Sunday, July 20, 2014
Can America disengage?
I do not at all agree with the screed below but it represents a view that needs an answer. And one point it makes is undoubtedly true: It is sheer madness, not to mention cruel, to be arming and financing both sides of the Arab/Israel conflict. Even the bleeding hearts must notice that it has led to over 100 dead Palestinians currently. Is that what the supporters of the Arabs want? It probably is -- the Left love death -- but they should be confronted with that consequence. In my view, aid to all hostiles should be cut off while at the same time Israel continues to receive what she needs to defend herself.
So there is in principle no problem with aid to Egypt as long as it continues to honor its peace treaty with Israel -- something that Mubarak did and which the present military government has continued.
But the Palestinian authority is undoubtedly hostile to Israel so aid should be cut off until it too concludes an enforceable peace treaty with Israel. I cannot see that there is any other moral course.
The second point below is that Israel is a no-account place that is not worth defending. Many writers have pointed out ways in which Israel is materially useful to America but that is not the big factor of course. The big factor comes down to morality, religion, values and feelings. And in that sphere Israel is a giant among nations. They wrote both parts of our holy book and even those who do not hold the Bible holy cannot avoid the fact that the Bible has been the principal foundation of our civilization. To give back to those who have given us so much seems again to me to be the only moral course. As our own Bible tells us, they are a holy nation
“[The United States has] a fateful tie to the Israelis from which we have, in contradistinction to the Israelis, everything to lose, and nothing to gain.” George F. Kennan, Diaries, 25 April 1978.
“Our form of government, inestimable as it is, exposes us, more than any other, to the insidious intrigues and pestilent influence of foreign nations. Nothing but our inflexible neutrality can preserve us.” John Adams, c. 1809.
As the renewed Israeli-Palestinian war rages in Gaza, America is presented with an ideal moment to run — not walk — away from its suicidal commitment to both sides. Surely, no sane American — except the Neocons, whom it would be absurd to consider either sane or loyal Americans — could have missed the fact that what is going on in the current war has had absolutely no immediate impact on the United States.
The war is occurring in a far away place that is no longer of any strategic interest to the United States because the combination of Washington’s relentless, war-causing and Islamist-motivating interventionism and Obama’s cowardly surrenderism have already given the entire region to the Islamists and ensured — thanks to Jewish-American Neocons — Israel’s ultimate doom. Therefore it matters not a lick to any but disloyal Americans whether the Israelis kill all the Palestinians, the Palestinians kill all the Israelis, or, in the best case scenari0, they mutually destroy each other. At the end of the war they all simply will be dead foreigners of whom we had no need and for whom we need not bid any teary farewells. Peoples who want to fight religious wars deserve whatever they get, and these two peoples are determined to fight their religious war until one side or the other is destroyed. Well, so be it, let us get out of it now.
There is a rub for the United States, however, and that reality makes complete U.S. disengagement more urgent than ever before. That rub lies in the fact that each bomb or missile the Israeli air force uses in Gaza will eventually yield a dead American soldier or Marine and/or a dead civilian. This is not a fact that President Obama or Secretary of State Kerry will use to inform the American people about what is at stake for the United States in the long run, because they — along with most of their party and the Republican Party — really could not care less about our nation’s security as long as campaign contributions and media support keep flowing from disloyal Israel First, U.S. citizens and their fundamentally anti-American organizations. As long as that graft keeps flowing their way from the Israel Firsters, they are all more than willing to motivate our Islamist enemies by backing Israel to the hilt.
All of these officials will seek to hide their corrupt relationship with U.S. citizen, Israel First leaders by blathering on about the need for a cease-fire, a two-state solution, and restraint from both sides. What is it, do suppose, that makes senior elected and appointed American officials live in the fantasy world that sees an amicable solution to this problem as a possibility. The answer is bribery, as these people are all listed as members in good standing on Israel First’s bountiful payroll list. Because of the dire need to uphold what is left of the Constitution, we must permit these enemies of America to prattle on, but recognizing their flagrant disregard for genuine U.S. national interests we ought to just ignore them.
