Suez: Britain’s Illegal 1956 War Against Egypt

A Very British Crisis

BBC (2006)

Film Review

In 1956 Britain, France and Israel launched an illegal war of aggression against Egypt after President Gamal Nasser nationalized the Suez Canal. As in the more recent US invasions of Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria, UK Prime Minister Anthony Eden’s real goal was regime change – the removal of Nasser as president. Eden, like Bush and Obama believed the local population would welcome the foreign invasion – that they would use it to rise up and topple their leader.

The humiliation Britain faced over the Suez Crisis would spell the end of their role as the world’s foremost super power.

Part 1 covers Egypt’s war of independence, which began as a mass popular uprising against British military occupation. In 1952, a secret group of Egyptian military officers, led by Nasser, took advantage of the civil unrest to topple King Farouk, establish a revolutionary council and demand the withdrawal of British troops. When Britain and the US tried to isolate Nassar by blocking a World Bank loan for Egypt’s Aswan Dam, Nasser responded by nationalizing the Suez Canal Company (jointly owned by Britain and France). His intention was to use canal profits to pay for the dam.

Part 2 concerns the secret conspiracy hatched by Britain, France and and Israel to invade Egypt, reclaim the Suez Canal and remove Nasser from power.

Part 3 covers the brutal invasion and the armed civilian resistance that fought back against the invaders. It also reveals the humiliating circumstances that forced Britain to withdraw their troops before they ever reached the canal. Because both France and Britain hold vetoes on the UN Security Council, Eisenhower used economic warfare to force Britain to agree to a ceasefire. A coordinated attack on the British pound by Wall Street banks* forced Eden to request Eisenhower’s support for an IMF loan. The latter demanded an immediate ceasefire as a condition of the loan.


*The filmmakers are a bit fuzzy about the coordinated sell-off of the British pound that caused its value to plummet. Based on what Willim Engdahl has written about US economic warfare (see How the US Uses War to Protect the Dollar), I suspect it was instigated by the Economy Warfare division of US Treasury.

The Assassination of Yassar Arafat

What Killed Arafat?

Al Jazeera (2013)

Film Review

For me, the principal importance of this documentary series is that it exposes whitewashing by the western media of the death of Palestinian leader Yassar Arafat.

I vaguely recall the 2012 BBC report on the Palestinian Authority decision to exhume Arafat’s body, based on evidence of polonium poisoning in his personal effects. After watching this two-part documentary, I now realize the western reporting was total disinformation.

Among the most important facts the film brings out:

  • The Palestinian Authority, believing from the outset that Arafat had been poisoned, begged the Bush administration to prevail on Israel to provide them an antidote. Years earlier they forced Israel to give them an antidote after bodyguards captured the Mossad agent who poisoned the leader of Hamas.
  • It was Al Jazeera itself that undertook, at the behest of his widow, a forensic investigation into Arafat’s death. They approached the Swiss University Center for Legal Medicine, whose scientists discovered high levels of radioactive polonium 210 in his hospital clothing.
  • It was the Palestinian Authority, rather than Arafat’s widow as reported in the western media, that refused to agree to an autopsy. This procedure is routine under French law (Arafat died in a Paris hospital) when the cause of death is unknown.
  • Arafat didn’t die of a stroke, as reported in western media. He died of Diffuse Intravascular Coagulation (DIC), a condition of whole body clotting triggered by a catastrophic medical condition such as leukemia, cancer, infection, HIV or poisoning.

At the time Arafat developed his mystery illness, he was living under siege in a two room apartment surrounded by ruble in bombed out Ramallah. The Israeli government had leveled the Palestinian Authority complex as part of a regime change exercise undertaken jointly by the Bush administration and Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon.

Arafat was in excellent health when he suddenly became violently ill (after a meal) with a mystery illness of four weeks duration. His French doctors tested him for a number of known poisonings. The possibility of polonium poisoning didn’t occur to anyone until it was used to assassinate Russian defector Alexander Litvinenko in 2006.

