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Posts by Rania Khalek

U.S. and EU sanctions are punishing ordinary Syrians and crippling aid work, U.N. report reveals

Internal United Nations assessments obtained by The Intercept reveal that U.S. and European sanctions are punishing ordinary Syrians and crippling aid work during the largest humanitarian emergency since World War II.

The sanctions and war have destabilized every sector of Syria’s economy, transforming a once self-sufficient country into an aid-dependent nation. But aid is hard to come by, with sanctions blocking access to blood safety equipment, medicines, medical devices, food, fuel, water pumps, spare parts for power plants, and more.

In a 40-page internal assessment commissioned to analyze the humanitarian impact of the sanctions, the U.N. describes the U.S. and EU measures as “some of the most complicated and far-reaching sanctions regimes ever imposed.” Detailing a complex system of “unpredictable and time-consuming” financial restrictions and licensing requirements, the report finds that U.S. sanctions are exceptionally harsh “regarding provision of humanitarian aid.”

Read more from my report at The Intercept

Unauthorized Disclosure: Episode 25—Syria, Chelsea Manning, And More

For this week’s “Unauthorized Disclosure” podcast, hosts Rania Khalek and Kevin Gosztola discuss the ongoing bloodshed and war in Syria, which is not limited to Aleppo.

Khalek and Gosztola also talk about the latest unsettling development with Chelsea Manning, who the U.S. Army punished with two weeks in solitary confinement.

Later in the episode, Kevin reads a piece of election-themed satire he wrote, which quite a few people mistakenly thought was a serious column. (No guest this week.)

The 25th episode of the third season is available on iTunes. To listen to the episode (and also to download the episode), go here. A page will load with the audio file of the interview that will automatically play.

Florida mosque arsonist shared extreme pro-Israel propaganda

The man accused of setting fire to the Islamic Center of Fort Pierce in Florida a week ago is an ardent supporter of Israel who labeled all forms of Islam as “radical.”

Joseph Michael Schreiber, a 32-year-old messianic Jew, was arrested at his home in St. Lucie, Florida, on Wednesday and charged with arson and a hate crime. Police say he confessed after his arrest.

His attack is part of a spate of anti-Muslim hate crimes since the start of the current US election season.

The mosque he set ablaze has been regularly attended by the father of Orlando nightclub gunman Omar Mateen and the crime was committed on 11 September, which marked the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

The attack was also the night before the Islamic center was due to hold a community celebration for Eid al-Adha.

Extensive damage

An affidavit by the St. Lucie County Police Department describes Schreiber as “a habitual felony offender,” meaning that if convicted he could face up to life in prison due to Florida’s mandatory sentencing laws.

The affidavit also notes that Schreiber’s Facebook page was littered with “anti-Islamic postings,” “posts related to pro-Israel propaganda” and “negative propaganda related to Muslims.”

Police estimate damage to the Islamic center in excess of $100,000. As of Friday, the Islamic Center of Fort Pierce reportedit had received more than $30,000 in donations from well-wishers to help it repair the extensive damage.

A hate crime enhancement was added to the charges after police discovered the social media posts.

Media outlets were quick to publicize Schreiber’s anti-Muslim postings, but few mentioned his promotion of pro-Israel propaganda or his admiration for Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, two great champions of the anti-Muslim far right.

According to Schreiber’s Facebook page, he is also a fan of the Israeli Ministry of Defense, IDF Women, the Israeli American Council of Florida and the Messianic Jewish Alliance of America.

Islamophobia network

In a 12 July Facebook post, Schreiber wrote, “ALL ISLAM IS RADICAL , and should be considered TERRORIST AND CRIMANALS [sic].”

With such rhetoric, Schreiber was echoing the anti-Muslim messages emanating from organizations and high-profile individuals who have been spewing anti-Muslim hatred for years.

Many of them are key players in what the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank, calls the Islamophobia Network. Read more

Ceasefire Deal: US Reluctant To Force Syrian Rebel Groups To Cut Ties With Al Qaeda

A new ceasefire agreement in Syria was recently negotiated between the United States and Russia, but one significant issue with the deal is that it may lack any meaningful mechanism to force rebel groups supported by the U.S. to end coordination or cooperation with al Qaeda.