It is exquisitely clear, that Israelis and Arabs are going to fight each other until one or the other is annihilated, so let them fight.
Rupert Murdoch critical of media regulation
Rupert Murdoch is determined to add Time Warner Cable to his media empire. The cable company recently rejected his initial $80billion bid from 21st Century Fox, but apparently Murdoch is ready to up the ante above $85 a share, sources told Bloomberg News.
If accepted, the takeover would be the biggest media deal in more than a decade.
The move could create a mega-sized media conglomerate that owns rights to dozens of popular TV shows and thousands of films, as well as cable TV networks and local broadcast TV channels.
It's estimated that Fox would save nearly $1billion annually by eliminating overlapping staff.
Details of the Time Warner Cable bid were released this week just one day before Murdoch appeared at a B20 conference in Sydney, Australia and criticized the excessive financial red tape in free market economies.
If Murdoch proceeds with the Time Warner Cable takeover, it would be heavily scrutinized by antitrust regulators. Fox would likely have to sell CNN to appease the regulators since the company already has it's own 24-hour news network.
He says that the G20 governments need to 'take a back seat' and allow businesses to drive economic growth.
He said U.S. President Barack Obama was penalising businesses by cracking down on so-called 'profit shifting' by major corporations to countries with lighter tax regimes, a technique that is also in the sights of the G20.
'My blood pressure goes up when I think of the number of local, state and federal regulations we have in our lives today,' the 83-year-old Australian billionaire told the meeting. 'That is just in America. Don't even get me started on the European Union.'
Murdoch told the meeting: 'I believe that business does have a role in shaping public policy, mainly in helping limit the size and scope of government.
'For businesses large and small, there's simply too much red tape, too many subservient politicians stifling economic growth and entrepreneurism.'
Obama, meanwhile, earlier this year proposed tightening restrictions on U.S. multinationals that shift their tax domiciles abroad in his 2015 budget.
Obama wants to raise the minimum level of foreign ownership in a newly inverted holding company to 50 per cent from about 20 per cent, making the deals more difficult to carry out.
'Do we really expect overseas companies to voluntarily bring profits back to be taxed at 35 to 40 percent in the United States, when the corporate tax rate in Ireland is 12.5 per cent?' Murdoch said. 'This is not the way to achieve economic growth.'
Deeds not words
Hamas got rich as Gaza was plunged into poverty
With multi-million-dollar land deals, luxury villas and black market fuel from Egypt, Gaza's rulers made billions while the rest of the population struggled with 38-percent poverty and 40-percent unemployment
While the fighting is only expected to worsen the distress of the residents of Gaza, the Strip's economic outlook for the Strip was never good. The unemployment rate in Gaza stood at approximately 40% before the latest conflict, with a similar proportion being classed as living under the poverty line.
But while most of the Gaza population tries to deal with the difficulties of daily life, it seems that one sector at least has had few worries about their livelihoods - Hamas leaders and their associates.
Someone who has benefitted financially is the former Hamas prime minister in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh. Before 2006 and Hamas' shocking electoral win and subsequent dominance of the Palestinian government , 51-year-old Haniyeh was not considered a senior figure in Hamas in the Gaza Strip. But according to reports in the past few years, Haniyeh's new-found senior status has allowed him to become a millionaire. This is an unusual feat, given that he was born to a refugee family in the al-Shati refugee camp in northern Gaza.
In 2010, Egyptian magazine Rose al-Yusuf reported that Haniyeh paid $4 million for a 2,500msq parcel of land area in Rimal, a tony beachfront neighborhood of Gaza City. To avoid embarrassment, the land was registered in the name of the husband of Haniyeh's daughter. Since then, there have been reports that Haniyeh has purchased several homes in the Gaza Strip, registered in the names of his children - no hardship, as he has 13 of them.
At least with regards to his eldest son, it seems that the apple does not fall far from the tree, given his arrest on the Egyptian side of the Rafah border crossing with millions of dollars in cash in possession, which he intended to take into Gaza.
Subsidized fuel sold for profit
According to sources in Gaza, Haniyeh's wealth, like others high up in Hamas, came primarily from the flourishing tunnel industry. Senior Hamas figures, Haniyeh included, would levy 20 percent taxation on all of the trade passing through the tunnels.