Part I

Part 2

The Crusades: Europe’s First Imperialist War of Colonization

The Crusades: An Arab Perspective

Al Jazeera (2016)

Film Review

The Crusades is a fascinating history of a subject that was quite new to me, as Americans rarely study the Crusades in school. Despite the title, the expert commentators represent a balance of French and English historians, as well as Muslim scholars from various Middle Eastern universities. Most of the documentary series consists of historical re-enactment of papal enclaves, battles, sieges, treaty signings and other historical events. The filmmakers use a series of maps to plot the progress of European occupation of Jerusalem and the Levantine* coast, as well the eventual liberation of these territories in the 13th century.

The documentary leaves absolutely no doubt that the Crusades were an imperialist campaign of colonization – and not religious wars, as is commonly claimed. Whenever European crusaders conquered a specific city or region, they indiscriminately slaughtered most of the inhabitants, whether they were Muslims, Jews or fellow Christians. The entire fourth Crusade (1203) was devoted to sacking the greatest Christian city in the world (Constantinople), whose residents were mainly Byzantine Greeks.

Part 4 is my favorite because it focuses on the role of the Crusades and Muslim influence in facilitating the European Renaissance of the 14th-15th centuries. When the Crusades began in 1085, the vast majority of Europeans (99%) were illiterate, whereas Middle East cities enjoyed an advanced flourishing civilization (as did India, China, Africa and North and South America prior to European colonization). When occupying crusaders were finally defeated and forced to return to Europe in 1291, they took with them advanced knowledge of Arab military tactics and agriculture, sugar cultivation, medicine, algebra, glass manufacturing and Greek philosophers ( whose work had been translated and preserved by Muslim scholars.

Part 1 – covers the role of Pope Gregory and Pope Irwin in instigating the disastrous Peoples Crusade and the first Crusade (1086-1099), resulting in the sacking and occupation of Jerusalem (lasting nearly 200 years).

Part 2 – covers the fragmented Muslim resistance to the expansion of European occupation, hindered by both religious (Sunni vs Shia) conflict and tribal rivalries. It’s during this period (1100-1127) the term hashshashin (origin of the English words assassin and hashish) came into usage, owing to the Shia assassins hired to secretly kill Sunni military commanders. Between 1127-1143 a Muslim revival led to the liberation of numerous crusader strongholds, and the launch of a second crusade by Pope Eugene, Louis VII of France and Conrad III of Germany.

Part 3 – describes the rise of Salah Ad-Din (known in in Europe as Saladin), who unified rival Muslim armies and by 1187 retook all crusader strongholds except Jerusalem. This led to the launch of the third Crusade by Philip II (France), Frederick I (Germany) and Richard the Lion Hearted (England) This was followed by the fourth Crusade, which sacked Constantinople; the failed fifth Crusade (1213); the sixth Crusade in which Frederick II (Germany) retook Jerusalem by treaty and the failed seventh Crusade, led by Louis IX of France (1248). In 1244, Muslim armies retook Jerusalem, which remained under their control until it became part of the British protectorate of Palestine with the defeat of the Ottoman Empire.

Part 4 – in addition to outlining the cultural riches Europe gained from the Crusades, Part 4 also explores how Europe’s medieval colonization of the Middle East laid the groundwork for the eventual European colonization of North Africa and the Middle East (in 1917), with the formation of the state of Israel in 1948 representing a major milestone in this re-colonization.


*Levantine – a term describing a region on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea north of the Arabian Peninsula and south of Turkey, usually including the area of Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, and Syria.

The History of Medical Marijuana Research

A Life of Its Own: The Truth About Medical Marijuana

Helen Kapalos (2016)

Film Review

A Life of Its Own profiles the parents movement behind the 2016 Australian law allowing doctors to legally prescribe marijuana for their patients. The grassroots movement began with a policeman and his wife who obtained black market cannabis (on a doctor’s advice) to treat their son for severe side effects of cancer chemotherapy. It came to include dozens of other parents who had to break the law to treat children with intractable epilepsy and other severe disabilities.

