwiii.png

The fakery of the account was apparent from the outset, with tweets that could only be constructed by an adult native speaker, contrasting both with Bana’s total ineptitude when she spoke,  and with themes which ranged from blatant warmongering to Manchester United to the tooth fairy.  This has been well documented, in the linked articles and elsewhere.

In November 2016, a couple of months after Bana’s first tweet on 24 September, Bana’s mother, Fatemah,  tweeted to Rowling:

The wording of the request and Rowling’s response suggest that JK Rowling is already familiar with Bana, possibly already follows her.  She certainly follows both the Bana and Fatemah accounts now.

Follows4Bana

Follows3Fatemah

Videos and interviews available at the time showed that Bana’s knowledge of English was practically non-existent. Rowling, however, obligingly provided copies of Harry Potter books, in English. Apparently Bana then read these books, in English, to her pre-school brothers.

Many people are extremely ignorant of the facts of the Syrian war, the huge part their governments are playing in supporting barbaric extremists, and the huge propaganda budget paying for fake humanitarian outfits like the White Helmets and hoaxes such as the Gay Girl of Damascus and Bana’s tweeting.  One might reasonably assume Rowling fits into that category of well-meaning ignorance, and has been moreover been badly advised (for whatever reason).  However, Rowling presumably watched this video, before retweeting it …

Once again the fakery of the account is apparent from the discrepancy between Bana’s highly idiomatic “we are on the run” and her otherwise lack of competence.

Rowling’s engagement with Bana has continued. However her role has gone beyond sending a few books and encouraging tweets to Bana. A book deal was arranged, and lo and behold, Bana shares the same agent as JK Rowling, Neil Blair (Rowling left the agent who launched her, Christopher Little, to join the new company started by Blair who until then was Little’s business partner )

At this point Rowling could still be seen as ignorant, well-intentioned but badly advised by her staff. However a recent tweet suggests a close affinity with the official British stance on the Syrian war.

“Assad apologist” is an ad hominem term that is only used by supporters of the war on Syria, intended to demean those who oppose the war. For Rowling to use this term suggests the she has been reading and approving anti-Syria propaganda put out by the likes of, for example, Bellingcat, notorious for producing dodgy articles on the Syrian war and also the downing of MH17, all to the disfavour of the Syrian and Russian governments.

Furthermore, the strawman set up by Rowling, the lie that Bana critics query the existence of the child, rather than the function of the account and the callous exploitation of children in war, is one already used by Bellingcat.

The Bana Project is not the only anti-Syria propaganda pushed by Rowling.  Soon after offering Harry Potter books to Bana, she retweeted Michael Weiss’s claim that the  Syrian Arab Army threatening to wipe out every man women and child. The leaflet dropped was a standard one to encourage al Nusra soldiers to surrender, and certainly was not directed at civilians.

RTMichaelWeiss's lies

Weiss of course offers no source, but the SAAF have dropped a number of leaflets, such as one quoted by Al Araby, which reads “Read and decide!!! To anyone bearing arms against the state in Aleppo!! Aleppo city has been completely encircled. We have left you one safe exit, this is your last hope. If you fail to leave the city within two days you will be eliminated.”

Clearly the Syrian army was not devoid of a sense of humour:

SyAAF drop soap and razor

To suggest that the Syrian Arab Army was threatening to kill every man, woman and child is an extreme position, to say the least.

About that time Rowling was also following and promoting the White Helmets, a multi-million dollar ‘humanitarian’ enterprise funded by the Foreign Office and the State Department, who function as the propaganda arm of al Nusra – the “White Helmets” are essentially a set of props and uniforms donned by al Nusra terrrorists for media purposes or when their other uniforms are in the wash.

white helmets1rtnov29

Rowling’s use of the hashtag #standwithAleppo is also notable, though she may not realise that its principal use is by those asking for a Libya-style no-fly zone in Syria

JK Rowling, Neil Blair and Israel

Many people swallow the Nato narrative on “evil Assad” and at the same time support Israel, the likely beneficiary of the destruction of Syria, without seeing these two positions as being related.  However, when it comes to Rowling, there is a specific connection, which is not spurious, i.e. Rowling’s agent, Neil Blair.

Neil Blair is one of the driving forces behind Culture for Coexistence, who were responsible for the letter condemning Israel boycotts. As Sarah Irving has explained in her article, Harry Potter Fans “Heartbroken” as Author Urges Engagement with Israel, Blair has very close ties with Israel.

“Blair is also on the board of the UK branch of the Abraham Fund. That “coexistence” group is sponsored by Hapoalim, an Israeli bank that finances the construction of Jewish-only settlements in the occupied West Bank.

A look at Blair’s twitter account reveals that an inordinate number of those he follows relate to Israel, from Netanyahu to the IDF to numerous diplomats:

NeilBlairfollows2

Conceivably JK Rowling, like Bana Alabed, is being manipulated in the interests of Israel.

Parallels can also be drawn between JK Rowling and Donald Trump: both have a power to influence, whether it be events or opinions, well beyond their understanding.  How far their decisions are dictated by others is a matter or debate.

Nour the Six Year Old Syrian Karate Expert: Just Launched by the Syria Campaign

With Bana now in semi-retirement at the age of eight and reduced to signing her name to autobiographies, the Syria Campaign has put the pitcher back into the same well in order to produce Nour, the six-year old karate kid, again from Aleppo.