Gareth Porter, an independent investigative journalist, joins Rania Khalek and Kevin Gosztola on the “Unauthorized Disclosure” weekly podcast to talk about his piece, “Al Qaeda’s Ties to U.S.-Backed Rebels in Syria.” He highlights the positive aspects of a ceasefire deal for Syria while calling attention to a deeply problematic aspect of the ceasefire—the lack of incentives for the U.S. to make certain groups it supports cut their ties with al Qaeda.

In the latter part of the show, Khalek and Gosztola discuss the massive $3.8 billion U.S. aid package to Israel, the closing of Camp 5 at Guantanamo Bay, and Oliver Stone’s new film, “Snowden.”

The episode is available on iTunes. To listen to the episode (and also to download the episode), go here. A page will load with the audio file of the interview that will automatically play.

Below is an edited transcript of part of the interview with Gareth Porter.

Read more

Obama hands Israel the largest military aid deal in history

The Obama administration has signed a $38 billion military aid pact with Israel in what the State Department boasts is the “single largest pledge of bilateral military assistance in US history.”

The record agreement will provide Israel with $3.8 billion annually over 10 years beginning in 2019, up from $3.1 billion under the current deal.

At a time when the US government supposedly can’t afford to provide poor and working Americans with basic services like universal health care – something Israelis enjoy – it is striking that there is always money available to enable Israel’s ongoing destruction of Palestine.

Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, who has expressed opposition to universal health care and free college tuition, cheered the aid deal.

“Senator [Tim] Kaine and I applaud the agreement on a new memorandum of understanding regarding American security assistance to Israel,” said Clinton in a statement released by her campaign.

Clinton also used the deal as an opportunity to saber-rattle against Iran, show off her military hawkishness against ISIS and reiterate her commitment to combating growing activism against Israel’s criminal conduct, which Israel refers to as “delegitimization.”

“The agreement will help solidify and chart a course for the US-Israeli defense relationship in the 21st century as we face a range of common challenges, from Iran’s destabilizing activities to the threats from ISIS and radical jihadism, and efforts to delegitimize Israel on the world stage,” she said, reiterating her January promise to “take our relationship to the next level.”


President Barack Obama didn’t have to do this. It’s not as though he needs to appease the Israel lobby. He isn’t running for re-election.

And Americans, especially liberal and younger Democrats, are increasingly opposed to Israel’s violations of Palestinian rights.

In fact, with just a few months left in office, Obama was uniquely positioned to use massive US leverage to pressure Israel into halting its crimes against the Palestinians. At the very least, he could have refrained from upping the ante.

So why then is he showering Israel with more weapons?

“Obama’s aides want a new deal before his presidency ends, seeing it as an important part of his legacy. Republican critics accuse him of not being attentive enough to Israel’s security, which the White House strongly denies,” reported Reuters.

And what a legacy it will be.

Obama has doomed Palestinians to an extra decade of suffocating repression, ethnic cleansing and periodic slaughter at the hands of a government increasingly made up of racists, fascists and genocide enthusiasts whose demagoguery rivals that of Donald Trump.

The idea of funneling even more weapons to Israeli defense minister Avigdor Lieberman, who called for beheadingPalestinian citizens of Israel for disloyalty to the state, is alarming.

Lieberman is currently executing a campaign of collective punishment against the families and towns of Palestinians accused of committing crimes against Israelis.

Lieberman works alongside people like Ayelet Shaked, who was appointed justice minister after endorsing a genocidal call to slaughter Palestinian mothers in their beds to prevent them from birthing “little snakes.”

During his administration, Obama has responded to this rising fanaticism among Israeli senior leadership officials with more weapons and diplomatic cover.

With this latest aid deal Obama is guaranteeing the capacity of people like Lieberman and Shaked to carry out their eliminationist goals long after he leaves office.