Cannabis has been used to treat a variety of medical conditions for over 5,000 years. American doctors first used cannabis resin to treat children’s seizures in 1841. In the 1930s, shortly before the paper, plastics and petroleum industry conspired to have hemp (and cannabis) taxed out of existence (see The Politics of Hemp), US doctors wrote more than 3 million prescriptions for cannabis tincture for a variety of conditions.

There are few (roughly 100) randomized controlled trials of marijuana’s effectiveness as a medical treatment. This relates partly to strict laws in most countries prohibiting the cultivation of cannabis and partly to the unwillingness of the pharmaceutical industry to fund medical marijuana research.

I was very surprised to learn that most of this research occurs in Israel, funded by US foundations. The world pioneer of marijuana research is Raphael Mechoulom, professor of medicinal chemistry. Mechoulom, who first began studying the medical effects of cannabis in the 1960s, was the first to identify tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), its main therapeutic ingredients. In addition to identifying the presence of CBD1 receptors in the brain and CBD2 receptors in the immune system, he has also developed dozens of cannabis strains specific for different illnesses.

Israel has conducted the largest number of cannabis trials in the world, involving 20,000 patients at four hospitals. In addition to epilepsy, conditions studied include Parkinsonism, Tourette’s, multiple sclerosis, chronic pain, PTSD and terminal cancer.

Resistance Heroes in Occupied Palestine

Atoms of Resistance

Priya Guns (2015)

Film Review

Atoms of Resistance is about individual acts of resistance in occupied Palestine. None of the Palestinians featured belong to any organized resistance movement. The Israeli Defense Force (IDF) subjects them and their children to periodic shelling and bombing simply for their continued presence in territory Israel wants for its own settlers. From this perspective, simply choosing to remain (rather than becoming refugees in other countries) is a heroic act of resistance.

Beside exploring the mindset of Palestinian men and women who choose to endure Israel’s policy of preventive terrorism, the film features some great scenes of Palestinian children telling off IDF soldiers and pushing them around.

There’s also an interesting segment about Palestinian children studying copoeria, a Brazilian martial art that combines dance, aerobics and music.

How Radical Architects are Transforming the Planet

Radical Architecture

Al Jazeera (2014)

Film Review

Rebel Architecture is a six-part Al Jazeera documentary series about architects who are using their skills to serve the public good rather than wealthy corporations.

Part 1 is about a Spanish architects collective that works with activist collectives loosely connected with Spain’s anti-austerity movement. Thanks to the Spanish government’s severe austerity measures and public service cuts, activist collectives have assumed major responsibility for social welfare. Occupation of public and abandoned spaces is a key tactic. The role of the architects collective is to help activists construct safe buildings in these spaces from cheap and recycled materials. In most cases the structures are unpermitted and technically illegal.

Part 2 is about Pakistan’s first woman architect and her role in helping poor Pakistani communities devastated by floods and earthquakes to rebuild flood and earthquake proof homes as cheaply as possible. Unsurprisingly she discovered that traditional building materials, such as mud bricks, lime and bamboo, are a key to the solution.

Part 3 is about an Israeli architect in the West Bank who studies the “intersection” between architecture and violence. He gives a fascinating presentation describing how the Israeli government uses architecture as a weapon against the Palestinians. This includes the deliberate layout of Israeli settlements in such a way that they strangulate Palestinian communities. And the deliberate use of bulldozers in dense urban communities as an instrument of war.

Part 4 is about Nigerian architect and urbanist Kunle Adeyemi, who works with illegal floating communities to design and build (unpermitted) floating schools and community centers.

Part 5 is about the Vietnamese architect Va Tron Nghia, who has dedicated his life to creating more green spaces in Ho Chi Minh city and building cheap durable homes for peasant farmers in the Mekong Delta. Owing to recurrent flooding, typical Delta homes last only three to four years. The film shows Nghia and local residents building a $4,000 bamboo house for a family of four.