The Syria Campaign describes itself as a global advocacy group looking out for the interests of Syrian civilians, which 1) provides communication materials which can “shift the public narrative on Syria” and 2) runs “large-scale campaigns that elevate the voices of Syrians and deliver real impact on the ground”.  In fact the Syria campaign was created by the Soros PR company Purpose,  the “purpose” here being to run propaganda campaigns, for example on behalf of fraudulent entities such as the White Helmets. Now they seem to have launched a campaign of their very own.

The subject is Nour,  a six-year old apparently headed for stardom through her skill with karate.  According to her press release as published in Buzzfeed, Nour is being trained to be a karate champion by her father, who has apparently spent the last of his savings on buying her a suitable outfit.  In late 2016, at the height of the siege to take Aleppo, her family fled the city and moved to the neighboring countryside village of Kafr Karmiya/Kermiya (Buzzfeed Kafr Kermin), in Idlib province.

Nour is intended to be the new Bana Alabed, even younger and cuter, with the image of Bana at her desk now replaced by shots of Nour in action.  As with Bana and the White Helmets, Nour is the subject of a swept-up campaign.  Video and photography have high production values, like all materials emanating from terrorist held Syria, well provided with state of the art equipment.  The photographs provided to the media are more the portfolio of a top-class adult model than snapshots of a little girl.

Nour2

As with Bana, a small child is exploited for the purposes of the war narrative, with no concern for the short or long-term effects on the child.  Six year old Nour tells the camera, “I want to be the world champion, I want to be famous and after I get famous I want to get more famous”.  Has this child already been told she is headed for stardom, like Bana Alabed?

The Campaign

The press release  was provided by photographer Yehya Alrejjo.  On 3 August Alrejjo posted on Facebook 12 beautiful photos of Nour, crediting himself and Anadolu Agency, a Turkish news network that heavily promoted the Bana Project.

On 5 August  Yehya shared the Arabic version of the Nour video, originally posted the same day by the pro-insurgency SNN Shaam News Network.  SNN’s comments on the post make it clear that SNN was responsible for the video, without Alrejjo’s participation.  SNN confesses that filming took two tortuous days, though the little girl was a delight to be with (Nour is Arabic for “Light”).  Video Shaam brief

The Arabic video gives the child’s full name, Nour Setut, and refers to the “revolution” rather than the “civil war” preferred in the English version.

On 8 August Alrejjo shared a post from Mohammed Abdullah, which provided the text for the press release.  Mohammed Abdullah’s Facebook biography describes him as a “campaign assistant” with the Syria Campaign, having previously worked for Al Jazeera, Reuters, Apple and  George Soros’s Mercy Corps.  However the text did not originate with Abdullah, who was sharing in his turn a post on the main Facebook page of the New York-based Syria Campaign.

On 9 August several Turkish-language news outlets simultaneously broke the Nour story, including Anadolu Agency, Memleket, and Sputnik.  The English version seems to have appeared first when Buzzfeed published it on 16 August.  On the same day, MSN published the video; unlike the Buzzfeed version, this included a shot of the FSA flag.

Flag.PNG

BBC Arabic has also published the story, on 22 August.

The Terrorist Connection

A glance at the relevant Facebook pages shows that all the personnel and organisations associated with this production have an affiliation with the insurgency against the Syrian government.

Nour’s father is Wassim Setut.  He is not particularly active on Facebook but has shared several posts relating to the White Helmets, e.g. the well-known video about Omran posted by the Syrian Revolution Network, a network based in Idlib, on 18 August 2016, and in July this year a picture of a child with a White Helmet.  On 5 August he shared Alrejjo’s Nour album, reposting from the Syrian Revolution Network.

Location, location, location

According to Wassim’s Facebook biography, he is a former instructor at the Irtiqa Foundation in Gaziantep, Turkey.  At present he is employed as a sports instructor with the Bonyan Organisation, also in Gaziantep, and with the Alaksa Foundation, location unknown, though this spelling of al Aqsa could well be Turkish.

If we return to photographer Alrejjo, his facebook biography shows that he is presently employed as a ‘team member” by the Alwafa Youth Community Group, Gaziantep.  On 30 July 2017, Alrejjo posted a video about the way Turkish police treat “Syrians who are escaping from ISIS or the siege”, which is also consistent with a Turkish location.

SNN who made the video, claim to be based in Damascus.  The twitter account under its Turkish name, Şam Haber Ağı,  however, puts its location as Istanbul.  Given its Syrian focus, it is extremely likely that SNN has a base in Gaziantep.

There are also discrepancies in the news reports, which sometimes imply that Nour is still training in Aleppo, instead of Kafr Karmiya where she is supposed to have been living for at least eight or nine months.  It is tempting to put this down to sloppiness in reporting, however even the photographer seems unsure where Nour is supposed to be, as this tweet strongly implies that his photographs were taken in Aleppo.

Oops

There can be little doubt that Nour Setut is living in Gaziantep, not Kafr Karmaya as is claimed.

Conclusion

The Bana story was a complete fabrication, aside from the basic facts about the girl Bana: the claim that a child who could not speak a word of English could write the same language with perfect idiom, tweeting about geopolitics, the tooth fairy and Manchester United, and reading Harry Potter in English to her pre-school brothers.

In the case of Nour Setut the story of a little girl from Aleppo learning karate from her father, appears to be authentic.  However, it is in the nature of the propaganda war on Syria, and the vast amounts of money made available to anyone with an idea, that the tale has to be perverted and embellished.  The child has to be moved from Gaziantep back to Syria, to Idlib province, presumably so there can be horror stories of “Russia/Assad” bombing the last karate champion in Idlib.  Furthermore the child has to undergo the full star treatment, with glossy pictures of her draped over rocks and rubble.  Miri Wood’s term “war porn” has never seemed so apt.

