hezbollah is still an effective deterrent against any major attack on iran, imo

Top scientist assassinated as Israel and US stage war provocations against Iran
Bill Van Auken, WSWS, Nov 2020

The brutal assassination Friday of top Iranian nuclear physicist Moshen Fakhrizadeh marks a major escalation of the US-Israeli campaign to provoke a war with Iran in the less than two months before the scheduled end of Donald Trump’s presidency. The Iranian scientist was ambushed by a team of assassins Friday morning in Absard, an eastern suburb of Tehran. His vehicle was attacked with automatic weapons fire, and then a pickup truck loaded with lumber covering explosives blew up next to the scientist’s car. Photographs of the scene posted online showed the damaged vehicle surrounded by shattered glass, bits of wood, car parts and a puddle of blood. Three to four of the terrorists were reported killed in the incident. Fakhrizadeh and his wounded bodyguards were rushed to a nearby hospital, but doctors were unable to revive him. Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif confirmed the killing, writing on Twitter:

While officials in Israel and the US refused to comment on the assassination, the response in both countries left little to the imagination as to the authorship of this extraordinary act of international lawlessness. Trump triumphantly retweeted a comment by an Israeli journalist that the murder represented “a major psychological and professional blow for Iran.” The JPost, reflecting the views of Netanyahu’s government, commented that the assassination was “a major signal that Israel and the US will not give up on preventing the country from obtaining such weaponry. The message is clear: Remember, no nuclear scientist is safe.” The NYT, meanwhile, reported:

One American official, along with two other intelligence officials, said that Israel was behind the attack on the scientist. It was unclear how much the US may have known about the operation in advance, but the two nations are the closest of allies and have long shared intelligence regarding Iran.

Fakhrizadeh, 63, was a professor of physics at the Imam Hussein University in Tehran and a former head of Iran’s Physics Research Center. An expert on nuclear technology, as well as missile production, he led a previous Iranian nuclear program known as Amad (Hope), which was terminated in 2003. Israel and the US alleged that the program was directed at determining the feasibility of building an Iranian nuclear weapon. Tehran has insisted that the program, like all of its nuclear operations, was for civilian purposes only. Iran’s Defense Minister Brig-Gen Amir Hatami reported that Fakhrizadeh had, in addition to his work on nuclear and military technology, been the leader of the team that developed one of the first Iranian kits for diagnosis of coronavirus. In 2018, in a presentation of alleged nuclear documents stolen from a Tehran warehouse, Netanyahu showed a slide bearing a photograph of Fakhrizadeh, while making the unsubstantiated allegation that the scientist was involved in a covert operation aimed at pursuing an Iranian nuclear weapon. In what amounted to a clear threat of assassination, Netanyahu declared that Fakhrizadeh’s was “a name to remember.”

Screenshot of video in which Netanyahu in 2018 signaled that Fakhrizadeh was a target

Tehran had rebuffed requests by the IAEA to interview Fakhrizadeh for fear that information would be passed on to Tel Aviv to assist in organizing his murder. In the period preceding the signing of the JCPoA, Tel Aviv organized a string of assassinations of prominent Iranian scientists, killing five and wounding several others. The killings were combined with acts of sabotage, including the use by both the US and Israel in 2010 of the “Stuxnet” computer worm to destroy about 1k of Iran’s 5k centrifuges operating at the country’s main nuclear center at Natanz. In July of this year, a major fire at Natanz caused extensive damage to the facility, in particular its workshops and laboratories dedicated to assembling and testing newly developed centrifuges for the enrichment of uranium. Israeli intelligence officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed that the fire had been caused by a bomb smuggled into the facility. These attacks have been joined with the “maximum pressure” campaign launched by the Trump White House after it unilaterally abrogated the JCPOA in 2018. This regime of ever-tightening economic sanctions, tantamount to a state of war, has ravaged Iran’s economy, while condemning millions of Iranians to hunger and disease, choking off vital medicines and medical supplies in the midst of the raging COVID-19 pandemic.

The assassination of Fakhrizadeh is the highest-profile attack on Iran since the Jan 3 US drone missile murder of Iranian general Qassem Suleimani, one of the country’s top officials, after he arrived at Baghdad’s international airport for an official state visit. It comes less than a week after Netanyahu and Pompeo made a semi-secret trip to the Saudi city of Neom for a meeting with MbS, whose principal topic was Iran. While MbS was reportedly less than enthusiastic about a military strike against Iran, no doubt fearing Saudi oil installations would be a likely target for retaliation, both the Netanyahu and Trump governments have been pushing relentlessly toward confrontation. There is no doubt that the latest assassination was discussed with and approved by Pompeo and the Trump administration. It is the latest and most serious in a series of provocations being carried out by both the US and Israeli governments with the objective of igniting a war. In addition to the latest assassination, Tel Aviv has carried out increasingly aggressive and openly declared airstrikes against Iranian and Iranian-connected targets in Syria, including three in the last week alone. The latest, on Friday, reportedly killed at least 19 people in Syria’s embattled eastern region of Deir Ezzor.

