OPINION: Uncomfortable truths about Navalny and US hypocrisy over Assange and Israel – National & International News – MON 19Feb2024



Biden administration officials’ outrage over Navalny’s death makes their silence over the plight of Julian Assange and an impending massacre in Gaza all the more deafening.


by Liz Shiverdecker


Immediately following the announcement of the death of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny last week, the White House and US State Department swung into action, condemning unambiguously the death of Putin’s most famous political prisoner and concluding that Russia is “responsible” for his death. It wouldn’t be out of character for Putin to assassinate a political rival, particularly Navalny, since he’d tried once before.

Ever since Navalny’s death, Navalny’s face have been plastered all over the news, as well as accusations his body is being hidden and that Russia is “covering its tracks” to conceal his actual cause of death. It wouldn’t be surprising, but they aren’t the only ones whose tracks have been covered.

Eulogies published in the press have praised Navalny’s work exposing corruption within Russia’s political ranks. It is, of course, admirable and necessary work. Some have, perhaps prematurely, anointed Navalny’s widow to be the new standard bearer of the movement. However, these pieces lionizing Navalny have either glossed over, or failed to mention altogether, some unsavory facts about Navalny which are little known in the West.

Navalny’s nationalist and racist rhetoric

In the early 2000s, Navalny co-founded the Russian National Liberation Movement (abbreviated in Russian as NAROD), an ethnonationalist group. In 2007, released a couple of campaign videos for the group which have resurfaced only in the last few years. In one, Navalny compares Muslims to flies and cockroaches, and at the end draws out a pistol and shoots an actor wearing a keffiyeh who is ‘attacking’ him. In another, Navalny, dressed as a dentist compares Muslims in Russia to tooth decay and advocates for their deportation. The second video unfortunately isn’t translated into English, but it’s been reported on in other outlets.

Navalny’s supporters and some in his circle have claimed that Navalny had abandoned those views or at least moderated them in more recent years. However, there is no evidence that Navalny ever disavowed those views nor expressed any regret for his involvement with NAROD or these videos. Amnesty International was forced to admit as much when they removed Navalny from their list of “prisoners of conscience” in 2021 following an outcry after the videos resurfaced. Amnesty later restored Navalny’s prisoner of conscience status, but not because they found any proof he’d renounced his racist beliefs. Instead, Amnesty decided to revise the meaning of prisoner of conscience to fit Navalny’s case, which says more about Amnesty’s politics than Navalny’s.

This is the guy that has President Biden and Antony Blinken rending their cloaks, bleating about “human rights” and contemplating sanctions. It’s not even clear what further sanctions Biden could levy against Russia that he hasn’t already over the war in Ukraine. However, if taking action on human rights abuses were a priority, there are other human rights abuses that Biden could more easily remedy. Firstly, Biden could free the US’ own political prisoner, Julian Assange. Secondly, he could cease supporting Israel’s aggression against civilians in Gaza.

Julian Assange

Readers will know Julian Assange as the Australian-born former head of Wikileaks. In 2010, Wikileaks released a trove of classified documents from the US revealing widespread human rights abuses in Iraq by the US military and its contractors. This included the infamous “Collateral Murder” video, a video shot from a US helicopter. It documents the helicopter’s crew firing on and killing two Reuters journalists, then firing on a van full of civilians (some of them children) who came to the journalists’ aid. It also records the crew’s mocking glee at their gruesome and cowardly accomplishment.

For the crime of embarrassing the US and exposing its crimes to the public, Julian Assange became the US’ public enemy #1. Then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reportedly even raised the possibility of taking Assange out with a drone strike.

Assange has spent the last 13 years in one type of incarceration or another. From 2012 to 2019, Assange was confined to a small room at the Ecuadorean Embassy in London where he sought asylum. From 2019 onward, Assange has been imprisoned in London’s notorious Belmarsh Prison where he is confined to his cell for 23 hours a day. He is current awaiting extradition to the US to face espionage charges that could add up to a sentence of over 170 years.

Assange’s legal team and his partner, Stella Assange, have repeatedly raised fears for both Assange’s mental and physical health. In 2021, a British judge ruled against extraditing Assange to the US on humanitarian grounds. That ruling has since been overturned on appeal. This week, Assange faces his final appeal in Britain to fight extradition.

Journalists and human rights advocates the world over, including Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsberg and, recently, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, have called on the US government to drop its charges and free Assange. With a pen stroke, Biden could do just that, and yet, he hasn’t.

Israel and Gaza

Benny Gantz, a former Israeli Defense Minister and a member of the country’s War Cabinet, has announced that if Hamas hasn’t surrendered all of the Israeli hostages by March 10, the Israeli Defense Forces will commence a full-on ground invasion of Rafah. Rafah is on the border separating Gaza from Egypt. Currently, an estimated 1.5 million civilians are sheltering there, most of them in makeshift tents.

World leaders have warned against Israel carrying out such a military offensive in Rafah, since it would undoubtedly lead to mass civilian deaths. There are also fears that Israel will use this as an opportunity to breach the wall separating Gaza from Egypt and force civilians into Egypt, likely never to return. Egypt has been constructing a massive new wall on their side of the border, apparently anticipating just such an event.

This would be a mass ethnic cleansing of the Gaza Strip by Israel that would dwarf the 1948 Nakba, when Israeli terror groups forced 750,000 Palestinians from their homes in what is now Israel. Over 70% of Gaza’s population are themselves refugees or the descendants of refugees from that event.

There is another option on the table to get the hostages back and end this conflict that would not require bloodshed or facilitate an ethnic cleansing. Negotiations for a ceasefire and hostage exchange have been ongoing for weeks. Unfortunately, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has flatly rejected any calls for a ceasefire and has refused to engage seriously with these talks. While Biden has publicly urged Netanyahu to negotiate, so far, Biden has done little to use his considerable leverage to force Netanyahu to come to the table.

The International Court of Justice ruled in January that Israel is plausibly committing genocide against the Palestinians in Gaza. Despite this ruling, Biden has not entertained sanctions against Israel, and in fact he has continued to arm and equip them to carry out the plausible genocide. As we speak, Biden is pushing Congress to pass a bill that would funnel $14 billion more to Israel’s war machine. Biden has cautioned Israel against carrying out an assault in Rafah without a “credible” plan to protect civilians, but is not contemplating any punishment measures if they fail to heed even this minimal caveat.

For a third time since Oct. 7, President Biden is about to circumvent Congressional authority to send Israel more missiles. If human rights were truly a top concern for the Biden administration, he could, very simply, not transfer these weapons to Israel.


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