 

See also:

The Crucifixion of Bana Alabed

 Syria: More Mourning of Aleppo Reunification via “The Last”s  (Miri Wood on war porn and the “lasts”  of Aleppo)

Electronic Intifada, Soros and the Corporations

Electronic Intifada (EI) is ‘a major online media outlet active in promoting the Palestinian agenda with news articles and commentary’ (NGO Monitor).  It was founded in 2001 by Nigel Parry, Ali Abunimah, Arjan El Fassed and Laurie King-Irani.  Of the four, the only one actively involved with EI is Ali Abunimah, who is Executive Director.

‘The Electronic Intifada aims to enable a growing, worldwide network of human rights and media activists to challenge myth, spin, and distortion about Palestinians and Palestinian rights disseminated by Israel’s official spokespersons and allied pro-Israeli organizations in North America and Europe.’

Electronic Intifada, however, is viewed with some suspicion by many people following events in Palestine and the wider Middle East, who feel that EI puts Zionist interests above those of Palestine, including EI’s support for the war on Palestine’s longtime friend and ally Syria.  Why do so many of EI’s positions defend the interests of very entity it is supposed to be opposing?  The solution is simple: follow the money.

How EI is funded by George Soros

A good deal of the money going into Electronic Intifada is provided by George Soros, or by foundations closely associated with Soros.  Soros is the ‘philanthropist’ who funds NGOs for the purposes of facilitating both war and the mass movement of people (he is also a major funder of Facebook’s fakenews fact checker).

Soros sponsors EI via a chain of non-government organisations.  The short description of the relationship is as follows:

EI< MECCS<Network for Good/Tides<Open Society<George Soros

According to the EI website, ‘Readers donate most of the funds that support the work of The Electronic Intifada.  Private foundations have given additional support. The publication receives no funds from any government or political party.’

Funds to EI are channeled though the Middle East Cultural and Charitable Society (MECCS), whose president is Ali Abunimah, founder and executive director of EI.  MECCS’ mission, according to its tax returns, is to ‘educate the public in an effort to eliminate prejudice and discrimination’.  Given that MECCS seems to have been founded two or three years after EI, it could be said that EI gave birth to its parent company.

The most recent tax return available from Citizen Audit for MECCS is from 2014. It declares an income (p. 3) of 538,776, the bulk of which comes from grants and donations. These funds were allocated to two projects. 288,602 for the EI Project (Electronic Intifada) and $35,945 for the Palestine Film Festival.  Part I shows remuneration of $42,393 for one unnamed officer, while Part VIIA shows that three received payment: Ali Abunimah (president), $45,500; Donald Veach (treasurer), $2,500; Maureen Murphy (Managing Editor), $38,812.  In any case it seems MECCS ended the year in profit.

The earliest tax return available for MECCS is from 2005-7, also showing Ali Abunimah as president (p.5.).  There were more activities supported then, with a lesser percentage going to EI, which now receives the bulk of the funds.

Citizen Audit lists two funders for MECCS: Network for Good and Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA).

Network for Good is an online fundraising platform for charities and non-profit organizations, whose stated mission is ‘To unleash generosity and drive increased financial resources to charitable organisations  via digital platforms’.  Network for Good’s declared income in the 2014-15 financial year  was 253,977, 816.  The same return shows a grant to MECCS of $209,673.

EI has described Network for good as its ‘non-profit partner‘, while Network for Good has hailed MECCS as one of its fundraising success stories

Network for Good was founded in 2001 by America Online (AOL), Cisco Systems and Yahoo! (George Soros has shares in all three, see e.g. here and here .

In 2005 Network for Good absorbed Groundspring, another online charitable platform, founded by the Tides Foundation in 1999.  Tides is an Open Society foundation,  founded by Drummond Pikes in 1976. Pikes was CEO of all 6 branches of the Tides family until 2010.  Drummond Pikes has strong links, and a past treasurer, with George Soros’s  Democratic alliance, which has been described as Soros’s billionaires club for revolution  and a vast left-wing conspiracy.

Network for Good is also an Open Society Foundation, at least since the merger with Groundspring.  It works closely with the Tides Foundation –  Drummond Pike and other Tides personnel serve on the board, along with representatives of AOL.

The Tides Foundation itself gives regularly to MECCS: $25,000 in 2016, $30,000 in 2015, and $15,000 in 2014.

Both Network for Good and Tides have given to the Clinton Foundation.  https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/politics/clinton-foundation-donor-list/

Open Society Foundations is George Soros’s grantmaking network.

Soros used his fortune to create the Open Society Foundations—a network of foundations, partners, and projects in more than 100 countries (Open Society Foundations, Staff).

MECCS is also funded by the Middle East Childrens Alliance (MECA), which describes itself as a non-profit organisation working for the rights and well-being of children in the Middle East.  In its 2014 tax return, MECA declared an income of 3,336,819.  Among the projects described in 4b, p.2 (total cost $662,237) it included ‘a grant to Electronic Intifada for providing information and and analysis of current events in Palestine readily available to US audiences’.

MECA does not declare its funders, so there is a complete lack of transparency and accountability, at least according to NGO Monitor.

We do know that MECA  gets promotional support from Common Dreams, a news outlet funded by Soros.  Common Dreams and MECA promote each other on twitter e.g. here and here.