But surely Palestinians will understand the importance of their sacrifice in advancing Obama’s appeasement of his right-wing critics. After all, Obama’s legacy is at stake.


The signing of the deal comes just days after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused those opposed to Jewish-only settlements in the occupied West Bank – built in flagrant violation of international law – of supporting the ethnic cleansing of Jews.

In a rare move, the US State Department rebuked Netanyahu, noting that Israel is the one forcibly displacing Palestinians in the occupied West Bank to make room for settlements.

Such concerns ring hollow in light of the new deal, which is unconditional as far as human rights violations are concerned.


Media outlets are describing certain stipulations in the aid deal, which took some 10 months to negotiate, as “major” “concessions” on Israel’s part.

Past deals have allowed Israel to spend 26.3 percent of US military aid on its own weapons industry. The new memorandum of understanding gradually reduces that amount, ultimately requiring Israel to purchase only from US weapons companies. In essence, it’s a gigantic giveaway to the US defense industry.

This particular Israeli “concession” won’t halt the destruction of Palestine, but it does represent a minor setback for Israel’s defense industry, which anticipates hundreds of millions of dollars in lost revenue as a result.

“We in the defense industry stand to lose $1.2 billion to $1.3 billion a year, including the $500 million Congress has allocated for special projects,” an Israeli defense industry source complained to the Tel Aviv newspaper Haaretz last month in reference to the measure.

The deal also includes an Israeli pledge to stop lobbying Congress for supplemental missile defense funding, which in recent years has accounted for as much as an additional $600 million for Israel in discretionary US funding each year.

But there are loopholes.

The pledge is “expected to be made in a side letter or annex to the agreement” and the “wording is likely to be flexible enough to allow exceptions in case of a war or other major crisis,” according to Reuters.

Whether it is US or Israeli weapons makers who benefit, Palestinians lose.

As Rebecca Vilkomerson, the executive director of Jewish Voice for Peace, put it, “increasing the military aid package is rewarding destructive Israeli behavior that violates longstanding official US policy and international law. As a result, the US is effectively underwriting Israel’s occupation and apartheid policies towards the Palestinians.”

Originally published at The Electronic Intifada

Who said it, Trump or Clinton? Democrats Can’t Decide

Did police inaction and pinkwashing help kill Khalid Jabara?

Originally published at The Electronic Intifada

An Arab American man was shot and killed in front of his home last week in Tulsa, Oklahoma, by a neighbor who terrorized the victim’s family for years, referring to them by such racist slurs as “dirty Arabs” and “dirty Lebanese” who “throw gay people off the roof.”

Khalid Jabara, a 37-year-old of Lebanese Christian descent, was shot to death on his front porch on Friday.

Stanley Vernon Majors, a 61-year-old with a history of violence, has been arrested and charged with first-degree murder and possession of a firearm after a felony conviction.

For the three years prior to the killing of Khalid, the Jabara family had endured threats, racial epithets, assaults and a vehicular attack that left Khalid’s mother Haifa with a broken shoulder and other injuries.

Majors spent eight months in jail awaiting an October trial on charges of assault with a deadly weapon and other charges related to the car ramming of Haifa Jabara. But in May he was released on bond, despite a prosecutor telling the court that Majors was “a substantial risk to the public.”

“This suspect had a history of bigotry against our family,” said Khalid’s sister Victoria Jabara Williams in a statement on behalf of the family that she posted on Facebook on Monday.

“He often called us ‘dirty Arabs,’ ‘filthy Lebanese,’ ‘Aye-rabs,’ and ‘Mooslems,’” the statement said. “He made xenophobic comments about many in our community – ‘filthy Mexican’ and the ‘n’ word were all part of his hateful approach to anyone from a different background.”

“My family lived in fear of this man and his hatred for years,” Williams Jabara wrote. “Yet in May, not even one year after he ran over our mother and despite our repeated protests, he was released from jail with no conditions on his bond — no ankle monitor, no drug/alcohol testing, nothing.”

In a motion filed in May, Tulsa County District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler urged the court against releasing Majors on bond, warning that he “has demonstrated a habitual disregard” for the law and the welfare of Oklahoma citizens and “has demonstrated a wanton disregard for the life of [Haifa Jabara].”