For its part, the Trump administration has vowed to introduce new sanctions aimed against Iran on at least a weekly basis over the next two months to tighten the economic stranglehold over the country. At the same time, the Pentagon has steadily built up offensive forces in the Persian Gulf, dispatching B-52s and a squadron of F-16s to the region, while maintaining the USS Nimitz Carrier Strike Group in the Gulf. According to both the NYT and Reuters, Trump met with his national security cabinet on Nov 12 to discuss a proposal to conduct airstrikes against Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility, a war crime that could claim the lives of thousands. While Trump’s top aides reportedly talked him out of launching such an attack, there are still mounting fears that military action is being prepared, with Pompeo and his aides insisting during the Sec State’s Mideast tour that the option remains “on the table.” Barak Ravid, in an article on Axios, cited unnamed Israeli officials as saying:

The IDF have in recent weeks been instructed to prepare for the possibility that the US will conduct a military strike against Iran before President Trump leaves office.

Such preparations no doubt include an escalation of Israel’s own plans to attack Iran. Why would the Trump administration launch a military attack on Iran, unleashing a potentially world catastrophic war in the Persian Gulf, in what are ostensibly its last few weeks in office? Bourgeois foreign policy analysts have suggested that the aim is to sabotage any attempt by an incoming Biden administration to rejoin the JCPOA and lift sanctions against Iran. While Biden’s statements along these lines are highly conditional, indicating that he would demand significant new concessions from Tehran, there are elements within the US ruling establishment that see war as the only means of achieving US hegemony over the Middle East and denying its strategic energy resources to American capitalism’s chief rival, China. Under conditions in which Trump still refuses to concede the election, a war and potential mass casualties for US troops deployed in the Middle East would serve another purpose, providing a pretext for declaring a state of emergency, imposing martial law and nullifying the transfer of power. The danger of war and dictatorship, which will continue whatever the final outcome of the 2020 election, can be answered only by means of the independent political mobilization of the working class in a struggle to break the control of society by the financial-corporate oligarchy and restructure economic life on a socialist basis.

Israel’s siege means death for Gaza’s COVID-19 patients
Jean Shaoul, WSWS, Nov 27 2020

The WHO has warned that Gaza’s health-care system is at the point of collapse due to Israel’s suffocating siege and the rise in COVID-19 cases. Abd’el-Nasir Soboh, the WHO’s emergency health co-ordinator in Gaza, said:

Within a week, we will become unable to care for critical cases. Severely ill patients will not be able to get beds in ICUs, and will likely die.

Gaza has confirmed around 15k cases, 65 deaths and 79 critical cases. All but four cases occurred since August after the strict lockdown restrictions set in place in March were lifted. One fifth of tests were coming back positive, many from people aged over 60. Dr Fathi Abuwarda, adviser to the minister of health, explained:

300 of Gaza’s European Hospital’s 360 beds were already occupied. Although there were a further 350 COVID-19 hospital beds, as well as respiratory triage centres at five more hospitals, these hospitals can’t accommodate all cases.

Abd’el-Rauf Elmanama, a member of Gaza’s pandemic task force, said that 79 of the 100 ventilators available for COVID cases were already taken up. Dr Basim Naim, head of international relations in the Hamas government, said:

The Gaza Strip lacks oxygen-generating machines, ventilators, protective gear and hygiene materials. 32% of basic drugs and 62% of drugs and materials for medical laboratories are not available.

There is also an acute lack of coronavirus testing kits, as well of reagents, the main ingredients of chemical-based tests to detect the coronavirus, making it difficult to track and contain the spread of the virus. Dr Abuwarda said:

The best solution is a full lockdown for 14 days, which will allow medical teams to control and combat the virus, with only shops that provide food supplies kept open.

However, Gaza’s government, led by the bourgeois Islamist party, Hamas, has thus far introduced only limited restrictions, banning movement in the worst-hit areas, closing shops at 5pm, instituting a 12 hour curfew from 8pm to 8am, and banning indoor visits of more than 15 people. Such measures are totally inadequate to contain the virus. Gaza, with its 2.1m population living in an area just 40 km long and 10 km wide, is one of the most densely populated places on the planet, making community spread all but inevitable. It has been subject to a criminal siege by Israel for more than 13 years, resulting in serious shortages of the most basic commodities required for human existence. Israel made no secret of its objective. Dov Weisglass, an adviser to Israel’s then-PM Olmert, said in 2006:

The idea is to put the Palestinians on a diet. They’ll get a lot thinner, but they won’t die of hunger.