According to Citizen Audit, MECA is funded by the Tarbell Family Foundation, Schwab Charitable Trust, Rose Foundation for Communities and the Environment, Network for Good and the Firedoll Foundation.  Schwab, Rose, NFG and Firedoll are often joint funders with Network for Peace – in this list of donors to Jewish Voices for Peace, Schwab and Firedoll feature along with Rockefeller Brothers Foundation,  Network for Good and Tides.

Donors  to Open Society’s Tides include Schwab Charitable Trust, Rose Foundation, Network for Good and Firedoll Foundation, along with the Rockefeller Fund.  Open Society itself gave 23 million, but in 2006 California Endowment gave a whopping $194,563,305. California Endowment works closely with Open Society on such ventures as the Grassroots Institute for Fundraising Training (GIFT)_Conference 2012.

According to NGO Monitor, the Rockefeller Fund gave $160,000 to MECA in 2016.

NGO Monitor reports other donations to Electronic Intifada, e.g. from the Crossroads fund, and the Dutch government, a sizable €150,000 between 2006 and 2009, via the inter-church group ICCO.

What does Elecronic Intifada give its donors in return?

Electronic Intifada was ostensibly founded to serve the Palestinian cause.  Many of its positions and priorities, however, are in sympathy with those of Israel, Zionism and/or the corporations.

Syria


The war on Syria favours Israel’s interests as it weakens Palestine’s staunchest ally and offers opportunities for territorial expansion, e.g. in the Golan Heights.  Israel supports the war on Syria by offering services, including medical treatment, to terrorist groups, and by bombing Syrian positions.

EI has been essentially hostile to the Syrian government position, and so supportive of Israel’s.  The ‘Bashar eats babies’ line has been warmly endorsed:

Syria’s Bashar al Assad is compared with Israel’s former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert:

Asa Winstanly, as recently as December 2016, retweeted Vijay Prashad’s article on the ‘fall’ of Aleppo, seen as liberation by the people of Aleppo, but the ‘end of Syria’ by Syria’s enemies.

EI published several articles on Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp near Damascus,  all portraying the Syrian government or forces as villains, and which have excited a strong response from critics, for example On the Subject of Yarmouk Ali Abunimah Continues to Peddle Absolutely One-sided Pro-West Propaganda.

EI’s active promotion of the view that Palestinians support the Syrian ‘revolution’ was confronted by Jonathan Azaziah as recently as May 2016.  Azaziah refers to

‘the mainstream narrative that Electronic “Intifada”, Jewish supremacist Mondoweiss and their cohorts have attempted to ram down our throats about Syria from the start of this dark, barbaric conspiracy. That is, Palestinians are in lockstep with the NATO-Zionist “Syrian revolution”…’

EI has had nothing to say about the Syrian Palestinian brigade Liwa al Quds which is fighting alongside the Syrian Arab Army.

MP Jo Cox, who was murdered in 2010, was both a supporter of Palestinian rights and a hard-line anti-Syria activist, pushing strongly for a Libya style no-fly zone zone.

With this objective in mind it must start from the premise that we must address the twin horrors of ISIS and of Assad. Although the facts get little attention, it is Assad who is responsible for 75% of the civilians killed – not ISIS – and the vast majority of refugees are fleeing from him and his barrel bombs (Jo Cox, 2015).

Cox nominated the fake humanitarian propaganda construct, the White Helmets, for a Nobel Peace prize.   She and her husband had both worked for Oxfam, and Brendan Cox moved on to Save the Children, both these organisations being funded by George Soros. EI’s eulogy to Jo Cox makes no mention of her support for the White Helmets, and certainly not of her connections with George Soros.

Antisemitism

Jewish sensibilities are seen by Electronic Intifada as the first priority for Palestinians and their supporters.  Abunimah makes this clear in his statement that Palestinian Rights are Incompatible with Any Form Of Racism.  EI joins with Jewish Voices for Peace (JVP) , likewise Soros and Rockefeller-funded, in demonising and excluding anyone who steps over a certain line, i.e. who is not sufficiently sensitive to Jewish feelings: Alison Weir of If Americans Knew; Greta Berlin, co-founder of the Free Gaza movement, Jews such as Gilad Atzmon and holocaust sceptic Paul Eisen, and Palestinians such as Nahida Izaat.

It is a matter of debate which is most inappropriate: to dictate to Jews about antisemitism, or to preach to Palestinians about why they should consider the feelings of proponents of the racist entity, Israel.

A particularly vicious attack was made on Gilad Atzmon, who wrote about Jewish power in his book The Wandering Who?  In 13 March 2012 EI published an article, believed to be drafted by Ali Abunimah, a ‘disavowal‘ of Gilad Atzmon.

‘We reaffirm that there is no room in this historic and foundational analysis of our struggle for any attacks on our Jewish allies, Jews, or Judaism; nor denying the Holocaust; nor allying in any way shape or form with any conspiracy theories …’

Abunimah, speaking on behalf of the Palestinian struggle, sets out as a priority for that struggle avoidance of anything that might threaten the state of Israel, including ‘conspiracies’, presumably with reference to possible Mossad involvement in crimes abroad or the activities of the Rothschild family who created the state of Israel.