Majors was also convicted in 2009 in Los Angeles of threatening to “terrorize” and sentenced to 16 months in prison.

The Tulsa prosecutor asked the judge to deny bond or raise it to the maximum allowed for the charges: $300,000. Instead, District Judge William LaFortune increased Majors’ bond from $30,000 to just $60,000, allowing him to get out of jail.

Three months later Khalid Jabara was shot dead and Majors was charged with his murder.

Police negligence?

Police portrayed the slaying of Jabara as a tragedy that could not have been prevented, caused by an ongoing feud between neighbors.

According to the police, Jabara called to report someone knocking on his windows at 5:00 pm last Friday.

Police say they arrived to Jabara’s home at 6:30pm, determined there was nothing they could do and left at 6:40pm.

Jabara was killed eight minutes later.

Jabara’s family described the sequence of events much differently.

“Only 30 minutes prior to my brother’s shooting, Khalid called the police stating this man had a gun and that he was scared for what might happen,” Victoria Jabara Williams’ statement on behalf of the family said. “The police came and told him there was nothing to be done. Minutes later, the suspect murdered our brother with four shots.”

According to court documents, both Khalid and Haifa Jabara were granted protective orders against Majors that prohibited him from having any contact with them or possessing a firearm for five years.

Yet according to FOX23, police maintained that “Majors was not doing anything to warrant a search of his home.”

In response to the Jabara family’s accusations of police negligence, the Tulsa Police Department’s public information officer Jeanne MacKenzie told The Electronic Intifada that “officers responded to a suspicious activity call earlier in the evening called in by the victim” but upon arrival were “unable to locate any criminal activity.”

Asked why police didn’t question Majors, Mackenzie replied, “it is too early to comment on all aspects of this investigation. The homicide unit is still preparing their investigation to present to the district attorney’s office.”

History of hate and violence

Majors was arrested in March 2015 for allegedly violating the protective order against Haifa Jabara. According to the report by the arresting officer, Jabara told police that Majors’ had entered her driveway and yelled “Fuck you” and “I want to kill you.”

“While taking Majors into custody, he was asked to put down his beer multiple times by officers,” the report states. “Majors chugged his beer before he put it down.” He was also reportedly “uncooperative” the entire time.

Haifa filed the protective order against Majors in 2013 for stalking her, knocking on her windows late at night and launching into racist tirades against her and her family.

In early 2015, Khalid filed for a protective order as well.

Six months later, Majors allegedly tried to make good on his threat. On 12 September 2015, he allegedly rammed his car into Haifa Jabara while she was jogging, leaving her with a “broken shoulder, collapsed lung, broken ankle, broken nose, head trauma and fractured ribs amongst other injuries,” according to her family.

The district attorney charged Majors with “intentionally” hitting Jabara and “maliciously” fleeing the scene. “There were no skid marks to indicate an attempt by [Majors] to the stop the vehicle prior to striking the victim” on what was “a clear and sunny day,” the prosecutor’s filing states.

When police found Majors in a nearby parking lot, he was drunk and urinating. He reportedly told police, “I was out driving my car, drunk. I’m always drunk and you guys never stop me.”

The brazen behavior he has been able to get away with in such circumstances, including in this case after allegedly trying to kill someone, stands in sharp contrast to the endemic police shootings of Black Americans often for doing nothing at all.

Influenced by pinkwashing?

Majors called the police on the Jabara family incessantly. One officer recalled being “dispatched to their location three times in one day as a result of [Majors] issuing complaints about the [Jabara] household.”

It was behavior reminiscent of Craig Stephen Hicks, an anti-religion bigot who obsessively harassed his Muslim neighbors – Deah Barakat and Yusor Abu-Salha – about parking spaces.

Hicks is awaiting trial on first-degree murder charges for killing the couple, along with Yusor’s younger sister Razan Abu-Salha, in their home in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, last year.