Part 6 (my favorite) is about a pedreiro (Portuguese for stone mason) in Rocinha, the largest favella in South America – located in Rio De Janeiro. All the housing in Rocinha, population 180,000, is unpermitted and illegal. The Brazilian government turns a blind eye to all this illegal building because they need the cheap labor and have no resources to build public housing. This last segment shows how Rocinha residents organized to demand a sewage system to replace the open sewer in their streets. Instead the Brazilian government built a cable car for the benefit of tourists attending the 2014 Brazilian World Cup and the 2016 Brazilian Olympics. It was largely angry Rocinha residents who instigated the mass protests before and during the World Cup. Though the protests were widely reported in the corporate media, there was no mention of Rocinha residents’ ongoing struggle to remove the sewer of human excrement from their streets.

 

Obama Forced to Address Israel’s Oil Smuggling

oil tanker

US Backs Russian UN Resolution Targeting ISIS

According to Bloomberg’s, on Feb 10 the UN Security Council adopted a binding Russian resolution threatening economic and diplomatic sanctions against countries and individuals that help ISIS and other terrorist groups profit from trading oil, antiquities or hostages. As the US vetoes most Russian Security Council resolutions, this was an historic event.The resolution requires governments to ensure that they aren’t engaged in direct or indirect trade with ISIS and al-Qaeda-affiliated groups such as the al-Nusra Front in Syria. According to Bloomberg’s, the resolution will significantly impact Turkey and Syria, which allow the purchase of oil from the militant group.Facts the article omits are probably more significant than the omissions.

First Bloomberg’s neglects to mention that the US initially opposed the resolution and spent three days frantically trying to counter and/or change the draft language.  Presumably this relates to inconvenient truth that Israel is one of the main destinations of the smuggled oil

Second it fails to comment on an extremely odd scenario in which the Assad government is purchasing smuggled oil from ISIS:

Thirdly it (deliberately?) leaves Israel and unnamed EU nations off the list of countries buying oil from ISIS.

The text of the resolution, which stops short of threatening the use of force, urges governments to share information on ISIS  financing networks, bans exports of all antiquities from Syria and reiterates the call on countries to prevent ISIS from benefiting from political concessions or ransom payments made to secure the release of hostages.

It also requires countries to block aircraft, auto and truck traffic, including oil tankers, traveling to or from areas in Syria and Iraq where the extremist groups operate.

ISIS earns about $1 million a day from oil sales.

In addition, according to a recent BBC investigation, ISIS also receives substantial income from looting and smuggling of antiquities from historical and archaeological sites in both Iraq and Syria. The primary market for the stolen objects is Europe and the Gulf states. Ten thousand year old artifacts can bring in as much as $1 million each. An Iraqi intelligence official told the Daily Mail that ISIS earned £23 million in early 2014 alone by selling 800 items stolen from the ancient city of Al-Nabk near Damascus.

In 2014, ISIS also brought in approximately $45 million in 2014 from kidnapping for ransom.

The resolution doesn’t spell out specific penalties for countries found guilty of helping ISIS. It would require the Security Council to debate whether any violations have occurred and what punitive measures it would order. The resolution requires all 193 members of the UN to report within 120 days on measures they’ve taken to comply with it. The UN’s existing al-Qaeda sanctions committee will monitor and report on any progress.

All in all, it looks like a pretty shrewd move by Russia. Obama now has 120 days to report back how he plans to sanction US allies Turkey and Israel – or face a UN Security Council resolution calling for sanctions on the US. While the US would surely veto such a resolution, it provides an excellent opportunity for Russia to embarrass Obama and Israel by exposing their financial and military ties to ISIS.

This past week, the US also backed a Russian resolution to the UN Security Council supporting the Minsk Ceasefire.

photo credit: Seniority via photopin (license)

Also posted at Veterans Today