Roger Tucker expressed the feelings of many:

The recent open letter Granting No Quarter: A Call for the Disavowal of the Racism and Antisemitism of Gilad Atzmon, apparently written by Ali Abunimah, has come as a shock to many people, including yours truly. Not only have the Zionists colonized Palestine and subjected them to a permanent campaign of genocide, but as anyone who has been paying attention knows, they have colonized the Western democracies, turning them into obedient puppets. Now it appears that they have also colonized the Palestine Solidarity movement.

 

The biggest threat to Israel is that people should question the actions of its corporate funders, or the holocaust money spinner.   EI accordingly earmarks special vituperation for people who wrote about Jewish power, like Gilad Atzmon, or who cast doubt on the holocaust narrative, like Paul Eisen, a Jew but described as a vile antisemite by EI, attract particular vituperation from Electronic Intifada.

Whatever one’s views of the holocaust or holocaust research, it cannot be denied that it played an enormous role in creating acceptance for the creation of Israel after the war, and is still a factor in funding and political support for Israel.  It is, therefore, inappropriate for anyone claiming to be a supporter of Palestine to see protecting its status as a major priority.

Norman Finkelstein who wrote the Holocaust Industry, does not escape:

It goes without saying that criticising the activities of sponsor George Soros could only stem from racism in EI’s view:

Ali Abunimah is particularly sensitive to references to Soros funding:

Even Donald Trump does not escape.  Leaving side the requirement to support their funder’s anti-Trump campaign, there are plenty of valid reasons why these ‘pro-Palestinian’ activists should be pessimistic about a Trump presidency.  Bizarrely, for EI a major criticism of Trump, commonly held to be too much in the thrall of Israel and AIPAC, is that he is not doing enough to combat … antisemitism:

The best answer to EI and its corrupted priorities comes from Nahida Izzat in her powerful About Antisemitism, which serves as a personal statement on the whole issue of Palestine.

The language and priorities of Electronic Intifada are in most instances identical to that of the most extreme Zionist.  The editors have made it crystal clear that their first duty is to their corporate sponsors, and certainly not to the Palestinian people.

 

See also: Ali Abunimah and the Zionist Narrative,

Tim Hayward, British Academic and Commentator on Syria, Unreservedly Endorses Bellingcat [Updated]

[Update:  Was Tim Hayward’s unabashed paean to Eliot Higgins actually a brilliant manoeuvre, a “high-level dialectical move”?   I have update this article to take account of this argument, strongly endorsed in some quarters.  See Addendum below.]

For those following the Syrian conflict, Bellingcat has become a byword for fake science and fake investigation, all carried out for the purposes of propaganda against Syria and to facilitate an airstrike on that country. The shoddiness of Bellingcat’s work and its blatant bias is an ongoing source of ridicule on social media.  Bellingcat has produced widely debunked ‘investigations’ on matters relating to Syria such as the Ghouta sarin attack, the alleged Russian attack on an aid convoy,  Bana Alabed’s twitter account and the Khan Sheikoun chemical attack, along with the downing of MH17 over the Ukraine (see Bibliography below).  In all cases Bellingcat is firmly on the side of Nato interests from the outset.

Bellingcat was founded by Eliot Higgins, college dropout, gamer, blogger and self-taught forensic scientist.   He now works for the Atlantic Council.

Bellingcat always starts from the position of a lawyer defending Nato interests, aiming to refute and discredit rather than to investigate facts or claims.

It came as a shock to many when Tim Hayward, academic and regular contributor to  21st Century Wire, which is not known for compromising on issues to do with Syria, suddenly produced an article that endorsed Bellingcat and its founder Eliot Higgins, without reservation.

The huge gulf between Hayward and the vast majority of pro-Syrian activists or commentators is unmistakable.

Bellingcat has a difficult job, and I admire its founder and leading light, Eliot Higgins. For those who don’t know, the difficult job is to set the record straight when US-UK foreign policy is challenged on the truthfulness of its factual premises. The particular skill required is in maintaining a reputation for reliable and truthful analysis at the same time.

That Bellingcat sees its job as anything like setting the record straight, is a claim that both anti-war activists and scientists have been contesting for years (see bibliography).

And if Bellingcat has a reputation anywhere for reliable and truthful analysis, it has been artificially and dishonestly created by anti-Syria forces, and has no basis in fact.

I admire Eliot Higgins because he does his work with dedication and, for the most part, good humour and civility. Some of his associates will owe their positions to their research skills rather than talents of persuasive communication, but together they make a diligent and, for the most part, effective team.

Given that Bellingcat’s work, solely and absolutely, is disinformation, being effective is hardly a desirable attribute. And that being that case, the good humour and civility hardly figure.

“Some of his associates will owe their positions to their research skills” – no examples, no analysis given.  Hayward is strongly implying that the focus of the team is on genuine research even if, simple honest people that they are, communication skills are not a priority.

Higgins is sharp and resourceful. His deft ability to see certain key aspects of a problem and devise insightful and innovative ways of analysing it have brought him deserved renown.

Or to put it another way, Higgins determination to ignore all the known facts and options in order to fulfill his brief of making propaganda against perceived enemies of the West has brought him deserved ridicule.

As an academic myself, I have thus come to regard Eliot – I hope not too presumptuously – as a colleague.

That Tim Hayward should endorse the totally unqualified Eliot Higgins as an academic and a colleague says more about Hayward than it does about Higgins.

His scrupulousness was clear to see only last Sunday. I put it to him – in an amateurish way, via Twitter – that the UK Government could not quite rule out the possibility of opposition forces in Syria having access to the kinds of chemical found in the recent OPCW tests on samples said to come from Khan Sheikhoun this April. Higgins was very gracious in response to my simplistic question, and very patient, given how long he has been studying these matters in depth.

