Political prisoner Julian Assange’s extradition to the US was blocked by a British court in January. And yet he still languishes in Belmarsh Prison, reportedly in solitary confinement.
But at the end of June there was hugely important news, with potentially massive implications for Assange’s freedom. The US government’s case (such as it ever was) began to totally fall apart.
Sigurdur Ingi Thordarson, a key US witness, admitted to journalists in Iceland that he has lied. It turns out that he has also been convicted of sexual abuse against minors and financial fraud.
The Trump administration’s claim that Assange encouraged Thordarson to hack into the emails of Icelandic MPs was a complete fabrication.
Yet the corporate media in Britain and the US has totally covered up this news. They have refused to report it altogether, despite the Assange case’s massive implications for freedom of the press — indeed the very existence of journalism.
The venerable media critics at Media Lens called it a “remarkable silence” and a “media blackout.” In the US, Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting (or FAIR) reported that there had been “zero coporate media coverage.”
I did both a Google search and a Lexis-Nexis database search for Thordarson’s name. Nothing turned up about Icelandic website Stundin’s revelations except for overseas media and (on Google) “alternative” media.
Despite the change of figurehead from the Bad Orange Man over to Grandpa Joe, the US has continued to pursue Assange relentlessly for the crime of journalism and for exposing the crimes of empire. Secretary of State Antony Blinken was cornered by a French journalist last week, but would only give the non-answer that he had to “let the legal case run its course”.
The persecution of Julian Assange and Wikileaks is a perfect illustration of how (as I argued last week in issue #15) the issue of Palestine cannot be separated from the crimes of US empire.
Wikileaks itself recently tweeted an old story of mine showing some of the important Palestine-related insights we gained from the US State Department cables published by WikiLeaks, which we now know were heroically leaked by Chelsea Manning.
The article is pretty old now (it’s from 2010) but there’s still important stuff there. If I were writing the story now, I’d also add two other key revelations from the WikiLeaks cables relating to Palestine.
1) If it wasn’t for Julian Assange and WikiLeaks, we would not know the full truth about Shurat HaDin — the so-called “Israel Law Center”. Posing as a civil rights group, Shurat HaDin is actually a cut-out for the Mossad and other Israeli spy agencies. This front group allows Israeli spooks unfettered access to courts systems the world over, to use for campaigns of sabotage, disinformation and lawfare. Or, as the group’s founder Nitsana Darshan-Leitner once put it:
The Israeli government has some constraints, has some problems: they have to be politically correct. They have foreign relationships, they have international treaties they are signed of and they cannot do what private lawyers can do.
It was WikiLeaks who in 2011 first published the cable showing the group’s claim of being a “non-governmental” entity to be an utter pretence.
Last year it was also revealed by Middle East Eye that the group’s other co-founder — Darshan-Leitner’s husband Craig “Aviel” Leitner — led a terror cell which carried out a series of attacks against Palestinian civillians in the West Bank in the 1980s.
As I reported in 2014 (shortly before she became one of Jeremy Corbyn’s most infamous enemies) Smeeth held a covert meeting with somebody from the US embassy in 2009, while she was still a prospective parliamentary candidate for Labour.
In one of the State Department cables, Smeeth was noted as somebody the US embassy wanted to “strictly protect.”
Since then, activists have speculated that she is everything from a CIA agent to some sort of wannabe. Smeeth of course denies everything and there’s no evidence she is an actual spook. But she was certainly seen as important enought by the embassy to be considered a source of inside information on the Labour Party.
You may recall that Smeeth was briefly the “Parliamentary Chair” of anti-Corbyn, pro-Israel group the Jewish Labour Movement. That was until she lost her seat for Labour in the 2019 election (in no small part due to her and the JLM’s own sabotage of the party under Corbyn).
But she landed on her feet and got a job working as CEO of the Index on Censorship. Corbyn out: job done.
For all these reasons and more, it is crucial that everyone supports Julian Assange and demands his immediate release from British political detention.
Despite the lies systematically peddled about Assange for more than a decade, his only real crime is journalism: exposing the truth about the savage role of the American empire.
My articles this week
Speaking of the Jewish Labour Movement and its anti-Palestinian sabotage campaigns against left-wing elements of the Labour Party, this week I published my latest on that long running saga.
The JLM’s chairperson Mike Katz and its national organiser, Rebecca Filer, have been running “Anti-Semitism training and awareness raising” sessions for the party leadership, staff, volunteer elected officials and ordinary members.
The Zoom session was open only to members, but I managed to watch them anyway. They are as bad as predicted. Katz even said that Palestine motions are often “boring” and that party officials should consider taking them off agendas.
Read the whole report here.
For my MEMO column this week I wrote about the failed vote in Israel’s parliament to extend the country’s racist marriage law — which effectively bans Palestinian citizens of Israel from marrying other Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.
MEMO has translated it into Spanish.
Tweet of the Week
Electronic Intifada @intifadaPalestine is "boring" says Israel lobbyist https://t.co/nfKYbmS7tS
I am taking some time off, so no newsletter next week: Tuesday the 20th of July. I am going to dig something up from the archives to republish that week to tide you over until my return though.
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