Gaza has become an open prison, not unlike the Warsaw Ghetto. Subject to repeated military assaults by Israel, most notably in 2008, 2012 and 2014, that killed thousands of Palestinians, wrecked Gaza’s already weak infrastructure and made hundreds of thousands homeless, Gaza has rarely seen a day pass without Israel’s soldiers, warplanes, drones and gunships harassing, intimidating, and killing its citizens. The Palestinian Authority dominated by Fatah has collaborated with Israel, cutting the salaries of its employees in Gaza, forced 30k to take early retirement, reduced the number of medical permits to receive treatment abroad, and cut medicines and medical supplies. Fatah limited and then ended financial transfers to Gaza and called on Israel to cut back electricity supplies that has affected access to clean drinking water and all but stopped the operation of the sewerage system. In 2018, the Trump administration ended its $300m/yr contribution to UNRWA’s $1.1b.yr budget, which provides essential services to the Palestinian refugees and their descendants. Some 80% of Gaza’s population are dependent upon UNRWA. The Sisi military junta in Egypt has intensified the blockade, keeping the crossing at Rafah shut and using its control of the border to reinforce Israel’s diktats. In Jul 2017, a UN report concluded that the situation in Gaza was deteriorating “further and faster” than forecast in 2012 when the UN declared that it expected Gaza to become “unliveable” by 2020. The OCHA’s Robert Piper said:

Every indicator, from energy to water to health-care to employment to poverty to food insecurity, every indicator is declining. Gazans have been going through this slow-motion de-development now for a decade.

According to a Nov 25 report by the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the cumulative economic cost from 2007–2018 of the Israeli occupation on Gaza is estimated at $16.7b. It estimates that without the closure and military assaults Gaza’s poverty rate in 2017 would have been 15% compared to the current 56%. Israel has intensified its military attacks, hindered all efforts by activists, NGOs and the Palestinians to keep the enclave minimally habitable and tightened the closures following the onset of the pandemic. Even those who had permits to work in Israel were not allowed to leave. Last month, a group of nurses staged a protest in Gaza because an Israeli travel ban had led the Makassed Hospital in East Jerusalem, where they had worked for 20 years, to fire them. Despite the WHO’s warnings, Israel’s minister of science and technology Yizhar Shai (of Kahol Lavan) told Army Radio:

We are not giving Hamas any ‘coronavirus discounts.’ We will continue responding as appropriate.

While another Israeli official claimed that Israel had since the pandemic allowed 60 ventilators to be taken into Gaza as well as nine polymerase chain reaction (PCR) coronavirus testing devices, Palestinian officials say that despite Egyptian mediation, Israeli is still refusing to allow ventilators into Gaza. Israel is making this conditional upon the return of soldiers’ bodies held by Hamas since Israel’s 2014 war on Gaza. Public transport is paralysed. The construction sector is at a standstill and less than half of Gaza’s industrial workers have been able to return to their jobs. The UN’s Nikolai Mladenov said:

Eight months into the pandemic, Palestinian unemployment levels are alarmingly high–121,000 Palestinians lost their jobs in the wake of the first lockdown and employment figures declined by 17 per cent in Gaza.

The Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions in Gaza put the figure at 160k and said that workers were competing to work for up to 10 to 13 hours a day for wages that range from $4.50 to $10.50 a day, in the best conditions. Around 40% of Palestinian households lost more than half their income and food insecurity rates have soared, leaving people to search through rubbish to find food. According to a survey of more than 2k labourers carried out in September by Islamic Relief, wages had plummeted from $244 to $29 per month, with 92% saying they had not received any government assistance or non-governmental assistance. They were having to forego medicines to buy food. These conditions are an indictment not just of Israel, but the imperialist powers and the Arab bourgeoisie that have backed Israel’s siege and paved the way for a catastrophe.

Israel’s growing strategic threat to our freedom of speech
Asa Winstanley, Middle East Monitor (MEMO), Nov 27 2020

There is an old saying that you should not put the fox in charge of the hen-house. It makes perfect sense, and yet that’s exactly what Western governments are increasingly starting to do when it comes to their freedom of speech policies. All bluster about “cancel culture” aside, the leading threat in the world today to freedom of speech is the ever-increasing crackdown on the right to speak out in support of the Palestinians. Israel’s military dictatorship against the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, its apartheid regime against its own Palestinian citizens, and its adamant denial of the Palestinian refugees’ legitimate right to return to their land are all such transparent injustices that the Palestinian cause has always been popular across the world.