“Scrupulousness” and “Studying these matters in depth” is correct, but Hayward is putting a very charitable spin on the Bellingcat way of studying events to see how they can be used against the Syrian and Russian governments.

Peter Hitchens, the famously independent-minded and highly experienced journalist, published a piece in the Mail on Sunday […] arguing that while everyone now realises we were lied to about Iraq, it would be a very good idea also to check now, rather than 15 years after the event, whether we are being lied to about Syria.

Yes, and in the vanguard of those who are lying to us about Syria is Bellingcat, which Hayward does NOT acknowledge.  (As an aside, Tim Hayward must be aware of the evidence that Peter Hitchens plagiarised the painstaking work of John Delacour on Khan Sheikhoun, to enable himself to come in just a few days from a position of almost complete ignorance on the subject to that of ‘expert’ who had carried out exceptional investigative journalism, see bibliography.)

Certainly, we have learned – as millions of people have died in the showing – that if the lie is big enough, the circulation of it will acquire a great deal of momentum and can take a long time to stop. Better to try and stop it at the outset.

Hayward is still not admitting that Higgins is one of those responsible for the circulating of lies.

Between them, Robinson and Hitchens brought a professional edge to the engagement with Bellingcat in the Twitter colloquium, exemplifying the kind of constructive collaboration that is possible – and arguably much needed – between journalists and academics. The upshot was edifying. Higgins admitted it was just a judgement call whether the Syrian government was responsible for the Khan Sheikhoun incident. On the specific question whether opposition access to relevant chemicals could be ruled out, Higgins was clear on behalf of Bellingcat that the UK Government position is an ‘opinion’.

Higgins admission on twitter that the UK government position is an opinion, is presumably Hayward’s evidence of Bellingcat’s scrupulousness.

The government, of course, has opinions on many things that are not shared by all reasonable people. So we should not allow any rush to judgment about who was responsible for the incident on the basis of the UK statement relayed by Ambassador Adams.  […]

Well, no, but Hayward is careful not to suggest that Higgins might be guilty of that fault.

It is said that the first casualty of war is truth. This is a compelling reason for us to fight for truth to prevent war, as urgently and as long as we can. If I admire Eliot Higgins for his skills, determination and good grace, I reserve admiration of a wholly distinct order for people who go up against governments to press for acknowledgement of the truth, even when doing so calls for remarkable courage. In the course of Sunday’s Twitter colloquium, one of the voices called as a witness to Syrian opposition capacities was that of Serena Shim. […]

Again, the reference to Higgins’ personal attributes, and a complete ducking of the question whether skill and determination are so admirable if they are used for immoral purposes.  Like warmongering.

Hayward is not actually suggesting that Higgins does not press for the truth – he is merely leading, for reasons best known to himself, into a paragraph or two about Serena Shim, a journalist who certainly displayed both courage and integrity in her fight to reveal the truth about Syria.

Hayward manages to express admiration for Eliot Higgins three times in one short article, without providing at any point a meaningful justification.

At no point in this article does Hayward refer to or analyse the deficiencies in Bellingcat’s research.  Although Hayward has researched areas also covered by Bellingcat, such as the Bana Alabed twitter account, he makes no reference to the more obvious flaws: in their fact checking: the blatant falsehoods, the strawmen, and the failure to address essential points, never mind the question of the dubious science.

In sum, Hayward has given a wholehearted endorsement of Higgins and Bellingcat.  He has attributed to both characteristics which they are widely considered to possess in the negative, most bizarrely an aspiration to revealing the truth.  He has made no reference to Bellingcat’s fundamental objective of disseminating disinformation, the controversy attached to every single one of its reports, or to the derision with which Bellingcat is regarded by most people following the Syrian war.  He has made no reference to the fact that Bellingcat is funded to produce propaganda in order to facilitate open war on Syria.

Reactions to Hayward’s article have ranged from shock, disbelief and anger, to an amused assumption of satire, to spirited defence. The idea that the article was a satire had allure:

but Hayward’s response was hardly consistent with that of a misunderstood satirist.

Tim Hayward’s unashamed endorsement of Higgins and Bellingcat flies in the face of all the work that has been put into exposing Bellingcat over the years.  Failure to condemn it is inexcusable.

Postscript: after receiving numerous complaints, Tim Hayward first edited and then deleted the article.  The link is to an archived version.  [A reworked version has since been posted.]

 

Addendum: Is Hayward’s homage to Higgins actually a high-level dialectical move?

Tim Hayward’s paean to Eliot Higgins passed without remark from either friends or the uninterested until twitter warrior John Delacour picked it up.  The immediate reaction of the greater part of the pro-Syrian twitter community, at least those that had heard of Eliot Higgins, was to condemn Hayward’s article out of hand.  Although the condemnation, including my article, was directed at the article in question, it gave rise amongst Tim Hayward’s personal friends to a rather strange campaign of justification.  Those that criticised the article were vilified, while a series of contradictory justifications were proposed: it was ‘ironic’ or ‘sarcastic’; it was a mistake born of ignorance; it was actually a high-level dialectical move.  While some of these interpretations were made in good faith, there were others who appeared to back all three at once.  (Tim Hayward himself has described it as a ‘misunderstanding’, whatever that means.)