Three hours before Majors rammed his car into Haifa Jabara, court documents show that Majors summoned the police to complain about a “vehicle parked in the street facing the wrong way.”

The officer who was dispatched that day testified that Majors characterized the Jabara family as “filthy Lebanese” who “throw gay people off the roof.”

After the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS, began releasing shocking propaganda videos in late 2014 showing the group throwing people it accused of being gay off a roof, the right-wing echo chamber that typically incites hate against gays went to work portraying the savage acts of ISIS as representative of the supposedly inherent intolerance in Islam and Middle Eastern culture.

This rhetorical strategy – known as pinkwashing – is also used to portray Western countries and Israel as inherently more tolerant and thus to justify or erase violence against allegedly uncivilized Muslims.

ISIS has continued to produce similar videos every few months depicting acts of violence against gay people, likely in order to advance the group’s twisted objective of eliminating the “grayzone” – the co-existence that Muslims enjoy in Western countries – and sparking an all-out civilizational war.

To achieve this goal, ISIS has entered a de facto tacit alliance with right-wing and pro-Israel propagandists who gleefully spread such anti-Muslim defamation.

Around the same time ISIS debuted its first anti-gay snuff film, Majors married a man named Stephen Anthony Schmauss.

This raises the troubling possiblity that the pinkwashing narrative adopted by the American right in recent years resonated with Majors on a personal level.

Broken system

On another occasion, Majors allegedly yelled “Fuck you Arabs, Fuck you bastards. I want to kill you all. I know where your daughter lives and will take care of her,” according to a motion filed by the district attorney in September 2015.

Abed Ayoub, the legal and policy director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, emphasized that being Lebanese Christians did not shield the Jabara family from the Islamophobia that factored into the hatred espoused by Majors.

“It’s not just Muslims or even Arabs” who are being targeted by anti-Muslim bigotry, Ayoub told The Electronic Intifada. “It’s anyone who is perceived as Arab or Muslim. We have Hispanics who call our office reporting harassment for being perceived as Arab or Muslim.”

“A lot of people are going to say all we have to do is defeat Donald Trump,” he added. “But if he loses it’s not going to change for immigrant communities. These hate crimes didn’t start because of Donald Trump. They were happening before Trump and they’re going to continue after he’s gone. It’s indicative of a broken system.”

Months before Trump kicked off his presidential run, the FBI warned in an internal report that right-wing extremists, inspired by anti-Muslim conspiracy theories and disinformation funded to the tune of tens of millions of dollars by wealthy pro-Israel zealots, were beginning to plot attacks against Muslims.

And while the hate has certainly intensified in the Trump era, he’s hardly the only demagogue around, particularly in a right-leaning state like Oklahoma.

In June, State Representative Pat Ownbey republished an article on his Facebook page that called for a “final solution” against “radical Islam,” echoing the phrase used to describe Hitler’s genocide of Europe’s Jews.

Two days after the slaying of Jabara, the imam of a Queens, New York, mosque and his assistant were gunned down in the street just after they left afternoon prayers.

Oscar Morel, 35, has been charged with the murder of Imam Alauddin Akonjee, 55, and his assistant, Thara Miah, 64. While police still say the motive is unclear, that attack only heightened fears that rising Islamophobia is increasingly turning lethal on America’s streets.

“I want to shed light and bring awareness to the negligence that occurred from the first moment the neighbor … this monster … called our family ‘Dirty Arabs,’ to the time he ran over my mother with his car, to the two protective order violations, and our constant vigilance to communicate and be proactive with the [district attorneys], to the fact that they let him out of jail after eight months,” Khalid Jabara’s sister Victoria wrote in a separate Facebook post.

“While one cannot explain irrationality and evil, one thing I can explain is that indifference and inaction were major factors leading to Khalid’s death,” his brother Rami wrote on Facebook.

“As an attorney, I have seen the system fail defendants, but it also seems to fail the victims just as much or perhaps more. I feel like my family lost, my community lost. My brother lost. We all lost. I feel like we did everything we possibly could do [to] advocate for and protect ourselves.”

People are using the hashtag #justice4Khalid to demand accountability.

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