Hamas's heyday came after the overthrow of former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, as its parent organization the Muslim Brotherhood was growing in popularity in Egypt.
In those days, Hamas leaders and their associates were not afraid to show off their ostentatious wealth. Gaza's market for luxury villas costing at least a million dollars was booming, most purchased by people associated with the establishment of Hamas. A Gazan familiar with the real estate market summed it up at the time with a quip about a Hamas crony who had recently acquired a luxury villa: "Two years ago, he couldn’t afford a packet of cigarettes."
At the same time, Khairat a-Shater, a senior member of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt who headed his own business empire, made sure to personally transfer tens of millions in cash to senior administration officials in Gaza as well as to commanders from the Hamas military wing.
There were senior Hamas members who preferred that the money be kept in a safer place than the Gaza Strip, and invested it in various Egyptian assets, often through business partnerships with Muslim Brotherhood officials. In some cases, the man conducting the deals on behalf of Hamas officials, who ensured that they received their dividends in cash, was Ayman Taha, a Hamas founder once considered one of its key spokesmen. In 2011, Taha himself paid $700,000 for a luxury three-floor villa in the central Gaza Strip; a year ago, he was charged with being an agent for Egypt.
The Egyptian street has become inflamed with anger directed against Hamas over the last three years, partly due to what appears to be its financial gains at the expense of the Egyptian people. The tunnels in Rafah, the town straddling the Gaza-Egypt border, for example, saw a flourishing fuel-smuggling industry from Sinai. The fuel subsidized by the Egyptian government was entering Gaza at a low price, but being sold for eight times that. Those who made the greatest profits from the sale of the fuel were Hamas members, even as Egypt often reported shortages for its own people.
Hamas, says Professor Ahmed Karima of Al-Azhar University in Egypt, has long become a movement of millionaires. According to Karima, the organization can count no less than 1,200 millionaires among its members. He did not, however, specify the source of this information.
It was not only Hamas members in Gaza who became rich. It appears that political leader Khaled Mashal is another member of the organization who used Hamas funds to his own ends. In 2012, a Jordanian website reported that Mashal had control of a massive $2.6 billion, in large part deposited in Qatari and Egyptian banks. This is likely Hamas' accumulated assets from years through donations, as well as its investments in various projects in the Arab and Muslim world. It is also known that, among other things, Hamas has invested in real estate projects in Saudi Arabia, Syria and Dubai. And, according to reports, Mashal did not always separate Hamas money and his own.
Hamas' expulsion from Syria was a severe financial blow for the movement. In 2011, before the start of the Syrian conflict, Hamas's assets in the country had reached a value of $550 million. Apart from its real estate holdings, Hamas invested in various commercial companies, including a cargo company registered to a Syrian businessman close to Moussa Abu Marzook, Mashal's deputy.
As with other areas, in its financial dealings Hamas leaders keep their cards close to their chest and maintain a high level of secrecy. Investments are made through front companies, using family and associates. Companies linked to Mashal in Qatar are registered to his wife and daughter.
Once he was forced to close his office in Damascus (after falling out with the Assad regime over its oppressive response to the conflict), Mashal declared that his place was in Qatar. There, he claimed that $12 million he had stored in his safe in his Damascus office had been lost. Not many accepted this story, and to this day believe that Mashal kept the money, transferring it to his own personal accounts.
Reliable sources claim that a project by the Fadil real estate firm in Qatar is linked to Mashal, his son and his son's wife. The prestigious project in Doha, the Qatari capital, includes the construction of four towers of more than 27,000 square meters, including office and commercial space attached to a mall with an area of 10,000 square meters. The company has never disclosed the source of its funding.
According to a World Bank report released in November of last year, the Gaza Strip ranks third in the Arab region in terms of poverty, ranking above only Sudan and Yemen. The report stated that the poverty rate in Gaza stands at 38 percent. Furthermore, of the 144 countries included in the report, Gaza was the 44th poorest, with most of the countries with a higher poverty rate being located in Africa.
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Posted by JR at 12:45 AM