The strangest of these explanations was that Tim Hayward, by writing this article, had executed some kind of coup, a dialectic manoeuvre, a sophisticated literary tactic, to achieve an admission damaging to Higgins or the regime-change cause.  It was even mooted that Hayward might teach Higgins the error of his ways.In short, this was a dialectical move by Hayward. Not satire. Not parody. Not a joke. A high-level dialectical move. If it went over your head, raise your damn game” (John Schoneboom).

JohnSchoneboomDialectical

One might be forgiven for reading Shoneboom’s own interpretation as satire.  It received warm approval, however, from a number of people, including Hayward’s colleague Piers Robinson and Tim Hayward himself:

SchoneboomHayward

Tim Hayward’s description of events is as follows:

I put it to [Eliot Higgins] – in an amateurish way, via Twitter – that the UK Government could not quite rule out the possibility of opposition forces in Syria having access to the kinds of chemical found in the recent OPCW tests on samples said to come from Khan Sheikhoun this April […]

Between them, [Piers] Robinson and [Peter] Hitchens brought a professional edge to the engagement with Bellingcat in the Twitter colloquium, exemplifying the kind of constructive collaboration that is possible – and arguably much needed – between journalists and academics. The upshot was edifying. Higgins admitted it was just a judgement call whether the Syrian government was responsible for the Khan Sheikhoun incident. On the specific question whether opposition access to relevant chemicals could be ruled out, Higgins was clear on behalf of Bellingcat that the UK Government position is an ‘opinion’.

The crucial question that Hayward directed at Higgins was presumably this:

I have been criticised for not discussing this aspect of Hayward’s article in my own critique.  My view was that, firstly, as this supposed coup happened before Hayward wrote his piece, the article can hardly be given credit for it, and secondly, its importance was overstated, as it consisted of one retractable tweet.  I certainly did not foresee that it would effect a change in Higgins’s approach to Khan Sheikhoun or any modification in his overall purpose.  However, I checked the relevant twitter discussion, finding this ():

HigginsadmissionPR2

Thus the acclaimed ‘dialectical move by Hayward’, said to justify his endorsement of Higgins, was in fact a duologue between Piers Robinson and Eliot Higgins, which did not involve Hayward, who can hardly claim credit for exchanges that take place subsequent to his question on opposition use of sarin (though he seems to be doing just that).  Nor does a search of Tim Haywards twitter does not indicate that high-level dialectics were at play.

Why these two professors were engaging Eliot Higgins on the OPCW report is a mystery.   Robinson makes it very clear that he himself has not read the report with a critical eye, passing up a golden opportunity which many others, including John Delacour would have seized on with alacrity:

 

Higgin’s supposed damning admission, that the British government’s position on Khan Sheikhoun was based on opinion, was a single tweet, easily retracted or clarified.  It is patently ridiculous to suggest that the publication of Hayward’s article was likely to result in a change in the manifest purpose of Bellingcat, which is to facilitate war on Syria by demonising the Syrian government and forces.  Hayward’s endorsement could only aid Bellingcat.

To refer to this single tweet obtained before Hayward wrote his article, made by Higgins in an exchange that Hayward did not participate in, as a clever dialectical manoeuvre which somehow justifies Hayward’s endorsement of the work of Eliot Higgins and Bellingcat, is disingenuous at best.

 

 

Bibliography:

Graham Phillips looks at the Bellingcat/Higgins phenomenon, in Eliot Higgins of Bellingcat, Who is He? Everything You Need to Know…

Ghouta sarin attack 21 August 2013

Bellingcat, Eliot Higgins, Attempts to Blame the Syrian Opposition for the August 21st Sarin Attacks Continue One Year On

Bellingcat, Dan Kaszeta, Examining the Turkish Sarin “Recipe”

WhoGhouta, Review of Turkish MPs Allegations

Downing of MH17 17 July 2014

Eliot Higgins, Bellingcat, e.g.  New July 17th Satellite Imagery Confirms Russia Produced Fake MH17 Evidence

Speigel interview with Jens Kriese, ‘Bellingcat Report Doesn’t Prove Anything’: Expert Criticizes Allegations of Russian MH17 Manipulation

Sputnik, Leaked Report Blows Lid Off Bellingcat’s Systematic Lying in MH17 Investigation

Alleged Russian bombing of aid convoy 21 September 2016

Bellingcat, Nick Water, Analysis of Syrian Red Crescent Aid Convoy Attack

Bellingcat, Eliot Higgins, Confirmed : Russian Bomb Remains Recovered from Syrian Red Crescent Aid Convoy Attack

Bana Alabed twitter account (@alabedbana)

Nick Waters (Belllingcat), Finding Bana – Proving the Existence of a 7-Year-Old Girl in Eastern Aleppo

Revisiting Bellingcat’s Fact-check on the Bana Project

Khan Sheikhoun chemical attack 4 April 2017

Bellingcat, The Khan Sheikhoun Chemical Attack, The Evidence So Far

Bellingcat, Eliot Higgins, Summary of Claims Surrounding the Khan Sheikhoun Chemical Attack.

Bellingcat’s later report on Khan Sheikhoun cited focuses on Hersh’s article, when others have carried out more detailed and more authoritative investigations.