That means that Israel cannot win the argument on the popular level. Instead, it wants to suppress free speech of the kind that I have just employed here, and outlaw public exposure and discussion of its breaches of international law and human rights violations. This, of course, starts in the occupied West Bank. Under Israel’s regime there, Palestinians have no right to speak out against the military dictatorship that controls every facet of their lives. They can be thrown into prison on the say-so of an army officer, with no charges or any semblance of due process. Protests are routinely banned; journalism, poetry and literature speaking out against the occupation are slapped with the label “incitement” and stamped out; and unarmed Palestinian activists and campaigners are routinely thrown into prison. Khalida Jarrar is just one example; she’s a leading women’s rights activist and socialist Palestinian lawmaker. On Nov 1 last year, she was abducted by Israeli army thugs and thrown in jail. More than a year later, she continues to be detained without charge or trial. By way of contrast, Jewish citizens of Israel, including the settlers who dominate the West Bank in their illegal colonies, are granted the right to freedom of speech under Israeli law. This is clear evidence that not only is Israel a military dictatorship, but it is also an apartheid military dictatorship and a Jewish-supremacist state. In fact, that is the reality of Zionism.

Nevertheless, full control of the lives and speech of Palestinians is not enough to satisfy Israel’s thirst for domination. The Zionist state relies on support from European governments and especially from the US. The latter subsidises Israel’s armed forces to the tune of $3.8b/yr, with this figure looking set to rise in a new deal that the pro-Israel lobby is aiming for during Joe Biden’s presidency. Israel’s position as a small, European settler-colony surrounded by millions of indigenous people who it denigrates as hostile natives (a “villa in the jungle,” as Israel’s racist PM Ehud Barak once put it) makes such military and political subsidies essential if it wants its unjust regime to survive. This means that any threat to this political and military support for Israel in Western countries must be counteracted swiftly. It is for this precise reason that Israel has for years been waging what it calls a “war” against the BDS movement, the popular campaign to put pressure on Israel through boycotts, divestment and sanctions until it complies with the requirements of international law on Palestinian human rights. A major part of this “war” against Palestinians and their rights has been for Israel to pressure, convince and lobby Western governments into suppressing and outlawing Palestine solidarity campaigns such as BDS. That’s why Israel represents such a major threat to freedom of speech in Britain and the US. Last year, Israel’s then “Strategic Affairs” Minister Gilad Erdan took credit on behalf of the Israeli government for a wave of anti-BDS laws and measures in the US, saying:

Our efforts are producing results. 27 US states now have counter-BDS legislation. Let’s give a hand to all the governors and state legislators who supported this law. They deserve it.

Since then, that number has risen to 30 US states, with 202 anti-BDS bills having been introduced to date. Moreover, just this week, Canadian PM Justin Trudeau anointed leading pro-Israel lobbyist Irwin Cotler as Canada’s “special envoy” against anti-Semitism. Cotler’s true role, though, will not be to protect Jews against bigotry or hatred. Instead, it will be to implement and enforce the bogus IHRA definition of anti-Semitism, which conflates criticism of Israel and Zionism with hatred of Jews. As Canadian organisation Independent Jewish Voices explained on Wednesday:

Cotler has long been one of the world’s leading proponents of the ‘new anti-Semitism’ discourse, which paints supporters of Palestinian human rights as anti-Semitic. His appointment today to this position is troubling.

Trudeau’s appointment of Cotler is quite similar to Trump’s appointment in 2018 of Kenneth Marcus as the US Dept of Education’s top civil rights enforcer. In both of these cases, Western governments were putting the fox in charge of the hen house. For years, Marcus pioneered the “lawfare” strategy of abusing US civil rights law by attempting to mobilise it in defence of Israeli crimes and arguing that criticism of Israel was “anti-Semitic.” Trump appointed Marcus at the behest of the pro-Israel lobby to run the very same government department that he had been lobbying for years as a “lawfare” operative on behalf of the state of Israel. We face a similar threat in Britain, with the government’s appointment of John Mann, a former Labour MP who was so anti-socialist that he quit the party under Jeremy Corbyn and was given a life peerage in return, as it’s so-called “Anti-Semitism Tsar.” The irony is obvious, given that the real Tsars were brutally and violently anti-Semitic in Russia before they were overthrown by the communist revolution in 1917. Mann has essentially based his whole career on smearing Palestine solidarity activism as “anti-Semitism.” Yet again in a major Western country, the fox has been put in charge of the hen-house. Israel’s strategic threat to our freedom of speech is indeed growing.

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