Theodore Postol, Assessment of White House Intelligence Report About Nerve Agent Attack in Khan Shaykhun, Syria

Brandon Turbeville, MIT Chemical Weapons Expert Debunks Official Narrative Of Attacks At Khan Sheikhoun, Syria

John Delacour, twitter thread, so far more than 30 tweets:

 

 

Revisiting Bellingcat’s Fact-check on the Bana Project

In December 2016 Bellingcat responded to doubts about the authenticity of the Bana Alabed twitter account, by producing its own ‘fact-check’, Finding Bana – Proving the Existence of a 7-Year-Old Girl in Eastern Aleppo, carried out by Nick Waters and Timmi Allen, .  There have been other responses to the Bellingcat investigations, notably by qoppa.  The purpose here is to offer a summary of the principle flaws in Bellingcat’s analysis, as many of those same flaws are apparent in the Bellingcat approach to other issues such as the fake sarin attack in Khan Sheikhon.

There is overwhelming evidence that the Bana twitter account @alabedbana is fraudulent, constructed by external forces for the purposes of propaganda against the Syrian government.

The principle reasons for questioning the authenticity of the Bana account, right from the beginning, were:

Language and ideas

  • The native-speaker quality of the English tweets, which displayed a mastery of English idiom rare in any seven year old girl, let alone one brought up in a non-English speaking country, in wartime;
  • The alien or unchildlike ideas contained in the tweets, such as Syrian Bana’s implausible support for Manchester United, her confident reference to the tooth fairy or, on the other hand, her blatant warmongering (see featured image)
  • In contrast to the language skills apparent in the tweets, videos revealed that Bana could only speak English by rote-learning, auto-cue, or prompts from her mother – in other words she did not know a word of English when the account was started;
  • The eventual explanation that any fraud was being perpetrated by ‘Mom’, not from outside (so that was OK), was not convincing, as there was no evidence that Fatemah’s English was of native-speaker level either, or had an extensive knowledge of English culture.  In any case the account continued to insist that Bana was reading Harry Potter in English. Thus both Bana’s role and her mother’s have continued to be questioned.

The account

  • The account was professional, contrived, managed, from the beginning, from the first tweet to the bio pic, evocative of Anne Frank.
  • Large numbers of followers were bought from the outset, and many of those who respond are clearly fake accounts.
  • Almost without exception Bana followed Western journalists, and social media activists with a history of vilifying the Syrian government.

The accidents

The account managers were responsible for two major incidents which caused the account to be closed down to regroup in each case.

  • The first was when Fatemah declared Bana to be dead, only to retract soon after – it was apparently another girl.
  • The second time was when Bana referred to her little sister, when it was known that Bana had two brothers and no sister.

On 3 November Dr Nabil Antaki reported that he once again had access to the web after a week’s interruption – over this period Bana continued to tweet.  Bellingcat claims that a family home in eastern Aleppo would still have web access, e.g. via Turkey.  However neither the question of internet access nor indeed the physical location of Bana are essential issues when it comes to judging the account fraudulent.

Bellingcat starts from the position of a lawyer for the defense, aiming to refute and discredit rather than to investigate facts or claims.

  • The authors make no attempt to consider seriously the language question (bizarrely, I am quoted on this, but no refutation is offered), or to look at the nature of Bana’s followers, or the people followed.  They ignore the more embarrassing “accidents”, such as the misunderstanding among the account controllers which lead to Bana being killed off prematurely, and then promptly resurrected.
  • Bellingcat’s criticisms rely heavily on a number of straw men.  The authors argue that criticism of the account relies on the following:
    • Bana sceptics claim that Bana doesn’t exist (false);
    • Bana sceptics claim that Bana herself is a terrorist (false); that
    • Bana sceptics claim that Bana does not live in Aleppo (false: Bana’s whereabouts has been a matter of conjecture amongst Bana critics themselves, and is by no means an essential part of the argument for dismissing her account as fraudulent).
  • Bellingcat claims that critics refuse to acknowledge and examine the role of Fatemah Alabed – this is false.
  •  Bellingcat, moreover, vilifies the account’s critics, who on the one hand have put time into examining the discrepancies in the account, and on the other have expressed concern about the exploitation of this little girl, who is being subjected to a Hollywood-style star treatment and is forced to take part in a charade.  (Bellingcat’s authors, for their part, are completely unconcerned by the potential damage to this child’s psyche.)
  • Bellingcat’s ‘investigative journalists’ take at face value Ghassan Alabed’s claim to be engaged in fighting ISIS, and discount any terrorist connections on the part of the Alabed family.  Evidence was soon found (but not by Bellingcat) that Ghassan was a member of the terrorist al Safwa brigades, and more recently that he was actually working for an ISIS ‘Sharia Committee’.

 Bellingcat’s conclusions

  • Bana Alabed is a real 7 year-old child who resides in East Aleppo.
  • Her Twitter and Periscope accounts have consistently posted videos from the same locations in East Aleppo.
  • Her accounts are run by her mother, Fatimah.
  • Fatimah has experience of journalism and appears to be very social-media savvy.
  • Bana and her mother have come under sustained attack from critics using lies, misinformation and deliberate misunderstanding in order to delegitimise them.

Bellingcat provide no evidence that Fatimah is social-media savvy, to the level indicated by the account.  Nothing else in this list relates to the actual criticisms of the Bana account.  There is no acknowledgement of the real motivations of critics, i.e. to reveal the truth about the account, or their very real concern for the welfare of a small child. 

In sum, Bellingcat made no attempt to address the real and legitimate questions around the Bana account.  Nor have they shown the slightest concern for the probable adverse effects on a little girl, to be given this star treatment and to be forced to be a player in a hoax of this nature.

 

See also:

Eva Bartlett, Exploitation of Children in Propaganda War against Syria Continues

Bana Alabed: The Story so Far

The Crucifixion of Bana Alabed

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